Daily Archive: 10/20/2013

Oct 20 2013

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: What Is Capitalism? Part I by Le Gauchiste

There have appeared in this space several thought-provoking attempts to define capitalism, including here see and here see:. Although this might seem to some a mere academic exercise, nothing could be further from the truth: to be effective, activism to change, transform or overthrow any human construction must be rooted in a thorough and accurate understanding thereof.

This is especially important when discussing capitalism, both because its pervasive ubiquity creates a familiarity that masquerades as understanding and because the defenders of the system work tirelessly to spew lies about its virtues. Even more treacherous than the increasingly strained defenses of the system by modern conservatives are the ideological productions of modern liberals who claim a desire to reform capitalism or ameliorate those of its consequences they don’t like.

The key problem is that liberals and conservatives share the same basic understanding of capitalism, which is rooted in the neo-classical revolution in mainstream economics that occurred in the late 19th century. On this view, capitalism is a “natural” system arising from and based on market exchanges between buyers and sellers of commodities, which are assumed to maximize “efficiency” (defined in terms of allowing “supply” and “demand” to set market-clearing prices) and human happiness (defined as the total dollar value of market commodities bought and sold (GDP), regardless of what needs they meet or how they are distributed among the population).

Thus the neo-classical view (like the classical political economy of Adam Smith and David Ricardo that preceded it) is fundamentally ahistorical: capitalism is understood not as a historically specific constellation of economic relations, but rather as the result of encouraging the supposedly natural human tendency to engage in market transactions on a competitive basis with the goal of maximizing profit.

Even worse, the neo-classical assumption that the “market” is a naturally occurring phenomenon forces it to posit an Ideal Type Market-characterized by virtually unrestrained good-faith buying and selling backed up by rules to enforce the terms of transactions-against which historical social formations are measured by the degree to which they approximate the Ideal Type and can be called “capitalistic.” In this view there is of course no room for understanding how the historical economies of pre-capitalist social formations worked on their own terms, because those terms are assumed ab initio to represent flaws, deviations from the Ideal Type that maximizes happiness.

And therein lies the reason that neo-classical economics provides an unstable intellectual foundation for capitalist reformism that unavoidably undermines any case for change, because all such reforms involve straying from the Ideal Type Market. That is why, in televised “debates” about regulation between conservatives and liberals, when the former extol the virtues of the market and call for “non-interference,” the latter start off the same way (Obama does this all the time) and then suddenly pivot to an argument that some specific reform represents an exception to the free market rule. Conservatives thus always come off as more intellectually consistent while liberals seem (and in fact are) intellectually muddled and confused-even when “the facts” seem to stand in their favor.

We, however, are Anti-capitalists, and we need an understanding of capitalism that historicizes it as a system with a definite beginning and, therefore, a possible end.

Oct 20 2013

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: What Is Capitalism? Part I by Le Gauchiste

There have appeared in this space several thought-provoking attempts to define capitalism, including here (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/04/28/1205427/-Anti-Capitalist-Meetup-We-Aren-t-Crazy-Capitalism-Is?detail=hide) and here (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/09/29/1240802/-Anti-Capitalist-Meetup-Yet-another-windy-response-to-What-is-Capitalism?detail=hide). Although this might seem to some a mere academic exercise, nothing could be further from the truth: to be effective, activism to change, transform or overthrow any human construction must be rooted in a thorough and accurate understanding thereof.

This is especially important when discussing capitalism, both because its pervasive ubiquity creates a familiarity that masquerades as understanding and because the defenders of the system work tirelessly to spew lies about its virtues. Even more treacherous than the increasingly strained defenses of the system by modern conservatives are the ideological productions of modern liberals who claim a desire to reform capitalism or ameliorate those of its consequences they don’t like.

The key problem is that liberals and conservatives share the same basic understanding of capitalism, which is rooted in the neo-classical revolution in mainstream economics that occurred in the late 19th century. On this view, capitalism is a “natural” system arising from and based on market exchanges between buyers and sellers of commodities, which are assumed to maximize “efficiency” (defined in terms of allowing “supply” and “demand” to set market-clearing prices) and human happiness (defined as the total dollar value of market commodities bought and sold (GDP), regardless of what needs they meet or how they are distributed among the population).

