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Libby’s Political ‘Stew‘ -- Post-Wisconsin Epiphany


Serious food for serious thought:

Luke Hiken

The sad reality is that a dumbed-down American public has lost the capacity to think critically. A well-financed propaganda campaign on television could probably persuade the American citizenry to elect Adolph Hitler over F.D.R., and given the fact that Republicans and mainstream Democrats have the ability to outspend the poor at the ratio of 20 to 1, the election results are a foregone conclusion. Although the majority of people in Wisconsin voted for Scott Walker, they voted more so against the union pension benefits, and salaries of unionized public employees. It was not a matter of disrespecting the police, firemen and teachers, who constituted the majority of public workers impacted by Walker’s actions; rather the voters felt that the cops, firemen, and teachers did not need the generous retirement packages they were receiving at a time when the rest of the workers in the state were struggling to get by. Obama and the Democratic Party itself opted out of the entire debate.


David Michael Green

That’s the America of today, and it’s a glimpse of the very near-term future. The formula is pretty simple, really. Wealthy elites who have spent the better part of a century chafing under the unbearable burdens of the New Deal and Great Society (where they are rendered mere billionaires instead of zillionaires) have finally found a way to steal back ‘their’ money. Buy whole political parties, buy the media, buy – therefore – the entire mindset of the country, buy the Supreme Court, dumb down education, especially the study of history, make college prohibitively expensive, repress dissent, create distracting enemies abroad (towelheads) and at home (fags), replace jobs with machines and cheap overseas workers, squeeze the economy so that money is scarce, and divide and conquer the 99 percent, so that those who miraculously still maintain a vestige of decent wages and benefits from an ancient civilization called 20th century America will be resented and torn-down by those already drowning.


It will get far worse before it gets better, if it does. The Wisconsin election was widely and correctly seen as a dry run for November, but in fact November is already as over as is May or April. The hapless Obama people may not have gotten the word, but they are as dead as the unions in Wisconsin that they didn’t bother to support. And Obama will go down in near-term, right-wing renderings of history as another Jimmy Carter. Meanwhile, stupid liberals, who slavishly admired a decidedly right-wing, militarist, ultra-statist, corporate-serving Democratic president, will sit holding their heads in surprise at the damage wrought to the president himself, to his party, and to their cherished liberal principles. Um, sorry, but have y’all been snoozing through Afghanistan and Pakistan? Did you miss the whole presidential-ordered assassinations program? Have you not heard what has happened to whistleblowers? Did you forget the tax cuts and the offer to dismantle Medicare? Have you been watching Fox and not heard about the growth of military spending? Did you not know that the health care bill was co-authored by, and for the benefit of, insurance and pharmaceutical companies? Have you not heard that our ultra-progressive president has done nothing whatsoever about the planetary über-crisis of global warming, other than to open vast new oil drilling fields? Did you not see in action the joy and wonder of Obamaism in 2010, the most devastating election for a political party in half a century, and coming only two years after the total meltdown of the GOP under Bush? Sorry, but this is the SOB you adored and went to the mat for?

This country’s future looks grim in so many ways. You can just feel the doors and windows shutting, one by one. Are we really so far off, given the displays we’ve already seen, from being a corporate-owned polity, in which oceans of Citizens United sponsored propaganda limits the cognitive landscape of an entire country, sham elections and a steady stream of brain-numbing high-def television gruel satisfies most of the (obese) public enough to keep them stuck on their sofas, while a massive police state armed with domestic drone aircraft and angry cops deal swiftly with the few remaining malcontents stupid enough to demand a return to the better country we once knew? You know, more or less a carbon copy of Putin’s Russia, here in North America.


David Lindorff

So let’s get it straight. The Wisconsin battle was hugely important — an existential struggle for the US labor movement and working people in general, and a critical litmus test of the real nature of both President Obama and of the Democratic Party. And both the president and the party failed that test. Completely and deliberately.


Obama not only didn’t put in a single visit to Wisconsin during this long recall campaign; he went out of his way to steer well clear of the state, not even dropping in during a visit to Minneapolis a week before the vote, when he was 15 miles from Wisconsin, less than 100 miles from Eau Claire, and less than 300 miles from the capital of Madison, the epicenter of the recall battle.


The Obama campaign and the DNC decided long ago that they did not want to get involved in the Walker recall. Partly, they didn’t want to risk being in support of a losing effort. More importantly, they did not want to be identified with union activists. The truth is that the big money supporting both the DNC and the president’s campaign is corporate money, and those people simply don’t like unions. Also, the Obama “brain trust,” if you can really call these people smart after three and a half years of disastrous White House policies favoring the rich and the powerful, has decided that the way to a second term is by ignoring the poor, ignoring minorities, ignoring labor unions, ignoring working people, and instead focusing on “independent” and “undecided” voters.

