Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Accelerating Contradictions: When and How

This post over at MyDD seems a bit wrong-headed to me. Obama, speaking in Nevada, said:
Because of the housing crisis, we are now in a very dangerous situation where financial institutions across this country are afraid to lend money. If all that meant was the failure of a few big banks on Wall Street, it would be one thing. But that's not what it means. What it means is that if we do not act, it will be harder for you to get a mortgage for your home or the loans you need to buy a car or send your children to college. What it means is that businesses won't be able to get the loans they need to open new factories, or hire more workers, or make payroll for the workers they have. What it means is that thousands of businesses could close. Millions of jobs could be lost. A long and painful recession could follow.

To which Jerome Armstrong responds:
But I thought the reason why this happened was because credit was too easy to get for those who could not afford it? But... nevermind.
Which in no way contradicts anything Obama said. The causes of the trouble and the effects of the trouble don't have to be identical. This is how crises work: overproduction leads to a glut leads to a decapitalization leads to underproduction. It's called a business cycle. Same principle applies here.

Armstrong's point in all this is:
Yea, I am mocking of Obama. The underlying attitude I have is: why he is abandoning his self-proclaimed skepticism of Bush here, why? Can anyone say with a straight face that his argument for why Democrats should go along with Bush and back this bill that he's presented is sound? I don't even see an argument. All that he's offered is a bit of fear mixed in with post-partisan and some language changes to go along with a few platitudes.
Presumably, Armstrong would rather see the sort of thing Digby (via a reader and Rick Perlstein) is calling "a progressive Shock Doctrine." That is, letting the crisis deepen to the point where people will welcome a new New Deal. Back in the olden days, this was called accelerating the contradictions (although this phrase has a more activist sense than the rather passive formulation given by Digby, doing things to make the crisis worse instead of simply waiting for it to deepen on its own).

All well and good. But does Armstrong really beleive that a Democratic presidential candidate is not only going to embrace such a strategy but going to declare in a public address that he is embracing such a strategy? Really?

Obama's statement seems to sit right in the middle of the concerned prognostications given by a pretty wide range of commentators. That's not an argument for the Paulson plan. But I don't take Obama to have been offering an argumant for the Paulson plan. In fact, he seems to be playing his cards pretty close to his chest when it comes to specific proposals. That's probably smart. If Obama's a Marxist, it's best to remain a crypto-Marxist for now.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Good Times!

Is it just me, or have things gotten positively surreal? Rhetorical question. I know it's not just me. Everyone's talking about the sudden left turn taken by reality. Connecting two points from below, Glenn Greenwald writes:
What the David Brookses of the World fear most -- the reason they're so desperate to convince people to put their faith in omnipotent, benevolent rulers -- is this.
Chris Bowers is having visions of pitchforks and torches.

I swear that at no time in my life have I witnessed so much interest in violent public action so openly expressed by such prominent public voices. (I know, blogs ain't exactly prime time network television, but my point stands.)

Interesting times. Interesting times.

UPDATE: Jacob Levy has a useful run-down of the craziness of the last fortnight:
Biggest bank failure in history

Biggest nationalization in history follows failure of world's largest insurer

Biggest non-defense budget authorization in history sought

Bailout talks explode in chaos and recriminations

North Korea reactivates atomic program

Russia lends Venezuala $1 billion to buy Russian armaments

Somali pirates seize ship carrying dozens of tanks

Presidential candidate 'suspends' campaign; hours before first scheduled presidential debate, unclear whether it will actually take place

Largest one-day increase in the price of oil in history

Former Vice-President of the United States advocates extralegal measures in fight against global warming

Russia begins nuclear rearmament

Armed conflict breaks out between U.S. and Pakistan along the Afghan-Pakistani border
He, too, cannot remember a time quite so wacked out as our own. And he's older than me, so that means at least a little bit more than it does coming from me.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Latest in Popular Justice

The Times of London reports:

Corporate India is in shock after a mob of sacked workers bludgeoned to death the chief executive who had dismissed them from a factory in a suburb of Delhi.

Lalit Kishore Choudhary, 47, the head of the Indian operations of Graziano Transmissioni, an Italian-headquartered manufacturer of car parts, died of severe head wounds on Monday afternoon after being attacked by scores of laid-off employees, police said.

The incident, in Greater Noida, just outside the Indian capital, followed a long-running dispute between the factory's management and workers who had demanded better pay and permanent contracts.

No idea if the report is accurate or fair. Think it will start happening on Wall Street anytime soon?

Great Moments in Ideology

I'm just taking this whole-cloth from Matthew Yglesias:

Yesterday I read: “Oil prices posted their biggest one-day gain on Monday, jumping more than $25 a barrel as investors dashed into commodities on concerns about the government’s plan to bail out the financial system.”

Then I wrote:

But of course if crude oil prices had gone down, we’d be “explaining” this as “concerns about the government’s plan to bail out the financial system” driving pessimism about growth. The truth is, none of the people writing this stuff have any real idea of why things are happening.

