Sunday, November 13, 2011

Die erste achtundvierzig Stunden...

Occupy Portland is over.An ad-hoc force of police from several places including Portland Bureau today cleared the two downtown parks that Occupy had occupied. The protesters have regathered in several other downtown sites to "discuss" their next move, but in my opinion this is the end for Occupy.

For more than a week the local pols, newspapers, and television outlets have been voicing increasing impatience with Occupy and, truthfully, it seems hard to imagine how the "protests" would have done anything more than they have which beyond generating a sort of unfocused unease amongst the chattering classes has been no more than an irritant under the silken drawers of the rich and powerful.

It's been more than forty years since the mild insurrections of the U.S. Civil Rights era, half a century since the "nonviolent" protests of the Indian National Congress forced Britain's release of her Indian colony, a full century since the end of the violent strikes and near-rebellions that empowered the American labor unions.In the interim we have forgotten that "peaceful" protest is exactly as effective as "peacefully" resisting a savage beating unless you have your "peaceful" beating carefully planned to maximize your PR value - and it helps if your opponents are frigging morons, or politically and financially exhausted.

The civil rights marchers won because the Southern bigots were stupid enough to physically attack well-dressed men and women on national TV and newspapers. The Indian factions won partially because BG Dyer was a fucking bloodyminded idiot and partially because the Empire exhausted itself fighting two world wars. You could argue that the labor unions didn't actually win, but rather reached a sort of armed truce that lasted until the plutocrats shat the bed in 1929 and helped elect a labor-friendly administration.

Occupy had none of these to help it. Instead, it faced a massively corrupted and paid-for military-industrial-congressional-financial complex that is doing quite well under the present system. Any hopes of an FDR moment disappeared early in 2009 when it became obvious at least to me that the current Democratic administration had no interest in even trying cocking a snook at the banksters. The New New Deal this wasn't.

And the Occupiers forgot the other lesson of those earlier protest movements; that the public could give a shit about your politeness. The relative discipline of the Occupiers ended up looking like meekness, and regardless of what the Good Book says the meek won't inherit jack shit without a pair of brass balls, friendly press, and a sackful of bricks and cobblestones hidden away in case all the politeness doesn't work. And Occupy Portland had none of those things.

And ask the Paris Communards how even WITH those things, if the government is willing to ignore you when you're weak - and kill or arrest when you're strong - you will lose.So the banksters have proved that a camel can leap laughingly through the eye of a needle. They have bought all the government they need, they or their lickspittle brownnosers own the media conglomerates, and the U.S. public is about evenly divided into thirds, and while one third is ignorant and indifferent one of the other two-thirds is actively hostile, either hoping to curry favor with the plutocracy or, tragically, mistaking the random helium in their guts for wings; by the time they fart away their good luck they will be plummeting too rapidly to have the time for regrets.

Occupy might have had more hope if the public was more intelligent and their enemies less powerful. In the first couple of days, or weeks...

But no matter. That hope is gone forever.

In March, 1935 the tiny German Army marched into the Rhineland, the first of Hitler's Thirties gambles. And it was more than a gamble; Hitler and his commanders knew how tiny their little force was. As hapless as the French Army of the Thirties was, and it was a fairly ginormous clusterfuck, a whiff of grapeshot in the old Napoleonic style would have seen the Heer packing across the Rhine and, probably, the end of the Hitler Era two years after it began.

But the French were too meek to make that move, and Hitler's success propelled him all the way to the wreck of the European world ten years later.

And here again, the first couple of days - "Die erste achtundvierzig Stunden" is how Hitler phrased it - were key.Once the larger public failed to rise in the first couple of days the Occupiers proved to have no strategy to force the issue or force their enemies to submit and their attempt to tame the bulls and bears is done.

Update 11/14: Upon further review, I had a couple of thoughts.

The antiwar protests of the Sixties have something a answer for in what they've done to the U.S. left. The protests were far less effective at "ending" the war than they seemed at the time (and have been mythologized since) - Nixon's concerns for the economy and the public's indifference to the Vietnamese were more crucial. But the result is that somehow the notion that merely marching around and sitting-in would be enough to effect political change and the record of those actions since then have proved this to be the nonsense it is.

The civil rights protestors, the INC activists, the labor movement radicals all had a collection of things that the post-'72 U.S. protests haven't:

1. An actual strategy that involved an entire range of acts, from pure theatre to violent protest, and some notion of how and where these would be applied. If OWS had anything other than "be there" I haven't seen it (mind you, the combination of vast public indifference and active media ignorance/hostility made it difficult to see how they could have done anything else effectively). And to orchestrate this these groups also had

2. An actual structured leadership - often fractious, even infighting, but the leaders were there actively planning the attacks on their opponents. The OWS seems to suffer from the goofy fuzzy-logic cloud-leadership that is to my mind the very WORST hangover of the Sixties protests. People like Lewis and Nehru and MLK were in many ways very unlikeable, manipulative, cunning sons-of-bitches. The OWS people seem to have absorbed the wrong lesson, which is that to get to a beneficent end you need to be a beneficent person. Couldn't be wronger. Many, perhaps most, of the people who have done "good" things for the mass of humanity have themselves been real bastards. You have to break a lot of eggs sometimes to make a good omlette...

Sorry that I'm such a little ray of sunshine today. But, as Matt Taibbi points out, the things that OWS is pointing fingers at aren't minor issues - they go to the very heart of the corruption of the crony-capitalist scam that has been driving the U.S. (and much of the Euro nations) back towards the Gilded Age. I'd have liked to see the U.S. and other western publics "get" that. But this doesn't seem to have happened, and at this point I have to conclude that it ISN'T going to happen. And for someone like me, who is and whose kids will be, part of the 99%, that looks like a bad thing for the future.


  1. "But the French were too meek to make that move"

    Note that I broadly agree to your post overall, but I took offense at the line above, being french an all myself...
    Looking at it from, I'd say that it was not so much meekness as pressure from the combined USA and UK.
    The USA had invested MUCH in nazi Germany, basically an oversea US big money-fueled dominion, exactly as saudi arabia was, and were hostile to France (especially after the 1936 Popular front took over, IIRC, in 1937, the USA for all purpose set a military tech embargo against France, while US companies continued to supply nazi Germany, for example with airplane fuel, parts and supplies even as the LW was bombing Poland).

    As for the brits, they were back to their old "Divide and Conquer" schtick, were looking favorably at the nazi, and only backed away from it in 1938, when they realized it had backfired and they were faced with war.

    Btw, this is also why Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands chose to stay neutral, and why Belgium objected to having the Maginot line extended along its original plan.
    Also, in hindsight, the fact that the inspector general of the British armed forces was the pro-nazi Edward VIII, who had full knowledge of the french defense plans, might have explained why Germany chose to attack precisely at the weakest points of the front.

    Anyway, you are probably a lot more History-savyy than me anyway, overall, but I thought I'd give you an another perspective on this. In all fairness, once you start looking a bit at the "US plutocracy" links with the nazi regime, before, during, and after WWII, it gets mindblowing as soon as you scratch the surface; in many ways, it was either a symbiotic, or even an employer-employee relationships.
    Really makes you realize how much of a conjob WWII was, millions of death, untold suffering and destruction, with an elite of schemers playing both sides and not only getting away with it, but winning above all expectations.

    My only wish is that the current crisis are the last throes of that "WWII dominium". THE USSR is gone, the US empire to go?

  2. Also, my apologies for delurking only to hijack the comments, but, really, WWII History as it is used is but a mental trap... a very minor but IMHO revealing sideshow is the "cheese eating surrender monkeys" meme about the french, that is now so entrenched into the US pop culture that it morphed into some kind of irreal, abstract thing, but is also a very distinct ideological "marker", as per who launched it, and who assimilated it into their worldview.

    Ok, leaving you now.

  3. Kevin: If you've read some of my other postings you'll know that I wouldn't take the time to cross the street to spit on the whole "French = surrender" meme if it was on fire. The French were the Mad Max of Europe for centuries, carving their way through the continent with blood and fire. If they're taking a break from that for a couple of decades they deserve it.

    That said, the France of the Thirties WAS a mess. The great killing of Verdun and the loss of the entire wartime generation - a bloodletting we cannot even begin to understand - had knocked a lot of the hardness out of France. The Rhineland affair didn't need a whole lot of aggro; a couple of divisions would have seen the Germans off. But the French Army wasn't going to play.

    I don't think that Occupy had even a sliver of the opportunity that the Germans had in '35. Instead of "retaking" the political ground they had to TAKE it from the oligarchs, their bought pols, their media conglomerates, their sedated public. All the banksters had and have to do is...nothing. And they've done that brilliantly.

    The foreclosures are resuming, the piddly little attempts to re-regulate the bank/casinos have failed, the entire political conversation isn't about the dead-in-the-water liquidity trap but about "deficits" if reining in deficits NOW (after the drunken excesses of the Bush 43 years) with millions out of work was The Most Important Thing EVAH.

    I'm always sorry to see another step back to the Gilded Age. But this is one, and I can't see how Occupy changes the game here.

  4. chief,
    The pic of the person sitting with flex cuffs would be complete with a sand bag on her head.

  5. Interesting thread.

    I've got a different take on MLK and non-violent direct action.

    While I consider it possibly a winning strategy for the occupy movement, there are questions as to how to employ King's strategy. King states that the object is to exploit "tension" which exists in the situation due to one side acting against its supposed values. The segregationists argued for "separate but equal", but King pointed out that there was no equality at all, inspite of all the promise of equality and opportunity in America. Then there was the religious element as well since both sides professed to worship the same God. While press coverage was important, the main effect of this exploitation of tension was that the white community in the South began to doubt what it had implemented and began to look for a way out.

    Another facet of MLK's strategy was the "economic element" which consisted of boycotts and such targeting businesses that were discriminating against the black community. This was actually a form of coercion, and was very effective. These actions drove a wedge between the political and economic interests in the white community . . .

    So the obvious questions would be: where is this "tension" which binds the two sides? Does it exist at all? How would occupy apply the economic element, that is exert non-violent coercion?


    Welcome and thanks for commenting.

  6. seydlitz: See my update today.

    MLK, like the early labor leaders, like the anti-apartheid leaders in SA and the anticolonialists in India, was both strategist and tactician. These folks worked HARD to find the stress fractures and weaknesses in their enemies, and crafted ways to exploit them. They were in many ways polarizing and manipulative people and the course of their movements took years, even decades. As you point out, they also had to deal with acts that turned groups of people against them.

    As to your question, Matt Taibbi at Rolling Stone had a column the other day that addressed your "how would Occupy apply the economic element", and his suggestion was a concerted drive to highlight how vile Bank of America has been during this period and put immense pressure on people to pull their funds out of BofA - a 2011 version of King's boycotts. You can argue for or against Taibbi's ideas and characterization of BofA, but you'd have to agree that if such a thing COULD be done it might be very effective.

