Archive for August, 2010

Obama Claims End of American Fighting In Iraq

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

The President announced today that the combat phase of operations in Iraq are over. He used the usual platitudes to express gratitude to the troops who have fought there. He then noted his fulfillment of his campaign commitment to end the wartime efforts in Iraq. On that score Obama has done as he said he would. But Bush had already made a commitment to the Iraqis to be out by the end of 2011 which Obama claims he will also meet for the remaining 50,000 troops. So far so good.
The other promise Obama made was to ratchet up the war in Afghanistan and that he has done in spades. With 56 dead for the month of August, casualties are going up as the Taliban respond to pressure from the American forces according to NPR today.
The big question is will Obama cut the defense budget to free up more funds for his domestic green job creation program? It seems more likely that the savings in Iraq will be spent in Afghanistan.
This is from Obama’s speech.
“Americans across the political spectrum supported the use of force against those who attacked us on 9/11. Now, as we approach our 10th year of combat in Afghanistan, there are those who are understandably asking tough questions about our mission there. But we must never lose sight of what’s at stake. As we speak, al Qaeda continues to plot against us, and its leadership remains anchored in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. We will disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists. And because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to apply the resources necessary to go on offense.”

I would contradict that statement. Many of us thought there should be a police action and not an invasion to deal with the terrorists just as the British and Spanish did when they were attacked by terrorists. Some even believe the events of 9/11 were the actions of domestic forces although I personally find the evidence for that lacking.
Obama seems determined to spend the savings from withdrawing forces from Iraq on the endless chasing after Al Qaeda like a dog trying to catch its own tail in Afghanistan, in Yemen, in Somalia and wherever the Hydra shows its head. Chop one off and another pops up because the root cause is not being addressed, American imperialism and the propping up of crony regimes.
We need to bring the troops home and negotiate a peace. At least start negotiating and withdraw the troops as we can. Certainly the Afghan people can take care of themselves with a little serious financial aid and perhaps a discrete police action to deal with those who insist on terrorizing innocent people. This is what the USA should have done in the first place.
Obama talked a little about restoring the domestic economy.
“Our most urgent task is to restore our economy, and put the millions of Americans who have lost their jobs back to work. To strengthen our middle class, we must give all our children the education they deserve, and all our workers the skills that they need to compete in a global economy. We must jumpstart industries that create jobs, and end our dependence on foreign oil. We must unleash the innovation that allows new products to roll off our assembly lines, and nurture the ideas that spring from our entrepreneurs. This will be difficult. But in the days to come, it must be our central mission as a people, and my central responsibility as President.”
This is a pretty vague statement. It seems he wants to spend more on education and stimulus, if that is what he means by ‘”jumpstart”. This is mostly the same old rhetoric, talking about ending dependence on foreign oil without spelling out how. It is not cost effective to stop using oil from other sources and won’t be for at least a decade. These are platitudes without an action plan. Perhaps Obama has a policy rabbit up his sleeve but he better pull it out pretty quick because Americans are getting impatient with this ongoing depression. They want action or at least a president who makes the right noises.
As things stand it looks more and more like a Republican victory this fall and they have almost nothing to offer, just not Obama. The Democrats with the successes they have had so far with Health care and the Financial legislation should be able to crow about it instead of dodging blows from the right. But then what can you expect from the other party of capitalism?

Immigration Debate

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Recently I have been debating with a person who believes in expelling immigrants from Latin America simply because of their immigration status. This is our debate. There are three persons here, Gary Rumor that’s me, Hempman and Dean. It started with my posting about the Beck Rally. Let me know what you think.

Gary Rumor: The Tea Party seems to be at a point where it can draw a crowd equivalent to the Anti-War movement. That means they are no longer just astroturf. They have a constituency and will be able to win elections…
Who are these people. They are mostly white older middle class or formerly middle class who feel that they have lost the country to a radical elite bent on enforcing equality for minorities on their backs.
Some of them are the white working classes who we should have on our side. They have been suckered in by nativist rhetoric that proposes that by closing the borders and kicking out illegal aliens their jobs will be protected. This is patently wrongheaded. The jobs are lost due to outsourcing by capitalists seeking the cheapest labor they can find and often as not that is China. The illegals are for the most part doing jobs that American citizens don’t want, dirty back breaking jobs and low pay service jobs where they compete with high school kids…

Hempman: I think that there are right and wrong assumptions being made.

They have been suckered in by nativist rhetoric that proposes that by closing the borders and kicking out illegal aliens their jobs will be protected. This is patently wrongheaded. The jobs are lost due to outsourcing by capitalists seeking the cheapest labor they can find and often as not that is China.

BUT – I have no doubt that they understand that NAFTA and Asian imports are also undermining their jobs. But, they are confused into thinking that these are separate issues. They fail to understand that the anti-union government and even anti-union unions have completely undermined the value of their work and turned people into replaceable cogs in the corporate machinery.

Nonetheless, true nativist rhetoric says that importing illegals to steal local jobs and undermining the wage base while shipping out other jobs whether through NAFTA or other trade agreements, or shipping in slave labor supported goods are equally dangerous to the local economies. (you should choke back the vomit and actually go to some of these gatherings as I have, you would see I am correct in this analysis.).

The illegals are for the most part doing jobs that American citizens don’t want

Again, not quite correct. The illegals are here talking those jobs – and accepting illegally low wages and no benefits that end up contributing to degradation of the local economy to the point that it becomes more difficult for people in OTHER jobs to get living wages from their employers. The fact remains that Americans DO want the jobs, but what they do NOT want is to be ripped off and see their standard of living destroyed.

Illegals don’t give a squat, they think it perfectly reasonable to jamb 20 - 25 people into substandard housing meant for no more than three or four, and will live in ramshackle labor camps that are nothing more than junk shacks.

I can only speak to what I actually see in places I frequent – if you know illegals who don’t do this, I suspect they could be the exception. In my apartment complex alone, the landlord complains that when he softens his heart and lets illegals move in, they inevitably move in a raft of people, living and sleeping in shifts, those whose turn at the beds and couches and floor space are not due loitering around the grounds, the kids unsupervised littering the grounds and vandalizing the place.

Gary Rumor: I live and worked in the Los Angeles region where close to half the population is Latino and there are plenty of illegals especially from Central America. We have long experience here with illegals and they have been incorporated fairly successfully in the local economy. They work in the sweatshops downtown LA making fashion accessories. They work in almost all the restaurants and bakeries in LA. Many of the more fly by night industries in the region have illegals working for them, Most of the agricultural laborers and the domestic servants of the wealthy are illegal. Landscaping and lower level construction is done by illegals and if you need a hand moving or remodeling you can go to any Home Depot and find dozens of illegals waiting for work.
But I have never had trouble finding work because of undocumented workers. Where I used to work they had undocumented Filipino workers. I might say that employing illegals depressed my wages, but I could also say that because they hired illegals they could afford me at my higher wages. As an estimator part of my job was to make sure our company was competitive. Sometimes that meant using low wage piece workers no questions asked. Or it meant losing the job and everybody having their hours cut back including high paid machine operators.
What I have found is the illegals help make certain domestic industries competitive that would have been otherwise outsourced overseas. Other industries simply would collapse if it were not for illegals. That is not saying taking advantage of people is good.
There is constant agitation here among these immigrants to join unions and fight as best they can to better their working conditions and even though sometimes they are forced to pile up more in an apartment than we consider healthy. that is a result of the economic conditions they face and the expensive housing market here. Nobody prefers to live 25 to an apartment and to say that is normal for certain people is simply buying into racial stereotypes.
My own argument is that we should unionize and raise every ones wages but then the bosses will take the jobs overseas and/or force the unions to give back gains. That happened to most private industry unions and now the bosses are going after public employees. What we need is not constant give backs and blaming some poor slob from Mexico, because that is the old divide and conquer routine used by bosses since the beginning of time. We do need solidarity and a strong legislation making it illegal to ship jobs overseas, for a start. Then we need a revolution and workers control but that is down the road. But it all starts with worker solidarity.

This is from Factcheck.org. I had to wade through a bunch of immigrant bashing sites to find something that seemed based on real data.

“Does Immigration Cost Jobs?
Economists say immigration, legal or illegal, doesn’t hurt American workers.

May 13, 2010

Summary
Do immigrants take American jobs? It’s a common refrain among those who want to tighten limits on legal immigration and deny a “path to citizenship” — which they call “amnesty” — to the millions of immigrants living in the U.S. illegally. There’s even a new Reclaim American Jobs Caucus in the House, with at least 41 members.

But most economists and other experts say there’s little to support the claim. Study after study has shown that immigrants grow the economy, expanding demand for goods and services that the foreign-born workers and their families consume, and thereby creating jobs. There is even broad agreement among economists that while immigrants may push down wages for some, the overall effect is to increase average wages for American-born worker

Hempman: We’ll have to agree to disagree. I can find legitimate studies that prove the exact opposite. A real life case study right here in Delaware proves that illegals have severe negative impact on local employment and economic factors. The construction industry here was being so badly undermined by the use of underpaid illegals (that were also producing substandard, in some cases dangerously so, work) the state passed regulations requiring all construction contractors AND subcontractors to register, get business licenses, and prove citizenship to do so. Legitimate job offers in the construction industry here more than doubled in three quarters. Similar restrictions were passed on food workers, landscaping and agriculture – all with similar results.

Your opening sentence simply proves what I said. The illegals work in sweatshops – well, guess what kind of wages are paid there and why they are called sweatshops. These illegal businesses have no right being in business if they can not do so in a legitimate way. Illegals are provably contributing to yet more illegal activities by your own statement.

You can use circular logic to say that you could not get the jobs without illegal workers. That is the SAME EXACT ARGUMENT used to justify slavery. It leads to only proof that the use of illegals undermines legitimate employment. The only reason you HAD to use slaves is because your competitors used slaves, without slaves you could not compete. That undermines the entire economic aspect of the local employment scene.

The only reason for using illegals was to crank up the bottom line. How many local’s would have loved to have had those jobs had the illegals not undermined the wages? And, because they are illegal, who is going to help them improve working conditions so it is no longer a literal sweatshop with lord knows what kinds of dangerous conditions? All you do is prove what I said. If I were you, I would not be so ready to excuse my own bad behavior in slave trade.

Now, not only are people not getting legal jobs making living wages, and not paying legal taxes, they now do not have the money to support the local economic structure.

Nothing but dead ends.

Here in Delaware, regulations in the food industry mean you have to be able to prove that you are a citizen to get the job, even tossing burgers in a fast food joint. Wages are improved and working conditions have improved. Since passing regulations to support local, legal workers, Delaware’s employment front has shown more significant improvements than pretty much anywhere else. Illegals have provably had a negative impact on job conditions when regulations to preserve local employees has demonstrated impact in every aspect of the economy.

Factcheck is more than a touch questionable. I would not depend on anything I find there without independent verification.

