Tuesday, August 30, 2011

ANS -- Barack, Can We Talk?

Here's another great piece from Doug Muder from the Weekly Sift.  It's an address to President Obama about what he should be doing to keep his base and our sanity.  maybe each of us should send it on to the President....
Find it here:  http://weeklysift.com/2011/08/29/barack-can-we-talk/#comments   

The Weekly Sift

making sense of the news one week at a time

Barack, Can We Talk?

It's me. I'm here in the Democratic base. It's been a little testy between your people and my people lately, and I'm concerned that things might get out of hand. Worse, I worry that you don't understand why.

It's not that we don't understand how government works, or that democracy runs on compromise. And it's not that we thought you were some kind of messiah, who could turn the country around just by pointing in a new direction. (That slam on us was originally a Republican talking point, remember?)

Let me try to explain how it looks from our point of view.

You know I wouldn't use George W. Bush as an example unless I were desperate, right? Well, in 2005 Bush went all out promoting his Social Security privatization plan. Bankruptcy, personal accounts, blah, blah, blah.

The country hated it. So what did Bush do next? He could have decided that (having put so much effort into raising the issue) he had to "get something done". That would require Democratic support, so he could have adopted a Democratic idea, like extending Social Security taxes to all wages rather than just the first $100K or so.

And then he could have sold the "compromise" package to the public by adopting Democratic rhetoric ­ maybe by pointing out how well the wealthiest Americans had done over the past 20 years, and how this bill was just asking them to "give something back" for all the benefits the American economy had given them.

Can't picture it, can you? Me either ­ and that's the point. Dumb as he was, President Bush understood two important things:
  • The Republican Party stands for something. You can't take any old idea and call it "Republican" without screwing up the brand.
  • The political struggle isn't just about writing laws, it's about defining reality. Republican success rests on a collection of public misconceptions and faulty frames. As long as the public believes that stuff, they win.

Brands. Every Republican candidate starts every campaign with an advantage: All he has to do is say "Joe Shmoe, conservative Republican" and everybody knows who he is and what he stands for. Low taxes, less regulation, militarism, traditional social values ­ love that image or hate it, we all recognize it.

Democrats, on the other hand, have to establish themselves. That takes time and money, and it makes us vulnerable to mud-slinging and swift-boating.

Branding has to start at the top, and Democratic leaders haven't been up to the job for decades now. Every time a Democratic president sounds like he's making up his mind on the fly, we're that much further away from having an effective Democratic brand.

Reality. Listen to the Republican presidential candidates: Global warming isn't real. Spending cuts create jobs. Rich people are job creators. The unemployed are lazy. Unions hurt working people. Government can't create jobs. All government spending is waste. The minimum wage is too high. The stimulus failed. Protecting the environment is a luxury we can't afford. Roads, schools, and parks are luxuries we can't afford. Medical care for the old and poor is a luxury we can't afford.

That's the sound of reality being defined. When we take on issues one at a time, we fight on a terrain Republicans have been shaping for decades. That's why Bush never adopted Democratic rhetoric, and why it kills us when Republican rhetoric comes out of your mouth.

What we need from our Democratic president isn't just a few more dollars for infrastructure or the unemployed, we need a defense of reality.

Compromising without fighting. Sure, Congress needs to pass budgets, and you have to compromise with Republicans to do that. But again and again, the Republicans remain faithful to their vision and you come out of the compromise owning the package. If the result turns out to be inadequate in some way, the public thinks the alternative is to do what the Republicans wanted.

Look at health care: Every real Democrat knows that the right answer is single-payer. It works in Europe. It's cheaper and delivers better care. Sure, you couldn't have gotten that through Congress. I know. I understand. But because you never proposed it, Democrats had no platform for talking about it. The compromise that came out of Congress is now ObamaCare (even though it's based on the Mitt Romney/Heritage Foundation plan in Massachusetts), and the only alternative the public knows about is the Republican do-nothing plan.

Look at the stimulus. Liberal economists said it needed to be bigger and have less tax cuts. But because you never proposed that, the compromise that came out of Congress is the Obama stimulus. Here's what Paul Krugman predicted in March, 2009:

It's September 2009, the unemployment rate has passed 9 percent, and despite the early round of stimulus spending it's still headed up. Mr. Obama finally concedes that a bigger stimulus is needed.

But he can't get his new plan through Congress because approval for his economic policies has plummeted, partly because his policies are seen to have failed, partly because job-creation policies are conflated in the public mind with deeply unpopular bank bailouts. And as a result, the recession rages on, unchecked.

The problem is not that you compromise, it's that you compromise without fighting. The public never sees the liberal alternative, so whatever passes becomes the leftmost edge of the possible.

Repeating false rhetoric. The reality-battlefield that we're losing worst on is economics.

To you and me, it's obvious that the economy has a demand problem: Businesses aren't hiring because they have no customers. Give them a tax break, let them endanger their workers or dump more chemicals in the groundwater ­ and they still won't have any customers, so they still won't hire.

In these situations, government needs to create demand by spending. We have unemployed people, work that needs doing (bridges to rebuild, an electric grid that badly needs an upgrade), and investors willing to lend the government money at interest rates lower than inflation. It's a no-brainer: Borrow the money to hire the people to do the work.

You know why we can't mobilize public support behind that program? Because conservatives have convinced large chunks of the public to frame the problem wrong. The worst frame out there is the government/family analogy: Families have to cut back in hard times, so government should have to cut back too.

You know that's nutty. Just like Joseph told Pharaoh, government has to save when everyone else is spending and spend when everyone else is saving. So why do you say things like this?

Families across this country understand what it takes to manage a budget. Well, it's time Washington acted as responsibly as our families do.

And why did you frame the debt-ceiling negotiations purely in deficit-reduction terms, as if job-creation wasn't an issue?

Another false Republican frame is that businesses aren't hiring because they lack "confidence". They then link doubt to debt, and so justify the crazy idea that we can create jobs by cutting spending. This kind of nonsense needs to be called out at every turn.

Instead, a White House spokesman

repeatedly said that deficit-reduction was crucial in generating economic confidence. Confidence­he repeated this word many times.

What Democrats need from you. We need you to be a reality warrior. We need you and your whole administration to resist false Republican frames and never to lose sight of Democratic ideals, even when there is no clear path to implementing them.

If you have to compromise for the good of the country, compromise. But Republicans can't make you adopt their rhetoric, no matter how many seats they have in Congress. Hold them responsible for their part of every compromise ­ by refusing to stop talking about what you would do if they would let you.

Don't embrace the compromises, because that lets Republicans make their trade-offs for free: Every bit of deficit reduction costs jobs. Make them own that.

Talk about this: Full employment. Single-payer health care. Clean energy. Racial justice. Carbon reduction. Smart electric grid. Efficient mass transit. Education and opportunity for everyone.

Maybe we don't see how to implement it all right now, but we should never lose sight of it. If not this year, next year. If not this decade, next decade. Don't tell us we can't.

Yes we can.

ANS -- 3 Things That Must Happen for Us To Rise Up and Defeat the Corporatocracy

Here is an interesting article about what we need in order to really get anything done.  Please read it -- at least the first two paragraphs. 
find it here:  http://www.alternet.org/module/printversion/152158  


3 Things That Must Happen for Us To Rise Up and Defeat the Corporatocracy

By Bruce E. Levine, AlterNet
Posted on August 25, 2011, Printed on August 30, 2011
Transforming the United States into something closer to a democracy requires: 1) knowledge of how we are getting screwed; 2) pragmatic tactics, strategies, and solutions; and 3) the "energy to do battle." 

