As our ultimate goal is self-improvement, it has been decided that the best way for the political articles to prosper is for them to be housed on a blog focused entirely on the political stuff. Thus, Politisink was born! The domain was an older, failed attempt to do a politics blog back in 2006 that I abandoned when I went to grad school. I am sure maybe two people in the world know that, and one of them is married to me. Now, Politisink is repurposed as the new site that will keep an eye on crazy mofos and the crazy stuff they want to do to our country. The Wingnut Web and other political articles will now be posted there (though what has appeared here will remain as I am far too lazy to move everything over) while the TarsTarkas.NET Blog will go back to posting cult movie news, Karen Mok photos, Battle Beast things, and other weird stuff that I see fit (until some other random article balloons up into a cultural phenomenon and takes over the blog again!) Don’t worry, there will be plenty of cross-promotion so those who don’t start checking Politisink out right away can catch up, and for those of you who will skip right by this article because it doesn’t have a picture of a hot chick or posts from morons on message boards in it. Actually, let’s just throw in crazy picture for old times sake!
That’s better! Now, the writers here will be joining us at Politisink, both dm and skiplogic are already contributing away. Soon I’ll try to add on a few more, because, why not? That’s how you become an internet powerhouse and
EDIT: Okay, I rewrote part of this because it sucked!
I caught this Wired post just in time to see that there’s another “what are we doing with all these mercenaries” hearings that pretty much nobody watches. It’s on C-Span 2 right now, so I’m going to see how long I can stand it.
“Inherently governmental functions” is a kind of ambiguous category that means “things you don’t contract out.” The military official has proposed a five year time frame to assess these things that contractors are doing that they should not be. Off to a good start.
~28,000 positions with contractors overseeing the contracts of other contractors. About half of those we’re just going to wait five years on.
CACI is providing contracting oversight officials. They have a shady history.
107,000 contractors in Afghanistan right now.
I got a relevant question on SA: “how did mercenaries become legal” Answer here.
The LOGCAP contract is fundamentally insane. POGO: More Misbehavior by KBR Suspected on LOGCAP III Contract
Contractor seriously states above contract was “97-99% competitive” whatever that means.
Now that WikiLeaks has gotten a lot of publicity, I have an excellent opportunity to showcase how horrifying some of the activities considered by whoever exactly it is that does them to be “national security” that protects our freedoms. I must stress the whoever because if you have a reason to ask, you won’t find out; It’s a matter of national security.
The most immediately relevant example is a 32-page report [PDF] on how to destroy WikiLeaks that was subsequently leaked to WikiLeaks, a “security” breach that obviously constitutes a threat to national security itself. I’ll post some excerpts to show the logic that goes into protecting our freedoms.
The first example pretty much speaks for itself.
The next concerns a report on an incident that violated the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). The nation’s protectors went on to clarify that, due to an executive order and an amendment inserted into the Senate resolution approving the CWC which, “[S]tated United States‘
interpretation of how RCAs [Riot Control Agents–the chemical in question] might be used for specific defensive purposes.”
In a similar vein, after blocking a provision that would have bombed aerial bombardment of civilians from being inserted into the Geneva Conventions, former British Prime Minister Lloyd George remarked that he was reserving Britain’s “right to bomb niggers.” Many in the Pentagon must be very grateful at the moment for his pioneering work.
The document goes on to ask if the activities performed by WikiLikeaks is “Free Speech or Illegal Speech?” It might be useful to recall the recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision about what’s considered free speech for this last excerpt.
I feel safer with the random guys on the internet from Iceland.
With the estate tax currently suspended, the tax burden is currently shifted even further downward. Online tax revolts aside for a moment, Carly Fiorina, the candidate challenging Boxer for the Senate, is also proposing to eliminate it permanently:
The plan also includes the elimination of the estate tax. “I think we should abolish the estate tax. The estate tax hits small businesses particularly hard. It hits agriculture particularly hard,” Fiorina said. “I keep stressing small businesses and family-owned businesses because they create two-thirds of new jobs in this country, they employ half the people. When you have a family-owned business that estate tax weighs heavily.”
March 8 (Bloomberg) — Lobbyists for small businesses, construction companies, manufacturers and other trade groups are racing the clock to convince Congress to reinstate the federal estate tax they’ve fought for years to abolish.
The National Federation of Independent Business and more than 40 business organizations wrote Senate and House leaders last week asking for quick action on a proposed 35 percent levy on inheritances worth more than $10 million per couple. The Associated General Contractors of America is urging members to contact lawmakers about the plan.
The groups have changed positions in a bid to head off higher taxes on the horizon: Unless Congress acts, current law would raise the tax next year to 55 percent on estates after they exceed $2 million per couple, from nothing this year.
“Clearly, we can’t live with what’s going to come in 2011,” said Chris Walters, an estate-tax lobbyist in Washington for NFIB, the trade group for small businesses.
