Saturday, September 8, 2012

Oh those Dems

As someone who has been a pretty active member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party here in Minnesota for most of my adult life, I couldn't help watching parts of the Democratic national convention.  But let's be honest here—I didn't vote for either Obama or Al Franken in 2008 and stopped going to party meetings soon thereafter.  I never expected much out of the Obama administration when their economics wing was taken over by Lawrence Summers, so I cannot say I am disappointed even though they can still surprise me with the sheer goofiness of their economic decisions.

Some random observations of an aging former Party Member

I still enjoy the speechmaking.  As someone who sat through WAY too many long church services as a kid, I had to listen to a lot of sermons—which are similar in many ways to political speech.  So I became an aficionado of the speaking arts.  Good speakers literally can make an hour seem like 10 minutes—an amazing gift to the listener.  Bad speakers can turn 10 minutes into an ordeal.  DFL politics in Minnesota has had some amazing public speakers—Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey, Paul Wellstone to name but three.  One of the reasons I have been a DFLer all these years is because we always had the better public speakers.  So no matter what what I have thought of Bill Clinton over the years, I sat in awe at his speech.  I had written off his $250,000 speaking fees as pure corruption and payback for his role in the repeal of Glass-Steagall.  After Wednesday night, I am at least partially persuaded that he earns those fees.

The Obama administration has an absolutely atrocious record on the economy, war and peace, the rule of law and the banksters, etc.  Nevertheless, they do have a few accomplishments to tout.  And that filled up the time.  If the spin business can turn BP into a savior of the Gulf of Mexico, it shouldn't be too hard to find enough good things in four years to construct a 20 minute speech.

What I was really looking for were signs the the Dems have gotten serious about SOLVING the nation's problems.  And aside from Obama saying the "global warming is not a hoax" I saw no sign whatsoever that they have any idea how big our problems are.  The problem with folks who glorify speechmaking is that they confuse talking about our serious dilemmas and the work required to solve them.  And the essential manifestation of this confusion is that they cannot seem to understand the difference between the cost-free and the necessary $Trillion solutions.

Of course, there was barely an encouraging word about what the Dems would do with the banksters / their campaign contributors.  Robert Rubin did fall into a swimming pool—easily the best news of the week on that front.  Bob was in Charlotte to make sure the Dems didn't accidentally wander off the economics reservation.  He had reasons to worry.  Elizabeth Warren would put a serious crimp in the thieving ways of guys like Rubin and she isn't even remotely radical on the subject of financial regulation.

SEPTEMBER 7-9, 2012
Right-Winging It in Charlotte

Bubba and Barack Go to Bank of America Stadium


Ancient philosophical ideas lie behind more of modern discourse than many people imagine. Philosophical post-modernism arose partially from Martin Heidegger’s radical critique of Plato’s ontology (via Descartes) that itself lies behind Western economics and many of the modes of demonstration in science. From Heidegger’s critique philosopher Jacques Derrida drew his own idea of materialism—for present (limited) purposes a placing of imagination in this world rather than in the world of the imagined (Where does it reside otherwise?). But it was by placing imagination wholly in the world of the imagined that Democrats sold their pageant in Charlotte—as if the fact of the last four years were but one of an infinite number of equally plausible universes.

To trot out former President Bill Clinton as the incarnation of ‘elder statesman’ required an even grander imagination— one where the last twenty years either didn’t happen or didn’t matter. In fact, and despite the teary-eyed windbaggery of liberal nostalgia, Dot-com Bill and his financial deregulatin’ is nearly single handedly responsible for the economic plight that still grips the West. His promotion of right-wing talking points (‘The end of the era of big government,’ ‘the end of welfare as we know it’) attached to his right-wing policies begs the question of where Democrats think right-wing ‘crazies’ got their ideas about small government and economic self-reliance from? And with his welfare ‘reform’ Mr. Clinton began the job of gutting the social safety net that Barack Obama now welcomes as his own. Welcome back Mr. President.

