Archive for January, 2009

bailout of the 1%

Saturday, January 31st, 2009

Antifa, an astute commenter at The Moon of Alabama has all the bailouts in acute perspective:

Dubya Bush once appeared before a congress of ultra wealthy supporters and addressed them as the Haves and the Have Mores. He called them “my base.”

It’s a lopsided land we live in. Fully 33% of the cash and assets of this nation belong to 1% of the population, to a single percentile of we, the people. This 1% represents a bit less than 3 million Americans, each of whom enjoys an annual income of about $264 million, and pays an average 17% in taxes on it. This 1% commands more treasure annually than the GDP of Canada.

Expand this headcount to the richest 10%, which is about 30 million Americans, and this one-tenth of we, the people owns roughly 85% of property and cash and valuables of all kinds in this nation. There’s not much left to speak of after that.

The inequality of wealth distribution goes on like that, until you get to the bottom 50% of our population. This bottom half of the population owns roughly 10% of the property and assets of this nation. The average balance sheet of these 150 million people is negative. No savings, no property, just debts. The average time they can go without a regular paycheck is some fraction of a week.

If proof of property were a poll test, this group would never vote.

Now, whom do you suppose the government bailout is going to be directed to? The people who own, operate, and manage this nation, or the common folk who don’t even understand why their job went away or why they can’t seem to get ahead?

The bailouts — past, current and future — are to put back the wealth that the misguided and fraudulent policies of the Bush Administration destroyed. It belonged to the wealthiest Americans, and they want it put back.

Sure, much of it was “hallucinated wealth” as we all well know now, but the Owners of America want it put back even if it bankrupts the working people for seven generations to come.

The reason the big banks are handing out huge bonuses is to keep the rank and file bankers, the people who know how to fleece the public, in place and fleecing right on schedule. These investment bankers, brokers, fund managers and traders know that their huge bonuses and earnings are just pennies on the dollar compared to what the truly wealthy make off the efforts of these Wall Street grunts. If these bankers don’t get these big bonuses, why would they put up with the hard work, the 18 hour days, the burnout?

The monies lost came from the wealthiest of Americans. They want it all put back, and then you and I will get to lick the forks left over after the feast.

It is literally their property, this country. It is their country. You just get to live here.

Posted by: Antifa | Jan 31, 2009 12:32:04 AM |

I think it’s impossible to think about the current economic circumstances without looking at the prescriptions through this lens.

dicks armey

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Thought I’d post this short quote from Republican Dick Armey, the former house majority leader. Flying around on the web is his appearance on Hardball tonight when he told Joan Welsh “she could never be his wife” – but thats not what struck me as nearly important as this statement:

” The fact of the matter is there are income re-distributionists that think they are going to curry favor with voting blocs in both parties and it’s wrong policy whether it comes from Republicans or Democrats and it makes no sense. Armey’s Axiom- don’t let politics define your economics. Don’t let politics define anything. Politics is silly. Its inane and practitioners of politics are people to take what amusement you can from them but don’t take them seriously.”

Which pretty much encapsulates (from the horses mouth itself, so to speak) the idea of just how weak political power in this country really is, in relation to the other economic, military, or ideological networks of  power. In Armey’s view political power is apparently so weak so as to be considered some kind of side show freak amusement, or a kind of Days of Our Lives media attraction. Setting aside for a moment Armey’s own place in the political arcade charade, what he speaks is actually a rarefied  moment of candor and truth on how political power ranks in the hierarchy of American power. What he’s really saying is that  role of  political power in America is one of creating not to be taken serious amusement for the masses, in so much as that entertainment provides deference and cover for the serious work of elite economic/military/industrial complex, for which politics should play only a subservient (if not a slapstick) role in. This helps to explain why a trillion dollar bailout for Wall St. remains shrouded in secrecy, while the transparent  trillion dollar bailout for Main St. is met with the horror of big government spending – because rather than trying to ditch the disabled passenger plane safely in the river, the Dick Armey’s of the world would have rather strapped on a (golden) parachute, ran for the exits, and floated down onto Wall St. in a hero’s ticker tape landing.

