Tea Party

Sit this one out? Enjoy the aftermath.

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on November 5, 2014

Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

 

Sit this one out? Enjoy the aftermath.

Nobody will ever deprive the American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting.”

                                                                                                                              ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

Yesterday, my colleague RE published an election day rant (Fork the Morton! DON”T VOTE!) urging you to sit out the election and not vote. While not voting is certainly his prerogative, and yours, his advice is one of the most wrongheaded, shortsighted and mistaken opinions possible. As you consider the electoral results screaming from your TV, radio or (much reduced in size and scope) newspaper, savor the consequences of having followed his advice.

Charlie Pierce, engaged in live blogging the election for Esquire, had the play-by-play:

10:30PM — Colorado’s gone. Cory Gardner’s long con has triumphed. Now we will pretend that Gardner is a reasonable guy. I think that may be the ballgame. Chris Matthews just used the word “pissant,” and Cory Booker, for whom I have little use, replied that Matthews would be surprised that “there are a lot of new senators” that just want to get something done. The concrete on the narrative is beginning to solidify. Matthews wants to trade a minimum wage hike for “corporate tax reform.” I suspect that the fix on the Keystone XL pipeline is already in, too. And Udall was one of the few people in Congress who made reigning in the surveillance state a priority. I guess it’s all up to Aqua Buddha.

11:00PM — The Hour Of Suck finally has arrived. Scott Walker, the goggle-eyed homunculus hired by Koch Industries to manage their midwest subsidiary formerly known as the state of Wisconsin, has been re-elected governor of Wisconsin, Rick Scott apparently will win in Florida.

11:30PM — My new friend Joni Ernst has won in Iowa… And our golfs are safe from the threat posed to them by the United Nations. “I will say this, she goes to Washington and she becomes a hot commodity,” Luke Russert just said. “She’s gone away from the hot button issues, being more vague and general.”

God, get these people off my television. Robert Gibbs is burying the whole Battleground Texas effort because Wendy Davis is getting crushed, and Steve Schmidt is declaring a “big night” for the Clintons because Hillary campaigned for Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, but somehow forgetting that they both campaigned for Mark Pryor in Arkansas and that they went really long for Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky. And, it seems to these untrained eyes that the strategy of running away from the president’s record did not do very much good at all for anyone… Also, David Perdue, the newly elected senator from Georgia, said in his victory speech that he was going to the Senate to “fight for the Fair Tax,” a fleabitten scam and longtime conservative fetish object by which you and Steve Forbes will pay the same percentage of your income in taxes, and we’ll make up the revenue with a sales tax that will introduce America to the $20 banana. Yeah, they’re coming to Washington to work with the president.

1:30AM — I think it was contemplating the fact that both Sam Brownback and Paul LePage both may have survived as governors that was the last straw for me tonight. Brownback has wrecked his state. Even Kansas Republicans believe that. LePage is a local embarrassment who became a national embarrassment in the final days before the election. Even Maine Republicans believe that… They have engaged, quite deliberately and quite successfully, in a concerted effort to convince the country that self-government is a game for suckers. Nobody does what they say they’re going to do, so ignore the fact that our candidates have drifted so far to the right that they’ll be falling into the Thames any minute now because they’re not going to act on their fringe beliefs, and just go out there and vote your Id. Once you’ve divorced the act of voting from the conviction that voting will have any connection to what the government actually does, voters do not vote their desires, they vote their anger and their fear.

Here in the morning after, fear is taking a victory lap.

In so called off-year elections, turnout is typically low. Even year presidential elections, where your vote actually is the most diluted and meaningless, tends to bring out the biggest crowds. We all know this. But interestingly, the closer to home your election is,  the more your vote counts. And the more it matters.

Several years ago in Virginia, the election for Virginia Attorney General  was settled by a handful votes. Democrat Mark Herring prevailed over Republican Mark Obenshain with a difference of 165 votes out of more than 2.2 million cast, or 0.007%. It’s ludicrous to assert that your vote does not count, even at the state level.  And if you have any doubt about the mischief an AG can cause, look no further than the record of Herring’s predecessor, Ken Cuccinelli. Let your fingers do the walking and let the Google dredge up the rotting carcasses of that worthy’s legal achievements; suffice it to say that Cuccinelli singlehandedly led a campaign on climate science, the environment and women’s rights that kept activists busy, while disgraced convicted felon former Gov. Transvaginal Ultrasound attempted to get uranium mining legalized in Virginia while selling off state assets to the highest bidders.

Elections matter. If they didn’t, why would we have seen so many voter suppression schemes, unsavory redistricting, and other efforts by incumbents to choose their own voters?

If we accept as true the center of RE’s argument, that voting is often a Morton’s Fork, a choice between two equally unsavory outcomes, then why vote?

The answer is to forestall  the elevation of worse over bad.

Politics is often the art of gaining a half a loaf when a whole loaf is unattainable. Here’s a story ripped from real life:  Each month, Contrary and I are part of a group of progressives who gather together for a breakfast/brunch and some spirited conversation. At last month’s gathering, one of our number announced, with no small amount of pride, that she was not going to vote for Democrat Mark Warner for Senator. She was going to write in the candidate her of her choice in response to some of his policy decisions, and doubtless felt self-righteous about her decision. Another of our number, a man I otherwise deeply respect, intoned, “Warner’s got this in the bag; he doesn’t need her vote.”  Really? The result? Warner has apparently managed to squeak out a victory of half a percentage point, a victory so thin as to trigger an automatic recount. Could Warner have used her vote?

 

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And quite frankly, if you believe there is no qualitative difference between having a Senator Warner versus a Senator Gillespie representing the Old Dominion in DC, I have swampland to sell you. Warner has many flaws, not the least of which is a support for fracking in Virginia. That’s anathema to me. Yet the notion of having consummate long time Republican fixer and bagman Gillespie, he of the Enron debacle and conspicuous donation bundler for a variety of Bushes, Cheneys, et al, huddled in DC in craven conspiracy with the Worst Elements of Humanity to unleash untold mischief upon both the Commonwealth and democratic process, is unthinkable.  As it was, even outspent two to one by Warner, he almost pulled off a victory that would’ve made the Republican majority even more secure, to say nothing of a super majority.

It’s been a long time since I had something, or someone to vote for. And I have my own dark moments of frustration with always having to vote for the lesser of two evils. It’s been that way my entire adult life, and with the specter of a Hillary Clinton presidential run against whoever manages the stumble out of the Republican clown car, I don’t look for relief anytime soon. But sometimes it is one’s existential duty to hold one’s nose and vote, if for no other reason than to forestall the apocalypse.

Never forget they only count the votes of the people who show up to vote. And never underestimate the ability of those working the levers of the 24/7 fear machine to carefully calibrate your level of disgust and revulsion, the better to keep you at home on your broad behind on election day. They like it that way.

And speaking of worse over bad…

Republicans campaigned on a platform of sheer Obama-hate, typically long on invective and short on specifics: the perfect offering for their red-meat base of toothless drool-cup-wearing nonagenarians, Klansmen, neo-nazis and radical Christopaths.  TV airwaves were filled with fact free invective. In fact, in some of the dark-money-funded attack ads for state candidates– STATE candidates– were cookie-cutter ads suggesting that if elected to the North Carolina, South Carolina or Virginia state  senates, Senator Fatbottom would “stand firm against the “Obama Agenda.” As if Senator Fatbottom could come within sniffing distance of the “Obama agenda,” or if Obama’s agenda could even be found. (Seeing that same spot, with different candidates slotted in, airing in several different TV markets was quite a lesson in the glories of money recast in its new role of free speech, a transfiguration made possible by your Federalist-Society -inspired Supreme Court. As well as a lesson in the spittle-flecked fury and barely hidden racism that fueled the Repug campaigns.)

Today’s news offered the specter of Rand Paul (R-Mars) opining that the Republican Congress will pass bill after bill and fast track their regressive agenda in a flurry of so much legislation that he’ll get tired of vetoing. Not so fast, Mr. Bad Toupee:  first they will have to govern. Anyone remember what Congress was like when the Dems had a majority? With a number of would-be presidential aspirants in the Congressional ranks, not to mention the various governors, former officeholders and assorted clown-car geeks who will invite themselves to the 2016 standard-bearer party, and a moving scrum on legislative priorities replete with photo ops, upcoming Republicans have set themselves up for chaos, and a circular firing squad. Can’t wait…

Congressional leaders will be pulled in opposite directions by would-be presidential contender Ted Cruz (R-Weekly World Newz) and his expanded band of Senate butt-picking finger-sniffers who dearly dream of abolishing the IRS, the EPA and the Department of Education, further eroding banking regs (because the last time we did that, it worked so well) and holding several thousand more votes to eliminate Obamacare.

But there is little I can do about any of that except sit on the porch and bark. Just remember that no matter what anyone tells you, every vote counts. They still have to count them. If they didn’t, there wouldn’t be so much effort put into voter suppression and election fraud, would there? And remember when the election is local, your vote counts even more. Who among us doesn’t care about whether their property taxes go up, whether their local school boards are elected or appointed, about local environmental issues? It is local administrations, like that of Broward County, that enact laws prohibiting feeding of the homeless. What would you do if your locality enacted a similar law?

And yes, even though Alvin Toffler famously described elections as “rituals of reassurance” designed to take the steam out of dissent from below, they still matter.

When you stay home, this happens- again, Pierce:

I hate to break this to Tom Brokaw, and to Kasie Hunt, who talked about how the Republicans know they have to “govern,” but this election couldn’t have been less of a repudiation of the Tea Party. As the cable shows signed off last night, it was dawning even on the most conventional pundits that the Republicans had not elected an escadrille of Republican archangels to descend upon Capitol Hill. It was more like a murder of angry crows. Joni Ernst is not a moderate. David Perdue is not a moderate. Thom Tillis is not a moderate. Cory Gardner — who spiced up his victory by calling himself “the tip of the spear” — is not a moderate. Tom Cotton is not a moderate. And these were the people who flipped the Senate to the Republicans. In the reliably Republican states, Ben Sasse in Nebraska is not a moderate. James Lankford in Oklahoma is not a moderate. He’s a red-haired fanatic who believes that welfare causes school shootings. Several of these people — most notably, Sasse and Ernst — won Republican primaries specifically as Tea Partiers, defeating establishment candidates. The Republicans did not defeat the Tea Party. The Tea Party’s ideas animated what happened on Tuesday night. What the Republicans managed to do was to teach the Tea Party to wear shoes, mind its language, and use the proper knife while amputating the social safety net. They did nothing except send the Tea Party to finishing school.

So don’t listen to RE: next election, vote. Get involved. Show up. Make a difference.

 

***

Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner,  author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, who quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be briefly active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary and is grateful each day for the life he has with her, and that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.

This Week in Doom

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on 3/16/2014
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

 

ze plane

“It is Nixon himself who represents that dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character that almost every country in the world has learned to fear and despise. . .  He speaks for the Werewolf in us; the bully, the predatory shyster who turns into something unspeakable, full of claws and bleeding string-warts on nights when the moon comes too close…”

― Hunter S. Thompson

Nixon may be gone, but that “dark, venal and incurably violent side of the American character” still remains alive and well, and is currently driving American foreign-policy.

Watchers of doom are notorious for scoring at home, but even those of us in the cheap seats recognize when it’s time to spring to our feet in rapt attention. So it was with this past week’s news, chock-full of chewy nuggets of doom. Center stage, we have the United States fomenting conflict with Russia over Crimea and Ukraine, led by a foreign-policy establishment stuffed full of Bush–Cheney–era neocon salts, and featuring nouveau-cowboy John Kerry acting like he’s John McCain’s Secretary of State; news that Russian oligarchs are pulling their money out of Western banks ahead of expected economic sanctions; a renegade, do nothing, neo-Confederate House of Representatives, pledged to do nothing that will aid anybody outside of its paymasters, passing a law requiring Obama to enforce federal marijuana laws in states which have decriminalized the green (previously held “tenther” scruples and advocacy for “states rights” be damned);  and, oh yes, the missing Malaysian plane, of which the absence of news hasn’t prevented wall to wall cable news coverage, thus providing proof that in the absence of information, people will just make news up.

As of this writing, residents of the Crimea are heading to polls to vote a plebiscite about whether to join Russia, or to remain an independent state loosely affiliated with Ukraine. Since Crimeans are ethnic Russians, and the fact is that Russia’s Black Sea naval bases aren’t going anywhere, the result seems foregone. When Crimea becomes a Russian protectorate, the neocons screeching like howler monkeys inside the Obama administration (where they’ve been safely salted away since the Cheney administration) will gnash their teeth, utter dark oaths, and contrive to keep the United States and Russia on the kind of collision course unseen since the end of the Cold War. The stresses will occasion a new round of demands for high-tech weapons systems, unnecessary arms and airplanes, and high-tech geeks to run them, all of which will swell the profits of arms manufacturers.

Which is exactly the point.

 Let’s be clear: assistant secretary of state for European affairs Victoria Nuland (she of “Fuck the EU” fame,  remained in place along with Robert Gates, David Petraeus, and CIA apparatchik John Brennan. Nuland’s husband,  former Reagan administration official Robert Kagan, (himself an architect the Project for the New American Century, or PNAC),  was the first to call for destabilization of unwelcome regimes in Iraq.  That Obama has allowed such neocon cockroaches to fatten themselves in the foreign-policy apparatus of his administration may prove to be the most unwelcome and  far-reaching accomplishment of his administration.  Robert Parry has recently talked about this:

The crisis in Ukraine apparently caught the President off-guard, even though elements of the U.S. government were stoking the fires of political unrest on Russia’s border. Assistant Secretary Nuland was openly advocating for Ukraine’s “European aspirations” and literally passing out cookies to anti-government protesters.

Meanwhile, the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy (essentially a three-decade-old neocon-controlled slush fund that pours money into “democracy building” or destabilization campaigns depending on your point of view), was running 65 projects in Ukraine. Last September, NED’s president Carl Gershman called Ukraine “the biggest prize” and expressed hope that “Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”

In other words, even as Obama leaned on Putin to avert more wars in the Middle East, the U.S. government was seeking to embarrass and undermine Putin at home. Not surprisingly, this double-dealing has provoked the Russian government’s suspicion and confusion, made worse because the latest U.S. media swagger in support of the coup regime in Kiev has forced Obama to puff out his own chest and do some breast-beating at Putin’s expense.

