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30 December 2008

Is Norman Finkelstein a Self-Hating Jew?

An instant classic. Witty, astute, and thorough answer:

Edward S. Herman on the US and Latin America

Coauthored many excellent books with Chomsky; a fine analyst.

Why I Am a Socialist, Chris Hedges

The corporate forces that are looting the Treasury and have plunged us into a depression will not be contained by the two main political parties. The Democratic and Republican parties have become little more than squalid clubs of privilege and wealth, whores to money and corporate interests, hostage to a massive arms industry, and so adept at deception and self-delusion they no longer know truth from lies. We will either find our way out of this mess by embracing an uncompromising democratic socialism—one that will insist on massive government relief and work programs, the nationalization of electricity and gas companies, a universal, not-for-profit government health care program, the outlawing of hedge funds, a radical reduction of our bloated military budget and an end to imperial wars—or we will continue to be fleeced and impoverished by our bankrupt elite and shackled and chained by our surveillance state.

The free market and globalization, promised as the route to worldwide prosperity, have been exposed as a con game. But this does not mean our corporate masters will disappear. Totalitarianism, as George Orwell pointed out, is not so much an age of faith as an age of schizophrenia. “A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial,” Orwell wrote, “that is when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud.” Force and fraud are all they have left. They will use both.

There is a political shift in Europe toward an open confrontation with the corporate state. Germany has seen a surge of support for Die Linke (The Left), a political grouping formed 18 months ago. It is co-led by the veteran socialist “Red” Oskar Lafontaine, who has built his career on attacking big business. Two-thirds of Germans in public opinion polls say they agree with all or some of Die Linke’s platform. The Socialist Party of the Netherlands is on the verge of overtaking the Labor Party as the main opposition party on the left. Greece, beset with street protests and violence by disaffected youths, has seen the rapid rise of the Coalition of the Radical Left. In Spain and Norway socialists are in power. Resurgence is not universal, especially in France and Britain, but the shifts toward socialism are significant.

Corporations have intruded into every facet of life. We eat corporate food. We buy corporate clothes. We drive corporate cars. We buy our vehicular fuel and our heating oil from corporations. We borrow from corporate banks. We invest our retirement savings with corporations. We are entertained, informed and branded by corporations. We work for corporations. The creation of a mercenary army, the privatization of public utilities and our disgusting for-profit health care system are all legacies of the corporate state. These corporations have no loyalty to America or the American worker. They are not tied to nation states. They are vampires.

“By now the [commercial] revolution has deprived the mass of consumers of any independent access to the staples of life: clothing, shelter, food, even water,” Wendell Berry wrote in “The Unsettling of America.” “Air remains the only necessity that the average user can still get for himself, and the revolution had imposed a heavy tax on that by way of pollution. Commercial conquest is far more thorough and final than military defeat.”

The corporation is designed to make money without regard to human life, the social good or impact on the environment. Corporate laws impose a legal duty on corporate executives to make as much money as possible for shareholders, although many have moved on to fleece shareholders as well. In the 2003 documentary film “The Corporation” the management guru Peter Drucker says: “If you find an executive who wants to take on social responsibilities, fire him. Fast.”

A corporation that attempts to engage in social responsibility, that tries to pay workers a decent wage with benefits, that invests its profits to protect the environment and limit pollution, that gives consumers fair deals, can be sued by shareholders. Robert Monks, the investment manager, says in the film: “The corporation is an externalizing machine, in the same way that a shark is a killing machine. There isn’t any question of malevolence or of will. The enterprise has within it, and the shark has within it, those characteristics that enable it to do that for which it was designed.” Ray Anderson, the CEO of Interface Corp., the world’s largest commercial carpet manufacturer, calls the corporation a “present day instrument of destruction” because of its compulsion to “externalize any cost that an unwary or uncaring public will allow it to externalize.”

“The notion that we can take and take and take and take, waste and waste, without consequences, is driving the biosphere to destruction,” Anderson says.

In short, the film, based on Joel Bakan’s book “The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power,” asserts that the corporation exhibits many of the traits found in people clinically defined as psychopaths.

Psychologist Dr. Robert Hare lists in the film psychopathic traits and ties them to the behavior of corporations:

  • callous unconcern for the feelings for others;
  • incapacity to maintain enduring relationships;
  • reckless disregard for the safety of others;
  • deceitfulness: repeated lying and conning others for profit;
  • incapacity to experience guilt;
  • failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behavior.

And yet, under the American legal system, corporations have the same legal rights as individuals. They give hundreds of millions of dollars to political candidates, fund the army of some 35,000 lobbyists in Washington and thousands more in state capitals to write corporate-friendly legislation, drain taxpayer funds and abolish government oversight. They saturate the airwaves, the Internet, newsprint and magazines with advertisements promoting their brands as the friendly face of the corporation. They have high-priced legal teams, millions of employees, skilled public relations firms and thousands of elected officials to ward off public intrusions into their affairs or halt messy lawsuits. They hold a near monopoly on all electronic and printed sources of information. A few media giants—AOL-Time Warner, General Electric, Viacom, Disney and Rupert Murdoch’s NewsGroup—control nearly everything we read, see and hear.

“Private capital tends to become concentrated in [a] few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of the smaller ones,” Albert Einstein wrote in 1949 in the Monthly Review in explaining why he was a socialist. “The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.”

Labor and left-wing activists, especially university students and well-heeled liberals, have failed to unite. This division, which is often based on social rather than economic differences, has long stymied concerted action against ruling elites. It has fractured the American left and rendered it impotent.

