What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis

Filed Under Greenberg's Law of Counterproductive Behavior

Consortium News has the story What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis.  Robert Parry lays out a picture of what is going on that even the most devious amateur politician may not have thought of.

Though I’m told the Ukraine crisis caught Obama and Putin by surprise, the neocon determination to drive a wedge between the two leaders has been apparent for months, especially after Putin brokered a deal to head off U.S. military strikes against Syria last summer and helped get Iran to negotiate concessions on its nuclear program, both moves upsetting the neocons who had favored heightened confrontations.

Putin also is reported to have verbally dressed down Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan over what Putin considered their provocative actions regarding the Syrian civil war. So, by disrupting neocon plans and offending Netanyahu and Bandar, the Russian president found himself squarely in the crosshairs of some very powerful people.

If you are not a professional politician, you might have trouble conceiving of how devious politics can be. My recent experience in local politics has shown me what a rank amateur I am.  I am pretty sure I have been had, but I can’t figure out by whom.  It is probably because of Greenberg’s Law of Counterproductive Behavior which states -

If you see a behavior that seems to you to be counterproduct…you have misunderstood what the actor was trying to produce.

In the case of the Robert Parry article, I think he is trying to straighten out my misunderstanding about what various players are trying to produce.  I suspected some of the players he mentioned, but I was surprised by some others that he mentioned.

Are Democrats who Propose Cuts to Social Security “Stupid” or Just Doing Risk-Analysis?

Filed Under Greenberg's Law of Counterproductive Behavior, SteveG's Posts

Naked Capitalism has the story Gaius Publius: Are Democrats who Propose Cuts to Social Security “Stupid” or Just Doing Risk-Analysis? It’s not a pretty story.

I’ll give you the finish to whet your appetite for reading the article.

Naturally there’s a risk with this strategy. Consider the 2012 presidential election. That 4% popular vote differential was not much of a margin, and if Romney hadn’t become “Mr. 47%” in most people’s eyes, it’s conceivable he could have pulled closer. But there’s just no way the Rubins and the hedgies and all their minions are going to allow an anti-billionaire “Warren populist” into the general election. They have to stick with a free-market type.

So the very best they can hope for is a newbie who can lie, pretend to be something he’s not, a man or woman without a track record. (Remind you of someone? Obama in 2008, Kid “Hope and Change” and “Yes We Can”?) That brings out the Hopeful and swells the numbers. Otherwise they just have to go with what’s available and roll the dice. By 2012 no one was Hoping, certainly not in great numbers, not after four years of Grand Bargains and promises betrayed (do click; it’s a stunning list). Many were just voting not-Romney, those who voted at all.

So yes, there’s some risk to this neoliberal calculation and strategy. In 2012 they took the risk and it paid off, in a 4% popular vote victory. Could the strategy still lose occasionally? Yes, but again, given the demographics and with appropriate pushback in the states, it’s increasingly less likely.

And even if it does produce a loss, consider the alternative from the Rubin side of things. What do you do? (1) Put a real FDR in the White House and let him challenge the whole billionaire system, or (2) risk having to count your money in electoral exile for a just few years, then try again?

I don’t see the Rubins of the world ever making the first choice. And I do think they’ve really thought this through. To return to where we started, very few of these men and women are stupid.

Side thought — Keep the above in mind when scoping out the 2016 race. We have a neoliberal front-runner with a track record and an unwillingness to speak on most issues. Where’s the turnout going to come from?

I should add that it is always dangerous to attribute motives to people when you have not asked them for an explanation of their motives.  However, if you want to figure out if their behavior is counterproductive or not, you do have to try to figure out what they intend to produce.

Fruits of Republican Folly

Filed Under Greenberg's Law of Counterproductive Behavior, SteveG's Posts

The American Prospect has the article Fruits of Republican Folly by Robert Kuttner.

