Monday Reads: Red Sky MorningPosted: February 3, 2014
I’ve been having a pretty good laugh at the debacle that is about to be the Sochi Olympics and the sudden resurgence of the “Communists under the bed” meme. If ever there was an example of capitalism gone very wrong it’s today Russia. But, let’s take a little bit of a look at how the really scary thing is imaginary Marxism.
I’ve written some about how prescient Marx actually has been about much of our modern conundrums. If you take the time to read Marx, it’s a little difficult to figure out where folks like Mao or Stalin got their version of Marx. They are more typical of their country’s culture than they are Marxist philosophy. But then, enough of that, let’s bask in a little cold war nostalgia. Here’s a Rolling Stone Magazine article on how Marx was Right before we dive in to right wing hysteria.
The inherently chaotic, crisis-prone nature of capitalism was a key part of Marx’s writings. He argued that the relentless drive for profits would lead companies to mechanize their workplaces, producing more and more goods while squeezing workers’ wages until they could no longer purchase the products they created. Sure enough, modern historical events from the Great Depression to the dot-com bubble can be traced back to what Marx termed “fictitious capital” – financial instruments like stocks and credit-default swaps. We produce and produce until there is simply no one left to purchase our goods, no new markets, no new debts. The cycle is still playing out before our eyes: Broadly speaking, it’s what made the housing market crash in 2008. Decades of deepening inequality reduced incomes, which led more and more Americans to take on debt. When there were no subprime borrows left to scheme, the whole façade fell apart, just as Marx knew it would.
We have many anti intellectual red-baiters these days. There’s “Rush Limbaugh accusing Pope Francis of promoting “pure Marxism” to a Washington Times writer claiming that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is an “unrepentant Marxist”.” The problem is that very few people really understand the Marxist critiques and study of capitalism let alone those of Lenin and the early Bolsheviks. I was also surprised to see this headline as obit in The Economist :Bolshie with a banjo. For some, the paranoia never ends when the rich feel threatened.
It was wrong to blacklist singers in the 1950s, but that did not excuse Mr Seeger’s lifelong embrace of communism and blindness to its horrors, they said. “My gosh, it sure is a book-reading country,” Mr Seeger gushed to a Russian interviewer during a visit to the Soviet Union in 1965. It took decades for him to acknowledge that Stalin was “a supremely cruel misleader”. In 2007 he wrote a letter responding to an article titled “Time for Pete Seeger to Repent” in the New York Sun, and admitted, “I think you’re right—I should have asked to see the gulags.” He remained a communist, though “with a small ‘c’.” He never did quite “Turn, Turn, Turn”.
Oh, for Pete’s sake! (Pun intended) If these ninnies haven’t figured out that some of the things that uber capitalistic countries have done are pretty horrific by now, I doubt some ever will. Look! Over there!!! Stalin!!! Gulags! Guantanamo! Oh, wait! That’s ours. Moving right along . Here’s one you might have missed from those folks that want to sell the third world some baby formula over breast milk. Yes, let’s just cut to the chase about what should and should not be a public resource or good.
The current Chairman and former CEO of Nestlé, the largest producer of food products in the world, believes that the answer to global water issues is privatization. This statement is on record from the wonderful company that has peddled junk food in the Amazon, has invested money to thwart the labeling of GMO-filled products, has a disturbing health and ethics record for its infant formula, and has deployed a cyber army to monitor Internet criticism and shape discussions in social media.
This is apparently the company we should trust to manage our water, despite the record of large bottling companies like Nestlé having a track record of creating shortages:
Large multinational beverage companies are usually given water-well privileges (and even tax breaks) over citizens because they create jobs, which is apparently more important to the local governments than water rights to other taxpaying citizens. These companies such as Coca Cola and Nestlé (which bottles suburban Michigan well-water and calls it Poland Spring) suck up millions of gallons of water, leaving the public to suffer with any shortages. (source)
But Chairman, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, believes that “access to water is not a public right.” Nor is it a human right. So if privatization is the answer, is this the company in which the public should place its trust?
In the small Pakistani community of Bhati Dilwan, a former village councilor says children are being sickened by filthy water. Who’s to blame? He says it’s bottled water-maker Nestlé, which dug a deep well that is depriving locals of potable water. “The water is not only very dirty, but the water level sank from 100 to 300 to 400 feet,” Dilwan says. (source)
Why? Because if the community had fresh water piped in, it would deprive Nestlé of its lucrative market in water bottled under the Pure Life brand.
Of course, there will be a big demand here eventually given increasing drought conditions and the poisoning of drinking water by fracking and oil spills and leaks. Of course, Russia is much better under capitalism cum gangster rule. How did this country get the Olympics any way? Capitalist Russia is no picnic and the Olympics are a story of crony capitalism.