“Large sections of the middle class are being gradually proletarianized; but the important point is that they do not, at any rate not in the first generation, adopt a proletarian outlook,” Orwell wrote in 1937 during the last economic depression. “Here I am, for instance, with a bourgeois upbringing and a working-class income. Which class do I belong to? Economically I belong to the working class, but it is almost impossible for me to think of myself as anything but a member of the bourgeoisie. And supposing I had to take sides, whom should I side with, the upper class which is trying to squeeze me out of existence, or the working class whose manners are not my manners? It is probable that I, personally, in any important issue, would side with the working class. But what about the tens or hundreds of thousands of others who are in approximately the same position? And what about that far larger class, running into millions this time—the office-workers and black-coated employees of all kinds—whose traditions are less definite middle class but who would certainly not thank you if you called them proletarians? All of these people have the same interests and the same enemies as the working class. All are being robbed and bullied by the same system. Yet how many of them realize it? When the pinch came nearly all of them would side with their oppressors and against those who ought to be their allies. It is quite easy to imagine a working class crushed down to the worst depths of poverty and still remaining bitterly anti-working-class in sentiment; this being, of course, a ready-made Fascist party.”

Coalitions of environmental, anti-nuclear, anti-capitalist, sustainable-agriculture and anti-globalization forces have coalesced in Europe to form and support socialist parties. This has yet to happen in the United States. The left never rallied in significant numbers behind Cynthia McKinney or Ralph Nader. In picking the lesser of two evils, it threw its lot in with a Democratic Party that backs our imperial wars, empowers the national security state and does the bidding of corporations.

If Barack Obama does not end the flagrant theft of taxpayer funds by corporate slugs and the disgraceful abandonment of our working class, especially as foreclosures and unemployment mount, many in the country will turn in desperation to the far right embodied by groups such as Christian radicals. The failure by the left to offer a democratic socialist alternative will mean there will be, in the eyes of many embittered and struggling working- and middle-class Americans, no alternative but a perverted Christian fascism. The inability to articulate a viable socialism has been our gravest mistake. It will ensure, if this does not soon change, a ruthless totalitarian capitalism.

29 December 2008

Updated Action Alert on Gaza: We Need "Sustained, Determined Political Action"

Updated Action Alert on Gaza:
We Need "Sustained, Determined Political Action"


December 29, 2008

As of this writing, a third consecutive day of Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have killed an estimated 315 Palestinians and injured more than 1,400. According to the UN, at least 51 of the victims were civilians and 8 were children. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has vowed ominously "a war to the bitter end."

Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip are being carried out with F16 fighter jets, Apache helicopters, and naval gunboats all given to Israel by the United States with our tax dollars.

From 2001-2006, the United States transferred to Israel more than $200 million worth of spare parts to fly its fleet of F16's and more than $100 million worth of helicopter spare parts for its fleet of Apaches. In July 2008, the United States gave Israel 186 million gallons of JP-8 aviation jet fuel and signed a contract to transfer an addition $1.9 billion worth of littoral combat ships to the Israeli navy. Last year, the United States signed a $1.3 billion contract with Raytheon to transfer to Israel thousands of TOW, Hellfire, and "bunker buster" missiles.

Make no mistake about it-Israel's war on the Gaza Strip would not be possible without the jets, helicopters, ships, missiles, and fuel provided by the United States.

Ali Abunimah, of The Electronic Intifada, wrote, "Palestinians everywhere are asking for solidarity, real solidarity, in the form of sustained, determined political action." In light of our country's enabling role in Israel's war on the Gaza Strip, it is the least we can do. Here's how:

1. Attend a protest or vigil. We've compiled a list of more than 60 emergency protests taking place in 25 states and the District of Columbia, many of which are taking place today or tomorrow. Find one near you and bring as many people to it as you can. If you know of a protest that isn't listed on our website, please send us all the logistical details and contact information by clicking here. More events are being posted all the time-check back frequently for the latest updates.

2. Contact the White House, the State Department, your Representative and Senators, and the Obama Transition Team to protest Israel's war on Gaza and demand an immediate cease-fire.

White House: 202-456-1111 or comments@whitehouse.gov
State Department: 202-647-6575 or send an email by clicking here
Congress: 202-224-3121 or find contact info by clicking here
Obama Transition Team: send an email by clicking here

3. Make your voice heard in the media.
Contact your local media by phoning into a talk show or writing a letter to the editor. To find contact info for your local media, click here.

4. Tell President-Elect Barack Obama that "We Need a Change in Israel/Palestine Policy." Join more than 200 organizations in 38 states plus Washington, DC and abroad and thousands of individuals by endorsing this letter which will be published as a full-page ad on Inauguration Day. Let all your friends know by copying and pasting the graphic below into your email signature, blog, or website and by joining our Facebook group.



5. Sign up to organize people in your community to end U.S. military aid to Israel. We'll send you an organizing packet complete with our brand new postcards featuring the icon below. If we're going to change U.S. policy, we've got to go beyond agreeing among ourselves and educate and organize others as well. Sign up today and we'll send you a package tomorrow by clicking here.



6. Join us in Washington, DC for Inauguration Day on January 20. Upwards of 4 million people are expected in Washington, DC for President-Elect Obama's inauguration. This is a perfect time for us to reach out to and educate our fellow citizens about U.S. policy toward Palestine/Israel. If you plan to be in Washington for the inauguration and would like to help us distribute information and get signatures on postcards calling for a cut off of arms transfers to Israel, please click here.

7. Join us again in Washington, DC for a Grassroots Advocacy Training and Lobby Day on February 1-2. Interfaith Peace-Builders and the US Campaign are organizing this exciting two-day event, featuring interactive, skills-building workshops and the chance to meet with your Representative and Senators to discuss U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine. Spaces are filling up fast. For more details, and to register, please click here.

8. Forward this email to everyone you know and ask them to take action.

Thank you for doing all you can during this tragic time.

