Thursday, November 29, 2012

Economist: Where discerning babies will be born in '13

The uber-conservative Economist has ranked the best countries to be an infant in in 2013, and guess what?  The U.S. ain't even in the top 15.  

But I'm kinda calling bullshit on this one. Why?  Because these global rankings like Doing Business and World Economic Forum tend to over-rate the tiny island nations of the world like Singapore, Taiwan, New Zealand, Qatar and -- jeez, it's not even a country -- Hong Kong.

I've been to Hong Kong, and unless you're a millionaire, it is not a place for human beings.  And New Zealand?  Before director Peter Jackson discovered it, there was nothing there except sheep and the people who loved, er, looked after  them.  

But these lists are correct to put the Nordic socialist paradises at the top of their lists.  We all need something to aspire to.... (sigh).

Where to be born in 2013
November 21, 2012 | The Economist

Reagan on Social Security and the deficit

Even a broken clock is right twice a day.  Here's what the Gipper had to say on October 7, 1984 in Louisville, KY:

"Social Security has nothing to do with balancing a budget or erasing or lowering the deficit."  

Quick, somebody tell Erskine Bowles, Alan Simpson and the "Fix the Debt" CEOs!  
[HT: Exiled]. 

uploaded by WeAreSocialSecurity
November 5, 2012 | YouTube

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Taibbi's hilarious take on Friedman's latest mangled opus

Bottom line: if any of you still believes that Thomas Friedman is a cogent geopolitical analyst, or even (wince!) a good writer, then please read these two Matt Taibbi posts.  Friedman doesn't just mix metaphors, he holds them in his iron fist as he blows them up and drenches them in acid then midwifes them into a new twisted (non-)meaning.  (No kidding, those are all real Friedman mixed metaphors).  The dude really must be smoking weed.

By Matt Taibbi
November 15, 2012 | Rolling Stone

By Matt Taibbi
November 14, 2012 | Rolling Stone

Taibbi's readers' responses to his challenge to one-up Friedman's nonsense were hilarious.  When random smart people chime in brilliantly it renews my faith in the Internet.  On the other hand, Thomas Friedman still writes for the NYT, he's still all over the Internet, still filthy rich, and still gets listened to by all sorts of influential people, which kind of cancels out my faith in the Internet.  Or just humanity.  I cant decide which.  

Baker: 10 years of economic doldrums ahead

With a recalcitrant GOP House and sequestration coming, if Obama sticks to his guns but makes no progress in negotiations, then we'll have spending cuts and tax increases in 2013, or austerity by default.  And zero chance of more necessary fiscal stimulus.  

Here's how liberal economist Dean Baker sums up U.S. economic prospects:

The number of jobs in the economy is roughly 9 million below the trend level. The recent pace of job growth has been approximately 170,000 a month. The economy needs to generate 100,000 jobs a month just to keep pace with the growth of the labor force.

This means that it would take almost 130 months, more than 10 years, for the economy to generate enough jobs to make up its 9 million shortfall at its recent growth rate. That is not a very good picture.

It is difficult to envision a scenario that looks much better. The housing market is recovering and that will provide a modest boost to growth, but it is not likely we will return to the construction rates of the boom years. Trade may be a small positive in the years ahead, but with the economies of most U.S. trading partners also weak, it is unlikely that trade will provide much of a boost in the near future.

By Dean Baker
November 16, 2012 | Counterpunch

Colbert - and Susan Lucci! - on Petraeus affair

Leave it to Colbert to hit just the right tone with his send-up of this weird "love pentagon:"

But what I want to know -- and what I always wondered about characters in soaps -- is how the heck these people find so much time during the day to engage in so much personal nonsense?  You know, the doctor who's never seeing patients or filling out paperwork, the policeman who's never solving any crimes, the executive who is never busy at his desk and lets any old visitor pop into his office on the spur of the moment.... That's what I always found the most unreal about soap operas, odd as that may be.

But apparently, it's not so far-fetched.  For example, the general commanding U.S. troops risking their lives in Afghanistan apparently has all kinds of time to exchange thousands of e-mails with some ditzy military groupie in Tampa and even worry about her even ditzier twin sister.  

I dunno, I guess I ought to spend more time at work having it out with the people in my personal life, just like all these rich and powerful people on TV....

Will Republicans pop their media bubble?

Call me a pinko, damned liberal, whatever you want, but I ain't no bubble boy.  I read Fox News and Rush Limbaugh more often than the NYT or Wash Post -- not because these are real or worthy sources of information, but rather, because I want to know what the bubble boys are thinking and what gets them mad.  Eighty percent of the time, I find that it takes no effort at all to refute their self-serving logic and selective use of evidence.  And the remaining 20 percent of the time, well, it just forces me to flex my intellectual muscles a bit, making me stronger and more secure in my left-wing beliefs.

