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Interesting comment. I think a key to progressive change is to understand that some problems are incremental and some are not. The vastly excessive influence of corporations and private wealth on our democratic political systems, for example, is an incremental problem, it has grown by degree over the last 4 decades or so to reach its current absurdly over-powerful state, but we can solve it by degrees.

More problematically, if you think we need a socialist organization of the economic system, worker votes on corporate boards can be a real but incremental step toward that. Well, not if the worker vote is ignored, so that is where it gets problematic. Incremental steps are sometimes an illusion and not a progressive step at all.

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Wed Dec 16th, 2009 at 02:56:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Perhaps the biggest disconnect in our society is that collective individualism is confused with society, and that micro-incremental is rated as zero. Insignificant.

If I knowingly drop a single piece of litter, it will affect only a few people. If this were a rare occurrence, someone else might pick up my litter and put it in the litter bin. An insignificant task, for its rarity. If a million people drop a single piece of litter on the basis that 'well, some civic-minded person will pick it up', there is a problem.

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Dec 16th, 2009 at 03:19:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well the alternative approach to Obama's bipartisan incrementalism would have been to:

  1. withdraw quickly from Iraq/Afghanistan
  2. instigate a judicial investigation into illegal wire tapping/manipulation of intelligence
  3. release Guantanamo inmates who can't be tried
  4. let a few "too big to fail" banks go bust
  5. instigate a Tobin tax to fund massive stimulus plan to reduce the resulting fall-out
  6. Tell Liebermann that all support for Israel will cease unless he toes the party line
  7. Tell any Senator who strays from a party line vote that they will loose their seniority and be primaried at the first opportunity.
  8. Agree an ambitious Climate Change Treaty and challenge the Senate NOT to ratify it.

Would it have worked?
Would Obama still be alive?
Would centrist Senators fall in line?
Would the economy have gone into free-fall - or would the impact of the bank failures have been self-rectifying fairly quickly with other banks filling the void?

The neo-cons shock doctrine of create chaos, new facts on the ground, and then rapid change has been very successful in moving the overton window way off the scale.  Perhaps that is the only way Obama could have implemented a radical agenda always presuming he had one.  But it seems clear he was always married to the US congressional process - as befits a constitutional lawyer.

So why are we surprised?

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 16th, 2009 at 07:10:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You missed the war crimes prosecutions.

And he didn't have to let the TBTF banks fail. He could have taken them into receivership, kept them running and gradually unwound their balance sheets.

Would it have worked?

Quick withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan would not have worked. Slow withdrawal would not have worked. Escalation is not going to work. Bust the Lesser screwed those countries over, and that's about the long and short of it.

Prosecution of war criminals and domestic espionage felons has to be divided into two distinct objectives: Doing justice for crimes committed, and preventing future crimes of the same kind.

The level of prosecutions necessary to achieve the former objective would fail. Or rather, they would require accepting an almost complete paralysation of the American federal government, for several years.

But the latter could be achieved with only a handful of prosecutions. Because all you'd be aiming for would be teaching the mid-level apparatchiks of the Bush/Cheney administration that if they ever end up as senior criminals, they run a very real risk of twenty years in the slammer. Precisely the kind of object lesson that Ford failed to teach Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and the rest of the mid-level Nixon administration apparatchiks.

The executive can release Guantanamo inmates immediately if it so desires. All that requires is complying with existing court rulings.

Taking banks into receivership would work better than bailing them out. Like Afghanistan and Iraq, there's no way to make it "work" - but you can make it blow up in the least damaging and spectacular way possible.

Tobin taxes and infrastructure projects would work, in the sense of cutting the financial sector back down to size and taking up the resulting slack with useful production. But here we leave the realm of what can be done from the Oval Office. Taxes and stimulus is Congress' bailiwick. So that's Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi who need to be grilled.

Threatening senators would have to be done with some care, but if done with a deft touch, it should be workable.

If Obama were serious about negotiating an ambitious climate treaty, it is hard to see how anybody could prevent him from doing so. After all, he could accomplish it simply by brokering an agreement between China (not an insurmountable task) and his European vassals. They could then enforce such a treaty against the US. Senate or no senate.

Would Obama still be alive?

Largely irrelevant, unless they also got Biden.

But the subtext of the question is: Can the Bush-era Stasi 2.0 apparatus be redirected to targeting white, Christian terrorists? And that remains to be seen.