The majority of Americans oppose the corporatocracy (rule by giant corporations, the extremely wealthy elite, and corporate-collaborator government officials); however, many of us have given up hope that this tyranny can be defeated. Among those of us who continue to be politically engaged, many focus on only one of the requirements­knowledge of how we are getting screwed. And this singular focus can result in helplessness. It is the two other requirements that can empower, energize, and activate Team Democracy­ a team that is currently at the bottom of the standings in the American Political League.

1. Knowledge of How We are Getting Screwed

Harriet Tubman conducted multiple missions as an Underground Railroad conductor, and she also participated in the Union Army's Combahee River raid that freed more than 700 slaves. Looking back on her career as a freedom fighter, Tubman noted, "I freed a thousand slaves. I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves." While awareness of the truth of corporatocracy oppression is by itself not sufficient to win freedom and justice, it is absolutely necessary.

We are ruled by so many "industrial complexes"­military, financial, energy, food, pharmaceutical, prison, and so on­that it is almost impossible to stay on top of every way we are getting screwed. The good news is that­either through independent media or our basic common sense­polls show that the majority of Americans know enough about the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, Wall Street bailouts, and other corporate welfare to oppose these corporatocracy policies. In the case of the military-industrial complex, most Iraq War polls and Afghanistan War polls show that the majority of Americans know enough to oppose these wars. And when Americans were asked in a CBS New /New York Times survey in January 2011 which of three programs­the military, Medicare or Social Security­to cut so as to deal with the deficit, fully 55 percent chose the military, while only 21 percent chose Medicare and 13 percent chose Social Security.

In the words of Leonard Cohen, "Everybody knows that the deal is rotten." Well, maybe not everybody, but damn near everybody.

But what doesn't everybody know?

2. Pragmatic Tactics, Strategies and Solutions

In addition to awareness of economic and social injustices created by corporatocracy rule, it is also necessary to have knowledge of strategies and tactics that oppressed people have historically used to overcome tyranny and to gain their fair share of power.

Even before the Democratic-Republican bipartisan educational policies (such as "no child left behind" and "race to the top") that cut back on civics being taught in schools, few Americans were exposed in their schooling to "street-smart civics"­tactics and strategies that oppressed peoples have historically utilized to gain power.

For a comprehensive guide of tactics and strategies that have been effective transforming regimes more oppressive than the current U.S. one, read political theorist and sociologist Gene Sharp's From Dictatorship to Democracy, which includes nearly 200 "Methods of Nonviolent Actions." Among Sharp's 49 "Methods of Economic Noncooperation," he lists over 20 different kinds of strikes. And among his 38 "Methods of Political Noncooperation," he lists 10 tactics of "citizens' noncooperation with government," nine "citizens' alternatives to obedience," and seven "actions by government personnel." Yes, nothing was more powerful in ending the Vietnam War and saving American and Vietnamese lives than the brave actions by critically thinking U.S. soldiers who refused to cooperate with the U.S. military establishment. Check out David Zeigler's documentary Sir! No Sir! for details.

For a quick history lesson on "the nature of disruptive power" in the United States and the use of disruptive tactics in fomenting the American Revolution, the abolitionist movement, the labor movement, and other democratic movements, check out sociologist Frances Fox Piven's Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America. Piven describes how "ordinary people exercise power in American politics mainly at those extraordinary moments when they rise up in anger and hope, defy the rules that ordinarily govern their daily lives, and, by doing so, disrupt the workings of the institutions in which they are enmeshed." In the midst of the Great Depression when U.S unemployment was over 25 percent, working people conducted an exceptional number of large labor strikes, including the Flint, Michigan sit-down strike, which began at the end of 1936 when auto workers occupied a General Motors factory so as to earn recognition for the United Auto Workers union as a bargaining agent. That famous victory was preceded and inspired by other less well-known major battles fought and won by working people. Check out the intelligent tactics (and guts and solidarity) in the 1934 Minneapolis Truckers Strike.

For an example of "the nature of creative power" that scared the hell out of­and almost triumphed­over the moneyed elite, read The Populist Moment by historian Lawrence Goodwyn. The Populist movement, the late-19th-century farmers' insurgency, according to Goodwyn, was the largest democratic movement in American history. These Populists and their major organization, commonly called the "Alliance," created worker cooperatives that resulted in empowering economic self-sufficiency. They came close to successfully transforming a good part of the United States into something a lot closer to a democracy. As Goodwyn notes, "Their efforts, halting and disjointed at first, gathered form and force until they grew into a coordinated mass movement that stretched across the American continent ... Millions of people came to believe fervently that the wholesale overhauling of their society was going to happen in their lifetimes."

In Get Up, Stand Up, I include the section "Winning the Battle: Solutions, Strategies, and Tactics." However, a major point of the book is that, currently in the United States, even more ignored than street-smart strategies and tactics is the issue of morale, which is necessary for implementing these strategies and tactics. So, I also have a section "Energy to Do Battle: Liberation Psychology, Individual Self-Respect, and Collective Self-Confidence."

3. The Energy to Do Battle

The elite's money­and the influence it buys­is an extremely powerful weapon. So it is understandable that so many people who are defeated and demoralized focus on their lack of money rather than on their lack of morale. However, we must keep in mind that in war, especially in a class war when one's side lacks financial resources, morale becomes even more crucial.

Activists routinely become frustrated when truths about lies, victimization and oppression don't set people free to take action. But having worked with abused people for more than 25 years, it doesn't surprise me to see that when we as individuals or a society eat crap for too long, we become psychologically too weak to take action. There are a great many Americans who have been so worn down by decades of personal and political defeats, financial struggles, social isolation and daily interaction with impersonal and inhuman institutions that they no longer have the energy for political actions.

Other observers of subjugated societies have recognized this phenomenon of subjugation resulting in demoralization and fatalism. Paulo Freire, the Brazilian educator and author of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and Ignacio Martin-Baró, the El Salvadoran social psychologist and popularizer of "liberation psychology," understood this psychological phenomenon. So did Bob Marley, the poet laureate of oppressed people around the world. Many Americans are embarrassed to accept that we, too, after years of domestic corporatocracy subjugation, have developed what Marley called "mental slavery." Unless we acknowledge that reality, we won't begin to heal from what I call "battered people's syndrome" and "corporatocracy abuse" and to, as Marley urges, "emancipate yourself from mental slavery."

Whether one's abuser is a spouse or the corporatocracy, there are parallels when it comes to how one can maintain enough strength to be able to free oneself when the opportunity presents itself­and then heal and attain even greater strength. This difficult process requires honesty that one is in an abusive relationship. One should not be ashamed of having previously believed in corporatocracy lies; and it also helps to forgive and have compassion for those who continue to believe them. The liars we face are often quite good at lying. It helps to have a sense of humor about one's predicament, to nurture respectful relationships, and to take advantage of a lucky opportunity­often created by the abuser's arrogance­ when it presents itself.

For democratic movements to have enough energy to get off the ground, certain psychological and cultural building blocks are required. Goodwyn, from his study of the Populists in the United States, Solidarity in Poland, and other democratic movements, concluded that "individual self-respect" and "collective self-confidence" constitute the cultural building blocks of mass democratic politics. Without individual self-respect, people do not believe that they are worthy of power or capable of utilizing power wisely, and they accept as their role being a subject of power. Without collective self-confidence, people do not believe they can succeed in wresting power away from their rulers. There are "democracy battlefields" ­in our schools, workplace and elsewhere­where such respect and confidence can be regained every day.

