12 December, 2008

A Willful Mis-Stating of the Issues

A Washington Times article by Jeffrey T. Kuhner, "A socialist America?" was recently re-printed in the Wanderer. There were so many routine distortions that I thought it would be worthwhile to debunk a few of them, as I have often heard many of my Catholic friends buying into many of these deceptions.

• "An Obama presidency will [transform] our country into a socialist state."

This is just blather. I am a socialist, I know what socialism is, and a fundamentally bourgeois, corporate dominated state that throws a few meager benefits to the workers is not socialism! When most workers are unionized, when Social Security is turned into a genuinely equitable pension system, when great fortunes are not allowed to be passed down from generation to generation of rentier — then we might be close to socialism! Until then, speaking of “socialism” is just a lot of reactionary name-calling.

• "Mr. Obama will focus immediately on passing universal health care … [shifting] nearly 50 million Americans from private coverage to government-run care …"

No one is calling for “government-run care.” Under no plan that I have heard would the government own hospitals, run clinics, and be the sole employer of doctors. The proper analogy here is not to the government run Post Office, but to a simple government disbursement of funds to private providers. And government is good at that: the Social Security Administration, for instance, administers millions of individual accounts at a cost of less than 1% of the funds handled, far less than any investment firm charges.

• "The program's vast size and immense cost will lead to rising taxes …"

Okay, if we now pay about 16% of our GDP for health, and going to a single-payer system brings our costs in line with Europe, where they all have such systems and they cost about 8-10% of GDP, then we can expect to save about 6% of our GDP that is now wasted on health administration, legal fees, billing costs, etc,. That's right: the cost of health care will come down!

So, perhaps your taxes will go up somewhat, but your health care premiums would drop to nothing. Right now I pay about $600- a month to insure myself and my employees, and I probably pay half that much more on stuff that isn’t covered by my plan. You would have to more than double my income tax before single-payer insurance would cost me more.

• "The program's vast size and immense cost will lead to … the rationing of services.

Oh, and services aren’t rationed now?

When I had bronchitis last winter, I knew my health insurance wouldn’t cover it (deductible, you know), so I stayed away from the doctor for five months hoping it would clear up on its own. Tell me that isn’t rationing?

When my wisdom teeth began to ache from time-to-time in my mid-twenties I couldn’t afford to have them taken out. I had to wait until my mid-thirties, when they were fully impacted, and I needed surgery, which was covered, before they were taken out. Tell me that isn’t rationing?

Oh, we have rationing now, and, until we have an infinite supply of health care, we will continue to have rationing. The question is: will we have rationing by need or by wealth?

• " America's social programs will resemble those of statist Europe; we will also resemble the Continent's anemic growth rates, lower productivity and higher unemployment. America's culture of entrepreneurialism and technological dynamism will degenerate into one characterized by economic dependency and social stagnation."

Gee — Japan has had all of those polices for decades and that hasn’t stopped them from having a dynamic economy.

And how about this? Wages have gone down 30% in America since 1972, while in Europe they have about doubled in that time frame. All of our “dynamic growth” in that time has gone to make a few people ever more grotesquely rich which, when you think about it, really isn’t any kind of growth worth having.

• "[Mr. Obama] vows to lift or eliminate the cap on payroll taxes, which funds Social Security and Medicare. Hence, a tax designed to maintain a pension insurance system will be used for the redistribution of wealth."

I hate that phrase “redistribution of wealth." It implies that there was some sort of Divinely Ordained and infinitely just original distribution of wealth, instead of an inherently flawed and corrupt market system that routinely rewards speculators, pornographers, and marketers pandering to our worst desires, while neglecting teachers, farmers, and innumerable others who actually contribute to the well being of society.

But, just in case you still balk at any form of “redistribution of wealth,” check out what Pope Pius said in Quadragesimo Anno:

“[It is the] function of government to adjust ownership to meet the needs of the public good.”
• "… to forge a new Democratic majority, felons will be given the right to vote, and the District of Columbia will be granted congressional representation - meaning more Democratic seats."

As opposed to, say, the way the Republicans routinely disenfranchised Florida voters who merely had the same name as felons? Or the Republican gerrymandering in the Southern states that routinely denies representation to white Democrats? Or the Diebold voting machines that routinely throw out votes for the Democratic ticket?

Now, I don’t really don’t feel strongly about the issue, but the idea that once a man has paid his debt to society he ought to regain the full rights of a citizen doesn’t strike me as unreasonable. Nor does it strike me as particularly fair that the Republican stronghold of Wyoming should get two senators while the District of Columbia, with at least a hundred thousand more residents, should not.

• "The Obama-Pelosi-Reid unholy alliance will complete the revolutionary project of the 1960s: a society stripped from its traditional Christian moorings."

Okay, who’s the churchgoer: Obama or McCain? Obama is a different kind of Democrat precisely because he is a believing Christian. I get sick of reactionaries calling anyone to the left of Ronald Regan (who wasn’t religious at all, if you will remember) “anti-Christian,” as if Martin Luther King, Eugene McCarthy, and Dorothy Day had never existed.

