Monday, May 26, 2014


Here's another one from the same thread: 

[]  meg severson @megseverson

One of the most important things I've ever read. # YesAllWomen Embedded image permalink
and another:
Punk In Writing @PunkInWriting

Men�s greatest fear is that women will laugh at them, while women�s greatest fear is that men will kill them. -Margaret Atwood # YesAllWomen
5:50 AM - 26 May 2014


There is a twitter conversation -- well several -- about the attack at Isla Vista.  It's heartbreaking.  But here's the one that sums it up for me:  
find it here:   

Kendall @KendallMcK

Because women are taught to hate themselves if men reject them, and men are taught to hate women if women reject them. # YesAllWomen

ANS -- It's Memorial Day and the Country Is at War With Itself

Here is a short Memorial Day article about guns.  About our violent culture.  About the men who make fortunes on the spilling of our blood. 
Find it here:  

A makeshift memorial stands in front of the IV Deli yesterday i  
A makeshift memorial stands in front of the IV Deli yesterday in Isla Vista, California. (photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

go to original article

It's Memorial Day and the Country Is at War With Itself

By Charles Pierce, Esquire

26 May 14


[] t the beginning of this Memorial Day weekend, another American decided to make war on his fellow Americans. Elliot Rodger preceded his hostilities by announcing to the world, in terms so firm and clear as to command its assent, the casus belli under which he presumed to make war. It was as formal, if decidedly twisted, declaration of war, which gives Elliot Rodger's war on his fellow citizens something that no American president has seen fit to request for any military action the country has taken since World War II.

This is a country now at war with itself. This is a phrase that is generally tossed about when political debate gets too heated. It was popular to say it back in the 1960s, when it seemed quite possibly to be true, with leaders bleeding out on balconies in Memphis or kitchen floors in Los Angeles, and students bleeding out from gunfire on college campuses, and half-baked revolutionary idiots blowing themselves up in Greenwich Village. But this is not the same thing. This is a country at war with itself for profit. This is a country at war with itself because its ruling elite is too cowed, or too well-bribed, or too cowardly to recognize that there are people who are getting rich arming both sides, because the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun, so you make sure that it's easy for the bad guys to get guns in order to make millions selling the guns to the good guys. This is a dynamic not unfamiliar to the people in countries where brushfire conflicts and civil wars are kept alive because distant people are making a buck off them. In Africa, war is made over diamonds and rare earths. In South America, war is made over cocaine. Here, for any number of reasons - because Adam Lanza went crazy or because Elliot Rodger couldn't get laid - and the only constant in all those wars is the fact somebody gets rich arming both sides.

That is what has come home to roost now. This is a country at war with itself because cynical people have told its citizens that their fellow citizens - all of them, because you can never tell, can you? -- are the enemy. This is a country in which citizens make war on each other because that's what they are being encouraged to do. Someone finds it more profitable to maintain the war than they do to stop it.

It is a guerrilla war, fought on darkened streets against children in hoodies brandishing Skittles, against children in cars who play their music too loudly, against evanescent fears and the ghosts born of ancient prejudice and cultivated dread. Its battles are sudden but, sadly, no longer surprising. The whole country is the battleground now because cynical people have made it so. Our movie theaters are our Wheatfields, our Peach Orchards, or our Bloody Lanes. A quiet college campus is the Hornet's Nest. An elementary school is Cemetery Ridge. Those are the killing zones. The enemy, we are told, is everywhere, and nowhere. This is the country that Wayne LaPierre, that malignant profiteer, talks about when he says, at he did at a conservative conference last spring:
In this uncertain world, surrounded by lies and corruption, there is no greater freedom than the right to survive, to protect our families with all the rifles, shotguns and handguns we want. We know, in the world that surrounds us, there are terrorists and home invaders and drug cartels and car-jackers and knock-out gamers and rapers, haters, campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers, road-rage killers, and killers who scheme to destroy our country with massive storms of violence against our power grids, or vicious waves of chemicals or disease that could collapse the society that sustains us all. I ask you. Do you trust this government to protect you?

Wayne LaPierre gets paid when his masters sell guns to the bad guys. Wayne LaPierre gets paid when his masters sell guns to the good guys because of the guns he's already arranged to sell to the bad guys. Wayne LaPierre is the strange white man in the Congo who knows where he can get you some AK's. He's the shadowy fellow in the coffee shop in Kabul who knows where RPG's can be had, cheap. He's the well-dressed, silken-voiced operator, sipping his tea on a cool and breezy veranda outside of Bogota, who smiles at you and shows you on the map where you can pick up your order, because it is time once again for you to make war and him to make money. His look is the smooth and shiny black of the vulture's feathers. He feasts on the carrion of nations.

So that is Memorial Day this year, in a country in which its citizens are encouraged to make war on each other because not enough people care enough to stop it. There are more flowers in more places and there is no peace in sight, because we have chosen as a country to slake our appetite for it with blood. The dead are not honored in this war. Only the instrumentality of their murder is, god help us all.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

ANS -- Fwd: I think they are on to something here.........

Hi --
Here's a short article about what Iran does to the Banksters.  We just coddle them.  Can't we do something in the middle? 
This was sent to me by one of our readers. 
Find it here:

Capital Punishment: Iran Billionaire Executed Over $2.6B Bank Fraud

TEHRAN, Iran ­ A billionaire businessman at the heart of a $2.6 billion state bank scam in Iran, the largest fraud case since the country's 1979 Islamic Revolution, was executed Saturday, state television reported.

Authorities put Mahafarid Amir Khosravi, also known as Amir Mansour Aria, to death at Evin prison, just north of the capital, Tehran, the TV reported. The report said the execution came after Iran's Supreme Court upheld his death sentence.

Khosravi's lawyer, Gholam Ali Riahi, was quoted by news website as saying that the death sentence was carried out without him being given any notice. Death sentences in Iran are usually carried out by hanging.

"I had not been informed about the execution of my client," Riahi said. "All the assets of my client are at the disposal of the prosecutor's office."

State officials did not immediately comment on Riahi's claim.

The fraud involved using forged documents to get credit at one of Iran's top financial institutions, Bank Saderat, to purchase assets including state-owned companies like major steel producer Khuzestan Steel Co.

Khosravi's business empire included more than 35 companies from mineral water production to a football club and meat imports from Brazil. According to Iranian media reports, the bank fraud began in 2007.

A total of 39 defendants were convicted in the case. Four received death sentences, two got life sentences and the rest received sentences of up to 25 years in prison.

