Why Liberals Are Lame (Part 2)

It may seem churlish to pick on a specific, well intentioned liberal organization to illustrate a rampant pathology within what passes for the left in the US. Nevertheless, examples serve as important case studies and hopefully will help both the object of presumably unwanted attention and its broader constituency understand that many of their campaigns actually undermine the causes they purport to represent.

Let’s look at an example, an e-mail from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee to constituents of Alabama’s Spencer Bachus, the Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and self-proclaimed Best Friend of Banks (“My view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks”):


Alabama Republican Spencer Bachus is the definition of a sell out.

Bachus — who said his purpose was to “serve” the big banks — is so far in the pocket of Wall Street that he’s willing to change the definition of plain English words to suit his corporate purposes.

Today, he sent a letter to bold progressive Elizabeth Warren, who’s been fighting on behalf of people against the big banks who are fraudulently foreclosing on their homes. In that letter he tries to trap Warren with her own words: Warren had told him that she gave “advice” on how to beat back the big banks, but he accuses her of giving “recommendations.”

A quick look at the Oxford English Dictionary brings up this definition:

advice: guidance or recommendations offered with regard to prudent action

Bachus could use a little education on what the words “advice” and “recommendations” mean.

Give Rep. Bachus a call right now at 202-225-4921.

Here’s what to say:

Hi, this is [your name], and I’m calling because Rep. Bachus is clearly so much of a sell out, he’s willing to change the definition of words to attack Elizabeth Warren.

I wanted to make sure Rep. Bachus knows that the definition of advice is “guidance or recommendations offered with regard to prudent action.”

Stop attacking Elizabeth Warren, and stop being such a sell out for Wall Street.

Thanks for being a bold progressive.

— Adam Green, Jason Rosenbaum and the PCCC team

This mini-campaign is hopelessly misguided. Is Bachus going to stop calling Warren bad names, or serving the doings of his banking paymasters based on a few phone calls? Does it even matter than Bachus is calling Warren bad names when there is an orchestrated cacaphony of similar noise, starting with the vastly more off base attacks emanating from the Wall Street Journal’s op-ed page? One set of calls to one right wing noise maker, even one who happens to head an influential Congressional committee, will not make an iota of difference. Congress is not a party to the settlement negotiations.

And the other reason for caring about these attacks is equally questionable: it’s based on the fantasy that Warren might get a recess appointment to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, circumventing the need for Congressional approval. I have one answer to that: over Geithner’s dead body. No matter what his public stance on her might be, he and she are philosophically at odds. Geithner has an unusually close relationship with the President and has managed to enlarge his scope of authority beyond that of a past Treasury secretaries. And if that answer isn’t good enough, consider a second: Obama needs to raise an estimated $1 billion to win the 2012 election. He’s moved further and further to the right over the course of his Presidency. Why is he going to change gears and alienate one of his biggest donor groups by appointing Warren?

Her defenders also appear not to recognize that Warren is being made the fall guy for this effort to appear to be Doing Something and at most get a HAMP 2.0 implemented. They note that Warren has become the focus of attacks for leaks about a program that is touted as a possible $20 to $30 billion. I’ve heard privately that Sheila Bair has been pushing for a tough bank settlement, and as Adam Levitin points out, the CFPB lacks the power to be running this initiative. This is a operation involving both the state attorneys general and a number of Federal regulators.

I don’t know how the settlement proposal is being pinned on Warren, but I think the Warren defenders are naive to assume this is only the result of conservative paranoia and scapegoating. It would serve the interests of officialdom to run trial balloons as Warren products; if they bomb, she’s disposable, if they succeed, Team Obama will move to make it sound like its party line.

But far more important, PCCC has no clue about what the real stakes are in this fight and are supporting a fundamentally unsound policy. As we have described at considerable length, any settlement that involves a broad waiver of liability to the banks is a sell out. And that’s the only thing the attorneys general have to offer in this trade; the lack of investigations means they are coming to a knife fight armed with a wet noodle. We’d all be much better served to have no deal at all and let the AGs that are keen to pursue the banks move ahead and develop cases (and it only takes a few, recall how feared and loathed Eliot Spitzer was).

An example we cited a few days ago, that of the settlement reached between the Minnesota attorney general and the National Arbitration Forum, illustrates this point. The NAC was so successful in stacking the deck on mandatory arbitrations in favor of its clients, big busineses, via the roster of arbitrators it chose that consumers won in only 4% of the cases. The Minnesota AG effectively put the firm out of business as far as anything related to debt collection was concerned…..but the NAC capitulated only after the AG filed its lawsuit (which almost certainly means pre-litigation attempts to resolve the matter had failed). Prosecutors have to be prepared to go to the mat, and have credible theories of action and at least some supporting evidence before they enter into talks; otherwise they have no idea of the extent of the abuses, much the less any meaningful basis to bring miscreants to heel.

The PCCC is utterly clueless that the effort that Warren is behind is merely Potemkin progressivism; they simply accepted her existing liberal branding and have bought a bill of goods. They are so invested in the idea of the telegenic and heretofore on the side of right Warren as savior that they aren’t able to see that she has gone over to the dark side. I have no doubt of Warren’s sincerity, but the Administration has managed to brainwash Warren (having spent over four hours with senior Treasury types, this is not as inconceivable as it sounds. They are remarkably convincing even when you know better. I think they’ve licensed Steve Job’s reality distortion sphere). So any settlement is in fact window dressing for yet another bailout.

The key leverage point in this fight is not Warren; she’s become part of the problem. The leverage point is the attorneys general. Thus campaigns like CrimesShouldn’tPay and Credo’s “Jail Wall Street Crooks“, which organized calls to push the AGs to reject the settlement talks and to investigate the banks, are on the right track. Left-wing efforts to rally behind this Administration should be assumed to be wrongheaded until proven otherwise.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email


    1. DownSouth

      The battle between nominalism and exaggerated realism began in ancient Classical civilization and has been carried over to ours.

      The exaggerated realists, or rationalists, had all but triumphed for nearly two thousand years, but all that changed when William of Ockham ignited the nominalist revolution in the first part of the 13th century. Two extremist positions resulted, represented in philosophy by Scotist realism and Occamite nominalism. That is essentially where we are today.

