Tuesday, December 30, 2008






New Orleans:










New York:











The Megaphone desktop tool is a Microsoft Windows application distributed by the World Union of Jewish Students and other pro-Israel organizations, through the Giyus.org website. Released on July 19, 2006, it delivers real-time alerts about key articles, videos, blogs, and surveys to subscribers so that they can voice their opinions and work together to support Israel on the public opinion front.

Woke Up With Fleas

Friday, December 26, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

We noticed

President Bush: “I’m sorry it’s happening, of course. Obviously I don’t like the idea of people losing jobs, or being worried about their 401Ks. On the other hand, the American people got to know that we will safeguard the system. I mean, we’re in. And if we need to be in more, we will.”

After Mumbai

Questions, Questions

And why not?

Here, via here

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The curious case of Ken Haywood

From August 13, after the Ahmedabad serial bombings claimed by "Indian Mujahideen":
Ken Haywood, the American national from whose Internet Protocol (IP) address the Terror e-mail was sent prior to the Ahmedabad serial blasts, underwent lie detector tests on Wednesday, a senior police official said in Mumbai. Maharashtra’s Anti-Terror Squad (ATS), which is probing the case, traced the e-mail to Haywood’s flat in Navi Mumbai and found that his background and job were “of a slightly dubious nature”. But the information available so far is not good enough to charge him or suggest his involvement in the case.

“We have conducted inquiries on Haywood’s background and his company. These are of a slightly dubious nature, and even the company he works for and its office are a bit suspect,” ATS chief Hemant Karkare told The Indian Express. “However, this does not directly link him with the case in any way. After all, having a suspicious background, or even working for a bogus company is not enough to book anyone for involvement in terror activities,” he added.

G S Hegde, Haywood’s lawyer, said: “The ATS has not said anything about Haywood’s personal life, or his involvement in any criminal activities. We maintain he is innocent.”

The police in Mumbai and Bangalore have said there is primary evidence to show that Haywood’s wi-fi account was hacked into and compromised, resulting in the terror e-mail on July 26 — five minutes before the blasts. Questions remain as to who did it and how they picked on Haywood’s computer network.

Haywood is supposed to be a corporate training manager and general manager with a company called Campbell White, which describes itself on its website as a “premier executive soft skills trainer”.

On the corporate side, Daniel Rubianes is the managing director of the company with its main office at the first floor of the M S Plaza in east Bangalore. Rubianes, like many other employees of Campbell White, wears a second hat. On Thursdays and Sundays, he is pastor Dan Rubianes, the head of the Door Christian Centre — a church with origins in Arizona in the US but relatively new to India. Door Christian Centre is a part of the Pentecostal Christian Fellowship Ministries, also known as the Potter’s House. Haywood is a functionary of the Potter’s House in Mumbai.

August 19:

In a dramatic development in the terror email case, US national Ken Haywood, who had yet to be given a clean chit, flew out of the country with his family from Delhi late on Sunday night despite a lookout notice given to the immigration authorities.
According to sources, Haywood, his wife and their two teenaged daughters took a flight to Delhi from the Mumbai domestic airport on Sunday afternoon. They then took a flight to the US from the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi between midnight and 12.30am, sources said.
Maharashtra's Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS), which had summoned Haywood for questioning on Monday afternoon, was at a loss to explain how a person under investigation in a terror case managed to slip away.
In fact, this has led to speculation that the Indian government allowed him to leave the country. The US consulate in Mumbai refused to say anything on the case citing rules.
Historian and journalist Amaresh Misra:

Mumbai and India Under Attack

It is 4AM in India right now. I am in Mumbai reporting from the ground. I have not slept a wink. Mumbai is under attack. People and forces who killed Mahatama Gandhi, who demolished the Babari Mosque have triumphed. More than 16 groups of terrorists have taken over Taj, Oberai and several hotels. Hundreds of people are dead. For the first time no one is blaming Muslim organizations. The Mumbai ATS chief Hemant Karkare and other officers of the ATS have been killed. These were the same people who were investigating the Malegaon Blasts–in which Praggya Singh, an army officer and several other noted personalities of the BJP-RSS-Bajrang Dal-VHP were arrested. Karkare was the man to arrest them. Karkare was receiving threats from several quarters. LK Advani, the BJP chief and several other prominent leaders of the so-called Hindu terrorism squad were gunning for his head. And the first casualty in the terrorist attack was Karkare! He is dead–gone–the firing by terrorists began from Nariman House–which is the only building in Mumbai inhabited by Jews. Some Hindu Gujaratis of the Nariman area spoke live on several TV channels–they openly said that the firing by terrorists began from Nariman house. And that for two years suspicious activities were going on in this house. But no one took notice.

Our worst fears have come true. It is clear that Mossad is involved in the whole affair. An entire city has been attacked by Mossad and probably units of mercenaries. It is not possible for one single organization to plan and execute such a sophisticated operation. It is clear that this operation was backed by communal forces from within the Indian State. The Home Minister Shivraj Patil should resign. The RSS-BJP-VHP-Bajrang Dal should be banned. Advani and others ought to be arrested. Today is a day of shame for all Indians and all Hindus. Muslims and secular Hindus have been proven right. RSS type forces and Israel are all involved in not only destabilizing but finishing India. India should immediately snap all relations with Israel. We owe this much to Karkare and the brave ATS men who had shown the courage to arrest Praggya Singh, Raj Kumar Purohit, the army officer and several others.

A photograph publushed in Urdu Times, Mumbai, clearly shows that Mossad and ex-Mossad men came to India and met Sadhus and other pro-Hindutva elements recently. A conspiracy was clearly hatched.

Monday, November 24, 2008

"Maroni should do what I did when I was secretary of the interior. He should withdraw the police from the streets and the universities, infiltrate the movement with secret (provacateurs) agents, ready to do anything, and, for about 10 days, let the demonstrators devastate shops, set fire to cars and lay waste the cities. After which, strengthened by popular consent, the sound of ambulance sirens should be louder than the police cars. The security forces should massacre the demonstrators without pity, and send them all to hospital. They shouldn't arrest them, because the magistrates would release them immediately, but they should beat them up. And they should also beat up those teachers who stir them up. Especially the teachers. Not the elderly lecturers, of course, but the young women teachers."

A senior Obama campaign official shared with The Washington Note that in July 2008, the McCain and Obama camps began to work secretly behind the scenes to assemble large rosters of potential personnel for the administration that only one of the candidates would lead.

Lists comprised of Democrats and Republicans were assembled, sorted into areas of policy expertise, so that the roster could be called on after the election by either the Obama or McCain transition teams.

