Agenda-setting

I’ve complained before about all the attention that the angry liberals—Air America, Keith Olbermann, The Huffington Posties, etc.—are paying to the nutters on the right, and I’m going to do it again. Not only does this obsession absolve them of developing and selling an agenda, and put them in the position of being mouthpieces for a centrist, business-friendly administration—it reinforces the role of Glenn Beck as an agenda-setter. Just as Olbermann can’t let go of Cheney, Obama’s clearly still in the discursive grip of Reagan. I’m no fan of economic crises as… Read More

Delusions on the left

So it’s looking like the buzz around the Internet left is that Van Jones’s ouster is all about race. No doubt that’s part of the story—but does anyone really think the reaction from the right would have been much different had Obama appointed a white ex-Maoist to the job? For God’s sake, the right thinks cap and trade, the most conservative approach to the carbon crisis you could imagine, is a socialist plot to expropriate property, just like Obama’s scheme to subsidize the health insurance industry (aka “reform”) is socialized medicine. Obama… Read More

Ciao, public option

So it’s looking like Obama’s not only dropping the public option, he may be using the rejection as a way of distancing himself from the “left.” As Politico reports: On health care, Obama’s willingness to forgo the public option is sure to anger his party’s liberal base. But some administration officials welcome a showdown with liberal lawmakers if they argue they would rather have no health care law than an incremental one. The confrontation would allow Obama to show he is willing to stare down his own party to get things done. It’s all… Read More

Inbox contradictions

Within minutes of each other this morning, I got two emails on the state of the world economy. One, from In Defense of Marxism (such is the political scene that even Marxists are on the defensive—doesn’t anyone even dream of revolution anymore?), The Unfolding Capitalist Crisis – a nightmare for workers everywhere. Its nut graf: “[I]n many ways the present crisis is potentially even more serious than that of 1929-33. Its scope is much wider than the thirties and its impact has been far swifter.” And, from a completely different perspective, this… Read More

Bayard Rustin on the moon landing

Since this is the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing, I thought I’d share this historically rich experience. A good friend of mine from 6th grade through early college was the son of a union president. The union had a training center down in Maryland, which included some posh vacation facilities for the leadership (or misleadership, as they’d say in Workers Vanguard). My friend, his family, and several others of us all watched the TV coverage together in one of the posh outposts. Among the guests was Bayard Rustin. (The union… Read More

More government by Goldman

Under a very wussy, New York Times-y headline, “New York Fed Chairman’s Ties to Goldman Raise Questions,” the Wall Street Journal reports that the chair of the New York Fed, Stephen Friedman, added to his already large stock position in Goldman Sachs, a firm he once headed. (Thanks, Paul Whalen, for the pointer.) Friedman’s purchase of the shares came after Goldman turned itself into a bank holding company, a transition that brought it under the direct supervision of the New York Fed. Earlier, of course, Goldman had gotten a $10 billion capital injection… Read More

UAW revisited

Steve Diamond makes an excellent point in his comment on this post. The UAW isn’t the direct owner of the Chrysler shares (nor will it be of the GM shares). The owner is the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association, or VEBA, which was set up to pay benefits to the retirees. So the retirees are now dependent on the success of Chrysler and its stock. As Diamond points out, the VEBA’s first duty is to retirees, which puts it at odds with the active workers in the UAW. The structure also makes the retirees… Read More

Silver lining

In the course of a pretty wonky piece on CDOs, Felix Salmon points out that the modern financial environment weakens the political position of creditors. Back in 1975, when New York City was on the verge of default, its bonds were uninsured, and held mostly by the city’s rich and its biggest banks. Both sets of bondholders were relatively few in number and invested in the city’s long-term survival. The creditors were able to come together and speak with one voice to force wage cuts and layoffs on the unions and service cuts… Read More

Robinson follow-up

A follow-up to yesterday’s post about the war on William Robinson. Robinson said on my radio show yesterday that the ADL’s Abe Foxman came to Santa Barbara to organize a meeting of sympathetic profs to encourage the university to go after Robinson. This is clearly an attempt by a very well-financed organization (the ADL’s budget is some $50 million a year) to restrict political speech and academic freedom. Some of the comments here and on Facebook suggest that somehow Robinson “crossed a line” by likening Israeli behavior in Gaza to the Nazis. On the… Read More

Empires fall slowly…

A friend pointed out the other day: people sometimes compare the U.S. empire to Rome’s decline—but forget that it took 800 years to fall.