Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - Volume 3, Number 1
© Copyright 2012, The Ultrapolis Project – May be used freely with proper attribution. All other rights reserved.
BARAK HUSSEIN OBAMA RE-ELECTED IN 2012
The Republicans Fail to Bridge Party & National Ideological Divide
Our biggest prediction of 2011 remains unchanged by the president’s ‘good enough’ State of the Union address delivered last night. For more on this and other predictions of 2011, please see below.
IN THIS ISSUE:
Forests of Rising Towers Signal New World to Come
As with other great powers of the past, including the United States a century ago, developing cities and public infrastructure reflect growing economic might that is eventually exercised in many non-economic ways. Many scoff at the notion of a serious challenge, and even possible danger, that a rising authoritarian superpower poses for the U.S., and breezily dismiss concerns of what the real impact of a major power shift will be on American daily lives. They are like the ancient Greeks who looked at the expanding Persian Empire with dull eyes, concerned only about their immediate and personal concerns, wishing away the need for preparations. Fortunately for them, leaders who could see into the future led them to prepare for what came, and so were able to preserve their freedom. Sure, today’s power struggles take place in different ways, but they do take place and do have real consequences. Complicating this challenge is the economic stagnation that has actually been affecting most Americans for the better part of twenty years, even if it only exploded into a full-blown economic crisis in 2007-08. Be on the lookout for our new series of articles on this topic.
Republicans Fail to Bridge Ideological Divide
October 28, 2010 Prediction Re-Stated
We made our first tentative prediction of President’s Obama re-election prospects on the eve of the massive Republican victory at the polls in 2010. We re-affirmed it a few days later, on November 4. This was in the wake of the conclusion of our 2008 prediction that Obama would have a very difficult and ineffective two years (which we say the 2010 elections, and his record-low ratings offered as much proof as is possible). While we were not publishing most of last year, right after President Obama succeeded in having Osama Bin Laden captured and killed, we predicted again more certainly on Facebook that he would win re-election. We stand by that prediction today, admitting even now that predicting presidential election outcomes is a risky and not very profitable exercise (easy to get wrong, not much credit if you get it right). Truth is, predicting election outcomes is extremely difficult because of the many constantly varying factors at play, and the disproportionate effect one unique individual (Gingrich?) can have at critical moments, upending any given societal or political trend.
Nevertheless, based on our success in predicting developments (in Facebook) regarding the Republican race for the presidential nomination, we remain confident in this forecast (confidence level: modest). We do also expect the election to be close if the Republican candidate is former Governor Mitt Romney, and less so if it is former Speaker Newt Gingrich or another more conservative candidate.
Republicans, a House Divided
The Republicans are experiencing an intra-party division that parallels the hardening ideological divisions of the country, making a Republican candidate that is enthusiastically supported by unified party an unlikely outcome. In contrast to their Democratic counterparts, core Republicans are less forgiving of ideological impurity among their own, even after a nomination is sealed. Talk Radio does not help.
The hard-line conservatives are absolutely certain the country on the whole is clamoring for total free-market capitalism, even in the face of numerous polls and studies painting a much more mixed and complex picture. These Republicans are the ones that are more driven and likely to show up at rallies, donate money, and vote. They are also more likely to pick up their marbles and go home if they are convinced by many Rightist loud voices on the radio and TV that the Republican “establishment” has once again thwarted their will.
Added to this division is a growing divide between a ‘diaspora’ of Libertarians inside the Republican movement that differs greatly on several key issues from both the usual Republican social and economic conservatives in the party as well as the moderate Republicans. One cannot win a Republican nomination (or a national one, for that matter), claiming that 9/11 is America’s fault, and that the Iranian and the Taliban leaders are simply misunderstood agents of goodwill (this policy stand would be eviscerated by President Obama’s campaign, and actually improve Obama’s re-election prospect, just as it divides the party further).
The Republican Blind Spot
Lastly, there is the fundamental issue of what Americans want. No matter how much the Republicans can and do point to the real and deep dissatisfaction that exists with President Obama throughout the country, it does not eliminate the reality that Americans across both parties believe that most of them have gotten a bad deal from the so-called “1%.” Even Tea Partiers are decrying corporate greed and cronyism. In fact, disgust with the current big corporate capitalism is one thing the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street share, notwithstanding the pronouncements of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Berry, and all the other über-capitalists who continue to benefit under the current economy. For our critique of the Republican Party, first published on July 21, 2011 on Facebook on this issue please see below.