This kind of out-of-sight coordination is rare between battling presidential camps and provides some indication that both Obama and McCain intended to draw expertise into their governments from both sides of the aisle -- or at least they wanted to appear interested in doing so if the information leaked out about the list development process.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Plunge Protection Team Protection Team

Cynical Illusions

Paul Street:
Before he could be in a position to be sold (brilliantly) on the mass American electoral market, of course, Obama first needed to sell himself to the national political and business elite that controls much of the political action behind the scenes. That sales job did not involve deceptive one- or two-message commercials and slogans. It was about candid, up-close meetings in which the candidate made it clear that he posed no substantive challenge to dominant domestic and imperial structures and doctrines. That earlier marketing project, ably recounted by Ken Silverstein and David Mendell, took place in late 2003 and 2004 and made possible the first great rolling out of Brand Obama during the senator's instantly famous keynote address to the Democratic National Convention in late July of 2004. It has continued behind the scenes ever since, with Obama continually reassuring his many big-money sponsors and corporate media enthusiasts that he is not some sort of starry-eyed idealist about to seriously question the interrelated hierarchies and ideologies of corporate-managed state capitalism, empire, and inequality.

The basic Obama message to the nation's ruling class - NOT advertised to the electorate - is that he is safe to concentrated power centers even if occasional populist-sounding slivers make their way into the construction of "Brand Obama." More than that, the campaign's message to the elite has included the promise that Obama will wrap reigning institutions and dogma in fake-progressive rebel's clothing and help repair the damage done to the United States' global public relations image by the vicious and clumsy post-9/11 excesses of the brazenly imperial Cheney-Bush gang.

Consistent with that hope, Advertising Age hails President-Elect Obama for producing "An Instant Overhaul for Tainted Brand America." The journal quotes David Brain, CEO of the global public relations firm Edelman Europe, Middle East and Africa, on how "the election and nomination process is the brand relaunch of the year. Brand USA. It's just fantastic."

Nick Ragone has an interesting resume. He is both "a presidential historian" and the senior VP of client development at the leading global advertising firm Omnicom Group's Ketchum. "We've put a new face on [America] and that face happens to be African-American," Ragone told Advertising Age. "It takes a lot of the hubris and arrogance of the last eight years and starts to put it in the rearview mirror for us."

Rigone might want to review Orwell's dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty Four on the deletion of unpleasant history - sent "down the memory hole" - by totalitarian communication authorities. "Rearview mirror" is code language for Orwellian revisionism.

Then there's the interesting commentary of Harvard Business School professor John Quelch. Quelch is a former "WWP Group" (a global advertising firm) board member and the co-author of a recent book with an oxymoronic title: "Greater Good: How Good Marketing Makes for Better Democracy."

According to Welch, echoing Orwell, "The election result zero-bases the image of the United States worldwide. We have a clean slate with which to work," Welch told Advertising Age. "Let us hope the opportunity is not squandered the way it was after 9/11."

According to Carolyn Carter, the London-based president and CEO and Grey Group Europe, Middle East and Africa (creator of the popular teeth-rotting "Coke Zero" ad campaign for Northern Europe), "The last eight years broke faith in Brand America, and people want that faith restored."

Enter the openly imperial Obama, who is "almost like Che Guevera, in a good way," according to Foreign Policy magazine's web editor Blake Hounshell. "He has icon status," Hounshell explains, "with the all the art around the world of his face." The difference, of course, is that Che boldly inspired radical challenges to the American Empire but Obama inspires captivation with the corporate-imperial U.S. and its supposed self-reinvention as a land of progressive democracy and endless possibility. According to Scott Kronick, global marketing firm "Ogilvy PR's" Beijing-based president, Obama's triumph "send a strong message to the world that despite what many people believe and feel...America can be very open, democratic, and progressive."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Getting Real Now

Paul Street, The Empire's New Clothes:

‘Holding Domestic Constituencies in Check'

At the same time, many in the establishment sensed (accurately) that Obama is particularly well-suited to the goal of wrapping corporate politics and the related American Empire Project in insurgent garb. Their profit- and empire-based system and "leadership" has been behaving so badly that a major image makeover is required to keep the rabble (the citizenry) in line. Once he was properly "vetted" and found to be "reasonable" - to be someone who would not fundamentally question dominant power structures and doctrines - Obama's multicultural background, race, youth, charisma, and even his early opposition to the Iraq War became useful to corporate and imperial elites. His outwardly progressive "change" persona is perfectly calibrated to divert, capture, control, and contain coming popular rebellions. He is uniquely qualified to simultaneously surf, de-fang, and "manage" the U.S. and world citizenry's hopes for radical and democratic transformation in the wake of the Bush-Cheney nightmare. As John Pilger warned last May:

"What is Obama's attraction to big business? Precisely the same as Robert Kennedy's [in 1968]. By offering a ‘new,' young and apparently progressive face of Democratic Party - with the bonus of being a member of the black elite - he can blunt and divert real opposition. That was Colin Powell's role as Bush's secretary of state. An Obama victory will bring intense pressure on the US antiwar and social justice movements to accept a Democratic administration for all its faults. If that happens, domestic resistance to rapacious America will fall silent" [8].

Obama's race is no small part of what makes him "uniquely qualified" to perform the key tasks of mass pacification for which he has been hired. As Aurora Levins Morales noted in a Z Magazine essay written for left progressives last April:

"We're far more potent as organizers and catalysts than as voters. Our ability to create a world we can thrive on does not depend on who wins this election, it depends on our ability to dismantle profit-based societies in which greed trumps ethics. This election is about finding a CEO capable of holding domestic constituencies in check as they are further disenfranchised and... [about] mak[ing] them feel that they have a stake in the military aggressiveness that the ruling class believes is necessary. Having a black man and a white woman run helps to obscure the fact that ...decline of empire is driving the political elite to the right. Both [Obama and Hillary Clinton] represent very reactionary politics...Part of the cleverness of having such candidates is the fact that they will be attacked in ways that make oppressed people feel compelled to protect them" [9].

Imperial ‘Re-branding'

The logic works at the global as well as the domestic level. A considerable segment of the U.S. foreign policy establishment thinks that Obama's race, name (technically Islamic), experience living (Muslim Indonesia, as a child) in and visiting (chiefly his father's homeland Kenya) poor nations and his nominally anti-Iraq War history will help them repackage the U.S. imperial project (replete with more than 730 military bases located in nearly every nation on Earth) in softer and more politically correct cover [10]. John Kerry, who ran for the presidency four years earlier largely on the claim that he would be a more effective manager of empire (and the Iraq War) than George W. Bush [11], was certainly thinking of these critical imperial "soft power" assets when he praised Obama as someone who could "reinvent America's image abroad" [11A]. So was Obama himself when he said the following to reporters aboard his campaign plane in the fall of 2007:

"If I am the face of American foreign policy and American power, as long as we are making prudent strategic decisions, handling emergencies, crises, and opportunities in the world in an intelligent and sober way....I think that if you can tell people, ‘We have a president in the White House who still has a grandmother living in a hut on the shores of Lake Victoria and has a sister who's half-Indonesian, married to a Chinese-Canadian,' then they're going to think that he may have a better sense of what's going on in our lives and country. And they'd be right" [12].

What Obama didn't tell reporters was that his idea of "prudent" and "intelligent" foreign policy is strongly committed to U.S. global hyper-militarism and world supremacy, including unilateral action whenever "we" deem it necessary to "protect the American people and their vital interests" [13].

