Sunday, July 05, 2009

Sunday Summer Musings

As regular readers of this blog have noted to me via email, I have posted infrequently in recent weeks. Although I’ve conducted podcast interviews with interesting subjects and have more scheduled over the summer, personal matters have required my attention. Hence, I haven’t been able to comment on recent events. Some of you have emailed asking if I’m doing OK. Rest assured, I am fine and this has only been a temporary respite from blogging. Like many of you, I have been following current events both nationally and internationally as well as locally in my home state. A few observations and thoughts below:
  • Curiously, the lack of coherent conservative political opposition is undermining the progressive cause and reinforcing the Washington/Wall Street axis. President Obama and much of the Democratic Party appears content to remain risk averse, hoard political capital as “Blue Dog” Democrats such as Evan Bayh and Max Caucus continue to be whores for the private insurance industry and the moneyed interests. With the Republican Party in disarray, the Obama administration has no incentive to go beyond the political fifty-yard line and transform America from a corporate national security state to a society that facilitates broad based prosperity for real entrepreneurs and wage earners. Meanwhile, the corporate press falsely portrays the national debate as between the “liberal” Obama administration and “mainstream” critics. Sadly, and it pains me to write this, enablers of America’s modern gilded age have merely hit the “reset button” with the Obama administration. I like Al Franken and I’m happy he will finally take his rightful place as Minnesota’s junior senator. But that magical sixtieth vote will not transform the landscape all that much. As Illinois Senator Dick Durbin candidly put it earlier this year, the banks “frankly own the place.”
  • In my opinion, Bernie Madoff is a scapegoat for the crimes on Wall Street. Madoff will spend the rest of his days in prison and deservedly so. I have no sympathy for him. However, the looters at Goldman Sachs, Citicorp and A.I.G. are just as guilty if not more so than Madoff. Yet they’re benefiting from billions of dollars subsidized by taxpayers as state and municipal governments barely hang on. It seems to me that Madoff as the public face of Wall Street’s crimes is enabling plutocrats in Washington and the financial services industry to avoid accountability and needed restructuring of our economy. Two decades ago, Michael Milken became the public face of Wall Street’s excess and nothing changed. If Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and the administration’s senior economic advisor, Timothy Geithner have their way, the Wall Street/Washington axis will continue to conduct business as usual. Their so-called “reforms” are cosmetic only and will not facilitate the systemic change our economy so desperately needs.
  • Enablers of the Washington/Wall Street axis are the cozy relationship between “journalists” and the lobbyists of corporate America. The recent news about the Washington Post selling access to corporate lobbyists simply reinforces what the American people have sensed in their guts for a long time: the “truth” is purchased, packaged and sold. Americans across the political spectrum know this intuitively and that as much as anything explains the decline of traditional media in the Internet age. To some degree this is regrettable because nobody exposed local corruption better than those old time city newspapers with reporters mining sources among the worker bees at city hall. Also, the Internet and blogs are hardly a panacea of journalism. Regardless, the Washington/Wall Street access can only be broken from outside and that means we the people have to become our own journalists.
  • It seems that the real conflict in Iran is between their security forces and factions among the clerics. The valiant protesters are really pawns for the real power struggle-taking place. Even so, hopefully the people who bravely stood up and risked their lives represent a window into the future. Presently though, Iran appears poised to become more of a traditional military dictatorship and less of a theocracy. How events in Iran will transform the Middle East is hard to say but there does appear to be a thaw in American/Syrian relations. The State Department has hoped to exploit potential rifts between Iran and Syria for years even as the Bush administration behaved like a bull in a China shop and the fallout from Iran's presidential election has given the West at least a modest diplomatic opening.
  • I’m gratified American troops are finally withdrawing from Iraq and that Vice President Biden has advised the Iraqis we won’t be expending more blood and treasure to police sectarian violence. Sadly, those resources will likely be redeployed in the Afghanistan/Pakistan theater. Unless vigorous diplomacy with NATO powers or the upcoming summit in Russia can facilitate greater logistical support, an overextended American military is more vulnerable than ever to the burdens of empire maintenance in the name of national defense.
  • I can’t begin to articulate my disgust over events in Albany with the state senate. Much of my activism last year was dedicated to enabling Democrats to finally take the majority. Painfully, their political incompetence as well as Governor David Paterson’s feckless leadership has effectively ended those reformist aspirations from 2006 when Eliot Spitzer was elected New York’s chief executive. With respect to who controls the state senate there is the 2010 census at stake and that means repercussions for the House of Representatives as well the power dynamic in Albany. For the people of this state it’s not just about reform or which party controls Albany. It’s being able to earn a living wage, afford healthcare, have access to affordable housing and good public schools. Unfortunately, New York's political leadership has shown that the Big Apple is a Banana Republic. Hopefully, the chaos between Democrats and Republicans will strengthen the leverage of New York’s Workers Family Party as they represent the interests of New York’s struggling wage earners. Now more than ever Democrats need the support of the WFP and they have much work to do to earn it. As for Eliot Spitzer, tempermentally flawed as he is, I would gladly take him back and would even be willing to pay an "escort tax" to make it happen!

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