And yet, rather than heralding a shining new post-Soviet resurgence, the Olympics will come closer to a familiar pattern in Russian history: the latest in a series of over-the-top, outrageously expensive projects undertaken at heavy cost to the populace in a questionable attempt to leapfrog Western countries.
Make no mistake about it, these Russian Games are Putin’s personal project to shore up power. They will be the most expensive Olympics ever, at more than $50 billion, almost four times the amount proposed in 2007.
The questionable decision to stage the winter events in a subtropical city created some of the unnecessarily expensive obstacles, but perhaps not as many as another typically Russian development: a staggering amount of corruption.
Several of the companies chosen to remake Sochi for the Olympics are owned or co-owned by Arkady Rotenberg, a childhood friend of Putin. News reports and Russian watchdogs say Rotenberg’s Sochi contracts alone are worth more than $7 billion, which rivals the entire cost for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games. The owner of another firm charged with building the ski jump was also a vice president of the Russian Olympic Committee. The company’s work was so shoddy, it had to be redone several times as its cost ballooned. Finally, Putin himself fired the committee official.
While Russia is trying to move beyond the cult of Stalin by enduring the cult of Putin, we’ve got an entire new breed of right winger just eager to pin the Marxist label on every lapel. The Tea Party seems as paranoid as the John Birch Society of the 1950s. Just last week, we saw a tweet by GOP Texas Republic labeling President Obama Kommandant in Chief.
First-term Texas Republican Randy Weber took to Twitter Tuesday night to call Barack Obama “a socialistic dictator” just before the President arrived in the Capitol for the State of the Union.
Weber, who was elected in 2012 to the seat vacated by Ron Paul on Texas’s Gulf Coast, tweeted On floor of house waitin on “Kommandant-In-Chef” [sic]… the Socialistic dictator who’s been feeding US a line or is it “A-Lying?”
Similar weirdness surrounds the new mayor of NYC. Comrade Mayor?
“Comrade” is the right title for the new mayor. De Blasio is an unrepentant Marxist, though he does not like to use that term. De Blasio is the guy who was cheering for the Sandinistas in Nicaragua in the 1980s while real Americans were trying to free that nation from Marxist tyranny. De Blasio is the comrade who showed his solidarity with communism in 1991 by taking his honeymoon to Cuba.
Yes, while much of the world was being liberated from communist oppression, De Blasio did his part to support communism by going on a honeymoon in communist Cuba. Any bets on whether he tried to visit political prisoners in Castro’s jails?
De Blasio is starting off his reign as dictator of New York by dictating.
He is dictating a group of people out of their jobs. These are the iconic horse drawn carriages in New York. De Blasio doesn’t like them and has claimed that somehow it is “inhumane.” A few days ago at a press conference he said, “We are going to get rid of the horse carriages. Period.”
That is it. Comrade De Blasio has spoken. New York doesn’t need a legislative body like the city counsel. They have a dictator now. Of course, Michael Bloomberg, the outgoing Mayor had his own delusions of dictatorial grandeur too.
So, this is my my hypothesis. We’ve suddenly seen an increase in discussions about income inequality and how billionaires and huge corporations have gotten huge subsidies, tax breaks, and political power. Is what we’re seeing basically a red scare made so that we’ll back off their over the top rent seeking and greed?
O’Reilly began by asking about the ACA website. Obama said, “Now we got the website up and running.” O’Reilly disagreed because of a poll that says that Americans don’t think it is working. O’Reilly wanted Kathleen Sebielus fired. The Fox News host tried to get Obama to admit that his biggest mistake was saying that if you like your insurance you can keep it. The president wouldn’t bite.
Bill-O then turned to Benghazi. (This interview is nothing more than a 2014 Republican campaign ad.) Obama said, “Understand that by definition, anybody who is attacking our compound is an act of terror.” O’Reilly then tried to play the Susan Rice card, and he claimed that he was just a confused American. Obama accused Republicans of creating a political agenda over protecting Americans. O’Reilly got hammered when he asked if it was a terror attack. O’Reilly used the patented Fox News folks believe line, and the president replied, Folks believe it, because you are telling them that.
O’Reilly tried to grill Obama on the bogus IRS scandal, and royally flopped. On the IRS, O’Reilly used the Fox News line, “some people are saying.” Obama said things like the IRS keep resurfacing because Fox News keeps promoting them. Obama said there were boneheaded decisions, but not a smidgen of corruption at the IRS.
Bill O’Reilly broke out the fundamental transformation of America line via a viewer letter, and Obama said, “I don’t think it is necessary to fundamentally transform America.”
