Friday, June 27, 2014

ANS -- Liberals Actually Won Abortion Clinic Case

Just in case you were wondering what really happened with that abortion clinic buffer zone case, here is a short article that explains it.  The decision was truly centrist. 
Find it here:  

Liberals Actually Won Abortion Clinic Case

212 Jun 26, 2014 12:03 PM EDT
By Noah Feldman

It�s becoming a June ritual: Chief Justice John Roberts joins the liberals to issue a moderate, centrist opinion, and leaves his erstwhile conservative admirers flailing. Roberts�s latest foray into moderation comes in today�s free-speech case involving a 35-foot no-access zone around hospitals or abortion clinics imposed by Massachusetts law.

True, Roberts�s opinion, joined by the court�s four doubtless relieved liberals, struck down the buffer as a violation of the free-speech rights of pro-life activists who seek to converse with women who might be seeking abortions. But the crucial element in the opinion -- the one that got the liberals on board and enraged the conservatives -- is that Roberts said the law was neutral with respect to the content of speech as well as the viewpoint of the speakers. That conclusion protected the possibility of other laws protecting women seeking abortions that pay more attention to what Roberts said was missing here, namely proof that the law was narrowly tailored. For the liberals, that was enough to get on board.

To understand the weirdness of the case, and how it is that striking down the buffer law is still a victory for liberals, you need Free Speech 101, which is luckily very simple. Speech in a traditional public forum such as a sidewalk is protected by the First Amendment. But the government can regulate the time, place and manner of the use of public streets. The only requirement the government must satisfy is to show that the law is �narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest� and that it leaves open �ample alternative channels for communication.�

Related: Guns, Abortion and the Way Americans Polarize

This standard is challenging to meet, but by no means impossible. Consider a law banning sound trucks blaring on your street at night. It would probably be constitutional, because the government has a significant interest in the citizens� sleep, and there would be plenty of other times for sound trucks to operate, leaving ample alternatives for communication. It is this standard that Roberts applied to the buffer zone -- and that will therefore be applied to other, similar buffer laws in the future.

If, however, a government law burdens speech based on its content, not its time, place or matter, the law is very different. Then the law would be subject to what�s called �strict scrutiny,� which would require that there be not merely a significant governmental interest but a compelling one. In addition, the government would have to show that it was using the least restrictive means possible. In practice, when it comes to the First Amendment, applying strict scrutiny is almost always enough to kill the law -- as the saying goes, such scrutiny is �strict in theory, fatal in fact.�

If the law favors one viewpoint over another, strict scrutiny would also apply -- and the buffer law would almost certainly go down.

Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Anthony Kennedy, wrote separately to insist that the buffer law was content-based because it was aimed at anti-abortion speech. Why else, Scalia asked, was the law aimed at spaces outside facilities where abortions were being performed? He would have found the law to be content-based and applied strict scrutiny.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote separately on his own to say that the law discriminated on the basis of viewpoint, because it allows employees of the clinic inside the zone but not other members of the public except passers-by. This, he said, was intended to discriminate against anti-abortion speech.

In his opinion, Roberts answered both charges. First, he said that, while the law obviously would be more likely to restrict abortion-related speech than other speech, it was still neutral with respect to content. The law was intended, he said, to increase public safety around public health facilities, and any disproportionate effect on certain speech was �incidental.� He accepted Massachusetts�s argument that law was not aimed at protecting people�s feelings but at public safety.

Then, responding to Alito, Roberts said that the exemption for clinic employees need not be understood as a carve-out for escorts helping women seeking abortions. It would also include maintenance workers shoveling snow. As a result, the law was also viewpoint neutral.

Having dispensed with these arguments, Roberts went on to say that the law was not narrowly tailored because it banned substantially more speech than necessary to achieve the government�s interests. Here Roberts insisted, in terms that cannot have made all the liberals very happy, that people seeking to speak outside abortion clinics were not merely protesters, but were activists seeking �personal, caring, one-on-one conversations.� The buffer zone robbed them of that opportunity, and was therefore unconstitutional.

Finally, Roberts gave the Commonwealth of Massachusetts a road map of what it would be permitted to do, consistent with the Constitution, to protect public safety outside facilities that perform abortions. Massachusetts could, he said, make it a crime to block entry or exit from the clinics or to obstruct anyone seeking health care. It could criminalize harassing anyone within 15 feet of a health-care facility, as New York City does. It could also use existing local ordinances that prohibit anyone from blocking the sidewalk or soliciting others while walking on the street. Finally, the commonwealth could seek an injunction against any group that violated the rules.

No wonder the conservative justices were up in arms. To them, the buffer law should have been struck down as an unjustifiable intervention on behalf of one side in the cultural debate about abortion. Roberts steadfastly refused to acknowledge this. By treating the lawmakers as well as the pro-life activists as well-intentioned and law-abiding, he was offering a kind of moderate legal-cultural solution to the abortion debate as it takes place outside clinics.

Roberts�s concession to the liberals assures that courts will uphold the enforcement of laws such as those he cited to protect clinics. But the most important part of the opinion is that it is actually, truly centrist. The question of whether Roberts is a true moderate has not yet been answered, and next week may well bring truly conservative opinions from him. But certainly the case that Roberts is a diehard conservative remains unproved.

To contact the writer of this article: Noah Feldman at

To contact the editor responsible for this article: Stacey Shick at

ANS -- The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats

Here is a very interesting article written by a 0.01%er for other mega-rich folks, explaining the reality of the economic inequality we presently have.  It's good, and easy to read and understand.  Read it. 
Find it here:   


Special Report

The Pitchforks Are Coming… For Us Plutocrats


July/August 2014

[] Memo: From Nick Hanauer
To: My Fellow Zillionaires

You probably don't know me, but like you I am one of those .01%ers, a proud and unapologetic capitalist. I have founded, co-founded and funded more than 30 companies across a range of industries­from itsy-bitsy ones like the night club I started in my 20s to giant ones like, for which I was the first nonfamily investor. Then I founded aQuantive, an Internet advertising company that was sold to Microsoft in 2007 for $6.4 billion. In cash. My friends and I own a bank. I tell you all this to demonstrate that in many ways I'm no different from you. Like you, I have a broad perspective on business and capitalism. And also like you, I have been rewarded obscenely for my success, with a life that the other 99.99 percent of Americans can't even imagine. Multiple homes, my own plane, etc., etc. You know what I'm talking about. In 1992, I was selling pillows made by my family's business, Pacific Coast Feather Co., to retail stores across the country, and the Internet was a clunky novelty to which one hooked up with a loud squawk at 300 baud. But I saw pretty quickly, even back then, that many of my customers, the big department store chains, were already doomed. I knew that as soon as the Internet became fast and trustworthy enough­and that time wasn't far off­people were going to shop online like crazy. Goodbye, Caldor. And Filene's. And Borders. And on and on.

Realizing that, seeing over the horizon a little faster than the next guy, was the strategic part of my success. The lucky part was that I had two friends, both immensely talented, who also saw a lot of potential in the web. One was a guy you've probably never heard of named Jeff Tauber, and the other was a fellow named Jeff Bezos. I was so excited by the potential of the web that I told both Jeffs that I wanted to invest in whatever they launched, big time. It just happened that the second Jeff­Bezos­called me back first to take up my investment offer. So I helped underwrite his tiny start-up bookseller. The other Jeff started a web department store called Cybershop, but at a time when trust in Internet sales was still low, it was too early for his high-end online idea; people just weren't yet ready to buy expensive goods without personally checking them out (unlike a basic commodity like books, which don't vary in quality­Bezos' great insight). Cybershop didn't make it, just another dot-com bust. Amazon did somewhat better. Now I own a very large yacht.

But let's speak frankly to each other. I'm not the smartest guy you've ever met, or the hardest-working. I was a mediocre student. I'm not technical at all­I can't write a word of code. What sets me apart, I think, is a tolerance for risk and an intuition about what will happen in the future. Seeing where things are headed is the essence of entrepreneurship. And what do I see in our future now?

