Category Archives: POLITICS

Beyond Democracy. Thoughts on anarchy.

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The Tyranny of the Majority:
If you ever found yourself in a vastly outnumbered minority, and the majority voted that you had to give up something as necessary to your life as water and air, would you comply? When it comes down to it, does anyone really believe it makes sense to accept the authority of a group simply on the grounds that they outnumber everyone else? We accept majority rule because we do not believe it will threaten us – and those it does threaten are already silenced before anyone can hear their misgivings.

[…]

Three wolves and six goats are discussing what to have for dinner. One courageous goat makes an impassioned case: “We should put it to a vote!” The other goats fear for his life, but surprisingly, the wolves acquiesce. But when everyone is preparing to vote, the wolves take three of the goats aside.
“Vote with us to make the other three goats dinner,” they threaten. “Otherwise, vote or no vote, we’ll eat you.”
The other three goats are shocked by the outcome of the election: a majority, including their comrades, has voted for them to be killed and eaten. They protest in outrage and terror, but the goat who first suggested the vote rebukes them: “Be thankful you live in a democracy! At least we got to have a say in this!”

–From THE PARTY’S OVER: BEYOND POLITICS, BEYOND DEMOCRACY
http://thecloud.crimethinc.com/pdfs/democracy_reading.pdf

So, I’ve discovered this Web site: CrimethInc. Ex-Workers’ Collective (http://www.crimethinc.com). They have some blog posts on the G-20 protests…and most interestingly, a non-protest that was treated as a violent protest by the police and resulted in more than a hundred arrests (including a great many who weren’t doing any protesting) and many injured. (State Repression at the G20 Protests) From this I started looking over the site. It’s an anarchists’ site, filled with info and publications geared toward helping people find the anarchist within and fight the system.

This is what’s struck me as interesting: Their reason for existing, their criticism of the system, their complaints of capitalism and democracy, I completely agree with–and I’ll explain why in a moment. But their explanation of their remedy, their idea of anarchy, I’m having trouble with. (Note, that anarchy does not mean violence or chaos in the sense of abuse of others, harming people. It simply means no government, no rule of imposed law, no masters.)

Ironically, these anarchists have, from what I can see, I great disdain for socialism, communism, any -ism apparently derived from Marxism. I say “ironic” because their entire criticism of the current state of capitalism and authoritarian democracy comes straight from Marxist criticism, 101. Take for example this page from the book Days of War, Night of Love:

daysgallery3(page image link: “How Does Capitalism Work“)

This is capitalist criticism straight from Marx’s Kapital (not verbatim, of course). Everything this anarchist site decries about the current state of capitalist economy, culture, and the police state used to protect the hegemony and the owners of capital, is Marxism stripped of the Marxist lingo (like “hegemony”). There’s nothing about their critique of capitalism I don’t agree with (my being a Marxist). However, and this is where things get uncomfortable, their ideas of overcoming the system I don’t know if I can support. Well, let me clarify…

At the core, I consider myself an anarcho-socialist. I too believe that the best path for humanity, for human advancement, equality, justice, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the complete lack of government and forced adherence to someone else’s majority rule. However, I also believe that married to that must be a social contract of mutual cooperation, shared resources, publicly owned and operated resources, manufacture, distribution…capital. This is different from anarcho-libertarianism, or Objectivism (vis-à-vis Ayn Rand) which believes that in addition to lack of any forced rules or regulations, private ownership is valued above all. That humans are selfish and greedy by nature, and that we should live to acquire as much for ourselves as we can and help others only so much as we can gain from it ourselves. Pretty much ethically and morally bankrupt, in my opinion.

As I read through the CrimethInc site, most of what they believe (and what they purport anarchists believe) matches up with my anarcho-socialism. They support cooperation, mutually beneficial action, gift economy. Hey, great! But they also support a sort of worship of anti-social behavior, crime, vandalism, activities that make me cringe (e.g.: shoplifting). Although, all the anti-social behavior they support, is all geared toward the state, corporate America, the power structure, and not against other individuals and their personal rights. OK…that sounds good… I guess.

So, I’m left to question: Is my cringing because I’ve lived my entire life controlled by the hegemony, brainwashed into subservience to conformity with passivity, being a good little worker bee who keeps his head down and continues to make profit for his capitalist lords without making any trouble for them? Well, yes I have. We all have. That’s the entire goal of hegemony, be it capitalist or feudal or slave economy. Those in control use whatever sociological means available to control the other 99% of the people for their own benefit. This requires blind obedience to their laws. It requires complete acquiescence to state-supporting meek mildness.

When I remember these things, which I’ve been studying and contemplating for some years now, it reinforces my belief in the anarcho-half of my anarcho-socialism. So, why does the action of subversiveness bug me?

Since President Dubbya started taking away civil liberties after 9/11, I started studying libertarianism and even anarchy–but always from a level of personal rights and liberties. It wasn’t until I started grad school and my first professor, Dr. Burling, introduced me to Marxism that I learned that Bush, civil liberty removal, the corporate ownership of the government, wars, all of it, are a result of the economic foundation: capitalism. It is essentially the base on which everything is a superstructure built extending from it. Everything is about the material question: Who uses it and what is it for? With that in mind it’s easy (easier) to understand power, wealth, who benefits from it most, and how they exploit those without it. Dr. Burling helped change my entire outlook on culture, laws, economy, politics, etc.

