Underground Politics Independent Politics, History, and Economy

20May/100

Only an educated society can be free…

Liberals and libertarians have accomplished little in America but to give liberty a bad name

The paradox of freedom is simple yet profound: One individual's freedom of action will often have an unintentional effect of limiting another person's choices. By definition, you're not free when someone else's actions are directly limiting your own action choices.

As such, the debate over freedom is generally framed as one person's freedom versus another's. Is the smoker free to smoke at his favorite bar, or are the non-smokers to be free to breath smoke-free air?

Modern liberals have a few biases in their opinion, and it can kind of be summed up in a nationalistic and collectivist way. Its all about the greater good, so you shouldn't necessarily be free to impose your unhealthy habits on others. This is the liber- root that influences modern liberalism in America, but so many on the left side of the spectrum will take these ideas even further. If you eat the wrong food or even smoke in the privacy of your own home, you're still imposing a forced action on society because of increased aggregate medical demand. Unfortunately, this logic carried out to its conclusion reduces the individual to a cog in a highly efficient machine - and freedom loses priority to efficiency.

American libertarians will often come up with equally strange conclusions when the liber- root is considered. As Rand Paul demonstrated on Maddow last night, a Republican with libertarian & Tea Party affiliations might have a hard time giving a straight answer on something directly related to individual liberty: The Civil Rights Act.

"Should a business be able to discriminate against customers based on race, religion, or belief?" And there are many self-proclaimed promoters of liberty who would support that "right" to discriminate from any legal reproach. Of course, they'll concede afterward, the bigoted shop owner deserves to be boycotted and ostracized - but we can't let the courts get involved!

Higher Education is a Liberty conspiracy

Republicans will often accuse intellectuals & professors & institutions of higher learning to be part of a leftist, liberal conspiracy - and there is almost a shred of truth in that.

The fact is that only an educated society can ever hope to be free, because only an educated society can begin to understand what freedom truly means.  Much as the printing press brought knowledge to larger populations, hopefully so does the internet expand our capacity for understanding and feeling empathy for those who most need the protection of freedom.

When liberals side with Hollywood and police unions on intellectual property & drug laws, they're generally siding with the liberty of those who already have money and power against the freedoms of those who don't.  The same exact thing happens when libertarians side with business owners and socially conservative religious voters.  Natural social and economic power doesn't need the government to protect its freedom - its us people that need protection from the institutions that generate such natural power.

Filed under: Politics No Comments
12May/100

Gold is Surging Again

Was it the crazy drop in trading last week? Was it all of the talk about defaults in Europe or the actual bail out itself?

Whatever it is, it is driving up the price of gold - every survivalists' favorite commodity and the investment that only really makes sense when you're bearish on absolutely everything else.

At the moment I'm writing this (noon on May 12), gold is trading at about $1,245 per ounce. The last big purchase I remember hearing about was India's 200 ton acquisition back in November at or around $1,050 an ounce.

That was six months ago - and now gold is trading for almost 20% more than it was. No one is saying that India was buying at the top of the bubble any more - in fact they just pulled a huge, quick profit simply because they didn't need to print up a money to stay solvent & investing in the economy. Now every bailout of crisis that strikes a western economy is just going to amplify the value of that investment.

The problem is largely inflation beyond wages - but people don't really feel this until they're already on the edge of bankruptcy or foreclosure. So many costs are fixed - car payments, mortgage payments, student loans, etc... - that consumers aren't really feeling the deflationary effects in autos & real estate in any kind of positive way.

Meanwhile, milk and gas are back near $3 a gallon, most meat is up 20-25% over the last year or so, and insurance rates, local taxes, & communications fees are on the rise. The only parts of the economy experiencing inflation are the ones that aren't fixed for consumers - the parts experiencing deflation are fixed at the old, higher rate.

Wages haven't really gone anywhere, so the result is that people near the edge are going to have to constantly cut back until they simply can't anymore. At that point, default becomes logical as its the only way to really take advantage of the deflation in other sectors that brings the total CPI down.

So the markets are speaking up, and this is what I hear: Walk away from your debts, and/or buy up physical gold because the government is just going to keep printing to make those banks whole for the debt losses.

Filed under: Economy No Comments
12May/100

The Game is Changing

Politics has always been a game of consensus, and societies hold together because of some shared set of values and beliefs. Whether the uniting myths are religious, hereditary, or purely secular in their tenants, the social purpose of such national stories is to unite the people in cooperative action toward the defined goals.