I see pitchforks.

At the same time that people like you and me are thriving beyond the dreams of any plutocrats in history, the rest of the country­the 99.99 percent­is lagging far behind. The divide between the haves and have-nots is getting worse really, really fast. In 1980, the top 1 percent controlled about 8 percent of U.S. national income. The bottom 50 percent shared about 18 percent. Today the top 1 percent share about 20 percent; the bottom 50 percent, just 12 percent.

But the problem isn't that we have inequality. Some inequality is intrinsic to any high-functioning capitalist economy. The problem is that inequality is at historically high levels and getting worse every day. Our country is rapidly becoming less a capitalist society and more a feudal society. Unless our policies change dramatically, the middle class will disappear, and we will be back to late 18th-century France. Before the revolution.

And so I have a message for my fellow filthy rich, for all of us who live in our gated bubble worlds: Wake up, people. It won't last.

If we don't do something to fix the glaring inequities in this economy, the pitchforks are going to come for us. No society can sustain this kind of rising inequality. In fact, there is no example in human history where wealth accumulated like this and the pitchforks didn't eventually come out. You show me a highly unequal society, and I will show you a police state. Or an uprising. There are no counterexamples. None. It's not if, it's when.

Robbie McClaran/Redux Pictures

Many of us think we're special because "this is America." We think we're immune to the same forces that started the Arab Spring­or the French and Russian revolutions, for that matter. I know you fellow .01%ers tend to dismiss this kind of argument; I've had many of you tell me to my face I'm completely bonkers. And yes, I know there are many of you who are convinced that because you saw a poor kid with an iPhone that one time, inequality is a fiction.

Here's what I say to you: You're living in a dream world. What everyone wants to believe is that when things reach a tipping point and go from being merely crappy for the masses to dangerous and socially destabilizing, that we're somehow going to know about that shift ahead of time. Any student of history knows that's not the way it happens. Revolutions, like bankruptcies, come gradually, and then suddenly. One day, somebody sets himself on fire, then thousands of people are in the streets, and before you know it, the country is burning. And then there's no time for us to get to the airport and jump on our Gulfstream Vs and fly to New Zealand. That's the way it always happens. If inequality keeps rising as it has been, eventually it will happen. We will not be able to predict when, and it will be terrible­for everybody. But especially for us.


The most ironic thing about rising inequality is how completely unnecessary and self-defeating it is. If we do something about it, if we adjust our policies in the way that, say, Franklin D. Roosevelt did during the Great Depression­so that we help the 99 percent and preempt the revolutionaries and crazies, the ones with the pitchforks­that will be the best thing possible for us rich folks, too. It's not just that we'll escape with our lives; it's that we'll most certainly get even richer.

The model for us rich guys here should be Henry Ford, who realized that all his autoworkers in Michigan weren't only cheap labor to be exploited; they were consumers, too. Ford figured that if he raised their wages, to a then-exorbitant $5 a day, they'd be able to afford his Model Ts.

What a great idea. My suggestion to you is: Let's do it all over again. We've got to try something. These idiotic trickle-down policies are destroying my customer base. And yours too.

It's when I realized this that I decided I had to leave my insulated world of the super-rich and get involved in politics. Not directly, by running for office or becoming one of the big-money billionaires who back candidates in an election. Instead, I wanted to try to change the conversation with ideas­by advancing what my co-author, Eric Liu, and I call "middle-out" economics. It's the long-overdue rebuttal to the trickle-down economics worldview that has become economic orthodoxy across party lines­and has so screwed the American middle class and our economy generally. Middle-out economics rejects the old misconception that an economy is a perfectly efficient, mechanistic system and embraces the much more accurate idea of an economy as a complex ecosystem made up of real people who are dependent on one another.

Which is why the fundamental law of capitalism must be: If workers have more money, businesses have more customers. Which makes middle-class consumers, not rich businesspeople like us, the true job creators. Which means a thriving middle class is the source of American prosperity, not a consequence of it. The middle class creates us rich people, not the other way around.

On June 19, 2013, Bloomberg published an article I wrote called "The Capitalist's Case for a $15 Minimum Wage." Forbes labeled it "Nick Hanauer's near insane" proposal. And yet, just weeks after it was published, my friend David Rolf, a Service Employees International Union organizer, roused fast-food workers to go on strike around the country for a $15 living wage. Nearly a year later, the city of Seattle passed a $15 minimum wage. And just 350 days after my article was published, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray signed that ordinance into law. How could this happen, you ask?

It happened because we reminded the masses that they are the source of growth and prosperity, not us rich guys. We reminded them that when workers have more money, businesses have more customers­and need more employees. We reminded them that if businesses paid workers a living wage rather than poverty wages, taxpayers wouldn't have to make up the difference. And when we got done, 74 percent of likely Seattle voters in a recent poll agreed that a $15 minimum wage was a swell idea.

The standard response in the minimum-wage debate, made by Republicans and their business backers and plenty of Democrats as well, is that raising the minimum wage costs jobs. Businesses will have to lay off workers. This argument reflects the orthodox economics that most people had in college. If you took Econ 101, then you literally were taught that if wages go up, employment must go down. The law of supply and demand and all that. That's why you've got John Boehner and other Republicans in Congress insisting that if you price employment higher, you get less of it. Really?

The thing about us businesspeople is that we love our customers rich and our employees poor.

Because here's an odd thing. During the past three decades, compensation for CEOs grew 127 times faster than it did for workers. Since 1950, the CEO-to-worker pay ratio has increased 1,000 percent, and that is not a typo. CEOs used to earn 30 times the median wage; now they rake in 500 times. Yet no company I know of has eliminated its senior managers, or outsourced them to China or automated their jobs. Instead, we now have more CEOs and senior executives than ever before. So, too, for financial services workers and technology workers. These folks earn multiples of the median wage, yet we somehow have more and more of them.

The thing about us businesspeople is that we love our customers rich and our employees poor. So for as long as there has been capitalism, capitalists have said the same thing about any effort to raise wages. We've had 75 years of complaints from big business­when the minimum wage was instituted, when women had to be paid equitable amounts, when child labor laws were created. Every time the capitalists said exactly the same thing in the same way: We're all going to go bankrupt. I'll have to close. I'll have to lay everyone off. It hasn't happened. In fact, the data show that when workers are better treated, business gets better. The naysayers are just wrong.

Most of you probably think that the $15 minimum wage in Seattle is an insane departure from rational policy that puts our economy at great risk. But in Seattle, our current minimum wage of $9.32 is already nearly 30 percent higher than the federal minimum wage. And has it ruined our economy yet? Well, trickle-downers, look at the data here: The two cities in the nation with the highest rate of job growth by small businesses are San Francisco and Seattle. Guess which cities have the highest minimum wage? San Francisco and Seattle. The fastest-growing big city in America? Seattle. Fifteen dollars isn't a risky untried policy for us. It's doubling down on the strategy that's already allowing our city to kick your city's ass.

It makes perfect sense if you think about it: If a worker earns $7.25 an hour, which is now the national minimum wage, what proportion of that person's income do you think ends up in the cash registers of local small businesses? Hardly any. That person is paying rent, ideally going out to get subsistence groceries at Safeway, and, if really lucky, has a bus pass. But she's not going out to eat at restaurants. Not browsing for new clothes. Not buying flowers on Mother's Day.

Is this issue more complicated than I'm making out? Of course. Are there many factors at play determining the dynamics of employment? Yup. But please, please stop insisting that if we pay low-wage workers more, unemployment will skyrocket and it will destroy the economy. It's utter nonsense. The most insidious thing about trickle-down economics isn't believing that if the rich get richer, it's good for the economy. It's believing that if the poor get richer, it's bad for the economy.