That strategy, which was also used with some success by President Clinton, though in much different economic times, involves proposing a lot of targeted narrow legislative measures — for example a law to require equal pay for equal work — that have no chance of passage, and taking stands on narrow “wedge issues” — for example coming out in support of gay marriage, while still insisting it is an “issue for the states to decide.” These are not things that will energize anyone, least of all people who are “independent” or “undecided.”


When it comes the Democrats and this president, it has now been demonstrated unambiguously that labor and working people are completely expendable. The assumption in the Obama campaign, and at the DNC, has always been that progressives will vote for them in the end no matter how they are ignored and humiliated and undermined, because the alternative — the Republicans — are so much worse.


Glen Barry

Wisconsinites — like the rest of the nation — are left in the coming Presidential election with picking the lesser of two fascists. Freedom from fascist and corporatist rule — and the scapegoating, sexism, nationalism, militarism, propaganda lies; and gutting of unions, education, environmental protection and civil liberties this implies — is a precondition to living justly, fairly and well; and to sustaining global ecology and social well-being long-term.

The American dream of hyper-consumption for some is over because it couldn’t be sustained ecologically or socially. America can’t expect to reap the ill-gotten benefits — all too often seized at the point of a gun — of 4% of Earth’s people consuming 25% of key global resources any longer. The 2.5 billion people globally living on $2 a day understandably want their fair share too. The natural and painful consequences of downsizing America’s extreme lifestyles and unwinding horrific disparities is sadly leading to demagoguery, a decline in truth telling, and yes, the rise of fascism in the American heartland.

America has lost its way. Our ecosystems and economic system are collapsing, fascism rising, and conflict growing — do we want societal and ecological collapse to come as we are at each other’s throats? Things are heading that way. We are becoming the terrorists we abhor. And all the reasons are evident in microcosm in Wisconsin. Decent, thoughtful folks in Wisconsin tried valiantly but ultimately failed for now to combat the John Birch, KKK, Tea Party inspired rise of hateful and destructive fascism.  But the battle to retake our great state and country from the fascists has just begun.


Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

"377 members of the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans have given almost half a billion dollars to candidates of both parties, most of it in the last decade. The median contribution was $355,100 each."


Uh-huh. The sound you hear is the world's smallest violin, say, a teeny-tiny Stradivarius insured for millions. "Is there a group of people you can think of who have thinner skin than America's multimillionaires and billionaires?' Paul Waldman asks. "Wall Street titans have been whining for a couple of years now about the horror of people in politics criticizing ineffective banking regulations and the favorable tax treatment so many wealthy people receive... America's barons feel assaulted, victimized, wounded in ways that not even a bracing ride to your Hamptons estate in your new Porsche 911 can salve. And now that the presidential campaign is in full swing, their tender feelings are being hurt left and right."


David Walsh

An extraordinary event occurred on Wednesday in the august chamber where the US Senate Banking Committee meets. In a magnificent ceremony lasting two-and-a-quarter hours, JPMorgan Chase Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jamie Dimon sat on a throne constructed with “all the pomp of Oriental greatness,” while the various senators passed one by one, bending their knees, placing their hands within his, taking an oath of fealty, and rendering to him “the homage which had been previously agreed on.”


Dimon and other bank executives have played a significant part in the massive decline in US household income over the past four years. How many foreclosures, bankruptcies, layoffs, family breakups and suicides are the CEO of JPMorgan Chase and his fellow bank executives responsible for? How much homelessness, poverty and accumulated social misery? By rights, Dimon should be contemplating how much jail time he will face. Instead, he walks around a free man, living a life of opulence, having received $26 million in compensation in 2011 alone.

The assembled senators treated Dimon with reverence and awe. For the most part they provided him with a platform to denounce bank regulations, defend the “great American business machine,” and argue that the US had to “get its fiscal act in order,” i.e., that social programs had to be gutted to safeguard the wealth of the financial aristocracy. Dimon’s arrogance and his barely concealed contempt for the hearing were never dented. No mystery there, since almost all of the senators on the committee are, for all intents and purposes, on his payroll.


... Only six of the 22 members of the committee have not received money from JPMorgan Chase or its employees in recent election cycles, and two of those are retiring and no longer collecting campaign funds.

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Submitted by Aquifer on

folks are running out of ways to describe how bad our system has gotten - themes are repeating and reverberating, even the language is getting repetitive ... bringing coals to Newcastle - they all sound alike and blur into each other. Why not just say "ditto"?

