Marx my Word

March 26, 2013

Karl MarxIn an example of how things can turn —not on a dime maybe, but on a fat silver dollar at least— it could be Karl Marx was right after all.

Having been dismissed by the mullahs of capitalism as an evil crank, Marx’s assessment of capitalism’s tendency to ultimately and  inevitably suck the marrow of most of us, may be turning out just as he predicted. If your patriot heart recoils at this, just think “austerity” for the masses simultaneous with a metastasizing  wealthy elite, a tumor growing faster and fatter.

Wall Street has gloated over the global demise of Communism because it has laid the planet wide open to its financial strip-mining; tar sand sitewide open to the same rapaciousness shown by communist corruption, as if capitalist corruption was a form of decadence closer to God. To hear some ministers of American religion tell it, this is in fact the case: capitalism’s corruptions are somehow favored by the Lord over that of evil communism because capitalism must be part of God’s plan.

For Evangelicals, for instance, “… it was unthinkable that capitalism led to class conflict, for that would mean that God had created a world at war with itself. The evangelicals believed in a providential God, one who built a logical and orderly universe, and they saw the new industrial economy as a fulfillment of God’s plan. The free market, they believed, was a perfectly designed instrument to reward good Christian behavior and to punish and humiliate the unrepentant.” —theocracywatch.org

If this is so— if God is in his heaven blushing with fatherly pride at the likes of Mitt Romney, or Sheldon Adelson or the Koch brothers, Lucifer may have had it right —hope would demand that not be so. Whatever God’s plan may be, unbridled capitalism may not be any more a part of it than was unbridled communism. Class warfare is class warfare no matter who’s lobbing mortars.

Michael Shumann (Time Magazine) gives us the latest in class news and throws in Marx’s prediction concerning future life under capitalism. It has an eerily real ring.

wealth distribution marxWith the global economy in a protracted crisis,” Schumann writes, “and workers around the world burdened by joblessness, debt and stagnant incomes, Marx’s biting critique of capitalism — that the system is inherently unjust and self-destructive — cannot be so easily dismissed. Marx theorized that the capitalist system would inevitably impoverish the masses as the world’s wealth became concentrated in the hands of a greedy few, causing economic crises and heightened conflict between the rich and working classes.

” ‘Accumulation of wealth at one pole is at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole,’ Marx wrote.”

There’s an insidiousness in the tactics of the rich and their mouthpieces, such as apparent sociopaths like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), that makes it possible to imagine them turning over their own mothers to the Koch Machine to be water-boarded until they divulge where mom hid her last social security check so it could be turned over to Goldman Sachs to be voucherized at 1/4 of its pre-privatization value. The conspiracy of lies that seethes from the mouths of these characters is blatant in its shamelessness. Their moral compasses are tuned always to the magnetism of excess and power. Thier smug arrogance is a symptom of their sociopathy.

Take this by Cruz: [The Democrats’ budget] does nothing to solve the enormous challenges facing Social Security and Medicare. Every one of us would like to see those critical bulwarks of our society strengthened, and right now those programs are careening toward bankruptcy.”

Is there anyone within broadcast distance of Republicans who believes that Cruz really means they’d like to see SS strengthened? You’d have to have had your head up Sean Hannity’s think tank for the past ten years to buy that one.

“Republicans do not want them ‘strengthened’. This is not just a matter of semantics. You only have to look at what these people have been saying since these programs were enacted to understand that they do not believe that the government should administer these programs at all. In fact, Ted Cruz has called SS a ponzi scheme. He basically supports the Ryan dystopian nightmare plan.” —Digby at Hullabaloo

I’d rather dine with an honest petty crook than spend an evening too close to the sleaze of Cruz —even Jesus seemed to prefer the virtue of Mary Magdalene to the likes of King Herod’s wife.

tarsands oil spillSo Ted Cruz and those who live by his values would not shrink from having unregulated capitalism permanently established as the final solution —the most efficient and effective way to strip not only the nation, but the planet, naked in order to line their closets with thousand dollar suits.

