Archive for October, 2008

Presidential Debates 3

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

They are over. As the poling data says, most Americans are glad. Platitudes repeated over and over are not particularly good TV. This last debate saw McCain about as angry as he lets himself get in public. He must be something to see in private when he blows his top.
Obama smiled his way through it. That old Uncle Tom routine paid off this time. He came across as reasonable instead of as a toady.
Too bad they didn’t let Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney or Bob Barr in to liven things up with some real debate about the issues.
I was glad to see Obama spell out a little more of his education, health care and energy initiatives. The strong pro choice position was good too. It seems that the connection with Mr. Ayers didn’t bother the public, and as far as I am concerned I would be happy if all of McCain’s red baiting were true. Shades of the cold war. I would like to see a real commie in office instead of these pinkos like we have now under Bush with his former Trotskyite think tankers.

But Obama is just a liberal and I guess that is the best America will get. Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick as my southern friends used to say.

This is the text of an email I sent to a few concerned citizen friends.

“I almost started liking Obama, what with the way McCain tried to paint him as a son of the Weathermen. Ayers for chairman of the party of the proletariat! Too bad it isn’t so. We had the Trotskyite’s in the Bush White House, lets see what the Maoist’s can do in Obama’s.

At least Oliver Stone had some good things to say about the economic meltdown on Bill Maher’s show last night. He said it will force the US to cut back on military spending and reduce our imperial presence in the world. This may be the beginning of the end of the US hegemonic reign.

The former US Comptroller General, David Walker was the real party pooper on the show last night, bringing up the $55 trillion dollar debt and the fact that since 2002 the government has borrowed, and spent money without any security backing it up, all in the name of the war on terror…. Now that is a real irony. We are less secure than ever due to that.

This link is to an interview with Walker

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/18ec070a-88a0-11dd-a179-0000779fd18c.html

He claims that both candidates are not being candid about the economic mess.

This morning I heard Naomi Klein, author of “The Shock Doctrine”, on Democracy Now, state that what happened in Argentina in their meltdown could happen here, and that the economic policies of Chile, Argentina and Uruguay were all based on the “Chicago Boys” policies of Milton Friedman.

Last Sunday Dr. Helen Caldecott stated on Blasé Fontaine’s show on KPFK, that Milton Friedman’s policies were cruel and evil.

Well gang, thank god the Chinese will be taking over in a couple of years…. And America can go back to the Native Americans and the survivalists.”

Is that self indulgent or what? Quoting myself…

Wallstreet, Anarchists And Reality

Friday, October 10th, 2008

Short and sweet. I have some friends who don’t work. They are among the leisured poor. They collect SSI and are active in radical politics. Most of them end up calling themselves Anarchists. It could be because no other group would have them, or it could be because they are so individualistic that they could not fit in anywhere else.
I couldn’t say for sure. I know when I was among the leisure classes, one of those who hardly worked, or worked as little as I could, I fit right in with my buddies. But over the years I went from somebody who almost never worked, to someone who worked as little as possible, then became a semi-fugitive from the working class who never used credit until now I have become an indebted member of the hard working class.
This progression has insured that while others are worrying over their stock portfolios, I am simply amused at all this, as I have no portfolio. From time to time this bothers me. I really own next to nothing, books, clothes some cds, a little furniture. I have no savings, some debt, overpriced rent and a more or less new car that I pay too much for.
At my age I should be looking forward to retirement, but my retirement will be probably accompanied with a room in an SRO hotel in some inner city, a small cottage in a reasonably remote third world country, or living with a wealthy spouse who did all the things I didn’t.
But my friends who are on the dole, they have been living that way for years already; they give me ample opportunity to study what life on a limited income could be like. It looks like fun from my perspective, lots of time to think about stuff, get involved with social projects that demand time, not money, and most of them seem to have very active lives, more active than mine, unless you count work, which I don’t.
That is the crux of it; I see work still as an interlude between lives. I don’t have a “fulfilling career” like some people I know. I have a job. I am a worker, a wage slave, a hired hand, or brain as it happens to be. My fulfillment comes in my free time, when I can play. And play for me is serious, that is when I get to try to make a difference.
So I take vacations to go to demonstrations. I go to the occasional political meeting where we rail against the state and the capitalist system. I scheme and plot and then I give up and look for some dumb mindless escape. And then I start all over again when the tedium of wage slavery gets to me.
Why don’t I simply play the game and get some thing? It goes against the grain of my life. I cannot force myself to exploit people for my own gain, at least not consciously. I don’t believe capitalism is the best or even a viable method of arranging the social order of the world. I would rather fight it and lose, than give up, so I participate grudgingly and seek my pleasures elsewhere, like a good working class hero.
At least I am not vested in the stock market like the repubocrats have been trying to foist upon us for the last 30 years.

