Saturday, December 16, 2006

I'll be gone

for a few days. That means something really interesting is going to
happen and I won't have access to the internet--not even The Google.

Yes, "The Google":

Friday, December 15, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging from the LPS

cat max, originally uploaded by andy_wallis.

This is Max.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Why I like Paul Krugman

Paul, I like you because you say it all so well and because you say
things a lot of rich people don't want you to say. Keep making the
aristocrats mad, you have my vote.

"Rising inequality isn't new. The gap between rich and poor started growing before Ronald Reagan took office, and it continued to widen through the Clinton years. But what is happening under Bush is something entirely unprecedented: For the first time in our history, so much growth is being siphoned off to a small, wealthy minority that most Americans are failing to gain ground even during a time of economic growth -- and they know it.

A merica has never been an egalitarian society, but during the New Deal and the Second World War, government policies and organized labor combined to create a broad and solid middle class. The economic historians Claudia Goldin and Robert Margo call what happened between 1933 and 1945 the Great Compression: The rich got dramatically poorer while workers got considerably richer. Americans found themselves sharing broadly similar lifestyles in a way not seen since before the Civil War.

But in the 1970s, inequality began increasing again -- slowly at first, then more and more rapidly. You can see how much things have changed by comparing the state of affairs at America's largest employer, then and now. In 1969, General Motors was the country's largest corporation aside from AT&T, which enjoyed a government-guaranteed monopoly on phone service. GM paid its chief executive, James M. Roche, a salary of $795,000 -- the equivalent of $4.2 million today, adjusting for inflation. At the time, that was considered very high. But nobody denied that ordinary GM workers were paid pretty well. The average paycheck for production workers in the auto industry was almost $8,000 -- more than $45,000 today. GM workers, who also received excellent health and retirement benefits, were considered solidly in the middle class.

Today, Wal-Mart is America's largest corporation, with 1.3 million employees. H. Lee Scott, its chairman, is paid almost $23 million -- more than five times Roche's inflation-adjusted salary. Yet Scott's compensation excites relatively little comment, since it's not exceptional for the CEO of a large corporation these days. The wages paid to Wal-Mart's workers, on the other hand, do attract attention, because they are low even by current standards. On average, Wal-Mart's non-supervisory employees are paid $18,000 a year, far less than half what GM workers were paid thirty-five years ago, adjusted for inflation. And Wal-Mart is notorious both for how few of its workers receive health benefits and for the stinginess of those scarce benefits.

The broader picture is equally dismal. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the hourly wage of the average American non-supervisory worker is actually lower, adjusted for inflation, than it was in 1970. Meanwhile, CEO pay has soared -- from less than thirty times the average wage to almost 300 times the typical worker's pay.

The widening gulf between workers and executives is part of a stunning increase in inequality throughout the U.S. economy during the past thirty years. To get a sense of just how dramatic that shift has been, imagine a line of 1,000 people who represent the entire population of America. They are standing in ascending order of income, with the poorest person on the left and the richest person on the right. And their height is proportional to their income -- the richer they are, the taller they are.

Start with 1973. If you assume that a height of six feet represents the average income in that year, the person on the far left side of the line -- representing those Americans living in extreme poverty -- is only sixteen inches tall. By the time you get to the guy at the extreme right, he towers over the line at more than 113 feet.

Another Indictment of our (in)justice system

Today at

“First, the Supreme Court denied the appeal of Weldon Angelos for a first-time drug offense. Angelos was a 24-year-old Utah music producer with no prior convictions when he was convicted of three sales of marijuana in 2004. During these sales he possessed a gun, though there were no allegations that he ever used or threatened to use it. Under federal mandatory sentencing laws, the judge was required to sentence Angelos to five years on the first offense and 25 years each for the two subsequent offenses, for a total of 55 years in prison. In imposing sentence, Judge Paul Cassell, a leading conservative jurist, decried the sentencing policy as “unjust, cruel, and even irrational.”

The Angelos decision came on the heels of a Bureau of Justice Statistics report finding that there are now a record 2.2 million Americans incarcerated in the nation’s prisons and jails. These figures represent the continuation of a “race to incarcerate” that has been raging since 1972. With a 500 percent increase in the number of people in prison since then, the United States has now become the world leader in its rate of incarceration, locking up its citizens at 5-8 times the rate of other industrialized nations. The strict punishment meted out in the Angelos case and thousands of others explain much of the rapid increase in the prison population.

The composition of the prison population reflects the socioeconomic inequalities in society. Sixty percent of the prison population is African American and Latino, and if current trends continue, one of every three black males and one of every six Latino males born today can expect to go to prison at some point in his lifetime. The overall rates for women are lower, but the racial and ethnic disparities are similar and the growth rate of women’s incarceration is nearly double that of men over the past two decades.” (

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Crime and Punishment (of the innocent)

With all the outsourcing to China, I'm glad to see we're forging ahead in the prison-industrial complex. I mean, if we can't do "shake 'n' bake" democracy in the Middle East, at least we know how to incarcerate people:

According to the International Center for Prison Studies at King's College in London, the US has 700,000 more of its citizens incarcerated than China, a country with a population four to five times larger than that of the US, and 1,330,000 more people in prison than crime-ridden Russia. The US has 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's prisoners. The American incarceration rate is seven times higher than that of European countries. Either America is the land of criminals, or something is seriously wrong with the criminal justice (sic) system in "the land of the free."

In the US the wrongful conviction rate is extremely high. One reason is that hardly any of the convicted have had a jury trial. No peers have heard the evidence against them and found them guilty. In the US criminal justice (sic) system, more than 95% of all felony cases are settled with a plea bargain. (Counterpunch)

Ah, ain't freedom grand? Ok, sorry to be snarky. This is tragic.

It's not a conspiracy...

I don't really believe much in conspiracies. Sure, they exist. But most things like, say, the killing of Allende by Pinochet supporters with strong help from the CIA, or the promotion of Curveball within the U.S. "intelligence" network, are actually done in the open. To call them conspiracies would be to deflect attention from the very real power of social networks and the (in)human actions that take place thanks to hierarchical and peer systems.

That's why I found the following a fun read. Corporations, especially in the last 50 years, have gone viral. The belief system they promote (to the disadvantage of many struggling humans) has spread far and wide, infiltrating the deepest core of our beings.

Is the consumerist totalization of this country and the world really a conscious plot by a handful of powerful corporate and financial masters? If we answer "yes" we find ourselves trundled off toward the babbling ranks of the paranoid. Still though, it's easy enough to name those who would piss themselves with joy over the prospect of a One World corporate state, with billions of people begging to work for their 1,500 calories a day and an xBox chip in their necks. It's too bad our news media quit hunting with live ammo decades ago, leaving us with no one to track the activities and progress of what sure as hell seem to be global elites, judging from the financial spoor we find along every pathway of modern life.

In our saner moments we can also see that it does not take dark super-centralized plotting to pull off what appears to have been accomplished. Even without working in overt concert, a few thousands of dedicated individual corporate and financial interests can constitute a unified pathogenic whole, much the same as individual cells create a viable dominant colony of malignant organisms -- malignant simply by their anti-human, anti-societal nature. We don't see GM, Halliburton, Burger King and CitiBank lobbying the state for universal health or clean rivers, do we? But mention unions or living wages, and the financial colony within our national Petri dish shape shifts into a Gila monster and squirts venom on the idea and shits money all over Capitol Hill. I looked at all this as coincidence for years until the proposition finally strained credulity so much that I threw in the towel and said, "Fuck it. There is only so much coincidence to go around in this world. [Source: h/t:]

Friday, December 08, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging from the LPS

This is Lucy.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

NSTA: Teachers Owned by Corporations

Ah, thanks, National Science Teachers Association. I just got an email back from you about your refusal to distribute--for free--"An Inconvenient Truth." Here's what you said:

Dear Colleague:

Thank you for your recent e-mail expressing your opinion about the National Science Teacher Association’s decision in regard to the DVD “An Inconvenient Truth.” We value each and every comment we have received from our members and friends.

