Category Archives: Political Commentary

Take Krugman as you like but…

Pathos of the Plutocrat – NYTimes.com.

While I have my own issues with Krugman as one of those polar pols, nevermind the orientation, he’s struck something here that’s struck me throughout the Hope-mongerer’s presidency.  While I can’t quite put my finger on it, I just know that the economic stagnation that’s become a defining characteristic of my generation’s (I just turned 30 and stopped wearing sandals) pathos is, in large part, due to a stubborn, mean-spirited, revanchist streak bundled up in the emotional personage of this country’s ultra-rich mover-shaker class.

Since 2010 we’ve heard that corporate treasury accounts are flush with cash — this article asks the wrong question, I think … why aren’t corporations hiring with that $, thereby increasing optimism about the wider consumer economic outlook, AND distributing it to shareholders (which tends to improve the outlook at the top-end of the wealth spectrum and create disparate distribution of wealth which some claim is even harmful for the beneficiaries) — and yet we’ve seen incredibly bleak jobs numbers during that span and in the short-run.

I can’t really enunciate what’s underfoot here.  The best that I can guess is that the tiny, ultra-privileged group of status-quo Teutonics who truly shape policy in this country are upset that, despite owning the media, our national discourse, and our economy, they haven’t been able to root out every last ounce of resentment over the gross disparity and corporatist agenda rampant in the land of the free-to-work-and-keep-their-mouths-shut and the home of the brave-and-jingoistic-when-it-comes-to-the-enemy-other-but-silent-when-it-comes-to-the-devil-within (I know, I’m sorry).  This sturdy group of look-alike gentlemen would really like it if we threw a ticker-tape parade once monthly to celebrate their hegemonic free-market for the poor, socialist for the rich economic victory.  Oh, and until they have that sort of triumphant acquiescence from every last one of us they’re going to hold our economy hostage, paint the first minority president with the resulting economic failures, and take their balls and go home until they’re able to ram, cram, foist, force a guy who looks and thinks like them in to highest office and reclaim their rightful place on the political pedestal.

Am I paranoid here? Does anyone else see things this way?  Now I’m over-anxious on a Saturday afternoon…

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A One Dimensional Man

Leisure, which comes to be an important topic for discussion in modern society, is generally seen as time to alleviate the fatigue of labor, a time necessary for making people work again and a compensation of labor time. Therefore, leisure, at first glance, is a means, not an end. With the development of capitalism and capitalism’s desire to turn everything to a commodity, leisure also becomes an area of profit. 

Specifically, it is argued by many socialist thinkers that by developing a leisure industry, capitalism seeks the ways of getting back the wage paid in order to buy labor time. According to these thinkers, as distinct from modes of production, capitalism sees in everything related to man a commercial issue and what is calculated is not only production, but also how the products are to be consumed, how people are made to consume. That is why, advertisement sector, entertainment sector, brands, mass media are so important. Certainly, there is a leisure industry. 

I’ve been unwilling (before edit I wrote unable) to post since starting my new job.  The feeling of failure still clings to life like the cigarette smell that remains long after the baking soda treatment you applied to that garage sale rug.  Even after more than a month, the anxiety of a job search rents space in my mind.  When I find myself wondering about the worth of my current vocational situation, I often recall how the small, kafka-esque, buggy little man at the unemployment office, half-jokingly, asked about my ethnicity and religious preference prior to granting my application to get those last two weeks of benefit checks.  Things (and, in that case, my particular answers) could have been much worse just based on chance.

So, I’ve been exhausted lately…a pile of human hamburger trudging through a commute and sliming home to put in an appearance at real life.  Roughly 50 hour weeks at the new office and very little else has piqued my (sparse remaining) interest in labor and leisure – hence the quote above and this shiny blue text.

If you’ve never heard it before, let me be the first person to tell you that the vast majority of us exist for no other reason than to make money for a few of us (and the pronoun us probably isn’t very apt here, either – these people occupy another stratosphere of the human experience).  The world we’ve constructed is a funny-seeming, absurd mass labor farm akin to a Matrix-type scenario in which the beneficiaries aren’t even concerned with putting on a show of concern enough to alter our perception of reality.  Hell, they’ve just made certain our education system is farcical enough that we’re no longer capable of perceiving reality at all.

With Occupy becoming a shell of a movement (see sophomoric & alienating, dow-rod brandishing black block mayday tactics as one example…the NATO whimper as another), it’s doubtful any systemic change is forthcoming, no?  So, let’s just sit back and assess.

At least we have our time off.

I work 50-hour weeks.  To be successful at my desk, you really ought to put in 60 or more.   As it is just now, I come home, I do my best to conjure up the scraps of emotional and spiritual leavings I have left from a day full of monotony and meaninglessness and I try to refocus on what really matters – the few meaningful relationships I keep, my intellectual curiosities, personal goals, etc.