But when asked why doesn’t he live outside the corruption and control of capitalism, his response was, in essence: you can’t escape it, it affects everyone, might as well not make your own life unnecessarily difficult fighting it. And this is a guy who, in addition to being an unashamed Marxist, was also a musician with a focus on rock (meaning nothing exactly, except an implication that he has a rebellious spirit).

And it also makes me think of vaunted Marxist cultural critic and major figure of the Frankfurt School, Theodor Adorno, who it is said that during the Paris riots of 1968 when asked by his students why he didn’t participate or support the student protests, he replied “How can you actively fight for something before you fully understand it?”

There is “theory,” and there is “praxis.” Praxis is putting theory into action. Is it that these Marxist critics and theorists I look up to, who happen to be intellectuals and educators, don’t know how to put their words into action? Do they not have the courage of their convictions? Or are all they are about is understanding and criticizing the current system, but not about doing anything about it? When asked what good is knowing how culture develops, knowing how the hegemony controls and influences our decisions and our wants? They have replied that it helps you understand why you make the decisions that you do, why you choose what products or how you sell your labor. But is that enough?

Frederic Jameson (Marxist cultural critic) has developed a concept of applying “cognitive mapping” to cultural criticism, which is a theory of mapping the contradictions in capitalism, where it affects our lives, and finding and exploiting the holes in it. And it’s a step toward praxis, which gives people like me hope of doing something to make a difference. To help turn the tables on capitalist exploitation and help the “seeds of rebellion” grow. But…what is that rebellion? What are we Marxist intellectuals waiting for? We who study culture, and politics, and socio-economics? Dr. Burling had cryptically referred to the biopic about Che Guevara, The Motorcycle Diaries, in which a young, pre-revolutionary Guevara is asked about how to spark the South American peoples into revolution against their oppressors, he responds that you can’t have a revolution without guns.

But then, Dr. Burling often referred to other ways to create such drastic upheaval as to eliminate capitalism, without revolution and war, and used as examples Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy and 40, 50, 60 trilogy. Stories in which the only way to evolve from capitalism to egalitarian socialism is either to colonize another planet, or deal with Earth-shaking environmental disaster. So, do we just wait for change?

Back to my point: Are these anarchists doing what we intellectuals fear to do, but are a natural and proper result of the same Marxist-rooted criticism of capitalism we both share? Am I a hypocrite for complaining about and railing about capitalism and its ills and evils, but I continue to lust after home ownership and getting a better job and obeying all the laws of the land so I don’t draw the attention of the state’s police apparatus?

Is it because I have a family to care for? I don’t risk rocking the boat, and so I participate, if grudgingly, in my own commodification and the orgy of consumerism? Of course, this is exactly what the hegemony counts on, this conservativism that we’re all supposed to grow into. We’re allowed to rebel a little as a youth, test the bounds of social acceptance, and then “settle down.” Grow a family, buy a home, get a job you can’t leave because you can’t live without the insurance benefits. You become a productive worker bee who has too much to lose by questioning authority, bucking the system, making waves. Be a quiet little worker bee, and you get to go (somewhat) unnoticed by the system that exploits you and uses you and extorts you, giving little in return except an addiction to mass consumption.

Are anarchists heroes I fear to admire? Or are they the hemp clothing wearing, organic food growing, dumpster diving neo-hippies that I can easily dismiss and marginalize, exactly as I’ve just done, because they threaten the social stability and conditioning I’ve internalized because I grew up brainwashed to become a quiet and non-trouble-making worker bee? Is that why when asked, I say I’m an anarcho-socialist “in theory” but “in practice” I’m a democratic-socialist? Isn’t that just a way for me to marginalize myself?

I don’t know. But this Fighting For Our Lives: An Anarchist Primer is at the very least thought-provoking reading.

Thanks, corporate news!

Thanks Corporate News

Ah, that ol’ “liberal media,” avoiding the truth and spreading lies. Well, part of that statement is correct.

(Feel free to skip the following introductory diatribe and go right to the featured link at the end of this essay. What it has to say is certainly more interesting and coherent than my ramblings.)

Until I gave up XM Radio, I used to listed to Air America all the time. It’s a very, unabashed, left-leaning radio media. And for the few years, during the Bush administration, that I listened to it, I would often hear of some new event, or disclosure, or revelation, or news of some sort that implicated Bush, Cheney, or any number of their cohorts, in war crimes at worst and outright deception at best. Now, knowing that I’m listening to a truly left-wing media outlet, (unlike most people who watch FOX news and listen to Limbaugh who think what they’re getting is “fair and balanced”), I would try to validate what I heard with other sources and gauge its certainty before I went around talking about it. If nothing else, I hate the idea of propagating a story to then turn around and find out it’s unfounded–but mostly, I worship at the altar of truth and try to live my life in discovery of what is and isn’t true.

Anyway, so when I would check out a story and find that it has enough credible, independent support to be true, I’d wait for this important, vital discovery or revelation to appear on mainstream news. And what would happen is maybe, maybe it might make a tiny appearance on Keith Olbermann’s show. Sometimes, rarely, it might get mentioned on Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show (which is null of any affect since the context is it’s a comedy show). And if it did on either, it’d be the once and then never hear about it again. Would it get mentioned on other MSNBC shows? Nope. CNN? Never. ABC News and the like? Not hardly. The idea of the mainstream media being “liberal” was laughable!