Presidential Debates Number 2

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

We got to see them go at it again, Obama looking like a winner, McCain looking like a tired old man, hard to beat that. But what would have happened if the Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney and the Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr had been given a chance to weigh in on the issues. Chances are we might have had a much more interesting debate.
Or what if Ralph Nader had been allowed to participate? All three of these candidates are legitimate, they are articulate and they represent viewpoints that are popular but not represented in the views expressed by either of the two candidates of the Repubocrat party.
I predicted that nuclear power, irresponsible oil drilling and reckless coal exploitation would be on the agenda before long, I simply did not anticipate the rush to such dead ends so quickly. Remember the green house gas emission crisis? Remember global warming? Obama and McCain barely mentioned either one. Nuclear power is the most irresponsible because it is unsustainable and leaves us open to a potential attack. It is also not cost effective and there is still no reliable disposal. The French with the most developed program in the world have still not come up with a proper waste disposal plan.
Then there is offshore oil. It is an absurd approach, extremely expensive, extremely unlikely to be cost effective until oil goes up in cost a lot more, and an environmental disaster waiting to happen. As for clean coal, that is not something that is likely to happen in the near future, it is a possibility but the cost is prohibitive.
The simplest solution would be efficiency and increasing the cost of wasteful usage. Mass transit, fuel efficient autos and the switch over to wind, solar, geothermal, wave action, and other yet undeveloped methods such as cellulose conversion is the wave of the future.
But that is only one of the issues. There is the war in Afghanistan, a boondoggle and the British were right in calling for a withdrawal and the turning over of the war to the Afghanis. We don’t need another Iraq war there with another decade in a loosing war. Obama is right about Iraq. But to go into Afghanistan and Pakistan with more troops is simply asking to be dragged into a world we should leave alone. The politics there are local and tribal. If we insist on stepping into that situation with a massive military presence, we will be making the same mistake the British and Russians made.
Osama Bin Laden is probably dead and even if he isn’t we have issues now that go way beyond what some group of fundamentalists in a cave somewhere can have any influence on, other than to be a distraction. 911 was a regrettable catastrophe and the aftermath has been a bungled mess, taken advantage of for venial political ends by a group of political hacks in Washington, DC. This should have been a police activity handled by the FBI and the CIA, and we turned it into a series of misguided wars of imperialism.
The issue of health care, Medicare and Social Security were touched upon but the themes were not developed. National medical care needs to be implemented. At least there Obama has it right, but he doesn’t go far enough. Social Security has to be bolstered; this can be done by cutting defense.
The economy will eventually sort out, perhaps with the Swedish model. They have nationalized their financial institutions. I have always said that speculators should not be in command of the economic well being of the world. We need to reorient society from one of greed to one of taking care of the basic needs and then coming to a consensus on what we desire as a collectivity for things beyond our basic needs. But until those basic needs are taken care of, the economy is distorted by the greed of the few. Will Obama or McCain resolve these questions? No. But the times demand some creative thinking, and perhaps the pressure of necessity will force the next leadership to take some leaps into the unknown.

