Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Era of Responsibility

The LA Times reports:
Federal prosecutors have shelved a criminal investigation of Angelo R. Mozilo after determining that his actions in the mortgage meltdown — which led to $67.5-million settlement against him — did not amount to criminal wrongdoing.

As the former chairman of Countrywide Financial Corp., Mozilo helped fuel the boom in risky subprime loans that led to the crippling of the banking industry and the near-collapse of the financial system.

What was it, that Obama said in his inaugural, about beginning a new Era of Responsibility?

As Atrios says, "One would think that the people in charge could be held responsible, but as we've learned, the people in charge are never responsible."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Smart Play

A split developed in the Democratic Party, prompted by disappointment and disillusion in the Obama Presidency, and the limited achievements of the Democratic Congressional majorities in place, 2007-2010.

Ian Welsh noted it, in his observations on Netroots Nation convention in July 2010. As he explained it, one side sees Obama as little better than Bush, Part Deux, while the other side defends Obama as pragmatic.

This was never a stable divide. Each group forms a hypothesis, and revises its estimates, as new data emerge. More Obama was not going to confirm Democrats in their beliefs, in equal measure.

Digby notes the moving frontier on reaction Obama's Grand Bargain with the Republicans:
It appears that the Obama supporters in the political establishment have awakened to the fact that he really does want to enact a Grand Bargain and that it's highly likely that it will end up being a bad deal for Democrats.

Obama has an interesting political problem. On the one hand, he wants to serve the kleptocrats well enough that they do not turn to the Republican candidate in 2012. On the other, he is vulnerable to being deserted by his own Party. It is an asymmetric dilemma, because of "vote for the lesser evil" two-party system. Obama is actually aided with both the corporate center and its money, and with distressed Democrats, since both groups, for differing reasons, fear the worst from a crazy Republican.

Obama is likely to continue to do his best to serve the plutocracy, knowing that this keeps the smart money out of Republican politics, increasing the chances that the Republicans do the wild thang! Which, in turn, increases Obama's stranglehold on the Democrats, including the left of the Democratic Party, which has no alternative course of action, save to give up hope altogether.

Giving up hope might be the smart play.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Recognizing the plutocracy

Bob Herbert, NY Times:
While millions of ordinary Americans are struggling with unemployment and declining standards of living, the levers of real power have been all but completely commandeered by the financial and corporate elite. It doesn’t really matter what ordinary people want. The wealthy call the tune, and the politicians dance.

When I started this blog, I thought that the failures of George W. Bush were likely to become evident in his second term on a grand scale, and, naively, I expected an equally grand political shift. I had great hopes for Obama as the leader of such a shift.

What I did not anticipate is that the great political storm would leave us recognizing -- not the failures of the Reagan Revolution and its long aftermath -- but, its enduring success.

The political shift in the country, among the politically aware Left, is the dawning recognition that liberal democracy in America is close to death.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Aftermath: Distraction

The political storm following George W. Bush's reign of error brought us not relief from the drought of reason, but Obama.

Now, the Republicans have become a clown show.  And, the reason is clearly to make Obama look good, by comparison, as the President and his party strip the country naked.  Avedon Carol explains all:

why [does] the entire media - not just the Murdoch and Moonie media - stay[] so focused on the right-wing crazies[?]. It's the circus that deflects attention from what's really going on while everyone is playing games like "Beck is crazy" and "Look - Sarah Palin!" Well, yes, they've pretty much consistently done that sort of thing for the last 20 years, but I mean going even deeper than that, to why it is so consistent - enough that even some of our best liberal, independent bloggers just can't seem to pull their eyes away sometimes. Somebody out there wants us to keep watching the clown show for an even bigger reason.
I've touched on this before, but I don't think people really get how tricky the game really is. If you listen to a lot of the things Limbaugh and Rush and even Palin say, they always carry enough of a grain of truth with them to make them compelling to their audience even while they also carry enough crazy to make it easy for everyone from Katarina to Dancin' Dave to even Bill Kristol point at them and say they are going overboard.
People are hurting and our economy is tanking and the White House keeps telling us how things are fine even though all the rest of us can see that they are not. And though they blame it all on Obama as if Bush and the GOP leadership had nothing to do with it, the fact is that Obama and the Dems spent two years in charge and absolutely refusing to do what Americans wanted them to do. And what Americans want them to do is get out of stupid wars (not just change the names from "combat troops" to something else), give them a better health care system (not just pass something called a health care bill), protect Social Security benefits (not just the existence of some program that still retains the name "Social Security"), and, yes, tax the rich a lot more than they tax people who actually have to work for a living. What Americans certainly didn't want them to do was protect cut-throat loan sharks who are stealing their money and their homes, and protect anti-American transnational corporations who are stealing their time and money and exporting their jobs.
And what has Obama chosen to do? What has Obama chosen to whip the Democrats into doing? Ask yourself who it was, exactly, who thought it would be a great idea to get Markos Moulitsas to go on TV and threaten to primary Dennis Kucinich, of all people, for trying to stand up for a the public option.
So Limbaugh and Beck aren't exactly wrong when they suggest that Obama is trying to wreck our way of life - because he is.
(Well, okay, maybe he doesn't realize that's what he's trying to do. Maybe he really does believe all that Reaganist crap he spouts, but it's as plain as the nose on my face that Reagan is the guy who put this train-wreck into high gear, and can he really be stupid enough not to have noticed? Did he hang out with the Chicago boys all that time without understanding what their underlying theory of elitism is? He's gotta know he's destroying our way of life.)
So I see a more important problem in the charade of having people like Bill Kristol or whoever this week's "serious" conservative/centrist is point to the Becks and Palins and Limbaughs and says this right-wing whacko or that one is over the top.
And that problem is that they are taking a lot of liberal/left criticism of Obama and wrapping it up in right-wing crazy, so that all criticism of Obama gets wrapped up with crazy. Anyone who suggests that the Obama administration doesn't have the best interests of the American people at heart (which it doesn't) must be one of those crazy birther types who believe the Caliphate is a scimitar pointed at the heart of Brownsville.
I probably quoted way too much.  My apologies to the copyright police and Avedon Carol.  It was too clearly articulated to edit down.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Following Libertarianism to Its Logical Conclusion

digby at Hullabaloo:
I was in rush hour the other observing some self-centered dude blocking four lanes and snarling traffic for blocks to spare himself a minor inconvenience and it occurred to me that the logical result of our recent embrace of vulgar libertarianism is a total breakdown of social order. Even in rush hour traffic where it's vital to everyone's survival that we observe certain norms, there always seems to be some entitled, selfish ass in an expensive car making it worse for everyone else these days.
Matthew Yglesias:

If you think about a well-functioning liberal society with a (constrained) market economy and political liberty, you’re relying on an awful lot of non-selfish behavior by people to make it work. One key issue here is corruption and the efficacy of the public sector. A wise republic needs to think about the incentives facing public officials and design structures accordingly. But at the end of the day, well-functioning public institutions all involve a certain esprit de corps and sense of obligation. It’s not a coincidence that the most market-oriented societies (the Anglophone and Nordic countries) are also the ones with the best-functioning public sectors. Another issue has to do with parenting and family more generally. For a liberal society to function over time parents need to adopt an attitude toward their children that I don’t think is well-captured by the idea of selfishness. But then again, you can’t have everything collapse into nepotism either.
The point is that a society actually governed by the dual pillars of self-interest and obedience to the law is very unlikely to come out as a liberal market economy.
What you’d get is a cesspool of rent-seeking and shakedowns. And I think that to the extent that the USA has become a society willing to accept an ethic of “greed is good” this is the direction we’ve headed in. 

 Ah, freedom!