Fox News tried to use the Super Bowl interview as a partisan vehicle to attack the president. This was a totally different interview from the last time these two men sat down at the Super Bowl.
The president seemed to catch on very quickly to what their intentions were a blasted Fox News twice for dredging up dumb conspiracy theories that have no basis in truth.
You’ll notice I’ve peppered today’s post with Soviet Era Propaganda Art. Our propaganda art form is Fox News and similar media outlets and it sees its fruition in Tea Party politicians. The misunderstanding of Marx’s writings is about as real as the memes around Benghazi and the Affordable Health Care Act. Eventually, however, conspiracy theories will out but never truly die. Here’s speculation that the granddaddy of all John Birchy, red baiting, modern propaganda rags may be sunk by a defamation law suit.
There’s a debate going on over whether The National Review can survive a defamation lawsuit brought by climate scientist Michael Mann, which was greenlighted last week by a D.C. Superior Court judge after multiple attempts to have the case thrown out.
Mann sued writers at National Review and the conservative think tank Competitive Enterprise Institute in 2012 for calling his global warming research fraudulent and comparing him to “the Jerry Sandusky of climate science,” adding that “instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data.”
How much longer can propaganda outfits survive? Can they outlast, say, the USSR? One of my favorite recent reads is Frank Rich on the daddy of all current propaganda outlets Fox News. Rich started with the annual Fox News coverage of the so-called War on Christmas but moved on to point out the dying demographics behind their fans. The Channel can’t survive the America to Come. The younger generation that doesn’t hate or fear gays and lesbians, is more likely to be multiracial or nonwhite, and much more attuned to climate change.
Fox News is a right-wing propaganda machine and at times (if not this one) a racist enterprise (witness, among other examples, its fruitless effort to drum up a “New Black Panther Party” scandal over some 95 segments in the summer of 2010). But O’Reilly was half-right. Kelly’s inane remark was harmless and unworthy of headlines. Without the left’s overreaction, there wouldn’t have been any pseudo “national firestorm.”
Still, O’Reilly’s summation was predicated on an erroneous underlying assumption that few bother to question: In truth, Fox News has been defeated on the media battlefield—and on the political battlefield as well. Even the 73-year-old wizard of Fox, Roger Ailes, now in full Lear-raging-on-the-heath mode as portrayed in my colleague Gabriel Sherman’s definitive new biography, The Loudest Voice in the Room, seems to sense the waning of his power. The only people who seem not to know or accept Fox’s decline, besides its own audience, are liberals, including Barack Obama, whose White House mounted a short-lived, pointless freeze-out of Fox News in 2009, and who convinced himself that the network has shaved five points off his approval rating.
Ailes would like the president and everyone else to keep believing he has that clout. But these days Fox News is the loudest voice in the room only in the sense that a bawling baby is the loudest voice in the room. In being so easily bullied by Fox’s childish provocations, the left gives the network the attention on which it thrives and hands it power that it otherwise has lost. As the post-Obama era approaches, the energy spent combating Ailes might be better devoted to real political battles against more powerful adversaries—not to mention questioning the ideological slant of legitimate news operations like, say, 60 Minutes, which has recently given airtime to a fraudulent account of the murders at Benghazi and to acredulous puff piece on the NSA’s domestic surveillance.
The most interesting news about Fox News is that for some years now it has been damaging the right far more than the left. As a pair of political analysts wrote at Reuters last year, “When the mainstream media reigned supreme, between 1952 and 1988, Republicans won seven out of the ten presidential elections,” but since 1992, when “conservative media began to flourish” (first with Rush Limbaugh’s ascendancy, then with Fox), Democrats have won the popular vote five out of six times. You’d think they’d be well advised to leave Fox News to its own devices so that it can continue to shoot its own party in the foot.
Bill O was exceedingly rude to the President above all other stupid questions. He interrupted the President 48 times. But, I can tell you exactly what the outrage of the day will be all day today at Fox. It will be a simple Coca Cola commercial where Americans sing “America the Beautiful” in languages other than English. This got added to the outrage of the multiracial couple in the Cheerios ad.
Who knew a Coke commercial could cause such an uproar?
Coca-Cola aired a Super Bowl commercial titled “It’s Beautiful,” with a simple premise: scenes from American life (families, pool parties, road trips, what have you) with “America the Beautiful” playing in the background. The twist? The patriotic tune was sung in different languages.
The Right is continually frightened by people, ideas, and things they refuse to actually learn about. You want a good laugh? Check out the number of tweeters that actually thought “America the Beautiful” was the National Anthem.
It’s no wonder they still don’t understand Marx and they still don’t get nearly anything else. If they only spent as much time reading books as they did on the bread and circuses stuff we might actually have a functioning democracy today.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?