Thursday, February 23, 2012

Hilariously Tainted Politics

Winning at any cost has become so important to Team Obama that its SuperPac is openly wading into the GOP primaries, running attack ads on a candidate who might lose the nomination in his own home state to a religious fanatic. The Daily Kos, a well-known Obama veal pen website, has also launched "Operation Hilarity", which urges supporters of the president to vote for Santorum in states which hold open primaries.  This is ostensibly to make it easier for Barack to win the election: better that he run against Rick Santorum than Mitt Romney, with whom he has too much in common for comfort.

Markos Moulitsas, founder of Daily Kos, originally had started a fundraiser to help sabotage the Republican primaries, but scotched the monetary angle when criticism came pouring in about its tainting of the political process. No matter: PrioritiesUSA is spending its own tainted cash for attack ads. The objective of the Democrats seems to be this: drag out the GOP nominating process as long as possible in order to weaken all the candidates and make Obama a shoo-in.

This is wrong on so many levels. It reeks of desperation. It reveals Democrats to be in thrall to a Cult of Personality. The only beneficiary of a drawn-out food fight among the Republicans  will be President Obama. It will not be the electorate.  The more we can be distracted by the phony culture wars, the birth control fight, vaginal probes, presidential theology... and the more we can manufacture outrage and portray the president as a victim of a smear campaign, the easier it will be for Obama to continue his own far-right policies. The more an unhinged Rick Santorum can fill the airwaves and the blogs, the less we will notice, or care, about the shadow wars, the abuses of the surveillance state, the war on whistleblowers, the war on drugs, the war on poor people, the stealth privatization of schools, that too many of us are permanently unemployed and underemployed, and that the American Dream is just so much hot air.

The presidential contest the Democrats prefer will be between a right wing corporatist and a racist lunatic -- not between two right wing corporatists.  We must not, cannot notice that the entire process is ruled by oligarchic special interests. The pretense of choice must be maintained, no matter what the cost. Here is how Moulitsas put it yesterday: 
Of course, I realize that this (voting for Santorum) makes some of you squeamish, and if you live in one of those states and don't want to participate, you don't have to! (We also stopped fundraising for it, focusing instead in message mobilizing.) But there's too much at stake to worry about idealistic notions of what democracy should be. Luckily for all of us, Team Obama isn't restraining itself based on such idealism. They're playing to win, and this latest action is essentially strategic vindication for Operation Hilarity.
The action he refers to are the Obama SuperPac ads running in Michigan against Romney, who is not even the nominee yet. This tactic of an incumbent president involving himself in another party's nominating process had been unheard of until now. Citizens United is proving to be a real radical trend-setter, isn't it?

David Sirota of Salon has written a fine piece on the dangers of focusing on the manufactured culture wars during a drawn-out Republican primary. He disagrees with the conventional wisdom of the Democratic veal pen that the longer the Republicans can duke it out, the more they will expose their awfulness to the public at large. In fact, the opposite will occur: 
Straightforward as this hypothesis is, I don’t buy it — I believe the longer the Republican primary battle continues, the more the GOP’s most extreme proposals are given a mainstream platform,  the more their ideas are granted public credibility and the more conservative propaganda is invisibly woven into our most basic political assumptions. In other words, I believe in the Goldwater Principle, which suggests that while the eventual nominee may fail to win the cycle’s general election, the elongated nomination contest —  with its news cycle dominance and hardcore ideological edge — will help permanently shift the supposed mainstream “center” of our public debate to the fringe right.
We are already too far to the right as a nation for our own comfort and our own good. It has become the acceptable new normal to have a Democrat in the Oval Office who is openly anti-union (he pulled  OFA, his official campaign arm, out of  the Wisconsin labor protests a year ago), fiscally conservative (Catfood Commission), anti-environment (he nixed his own EPA's ozone rules), pro-corporation and Wall Street, job-destroying free trade proponent, and ad infinitum. His base is left slobbering in gratitude over the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (which has yet to increase women's pay), his same-sex marriage slow evolution and other liberal tidbits.

The corporate media have fallen down on their own job, abysmally. The so-called progressive cable TV shows no longer delve into substantive issues. Even renegade Keith Olbermann has stopped questioning or criticizing the Obama Administration.  It's all about ginning up outrage at the latest antics of the GOP candidates. Citizens United has extended the process by bankrolling fringe candidates, and the TV stations are raking in the advertising bucks.  They have discovered that lunacy is a commodity and an eminently lucrative one.

You don't hear much criticism of the White House during this election season from the more popular liberal blogs, either. In fact, the fomenting of fear is on a definite upswing. Just glancing over at the headlines in this site's blogroll and elsewhere this morning tells the story: "Romney: 'Nuclear Weapons Will Be Used if Obama Elected!""; "Our Nation of Moaners"; "Forced Births in the Bad Old Days"; "Santorum Excommunicates 4500 Christians!"; "Virginia To Impose State-Sponsored Rape by Forcing Women to Get Vaginal Probes!"

MoveOn.org is having hysterics. Can you contribute $15 right away to stop the Republican "Let Women Die!" bill? $top letting the Republicans make the war on women's health a wedge issue by helping us ensure that it will continue to be a wedge issue!

The only thing we have to fear is corporate Democrats telling us how much we should fear Republicans. This stuff reminds me of the alien abduction craze of years ago. UFOs were kidnapping people right and left, and there were always probes involved. Forget about the looming Iran War. There is a war against women, people! It is so much more fun to be scared about imaginary things, like Rick Santorum. Heck, even I write the occasional blog post about Rick Santorum. But I don't give this marginal human being power and nonstop publicity he doesn't deserve in order to make "my side" look good.

"Villager" pundit Ezra Klein of The Washington Post and MSDNC is beginning to see the light. A little. He explains "why voters can't trust their own political party." It's because politicians care more about getting elected than they do about the needs of voters. Duh.  But it is not the media's job to explain policy to the hoi polloi, sniffs Klein.  They are, after all, just the stenographers: 
Perhaps my biggest frustration with the U.S. news media (and yes, I am a card-carrying member) is that we permit the two parties to decide what is “left” and what is “right.” The way it works, roughly, is that anything Democrats support becomes “left,” and everything Republicans support becomes “right.”
There are good reasons for this. It isn’t the media’s job to police political ideologies, and it wouldn’t be a good idea for us to try. But that leaves ordinary voters in a bit of a tough spot.
Well, at least he is being honest about clarifying his self-imposed limits. It is simply not in his job description to give us a crash course on substance. Klein seems to echo  New York Times Public Editor Arthur Brisbane's infamous column which rhetorically asked if reporters should be calling out politicians on their lies. This paragraph from the Klein piece made me cringe:
Parties -- particularly when they’re in the minority -- care more about power than policy. Perhaps there’s nothing much to be done about this. And as I said, it isn’t clear that the media, or anyone else, should try. But it puts the lie to the narrative that America is really riven by grand ideological disagreements. America is deeply divided on the question of which party should be in power at any given moment. Much of the polarization over policy is driven by that question, not the other way around.
Okay, Ezra. All politicians are scum, but just keep continuing to parrot what they say, give them a free platform and wring your hands in despair. Don't call them out publicly, by name, but do write a generic column every once in awhile to ease your conscience. I guess Ezra never reads ProPublica, or learned about muckraking in college. 


50 comments:

Denis Neville said...

These are NOT hilarious times.

Obama has shifted the Overton Window to the right and nailed it firmly in place so that nobody will be able to drag it to the left. And, amazingly, as Karen says, the Obamabots slobber in gratitude and attempt to intimidate those who are critical.

Thomas Frank, in the March issue of Harper’s, “Debt, Be Not Proud,” noting Grover Norquist’s observation that people who remember the Depression are dying (“every year two million of them die”), writes, “Maybe the New Deal and its reforms…were an exception to the rules of American history, instead of the norm they once appeared to be…a short-lived attempt by average people to defy the stern moral narratives of economic orthodoxy. That they are under such a withering attack by a later generation of average people – people who are caught up in a frenzy of hard-times righteousness…may turn out to be one of the those toxic ironies our descendants will simply have to live with.”