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation

DONATE | SUBSCRIBE

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Israeli Attacks Kill Over 310 in Gaza in One of Israel's Bloodiest Attacks on Palestinians Since 1948

28 December 2008

Gaza War Info, Information Clearing House

Slaughter In Gaza

More Than 200 Killed As Israel Drops 100 Tons Of Bombs In Gaza City

The BBC Video Report

Israeli F-16 bombers have pounded targets across the Gaza Strip, killing more than 200 people, according to local medical workers. Click to view


Israeli Attack on Gaza, Kills 205

Israeli warplanes have carried out a massive airstrike on the Gaza Strip
By Press TV [Iranian TV -- Doug]

Video footage showed the bodies of dead people including men, women and children on Gaza streets. Continue


Eyewitness: Chaos in Gaza

By BBC

We can see from our office here in Gaza, in the middle of Gaza City, ambulances are still evacuating the injured from buildings and school kids are trying to find secure places. Continue


Hamas Press Conference After Israeli Attacks On Gaza

Video - 27 Dec 08

Taher al-Noono, a Hamas spokesman, speaks to reporters in Gaza following Israeli attacks which killed more than 195 people and wounded more than 200 others. Continue


Bush Winks at Israel’s Slaughter in Gaza,

Obama and Clinton Are Silent

By Matthew Rothschild

President-elect Barack Obama and Secretary of State-to-be Hillary Clinton were shamefully silent in the first hours after the attack. Bush’s reaction, and the non-reaction by Obama and Clinton, underscores the point that Hanan Ashrawi made on Saturday. “Israel has gotten used to not being held accountable and to being a country that is above the law,” said the Palestinian legislator and human rights activist. She called the bombings a “massacre.” Continue


Gaza Massacres Must Spur Us To Action

By Ali Abunimah

"I will play music and celebrate what the Israeli air force is doing." Those were the words, spoken on Al Jazeera today by Ofer Shmerling, an Israeli civil defense official in the Sderot area adjacent to Gaza, as images of Israel's latest massacres were broadcast around the world. Continue


Gaza Massacre
Israel’s Cynicism Supported by the West’s Complicity


By Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC)

Today the Israeli army launched its long awaited strikes against the Gazan people, an unarmed, captive civilian population. The West, including the British government, has supported the last two years’ of blockade of the Palestinians in Gaza for the crime of exercising their democratic rights in a manner not to Israel’s liking. Continue


One Israeli killed, 4 hurt as Palestinian rockets hit Negev home: Palestinians in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip fired at least 54 Qassam and Grad rockets into southern Israel on Saturday after Israeli air strikes killed more than 195 Palestinians in Gaza, according to Palestinian sources.

Israel to mount emergency international PR effort in wake of savage attacks on Gaza: Livni instructed senior ministry officials to open an aggressive and diplomatic international public relations campaign, in order to gain greater international support for Israel Defense Forces operations in the Gaza Strip.

In Pictures: Israeli Attack On Gaza

25 December 2008

Harold Pinter, RIP

Nobel Prize Speech, 2005: "Art, Truth and Politics"

(The text of this speech is in the first comment to this post.)


No Man's Land, 1974/75, with Ralph Richardson and John Geilgud




The Collection1976, Laurence Oliver, Helen Mirren, Alan Bates, Malcolm McDowell



Apart from That, a very short sketch




Pinter Interviews, 2006





With Charlie Rose:




23 December 2008

Bush Insider Who Planned To Tell All Killed In Plane Crash: Non-Profit Demands Full Federal Investigation

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Michael Connell, the Bush IT expert who has been directly implicated in the rigging of George Bush's 2000 and 2004 elections, was killed last night when his single engine plane crashed three miles short of the Akron airport. Velvet Revolution ("VR"), a non-profit that has been investigating Mr. Connell's activities for the past two years, can now reveal that a person close to Mr. Connell has recently been discussing with a VR investigator how he can tell all about his work for George Bush. Mr. Connell told a close associate that he was afraid that George Bush and Dick Cheney would "throw [him] under the bus."

A tipster close to the McCain campaign disclosed to VR in July that Mr. Connell's life was in jeopardy and that Karl Rove had threatened him and his wife, Heather. VR's attorney, Cliff Arnebeck, notified the United States Attorney General , Ohio law enforcement and the federal court about these threats and insisted that Mr. Connell be placed in protective custody. VR also told a close associate of Mr. Connell's not to fly his plane because of another tip that the plane could be sabotaged. Mr. Connell, a very experienced pilot, has had to abandon at least two flights in the past two months because of suspicious problems with his plane. On December 18, 2008, Mr. Connell flew to a small airport outside of Washington DC to meet some people. It was on his return flight the next day that he crashed.

On October 31, Mr. Connell appeared before a federal judge in Ohio after being subpoenaed in a federal lawsuit investigating the rigging of the 2004 election under the direction of Karl Rove. The judge ordered Mr. Connell to testify under oath at a deposition on November 3rd, the day before the presidential election. Velvet Revolution received confidential information that the White House was extremely concerned about Mr. Connell talking about his illegal work for the White House and two Bush/Cheney 04 attorneys were dispatched to represent him.

An associate of Mr. Connell's told VR that Mr. Connell was involved with the destruction of the White House emails and the setting up of the off-grid White House email system.

Mr. Connell handled all of John McCain's computer work in the recent presidential campaign. VR has received direct evidence that the McCain campaign kept abreast of the legal developments against Mr. Connell by reading the VR dedicated website, www.rovecybergate.com.

VR demands that the Ohio Attorney General and the United States Justice Department conduct a complete investigation into the activities of Mr. Connell and determine whether there was any foul play in his death. VR demands that federal law enforcement officials place the following people under protective custody pending this investigation. Heather Connell who is the owner of GovTech Solutions, Randy Cole, the former President of GovTech Solutions, and Jeff Averbeck, the CEO of SmartTech in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Both GovTech and SmartTech have been implicated in the rigging of the 2000 and 2004 elections and the White House email scandal. Our prior request to have Mr. Connell protected went unheeded and now he is dead.

SOURCE Velvet Revolution

Update: More here, here, and here (with video).

The November 5th Movement: Single-Payer Healthcare

After a poll of its members, Nov5 has settled on this priority. Read on....

