Tom Perkins – Rich Sociopath Keeps Talking

On Jan. 26th Polislice was one of the 1st blogs to bring attention to the ravings of venture capitalist Tom Perkins. By now everyone with an ear to the political ground knows that he’s the guy who claimed that attacks on the 1% were comparable to the Nazis persecution of the Jews and that Kristallnacht was right around the corner.

This made him a poster boy for those in the businessmen anti-defamation league lead by WSJ, Fox Business and CNBC. Of course the victimized business community found him refreshing and were excited that somebody was brave enough to say out loud what they’re all thinking. The unfairness of their being singled out as being the fortunate beneficiaries of economic circumstances that have been unkind for so many others is unbearable. They resemble that remark.

Hilariously, in a subsequent interview where he sort of apologized for the Nazi comparison, (although he stood by the message) he noted that he owned “an airplane that flies underwater” and his watch was worth “a six pack of Rolexes”. It was like the Jews throwing their chosen status in the face of their oppressors. This flaunting of his great good fortune in the face of a demonizing majority doesn’t make him look better to the 99% but sure makes him look like a hero to his audience of 1% sociopaths who do not like their moral and intellectual superiority to be questioned.

Today, at a talk from the Commonwealth Club (aka the Warsaw ghetto), he dug his diamond lined grave a little deeper:

“The Tom Perkins system is: You don’t get to vote unless you pay a dollar of taxes,” Perkins said during an event hosted by Fortune’s Adam Lashinsky. “But what I really think is, it should be like a corporation. You pay a million dollars in taxes, you get a million votes. How’s that?”

Since the Federalists fought against expansion of the voting franchise beyond educated, white, male landowners a strain of anti-democratic elitism has always existed under the radar and beneath the surface. When a Tom Perkins says what he said out loud, proving his fundamental misunderstanding or our form of government, it should embarrass those that kept putting him in the limelight and end his 15 minutes.

But these days, expect someone to propose running him for office. Which was not an option for the Jews of Nazi Germany, or any actually persecuted minority in any country anywhere.

We Average 3+ School Shootings per Month Since Newtown

44 school shootings in the 14 months since Sandy Hook shook our collective conscience, sort of, kinda, maybe.

That’s aside from the 365 mass shootings in America in 2013. And the everyday non-mass shootings and accidental shootingskids shooting kids, fathers shooting kids, self-inflicted wounds of stupid, gun cleaning accidents, etc. 

But the NRA and the gun fetishists are working to expand gun rights. They will not brook any discussion of rational limits to gun rights – even for the mentally ill or suspected terrorists. They continue bravely to claim more guns are safer than less guns.

Maybe they’re right, guns don’t kill people, asshole gun owners kill people (and themselves).

Why Krystal Ball is Wrong About Hillary (I Hope)

MSNBC host Krystal Ball boldly went there today saying that Hillary should not run because she would keep “another real middle class champion” (like Elizabeth Warren) from running.

“Is someone who sat on the rabidly anti-union board of Walmart for six years the right person to restore workers’ rights?” Ball asked. “Is someone who recently took $400,000 to give two speeches at Goldman Sachs the person we need to wrest control of the asylum back from the banking inmates?”

But here’s why she could be wrong. What Hillary did or espoused in the conservative 80s or did in the Clintonian triangulating 90s is not necessarily what she will bring to the White House.

I come back to Teddy Roosevelt. He was no fire breathing liberal, not at all. He was a conservative, business oriented, elitist Republican, through and through.

In college he looked down on his Harvard classmates that didn’t come from families as well seated as his.

As Police Commissioner of NY he stated openly that he would welcome class riots in NY so that he could send out his troops to shoot down the rioters. 

His advocacy of progressive legislation was always with the idea that if conservatives like him didn’t address business corruption and unethical practices, socialists and anarchists would and it would likely be destructive of business.

None of this kept him from clearly seeing the challenges to the country and attacking the malefactors of wealth as he saw them. He was, despite his pedigree, the right man at the right time who reacted in the right way and achieved great progressive change.

I’m more in the camp that believes a Hillary presidency would be more like Teddy R (without the foreign militarism because she got a bellyful off the lessons of Iraq) than Bill C. My instinct is that she’d also likely be more combative than Barack O. who is a congenital compromiser always in fear of the angry black man label. Everything I’ve heard from Hillary since the 2008 election and the economic meltdown indicate to me that she does get it and would be very active in pushing labor friendly middle class saving initiatives.

2014 Looking Better and Better

Like in 2006 the media didn’t acknowledge it till it smacked them in the face (because GOP success is a given and Democrats winning is the anomaly, or something) but any hedging on the 2014 midterms being a referendum on GOP nincompoopery is a joke.