First and foremost, we want to ensure that you have the most current and accurate information about the issue. Ms. Laurie David, producer of AIT, asked NSTA to distribute 50,000 copies of the movie to its members. The NSTA Board of Directors stood by its 2001 NSTA policy prohibiting endorsements and decided not to mass distribute the DVD to members without their consent or request because it would constitute an endorsement.

As you will see in the letter that NSTA sent to Ms. David on Thursday, November 30, 2006 ( we provided her with several options to publicize the availability of the DVD to both our members and the wider universe of science educators worldwide via our communication channels. We also invited Mr. Gore to participate at the NSTA National Conference in March.

This information and more is available on our website at We encourage you to read these documents.


Linda Froschauer
President 2006-2007
National Science Teachers Association

Gerald Wheeler
Executive Director
National Science Teachers Association
It's really nice of you to write back, but you still don't explain why it would be an "endorsement" if you simply took the donation of the films. It doesn't explain how that "endorsement" would differ from your two full pages of corporate sponsors (pages 22-23 of your 2003 annual report). It doesn't explain why you take money from Exxon and Chevron, but you refuse a free donation from Laurie David. It doesn't explain how a physical or intellectual gift that you redistribute to your members is any different from monetary gifts you receive and redistribute to your members in the form of services for their membership.

I am not surprise by your letter however, given your board of corporate advisors:
Richard Schaar
Texas Instruments

Edwar Ahnert
Exxon Mobil Foundation

John Anderson
Toshiba America

Alfred R. Berkeley III

George Borst
Toyota Financial Services

Mark Emmert
Louisiana State University

Stacy King
Clear Channel

Len Roberts
RadioShack Corp.
I have no doubt that Toyota and Exxon were thrilled to hear about Gore's movie, so it must have been your other friends that threw down the gauntlet. Let me just say that this makes you look bad. In fact, I'm tempted to call you whores.


I'm also VERY impressed that NSTA has people from Clear Channel on its board. They produce so much serious scientific programming and are so well known for providing their clients with a docile and demographically defined audience to advertise to through their numerous outlets. They are also known for their liberal attitude toward freedom of thought and speech, those hallmarks of progress.

I'm disappointed that, in your letter, you are neither honest about one of the obvious reasons you refused Laurie David (you're afraid of losing your corporate sponsorship) nor do you admit that this is a loss for students who would have been better educated and better served by that documentary than by those produced by Exxon that are available for free to teachers.

Thanks. Thanks for nothing.

It was five years ago today

That John Ashcroft said in front of the Senate: "To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies and pause to America's friends." (Dec. 6 2001)

Translation: "Those of you who complain of losing your civil liberties are in bed with the enemy."

That the man is not in jail shows how little we have progressed since then, but there are signs of hope and resistance to unconstitutionally enforced subordination.

We had an election and won. We won not based on fear but rather on the knowledge that the erosion of constitutional protections, begun under Ashcroft and embraced wholeheartedly by Gonzalez, was and is doing significant harm to the United States as a nation and as a set of individuals seeking prosperity and community within its borders. We won using community, netroots, personal phone calls, alternative media. We won thanks to people and unions. We won in spite of corporate media's tepid, untruthful and polluting "journalism." We won in spite of millionaire pundits. We won on the self-evident observations of what we see around us in factories, offices, cafes, restaurants, and family dinners. We won thanks to the pictures we saw--and not the interpretations of them by the priesthood.

Yet, in spite of this, we see our own citizens tortured and handcuffed. We see our physical environment degraded through exploitation. We see our community and mental environment degraded by surveillance; we are watched rather than protected. We see a new boss in the Pentagon, same as the old boss, and we see senators welcome him like a pal. We see the gods of Wall Street lecture the democrats on how they are supposed to act. We see trade deficits and deficits of discourse and action.

In sum...

All is still not well in the corporate kingdom of brand America.

Livestock are really bad for the environment

According to a United Nations report, livestock are large contributors to greenhouse gases:

Manger de la viande nuit à l'environnement. C'est la conclusion à laquelle parvient l'Organisation des Nations unies pour l'alimentation et l'agriculture (FAO) qui a rendu public, mercredi 29 novembre, un rapport consacré à l'impact écologique de l'élevage. Celui-ci est "un des premiers responsables des problèmes d'environnement", affirme un des auteurs, Henning Steinfeld.

Mesurée en équivalent CO2, la contribution de l'élevage au réchauffement climatique est plus élevée que celle du secteur des transports.

[Eating meat harms the environment. That's the conclusion of the Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations, which published on Wednesday, November 29th, a report dedicated to the ecological impact of livestock. The latter is "one of the primary factors of environmental problems," according to the authors Henning and Steinfeld.]

Measured in equivalent CO2, the contribution of raising livestock to climate warming is greater than in the transport sector.

(Loose translation from Le Monde)

No big surprise here, but I hope this pushes a few more people to reduce their protien intake. Eventually we will face some dire consequences if nobody starts talking about this.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Friedman: Liar, war-monger... respected.

Friedman takes a lot of flack... and it is all deserved. That he is one of the leading opinion-makers is both travesty and tragedy.

I should have linked to Greenwald earlier:

But tragically, there is nothing unique about Tom Friedman. What drives him is the same mentality that enabled the administration's invasion of Iraq and, so much worse, it is the mentality that is keeping us there and will keep us there for the indefinite future. We stay in Iraq in pursuit of goals we know are fantasies, because to do otherwise requires the geniuses and serious establishment analysts to accept responsibility for what they have done -- and that is, by far, the most feared and despised outcome.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Wanker of the month

Dan Goure:

Listen to him here.

This is one of the most misleading opinions I have heard on NPR, and reminds me why N(Nice) P (Polite) R(Republicans) is a network to be deeply discounted. It is why I wrote them an email (which I am posting here in modified and lengthened format in the form of this blog entry).

Goure's overt opinion--that audacity almost always trumps caution--is a red herring which hides subtler and more troubling accusations. Goure praises Bush for invading Afghanistan, and then for invading Iraq despite the lack of international consensus. Goure also lauds Rumsfeld, for insisting, "audaciously," that the war in Iraq could be won with fewer soldiers and weapons than many experienced members of the military believed. Most surprisingly, Goure states that the U.S. invaded Iraq and won.

Really, now, that is silly. If we had won the war, congress would have actually spent the 20 million it allocated for a victory celbration in 2006. If we had won the war, the Whitehouse would not have doctored the famous "Mission Accomplished" speech so as to eliminate the banner saying...well, "Mission Accomplished."

So, how does Mr. Goure accomplish his mission? He uses half-truths worthy of the "I-did-not-have-sex-with-that-young-lady" kind.

Could it be said that we won the war in Iraq? Yes, if you think the war lasted three weeks. Was Rumsfeld right? Yes, but again only if you limit his responsibility to a few weeks or months. I mean, where is Ken Starr when you need him?