Would centrist Senators fall in line?

Not all of them. But he doesn't need all of them. All he needs is to make a credible threat to have the filibuster rule removed.

Would the economy have gone into free-fall

Wrong verb tense. The economy did go into free-fall.

So why are we surprised?

We are not surprised. Maybe some of the Kossacks are, though...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Dec 16th, 2009 at 08:38:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Agreed on Banks and receivership -  but Bernanke just got Time man of the year for averting a Great Depression - so perhaps definitions of free fall can vary.  

Would getting rid of the filibuster not require a 60 vote majority, and why would centrists give up their main source of leverage?

I think the main problem has been his treatment of Lieberman.  That meant all the centrists knew their was no price to be paid for disloyalty and following their own private interests.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 16th, 2009 at 09:02:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bernanke just got the Time man of the year award for averting an unpleasant haircut for the people who invite Time reporters to cocktail parties. Averting another Great Depression (on which the jury is still out) has nothing to do with it, one way or another.

Getting rid of the filibuster would require only a change to the house rules, which does not technically speaking require a supermajority. It only requires bullying Reid and the rest of the Senate leadership into it.

Oh, and Lieberman needs to go. The problem with Lieberman is that he was not vigorously opposed in the last midterms, when he had to stand for election. The Democratic party machine ran him, over the heads of the primary result, and the Republicans were only too happy to help.

But I'm a little queasy about using foreign policy threats to browbeat senators. There's a lot of mostly excellent reasons to cease aid to Israel. Power games in the US Senate, however, is not one of them.

And if you really need to get rid of him, I'm sure he has a skeleton somewhere that can be exhumed and put on public display...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 17th, 2009 at 07:08:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I still have hope that Bernanke's confirmation will be delayed until his term expires.  If it fails I will laugh my ass off.  That would put the Time Man of the Year award this year in the same category as the "Dewey Wins" headline in '48.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 09:57:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"He could have taken them into receivership, kept them running and gradually unwound their balance sheets."

How could he have done that? The US government does not currently have that authority - although Obama has been asking for it.

Take a $1T+ monster like Citibank and explain to me the method that Obama could have used to take it into receivership - especially as the bailout of Citi happened under Bush.

by rootless2 on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 07:55:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What authority does the FDIC have?
On Friday, December 18, 2009, First Federal Bank of California, a Federal Savings Bank (First Federal Bank of California), Santa Monica, CA was closed by the Office of Thrift Supervision, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) was named Receiver.  No advance notice is given to the public when a financial institution is closed.
Surely if the US Congress has the authority to create and fund the TARP it also has the authority to capitalize the FDIC to the tune of one trillion dollars if necessary...

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como Espańa entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 08:14:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The FDIC has authority to take banks into receivership and liquidate them. Citgroup is not a bank - it contains multiple non-bank and non-US bank parts. In theory, FDIC could have taken over the US bank, but it has no authority to hold and manage the assets - which is why the US created the RTC during the S&L crisis of the 1980s. FDIC practice is to take over as it sells the bank assets to an existing bank  - and there were no candidates to absorb Citi. And doing so would have caused the enclosing corporation to crash with no regulatory authority to take it over and manage it. And the record shows these FDIC takeovers have usually cost the FDIC about 20% of assets, which would have been a whole lot more than the US has actually spent on Citi.

So: aside from FDIC receivership being, partial,impractical, panic inducing, and vastly more expensive, it would have been a great idea.
 

by rootless2 on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 09:00:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Citgroup is not a bank - it contains multiple non-bank and non-US bank parts.

The bank parts are the only important parts. Take them over and let the rest burn to the ground.

And if you can't tell whether a bit is part of the bank part or not, take it over and find out. After you've figured it out, dump it back on the shareholders if it wasn't. If you can find an almost legal way to loot it before you do so, all the better - defrays the cost of the operation.

Is that legal? I don't know. But neither does anybody else, and by the time the courts are done with it, you have a fait accompli.

FDIC practice is to take over as it sells the bank assets to an existing bank  - and there were no candidates to absorb Citi.

Then play dumb. Take it over and try to sell it. You're allowed to do that. When nobody shows up to buy (as you knew would happen), you're stuck with it. Since you're stuck with it anyway, you'll have to hold it. And simply holding it would be grossly irresponsible, so you have to manage it while you hold it. And part of proper management is to sort out the good from the bad and dismantle the bad. Mission accomplished.