I’ve come to the conclusion that – even in a world where labor saving technology is rampant – we have no experience of meaningful leisure.  If you buy Aristotelian ethics and political thought – in which, leisure is a requirement of citizenship (or “honorable action) – this is a bleak outcome.  Do a quick back of the envelope calculation of what you consider leisurely.  If you’re anything like me, you’ve come to see dining at restaurants, big bar tabs, vintage furniture shopping, and a night at the movies as your only recourse to recuperation from work.  Our lives are just as disconnected from DIY leisure as they have become from DIY sustenance.  We’re each and every one of us commodities, even when we’ve finished working.  Mass (wo)man incarnate.

We depend on spending to rest.  The only way to feel the experience of your free time comes at a hefty cost.  That deep sigh of carelessness that used to come from the factory whistle now resonates through the ATM beeps, the clanging of the cash register, the live music that streams around the edges of the bar door as you’ve paid your cover charge.

Perhaps Adorno is right here.  Could time off be nothing more than “a shadowy continuation of labor”?  God only knows I spend enough downtime simply staring off in to space to suggest that it may be.  If anything, it may have become a pastiche of consumer-voyeuristic-restlessness in which there is no possible reprieve.  Let’s rephrase the positives here, then.

At least we’ll certainly see unemployment every 10 to 18 months in this economy.

I’ll close with a quote that’s, to me, powerful but that seems quite contrary to the American notion of the labor/leisure paradigm:

Leisure is essential to civilization, and in former times leisure for the few was only rendered possible by the labours of the many. But their labours were valuable, not because work is good, but because leisure is good. And with modern technique it would be possible to distribute leisure justly without injury to civilization.   – Bertrand Russell (In Praise of Idleness)

*Interesting sidenote/rant – all of the dyed-in-the-wool (yet often well-meaning and intentionally optimistic) progressive types who I know well or otherwise who tend to bleat away about life-improving technology ubiquitous in our contemporary world seldom seem to work in a realm where labor-saving technology is rampant (i.e. labor is devalued).  They’re typically serving at restaurants.  Coincidence?

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Announcing an FH, Anti-Bush-Family-themed Super-PAC…

to go toe-to-malevolent-cloven-hooved-toe with (Jeb’s son) George P. Bush’s set of (two) super(evil)-PACs.  I’m not sure why Latino voters would align with the youngest Bush, other than the fact that he’s latino — because, you know, his dad loves courting latinos so much that he procreated with a Latina out of political aspirations.  Don’t think so?  Nay FH, you say — that’s just too far…  See the following Google results string:

search

You’re right, you’re right … I can’t say (or write) unequivocally that Jeb Bush hooked up with a Spanish-speaking lady in a post-Machiavellian ultra-political-realist attempt to WIN BACK THE LATINO VOTE that propelled his idiot bro’ to the presidency… but I just did.

So… how do we start that Super-PAC?  Was it here that I read the directions or here?  You guys let me know if you’re in, ok…

In my best (mis[under]{is this FOIL?})estimation, Bush(es) collecting Latina/o votes is on par with the political-act-par-excellence of Obama backing Gays-Marrying-Gays-at-this-term-in-the-reelction-cycle (marriage equality makes sense but I can’t stand such blatant political tactics, no matter the outcome).  Wash.  Rinse.  Repeat.  Dandruff.

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Hobbes & Caged Lions: A Video Metaphor for Occupy

[T]he underlying terror of death is what drives most of the human endeavor. — Moore & Williamson

Knowing that, take a look at THIS VIDEO of a family of tourists as they thoroughly enjoy themselves while a lion tries its best to eat their baby (courtesy of WhoIsIoz, one of my favorites).  At least one of them wonders aloud whether laughing at the specter of death was “right”.  Find yourself thinking there was something inherently problematic with a family caterwauling like jackals in the face of death?  I certainly did.

If we reach back to political theorist and all-around curmudgeon Thomas Hobbes and accept his work as fact (ugh), fear of death was the organizing principle that had us leave the state of nature to form civil society.  It’s important to note that Hobbes’ lifetime and career were contemporaneous with the English Civil War (1642-1651) and much of his work was informed by the violence, death, and destruction endemic to those times.

Fear, according to Hobbes, suffuses and shapes human life. It pervades the state of nature, of whose many miseries the “worst of all [is] continual fear,and the danger of violent death.” ‘It is both the sole origin of civil society (“the original of all great and lasting societies consisted not in the mutual goodwill men had towards each other, but in the mutual fear they had of each other”) and the only reliable means of its preservation (“during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war, as is of everyman, against everyman.”) At once the principal cause of  war and the principal means to peace, fear is the basis both of man’s most urgent plight and of his only possible escape.  