Since inception, the bond that holds these nations together is media. Tracing back to the earliest forms of religious governance, this took the form of those priests and prophets who would mediate between the gods and man. Medieval kings employed both religious mediators as well as town criers - and ultimately armies if a consensus could still not be achieved. As technology progressed, the printing press gave the churches and monarchs competition from the capital-owning classes, and in to the 20th century the ownership of broadcast capital in the form of television, movies, and radio came to dominate the political debate.

And debate really is the wrong word for a discourse with such low tolerance of divergent opinions...

In an era of rapidly decentralizing online media, it is no wonder that a president intent on building consensus would start to show frustrations with the nature of the internet.

"You're coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don't always rank that high on the truth meter," he told the students. "And with iPods and iPads, and Xboxes and PlayStations -- none of which I know how to work -- information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it's putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy."

For many decades, the political spectrum in this country has been highly divided between a left and a right that don't honestly disagree on too much. The broadcast media outlets, or mainstream-media, are big owners of capital and they're heavily invested in the industry of military. As such, the mainstream political real has been dominated by pro-capital hawks - to the extreme that we begin preemptive wars on shaky premises and provide trillions of dollars in easy money loans to the biggest banks around at the same time classrooms are getting more crowded & people are going bankrupt from medical bills.

And new media isn't just low in capital intensity, it is practically capital-phobic. Many a great website has been ruined by large investment, and few of the biggest sites are even able to turn a profit on their massive volume. Where the traditional wisdom has long been that economies of scale are desirable, the function seems to be unraveling in 21st century media distribution.

The government really just has two choices: It can either begin to decentralize like the media that enables it, or it can try to turn the new media in to something that resembles the old one. Unfortunately, despite the great loss of our most empowering and emancipating technology, many of those holding power would rather flex their muscles than give up what influence they have acquired - consequences be damned, of course, because most of these people don't even know how to use the devices they're trying to criticize...

Filed under: Politics No Comments
19Apr/101

SEC has some crazy theory about Goldman Sachs

The SEC has released this crazy theory about a conspiracy at Goldman Sachs to defraud investors.

Although technically, if they have enough evidence to win at trial, it won't really be a conspiracy theory any more.

Isolated or Systemic Fraud?

The big question here is whether we're looking at a one time event or a pattern of behavior.  If the SEC only has this one complaint lined up, this might not end up as much of a story at all.  The total value of the Abacus transaction is only about $1 billion and Goldman's stake is even smaller.  Bloomberg is saying they only made about $15 million in fees for this particular deal, so the charges here are really, really insignificant for a company that made a thousand times that much profit in just last year.

On the other hand, if this turns out to be the kind of deals that Goldman routinely uses to collect fees and bring profits to their favorite hedge funds and investment firms... Well, then we could be looking at a price fixing scheme big enough to make huge profits in the event of a crisis situation.  Hell - let's just be honest and admit that it would be a big incentive to create a financial crisis.

On Timing the Announcement

A lot of the analysis surrounding the SEC's complaint relates to the timing of its release. There are definitely a few interesting "coincidences" to be considered when trying to determine what we can really expect out of this:

  • No one got "blindsided" - Goldman had knowledge of the charges months ago and they didn't take the opportunity to come out and announce the pending suit on their own terms.  They kept quiet about the SEC accusations and got their PR machine working to promote a general brand image.
  • The "other" SEC Report - Oh yeah, by the way, the SEC also published its explanation of why it took 12 years to actually bring any charges against a suspected ponzi scheme that is turning out to be one of the biggest direct investment scams of the bubble era.  Its probably a good thing for the SEC's own public image that everyone is busy talking and thinking about how they're "cracking down" on Goldman and not about how they're mostly turning a blind eye to all of the other scams going on.  If you want to see the whole report and tell us what it says, its down at the bottom of the page.  Thanks!
  • Options Friday - April options contracts expired Saturday, so anyone who was bearish on Goldman in the options market could have made some serious cash.  While most of these common derivatives generally expire without being exercised, a huge sudden price move triggered huge volume in the options market.  With 300,000 contracts leveraging up to 30 million shares at a $5 or $20 profit each, way more money was earned on the options market than the actual value of Goldman's participation in the fraud they're alleged to have committed.  Based the major sell off and next month's options activity, traders are expecting Goldman to continue falling over the near future.