. . . which led to the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, who in 2002 voted as a senator for the United States to invade Iraq on the basis of Dick Cheney’s hand selected, cherry picked evidence, to utter this bon mot, which may itself in the fullness of time resonate as much as Neville Chamberlain’s, “peace is at hand:”

You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pre-text.”

Hilarity ensued.


(Remember the fall of the Berlin wall and the promised peace dividend? This “nuclear mafia,” this nexus of arms manufacturers, lobbyists, and general officers have claimed it for themselves and for the priorities of the Deep State.  By fomenting eternal war, they have commandeered the surplus of a nation, perverted the sense of domestic priorities, and presented a bill which is, in a literal sense, being paid for with the rapid disappearance of the middle class in this country,  and with it the “American way of life”.)  Well done, plutocrats.

We’re told that

Crimea’s referendum Sunday has been loudly condemned as illegitimate by much of the international community. As heavily armed forces apparently under Russian command have effectively taken control of the peninsula, the vote to join Russia has been widely criticized as a mere formality.

If you check up on Zerohedge, they will tell you that the Russian oligarchs, smart cookies that they are, already pulled their money out of Western banks to avoid the coming currency freeze and credit stranglehold that western sanctions will likely entail.

The Financial Times reported:

Russian companies are pulling billions out of western banks, fearful that any US sanctions over the Crimean crisis could lead to an asset freeze, according to bankers in Moscow.

Sberbank and VTB, Russia’s giant partly state-owned banks, as well as industrial companies, such as energy group Lukoil, are among those repatriating cash from western lenders with operations in the US. VTB has also cancelled a planned US investor summit next month, according to bankers.

The flight comes as last-ditch diplomatic talks between Russia’s foreign minister and the US secretary of state to resolve the tensions in Ukraine ended without an agreement.

ZH notes that the likely outcome of such sanctions will be to force China and Russia to engage far more actively in bilateral trade, and to conduct that train their own currencies, or even gold. Apparently it never occurs to those who think that the highest and best good in life is for the S&P 500 close up to realize that a country that is rich in commodities that others want– like natural gas–cares mostly commodity prices are high.

***

And the Tea Party House of Representatives, that gaggle of unmedicated, unrestrained sociopaths busy doing the bidding of the worst human beings on the planet,  managed to interrupt yet another vote repealing the Affordable Care Act in order to pass the “Enforce the Law Act,” a response to the Kenyan Usurper’s so-called “lawlessness.”

Upon the adoption of a resolution of a House of Congress declaring that the President, the head of any department or agency of the United States, or any other officer or employee of the United States has established or implemented a formal or informal policy, practice, or procedure to refrain from enforcing, applying, following, or administering any provision of a Federal statute, rule, regulation, program, policy, or other law in violation of the requirement that the President take care that the laws be faithfully executed under Article II, section 3, clause 5, of the Constitution of the United States, that House is authorized to bring a civil action in accordance with subsection (c), and to seek relief pursuant to sections 2201 and 2202 of title 28, United States Code. A civil action brought pursuant to this subsection may be brought by a single House or both Houses of Congress jointly, if both Houses have adopted such a resolution. 

Apparently DC is an irony free zone, witness the sangfroid around Kerry’s pronouncement. The fact that Obama has not accompanied the bills he had signed with “signing statements” as Bush did, explaining how he would or would not enforce the law he had just signed, regardless of Congress’s intentions apparently means nothing as long as the incumbent is still uncomfortably black.  Harry Reid pronounced this act of legislative vandalism dead on arrival, and as long as Democrats control the Senate,  such bills, the purpose of which is simply to make it easier for sitting Republiconfederates to sue the president, will go nowhere. But this is an election year.

***

And oh yeah, the plane.  As everyone who is not been hidden in a bunker on a Philippine island waiting for the end of World War II already knows, the search for a Malaysia Airline Boeing 777 has now entered its 2nd week. Flight 370 disappeared from radar screens on its announced trajectory from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The airline’s CEO said Sunday the missing  jet took off with its normal allotment of fuel  on board, and without extra fuel that could have extended its range. The plane veered  deliberately and sharply away from its planned course to parts unknown. A search of the expected crash area revealed nothing.

Over the past several days, little of substance has been revealed, and the plane is still missing. In the absence of hard information, cable “news” networks  manufactured coverage by interviewing former pilots, aviation specialists, and those willing to speculate.

Humorist Andy Borowitz had it best:

NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) — A total absence of actual information about the missing Malaysia flight is not in any way hindering twenty-four-hour coverage of the story, the major cable news networks confirmed today.

“As a news network, we regard a lack of news as a worthy challenge,” the CNN chief Jeff Zucker said. “Our people are doing a heroic job of filling the void with rumor and hearsay.”

A spokesperson for MSNBC, however, scoffed at Mr. Zucker’s assessment that there was no information about the missing plane. “We are receiving tons of erroneous and conflicting reports from authorities every hour, and the instant we get them we pass them on to our viewers,” he said.

Over at Fox, host Sean Hannity expressed confidence in his network’s coverage. “When it comes to broadcasting twenty-four hours a day with no verifiable facts, I wouldn’t trade our experience and expertise for anybody’s,” he said.

Promising that the network was working overtime to generate new unfounded conspiracy theories, Mr. Hannity said, “We’ve put our whole Benghazi team on this.”

Recent events as of this writing focus on investigation into the pilots and flight crew.  The Malaysian government has apparently concluded the light 370 was hijacked.

 

One finds it interesting that while the intelligence arm of the Deep State knows about our Amazon purchases, Google queries, porn searches, completed online forms, and every website and cat meme we retrieve, several trillion dollars of orbiting spyware has gotten them absolutely bupkus about the location of this plane. Or so they want us to believe.

The tinfoil hat types are already speculating that this was a deliberate hijacking, either by Islamic cell ready to wreak havoc upon the United States, or by the Deep State itself, the better to mount a false flag attack in the name of said Islamic caliphate. More proof  that, in the absence of news, people make up their own. A  hijacking, a hostage scenario,  the plane exploded or disintegrated, the plane was blown up by the Mossad/CIA/Al Qaeda,  the plane landed on a small, uncharted island, the plane will be repurposed an enormous flying bomb, alien abduction, a viral marketing campaign for Liam Neeson’s next movie, etc.  And they’re out there in droves on the inter-tubes.

Perhaps someone can riddle me this: there were 239 persons aboard this flight, it is reasonable to assume that at least some of them have cell phones. With every cell phone being its own transponder, why have we not heard from any of the people on this flight?

***

And now, doom fans, some bonus coverage. It is often entertaining to watch the Tea Party contort itself into a variety of yoga poses to escape the consequences of many of their utterances.  Here’s the story of one who instead chose to double down on crazy. The ongoing Republican war on women was evident for all to see over the last several years.  It continues apace, even in areas of the country from which one would expect better sense.  Here is the latest episode of Tea Party family values on display.

New Hampshire State Rep. Kyle Tasker, who is no stranger to controversy, yesterday told WMUR that he would not apologize for posting what some call an explicit graphic online. The graphic, pictured above, seemed to mock women who have suffered at the hands of sexual abuse.

“I didn’t mean that as a joke, it was a t-shirt print I thought was pretty ridiculous that someone would wear that around,” Tasker said.

Tasker is the same remarkable waste of skin who dropped one of the guns he was packing at the start of the committee meeting this past session.

State Rep. Steve Shurtleff (D-Concord), a member of the committee, said that he was sitting three seats away from Tasker in the committee room when he heard “a clang” and saw that the gun was on the floor. Shurtleff said Tasker routinely wears two guns in a shoulder holster to legislative meetings.

“I was glad it was his blood that he was giving and not someone else’s,” Shurtleff told The Huffington Post.

Reporters in the committee room confirmed the account. Josh McElveen , a reporter for WMUR posted on Twitter that Tasker had said the blood donation left him “loopy.” Tasker has not returned a call for comment.

The incident comes a year after the Tea Party-controlled House voted to allow guns in the Statehouse and the nearby Legislative Office Building. Shurtleff, a former deputy U.S. marshal, said he has been told that as many as 45 legislators, more than 10 percent of the full 400-member House, carry firearms to sessions.

“There are a couple of other members of our committee, about three or four, who are armed at any time,” Shurtleff said.

Who knew that serving the people of New Hampshire was such risky business?

What gives me pause is the thought, often attributed to Tocqueville, that “In a democracy, the people get the government that they deserve.”

 

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  Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants and articles on this site, and has been active in the Occupy movement. He lives in Southeastern Virginia.

The Week In Doom October 27, 2013

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on October 27, 2013
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

 

Virginia Freak Show, Part 2

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“Black pastors are also going to have to answer whether they serve Jesus or the Democrat Party… The black community will never prosper by betraying God and following leadership that curries the favor of the Democrat Party.” 

“I believe that the Democrat Party has become an anti-God party, I think it’s an anti-life party, I think it’s an anti-family party. And these are all things I think Christians hold to very dearly.”

― E.W. Jackson, candidate for Lieutenant Governor

 

Last week, we examined the candidacy of tea party zealot and noted vaginaphobe Ken Cuccinelli and  his campaign to become Virginia’s next governor. This week’s column we devote to his running mate, Bishop E. W. Jackson, a theocrat whose views are so extreme, so out of touch with the rote conservatism that passes for mainstream thought in the Commonwealth, that even his running mates are sprinting away from him as fast as they can.

Jackson’s opponent is Ralph Northam, and Norfolk physician and member of the Virginia Senate who won his party’s nomination for LG. Northam is a graduate of VMI and a military veteran, and has shown himself to be a pragmatic man as well as a fiscal conservative. (Disclaimer: I have met Ralph Northam and spoken with him, as part of a group representing local Occupy and Virginia Organizing, to lobby for his support against the passage of legislation intended to make uranium mining legal in Virginia’s moist and unpredictable climate. The legislation, which originated in the office of Gov. Transvaginal Ultrasound, never made it to the floor for lack of support.  The health issues of the proposal were immediately obvious to Northam, and his opposition to the proposed legislation was a done deal, probably well before we showed up.)

Thus it will be clear that my sympathies do not lie with the Republican candidate, and as a certified pisser and moaner on these pages, I make no pretense of objectivity. So now, fully disclaimed,  bum wiped, and bib adjusted, let’s take some time to get to know E. W.

Here’s his bio:

Earl Walker Jackson Sr. is the 2013 Republican nominee for lieutenant governor of Virginia. He was born January 13, 1952 in Chester, Pa. He eventually joined the U.S. Marines where he served for three years. Following the Marines, he entered the University of Massachusetts and graduated in 1975. In 1978, he graduated from Harvard Law School and continued to practice law in the Boston area for 15 years.  In 1996, Jackson joined with the Christian Coalition to head “The Samaritan Project,” an outreach program that distributed $500,000 to churches that were victim of arson. In 1998, he was consecrated a bishop and went on to establish Exodus Faith Ministries. Currently, Jackson is involved in Hampton Roads politics, serving as a member of the Chesapeake Police Advisory Board, a Trustee of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, and a Trustee for Lead Hampton Roads. In 2012, Jackson ran unsuccessfully in the Virginia’s Republican primary for the U.S. Senate.

Let’s allow the candidate to stake out his positions in his own words. Here are some views  that will held you spin up to speed:

1. On gay people: “Their minds are perverted, they’re frankly very sick people psychologically, mentally and emotionally and they see everything through the lens of homosexuality. When they talk about love they’re not talking about love, they’re talking about homosexual sex.”

2. On gay people (again): “Homosexuality is a horrible sin, it poisons culture, it destroys families, it destroys societies; it brings the judgment of God unlike very few things that we can think of… It’s an authoritarian, totalitarian spirit.”

3. Political predictions: Jackson said a few weeks before the 2012 election that black voters would “overwhelmingly” vote against Barack Obama because he had endorsed marriage equality. Over 90 percent of African Americans voted for the president.

4. On Democrats: “I liken them to slave masters who brag about how good their slaves are and how well-behaved they are but let them try to be free, let them try to escape and then you find out that they don’t really think very much of them.”

5. On Planned Parenthood and the KKK: “Planned Parenthood has been far more lethal to black lives than the KKK ever was. And the Democrat Party and the black civil rights allies are partners in this genocide.”

6. On liberals and the KKK: “Liberalism and their ideas have done more to kill black folks whom they claim so much to love than the Ku Klux Klan, lynching and slavery and Jim Crow ever did, now that’s a fact.”

7. On the Democratic Party’s agenda: “An agenda worthy of the Antichrist.”

8. On Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: “The new Marine motto: ‘The Few, the Proud, the Sexually Twisted.’ Good luck selling that to strong young males who would otherwise love to defend their country. What virile young man wants to serve in a military like that?

9. On boycotting CPAC for being too gay: “The self-proclaimed gay Republicans support hate crime laws (which will be used to bludgeon the church) and oppose the Federal Defense of Marriage Amendment, without which judges will ultimately legislate homosexual ‘marriage’—making the natural family an endangered species… What would Ronald Reagan think of CPAC today?”

10. On Obama’s Muslim sensibilities: “Obama clearly has Muslim sensibilities. He sees the world and Israel from a Muslim perspective. His construct of ‘The Muslim World’ is unique in modern diplomacy. It is said that only The Muslim Brotherhood and other radical elements of the religion use that concept. It is a call to unify Muslims around the world.”

This guy is not your garden-variety right-wing activist; this guy is special.

In his second interview with Peter LaBarbera of Americans For Truth About Homosexuality and pastor John Kirkwood, Bishop E.W. Jackson launched into another blistering tirade against gays and lesbians. The anti-gay activist said that gays and lesbians have “perverted” minds and are “very sick people psychologically, mentally and emotionally,” and bigoted against African Americans and Christians. […]

Jackson added that homosexuality “poisons culture, it destroys families, it destroys societies” and will lead to God’s judgment.

Thus E.W. Jackson has staked out  what might fairly be called  “fringe positions”  consisting of  utterances and opinions generally heard behind the tobacco barn rather than uttered in public. While it may be unusual to find fringe figures pushing arguments like these in public, it’s even more unusual for such fringe figures to be nominated by a major political party to run for statewide office after compiling such a dossier.  (This is what comes from Virginia Republicans having changed their nominating process to a caucus instead of a convention, so that the two dozen people who show up can choose whoever they want, thus reflecting the views of their joyless, airless worlds.  Never forget that Virginia is Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson country, with their respective grifts and scams generating huge revenues from widows and retirees.)

