Monday, December 22, 2003

The Good Life

The "good life" was a definition that recently surfaced to the center of attention at a political online discussion in which conservatives used the term to describe what conservative politics offers... A chance at the "good life". As one of the conservative participants put it so eloquently... "I prefer to live in a country, and have a form of government where I do have a chance at the good life however slim it might be. What the libs want for this country would mean ZERO chance of my ever becoming rich."

That's a new one one me, I guess I need to brush up on the "liberal agenda" ;)

For the sake of argument, I mentioned that perhaps there is more to the good life than getting rich. I suggested that my own life is pretty good, I have a good job, great family, nice house in a nice neighborhood... Of course, there's always more that I would like, but when I look at other people across the world, it's not too hard for me to see that the American middle-class is a pretty damn good place to find the "good life".

Then I made the big mistake. (Folks never do this when talking to conservatives about economics or politics...) I pointed out how I thought the liberals created the American middle-class. Well as far as I can tell, the middle-class emerged out of the FDR era as a result of political compromises with workers' movements. As someone else on the discussion board pointed out... "[FDRs] new deal enshrined them [protections] after ordinary Americans organized, struck, negotiated, stood their ground and refused to acquiesce to industrial feudalism. Without the New Deal, we might have had a real revolution..."

I can see that compromises like that tend to avoid the bloody alternatives. The Magna Carta for instance is probably a contibuting reason why the English never had a violent king-killing revolution like the French and Russians did.
In any case, the FDR compromises and resulting "social" programs initiated a promotion in living standards for the working class family, much like what the poor Russian people thought communism was going to do for them, but didn't.

Although it's flamboyant capitalism that gets the limelight, I think that behind the scenes, it's our modest version of socialism that makes America so attractive to immigrants. They see every American with a personal car and TV - as materialistic and attached to vibrant capitalism as that seems, it's the government enforced wages and compensation that increased the savings and purchasing power of the working class, which led directly to the opportunity to tap their savings and hence one of the multiple orgasms of capitalism, consumerism. Dwellers of the third world already see the success stories of capitalism in their own countries, the treads of the boots that crush them.

I wouldn't even call myself a socialist, at least not an anti-capitalist, there's a lot to be said for the incentives and dreams of capitalism. I value the mix of both that we have here in this country, which was the point of my argument. We incredibly lucky Americans benefit from the best of both worlds. These whiny conservatives should look around and see how lucky they are, most of them *are* living the good life. It would be nice also if they understood that socialism is just as important to their current good life as capitalism is before they go pissing on it. (Talk about biting the hand that feeds...) After all, it's nice to dream about making it big, and it's nice to work toward it too, but for the enormous majority of Americans that try but don't make it, they can still count on minimum wage, health benefits, human resource departments, overtime pay, 40/hr work weeks, weekends, vacations, maternity leave... All those things brought to them by the very liberal notion of social obligation.

I went on to explain how capitalism, with it's dedication to a disinclined market, is a functional, bi-polar model that really only works for those who have actually achieved a position of control. Everyone else gets the Newtonian equal and opposite force. In other words, to make money, you have to take it from someone. So to put this in simple terms, anyone dreaming about making it big in capitalism is currently under attack by those who are already there and if they aren't pinned down to the dirt, chances are they have some liberals to thank.

And after my explanations, what kind of response do you think I got? Well, here's another quote...

"The "good life" consists of the total absence of people with a mediocre education attempting to use government to give everyone else their own particular definition of the "good life". Simply put this means...the absence of liberals...even the worst evangelist cannot use government to enforce their vision without becoming a liberal in the process."

charming.
 