But to engage Mr Goure on these points is a waste of time. The real question here is why is Goure bring this up now? Well, with a Middle East in turmoil, with increasing gas prices, with nuclear weapons in North Korea, with larger and larger swaths of Afghanistan in the hands of the Taliban, with Iraq on the verge of all out civil war, someone is going to bear the blame. Mr. Goure's goals become clear at this point: shift the blame. Instead of telling the truth, say instead that America is losing in Iraq because we are not audacious enough. Instead of facing up to a failed foreign policy, say that Bush, Rumsfled, Cheney are bold and "fearless" leaders and that if only the American people and Democrats had the stomach, we could win this thing.

Stop there. Blame anybody but the Bush Administration? Hell no. They are the sole criminals in a criminal war. Moreover....

America and Americans have shown themselves to be tough, valorous and willing to stomach the realities of war time and again. And, indeed, many soldiers have died in this current conflict. But the realities of war are different from real war, and only a real war should justify those realities. A real war is faught for reasons of necessity and dire need, not because of supposed WMDs or non-existent terrorists. A real war comes after an attack, not a pre-emptive strike. A real war is not a choice, but a necessary reaction to imminent and possibly overwhelming danger from a credible adversary. Americans know this is not a real war, and they had the audacity to kick out as many Bush enablers as possible.

That is the reality of a democracy, even one in its current condition.

So, Mr. Goure, please stop telling Americans that it is their fault if we lose this war. The Bush administration stage-managed this bloody intervention from the very beginning and is responsible for a mountain of failures costing countless lives. Moreover, the Bush administration used fear to sell their program from the very beginning--and Americans stood up to it. Vive la démocratie. [end of email to NPR]

Of course, Goure is from the Lexington Institute, a conservative thinktank. I suppose that gives him some credibility in the mainstream media, but it does little to persuade me, especially when he spouts inane falsehoods in order to spread propaganda, not "deep thought."


When I did a little more research on Monsieur Gouré, I came upon this little gem of an article, from which I will quote:Link

What France really wants
A medium-sized power with super-sized ambitions

WASHINGTON, March 13 - Sigmund Freud is reported to have once exclaimed in sheer exasperation, “What do women want?” The same question can be asked today about France. [...]

Ok--I get it: France is a little girl! That's funny! And women are second-class citizens and therefore should be discounted. I mean, how dare they be uppity? Monsieur is clearly establishing himself as one of the deeper thinkers, isn't he? What else does he say?

[...] Jacques Chirac not only opposes any effort to declare Iraq delinquent according to 1441, it has organized the opposition to U.S. efforts to bring the current crisis to a definitive conclusion. Paris has lobbied the non-permanent members of the Security Council against the Anglo-American second resolution. It even has declared its willingness to veto that resolution if it achieved the nine votes necessary for passage. France also sought to block NATO assistance to one of its own members, Turkey, forcing the other members of that organization to neutralize France’s obstructionism by moving to an alternate venue. And on Thursday, the French rejected the new British effort at compromise, beating even Iraq to the punch.


It is entirely too easy to ascribe to the French actions motives such as great power envy, an excess of Gallic pride or revenge against an American administration that France feels has paid insufficient attention to French interests. Yes, it is true that Washington and Paris differ on a number of issues, some serious, such as global warming, missile defense, genetically modified agricultural products and the humor of Jerry Lewis...

Though Freud has been largely discreted by all but a few psychologists, Goure invokes him as a reference to his deep thoughts. Power envy=penis envy, France=disgruntled woman, the French are snobs and when they do like Americna culture, it's Jerry Lewis. Clearly they are deranged and should be ignored.

My point here is not to go through every disengenuous argument Goure makes. Indeed, that is the trap he is setting. He want's us to get bogged down in his interpretation of details.

Don't do it.

Rather, understand Goure for what he his. A shill that wants to shape the argument of a "real-man," real-politik agenda in spite of overwhelming evidence that this has failed.

He's a shill that wants to blame others for his (and the administration he loves) agenda.

He's a darling of our media. He's an...

Yes, he's an...


Did I mention that he misquoted the Jim Webb-George Bush incident?... Go listen.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Monday, November 27, 2006

Have you been or were you ever

a member of the ______________?


"Four years ago, Janet Neff went to a lesbian "commitment ceremony" for her friend and next-door neighbor of more than two decades. Now, her nomination for a federal judgeship in Michigan is being blocked by religious zealot and right-winger Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) for no other reason than his homophobia"

NSTA is morally bankrupt...

but getting richer all the time. From Orcinus:

Laurie David, one of the producers of An Inconvenient Truth, wrote a piece for today's Washington Post describing her efforts to make 50,000 DVD copies of that movie available to America's science teachers through NSTA.

They said no. And, more weirdly, they explained why. First, they said, they were afraid that if they started taking information from "special interests" like David, they'd have to take them from other groups, too. As though a private organization is obligated to accept and distribute any fool thing the Flat Earth Society may send them? As though they're not scientists, capable of sussing out the factual truth and relative educational value of any given piece of would-be curriculum? As though (as David points out) An Inconvenient Truth isn't already part of the required science curriculum in other countries, including Sweden and Norway?

That was bizarre enough, but then they got to their second reason: It might jeopardize their capital campaign. It turns out that NSTA gets millions each year from groups like Exxon-Mobil and the American Petroleum Institute -- who, in turn, are given access to American science classrooms to promote anti-global-warming propaganda with titles like "You Can't Be Cool Without Fuel." If they started telling kids the truth about global warming, they whined, that money might go away. And then how would that fine organization continue to support America's science teachers in their quest to instill their students with a passion for empirical truth, and teach the rigors of the scientific method to the country's next generation of technology leaders?

Memo to the Christian Coalition: The NSTA is for sale. For a mere million bucks a year, I'll bet you could get them on board with Intelligent Design, too.

Memo to parents: It might be time to find out if your kids' science teachers are members of this group, and have a word with them about it. If you -- or the teachers -- want to complain directly to the NSTA, the complaint form is here. They need to hear from everyone who still thinks that scientific truth shouldn't be auctioned off to the highest donor.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Talking Turkey

"Lo! the great Anarch's ancient reign restor'd,
Light dies before her uncreating word." (III 339-40)

Settle invokes the second coming of stupidity, urging,

"Thy hand great Dulness! lets the curtain fall,
And universal Darkness covers all." (III 355-6)
[Alexander Pope: Dunciad]
Alas, friends, it is that time of year. Let us not forgive Bush any sins, let us remember his vanity, which is, all things said and done, his stupidity.

See the Gore Vidal interview here.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Private Investment Funds begin

to really gather steam. This is no longer a phenomenon of microclimates. Here's a snippet from Le Monde today.


C'est le montant total dont les fonds d'investissement disposent aujourd'hui pour investir dans le monde. En Europe, ils ont collecté 72 milliards d'euros en 2005 auprès de fonds de pension et de grandes fortunes. Depuis quatre ans, ces acteurs sont présents dans une acquisition d'entreprise sur quatre ou cinq.


C'est le nombre estimé d'entreprises françaises contrôlées par des fonds d'investissement (soit 6 % de l'effectif salarié du privé) en 2004, selon l'Association française des investisseurs en capital (AFIC).


C'est ce que pèse la dette dans un rachat avec un montage en "Leverage buy out" (LBO). Les fonds n'apportent qu'un tiers de capital propre.