Believe it or not or not, it gets worse.  Here in the home of Jefferson, author of the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, there is this: GOP Candidate: Non-Christians Are ‘Engaged In Some Sort Of False Religion’

“Any time you say, ‘There is no other means of salvation but through Jesus Christ, and if you don’t know him and you don’t follow him and you don’t go through him, you are engaged in some sort of false religion,’ that’s controversial. But it’s the truth,” Jackson said at the Restoration Fellowship Church in Strasburg, Va., according to a recording obtained by the Washington Post. “

And then there’s the matter of his record. People always seem to be surprised that, in this age of the intertubez, people would actually check the utterances that you allege are fact when running for public office.  Apparently Jackson claimed he had been the Boston Red Sox chaplain. Uhh ––Not so much.  Also, the allegation that he grew up poor as a foster child, had to carry a chamber pot at night, and when hungry, was happy to feast on the occasional mayonnaise sandwich.  His own foster sister called bullshit:

[V]ivid details of his escape from deprivation in a Chester, Pa., foster home — the emotional core of his stump speech — have been challenged by two women who were there. […]

There was also no indoor bathroom, Jackson said, and as the youngest of the foster children, “I brought the pot down.” He was last in line for the once-a-week bath in a galvanized tub.

“I’m like, ‘What house was he in?’ ” said Nadine Molet, the adopted daughter of foster parents Willie and Rebecca Molet.

Nadine Molet shared the same roof with Jackson and said the bathroom was on the first floor, beyond the well-stocked kitchen. “I never remember missing a meal. We always had fatback, cornbread, pancakes. We always took a lot of food to church.”

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And you may be surprised to learn that government programs have done more harm to blacks in slavery ever did. Slavery denial seems to be richly in vogue  in right wing circles these days,  and clearly blacks, even candidates for office get to play along as well!

“In 1960, most black children were raised in two-parent, monogamous families. By now, by this time, we have only 20 percent of black children being raised in a two-parent, monogamous families with the married man and woman raising those children,” Jackson said. “It wasn’t slavery that did that, it was government that did that. It tried to solve problems that only God can solve and that only we as human beings can solve.”

Over the course of the campaign, the public has learned that Jackson doesn’t believe in evolution, claimed Planned Parenthood “killed unborn black babies by the tens of millions” and thinks President Barack Obama has a “Muslim perspective.”

A lot of these remarkable ideas get tested at the Family Research Council’s “Values Voter Summit”  each year. This is where people who spend eight hours a day watching Fox News, and have Hannity and Rush locked in on their car radios go to congratulate one another on the excellence of their intellectual tailoring, the splendor of their prejudices, and the superb aroma of one another’s farts.

I would love to believe that their time is past.  Consider that this year’s luminaries included Michele Bachmann,  who spoke under the cloud of that little ethics problem stemming from her presidential bid, Bishop Jackson, whose resume we’re discussing here, and star of the moment Sen. Ted Cruz, he of the negative approval ratings. Not to mention Allen West, Mike Huckabee, Glenn Beck, Joseph Farah, and a host of lesser lights whose business plans depend upon the continuous extraction of FRN’s from the gullible. Whatever you may have read about this summit, it was a recitation of the same failed agenda and stale ideas that get recycled every year, but which do really well for fund-raising purposes. Hence their utility. Reporter Paul Rauschenbush put it thus:

But it’s not just the people, it is really the ideas and priorities of the Values Voter Summit that seem tired and tone deaf to the concerns of most Americans. For these faith voters, guns are still really good and gays are still really bad. And yes, again, religious freedom (read Christian privilege) is under attack — which brings us back to the gays and their desire to marry and women’s right to control their own bodies.

Every agenda item has a rehashed ’80s feel about it; and, especially around gay marriage, a sense of inevitable failure and a willful blindness to the recent movement that has happened among faith leaders on gay inclusion. . .

At the time of their expensive and highly produced meeting, there are over 46 million Americans who are living at or below the poverty line, yet the Republican controlled house voted to cut 40 billion dollars from food stamps; there are thousands of law abiding Dreamers who are desperately waiting for immigration reform, yet the Republicans have stalled efforts to welcome them into our country; and during these months when we have gun tragedy over gun tragedy with young people slaughtered with assault rifles, the Republican party stops any effort at sensible gun laws.

The Values Voter Summit doesn’t care about this at all! It is easier to stick with how football is under attack than to deal with the real suffering of Americans who need to hear some hope that we are a moral and just country because right now it is hard to remember that.

It is in this hothouse, where news and opinion is manufactured to order, and where polling firms tell their clients exactly what they want to hear (reality be damned)  that the platform planks of the future of American conservatism are being manufactured. To her credit, Rachel Maddow has done an exceptional job of shining light into these dark and fetid corners,  as the GOP’s policy positions become an obsession with sodomy, voodoo, and Satanism.

This is really is what the Republican Party is like right now. Even after the 2012 elections, and the supposed nationwide tip-to-tail diagnosis that the party needed to re-brand, maybe take it a little easy on the fire and brimstone hot sauce, at least for the next few elections—even after all of that, this is who they are. They are more like this now than they were last year, and than they were the year before that. This is not the Beltway-narrative media about what’s going on in American politics right now, but it is exactly what is going on, if you watch how they behave and who they are and what they say in public.”

This is why what they say matters. Most likely we only have a couple of more weeks to enjoy the candidacy of E. W. Jackson. But it is essential to remember that with every I-can’t-believe-he-said-that statement, with every outrage against decency and good sense, with every assertion that promises intellectual or emotional violence to those who disagree, there is a fifth column within this country who nod in approbation while opening their wallets.  Candidates like Jackson have successfully pushed the bounds of acceptable discourse, not to mention those of decency. And what we should take from Jackson’s candidacy is that he speaks for a sizable minority of culture warriors within this country who promise to do anything, and to use any means necessary, to get their way, witness the tactics of the tea party (read Fascist Front) insurgency in Congress regarding the shutdown.

It remains to be seen whether demography is destiny and if the tide will turn on these people. For now, Jackson represents the true believers. Do not sleep on them.

As a postscript, Alex Seitz-Wald reported in Salon, “Glenn Beck has called E.W. Jackson, ‘one of the biggest truth‑tellers I’ve ever seen, one of the bravest guys I’ve ever seen.’”  Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

 

The Snapback

Off the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler

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Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  October 21, 2013

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Well, at least the poobahs cleared a path to the annual orgy of Christmas, which, along with the S & P 500, have become proxies for the American economy. Lately, the Christmas season starts directly after Halloween, so, the whole fourth quarter of the year becomes a circus of ceremonial distractions. In the background, though, the nation grinds toward anguish, measured in soiled Justin Bieber dolls deposited in the landfills.

     Historians who look back on these strange years of suspended consequence will marvel at how this empire of grift kept its wheels turning after its engine died. Being on the downhill slope is often enough to keep anything going. One might think the young people of this land would be seething at the eclipse of their futures, but it seems they have been successfully lobotomized with cell phones — when the endorphin hits lag between text messages, they can watch sitcoms, or porn.

    You can be sure there will be a snapback from all this drift and anomie, and when it comes, the snap will be savage. Like the US economy, the Republican Party is dead but hasn’t gotten the news. It killed itself just as the Whigs did in the years before the Civil War, by splitting up into factions — one faction of “know-nothings” preoccupied with scape-goats opposed to a faction of sclerotic parasitical fat-cats too timid and greedy to engage in the emergencies of the day.

     The Tea Party faction should change its name to the Cracker Party because it represents the interests of white southerners who are too dumb to know what these emergencies amount to. They are really more comfortable with the supernatural, hence their fondness for religions based on snake-handling, visitations of the dead, and motor sports. Personally, I believe they will eventually contrive to form their own break-away Cracker Republic and attempt to re-enact the Civil War. They will fail, and starve, and find themselves back in an even worse long-term depression than Dixieland experienced from 1860 to 1960, in a de-suburbanized wasteland of bare subsistence farming. Their highest art will be soup-making.

     The non-Tea Party Republicans will just shrivel and vanish out of sheer irrelevance. This leaves the Democrats to become the focus of intense ire as they attempt to ‘splain why the nation’s affairs went to shit on their watch. A lot of them will end up being executed and plundered by the new kid on the block, the Savior Party, led by some charismatic character willing to ignore procedural protocols to clear away the debris left by his-or-her predecessors. Alas, the juice will not be there to permit the Savior to really control a territory as large as the continental USA. By juice, I mean money and oil. Thus, the nation enters its new dark age.

    Who knows when that will get underway in earnest, though I think the folks who say 2014 are onto something. If you believe in cycles, which I tend to, then it rhymes nicely with 1814 and 1914, two watersheds when one epoch ended and another truly began. 2014 would logically be the year that China tells America to go piss up a rope. The message would be sent on the back of the envelope containing $2.7 trillion in official American debt paper. As Ole Blue Eyes used to say, this could be the start of something big.

      Sentient observers of the current scene are clearly frustrated by the remarkable homeostasis that seems to rule the scene, these horse-latitudes of history where the air is still and nothing moves and the mind is exhausted by watchful waiting. Things will get lively, soon enough, so enjoy the holiday quarter of the year which is so soon upon us. Gorge on candy corn. When you recover from that, roast a turkey. Then make a nice figgy pudding. Then pop some bubbly and salute your loved ones. Then gird your loins for the new age of consequence.

 

***

James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

This Week In Doom October 20, 2013

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on October 20, 2013
Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

 

 

Virginia Freak Show

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“If you go back to Abraham Lincoln in the Civil War, he looked at the Civil War as a sort of a national penance for slavery; the evil of slavery and letting it go on. And the founders knew how bad it was. We have other things in this country today and abortion is one of them”    

― Ken Cuccinelli

 

It is been a while since this weekly exercise in pedantry has considered Virginia politics.  Virginia is one of two states (New Jersey the other) who elect governors in odd years outside of the four-year presidential election cycle. We have alluded in the past to the antics of some campaigners; time now to take the gloves off and let folks see the shiny and glistening underbelly of Virginia politics,shimmering like that of a reptile.

Investigation for this summary  uncovered such a rich treasure trove that it is necessary to break it into two parts. This week we’ll consider the governor’s race. Next week we’ll take on the LG race  featuring E. W. Jackson, an ideologue’s ideologue whose excesses have attracted national attention. Suffice it to say that when even the extremists find you extreme and the Tea Party candidates run away from you, you have staked out exotic new ground. And that’s Virginia.

First let’s consider the Democratic candidate for governor, Terry McAuliffe. Wikipedia says thus:

 

Terence Richard “Terry” McAuliffe  (born February 9, 1957) is an American businessman, fundraiser, politician, and former chairman of the Democratic Party. He was chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2005, was co-chairman of President Bill Clinton‘s 1996 re-election campaign, and was chairman of Hillary Clinton‘s 2008 presidential campaign. He was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic nomination in the 2009 Virginia gubernatorial election and is the Democratic nominee in the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election.

 

McAuliffe is a political animal and a consummate fundraiser.  In a 1999 interview with the New York Times he said, “I’ve met all my business contacts through politics. It’s all interrelated.” He also acknowledged that much of the success of his business dealings stemmed through his relationship with the Clintons. No surprise there. One does not rise to become the head of the national Democratic Party without the ability to raise significant amounts of money. And he has; he got the DNC out of debt, and has raised money to support past Democratic campaigns in Virginia. Many attribute McAuliffe’s support for Tim Kaine’s successful 2005 Virginia gubernatorial run as demonstrating the Democrats’ viability in southern states after the 2004 presidential election.

Like many successful politicians, McAuliffe has had some remarkable runs of “business luck.”  In the 80s, McAuliffe lost $800,000 invested in his father-in-law’s bank, American Pioneer Savings. It was seized by the Resolution Trust Corporation, but McAuliffe brokered a deal with two pension funds to buy American Pioneer at fire sale prices. The funds put in $37 million, and he put $100 into the deal, but nevertheless received a 50% equity share. He also made a great deal of money in fiber-optic company Global Crossing, but there is no (indictable) crime in that. (Virginia Sen. Mark Warner invested in the cellular phone industry in the late 70s when it was beginning, and made his own boodle.)

(Full disclosure: Contrary is working as a local campaign aide and volunteer for McAuliffe’s campaign.)   Notwithstanding, we find this candidate dyspeptic and his record thin. His reputation as a bagman for the Clintons, however, remains unsurpassed, and he has demonstrated an astonishing track record in raising money for Democratic causes. McAuliffe’s may not be the most luminous political resume in the world;  yet the candidate looks like the second coming of  George Washington compared to his opponent.

Republican gubernatorial candidate, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, center, gestures during a press conference at the Capitol in Richmond, Va., on Oct. 15.

Ken Cuccinelli  is that opponent. Suffice it to say that his ascendancy to the governorship would be analogous to Ted Cruz becoming President of the United States. Mull that over for a minute. Here’s what Wikipedia says:

 

Kenneth Thomas “Ken” Cuccinelli II  (born July 30, 1968) is the current Attorney General of Virginia and the Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia in the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election. He was elected as Virginia’s 46th Attorney General in the November 2009 general election. From 2002 until January 16, 2010 he was a Republican member of the Senate of Virginia, representing the 37th district in Fairfax County. He holds degrees in engineering, law and commercial policy, and co-founded a small law firm.

 

Cuccinelli promises to do for Virginia with Scott Walker has done for Wisconsin, Rick Snyder for Michigan  and Paul LePage for Maine:  Make the state a laughingstock and object of derision for the rest of the country. Let’s take a brief tour of the candidate’s record as attorney general of Virginia.

In 2010, Cuccinelli  served papers to investigate documents related to Michael Mann, a climate researcher working at the University of Virginia. (Mann has since had the good sense to flee Virginia and now works at Penn State.) He based his complaint on a fraud charge, although he never provided any evidence of wrongdoing. Mann was found  correct on all coounts according to the National Academy of Sciences, and the consensus was clear that the document sift was a McCarthy-esque witchhunt.

But victory for the university came at a price. The fight cost UVa $570,000, which it paid out of private funds. Not to mention the expense to the taxpayers of Virginia. 

