Obama’s Burden

With the midterm election less than a month away and the economic crisis unabated, the Obama Administration may be at a crossroads.

The President’s own advisor, former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker says the financial system is “broken.” High unemployment is not dropping and home foreclosures are up. The Obamacrats are being blamed for the economic downturn and the economy has become ‘the issue’ of the November midterm elections.

The signs of an economic recovery are hard to see, and tensions with China, a leading trade partner, may be on the cusp of a trade war. Add to this the trillions poured into two wars we are not winning, and you have the elements of a perfect storm that some fear could lead to a depression or even a systemic collapse.

With the President’s popularity slipping and his opposition surging, (at least in the media if not in the streets) the Democrats are expected to lose many seats, if not, control of the Congress. Some in his party have been reduced to arguing, ‘we may not be great, but we are better than the other guys.’ There is an anti-incumbent mood in both parties and the rhetoric (but not yet the reality) of revolution is motivating parts of the electorate on both sides.

In the White House, the President has become more of a manager than a militant:  initially trying to please all sides with appeals to bi-partisanship, and later with programs to placate the military and Wall Street.

Wall Street helped fund Obama’s 2008 victory. He seems to have believed that policies that would support and even enrich the private sector would lead to more job creation and cooperation.

That didn’t happen – and now more and more billionaires are funding the Republicans with no pretense to promoting equality or help for the middle class. The greed that drives these wealthy elite seems to know no bounds.

One by one, his chosen policy wonks have deserted the White House like those proverbial rats leaving a sinking ship.

First to go was wonder-kid Budget Director Peter Orzag; then, Christina Romer who headed his Council of Economic Advisors; followed by Larry Summers – the chief Economic Advisor and former Harvard President who was forced out of Harvard for remarks hostile to women. Finally, Obama’s Chief of Staff, former Congressman Rahm Emanuel, has also said sayonara to return to Chicago for a mayoral run.

Left in place – but hardly left – is Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, Obama’s Ambassador to Wall Street and point man with China. Geithner and his former boss, Ben Bernanke, who heads the Federal Reserve Bank, see themselves as servants of stability wedded to big banks and the strategy of the soon to be departed. They have no progressive pretensions. Little has changed for them.

The only claim this crew could make about achievement is that they averted something worse from happening. They may be correct, but proving a negative is difficult and doesn’t play well from voters who are not well versed in the reasons for the financial crisis. A “jobless recovery” is no recovery at all.

They are right now considering a new bailout being urged by the International Monetary Fund.

To placate his base and the unions, he has appointed another Harvard Professor in Elizabeth Warren. Her role will be to assist in shaping the new Consumer Protection Bureau she herself proposed, the only financial reform that enjoys any popularity.

Warren is outspoken and supported by progressives, yet it is not clear if she will end up with any power to run what she had hoped would be an independent agency. However, it ended up being tucked away as a bureau in the Federal Reserve Bank. As a result, some analysts fear she is being co-opted and politically neutered.

On the left, filmmaker Michael Moore speaks for many disenchanted Obama supporters who feel betrayed by his predictable turn to the safety of the mushy middle. “Sadly, it’s a situation the Democrats have brought upon themselves – even though the majority of them didn’t create the mess we’re in.” he writes.

“But they’ve had over a year and a half to start getting the job done to fix it. Instead, they’ve run scared ever since they took power. To many, the shellacking they’re about to receive is one they deserve. But if you’re of a mindset that believes a return to 2001-2008 would be sheer insanity, then you probably agree we’ve got no choice but to save the Democrats from themselves.”

His populist progressive proposals include indicting Wall Street criminals – a proposal I put forward in my film Plunder – and imposing a moratorium on home foreclosures, something President Franklin Roosevelt did as a part of The New Deal in the 1930s. (Some big banks have suspended foreclosures when it was revealed they were breaking the law in at least 23 states)

Moore’s views were not even present at a Washington demonstration backed by the Unions in early October. Yet they are a long way from being implemented for at least four reasons.

First, they would represent a U-Turn for an Administration that is nervous about appearing too anti-business and often postures left to move right. Obama’s financial and health care reform – the administrations too big “accomplishments”- reinforced corporate power more than transforming it.

Jailing Wall Street is difficult because years ago big business lobbyists assured that deregulation – and its kissing cousin, decriminalization – would make prosecuting financial crime far more difficult.

And then there’s the Congress under the sway of business interests with so-called “Blue Dog” Democratic conservatives, not to mention the rapidly anti-populist Republicans, able to filibuster and stop the kinds of changes Moore hopes for.

