Custom Search

60 Minutes: The Clinic is Closed

Monday, April 06, 2009

Watch CBS Videos Online


Are Republicans Blackmailing Obama?

By Scott Horton
The Daily Beast

If the president releases the Bush torture memos, Republicans are promising to “go nuclear” and filibuster his legal appointments. Scott Horton reports on a serious threat to Obama’s transparency.

Senate Republicans are now privately threatening to derail the confirmation of key Obama administration nominees for top legal positions by linking the votes to suppressing critical torture memos from the Bush era. A reliable Justice Department source advises me that Senate Republicans are planning to “go nuclear” over the nominations of Dawn Johnsen as chief of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice and Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh as State Department legal counsel if the torture documents are made public. The source says these threats are the principal reason for the Obama administration’s abrupt pullback last week from a commitment to release some of the documents. A Republican Senate source confirms the strategy. It now appears that Republicans are seeking an Obama commitment to safeguard the Bush administration’s darkest secrets in exchange for letting these nominations go forward.

Barack Obama entered Washington with a promise of transparency. One of his first acts was a presidential directive requiring that the Freedom of Information Act, a near dead letter during the Bush years, was to be enforced according to its terms. He specifically criticized the Bush administration’s practice of preparing secret memos that determined legal policy and promised to review and publish them after taking office....(Click for remainder).


Twisted Sermons


WEEKEND LOON WATCH: Bush Speechwriters Slam Obama, Fox Gun Ban Freakout, and Newt Converts to Catholicism


How To Use Digg and Reddit to Piss Off Rush Limbaugh Listeners

By Rich

A few days ago, I (a liberal) took some advice from Rush Limbaugh. Yes, that may seem strange, but before you scream, “Sellout!” just hear me out. Just because I disagree with someone on practically every issue doesn’t necessarily mean that the other side doesn’t make a valid point now and again, and I found one of those rare, honest moments Rush had on YouTube. Every week on this blog, I post a video related to the theme of the site and write some short commentary on what I just watched. Last week, I used an old interview I found where Rush explains the ins and outs of talk radio, specifically focusing how he gets people to listen to his show, even if they don’t agree with him. It really doesn’t take a psychologist to figure out what he’s done – he gives his opinion, but delivers in the strongest, nastiest way possible to get people talking and tuning in to hear what crazy things he’ll say next. He gets his message out there (convoluted as it is), entertains himself and his listeners, and calls it a day. It’s a formula that has worked since talk radio began and still works to this day. It all sounded good to me in theory, but I wanted to test it out for myself, so instead of just posting the video and elaborating on his message, I delivered my opinion Rush-style, and the results were priceless.

I started off with a title that re-words what he is essentially saying: “Rush Limbaugh Explains How He Manipulates Radio Listeners”. This isn’t inaccurate, but it’s a harsher way of reiterating one of his main points. The following is an exact quote from the video:
Rush: If you embellish the opinion with confidence and cockiness, then you’re getting into generating hatred and so forth. ‘Cause a lot of people would love to be confident about what they think. Most people aren’t. Most people are trepid about their opinions, and if they are subjected to someone, such as myself, who is not, then it tends to offend them. But the key is knowing that nobody can get everybody to like them, keeping in mind that the law of averages indicates that half the people who listen to you are not going to like you [and you’re] still going to find a way to make those who don’t like you enjoy listening to your program. And that is really the key to the entertainment value that the program contains.
If that’s not manipulation, then what is? So instead of bringing out statistics or analyzing anything in depth, I followed this up with calling his listeners brain dead zombies who could easily be led off a cliff if that’s what he wanted and then took the obligatory potshot at his weight. The last paragraph just descends into vulgarities that have nothing to do with the original topic. I call him a puppet fucker (for some reason there is a mannequin on the show sitting opposite him) and just kind of trail off, completely moving away from radio entertainment and its listeners. I could have easily done what I always do on the site, which is examine my topic line for line and explain my point of view in painstaking detail, but this often receives little to no attention. My well-researched articles average between 30-40 diggs on Digg, and my Reddit submissions maybe get 1-5 votes. This throwaway post received over 100 diggs in 2 days and over 150 votes on Reddit. Just as Rush said, my cockiness and confidence in my opinion made people pay attention, not the intellectual value of the discussion. (Who really expects anything intellectual out of Rush anyway?) There are better ways to say, “Rush is an asshole,” but I can’t think of a funnier way to say it than by using his own cheap methods....(Click for remainder).