Paul Starr, Remedy and Reaction - The Peculiar American Struggle Over Health Care Reform, writes, “If the ‘special interests’ were arrayed on one side and the suffering masses on the other, the conflict would fit easily into a familiar populist picture of the world. But…The bias against change also comes from members of the protected public…much of the resistance has come from members of an entitled majority with a privileged position in the public-subsidy system…The beneficiaries do not understand themselves as benefiting from government assistance or a sharing a common condition with the excluded…Morally armed, they can reject helping others in need as a matter of high principle; after all, Americans shouldn’t look to government for help…Perhaps America will simply get used to the idea that although other countries can provide health care to all their people, the United States is too poor to afford it…[unable to] summon the elementary decency toward the sick that characterizes other democracies.”

Robert Reich, “Corporations Don’t Need a Tax Cut, So Why Is Obama Proposing One?” is also discouraged. “The President gives a rousing speech, as he did on December 6 in Kansas. Then he misses an opportunity to put his campaign where his mouth is.”

http://robertreich.org/post/18079650906

And so it goes…

“Giving every man a vote has no more made men wise and free than Christianity has made them good.” - H.L. Mencken

Zee said...

@Valerie--

Thanks for calling to my attention your post/question for me a couple of threads ago (Alternative Presidents' Day), in which you asked if I or any of my conservative friends could consider voting for a Green Party candidate because there really is no distinction between Republicans and Democrats.

I'm already resigned to either leaving the box for president on the 2012 ballot unchecked or voting for a third-party candidate if the Republicans nominate Santorum or Gingrich, but which alternative party?

I reject the Socialist Equality Party out of hand. It is not capitalism that has failed the American worker; rather, it is our government—which has not only failed to regulate investment banks and corporations, but actually colluded with them—that has failed the American worker. Historically, socialism has repeatedly failed to deliver on its promises of equality and prosperity for all owing to humanity's inherent greed and corruptability, and socialism's inherent inability to be as efficient in the allocation of resources as is a regulated capitalist market.

The Green Party is just plain scary in terms of its busybody willingness to intrude upon the lives of individuals in the name of saving the planet. From setting standards for the quality and amount of toilet paper that I'm allowed to buy and use, to remotely controlling my thermostat in the dead of winter, to declaring my SUV a crime against humanity, the Greens seem to want to have a say in every facet of my life, all for my own good, of course.

Equally worrisome, the Greens seem to have my accumulated middle-class retirement “wealth” and property—such as they are—squarely in their sights:

“Those over 65 hold, on average, 47 times as much wealth as heads of households who are under 35. White families own, on average, twenty times as much as Black families. Such inequality is unacceptable, unconscionable* and un-American.” --Jill Stein, The Green New Deal

While I agree that the current degree of economic inequality in America is detrimental to our society and should eventually be brought back into line with past norms, I don't view what I've accumulated over thirty years of hard work—and which will have to last me to my crematorial urn—as “unacceptable, unconscionable* and un-American.”

So I'd love to know what the Green Party has in store for me along the lines of “equalizing” my modest wealth and property, just as I'm sure the Black family who live across the street from me—and who lead a comparable life style—would like to know, too.

I think the Green Party is a non-starter for me.

Rocky Anderson and the Justice Party say quite a number of things in their strategic plan that I agree with, but I would like to see some detail.

Like Anderson, I support universal health care coverage, in my case, a single-payer system. He advocates “living within our means,” and says that the “role of government is neither to be paternal or intrusive in the lives of its citizens.” He claims as a value to “[r]espect the fundamental values and principles contained in the Constitution”

The last three of these notions are essential elements of conservative thinking. But, as you might expect, I'd like a little more detail on the Second Amendment. And I'd also like to understand how Anderson can claim to be amongst the greenest politicians in America, yet avoid a paternalistic, intrusive government.

So to sum up my long-winded answer to your brief question, I could pull the lever for an alternative-party candidate—assuming that additional details are satisfactory—but it would be for Rocky Anderson and the American Justice Party, not the Greens. At the moment, I can't speak for my conservative friends.

Denis Neville said...

Avedon Carol is also “sick of the attempts to drum up the daily Ten Minute Hate against Republicans or self-identified conservatives.”

“The trouble is that for 30 years the GOP leadership and, more importantly, it's rich funders and savvy operatives, have pushed the party membership to see liberals as people who hate them, and liberals have obligingly complied by hating on them non-stop.”

http://sideshow.me.uk/sfeb12.htm#1202221752

“I'm pretty sure that at least half of the Republican electorate is - and, indeed, feels - entirely unrepresented by their party leadership, and not because that leadership is "too liberal". But the other reason is that I'm pretty sure that if we can just get rid of all the damned tribalism, there are plenty of registered Republicans who would get on board with a push to restore the Constitution and the project of promoting the general welfare.”

But, as Orwell said, “To die hating them, that was freedom.”

“A man had been betrayed by his children, by his wife, and by his friends; some disloyal partners had ruined his fortune, and had plunged him into poverty. Pervaded with a profound hatred and contempt for the human race, he left society and took refuge alone in a cave. There, pressing his fists into his eyes, and contemplating a revenge proportional to his grievances, he said: "Evil people! What shall I do to punish them for their injustice and to make them all as unhappy as they deserve? Ah! if it were possible to imagine it -- to intoxicate them with a great fantasy to which they would attach more importance than to their lives, and about which they would never be able to agree!" Instantly he rushed out of the cave, shouting, "God! God!" Echoes without number repeated around him, "God! God!" This fearful name was carried from pole to pole, and heard everywhere with astonishment. At first men prostrated themselves, then they got up again, asked each other, argued with each other, became bitter, cursed each other, hated each other, cut each other's throats, and the fatal wish of the misanthropist was fulfilled. For such has been in the past, such will be in the future, the story of a being at all times equally important and incomprehensible.” - Denis Diderot, Addition to the Philosophical Thoughts

Valerie said...

@Anne - Not sure if you have seen this interview with Ron Paul on foreign policy but it is a good one. I am so torn about Paul. I HATE his domestic policy - it is so incredibly heartless and I lean toward a socialist/capitalist domestic policy that is heavy on the socialism - but I gotta say that I LOVE everything Paul says on foreign policy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZQEdj25xvP8&feature=related

Valerie said...

@Zee

Thanks for weighing in on the issue of an alternative candidate. I think the reason Rocky has decided to go it alone and start an entirely new party is because he understands that in order to attract reasonable conservatives, he can't align himself with a group that is far left of centre.

Within western politics there will always be the constant pull and push between capitalism and socialism. Sometimes we have to look at the greater good, even if it intrudes on one's personal rights. Example: Your right to drive as fast as your SUV will take you on the highway and my right to drive safely with my daughter in the back seat of my tiny Toyota are in conflict. Being the law and order guy that you are I know you can see the value in speed limits. Isn't that the government imposing on your freedom? I know this sounds like a stupid example but I have known several young men in my time who think speed limits are an infringement on their liberty.


And with the environment being on the verge of disaster, environmental policy is going to HAVE intrude on everyone's life if it is going to be effective. You may love your SUV but when you buy more than your fair share of a finite fossil fuel, your freedom to buy as much petrol as you want, steps on my desire to see my country conserve. I guess what I am getting at is I drive the smallest car we can afford so that less petrol is used (with the goal of helping the environment) not so you can suck up the share I am hoping to save (my share) with your gas guzzling SUV (I hope you hear the laughter in my voice - I am teasing you to make you think, not attacking you.)

Denis Neville said...

@ Valerie - Ron Paul makes sense with regard to our imperial foreign policy, but he is also the greatest living proponent of liquidation. Liquidation, “scrub the landscape clean of debt” as Thomas Frank says, is the official doctrine of the GOP. “Liquidate labor, liquidate stocks, liquidate the farmers, liquidate real estate.” That, according to Herbert Hoover, was the advice he received from Andrew Mellon, the Treasury secretary, as America plunged into the Depression.

