Saturday photoblogging: Monterey
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“Even the obsequiousness of the United States Congress from time to time during States of the Union or other type speeches doesn’t come anywhere near this” Wilkerson marveled. “This was a refutation, really, of the standing policy position of the sitting president of the United States by the separate and equal branch of government, the Congress, with a foreign leader being the center pole around which they coalesced this opposition. It’s really quite remarkable.”
When asked what he thought might explain the reaction, Wilkerson replied, “It’s a mystery to me, except money. That’s the only answer I can come up with. … Congressmen and women … understand what a powerful entity in America is the lobby group AIPAC for Israel, and that generates a lot of coin, a lot of money.”
However, he did backpedal a bit from these statements, adding, “But I think probably a bigger reason, and one we overlook a lot, is the psychological angst that Americans have in general about their failure to respond positively, if you will, in the Thirties, when Jews were being harassed by the looming Nazi regime. … There’s some psychological guilt, I think, left over from that, and that guilt sort of excuses Israel when it does things that are not in its own interests, certainly not in the United States’ interests, and are against our values and the professed values of Israel itself.”
“We never reprimand Israel,” Wilkerson continued, “and that’s a recipe for Israel being the spoiled child that Israel has become under Netanyahu.”
Obama, in Europe, signs Patriot Act extension
Minutes before a midnight deadline, President Barack Obama signed into law a four-year extension of post-Sept. 11 powers to search records and conduct roving wiretaps in pursuit of terrorists.
"It's an important tool for us to continue dealing with an ongoing terrorist threat," Obama said Friday after a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
With Obama in France, the White House said the president used an autopen machine that holds a pen and signs his actual signature. It is only used with proper authorization of the president.
Congress sent the bill to the president with only hours to go on Thursday before the provisions expired at midnight. Votes taken in rapid succession in the Senate and House came after lawmakers rejected attempts to temper the law enforcement powers to ensure that individual liberties are not abused.
But more generally, what Brooks so envies about British political culture -- a small, incestuous, aristocratic, homogenized group of trans-partisan elites harmoniously resolving their differences -- is exactly what already drives American policy and politics. And that is what establishment spokespeople like Brooks always mean when they yearn for "bipartisanship": wise old men getting together in secret and reaching agreements that exclude democratic debate and render irrelevant genuine differences among the citizenry.
The liberal class, despite becoming an object of widespread public scorn, prefers the choreographed charade. It will decry the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or call for universal health care, but continue to defend and support a Democratic Party that has no intention of disrupting the corporate machine. As long as the charade is played, the liberal class can hold itself up as the conscience of the nation without having to act. It can maintain its privileged economic status. It can continue to live in an imaginary world where democratic reform and responsible government exist. It can pretend it has a voice and influence in the corridors of power. But the uselessness and irrelevancy of the liberal class are not lost on the tens of millions of Americans who suffer the indignities of the corporate state. And this is why liberals are rightly despised by the working class and the poor.
The liberal class is incapable of reforming itself. It does not hold within its ranks the rebels and iconoclasts who have the moral or physical courage to defy the corporate state and power elite. And when someone such as Cornel West speaks out, packs of careerist liberals—or perhaps one should call them neoliberals—descend on the apostate like hellhounds, never addressing the truths that are expressed but instead engaging in vicious character assassination. The same thing happened to Ralph Nader, Noam Chomsky, Dennis Kucinich, Jeremiah Wright and others who defied the political orthodoxy of corporate capitalism. The corporate forces, which have taken control of the press and which break unions, run the universities, fund the arts and own the Democratic Party, demand the banishment of all who question the good intentions of the powerful. Liberals who comply are tolerated within the system. They are permitted to busy themselves with the boutique activism of political correctness, inclusiveness or multiculturalism. If they attempt to fight for the primacy of justice, they become pariahs.