Shame on Nike and people who buy it. Shame on Martha Stewart and K-Mart. Shame on import regulators who turn a blind eye to goods shipped in illegally. Shame on legislators for bending over for the corporations and allowing them to actively undermine local economies on ALL fronts.

As far as I can tell, illegals are the new slaves. It isn’t the slaves at fault, it is the assholes (unfortunately you seem to be one) who claim things can’t be done without them. It isn’t just the importation of slaves, it is allowing legitimate work to be shipped to places where the slavery is even more overt.

All you managed to prove is that loose borders, both from importation of slaves or exportation of local jobs, is destroying the American economy and a reasonable standard of living.

Gary Rumor: Your logic is fine if we were a closed system but the USA is not. We are part of an integrated world economy and there is no way around it and simply put the corporations would not allow what you say to happen, not on any large scale that put a dent into their profits.
Delaware is a state that gives corporations more loopholes than just about any other state in the nation. Ironic that they care so much about their workers when their corporation laws are “advanced and flexible” to suit the needs of today’s fortune 500 companies, including Delaware’s “highly respected Corporations court”, to quote from the State of Delaware brochure “Why corporations choose Delaware?”
What you are proposing is to create a fortress America. Sort of like what Pat Buchanan suggests. Fortify the borders, enact national ID cards. Enforce ID checks like the state of Arizona is enacting. Reinforce the state and its apparatus all for the sake of protecting low wage jobs for Americans. I would like to see how many US citizens are willing to work as farm workers in the fields here in California.
Unless we are willing to spend a much higher percentage of our incomes on food, there will be too much pressure from industry to allow either illegals or temporary workers or whatever, low wage workers to do the manual labor required in agriculture. We simply don’t have any Okies left willing to work the fields for minimum wage. Perhaps this will stimulate more automation in agriculture, more square tomatoes that taste like wood.
Your point about slavery is apt. Capitalism is a form of slavery or indentured servitude. There are the well treated house slaves mostly white and the poorly treated field slaves who now are brown mostly.
There are people in other parts of the world who would be happy to do work we consider to be intolerable. It is a fact of life. It could change. If the Tea Party types win the elections and decide it is more important to cut government spending than to prime the pump of the economy we could see unemployment at 35% or more. Then we may again see a generation of Americans glad to work for minimum wage again. Won’t that be grand. If there are no more illegal aliens then who will we blame for our desperate straits?
I say the problem is structural. It is in the nature of capitalism. But perhaps I am simply blowing smoke. Perhaps we should allow the red states to enact anti-immigrant legislation and the blue states try an amnesty program and see which economy does better.
Hempman: I no more asked to be born here than anyone else asked to be born where they are. But, I want my neighborhood to be a healthy, clean, livable area, where people can afford to buy their own homes, the water supply is clean and dependable, the air is breathable, people can get affordable health care, food is cheap, travel easy, and other standard of living issues are reasonably and rationally managed.

To be point blank about it, if you can’t or will not try to make your corner of the world better, and have voluntarily let it get so bad you HAVE to move, what makes you think I want you near me? So you can have the same fucked up attitude? (the rhetorical “you”) So you can come here and degrade the local employment situation while too fucking lazy to take care of your own corner of the world? To come here and put greater demand on local resources such as schools and food and the environment when you are too fucking lazy to do something about your own neighborhood?

If you don’t want to obey the laws about immigration and are willing to destroy the local economy by taking work away from locals and undermining the wage and benefit base, what other laws are you willing to break that will continue to degrade my corner of the world? (until DE passed worker protection laws, there was a huge problem of illegals driving with no car insurance, getting into accidents and taking off, leaving economic hardship in their wake. I know, I still have a three thousand dollar debt from fixing a car from that situation.

How, you say, do I know they were illegal? The dumbasses stopped and only took off after they tried to pass off counterfeit licenses and insurance cards on me (another regulation makes insurance companies issue counterfeit resistant cards, and our licenses have holograms in them). I actually recognized them and knew about where they lived. I went there and tracked them down. DEPORTED. But I still got stuck with the bill. Fuck ‘em if they can’t obey reasonable laws.

Allowing people to steal local resources through illegal employment is far more degrading to everyone involved than if they would simply take care of THEIR OWN CORNER OF THE WORLD first. Exactly where is the social justice in underpaid workers destroying the local economy and job market? Exactly where is the dignity in that? Exactly where is the common sense, social justice and dignity in a slave trade mentality that excuses abusing illegal workers just to get the contract?

YOU say “a few crumbs” to “marginal” workers. That is a lie based on a misrepresentation. How, exactly, are 20% of local carpenters and other building laborers “marginal” and how, exactly, is preserving local jobs for legal workers “a few crumbs”? How, exactly, is creating broader employment, with better pay and benefits at all levels, anything like your claim?

Just because YOU DON’T LIKE that people who have lived and worked here for most of their lives want their standard of living protected does not equate the way you claim and does not make your claims reasonable.

If you want to revolutionize the lives of the illegals who want to illegally move here, GO THERE and HELP THEM make their own corner of the world better. Don’t think you can come to my neighborhood and steal our jobs with substandard wages and the willingness to debase yourself and the illegals.

Know why Delaware passed worker protection laws? PEOPLE WHO LIVE HERE WANT THEIR WAGES AND BENEFITS and other resources protected from degradation. We VOTE THAT WAY and ACTIVATE THAT WAY and MARCH THAT WAY and make the politicians pass laws that protect our limited resources (it isn’t perfect, but it is a shitload better than LA, SF, DC, NY and about 80% of the rest of the world).

Simple test – What do you pay for a gallon of gas, a pack of smokes, an apple, a steak, a loaf of bread, water, sewer, a 1,000 sq. foot 2 BR apartment? in order: $1.57/gallon, $5.37/pack, about $.08 an apple, too much, but probably cheaper than you at $2.99 a pound, $1.39 a loaf, about $60 a quarter for a family of three, about $80 a year for sewer, and last but not least about $850/month. What’s that like in LA, SF, NYC, wherever you live? What are the roads like? Last time I spend more than 15 minutes traveling 25 miles are three years ago, in the middle of a blizzard. It is illegal to build buildings here more than 10 stories high. We NEVER have a water crisis. Power only goes out in really big storms, not when too many people are running AC. There are no sweatshops, almost no illegally underpaid workers (though a living wage is not universal, yet), and since passage of labor protection laws, the employment situation on all levels has improved faster than nationally, and no doubt better than where you live.

You can only have so many people live in an area, before it begins to degrade the resources. Look at how badly polluted NY and LA are. They are also among the worst in protecting local resources. Where’s the dignity and social justice in that? Do something about YOUR corner, before you even think about coming here and fucking with MY corner of the world.

(an allegory) If I am smart enough to grow my own food, and I and my family and maybe some others from my community can eat from that food, NO ONE HAS A RIGHT to demand access to that. Why should we starve because you can’t grow your own food? If you are too fucking lazy to grow your own tomatoes, don’t come stealing them from my garden, you could get shot. There’s your revolution for you. Even the best farmers can only get so much food out of the land. You can only process so much sewage and supply so much water. There are only so many jobs to go around (and then the job market and economy crashes).

There are far more ghost towns that simply exceeded how many people local resources could support, than those that failed for any other reason.

I really like the lifeboat allegory. Local economies and employment resources are exactly like a lifeboat. Too many people in the boat, and everyone loses. Build your own lifeboat, I’m working on mine.

Gary Rumor: Come on those corporations are not in Delaware, the incorporation there is a legal fiction to avoid tighter regulation in other states. They are shell companies. As for giving up, not on your life. I believe in revolution. I just don’t think that nativist approaches will work without enhancing the right wing and destroying the chance of social justice and dignity for all people in the country and on the planet. We have to fight capitalism and just because a state is throwing crumbs to a few marginal workers does not mean they are helping the working class.

Hempman: What you like is slavery with no fight. Everything you say is a rationalization of corporate dominance and slavery. That isn’t logic, that is capitulation.

Up until some time in the 50’s importing goods was a difficult process meant to preserve American jobs and a reasonable standard of living. Slowly, as illegal immigration began to climb and one concession to corporate profits after another was rationalized using your “logic”, the economy became more and more unmanageable, and now there is no reasonable standard of living except for a dwindling group, and everyone else can go to hell. All based on the retarded claim that the U. S. would have to be a “fortress”.

Hey, you may not like the facts about Delaware, but the fact is that only by protecting local employment could Delaware hope to preserve the corporate atmosphere. No point in trying to have a corporation friendly state if there is no one left to legally fulfill the jobs.

You can try to characterize me as a Buchanan type, but it is far better than your George Wallace mentality.

Unless we maintain a standard of living, it will not matter how cheap you think food prices are (which is total bullshit in any case – I just paid more for three pounds of hamburger than it cost to fill my gas tank just ten years ago). The very reason wages are low is because illegals are used to undermine the wage base.

Minimum wages in ag? What planet are you on???? The wages are literally less than half minimum wage in illegal employment. Meanwhile, big agribiz who employs the most illegal ag workers rakes in skyrocketing profits while cranking up prices. It is cheaper to hire illegals than automate.

There goes that racist bullshit about workers in other parts of the world doing work Americans would consider intolerable. Racist bullshit. It is like you have some sort of brain damage where you write something about pushing wages lower in one paragraph then in the next you forgot that. In the meantime, what you also forget is that the real issue is that in other parts of the world, the standard of living is already destroyed by just the sort of crap you are selling – borderless economies. So, they already have a fucked up situation, and are willing to do anything for any crappy money. All you prove is that by allowing the standard of living in America to corrode as it is, we can get to be a fucked up third world pit just like them.

You totally miss the point about slavery. There is a huge difference between the sort of wage slavery that results in a manageable economy that mostly protects its workers, ala the 40’s, 50’s and even into the 60’s and the importation of illegal workers to undermine that standard for the corporate bottom line what is part and parcel if an unthinking open borders hire the illegals they’ll take any shitty job for no pay or benefits and fuck everybody situation that now exists. If you fail to see the difference, then you are hopeless.

It would be ironic, to allow the blue/red dichotomy you suggest. It would be a complete reversal of the pre-civil war slave days, only this time the Pubes would be against slavery and the Dumbos for slavery. Then there really would be another civil war. Maybe it would be good for this country to realize how fucked up illegal immigration really is.

Dean: Anything that supports of the corporations that is the BASIS of the Delaware economy is bad. Dupont and the chemical industry and the corporations which which are officially headquartered in Delaware, but run the exploitative capitalist system around the war, is the ruining the world’s environments and its people. Delaware may be a nice place to live but the economic system that is run from there (officially) is shit.
Workers of the world should be able to move anywhere they damn well want to, or need to, including the US of A, and including little old Delaware. They should also get equal work for equal pay (at least!). If it wasn’t for the laws that create borders (and the idea of illegals, and ICE to deport them (where they came from!) they could organize with other workers. We shouldn’t be pitting one group of workers against another (including being against the brain work Gary had to do), but organizing them (and everyone else) against exploitation, environmental degradation, and oppression.

