An Introduction: Welcome Crooks & Liars Readers

Thanks to John Perr over at Crooks & Liars for rounding my last post up along with Nevada Progressive, Kevin Drum and The Political Carnival. I’m flattered and honored to be included in such distinguished company.

Some of you may have encountered me before over at Democratic Underground, where I went by the handle Burt Worm. For the rest of you, I’ve been keeping this blog for a little over a year, sometimes with more attentiveness than others. If you look at the word cloud down the right margin a ways, you’ll get an idea of my interests. As of today, #OccupyWallStreet is still my most covered topic (tangentially, usually, these days anyway). But I also obsess over Ron Paul, libertarianism and “anarcho”-capitalism because the ideas at the heart of their philosophies, which I tend to argue with, I think are essential for understanding what’s going on in the US and the world today. I’ve also been a bit obsessed with justice lately. And I won’t even mention my dabbling in theories about the face-eating Miami “zombie.”

I hope you’ll have a little look around the joint, and if you like what you see, you’ll come back and engage with me here. Otherwise, maybe  I’ll be seeing you on Twitter.

 

Graeber: “In America…the Entire System Is Built on Legalized Bribery”

This video interview with David Graeber of Occupy Wall Street by Italian activist, comedian and blogger Beppe Grillo covers a range of subjects this blog has also covered, focusing on debt, political power and direct democracy.  The questions appear in written Italian, but most should be fairly clear to anyone with high school-level familiarity with the romance languages, and those that aren’t Graeber answers very straightforwardly and clearly. (One thing he discusses that I’m not familiar with is the Italian 5 Star movement, of which Grillo is a leader.)

Graeber’s view of the American system is essentially captured by the quote which is the title of this post. I think it’s an accurate view. What do you think? I also greatly appreciate his proposed antidote to  the poison in the US system, which is for the people to act as though they are free and have power. That is what Occupy Wall Street is all about.

Does the Left Have a Patriotism Problem?

[I]t should not be lost on anyone that it is conservatives who typically carry around copies of our Constitution in their pockets. It is the Tea Party that refers relentlessly to the nation’s Founders. The movement’s very name invokes a key event in Revolutionary Era history to imply that there is a kind of illegitimacy to the current government in Washington akin to that of a king who once ruled the American colonies far from our shores. Representative Mike Pence of Indiana perfectly captured conservatives’ inclination to believe that their entire program is a recapitulation of the nation’s founding documents. “There’s nothing that ails this country,” Pence told a 2010 meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference, “that couldn’t be fixed by paying more careful attention to the principles enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America.”

While the right was talking about history, liberals were talking about—well, health-care coverage, insurance mandates, cap-and-trade, financial reforms, and a lot of other practical stuff. One can offer a sympathetic argument here that progressives were trying to govern in a rather difficult moment and didn’t have time to go back to the books. But the left’s default was costly, and it was noticed by an editor of this journal in the spring of last year. “Beyond the circumscribed world of academic journals and conferences,” Elbert Ventura wrote in these pages, “history is being taught—on TV and talk radio, in blogs and grassroots seminars, in high school textbooks and on Barnes & Noble bookshelves. In all those forums, conservatives have been conspicuous by their activity—and progressives by their absence.” Ventura ended with this alarming coda: “If we don’t fight for history, progressivism itself will be history.”

E.J. Dionne, “Why History Matters to Liberalism

It’s almost accepted as a truism that people on the right in the US are more patriotic–or, at least, more comfortable with expressing patriotic sentiment–than people on the left. This is not too controversial a notion on left or right, though you will certainly find many in the Democratic Party full-throatedly denying that it’s based on fact. Liberal Democrats, they say, can get just as teary-eyed over “The Star Spangled Banner” as the most politically constipated Bircher. You will also hear among a certain kind of Democrat the sort of argument you hear among liberal Christians comparing themselves to fundamentalists, about the ersatz nature of right-wing patriotism compared to “real” liberal patriotism.