Regrettably, developments are likely to only strengthen the hard-line conservative perceptions of where the country’s majority leanings lie. A defeat of Mitt Romney in 2012, whereby conservative Republicans fail to enthusiastically support Romney at the polls, will be seen as proof by hard-line conservatives that only a conservative like themselves could have won, when in fact, a hardliner would have been more soundly rejected and the defeat was of their own making.
Last Minute Tidbit
Tweeting Ad Nauseam; Now in Presidential Debates
In the last Presidential debate, the NBC corporate executives felt that their product would be enhanced by the occasional posting of some unknown person’s ‘tweet,’ selected by some unknown NBC staffer, both with unknown perspectives or credentials, in real-time reactions to remarks made by the candidates. If you care the slightest bit what was in the for-all-we-know randomly selected off-hand, 140-or-less-character reaction from one of any possible seven billion people on the planet on any subject, let alone the U.S. presidential debates, you are wasting your time reading this newsletter.
Obama’s Libya Policy Ramifications
Perry & Gingrich Prospects; The Arab Spring
UWFR – March 15 - We identified President Obama’s first announced course on Libya’s rebellion as seriously flawed and in need of change, but predicted that he was unlikely [emphasis added] to reverse course on his initial hands-off Libya policy.
Mostly Wrong. Obama did temporarily (and thankfully) reverse course, with considerable success. We are consoled by the fact that the president did come closer to our view of the proper course of action.
Ultrapolis Twitter – March 28 – We predicted that President Obama was okay with a temporary stalemate in Libya. Restated on April 7 that president was opting away from quick resolution, favoring a slower, consensus-based outcome.
Somewhat True. Of course, we didn’t specify the difference between quick resolution and temporary stalemate, but most experts agreed at the time that even a modestly robust effort by US could have ended the conflict in a matter of two or three weeks. Instead, as stated by The New York Times “six months of inconclusive fighting” followed until a confluence of Turkish and Qatari support and a major internal rebel force reformation began to produce the sudden unraveling of Qaddafi’s regime.
UWFR – March 18 – Obama’s Libya policy will reduce our negotiation leverage with the Libyans and others once there is success.
So Far Likely True. From The Wall Street Journal, right after the Libyan rebel victory: “Qatar to Reap Rewards From Its Rebel Aid,” August 25. "The Libyan people are very proud people, they will never forget their friends," Aref Ali Nayed, the Libyan ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. Reports have also surfaced that American companies are not getting the favorable treatment that Qatari and Turk companies are getting (Turkey was big donor to the rebels).
Facebook – February 28 – In response to an expressed worry about Rick Perry running for president, we predicted that if he ran for office, he would implode as soon as he was exposed to the much harsher national spotlight.
So Very True.
Facebook – January 16 – In response to a NewsHour story on PBS reporting on the dramatic flight from Tunisia of just-deposed President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, we predicted that the fall of the one dictator would send shock waves and destabilize dictatorships throughout the Middle East in an unprecedented way.
Bulls Eye. Of course, perhaps it wasn’t such a hard prediction to make, but we don’t know of anyone else who predicted it sooner. We do admit that at the time we did not expect the revolutions to be so successful.
Facebook – December 20 – Newt Gingrich will never be president, Not unless it's after an awkward political marriage, an unlikely Republican victory, followed by an untimely death of Romney. Then, all bets are off.
Predictions of 2010 Resolved
Google Vs. China
UWFR – January 13 – After Google clashed with China, and refused to continue its usual services under Chinese censorship, we predicted that Google would ultimately lose the fight.
True. A March 21, 2010 WSJ story headlined “Google Losing Ground in China.” On January 12 of this year it was reported that Google was reversing course, and would renew its push to expand in China, “in an acknowledgment that it can't afford to miss out on the world's biggest Internet market.” Of course. A business corporation cannot do anything but what will maximize profits for its executives and majority owners. All, and we do mean ALL other considerations are irrelevant, meaningful only insofar as they affect the bottom line.
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Observations from Shanghai: The Republicans Will Not Save US
Originally posted on Facebook, from Shanghai, on July 21, 2011
By Marco Antonio Roberts
Over the last few months, if not years, I have watched, read, and listened at the barrage of news reporting and opining that is so plentiful, on what ails our country - hoping to find, at last, that new insight heretofore absent from all public discussion as to where the answer lies to our country’s worsening economic, and ultimately national security, conditions. I have not found it. Instead, I have only seen again and again the same boilerplate solutions that have been offered by the opposing parties for decades now – and now often offered even more simplistically and crudely ideologically than ever.