And the wingnuts conflicted about social security and medicare are one thing, but this is something else entirely:
FROG JUMP, TENN. — But for one important detail, Stephen Fincher could be a perfect “tea party” candidate: a gospel-singing cotton farmer from this tiny hamlet in western Tennessee, seeking to right the listing ship of Washington with a commitment to lower taxes and smaller government.
The detail? Fincher accepts roughly $200,000 in farm subsidies each year.
With all of the screaming about “socialism” coming from these quarters, I suggest we at least show it to them. A plan devised by two Swedish economists named Gosta Rehn and Rudolf Meidner would be a good start:
Rudolf Meidner’s share levy, unlike so many modern taxes, was extraordinarily difficult to evade. On the other hand it was not at all punitive. Unlike traditional corporate taxation, it did not subtract from the cash-flow or resources which the enterprise needed for investment. It diluted shareholder wealth without weakening the corporation as a productive concern. According to the original plan every company with more than fifty employees was obliged to issue new shares every year equivalent to 20 per cent of its profits. The newly issued shares — which could not be sold — were to be given to the network of ‘wage earner funds’, representing workplaces and local authorities. The latter would hold the shares, and reinvest the income they yielded from dividends, in order to finance future social expenditure. As the wage earner funds grew they would be able to play an increasing part in directing policy in the corporations which they owned.
From One Market Under God by Thomas Frank (2000)
From Deadheads in Davos to Nobel-laureate economists, from paleoconservatives to New Democrats, American leaders in the nineties came to believe that markets were a popular system, a far more democratic system than (democratically elected) governments….in addition to being mediums of exchange, markets were mediums of consent. Markets expressed expressed the popular will more articulately more articulately and more meaningfully than did mere elections. Markets conferred democratic legitimacy; markets were a friend of the little guy; markets brought down the pompous and the snooty; markets gave us what we wanted; markets looked out for our interests.
Except when they didn’t, especially starting in 2008. A different Nobel-laureate economist, Joseph Stiglitz, said of the economic crisis, “In this sense, the fall of Wall Street is for market fundamentalism what the fall of the Berlin Wall was for communism….This moment is a marker that the claims of financial market liberalization were bogus.” This is not the first time the ideology has been discredited either. In 1926, three years before the onset of the Great Depression, John Maynard Keynes wrote about a “disposition towards public affairs, which we conveniently sum up as individualism and laissez-faire,” that sounds all too familiar, right down to its origins:
Nevertheless, that age would have been hard put to it to achieve this harmony of opposites if it had not been for the economists, who sprang into prominence just at the right moment. The idea of a divine harmony between private advantage and the public good is already apparent in Paley. But it was the economists who gave the notion a good scientific basis. Suppose that by the working of natural laws individuals pursuing their own interests with enlightenment in condition of freedom always tend to promote the general interest at the same time! Our philosophical difficulties are resolved-at least for the practical man, who can then concentrate his efforts on securing the necessary conditions of freedom. To the philosophical doctrine that the government has no right to interfere, and the divine that it has no need to interfere, there is added a scientific proof that its interference is inexpedient. This is the third current of thought, just discoverable in Adam Smith, who was ready in the main to allow the public good to rest on ‘the natural effort of every individual to better his own condition’, but not fully and self-consciously developed until the nineteenth century begins. The principle of laissez-faire had arrived to harmonise individualism and socialism, and to make at one Hume’s egoism with the greatest good of the greatest number. The political philosopher could retire in favour of the business man – for the latter could attain the philosopher’s summum bonum by just pursuing his own private profit.
Ten years later, he published his greatest work, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, which revolutionized economics until the 1970’s when our leaders decided to try the magic markets thing again.
What I’m getting at is how strange it is that this remarkably stupid doctrine keeps managing to come back with disastrous consequences. Concerning the market–the one that’s rebounded to bring us a “jobless recovery” despite increasing unemployment and underemployment–public relations legend Edward Bernays noted in 1928:
…[I]t would be rash and unreasonable to take it for granted that because public opinion has come over to the side of big business, it will always remain there. Only recently, Prof. W. Z. Ripley of Harvard University, one of the foremost national authorities on business organization and practice, exposed certain aspects of big business which tended to undermine public confidence in large corporations. He pointed out that the stockholders’ supposed voting power is often illusory; that annual financial statements are sometimes so brief and summary that to the man in the street they are downright misleading; that the extension of the system of non-voting shares often places the effective control of corporations and their finances in the hands of a small clique of stockholders; and that some corporations refuse to give out sufficient information to permit the public to know the true condition of the concern.