The Power Of Finance Is Killing America-It Needs To Be Stopped

By Paul Rosenberg
Open Left

Yesterday, I published a couple of diaries dealing with William Black, his criticism of the role of criminality in the financial meltdown and his prescriptions-along with James Galbraith-for a minimal program of what ought to be done to clean up the mess.  Quite a bit of energy went into responding to a DKos-sourced attempt to discredit him, and while it's certainly important not to ignore the substance of the narrow charge against him (a charge of misrepresentation that increasingly seems anything but clear-cut), it's even more important to maintain our focus on the bigger picture-that being the role of the financial industry in wrecking our economy, and how to save ourselves from it.

It's important to note three things right off the bat: (1) There is a long-standing history of demonizing finance, which in the Western World has repeatedly been intertwined with anti-Semitism.  (2) There is a similarly long-standing history of finance being involved in recurrent economic catastrophes.  (3) There is no good reason in the world why responsible figures in the world of finance should want to bring about financial ruin.  Above all, the  anti-Semetic narratives implicated in (1) are utterly nonsensical, based on a demonic narrative about the nature of the Jews.  Yet, the unreal, even hateful nature of the narratives referred to in (1) in no way serves to invalidate the historical reality of (2).  We need to be able to walk and chew gum here, people.  PArticularly given the enormous growth in the size of the financial sector over the past few decades:

(Click for remainder).


Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and Wall Street's Ownership of Government

By Glenn Greenwald

White House officials yesterday released their personal financial disclosure forms, and included in the millions of dollars which top Obama economics adviser Larry Summers made from Wall Street in 2008 is this detail:
Lawrence H. Summers, one of President Obama's top economic advisers, collected roughly $5.2 million in compensation from hedge fund D.E. Shaw over the past year and was paid more than $2.7 million in speaking fees by several troubled Wall Street firms and other organizations. . . .

Financial institutions including JP Morgan Chase, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch paid Summers for speaking appearances in 2008. Fees ranged from $45,000 for a Nov. 12 Merrill Lynch appearance to $135,000 for an April 16 visit to Goldman Sachs, according to his disclosure form.
That's $135,000 paid by Goldman Sachs to Summers -- for a one-day visit.  And the payment was made at a time -- in April, 2008 -- when everyone assumed that the next President would either be Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton and that Larry Summers would therefore become exactly what he now is:  the most influential financial official in the U.S. Government (and the $45,000 Merrill Lynch payment came 8 days after Obama's election). Goldman would not be able to make a one-day $135,000 payment to Summers now that he is Obama's top economics adviser, but doing so a few months beforehand was obviously something about which neither parties felt any compunction.  It's basically an advanced bribe.  And it's paying off in spades.  And none of it seemed to bother Obama in the slightest when he first strongly considered naming Summers as Treasury Secretary and then named him his top economics adviser instead (thereby avoiding the need for Senate confirmation), knowing that Summers would exert great influence in determining who benefited from the government's response to the financial crisis....(Click for remainder).


Why Marijuana Legalization is Gaining Momentum

By Nate Silver

Back in February, we detailed how record numbers of Americans -- although certainly not yet a majority -- support the idea of legalizing marijuana. It turns out that there may be a simple explanation for this: an ever-increasing fraction of Americans have used pot at some point in their lifetimes. The following chart details marijuana usage rates by age as determined from a 2007 survey conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration:

The peak time for pot usage occurs at or about age 20 -- a period known to most of us as "college" -- before declining fairly rapidly throughout one's 20s and then plateauing from roughly age 30 through age 50.

More important to the policy debate, however, may be the fraction of adults who have used marijuana at any point in their lifetimes. This is a dual-peaked distribution, with one peak occurring among adults who are roughly age 50 now, and would have come of age in the 1970s, and another among adults in their early 20s. Generation X, meanwhile, in spite of its reputation for slackertude, were somewhat less eager consumers of pot than the generations either immediately preceding or proceeding them....(Click for remainder).


President Obama On American Exceptionalism

By Big Tent Democrat
Talk Left

As a believer in American Exceptionalism, I am well aware of how arrogant the phrase sounds. So kudos to President Obama (via Steve Benen) for his terrific answer to a question on American exceptionalism:
A reporter asked President Obama an interesting question yesterday: "[C]ould I ask you whether you subscribe, as many of your predecessors have, to the school of 'American exceptionalism' that sees America as uniquely qualified to lead the world, or do you have a slightly different philosophy?"

