First They Came For Our Big Gulps…

by lizard

I have a hard time taking the Bloomberg soda war seriously, including the shrill shouts of TYRANNY from the conservative blogosphere.

Is the soda ban lubricating a slippery slope toward health-based Nazism? Hardly. It’s just another stupid nanny state swipe at the symptoms of a much deeper sickness.

I’ve been impressed with what can actually grab and sustain people’s attention in this country. The National Defense Authorization Act? Yawn. Limit how much soda I can have per order? TYRANTS!!! Walmart workers trying to unionize? Meh. Replacement Refs blow a call at the end of a football game? FREAK OUT!!!

There is actually an alarming example of tyranny on display, happening right now, but you won’t find it if you’re frothing at the mouth for a BIG GULP.

Today Mike Whitney reported on Rick Snyder’s coronation of Kevyn Orr as Detroit’s new “Emergency Financial Manager”:

Far-right Governor Rick Snyder has ignored Michigan voters and installed Washington DC attorney Kevyn Orr as Detroit’s emergency financial manager (EFM), a position that will give Orr sweeping powers to tear up labor contracts, slash pensions, cut public services, and privatize city-owned assets. From March 28–the date when Public Act 436 kicks in –Orr will make the decisions that would normally be decided by elected officials, primarily the mayor and the city council. In other words, Detroit will become the first city in the US to have its democratically-elected government replaced by a financial dictator.

When I first heard about this legislative madness getting passed in Michigan, I was aghast. How can any politician, from either party, go along with this?

It’s important to understand that a financial crisis, if it’s serious enough, creates fantastic opportunities for power grabs. Just look at how Europe’s sovereign debt crisis created opportunities for technocrats to grab power in Greece and Italy:

It is well established that incumbent parties tend to suffer electorally in tough economic times, and the recent period provides many examples. Elections in the UK, Ireland, Spain and Greece led to governing parties losing, catastrophically in the case of Ireland, merely disastrously in the cases of the UK and Spain. Elsewhere fringe nationalist parties such as True Finns in Finland or the New Flemish Alliance in Belgium made major gains. The only notable exception to this pattern is Germany, where Angela Merkel is the only major European leader to have survived a post-crisis election.

The sovereign debt crisis affecting the Eurozone periphery has taken this logic a stage further: in Greece and Italy, governments have fallen before they have had to face the electorate. The replacement of Papandreou by the unelected former ECB member Papademus followed Papandreou’s public commitment to a national referendum on the EU’s bailout proposal, a project vehemently opposed by the European ‘Troika’ (the EU, IMF, and the European Central Bank). In Italy, Berlusconi’s scandal-tainted reign in power ended as Italian bond yield spreads hit dangerous highs, and EU pressure helped force his resignation and replacement by former European Commissioner Mario Monti.

These episodes may appear to be a political innovation borne out of the need to address an unprecedented financial and economic crisis. This is only true in part. In fact, technocratic, non-partisan rulers fit in perfectly with the way in which European institutions for economic governance have been designed. The Maastricht Treaty laid down rules and created institutions which would remove a good part of the economic policy autonomy that national governments in the EU had previously enjoyed. Policies such as the size of the public deficit and the public debt, formerly the subject of intense political debate between national political parties, were to be subject to strict fiscal rules. Similarly, the creation of an independent European Central Bank with sole control over monetary policy marked the end of decades of political debate over the appropriate balance between price stability and employment.

The EU’s debt crisis has moved to a new level this week with the Cyprus experiment; an attempt to seize depositor money with an alleged one-off “tax”. If anyone is curious why this little Mediterranean Island has suddenly become so important, this Naked Capitalism post is a good place to start.

But for those who aren’t curious, and instead prefer gnashing teeth over soda bans, Bloomberg’s nanny state restriction on soda size is, IMHO, a very convenient distraction.

First they came for our BIG GULPS…

  1. Shocker: A blog that mixes politics and popular culture covers a salient news story involving Bill Maher, Sarah Palin and Mayor Bloomberg.

    LizardLogic: Over 600 blogs posts and all sorts of topics, maybe 5 of them on Bloomberg’s weird proposals, but they’re somehow supposed to be representative of a lack of “seriousness” from conservatives to the bigger issues of the day.


    • lizard19

      for b-bird readers, Doug is the blogger I linked to in that first link. he enjoys bashing liberal celebrities and college professors, but vehemently denies being a partisan. I first came across his blog after he wrote a critical post making fun of Molly Laich’s “personal essay” in the Indy.

      • You’re right. I’m so in love with the GOP that I write posts about the Senate Minority Leader’s jowls, and then go on to say there is nothing inspiring about him, he’s not a leader and that he will financially ruin the country if we let him.