The flip side of Marx’s “dictatorship of the proletariat” (a prediction which did not pan out), it may be argued, is the “hegemony of lootn’carryit” —which is to say the hoarding of riches by looters of the commonwealth who haul it off to the Cayman Islands for safekeeping, i.e. to protect it from the governments of common people who might use it to revitalize infrastructures, improve public education, or simply to provide the means to keep the larger part of the world population out of a life in gutters, jails or homeless shelters.

It’s a mean morality that elevates acquisitiveness to a national virtue.

Dante , on the fourth circle of the Inferno of his Divine Comedy introduces us to the avaricious. They toil eternally pushing boulders around in much the same way as their hoarding of wealth while they we alive left the rest of the world’s population to struggle under the daily weight of their poverty:

The goods committed into fortune’s hands,
For which the human race keeps such a heap!
Not all the gold, that is beneath the moon,
Or ever hath been, of these toil-worn souls
Might purchase rest for one.”
……………………………. —Dante Alighieri

dante 4th circlers

But poets can throw out cautionary tales until the sacred cows come home without making a dent in the gold-plated skulls of bankers or the buck-bound heads of corporations.

And so, “…the consequence of (the) widening inequality is just what Marx had predicted: class struggle is back. Workers of the world are growing angrier and demanding their fair share of the global economy. From the floor of the U.S. Congress to the streets of Athens to the assembly lines of southern China, political and economic events are being shaped by escalating tensions between capital and labor to a degree unseen since the communist revolutions of the 20th century.” —Shumann
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by Jim Culleny
for the West County Independent
Shelburne Falls, MA.
3/28/13


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Inertia Never Sleeps

March 16, 2013

inertiaI’ve been preoccupied lately by the term, inertia, which most of us probably first became aware of in a school science lesson.

A classic definition of inertia might be: Inertia is the resistance of any physical object to a change in its state of motion or rest, or the tendency of an object to resist any change in its motion. So, if you set a marble down on a table it will not move unless you impart energy to it (give it a shove or tip the table and let gravity infuse it with juice) and it won’t stop rolling unless something stops it (it hits a wall or friction sucks its energy, slowing it until it’s left with nothing but the will to do nothing forever but sleep).

What I’ve been thinking, looking over our plutocratic capitalist landscape, is that inertia applies not only to physical objects in space, but to psychic ones as well, such as ideas that cannot move or have ceased to move after bouncing against one political wall after another (call it elite friction); or ideas that roll on like giant snowballs raging downhill picking up detritus and speed until they hit a wall.

Inertia, in fact, has as much to do with politics as physics.

We have monstrous environmental problems as plain as rising mean temperatures, Manhattan plus-sized calving glaciers in Antarctica and prolonged drought in the central and southwest, but are unable to remedy them. Why? Inertia.

wealth ineqyuity graphWe have huge problems resulting from global and national financial inequity: a chronic gap in wealth distribution, but don’t deal with them. Why? Inertia.

We’re facing-down food calamities: pesticide and GMO contamination and tsunamis of sickness-producing junk-food, among others, but seem powerless to intervene. Why? Inertia.

And, most sadly, there are remedies  (and here and here) for all of these things, but which remain unimplemented. Ideas that sit there inert as we are catatonic, or move excruciatingly slowly, waiting for the destruction of obstruction and bursts of energy required to move them forward. Why? National ideological inertia enough to suck energy out of a black hole —you betcha’.

If you guessed my use of the term “you betcha'” was calculated you’re right. It’s there to call attention to the kind of thinking that has stopped a government in its tracks from doing anything useful, practical or redeemable in a world that needs, first, a good (intelligent) talking to and, next, a powerful kick in the ass to send it down the road to (intelligent) action. The kind of thinking (or, actually, thoughtlessness) that propelled Sarah Palin to the status of super-stupid talking head for the willfully ignorant.