For a long time, well…most of my life, I believed in the press as being on the whole fair and interested in the truth. It was our “fourth estate,” charged with uncovering the sometimes painful truth where those in power would want it buried. And then a few years ago, as I started to learn about who actually wielded socio-political power and discovered it was not the politicians by and large, but the top 1-5% richest people in the country (and the world), and that all aspects of our society are controlled and regulated (both intentionally and subconsciously) by capitalist hegemony, some truths started to come to light for me.

The mainstream news, the media, are all corporate owned. Major transnational, global market capitalist corporations which have as their bottom line…the bottom line, and not truth, news, fairness, balance. The money defines what becomes newsworthy and what gets ignored. The corporate media’s very close ties to the Bush dynasty helped keep his administration’s war crimes out of the news or its import minimized to insubstantial.

Now, at one time I would have argued that this control surely wouldn’t filter down to the reporters and the editors who research. Well, yes, it does. A climate, a culture, an agenda filters down from the top to the bottom and when people need work and can’t afford to be too choosy about who exploits their labor, er, pays them and provides their medical benefits, they’re willing to push what the overarching corporate agenda wants pushed and ignore what it wants ignored. And if that’s too much for a reporter to deal with, the editor above them, who has an even greater vested interest in his job, will help make sure the message conforms to the corporate agenda. And as the agenda becomes obvious and doesn’t remain latent, and the employee can’t handle being silenced, they’re free to work on the edges of society and blog, where they’re ignored by all but the fringes and are dismissed by society as irrelevant.

All this to introduce a recent SALON article which discusses this very corporate controlled media dynamic, even in what is thought of by most people as the most “liberal” of all media, Keith Olbermann. Enjoy:

… Having Richard Wolffe host an MSNBC program — or serving as an almost daily “political analyst” —  is exactly tantamount to MSNBC’s just turning over an hour every night to a corporate lobbyist.  Wolffe’s role in life is to advance the P.R. interests of the corporations that pay him, including corporations with substantial interests in virtually every political issue that MSNBC and Countdown cover.  Yet MSNBC is putting him on as a guest-host and “political analyst” on one of its prime-time political shows.  What makes that even more appalling is that, as Ana Marie Cox first noted, neither MSNBC nor Wolffe even disclose any of this….

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“Canadian Perspectives 2009: The Failure of Capitalism and the Need for a Socialist Alternative”

Facebook readers: this post came from my official blog; the auto-transfer to FB tends to strip any embedded images.)

michael-hacker-capitalism1This will be a quick post by me; I can discuss my thoughts on this at great length, but I think it’s more important that one just simply read this fantastic article:

“Capitalism has failed. This fact conditions all future developments.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, all the mouthpieces of capitalism repeated the mantra, ‘socialism has failed, capitalism has won, there is no alternative.’ Francis Fukuyama declared it was ‘the end of history.’ Free-markets, privatization, corporate tax-cuts, deregulation, and outsourcing were seen as the only way forward. In short, there was a massive transfer of wealth from the poor to the rich. The workers had lost and there was very little pity from the victors.”

It is kind of a long article, but please don’t let that dissuade you from reading–it has excellent material from beginning to end, especially as the thesis starts to really pick up steam about halfway through. This article is vital for anyone of any political bent: If you’re a die-hard capitalist, this article may give you a better understanding of real socialist perspectives so you can fight against actual socialism (if you continue to wish to do so) and not some false cartoon propaganda mockery of socialism that hasn’t existed since Stalin; people curious about what socialism is all about, this will give you a great, practical, real-world idea; socialists, well, I don’t need to say anything to you. 🙂

Bottom line: anyone interested in what’s going on in politics and economics lately, and what the future may hold, should read this article. As Kim Stanley Robinson mentioned a couple of weeks ago, humanity’s survival may depend on becoming post-capitalism!

Be Prepared…for fascism.

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picture-2Now that Democrat Obama (corporatist) is president, and Democrats control Congress (corporatists and oligarchs); just because the overtly fascist, corporatist, imperialistic, evil Bush regime is gone, doesn’t mean the threat of USSA, Amerika, is over.

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” – Thomas Jefferson

The Obama administration still has to repair a lot of erosion that has occurred to our civil liberties, for example: stopping the NSA from monitoring and recording all domestic phone and Internet usage…and it doesn’t look good that’s going to happen.

Another, recent display of how this country seems to have crossed over the line into an unstoppable slide toward fascism, to fight the war ‘gainst them ter’rists! is a recent New York Times story on how the Boy Scouts (Explorers) are encouraging and training your future Brown Shirts, er, Blackwater mercenaries, er, I mean, warriors ‘gainst terrahism.

Better than what I can say, check out these articles reacting to the story:

I was a Boy Scout in the 80s, as the organization was being taken over by Christian fundamentalists, and becoming a tool of the Mormons. I did learn a lot as a scout, and I do have some great memories of it. Well, in Colorado most certainly, and in Missouri under one particular Scout Master…the following leaders my troop had were kind of scary racists who looked more like they’d be at home in an Idaho compound. But the best experiences I had I could have had without the Boy Scouts; what the BSA was mainly responsible for in my life was an attempt to instill worship of authoritarian power structures and a reverence for conformity. Yep, pure and simple.

SF writer Kim Stanley Robinson on social responsibility.

Last week, on Earth Day, during my university’s day-long thingie on “social development” and environmental concerns, SF author Kim Stanley Robinson spoke for a bit on social responsibility for humanity’s future. He said some great things, I took notes, he signed a book of mine and we had a very brief conversation. Here’s a summary of what he said, mostly paraphrased quotes, and a lot I’ve forgotten. I’ll try not to digress too much.