Sure Pelosi and Reid are largely secular, but is the bad religion of George W. Bush better? Is religion used to justify imperialism, genocide, and an erosion of our civil rights real piety, or is it a fraud? Sure, a lot of people on the left are totally secular — about as secular as those godless Libertarians!

• "Finally, his administration will consolidate a liberal Supreme Court and thus advance the leftist social agenda of abortion on demand …"

Wait, wait, wait! It was a Republican dominated court that put through Roe v. Wade! Only two of the last nine Republican nominees to the court have opposed it! Saying that Republican court nominees would be better on the life issue is criminally naive.

• " … the decriminalization of prostitution, the legalization of marijuana and euthanasia."

Oh, cut it out! No one’s talking about anything like that. This is just scare mongering of the worst possible sort.

Let’s give this man a chance, huh? Things have gone terribly wrong under Bush. We are engaged in an immoral war of imperialism, the economy is deep in depression, the distribution of wealth is almost at third-world imbalances, working-class income has been stagnant for three decades, our infrastructure is crumbling, or foreign debt is crushing, and our prestige in the world is at an all time low. Barack Obama is a bright young man who is not tied to the old ideas of sixties liberalism. Have you been listening to what he has been saying about the recent financial crisis? The man is talking sense and I feel the quality of government is going to improve almost immediately.

10 December, 2008

Cosmic Soviet Baby

On 8 June 1964 Valentina Tereshkova gave birth to a daughter, Elena Andrianovna Lenochka Nikolayeva-Tereshkova. Tereshkova, the first woman in space, was married to Cosmonaut Andrian Nikolayev. Their daughter Elena is, to date, the only child born to parents who have both been to space.

01 December, 2008

American Failure

"In business, under the American system, each year the failures exceed the new successes by a very, very, very wide margin. In business, under the American system, hundreds of thousands more have failed, generation after generation, than the few who have succeeded. If we are to judge by the preponderance of individual successes over failures, or vice-versa, then the American system, business wise, is a record of steady, almost unrelieved failure. It has failure literally built into it."
Ferdinand Lundberg,
"The Rich and the Super-Rich"

Make Your Plans on That Basis.

On Wednesday 23 October 1929, Huey Long, governor of Louisiana, was lounging in the lobby of the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans. A local bank president ran up to him, nearly hysterical, exclaiming, "Governor! Hell's broken loose! The biggest crash you've ever seen! It's going to be sixty days before this country will get back to normal."

Governor Long replied calmly, "I've been expecting this crash for three years. It's here for many, many years. It can't end until there's a redistribution of wealth. Make your plans on that basis."

06 November, 2008

An Italo-American Faust

Born in New Jersey, Francis Sinatra had a formidable mother, active in Democratic city ward politics. He knew at first hand the politics of immigrant Italians, of the urban working class. He was one of them.

What interests me is the rise and fall of a political hero whose apothëosis, or, to be precise, hell, was to become a neutered creature of the American right wing, crooning in Nancy Reagan’s ear at the White House.

At the height of his popular fame as a singer, Frank Sinatra made a short documentary called The House I Live In. This was in 1947; he won an Academy Award for the song, whose lyrics — The people that I work with. The workers that I meet ... The right to speak my mind. That is America to me — were a straightforward pleas for tolerance that neither cloyed nor bored.

Sinatra then fell foul of the FBI, and the professional patriots, and the then powerful Hearst press. In the course of the next eight years, Congress's Un-American Activities Committee, in its Index "of Communists" named The House I Live In twelve times while the New York Times, forever up to no good, in its Index for 1949 published a cross-reference: "Sinatra, Frank: see U.S. — Espionage." That was all the news fit to print about our greatest popular singer.

To add to the demonization, one Harry Anslinger, head of the Federal Narcotics Bureau, and the FBI’s ineffable J. Edgar Hoover (who lived long enough to keep a file on the subversions and perversions of John Lennon), were out to get Sinatra not only as a crypto-Communist but as a mafioso. Since any nightclub singer must work in a nightclub or a casino and since the mob controlled these glittering venues, every entertainer was obliged to traffic with them.

In 1947 Sinatra was smeared as a mafioso by a right-wing Hearst columnist, Lee Mortimer. Sinatra, notoriously short-tempered and not unfamiliar with fiery waters, knocked Mortimer down in a nightclub. Press ink flowed like Niagara Falls. Sinatra was transformed by the right-wing press overnight from the crooning idol of bobby-soxers into violent, left-wing mafioso.

Catholic organs, respectful of their co-religionist’s fame, tried to downplay the attacks, maintaining that he was a mere “pawn.” But he wasn’t. Sinatra had indeed been active in left-wing (by American standards) activities. In 1946 he blasted Franco, a favorite of America’s High Command. That same year he became vice-president of the Hollywood Independent Citizens Committee of the Arts, Sciences and Professions, along with many other stars and Thomas Mann.

In 1948 he supported Henry Wallace for President against the proto-McCarthyite Harry S. Truman. Undeterred by the harm to his career, Sinatra wrote an open letter to the then liberal New Republic imploring Henry Wallace, as heir to Roosevelt, “to take up the fight we like to think of as ours — the fight for tolerance, which is the basis of any fight for peace.” Three months later he was publicly branded a Communist and sacked from his radio show; by 1949 Columbia Records had broken with him and by 1950 MGM dismissed him from his film contract.