      The battle between the liberals and the “black power” activists is a continuation of this conflict that has been waged for well nigh three millennia.

      Early- to midddle-20th century American activists and theologians, persons like Martin Luther King and Reinhold Niebuhr, were well schooled in the history, philosophy and theology of this perennial conflict, just as many of our Founding Fathers were. There is no better illustration of this than in Benjamin Franklin’s musing: “So convenient a thing is it to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for every thing one has a mind to do.”

      Unfortunately, it seems like much of this knowledge has been lost. The sad fact is that most of today’s political activists, when it comes to history (beyond the last 80 years), philosophy and theology, are philistines. Most, for instance, don’t even know there’s a difference between rationalism and science, and you often hear them use the words interchangeably.

      As long as liberals are subsumed in this world of ignorance, oblivious to even where the battle lines are drawn, there is really no hope for positive change.

        1. DownSouth

          I have read that Gandhi was highly devout, but have not read much about what his specific faith was.

          As to Jainism, thanks for the link. I will give it a read.

          David Sloan Wilson uses Jainism as one of his examples of a functional religion. (Most religions, or maybe even all, eventually become institutionalized and therefore dysfunctional.)

          Wilson discusses Jainism in this lecture beginning at minute 21:30.

          1. ScottS

            Interesting that Jainism is around 2600 years old, and not dysfunctional. I’ll have to watch the video when I get off work.

            I have a feeling that’s the same guy I saw on The Colbert Report the other night talking about religions. He also had good things to say about Quakers (the Religious Society of Friends, not the Wilford Brimley people).

      1. leroguetradeur

        This is one of the strongest arguments for the abolition of Great Books courses I have ever read.

        “Two extremist positions resulted, represented in philosophy by Scotist realism and Occamite nominalism”.

        No, this just does not correspond to any half way sensible account of the evolution of western thought. Sorry, it just doesn’t.

  1. Malagodi

    Like every other organization vying for my attention, the Progressive Change Campaign must constantly grind out new actions on new outrages.
    It really doesn’t matter whether they’re effectively lame or not.
    How many email do you get under the heading of “OUTRAGE!”?
    What this produces is not effective, positive change, but an angry, outraged constituency.

  2. Sufferin' Succotash

    Instant outrage is preferable to the prospect of organizing to win elections for the next 30 years. What an awful slog it’s going to be! But for the left it’s either that or political Palookaville.

  3. DownSouth

    Here’s James Melvin Washington speaking of liberalism in A Testament of Hope:

    Throughout the course of their history, black congregations suffered greatly under the persecution of white terrorists who murdered their members, leaders, and neighbors. These racists destroyed black properties while espousing platitudes about justice and freedom for all. In fact, while this tragic drama was in process, most white moderates—-with the exception of those such as Reinhold Niebuhr, who early encouraged blacks to embrace nonviolent resistance—-had the audacity to insist that black Christians should be paragons of the faith. The later “black power” disdain for hypocritical white liberalism was not without some ethical justification. However, such accusers had trouble explaining the altruism and martyrdom of white liberals such as Jonathan Daniels, James Reeb, and Viola Liuzzo.

    And here’s Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking of liberalism in his essay “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence”:

    My reading of the works of Reinhold Niebuhr made me aware of the complexity of human motives and the reality of sin on every level of man’s existence. Moreover, I came to recognize the complexity of man’s social involvement and the glaring reality of collective evil. I came to feel that liberalism had been all too sentimental concerning human nature and that it leaned toward a false idealism.

    I also came to see that liberalism’s superficial optimism concerning human nature caused it to overlook the fact that reason is darkened by sin. The more I thought about human nature the more I saw how our tragic inclination for sin causes us to use our minds to rationalize our actions. Liberalism failed to see that reason by itself is little more than an instrument to justify man’s defensive ways of thinking. Reason, devoid of purifying power of faith, can never free itself from distortions and rationalizations.

  4. Doug Terpstra

    An offshoot of MoveOn.org, The Progressive Change Campaign Committee looks like just another self-serving fundraiser milking operation. This breathless call for outraged action reads like unfunny Onion satire with its pathetically trivial focus on semantics (‘advice’ vs. ‘recommendations’… really?). Such weird myopia and obvious framing (“bold progressive Elizabeth Warren”?) is clearly an ill-conceived distraction meant to cripple progressive opposition to a blatantly pro-bank fraudclosure settlement. Lame is too kind a description. The PCCC might as well be an extension of the Orwellian Obama administration.

    1. gluelicker

      Overall I appreciate Yves Smith for her astringent critiques, but on this particular subject you are correct Doug, she (atypically) isn’t cynical enough about the PCCC and the likes of it.

      On a related tack, Lord knows the liberals are exasperating, but what about many (not all) of their critics putatively to the “left”? Take a representative sample of postings to this excellent blog. 2/3 of the entries don’t even engage with Yves’ analysis. Many posters are conspiracy cranks more interested in listening to the sound of their own half-baked rants about fiat money and what they misconstrue as “corporatism.” (“Corporatism” did not used to mean representative government by concentrated capital — rather, it meant Central European-style “compulsory associations” of big business/big labor/big government hammering out binding wages and prices agreements — but know-nothing American populists have managed to change the meaning of the term, through repeated misuse in blog comments sections.)

      1. gluelicker

        whoops, I meant to write, “representative government DOMINATED by concentrated capital”

        1. bobh


          Your gripe with using “corporatist” to describe politicians and governments dominated by corporate interests and concentrated capital, instead of its meaning from the middle of the last century, comes across as smug. Word meanings evolve, like it or not. What better word would you suggest for use by “half-baked” “conspiracy crank” blog commenters (like me) who want to discuss a phenomenon which defines and blights our politics and our society at the moment. All the ones I can think carry more unhelpful historical and political baggage than “corporatist.” I wasn’t going to say anything until you misused “know-nothing”, a common error, but a bad one for someone in your position.

      2. Hugh

        Yes, it is terrible what some people are doing with your language. Oh wait, it really isn’t your language, is it? Or rather it is not your language any more than it is anyone else’s.

        Personally, I have always found linguistic prescriptivism a comical position. If we followed its and your logic, we shouldn’t even be here using English, or even its Latin and Germanic precursors, or their Indo-European ancestor. We should be sitting around a camp fire exchanging Ughs, Aarghs, and Eeks. So really your use of English is quite radical and undercuts the essence of your argument.