From the declared (and not) Republican presidential candidates, conservative and neo-con editorialists, and entertainment news conservative pundits, we have what amounts to this (but redoubled): Go back to the Bush years.
We Did That Already
As a morally and economically centrist conservative I am no Obama supporter, and reject most of his ideologically leftist principles of governance. Moreover, even many Obama supporters are beginning to openly worry about the president’s ability to lead us out of what appears to be an inexorable, if slow, descent into third world conditions. Yet, when it comes to Republican proposals, I have to agree with one thing the president has said: “We already did that.” It was, after all, during and after eight years of Bushian policies that we had two economic crises, first with the dot-com bubble implosion, then the housing boom collapse. And while it is true there was also the government intrusion into, and distortion of, the market place, strongly supported and advanced by liberal Democrats like Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank, much of that was also done with tacit, under-the-table Republican approval.
It was also during the Bush years that we had an acceleration of the transfer of wealth from the American middle class to the shores of Shanghai and Dubai; it was during those years when American technological advantages further eroded or were co-opted by our likeliest and most dangerous future rivals; and it was then that the failure to plan for a vitally important American presence in space occurred, leaving us, as of 5:57 AM EDST today, vulnerable to political blackmail to a regime run by a former KGB agent, a regime that has not been friendly to the U.S., one that cut gas supplies to European countries in the middle of a harsh winter for political gain, and has in recent years openly invaded other countries with brutal force.
A Well-Travelled Road
People need to understand that the freedom and prosperity we enjoy today, which is still plentiful, did not come by anything we are doing today. It exists only because of what was done before by our predecessors. Still, it is very difficult for people who have grown up in relative prosperity and comfort to understand that, even if that prosperity was not personal, but societal. Maybe that is why great corporations and empires always eventually fall. But, if we cannot get the American working people, especially the young, to peel their eyes and ears away from Snooki and Gaga, and get serious – and educated – now, about the nation’s future (not just their own personal careers), then we will follow the great nations of the past all too closely, and our legacy will be disgrace.
I categorically say now, with the confidence of a student of history with some empirically demonstrated logical reasoning and predictive capabilities, that with the way our economy and political discourse is structured now, we can look forward to the continuation of the decades-long decline of the American middle class, and a creeping upward expansion of that decline into the upper middle classes, along with loss of technological and military might that will inevitably follow. And, with the loss of security that might provides, we can further expect a serious threat to our liberty and the prospects for future advancement that we have enjoyed as a nation since the founding of our republic.
The reasons are many, but for now, if you will permit me, let me suggest three things:
· This is not the end of history. All systems of government and trade must be substantively reformed from time to time because a subset of highly motivated human beings always eventually find a way to game the system for their own advantage, at the expense of others. The Republicans (is anyone?) are not offering any truly new approaches to re-establishing employment and wage gains at the individual level on the main streets of America. Instead, they seem to perpetually assume (against obvious and persistent evidence), that as long as the rich and the corporations do well, so will everyone else. It’s true that those at the top, and the corporations they run, need to do well for the rest to prosper, but it does not follow that we will all automatically prosper when those at the top do well. The last 20 years prove that. As the very rich have gotten richer and richer, the rest of us, on average, have lost ground. (Many Americans on the losing end don’t notice it because they are looking at their own circumstances, and only in current dollars. But you can’t compare your gains at age 45 to what they were at 35, with today’s dollars at the dollars you earned ten years ago. Instead, you have to look at what a 45 year-old in your same career and circumstances earned ten years ago, compared to what you make today in inflation-adjusted dollars.) A radical change may now be in order, the kind that has reinvented past great nations, allowing them to extend their years of progress and prosperity. Exhibit A: China.
· Corporations are amoral things. Corporations should be treated and considered for nothing more than what they are: a vehicle for maximizing and funneling profits. While they may not necessarily be intentionally destructive actors, they are amoral ones. And, just as they have provided a basis for prosperity, they also have a long record of justifying every abuse of individuals, disregard of public welfare, destruction of cultural and natural landmarks, and despoiling of the environment, with one clearly and openly stated rationale: “we have a responsibility to maximize profit for our shareholders.” I think it is safe to say that all the great philosophical and religious traditions that have mused about the elevation of the human experience, from Plato to Buddha to Confucius to Christ, would have a problem with such a single-minded approach to decision-making on issues that inevitably affect a nation’s culture and socio-economic welfare. Nevertheless, it reigns over much of our public life. Ergo, vulgarity, misogynism, crude self-promotion, self-centered immodesty, political extremism, are all promoted (and spread) because it is profitable to do so. Historical landmarks are destroyed, and shoddy new buildings are put in their place because these maximize shareholder profits. American and European conglomerates sell vital technology to our potential future adversaries, including military and population surveillance technology (as they are doing even now) because it makes money. And these are the legal things corporations do. It is also why American corporations are squeezing wages and outsourcing jobs on the middle to lower rungs of the labor market even as they inflate their own executive salaries at a ratio to the average worker that is 900% higher than it was back in 1980. Now, are these executives today intellectual X-Men ten times smarter than their counterparts in 1980? Have they produced an economic juggernaut that has produced unprecedented benefits to Americans at all levels? Or have they merely used their privileged positions, as so many have before, to consistently arrogate to themselves, thru ups and downs alike, an ever greater portion of the nation’s wealth?