I know that virtually all of you feel that compelling our businesses to pay workers more is somehow unfair, or is too much government interference. Most of you think that we should just let good examples like Costco or Gap lead the way. Or let the market set the price. But here's the thing. When those who set bad examples, like the owners of Wal-Mart or McDonald's, pay their workers close to the minimum wage, what they're really saying is that they'd pay even less if it weren't illegal. (Thankfully both companies have recently said they would not oppose a hike in the minimum wage.) In any large group, some people absolutely will not do the right thing. That's why our economy can only be safe and effective if it is governed by the same kinds of rules as, say, the transportation system, with its speed limits and stop signs.

Wal-Mart is our nation's largest employer with some 1.4 million employees in the United States and more than $25 billion in pre-tax profit. So why are Wal-Mart employees the largest group of Medicaid recipients in many states? Wal-Mart could, say, pay each of its 1 million lowest-paid workers an extra $10,000 per year, raise them all out of poverty and enable them to, of all things, afford to shop at Wal-Mart. Not only would this also save us all the expense of the food stamps, Medicaid and rent assistance that they currently require, but Wal-Mart would still earn more than $15 billion pre-tax per year. Wal-Mart won't (and shouldn't) volunteer to pay its workers more than their competitors. In order for us to have an economy that works for everyone, we should compel all retailers to pay living wages­not just ask politely.

We rich people have been falsely persuaded by our schooling and the affirmation of society, and have convinced ourselves, that we are the main job creators. It's simply not true. There can never be enough super-rich Americans to power a great economy. I earn about 1,000 times the median American annually, but I don't buy thousands of times more stuff. My family purchased three cars over the past few years, not 3,000. I buy a few pairs of pants and a few shirts a year, just like most American men. I bought two pairs of the fancy wool pants I am wearing as I write, what my partner Mike calls my "manager pants." I guess I could have bought 1,000 pairs. But why would I? Instead, I sock my extra money away in savings, where it doesn't do the country much good.

So forget all that rhetoric about how America is great because of people like you and me and Steve Jobs. You know the truth even if you won't admit it: If any of us had been born in Somalia or the Congo, all we'd be is some guy standing barefoot next to a dirt road selling fruit. It's not that Somalia and Congo don't have good entrepreneurs. It's just that the best ones are selling their wares off crates by the side of the road because that's all their customers can afford.

So why not talk about a different kind of New Deal for the American people, one that could appeal to the right as well as left­to libertarians as well as liberals? First, I'd ask my Republican friends to get real about reducing the size of government. Yes, yes and yes, you guys are all correct: The federal government is too big in some ways. But no way can you cut government substantially, not the way things are now. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush each had eight years to do it, and they failed miserably.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress can't shrink government with wishful thinking. The only way to slash government for real is to go back to basic economic principles: You have to reduce the demand for government. If people are getting $15 an hour or more, they don't need food stamps. They don't need rent assistance. They don't need you and me to pay for their medical care. If the consumer middle class is back, buying and shopping, then it stands to reason you won't need as large a welfare state. And at the same time, revenues from payroll and sales taxes would rise, reducing the deficit.

This is, in other words, an economic approach that can unite left and right. Perhaps that's one reason the right is beginning, inexorably, to wake up to this reality as well. Even Republicans as diverse as Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum recently came out in favor of raising the minimum wage, in defiance of the Republicans in Congress.


One thing we can agree on­I'm sure of this­is that the change isn't going to start in Washington. Thinking is stale, arguments even more so. On both sides.

But the way I see it, that's all right. Most major social movements have seen their earliest victories at the state and municipal levels. The fight over the eight-hour workday, which ended in Washington, D.C., in 1938, began in places like Illinois and Massachusetts in the late 1800s. The movement for social security began in California in the 1930s. Even the Affordable Health Care Act­Obamacare­would have been hard to imagine without Mitt Romney's model in Massachusetts to lead the way.

Sadly, no Republicans and few Democrats get this. President Obama doesn't seem to either, though his heart is in the right place. In his State of the Union speech this year, he mentioned the need for a higher minimum wage but failed to make the case that less inequality and a renewed middle class would promote faster economic growth. Instead, the arguments we hear from most Democrats are the same old social-justice claims. The only reason to help workers is because we feel sorry for them. These fairness arguments feed right into every stereotype of Obama and the Democrats as bleeding hearts. Republicans say growth. Democrats say fairness­and lose every time.

But just because the two parties in Washington haven't figured it out yet doesn't mean we rich folks can just keep going. The conversation is already changing, even if the billionaires aren't onto it. I know what you think: You think that Occupy Wall Street and all the other capitalism-is-the-problem protesters disappeared without a trace. But that's not true. Of course, it's hard to get people to sleep in a park in the cause of social justice. But the protests we had in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis really did help to change the debate in this country from death panels and debt ceilings to inequality.

It's just that so many of you plutocrats didn't get the message.

Dear 1%ers, many of our fellow citizens are starting to believe that capitalism itself is the problem. I disagree, and I'm sure you do too. Capitalism, when well managed, is the greatest social technology ever invented to create prosperity in human societies. But capitalism left unchecked tends toward concentration and collapse. It can be managed either to benefit the few in the near term or the many in the long term. The work of democracies is to bend it to the latter. That is why investments in the middle class work. And tax breaks for rich people like us don't. Balancing the power of workers and billionaires by raising the minimum wage isn't bad for capitalism. It's an indispensable tool smart capitalists use to make capitalism stable and sustainable. And no one has a bigger stake in that than zillionaires like us.

The oldest and most important conflict in human societies is the battle over the concentration of wealth and power. The folks like us at the top have always told those at the bottom that our respective positions are righteous and good for all. Historically, we called that divine right. Today we have trickle-down economics.

What nonsense this is. Am I really such a superior person? Do I belong at the center of the moral as well as economic universe? Do you?

My family, the Hanauers, started in Germany selling feathers and pillows. They got chased out of Germany by Hitler and ended up in Seattle owning another pillow company. Three generations later, I benefited from that. Then I got as lucky as a person could possibly get in the Internet age by having a buddy in Seattle named Bezos. I look at the average Joe on the street, and I say, "There but for the grace of Jeff go I." Even the best of us, in the worst of circumstances, are barefoot, standing by a dirt road, selling fruit. We should never forget that, or forget that the United States of America and its middle class made us, rather than the other way around.

Or we could sit back, do nothing, enjoy our yachts. And wait for the pitchforks.

Nick Hanauer is a Seattle-based entrepreneur.

Read more:

ANS -- “The Next American Revolution,” AND The Compelling Conclusion About Capitalism That Piketty Resists

This is backward.  I am posting two pieces here: The first one is a comment that appeared below the second one, the actual article.  The article is pretty intellectual, but has some really good ideas in it.  I'll try to highlight of couple of them for those of you who don't want to slog through the whole article (or just read the subtitles).  the article is a great analysis, but offers no solution (once again....).  The comment talks about a means to a solution, and a person who devised and instituted that solution. 
Actually, if you read the article, I suggest reading the comments too -- they're mostly really good -- it's a good discussion without much name-calling.   There are a couple of comments that suggest a book to read, which I am thinking of getting --it sounded good. 
Find it here:  

parrysixte 11 hours ago

Under way since before 1992 in Detroit

"The Next American Revolution," Grace Lee Boggs

Bill Moyers:
Democracy Now

Grace Lee Boggs, Detroit-based radical organizer and philosopher. Born to Chinese immigrant parents in 1915 [in their apartment over the family's restaurant], Now 99, she has been involved in every major activist movement of the past eighty years, including labor, civil rights, black power, women's rights, and environmental justice movements. She has been at the forefront of efforts to rebuild urban communities. Theoretician as well as activist she has come to profoundly reconstruct the very conceptions of system change and "revolution."

She earned scholarships and graduated from Barnard, went on to earn a PhD in Philosophy at Bryn Mawr in 1940.. Facing the significant employment barriers in the academic world as a woman of color in the 1940s, she took a job at low wages at the University of Chicago Philosophy Library, living in a rat-infested basement . She began there her career as theoretician and activist...working for tenants' rights,

Along the way she met and married Jimmy Boggs, a Black from the deep South, for 30 years a union worker and organizer in the Chrysler factory in Detroit. Theoreticians as well as activists, they were deeply immersed in the passionate discussions about revolutionary doctrine which characterized leftish organizations. [They found the Communist/USSR perspectives profoundly wrong, working with C.L.R James in the Johnsonite anti-stalinist perspective .]