A has-been at thirty-four.

After a time of trouble with his wive, Ava Gardner, and the loss of his voice due to alcohol and stress, he made his astonishing come-back in the film From Here to Eternity, for which he was obliged to take a minimal salary. He also developed a brand-new voice, grace notes like Mabel Mercer.

By 1960 Sinatra was again political. He had been a playmate of Jack Kennedy in his senatorial days; he was also gung-ho to help out his conservative but attractive Catholic friend. But some Kennedy advisers thought the Red Mafioso should be avoided at all costs, others wanted to use him for a voter drive in Harlem “where he is recognized as a hero of the cause of the Negro,” something that Kennedy was not, to say the least.

Although, at times, Sinatra seemed to be ranging between megalomania and just plain hard drinking, he was still a major singer, also a movie star, famous for doing scenes in only one take — known in the trade as “walking through.” Kennedey’s candidacy revved him up. But for those who have wondered what dinner might have been like for Falstaff when Prince Hal — now King — snubbed him, I can report that after Kennedy was nominated in Los Angeles at the convention where I was a delegate, Tony Curtis and Janet Lee gave a movie-star party for the nominee. I was placed, along with Sinatra, at the table where Kennedy would sit. We waited. And Waited. Sinatra looked edgy; started to drink heavily. Diner began. Then one of the toothy sister of the nominee said, casually, “Oh, Jack’s sorry. He can’t come. He’s gone to the movies.” Opposite me, Falstaff deflated and spoke no more that evening.

Once Kennedy was elected, Sinatra organized the inaugural ball. But the President’s father and brother Robert said no more Sinatra and there was no more Sinatra.

When President Kennedy came to stay in Palm Springs, he stayed not with Sinatra, as announced, but with his rival Bing Crosby. Insult to injury. From then on, in public and private, he often behaved boorishly.

In due course, he was called before a Congressional committee on the Mafia. They got nowhere. Nowhere to go. Nowhere for him, either. He became a Reagan Republican. But then no Democratic President asked him to perform at the White House. It was sly old Nixon, whose House committee had smeared him, who asked Sinatra to sing The House I Live In.

At the end of the program, for the first time in his public career, Sinatra was in tears. It is not easy to be good, much less a tribune of the people, in the land of milk and money once your house is gone.

— Gore Vidal, 17 May 1998

29 October, 2008

Time to Face Facts in Afghanistan

The current war in Afghanistan is not really about al-Qaida and `terrorism,’ but about opening a secure corridor through Pashtun tribal territory to export the oil and gas riches of the Caspian Basin of Central Asia to the West. The US and NATO forces in Afghanistan are essentially pipeline protection troops fighting off the hostile natives..

Both Barack Obama and John McCain are wrong about Afghanistan. It is not a `good’ fight against `terrorism,’ but a classic, 19th century colonial war to advance western geopolitical power into resource-rich Central Asia. The Pashtun Afghans who live there are ready to fight for another 100 years. The western powers certainly are not.

17 October, 2008

After Nine Years

The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 was a key New Deal reform designed to prevent the kind of credit melt-down that took place from 1929-1933. It separated commercial banking from investment banking, established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), and included reforms designed to control speculation.

Provisions such as Regulation Q, which allowed the Federal Reserve to regulate interest rates in savings accounts, were repealed by the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act of 1980. This lead to the Savings and Loan crisis of the 1980's, which cost taxpayers about $124.6, either directly or through charges on their savings and loan accounts and which contributed to the large budget deficits of the early 1990s. The concomitant slowdown in the finance industry and the real estate market was a primary cause of the 1990–1991 economic recession.

Provisions of the Glass-Steagall Act prohibiting a bank holding company from owning other financial companies were repealed on November 12, 1999, by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which passed in the Senate: 90-8-1 and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

At the time one of the few senators to vote against the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act,Byron Dorgan, made the following prediction:

"I think we will look back in ten years' time and say we sould not have done this, but we did because we forgot the lessons of the past, and that which is true in the 1930s is true in 2010."

10 October, 2008

By The Numbers

Here is a chart of the composition of the Supreme Court by party affiliation since Roe v. Wade in 1973:

You will note that it was then, and has remained, overwhelmingly Republican. That's right
— Roe v. Wade was put through by a court that was 2/3 Republican! Since then, the balance has gotten even more lop-sided, why, there was a period there when Byron White was the only Democrat on the court!

So — do you expect me to believe that one more Republican appointed justice might just tip the balance? That we have to vote Republican to keep the Supreme Court from "going Democratic?"

Let me assure you that, based on the record, we can count on Republican justices to:

• Not over-turn Roe v. Wade. (e.g.
McCorvey v. Hill)

• Undermine the rights of citizens to sue corporations (
e.g. Riegel v. Medtronic, Inc.)

• Undermine our Bill of Rights (e.g. ACLU v. NSA)

• Steal elections from the people (e.g. Bush v. Gore)

05 September, 2008

Global Warming: predicted in 1931

“The mechanization of the world has entered on a phase dangerous over-tension. The picture of the earth, with its plants, animals, and men, has altered. In a few decades most of the great forests have gone, to be turned into news-print, and climatic changes have been thereby set afoot which imperil the land-economy of whole populations.”
— Oswald Spengler, Man and Technics (1931), pp. 93-94

21 August, 2008

Exactly Wrong

This is nothing but wrong-headed horse shit!