You're authorised to take it over, and while holding and managing it might technically exceed the FDIC's authority, I'd dearly love to see the court that would order the FDIC to hand it back to the original owners, where it would instantly lapse into bankruptcy...

And doing so would have caused the enclosing corporation to crash with no regulatory authority to take it over and manage it.

So what? The holding company is a parasite that needs to be shot in the back of the head and dumped in a shallow grave.

As for "no regulatory authority," I've got two words for you: Chapter 7. Maybe an expedited Ch. 11 for the bits that you want to survive.

And the record shows these FDIC takeovers have usually cost the FDIC about 20% of assets, which would have been a whole lot more than the US has actually spent on Citi.

Hire a couple of European central bank staffers who actually know how to serve the public rather than (or at least in addition to) the banks.

Oh, and you're conveniently omitting the systemic, political and macroeconomic costs of having a huge zombie bank running around.

So: aside from FDIC receivership being, partial,impractical, panic inducing, and vastly more expensive, it would have been a great idea.

Partial is not a problem when the parts you take over are the important ones. Impractical is only true if you declare from the word "go" that the nuclear option - Ch. 7 for the entire goddamn Street - is off the table. Once that's back on the table, the practical problems disappear. Panic is not a problem as long as you preserve the core monetary functions - which FDIC is authorised to do. And I dispute the way you count expenses.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 10:45:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Hire a couple of European central bank staffers who actually know how to serve the public rather than (or at least in addition to) the banks."

Are you serious? If Geithner had not bailed AIG, half of europe's banks would have crashed on the spot triggering a massive panic.

by rootless2 on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 10:50:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No. Half of Europe's big banks would have been taken into receivership (because Europe actually has very sensible policy of vesting standing authority in various regulatory bodies to take insolvent financial institutions into receivership). A handful of smaller banks would have been killed off too, but nothing catastrophic.

Villager concern trolling notwithstanding, Frankfurt, London and New York are not the be-all-end-all of the banking system.

And Villager concern trolling notwithstanding, there is nothing that prevents the state from decisively stopping a cascading bank failure under existing law. All it requires is a willingness to tell the shareholders, the management, the hedge funds and a couple of the transnationals to take a long walk on a short pier. In short, to bankrupt a couple of score Villagers rather than bankrupting the country.

But I can see why that might be too strident and uncouth to ask demand that of our political class.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 10:58:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've seen the results of Europes "sensible" bank policies. They look even worse than the American experience. Giant reckless real-estate bailouts in
Germany. Feckless bets on US junk mortgages in France. The English - let's not even go there. Have you heard of Ireland? Small nation in the west of the EU - just completely bankrupted the country to bail out banks. What about sensible Iceland? Do you even know about the Belgian banking collapse?

But of course, the first to collapse would have been the Eastern European state banks that got Lehman crap foisted off on them by Societe General and friends.

"All it requires is a willingness to tell the shareholders, the management, the hedge funds and a couple of the transnationals to take a long walk on a short pier. In short, to bankrupt a couple of score Villagers rather than bankrupting the country."

That's a strikingly ignorant statement. Seriously. A sane bank regulator, no matter how stupid, looking at the situation in 2007 and not worrying about a global crash and escalating depression would have been worse than corrupt.

by rootless2 on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 11:31:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I've seen the results of Europes "sensible" bank policies. They look even worse than the American experience.

The Bundesbank and the Spanish central bank have done about as good a job as can be done under the circumstances. The examples you pull out are due to the insane market fundies in our parliaments more than the regulators.

Whether they have managed to mishandle it more grossly than their American fellow faithful is something that will not become apparent until we begin to pull out of the depression.

A sane bank regulator, no matter how stupid, looking at the situation in 2007 and not worrying about a global crash and escalating depression would have been worse than corrupt.

Newsflash: We got a global crash and escalating depression. Destroying Wall Street could hardly have made the crash worse, and it would have removed a significant part of the opposition to sane and responsible fiscal and monetary policy going forward.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 02:36:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Newsflash: We got a global crash and escalating depression. Destroying Wall Street could hardly have made the crash worse, and it would have removed a significant part of the opposition to sane and responsible fiscal and monetary policy going forward.

