Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

March 13, 2009

Cramer Becomes Inarticulate

Filed under: capitalism, economy, media — Tags: , , , — codesmithy @ 9:05 am

Crooks and Liars has Jim Cramer’s appearance on the Daily Show.  There was definitely a moment of who-are-going-to-believe as Cramer tries to ignore the fact that Stewart has just played a tape where Cramer admitted that he manipulated the market and following it up with example on how to start a rumor and short Apple’s stock.   

Cramer was all over the map, advocating criminal indictments, kangaroo courts, and positing his street-cred as an Obama voter.  To me, he never seemed to answer the fundamental question: what does he see as CNBC’s role as an institution?  Cramer, lamely, kept admitting that CNBC needed to do better without ever striking at the heart of the issue.  

The focal point of Stewart’s criticism was how CNBC pushes itself as a reliable get-rich-quick network.  When Santelli complains about bailing out loser’s mortgages, he fails to mention that no home owner is leveraged 30 to 1, unlike many investment banks that we are now pumping money into.  The unbelievable sense of entitlement that the executives of bailed out firms demonstrate when simultaneously asking the government for money while threatening dire consequences if their demands aren’t met shows the accountability free and disconnected nature of the Wall Street aristocracy.  Stewart likens it to Sherman’s march to the sea; it is more like Nero fiddling as Rome burns.

The problem is that CNBC could have been the early warning system to let the public know something was going wrong.  Instead, CNBC cheered on Wall Street, and why not?  Everyone was making money at least on paper.  In reality, executives walked away with the real cash for illusory short-term gains and people who entrusted their savings in the market are left holding the long-term losses.

Michael Parenti has an article called “Capitalism’s Self-inflicted Apocalypse.”  While, it might be a tad over-the-top.  The real economy is based on work, not gambling.  Until we get back to that foundation, and limit the tax that these middle-men can place on the productive economy by their arbitrary and obviously undeserved control of capital, disasters like the ones we are experiencing aren’t unexpected, they are inevitable.

May 9, 2008

John McCain Repeats “The Big Lie”

Filed under: media, politics — Tags: , , — codesmithy @ 9:56 am

McCain was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. The first thing to know about McCain is that he is an affable guy. For many people, it will be hard to reconcile the likable person and the brutal policies that he advocates. However, any sense of justice or empathy must consider the point of view of the victims, not the perpetrators.

From the interview with McCain, it is clear he is a candidate of endless war. First, he misrepresents the criticism of the 100 years comment. For him, the argument was on narrow grounds. The 100 years was qualified with reductions of violence. If the violence towards our troops is more severe, than lets say Japan, Europe or South Korea, then McCain assures us that he will stay to finish the job, as long as it takes, for an amount of time he leaves unspecified. However, he certainly believes it will be less than 100, but he opposes any timetable.

Therefore, McCain sees no relationship with military bases and foreign policy in the Middle East. He makes that clear by repeating “the big lie,” that the people we are fighting are some monolithic whole opposed to the concepts of a liberal democracy for inscrutable reasons. In McCain’s world, there is no relationship between the military bases built in the Middle East, America’s unconditional support for Israel’s expansionist policies, America’s heavy-handed and largely indiscriminate style of warfare, America’s use of torture, secret prisons and abject failure to respect even basic human rights, America’s continued backing of brutal regimes and historical interference in the few democratically elected government and movements in the region, America’s state of being a military occupier in Iraq, combined with the vast cultural and religious chasm that exists between our troops and the citizens in Iraq and the violence we face there. McCain knows Hamas doesn’t want him as president, because he is for more bombing, more bases, unconditional support for Israel, more “enhanced interrogation.” In McCain’s world, it is as simple as asserting “stop the bullshit.”

One of the things I would do if I were President would be to sit the Shiites and the Sunnis down and say, “Stop the bullshit.”

If they don’t, then we bomb them until they do.  Obama, on the other-hand, is who Hamas would vote for.