Thus the neo-classical view (like the classical political economy of Adam Smith and David Ricardo that preceded it) is fundamentally ahistorical: capitalism is understood not as a historically specific constellation of economic relations, but rather as the result of encouraging the supposedly natural human tendency to engage in market transactions on a competitive basis with the goal of maximizing profit.

Even worse, the neo-classical assumption that the “market” is a naturally occurring phenomenon forces it to posit an Ideal Type Market-characterized by virtually unrestrained good-faith buying and selling backed up by rules to enforce the terms of transactions-against which historical social formations are measured by the degree to which they approximate the Ideal Type and can be called “capitalistic.” In this view there is of course no room for understanding how the historical economies of pre-capitalist social formations worked on their own terms, because those terms are assumed ab initio to represent flaws, deviations from the Ideal Type that maximizes happiness.

And therein lies the reason that neo-classical economics provides an unstable intellectual foundation for capitalist reformism that unavoidably undermines any case for change, because all such reforms involve straying from the Ideal Type Market. That is why, in televised “debates” about regulation between conservatives and liberals, when the former extol the virtues of the market and call for “non-interference,” the latter start off the same way (Obama does this all the time) and then suddenly pivot to an argument that some specific reform represents an exception to the free market rule. Conservatives thus always come off as more intellectually consistent while liberals seem (and in fact are) intellectually muddled and confused-even when “the facts” seem to stand in their favor.

We, however, are Anti-capitalists, and we need an understanding of capitalism that historicizes it as a system with a definite beginning and, therefore, a possible end.

Oct 20 2013

The Doomsday Debt Ceiling

The last imbroglio over raising the debt ceiling may be over for the moment but the threat is still hanging on the horizon. Its use as a bargaining tool by the minority to circumvent laws they don’t like and elections they lost is an extremely dangerous tactic that effects not just the American economy but could bring down the global economy and irreparably harm the value of the dollar and America’s reputation of being a good investment. Even the financial and business sectors have called the debt ceiling toxic to economic health. The CEO of JP Morgan, Jamie Dimon, when asked about the consequences of not raising the debt ceiling responded, “you don’t want to know.” Martin Wolf, the chief economic commentator at The Financial Times called the debt ceiling law a “doomsday device” that should be repealed. In simple terms he explained why it is too dangerous to use:

The first is constitutional. In a recent article, Neil Buchanan of The George Washington University and Michael Dorf of Cornell (pdf) argue that a binding debt ceiling would create a “trilemma” for the president: “Ignore the debt ceiling and unilaterally issue new bonds, thus usurping Congress’s borrowing power; unilaterally raise taxes, thus usurping Congress’s taxing power; or unilaterally cut spending, thus usurping Congress’s spending power.” Thus, a binding debt ceiling would force the president to violate his obligation to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed”. The authors conclude that the president should choose the “least unconstitutional” course and ignore the debt ceiling. But, inevitably, whatever the president did would create a constitutional crisis. No responsible Congress would seek to put the president in that position.

The second reason why the debt ceiling is so dangerous is that the administration could not obey it in a non-destructive way. At some point between October 17 and the end of the month, the administration would lack the money to pay its bills. All choices would be dire.

Mr. Wolf explains that the claims of “prioritisation” by the Treasury Department to pick and choose which bills to pay would still be a default (pdf). Mostly, it is not possible since Treasury uses two different computer systems to pay its foreign and domestic bills. The states that the economics effect of choosing which to pay and which to allow to default would effect the Treasury bonds aming them a risky investment. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank heads meeting in Washington last week issued warnings of the grave dangers to the global economy.

In an interview with Bill Moyers’, Mr. Wolf gives his analysis of the debt ceiling crisis.



Transcript can be read here

Oct 20 2013

Rant of the Week: Bill Maher’s New Rules

Real Time with Bill Maher New Rules Oct 11 2013

Oct 20 2013

On This Day In History October 20

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

October 20 is the 293rd day of the year (294th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 72 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1973, Solicitor General Robert Bork dismisses Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox; Attorney General Richardson and Deputy Attorney General Ruckelshaus resign in protest. Cox had conducted a detailed investigation of the Watergate break-in that revealed that the burglary was just one of many possible abuses of power by the Nixon White House. Nixon had ordered Richardson to fire Cox, but he refused and resigned, as did Ruckelshaus when Nixon then asked him to dismiss the special prosecutor. Bork agreed to fire Cox and an immediate uproar ensued. This series of resignations and firings became known as the Saturday Night Massacre and outraged the public and the media. Two days later, the House Judiciary Committee began to look into the possible impeachment of Nixon.