      3. sgt_doom

        “pick on a specific, well intentioned liberal organization …

        You (Yves Smith) wanna point me in the direction of an actual liberal organization remaining in Amerika???

        Don’t know of any myself, but then I’m an authentic liberal and dem, unlike all those faux crats out there.

      4. SocraticGadfly

        I’ve not heard that angle expressed among left-liberals of my acquaintance. Your critique sounds like it’s aimed at Ron Paul-type libertarians, instead. I know I’ve never heard left-liberals of my acquaintance use the phrase “fiat money.”

    2. steelhead23

      Doug, Your comment is spot on. Much of the “outrage” from the liberal camp is more of a Bernaysian emotional hype to gin up one’s willingness to contribute to the cause than it is either to inform or modify policy decisions. Today, politics in America is not about policies or positions, it is about fundraising, pure and simple – with the very undemocratic reality that if you choose not to contribute, the corporations will, with the result being that all politicians are becoming increasingly corporatists, regardless of their party affiliation.

      1. lambert strether

        Billing by the click-through or the call! That’s what this is about, and that’s all that this is about.

        The late-lamented (not!) Open Left and The Obama 527 Formerly Known As Daily Kos have exactly the same business model.

  5. F. Beard

    Liberals are lame because they do not understand that the need for so much socialism as they advocate is caused by the banking system, which in essence is a government backed counterfeiting cartel.

    Eliminate the government backing for that cartel and the need for socialism should “wither away”.

  6. steve from virginia

    So- called liberal organizations have been lame forever … at least since the end of the Vietnam War.

    The so- called ‘all volunteer’ (mercenary) military put an end to them.

    The environmentalists have also taken a trip far and wide up their own nether regions.

    ‘Liberal’ is another color of corporatist. Dare not really rock the boat. What the most serious do is tally losses.

    No problem with that since Wall Street itself along with Japan, the EU and the America Way’s fabulous Waste- Based Economy are now on the tally sheet.

    I can’t wait …

    1. sgt_doom

      “The environmentalists have also taken a trip far and wide up their own nether regions…”

      Well, yes and no — no because they aren’t really enviros, but have been co-opted and now work for Wall Street and the shadow bankers (which is all cap-and-trade is, an extension of shadow banksters).

      Same for the conservation lobby (League of Conservation Voters, Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club) which works on behalf of the land-owning super-rich monopolists, although many of the fools who work on their behalf are clueless to this.

  7. Tom

    1. Where is Part 1? Link
    2. As usual your observations and analysis is cogent – my favorite blog!

    However, I think you are infected by the different strain of the same Liberal virus. You, as them, seem to believe that there is some sort of democratic ‘equity’ or ‘justice’ that is attainable by some action taken by certain people or gov’t agencies. The difference between your strain of the virus and the liberals is the perception of how to achieve this Platonic justice – what persons, agencies or actions are the affecters of equity and justice.

    The reality, it seems to me, is that there are a relative few people whose wealth and power is greater “Than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio” and no democratic political action is going to affect their behavior. All one can do at best is understand what the super rich are doing and try to catch their wave. e.g. if they are running up commodity prices don’t petition government to stop the market manipulation; rather invest in commodities. But, for the vast majority of blue-collar workers investment is not an option so they will have to take the hit as their progenitors have done for all recorded history in all societies.

    3. Regarding Warren – I have a ‘sexist theory’. As above, I don’t believe there is anything she can do of significance regarding ‘equity’ in economics. However, from a sociological perspective I find the way she is treated interesting. For example, Giethner does not simply disagree with her and argue his position in terms of economics. I have head him testify in front of her ‘committee or whatever it is called’ on C-Span and I was stunned by his condescendence. For example, when she says: “I don’t understand why the money is not getting down to local banks” (which is just a verbal variation of ‘would you explain why…) he says “Well it’s really not all that difficult to understand.” There are many such examples not just from him but news commentators also.

    Given her obvious intellect and grasp of economic facts, theory and law, I wonder why this type of attitude. I think it is her ‘old fashion housewife look and demeanor’. Her image is in stark contrast to women like the Foxnews ‘big hair’ ‘mid-thye’ skirt commentators. These are very intelligent and articulate women; but they also use their sexuality to project power and confidence. Warren has an ‘aw-shucks’ type of image and becomes ‘easy-pick’ns” (pun intended).

    1. JTFaraday

      “However, I think you are infected by the different strain of the same Liberal virus.”

      And I think *you’re* about to be featured in “Why Liberals are Lame (Part 3).”

  8. Paul Tioxon

    The Hard Militant Left, one that will resurrect the unabashed dictionary for armed email and phone campaigns, must not waiver in fervent desire for the hoisting upon their own petards of the BFF of banks. This call to armed struggle, however mitigated by the avowed wish for self inflicted annihilation by the enemy, may still scare off the more moderate Hard Left, who may move away from the mindless agitations of the Hard Militant Left and find themselves in the camp of the co-opted Left. This would bring all of The Left to a stunning standstill. However, never be lulled into thinking that the unabashed dictionary would not be operational in the face of the clearly bourgeois standard dictionaries and the false consciousness engender by such. Further clarification, devoid of the mystification of propaganda against taking direct action speaks for itself.

    1. DownSouth

      For me, the nonviolent method invented by Mahatma Gandhi and successively used, with such stunning effectiveness, by Martin Luther King and many others, resolves many of the problems you cite.

      1. soullite

        Well then, why hasn’t it?

        I mean, that non-violent style of activism has been the dominant strain for the last 40 years, during which the lower and middle classes have made almost no gains at all and have, in fact, seen steady losses.

        It may well be time to accept as reality the fact that, in America at least, that form of activism alone is only a way of achieving civil rights and liberties, and is not an effective method of gaining economic justice at all.

        1. Phil Perspective

          And you’ve seen demonstrations on that scale in the past 40 years, where? Wisconsin? Those were good because those were sustained. And that’s what is needed. Sustained protest.