To Our Supporters,

Several of us from the Nader for President 2008 campaign had decided to channel our efforts toward one big goal, but we lacked a major focus. Recently, results of a survey done by the campaign came back. Top issue? Adopt single payer health care. It's not the only issue people care about, obviously. But, to turn this country around it's clear that we need to address our own pain now.

Our big goal for the next Congress will be to drive for national health insurance to cover privately-delivered healthcare for all Americans.

We're far from alone in this. The array and scope of the groups and their allies supporting national health insurance is impressive. But we are not reinventing the wheel, either. As long as you want to build a lasting organization that will get Congress to focus on people's needs -- not those of big business -- November5 can be the place to do it.

Here in the United States, we have excellent private health care. So why are nearly 100 million of our citizens uninsured or underinsured? You already know why: profit-driven private insurance companies. Taken together, they make the Pentagon look streamlined.

Not only that, but consider over 18,000 dead and hundreds of thousands getting sicker every year specifically because their health insurance is inadequate -- or non-existent.

The way to fix health care is to cut private insurance companies out of the basic health care picture, while keeping our system of private delivery. This is how Medicare came into being in the 1960s. It now covers all Americans over 65.

If we succeed in creating a system of "Medicare for All," we will help businesses and other organizations, independent contractors, veterans, people with pre-existing conditions, students -- all of us. If we get this done, it will revolutionize all of our lives for the better. We'll be able to focus on everything else that we want to accomplish for our communities, and our nation.

Passing national health insurance will be difficult, but it is achievable.

General Plan
  1. Huge amounts of leg work have been done on this issue. H.R. 676, the legislation that supporters of national health insurance have introduced, had 93 original co-sponsors in the House. That number will probably increase as the new Congress comes into session. The first task now facing all supporters of the bill will be to make a new tally of co-sponsors and supporters in the next Congress.
  2. We will be up against alternatives to "reform" health care, such as the plan promoted by Senator Max Baucus. They simply extend the status quo -- and the damage. They would expand the profits of the private insurance companies, and therefore cannot check the spiraling inflation generated by these companies, and the broken system they inhabit. So, right away, we have to draw a sharp line between what we want, and bad compromises.
  3. Remember, to pass the House, we will need roughly another 120 votes. That means that we will have to go for a margin, to have around 140 votes in addition to the co-sponsors. Here is where our district-level organizations will have to go to work to pick up votes.
  4. We will need sponsors of the legislation in the Senate. Those do not yet exist. This is a critical early step that we hope to help other groups active on H.R. 676 to take.
  5. November5 is non-partisan. We cannot be bound by the notion that Republicans will not buy into national health insurance. It maintains private delivery of health care and will expand choice of doctor, creating conditions for greater innovation and competition -- not less.
  6. We will need to build fast. This effort will work only if it moves deeply into communities, where members of Congress get their votes. We are currently designing a structure that will allow people to begin organizing independently, district by district, around our current goal -- without having to wait for plans from above.
Specific Steps
  1. Inform yourself and others by reading:
  2. Write a letter -- not an email -- in your own words to your member of Congress stating that you'd like their commitment to vote for H.R. 676. If your member of Congress is a co-sponsor of the bill, express your support for that stand. Email a copy to us, if you would, with the words "Letter to My Congressperson" in the subject line.
  3. President-elect Obama has asked for volunteers around the country to host discussion groups on the health care issue during the last half of December. Attend a discussion in your area and make the argument for single payer. Click here for more information.

Soon, we'll be raising money online to build the November5 movement. November5.org will not be a passive website, it will be a place where each Congressional district will be represented by the people of that district. You'll be able to login and see the latest on your Congressional representative, plan with others events that make sense to you for promoting H.R. 676, and organize for meeting with your member of Congress.

If the model works, we'll be able to tackle other issues. For now, let's focus in, and get November5 built. The bell has rung -- and we are in a struggle that we can win, if we all dig deep.

The politicians who want to nibble around the edges of the rolling disaster that is our health care system may have industry on their side, but we have the best plan. Many highly-qualified doctors, economists, and legislators have put enormous work into it, we just have to stand up, be counted and gather others with us to do the same.

We look forward to the rewarding work ahead.

The November5 Team

19 December 2008

"Left Communism" -- An Anti-Bolshevik, Libertarian-Socialist Tradition

Yes, I know: Marxism is bad, bad, bad! Leads inevitably to concentration camps and bad dentition.

However, left communism is a philosophically interesting trend in leftist thought well worth considering and comparing to anarchism.

"The Great Slump of 1930," John Maynard Keynes

I.

The world has been slow to realize that we are living this year in the shadow of one of the greatest economic catastrophes of modern history. But now that the man in the street has become aware of what is happening, he, not knowing the why and wherefore, is as full to-day of what may prove excessive fears as, previously, when the trouble was first coming on, he was lacking in what would have been a reasonable anxiety. He begins to doubt the future. Is he now awakening from a pleasant dream to face the darkness of facts? Or dropping off into a nightmare which will pass away?

He need not be doubtful. The other was not a dream. This is a nightmare, which will pass away with the morning. For the resources of nature and men's devices are just as fertile and productive as they were. The rate of our progress towards solving the material problems of life is not less rapid. We are as capable as before of affording for everyone a high standard of life—high, I mean, compared with, say, twenty years ago—and will soon learn to afford a standard higher still. We were not previously deceived. But to-day we have involved ourselves in a colossal muddle, having blundered in the control of a delicate machine, the working of which we do not understand. The result is that our possibilities of wealth may run to waste for a time—perhaps for a long time.

I doubt whether I can hope, in these articles, to bring what is in my mind into fully effective touch with the mind of the reader. I shall be saying too much for the layman, too little for the expert. For—though no one will believe it—economics is a technical and difficult subject. It is even becoming a science. However, I will do my best—at the cost of leaving out, because it is too complicated, much that is necessary to a complete understanding of contemporary events.