International Investigation(s)

And it might not be up to just the SEC to prove a case for systemic fraud.  In fact, they might already have help from German authorities who are in the process of bringing their own legal actions against the investment firm.  A German bank was among the buyers of the intentionally doomed mortgage securities, so one of the most influential governments in the European Union has a reason to take this scam personally.  If there is more dirt to be found on Goldman, I'm sure they'd like to help expose it.

Of course we also already knew that Goldman had a hand in the Greece's deceptive debt accounting and the Federal Reserve claims to be taking care of that investigation, but how long will it be before Greece or France or the U.K. sets up their own investigations in the interest of keeping the EU financially stable? I can't give you a date, but EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn promises it will be "profound and thorough." Of course, the United Kingdom is the home turf of big banking, so you know when London is talking about sanctions there must be something seriously rotten going on. Then again, maybe Gordon Brown is just trying to win some election points with tough talk.

The craziest theory

With May options investors seeming to expect declines that far exceed the value of the SEC's entire case, it seems like the craziest conspiracy of all might now be coming to light.  Not only did Goldman Sachs intentionally misrepresent the securities they sold, but this is starting to be perceived as a standard course of action rather than any kind of isolated incident.  With prior executives and directors staffing some of the most influential political positions around the world, they were widely presumed to be immune from this kind of scrutiny and seen as safe a bet as any aggressive growth stock could be.

Instead, whether this was intended as a public relations move or a slap on the wrist, it could have serious implications for Goldman's ability to acquire clients in the future - or even operate inside certain legal jurisdictions.


As promised, here is the SEC's "other report" from Friday. No one's really talking about it so I haven't bothered to read it. I'm sure though, that its a great reminder of why the SEC can't (or won't) actually take on a powerful company on its own until they're absolutely certain they can win a case.

Inspector General's Report on S.E.C.'s Stanford Inquiry

Filed under: Economy 1 Comment
10Mar/101

Why Words Matter – Language in Modern Political Debate

Language is a social construct: words are just concepts and we hope for the sake of debate that we're all sharing the same concept when we use the same words.  But in many specialized jargons - and especially in politics - debates will often rage on for decades and generations at a time without the two sides ever coming to agree on what the words mean.  Even if the denotation (dictionary definition) of a word is universal, the connotations (more culturally subjective meanings) can vary wildly from one group to another.

Of course, controlling the connotation of these words is an important part of ensuring that a debate will end up in a pre-defined way while retaining the illusion of earnest discussion and compromise...  This is basically the job description of partisan political pundits - success means bending the meaning of a word to your goals, and failure means that someone else beat you to it.

Single-payer:

Single-payer healthcare is often discussed by Democrats as the "ideal" solution - the one goal we should be moving toward.  But what does it mean?  The UK's National Library of Medicine defines it as:  "An approach to health care financing with only one source of money for paying health care providers."

While that single source could be a private insurance monopoly or a publicly run government program, it can't, by definition, be both!  So in effect, when someone argues for Single-payer healthcare, they are not just talking about a system with universal coverage, they are explicitly referring to one that intentionally limits competition for service funding.

Anyone who understands America's "spare no expense" mentality when it comes to medicine should immediately realize why the idea of single-payer healthcare is a non-starter in American domestic politics.  Yet interestingly enough, multi-payer universal systems have never really come up as a topic in this so-called debate... So enjoy your mandates, I hope you can afford mandatory insurance with few caps on the cost of service!

Socialism:

Talk about a misused word - by both sides!

If you listen to Limbaugh or Maher, you might believe that socialism refers to any kind of welfare payment, social service, or social safety net.  The big difference we might expect between these two groups is just that they disagree on whether or not that's a good thing.

But what is the denotation of socialism?  Wordnet at Princeton University defines it as:  "a political theory advocating state ownership of industry" or "an economic system based on state ownership of capital."

Well, last time I checked, food stamps have nothing to do with whether or not the government owns the farm and the grocery store.  Ergo, social welfare programs are not socialism by any stretch of the dictionary's definition.  Further, universal healthcare isn't even necessarily socialist in nature unless you have a very strict single-payer system that highly regulates or limits private funding and services.

When "socialism" becomes part of the typical left/right debate, the right will always win because people who actually know what socialism means won't support it.  History provides little evidence of instances where a state-owned monopoly outperforms more mixed economies.