World Economy Needs World Effort

Monday, October 6th, 2008

The bailouts of individual countries have failed to make a dent in the multi trillion dollar financial mess. This is going to take multinational effort. It is a world wide crisis in credit that is going to take an international effort to control.
We need bank nationalizations and the establishment of an international control mechanism on the stock market. This cannot be allowed to go on without tight and specific regulation. It may cramp the style of some of these ‘masters of the universe’ but without that control, there will be no end to this cycle of booms and busts. If it was only affecting the players in the stock market I would say fine, let them play, but when it affects the livelihood of average citizens around the world, then I say, regulate, nationalize and multinationalize. We need a world economic agency to control a world economy.
Here is the BBC’s latest take on wall streets reaction to the latest bailout in the USA and the individual actions of European governments who can’t seem to agree on a unified approach.

“Financial crisis pummels stocks

Investors have not been bowled over by government intervention
World stock markets have plunged after government bank bail-outs in the US and Europe failed to stem fears of slower global economic growth.

London’s key UK share index lost 7.85% - its biggest percentage fall since 1987 and in Paris the Cac-40 suffered its largest fall on record.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones fell below 10,000 points for the first time since 2004.

Earlier, Asian stocks had taken a hammering from investors.

A failure of government intervention to improve banks’ willingness to lend had left markets anxious, said analysts.

This was despite a $700bn (£398bn) US bank bail-out being passed late last week, and efforts by several European countries including Germany and Denmark to boost confidence in their banks.

“The Fed’s bail-out plan may have been passed on Friday but so far there’s been no real reaction in credit markets and because of this the natural assumption is going to be that the measures won’t work, even if such a call is rather premature,” said Matt Buckland of CMC Markets.

Stock markets are falling… and it’s the troubles of Europe’s banks, and the messy response of the authorities, that’s to blame

Robert Peston
BBC business editor
Read Robert’s blog
Interactive map: How European governments have reacted

‘Substantial force’

In an attempt to reassure investors, the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets, said on Monday that it was moving quickly to exercise the new powers it had been given as part of the Wall Street rescue package.

The group, which was formed after the 1987 stock market crash, said it would move “with substantial force on a number of fronts”.

As one of the first effects of the rescue plan, the Federal Reserve announced that it would start paying interest on the reserves that banks are forced to deposit at the central bank.

Analysts said that Germany’s increased 50bn euro ($68bn; £38.7bn) bail-out of Hypo Real Estate, the country’s second-biggest commercial property lender, had alarmed investors.

Germany earlier appeared to announce an unlimited guarantee for private savings - though later said this was not the case and had instead given only a “political commitment” that savers would not lose deposits.

However, Denmark had already moved to offer full protection, while Sweden massively increased the level of protection it offered.

‘Collective action’

The Hypo RE rescue came amid other developments including:

Iceland’s government offered unlimited guarantees on savers’ deposits. It had earlier agreed measures for the country’s banks to sell off some foreign assets in an attempt to shore up its entire financial system.
Trading in shares of Benelux bank Fortis was suspended - the day BNP Paribas took a controlling interest in the troubled finance group under an emergency deal with the Belgian and Luxembourg governments
Central banks across Europe - including the ECB and Bank of England - offered more than $74bn to banks in short-term loans in separate efforts aimed at trying to making cash available for the banking sector.
International Monetary Fund managing director Dominique Strauss-Kahn said Europe needed a collective response to the financial crisis and warned countries not to act alone.
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and French President Nicolas Sarkozy arranged meetings with the heads of their respective country’s main banks to discuss the global financial crisis - and said the two leaders would meet later this week.
Markets suspended

In London, the FTSE 100 index was down 391.1 points, or 7.85%, at 4,589.2 - having lost 8.5% at one point.

Germany’s Dax index lost 7.39%, while France’s Cac-40 index dropped 9.04% - its biggest one-day fall since the index was created in 1988.

On Wall Street, the Dow Jones index pulled back some losses but was still 4.05% lower, down 418.39 points, at 9,906.99 points, while the Nasdaq lost 4.93%.

Earlier, Japan’s Nikkei index had closed down 4.3%, or 465 points, at 10,473.1 - its lowest close since February 2004. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index slid 5%, while key Russian markets slumped by 15%.

Markets in India, China, Australia and Singapore also lost ground, while the main Indonesian market lost 10% - the biggest one-day fall on record.