No democratic movement succeeds without determination, courage, and solidarity, but modern social scientists routinely ignore such nonquantifiable important variables, and so those trained only in universities and not on the streets can, as Martin-Baró pointed out, "become blind to the most important meanings of human existence." Great scientists recognize just how important nonquantifable variables are in certain areas of life. A sign hanging in Albert Einstein's office at Princeton stated: not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

The battle against the corporatocracy needs critical thinking, which results in seeing some ugly truths about reality. This critical thinking is absolutely necessary. Without it, one is more likely to engage in tactics that can make matters worse. But critical thinking also means the ability to think critically about one's pessimism­realizing that pessimism can cripple the will and destroy motivation. A critical thinker recognizes how negativism can cause inaction, which results in maintaining the status quo. Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937), an Italian political theorist and Marxist activist who was imprisoned by Mussolini, talked about "pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will" ­a phrase that has inspired many critical thinkers, including Noam Chomsky.

Can one have hope without being an insipid Pollyanna? Until shortly before it occurred, the collapse of the Soviet empire seemed an impossibility to most Americans, who saw only mass resignation within the Soviet Union and its sphere of control. But the shipyard workers in Gdansk, Poland, did not see their Soviet and Communist Party rulers as the all-powerful forces that Americans did. And so Polish workers' Solidarity, by simply refusing to go away, provided a strong dose of morale across Eastern Europe at the same time other historical events weakened the Soviet empire.

Today in Iceland, citizens have refused to acquiesce to the demands of global financial institutions, simply refusing to be taxed for the mistakes of the financial elite that caused their nation's recent financial meltdown. In a March 2010 referendum in Iceland, 93 percent voted against repayment of the debt, and Icelandic citizens have been drafting a new constitution that would free their country from the power of international finance (this constitution will be submitted to parliament for approval after the next elections). Yes, participatory democracy is still possible.

The lesson from the 2011 Arab spring in and other periods of history is that tyrannical and dehumanizing institutions are often more fragile than they appear, and with time, luck, morale, and our ability to seize the moment, damn near anything is possible. We never really know until it happens whether or not we are living in that time when historical variables are creating opportunities for seemingly impossible change. Thus, we must prepare ourselves by battling each day in all our activities to regain individual self-respect, collective self-confidence, determination, courage, and solidarity.

Bruce E. Levine is a clinical psychologist and author of Get Up, Stand Up: Uniting Populists, Energizing the Defeated, and Battling the Corporate Elite (Chelsea Green, 2011). His Web site is www.brucelevine.net.

© 2011 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/152158/

Monday, August 29, 2011

ANS -- Three Charts to Email to Your Right-Wing Brother-In-Law

Here is an article with three charts showing how three of the main arguments by the right are pure baloney.  Do facts matter? 
Find it here:  http://www.truth-out.org/three-charts-email-your-right-wing-brother-law/1314626142  

Three Charts to Email to Your Right-Wing Brother-In-Law

Monday 29 August 2011
by: Dave Johnson, Campaign for America's Future | Op-Ed

Federal spending dramatically increased under former president, George W. Bush and it has not increased much under President Obama. (Photo: Eric Draper / White House)

Problem: Your right-wing brother-in-law is plugged into the FOX-Limbaugh lie machine, and keeps sending you emails about "Obama spending" and "Obama deficits" and how the "Stimulus" just made things worse.

Solution: Here are three "reality-based" charts to send to him. These charts show what actually happened.

Government spending increased dramatically under Bush. It has not increased much under Obama. Note that this chart does not reflect any spending cuts resulting from deficit-cutting deals.

Notes, this chart includes Clinton's last budget year for comparison.

The numbers in these two charts come from Budget of the United States Government: Historical Tables Fiscal Year 2012. They are just the amounts that the government spent and borrowed, period, Anyone can go look then up. People who claim that Obama "tripled the deficit" are either misled or are trying to mislead.

The Stimulus and Jobs
In this chart, the RED lines on the left side -- the ones that keep doing DOWN -- show what happened to jobs under the policies of Bush and the Republicans. We were losing lots and lots of jobs every month, and it was getting worse and worse. The BLUE lines -- the ones that just go UP -- show what happened to jobs when the stimulus was in effect. We stopped losing jobs and started gaining jobs, and it was getting better and better. The leveling off on the right side of the chart shows what happened as the stimulus started to wind down: job creation leveled off at too low a level.

It looks a lot like the stimulus reversed what was going on before the stimulus.


More False Things

These are just three of the false things that everyone "knows." Some others are (click through): Obama bailed out the banks, businesses will hire if they get tax cuts, health care reform cost $1 trillion, Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme or is "going broke", government spending " takes money out of the economy."

Why This Matters

These things really matter. We all want to fix the terrible problems the country has. But it is so important to know just what the problems are before you decide how to fix them. Otherwise the things you do to try to solve those problems might just make them worse. If you get tricked into thinking that Obama has made things worse and that we should go back to what we were doing before Obama -- tax cuts for the rich, giving giant corporations and Wall Street everything they want -- when those are the things that caused the problems in the first place, then we will be in real trouble.

Dave Johnson

Dave Johnson (Redwood City, CA) is a Fellow at Campaign for America's Future, writing about American manufacturing, trade and economic/industrial policy. He is also a Senior Fellow with Renew California.

Dave has more than 20 years of technology industry experience including positions as CEO and VP of marketing. His earlier career included technical positions, including video game design at Atari and Imagic. And he was a pioneer in design and development of productivity and educational applications of personal computers. More recently he helped co-found a company developing desktop systems to validate carbon trading in the US.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

ANS -- Why I Am Not a Libertarian

This is a good article about why the libertarian philosophy doesn't work.  If you like that sort of thing, go to the site and read (and join in) the rather lively argument about Libertarianism that is going on.  I did. but read the article anyway, even if you don't want to read the comments.  It's from The Weekly Sift by Doug Muder, who is always brilliant. 
Find it here:  http://weeklysift.com/2011/08/22/why-i-am-not-a-libertarian/#comment-565   

Why I Am Not a Libertarian

Of all the political movements out there, the Libertarians have the coolest rhetoric. No matter what the issue is, they get to talk about Freedom vs. Tyranny and quote all that rousing stuff the Founders said about King George.

It's also the perfect belief system for a young male (and maybe, by now, young females too). You don't need knowledge or experience of any specific situations, you just need to understand the One Big Idea That Solves Everything: Other than a small and appropriately humbled military and judicial establishment, government is bad. Protect life, protect property, enforce contracts ­ and leave everything else to the market.

I should know. Thirty-five years ago, I was a 19-year-old libertarian, and I learned all the arguments. Now I'm a progressive ­ a liberal, whatever ­ and these days even I have to shake my head at how often I'm tempted to quote Marx.

What happened? Well, I suppose I could stroke my white beard and pontificate vaguely about the benefits of 35 years of experience. But I'm thinking that a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires me to be a little more specific.

When you escape a sweeping worldview like Libertarianism, you usually don't find an equally sweeping critique right away. A broad reframing may come later, but the transformation starts with a few things that stick in your craw and refuse to let themselves be swallowed.