As for my dear Republican friends... I can't tell you how many times they have reacted to something I post with, "Look at the source!  Pffft!" as if that is all that needs to be said.  

We saw how far bubbles, echo chambers and groupthink got them on November 6.  Now all sorts of post-mortems are coming out about what went wrong and how the GOP should reform itself.  I don't care, frankly.  America would be better off without the GOP.  Moreover, I don't think they have it in them to change.  The older ones -- the core of the party nowadays with all the money for donations -- are too crotchety and stuck in their ways.  By gum, they like the way they are.  They like the GOP being nativist, mean and anti-poor.  The party as it is suits them just fine... it's just losing at the polls that bothers them.  

But here's the worst part: they are addicted to their anger. And the pushers who feed their anger habit -- Fox, Beck, Limbaugh, Ingraham, Drudge, et al -- know their ratings depend on liberal villains to keep the whole racket going. Take away their anger and the energy of the GOP evaporates.  It's kind of like -- and I know this is a bit over the top, but... -- the dark side of the Force: Siths and Republicans alike draw their strength from fear, anger and hatred.    

By Jonathan Martin
November 12, 2012 | Politico

A long-simmering generational battle in the conservative movement is boiling over after last week’s shellacking, with younger operatives and ideologues going public with calls that Republicans break free from a political-media cocoon that has become intellectually suffocating and self-defeating.

GOP officials have chalked up their electoral thumping to everything from the country’s changing demographics to an ill-timed hurricane and failed voter turn-out system, but a cadre of Republicans under 50 believes the party’s problem is even more fundamental.

The party is suffering from Pauline Kaelism.

Kael was The New Yorker movie critic who famously said in the wake of Richard M. Nixon’s 49-state landslide in 1972 that she knew only one person who voted for Nixon.

Now, many young Republicans worry, they are the ones in the hermetically sealed bubble — except it’s not confined to geography but rather a self-selected media universe in which only their own views are reinforced and an alternate reality is reflected.

Hence the initial denial and subsequent shock on the right that the country would not only reelect President Barack Obama — but do so with 332 electoral votes.

“What Republicans did so successfully, starting with critiquing the media and then creating our own outlets, became a bubble onto itself,” said Ross Douthat, the 32-year-old New York Times columnist.

“The right is suffering from an era of on-demand reality,” is how 30-year-old think tanker and writer Ben Domenech put it.

Citing Kael, one of the most prominent Republicans in the George W. Bush era complained: “We have become what the left was in the ’70s — insular.”

In this reassuring conservative pocket universe, Rasmussen polls are gospel, the Benghazi controversy is worse than Watergate, “Fair and Balanced” isn’t just marketing and Dick Morris is a political seer.

Even this past weekend, days after a convincing Obama win, it wasn’t hard to find fringes of the right who are convinced he did so only because of mass voter fraud and mysteriously missing military ballots. Like a political version of “Thelma and Louise,” some far-right conservatives are in such denial that they’d just as soon keep on driving off the cliff than face up to a reality they’d rather not confront.

But if the Fox News-talk radio-Drudge Report axis is the most powerful force in the conservative cocoon, technology has rendered even those outlets as merely the most popular destinations in the choose-your-own-adventure news world in which consumers are more empowered than ever.

Facebook and Twitter feeds along with email in-boxes have taken the place of the old newspaper front page, except that the consumer is now entirely in charge of what he or she sees each day and can largely shut out dissenting voices. It’s the great irony of the Internet era: People have more access than ever to an array of viewpoints, but also the technological ability to screen out anything that doesn’t reinforce their views.

“The Internet amplifies talk radio and cable news, and provides distribution for other sources like Newsmax,” said Trey Grayson, 40, the former Kentucky secretary of state and the current head of Harvard’s Institute of Politics. “Then your friends, who usually agree with you, disseminate the same stories on Facebook and Twitter. And you assume that everyone agrees with you!”

Grayson continued: “It’s very striking for me living in Cambridge now. My Facebook feed, which is full of mostly conservatives from Kentucky, contains very different links to articles or topics than what I see in Cambridge. It is sort of the reverse up here. They don’t understand how anyone would eat Chick-fil-A, watch college sports or hold pro-life views.”

“Social media has made it easier to self-select,” added 45-year-old GOP strategist Bruce Haynes. “Who do you follow on Twitter, who do you friend on Facebook? Do they all look the same and say the same things? If so, you’ve created a universe for yourself that is wedded to its own self-fulfilling prophecies.”

Like Grayson, Haynes and many of the approximately two-dozen young Republicans interviewed for this story noted that Democrats have their own self-reassuring echo chambers.

What worries Republicans, though, is that their Kaelism may be harder to overcome in the short term.

“Unfortunately, for us Republicans who want to rebuild this party, the echo chamber [now] is louder and more difficult to overcome,” said Grayson.

That’s partly because of the difference between the two cocoons in the two parties.