Hempman: Old news – Delaware still favors corporate legalese, but to dismiss advances that have improved the local job and economic situation based on that is simple minded foolishness, at best. Saying that making working conditions better for working class people in Delaware based on some half-assed notion from the last century is meaningless drivel at best, and mean spirited hatred on its face. DuPont is all but a dead company, and has no influence over Delaware law, anymore. Get with this century.

Workers of the world should be able to move where they want, provided they are ready to obey local laws, including obeying those preventing the degradation of the local job market and economy, pay their taxes that support local government such as roads and other necessary services, obey health laws that prevent dragging dangerous diseases around, obey laws that prevent unhealthy and dangerous sweatshop situations, obey laws that prevent bad workers from creating hazards and then disappearing, and obey laws that prevent overloading other local structural (like water and sewer resources), environmental (yeah, we ALL want the pollution of NY or LA) and standard of living (like not destroying wage base and benefits) resources and many other reasons to maintain rational local control over local employment and housing.

If you don’t want to obey the rational laws protecting these local resources, go the fuck home, and that isn’t here.

Without some semblance of RATIONAL, LEGAL immigration, sewer systems fail, employment fails, the environment fails, and many other essential systems are easily overwhelmed. Only a simple minded fool would fail to recognize these facts.

What we should not be doing is making half-wit excuses for undermining local employment, economic, structural and environmental resources so we can pretend that anyone should be able to do whatever the fuck they want with no thought for what the impact of that actually will entail.

Gary Rumor: The biggest tax evaders are all those corporations who incorporate in Delaware. You insist on blaming a small minority of illegal immigrants when the problem stems from the way corporations have been allowed to run rampant and roughshod over the well being of the American people. Corporations get huge tax breaks, have undue influence in lobbying the legislative branches of government both local and national and have control of the major media to deflect attention from themselves and to propagate misconceived ideas such as that illegal aliens are to blame for economic problems in the USA.
Another reason why the American Taxpayer doesn’t get much bang for his buck in services is the bloated military budget. We spend more on the military than all the rest of the world combined. What do we get for it, corporations have an enforcer to insure third world countries live up to the IMF restrictions and the resource extraction and cheap labor deals that corporations negotiate. What do the American people get, cheap consumer goods. We have lousy health care, collapsing infrastructure and crappy schools because the money goes to the military and corporate interests. Just look at a country like Germany with 6 week paid vacations, national health care and great infrastructure. Why don’t we have the equivalent? They have immigrants too. But they don’t blame economic or social problems on the Turks or Arabs, or Eastern Europeans.
You have to look at the big picture. You will never be able to restore the kind of socioeconomic conditions that existed in the 50’s and 60’s unless you deal with the structural problems in capitalism. You are dreaming if you think kicking out a few illegals will restore that kind of workers prosperity. The prosperity was a direct result of the war. We had bombed the competition out of existence and then had an boom in rebuilding their countries and supplying the needs of everybody else while the rest of the industrialized world rebuilt. By the end of the 1960’s we were no longer the only dog in the game and by the 1970’s it began to show in the erosion of workers incomes.
Even if there are 10 million illegal immigrants, that is a drop in the bucket in a nation of 300 million. You might argue that if they were gone that would be 10 million jobs for Americans but that is not true, Many of those jobs don’t pay enough to support an American and the industries would simply collapse by having to price themselves out of the market due to foreign competition. Also in a depression such as we are having the jobs that Americans will do simply have dried up.
To drive out the immigrants means enacting and enforcing laws that will have detrimental effects on the civil liberties of all of us. That is what the ruling class wants. They figure this will give them one more means to track and control the citizenry and give the feds the national id card they wanted under Bush that civil libertarians opposed and were able to defeat. Now they come up with this ‘illegal immigrant threat scam and try to railroad the national id card legislation under the rubric of protecting jobs for Americans when all they really are doing is gaining a new method of control. The only new jobs will be in the Homeland Security Department and the ICE prisons.

Hempman: I guess, like George Wallace, you fools can call slavery, degradation and actual injustice caused by illegal employment a good idea.

Gary Rumor: What does George Wallace, a long dead southern racist politician have to do with this debate about the position of immigrants in American society or coming to an understanding of the current crisis in capitalism? That is just a bogus label. Just as your attempt to label wage slavery as chattel slavery. The injustice is to the immigrant worker who has to work for such low wages due to his or her illegal statues, not to the employer taking advantage or to the consumer benefiting from the cheap product provided by the labor of the immigrant.
The easiest and fairest answer is amnesty for immigrants who have been here for several years and paid into the system with their sweat and blood and not been able to reap the benefit due to their legal status.
Immigration laws change all the time. Up until the 1920’s the USA accepted a huge number of immigrants from Europe. Probably your grandparents were immigrants. But the same laws discriminated against Chinese and Japanese immigrants. Eventually they were changed to restrict immigration altogether with the subsequent rise in illegal immigration from places like Ireland and eventually Mexico. Is your problem with the fact that these immigrants are brown skinned just as a previous generation were opposed to immigrants because they were yellow skinned?
For that matter borders are artificial constructs. The USA conquered a third of Mexico through armed aggression in the 1840’s. The Mexican citizens now became US citizens. Native American Lands by prior possession and by treaty were infringed upon by illegal Anglo immigrants and it was called Manifest Destiny. Now Hispanic immigrants (Spanish and Native American mixed race people) are reversing the process Manifesting their own Destiny by reoccupying the lands their forefathers lost to Anglo predation. Destiny is a bitch when you are on the receiving end. But it doesn’t have to be hard. We can accept the return of the dark skinned inhabitants as fellow humans and brothers in the melting pot that is the USA or we can turn the country into a fortress trying to preserve something that no longer exists, a fantasy of America that once was.
As I have said elsewhere we have to work to make this land a fair place for all and not just a playground for the rich.

Loren Goldner Ultra Leftist Speaks In Los Angeles

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

Last night I went to a talk given by Loren Goldner, ultra leftist communist, at the Barnsdale Art Park in Los Angeles. I was quite impressed with the setting. The park has several art related facilities including a gallery where the talk was given. Loren was introduced by Hector of the Insane Dialectical Posse, a drinking club as he put it. About 20 persons attended. Mr. Goldner presented a cogent and clear portrayal of the Hegelian vision of the goal of history being the liberation of humanity as translated by the genius of Karl Marx.
Loren described Marx’s basic theory of surplus value and drew a couple of charts describing the economic history of capitalism from 1817 to the present. His theory is one of a series of cycles of growth and recession approximately once every ten years in 1817, 1827, 1837, 1847 and 1857. Then he describes a long deflationary process from approx. 1873 until 1914 when the capitalist system went into a thirty year crisis from 1914 until 1945. After that came the post war boom 1946 to 1970 ending in the long decline from 1970 to 2010.

He emphasized the break between pre 1914 and post 1914 with its radical departure from what had been the pattern previously(1). During the period prior to the outbreak of war the Socialist parties developed quite strong organizations in the industrialized countries as he pointed out. He claimed that the major capitalist countries were facing a severe recession in 1914 and that the war saved capital from both socialism and the economic downturn.
Loren quoted from Marx’s ‘Grundrisse’ and then talked extensively about the wild cat strikes of 1966-1973. He noted that workers in England were so rebellious that there was an inquiry by the British Government into the problem in 1968. The great strike of 1968 in France was a wildcat strike he observed. Then spoke about the auto workers in Detroit that were not satisfied with simply more benefits as long as the structure of the job remained the same. The strikes were at the climax of the period of prosperity when anyone could get a job. This he emphasized when asked about the 1930’s strikes, he pointed out the majority were in 1934-37 when there was a lessening of the depression due to stimulus measures undertaken by the Roosevelt administration. His point being that wages and benefits are never enough.
As an example of workers solidarity Loren noted that unemployed workers had joined striking workers at the Auto-Lite Factory in Toledo, Ohio in 1934, an action that showed solidarity between workers.

Loren also pointed out that times of political crisis such as after the Franco-Prussian War in 1870-71 are times when revolutionary flareups are more likely as the Paris Commune shows and the revolutionary outbreak around Europe during and after World War One.
The talk lasted close to an hour and then there was a 45 minute question and answer period. Gifford, Insane Dialectical Posse member from the SF Bay area noted that the state employees who were being ordered to take work furloughs had self organized from the bottom up sick outs to protest and seemed to think that public employees would unite with others in the Oakland region in self activity. He wanted to know if Loren saw prospects for revolution. Loren said that he thought there were hopeful signs of self activity in the industrializing world, pointing to Chinese strikes, Bangladeshi strikes and the Tobacco workers strike in Turkey. He also mentioned the strike at the Cananea Copper Mine in Mexico which was ended in June with a police assault after 3 years. It was noted that the struggle of the workers leads to their being able to reach higher levels of consciousness, whether they win or lose a particular struggle.
One of the audience asked if small scale autonomous actions could not bring about revolutionary change. He pointed to the Italian Autonomist movement in the late 1970’s. Loren discounted their efforts as being recuperated by capital, especially when the audience member mentioned working part time as a tactic of opposition. Another person pointed out that we are striving for a world in which capital is defeated and workers councils are the dominant form of organizational structure. He wanted to know what Loren saw as other potential forms of organization. Loren stated that he was hopeful that there will most likely be forms that we had not seen before and indicated that they would be more widespread as community efforts than just workplace structures. As an example he talked about the events in Argentina when the government collapsed in 2001 after people took to the streets and they developed cooperative means of survival as the economy failed.
When asked about the reason why there was more evidence of activity in the struggle in the 1930’s than now, Loren noted that there was the problem with off shoring jobs. When a call center wanted to organize the jobs were sent overseas. But he did note that transport workers were in positions where they could control choke points and thus were in good bargaining positions. They had more successes as in New York, France, Argentina. He said in times like this many workers were fighting defensive battles and the prospects were mixed. Another audience member, myself pointed out that in the 1930’s there was the example of the Soviet Union and the Communists provided some leadership even though Stalin had crushed the revolution at home.
Loren mostly dismissed the Communist Party for their United Front policies with a joke about calling themselves the descendants of Abraham Lincoln and being real American Patriots. He did acknowledge the Revolutions at the end of World War One had a major influence upon the workers around the world.(2)
There was literature, beer and chips available and a Loren is speaking in San Francisco.

(See for Recession info “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_recessions_in_the_United_States”)
(See for Toledo Auto Strike http://www.wsws.org/articles/2009/may2009/tole-m27.shtml)
(See for Chinese Auto Workers http://libcom.org/news/more-strikes-chinese-honda-workers-17072010)
(See for Bangladesh Workers http://libcom.org/news/rage-over-wage-04082010)
(See for Turkish Tobacco Workers http://www.socialistproject.ca/bullet/326.php)
(See for Cananea Strike http://www.phongpo.com/search/mexican+copper+mine+strike)
(See for Autonomist Movement http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autonomist_movement)
(See for more Autonomists in Italy http://libcom.org/library/working-class-autonomy-crisis)
These notes below are my personal observations and not Lorens or those of the members of the Insane Dialectical Posse.
(1)The distinction between pre and post 1914, is very complex. Before 1914 there was a feeling of inevitable socialism coming about more or less peacefully. The fact that the Socialist parties did nothing to stop the war in Europe destroyed the hopes of many, just as the war destroyed the lives of many brave comrades. The war gave the US government an excuse to round up and arrest many activists who were deported to Russia in 1919 as you well know. The American Socialist party and the IWW split over whether to join the new Communist Party or not. Thus the major American revolutionary organizations were weakened entering the 1920’s.