Since Barack Obama took office, the two Republican factions have complemented each other in a successful “good cop, bad cop” effort to ratchet down public spending. Wall Street creates one sort of crisis; the Tea Party creates another; government takes the hit. Except for the short-lived stimulus of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009, this is the first prolonged slump of the postwar era in which government cut rather than expanded public spending.
With everything else having been cut, the pressure has shifted to the big social-insurance programs—so-called entitlements—that have thus far been protected. Once again, the corporate right and Tea Party right have called for a grand bargain targeting Social Security and Medicare.

Can anyone please explain why President Obama is so hell bent on cutting the throats of the Democratic Party and its elected Congress People?

Can he  really be so ignorant of what every postwar President of either party has known about how to deal with a slump?

To brag on his “accomplishment” as shown in my previous post What So Proudly We Hail, shows that he is either completely ignorant, smoking something that is not Federally permitted, being held hostage, or some other explanation.

Notice that I have placed this post in the category of Greenberg’s Law of Counterproductive Behavior.  Which translates to, please explain to me what Barack Obama is trying to accomplish.  I am pretty sure, I no longer know.

Romney foolishly said the Federal Reserve should not do more monetary stimulus

Filed Under Greenberg's Law of Counterproductive Behavior

Reuters has the article Romney says new Fed stimulus would risk inflation.

Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney on Monday said the Federal Reserve should not go ahead with another round of monetary stimulus to boost the U.S. economy, because it would risk kicking up inflation.
“Another round of quantitative easing is not the solution for the economy, and could mean inflation down the road,” Romney told Faux Noise. “It’s not the right thing to do.”

Of course the Fed wouldn’t have to do monetary easing if the Congress would agree to a stimulus plan that included direct government spending on all the things that Elizabeth Warren would have the government spend it on.

Be that as it may, worrying about inflation at some unknown distant point in the future while the Fed has been unable to produce enough inflation now is a silly thing to be thinking about with the current problems we have.  If the fed were able to produce its target rate of inflation, it would certainly be able to take action if the inflation rate exceeded its target.  Given how hard it has tried to boost inflation and how unsuccessful it has been, if it finally does manage to create some inflation, all it would have to do is stop its current efforts or perhaps reverse them, to stop inflation from getting out of hand.

Given how hard the Fed has tried to boost inflation and how little inflation we have – we actually have deflation in the housing market – can you imagine the even higher deflation in the housing market that we would have had had the Fed not intervened?

Why is some inflation in the housing market good and large deflation extremely bad?  For years, people have made plans based on a fairly small, but dependable rate of inflation in the housing market.  The banks have always factored this into their plans as well.  The inflation is what allowed homeowners to sell a fairly illiquid asset, real estate, when they had to in order to move to where the jobs are.  This inflation is also what allowed homeowners to build their equity so that they would have something on which to retire.  This equity buildup due to inflation was magnified to the homeowner because of the leverage they were using with the borrowed mortgage money to finance the purchase of the real estate.

Take this all away, and even deflate the asset on which they borrowed money and you have leverage working against the homeowner.  They cannot move to a better job market because they would have to raise money in order to pay off their mortgage on a home that was worth less than the mortgage on it.  Not only is the falling house price not adding to their nest egg for retirement, it is actually shrinking their retirement nest egg.

Excess equity in a house is also a resource you can use if there should be unexpected disasters such as unexpected illness, sudden death of the wage earner, divorce, or loss of a job and long term unemployment.  If you are underwater in your mortgage instead of having excess equity, not only is the house not a resource you can tap, it is actually an extra burden to bear.

With all these actual or imaginable problems facing the middle-class, they are desperately trying to cut their spending and trying to save money in ways that compensate for the housing problem.  This is why businesses have not enough freaking customer to keep their existing employees and factories busy.  Giving companies even more than the trillions of cash they are already sitting on is not going to make the middle-class become better customers.

As a matter of fact, companies taking trillions of dollars out of the economy and parking them in non-productive financial derivatives until the economy turns around is one of the many factors keeping the economy from turning around.

So taking money out of the hands of the corporations and putting it back into the economy would be a good thing to do.  This means raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy individuals that control them.  It makes absolutely no sense to do the opposite by lowering their taxes and allowing them to pull even more money out of the economy.  This pulling money out of the economy may be the very reason that the Fed’s pouring money in is having such little effect.