First of all, the extreme violence of the slump is to be noticed. In the three leading industrial countries of the world—the United States, Great Britain, and Germany—10,000,000 workers stand idle. There is scarcely an important industry anywhere earning enough profit to make it expand—which is the test of progress. At the same time, in the countries of primary production the output of mining and of agriculture is selling, in the case of almost every important commodity, at a price which, for many or for the majority of producers, does not cover its cost. In 1921, when prices fell as heavily, the fall was from a boom level at which producers were making abnormal profits; and there is no example in modern history of so great and rapid a fall of prices from a normal figure as has occurred in the past year. Hence the magnitude of the catastrophe.

The time which elapses before production ceases and unemployment reaches its maximum is, for several reasons, much longer in the case of the primary products than in the case of manufacture. In most cases the production units are smaller and less well organized amongst themselves for enforcing a process of orderly contraction; the length of the production period, especially in agriculture, is longer; the costs of a temporary shut-down are greater; men are more often their own employers and so submit more readily to a contraction of the income for which they are willing to work; the social problems of throwing men out of employment are greater in more primitive communities; and the financial problems of a cessation of production of primary output are more serious in countries where such primary output is almost the whole sustenance of the people. Nevertheless we are fast approaching the phase in which the output of primary producers will be restricted almost as much as that of manufacturers; and this will have a further adverse reaction on manufacturers, since the primary producers will have no purchasing power wherewith to buy manufactured goods; and so on, in a vicious circle.

In this quandary individual producers base illusory hopes on courses of action which would benefit an individual producer or class of producers so long as they were alone in pursuing them, but which benefit no one if everyone pursues them. For example, to restrict the output of a particular primary commodity raises its price, so long as the output of the industries which use this commodity is unrestricted; but if output is restricted all round, then the demand for the primary commodity falls off by just as much as the supply, and no one is further forward. Or again, if a particular producer or a particular country cuts wages, then, so long as others do not follow suit, that producer or that country is able to get more of what trade is going. But if wages are cut all round, the purchasing power of the community as a whole is reduced by the same amount as the reduction of costs; and, again, no one is further forward.

Thus neither the restriction of output nor the reduction of wages serves in itself to restore equilibrium.

Moreover, even if we were to succeed eventually in re-establishing output at the lower level of money-wages appropriate to (say) the pre-war level of prices, our troubles would not be at an end. For since 1914 an immense burden of bonded debt, both national and international, has been contracted, which is fixed in terms of money. Thus every fall of prices increases the burden of this debt, because it increases the value of the money in which it is fixed. For example, if we were to settle down to the pre-war level of prices, the British National Debt would be nearly 40 per cent. greater than it was in 1924 and double what it was in 1920; the Young Plan would weigh on Germany much more heavily than the Dawes Plan, which it was agreed she could not support; the indebtedness to the United States of her associates in the Great War would represent 40-50 per cent. more goods and services than at the date when the settlements were made; the obligations of such debtor countries as those of South America and Australia would become insupportable without a reduction of their standard of life for the benefit of their creditors; agriculturists and householders throughout the world, who have borrowed on mortgage, would find themselves the victims of their creditors. In such a situation it must be doubtful whether the necessary adjustments could be made in time to prevent a series of bankruptcies, defaults, and repudiations which would shake the capitalist order to its foundations. Here would be a fertile soil for agitation, seditions, and revolution. It is so already in many quarters of the world. Yet, all the time, the resources of nature and men's devices would be just as fertile and productive as they were. The machine would merely have been jammed as the result of a muddle. But because we have magneto trouble, we need not assume that we shall soon be back in a rumbling waggon and that motoring is over.

II.

We have magneto trouble. How, then, can we start up again? Let us trace events backwards:—

1. Why are workers and plant unemployed? Because industrialists do not expect to be able to sell without loss what would be produced if they were employed.

2. Why cannot industrialists expect to sell without loss? Because prices have fallen more than costs have fallen—indeed, costs have fallen very little.

3. How can it be that prices have fallen more than costs? For costs are what a business man pays out for the production of his commodity, and prices determine what he gets back when he sells it. It is easy to understand how for an individual business or an individual commodity these can be unequal. But surely for the community as a whole the business men get back the same amount as they pay out, since what the business men pay out in the course of production constitutes the incomes of the public which they pay back to the business men in exchange for the products of the latter? For this is what we understand by the normal circle of production, exchange, and consumption.

4. No! Unfortunately this is not so; and here is the root of the trouble. It is not true that what the business men pay out as costs of production necessarily comes back to them as the sale-proceeds of what they produce. It is the characteristic of a boom that their sale-proceeds exceed their costs; and it is the characteristic of a slump that their costs exceed their sale-proceeds. Moreover, it is a delusion to suppose that they can necessarily restore equilibrium by reducing their total costs, whether it be by restricting their output or cutting rates of remuneration; for the reduction of their outgoings may, by reducing the purchasing power of the earners who are also their customers, diminish their sale-proceeds by a nearly equal amount.

5. How, then, can it be that the total costs of production for the world's business as a whole can be unequal to the total sale-proceeds? Upon what does the inequality depend? I think that I know the answer. But it is too complicated and unfamiliar for me to expound it here satisfactorily. (Elsewhere I have tried to expound it accurately.) So I must be somewhat perfunctory.

Let us take, first of all, the consumption-goods which come on to the market for sale. Upon what do the profits (or losses) of the producers of such goods depend? The total costs of production, which are the same thing as the community's total earnings looked at from another point of view, are divided in a certain proportion between the cost of consumption-goods and the cost of capital-goods. The incomes of the public, which are again the same thing as the community's total earnings, are also divided in a certain proportion between expenditure on the purchase of consumption-goods and savings. Now if the first proportion is larger than the second, producers of consumption-goods will lose money; for their sale proceeds, which are equal to the expenditure of the public on consumption-goods, will be less (as a little thought will show) than what these goods have cost them to produce. If, on the other hand, the second proportion is larger than the first, then the producers of consumption-goods will make exceptional gains. It follows that the profits of the producers of consumption goods can only be restored, either by the public spending a larger proportion of their incomes on such goods (which means saving less), or by a larger proportion of production taking the form of capital-goods (since this means a smaller proportionate output of consumption-goods).