The trials raised questions about corruption at senior levels in Iran's tightly controlled economy during the administration of former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

­ The Associated Press
Image: Mahafarid Amir Khosravi  Hamid Foroutan / AP
In this picture Feb. 18, 2012 photo, released by the Iranian Students News Agency, ISNA, Mahafarid Amir Khosravi speaks at his trial in a court in Tehran, Iran. Khosravi, a billionaire businessman at the heart of a $2.6 billion state bank scam, the largest fraud case since the country's 1979 Islamic Revolution, was executed Saturday, state television reported.
First published May 25th 2014, 9:47 am

Saturday, May 24, 2014

ANS -- "Refusing the Call: A Tale Rewritten"

Here is a re-writing of the Lord of the Rings tale, only in this version, Frodo refuses to go on the quest to destroy the Ring of Power.  It's treated as a myth, and there is some discussion of myths.  It helps if you have read The Lord of the Rings, but it still might mean something if you haven't.  I hadn't recently.  At the end, I burst into tears. 
Let's save the world. 
Find it here:  

"Refusing the Call: A Tale Rewritten"

244 Comments - Hide Original Post

I have been wondering for some time now how to talk about the weirdly autumnal note that sounds so often and so clearly in America these days. Through the babble and clatter, the seven or eight television screens yelling from the walls of every restaurant you pass and all the rest of it, there comes a tone and a mood that reminds me of wind among bare branches and dry leaves crackling underfoot:  as though even the people who insist most loudly that it's all onward and upward from here don't believe it any more, and those for whom the old optimism stopped being more than a soothing shibboleth a long time ago are hunching their shoulders, shutting their eyes tight, and hoping that things can still hold together for just a little while longer.
It's not just that American politicians and pundits are insisting at the top of their lungs that the United States can threaten Russia with natural gas surpluses that don't exist, though that's admittedly a very bad sign all by itself. It's that this orgy of self-congratulatory nonsense appears in the news right next to reports that oil and gas companies are slashing their investments in the fracking technology and shale leases that were supposed to produce those imaginary surpluses, having lost a great deal of money pursuing the shale oil mirage, while Russia and Iran  pursue a trade deal that will make US sanctions against Iran all but irrelevant, and China is quietly making arrangements to conduct its trade with Europe in yuan rather than dollars. Strong nations in control of their own destinies, it's fair to note, don't respond to challenges on this scale by plunging their heads quite so enthusiastically into the sands of self-deception.
To shift temporal metaphors a bit, the long day of national delusion that dawned back in 1980, when Ronald Reagan famously and fatuously proclaimed "it's morning in America," is drawing on rapidly toward dusk, and most Americans are hopelessly unprepared for the coming of night.  They're unprepared in practical terms, that is, for an era in which the five per cent of us who live in the United States will no longer dispose of a quarter of the world's energy supply and a third of its raw materials and industrial products, and in which what currently counts as a normal American lifestyle will soon be no more than a fading memory for the vast majority.  They're just as unprepared, though,  for the psychological and emotional costs of that shattering transformation­not least because the change isn't being imposed on them at random by an indifferent universe, but comes as the inevitable consequence of their own collective choices in decades not that long past.
The hard fact that most people in this country are trying not to remember is this:  in the years right after Reagan's election, a vast number of Americans enthusiastically turned their backs on the promising steps toward sustainability that had been taken in the previous decade, abandoned the ideals they'd been praising to the skies up to that time, and cashed in their grandchildrens' future so that they didn't have to give up the extravagance and waste that defined their familiar and comfortable lifestyles. As a direct result, the nonrenewable resources that might have supported the transition to a sustainable future went instead to fuel one last orgy of wretched excess.  Now, though, the party is over, the bill is due, and the consequences of that disastrous decision have become a massive though almost wholly unmentionable factor in our nation's culture and collective psychology.
A great many of the more disturbing features of contemporary American life, I'm convinced, can't be understood unless America's thirty-year vacation from reality is taken into account. A sixth of the US population is currently on antidepressant medications, and since maybe half of Americans can't afford to get medication at all, the total number of Americans who are clinically depressed is likely a good deal higher than prescription figures suggest. The sort of bizarre delusions that used to count as evidence of serious mental illness­baroque conspiracy theories thickly frosted with shrill claims of persecution, fantasies of imminent mass death as punishment for humanity's sins, and so on­have become part of the common currency of American folk belief. For that matter, what does our pop culture's frankly necrophiliac obsession with vampires amount to but an attempt, thinly veiled in the most transparent of symbolism, to insist that it really is okay to victimize future generations for centuries down the line in order to prolong one's own existence?
Mythic and legends such as this can be remarkably subtle barometers of the collective psyche. The transformation that turned the vampire from just another spooky Eastern European folktale into a massive pop culture presence in industrial North America has quite a bit to say about the unspoken ideas and emotions moving through the crawlspaces of our collective life. In the same way, it's anything but an accident that the myth of the heroic quest has become so pervasive a presence in the modern industrial world that Joseph Campbell could simply label it "the monomyth," the basic form of myth as such. In any sense other than a wholly parochial one, of course, he was quite wrong­the wild diversity of the world's mythic stories can't be forced into any one narrative pattern­but if we look only at popular culture in the modern industrial world, he's almost right.
The story of the callow nobody who answers the call to adventure, goes off into the unknown, accomplishes some grand task, and returns transformed, to transform his surroundings in turn, is firmly welded into place in the imagination of our age. You'll find it at the center of J.R.R. Tolkien's great  works of fantasy, in the most forgettable products of the modern entertainment industry, and everything in between and all around. Yet there's a curious blind spot in all this: we hear plenty about those who answer the call to adventure, and nothing at all about those who refuse it. Those latter don't offer much of a plot engine for an adventure story, granted, but such a tale could make for a gripping psychological study­and one that has some uncomfortably familiar features.
With that in mind, with an apology in the direction of Tolkien's ghost, and with another to those of my readers who aren't lifelong Tolkien buffs with a head full of Middle-earth trivia­yes, I used to sign school yearbooks in fluent Elvish­I'd like to suggest a brief visit to an alternate Middle-earth:  one in which Frodo Baggins, facing the final crisis of the Third Age and the need to leave behind everything he knew and loved in order to take the Ring to Mount Doom, crumpled instead, with a cry of "I can't, Gandalf, I just can't." Perhaps you'll join me in a quiet corner of The Green Dragon, the best inn in Bywater, take a mug of ale from the buxom hobbit barmaid, and talk about old Frodo, who lived until recently just up the road and across the bridge in Hobbiton.
You've heard about the magic ring he had, the one that he inherited from his uncle Bilbo, the one that Gandalf the wizard wanted him to go off and destroy? That was thirty years ago, and most folk in the Shire have heard rumors about it by now. Yes, it's quite true; Frodo was supposed to leave the Shire and go off on an adventure, as Bilbo did before him, and couldn't bring himself to do it. He had plenty of reasons to stay home, to be sure.  He was tolerably well off and quite comfortable, all his friends and connections were here, and the journey would have been difficult and dangerous. Nor was there any certainty of success­quite the contrary, it's entirely possible that he might have perished somewhere in the wild lands, or been caught by the Dark Lord's servants, or what have you.
So he refused, and when Gandalf tried to talk to him about it, he threw the old wizard out of Bag End and slammed the round green door in his face. Have you ever seen someone in a fight who knows that he's in the wrong, and knows that everyone else knows it, and that knowledge just makes him even more angry and stubborn?  That was Frodo just then. Friends of mine watched the whole thing, or as much of it as could be seen from the garden outside, and it was not a pleasant spectacle. 
It's what happened thereafter, though, that bears recalling. I'm quite sure that if Frodo had shown the least sign of leaving the Shire and going on the quest, Sauron would have sent Black Riders after him in a fine hurry, and there's no telling what else might have come boiling up out of Mordor.  It's by no means impossible that the Dark Lord might have panicked, and launched a hasty, ill-advised assault on Gondor right away. For all I know, that may have been what Gandalf had in mind, tricking the Dark Lord into overreacting before he'd gathered his full strength, and before Gondor and Rohan had been thoroughly weakened from within.
