Monday Reads: Red Sky Morning

Good Morning!

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 “CommunistsUSSR propaganda art 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 socialism-vs-capitalism-propaganda-poster-1pretty 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?

Here is just one example, among many, of his company’s concern for the public thus far:

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.

images (10)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?

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Did any of you manage to watch Bill O’Reilly right wing meme himself through an interview with the President yesterday?

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.

I guess it was only a matter of time before the John Birch side of the party brought us back to their original paranoia. sovietpropaganda11

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 biographyThe 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?


46 Comments on “Monday Reads: Red Sky Morning”

  1. ANonOMouse says:

    Excellent post, Dak.

    ‘Who knew a Coke commercial could cause such an uproar?’

    I knew, my partner knew, you knew, all the skydancers knew, and the MSNBC staffer who was fired last week when he dared to make the same observation of the narrow minded right-wingers reaction to a Cheerios commercial, KNEW!!!!.

    And the tweeters bemoaning the abuse of the “National Anthem” brings me all the way back to the blogging days when they spelled MORON, “MORAN”.

  2. RalphB says:

    Great post Dak! To the RWNJs, I suppose I’d be a Marxist now for believing in a vital social welfare safety net. If so, I’ll wear the label with pride.

  3. ANonOMouse says:

    John Elway to Fox News: I’m Republican because ‘I don’t believe in safety nets’

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/02/02/john-elway-to-fox-news-im-republican-because-i-dont-believe-in-safety-nets/

    So says da man!!!

  4. bostonboomer says:

    Excellent post! I need to go read more at some of those links.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    For Dakinikat:

    I thought of a Philip Seymour Hoffman movie you might like: “Flawless” from 1999. I loved it. Robert di Niro plays anti-gay man and Hoffman is is drag queen upstairs neighbor. Hoffman is a singer and when di Niro’s character has a stroke, he has to turn to Hoffman to help him learn how to talk again. There’s more to it, of course.

  6. RalphB says:

    Good piece by BJ’s insurance guru on ACA Individual and SHOP small business exchanges compared to current employer based plans.

    Balloon-Juice: Competition, it does a market good

  7. RalphB says:

    Now this is a man with class.

    Raw Story: Seattle Seahawk’s Richard Sherman tells fans to stop ripping Peyton Manning on Twitter

    EAST RUTHERFORD — Hours after Richard Sherman’s Seahawks beat the Broncos to win the Super Bowl, the outspoken cornerback was asking Seattle fans to stop tearing into Peyton Manning.

    “There is no reason to bash him on here please Seattle let’s just enjoy this one!!!! He is still a Future HOF player,” Sherman tweeted.

    Moments before, Sherman had nothing but kind words for Manning.

    “Peyton is the Classiest person/player I have ever met! I could learn so much from him! Thank you for being a great Competitor and person,” he said in another tweet. …

  8. RalphB says:

    These guys have no bottom…

  9. dakinikat says:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/03/business/the-middle-class-is-steadily-eroding-just-ask-the-business-world.html?hp&_r=0

    Businesses appealing to middle class consumers are being replaced by high end luxury good providers because:

    In 2012, the top 5 percent of earners were responsible for 38 percent of domestic consumption, up from 28 percent in 1995, the researchers found.

    Even more striking, the current recovery has been driven almost entirely by the upper crust, according to Mr. Fazzari and Mr. Cynamon. Since 2009, the year the recession ended, inflation-adjusted spending by this top echelon has risen 17 percent, compared with just 1 percent among the bottom 95 percent.

    More broadly, about 90 percent of the overall increase in inflation-adjusted consumption between 2009 and 2012 was generated by the top 20 percent of households in terms of income, according to the study, which was sponsored by the Institute for New Economic Thinking, a research group in New York.

    The effects of this phenomenon are now rippling through one sector after another in the American economy, from retailers and restaurants to hotels, casinos and even appliance makers.

    • dakinikat says:

      At street level, the divide is even more stark.