First, the Al Sharptons and Rachel Maddows of the left don’t have the same influence as their counterparts on the right. There are as many, if not more, NPR-oriented liberals as MSNBC devotees on the left; the Democratic media ecosystem is larger and more diverse.

Further, and more importantly, the Democratic Party has a leader in Obama who for over four years has sought to appeal to a majority of Americans for the obvious political reasons.

“Being a Democrat means being identified with Barack Obama, not Ed Schultz and Martin Bashir,” said Douthat, citing two liberal MSNBC hosts.

Conversely, for nearly six years, since President Bush’s second term went south, Republicans have been effectively without a leader. And into that vacuum has stepped a series of conservative figures whose incentives in most cases are not to win votes but to make money and score ratings by being provocative and even outlandish.

“Their bottom line is their main goal, but that doesn’t mean they’re serving the population that buys their books,” said Domenech.

And this, say next-generation Republicans, is where cocoonism has been detrimental to the cause.

The tension between the profit- and ratings-driven right — call them entertainment-based conservatives — and conservatives focused on ideas (the thinkers) and winning (the operatives) has never been more evident.

The latter group worries that too many on the right are credulous about the former.

“Dick Morris is a joke to every smart conservative in Washington and most every smart conservative under the age of 40 in America,” said Douthat. “The problem is that most of the people watching Dick Morris don’t know that.”

The egghead-hack coalition believes that the entertainment-based conservatives create an atmosphere that enables flawed down-ballot candidates, creates a cartoonish presidential primary and blocks needed policy reforms, and generally leave an odor on the party that turns off swing voters.

It even fosters an atmosphere in which there’s a disconnect with the ostensible party leaders.

Consider: In the fall of the past two presidential campaigns, those in the conservative cocoon were talking about, respectively, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Obama as a black radical, and the seemingly impeachment-worthy scandal surrounding the deaths of U.S. officials in Libya. Meanwhile, on the actual campaign trail, John McCain and Mitt Romney showed little interest in even mentioning either topic.

And the entertainers’ power isn’t just with gullible grass-roots activists who are likely to believe whatever nefarious rumor about Obama is forwarded to them in an e-mail chain — it’s with donors, too.

Outside of Washington, New York and state capitals, the big conservative givers are as likely to have read Ed Klein’s Obama book and seen Dinesh D’Souza’s documentary “2016,” and generally parrot whatever they just heard on Fox News as the old lady stuffing envelopes at county GOP headquarters.

“One of the reasons the entertainment complex has the influence they do is because the people who are supposed to be responsible figures in the party, those who fund the campaigns, have bought into this apocalyptic world view,” said Douthat.

More than a few Republicans said it was such donors whom Romney was trying to impress when he infamously riffed about the “47 percent,” a variation of the makers-versus-takers world view that has become popular in the conservative cocoon (Rush Limbaugh has called Obama “Santa Claus” since Election Day).

The tension between entertainers and operatives-thinkers may have come into sharpest relief in the prolonged, and for many Republicans, painful 2012 GOP primary. The thinkers and the operatives cringed at the umpteen debates and carnival-like procession of candidates with little chance of landing in the Oval Office.

“Look at Newt Inc., [Herman] Cain and [Michele] Bachmann,” sighed Haynes. “What’s the purpose of entering a presidential primary anymore?”

Suggesting the incentives for getting in the race now owe as much to fame as to winning the job, Haynes added: “If that market didn’t exist, what would our primary look like?”

The sexual harassment scandal around Cain offered a vivid example of the different goals of the two groups. To the entertainment-based right, it was a great opportunity to rally the faithful against a purportedly liberal media targeting a black conservative. It touched almost every erogenous zone for the likes of Rush Limbaugh. But for the operatives and thinkers, the story threatened to tarnish the GOP with a sex scandal and make a martyr out of a marginal figure they were already cringing over before POLITICO reported the harassment charges.

Long after the primary ended, the entertainment-based right was still promoting figures that many in the GOP believe are harmful to the party’s brand. Take Donald Trump, who made regular appearances on “Fox & Friends” all year and delighted in pushing the discredited idea that Obama wasn’t born in America. Why energize black voters and turn off moderates broadly by elevating a buffoonish figure questioning the president’s legitimacy? Because it’s good box office. (To be sure, other nonpartisan outlets, including POLITICO, not to mention Romney himself, did their share of enabling Trump).

“It’s like a weird version of identity politics for people who like trash culture and reality TV,” said Douthat of Trump.

This same financial-political tension also arose two years ago in one of the most high-profile GOP Senate primaries in the country between Grayson and Rand Paul. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, worried that his hand-picked candidate wasn’t getting equal time on Fox to make his case, called Fox President Roger Ailes to ask that Grayson get similar treatment as the oft-interviewed Paul, according to a source familiar with the call. Ailes, who consulted on McConnell’s first Senate race, had tough news for his old friend: Paul was just a better draw.