@ Zee - you say that “Historically, socialism has repeatedly failed to deliver on its promises of equality and prosperity for all”…and an “inherent inability to be as efficient in the allocation of resources as is a regulated capitalist market.”

According to the CIA World Factbook, nine European countries place ahead of the United States in terms of per capita Gross Domestic Product — Luxembourg, Norway, Iceland, Ireland, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Netherlands — all socialist countries. These countries offer extensive government services - free medical care, generous unemployment income, and retirement benefits. Are these socialist countries failing to deliver to their citizens? Are they less efficient than the United States in the allocation of resources?

Read “Thriving Norway Provides an Economics Lesson.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/14/
business/global/14frugal.html?_r=2&em

"Of whom much is given, of him much will be required." - Luke 12:48 Socialism and Christianity aren't that different. We would do well to emulate the Christ-like morals of the Norwegians.

Where is the success of capitalism in Africa, Asia and Latin America?

Karen Garcia said...

Krugman wrote about Romney again. This time about how he is a closet Keynesian and a big, fat fake. My response....

"Oh! what a tangled web we weave/ When first we practice to deceive." -- Sir Walter Scott.

It is a sad truism that all politicians lie; it is a prerequisite to getting elected. Romney just isn't very good at it. Maybe the reason he seems so stiff and inauthentic is that he is not comfortable living the Big Lie. He co-opts the language of OWS in one breath and pays homage to the corporate god in the next. Lying requires a photographic memory of what you said last week and last year. So the stress of his chronic mendacity has to be affecting Mitt's brain chemistry by now.

Citizens United is certainly having a negative effect on the public discourse. The Republican lunacy cabal has been allowed to control the entire national conversation, which is being forced further and further to the hardcore right. Romney and his conservative cohort are making extremism seem almost normal. The epidemic dishonesty, and the influence of such fascist media machines as Fox News and Rush Limbaugh's Clear Channel, have enabled the emergence of even more outlandish characters. Witness the certifiable Rick Santorum. The regular mainstream media have discovered that this endless circus comes with unlimited cash rewards for them, too. They refuse to challenge this new, lucrative, insane status quo.

Get the $$$ out of politics. And let's help Mitt untangle his web and set him free, to capitalistically venture into a pricey rehab center for lying plutocrats.

Valerie said...

@Zee

Have to agree with Denis on the socialism in Europe working just fine. I lived in Germany when it the economy was highly socialised and life was good. Germany only really ran into trouble economically when it had to absorb East Germany which had been neglected for fifty years. Suddenly, the German economy had to fund all those retirements and a health system which the Wast Germans hadn’t paid into. They had to basically reinvent an infrastructure that had been totally neglected for fifty years. The list of issues foisted on that economy were enormous. Think of the elderly people in the former East Germany who had had subpar health care for their entire lives. Furthermore, at the same time there were many people who immigrated from Eastern European countries like Romania as refugees who also had to be absorbed. Germany is not an example of socialism's failures as many Conservatives believe as much as it is an example of the solid economy that a highly socialised version of capitalism can produce. Imagine what the German economy has gone through and still provided a great standard of living for all of its citizens.

@Denis - Agreed on Ron Paul. That is why I can't vote for him. But give credit where credit is due - He is the only out there exposing our disastrous foreign policy for what it is and pointing out how much it is costing our country economically. This is a good thing.

Anne Lavoie said...

@Valerie

Thanks for the link. As Team Obama frequently reminds us, most domestic issues are up to Congress to fix, not the President. That being the case, we would be wise to not let ourselves get distracted, but rather stay focused on the major policies that the President actually has the power to implement.

I've prioritized my concerns and found common ground with Ron Paul's serious and dedicated anti-war, anti-Empire, anti-NDAA, and anti-Patriot Act policies, however flawed some of his other policies might be, policies that he wouldn't have the power to implement anyway.

And frankly, I am willing to take a chance on a new monetary policy, no matter what the pundits say. We're heading over a cliff, and they want us to be afraid of going in an entirely new direction? Sounds good to me, especially if Wall Street is against it.

As far as Denis mentioning Thomas Franks' opinion on liquidating the debt, I have my doubts about Franks. When pressed recently to explain why he thought Obama has abandoned Democratic principles and embraced Wall St, Franks copped out several times, refusing to comment on that same question posed by different people who were obviously agonizing over Obama's betrayal. To me, that spoke volumes - in book sales. For Thomas Franks, money (and political access) seems to be more important than speaking the truth when it comes to securing his personal fortune.

Valerie said...

I had a typo (more than one but only one that made my point unclear) in line 9 - the first word was meant to be East not Wast.

Valerie said...

@Anne - Good point, we are going off a cliff so it might be a good time to take some chances. I guess my biggest concern if Ron Paul should win, is he would go after domestice policies with vigor - rip open the safety net - but somehow he would compromise on the military part. If I could be assured that Paul had the power and influence to actually get us completely out of the wars and all foreign conflicts, and could cut funding to the CIA and Pentagon and close Guantanimo in his first year in office, I would consider voting for him.

Valerie said...

@All

In the spirit of the now defunct Off Times Square, I would ask your indulgence in allowing me to post my own comment on Krugman. Since I am not a "trusted commenter" I am expecting it will end up as some huge number like #216 and read by only 3 people. Since you are my political family, I am going to force you all to read it too or at least tolerate it being posted here. Nothing brilliant like Karen's and nothing you all haven't heard me say before but there you have it.

Note: I went over to the Times to reply to Karen's comment - offer my support - but her comment needs no defense. Even the bots won't find fault with it. Mine on the other hand might attract Janet and the guy who wants Karen "taken care of." One can only hope!

-----

So we can see that Romney is insincere and will say whatever he needs to in order to get elected and we know that Obama is the same; he already proved that. So who do we vote for? I honestly believe that we MUST look to a third party if we are going to vote our conscience. The more I speak with thinking, reasonable conservatives - not the screaming ninnies we hear on T.V. - the more I can see that so many of us in the Middle and Working Classes are looking for someone who is simply fair and reasonable. Of the Third Party Candidates, there are the Greens, the Socialists and the Justice Party, led by Rocky Anderson, a man who has proven his political integrity. Me? I think I am going to vote for Rocky - even as a write-in candidate.

And before all of you Obama supporters start up with your fear rhetoric and your Lesser of Two Evils rhetoric, you need to face reality and the record. Obama has worked in the best interest of the big banks and corporations in this country from the minute he appointed his Cabinet. He, the great orator, hasn't used his bully pulpit for anything other than to reprimand his supporters who have tried to hold him to his campaign promises. Things will get so much worse if Romney wins? Who knows? As Dr. Krugman said, we don't really know who Romney is - just like we didn't know who Obama was.

Zee said...

@Denis and @Valerie--

This is dashed off in haste late at night from New Mexico, and I will reflect further on your thoughts tomorrow.

But as I recall my high school textbook understanding of "socialism," it is, quite simply, "state ownership of the means of production."

By that standard, are " Luxembourg, Norway, Iceland, Ireland, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Netherlands — [really] all socialist countries[?]"

Or are they fundamentally capitalist societies--with plenty of private enterprise to go around--that just happen to spend a lot of money on social programs?

I think that there is a profound historical difference.

barbara madeloni said...

Just a note of thanks again for saying this all so well, and also for mentioning the 'stealth privatization' of public education. Too many people do not understand the danger we are in with the assault on public education. Some of us are going to Washington March 30=April 2 to Occupy the DOE. This is a critical part of the broader struggle against the forces of neo-liberlism--of which Obama is an integral part.
peace and justice

Anne Lavoie said...

@Valerie

Too bad you're going to miss out on having a say in the Primary vote. Since you're registered as a Democrat in Washington State, and they have eliminated the Primaries this year in favor of caucuses due to budget constraints, that has got to be frustrating. How do you even get to vote for Rocky then?

The Justice Party is not even on the ballot in Montana, so Rocky isn't an option for me, but the Green Party is on the ballot, so I do have options in November. In the meantime, in the Primary I am with the Ron Paul Revolutionaries. It's too bad though that there isn't a national party registry so that candidates don't have to jump through difficult state hoops to get on the ballot.