The Saturday Night Massacre was the term given by political commentators to U.S. President Richard Nixon‘s executive dismissal of independent special prosecutor Archibald Cox, and the resignations of Attorney General Elliot Richardson and Deputy Attorney General William Ruckelshaus on October 20, 1973 during the Watergate scandal

Richardson appointed Cox in May of that year, after having given assurances to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he would appoint an independent counsel to investigate the events surrounding the Watergate break-in of June 17, 1972. Cox subsequently issued a subpoena to President Nixon, asking for copies of taped conversations recorded in the Oval Office  and authorized by Nixon as evidence. The president initially refused to comply with the subpoena, but on October 19, 1973, he offered what was later known as the Stennis Compromise-asking U.S. Senator John C. Stennis to review and summarize the tapes for the special prosecutor’s office.

Mindful that Stennis was famously hard-of-hearing, Cox refused the compromise that same evening, and it was believed that there would be a short rest in the legal maneuvering while government offices were closed for the weekend. However, President Nixon acted to dismiss Cox from his office the next night-a Saturday. He contacted Attorney General Richardson and ordered him to fire the special prosecutor. Richardson refused, and instead resigned in protest. Nixon then ordered Deputy Attorney General Ruckelshaus to fire Cox; he also refused and resigned in protest.

Nixon then contacted the Solicitor General, Robert Bork, and ordered him as acting head of the Justice Department to fire Cox. Richardson and Ruckelshaus had both personally assured the congressional committee overseeing the special prosecutor investigation that they would not interfere-Bork had made no such assurance to the committee. Though Bork believed Nixon’s order to be valid and appropriate, he considered resigning to avoid being “perceived as a man who did the President’s bidding to save my job.” Never the less, Bork complied with Nixon’s order and fired Cox. Initially, the White House claimed to have fired Ruckelshaus, but as The Washington Post article written the next day pointed out, “The letter from the President to Bork also said Ruckelshaus resigned.”

Congress was infuriated by the act, which was seen as a gross abuse of presidential power. In the days that followed, numerous resolutions of impeachment against the president were introduced in Congress. Nixon defended his actions in a famous press conference on November 17, 1973, in which he stated,

“…[I]n all of my years of public life, I have never obstructed justice. And I think, too, that I can say that in my years of public life that I’ve welcomed this kind of examination, because people have got to know whether or not their President’s a crook. Well, I’m not a crook! I’ve earned everything I’ve got.

Oct 20 2013

Punting the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

Punting the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Punting the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

The Sunday Talking Heads:

Up with Steve Kornacki: Steve’s guests this Sunday are msnbc.com’s Dafna Lizner; April Ryan with American Urban Radio Networks; BuzzFeed.com‘s Evan McMorris-Santoro ; Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, fellow at the Center for Politics at the LBJ School of Public Policy at the University of Texas ; NPR’s sports reporter Mike Pesca; historian Sean Wilentz; and msnbc’s Krystal Ball.

This Week with George Stephanopolis: Guests on “This Week” are House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi; Texas Sen. Ted Cruz; and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

The roundtable tackles all the week’s politics, including what comes next in the debate over the budget, with Rep. Donna Edwards (D-MD); Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL); ABC news political analyst Matthew Dowd; and New York Times White House correspondent Peter Baker.

Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer: Mr. Schieffer’s guests are Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA); Se. Lindsey Graham (R-SC); and the top economist for Moody’s Analytics, Mark Zandi.

His panel guests are Michael Gerson of the Washington Post; Stuart Rothenberg, editor and publisher of the Rothenberg Political Report; and Gerald Seib of the Wall Street Journal.

Meet the Press with David Gregory: The guests on this Sunday’s MTP are Treasury Secretary Jack Lew; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY); Tom Coburn (R-OK); and Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Shiller.

The roundtable guests are New York Times Columnist David Brooks; Washington Post Columnist E.J. Dionne; host of CNBC’s “Closing Bell,” Maria Bartiromo; and NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell.

State of the Union with Candy Crowley: Ms. Crowley’s guests are Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

Her panel guests are CNN Political Commentators, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile; Republican strategist Alex Castellanos and The New Yorker‘s Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza.