It's hard to say, but at some point this could put our stock markets into question, at least marginally. Something to watch, like youtube.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

Well, actually, they do. Of course, sometimes the horses hurt us too. For example, a group of striking hotel workers in Houston were trampled by horses. I would like to blame this action on the horses. Unfortunately, the horses were guided by a less logical animal: humans of the law-enforcement kind.

This is nothing new, of course. [update] What is more, as I just read over at, it turns out that bail has been set at nearly 900,000 dollars [update #2: reduced to 1000 dollars each] for each of the persons arrested in the protest. That seems a little excessive, but, then again, going against the economic system has always been considered more criminal than personal violence. Here's the press release:

HOUSTON, Nov. 17 /PRNewswire/ -- In an unprecedented transparent attempt to severely limit the right to peaceful protest and freedom of speech of low-wage Houston janitors and their supporters, a Harris County District Attorney has set an extraordinarily high bond of $888,888 cash for each of the 44 peaceful protestors arrested last night. Houston janitors and their supporters, many of them janitors from other cities, were participating in an act of non-violent civil disobedience, protesting in the intersection of Travis at Capitol when they were arrested in downtown Houston Thursday night. They were challenging Houston's real estate industry to settle the janitors' strike and agree on a contract that provides the 5,300 janitors in Houston with higher wages and affordable health insurance.

The combined $39.1 million bond for the workers and their supporters is far and above the normal amount of bail set for people accused of even violent crimes in Harris County. While each of the non-violent protestors is being held on $888,888 bail ...

    * For a woman charged with beating her granddaughter to death with a
sledgehammer, bail was set at $100,000;

* For a woman accused of disconnecting her quadriplegic mother's breathing
machine, bail was set at $30,000;

* For a man charged with murder for stabbing another man to death in a bar
brawl, bail was set at $30,000;

* For janitors and protesters charged with Class B misdemeanors for past"
non-violent protests, standard bail has been set at $500 each.

More than 5,300 Houston janitors are paid $20 a day with no health insurance, among the lowest wages and benefits of any workers in America.

Interesting, no? Revealing, no? Surprising--no. Repression of this sort often takes the form of "justice" reasonably meted out by reasonable judges (as long as you consider "reasonable" to be defined by the upper classes and the legal system they created). [end update]

I can't help but draw a parallel to Greg Grandin's book, an excerpt of which is in Counterpunch:

But before the crisis of 1982, there were the golden years between 1978 and 1981. Just as the international left flocked to Chile during the Allende period, under Pinochet the country became a mecca for the free-market right. Economists, political scientists, and journalists came to witness the "miracle" first hand, holding up Chile as a model to be implemented throughout the world. Representatives from European and American banks poured into Santiago, paying tribute to Pinochet by restoring credit that was denied the heretic Allende. The World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank extolled Chile as a paragon of responsibility, advancing it 46 loans between 1976 and 1986 for over $3.1 billion.

In addition to money men, right-wing activists traveled to Chile in a show of solidarity with the Pinochet regime. Publisher of the National Review William Rusher, along with other cadres who eventually coalesced around Reagan's 1976 and 1980 bids for the Republican nomination, organized the American-Chilean Council, a solidarity committee to counter critical press coverage in the US of Pinochet. "I was unable to find a single opponent of the regime in Chile," Rusher wrote after a 1978 pilgrimage, "who believes the Chilean government engages" in torture. As to the "interim human discomfort" caused by radical free-market policies, Rusher believed that "a certain amount of deprivation today, in the interest of a far healthier society tomorrow, is neither unendurable nor necessarily reprehensible."

Friedrich von Hayek, the Austrian émigré and University of Chicago professor whose 1944 Road to Serfdom dared to suggest that state planning would produce not "freedom and prosperity" but "bondage and misery," visited Pinochet's Chile a number of times. He was so impressed that he held a meeting of his famed Société Mont Pélérin there. He even recommended Chile to Thatcher as a model to complete her free-market revolution. The Prime Minister, at the nadir of Chile's 1982 financial collapse, agreed that Chile represented a "remarkable success" but believed that Britain's "democratic institutions and the need for a high degree of consent" make "some of the measures" taken by Pinochet "quite unacceptable."

Like Friedman, Hayek glimpsed in Pinochet the avatar of true freedom, who would rule as a dictator only for a "transitional period," only as long as needed to reverse decades of state regulation. "My personal preference," he told a Chilean interviewer, "leans toward a liberal dictatorship rather than toward a democratic government devoid of liberalism." In a letter to the London Times he defended the junta, reporting that he had "not been able to find a single person even in much maligned Chile who did not agree that personal freedom was much greater under Pinochet than it had been under Allende." Of course, the thousands executed and tens of thousands tortured by Pinochet's regime weren't talking.

Hayek's University of Chicago colleague Milton Friedman got the grief, but it was Hayek who served as the true inspiration for Chile's capitalist crusaders. It was Hayek who depicted Allende's regime as a way station between Chile's postwar welfare state and a hypothetical totalitarian future. Accordingly, the Junta justified its terror as needed not only to prevent Chile from turning into a Stalinist gulag but to sweep away fifty years of tariffs, subsidies, capital controls, labor legislation, and social welfare provisions -- a "half century of errors," according to finance minister Sergio De Castro, that was leading Chile down its own road to serfdom.

"To us, it was a revolution," said government economist Miguel Kast, an Opus Dei member and follower of both Hayek and American Enterprise Institute theologian Michael Novak. The Chicago economists had set out to affect, radically and immediately, a "foundational" conversion of Chilean society, to obliterate its "pseudo-democracy" (prior to 1973, Chile enjoyed one of the most durable constitutional democracies in the Americas).

Where Friedman made allusions to the superiority of economic freedom over political freedom in his defense of Pinochet, the Chicago group institutionalized such a hierarchy in a 1980 constitution named after Hayek's 1960 treatise The Constitution of Liberty. The new charter enshrined economic liberty and political authoritarianism as complementary qualities. They justified the need of a strong executive such as Pinochet not only to bring about a profound transformation of society but to maintain it until there was a "change in Chilean mentality." Chileans had long been "educated in weakness," said the president of the Central Bank, and a strong hand was needed in order to "educate them in strength." The market itself would provide tutoring: When asked about the social consequences of the high bankruptcy rate that resulted from the shock therapy, Admiral José Toribio Merino replied that "such is the jungle of . . . economic life. A jungle of savage beasts, where he who can kill the one next to him, kills him. That is reality."

But before such a savage nirvana of pure competition and risk could be attained, a dictatorship was needed to force Chileans to accept the values of consumerism, individualism, and passive rather than participatory democracy. "Democracy is not an end in itself," said Pinochet in a 1979 speech written by two of Friedman's disciples, but a conduit to a truly "free society" that protected absolute economic freedom. Friedman hedged on the relationship between capitalism and dictatorship, but his former students were consistent: "A person's actual freedom," said Finance Minister de Castro, "can only be ensured through an authoritarian regime that exercises power by implementing equal rules for everyone." "Public opinion," he admitted, "was very much against [us], so we needed a strong personality to maintain the policy."

Jeane Kirkpatrick was among those who traveled to Chile to pay respect to the pioneer, lauding Pinochet for his economic initiatives. "The Chilean economy is a great success," the ambassador said, "everyone knows it, or they should know it." She was dispatched by Reagan shortly after his 1981 inauguration to "normalize completely [Washington's] relations with Chile in order to work together in a pleasant way," including the removal of economic and arms sanctions and the revocation of Carter's "discriminatory" human rights policy. Such pleasantries, though, didn't include meeting with the relatives of the disappeared, commenting on the recent deportation of leading opposition figures, or holding Pinochet responsible for the 1976 car bomb execution of Orlando Letelier, Allende's ambassador to the US, in Washington's Dupont Circle -- all issues Kirkpatrick insisted would be resolved with "quiet diplomacy."