From all of this they emerged with a radically different perspective: they saw that thinking about revolution had come to be centered on a process of rousing the masses to take over existing systems at the top and from there to rework the structure to be more supportive for the people generally [according to whatever structure the proponents advocated].

They proposed to do something quite different: to reconceive what "revolution" was about; and to rebuild societies' entire structures from the ground up.

They had come to see that "The courage, commitment and strategies required
for this new kind of revolution would be very different from those required to storm the Winter Palace or the White House. Instead of viewing the U.S. people as masses to be mobilized in increasingly aggressive struggles for higher wages, better jobs, or guaranteed health care ...

"...we must have the courage to challenge ourselves to engage in activities that build a new and better world by improving the physical, psychological, political and spiritual health of ourselves, our families, our communities, our cities, our world, our planet."

This was not just abstract thinking; it grew directly out of eighty years of on-the-picket lines action; and having reconceived what 'revolution' was in theory they went on to action.In 1992; they, with Shea Howell, and others, co-founded "Detroit Summer," which intended to "rebuild, redefine and respirit Detroit from the ground up," beginning by organizing youth.

They had come to embrace Martin Luther King's vision of the "beloved community;" they called on Detroiters to expand their humanity, to work together to create a more humane, democratic, and meaningful way of life, not just in Detroit but in line with the thinking eg underlying the work of the World Social Forum on the theme "Another World Is Possible," central to the Puerto Alegre forum of 1999 and to participatory government

..." we need to go beyond opposition, beyond rebellion, beyond resistance, beyond civic resurrection. We don't want to be like 'them.' We don't want to become the 'political class,' to simply change presidents and switch governments.

"We want and need to create the alternative world that is now both possible and necessary. We want and need to exercise power, not take it."

She set forth these views in a book: "The Next American Revolution," Univ California press, 2011. [see also her autobiography, "Living for change,"
Univ Minnesota, 1998.]

For me a most important thing about this view is not just its thorough, careful exposition - though imo this is indeed revolutionary - but that, having reinterpreted the history and having worked out the theory the Boggses and friends put the theory into action.

Beginning specifically and actively along these linesin 1992; she, with Jimmy Boggs, Shea Howell, and others, co-founded "Detroit Summer," intending to "rebuild, redefine and respirit Detroit from the ground up," beginning by organizing youth.

Over time Detroit Summer has developed parallel and interrelated activities loosely linked: Arts, Media, Culture; Community Organizations; Education [Schools and Community]; Food Security - Urban Gardens and Farms; restorative justice, Local Businesses: Sustainable Economics; Recycling; Youth & Activism.

Some specifics...

Activities in general aim to strengthen the community as well as to overcome specific challenges..Murals turn depressing deteriorating walls into images celebrating a vibrant locality.

A Restorative justice movement replaces arrest and incarceration in cases of many crimes; this keeps juveniles out of the criminal justice system; and it resolves conflicts in the community without the toxicities of the "justice" system.

Children are not locked into rows of desks in sterile classrooms; reminded,

under the evils of teach to the test that they are chronic failures; they are given activities and places in the community where they can both learn and
feel the satisfaction of knowing that their work has value and that they
themselves are productive parts of the community.
For instance, one group undertook to study their community to see where there were needs for improvement..In due course they identified youth obesity as a community problem...but they didn't stop there, they went on to create vegetable gardens, some on rooftops, to improve sources of healthy foods...[*]

And this leads on to A major theme in the ongoing work in Detroit; the evolution of the 'beloved community' sketched out by MLK. With people engaged in 'Work;' not regimented in 'Jobs;' with communities oriented to neighborhoods not "projects," with humanized schooling, with community oriented restorative justice... with communities finding ways to provide supporting services.. They will approach King's vision the "beloved community

The Compelling Conclusion About Capitalism That Piketty Resists

Thursday, 26 June 2014 00:00 By Fred Guerin, Truthout | Op-Ed
2014 626 tem sw Temporary, like sadness. Temporary, like capitalism. Temporary, like life. (Photo: Dominic Alves / Flickr)Want to help publish more stories like this one? Truthout is powered by reader support - click here to make a tax-deductible donation now!

The excesses of capitalism are not simply a question of bad management and a political unwillingness to properly regulate it by imposing the right sort of checks and balances, but symptoms of a fundamentally and irretrievably flawed system that tends toward destruction of human and other life.

The idea of capitalism as an expression of economic freedom that also secures moral and political freedom of thought, or the notion that "free-market" economies are guided by an impartial mechanism of supply and demand - an "invisible hand" to use Adam Smith's metaphor - are both powerful indoctrinating notions. As such, they bear little resemblance to actual reality. Smith himself never used the word "capitalism," preferring to call his economics a "system of natural liberty." In fact, the inner logic of capitalism can be difficult to get hold of simply because there have been different configurations of capitalism throughout history. In its classic form, before the advent of corporations (when there was still an implicit sense of social responsibility, and insatiable greed was considered a vice), capitalism might have appeared less virulent. Additionally, there is reason to believe that capitalism unfolded differently in different countries with distinct political and legal frameworks.

"There is "capitalism" and then there is "really existing capitalism." What then is 'really existing capitalism?'"

All of these contingent factors are worthy of consideration in any assessment of capitalism. However, it is also reasonably clear that once we actually look at history, it is difficult not to conclude that pretty much every embodiment of capitalism - classical capitalism, oligarchic or corporate capitalism, casino capitalism, entrepreneurial capitalism - presuppose similar elements: private property, ownership of the means of production, notions of unlimited growth, the maximization of profit, using wealth to create wealth. They also all embody a form of instrumental rationality, the kind of rationality concerned with maximizing profits and minimizing costs. In its globalized corporate form, capitalism has been able to relentlessly realize this form of instrumental reasoning on a large scale - and thereby show itself as one of the most destructive and undemocratic economic system humans have ever come up with.

Unfortunately, neither propaganda nor abstract economic theory can help us to grasp this fact. The reason is primarily that the latter do not really speak to the false theories of human nature capitalism presupposes. Nor do many of them elaborate capitalism's legitimating normative-moral or political origins. Most crucially, they are often silent regarding the devastating impact that it has had on the environment since it first emerged during the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. As Chomsky insightfully puts it, "There is "capitalism" and then there is "really existing capitalism." What then is "really existing capitalism'?

Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century gives us a few clues, though not by any means, the whole picture. Replete with startling empirical evidence in the form of charts, graphs, informative statistics, mathematical-logical expressions and astute critical-historical analyses, Piketty's work draws a number of sobering conclusions about the present dynamics of wealth and income distribution that exposes not merely the dark underside of capitalism but a central contradiction within it. Thus, Piketty concludes ". . . wealth accumulated in the past grows more rapidly than output and wages. This inequality expresses a fundamental logical contradiction. The entrepreneur inevitably tends to become a rentier, more and more dominant over those who own nothing but their labor. Once constituted, capital reproduces itself faster than output increases. The past devours the future."

The past devours the future. But, what if the bizarre inverted logic of capitalism has always been its real point? What if, under the rubric of capitalism, the powerful elite are given permission to act as if it simply doesn't matter whether their ever-expanding wealth might actually devour the future, or "wear the world out faster" to borrow a phrase from Orwell? Do they not often appear to live in an all-consuming present - get what you can for yourself right now, and don't worry about others, or even about tomorrow? Moreover, is not such an attitude, sanctioned by capitalism, the reason why this particular economic system requires endless cycles of economic crisis?

