Category Archives: 13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption

Unsavvy People

“[A]fter three years in which Very Serious People refused to hold the financial industry accountable, there’s a real grass-roots uprising against the Masters of the Universe. There will, of course, be the usual attempts to dismiss the whole thing based on trivialities. Look at the oddly dressed people acting out! So? Is it better when exquisitely tailored bankers whose gambles brought the world economy to its knees — and who were bailed out by taxpayers — whine that President Obama is saying slightly mean things about them? Or, why don’t they try to work within the system? Well, how’s that been going for those who did indeed try? When palace intrigue undermined the likes of Elizabeth Warren even within the Obama administration, and Republicans have thrown their full backing behind the malefactors of great wealth, why shouldn’t protesters go outside the usual channels?”

Paul Krugman, Unsavvy People – NYTimes.com.

Serving Up a Shit Sandwich

“The one big problem I’ve always had with Obama, is that he refuses to educate the public – and to me, that’s the primary function of a president. That’s what the bully pulpit is all about. How does he refuse to educate the public? Because he lies. He refuses to call things as they are. To me, there was no greater example of this than the aftermath of the unemployment benefits + bush tax cut extension debacle. Instead of saying as clear as day, that he’s only going along with the egregious tax breaks for the richest, because the Republicans are holding millions of unemployed Americans hostage, Obama makes it sound like a fantastic bipartisan deal. When you serve up a shit sandwich, and claim it’s great tasting and you and the other cook are in agreement, well, you lose credibility with the diners – because now, they see no reason to pick you over the other cook – and further, you lost the opportunity to educate the diner as to why the shit sandwich is shit when you refuse to disclose that the other cook was demanding to put ground glass and arsenic in the sandwich. And you enable the movement of the Overton window. That’s a monumental failure of a president – the inability to clearly draw lines and educate the public. He should have always pointed out – “we now have no choice but to cut this important program for you, the voter, because of who has been voted into congress – elections have consequences, and this is one of them – please remember this next time you go to the polls”. Call out the Republicans publicly, every single time. And make it clear to Joe-Six-Pack that if he votes like a jackass, his lot in life will be that of a jackass. You can’t mollycoddle the voter. Please treat voters like adults. You earn respect and credibility. But that demands honesty, all the time – even when it’s painful for your position. But such honesty is seen by some as poor politics, because you want to preserve an option to lie to the voters, i.e. keep being the average politician – who will be trusted as much as a used car salesman.”

Commenter on MetaFilter

Regime Change is Not Revolution

“”There was no meaningful revolution. It’s former members of the Soviet elite and their kids who are still running the country as we speak. Nothing’s changed for the general populace except that their rights to medical care, education and (shitty, but functioning) housing has been removed. Life expectancy is fucking worse in modern Russia than it was under Communism and yet its seen as progress. Here’s what happened, in a simplistic description:

“Some of the wealthy elite decided that they weren’t getting rich enough in a closed economy. They realized that they could pacify the populace more effectively by stapling up a thin veneer of freedom while they privatized all the state-built infrastructure by way of selling it off to their buddies and simultaneously built an economy designed to do more for lining their pockets than stealing shared internal wealth ever could.

“Then they decided to clean house with the coup. This gave the illusion of distancing future government from the Central Committee and making a fresh start where the abuses of the past were blamed on historical figures, and not the people taking over who just moments ago had been ideological companions of those historical monsters.

“Yay! Communism’s over! We’re going to have elections! We’ll totally be counting the votes but there’s no corruption anymore so you can trust us! We’re going to be free now. ‘Free’ means that you can potentially purchase consumer goods that weren’t designed and manufactured by gibbons, and you can watch sitcoms instead of watching ballet and playing god damn chess. Backpacks for your children with cartoon characters on them, just like your cousin in Toronto has for his kids! Doesn’t that sound fucking sweet?”

