From the monthly archives: December 2011
Reading this lead-in to an article today made me think of cavemen and dinosaurs:
“The long-running antitrust suit Novell filed regarding Microsoft’s alleged tactics to prevent WordPerfect from running properly in Windows 95 seemed to be on the verge of conclusion…”

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Weekly Standard on Ron Paul’s newsletter, via Goddard:

The Weekly Standard notes it’s these writings and Paul’s “decades-long promotion of bigotry and conspiracy theories, for which he has yet to account fully, and his continuing espousal of extremist views, that should make him unwelcome at any respectable forum.”

Now remember that the two top Republican candidates are a guy who believes and continually states that Obama went on an apology tour and a guy who has called the president an Affirmative Action President and a Kenyan anti-colonialist. Clearly, believing conspiracy theories and racial bigotry aren’t much of a disqualifier for GOP candidates. Admittedly, Ron Paul’s newsletter went far beyond those, and they’re hardly all behind him, especially on economic matters (remember the lurking threat of Ameros?). I say, let’s just be frank about this.

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Lev filed this under: , ,  

Do you think President Obama should make any recess appointments over the Winter Break? Do you think he will?

I definitely think he should. Obama seemed pretty steamed about Repubs not giving Richard Cordray a vote to be the Consumer Financial Protection Chair, and it would make sense for him to recess appoint Cordray to the job since it’s not like they’re going to accept anyone else. Might as well give it to his choice, right? Obama should also recess-appoint three new National Labor Relations Board members, and maybe even a circuit judge or two for good measure (the unfairly-rejected Caitlin Halligan comes to mind). I fully expect doing this would absolutely enrage Senate Republicans, possibly leading them to try to shutdown the Senate altogether as they frequently threaten to do. But I do not see this as a bad thing, since it would force Democrats to finally bite the bullet and go nuclear on them. I doubt even the staunchest “traditionalists” in the Senate could stomach a tantrum of that magnitude. And I tend to think that Republicans might be wary to take that step because I think it would play very poorly, politically speaking, and losing the filibuster altogether would really hamper their strategy, both short- and long-term. They use it much more than Democrats, after all. Which would at least leave us with a few key posts staffed, and let Democrats know he’s done being pushed around.

But it’s exactly for this reason that I tend to think Obama will not make these appointments. I’m not 100% sure he won’t do it–he seemed really angry about the Cordray nomination–but I figure it’s probably about 80%. I mean, the past 12 months have seen Obama treating a full-on confrontation with Republicans as an absolute worst case scenario, perhaps even a catastrophic one to them, one that is worth taking enormous polling hits and accepting terrible budget deals to avoid. Obama’s team hasn’t exactly been coy about their lusty pursuit of independents for 2012, and I can understand how they figure that initiating partisan brawls would make that pursuit difficult (assuming that those voters ever hear about it). But the results of Obama’s 2011 strategy haven’t been good for the country or for Obama, who didn’t conduct himself this way during either his presidential run or his first two years in office. To me, taking on highly unpopular Congressional Republicans makes a lot of sense, and the likelihood is that this confrontation will either be viewed by the public as boring process/insider baseball stuff, or as Congress not working, either of which I don’t see as hurting Obama in the long run. I wish I felt he saw it the same way, but I’m not all that confident of that. I guess we’ll find out. But that’s my prediction.

Charlie Stross presents a possible broader context for the National Defense Authorization Act and SOPA:

1. The USA is already a functional oligarchy. (Or, more accurately, a plutarchy.) It has been functioning as such for some time — since 1992 at the latest, although the roots of this system go back to before the Declaration of Independence — it’s a recurrent failure mode. Historically such periods last for a few years then go into reverse. However, this time the trend has been running since 1980 or even earlier. What we’re now seeing are the effects of mismanagement by the second generation of oligarchs in power; the self-entitled who were born to it and assume it to be the natural order of things.

2. It’s impossible to be elected to high office without so much money that anyone in high office is, by definition, part of the 0.1%; even if they’re an outsider to start with, they will be co-opted by the system (or neutralized — usually before they are elected).

3. Public austerity is a great cover for the expropriation of wealth by the rich (by using their accumulated capital to go on acquisition sprees for assets being sold off for cents on the dollar by the near-bankrupt state). But public austerity is a huge brake on economic growth because it undermines demand by impoverishing consumers. Consequently, we’re in for another long depression. (The outcome of this new long depression will be the same as that of the first one: the main industrial power — then it was the UK; now it’s the USA — will lose a lot of its remaining economic lead over its competitors and be severely weakened.)

4. Starving poor people with guns and nothing to lose scare the rich; their presence in large numbers is one major component of a pre-revolutionary situation.