flower of conceit

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Can there be any doubt, that Israel – the country – has devolved in recent years? The central evidence of this is found in the decision making process their government has chosen to follow, especially with regards to its recent dealing with its neighbors in occupied Palestine and Lebanon. The general drift of these decisions should be familiar to Americans, as they recall the infamous Vietnam era justification that we must “destroy the village in order to save it”, and have been used extensively by the Bush administration in its own wars of occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq. Israel though, has transcended even the Bush administration’s vicious circle indulgences and have pushed the tautological envelope to the point of absolute absurdity, in having not bothered itself with any liberal pretexts of “freeing people, or bringing democracy and modernity to the Middle East”. Israel, instead wants “to degrade, rollback, punish, and teach a lesson” to its democratically elected nemesis. And like any delusional wife beater, also, “doesn’t want to destroy it completely”. Because, there is no other way to describe such behavior, randomly killing some 1500 mostly innocent people as a collective punishment – this behavior simply put, is nothing other than a prime example of addictive behavior, on the part of a nation state. And the hallmark of addictive behavior, augmenting it’s self indulgence obsession with conceit, is it’s ability to to disengage and substitute (away) the “means” from the “object”, or the reason for its activity – in such a way that the “means” come to replace the “object”. In this way the wife beater is not so much interested in the ends (or solution) to his activity (changing his wifes behavior) – but the act of demonstrating his superiority as such, which then becomes the ends (of the activity) in itself. The process then of course, generates greater alienation, which creates more resistance, which then summons up greater entrenchment and more violence as a response. Thus, the “vicious circle”.

Israel, by this analogy is not at war with Hamas, it is at war with itself in a self destructive spiral of de-legitimation, that should even give Dick Cheney nightmares. Perhaps thats even why he allowed them do it, in some perverse gesture sketching out the further limits of allowable evil, in an even more audacious vicious circle.

gaza, the bad, bad neighbor

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

Thought I’d pass on this analogy from the Jewish activist and psychologist Rolf Verleger, originally published in the German magazine Hindergrund.

It has been translated from German by MoA commentor Sabine.

By Rolf Verleger, January 5 2009

What would you do – such wrote on Dec. 31 the Israeli historian Prof. Fania Oz-Salzberger in the FAZ – if your neighbor would continuously threw stones and Molotov cocktails at your apartment. Would you not at some stage grab a rifle and try to put an end to this? And if your neighbor would crowed himself with his kids, so that you could not hit him, would you not get a rifle with telescopic sight?
Just as this presumed neighbor, Hamas is acting in Gaza, when they shot at Israeli cities with rockets. Therefore the current Israeli war against Gaza is a just war.

I am very thankful to Mrs. Oz-Salzberger for this example with the neighbor. A lot can be visually explained with it. For simplicities sake, let’s call you and your family, so terrorized by your bad neighbor, the house owners and let’s have a look at the curious circumstances in your housing block. The apartment of you neighbor is Gaza.

1. Three years ago you took the neighbors keys away.

Without your agreement as landlord the neighbors family can not leave there apartment, neither to go to work, nor to study, nor to travel, nor to shop. Without your agreement, the neighbor will not receive their mail, no food, no electricity, no gas or visits: The apartment is locked, and you as the landlord have the keys, and the bad, bad neighbor is locked in. And this since 2006, almost three years.

That’s when the bad, bad neighbor got furious.

The mistake of the bad, bad neighbor and his friends in the other apartment block: These people voted for the wrong party.

Although you having been so kind to the neighbor, as to move freely, four years ago – 2005, out of his balcony with sea views, which you took over earlier on. Of course without paying him a look or word, and the balconies furniture got trashed when you left. Where would life come to, if we would be speaking with our neighbors?

That’s when the bad, bad neighbor got furious.

