Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ode to Collectivist Capitalism

You see, there's this grand, mighty machine called The Economy.

And it must always be humming, always be producing more and more and more and more outputs, and therefore must always be serviced by everyone, and for no other reason than to keep the great machine humming--all to the pleasure of those who operate it.

No time for love and friendship. No time for reflection. No time for dreaming. No time for anything at all but serving the grand and mighty machine that is called The Economy.

And if the machine should ever fail to produce all the outputs that its operators think it should produce, then everything and anything must be done to crank it back to full speed, whatever the cost.

The machine must always be fed, one pound of flesh at a time.

Always.

ADDENDUM: Just in time for Halloween, the ghost of John Maynard Keynes seeks to terrorize hapless Americans into spending, spending, spending, always be spending!--as channeled through the Nobel Prize-winning spiritual medium Paul Krugman:
The long-feared capitulation of American consumers has arrived. According to Thursday’s G.D.P. report, real consumer spending fell at an annual rate of 3.1 percent in the third quarter; real spending on durable goods (stuff like cars and TVs) fell at an annual rate of 14 percent.

To appreciate the significance of these numbers, you need to know that American consumers almost never cut spending. Consumer demand kept rising right through the 2001 recession; the last time it fell even for a single quarter was in 1991, and there hasn’t been a decline this steep since 1980, when the economy was suffering from a severe recession combined with double-digit inflation...

So this looks like the beginning of a very big change in consumer behavior. And it couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Oh, horrors!

Consumer-comrades are not fulfilling their obligations to the collective greater good by buying as many cars and TVs as they once did! They have "capitulated" to their own individual interests! What to do? What to do???

Krugman, who just may be the Madame Blavatsky of the economics profession, acknowledges that most Americans are more deeply in debt than they've ever been, with overall savings that could be described as flimsy at best. So naturally, many now want to reign in their consumption to replenish their nest eggs. But as commendable as that common sense notion may be, however, it is detrimental to the greater good:

Some background: one of the high points of the semester, if you’re a teacher of introductory macroeconomics, comes when you explain how individual virtue can be public vice, how attempts by consumers to do the right thing by saving more can leave everyone worse off. The point is that if consumers cut their spending, and nothing else takes the place of that spending, the economy will slide into a recession, reducing everyone’s income.

In fact, consumers’ income may actually fall more than their spending, so that their attempt to save more backfires — a possibility known as the paradox of thrift.

How, exactly, does Krugman the Great know what the overall rate of spending should be, or what "everyone's income" should be at any given time? (Which could be called, say, the paradox of presuming synoptic knowledge.) Why, I suspect he just looked into his magical crystal ball and it told him!

Dr. Krugman's prescription for what he thinks ails Americans is, of course, more, more, more government spending:
"[W]hat the economy needs now is something to take the place of retrenching consumers. That means a major fiscal stimulus. And this time the stimulus should take the form of actual government spending rather than rebate checks that consumers probably wouldn’t spend."
You see, government must rob you even more, for the "needs" of that great and mighty machine called The Economy. If you stubbornly "retrenching" cheapskates won't spend at Krugman's desired rate willingly, then you must be mugged by the state--which it usually prefers to do these days by issuing ever greater piles of debt that ultimately devalue the dollars in your pockets--so that it can spend your money for you.

¡Viva la Máquina!

(Nod to Bill Anderson at the LRC blog.)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Note to John McCain

Mr. McCain: All politicians want to "spread the wealth".

That's what government does, and that's all it can do. It can create absolutely nothing, so anything it "gives" to anyone is something that was stolen from somebody else. This is done by means of either its legalized system of theft called "taxation"; charging "fees" for its monopolistic services and onerous licensing requirements; imposing fines for disobeying any of the rules and regulations it enforces to protect its favorite business interests; inflating the supply of money and credit through the central bank it created; or by way of some other coercive and fraudulent action. That is the essential nature of all government action, including massive multi-billion dollar, taxpayer-subsidized "defense" contracts to facilitate never-ending wars of aggression and bail-out schemes to aid irresponsible borrowers and unscrupulous bankers.