Obama's distinctive biography is one of his great attractions to the mostly white U.S. foreign policy elite in a majority non-white world that has been deeply provoked and disgusted by U.S. behavior in the post-9/11 era (and truthfully before). He is a perfect symbol of deceptive imperial "re-branding." According to the power-worshipping and unconsciously imperialist New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof three weeks ago, the election of a black president "could change global perceptions of the United States, redefining the American ‘brand' to be less about Guantanamo and more about equality" [14]. Never mind that the U.S. remains the most unequal and wealth-top-heavy country in the industrialized world by far, strongly dedicated to maintaining steep socioeconomic and disparity within and between nations and scarred by a domestic racial wealth gap of seven black cents on the white dollar.

Call it "the identity politics of foreign policy." The Empire wants new clothes and Obama is just the man to wear them.

"If there's anyone out there who still questions the power of our democracy..."

The first public words out of Obama's mouth on the evening of his election were richly consistent with his assignment of restoring legitimacy to the American System. "If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible.....who still questions the power of our democracy," Obama intoned, "tonight is your answer" [15].

Our supposed "left" President-Elect's first statement was NOT a call for peace, justice, and equality. It wasn't a call for America to confront the inseparably linked problems (what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called the "triple evils that are interrelated") of economic exploitation, racism (deeply understood), and militarism-imperialism.

No, it was a Reagan-like declaration bolstering the American plutocracy's ridiculous claim that the U.S. - the industrialized world's most unequal and wealth-top-heavy society by far - is home to a great democracy and limitless opportunity for all.

And what's with the word "still" (used twice) in Obama's assertion? It's not exactly like the case for the U.S. being a great popular democracy has been made with special, self-evident strength in recent times! The last three-and-a-half decades have brought the deepening top-down infliction of a sharply regressive corporate-neoliberal policies that are widely (but irrelevantly) repudiated by the majority of U.S. citizens [16].

In this century we've witnessed the execution of a monumentally criminal petro-imperialist Iraq Invasion sold to the U.S. populace by a spectacular state-media propaganda campaign (including preposterous claims of noble democratic intent Obama has embraced) that mocked and subverted the nation's democratic ideals. Dominant U.S. media's role in the invasion of Iraq marks perhaps the all-time low point of the "free press" in the U.S. [17]. The "democracy disconnect" - the gap (chasm really) between majority public opinion (which supports things like national universal health care, significant reductions in military expenditure and imperial commitment, massive public works, reduced corporate power, etc.) and "public" policy - is a widely acknowledged problem in American political life [18]. The specter of homeland totalitarianism - please see Sheldon Wolin's recent book Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (Princeton, NJ, 2008) - has never loomed larger than in the opening decade of the 21st century.

"If there is anyone out there who still questions the power of our democracy"? Hello? How about: "Is there anybody who seriously thinks we really have a functioning democracy in the U.S.?"

8. John Pilger, "After Bobby Kennedy There Was Barack Obama," Common Dreams, May 31, 2008, read at www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/05/31/9327/.
9. Aurora Levins Morales, "Thinking Outside the Ballot Box," Z Magazine (April 2008).
10. James Traub, "Is (His) Biography (Our) Destiny?" New York Times Magazine (November 4, 2007). See also Liza Mundy, "A Series of Fortunate Events: Barack Obama Needed More Than Talent and Ambition to Rocket From Obscure State Senator to Presidential Contender in Three Years," Washington Post Magazine (August 12, 2007).
11. See Paul Street, "Bush, Kerry, and ‘Body Language' v. ‘Message': Notes on Race, Gender, Empire and Mass Infantilization," ZNet Magazine (October 12, 2004).
11A. John F. Kerry, "Truly Transformative," Newsweek (April 28, 2008): 34.
12. Quoted in Traub, "Is (His) Biography (Our) Destiny?"
13. For truly ugly details, please see the fourth chapter - titled "How ‘Antiwar?' Obama, Iraq, and the Audacity of Empire" - in my book Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics.
14. Nicholas Kristof, "Rebranding the U.S. With Obama," The New York Times, October 23, 2008, p. A27.
15. Barack Obama, "Remarks on Election Night," Chicago, IL (November 4, 2008), read at
16. For one among many sources, see see Jeff Faux, The Global Class War: How America's Bipartisan Elite Lost Our Future and What It Will Take to Win it Back (New York: Wiley, 2006).
17. For some important recent reflections, see John Bellamy Foster, Hannah Holleman, and Robert W. McChesney, "The Military/Industrial/Media Triangle," Monthly Review (October 2008), pp. 15-16.
18. For sources and details, see Paul Street, "Americans' Progressive Opinions vs. ‘The Shadow Cast on Society by Big Business,'" ZNet Sustainer Commentary (May 15, 2008), read at

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

(Very Belated) Ronnie Drew Appreciation

Seven Drunken Nights

The Auld Triangle: Featuring Charles Haughey! (and U2)

Monto (at the Royal Albert Hall)

Forgiveness, Redemption, America

A comment on this post by Greenwald:

We have a financial crisis, two wars and a president-elect who won on a strategy of post-partisan politics. We all know Bush was small-minded and quite possibly a criminal, and we certainly should get the facts out (behind closed doors) so this does not happen again. But a political witch hunt for bureaucrats would send Obama home after four years. The entire affair would become immensely political and discredit Obama's whole appeal to the MIDDLE MAJORITY. No self respecting Democrat wants to see America's dirty laundry aired after we have just won back a big dose of good will from our international friends. Isn't it remarkable how many people they've been able to convince that their fate depends upon letting our political leaders break the law without consequences?

Greenwald's response:
If the Government were to create the position of Brainwashing Czar -- or Citizen Control Czar -- and that person issued a report recommending that the Government try to inculcate the population into believing that it was for their own Good that political leaders were free to break the law and not be prosecuted, nobody would think it possible. Everyone would say: "oh not, not even the most potent brainwashing techniques, applied to the most mindless and subservient population, could ever convince them of that."

And yet, right here in my very own comment section, you have one person after the next coming forth to say how all of the Important Things the New Leader has to do for them means that, for their own Good, the Old Leader and everyone who worked with him must be given carte blanche to commit crimes.

Really stunning.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Thursday, November 06, 2008

I Have A Dream

On Vietnam

Rahm Emanuel

Writing back in February about Lawrence Lessig urging Americans to cast Obama as the Prez:

So I want you to shut your eyes and imagine what it will seem like to a young man in Iraq or in Iran, who wakes up on January 21st, 2009, and sees the picture of this man as the president of the United States. A man who opposed the war at the beginning, a man who worked his way up from almost nothing, a man who came from a mother and a father of mixed cultures and mixed societies, who came from a broken home to overcome all of that to become the leader in his class, at the Harvard Law Review, and an extraordinary success as a politician. How can they see us when they see us as having chosen this man as our president?

There can be no clearer way that we could say, that we could say that the United States could say, that we have changed, than by electing this man. There is no way we could more clearly move on toward peace than this. He represents the very best of who we are, the best of character, of integrity and ideals. And someone who opposed the war from the start.