Even with third party options, the outcome in November is set by the 1%: It will either be the 1% Dempublican corporate Servant Obama or the 1% RepubliDem corporate Master Romney. Hmmmm, Servant or Master? If I was in the 1%, I would opt for the Servant guy because he has proven himself to be exceptionally obsequious. They definitely got their money's worth the first time around.

Not only is the 1% likely to back Obama, but there is also a 100% likelihood of either another war or major terrorist (entrapment) threat by then, and you know we 'mustn't change horses in midstream when our nation is at risk'. Slam dunk Obama.

Zee said...

@Valerie--

On the subject of government limitations on individual liberty...

Of course I recognize the absolute necessity that we have laws that restrain our individual liberty in many ways so that we can all live together in--well, more or less--harmony.

Your reference to laws governing our behavior on the highways is a perfect example. Laws that govern where I can discharge my firearms are another, a perfectly reasonable infringement on my “rights.”

However, I believe that much of what makes life worth living at all relies upon keeping those laws to the minimum needed to guarantee an orderly society.

There are many laws that many busybodies would like to see put in place merely for my own “good” that are just plain preposterous. Laws, for instance, that would limit my access to so-called “junk food.” Hey, I admit it. I love the occasional greasy Burger King Whopper with super-sized fries. Or Egg McMuffins with sausage and cheese! But there are those out there who would either do away with ‘em, or tax them outrageously “for the common good:”

http://hotair.com/archives/2011/01/05/daily-show-meet-the-moron-who-got-san-francisco-to-ban-happy-meals/

The list of proposed “nanny laws” is endless, and I’m just tired of it.

Relative to me and my mid-size SUV, well, I have to respectfully disagree with your assertion that because “the environment [is] on the verge of disaster,” it may be necessary to legislate such vehicles out of existence.

I’m not a climate scientist, but I do know a great deal about the difficulties associated with the use of computer models to simulate even simple, highly constrained laboratory experiments. It’s quite amazing what we can’t model even when the physics seem to be well understood.

Thus, I’m amazed at the credence given to the dire predictions of numerical models that purport to simulate something as complex as “climate.” I know that this view places me in the minority of scientists today, but I feel quite comfortable with being in the company of the likes of Freeman Dyson on this particular subject e.g.,

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/29/
magazine/29Dyson-t.html?pagewanted=all

Please note that I don’t doubt that increasing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere leads to global warming, and the human activity has greatly increased the presence of CO2 in the atmosphere. But like Dyson, I am highly skeptical of the faith placed in the predictions of very complex atmospheric models that are testable only in a “laboratory” that is the size of the Earth.

So getting back to my SUV, you and I are proceeding from very different assumptions. Your “side” may yet get the upper hand, in which case I will certainly obey the law, but until it does I will continue to drive my Hyundai Santa Fe with no serious twinges of conscience.

But for the record, Mrs. Zee and I drive the Santa Fe as little as possible owing to the cost of gasoline. Our other vehicles are a Honda Fit (33-37 mpg) which we use for our daily driving, and two motorcycles, one of which gets about 57 mpg, and the other about 63 mpg.

When the weather is good and the required cargo capacity is small, I use my motorcycle for daily errands, just for the joy of riding. Having fun and saving the environment! What could be better?

Denis Neville said...

@Anne Lavoie – “pressed recently to explain why he thought Obama has abandoned Democratic principles and embraced Wall St, Franks copped out several times”

Where did he do this?

Frank’s analyses of Obama's failures in Pity the Billionaire are devastatingly accurate. He skewers the Obama administration as having been co-opted by the power of the market and, specifically, the power of Wall Street.

For example, Frank writes, chapter "The Silence of the Technocrats,” that after Obama took office, there was no liberal plan that said, “Here’s how we get out of this.” There wasn’t even a Rooseveltian scheme. Just to talk about Roosevelt would have been fantastic. It was like the party’s memory of the New Deal was lost. With Obama the memory of the Democratic Party is the Clintonian technocracy of the 1990s. The technocratic way is going to solve our problems. Just leave it up to the experts who are going to figure a way out. Obama seemed to think he didn’t need to dirty his hands by making a populist appeal.

@Anne Lavoie – also says, “Thomas Franks, money (and political access) seems to be more important than speaking the truth when it comes to securing his personal fortune.”

What is your basis for this view?

Frank is one of the best and most formidable social and political critics writing today.

Will said...

@Valerie and Anne,
Whenever the conversation is about Ron Paul, I can't help but think of that great article ("Ron Paul: A Lesser Evil?") Denis linked us to a while back:

http://dissidentvoice.org/2011/04/ron-paul-a-lesser-evil/

If anyone in our "political family" (Love the term, Val!) hasn't read it yet, you should definitely check it out.

Have a nice weekend, everyone.

Valerie said...

@Anne

I know I am blowing against the wind. I just refuse to go down quietly. You are right of course; at this point the Justice Party is just trying to get on the ballot in most states, including my home state of WA. It is a duopoly for the sinking ship that is the USA. Too bad. I think the JP would pick up a bunch of protest votes.

To tell you the truth, I am registered in WA and they send me paper absentee ballots and I vote accordingly. I didn't even realise they weren't having a Primary. In truth, it didn't occur to me because I assumed it was a Federal issue. How can a state even opt out of a Primary for president? Won't Republican voters in WA be angry that their vote doesn't count? Not that I REALLY believe our votes even count. (Christopher Hitchens wrote a great article in Vanity Fair after Bush Jr won re-election called Ohio's Odd Numbers suggesting the voting machines were rigged.)

Sometimes I wonder if it is even worth bothering to vote. I imagine voter turn-out will be really low this year. No hope on the horizon for any change whatsoever.

It will be either Romney or Obama and I imagine Romney would govern like Obama - slow death. I don't think it is in the corporate interest to sink the ship too quickly - still some blood to suck out of us. If the Middle Class is totally beggared who will buy all those imported goods and who will they tax to pay for their wars? Nope, I think we can expect a slow bleed whoever is elected prez.

Meanwhile, in my little corner of the world, we have our own little political upset. Kevin Rudd (our former Prime Minister) who was pushed out by Julia Gilliard (our current Prime Minister) is challenging Gilliard to get the top spot back. The vote is on Monday and we are all to write to our reps in Parliament and tell them to vote yea or nay on Kev. Me - I am cheering for Rudd. He was basically ousted because he wanted to slap a 40% tax on the mining industry. They, of course, went after him with all the money at their disposal, running anti-Rudd ads and pulling the "It will cost Australian jobs and tank pension plans" fear mongering rhetoric. It is the same international corporate mantra that seems to be very effective in getting people to vote against their own interests and the environment. I figure Australia is ten to fifteen years behind the U.S. in self destructing. In the short time I have been here – under Julia Gilliard, Labor leader, I have watched industry after industry crash and burn thanks to Free Trade as Australian consumers shun quality Australian goods for the cheaper Chinese imports. Everyone wants high wages with benefits (for themselves) and low prices, never quite putting two and two together and realising we can’t have both. I maintain, Free Trade will sink democracy as we know it. I sure wish I could go back and vote for Ross Perot.

BTW - went over to NPA - a group I had great hope for - and they seem to be backing Jill Stein for prez.

Anne Lavoie said...

@Will

Thanks for that link. It made my day. That piece provides a perfect response to all the phony Bleeding Heart Liberals (BHLs) out there. You know, the self-identified 'highly caring' people of the Democratic persuasion.

@Denis

I based my opinions solely on Franks' own responses to audience questions at the end of his presentation/promotion of his new book on BookTV, CSpan2.

Just as I do with Obama, I pay attention to what is not said and not done, as well as what is said or written in words. Franks excused himself from answering a couple of direct questions from the audience about Obama's betrayals that would have helped publicly reinforce the message of people such as Bill Moyers, Chris Hedges, Glenn Greenwald, et al.

While Franks comes close, when it comes to Obama, he just wouldn't go the last mile like those other courageous voices have done. His refusing to answer very pointed questions that would have allowed for clear conclusions to be reached about Obama's betrayals was simply a cop out. He took one for the Team, in my opinion.