The GOP has continued to rely on a strategy of Benghazi, IRS, NRA, defend the “real” Americans, even when everybody but their base sees it as political malfeasance. The Republican Governors Association brought in $6 million because big carbon extraction companies are doubling down on their defense of their ability to foul rivers and drinking water. They need GOP governors to look the other way when people are poisoned.

The racist base precludes immigration reform. Pro-gun legislation must continue unabated no matter how many kids get killed. Anti-choice bills keep coming faster than courts can toss them.

Absolutely everyone except that magically dense base has figured out that when Republican politicians talk about jobs they’re only talking about their own because they haven’t done a damn thing to create one, and only have one fantasy strategy for that anyway – tax cuts for millionaires. I’m sure they’ll work this time.

Today’s Republicans can’t change, can’t evolve, can’t grow, can’t figure out that what they’ve been doing doesn’t work because they have cocooned themselves so deeply into their own self-perpetuating bullshit machinery that they cannot see reality at all. Those that get a glimpse enough to see imminent failure either (a) decide that its the message that is the problem, rather than the policy, or (b) are chastened from pursuing a new policy by the base that will eat them alive if they do.

No, the GOP is locked in at this point. They’ve created this monster that is the Republican primary voter. They pushed out reasonable people and kept feeding the outrage addicts jonesing for the next heady hit of why white people should run everything and stop feeling bad about that immutable fact. They’ve mainlined all of the GOP’s mind altering poisons to this point and there’s no methadone for it. They can’t change.

They can only be marginalized, ignored and left behind. And that’s what will happen in 2014. A country desperate for real governing will embrace the California model and give the Democrats as much a chance as gerrymandering will allow to do that governing.

Obama Helping GOP Destroy Post Office

David Dayen, one of my fellow postal banking pushers has this story in The New Republic about the lack of nominations by the Obama administration to the Post Office’s Board of Governors.

Here’s where Obama deserves criticism: There are five vacancies on the nine-member board. He has not successfully placed a single appointee on it during his entire tenure in office. The four existing members were all appointed by George W. Bush.

Really? C’mon man! 

In effect, you have a Republican majority controlling an executive agency under a Democratic president, which happens to be the country’s second-largest civilian employer, behind Walmart. The loss of over 125,000 postal jobs has had a detrimental effect on employment, and the resistance to ideas like postal banking prevents low-wage communities from an alternative to payday lenders, check-cashing stores and other unscrupulous operators. Yet the White House has shown no urgency in reversing the conservative governing ideology at the Postal Service. If nothing else, there’s an economic imperative for the White House to act. They claim to want to reduce inequality through executive action. Postal banking is a major opportunity to do so.

Clean Debt Limit Raise Passes House, Not Real Evidence of Sanity

Boehner performed the minimum acceptable level of governance by putting a clean debt ceiling bill on the floor in violation of the GOP’s sacred and yet oh so bullshit “Hastert Rule”. This unwritten “rule” is the legislative equivalent of a fistful of hair in your drain, clogging the works up – a de facto house filibuster. It states that the speaker is not to bring any legislation to the floor unless it will be approved by a majority of the majority. This is what keeps any rational legislation that addresses the real world – and could pass – like immigration or jobs bills, from coming to the floor. Apparently under Hastert the only business of the people allowed to be dealt with are anti-choice bills, renaming post offices for Ronald Reagan and the obligatory weekly Obamacare repeal. So Boehner has now fulfilled his job as speaker and not stolen his ridiculous salary on a handful of occasions when his back was to the wall.

Some will whoop “huzzah” and say this is evidence of the tea party being put on the leash and smacked on the snout with a newspaper. But excuse me if I do not crow over Boehner not letting his crazy ass caucus run his party, and the full faith and credit of the republic, into the ground. By the way you still have a threat of filibuster by Ted Cruz in the senate, so there’s still an opportunity for an insane attempt to shoot the hostage. 

Ultimately, anybody who says that the GOP establishment is now firmly in control of the rudder is ignoring the pirates holding a knife to Captain Orange’s throat and telling him to steer into the iceberg. Not deliberately sinking the ship is not the same as steering it into port.

Lessons from 110 Years Ago – When Democracy Worked

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In Teddy Roosevelt’s time things were no doubt worse than they are now. For one thing, the advances of the progressive era had not yet been enacted. In fact, it was so bad that things we take for granted, like the safety and wholesomeness of our food and medicines, were completely up to the manufacturers with virtually no laws, rules or oversight – it was completely buyer beware. Business combinations, trusts, could run roughshod over competitors and customers. The plutocracy, exemplified by John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, existed in a laissez faire nirvana acting with complete impunity.