For example, when I was leaving fundamentalist Christianity, one of the first things that bothered me was the genealogy of Jesus. The Bible contains two irreconcilable ones (in Matthew and Luke); they can't both be the "gospel Truth". Now, decades later, that issue is nowhere near the top of my why-I'm-not-a-fundamentalist list.

So let me start with some specific, simple things before I launch into more abstract philosophy.

Plague. I recommend that anyone thinking about becoming a Libertarian read The Great Influenza by John Barry. It doesn't say a word about political philosophy, but it does compare how various American cities handled the Spanish Flu of 1918, which globally killed more people than World War I. The cities that did best were the ones that aggressively quarantined, shut down public meeting places, imposed hygiene standards, and in general behaved like tyrants.

As you read, try to imagine a Libertarian approach to a serious plague. I don't think there is one. Maybe most people would respond to sensible leadership, but public health is one of those areas where a few people with the freedom to pursue screwy ideas can mess up everybody.

Global warming. There's a reason why small-government candidates deny global warming: Denial is the only answer they have. Global warming is a collective problem, and there is no individualistic solution to it. Even market-based approaches like cap-and-trade require a massive government intervention to create the market that attacks the problem.

Property. Now let's get to that more serious reframing.

I had to live outside the Libertarian worldview for many years before I began to grasp the deeper problem with it: property. Every property system in history (and all the ones I've been able to imagine) are unjust. So a government that establishes a property system, defends it, and then stops is an agent of injustice.

Libertarians tend to take property as a given, as if it were natural or existed prior to any government. But defining what can be owned, what owning it means, and keeping track of who owns what ­ that's a government intervention in the economy that dwarfs all other government interventions. You see, ownership is a social thing, not an individual thing. I can claim I own something, but what makes my ownership real is that the rest of you don't own it. My ownership isn't something I do, it's something we do.

[Aside: This is why it's completely false to say that government programs primarily benefit the poor. Property is a creation of government, so the primary beneficiaries of government are the people who own things -- the rich.]

Property and Labor. It's worthwhile to go back and read the justifications of property that were given in the early days of capitalism. The most famous and influential such justification was in John Locke's 1690 classic The Second Treatise of Civil Government. Locke admits that both reason and Christian revelation say that God gave the world to all people in common.

But I shall endeavour to shew, how men might come to have a property in several parts of that which God gave to mankind in common, and that without any express compact of all the commoners.

Locke argues that we individually own our bodies, and so we own our labor. So when our labor gets mingled with physical objects, we develop a special claim on those objects. The person who gathers apples in a wild forest, Locke says, owns those apples.

The labour that was mine, removing them out of that common state they were in, hath fixed my property in them. … Though the water running in the fountain be every one's, yet who can doubt, but that in the pitcher is his only who drew it out? His labour hath taken it out of the hands of nature, where it was common, and belonged equally to all her children, and hath thereby appropriated it to himself.

But Locke attaches a condition to this justification: It only works if your appropriation doesn't prevent the next person from doing the same.

No body could think himself injured by the drinking of another man, though he took a good draught, who had a whole river of the same water left him to quench his thirst

And that's where the whole thing breaks down. Today, a baby abandoned in a dumpster has as valid a moral claim to the Earth as anybody else. But as that child grows it will find that in fact everything of value has already been claimed. Locke's metaphorical water is all in private pitchers now, and the common river is dry.

When that individual tries to mingle labor with physical objects, he or she will be rebuffed at every turn. Gather apples? The orchard belongs to someone else. Hunt or fish? The forest and the lake are private property.

The industrial economy is in the same condition. You can't go down to the Ford plant and start working on your new car. You have to be hired first. You need an owner's permission before your labor can start to create property for you. If no owner will give you that permission, then you could starve.

Access to the means of production. In Locke's hunter-gatherer state of Nature, only laziness could keep an able-bodied person poor, because the means of production ­ Nature ­ was just sitting there waiting for human labor to turn it into property.

Today's economic environment is very different, but our intuitions haven't kept up. Our anxiety today isn't that there won't be enough goods in the world, and it isn't fear that our own laziness will prevent us from working to produce those goods. Our fear is that the owners of the means of production won't grant us access, so we will never have the opportunity to apply our labor.

I meet very few able-bodied adults whose first choice is to sit around demanding a handout. But I meet a lot who want a job and can't find one. I also meet young people who would be happy to study whatever subject and train in whatever skill would get them a decent job. I am frustrated that I can't tell them what subject or what skill that is.

Justice. A Libertarian government that simply maintained this property system would be enforcing a great injustice. Access to the means of production should be a human birthright. Everyone ought to have the chance to turn his or her labor into products that he or she could own.

What's more, everyone should get the benefit of the increased productivity of society. No individual created that productivity single-handedly. No individual has a right to siphon it off.

But instead, our society has a class of owners, and everyone else participates in the bounty of the Earth and the wealth of human progress only by their permission. Increasingly, they maneuver into a position that allows them to drive a hard bargain for that permission. And so higher productivity means higher unemployment, and the average person's standard of living decreases even as total wealth increases.

The role of government. I anticipate this objection: "You want to go back to being hunter-gatherers. We'll all starve."

Not at all. I want a modern economy. But a lassez-faire economy that takes the property system as given is unjust. It is the proper role of government to balance that injustice, to provide many paths of access to the means of production, and to compensate those who are still shut out.

To prevent government from doing so, in today's world, is no way to champion freedom. Quite the opposite, it's tyrannical.

Monday, August 22, 2011

ANS -- Why Amazon Can't Make A Kindle In the USA

Here is an amazing article recommending taking a longer view rather than focusing on short-term profit!  Of course, in the short section on what to do, they don't mention protective tariffs, which would help more than anything, but then, maybe getting the government to do anything for the non-elite is hopeless.... If you don't read the rest, at least read the paragraph I highlighted in red.
Find it here:  http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2011/08/17/why-amazon-cant-make-a-kindle-in-the-usa/   

8/17/2011 @ 9:33AM |107,354 views

Why Amazon Can't Make A Kindle In the USA

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65 comments, 46 called-out
+ Comment now

An economist is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

Old joke based on Oscar Wilde's quip about a cynic.

[] Yesterday I noted how conventional cost accounting inexorably focuses attention of executives on increasing short-term profits by cutting costs.

The same thing happens in economics. Take a recent economic study that set out to shed light on role of Chinese businesses vis-à-vis American consumers. Galina Hale and Bart Hobijn, two economists from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, did a study showing that only 2.7 percent of U.S. consumers purchases have the "Made in China" label. Moreover, only 1.2% actually reflects the cost of the imported goods. Thus, on average, of every dollar spent on an item labeled "Made in China," 55 cents go for services produced in the United States. So the study trumpets the finding that China has only a tiny sliver of the U.S. economy.
[]   Gallery: In Pictures: The 10 Fastest-Growing Retailers
[]   Video: The Next Evolution Of Outsourcing

So no problem, right?

Well, not exactly. The tiny sliver happens to be the sliver that matters. What economists miss is what is happening behind the numbers of dollars in the real economy of people.

How whole industries disappear

Take the story of Dell Computer [DELL] and its Taiwanese electronics manufacturer. The story is told in the brilliant book by Clayton Christensen, Jerome Grossman and Jason Hwang, The Innovator's Prescription :

ASUSTeK started out making the simple circuit boards within a Dell computer. Then ASUSTeK came to Dell with an interesting value proposition: 'We've been doing a good job making these little boards. Why don't you let us make the motherboard for you? Circuit manufacturing isn't your core competence anyway and we could do it for 20% less.'

