Monday, December 27, 2004

Power and Theories

I recently found a discussion in which someone had mentioned the American Nazi party and was asking for opinions about what the consequences would be if the Nazis came to power in America. The scenario struck me as being a very typical product of the mind-set of the American mainstream and so I decided to respond directly but with emphasis on what I think is a much wider misconception that people have about power struggles in general, which unfortunatley makes them suceptable to the same traps that the German people fell into during Hitler's rise to power.

First of all, people need to understand that today's Nazis, just like todays Communists are holding onto dead relics that will never be anything more than an amusement. The reason why Nazis rose to power in Germany was because it was new - as a new entity it had the power of promise and illusion. It wasn't tainted by historical blemishes like it is now.

The political forces to watch out for today are the neo-conservatives, for the same reason... It's a new entity, not yet proven, not yet failed and still able to promise and misinform.

I'm not saying the political or economic theories of neo-cons and Nazis are anything alike but people place way too much emphasis on these theories. Theories are the stuff of academics and idealists. They never get past the papers and discussions until they get picked up by a power struggle and the power struggles are always the same. I think Stalin for instance, picked up communism because it was convenient - if capitalism was the new revolutionary idea at the time, I'm sure he would have used that - it wouldn't have mattered to him as long as he attained the power he was looking for.

Hilter was one of the few dictators that actually created a theory (well, he wrote a book) but his ideas were essentially modifications of pre-exisiting ideas. He took advantage of the discontent of the German people to attain power by presenting a theoretical alternative. If the discontent wasn't strong enough to initiate political movement, he used propaganda to amplify it until it was.

The neo-cons today are doing the same thing - amplifying our perceptions of failed social liberalism because it's social liberalism from which they are taking power away and adopting the theories of market liberalism as the new meaning of freedom and democracy. But when you notice how the Bush administration breaks the rules of their own theories by protecting certain industries such as pharmaceuticals from free trade, you start to realize that it really isn't the theories that matter as much as it is the power that they seek. After all, a power struggle is a power struggle. Like the thousands of times before the motives hidden behind the labels always the same.

...and like the thousands of times before, the people in general, fall for the illusions of a new and unfamiliar power grab as they concentrate their efforts on guarding themselves from the power grabs that have already expired.
 

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Does Conservative Policy Induce Abortions?

The abortion issue is something I usually stay away from, probably because I am pro-choice which means the law is currently on my side, so no need to protest, and because I think the issue hogs up too much attention during election campaigns. Like most pro-choice people I know, I am not enthusiastic about the procedure. I am pro-choice only because I think there are cases where medical advice, rational judgement and compassion may be a better route than an impervious, insensitive, one size fits all law. However, there is a perspective on the issue that I have been hearing about lately that I think is worth exploring.

There is statistical and confessional evidence indicating that the rate of abortions may have increased since Bush took office. I've looked at the CDC and AGI records and found that national statistics have not been recorded since 2001 (not sure why), but Dr. Glen Harold Stassen, a Christian ethicist and trained statistical analyst found some more recent state-level statistics. (see article) Only three states report statistics through 2003. Kentucky's abortion rate increased by 3.2% from 2000 to 2003, Michigan's increased by 11.3% from 2000 to 2003 and Pennsylvania's increased by 1.9% from 1999 to 2002. Dr. Stassen found 13 states that report statistics through 2002, of those, eight states saw an increase in abortion rates (14.6% average) and five saw a decrease (4.3% average decrease). From these statistics he was able to conclude that under President Bush, the decade-long trend of declining abortion rates appears to have reversed. Stassen states that given the trends of the 1990s, 52,000 more abortions occurred in the United States in 2002 than would have been expected before this change of direction.

Stassen indicates that the abortions rate declined during the pro-choice Clinton administration (by 12%) and increased under the pro-life Bush administration - proof, perhaps that words are cheap and direct abortion policies are ineffective. Being one of many Americans that would like to see a decrease in abortions but would rather the blundering government stay out of difficult family decisions, I think this presents an opportunity to look for alternative ways to decrease the number of abortions.

Dr. Stassen reveals three basic causes of increased abortion rates...

First of all, there is the personal finance effect of the Bush administration. "Not since Hoover had there been a net loss of jobs during a presidency until the current administration. Average real incomes decreased, and for seven years the minimum wage has not been raised to match inflation. With less income, many prospective mothers fear another mouth to feed." According to Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Web site, two thirds of women who abort say they cannot afford a child. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently reported that 12.6 million American families either didn’t have enough food or worried about someone in the family going hungry last year. Making sure all children in America have enough to eat would be a wonderful place to start reducing the number of abortions.