Oddly enough it was the banks that froze foreclosures in 23 States when fraudulent practices were unmasked, As Naked Capitalim noted, “We’ve discussed the fact the fact that banks have become so powerful in Florida that they have managed to get what amount to kangaroo foreclosure courts created. Not surprisingly, the assembly line imitation of justice railroads borrowers, and prevents legitimate grievances from being heard.

It turns out that banks in that state are so confident of their above the law status that they’ve also taken to casually changing the locks on and entering homes they don’t own, meaning haven’t foreclosed upon. This has become sufficiently common that the local press has taken notice.”

Importantly, the Supreme Court remains under the sway of free market fundamentalists who genuflect to corporate needs in almost every decision.

So a stalemate stays in place with election rhetoric concealing the conventional wisdom and status quo orientation that make deeper reform unlikely. We seem to be in the era of one step forward and two back where the idea of change serves as an election slogan – not a commitment to more fundamental repairs.

The political system is as broken as the economic one, and there is no Superman on the horizon to fly in and fix it.

Filmmaker and News Dissector Danny Schechter edits Mediachannel.org.
For more on his film Plunder: The Crime of Our Time and companion book The Crime Of Our Time: Why Wall Street Is Not Too Big To Jail, visit plunderthecrimeofourtime.com.

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  • Liam_McGonagle

    A fair analysis, if a little incomplete.

    But can we just admit that the fundamental problem is cultural, and NOT focused narrowly within a few select institutions? Disinfonauts will be only too well aware of the grim statistics showing a terribly debased money supply and a fundamentally unsound concentration of financial capital and market power. The REAL problem is that we live in a Patronage Society that respects wealth and power as its only virtues. There is no respect for courage or generosity. From childhood we are brought up to despise and ridicule the poor and our education consists primarily of methods to insult human dignity by tricking each other to give us more than we give back.

    In a climate like this, what are the odds that a man with a totally complete vision of human potential is going to be taken seriously, let alone elevated to one of society’s most prestigious (but perhaps not most powerful) offices? Even outside the fighting pit of Washington, without the myriad of Byzantine political plot-and-counterplot to make us fear for our careers, how individuals have such a complete and total vision? No one. Not a single mother’s son of us.

    And maybe that points us to an exciting new challenge in our social evolution–one with an active part for EVERYONE to play. No non-speaking extras or kids cast as trees or shrubs a la your old school play.

    See, a single person simply CANNOT remake society by an act of his individual will. That’s not the way it works. There is no society without at least two people. Society is an ongoing reciprocal transaction, bounded both by unavoidable resource limitations and the imagination and good will of its constituents.

    And while there will inevitably, and for the good, always be individual differences of opinion about the proper terms of that transaction, the transaction WILL occur. There inevitably grows gradually a broad consensus about the terms of the transaction. Even if it is not accepted as each individual’s perfect ideal, it is accepted as the current reality, at least to the extent that it can be discussed intellegently.

    But that’s NOT what the Tea Party wants for America. Whether out of real ideological commitment, hope to please their patrons, an unimaginative reliance on poorly understood traditional practices, or plain stupid fear, these people have utter contempt for society. They feel no need whatsoever to adapt to changing realities one iota and have made it their mission to destroy anyone who challenges orthodoxy in the least bit. When confronted with reasonable request to adapt to reality they simply call it a socialist plot and organize a rally to repeal the Law of Gravity.

    To some extent that’s a source of great fun for us, to poke at their glaring moral or intellectual deficiencies. I enjoy that, too. But that’s not enough. What we, especially we readers of Disinformation posts, should be doing is figuring out ways to get EVERYONE on board–which is more or less what the Left criticises Obama for the most. It’s almost like some individuals on the Left may not quite get it either–society is a GROUP THING.

    Sure Obama didn’t nominate Danny Schechter to be Treasury Secretary. But let’s face it, nearly two years on now and the Republican’ts still haven’t allowed the President to fill all his nominations yet. Jesus, do you recall the shitstorm they tried to raise when he nominated Helena Kagan to the Supreme Court? They’d be going on with all this goofball shit about her being a closet lesbian because she played softball!

    So that’s just a wee tiny sliver of what the man is up against. He’s swimming up against a gargantuan tide of cultural right wing sewage, through the only channel available to him–our few remaining shared institutions. Lend the guy a helping hand already instead of whinging and bitching that his breast stroke’s not in perfect form.

    Here are a few ideas, just for starters:

    1. Learn to understand the importance of logical positivism (e.g., a brand of philosophy that includes the scientific method). It is the brand of philosophy that most clearly promotes healthy social interactions because it sets relatively clear standards of proof and not only respects but requires the inputs of others in the group.

