Q and A: Priceman
I have Joslyn Stevens's permission to repost this interview.
This week I conducted an interview with a progressive populist I follow on twitter, Priceman, whose annoying habit of using facts and common sense with a dose of in-your-face realness to prove his points tends to piss off democrats over at the “progressive” DailyKos. I feel it’s necessary to showcase often ignored voices representative of the people who speak truth to power and will continue to do so on a weekly basis.
The democratic blog DailyKos claims to be a reform blog open to all views but as we both know opposing views aren’t welcome. Are they doing their readers a disservice by promoting and defending a corporate Democratic Party that doesn’t represent working-class Americans and hasn’t for a long time?
A. Hi, Joslyn. It’s nice to talk to you. I have a lot to say on this topic. Not only are they doing their readers a disservice, they are making a laughing stock of the so called progressive blogosphere as a whole. Wanting “more and better Democrats” does not mean a whole lot when those who administer and run that site, coddle so called Democrats that are openly hostile to the programs that shaped the party’s platform in the first place, from the New Deal and Great Society. That site’s administrators play favorites there and try to hide it; President Obama and his enablers are who take precedence over everything else on Daily Kos.
I base this on the very poor job their site moderators do at that site, and the lack of self awareness that comes from denying it, which happens every time anyone looks into it. There are a number of good diarists that write there, but they do not receive equal treatment; posters whose sole mission is to protect their hero in the White House, are allowed to break the site rules and troll any posts not favorable to the Obama administration. And if anyone retaliates against them, only then does the site’s administration get involved in order to put them in their place while pretending to just enforce site rules, which are arbitrary, selective, and not clearly defined at all except in secret.
Sure, they might ban an obvious sockpuppet whose sole mission is to attack Glenn Greenwald, but that is low hanging fruit and does not hide the obvious bias at that Democratic gatekeeper site. The business model there relies on pretending that every problem in our society must be the fault of the Republicans, instead of both parties colluding together for the continuing grand austerity bargain happening now with the first step: the sequester. The White House wrote the sequester and put out there, but to mention that is blasphemous at Daily Kos like most other critiques of the President when it comes down to it. This is specifically true during election season; posters are banned for harshly criticizing the President.
I witnessed this first hand, and even I was warned in 2012 for doing so; I merely uprated a factual comment that in some ways there is little difference between Mitt Romney and President Obama. The 2012 Obama campaign went after Bain for outsourcing jobs, closing plants, and devastating US communities. Yet, now that the election is over, President Obama has appointed Jeff Zients, a former executive of Gov. Mitt Romney’s Bain & Company investment firm, as head of the National Economic Council.
To add insult to injury, on civil liberties issues, the owner of the Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas, was asked how he feels about what Snowden revealed with regard to the 4th amendment being trashed by this administration continuing and expanding the Bush administration’s NSA war on terror abuses, and he said he honestly didn’t care. He said that worrying about spying was a very white privileged thing to do. However, anyone who has done even a modicum amount of research, knows that New York — pretty much the whole country, but especially New York — has changed after 9/11; it is now outfitted with a massive surveillance arsenal to more efficiently conduct racist policies like stop and frisk which does affect black people suffering from real white privilege in the real world.
This is similar to the drug war President Obama is continuing, which is also racist, since most incarcerations for drug possession are disproportionately black even though white people use the same amount or much more in many cases. Some on Daily Kos will try to deny this by saying the drug war is mostly a state issue and that you should just go yell at your local mayor and city council, and leave Obama alone. That would be fine if the Obama administration did not deploy for-profit prison lobbyists in their Justice Department like U.S Marshall, Stacia Hylton. The Prison Industrial complex lobbies all states to have access to the prisoners arrested for drug possession in whatever state they set up. This is coddled and supported at the federal level.
Not to mention all the broken promises from Eric Holder and the President about not raiding medical marijuana dispensaries. None of this is mentioned on Daily Kos when it comes to issues about race, and it’s perpetuating real racism which involves institutions like this and always has. So, this is not something Markos — and those that like him who scoff at what Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden have revealed — can ignore while claiming to care about real white privilege, real racism, and what’s going on in the real world on the federal level and at the state level aided and abetted by the drug warriors in the Obama administration at the federal level.
No, once Markos wrote a book about “Crashing the Gate” with regard to the political blogosphere he was instrumental in creating, along with Howard Dean’s campaign, in filling the void that the bought oligopoly — the mainstream media that failed and is still failing the public — left. However, now that a Democrat is in the white house, sites like Daily Kos are gatekeepers. They are not interested in crashing any gates. This is how they run the site and ultimately this is their business model.
