Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Oxymoronics

Wall Street Ethics: In a survey, 500 banksters honestly admit just how dishonest they are. (read the full report here.)Winners always cheat, and cheaters always win. If they're caught, their regulating paramours give them 50 lashes with a wet noodle and life goes on. But on a brighter note, Libor is not going away. Little by little, the fact that the rigged interest rates affect all of us, that the whole world has been literally robbed of trillions of dollars, is sinking into the consciousness of the hoi polloi. It'll be fun watching the politicians on this side of the pond squirm and twist themselves into pretzels in a desperate effort to ignore it and just make it all go away because they're so busy being bribed by banksters at campaign fund-raisers. Which brings us to.....

Liberal Democrats: With more and more people falling into poverty and becoming eligible for food stamps, Democrats are joining their Republican pals in gutting the program. The Senate has already bi-partisanally snatched $4.5 billion in food aid from the mouths of the vulnerable, and some House Democrats seem to be on board with another $16 billion in cuts in food stamps from the Farm Bill. This has some other Democrats "fuming" over the inhumanity. But the top Democrat on the House Committee on Agriculture says making nice with the subsidized farmers is more important than coddling millions of starving people. All this theatrical fume and doom is simply a smokescreen allowing them to cut yet another sleazy deal behind closed doors while publicly posturing so as to be seen "trying." Which brings us to....

Pragmatic Progressives: Chronic capitulators who twist themselves into pretzels trying to justify the Democratic Party's descent into a right wing corporate pit of corruption.

Compassionate Conservatives: Republicans who suddenly pretend to care about the lesser people in the four months preceding the election. See today's column by David Brooks. It's a doozy, even by his standards. Be sure to read the comments too.

You can continue the discussion (or start a new one) from yesterday's forum here as well, since I just closed down that thread.

19 comments:

Will said...

Chris Hedges had it right when he said the pillars of the liberal class used to act as a safety valve when our sociopathic bretheren overreached in the past. It's exceedingly apparent that the mechanisms to let off some steam no longer work, so the whole thing's gonna blow sky high eventually. The only question is how long. We are so screwed and every person here at Sardonicky knows it.

P.S. Even the most obtuse PragProgs like She-who-must-not-be-named (*inside joke alert*) can see the writing on the wall by now.

Anne Lavoie said...

The growth in Independents in this country has surged due to pure and utter disgust with the two corporate parties. Since the 2008 election, up to 2011, 2.5 million dropped out of the corrupt Duopoly. That is an encouraging sign to me. What is discouraging is the number of intelligent people who stay anxiously attached to abusive and corrupt parties.

The Occupy movement grew and gained support out of that sentiment of disgust. It has not diminished nor disappeared, although it has been essentially silenced. Beyond words, however, lies the fact that millions have expressed their disgust by taking the simple action of dropping their registration in the corrupt corporate party system.

Unfortunately, we have no clout until we weaken the Duopoly sufficiently and make them fearful when they can no longer count on, control, and manipulate the masses through loyalty. We can hasten the demise of this institutionalized system of corruption if we break our chains to it and set ourselves free.

So when you wonder if Occupy has died, remember those millions of Independents who have jumped ship and the other millions who cling to their party membership as if it were a lifeline instead of the noose that it is. It isn't Occupy that is dying, it is the Republican and Democratic Parties, thank God. Let's speed their demise in order to make room for other parties by declaring our own freedom and Independence. Isn't that the spirit of America, if not Americans?

That certainly is something powerful that all of us can do that speaks far more loudly than any sign we might hold on a sidewalk. The parties are paying attention to this development, but I wouldn't trust them now with any promises for reforming themselves. We know their true color by now: the color of Money.

Zee said...

The results of the financial services sector survey are disgusting, but no longer surprising.

Integrity and a sense of personal honor are quaint old notions that are to be paid lip service from time to time when it serves some hidden purpose, but the not-so-secret, real motto of our present-day leaders in government and business is:

"Every man for himself, and devil take the hindmost."

James F Traynor said...

Perhaps it's because the middle class Brits are screaming about LIBOR and the Brit Civil Service is moving against the banksters who compromised it. But I do think our middle (I mean the real middle, not what we call the middle) are taking notice because of it.
Something is happening. I think.