KSR is an award winning Utopian author (with a PhD) who’s written, among many other critically acclaimed works, the Mars trilogy and the “Science in the Capital” trilogy. The former is about terraforming Mars and “Utopian” society that develops there, and the latter is about the effects of global warming. In his regular life, KSR is an “American-leftist” and works for social change and climate change awareness. (He made interesting comment that when he started writing, “utopian fiction” meant writing about perfect society, nowadays it means simply society surviving. Kind of indicative of some significant social change.) His talk was in dedication to Dr. Bill Burling who he collaborated with and edited a book of critical essays about KSR. (Dr. Burling was my professor and mentor who I recently mentioned passed away.)

Alright, so, what he said:
Continue reading SF writer Kim Stanley Robinson on social responsibility.

Cheated and betrayed.

I’m listening to multi-award winning SF author Robert J. Sawyer on the SciFiDimensions podcast (I’m on my iPhone so you’ll have to google for a link), and he’s asked why so many award winning and critically aclaimed SF writers come out of Canada and the U.K. His answer: socialized health care.

There’s an addage that anyone who can spend 10,000 hours at something will become accomplished at it and can start producing quality after that. When you have socialized healthcare you can start your writing career at young age because you don’t have to worry about the cost of illness and injury. (Author and technology guru Cory Doctorow (Canadian) after living in the U.S. for many years, moved to the U.K. with his wife to start their family and has said he’ll never live anywhere again where there’s not socialized healthcare.)

Listening to Sawyer explain how socialized healthcare is the greatest gift a society could give to it’s people and the arts in particular brought up angry tears. My life since undergrad has been all about working for that “gift” of American for-profit health insurance. Every job I worked, every job I overworked, jobs I desperately wanted to leave, decisions not to work jobs I wanted more, have all been predicated on making sure my family had health insurance. My desire and drive since childhood to write has taken a back- to non-existant seat to slaving away for g–d– health insurance.

And the freakin irony is even with the generous and patriotic boon of for-profit health insurance, we’ve still had to pay thousands in medical bills and premiums and deductables. And even with god’s gift of health insurance upon the only modern nation to not have socialized healthcare, should my family become visited by a little more significant of a health issue, we could become broke, bankrupt, broken.

I’m middle-aged now, barely able to eke through the beginnings of my 10,000 writing hours, and I’ve done shitall except work 40+ hours a week as a drone at mind draining jobs for the gift of health insurance that’s STILL a financial drain on us. I fucking hate capitalism.

Spending our future.

(OK, last post for tonight…)

I have a love/hate relationship with the blog “Classically Liberal“. I couldn’t agree more with his analysis on the failed War on Drugs, the criticisms of institutional education, his disgust for the encroaching police state, police abuse of power, face-palming frustration at the destructive and absolutely absurd criminalization of sexuality, and pretty much anything having to do with civil rights. But his hatred of socialism based on as terrible misunderstanding and misrepresentation of it as the creationist “understanding” of evolution, really crinkles my spleen. His economic libertarianism is based on a very elitist, self-righteous, belief in immutable “human nature” and the inherent existence of an objective sense of “the good the true and the beautiful” in class-defined artistic production.

But, I have to say I’m really starting to agree with his criticism of this horrific spending-spree the government is on in bailing companies out. I wish I could remember who I heard recently say: “If a company is so big that it can’t be allowed to fail, then it’s too big for the ‘free market’ and must be broken apart.” Yep.

Anyway, check out this alarming video he has linked on his site under Spending our Future: The Bailout Crisis:

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Marx was right.

(OK, only a couple more of blog posts in this surge.)

BoingBoing has an article: “Marx was right!” in which the author discusses his move from being a dot-com capitalist to a return to a respect for Marx’s criticism of capitalism. (His wife, who said of his return to Marxist studies that it’s “worse than your reggae phase!”, could commiserate with mine!)

[quote] The work of Karl Marx is ultra relevant to understanding the world’s current financial mess, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Marx has become intellectually indispensable to me again, as if there ever should have been any doubt. It’s fascinating to consider that during the time period when Marx was writing “Capital,” there were few factories in England –it was largely an agrarian society still– yet somehow Marx was able to see clearly the mess that we would be in today. He’s the most accurate prophet in all of history, there should be no doubt about this. Marx viewed history with a very, very long telescope. How he was able to see so far into the future is a mystery of his particular genius, but Marx accurately extrapolated how capitalism’s endgame would play itself out at the very birth of the system. Marx saw how utterly destructive this system would ultimately become. Look around you: Marx was right.[/quote]

(On a related note, Richard Metzger posted a followup: “Marx was… second???” about Thomas Jefferson’s essay on “fictitious capital” decades before Marx wrote about it.)

Well, I could write for a long time regarding my thoughts and history in Marxist studies, but you don’t care, do you? 🙂 Instead, let me link to this great page that helps explain both Marxist and anarchist theories in ordinary terms that speaks to the common person:

Questions about Capitalism and Class

Yes, it’s Chumbawamba’s Web site. They live the spirit of anarcho-socialism, and their answers to common questions about materialist criticism of capitalism is really fantastic! I really encourage you to read at least this one page I just linked top to bottom. That’s it, all I ask.

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(Drawing of Marx and Engles stolen borrowed from http://www.hermes-press.com/distinctions.htm)

Nothing to fear but…each other?