Corporatism:

Corporatism is often thrown to imply a system of government captured by private corporate interests.  What does San Jose State University say?  Well, like most economics or political science professors they will tell you that "The basic idea of corporatism is that the society and economy of a country should be organized into major interest groups (sometimes called corporations) and representatives of those interest groups settle any problems through negotiation and joint agreement."

Well now, that sounds like some kind of collectivist philosophy to me!  Society is organized into interest groups, and they use some kind of centralized government to hammer out the negotiations.  This is what Mussolini meant when he famously declared fascism to be a form of corporatism - he was not referring to what we have in America where banks and big manufacturers know that they can constantly come to the government for as much money or legislative protection as they could possibly want.  Actually, Mussolini would have probably executed the CEOs if they tried to hold the economy of Italy hostage for the sake of bailouts and infinite loan guarantees - that kind of greed isn't a rational compromise of society's competing interests, its a giveaway to the most powerful ones.

More accurate ways to describe the political economy of America might be crony capitalism, a failed (or captured) state, regulatory capture run amok... etc... But corporatism?  By definition, no.

So we've got self-proclaimed socialists railing against collectivism, we've set up this single-payer ideal for inevitable failure...

But who cares right?!  These words will be misused so long as people continue to get their civic education from the TV and radio personalities instead of from books and academic sources.  No specialist really expects non-specialists to understand and correctly use the jargon of their field, and politics is only different because non-specialists have a strong say in the decisions which will ultimately effect an entire society.  Obviously, an autocratic political class is the only thing more dangerous than that, so we'll just have to groan and chuckle and do our little bit to promote the neutral denotations that are more effective for constructive debate.

Filed under: Politics 1 Comment
19Feb/100

He isn’t one of us…

One of the strangest, and perhaps most morbid, developments in American politics is the way that the usual partisan suspects have mobilized to disown the suicidal pilot in Texas.

He isn't one of us, he's one of them!

Liberals have clung to the choice of an IRS building as "proof" that this guy was some far-right tea-party anti-government guy. Conservatives are pointing to his rants against big business and the way he seems to praise communism.

What they can both agree with is that he clearly belongs in the other camp because none of their own team mates could ever possibly do such a thing. So while we have very few actual clues to what this man's voting history looks like, or what philosophical books might have informed his ideology (if any), there is an entire industry of punditry currently busy at the task of proving that he wasn't "one of us..." whatever that us happens to be.

Frustration beyond ideology

Beyond attempting to one-up the competition, I think the partisans are also looking for a more practical end in their effort at profiling.

There seems to be an idea that if the ideology is identified, so too can the ring-leader who incites such violent action.  Some have suggested Ron Paul, because apparently someone with a similar name to the pilot made a significant donation to his primary campaign in 2007.  But Ron Paul is a pretty strict pacifist who only advocates armed conflict in extreme cases of self-defense.  The guy who is calling for drastic military reductions and prison leniency isn't exactly the same kind of guy who would incite his followers to commit political violence...  Talk about counter-productive!

Others have suggested Palin, since she's crowned herself as the new leader of the conservative protest movement.  This one doesn't fit either though, because she seems much more interested in seizing control of the very power that people are becoming frustrated with.

The reality is probably a bit more murky and disturbing than the stereotyping analysis will be able to explain.

People just aren't happy, and they rightfully see that the government in D.C. can do little to protect them from the economy.  Looking at where Congress's priorities are, they might even be making things worse for a lot of us average people who still have to work for a living if we want to eat or have an overpriced roof for our heads.

When times are tough, people can't afford the luxury of rigid ideologies and partisanship.  Its enough to have two stubborn forces intent on trying to differentiate from each other in every possible detail, but the reality is that neither group will be able to achieve a pure truth without conceding ground to the good points of the opposition.

So, if you're looking for a partisan ring-leader to blame, consider all of them - at once.  Then move on, move on to something that is more flexible and constructive, because this rigidity is otherwise to become the rigormortis of our nation.

Filed under: Politics No Comments
9Feb/100

America cannot blame the world it has created

It is almost inevitable, that in a time of prolonged crisis, that a nation should look beyond its own borders in search of someone to blame.  For America in the 21st century, any attempt at placing blame on China or Mexico or even the Middle East is misplaced for a simple reason:  America has more influence on the world than the world has on us.

Say that out loud a few times and let it sink in.  Our ability to project power is unprecedented, and the effect of this has been a radical shift in cultures around the world.  American industry and money has become the paradigm by which the world does business, and what we see beyond our borders are echoes and reverberations of our own history and social essence.