2. Two years ago you send a gang of rowdies to your neighbor

You and your north american friends from the house owner society send a hit gang ro squat in the apartment of the neighbor, the Mohamed-Dahlan-Gang. They were supposed to take the apartment away from the bad, bad neighbor. Unfortunately the neighbor defended himself against this coup, and that got you really angry. Thereafter you tried to tell everyone, that the bad, bad neighbor has forcefully taken over power in his apartment, that he was not legitimized to do so. You yourself have been surprised by how many journalists have spread this lie. From Silke Mertins of the TAZ it was kind of expected, but that even Torsten Schmitz of the Sueddeutsche would write this nonsense was surprising.

That’s when the bad, bad Neighbor got furious.

3. You have not charged the running costs of the apartment correctly.

For years have the taxes and fees owned to the department of apartment autonomy not been paid in time and completely.

4. You have already killed many people from the neighbors apartment.

That was in the year 2006. Those were hundreds of dead. This was also a reason for the war in Lebanon, as the Hezbollah wanted to revenge the deeds of Israel.

5. You took away the bad, bad neighbors car.

The bad, bad Neighbor once had an airport – build with money from the EU. You have destroyed that airport: Bad Neighbors don’t need an airport.

6. You took away the neighbors work.

At times the neighbor went fishing. You don’t allow that anymore. The neighbor used to have factories. You bombed them in 2006. He used to have agriculture. You have ruined that, by not allowing export. The bad neighbors, who only want to shoot, are not supposed to go fishing, to work in factories or to work the soil.

The bad, bad neighbor is supposed to shoot at you, so that you can shoot back. And this is what the neighbor did.

7. The courts rule in the favor of the bad neighbor.

Many experts of neighborhood law, like Amnesty International, experts of the UN, winner of the Nobel Peace Prices have stated clearly that your doing as house owner against your neighbors throughout the years is breaking the law . Luckily that these people don’t have a police to enforce law and order. “How many divisions has the pope?” joked Stalin.

That’s when the bad, bad Neighbor got furious.

8. You have been chasing the friends of the neighbors out of their apartments for years.

Unfortunately the bad neighbor still has mobile phones and landlines. That’s how he gets to know daily, how friends and relatives of the bad neighbor, who live in the apartment block West Bank get chased out of their houses. A very important tool for this is the large wall, that you have build in the middle of the apartment block. Because you have build this wall, which is to serve your security, not around your house, but straight through the apartments of these friends. What do need these friends two living rooms for. One suffices enough, and in the other you can have your friends living. And that those within their smaller apartment must pass a security check, before going from the living room to the bathroom, that’s nothing: The whole live is a waiting room! And who peacefully demonstrates against these measures will get in Germany the Ossietzky Price, but will be shot at with teargas at home, and if out of luck be shot in legal self-defense. Of course the friends of the bad neighbor went to complain against the wall in front of a court of law, the German foreign minister of the time, a loud man named Fischer, called this “not helpful”, they of course were given right by the law, but again there is no police there, who would enforce their right.

That’s when the bad, bad neighbor got furious.

9. You took away ownership of the houses from your neighbor 60 years ago.

Long, long time ago, the grandfather of the neighbor was the owner of the whole house. At that time your grandparents came into the house, desperate, hunted, it was a good shelter from the storm. Soon you build a house in the yard, after all the yard belonged to no one. Of course, the others could now not go from one house to the other anymore, oh well, they are only Arabs. From time to time some humanitarian do gooders passed by, they were named Achad ha’AM, Martin Buber, Hannah Arendt, plus a couple of others, who said, it would be good to live in peace with the house owners, but by Marx’s will, these Arabs are to primitive for the creation of socialism, with these country folks one can not be friend. And later when Marx was out of fashion, it was Gods will, these Arabs have the wrong religion, what do they want in the holy house. There plenty of other houses around, they should go there.
And then, since 1947, your parents took most of the apartments and the whole house of the parents of the bad, bad neighbor, as they fled, in panic from the armed terror of your parents. And now, the descendants of the neighbors of these people live in the one apartment, in the most populated stretch of the world, in Gaza. Yes, why is now so densely populated?

That’s when the bad, bad neighbor got furious.