Still, once Sauron's spies brought him word that Frodo had refused to embark on the quest, the Dark Lord knew that he had a good deal less to fear, and that he could afford to take his time. Ever since then, there have been plenty of servants of Mordor in and around the Shire, and a Black Rider or two keeping watch nearby, but nothing obvious or direct, nothing that might rouse whatever courage Frodo might have had left or  convince him that he had to flee for his life. Sauron was willing to be patient­patient and cruel. I'm quite sure he knew perfectly well what the rest of Frodo's life would be like.
So Gandalf went away, and Frodo stayed in Bag End, and for years thereafter it seemed as though the whole business had been no more than a mistake. The news that came up the Greenway from the southern lands was no worse than before; Gondor still stood firm, and though there was said to be some kind of trouble in Rohan, well, that was only to be expected now and then.  Frodo even took to joking about how gullible he'd been to believe all those alarmist claims that Gandalf had made. Sauron was still safely cooped up in Mordor, and all seemed right with Middle-earth.
Of course part of that was simply that Frodo had gotten even wealthier and more comfortable than he'd been before. He patched up his relationship with the Sackville-Bagginses, and he invested a good deal of his money in Sandyman's mill in Hobbiton, which paid off handsomely. He no longer spent time with many of his younger friends by then, partly because they had their own opinions about what he should have done, and partly because he had business connections with some of the wealthiest hobbits in the Shire, and wanted to build on those. He no longer took long walks around the Shire, as he'd done before, and he gave up visiting elves and dwarves when he stopped speaking to Gandalf.
But of course the rumors and news from the southern lands slowly but surely turned to the worse, as the Dark Lord gathered his power and tightened his grip on the western lands a little at a time. I recall when Rohan fell to Saruman's goblin armies.  That was a shock for a great many folk, here in the Shire and elsewhere.  Soon thereafter, though, Frodo was claiming that after all, Saruman wasn't Sauron, and Rohan wasn't that important, and for all anyone knew, the wizard and the Dark Lord might well end up at each other's throats and spare the rest of us.
Still, it was around that time that Frodo stopped joking about Gandalf's warnings, and got angry if anyone mentioned them in his hearing. It was around that same time, too, that he started insisting loudly and often that someone would surely stop Sauron. One day it was the elves:  after all, they had three rings of power, and could surely overwhelm the forces of Mordor if they chose to. Another day, the dwarves would do it, or Saruman, or the men of Gondor, or the Valar in the uttermost West. There were so many alternatives!  His friends very quickly learned to nod and agree with him, for he would lose his temper and start shouting at them if they disagreed or even asked questions.
When Lorien was destroyed, that was another shock. It was after that, as I recall, that Frodo started hinting darkly that the elves didn't seem to be doing anything with their three rings of power to stop Sauron, and maybe they weren't as opposed to him as they claimed. He came up with any number of theories about this or that elvish conspiracy. The first troubles were starting to affect the Shire by then, of course, and his investments were beginning to lose money; it was probably inevitable that he would start claiming that the conspiracy was aimed in part against hobbits, against the Shire, or against him in particular­especially the latter. They wanted his ring, of course. That played a larger and larger role in his talk as the years passed.
I don't recall hearing of any particular change in his thinking when word came that Minas Tirith had been taken by the Dark Lord's armies, but it wasn't much later that a great many elves came hurrying along the East Road through the Shire, and a few months after that, word came that Rivendell had fallen. That was not merely a shock, but a blow; Frodo had grown up hearing his uncle's stories about Rivendell and the elves and half-elves who lived there. There was a time after that news came that some of us briefly wondered if old Frodo might actually find it in himself to do the thing he'd refused to do all those years before.
But of course he did nothing of the kind, not even when the troubles here in the Shire began to bite more and more deeply, when goblins started raiding the borders of the North Farthing and the Buckland had to be abandoned to the Old Forest. No, he started insisting to anyone who would listen that Middle-earth was doomed, that there was no hope left in elves or dying Númenor, that Sauron's final victory would surely come before­oh, I forget what the date was; it was some year or other not too far from now. He spent hours reading through books of lore, making long lists of reasons why the Dark Lord's triumph was surely at hand. Why did he do that? Why, for the same reason that drove him to each of his other excuses in turn: to prove to himself that his decision to refuse the quest hadn't been the terrible mistake he knew perfectly well it had been.
And then, of course, the Ring betrayed him, as it betrayed Gollum and Isildur before him. He came home late at night, after drinking himself half under the table at the Ivy Bush, and discovered that the Ring was nowhere to be found. After searching Bag End in a frantic state, he ran out the door and down the road toward Bywater shouting "My precious! My precious!" He was weeping and running blindly in the night, and when he got to the bridge he stumbled; over he went into the water, and that was the end of him. They found his body in a weir downstream the next morning.
The worst of it is that right up to the end, right up to the hour the Ring left him, he still could have embarked on the quest.  It would have been a different journey, and quite possibly a harder one.  With Rivendell gone, he would have had to go west rather than east, across the Far Downs to Cirdan at the Grey Havens, where you'll find most of the high-elves who still remain in Middle-earth. From there, with such companions as might have joined him, he would have had to go north and then eastward through Arnor, past the ruins of Annuminas and Lake Evendim, to the dales of the Misty Mountains, and then across by one of the northern passes: a hard and risky journey, but by no means impossible, for with no more need to hinder travel between Rivendell and Lorien, the Dark Lord's watch on the mountains has grown slack.
Beyond the mountains, the wood-elves still dwell in the northern reaches of Mirkwood, along with refugees from Lorien and the last of the Beornings.  He could have gotten shelter and help there, and boats to travel down the River Running into the heart of Wilderland.  From there his way would have led by foot to the poorly guarded northern borders of Mordor­when has Sauron ever had to face a threat from that quarter?  So you see that it could have been done. It could still be done, if someone were willing to do it. Even though so much of what could have been saved thirty years ago has been lost, even though Minas Tirith, Edoras, Lorien and Rivendell have fallen and the line of the kings of Gondor is no more, it would still be worth doing; there would still be many things that could be saved.
Nor would such a journey have to be made alone. Though Aragorn son of Arathorn was slain in the last defense of Rivendell, there are still Rangers to be found in Cirdan's realm and the old lands of Arnor; there are elf-warriors who hope to avenge the blood shed at Rivendell, and dwarves from the Blue Mountains who have their own ancient grudges against the Dark Lord. The last free Rohirrim retreated to Minhiriath after Éomer fell at Helm's Deep, and still war against King Grima, while Gondor west of the river Gilrain clings to a tenuous independence and would rise up against Sauron at need. Would those and the elves of Lindon be enough? No one can say; there are no certainties in this business, except for the one Frodo chose­the certainty that doing nothing will guarantee Sauron's victory.
And there might even still be a wizard to join such a quest. In fact, there would certainly be one­the very last of them, as far as I know. Gandalf perished when Lorien fell, I am sorry to say, and as for Saruman, the last anyone saw of him, he was screaming in terror as two Ringwraiths dragged him through the door of the Dark Tower; his double-dealing was never likely to bring him to a good end. The chief of the Ringwraiths rules in Isengard now. Still, there was a third in these western lands: fool and bird-tamer, Saruman called him, having never quite managed to notice that knowledge of the ways of nature and the friendship of birds and beasts might have considerable value in the last need of Middle-earth. Radagast is his name; yes, that would be me.
Why am I telling you all this?  Well, you are old Frodo's youngest cousin, are you not? Very nearly the only one of his relatives with enough of the wild Tookish blood in you to matter, or so I am told. It was just a month ago that you and two of your friends were walking in the woods, and you spoke with quite a bit of anger about how the older generation of hobbits had decided to huddle in their holes until the darkness falls­those were your very words, I believe. How did I know that? Why, a little bird told me­a wren, to be precise, a very clever and helpful little fellow, who runs errands for me from time to time when I visit this part of Middle-earth. If you meant what you said then, there is still hope.
And the Ring? No, it was not lost, or not for long. It slipped from its chain and fell from old Frodo's pocket as he stumbled home that last night, and a field mouse spotted it. I had briefed all the animals and birds around Hobbiton, of course, and so she knew what to do; she dragged the Ring into thick grass, and when dawn came, caught the attention of a jay, who took it and hid it high up in a tree. I had to trade quite a collection of sparkling things for it! But here it is, in this envelope, waiting for someone to take up the quest that Frodo refused. The choice is yours, my dear hobbit. What will you do?