    But, again, as I discussed in the update, the single biggest failure in OWS I see is that they have absolutely NO capability to plan.

  7. Chief:

    You say OWS has absolutely no ability to plan!

    I suppose all those sympathy occupy protests that happened simultaneously across the world are conclusive evidence of same.

    Also, planning is over-rated. A viable alternative is that you do lots of different things and do more of what succeeds.

  8. Here's the problem with OWS as I see it: After many weeks of "occupation" I still don't know what they want, what solutions they propose, what their strategy is, etc. Who are their leaders? What are their goals? Both those questions had easy answers for the Nazi's in the 1930's and the Civil Rights movement in the 60's.

    The OWS people were able to set up committees and were able to organize to govern all kinds of internal administrative details related to the actual occupation, but they couldn't come up with a coherent political message or narrative.

    And this is kind of frustrating for me personally because I sympathize with their anger. They are mostly young people who are just realizing how immensely screwed they are in terms of their future opportunity.

    And maybe that's a difference with the other examples cited here. I think there is a strong generational-warfare component to this that I don't think there's really a solution to.

  9. Thanks for this Chief, your thinking mirrors mine.

    One other aspect of the civil rights movement that we prefer to overlook is the stick that went with the carrot: Malcolm X. At some point, the establishment leadership realized that they could either deal with reasonable folks like MLK or deal with the angry guys with the guns. Not to overemphasize it, but it was a factor.

  10. The problem with the occupy movement I think is the one Andy points out: it's an extremely heterogeneous group in which the ideas as to what to actually do about the situation might not all go in line. They are united chiefly by a feeling that things can't go on the way they are, but the concept as to how things should be in my eyes probably varies quite a bit - from die hard communists to conservative Christians who put a bit more importance to the sermon on the mount and the cleansing of the temple than your average self-professed "born again" Christian I'd assume a lot of people can find themselves sympathizing with or taking part in the OWS movement. Problem is that as soon as they agree on an outcome scenario, it's not the other side that fractures, it's their own. Yes, the problems they point their fingers at are serious, but unfortunately, the solutions aren't as simple as ending segregation and unequal rights (which didn't end racism anyway). Globalization in the end makes economy a difficult machine to play with - change a dial in one country it can have repercussions across the globe. It introduced both a great deal of flexibility on the part of the economic movers and shakers (production of much about anything can be moved almost anywhere) but also a great deal of intertia on the political side (fear of changing something that will make the economic side to actually pack up and move). Given that, it needs to be asked whether "giving an answer to the problems" is actually a realistic notion, or wether the only thing OWS can hope for anyway is to see for it that more concepts are being discussed than the current one. In a day and age in which even politicians are more reacting than acting and more curing symptoms than actually working towards the realization of visions, there will always be more who feel something is amiss than those who are sure they have the solution - and of the latter, we have to deduct the Anders Breiviks and other fanatics. They are reason enough to be afraid of those who claim to know how things should be.

    I'm the first to say you need a political goal to win a conflict, but if you can't agree to one, you just might have to be content being the salt being brought into a wound rather than the sword cutting the gordian knot.

  11. Clausewitz-

    Are you the same "Clausewitz" that I know from

  12. Paul-

    If you're reading this I wonder if you have a comment in regards to MLK and "the deacons" . . . ? I've argued following your input that non-violent direction action did in fact have a violent element, or rather an element that was willing to resort to violence/inflict damage . . . if pushed far enough.

  13. seydlitz

    Yes - that's why I copied over that name :)

  14. Clausewitz-

    Mind if I call you Claus? Welcome!

    As to the political purpose, I think Chris Hedges said it well:

    --What we are witnessing in parks and squares across the United States is not simply widespread revulsion over the greed and cruelty of corporate capitalism, but the articulation of a new and potent radicalism. This radicalism challenges the right of corporations to poison our ecosystem and turn greed and self-promotion into the highest good at the expense of human life. If this movement can cross class lines, if it can articulate its vision to those in marginalized communities, especially poor people of color, it can tap into a force and power that was never part of the New Left. It can make possible the shaking of the foundations and, let us hope, the toppling of the corporate state.--

    The entire article is worth reading. He brings up 1989 as well, but doesn't seem to understand the blatant differences between then and now . . . not to mention what exactly would we replace the "corporate state" with?

  15. Seyditz,
    As best memory serves, the Deacons for Defense were athletic young men, who said little and walked about with the assurance of martial artists. During the day they were almost invisible; at night they set up roving patrols in concentric rings around our encampments. Each Deacon carried a small radio. A retired army sergeant from Bogalusa has organized the group and was in command.
    On a very basic level, we were glad for the protection. Some of that gratitude also came about because they gave us moral protection. Each of the marchers had made a silent vow on those long hot roads not to become reduced to violence. With the Deacons around, we would not have to.
    As for the 99ers, last Sunday I had opportunity to spend some time with them in Tranquility Park, near downtown Houston. Three of us sat on a concrete ledge in the park and talked – one was a thin, somewhat haggard middle-aged man, a Navy veteran with broken, festered front teeth that must have been painful. The other was a young woman from Cairo, Egypt. She spoke of the connection between this protest and events in the Middle East, how the motto “Down with regime” in Arabic also means “Down with the system.” Her eloquence, her empathy, her self-depreciating humor was reminiscent of Rosa Luxemburg, a name she did not know.
    So the protesters who, empty handed, go against the mighty, are almost surely to lose. But losing is not the worst thing, nor is losing this battle definitive. The present system cannot endure, no more than could the Soviet Union, which in many ways is its model.

  16. Hmm,

    I don't see it Seydlitz. The article struck me as mostly about internecine leftist warfare. The bulk of it was basically an attack on the "new left."

    I do get the part about the "corporate state" but the political purpose appears to be purely oppositional. For example:

    The only effective tool for change will come through movements such as those that stand in direct opposition to state power and seek through the sheer force of numbers and civil disobedience to discredit and weaken the corporate state.

    To what end? It appears he seeks economic justice, but that presents a catch-22: One can't create economic justice absent the coercive power of the state, but once the state the power to choose economic winners and losers then what you end up with is the "corporate state" which is what we have today. Hence the last question in your comment is critical.

  17. Andy: Read the Taibbi article I linked to. I think it sums up pretty well the sort of thing that the "Occupy" protesters are "protesting". This stuff isn't all THAT hard to suss out; reinstate Glass-Steagall, break up the worst of the giant casino-banks (if they're too big to fail they're too big to exist), break the link between Wall Street and the Federal regulatory agencies (including especially the Goldman/cabinet pipeline), rein in the worst of the crony capitalist nonsense that has brought us four bubbles in thirty years. Simply reducing the access that big money has to legislation and regulation would be a tremendous beginning!

    That said, you're right in that OWS doesn't SAY all that, or, if it does, it does it in such a messed up, incoherent way that the "Average Americans", trained like baby seals to gobble up easily digestible gobbets of newslike infotainment, are utterly confounded and just give up out of befuddlement.

    I have a tremendous amount of sympathy for these poor bastards. But the oligarchy has already put two rounds in the back of their head. They're dead - they just don't know it yet...

  18. As Andy said, where are the OWS goals, leaders, self-propaganda ...? There is generational warfare, and "they" see the protesters as bums, not as members of "we".

    For most, BofA is us, even when it isn't! We don't want rotted front teeth or to live in Hoovervilles. This was a flash in the pan, because that is how young people do things today -- quick-quick internet connex, flash mob, queue up "Glee!" Disseminate. Let's go to Starbucks and chat -- wasn't that fun!

    What effects change as Chief points out is order, hierarchy and commitment. Just last month BofA rescinded a proposed $5 debit card fee due to 500,000 protest letters. Boycotts work; money talks, and there must be a way to organize sympathizers to come on board in that way, without causing them too much pain or sacrifice.

    Successful protest does not require a large fanatical core, but all methods of gaining sympathy from the public must be employed. OWS was a fail on most accounts, IMHO.

  19. @seydlitz

    The article you cite to me seems very US-centric. It fails to acknowledge how the movement spread internationally - in London, it already lead to some major figures of the religious hierarchy at St. Pauls resigning over how to deal with their big camp outside St. Pauls.

    "This radicalism challenges the right of corporations to poison our ecosystem and turn greed and self-promotion into the highest good at the expense of human life."

    If that was their main point, they would, at least in many countries in Europe, have found a ready home within the Green parties. Would you then attribute the movement's relative weakness in Germany to their existing a Green party and a relatively radically leftist party of some strength?

  20. I think Lisa's characterization of the OWS movement is most correct. It IS a flash mob; a large polite, reasonably intelligent, and mostly polite mob. But it is still a mob.

    I think Heinlein stated the nature of a mob best, "you calculate the intelligence of a mob by finding the smartest person in the mob and dividing it by the number of people in the mob. The result tends to have the intelligence of an ant." OWS can police itself (no small feat) and keep itself going when there aren't active opponents but it can't move and it can't make decisions.

    The OWS COULD turn into something bigger and better but it needs the self-disciplined, non-violent, smart leadership that the Chief and others have mentioned. There are a LOT of stress points in a corporate plutocracy and it would be pretty easy to stress them simply using the same flash mob tactics the OWS uses today.

  21. And here's the big similarity I see between OWS and a "flash mob" - neither force the bystander to take a stand either with them or with their enemies.

    Contrast this with Egypt's Tahrir Square "occupiers". The Tahrir Square protests weren't sitting around some meaningless patch of park. They were tying up a huge portion of central Cairo. Businesses were shut, traffic stalled. When the cops showed up, the occupiers FOUGHT...and the cops retreated. Mubarak sent in his goons and the occupiers FOUGHT...and the goons lost. The Army wouldn't fight...and Mubarak lost.

    The Western versions have been careful to generally avoid doing anything that interferes with the business. When they have marched they have marched places that have little or nothing to do with their stated objectives; nobody has been arrested trying to block off the Stock Exchange, or sit-it at Goldman-Sachs or Bank of America HQ.

    There has been no real attempt to use economic tactics to hurt their enemies - Taibbi's very sensible suggestion to attack BofA by disinvestment has gone unechoed by the Occupy PR sources, whatever they are.

    So to do all this placing of internal strain and highlighting of hypocrisy protesters have to take actions that FORCE their enemies to act in stressful and hypocritical ways. I can tell you that I lived through the entire Occupy Portland business and never, not once, ever had to do more the zip past the camps in the downtown squares. They NEVER forced me, or people like me, to take a side.

    That's spectacularly ineffective protesting in my book.

    For most, BofA is us, even when it isn't! But the thing is it doesn't HAVE to be, Lisa. There will always be people who want to throw money at shady financial schemes (or lovely fledgeling business - YMMV!). What they don't and shouldn't be is backed by the fiscal weight of the government. But when you're "too big to fail"...