My apologies in advance: I think I’m going to be posting a few (hopefully not too long) blogs in succession to try to make up for the fact that I can’t blog from work any more, and school work (and the desire to not be on a computer after a day of work) after coming home have been preventing me from blogging like I used to.

BoingBoing has been following the issue of a new surge of British “fear everything” posters:

David Byrne’s snapshots of UK police posters.

London Police poster mashup (in which people have ‘shopped their own versions)

And my favorite so far:

Make your own paranoid British terrorism poster!

The fine print in that one’s dead-on.

(Whew! Finally, I can close those tabs off my browser!)

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Of pro(gress) and con(servativism): an analysis

There are many significant difference between the conservative and the liberal mindset, outlook, approach on life, society, and government. That’s an obvious statement. But I think a way in which the main difference is realized is in exactly how the think of the role of government. The conservative (general Republican) will shout the battle-cry “smaller government!” They believe government is intrusive, nosy, busy-body, controlling. I think any conservative reading this would agree with the description of their outlook. So then, when a conservative is in power, running government, do you think they give up that mindset? Nope, not at all. Now the conservative citizen would expect that the conservative politician, sharing the same outlook on what government is like, what it does, would strive to minimize government and make it smaller—enforce the principles they seem to share which got the politician elected.

But here’s the rub: While the conservative (especially the neo-conservative) politician believes government is controlling and invasive, they’re now in a position to run this controlling and invasive entity they see as being separate and distinct from the citizens. They believe government governs, in that it rules. Just look at the last few conservative administrations we’ve had. Nixon, Reagan, the Bush dynasty…they claimed government was controlling and invasive, and instead of eliminating it, they used it for their own personal and corporate ends. To the (neo-)con, government is the royalty of the feudal society. They don’t like it when it’s not them in power, but when they are, it’s great!

The liberal (by which I mean those that tend to vote Democrat, not the “classically liberal” which is more libertarian), sees government entirely different. They see it as the Constitution declares: “By the people, for the people.” To the liberal, the government is the people, not the rulers of it. When the government runs a program, it’s not (or rather it shouldn’t be) something run by a ruling class foisted upon the serfs. The government serves the people, it is the people. The conservative sees the government as the power, and uses the police as their thugs. It sees taking tax as theft, and so when the neo-cons use tax money, they use it like thieves for their own gain. When the liberal taxes, they see it money to pay for goods and services for the people.

Now, don’t get me wrong, liberal/Democrat politicians are also power-mad and corporatists to a large degree. But the predominate mindset of government as the rulers vs. government as the people still create a striking difference in general legislation and manner of governance. It’s why every Republican including and since Nixon has run up massive budget deficit and have used the government to redirect tax money to corporations, and run their administrations in secrecy and darkness. While Democrat Presidents have balanced budgets and strove for ethical reforms and open government.

The conservative is inherently suspicious and believes people are inherently sinful and bad, and they operate government that way. The liberal believes in the inherent goodness of humanity and believes in positive change.

(Before I continue, let me take a moment to state for the record that I truly believe the best government is not smaller government, but no government at all. No military, no organized police gangs, no tax, no political borders and boundaries. But that form of anarchy will only work when there is no such thing as the abstraction of monetary wealth, and it’s shared by all of the world. In the meantime, I believe in democratic-socialism. Government must be toothless and without its own mechanisms for thug power, and run by the people for the interests of the people. Government must fear the people, not the other way around, someone once said.)

Back to positive outlooks; Rush Limbaugh recently stated at a conservative conference:

Limbaugh used his self-described “first national address,” which ran more than an hour longer than his allotted 20 minutes, to accuse President Obama of inspiring fear in Americans in order to push a liberal agenda of “big government.”

“He wants people in fear, angst and crisis, fearing the worst each and every day, because that clears the decks for President Obama and his pals to come in with the answers, which are abject failures, historically shown and demonstrated.

First and primarily, that’s just a bald-faced lie. Obama did speak truth of the state of the nation: “I know that for many Americans watching right now, the state of our economy is a concern that rises above all others. And rightly so.” But his entire message was optimism and encouragement:

Their resolve must be our inspiration. Their concerns must be our cause. And we must show them and all our people that we are equal to the task before us. (Applause.)

[…]

And if we do — if we come together and lift this nation from the depths of this crisis; if we put our people back to work and restart the engine of our prosperity; if we confront without fear the challenges of our time and summon that enduring spirit of an America that does not quit, then someday years from now our children can tell their children that this was the time when we performed, in the words that are carved into this very chamber, “something worthy to be remembered.”

My goodness that’s a horrific message of fear! Obama was honest, we’re in a pickle. But conservatives, for all their talk about ethics and values, hate honesty–both (especially) the politicians but also the people! Conservatives tend to only want to hear how wonderful things are, how strong of a nation we are, how loved and respected (or at least feared) we are, how everything is roses. Well, sorry to say, but the quagmire of two wars we’re in, the massive recession, the credit/mortgage crisis, are results of “less government” and blowing fine-and-dandy smoke up our collected arses for eight years. Sometimes truth hurts. Sometimes the truth is not pretty. But if something wrong, it’s not going to get fixed by sticking heads under covers. Crises get fixed by honest examination and decisive but thoughtful action, serving the truth. Not delusion and fantasy.

Most important 25 minutes of your day.

I just listened to the latest episode of Point of Inquiry:

At risk of being hyperbolic, it was by far one of the most interesting, important, vital interviews I have listened to.