Secondly, there is the marital effect. "Men who are jobless usually do not marry. Only three of the 16 states had more marriages in 2002 than in 2001, and in those states abortion rates decreased. In the 16 states overall, there were 16,392 fewer marriages than the year before, and 7,869 more abortions. As male unemployment increases, marriages fall and abortion rises." Again, according to Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life Web site, half of all women who abort say they do not have a reliable mate.

Finally, there is the health insurance effect. "Since 5.2 million more people have no health insurance now than before this presidency - with women of childbearing age overrepresented in those 5.2 million - abortion increases."

Of course this is also a slam on Bush politics... something that can't happen without a barage of heated counter challenges from those tightly wound conservatives. Most of the counter arguments I've seen center around a dispute over how Stassen uses the statistics and I have to admit that the statistical side of his analysis is incomplete and perhaps a little slanted. For instance he compares the average post 2000 abortion rates for only 16 states to the pre-2001 rates for the entire country and he concentrates on rates, which can mean anything, rather than the actual number of abortions. (The CDC records the abortion rates as number of abortions per 1000 births and interestingly, in the last year recorded by the CDC, 2001, the rate increased where the actual number of abortions decreased.)

But then again, it's not that Stassen was picking and choosing which states to base his analysis on; the 16 states he concentrated on where the only states that reported any numbers. You have to deal with what you can get and he did make that clear and if you can get past the hang up about the statistics and move on to what I think is the more important part of his research, the "reasons" provided by the aborting mothers, then maybe you can see the connection between the economic well being of Americans and the unfortunate option to abort.

As far as the argument that Bush-style politics induces more abortions, I think it comes down to common sense... I mean what choices do you leave if your economic policies take away a mother's ability to provide for a child? Of course adoption always comes up, but if the booming economy of globalized investment continues to leech the American economy of wages then the waiting list for babies will shrink. I just don't see the synergy. What I see in the conservative path is a release valve in the form of a unfortunate reversion to illegal abortions, which will not save the lives of unborn children, but it should reduce the number of abortions officially reported, which would look very nice for conservative political statistics.
 

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Bush Sells Our Forests

Just read an article in the Washington Post about the new rules issued by the Bush administration last Wednesday for managing the national forests - New Rules Issued for National Forests. The article states that this new set of rules creates the biggest change in forest-use policies in nearly three decades and effects all 192 million acres of the countries 155 national forests.

The central feature of these rules is that a bureaucratic planning process will be replaced by a more corporate management approach... Hmmm, well I guess people haven't figured out yet, after all the recent corporate scandals and failures...

     Google Search = "corporate scandals"

...that the corporate approach isn't always such a great thing. The other problem with the "corporate approach" is that it's always profit driven, in fact we could say, in most cases, that it's profit obsessed. So how can we expect them to care about anything else such as the health of our environment or ourselves? Take a deep breath right now. Go ahead and do it. Now ask yourself where that oxygen came from. It came from trees, not just the one in your back yard, but from enough trees to make a difference, from vast forests. Yeah, lets put that in the hands of corporate management.

Sally Collins, associate chief of the U.S. Forest Service says that the new rules give economic activity equal priority with preserving the ecological health of the forests in making management decisions and in potentially liberalizing caps on how much timber can be taken from a forest. Well, first of all, don't assume that just because a person works for the U.S. Forest Service that person is in favor of preserving the environment. You may have noticed the Bush administration has been very busy making staff changes in government departments. Secondly, there is something seriously wrong with the idea of putting economic and environmental concerns on the same level. Economy is a made-made cycle that roughly operates in 10-year cycles, you can totally screw an economy up and in a few years recover it. Not the same with the environment where the cycle is more like a million years. If we screw up the environment there is no going back, in fact if we screw it up enough we can permanently screw up our own ability to lead healthy lives although I'm sure corporations would love to profit from selling oxygen tanks to people who would like to live. Don’t laugh - it's not as far-fetched as you think. People 100 years ago would not have believed that corporations would be profiting by selling water to people in third world countries that have no other source despite the fact they have a natural abundance of water. Pollution really changes things.