That the Republicans can pretend that they don’t see these realities  and then propose solutions that will make matters much worse, makes you want to apply Greenberg’s Law of Counterproductive Behavior.  What are the Republican’s trying to do?  The answer involves the book The Shock Doctrine. You may actually have to read more than what I have posted about the book to see the connection.  The short answer is that they are trying to shock the middle-class into accepting lower wages, poorer working conditions, and cuts to government investment in the education and health of the people.  With globalization, they intend to make money from customers elsewhere.  Or maybe they just think they can steal the existing customers from their competitors faster than their competitors can steal customers from them.  Somehow, they intend to have enough customers without having to pay living wages to workers.  Can they not see that a person who is a worker in one context is a customer in another?

You have to ignore this identity of worker and customer to think that Mitt Romney’s idea of business management being blindly applied to macroeconomics would be successful.


Why Progressive Austerians do the Greatest Damage

Filed Under Greenberg's Law of Counterproductive Behavior

In William Black’s excellent blog, New Economic Perspectives, he has written the post, Why Progressive Austerians do the Greatest Damage.

To many people, it seems paradoxical that conservatives target not the worst social programs, but the best.  There is no paradox.  Bad government programs are desirable from the right’s perspective – they discredit government intervention.  Good government programs pose an existential challenge to conservative memes, so they are the prime target for attack.

This is exactly the kind of paradox that falls under Greenberg’s Law Of Counterproductive Behavior, which states:

If you see a behavior that seems to you to be counterproductive, perhaps you have misunderstood what the actor was trying to produce.

I recommend Black’s article to you because it has many other interesting things to say besides the one I focused on above.

As an exercise to the reader, I suggest seeing if you can name the politicians who are most guilty of being progressive auterians.  Also ask yourself if you are guilty of being a progressive auterian.

The Troll On The Elizabeth Warren Facebook Page

Filed Under Greenberg's Law of Counterproductive Behavior

In my opinion, there is a troll on the Elizabeth Warren Facebook page. It is possible that the Elizabeth Warren campaign is not getting the full benefit from Facebook that it could because of the behavior of the troll.

Of course, as one would expect, there is much praise for Elizabeth Warren from the postings on her page.  Occasionally a Warren supporter, such as myself, tries to convey some constructive criticisms of the way we feel that the campaign is missing opportunities to further promote Warren’s candidacy.

The troll seems to take it upon himself to disparage all criticism in what seems to be an attempt to intimidate people who make such criticisms.  It is unfortunate that the campaign seems more intent in quieting criticism than it is in learning from it.  This troll just reinforces this image which some supporters find so extremely frustrating.

It is not even clear if the troll has any official responsibility for the Facebook page.  One suspects that he does not.  If a person with administrative privileges on the Facebook page thought that a post was detrimental, then it would be better to just delete the post rather than try to intimidate the poster from further posts.

I start to wonder why a purported volunteer in the campaign and presumably a supporter would spend so much effort to patrol the Facebook page and turn off people who want to post there.

I would think a truly committed supporter would thoughtfully read the criticism and help to pass on the good ideas to the campaign.  If the troll is not the one charged with this responsibility, then who is?  Surely the campaign would not consider Facebook to be a one way medium of communication.  Surely they would have someone officially responsible for reading the feedback and not just responsible for writing posts.  If there is nobody charged with this duty, then this is just another example of missed opportunities to further the cause of getting Elizabeth Warren elected.

Is this a case of Greenberg’s Law of Counterproductive Behavior? “If you see a behavior that seems to you to be counterproductive, perhaps you have misunderstood what the actor was trying to produce.”

Speaking of that law, why would I want to post this on the Warren Facebook page?  Am I being the troll that I have just talked about?  That is not my intention.  I would like to communicate with the other posters and readers of the Facebook page and urge them to use whatever connections they have to the campaign to get the message through.  One or two (or is that a hundred) voices of  concern do not seem to be enough.

The question is, can we get our concerns addressed in time to rescue this campaign? Can we stop the people who are doing so much damage to the campaign?  Can we break through the wall surrounding Elizabeth Warren and get her to realize who her real friends are?