But capital-goods will not be produced on a larger scale unless the producers of such goods are making a profit. So we come to our second question—upon what do the profits of the producers of capital-goods depend? They depend on whether the public prefer to keep their savings liquid in the shape of money or its equivalent or to use them to buy capital-goods or the equivalent. If the public are reluctant to buy the latter, then the producers of capital-goods will make a loss; consequently less capital-goods will be produced; with the result that, for the reasons given above, producers of consumption-goods will also make a loss. In other words, all classes of producers will tend to make a loss; and general unemployment will ensue. By this time a vicious circle will be set up, and, as the result of a series of actions and reactions, matters will get worse and worse until something happens to turn the tide.

This is an unduly simplified picture of a complicated phenomenon. But I believe that it contains the essential truth. Many variations and fugal embroideries and orchestrations can be superimposed; but this is the tune.

If, then, I am right, the fundamental cause of the trouble is the lack of new enterprise due to an unsatisfactory market for capital investment. Since trade is international, an insufficient output of new capital-goods in the world as a whole affects the prices of commodities everywhere and hence the profits of producers in all countries alike.

Why is there an insufficient output of new capital-goods in the world as a whole? It is due, in my opinion, to a conjunction of several causes. In the first instance, it was due to the attitude of lenders—for new capital-goods are produced to a large extent with borrowed money. Now it is due to the attitude of borrowers, just as much as to that of lenders.

For several reasons lenders were, and are, asking higher terms for loans, than new enterprise can afford. First, the fact, that enterprise could afford high rates for some time after the war whilst war wastage was being made good, accustomed lenders to expect much higher rates than before the war. Second, the existence of political borrowers to meet Treaty obligations, of banking borrowers to support newly restored gold standards, of speculative borrowers to take part in Stock Exchange booms, and, latterly, of distress borrowers to meet the losses which they have incurred through the fall of prices, all of whom were ready if necessary to pay almost any terms, have hitherto enabled lenders to secure from these various classes of borrowers higher rates than it is possible for genuine new enterprise to support. Third, the unsettled state of the world and national investment habits have restricted the countries in which many lenders are prepared to invest on any reasonable terms at all. A large proportion of the globe is, for one reason or another, distrusted by lenders, so that they exact a premium for risk so great as to strangle new enterprise altogether. For the last two years, two out of the three principal creditor nations of the world, namely, France and the United States, have largely withdrawn their resources from the international market for long-term loans.

Meanwhile, the reluctant attitude of lenders has become matched by a hardly less reluctant attitude on the part of borrowers. For the fall of prices has been disastrous to those who have borrowed, and anyone who has postponed new enterprise has gained by his delay. Moreover, the risks that frighten lenders frighten borrowers too. Finally, in the United States, the vast scale on which new capital enterprise has been undertaken in the last five years has somewhat exhausted for the time being—at any rate so long as the atmosphere of business depression continues—the profitable opportunities for yet further enterprise. By the middle of 1929 new capital undertakings were already on an inadequate scale in the world as a whole, outside the United States. The culminating blow has been the collapse of new investment inside the United States, which to-day is probably 20 to 30 per cent. less than it was in 1928. Thus in certain countries the opportunity for new profitable investment is more limited than it was; whilst in others it is more risky.

A wide gulf, therefore, is set between the ideas of lenders and the ideas of borrowers for the purpose of genuine new capital investment; with the result that the savings of the lenders are being used up in financing business losses and distress borrowers, instead of financing new capital works.

At this moment the slump is probably a little overdone for psychological reasons. A modest upward reaction, therefore, may be due at any time. But there cannot be a real recovery, in my judgment, until the ideas of lenders and the ideas of productive borrowers are brought together again; partly by lenders becoming ready to lend on easier terms and over a wider geographical field, partly by borrowers recovering their good spirits and so becoming readier to borrow.

Seldom in modern history has the gap between the two been so wide and so difficult to bridge. Unless we bend our wills and our intelligences, energized by a conviction that this diagnosis is right, to find a solution along these lines, then, if the diagnosis is right, the slump may pass over into a depression, accompanied by a sagging price-level, which might last for years, with untold damage to the material wealth and to the social stability of every country alike. Only if we seriously seek a solution, will the optimism of my opening sentences be confirmed—at least for the nearer future.

It is beyond the scope of this article to indicate lines of future policy. But no one can take the first step except the central banking authorities of the chief creditor countries; nor can any one Central Bank do enough acting in isolation. Resolute action by the Federal Reserve Banks of the United States, the Bank of France, and the Bank of England might do much more than most people, mistaking symptoms or aggravating circumstances for the disease itself, will readily believe. In every way the more effective remedy would be that the Central Banks of these three great creditor nations should join together in a bold scheme to restore confidence to the international long-term loan market; which would serve to revive enterprise and activity everywhere, and to restore prices and profits, so that in due course the wheels of the world's commerce would go round again. And even if France, hugging the supposed security of gold, prefers to stand aside from the adventure of creating new wealth, I am convinced that Great Britain and the United States, like-minded and acting together, could start the machine again within a reasonable time; if, that is to say, they were energized by a confident conviction as to what was wrong. For it is chiefly the lack of this conviction which to-day is paralyzing the hands of authority on both sides of the Channel and of the Atlantic.

More here: The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, 1936

18 December 2008

Israel’s ‘Crime Against Humanity,' Chris Hedges

Rep. Dennis Kucinich on His Battle With the Banks


17 December 2008

The Miracle of Bali




Investigating the Investigators: A Critical Look at Pro Publica, Michael Barker, 29 February 2008, Spinwatch

Undoubtedly, our dying republic could use some well-funded investigative journalism. Unfortunately, newspapers -- if they were ever much help -- are dying off. Blogs won't take their place: they, including this one, are essentially analysis only. No real investigative journalism going on, with some excellent exceptions, such as Greg Palast's site -- whose journalism is, after all, partially funded by the BBC and the Guardian.