Some younger conservatives worry that the effects of cocoonism are just as evident after the race as before — and not only in the disbelief that Obama won. The knee-jerk reaction by some on the right to Romney’s poor performance with Hispanics has been to simply say that all will be well with the party if they pass an immigration bill and elevate Cuban-American Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

But to many next-generation Republicans, this smacks of tokenism and is more than a tad patronizing.

“They just want to put a sombrero on the Republican elephant,” said one Latino GOP operative, who didn’t want to be identified discussing such a sensitive topic.

Similarly, Haynes fretted that “the mistake Republicans are going to make is thinking this is a demographic and political problem and not a social and cultural problem. You can’t fix this with Orca (the Romney campaign’s ill-fated GOTV software) or iPad apps or to some extent even running Hispanic candidates.”

To young Republican strategists and writers, a fundamental shift of how the party communicates is required. That doesn’t mean delegitimizing hugely popular and powerful outlets on the right, but rather transcending them.

“Communicating to the country’s changing demographics and outside of the Fox News echo chamber is a strategic imperative,” said GOP operative Phil Musser, 40.

“The rise of conservative media has been one of the best things to ever happen to the conservative movement. It has helped us reach new voters, has helped with voter persuasion and even motivation,” said GOP strategist Todd Harris, 41. “But with all the positives, there is this fact: If all you did was watch and read the conservative media, you were probably pretty shocked at what happened Tuesday. There’s a huge and ever-growing segment of the vote that Republicans just aren’t talking to and in some cases didn’t even know existed.”

The good news, say the young Republicans, is that there’s hope for them to appeal more widely. They look no further than to 2004, when liberals were in disbelief that America had reelected George W. Bush. “Jesusland” was the name of the famous map of the country showing where Bush had won.

But instead of inveighing against the purported theocracy the country had become, Obama and his aides began to plot how they could appeal to a broad coalition of voters.

Younger Republicans are confident that they, too, will take over the party and reorient it to accommodate a more tolerant country.

“I expect that in the years to come, a class of young and up-and-coming Republican practitioners will exert a greater degree of influence on how the party’s outreach to key groups is handled and ensure that the tone and tenor of our message is reflective of today’s society,” said Jon Downs, 35, a Republican media consultant.

But these Republicans know a degree of self-examination is required.

“In some communities, like with African-Americans, it’s simply unacceptable to be a Republican. This is a cultural phenomenon,” said Haynes. “Who do you go to church with, who do you send your kids to school with? Are enough Republicans socially and culturally engaged with folks who don’t look like themselves?”

Or, as Domenech put it: “Conservatives may be content to stay in a bubble and yell about Benghazi, but it doesn’t help the cause in the long term.”

What’s needed, he said, is to develop new institutions that will engage conservatives on the issues that the broader country is focused on.

He cited the much-buzzed-about piece in The Atlantic earlier this year about whether women can have successful careers and devote ample attention to child-rearing as a conversation conservatives should have gotten in on.

“We need to play the long game on how people engage in culture and society,” Domenech said. “Conservatives and the right generally have a lot to say, but it’s going to require more than a place to discuss the latest campaign or the New Black Panthers.”

Ames: 'Libertarianism' started by Big Business lobbyists

This one's worth re-posting in full, since libertarianism -- or somebody's naive understanding of it -- is making something of a comeback lately.  

At the heart of libertarianism is a disdain for democracy and an abiding belief in the right of corporations to rule the nation.  

Think what Ames revealed history is telling us: in 1946, 11 years before Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, the real-life titans of corporate America were already pooling their funds and lobbying the hell out of the U.S. Congress in the guise of a "think tank."  And their pseudo-intellectual front for corporate lobbying has grown tremendously in size and influence since then.

So either Big Business has been "under siege" for the past 65 years... or else they've been in control all along, outspending and out lobbying everybody else, to their benefit.  It can't be both.  If you're not sure what's true, just remember this quote from a Congressional Committee looking into libertarian lobbying in 1946:  "It is ... difficult to imagine that the nation’s largest corporations would subsidize the entire [think tank] venture if they did not anticipate that it would pay solid, long-range legislative dividends."

By Mark Ames
November 16, 2012 | NSFW Corporation

Last Friday, November 9, saw the big “Milton Friedman Centennial” celebration at the University of Chicago’s Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics. It was a big day for fans of one of the Founding Fathers of neoliberal/libertarian free-market ideology, and those fans are legion on both sides of the narrow Establishment divide —as Obama’s economy czar Larry Summers wrote in 2006, “Any honest Democrat will admit that we are all Friedmanites now.”

One episode in Milton Friedman’s career not celebrated (or even acknowledged) at last week’s centennial took place in 1946, the same year Friedman began peddling his pro-business “free market economics” ideology.

According to Congressional hearings on illegal lobbying activities '46 was the year that Milton Friedman and his U Chicago cohort George Stigler arranged an under-the-table deal with a Washington lobbying executive to pump out covert propaganda for the national real estate lobby in exchange for a hefty payout, the terms of which were never meant to be released to the public.