We have the financial system of the 1920's since the repeal of all New Deal legislation that formerly protected us.

The Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 which established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and included banking reforms which were designed to control speculation no longer stands. Some provisions such as Regulation Q that allowed the Federal Reserve to regulate interest rates in savings accounts were repealed by the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act of 1980. Other provisions which prohibit a bank holding company from owning other financial companies were repealed in 1999 by the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.

Both the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 which prevented fraud and manipulation of our stock exchanges have largely been dismembered as well.

The Tsunami of financial disaster that is hitting us now would never have been permitted under New Deal legislation — the 1930's Financial System that is being so slanderously maligned here.

Is This the Most Inspiring Poster Ever?

Let's build a fleet of air-ships in Lenin's name!

Wow! I want to start right away!!!
Air-ships + the Soviet = Utopia!

02 July, 2008

Aptly Put

"Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war."

— John Adams

19 June, 2008

Yet another Proletarian Idea Coöpted by the Bourgeoisie.

In his book,"The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference," Malcolm Gladwell discusses what he calls, "tipping points" which are "the levels at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable." Gladwell defines a tipping point as a sociological term, "the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point." The book seeks to explain and describe enormous and "mysterious" sociological changes that mark everyday life. As Gladwell states, "Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread like viruses do."

Sound familiar? Try this on for size:

...at certain nodal points, the purely quantitative increase or decrease gives rise to a qualitative leap; for example, the case of water which is heated or cooled, where boiling point and freezing point are the nodes at which -- under normal pressure -- the leap to a new aggregate state takes place, and where consequently quantity is transformed into quality.

Recognize it? It's from everybody favorite book by Frederick Engels, the "Anti-Dühring." (Or did you like "The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844" better? No matter ...) Yes, the idea that change is dialectical, not gradual, is a communist idea, in fact, Marx called his system of philosophy Dialectical Materialism. Sociology is now obsessed with "tipping points," just as in biology the dialectical theory of Punctuated Equilibrium (which comes from Hegel, through the C.P.U.S.A., by way of Stephen Jay Gould) is replacing that of Phyletic Gradualism (which is irretrievably bourgeois, as it traces back to the anti-working class polemics of Parson Malthus). Yes, this is one more example, of which there are many, of why this capitalist system has got to go! Okay, we'd better wrap this up with a quote from Spengler:

“The money-census and the general franchise are alike bourgeois weapons — whereas an aristocracy does not count, but values, and votes not by heads, but by classes ...

... The task is set: it is imperative to free German Socialism from Marx.”

20 May, 2008

The Global Accounting Scam

By Jonathan Rowe

The Gross Domestic Product, the fundamental basis for economic reckoning in this country, is destroying the environment and public health and calling it progress.

Several months ago a professor at the University of North Carolina published findings that turned beliefs about the economy upside down. Health improves, he said, as the economy goes down. When the economy declines, to a point at least, deaths, smoking, obesity, heavy drinking, heart disease and some kinds of back problems all decline as well.

"Sounds unlikely," said the New York Times. And indeed it is, by the standard reckonings at least. We all know that an expanding economy makes us better off -- or do we? Another study, this one in England, found that shopping, which is the drive train of the entire economy, and which is supposed to make people feel good, actually can make them depressed. "For significant numbers, dissatisfaction is now part of the shopping process," one of the authors said. (As though we needed a study to tell us that.)

What's going on here? How could we feel better when the experts say we should feel worse, and worse when they say we should feel better? Could it be that economists don't know up from down to begin with?

This is the nation's hidden accounting scandal, the one that neither government nor media will touch. It concerns the accounting for the entire economy, the way the government purports to determine whether things are getting better or worse. This accounting is called the Gross Domestic Product or GDP. It is central to the big policy debate in Washington, and is the template for the policies the United States projects upon the world. The media regard it with a reverence bordering on awe. The Wall Street Journal recently called the GDP the "world's most reliable economic indicator."

Yet like the books of Enron, Tyco et. al., the federal economic accounting is a sham. It portrays regress as progress and misery as economic advance. If you ever have wondered how you could feel so harried, stressed, maxed out and under siege, even when the government says the economy is doing well, the answer is here. If the president really is looking for chief executives who "cook the books," he might well take a look at the economic books over which he himself presides. They truly are a mess.

Adding It Up - and Adding, and Adding...

Imagine an accountant who can add but can't subtract, and who is so nearsighted he can't see past his nose. That is the mentality behind the GDP. The GDP simply adds up the money Americans spend and calls the result growth and good, regardless of where the money went and why.

By this reckoning, the more medical bills you incur, the more junk food your kids yammer for, the more you sit in traffic and the more your credit card company rips you off with hidden charges, the better the economy is doing and the more the politicians can brag about the nation's "growth."

At the same time the accounting ignores the implications of expenditures that on their face might suggest advance. Perhaps your neighbor loves her SUV. Perhaps she regards it as a step upward in her life. Still, when she drives the thing, she pours gunk into the air and adds to pressures to put oil derricks near coastal beaches. She takes up more space on the road, adding to traffic and causing everyone to burn more gas. Honest accounting would show such costs. The GDP ignores them.