- Jake

To you the difference between 10% unemployment and 30% unemployment may be nothing, but to me it's significant. Sue me.

by rootless2 on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 02:42:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"The Bundesbank and the Spanish central bank have done about as good a job as can be done under the circumstances. The examples you pull out are due to the insane market fundies in our parliaments more than the regulators."

Snort. Look up "regulatory arbitrage" and "europe" in a search engine.

by rootless2 on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 02:44:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Uhm, you have around 20 % unemployment at the moment if you count it the same way Europe does...

And you have no serious countercyclical fiscal policy in sight.

Breaking the banks might have gotten your unemployment up to 25 or 30 % for a year or two, but on the other hand you would have destroyed a significant part of the obstructionist opposition to the policies that could cut years off the depression.

Whether ten years at 20 % is preferable to one or two years at 30 % is, I suppose, a matter of taste...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 02:49:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I mean 25% unemployment in Europe after the collapse of the central banks of hungary, poland, and baltics. But I bet you think that those EU central bank regulators could have patched it right up.
by rootless2 on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 03:29:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hungary's problems are not nearly as serious as you think.

The Baltics are fucked because their politicians are neoliberal fundamentalists. No central banker in the world can save you from neoliberal politicians. (But no, the Baltic central banks have not impressed me.)

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 03:33:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"The bank parts are the only important parts. Take them over and let the rest burn to the ground."

So you call up China and Singapore and Saudi Arabia say: btw, all the sovereign funds you put into Citi - zero. No we don't have legal authority. And call Japan and tell them  we're liquidating the largest brokerage  in Japan, fuck you. And tell Eastern Europe - you're on your own.

That's really not going to work.

by rootless2 on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 10:56:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
They are perfectly free to handle those remaining entities as they please. But the US has no obligation under domestic or international law to safeguard the profits of speculators who vested their funds with insolvent institutions. The citizenship of the speculator in question is irrelevant.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 10:59:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course it does, in practice. After 8 years of Bush's borrowing splurge, the US is so in debt that it cannot afford to alienate its foreign bankers.
by rootless2 on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 11:33:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Bush Memorial Debt is largely irrelevant to the issue at hand. Bush's deficit affected in the main the federal debt, not the US national debt, which is run up due to your structural current accounts deficit. Which has been one of the most bipartisan efforts on record.

China could hurt the US, and a couple of oil states could hurt the US. But the oil states are American clients and with China the debt is the tail, not the dog. The dog is the Chinese ForEx policy, which wouldn't be materially altered by a debt writedown.

And anyway, if foreign creditors need to be bailed out in order to maintain sound foreign relations (a case can be made for that), then all he has to do is ask Congress for funds for that. It would have been cheaper than TARP and QE.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 02:45:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
rootless2:
it cannot afford to alienate its foreign bankers.

and that's why barack didn't give the time of day to the dalai lama, i bet.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Mon Dec 21st, 2009 at 06:45:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tell Congress that if they do not give him that authority, the administration conducts a real audit of City, instead of one of those sad-joke "stress tests" and publishing the results far and wide. And then sit back and watch the ensuing bank run.

And he can do that with every single banking house on Wall Street, under laws already on the books. Maybe the Villagers are too stupid to realise that the White House is playing hardball after only one banking house. So you move on to the next one, and shoot that one in the head. Maybe they'll get the message at that point.

For that matter, he could have called up Helicopter Ben and told him that the Fudderal Reserve was buying City "at market prices" (read: For free, since nobody else wants to touch that ShitpileTM with a ten-foot pole), and was going to run it. The Fudderal Reserve is a bank - surely it is authorised to run banks, no?

And if the Fed didn't play ball, guess which chairman was never, ever going to get any public office under a Democratic administration again? For that matter, guess which chairman was going to get to go through a very public and humiliating exposition of all the varied and sundry ways in which he fucked up after taking over from Bubbles?

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 10:24:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The premise of your post is that the banks do not have the political power to nullify an American government. I have not seen any evidence for that proposition.
by rootless2 on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 10:51:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Who controls the CIA, the Pentagon and the National Guard?

And therein lies the rub. If the answer is not "the government," then your problem is not "angry lefties." Then your problem is that your angry lefties are not nearly angry enough. And don't have nearly enough guns.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 11:02:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have also not noticed that being angry produces any political power.