    2. Learn to really understand yourself and your priorities as an individual. Disinfonauts probably excel at this, but it is a continual process. If you’re truly honest with yourself you have to admit that you are constantly being confronted with evidence of your own unexamined biases. And as you go along, I wager you’ll find that you become more confident in what you do truly know and less ashamed to admit what you don’t really know.

    3. Actively seek out and engage with people who disagree with you. In addition to simply picking up better ideas that may have never occurred to you before, you’ll find out that you’ve become a much better conversationalist and creative person yourself.

    4. But be warned: There simply are things which it will not be possible to obtain even a reasonable amount of agreement upon. That may be because the ideas under consideration are not applicable to your relationship with the interlocutor or because either you or the interlocutor has some logical/rhetorical deficiencies they need to work on. Learn to reliably estimate what level of agreement you can obtain with your interlocutor, how long it may take, and whether it’s even necessary. I don’t need to agree with anyone else whether Mohammed was the prophet of Allah or Jesus was the literal son of God–but I do know that I have to respect the other guy’s right to have an opinion just as non-empirically based or illogical as my own.

    5. For myself, personally, I refuse to engage at all with people who show complete contempt for the basics of logical positivism. If they can’t demonstrate an independently verifiable proof of a falsifiable hypothesis, then they’ve just defeated themselves right out the gate. I don’t engage with defeatists. And if you don’t either, maybe, in the long run, lonliness and envy of us will drive them to change their minds.

    Let’s not give up to the baying jackals leading the confused Tea Baggers and Republican’ts. They’re the wave of the past. And if Obama didn’t come fully-formed and perfect in the sight of God, let’s help him get there. Start thinking about how YOU effect society.

    • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

      Dude…softball…that’s like Lesbianism 101. The only way to be more lesbian than that is to videotape actual sex with another woman. Trust me…at this point…if you ever see her in flannel shirt…the question of her gender preference is freakin over.

    • gemmarama

      liam for president!

  • Liam_McGonagle

    A fair analysis, if a little incomplete.

    But can we just admit that the fundamental problem is cultural, and NOT focused narrowly within a few select institutions? Disinfonauts will be only too well aware of the grim statistics showing a terribly debased money supply and a fundamentally unsound concentration of financial capital and market power. The REAL problem is that we live in a Patronage Society that respects wealth and power as its only virtues. There is no respect for courage or generosity. From childhood we are brought up to despise and ridicule the poor and our education consists primarily of methods to insult human dignity by tricking each other to give us more than we give back.

    In a climate like this, what are the odds that a man with a totally complete vision of human potential is going to be taken seriously, let alone elevated to one of society’s most prestigious (but perhaps not most powerful) offices? Even outside the fighting pit of Washington, without the myriad of Byzantine political plot-and-counterplot to make us fear for our careers, how individuals have such a complete and total vision? No one. Not a single mother’s son of us.

    And maybe that points us to an exciting new challenge in our social evolution–one with an active part for EVERYONE to play. No non-speaking extras or kids cast as trees or shrubs a la your old school play.

    See, a single person simply CANNOT remake society by an act of his individual will. That’s not the way it works. There is no society without at least two people. Society is an ongoing reciprocal transaction, bounded both by unavoidable resource limitations and the imagination and good will of its constituents.

    And while there will inevitably, and for the good, always be individual differences of opinion about the proper terms of that transaction, the transaction WILL occur. There inevitably grows gradually a broad consensus about the terms of the transaction. Even if it is not accepted as each individual’s perfect ideal, it is accepted as the current reality, at least to the extent that it can be discussed intellegently.

    But that’s NOT what the Tea Party wants for America. Whether out of real ideological commitment, hope to please their patrons, an unimaginative reliance on poorly understood traditional practices, or plain stupid fear, these people have utter contempt for society. They feel no need whatsoever to adapt to changing realities one iota and have made it their mission to destroy anyone who challenges orthodoxy in the least bit. When confronted with reasonable request to adapt to reality they simply call it a socialist plot and organize a rally to repeal the Law of Gravity.

    To some extent that’s a source of great fun for us, to poke at their glaring moral or intellectual deficiencies. I enjoy that, too. But that’s not enough. What we, especially we readers of Disinformation posts, should be doing is figuring out ways to get EVERYONE on board–which is more or less what the Left criticises Obama for the most. It’s almost like some individuals on the Left may not quite get it either–society is a GROUP THING.

    Sure Obama didn’t nominate Danny Schechter to be Treasury Secretary. But let’s face it, nearly two years on now and the Republican’ts still haven’t allowed the President to fill all his nominations yet. Jesus, do you recall the shitstorm they tried to raise when he nominated Helena Kagan to the Supreme Court? They’d be going on with all this goofball shit about her being a closet lesbian because she played softball!

