Friday, May 1, 2009

Hail the Philadelphia Lawyer

Great ExSpecterations
For decades lefties like me were told by our liberal friends that we should “work inside” the Democratic party rather than start third parties that can’t win but only “spoil” Dem chances for electoral success.
The part they always forgot to mention is that the Dems, faithful servants of business as usual, maintain a highly effective internal system for weeding out lefties, reformers and other such troublemakers seeking to stir their stasis. Accordingly, you don’t see the Dems giving anything more than lip service to progressive policies. And you certainly don’t get any budding Herbert Lehmans, Bill Moyers or Ralph Naders on Dem tickets. No, the Dems are far more comfortable with tired old tories like Arlen Specter, who, facing ouster by the yahoos who took over the Reps in Pennsylvania, jumped the fading GOP and joined the flourishing Dems
While the numerically determinist among the Dems cheered because they had presumably gained a veto-proof 60 vote Senate, Specter himself warned his new party not to count on it. He said he’d be his own man as he was with the Reps, where he artfully combined black-hearted reaction with yellow-bellied moderation.
At his press conference that night, Obama said the same thing. He didn’t expect a rubber stamp congress, he offered, because independent thinkers like Specter must be free to go their own way. The Reps, along with thousands of other parliamentarians from Ottawa to Oslo must have fallen off their well-polished seats.
The whole idea of party politics, as invented and refined by the Brits four hundred years ago, was to whip members into line to get the party’s program passed. This is exactly how the Reps, under the ruthless Tom “The Hammer” DeLay, ran congress in the Bush years.
Obama said that because the Dems have no actual need for such discipline. That’s because they don’t really have a program to pass. As I never get tired of noting, the Reps stand for business and the Dems for as usual.
Take a close gander and you’ll see that Obama’s domestic initiatives, with the exception of his gift to Wall Street that keeps on giving, are, in the words of the immortal Billy Dannreuther in Beat the Devil, more pomp than circumstance. And even these proposed “changes,” as we are constantly reminded, are subject to Obama’s exquisitely pragmatic sensibilities (Google pragmatism and Obama and you’ll get a half million results).
So the sere Specter should fit in just fine with the Dems. And if Obama ever needs a shamelessly implausible alibi, excuse or cover story, recall that Specter authored the preposturous “magic bullet” theory in the JFK killing.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I Barely Understood the Old One

They've Changed The System Again
If you’ve noticed, the stock market is soaring while the economy is sinking. Every bit of bad news on Main Street is treated as good news on Wall Street. Today’s announcement of a six percent annual decline in business brought a triple digit bounce in the Dow.
This is the celebration of what East German kids used to learn in Marxism-Leninism class as the triumph of state monopoly capitalism, or what Mussolini-era Italians knew as the corporate state. Don’t confuse it with socialism. That's when the state takes over business. This is business taking over the state. Or, more accurately, a merger of business and the state--in business’ favor, of course.
The nation’s few ideological free marketeers are shocked and appalled. But Wall Street is pleased and the public, as usual, is parked on a dead end road between ignoramia and oblivia. I market at a Stop&Shop and gas up at a Citgo. I ask and ask, but few, if any, at the former know or care that the store is owned by a Dutch conglomerate or at the latter that the station is franchised by Hugo Chavez and the good people of Venezuela. Why in blazes should they give a hoot that the nation’s investment banking has been turned over from Goldman Sachs to its graduates at the Fed and Treasury?
It’s much easier this way. Up until the great fall, the banksters had a job of it writing weird paper like credit default swaps and peddling it to other banksters, pension funds, school boards and your aunt Millie’s supposedly safe and sound bond fund. That took work and nail biting because no one understood the products.
Now, under state monopoly capitalism, Washington gives zillions to Wall Street, which smartly uses it to buy stocks rather than stupidly lending it to losers. It doesn’t matter if the stocks are dogs: the rising tide of fed bucks floats even garbage scows. Sure, this bubble will again burst, and probably soon. But the banksters will have pocketed their profits and left us to pay for the clean-up yet again.
What’s happened is that Obama and company have so far successfully life-boated the banksters off the foundering U.S.S Economy. Only the life boat is an ocean-going yacht and the rescued are enjoying drinks on the sun deck watching the Economy sink and giggling at the awful screams of the passengers. But not to worry. Treasure ports in China and the Persian Gulf are beckoning. The sinking of the U.S.S. Economy will soon fade into another old sailor's tale.

Monday, April 27, 2009

I'm On The Waitlist

No, That's The Picnic Button!
I’ve been waiting, lo these many decades, for the times for recrimination and panic. Whenever they seem to be nigh, as with the current fallout from ignominy in Mesopotamia and influenza in Mexico, I am told by bigshots that they are not quite here yet--again!
I’m hopeful they’ll finally arrive before I join the great majority. I would love to recriminate all over Dick Cheney, George Bush, Condi Rice and company, preferably in the new Yankee Stadium with full bore coverage by HBO, so I can curse.
I would also enjoy a good panic, so long as I didn’t get trampled by other panickers. I live on a fairly quiet street. I imagine I could simply run aimlessly up and down it for a bit, my arms aflail, while I intoned incoherent imprecations. I would hope then that an attractive neighbor would take me in her embrace and endeavor to calm me down.
A newsreader on public radio just told me that rather than simply panicking I should plan. I take that to mean that I should devise a panic scenario for use when the time comes. Maybe I could ride a unicycle around antically and aflail, annoying the neighborhood dogs. Meanwhile, Pres. Obama has added that "there is no cause for alarm." If there's no alarm, how are people going to know when to panic? I'd like to recriminate with him about that.