Government was generally expected to do nothing that could get in the way of business interests and entrepreneurs – low to no taxes, no regulations and high tariffs on imported goods were the rule of the day. Legislatures and courts were as elitist as you can imagine, pretty much handpicked by parties and their big pockets benefactors. The U.S. Senate was still picked entirely by often corrupt state legislatures rather than direct election. Imagine, if you will how easy it is, even today, for wealthy interests to elect anonymous puppets to a state legislature. In that time those puppets then turned around and chose the 100 most powerful legislators in the country. It was the libertarian utopia that modern anti-government activists talk about as if it had never existed (and was a nightmare). Except then such activists were just called “conservatives” and their job was the protect the status quo.

Every injustice and horror that exists today existed then in spades. The squalor of the tenements, the horrible working conditions of the sweatshops, cities rife with crime, run by party bosses and separated by racial animus, streets putrid with horse excrement, diseases rampant due to poor sanitation and tainted food supplies, labor unrest leading to murder and mayhem, etc.

But in that period from 1902-1909 there was furious action to make things better despite the opposition of powerful entrenched interests.

How did reformers and progressives successfully fight such powerful interests in both parties? Because of the pressure from an aroused public informed by the magnificent work of the muckraking reporters and writers of the period.

Fearless magazines like McClure’s and realist novelists like Upton Sinclair used meticulous reporting to open people’s eyes to the corruption of the political rackets, the unethical business practices of the trusts, the railroads, meat packing plants.

Ida Tarbell’s series of articles exposing the unethical business practices of Standard Oil in McClure’s.

Lincoln Steffens’ series of articles (“The Shame of the Cities”) exposing vast political corruption in different cities in McClure’s.

Upton Sinclair’s novel “The Jungle” exposing the unsanitary conditions in meat processing.

Mark Sullivan’s articles in Collier’s exposing the fraud and collusion of patent medicine businesses.

William Allen White’s profiles of powerful politicians in McClure’s.

People all over the country read these works of investigative journalism and reacted by pressuring their representatives to adopt laws to redress these perceived injustices and violations of the public trust. Voters responded and were able to elect progressive slates of candidates that promised to enact such legislation or pressure less progressive pols into supporting these initiatives out of fear.

The Elkins Act (1902) was the first serious pierce of legislation to regulate the nation’s railroads. The railroads were the lifeblood of commerce. They could make or break businesses depending on the rates they chose to charge. The Elkins Act imposed fines on railroads that gave favored rates to businesses. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil had been using the railroads to drive their competitors out of business through rebates and favorable rates.

The Hepburn Act (1906) went further than the Elkins Act to regulate railroad rates and set maximums for bridge tolls, ferries and oil pipelines.

The Meat Inspection Act (1906) began a federal meat inspection regimen at processing plants.

The Pure Food and Drug Act (1906) allowed federal inspection of food and medicine, banned the sale of impure food and the mislabeling of food and medicine.

Use of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to prosecute Standard Oil and break it up into 7 smaller companies (which later became Exxon, Mobil, Amoco, etc.).

Creation of the Dept. of Commerce and Labor (1903) to investigate and regulate corporate malfeasance.

None of these actions were given a snowball’s chance when first proposed. Teddy Roosevelt’s administrations (much like his one term as Governor of NY) were defined by a constant struggle to address issues of injustice and inequality animating a movement for change though legislation or the creation of regulatory bodies. In each instance the various initiatives encountered fierce political opposition from the economic elite and their puppets in government. These political actors and business interests either (a) did not want to change their ways, (b) did not want to give up power, or (c) stood ideologically opposed to governmental action on constitutional grounds. Sound familiar?

My reading of history tells me that nothing really changes. The Tea Party has always existed in one name or another.

The difference between that era and today is that duly elected lawmakers felt the pressure to vote for legislation that they may have been personally against. They felt that they could not afford to go against the public tide. Today it feels like lawmakers can ignore the people because they feel they can mold public opinion, beat back the tide, muddy the water and most importantly squelch the vote.

The egregious uses of gerrymandering, the perversion of campaign finance since Citizen’s United, the increasingly ideologically based rationales of one of the two major parties, and the unreliable nature of the voting public are putting our modern political process in a state of stasis. Politicians will not listen to the voices of the people over the voices of their corporate masters until they’re certain that those voices for change will come to the ballot box. That is frustrating when a nation needs bold action to face down profound issues of governance.

It would have driven Teddy absolutely crazy.