posted by John Michael Greer at 6:43 PM on Apr 23, 2014

Friday, May 23, 2014

ANS -- Why American Conservatives Are Suddenly Freaking Out About Guillotines

Here's a short article about the wealthy's war on the poor.  It hints that the 99% will reach the end of their rope eventually, and that the rich are thinking about it, but not willing to do what it would take to reverse it. 
Find it here:   

AlterNet / By Lynn Stuart Parramore
comments_image   526 COMMENTS

Why American Conservatives Are Suddenly Freaking Out About Guillotines

Are they afraid the people's patience is not endless?

May 21, 2014 |  

On the June cover of the conservative magazine American Spectator, a vision arises from the collective unconscious of the rich. Angry citizens look on as a monocled fatcat is led to a blood-soaked guillotine, calling up the memory of the Reign of Terror during the French Revolution, when tens of thousands were executed, many by what came to be known as the "National Razor." The caption reads, "The New Class Warfare: Thomas Piketty's intellectual cover for confiscation." One member of the mob can be seen holding up a bloody copy of the French economist's recent book, Capital in the 21st Century.

Confiscation, of course, can only mean one thing. Off with their heads! In reality, the most "revolutionary" thing Professor Piketty calls for in his best-sellling tome is a wealth tax, but our rich are very sensitive.

In his article, however, James Pierson warns that a revolution is afoot, and that the 99 percent is going to try to punish the rich. The ungrateful horde is angry, he says, when they really should be celebrating their marvelous good fortune and thanking their betters:

"From one point of view, the contemporary era has been a 'gilded age' of regression and reaction due to rising inequality and increasing concentrations of wealth. But from another it can be seen as a 'golden age' of capitalism marked by fabulous innovations, globalizing markets, the absence of major wars, rising living standards, low inflation and interest rates, and a thirty-year bull market in stocks, bonds, and real estate."

Yes, things do indeed look very different to the haves and the have-nots. But some of the haves are willing to say what's actually going down ­ and it's a war of their own making. Warren Buffett made this very clear in his declaration: "There's class warfare, all right, but it's my class, the rich class, that's making war, and we're winning."

Warren is quite correct: It is the rich who have made war against the 99 percent, not the other way around. They have dumped the tax burden onto the rest of us. They have shredded our social safety net and attacked our retirements. In their insatiable greed, they refuse even to consider raising the minimum wage for people who toil all day and can't earn enough to feed their children. And they do everything in their power to block as many people from the polls as possible who might protest these conditions, while crushing the unions and any other countervailing forces that could fight to improve them.

The goal of this vicious war is to control all of the wealth and the government not just in the U.S., but the rest of the world, too, and to make sure the people are kept in a state of fear.

But the greedy rich are experts in cloaking their aggression. Like steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie, who successfully transitioned from robber baron to philanthropist, David H. Koch and his conservative colleagues put on the mask of philanthropy to hide their war dance. Or they project their aggression onto ordinary people who are simply trying to feed their families, pay the bills, and keep the roof over their heads. Many of the wealthy liberals play a less crass version of the game: they talk about inequality only to alleviate their conscience while secretly ­ or not so secretly ­ protecting their turf (witness: NY Governor Andrew Cuomo and his mission to reduce taxes on his wealthy benefactors).

It is rich Americans, in particular, financial capitalists, who have made the war-like values of self interest and ruthlessness their code of ethics through their championing of an unregulated market. When we hear the term, "It's just business," we know what it means. Somebody has legally gouged us.

People in America are under attack daily. The greedy rich know it, because they are the ones doing the attacking. They know that they have made collateral damage out of hungry children, hard-working parents, grandmothers and grandfathers. And somewhere behind the gates of their private communities and the roped-off areas ­ their private schools, private hospitals, private modes of transport­they fear that the aggression may one day be turned back. They wonder how far they can erode our quality of life before something might just snap.

The growing concentration of wealth is creating an increasingly antagonistic society, which is why we have seen the buildup of the police state and the rise of unregulated markets appear in tandem. This is why the prisons are bursting at the seams with the poor.

The oligarchs hope that Americans will be so tired, so pumped full of Xanax, so terrified, that they will remain in their places. They hope that we will watch the rich cavorting on reality shows and set ourselves to climbing the economic ladder instead of seeing that the rungs have been kicked away.

Of course, there is a very easy way for the rich to remain rich and alleviate their nightmares of the guillotine. That is simply to allow their unearned wealth to be taxed at a reasonable rate. Voila! No more fear of angry mobs.

Or they can wait for some less pleasant alternative, like a revolution. This theme, which once timidly hid behind the scenes, has lately burst onto cultural center stage. The cover of the current issue of Lapham's Quarterly, dedicated to the topic, "Revolutions," features five crossed swords. Its contents outline various periods in history when ordinary folks had had enough, such as "The People's Patience is Not Endless," a pamphlet issued by the Command of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress, in December 1961.

Very interesting reading for the 1 percent.
Lynn Parramore is an AlterNet senior editor. She is cofounder of Recessionwire, founding editor of New Deal 2.0, and author of "Reading the Sphinx: Ancient Egypt in Nineteenth-Century Literary Culture." She received her Ph.D. in English and cultural theory from NYU. She is the director of AlterNet's New Economic Dialogue Project. Follow her on Twitter @LynnParramore.

Monday, May 19, 2014

ANS -- Republicans, Ayn Rand, and Satanism?

Here's a little article about the relationship between Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan, and Anton LeVey's Satanism.  It discusses the morality of utter selfishness.  Read it. 
Find it here:  

Republicans, Ayn Rand, and Satanism?


"Ayn Rand, more than anyone else, did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism. And this to me is what matters most."  Republican Vice Presidential Candidate Paul Ryan.


(Now that Mitt Romney has officially selected Wisconsin U.S. Representative Paul Ryan as his running-mate, I thought I might be a good idea to republish an article I originally wrote for Project Censored in June, 2011.  For Ryan's friends, family, and staff, Ayn Rand is required  reading).

