~ CSPAN Junkie ~
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Reality can be detected, however, by applying the Orwell Rule and inverting public pronouncements and headlines, such as "Aggressor Russia facing pariah status, US warns", thereby identifying the correct pariah; or by crossing the invisible boundaries that fix the boundaries of political and media discussion. "When truth is replaced by silence," said the Soviet dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko, "the silence is a lie."
Understanding this silence is critical in a society in which news has become noise. Silence covers the truth that Britain's political parties have converged and now follow the single-ideology model of the United States. This is different from the political consensus of half a century ago that produced what was known as social democracy. Today's political union has no principled social democratic premises. Debate has become just another weasel word and principle, like the language of Chaucer, is bygone. That the poor and the state fund the rich is a given, along with the theft of public services, known as privatisation. This was spelt out by Margaret Thatcher but, more importantly, by new Labour's engineers. In The Blair Revolution: Can New Labour Deliver? Peter Mandelson and Roger Liddle declared Britain's new "economic strengths" to be its transnational corporations, the "aerospace" industry (weapons) and "the pre-eminence of the City of London". The rest was to be asset-stripped, including the peculiar British pursuit of selfless public service. Overlaying this was a new social authoritarianism guided by a hypocrisy based on "values". Mandelson and Liddle demanded "a tough discipline" and a "hardworking majority" and the "proper bringing-up [sic] of children". And in formally launching his Murdochracy, Blair used "moral" and "morality" 18 times in a speech he gave in Australia as a guest of Rupert Murdoch, who had recently found God.
A "think tank" called Demos exemplified this new order. A founder of Demos, Geoff Mulgan, himself rewarded with a job in one of Blair's "policy units", wrote a book called Connexity. "In much of the world today," he offered, "the most pressing problems on the public agenda are not poverty or material shortage . . . but rather the disorders of freedom: the troubles that result from having too many freedoms that are abused rather than constructively used." As if celebrating life in another solar system, he wrote: "For the first time ever, most of the world's most powerful nations do not want to conquer territory."
That reads, now as it ought to have read then, as dark parody in a world where more than 24,000 children die every day from the effects of poverty and at least a million people lie dead in just one territory conquered by the most powerful nations. However, it serves to remind us of the political "culture" that has so successfully fused traditional liberalism with the lunar branch of western political life and allowed our "too many freedoms" to be taken away as ruthlessly and anonymously as wedding parties in Afghanistan have been obliterated by our bombs.
The product of these organised delusions is rarely acknowledged. The current economic crisis, with its threat to jobs and savings and public services, is the direct consequence of a rampant militarism comparable, in large part, with that of the first half of the last century, when Europe's most advanced and cultured nation committed genocide. Since the 1990s, America's military budget has doubled. Like the national debt, it is currently the largest ever. The true figure is not known, because up to 40 per cent is classified "black" – it is hidden. Britain, with a weapons industry second only to the US, has also been militarised. The Iraq invasion has cost $5trn, at least. The 4,500 British troops in Basra almost never leave their base. They are there because the Americans demand it. On 19 September, Robert Gates, the American defence secretary, was in London demanding $20bn from allies like Britain so that the US invasion force in Afghanistan could be increased to 44,000. He said the British force would be increased. It was an order.
Al-Qaeda is watching the U.S. stock market's downward slide with something akin to jubilation, with its leaders hailing the financial crisis as a vindication of its strategy of crippling America's economy through endless, costly foreign wars against Islamist insurgents.
And at least some of its supporters think Sen. John McCain is the presidential candidate best suited to continue that trend.
"Al-Qaeda will have to support McCain in the coming election," said a commentary posted Monday on the extremist Web site al-Hesbah, which is closely linked to the terrorist group. It said the Arizona Republican would continue the "failing march of his predecessor," President Bush.
The Web commentary was one of several posted by Taliban or al-Qaeda-allied groups in recent days that trumpeted the global financial crisis and predicted further decline for the United States and other Western powers. In language that was by turns mocking and ominous, the newest posting credited al-Qaeda with having lured Washington into a trap that had "exhausted its resources and bankrupted its economy." It further suggested that a terrorist strike might swing the election to McCain and guarantee an expansion of U.S. military commitments in the Islamic world.
"It will push the Americans deliberately to vote for McCain so that he takes revenge for them against al-Qaeda," said the posting, attributed to Muhammad Haafid, a longtime contributor to the password-protected site. "Al-Qaeda then will succeed in exhausting America."