[OBAMA:] "I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism. I'm enormously proud of my country and its role and history in the world. If you think about the site of this summit and what it means, I don't think America should be embarrassed to see evidence of the sacrifices of our troops, the enormous amount of resources that were put into Europe postwar, and our leadership in crafting an Alliance that ultimately led to the unification of Europe. We should take great pride in that.

"And if you think of our current situation, the United States remains the largest economy in the world. We have unmatched military capability. And I think that we have a core set of values that are enshrined in our Constitution, in our body of law, in our democratic practices, in our belief in free speech and equality, that, though imperfect, are exceptional.

"Now, the fact that I am very proud of my country and I think that we've got a whole lot to offer the world does not lessen my interest in recognizing the value and wonderful qualities of other countries, or recognizing that we're not always going to be right, or that other people may have good ideas, or that in order for us to work collectively, all parties have to compromise and that includes us.

"And so I see no contradiction between believing that America has a continued extraordinary role in leading the world towards peace and prosperity and recognizing that that leadership is incumbent, depends on, our ability to create partnerships because we create partnerships because we can't solve these problems alone."
No one can deny the man's intellectual and political gifts.

Speaking for me only....(Click for original).


The 52 Minutes of Obama Magic That Changed the Nuclear Rules

By Ian Traynor
The Guardian UK

In his whirlwind debut European tour of summits in Britain, France, Germany and the Czech Republic, Barack Obama has delivered two speeches, both exactly 26 minutes long.

On Friday, in Strasbourg, he was rapturously applauded by French and German students when he said he wanted to rid the world of nuclear weapons. In Prague yesterday, he spelled out his hopes, outlining a host of means to that end and denouncing fatalism in the face of the nuclear threat as a "deadly adversary".

The world's estimated arsenal of 24,000 nuclear warheads - all but 1,000 in the US and Russian armouries - was the worst legacy of the cold war, Obama said. If the risk of all-out nuclear war had faded, the danger of nuclear attack had increased, he added.


The president pledged a drive on nuclear disarmament, possibly bigger than any ever attempted. He spelled out how he would accelerate arms control agreements with Russia, following his first summit meeting with President Dmitry Medvedev last week. The deal to conclude a new arms reduction treaty with Moscow, which would slash stockpiles by about a third was a beginning, setting the stage for further cuts.

Building on the momentum of a new agreement with the Russians, Obama said he wanted to cajole the other nuclear powers into agreeing international arms cuts....(Click for remainder).


Gingrich's Star Trek Fantasy: Attack North Korea With Electromagnetic Pulse

By David Edwards and Jeremy Gantz
The Raw Story

Only hours after North Korea launched a rocket, Newt Gingrich was on television saying the United States should have preemptively attacked the nuclear-armed country – with an electromagnetic pulse.

"We do not appreciate the scale of threat that is evolving on the planet," the former House Speaker said on Fox News Sunday. "And North Korea is a totally irresponsible dictatorship run by a person who is clearly out of touch with reality."

The North Korean government says it launched an experimental communications satellite that is now orbiting in space; U.S. officials claim it was a missile that quickly fell into the Pacific ocean.

President Barack Obama, in Prague on his first tour of Europe, blasted the rocket launch as "provocative," saying it violated a U.N. resolution, and pledged to take action at a U.N. Security Council meeting. Obama had joined other world leaders in urging the hard-line communist state to drop plans to test a missile.

But to Gingrich, who said on Fox that all United Nations dealings with both North Korea and Iran have been ineffective, talk is cheap. "One morning, just like 9/11, there's gonna be a disaster," the former Georgia congressman said. "And people are going to look around and say 'Gosh, why didn't anyone think of that?' Well I'm telling you, the time to think about it is before the disaster, and not after."...(Click for remainder).


The Mannity Truncated Obama Quote to Claim It Was Example of "Blame America First"

By Media Matters

On the April 3 edition of his Fox News television program, Sean Hannity played a clip of President Obama saying in an April 3 speech in Strasbourg, France: "In America, there's a failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world. Instead of celebrating your dynamic union and seeking to partner with you to meet common challenges, there have been times where America's shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive." Hannity then said: "And the liberal tradition of blame America first, well, that's still alive." Hannity later asked: "Why is there this anti-Americanism in Europe?" In fact, immediately after the part of the speech Hannity played, Obama criticized anti-Americanism in Europe as well as Europeans who "choose to blame America for much of what's bad."