Dell accepted the proposal because from a perspective of making money, it made sense: Dell's revenues were unaffected and its profits improved significantly. On successive occasions, ASUSTeK came back and took over the motherboard, the assembly of the computer, the management of the supply chain and the design of the computer. In each case Dell accepted the proposal because from a perspective of making money, it made sense: Dell's revenues were unaffected and its profits improved significantly. However the next time, ASUSTeK came back, it wasn't to talk to Dell. It was to talk to Best Buy and other retailers to tell them that they could offer them their own brand or any brand PC for 20% lower cost. As The Innovator's Prescription concludes:

Bingo. One company gone, another has taken its place. There's no stupidity in the story. The managers in both companies did exactly what business school professors and the best management consultants would tell them to do­improve profitability by focuson on those activities that are profitable and by getting out of activities that are less profitable.

Amazon couldn't make a Kindle here if it wanted to

Decades of outsourcing manufacturing have left US industry without the means to invent the next generation of high-tech products that are key to rebuilding its economy, as noted by Garry Pisano and Willy Shih in a classic article Thus in " Restoring American Competitiveness" (Harvard Business Review, July-August 2009)

The US has lost or is on the verge of losing its ability to develop and manufacture a slew of high-tech products. Amazon's Kindle 2 couldn't be made in the US, even if Amazon wanted to:
  • The flex circuit connectors are made in China because the US supplier base migrated to Asia.
  • The electrophoretic display is made in Taiwan because the expertise developed from producting flat-panel LCDs migrated to Asia with semiconductor manufacturing.
  • The highly polished injection-molded case is made in China because the US supplier base eroded as the manufacture of toys, consumer electronics and computers migrated to China.
  • The wireless card is made in South Korea because that country  became a center for making mobile phone components and handsets.
  • The controller board is made in China because US companies long ago transferred manufacture of printed circuit boards to Asia.
  • The Lithium polymer battery is made in China because battery development and manufacturing migrated to China along with the development and manufacture of consumer electronics and notebook computers.

An exception is Apple [AAPL], which "has been able to preserve a first-rate design capability in the States so far by remaining deeply involved in the selection of components, in industrial design, in software development, and in the articulation of the concept of its products and how they address users' needs."

A chain reaction of decline

Pisano and Shih continue:

"So the decline of manufacturing in a region sets off a chain reaction. Once manufacturing is outsourced, process-engineering expertise can't be maintained, since it depends on daily interactions with manufacturing. Without process-engineering capabilities, companies find it increasingly difficult to conduct advanced research on next-generation process technologies. Without the ability to develop such new processes, they find they can no longer develop new products. In the long term, then, an economy that lacks an infrastructure for advanced process engineering and manufacturing will lose its ability to innovate."

The lithium battery for GM's [GM] Chevy Volt is being manufactured in South Korea. Making it in the US wasn't feasible: rechargeable battery manufacturing left the US long ago.

Some efforts are being made to resurrect rechargeable battery manufacture in the US, such as the GE-backed [GE] A123Systems, but it's difficult to go it alone when much of the expertise is now in Asia.

In the same way that cost accounting and short-term corporate profits don't reflect the true health of corporations, the economists' reckoning of the impact of outsourcing production overseas misses the point. Americans are left with shipping the goods, selling the goods, marketing the goods. But the country is no longer to compete in the key task of actually making the goods.

Pisano and Shih have a frighteningly long list of industries of industries that are "already lost" to the USA:

"Fabless chips"; compact fluorescent lighting; LCDs for monitors, TVs and handheld devices like mobile phones; electrophoretic displays; lithium ion, lithium polymer and NiMH batteries; advanced rechargeable batteries for hybrid vehicles; crystalline and polycrystalline silicon solar cells, inverters and power semiconductors for solar panels; desktop, notebook and netbook PCs; low-end servers; hard-disk drives; consumer networking gear such as routers, access points, and home set-top boxes; advanced composite used in sporting goods and other consumer gear; advanced ceramics and integrated circuit packaging.

Their list of industries "at risk" is even longer and more worrisome.

What's to be done?

With such a complex societal problem, it's hard not to start from Albert Einstein's insight: "The significant problems that we have cannot be solved at the same level of thinking with which we created them." Many actors will have to play a role.
  • Company leaders: Business leaders need to recommit themselves to continuous innovation and the values and practices that are necessary to accomplish that. i.e radical management. As Pisano and Shih write: "Whether you're the US firm IBM [IBM] with a major research laboratory in Switzerland or the Swiss company Novartis [NYSE:NVS] operating in the biotech commons in the Boston area, sacrificing such a commons for short-term cost benefits is a risky proposition."
  • Accountants: Accountants need to get beyond the mental prison of cost accounting and embrace the thinking in throughput accounting that puts the emphasis on how companies can add new value, rather than just cutting costs.
  • Management theorists and consultants: stop rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic of traditional management (e.g. by finding new and ingenious ways to cut costs) and start understanding and disseminating management theory that is fit for the 21st Century.
  • Investors: Investors need to realize that the companies of the future are those that practice continuous innovation as Apple [AAPL], Amazon [AMZN] and Salesforce [CRM], as compared to companies practicing traditional management, such Wal-Mart [WMT], Cisco [CSCO] OR GE [GE]. Investors need to realize that short-term financial gains are ephemeral: the companies that will generate real value are those that do what is necessary to continuously innovate.
  • Government: Government has a role to play in protecting and promoting fields of expertise or what Pisano and Shih call "the industrial commons". Thus: "Government-sponsored endeavors that have made a huge difference in the past three decades include DARPA's VLSI chip development program and Strategic Computing Initiative; the DOD's and NASA's support of supercomputers and of NSFNET (an important contributor to the Internet); and the DOD's support of the Global Positioning System, to mention a handful."
  • Politicians: At a time of poisonously divisive political debate, in which candidates recite anti-government mantras and call for "getting government out of the way of the private sector", it is time for serious politicians to step up and examine which parts of the private sector are fostering, and which parts are destroying, the economy of the country. They must stop embodying e.e. cummings definition of a politician as "an ass upon which everyone has sat except a man."
  • Economists: Economists need to realize that merely adding up the numbers is not enough. They have to look at the meaning behind the numbers. When they trumpet their finding that "Chinese goods are only 1% of the U.S. economy", it's akin to saying "we kept the house but gave away the keys."

Part 2: Does it really matter whether Amazon can make a Kindle in the USA?

Part 3: Amazon & Kindle Part 3: It's not just manufacturing!

Part 4: Amazon & Kindle Part 4: Some good news (finally)!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

ANS -- The Solar Oil Field, and other short notes

I missed last week's Weekly Sift, but here are some Short Notes from it.  There are links if you want to follow up what he says in the short notes.  It's from Doug Muder, who is great.  (and a UU). If you go to the Weekly Sift site, there is a short video of Matt Damon on teaching. 
Find it here:  http://weeklysift.com/2011/08/08/the-solar-oil-field-and-other-short-notes/  


The Solar Oil Field, and other short notes

Wrap your brain around this: Oman is building a big solar facility to help it pump more oil. Solar energy makes steam that gets injected into the ground to bring up more oil.

You can tell Grist wants to hate the project, but just can't.

If they work out in Oman, which desperately wants to keep its natural gas for other purposes, it could be huge: imagine entire oil fields covered with these things, silently mocking solar advocates everywhere.