Perhaps Piketty's point is that if it doesn't matter to the elite, it should at least matter to us. But if it does matter, then it is up to the rest of us - including experts like Piketty who grasp the reality of capitalism better than anyone else - to imagine real alternatives to such an economic system, to think outside of the present paradigm of endless development, profit maximization and disastrous austerity measures imposed on whole populations. Despite the apparently glaring "logical" contradiction within capitalism, Piketty still holds to the idea that it can be properly disciplined through a progressive annual tax on wealth. It is not the conclusion he should have reached given his thorough and prescient analysis.

Looking at the history of capitalism, it is difficult not to conclude that growing inequality expresses a fundamental property of and not a contradiction within capitalism.

Of course, Piketty is by no means alone in wanting to save capitalism from itself. Capitalism - no matter what its excesses, or how destructive it is for life or democracy - is invariably held as our default economic system, grudgingly acceded to even by popular left-oriented economists such as Paul Krugman, Nouriel Roubini or Joseph Stiglitz. As Chrystia Freeland unabashedly concludes in Plutocrats, The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else, despite all its faults, we continue to need capitalism because, "very much like democracy," it is "the best system we've figured out so far." [ 1] Thus, if capitalism appears to go wrong, this is not because it is grounded on a misreading of history, internal contradictions, false theories about nature or human nature, or misguided moral and political presuppositions. Rather, the excesses of capitalism are simply a question of "bad management' and a political unwillingness to properly regulate it by imposing the right sort of checks and balances.

In fact, Piketty's proposed wealth tax solution may do more to obscure than resolve the really existing contradictions of capitalism. Looking at the history of capitalism, it is difficult not to conclude that growing inequality expresses a fundamental property of  and not a contradiction within capitalism. Inequality is built into capitalism. If there is a contradiction here it is a material not a logical one. In other words, it is the contradiction between an economic system that is radically indifferent to the health and well-being of the planet as a whole versus the economic, moral and environmental obligation to preserve and sustain such health and well-being.

If I am right that the inner logic of capitalism inevitably leads to a hegemonic, macro-structural world-system of unequal human social, political and economic relations guided by elite greed that does not reflect the best interests of the majority of people, the common good or indeed the good of the planet itself, then Piketty's assumption that we could ever regain control over an "endless inegalitarian spiral' by imposing a progressive tax on capital seems, is at best, rather fanciful. A more fitting conclusion in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis and the efforts of the elite to profit from the latter would be to ask the question whether we should continue advocating for a capitalist system that glorifies profit over people or start thinking about how to reorganize our economy around common goods such as the health and well-being of our present world.

Instead, many contemporary economists repeatedly tell us that our only tenable alternative is to tame capitalist excess through regulative initiatives. This has been done before and it can be done again, the argument goes. Thus, it is claimed that we can and did rein-in or mitigate the severity of capitalist exploitation, and the massive wealth and income disparities that followed from it. However, it should now be abundantly clear that the internal and structural logic of exploitation, wealth-income disparities and the profit-oriented colonization of social and political relations can only be regulated for short periods. It can never be fundamentally altered. Indeed, as Piketty has persuasively argued, relentless exploitation, colonization and massive inequality were only temporarily pre-empted by a war economy and FDR's regulatory initiatives. By the late 1970's, the internal logic of capitalism had re-established its hegemonic status and all of the built-in excesses of the capitalist economic system once again became normalized and necessary.

What if . . . we are all conditioned to see the world in terms of individual economic self-interest rather than in terms of common human good or planetary limits, health and equilibrium?

What this tells us is that regulatory reform of capitalism will only be allowed for a brief period. In other words, to the extent that it can obscure or prevent us from perceiving the inner logic of a system of structured inequality, or distract us from the most deleterious effects of capitalism on the environment and on human health and well-being, minimal regulation may be deemed necessary by the elite for a short period of time. However, as Naomi Klein has convincingly argued, the "collective vertigo' caused by wars, economic upheaval, environmental or political crisis, environmental disasters can also be exploited as the perfect means through which a capitalist system of greed takes over markets, amasses fabulous fortunes and bankrupts the wealth of the commons.

Perhaps the refusal to ask critical questions about the viability of capitalism might be explained by the fact that even today many economists still hold onto the mythic assumption that the "impartial" self-regulating market is no more than a theoretical expression of the "order of human nature" itself and not, after all, a product of powerful political and moneyed interests. This belief has distant origins in Thomas Hobbes fear-inspired mechanistic account of human beings who in their natural state are war-like and driven by self-interest. Not only does the latter perspective resonate in many manifestations of capitalist theory, it also underscores a desire to replicate in economic theory what nature apparently prescribes - a war-like disposition disciplined through competitive markets based on innate selfishness. But what if the incapacity to imagine alternatives is not because we are naturally selfish, but simply a function of the reality that in capitalist societies we are all conditioned to see the world in terms of individual economic self-interest rather than in terms of common human good or planetary limits, health and equilibrium?

This perfectly predictable inversion, where government becomes a handmaid to moneyed interest, is precisely the "logic of a capitalist system."

Over time, the promotion of selfishness as a virtue not only changes the way we look at ourselves, it influences the way we relate to each other and to the planet itself. Instead of citizens who define themselves in relation to common goods, we are reduced, under the selfish orientation of capitalism, to aggregates of self-interested atomistic individuals encouraged to believe that we can continue a lifetime of limitless consumption. Those who are entirely left out of the consumer game - the increasing numbers of homeless, stateless refugees, destitute and imprisoned whose day-to-day life is taken up by the fight for mere survival - are the necessary residue of a global capitalist system.

From its inception, capitalist economic theory has pushed the idea that the market would only be able to regulate itself if it were not subject to external and coercive government interference or regulation. However, the reality is that capitalist accumulation was never actually severed from politics or government, but invariably parasitic upon it. It has always been intimately tied to publicly funded government tax-breaks and subsidies, to war, colonial-imperial expansion, and industrial ambitions. What happened is simply that massive capitalist accumulation was allowed to entirely invert the power relation between moneyed interests and government. Thus, an elite class of bankers, financiers and industrialists (eventually expressing itself through corporate ownership) have become so powerful, they are able to coerce governments and states to go along with whatever is in their minority interest. This perfectly predictable inversion, where government becomes a handmaid to moneyed interest, is precisely the "logic of a capitalist system," which renders any suggestion of government imposed progressive taxation rather fantastical.

Related to this, faith in the promise of capitalism might also have to do with a kind of wilful blindness about the actual origins of capital. As Karl Polyanyi reminds us, many scholars and economists tenaciously hold to Adam Smith's idea that the division of labor has always been based upon markets of some kind because our "propensity to barter, truck and exchange one thing for another" is simply ingrained in the natural order of things. But, clearly we do not need capitalism - the privatizing of wealth and the socializing of costs - to show us how to barter, truck or trade goods. Indeed, capitalism is actually inimical to bartering or trading, precisely because it is driven by individual profit and monopolization, not by the fair exchange of goods. The FTA (Free Trade Agreements), NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) are the awful modern exemplars here.

There is nothing impartial about early capitalism's inextricable relation to colonialism, slavery or plunder for private gain.

Polyani quickly dispels Smith's historical misreading of the division of labor as structured by capitalism by reminding us that up to Smith's time such a propensity toward the individual pursuit of unfettered profit based on wage labor "had hardly shown up on a considerable scale in the life of any observed community and had remained, at best, a subordinate feature of economic life . . . "[ 2]. The historical and anthropological evidence clearly suggests that it was not until the industrial age that the capitalist-inspired "wealth of nations" was realized by a hegemonic economic system guided by self-interested priorities and the exploitation of material goods and human beings in a relentless pursuit of profit for the few. Before this period, our economics were oriented by social, community, tribal and familial concerns that were considered far more important than the private possession and accumulation of goods based wholly on economic self-interest.