In the interest of full disclosure, I consider myself spiritually agnostic. That said, can I get a Hallelujah! Some Christians are finally getting hip to the fact that Republicans have been worshiping at the altar of Ayn Rand, and unwittingly the Church of Satan. I kid you not. Well, at least the part about Ayn Rand. As for the Satanism bit, there is only one degree of separation between Rand's philosophy and Satanism, but more on this later.

Personally, I enjoyed reading Rand's books. Perhaps twenty years ago, I  read her novels Atlas Shrugged, and The Fountainhead, as well as her non-fiction book Virtue of Selfishness. Rand is most known for her novels. However, Rand's philosophy of "Objectivism" is what attracted both me and many extreme Right-wingers in America. Coming from a conservative Christian family, I have followed the writings and influences of Right-wing extremism my entire life. In the 1970's, for summer vacation, our family went to Ocean Grove, New Jersey for a James Dobson, Focus on the Family, "Dare to Discipline" seminar.

Anyway, I rejected Dobson and Rand's philosophies. Deep down inside, I was convinced altruism was inherently moral, valuable, and virtuous. However, I agree with some of what Rand espoused. For example, like Rand, Aristotle, and our Founding Fathers,  I believe reason and logic should play a determining role in one's life. I also agree with Rand avoidance of superstitions. However, I strongly disagree with her conclusions on individualism and collectivism. Rand seems to suggest individualism and collectivism is always working against each other and can never work hand in hand. I find Rand's worldview to be a dark and disturbing portrait in black and white.

For Rand, a child of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, capitalism and socialism were diametrically opposing ideas that could never be balanced. Rand believed Liaise-Faire capitalism represented the highest form of morality. She believed it was only logical that individuals sought after their own selfish needs first and foremost. She claimed those that pursued a morality of selfishness were most able to rise to the top and conquer the world. By the virtue of their selfish ambitions, individuals could acquire great material wealth, power, and individual freedoms. Therefore, Rand's philosophy of Objectivism is essentially the virtue of selfish individualism.

Since the McCarthy area, Rand's Objectivism has been a leading philosophy for both Right-wing extremist and radical libertarians. Although, it should be pointed out, many notable mainstream conservatives became early fans of Rand's. In fact, Alan Greenspan once was a member of Rand's New York "Collective". Some biographies have described Rand's "Collective" as somewhat like a "cult".

For those that are not interested in reading Rand's books, check out this three part interview of Ayn Rand, conducted in 1959 by Mike Wallace. Here are the links to Part I, Part II, and Part III. The entire interview is fascinating, but I'll quote one question and answer from the interview:

Wallace: "How does your philosophy translate into politics? One of the most principle achievements of this country in the past twenty years and practically, I think most people agree, is the gradual growth of social protective legislation based on the principle that we are our bothers keeper. How do you feel about the political trends of the United States, Western world?"

Ayn Rand: "The way everybody feels, except more consciously. I feel that it is terrible. That you see destruction and that you are moving toward disaster, until and unless all those welfare state conceptions have been reversed and rejected. It is precisely these trends that are bringing the world toward disaster. Because, we are now moving toward complete collectivism, or socialism. A system in which everyone is enslaved to everybody and we are moving that way only because of our altruistic morality."

Rand goes on to state that she is in favor of complete separation of economy and state, like the separation of church and state. Rand further states that she believes the government does not have the right to regulate the affairs of it citizens, nor demand they pay taxes. She suggests taxes  should be voluntary.

I rejected Rand's Objectivism because I believe people putting themselves first does not always promote economic efficiency, nor does it represent the best of America or the human spirit. I believe, as our Founding Fathers believed, it is the government's role to make laws and raise taxes to promote and protect the general welfare of the people. In fact, after the American Revolution, the first order of business by the first U.S. Congress was to levy tariffs (import taxes) and to tax wealthy businesses –  via the Whiskey Tax. Benjamin Franklyn famously said, "In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes." Guided by the policies of Alexander Hamilton and the leadership of George Washington, the Founding Fathers took the money raised by the tariffs and taxes and used the funds to help pay off America's war debt, build bridges, roads and schools. This, of course, is an example of early American collectivism, which Rand and the Right-wing have openly scorned.

As I mentioned before, Christian groups are beginning to get hip on the whole Republican selfish Objectivism ideology. A recent campaign, by the American Values Network (AVN), a coalition of Christian organizations, has blasted Representative Paul Ryan and the Republican Party's budget plans, which they are calling the "Rand Plan". At this AVN website, a video ad shows Senator Rand Paul, along with other Republican leaders like Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, praising Ayn Rand's philosophy. Representative Paul Ryan is seen in the video clip stating, "Ayn Rand, more than anyone else, did a fantastic job of explaining the morality of capitalism, the morality of individualism. And this to me is what matters most."

According to AVN, Paul Ryan requires all his staff, including interns, to read Atlas Shrugged. Republican's devotion to Rand's selfish morality has become the final straw for many Christians. AVN is now speaking out against the Right-wings selfish lead morality. Here are the opening two paragraphs from the AVN webpage:

"GOP leaders and conservative pundits have brought upon themselves a crisis of values. Many who for years have been the loudest voices invoking the language of faith and moral values are now praising the atheist philosopher Ayn Rand whose teachings stand in direct contradiction to the Bible. Rand advocates a law of selfishness over love and commands her followers to think only of themselves, not others. She said her followers had to choose between Jesus and her teachings.

GOP leaders want to argue that they are defending Christian principles. But, at the same time, Rep. Paul Ryan (author of the GOP budget) is posting facebook videos praising Rand's morality and saying hers is the "kind of thinking that is sorely needed right now." Simply put, Paul Ryan can't have it both ways, and neither can Christians. As conservative evangelical icon Chuck Colson recently stated, Christians can not support Rand's philosophy and Christ's teachings. The choice is simple: Ayn Rand or Jesus Christ. We must choose one and forsake the other."

As a religiously agnostic person, I don't really care about Rand's atheism. However, as with the Christian groups, I believe Rand's selfish driven, utopian vision morality of capitalism and individualism to be, in fact, immoral. One of the many Bible texts the Christians are quoting to counter the GOP's worshiping at the altar of selfishness is Luke 27 – 30:

"But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.  If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.  Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back."

Many Christians are claiming the GOP's budget plans are inspired by Rand and antithetical to Jesus Christ. In case the Christians missed it, I would like to provide a bit of further proof for the claim Rand's philosophy is diametrically opposite of Jesus' message. Anton LaVey, the founder of the Church of Satan, melded Ayn Rand's philosophy into the Satanic Bible. Here are direct quotes from the Church of Satan website from the official biography of LaVey and the ideology behind his book the Satanic Bible:

"Unlike the founders of other religions, who claimed exalted "inspiration" delivered through some supernatural entity, LaVey readily acknowledged that he used his own faculties to synthesize Satanism, based on his understanding of the human animal and insights gained from earlier philosophers who advocated materialism and individualism

By the end of 1969, LaVey had taken monographs he had written to explain the philosophy and ritual practices of the Church of Satan and melded them with all of his philosophical influences from Ayn Rand, Nietzsche, Mencken, and London along with the base wisdom of the carnival folk."