5. Worse, the poor have smartphones. (Or will, within another couple of years. By 2020, today’s iPhone 4S will be a cereal-packet-freebie grade toy. $10 for an equally powerful device, sold on a pre-pay tariff, via WalMart.) Which means a former constraint on civil unrest (media channels are expensive to run, so the oligarchy can maintain an effective choke-hold on mass media while trumpeting their support for freedom of speech) no longer holds true. See also the “Twitter revolution” (RIP) in Iran.

6. The oligarchs are therefore pre-empting the pre-revolutionary situation by militarizing the police (as guard labour). Note also that the prison-industrial complex remains profitable as long as there’s a tax base on which to pay for the prison guards — or to use as collateral for loans to cover the guards’ wages.

7. Modern communications technologies (including the internet) provide people with a limitless channel for self-expression (not to mention distraction— endless circuses without the bread). They also provide the police state with a limitless flow of intelligence about the people. Note also that it’s possible to not merely listen in on mobile phone calls, but to use a mobile phone as a GPS-aware bugging device, and (with a bit more smarts) to have it report on physical proximity (within bluetooth range — about 20 feet) to other suspects. The flip side of social networking is that the police state knows all your acquaintances.

8. So I infer that the purpose of SOPA is to close the loop, and allow the oligarchy to shut down hostile coordinating sites as and when the anticipated revolution kicks off. Piracy/copyright is a distraction — those folks pointing to similarities to Iranian/Chinese net censorship regimes are correct, but they’re not focussing on the real implication (which is a ham-fisted desire to be able to shut down large chunks of the internet at will, if and when it becomes expedient to do so).

What bothers me is that this is very plausible, and if Mr. Stross sees fit to make a novel based on these ideas I’ll be the first one to buy it. But I think there’s one small fact that undermines it: this presupposes that the oligarchs (a) actually realize how bad things have gotten for everyone that isn’t them, and (b) are capable of planning ahead to deal with it. The latter, especially, is hard to take when talking about the crew that crashed the economy three years ago. Though I could be wrong on that.

What do you think?

Lev filed this under: , ,  

If you asked me for one reason why mainstream conservatives shouldn’t be trusted with foreign policy, my basic response would probably be that most of them never got over the Cold War ending, and are desperate to either reignite it with Russia or find a substitute in “Islamofascism,” which by the way is one of the dumbest words ever created and needs to be retired*. Daniel Larison’s blog frequently flags this rhetoric, and it is just endless from these guys. The sheer quantity of it just shows how much pent-up mistrust and hatred is still out there for Russia 21 years after the end of the Cold War. Admittedly, Russia should be treated with caution and skepticism, but it hasn’t ever attacked us or even looked interested in doing so. To spend more than a second worrying about its threat to us seems excessive to me unless something changes. But that’s not how it is among conservative elites. Larison catches Krauthammer contradicting himself by trying to push two separate Russophobic lines of reasoning simultaneously, and says:

As ever, what annoys Krauthammer is not that the “reset” has failed, but that it has been a successful policy that isn’t likely to be abandoned unless there is a change of party in our government.

Something to think about. If you listen to the GOP candidates, one cold war isn’t nearly enough for them. Me, I’m still fuming over Obama’s cave on the NDAA and various foreign policy/national security letdowns. But when you consider that Republican behavior consists of needless antagonism of countries that don’t threaten us because most of their base still thinks that showing one sign of weakness to Russia will lead to Red Dawn, and much of their elites basically agree, well it’s pretty much all there is to it.

* Right? I mean, how can they at once be trying to re-establish a pan-Islamic Caliphate while also worshiping their individual nation-states? I’m no sympathizer of al-Qaeda, but a near-anarchist, stateless group of thugs and murderers doesn’t bear the slightest bit of resemblance to an organized political movement. It’s an insult to Fascism, honestly, though that doesn’t exactly break my heart.

Next target: France.

Admittedly, the present Euro situation doesn’t exactly inspire much hope. But these ratings are relative, right? AAA means it’s a good place to park your money relative to the other options, yes? Has France’s position relative to the rest of Europe changed? And, if the Euro breaks up, will France have to default? I haven’t heard anyone even suggest this.

Basically, I don’t trust these ratings agencies at all, so I don’t get it.

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Lev filed this under: , , ,  

I’m from Oregon and I remember when Ron Wyden was elected to the Senate.  At the time I scratched my head and asked, “Who the fuck is this sweaty, lisping drip running for Senate?”  I remember discovering that he was a big advocate for the elderly through his entire career.  Here’s Wikipedia:

While teaching gerontology [ed. note !!!] at several Oregon universities, Wyden founded the Oregon chapter of the Gray Panthers; he led that organization from 1974 to 1980. Wyden is also the former director of the Oregon Legal Services Center for Elderly, a nonprofit law service.

Fast forward to today and this fact has got to make your head explode when you ponder why he has now so cavalierly decided to sell our country’s future elderly into a system that no longer guarantees coverage for their medical treatments.

[I just mentioned this on Lev's earlier post, but I thought it bore repeating.]