But the AG was just getting started. He filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. To the dismay of tenthers everywhere, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals found that Virginia could not nullify a federal law. Ka-ching. He joined other states in filing an amicus brief opposing the federal government’s lawsuit challenging repressive Arizona immigration laws. Ka-ching.  He sought to clarify gay-rights nondiscrimination by prohibiting Virginia public colleges and universities from including “sexual orientation” as a protected class. Ka-ching.

And then there was the front that he opened against abortion clinics, using the Virginia Board of Health as a lever. As attorney general, Cuccinelli strongly urged the Board to approve a new set of rules for abortion clinics that will force them to undergo expensive and medically unnecessary renovations in order to hold onto their licenses. Ka-ching. The clinics will have to expand the size of their janitor’s closets, for instance, and build spacious staff lounges with showers — an endeavor that some of them will not be able to afford.  As a state senator, he proposed a fetal personhood  amendment, yet wonders why he is polling so badly among women.

He also told the state Board of Health that if they disagreed with his rulings regarding abortion clinics, that the AG’s office would not be responsible for representing them should litigation occur, and they would be on their own nickel. (This after his boss, Gov. Transvaginal Ultrasound, signed a  bill requiring women to have an mandatory ultrasound prior to having a legal abortion.) This bill, and an even more punitive one before it, caused women activists all over the state to descend upon Richmond in protest. (Meanwhile, safely out of public view, the Governor’s Uranium Task Force was quietly working to change existing law and to “draft regulations”  so that they might be able to introduce uranium mining in Virginia. A skillful head fake, but ultimately unsuccessful thanks to the efforts of thousands of activists, bloggers, and volunteers who showed up at hearings, wrote letters, and made sufficient noise to prevent this existential nightmare of a bill from actually reaching the floor of the legislature.)

Recently, Cuccinelli has gone on record as being surprised God hasn’t punished America for abortions.

“Really, given that God does judge nations, it’s amazing that abortion has run as far and foully as it has, without what I would consider to be a greater imposition of judgment on this country,” Cuccinelli said. “Who knows what the future holds?” 

You can’t make this stuff up. “The Cooch” seems to be the mid-Atlantic distributor for the sorts of political opinion we typically see from members of the Fascist Front (formerly known as the Tea Party): he sponsored a number of bills discouraging abortion (ka-ching), to revoke citizenship rights for children born in the US to illegal immigrants  (ka-ching), to  deny unemployment benefits to workers unable to speak English (ka-ching), and of course that holy of holies, lower taxes.  Oh, and did we say guns?  Guns, guns, and more guns. This is Virginia, after all: now we Virginians have the ability to carry a concealed handgun into a restaurant and club, the restriction against having been overturned by the Cooch’s efforts. (After all, who doesn’t feel  safer when guns and alcohol mix?  We’re sure that half million dollars from the NRA had nothing to do with it– ka-ching, ka-ching, ka-ching!)

 

And then there was the quest to restore Virginia’s anti-sodomy law (ka-ching). Cuccinelli alleged that the law was necessary to chase child predators. Fortunately the Supreme Court denied Cuccinelli’s appeal, and has at least temporarily kept the AG’s nose from poking under the blankets in Virginia bedrooms.

 

And then there’s the garden-variety corruption of the Star Scientific scandal.  Seems that Star Scientific’s chief executive, Jonnie R Williams, is a very generous guy, and he showered both the Cooch and his boss, Gov. Transvaginal Ultrasound, with many many gifts.  (The stench from the scandal has, at least temporarily, stalled the once-rising political ambitions of Gov. Ultrasound himself.) This past  July,  after  an investigation conducted with the rigor generally reserved for Goldman Sachs investigating itself, the state prosecutor announced that Cooch had not violated any law. You can check Google and enter “Virginia campaign finance laws”  and you will find that the most frequent modifier is “lax.”

 

To review the bidding, Ken Cuccinelli has used Virginia taxpayer money to prosecute a far right agenda in the courts, mostly unsuccessfully. This culture warrior has waged war against climate change research, birth control, abortion, and opposed keeping guns out of schools, bars and churches.  With positions like these, he has attracted some very colorful supporters.

While Ken Cuccinelli may be the top law enforcement officer in the Commonwealth of Virginia, that hasn’t stopped him from taking campaign contributions for his gubernatorial bid from a Religious Right activist linked to a kidnapping investigation. Blue Virginia notes that Cuccinelli donor Philip Zodhiates of Response Unlimited is tied to the Lisa Miller kidnapping case.

Zodhiates was named in a RICO lawsuit [PDF] filed by Janet Jenkins, whose former partner Lisa Miller kidnapped their daughter, Isabella, and fled to a Mennonite community in Central America. Before leaving the country with Isabella, Miller broke off a civil partnership with Jenkins after she renounced homosexuality and moved to Virginia and joined the church founded by Jerry Falwell, who also established Liberty University. Miller abducted Isabella after refusing a court order to transfer custody of their daughter to Jenkins.

No word as to whether the Cooch has returned Phil’s check.  And then there is the remarkable case of Cuccinelli surrogate Jim Bob Duggar comparing the US To Nazi Germany. Why? Bet you can guess.

Campaigning for the GOP ticket in Virginia, Duggar attempted to “clarify” his remarks by affirming his comparison of the current state of the US to the Holocaust: 

“It is shocking that Cuccinelli would accept the support of a man who last week publicly compared the United States to Nazi Germany and the Holocaust,” said McAuliffe’s campaign spokesman Josh Schwerin.

Asked about his earlier decision to employ the holocaust metaphor Duggar did not back down.

“Let me clarify,” he said. “We have since 1973 (when Roe v. Wade was decided) had 55 million abortions, so what we have going on is a baby holocaust,” Duggar said.

 

Like most fantasts of the extreme right, Cuccinelli knows how to use religious right propaganda and the fear card to open the fundraising spigots:  A campaign fundraising appeal asserted speculation that “clergy might face imprisonment for teaching the Christian morals from the pulpit” and that homeschooling might be outlawed.

 

We live in a nation in which our inalienable rights to life and liberty face real threats. Our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, second amendments rights, parental rights, and property rights are all slowly being strangled by our federal government.

My oldest daughter, Alie, left a few weeks ago to begin her second year of college. She told me recently she might want to home school her own children one day. I wonder if Alie will even be allowed to home school her children if she desires to do so.  President Obama’s Attorney General, Eric Holder, recently argued in federal court that parents do not have a fundamental right to home school their own children.

 

Jesus. Cue the black helicopters.  Really?

The recent kabuki in DC regarding the shutdown of the government also did the candidate no favors.  During that time, he was outspent 2 to 1 by McAuliffe.  And worse for him, his poll numbers took an additional hit. Southeast Virginia is home to nearly 200,000 federal workers, and many contractors, veterans, and civilians employed by military commands. Having their paychecks delayed so that tea party types could parade their peculiar brand of brinksmanship did not sit well in many quarters.

 

Virginia was one of the top states impacted by the shutdown — with hundreds of thousands of federal workers, contractors, and military service members and retirees in the state. And a majority (54 percent) in the poll blames Republicans for the shutdown. Just 31 percent of likely voters blame President Barack Obama.

Four-in-10 – 39 percent – said either they or a family member has been affected by the shutdown, whether it’s employment, services or benefits.

Many say the shutdown will have an impact on their vote — 38 percent of registered voters said it would have a major impact on it; 21 percent said it would have a minor one. 

 

Ironies abound.  That Tea Party policies should adversely affect a Tea Party candidate is just one of those delicious irony is that makes life worth living.

As a result, and in the face of huge amounts of right-wing money poured into the airways of the state, most polls showed McAuliffe ahead between 7 and 10 points in a three-way race (the third  being libertarian Robert Sarvis.)   As The Cooch has trailed, money has poured in, with the result that the campaign has taken a darker, nastier turn.

The battle between a Tea Party favorite and a former top Democratic official to become the next governor of Virginia has set a record – more out-of-state money has poured into this race than any gubernatorial campaign in the state’s history.

In the contest between Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe, about 70 percent of the nearly $30 million raised for the campaigns has come from outside Virginia, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a non-profit group that monitors spending in state politics.

The largesse underscores the thinking among political operatives, lobbyists and special interest groups: When it comes to elections this year, Virginia is the only game in town. The biggest U.S. political contest of 2013, to take place November 5, is widely seen as a testing ground for next year’s congressional mid-term elections.

It is the first time in the state’s history that a gubernatorial candidate has raised more than half his funds outside Virginia, the Virginia Public Access Project said, referring to both Cuccinelli and McAuliffe. The list of donors includes special interest groups such as Planned Parenthood and the National Rifle Association, and hedge fund executives from as far afield as New York and California.

 


Thus Virginia is the Spanish Civil War for the 2014 midterm elections?  But Virginia is hard to predict. Once a Republican stronghold, it is now considered “purple.” Fewer voters turn up during off year elections, which amplifies the impact of right-wing voters, who are busily digging up graves to ensure that they vote all of theirs. Donations have fueled negative campaign advertising, sparking fears that  an increasingly nasty tone could turn off voters and depress turnout on election day, the results of which would also redound to the right.  Also, although Sarvis is showing up with about 8 to 10% of the vote according to polls, some may get to the ballot box and decide to choose otherwise. That vote would expectedly skew toward Cuccinelli.

We have a few more weeks with which to pollute the airwaves, and for media companies to rake in political advertising dollars. Indeed, political advertising is the crack cocaine of the media business: a third-quarter infusion of funds that makes billing problems disappear, at least for a while.  Next week, we’ll consider the improbable candidacy of E. W. Jackson, who deserves his own column. If Ken Cuccinelli is the freak show of Virginia politics, Jackson is the sideshow where a barker urges you to go inside a filthy tent to watch a pencil-necked geek bite the head off a chicken… a degrading and horrific act you find immediately distasteful, but ultimately oddly entertaining.

 

That Was The Week That Was in Doom June 16, 2013

From the Keyboard of Surly1

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on June 16, 2013

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Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

This Father’s Day edition caps a week that moved the story of Edward Snowden, and a host of stories examining his bona fides, and speculation about the provenance of the story worthy of a convention hall full of conspiracy theorists. A week in which we saw the collective IQ of Virginia dip a dozen points as Republicans nominated for Lieutenant Governor a man  live and direct from the ninth century, a process enabled by the apathy of Virginians . . . and, on the subject of apathy, Sibel Edmonds placed the blame for the NSA whistleblower flap squarely where it belongs.  and others speculate on whether the CIA is punching a hole in the NSA… And while we sleep, the Trans-Pacific partnership continues to be negotiated behind closed doors, safely out of sight of  mere Muppets,  interested citizens, and  other annoyances such as elected representatives.

_________________________________________________________________________

E.W. Jackson runs for Lt. Governor in Virginia. 

Meet E.W. Jackson, the gift that just keeps on giving in Virginia politics:

 

E.W. Jackson burst on the national stage a couple of weeks ago when the republicans chose him to run as Lieutenant Governor in a secret seance held under Kate Obenshain’s skirts, and elected him in a burst of enthusiasm equivalent to when they load up the T-shirt cannon for the second time at a NASCAR event. It cleared out the entire trailer park. Given that only two states are choosing governors in an off year election, a disproportionate amount of attention will be paid to races in Virginia and New Jersey, so you’ll be hearing more from this quarter.. In Virginia, Koch Brothers franchisee Ken Cuccinelli is taking a break from harassing climate scientists, taking the part of natural gas drillers against Virginia citizens and defending himself and current Gov. Transvaginal Ultrasound from ethics charges to get this Teanderthal selected as candidate for LG. Let’s hear from the Rev. himself:

 

In a video posted to YouTube last September, the minister and activist urged black Christians to reject the “ridiculous lies” of the “Democrat Party.”

“It is time to end the slavish devotion to the Democrat Party,” Jackson says in the clip. “They have insulted us, used us and manipulated us. They have saturated the black community with ridiculous lies… They think we are stupid and that these lies will hold us captive while they violate everything we believe as Christians.

He continues, “The Democrat Party has created an unholy alliance between certain so-called civil rights leaders and Planned Parenthood, which has killed unborn black babies by the tens of millions. Planned Parenthood has been far more lethal to black lives than the KKK ever was. And the Democrat Party and the black civil rights allies are partners in this genocide.”

In reviewing the bidding, we find that this likely successor to the leadership post vacated by Michele Bachmann asserts not only  that Planned Parenthood has killed more blacks that the KKK and that BHO has a “Muslim perspective” on world events, but also, as Ron Popeil might say, “There’s More!!”

Earlier this week, Jackson was criticized after a post for the National Review revealed that his book also suggests yoga could lead to satanic possession.

“When one hears the word meditation, it conjures an image of Maharishi Yoga talking about finding a mantra and striving for nirvana,” Jackson wrote in his book. “The purpose of such meditation is to empty oneself. [Satan] is happy to invade the empty vacuum of your soul and possess it. Beware of systems of spirituality which tell you to empty yourself. You will end up filled with something you probably do not want.”

But his thoughts on yoga and evolution are merely some of Jackson’s more unconventional opinions. In the past, the candidate hasargued that recognition of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community “makes him feel ikky.”

So far, the candidate has refused to backtrack on any of his statements.

“I don’t have anything to rephrase or to apologize for,” Jackson said in May. “I would just say, people should not paint me as one-dimensional. I have a whole lot of concerns.”

 

 

A reasonable person might think that would have been enough for one week. But this is Virginia, and  reasonable people have left the building, witness Rev. Jackson’s candidacy. The good Rev. took it upon himself this Thursday to hold a rambling, barely coherent press conference in which he unburdened his soul and shared a host of youthful indiscretions, the better to inoculate himself against use by his political opponents or the “lame stream” press.

He referenced his bankruptcy proceedings, late payment of bills, drug use, employment irregularity and having taken classes at Harvard Divinity school, although Harvard has no record of that. His campaign advice goes, that is probably pretty good: inoculate yourself against the inevitable, attempt to disarm your opponents, and bury this information in a part of the electoral cycle where people not paying attention to statewide electoral races may likely forget come November. Effective advice, yet a bit cynical.   And as long as we’re being cynical, the selection of a black minister with extremely conservative views will certainly help to dilute the effectiveness of the black religious vote in the Commonwealth this November.