Setting aside the struggles surrounding religion, race, and sexuality that give American politics its unique edge, it was in Chile where the New Right first executed its agenda of defining democracy in terms of economic freedom and restoring the power of the executive branch. Under Pinochet's firm hand, the country, according to prominent Chicago graduate Cristián Larroulet, became a "pioneer in the world trend toward forms of government based on a free social order." Its privatized pension system, for example, is today held up as a model for the transformation of Social Security, with Bush having received advice from Chilean economist José Piñera, also a Chicago student, on how to do so in 1997. Pinochet "felt he was making history," said Piñera, "he wanted to be ahead of both Reagan and Thatcher."

Friedman too saw himself in the vanguard. "In every generation," he is quoted in his flattering New York Times obituary, which spares just a sentence on his role in Chile, "there's got to be somebody who goes the whole way, and that's why I believe as I do."

And trailblazer both men were, harbinger of a brave and merciless new world. But if Pinochet's revolution was to spread throughout Latin America and elsewhere, it first had to take hold in the United States. And even as the dictator was "torturing people so prices could be free," as Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano once mordantly observed, the insurgency that would come to unite behind Ronald Reagan was gathering steam.

Today, Pinochet is under house arrest for his brand of "shock therapy," and Friedman is dead. But the world they helped usher in survives, in increasingly grotesque form. What was considered extreme in Chile in 1975 has now become the norm in the US today: a society where the market defines the totality of human fulfillment, and a government that tortures in the name of freedom.

That's a rather long excerpt, but you see what I mean. Somewhere in our psyche, "freedom" has been tweaked into coercion. "Pure competition," the ideal preached from on high by von Hayek, by Friedman, has become that article of faith which only faith--in direct contradiction to the weight of evidence--can sustain. And, as usual, the faithful are willing to resort to violence and repression to spread their gospel and defeat the infidels.

The repercussions of the "free" market place on the masses have left the masses to their own devices, which is to say it has left them to become subjects of a state in which they have little or no voice, either politically or philosophically. This is reflected in von Hayeks comments on Chilean dictatorship and mass murder: "My personal preference," he told a Chilean interviewer, "leans toward a liberal dictatorship rather than toward a democratic government devoid of liberalism."

So, while academics can find within such economic thinkers food for discussion of a liberating, egalitarian sort, when theory meets practice--and this is what is most important--these supposed "philospher kings" reveal their true colors.

So, in Houston as elsewhere, democracy remains dead. Friedman and von Hayek live on, however, riding the horses of "freedom."**

**Yes, I was going to put "apocalypse" here, but it was too obvious. Moreover, there are too many who actually think this. I'm sick of magical thinking and delusion.

Friday Cat Blogging From the Left Paw Society

DSC_0038.jpg, originally uploaded by andy_wallis.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

California Propositions

So it goes. I hate propositions anyway, so it is never really a "bad" thing when they don't pass.However, there are always a few that pass so one is forced to play the game. Somebody tell me why 1A passes and 87 does not. Captain, it's illogical. Well, except for the hundreds of millions of dollars Chevron and others spent to destroy 87.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day Predictions...

First of all, TBogg:

Anything can happen.
Except Katherine Harris winning.
That's not gonna happen.

I try not to get too excited about elections because, like having sex with celebrities, it never really turns out to be as good as you expect it to be (I mean Salma Hayek was good...but I've had better). Each election is not the end all and be all of life, or as Duane Thomas once said about the Super Bowl, "If the Super Bowl is the ultimate game, then how come they're going to play it again next year?". With this election the Democrats will probably take over the House and make a dent in the Senate, but not so much that it will stop George Bush from doing what he damn well pleases because we're at "war", and he has people who will go to bat for him saying that the Constitution is not a suicide pact while in the background we'll see Uncurious George juggling flaming torches in a room rapidly filling with gas.

Here are some things that will happen:

* No matter how many seats the Democrats take in the House it won't be enough to keep the Republican echo chamber from pointing out that it most certainly is not a mandate, while all the time whining about the loss of control of the commitees.

* Joe Lieberman is going to win and it will somehow translate as support for the war and civility and common sense...and nobody in the media will point out what a sleazy campaign he ran.

* There will be at least one upset that the polls didn't predict and that will be held up as evidence that all polls are always wrong...except when they side with your candidate.

* There will be reports of brown people voting which will cause Michelle Malkin to go off the rails. Okay. Farther off the rails.

* Several Republican congressmen with ethical clouds hanging over them will be re-elected only to have to step down later when indictments are handed down.

* Matt Drudge will hype something completely trivial unless Madonna does something to distract him which makes him take his eye off of the ball.

* Within a week, embargoed news about the war will be released and people will find out things in Iraq are even worse then we suspect.

* Win or lose, George Allen's national aspirations are finished. Fertig! Verfallen! Verlumpt! Verblunget! Verkackt!

* Lots of recounts.

* Michael Steele will lose..but that won't stop Republicans from touting him to run with McCain in 2008 because they believe that they are just one Negro away from perpetual electoral domination.

* Harold Ford will lose because he is a lousy candidate who is transparently phony.

* If either Marilyn Musgrave or JD Hayworth loses I will be one happy boy.

* You will see one politician elected who does not represent your district or state and you will wonder what the hell is wrong with the people of that district or state. That politician will probably be Tom Tancredo.

* You should probably TIVO Katherine Harris' concession speech so you can play it later at parties.

* Pelosi fever! Catch it!

* The most banal no-content election blogging will come from Mary Katharine Ham who, while under the delusion that she is teh hot, will provide the kind of political insights one might expect from the assistant night manager down at Wet Seal.

* Your best source for a sense of what is happening will still be at Kos and MyDD. The best post-mortem will come from Digby. As usual.

* Dick Cheney will be spending election day hunting with his daughter who will not get shot in the face because she is quicker on her feet than a 78-year old man. Besides , it's not lesbian season in South Dakota ...yet.

* Blogger will go down throughout the day.

* I will be around, Blogger permiting.

And remember, as Yogi Berra once said: It's ain't over for Rick Santorum until the K-Lo posts.

Atrios is more precise in predicting Drudge's evil actions:
"This one's about as easy as predicting tomorrow's sunrise, but I predict that at some point around mid-morning Drudge will come up with some story about suspected voting shenanigans which faults "urban Democrats" and that story will quickly come to dominate all election day coverage of voting problems.

Because, Matt Drudge rules their world."
Of course, he speaks about Drudge, but, really, Drudge is only as powerful as the media that listen to him.

They all listen to him.

I predict that the Democrats will win the house and quickly fall victim to the Republican noise machine. I predict that Dems will be campaigning for McCain in two years. I predict that Dems will begin some important hearing against Crime, Corruption and Page-diving, but the party as a whole will abandon the investigators and Upholders of Truth, therefore caving in to the Republicans who "own" the media. I predict that U.S. troops will remain in significant numbers in the Middle East and that posse comitatus is further weakened. I predict that popular involvement in elections continues to grow. I predict that Ken Mehlman will be outed in some significant way. I predict that Obamarama, no matter how milquetoast and conservative that movement is, "takes over" the country according to the media. I predict that Hillary doesn't make it out of the primaries. I predict that Borat does a sequal that is not very funny. I predict that Blair has to leave his post earlier than he stated.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Freedom? Yes. Vote.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

this picture says it all..