The situation is what it is. The power of finance capital and the military/security managers in the US cannot be pretended away. No government can act without taking those powers into account.

by rootless2 on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 11:36:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have also not noticed that being angry produces any political power.

Germany 1848. Spain 1936-39. Bolivia 1952-1971.

The situation is what it is. The power of finance capital and the military/security managers in the US cannot be pretended away. No government can act without taking those powers into account.

Where did I propose to act without taking them into account?

What I proposed was to break them. Destroy them. Utterly. Send the lot of them to prison or the poor house. Preferably before the midterm primary season.

You can win that way. You can also, of course, lose that way. But as long as he does not take the fight to the enemy, he will lose and he will keep losing. The alternative would at least give him a fighting chance.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 02:21:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Germany 1848.

Bismark and guns win.

Spain 1936-39.

Franco/Hitler win.

Bolivia 1952-1971

CIA wins.

"What I proposed was to break them. Destroy them. Utterly. Send the lot of them to prison or the poor house. Preferably before the midterm primary season."

No. You proposed that the US President should break them. As if a centrist elected by an electorate that has shown no appetite for serious reform let alone revolution would defy the core power structure of the state and somehow magically turn it into bunnies.

It's that combination of "but he's the president" naivete and demands for radical change to be imposed by people who are, at best, mild reformers on a public that has elected people like Nelson and Lieberman and Coburn to high office that strikes me as peculiarly deluded.

by rootless2 on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 02:41:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's that combination of "but he's the president" naivete and demands for radical change to be imposed by people who are, at best, mild reformers on a public that has elected people like Nelson and Lieberman and Coburn to high office that strikes me as peculiarly deluded.

You asked "what could he have done?" I answered with a plan that could have worked, if he had been willing to break legs, bust kneecaps and generally behave like he meant business. He could have lost. If you initiate an institutional crisis, you run the risk of losing. But he could also have won, which is a better prospect than what we're getting now.

Your answer: "But he doesn't want to do that."

The Americans call that "shifting the goalposts." The question wasn't "what could he have done that would not have shaken him out of his cozy Beltway comfort zone?" Because if you accept the cozy Beltway comfort zone as the limit of any legislative agenda, then the US is going to keep going rightward.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 02:59:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah well, if your proposal is that he "could have" acted like a revolutionary leader of a mass uprising, I suppose I must concede. He could have also tried to impose Sharia law - with equal probability and similar results.
by rootless2 on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 03:13:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, my proposal is that he pushes his authority to the very limit and with a clear idea about who his enemies are and what he should do to destroy them.

Is the FBI on his side? Yes or no. If yes, deal with Wall Street the same way Lyndon B. Johnson deal with the Ku Klux Klan a generation ago. If not, deal with Wall Street the same way Benjamin Franklin dealt with the British three hundred years ago.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 03:27:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
under johnson, the fbi spent far more time attempting to destroy the civil rights movement than the kkk. and yet, lbj helped pass the civil rights laws.
by rootless2 on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 04:52:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Spain 1936-39.

Franco/Hitler win.

They kept Franco busy for three full years, and prevented Spain from making a meaningful contribution to the Axis war effort. That's at least a draw.

Fighting doesn't guarantee that you'll win. But not fighting guarantees that you'll lose.

Unless, of course, you labour under the delusion that if the communists had appeased the fascists and not demanded land reform, the fascists would never have launched their coup? But then I have to wonder who is really the naive one...

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 03:13:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Unless, of course, you labour under the delusion that if the communists had appeased the fascists and not demanded land reform, the fascists would never have launched their coup? But then I have to wonder who is really the naive one...

- Jake

It is necessary to distinguish between the virtue and the vice of liquidity. (With apologies to Lemuel K. Washburn)

I labor under the delusion that if the net result of a political struggle is the imposition of a fascist dictatorship that lasts 40 years and kills at least tens of thousands, then it's rather silly to call it a win.

In any case, the power of the left in Spain came from years of painful organizing, not fantasies that the moderate government would smash the state.

But Spain is a good example because it shows what happens when the government acts against the elites without having sufficient control of military.

by rootless2 on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 03:20:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Which brings me back to the question: Does Obama control the military and the federal police?

If he doesn't, you don't need to fuck around with inside-the-Beltway strategizing. You need to get some guns.