 

It remains to be seen what comes of this election, yet it is fair to say that the Cuccinelli–Jackson ticket is as extreme a Republican ticket as I have seen in my lifetime, and  Virginia is certainly capable of offering up some rare specimens indeed.  never forget that this is the state that houses “Pat” Robertson, who still continues to host a television program in which he offers up adventures from the land of Alzheimer’s, including suggesting that women who buy used clothing may be setting themselves up for demonic possession. We shit you not.

 

Do not sleep on this guy, as Charlie Pierce would say. Interestingly, if ominously, a favorability poll offered by local paper has people breaking about 50-50 for or against Rev. Jackson’s candidacy.  This again in Pat Robertson country. Early reports from the Monticello area have it that the body of Thomas Jefferson has spun dervishes enough to bore halfway to China.

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NSA Leakery Leakery Dock

Extreme-Surveillance

So much has been written about the Edward Snowden NSA whistleblower story, it is hard to know where to begin. The story moved last weekend. Since then, confusion has been sowed, strange bedfellows made, sides taken, and the narrative has switched from focus on the PRISM program to the bona fides of the leaker; is he a high school dropout, is he a traitor, why China as a destination, does he really eat the main course before his salad, and a continued effort by the mainstream media to reframe the issue and, in 43’s  inimitable phrase, “catapult the propaganda.”

Part of the real story of skewered by the fawning corporate press is that a half 1 million people, most of them private contractors, had the security clearances to be sifting through this information. And many of them work for foreign companies.

Washington’s Blog reports in 2008 that foreign companies have had key roles scooping up Americans’ communications for the NSA:

At least two foreign companies play key roles in processing the information.

Specifically, an Israeli company called Narus processes all of the information tapped by AT &T (AT & T taps, and gives to the NSA, copies of all phone calls it processes), and an Israeli company called Verint processes information tapped by Verizon (Verizon also taps, and gives to the NSA, all of its calls).

Business Insider notes today:

The newest information regarding the NSA domestic spying scandalraises an important question: If America’s tech giants didn’t ‘participate knowingly’ in the dragnet of electronic communication, how does the NSA get all of their data?

One theory: the NSA hired two secretive Israeli companies to wiretap the U.S. telecommunications network.

In April 2012 Wired’s James Bamford — author of the book “The Shadow Factory: The NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America” — reported that two companies with extensive links to Israel’s intelligence service provided hardware and software the U.S. telecommunications network for the National Security Agency (NSA).

By doing so, this would imply, companies like Facebook and Google don’t have to explicitly provide the NSA with access to their servers because major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) such as AT&T and Verizon already allows the U.S. signals intelligence agency to eavesdrop on all of their data anyway.

Who knows how this will play out? What if anybody knows the bona fides of whistleblowers, Sibel Edmonds certainly does.

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America: A Deteriorating Nation of Denial & Apathy

One of the more thought provoking and sobering articles that sheds light and responsibility upon the political dimension of the problems we face, penned on the Boiling Frogs site by Sibel Edmonds. (A big tip o’ the Surly Crown of Thorns to Golden Oxen for posting it in the Forum.) The NSA whistleblower flap focuses the popular attention on the Eternal Security State, yet all that has been and will be done turns on policy. As does the imminent climate change/destruction we surely face, as our political institutions remain captive to the forces of capital and immune to public comment.

Most of us, especially the over-50 crowd, can see ourselves in Edmonds’ words:

Once upon a time, for over a decade, I was that relentless naïve sucker under the illusion of America the land of the pretty much free and the nation more-or-less governed by the Constitution.

Then I stopped-being that sucker.

That’s right. I stopped talking about that enemy sympathizer called the US Federal Courts. I ceased cheering for entities filing lawsuits, year after year, in pursuit of illusionary justice coming out of imaginary Halls of Justice.

Edmonds describes here quest for the real enemy. Here is what she found:

Sadly, the real answer is not what the bewildered and irate activists are willing to hear or acknowledge.

It is much easier to stare at the beasts in the forms of palaces and presidential mansions, carved majestic marble-granite courts, congresses or parliaments, media conglomerates.

.   .   .
I find myself standing alone when I now answer the questions directed at me following the endless atrocities and scandals. I am no longer the provider of the popular answer. My answer is one of the most unpopular, if not the most, in the eyes and ears of the public . . . there will be no hope of any meaningful action or changes so long as we stick with our national pride.

The enemy has been us; we the people. We the majority – in denial. Our national apathy. Our large majority’s denial, indifference; apathy. Apathy is a must ingredient for any police state, authoritarian regime, dictatorship, for abuses of power, for corruption, national atrocities, genocide … Some ingredients may be decreased, increased or substituted, but one key ingredient remains constant: Public Apathy.

Like a cat chasing its tail, like Don Quixote chasing the many windmills, we can target and point fingers at kings, presidents, statesmen, judges and media puppetries. In the end we’ll end up with our own tail, we’ll arrive at the windmill of our own. We will end up with us the people. And that is the ultimate enemy we must take on and out: Our very own denial and apathy.

surveillance-cameras

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Add Surveillance State

Regarding the unfolding NSA leak story, some informed insight: “We are dealing with a complex situation with fragmentary information being dribbled to us by the media out of context. Eventually we’ll presumably have a more complete understanding of the various facets involved.”

And this from AlterNet:

Americans may be upset about the latest revelations in the government’s ability to spy on citizens via their online lives, but no one should be surprised. We’ve underestimated and overlooked many key aspects of the government’s ability to track our lives for years.

The bottom line, which resonates most strongly among civil liberties advocates on the left and conservative libertarians on the right, is not just the loss of privacy but also the growing power of the state to target and oppress people who it judges to be critics and enemies. That list doesn’t just include foreign terrorists of the al-Qaeda mold, or even the Chinese government that has  stolen the most advanced U.S. weapon plans; it also includes domestic whistleblowers, protesters and journalists—all of whom have been  targeted by the Obama administration Justice Department.
See the incredibly sobering list here.

 

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HOW THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP WOULD IMPACT YOU

In a recent exchange on the Diner Forum, agelbert wrote:

Remember when Bush was in Iraq in secret and they announced all kinds of details of the Turkey dinner that Condolezza Rice was invited to at the RANCH just beforehand? I do. I went back and read how the Washington Post and the New York Times MADE SURE people read this inane bit of “”innocent” Thanksgiving food prattle. . .  Whenever something sounds like a non sequitur, they are confusing you to get your mind off something else. Just like the big flap about a “leak” now and Obama’s “endangered term” made me ask, WHAT ARE THEY HIDING? They are trying to hide the fact that the empire is LOSING in SYRIA by making as much noise as possible in an attempt to blackmail Obama to start the war. I checked the news within ONE day of this “leak” shit. Low and behold, Assad is wiping the death squad strongholds out. Panic time for the MATRIX. Bring out another “scandal”.

If more people did the critical thinking leg work to see how the game is played, less people would be taken in by it.

And I replied:

The only way to decode the MSM is the way you watch a magician: watch what he is doing with his off or away hand. Consider everything you arre seeing a distraction, if you want to understand how the trick works. Trouble in the middle east? Play the runaway bride story hard. And the Natalie Holloway story got the better part of a year of play…

In Virginia, the administration of Gov. Transvaginal Ultrasound and his AG made significant war on women last year, occasioning a lot of counter demonstration and activist effort. I counseled Contrary, “Wait for the other shoe to drop.” The other shoe (s) were plans to privatize road/tunnel construction projects and the Port of Virginia, plus the effort to end an existing ban on Uranium mining, essentially selling off the commons to commercial (and foreign) interests.

The politics of distraction.

The reason they do it, again and again, is because it works. While we are distracted with the NSA story, and the bona fides and Providence of Edward Snowden, a much bigger story is unfolded behind our backs, safely out of sight prying eyes or ears. And that is the Trans–Pacific partnership, now gestating in meeting rooms the same way an alien gestates inside an unsuspecting victim in a Ridley Scott movie.
It is currently being negotiated behind closed doors by officials from the United States and 10 other countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. Japan is slated to join in July.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been under negotiation for 5 years.

Although it is called a “free trade” agreement, the TPP is not really mainly about trade.Of the TPP’s 29 draft chapters, only 5 deal with traditional trade issues. Most would set rules on non-trade matters that affect our daily lives: food safety, internet freedom, medicine costs, job off-shoring, financial regulation, and more.
Our domestic policies would be required to comply with the TPP rules.

Here’s another issue you probably wouldn’t want to sleep on. Here is a good general purpose website to acquaint us with the issues.
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These are the big issues for the week.  There are doubtless others, but sweet Jesus, enough is enough. Tracking this Snowden/NSA story is truly to walk through a hall of mirrors.

If you’ve read this far, you probably noticed that satire has outstripped reality. The foreign governments and press offices often mistake headlines from The Onion for the real thing. In a continuing effort to offer valuable public service, here’s a collection of stories Not from The Onion:

Until next week, then.

 

The Week That Was In Doom June 2, 2013

From the Keyboard of Surly1

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on June 2, 2013

http://991.com/newGallery/That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964.jpg

Discuss this article here in the Diner Forum.

Time once again to indulge ourselves with a survey of doom–and doom–related news culled from the seedier corners of the Internet. It was a week in which Occupy Wall Street retook liberty Square, in sympathy with Turkish occupiers, while in Greece a resurgent Golden Dawn reared its fascist head in Athens streets. Giant storms in Oklahoma brought out a well-practiced chorus of climate change deniers. Meanwhile, the troglodyte right in this country exhibited its well oiled, much practiced victim pose routine in fanning the flames of the IRS tax scandal, while the esteemed solons of the Senate voted once again to deny states permission to tell people whether or not they are eating genetically modified food, the reputation of PBS lies in tatters as they stand exposed as abject whores, a Chinese concern purchases a major American food processor–what could possibly go wrong?

So let’s review the bidding.

 

OWS retakes Liberty Square
Occupy Wall Street as plan 3 days of activities in retaking liberty Square, ostensibly in support of Turkish occupiers being faced down by riot police in Istanbul right now. The Occupy Wall Street website lists a 3 day agenda of activities.

The organizing website can be found here.

Events can also be viewed on live stream. Some very stirring video, to be sure.

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Meanwhile, in Greece:

One of the more dependable things about  austerity and other self-inflicted economic wounds is that it  brings out the right wing in dependable fashion. The history of the 20th century is littered with such movements, and it’s a formula that works again and again. The right becomes the brownshirts, the muscle , or “useful idiots” for the plutocrats who actually pulling the strings and who hope to orchestrate wealth transfer and social dislocation that will redound to their advantage.

Members and supporters of Golden Dawn chant the national anthem in front of the Greek parliament. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

Golden Dawn: ‘Greece belongs to Greeks. Long live victory!’

Like the soldiers on whom they model themselves, the Greeks who subscribe to the ultra-nationalist, neo-fascist dogma of Golden Dawn are the first to say they are at war. This week, as Antonis Samaras’s coalition government struggled to contain an escalating crisis over efforts to curb the extremists, it was they who appeared to be winning that war.

Amid a dramatic surge in attacks on immigrants blamed on the neo-Nazis, the debt-stricken country’s ruling alliance has come under unprecedented pressure to crack down on racially motivated crimes. Legislation calling for a ban on parties perceived to incite such violence was proposed by prime minister Samaras’s two junior leftist partners last month. Claiming that it would “victimise” Golden Dawn, which has 18 of the 300 MPs in parliament, the conservative groups last week rejected the bill as counterproductive. On Friday they put forward their own, less punitive law.

As parliament prepares to debate how best to apply legislation that will curb the party, – measures that have unexpectedly electrified the political scene – the far right is flourishing in the knowledge that, in a country reeling from the twin ills of austerity and despair, it is they who are in the ascendant.

 

Rising Hegemon adds this:

Clear political indications of what Austerity can do for a country:

It wasn’t just that their symbols looked like swastikas. Or that thousands of Greek flags filled the marble square beneath the Acropolis. Or that they were marking the 560th anniversary of the fall of Constantinople.

It was that there were so many of them. Angry men and angry women furiously screaming “Greecebelongs to Greeks” in the heart of ancient Athens, as tourists – some befuddled, some shocked – looked on or fled at the sight of neo-Nazis coming to town.

“Now we are in the thousands,” thundered Nikos Michaloliakos, the bespectacled mathematician who leads Greece’s far-right Golden Dawn party. “Long live victory!”

It is always instructive to note how the lack of democratic input into the policy process always seems to result in a movement that will ensure even less democratic input in the process; namely fascism. Greece is well on its way, and as RE often says, “coming soon to a theater near you.”

 

The Stupid, It Burns


Oklahoma suffered its second set of giant tornadoes within the space of about a week. Not for nothing do they call this section of the country “tornado alley,” as it traditionally funnels cold air from the north as it meets meets warm air rising from the South at the Rockies and heads due east. This is not news. What is news is the alacrity with which the representatives of the people who live in the state engage in a remarkable set of hypocrisies. Not only do they insist on immediate aid for Oklahomans while having denied the same sort of response to the victims of Hurricane Sandy, but they also rush to practice their well-rehearsed victim pose routine, denying that climate change is making these traditional and not wholly unexpected storms much bigger and much more dangerous than they used to be.

Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, a Republican, accused the “liberal media” of exploiting the devastating tornado in Oklahoma to push its climate change “agenda.”

“The liberal media is trying to exploit a tragedy to advance and expand its own agenda. And, believe me, the victims all know this,” Inhofe said in an interview with Newsmax, adding that news outlets that link the tornado to climate change ”do a great disservice to those who have experienced this tragedy.”

“We were being hit by tornadoes long before anyone talked about climate change, and even before it was called ‘global cooling,’ before it became ‘global warming,’ and then ‘climate change,’” he continued. “The same thing that happened last week happened 14 years ago, 25 years ago, and 30 years ago.”

Inhofe is one of Congress’s most adamant climate change deniers. He has repeatedly called it a hoax, and as recently as April of this year blamed the so-called hoax on George Soros, Moveon.org, and Michael Moore.

Why stop there? Blame it on Hugo Chavez, Al Gore and Vladimir Lenin while you’re at it.

 

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The real cost of low low prices everyday

 This article moved over the weekend, where most people will have missed it. Which is certainly the way Walmart and the scions of the Walton family would like it.

