So What if Derrick Bell Visited the White House?

I’ve just had a testy little exchange of tweets with Jake Tapper, White House Correspondent for ABC news. Tapper tweeted  this question this afternoon: “Did Professor Derrick Bell Visit the White House? http://abcn.ws/vZLFsU” To which I replied: “So what if he did?”

The occasion of these tweets was the late Andrew Breitbart’s last gasp attempt to smear Obama as a black separatist radical with a tiny snippet of video from a protest at Harvard Law School in 1990 for more diversity on the faculty. Taken from a WGBH news story that was quoted in a  Frontline episode that ran in 2008, Breitbart’s clip shows Obama introducing and then embracing the late Derrick Bell, Harvard’s first tenured African American law professor and one of the intellects behind “critical race theory.” (More about that in a bit.) Continue reading

Middle of the Road Rage

Here’s an interesting nugget in a comment, addressed to me, from the post on John W. Smart’s blog that I was discussing yesterday:

…Hillary lost because of documented, widespread caucus fraud, bribing of superdelegates, and the theft of her delegates on national TV (which I and many others watched live). She won the primaries, but they pulled him an inch over the finish line through the cheating. So our disgruntlement is about far more than Hillary. For many (most?) of us, the democrats were “the good guys”. What you obamabots did was to awaken us from our stupor, you allowed us to see how corrupt the obamacrat party really is. So for many of us our whole political philosophies have changed. We no longer trust the dems more than we trust the republicans, and we know now that there are a HELL of a lot of stupid and mob-like people out there who don’t have a CLUE what real democracy means. To them, it’s win at any cost. So your obot tactics burned a LOT of bridges. It may have been just one more day of cheating for you guys, but it was a life changing tsunami for everyone else. Many have changed to independent, some are still registered as Democrat but no longer consider themselves as such. So any numbers you think you have – you DON’T.

I’m not going to answer this person on Smart’s blog as I know my presence there this morning would be counterproductive to the purposes of dialog. He or she said some other things that are unhelpfully provocative boilerplate from the primary wars of 2008, and as everything that could possibly be said in those wars has already been said a thousand times over, there’s really nothing more anyone can add to it that isn’t also boilerplate or counterproductive to reasonable discussion. I’m really, really not interested in the “Who’s better/more progressive/more electable/ more presidential: Hillary or Barack?” debate. From my perspective, this is irrelevant to present realities, no matter how endlessly fascinating the question may be for some. It honestly never was a useful discussion for any leftist, ever, even while it was was relevant.

But it is eye-opening to experience the violence of feeling ready to erupt among the Clinton refugees and, I tip my hat to them, sincerely: it does make me realize that I, like probably every former Obama supporter, no matter how hot or cold they were for their choice, had blinders on during those primaries. Continue reading

Liberals Fear #OWS, Part Deux

I posted earlier about The New Republic’s “skepticism” toward #occupyWallStreet. There’s another fascinating display of liberal OWS bashing going on here. I was drawn to it, while perusing the OWS posts on WordPress a couple of days ago, by its provocative title: “Failure.” “FAILURE.” [Shouting CAPS in the original.] In it, the author, John W. Smart (if that’s his real name), gloats  about the impending doom of #OccupyLA’s encampment at City Hall (which I watched part of last night on ustream) before snarkily giving it his thumbs down:

Many Occupiers are busy congratulating themselves for their “accomplishment” – another perfect demonstration of pathetic public education system they emerged from. Everybody gets a sticker for showing up. Everyone’s ‘self worth’ is feted with a bull horn and a cookie. The concept of real accomplishment is utterly foreign, in fact, it is dangerous. The true “others” in this nether world are those who get things done. They must be fought.

In terms of ‘getting things done’ Occupy is an abject failure. 3 months in and not a single major bank as been shut down…or is even in fear of failure. No enabler in Congress is remotely concerned about his/her job. The middle class, who took it up the south side and continues to with the bailouts, is completely disinterested, if not disgusted. The sympathetic press – such as it is – has moved on, alighting only for the occasional graphic clip of pepper spraying or baton beating. What Occupy wanted at the outset (still a muddled question) has not come to pass, nor is any tangible action moving in that direction.

Still what one might call a success – if one is generous – did occur. There is a slightly greater consciousness of how rigged our system is. This is not nothing, though to my thinking it’s close. The population understood the system was rigged before Occupy showed up. Occupy did show us that some people are willing to do some thing about the appalling racket we call an economy. I give the protesters credit for this. Unless the encampments were merely a prelude and  Occupy morphs into a vital, muscular movement – and quickly – I must call it like I see it: Occupy is a failure.