Simple historical fact: capitalism won the argument it had with socialism and communism. Capitalism has been running things for a long time. It ran them even before the Soviet Union folded in 1991 and has been running them in spades ever since. Even the last big “communist” state, China, is nothing but top-down capitalism writ large. In fact, there would not be much difference between a government run exclusively by the Koch brothers and one run by Li Keqiang, Premier of China —we’re almost there now! So, I’d love to have stone capitalists stop dancing around what’s causing the earth to warm, our seas to become sewers, our fish stocks to diminish, our food supply to be monopolized and made unhealthful by fewer and fewer huge agribusinesses, our electoral system to be bought and paid for by the richest among us, to have news sources vital to a functioning democracy owned by fewer and fewer of the richest Americans, to have our basic right to healthcare equity controlled by profit-making organizations —the beat and social crimes go on.

Dear USA, it’s not socialism, but capitalism (or what passes for it) seeded with the worst of human nature that’s responsible for these present dangers. Despite that right-wing red herring —the one Sarah Palin loves to throw out at rallies to smell up the room for watchers of info-free Fox news— socialism has not been responsible for most of this. Capitalism has rolled amok through the world for decades making money hand over fist, adding to its bottom line, skimming off the top, cutting corners, buying politicians, creating housing bubbles and recessions just like that snowball mentioned earlier, flattening or corrupting everything in its path. Once set off it has become implacable: an object of inertia without a countervailing force because it is not run by empathic humans, but by bottom-line, acquisitive and ruthless automatons.

Capitalism can’t help itself . When the acquisition of wealth becomes a system’s most widespread ultimate virtue and when wealth has been given legal permission to buy anything at any cost, what should we expect?

Mother Teresas do not run banks. They don’t sit on the Supreme Court. The managers of soup kitchens do not call the shots at Monsanto or Arthur Daniels Midland. And no Jesus has risen through the political ranks of either Democrats or Republicans to multiply and re-distribute the wealth of loaves and fishes. He is always cut down by the priests of acquisition among us.

In fact, the inertia we live with today is the same inertia Jesus faced in years running up to AD 1: the tendency of the rich and powerful to remain rich and powerful regardless of everything else and to stop any movement to the contrary with lies, repression and violence —whatever it takes.

Still, champions —the more courageous among us— occasionally arise to get the counter-ball rolling despite being vilified and scourged.

But (big but), to paraphrase 1960s free-speech activist Jack Weinberger, who said, “Never trust anyone over thirty,” a wise rule of thumb for those hoping to overcome the will to do nothing but sleep forever might be: never trust anyone with over thirty million in take-home pay. Whatever they say should be taken with a full shaker of salt whenever it comes to doing what needs to be done in the best inertial interests of the people.

by Jim Culleny
3/16/13
for The West County Independent

A State Senator in Michigan calls out lame-duck Republicans on their right-to-work-for-less bill:

More is Less

March 2, 2013

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boys with gunsI was recently reminded of a nasty piece of twisted self-serving logic that rivals anything concocted by Republicans at the height of the voter suppression movement during last election: i.e. a report issued by the Phillip Morris in 2001. It was a glimpse into the shadows of corporation-think.

The Phillip Morris report was intended to counter efforts to raise tobacco taxes in the Czech Republic and “…touted the ‘positive effects’ that early mortality due to smoking had on the country’s economy.”  Even though its action was later exposed, and Phillip Morris issued a public apology out of one side of its mouth, out of the other it was saying similar things to Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Slovenia (www.tobaccofreecenter.org).

In the best of circumstances a human thinks with his or her heart and brain and filters thoughts through a conscience, but don’t forget that corporations have no hearts or brains. They’re not like natural people. Corporations think with their Accounting Department and operate without conscience —unless you want to call their Legal and Public Relations Departments their conscience. The logic of corporations is of a more primitive sort and has no shame component.

The argument Phillip Morris made was that smokers, by dying early, saved the Czech government 30 million dollars due to reduced health-care costs in 1999 —savings not just in actual medical costs but also in reductions in pensions and housing costs for the elderly. The report called this “… an indirect positive effect of smoking”.