The Republican Field Of Hawks

Filed Under Greenberg's Law of Counterproductive Behavior

Truth Out has Eugene Robinson’s article A Field of Hawks.

The article starts with:

Unless Ron Paul somehow wins the nomination, it looks as if a vote for the Republican presidential candidate this fall will be a vote for war with Iran.

and ends with:

The United States and its allies should seek to eliminate the Iranian government’s will to make a bomb, not its capacity. I hope Romney realizes that while sanctions and diplomacy may not be working as well as we’d like, they’re the best tools we have — and that an attack at this point gets us nowhere. But if he believes his own rhetoric, this election may be about more than the economy. It may be about war and peace.

I can think of few things that would strengthen Iran’s will to make a bomb than the constant threats and sanctions.  Iran may observe that we are a little more careful how we deal with countries that have a nuclear capability.  If they are trying to build a bomb, which I might remind you our intelligence agencies say they have no proof of, it could just be so that they can get more fear if not respect from the international community.

So if threatening and sanctioning Iran seems to be counterproductive to the aims of the United States, then it would put our actions in the category of Greenberg’s Law of Counterproductive Behavior, “If you see a behavior that seems to you to be counterproductive, perhaps you have misunderstood what the actor was trying to produce.”

I don’t know if this is the reason, but the most obvious one would be that our real motives are to gain control of Iranian oil or to at least take it off the market so that oil prices will rise.  That may not be the public’s motive, but you can bet the big oil company backers of the politicians would appreciate that.


Democratic darling has also been critic

Filed Under Greenberg's Law of Counterproductive Behavior

Well, this seems to be the week for the press to catch up to my blog.  The Boston Globe came out with the story Democratic darling has also been critic, subtitled “In book, Warren targeted key figures”.

In her best-selling book, she charged that Senator Hillary Clinton abandoned her principles and supported a bankruptcy bill in exchange for campaign contributions. Warren accused Joe Biden, also a senator at the time, of selling out women. And she chided Patty Murray – the Washington senator who later helped recruit her into the race and is now leading the national effort to elect her – for wanting to shame bankrupt families.

This mirrors my post back in December, Elizabeth Warren And Hillary Clinton Trade Lessons.  The headline on the continuation of The Boston Globe story on an inside page says, “Warren book may help or hurt her run.”

This furthers the point that I have been making to the Warren campaign with zero success.  You cannot change the fact that Elizabeth Warren has written several books.  I think the books are a tremendous asset to her campaign and should be advertised by her campaign rather than hidden by them.  If she doesn’t make a big deal of her books in a positive way, someone else will turn them into a negative.  Why wait around for the inevitable?  Why not get out in front of the curve?

I don’t know how many times the campaign will have to be hit over the head with these ideas before they finally wake up.  One almosts suspects that this behavior of the campaign falls under the category Greenberg’s Law of Counterproductive Behavior, “If you see a behavior that seems to you to be counterproductive, perhaps you have misunderstood what the actor was trying to produce.”

Who Woulda Thought – A Manufactured ‘Crisis’ At The Post Office

Filed Under Greenberg's Law of Counterproductive Behavior, SteveG's Posts

File this under the category, “Who woulda thought …”

In the article A Manufactured ‘Crisis’: Congress Can Let The Post Office Save Itself Without Mass Layoffs Or Service Reductions, we have:

Major media coverage points to the rise of email or Internet services and the inefficiency of the post model as the major culprits.

This is so obvious that it goes without saying, right?  Oh wait, “major media coverage” is a dead give away.  What if the obvious weren’t so true?  Here is the rest of that paragraph or two:

While these factors may cause some fiscal pain, almost all of the postal service’s losses over the last four years can be traced back to a single, artificial restriction forced onto the Post Office by the Republican-led Congress in 2006.

At the very end of that year, Congress passed the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA). Under PAEA, USPS was forced to “prefund its future health care benefit payments to retirees for the next 75 years in an astonishing ten-year time span” — meaning that it had to put aside billions of dollars to pay for the health benefits of employees it hasn’t even hired yet, something “that no other government or private corporation is required to do.”