The arrangement between Friedman and Stigler with the Washington real estate lobbyist was finally revealed during he Buchanan Committee hearings on illegal lobbying activities in 1950. But then it was almost entirely forgotten, including apparently by those celebrating the “Milton Friedman Centennial” last week in Chicago.

I only came across the revelations about Friedman’s sordid beginnings in the footnotes of an old book on the history of lobbying by former Newsweek book editor Karl Schriftgiesser, published in 1951, shortly after the Buchanan Committee hearings ended. The actual details of Milton Friedman’s PR deal are sordid and familiar, with tentacles reaching into our ideologically rotted-out era.

It starts just after the end of World War Two, when America’s industrial and financial giants, fattened up from war profits, established a new lobbying front group called the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) that focused on promoting a new pro-business ideology—which it called “libertarianism”— to supplement other business lobbying groups which focused on specific policies and legislation.

The FEE is generally regarded as “the first libertarian think-tank” as Reason’s Brian Doherty calls it in his book “Radicals For Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern Libertarian Movement” (2007). As the Buchanan Committee discovered, the Foundation for Economic Education was the best-funded conservative lobbying outfit ever known up to that time, sponsored by a Who’s Who of US industry in 1946.

A partial list of FEE’s original donors in its first four years includes: The Big Three auto makers GM, Chrysler and Ford; top oil majors including Gulf Oil, Standard Oil, and Sun Oil; major steel producers US Steel, National Steel, Republic Steel; major retailers including Montgomery Ward, Marshall Field and Sears; chemicals majors Monsanto and DuPont; and other Fortune 500 corporations including General Electric, Merrill Lynch, Eli Lilly, BF Goodrich, ConEd, and more.

The FEE was set up by a longtime US Chamber of Commerce executive named Leonard Read, together with Donaldson Brown, a director in the National Association of Manufacturers lobby group and board member at DuPont and General Motors.

That is how libertarianism started: As an arm of big business lobbying.

Before bringing back Milton Friedman into the picture, this needs to be repeated again: “Libertarianism” was a project of the corporate lobby world, launched as a big business “ideology” in 1946 by The US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. The FEE’s board included the future founder of the John Birch Society, Robert Welch; the most powerful figure in the Mormon church at that time, J Reuben Clark, a frothing racist and anti-Semite after whom BYU named its law school; and United Fruit director Herb Cornuelle.

The purpose of the FEE — and libertarianism, as it was originally created — was to supplement big business lobbying with a pseudo-intellectual, pseudo-economics rationale to back up its policy and legislative attacks on labor and government regulations.

This background is important in the Milton Friedman story because Friedman is a founder of libertarianism, and because the corrupt lobbying deal he was busted playing a part in was arranged through the Foundation for Economic Education.

False, whitewashed history is as much a part of the Milton Friedman mythology as it is the libertarian movement’s own airbrushed history about its origins; the 1950 Buchanan Committee hearings expose both as creations of big business lobby groups whose purpose is to deceive and defraud the public and legislators in order to advance the cause of corporate America.

The story starts like this: In 1946, Herbert Nelson was the chief lobbyist and executive vice president for the National Association of Real Estate Boards, and one of the highest paid lobbyists in the nation. Mr. Nelson’s real estate constituency was unhappy with rent control laws that Truman kept in effect after the war ended. Nelson and his real estate lobby led what investigators discovered was the most formidable and best-funded opposition to President Truman in the post-war years, amassing some $5,000,000 for their lobby efforts—that’s $5 million in 1946 dollars, or roughly $60 million in 2012 dollars.

So Herbert Nelson contracted out the PR services of the Foundation for Economic Education to concoct propaganda designed to shore up the National Real Estate lobby’s legislative drive — and the propagandists who took on the job were Milton Friedman and his U Chicago cohort, George Stigler.

To understand the sort of person Herbert Nelson was, here is a letter he wrote in 1949 that Congressional investigators discovered and recorded:

"I do not believe in democracy. I think it stinks. I don’t think anybody except direct taxpayers should be allowed to vote. I don’t believe women should be allowed to vote at all. Ever since they started, our public affairs have been in a worse mess than ever."

It’s an old libertarian mantra, libertarianism versus democracy, libertarianism versus women’s suffrage; a position most recently repeated by billionaire libertarian Peter Thiel —Ron Paul’s main campaign funder.

So in 1946, this same Herbert Nelson turned to the Foundation for Economic Education to manufacture some propaganda to help the National Association of Real Estate Boards fight rent control laws. Nelson knew that the founder of the first libertarian think-tank agreed with him on many key points. Such as their contempt and disdain for the American public.