We want folks to be outraged, but what does rage bring about, other than ulcers or "going postal", if we are told at the same time TINA to the schmucks we have? In such circumstances it is self defense to adopt a shrug your shoulders "what else is new" attitude and try to go on about our lives. Disaster fatigue ....

We want "transparency" - why, if TINA, what good is transparency? Now we know who is going to screw us, where we didn't before? And where will that get us? Some sort of perverse satisfaction - "Ah, i thought it was them!" - just before we bite the dust?

That is my litmus test now when i see this stuff from these guys - if no alternative is offered, I'll spend my time and energy instead paying attention to that political alternative i know does exist ...

Submitted by MontanaMaven on

He has the same people on that he had on when I started watching him 10 years ago.
That's why I posted a link to an interview by Doug Henwood with Sam Gindin (along with Glen Ford and John Nichols- Gindin is third) on an earlier post and I will link again. Doug and the Best Left are asking "So now what?" And they embrace OWS and not diss it. Sam Giindin, activist and professor at York U. calls for neighborhood assemblies like what is going on in Montreal. We need to educate ourselves as to the real history of the labor movement. Our unions as now constructed suck. Time for there to be an alternative to them. New ways to organize or we are all going to end up like Russia in the 1990s with a whole lot of dead people.
Note: i get more outrage from my liberal friends than my conservative friends when I mention how NPR sucks. Oh and, "How can you diss Bill Moyers or Norman Solomon?"
Because capitalism sucks. Graeber says that "capitalism is poorly organized communism". Yup.

Submitted by lambert on

I did a quick search on the (rather poor) full text of Games People Play and found this:

As a game, "Ain't It Awful" finds its most dramatic expression in polysurgery addicts, and their transactions illustrate its characteristics. These are doctor-shoppers, people who actively seek surgery even in the face of sound medical opposition. The experience itself, the hospitalization and surgery, brings its own advantages. The internal psycho-logical advantage comes from having the body mutilated; the external psychological advantage lies in the avoidance of all intimacies and responsibilities except complete surrender to the surgeon. The biological advantages are typified by nursing care. The internal social advantages come from the medical and nursing staff, and from other patients. After the patient's discharge the external social advantages are gained by provoking sympathy and awe. In its extreme form this game is played professionally by fraudulent or determined liability and malpractice claimants, who may earn a living by deliberately or opportunistically incurring disabilities. They then demand not only sympathy, as amateur players do, but indemnification. "Ain't It Awful" becomes a game, then, when the player overtly expresses distress, but is covertly gratified at the prospect of the satisfactions he can wring from his misfortune.

In general, people who suffer misfortunes may be divided into three classes.

1. Those in whom the suffering is inadvertent and unwanted. These may or may not exploit the sympathy which is so readily offered to them. Some exploitation is natural enough, and may be treated with common courtesy.

2. Those in whom the suffering is inadvertent, but is gratefully received because of the opportunities for exploitation it offers. Here the game is an afterthought, a "secondary gain" in Freud's sense.

3. Those who seek suffering, like polysurgery addicts who go from one surgeon to another until they find one willing to operate. Here the game is the primary consideration.

It's funny to think of popular (not professorial or bankster) advocates of austerity as equivalent to polysurgery advocates.

* * *

But I don't want to play that game anymore. (More precisely, it is necessary to document the atrocities, but as a means, not an end.)

Which is why, again, I'm not writing campaign coverage for my health, but to spot light, day after day, tiny local actions where people are assuming agency.

And thanks for the tip on Montreal neighborhood assemblies. I do try to read all the coverage I can find assiduously, and that hasn't come up.

Submitted by libbyliberal on

points taken.

what is TINA?

I look to Jill Stein for proactive answer to the evil matrix.

i think it needs to be said and said again, the seriousness of what is happening. the escalation of evil continually needs to be described, lest we slide down the slippery slope of the normalization and institutionalization of evil. especially described by those of us old enough to remember the ideals of democracy. I strive to stay angry. despair is the next stop and that paralyzes.

you are awake. congratulations. obama seduction still going strong. tune in to MSNBC and sigh. lots of ostriches in this country. anger is a conversion process and I bless it.

Submitted by MontanaMaven on

Check out Adam Curtis blog and particularly his piece on TINA. His latest piece is also fascinating about "counterinsurgency". He quotes Mao: "The guerilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea." We must weed out our guerilla propagandists who preach that the system can be tweaked. It can't. I thought it could and I worked my heart out in the Party. But after betrayal after betrayal, shame on me.