So, I was happy to find out about Pro Publica on today's Democracy Now. A little digging turned up this article, which is worth reading. There are three parts: click "Next" at the bottom of the referred page to see subsequent entries.

12 December 2008

The Great War (BBC)

Huge documentary on the First World War from the 1960s:



11 December 2008

Altars of the World: The Great Religions of Man

Macedonia, a Civilization Uncovered

10 December 2008

Inside Islam, The History Channel

Arena - Encountering Bergman

Noam Chomsky: Obama's Foreign Policy Will Mirror Bush's Second Admin

BBC: Gitmo Military Prosecutor Breaks His Silence

08 December 2008

Apur Sansar (The World of Apu), Satyajit Ray,

Third film in The Apu Trilogy; see Pather Panchali here and Aparajito here.

Aparajito (The Unvanquished), Satyajit Ray, 1956

Second film in the Apu Trilogy; you can see the first, Pather Panchali, here.


Satyajit Ray's The Postmaster (1961)

Blurb:

The Story is about Nanda, a young man who leaves Calcutta to work as a postmaster in an isolated malaria-infested village. The postmaster is looked after by a young orphan girl, Ratan. His only solace in the village is in teaching Ratan how to read and write. The postmaster is the first of three stories by Rabindranath Tagore, winner of the 1913 Nobel Prize in Literature. The stories in to one film titled Teen Kanya (Three Daughters). It's considered by many as one of Satyajit Ray's masterpieces.


Satyajit Ray on Cinema: 9-minute clip

07 December 2008

Documentary: The Life and Work of Satyajit Ray

05 December 2008

Change You Can Really Believe In: Attend Obama House Parties on 12/13-14

A phenomenal idea of Medea Benjamin's: sign up at MyBarackObama, find Obama house parties near you, show up and help move the conversation left!

Yes, my first concern is that this will be another MoveOn.org -- a safety valve with no grassroots power. (MoveOn rigged an election when the Demz wanted it; why I quit.) But worth going to anyway, especially since Obama reportedly ain't sharing his 10 million person e-mail list, and to see whether people are motivated by hero-worship or policies.

The site is trying to channel energies in predictable ways; no one has to listen to that, of course. I'll be very interested to see how independent the people at my event will be. MoveOn-ers were feisty. Ultimately got the knife in the back on war funding, but were feisty nonetheless.

The November 5th Movement Video: One Month Later

Instructive to watch this after a month's worth of transitional action. Makes even more sense, don't it?


November 5. 2008 from Tarek Milleron on Vimeo

If you want to sign up, click the title of this post to do so.

CEOs of Big Three Automakers Return to Capitol Hill to Plead for $34B Federal Bailout

Nader and others on this latest bailout....The Consent of Manufacturing?

Here's the site for Auto Worker Caravan, mentioned in the segment. Also: Multinational Monitor.

Ralph Nader and Medea Benjamin on Obama’s Cabinet and Grassroots Organizing Under the Next Administration

David Sirota Nails It: The Mystifying Persistence of Dear Leader-ism

Finally, someone pushes this all-important point hard!

The Mystifying Persistence of Dear Leader-ism

04 December 2008

What I See in Obama's Eyes When He Waxes Lincolnian

Reading this piece (of what, I leave up to you) in the Guardian led me to the following 2005 article by Obama, which I have annotated. Obama's been milking Lincoln's persona for a decade now; I fear he might actually see himself as Lincoln. More's the pity for the rest of us. (I'm guessing the photo to the right is the one Obama's writing about.)

What I See in Lincoln's Eyes

Monday, June 27, 2005

TIME MAGAZINE
By Barack Obama

He never won Illinois' Senate seat. But in many ways, he paved the way for me.

My favorite portrait of Lincoln comes from the end of his life. In it, Lincoln's face is as finely lined as a pressed flower. He appears frail, almost broken; his eyes, averted from the camera's lens, seem to contain a heartbreaking melancholy, as if he sees before him what the nation had so recently endured.

It would be a sorrowful picture except for the fact that Lincoln's mouth is turned ever so slightly into a smile. The smile doesn't negate the sorrow. But it alters tragedy into grace. [Ask 650,000 dead if they saw grace.] It's as if this rough-faced, aging man has cast his gaze toward eternity and yet still cherishes his memories--of an imperfect world and its fleeting, sometimes terrible beauty. On trying days, the portrait, a reproduction of which hangs in my office, soothes me; it always asks me questions.

What is it about this man that can move us so profoundly? Some of it has to do with Lincoln's humble beginnings, which often speak to our own. When I moved to Illinois 20 years ago to work as a community organizer, I had no money in my pockets and didn't know a single soul. [He did have a Harvard Law degree in his pockets, though, didn't he?] During my first six years in the state legislature, Democrats were in the minority, and I couldn't get a bill heard, much less passed. In my first race for Congress, I had my head handed to me. So when I, a black man with a funny name, born in Hawaii of a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas, announced my candidacy for the U.S. Senate, it was hard to imagine a less likely scenario than that I would win [This "unlikely" trope was repeated ad nauseum, as we all know. Yes, it was so amazing that a double-Ivy-League-degreed president of the Harvard Law Review could have reached such heights.] --except, perhaps, for the one that allowed a child born in the backwoods of Kentucky with less than a year of formal education to end up as Illinois' greatest citizen and our nation's greatest President. [At this point, I vomited. Sir, I've read much of Lincoln's writings. I've studied, somewhat, his career. You, sir, are no Lincoln.]