Valerie said...

@Will - Yes, That was a good one! Thanks for reminding me about it!

Valerie said...

@Anne
Which interview with Franks are you refering? Now that you have written about it, I am more than interested in going back and listening to it.

Kat said...

This is indeed so very wrong. How awful to suggest such a thing-- crossing party lines to vote for Santorum. The DNC is morally bankrupt.
@Valerie-- The election was stolen in Ohio, believe me. The exit polls were so at odds with the outcome. And, they made it hard if you voted in a Dem skewing precinct. The people in the heavily black precincts waited forever. I think Mark Crispin Miller wrote a book about it.

As for Ron Paul, can't vote for him but I'm glad that he plans to stay on til the bitter end. We must have one of the candidates reminding us that he's running for president, not "commander in chief". Obama has a strange blend of imperial presidency and subservience to the generals.

Valerie said...

Nice essay on Ron Paul from GQ (for Anne and anyone else who is interested) http://www.gq.com/news-politics/blogs/death-race/2012/02/walter-kirn-on-ron-paul.html

Anne Lavoie said...

“I’d rather vote for something I want and not get it than vote for something I don’t want, and get it.” - Eugene Debs

James F Traynor said...

I clearly have to agree with Zee on this: There are no socialist countries in Western Europe (even West European socialist parties sponsor 'mixed economies'). To say so is to give in to Republican Party propaganda. Republicans have long hated and feared the Scandinavian systems because they are successful.

Will said...

Has anybody else seen this commercial from The 99% Declaration Working Group? I almost fell out of my chair. It was so refreshing to see some truth on my TV for a change. Enjoy:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_oINj3mjkPc

As for the particulars, I haven't gotten that far yet. Here's their website:

http://www.the99declaration.org/

Denis Neville said...

@ James Traynor - “Republicans have long hated and feared the Scandinavian systems because they are successful.”

In November 2006, Amy Goodman asked Senator Bernie Sanders what it meant to nation’s first self-described socialist to be elected to the U.S. Senate, and, if people ask, "What do you mean, 'socialist'?" what he would say.

http://www.democracynow.org/2006/11/8/
vermonts_bernie_sanders_becomes_first_socialist

Sanders: Well, I think it means the government has got to play a very important role in making sure that as a right of citizenship, all of our people have healthcare; that as a right, all of our kids, regardless of income, have quality childcare, are able to go to college without going deeply into debt; that it means we do not allow large corporations and moneyed interests to destroy our environment; that we create a government in which it is not dominated by big money interest. I mean, to me, it means democracy, frankly. That’s all it means. And we are living in an increasingly undemocratic society in which decisions are made by people who have huge sums of money. And that’s the goal that we have to achieve.

In terms of socialism, I think there is a lot to be learned from Scandinavia and from some of the work, very good work that people have done in Europe. In countries like Finland, Norway, Denmark, poverty has almost been eliminated. All people have healthcare as a right of citizenship. College education is available to all people, regardless of income, virtually free. I have been very aggressive in trying to move to sustainable energy. They have a lot of political participation, high voter turnouts. I think there is a lot to be learned from countries that have created more egalitarian societies than has the United States of America.

Anne Lavoie said...

@Valerie

http://www.booktv.org/Program/13126/Pity+the+Billionaire+The+HardTimes+Swindle+and
+the+Unlikely+Comeback+of+the+Right.aspx

The part I was referring to is at the end when he takes questions.

If the link doesn't work, go to booktv.org and search for Thomas Franks.

Zee said...

@Denis and @Valerie—

(And @James Traynor—Thanks for your support!)

Back to my assertion that historically, socialism has failed to deliver the prosperity and economic equality that it has always promised.

Wikipedia defines “socialism” as “an economic system characterized by social ownership or control of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy, and a political philosophy advocating such a system.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki
/Socialism

The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is the classic example of the failure of true socialism.

“The Soviet Union became the first country to adopt a planned economy, whereby production and distribution of goods were centralized and directed by the government.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki
/Soviet_Union#Economy

The United Kingdom, which nationalized many of its major industries and public utilities at the end of World War II, re-privatized everything in the 1980s.

Of the five remaining countries that still call themselves socialist—Cuba, Viet Nam, Laos, China and North Korea, only China seems to be doing very well.

Of the nations to which you two refer, only Norway has a significant state ownership of major industries:

“The state has large ownership positions in key industrial sectors, such as the strategic petroleum sector... hydroelectric energy production... aluminum production... the largest Norwegian bank..., and telecommunication provider...[T]he government controls approximately 30% of the stock values at the Oslo Stock Exchange. When non-listed companies are included, the state has even higher share in ownership...”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki
/Norway#Economy

So Norway could be construed as a partly socialist nation. But the remainder of the countries can best be described as “mixed economies” or “social market economies,” which are essentially the same thing:

“The social market economy seeks a middle path between socialism and laissez-faire economic liberalism...combining private enterprise with government regulation to establish fair competition, maintaining a balance between a high rate of economic growth, low inflation, low levels of unemployment, good working conditions, social welfare, and public services, by using state intervention. The term "social" was chosen rather than "socialist" to distinguish the social market economy from a system in which the state directed economic activity and/or owned the means of production,which are usually privately-owned in the social market model... (Bold emphasis added.)

The Social Market Economy contains central elements of a free market economy such as private property, free foreign trade, exchange of goods and free formation of prices.

As a difference to the free market economy the state is not passive, but actively takes regulative measures. Some elements, such as pension insurance, universal health care and unemployment insurance are part of the social security system. These insurances are funded by a combination of employee contributions, employer contributions and government subsidies. The social policy objectives include employment, housing and education policies, as well as...balancing of the distribution of income growth. In addition, there are provisions to restrain the free market... These elements shall diminish occurring problems of a free market economy.”


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki
/Social_market_economy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki
/Germany#Economy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki
/Mixed_economy

Apart from Norway, I could not find any mention of significant state ownership of “the means of production” for any of the Western European countries that we are discussing here.

So I stand by my earlier assertions that (1) where socialism has been tried on the grand scale, it has failed, and (2) the Western European nations that you have mentioned are fundamentally capitalist societies with a heavy degree of market regulation—just the sort that we need here.

Kat said...

@Karen-- I went to recommend Valerie's comment (couldn't though-- not allowing me to log in!) and there was a comment that preceded hers (by a few comments) that was addressed to you specifically. It wasn't calling you out for Obama bashing or anything like that. They sounded more like a fan and had questions for you on today's comment. Wonder why they don't click your link?

Anonymous said...

@Zee

SUV usage would decline in America if people paid the real price of gasoline. The oil companies get socialist subsidies from the government, really from the people. Taxpayers subsidize those gas-sucking SUV’s, as do military personnel who die in the oil wars.

According to Dylan Ratigan the actual cost of a gallon of gas = $10.70 to $15.70.

Still think America is a capitalist country? Private corporate profits, socialized losses for banks and favored business, and socialized off-balance sheet costs.

Dylan Ratigan: Current price of a gallon of gasoline: $3.70 (2011)

+ Known Off-Balance Sheet Costs:

1. The "Security Premium," or military spending. ($700bn – 1 Trillion): +$4-6/gal

2. Externalized pollution costs on human mortality ($345 billion according to the Union of Concerned Scientists) : +$2-3/gal

3. Gov’t subsidies, traffic, accidents, free parking ($200-400bn via Center for Technology Assessment), etc: +$1-3/gal

http://www.dylanratigan.com/2011/08/03/whats-the-real-cost-of-gas-in-america/

Valerie said...

I guess you all - on the side of European countries not technically being socialist - are correct. Like the U.S. and other western countries, European countries are a mix of socialism and capitalism – some more heavy on the socialism than others. There is plenty of private enterprise but the government seems much more involved through regulations and laws. All I know is it works really well.