Worse, the federal accounting actually shows such costs as economic gains. All the gas, the fender-benders, the medical bills arising from exposure to bad air get added to the GDP as evidence of the nation's growth. Americans spend over $5 billion on gas they burn while stuck in traffic, going nowhere. That's $5 billion more for the GDP. Cook the planet, cook the books and call the result "growth."

It's this kind of screwy accounting that enables the president to claim that action to address global warming would be bad for "the economy." Define regress as progress, and steps to take us forward look as though they would set us back. What's more, while counting bads as goods, the GDP totally ignores the genuine goods that don't cost money. The air we breathe, the care that parents and grandparents give their children, the games children play with one another, the quiet of the night -- these are invisible in the national accounts.

Only when the economy destroys them and forces us to buy substitutes do the federal accountants spring to life. Day care counts but mom-and-dad care doesn't. Driving a car counts but walking does not. The reason is not that government numbers-people are incompetent or ethically challenged. Actually they are top-notch. The problem is the antiquated system they are forced to use. It is so out of touch with reality it would be comic -- if the consequences weren't so grim.

Thriving on Absurdity

The absurdities of all this have not gone entirely unnoticed. Economists and the media reflect upon them from time to time in a feet-on-the-desk kind of way. But they continue to use the GDP anyway. Observe the news the next time the Commerce Department releases the quarterly GDP numbers. Does a single reporter or economist say, "Wait a minute. Does this accounting really say what people think it says?"
Not likely. And more, they never acknowledge how deep the phony accounting runs. They might remark on occasion upon the unfortunate side effects of consumption, what economists call "externalities," e.g. the way the SUV gunks up the air. But the consumption itself is always positive, another step up the Mountain of More. "A nation is by definition thriving if its major indices [e.g. the GDP] say people are making more things and spending more money on them," a writer in the New York Times opined not long ago. By definition, which means there's no need to observe actual experience and see if it is true.

Yet reporters are supposed to be observers, not theologians, and these talents are desperately needed with regard to the hoary postulates of economic thought. The problem today goes far deeper than externalities. Increasingly the problem is internalities, the supposed cornucopia itself. Is it really thriving when kids nag their parents for junk food, or when credit card companies rip off their customers with billions in hidden charges? Is it thriving when teen magazines induce a pathological body-consciousness in young girls, to the benefit of the cosmetic and plastic surgery industries?

According to a recent test, six of seven brands of SUVs are designed to incur major damage -- upwards of $1400 or more -- from a crash at just 5 miles per hour. That's GDP. But is it really "thriving"? When one actually looks at the economy, instead of thinking abstractly like an economist, one sees less a happy jaunt up the mountain than a slog through a swamp of the economy's own creating.

Integers of Acquisition

But let's face it. The problem is not just the economy. It's also ourselves.

In the belief system called economics, we all are shrewd little integers of acquisition, who go through life with an unfailing calculus of benefit and gain. Since we all are "rational," as economists use that term, the sum total of our buying must be the nation's prosperity and good. That's the belief embedded in the national accounting -- more buying equals more happiness and good.

Leave aside, for the moment, the buying the economy thrusts upon us. Leave aside too whether it is really so "rational" to be obsessed with shopping to begin with. If we simply observe the life around us, what we see is -- surprise -- a lot of bad choices. We see in fact a nation of people who seem in constant lament over the bad choices they have made.

The book stores are full of titles for such people. Support groups proliferate for those who can't stop eating, drinking, smoking, falling for the wrong people, spending money they don't have. The pharmaceutical industry is marketing drugs for people who can't stop shopping. (Some four million Americans are already addicted to prescription drugs.) Counselors are counseling them.

Yet somehow, when the accountants put all of these bad decisions together, the result is supposed to be prosperity and growth, by definition. And when people start to get control of their lives -- when they toss the gin down the toilet, put the credit cards in the freezer and timers on their telephones -- we hear dire warnings of a drop in "consumer confidence" and a "sluggish" GDP.

Rejecting the Hype

It does get a little weird. Yet politically it makes perfect sense. A McDonald's, an Exxon or a General Motors finds great comfort in the GDP. An accounting system that turns obesity and pollution into economic advance turns the perpetrators of these into the heroes of the script. Politicians like the accounting too. It enables them to say that in helping their campaign contributors they are actually helping humankind. Oil drilling in wilderness areas is not a plum for the oil industry, they say. Rather, it's a boost for the GDP.

For the media, meanwhile, the GDP provides a way to turn a complex story into a simple number, one that comes weighted with the combined authority of the federal government and economic expertise. It enables reporters to pontificate on the economies of entire countries without the need to leave their desks. That the GDP aligns economic reporting with the interests of advertisers doesn't hurt either.

These mental grooves are deep, and they are set in concrete. They are not likely to change any time soon. That does not mean we have to follow along, however. The first step to change is to withdraw our consent. The next time we hear Dan Rather, or Tom Lehrer, or the solemn voices on NPR intone about the GDP and "growth," we can just chuckle at how out of it they are. As the corporate corruption exposés have shown to the nation's great pain, phony accounting can't cover up reality forever.