    My bride and I looked into our old bank Washington Mutual and it's successor, Chase. We did NOT like what we saw, so we now do our banking at our little local Albina Credit Union. If we ever find that ACU is going into the shady-mortgage-lending business, we'll go elsewhere. We've told the bank officers this (what a concept - to be able to walk into your local branch and talk to the vice-president!). There's no reason for 99% of Americans to bank with these mega-banks, especially ones like Chase and BofA that play the investment casino game.

    OWS could be beating on this like a drum. Remember "Disinvest in Apartheid?" That sort of economic pressure can work. It's a tribute to the degree that OWS has been a clusterfuck that it hasn't even tried this.

    I REALLY wanted these guys to succeed. But it looks like they just don't have the organizational capabilities. All those people sitting around in parks accomplishing bupkis.

    Hate him - and I do - but you gotta give Osama credit in hell. He took 19 potential Occupy park-sitters, otherwise worthless Saudi twentysomething God-pesterers, gave them rudimentary training and some box-cutters, and used them to make the entire United States go utterly fucking nuts, leaping and howling through the Middle East for a fucking decade like a chimpanzee rubbing Tiger Balm on its nuts.

    THAT's effective, in a spectacularly nihilistic way.

    I'm not suggesting that OWS give a bunch of high-rises a trim. But just sitting around parks hoping that people will "get it"? Ain't working, boys...

  22. Chief,

    I read Taibbi's article and it does provide a decent overview of the issues. But I've been reading similar articles for years. It's easy to identify problems, it's not so easy to come up with solutions and even harder to come up with ones that can actually be implemented. Like I said, I understand what the OWS people are against - the problem is that it's not enough to be against something.

  23. Don't mix up tactical with strategic.

    When people ask "what are your demands", they are expecting recommended behavioural changes in the 1%. (stopping revolving door cabinet/industry practices, better regulation, etc.)

    OWS's strategic goal, however, is to re-engineer the existing oligarchic system. Thus, they *can not* make those tactical level demands. If they do, then when the oligarchy makes a pacification gesture they would be compromised. I.e. "see, the system works, your legitimate demands were met, you can go home now".

    What they *can* do is bang on a drum so that *other people* take up the tactical demands.

    This is in line with OWS's much more ambitious target. OWS isn't trying to reform the 1%. They are trying to change how the 99% behaves.

    Whether they will succeed is an open question. Any marketing executive will tell you that changing behaviour takes years of effort, it is much easier to simply change brands.

    However, behavioural change is in fact possible. Both smoking and drunk driving were much more tolerated when I was younger than today.

    The real issue for OWS is whether they can endure for long enough to accomplish real change. The odds are against them.

  24. On a different note, when I got up early, as usual, this morning, my daughter (who is studying to be a lawyer) was all bright eyed and exited.

    She had stayed up the whole night hooked to a video feed by one of the OWS protesters as they were overrun by the police. She had virtually accompanied him as they were noisily evicted, re-assembled a few blocks away, discussed alternatives, were lectured by senior protesters on what was and was not legal (and what to actually expect from the police and the Mayor). She even heard about the injunction that the Mayor is choosing to ignore and watched the protesters plan their responses. What is more, it wasn't just a passive show she was watching, she could shout out encouragement and add fresh ideas from her chair on the Canadian prairie.

    She came away from last night a lot more motivated than I have seen her in a long time. She also received an education in the power of the oligarchy. This education can be repeated at every protest site (minus the cold, tear gas, and bruises). Combat without the boredom or danger.

    Finally, note that she is was not alone, many others were also virtually participating in last nights activities. This technology is a game changer.

  25. Clauswitz:
    I'm the first to say you need a political goal to win a conflict, but if you can't agree to one, you just might have to be content being the salt being brought into a wound rather than the sword cutting the gordian knot.

    Bing #1

    P Paul:
    So the protesters who, empty handed, go against the mighty, are almost surely to lose. But losing is not the worst thing, nor is losing this battle definitive. The present system cannot endure, no more than could the Soviet Union, which in many ways is its model.

    Bingo #2

    Great points guys!

    No one's mentioned them, but I do think they are pertinent, are the political actions taken in Wisconsin and Ohio. Those two had direction, organization, fund-raising, leadership b/c there was a point to them. Getting rid of some Republican state senators in the case of Wisconsin, and an odious piece of legislation in Ohio.

    With OWS, the problems it protests are much more pervasive. Although they have received union support in some places, a good sized part of the problem is not with one particular political party or one particular segment of the population. Both Ds & Rs are mucked up, and much of the 99% as well needs an attitude adjustment.

    What OWS is doing right now is "Consciousness Raising", the first step of many that will need to be done to set the country on a more sound basis.

    Ael, that is really inspiring to hear from your daughter.


  26. As Pluto and Chief suggest, this sort of protest could be successful, but organization beyond FB notices is required.

    I fear that we have become comfortable existing in an ersatz democracy; democracy-as-spectacle. When some of our best and brightest are content virtually existing in Second Life and Farmville, we've got a problem with the Soma drip.

    Of course Chief is correct – Osama was wildly effective. He did so much with so little. Everything was right: Eager fanatics willing to take the fall, hitting a vulnerable target so precisely that Minnesota fats could not have lined up the balls better, eliciting precisely the desired response. That is planning; that is effective psyops.

    And Chief also notes that OWS Portland "NEVER forced me, or people like me, to take a side. That's spectacularly ineffective protesting in my book." Absolutely. Most people prefer to move away from an irritant.

    But if you can make it in their better interest, even psychologically, to join in -- as, say, pushing the credit union agenda -- then you can claim solidarity and see a national shift. But nothing is done without hitting your target in the pocketbook. "Divest in Apartheid" is a good example. The recent BofA backdown on the $5 debit charges is another.

    AEL seems to defend OWS here, but @ Chief's other site, he proves himself to be a herd member, saying:

    I suspect that come spring something new will pop up. I've got some popcorn and a fast internet connection. Best seat in the house!

    It's all fun and interesting for most observers. Chief did the right thing by talking to the bank and withdrawing funds. We here, dialoguing, are also doing the right thing by exercising our 1st Amendment rights. There is a way to animate this passion into effective action.

    OWS missed the boat, which is not to say a future effort will also.

  27. Ael gives a glowing encomium to his daughter's evening gawking at the protester:

    "She had virtually accompanied him as they were noisily evicted, re-assembled a few blocks away, discussed alternatives, were lectured by senior protesters on what was and was not legal ..."

    He ends saying,

    Finally, note that she is was not alone, many others were also virtually participating in last nights activities. This technology is a game changer.

    "Game changer"? Uhhhh, no. No one cares that you are sitting w/ your popcorn watching or that she is delighted out on the prairie. That means exactly, nothing, IMHO.

  28. NEVER forced me, or people like me, to take a side. That's spectacularly ineffective protesting in my book.

    Maybe they did play it safe, but the danger of trying to force people to choose a side is that it's likely they will choose the side opposed to you.

  29. Yes, Claus Hedges's view is American centric, but the problem is based in America, or not?

    I found the link that Chief linked to Taibbi's post to be all about symptoms, but not really about the actual problem which I think Chris Hedges does deal with. The fact that his assumptions are off only indicates how difficult reform in fact will be. How does one reform this corporate state that we have allowed to come about?

    Taibbi seems to sense what the real problem is with a later post:

    --It's not that the cops outside the protests are doing wrong, per se, by patrolling the parks and sidewalks. It's that they should be somewhere else. They should be heading up into those skyscrapers and going through the file cabinets to figure out who stole what, and from whom. They should be helping people get their money back. Instead, they're out on the street, helping the Blankfeins of the world avoid having to answer to the people they ripped off.

    People want out of this fiendish system, rigged to inexorably circumvent every hope we have for a more balanced world. They want major changes. I think I understand now that this is what the Occupy movement is all about. It's about dropping out, if only for a moment, and trying something new, the same way that the civil rights movement of the 1960s strived to create a "beloved community" free of racial segregation. Eventually the Occupy movement will need to be specific about how it wants to change the world. But for right now, it just needs to grow. And if it wants to sleep on the streets for a while and not structure itself into a traditional campaign of grassroots organizing, it should. It doesn't need to tell the world what it wants. It is succeeding, for now, just by being something different.--

  30. It's all about tolerating a system which has in reality become intolerable. How to replace it? As Andy says one has to come up with a new version of the coercive state, but one that is more in line with the 99% instead of the big money who control and manipulate the current system.

    Good luck, since following MLK's strategic framework you might be hard pressed to find that "tension" element in the current oligarchy. They may after all be more than willing to unleash the "black and tans" to sort things out, with those getting what they deserve "good and hard".

    Rather, instead, sustained mass demos, as in Leipzig in 1989 (Heldenstadt der DDR) on every Monday . . . that would send quite a different message . . .

  31. Hedges's latest I pass on without comment . . .

  32. @seydlitz

    Is the problem really "based in America"? The City of London is shock full of banks, and it's probably no surprise that there's a strong Occupy movement there, too. Britain has been a consistent bulwark against tighter regulation of both banks and ratings agencies for fear of driving them out of London (which has a peculiar construction of City-Lobbyism straight into parliament).

    But we also see something else in Britain: Here, the movement has succeeded in at least putting the Church of England to task and forcing it to choose sides - and after the resignation of several members of the St Pauls hierarchy in protest of leanings towards driving the occupiers off, it seems at least for now the Church has decided that the Occupiers are more in line with Christian teachings than the banks.

    As for sustained mass demonstrations, you need enough of a driving force behind them. Note that even the opponents of German labor reform while striving to hop onto that bandwagon failed to rally sustained mass support for their own "Montagsdemonstrationen".

    I think there is a commonality between the civil rights movement in the US and GDR 1989 that hasn't found its way into the discussion right now, namely that in both cases, the nations or regions at issue were sorely lagging behind other nations on the topic at hand. Even though of course racism existed and sometimes, people would segregate with their feet, the degree to which this was official policy in the South was drastic. At the same time, people saw that things could be different. While there was still plenty of work left to do in the north as evidenced by residential segregation, for example, a lot of the official organizational segregation had already been abandoned, giving a clear view of functioning better-integrated society. Likewise, the GDR was sorely lagging behind other nations with reforms, and even though probably only part of the demonstrators wanted to see the GDR gone completely, they were united by the drive that this has to stop now and not just a vision of how things could be different but specific examples. While they would not all point at the same thing, each and every one of them could point at an example as to what things should change to, be that the FRG, Poland, Hungary etc.

    This then is also the key difference to the Occupy movement, because which examples of regions or nations where things are better could they look at in a global financial market? Bhutan with its happiness as official state goal is hardly a feasible example for an industrialized nation.

  33. Sustained demonstrations would work, like those held outside of the White House by the Suffragettes. A continual, measured presence plays on the conscience. It doesn't hurt to gain some members from the inside, but it needn't be many.

    True networking (not of the incessant Twitter variety which has become Heidegger's dull, nattering idle chatter), forming nexuses with divergent groups like The Sisters of St. Francis (featured this wk. in the NYT "The Quiet Shareholder Activists") will be necessary. There must be manifold portals through which the average citizen might be seduced to leave his Barcalounger.