And so said the German chancellor and Mrs. Prof. Oz-Salzberger: The fault for the war falls on the bad, bad neighbor.

10. Last words

As the first Jewish Zionist, around 1890, came to today’s Israel, they were fleeing the discrimination in the land of the Tsar, from burnings and killings in the search of a free, self controlled life, which was not possible in their old country. This was not a conflict of good versus evil, but a fight about a piece of land, that was home to Palestinian Arabs, and that seemed to be the only possible home to the migrants.

The Jewish side has won that war, for the price of constant war. But a peace plan is since long ago on the table. The two state solution based on the frontier of 1967, with a solution on the problems of the Palestinian refugees, with solutions in regards to Jerusalem. This was proposed by the States of the Arab League in 2002 and again confirmed just a short time ago. Israel will not agree to this plan, as Israel can not decide if they do not rather want to keep the illegally gained land in the West Bank and even expand on it. As long as Israel does not say yes we would rather have peace, we will stop the occupation regime, there will be no peace.

The position of Germany in this conflict is split. But can the fact, that we European Jews, victims of Germany’s injustice, give the Jewish state now the rights to commit injustice against others. Do German politicians really believe, it is reparation of the killing of my Jewish relatives, that Israel can, without stops and binds, do what it pleases?

On the contrary, it would do Israel good, if it were taken out of its fantasized position of the eternal victim, if it were let away and as any other state be embedded into the international system of rules and regulations. That means, that the wrongful occupation of the West Bank, and the long lasting and illegal occupation of Gaza must be sanctioned and boycotted. The EU should measure Israel’s advances on state rights and human rights as they measure Serbia and Turkey. The legal evaluation of the case Olmert should as the case Milosevic take place in Den Haag.

vote of confidence

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

Last week the congress of the United States dredged up the time and where with all, from their hectic schedule of doling out billions of taxpayer dollars to bailout the financial industry – in order to pass a non-binding resolution to support Israels invasion of the Gaza strip. Only four Democrats and one Republican voted against the measure. There must have been something I missed, because I sure don’t remember any stampede of public outcry from the American people, demanding a rush to support Israels invasion – anymore than do I remember the American people demanding that congress immediately, and without accounting or oversight, give the financial industry a trillion dollars. The only conclusion that can be drawn between the two is that while the U.S. government believes it can spend its taxpayers money without explanation, sometimes it also feels the need to make a public spectacle over it in a vote of confidence. Because in the case of Israel, unlike the financial bailout, the people already know where the four billion, the one quarter of all foreign aid adding up to one hundred billion in aid since 1949 – goes – and that’s to all the aircraft, helicopter gunships, white phosphorus, cluster bombs, and other assorted munitions that are currently being used to kill hundreds of civilians in Gaza – in our name, as much as in Israels name.

Apparently, the government of the United States needs make no fuss with blowing a trillion dollars and keeping the people are in the dark about where it all goes, but finds it necessary to blare the trumpets loud when they think the people do know where the money goes, and might have other ideas about the wisdom of it all – of their tax money being spent to enforce another nations draconian occupation, that will produce nothing tangible, besides creating another thirty years of terrorism. And for this, they need a celebrated vote of confidence.

political rockets

Friday, January 16th, 2009

Bernhard at the Moon of Alabama has a provocative post up about the effectiveness of Hamas in the current war on Gaza. If we take Clausewitz’s universal axiom of “war is politics by other means” seriously, then we can begin to access who might be achieving their political goals in the war on Gaza.

My take is that the Israeli security walls have unwittingly produced on the part of Hamas, a tactic that may prove strategic in spite of its evident tactical impotence. And may even suck the Israeli’s into eventual concessions that they evidently are unable to foresee at this time. This of course would be the infamous qassam rockets fired into Israel following the breakdown of the ceasefire. These glorified bottle rockets have proven themselves tactically to be almost laughable in their “kinetic” effectiveness as a military weapon. Yet they appear to have provoked Israel into a major military operation in the name of stopping them from being fired onto their territory.