Jonathan Rowe is director of the Tomales Bay Institute and a contributing editor of The Washington Monthly magazine. An even better article about the GDP scam can be found in the June 2008 issue of Harper's Magazine.

15 May, 2008

National Bolshevik Principles: Autarchy!

Autarchy means self-sufficiency and a rejection of internationalism. Today we are foolishly de-industrializing and sending economic production overseas while, at the same time, becoming ever more dependent upon imported resources. The inevitable corollary to our disastrous “free trade” policies is imperialism, the attempt to impose our economic order upon the rest of the world by coercion or force. America is abundantly blessed with resources of all kinds, with minerals, fertile land, ample fresh water, and we have need of importing only a very few resources to maintain our standard of living. “Globalization” does not serve the interests of any but the owning classes and leads to the destabilization of societies the world around, for money has no home and thus the Money Power cares nothing for the people. Autarchy, ultimately, is inseparable from socialism.

Lincoln understood this well: “I don’t know much about the tariff, but I know this much: when we buy manufactured good abroad, we get the goods and the foreigner gets the money. When we buy the manufactured goods at home, we get both the goods and the money.”

Autarchy means:

‡ Fair trade, not free trade; refusing to import goods made by laborers earning sweat-shop wages and support for companies paying decent wages in third world countries.

‡ A drastic curtailment of our dependence upon foreign oil by means of tax incentives, development of alternative power sources, and perhaps even rationing.

‡ Environmental policies that reflect the reality of finite resources that must be carefully husbanded for future generations.

‡ Closing our borders to economic refugees.

‡ An end to imperialist adventuring.

National Bolshevik Principles: Socialism!

Socialism here is not meant only in the narrow economic sense, but rather in the sense of “social justice” encompassing not only a more equitable relationship of labor and capital, but of polices that engender the health of society. It is opposed not only to rapacious “market values” but also to socially destructive “liberalism.”

1] Economic Socialism!

Economic Socialism embraces the whole matrix of social policies beneficial to the working class. It means production for use, wherein the economy is made to serve the people not the Money Power. It means recognizing that consumerism is environmentally catastrophic. Credit, investment, the tax structure: all of these must be made to serve the national interest, not the Money Power. Socialism means a rejection of bourgeois liberalism, which values the rights of the individual over social order and family integrity, and a rejection of bourgeois materialism that exalts consumerism and measures everything in dollars.

A socialist program of economics would include:

‡ Nationalization of heath-care and pensions.

‡ Repeal of anti-labor legislation (e.g. “right to work” laws and the Taft Hartley law) and the mandatory unionization of all businesses employing more than 100 workers.

‡ A truly progressive tax upon incomes.

‡ Estate taxes high enough to prevent the development of an hereditary rentier class.

‡ The replacement of “welfare” with a program of full employment.

‡ An end to the subsidy to low-wage employers known as the “Earned Income Tax Credit,” and the setting of minimum wages at living wage levels.

2] Cultural Socialism!

Unlike Marxist socialism, National Bolshevism is not materialistic and embraces a cultural socialism as well. Spengler says that “all economic life is the expression of a soul-life.” Today the West is faced with a crisis of spirit, a loss of cultural self-assurance, a soul destroying materialism, that is known as “multi-culturalism” and must be rejected. A developed society can either embrace the culture upon which it is built, celebrate it and progress, or it can embrace cultural eclecticism, lose touch with the pulse of its own life-blood, become effete and dilettantish, and perish before other cultures that retain their self-confidence.

Cultural socialism means:

‡ Tax policies that promote family formation.

‡ The encouragement of fertility in educated women by forgiving the student loans for women who have at least two children.

‡ An “English only” policy in government and schools.

‡ An aggressive policy of cultural education in the schools with an emphasis upon classical music, western art and literature, and humanistic philosophical values.

‡ An end to the corruption of religious institutions through government grants and subsidies.

‡ A presumption on the part of government and educators that Western values of free enquiry, the sanctity of the individual conscience, limited government, and civic virtue are better than their non-Western alternatives.

3] Political Socialism! (Communitarianism)

Our present political system has degenerated into wild displays of demagoguery and petty factionalism in order to hide the reality of plutocratic control of all branches of government. Reform is imperative if the working classes are to achieve real representation in government.

Political socialism means:

‡ Genuine multi-party democracy through a system of proportional representation in all legislatures.

‡ Scrapping of the Electoral College and election of the president by a consensus style system (e.g. “instant run-off” voting).

‡ A break-up of the current media monopoly through anti-trust action and a requirement that the FCC give 2/3 of all broadcasting licences to local ownership.

Prophetic Words

"The Strange alchemy of time has somehow converted the Democrats into the truly conservative party of this country — the party dedicated to conserving all that is best, and building solidly and safely on these foundations." — Adlai Stevenson, 1952

Consider, if you will, that this was said twenty-eight years before Reagan began to dismantle good government in this country, and almost half-a-century before Bush completed the job.

13 May, 2008

A Startling Admission

David Ben-Gurion, first Prime Minister of Israel, once told Zionist official Nahum Goldmann, that if he were a Palestinian, he too would wage perpetual war with Israel:

"Sure God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They see only one thing: We have come here and stolen their country."