Yeah, it's helping produce oil which will get burned and cause more global warming. But the likely alternative is to produce the same oil with steam made by burning natural gas.

The Onion: Obama Turns 50 Despite Republican Opposition.

I thought that was a joke. But no: Michele Bachmann attacked Obama for celebrating his birthday on a day when stocks were crashing. And Fox News made sure their viewers knew the President was having a "hip-hop barbecue" with a bunch of other black guys instead of doing something to create jobs.

Do you miss the days when Jerry Falwell went after Tinky Winky? Well, tune into Fox News, where Sponge Bob is environmentalist propaganda.

Ever wonder how that E-Trade baby is doing now that the market is going down?

Matt Damon turns back a right-wing talking point about teachers getting lazy because of tenure.

A teacher wants to teach. I mean, why else would you take a shitty salary and really long hours and do that job, unless you really love to do it?

DIY nuclear reactor – bad idea. Damn those government regulations.

Last week (in the middle of Centrist in Exile) I ranted about Republicans' attempt to blame the bad economy on the EPA. Grist follows up:

After 30 years, it is time to start ignoring all of the hyperventilating about the imaginary economic horrors of environmental protection. In reality, there is overwhelming evidence that a healthy environment is part of a strong economy; indeed, allowing pollution to continue unabated is the economically foolish thing to do.

Environmental regulation doesn't cost money; it saves money. Dealing with pollution at the source is so much easier, more efficient, and healthier than cleaning up downstream.

The Onion News Network covers agitated climate scientists as if they were zoo animals: "Don't some people believe that scientists can actually sense danger coming?"

Some classic Fox news-twisting: When President Obama issued a statement sending "best wishes to Muslim communities in the United States and around the world" on Ramadan, Fox & Friends was all over him: He was favoring Ramadan over Easter, which hadn't rated a presidential statement.

Of course, Easter got mentioned in the President's weekly radio address, there was the annual Easter-egg roll on the White House lawn, and Obama hosted an Easter Prayer Breakfast in which he talked about " the resurrection of our savior, Jesus Christ". But all Fox-watchers know is that there was no official written statement, like Ramadan got.
August 8, 2011 – 11:58 am Categories: Short Notes | Comments (8)

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ANS -- Top Companies Claim To Fight Global Warming, But Sponsor ALEC’s Climate Denial

Here is a list of corporations that are talking out of both sides of their mouths (if they had a mouth).  It is companies who have public statements about being environmentally aware but are supporting ALEC and it's attempts to pass laws denying global warming. 
Find it here:  http://thinkprogress.org/green/2011/08/08/289553/companies-sponsor-alec-climate-denial/  

Top Companies Claim To Fight Global Warming, But Sponsor ALEC's Climate Denial

By Brad Johnson on Aug 8, 2011 at 11:00 am

[] The fight against global warming pollution requires the investment of everyone, including the world's multinational corporate giants. Many companies have taken official stances on climate pollution, pledging to reduce their greenhouse footprint in order to reduce the threat of a destabilized climate.

However, a number of these same companies are sponsoring toxic, far-right denial of climate science. The American Legislative Exchange Council pushes an extremist denier agenda throughout the United States, funded in secret by corporations. ThinkProgress has acquired a list of the sponsors of ALEC's 2011 annual meeting, held last week in New Orleans, LA.

ALEC denies that global warming is causing glaciers to retreat or sea level to rise. Not only does ALEC deny the threat of climate change, they even argue that "substantial global warming is likely to be of benefit to the United States":

"There is no 'scientific consensus' that global warming will cause damaging climate change."

"Even substantial global warming is likely to be of benefit to the United States." [ALEC, Energy, Environment, and Economics, 5th Edition]

At the annual meeting, ALEC hosted a session touting the " benefits of carbon dioxide." ALEC also supports the repeal of Section 526, which prohibits federal purchases of high-carbon fuels.

The radical anti-science agenda of ALEC stands in direct contravention to the official public policies of its funders, which include top health care companies like Bayer, Merck, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson, and top energy companies like Chevron, ConocoPhillips, and Entergy:

Allergan: Specifically as part of its commitment to the UN Global Compact, Allergan has committed to the UN Global Compact Caring for Climate Program and the CEO Water Mandate.

Altria: Altria is committed to reducing the environmental impact of its businesses. Reducing carbon emissions is one way to do so. Our companies rely on agricultural products and we are keenly aware of the balance of nature and how climate change could alter that balance.

AT&T: Climate change is a fact, and the scientific evidence so far seems to implicate greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, as the cause of climate change.

Bayer: The anthropogenic component of the greenhouse effect (which is adding to the natural effect) is what is changing our current climate. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere has increased by 1/3 since pre-industrial times as a result of human activity. The anthropogenic contribution to climate change has led to a temperature increase of 0.8 °C over the last 130 years.

Chesapeake Energy: The fact is we can, and should, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions because the risks associated with failing to do so are simply too great.

Chevron: Chevron shares the concerns of governments and the public about climate change and recognizes that the use of fossil fuels to meet the world's energy needs is a contributor to an increase in greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the Earth's atmosphere.

ConocoPhillips: ConocoPhillips recognizes that human activity, including the burning of fossil fuels, is contributing to increased concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that can lead to adverse changes in global climate.

CSX: CSXT understands that what's good for the environment is good for its customers, its employees and its bottom line. That's why the company is developing long-term, comprehensive climate change strategies and is leading the way to cleaner air through increased fuel efficiency and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

Dow : Providing humanity with a sustainable energy supply while addressing climate change is the most urgent environmental issue our society faces.

Entergy: We are virtually certain that climate change is occurring, and occurring because of man's activities. We're virtually certain the probability distribution curve is all bad.

ExxonMobil: Rising greenhouse-gas emissions pose significant risks to society and ecosystems.

HP: HP recognizes that climate change is one of the most serious environmental and economic challenges facing the world today and that mitigating its effects must be one of the top priorities of governments, companies, NGOs and individuals.

Johnson & Johnson: As a health care company, Johnson & Johnson understands that climate change can negatively affect human health. We have taken sustained, long term action to address our greenhouse gas emissions and we are encouraging our supply chain to do the same.

Merck: Merck supports the adoption of a global framework to address GHG challenges under which all major emitting countries are committed to emission reduction goals.

Pfizer: Climate change is happening, and experts believe it endangers human health.

Sanofi: Sanofi-aventis continuously seeks ways to limit the environmental impact of its business activities, protect public health, and combat climate change.

Shell: The world must take action to halve CO2 emissions by 2050 in order to avoid the worst effects of climate change.

Spectra Energy: We have committed to our stakeholders to be responsible environmental stewards while striving to help meet North America's increasing demand for natural gas. For us, that means working to reduce our own carbon footprint and taking a lead role in helping our customers manage energy responsibly.

Takeda: As a pharmaceuticals manufacturer operating on a global scale, Takeda strives to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

Union Pacific: Climate change, including the impact of global warming, could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition, and liquidity.

UPS: As a global transportation company, UPS acknowledges that Greenhouse Gas Emissions impact the climate and pose a serious challenge to the environment – and ultimately the global economy.

Wal-Mart: Wal-Mart is looking at ways to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change may not cause hurricanes, but warmer ocean water can make them more powerful. Climate change may not cause rainfall, but it can increase the frequency and severity of heavy flooding. Climate change may not cause droughts, but it can make droughts longer.