Just picture it - the faces of those young men, all over the world, from Borneo to Nome, their eyes agleam, cut to the madrassah in Northern Pakistan, to the café in Gaza, to the slums outside Mexico City, see the wonder and happiness, face - face- face - hear the soundtrack swell...Filipinos, slowly beginning to applaud...worshippers in Mecca, looking up, as one, to read the news in skywriting overhead, slowly releasing smiles....O...B...half an A... and in Sierra Leone someone lifts a scarred limb and cries Obama! There won't be a dry eye in the house!

And here the entertainment industry really delivers:

Here's the UGC version:

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"The Content of His Character"

"all I have heard from the US is a strange elation and this from people who normally don’t lean toward optimism. " – steppling at Lenin’s Tomb

That strange elation. Yes. An inexplicable euphoria. Sadrugestrane was right wasn’t she? It became evident on election night. I know those were all real tears, Keith Olberman’s and Jesse Jackson’s. And mine. And my friend’s with whom I stayed up late, on the phone watching MSNBC on the web. And saying of some missed old folks how sorry we were they’d not lived to see it – as over the past years we sometimes said when feeling sad one consolation was they had not lived to see so many things. My friend voted for McKinney that afternoon – NYState was safe enough. On election night we were so moved it was strange, really really nervous and then really really elated, strangely, like the feelings were being shot into you like a drug, my friend said she felt like her emotions were attached to strings being yanked... it was so eerie.

-what's this feeling?

-what is it, I know this feeling!

-lemme think shhh! Shhh!

- baseball

- uh-hunno. No. Shhh!

-like a familiar scent that just…

-Spielberg! It’s Spielberg euphoria!

- yes! exactly! ET! Schindler's List!

And then all those flags in the park in Chicago, so scary suddenly. I thought about sadrugestrane’s comments which I had just read a little before and started telling my friend. Those flags and the ebullient youth, American rebirth, and the old men veterans of the civil rights movement saying "I never thought I'd live to see the day...." , renewal, rebirth (rebranding) and everyone in tears, and then there’s Obama.

“If he says…if he says that I’m going to freak out.”

He said it, though. Immediately. The immediate assertion that if anyone is worried about the United States’ ruling class’ power, about its lawlessness and ruthlessness, about power concentration in the US, anyone worried about civil liberties and the vestiges of democracy, about crimes against humanity, the closing possibility of progressive politics, the loss of influence of the US citizenry over their so powerful state, the global hegemon, just put that thought aside....America is a beacon....America is the world leader because of its inherent virtue…America is unique….uniquely Good….the way he worked in I Have A Dream to mark then versus now (we have judged him by the content of his character)....the way he said "opportunity" instead of "equality"....that ultra frightening creepy sea of stars and stripes, t shirts and baseball caps, and close-ups.

The whole thing was suddenly obviously completely ersatz, completely managed, a completely commodified grass roots movement like MobLogic.Tv is CBS Interactive’s pseudo indymedia. That ice rink at Rockerfeller Plaza, the tension and the release, very much a spectacle, a pageant, the rebranding of the American empire, even the beginnings of the creation of an American master race, a new kind of race, Herrenvolk 3.0, the antiracist master race, the antifascist fascism. MSNBC takes you to his father's little hometown in Kenya, roots, "we are the world", we own the world. The US has always used blackness this way, culturally imperialistically, to disguise imperialist capitalist power in popular black culture etc.. Then of course my friend and I are thinking we're so cynical, and paranoid, but those American flags, and that dreadful speech, and all this self-congratulation by the citizens of a country in the course of escalating crimes against humanity, somehow brought to cheer the belligerence and the bullshit they are actually mobilised to oppose, to buy the cause as the cure, and it all so easily distracts from the massive concentration of power and capital going on, it's all so reassuring – see? Our election special shows it’s still possible to have a clean election, it’s still possible to have crowds in the street who aren't getting teargassed, young people opposing the current regime vocally not handcuffed and arrested as terrorists etc etc.. If you just accept the patronage and leadership of the elite, you can vent in the streets all you like.

Something so incredibly creepy ersatz spectacle imageverse descended over the Historical Moment as we watched it (on the web, talking on the phone). Even though of course it is really real, people's feelings are real, the support is real but all absorbed by what is unreal, by image, by not even convincing image. It's good enough, this flimsy image, because there is no competition. (Yes yes, but Bullshit does matter! Bullshit is all that matters! It's all there is after all!) And it happens before your eyes, the substance evaporating into image. The opposition to the occupations is real but taken under the direction of the beneficiary and protagonist of those occupations; the desire for the redistribution of wealth is real but simply harnessed and transformed into support for the plutocrats, just the way real desires for real goods and real satisfactions are channelled into purchases of iPhones and sneakers. The whole movement is real, real discontent and real desires but seized, given form, organised by a massively costly, centrally planned marketing operation by the oligarchy around a main character cast by Wall Street to be the protagonist and hero of all this, not chosen by people or rising through a movement, chosen by Wall Street and given the resources to organise dispersed grievances around him into an ersatz movement given value by real movement content, enclosing real public fury and willingness to be active that lacks any left organisation to organise it, enclosing that and arranging it around this appointed leader, laying claim then to all the appearance of legitimacy that expropriated reality of political activism, clustered around him and the democratic party wall street machine, grants. And so he deftly ornaments it in these phrases of MLKJr and these images and gestures to the past, spectral spectacle of a real movement, but this is the commodified “movement”. It’s made out of real popular politics just the way commodities are made out of real labour and talents and efforts and lives; there’s a use value there but it's transformed into the property of the plutocratic oligarchy who will use it, have used it, for their own ends. Amazing enclosure and exploitation. Real popular politics are enclosed to be turned to the profit of empire.

But for several weeks before the election "Steal Back Your Vote" was among the top Google searches. One is tempted to believe the plutocrats have done us all a favour without knowing it, sort of the way Marx saw capitalism creating conditions for socialism. "Steal back your politics."

The Audacity of Despair

Although polls going into the final weeks of October showed Sen. Obama in the lead, it remained unclear whether the failing economy, dilapidated housing market, crumbling national infrastructure, health care crisis, energy crisis, and five-year-long disastrous war in Iraq had made the nation crappy enough to rise above 300 years of racial prejudice and make lasting change.

"Today the American people have made their voices heard, and they have said, 'Things are finally as terrible as we're willing to tolerate'," said Obama, addressing a crowd of unemployed, uninsured, and debt-ridden supporters. "To elect a black man, in this country, and at this time—these last eight years must have really broken you."

Added Obama, "It's a great day for our nation."

Friday, October 31, 2008

Mr. Secretary, this analysis is not rocket science. Just twenty days before Goldman announced that it would “accept” Treasury’s investment, Warren Buffett invested $5 billion into Goldman Sachs and acquired the very same type of security – preferred stock – with the very same form of “upside” – warrants to purchase common stock. For some reason, however, per dollar invested, Mr. Buffett received at least seven and perhaps up to fourteen times more warrants than Treasury did and his warrants have more favorable terms. In addition, Mr. Buffett’s preferred stock has a higher dividend rate and can only be bought away from him at a premium, while Treasury’s investment of taxpayers’ money pays a lower dividend and can be repurchased at par.