Thanks, Mr. Fish.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging From the LPS

DSC_0034.jpg, originally uploaded by andy_wallis.

Left Paw Society

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Europe Tackles Obesity Epidemic...

It is interesting to note how the EU is approaching obesity. 1) They are beginning to attack it before it becomes as grave as in the U.S.; 2) They understand it as a systems issue and not one entirely related to personal responsibility. Here's a quote from a reuters story:

High fat, energy dense diets and sedentary lifestyles over the last 20 to 30 years, along with economic growth, urbanization and the globalization of food markets have contributed to expanding waistlines around the globe.

The November 15-17 meeting in Turkey, which will include ministers of transport, environment, education and finance, will look at measures to improve the consumption of healthy foods, to increase exercise in schools and the work place and to involve health systems in dealing with the epidemic.

It will culminate in the adoption of a European Charter on Counteracting Obesity which will propose action plans and includes calls for political commitment. (Reuters)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging from the Left Paw Society

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The Nexus of Misogyny, Arms, Fascism

The last couple of weeks have brought numerous articles of import to the web. I read Stan Goff's piece on fascism at I read, at, Burbick's article on gun culture. I was looking at the "comfort women" of the Fascist Japanese Empire. In print media, I have been teaching My Year of Meats in class.

So I was intent on bringing together Goff and Burbick's works in a post of my own. I was taking notes, reading more, just trying to be a flâneur. --In the process, I have become an addict of and my tag cloud kind of says it all:

Anyway, and fortunately, I didn't write anything because Dave Dneiwert did, and did it much better than I ever could.

All wickedness is but little to the wickedness of a woman. ... What else is woman but a foe to friendship, an unescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable calamity, domestic danger, a delectable detriment, an evil nature, painted with fair colours. ... Women are by nature instruments of Satan -- they are by nature carnal, a structural defect rooted in the original creation.

-- Malleus maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches), published by Catholic inquisition authorities in 1485-86

The Freikorpsmen hate women, specifically women's bodies and sexuality. It would not be going too far to say that their perpetual war was undertaken to escape women; even the motherly battlefront nurse is a threatening intrusion in the unisexual world of war. This hatred -- or dread -- of women cannot be explained with Freud's all-purpose Oedipal triangulation (fear that heterosexual desire will lead to punishment by the father, homosexual yearnings for the father, or some such permutation of the dramatic possibilities). The dread arises in the pre-Oedipal struggle of the fledgling self, before there is even an ego to sort out the objects of desire and the odds of getting them: It is a dread, ultimately, of dissolution -- of being swallowed, engulfed, annihilated. Women's bodies are the holes, swamps, pits of muck that can engulf.

--Barbara Ehrenreich, from the foreword to Klaus Theweleit's Male Fantasies

Where are they coming from, these violent men? The right-wing terrorists like David McMenemy. The onslaught of damaged males inflicting violence on women in dramatic and public ways. It all seems so new, so sudden. And yet so familiar.

What is most striking about this seeming trend is how abstract the women victims are for so many of the perpetrators. Both of the deranged school shooters in Pennsylvania and Colorado simply picked the schools at random, and selected girls as their victims retributively, for supposed harm done to them in the past by other females. All of them indicated a long-sweltering rage at women.
Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

If you don't what this means, then

you're probably a) not liberal b) not a blogger, just a blog reader c) Republican. If you marked B, then you pass. Good job!

--AZ-Sen: Jon Kyl

--AZ-01: Rick Renzi

--AZ-05: J.D. Hayworth

--CA-04: John Doolittle

--CA-11: Richard Pombo

--CA-50: Brian Bilbray

--CO-04: Marilyn Musgrave

--CO-05: Doug Lamborn

--CO-07: Rick O'Donnell

--CT-04: Christopher Shays

--FL-13: Vernon Buchanan

--FL-16: Joe Negron

--FL-22: Clay Shaw

--ID-01: Bill Sali

--IL-06: Peter Roskam

--IL-10: Mark Kirk

--IL-14: Dennis Hastert

--IN-02: Chris Chocola

--IN-08: John Hostettler

--IA-01: Mike Whalen

--KS-02: Jim Ryun

--KY-03: Anne Northup

--KY-04: Geoff Davis

--MD-Sen: Michael Steele

--MN-01: Gil Gutknecht

--MN-06: Michele Bachmann

--MO-Sen: Jim Talent

--MT-Sen: Conrad Burns

--NV-03: Jon Porter

--NH-02: Charlie Bass

--NJ-07: Mike Ferguson

--NM-01: Heather Wilson

--NY-03: Peter King

--NY-20: John Sweeney

--NY-26: Tom Reynolds

--NY-29: Randy Kuhl

--NC-08: Robin Hayes

--NC-11: Charles Taylor

--OH-01: Steve Chabot

--OH-02: Jean Schmidt

--OH-15: Deborah Pryce

--OH-18: Joy Padgett

--PA-04: Melissa Hart

--PA-07: Curt Weldon

--PA-08: Mike Fitzpatrick

--PA-10: Don Sherwood

--RI-Sen: Lincoln Chafee

--TN-Sen: Bob Corker

--VA-Sen: George Allen

--VA-10: Frank Wolf

--WA-Sen: Mike McGavick

--WA-08: Dave Reichert

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday cat (and fat) blogging

Well, another Friday rolls around and my blogging is seriously diminished right now. At least I have cats. I also captured an interesting person seated on a fire hydrant. It doesn't look comfortable.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Stiglitz vs. Phelps

I read this Q&A with J. Stiglitz and thought it a much more thoughtful and interesting read than Phelps, who happens to have won the Nobel Prize. This is normal, unfortunately.


Q. Since the beginning, economics has sought to perfect “economic well-being” as in, lay down the conditions to maximize well-being and explain faltering well-being. What does this well-being entail? There should be a definition of economic well being that functions independently of capitalist or socialist classifications. Would you care to explain your definition of the one entity that guides all economic theories: “economic well-being”?

Himanshu Kothari
United States

A. There is no simple measure of economic well-being, and unfortunately, the standard measure, gross domestic product per capita, is misleading. This is important, because what we measure affects what we do; and if we try to “maximize” the wrong thing, there can be serious adverse consequences.

I stress the importance of equitable and sustainable development and growth. GDP can be going up, yet most individuals can be worse off (as has been happening in the United States during the past 5 years).

Similarly, GDP can be going up, yet standards of living going down, as the environment becomes degraded, so much so that life expectancy can even decrease. When I was chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, I pushed for the use of Green GDP, where account is taken both of the depletion of natural resources and the degradation of the environment.

If a country’s growth is based on depleting renewable natural resources, its growth will
Link not be sustained. Neither will growth be sustained if it is based on borrowing—when debt is used to finance consumption, not investment. Argentina’s growth in the early 90s was based on debt financed consumption, and selling off its national assets (often at unreasonably low prices). The inevitable day of reckoning came, and the country’s economy collapsed. Today, many are worried about America, whose growth is based on borrowing more than $3 billion a day from abroad.

GDP may be a misleading measure for another reason: it measures the value of what is produced in the country, not the income of the citizens of the country. When a developing country opens up a mine, with low royalties, most of the value of what is produced may accrue to the foreign owners; and when account is taken of the environmental degradation and resource depletion, the country may actually be worse off. [Keep reading...]