 

Walmart wages are so low that many of its workers rely on food stamps and other government aid programs to fulfill their basic needs, a reality that could cost taxpayers as much as $900,000 at just one Walmart Supercenter in Wisconsin, according to a study released by Congressional Democrats on Thursday.

Though the study assumes that most workers who qualify for the public assistance programs do take advantage of them, it injects a potent data point into a national debate about the minimum wage at a time when many Walmart and fast food workers are mounting strikes in pursuit of higher wages.

The study uses Medicaid data released in Wisconsin to piece together the annual cost to taxpayers for providing a host of social safety net programs, including food stamps and publicly subsidized health care, to workers at one Supercenter in the state.

According to the report, Walmart had more workers enrolled in the state’s public health care program in the last quarter of last year than any other employer, with 3,216 people enrolled. When the dependents of those workers were factored in, the number of enrollees came to 9,207.

“When low wages leave Walmart workers unable to afford the necessities of life, taxpayers pick up the tab,” the report says.

Under this last point, Rising Hegemon has a trenchant observation:

Now THIS is the way our political class…especially the Right…wants things to work.

So not only are their employees suffering, not only do those who lose their jobs because of Wal-Mart suffer, but EVERYBODY SUFFERS.

Well, not everybody.

The Walton family, heirs to the founders of the Wal-Mart Stores Inc. superchain, are worth nearly as much as the bottom half of American households combined.

 

The Waltons’ value — $89.5 billion in 2010 – is equal to the worth of the 41.5% of families at the lower end of the income ladder, according to an analysis by Josh Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute. That comes out to 48.8 million households.

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  The  IRS “scandal” scandal

I confess to watching this kabuki theater unfold before me with a mixed sense of outrage and horror. Let’s review the bidding conservative groups, eager to take the hill upon which Karl Rove planted the flag when established crossroads GPS, that of saying “he’s going to break the law as much as he can,” rushed to take advantage of tax law that allows tax-exempt status to “social welfare” organizations as a mask for political activity. As a matter of policy, the IRS is supposed to give all 501(C)4  groups a thorough vetting.  So what we have here are a number of archconservative groups complaining, in essence, that we are not subsidizing their illegal political activity with our tax dollars. Do I have it right?

William Boardman asks, How does the IRS doing its job become a made-up political outrage?”

 

Almost everything you hear and read in the media about the current IRS “scandal” is based on deliberate falsification of basic facts. Some might call it lying.

Here’s a reasonably typical media-framing of the IRS lie, from the usually careful and accurate Economist, posted May 23: “Even before this month’s revelation that conservative political groups applying for 501(c)(4) status were being singled out for special scrutiny … “

You see this false framing of the IRS story across the media spectrum, from Infowars to ABC News and NBC News to the Economist to DemocracyNOW (the latter on May 24: “the scandal over the targeted vetting of right-wing groups …”). Even the usually reliable Wonkblog at the Washington Post doesn’t get the story right, apparently because it hasn’t read the relevant law.

An exception to this remarkable mental stampede in the wrong direction was Jeffrey Toobin (New Yorker, May 14) who wondered, “Did the I.R.S. actually do anything wrong?” His answer started to put the story in reasonable perspective, with a focus on tax law and political money: ” … the scandal isn’t what’s illegal – it’s what’s legal. It’s what society chooses not to punish that tells us most about the prevailing ethical standards of the time.”

Anatomy of a False Narrative – Lying, Laziness, Partisanship, What?

How is it that the conventional framing is dishonest? Here are some of the ways:

    1. It wasn’t a revelation. All kinds of people were aware of the underlying problem, that 501(c )(4) tax status abuse had been going on since 1959, and that it took a quantum leap after 2011, when the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision opened the democratic process to money flooding that would be facilitated by the secrecy offered by the 501(c )(4) status.

 

    1. There were bi-partisan public hearings on the problem scheduled by the Senate well before the “scandal” broke. Anyone could look it up.

 

    1. As soon as the story broke, Lawrence O’Donnell (MSNBC’s “The Last Word”) was reporting accurately on the issue, rooted in the difference between a law that says 501(c )(4) organizations should be “exclusively” for social welfare and a 1959 IRS regulation that says, with Orwellian authority, that “exclusively” is to be interpreted to mean “primarily.” Too many reporters and others still do not get this, even though responsible research begins with these primary sources.

 

  1. No one was singled out. That’s right, no one was singled out. The problem with 501(c )(4) applications is that the IRS must review every one to see if the applicant qualifies for tax exempt status. Given the flood of applications from political groups of all sorts post-Citizens United, the IRS needed some way to make sure those applications were “primarily” for social welfare, even though political insiders knew that had been a joke for years (Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and MoveOn.org are both IRS-approved 501(c)(4) organizations, of which there are thousands – reportedly 97,382 in 2011).

And it goes on. And on. Stubborn things, facts. Meanwhile, Charlie Pierce sets us straight:

We like to stay ahead of over what subjects the folks in the monkeyhouse soon will be flinging the poo if, for no other reason, so as to be prepared to duck. It is in this spirit that we present to you one Wayne Allyn Root, who writes for Glenn Beck’s little website, and who would like you to know that the IRS is prepared to let conservatives die in the streets very, very soon.

This is the same IRS that asked questions such as “What books do your members read?” “What is the content of the PRAYERS of your members?” “Please send us all your Facebook posts” and “Send us the list of your donors.” Now they are in charge of your healthcare. Will the same litmus test be in place? Before granting approval for expensive medical treatment, will we be asked what groups we belong to? What books we read? What is the content of our prayers? Will they look at our Facebook postings before deciding if we’re worthy of receiving expensive medical care? Just as the groups who dared to teach American citizens about the U.S. Constitution were targeted and denied tax exempt status, will those of us who dare to believe in the U.S. Constitution be denied the health care we need to save our lives?

Yes, friends, that’s what’s coming. That’s going to be what you hear going forward. The IRS dumbassery is going to be the new “death panels.” People are going to argue on the radio, and on the TV, and in congressional town halls in the hinterlands, that the IRS is going to “enforce Obamacare” by doing to sick conservatives what they did to all those poor social-welfare organizations with the tricornered hats and the flintlocks. We’ve already got Republican politicians out in Ohio arguing this very point. 

Here at the Doomsday Diner, we leave no turn unstoned in an effort to bring you tomorrow’s  stupid today. And speaking of tomorrow stupid, if you are not familiar with the stylings of one Wayne Allyn Root, invest 5 min. of your life is viewing this clip, prepared by Jason Jones of Comedy Central as part of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. In it, Root, white-haired, freshly scrubbed, and as pink cheeked as one of Smithfield’s prized pigs, stands utterly undressed and exposed for the depraved hypocrite that he is. Must see TV, indeed.

Republican_Head-Up-Ass-2

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Letter from Loretto 

 

In one of the more poignant pieces of information to move this week, this letter from John Kiriakou emerged. If you are not familiar with this man, according to Wikipedia, he

is a former CIA analyst and case officer, former senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and former counter-terrorism consultant for ABC News, blogger for Huffington Post, and author. Kiriakou is notable as the first official within the U.S. government to confirm the use of waterboarding of al-Qaeda prisoners as an interrogation technique, which he described as torture.

On October 22, 2012, Kiriakou pled guilty to disclosing classified information about a fellow CIA officer that connected the covert operative to a specific operation. Kiriakou thus became the second C.I.A. officer convicted of violation of the Intelligence Identities Protection Act and the first for passing along classified information to a reporter, although the reporter did not publish the name of the operative. He was sentenced to 30 months in prison on January 25, 2013 and reported to the low-security Federal correctional facility in Loretto, Pennsylvania to begin serving his term on February 28, 2013.

He is thus a prisoner of conscience languishing in the empire’s gulag, for the crime of exposing the empire’s illegal acts. He shares that notable distinction with Julian Assange and Bradley Manning. Thus does the Empire deal with whistleblowers. The letter itself is a fascinating insight into the realities of prison life, even in medium security prison.

The cafeteria, or “chow hall” was the most difficult experience of my first few days. Where should I sit? On my first day, two Aryans, completely covered in tattoos, walked up to me and asked, “Are you a pedophile?” Nope, I said. “Are you a fag?” Nope. “Do you have good paper?” I didn’t know what this meant. It turned out that I had to get a copy of my formal sentencing documents to prove that I wasn’t a child molester. I did that, and was welcomed by the Aryans, who aren’t really Aryans but more accurately self-important hillbillies.

The cafeteria is very formally divided. There is a table for the Aryans whites with good paper, a section of a table for the Native Americans, a section of a table for people belonging to a certain Italian-American stereotypical “subculture,” two tables for the Muslims, four tables for the pedophiles, and all the remaining tables for the blacks and hispanics. We don’t all eat at the same time, but each table is more-or-less reserved as I described.

Violence hasn’t been much of a problem since I arrived. There have been maybe a half-dozen fights, almost always over what television show to watch. The choices are pretty much set in stone between ESPN, MTV, VH1, BET and Univision. I haven’t watched TV since I got here. It’s just not worth the trouble. Otherwise, violence isn’t a problem. Most of the guys in here have worked their way down to a low-security prison from a medium or a maximum, and they don’t want to go back.

I’ve also had some luck in this regard. My reputation preceded me, and a rumor got started that I was a CIA hit man. The Aryans whispered that I was a “Muslim hunter,” but the Muslims, on the strength of my Arabic language skills and a well-timed statement of support from Louis Farrakhan have lauded me as a champion of Muslim human rights. Meanwhile the Italians have taken a liking to me because I’m patriotic, as they are, and I have a visceral dislike of the FBI, which they do as well. I have good relations with the blacks because I’ve helped several of them write commutation appeals or letters to judges and I don’t charge anything for it. And the Hispanics respect me because my cellmates, who represent a myriad of Latin drug gangs, have told them to. So far, so good.

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GMO Labeling Bill Voted Down In Senate
Within a week after over 2 million people in hundreds of cities in America and around the world marched in protest of Monsanto,the United States Senate once again decided that it simply does not want to let states tell people whether or not they are eating genetically modified food.

The Senate voted overwhelmingly — 71 to 27 – against an amendment to the sweeping farm bill, squashing a measure that would not have required labeling of genetically modified organisms, but merely would have let states decide if they wanted to require such labeling.

“The concept we’re talking about today is a fairly commonsense and non-radical idea,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the sponsor of the amendment, said shortly before the vote. “All over the world, in the European Union, in many other countries around the world, dozens and dozens of countries, people are able to look at the food that they are buying and determine through labeling whether or not that product contains genetically modified organisms.”

Sanders has noted that more than 3,000 ingredients are required to be labeled, but genetically modified ingredients are not part of that list. His state and Connecticut have passed laws to require such labeling, but Sanders said local leaders fear that large biotech corporations such as Monsanto could sue the states on the grounds that they are preempting federal authority. He said his bill would make clear that states can do what they want on the issue.

But Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the chair of the Agriculture Committee, argued that the measure “is not germane to the farm bill” in the first place. She also said the labels run counter to science and the public interest in healthy food.

“This particular amendment would interfere with the FDA’s science-based process to determine what food labeling is necessary for consumers,” Stabenow said.

And us we can see that people willing to sell out the public interest occupy both sides of the aisle.

_______________________________________________________________________

PBS Koch-suckers

This is a matter that hits somewhat close to home for me, as I spent 25 years of  a broadcast media career working in public television. By the time I left the business, I had reached a reasonably high-level executive position for one licensee, and I came to see how utterly craven and dependent upon the goodwill of funders and potential funders the ruling junta was.

People often think that university life must be wonderful for faculty: oh, to work in the halls of academe, and think the great thoughts, free from the obligations and petty scrabblings of commerce. Anyone who works for a university will eagerly dissuade you of that notion, as academe is often a nest of petty jealousies, jostlings for position and promotion, and competitions for tenure and parking. I entered public broadcasting full of utopian idealism, and left it with my eyes wide open as well. Like many nonprofits, a public broadcasting entity is not directly responsible to a bottom line so much as it is to the whims and caprices of a Board of Directors. So often, within the public broadcasting system, those well practiced at the courtiers’ arts will flourish at the expense of the ordinary and hard-working.

In contrast, for profit enterprises are, as I have come to learn, refreshingly straightforward. What matters is the bottom line. Produce, and you’re good. Fail to produce, and get a box for your shit.

So when Democracy Now moved this story, I must confess I found nothing surprising about it at all. Years ago, NPR news revealed itself to be apparatchiks of the Bush administration, using their hated term “enhanced interrogation” as a euphemism for waterboarding and torture. Thus is the language debased, thus is the propaganda catapulted, and thus to our institutions become corrupt. The need for money has corrupted the system front to back.

Filmmakers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal say plans for their new documentary to air on public television have been quashed after billionaire Republican David Koch complained about the PBSbroadcast of another film critical of him, “Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream,” by acclaimed filmmaker Alex Gibney. Lessin and Deal were in talks to broadcast their film, “Citizen Koch,” on PBS until their agreement with the Independent Television Service fell through. The New Yorker reports the dropping of “Citizen Koch” may have been influenced by Koch’s response to Gibney’s film, which aired on PBS stations, including WNET in New York late last year. “Citizen Koch” tells the story of the landmark Citizens United ruling by the Supreme Court that opened the door to unlimited campaign contributions from corporations. It focuses on the role of the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity in backing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has pushed to slash union rights while at the same time supporting tax breaks for large corporations. The controversy over Koch’s influence on PBS comes as rallies were held in 12 cities Wednesday to protest the possible sale of the Tribune newspaper chain, including the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, to Koch Industries, run by David Koch and his brother Charles.

Read the entire article and see some video here. Where PBS’s management and development people went wrong was in taking money from David Koch in the first place. These people are not fools, and they had to have knownwho they were getting in bed with: a scion of a family remarkably ruthless in its machinations, an American Medici, with a rabidly partisan political agenda. I blame PBS.

_______________________________________________________________________

Smithfield:  What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
Big news in South Eastern Virginia this week was the revelation that a Chinese concern made an offer to purchase local Fortune 500 companies Smithfield Foods, one of the nations, and suppliers of pork products.

 

China is hungry.

The world’s most populous country has for years been on an agricultural buying binge, scooping up supplies of soybeans, palm oil, cotton and just about anything else that can be culled from the soil.