(2) In the1930’s the communists organized demonstrations of the unemployed. Before the United Front days they were very active.
From an article on Unemployment Councils
http://www.novelguide.com/a/discover/egd_02/egd_02_00522.html

“Unemployed Councils were grassroots organizations of unemployed workers created in the early 1930s to protest mass unemployment and inadequate relief. The first councils were established by the American Communist Party’s Trade Union Unity League, an organization created in the 1920s to promote radical unionism. In March 1930 the Trade Union Unity League organized highly successful mass demonstrations to protest unemployment and demand government relief. In July of that year a national conference sponsored by the Trade Union Unity League declared the formation of the “unemployed councils of the USA.”"

This is from Libcom.org
http://libcom.org/history/1930-1939-unemployed-workers-movement
“Len de Caux suggests(in his book):

“The communists brought misery out of hiding in the workers’ neighborhoods. They paraded it with angry demands. . . . In hundreds of jobless meetings, I heard no objections to the points the communists made, and much applause for them. Sometimes, I’d hear a communist speaker say something so bitter and extreme, I’d feel embarrassed. Then I’d look around at the unemployed audience; shabby clothes, expressions worried and sour. Faces would start to glow, heads to nod, and hands to clap (162-163).”

The Communist Party before the United Front period was militantly advocating revolution. Too bad they allowed themselves to be tools of Soviet foreign policy. But they were the main radical organization that people knew and respected, they had the Soviet Union behind them an in the early thirties Stalin’s wreckage of a revolution was not well known by the general public. Their influence grew in the period of the United Front.

“In the popular front era, the communists made their greatest gains. They captured peace groups and youth organizations, infiltrated church associations and played a fateful role in third parties in Minnesota and New York.
When John L. Lewis needed a cadre of C.I.O. organizers he turned to the Communists. By the end of the decade (1930’s) the Communists sat in control of more than 1/3 of the C.I.O. and had men in key places in the national headquarters.” ‘Franklin D. Roosevelt And The New Deal’, Leuchtenburg, Page 282.

I am no apologist for the Communist Party. I just think they were a major reason why the left was so powerful in the 1930’s and not now. There were other parties, the Trotskyists were beginning to form up and there were socialist parties, and the IWW was still active as well as the unions with the AFL and the new CIO. People had no choice but to be militant, organizing to stop evictions, appropriate food and demand services from relief organizations. They didn’t have the social security benefits or the unemployment benefits or health insurance we have now. Those protections came as a result of battles on the part of workers and the unemployed in the 1930’s.

Beck Claims Half Million At Rally

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

The Tea Party seems to be at a point where it can draw a crowd equivalent to the Anti-War movement. That means they are no longer just astroturf. They have a constituency and will be able to win elections. The recent Republican primaries in Florida and Alaska show the right has clout. By driving old school middle of the road Republicans like Charlie Christ right out of the party and giving a dark horse like Miller in Alaska a real chance, they are flexing their new found populist muscle.
Who are these people? They are mostly white older middle class or formerly middle class who feel that they have lost the country to a radical elite bent on enforcing equality for minorities on their backs.
Some of them are the white working classes who we should have on our side. They have been suckered in by nativist rhetoric that proposes that by closing the borders and kicking out illegal aliens their jobs will be protected. This is patently wrongheaded. The jobs are lost due to outsourcing by capitalists seeking the cheapest labor they can find and often as not that is China. The illegals are for the most part doing jobs that American citizens don’t want, dirty back breaking jobs and low pay service jobs where they compete with high school kids.
Others, like the Christan Fundamentalists have used social issues to attract people and get them to go against their economic interests. They play upon peoples emotional attachment to babies and the family and claim that the left with its pro-abortion and pro-gay stances is threatening their core values. Adding the wrath of a punishing deity who can send their souls to hell to suffer, and these believers become the fodder for right wing demagogues who know how to push those buttons.
Then there are the libertarians, anti government and anti tax but pro capitalism. They seem to think that the only purpose of government is to defend the borders and enforce contracts. This group is the most like the left in that they have clear ideologies and positions on social issues that often we can agree with but their economic positions are an anathema. Giving corporations free rein is going back to the days of the robber barons.

Here is a report from CNN

Washington (CNN) — Large crowds rallied by conservative talk show host Glenn Beck, among them the Tea Party faithful, descended Saturday where the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech exactly 47 years ago.

People filled the park by the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial in the shadows and echoes of the most pivotal civil rights address in America’s history.

Some of those who marched with King said Beck had usurped the day for his own political gain. The Rev. Jesse Jackson told CNN that Beck was mimicking King and “humiliating the tradition.”

Other civil rights activists planned to gather nearby with the Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network and march to the site of the future Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial, just a few blocks from the Lincoln Memorial. It’s possible participants in both events could cross paths.

Beck, a hero to many conservative voters across the country, said, however, that the rally is nonpolitical and its mission is to honor American troops.

He struck a spiritual tone in his opening remarks at the rally, which began shortly after 10 a.m. with the national anthem.

“America today begins to turn back to God,” he told the crowd, which covered the upper steps of the Lincoln Memorial, as well as a large area around the speakers’ stage.

“I have just gotten word from the media that there are over 1,000 people here today,” Beck said sarcastically.

“We are humbled that you are here,” he said. “The reflecting pool holds about 200,000 people. This field back here holds about 250- to 300,000 people. They are not only full here, they’re full in that field, they’re full behind me, and they are now across the street approaching the Washington Monument.”

Tea Party activists from across the country are attending the event. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a Fox News contributor, spoke to the crowd just after 10:30 a.m.

Palin said she came to speak not about politics but as the mother of a soldier. She said America’s men and women in uniform exemplified the virtues and values of America.

“Say what you want to say about me, but I raised a combat vet and you can’t take that away from me,” she said to a crowd that broke out in chants of “U.S.A! U.S.A!”

Sue Maliszewski of Phoenix, New York, described herself as not conservative but someone who feels that her beliefs are no longer reflected in government.

“I believe that we are dysfunctional as a country,” she said.

“I believe it’s hopeless unless we get back to our roots,” Maliszewski added. “And that means our faith, and it means, reorganize our time. We have been so busy earning a living and raising our children that we have let different small groups overpower our opinions. And we’re here to … reclaim what’s wonderful about this country.”

“Whites don’t own Abraham Lincoln. Blacks don’t own Martin Luther King. Those are American icons, American ideas, and we should just talk about character, and that’s really what this event is about. It’s about honoring character,” Beck said.

CNN’s Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.”

Ready For Double Dip?

Friday, August 27th, 2010

It would seem that this weakening of the economy has got the Fed worried enough so that Bernanke has to make a statement to settle the jittery investors on Wall Street. Amazing how much that tail wags the dog of the economic movers and shakers. I wonder why we even have a stock market. After all it is only a speculative toy for the rich. It certainly is not something the average person should be much concerned with unless you are sitting on a large bundle of cash.
Government policies to push people into the stock market through 401ks etc have proven to be a risky way to plan a retirement when the market is such a volatile mechanism to accumulate savings for retirement. It is a way of basically taking responsibility off the hands of the government for retirees and putting it into the hands of each citizen through a mechanism that doesn’t give the individual much control. All it does is give each person a minor vested interest in seeing the stock market do well, a cheap insurance policy against people rebelling and calling for a different way to organize the economy, i.e. socialism.

“Ben Bernanke promises to step in as US economy veers back towards recession
Katie Allen
guardian.co.uk, Friday 27 August 2010 16.37 BST

US central bank boss Ben Bernanke today vowed to step in to prop up a fragile US economic recovery if needed as he conceded growth had been weaker than the Federal Reserve had expected.

Amid growing talk that the world’s largest economy is headed for a double-dip recession, the Federal Reserve chairman said that the recovery around the world still had a long way to run and that unemployment remained “too high”. But the US central bank was ready to help if needed, Bernanke said in his speech at the Jackson Hole symposium of central bankers in Wyoming.

His remarks helped stock markets rally as they looked to the Fed to pump money into the US economy, although they had initially fallen as traders digested his gloomy remarks on the recent slowdown in growth.

Having taking radical action to rekindle growth during the recession, Bernanke denied that policymakers had run out of options now the recovery was faltering.

“The Federal Reserve is already supporting the economic recovery by maintaining an extraordinarily accommodative monetary policy, using multiple tools,” he said in his speech, entitled The Economic Outlook and Monetary Policy. “Should further action prove necessary, policy options are available to provide additional stimulus.

“The committee will certainly use its tools as needed to maintain price stability – avoiding excessive inflation or further disinflation – and to promote the continuation of the economic recovery.”

Economists had been divided ahead of the speech as to whether Bernanke would provide any hints on the prospects of the Fed embarking on more quantitative easing (QE) – the system whereby it buys assets such as government bonds from banks and the commercial sector, pumping more cash into the financial system while at the same time cutting market rates.

As expected, Bernanke steered clear of giving the market any strong hints on what might prompt more QE or any other stimulus. “At this juncture, the committee has not agreed on specific criteria or triggers for further action,” he said.

Bernanke highlighted several weak spots in the US recovery, including “slower-than-expected growth in consumer spending, as well as continued weakness in residential and non-residential construction”.

He said: “Although private final demand, output and employment have indeed been growing for more than a year, the pace of that growth recently appears somewhat less vigorous than we expected.”

In the longer term, he was more optimistic, predicting “some pickup” in growth in 2011 and subsequent years, although he conceded that “the economy remains vulnerable to unexpected developments”.

He also outlined global problems. “For much of the world, the task of economic recovery and repair remains far from complete. In many countries, including the United States and most other advanced industrial nations, growth during the past year has been too slow and joblessness remains too high. Financial conditions are generally much improved, but bank credit remains tight; moreover, much of the work of implementing financial reform lies ahead of us,” he said.

The US government said GDP grew at an annual pace of 1.6%, down from the 2.4% it had estimated a month ago. But that figure was above the 1.4% forecast by a Reuters poll of analysts. Some had been expecting an even weaker reading after the slew of downbeat indicators in recent weeks.”