You're absolutely right that Barack Obama is a dyed-in-the-wool, redistribution-of-wealth socialist. For you to be making that charge, however, is akin to throwing stones from within a glass house.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

John McCain: 'Mmmmm...Bombs, Bombs, Bombs! Tasty, Juicy BOMBS!'

In response to Joe Biden's prediction that Dear Leader Barack Obama would face a major foreign affairs crisis within his first six months in office (read as: some foreign government[s] won't do what he tells them to do), John McCain proudly declared while shamelessly pandering to Pennsylvanians yesterday (maybe they got a lot of adjustable rate mortgages?) that he's already been tested by crisis:
McCain recalled being ready to launch a bombing run during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which Biden said over the weekend tested a new President John F. Kennedy and was the template for the kind of "generated crisis" the 47-year-old Obama would face within six months of taking office.

"I was on board the USS Enterprise," McCain, a former naval aviator, said in the capital city of Harrisburg. "I sat in the cockpit, on the flight deck of the USS Enterprise, off of Cuba. I had a target. My friends, you know how close we came to a nuclear war."

As the crowd of several thousand began to swell with cheers and applause, he added with dramatic effect: "America will not have a president who needs to be tested. I've been tested, my friends."

As the article notes, McCain has previously written of his experience in the Cuban missile crisis:

"The Enterprise, sailing at full speed under nuclear power, was the first U.S. carrier to reach waters off Cuba," McCain wrote in his memoir, "Faith of My Fathers." "For about five days, the pilots on the Enterprise believed we were going into action. We had never been in combat before, and despite the global confrontation a strike on Cuba portended, we were prepared and anxious to fly our first mission."

He added: "Pilots and crewmen alike adopted a cool-headed, business-as-usual attitude toward the mission. Inwardly, of course, we were excited as hell, but we kept our composure and aped the standard image of a laconic, reserved, and fearless American at war."

In other words, McCain and his fellow would-be executioners could barely contain their glee at the juicy prospect of dropping bombs on Cubans. Ye gods! In both his speech and the book you can practically hear him lick his lips in anticipation of the opportunities for slaughter he thought awaited him and his comrades.

(And take note of Biden's creepy "Stand By Your Leader" exhortations in Seattle...)

(Cross-posted at the Strike-The-Root blog.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Shout It Out Far and Wide: SARAH PALIN IS NO SECESSIONIST AND BARACK OBAMA IS NOT ANTI-WAR OR ANTI-IMPERIALIST

I happened to catch a little bit of Keith Olbermann's Countdown on MSNBC nearly a fortnight ago and heard, once again, about GOP nominee for Deputy Fuhrer Sarah Palin's alleged connection to that weird and kooky Alaskan Independence Party, which supposedly aims to secede Alaska from the United States. Olbermann's commentary included a description of secession that went something like, "You know, as in the Civl War!" This came complete with flashes of oil paintings depicting the bloody battles of the War Between the States.

The reason Olbermann brought up the horrifying spectre of Palin's possible secessionist sympathies was her recent claim that Barack Obama befriends domestic terrorists, i.e., William Ayers, who was once in the often violent Weather Underground, a group responsible for a wave of domestic bombings in the 1960s-70s. Obama and Ayers apparently became acquainted through various "school reform" and community anti-poverty organizations here in Chicago, and Ayers supported Obama's entry into electoral politics. This, says Palin, is evidence that Obama runs in the same social circles as terrorists, and this is no small charge in the age of the Global War of Terror, especially when you're talking about a presidential candidate with the middle name Hussein--the irony of the accuser in this particular instance being the handpicked partner of a man who himself was once a terrorist notwithstanding.