Leonard Read, the legendary (among libertarians) founder/head of the FEE, argued that the public should not be allowed to know which corporations donated to his libertarian front-group because, he argued, the public could not be trusted to make “sound judgments” with disclosed information:

"The public reporting would present a single fact—the amount of a contributor’s donation—to casual readers, persons having only a cursory interest in the matter at issue, persons who would not and perhaps could not possess all the facts.

These folks of the so-called public thus receive only oversimplifications or half-truths from which only erroneous conclusions are almost certain to be drawn. If there is a public interest in the rightness or wrongness of corporate or personal donations to charitable, religious or education institutions, and I am not at all ready to concede that there is, then that interest should be guarded by some such agency as the Bureau of Internal Revenue, an agency that is in a position to obtain all the facts, not by Mr. John Public who lacks relevant information for the forming of sound judgments...Public reporting of a half-truth is indeed a significant provocation."

So in May 1946, Herbert Nelson of the Real Estate lobby, looking for backup in his drive to abolish federal rent control laws, contacted libertarian founder Leonard Read of the FEE with an order for a PR pamphlet “with some such title as ‘The Case against Federal Real Estate Control’,” according to Schriftgiesser’s book The Lobbyists.

What happened next, I’ll quote from Schriftgiesser:

"They were now busily co-operating on the new project which the foundation had engaged Milton Friedman and George J. Stigler to write. It was to be called Roofs and Ceilings and it was to be an outright attack on rent controls.

When Nelson received a copy of the manuscript he wrote Read to say, “The a dandy. It is just what I wanted."

The National Association of Real Estate Boards was so pleased with Milton Friedman’s made-to-order propaganda that they ordered up 500,000 pamphlets from the FEE, and distributed them throughout the real estate lobby’s vast local network of real estate brokers and agents.

In libertarianism’s own airbrushed history about itself, the Foundation for Economic Education was a brave, quixotic bastion of libertarian “true believers” doomed to defeat at the all-powerful hands of the liberal Keynsian Leviathan. Here is how Brian Doherty describes the FEE and its chief lobbyist Leonard Read:

"[Read] would never explicitly scrape for funds... He never directly asked anyone to give anything, he proudly insisted, and while FEE would sell literature to all comers, it was also free to anyone who asked. His attitude toward money was Zen, sometimes hilariously so. When asked how FEE was doing financially, his favorite reply was, “Just perfectly.”... Read wanted no endowments and frowned on any donation meant to be held in reserve for some future need."

And here is what the committee’s own findings reported—findings lost in history:

"It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Foundation for Economic Education exerts, or at least expects to exert, a considerable influence on national legislative policy....It is equally difficult to imagine that the nation’s largest corporations would subsidize the entire venture if they did not anticipate that it would pay solid, long-range legislative dividends."

Or in the words of Rep. Carl Albert (D-OK): "Every bit of this literature is along propaganda lines."

The manufactured history about libertarian’s origins, or its purpose, parallels the manufactured myths about one of big business’s key propaganda tools, Milton Friedman. As the author of The Lobbyists, not knowing who Milton Friedman was at the time, wrote of Friedman’s collaborative effort with Stigler:

“Certainly [the FEE’s] booklet, Roofs or Ceilings, was definitely propaganda and sought to influence legislation....This booklet was printed in bulk by the foundation and half a million copies were sold at cost to the National Association of Real Estate Boards, which had them widely distributed throughout the country by its far-flung network of local member boards.”

Which brings me back to last Friday’s “Milton Friedman Centennial” celebration at the University of Chicago’s Becker Friedman Institute, featuring a distinguished panel of economists from Stanford, Princeton and of course U Chicago, among them two Nobel Prize winners — James Heckman and Robert Lucas —all gathered together to “explore both aspects of Friedman's legacy: the impact of his policy insights and his enduring scholarship”...

Like everything involving modern economics and libertarianism, it was a kind of giant meta-sham, shams celebrating a sham. Even the Nobel Prizes in economics awarded to people like Milton Friedman, George Stigler, or Friedman’s contemporary fans Heckman and Lucas, are fake Nobel Prizes — in fact, there is no such thing as a Nobel Prize in economics; its real name is the “Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel” and it was first launched in 1969 by the Swedish Central Bank and has since been denounced by Alfred Nobel’s heirs.

And yet — in the words of Larry Summers, "Any honest Democrat will admit we are all Friedmanites now." Of course, there are no honest Democrats. And there are no honest economists. And these are the people who are framing our politics, the people who have told Greece and Spain they have no choice, and the people who today are making sure that the number one item on Obama’s and Congress’s agenda is cutting Social Security and cutting Medicare and cutting "entitlements" — and the only thing that divides the elites in charge of this mess is “how much of these moochers’ lifelines can we cut?”

Monday, November 12, 2012

UK gov't. wakes up and smells Starbucks' tax dodge

Imagine!  After Reuters published an investigative report in October on how Starbucks paid no corporate tax in Britain, the company has been summoned to testify before the House of Commons public accounts committee!