IMF Austerities Cause Romanian Health Care Collapse

Thursday, August 26th, 2010

This is from the IPS Terraviva site. There is not much to say except this is the result of Neo-liberalism run amok. The IMF should be tried for crimes against humanity, if it is possible to try an organization like that. The Romanian people should follow the lead of the Hungarians and say no to IMF austerities. It would seem that the only solution is for Romania to join with other countries to force cost reductions from the pharmaceutical companies, and to come up with a regional health care system. Otherwise the Romanian people need to agitate Greek style for increased income to compensate, but that would go against the grain of the IMF austerities. I am not in Romania, here in the USA we have our own Neo-liberal, subsidized, wealthy classes to battle against.

“ROMANIA: Austerity Deals Mortal Blow to Health System
By Claudia Ciobanu

BUCHAREST, Aug 26, 2010 (IPS) - Five newborns died last week in a fire caused by an air conditioning fault at a Bucharest maternity. Insufficient, overworked staff and deficient maintenance — results of inadequate funding of the health system - -were listed among the causes.

“I’m surprised such tragedies don’t happen more often, given the conditions we work in,” said resident doctor Raluca Grumazescu from the Brasov Children’s Hospital.

The sole nurse attending the newborns at the Giulesti maternity in Bucharest had stepped out of the ward when the fire broke out. Three babies in incubators died instantly and two others did not survive severe burns.

“In Romanian hospitals, it is common that only one doctor and one nurse supervise up to 100 patients during nightshifts, and they have to deal with emergencies on top of that,” Grumazescu says. “The night duty can come in the middle of a 36-hour shift during which, if the hospital takes emergencies, there is no time to rest.

“We would need double the number of staff we have now,” Grumazescu told IPS. “At the moment, nurses also do the job of orderlies, carrying patients and even cleaning the floors.”

Reports of understaffed emergency rooms or expensive machines unused because the specialists left their jobs abound in Romanian media. Hospital managers complain about lack of auxiliary personnel, such as bodyguards or technicians to do maintenance work.

Insufficient staffing is one of the chronic problems of the Romanian health system. New hiring has been blocked for years to save money. Austerity measures following a deal with the International Monetary Fund last year mean 70,000 state jobs are being cut in 2010, including in health.

The austerity plan introduced by the Romanian government this spring was centered around 25 percent cuts in salaries of all state employees, the most severe income reduction in Europe.

For many medics, losing a quarter of their pay was the last drop. According to the National College of Doctors, 2,500 doctors and nurses have left the country this year. The country has lost 10 percent of its medics in the past three years.

Thirty-year old Grumazeanu, in her fifth year of residency, made little over 300 euros monthly before the 25 percent. She says she could make at least 3,000 euros abroad. The block to new hiring also means there will be no job openings at the end of her residency, forcing the young doctor to consider leaving the country.

Commenting on the mass exodus of medics on national television this month, President Traian Basescu said, “Let us not make a drama out of the fact that Romanians are leaving. The best thing we achieved (since 1989) has been the liberalisation of the labour market. The Romanian state cannot pay its medics and teachers as they deserve, this is the reality.”

The health budget in this country of 22 million has stayed below 4 percent of the GDP (estimated around 120 billion euros for 2010) over the past years — well below average EU spending. In the 2009 Euro Health Consumer Index, Romania’s health system ranked worst in the EU.

Hospitals are regularly in debt. In mid-2010, the 435 Romanian hospitals owed 300 million euros for pharmaceuticals and utilities. Hospitalised patients often have to bring in their own basic drugs. This year, funds for materials such as syringes and bandages were exhausted in July in most hospitals.

National funds for medication finish in the first half of the year, causing conflict between pharmacies and the state, and halting sales to chronic patients. This year, the half billion euros awarded from the budget for compensated medication covered only last year’s debts to pharmaceutical companies.

Romania has a tradition of universal state-sponsored care dating back to the socialist period. Private clinics opened since 1989 are yielding increasing returns but the number of those who can afford going private is low. Less than 400,000 Romanians had private health insurance last year.

The centre-right government claims it will halt “irresponsible” spending in health. Legislation is ready for introducing a system of “co-payments” by patients for drugs and medical services. From 2011, patients will pay set amounts for each visit to the family doctor, ambulance call or hospital entry.

Additionally, only the prices of the cheapest generic drugs for chronic patients will be compensated from September.

According to the Coalition of Organisations of Chronic Patients in Romania (COPAC), patients wanting to continue their current treatments will pay on average 125 percent more and additional monthly expenses could reach hundreds of euros (four million pensioners in the country have income below 300 euros monthly).

According to COPAC director Cezar Irimia, if the planned measures apply, patients with cancer, mental illnesses, Parkinson’s, heart conditions and even children suffering from AIDS will not have proper treatment.

“The authorities are not listening to us, so we will be forced to sue the state for breach of the right to life,” Irimia says.

The Ministry of Health refuses to comment on the new price of medication, arguing the responsibility falls with the National Health Insurance House (CNAS). In its turn, CNAS accuses COPAC — which represents 2.5 million patients — of being “sold out to pharmaceutical companies.”

According to the government, the greatest hope for the collapsing health system comes from decentralisation. This year, almost all hospitals have passed from central to local management in the hope municipalities will be more efficient managers and fundraisers. Minister of Health Cseke Attila claims decentralisation will be a “positive shock” to the system.

However, Mihai Albu, the medic in charge of decentralisation in Bucharest, has estimated that up to half of the country’s hospitals — often in rural areas — could close down in the process.

Other gloomy consequences of the reform are anticipated. “A cancer patient might be forced to buy his drugs from a hospital 80-90 kilometres away; in some cases, this patient cannot even afford to pay for the trip, not to mention the drugs,” Irimia told IPS. “Many will be forced to give up their lives.” (END)

Recession Of 1937 Led to Election Loss of 1938

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

“”A defeated Pennsylvania Democratic congressman, asked to explain the party’s ill fortunes, responded: “The main reason is the Democrats thus far have failed in their major objective. The prosperity which the American people have been yearning…has failed to make an appearance. Truly has it been said, ‘The Republicans wrecked the Country and the Democrats are at a stalemate with reference to the problem of recovery and reconstruction.’” - Charles R. Eckert to James A. Farely, December 7, 1938. quoted in ‘Why We Lost’ The Nation, CXLVII, P.586-590.

“It was the recession, more than any other issue, that hurt the Democrats. P. 271 ‘Franklin D. Roosevelt And The New Deal’, Leuchtenburg.1963.

The election of 1938 (1)(2) has been chosen because the political forecast looks like it did back then. Double dip recession now in 2010 seems to be coming true. The housing starts are down (3) and manufactured goods orders are relatively flat (4), with manufacturing being one of the few strong indicators in the economy recently. The right wing is pounding on the administration, see my blog posting earlier today “Tea Parties, Think Tanks & Koch Brothers”. The President’s party is somewhat distracted by the constant jabs from the conservative media i.e. Newscorp (Murdock INC), over petty issues like the Muslim Center in Manhattan. The Democrats are likely to take a bath similar to that of 1938. I chose 1938 because Obama has been successful in pushing through his agenda, like Roosevelt in his first term. But the perception of the public is of an embattled presidency. A vocal and vociferous minority in the Tea Parties are stoked with lots of conservative funding making outrageous claims against the administration hoping that some of them will stick. They are even attacking the Republican party forcing it to turn to the right. This is more of a serious attack on the mainstream than I had thought. There is a serious right wing assault that is well financed and has surfaced polarizing the nation more than it has been since the Vietnam era.
The conservative business interests became dominant in government after the Civil War and until the assassination of McKinley by Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist, when Teddy Roosevelt became president and brought about some reforms. That took some of the steam out of the then growing Socialist Party(5) and forwarded some of the aims of the progressive movement(6).
World War One and the Wilson administration brought a minimal state control to the USA with its war administration boards. This provided the team that put together the New Deal under Roosevelt a model.(7)
Other than World War One, the conservatives were back in power with a vengeance during the roaring twenties, a time of booming real estate, manufacturing and unrestrained wall street growth.(8)
The depression resulted from the irresponsible practices of the capitalists and the Republicans under Hoover. The Republicans ended up being thrown out of office and the Democrats under Roosevelt came into office in March 1933. During his first administration Roosevelt was able to put in place most of the reforms that we now call the New Deal and laid the basis of the modern American industrial democracy, catching up with Europe in some areas of social justice.(9)
The Economy picked up and people were working, or at least were getting some form of government support. The right was down but not out as they had a strong lobby in the Republican party and starting with the period after the election of 1936 began to make a comeback taking advantages confusion around the Administrations attempt to reorganize the Supreme Court by adding more members who would be more sympathetic.(10) The Republicans propaganda turned it into an attempt to impose a dictatorship by Roosevelt.
Conservative Democrats and Republicans formed a coalition in the summer of 1937 to stymie the New Deal faction. Vice President Gardner was “uncrowned head” of the group. The vice president was irritated because of the lack of a balanced budget and the President’s unwillingness to discipline the sit down strikers(11).
The down turn in the economy during the summer of 1937 was the main factor in the elections of 1938. Deficit spending by the government had shored up the economy and when Roosevelt slashed spending in the spring of 37 due to inordinate fear of inflation “the government not only stopped priming the pump but even was taking some water out of the spout. If businesses had been ready to take over, none of this would have mattered, but business still lacked the confidence to undertake new investment.” Page 244 Franklin D. Roosevelt And The New Deal. “The New Dealers had come to the realization that had escaped most earlier reformers: that one can buy reforms with money”. Page 246 Ibid.
The debate then ensued in the Roosevelt administration over whether to cut the deficit to encourage private industry or to increase spending to keep the country working. The President waited and watched as the two factions within the government battled it out and the Congress became intransigent. The media began to call the recession of 37-38 “Roosevelts Recession”. The president had lost the initiative and the third wave of the New Deal never happened.

(1)From Wikipedia United States House of Representatives elections, 1938

“The U.S. House election, 1938 was an election for the United States House of Representatives in 1938 which occurred in the middle of President Franklin Roosevelt’s second term. Roosevelt’s Democratic Party lost a net of 72 seats to the Republican Party, who also picked up seats from minor Progressive and Farmer-Labor Parties.

1939 Britannica Yearbook cited a number of reasons for the losses suffered by the Democrats. The first was the Recession of 1937, which had continued into the first half of 1938, and which had arguably weakened public confidence in the administration’s New Deal economic policies. Controversy over a government reorganization bill and the Roosevelt’s “Court-packing” plan was also a major factor. There were, in addition, strains between the more liberal New Deal supporters and the conservative wing of the Democratic party centered in the Southern states. These strains were exacerbated by an effort led by President Roosevelt to target certain conservative senators for defeat in Democratic primaries.

Overall, the Democrats would go on to lose 81 seats in the House, though with 262 seats, they retained a very strong majority position.

(2) Ashbrook Center At Ashland University (presented with a right wing bias)

“The New Deal Comes to a Screeching Halt in 1938

May 2006

by: Andrew E. Busch

When Republicans and Democrats faced off for the 1938 midterm elections, it had been a decade since Republicans had done well in congressional elections. They had lost seats in both houses of Congress in 1930, 1932, 1934, and 1936, bringing their totals to a mere 88 in the House and 16 in the Senate. In the wake of Franklin Roosevelt’s landslide reelection victory in 1936, it was an open question whether the Republican Party was capable of serving as a viable opposition party.