If he does, then you don't need to fuck around with inside-the-Beltway strategizing either. You need to start arresting criminals.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 03:24:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The answer is that Obama has limited control of them within the context of the mic and security state and empire. And of course, "getting some guns" is suicidal.

 But since you have identified the Spanish Civil war as a success, I guess we are going to differ on goals.

by rootless2 on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 03:27:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If Wall Street is above the law, working within the law will not result in any meaningful reform. So you work outside the law, or you accept that they will remain unaccountable.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 03:31:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
False choice. If incremental tinkering weakens wall street and allows labor unions to grow - the power balance changes. If Obama cannot command the MIC, he can bend its course somewhat. He cannot abolish finance but he can tinker with the laws so industrial concerns and unions gain in strength relatively.
by rootless2 on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 04:50:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Has Obama strenghtened the unions?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 05:23:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He's working on it - very hard. The business press is alarmed, but the "progressives" have not noticed.
by rootless2 on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 06:14:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The business press is concern trolling.

Anything Obama does will be cast as socialists coming to take away mom and apple pie. Any policy, no matter how tame, will be heralded as the impending collapse of capitalism.

The business press is slightly to the right of Genghis Khan. If they think a policy is pulling the country left, there's at least a 50/50 chance that they think so only because it isn't pulling the country to the right as fast as they'd like.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 06:18:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There are four major classes of political problems in the US:

  • Structural governance issues - endemic corruption, lack of an organised left, lack of organised labour, far-right media landscape, excessive military and corporate influence on government, creeping police state, etc.

  • Medium-term policy issues - a third-world infrastructure, structural current accounts deficit, unsustainable energy supply, decrepit health and education, lack of industrial policy, imperial overstretch, etc.

  • Short-term do-or-die issues, where policy has to be changed yesterday - climate crisis, pro-cyclical economic policy, structural oil dependency, etc.

  • Values politics - torture, criminal wars, high and increasing inequality, rampant sexual discrimination, unreconstructed racism, support for repressive regimes abroad, etc.

Now, nobody is demanding that Obama fixes everything on this list. That would be unrealistic. Not, perhaps, unreasonable, but unrealistic. The problem is that I'm not seeing any kind of progress on any of them.

Of course any kind of progress faces substantial institutional barriers. But there are so many issues where progress is needed and so few where progress is made that I think it's legitimate to ask whether these institutional barriers are, in fact, insurmountable, or whether they are simply being used as a convenient excuse for inaction. A determined attempt to enact sane policy (not even left-wing policy - demanding that from a centre-right president would be clearly unrealistic) could surely find at least one or two areas where the defences could be decisively breached.

Further, even minor progress is not sufficient. Eventually, the Democrats will lose power, and the Republicans are by now composed mainly of Taliban-wannabes and unreconstructed fascists. So losing power will mean another sickening lurch towards the far-right. Unless the gains achieved during a Democratic incumbency more than counterbalance the damage done under the Republicans, they're playing a losing game when averaged over the whole electoral cycle.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 06:08:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
rootless2:
Germany 1848.

Bismark and guns win.

Bismarck was an ambitious but minor politician in 1848. And I think the dynamics of 1848 is somewhat more complex then "guns win".

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 05:20:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sigh. 14 years after the attempted revolution, the far right consolidates power and Bismarck settles into a long reign. If that's victory, give me defeat.
by rootless2 on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 06:16:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Bismarck's tenure was hardly "far-right." He enacted some of the most sweeping social reforms of any Central European monarchies. Bismarck and his cronies may well have been far-right, but if a serious threat of revolution forced him to give concessions... well, concessions are concessions.

And let's not forget that the troubles in Germany in 1848 played a major role in the democratic constitutions of the Nordic countries.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 06:23:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean the monarchists? But they were - in most cases in Germany - in power before the revolutions of 1848 too. In Prussia for example the king ruled in absolutist fashion.

So you could just as well describe 1848-1870 in Germany as two steps forward and one step back. The revolutionaries did not achieve a united liberal constitutional monarchy, instead they got (over time) a united conservative constitutional monarchy instead of the disunited, mainly conservative absolutist monarchies it preceeded.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 06:33:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Their is every bit as much authority for taking all elements of any TBTF bank into a resolution regime as there was for the whole TARP proposal. But it might not have passed Congress so easily as congress would have been concerned who would step up with the contributions formerly made by institutions "in resolution." And there is no excuse for not requiring a 20-30% hair cut on debt and calling for a standstill on derivatives.