Hobbesian Fear, Jan H. Blits, Political Theory , Vol. 17, No. 3 (Aug., 1989), pp. 417-431
Pessimistic Hobbes saw that fear has uses — it wasn’t the primary driver of humanity even if it was the ultimate organizing factor.  For Hobbes, insatiable thirst for power is the primary human characteristic and self-knowledge of that power-hunger is the root of civilizing fear and paranoia.
So what happens when a small sect of humanity is altogether freed from fear?  When an elite few understands all the levers of power are pulled in the direction that benefits them most?  Their avid power-pursuit goes unchecked and those individuals would become blatant, belligerent, and unapologetic in their pursuit of self-interest, no?  If you have a moment, watch that video again and then watch this: Wall St. Traders Laugh at Occupy Arrests    See any similarities?
*I’m in no way advocating violence here.  These are simple comments about what monetizing politics a la Citizens United could do to the status quo and the hyper-inequality we’ve seen perpetuated in this country since the 70s.
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Wisconsin’s New Aristocracy Is On The Ballot – Forbes

Federal, state or even local governments cannot be driven out of business.  They gain their revenue forcibly through taxes.  As a result, there is no market limit to how much such unions can pirate from the public.

via Wisconsin’s New Aristocracy Is On The Ballot – Forbes.

Wisconsin's New Aristocracy Is On The Ballot - Forbes

Governments are funded by taxes ergo public sector unions are funded by taxes?  More lies today.  This time from our smug looking friend Peter Ferrara, former Reagan and Elder Bush collaborator.  I won’t spend much time on this since it’s fairly clear his claim is duplicitous, even to the labor-layperson such as myself.

While it’s true that governments do gain their revenue via taxation, that revenue is at zero risk of being pirated or pilfered by public sector unions.  I can’t even begin to grasp where M. Ferrara could draw such conclusions, beings that he’s a highly credible economic policy expert who “write[s] about new, cutting edge ideas regarding public policy, particularly concerning economics old, mis-leading, and divisive pro-business talking points intended to diminish organized labor’s power and drive up executive and shareholder [read 1%er] profits”.

Public-sector unions obtain funding the same way private-sector unions – whose rights to collective bargaining, Ferrara asserts, “are not at issue in Wisconsin” – do: they collect member dues.  Unless we count the wallets of private citizens who make a living working at government jobs as public coffers, there’s no bilking going on here at all.

The media discourse over supposedly corrupt, deleterious public sector unions is fraught with irony, as highlighted in this excellent piece excerpted below:

[W]hile unions can’t compel workers to fork over a penny for political campaigns, corporations can donate unlimited amounts of their shareholders’ equity to do so – they are, in fact, in the “unique position” to elect pliant lawmakers. “What the right-wing and the business community always try to portray is that you have these union bosses that are forcing helpless employees to give them money,” says Gold, “when the reality is that these are their members who chose to be in a union and then elected their officers democratically, in sharp contrast to corporations, none of whose officers are elected democratically unless you count shareholders voting at an annual meeting as a real democratic system.”

And conservatives have long held that voluntary donations to political campaigns are a high form of free speech. The double standard is clear– “money equals speech” unless it’s money freely donated by working people to advance their own economic interests.

Double-standards and duplicity abound while Wisconsonians follow democratically dictated recall protocol to elect the New Aristocracy (you read that right).

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EPA Official Says “Philosophy” Is To “Crucify” Oil And Gas Companies | RealClearPolitics

EPA Official Says “Philosophy” Is To “Crucify” Oil And Gas Companies | RealClearPolitics.

If you read the full text and apply context, what the hell is wrong with what Administrator Armendariz says?

[His enforcement philosophy is] kind of like how the Romans used to conquer little villages in the Mediterranean. They’d go into a little Turkish town somewhere, they’d find the first five guys they saw and they would crucify them. And then you know that town was really easy to manage for the next few years. And so you make examples out of people who are in this case not compliant with the law. Find people who are not compliant with the law, and you hit them as hard as you can and you make examples out of them, and there is a deterrent effect there. And, companies that are smart see that, they don’t want to play that game, and they decide at that point that it’s time to clean up. 

All in all, this snippet sure makes for a good headline about that SOCIALIST OBAMA REGIME but there’s really nothing to see here.  That is, unless you believe those poor, defenseless Oil & Gas companies require protection from the fiercely anti-Corporate, public-good-interested and incredibly powerful EPA.

Knowing that the EPA is astonishingly understaffed and apparently mired in a bureaucratic no-man’s-land where practical improvements in public health and safety are slowed and mitigated by pro-business and political team-player sentiments, I’m all for Administrator Armendariz’s crucifixion-deterrence model.  How about you?

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