Obama stated: "But in Europe, there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual but can also be insidious. Instead of recognizing the good that America so often does in the world, there have been times where Europeans choose to blame America for much of what's bad." Obama continued: "On both sides of the Atlantic, these attitudes have become all too common. They are not wise. They do not represent the truth. They threaten to widen the divide across the Atlantic and leave us both more isolated. They fail to acknowledge the fundamental truth that America cannot confront the challenges of this century alone, but that Europe cannot confront them without America." At no point during the show did Hannity acknowledge that Obama had made these comments.

Hours before Hannity aired, Fox News' newly launched website, The Fox Nation, similarly truncated Obama's speech when it linked to an April 3 U.K. Telegraph article about the speech and omitted Obama's comments about anti-Americanism, even though the Telegraph article quoted those comments....(Click for remainder).


The Scary, Phony Warnings of Newt Gingrich

By Steve Kornacki

Whenever he reaches into his bag of tricks, Newt Gingrich seems to pull out the same old attention-grabbing ploy: a dire warning about an impending third-party movement.

His pronouncements always assume the same basic form: Person or Group X must do as I say, or the traditional two-party structure will collapse.  Headlines in major publications and television appearances customarily follow. Generally, his warnings are aimed at fellow Republicans - but not always.

The one-time House speaker, run out of the Capitol by his own party in 1998 but now - somehow - a prime contender for the G.O.P.'s 2012 presidential nod, was at it again this past week.

While delivering a speech in Missouri on Wednesday, Gingrich denounced the hefty federal spending that marked the Bush years and prophesied that, "if the Republicans can't break out of being the right-wing party of big government, then I think you would see a third-party movement in 2012."

His words quickly made their way to the national media, and, sure enough, there he was on Sunday, appearing on "Fox News Sunday" to talk about the future of the G.O.P. - thus allowing Gingrich to reinforce his conservative credentials (he bashed spending, earmarks, and the Obama administration) to a large audience overwhelmingly comprised of potential G.O.P. primary voters. Well played, Newt.

Of course, he's been at this for years. In November 1994, just three days after Republicans won control of the House in that year's midterm elections, Gingrich, then the 51-year-old speaker-in-waiting, declared the results a mandate for his vision of conservatism and swore that he would not compromise with Bill Clinton or congressional Democrats. ...(Click for remainder).


Obamas’ Visit Eases Doubts of the Czechs

By Dan Bilefsky and Helene Cooper
The New York Times

PRAGUE — The Czechs were skeptical. Some feared that the visit by President Obama less than two weeks after their government collapsed would bring out all the neuroses of their young democracy. Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek had soured the mood by calling Mr. Obama's economic policies "a way to hell." Obama-mania seemed a foreign delusion.

That was until Sunday, when Mr. Obama addressed some 20,000 people in front of the imposing Prague Castle.

He spoke of the Velvet Revolution, which helped overthrow decades of Communism here in 1989, calling that moment of national pride "Sametova revoluce" in flawless Czech.

He invoked the memory of Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the revered father of the first Czechoslovak state. Mr. Masaryk, the president noted, had spent time in his own hometown, Chicago.

The skepticism began to melt away. Even the younger Czechs, who had not grown up under Communism and were less instinctively pro-American than their parents, were transfixed.

Irena Kalhousova, 30, a lecturer in international relations, who woke up at 4 a.m. to make sure she could get a glimpse of Mr. Obama, said she had been struck by the contrast between the detached haughtiness of the Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, 67, and the youthful vigor of Mr. Obama, who she said radiated "positive energy."...(Click for remainder).


THE INFLUENCE GAME: Payday Lenders Thwart Limits

If there has ever been a need for reinstatement of usury laws now is the time.  I hope Bernie Sanders is on this.

By Julie Hirschfeld Davis
Associated Press via Google News

WASHINGTON (AP) — The payday loan industry, threatened by Congress with extinction, has deployed well-connected lobbyists and hefty sums of campaign cash to key lawmakers to save itself.

The strategy has paid off.

Now a top Democrat who once tried to ban the practice is instead pushing to regulate it — a result, he says, of the industry's lobbying clout.

The lawmaker, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., says his bill does have crucial protections for borrowers and represents the best deal he can manage in the face of the industry's aggressive lobbying. Consumer groups are condemning the bill as a loophole-riddled gift to the industry.

"While they may not be JP Morgan Chase or Bank of America, they're very powerful. Their influence should not be underestimated," Gutierrez, the top Democrat on the Financial Services subcommittee in charge of consumer credit issues, said in an interview this week.

Payday loans are small, very short-term loans with extremely high interest rates that are effectively advances on a borrower's next paycheck. They're typically obtained when a borrower goes to a check-cashing outlet or an online equivalent, pays a fee and writes a postdated check that the company agrees not to cash until the customer's payday. Finance charges typically amount to annual interest rates in the triple digits, around 400 percent, and can go as high as double that.