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There are lots of places in the world where you need to watch your step. You don't want to be a Sunni in a Shiite neighborhood in Baghdad (or vice versa). It's probably not smart to speak Tamal in southern Sri Lanka. You might want to keep being a Muslim under wraps in parts of Mindanao. But most of all you don't want to be a trade unionist in the U.S.'s one remaining ally in South America, Colombia.
"Colombia is the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist," says Jeremy Dear, chair of the British trade union organization, Justice For Colombia (JFC), "In fact, more trade unionists have been murdered in Colombia during [Alvaro] Uribe's presidency than in the rest of the world over the same period."
In April, the Colombian Trade Union Confederation reported that the first part of 2008 saw a 77 percent increase in the murder of trade unionists.
One of the latest victims was Luis Mayusa Prada, a union leader from Saravena. On Aug. 8, two men pumped him full of bullets—17 to be exact. Prada was the third member of his family to be assassinated by right-wing paramilitaries. His sister Carmen Mayusa, a nurse and leader of the National Assn. Of Hospital and Clinic Workers, is on the run from death threats.
Prada, who left behind a wife and five children, was the 27th unionist to be murdered in 2008 and joins 3,000 others who have been assassinated in the past two decades. Only 3 percent of the cases have ever been solved.
The fact that so many cases go unsolved is hardly surprising. The perpetrators work hand-in-glove with Colombia's police, military and, according to recent revelations, President Alvaro Uribe and his political allies.
According to the Washington Post, the head of Uribe's secret police, who also served as the President's campaign manager, was arrested for "giving a hit list of trade unionists and activists to paramilitaries, who then killed them." Fourteen of Uribe's supporters in congress have been jailed for aiding paramilitaries, and 62 others are under investigation.
There is an unholy trinity between the government, the Colombian military, and multi-national organizations that has reduced the number of trade unionists from more than three million in 1993 to fewer than 800,000 today.
Nor is there any question why trade unionists are the target.
Starting in the 1990s, foreign owned companies began investing heavily in Colombia. From 1990 to 2006, according to a recent study by Al Jazeera, direct foreign investment increased five-fold, making up 33 percent of the national earnings. In 2007 that jumped another 30 percent.
A major impetus for this influx of foreign capital is the push for a free trade agreement (FTA) with the U.S., an initiative begun under the Clinton Administration forms a centerpiece for the Bush Administration's Latin America policy.
Most trade unionists have resisted the influx of foreign investment because it has led to the privatization of government-owned services, such as hospitals and water systems. Unionists also fear that a FTA will wipe out Colombia's small farmers and manufacturers, as it has done all over Latin America.
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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is mobilizing its store managers and department supervisors around the country to warn that if Democrats win power in November, they'll likely change federal law to make it easier for workers to unionize companies -- including Wal-Mart.
In recent weeks, thousands of Wal-Mart store managers and department heads have been summoned to mandatory meetings at which the retailer stresses the downside for workers if stores were to be unionized.
According to about a dozen Wal-Mart employees who attended such meetings in seven states, Wal-Mart executives claim that employees at unionized stores would have to pay hefty union dues while getting nothing in return, and may have to go on strike without compensation. Also, unionization could mean fewer jobs as labor costs rise.
The Wal-Mart human-resources managers who run the meetings don't specifically tell attendees how to vote in November's election, but make it clear that voting for Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama would be tantamount to inviting unions in, according to Wal-Mart employees who attended gatherings in Maryland, Missouri and other states.
"The meeting leader said, 'I am not telling you how to vote, but if the Democrats win, this bill will pass and you won't have a vote on whether you want a union,'" said a Wal-Mart customer-service supervisor from Missouri. "I am not a stupid person. They were telling me how to vote," she said.
"If anyone representing Wal-Mart gave the impression we were telling associates how to vote, they were wrong and acting without approval," said David Tovar, Wal-Mart spokesman. Mr. Tovar acknowledged that the meetings were taking place for store managers and supervisors nationwide.
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Listening to talking heads on the TV worry about the financial rescue package, I heard some rhetoric that sacralized the Capitalist system. It was as if God was on the side of the free-market. Beginning with the words of Jesus about selling all your possessions and giving the proceeds to the poor (Mt. 19:21), continuing with the Apostolic Church that held all things in common (Acts 2:44-45), blossoming with the vow of common life in medieval monasteries, and coming of age with the papal encyclicals -- blind defense of Capitalism is not in Catholicism's DNA.
I would not say that a political prescription for today's financial troubles is to be found in any particular verse of scripture. But the spirit of Catholicism is to prefer people over profits. It stands in contrast to what Max Weber saw as the Protestant economic ethic which - he insisted - favored Capitalism. Surely, Protestantism and Catholicism do not fit into the tight boxes designed for them by Weber, but there is a strain of Catholicism that is aggressively anti-Capitalist, most notably, the Catholic Worker Movement.