          1. DownSouth

            Our experience is that marches must continue over a period of thirty to forty-five days to produce any meaningful results. They must also be of sufficient size to produce some inconvenience to the forces in power or they go unnoticed. In other words, they must demand the attention of the press, for it is the press which interprets the issue to the community at large and thereby sets in motion the machinery for change.
            ▬Martin Luther King, Jr., “Nonviolence: The Only Road to Freedom,” Ebony, October, 1966

        2. DownSouth

          Has the nonviolent style of activism ever been used in America in an attempt to gain economic justice?

          And if it were to be used for that end, would it work?

          I must concede that, in response to the latter quandary, I don’t know.

          1. monday1929

            How about paying people to close their accounts at money-center banks? How about bounty funds to pay whistle blowers?
            Use greed for good.

    2. nonclassical


      We’re already to “double-think”-Orwellian, as neocons have taught right-wingers intentional ignorance of reality..no amount of “e-mail” truth will undo Father Coughlin devolution to McCarthyism.

      For the poly-sci freaks here and elsewhere to really get a grip on where this is going, think “Sacco and Vinzetti”,
      likely guilty of nothing but taking actual stand. It falls
      to us in the streets to also take a stand, provocateurs acting out mercenary violence, also turned into sacrificial
      lambs..all so militant authoritarians can declare martial law=military law, and establish “order”.

      That’s impending reality..and where things are likely going
      as right-wing Governors challenge the will of the people:


      1. soullite

        In order to make this argument, you need to show some kind of gains from your way of doing things, and you can’t. You can point to this, that, or the other instance to show how this could lead to fascism. At the same time, I could point to how government over-reaction to union strikes and rebellions led to massive gains in the popularity of union causes.

        You can’t tell half the story and expect to reach the proper conclusion, and that is exactly what you’re doing.

  9. jake chase

    Elizabeth Warren as a Potemkin Progressive? Is that like a Fauxgressive? Sounds like ObamaMan. When will we see these telegenic careerists for what they are ab initio? Perhaps we could have soldiered on with the Fed and bank regulation before Walter Wriston and Nixon engineered the death of money. That was several hundred trillions ago. These days there is no alternative but closing the casino and putting debt free money in the hands of working people. The alternative will be Argentina, and nobody will cry for us.

    Don’t blame any of this on Ayn Rand. She identified the important villains of her time. Today’s collectivist enemy is the government coddled megacorporation, and its program involves debt servitude for everyone and the sooner the better.

    1. DownSouth

      What never ceases to amaze me is that, this late in the game, people still cling to the most pernicious of liberal ideologies. These are doctrines whose utter and absolute bankruptcy has been revealed on many different occasions, and yet here we are, fighting these failed ideologies as if the wheel had never been invented. Isn’t it time we gave Robespierre a rest?

      The all-but-spectacular failure of the French Revolution, for instance, was not due to anything the monarchists did, but to the faulty thinking of the liberal theorists themselves, as Hannah Arendt explains in On Revolution:

      The extent to which the ambiguous character of the revolutions derived from an equivocality in the minds of the men who made them is perhaps best illustrated by the oddly self-contradicting formulations which Robespierre enunciated as the ‘Principles of Revolutionary Government’. He started by defining the aim of constitutional government as the preservation of the republic which revolutionary government had founded for the purpose of establishing public freedom. Yet, no sooner had he defined the chief aim of constitutional government as the ‘preservation of public freedom’ than he turned about, as it were and corrected himself: ‘Under constitutional rule it is almost enough to protect the individuals against the abuses of public power.’ With this second sentence, power is still public and in the hands of government, but the individual has become powerless and must be protected against it. Freedom, on the other hand, has shifted places; it resides no longer in the public realm but in the private life of the citizens and so must be defended against the public and its power. Freedom and power have parted company, and the fateful equating of power with violence, of the political with government, and of government with necessary evil has begun.


      On a more sophisticated level, we may consider this disappearance of the ‘taste for political freedom’ as the withdrawal of the individual into an ‘inward domain of consciousness’ where it finds the only ‘appropriate region of human liberty’; from this region, as though from a crumbling fortress, the individual, having got the better of the citizen, will then defend himself against a society which in its turn gets ‘the better of individuality’. This process, more than the revolutions, determined the physiognomy of the nineteenth century as it partly does even that of the twentieth century.

      Where Robespierre really shone like a modern-day libertarian, however, was in the extreme measures he took, despite all his high-sounding rhetoric, to eradicate popular democracy. Arendt goes on to explain:

      What for the American people had been a pre-revolutionary experience and hence seemed not to stand in need of formal recognition and foundations [which never occurred] was in France the unexpected and largely spontaneous outcome of the Revolution itself. The famous forty-eight sections of the Parisian Commune had their origin in the lack of duly constituted popular bodies to elect representatives and to send delegates to the National Assembly. These sections, however, constituted themselves immediately as self-governing bodies, and they elected from their midst no delegates to the National Assembly, but formed the revolutionary municipal council, the Commune of Paris, which was to play such a decisive role in the course of the Revolution. Moreover, side by side with these municipal bodies, and without being influenced by them, we find a great number of spontaneously formed clubs and societies—-the sociétés populaires—-whose origin cannot be traced at all to the task of representation, of sending duly accredited delegates to the National Assembly, but whose sole aims were, in the words of Robespierre, ‘to instruct, to enlighten their fellow citizens on the true principles of the constitution, and to spread a light without which the constitution will not be able to survive’; for the survival of the constitution depended upon ‘the public spirit’, which, in its turn, existed only in ‘assemblies where the citizens [could] occupy themselves in common with these [public] matters, with the dearest interests of their fatherland’. To Robespierre, speaking in September 1791 before the National Assembly, to prevent the delegates from curtailing the political power of clubs and societies, this public spirit was identical with the revolutionary spirit. For the assumption of the Assembly then was that the Revolution had come to its end, that the societies which the Revolution had brought forward were no longer needed, that ‘it was time to break the instrument which had served so well’. Not that Robespierre denied this assumption, although he added he did not quite understand what the Assembly wanted to affirm with it; for if they assumed, as he himself did, that the end of the revolution was ‘the conquest and the conservation of freedom’, then, he insisted, the clubs and societies were the only places in the country where this freedom could actually show itself and be exercised by the citizens. Hence, they were the true ‘pillars of the constitution’, not merely because from their midst had come ‘a very great number of men who once will replace us’, but also because they constituted the very ‘foundations of freedom’; whoever interfered with their meeting was guilty of ‘attacking freedom’, and among the crimes against the Revolution, ‘the greatest was the persecution of the societies’. However, no sooner had Robespierre risen to power and become the political head of the new revolutionary government—-which happened in the summer of 1793, a matter of weeks, not even months, after he had uttered some of the comments which I have just quoted—-than he reversed his position completely. Now it was he who fought relentlessly against what he chose to name ‘the so-called popular societies’ and invoked against them ‘the great popular Society of the whole French people’, one and indivisible… The only exception he now was ready to make was in favour of the Jacobins, and this not merely because their club belonged to his own party but, even more importantly, because it never had been a ‘popular’ club or society; it had developed in 1789 out of the original meeting of the States-General, and it had been a club for deputies ever since.