The loans are controversial, with advocates, including many black and Hispanic lawmakers and interest groups, arguing they are the only quick credit option for millions of low- and moderate-income people. Critics contend they are inherently abusive products that trap borrowers in a devastating debt cycle.

Congress moved in 2006 to effectively ban payday lending for military personnel by imposing a 36 percent interest-rate cap for such borrowers, and 15 states either prohibit it outright or have similar caps. But the loans are virtually unregulated in two dozen other states, a situation that Gutierrez said is intolerable....(Click for remainder).


FOX News Reviewer Fired for Writing a Review About 'X-Men Origins' After Downloaded the Pirated Copy

By John Amato
Crooks and Liars

I'm amazed that someone being paid by News Corp. or any movie studio, who writes entertainment reviews wouldn't know that they frown on the Internet pirating of music and movies, but evidently Robert Friedman was just that person. He actually was jumping for joy that he was watching it on his computer while the movie industry was freaking out over "Wolverine" hitting the net before it's even finished.
Someone stole an "incomplete and early version" of the next installment in the blockbuster "X-Men" movie series and posted it on the Internet this week, according to the studio that owns the billion-dollar film franchise. Twentieth Century Fox said the FBI was investigating who leaked "X-Men Origins: Wolverine," which is set for release in U.S. theaters May 1.

The digital file quickly spread across the Internet and was available for free, but illegal, downloading from hundreds of easily found Web sites. "The source of the initial leak and any subsequent postings will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law; the courts have handed down significant criminal sentences for such acts in the past," the studio's statement said.
(Click for remainder).


Another Fox Graphic Falsely Suggest Pay for Performance Bill Applies to All Employees

By Media Matters

During an April 4 discussion of the House's passage of H.R. 1664, the Pay for Performance Act, Fox Business Network's Cavuto on Business featured on-screen text that read: " 'Pay-For-Performance' Bill: Gov't dictating how much you'll make?" In fact, the bill would not regulate pay for all workers but rather would regulate compensation only for employees of financial institutions that have received federal assistance -- a fact acknowledged by Cavuto and his guests during the segment. Moreover, the bill regulates pay for those institutions only during the period in which the public investment in them remains outstanding, and even then, it does not apply to institutions that have agreed to a schedule for the institution to repay the entire government investment, unless the company defaults on that plan.

As Media Matters for America documented, the March 31 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends aired on-screen text that falsely claimed of the Pay for Performance Act: "Bill lets government set your salary."...(Click for remainder).


The US Is Facing a Weimar Moment

By Robert Freeman
Common Dreams

In early 1919, Germany put in place a new government to begin rebuilding the country after its crushing defeat in World War I. But the right-wing forces that had led the country into the War and lost the War conspired even before it was over to destroy the new government, the "Weimar Republic." They succeeded.

The U.S. faces a similar "Weimar Moment." The devastating collapse of the economy after eight years of Republican rule has left the leadership, policies, and ideology of the right utterly discredited. But, as was the case with Germany in 1919, Republicans do not intend to allow the new government to succeed. They will do everything they can to undermine it. If they are successful, the U.S. may yet go the way of Weimar Germany.

World War I left Germany utterly devastated. The landed aristocrats, industrial magnates, wealthy financiers, weapons makers, and the officer corps of the military that formed the locus of right wing power were completely discredited. Their failure in provoking and prosecuting the War was catastrophic, undeniable, and complete.

The economy was destroyed. Prices were at 800% of pre-war levels and rising quickly. Agriculture, pillaged for the War, lay in ruins. Social insurance payments for the War's injured, to widows and orphans, and newly unemployed soldiers were astronomical. And all this was before the cost of rebuilding was even begun.

At the same time, Germany faced massive reparations payments to the Allied victors, France and England. But Germany's foreign properties had been confiscated and its colonies turned over to the victors. The combination of these conditions, both domestic and international, made it extraordinarily difficult for the German economy to recover.

As a result of the failure of the right, the German people elected a moderately leftist government to lead the nation's rebuilding. It was named the Weimar Republic for the city in which the new post-imperial constitution was written. The new government was led by Friedrich Ebert, head of the German Socialist Party.

But the country's new parliamentary system had allowed dozens of parties to run, making it impossible for any one party to win an outright majority. Ebert's party had achieved the highest portion of votes, 38%, in the first post-War elections, held in January 1919. Ebert would have to govern by coalition.