The Tijuana Speakeasy

In Mexico, we re-live our tortured past of prohibition.  Rather than liquor, the plants we have helped them ban have created thriving black markets and criminal cartels.  Hardly any different from our own all-American organized crime families of the 1920s, Mexican gangs are instead an unintended product of our own foreign policy goals.  Depicted as a violent influence on America, it is our money that funds the production of drugs and it is our weapons that they're purchasing back with the profits.

For many tourists, Mexico is also America's narcotic speakeasy.  The gateway city of Tijuana is a well-known destination of all sorts of yankee-doodle-hedonists.  Far from the armored SWAT teams of U.S. drug enforcement, many a young adventurer trusts that a few green dollars is enough to get them out of trouble with Mexico's often-corrupt police.

To the extent then that Mexican drugs and gangs are a problem in America, they are a problem because of America...

Immigrants are Capitalism

The other common complaint about Mexico is that the immigrants are an economic drain on our domestic economy.  The myth is that they come here for the sole purpose of soaking up welfare payments and enjoying our lavish social benefits.

Wait a minute...  What lavish social benefits?

Mexico is much closer to achieving universal healthcare coverage, and America isn't exactly known for generous welfare benefits or any sort of long-term public support.  Instead, immigrants are the type of people who are willing to take big risks and invest hard work in the hope of eventually profiting from their productive behavior.  If that sounds familiar, its called the American dream - something we used to celebrate back when we were the immigrants.

China's Gilded Age

Across the Pacific, China is experiencing an era of sustained economic booms that is unprecedented.  Well, its almost unprecedented because America did it first.

In the time American historians categorize as the Gilded Age, we managed to go from a fairly backward rural society to the world's #1 manufacturer of industrial goods.  The era was marked with miserable working conditions, extreme gaps between wealth and poverty, corrupt individuals fighting for favorable government concessions, and a strong pressure for the marginalized members of society to conform and contribute.

If they're taking our jobs, its because we long ago abandoned those 12 hour work-days and child labor profits.  It doesn't make much sense for us to be jealous of them, unless Americans are just that intent on turning back the clock and living in a "simpler" time.  By simpler, I mean you wouldn't be able to afford the computer you're reading this from if you really had to compete with Chinese laborers for a blue-collar job. That isn't China's fault, its just a fact that 19th century jobs don't provide enough money to buy and maintain 21st century technology.

King George - Bush of Arabia

Some historians and military strategists might let you in on a big secret of America's foreign policy:  In the years following World War 2 and the collapse of the British Empire, we effectively assumed unofficial control of England's remaining colonies.  For a little more back history:  As a result of World War 1, the Ottoman Empire was defeated and carved up into European colonies.  During World War 2, England and Germany battled over control of the region.

After the war, and absolute American victory, we moved to quickly implement a policy of "twin pillars."  By creating an unbreakable alliance with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Iran, we would cement our control over the region, securing access to cheap oil and controlling the public opinion in a way that kept out Soviet influence.  There's no doubt that we intervened to set up a friendly regime in Iran, and there's little argument that our action triggered a wave of blowback that has lasted for generations and likely to persist well into the future.

It shouldn't sound too surprising that the colonies would eventually resist King George and demand full independence.

Its easy to blame someone;

Its hard to really fix a personal problem

We're tempted to look outward and find a scapegoat, but the best we can do is see our own reflection in what we dislike about the world.  The last 100 years have been one of unquestionable American ascendancy, and the force we project is many times stronger than the influence we receive.

Sure, we eat tacos and fried rice now, but even those are extremely Americanized products that might not be recognizable in the nations they supposedly originated from.  At the same time, they know exactly what a McDonald's cheeseburger is supposed to be.  Its convenient to blame Mexican and Chinese labor, but we're the ones with the advantage of designing global financial systems, printing the reserve currency, and deploying the world's most powerful army to secure our national interests.

So the next time you're tempted to blame some other country for America's economic or political problems, just remember how little influence they've truly had on our path and decisions.  This may lead to some difficult choices in regard to our domestic policies, but we're going to have to address these tougher conflicts before we can truly progress to the next level of our national - and individual - potential.

20Jan/100

Scott Brown Wins and Healthcare is in Limbo

Just a week or two ago, few people expected that a Republican would rise up to win election to Ted Kennedy's old Senate seat.  Then again, it was just two years ago that Democratic Congressional candidates swept to one of the largest majorities their party has enjoyed in my relatively short lifetime.