    So that’s just a wee tiny sliver of what the man is up against. He’s swimming up against a gargantuan tide of cultural right wing sewage, through the only channel available to him–our few remaining shared institutions. Lend the guy a helping hand already instead of whinging and bitching that his breast stroke’s not in perfect form.

    Here are a few ideas, just for starters:

    1. Learn to understand the importance of logical positivism (e.g., a brand of philosophy that includes the scientific method). It is the brand of philosophy that most clearly promotes healthy social interactions because it sets relatively clear standards of proof and not only respects but requires the inputs of others in the group.

    2. Learn to really understand yourself and your priorities as an individual. Disinfonauts probably excel at this, but it is a continual process. If you’re truly honest with yourself you have to admit that you are constantly being confronted with evidence of your own unexamined biases. And as you go along, I wager you’ll find that you become more confident in what you do truly know and less ashamed to admit what you don’t really know.

    3. Actively seek out and engage with people who disagree with you. In addition to simply picking up better ideas that may have never occurred to you before, you’ll find out that you’ve become a much better conversationalist and creative person yourself.

    4. But be warned: There simply are things which it will not be possible to obtain even a reasonable amount of agreement upon. That may be because the ideas under consideration are not applicable to your relationship with the interlocutor or because either you or the interlocutor has some logical/rhetorical deficiencies they need to work on. Learn to reliably estimate what level of agreement you can obtain with your interlocutor, how long it may take, and whether it’s even necessary. I don’t need to agree with anyone else whether Mohammed was the prophet of Allah or Jesus was the literal son of God–but I do know that I have to respect the other guy’s right to have an opinion just as non-empirically based or illogical as my own.

    5. For myself, personally, I refuse to engage at all with people who show complete contempt for the basics of logical positivism. If they can’t demonstrate an independently verifiable proof of a falsifiable hypothesis, then they’ve just defeated themselves right out the gate. I don’t engage with defeatists. And if you don’t either, maybe, in the long run, lonliness and envy of us will drive them to change their minds.

    Let’s not give up to the baying jackals leading the confused Tea Baggers and Republican’ts. They’re the wave of the past. And if Obama didn’t come fully-formed and perfect in the sight of God, let’s help him get there. Start thinking about how YOU effect society.

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Systemic failure and continued recession could only be prevented by swift radical actions…none of which were taken…since half measures seemed so much more attractive than deeply changing the WAYS we do business that were harmful in the first place.

    Of course, now, this late in the game, those serious measures look pretty good compared to lame duck gridlock and being rightly blamed for failure…

    …so I’d tease them that hindsight is 20/20…then remind them that pretty much the entirety of the left didn’t actually need hindsight…they knew exactly what was called for and begged for it…only to see that begging fall on deaf ears.

    • Liam_McGonagle

      Good points, Magus. I totally agree that the problem is severe.

      But given that the fundamental problems are control over the money supply by the uber-wealthy and a public that doesn’t recognize that fact, do you think any radical actions had a reasonable chance of success?

      Are you aware of any social revolutions that didn’t end in gorey bloodshed and reactionary counter-revolutions? I’m not.

      You are 100% right to say that these problems are going to linger with us for quite a while. But then again don’t you think that gives us an opportunity to get the other 95% of society up to speed? And time to engineer a non-violent social transformation? Let’s say beginning with a property tax on large holdings of financial securities?

      • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

        Agreed.

        Funny thing…about the absence of revolutionary effort on the part of anyone but pawns for the powerbrokers…I was just starting a short piece examining the impact of perpetual easy access to comfort, safety and distraction…I’m titling it “Death By Convenience”…the point being that revolution, violent or peaceful, of any worth is almost impossible to obtain now that we’re decades into a period of staggering convenience in every aspect of our lives. Rich or poor, we’re so catered to and distracted that concepts like carefully considered dissent, patience, resolve, and discipline are just dead in the water.

        I’m still bedeviled by trying to figure out ways to start enfranchising more voters without increasing the risks of data manipulation. I still think a baseline start would be getting Super Tuesday moved to a weekend…preferably both days…because the cruel irony of our system is that in a world of multiple shifts and long hours that only affect working citizens, the only people with difficulty accessing a voting booth are the ones who have the most right to be there.

        How much more would suddenly become possible if we could just beat that one hurdle?

        • Liam_McGonagle

          Awesome points.

          Maybe you should consider putting a blog together to outline a set of principles and a tactical action program to start a non-partisan movement. You could use it as a forum to float and expose really good ideas for real change.

          Yeah, this idea or online popular movements have been done before, but to my knowledge they almost all focus primarily on electoral politics (e.g., moveon.org). Which is crucial, no doubt about it, but as we seem to agree, the real problems are economic/cultural. More radical long-term strategies will need to be articulated in order to successfully capitalize on electoral progress.