In this interview with D.J. Grothe, Christopher Burns talks about the biology of the brain, the behavior of groups, and the structure of organizations and how each can lead to people making bad decisions. He discusses the paradox that in the age of information, it may be more difficult to make good decisions. He describes “false knowledge” and how to choose the right information to pay attention to.

The show is only about 25 minutes long (see the link “Download MP3” near the bottom of the site) and I would challenge everyone who reads this post to take the time to go listen to it. At least once, but I would suggest twice. Contrary to my usual behavior, I’m not going summarize or discuss what I think the implications are of what Burns has to say for risk of coloring how you may listen to the show. Seriously, go listen.

Seems kinda Tom Clancy-ish to me….

If you know me you know that I have a love/hate relationship with conspiracy theories. On the one hand, they’re really entertaining! They make for great “X-Files” plotlines, and extra bonus points if they can work in The Illuminati! (And keep a straight face.) fnord

But on the other hand, they’re almost always complete bunk. Not to say there haven’t been grand conspiracies in the past: Military radiation testing on civilians, CIA selling crack, Watergate. But here’s the thing about conspiracies: they never stay secret. I think it’s supposed to be an old Sicilian saying, something like: “Two people can keep a secret if one of them is dead.”

Someone talks. Someone always talks. Documents are kept. Conspiracies become known, the bigger they are the more certain they’ll be exposed. And, unlike most fringe and popular but unfounded conspiracies, it won’t be some outside group of amateur conspiracy hunters who have all the answers but are frustratingly ignored by so-called scientists and experts, who expose the cover-ups. And the more impossible and absurd the scope of the conspiracy, the more likely the conspiracy is BS. Like 9/11, “Loose Change” khrap. For 9/11 to have been a government planned event, it would have required the cooperation of literally thousands of people.

Occam’s Razor here: What’s more probable? That thousands of military, police, firefighters, and civilians were involved in setting up and carrying out an event so huge and devastating that it would have required unimaginable about of planning, organization, timing, cooperation, and yet no one involved has come forward to say they were a part of it and become the most famous person in the world for exposing the greatest and worst conspiracy ever in the history of human civilization…. or, that several fundamental religious zealots took advantage of holes in air transportation security to fly some planes into buildings?

Like I said, conspiracies are entertaining; reality is often banal in its horrific simplicity.

Anyway,to the point: Here’s a recent news item that goshdarnit, sounds a lot to me like it could be a valid conspiracy-murder:

A tipster close to the McCain campaign disclosed to VR in July that Mr. Connell’s life was in jeopardy and that Karl Rove had threatened him and his wife, Heather. VR’s attorney, Cliff Arnebeck, notified the United States Attorney General , Ohio law enforcement and the federal court about these threats and insisted that Mr. Connell be placed in protective custody. VR also told a close associate of Mr. Connell’s not to fly his plane because of another tip that the plane could be sabotaged. Mr. Connell, a very experienced pilot, has had to abandon at least two flights in the past two months because of suspicious problems with his plane. On December 18, 2008, Mr. Connell flew to a small airport outside of Washington DC to meet some people. It was on his return flight the next day that he crashed.

Now, here’s where critical thinking has to come in. For example, these tips…can they be independantly verified? More importantly, can they be proven to have come before the event? It’s simply amazing how much people just knew something, or state they predicted something, or had a clue to something…in hindsight after an event has happened. Cognitive bias is rife with this kind of post hoc misthinking.

And of course, there’s the reader’s own subjective bias. I, for example, would believe Rove, Cheney, many others in the Bush administration, would kill and eat babies if it meant massive quasi-fascist control of the free world. I don’t think much better of most politicians in general–the neo-cons just happen to be Hitlers in an ocean of SS. Am I more prone to confirmation bias and self-selecting evidence to fit my personal bias? Yep. Guilty as charged. We all are. It takes a lot of work to be fair and unbiased, and argueably, we never can be.

(Which, by the way, to go off on a tangent, the scientific method is vital to get at objective truths. Proper scientific methodology demands blind and double-blind testing to correct for bias, as well as repeated retesting and verification of results by other people. Science: it works, bitches.)

So, I’m going to watch this case of the killed Bush admin. I.T. guy and see what, if anything comes from it. But then, the co-called liberal media, the “4th Estate,” has been horrifically bad the last eight years at following up on and putting to task recent conspiracies, such as Valarie Plame and Scooter Libby/Cheney. And Congress has no interest in investigating Bush or Cheney for impeachable offenses nor is the media interested in investigating the possibility. Nor for the possible war crimes charges againast Rumsfield and Bush that were recently released. Nor for the countless open-for-all-to-see conspiracies of war profiteering (highly illegal by the way) committed by Cheney and Rumsfield and Bush with the help of Haliburton, KBR, BlackWater, and several other contractors in Iraq.

So, while it’s still true that conspiracies are exposed and are rarely huge and complicated, it doesn’t mean there’s always anyone paying attention.

Reds, Reds everywhere!

This is going to have to be short…so tired….

Something that’s got me irked late in the Presidential campaign is the constant bandying about “socialist” this and “Marxist” that. One person I follow on Twitter remarked of Obama after the election, “…too bad he’s a socialist,” and he was rooting for him. Now this:

Georgian Representative Broun took Obama’s comment to encourage and build up a civil service agenda (civil workers and Peace Corps, etc.) as tatamount to Marxism, like Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. I am so sick of people throwing “Marxist” around to mean anything non-American–and being utterly wrong.