Yes, I was once seduced. Now it my job to stay alert and get more education and keep challenging my friends. And that ain't fun. Jon Tester called environmentalists in Montana that opposed his logging bill "extremists" which is one step away from terrorists. Gets ugly.

Submitted by lambert on

Check it out.

In some ways, we might argue that the American Empire is a gigantic experiment in "bullshit all the way down" (we create our own reality). The Brits, who were quite successful at running their empires, over the course of 500 years or so, never did manage to reach our own level of battiness and self-delusion, though Anglophilia could be deluding me.

mtngun's picture
Submitted by mtngun on

Agree with the gloomy view of the situation.

But disagree with the focus on "how do we fix representative democracy." Has representative democracy EVER worked satisfactorily in the industrial age ? I say no. FDR's New Deal came close, but FDR was an exceptional leader that only comes along once every 100 years, and his policies began to be watered down as soon as Truman was sworn in.

Say we had Swiss-style direct democracy. Where all controversial legislation could be put on a public referendum. Where the constitution could be amended by a public referendum. Where SCOTUS nominees could be vetted by public referendum. Where campaign financing could be decided by public referendum. Where taxing the rich could be decided by public referendum. Etc..

If we had direct democracy, I'm not seeing any amount of money spent on political advertising changing the fact that the public would vote to tax the rich, would vote that corporations are not people, would vote not to bail out Wall Street, would vote against free trade agreements that destroy American jobs, etc..

Look at Iceland, the only country to even begin to escape the rule of the elites -- because they had a public referendum process !

Look at Ohio, where a public referendum rejected anti-union legislation. Contrast that to Wisconsin, where instead of voting on legislation, they voted on a flawed, conflicted, uninspiring human being.

(On the other hand, the Irish referendum failed to reject rule-by-banker, but probably because the public does not understand the economic consequences, or the constructive alternatives, and turnout was low).

Rather than reforming representative democracy, I think our goal should be implementing a Swiss-style direct democracy. How to do achieve that, I have no idea. Congress and the state legislatures will never pass a direct democracy amendment out of the goodness of their hearts, to the contrary, they'll fight it tooth and nail because they'll see it as a threat to their power, which it is. So it may take a revolution, peaceful or otherwise, or it may take a collapse of the government. And it may take a long time -- decades.

Our job in the blogging community is to spread the ideas, to get people talking about it. Then wait for the next crisis to come along, when people will be looking around for new ideas to fix the crisis.

Submitted by lambert on

That to me is the essential difference between SB5 and Wi.

* * *

Iceland and Switzerland are small in population and geographically. Would their political systems scale?

* * *

I honestly think the only thing to do is set up parallel structures. Thinking about this, IVCS would scale. It could be applied locally, through a neighborhood deliberative process, then to broader and broader jurisdictions; in fact, new jurisdictional lines could be established.

Submitted by MontanaMaven on

Milton Friedman said and Naomi Klein chronicles this in "Shock Doctrine", "Only a crisis--actual or perceived--produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around."

Only the neo-liberal shock doctrine ideas have been lying around. But there are alternatives. We as bloggers and members of our community must spread them around. We must Occupy our towns and circulate referendums. Maybe have town teach ins calledd "What if we were Swiss?" That might work here. The Swiss all have rifles and lots of mountains.
I'm thinking of getting a copy of "Blue Collar" by Paul Schrader about UAW workers who decide to rob the union. Then maybe "Inside Job" or "Barbarians at the Gate". Then have a discussion.

tom allen's picture
Submitted by tom allen on

"FDR was an exceptional leader that only comes along once every 100 years...."

So that was 80 years ago, after a bipartisan technocrat named Hoover (but hey, he was better than Coolidge, right?) presided over the country during a world-wide depression, an era of austerity, and a huge stock market crash. Before FDR, Congressional Democrats were center-right, corporate tools (but hey, the Republicans were worse, right?) Meanwhile, leftists like the Socialists (those third-party purists, you know) were agitating for labor and civil rights, and against the corporate two-party system; their pressure gave FDR and the liberal Democrats who swept into power the room to move the country leftward and adopt many of the Socialists' ideas.

Not that history's repeating itself or anything.

someofparts's picture
Submitted by someofparts on

definitive. Maybe we won.

Is someone, somewhere keeping track of how many elections defy probability in their variance from exit polls?

Is anyone doing anything to highlight this and get us back to verifiable voting?

Until that happens, it's hard to get psyched up about all the work we need to do to (not) win the next election. Also seems very very counterproductive to speak dismissively of people who may have voted just the way we hoped they would.

What's the Matter with Kansas may just be vote rigging.