          Blogspots are free, and so is some polling software. You can require validated access to comments/polling to prevent it from becoming a trollerderby.

          I mention this to you specifically because I suspect you have some formal training in philosophy, and therefore can probably do a better job than most in strucuring a rational debate.

          I’ve considered doing something like this before, but I seem to have very little knack for capturing / engaging public attention. It’s my contrarian streak, really; I’m always certain that the most interesting aspect of a thing is the bit that’s right out in the open, but nobody pays any mind to.

          P.S. Be sure to post yer stuff or at least links to it on Disinfo!

          • gemmarama

            good show from both of you but a minor point – i personally think blogging alone is near-useless. it’s presented as some kind of democratic platform but in reality few blogs get much attention, plus the people who need the information and encouragement most are the ones who are going to miss out – i.e. those without internet access (generally the working class). plus a lot of the time with blogging you are basically preaching to the converted.

            old-school postering, flyering and grafitti – alongside the blog – would reach a wider and more varied audience.

          • Liam_McGonagle

            Good point. I could never be a one-medium endeavour. If the project were to be robust enough to have any influence, it’d have to have a multiply tiered approach.

            Without painting ourselves into a corner here, let’s imagine an ideal situation. Since the primary idea as I see it is the re-engagement of individuals with their society and it’s highest ideals, I personally imagine:

            1. A spare, but well-articulated programme of principles that are explicitly endorsed by members. Maybe just a few simply stated ideals–no more than a dozen. Process could be started online by publishing a proposal, drafted in simple language by a panel of thinkers with some philosophical training, just to give it some robust intellectual integrity. After a period of mediated public comment, revisions would be made and the final result published for reference and dissemenation purposes, but no longer be open to revision.

            In my mind, those principles will have to include terms of engagement for debate–rules of the road to govern civil discourse.

            2. Gemma’s spot on. While a candid articulation of ideals is the big, gaping hole I perceive in current culture, it does eventually have to be promoted everywhere constantly in order to make any impact. That has to be a multi-channel process.

            Fuck all if I know how precisely, though. I myself in particular seem to be very poor at that. I also perceive big challenges in maintaining consistency of message and engagement, so my guess is that it is the sparest, simplest and least-time consuming tactics that will be the most important in sustaining momentum. Sure, activity can be ramped up / scaled down as events require, but I am wary of overly ambitious, onerous requirements.

            So your input as to the relative importance/viability of individual tactics would be awesome. Here’s just my first few stray thoughts:

            a. Set up network of local ‘chapters’, each with a recognized secretary/chair, just to facilitate coordination with a central board.

            b. Regular meetings. To keep public engagement there does need to be a recurring event of some type, I think. No need to have detailed policy debates here. Just gather to formally express mutual respect for the principles of higher social engagement. Pub night? Augmented at will by debate night, quiz night, book club night? Maybe depends on the whim of the local chapter? The only real point is to get people to meet on behalf of the ideals.

            c. Dissemenation of posters, flyers, grafitti as Gemma says, just to keep the ideas out front. Even if they don’t all result in tons of active recruitment / involvement it’ll keep the PRINCIPLE of social engagement alive. Who knows? Might inspire rival groups with even better ideas.

            While the above is more than enough ambitious to keep folks tons busy, even if it could be successful in starting conversation, it wouldn’t be really adequate without a really good articulation of radical policy goals. I don’t know if that’s the sort of thing that would be best acheived within the group structure mentioned above or under the aegis of a separate by complementary structure. But here’s my fantasies about the articulation of policy goals:

            A spare and well articulated set of core social / economic policy goals consistent with the principles articulated in #1 above. These aren’t specific bill proposals–leave that to the electoral wonks. No, these are just simple policy statements that are still worded well enough to both clearly support the principles outlined in #1 above and point to practical legislation for the pointy-head electoral types to pick up on. Examples:
            a. In U.S., scheduling elections for maximum public accessibility, e.g., week ends rather than
            current practice of scheduling on days during the work week.
            b. Policies to mitigate the usurption of excessively concentrated control of money supply within
            the private-sector, e.g.:
            1.) Require all derivative contracts >$X to be publicly registered with federal governing
            authority
            2.) Graduated property tax on securities holdings valued >$X 100′s held by individual tax filing
            entities

            These are going to be trickier, and I imagine subject to more frequent re-articulation. But the process should be started off and mediated by a panel of people who know what the hell they’re talking about.

            Ah, fantasies fantasies . . .