What changed?

Charisma is the first obvious culprit here.  Coakley comes off as rigid and possibly detached, and unfortunately anyone in electoral politics needs to have figured out by now that a lot of people would rather vote for the individual than their policies.  A warm inviting personality can win a bunch of election support even if their actual political ideas are insane.  Yes Timmy, there are many reasons as to why a Democratic Republic is not a perfect form of government..

The healthcare boondoggle definitely isn't helping the incumbent Democrats, either.  While a lot of Americans are upset about their coverage, the cost of healthcare, or the fact that they don't have any coverage - there is also a slim majority of workers who are covered under employer plans.  These people are pretty much detached from ever paying for their medical expenses (and they even receive some tax benefits for being so aloof from paying the bill!), so they're pretty happy with the status quo.  Yet even if a majority of Americans are happy with having their own needs taken care of, they're willing to entertain ideas that would drive down costs or help those in genuine need acquire the medicine we have available.  The problem is, the Democrats took the opportunity and compromised it down to what resembles a massive corporate handout:  individual mandates, taxes on employer-based plans, a cheap new exit-strategy for employers who are sick of providing medical benefits, and various protections for the insurance, pharmaceutical, and ambulance-chasing industries.  Even without the loss of a Massachusetts seat to Scott Brown, House Democrats are having a hard time swallowing the pill that was developed in the Senate.

And of course, there's something we don't have any of that is influencing the decision:

Jobs, jobs, jobs! Any time the economy is tough and people can't find work, the first person to be blamed is someone who shared party affiliation with the current majority.  In this case it doesn't really matter if Bush's overspending, corporate bailouts, and useless wars are the cause of our financial troubles, because voters believe that if the Democrats were capable they would have been able to fix the situation by now.  In fact, if a fraction of our banking bailout had gone directly to some time of employment with a strong economic return (ie:  infrastructure development, toxic cleanups, etc..) we could have a lot more work available and would probably save money in the long run because we wouldn't be getting ready for the next round of bailouts and stimulus.  Trust me though, it will be coming down the pipes soon whether or not we can ultimately afford it.  And speaking of what we can afford...

The country is broke! I'm not saying the government can't continue to pay off its debtors for the time being, but to do so we're rather reliant on our ability to devalue the currency and tax labor.  With the world united in quantitative easing and labor vanishing rapidly, the government's ability to pay liabilities may be tested if trends don't reverse.  But I'm talking about being broke on the individual and state levels - and that's something we have a big problem with as more and more houses enter default, more couples & individuals file for bankruptcy, and more states like California face budgetary crises that result in serious credit downgrades and warnings about repayment odds.

Will Scott Brown negotiate healthcare in good faith?  He says he wants to send it back to the drawing board, but does this mean we could end up with a new bipartisan version of the legislation that is even worse than the currently unpopular bill the Senate came up with?

The Democrats have an opportunity here - or they had one at least - to deliver a healthcare reform bill that actually reduces costs and expands coverage.  Sound impossible?  Well, all of the international comparisons suggest we have a lot of room to work with and it would be realistic to achieve both goals.  The problem is all of the middle men we've institutionalized with legislation, tax breaks, and "deregulation" (where deregulation accurately means a government policy designed to maximize demand for a product or industry, while protecting said industry from any threats that would undermine profitability.)  Wait, you didn't think deregulation meant a free market economy, did you?!

Filed under: Elections No Comments
11Jan/100

History of the Tea Party

I've recently decided to look back on the history of the tea party.  Its kind of strange and it doesn't bode well for the future of the Republicans as a united party.

On Dec. 2007 there was a grass-roots money bomb for Ron Paul scheduled on the historic date as a modern "tea party."  Paul's campaign finance manager tried to get the organizers to drop their plan because they needed the money sooner & the money bombs seemed to dry up weekly contributions in anticipation of the big event days.  Supporters wanted to stick to the symbolic anti-tax protest, and that was pretty much the end of cooperation between the campaign & the grass roots.

So anyway, it wasn't too long after that the primary results were coming in and people started drifting off toward their 2nd & 3rd choice candidates.  Obama ended up getting the next biggest 'money bomb' in about March of '08, and it was organized by many of the same social networks that put Ron Paul on the front pages.  So in a lotta ways, the original tea party already broke for Obama.  (If you didn't see Obama's campaign appeals to libertarians & progressives, well, you were as tunnel blind as we were)

It looks like February 2009 is when the tea party meme resurfaced, when Rick Santelli got angry at the government for promoting reckless financial behavior.

