Tales of the Sausage Factory

Deja Vu All Over Again in Pennsylvania.

Some of you may remember Pennsylvania as the state where the battle to save muni broadband began when, around Thanksgiving 2004, the PA Legislature passed a law preventing local government from“competing with the private sector” by prohibiting state or local government from offering broadband services unless the local government solicited service from the private sector and got turned down. While that sucked from the perspective of the citizens of PA, it did help kick off the massive fight that blocked anti-muni broadband legislation in other states, such as Indiana and Texas.

Now, those whacky worshipers of the Gods of the Marketplace in the PA Legislature are at it again! As reported by Craig Settles, the Hon. Patrick Browne (R-Senate District 16), Chairman of the PA Senate Finance Committee, and several lesser acolytes of the Absolutist Free Market Faith have introduced SB 530. This bill would prevent the State of PA or any local government therein from taking any stimulus money for purposes that would “compete with the private sector.” Indeed, if I read it correctly, it would prevent PA or local government from ever engaging in any activity that “competes with the private sector” unless it was (a) related to higher education, (b) maintaining public parks, (c) “necessary services” defined as “those services that are critical for human safety and health, including fire departments, emergency services and medical services;” and (d) any current activity, but that activity may not be expanded.

More below . . . .

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Posted in How Democracy Works, Or Doesn't, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

Ayn Rand in Heaven

Ayn Rand was a muddle-headed thinker who wrote wooden prose, “novels” that were really merely polemics .1 She maintained the beliefs that all wealthy people merited their wealth, that all poor people merited their poverty, that selfishness was a virtue, that the myth of Robin Hood was pernicious because Robin Hood stole from the rich and gave to the poor. Because she did not believe in history (or complexity or nuance), Rand did not count as important that Robin Hood lived during feudal times. In her philosophy, it does not matter to her how wealth and poverty were distributed in feudal times, nor how the wealthy got wealthy. Her fictional world is ahistorical. In her world, government is synonymous with force, but in her worldview, the only legitimate use of force is to take from the poor and give to the rich. She loathes democracy and thinks well of plutocracy. The current Bush/Cheney government of plutocrats would be very much to her liking, I think.

She is a high priestess in the Cult of the Market Gods.

Ayn Rand’s writing is known be esteemed by, among others, Alan Greenspan (“the whore”, as my father calls him), and by impressionable teenage boys with little social success. I don’t know if Dick Cheney is a fan of Rand, but he is the epitome of a Randian hero.

Anyway, Rand is dead, presumably in Heaven. From whence she must be beaming down upon us with great joy at the developments of the past few weeks, when a hundred billion dollars was taken from the treasury and given to the investor class, all in the name of “stabilizing the market” (Market gods angry! Market gods want eat money! Must feed market gods! Paulson! Bernanke! Feed market gods more money! Now!) The wealth transfers of the “Resolution Trust Corporation” bailout of the S&Ls under the Reagan regime, the Bear Stearns and Fannie Mae/Freddy Mac handouts of more recent times were as mere hors d’oeuvres before the meal of the Great Investor Class Bailout of 2008. It’s about time for a Randian beatification or maybe even apotheosis, wouldn’t you say.

UPDATE: I forgot to include a link to this diary entry over on Daily Kos, which got me thinking. I agree with the post 100%.


1. When the woman who is now my wife and I were first dating, we found ourselves talking about Ayn Rand novels one afternoon. I had read Atlas Shrugged and one or maybe two others, but not The Fountainhead. She summarized it for me in one memorable sentence: “In this one he’s an architect.” Really, if you’ve read one of her novels, you’ve read them all.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

McCain Tech Policy — A First Reaction

When you show up as the butt of a joke on the Colbert Report, you should know you’re in trouble. And when, by merry coincidence, Stephen Colbert does a piece on your self-professed computer illiteracy the night before you release your long awaited technology policy, you are in real trouble. Especially after your campaign gets repeatedly nailed in debates in tech policy fora (such as my employer’s Innovation ’08) for not even having a tech policy, when Barak Obama had a fully developed tech policy and functioning advisory team way back in the beginning of the primary, and after former FCC Chairman and campaign surrogate Michael Powell goes into virtual seclusion for a month to develop your tech plan, you know it had better be Goddamn Frickin’ Awesome. Even if you have already signaled it is going to be an extension of the same “the market solves all our problems and even thinking about regulation angers the terrible market gods, scares away the happy competition fairies, and brings a plague of liberal command and control locust ‘oer the land” nonsense that marked Powell’s FCC tenure and has plunged our telecommunications sector — nay, our entire economy — into the crapper, it should at least be a well written and engaging song of praise to the gods of the market place.

No such luck. It reads like some crotchety technophobe knocked over the bumper sticker rack at an Ayn Rand Reading Revival and tried to rearrange them so it made a policy. Half of it isn’t even particularly tech specific. For example, I don’t find it a coincidence that the first six bullet points are just variations on McCain’s standard “I hate taxes” theme. They could have easily have applied to his agriculture policy, if you substituted “no new taxes on wireless services” for “no new taxes on sorghum.” Nor am I aware of a serious mass movement to tax wireless services (or sorghum).

As for the rest, well, see below. . . .

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Posted in How Democracy Works, Or Doesn't, Life In The Sausage Factory, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

Mungo Jerry and the Bear Stearns implosion

Well this post-capitalism capitalism is a grand thing, isn’t it. Privatize the profit, socialize the loss, and no matter what, make sure the hyperwealthy aren’t unduly taxed (or asked to serve in Iraq), for after all, they’re responsible for keeping this great financial engine running. (Cough! Cough! Sputter!.. .Wheeeeeeee! Crash!) Where would we be without hedge funds and their managers! One shudders to think! I mean, somebody has to play bridge and golf, don’t they??? Free up the magic market fairies! Deregulate! That’s what our great national poet Walt Whitman meant when he said

Unscrew the locks from the doors!
Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs!

Thank God for the door-unscrewing Ayn Rand acolyte Alan Greenspan and the Reagan/Bush (hey, don’t forget Clinton!) revolutions, without which we might have had by now a decent health care system, peace, prosperity, a recovering (or never devastated) New Orleans, and some kind of plan to deal with the environmental and energy crises that threaten us all. Talk about bor-ring! How much more fun to do things the Greenspan/Cheney/Rove/Norquist/Dobson/Rumsfeld/Bush way! Imanentize the Eschaton, that’s what I say! Hasten the Coming! But whatever you do, don’t blame the rich (that’s “playing the class card”) or the Republicans (remember, whatever it is, it’s OK if you’re a Republican!) Just make sure that the Bear Stearns execs get a public-financed severance package in the reasonable seven figures (but not a dime more for the greedy limbless Iraq/Afghanistan vets who want to go to college–we’re not made out of money, you know!) Or in the words of Mungo Jerry,

If her daddy’s rich, take her out for a meal;
If her daddy’s poor, just do what you feel.

Life’s for living, that’s our philosophy!

Posted in I Fear These Things, My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged | 3 Comments (Comments closed)
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