To accept that Obama is, as West said, a mascot for Wall Street means having to challenge some frightening monoliths of power and give up the comfortable illusion that the Democratic Party or liberal institutions can be instruments for genuine reform. It means having to step outside the mainstream. It means a new radicalism. It means recognizing that there is no hope for a correction or a reversal within the formal systems of power. It means defying traditional systems of power. And liberals, who have become courtiers to the corporate state, must attempt to silence all those who condemn the ruthlessness and mendacity of these systems of destruction.
Between 1996-7 and 2007-8, the earnings of someone in the middle of the income distribution rose (1997 prices) from £16,000 to £17,100 - barely £100, or less than 0.7% a year. Even the increase for those quite near the top of the income scale, better off than 90% of their fellow citizens, was unspectacular. Their inflation-discounted pay crept up from £36,700 to £41,500, or less than £450 (1.2%) a year. The top 0.1% scooped the jackpot. They got a £19,000 pay rise every year, taking their incomes to £538,600, a gain of 67% over 11 years. The commission gives no figures for the top 0.01%, but we can be confident they did even better and dramatically so.
That is the most important point about what has happened to incomes in Britain and America during the neoliberal era: the very rich are soaring ahead, leaving behind not only manual workers - now a diminishing minority - but also the middle-class masses, including doctors, teachers, academics, solicitors, architects, Whitehall civil servants and, indeed, many CEOs who don't run FTSE 100 companies, to say nothing of the marketing, purchasing, personnel, sales and production executives below them. That is why, over the past decade, some of the most anguished cries about high incomes and inequality have appeared in the Telegraph and Mail.
The commission describes levels of top pay as an instance of "market failure" because most arguments used to defend it just don't stack up. For example, despite claims that pay levels are dictated by global competition, the majority of FTSE 100 CEOs are British, promoted from within their companies. Only one CEO has been poached in the past five years - by a British rival. But top pay also suggests political failure, particularly on the left. To put it crudely, why can't leftwing parties harness middle-class anger against the super-rich? Surveys show a substantial majority of the electorate agree that differences in income are too large and that ordinary people don't get a fair share. Only one in eight disagree. Why is this so difficult to translate into a political programme that could command mass support?
One reason why the working classes so often disappointed the left was that, having little daily contact with the rich and little knowledge of how they lived, they simply didn't think about inequality much, or regard the wealthy as direct competitors for resources. As the sociologist Garry Runciman observed: "Envy is a difficult emotion to sustain across a broad social distance." Nearly 50 years ago he found manual workers were less likely than non-manual workers to think other people were "noticeably better off". Even now most Britons underestimate the rewards of bankers and executives. Top pay has reached such levels that, rather like interstellar distances, what the figures mean is hard to grasp.
But the gap between the richest 1% or 2% and everybody else in the top 20% or 30% is now so great and growing so rapidly that, one might reasonably think, it should change the terms of political trade. The income distance may be huge but the social distance is not. Those in the top 2% and the next 28% have often been to the same schools and universities. More important, they compete for scarce resources: places in fee-charging schools, houses in the best areas, high-end personal services. The super-rich have provoked raging inflation in the prices of these goods. Many of the not-so-rich were born into the professional classes and high expectations. Now, to their surprise, they find themselves struggling. In income distribution, their interests are closer to those of the mass of the population than to people they once saw as their peers.
They are not, however, imminently likely to join a crusade for equality. This generation of the middle classes has internalised the values of individualist aspiration, as zealously propagated by Tony Blair as by Margaret Thatcher. It does not look to the application of social justice to improve its lot. It expects to rely on its own efforts to get ahead and, crucially, to maintain its position.
As psychologists will tell you, fear of loss is more powerful than the prospect of gain. The struggling middle classes look down more anxiously than they look up, particularly in recession and sluggish recovery. Polls show they dislike high income inequalities but are lukewarm about redistribution. They worry that they are unlikely to benefit and may even lose from it; and worse still, those below them will be pulled up sufficiently to threaten their status. This is exactly the mindset in the US, where individualist values are more deeply embedded. Americans accepted tax cuts for the rich with equanimity. Better to let the rich keep their money, they calculated, than to have it benefit economic and social inferiors.