Let’s first note that Occupy as a viable force is two months old. I think it’s premature to expect any movement to outright “succeed,” however one defines success, but it’s certainly premature, not to say churlish, to conclude that something that is barely aborning is a failure. It’s this injustice in the remark that provoked me to plunge in with a comment in defense of OWS. Continue reading

UPDATE: State of Seized Library

From the blog of #OccupyWallStreet’s People’s Library:

UPDATE: State of Seized Library.

The movement will no doubt survive, even if its flagship camp is forced to move elsewhere. But its flagship library is not as easily replaced.  More than any other aspect of Bloomberg/Kelly’s Monday night raid on Zuccotti Park, the thoughtless destruction of the People’s Library symbolizes the soullessness of the authorities threatened by our wonderfully rebellious American Fall.

May the embers of this shameful moment be kept alive in our hearts and minds to kindle an even more wonderful American Spring.

#OWS Economics: Who’s to Blame?

Here’s an interesting video from a Texas-based libertarian, John Barksdale (my spelling may be incorrect), who calls himself order9066. I’m impressed with the research he put into this subject, and I take his point very well that it was not just Republicans who were responsible for throwing out the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933, which prohibited financial holding companies insured by the FDIC from owning other companies engaged in financial speculation such as Wall Street investment firms or insurance companies, with the Gramm-Leach Bliley Act of 1999.

While this video does serve as a corrective for the idea that Democrats share little or no blame in the gutting of New Deal protections that set-up the disaster of 2008, it goes overboard in pushing Republicans into the background of the blame picture. After all, the three authors and main sponsors of the bill were all Republicans, and both houses of Congress were, in fact, controlled by the GOP.  But it does highlight two main points: The fingerprints of “Third Way” Democrats in Clinton’s White House (including Clinton himself, of course) are as much in evidence on the financial deregulation of the late 1990s as the Republicans’ are; and Congressional Democrats were ineffective, at best, in preventing (and, at worst, complicit in bringing on) Glass-Steagall’s demise. Continue reading

Through a Glass Darkly: Catherine Austin Fitts and the Capitalism of Crisis

In The Shock Doctrine, Naomi Klein brought to light the neoliberal tactic of crisis capitalism, unleashed in circumstances (as in Chile, Argentina, Poland, Russia, South Africa) where political powers have exploited (or even created) extreme conditions–such as coups, natural disasters, or economic crises–during which the local population is disoriented and their defenses are down, to instigate corporation- and “investment”-friendly policies like lowered taxes and the  cutting  and privatization of government services.  The justification given for such maneuvers is to bring the target economy in line with the global economy, but, of course, very few people (only a tiny few) in the world actually benefit from these capitalistic incursions. One of the most obscene instances of the Shock Doctrine in action resulted in the rape of the former Soviet Union”s assets by the oligarchs in the name of Boris Yelstin’s economic “reforms.” But that’s only one of the most obvious and well known cases.

Catherine Austin Fitts

Catherine Austin Fitts

During the Clinton years, as former communist apparatchiks were helping themselves to radically discounted oil fields and other rich resources in Russia, Catherine Austin Fitts says she witnessed a similar feeding frenzy much closer to home. A former managing director and board member at the Wall Street firm Dillon Read who served as Assistant Secretary at HUD in the first Bush administration, Fitts started a financial company of her own, The Hamilton Securities Group of Washington, D.C., to help communities make the most of federal monies and improve their standing in what she calls the Popsicle Index,  which measures the confidence families in a community feel to send a six-year-old by herself to the corner store and back. Fitts witnessed firsthand the collusion between Washington and Wall Street insiders (often the same people on opposite sides of a revolving door) to employ crisis capitalism techniques in the US as part of the daily repertoire of government actions (my emphasis):

Our efforts at The Hamilton Securities Group to help HUD achieve maximum return on the sale of its defaulted mortgage assets coincided with a widespread process of “privatization” in which assets were, in fact, being transferred out of governments worldwide at significantly below market value in a manner providing extraordinary windfall profits, capital gains and financial equity to private corporations and investors. In addition, government functions were being outsourced at prices way above what should have been market price or government costs — again stripping governmental and community resources in a manner that subsidized private interests. The financial equity gained by private interests was often the result of financial, human, environmental and living equity stripped and stolen from communities — often without communities being able to understand what had happened or to clearly identify their loss. This is why I now refer to privatization as “piratization.”

One of the consequences was to steadily increase the political power of companies and investors who were increasingly dependent on lucrative back door subsidies — thus lowering overall social and economic productivity. Hence, the doubling of FHA’s mortgage recovery rates from 35% to 70-90% ran counter to global trends and ruffled feathers…. Continue reading

Defending #OWS, Ron Paul Says He Supports Bailout of People with Bad Mortgages

I applaud him for that. He is certainly the rare politician who seems to actually understand the legitimacy of the #occupyWallStreet protest.

Of course, the last time I heard applause for him like this at one of these debates, he was arguing against bailing out people with catastrophic illnesses who have no health insurance.