“Then when the mic was off, they said “Of course, most of you still aren’t going to have the money to buy anything except turnips, rags and methanol. But a plutocracy’s an easier sell when people can aspire to step over their neighbor’s corpse to join it instead of that ‘we’re all in this together’ bullshit. And we won’t actually provide free speech or free elections. We’re not idiots; the idiots are those grimy people out there. Their lives are going to be virtually unchanged because they’re still going to have jack shit and they’re still going to have to be careful about how loud they complain. Hey guys, who wants an oil refinery?”

“A regime change doesn’t always equal a revolution. A revolution causes a fundamental shift in how government works. The “revolution” in question caused as much change for the ordinary Russian citizen as Bush I taking over for Reagan did for Americans.”

Commenter on a Metafilter discussion about the collapse of the Soviet Union.

At a Guess

“At a guess, it will make a subset of random minutiae of everyday life more like Facebook while we continue to change the climate, burn up all our energy without developing any sort of sustainable replacement, turn dwindling supplies of rare earth metals into bullshit lifestyle gadgets that basically serve only to functionally make people be on call at their jobs all the time while socially engaging them in a hollow shared experience of morally and intellectually bankrupt media while isolating them from actual human contact, which will shortly be thrown into a landfill along with an undifferentiated torrent of unsorted solid waste, while we steadily push our population towards a peak of nearly 10 billion, and a tiny population of unimaginably wealthy oligarchs continue to further transform the global economic and political systems to their overwhelming benefit, whilst the majority of those 10 billion slip further into poverty, amongst endemic war, increasingly unreliable access to usable water, and the continued, heedless creation of pesticide resistant pests, herbicide resistant weeds, antibiotic resistant germs? Et fucking cetera?”

Commenter on Metafilter, Internet of Things: how it will change the world.

David Brooks is an Elitist Asshole

“Here’s the crux of what makes their system so admirable in [David Brooks’s] eyes:

‘Britain is also blessed with a functioning political culture. It is dominated by people who live in London and who have often known each other since prep school. This makes it gossipy and often incestuous. But the plusses outweigh the minuses.’

It has long been the supreme fantasy of establishment guardians in general, and David Brooks in particular, that American politics would be dominated by an incestuous, culturally homogeneous, superior elite “who live in [Washington] and who have often known each other since prep school.” And while these establishment guardians love to endlessly masquerade as spokespeople for the Ordinary American, what they most loathe is the interference by the dirty rabble in what should be their exclusive, harmonious club of political stewardship, where conflicts are amicably resolved by ladies and gentlemen of the highest breeding without any messy public conflict. In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, Brooks fondly recollected that “once, there was a financial elite in this country” — “middle-aged men with names like Mellon and McCloy led Wall Street firms, corporate boards and white-shoe law firms and occasionally emerged to serve in government” — but that glorious “cohesive financial elite began to fall apart” in the 1960s.”

Glenn Greenwald, Salon.com.

Making the Rich Look Poor

“Democrats have been arguing that their tax increases should solely affect income over $250,00 a year. The Journal makes that pot of income appear small by divvying it up into seven different lines [on the left]. See, the $100,000-$200,000 line is tall, and all the other lines to the right of it are short. That tall line must be where the money is!” … “As a public service, I’ve redrawn the chart for the Journal. On the left is the original. On the right is the chart that shows the actual amount of money earned by the tiny handful of people making over $200,000. It’s a lot.”

 

Mother Jones

Christmas for White House Correspondents

“At the same time, I find it so strange. The jokes that are funny are the ones that are true. And this joke about Fox News — same as other jokes about Fox News from previous correspondent’s dinners — are all about its extreme bias, horrible reporting, and so on. And everyone laughs at them. Everyone always laughs. It’s like every single person in this room filled with people who control the media are totally aware of how seriously messed up Fox News is, and they get to laugh about it one night a year, but then they have to go back to pretending not to notice the rest of the time.”

Commenter on a thread about the White House Correspondent’s dinner on MetaFilter.