It was at this time that the right wing made its crucial decision. Despite its shocking, naked failure over the prior decade, despite the horrific devastation it had wrought on the German people, despite the discrediting of everything they had purported to stand for, they would fight Ebert, his new government, and its plans for recovery. They would do everything they could to make sure that the new government failed.

Their strategy was two-fold: first, stoke the resentment of the population about the calamitous state of its living conditions-no matter that those conditions had been created by the very right-wing oligarchs who now pretended to befriend the little guy. Rage is rage. It is glandular and unseeing. Once catalyzed it is easy to turn on any subject.

And stoking resentment was easy to do. Just before the War ended, the military concocted its most sensational lie: the German army hadn't actually been defeated. It had been "stabbed in the back" by communists, traitors, and Jews. It was an easy lie to sell. It entwined an attack on an alien political ideology - liberalism- with the latent, pervasive myth of German racial superiority.

The second strategy of the right was to prevent the new government from succeeding. To begin with, success of the left would conspicuously advertise the failure of the right. Moreover, success by the left would legitimize republican government, so hated by the oligarchs of the right. Much better for the people to be ruled by the self-aggrandizing right-wing autocracy that had governed Germany for centuries.

So the rightists set out to do everything they could to make it impossible for the leftists to govern. They would use parliamentary maneuver, shifting coalitions, domination of the new mass media, legislative obstruction, staged public relations spectacles, relentless pressure by narrow but powerful interests, judicial intimidation and, eventually, outright murder of their political opponents.

Contrition for their abject failure, humility for their destructive hubris, compassion for their crippled country-those had nothing to do with it. All they possessed was a blinding, visceral hatred of the left and a masturbatory lust for the return to power.

Eventually, they succeeded. Every setback in recovery - and there would inevitably be many - was met with hysterical demonizing of the left wing government. The lie was repeated relentlessly that the government was run by communists, traitors, and Jews-the same furtive cabal that had purportedly stabbed the country in the back at the end of the War. They steadily chipped away at the efficacy and, thereby, the legitimacy of successive republican governments.

By the time of the Great Depression, Adolph Hitler's ironically named National Socialist Party had become the biggest vote getter in the nation. The Nazis had once been derided as the lunatic fringe of the far right. But the "respectable" right-wing power brokers who had started and lost the Great War anointed Hitler Chancellor in January, 1933.

He immediately suspended the constitution, abolishing most civil liberties. He outlawed opposition parties, began a massive military build-up and a relentless propaganda campaign, and set Germany and the world onto the path of the greatest destruction it would ever know.

America now faces its own "Weimar moment."

The failure of right wing policy and leadership over the past eight years, especially in matters economic, is comparable to Germany's right-wing failure in World War I. It is catastrophic, undeniable, and complete.


According to the World Economic Forum, forty percent of the entire world's wealth has been destroyed in the recent financial collapse. In the U.S. alone, between housing and the stock market, more than $18 trillion in wealth has already been destroyed.

The private mega-banks that anchor the financial systems of the western world are bankrupt. This makes it all but impossible to jump-start the western world's economies which are heavily dependent on bank-system credit to operate.

More than 10,000 homes go into foreclosure every day. More than 20,000 people lose their job every day. And the collapse is accelerating, developing its own self-reinforcing dynamic. Job losses breed foreclosures, reducing demand, leading to more job losses and further degradation of the financial system. None of the stopgaps designed to stanch the bleeding have yet worked. There is no bottom in sight.

Meanwhile, debt has risen to astronomical levels. Reagan and Bush I quadrupled the national debt in only twelve years. Bush II doubled it again in only eight. It is now ten times higher than it was in 1980 when Reagan was elected. Total public and private debt exceeds 300% of GDP, half again higher than it was in 1929.

The government's unfunded liabilities, promises it has made to the American people but for which no payment source can be identified, now exceed $60 trillion, a literally inconceivable sum that can never, will never, be paid. Federal Reserve economist Lawrence Kotlikoff has suggested that the U.S. government is "actuarially bankrupt."

The full measure of the nation's plight is revealed in Hillary Clinton's first trip as Secretary of State. It was to China, to beg them to fund Obama's new fiscal deficits. Without loans from China, the U.S. economy cannot be revived. The significance of this cannot be overstated: the U.S. no longer exercises sovereignty over its own economic affairs. That sovereignty now resides in the hands of China, the U.S.'s greatest long-term rival.