Dynamic Capitalism, by Edmund Phelps, Commentary, WSJ: There are two economic systems in the West. Several nations -- including the U.S., Canada and the U.K. -- have a private-ownership system marked by great openness to the implementation of new commercial ideas coming from entrepreneurs, and by a pluralism of views among the financiers who select the ideas to nurture by providing the capital and incentives necessary for their development. Although much innovation comes from established companies, ... much comes from start-ups, particularly the most novel innovations. This is free enterprise, a k a capitalism.

The other system -- in Western Continental Europe -- though also based on private ownership, has been modified by the introduction of institutions aimed at protecting the interests of "stakeholders" and "social partners." The system's institutions include big employer confederations, big unions and monopolistic banks. ... The system operates to discourage changes such as relocations and the entry of new firms, and its performance depends on established companies in cooperation with local and national banks. What it lacks in flexibility it tries to compensate for with technological sophistication. So different is this system that it has its own name: the "social market economy" in Germany, "social democracy" in France and "concertazione" in Italy. [hat tip to] [Keep reading]

Phelps works his way through the usual clichés about U.S. vs. Europe. What is surprising is that it is so...unsurprising. Here is is brilliant conclusion:

Actual capitalism departs from well-functioning capitalism -- monopolies too big to break up, undetected cartels, regulatory failures and political corruption. Capitalism in its innovations plants the seeds of its own encrustation with entrenched power. These departures weigh heavily on the rewards earned, particularly the wages of the least advantaged, and give a bad name to capitalism. But I must insist: It would be a non sequitur to give up on private entrepreneurs and financiers as the wellspring of dynamism merely because [of the imperfections from these departures]. I conclude that capitalism is justified -- normally by the expectable benefits to the lowest-paid workers but, failing that, by the injustice of depriving entrepreneurial types (as well as other creative people) of opportunities for their self-expression
Capitalism is justified because otherwise entrepreneurial types would be creatively stifled. Ok. Deep. But he also says that capitalism plants the seeds of its own degredation. Really, what is one to conclude from this abstraction?

Friday, October 06, 2006

Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging From the Left Paw Society

The Third Way is really just the second...

x-listed @

Almost simultaneously with the Philip Stephens article that Jérôme points out in his"Third Way" diary, the Post Autistic Economics Review comes out with an interesting article on that very subject:

Is New Labour's `Third Way' new or just hot air in old bottles
. The paper is interesting and downloadable to word for free.

Grazia letto-Gillies' article starts with a brief historical overview of the history of political economy in Britain since WWII: "The First Way refers to the period from after WWII to the mid 1970s; the second Way refers to the Conservative Government period starting from 1979; and the Third Way to the New Labour Government period since 1997."

She goes on to explain the dire economic situation of the 70s that led to Thatcher's 'second way', but she makes an important point: that the economic problems have turned out to be deeply embedded in the system itself:

However, in a way the major problem was for capital itself. Though some investment opportunities were created and some foreign capital attracted in more deprived areas, the basic problem was that the shedding of activities by the state does not automatically create profitable investment opportunities. Most of the activities which were in public ownership by the 1970s had originally become so because they were not profitable under private ownership. They did not necessarily or not always become profitable when the Thatcher government privatised them. With every privatisation the City went into euphoria because immediately after each selling by the government the value of the company shot up with huge gains for the buyers and for the institutions involved in the deals; this is not surprising given the fact that the public companies' assets were sold at grossly low prices. However, often the euphoria became short-lived as many companies faced difficulties and needed propping up with continuous handouts from the taxpayer

Thatcherism proved volatile, divisive and, in the end, unsuccessful and dissatisfactory. New Labour was thus elected with high hopes...

The expectations were soon to be checked by the reality of a government that: put economic prudence and stability over fulfilment of pent up needs; put the financial expectations and interests of the higher echelons of society, the City, the big corporations - domestic and foreign - and the right wing press before those of the millions of people who voted it in; proved to be very aggressive in foreign policy and over enthusiastic for wars to achieve those aggressive aims; developed a very cavalier attitude towards democracy and accountability on the strength of a high parliamentary majority achieved, partly, through the specific British electoral system

The author then goes into a lengthy discussion of New Labour's economic policies, especially healthcare. At every turn she notes the dissatisfaction (economic and affective) with the solutions. Again, the problems point to an overall weakening system rather than the ability or inability of governments to tweak elements of the system. The higher orders of global capital are to blame, that is to say, our beliefs in certain economic "laws" [I am perhaps reading into her argument here]:

The problems of this Blair-Brown grand design for the public sector are beginning to unravel and they will increase as time goes by: problems for the user of public services; problems for the health workers and eventually problems for capital; problems for the State and the political class. Why the latter two problems? Because this grand design signals a profound structural crisis for capitalism. If the system needs propping up via continuous State intervention it cannot be very healthy. So what is going to happen when all that can be outsourced is outsourced and an even larger share of inland revenue goes to pay for private companies' profits?

Moreover, the state is in danger of despoiling itself of major functions and this may lead to a problem of legitimacy: if the State's function is limited to collecting taxes and handing them over to private - domestic and foreign - companies for the actual provision of services can the State justify itself? Will this create also problems for democracy? (Florio, 2004: 155).

A separate important question may be one that political scientists and future historian of politics may be able to tackle: how is it possible for a Labour-led Parliament to preside over the erosion leading to the demise of the NHS and to similar trends in other public services? A question almost as important as why the parliament and the Labour Party did not call government to account over the Iraq war. The huge amount of obfuscating that has been and is going on may explain why it was difficult for the wider public to understand the significance of the changes, but not why competent elected MPs accepted them

In England, as here in America, the debate has been so constrained and so deliberately shaped, that it has become difficult to talk about--much less confront--the issues of capital. This reflects, in somewhat different terms, what Jérôme said earlier today about discourse:

So despite running a massive traditional left-wing tax-and-spend programme (while pretending to be neo-liberals), the Blair/Brown duo has stabilised inequality. Surely that would suggest that the focus be put on policies rather than on discourse?

If the left does not fight for the ideas of the left, nobody will bother to implement them. The right, pushed away from its natural right-of-center place in public discourse, will focus on populist or socially conservative ideas to try to regain ground, but will certainly not advertise the usual moderate socio-economic policies it used to practise while in government. Once in power, it won't feel the need to change the tone of economic discourse, but it is likely to stop the tax-and spend ways of government.

The problem is that all of our public servants believe the same thing; only their implementation vary, and only then by small degrees. We are lacking a philosophical tie to hold on to, to debate because our "leaders" are programmed, trained, sculpted by the same educational and formative experiences. We are highly in need of some true representation.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

More great news for children in the U.S.

The EPI is reporting that:

This is not surprising. However, every time I come across statistics like this, it reminds me of what a strange culture the U.S. has. Somehow, the words like "family values," "culture of life," and "moral compass" roll of people's tongues as if it were reality when in fact the reality is quite the opposite.

You know this, of course. Luckily, Medicaid steps in (minimally) to cover what the rest of our system does not.Image Source Courtesy of EPI

I can only think of Cat Stevens' "Where Do the Children Play?":

[...]Well youve cracked the sky, scrapers fill the air.
But will you keep on building higher
til theres no more room up there?
Will you make us laugh, will you make us cry?
Will you tell us when to live, will you tell us when to die?

I know weve come a long way,
Were changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Saturday Bird Blogging...

Here's a picture of a egret from Bolsa Chica. Lighting was not optimal, so it doesn't have

all the colors I'd like to see. Maybe next time.