      So there you have the libertarian political philosophy in a nutshell. Robespierre, Saint-Just, Hayek, Friedman or jake chase, that gives some history and insight as to how, and why, they arrived at their anti-democratic ideology.

  10. freepressmyass

    I’m with you Yves.
    So called progressive groups tiptoe through the tulips
    hoping someone will listen to them. It’s as if they still think they can influence Obama or Dems in Congress.
    Sheesh! Pathetic appeasers.

    The only way to try and tackle this train wreck is by going on the attack 24/7. Obama and the Dems deserve nothing less.

  11. Frank


    Some of these organizations exist as nothing more than job
    creators for liberal arts graduates turned businesssharks.

    In the San Francisco Bay Area there is a group out of
    Berkeley that sends vanloads of people around to
    affluent communities to beg for progressive causes.

    You see several of them on opposite sides of an intersection or in front of Whole Foods wearing bright t-shirts with either the
    Amnesty International,
    Sierra Club,
    marriage equlity and other logos.
    They jump you with various come-ons like

    Talk to them and you get the same feeling that a guy does
    when a woman smiles at you, starts a conversation and you soon realize that she is a prostitute.
    It’s a rote, canned, vacant eyed pod-people
    prattle that leads to you signing a petition and then the pitch:
    “would you like to help us with a donation?”
    “Twenty dollars, fifty dollars, anything will help us to–“(insert cause here).

    I talked to one of their supervisors and got the skinny:
    They are paid minimum wage.
    They have a daily quota of collections that they must make
    or they are fired.
    The organization whose t-shirt they wear gets a very small percentage of what they raise after all the expenses are subtracted.
    The owner of the company drives a new Mercedes.

  12. FukRAND

    Rand? Greenspan?

    I will blame much of this on Ayn Rand. Her sociopathic “philosophy” was the inspiration for many of the scum who caused this and continues to the inspire the worst people around. Just ask Paul “Galt” Ryan.

    1. Dean Sayers

      Ayn Rand is a scumbag to be sure – but nothing she said goes further than serving to justify policies. I would be far more concerned about the influence of Hayek and Friedman, though I still think they serve ideological – figurehead roles more than anything else.

      1. Rabid Cranky Troll

        I’m not sure how far one ought to go in blaming ideologies and ideologues. It seems to me that the real situation is one where the rich and powerful do what they want, loot the rest of society, and use bits and pieces of both left- and right- ideologies and critiques to justify and rationalize what they’re doing.

        We should not blame Marx (too much) for the monstrosity that Stalin created. Clearly Marx’s aim was something very different from Stalinist USSR. And it seems to me that Hayek’s aim too was something very different from what we have today, Corporatist-Totalitarian USA.

  13. Steve

    Warren didn’t go over to the dark side. She tried and failed to build a progressive coalition to restrain Big Bank power. Sadly, she has had her Warholian fifteen minutes. We can all contribute our pet theories to the “post mortem” that will inevitably follow her decline (as Yves has above).

    My own theory is that the public’s inchoate rage at the Big Banks simply cannot be channeled into a coherent set of policy prescriptions the average Congressperson can support. Certainly the average citizen cannot understand all this stuff. They know their being screwed and that’s about it. Congresscritters are not going to take the risk of pissing off donors only to find that the new laws they just passed do not resonate at the ballot box. There is no modern “Cross of Silver” around which to rally.

    But there is a winning political solution set here somewhere. Btu Progressives just haven’t found it yet. To me (as a Libertarian), the thunderous silence of the Libertarian-leaning faction of the Tea Party on the issue of rogue banks is a massive disappointment. Maybe I’m just as naive as Warren.

    A “grand coalition” of Progressives and Libertarians could have carried this issue. Unfortunately, they disagree on too many other issues. So the dogs bark, but the banking caravan rolls on, right over the spines of all of us.

    1. monday1929

      No “new laws or policy prescriptions” are needed. Why not keep it simple and push for prosecution under existing laws?
      As you imply, to work it must fit on a bumper sticker.

        1. NeutralObserver

          How about simply “Prosecute the Bankers” or, even better, “Handcuffs for Bankers”

    2. DownSouth

      Steve said: “There is no modern ‘Cross of Silver’ around which to rally.”

      I assume you’re talking about Bryan’s Cross of Gold speech in 1896.

      It must be understood that Bryan himself, and in broader terms the entirety of the Democratic Party and the “progressive” movement, were nothing but pawns of the bankers. The goal of the bankers was to co-opt the Populists, and they used Bryan, the Democratic Party and the “progressives” to that end. It’s a fascinating history, but here’s how Lawrence Goodwyn sums it up in The Populist Moment:

      Finally, Senator Allen announced that the People’s Party had nominated the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer, William Jennings Bryan, as its own candidate for President.

      It no longer made any difference what Bryan thought of the Populist platform; it no longer mattered whether he would accept Tom Watson as a running mate. He was nominated. In a convention wracked by chaos and haltingly stabilized only by the disingenuous statements of the convention chairman representing the shadow movement in Nebraska, the strategy of the silverites had prevailed.

      The convention was quickly adjourned. Knots of mid-roaders gathered in an effort to discover a course of action that would save the Populist cause. They discussed the few options remaining open to them and made a few desperate plans. Then, disheartened and defeated, they left the hall.

      The democratic agenda embedded in the Omaha Platform had shrunk to the candidacy of a Democrat named Bryan. The cause of free silver was instance. The agrarian revolt was over.