Rand's philosophy of materialism and individualism plays a key role in the ideology of Satanism. Not that I really give any credit to Satanism. In fact, I give as much weight to Satanism as I do Objectivism.  The whole Satanism thing is mostly for entertainment sake. After all, LaVey was actually a talented entertainer before developing the modern philosophy of Satanism. Like LaVey,  Rand started out as an entertainer before developing her own philosophy. Perhaps Rand was secretly entertained by the fact that people were following her philosophy? The fact that modern Satanism was influenced by Ayn Rand's philosophy is a  sideshow, but something I find entertaining and  something my Christians friends might find curious, scary, or just outright disturbing.

You don't have to be a Christian to believe in much of what Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers," and "Love your enemy." These are hard words to follow, yet deep down many people know the truth in these words. Not only that, recent studies has confirmed altruism has been show to have positive health effects. Therefore it is logical to support the Bible when it declares in Act 25:30, "I have shown you all things, how that so laboring you ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive".

While I agree with Ayn Rand that one must be lead by logic and reason, I find people are seldom logical and reasonable. Our Founding Fathers also valued logic and reason.  Yet, as practical men, they knew our budding nation needed  to collectively pull together. We needed to become a network of communities (a republic) bound by a greater purpose and sharing in its common dreams and fortunes.  The collective dreams and purpose of our Founding Fathers were laid out in the Declaration of Independence,  the U.S. Constitution and other early national documents. While on the surface our national documents may seem to some  logical and reasonable, they are actually wide open for interpretation and at times anything but logical and reasonable.

Our Founding Fathers were able to balance the collective interests of our nation with the interests of the individual. They heavily regulated capitalism and laid the pathway to collectivism and  socialism. In spite of what the Right-wing ideologues would like people to believe, (Satanists proudly proclaim to be devout liars) Hamilton and Washington, used the collective wealth of the nation to create schools, pay off debts and provide for the general welfare of our new nation.

The GOP has turned bridge building and other acts of  national collectivism from our Founding Fathers into acts of evil. The Right-wing holds materialism, individualism, capitalism, and selfishness as the highest forms of morality. Seven days a week, Satanists and GOP "Christians" are preaching the "virtues" of materialism, individualism, selfishness,  and Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism.  Paul Ryan's budget plans are designed to deregulate  industries, systematically strip away the middle-class safety-net, grow the national debt, and further concentrate America's wealth into the hands of a few, very powerfully, selfish driven people. Just as Ayn Rand envisioned.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

ANS -- R.I.P. social conservatism: Why it’s dying ­ and the coming realignment

Here is one writer's prediction of the future of our political parties and alignments.  Think he's onto something or blowing smoke?  (Fairly short article)
Find it here:  

P.S. Love my new computer, hate the keyboard.  It's all black, and the previous one was light grey.  I can't see anything on the black one.  (It's in the shadow of the monitor.)

R.I.P. social conservatism: Why it's dying ­ and the coming realignment

Don't cheer yet, liberals. A direct consequence could be the crack-up of today's Democratic coalition. Here's why

Michael Lind

Topics: Social conservatives, millennials, The Right, Editor's Picks, Democrats, coalitions, social liberalism, Latinos, Populism, Elizabeth Warren, neoliberals, Robert Rubin, Business News, Politics News
R.I.P. social conservatism: Why it's dying — and the comi Rick Santorum, Marsha Blackburn, Mike Huckabee (Credit: AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta/J. Scott Applewhite/Reuters/Joe Skipper/Salon)

In our age of political trench warfare, it is easy to assume that today's political coalitions will last forever. Democrats put their hopes in the incremental demographic growth of their present coalition of blacks, Latinos and white progressives, chiefly as a result of Latino immigration. Forward-thinking Republican strategists hope to thwart a permanent Democratic majority by enticing a sufficient number of Latinos, if not blacks, to vote for the GOP. These are reasonable strategies for both sides, for the next few electoral cycles.

But the fixed political trenches have been dug into a glacier which itself is both changing and moving. In a new article at Breakthrough Journal, "The Coming Realignment: Cities, Class, and Ideology After Social Conservatism," I speculate about how one long-term social trend in particular ­ the decline of social conservatism ­ is likely to transform the definition of categories that today we take for granted, like "progressive," "conservative" and "centrist."

You wouldn't know it from watching MSNBC or Fox, but the era in which controversies over social issues like  "God, gays and guns" defines political alignments is probably drawing to a close, thanks to the social liberalism of younger Americans such as Millennials, who were born in 1981 or later. Millennials are the least religious generation, with fewer than one in 10 saying that religion is important in their lives. They are the only generation in which a majority (70 percent) supports gay marriage. And Millennials are not only less likely than their elders to own guns but also provide majority support to gun control.

Does the rise of social liberalism mean that today's Democratic coalition will permanently dominate American politics in a decade or a generation? Will John Judis and Ruy Teixeira be vindicated by the final emergence of "the emerging Democratic majority"?

It's possible that a combination of Latino votes and social liberalism among younger generations will push today's Democratic coalition into power for decades or generations, but I don't think so. On the contrary, I argue that the rise of social liberalism and the decline of social conservatism will destabilize existing American political divisions and shatter and recombine today's parties, in surprising ways.

If we imagine a graph with two axes, social issues (liberal and conservative) and economic issues (liberal and conservative), then it is clear that Americans have long been divided among four groups. Progressives are liberal with respect to both social issues and economic issues; conservatives, the reverse. But there are also a small number of libertarians, who unite social liberalism with pro-market, anti-statist economic conservatism; and a large number of populists, like the aging white working-class "Reagan Democrats," who combine social conservatism with support for liberal New Deal and Great Society programs like Social Security and Medicare.

If social liberal attitudes become nearly universal, then today's conservatism and today's populism vanish or become marginalized. A four-fold division of the American electorate would be replaced by a simpler binary opposition. In an America which, a generation or two hence, practically everyone is a social liberal, there would be two socially liberal factions that disagree chiefly about economics, even as they share current liberal positions on abortion, gay rights and censorship.

This realignment of attitudes will not happen by 2020, perhaps not even by 2030. But it has already occurred in Britain and most of Europe, where the local conservatives are social liberals, by American standards. By the mid-21st century, a similar situation is likely to obtain on this side of the Atlantic.

One of the consequences I predict is the crack-up of today's Democratic coalition ­ paradoxically, as a direct consequence of the decline of social conservatism.

At the moment the Democrats are a tenuous coalition of economic progressives and "neoliberals" or moderate economic conservatives. In their policy views many of the neoliberals, including arguably Barack Obama and the Clintons, are what used to be called "Rockefeller Republicans." Many neoliberals favor smaller government, free trade, deregulation and lower taxes and side with the Democrats chiefly because of the religiosity and social conservatism of today's Republicans.

If the threat of religious fundamentalism and social conservatism declines, there is really no reason for the allies of neoliberals like Robert Rubin and the allies of economic progressives like Elizabeth Warren to remain in the same party. This is why, in "The Coming Realignment," I predict that the two wings of today's Democrats may evolve into the nuclei of the two national parties of tomorrow, once social conservatism goes the way of segregationism and agrarianism.

Because both economic progressives and neoliberals call themselves "progressives" today, to avoid confusion I describe the likely future coalitions using portmanteau names: "Populiberals" (socially liberal and economically liberal) and "liberaltarians" (socially liberal and economically conservative). The useful term "liberaltarianism" is already in circulation, to describe the overlapping position of the right wing of progressivism and the left wing of libertarianism.