The Israeli population, has been rabid (90% approval) in their support of this invasion of Gaza under the pretense of stopping the rocket attacks – coming as they do, after their failure in Lebanon in 2006 to stop the Hezbollah rocket attacks, must be feeling very paranoid about their long term viability. This is further  underlined by the ability of Hamas to overcome all their military superiority, at least symbolically (because of the evident ineffectiveness of the rockets tactically) by continuing to fire the rockets, regardless what they do to stop them.

In the current political moment in Israel, in front of national elections, their leaders have unwittingly seized upon the rocket paranoia growing in the population and have inflamed it as  a propaganda tool  to gain favor at the ballot box. They have chosen to one up each other in retaliation toward Hamas – which has snowballed into the rabid demand for the genocidal madness we now see in Gaza.

Hamas, for its part has no other way of bringing Israeli behavior (towards it) into the high court of world opinion except perhaps, to provoke into stark relief what is normally the usually invisible business as usual in the Israel occupied  territories. In Hamas’ ability to continue with the rocket fire they have suckered Israel into amplifying their regular behavior into a violent shriek that the rest of the world can no longer ignore. And has opened up the ugly pandora’s box of questionable association, complicity, graft, manipulation, and guilt upon the other countries and their relationship with Israel that otherwise would be kept under the carpet and glossed over as a matter of routine. Now that Israel has taken the bait and resorted to massive war crimes and genocide, the taint of responsibility and accessory has now crept into all the other governments associated with them, and are beginning to produce not only an accurate portrayal of how/who broke the ceasefire, but what perhaps is necessary to move forward toward an equatable settlement.

If Clausewitz is right about “war is politics by other means” Hamas, it would seem, has moved the ball much in their favor, and Israel is well on their way to another humiliating defeat. As in their attack on Lebanon, by their own hand.

joe the war correspondent

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Frankly, I’ve been too depressed about the slaughter in Gaza to post anything lately. At least until I watched the news tonight and saw “Joe the Plumber” in Israel posing as a
“war correspondent” for Pajama’s Media. That brought a moment of levity to the situation, seeing him out there stumbling around some barren hinterland in Israel with a microphone. With Gaza in the near distance, and framing his entire report, you could see dark plumes smoke rising from the carnage in the distance. And so it was in serious context and an expression to match the overnight everyman of all trades put forth some profound reflections for the everyman back home (look out Robert Fisk and John Pilger):

“I’ll be honest with you. I don’t think journalists should be anywhere allowed war. I mean, you guys report where our troops are at. You report what’s happening day to day. You make a big deal out of it. I-I think it’s asinine. You know, I liked back in World War I and World War II when you’d go to the theater and you’d see your troops on, you know, the screen and everyone would be real excited and happy for’em. Now everyone’s got an opinion and wants to downer–and down soldiers. You know, American soldiers or Israeli soldiers. I think media should be abolished from, uh, you know, reporting. You know, war is hell. And if you’re gonna sit there and say, ‘Well look at this atrocity,’ well you don’t know the whole story behind it half the time, so I think the media should have no business in it.”

Well, so you’ve gotta give the guy credit where credit is due, after all he managed to make himself an overnight national symbol posing as a plumber, when he was not really a plumber, then there were record contracts, when he couldn’t sing, then a possible run for public office, – none of which compare to the current stunt of pretending to be a “war correspondent”. All I can say is WOW, not that it’s some feat of imagination to play the republican version of “The Great Imposter” (no, there are plenty of them), it’s how he’s put the whole thing together. Or lets say it’s elegance . He is after all suppose to be a war correspondent, reporting on the war, but instead, he not only doesn’t report anything about the war (going on in the background) but goes on to admonish anybody who should report on the war. In sum then, he’s a non reporter, reporting that it’s a waste of time to report, all the while getting paid to report. Not bad. The man has obviously been studying at the feet of the Queen of political kitch, Sarah Palin. In this instance he has one up’ed her, by taking her her famous Cohen Bros. Fargo turkey farm massacre interview, one step beyond. And instead of making a humorous unwitting political metaphor, Joe goes all the way – preforming his epic republican theater of the absurd in front of an actual and on going human massacre of real people with real blood, while at the same time behooving us to ignore it. A truer republican mindset, would be impossible to find.

politician from another planet

Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

THIS got my attention this morning, Tom Geoghegan running for Rham Emmanuel’s seat in congress. Why a mission statement should sound so rational and fresh and obviously necessary, is beyond me.