    There must be enough present to reach an activation energy and be something something more than a curious circus viewed on iPads.

  34. Claus-

    "I think there is a commonality between the civil rights movement in the US and GDR 1989 that hasn't found its way into the discussion right now, namely that in both cases, the nations or regions at issue were sorely lagging behind other nations on the topic at hand."

    Nice point, there was that commonality, but is it necessary for a revolution? That is what we are talking about, not simply "reform", right?

    That is assuming that the system will not lend itself to reform. I think this is Hedges's point. I take him seriously since he's a smart guy and obviously sees something that we perhaps don't. That taking his polemic with a big dash of salt . . .

    There comes a point when the elite can simply not hold on and it has little to do with comparisons, what is going on elsewhere. Consider that other German revolution, that of November 1918 . . . maybe we're at the "September point" as far as that goes . . . ?

  35. Lisa-

    "Sustained demonstrations would work, like those held outside of the White House by the Suffragettes. A continual, measured presence plays on the conscience. It doesn't hurt to gain some members from the inside, but it needn't be many."

    Yes, agree. I think sustained demonstrations, say once a week in NYC, always the same day and with ever increasing participation . . . as at Leipzig in 1989. They started small . . . but the effect in the end was overwhelming. It depends on a whole host of factors, but we see that the elite is totally clueless as to how to respond, how to deal with what is going on. Their response is to pretend that nothing is wrong . . .

    I think Andrew Bacevich puts it well (once again):

    --In Washington, meanwhile, a hidebound governing class pretends that none of this is happening, stubbornly insisting that it’s still 1945 with the so-called American Century destined to continue for several centuries more (reflecting, of course, God’s express intentions).

    Here lies the most disturbing aspect of contemporary American politics, worse even than rampant dysfunction borne of petty partisanship or corruption expressed in the buying and selling of influence. Confronted with evidence of a radically changing environment, those holding (or aspiring to) positions of influence simply turn a blind eye, refusing even to begin to adjust to a new reality.--

  36. Lisa:
    There must be enough present to reach an activation energy and be something something more than a curious circus viewed on iPads.

    Protesters "were greeted by hundreds of militarized riot police armed with tasers, stun batons, beanbag weapons, tear gas pepper spray and live ammunition. This was shocking to many of us who did not expect you to respond to unarmed, peaceful and joyful protest with potentially deadly force," the statement read.

    "You told us on the first day of our protest that you were sympathetic to the goals of our movement and wanted to help find a solution that works for everybody," continued Ackerman, of Portland. "The behavior over the weekend of police officers under your command has clearly indicated otherwise. Yours is the latest in a string of aggressive, dangerous crackdowns by city and state governments across the nation attempting to silence the Occupy movement."

    That might change, and soon.

    Due to the pull-out of US forces from Iraq and possible draw-down from Afghanistan, there will be a lot of veterans coming home looking for something to do, preferably profitable, I'm sure.

    Already, there's an ad campaign out for "hiring the vet", but as noble an effort as that may be, there is no foreseeable outlook for increased hiring of anyone.

    IMO this coming holiay season will be a bust for retailers, and the economy at best will still be sluggish as the presidential campaigns get underway.

    The protests will not melt away. In fact I fear an increasing opportunity for violence, much like during the Civil Rights and Vietnam era. TPTB have already shown their hand, ready and able to deploy overwhelming force.

    Both Ds & Rs have their national conventions in the Deep South. I expect that there will be protests.

    Another Chicago '68?

    Maybe, but this time it's very likely the "beatees" won't be beatniks and hippies.


  37. I want also to add that however much Obama has been beating the bushes about money to stimulate job production, his record of dilly-dallying and shilly-shallying on issues like this does not inspire me. The Republicans do not show any signs of budging on their positions.

    It won't be just veterans coming home to no jobs, it will be much more average Mr. & Mrs. Out-of-Work Sixpack enduring yet another year of no work or not enough money.

    The future looks very bleak to me.



    Now that's quite a bit of "attitude adjustment" and behind it an equal dose of pain.

    And OWS Central, Zuccotti Park, busted.


  39. In the immortal words of Gov. Rick Perry:


    And according to one Justice official, each of those actions was coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies.

    The official, who spoke on background to me late Monday evening, said that while local police agencies had received tactical and planning advice from national agencies, the ultimate decision on how each jurisdiction handles the Occupy protests ultimately rests with local law enforcement.

    According to this official, in several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules. Agencies were also advised to demonstrate a massive show of police force, including large numbers in riot gear. In particular, the FBI reportedly advised on press relations, with one presentation suggesting that any moves to evict protesters be coordinated for a time when the press was the least likely to be present.

    Anyone wanna bet against my assertion that there are growing seeds of violence?


  40. If you're not watching it now, catch tonight's Rachel Maddow show online.

    And like the first time OWS Oakland was pushed around and called a strike that shut down a major US port, OWS Portland is calling for a city-wide action for Nov. 20.

    The point of all this?

    They never ever learn, until taught again and again and again.


  41. After some more thinking, here's my "big picture" analysis:

    One thing I've been saying for a long time now is that what can't be sustained, won't be sustained and there is a ton of stuff in this country that is flat-out unsustainable. Maybe the necessary "tension" is to be found there and will grow as people realize that the status quo can't continue. Sooner or later most of the so-called "99%" will have to deal with the likelihood that their expectations about the future will not be met.

    The Tea Party and OWS are reactions to unsustainable conditions in our system, but they are only the first cracks in the dam - many more will follow and at some point, the dam is gonna break. Although I stand by my criticisms of OWS (ie. their lack of goals, organization, etc.), I think I was wrong to expect much more out of them. They could have been a catalyst for change - the equivalent of Mohamed Bouazizi - but it's still too early for a catalyst to bring real change. Things are going to get worse before we reach that kind of tipping point. OWS' lack of effectiveness is probably as much about timing as anything else.

  42. Andy: One thing I'd like to get a better grip on is your comment about how a "ton of stuff in this country is unsustainable".

    OK, I'll buy that but as always the devil is in the details. WHAT is unsustainable? Where do you see the tension cracks?

    What makes me want to know more of exactly what you consider the tension points to be comes particularly from your comment about the "99%" dealing with their expectations about the future not being met.

    You do understand what most of these people - and I taught them for many years in community college and worked with them on the shop floor - "expect", right?

    It's lower wages, smaller jobs, loss of homes and living in crappy rental units. It's sending their kids into the Army because they need the GI Bill money. It's running from credit cards to payday lenders to pawn shops.

    So when you say that their "expectations will not be met" are you talking about their expectations to have 120 cable channels or their expectations to have three hots and a cot?

  43. Just a couple of last thoughts:

    1. Sometimes it's enough - enough of a start - to just be AGAINST something. Before there is any revolution there has to be a grievance. The "what now" always comes later; how long did the U.S. take to come up with "what now" (and how many times did we change our version?) after 1775? Or France after 1781?

    2. And "Reinstate Glass-Steagall" IS "being for something". It baffles me how many comments here talk about how haaaard it is to rein in these malefactors of great wealth. and yet...we did it for damn near 50 years. It's not like we have forgotten the means. We just don't want to do the hard work to make our corrupt system work. That's not hard, it's just difficult.

    3. And if you want to change something you have to force people to take a stand. If they stand against you, you lose. But if they never have to do anything, then they will do nothing. And if your goal is lose anyway. So if OWS is right - and they certainly believe they're right, many of us here believe they're right...why NOT force me to choose? I might choose against them...but I might not, and at least I'm going to have to MAKE a choice. If I get to sit still - as I have - then the banksters win because the system they've rigged in their favor remains.

  44. bb,

    This link did not work for me:



  46. Teapers? Somebody mention them?

    Alternative Reality
    It's almost needless to say, but if a bunch of TeaBaggers settled into a park somewhere to protest Kenyan Muslim Socialism then things would be playing out a bit differently. Brooks and Gerson would be writing regular tributes to these heroic Americans who represent the best of us. Nightly on the NewsHour they'd remind us that it had been "X days since President Obama refused to give in to their demands" no matter how kooky or nonexistent those demands were.

    And, no, the cops would not have gone in and started bashing heads. by Atrios


  47. I guess one question about identifying solutions is where do you start? Who do we consign to society's dung heap, which is slowly growing?

    Andy speaks of "unsustainable" programs, yet many other developed countries are and will continue to be able to sustain the basics of life, such as universal health care, retirement and welfare services. Meanwhile, in the US, the cost of "access" to health care and retirement continue to rise, pushing more and more people out of "the market". Now we are looking at postal service as a "business" rather than a basic social service, and will be making access to that difficult for millions of rural Americans. Rather than define a national standard for postal service and ponying up the money to achieve that, we are looking at profitability and letting the "bottom line" define what services will be provided.

    Speaking of the "bottom line", numerous states are reducing the cost of disbursing unemployment and other social service benefits by contracting with banks for prepaid debit cards. Why a bank should make millions on the disbursing of human services funds, while recipients are hit with ATM fees puzzles me. The debit card programs are not established for the benefit of the recipient, but the state, and banks are probably earning more in fees and investment value on the "float" than the states are saving. But more central in my mind is the question of whether programs for the poor, sick and unemployed should be a significant profit maker for the private sector. Should an unemployed person have to travel 50 miles to find an ATM that does not charge fees?

    So, at the heart of the discontent, I would offer, is the realization that not only are we not providing basic services for the whole population, but those services that are provided are lining the pockets of big business. Back in 1980, a friend of mine left his upper management job with a big corporation to take the helm of a "not for profit" private corporation serving the needs of the Hispanic community in a Texas city. I complimented him on it, and he laughed, saying, "There's big money in tending to those in misery. I'm making 25% more and working fewer hours, while people are pinning roses on me.

    Look around. Not only are basic social and government services disappearing, withering on the vine or being attacked as "unsustainable", but you would be hard pressed to find any that are not ultimately providing the opportunity for the private sector to make serious money off them.

    So, where do the "Occupiers" begin when the whole society is rotting?

  48. Clauswitz, Seydlitz: ". . . maybe we're at the "September point" as far as that goes . . . ?"

    An exciting thought but I don't think we are to that state yet. Seydlitz at least witnessed the Berlin Wall coming down. There were two factors that allowed it to happen that are not currently present:
    1. The East German people were allied with each other by hatred for their government to a degree that we probably can't yet imagine
    2. The East German police and army were unwilling to fire on their own citizens, in part because they hated their government almost as much as the people did

    While the US government has lowered our expectations, the American public hates itself (damned lefties and righties, everything would be perfect if they didn't exist) more than it hates the government at this time. And I KNOW that the police in the US would willingly open fire on an OWS crowd that they viewed as getting out of control.

    The current state is not stable and WILL change over the next couple of years but I do not yet know how. The current economic situation is held together with duct tape and bailing wire and is slowly fraying so it will likely be the next big spark but it is beyond my wisdom to know how that will play out.