      In a gesture that was symbolic of the business-endorsed reforms of the Progressive era, William Jennings Bryan hailed the passage of the Federal Reserve Act in 1913 as a “triumph for the people.” His response provided a measure of the intellectual achievements of reformers in the Progressive period. Of longer cultural significance, it also illustrated how completely the idea of “reform” had become incorporated within the new political boundaries established in Bryan’s own lifetime. The reformers of the Progressive era fit snugly within these boundaries—-in Bryan’s case, without his even knowing it. Meanwhile, the idea of substantial democratic influence over the structure of the nation’s financial system, a principle that had been the operative political objective of greenbackers, quietly passed out of American political dialogue.

      1. Steve

        Great stuff from you as usual, thanks.

        Historians continue to debate whether Bryan was co-opted. But my point is that Bryan got a lot further with his agenda than Warren has gotten with hers.

        The tentacles of modern finance are so intertwined with our daily lives it would be nearly impossible to know how to disentangle ourselves at this point. Even food stamps come on debit cards in many states.

        Bryan wanted access to credit for workers and peasants. It was pretty simple. What precisely would we ask for now? And could we get it without bringing the economy to its knees? The average guy would probably suffer more than the oligarchs in such a scenario.

        1. Joe Rebholz

          What precisely would we ask for now?

          How about destroying a large part of the corrupt system by one simple change: No credit period. Outlaw borrowing and debt. When people accept cash now in exchange for a promise to pay it back in the future they are selling their future which they cannot now know. Debt slavery should be illegal. If this sounds too nuts, then just outlaw certain kinds of debts, say, derivatives of derivatives of derivatives. Or maybe only debts secured by real physical property like houses and cars, not pieces of paper (or electronic blips in a computer), should be legal. What’s nuts is banks and “investors” circularly lending to themselves ad infinitum. There are many other crazy things we need to consider because just tweaking the present system won’t work.

    3. Rabid Cranky Troll

      This baffles me as well. Although I think the coalition should also be about ending the wars and dismantling the American Empire.

      Here’s the father of American Libertarianism:

      Here’s a well-known Socialist:

      If we agree on the character of our foreign policy, “national security” bureaucracy, the venality of our politicians, and the culpability of the folks who sit at the apex of our economic system, then what on earth is there left to argue about, except for tactics and methods?

  14. Francois T

    Liberal organizations have become lamer and lamer over time because of the ever rising influence of national political party who put those libruls in the virtual veal pen:

    Someone asked me over the weekend to be more explicit about what the term “veal pen” means:

    The veal crate is a wooden restraining device that is the veal calf’s permanent home. It is so small (22″ x 54″) that the calves cannot turn around or even lie down and stretch and is the ultimate in high-profit, confinement animal agriculture.(1) Designed to prevent movement (exercise), the crate does its job of atrophying the calves’ muscles, thus producing tender “gourmet” veal.


    About 14 weeks after their birth, the calves are slaughtered. The quality of this “food,” laden with chemicals, lacking in fiber and other nutrients, diseased and processed, is another matter. The real issue is the calves’ experience. During their brief lives, they never see the sun or touch the Earth. They never see or taste the grass. Their anemic bodies crave proper sustenance. Their muscles ache for freedom and exercise. They long for maternal care. They are kept in darkness except to be fed two to three times a day for 20 minutes.

    Soon after the election, the Administration began corralling the big liberal DC interest groups into a variety of organizations and communication networks through which they telegraphed their wishes — into a virtual veal pen.

    Why do you think Obama literally turned off his much vaunted campaign list right after November 4th 2008?
    They had to be corralled…exactly like these poor animals described above: kept in the dark, beaten down if they protest too much, rarely seeing the light of day, being rarely fed good political common sense stuff, just centrist quasi-manure. The political muscles are totally atrophied, the frustration is very high and they sure feel abandoned.

    There isn’t 400 solutions to this problem; liberals have to abandon the idea that the actual Democrass Party has the Common Good in mind, that it is their political home.

    They must build their own home from scratch. The courage and determination to do so will only be there after much more real suffering and widespread pain within the population has been experienced, seared into the collective memory.

  15. Christopher Harlos

    Organized labor in the private sector is nil. Public unionism will be crushed by the middle-to-end of this decade. Labor is the soil for the left, and one can correlate the decline of the left with capital’s crushing victories over labor over the past 40 years. Today’s nominal left are useful idiots for our reactionary elites, and certainly not leftists. So, they are worse than lame.

  16. seabos84

    below is a post I did today on dailykos to a teacherken diary on the latest greatest edu-ma-ka-shun whitewash.

    It applies here, in that “liberal” organizations are politically incompetent, on a good day. The pseudo leftie professional managerial $ocial cla$$ couldn’t run a hot dog stand, never mind make community stuff work well – and when it comes to beating righties ?? ha ha ha.


    How about ideas which are PAID For AFTER they figure out all the steps that each idea costs to implement?

    We get either some vague grandiose Magna Carta approach to problem solving, OR, we get health care act style rat’s nest of incomprehensible legal-bureaucratic-ese which is ONLY understood by the white collar criminals who wrote all the arcane references and clauses.

    IF the entire human race tripped over their shoelaces today, fell and knocked each of their half empty barely used heads on a concrete curb, and woke up as altruistic UNSELFISH un-human critters, there is still NOT enough stuff in the world for everyone to have everything they want all the time. As a community, we’d have to figure out how to allocate resources to education and health care and transportation and growing food and storing food and processing food and making clothes and making toilet bowl handles and making roofing and … transporting and distributing all the stuff of living.

    HOW can we figure out how to allocate things when we can’t even figure out what the hell things cost to produce? Guess what, when the offspring of some of our citizens have acce$$ to too few re$ource$ to develop as productive community members, then we the community can invest community re$ource$ in the future of those offspring, or we can piss money away on jails & riot police for the slums.

    Kevin Drum wrote recently about the decline of the Democratic Party – how the unions and the rights crowd split and the righties have kicked our asses ever since.

    WRONG – ALL branches of the Democratic Party have been taken over by the relatively affluent who are seriously out of touch with the lives of the appx. 180,000,000 Americans living with 2008 money income of 50K a year or less. These relatively affluent are part of that appx. 24,000,000 living on OVER 75K a year – they can afford their Magna Carta wild eyed hand waving, or, they’re part of the parasitic cla$$e$ writing and maintaining and overseeing bullshit like the recent 2000 page health “care” act.