Why I’m Running

I’m running for Congress in the Fifth District of Illinois. As a Chicago lawyer for thirty years I have fought for working people in this District and throughout the city. I have represented unions as well as people with no unions to protect them. In plant closings I have helped them recover health and pension benefits. I obtained health care for the uninsured. I’ve been pressing the State of Illinois to crack down on payday lenders.

In my life as a lawyer I have lived out a commitment to one cause above all – to bring economic security to working Americans, in our District, in our country. That’s the same commitment I will bring to Congress. We’re deep in an economic crisis unlike any other we’ve known. It may last years. We need new and creative ways to protect working Americans, especially our older working people who have no real pensions to live on.

For years we’ve heard the doomsayers: “We can’t afford Social Security.” “We can’t afford ‘single payer’ national health.” One thing we all learned from the $700 billion bailout: We’ve got the money to do all of this and more. At the moment, the Federal Reserve is literally printing money, to give not billions but trillions to banks and financial firms. To the people of this District, the banks and others have gotten their money. Now it’s your turn. Here’s the bailout I will go to Congress to get:

First, I want to expand Social Security, our public pension system, to replace, not overnight but in stages, the private pension system which has collapsed. Social Security now pays about 38 to 39 percent of your working income. In other developed countries, it averages 65 percent. That’s where our fiscal stimulus should be: a commitment to reach this goal, a public pension that ordinary working people can live on.

Second we have to move to single payer health care program, at least in phases: we might begin with extending Medicare to children, but the government should ultimately be the single payer for all. That’s not because single payer is the only ethical and efficient way to protect us all. No, it’s also because it is crucial to making us competitive globally. Through single payer and expanded Social Security, the goal is to pick up the “non-wage” labor costs that employers now have to pay. That’s already how other countries out-compete us: they have the government and not the private employer pick up these non-wage health and pension costs.

Unless we have government pick up the costs of pensions and health care, our companies can’t compete, and we’ll go on piling up huge trade deficits. We’ll have debacles like GM, which has collapsed in part because of the health and pension costs that the federal government should have been paying all along.

For years, the conservatives have said: “We can’t do this. The money isn’t there.” Well, the money is there. It was there for the Iraq war, a colossal waste of money, and for the bailout, the first half of which has been a colossal waste as well. And if we now have the government pick up non-wage labor costs with the use of general revenues, we will in fact make it cheaper and easier for our companies to hire. This is in fact the best and most realistic approach for a long term recovery.

Finally we have to put limits on returns to financial firms. We should re-enact the usury laws, the interest-rate caps that were in place in America up till the 1970s. We need to stop the rates of 30 to 35 percent, the hidden fees, the hundreds of ways that banks pull our money out of industry and into gambling and speculation.

In my campaign, I will have a single minded focus on the economic security to working Americans, that’s why I so strongly support the Employee Free Choice Act and other changes in our labor laws. And that’s why I support policies that will reduce the debt of working Americans. Overall, the plan I am setting out here will help make our country more competitive.

I’m a strong supporter of President Obama. Yes, I strongly support his program to repair our infrastructure. Even so, we don’t have to pave the streets with gold. If not the meltdown then the bail out should have opened our eyes. The real fiscal stimulus has to be the kind that brings financial security to the middle class. The message of this campaign is: We’re moving beyond the bailout. Now it’s your turn.

Update. Thomas Frank has some additional reflections on Geoghogan HERE.

creep of darkness

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

2005, 14″ x 14″ x 2″ spray paint & oil stick on wood (click on image for enlargement)

notebook #5 (stardust)

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

2008, 8″ x 11″ x 2″ , oil & rhinestones on wood (click on image for enlargement)