And I guess I go along with the Republicans using the socialism label when I speak of my experiences and impressions of Europe because I am speaking of it in positive terms. I am trying to undo the negative connotation of the word for the people with whom I am speaking. I even refer to myself as a socialist - Although when I joined the Socialist Club here at my university, it was clear to me that I am NOT a REAL socialist. I think I use the word like I use the word "liberal" - as a badge of honour - to shake people out of their stereotypes.

Denis Neville said...

@ Zee and James Traynor – re: socialism

It has been my discovery that interpretations of “socialism” are much like Bill Clinton’s “It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is.” My interpretation of “socialism” has been of the Bernie Sanders and Scandinavian “fIavor,” which is not the socialism you are writing about. So I concur with your assertions.

I have been influenced by my encounter with a Norwegian family, whose child had been severely injured in an automobile accident here. Helping to arrange the transfer back to Norway, talking with the parents, the transfer coordinator in Norway, and the Norwegian USA consulate, was an education in the contrasts between Norway and the USA.

Oscar Wilde was a proponent of socialism. Wilde’s little-known essay, The Soul of Man Under Socialism, illustrates the problems of socialism and the confusion of intellectuals.

http://flag.blackened.net/revolt/hist_texts/wilde/
soul.html

Wilde’s Utopias turned into Orwellian nightmares. George Orwell reviewed Wilde’s The Soul of Man Under Socialism, pointing out Wilde’s main fallacies. However, Orwell also credited Wilde for recognizing the authoritarian tendencies within the socialist movement. And, despite Wilde’s naivety, Orwell praises The Soul of Man Under Socialism as a reminder of that “original, half-forgotten objective of human brotherhood.” Wilde’s praise of the individual over the State is evident in Orwell’s fear of Big Brother taking hold of its citizens’ individuality.

http://www.geocities.jp/mickindex/orwell/orwell
_ROW_en.html

@ Zee – I trust that you wear a helmet when riding your motorcycle. Working at a major metropolitan trauma center, I saw more than my share of motorcycle trauma cases working with patients and their families. My son has a motorcycle and I cringe, having lost his mother and younger brother, every time I see him on it.

But he comes by it honestly. At one time it was my fantasy, after leaving the USAFSS, to travel down the Pan American Highway from South Dakota through South America. Sort of like Che Gueverra’s The Motorcycle Diaries, which I recently saw on the Sundance Channel. I surrendered my fantasy when I met the future Mrs. D.

What kind of motorcycle do you own? I have a soft spot for Harleys, as we attended many Muscular Dystrophy fund raisers by Harley-Davidson, even met Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top at one.

Elizabeth Adams said...

@ Will: You betcha! http://www.thenationalgeneralassembly.org/

Register to vote for delegates, become a delegate, join a committee, spread the word.

The GAs in our congressional district are getting set to meet together in a couple of weeks to work on selecting delegates for the NGA.

You can also join the Facebook group, if you are so inclined.

Zee said...

@Denis--

@Denis--

You asked me why capitalism has failed so dismally in Latin America. I’m afraid that I can only offer speculation on that topic, backed up by a snippet or two of history from Wikipedia, but here goes.

From my minimal understanding of Latin American history, I suspect that capitalism simply never got a fair start there. The game was rigged against the bulk of the population from the start, just as the game has become increasingly rigged in favor of the very rich here in this country.

These are excerpts from a sub-section of the Wikipedia article on the history of Latin America titled Nineteenth-century revolutions: the postcolonial era:

“Following the model of the U.S. and French revolutions, most of Latin America achieved its independence by 1825. Independence destroyed the old common market that existed under the Spanish Empire after the Bourbon Reforms and created an increased dependence on the financial investment provided by nations which had already begun to industrialize; therefore, Western European powers, in particular Great Britain and France, and the United States began to play major roles, since the region became economically dependent on these nations.”

“The export of natural resources provided the basis of most Latin American economies in the nineteenth century, which allowed for the development of wealthy elite. The restructuring of colonial economic and political realities resulted in a sizable gap between rich and poor, with landed elites controlling the vast majority of land and resources. In Brazil, for instance, by 1910 85% of the land belonged to 1% of the population... These "Great Owners" completely controlled local activity and, furthermore, were the principal employers and the main source of wages. This led to a society of peasants whose connection to larger political realities remained in thrall to farming and mining magnates.”

“The endemic political instability and the nature of the economy resulted in the emergence of caudillos, military chiefs whose hold on power depended on their military skill and ability to dispense patronage. The political regimes were at least in theory democratic and took the form of either presidential or parliamentary governments. Both were prone to being taken over by a caudillo or an oligarchy. The political landscape was occupied by conservatives, who believed that the preservation of the old social hierarchies served as the best guarantee of national stability and prosperity...”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History
_of_Latin_America

So I think that during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, while our American economy was learning the harsh lessons of unregulated capitalism and beginning to deal with them, Latin America was literally a playground for foreign and indigenous robber barons.

It has mostly remained that way up to the present day.

However, where given a fair opportunity, what sounds like mixed economies seem to be paying off for some Latin Americans. These excerpts from the Wikipedia article on Chile:

“In May 2010 Chile became the first South American nation to join the OECD.”

“Sound economic policies, maintained consistently since the 1980s, have contributed to steady economic growth in Chile and have more than halved poverty rates. The 1973–90 military government sold many state-owned companies, and the three democratic governments since 1990 have continued privatization, though at a slower pace. The government's role in the economy is mostly limited to regulation, although the state continues to operate copper giant CODELCO and a few other enterprises (there is one state-run bank). Chile is strongly committed to free trade and has welcomed large amounts of foreign investment. ” (Bold emphasis added.)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chile#Economy

Zee said...

@Denis--

I ride a BMW F800ST (Sport Tourer) on which I have raised the handlebars and lowered the pegs to better accommodate my bad back and arthritic joints--especially my hands. It has just enough luggage capacity for a two- or three-day trip.

Mrs. Zee rides a Honda Shadow Spirit (750cc). She chose the Shadow because with her diminutive size, the Shadow was the only bike on which she could get both feet flat on the ground at stops.

I would prefer she rode something more modern with anti-lock brakes and other amenities, but she claims to be happy with the Shadow and it will do interstate speeds when we simply can’t avoid the super-slab.

We both took the Motorcycle Safety Foundation’s safe rider course, and, no matter how hot it gets, we wear both quality helmets and agency-approved, neck-to-ankle body armor with kevlar and polymer padding at important impact points.

We are very cautious riders. In the city, we never ride at night or during rush hours. We can be out of Albuquerque and on “Old 66” in minutes. The empty, rural roads of the East Mountains provide never-ending pleasure when we just need to get out of the house. Our longer trips never take us to or through large cities, where the dangers are most prevalent.

We started late to motorcycling, and in my case it was Mrs. Zee who was the instigator. But if we had been able to have children I would have passed it up, even if the kids were out of the house and on their own. The joy of watching children and grandchildren grow would have been worth the sacrifice.

I sympathize with you regarding the loss of your wife and mother of your children. I don’t know what I would do without Mrs. Zee, my wife of almost 38 years.

I lost my younger brother--who was my best friend, too--when he was a mere 25 years of age and just starting his adult life. His death damaged me in many ways, but it further broke my heart to see what it did to my parents.

No parent should ever have to outlive a child.

You have my deepest sympathy.

Jay - Ottawa said...

@Will

Thanks for the tip. I went to that link and signed up. Even if it is only a gesture, it is another form of OWS type tree shaking, although not formally part of OWS. At very least, if something develops with enough participation by average Americans, the "convention" could be an alternative source of "news" for the general public before the November election.

At some point we've gotta do something more concrete than chatter endlessly in the ether.

Zee said...

@Anonymous--

I think that a number of participants in this forum can vouch for the fact that I no longer believe America is a capitalist nation.

I’m on record as agreeing with David Intrator that what we have here now is “corporatism,” not capitalism.

http://occupyblog.blogspot.com/2011/
10/businessman-occupies-wall-street-david.html

Our current system of corporatism consists of wealthy individuals and major corporations who buy our President and our legislators with campaign donations and other perks. In return, the wealthy and the corporations receive favorable legislation and subsidies with which to become ever more rich and powerful. And then the cycle repeats itself, endlessly.