Collins also said the administration sought to update the rules to address new challenges, such as invasive species and forest fires, and to give the public input on how to manage the forests rather than commenting on individual projects. Oh yeah, how can I forget the much applauded pseudo-science that Bush has ushered in, where established science is overturned by bullshit popularity science. (remember that post about Lysenkoism?) The idea that forests have to be thinned is a perfect example... ridiculous; unbelievable how people actually buy that crap.

Washington Post says Forest Service officials estimated the changes will cut its planning costs by 30 percent and will allow managers to finish what amount to zoning requirements for forest users in two to three years, instead of the nine or 10 years they sometimes take now. Ah yes, the economic cycles are too short to be patient, just like the quarterly stock reports don't allow corporations to make short term sacrifices for long term gains anymore. Day traders want their instant gratifications immediately. So this makes sense. Thank you Bush for putting the long-term environment in the hands of short-term profit seekers. I mean, really now, when it comes to the environment, what was so bad about a 10 year process?

The government will no longer require that its managers prepare an environmental impact analysis with each forest's management plan, or use numerical counts to ensure there are "viable populations" of fish and wildlife. Of course... Why let things like pollution or extinction or any ill-effect for that matter get in the way of a short-sighted economic need? Hell, if this is the way things are going to be done, then why do I need to get a permit from my city to build my deck? Why should I let things like building and safety codes get in the way of building an addition to my house if I'm in a hurry?

Rep. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), a member of the House Resources Committee who tried twice unsuccessfully to block the proposed rules, said "With Bush's anti-environmental forest policy, you can't blame him for trying to hide behind other news, but not even Scrooge would unveil these regulations," Udall said. "These regulations, being offered two days before Christmas, cut the public out of the forest planning process, will inspire many more lawsuits and provide less protection for wildlife. It's a radical overhaul of forest policy." ...No shit.

Chris West, vice president of the American Forest Resource Council, called the new rules "a step in the right direction" that will allow forest managers to make "better, more informed and quicker decisions" about timber sales. "This will get the Forest Service caring about the land and caring about the people, instead of caring about the process and serving the bureaucracy," said West, who represents lumber and paper companies as well as landowners in 13 western states... A word of wisdom from a representative of the lumber and paper industry... Perfect.

OK, I think I'm going to hurl now.
 

Monday, December 20, 2004

Privatizing Social Security: Who's Money is it Anyway?

I watched Bush this morning talk during the press conference about the partial privatization of Social Security. He keeps saying it's our money and we should be able to invest it in our own private accounts. That may sound like a nice thing to say and it fits that whole "take control back from the government" rhetoric but really it's a pretty stupid thing to say when you think about it.

The money was always ours, we never put money in without the promise that we would get it out. What the government did was provide a service for pooling all the money together from which payments to retired people can be made. Now Bush is telling us to look at private accounts... In other words, the government will be downgrading it's service, shirking it's responsibility and yet... "our money" as Bush calls it, will be subjected to very strict guidelines for investment. Bush laughed and said, you can't invest it in the horse races or the lottery. Well, what I want to know is why not? If it's our money, what the hell does it matter to him? So let's cut through the bull crap here. What is the Bush administration really saying? It's seems to me like what they are saying is that they want to cut the government service, but they still want to control what we do with our money.

Screw that shit, if the government isn't going to take responsibility for my money then what gives them the right to tell me what to do with it?
 


Archives:




Noteworthy:

* Current Post
* Inside the Patriot Act
* Luminosity of a Future City
* Arctic Drilling
* Human Decline
* Wealth Inequality
* Bush Sells Our Forests
* Healthcare and Terrorism
* Chemical Assault
* The Cuban Medical Industry
* The Endless War
* Do the Rich Need Tax Breaks?
* A Collapse of Some Kind
* Guantanimo Bay

* About the Picture
* More Stuff...
* About Metaspective



Links:

My Links:
Poeticus

Other Links:
Electronic Frontier Foundation
Amnesty International
International Committee of the Red Cross
Almanac of Policy Issues
Public Citizen
The Millennium Project
Oxfam
Fourth Freedom Forum
UNEP
Union of Concerned Scientists
Surfriders Foundation
NRDC
Disinfopedia
Annenburg Fact Check
Taxpayers for Common Sense
The Progress Report
Daily Reckoning
Economic Indicators



Powered by Blogger

Blogarama - The Blog Directory

Blogwise - blog directory

eXTReMe Tracker

This blog supports a atom newsfeed now. Working on setting up an RSS feed too.


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".