I have to ask: really, over Nader?  Over Róger Calero, who is from my understanding the Socialist Workers Party candidate?  Obama.  How much does Hamas know about our election?  Maybe Hamas is screwing with McCain’s head.  Maybe they want an American president who is just like George W. Bush to solidify their base and aid recruitment.  Of course, the whole line of reasoning is absurd.  Who cares what would or would not make Hamas happy?  Our interests are independent of theirs, and our policy should not be as petty as to pick the candidate that promises to beat them up the most.  It is frankly insulting for McCain to bring it up.  More importantly, how in the hell does he know in the first place?  Which is the exactly the point.  McCain comes out against negative campaigning.  Yet, he refuses to repudiate and in fact, tries to justify one of the most fact-free and stupidest smears against the leading contender.

Is there anything this man does that is capable of being independently evaluated by the mainstream media?  Or will mainstream journalists just dutifully salute what ever he sends up the flagpole?

Make no mistake, McCain would be a dangerous president and would guarantee at least four more years of war with a very real possibility of an expansion into Iran or Syria.  His supposed strong suit, foreign policy, is something he consistently demonstrates functional ignorance in.  Why hasn’t he been completely discredited yet?

March 4, 2008

Michael Tomasky’s Critique of Liberal Fascism

Filed under: books, culture, politics — Tags: , , , — codesmithy @ 9:28 am

Michael Tomasky has posted a review of Jonah Goldberg’s book “Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning.” I would like to publicly thank Tomasky for his efforts, since I certainly wasn’t going to read the book. Some might find such a stance close-minded, I consider it an issue of basic pragmatism. I don’t like spending my limited free time reading every bit of intellectually dishonest garbage that is put out. Jon Stewart had an interview with Jonah Goldberg on The Daily Show. I posted the this comment at reddit in the wake of watching the interview. A slightly shorter  and modified version is given below.

There are a couple tells in the interview that should tell you the book is horrible. One of which is the author’s reluctance to answer questions on his claims (read the book! Did you read the book? I don’t think you read the book!). One can compare and contrast Goldberg’s performance against Neil Shubin’s on the Colbert Report.

Goldberg is playing fuzzy definition games. It is clear what Goldberg really wants to argue is collectivism is bad, Hitler-bad, literally. Not all forms of collectivism however, just some select instances that modern “liberals” or “progressives” embrace, such as unions, environmentalism, socialized medicine, etc. As Stewart repeatedly points out, one can only accept the premise by ignoring all the differences. One of the most fundamental and glaring being the view of the individual’s role in society. Fascism places the state over individual regard. Modern liberalism/progressivism tries to empower the individual. There are some apparent contradictions because modern liberalism tries to provide a floor on the minimum welfare of any individual in the society. It comes from the sensibility that a person who is desperate is not truly free. The institution that modern liberals frequently call upon to provide this floor is the government.

Goldberg’s analysis goes no deeper than Fascism is for state power and modern liberals want to use state to provide for people’s minimum welfare.

Goldberg will make other arguments like Hitler was vegetarian, so vegetarianism is a fascist ideology.

Believing that there is any significant correspondence between the modern realization of these movements and fascism is at the bleeding edge of wing-nuttery, equivalent to calling modern atheism a religion.

Tomasky provides evidence that I was in fact correct in my predictions.

Here is where Liberal Fascism gets simply ridiculous. For Goldberg, the fact that Progressivism and totalitarianism shared certain traits – a belief in the possibility of collective action through the state, basically – tells him all he needs to know about both creeds. Ipso facto, any totalitarian impulse must therefore have leftish origins. Never mind that there actually was a totalitarianism for which the left was responsible – the one called communism. Goldberg is after more arcane understandings.

What really cements Goldberg in the hall of wing-nuttery is the same slippery slope argument that defines other forms of paranoid delusion of the right wing of the country that Tomasky nails expertly.

Is Social Security a fascist programme? Goldberg implies as much, partly because Roosevelt felt moved to push for the programme owing to pressure from his (admittedly) quasi-fascistic left in the persons of Huey Long and Father Coughlin, and partly because Social Security is, after all, administered by the state. And once you start implementing public pension systems, well, how far away can the execution of political opponents really be?