Now, with 1.3 billion mouths to feed, the Asian giant is turning its eyes to meat.

On Wednesday, a Chinese meat processor agreed to purchase the world’s largest pork producer, Smithfield Foods Inc., for $4.7 billion.

The deal, the largest-ever purchase of a U.S. company by a Chinese firm, underscores the rapidly evolving taste of China’s growing middle class, which is demanding more high-quality protein in a nation that has been beset by food safety scares.

But the deal also speaks to the increasingly dominant role of China in global agriculture.

Once limited to purchasing other nations’ crops on the open market, the world’s second-largest economy has steadily moved to take control of production. Over the last decade, it’s been buying up vast acreage overseas and spending billions to lock down long-term supplies of key staples. If approved by regulators, the Smithfield deal would give China one of the most prestigious names in the lucrative meat industry.

 This seems to be part of an overall buying spree for the Chinese, seem to be using their dollar surpluses to acquire food products and the ability to produce them for their growing populations.

But in recent years, the country has been on something of a food shopping spree. It more than doubled its investment in foreign agriculture between 2007 and 2010, according to the nation’s Ministry of Commerce.

The country has shored up the pipeline for soybeans — a crucial staple for humans, animals and biofuels in China — by pumping billions of dollars into land acquisition, farming and long-term crop purchase guarantees in Brazil and Argentina.

One recent deal, for example, had a Chinese grain and oil producer paying $7.5 billion and promising to build a railroad in exchange for a guaranteed supply of 6 million tons a year of Brazilian soybeans.

So insatiable has been China’s interest in South America’s fertile fields that both countries have passed laws limiting foreign ownership of arable land in recent years.

In Africa, China has been buying up supplies of cotton, while in Southeast Asia it’s invested heavily in crops as diverse as natural rubber, cashews and palm oil, which is used for food and also fuel.

Of course, the deal isn’t completely done yet. It is subject to government review and approval which it includes a consideration of food safety issues, as The Guardian explains:

The acquisition is subject to regulatory approval by the committee on foreign investments in the United States. Several large takeovers by Chinese companies have been thwarted in the recent past. The most high-profile failure came in 2005 when China’s Cnooc bid $18.5bn for US oil firm Unoca, triggering a massive political backlash that ended with the House of Representatives issuing a resolution that the deal “would threaten to impair the national security of the United States”. The bid was withdrawn.

In 2008, Huawei Technologies backed out of a deal to acquire 3Com, maker of internet router and networking equipment, amid questions about the deal’s national security risks.

The largest successful Chinese takeover of a US firm to date is the $2.6bn acquisition of cinema chain AMC Theaters by Dalian Wanda – an entertainment conglomerate – in 2012. Chinese ownership of movie theatres did not trigger political ire.

Food security issues are likely to complicate issues for Shuanghui. In 2011, CCTV, China’s state broadcaster, found the company had produced and sold pork tainted with the banned drug clenbuterol. The chemical is a fat-burning additive sometimes used by bodybuilders that can cause nausea, heart problems and dizziness if consumed by humans.

More recently, China’s food industry has faced a number of scandals. In March, 9,000 dead pigs were found in the Huangpu river. There have also been recent reports of contamination of the Chinese meat supply from a bird-flu outbreak.

Smithfield, too, has been challenged by safety and work practice issues. The first confirmed case of H1N1 swine flu during the 2009 flu pandemic was a five-year-old boy living near a Smithfield subsidiary in Mexico. More than 600 residents living near the plant in La Gloria, Veracruz, were infected with a mysterious respiratory illness.

So, we ask again, what could possibly go wrong?
_______________________________________________________________________
At 4700 words, it is time to set down the Surly Crown of Thorns for yet another week. The Week That Was In Doom will be taking a week of doom off  this week, as we are traveling and attending to family matters, including the graduation of a much beloved niece. Hope to meet you at zero point, but not too soon.

Hope…Change…

Off the keyboard of Steve from Virginia

Published on Economic Undertow on November 7, 2012

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

President Obama easily won re-election yesterday: Where do we go from here?

– look for ‘Brand X’ opponent Romney to retreat into what Edward Gibbon called, ‘a well-deserved obscurity’. Smarmy Romney lacks the kooky charisma and media horsepower of a Sarah Palin or Paul Ryan, his TV days are done. He has nothing to say and says it with less conviction than just about anyone in public life. There is little left for Mr. Romney to do but to go back to Wall Street where he can reassure his own customers he is not stealing their money … while he steals their money.

The Tea Party has unraveled as a political phenomenon. The ultra-libertarian/Austrian/liquidationist faction within GOP politic has discredited itself: the public won’t buy social Darwinism no matter how much religion and patriotic moralizing are spackled over it.

– The GOP has no one to blame for the election outcome but themselves. Their primary process — dominated by petroleum industry stooges and ‘missionary evangelists’ — prevented the Republicans from fielding a candidate able to challenge the vulnerable Obama. Who could have beaten him? An ordinary human being … that is, a non-radical Republican automatically excluded from the candidacy … by the extremist-filtering primary process and funding structure.

– From the ‘Welcome to the ironic universe’ department: this is the end of Ron Paul and his son, while there is no end in sight for Ben Bernanke. Gone: Palin, Santorum, Allen (in Virginia), Akin, Mourdock, Perry, Mack. Lost in influence: Bachmann, Ryan, Cantor, Gingrich.

– Libertarian economics do not appeal to Americans who do not want to be thrown to the ‘free-market’ wolves any more than they already have been. Americans want a level playing field with big business. Disappointment with Obama is that he is unwilling to hold powerful interests accountable, not that they are too accountable. The intrusive, overbearing government doesn’t do its job or it does so in ways that protect private interests at the expense of the public.

– A big winner of the election is Occupy movement. They won by not embarrassing themselves and by helping out in New York City with the hurricane relief … where the reactionaries were notably absent. The crumbling Tea Party has left a political vacuum … if the Occupy group has the wit to seize the moment.

– The clock is ticking on the tycoons. They couldn’t buy this election and won’t get a better chance in any conceivable future. The shift is underway … from tycoons being admired and emulated to being loathed. The step after is for tycoons to be hunted down like rats. Credit the timely hurricane Sandy and a rising public awareness of tycoon-driven climate change.

– If I wuz a tycoon I would make like French and get the hell out of Dodge …

– Having fixed his footnote in history at the cost of a billion-plus US dollars look for the president to retreat with some dispatch from the public stage. ‘Hope and Change’ have morphed into hopelessness on one hand and an establishment death-grip on the status quo with the other. The establishment has few choices that allow it to remain the establishment! Conventional economics have run aground. The austerity camp and the stimulus factions both insist their policies will propel the USA waste-monetizing economic machine forward. None of the factions acknowledge that the operation of the machine itself … is what undermines it. The present devours the future faster and faster: the cost of each fill-up becomes more crushing as the machine annihilates with constantly greater scope and efficiency what it needs to run. The only returns are ‘money’ for the despised tycoons while the rest must be satisfied with the thin gruel of ‘We’re Number One’ and other inconsequential generalities. Meanwhile, the life support on our space ship is fed into the furnace.

– Obama is clever enough to know there is nothing conventional policies can do to remedy our current situation: he has access to the ‘input’ of at least a dozen intelligence services. At the same time, he never has to pay for a round of golf for the rest of his life. He can loiter with tycoons which clearly pleases him, he can start writing the obligatory post-presidential memoirs, he can secure places in corporate boardrooms/in places of tycoon exile. When the time comes in 1,515 days he can become a petit-tycoon himself. The office of Lincoln and Roosevelt has devolved into a running-board or ramp to commercial success. Obama is now a ‘Brand’: one day after the election the president has one foot out-the-door, he is a lame duck.

– Obama the Ironic: no doubt airports across the country will be renamed for the president just as the airline industry collapses due to fuel shortages … that are denied by Obama.

– Obama the Ironic part two: sometime within the next four-plus years the president is going to have to tell the American public the truth about energy supplies: we’ve run out and cannot afford to burn any more for endeavors that don’t pay for themselves — which means fuel for agriculture and some basic services and nothing else! Here is something to live for … and watch on live TV.

Goofiness is not confined to America, the Europeans have similar problems facing reality:

 


Worst of the Eurozone Crisis Is Not Over Yet
 Megan Greene (Economonitor)Greece released its 2013 budget last week, indicating that public debt will surge to 189 per cent of GDP by the end of next year. If Greece’s debt burden cannot be deemed to be on a sustainable path, the IMF cannot release more money.

The only way to reduce Greece’s debt burden effectively and sufficiently is to write down some of its debt. So far, Germany, the ECB and the IMF have all indicated they would refuse to take a hit on their Greek government bond holdings.

… even if Germany wants to give Greece more time and money to achieve a swingeing fiscal adjustment, Greece might not have any interest in doing so, particularly not after five years of economic recession.

A model student

In contrast to Greece, Ireland has been identified by creditor countries as a shining example of how Europe will emerge from the crisis.

It is true that Ireland has stood apart from the other bailout countries in a few important ways. For starters, Ireland has dipped a toe back in the bond markets, despite being in a bailout programme. Investors also seem relatively confident that Ireland will not default, as exhibited by lower, long-term Irish bond yields than its Greek, Portuguese, Spanish and Italian counterparts.

According to the Purchasing Manager’s Index (PMI), Ireland has seen its manufacturing activity expand over the past eight months. This is in sharp contrast with the eurozone, which has, on average, seen manufacturing activity contract for 15 consecutive months.

Ireland’s PMI data is encouraging, with new foreign orders particularly buoyant in recent months. This is a positive indicator for Ireland’s export sector, which should keep expanding.

But here’s the big problem in Ireland: there is no economic growth.

 

It’s hard not to come away from articles like this perplexed. What are the Irish or the Greeks supposed to do over the longer term … like 1000 years or so? How about 100 years? How about 10 years? Where is the ‘reality plan’?

There is the usual ‘growth’ mantra but what is supposed to grow? More auto sales? More vacation ‘villas’ around more miles of Mediterranean coast? More McDonald’s and Tescos? Right now the European auto industry is collapsing. Real estate is a bust. Retail margins are narrowing or gone. The European fuel consumption is almost 15 million barrels per day … most of this is imported from Africa and the Middle East. It is paid for with massive and unaffordable borrowing. The waste-based machine has been backfiring since 2008, the complete breakdown is heaving into view.

From whom are the Europeans borrowing? Ireland and the rest cannot borrow against their own accounts — they are shackled to the euro — they must borrow from financiers in City of London and Wall Street. Currently, credit terms are onerous … what comes next? If Europe cannot pay its bills its fuel consumption is exportable to the United States which can borrow against its own account at all levels. There is a reason why the US president is claiming the country is ‘energy independent’.

How is Ireland supposed to cope with the current state of affairs for more than a few months? Ireland has no domestic fuel production to speak of. It MUST borrow or go onto a severe — and permanent — energy diet. Can Ireland borrow for another year? It must, obviously. How deep a the hole will creditors allow Ireland to dig? How can the country repay- or service its debts when it cannot borrow more fuel? The Irish corporate tax shelter is not very useful to corporations that aren’t earning much. Eire can be the gateway for flight capital to exit Europe but that lasts only until the euro is done away with. At that point Ireland descends toward failed-state status like Serbia … or Yemen.

Figure 1: Irish oil consumption plummets because Ireland cannot afford to borrow. As it wastes more it falls further into debt. Even if the Irish gain new credit today, they certainly cannot do so forever.

This is the debt-energy trap that has enmeshed all the world’s modern nations. The idea is that something magical will turn up in the next decade or so and ‘solve all the problems’ in the meantime, the entire European Enterprise hinges on whether the ECB can keep offering rear-guard actions: making loans … that are more dubious every month! At some point, organic returns are needed … these never arrive. Sadly, there are no returns on consumption … simple waste for its own sake. The West has nothing in the way of real goods or services to offer in exchange for the petroleum they burn up … except for petroleum burning gadgets! Here is the most vicious of all vicious circles.

One outcome of this dynamic is fuel poverty … something that occurring right now across the euro-zone and in the UK. What the Europeans need to do pronto is to rethink the ‘business as usual’ concept and ditch growth. Cheap natural resource capital does not exist any more. What remains is worth too much to waste. The economy built around monetizing waste is a loser. Europe needs to power down and figure out how to provide decent lives for citizens without consumption. Unfortunately, there is little time remaining to figure out how to do this. The ongoing Euro-calm is an eye in the hurricane, the next phase will see Europe cut off from fuel supplies and structural shortages that cannot be dealt with.

Conservation by other means …

You CANNOT Make Something from Nothing

Repost from a debate underway between Steve of Virginia of the Economic Undertow and RE of the Doomstead Diner on the question of whether a 3rd Party presents a Political Solution to our current spin down.  The original thread on EU is Topic for Discussion.

RE

Discuss this further inside the Diner at the Frosbite Falls Daily Rant

Reverse Engineer says:

We do of course have many “3rd Parties”, just none with a snowball’s chance in hell of getting Elected on any kind of scale.  Occassionally they do, Bernie Sanders is a Socialist, right?

Creating some kind of monolithic 3rd Party to represent the 99% is pretty tough, because of all those nasty subsidiary issues people get bogged down in, like Gay Marriage, Stem Cell Research, School Prayer yadda yadda.

Then you have your Eurotrash example to deal with, where new Parties pop up like Buboes all the time, the new Syriza party in Greece beign a classic example of this.  So you get your Parliamentary structure with 10 different parties seated and brokering to make “coalitions” to form Goobermints and the Lock Up is just about as bad as the Two Party Farce we have.

So, while a 3rd Party is a nice idealized concept, in practicality it would do little to change the general state of Political Seizure we have going all over the world these days.  There really is not a good Political Solution to the problems we are confronted with, and no I do not think simply eliminating the Carz would help the situation all that much even if you could pull this off Politically.

In all likelihood, the structure we have in place here cannot be salvaged at all, including the “democratic” institutions of Goobermint which basically just serve as Window Dressing anyhow for very powerful people who work behind the Curtain.  the system will have to collapse before anything new can be rebuilt, if there is anything left to rebuild with anyhow.

A 3rd Party here in the FSofA, even if a viable one is formed will not make a difference in the way Da Goobermint is operating.  The 3rd Party POTUS if elected would still face gridlock in CONgress, and eliminating all the corruption and lobbyists and Golden Parachute jobs in Banking or Industry for revolving door Congressmen is about impossible.  NO financing rules will stop this action from taking place, they’ll just find back doors around it all.