Then, a series of events damaged Roosevelt’s standing and rejuvenated the GOP’s chances.

First, overestimating his popularity and persuasive powers, Roosevelt embarked on his “court packing” scheme, bringing a backlash even among many Democrats in Congress. The attempt seemed to verify Republican charges that the President was engaged in a campaign for one-man rule.

Next, the nation was hit with a sharp economic downturn, a recession inside the Depression that soon came to be known as the “Roosevelt recession.” The 1937-38 downturn pushed the unemployment rate back near the 20 percent level, and accentuated the question of whether FDR’s economic policies were actually helping or hurting recovery.

During 1937-38, America was also rocked with a series of sit-down strikes and instances of union violence, mostly instigated by the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO). Many Americans associated the surge in aggressive unionism with Roosevelt’s encouragement of unions in the 1935 National Labor Relations Act.

Finally, in mid-1938, Roosevelt embarked on a campaign to deprive a number of anti-New Deal congressional Democrats of renomination in local Democratic primary elections. With a few exceptions, FDR failed, and incurred three costs: he turned a number of Democratic skeptics into irrevocable enemies, he appeared impotent, and he once again contributed to the picture of himself as power-hungry, perhaps dangerously so. It was particularly significant that in 1938, when the Moscow show-trials were running full-time, the press labeled FDR’s intra-party efforts a “purge.”

When the election results were in, Democrats had lost six Senate seats and 71 House seats in what former Roosevelt advisor Raymond Moley called “a comeback of astounding proportions.” Republicans nearly matched the Democratic national House vote total, 47 percent to 48.6 percent; if one takes into account overwhelming Democratic predominance in the one-party South, the GOP clearly led the House vote in the rest of the country. Democrats also lost a dozen governorships, including such crucial states as Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Furthermore, Democratic losses were concentrated among pro-New Deal Democrats. Once the dust had settled, the Senate was about evenly divided between pro- and anti-New Deal forces, and the “conservative coalition” of Republicans and conservative Democrats was also solidified in the House, and started any given issue within range of victory.

The result in Congress was not a wholesale reversal of the New Deal but a stalemate in which Roosevelt was unable to make significant new departures, and indeed found himself in a defensive posture vis-à-vis Congress for the first time since assuming office. Congressional investigations began to embarrass the administration; Congress passed the Hatch Act (limiting political activity by federal employees) and Smith Act (cracking down on internal subversion) over FDR’s objections. For his part, Roosevelt offered no major new reform proposals in 1939 for the first time in his presidency.”

(3)This is from NPR’s Website
“The Commerce Department reported Wednesday that new-home sales had fallen 12.4 percent month to month in July, to a seasonally adjusted 276,000 units — the slowest sales pace on record dating back to 1963. That report came a day after the National Association of Realtors said sales of existing homes had fallen 27 percent for the same month — the worst showing in 15 years.”
This is from Wikipedia.

(4)This From Federal Reserve Statistical Release

“INDUSTRIAL PRODUCTION AND CAPACITY UTILIZATION

Industrial production rose 1.0 percent in July after having edged down 0.1 percent in June, and manufacturing output moved up 1.1 percent in July after having fallen 0.5 percent in June. A large contributor to the jump in manufacturing output in July was an increase of nearly 10 percent in the production of motor vehicles and parts; even so, manufacturing production excluding motor vehicles and parts advanced 0.6 percent. The output of mines rose 0.9 percent, and the output of utilities increased 0.1 percent. At 93.4 percent of its 2007 average, total industrial production in July was 7.7 percent above its year-earlier level. The capacity utilization rate for total industry moved up to 74.8 percent, a rate 5.7 percentage points above the rate from a year earlier but 5.8 percentage points below its average from 1972 to 2009.”

From Wikipedia on The Socialist Party Of America

“The Socialist Party of America (SPA or SP) was a multi-tendency democratic-socialist political party in the United States, formed in 1901 by a merger between the three-year-old Social Democratic Party of America and disaffected elements of the Socialist Labor Party which had split from the main organization in 1899.

In the first decades of the 20th Century, it drew significant support from many different groups, including trade unionists, progressive social reformers, populist farmers, and immigrant communities. Its presidential candidate, Eugene V. Debs, twice won over 900,000 votes (in 1912 and 1920), while the party also elected two United States Representatives (Victor L. Berger and Meyer London), dozens of state legislators, more than a hundred mayors, and countless lesser officials. The party’s staunch opposition to American involvement in World War I, although welcomed by many, also led to prominent defections, official repression and vigilante persecution. The organization was further shattered by a factional war over how it should respond to Russia’s Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and the establishment of the Communist International in 1919.”

(6)From Wikipedia on Teddy Roosevelt

In 1901, President William McKinley was assassinated, and Roosevelt became president at the age of 42, taking office at the youngest age of any U.S. President in history.[4] Roosevelt attempted to move the Republican Party in the direction of Progressivism, including trust busting and increased regulation of businesses. Roosevelt coined the phrase “Square Deal” to describe his domestic agenda, emphasizing that the average citizen would get a fair shake under his policies. As an outdoorsman and naturalist, he promoted the conservation movement. On the world stage, Roosevelt’s policies were characterized by his slogan, “Speak softly and carry a big stick”. Roosevelt was the force behind the completion of the Panama Canal; he sent out the Great White Fleet to display American power, and he negotiated an end to the Russo-Japanese War, for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize.[5] Roosevelt was the first American to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

(7)Franklin D. Roosevelt And The New Deal
“In quest of a precedent for government-business co-operation, the draftsmen of the recovery bill turned to the experience with industrial mobilization in World War One. Since the rejected laissez faire, yet shrank from embracing socialism, the planners drew on the experience of the War Industries Board because it offered an analogue which provided a maximum of government direction with a minimum of challenge to the institutions of a profit economy.” Page 57

From EH.Net

“The U.S. Economy in the 1920s
Posted Mon, 2010-02-01 18:21 by Anonymous
Gene Smiley, Marquette University

The interwar period in the United States, and in the rest of the world, is a most interesting era…the 1920s are a period of vigorous, vital economic growth. It marks the first truly modern decade and dramatic economic developments are found in those years. There is a rapid adoption of the automobile to the detriment of passenger rail travel. Though suburbs had been growing since the late nineteenth century their growth had been tied to rail or trolley access and this was limited to the largest cities. The flexibility of car access changed this and the growth of suburbs began to accelerate. The demands of trucks and cars led to a rapid growth in the construction of all-weather surfaced roads to facilitate their movement. The rapidly expanding electric utility networks led to new consumer appliances and new types of lighting and heating for homes and businesses. The introduction of the radio, radio stations, and commercial radio networks began to break up rural isolation, as did the expansion of local and long-distance telephone communications. Recreational activities such as traveling, going to movies, and professional sports became major businesses. The period saw major innovations in business organization and manufacturing technology. The Federal Reserve System first tested its powers and the United States moved to a dominant position in international trade and global business. These things make the 1920s a period of considerable importance independent of what happened in the 1930s
.
National Product and Income and Prices

We begin the survey of the 1920s with an examination of the overall production in the economy, GNP, the most comprehensive measure of aggregate economic activity. Real GNP growth during the 1920s was relatively rapid, 4.2 percent a year from 1920 to 1929 according to the most widely used estimates. (Historical Statistics of the United States, or HSUS, 1976) Real GNP per capita grew 2.7 percent per year between 1920 and 1929. By both nineteenth and twentieth century standards these were relatively rapid rates of real economic growth and they would be considered rapid even today.

The Great Depression began in the summer of 1929, possibly as early as June. The initial downturn was relatively mild but the contraction accelerated after the crash of the stock market at the end of October. Real total GNP fell 10.2 percent from 1929 to 1930 while real GNP per capita fell 11.5 percent from 1929 to 1930.”

(9) About.Com Top Ten New Deal Programs

1. CCC - Civilian Conservation Corps
The Civilian Conservation Corps was created in 1933 by Franklin D. Roosevelt to combat unemployment. This work relief program had the desired effect and provided jobs for many Americans during the Great Depression. The CCC was responsible for building many public works and created structures and trails in parks across the nation.
2. CWA - Civil Works Administration
The Civil Works Administration was created in 1933 to create jobs for the unemployed. Its focus on high paying jobs in the construction arena resulted in a much greater expense to the federal government than originally anticipated. The CWA ended in 1934 in large part due to opposition to its cost.
3. FHA - Federal Housing Administration
The Federal Housing Administration was a government agency created to combat the housing crisis of the Great Depression. The large number of unemployed workers combined with the banking crisis created a situation in which banks recalled loans. The FHA was designed to regulate mortgages and housing conditions.
4. FSA - Federal Security Agency
The Federal Security Agency established in 1939 had the responsibility for several important government entities. Until it was abolished in 1953, it administered social security, federal education funding, and food and drug safety.
5. HOLC - Home Owner’s Loan Corporation
The Home Owner’s Loan Corporation was created in 1933 to assist in the refinancing of homes. The housing crisis created a great many foreclosures, and Franklin Roosevelt hoped this new agency would stem the tide. In fact, between 1933 and 1935 one million people received long term loans through the agency that saved their homes from foreclosure.
6. NRA - National Recovery Act
The National Recovery Act was designed to bring the interests of working class Americans and business together. Through hearings and government intervention the hope was to balance the needs of all involved in the economy. However, the NRA was declared unconstitutional in the landmark Supreme Court case Schechter Poultry Corp. v. US. The Supreme Court ruled that the NRA violated the separation of powers.
7. PWA - Public Works Administration
The Public Works Administration was a program created to provide economic stimulus and jobs during the Great Depression. The PWA was designed to create public works and continued until the US ramped up wartime production for World War II. It ended in 1941.
8. SSA - Social Security Act
The Social Security Act was designed to combat the widespread poverty among senior citizens. The government program provided income to retired wage earners. The program has become one of the most popular government programs and is funded by current wage earners and their employers. However, in recent years concerns have arisen about the viability of continuing to fund the program as the Baby Boom generation reaches retirement age.
9. TVA - Tennessee Valley Authority
The Tennessee Valley Authority was established in 1933 to develop the economy in the Tennessee Valley region which had been hit extremely hard by the Great Depression. The TVA was and is a federally owned corporation that works in this region to this day. It is the largest public provider of electricity in the United States.
10. WPA - Works Progress Administration
The Works Progress Administration was created in 1935. As the largest New Deal Agency, the WPA impacted millions of Americans. It provided jobs across the nation. Because of it, numerous roads, buildings, and other projects were completed. It was renamed the Works Projects Administration in 1939. It officially ended in 1943.