The "Weathermen," as they were also known, were a group of leftist radicals (most of them extremely statist-leftist radicals, i.e., Maoists, Stalinists and assorted Marxist-Leninists) who broke away from the Students for a Democratic Society in the 1960s and went on to initiate the "Days of Rage" of October 1969 here in Chicago. The Weathermen took a turn from public protests toward violence after the Chicago police department's mindless, stupid, deadly raid on an apartment that killed Fred Hampton and Mark Clark of the Black Panthers and wounded several others. (Chicago Stasi agents had claimed that the inhabitants were resisting arrest, but there wasn't even any evidence that the Stasi's victims resisted the attack against them, which shouldn't be surprising if the survivors' claims that they were asleep at the time the raid commenced are to be believed. [I see no reason not to.] The families of the survivors and the slain were subsequently awarded a $1.8 million settlement from the government. It was later revealed that Hampton was a target of the FBI's COINTELPRO operation, which employed ethically and legally dubious means--even by traditional government standards--to counter leftist and anti-war political activity, that is, activities that the ruling establishment deigned to be politically incorrect.)

Later claiming that they were motivated by the Hampton-Clark slayings, the Weathermen would go on to set off several bombs, mostly at banks and government buildings, such as police department HQs and courthouses, as well as the home of a New York judge, and even the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol building, which they said were in protest against U.S. military aggression in southeast Asia. Ayers himself participated in the bombing of a statue commemorating policemen who were killed during Chicago's Haymarket riot of 1886, which did a considerable amount of damage.

Ayers went underground for several years after his girlfriend and a few others accidentally killed themselves with the nail bomb they were making in a Greenwich Village apartment. He eventually married the Weathermen's enforcer of dogma Bernardine Dohrn, they had two sons, and they eventually came out of hiding after charges against them were dropped. (A judge decided that much of the evidence brought against them was tainted by the FBI's questionable methods.) Ayers is now a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

So after Palin used Obama's association with Ayers to charge him as a terrorist lover, Olbermann--always a faithful shill for the Democratic Party who would seem to have very little problem with retroactive immunity for big telecom corporations participating in domestic spying, or perhaps even the PATRIOT Act, the Iraq War, the Afghan War, the Global War of Terror, extraordinary rendition, big government bailouts for big business, etc., etc., etc., just so long as it was all done by an Obama administration instead of John McCain's--drudged up what he said was evidence of Palin's associations with domestic terrorists, or at least potentially domestic terrorists, which in her case would be the Alaskan Independence Party. The AIP is supposedly pro-secessionist, and secessionism is, of course, all weird and kooky-like, not to mention violent--"You know, as in the Civil War!"

First of all, if Olbermann would do less shilling and more journalism, he'd find that Sarah Palin was never a member of the AIP. The AIP makes this crystal clear on their web site. (Though apparently the party's current chair was once under the mistaken impression that Palin was a party member, she recently discovered her error in saying so and issued a retraction.) Palin's one and only direct association with the party was a videotaped address to its members that was shown at a recent party convention, in which she prattled on about the virtues of limiting government and expanding individual liberty for everyone in Alaska--excepting, I suppose, pot smokers and any women who would make a different choice than Palin's when it comes to control of their own bodies.

But even if one believes that there is any relationship at all between Palin and the AIP, could the AIP even be considered pro-secessionist in any meaningful way?

Olbermann dredged up this old quote from AIP founder Joe Vogler:
"I'm an Alaskan, not an American. I've got no use for America or her damned institutions."
Oh, horrors! Clearly, here was a man who embraced terrorist ideology! For surely, anyone who has "no use" for the political institutions of the United States--its government, government courts, government taxation, police state, government monetary inflation, government subsidy of big business, government wars, etc., etc.--and desires to be free of them must certainly be a terrorist of some stripe! "You know, as in the Civil War!"

For one thing, the War Between the States (as I personally prefer to call the "Civil War", since that's what it actually was, a war between one group of federated states, the United States of America, and another group of federated states, the Confederate States of America, that wanted to be free to carry on their own monopoly of force unimpeded) did not break out because the southern states wanted to secede from the U.S. and form their own union. It broke out because the governments of the southern states wanted to secede from the U.S. and form their own union, and the government of the U.S. would not let them go, and so resorted to military force to keep them in their union. A great deal of military force, in fact. The kind that literally wiped entire towns off the map and burned major Southern cities to the ground. If Olbermann really thinks that secession must naturally lead to a war because of the War Between the States, then he should avail himself of the abundant historical analysis out there that explains how and why that particular attempt at secession resulted in war.