The only solution is a DISSOLUTION of the FSofA Nation State Entity into many Baby Bells, an anti-trust type action.  then individual regions will be more free to develop their own local solutions and own local Political Parties.

The FSofA is Too Big to Save.

RE

 

Reverse Engineer says:

 

 

“RE, you are giving the establishment too much credit.”-Steve

I don’t think so.  These are the same folks who wrote into existence the credit necessary to build and subsidize the Railroads, the Electrical Grid, the Interstate Highways, Goobermint Motors and of course the Internet.  That is a LOL of Credit Steve, by any measure.

Who EVER really had a “choice” here about whether the Railroad would get Right of Way through their Farmhouse?  Who ever really had a choice whether a Macondo Well was drilled or not?  Sure, we got the EPA and other Window Dressing, but man, if the Money Masters want to Drill ANWR, bet your bottom Dollar (or really theirs) they’ll go right ahead and do that.

Describing the Tea Party as a raging success here is IMHO nonsense, that “Party” is just another piece of Window Dressing, taking money from the Koch Brothers and other monied interests.  They aren’t independent in any sense of the word.  Besides that, like Syriza in Greece, they buy the same idea that “Growth” can be achieved, when it cannot.

How does anyone form a 3rd party around the idea that Contraction and Shrinkage is what is necessary, when that means in practicality that the Lights will Go Out or at least regular brownouts for a while, everybody has to give up their Carz and all the mobility that allows them and everybody has to give up their Iphones and 24/7 connection to the Internet?

Any 3rd Party which does form is going to make the same tired promises every other party does, then once in office will be subjected to the same pressures resutant from a contracting economy.  So then they get dumped out of office or eventually strung up by their Gonads, and the next somewhat more extreme group plops into the power vacuum.

This is the nature of the collapse as it plays out with the Political systems of control. It will of course become exacerbated when the logistical systems also begin to fail, the power grid, the JIT delivery system etc.  You cannot fix that by any means, because the thermodynamic energy is not there to do it with.  The whole system is built on that, you know that as well as I do.

Trying to fix the problems we have here at the Political level is like trying to fix a Car that is misfiring by replacing the Spark Plugs when the REAL problem is the Gas Tank is about EMPTY.  You can drop Shiny New Plugs into the Engine, but its STILL not going anywhere.

Outta Gas.

RE

 

  • steve from virginia says:

     

     

    Unmanaged breakdown has unforeseeable consequences. Selling restraint is easy when the only reasonable alternatives are unpleasant, such as what you describe.

    By the time people realize the current suite of canned ‘solutions’ is defective it will be too late to organize better strategies. It is best to start now. Everyone over @ this blog understands what is behind ‘Door Number 1′. If you’ve come this far in the ‘game’ you know there isn’t a whole lot left to lose.

    Meanwhile, your grandparents dealt with hard times without complaint as did mine … although I have to admit that doing so made them kinda crazy. The Depression made ‘prosperity in a can’ an entitlement rather than good luck. That is an attitude rather than a condition. :)

     

     

  •  

     

    “Meanwhile, your grandparents dealt with hard times without complaint as did mine … although I have to admit that doing so made them kinda crazy. The Depression made ‘prosperity in a can’ an entitlement rather than good luck. That is an attitude rather than a condition.”-Steve

    Our GPs dealt with hard times when probably 90% of the population was still agrarian and when there really still was plenty-o-oil left to be extracted into the economy, thence and thereafter to be burned up to run the big engine of Industrialization.  Besides that, there were not near so many of them running willy nilly around the planet as there are now.

    The “hard times” our GPs faced would come to an end with an explosion of credit first to finance WWII, ours will not.  It’s not even clear WWIII can be financed on credit this time before the system implodes.  Even if it can be though, the aftermath won’t see a Marshall Plan rebuild of the Eurotrash OR a news Interstate Highways system built here in the FSofA.

    Selling on the Political Level that our future is one of an ever increasingly austere lifestyle is not a message most people want to hear, EVER.  Even if you predate Fossil Fuels, nobody would have been very popular saying “your kids are going to live an even WORSE life than you do”.

    Now, you can make the case that the End Life here is better in the Spiritual Sense, you can hold dear the life of Monet and his paintings or the world the Founding Fathers lived in as an idealized version of reality,  but fact is none of that was very sustainable EITHER. For the average J6P of those years, they had at least as many problems as we have with the current paradigm, at least personally.  What they did not have was quite the level of ecological damage this paradigm does of course.

    Is there a POLITICAL solution to this problem, 3rd Party or otherwise?  I put it to you that there is not.  It’s a catabolic collapse Steve, and ain’t NUTHIN gonna stop it now.  We WILL get 3rd parties, and 4th and 5th ones also as the first 2 parties fail in providing even the most basic of services and Goobermint to the community.

    This system cannot be repaired within the confines of it’s current structure, and it will, it MUST collapse before any other system can be dropped in as replacement.  3rd Parties are not the Solution.  The Final Solution is the complete destruction of this paradigm and it won’t take revolt for that to occur, though this most certainly will be part of the outcome.  The destruction will come organically from internal rot and the necessary obediance to the most fundamental of Natural Laws.

    You CANNOT make Something from Nothing.

    RE

  • Update 9:30PM 5/29/2012

Reverse Engineer says:

“Meanwhile, your grandparents dealt with hard times without complaint as did mine … although I have to admit that doing so made them kinda crazy. The Depression made ‘prosperity in a can’ an entitlement rather than good luck. That is an attitude rather than a condition.”-Steve

Our GPs dealt with hard times when probably 90% of the population was still agrarian and when there really still was plenty-o-oil left to be extracted into the economy, thence and thereafter to be burned up to run the big engine of Industrialization.  Besides that, there were not near so many of them running willy nilly around the planet as there are now.

The “hard times” our GPs faced would come to an end with an explosion of credit first to finance WWII, ours will not.  It’s not even clear WWIII can be financed on credit this time before the system implodes.  Even if it can be though, the aftermath won’t see a Marshall Plan rebuild of the Eurotrash OR a news Interstate Highways system built here in the FSofA.

Selling on the Political Level that our future is one of an ever increasingly austere lifestyle is not a message most people want to hear, EVER.  Even if you predate Fossil Fuels, nobody would have been very popular saying “your kids are going to live an even WORSE life than you do”.

Now, you can make the case that the End Life here is better in the Spiritual Sense, you can hold dear the life of Monet and his paintings or the world the Founding Fathers lived in as an idealized version of reality,  but fact is none of that was very sustainable EITHER. For the average J6P of those years, they had at least as many problems as we have with the current paradigm, at least personally.  What they did not have was quite the level of ecological damage this paradigm does of course.

Is there a POLITICAL solution to this problem, 3rd Party or otherwise?  I put it to you that there is not.  It’s a catabolic collapse Steve, and ain’t NUTHIN gonna stop it now.  We WILL get 3rd parties, and 4th and 5th ones also as the first 2 parties fail in providing even the most basic of services and Goobermint to the community.

This system cannot be repaired within the confines of it’s current structure, and it will, it MUST collapse before any other system can be dropped in as replacement.  3rd Parties are not the Solution.  The Final Solution is the complete destruction of this paradigm and it won’t take revolt for that to occur, though this most certainly will be part of the outcome.  The destruction will come organically from internal rot and the necessary obediance to the most fundamental of Natural Laws.

You CANNOT make Something from Nothing.

RE

Update 9:30PM 5/29./2012

  • steve from virginia says:

     

     

    RE you are conflicting yourself. On one hand you insist that _______________-driven unraveling is underway (true) then you insist that nobody will accept it. At the same time the basis of public unhappiness is acceptance of the FACT of the _______________-driven unraveling.

    Collapse is a really, really big idea, but it’s already embedded in pop culture … Hollywood has made a bunch of movies and TV shows about it. What this means is that as big as it is it has already been framed. Everything is in play within pop culture, even doom.

    Unhappy folks want something. A return of Santa Claus is high on the wish list but cutting off the bailouts is a good second choice … that is also within reach.

    Nobody promises outcomes, certainly not politicians, not even the shills on late-night television.

    I’m certainly not doing a good job of explaining my economics (‘Economic’ undertow rather than just plain ol’ undertow). Restraint in the present means resources in the future, that is reasonable (and also a fact). The public discussion including ‘sustainability’ genuflects in this direction,

    Business as usual means competitive resource stripping and bankruptcy. This is failure … because business as usual is not working.

    I don’t agree that the press to consume comes from the bottom up. We are bombarded with manipulative advertising, our corporate culture insists on a place within every human activity. Business interests carry enormous weight: the customer is always wrong … or a victim … or some kind of chum. Business undermines its own interests even as it demands constant debt subsidy.

     

     

  •  

     

    “I don’t agree that the press to consume comes from the bottom up. We are bombarded with manipulative advertising, our corporate culture insists on a place within every human activity. Business interests carry enormous weight: the customer is always wrong … or a victim … or some kind of chum. Business undermines its own interests even as it demands constant debt subsidy. “-Steve

    I never said the press to consume comes from the bottom up, Steve.  In fact I said precisely the opposite, which is that those at the top chose to issue the credit to build the railroads and the interstate to create the culture we have before us.

    “We the People” can’t stop what is occurring short of a Global Revoltion because “We the People” are not in control of this and never have been.  Electing 3rd Party Puppets won’t do a damn thing to change anything, and if a truly charismatic “Leader” with a great vision stepped in to try to stop the Bailouts he would end up with Bullet meets Brain disease.

    Finally, I don’t see any conflict with the observation that although people are not happy with the status quo, the “solution” to their woes isn’t a life they either want or are prepared at the moment to live.  Nor in fact is it even clear that “conservation” will work or is possible to work given the dependence established on Oil.  Its not going to be possible to run Big Shities with all their electric lights and water sewage and pumping stations once “conservation” is fully implemented, either by choice or by economics.

    How do you move all those people out of those places and back to the land?  You can’t do it.  How do you deconstruct 100 years worth of ring roads and McMansions that are completely non-functional without the automobile?  You can’t do it.  At least not in a manner that itself is going to have vicious blowback.

    Perhaps “Collapse” has already been absorbed into the zeitgeist through pop culture, from Mad Max to Children of Men to Hunger Games.  It doesn’t make it wrong just because its been glommed by Hollywood.  Whether those apocalyptic depictions are precisely correct or not doesn’t matter.  The reality is we have an unsustainable paradigm which is collapsing on itself and we are long since past the point of being able to manage that collapse, if we ever were.  The relentless expansion of population and stripping of earth resources began long before the Age of Oil, it began with Agriculture and possibly even before that with the acquisition and control of Fire.  As top of the food chain predators, we simply were way too successful.  Now we live on a beaten up planet housing far too many locusts in this plague.  If there is a solution, it comes in the form of a massive population reduction, and that is not going to happen fast enough with even forced sterilization.  Even if you did THAT, you end up with a demographic nightmare of aging people.

    The solution will be imposed as it always has been, by Famine, Pestilence, War and Death.  The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

    RE

     

     

    • steve from virginia says:

       

       

      Keynes said it best: “in the long run we’re all dead”. What happens between now and then?

      First of all, you have no obligations to do anything, I won’t ask you to do anything (other than not beat up my other visitors). This is a discussion not the Wehrmacht. Part of the point is to see how folks feel about the future … from a more activist angle.

      You aren’t afraid of the activist angle are you?

      None of us has ever experienced a post-industrial society, we can’t imagine what it might be like. How to cope? I don’t know any more than anyone else, but the problems we face are human problems, not an invasion from Outer Space. The only reason we don’t solve these human problems is because we don’t want to. It’s that simple: ‘Now People’ (particularly Americans) are like little children. Nobody has ever said ‘no’ to them. Consequently, nobody knows how … to say no to them. Saying no is a lost art, like plastering.

      I agree to a large degree about the ‘crash idea’. So do a lot of other people. I don’t think it will take place tomorrow. What can be done with a perfectly serviceable tomorrow? Sleep in? Speak with a friend? Why not?

      Why write internet comments? There is a reason that speaks for itself regardless of your words: life is short, after all in the long run we are all dead!

      :)

       

       

    •  

       

      “First of all, you have no obligations to do anything, I won’t ask you to do anything (other than not beat up my other visitors). This is a discussion not the Wehrmacht. Part of the point is to see how folks feel about the future … from a more activist angle.”-Steve

      I don’t beat up on anybody who doesn’t throw the first punch :)  I also find it a lot more fun to jump in the ring with somebody in the same weight class than to plaster flyweights.

      The activist angle is important, and while I don’t support the 3rd Party idea or working through conventional Political Channels, I’m certainly not out here on the net putting excess mileage on my keyboard fingers because I wanna GIVE UP and throw in the towel.

      My take on it is that we have to wait for the system to implode on itself before  any realistic changes can be attempted.  The population as a whole is going to have to go through some real PAIN and HARDSHIP before they will let go of the idea that perpetual growth is possible.  After all, perpetual growth has had a log standing success rate here for Homo Sapiens, its been ongoing for 70,000 years since Toba knocked down the population to 10,000 Human Souls or 1000 Breeding Pairs.

      The key elements for me are preparation for the world to come, avoidance of the neighborhoods most likely to experience the worst aspects of the collapse and developing IN THEORY at least a paradigm that could be pursued afterward that would lead to a Better Tomorrow.

      I’m not a Hopeless Uber-Doomer who will capitulate to the idea that this is an Extinction Level Event.  Neither do I grasp hold of Doom Lite ideas, like changing our Political Leadership or building Greeny Windmills will resolve our problems.  I fit into what I call “Full Doom”, which postulates that rebuild cannot occur until all or at least most of the Conduits built throught he Age of Oil have collapsed into catastrophic failure mode.  This appears to me to be already well underway.

      Meanwhile what to do?  Duck and Cover.  Get as far away as you can from the Collapse Center, the Big Shities built on the thermodynamic energy of Oil.  Make connections locally, and work on redundant systems which can take over when the Oil based systems fail.  Let the Nation State wither and die, don’t support it and in fact do the best you can to undermine its further existence.  All these are Active things you can do which could help to create a Better Tomorrow.

      RE

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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