And now today:

Crude oil futures prices fell Tuesday as declining stock prices and the soft dollar signaled some investor concern over the United States government bailout of Wall Street and the market moved on after technical factors provoked a surge on Monday.

I find it amazing that this stuff gets published.

'Tis a wonder to behold, indeed.

UPDATE: One of Ygelsias' readers sends in this follow-up:


Recent headlines include:

MARKET SNAPSHOT: US Stocks Rise After Lawmakers Pick Over Bank Bailout (34 minutes ago)

MARKET SNAPSHOT: US Stocks Sink As Lawmakers Pick Over Bank Bailout (1 hour ago)

MARKET SNAPSHOT: US Stock Indexes Up As Lawmakers Mull $700 Billion…(5 hours ago)

MARKET SNAPSHOT: US Stocks Fall As Traders Await Bail-out Details (Sep 22, 2008)


For the Record

David Brooks, NYT, September 22, 2008:
We're entering an era of the educated establishment, in which government acts to create a stable -- and often oligarchic -- framework for capitalist endeavor.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Get On Board

There's likely to be 700 billion dollars worth of free money flying around once Hank Paulson's spending spree gets underway, and the number and type of entities from whom Hank can buy crappy assets is ever-expanding. So why not try to hop on the gravy train? If you've got some "undervalued" assets on your hands, head over to BuyMyShitPile.com and sign up for a taxpayer-funded bailout. If you're a US taxpayer, of course, you'll be paying ridiculous prices for your own shit, but hey, that's better than paying ridiculous prices for someone elses' shit. If you're Canadian, it's all good, since it seems likely that Hank will be buying up shit from the likes of Deutschebank and Fortis. Frankly, I'd rather have my taxes going to buy dilapidated Ikea furniture from low-on-cash McGill students than have my taxes going to buy the financial Potemkin village created by the "innovations" in finace capital over the last decade. If Congress is going to make Hank dictator, they could at least pay for some bread to go with the circus.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

SSPP Calls for Papers


1. For the Society's meeting in conjunction with the Eastern APA (American Philosophical Association) in 2009 the SSPP invites papers for two conference panels. We are seeking papers that address issues pertaining to: Environmental Philosophy as Political Philosophy
Given our current global situation, the rising importance of environmental philosophy is increasingly beyond question, but insofar as philosophy has turned its attention to matters of the environment it has typically done so from the perspective of ethics. This panel invites papers that address the broad range of environmental concerns from a somewhat different perspective, namely, from the perspective of political philosophy. How, for instance, might matters of environmental sustainability transform our understanding of political solidarity and/or state sovereignty? How do increasing concerns about the ecological resources alter our conception of property rights as well as the relationship between capital and labor? What would it mean to extend rights to nonhuman animals, or to ecosystems? How does the imperative to be “sustainable” influence the way we conceptualize employment, citizenship and community? And how does an expanded view of ecology challenge traditional, humanistic notions of identity and the politics that have traditionally followed from them?
2. For the Society's meeting in conjunction with SPEP (Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy) in 2009, the SSPP invites papers for two conference panels. We are seeking papers that address issues pertaining to: Anarchism and Philosophy
Anarchism remains underrepresented in academic debates and discussions, a trend that continues despite its increasing importance in the anti-globalization movements. As a political philosophy, anarchism maintains a tense relation with the academy. Unlike Marxism, anarchism was not founded by a philosopher, and its major thinkers—Goldman, Kropotkin, and Bakunin—were by and large self-educated. Likewise, its areas of focus have been anti-authoritarianism, cooperation, and self-organization, rather than foundational texts or figures, thus making it a difficult fit with the dominant academic practices of interpretation and exegesis. Despite this, however, philosophers such as Todd May, Peter Lamborn Wilson, and Lewis Call have suggested that there is a fundamental link between the ideals of anarchism and philosophers such as Nietzsche, Baudrillard, Foucault and Rancière. Moreover, within anarchist circles there has been a longstanding interest in the work of situationists such as Debord and Autonomists such as Negri, which is not to suggest that these thinkers be identified as anarchist, but that their analyses of power and desire, and an ideal of equality, reflect certain anarchist commitments. We are looking for papers that address possible relations between anarchism and philosophy, from examinations of “canonical” anarchist thinkers to explorations of what philosophers offer to anarchism. Most importantly we are looking for papers that recognize the challenge that anarchism poses to the conventional notions of authority and hierarchy that dominate the university; that the conjunction "anarchism and philosophy" must interrogate and question the latter, as much as it supplements and defines the former.
Complete papers of 3000-5000 words (that can be summarized and presented in 20-30 minutes) should be submitted for consideration for the 2009 meeting (deadline: March 1, 2009). The APA Conference is scheduled for December 27-30, 2009, New York City, NY. The SPEP Conference is scheduled for October 28-30, 2009 Arlington, VA.

Authors should include their name(s) and contact information on the cover page ONLY. Papers should be emailed as attachments in Word or RTF format to papers@sspp.us