Whose side are they on?

April 23rd, 2006 – 9:16 pm
Tagged as: Economics

For years, those of us on the left explained to the Bush supporters that having a government which was run by people who would always place the profits of their corporate donors ahead of the interests of ordinary Americans was a recipe for trouble. The recent spike in the price of gasoline is just the latest example of how right we were.

So, why are gasoline prices going up so quickly? The oil companies are trying to make excuses, and those excuses are being reported as fact by the corporate media, but it’s just a pack of lies.

The Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights released a new study today of rising gasoline prices in California that found corporate markups and profiteering are responsible for spring price spikes, not rising crude costs or the national switchover to higher-cost ethanol, as the oil industry claims.

The real problem is that the oil companies have realized that they can manipulate the supply of gasoline by selectively closing refineries for “maintenance.” Piling that manipulation on top of oil prices that are already at record highs because of geopolitical tension (like Bush looking like he’s determined to bomb Iran) and speculative trading means that the oil companies are raking in money hand over fist.

Given the current market fundamentals we expect average prices for both oil and gas this year to be significantly above 2005 record levels,” said Fadel Gheit, an energy analyst at Oppenheimer, an investment bank. “As a result, we expect 2006 earnings to be above 2005 record levels.”

Remember, the oil companies aren’t out there paying record prices for the barrels of oil that they’re turning into gasoline. They pump, transport, and refine most of that oil themselves.

It’s not just the Saudi royal family that gets rich when speculators drive up the price of oil; ExxonMobil, which produces more oil every day than Kuwait, has enjoyed profits of $110 billion since President Bush took office. While it costs ExxonMobil about $20 to extract a barrel of oil in Nigeria, the United Arab Emirates or from federal land in Alaska or Texas, the company is selling that oil to the American people for $70/barrel.

That explains why ExxonMobil and other oil companies are posting the biggest profits in our economy’s history. ExxonMobil boasts in its 2005 annual report that it earned a 46 percent rate of return on its capital investment selling oil and natural gas that it pumped out of the ground.

While companies like ExxonMobil are out there making record amounts of money for their shareholders and executives, the rest of us pay the price.

So there you have it. There’s a substantial segment of the population that spends a very big chunk of their income on gasoline, and in the past 12 months they’ve seen gasoline prices increase by 50% — and that’s at a time when household income has been decreasing for five years running and household debt is already sky high.

Notice what the government is doing to stop this? Nothing. That, folks, is the triumph of corporations over people, and the price of having a government that’s controlled by the interests of capital rather than the interests of voters.

Is that too much to ask?

March 20th, 2006 – 10:32 pm
Tagged as: Politics

I’m long past the days when I thought that the Democrats, as a party, were anything other than the lesser evil. I don’t expect that, even if they were to regain power, there’d be any real change to the neoliberal system that they and their corporate friends have helped build over the past decades. Still, I’ve always assumed that at least some of the disadvantaged and downtrodden in this country (and maybe around the world) would be a little better off with the Democrats in power than they are with the Republicans controlling the American government.

That’s why I find it so frustrating that the Democrats seem to be doing everything they can to never regain their status as the majority power.

As digby recently said:

*sigh* How many more years are we going to hear this tired nonsense from establishment pundits before people wake up and realize that ever since the Democrats took on this appeasement strategy they have been losing. I have written before that I was an enthusiastic New Democrat at one time — embracing all the stuff about modernizing politics and marginalizing the “crazies” and creating a new, technocratic party where our “competence” would so dazzle the population that we could set aside all that unpleasant passion and ideology and just simply run the government “the smart way.” Man, did I like the sound of that.

There was only one little problem, after we were done patting ourselves on the back for being more brilliant than everyone else in the room, the Republicans beat the crap out of us over and over again. And over time that vision has been whittled down to a belief that if we just wait them out, the country will wake up and realize that we aren’t really worse than the other guys so don’t make waves.

The conventional wisdom in DC has now ossified into a reflexive notion that Democrats must do nothing. Ever. They must hold back and say nothing when the Republicans are on top and they must hold back and say nothing when they are on the ropes.

Matt Stoller of MyDD notes:

First, let’s speak politics. It’s clear that the Republicans have a turnout advantage, and especially in a base election like 2004, the middle does not vote. Even in 2004, which was not a base election, only 4.7% of voters switched their choice of candidate. 2006 will be an election where getting out the base is decisive. Now, I know the polls say that Republicans are demoralized. But this is a temporary phenomenon. The Republican operatives are reading the same damned polls and are making plans to fire up their base. And unlike us, they don’t have much trust to regain, because they have largely satisfied their base over the past five years. At the end of the day, Republicans bitch and bitch and bitch about their leadership and then they. turn. out. That’s the GOP model. They will be organized, they will be effective, they will be targeted. We simply cannot afford to assume this will fall into our laps by ignoring the very real demoralization within our own base.

And even Markos is starting to say:

I was ridiculously optimistic the last two cycles, and saw that optimism shattered on election night. Democratic early numbers in both 2002 and 2004 were great. Not this great, but pretty darn good. And we saw how well the GOP closed. I don’t take anything for granted anymore. And in fact, I assume they can make huge gains in the final days of an election. Add in the general sense of malaise that currently seems to inflict the Dem base, and I’ve got a bad feeling about this election.

Not that we won’t make gains, because it’s hard to see how we can’t. But we won’t make the sorts of gains that we should be expecting given how bad things are for the GOP.