    (table 701, statistical abstract of the united states.)

    These relatively affluent haven’t made government run better enough, or at all – hence it is even easier for the liars and thieves of the right to lie and steal. They haven’t made things run better cuz they’re in$ulated from the bull$hit they administer.

    I’ve been teaching high school math for over 5 years now.

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE show me ideas to help our kids which have been costed out in time and resources to accomplish, so we can start figuring out how to get the resources to pay for it.

    Here’s what people can do with their Magna Carta hand waving acts or their 2000 page bureaucrat employment acts – print ’em on charmin so I can use them to wipe my ass, OR, even better, print them on sandpaper and stick ’em up the asses of the creators.

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE show me ideas to help our kids which have been costed out in time and resources to accomplish, so we can start figuring out how to get the resources to pay for it.


  17. steelhead23

    Seabos – PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE teach each high school kid a tad of financial math. Teach them how to amortize a loan, how to calculate PNV, perhaps even how to recognize scams.

    If there is a “failure” in U.S. secondary education it is that we tend to produce “worker bees” that easily become marks for the plethora of shysters roaming the halls of finance. Sorry if this does not conform to your post, but if there is one thing this crisis has taught me it is that we are all far to naive and trusting in this world of capitalism gone amuk – and you are in a position to do something about it.

    1. seabos84

      while it takes weeks and weeks and weeks of ‘scaffolding’ and cajoling and bolstering and hand holding and …

      I do manage to get 40+ kids who’ve bombed all kinds of state math exams, and their classmates, comfortable with fractional exponents and comfortable with the rule of logs that log(1+x)^t = tlog(1+x)…

      and now the kids can at least ball park their interest rates and ball park the time it will take to achieve a financial objective !!! I hear ya!


  18. Eureka Springs

    I would be shocked if 5 percent of the few Alabama recipients eye didn’t glaze within a couple of lines of reading. For those who did read and generally comprehend the email less than 5 percent (now down to .05 percent of all recipients) would have been informed/able to express their thoughts/demands quickly and coherently on a phone cll to a congress-critters office.

    When organizations like PDA drop the D from their identity and treat the D party with contempt I will begin to consider them as a serious group.
    I received a number of emails just like this from a number of organizations yesterday… many on the topic of various labor concerns. All of them had common ground, but were divided and feckless… with no clear demand, no clear agenda… and that is definitely a feature of all liberal organizations in my lifetime. Like the tea-people, PDA will never alter the bowel movements of any major monied party from within.

    Big labor in particular effed up big time by not demanding single payer for all. It would have saved their peeps a lot of money which could have been moved into take home pay or other areas like shoring up pensions… and brought a lot of non members into greater appreciation of what labor movements can do for all. And a lot of small businesses would have taken notice as well.

    We need lines in the sand… just a few, in a small one page list that can be stapled everywhere, not etherial convoluted messages taking on small fry. This (Warren size issues) is something places like here need to be ready/informed to take on after a toppling of the bipartisan ongoing criminal enterprise. For now nobody is negotiating with the left, much less for the left… PDA et. al. all ask us to assume otherwise without merit.

    Tax the rich
    Restore rule of law (beginning with restoring/ honoring our 4th amendment protections, war crimes and bankster crimes)
    Fair trade
    Health care is a human right and makes us secure
    Establish public party, lobby, campaign finance only
    End all wars and occupations while reducing MIC budgets to no more than Russia and Chinas combined
    Clean abundant energy
    End corporate personhood


    These “veal pen” organizations will always ask us to negotiate with errorism.

    Step down Mubarak! while taking out a major party altogether worked well in Egypt… when a number of USAers on the left assume a similar position I will take notice and act with them with glee.

    1. Frank


      Thank you for that.

      What has the Democratic Party done for the
      White Working Class?
      A term that has suddenly become important as
      defeat at the polls is sniffed.

      “President Obama’s naming of General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt to a new post focused on creating US jobs has drawn cheers from the corporate community, and appears to reflect a change in tone from the White House with regard to big business.
      But the head of a leading manufacturing association told us on ABC’s “Top Line” that the president’s choice sends the wrong message to many of those who are currently out of work – who happen to be some of the same voters the president needs to win back.
      “He could have done worse, but he certainly could have done a lot better,” Scott Paul, executive director of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, told us.
      “I mean, Immelt has outsourced a ton of jobs. They’ve closed — GE has closed 29 factories in the last two years alone. And if you’re trying to send a signal to those white, working-class voters that left the Democratic Party in droves in November, naming one of the country’s leading outsourcers as your chief strategy guy on jobs — I don’t think was the smartest move.”


  19. Hugh

    This example is particularly lame, but it falls into the broader category of liberal Trojan horses. This group is made up of Establishment liberals, like Paul Krugman, liberal orgs, like Moveon, and elite liberal blogs, like Huffington Post, dailykos, and firedoglake. Their common feature is that they sop up liberal and progressive money, resources, and energy and then use these in a series of ineffectual ways, completely unthreatening to the status quo. All of them primarily direct their, and our, attention to how mean and nasty those Republicans are, but their condemnation of Democrats for engaging in much the same varies between non-existent to sporadic. The big tell with all of these is their reaction to building an alternative to both the current corporate parties. This runs on a spectrum between silence and open hostility/derision.

    I have often said that if such groups did not exist, the Democrats and Republicans would invent them, because they do such an excellent job of dissipating liberal and progressive energies to no useful end.

    The simple truth of our kleptocratic political structure is that anyone who votes for any Democrat or any Republican is casting a vote for kleptocracy. These “liberal” groups strive to make sure these are the only two choices we will ever have. They are very much part of the kleptocratic project.

    1. Steve

      Exactly. It’s like the Harlem Globetrotters used to have the Washington Generals to beat up on.

      These “opposition” groups make a lot of noise but they have no chance of changes anything, which is why they are tolerated. If they ever got any real traction, they would have to fear for their lives.

    2. Z


      I don’t think that firedoglake, whom I’ve had some minor problems with, is nearly as reverential to obama as the huffpost and, in particular, what I’ve seen from the dailykos crew. I don’t think that firedoglake deserves to be in the same sentence with the other two in those regards.

      But I agree with everything else you wrote.