The premise of the Democrats, that ‘facts’ don’t matter when it comes to what their actual policies are while in office, is made visible by the visions of the (Democratic) future being offered. The economy is ‘healing’ and therefore jobs will reappear, foreclosures will cease, incomes will rise and retirements will be secured. Nonsense. Median wealth and income continue to fall (link), banks are holding foreclosed houses off of the market to stabilize prices, but won’t do so forever, and the jobs that are appearing provide neither income nor employment security, or even in many cases a living wage. But the coup-de-grace is that the predatory financial system that crashed the economy has been wholly re-vivified by Mr. Obama and is using citizen-supplied funds to gut prudent re-regulation. Count on recurrent severe financial crises until this system is shut down. And did Mr. Obama mention his plans to cut Social Security and Medicare?

The economic frame that is Mr. Clinton’s legacy is a banker’s wet dream, in large measure because it was bankers (Robert Rubin) who created it. In the mythology, fiscal discipline led to the Clinton era economic boom that was in fact the result of the dot-com stock bubble (link) and the ‘freeing’ of money from the grip of prudent banking through bank deregulation. The housing bubble that eventually disappeared the entirety of black wealth began under Mr. Clinton (link). And Mr. Obama has used the Clinton frame to explain both his absence of adequate policies to respond to the economic crisis caused by rogue bankers and the need to further gut the social safety net. more
The somewhat jaded view from Paris.

Democrats party their way to Obama endorsement

The Democratic National Convention was a key moment for US President Barack Obama, who needs to build momentum ahead of an election that remains too close to call. The event galvanized the party faithful and showcased some memorable performances.
By FRANCE 24 (with wires) (text)

Party delegates and American television viewers were treated to a grand, three-day spectacle this week as they attended or tuned in to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The event was a key moment of this year’s presidential race, in which incumbent Barack Obama hopes to win a second term in office by defeating Republican challenger Mitt Romney. With less than nine weeks to go before US voters head to the polls, the race between the two rivals remains too close to call.

Obama’s campaign was hoping the convention in Charlotte would inject momentum into his re-election drive, which has lacked the intensity and enthusiasm that carried him into the White House nearly four years ago.

The event will likely be remembered for the ardent endorsements of Obama from party heavyweights and newcomers, as well as for some of its more playful moments.

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro made what could turn out to be a career-making appearance on the opening night of the event. He was the first Hispanic to deliver a keynote speech at a Democratic convention, and he used the opportunity to skewer Romney.

Speaking about Romney’s public opposition to a healthcare overhaul after backing a similar plan when he was governor of the state of Massachusetts, Castro said, “Mitt Romney has undergone an extreme makeover. And it ain't pretty.”

The rising Democrat used an argument that speakers would return to often during the convention: that Romney was out of touch with ordinary Americans who struggle economically.

“Mitt Romney just doesn't get it,” Castro said. "But Barack Obama gets it. He understands that when we invest in people, we're investing in our shared prosperity.”

First lady Michelle Obama made an impassioned speech in defense of her husband that left many delegates in tears.

“For Barack, these issues aren't political -- they're personal. Because Barack knows what it means when a family struggles. He knows what it means to want something more for your kids and grandkids,” she said. “Barack knows the American Dream because he's lived it ... and he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we're from, or what we look like, or who we love.”

Former president Bill Clinton, who was in the White House during the prosperous 1990s and who remains a leading figure within the party, headlined the second evening. He tried to convince voters that the economy was in better shape today than when Republicans left the White House in 2008.

“President Obama started with a much weaker economy than I did. No president -- not me or any of my predecessors -- could have fully repaired all the damage he found in just four years. But conditions are improving and if you’ll renew the president’s contract you will feel it. ... I believe that with all my heart,” Clinton argued.

Obama accepted his party’s nomination on the final day of the convention, telling delegates and millions of television viewers at home that he would lead the country to economic recovery if given the chance.

“After two wars that have cost us thousands of lives and over a trillion dollars, it’s time to do some nation-building right here at home,” Obama said. more

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