      Sears and J. C. Penney, retailers whose wares are aimed squarely at middle-class Americans, are both in dire straits. Last month, Sears said it would shutter its flagship store on State Street in downtown Chicago, and J. C. Penney announced the closings of 33 stores and 2,000 layoffs.

      Loehmann’s, where generations of middle-class shoppers hunted for marked-down designer labels in the famed Back Room, is now being liquidated after three trips to bankruptcy court since 1999.

      The Loehmann’s store in Chelsea, like all 39 Loehmann’s outlets nationwide, will go dark as soon as the last items sell. Barneys New York, which started in the same location in 1923 before moving to a more luxurious spot on Madison Avenue two decades ago, plans to reopen a store on the site in 2017.

      Investors have taken notice of the shrinking middle. Shares of Sears and J. C. Penney have fallen more than 50 percent since the end of 2009, even as upper-end stores like Nordstrom and bargain-basement chains like Dollar Tree and Family Dollar Stores have more than doubled in value over the same period.

      Competition from online giants like Amazon has only added to the problems faced by old-line retailers, of course. But changes in the restaurant business show that the effects of rising inequality are widespread.

    • janicen says:

      Hence the Maserati Ghibli ads during the Super Bowl? I was just grateful not to see any Go Daddy ads or if there were, I didn’t see them.

  10. dakinikat says:

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/borowitzreport/2014/02/cokes-wild-assertion-that-other-languages-exist-stirs-controversy.html

    ATLANTA (The Borowitz Report)—The Coca-Cola Company ignited a firestorm of controversy on Sunday with a Super Bowl ad that appeared to make the inflammatory claim that other languages besides English exist.

    From coast to coast, viewers reacted with outrage and horror to what many were calling the most incendiary Super Bowl ad in history.

    “I was enjoying the Super Bowl with my family, and suddenly, out of nowhere, comes this ad suggesting that there are other languages that aren’t English,” said Carol Foyler, a mother of three from Akron, Ohio. “I grabbed the remote and turned it off. My kids shouldn’t be exposed to garbage that’s just going to confuse them.”

    Snarky goodness

  11. RalphB says:

    Number Four in Scott Raab’s series on Big Chicken is a good one. The Christie ally who prepped an official before his testimony on the George Washington bridge scandal is now fair game for investigation

    Esquire Politics: The Company Chris Christie Kept

    In the unlikely event that you labored under the illusion that New Jersey’s soon-to-be former Governor Chris Christie was capable of enjoying the Super Bowl he worked so hard to procure, prepare for disappointment: New Jersey Transit was worse than Peyton Manning. According to some reports, more than 10,000 fans were stranded 90 minutes after game’s end, still awaiting a train. In a state notorious for being notorious, there’s your happy ending, dangling.

    But that was the good news for Drumthwacket’s Il Duce.

    From the moment Chris Christie spent his 2-hour press conference feeling sad and betrayed by the same people he empowered and relied on, one overarching truth was made plain: For Christie to survive his second term as Governor, many people — all with careers, families, and dreams of their own — would have to fall on their own swords. Such people may, in theory, exist. None of ‘em worked for Chris Christie.

  12. RalphB says:

    Stolen from John Cole at Balloon-Juice…

    During the first local commercial break of last night’s Super Bowl broadcast, residents of Savannah, Ga., were treated to something truly incredible. Personal injury lawyer Jamie Cxxxxo bought the entire two-minute block of local advertising and aired the masterpiece you see here.

  13. Fannie says:

    Tea bagger owes $7 million dollars………ha ha.

    http://abclocal.go.com/ktrk/story?section=news/local&id=9417210

  14. NW Luna says:

    Really nice post, Dak. The wingnutters say “socialist” like it’s a bad thing, lol! I wish we truly did have a socialist President.

  15. RalphB says:

    another reason to be happy for Settle…

    Partying Seahawks fans wait for green light before spilling into the street to celebrate

    http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nfl-shutdown-corner/partying-seahawks-fans-wait-for-green-light-before-spilling-into-the-street-to-celebrate-212358797.html