Now, this may be partly because it's a U.S. company, so it's easy for Brits to pick on Starbucks.  On the other hand, other big "American" MNCs such as Amazon, eBay, Facebook and Google pay little or no corporation tax despite large British operations.  So probably Starbucks has been targeted because everybody can see how many Starbucks cafes there are and how much business they do, and it's absurd on its face to suppose that Starbucks is not a profitable operation in the UK.  The issue is now political.  As it should be.

If only the U.S. would follow suit, and at least shame such companies as G.E., Boeing, Verizon and Mattel that pay no corporate tax.  If only.

And if only we had a group like "UK Uncut" that protested such tax avoiders as Starbucks, highlighting how many social services could be funded if only the company paid its fair share of tax.  

And before you can say the U.S. statutory corporate tax rate is too high, let me remind you that, thanks to legal loopholes and overseas tax avoidance schemes, U.S. corporate tax receipts as a share of profits were "at their lowest level in at least 40 years" in fiscal year 2011, according to WSJ.

Cafe chain executive to face questions from MPs, while protesters plan to turn branches into creches and refuges.
By Simon Neville and Shiv Malik
November 12, 2012 | Guardian

Pro-Romney CEO lays off workers with a prayer -- BARF!

What a jerk!  If coal magnate Robert E. Murray wanted to lay off his workers he should lay them off, but don't blame President Obama for it, much less hide behind God!  Here's his self-serving pink slip "prayer:"

Dear Lord:
The American people have made their choice. They have decided that America must change its course, away from the principals of our Founders. And, away from the idea of individual freedom and individual responsibility. Away from capitalism, economic responsibility, and personal acceptance.

We are a Country in favor of redistribution, national weakness and reduced standard of living and lower and lower levels of personal freedom.

My regret, Lord, is that our young people, including those in my own family, never will know what America was like or might have been. They will pay the price in their reduced standard of living and, most especially, reduced freedom.

The takers outvoted the producers. In response to this, I have turned to my Bible and in II Peter, Chapter 1, verses 4-9 it says, “To faith we are to add goodness; to goodness, knowledge; to knowledge, self control; to self control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; to godliness, kindness; to brotherly kindness, love.”

Lord, please forgive me and anyone with me in Murray Energy Corp. for the decisions that we are now forced to make to preserve the very existence of any of the enterprises that you have helped us build. We ask for your guidance in this drastic time with the drastic decisions that will be made to have any hope of our survival as an American business enterprise.


Yet nothing changed on November 9 in the mining industry.  And since Murray Energy is privately owned, we have no idea how well it's doing, or will do, we just have to take old Bob's word for it that he's in "survival mode" now.  

In fact, Murray just wanted to make a political point against President Obama -- and he used the Lord's name and 156 workers and their families to make it.  (Gee, do you think it'll work if they pray to God to get their old jobs back; or will their prayers just cancel each other out?)

And let's not forget the complaint to the Federal Election Commission in October that alleges Murray threatened employees with reprisals, including the loss of their jobs, to coerce them to make contributions to the company's PAC.

Self-made millionaires like Robert E. Murray can be the most insufferable egotists.  They figure if they made it big then everybody else should be able to as well.  People like Murray discount luck and chalk up all their success to themselves (and maybe "God," in the abstract.)  He's probably too dumb to realize his father and himself probably could have avoided their terrible mining accidents if Big Government had been allowed to ensure adequate mine safety.  

So anyway, now Murray says he's in "survival mode," trying to generate all the cash he can.  I wonder what survival mode means for a rich CEO like Robert Murray?  I bet it's not the same, quantitatively or qualitatively, as survival mode for his laid-off workers.

By Kim Geiger
November 10, 2012 | Tribune Washington Bureau

Sunday, November 11, 2012

West: 'We end up with a Republican in blackface'

Here's what brother Cornel West had to say about President Obama:

CORNEL WEST: Well, one, I think that it’s morally obscene and spiritually profane to spend $6 billion on an election, $2 billion on a presidential election, and not have any serious discussion—poverty, trade unions being pushed against the wall dealing with stagnating and declining wages when profits are still up and the 1 percent are doing very well, no talk about drones dropping bombs on innocent people. So we end up with such a narrow, truncated political discourse, as the major problems—ecological catastrophe, climate change, global warming. So it’s very sad. I mean, I’m glad there was not a right-wing takeover, but we end up with a Republican, a Rockefeller Republican in blackface, with Barack Obama, so that our struggle with regard to poverty intensifies.

My Republicans friends will read that and think West is just nuts.  There's nobody to the left of Obama, many of them have been led to believe.  But as I've been saying, and will continue to say, Obama's real problems is that he's either not liberal enough at heart, or he doesn't have the courage of his liberal convictions.  It doesn't really matter which, the result is the same: a Third Way, bankster-trusting, safety-net cutting, austerity-imposing, forget-labor Democrat.