A more precise and broad-based historical study would conclude that, in point of fact, there isn't anything in nature, the human condition, morality or history that necessitates the adoption of capitalism. It would also disclose that there is nothing impartial about early capitalism's inextricable relation to colonialism, slavery or plunder for private gain. In point of fact, the historical reality is that market capitalism is intimately tied to a colonial-imperialist political agenda. This imperialist history clearly demonstrates that there is also very little that is "free" about a "free-market" that derives its freedom to accumulate wealth by way of slave labor, slave wages, debt bondage, unjust land confiscation and the expropriation of common lands and resources into private hands. In America, the so-called "free market" wedded private self-interested exploitation of labor with imperialist state interest on a scale that dramatically dwarfed the brutality of old-world Europe. It should not be in the least surprising then that the slave plantation might capture the essence of our modern global capitalist system, insofar as it is built on the premise of extracting maximum labor at minimal cost.

Of course when one looks at history, it is not immediately apparent that the "founding fathers' of capitalism - John Locke, Adam Smith, David Ricardo - wanted to intentionally construct a system that would entrench massive inequality. The latter figures were highly articulate, systematic, future-oriented thinkers who believed that private property, free trade, competition and laissez-faire capitalism were inherently good, and had an unlimited potential to raise the general welfare of society. However, even here, those who enjoyed the fruits of a capitalist political economy were relatively few - certainly not the working class or slaves. Each of these illustrious thinkers exemplifies in his writings the material contradictions that capitalism represents.

To be fair, from the perspective of the 18th and 19th centuries, the planet did appear to have unlimited potential for growth, not to mention individual and social enrichment.

Moreover, the science of pollution and toxicity of industrial chemicals 200 years ago was nowhere near the advanced state it is now. However, the material contradictions of capitalism are starkly illustrated even in its earliest philosophical foundations. Thus, on the one hand, John Locke's (1632-1704) political philosophy begins (as against Hobbes') with the idea that in our "original state of nature," we are not in a state of war, but in a state of " 'perfect freedom' to order our action, and dispose of our possessions and persons, as we think fit, within the bounds of the law of nature, without asking leave, or depending upon the will of any other man." This state of nature, Locke believed, is also a state ". . . of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another." [ 3]

However, on the other hand, not all people were heir to such "perfect freedom" in their "natural state" or otherwise; nor did they have possessions or reciprocal power. In fact, a good many of them were not even treated as "persons" or individuals, but as mere "savages." There is nothing fair or equal about the fact that Locke's tremendous wealth was directly the result of investments in the silk and slave trade. Indeed, he believed that important, moneyed land barons should form "a government of slave-owners" and suggested that children over 3 years of age who were from families on relief should attend "working schools" so they would be "from infancy . . . inured to work" [4]. Appearances notwithstanding, the "sacred and inviolable right to property" that Locke espouses is not something either slaves or the laboring classes were granted. The "perfect freedom" was indeed "perfect servitude" of those who were not white Europeans.

Behind the wonderful talk of liberal values, "increasing the common stock of man through money" and individual rights, Locke put forward an absolutist theory of property that would provide legitimacy to the imperialist ambitions of England and wealthy English landowners in America. The problem is that Locke's morally grounded theory of the right to private property presupposes the expropriation of ancestral native lands, the existence of slavery and the impoverishment of laboring classes. As Ronald Wright has astutely noted, quoting from Senator Dawes in his Allotment Act, the problem with "Indians" is that they lacked "selfishness, which is the bottom of civilization"! [5] What we are compelled to conclude here is that these historical facts are not unpredictable events or anomalies of capitalism, but perspectives and practices intrinsic to the expansion of a capitalist economy.

The unavoidable question is why Smith advocated a "capitalist economic system" that glorified unbridled competition - a practice he intuited would inevitably corrupt our "natural sentiments" and deepen a proclivity toward selfish behaviour?

The Scottish Enlightenment thinker Adam Smith (1723-1790) believed that not only did competition mitigate the ruthlessness of self-interest, but the providential "invisible hand of the market" would ensure that in promoting our self-interest we would be simultaneously promoting the interests of society, whether we intended to do so or not. But, the rational or enlightened self-interest of Smith's economic man breaks down fairly quickly within the logic of monopolistic capitalism. Smith, like Piketty, is prescient enough to caution about the monopolistic trajectory of capitalism and the potential that industry and business had for influencing politics in their favour over the good of consumers and society as a whole. Moreover, against the logic of unfettered capitalist accumulation, he also thought laborers should be well paid and the rich and indolent taxed for the benefit of the poor.

At the same time, Smith's "merchant" is not much different than the modern corporate CEO. A merchant he explains ". . . is not necessarily a citizen of any particular country. It is in a great measure indifferent to him from what place he carries on his trade; and a very trifling disgust will make him remove his capital, and together with it all the industry which it supports, from one country to another." [6] It is not hard to imagine that the "trifling disgust" classical merchants or modern CEOs experience is a consequence of having unions or governments interfere with their profits by demanding workers receive a living wage.

In the end, the unavoidable question is why Smith advocated a "capitalist economic system" that glorified unbridled competition - a practice he intuited would inevitably corrupt our "natural sentiments" and deepen a proclivity toward selfish behaviour? If the answer is that it is the self-correcting, providential "invisible hand" that reconciles selfishness and the general welfare of society, then Smith's entire economic system rests on a fiction: There just is no such thing as an "invisible hand," nor has there ever been any such providential or moral self-correcting mechanism within capitalist economics. Given this, it is difficult not to conclude that Smith (again, like Piketty) did, in fact, fully grasp the adverse effects and inherent material contradictions of capitalism. Nevertheless, he held steadfastly to the idea that a phantasmal occult force (the invisible hand) would enable our natural sympathy with the plight of others and our natural self-interested expression of individual freedom to live peacefully together.

What is startling is not how different, but how similar the speculative capitalist mindset has always been. The early 19th century economist, broker and speculator David Ricardo ". . . made the bulk of his fortune as a result of speculation on the outcome of the Battle of Waterloo, using methods that today would result in prosecution for insider trading and market manipulation ." [7] It is not a great leap from insider trading (which Milton Friedman, much later, enthusiastically endorsed) to securities fraud, negligent subprime mortgage lending, unregulated credit default swaps and so on. But it is also evidently true that wealth is  power - power cashed out at the political level. Ricardo, who was able to use his largesse to buy a seat in the UK Parliament, would probably not have had any problem with the Supreme Court Citizens United decision to remove limits on corporate political donations. Perhaps we have here one of the earliest exemplars of how moneyed interest, power and political ambition are easily woven together in a capitalist political economy. At any rate, it is clear that the very visible hand of the elite class inevitably renders government "by and for the people' pretty much irrelevant - or better, invisible.

As for economic theory, Ricardo's assumption that with social progress, the price of labor is "dear when it is scarce and cheap when it is plentiful" might explain why today the superrich have "stopped worrying and learned to love unemployment and under-employment." As the rich have become even richer since the 2007 financial crisis, the global unemployment rate has steadily increased such that by 2015, 205 million people will be out of work - and this doesn't even touch those who have given up looking for a job. Of course, Ricardo, like Marx after him, was clever enough to recognize that the interests of wealthy landowners were often in direct opposition to the good of society and would inevitably create tension and upheaval. This did not, however, prevent him from advocating for the abolition of the Poor Law which, he believed, encouraged people to be lazy and irresponsible - "are there no prisons? . . . are there no workhouses?"