    All of this makes me feel even more than usual that anybody who would willingly run for the Presidency is obviously insane and unfit for the job.

  49. I think the 500 lb gorilla in the room in all this is something that only Hedges has mentioned so far. The failure of the 60s New Left was that is was so much focused on the individual and easily led to narcissism and thus to no lasting relevance, at least as a guide to political change. Today we are ALL about the self, the sense of community is mostly a frail ghost of our distant past.

    The basic condition for a successful revolution in the GDR in 1989 was that they were "like one big family", warts, Stasi and all. Moral cohesion was high, whereas material - as in state structured - cohesion was in fact very fragile. Today we have little moral cohesion while our material cohesion is crumbling, which leaves everyone either hoping that somehow the ramshackle system can be patched together yet once again, or failing that it will be each one for him or herself, each against everyone else. How that plays out will depend on each "community's" specific dynamics imo.

  50. Pluto, we commented at exactly the same time and look how similar our views are . . .

  51. Al: "So, where do the "Occupiers" begin when the whole society is rotting?"

    Well said!

    I'd add that a recent government report showed that we have 16% of the population living in poverty (defined 22k per year for a family of four. Frankly, I'd describe that as desperate poverty given current costs).

    There's at least another 20% of the population that is living one minor disaster away from being in poverty. Our economy is now to the point where ANY economic downturn will probably add another 10% to the "edging toward poverty" group. Here's an article from Time supporting my numbers (which are conservative):

    Add it up and that's almost half the population. Economically, we are one small drop from looking more like Tsarist Russia than 1950's America. Does that sound sustainable, Chief?

  52. Al-

    --Speaking of the "bottom line", numerous states are reducing the cost of disbursing unemployment and other social service benefits by contracting with banks for prepaid debit cards. Why a bank should make millions on the disbursing of human services funds, while recipients are hit with ATM fees puzzles me.--

    But you have to admit it is such a wonderful scam! Plays to everyone's dubious assumptions while at exactly the same time offering the corrupt politicos yet another chance to game the system to their own advantage. And yet another sell out to the banks! Brilliant! This is exactly what "American ingenuity" has come down to . . . not that we build much besides things that go BOOM! . . .

    Milking the suckers . . . have ya'll ever wondered why we have in American English so many words and expressions related to "swindle"?

  53. seydlitz: I'd be hard-pressed to find a time when the U.S. was about "us"; there has ALWAYS been a "them", whether the "them" were Chinese, Irish, women, uppity Negroes...

    What we HAVE lost is the semi-armed truce between the hard Right and everyone else (I say that because there hasn't been a "hard Left" in the U.S. of any dimension since 1941). But that was always an anomaly; the post-WW2 period is far less typical of political life in the U.S. than any other time in our history.

    What did get lost somewhere after 1945 was a sense of the "us" in "us, the working stiffs" versus the plutocracy. And I think that has a LOT to do with the selling of the idea that owning your own house and car and television made you "middle class" and that the wealthy looked on you as little brothers and sisters. That was NEVER true, but the poor saps bought it. Now that thirty years of deregulation, privitization, and class war in favor of the wealthy has exposed the truth behind the lie most Americans refuse to believe it. They want to think that they're just a lottery ticket away from Millionaire Acres.

    And I am confident that this won't change until we're back in 1892. And at that point...well, at that point any change is going to be violent, and ugly, and is likely to be only for the WORSE.

  54. Chief: It's really the "Fat, Dumb and Happy Syndrome". Nothing matters until it's plopped in my lap. The Civil Rights movement succeeded because it was a moral imperative that initially threatened no cost to the vast majority outside the South. Of course, once things like "Affirmative Action" and "School Busing" delivered a tangible cost to the population at large, significant numbers of in name only supporters of civil Rights began singing a different tune.

    Seydlitz: "Today we have little moral cohesion while our material cohesion is crumbling, which leaves everyone either hoping that somehow the ramshackle system can be patched together yet once again, or failing that it will be each one for him or herself, each against everyone else. "

    Which is a form of what I described above about Civil Rights. We are a nation which hypes the "Rights" of all, but fails to see the responsibility each of us bears in providing those "rights" to each other. For a Black to have the "right" to eat at a lunch counter, for example, it's my responsibility to let him sit down next to me. For everyone to have access to health care someone has to pay for it. Our current system means that access is limited to those who can pay for it. So the only "inalienable right" we really afford to all is the right to spend our own money as we are able. As more and more people have less and less money, they are finding that their "rights" become fewer and fewer. Unlike Civil Rights, which initially seemed to be of no cost to many, the basics of life do cost money, and we have no real agreed upon moral imperative, as a society, to provide such basics. Hell, we haven't, as a society, really agreed on what basic rights, other than no cost intangibles, are to be assured. And even those "no cost rights" afforded in the Constitution are not universally agreed upon. Is it no wonder that the "1%" feel empowered to have all the "rights" that they can purchase? Other than the totally disenfranchised, that's the premise that the rest of the population works on.

  55. When I wrote that "there is a ton of stuff in this country that is flat-out unsustainable" I wasn't only talking about government programs, though many of those are obviously unsustainable. In general terms, the arc of our society over the last half-century isn't going to continue and is therefore unsustainable. We've deluded ourselves into thinking we can "have it all" and indeed, deserve it all. This is most obvious with regard to economics, but it applies to other areas as well. Consider foreign policy - who thinks we can maintain our relative hegemony? We will continue to be a powerful actor for a long time to come, but we need to realize that the disparity we've enjoyed since the end of the Cold War in terms of military capability and influence over foreign events is going to decline. Can we continue to afford a large, expensive military? The end of the Cold War should have caused us to reevaluate our position, and to reform the system on the scale we saw with the 1947 National Security Act. Instead we are trying to keep a system designed for different times and circumstances going with patches and band-aids. It can't last forever.

    Politically, we are not coming to grips with the new realities. Take a hard look at the GoP and Democratic party platforms - are they really able to deliver on what they promise? I think the answer is pretty obviously no - they are the equivalent of snake-oil salesman.

    Our political class is still living in the past and trying desperately to return to some status-quo-ante that exists only in their minds. For the Democrats that's FDR's and Johnson's "Great Society" and for the GoP it's Reagan. What we need is visionary leadership that can plot a course forward for the challenges of today and tomorrow, not try to return us to a past "happy time" that doesn't exist anymore and can't be recreated. So IMO, our politics are just as unsustainable as everything else - indeed they are what’s causing unsustainability in everything else. Can our politics continue as usual? No, not in my opinion.

    There is too much inertia and too many interests vested in the current system. This is a problem that's much bigger than large corporations or banks even though they gain the most. We are, IMO, past the point where tinkering can do anything constructive. We need a re-ording of things on the scale of what happened in the 1930's. Where I probably disagree with Chief is that I don't think that means re-implementing the policies put in place during the 1930's. This isn’t the same country as it was then. They tried a lot of things in the 1930’s and most of them were disasters, but some things succeeded. I don’t pretend to know how things will shake-out in the future, but I suspect the process will be similar – a lot of experimentation.

    In short I see very little that's sustainable over the long term across American society. Unless something is done, and soon, we are going to break two fundamentals precepts of our identity - that each generation will do better than its predecessors and that hard work and persistence will be rewarded with increased social mobility. The people in OWS understand, I think, that those precepts are already broken.

  56. The failure of the 60s New Left was that is was so much focused on the individual and easily led to narcissism and thus to no lasting relevance, at least as a guide to political change. Today we are ALL about the self, the sense of community is mostly a frail ghost of our distant past.

    That's a generational thing, which I've mentioned here before. I think I've cited it before, but I would point to this research from the AARP:

    However, there are some substantial differences among Boomers, Silents, and GIs that will shape Boomers into a political force different from both Silents and GIs. Whether or not the popular characterization of the Boomers as self-interested is correct, this survey suggests that, politically, Boomers of all orientations are now and will continue to engage in politics on their terms, and with clear self-interest in mind. The best illustration of this is the manner in which Boomers regard entitlements and obligations. In the survey, Boomers are more likely to name more “definite responsibilities” of government, yet they are less likely to believe that they owe the country certain obligations, including military service, paying taxes, and paying attention to political issues. The sense of obligation increases among the Silents and is highest among the GIs.


    The differences among Boomers, Silents, and GIs on social issues is a further illustration of how Boomers will continue to regard political participation as a means to ward personal ends, and less for larger goals. The fact that boomers are more open to social arrangements and behaviors that their parents would rarely consider points to an idea of politics that has less to do with regulating or prescribing behavior and more to do with allocating resources. The self-interest implied in this politics of resource allocation is evident in Boomers approach to entitlements. Although they are more liberal on certain moral and social issues than their predecessors and expect a lot of things from government, this does not necessarily translate into support for social welfare programs or traditional entitlements. Boomers are less likely than GIs to favor welfare programs for lower income people and far more likely to support privatizing Social Security and Medicare.

    What all this means for politics and the political process we have called “tailored engagement.” That is, Boomers can be expected to be as active as their parents in the political process but it will be on issues they consider important, and in ways they think are effective. Boomers will be the last to appear at a political rally in which there is no discussion of issues that clearly affect them. They will be the last to support a candidate because of party affiliation, or only because of a general sense that he or she would make a good legislator. Tailored engagement means that political participation by Boomers will be more like the social engagement of their youth – socially active but skeptical about politics; concerned with their communities or other things that directly affect them; results oriented with more regard for producing benefits than for achieving higher goals or fulfilling moral imperatives; and conducted through arrangements that may neglect the traditional political structures to which their parents felt an allegiance.

    These tendencies cross political lines. I don't think it's coincidence that almost all the Boomers were at voting age around the time of the 1980 election, and now Boomers are definitely driving the bus in this country. How do you change the attitude of an entire generation?

  57. Think I have one in the spam folder...

  58. One big lesson from watching my daughter is that there can be many more participants in a demonstration than those physically present. These virtual attendees are essentially invisible to those not "hooked up".

    However, they are still participants (being able to advise physical participants and also to watch multiple feeds and enable those who are location bound to be much more situationaly aware).

    Soldiers rarely have a good idea of what is happening on the whole battlefield, their awareness is limited to what they can see.

    Thus, we now have a situation where much protest activity is invisible, except where it contacts the physical world. A virtual iceberg where only the top bit is exposed.

    For those who would suggest that these virtual attendees are irrelevant I point out the value of crew served weapons. People do incredible things to not be embarrassed in front of their peers.

  59. Chief-

    Let me see . . . It's the same argument that always separates us. You think it's only more of the same ole same ole, and I think we're in brand spanking new territory.

    Andy talks about the experiments of the 1930s, but there's little talk of that now because the current political class feels no need to address the glaring problems we face, rather as Bacevich says, they simply carry on as if nothing were wrong.