05 April, 2008

Excursus: Could I make as much money as Bill Clinton if I started shitting out gold bricks?

Upon reading that former President, Bill Clinton had personally made $81,430,000- since leaving the presidency, my son commented that no one was worth that kind of money, “…even if they were shitting out gold bricks!”

Now, that’s quite a statement, so I decided to do the math.

I have no idea of what Mr. Clinton’s fecal production might be (I checked his blog, but it concerns more trivial matters, like politix) so I arbitrarily took my own experience as being fairly typical. I estimate that I produce about a pound and a half of crap with each movement and, as last month’s average was 1.55 movements a day, this give a total of 37.2 ounces avoirdupois (avd) or 33.9 troy ounces, the weight at which gold is quoted. Gold, being at $913.29 per troy ounce, this means that I produce the fecal equivalent of $33,960.53 in gold bricks per day.

Clinton, on the other hand, made $31,870- per diem.

So the answer is yes, Clinton would be worth that much money if he could shit out gold bricks.

02 April, 2008

Political Topography of the NSDAP

This is my latest attempt to create a topography of political factions within (and around) the NSDAP.

On the left we find three categories: National Bolsheviks who are too far left to remain within the NSDAP or ever to have joined, National Socialists who were the genuinely socialist faction within the party, and Left Opportunists who, while being socialist in outlook, ultimately subordinated this to other motivations. Thus National Bolshevik includes Nazi defectors (e.g. Stennis and Otto Strasser), disaffected Communists and Socialists who could not embrace the lingering petite-bourgeois character of the NSDAP (e.g. Radek, Niekish and Winnig), and characters who were simply too radically anti-bourgeois to fit anywhere else (e.g. Ernst Saloman, or von Stauffenberg). The Left Opportunists usually were careerists (e.g. Hans Fritzsche) who willingly subordinated any opinions to their personal interests, though there were many (e.g. Dr. Joseph Göbbels or Julius Streicher) who subordinated their socialist ideas to their racist mania, as well as those who, for whatever reason, failed to act upon their beliefs (such as the brain-damaged Dr. Ley).

In the Center, there are three Anti-Bourgeois Categories: The Left Anti-Bourgeois are the State Socialists, who think that socialism, by eliminating the class struggle, would ultimately strengthen the nation (e.g. Spengler, and the Tatkreis [“Action Circle”] faction). In the Center Anti-Bourgeois is something of a grab bag, including as it does out-and-out monarchists (e.g. Frick and von Epp), third way theorists (e.g. Möller van den Brucke), disaffected militarists (e.g. Doenitz or Steldte), and flaky race theorists (e.g. Dintner or Eckhardt). The Right Anti-Bourgeois are State Capitalists who, though accepting capitalism, wish to subordinate it to the nation. This eventually became the de facto Nazi ideology as this faction was heavily weighted with the sort of fanatical racists that Hitler favored. The Right Opportunists mirror their complement on the left and are designated opportunists for similar reasons (e.g. careerists like Speer, the racially obsessed like Himmler, or out-and-out opportunists like the amiable sociopath himself, Herman Göring).

On the far right we find the Reactionary Capitalists who are too far right to work with Hitler. They constitute a conventional hard right faction alienated from the “Weimar System” which they perceive, rightly or wrongly, as “socialist.”
The “Y-Axis” of this chart deals with the national/race issue. No one in the NSDAP is an internationalist or anything less than a German patriot, so we begin there with Völkish. The völkish believe Germany was cheated at Versailles, is the best of all possible nations, and perhaps they believe that neither Poles, Jews, nor Czechs living within the Reich can ever really be good Germans, yet they are not obsessed with the race issue, respect other nations, nor harbor real hatreds. Anti-Semitic encompasses those who see Jews as constituting an economic or cultural menace, see other nations as inferior, and are not adverse to a war of conquest. Racist defines those as favoring or willing to go along with genocide.
Hitler’s program was one of genocide and imperialism. He was thus fundamentally neither right nor left (though he ultimately allied himself with the right) but merely a racist. The proof of this is that no one supporting genocide was ever purged!

31 March, 2008

Wages down / profits up / workers screwed again

Commerce Department data show that the share of national income going to wages and salaries in 2006 was at its lowest level on record, with data going back to 1929. The share of national income captured by corporate profits, in contrast, was at its highest level on record.

• Some 51.6 percent of total national income went to wages and salaries in 2006. This is a lower share than in any of the 77 previous years for which these data are available.

• At this stage of the 1990s business cycle, wages and salaries made up about 53 percent of national income — about 1½ percentage points more than today Each percentage point of national income is now equivalent to $117 billion.

• Corporate profits captured 13.8 percent of national income in 2006, which is the largest share in any year on record. At this point in the business cycle of the 1990s, corporate profits were receiving less than 12 percent of national income.

25 March, 2008

"That's why we're Democrats!"