Friday, December 05, 2003

The Corporate war on Democracy (another post on the Hannity site)

Bravo - My last post was *way* too long for people to read. I was trying to respond to all of your points. It was also way too late at night. Allow me to consolidate our argument and reinforce my position. Essentially, there are two related arguements. #1 - you are challenging my suspicion that our presence in Iraq is primarily corporate motivated. #2 - you are challenging (or perhaps just questioning) my assertion that corporations are at war with democracy, which is a rhetorical way of saying that the objectives of corporations and democracies are frequently at odds. This covers my observation that Bush is on the side of the corporation and is effectivly shifting power to them. I won't belabor #1 anymore, I've already laid out the arguments in my previous posts along with government sponsered statistics that support my argument. I *will* stress that I never said anything about a conspiracy. I think the American public is ill-informed but that doesn't make any of this a conspiracy. The information isn't hidden from us, it just isn't blasted out in the top 40, so Americans have to look for it, something they aren't always willing to do. I'll follow up on #2, because this is where your strongest arguments are. My primary challenge is that corporations don't give you a voice and you responded with the popular right-wing response, that we do have a voice through consumerism. I'll admit that this makes sense on the surface, but this is assuming the best of conditions. Here are some reasons why conditions may be different: 1. Monopoly: Our power as consumers, weakens in the presence of a monopoly. There are many people that were concerned about Bill Gates for example, cornering the market and forcing the competition out, leaving us with no choices and as far as consumerism goes, no choice, no voice. The Anti-trust laws are government devices that interfere with corporate success and I think there were a lot of conservatives that are thankful for that. 2. Diversity: I presented this argument in my last post, but essentially a consumer has the right to boycott, but in the end, a large diverse corporation has a lot more staying power than a consumer. 3. Not always about shopping: Corporations make decisions that affect people regardless of whether or not they depend on them for revenue. For instance, there is a Canadian company that produces MBTE and sells it to the American oil companies who then add the stuff to gasoline. In CA people complained to their state government because MBTE is a serious health hazard and it doesn't matter what kind of gas you pump, it's always in there, all the gas stations have it, so there goes your "choice" argument. The government, the democracy that represents the people, motioned to stop the practice to protect the health of the people per their request. The Canadian company, brought up a free-trade agreement signed earlier by corporate influenced government officials without public consent, (remember what I said about free-trade and the Fast Track law?)and said look, according to this agreement you can't tell us not to sell the stuff. It's obstructive. So the federal government held up their hands and shrugged. Sorry, people. This is a clear case of the democratic power of our voices being over-ruled by the power of the corporate profit margin (the war on democracy) and the invalidates the "voice through market" argument. 4. Sometimes we are forced to consume: Many conservatives have a problem with excessive taxes, but funny enough, most of our taxes support government programs that they support such as national defense. Now let me be the first to admit, we need a national defense and I'm willing to pay for it, but if you look at the Pentagon which runs a huge clearing house for government contracts, you'll notice that they are using tax money that people are forced to pay and most of the contracts are going to private industry. Again, the fairness of contract bidding is irrelevant to my argument. I'll let the dems squabble that one with you. My point is that people are not given a say in what products to buy or what price they are willing to pay. Now, I tend to think the people in the Pentagon know a bit more about buying fighter jets that the average voter at home so it makes sense that we have this system, but I mention it because it's another case of people, not having a choice, which means that when a company with a government contract processes rocket fuel in CA and leaks toxic poison into the water table and decides not to clean it up, and the government says don't worry about it despite the fact that local hospitals are reporting an impact, the people being poisoned can't just say let's put them out of business and not buy their product, they are being forced by the government to buy the stuff by collecting tax money and giving it to offenders. I remember the story, I just wish I remember the name of the company - I'll try to find that. In conclussion, I'm not just throwing slogans around and trying to rally up a protest. I'm not saying "all corporations are evil" I'm simply stating that corporations are much to powerful to be so casual about them. They are driven by profit, not ethics and when/if a person's symbiotic relationship with a corporation goes bad, odds are very slanted that it will be the person that suffers not the corporation. Finally, the idea that we have a voice in corporate America is a little bit like beleiving in Santa Clause. It's a nice idea for those who don't know any better. _________________ "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary saftey deserve neither" - Ben Franklin, 1759
 

Monday, December 01, 2003

Bush's Clean Air Act = 30,000 death per year

Hannity was interviewing (or should I say cross examining) Robert Kennedy Jr on the show the other day and Kennedy mentioned that according to estimates by the National Academy of Science, over 30,000 people will die each year from increases in pollution as a result of Bush's so-called Clean Air Act.