Even more of ALEC's sponsors are members of the Carbon Disclosure Project, including Spectra Energy, Kraft, BNSF, CN, and QEP Resources.

ALEC's climate denial is, however, publicly shared by major funder Koch Industries.


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ANS -- One Word Turns the Tea Party Around

Send this to all your tea-party friends.  It really makes good sense.  It's from Doug Muder's Weekly Sift.
Find it here:  http://weeklysift.com/2011/08/15/one-word-turns-the-tea-party-around/#comment-407   

One Word Turns the Tea Party Around

Did you ever watch one of those football blooper reels, where guys run for touchdowns in the wrong direction?

Sometimes they look really good doing it: fast, agile, determined. None of their teammates can catch up and turn them around.

This last year or two I've been feeling that way about the Tea Party ­ not the corporate lobbyists who run the organizations or the billionaires who fund them, but the rank-and-file types who wave signs and bring their babies to rallies. A few are the stereotypic gun-toting racists, but a lot of others are low-to-middle-class folks who have figured a few things out:
  • Honest, hard-working Americans are seeing their opportunities dry up.
  • The country is dominated by a small self-serving elite.
  • Our democracy is threatened.
  • The public is told a lot of lies.
  • People need to stand up and make their voices heard.
  • If we stand together, we're not as helpless as we seem.

I could go on, but you get the idea. They're on to something. The country needs people like this carrying the ball, if only they weren't running the wrong way.

How they should turn around is pretty easy to describe. Tea Partiers think:

The threat to our way of life comes from government, and the solution is to shrink government while freeing corporations from government control.

Just flip government and corporations in that sentence:

The threat to our way of life comes from corporations, and the solution is to shrink corporations while freeing government from corporate control.

Perfect. Now you can explain things like too-big-to-fail banks gambling trillions on the unregulated credit-default-swap market, sinking the economy, and then getting the taxpayers to cover their losses.

And more: Did the USDA put salmonella in our meat? No, meat-packing corporations did. And they've got enough lawyer-and-lobbyist power to keep the USDA regulators at bay. Did the EPA dump raw oil into the Gulf of Mexico? No, BP did. They cut corners on safety and no regulator was in a position to stop them. Did the government kill the 29 miners at Upper Big Bend coal mine? No, Massey Energy did, and had enough clout to keep the mine going even after inspectors had found more than 500 safety violations.

By getting the government/corporation thing backwards, the Tea Party has channeled populist anger into the idea that corporations need even more power. Get those mean bureaucrats off the back of poor, beleaguered Goldmann Sachs. If we just let the Koch brothers' paper plants dump more phosphorous into Wisconsin's rivers, the economy will be fine. Let's kill off the unions, and then the corporations that own the mines and the factories will treat working people with more respect. Let corporate money flow freely into political campaigns, and then the voice of ordinary Americans will really be heard in Washington.

Guys! The goal line is over here!

On the other hand, the government/corporate flip fixes just about all the Tea Party rhetoric. For example, John Boehner was trying to pander to the Tea Party when he said:

The bigger the government the smaller the people.

But what if he had said "The bigger the corporations, the smaller the people"? That would have been really insightful, and (among other things) would have explained why the working class needs more unions, not less.

Go to one of those Tea Party web sites full of their favorite anti-government quotes. Do the flip to make them anti-corporate, and you've got rhetoric that's dead-on:

When one gets in bed with corporations, one must expect the diseases they spread. – Ron Paul

The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and corporations to gain ground. ­ Thomas Jefferson

The corporate solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem. ­ Milton Friedman

We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where a corporation is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission. ­ Ayn Rand

Ronald Reagan becomes the font of wisdom Tea Partiers believe he is:

In this present crisis, corporations are not the solution to our problem; corporations are the problem.

A corporation is like a baby. An alimentary canal with a big appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.

Lord Acton said power corrupts. Surely then, if this is true, the more power we give the corporations the more corrupt they will become.

Man is not free unless corporations are limited.

"We the people" tell the corporations what to do, they don't tell us.

After the flip, even Sarah Palin makes sense:

People know something has gone terribly wrong with our corporations and they have gotten so far off track.

Grover Norquist is still a radical, but now he's attacking the right problem:

We want to reduce the size of corporations in half as a percentage of GNP over the next 25 years. We want to reduce the number of people depending on corporations so there is more autonomy and more free citizens.

Here's another rhetoric-flipping trick: Replace Washington with Wall Street. Then Rand Paul has it right:

Wall Street is horribly broken. I think we stand on a precipice. We are encountering a day of reckoning and this movement, this Tea Party movement, is a message to Wall Street that we're unhappy and that we want things done differently.

Go Rand! Go Tea Party!

Now let's translate the Founders:

A corporation, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one. ­ Thomas Paine

It is error alone which needs the support of the corporate media. Truth can stand by itself. ­ Thomas Jefferson

If ever time should come, when vain and aspiring men shall possess the highest seats in our corporations, our country will stand in need of its experienced patriots to prevent its ruin. ­ Samuel Adams

Like fire, the corporation is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. ­ George Washington

When you understand who today's powerful elite really is, many of the Tea Party's favorite Founder-quotes don't need any translation:

The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite. ­ Thomas Jefferson

All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree. ­ James Madison

There are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. ­ James Madison

So true, James. Little by little we are losing our privacy, our access to information, and even our political system to the corporations.

And in spite of the economic collapse Wall Street's machinations have brought upon us, how do we explain the market-worship we see all over the corporate media? The 19th-century French economist Frederic Bastiat had that one nailed:

When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.

I got that from the Venango County Tea Party Patriots. Again, no translation is necessary once you know which way to look.

But that's the real problem with the Tea Party rank-and-file: Like the guns of Singapore, they're facing the sea when the attack comes over land. They know they're under somebody's thumb, but they're confused about whose thumb it is. So when they strike back, they swing at the wrong guys.

If any Tea Partiers have read this far, I'm sure they think I'm the one who has it backwards. But I ask you, as you run free and clear towards the goal line: Whose goal line is that? Look up in the stands and see who's cheering for you: The billionaires. The CEOs. The traders on the floor of the big exchanges. The investment bankers.

Isn't that just a little strange? Have they all suddenly started rooting for everyday middle-class Americans?

Or are you running the wrong way?

Friday, August 19, 2011

ANS -- To the Pissy Lefties...

Here is a nice summary of what Obama is up against and why the progressives shouldn't be throwing him over and giving us a tea party president.....  This is short.  It's from Chip Shirley, The Dixie Dove (I love that appellation!). 
Find it here:  http://chipshirley.blogspot.com/2011/08/to-pissy-lefties.html


To the Pissy Lefties...

I believe in the old axiom that a president needs a push from the people to be able to hold sway and move forward on groundbreaking legislation, but there is quite a difference in constructive criticism and self immolation.