Thanks to Republican policies of massive debt and shipping jobs abroad, the U.S. has technically become a colony of China. It exports raw materials and imports finished goods, together with the capital to make up the difference. Should the Chinese decide not to lend the trillions of dollars the U.S. is begging for, the U.S. economy will implode, plummeting onto itself in a World Trade Center-like collapse that will leave dust clouds circling the planet for decades.

Notwithstanding the destruction inflicted on the economy by Republican policies, the most devastating breakdown is in the intellectual foundation on which right wing economic ideology itself is premised. Free market doctrine, the secular religion of right-wing America, is in utter, irretrievable shambles.

One of the most lofty tenets on which free markets are premised is their claim for themselves that they are "efficient," that is, that market prices always reflect "fundamental values" of assets. But if that's true, how could the world's largest insurance company, AIG, have lost 99.5% of its market value in only 18 months? How could the world's largest bank, Citibank, have lost 98% of its value over the same period?

How could the world's largest brokerage company, Merrill Lynch, have gone bankrupt and need to be bought by Bank of America? How could the world's largest car company, General Motors, have lost 95% of its value and stand on the threshold of extinction? How could the world's largest industrial conglomerate, General Electric, have lost 85% of its value in only 18 months?

If the largest companies in the world, those at the very heart of the capitalist system itself, can lose virtually all of their value in only 18 months, what is the possible meaning of the phrases "efficient markets" and "fundamental value"?

The other core tenets of free market ideology are equally compromised. Major actors are clearly not rational - a breakdown of theological proportions admitted by no less an avatar of the cult than its pope himself, Alan Greenspan. Free markets clearly cannot, will not, regulate themselves. It is precisely their innate, irrepressible propensity for sociopathic greed and predatory fraud that has brought the whole of the world's economy to the precipice of collapse.

Free markets clearly do not align risk and reward, allocating capital to its most productive uses, as its promoters advertise. They clearly do not automatically return to equilibrium, but must be bailed out with trillions of dollars of injections from the shrinking coffers of the public to the ever-bulging coffers of a private priesthood of pillage and plunder.

And in perhaps the greatest indictment of all, one going back to its primeval roots in Adam Smith's eighteenth century opus, The Wealth of Nations, the unrestrained behavior of self-interested individuals clearly, manifestly, does not "coalesce as if by an Invisible Hand to the greatest good for the greatest number."

These are not peripheral premises that have failed. They are not tangential tenets. Efficient markets. Rational actors. Market equilibrium. Risk and reward. Self interest. These are the essential sacraments on which the entire free market system is founded. They are in tatters. And it isn't that any one of them has been discredited by the glaring, merciless force of events. All of them have been. All of them together. And all of them at the same time.

Free markets have long been the basis for a legitimate - though rightly debated - economic policy framework. But they have become little more than a robotically-recited cultural catechism, a mindless mantra mumbled to mask the looting of the nation's resources that is the true purpose of Republican economic policy as demonstrated by the staggering upward transfers of wealth that inevitably occur under Republican regimes. A more complete, conspicuous, catastrophic, and irrefutable repudiation of right wing leaders, right wing policies, and right wing ideology could not possibly be contrived.

So what is the right wing response?

They have adopted the strategy and tactics of the failed right wing plotters in Weimar Germany. First, stoke the resentment of the population about the increasingly dire state of its living conditions-no matter that those conditions were created by the very right-wing oligarchs who now pretend to befriend the little guy. Rage is rage. It is glandular and unseeing. Once catalyzed it is easy to turn on any subject.

Second, prevent the new government from succeeding in any meaningful endeavor. The Republicans have set all their efforts to doing everything they can to make sure the Obama administration fails. Rush Limbaugh's infamous, "I hope he fails" pronouncement is only the beginning of the fomenting of hatred from the right. As Limbaugh said, "Let's be honest. Every Republican in America is hoping for Obama's failure."

The same malignant hope oozes unadulterated from all the other Dogpatch Demagogues that rent themselves out to the Republican party to foment resentment against anything liberal: Joe the "Plumber," Rick Santelli, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Ann Coulter, and virtually every other wing-nut operative whose intellectual stock in trade has been vaporized by the collision of right-wing policies with objective reality.

Equally so for the "respectable" members of the party, the all-but-three Republican members of Congress who refused to sign on to Obama's first stimulus package and continue to grandstand against every effort toward any form of progress. Contrition for their own abject failure, humility for their destructive hubris, compassion for their crippled country-those have nothing to do with it. All they possess is a blinding, visceral hatred of the left and a masturbatory lust for the return to power.