Let's see, 3,000 people died in the biggest terrorist attack in US history and Bush takes the country to war "to make the world safe", yet he has no problem signing a bill with the potential to kill 30,000 people each year...? I'm not trying to downplay the 9/11 attacks, that was a horrible thing, but I just can't get past the numbers. I mean if the objective is to make the world safe for American citizens then wouldn't a threat to 30,000 American lives be a concern? Would those 30,000 deaths be more significant if they exploded in balls of fire instead of dying quietly in a hospital bed?

Sometimes it's hard for me to believe that our president is on our side.
 

[Another post on the Hannity site]

I dunno Darkwind... Quote: Basically, President Bush showing up in Baghdad sends a clear message to the Butcher that while he can't make public appearances anymore, the President of the United States could. :End Quote Plan-X Respone: Bush had to sneak in, only stayed for 2 hours, and then tip-toed out again. I applaud him for taking the risk to boost morale amongst our troops, but I don't call that a message to the Iraqis. I don't know why people regard Iraqi's as less intelligent than ourselves. They are no doubt, flooded with media coverage of the visit (after the event), but it seems likely that they have a culture of their own where value is found in people being real. Sooner or later, they are going to completely disregard any Bush PR as being distrustful, if Bush doesn't come out and show himself in the flesh, if nothing else to show his bravado. (To the Iraqis, not just his own troops) Look at the few clips that we ever see of SH... He's always surrounded by crowds and holding some kind of a weapon. We see Bush all the time, surrounded by screened out reporters - not the same thing. All I'm pointing out here is that SH *is* Iraqi... His approach to PR is probably more on target with Iraqis. I think the message was that Bush had to sneak in and out. For crying out loud, he had to sneak out of his ranch, at 05:00 am, without even telling his family. "President's security can't even trust their own." There's a nice message. You seem real hung up on stacking up munitions to measure stregnth, but these Iraqis, arabs in general, obviously know how to network, they know how to infilterate and terrorism is their weapon of choice. Their religion tells them that victory is not a function of firepower. So, maybe the whole thing was another PR stunt and the US is actually in total control and Bush could have just as easily flew in on a balloon, it still wouldn't matter... The fact remains that the media coverage tells the story of a sneak out the back window. The Iraqi's are bound to feel more confidence in their ability to have an impact on the President of the USA. But wait, there's more... The fact that the media coverage made no comment on who may be causing the "landing with no lights" caution, any of the agitators may be getting the same high from it, including OBL. and finally, the thing that makes sense of all of this... The war in Iraq is a cash cow. The School of International Affairs at the George Washington University estimates $202 billion by 2010, based on existing contracts. The seed money is all collected through federal tax, making it a socialist engine. The only engine that doesn't take supply-side fuel, but that's okay if you can segregate the tax brackets. In anycase, that last $87 billion of socialist money, will return high yeilds for the investors. The risks are accepted and sometimes even beneficial as in the case of emotional risks to US troops that spawn political support, which is crucial for any socialist engine. Darkwind, It seems we have radically different perspectives on all of this. _________________ "They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary saftey deserve neither" - Ben Franklin, 1759
 


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Books That I am Reading:


The World Is Flat
A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century

Thomas Friedman

In this book Thomas Friedman continues his exploration of globalization and how the playing feild is leveling out.

War on the Middle Class
How the Government, Big Business, and Special Interest Groups Are Waging War on the American Dream and How to Fight Back

Lou Dobbs

This book is pretty much a print version of his TV program. This is what I call good investigative journalism


Books That I've Read Lately:


Catcher in the Rye


J.D.Salinger

My daughter is an avid J.D.Salinger fan and turned me on to this book. I'm glad she did. I read the first half on one airplane trip and finished the next half on the return flight. Salinger's naration is wonderful, his vivid style reminds me of Steinbeck.