          • gemmarama

            that’s it, as soon as i’m back living in the city (17 hours and counting – yee ha!), i’m founding the glasgow faction of the revolutionary movement!

            already got plenty of experience of sitting in the pub talking politics and spray-painting slogans about so shouldn’t be too much of a stretch…

          • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

            Sad but true. I never held any delusions that online blogging would translate into mass media reach…it just doesn’t…unless you go viral…and damned few things of a political nature do that. However…since I’m a great fan of Chaos Theory… I see myself as a butterfly flapping my wings with all its might…and hoping that somewhere, someday, a tornado is caused by it ;-)

          • Liam_McGonagle

            Heard you both loud and clear. It’s obvious that, as sad as the state of policy is, the state of public discourse is even worse. So, with your indulgence, perhaps we can proceed to . . . ?

            1.) Motion to establish policy body: Tabled pending successful raising of public communications platform.

            2.) Resolved: Parameters of public communications body (to be named later) shall include but not be
            limited to:
            a.) Provisional board comprised of Gemma, VoxMagi, Liam
            b.) Encouraged range of activities to include pub meetings, art ‘installations’, etc., etc., at discretion
            of local chair
            c.) Complete local chapter autonomy on all matters beyond the articulation of canonical core
            principles, which shall be subject to unanimous agreement by the board.

            Motion#1: Mission statement. Brother Liam doth hereby propose that the following statement, subject to amendment by VoxMagi and Gemma, be adopted as the canonical articulation of the mission statement of the communications body (to be named later):

            “To promote the broadest possible civil and active engagement by society with current affairs, including artistic, economic and rhetorical. All such engagement shall respect the following principles:
            1. All participants in debate must, before discussion of issues, reach broad agreement to
            respect the subjective values which motivate them:
            a. Importance of personal freedoms, such as privacy, speech, worship or not-to-worship,
            political association
            b. Importance of shared, non-sectarian institutions to political and economic freedom
            c. Importance of a large, thriving economic middle class to the preservation
            d, Importance of rules sanctioned at the widest possible level of society in order to preserve
            the rights of society’s least advantaged members

            2. Each speaker must clearly articulate a falsifiable hypoethesis which can be reasonably
            proven correct or incorrect by the interlocutors based on empirical evidence, rather than
            appealing to ‘supernatural agency’ or sectarian biases.

            3. Speakers must agree beforehand that they share a respect for the role of empirical
            evidence and that, in accordance with the scientific method, hypotheses which are
            reproducable and subject to wider public scrutiny have more probative value over those
            which do not.”

            Motion #2: I nominate, pending approval by Gemma and VoxMagi, Gemma to be Chairperson of Branch #1, Glasgow, Scotland.

            Okay, okay. It’s all a bit much. I admit I got carried away. The coincidence of this (in the States at least, it’s still 9 October) being John Lennon’s birthday was just too much.

          • gemmarama

            count me in! :-)

          • gemmarama

            dudes, i’m getting the fuck outta dodge today, so it may be a while before i can join you guys here again. we shall continue this conversation at the first opportunity!

            absolute pleasure to have conversed with you both.

            signing off for now,

            g x

          • gemmarama

            fly, my pretty!

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Systemic failure and continued recession could only be prevented by swift radical actions…none of which were taken…since half measures seemed so much more attractive than deeply changing the WAYS we do business that were harmful in the first place.

    Of course, now, this late in the game, those serious measures look pretty good compared to lame duck gridlock and being rightly blamed for failure…

    …so I’d tease them that hindsight is 20/20…then remind them that pretty much the entirety of the left didn’t actually need hindsight…they knew exactly what was called for and begged for it…only to see that begging fall on deaf ears.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Good points, Magus. I totally agree that the problem is severe.

    But given that the fundamental problems are control over the money supply by the uber-wealthy and a public that doesn’t recognize that fact, do you think any radical actions had a reasonable chance of success?

    Are you aware of any social revolutions that didn’t end in gorey bloodshed and reactionary counter-revolutions? I’m not.

    You are 100% right to say that these problems are going to linger with us for quite a while. But then again don’t you think that gives us an opportunity to get the other 95% of society up to speed? And time to engineer a non-violent social transformation? Let’s say beginning with a property tax on large holdings of financial securities?

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Agreed.

    Funny thing…about the absence of revolutionary effort on the part of anyone but pawns for the powerbrokers…I was just starting a short piece examining the impact of perpetual easy access to comfort, safety and distraction…I’m titling it “Death By Convenience”…the point being that revolution, violent or peaceful, of any worth is almost impossible to obtain now that we’re decades into a period of staggering convenience in every aspect of our lives. Rich or poor, we’re so catered to and distracted that concepts like carefully considered dissent, patience, resolve, and discipline are just dead in the water.