Now I know that you have a lot on your plate, but I am sure that someone at Treasury saw the terms of Buffett’s investment. In fact, my suspicion is that you studied it pretty closely and knew exactly what you were doing. The 50-50 deal – 50% invested and 50% as a gift – is quite consistent with the Republican version of the “spread-the-wealth-around” philosophy that seems so much in vogue.

If the result of our analysis is applied to the deals that you made at the other eight institutions – which on average most would view as being less well positioned than Goldman and therefore requiring an even greater rate of return – you paid $125 billion for securities for which a disinterested party would have paid $62.5 billion. This means that you gifted the other $62.5 billion to the shareholders of these nine institutions.

Link [PDF]

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hot Topix

James Buchan reviews some books.

Bulls, he writes, are what someone else might call zealously open to the messianic other:

In rising financial markets, the world is forever new. The bull or optimist has no eyes for past or present, but only for the future, where streams of revenue play in his imagination. In falling markets, there is nothing that has not happened before. The bear or pessimist sees only the past, which imprisons the wretched financial soul in eternal circles of boom and bust and boom again.

Bulls don't read. Bears read financial history. As markets fall to bits, the bears dust off the Dutch tulip mania of 1637, the Banque Royale of 1719-20, the railway speculation of the 1840s, the great crash of 1929. Leering phantoms emerge from the historical dark, like the parade of ghostly Scottish kings in Macbeth...

(Funniest paragraph:

Ferguson's reputation is so high that if he were a stock one would short him. The very title of his book, The Ascent of Money, is a screaming sell signal, like the shoe-shine boys trading stock tips at the door to Grand Central Station in New York in 1929. In fairness, Ferguson recognises that and his pages are hot with proof-stage tyre-marks, as he goes into violent reverse to escape from under collapsing arguments. None the less, his book is very readable indeed and the television series for which it is a sort of trailer, will, I am sure, be even better.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

In This Issue

Naked Short: Bare Life As Fidelity To The Truth Of The Financial Event

Prodigal Sums or The Revenant Revenu - Openness to the Gift of Good Debt

and the cover story

Immaterial Wages

As wages and assets of the working class rapidly dematerialise, a Left trapped in hopeless nostalgia for crudely tangible indulgences laments the transcendance as a catastrophe, obstinately resisting incorporation into the explosion of post-human imaginary prosperity already achieving the utopian transformation our world and unraveling an infinite realm of immaterial wealth and pleasure easily accessible via iPhones

Monday, October 20, 2008

Wednesday, October 15, 2008


Matt Taibbi: You don't think the unregulated CDS market was a major factor in the current crisis? Were you watching when AIG almost went under? Were you watching the Lehman collapse?

Byron York: I think that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were also major factors. And I believe that many of the problems in the mortgage area can be attributed to the confluence of Democratic and Republican priorities: the Democrats' desire to give mortgages to people, particularly minorities, who could not afford them, and the Republicans' desire to achieve an "ownership society," in part by giving mortgages to people who could not afford them. Again, I believe that if you are suggesting that the financial crisis is a Republican creation, or even more specifically a McCain creation, I think you're on pretty shaky ground.

M.T.: Oh, come on. Tell me you're not ashamed to put this gigantic international financial Krakatoa at the feet of a bunch of poor black people who missed their mortgage payments. The CDS market, this market for credit default swaps that was created in 2000 by Phil Gramm's Commodities Future Modernization Act, this is now a $62 trillion market, up from $900 billion in 2000. That's like five times the size of the holdings in the NYSE. And it's all speculation by Wall Street traders. It's a classic bubble/Ponzi scheme. The effort of people like you to pin this whole thing on minorities, when in fact this whole thing has been caused by greedy traders dealing in unregulated markets, is despicable.

B.Y.: I was struck by the recent Senate testimony of James Lockhart, who is head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, about the sheer recklessness of Fannie in recent years. Despite "repeated warnings about credit risk," Lockhart testified, Fannie became more reckless in 2006 and 2007 than they had been in the scandal-ridden tenure of Franklin Raines (who departed in 2004). In 2005, Lockhart said, 14 percent of Fannie's new business was in risky loans. In the first half of 2007, it was 33 percent. So something terribly wrong was going on there, and it became a significant part of the present problem.

M.T.: What a surprise that you mention Franklin Raines. Do you even know how a CDS works? Can you explain your conception of how these derivatives work? Because I get the feeling you don't understand. Or do you actually think that it was a few tiny homeowner defaults that sank gigantic companies like AIG and Lehman and Bear Stearns? Explain to me how these default swaps work, I'm interested to hear.

Because what we're talking about here is the difference between one homeowner defaulting and forty, four hundred, four thousand traders betting back and forth on the viability of his loan. Which do you think has a bigger effect on the economy?

B.Y.: Are you suggesting that critics of Fannie and Freddie are talking about the default of a single homeowner?

M.T.: No. That is what you call a figure of speech. I'm saying that you're talking about individual homeowners defaulting. But these massive companies aren't going under because of individual homeowner defaults. They're going under because of the myriad derivatives trades that go on in connection with each piece of debt, whether it be a homeowner loan or a corporate bond. I'm still waiting to hear what your idea is of how these trades work. I'm guessing you've never even heard of them.

I mean really. You honestly think a company like AIG tanks because a bunch of minorities couldn't pay off their mortgages?

B.Y.: When you refer to "Phil Gramm's Commodities Future Modernization Act," are you referring to S.3283, co-sponsored by Gramm, along with Senators Tom Harkin and Tim Johnson?

M.T.: In point of fact I'm talking about the 262-page amendment Gramm tacked on to that bill that deregulated the trade of credit default swaps.

Tick tick tick. Hilarious sitting here while you frantically search the Internet to learn about the cause of the financial crisis — in the middle of a live chat interview.

B.Y.: Look, you can keep trying to make this a specifically partisan and specifically Gramm-McCain thing, but it simply isn't. We've gone on for fifteen minutes longer than scheduled, and that's enough. Thanks.

M.T.: Thanks. Note, folks, that the esteemed representative of the New Republic has no idea what the hell a credit default swap is. But he sure knows what a minority homeowner looks like.

B.Y.: It's National Review.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Only In The Cocaculture...

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin mistook some of her own fans for hecklers Monday at a rally that drew thousands.

A massive crowd of at least 20,000 spread across the parking lot of Richmond International Raceway, and scores of people on the outer periphery more than 100 yards from the stage could not hear.

"Louder! Louder!" they began chanting, and the cry spread across the crowd to Palin's left. Some pointed skyward, urging that the volume be increased.

Palin stopped her remarks briefly and looked toward the commotion.

"I hope those protesters have the courage and honor to give veterans thanks for their right to protest," she said.

Aristos and Gentry

Obama vs. McCain among the propertied.

Monday, October 13, 2008

1000 Billion Words

Persevering through these hard times: Mack and Pandit emerge refreshed by involuntary injections.