What good is an opposition party, even one that has far too much in common with the ruling party, if it can’t win elections and actually do anything to change the course of the country? It’s bad enough that we’re currently stuck with a two-party system in which we get to choose between the right-wing party and the center-right party, but is it too much to ask that the center-right party actually do something? Or is asking it to move to the left and actually represent its base, rather than just the corporations that fund its campaigns, too much?

The cult of Bush

February 12th, 2006 – 4:30 pm
Tagged as: Politics

Glenn Greenwald has an excellent post up today about the way that Bush’s followers have changed the meanings of “conservative” and “liberal” so that they have nothing to do with actual ideology, and everything to do with whether or not someone supports the Dear Leader.

As much as any policy prescriptions, conservatism has always been based, more than anything else, on a fundamental distrust of the power of the federal government and a corresponding belief that that power ought to be as restrained as possible, particularly when it comes to its application by the Government to American citizens. It was that deeply rooted distrust that led to conservatives’ vigorous advocacy of states’ rights over centralized power in the federal government, accompanied by demands that the intrusion of the Federal Government in the lives of American citizens be minimized.

Is there anything more antithetical to that ethos than the rabid, power-hungry appetites of Bush followers? There is not an iota of distrust of the Federal Government among them. Quite the contrary. Whereas distrust of the government was quite recently a hallmark of conservatism, expressing distrust of George Bush and the expansive governmental powers he is pursuing subjects one to accusations of being a leftist, subversive loon.

This is an important point that too many people discussing politics seem to ignore. Bush’s supporters seem to believe that loyalty to America means loyalty to G.W. Bush, not to the people or the Constitution or any of the rest of it. Apparently our President is the source of all that is true and good in America, and anyone who disagrees with him, even if they share his views on the vast majority of subjects, is a traitor to Bush’s vision.

While we can debate whether or not these people have the ability to bring about true fascism in America, it certainly looks like it’s not something they’d object to, as long as it was G.W. Bush who was leading us.

ETA: Glenn follows up by talking about some of the reaction he’s gotten to his post. Much of it apparently just served to prove his points.

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Republic or autocracy?

December 28th, 2005 – 10:24 pm
Tagged as: Politics,Rights

Over on Empire Burlesque, Chris Floyd has written a brutally cynical and probably far too accurate piece about the crisis that now faces what remains of our Republic:

So now, at last, the crisis is upon us. Now the cards are finally on the table, laid out so starkly that even the Big Media sycophants and Beltway bootlickers can no longer ignore them. Now the choice for the American Establishment is clear, and inescapable: do you hold for the Republic, or for autocracy?

It’s dark and rather depressing, but I think it’s a good look at the reality we’re facing in America today. Go and read it.

[via Jeremy Lassen]

The reason for the season

December 25th, 2005 – 10:12 pm
Tagged as: Miscellaneous

Venezuela: President Hugo Chavez praised Jesus Christ as a revolutionary hero during a Christmas Eve visit to a homeless shelter. “For me, Christmas is Christ. The rebel Christ, the revolutionary Christ, the socialist Christ,” he said during a televised speech from the shelter. — AP

The Al-Jazeera Memo

December 4th, 2005 – 3:36 pm
Tagged as: Iraq,Politics

I’ve joined those who are willing to publish the infamous memo about bombing al Jazeera if it becomes available.

Heard the Word of Blog?

Of course, since I’m in the United States, this wouldn’t risk quite the same consequences that it would for a U.K. blogger, but I thought I’d add my name to the list anyway. You can be counted too by going here.

Another quote

November 12th, 2005 – 10:11 am
Tagged as: Rights

“Find out just what people will quietly submit to, and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” — Frederick Douglass

Helping the South Asian earthquake victims

October 10th, 2005 – 8:06 pm
Tagged as: Miscellaneous

The effects of Hurricane Katrina were a tragedy.

This is worse.

Please donate:

Taking on Bush’s propaganda

October 9th, 2005 – 9:26 pm
Tagged as: Iraq,Terrorism

Professor Cole has a few issues with President Bush’s speech this past Thursday about the war on terror:

Mr. Bush, I don’t recognize the world you paint. I find your speech a form of sheer propaganda, having almost no relationship to reality. And I am very, very worried that you will allow to happen to the Oil Gulf what you allowed to happen to New Orleans. After watching you for five years I have become convinced that you don’t have the slightest idea what you are doing in Iraq, that you are just reacting and playing it by ear. You can’t do that, George. This Iraq thing is extremely complex. It needs serious, concerted thought by high-powered people, not just your cronies and yes-men and ideologues of various stripes (from Right to far-Right). You might just need the help of Iran and Syria to get Iraq right. Did you ever think of that? Iraq is the biggest policy failure in US history so far. You need to get a handle on it, the way you do on tax cuts for the billionaires (you’ve been very effective in making your rich friends richer). Otherwise all that extra treasure you’ve thrown to your tuxedoed “base” is going to go right down the tubes, drowned in a world of $20 a gallon gasoline.

You can’t “stay the course” because you don’t have a course. Get one.

Cole goes through the text of Bush’s remarks and debunks most of his ill-informed arguments about how we should be dealing with both al-Qaeda and Iraq. This one’s definitely worth a read.

Learning from history

September 23rd, 2005 – 7:54 pm
Tagged as: Economics,Politics

Julia of Sisyphus Shrugged says:

I would be duly appreciative if the usual suspects would stop making cautiously approving noises about the New Republican Openness to Helping the Poor. I’m pretty damn tired of repeating history because you idiots aren’t capable of learning from it.

You’re public intellectuals, right? I have to assume you’re trainable. Take a damn course.

Amen to that.