        • lizard19

          here’s a crazy idea: maybe McConnell isn’t fighting hard to kill Obamacare because it was legislation that sprang from a conservative think tank (individual mandate) and pumps money into the pockets of private health insurers and big Pharma.

          if you are concerned about financial ruin and tyranny, Doug, soda is not the place to be looking.

          • You’re right, unless I write about the things you write about … for every single blog post … then that means that I think the world starts and ends with soda regulations.

            God forbid a guy with family in NYC writes about soda regulations the week a judge strikes them down.

            Have a nice day.

            • Steve W

              Doug, there is a thing called “perspective.” Nobody cares that you wanted to, and did, write about a story that was already everywhere; Independant Rich Guy and Mayor, Bloomberg, tried to outlaw soda sales over a certain size. The court said no. The law was stupid from the start.

              What people object to is your elevation of this subject to a major civil rights or commercial rights case. I think you are confusing oppression with stupidity. They aren’t the same thing.

              On the other hand, there is a state government in MI who has taken away the right of local government from nearly half of the black population of Michigan. They did this by passing emergency oppression measures that allowed the state to take control of local government and appoint one person who would have sweeping emergency powers.

              The people of Michigan overturned that law at the polls last November 2012. The governor and the legislature passed a new law and wrote it to make it much harder for the people to overturn at the polls and have now taken over the local municipalities of close to half the black population of Michigan.

              Think about it. One unelected person could ban soda sales. Or they could give away city property to their friends. One person with no local over-site with complete control over local affairs.

              That my friend IS oppression. i stand against it. How about you?

              • You might try to read more carefully next time, Steve. I know that one law doesn’t equate to tyranny. The piece is about how thousands upon thousands of similar laws — in the aggregate — are very much a new kind of tyranny. Sorry if you don’t see it that way.

                To quote Steve W: “Think about it.”

  2. Steve W

    Doug, if the shoe fits…

    Why nothing on Detroit? Isn’t that tyranny?

  3. After a magnificent campaign in 2008, Obama proceeded to throw away huge congressional majorities screwing around with a second-rate health care bill. Baucus, recipient of all that PhRMA and insurance corporation money, was only too glad to help assure that nothing substantive would get done.

    The Koch brothers quickly capitalized on the situation with “Death Panel!” screamers ranting at town halls all over the country. Koch “capital” financed the Tea Party.

    Obama should have known better, given the experience that Bill and Hillary had back in 1993. He could have incrementally cleaned up the awful 2003 Medicare “Modernization” and Prescription Drug “Improvement” Act that had intentionally jeopardized Social Security and Medicare. It gave enormous subsidies to the two most lucrative industries in the U.S., the ones who are actually the problem, and keeping us from solutions.

    So he got his legacy, in the 2010 elections. In Michigan it was Kochbot Rick Snyder, but clones were everywhere, all reading from the Koch playbook: Piyush Jindal, Paul LePage, John Kasich, Jan Brewer, Rick Scott, Tom Corbett, etc. Both houses of the legislatures in 29 states and the unicameral one in Nebraska, are in the hands of fundamentalists, reactionaries and corporatists.

    It was the worst of all possible times to do this. Redistricting mandated by the census has allowed these larcenous, anti-democratic nutcases to give them a permanent majority in a good portion of those states, one that has allowed them to solidify their 2010 gains,

    That extends to congressional seats. In North Carolina, for instance, the legislature managed to pack a huge percentage of Democratic demographics into just three districts. The state had a 7-6 Democratic majority in its congressional delegation. Now it’s 9-4 and one of those “D”s was reelected with perhaps the smallest plurality in the U.S.

    Here’s the next page in the playbook: For states with reactionary delegations, the BFF’s of David H. and Charles de Ganahl Koch want to change the rules for presidential elections and there’s a pretty good chance they’ll get away with it. Governor Snyder, after torpedoing Michigan’s unions, wants presidential electors to be chosen by district. This has already been the case in two states that come to mind, Nebraska and Maine. In the past, Nebraska has sent one, often Democratic electoral college vote from the liberal southeast urban district, though not this past year.

    In states such as Wisconsin, where Republican congressional candidates got maybe half a million less votes, but were able to seize command of the delegation, right wing extremists would be able to elect the next president, despite getting walloped in the popular vote.

    The mouth breathers who rant about freedom have brains a lot smaller than the big gulps they fear losing. In NYC, this is the same “panties in a bunch” crowd (egged on by demagogic racists such as Palin, Limbaugh and Beck) that howled about a Muslim cultural center that contained a prayer room.