Much To Overcome

It was from James Bryant Conant-president of Harvard for twenty years, WWI poison-gas specialist, WWII executive on the atomic-bomb project, high commissioner of the American zone in Germany after WWII, and truly one of the most influential figures of the twentieth century-that I first got wind of the real purposes of American schooling. Without Conant, we would probably not have the same style and degree of standardized testing that we enjoy today, nor would we be blessed with gargantuan high schools that warehouse 2,000 to 4,000 students at a time, like the famous Columbine High in Littleton, Colorado. Shortly after I retired from teaching I picked up Conant's 1959 book-length essay, 'The Child the Parent and the State', and was more than a little intrigued to see him mention in passing that the modern schools we attend were the result of a "revolution" engineered between 1905 and 1930. A revolution? He declines to elaborate, but he does direct the curious and the uninformed to Alexander Inglis's 1918 book, Principles of Secondary Education, in which "one saw this revolution through the eyes of a revolutionary."

Inglis, for whom a lecture in education at Harvard is named, makes it perfectly clear that compulsory schooling on this continent was intended to be just what it had been for Prussia in the 1820s: a fifth column into the burgeoning democratic movement that threatened to give the peasants and the proletarians a voice at the bargaining table. Modern, industrialized, compulsory schooling was to make a sort of surgical incision into the prospective unity of these underclasses. Divide children by subject, by age-grading, by constant rankings on tests, and by many other more subtle means, and it was unlikely that the ignorant mass of mankind, separated in childhood, would ever re-integrate into a dangerous whole.

Inglis breaks down the purpose - the actual purpose - of modern schooling into six basic functions, any one of which is enough to curl the hair of those innocent enough to believe the three traditional goals listed earlier:

1) The adjustive or adaptive function. Schools are to establish fixed habits of reaction to authority. This, of course, precludes critical judgment completely. It also pretty much destroys the idea that useful or interesting material should be taught, because you can't test for reflexive obedience until you know whether you can make kids learn, and do, foolish and boring things.

2) The integrating function. This might well be called "the conformity function," because its intention is to make children as alike as possible. People who conform are predictable, and this is of great use to those who wish to harness and manipulate a large labor force.

3) The diagnostic and directive function. School is meant to determine each student's proper social role. This is done by logging evidence mathematically and anecdotally on cumulative records. As in "your permanent record." Yes, you do have one.

4) The differentiating function. Once their social role has been "diagnosed," children are to be sorted by role and trained only so far as their destination in the social machine merits - and not one step further. So much for making kids their personal best.

5) The selective function. This refers not to human choice at all but to Darwin's theory of natural selection as applied to what he called "the favored races." In short, the idea is to help things along by consciously attempting to improve the breeding stock. Schools are meant to tag the unfit - with poor grades, remedial placement, and other punishments - clearly enough that their peers will accept them as inferior and effectively bar them from the reproductive sweepstakes. That's what all those little humiliations from first grade onward were intended to do: wash the dirt down the drain.

6) The propaedeutic function. The societal system implied by these rules will require an elite group of caretakers. To that end, a small fraction of the kids will quietly be taught how to manage this continuing project, how to watch over and control a population deliberately dumbed down and declawed in order that government might proceed unchallenged and corporations might never want for obedient labor.

That, unfortunately, is the purpose of mandatory public education in this country. And lest you take Inglis for an isolated crank with a rather too cynical take on the educational enterprise, you should know that he was hardly alone in championing these ideas. Conant himself, building on the ideas of Horace Mann and others, campaigned tirelessly for an American school system designed along the same lines. Men like George Peabody, who funded the cause of mandatory schooling throughout the South, surely understood that the Prussian system was useful in creating not only a harmless electorate and a servile labor force but also a virtual herd of mindless consumers. In time a great number of industrial titans came to recognize the enormous profits to be had by cultivating and tending just such a herd via public education, among them Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller.

There you have it. Now you know.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

End Of Capitalism/World Thinkability Spreads

Paul Krugman being interviewed on Bloomberg over the weekend; at around 7:30 on the stream he's asked about GM and is this the kind of situation where the government can't let a company like that go under? He says well, you know there is this big worry about when the "too big to fail" doctrine starts to spread to everything, then we're talking about nationalising the, seizing the, seizing the means of production.

Back in May, Donald MacKenzie wrote in the LRB:

I asked one investment banker what might cause half of North America’s top corporations to default. No ordinary economic recession or natural disaster short of an asteroid strike could do it: no hurricane, for example, and not even ‘the big one’, a catastrophic earthquake devastating California. All he could think of was ‘a revolutionary Marxist government in Washington’. That’s not a likely scenario, yet the cost of insuring against it had shot up ten-fold.

Just Run The Tape

Two weeks after persuading Congress to let it spend $700 billion to buy distressed securities tied to mortgages, the Bush administration has put that idea aside in favor of a new approach that would have the government inject capital directly into the nation’s banks — in effect, partially nationalizing the industry.

Having to report this - they can't not report it, of course, the headline of the year - the NYTimes doesn't bother to try to make sense of it, just re-runs the "incompetence and ideology" tale, or rather simply gestures to it exhaustedly, for the umpteenth time.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Not an Arab. A decent family man.


The cost of the Wall Street (1987) negative was around $15 million; it grossed $45million in the initial US box office release.

Gordon Gekko is superrich but not really part of the establishment. A figure of intelligent cynicism, abundance and personal rather than institutional power. ("Makes twenty times what Dave Winfield makes in a year.") Will and energy. Culture too – he possesses a refined aesthetic sense. The screenwriter claimed to have based Gekko’s style of pontificating on director Oliver Stone.

The impression of Gekko’s rogue status, playing a system ‘subversively’ from within, expert in it but adversarial with the regard to its rules (the spirit of competition in a pure form), is not only conveyed by his explicit lawlessness, which we might be free to assume the norm at his wealth level, but underscored in various oblique ways, so that the audience is prevented from identifying him as an embodiment of the ruling class, or even of the financial industry, or, despite the film’s title, of “Wall Street”. He is a disruptive element within it, necessarily created by it but not a microcosm. Most effective in creating this apartness, at least for a New York audience, we never see Gekko in his own real home in NYC: placing that home in any swank building in Manhattan would fix him too firmly and specifically in a network, a social setting, a structure of unassailable power and legitimacy. He is seen on the move, in limos, in restaurants, and in his rented office in a tower, like a Renaissance condottiere, and finally confronting in single combat his insubordinate protégé on a misty green field in Central Park. When we see him "domestically", it is only at his beach house in Montauk, a costly, luxurious but pale, impermanent haunt, not a residence, poised on an expanse of empty sand at the edge of the foaming, heaving, wintry Atlantic, wearing a bathrobe. He's a pirate king. Or Monte Cristo. Playing Shogun, wise master to his favoured apprentice "poor, smart and hungry - and no feelings." Of all Hollywood’s finance/corporate themed films, Wall Street is intended as the most didactic, the most unforgiving indictment, but it is the most in love with its heavy, tempter, bearer of evil forces. The figure of ruthless finance capital, unproductive rampaging speculative capital, doubles as the phantasy figure of upward mobility in meritocratic America, land of opportunity, and even, whisperingly, as a image of revolutionary potential. His fall enacts thus both a consoling phantasy punishment of crime (the comeuppance of insatiable parasitic destructive speculative capital) and, less overtly but in some ways more intensely, a registration of victorious Thermidor, of successful Reaction, the end of the revolutionary era and of revolutionary possibilities, the acknowledgement of the Reaganite immiseration of the working class and middle class, rendering this figure of the self made mogul, to which they aspire, false and thus requiring disposal and repudiation. Bud will not repeat Gekko’s (streetwise unconventional) trajectory, indeed Bud’s failure to do so will take Gekko, the figure of the American dream of seized opportunity, down with him as the film itself undermines the promise he represents (ethically, practically, politically), even while it poses, itself, with its auteur, as that promise confirmed and vindicated. This composite that is Gekko is thus additionally used as the mouthpiece for the director and screenwriter’s direct address to the audience, from ‘the dark side’ of self congratulatory ‘success’, which doubles as the Master’s counsel to his apprentice, but allows the filmmakers not only to conceal their complex attraction to the cruel but charismatic pirate king they have fashioned as their dark double, but to disavow and obscure the applicability of his lectures to their own industry.