I see elements of this anti-Capitalist Catholic tendency in the life and works of St. Francis of Assisi Forget the plaster statue Franciscan in the garden or the parade of pets being blessed on October 4th: these don't do justice to the radical evangelical calling of Francis.
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Yes, revolutionary, scientific and philosophic Marxism, the dialectical negation of capitalism, has not lost its praxical and theoretical creative powers. With some examples we will demonstrate the topicality of Marxism in the 'modern' and 'post-modern' era, in globalization.
Marx and Engels went 'post-modern' in 1848 already, at the beginning of workers' class struggle.
Later on June 27, 1865, in an English address 'Value, Price and Profit' to the General Council of the First International, Marx explained that due to unpaid, stolen labor time, socially exploited wage workers are carrying the whole burden of capital realization and thus are guaranteeing all the financial risks and speculative adventures of their notorious capitalist bosses and the reckless, criminal financiers. Now the American workers have to sacrifice more than $700 billion tax money to rescue speculative imperialist gangsters, to save capitalism from total collapse.
At the moment this century-old capital crime has become an open international secret; Wall Street is letting the cat out of the bag of criminal capital accumulation, as was explained long ago by the 'obsolete' Karl Marx.
Capitalist ideologues claim that Karl Marx is outdated and that Plato and Aristotle are en vogue. However, believe it or not, the 'Wall Street Journal' nowadays considers Karl Marx as an erudite authority worthwhile to quote. Nonetheless, it commits the same ideological mistake as so many other international mass media: it publishes only what suits its class interests, that is, only half-truths.
Three years ago, on May 13, 2005, the front page story headline of the 'Wall Street Journal' read: "As Rich-Poor Gap Widens in the U.S., Class Mobility Stalls". In the last analysis, the article was saying that the United States as a country of infinite social mobility and as the land of a million golden opportunities was and is a pure ideological myth. It claimed that "even Karl Marx accepted the image of America as a land of boundless opportunity. . . . 'The position of wage laborer,' he wrote in 1865, 'is for a very large part of the American people but a probational state, which they are sure to leave within a longer or shorter term.' (Marx)" (See: www.mindfully.org/Reform/2005/Rich-Poor-Gap13may05.htm
However, the editor of the 'Wall Street Journal' did not read Marx's address to the end, that is, he did not read the part which concerns the Marxist emancipatory solution of the current American crisis, of global depression and, of course, the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and South America.
Categorically, Marx stated: "They (the workers) ought to understand that, with all the miseries it imposes upon them, the present system simultaneously engenders the material conditions and the social forms necessary for an economical reconstruction of society. Instead of the conservative motto, "A fair day's wage for a fair day's work!" they ought to inscribe on their banner the revolutionary watchword, "Abolition of the wages system!" (See: www.marx2mao.com/M&E/WPP65.html)
Let us look now at another quotation that directly concerns the actual global crisis.
Guess who is the author!
"In a system of production, where the entire continuity of the reproduction process rests upon credit, a crisis must obviously occur a tremendous rush for means of payment - when credit suddenly ceases and only cash payments have validity. At first glance, therefore, the whole crisis seems to be merely a credit and money crisis. And in fact it is only a question of the convertibility of bills of exchange into money. But the majority of these bills represent actual sales and purchases, whose extension far beyond the needs of society is, after all, the basis of the whole crisis. At the same time, an enormous quantity of these bills of exchange represents plain swindle, which now reaches the light of day and collapses; furthermore, unsuccessful speculation with the capital of other people"
Could it be Henry Paulson? Or some neo-con 'think tank'? Let us give more data and facts about the current speculation at Wall Street!
. finally, commodity-capital which has depreciated or is completely unsaleable, or returns that can never more be realized again. The entire artificial system of forced expansion of the reproduction process cannot, of course, be remedied by having some bank, like the Bank of England, give to all the swindlers the deficient capital by means of its paper and having it buy up all the depreciated commodities at their old nominal values. Incidentally, everything here appears distorted, since in this paper world, the real price and its real basis appear nowhere, but only bullion, metal coin, notes, bills of exchange, securities. Particularly in centers where the entire money business of the country is concentrated, like London, does this distortion become apparent; the entire process becomes incomprehensible; it is less so in centers of production."