And what else can they do? Bereft of ideas, bankrupt in ideology, architects of collapse, obstruction is all they have. If Obama is successful, it will not only advertise the full extent of their failure, it will provide a model of liberal governance that would render Republicans irrelevant for decades, much as FDR's success left them out in the political cold for an entire generation. Liberal failure is a matter of life and death for Republicans.

And it's not at all clear that the liberals won't fail. No one should underestimate the task at hand. Never before - not even during the Great Depression - has the country inherited such a daunting, intractable set of economic problems: a debt burden so crushing; inequality so vast; a loss of financial sovereignty so constricting; an intellectual edifice so bankrupt; a private economy so uncompetitive; or an opposition so callously self interested in its own recovery and so cavalierly disinterested in the nation's.

The economy has been so damaged, successful rescue requires threading a series of policy needles, each of them so complex in their own right that none could be solved by any administration of the past 50 years. This includes rehabilitating and re-regulating the nation's banking system, restructuring health care, reducing national dependence on oil, reviving manufacturing so as to reduce the trade deficit, rebuilding the nation's crumbling infrastructure, dealing with a soaring national debt, trying to resuscitate a collapsing housing market, and all the while maintaining the safety net under 77 million baby boomers entering retirement with a net worth 60% what it was only 18 months ago.

Success will require much more than luck, hard work, brilliant policy, or soaring rhetoric. It will require cooperation and contribution from every American. It is those two offerings, cooperation and contribution, that Republicans are intent on withholding, the better to ensure Obama's failure. Simply put, the Republicans hate Democrats more than they love America.

If they succeed in derailing Obama's efforts, the cost will be incalculable.

After World War I, one of the consequences of the liberal government's failure was Adolph Hitler. Hitler had a genius for exploiting the resentment of the German people for their condition. More than 80% of the Nazi party's members were unemployed. It was these legions of idle thugs who made up the ranks of Hitler's brownshirt militia, the SA. The right wing oligarchy that had set out from the beginning to destroy the Weimar Republic recognized the potency of resentment and Hitler's genius at exploiting it. It was they who sponsored Hitler's ascension to Chancellor in 1933.

Resentment and obstruction are all the right wing in America have to peddle. Their policies are utterly discredited. Their ideology - even by its own standards - is a sham. They are so bereft of leaders, their de facto leader is a former drug addicted, thrice-divorced radio talk show host. That is literally the best they can muster. But they have built a national franchise inciting the downwardly mobile to blame the government, not the right, for their problems, exactly as Hitler did in the 1920s.

The Republican propensity for fascism must not be underestimated. Witness their phony justifications for the war in Iraq, fanning the flames of nationalistic aggression, just as Hitler did with Austria, the Sudetenland, Czechoslovakia, and Poland in the 1930s. Consider their symbiotic embrace of corporate interests in the oil, weapons, telecommunications, pharmaceutical, finance, and other industries-the same type of corporate interests that sponsored Hitler's ascent to power. Look at their efforts to dismantle civil liberties with the Patriot Act and the Military Commissions Act. Or their relentless, pervasive propaganda laundered through their corporate-owned right-wing media machine.

These are the classic hallmarks of fascism. The strategy is to obstruct recovery, facilitate collapse, and then incite the faux-populism of public resentment to re-install a corporatist oligarchy which has failed, but which will not abide a reduction of its privileges or a diminution of its control. It is a fetid, seditious agenda, awaiting only its own latter day mustachioed messiah for its final fulfillment.

World War I was a once-in-a-millennium upset in the architecture of global power. In four years, it shifted the center of that power from Europe to the United States. But failure now by the U.S. will shift that center once again, from the United States to China, out of the western world where it has resided for the past 500 years. The psychic shock to the billion-odd people living in western civilization, with its liberal democracies, capitalist economies, and Enlightenment ideals, will be incalculable, irretrievable.

This shift may be inevitable and only a matter of time. It is quite possible that the damage inflicted on the western world's economy by rapacious Republicans is already beyond repair. But it will be tragedy beyond measure if such a shift is consummated by the very wrecking crew that took us down the road to ruin, all the while so unctuously proclaiming "patriotism" as its crowning ideal. They are not patriots and their goal is not the revival of American power. It is the revival of their own power, even at the expense of America's. They represent a very dangerous threat to the nation's future.

Robert Freeman writes on history, economics and education. He can be reached at



All material is the copyright of the respective authors. The purveyor of this blog has made and attempt, whenever possible, to credit the appropriate copyright holder.

  © Blogger template Newspaper by 2008

Back to TOP