Secondly, there's this from the AIP's own site (emphasis is mine):
"The platform of the AIP is, as one would expect, centered on Alaskan issues. Although it is widely thought to be a secessionist movement, the Party makes great effort to emphasize that its primary goal is merely a vote on secession, something that Party advocates say Alaskans were denied during the founding of the state. A plebiscite was, in fact, held in Alaska at the state's inception in 1958, but AIP members argue that voting was corrupt and that residents were not given the proper choice between statehood, commonwealth status, or complete separation -- something they say has been granted to other U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico."
Here are your kooky, wild-eyed, radical "secessionists." They're not exhorting their fellow Alaskans to grab their guns and drive the invasive Yankees off their soil, Keith Olbermann's misinformed insinuations notwithstanding. They want to put it up for a vote! They have deigned to inform their fellow Alaskans that they have one of three choices: 1.) To continue being ruled jointly by the U.S. empire's managerial technocrats and the professional managers of the state of Alaska; 2.) Be ruled by the professional managers of an Alaskan "commonwealth"; or 3.) Be ruled exclusively by the professional managers of the state of Alaska under the aegis of a completely seperate ruling monopolistic apparatus that is not itself subjected to the rule of U.S. imperial overlords.

Now, there is plenty for an anarchist such as myself to say about this proposed electoral group decision-making process to leave it up to a majority as to whether the lords of Washington, D.C. and the lords of Juneau, or only the lords of Juneau exclusively, should be allowed to monopolize the initiation of force and coercion against all of that state's 680,000 or so inhabitants. I have to wonder if the rulers of a Republic of Alaska would ever allow a city, a town, a village or any individuals to effectively secede from them. Why stop at only three choices? But then, how radically secessionist could the AIP possibly be, considering that their founder carried around a pocket-sized copy of the United States government's constitution? (So much for America's institutions being "damned".)

But of course Olbermann wasn't serious, you might say. You may point out that surely he was merely making humorous use of irony. He wasn't really insinuating that Palin is a closet secessionist, or even a secessionist sympathizer. He was just saying that if Obama could be said to have hung out with terrorists because of his association with William Ayers, then hell, Palin could be said to have once hung around with people who at least could be considered potentially terrorists because they want Alaska to secede from the U.S.

You know. Like in the Civil War.

You see, here is the point: The right charges Obama for befriending a man who was part of a group that set off bombs in the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol at a time when the U.S. government was damn well committing genocide against the Vietnamese--a slaughter in which their candidate proudly participated. The statist-left--never to be outdone when showing who's really not as loyal to the ruling Washington establishment as they should be--then replies with dark insinuations about how the other side's VP candidate associates with supposedly anti-U.S. rebels.

Do any of them really--really--think that there is any chance in hell that a person who sympathizes with the idea of destroying the Pentagon and the Capitol, or somebody who is open to the idea of allowing smaller units of autonomous political control break free of Washington's consolidated system of political power, could ever really find him- or herself a prime contender for one of the top positions in that very same system of consolidated power?

Does anyone really take that proposition seriously?

Really?

I guess we should just assume that Obama's statements favoring the bombing of Pakistan and the escalation of the war in Afghanistan were merely clever ruses designed to deceive voters into thinking that he too favors U.S. government slaughter of foreigners as much as anyone in the GOP. The fools! Don't they understand? Obama doesn't really want to continue George W. Bush's established policy of blowing up Arab peasants! He wants to help his buddy William Ayers blow up the Pentagon!

And I suppose we should just assume that Palin's speeches are merely cleverly worded deceptions, pretty lies designed to distract the public from her true decentralist agenda: Getting Alaska to secede from the United States. Aaaaahhhh, but what a tangle web we weave...