    They call themselves “Constitutionalists,” but few seem to have ever read the document. Those that have entertain serious issues with many parts of it, Article VI, clause 2 in particular, and the 17th, 16th, 14th, possibly the 13th, and parts of the 1st, 4th and 5th Amendments. Sarah Palin is perhaps the leader of this group of snake brains. I heard her give a lecture on the Constitution in April 2010, less than two years after she revealed she had no idea what a vice president actually did (Article I, section 3, and the 12th Amendment).

    All the noise they make tend to give the impression to the low functioning that they are actually engaging in a ratiocinative process, when they’re doing little more than parroting slogans and talking points.

    Were screwed, I’m afraid. We’ve allowed the lunatics to take charge of the asylum.

  4. Got this a minute ago from People for the American Way.
    Republicans are trying to steal the next presidential election by changing the way electoral votes are awarded in large “blue states.” It’s come up in several places but Republican lawmakers in Pennsylvania are moving forward on a plan right now to rig the Electoral College to help ensure victory for GOP presidential candidates.

    PFAW is fighting this right-wing effort nationally and we’re on the front line in Pennsylvania, where the Senate Majority Leader has introduced the electoral vote reapportionment bill and has half the number of votes it needs for passage in cosponsors alone.

    Please help us stop Republicans from rigging the Electoral College with an urgent donation to this campaign right now.

    We have staff on the ground and activities aimed at turning up the pressure on Republican lawmakers to abandon this naked power grab. But our campaign won’t succeed without your support … and this is a fight we can’t afford to lose!

    This week PFAW added a second staff person on the ground in Pennsylvania. He’s working exclusively on our statewide campaign to stop this scheme … assembling the signs and literature, and already mobilizing volunteers for:
    •Phone banking
    •Door-to-door canvassing
    •Petition deliveries and other lobbying efforts in the state capital
    •Holding lawmakers publicly accountable at town hall meetings and other events

    Let’s be clear: this Electoral College rigging scheme is not just a Pennsylvania problem, this is a national problem. By applying these electoral rigging schemes in only blue states, and not nationally or in consistently red states like Texas, the Republicans are effectively rigging the game. If the plan had been in place last year in only the states that have recently seriously considered it — Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin — Mitt Romney could have walked away with as much as a 22-vote victory in the Electoral College despite losing the popular vote. The will of the people is now at stake.

    While this scheme is halted for now in many of these states, a successful Pennsylvania effort will help freeze similar efforts in other states and give progressives the roadmap to stop them where they do come up.

  5. Cyprus is important so thanks for the post. It got the attention of ordinary Americans and Europeans who are saying, “First they made me pay for my own checks instead of giving me a toaster. Then they charged a fee for taking out my own money… “The Shock Doctrine” of deregulation, privatization of the commons, and taking away of social programs is on full display.
    But don’t give to “progressive” groups to get anything changed. The Republicans are smart and their money is spent locally and statewide. Dems give to “progressives” and they spend on national people and Washington lobbying.
    Read this Counterpunch article

    • Please do read the Counterpunch article. It’s by John Stauber, the founder of the Center for Media and Democracy, a great source of info.

      However, he left there years ago “retiring” at a young age. I wonder about that. His piece sounded exactly like the worst case of sour grapes I’ve heard since the CPAC conference.

      • I believe what you are saying about the 60 year old activist and writer Stauber, who wrote the NY Times best seller “Weapons of Mass Deception” about Bush’s Iraq war propaganda, is trying to discredit the messenger. I have no idea about why he left the Center for Media and Democracy in 2009. Perhaps he was tired, after a long commitment to exposing propaganda, that he no longer wanted to be part of it on the left. Perhaps he wanted to write articles like the one in the link without somebody telling him it would jeopardize their funding. I dunno.

        Especially interesting in the article is his dissection of the 99% Spring movement of 2012 which blared out to some that this was another election year propaganda tool much like the Health Care for America Now organization was a front built to make sure the Single Payer advocates were marginalized in order to pass the corporate friendly Affordable Care Act. (And, yes, the “magnificent” 2008 campaign did win the “marketer of the year” award in 2008 beating out Zappos and Apple.
        Good marketing brought us big slurps. Is good framing/labeling aka marketing like George Lakoff recommends where lefties energies should be?

        From the article and quoting his friend Patrick Barrett:
        “As the right becomes ever more extreme, this Democratic Party cum non-profit industrial complex moves further and further to the right itself, thereby giving the Republicans and their ilk ever greater leash and making it easier to frighten the “progressive” masses.”

        Barrett concluded, “Lest anyone think that this is some kind of conspiracy theory, it’s important to emphasize that this is primarily a function of social and economic structures and political institutions that create a market for these sorts of pseudo-movement leaders, who will flourish if the conditions are right. That’s why we need to focus our attention on altering those conditions, something these people have little or no interest in doing.”

  6. Jack Ruby

    Man I hope they don’t go after the chili cheese Big Bite next.

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