In Lincoln's rise from poverty, his ultimate mastery of language and law, his capacity to overcome personal loss and remain determined in the face of repeated defeat--in all this, he reminded me not just of my own struggles. [Uh, wait a second. You, Obama, are comparing your well-constructed prose to one of the three or four greatest writers of American English? I'll leave the law aside.] He also reminded me of a larger, fundamental element of American life--the enduring belief that we can constantly remake ourselves to fit our larger dreams. [The one honest line, probably unintentionally so, in this entire morass of PR/megalomania: this is the key to Obama, or to any politician, really. But please don't extend this conclusion to normal people.]

A connected idea attracts us to Lincoln: as we remake ourselves, we remake our surroundings. He didn't just talk or write or theorize. He split rail, fired rifles, tried cases and pushed for new bridges and roads and waterways. In his sheer energy, Lincoln captures a hunger in us to build and to innovate. It's a quality that can get us in trouble; we may be blind at times to the costs of progress. And yet, when I travel to other parts of the world, I remember that it is precisely such energy that sets us apart, a sense that there are no limits to the heights our nation might reach. [The necessary American Exceptionalism. Always congratulate your marks -- I mean, audience -- by lauding, however incorrectly, accidents of birth.]

Still, as I look at his picture, it is the man and not the icon that speaks to me. I cannot swallow whole the view of Lincoln as the Great Emancipator. As a law professor and civil rights lawyer and as an African American, I am fully aware of his limited views on race. Anyone who actually reads the Emancipation Proclamation knows it was more a military document than a clarion call for justice. Scholars tell us too that Lincoln wasn't immune from political considerations and that his temperament could be indecisive and morose.

But it is precisely those imperfections--and the painful self-awareness of those failings etched in every crease of his face and reflected in those haunted eyes--that make him so compelling. For when the time came to confront the greatest moral challenge this nation has ever faced, this all too human man did not pass the challenge on to future generations. [A dig at Bush; this is a campaign document after all.] He neither demonized the fathers and sons who did battle on the other side nor sought to diminish the terrible costs of his war. [This might explain Obama's naive embrace of his opponents -- if opponents they truly be. You see, Obama sees himself as a remaker of the nation. How hard Hillary, Gates, et al, must be laughing, if Obama is actually so deluded. How easy to manipulate such a person. I tend to think it's all PR bullshit, though, but the danger is when you begin to believe your own lies.] In the midst of slavery's dark storm and the complexities of governing a house divided, he somehow kept his moral compass pointed firm and true. [Yes: don't let the South secede, as they had every right to, start a massive and avoidable war, repatriate blacks overseas.]

What I marvel at, what gives me such hope, is that this man could overcome depression, self-doubt and the constraints of biography and not only act decisively but retain his humanity. Like a figure from the Old Testament, he wandered the earth, making mistakes, loving his family but causing them pain, despairing over the course of events, trying to divine God's will. [Such a refreshing change after years of Bush-as-God's-instrument, isn't it? Note the uniform silence by Democrats and "liberals" on Obama's entirely Bushian messiah-and-God-talk.] He did not know how things would turn out, but he did his best.

A few weeks ago, I spoke at the commencement at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill. I stood in view of the spot where Lincoln and Stephen Douglas held one of their famous debates during their race for the U.S. Senate. The only way for Lincoln to get onto the podium was to squeeze his lanky frame through a window, whereupon he reportedly remarked, "At last I have finally gone through college." Waiting for the soon-to-be graduates to assemble, I thought that even as Lincoln lost that Senate race, his arguments that day* would result, centuries later, in my occupying the same seat that he coveted. He may not have dreamed of that exact outcome. [Yes, I think we can be sure he didn't dream that a black man named Barack Obama would win his seat 150 years later.] But I like to believe he would have appreciated the irony. Humor, ambiguity, complexity, compassion--all were part of his character. And as Lincoln called once upon the better angels of our nature, I believe that he is calling still, across the ages, to summon some measure of that character, the American character, in each of us today.

___________________________

*See pages 701-721 in vol. 1 of the Library of America Lincoln volumes for "his arguments that day." There's not one argument in there that leads to a black person, let alone Obama, gaining a Senate seat.

I might point out that Obama is hardly the Omega Point he makes himself out to be. In 1871, Hiram Revels took his seat in the Senate. This is important: Obama has very cleverly positioned himself as the embodiment and apotheosis of all that good and true in American history. One desperately hopes he is doing this cynically. God help us all if he actually believes it.

Lincoln opens his rejoinder to Douglas -- I had just re-read all these debates a few weeks ago -- by stating that although Jefferson, as Lincoln argues, did have blacks in mind when he wrote the Declaration of Independence, and thus that blacks, too, are created equal,
the Judge will have it that if we do not confess that there is a sort of inequality between the white and black races, which justifies us in making them slaves, we must, then, insist that there is a degree of equality that requires us to make them our wives....I have all the while maintained, that in so far as it should be insisted that there was an equality between the white and the black races that should produce perfect social and political equality, it was an impossibility. This you have seen in my printed speeches, and with it I have said, that in their right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," as proclaimed in that old Declaration, the inferior races are our equals. And these declarations I have constantly made in reference to the abstract moral question, to contemplate and consider when we are legislating about any new country which is not already cursed with the actual presence of the evil -- slavery. I have never manifested any impatience with the necessities that spring from the actual presence of black people amongst us, and the actual existence of slavery amongst us where it does already exist; but I have insisted that, in legislating for new countries, wehre it does not exist, there is no just rule other than that of moral and abstract right!
Lincoln goes on to argue that slavery is wrong; that he is not a devotee of "extreme Abolitionism"; that the Republicans aren't any more sectionally divided than the Democrats; and that the right to slavery is not expressly affirmed in the Constitution. He cites Clay and the Colonization Society, favorably, in support of what he takes to be blacks' liberties and closes by supporting "acquisition of territory" -- this is understood as America's right -- but not supporting the expansion of slavery in those territories.

Come to think of it, maybe Lincoln's hypocrisy, Macbethian ambition, and warmongering is a good model for Obama after all!