Sure, her son willingly marches off and fights the U.S. government's wars and shoots foreigners on their command as she makes claims that Washington's occupation of Iraq is divinely guided, but don't you see? It's just an act! A shameless charade! The very day she walks into the vice-president's office will be the day that her confederates in Juneau will declare their independence, and all with the support of the U.S. government's second most powerful official! Why, if Jefferson Davis could only see the Alaskans' magnificent Trojan horse, he would be green with envy!

Shell game? What shell game? I don't see no shell game...

Monday, October 13, 2008

For Columbus Day 2008

Arawak men and women, naked, tawny, and full of wonder, emerged from their villages onto the island's beaches and swam out to get a closer look at the strange big boat. When Columbus and his sailors came ashore, carrying swords, speaking oddly, the Arawaks ran to greet them, brought them food, water, gifts. He later wrote of this in his log:
They...brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks' bells. They willingly traded everything they owned...They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features...They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane...They would make fine servants...With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.
--Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States: 1492-Present (Chapter 1, "Columbus, the Indians, and Human Progress")

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

But If We Don't Give These Geniuses More Power to Control More Money, Then Surely We'll All Sink Into a Bottomless Vortex of Poverty and Despair!!

I happened to come upon C-Span video of a hearing held by the House Government Cover-Up and Power Grabbing Committee on the current state-capitalist financial crisis whilst clicking through the Tee-Vee channels last night. I listened for a few minutes, as a particular line of questioning posed by Gang Member Peter Welch of Vermont caught my ear.

The suit in the witness chair being questioned by Welch was Richard S. Fuld, who was once the chairman and CEO of Lehman Brothers. Welch asked Fuld if he had any theories as to why a company such as--oooohhhh, I don't know, let's say, AIG--was the beneficiary of a Federal Reserve bailout, while Lehman Brothers was allowed to go bankrupt, get only a small-time Fed bailout, and have many of its assets bought up by Barclays? (Well, okay, Welch didn't include those details, but I thought they're worth pointing out, as that's how the failure of any financial institution would normally play out--even in a state-capitalist economic order--without any further government intervention than what already existed before this whole market deflation started.) Mr. Fuld, while sounding pretty bitter about the whole thing, said he honestly had no idea.

Welch asked Mr. Fuld if he was aware that Goldman Sachs--which was once headed up by Keeper of the Loot Henry Paulson--had about a $20 billion exposure to AIG? I don't recall that Mr. Fuld had a response.

In fact, is anybody really paying any attention at all to the fact that Paulson is tapping other suits from his old investment firm to supervise this whole Wall Street bailout scheme? Is it really necessary to explain the analogy of foxes and chicken coops?

Just thought I'd put that out there.

Y'know...Just sayin'.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Will the Great Beast Turn Its Mighty Fangs On Its Own Tail?

So the senate is set to vote tonight on a newly revised, "sweeter" version ("sweeter" for whom, exactly?) of the proposed $700 billion transfer-of-wealth scheme to rob productive, working Americans and reward Wall Street socialist-capitalists for their craven greed, stupidity and foolishness. The House will most likely vote on the new bill after it returns to session tomorrow afternoon.

There may yet be another hurdle for the Ruling Elite to overcome, however, before they can carry out their act of highway robbery on a mass scale:
[O]ne aide in the GOP Senate leadership said swaying House Democrats to get on board with the sweetened bill will be "a fairly substantial problem."

The plan could attract Republicans in the House while simultaneously alienating bailout supporters among the Democrats because the tax cuts in the revenue bill aren't offset by spending cuts or increased revenues.
How deliciously ironic it would be if the bailout proposal failed to pass a second time--because it was rejected by a majority of House Democrats, only a few days after being rejected by House Republicans. Sure, they'd be rejecting it for cockamamie state-socialist reasons, but who cares just so long as they vote "Nay"?

Mmmm...The possibility of the political class turning on itself and devouring its own is a prospect that is itself so sweet that 'twould be most like having one's cake and eating it, too.

I'm not holding my breath, but I am keeping my fingers crossed.