Denis Neville said...

Can a ‘structureless’ Occupy Wall Street succeed without organization and structure?

Jo Freeman’s The Tyranny of Structurelessness (written in 1970) is still relevant and useful today.

When the women's liberation movement began, emphasis was placed on leaderless, structureless groups as the main, if not the sole, organizational form of the movement. Freeman, founder of the first women’s liberation group in Chicago, warned of the severe limits that ‘structurelessness’ imposed on an anti-authoritarian movement:

“The more unstructured a movement is, the less control it has over the directions in which it develops and the political actions in which it engages. Given a certain amount of interest by the media and the appropriateness of social conditions, the ideas will still be diffused widely. But diffusion of ideas does not mean they are implemented; it only means they are talked about. Insofar as they can be applied individually they may be acted on; insofar as they require coordinated political power to be implemented, they will not be.”

“If the movement is to grow beyond these elementary stages of development, it will have to disabuse itself of some of its prejudices about organization and structure. There is nothing inherently bad about either of these. They can be and often are misused, but to reject them out of hand because they are misused is to deny ourselves the necessary tools to further development. We need to understand why ‘structurelessness’ does not work.”

http://www.jofreeman.com/joreen/tyranny.htm

Zee said...

@All--

As Karen has given her permission to continue here with the "Open Monday" thread, I just want to mention that at the end of that one I proposed a possible reform to the tax code--not original by any means--that would eliminate tax brackets and, I think, defuse some of the rhetoric about who is "rich" and what their "fair share" should be.

And no, it's not a flat tax.

Just a thought.

Anne Lavoie said...

@Zee

I hate to burst your bubble, but the tax code isn't written for us, and isn't intended to be fair to us either. Don't expect your entirely reasonable and fair solution to ever become a reality in our country, at least until AFTER the Revolution!

Zee said...

@Anne Lavoie--

Just a thought for when--and if--the revolution comes. I fear what that day might look like.

Zee said...

@Anne Lavoie--

Just a thought for when--and if--the revolution comes. I fear what that day might look like.

Zee said...

@Karen--

I did indeed read David Brooks' column along with some of the comments.

I guess I just don't dislike poor Mr. Brooks as much as those in this forum. I think that he's a guy who wants to do the right thing, but he's unfortunately attached to some conservative old institutions such as marriage--as am I--that, we believe, have stood this country in good stead through time.

And yes, he's often swept up with the latest book that he's read. But who isn't, until some time to reflect has taken place?

I was medium-bored by the large number of commenters who picked on Mr. Brooks for his antedeluvian attitude that marriage matters, and the general assertion by those same commenters that, if we merely shower enough money on the struggling working class, middle-class morality and committment will somehow win the day again.

I just don't see it that way. I see a severe breakdown in integrity and morality at all levels in this society. If the wealth of the plutocrats and Hollywood stars has failed to trickle down to the bottom, their morality has, alas, done so.

No proofs or references here, just my humble opinion.

And I had to laugh at the one commenter who cited Plato as profound ancient proof that a just society is a happy society. This from the same Plato who evidently owned slaves and thought they should know their place in society. But perhaps I should cut Plato some slack, just as I have suggested that the Founding Fathers should be granted the same grace.

Turning to your comment, I agree with you that it is time to institute a single-payer health care system in this country, and I would not mind seeing a "Robin Hood" tax on financial transactions. Perhaps it would cut down on the number of computerized transactions that occasionally threaten to topple the market.

But I was most intrigued by your suggestion that we should institute a $20/hr national living wage law. Have you seen any serious economic studies that analyze the impact of such a minimum wage on the national economy?

I'm just curious. I haven't been able to find one myself, but I am thinking of all the money that I suddenly wouldn't be spending if such a minimum wage was instituted, at a time when spending seems to be of integral importance to our so-called recovery.

Again, just curious.

Karen Garcia said...

Zee,
Bernie Sanders is co-sponsoring a living wage bill in the Senate. I will post more about it in the near future.