Telling the story of Bud’s failed effort at embourgeoisement involves telling, obliquely but significantly, the story of an enterprise, Blue Star airlines. The film raises in an indirect quasi-allegorical mode the possibility of socialism – the Fox family, the working class, becoming the owner/manager of the airline, through working class solidarity - but contains that possibility within ‘there is no alternative’ verisimilitude which requires its depiction within the generic tale of personal advancement and cross class cooperation. The corporate raider is offered as a possible resource and instrument of social change, and his capital is sought within the plausible story as the practical means of obtaining control over the enterprise, but this sequence also conveys, in ‘the political unconscious’, an attempt by the agent of the working class to instrumentalise all the seductive qualities his figure embodies: initiative, determination, courage, the bold, rule-changing, ruthless revolutionary energy needed to accomplish this transformation, to “turn the airline around” and place it in the hands of “the heir of the working class”. How this turning around is explicitly envisioned and depicted (just expanding the enterprise and making it more profitable within the given framework) does not limit the possibilities of “turning around” and transformation the story implicitly raises (only to reject), precisely because of the presence of Gekko as a force of unbridled self will, capable of remaking the world, which introduces alongside the story of Blue Star’s trade unions and their pursuit of their interests the explosive element of human inventiveness and self interest, the possibility of something unexpected being brought about by people making their own history. Gekko’s indifference to customary constraints contrasts with the union representative’s mode of negotiation, but putting them in the same room, in Bud’s apartment, poses at least the question to the audience of what would happen were some kind of combination of qualities created, were the union representatives to possess the ferocious determination to prevail, to use powers falling to him by circumstance to transform reality to his advantage, that Gekko possesses and embodies. “Greed is right”: in his odd mix of social Darwinist and populist rhetoric is conjured the spectre of the collective greed of the working class which expresses itself – twisted and stifled by individualism and bourgeois ideology - in Bud’s ambition, greed for pleasure, leisure, justice and liberty, greed for utopia, transforming society, bringing about communism. The vision is conjured, already deformed and hamstrung by the dominant ideology, to be further mangled and repudiated by narrative. Yet its images, the vision, (of wealth, leisure, freedom, abundance, power, of the life for which Bud and not only Bud but the audience is greedy) however contorted, remain the most seductive. The film makes a tremendous effort against its own impulses to moralise about the lifestyle Bud desires and thus to trivialise the benefits it offers (liberty, leisure, plenty, pleasure) and especially to trivialise and rebuke his desire to escape a life of wage slavery in the cubicle by any means necessary. Hammacher Schlemmer gadgets producing meals that look a lot better than they taste, garish exhibitionist over-decoration of his condo, a lovelife divided been a call girl and a shallow woman he cannot fully possess, neglect of his downscale friends and cynical use of his upscale ones, disrespect for his father. But all this is displayed as advertisement as well, the loving Tom Wolfe exactitude of stereotype and props easily drowning out the overt disapproval and fun-poking. Selling a lifestyle and preaching against it at the same time, the commodified critique of “capitalism as its finest” – the “illusion” of value “become real” (in the aesthetic object, an abstract canvas) - indirectly absolves itself as it advertises itself, encloses critique of itself and extracts surplus value.

The (false) naïve faith and hope the film, with Bud and the union representatives, places in the heroic individualist capitalist energy (recognised and distrusted as despotic, amoral and fascistic by Carl Fox) is quickly betrayed – Gekko’s ‘revolutionary’ energy is revealed as necessarily destructive and selfish. With this fusion of lawless, inventive self-determination to heartless individualism, the film performs its liberal duties of repudiation of ‘extremism’ and revolution in the guise of mature dissent. Bud “saves” Blue Star in the most conservative, non-transformative fashion: he saves it as a capitalist enterprise, saves the workers’ ‘jobs’, by transferring his loyalty from Gekko the pirate who does not hesitate to destroy capitalist enterprises to realise his private/personal utopia, to the white knight, in this case literally a knighted Englishman, whose practise of corporate raiding is more ‘honourable’, cautious, stability-preserving and paternalist. (He transfers his allegiance from the capitalist to capitalism.) The alternatives between which the protagonist must choose are familiar contradictions: Gekko’s form of destruction of capitalist enterprises (competition) and Wildman’s preservation of them (class war). The narrative offers preservation of capitalist enterprises as clearly preferable to their obliteration but only by, ever so faintly awkwardly, latching the obliteration of production itself to the obliteration of capitalist ownership and exploitation. Another type of transformation is hinted at, though overwhelmed by the only two alternatives (‘restructuring’ with cheaper labour or asset stripping). The alternative to Gekko’s creative destruction, which fuses a vision of finance capital with an allegorical suggestion of the revolutionary abolition of capitalism with the effect of discrediting the latter while seeming to chide the former, is a kind of fantasy feudalism-in-capitalism and a recommendation of petty bourgeois reformism which holds out the promise that the working class can manoeuvre for its own survival between capitalist competitors; the spirit and structural imperatives of competition it turns out are not only the danger – when ‘taken to extremes’ –in capitalism but the solution, the stabilising force which makes capitalism finally the best of all possible arrangements and allows Bud to conclude ‘there is justice in the world’. But this declaration is ironic – that justice Bud realises through the mechanism of competition is revealed as the rigged justice of a system which blocks his upward mobility. - “Did somebody die?” - “Yeah”. The petty bourgeois myth of the ladder died. The working class whose standard of living and political power rises generationally died. The pirate energy whose potential is revolutionary if ever it would be fused with the working class died. The possibility of Utopia died. The audience is set up to be relieved that it is the phantasy of piratical upward mobility that has died, because led to fear it is Carl Fox who has died. But Carl Fox survives, is vindicated, the working class soldiering on, with dignity, the bearer of timeless values. The moral approval of the ‘culture’ and character of wage workers is offered by the dissident capitalist as consolation and compensation for the permanent inescapability of the condition of unfreedom and drudgery, the registration of the abolition of all utopian possibilities, the chastisement of the persistent ambition as inescapably criminal, depraved and doomed to fail. Like Nietzsche, but with different commitments, Wall Street forces a false identification of the desire for revolution/liberation with fascistic ruthless individualist supremacism and confuses and then replaces the championing of that communist impulse, humanity’s unquenchable desire for liberation, leisure, pleasure and plenty, (rooting for Bud), with hypocritical self congratulatory bourgeois admiration for the moral superiority of those whose desire it daily thwarts and obstructs (for their own good, to spare them the temptations and corruption the bourgeois himself must endure as best he can).