Trading on key stock markets in Brazil and Russia was temporarily suspended after share prices plummeted by 10% and 15% respectively. Russia’s RTS index ended 19.1% down.

The prospect of a slowdown denting energy demand saw oil prices fall further, dipping under $90 a barrel.

In London Brent crude dropped $3.38 to $86.87 a barrel, while US light, sweet crude fell $3.85 to $90.05 a barrel.”

I recently had my computer stolen. My postings are going to be more catch as catch can until I can replace it. But I will continue to express my unique viewpoint as long as the internet is relatively free.

Bailout Blackmail

Friday, October 3rd, 2008

We don’t need it. This bailout is blackmail on the part of the financial community. They are trying to get the government to pay for their bad investment practices.
What gets me is how can there be 1-10 million bad loans, for lets say $2.5 - $25 trillion dollars worth of houses. That would cause the financial markets to collapse.
$700 billion will not take care of that. This is about some major collapse of the credit system. There has to have been massive fraud or miss appropriation of funds on the scale of hundreds of billions of dollars. Where do we see such massive amounts of money being wasted? We can start with the war in Iraq. That was a total boondoggle. Pissing money down that hole has been a major part of this mess. The world no longer believes that the American debt is legitimate. The government is screaming the sky is falling down and wants us to rush into a bailout with almost no facts. Wall Street is going along with this by these wildly manipulated gyrations. Nobody is taking responsibility; nobody is laying out the facts. Whenever anyone wants to know what is going on we are told it is to complex. This is nothing more than financial black mail. We should refuse the bailout. We should demand the truth.
I say what we need is nationalization of the entire system. Reorganization with worker and community run coop banks with community people on the boards. The wealth belongs to the people not to a few manipulative investors.

Anarchists In Politics

Wednesday, October 1st, 2008

I have been criticized by anarchist friends for writing to my congress persons and for participating in electoral politics. But I find direct action to be limiting and ultimately ineffective. What started out as a tactic to use in lieu of access to power through the electoral process has been fetishzed into becoming the only acceptable method of action on the body politic for anarchists?
That is one of the reasons why I am afraid that anarchists are painting themselves into a theoretical corner by such notions. By negating the electoral process entirely they have essentially decided to start from scratch to reinvent the wheel of political process. That may be all fine and well for a sociological experiment but in the world of real power, which is simply shooting your self in the foot. Why would you deny yourself the most readily available method of access to power, simply because it has been corrupted by some?
Is it corrupt on every level? Are we to not participate in any representative process? What about union elections? What about the ballot initiative process that we have in California? Simply because an election is based on majority rule instead of consensus is not a reason to not participate.
I think many anarchists refuse to participate simply because it would blur their sense of identity. Part of what they cling to as a method of defining themselves is this whole fetishistic belief that elections are bad. Consensus is good. Group thing good, majority rule is dictatorial. But is it? Is this oversimplification simply a reaction? I think it is. I think it is an emotional reaction that reflects some immaturity among anarchists. We can and do participate in the politics of our world one way or another, either by giving our power to someone else by refusing to participate, or by using the rather blunt instrument of direct action, which although effective on the level that it costs the power elite money and they have to deploy some of those forces of security, it ultimately has all been incorporated into their methodology of control. What anarchists do in effect is participate in the training exercises for security forces, in anticipation of the real event, an uncontrolled riot where real social forces are released and not the theatrical play of so called direct action on the part of professional anarchists, full time or part time.
No I say we need to take direct action to be what it is, a tactic. We need to act on all levels including that of the ballot, in the majority rule system, either a winner take all as we have in the USA or in a proportional system as we have in most of the rest of the world. We don’t have to become boosters of a party, but we don’t have to refuse to participate at all. But that is again an individual choice. But as others have said before, what if all the anarchists got together and took over a town, say Santa Cruz, California, there should be enough of us to mob that city council. Would you do it? Or would you refuse on principal? Anarchists have only faced that situation on a few occasions, such as in Spain. It is unfortunate that because of the exceptional situation of 1936 Spain that many anarchists have drawn the lesson that participation in government is inherently wrong. I would take the opposite position; to not participate would have been morally reprehensible. I leave it at that.


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