Hitler was a national socialist at best–fascist in reality. Stalin was a fascist dictator. Neither of which in the least bit Marxist. Stalin started as a Marxist, back in the days of the Revolution with Trotsky and Lenin, then quickly abandoned the spirit and the letter of Marxism in order to become a religiously worship dictator, counter to Marxist concepts.

Marxism is indeed a criticism of capitalism–a very pointed criticism, indeed. But what Marx and Engles recommended or believed in was NOT socialism controlled by a dictator or even a ruling “party.” They believed in society owned by the proletariat, the workers, the people–not fascist rulers giving lip service to such ideals but in fact ruled the people with iron fist and continued to control the means of production and distribution. Marx would have been appalled by what Stalin did and disgusted by Hitler.

Obama is a liberal, but very much a liberal capitalist. And when it comes to actual (or nearest thing to) socialism: when you look at the high average level of lifestyle, lack of poverty, lack of health care induced bankruptcy, high level of social health, low infant mortality rates, high education rates of socialist countries like Canada, Sweden, Netherlands…. I have to wonder, what’s wrong with that?

The Amerikan Stasi!

I can’t believe I missed this. In researching information on my last post regarding the addition of peaceful opponents to capital punishment being added by police to terrorist watch lists, I found this news item from last year about the FBI and CIA’s programs to recruit and pay for citizen informants (thus spreading fear and mistrust as well as creating gi-hugic ineffectual mountains of hay to look for needles in–resulting in more false accusations and arrests and less actual safety and security)

Excellent, emotional and enlightening movie, by the way, of a story set within the end of the East German informant society: The Lives of Others.

One sane sheriff, one fascist superintendent.

It’s easy to find countless articles on the appearant rise of police brutality and fascist, militarized mindset, and are gleefully proud of their testasterone overdosed abuses, and stories in which the police are used as political weapons.

Well, here’s one more story of overreaching abuse of power and damage to civil liberties:

And a good editorial on the subject:

In the midst of the ever-increasing shift from police watching over the public to the police watching the public, one will try to mitigate the fear and disappointment by rationalizing: “Well, these are just the bad ones in the news. Most cops are good ones!” So, where are those “good cops” when the bad ones are breaking the law, violating the Constitution, and generally harassing and beating the public? Why aren’t the so-called good cops standing up against the few bad ones and eliminating them from their ranks?

Because: (a) police forces generally draw the power-hungry bullies of society which tend to create a pervasive culture of abusiveness from the inside;

(b) police forces are being funded by the Department of Justice and given neato-cool paramilitary toys to play with based on their devotion to and performance in the War on Drugs (and increasingly the War on Terrah) which is inherently a civil liberty trampling campaign that routinely treats harmless citizens as wanton and deadly criminals, fostering a culture of abuse and power from the outside;

(c) police forces are fiercely fraternal and loyal to each other–a useful and vital trait for military units in war, a destructive and criminal trait in a group that is supposed to serve the interests of the public over and beyond any sense of brotherly camaraderie.

These influences from the inside, outside, and the pathological in-group loyalty police forces encourage, generally lead to an environment which will quickly reject or break the few people who go into police work with a true desire to serve the public and put citizen above fellow cop.

However, there are very rarely exceptions to the rule. A story out today tells of a Chicago sheriff who is (at least in this case…who knows what he’s like otherwise) thinking and feeling like a real person and not RoboCop (pre-self aware RoboCop, of course) :

Banks on foreclosed houses aren’t doing basic checking on who’s actually in the houses, and are literally forcing renters out onto the street even if they’re good, rent paying renters, despite what defaulting the actual owners of the home are doing on their mortgage.

“These mortgage companies … don’t care who’s in the building,” [Sheriff] Dart said Wednesday. “They simply want their money and don’t care who gets hurt along the way.

“On top of it all, they want taxpayers to fund their investigative work for them. We’re not going to do their jobs for them anymore. We’re just not going to evict innocent tenants. It stops today.”

So, good for him!

What honest day’s wage is worth millions?

Hilarious story for you; be sure to hold onto your side for this rib-tickler:

As the nearly 160 year old bank, Lehman Brother’s, failed, funneling toward bankruptcy, it was handing millions of dollars in compensation over to its CEO.

“Your company is now bankrupt, our economy is now in a state of crisis, but you get to keep $480 million,” [Rep. Henry] Waxman [(D-Bev. Hills)] said, displaying yearly compensation figures on large TV screens in the hearing room. “I have a very basic question for you. Is this fair?”

. . .

Waxman then ticked off some of Fuld’s other personal assets — a $14-million oceanfront home in Florida, a vacation home in Sun Valley, Idaho, and an art collection “filled with million-dollar paintings.”

.
“It seems that the system worked for you, but it didn’t seem to work for the rest of the country and the taxpayers who now have to pay up to $700 billion to bail out our economy,” Waxman said. “We can’t continue to have a system where Wall Street executives privatize all the gains and then socialize all the losses.”

Ah, that self-correcting free market works so well, making sure those who work get paid fairly. Well, nothing more really needs to be said. Except maybe to ask if people have stocked up on their torches and pitch forks yet.

Welcome to 1931.

1931, 2008The House just passed the bail-out bill the Senate passed earlier this week, which not only bails out Wall Street but also has billions for pork attached to, such as subsidies for rum makers in Puerto Rico and a couple million for makers of kids’ wooden arrows.