Crash Proof
How to Profit From the Coming Economic Collapse

Peter D. Schiff

I've been reading the writing on the wall for some time now about the comming economic collapse and this book is one of those messages. I highly recomend this book for anyone interested in an easy to understand explanation of what is causing the crises and basic strategy for how to weather the storm.

A Peoples History of the United States: 1492 - Present


Howard Zinn

This book seems to draw a lot of criticism from people who point out that Zinn fails to present the complete picture, but I think that's the point. Zinn is simply filling in the gaps intentionally left by "politically correct" historians and in so doing, he sheds light on some of the real American heros who continue the "politically incorrect" American Revolution to this day. These heros are not the celebrated leaders and soldiers of the American Establishment who took the reins of exploitation from the British Establishment but the working class people who continued to stand up to exploitation regardless of what banner they wave. It's these working class people who continue to fight for liberty and justice and it's these unsung heros that we need to thank for our way of life and we can thank Howard Zinn for pointing them out, especially now that patriotism has somehow come to mean loyalty to a flag rather than to a principal.

Paradox Of Choice: Why More Is Less


Barry Schwartz

An interesting counter-view to the ever-so-popular notion that our vast array of options improves our culture.

Why I Am A Reagan Conservative


Edited By: Michael K. Deaver

I'm reading this book because I don't consider myself to be conservative. I suppose this is because I've been focused for so long on issues around which conservatives hold positions that I disagree with. But recently I've been looking beyond these issues in search of what I might agree are valid conservative positions and it seems the more I look the less I find, which is alarming to me considering the influence that conservatives have over the policies that effect our lives. Hopefully this book will provide me with some insight.

The Ayn Rand Reader


Ayn Rand: Edited by Gary Hull

I know, I know... what is Ayn Rand doing on this booklist? Answer: I read from as many perspectives as possible. Being a free thinker, I refuse to submit myself to a reading diet. Besides, I want to understand what it is that Ayn Rand fans are raving about and what institutes like ARI are pushing into our education systems.

A Thousand Barrels a Second
The Coming Oil Breakpoint and the Challenges Facing an Energy Dependant World

Peter Tertzakian

I've been trying to understand as much as I can about the coming oil crises. The author is Chief Energy Economist of ARC Financial, one of the world's leading private equity firms focused on energy. As far as I can tell so far, his book isn't a crack on politics or doom and gloom but a straightforward analysis of the realities of energy that so many people are ignoring.

TechGnosis
Myth, Magic & Mysticism in the Age of Information

Erik Davis

I've actually been reading the hardback version of this book, on and off, for long time now. The problem I have with this book is it's depth. Davis presents so many interesting ideas and references that I wind up placing a book mark and taking excursions into related materials. It can take me days to digest what Davis is saying in one sentence. Eventually, I always come back to the book, drawn in my Davis' poetic language of intellect. This book represents a true frontier for my mind.

The Moon Is Down


John Steinbeck

Steinbeck is always an easy read for me. His characters and scenes are so vivid. But this book in particular has the added significance of having had an extraordinary impact as Allied propoganda in Nazi-occupied Europe. Despite Axis efforts to supress it (in Fascist Italy, mere possession of a copy of the book was punishable by death) hundreds of thousands of copies were secretly translated into numerous languages, printed on unnaccounted paper and smuggled across borders. This story, a triumph of ideas in the face of cold steel and brute force, offered hope for the "unconquered" people under foreign occupation and celebrated the unbreakable spirit of free people. I feel like I should be sending copies to Iraqis currently under US occupation, but that could easily be construed as an act of terrorism.

Confessions of an Economic Hitman


John Perkins

I've been able to put two and two together for some time, so nothing in this book astounds me but it does bring the workings of the international banks and corporations as well as the US government out of the speculations of so-called conspiracy theories and into the matter-of-fact narration of one man's career path as an economic hitman.

