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Current Topic: Current Events

Iraqi leaders consider troop deal with U.S. -
Topic: Current Events 7:20 pm EDT, Oct 14, 2008

A senior Bush administration official said the text calls for U.S. troops to leave Iraqi cities, cease street patrols and return to their bases by June, unless Iraqis request their support.

The agreement also calls for U.S. troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2011, the senior official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the discussions.

The official said that the Iraqis could ask U.S. troops to stay beyond 2011 depending on conditions on the ground but that the Iraqis would have "sole discretion" as to whether troops remain.

Iraqi leaders consider troop deal with U.S. -

Antonio Gramsci - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Topic: Current Events 1:28 am EDT, Oct 13, 2008


Hegemony was a concept previously used by Marxists such as Lenin to indicate the political leadership of the working-class in a democratic revolution, but developed by Gramsci into an acute analysis to explain why the 'inevitable' socialist revolution predicted by orthodox Marxism had not occurred by the early 20th century. Capitalism, it seemed, was even more entrenched than ever. Capitalism, Gramsci suggested, maintained control not just through violence and political and economic coercion, but also ideologically, through a hegemonic culture in which the values of the bourgeoisie became the 'common sense' values of all. Thus a consensus culture developed in which people in the working-class identified their own good with the good of the bourgeoisie, and helped to maintain the status quo rather than revolting.

The working class needed to develop a culture of its own, which would overthrow the notion that bourgeois values represented 'natural' or 'normal' values for society, and would attract the oppressed and intellectual classes to the cause of the proletariat. Lenin held that culture was 'ancillary' to political objectives but for Gramsci it was fundamental to the attainment of power that cultural hegemony be achieved first. In Gramsci’s view, any class that wishes to dominate in modern conditions has to move beyond its own narrow ‘economic-corporate’ interests, to exert intellectual and moral leadership, and to make alliances and compromises with a variety of forces. Gramsci calls this union of social forces a ‘historic bloc’, taking a term from Georges Sorel. This bloc forms the basis of consent to a certain social order, which produces and re-produces the hegemony of the dominant class through a nexus of institutions, social relations and ideas. In this manner, Gramsci developed a theory that emphasized the importance of the superstructure in both maintaining and fracturing relations of the base.

Gramsci stated that, in the West, bourgeois cultural values were tied to Christianity, and therefore much of his polemic against hegemonic culture is aimed at religious norms and values. He was impressed by the power Roman Catholicism had over men's minds and the care the Church had taken to prevent an excessive gap developing between the religion of the learned and that of the less educated. Gramsci believed that it was Marxism's task to marry the purely intellectual critique of religion found in Renaissance humanism to the elements of the Reformation that had appealed to the masses. For Gramsci, Marxism could supersede religion only if it met people's spiritual needs, and to do so people would have to recognize it as an expression of their own experience.

For Gramsci, hegemonic dominance ultimately relied on coercion, and in a "crisis of authority" the "masks of consent" slip away, revealing the fist of force.

Antonio Gramsci - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Unleashed: The free market that never was
Topic: Current Events 1:28 am EDT, Oct 13, 2008

Globalisation is at an end; discuss. Because a reregulated globalisation is a contradiction in terms. And I may get the Nobel Prize for economics for having seen it all coming. Maybe I won't.

For I wrote a book, you see, called First Abolish the Customer: 202 Arguments Against Economic Rationalism, which was read in libraries and other people's lavatories by about a hundred thousand Australians with nothing better to do. It was about how, if you sack too many people, or you underpay and impoverish too many people, there aren't enough customers left to sell things to, and the economy goes to hell. I wrote it in 1998 and nobody attacked any one of the arguments. They tiptoed away from the argument. They were above such things.

And lo, it has come to pass. Americans too impoverished to buy houses had stopped making their payments, and cash their creditors owed to lending entities further up the money chain could not be paid either, and like bird flu the illness swept across the planet, and here we are. And I was right; and Michael Costa and Peter Costello and all the neocons and Friedmanites and Tim Blair were wrong. And we are now in big trouble.

Unleashed: The free market that never was

The Fall of America, Inc. | Print Article |
Topic: Current Events 12:17 am EDT, Oct 13, 2008

It's hard to fathom just how badly these signature features of the American brand have been discredited. Between 2002 and 2007, while the world was enjoying an unprecedented period of growth, it was easy to ignore those European socialists and Latin American populists who denounced the U.S. economic model as "cowboy capitalism." But now the engine of that growth, the American economy, has gone off the rails and threatens to drag the rest of the world down with it. Worse, the culprit is the American model itself: under the mantra of less government, Washington failed to adequately regulate the financial sector and allowed it to do tremendous harm to the rest of the society.

Democracy was tarnished even earlier. Once Saddam was proved not to have WMD, the Bush administration sought to justify the Iraq War by linking it to a broader "freedom agenda"; suddenly the promotion of democracy was a chief weapon in the war against terrorism. To many people around the world, America's rhetoric about democracy sounds a lot like an excuse for furthering U.S. hegemony.