Oct 20 2013

Six In The Morning

On Sunday

Australian bushfires: Conditions set to worsen

20 October 2013 Last updated at 06:47 GMT

The BBC

Australian firefighters battling destructive bushfires in New South Wales are preparing for worsening conditions in the next few days.

The return of hot weather and strong winds is expected to fan the flames – the worst in the state for 40 years.

State Premier Barry O’Farrell declared a State of Emergency on Sunday and several areas are being evacuated.

The Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, has been the worst-hit region with some fires still raging out of control.

About 200 homes have already been destroyed and hundreds of people have been left homeless.




Sunday’s Headlines:

World Cup 2014: Brazilians’ rage against the state will disrupt the celebration

‘Since the chemical weapons deal, nothing has changed’: The West has taken its eye off the carnage in Syria

Austerity protests draw tens of thousands in Italy, Portugal

Pakistani army chief Ashfaq Kayani’s successor faces a host of challenges

Nairobi mall suspect exposes ‘Scandinavia connection’

Oct 20 2013

Three Things On The Internet

The team of All In with Chris Hayes puts out a daily request on Twitter asking their followers to send them the things they find most interesting on the internet. This is their [finds for October 14, 2013]

1)a Banksy pop-up;

2) Anthony Hopkins praises Bryan Cranston and the entire cast of “Breaking Bad”;

3) the average American male doesn’t stack up to his international counterparts.

Oct 20 2013

2013 Junior League Championship: Detroit @ Boston Game 6

You know, I spent a summer in Boston studying Journalism.  I could be considered a semi-pro since I’ve won awards from the Columbia School and worked as a production assistant on a local weekly (don’t get too excited, among my duties were picking up the ad copy, maintaining the archive and back issues, and newsstand sales).

I brought my own Olivetti multi-font correcting type-writer to class and drove everyone nuts with the constant clatter of the cooling fan while they toiled at their noiseless Remingtons.  “Wave of the future”, said I.

Heh.

In truth I spent almost all of my time playing Dungeons and Dragons, being stalked by an out of control LARP Whovian I made the mistake of being nice to, and watching Art Films at Hole-In-The-Wall cinemas.

Oh, and I watched a couple of ball games.

What impresses you most about Fenway is how small it is (some would say intimate, but let’s call a spade (&spade;) a card symbol that looks like a shovel if you turn it upside down).  Thus the ‘Green Monster’.  The other side is a street and without the height it’s just too damn easy to knock one out of the park.  The only intimidation is in your mind as a batter and as a fielder you get used to playing it like a jai-lai backstop.

The Great God Citgo looms over all and even by drunken triangulation with the Pru(dential Tower) gives you a rough idea if you’re puking above or below Kenmore Square or are even on the right side of the Charles.

Thanks for holding my hair.

Now you may think the Sox are limping into this, but nothing could be further from the truth.  Other than the Game 1 bobble (1 – 0 Detroit) they’ve won 2 of 3 away and are the highest scoring team left in the hunt.  All the Sox victories are 1 run squeakers which gives the Tigers some hope, but Detroit will have to win 2 straight on the road in this quirky band box.

At Comerica the Sox started with 3 in the 2nd.  A Solo Shot, an error, a Double, an RBI Double, and an RBI Single.  They added on in the 3rd, a Double and a Wild Pitch.  Game Over Dude.  In the 5th the Tigers clawed back one on a Single, a Sacrifice, and an RBI Single.  They got back another in the 6th with a Leadoff Walk, a Single, and an RBI Single, and finally added another in the 7th on a Single, a Single, and a Sacrifice.  Boston 4 – 3, lead 3 – 2 in the Series.

Tonight the Tigers start Max Scherzer (21 – 3, 2.90 ERA R).  He looks like a killer but in 7 innings pitched in the Junior League Championship he’s allowed 2 hits for 1 run and an ERA of 1.29 no decision.  Overall post-season he’s 2 wins, 8 hits, 4 runs and an ERA of 2.25.  Boston counters with Clay Buchholz (12 – 1, 1.74 ERA R) who has no decisions at all post-season in 16 and 2 3rds innings with 15 hits and 8 runs and an ERA of 6.17.

On paper, no contest at all.  If you are a Sox fan I suggest you light some petroleum as an offering the The Great God.