The trouble with Times commenting is the 1500-character limit, but I was specifically thinking of Walmart when I suggested a $20/hr wage. The Walmart heirs are the richest people on the entire planet and could well afford to pay their employees a decent salary. Not only is it the humane thing to do, but it would ease the demand crisis which is keeping the economy stagnant. Workers would have more money to spend, stimulating the economy, creating more demand and round and round it goes. Walmart is a drain on the economy as it now operates, even refusing to provide health insurance and instructing its employees to apply for Medicaid. And furthermore, they are one of the main culprits in the outsourcing of manufacturing to China and third world countries.

Zee said...

Karen--

I will look forward to your future thread on Bernie Sanders' bill.

Denis Neville said...

@ Zee – “picking on David Brooks for his antediluvian attitude that marriage matters”

No, I don’t agree. It is his protective stupidity and his cruelty.

Brooks is such an easy target. As Charlie Pierce says, “Brooks tosses out tinpot sociology like a dime to a beggar on a steam grate.”

“Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity."- George Orwell

Why do I dislike Brooks? It is what he articulates in his writings:

“Then there is our fervent devotion to equality, to the notion that all people are equal and deserve equal recognition and respect. It’s hard in this frame of mind to define and celebrate greatness, to hold up others who are immeasurably superior to ourselves.” – David Brooks

This is why David Brooks lives in a multi-million dollar house and I don't? Not everyone deserves respect? Not everyone is equal? The lickspittle must lick spit?

“You end up with movements like Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Parties that try to dispense with authority altogether. They reject hierarchies and leaders because they don’t believe in the concepts. The whole world should be like the Internet — a disbursed semi-anarchy in which authority is suspect and each individual is king.” – David Brooks

Brooks defends the plutocracy and the aristocrats!

“Hannah Arendt said that cruelty has everything to do with abstraction. David Brooks resides in that abstraction and embodies that cruelty. In Brooks’s work, there’s nobody who goes hungry at night; there’s just the dynamism that animates capitalism. There’s nobody dying of a preventable disease; there’s the necessity of risk. There’s nobody despairing because there aren’t any jobs; there’s just creative destruction. Think of any human misery you prefer and I’m sure Mr. Brooks has an Aspen-approved euphemism that can cover it up. What a privilege all that money can buy: to live in a world without victims.” - Freddie deBoer

Brooks deserves the scorn that is directed at him.

Jay - Ottawa said...

Play it again, Denis (and Hannah and Freddie) ---

"... cruelty has everything to do with abstraction ...."

And William Blake said it too, more than once:

"To Generalize is to be an Idiot. To Particularize is the Alone Distinction of Merit — General Knowledges are those Knowledges that Idiots possess."

“He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars. General Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer; For Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organized particles.”

Zee said...

@Denis--

I don't follow Brooks regularly--or any New York Times columnist, for that matter--save when he appears on the PBS NewsHour opposite Mark Shields.

I read Brooks only when I'm referred to his op/ed pieces by participants in this forum or RealityChex, or see him cited at RealClearPolitics where I get a sampling of the full range of political opinion.

So I was unaware of the particular quotes that you offer, and I agree that the first, on equality, is as cruel as it is offensive.

It is completely antithetical to everything that I believe.

But I have never heard anything like it from him before.

I will reconsider my opinion of Brooks, which, I admit, has not been highly informed.

Pearl said...

Just to let you know more about our Canadian politics at present. First of
all, the next official election is in 40 months, however should a crisis
develop which would unite any of the 2 parties calling for an election, it
could be, hopefully, sooner. More and more information coming out about
Prime Minister Harper is more unsettling as he is following the right wing trend of supporting the l% ers in Canada and using our tax money to forward their agenda. Facts and figures in our liberal Toronto Star newspaper is now printing accurate and very strong criticism of the Conservative government.
Also, there is mounting support to entice Justin Trudeau to become the next leader of the Liberal party which I believe would be a good move all around.
He is young, 40, and his political and personal history indicates an open
outlook on many issues such as the need for environmental improvement and
control, among other things. Of course, if he does accept the leadership,time will tell how and where they will head. This gives those of us who are progressive or truly liberal, at least hope for a better direction in Canada
as cuts to necessary programs, and layoffs in the job sector are increasing and frightening Canadians. If the NDP and Liberal party would become more friendly and unite against the right wing Conservative government, great steps forward could happen.