Despite some indications to the contrary, Hobbes' theory of human nature is unambiguously presupposed in Locke, Smith and Ricardo's elaboration of capitalist political economy. All are essentially in agreement with the idea that we are "by nature" selfish creatures. Perhaps it is only in this sense we can be said to be "equals" - we are all equally selfish. However, such a presupposition, by any objective measure, is simply false. We know today, from abundant empirical, sociological, psychological, genetic, archaeological and anthropological evidence, that Hobbes' theory of human nature as intrinsically "selfish" is deeply flawed. We are not "naturally" selfish - though we can, indeed, learn to be so. In other words, within a capitalist system it can become trueover over the course of time that an elite few will be chiefly oriented by greed, narcissism or selfishness - and some of the latter not so very far from the "squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinners!" Dickens describes Mr. "Scrooge" as in A Christmas Carol. Of course, today the latter are no longer viewed as "sinners." The real problem is that in our present world they are the "glorified masters" of our economies and governments. They are continuously praised, deferred to, considered "above the laws of the land" and allowed to live in a world of unabashed opulence entirely walled off from the rabble of mankind. Succinctly put, in capitalism, the greedy of the world have discovered their ideal legitimating cover: the promotion of a self-serving economics that turns the vice of selfishness into the highest virtue human beings can realize! [8]

History aside, from our own contemporary perspective, we can get a sense of "really existing capitalism' by virtue of the following thought-experiment, which reveals the latter in its unadorned state. Imagine that we were able, right now, to ask the 7 or so billion people living on the planet whether they would choose an economic system that would inevitably lead to massive wealth and income inequalities, that would severely limit equal opportunity, that would force whole populations to live under perpetual economic austerity, that would erode any possibility of meaningful and democratic political participation, that would devastate the health of the planet and the human body while externalizing the costs of such destruction onto everyone, with the exception of a very privileged few.

Now . . . how many people do you think would actually opt for such an arrangement? Honest answer: Almost no one! The only people who would agree to such a set of conditions would be an infinitesimally small group whose present privileged economic status would be protected and furthered by maintaining the status quo. The fact is that though there are many manifestations of the capitalist system, the intentional logic of capitalism always was, and still is, the same: to protect and perpetuate the power, status and privilege of the few, while impoverishing everyone else.

Given this, you might think that we would seriously question anyone who asserts that capitalism best captures or reflects the essential capabilities, wants, desires or needs of human beings - or that it, in any way, helps to preserve or sustain the resources of the planet for future generations. If anything, capitalism has become the medium where what is worst in us is magnified and given legitimacy - materialism, greed, indifference to the suffering of others, deceitfulness and hubris - while diminishing the importance of justice, benevolence and environmental stewardship. Hopefully, Piketty's book will be a wake-up call - not a call to fix capitalism, but to overcome it. The fact is that even if a tax on wealth could somehow reconcile the logical contradiction within capitalism, it will do nothing to prevent corporations from their "race to exploit what is left" [9]; it will not stop them from moving us closer to ecological disaster by extracting oil from bituminous sands or minerals from impoverished third world countries; it will not deter the Wall Street mega banks like Goldman Sachs, the "vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity" (to borrow Matt Taibbi's startling and vivid description) from sucking the life out of national economies; it will not impede the chemical industry from polluting the environment and using whole populations as unwitting research objects for profit; it will not avert the continuing dissolution of democracy by the superrich Koch brothers . . . and on and on.

Notwithstanding all that has been said, it is still conceivable that we could reverse our present "conditioning" by thinking and acting in different ways - by recognizing that, progressively, with the help of others, we could cultivate radically different perspectives and practices (economic and otherwise). But any such effort must assume that we are also acutely aware of the ubiquity and the powerful force of capitalist propaganda. As Henry Giroux reminds us "dominant power works relentlessly through its major cultural apparatuses to hide, mischaracterize or lampoon resistance, dissent and critically engaged social movements. This is done, in part, by sanitizing public memory and erasing critical knowledge and oppositional struggles from newspapers, radio, television, film and all those cultural institutions that engage in systemic forms of education and memory work." [10]

Above all, the possibility of alternative economic visions, perspectives and practices have to be grounded in the reality that we share a limited world, and that we are and have always been capable of creating an economic system and public policies that preserve the health and well-being of the planet and all of the creatures that inhabit it.



1. Chrystia Freeland, Plutocrats, The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else. Anchor Canada 2012. p. xvi. Freeland is likely drawing from Churchill's oft-quoted conclusion that "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others."

2. Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation, The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time, Beacon Press 1957 pp. 45-58

3. John Locke, "The Second Treatise of Government", in Princeton Readings in Political Thought, edited by Mitchell Cohen and Nicole Fermon. Princeton University Press, 1996. pp. 243-4

4. See Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States, Harper Perennial Modern Classics 2005. pp. 73-75

5. Ronald Wright, What is America: A Short History of the New World Order, Vintage Canada, 2009. p. 116

6. To really understand the tension within Smith's thought it is helpful to read both An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations and The Theory of Moral Sentiments.

7. Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations Book III, Chapter IV.

8. You can find Ayn Rand's and Nathaniel Branden's The virtue of Selfishness: A New Concept of Egoism.

9. See Michael Klare's The Race for What's Left: The Global Scramble for the World's Last Resources, Picador, 2012

10. Henry Giroux, " Hope in the Age of Looming Authoritarianism," Truthout.
Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

Monday, June 23, 2014

ANS -- Study reinforces link between autism and pesticides

Here is an article telling us that autism is being linked to pesticides.  Not a real surprise, but this is backed by a study by reputable organizations. 
It's also hereditary.  That tends to suggest there is some advantage in it.....
find it here:   

Monday, Jun 23, 2014 10:00 AM PST

Study reinforces link between autism and pesticides

Living near farms and fields may put developing brains at risk

Lindsay Abrams Follow

Topics: Autism, pesticides, environmental toxins, Agriculture, Sustainability News, Life News
Study reinforces link between autism and pesticides  (Credit: PiggingFoto/Shutterstock)

Pregnant women living within a mile of fields treated with common pesticides have a 60 percent higher chance of giving birth to a baby with autism or other developmental delays, a new UC Davis study found.

The findings, Scientific American reports, are part of a massive research project undertaken to explore environmental pollutants as a potential risk factor for autism spectrum disorders. Previous studies of pesticide use in California have also established similar links, including one from 2007 finding that two pesticides, now banned, were associated with a sixfold increase in autism risk. This new study, which followed 970 children born in Northern California, looked at three classes of commonly used pesticides – organophosphates, pyrethroids and carbamates ­ and found disturbing evidence linking all three to either autism or development delays. Here's more from SciAm:

Children with mothers who lived less than one mile from fields treated with organophosphate pesticides during pregnancy were about 60 percent more likely to have autism than children whose mothers did not live close to treated fields. Most of the women lived in the Sacramento Valley.

When women in the second trimester lived near fields treated with chlorpyrifos – the most commonly applied organophosphate pesticide – their children were 3.3 times more likely to have autism, according to the study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Chlorpyrifos, once widely used to kill insects in homes and gardens, was banned for residential use in 2001 after it was linked to neurological effects in children. It is still widely used on crops, including nut trees, alfalfa, vegetables and fruits.

The study also is the first to report a link between pyrethroids and autism. Application of pyrethroids just prior to conception meant an increased risk of 82 percent, and during the third trimester, the risk was 87 percent higher.

That finding is particularly concerning because "pyrethroids were supposed to be better, safer alternatives to organophosphates," said the study's senior author, Irva Hertz-Picciotto, an epidemiologist who leads the UC-Davis project to investigate environmental and genetic links to autism.

The biggest known autism risks, SciAm notes, are hereditary: siblings of a child with autism are 35 times more likely to develop it themselves. And this study wasn't able to prove that pesticides cause autism.

But environmental exposures aren't negligible. "In any child who develops autism, a combination of genetic and environmental factors are at work. There's an accumulation of insults to the system," explained Hertz-Picciotto. "What we're seeing is that pesticides may be one more factor that for some kids may push them over the edge."

To the extent that conclusions can be reached, as one autism expert noted, the study "suggests that exposure to farming chemicals during pregnancy is probably not a good thing."
Lindsay Abrams  

Lindsay Abrams is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email
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ANS -- Believe it or not: Karl Marx is making a comeback

Here is an article on the left.  He says not everything Marx said was right, but more of it was than he is given credit for.  He says Marx is making a come-back.  People are starting to wake up to the problems inherent in capitalism.