Probably the most distinctive quality of Goldberg’s argument is not what he considers fascism, but rather what actions can the state pursue that aren’t fascist?  Goldberg’s technique is to have an overly broad definition of fascism and then point out all the aspects of the left that resemble it.  The central flaw is the standard is inconsistently applied and contradicting evidence is not regarded.

At the end of the day, I really have to question how many copies of “Liberal Fascism” and their ilk are actually read and internalized.  As if the mere fact that someone spent three years writing a book with more than 400 pages about how every aspect of the “nanny-state” comes from a fascist ideology makes it true. I could only imagine the majority of readers would be bored out of their mind after the first 200-300 pages, much like Tomasky was.   Complicating matters, these readers would have to have a particular twisted world-view in order for Goldberg’s book to be overly enthralling.  At the end of the day, I imagine the book is more of a status symbol, just something  conservatives use to piss-off those self-righteous, tree-hugging, Prius-driving liberals who think they are oh-so-smart.  In that respect, it is useful regardless of whether it is read or not.  In fact, for that purpose it is probably better that the book is snooze-inducingly boring.

October 4, 2007

“Life’s a Campaign” Reaction to Jon Stewart’s Interview With Chris Matthews

Filed under: culture, media — Tags: , — codesmithy @ 8:30 am

Rawstory has video and a story of Chris Matthews being interviewed by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show.

I thought the interview was great on a number of levels. First, it displayed two philosophies of life. On one hand, Matthews espouses the idea that success is finite. The most important things in life are to get that good job, marry that beautiful woman, or obtain political office. It is a consumerist agenda: more, bigger, better, faster. Stewart points out that there has to running theme to your life, or a soul: be good, be competent, do the best you can. It is good to strive to do great things, but life is about the journey, not the destination. We are all ultimately destined to be dead and our bodies recycled. All glory is fleeting. It is hard to believe Chris Matthews would be unfamiliar with themes like those in the film Napoleon Dynamite, and so unprepared to address them.

Stewart’s mild critique was one thing. Matthews’ over reaction to the criticism was another. Stewart may have compared Matthews’ book to “The Prince,” but it was Matthews who agreed with that comparison and added that his book was “better.” Matthews’ head long offensive at the end of the interview was also surprising. It is a hardball tactic with Matthews trying to establish his dominant male position again. Matthews accused Stewart that he was afraid of his book and by implication effeminate. It is unclear whether Matthews understood the heart of Stewart’s criticism at any deeper level than Stewart wasn’t saying positive things about it and therefore Stewart was “trashing” it.

What I feel was the nail in Matthews’ coffin is how he lauded Bill Clinton. Matthews was clearly demonstrating his envy. Some people suggested that Matthews was trying to bring up the specter of Clinton’s sex scandals. I disagree, for Matthews I think it was legitimate praise in his mind. I believe Matthews is sexually frustrated which is sometimes played out on Hardball when he has to interact with women: whether it be a creepy exchange with Erin Burnett, fawns over Laura Ingraham, calls Judy Miller a hero or his overall deference to all things Ann Coulter. Matthews clearly wants to emphasize two aspects to this 1) bedding women, 2) really listening to people. What he doesn’t seem to get is that by connecting the two, it makes the listening part seem disingenuous, since Clinton appears to be listening to women for ulterior motives. I’m sure Matthews would defend himself by charging that isn’t what he was trying to say. However, trying to untangle the two is a Herculean task and it is probably better to make your point in another way. One where the results are more selfless and the conflict of interest doesn’t arise. For example, maybe explaining how Clinton listens to his staff during a campaign meeting.

As an author and a political observer, Matthews is clearly drawn to strategy, which is probably why Stewart’s reading would make him think Matthews was emphasizing the strategy over the values. I’m sure Matthews isn’t even remotely aware of his bias. Everyone has blind-spots to their character.

Overall, it is a great interview. It is probably more enlightening than the book itself, and the interview is more likely to have more of a positive impact on the culture also.

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