I favor an end to corporatism and a return to regulated capitalism, perhaps along the lines of a social market economy, to which I referred earlier in this thread. I also favor an end to all government subsidies to all industries--green and otherwise. To quote David Cay Johnston from his book Free Lunch:

“If it is a sound investment, the market will make it. If the investment is unsound, why should the taxpayers be forced to subsidize it.

Regarding Dylan Ratigan’s assessment of the real cost of gas in America, well, I don’t have the time to do the research that would really be required to assess the validity of his analysis, but at the gut level I am highly suspicious of it.

First, Ratigan attributes more (up to $1T) than the entire defense budget for 2011 ($706B; FY 2013 Budget, Historical Tables) to his “Security Premium.”

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/
files/omb/budget/fy2013/assets/hist.pdf

Unless you truly believe--and I don’t--that our entire annual defense budget goes to protect the flow of oil, then Ratigan’s analysis is flawed from the start. A serious analysis would attempt to parse out the actual fraction that goes to “oil security,” and I think the cost would be significantly less.

For example, if we are to look at the estimated annual cost for our military adventures in Afghanistan and Iraq and quite reasonably call that a portion of the cost for oil security, well, in 2011 that figure was around $159.3B.

Then we might look at military aid to key middle eastern countries (e.g., Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan) that would be another portion of the cost. And the list goes on.

Ratigan is simply lazy.

Moreover, to include “traffic, accidents, free parking” etc. as a hidden cost of gasoline use is simply specious. These are costs of DRIVING INDIVIDUAL VEHICLES and would be unchanged even if all cars were powered by non-polluting electricity and fuel cells assuming that we are able to drive at the same speeds and under the same conditions--e.g., recklessly, inattentively or drunk--that we do with gasoline-powered vehicles.

The only thing that appears to be close to correct in Ratigan’s analysis is his estimate for the “externalized pollution costs on human mortality” from the Union of Concerned Scientists. I had to dig a bit, and escalate 1991 costs to 2011, and I came up with $301B annually, versus Ratigan’s $345B.

http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_vehicles/
vehicle_impacts/cars_pickups_and_suvs/
subsidizing-big-oil.html

So, I’m suspicious of Ratigan’s entire analysis, though I agree in principle that there are many hidden costs to a gallon of gasoline. And I agree with Ratigan that “[it’s time we discuss] the need to start finding solutions to America’s addiction to expensive foreign oil, and to start being realistic about what it costs us.”

The only thing Ratigan--and you--don’t tell us is “how.” With more government subsidies from our crooked pols to more failed companies like Solyndra, Ener1 and Beacon Power?

I refer you to the quote by David Cay Johnston, above.

Meanwhile, we’ve got a nation in serious recession that runs on transportation in individual vehicles. Do you really want to start charging $10.70 to $15.70/gallon tomorrow?

Will said...

@Elizabeth,
Thanks for the link and the additional information. This is fascinating stuff! As @Jay said, "at some point we gotta do something more concrete than chatter endlessly in the ether."

Here's another person's opinion taken from the comments at theatlanticwire.com:

"The Occupy Movement has done a great job of bringing attention to the very real problems facing the 99% of Americans who are not billionaires and CEO's. But camping out in a park and getting arrested or pepper-sprayed is not going to be enough to effect real and lasting change that will improve the lives of the Occupiers and those they are standing up for.

That is why I think the 99% Declaration and GA is a very GOOD idea. We need to move on to outlining real and realistic goals, and then working toward achieving those goals. For that reason, I have signed up to be a Delegate candidate for my district.

I'm sorry if some of the Occupiers in New York and other locations do not agree with this approach - but I truly believe that it's time to take the next step if the movement is going to do more than just garner some media attention for getting abused by cops."--Maureen Mower

So what's to become of all this? Will OWS and the 99% Declaration people ever get along? Maybe eventually agree that one group continues to work outside the system while another tries to effect change from within? I don't know, but I'll certainly stay tuned to see what happens next.

P.S. Here's a clip from Thom Hartman's show on the subject:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDgc1sxWIE4

Denis Neville said...

@ Zee – Thank you for your kind words.

The death of a child is a loss like no other. Christopher died at the age of 17 four years after his mother died at the age of 42.

My condolences on the loss of your brother.

I was an only child. I often wished I had had a brother or sister.

Congratulations on “almost 38 years” with Mrs. Zee.

It is also marvelous that you two share a passion for motorcycling. And what a place to do it in – New Mexico! When I was growing up in South Dakota, our neighbors shared their New Mexico Highways magazines with me. New Mexico is indeed the Land of Enchantment. The only part of New Mexico I have visited is the Ruidoso area. While stationed at Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, Texas, I went hiking with friends in the Sierra Blanca mountain range.

Stay safe!

Anonymous said...

@Zee

Ratigan is just a starting point, and he leaves out a lot, it is worse, search around.

Gasoline is currently under priced in America compared with other Western nations, has always been that way.

I would tax gasoline to a set price (for the stability that business cries about, a price comparable to Europe) and use the tax for real energy independence. Yes there is a recession, there is always an excuse. BTW, the stock market is 13,000, so it is not a recession for all, many made huge gains recently in their 401k. Sorry about the losers…

The duel fuel (gasoline/CNG) Suzuki Cultus (the old 3 cylinder Geo/Chevy Metro) still remains in production in Pakistan, and at 990,000.00 PKR ($10,923.54 USD) is very affordable to buy, operate and maintain.

http://www.motors.pk/new-cars/2012-suzuki-cultus_vxri_cng.htm

Smith electric trucks have been made for 80 years, 100% electric vehicle, ZERO emissions. The US military uses a 10 ton version…

http://smithelectric.com/

The 200MPG Aptera car was a good idea in the hands of bad management (CEO Paul Wilbur), then the Obama administration failed to fund the project backed by Congressman Darrell Issa.

http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1070186_rip-aptera-lessons-for-startup-electric-car-companies

http://my.firedoglake.com/phoenix/2011/12/03/investigate-darrell-issas-failed-pet-aptera-motors-maybe-we-should/

The electric Aptera car was built like a 3 wheel motorcycle for aerodynamics, and to avoid four wheel automotive regulations.

http://youtu.be/A5Ljyr6sKyE

Or you could ride in a compressed air car.

http://youtu.be/aWQG6F9qOPE

There are so many possibilities, but so few people with imagination in this country.

Jay - Ottawa said...

I should have said @ Will and @ Elizabeth
concerning this
http://www.thenationalgeneralassembly.org/

Anonymous said...

@Zee, Valerie, Denis, all

As for the mystery of capitalism, see see Hernando de Soto author of The Mystery of Capital: Why Capitalism Triumphs in the West and Fails Everywhere Else

http://www.amazon.com/Mystery-Capital-Capitalism-Triumphs-Everywhere/dp/0465016146

Published 12 years ago, the information is dated in a way beneficial to understanding current economics and why we are truly phucked (hint: the rule of law is gone).

From Amazon:

"It's become clear by now the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism in most places around the globe hasn't ushered in an unequivocal flowering of capitalism in the developing and postcommunist world. Western thinkers have blamed this on everything from these countries' lack of sellable assets to their inherently non-entrepreneurial "mindset." In this book, the renowned Peruvian economist and adviser to presidents and prime ministers Hernando de Soto proposes and argues another reason: it's not that poor, postcommunist countries don't have the assets to make capitalism flourish. As de Soto points out by way of example, in Egypt, the wealth the poor have accumulated is worth 55 times as much as the sum of all direct foreign investment ever recorded there, including that spent on building the Suez Canal and the Aswan Dam."

"No, the real problem is that such countries have yet to establish and normalize the invisible network of laws that turns assets from "dead" into "liquid" capital. In the West, standardized laws allow us to mortgage a house to raise money for a new venture, permit the worth of a company to be broken up into so many publicly tradable stocks, and make it possible to govern and appraise property with agreed-upon rules that hold across neighborhoods, towns, or regions. This invisible infrastructure of "asset management"--so taken for granted in the West, even though it has only fully existed in the United States for the past 100 years--is the missing ingredient to success with capitalism, insists de Soto. But even though that link is primarily a legal one, he argues that the process of making it a normalized component of a society is more a political--or attitude-changing--challenge than anything else."