...Andrew Lahde, the Santa Monica, Calif., hedge fund manager who made an 870 percent gain last year by betting on the subprime mortgage collapse, has abruptly shut down his fund, citing the risk of trading with faltering banks. In his farewell letter to his investors he excoriated the elites who run our investment houses, banks and government.
"The low-hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale, and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking," he said of our oligarchic class. "These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government. All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America."
"On the issue of the U.S. Government, I would like to make a modest proposal," he went on. "First, I point out the obvious flaws, whereby legislation was repeatedly brought forth to Congress over the past eight years, which would have [reined] in the predatory lending practices of now mostly defunct institutions. These institutions regularly filled the coffers of both parties in return for voting down all of this legislation designed to protect the common citizen. This is an outrage, yet no one seems to know or care about it. Since Thomas Jefferson and Adam Smith passed, I would argue that there has been a dearth of worthy philosophers in this country, at least ones focused on improving government."
Democracy is not an outgrowth of free markets. Democracy and capitalism are antagonistic entities. Democracy, like individualism, is not based on personal gain but on self-sacrifice. A functioning democracy must defy the economic interests of elites on behalf of citizens. This is not happening. The corporate managers and government officials trying to fix the economic meltdown are pouring money and resources into the financial sector because they only know how to manage and sustain established systems, not change them. Financial systems, however, are not pure scientific and numerical abstractions that exist independently from human beings.
"When the elite begin to think that money is real, the crash is coming," Saul said in a telephone interview. "That is just a given in history. Because what they've done is pull themselves out of the possibility of looking in the mirror and thinking, this is inflation, speculation, this is fluff. They can't do it. And when you say to them, gosh, this is not real. And they say, oh, you don't understand, you're so old-fashioned, you still think this is about manufacturing. And of course, it's basic economics. And that's what happens every single time.
"The difficulty is you have a collapse, you have a loss of face by the people who are there, and it's not just George Bush, it's very, very deep," Saul said. "What we're talking about is the need to rethink the departments of economics, of political science. Then you have to rethink the whole analytic method of the World Bank. If I'm the secretary of the treasury, and not a guy like [Henry] Paulson, but I mean a sort of normal secretary of the treasury or minister of finance, and I say, OK, we've got a real problem, let's get the senior civil servants in here. Gentlemen, ladies, OK, clearly we have to go in another direction, give me some ideas. Well, those people don't have any other ideas because at this point they're about the fourth generation of what you might call neoconservative globalist managers, unfairly summarized. So they then go to the people who work for them, and you work down; there's no one in there with an alternate approach. I mean they'll have little alternatives, but no basic differences in opinion. And so it's very difficult to turn anything around because they've eliminated all opposing ideas inside. I mean it's the problem of the Soviet Union, right?"
Saul pointed out that the first three aims of the corporatist movement in Germany, Italy and France during the 1920s, those that went on to become part of the Fascist experience, were "to shift power directly to economic and social interest groups, to push entrepreneurial initiative in areas normally reserved for public bodies" and to "obliterate the boundaries between public and private interest—that is, challenge the idea of the public interest."...
Mainstream economics pragmatically emphasizes debate about results, not about methodologies.
So, certainly, individual's names can be bolted onto specific curves, econometric estimators, statistical tests, probability inequalities, interest-rate rules, and mathematical equations and models — but not onto entire systems or ways of thinking.
The case of Friedrich Hayek, however, provides a rare example of a consistent body of work in the profession where such identification might be justified.
Living the frenetic cultured existence of the mid 1900s — as political events forever changed the global geography of intellectual endeavor — Hayek became one of the 20th century's most influential economists and political philosophers. In economics he made profound and enduring contributions in areas as diverse as monetary and business cycle theory, the social organization of dispersed knowledge, and the spontaneous emergence of order. But while seemingly varied, all these research questions were attacked by Hayek in a consistent, unified perspective. It is this single perspective then that potentially can be most identified with Hayek.
However, matters are complex from the opposite direction as well.
Hayek viewed business cycles as having their initiating impulse of central-bank credit overexpansion and their propagation mechanism as misallocation of capital across short- and long-term investments. This sees echo in many modern technical treatments — both empirical and theoretical — of economic fluctuations.
Hayek saw the price system to be the single leading mechanism by which limited local knowledge and actions can be efficiently aggregated into optimal social outcomes — through human action, not human design. This is, in one guise, simply the fundamental theorem of welfare economics. But combining these two Hayek propositions — that on business cycles and that on local knowledge — also recovers critical ingredients of Robert Lucas's rational expectations reconciliation of the short-run Phillips curve with monetary neutrality.