    I’m still bedeviled by trying to figure out ways to start enfranchising more voters without increasing the risks of data manipulation. I still think a baseline start would be getting Super Tuesday moved to a weekend…preferably both days…because the cruel irony of our system is that in a world of multiple shifts and long hours that only affect working citizens, the only people with difficulty accessing a voting booth are the ones who have the most right to be there.

    How much more would suddenly become possible if we could just beat that one hurdle?

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Dude…softball…that’s like Lesbianism 101. The only way to be more lesbian than that is to videotape actual sex with another woman. Trust me…at this point…if you ever see her in flannel shirt…the question of her gender preference is freakin over.

  • gemmarama

    liam for president!

  • Brentskinner5

    I love it, because this time, it’s NOT “the economy, stupid”; it’s the national debt, stupid. Obamacrats who distract us from the debt by simply shining the light on the economy effectively turn our attention away from their largest failing and toward a lesser failing, the economy, one they’re better able to spin favorably (although still disingenuously). Tards.

  • Brentskinner5

    I love it, because this time, it’s NOT “the economy, stupid”; it’s the national debt, stupid. Obamacrats who distract us from the debt by simply shining the light on the economy effectively turn our attention away from their largest failing and toward a lesser failing, the economy, one they’re better able to spin favorably (although still disingenuously). Tards.

  • Anonymous

    Awesome points.

    Maybe you should consider putting a blog together to outline a set of principles and a tactical action program to start a non-partisan movement. You could use it as a forum to float and expose really good ideas for real change.

    Yeah, this idea or online popular movements have been done before, but to my knowledge they almost all focus primarily on electoral politics (e.g., moveon.org). Which is crucial, no doubt about it, but as we seem to agree, the real problems are economic/cultural. More radical long-term strategies will need to be articulated in order to successfully capitalize on electoral progress.

    Blogspots are free, and so is some polling software. You can require validated access to comments/polling to prevent it from becoming a trollerderby.

    I mention this to you specifically because I suspect you have some formal training in philosophy, and therefore can probably do a better job than most in strucuring a rational debate.

    I’ve considered doing something like this before, but I seem to have very little knack for capturing / engaging public attention. It’s my contrarian streak, really; I’m always certain that the most interesting aspect of a thing is the bit that’s right out in the open, but nobody pays any mind to.

    P.S. Be sure to post yer stuff or at least links to it on Disinfo!

  • gemmarama

    good show from both of you but a minor point – i personally think blogging alone is near-useless. it’s presented as some kind of democratic platform but in reality few blogs get much attention, plus the people who need the information and encouragement most are the ones who are going to miss out – i.e. those without internet access (generally the working class). plus a lot of the time with blogging you are basically preaching to the converted.

    old-school postering, flyering and grafitti – alongside the blog – would reach a wider and more varied audience.

  • Liam_McGonagle

    Good point. I could never be a one-medium endeavour. If the project were to be robust enough to have any influence, it’d have to have a multiply tiered approach.

    Without painting ourselves into a corner here, let’s imagine an ideal situation. Since the primary idea as I see it is the re-engagement of individuals with their society and it’s highest ideals, I personally imagine:

    1. A spare, but well-articulated programme of principles that are explicitly endorsed by members. Maybe just a few simply stated ideals–no more than a dozen. Process could be started online by publishing a proposal, drafted in simple language by a panel of thinkers with some philosophical training, just to give it some robust intellectual integrity. After a period of mediated public comment, revisions would be made and the final result published for reference and dissemenation purposes, but no longer be open to revision.

    In my mind, those principles will have to include terms of engagement for debate–rules of the road to govern civil discourse.

    2. Gemma’s spot on. While a candid articulation of ideals is the big, gaping hole I perceive in current culture, it does eventually have to be promoted everywhere constantly in order to make any impact. That has to be a multi-channel process.

    Fuck all if I know how precisely, though. I myself in particular seem to be very poor at that. I also perceive big challenges in maintaining consistency of message and engagement, so my guess is that it is the sparest, simplest and least-time consuming tactics that will be the most important in sustaining momentum. Sure, activity can be ramped up / scaled down as events require, but I am wary of overly ambitious, onerous requirements.

    So your input as to the relative importance/viability of individual tactics would be awesome. Here’s just my first few stray thoughts:

    a. Set up network of local ‘chapters’, each with a recognized secretary/chair, just to facilitate coordination with a central board.

    b. Regular meetings. To keep public engagement there does need to be a recurring event of some type, I think. No need to have detailed policy debates here. Just gather to formally express mutual respect for the principles of higher social engagement. Pub night? Augmented at will by debate night, quiz night, book club night? Maybe depends on the whim of the local chapter? The only real point is to get people to meet on behalf of the ideals.

    c. Dissemenation of posters, flyers, grafitti as Gemma says, just to keep the ideas out front. Even if they don’t all result in tons of active recruitment / involvement it’ll keep the PRINCIPLE of social engagement alive. Who knows? Might inspire rival groups with even better ideas.