I spent the morning thinking about torture. As usual, Digby gets this right--really, really, really, right.

Don't anybody say "I didn't see it coming."

Friday, September 22, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging from the Left Paw Society

Sorry to have taken so long to put this picture up. I've been busy torturing this cat for hours trying to get him to confess to eating my cheese. He kept denying it. Luckily, after several hours of dunking him in freezing water, threatening him with dobermans, and other "intensive techniques," he broke. He admitted not only that he ate the cheese, but that he was part of a conspiracy with the other three cats. Thankfully, now, my cheese is safer, and so is the world.For more expert information on torture, I recommend:

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Cafferty puts Blacks in their place...

I hope everyone caught the Situation Room yesterday. Cafferty really let into Black people.

Let's go to New York, Jack Cafferty with the Cafferty File.

CAFFERTY: NAACP president Bruce Gordon says that despite his objections to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, he would listen to calls for help from Washington. The question we asked is how can African Americans help the United States end the war in Iraq?

Richard, "Blacks could confront the administration with the need to face reality and confront them and confront them and confront them. It may not make an impact on the Alice-In-Wonderland leaders of our government, but it would be nice to see some backbone, some consistent standing up to them, unlike most of our Congress.

Ger in Seaside, California, "They can't. This is our problem. I don't see how they can do anything but make it worse for themselves and I'm sure Black people will let their government know that they disprove of the idea." Paul writes, "Every warm body in the trench will help stabilize the situation. This is a good opportunity for George Bush to end the era of unilateralism and cowboy diplomacy. He should ask for and accept the assistance. Every non-U.S. soldier over there decreases the odds of our family members getting killed."

Eric in Chicago, "No thanks NAACP. We must look at this from their perspective. What's their incentive? Obviously it's more than just a peaceful world as they have passed on promoting peace on multiple occasions. Blacks being such a self-serving people, maybe we should dig a bit deeper before we decide to accept the offer."

James in Fresno writes my favorite, "What say we send a few busloads of Blacks to Baghdad? I can't think of a better way to help the Iraqis realize that there are indeed things less tolerable than the presence of American troops."

And John in Madison, Wisconsin, "It's about time. Blacks could teach al Qaeda how to surrender.:

If you didn't see your e-mail here you can go to and read more of these online, Wolf.

BLITZER: See you in New York tomorrow, Jack. Thanks very much, Jack Cafferty. Let's find out what's coming up at the top of the top of the hour. Paula's standing by. Hi Paula.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hi Wolf, Jack didn't enjoy those last two e-mails at all, did he?

BLITZER: No, not at all.

ZAHN: His laughter said it all. Thank you...

If Cafferty says it, it must be true, right? I mean he's a straight-shooter, an everyman, and an insightful journalist who can cut through the newspeak.

I should mention that I adapted the above transcript and replaced the word "France" with "NAACP" and French with "Black." Sorry, Jack, it was just so easy to do, sort of like your form of commentary.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Kids at work

Here is the church:(Federal Reserve)

Here was the steeple:

Open the doors, and here are the people (and here they remain):

SHEK YAN, China As workers poured out of factories into the evening sunlight, Samuel Wong trolled the streets of an industrial zone here in a minivan, looking for the garment factory he had come to spy on. In the jargon of the manufacturing business, Wong is known as a social compliance auditor. But sweatshop snoop might be a better description. Wong works for American and European companies that buy shoes, clothing and toys from Asian factories and that want an unvarnished view of what happens behind their heavily guarded gates - a job that the Chinese government, preoccupied with maintaining economic growth, has neither the will nor the resources to pursue.


Friday cat blogging from the Left Paw Society

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My three-month fast is over...

In commemoration of 9.11, I haven't eaten or blogged for months. I have come to the conclusion that only extreme and visceral reactions to the event are worthwhile, while logic and measured action can only appease the terrorists.

It is now 9.12 and I can eat and blog again, but I will never forget the pain and suffering and fear I am supposed to feel to be a true American. 9.11 was a tragedy and we should keep it that way.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging from the Left Paw Society

Well, it's been a long year. My mother passed away two weeks ago after a long bout with cancer and blogging has been far from my priorities recently with family, work and other bits of life taking precedent over bloggerly matters.

I've been meaning to write about my mother, an amazingly talented person, and one of the purest good souls. I just don't feel like like writing it right now. Anyway, you know: I owe you much, mom, and so do many more whose lives you've touched. I leave it at that until I can find an elegant way to say it.

So, here is a shot of Biscuit looking at the moon.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Monday, July 17, 2006

Wall Street Loves America

Well, actually, it doesn't. I can't blog much, but I had to put this in here for future reference:

Here's the story. I hope to be back to blogginsville soon.
The WSJ continues its recent habit of burying killer stories in the under read Saturday edition. This week's bombshell has to do with post 9/11 earnings grants:

"On Sept. 21, 2001, rescuers dug through the smoldering remains of the World Trade Center. Across town, families buried two firefighters found a week earlier. At Fort Drum, on the edge of New York's Adirondacks, soldiers readied for deployment halfway across the world.

Boards of directors of scores of American companies were also busy that day. They handed out millions of bargain-priced stock options to their top executives.

The terrorist attack shut the U.S. stock market for days. When it reopened Sept. 17, stocks skidded more than 14% over five days, in the worst full week for the Dow Jones Industrial Average since Germany invaded France in May 1940. But for recipients of options, the lower their company's stock price when options are awarded the better, since the options grant a right to buy shares at that price for years to come. The grants set recipients up for millions of dollars in profit if the shares recovered.

A Wall Street Journal analysis shows how some companies rushed, amid the post-9/11 stock-market decline, to give executives especially valuable options. A review of Standard & Poor's ExecuComp data for 1,800 leading companies indicates that from Sept. 17, 2001, through the end of the month, 511 top executives at 186 of these companies got stock-option grants. The number who received grants was 2.6 times as many as in the same stretch of September in 2000, and more than twice as many as in the like period in any other year between 1999 and 2003.

Ninety-one companies that didn't regularly grant stock options in September did so in the first two weeks of trading after the terror attack. Their grants were concentrated around Sept. 21, when the market reached its post-attack low. They were worth about $325 million when granted, based on a standard method of valuing stock options."

What makes this so pathetic is that corporate executives could have stepped up AND BOUGHT STOCKS IN THE OPEN MARKET if they believed they were so cheap. It would have been reassuring to a nation to see the leaders of industry voting with their own dollars. It might have made the subsequent economic slow down and period of tense aftermath less painful.>

Instead, these weasels decided to loot the treasury at the first opportunity. America was smouldering, the WTC lay in ruins, and this group of classless pigs decided it was time to pocket some cash.

I'm going to take it a step further: These assclown executives are unAmerican. They are not Patriots, they are not model citizens -- they are merely a pathetic group of opportunistic whores who might as well hang outside the Holland Tunnel looking for a quick buck (although that would involve risk and work, something they have shown a distinct aversion to).

In 1929, when the stock market crashed, JP Morgan (and others) stepped in. They bought stock with their own dollars, they saved Wall Street. Oh, and they were rewarded for it -- both monetarily, and in the history books.

What the more recent group of execs did is probably legal. It certainly isn't ethical, and it reveals them to be "lacking in moral turpitude rectitude." I wonder if there's a morals clause in any of their employment contracts.

What a pathetic group of weasels. Brain cancer is too good for these shitheads. They -- and their lapdog Boards of Directors -- should all be fired.