· CEOs are bleeding dry the middle class. An economy is, at its core, about the trade of goods and services; that is, the movement of value or income. From one day to the next, we can move from boom to recession, even though we have the same number of able-bodied workers, the same amount of capital goods, and the same infrastructure. So what is different? The flow of value. When the butcher stops trading with the blacksmith, who then stops trading with the farmer, who then stops visiting the local saloon - at that moment the total amount of hams, anvils, crops, and beer has not changed, and neither has the productive capacity. But, if the flow of value, i.e. trade, does not resume soon, each will stop producing, or produce less, then resulting in a real decline in total wealth. Well, what has been happening in our corporate economy, we have had a constriction of the wealth flowing back to the middle class, in the form of reduced employment and wages. While the flow of income has not stopped, it has been reduced in one direction as it has been accelerated in the other. Short-term, each company and its top officers, and some many of its large shareholders, may derive increased wealth. But in the economic ‘biosphere,’ eventually the employee/consumer base is bled dry, and the flow finally stops, with catastrophic consequences for the economy and all caught within it without the resources to escape. This is what has begun to happen in the last two traumatic recessions, and will only get worse if a more balanced flow of income is not restored.
Greed Is NOT Good
The sad truth is that while Democrats still ignore many fundamentals of economics, and think that all you have to do to provide benefits and goods to all is simply wave a legislative magic wand and utter an incantation like “let there be healthcare for all,” Republicans appear closer than ever to the caricature of them the Democrats so often portray: as Pollyanna corporate boosters, for whom corporate profit is a goal that trumps all others, and with nothing new to offer. Obama is proposing to raise taxes for “struggling” families earning only $250,000 and up, say the Republicans, including all the presidential candidates. “Struggling?” Really? At $250K a year? Considering that the vast majority of American middle class households manage well on less than half that, this is nothing but demagogic pandering to the ambitious class. But, in the book of most humans across the earth, not being able to buy the latest, fully equipped Lexus, or go on that fourth trans-Atlantic vacation, or attend that $500 a plate gala, or send your kid to Harvard - in the midst of an economic retrenchment that is hitting most people hard - that is not considered “struggling.” Struggling is being out of work for two years, not knowing how you will survive when the unemployment benefits run out. Struggling is losing your $150K house because you can’t even afford that modest home. Struggling is not having enough to eat, not having any good educational or employment prospects, and not being able to see a doctor at all except in an emergency room. And, struggling is where more Americans are today than ten years ago, and where more will be in ten more years, if the executive class is allowed to continue to profess “greed is good!” as they amass greater wealth in a faltering economy.
A Decline Profitable for the Few
Traveling around Shanghai I am amazed by what the Chinese have accomplished. But, as I am encouraged for their future, I am frightened for ours. We have stopped building great new buildings, bridges, and transportation systems to advance the nation’s infrastructure, as nations east rocket past us with American money. We have surrendered our supremacy in space, and transferred our technological prowess to Chinese firms run by China’s army in exchange for short-term profits, giving them spying tools that they can use on their own people, and maybe eventually us: We have debased our cultural norms and ideals that value civic duty, self-restraint, and national consciousness because these are boring, and aren’t as profitable to promote as people willing to degrade themselves and others in exchange for the tiniest bit of fame. And we have, in empirically measurable ways, gone economically backwards for the majority of American people. And yet, with all this, the executive and governing classes are doing well for themselves - in fact, hugely better than ever, while the infotainment chattering ‘punderatti,’ all of them fabulously wealthy by the same system, look the other way. It is time to raise our heads, see, and prepare for what is coming. Ignore it, and we all, but especially your children and your grandchildren, are destined for a gradual national decline, and the loss of freedom that must go with it, managed very profitably by a self-selected few.