(10) Wikipedia Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1937

The Judiciary Reorganization Bill of 1937, frequently called the court-packing plan, was a legislative initiative to add more justices to the Supreme Court proposed by U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt shortly after his victory in the 1936 presidential election. Although the bill aimed generally to overhaul and modernize all of the federal court system, its central and most controversial provision would have granted the President power to appoint an additional Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court for every sitting member over the age of 70½, up to a maximum of six.
During Roosevelt’s first term in office, the Supreme Court had struck down several prominent New Deal measures intended to bolster economic recovery during the Great Depression, leading to charges from New Deal supporters that a narrow majority faction of the court was obstructionist and political. Since the U.S. Constitution does not limit the size of the Supreme Court, Roosevelt, having won an expanded electoral mandate in his reelection, sought to counter this entrenched opposition to his political agenda by expanding the number of justices to create a pro-New Deal majority on the bench. Opponents viewed the legislation as an attempt to stack the court leading to the name “Court-packing Plan”
The episode had several negative consequences for the Roosevelt administration. It exposed the limits of Roosevelt’s abilities to push forward legislation through direct public appeal and, in contrast to the tenor of his public presentations of his first-term, was seen as political maneuvering. Although circumstances ultimately allowed Roosevelt to prevail in establishing a majority on the court friendly to his New Deal agenda, some scholars have concluded that the President’s victory was a pyrrhic one.

(11) Historical Voices.Org Flint Sit Down Strike

“STRIKE ORGANIZATION

Working on the line at General Motors in Flint was a job many men needed desperately in the 1930’s, but it was also tremendously difficult. Terrible working conditions, combined with unfair and devious payroll practices, made the auto plants of Depression-era Flint into ripe locations for union organization.
Strikes had been attempted in Flint in 1930 and 1934, but had been viciously broken up by company stooges and the Flint police force. In 1935 Congress passed the Wagner Act, which legalized strikes and invigorated the new Congress of Industrial Organizations under the leadership of John L. Lewis. Among the first attempts at establishing independent unionization in industrial plants were the strikes at Cleveland’s White Motors and Toledo’s AutoLite factories in 1934 and 1935. These strikes were notable because of their use of a new tactic - the sit-down.
Workers did more than picket outside the plant and risk replacement by scabs; they actually occupied the plant itself in order to prevent further production. This gave labor an edge in negotiations that they had not enjoyed before. However, due to its infringement of the property rights of the company, it was a tactic that scared most Americans. Even after the strike was successful, some workers were uneasy about their participation in such an activity. Nevertheless, it proved to be a very effective strategy. And after years of abuses and failures to get the company’s ear, most of the men were ready for anything.”

Tea Parties, Think Tanks & Koch Brothers

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

This is an excerpt from an article in the New Yorker Magazine about the Koch Brothers and their involvement in the growth of the ultra right in America. This article by Jane Mayer connects the dots between the Kochs and much of the modern extreme right wing in the USA. What we see is a well thought out plan to destroy the New Deal and bring about a return to the bad old days of the robber barons. These excerpts are from a much longer article.

“The anti-government fervor infusing the 2010 elections represents a political triumph for the Kochs. By giving money to “educate,” fund, and organize Tea Party protesters, they have helped turn their private agenda into a mass movement. Bruce Bartlett, a conservative economist and a historian, who once worked at the National Center for Policy Analysis, a Dallas-based think tank that the Kochs fund, said, “The problem with the whole libertarian movement is that it’s been all chiefs and no Indians. There haven’t been any actual people, like voters, who give a crap about it. So the problem for the Kochs has been trying to create a movement.” With the emergence of the Tea Party, he said, “everyone suddenly sees that for the first time there are Indians out there—people who can provide real ideological power.” The Kochs, he said, are “trying to shape and control and channel the populist uprising into their own policies.”

A Republican campaign consultant who has done research on behalf of Charles and David Koch said of the Tea Party, “The Koch brothers gave the money that founded it. It’s like they put the seeds in the ground. Then the rainstorm comes, and the frogs come out of the mud—and they’re our candidates!”

The Republican campaign consultant said of the family’s political activities, “To call them under the radar is an understatement. They are underground!” Another former Koch adviser said, “They’re smart. This right-wing, redneck stuff works for them. They see this as a way to get things done without getting dirty themselves.” Rob Stein, a Democratic political strategist who has studied the conservative movement’s finances, said that the Kochs are “at the epicenter of the anti-Obama movement. But it’s not just about Obama. They would have done the same to Hillary Clinton. They did the same with Bill Clinton. They are out to destroy progressivism.”

Charles Koch became openly scornful of conventional politics. “It tends to be a nasty, corrupting business,” he told a reporter at the time. “I’m interested in advancing libertarian ideas.” According to Doherty’s book, the Kochs came to regard elected politicians as merely “actors playing out a script.” A longtime confidant of the Kochs told Doherty that the brothers wanted to “supply the themes and words for the scripts.” In order to alter the direction of America, they had to “influence the areas where policy ideas percolate from: academia and think tanks.”

Only the Kochs know precisely how much they have spent on politics. Public tax records show that between 1998 and 2008 the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation spent more than forty-eight million dollars. The Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, which is controlled by Charles Koch and his wife, along with two company employees and an accountant, spent more than twenty-eight million. The David H. Koch Charitable Foundation spent more than a hundred and twenty million. Meanwhile, since 1998 Koch Industries has spent more than fifty million dollars on lobbying. Separately, the company’s political-action committee, KochPAC, has donated some eight million dollars to political campaigns, more than eighty per cent of it to Republicans. So far in 2010, Koch Industries leads all other energy companies in political contributions, as it has since 2006. In addition, during the past dozen years the Kochs and other family members have personally spent more than two million dollars on political contributions. In the second quarter of 2010, David Koch was the biggest individual contributor to the Republican Governors Association, with a million-dollar donation. Other gifts by the Kochs may be untraceable; federal tax law permits anonymous personal donations to politically active nonprofit groups.

Charles Koch seems to have approached both business and politics with the deliberation of an engineer. “To bring about social change,” he told Doherty, requires “a strategy” that is “vertically and horizontally integrated,” spanning “from idea creation to policy development to education to grassroots organizations to lobbying to litigation to political action.” The project, he admitted, was extremely ambitious. “We have a radical philosophy,” he said.

In 1977, the Kochs provided the funds to launch the nation’s first libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute. According to the Center for Public Integrity, between 1986 and 1993 the Koch family gave eleven million dollars to the institute. Today, Cato has more than a hundred full-time employees, and its experts and policy papers are widely quoted and respected by the mainstream media. It describes itself as nonpartisan, and its scholars have at times been critical of both parties. But it has consistently pushed for corporate tax cuts, reductions in social services, and laissez-faire environmental policies.

In the mid-eighties, the Kochs provided millions of dollars to George Mason University, in Arlington, Virginia, to set up another think tank. Now known as the Mercatus Center, it promotes itself as “the world’s premier university source for market-oriented ideas—bridging the gap between academic ideas and real-world problems.” Financial records show that the Koch family foundations have contributed more than thirty million dollars to George Mason, much of which has gone to the Mercatus Center, a nonprofit organization. “It’s ground zero for deregulation policy in Washington,” Rob Stein, the Democratic strategist, said. It is an unusual arrangement. “George Mason is a public university, and receives public funds,” Stein noted. “Virginia is hosting an institution that the Kochs practically control.”
The founder of the Mercatus Center is Richard Fink, formerly an economist. Fink heads Koch Industries’ lobbying operation in Washington. In addition, he is the president of the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, the president of the Claude R. Lambe Charitable Foundation, a director of the Fred C. and Mary R. Koch Foundation, and a director and co-founder, with David Koch, of the Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

The Wall Street Journal has called the Mercatus Center “the most important think tank you’ve never heard of,” and noted that fourteen of the twenty-three regulations that President George W. Bush placed on a “hit list” had been suggested first by Mercatus scholars. Fink told the paper that the Kochs have “other means of fighting [their] battles,” and that the Mercatus Center does not actively promote the company’s private interests. But Thomas McGarity, a law professor at the University of Texas, who specializes in environmental issues, told me that “Koch has been constantly in trouble with the E.P.A., and Mercatus has constantly hammered on the agency.” An environmental lawyer who has clashed with the Mercatus Center called it “a means of laundering economic aims.” The lawyer explained the strategy: “You take corporate money and give it to a neutral-sounding think tank,” which “hires people with pedigrees and academic degrees who put out credible-seeming studies. But they all coincide perfectly with the economic interests of their funders.”

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/08″/30/100830fa_fact_mayer?currentPage=2#ixzz0xeIMQGYd

What we have is clear evidence of a direct attack on what is left of the welfare state built up in the USA over the last 80 years. If corporate rule is what you want without any counter balance to their control of our lives then this is the ticket for you. Otherwise this is one of the main enemies to working and poor people in America today. This is the face of the enemy.

Running Towards Gehenna, Erewhon Or Arcadia?

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

“What was the gifted man to do after Napoleon? How could organisms bred for the electric air of revolution and imperial epic breathe under the leaden sky of middle-class rule? How was it possible for a young man (or woman) to hear his father’s tales of the Terror and of Austerlitz and to amble down the placid boulevard to the countinghouse? The past drove rats’ teeth into the gray pulp of the present; it exasperated, it sowed wild dreams. Of that exasperation comes a major literature. Musset’s ‘La Confession d’ un enfant du siecle (1835-36) looks back with ironic misere on the start of the great boredom. The generation of 1830 was damned by memories of events, of hopes, in which it had taken no personal part. It nursed within “unfonds d’ incurable tristesse et d’incurable enneui.” … the void was real, and the sensation of history going absurdly wrong. Stendhal is the chronicler of genius of this frustration. He had participated in the insane vitality of the Napoleonic era; he conducted the rest of his life in the ironic guise of a man betrayed. … Madness, death are preferable to this interminable Sunday and suet of a bourgeois life-form.”
Excerpt from ‘Bluebeard’s Castle’ by George Steiner.