Oddly enough, no one noticed when Santelli was also ranting and raving in Sept & Oct '08 about how corrupt & destructive Bush's original bankster bailout was in the first place.

Shortly thereafter, Republican national marketing groups got busy organizing the Apr 15 tea party protests.  Glenn Beck got a whole bunch of crazies together for his 9-11 thing.

So in the end, I don't see much of any influence of Ron Paul or Santelli on the modern tea party concept.  Most of the protesters here are nationalist-nativists with a wicked strong socially conservative streak.

Remember, the RP group of the Republican party is about 10%, the nativist/nationalists are another 40%, evangelicals another 40% (with strong overlap), and the country club types are probably the most important/powerful 10%.

The tea party movement in current form offers little to libertarians, evangelicals, or country-club Republicans.  The tricky part is that the country-club types are "running" the tea party show even while this splinter group threatens to take down the Republican coalition.  Its like knowing a legion in your army wants nothing more than to overthrow you but that they're unable to as you're the one organizing them and giving them bullets.  (think about Kim Jong il and the way he only poses for pictures with his military when their guns are unloaded)

So here in FL, we hate Crist but this 'tea party' nomad running against him just looks like way more crazy and moving in the wrong direction.  Crist can spend money, but only when it comes to his political allies & business friends.  Crazy tea-bag nomad doesn't ever want to spend any money at all - unless its banning abortion, deporting illegals, and killing Muslims.

What we really need in this country is to find more productive ways to spend the money our government is already spending.  Take a look at the military, prison, and banking outlays and imagine how much better it would be for our future if we could apply these things to supporting a healthier and more educated society...

Now, where is the political party that supports these things?  Surely it isn't the corporate Democrats, but anyone looking for salvation from the right is in for a reactionary disappointment of epic proportions!

Filed under: Elections No Comments
3Jan/100

Myth of the Moderate Middle

A lot of Americans are quick to grab at the totem of "moderate," but what does this really mean?

Here's a graphic I made and posted a while back on the old site, but unfortunately I've since lost the demographics I was using to derive it:

2008_US_Presidential_Political_Spectrum_Left_RightWe have four colors represented in the graph:

  • Light Blue:  Progressive democrats, primarily concerned with economic fairness and human rights.
  • Dark Purple:  Centrist or Nationalist/Corporatist Democrats.  Despite making up a smaller part of the voting population, they are the majority of elected representatives.
  • Red:  Nationalist or Mainstream Republicans, primarily concerned with military dominance, appeasing corporate overlords in hope of bring trickled down upon, and religion.
  • Orange:  Liberal Republicans, Libertarians, Ron Paul Republicans, and other populist organizations

Independents can be anywhere really, a lot of the times they will address each issue on its own merits rather than sticking to any particular political labeling.  This subgroup might pick a leader based on single issues, or even personality, character, or debate performance.

Now, what happens is that progressive Democrats continue to support moderate candidates, and these candidates actually share more in common with the Neo-cons of Bush's administration than they do with the progressives who are supporting them.  In a corporatist political environment, competing sectors seek political favors to expand their market power, and the centrist realm is dominated by the dominant beneficiaries of government policy.  Basically, the military, the media, unionized manufacturing, and public employee unions share a pro-nationalist expansionary policy at all times, because they are the primary beneficiaries of any such spending.

Since 2008:

Following Obama's election, we began to witness one of the most significant electoral shifts in the last several generations.  Not only have the progressives began to put pressure and spoken out against the Democratic majority in Congress, but a lot of Republicans have also begun to drift away from their traditional party leadership.

One factor promoting this shift is the new nature of online media.  Dissatisfaction with old experts has created a niche for bloggers and amatuer pundits who want to spread their political ideas.  Since the reach of new media is so much more focused than old mass-media, the newer splinter groups may share some ideas without necessarily being unified into a new political front.

Electoral Outlook:

The policies defined by the moderate middle (corporate subsidy and militarist nationalism) will increasingly face attack from the left and right flanks.

As the Republican party continues to factionalize, progressive leaders will seize on the opportunity to collect disaffected libertarians and populist conservatives.  A new opposition party will spring up to the left of today's "centrist Democrats," and the old Republican Reagan coalition will fade into irrelevancy.

Well, that's the optimistic case... 😉