In the essay, I argue that these future factions are likely to have their own geographic bases, with populiberalism strongest in "Posturbia" (suburbs and exurbs) while liberaltarianism will flourish in the urban downtowns of "Densitaria." I should emphasize that by "urban" I do not mean "nonwhite,"  just as by "Posturbian" I do not mean "red state" versus "blue state" or the "Retro/Metro" schema put forth by John Sperling in 2004. I am describing a possible future, not the present or the past. Already a majority of Latinos and African-Americans live in the suburbs, and decades from now most immigrants in immigrant-rich urban areas may no longer be from Latin America. And remember, nearly everyone in the future in this thought experiment is a social liberal, by today's standards. So I am not talking about conservative white-flight suburbs versus black inner cities. I am talking about a different and new pattern of political geography.

In post-social-conservative America, the division between Posturbia and Densitaria may correspond roughly to the debate among tomorrow's New Deal-ish populiberals who favor universal social insurance and tomorrow's liberaltarians who may favor means-tested, targeted welfare programs, like today's neoliberal Democrats or "gentry liberals" (to use Joel Kotkin's phrase). In "The Coming Realignment" I suggest:

In highly unequal societies ­ like many Latin American countries, or cities like New York and San Francisco ­ the middle of the metaphorical hourglass is squeezed between the rich and the poor. In such a social order, the argument for means-testing the welfare state, eliminating negligible benefits for the rich in order to somewhat expand benefits for the poor, may seem to be more persuasive.

The opposite logic holds in the low-density, low-rent environment of Posturbia, consisting of residential neighborhoods that are dominated by single-family housing and decentralized office parks, malls, and stores. Because the rich, in America as elsewhere, prefer to congregate in expensive, fashionable urban neighborhoods, there will be relatively few rich people in Posturbia. At the same time, the pattern of single-family housing has the effect of excluding people who are too poor to own homes rather than rent.

For these reasons, the emergent society of Posturbia is much more egalitarian than that of Densitaria, by default more than by design. While Densitarian urban areas have an hourglass social structure, the Posturbian suburbs, exurbs, and small towns tend to have a diamond-shaped class system, with few rich, few poor, and a dominant middle. In this environment, universal social insurance ­ based on the bargain that everybody works, everybody pays, and everybody benefits ­ can be expected to seem more practical and to win more political support than in the hierarchical Densitarian downtowns.

(For further speculation on the next era in American politics, read Breakthrough Journal.)

Whether my guesses prove to be prescient or misguided, one thing is certain: The ongoing erosion of social conservatism in the United States is bound to destabilize and transform American politics, even if present coalitions last through another few election cycles. Gridlock will not last forever. Big change is on the way.


Michael Lind is the author of Land of Promise: An Economic History of the United States and co-founder of the New America Foundation.
More Michael Lind.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

ANS --Fwd: Joyce Segal sent you a video: "Sister Simone Campbell Takes Dinesh D'Souza To School on Minimum Wage"

ANS GROUP--  here is a great video of a nun telling Dinesh DeSousa what's what.  (He's a "conservative"pundit.)  It's really worth watching.  (It's about seven minutes I think) This should be a link to it....

Joyce Segal has shared a video with you on YouTube
Sister Simone Campbell Takes Dinesh D'Souza To School on Minimum Wage
by Week's Most Popular Videos
Alleged campaign finance fraudster and noted Teabagger conspiracy theorist Dinesh D'Souza was on the receiving end of an epic beat-down last night on Real Time with Bill Maher . The exchange took
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Monday, May 12, 2014

ANS -- California’s bid to tax companies who don’t share the wealth

This is a fairly short article on what may be a pretty good idea.  It's a way to address the income inequality in the absence of unions. 
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Harold Meyerson   Harold Meyerson
Opinion Writer

California's bid to tax companies who don't share the wealth

By Harold Meyerson, Published: April 30 E-mail the writer

Last week, a committee of the California Senate not only talked about economic inequality ­ everybody's doing that ­ but actually did something about it. By a 5-to-2 vote, it recommended to the full Senate a bill that would cut the state's taxes on companies with lower ratios between their chief executives' pay and the pay of their median workers, and raise taxes on companies with the kind of insanely high gap between chief executive and median worker pay that has become the norm in American business.

To the best of my knowledge, the bill ­ SB 1372 ­ is the first in the nation that seeks to mitigate economic inequality through corporate tax reform. At a time when all the traditional institutions that enabled workers to win raises have broken down, it offers a way forward for those who'd like to see workers make a fair day's pay for a fair day's work.

Harold Meyerson

Writes a weekly political and domestic affairs column and contributes to the PostPartisan blog.

In the post-World War II decades of broadly shared prosperity, the men (they were almost always men) who ran America's great companies made relatively low multiples of what their workers made. In 1965, the ratio was 20 to 1, according to studies by the Economic Policy Institute. By 2012, that ratio had risen to 273 to 1, though no one contends that today's chief executives are 14 times better, or today's workers 14 times worse, than those of 50 years ago.

Rather, the way to explain this change might be called a tale of two unions. While workers' unions have atrophied to the point that collective bargaining in the private sector is all but dead, CEO "unions" ­ that is, the corporate compensation committees composed disproportionately of CEOs' fellow CEOs ­ have continually raised chief executives' pay.

The bill now moving through the California Senate doesn't compel CEOs and their corporate boards to either raise their employees' wages or cut their own. It merely presents them with a choice. Those who overpay themselves and underpay their employees can continue to do so but thereby subject their company to higher taxes. Or they can diminish the discrepancy in compensation and thereby lower their company's taxes.

The proposed legislation wouldn't exactly plunge CEOs into poverty. It would reduce, on a sliding scale, California's corporate taxes ­ currently set at 8.84 percent of net income ­ for any company paying its chief executive less than 100 times the pay of its median worker, and raise them, also on a sliding scale, for any company paying its CEO more. (Under the terms of the Dodd-Frank financial reform act, the Securities and Exchange Commission is required to publish the CEO-median worker pay ratio for every publicly listed company. The SEC is expected to begin this practice this year.)

Once you get past the ranks of CEOs themselves, it's hard to find defenders of this pay gap. A YouGov poll from February found that 66 percent of Americans ­ including even 58 percent of Republicans ­ thought that CEO pay was too high.

The antipathy with which both the public and business scholars view the rise in CEO pay obviously had some effect on the debate on SB 1372 when it was considered in committee last week. All the Democrats voted for it, but even the two Republicans who voted against it were muted in their criticism. Republican Sen. Steve Knight, a Tea Party stalwart, acknowledged that executive compensation is "out of whack" and called the plan "not a bad idea" before saying it's not the government's responsibility to address the problem. (The likelihood of the bill passing the whole Senate ­ it requires a two-thirds vote ­ is slim but not unimaginable.)

Once upon a time, American workers had more direct ways to win raises. In the decades after World War II, nongovernmental institutions such as unions diminished levels of inequality. Today, in the absence of both unions and full employment, using the corporate tax code to boost employees' pay and limit CEOs' is one of the few remaining avenues that could enable workers to regain some of their lost income.