Steiner goes on postulating that the century from 1815 to 1914, the time of reaction to the revolutionary 1789 to 1815 was one of ennui, an era frustration and tension that was released in the great wars and revolutions of the 20th century when the dream of the French Revolution of the equality of mankind became the massive orgy of death, destruction, totalitarian ideology, and mechanical inhumanity that prevails now. Hitting the nail on the proverbial head we who grew up hearing tales of the sixties, who tasted a bit of it in our own barely pubescent youth have grown up and spent our lives with our own gnawing rats teeth in the shadow of that great event, chewing on the left over bits from the great feast of 1968. That was one year. What if it had been 25 years?
For those who came of age later, I can’t imagine what they grew up on, memories of the 1980’s? Reaganomics, crack cocaine, speed metal, goth, rap and the collapse of the Berlin Wall. If you grew up in an era in which the communist dream had died then you are in the modern equivalent of the great ennui. The sexual revolution had turned to AID’s and fear of contact. The dream of a world where the technology of the industrial world would lead to a leisured world of the post industrial era instead turned into a world of cubicle dwellers and fast food servers with a small elite living as the royalty overthrown in 1789 could only dream.
Situationism is the communism of the shadow. It has the irony and impotent contempt of an era of frustrated dreams. Anarchism is part of that same great ennui. When the great experiment in communism of 1917 turned to the bureaucratic nightmare of Stalinism and the gulags, the black market bluejeans and surreptitious smuggling of tapes of western Rock n’ Roll, with the fetishism of absent commodities, the mirror of the western orgy of commodity fetishism as the most conspicuous popular aspect of culture, then what replaces it has to be its wild brother. Anarchism, expelled from the first international by Marx, and now back as the ideology of the dispossessed who now want to claim their inheritance one way or the other.
This is the age of rampant violence and base fear used as the material of the most unsophisticated propaganda, but with the most sophisticated mechanism for delivery, the TV, Film, Radio and now the Internet where the truth is a four letter word. Those of us who have survived this technological beating of our brains upon the rocks of unreasonable suppositions have a somewhat jaded view. Not only have we grown up on stories of great times but we have been traumatized by images of the cruel fate that awaits us if we dare to look behind the curtain to see what the wizard really looks like.
We forge on survivalists all, into the blasted and burnt out remains of the paradise we have struggled so long to achieve. Perhaps there is another world where we can all get along. Perhaps there remains enough of this one for us to recreate some semblance of the communal utopia we have dreamed of. Perhaps we will wake up only to discover we have been processed and are in our own personal matrix of hell. Note our imagery is of mass killing as the normal movie fare. End of the world themes are more common than achieving the Elysian Fields. Serious political thinkers postulate a return to primordial primitivism and a rejection of technology. The positivists promote the idea of colonizing space as our planet becomes uninhabitable. What a great future that would be, forever in a giant tin can.
What we are seeing is a massive case of systematic despair. This is something equivalent to the fall of the Roman Empire in terms of the lack of faith in a system that has propelled us helter skelter into the 21st century ill equipped and unsure as to our collective ability to survive and make the changes that we were supposed to make over 2 centuries ago promoting liberty, equality and fraternity. The revolution has been festering for that long with eruptions from time to time but never the great transformation. We need to make that final change or end up on the dust heap of history as it were. The question is will it happen as a controlled and conscious process or as a wild and uncontrolled eruption and when it does come will it sweep away the debris of the old order and break out of the caterpillar shell called capitalism so that a free people can finally fulfill its common destiny!!! This can be an exciting time if it happens soon or more ennui if it doesn’t. It will be a century since the Russian revolution in seven years. Perhaps we can look forward to that as a constructive/destructive anniversary.

Magical Realism

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

“Never ascribe to malice, that which can be explained by incompetence.”
- Napoleon

“Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum sonatur.”
- Whatever is said in Latin sounds profound.

“”When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.”"
- Lewis Carroll — Through the Looking Glass, Chapter 6

Is reality magical? Humans are always looking for that magic in their lives. TV takes a lot of that desire and packages it and reimages it back the the viewer as a canned product with commercials to sell the consumer/viewer the real deal. Whole channels have been dedicated to the instant gratification of watching and calling in and buying. How convenient but is it magical? To a tribal person who has never been on the grid it might seem so. Where do we find that sort on Earth, among the Bushmen perhaps. But even they have access to technology when they go to town. There is no place left on the planet where technology cannot be found, even the deepest ocean recesses have been searched. The hunt for the source of magic goes on relentlessly to feed the voracious appetite of the video imaging industry, because as has been discovered when the magic has been captured and processed, it dies. It is like canned peas versus the real thing. Something is missing. But lots of people grow up on the canned version, never thinking to try something fresh.
In today’s super hip modern world, every one knows about fresh. There are whole industries catering to the fresh is better concept. Reality captured live, fresh, raw, and thrown at you unvarnished. That is reality TV. The Magic is captured as each real human, a human as real as any other, not an actor, only lightly processed with a touch of makeup to get rid of those glaring blemishes, and with a real audience, hand picked and prepared for the correct response. This is magic on the half shell. Ah but you say these reality shows are scripted, well they take the boring parts out, after all this is TV and magic will wait for no one. Or you might wonder how can magic be conveyed on a screen? It can’t. But the audience isn’t asking for real magic, it is only asking for a fresh version of the canned product. Humans in the post-industrial world are all too sophisticated to be fooled by the fakeries of their TV providers. It is the voice in your head that you would listen too if you had time to bother but you don’t so you turn on the TV and listen to the canned voice.

In childhood something is sensed about it but even children can’t wait to do adult things and much of their play is practicing to be an adult. The answer which is always elusive and always teasing the fool to take another step and another off the beaten track until he/she is lost in the woods of unknown realities is what an adventurous soul would do, a relatively free spirit, one with a conditioning from childhood TV programing to expect a village of smores or gummy bears to be found in the forest, certainly not dangerous wolves.
There is a more sophisticated adult version of going out into the woods that has been packaged as survival entertainment. Beautiful women and their ex-special forces husbands spend a couple of days in exotic and dangerous locales with a film crew and pretend to be roughing it in the wild. Imagine yourself in that locale. Eating raw bugs, cooking leftover leopard kill and drinking water that has to be boiled to kill the bacteria lingering in it to upset sensitive urban stomachs. How exotic. One wonders how the natives ever survived. How did humanity survive, only watch and see and then consume the outdoor wildness experience yourself when the commercial break comes.

Whole political theories have been developed around the concept of leisure and the magical reality or lack there of.

This is from Wikipedia
“Leisure or free time, is a period of time spent out of work and essential domestic activity. It is also the period of recreational and discretionary time before or after compulsory activities such as eating and sleeping, going to work or running a business, attending school and doing homework, household chores, and day-to-day stress. The distinction between leisure and compulsory activities is loosely applied, i.e. people sometimes do work-oriented tasks for pleasure as well as for long-term utility. Distinction may also arise between free time and leisure. For example, criticism of consumer capitalism by the Situationist International maintains that free time is illusory and rarely free and instead, economic and social forces appropriate it from the individual and sell it back to him as a commodity in the form of leisure.

Ah yes the Situationist International, a group of fun loving Commies with an independent streak.

This is an excerpt from an essay by Bob Black “The Realization and Supression of Situationism”

“As Raoul Vaneigem declaimed, the SI was “not working for the spectacle of the end of the world, but for the end of the world of the spectacle.” Regarding themselves as revolutionaries, in but not of this world, the Situationists perforce had to define the terms of their interactions with it. To be detached from the existing order was to opt to interpret it rather than change it. But to participate in it was to perpetuate it. The Situationists had to find a way to take from the system (what else is there to take from?) without being taken in by it. They characterized these possibilities as polarities: detournement (roughly: “diversion”) and recuperation (roughly: “recovery”). To turn the system’s images against it was to detourn, to divert them. But to be “turned” in turn - in the argot of the intelligence community - was to be recuperated, recovered by the system as art, as ideology, as any of many fragmentary forms of specialization or partial opposition.

No revolutionary, no avant garde tendency ever appreciated the risk of recuperation as the Situationists did. This if anything justifies their claim to have modernized revolution as the spectacle had modernized capitalism. But they were better at diagnosis than cure, and the society of the spectacle is a cure-or-be-cur(at)ed world.”

As Guy Debord said when asked what the Situationist International is, answered in French “We are not here to answer cuntish questions”. In other words, if you don’t know, don’t ask. It was a classic sixties response to a legitimate question, this was a 1961 event in London where the Situationists walked out. They were not about to describe magical reality to someone who hadn’t got a clue.

Producing in the modern world demands tedium and repetition. Some of it is done by machines. Much of it is done with computers. It is a matter of codifying images, reducing realities that are subtle, effervescent, something felt with the whole being into numbers zeros and ones. Those who labor in the fields of code are rewarded with the images they create out of the basic material of light and dark, on and off, the electron connected, the electron separated, in a swirling technical feast of magic. But it is material magic that the computer is made of. The spiritual magic of the word made flesh, that is the trap and the key. Can it be done?
When each word is placed on a page its it magical or is it dead? Electrons carry this across space and time to the reader. Or it sits in the aether waiting for the magic wand of your command and presto if you find the right key, you are there, or here. But where is here? Here is where the heart of creativity is. In the mind made flesh.

“Under the hypnotic spell of pleasure And pain, we live for ourselves and are bound. Though master of ourselves, we roam about From birth to birth, driven by our own deeds.”

- Shvetashvatara Upanishad

Spiritual understanding can be a font of the magic. When we are young we are surrounded by a sense of the magical. As teenagers we feel it intensely and are in our most idealistic and romantic phase of life. We fall in love, and start out on the grand adventure of life as individuals in families. Some maintain a sense of magic through the love of their children. Others maintain it through the love of their word. Many have their hobbies they love or their pets. Somewhere each human maintains a sense of the magical, a connection to a world where love is the reality and people are noble, just and pure. Priests are supposed to be that way. They are supposed to remind us that life has a higher purpose. But most priests like many adults and even now children are simply ground down by the materialism and gravity of the age. Too much information?
Joy is still felt in so called primitive societies not ground down by capitalism and the modern technology or at least that is what anthropologists tell us. How many of us have been out to someplace where people still live off the land by traditional means without modern technology? Some form of joy can be found among the elites who have benefited from the material suffering of others. But can you be truly happy when there are others suffering? The Buddha said no. He gave up his material social position to discover a way to no longer cause injury that would lead to suffering. Medieval knights maintained a code of chivalry and were able to sustain themselves through the labor of their serfs. Was this a cooperative effort or a matter of violence that coerced the serfs to serve the lords? History can tell us the facts of the matter, rarely do historians question the nature of the relationship. Was it good for you? What was the subjective reality of life for a peasant or serf, was it any different than it is now for the workers? Perhaps in they form in which they get their entertainment bear baiting and cock fights and such instead of TV and the occupation in which they do their daily grind would be manual labor on a farm instead of in a fast food joint. Were these out of doors workers happier? Did they suffer more or were they freer than our modern day workers? Our modern literacy is the equivalent of their horse sense. They had to know how to work with nature. We have to work with abstractions of nature. Which is better? Where is the magic?
As I sit here, my back is starting to ache, my eyes are strained and it is time for lunch. Did any magic occur here? I don’t know. A little, maybe. A couple of hours of this meditating on words, reading different material, trying to decide if this makes sense or is not worth the effort. Magic is like a jazz riff that works or a poem that strikes you just right or a thought that comes upon you and you get that light bulb effect. Is it all being taken from us like some thinkers postulate? Has TV and the Internet become a creativity drain? That old everything has been said already, how can I possibly be original in a world when all knowledge is at our fingertips. I think it has led to an explosion of stuff. Some of it good, some of it not so good. The problem is wading through it all because as we all know you can never get enough stuff. But is it magical?

I am still scratching the surface. This is not even a good description. It is just an incoherent questioning in the forest. Magical meaning and the moment of being there. Zen, the idiot, which is it? Both. Perhaps I am just growing old and there is a wall of living, like dust on the lens of my consciousness and I am just barley able to sense the magic around me.


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