I wrote there for a time, but I would now warn others that Daily Kos is not the site where intellectual debate is allowed on anything substantial. Only about how bad the other bought political party is. That is, instead of Democrats, with few exceptions, and Republicans working together to subvert representative Democracy. Oh, how mighty the once promising site has fallen and will continue to fall now that we know what the site’s true purpose is; shilling for the status quo as long as it has a (D). This, we all now know and can see.
There’s no reason to read anything on that site. It’s no different than what’s on MSNBC.
In one of your DailyKos diaries you wrote, “The Obama/Bush national security state policies are mirroring a step to an authoritarian society”. To name a few control tactics, third-party candidates are shut out of debates to eliminate choice, money is drowning out public opinion, the NSA tracks everything we do, peaceful protests are infiltrated by cops, and drones have become commonplace during Obama’s administration and are soon to be normalized here at home thanks to Amazon. It would seem we already live in an authoritarian society. What’s really missing?
A. Ahh, very good points. I guess the only thing missing is the overt nature from what we, as a society, know of when it comes to authoritarian societies which I am referring to; your iron curtains, your fascist regimes, and what have you. It is true that in many ways we are already there. I am reminded of something historian and linguistic professor, Noam Chomsky, talks about a lot when it comes to media in the United States. That any dictator would admire the obedience of the mega media monopolies and oligopolies still, although hopefully that might change eventually, that control everything we see, hear, and now think.
He also makes a good point about how our media might even be worse than those regimes; people who lived in those societies knew their state run media was lying to them. We, however, assume that lies only come from certain sources on certain media outlets, when, really, corporations dictate instead of the state in that model which is a form of corporatism which is uncomfortably close to fascist Italian leader Mussollini’s definition of fascism; a merger between corporations and the state.
It may become more obvious when someone even worse than President Obama gets into the white house decides to utilize the NDAA he signed into law to lock many more Americans away, along with continuing the unprecedented war on whistle blowers that the President is conducting. When Americans realize they are only free to consume, as comedian Bill Hicks once pointed out, and these authoritarian practices — practices used by the FBI, DHS, and PERF to collude with all local mayors and police to stamp out the Occupy movement — continue and elevate to that level most Americans sadly and mistakenly still think could never happen here even though it has already begun, we might see the few missing ingredients from the authoritarian societies we know from the past. We’re getting there fast.
After hearing a bit about the Cyprus bank scandal, are confiscated deposits an inevitable reality for Americans given the recent pension looting across the country especially in Detroit, continued austerity proposals, and bailouts of Wall St?
A. Attorney and public banking advocate, Ellen Brown, has laid out a possible scenario on this happening in the US, and so this scenario does, indeed, need to be taken seriously, as does her work; she has been on this subject for years. In my opinion, while I don’t think confiscated deposits are, as of now, necessarily an inevitability per what happened in Cyprus– a bad, immoral, and economically stupid move that is rocking the foundations of their whole banking system as we speak since knowing one’s deposits is safe is what prevents bank runs which causes banks to fail even more than lack of adequate capital — I cannot say it is not possible or even probable given that banks are given free reign to do what they want.
That is, as long as they pay a penalty with the SEC, CFTC, and DOJ as the cost of doing business per what happened recently with JP Morgan and the London Whale debacle where their prop trade gambled and lost 6.2 billion — compare that to their overall, comparatively minuscule, 922 million settlement payout, recently — back stopped by depositors. This is why the destruction of Glass Steagall was a big deal among other things. The newly finalized Volcker rule may curb some of that (gambling with deposits) , but ultimately the language is vague enough where they can get around it, which means it’s not going to be effective enough to stop any moves on that front. What happened in Detroit is a classic divide and conquer strategy Wall St is perpetuating, in order to escape the blame for the toxic junk bonds bundled up into collateralized debt obligations with credit default swaps on top that they sold to all pensions, public and private, across the country — also rated AAA by the ratings agencies doing their bidding — while conservatives and neoliberals alike, blamed hard fought union benefits and pensions themselves instead of what is backing them for bankrupting cities and municipalities across the nation.