But I think most people would agree that those on the right are far more comfortable wrapping themselves in the flag than those on the left. To test that, ask yourself how you think the fellow in the photo below would feel about corporate tax rates, government regulation of companies’ CO2 emissions, federal investment in renewable energy sources or subsidization of early childhood education in the barrios of our Southwestern cities.

Image Continue reading

Assange Grills #Occupy

Julian Assange chats (sometimes pointedly) with leaders prominent members of the #Occupy movement from New York and London, including David Graeber, Alexa O’Brien of US Day of Rage and Aaron Peters. Does Assange get Occupy? Not fully, which leads to some interesting exchanges, particularly around the subject of force and violence from without and within the movement. These are amazingly intelligent people all around, which makes for occasionally abstruse dialogue. But it’s very much worth sticking with to the end. Uncommon television. Lots and lots of food for thought.

PS: I want to point out a startling (on first hearing, but not on second thought) revelation from David Graeber during the discussion in the video’s late portion about how #occupy deals with disruptors that the NYPD “allegedly” sent newly released prisoners by the busload to Zuccotti Park last fall, telling them that there was free food and shelter available. As Graeber says earlier in the program, the United States (and its hired goons) do not act well to the threat of democracy breaking out all over.

Fractured Dems, Part 4: The Rightward Drift of DemocraticUnderground

Before the changeover to DU3, which I wrote about in my last post, Democratic Underground’s rules for posting in its forums were last modified in August of this year, about a month before the #OWS movement was front-page news. “Failure to abide by these rules,” the introduction to them warned, “may result in your post being removed, your thread locked, or your posting privileges revoked without warning.” A sampling demonstrates the administration’s bare tolerance for politics left of the Democratic center:

  • This is a website for Democrats and other progressives [sic].
  • Do not personally attack any individual DU member in any way. Do not post broad-brush attacks, rude nicknames, or crude insults toward a group of DU members.

  • Do not post support for non-viable or third-party spoiler candidates in any general election.
  • Do not post disrespectful nicknames, crude insults, or right-wing smears against Democrats.

On the face of it, the second bullet point, adapted from many previous iterations, looks like a fair (and balanced) warning to both sides of the primary wars of 2008–team Obama and team HRC–not to attack each other. Not being inside the administrators’ heads, I won’t presume that they didn’t intend it to be taken that way. The effect, however, was that by the time those revised rules were posted, most of team HRC had long before either been driven underground or “tombstoned”–as a ban from DU was called because of the image of a tombstone (with the epitaph “Here lies a disruptor. He disrupted badly.”) that replaced the offender’s avatar on their member profile page. But those primary wars had continued by proxy, it seemed to me, in battles with moderators and more and more with a stable of Obama faithfuls who were quick to gang up on anyone who made the slightest criticism of the president’s performance. Continue reading

Louis CK and Fans #Occupy the Entertainment Industry

Louis CK, the comedian and star of the FX comedy series Louis (which, I confess, I haven’t gotten around to actually ever seeing), just conducted an amazing, radical experiment in do-it-yourself capitalism that has paid off beautifully for him. Continue reading

Must Read: David Graeber’s “Debt: The First 5,000 Years”

I’m reading a book that is so good, so well-written, so relevant to the zeitgeist, that I can confidently recommend it to anyone who reads, though I’m just a bit more than halfway through it myself: Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber.

Before I tell you why you should go now and buy, borrow or reserve this book and get reading, I’ll call your attention to an interview Graeber gave the British magazine The White Room which gives an interesting peek into his background and main political ideas. Graeber, a well-respected anthropologist,  is becoming better known as one of the influencing thinkers behind #occupyWallStreet. A couple of sentences from the introduction of the White Room interview beautifully make a point about OWS that I less successfully try to make when people criticize its “fuzziness” and lack of demands:

…Graeber has put the spotlight on the anarchist principles of the Occupy movement, explaining that the lack of concrete demands is part of a pre-figurative politics. The protestors act as though they are ‘already living in a free society’, and thus refuse to accept the legitimacy of existing political institutions and legal order – both of which, he says, are immediately recognised in the placing of demands. Continue reading