Valerie said...

@Denis

I was both shocked and saddened to read your words about your son and your wife, knowing that you also recently lost your mother. That one person should have to experience so much grief hurts my heart.

I went to the funeral of a friend's child many years ago. Afterwards, I spoke to a mutual acquaintance and she said something that has stayed with me, "The loss of a child is so profound because it goes against nature. As a parent, you never think you will outlive your child."

You are part of my political family and as such, I feel a bond with you. I am so terribly sorry. Even if this happened years ago, to lose both your wife and your son is tragic. You have experienced far too much loss in your life.

I hope you will forgive the public venue of such a personal note, but I had to respond and this is the only way I know how to reach you.

Valerie

Zee said...

@Anonymous--

Thank you for the quotes from Hernando de Soto's book. They make intuitive sense as to why capitalism has failed everywhere but the West. I'll have to see if my budget will allow me to purchase it and add it to my ever-growing "to be read soon" bookshelf, or perhaps I can find it at the library.

Thank you also for your numerous references to alternative-fuel vehicles. I will read them all. I'm especially intrigued by a green vehicle that Darrell Issa would back!

We purchased our Honda Fit in 2008, back at the last gasoline price spike. We would have purchased a Prius, but just didnt' have the bucks in hand. I could buy the Fit without going into debt, but not the Prius; unlike the US of A, debt is anathema to me.

As a scientist and avid reader of science-fiction--until my Progressive friends diverted me exclusively to sociopolitical issues--I like to think that I have considerable imagination.

But life is short and I can't absorb everything. Moreover, Mrs. Zee will have me declared dead as a "computer widow" and leave me penniless if I try to do so.

So I admit to being at the mercy of what Detroit and Tokyo offer instead of being part of a groundswell for green(er) vehicles.

But if they become available at a do-able price, I'll buy 'em. Even an alternative-fuel motorcycle if it will match the range and performance of my F800ST.

As to a tax on gasoline that will go towards achieving energy independence, well, I could back it as long as it goes towards fundamental research at universities, and not to "start-up" corporations that are planned to go bust even as they enrich their owners and managers.

Valerie said...

I just saw a great documentary called Crude Awakening. It basically talks about Peak Oil, something that many of my American friends haven't even heard of but is a widely accepted theory in Australia, Europe and New Zealand. At one point a scientist says, the fact that we are even considering oil from the Canadian Tar Sands, shows just how little Peak Oil there is left - despite the propaganda/ science from the oil companies saying there is still plenty out there to be discovered and ever so much under Iran and Iraq – if only we could get to it.

Another scientist in the documentary discusses solar power and stated that the only thing really holding solar energy back is cost. People don't want to invest in solar panels because they are so expensive and the cost recovery is so slow. Without demand, there isn't enough drive for research to improve it quickly enough to make it cheaper and better.

So what comes first, the chicken or the egg? And this is where I am a socialist at heart – or lean heavily in the direction of socialism

I think we should slap a dollar a gallon on gas – or pull out of all the foreign conflicts - and use that money to build government factories that produce 100% American made solar panels that are sold to the American public AT COST. There is no reason why the entire Southern U.S. doesn't have roofs covered in solar panels. It would save energy, provide jobs and help the environment.

I know, I know - this won't take care of our dependence on foreign oil to drive cars - right now at least. But who isn't to say, with better and better solar panels and better and better batteries, we won't one day be able to charge up our electric cars from the solar panels covering the roofs of our garages? Or even drive solar powered cars?

Right now, solar energy seems to be the only alternative energy that doesn’t damage something. Even windmills are messing up the flight patterns of birds – but solar panels are 100% environmentally friendly. So why isn’t there a huge drive to develop it and expand it? Why aren’t governments making it cheap and easy to get them? I’ll tell you why. Because they are waiting on private enterprise to do it and there are not enough profits at this point in time for private enterprise to take the ball and run with it.

I agree with you @Zee. I don’t trust these private companies, which seem to be more fly by night enterprises than anything else, either. But the government doesn’t work to make a profit. It works to sustain itself for the good of the public.

Is this socialism – classic socialism as your high school text book defined it – yes it is. Would this be a bad thing? Was building a highway system across the U.S. a bad thing? Or did it create a lot of good jobs while providing a vital product the American people needed.

Just sayin' socialism - in this context - wouldn't be such a bad thing.

Anonymous said...

@Zee

Arguably the biggest off-balance sheet item in the price of gasoline are costs relative to the 9-11 terror attack. Osama bin Laden claimed the 9-11 attack was in response to U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. Oil is the reason for U.S. interest, and troops, in Saudi Arabia, and the Middle East. Costs relative to the 9-11 attack are in the trillions.

For all my 55 years, U.S. policy has been to provide cheap gasoline to America. But low gasoline prices encourage waste, that is simply an economic rule.

While I am not a fan, consider Tom Friedman’s sixth rule for crude oil: "No one likes higher oil prices. But — perversely — the high price benefits America as we rapidly become a bigger oil producer and it ensures that investments will continue to flow into energy efficient cars and trucks. If we were smart, we would establish today a floor price for any barrel of crude oil or gallon of gasoline sold or imported into America — and tax anything below it. A stable, sufficiently high floor price serves the environment, our technology investments and our energy productivity. As our producers succeed, we would become increasingly energy self-sufficient, keep a lot more dollars at home for our Treasury, stimulate innovation on renewables and drive down the global oil price that is the sole source sustaining Iran and other petro-dictators."

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/26/opinion/sunday/friedman-a-good-question.html

As for the mystery of capitalism, its all about adherence to the rule of law, something I have been saying for years. But the rule of law is not a topic of interest on blogs, even political blogs, so it is glossed over in favor of other red meat. The mortgage crisis has brought the rule of law issue front and center, but Obama, a lawyer himself, is walking away from the rule of law with the National Mortgage Settlement, a fraud on the American people and capitalism. As noted by economist Hernando de Soto, adherence to the rule of law is the key ingredient to capitalism. But the rule of law is not easily understood by ordinary people, so we are left to the mercy of politicians, lawyers and judges. How could that go wrong? (sarcasm).

America is an utterly corrupt nation, with corruption written into the law for the benefit of corporatism, corporate fascism.

So the Federal Reserve will continue to print counterfeit money for the banks, the government will distribute more EBT cards (food stamps), and Obama will be reelected. It all works until it doesn’t, and crashes.

Anne Lavoie said...

Just want to weigh in on the oil situation with a couple of facts. The Pentagon is the largest consumer of oil products in the world. One sortie uses something like a million gallons of fuel or more per mission. It isn't miles/gallon but gallons/mile we are talking about.

Without oil products, American could not wage war, so wars are waged to ensure a supply of oil products, so that we can wage more war. It is the lifeblood of the War Machine.

That being said, don't expect solar to gain much traction until the War Machine can run predominantly on solar. However, development of alternative energies does free up more of the remaining oil product for all-important military purposes, the main priority of our government.

And as far as the Defense budget goes, much of it goes to oil products, so we taxpayers are also funding oil company profits through the Defense budget. The Defense budget, in turn, is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of defense expenditures. Much of that money has been deliberately hidden in other departments, such as Energy, State, Homeland Security, etc. making defense spending appear to be a lower percent of GDP than it really is.

You just can't separate the Oil Companies from the Military or the Government. They are a Triumvirate.

Denis Neville said...

@ Valerie – Thank you for sharing those thoughts.

Going from a happy, vibrant family of four to just a family of two is the hardest thing to understand how to describe. It is to experience the ferocity of what it means to love – the depth of love. Despite my shattered dreams and broken heart, it was my good fortune that allowed me to love and be loved by them.

Life is unfair in so many ways. Its unfairness is democratic. Increasingly so, as all but the one percent are at risk of being toppled should anything go wrong. We live on a high wire, on our own, subject to the mercy of forces beyond our control. The depth of those potential falls is growing.