Wall St is responsible for the plunge in value of what’s backing all pensions ie the fraud involved in giving mortgages with teaser interest rates set to go up to people with no income, jobs, or assets on the fantasy that housing prices will continually rise so these borrowers can continually cash out on their equity, but that didn’t happen so payment streams in those CDOs dried up. and then cities like Detroit, already hollowed out from globalization from free trade agreements like NAFTA and before that, some preferential trade status for Japan from the Reagan administration on top of general competition with Japanese car companies, cannot pay the obligations owed to public sector workers. With Detroit’s ongoing depression on top of these Wall St financial shenanigans comes falling revenue, which is a problem, because unlike the federal government, state governments have to balance their budgets because of state constitutions stating that obligation. The continuation of all of this, as Detroit is looted per what you pointed out, can be laid at the feet of the Obama administration’s horrendous record of prosecuting financial crimes — their record is worse than both Bush administrations — and deeming TBTF banks too big to jail, because what incentive do TBTF banks have NOT to poison all pensions again?
They know they will get away with it, and they know who will be blamed since everyone blames unions for everything, even President Obama’s former chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, now Mayor of Chicago where he attacks teacher’s unions, is all part of Obama’s right wing race to the top education reform, which is also racist. So really, anything is possible right now with this wild-wild west, too big to fail or jail hell America is living through, thanks to you know who.
(R)Paul Ryan and (D)Patty Murray are working together on a budget deal which already includes a cut in cost-of-living increases in retirement benefits for military service members. Republicans still want to repeal Obamacare and Democrats are still folding on standing by the 99%, is there any point in those two working together?
A. In the words of the late great George Carlin, “Bipartisan usually means a larger than usual deception is being carried out.” This is true here, too. That 1% cost of living increase in retirement would mean an effective cut of $70,000-80,000 in retirement pay. We now know where Patty Murray’s bread is buttered, and it’s not veterans in her state; it’s mainly military contractors she is worried about, not federal workers that run her errands either.
She is about to step on them and their families just in time for the holidays. It’s a classic 1%er mindset she is inhibiting along with Paul Ryan. These people are out of touch with normal Americans who don’t have cushy gigs in this do-nothing cruel Congress. Nothing good can come from their callous, ignorant, craponomic austerity budget which does not include
unemployment insurance, as I predicted it wouldn’t when I predicted this whole short term crisis to crisis ordeal from the tax cut deal in 2010.
Those that made excuses for not including a debt ceiling raise in that deal and extending the Bush tax cuts without one by claiming they were saving unemployment insurance should never open their mouths about anything political ever again, except to apologize to the unemployed for being loyal to the idea of being in a politician’s fan club than the people around them who desperately need help.
There is no point except further stepping on the 99%. This Congress has been doing this since 2010 and 2011 when the Budget Control Act was passed enacting it’s 10 year austerity binge that started this year in addition to the sequester. This is what I call human sacrifice by economic terrorists in Congress spouting lies about the deficit needing to be paid off (it doesn’t because we create money as a sovereign country), and with suffering. Scared sacrifice, I call it.
Not shared sacrifice. A shock doctrine scenario with a made up crisis in order to destroy anything the 99% has left. That’s what this is.
What do you make of the left’s blind loyalty to Obama and their defense of his Bush-era policies? Are they afraid to admit they’ve been had and taken for fools by the first black president?
A. I think it’s revealing, though I would add quote marks in the word “left.” Many people who make excuses for everything President Obama does like to think of themselves as on the left, as they will constantly remind you in order to inoculate what they emulate and enable through these excuses. They very well may be too afraid to admit they have been had and taken in for fools by the first black president. This quote from Friedrich Nietzsche comes to mind, ‘Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.’
The symbolism from the Obama campaign and he being the first black president was a powerful thing, and some people can’t let go, even though it’s past time. Especially since black and Latino communities are suffering the most from the bust of the housing bubble; a bubble inflated by people President Obama hired in his cabinet, like Larry Summers, and Tim Geithner. The failed housing policies Geithner designed to “foam the runway for the banks” on foreclosures instead of write downs as told in former TARP general Inspector Neil Barofsky’s book, Bailout, shows this further. People cannot eat symbols. People cannot pay the rent with symbols and going off another Carlin quote, we should leave symbolism for the symbol minded. There are many people who falsely perceive that their unconditional support of the President somehow gives them credibility on the left. When called out on this, they lay out their list of anecdotal personal accomplishments, as if it’s relevant to the population like macroeconomic aggregate data.