So here are a few facts that we should all keep in mind while working with President Obama for progressive change in the USA.
1. The Liberal hero presidents we all so admire, like JFK, LBJ and FDR all had significantly larger congressional majorities when they passed their landmark pieces of legislation than did the president when he took office. And the supposedly 'fillibuster proof' 60th vote that President Obama had in the Senate was embodied by Joseph Lieberman, who had endorsed and campaigned on stage with the president's opponent John McCain! Lieberman was on record as having been a long time proponent of single payer health care reform, until President Obama. Lieberman did everything he could to sabotage the health care reform efforts of the president right up to the cusp of being kicked out of the Democratic caucus and losing his committee positions. So let's please be real about that whole chapter. In 1965 when Medicare was passed LBJ had a 68 seat to 32 seat majority in the Senate! He had a 295 to 140 majority in the House. Compare that to President Obama's 60 seats in the Senate when he took office, with seat number 60 being Joe Lieberman. Here's the link...http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wi%E2%80...
2. When the president took office we were coming off of 28 consecutive years of conservative economic policies emanating from the White House, from Reagan through W. [Remember, even Alan Greenspan refers to President Clinton as a 'great Republican president' economically speaking because of his decimating of welfare and global trade deals which had been the ultimate dream of corporate America for a century.] President Obama has inherited a nation every bit as crippled by the short sighted idiocy of carnivorous capitalism, as was our nation when FDR was elected. This isn't supposed to be easy. The bailouts were a wise move that FDR undoubtedly would have deployed in retrospect, but sadly, by not allowing our whole system to fail as it did after the 1929 crash there was a little wiggle room left for the Right to weave the Grinch-like lie that 'Our medicine didn't make you sick, you simply need to take more'.
3. And finally, is it too much to keep in mind that President Obama has already accomplished far more good than the two previous Democratic presidents combined? Jimmy Carter is a great man but was not an effective president and Bill Clinton hurt the country badly (especially the working class) with his unfettered trade deals with Asia. It should be clear by now that the Clinton economic boom was mostly a short term money rush caused by our entire manufacturing base fleeing US soil for low wage-regulation Asia. The history books will show that this was the root cause of the stock market tripling in value. And the cash explosion at the top of our economy that led to (along with financial de-regulation from Reagan-Clinton) is the genesis of our continuing housing market crisis. Housing was falsely rated by companies because of slack government regulations. Housing was rated as invulnerable and the cash gusher of stocks rising flooded the housing market and blew it up to unrealistic proportions. Housing has a way t come down still I'm afraid.
Those who truly gave of themselves in the Civil Rights and workers rights struggles in the last century feel no shame in asking the president for support on the things they care about most, respectfully and affectionately and without ever even hinting at dropping their support for the most successful Liberal president since LBJ.
Do you want progress or punishment?

ANS -- Iceland's On-going Revolution

This is about a country that didn't knuckle under to the banksters.  Too bad we don't have the courage to do this. 
Find it here:  http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/08/01/1001662/-Icelands-On-going-Revolution

Mon Aug 01, 2011 at 08:47 AM PDT

Iceland's On-going Revolution + *

by Deena Stryker Follow
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permalink 219 Comments  /  219 New

An Italian radio program's story about Iceland�s on-going revolution is a stunning example of how little our media tells us about the rest of the world. Americans may remember that at the start of the 2008 financial crisis, Iceland literally went bankrupt.  The reasons were mentioned only in passing, and since then, this little-known member of the European Union fell back into oblivion.

As one European country after another fails or risks failing, imperiling the Euro, with repercussions for the entire world, the last thing the powers that be want is for Iceland to become an example. Here's why:

Five years of a pure neo-liberal regime had made Iceland, (population 320 thousand, no army), one of the richest countries in the world. In 2003 all the country�s banks were privatized, and in an effort to attract foreign investors, they offered on-line banking whose minimal costs allowed them to offer relatively high rates of return. The accounts, called IceSave, attracted many English and Dutch small investors.  But as investments grew, so did the banks� foreign debt.  In 2003 Iceland�s debt was equal to 200 times its GNP, but in 2007, it was 900 percent.  The 2008 world financial crisis was the coup de grace. The three main Icelandic banks, Landbanki, Kapthing and Glitnir, went belly up and were nationalized, while the Kroner lost 85% of its value with respect to the Euro.  At the end of the year Iceland declared bankruptcy.

Contrary to what could be expected, the crisis resulted in Icelanders recovering their sovereign rights, through a process of direct participatory democracy that eventually led to a new Constitution.  But only after much pain.

Geir Haarde, the Prime Minister of a Social Democratic coalition government, negotiated a two million one hundred thousand dollar loan, to which the Nordic countries added another two and a half million. But the foreign financial community pressured Iceland to impose drastic measures.  The FMI and the European Union wanted to take over its debt, claiming this was the only way for the country to pay back Holland and Great Britain, who had promised to reimburse their citizens.

Protests and riots continued, eventually forcing the government to resign. Elections were brought forward to April 2009, resulting in a left-wing coalition which condemned the neoliberal economic system, but immediately gave in to its demands that Iceland pay off a total of three and a half million Euros.  This required each Icelandic citizen to pay 100 Euros a month (or about $130) for fifteen years, at 5.5% interest, to pay off a debt incurred by private parties vis a vis other private parties. It was the straw that broke the reindeer�s back.

What happened next was extraordinary. The belief that citizens had to pay for the mistakes of a financial monopoly, that an entire nation must be taxed to pay off private debts was shattered, transforming the relationship between citizens and their political institutions and eventually driving Iceland�s leaders to the side of their constituents. The Head of State, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, refused to ratify the law that would have made Iceland�s citizens responsible for its bankers� debts, and accepted calls for a referendum.

Of course the international community only increased the pressure on Iceland. Great Britain and Holland threatened dire reprisals that would isolate the country.  As Icelanders went to vote, foreign bankers threatened to block any aid from the IMF.  The British government threatened to freeze Icelander savings and checking accounts. As Grimsson said: �We were told that if we refused the international community�s conditions, we would become the Cuba of the North.  But if we had accepted, we would have become the Haiti of the North.� (How many times have I written that when Cubans see the dire state of their neighbor, Haiti, they count themselves lucky.)

In the March 2010 referendum, 93% voted against repayment of the debt.  The IMF immediately froze its loan.  But the revolution (though not televised in the United States), would not be intimidated. With the support of a furious citizenry, the government launched civil and penal investigations into those responsible for the financial crisis.  Interpol put out an international arrest warrant for the ex-president of Kaupthing, Sigurdur Einarsson, as the other bankers implicated in the crash fled the country.

But Icelanders didn't stop there: they decided to draft a new constitution that would free the country from the exaggerated power of international finance and virtual money.  (The one in use had been written when Iceland gained its independence from Denmark, in 1918, the only difference with the Danish constitution being that the word �president� replaced the word �king�.)

To write the new constitution, the people of Iceland elected twenty-five citizens from among 522 adults not belonging to any political party but recommended by at least thirty citizens. This document was not the work of a handful of politicians, but was written on the internet. The constituent�s meetings are streamed on-line, and citizens can send their comments and suggestions, witnessing the document as it takes shape. The constitution that eventually emerges from this participatory democratic process will be submitted to parliament for approval after the next elections.

Some readers will remember that Iceland�s ninth century agrarian collapse was featured in Jared Diamond�s book by the same name. Today, that country is recovering from its financial collapse in ways just the opposite of those generally considered unavoidable, as confirmed yesterday by the new head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde to Fareed Zakaria. The people of Greece have been told that the privatization of their public sector is the only solution.  And those of Italy, Spain and Portugal are facing the same threat.

They should look to Iceland. Refusing to bow to foreign interests, that small country stated loud and clear that the people are sovereign.    

That�s why it is not in the news anymore.

Originally posted to Deena Stryker on Mon Aug 01, 2011 at 08:47 AM PDT.

Also republished by Class Warfare Newsletter: The Plutocracy VS the Working Class and Community Spotlight.