Phillip Morris’ logic was that reducing the average life span by 5.23 years helped offset higher health-care costs related to nicotine addiction. The corporation used statistical info in the report to influence Czech politicians and officials —but this should sound familiar since US oil and arms corporations, among others, stupefy politicians with whacked stats while beating them into submission using clubs fashioned of thousand dollar bills.

But why did Phillip Morris stop there? Following its reasoning all governments could reap billions in health care benefit costs by mandating that everyone but a selected few be subject to nicotine addiction with a shot in the butt of nicotine concentrate as we slip from the womb.  This would have the added boon to tobacco corporations of not requiring huge expenditures for ads to snag greenhorns barely out of Huggies. Earlier addiction would mean that at five we’d be weaned from pure nicotine to Malboros and spend our early years hacking, coughing and contributing to the retirement of tobacco execs. At twenty it’s off to an oncologist to be dead as doornails by 45 thereby reducing the nation’s health care costs by billions and billions as carl Sagan liked to say.

Or how about eliminating hypocrisy entirely?  Cut to the chase.  Just make infanticide legal; an integral part of state health programs. Think of the reduced health care costs then.

What is it with these people —have they no self-respect? But this is how corporations corrupt.

The most recent example of corporate-think in the news today is that of the arms industry, which will lobby to its last breath (if corporate persons had lungs) to put guns in the hands of as many people as possible. They will fight tooth and nail using front organizations like the NRA to hold the line against background checks and the banning of automatic weapons and high capacity magazines. They will spend millions to pay-off representatives (who also seem devoid of brains, hearts, and consciences) to stave off such things as public health research into studies of the widespread effects of gun violence on our society. Arms corporations fear that widespread knowledge may  lead to …uh,  bad action.

Case in point:  “In 1996, pro-gun members of Congress mounted an all-out effort to eliminate the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”

Why would they do this?

Of course there may be more reasons than the intent to keep us stupid, but I don’t think so. Coincidentally, although pro-gun members failed to actually defund the center they were clever.  Subsequently “…the House of Representatives removed $2.6 million from the CDC’s budget—precisely the amount the agency had spent on firearm injury research the previous year.” (Silencing the Science on Gun Research, by Arthur Kellerman, MD, MPH and Frederick Rivera, MD, MPH, 2012)

In the way the tobacco industry’s European solution to high health care costs is more sickness leading to more early deaths, the NRA/Arms Industry’s solution to gun violence is: more ignorance and more guns regardless of more deaths.

This is the nut of corporate-think.

Arm everybody! they say, putting forth solutions to the Newtown massacre such as arming teachers, arming janitors, having armed security guards at school and finally, as suggested by SC State Senator Lee Bright: arm kids.

“I believe the more guns we have the safer we are,” said Bright.

Yes, Bright wants to arm children too. And, just as the tobacco industry includes in its business model the enticement of children to become addicted to nicotine, the arms industry is more aggressively marketing its product to the youngest among us: “… the (arms) industry’s efforts (through the NRA) have taken shape and gathered momentum in schools across the country, with rifle teams and hunter’s education classes enticing record numbers of younguns to take up the sport”. (Jessica Pupovac, Alternet)

While more gun knowledge may lead to more responsible use of a single weapon, more weapons are not the way to fewer gun deaths. Let’s remember that the Newtown shooter’s mother’s arsenal was the source of the gun that killed Newtown’s children. One less gun in that household and there probably would be 20 fewer dead children in the USA.

Add to the increased number of  automatic massacres the obscene number of “ordinary” gun deaths across the USA (31,572 in 2010) and you have daily Armageddon —by the way the 2010 gun deaths equal a fully loaded 747 crashing once a week for a year. You have to wonder how long the Airline Industry could remain un-scrutinized and un-regulated with that statistic)

In the case of tobacco more is less (life, that is) In the case of guns, less is more.

Jim Culleny
2/2/13