However, we know that is a simple lie; a symbol lie; and symbolic of the lie that has become many of these peoples existence, in my opinion. I don’t know what they will do when the age of Obama is over. Perhaps they should remember that politics is about making peoples’ lives better instead of dreaming that they are vicariously doing so by living, vicariously, through a politician they admire. People suffering from his neoliberal policies need them to wake up before he starts collecting those speaking fees after his presidency at the Hamilton project as he once did in 2006.
In the last presidential election over 60 million votes went to Obama and Romney each. What does that tell you about the amount of political research conducted before Election Day?
A. It tells me that politicians and their handlers in both parties know how little time Americans have to inform themselves about how corrupt and bought each candidate is, and how corrupt and bought the system they are participating in is. The people that run both parties know most of America is just struggling to get by and are susceptible to short-form propaganda and brand slogans. Both parties’ committees operate as if they were advertising agencies doing research on the electorate. After all, the Obama campaign won an advertising award for the “Hope and Change” and “Yes, We Can” slogans.
Do you see the influence of third parties picking up steam and gaining more votes as more voters become outraged with our money-hungry do-nothing congress?
A. I would like to think so, but I honestly don’t know. More Americans seem to be open to the idea, but hating Congress — they do, because Congress has a 9% approval rating — does not necessarily mean abandoning our electoral system as it is. As it is right now, it is openly hostile to third parties and third party candidates. This is in addition to the millions of dollars spent during Republican and Democratic primaries, which are themselves, millionaire reality shows that last way too long.
No other modern Republic has quite the spectacle we do when it comes to how we anoint candidates instead of electing them either to run or govern. The public is involved in the process because it is hammered in their head over and over again, that they only have two choices. As we discussed earlier, all the institutions involved in what could be called a sham of a primary system and electoral process altogether, shut out third party candidates. The Commission on Presidential Debates does this every year, unless one has as much money as Ross Perot did in 1992 and can buy a place at that table, even though they are supposed to be non partisan.
So third party candidates then have to rely on the Russian government to fund a debate for them on RT. How ironic in a supposed “Representative Democracy?” This is because it is important for Democratic and Republican partisans on both sides to squash any talk of third parties; to rewrite history as they have with the 2000 theft of Democracy in Florida being Ralph Nader’s fault instead of the Kangaroo SCOTUS. The facts are in and that is a vicious lie, but it is a lie partisans viciously need when they drag people into the electoral process with false hopes and dreams only to dump them afterward like OFA did.
We need runoff voting, real campaign finance reform, and a host of other electoral reforms before third parties can get the boot off their neck so we can get the boot off ours. This is not pointed out to say one should vote for either Democrats or Republicans. I’m not saying that at all. This is to say people need to stop participating as if this is a real representative democracy under a system that only gives you a choice between Coke or Pepsi at the national level. In order to believe in the electoral process, at all, on the national level, reform is a prerequisite or it’s just a rigged game anyway you play. That’s what I say.
Name the two biggest issues Americans need to see fixed now.
A. Money in politics and record income inequality.
Who is priceman and what does he want?
A. I am just a long-term unemployed, artist/concerned citizen who wants Justice for the greatest financial crimes and war crimes ever perpetuated and covered up by two administrations; the Bush administration and the Obama administration. I also want a better standard of living for everyone. I want Congress to allocate spending until everyone has a job, because demand creates jobs. I want Congress to raise the minimum wage on par with inflation ($10.55) so those jobs can begin to be living wage jobs.
That is just a start. I think the minimum wage should be raised even higher, since if worker productivity was factored in, workers would be making $21.50 an hour. On top of that, the government should directly hire anyone who needs a job to cut down the labor pool of workers desperate for work, thus raising the price of labor on top of a floor that is above the price level and taking into account the surplus value of what workers produce. I want a full debt jubilee like economist Steve Keen talks about.
That is something we could theoretically do immediately, but unlike some Kings of old who forgave debts, the Obama administration is not interested in doing this. They want to preserve rent seeking activities, so I have to oppose them. Private debt is the problem and the private debt to GDP ratio collectively is above 300%. Students cannot discharge student loan debt in a bankruptcy court.
On top of that, education should be free or as close to it as possible, or it’s not worth it. I also want us to take the climate crisis seriously. I want Occupy Wall Street fully resurrected so these things might have a chance; we have been left to die by our government on these issues.
The sad thing is, I can want, all I want, but it doesn’t make our predicament less daunting. I don’t really know how to make them a reality, but that is what I am about. Thank you for the interview, Joslyn.