As Michael Moore said, we liberals hope that Republicans are right about Obama's being a crypto-socialist.  We hope that now he doesn't have to worry about re-election, he'll grow some spine and fight on issues like the banking reform, mortgage relief, the environment, and protecting labor unions.  We hope, but we're not stupid. History doesn't give us much grounds for hope.  We realize Obama probably won't "come to Jesus" on his own.  He has to be pushed.

By Amy Goodman
November 10, 2012 | Democracy Now!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Already. They're starting on 2016 already. (SIGH)

Jeez Louise, yes, it is too early to talk about 2016.  CNN is obviously going through campaign withdrawal symptoms and is trying to use the Republican Governors Association meeting like methadone.

Articles like this one, only days after an election, are so boring and silly and evil and wrong, I can't even begin to describe it.  The media can't shut up about the next horse race for even 2 days!

By Paul Steinhauser
November 8, 2012 | CNN

Racist tweets against Obama mostly from Alabama - SHOCKER!

And a nice death wish for our lawfully elected POTUS from Alabama to boot:

UPDATE: This loss isn't going to help.  Now, with no hope for a BCS title, Alabamans have nothing to live for.  One of them might say, "Aw, f--k it" and do something drastic.

Taibbi: GOP's attitude, not policies, is screwing them

Like me, Taibbi has been checking out Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing outlets to see how they're reacting to Obama's re-election.  BTW, yesterday there was a good summary at HuffPo of the 11 excuses Republicans are giving for Romney's defeat.

Post-election, finally Republicans are addressing the elephant in the room: that only white men vote GOP.  They're "soul-searching" what to do about it.  Folks like Limbaugh ask rhetorically if the GOP should just give in and throw tokens at minorities and women to get their votes.  Rush even coined a new term: "Hispandering."  Yeah, that's gonna help, Rush.  Please, for us Democrats, keep it up.  

His dismissive attitude echoes that of conservative pundit Edward Klein, who complained on FOX that, "[David] Axelrod and his team had already succeeded in pandering to special interest groups, such as Hispanics, gays, and women."  It was such an unconscious, perfect giveaway of the GOP mindset: anybody who is not a straight white guy is a "special interest group" to them!  Here's how Taibbi put it:

[T]he fact that so many Republicans this week think that all Hispanics care about is amnesty, all women want is abortions (and lots of them) and all teenagers want is to sit on their couches and smoke tons of weed legally, that tells you everything you need to know about the hopeless, anachronistic cluelessness of the modern Republican Party. A lot of these people, believe it or not, would respond positively, or at least with genuine curiosity, to the traditional conservative message of self-reliance and fiscal responsibility.

But modern Republicans will never be able to spread that message effectively, because they have so much of their own collective identity wrapped up in the belief that they're surrounded by free-loading, job-averse parasites who not only want to smoke weed and have recreational abortions all day long, but want hardworking white Christians like them to pay the tab. Their whole belief system, which is really an endless effort at congratulating themselves for how hard they work compared to everyone else (by the way, the average "illegal," as Rush calls them, does more real work in 24 hours than people like Rush and me do in a year), is inherently insulting to everyone outside the tent – and you can't win votes when you're calling people lazy, stoned moochers.

It's hard to say whether it's good or bad that the Rushes of the world are too clueless to realize that it's their attitude, not their policies, that is screwing them most with minority voters. If they were self-aware at all, Mitt Romney would probably be president right now. So I guess we should be grateful that the light doesn't look like it will ever go on. But wow, is their angst tough to listen to.

Not all Democrats are smart, but you don't have to be smart to sense it when somebody despises you and looks down on you.  Republicans can't even begin to start persuading people that their policies are right when the best they can do is faking genuine concern and respect for others.  Repeat: faking it is the best the GOP can do.  On an ordinary day the GOP is downright hostile to them. 

By Matt Taibbi
November 8, 2012 | Rolling Stone

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

GOP counties eating up more food stamps

This isn't funny anymore.  The hypocrisy and cognitive dissonance on the Right have reached critical mass.  There is a good chance these Republicans don't even realize that the food stamps they collect are "welfare."

By Frank Bass
November 5, 2012 | Bloomberg

Monday, November 5, 2012

Ohio Romney supporters in their own words - YIKES

Like I said before, perhaps the best "tactic" of the Left is simply to give committed right-wingers a microphone and enough rope to hang themselves with.

Wait till you get to the part on when the correspondent asks what is Romney's plan?

And finally, we have an answer to the question that inquiring minds want to know: is Obama a communist, an atheist, or a Muslim?  "He's all three."

Even worse, we can't even go outside with somebody watching us.

Meanwhile, those damn Buddhists are taking away our freedom of religion.

Watch the whole thing, seriously.  Then ask yourself, if you're a Romney supporter: Can you do any better than these morons in explaining yourself?

By NewLeftMedia
November 1, 2012 | YouTube