    That's because the politicians today don't really fear an electoral backlash for not actually doing anything but talking platitudes. Would that have stood the smell test in 1932? If so then Hoover would have won in a landslide . . .

    Same ole, same ole?

    The truth is that in 1932 the money bags feared the people, in a really big way and they were willing to put up with all sorts of stuff just to hold on to what they had. FDR was hard medicine to swallow, but he was better than the alternative . . .

    Compare that to today . . . you see any fear among the plutocratic elite? Among the financial "movers and shakers"? Or are they laughing all the way to the bank?

    I think it perhaps a failure of the liberal/progressive perspective . . . it all comes down to a binary view of race, or us/them, with "them" always being a clearly defined "other", as in color or whatever, when the real distinction between then and now is "spiritual", as in worldview, as in how we saw the world then compared to how the atomized, propaganda-conditioned mass sees the world today, believe it or not.

    But it might take a conservative to see that, how really far we have collapsed, imo. Which only goes to show you how rare conservatives actually are . . . Funny that would make Chris Hedges a conservative as well . . .

  60. Andy: Don't see all the "disasters" of the Thirties. The "disaster" of the Thirties happened in 1929. What happened after that was a bunch of people trying all sorts of things to unscrew that pooch. Generally speaking they worked pretty well; the economy was slowly recovering (until FDR listened to the deficit fairies and cut back in '37 and the recovery dutifully stalled) until the World's Biggest Full Employment Program (aka WW2) kicked in.

    Meanwhile regulations like Glass-Steagall did a perfectly decent job of preventing the casino gamblers from gambling with public money.

    What's not to like?

    I'm all for this magical "...visionary leadership that can plot a course forward for the challenges of today and tomorrow" but unless that's going to be anything but a sexy campaign slogan there has to be attention to detail. Allowing banks to shoot craps with federally-guaranteed cash is an important detail. I'm not nearly as worried about "visionary" as I'd like to see some simple common competence in government working for the benefit of the bulk of U.S. citizens rather than those with the jack to get the ear of their congressman.

    When that happens I'll worry about the "vision thing".

    And while we're at it, remember that Alexander the Great had a plan for "visionary leadership".

    How'd that turn out?

    In case you haven't figured out I'm pulling your leg; I'm pulling your leg.

    But...seriously; you shout "fire" in the form of telling us that the U.S. is currently "unsustainable", and then...your examples are military hegemony and "having it all"?

    OK, I'll grant you that our military power is likely to fade over time; that's the arc of any Great Power. But that doesn't mean that the decline of military power has to be catastrophic. Portugal was once a global power; Portugal today is a perfectly nice little country.

    And "having it all"..?

    Who is this "we", white man? I don't know anything about your background, but I was raised from childhood understanding that the U.S. was taking WAY more than it's "share" of global resources, that I cost an order of magnitude more than an Angolan kid or a Cambodian one. And yet I never thought I could "have it all". My parent were kids of the Depression and hammered home the idea that unless I had my own little trust fund that anytime my economic masters goofed, or wanted to, I could lose my job, lose my home, lose everything.

    I may have "had it all" compared to a Somali, but "deserving it all"?

    I never knew anyone outside the most dyed-in-the-wool National Greatness Conservatives that believed that shit.

    One of the things we do here is talk smack. None of us have the inside track on certainty; we're all flailing around throwing out ideas. My ideas, for example, are fairly conservative; I think that we are being foolish in throwing out the social/economic compact that has served us so well since the Forties. You disagree. That's fine; that's why we come here, to hear ideas.

    But what I'm hoping to hear is more than "I suspect the process will be similar – a lot of experimentation."

    WHAT experimentation? What kinds of experiments do you suggest, or would you like to see? We're "unsustainable" now? OK - what needs to happen? Breakup into regional entities? Re-enserfment of the working class? Free silver?

    C'mon - it's nothing but pixels! Speculate, bloviate...let us know not just where we are but where you think we SHOULD go!

    Go nuts, man!

  61. seydlitz: No, no; the melody is the same but the variations are critical.

    There are differences between the Thirties and today, and right off the top of my head the "End of History" is probably the most significant.

    Remember that - Frank Fujiyama claiming that the race was over and capitalism had won?

    Well, in a lot of ways, that's true. There doesn't appear to BE an alternative to the Magic of the Market. All the bogeymen of the Twenties and Thirties; the Reds, the fascists, socialists, anarchists...dead as the dodo.

    So OWS is handicapped because they ARE the "radical left"; there's no scary real commies out there to hang Goldman-Sachs execs from the lampposts anymore. As you point out, it wasn't that there was some magical social unity at work in 1932; the plutocrats were just less scared of FDR than they were of the commies (they should have been - FDR was one ruthless mother).

    So this: "I think it perhaps a failure of the liberal/progressive perspective . . . it all comes down to a binary view of race, or us/them, with "them" always being a clearly defined "other", as in color or whatever, when the real distinction between then and now is "spiritual", as in worldview, as in how we saw the world then compared to how the atomized, propaganda-conditioned mass sees the world today, believe it or not." just confuses me; "spiritual as in worldview"? Versus binary?

    I think it's simple.

    The similarities of the times are that there are and were those outside of the national consensus, whether they're black, or Mexican, or gay, or Teabaggers, or whatever. That's not going to change - people always like to exclude some people from their groups.

    BUT - the one huge difference is:

    In the Thirties the labor radicals, communists, socialists, anarchists, muckrakers and populists were still a force. Americans outside the wealthy had been taught to suspect and distrust the Rich. And the rich knew that; the spectres of Mussolini's Italy and Stalin's Russia were right there above the mantelpiece.

    Today that rabble-rousing has been replaced with "greed is good", "every American for him(her)self", the "ownership society"; the public has nowhere to turn - there ARE no alternatives, at least no palatable alternatives - to the market, and those who are doing well gaming the market also pay well to ensure that the marks are constantly that any attempt to regulate the market is Bad! Bad!

    And so we see the results.

  62. FDChief" "every American for him(her)self", the "ownership society"

    While the former is rarely hyped, as it is politically incorrect, the latter is a subtle sales pitch for the former. An "ownership society" is the ultimate propaganda term against social programs. It just sounds so good. "Every American will own something, and it will be his and only his." But on a closer look, it is really describing a society in terms of the money and possessions therein, not the people. What we seem unable to achieve is a "human society", where the quality of the society is expressed in terms of the general well being.

    No society can exist without basic social programs and services. But we don't even want to identify such programs and services as being "social", because the "S word" reeks of socialism. Ask the average schmuck on the street if he or she has ever been a beneficiary of a social program or service, and most will say "no". If you point out that public schools, police and fire protection, public libraries, public parks and the like are social programs, they will look at you like you have two heads. Hell, we all remember the retirees carrying posters saying something like "No government takeover of my Medicare" in recent years.

    The funny thing is that banks, for example, perform a vital public service, yet we have slowly allowed them to do so on their terms, not terms that are primarily in the public interest. Imagine if the NYPD decided to chart their own course and only patrol low crime, higher income neighborhoods, or were offered a commission on the fines from traffic tickets to encourage more to be issued. Funny that we send rogue cops to jail, but not rogue bankers.

    There is a huge difference between the 30's and today. There was a major societal collapse in 1929. It couldn't be ignored or explained away by politico-religious lunacy. It had to be addressed, and addressed in societal terms with social programs. There were just too many "have nots" to be ignored, and FDR led the charge to address the problem.

    Since the Regan years, we have just been nibbling at the edges of the re-emerging social problems in the US. A little program here, a little program there, while the direction of our society has steadily moved back towards the Gilded Age. We almost had a collapse, but the private financial sector was "too big to be allowed to fail", and we never got the collapse necessary to cause a reassessment of our way of doing business. So things have just moved further to the right, where the intentionally protected wealth lies.

    As a society we are just plain stupid. How stupid? everyone was running around with their hair on file over a $13 Trillion national debt. At the same time, household debt was at $13.4 Trillion. Did the Teabaggers, or anyone else, for that matter, threaten default on personal debt in order to reduce the lending by banks? Hell no, they were clamoring for the banks to lend more to raise GDP. At least in principle, the national debt was for the general well being. The huge household debt was for investor profits.

    Sorry to say it, but we need something to collapse. Something really big. That seems to be the only way Americans can be made to reorder things.

  63. Seydlitz: Compare that to today . . . you see any fear among the plutocratic elite? Among the financial "movers and shakers"? Or are they laughing all the way to the bank?

    Yes, I see a lot of fear among the plutocrats. They drank their own kool-aid and are now fearful of everything except profits. Expect the beatings to continue until the morale improves.

    Al: Sorry to say it, but we need something to collapse. Something really big.

    I hate it but I have to agree with you on this. But I'm also afraid that we'll get Mussolini, Caesar, or Napoleon instead of reform.

  64. Pluto: But I'm also afraid that we'll get Mussolini, Caesar, or Napoleon instead of reform.

    You mean we may find indoctrination trumping education? Hell, it's already in place. And among the first things to whither on the vine is our libraries.

    We are going through a slow, but sure, transition to a more dogmatic, nationalistic, plutocratic theocracy. A beliefs based, ownership society. And since we have dumbed down education, more and more folks are oblivious to it.

    Revisionist history is part and parcel to the Religious Right. First off, they have the problem of being a 500 year old (or less) sect of Christianity. Since the vast portion of Christian history runs counter to their sets' claims, history is just a nuisance. For example, the other day, while picking up some lamb at a super market in Norfolk, VA, a woman looked at what I was doing and said, "Our church prepares lamb for our Seder meal. We do the Seder just like the early Christians." I simply smiled and said, "That's nice". She asked if my church did the Seder. I couldn't resist and said that our parish has been celebrating the Paschal meal pretty much in the same manner since the church was built in 304 AD. She just gave me a very confused look and said, "Oh". BTW, the Jewish Seder that contemporary American churches mimic dates from about the 8th century and has nothing to do with Christianity, but in contemporary America, history is just a nuisance that can get in the way and is much more properly replaced by fantasies. Thus the ridiculous confusing of the "Paschal Banquet" of early (as well as many contemporary European Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox) for a Jewish "Passover Meal", whether the one conducted in 33 AD or the more recent one being mimicked by American "Christians".

    It's funny that so many railed against Soviet "revisionist history", yet blithely accept the same crap in this country.

    Yes, Pluto, there will be a collapse, and it's probably not going to be pretty.

  65. Chief,

    Well, it seems you've take a few phrases, set up some strawmen, and knocked them down magnificently! Let me try to sort through this:

    "Disaster." I suppose I should have said they "would have been disasters" if those policies had been allowed to stand. Specifically I'm talking about government setting prices, wages, profit levels and production quotas - essentially instituting a command economy through the establishment of government-sponsored cartels and monopolies. That did not "work pretty well." Google up the "National Recovery Administration" for the biggest example. FDR and the rest of government tried a lot of stuff and I called that "experimentation" because often what they tried didn't turn out how they expected and then they had to try something else. It took quite a bit of failure and tweaking before the good policies - the ones that endured - came to fruition. Even then, his policies to end the Great Depression were mostly failures. The economy in 1939 was about where it was in 1932. What did succeed were the policies that helped people and those did make a huge difference.