Find it here:    

Sunday, Jun 22, 2014 06:00 AM PST

Believe it or not: Karl Marx is making a comeback

It's true. The "Communist Manifesto" co-author has gotten a second life ­ and he has some advice for progressives

Sean McElwee
Topics: Karl Marx, Marxism, Economics, working class, Democratic Socialism, Socialism, Thomas Piketty, Benjamin Kunkel, News, Politics News
Believe it or not: Karl Marx is making a comeback Karl Marx (Credit: Wikimedia)

Karl Marx is on fire right now. More than a century after his death, the co-author of "The Communist Manifesto" still has the honor of being the first smear against ideas slightly to the left of Hillary Clinton. (See: Thomas Piketty.) Marx also graced the cover of the National Review as recently ast last month. Few other thinkers, and certainly few non-religious figures, can claim the honor of being so widely misappropriated by the political rearguard. But, while most people consider Marx only as a sort of intellectual boogeyman, the manifestation of everything evil on the left, he has much to offer a left increasingly divorced from the working class.

To that end, Marx actually is enjoying something of a renaissance on the left these days. Jacobin, a socialist publication that publishes many Marxist thinkers, was profiled by the the New York Times and boasts Bob Herbert as a contributor. Benjamin Kunkel's recent compilation of essays, "Utopia or Bust," earned that author a profile in New York magazine, and the title "The Lena Dunham of Literature." And that's not even to mention Thomas Piketty's blockbuster work, "Capital in the 21st Century," which harkens back to Marx's multi-volume magnum opus, "Das Kapital." The wave has even extended so far as Capitol Hill, where Sen. Bernie Sanders, D- Vermont, openly calls himself a " democratic socialist."


Marx most certainly wasn't right about everything, but he wasn't wrong about as much as people think. A revival of his thought is good news for progressive America. It can give the left fresh arguments that were previously forgotten to history, and new organizing strategies that they've long since abandoned.

* * *

The first problem with the left that Marx might have noted is the wholesale abandonment of the working class. As Perry Anderson points out in his essay, "Considerations on Western Marxism,"

The extreme difficulty of language of much of Western Marxism in the twentieth century was never controlled by the tension of a direct or active relationship to a proletarian audience.

Increasingly, the left is dominated by what the German Marxist Rosa Luxemburg might call Kathedersozialisten – or "professorial socialists." These thinkers, frequently drenched in academese, talk and debate in a way almost entirely designed to alienate anyone who does not already accept their conclusions. The professorial left seems to have innumerable answers for those wondering what Lacanian psychoanalysis has to offer us, but can give us little guidance as to whether the Working Families Party should support Cuomo or run its own candidate.

"Manifesto" co-author Friedrich Engels's "The Condition of the Working Class in England" was a pioneering study of the working class. He and Marx both clearly saw the working class as the means to political power ­ and viewed persuading them as the most important task the left faced. When Maurice Lachatre asked Marx if he would be willing to serialize "Das Kapital," Marx replied, "In this form the book will be more accessible to the working-class, a consideration which to me outweighs everything else." One struggles, however, to imagine a latter-day Marxist champion like Theodor W. Adorno writing those words. The left abandoned the working class and the working class then abandoned the left. That needs to change.

Marx and Engels also offer the left a new way to discuss ideology. In his brilliant collection, "The Agony of the American Left," Marx(ish) historian Christopher Lasch writes,

The Marxian tradition of social thought has always attached great importance to the way in which class interest takes on the quality of objective reality… Lacking an awareness of the human capacity for collective self-deception, the populists tended to postulate conspiratorial explanations of history.

Lasch is arguing that, to a large extent, humans are biased toward the state of affairs that currently exists and then work backwards to justify it to themselves. That is, we're more likely to embrace a deeply unjust economic system, simply because it's the one we've always known. A recent study bears this out, finding that market competition serves to psychologically legitimize inequalities that would otherwise be considered unjust. Because many on the left, especially populists, do not understand ideology, they often write and argue as though the entire American political system is controlled by a small cabal of business or political leaders conspiring to fool the masses.

The implications of ideology are important and numerous. The left must not fall into the trap of believing that all Americans actually do share our views, but that a conspiracy of the wealthy, or the power of GOP framing, or the influence of money are preventing us from succeeding. To some extent, these things may indeed harm the left, but widespread ideology ­ the automatic assumption of capitalism's unmitigated merit, for example ­ is just as big a problem. We must win the war of ideas before we can win the war of democracy.

The great Italian politician Antonio Gramsci was well aware of the lure of such cabalistic conspiracies, but also of their limitations, and his idea about cultural hegemony led him to advocate for educating the working class. This task is difficult, but it will lead to more substantial progress than simply explaining away failures by complaining about the influence of the wealthy. The rich certainly have different interests than the rest of us, but Gilens and Page note in an often overlooked passage of their oft-cited paper on "American oligarchy,"

The preferences of average citizens are positively and fairly highly correlated, across issues, with the preferences of economic elites.

Groups like the Chamber of Commerce and other business-oriented organizations, on the other hand, have preferences that do not correlate with the interests of the middle class. But even with that caveat, the left should not overstate the extent to which Americans agree with the leftist economic critique. In an apt description of the American ideology, John Steinbeck noted, "Socialism never took root in America because the poor see themselves not as an exploited proletariat but as temporarily embarrassed millionaires."

Finally, Marx's moral critique of capitalism and markets has never been fully comprehended or considered by anyone (other than the socialists, of course) but the most ardent libertarians and a strain of thinkers broadly called communitarians. Broadly speaking, Marx's critique of capitalism resembles the Catholic church's critique: That by relying on greed and self-interest, markets degrade humans and encourage our worst impulses. Marx quotes Shakespeare's "Timon of Athens":

This yellow slave

Will knit and break religions, bless the accursed;

Make the hoar leprosy adored, place thieves

And give them title, knee and approbation

With senators on the bench

Marx writes, riffing off of Shakespeare, "I  am bad, dishonest, unscrupulous, stupid; but money is honoured and therefore so is its possessors. Money is the supreme good, therefore its possessor is good." Jesus warned that the love of money is the root of all evil. This fact seems self-evident. Religious critics of capitalism have noted this core delusion for decades. Economist and Catholic E. F. Schumacher writes,

Call a thing immoral or ugly, soul-destroying or a degradation to man, a peril to the peace of the world or to the well-being of future generations: as long as you have not shown it to be 'uneconomic' you have not really questioned its right to exist, grow, and prosper.

With the exception of libertarians, who have tried to turn the immorality of capitalism into a sort of perverse morality ("greed is good"), most politicians and economists are entirely unconcerned with the fact that capitalism is based on a collective drawing upon our deepest desire: to exploit.

The underlying logic of capitalism is that if we all take our most primordial impulses and mix them up in the magical mechanism called "markets," we are left with progress. Recent history suggests we may be left with only more ugliness. As G. A. Cohen writes, "the immediate motive to productive activity in a market society is (not always but) typically some mixture of greed and fear." The participants in market transactions are not interested in fulfilling human needs ­ they are interested in making a profit. Fulfilling human needs is one way to make a profit ­ exploitation, the creation of desire through advertising or downright fraud are others. Human progress is an ancillary consideration, individual profit is the goal. Today, speaking in moral terms is not incredibly popular ­ inequality is seen not as a moral issue in which a small class has a dangerous amount of power, but instead as an inefficiency to be corrected with a technocratic policy.

We don't know for certain what Marx would say about the modern left. Its radicals often foster a poisonous aversion to pragmatism in favor of pious purity, its politicians are guilty of  wholesale abandonment of the working class, and many of its leading thinkers have succumbed to a dreadful technocratism. Marx failed to account for the adaptability of capitalism and left little in the way of alternatives. In the end, this void was filled by murderers and fools. Marx, a deeply humanistic thinker, would certainly have abhorred the violence in his name some half a century after his death. But rational people do not blame Christ for the Crusades, nor Muhammad for 9/11 nor Nietzsche for the Holocaust. The taboo of Marx has prevented the left from learning his most important lesson; in the words of Gil Scott-Heron, "the revolution will not be televised."
Sean McElwee is a writer and researcher of public policy. His writing may be viewed at . Follow him on Twitter at @seanmcelwee.
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