Collapse:
How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed
Jared Diamond

Facinating book. Jared Diamond's name is what caught my attention as I was killing time at the bookstore at the airport. I was very impressed with his documentary "Guns, Germs and Steel" and figured he would make this study of societal destinies equally interesting. I was 100% correct. I especially enjoyed the chapters on the collapse of the Polynesian societies, realizing the scale-relativity with the evolution of our global society.

Brave New World

Aldous Huxley

Of course... the third book in my dystopian trilogy.

The United States of Europe:
The New Superpower and the End of American Supremacy
T.R.Reid

An excellent perspective on the power that's rising in Europe as we Americans continue to sleep with visions of our own glory in our heads.

Imperial Ambitions:
Conversations with Noam Chomsky on the Post-9/11 World
Noam Chomsky, David Barsamian

As always, Professor Chomsky presents that calm and collected voice of logic that cuts through all the noisy rhetoric, half-truths, corporate funded media hype and emotionally driven spin sessions. Barsamian's interviews with Chomsky are clear, crisp and sober conversations.

Farenheit 451
Ray Bradbury

Figured I'd continue my journey through "negative-utopia" that I started with 1984. It does seem appropriate given the current state of America from which I found much more connection with Bradbury's vision than I did with Orwell's, especially the way in which the real source of oppression is not the government but the people themselves.

Cuba
A New History

Richard Gott

Just a straight forward history book, but Cuba has a facinating history that reaches back to the days of Columbus and offers everything from pirates to revolutions.

1984
George Orwell

It seemed like a good idea to refresh my memory of a mid-century perspective on where the world is headed. Although I found some relief in knowing that we have not followed the Stalinesque course to the letter, I nevertheless found much of Orwell's larger concepts ringing ever so true in 21st Century America, especially Orwell's concept of continuous war and Big Brother.

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy
Greg Palast

Easy read... Palast is a circus ring master showing us unbelievable things. Penetrating investigation with a sense of humor.

One Market Under God
Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy

Thomas Frank

After reading the Lexus and the Olive Tree, I felt I needed a counter-balance view of globalization and how the liberated capitalism that I see everywhere around me, breaking the chains of regulation, is riding the globalization wave.

20:21 Vision
Twentieth-Century Lessons for the Twenty-First Century

Bill Emmott

The author, Economist cheif editor, tends to present very objective and slightly outside views of American economics/politics. I think this renders a more accurate assesment of how we fit in with the rest of the world. The book is a tour of the major forces of the 20th century with emphasis on how they are currently shaping the 21st century.

The Lexus and the Olive Tree


Thomas Freidman

Damned good book! Really opened up my eyes to what globalization is all about. Freidman's style of writing is engaging and his explainations are straightforward. I can see why people regard this book as the essential primer on the subject. I can also see why people think he is "pro-globalization" but I tend to think he's not so much promoting it as just pointing out the inevitability of it. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding globalization.

The Gnostic Gospels


Elain Pagles

I thought it was good. Explains a lot about the gnostic strain of Christain faith.

Consilience


Edward O. Wilson

Facinating. From the moment he starts decribing the Ionian enchantment on the first pages. This book describes the interrelation of seperate bodies of knowledge and how it all comes together.

The History of Money


Jack Weatherford

Human culture is possessed and these are some involving stories about the demon we call money.

Other material of interest:

Origins of the Federal Reserve (PDF) - Murray N. Rothbard

Excellent account of the monetary imperialism that led to the creation of the Federal Reserve.

The Elkhorn Manifesto
R. William Davis

This is an open letter to Americans that provides a historical perspective on the U.S. government's prohibition of Marijuana. Without stating any position on that particular issue, I have nevertheless saved a copy of the letter here because of what I think are some valueable and verifiable references to to what I call the "corporate priority over the better interests of the nation".