    Meanwhile regulations like Glass-Steagall did a perfectly decent job of preventing the casino gamblers from gambling with public money.
    Glass-Steagall (by which I'm assuming you're only talking about the one provision of the act which was repealed in 1999) isn't some lynchpin which would have prevented the financial crisis. It didn't prevent banks from becoming TBTF, and the banks that precipitated the crisis were pure investment players who hadn't transitioned to commerical banking. Glass-Steagall was one factor among many, many factors, but only one. It wasn't dispositive.

    And "having it all"

    Oy, that was simply a turn-of-phrase. I was talking about America writ-large, not individuals. I was talking about the idea that we can have guns, butter, cake, beer, social programs, an interventionist foreign policy and low taxes all at the same time - ie. "having it all." Maybe you disagree, but IMO we can't "have it all" - we will have to make choice and prioritize.

    visionary leadership

    This was simply another turn-of-phrase which you latched onto and made into something more than what I meant. We probably agree on the leadership question and really, simple honest competence actually would be "visionary" compared to what we have now.

    I think that we are being foolish in throwing out the social/economic compact that has served us so well since the Forties. You disagree. That's fine; that's why we come here, to hear ideas.

    You may think I said that, but, in actuality, I didn't say that. Pointing out that the current system cannot continue as it's currently structured doesn't automatically mean we have to throw away the social compact. But IMO, the social contract has, in large measure, already been thrown away - at least for those in my generation and younger. We'd like to salvage something for ourselves and our children but that can't really happen until people recognize that there's a problem with the current system.

    WHAT experimentation? What kinds of experiments do you suggest, or would you like to see?

    I don't know what's going to happen. It's not possible to predict emergent phenomena. But I agree with Al. The system is probably going to reach the breaking point and then break before anything is done. We don't know when that will happen or what the effects will be (other than to suggest that "they'll be bad!") and therefore we can't really speculate on what might emerge on the other side.

    Of course, it's also possible that we might rescue ourselves before going over the brink, but I kind of doubt it.

  66. Good response, Andy. Somehow, we've bastardized all too many social programs. "Affordable housing" which once meant developments like Levittown, morphed into "Cheap Mortgage Money", which morphed into the sub-prime fiasco, which didn't provide affordable housing, but temporarily easy money for over priced housing. Since making housing "affordable" was based in false premises, it was, to use your words, unsustainable.

    To me, one reason is that there was money to be made creating the myth that housing was becoming affordable. With the mortgage fiasco, that house of cards has toppled and housing will not be affordable for another decade or so, if ever.

    Health care is moving towards the same precipice. Again, because the current "system" is geared for big profits. To use your words again, unsustainable costs and profits. But we just find ways to subsidize it and shift the costs to others. But there will come the time, as with the shifting of the mortgage risks, where there won't be "others" to pick up the huge tab. But until them, many, many doctors will still be able to bury the cost of rented potted plants, changed weekly to keep their office looking uptown, in the "cost of health care".

    Many catastrophe theorists offer that the point of catastrophe cannot be predicted. You just keep moving towards it until you fall off the cliff. While there were many who knew the mortgage industry was heading towards the cliff, many seemed surprised when we went over. Then they looked to Uncle Sap to rescue them. The same will be the case with health care. I wonder what that rescue plan will be.

  67. @seydlitz

    I'm not quite sure that I fully agree with you on 1989 -there were some factors I think you overlook.The inability of the GDR to contain not just the demonstrators but anyone. At the same time as scores were demonstrating, scores were also using every means possible to leave the country. And with former socialist brother nations opening their borders, if the government had tried to wait out the demonstrations for much longer, the country would have bled dry and the apparatus impossible to maintain for lack of "mass". So I also don't quite agree that there was that much of a degree of moral cohesion - there were those who saw their only chance in leaving and there were those who decided that they're going to stay and fight for change.

  68. Aviator:

    Revisionist history is part and parcel to the Religious Right. First off, they have the problem of being a 500 year old (or less) sect of Christianity.

    As the Holy Roman Empire was neither "Holy" nor "Roman", so the Religious Right is neither "Religious" nor "Right".

    Yes, Pluto, there will be a collapse, and it's probably not going to be pretty.

    No, it isn't pretty.!/DiceyTroop/status/137261318385315840/photo/1


  69. And, as I wrote above, they never ever learn:


  70. Chief-

    Color me unconvinced. It comes down to values and how they influence motivation . . . from a Weberian social action theory perspective. The two values in the US today are self-gratification as quick as possible and absence of pain. That's what in turn influences motivation . . . along with a host of residuals they drive social action, that is what we do in relationship to other human beings; talking about mass social action within our political community in my view.


    I'm perfectly aware of those fleeing the GDR . . . I was talking to them, remember . . . Then came the Sovs . . . Iraqis . . . Yugoslavs . . .

    Still the GDR was a special case, the push/pull method at its best perhaps . . .

  71. Pluto-

    --Yes, I see a lot of fear among the plutocrats. They drank their own kool-aid and are now fearful of everything except profits. Expect the beatings to continue until the morale improves.--

    But it is the fear of those behind a police state facade that they have relentlessly constructed before our unbelieving eyes . . . "torture as stalking horse" helped . . .

  72. seydlitz: " The two values in the US today are self-gratification as quick as possible and absence of pain. That's what in turn influences motivation . . . along with a host of residuals they drive social action, that is what we do in relationship to other human beings; talking about mass social action within our political community in my view. "

    There is nothing new about American society stressing self gratification. From the fiest official document of our country:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men....

    In short, our government was instituted to provide individual rights, but not collective responsibility, even though the concluding sentence reads:

    And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

    Which, in effect, meant that the Colonists were banded together only in the fight to break away from England.

    And, while the Declaration claims that "all men are created equal", it is patently clear that that only applied to white males. Slaves remained slaves and women were denied the vote. Thus, on Day One, rights were severely abridged for a majority of the population.

    Only in times of serious existential threat have the majority of the population been willing to sacrifice for the general well being. The Civil War, WWII and the Great Depression come to mind. Hell, Army recruiting slogans mirror the times, with "Uncle Sam Wants You" of WWII giving way to "The Army Wants to Join You" of the AVF.

    Contrast our "Life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" with the British North America Act's statement that the powers vested in the Canadian Parliament are there to ensure "Peace, Order and Good Government" and you might see why the two neighboring societies are so fundamentally different.

  73. Andy: No question, many of the New Dealer's ideas were neither effective in theory nor implemented effectively. But I disagree on the effects. Look at the numbers. The economy improved slowly but steadily from '32 to '37, took a dip when FDR listened to the austeritians and cut back spending, and then resumed climbing towards the boom of war production.

    And even as these programs you dislike weren't "effective" they gave people hope that their government was working FOR them. They'd already seen that the magic of the market had worked to make their jobs and savings magically disappear. The New Deal helped the people of this country avoid the contemporary pitfalls of fascism and communism. As you admit, a fair bit of the New Deal "...helped people and those did make a huge difference."

    And a bit part of those policies were the regulations that prevented corporate takeovers - antitrust legislation - and kept publicly-backed banks out of the financial markets. Let's call it "Glass-Steagall" for short. We tossed a lot of that into the trash bin since the Eighties and have been rewarded with a slew of mergers and acquisitions that benefited largely the rentiers and a bubble-driven financial sector. I can't think of a financial "innovation" since 1970 that really did anything for the average American outside the ATM.

    And as for vision, I have some ideas of what might qualify.

    1. Start looking at ways to broaden the wealth base rather than narrow it. For the past 30-40 years the U.S. has become politically focused on "privitization" and directing energies towards growing "wealth". That has included revamping tax and tariff codes that have had the effect of pushing that wealth into a smaller proportion of our society.

    That's not "unsustainable" in that the U.S. has functioned as a semi-oligarchy before and can again. But it IS a good way to make lots of Americans miserable - it's a way to "break the social contract" - as you and your generational cohort are discovering.

    So change the laws! Reward (through taxes, loans, tariffs, regulation) companies that produce decent living-wage jobs stateside. Get over the idea that "globalization" is either inevitable or naturally "good" - pitting a machinist in Paramus against one in Bangladesh is a losing proposition for this country. If the machinist loses his job it doesn't matter how cheap the Bangladeshi-made parts are, he can't afford to buy them.

    2. The biggest single long-term challenge we face is the end of the petroleum-fuel era. Forget "drill, baby, drill" - we're locating, extracting, processing, and consuming petroleum products an order of magnitude faster than they can be created. ALL petroleum products, tar sands, the works. Current substitutes (i.e. ethanol) are energy inefficient. If I could run the Department of Energy for a year I'd turn the damn thing around and start charging the energy corporations the heavens and the earth. Make the stuff expensive NOW and stimulate a genuine Gold Rush for the "next generation" of propulsion. Because, while I don't think we're going to run dry in this generation, or probably even the next...we're going there. And right now we're SO dependent on cheap transportation that when the crunch hits its gonna be so, so ugly.


  74. (con't from above)

    3. And with that, take a hard look at what we're doing with our national infrastructure. We're living on legacies, man. Our electric grid is a nightmare, and I've done a damn sight of power-connection (pipeline and transmission tower) geotechnical work and seen it up close. That's another "not pretty". We need to get to work on that, and soon.

    4. 86 the filibuster. When your "upper house" requires a supermajority to do ANYthing you're well on your way to banana republicanism just because any sort of compromise becomes impossible.

    5. About 90% of the national Democrats just need to be gassed like sick chickens. I can't decide whether they're corrupt, stupid, spineless, or a combination of the three. But I can think of only a handful - our junior Senator Jeff Merkeley is one - who have any actual idea of what a "liberal" is supposed to stand for and actually stands for it. I have no idea what to do to replace them, but most of the current mess needs to get swept into the dustbin of history

    6. And, frankly, what will help is the GOP taking the damn Limbaugh Faction (or whatever you want to call the "no taxes, ever") faction out behind the house and putting a bullet in its head. It's one thing to believe in small government and low taxes as philosophy. When you start treating it as religion you've stopped being a political party and become a damn cult.

    But what's really frustrating to me is that a lot of the problems we're seeing aren't rocket science. We KNOW how to deal with liquidity traps and failures of private demand; government becomes the employer of last resort, people get paid, start spending, private companies start selling and hiring, and the economy begins to recover. We're not CHOOSING to do this, and that's bizarre.

    Likewise we KNOW what prudent governance should do; run surpluses in good economic peacetimes so it can afford to go into debt in depression and war. And yet somehow the loyal Bushies threw that baby out the window and Cheney told us deficits didn't matter...until they did.

    Likewise we KNOW how to deal with loss of domestic employment to overseas competition; you raise your tariffs. But we've been sold the notion that the world is flat, and so we don't even try.