Who would have thought that Congress would purposely sabotage a quasi-government program just to prove that government doesn’t work?

H.R. 6407: Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act

109th Congress: 2005-2006

Senate House
Congress Years Total Dems Reps Others Vacant Total Dems Reps Others Vacant
109th 2005–2007 100 44 55 1 435 202 231 1 1

I wonder if the Democrats realized what a booby trap was in the bill?

Ed Koch and NY-9

Filed Under Greenberg's Law of Counterproductive Behavior

I was looking for some news story about Ed Koch’s reaction to the loss of the Democratic candidate in NY District 9 so that I could comment on what he said.  I suppose the article Ed Koch and NY-9 in The National Review will have to stand in for the video clip of Koch’s remarks that I saw.  I wouldn’t normally quote The National Review, but if you want to show somebody saying something weird, this is as good a place as any to go.

The article first refers back to a March 29, 2010 A Passover Message to Americans from Ed Koch posted on a blog by Ron Radosh.  In part the message states:

President Obama’s abysmal attitude toward the State of Israel and his humiliating treatment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is shocking.  In the Washington Post on March 24th, Jackson Diehl wrote, “Obama has added more poison to a U.S.-Israeli relationship that already was at its lowest point in two decades.  Tuesday night the White House refused to allow non-official photographers record the president’s meeting with Netanyahu; no statement was issued afterward.  Netanyahu is being treated as if he were an unsavory Third World dictator, needed for strategic reasons but conspicuously held at arms length.  That is something the rest of the world will be quick to notice and respond to.”

“As if?”  If it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then it is probably a duck.

The National Review article goes on to say:

Koch also clearly believes that Obama has broken with the supportive stance toward Israel shown by every previous president. Koch ends by saying: “Supporters of Israel who gave their votes to candidate Obama–78 percent of the Jewish community did–believing he would provide the same support as John McCain, this is the time to speak out and tell the President of your disappointment in him.”

Well, this Jew believed that Obama would give Israel better support than John McCain because, unlike McCain, we would have the guts to tell Israel the truth about their self-destructive behavior.  In this regard the Obama administration has lived up to most of its promise.

I know that many in the Jewish community tend to justify any action that Israel takes, just because it is Israel.  I don’t agree.  Friends don’t let friends be self-destructive without trying to at least say something. True friends don’t even give hints to the self-destructive friend that the behavior is good or acceptable.

To think that Koch would vote against the best interests of the United State in order to support Israel reminds me of the the stereotypical claim about Jews.  The claim is that we have greater allegiance to Israel than to the United States.  Perhaps this is not what Koch is demonstrating in that Koch is truly way more conservative than the mainstream Democratic party even in regard to American domestic policy.

It is too bad that Israel does not seem recognize the similarity between its relation to the Palestinians and the relation of an abusive parent to a child.  No matter what provocation a child may have committed, there is no excuse for the parent to be abusive.  Moreover, the abuse often just inures the child to abuse and torture.  Rather than reform the child’s behavior, the abusive way the child is treated is taken as the lesson in how to interact with others.

Certainly one might talk about, I won’t argue justify, the current Israeli position as a role reversal with how they were treated by the Palestinians in the beginning.  Their current attitude could be thought of as the result of abusive treatment I described above.

So, on both sides, a distant observer can see where the behavior might be coming from.  That does not commit that observer to agree that the behavior is acceptable.  Each observer needs to try to change the behavior of the side on which the observer has the best chance of exerting influence.  So if this Jew excoriates the behavior of Israel, there is no need to come back at me with, “Yes, but look at what the other side did or does.”  I  have very little influence in the matter, but if I have any chance and even a modicum of credibility on changing one side’s behavior, it is on the actions of Israel where I must concentrate.

If I can just convince one or two of Israel’s supporters in this country to consider the fact that Israel’s behavior is counterproductive or that Greenberg’s Law of Counterproductive Behavior needs to be applied, then perhaps I will have accomplished something.