Being clear on the distinction between monetary and credit overexpansion brings to the fore modern econometric investigations of the different roles for money and credit over business cycles. Exploring the full implications of whether markets perfectly aggregate imperfect information is precisely the idea underlying a rich seam of technical research in microeconomics.
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Voters are rightly furious at the proposal to spend $700,000,000,000 that
the government doesn't have to bail out Wall Street bankers who created the
current economic crisis in the first place. But why then aren't we concerned
about the trillions of dollars the Federal Reserve is pumping into the
system? Or the trillions missing from the Pentagon? Or the quadrillion
dollar derivatives bubble.
Perhaps more important - and never mentioned in the media - is that all the news we get every day and every hour is all about the bankers while presidents, prime ministers and other elected leaders of the world have been reduced to the role of mere commentators who are expected to supply taxpayers' money whenever it is needed to bail out the wealthy.
Indeed, what we are watching is nothing less than the steady transfer of real political power from the polling station to the market and from the ballot to the wallet - reversing the democratic gains we have made over the last century when we were able, increasingly, to use our votes to shape our economic future.
Our 1945 manifesto made that clear in the very next passage following the quote above. This is what it said: "The nation wants food, work and homes. It wants more than that. It wants good food in plenty, useful work for all and comfortable labour-saving homes that take full advantage of the resources of modern science and productive industry."
That was the policy that swept Labour MPs into power in 1945 and gave this country the National Health Service, the welfare state and a massive house building programme, made possible by elected local authorities who had the resources made available to them by the Treasury.
Now, 63 years later, we are back facing a similar situation and we need to understand why it has happened if we are to see our way forward.
We have been told every day by the media that we should put our faith in the market and that elected governments are the problem and not the answer and, for that reason, should not interfere.
These ideas began to emerge in the political mainstream when Margaret Thatcher came to power and in 1994 "new" Labour adopted them as the basis of its own approach which explains why she once described "new" Labour as her "greatest achievement".
Trade union rights are now more restricted than they were in 1906, wages have been held down and people have been advised to borrow and spend as an alternative - which explains why the stock market has fallen and locked more and more people into debt, which is a subtle form of slavery itself.
This is why so many people are frightened and frightened people can sometimes be persuaded to seek an answer by identifying an enemy who can be made a scapegoat for failure - as Hitler did when he blamed the Jews, the Communists and the trade unions for the mass unemployment in Germany and set up a fascist dictatorship which led to the Holocaust and war.
Hitler dealt with the unemployed by giving them jobs in the arms factories and the armed forces which led to the Second World War and the massive human cost it caused.
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In 1970, John Lennon introduced to the world Alejandro Jodorowsky and his movie El Topo, which the filmmaker wrote, starred in, and directed. The movie and its author instantly became a counterculture icon. His spiritual quest began with the Japanese master Ejo Takata, the man who introduced him to the practice of meditation, Zen Buddhism, and the wisdom of the koans. At the direction of Takata, Jodorowsky became a student of the surrealist painter Leonora Carrington, thus beginning a journey in which vital spiritual lessons were transmitted to him by various women who were masters of their particular crafts.
This article is excerpted from The Spiritual Journey of Alejandro Jodorowsky, recenty published by Inner Traditions.
"Ejo, I want to propose something. Let us bury this stick among the trees here, as if it were a plant. Let us imagine that someday it will sprout and produce branches, even fruit . . ."
After we finished burying it, my friend gave a huge sigh. It was as if he had shed an immense burden. He burst out laughing, then he took his monk's robe out of the net sack. "It was my master, Momon Yamanda, who gave me this kesa.* He wove into it parts of the funeral shrouds of his father and his mother. Do you understand? We often speak of the transmission of the light, but the real master transmits the shrouds of the dead. We must see life -- both our own and that of the cosmos -- as an agony. This is the teaching of the Buddha Shakyamuni. After his satori, he went to the place where they incinerate corpses, and he gathered pieces of cloth left there, washed them, dyed them, and sewed them together painstakingly and slowly, giving his total attention to every stitch. That kesa was transmitted from patriarch to patriarch through the ages. Everyone who wore it while meditating was burning in body and in soul. To reach the marrow of the soul, everything superfluous must be burned to ashes. By wearing the garments of so many dead people, Buddha taught that liberation is to be obtained for them as well. When a flower opens, it is springtime for the whole land. The Buddha is like the brilliant prow of a vessel that leads it and its blind passengers to the port of salvation. I know that my way is not the same as yours, for you are more attracted to artistic creation than to meditation. But you know -- there is really no difference between us. Compassion inhabits us both. Just this once, please give me the pleasure of seeing you dressed in my kesa."
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