Yet people continue to invest in it despite being more or less told to piss off when they complain about the absurd pay going to executives that should theoretically be going to them:
Group Inc.’s board of directors has received several demand letters from shareholders relating to compensation matters, including demands that Group Inc.’s board of directors investigates compensation awards over recent years, take steps to recoup alleged excessive compensation, and adopt certain reforms. After considering the demand letters, Group Inc.’s board of directors rejected the demands.
Still, they never learn. In a recent column about the prospects of shareholder activism, the “executive director of the Millstein Center for Corporate Governance and Performance at the Yale School of Management” was quoted as saying, “Up until now, it’s been sort of a Soviet system…We have been operating in the United States under the myth that boards have been accountable to shareholders.” What does this have to do with the Soviet Union? Its collapse didn’t bring about any magic change according to the population.
It would also be nice to see something new on this front:
You may recall the Kabul embassy guard scandal  that broke last fall—the photos documenting drunken, lewd behavior by embassy guards—all to the embarrassment of the U.S. State Department. Shortly thereafter, the Department fired  eight guards and announced it would not renew  the contract of ArmorGroup North America after it expires in July, but that it would grant the contractor a six-month extension “to allow for an orderly transition between contractors.”In the meantime, since ArmorGroup is still on the job until the end of this year, the State Department wants to toughen its oversight of the private security contractor, and it intends to do that by hiring another contractor  to oversee this one.
First the small point. I keep my television off for many good reasons, rarely turning it to C-SPAN when something really neat is happening like Congress passing Healthcare Reform, but if you need even more reasons to hate your digital set, especially in an election year, you have to look no further than Carly Florina. She is running for the Senate in California and if you haven’t already heard her name you’d surely recognize her campaign from their crazy ridiculous Demon Sheep TV ad. It’s a retarded ad to begin with, but even more so the people behind its production, Fred Davis III of Strategic Perception Inc., understand that in today’s viral video-obsessed internet world the more bizarre and weird the videos you produce are, the more people will talk about how their weird and bizarre your videos are and the person(s) attached to that video, thereby getting people to talk about the person the ad campaign is promoting.
What’s that mean for the American TV watching audience? For one it means you’ll probably be talking to your friends a lot this summer and fall about all the utterly stupid, nightmare inducing, repugnant, fact-less, commercial hallucinations you were seeing on television every day until you decided to put a shotgun to the screen so you could end the madness. Already the Florina campaign has a new epic 10-minute spot where they depict Senator Barbara Boxer’s head as a floating doom zeppelin of bitch coasting through the cities and green valleys of California (presumably where the Demon Sheep graze) to find her next meal in the form of a newborn Republican baby. Maybe this weird political campaign Florina is running is just a product of us wacky Californians and the chemicals in our drinking water, but what if every candidate with as much money as Florina talked to Fred Davis III and asked to get an equally batshit retarded TV campaign going? This balloon ad will not be the weirdest part of a political campaign we see this year, mark my words.
But on to my second and much graver point. With the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Committee it was established that corporations can use as much money as they please to fund political campaigns and candidates for elected office. When a business incorporates and becomes a “corporation” they become legally recognized as a “business entity” instead of a company owned by a bunch of people. This incorporation protects the individuals who run the company if someone happens to sue them, the lawsuit is instead directed to this incorporated “person” and the money derived from the lawsuit comes out of the “pockets” of the corporate “person”, the income and revenue of the business not the business owners.
This idea of corporate personhood has now been stretched so far that under the Citizens United ruling the “corporation” is now basically considered to have all the same rights as an average living breathing American citizen, including the right to throw their money around in any direction they choose, and as much money as they choose. In short this means that big business will now be directly influencing politicians and their campaigns to an even more exponential degree than they were before. Rulings like this will make damn sure that Carly Florina, an ex-CEO from a variety of big tech companies, will definitely have the funds to keep making her epic multi-million dollar feature-length campaign ads. A victory for political theater!
Some Republican for State Representative, sponsored by KDR Development Inc. I can’t find the website for KDR, I don’t know what kind of business they are in, but according to this article on The Economist the president of KDR had run against incumbent Chuck Hopson in a previous election. The ad doesn’t even say “vote for this guy we support him”. It simply says “vote for one of these Republicans over this guy in office cause the guy who runs the company who bought this ad lost out to him in a previous election”. I can only imagine how much more fun this ad game will get.
On a related note, through their interpretation of the Supreme Court ruling, the corporation Murray-Hill Inc. has decided that due to their new found corporate personhood their choosing to back the living, breathing, political figure known as Murray-Hill Inc. Murray-Hill Inc. is running for office in Maryland and part of me really hopes that Murray-Hill Inc. will win the race and be able to enact all that political legislation that Murray-Hill Inc. has worked so hard to get across during his (its?) political career. And just so you know, Murray-Hill Inc. is running for exactly the same reasons you might expect Murray-Hill Inc. to run for public office. Let the mockery that is our brave new corporate-funded political world commence!