We are well past the time when action to protect the public from predatory financial corporations needs to take precedence over possible negative consequences to intervention. Voiding or unwinding many derivative instruments would at least force recognition and writing down of bad debt.  Until that happens we will continue to have the dance of the zombies. And changing regulations so as to allow credit default swaps to be honored for the 7/8ths of holders who could not produce a bond, the protection of which was ostensibly the purpose of the CDS, is like legalizing bank robbery ex-post-facto because the robbers are family. All we are doing with Bernanke's great rescue is postponing a final resolution and making that resolution more expensive and more devastating.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 10:09:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Instead we got President Harry Reid.

And Obama is 'traditionally constitutional' (i.e., respecting the role of Congress in govt decision-making) only when it suits a "don't blame me" political strategy. He's at complete and deadly variance with Constitutional Law tradition in his dealings with terrorism, non-traditional combatants, and his continuation of and advocacy of undeclared wars based on 'whatever the President decides to do'.

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Dec 17th, 2009 at 01:19:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
good diary, important issues discussed.

European Tribune - Obama, The Nation, WSWS & "What Is To Be Done"

Those who care for their own security cannot ignore the danger of an arms race in the Middle East or East Asia.

if obama reined in the arms merchants from his own country, who export so many arms to these hotspots, then i'd listen to his ideas about using force to depose tyrannical governments abroad, until then, i believe this rhetoric to be deeply disingenuous, and destructive to the world peace he talks about espousing.

as for capitalism becoming completely superfluous under a pure form of socialism, there is room for more modern approaches to distribute wealth more fairly that are much less ideologically extreme than trotsky-ism, such as the energy pools advocated by chris cook.
 these do not undermine the benign aspects of capitalism, but are highly subversive just the same, imo, when it comes to turning around the concept of capitalism as blunt instrument or worse, imperially speaking, as one sees with the IMF et al.

i guess what i'm trying to say is that capitalism can be seen as a form of steel, which can then be turned into swords or ploughshares, it's not the iron's fault if it's turned into a killing machine, instead of a tool for making survival more efficient and productive of public happiness.

so far it's 'shiny toy' novelty these last centuries has spellbound the thinking public into ignoring its abuse, preferring to believe that let alone, it will continue the social improvements it made in history, empowering middle classes, and diminishing the totalitarian control of the aristocracy by shifting power to those who who were not 'to the manor born'.

and not seeing that it has now become another class of godmen ruling the little pawns from above, just with lower profiles and less ermine, just bonuses and bailouts instead...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Wed Dec 16th, 2009 at 09:50:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All forms of economic organization should be looked at as tools through which an uncorrupted representative democracy can best manage a society's political and economic life. We have enough experience to know, with absolute certainty, that the best way to organize our economies is not with 'pure capitalism' or 'pure socialism' (whatever those two phrases mean).

The public needs to emphatically reject, NOW, the either/or approaches that the Trotskyists and laissez-faire-ists are associated with. But we haven't, in fact the laissez-faire ideologues decisively dominate both the Democratic and Republican parties here in the States, as well as virtually all economics departments (where the common sense I've outlined in the preceding paragraph is often outright banned as 'un-economic'). This nightmare reality is not nearly enough different in Europe.

fairleft

by fairleft (fairleftatyahoodotcom) on Thu Dec 17th, 2009 at 01:29:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nobody actually believes in laissez-faire - least of all the tenured professors who live on government grants. The spectacle of American right wingers demanding the government stay away from medicare (a government program) this summer is hard to incorporate in any coherent political model.
by rootless2 on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 07:57:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Rigfht-wingers very much do believe in laissez-faire.

They don't need to believe in a coherent model. Like NCE - the model doesn't have to be coherent, it just has to be a useful excuse for greed, violence, xenophobia and stupidity, which are the right's core values.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 09:17:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not sure that incoherence is the problem with NCE: I suspect it follows quite coherently from its assumptions.

The problem is that NCE is based upon the complete bollocks assumptions necessary to lead to policy outcomes which suit those who fund NCE.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 05:13:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think TGB's point would have been clearer had he said that NCE does not have to be congruent with reality. That is the real problem, not that it is incoherent, though much of it is, but that it is incongruent with the way things actually work.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Sun Dec 20th, 2009 at 10:17:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]

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