Shortly after my parent's marriage in 1952, the newlyweds went to lunch at my mother's Aunt Orpha and Uncle Elmer's farmhouse. They were good, solid, Midwestern farm folk who had been born on the prairie, lived through two world wars, a depression, dust storms and Prohibition (which they probably didn't notice, since they were both tea totalers). They lived on the type of "family farm" that has long since passed from our landscape, not just a one-family operation growing crops, but a homestead that kept fruit trees, a vegetable garden, chickens and live-stock for their own consumption. When I was young, I don't remember ever seeing Orpha in anything but a gingham dress, nor Elmer wearing anything but overalls with a watch chain draping from the breast pocket.

Naturally, upon meeting these stolid folk, my father expected them to be the sort of farm-belt conservatives that turned out reliable Republican majorities in Nebraska and the other plains states.

My father's people were different. His father ran one of the largest insurance agencies in Omaha, wore a pin-stripe suit, lived in a fashionable section of town. He and my grandmother belonged to the Happy Hollow Country Club where they golfed several times a week, dined with friends every Saturday night, and where grandpa often took business associates. Grandpa was a past-president of the Chamber of Commerce, a Shriner, and a member of the prestigious Dundee Presbyterian Church.

Naturally, Orpha and Elmer expected my father to be the sort of business-oriented Republican that is to this day characterized by the epithet "country club Republican."

It came then, as a surprise to everyone, when the conversation at lunch that day turned to politics, to find out that they were all Democrats.

My father explained that, while his father was indeed a Republican, he had first become a Democrat after reading progressive thinkers in college. His Democratic bias was further strengthened during his stint in the Marine Corps where he lived with soldiers who had grown up poor during the Depression and regarded Roosevelt as something of a savior. Then he asked Orpha why she was a Democrat.

Rather than answer him directly, Orpha got up from the table and went over to a drawer. There, she pulled out a slip of paper and put it on the table in front of my parents. It read:

December 1932 / Corn @ 20¢ a bushel

"That's why we're Democrats!"

11 February, 2008

A.J. Muste: Apostle of Peace

“There is no way to peace — peace is the way” — A.J. Muste

“We cannot have peace if we are only concerned with peace. War is not an accident. It is the logical outcome of a certain way of life. If we want to attack war, we have to attack that way of life.” — A.J. Muste

06 February, 2008

Market Manipulation by DeBeers

From Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond? by Edward Jay Epstein

The diamond invention - the creation of the idea that diamonds are rare and valuable, and are essential signs of esteem - is a relatively recent development in the history of the diamond trade. Until the late nineteenth century, diamonds were found only in a few riverbeds in India and in the jungles of Brazil, and the entire world production of gem diamonds amounted to a few pounds a year. In 1870, however, huge diamond mines were discovered near the Orange River, in South Africa, where diamonds were soon being scooped out by the ton. Suddenly, the market was deluged with diamonds. The British financiers who had organized the South African mines quickly realized that their investment was endangered; diamonds had little intrinsic value - and their price depended almost entirely on their scarcity. The financiers feared that when new mines were developed in South Africa, diamonds would become at best only semiprecious gems.

The major investors in the diamond mines realized that they had no alternative but to merge their interests into a single entity that would be powerful enough to control production and perpetuate the illusion of scarcity of diamonds. The instrument they created, in 1888, was called De Beers Consolidated Mines, incorporated in South Africa. As De Beers took control of all aspects of the world diamond trade, it assumed many forms....

The diamond invention is far more than a monopoly for fixing diamond prices; it is a mechanism for converting tiny crystals of carbon into universally recognized tokens of wealth, power, and romance. To achieve this goal, De Beers had to control demand as well as supply. Both women and men had to be made to perceive diamonds not as marketable precious stones but as an inseparable part of courtship and married life. To stabilize the market, De Beers had to endow these stones with a sentiment that would inhibit the public from ever reselling them. The illusion had to be created that diamonds were forever - forever in the sense that they should never be resold.

This is one more example, of which there are many, of why this capitalist system has got to go!

21 January, 2008

Very Succinct Indeed

"Let's be clear: we have lost this war. We have lost because the initial, central goals of the invasion have all failed: we have not secured WMDS from terrorists because those WMDs did not exist. We have not stymied Islamist terror - at best we have finally stymied some of the terror we helped create. We have not constructed a democratic model for the Middle East - we have instead destroyed a totalitarian government and a phony country, only to create a permanently unstable, fractious, chaotic failed state, where the mere avoidance of genocide is a cause for celebration. We have, moreover, helped solder a new truth in the Arab mind: that democracy means chaos, anarchy, mass-murder, national disintegration and sectarian warfare. And we have also empowered the Iranian regime and made a wider Sunni-Shiite regional war more likely than it was in 2003. Apart from that, Mr Bush, how did you enjoy your presidency?
— Andrew Sullivan

17 January, 2008

Words of Prophecy


"Usury will destroy our society, but meanwhile there is no escape from it. We are coming near the end of its maleficient action, not through awakening to its evils but because it is reaching the end of its resources ... The modern world is organized on the principle that money of its nature breeds money. A sum of money lent has, according to our presnent scheme, a natural right to interest. That principle is false in economics as in morals, It ruined Rome, and it is bring us to our end."
— Hilaire Belloc, Usury, 1931

News Item:

Citigroup the nation’s largest bank, reported a staggering fourth-quarter loss of $9.83 billion on Tuesday and issued a sobering forecast that the housing market and the broader economy still had not bottomed out.