So, the bankers and speculators who f–ed up the economy and screwed millions of people get their golden parachutes and are not held accountable for their actions–and the millions of harmed Americans who have their lives ruined by the actions of predetory lending and quasi-criminal securities reselling, are producing stories like these:

Nearly 90% of Americans did not want this bail out. At the very least, some wanted assistance for citizens such as frozen foreclosures until they can be reevaluated or adjusted interest or principles–but nothing is in the bill which helps anyone but the bankers and the companies that got the attached earmarks.

That said, I’d like to present something:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Just some silly words from the Founding Fathers in a little paper called the Declaration of Independence. Probably outdated and worthless sentiments nowadays. I guess take whatever meaning from that what you will.
How’s that “consent from the governed” working out, ya think?

In reference to the blog title: The exact same thing happened in 1931 when a very similar over-credited housing bubble burst and friend of big business President Hoover ramrodded Congress to pass a bill to give (in today’s money) about $500 billion to bail out the banks. A move that worked so well that countless people were forced out of their homes and off their farms and we had a Great Depression that required Roosevelt to allow the banking system to finally fail and rebuild itself with appropriate regulations. (The very regulations that Reagan and Bush got rid of in their terms. Funny, that.)

Of course, we don’t have a drought of Biblical proportions we have to deal with today which does change things significantly. But maybe that just means that people in all these tent cities that are starting to spring up will get to eat government veggies instead of government cheese.

Perspective.

A Twitter twit that I follow posted this article earlier today on his feed:

. . . Despite the doomsayers, America will shake this event off like a bad case of fleas. The people shouting “Doom!” the loudest are the very ones who stand to benefit the most.

Hank Paulson is trying to bail out his former firm and his friends. Congress sees a blank check it can amend to death once passed, and pile on more pork to their friends. The presidential candidates use it as a talking point. . . .

You know, there’s a very good chance the economy is going to be just fine–and it seems most Americans also think so or at least are willing to accept whatever fallout from letting some (insured) banks fail or get bought out. Despite the slim majority of the House that voted against the bill, estimates put the number of constituents who have written or called their legislator at 50 to 1 100 to 1 against the bail out.

We could be wrong; we could be headed to a disaster that leaves us all tanning hide for warmth on crumbling asphalt streets. But the funny thing is, an overwhelming number of economists, economics professors, thinktanks, agree that a bank bail out will be the worst thing to happen to the economy.

Here’s some interesting points to ponder:

We already know Hank Paulsen was the former CEO of one of the largest banks he wants to bail out. Old news.

But yesterday’s (Monday’s) market crash–did you know that was caused not by a sell out, but just the opposite: no one was selling on Wall Street. If the economy was about to tank, if people were legitimately afraid of an economic disaster, people would have been selling fast and cheap and cause a crash–but by no one selling what happened was basically Wall Street was holding the economy hostage while they demanded their bail out.

Interesting that this morning before the market opened the president addressed the nation with gloom and doom messages–some economists say in order to destabilize the inherent trust that runs a healthy stock market in hopes on a real crash which would justify the bail out that would help his friends….

Instead, the market rallied with its 3rd highest point gain, evah! Much to Bush’s, Paulsen’s, and Bernake’s chagrin, I’m sure.

The bail out plan this weekend, even the one with all the “protections” Obama wanted, would have succeeded in only one thing and have failed on the most important thing: It would have given Wall Street and speculation bank executives Christmas morning, but would have done not a single thing to help average citizens (in fact the $1T credit debt the nation would have incurred would have devastated the middle and lower classes and forced a gutting of social programs), while also have done nothing to fix the problem in the first place. It did nothing to address the epidemic of foreclosures and property value plummet which is the underlying cause of the crisis. Nothing.

“The people shouting ‘Doom!’ the loudest are the very ones who stand to benefit the most” That sure isn’t me, my family, my friends, my neighborhood, and probably not you or anyone you know.

“Three Times is Enemy Action.”

“Devilstower” has a fantastically complete and detailed explanation of how three of the largest events/scandals to undermine the U.S. economy in the last 25 years have had the involvement of persons like, oh, John McCain, his financial adviser Phil Gramm, and Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan:

Alan Greespan is often lauded, even by people skeptical of conservative administrations, as a champion who tried real hard, darn it. I’d known his policies helped accelerate the corporate owned government but I didn’t know to what extent–nor when it all began! I didn’t realize until I started to do some research that Greenspan was appointed by Reagan and was involved in the development of “trickle-down” Reaganomics which sought to tear down New Deal regulations and oversight and increase the flow of wealth toward the top of the social pyramid.

He was also the Fed Chairman under Clinton–but then, he had little to do with the Clinton admin’s balanced budgets and federal surplus. What he was involved with was the continued encouragement of government by the CEOs, (supported by Clinton as well, lest people forget that while he was a social progressive, Clinton was still a corporatist).

Here was the biggest kicker for me: Greenspan was a dyed-in-the-wool Objectivist and even a close friend of Objectivism’s matriarch, Ayn Rand, and a member of her “inner circle”. (Objectivists are anarcho-libertarians; I learned about them back when I was learning about libertarianism. They believe in no government (or at least no government involvement in economics) with a focus on selfishness and self-gratification (in an economic/business sense). They believe people are inherently self-serving and altruism is a “sin” which perverts the operations of a completely free market. This is in stark contrast to anarcho-socialists (like me) who believe in no government but with a focus on collectivism, altruism, trade and labor unions.)

To put someone like this in charge of the Fed is like putting a wolf in charge of the management of the hen house, or an atheist as a church’s preacher. Or a faith healer as Surgeon general.

Is it any wonder….