    Anyway - I have to go to work. Hope I've thrown out enough ideas to keep the shouting going on for a while.

  75. FDR let had the government putting people to work, not paying for-profit businesses to do the government's job. It is not the taxpayer's (as in government) job to let private companies make a profit doing governmental functions. There's a fine line, but there is a line. I'm sure Dick Cheney was not pleased when Secty Gates determined that contracting our DFAS pay functions cost more than having civil servants do it. Retiree pay activities alone cost over $5 million more via the contract, and as Gates commented, the contractors were not free to operate outside the scope of the contract without negotiating increased costs, even when the mission required it.

    One problem is we don't know what we really want our social contract vis a vis the government to accomplish. I know I sound like a broken record, but look at health care. I have not seen what level of health care - access and services - we wish to provide to the total population. Rather, we talk about insurance - pumping money through middle men to providers, while market forces set the cost. And, under the current stumbling attempt to "fix" health care, there will still be an estimated 10 - 15 million Americans without insurance coverage, and 10's of millions more with only "catastrophic coverage". So will we actually reduce the number of people with limited or no access to basic care? Will we be changing the actual delivery of care to the population?

    "The Market" will not deliver universally to the general populace. "The Market" is Darwinian. It's been that way in the US since 1776, with a few exceptional periods of grave circumstances, such as the 30's. Until we define what living in America means, what basic human services are our goal and commit to those goals, nothing will improve.

    IAGBP (It Ain't Gonna Be Pretty)

  76. Aviator:

    One problem is we don't know what we really want our social contract vis a vis the government to accomplish.

    Sure we do. Cut insurance benefits so we won't have to cut our military capability to wage wars willy-nilly over the globe, and to keep the profit in war profiteering going strong.

    According to the Associated Press, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) sent a letter to the bipartisan budget supercommittee in which he indicated he is open to cost-saving steps in military benefits.

    The AP reports that McCain supports President Obama’s proposal to start charging older military retirees a $200 annual enrollment fee for TRICARE for Life. In addition, McCain urged the supercommittee to consider restricting working-age military retirees and their dependents from enrolling in TRICARE Prime. McCain pointed out that the Congressional Budget Office has estimated that such a move would save $111 billion over 10 years.

    McCain also said he supports the administration’s proposal for a commission to review possible changes to the 20 year military retirement system and the current military pay and compensation model.

    Stephen Colbert explains why all this is necessary:


  77. Al-

    I don't know what more to say. It's like I'm talking about a different world. I suppose my problem was that I not only grew up in a religious household, but had a high regard for older people. I always took time to listen to what the old folks had to say and respected it. As in the generation that fought the First World War or thereabouts. I suspect it has also something to do with having been educated by Southern matrons who had started teaching in the 1920s/30s. The sense of community was strong, something that is hard to conceptualize today perhaps.

    Racism? Sure, and it still exists today and probably always will, but I can still appreciate the solid values of those who taught me and helped make me what I am today. I would add that it was my generation in the South that rejected racism and refused to carry on the old ways, even if we had little choice in the matter.

    That the Constitution had been written by a bunch of slaveholders or money-grubbing Northern merchants didn't really enter in to it. I only became aware of those cynical elements much later . . . I never learned it in school and nobody talked like that growing up, so count me as distinctly unenlightened . . .

    Once again I really think it comes down to values. When I was a kid, and it was a long time ago I suppose, and perhaps on a different planet, people held values strongly because they were the way that people were expected to live.

    Today, that totally abused concept is all about attitudes that make us feel good about our selves and especially superior to others, as in "my values are better than yours" . . .

    Same with religion. Today it's all about "Jesus saved ME!", whereas before it was about being a Christian might make a difference in the afterlife, but with the understanding that in the end you might be found to have been totally lacking in virtue from God's perspective when standing before Him at the last judgement. It wasn't a sure deal as today, but more a hope and a long road of doubt and self questioning . . . which again I see little of today.

    In short I don't really think you understand what I'm talking about. Perhaps it's just me not expressing myself clearly . . .

  78. seydlitz-

    We are actually on the same sheet of music. I grew up in a close knit community, where people generally cared about and for each other. However, that sense of fraternity did not go very far beyond the borders of the town. We held the basic values you describe.

    While the US definitely has had senses of community in the past, the underlying principals were not so. The whole concept of "states rights", from day one, was to allow the states to each be vastly different cultures - vastly different ideas of individual rights. Thus, while a Mississippian could own another human being, a New Yorker could not - "you can have it your way as long as I can have it my way". From such roots, it's difficult to have a real notion of a citizen's "rights". Fast forward to today and same sex marriage, for example. Or that the people of Texas are fine with 27% of the population being without any form of health insurance, while Massachusetts provides virtually universal coverage. The very fact that there is a battle royal over what are the rights granted to a "citizen" vary from state to state tells us a lot. In short, what "rights" does American citizenship really provide?

    Now, as a general trend, your comment about what I call American "Neo-Christianity" is a very good insight into a major cultural movement. When I was a youngster, we were taught that the religious goal was to make our lives and ourselves pleasing to God. Today's message is that God want to be pleasing to us. Yes, a shift from a theocentric religion to an egocentric one.

    The framework hasn't changed. What we are seeing is a more thorough manifestation of the societally flawed (in my view) initial framework. "Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness" are a far cry from "Peace, Order and Good Government" or "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity". We have never formally elevated the common well being above the individual's desires.

    John McCain feels I should be willing to pay another $200 a year for TRICARE for Life. My Greek pharmacist thinks it's an outrage that a combat veteran retiring after 35 years service should have to pay some $110/ month (current TFL cost incorporating deductible) for just 75% coverage on medications. When I told him that pharma coverage is an "option at more cost" in Medicare, he was shocked. Totally different cultures. Where Yanks are thankful to have insurance coverage, many others believe their fellow citizen deserves health care, period.

    Similarly, the GOP's obsession with wealth being good because it creates jobs. However, when all is said and done, the jobs are merely a byproduct of that wealth, and currently, increasing wealth is creating few jobs. So, the GOP is that if we allow enough people to serve themselves enough and enrich themselves enough, that should create jobs. If one can find jobs as a public imperative in such logic, please illumine me.

    You are expressing yourself clearly, seydlitz. However, what we are seeing today is in no way antithetical to the content and expressed intent of our nation's founding document. To put it in cynically judgmental terms, coming out of the Great Depression, your teachers and family just had a warped view of the "American Dream". From Day One, it was never about "Us", as in me and all my neighbors, it was about a collective bunch of "Me's". And it ain't gonna get prettier until something drastic happens to put us all in the same boat together.

  79. A few comments:

    1) When comparing OWS vs other movements, remember history. OWS has been around for two months. The Civil Rights movement was around for a 80-odd years after the Civil War, and lost ground more often than not.

    2) OWS giving a specific list of 'demands' won't help; the MSM would denounce most of them, and the establishment would happily 'negotiate' over the rest - forever. While the MSM mocked those demands, and 'think tank' prosties would explain about how bad [for the elites] they were.

    3) The more concentrated the leadership is, the easier it is to decapitate the movement. We've seen phase I (MSM mocks), and phase II (initial crackdown, once the movement was being an irritant). By Phase III or IV the authorities will be cracking down on the leadership - and now that means the full weight of anti-'terror' law, and every civil BS they can think of, as well as simple beatings and crippling. Diffuse leadership is simply harder to take out, and the initial movement really doesn't need it right now - their goal is to speak up and start a larger set of people in action.

  80. It's getting ugly out there. A Marine, veteran of the Iraq action, with video:

    UC Davis:


  81. Al-

    Thank you for your well-reasoned and coherent response. You are both a gentleman and a scholar.

    Still, I think you miss the actual nature of what has happened imo.

    To get to what I'm talking about let's start with a notion that you mention indirectly. That being that each "man as lord of his own castle" which is essentially what you're talking about is common in the Anglo-Saxon world and shared by the Dutch and Germans as well. This translated into their attitudes towards business and commerce, the original "spirit of capitalism" if you will.

    Slavery had existed for a long time before 1776 and even exists today although we are loath to admit it. It is simply the final - if radical - step in the human tendency to dominate other humans. In the old South slaves were property and thus added to the wealth of the household and thus fitted within the concept of "castle", and what government had a right to intervene there?

    From this perspective, with the abolition movement lobbing for the end of slavery and enlisting the power of the state to intervene and actually define the private sphere, to regulate if you will what a person could have in their "castle" was something quite radical. I would add that this concern did not extend to Northern factory owners and the plight of the industrial workers of the time, although government intervention there also occurred eventually.

    The British who abolished slavery in 1807 went about it in a much different way. Bristol, the second port of England owed much of its prosperity to the slave trade with that wealth in turn financing the first phase of the industrial revolution there. That is Britain was able to phase it out and replace the odious practice with something else without encountering disruption, as in going on to trade opium for tea in China, but that's another story.

    So was the radical move to gain political influence and make the abolition of slavery government policy in the long-term best interests of the country? Did it not in fact start a dangerous precedent which we were never even aware of, that hopelessly mixing populist political power with "morality" which would then be manipulated by hidden and powerful interests? How many examples have we of that in US history since 1861? I think here we see the real jump-off point, which I wasn't aware of until you mentioned that man from Mississippi . . .

  82. seydlitz-

    Sorry if I gave the impression that I think this sovereignty of the individual over the collective well being, slavery, etc is an American invention. What I meant was simply that it was clearly incorporated in the "birthing document" of our country, and is so noticeably lacking in that of France or Canada, for example, both of which have radically different concepts of what basic "rights", to include health care, for example, a citizen should be afforded as well as the general population's responsibility to ensure those rights. We hold that the citizen has the right to pursue his/her basic well being, but no responsibility to ensure same for his fellow citizen.

    Trust me, I am not too thrilled about a "moral" legal code, as I am not sure that every sect's view of morality is the same. I do think that the overwhelming majority of western civilization rejects slavery as immoral. Does that give license to legally declare a raft of other things immoral? Not unless there is the same near unanimity. There is a difference between the imposition of will and an expression of the general will.

  83. True, but who is to tell the difference? To answer that question you have to consider the relations of power . . .

  84. @Aviator
    the very first article of Germany's constitution not only declares human dignity to be inviolate, but that upholding it should be the first and foremost goal of any activity of the State. From that article, a whole lot of other concepts are deducted, including the article stating that property entails responsibility and that its use should at the same time serve the public weal- That (and several other concepts also deducted from Article 1) are ideas I've often found to be considered almost staggring heresy by some of the people I discussed it with in the US

  85. Clausewitz-

    I am not surprised. As I noted, other countries put the well being of all as a state mandate. When Obama began proposing his health care overhaul, my Greek neighbors were shocked to learn that many US health insurance companies will not cover any illness or injury suffered before the person was covered by that company, nor was there National Health facilities to care for such people.

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