The choice we face now goes well beyond the bailout, or the presidential campaign. The American brand is being sorely tested at a time when other models—whether China's or Russia's—are looking more and more attractive. Restoring our good name and reviving the appeal of our brand is in many ways as great a challenge as stabilizing the financial sector. Barack Obama and John McCain would each bring different strengths to the task. But for either it will be an uphill, years-long struggle. And we cannot even begin until we clearly understand what went wrong—which aspects of the American model are sound, which were poorly implemented, and which need to be discarded altogether.

The Fall of America, Inc. | Print Article |

Sequoia Capital’s 56 Slide Presentation Of Doom
Topic: Current Events 10:02 pm EDT, Oct 10, 2008

We were able to track down the presentation that Sequoia Capital gave to its portfolio company CEO’s earlier this week (and so did VentureBeat). It’s a long, 56 slide Powerpoint message of doom and gloom in Silicon Valley that we covered yesterday along with an email that angel investor Ron Conway sent to his 130 active portfolio companies.

The final text slide reads “Get Real or Go Home.”

Benchmark Capital jumped on the band wagon today with their own email to portfolio companies. The messages are all similar - companies need to stay ahead of the curve as much as possible. Cut costs now, and raise capital if you can. If there’s someone out there willing to buy you, do it. Etc.

Of course all this negativity helps create the very downturn that venture capitalists are warning their companies to defend themselves against, perpetuating a sort of vicious cycle downward. But that’s ok, sometimes the hedge needs to be pruned. And this is what makes Silicon Valley its ugly, beautiful self.

This is the best explanation of what is going on that i have found so far.

Sequoia Capital’s 56 Slide Presentation Of Doom

Rescue or Waste?: Why the bailout isn't working - Reason Magazine
Topic: Current Events 10:01 pm EDT, Oct 10, 2008

But if a stock market's performance is the test of a policy, this one has failed. At best, the passage of the measure did no evident good. At worst, it backfired.

Harvard economist Jeffrey Miron suspects the latter. "The bailout approach will generate uncertainty about what's going to happen," he told me. "It's quite plausible that it has not calmed markets because no one knows what it means."

Rescue or Waste?: Why the bailout isn't working - Reason Magazine

Obama Admits Bumming Cigarettes on the Campaign Trail - Elections
Topic: Current Events 2:32 am EDT, Oct  8, 2008

Barack Obama says in an interview with Men's Health magazine that he has bummed cigarettes "a couple of times" along the campaign trail.

Fox News on top of things - as usual.

Obama Admits Bumming Cigarettes on the Campaign Trail - Elections

CNN Political Ticker: All politics, all the time - Blogs from
Topic: Current Events 5:01 pm EDT, Oct  7, 2008

John McCain faces the "crisis of his career," says former House Speak Newt Gingrich, who predicted the Republican nominee will lose the election unless he makes a public break from the economic bailout proposal.

In a column posted on the Web site of the conservative Human Events Tuesday, Gingrich says it is impossible for McCain to catch up in the national or state polls unless he taps into the anger many Americans feel toward the $700 billion bailout of Wall Street investment banks.

"If Senator McCain is not prepared to separate himself from the Bush-Paulson economic program, he has no opportunity to win," Gingrich writes. "The country is deeply fed up with the Bush presidency and angry about the Paulson bailout. If McCain is confused or uncertain about how bad this economic performance is, he will never get the country to listen to him."

CNN Political Ticker: All politics, all the time - Blogs from

The Great Schlep
Topic: Current Events 4:40 pm EDT, Oct  7, 2008

The Great Schlep aims to have Jewish grandchildren visit their grandparents in Florida, educate them about Obama, and therefore swing the crucial Florida vote in his favor. Don’t have grandparents in Florida? Not Jewish? No problem! You can still become a schlepper and make change happen in 2008, simply by talking to your relatives about Obama.

The Great Schlep

Obama widens lead in national poll -
Topic: Current Events 5:37 pm EDT, Oct  6, 2008

"Bush has now tied Richard Nixon's worst rating ever, taken in a poll just before he resigned in 1975, and is only 2 points higher than the worst presidential approval rating in history, Harry Truman's 22 percent mark in February 1952," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.

And that's bad news for McCain, because the poll suggests a growing number of Americans believe the Republican presidential nominee would have the same policies as the current Republican president. Fifty-six percent say McCain's policies would be the same as Bush, up from 50 percent a month ago.

The financial crisis also appears to be contributing to Obama's increased lead in the poll. Sixty-eight percent are confident in the Democratic presidential nominee's ability to handle the financial crisis, 18 points ahead of McCain, and 42 points ahead of President Bush.

More Americans appear to have an unfavorable view of Gov. Sarah Palin, and that may also be helping Obama in the fight for the presidency. Forty percent now have an unfavorable view of Palin, up from 27 percent a month ago and from 21 percent in late August, when McCain surprised many people by picking the first-term Alaska governor as his running mate.

Obama widens lead in national poll -

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