    3. Michael H

      Hugh: “The simple truth of our kleptocratic political structure is that anyone who votes for any Democrat or any Republican is casting a vote for kleptocracy.”

      Very well put, thank you!

      If only more people understood this.


      As for firedoglake, I’m not so sure. Admittedly I haven’t been there in a long time. Probably December 2009 or January 2010. At that time Jane Hamsher was actually encouraging readers to call Harry Reid (yes, as in call him on the phone) and tell him how unhappy they were over something, I’ve forgotten exactly what it was now.

      By then I’d already given up on the Democrats and so I stopped reading. But maybe it’s improved since that time?

      I guess anything is possible.

      1. Z


        I’m not saying that there aren’t problems with fdl. I’ve had a few run-ins with the site and some ridiculous censorship of my postings, but I don’t think of fdl as being the obama-dem cheerleaders that certainly dailykos is and I think that their reporting … though I’ve been disappointed lately with David Dayen touting the obama administration line on their alleged motivations in the talks to settle the banks’/wall street’s criminal conduct in regards to foreclosures … is much more critical of obama and the dems than huffpo. The vast majority of the articles on firedoglake are critical of the obama administration and the democratic party and I think that distinguishes them from the other two. Any objective reading of their content doesn’t jive with “their condemnation of Democrats for engaging in much the same (conduct as the republicans) varies between non-existent to sporadic”; their criticism is pretty consistent.

        Another thing that distinguishes Hamsher from so many obama-dem cheerleaders is even though she was on the wrong side of the public option-single payer fight, once she saw what obama was pulling, she didn’t back it and cheer on the obama administration’s abomination of health care reform; instead exposed their corrupt ways. That’s not something that a party before all cheerleader does.

        One thing that doesn’t distinguish them from dailykos and huffpo is that I also don’t see them promoting any 3rd party movement away from the democratic party.

        I’m not telling that fdl is perfect … or even encourage you to read it or join their their fdl club or whatever it is (I haven’t) … but the site is nothing like dailykos or huffpo, who still tries to promote the fallacious narrative of a congenitally well-intentioned obama.


        1. Z

          When I write that fdl is “nothing like dailykos or huffpo” I’m speaking in regards to their obama reverential ways.


          1. Michael H

            Thanks Z.

            Maybe I’ll have another look at FDL, then decide whether or not to pursue it.

            It’s not like there’s a lot to choose from. ZNet is chronically short of funds, eXiled recently went for over a week without posting any updates, the _stop me before i vote again_ blog sometimes goes 2 or 3 days without any new posts. And then there’s Counterpunch, and this one. That’s about it.

            There may be a few others worth reading, but none that I’m aware of.

          2. Z


            IMO, ianwelsh.net and the distantocean.com are worth a look too, but sometimes go a long time in between posts.

            Glenn Greenwald on salon.com has a very good blog.


    4. darms

      anyone who votes for any Democrat or any Republican is casting a vote for kleptocracy

      Which of course begs the question “Then who do you vote for?”. While like most I’m deeply disappointed in the D’s, my local congress critter is Lloyd Doggett and I’m proud to have voted for him in every election I could. Also I’m a regular long-time reader of firedoglake & find a mimimum of bias in their essays & reporting. Must agree w/you on Huffington Post & D-Kos, however. As for the ‘liberal’ groups who bombard my inbox w/their lame appeals & pointless action requests, isn’t that what spam filters were created for? Since my senators are Cornyn & Hutchinson, what’s the point of me calling their offices? They don’t represent me in any way and could care less what I think.

  20. Z

    Warren can still avoid going over to the “dark side” by resigning and publicly talking about what a sham the whole process is and whose interests are being served by it.

    I was one that was skeptical that she’d be able to be effective inside the administration and I’m far from worshipful about anyone, but I’m not willing to accept that she is on the dark side just yet.


  21. par4

    Great points Hugh. Rich ‘Liberals’ could afford to lose the battle for economic justice. Now that our factories and small farms are gone all the libs have left are celebrity causes du jour.

  22. lambert strether

    Ah yes, Jason Rosenbaum. It’s nice to see that career “progressives” have their own version of “wingnut welfare.”

    Rosenbaum was an HCAN’t lobbyist that Jane Hamsher installed at FDL. His tenure was distinguished by (1) a daily column he cross-posted called “Health Care News” that never mentioned single payer, and (2) his refusal to disclose his paid affiliations until he was forced to do so by single payer activists who called him on it. In other words, Rosenbaum was paid to censor the single payer story by his employer, since they were opposed to it. Which is fine, I suppose — modulo the excess deaths caused by hampering the adoption of an HCR policy, like single payer, that can actually be shown to work — unless you run a column (“News”) and a site silo (“The Seminal”) that both purport to be open.

    So, any enterprise that calls itself “bold” and “progressive” yet has Jason Rosenbaum’s name shilling for it should be regarded with grave suspicion. “Cowardly” and “D front organization” are probably more appropriate branding.

  23. Rabid Cranky Troll


    And let me point out the fundamental fraudulence of the Democratic party’s position on this (Financial “reform”). Their proposals basically amount to fixing the barn door after all the horses have been stolen, without saying anything about whether the horses ought to be taken back.

    “Inadequate” hardly does this justice. It almost looks like intentional misdirection, to draw the peasants’ attention away, to permit the horse thieves to get away scot free.

    Shoot the bankers and financiers and confiscate every red cent they’ve made over the past 40 years. That should be the demand.

  24. Psychoanalystus

    The liberal political class in the US îs completely bankrupt. The US is now under a permanent right wing majority. The liberal political class is merely being tolerated in order to give the impression of an oppossition. There still are a few truly progressive voices in the country, but none in any position of power. This country is headed straight for the 19th century and from there into the dark ages. If you don’t like it, it’s time to emigrate to Canada. Else get used to slavery, ignorance, hubris, fear, discrimination, dogmatism, poverty, even more exceptionalism.


    1. darms

      Exactly. Liberals are tolerated today only because they are powerless. Were we to pose any sort of credible ‘threat’ (and I’m absolutely not speaking of any sort of violence here) to the Powers That Be, arrests would surely/shortly follow as credible dissent is not allowed.

  25. lee bronock

    Hey Folks!;
    Looks like good old Gore Vidal was right: “America has one political party with two Right wings.”

Comments are closed.