In a recent Wall Street Journal column, William Galston, once the leading intellectual light of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, argued that corporate tax rates should be lowered for companies that boost their employees' pay in line with productivity increases and raised for those companies that don't. Between 1947 and 1973, workers' productivity rose by 97 percent and their median compensation rose by 95 percent. Since the mid-1980s, however, as unions have weakened, all the gains from increased worker productivity have accrued to the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans.

Congressional Democrats should emulate their California counterparts and take a cue from Galston. In the current economy, corporate tax reform keyed to rewarding workers for their productivity may be the only way to boost Americans' incomes. In the current political climate, it may also be the kind of popular and populist cause the Democrats badly need.

Read more from Harold Meyerson's archive or follow him on Twitter.


Sunday, May 11, 2014

ANS -- Another Country Heard From

This is old, but I just found it.  It's an explanation of why people become fundamentalists.  By Sara Robinson, who writes really well, but needs a better proofreader. 

Find it here:   

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Another Country Heard From

by Sara Robinson

Sometimes our random wanders around the Web can turn up some pretty exotic gems. This one ranks among the sparklier baubles I've found stuck in the strands this year.

It's a 2005 article by Dr. Salman Akhtar, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Delhi who's also (quite clearly) a capable and insightful philosopher. In the article, he lays out his understandings of why people turn to fundamentalism -- though his conclusions are probably extensible to most other forms of authoritarianism as well.

"Sanity," says Akhtar, "has its own burdens, and fundamentalism is the treatment for those burdens." His argument spins on six specific burdens of sanity:

-- Factual uncertainty: the need to carry on even when we don't know all the facts
-- Conceptual complexity: Our ability to interpret the world, and choose our path among many
-- Moral ambiguity: There are almost no one-size-fits-all laws and rules. How do we make the punishment suit the crime?
-- Cultural impurity: Human culture is a mix of many influences, which can make establishing one's own identity difficult
-- Personal responsibility: Sometimes, shit happens. Sometimes, it's our fault. How do we accurately assign responsibility?
-- The confrontation of our own mortality: Death comes to us all, though we almost compulsively deny it.

We all struggle with these issues all our lives. They always demand a great deal of us; in fact, they're the questions that call us on to psychological and spiritual maturity, and the degree of wisdom we can bring to bear in answering them may be a valid measure of our overall success as human beings. But, for many who find they simply can't cope, fundamentalism offers the security of reassurance and pat answers:

Fundamentalism, in a literal, narrow, ethnocentric and megalomanic manner takes a religious tract and interprets this in an extremely narrow, megalomanic and grandiose way, seeking to offer a world of simplicity, lack of personal responsibility, immortality, purity and simplicity. These are notions of children. This is how two-year-old and three-year-old children think. This is not how a grown-up, adult person thinks. Fundamentalism turns us from adults into children, turns us from individual units of flesh, psyche and spirit, thinking, pulsating, changing, constantly struggling with choices, decisions, tragedies, losses, mishaps, triumphs and victories – constantly in conflict, constantly in the inner Kurukshetra. Fundamentalism removes us from such war, from such complexity, from personal responsibility, from impurity, from handling looking death right up front in the eyes and then adopting to live in a more responsible manner.

Fundamentalism lulls us into a sleep of childhood, a sleep of simplicity but it is worse than childhood because a child is always questioning and attempting to come out of its innocence bit by bit. Fundamentalism is worse than childhood because it takes us backward, not forward. And with fundamentalism comes its twin sister, prejudice, and its evil brother called violence.

Among my recovering fundie friends, we're continually confronted (and anguished) by the realization of how deeply infantilizing authoritarian culture is. Ahktar notes this, too: but he goes on to point out that the world rewards adulthood by offering much better antidotes to our existential malaise. It's only when these other, better means of coping are closed off to us that the retrogressive offerings of fundamentalism begin to look attractive.

Efficacy, safety, identity – everybody wants to know who they are and are proud of who they are. Suppose your name is Pradeep Saxena and I ask you who's Pradeep, you say me; I ask you who's Saxena, that's your father. Identity has to do with our selves and our sense of belonging to some place. We have to make sure that people are able to maintain their identities and their identities are not threatened. If they have safety, if they have efficacy, if they have identity, if they have opportunities for sexual pleasure and if they have opportunities for generativity or passing on, cultivating, elaborating their myths, language, symbols and rituals and imparting them to the next Orphic generation in a safe, tender, protective and loving way.

If we can restore this package – safety, efficacy, identity, sexuality and generativity – when it is really threatened, or when there is a manufactured threat to it, if we can prove in dialogue, by political discourse, that there is no such threat, then this package can come alive. And when compensating factors are in place then human beings are able to bear the burdens of sanity. And although burdened with sanity they then live life in more peaceful ways – peace outside and peace inside. And when they have peace inside, this is a mixture, a product of post-burdened sense, post-mourning sense, post-realisation that life is complex, difficult, limited and hybrid. When they have an inner peace, and when they know that even this peace that we have is fragile, it comes and goes, then that peace anchors them more solidly in reality and takes them away from dreams, poisonous dreams and dangerous dreams especially.

They grow up, they can tolerate other people and they can tolerate differences. They can even learn from differences and enjoy differences. They know life is limited, they know life is complex; they know that there is no moral certainty. And it is when they live with this attitude that they do not require hate because they don't hate themselves and they do not need to hate others. And when they don't need to hate others, they do not need to idealise themselves. And when they do not need to idealise themselves and take this intravenous morphine that fundamentalism offers them then they walk out wide awake, open-armed and with a good and clean heart.

We are at this authoritarian impasse, perhaps, because too many of the components of the package Akhtar describes are no longer available to most Americans.

Our safety -- from outsiders, from our own government, and from each other has been fraying for years, a decay that has accelerated since 9/11. This has also affected our sense of efficacy -- the ability to choose and direct our own lives and futures, and participate meaningfully in our own culture -- which has been eroding for the past three decades along with our economic, educational, political, and other infrastructures. We don't feel safe; and worse, we don't feel like we can effectively do much about it.

Being American has always been an exercise in ambiguous identity -- it's part and parcel of our God-given right to self-recreation -- but those who defined their "Americanism" as a form of racial or religious purity have been on the wrong side of history for the past 50 years, and are feeling deeply threatened as a result.

Sexuality has always been a fraught and complicated issue for this Puritan nation, and has become only more so since the advent of birth control and women's emergence into the workplace. Our assumptions around generativity have been in flux as well: questions about who breeds, and why, and when, and how form the common thread that runs through all our culture-war conversations about abortion, gay rights, and even immigration. Parents of all political and religious persuasions will tell you America is a hard and hostile place to be raising children these days; and also of their general unease and impotence when it comes to their ability to transmit the culture and values they'd like to see carried on.

We will not, Akhtar suggests, roll back the raging fundamentalist horde anywhere until we restore a cultural climate in which most individuals can feel safe, effective and capable, strong in their personal identities, free to express their sexuality in healthy ways, and supported in their efforts to build and sustain families. When most people have access to these assets, they do not feel nearly as drawn to authoritarian religion and politics. His point seems to match up well with what we know of healthy societies -- including our own, in better decades. And it offers some essential, concrete criteria we can use to build both foreign and domestic policies that will discourage people from embracing authoritarian religion and politics, and remain strong in their desire and capacity for democratic self-rule.
Posted by Sara Robinson at 11:34 AM