Glengarry Glen Ross, (1989) based on Mamet's 1984 stage play, is set in an environment of real estate sales. The film's negative cost $12.5 million. Domestic box office was about $10 million.

Mamet’s vision is routinely deemed more sophisticated than the pop culture product of Stone and the like simply because it is cruder, misanthropic, unpleasant to consume. Sermons mustn’t be uplifting, consoling and gratifying when the congregation is so depraved.

Other People's Money (1991) was also adapted from a stage play. By 1991 the theme is technological obsolescence and postmodernisation. (The company is saved by ‘populist’ technological/social advances – the metal wire being replaced by fibre optics is newly needed for automobile airbags.)

Trading Places (1983), a phantasy of the efficient market, when the free market by its invisible hand would reveal true worth so long as access to competition in the free market was not blocked by obsolete extra-market structures of hierarchy; the market envisioned as the lever of meritocratic upward mobility and guarantor of equality and ultimate justice:

Friday, October 10, 2008

Missed the Memo

Even after the ruling class itself has rejected the Paulson scheme as just too ridiculous and too flagrant and risky a predatory intraclass competitive scam, the loyal servant of neolib extremism is still selling it (Orwellian feints removed for the sake of clarity):

The real dilemma is not ‘state intervention or not?’ but ‘what kind of state intervention?’ And this is true politics: the struggle to define the conditions that govern our lives. The debate about the bailout deals with decisions about the fundamental features of our social and economic life, even mobilising the ghost of class struggle. As with many truly political issues, this one is non-partisan. There is no ‘objective’ expert position that should simply be applied: one has to take a political decision...

[T]here is no way to separate the welfare of Main Street from that of Wall Street....What is good for Wall Street isn’t necessarily good for Main Street, but Main Street can’t thrive if Wall Street isn’t doing well ....

The...argument against redistribution (through progressive taxation etc) is that instead of making the poor richer, it makes the rich poorer....
Although we all want the poor to get better, it is counter-productive to help them directly, since they are not the dynamic and productive element: the only intervention needed is to help the rich get richer, and then the profits will automatically spread down to the poor. If you want people to have money to build, don’t give it to them directly, help those who are lending it to them. This is the only way to create genuine prosperity – otherwise, the state is merely distributing money to the needy at the expense of those who create wealth.

It is all too easy to dismiss this line of reasoning as a hypocritical defence of the rich. The problem is that as long as we... [have] capitalism, there is a truth in it.... That is why the Democrats who supported the bailout were not being inconsistent with their leftist leanings. They would fairly be called inconsistent only if we accept the premise of Republican populists that...state interventions are an upper-class strategy to exploit hard-working ordinary people.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


The two NSA whistleblowers, Adrienne Kinne and David Murfee Faulk, were interviewed by ABC News’ Brian Ross. Kinne said that “US military officers, American journalists and American aid workers were routinely intercepted and ‘collected on’ as they called their offices or homes in the United States.” He also said his co-workers “were ordered to transcribe these calls.”



Here is what the AP report of the McCain/Palin event today in Ohio describes — now a regular, daily feature of their events:

“We’ve all heard what he’s said. But it’s less clear what he’s done, or what he will do,” McCain told supporters in the battleground state of Pennsylvania.

McCain’s remarks about Obama were interrupted with shouts of “socialist,” “terrorist” and “liar.”

Just look at the videotapes of the angry, hateful hordes attending these rallies — screaming that Obama is a socialist; that he’s both a Muslim and a terrorist as proven by his “bloodline” and his name; that his supporters are “commie faggots”; that he’s guilty of treason; underscored by increasing racial invective and even punctuated in one case by a call from an audience member for someone to be killed. These aren’t just isolated individuals; these sentiments are common at these rallies and becoming increasingly virulent and enraged — at the rallies and otherwise:

A billboard in West Plains, Mo., showing a caricature of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama wearing a turban has caused quite a stir in town.

The sign, located south of West Plains on U.S. 63 across from the Dairy Queen, says: “Barack ‘Hussein’ Obama equals more abortions, same sex marriages, taxes, gun regulations.”

And worst of all, all of this rage and this innuendo is taking place in the most volatile climate of all — one of severe economic distress and anxiety — and these mobs are increasingly becoming convinced, because the Right and the McCain/Palin campaign is leading them to believe it, that this economic crisis is the fault of the black candidate — Obama — for making banks give mortgages to racial minorities.

From an Agence France Presse wire story today:

WAUKESHA, Wisconsin (AFP) - Shouts of “terrorist” and “treason” aimed at Barack Obama have echoed around Republican rallies, whipping up into alarming, hate-filled frenzies against the Democratic White House hopeful.

Republican presidential nominee John McCain has taken to asking, “Who is the real Barack Obama?” at rallies this week, leading one supporter in Pennsylvania, a blue-collar battleground state to shout back, “he is a bomb.”

Chants of “Nobama, Nobama” mingled with cries of “terrorist,” as one banner in the crowd declared: “Go ahead, let the dogs out.”

In the video, the interviewees don't appear to believe what they are saying so much as to feel the need to repeat it. Terrorist is understood to be very flexible. "Well maybe's he's not really a terrorist but...yeah he's a terrorist. I think so!"

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

How broad, how flexible?

In the statement of the plunge protection team, TARP does not appear under the heading Liquidity, the purported reason for its design and passage, the plumbing problem to which it was sold as an (urgent!) solution. Instead it gets its own heading:

Strengthening Financial Institutions


Strengthening Financial Institutions

The Treasury Department will move rapidly to implement the new authorities in EESA to help strengthen financial institutions that are struggling with troubled assets and/or need to raise capital. It will be done in a transparent and methodical fashion. In the coming days, Treasury will work with the Federal Reserve and other financial regulators to develop strategies that deploy these tools to maximize their effectiveness in strengthening the financial system while protecting the taxpayers' interests.

The new legislation adds broad, flexible authorities to allow Treasury to buy troubled assets and provide guarantees, and address capital raising. The new legislation also enables Treasury to directly strengthen the balance sheet of individual institutions. These authorities allow Treasury to act to remove some of the uncertainty regarding financial strength, and provide financial institutions with greater operating flexibility and enhance their ability to raise additional capital in the private marketplace.

So they got this legislation - hurry up before the frozen feces asteroid hits us!!!!!!!! - which prevented Congress from recapitalising the banking system or addressing the crisis in any constructive fashion (the Fed is going around the banking system entirely to keep favoured industry exploiting on schedule through the drought that allows the tarp to come into being: "In some ways what the legislation does is help facilitate consolidation" in the financial market), now they sit down and figure out what they can do with it, how to get around any obstacles in it while waiting for some banks to fail for GSax and Morgan Stanley to acquire for farthings found under their sofa cushions, some further discovery in 'toxic' asset related lawsuits, some political developments, some European taxpayer bailouts, some public forgetting....