And Zee: I admire your gracious admission that you may have to look more closely into Brook's
political philosophy as a result of information Denis has offered. I too,
constantly learn new things from Karen's blog and readership, as well as other input from capable journalists. Unfortunately a lot of this information merely confirms my worst fears about the state of the U.S.A. I have more hope for the direction Canada will be taking which is a damn good feeling. I also read many referrals to the Canadian political and medical system from
writers who might be able to educate their readers hopefully. And how about:
Time wounds all heels!?

Denis Neville said...

Your morning tin pot sociology from David Brooks:

“It’s wrong to describe an America in which the salt of the earth common people are preyed upon by this or that nefarious elite. It’s wrong to tell the familiar underdog morality tale in which the problems of the masses are caused by the elites.”

“The truth is, members of the upper tribe have made themselves phenomenally productive. They may mimic bohemian manners, but they have returned to 1950s traditionalist values and practices. They have low divorce rates, arduous work ethics and strict codes to regulate their kids.”

“Members of the lower tribe work hard and dream big, but are more removed from traditional bourgeois norms. They live in disorganized, postmodern neighborhoods in which it is much harder to be self-disciplined and productive.”

“If we could jam the tribes together, we’d have a better elite and a better mass.”

- David Brooks, The Great Divorce http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/31/opinion/brooks-the-great-divorce.html

And cruelty:

Stuart Zechman, The Z Files, discusses returning the nation to the 99% and David Brooks: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mGjKu3aGL7c&feature=relmfu

Zechman, “The problem, according to David Brooks, is not that the one percent are wrong – like Brooks himself, who got everything wrong. It is that educated people, like David Brooks readers (the top 20%) haven’t done a good enough job disapproving of the bottom 30% [members of the lower tribe]. The problem with America is that people with above average paying jobs are not sufficiently judgmental about the people who still don’t have jobs in an 8% unemployment economy with an austerity program government.”

I liked Karen’s response to Brooks’ suggestion about "jamming" the upper and lower class “tribes” together:

“I would politely reply ‘thanks but no thanks.’ The .0001% got there the old-fashioned way: by sucking the life out of the real hard working people to enrich themselves. They are the hordes who hoard, and ought to be in jail, not roaming free in my neighborhood spreading their noxious fumes. The upper crust simply have no class. They're too stupid to realize, or too self-absorbed to care, that the cancer always dies right along with the host.”

James F Traynor said...

The fish rots at the head and that's where the stench is coming from. That's what happened to the Roman Empire and probably a lot others. Brooks is trying to cover up the obvious by pointing to the tail. He's a silly sort of guy and I've always wondered why people admired him. I suspect he, and Charles Murray, have gotten their marching orders from above and are marching forward for the 1%. A couple of spear carriers.

Blake was a really interesting guy. The Tiger is just about my favorite poem. It raises questions that Darwin later answered in the next generation. And some of his art (Blake's that is) really blows my basically blue collar mind.

But never underestimate the right wing. They are well organized, disciplined and ruthless - like the extreme left who, thankfully, are not that numerous.They have the military and police on their side and they're just aching to use them. That's why 'revolution' scares the hell out of me, both its reality and, in our case, its sense of inevitability.

Zee said...

@Denis--

I agree that it is laughable to make the blanket statement that the 1% “have returned to 1950s traditionalist values and practices. They have low divorce rates, arduous work ethics and strict codes to regulate their kids.”

Now, I don't know any “1%-ers,” but there's certainly nothing that I have read or seen that suggests to me that this is the case. Most of what I read or see suggests quite the opposite. Honesty? Integrity? Empathy? Loyalty? Commitment? That's not the general trend that I observe via the media, though I am sure there are exceptions.

And if I don't believe that the 1% are the exclusive source of the misery of the “bottom 30%,” well, I do believe that they are the source of much of it, and not just of the “bottom 30%,” either. And there's plenty of “1%-caused” misery amongst the remaining 69% too.

So, another two strikes against Brooks and his ethos.

Still, a final thought strikes me as we try to make generalizations about the 1% and the 30%: Perhaps we need to take the 1% and the 30% one at a time.

It was in a different context,
but I think that this, perhaps, was what William Blake was intimating in the quote cited by @Jay earlier in this thread.