    While the above is more than enough ambitious to keep folks tons busy, even if it could be successful in starting conversation, it wouldn’t be really adequate without a really good articulation of radical policy goals. I don’t know if that’s the sort of thing that would be best acheived within the group structure mentioned above or under the aegis of a separate by complementary structure. But here’s my fantasies about the articulation of policy goals:

    A spare and well articulated set of core social / economic policy goals consistent with the principles articulated in #1 above. These aren’t specific bill proposals–leave that to the electoral wonks. No, these are just simple policy statements that are still worded well enough to both clearly support the principles outlined in #1 above and point to practical legislation for the pointy-head electoral types to pick up on. Examples:
    a. In U.S., scheduling elections for maximum public accessibility, e.g., week ends rather than
    current practice of scheduling on days during the work week.
    b. Policies to mitigate the usurption of excessively concentrated control of money supply within
    the private-sector, e.g.:
    1.) Require all derivative contracts >$X to be publicly registered with federal governing
    authority
    2.) Graduated property tax on securities holdings valued >$X 100′s held by individual tax filing
    entities

    These are going to be trickier, and I imagine subject to more frequent re-articulation. But the process should be started off and mediated by a panel of people who know what the hell they’re talking about.

    Ah, fantasies fantasies . . .

  • gemmarama

    that’s it, as soon as i’m back living in the city (17 hours and counting – yee ha!), i’m founding the glasgow faction of the revolutionary movement!

    already got plenty of experience of sitting in the pub talking politics and spray-painting slogans about so shouldn’t be too much of a stretch…

  • http://voxmagi-necessarywords.blogspot.com/ VoxMagi

    Sad but true. I never held any delusions that online blogging would translate into mass media reach…it just doesn’t…unless you go viral…and damned few things of a political nature do that. However…since I’m a great fan of Chaos Theory… I see myself as a butterfly flapping my wings with all its might…and hoping that somewhere, someday, a tornado is caused by it ;-)

  • Anonymous

    Heard you both loud and clear. It’s obvious that, as sad as the state of policy is, the state of public discourse is even worse. So, with your indulgence, perhaps we can proceed to . . . ?

    1.) Motion to establish policy body: Tabled pending successful raising of public communications platform.

    2.) Resolved: Parameters of public communications body (to be named later) shall include but not be
    limited to:
    a.) Provisional board comprised of Gemma, VoxMagi, Liam
    b.) Encouraged range of activities to include pub meetings, art ‘installations’, etc., etc., at discretion
    of local chair
    c.) Complete local chapter autonomy on all matters beyond the articulation of canonical core
    principles, which shall be subject to unanimous agreement by the board.

    Motion#1: Mission statement. Brother Liam doth hereby propose that the following statement, subject to amendment by VoxMagi and Gemma, be adopted as the canonical articulation of the mission statement of the communications body (to be named later):

    “To promote the broadest possible civil and active engagement by society with current affairs, including artistic, economic and rhetorical. All such engagement shall respect the following principles:
    1. All participants in debate must, before discussion of issues, reach broad agreement to
    respect the subjective values which motivate them:
    a. Importance of personal freedoms, such as privacy, speech, worship or not-to-worship,
    political association
    b. Importance of shared, non-sectarian institutions to political and economic freedom
    c. Importance of a large, thriving economic middle class to the preservation
    d, Importance of rules sanctioned at the widest possible level of society in order to preserve
    the rights of society’s least advantaged members

    2. Each speaker must clearly articulate a falsifiable hypoethesis which can be reasonably
    proven correct or incorrect by the interlocutors based on empirical evidence, rather than
    appealing to ‘supernatural agency’ or sectarian biases.

    3. Speakers must agree beforehand that they share a respect for the role of empirical
    evidence and that, in accordance with the scientific method, hypotheses which are
    reproducable and subject to wider public scrutiny have more probative value over those
    which do not.”

    Motion #2: I nominate, pending approval by Gemma and VoxMagi, Gemma to be Chairperson of Branch #1, Glasgow, Scotland.

    Okay, okay. It’s all a bit much. I admit I got carried away. The coincidence of this (in the States at least, it’s still 9 October) being John Lennon’s birthday was just too much.

  • gemmarama

    fly, my pretty!

  • gemmarama

    count me in! :-)

  • gemmarama

    dudes, i’m getting the fuck outta dodge today, so it may be a while before i can join you guys here again. we shall continue this conversation at the first opportunity!

    absolute pleasure to have conversed with you both.

    signing off for now,

    g x