Archive for November, 2009
Eat some vegetables! And be thankful for it all!
Lester Brown on what to do…
Rik Emmett & Dave Dunlop…and a terrific song!
[Thanks to Chris H and social networking for turning me on to this.]
Was this the end of “communism”?
The events of 1989 are most often depicted as the failure of socialism. It’s a powerful interpretation that has served to discredit alternatives to the capitalist system, which is said to have triumphed, and to bestow upon capitalism an aura of legitimacy based not only on a reading of recent history but also on assumptions about the natural order, not least human nature. Capitalism, it is proposed, is the normal state of human traffic in what people make and value and need; socialism is the deviation. Capitalism responds to the nature of "man"–acquisitiveness, competition, egoism and the insatiable need for more. Socialism stands in the way of initiative, creativity and competition. Going by its nom de guerre, communism, it proposes radical equality in a world of unequals. Therefore, it can be maintained only by the coercive power of an entrenched elite and a repressive state. In the Eastern bloc, once that force was removed and party leaders lost confidence in their right to rule, communism naturally fell, and people’s instinctual drives for material accumulation were liberated. Markets won out everywhere, even when democracy did not.
History, however, is always more complicated and messy than the moral and ideological tales it may be called to serve. The history of Eastern Europe in the second half of the twentieth century can be told as the story of two series of revolutions: the communist-led revolutions of the post-World War II years that ousted the former ruling elites and transformed largely rural societies into urban industrial ones; and the anticommunist revolutions of 1989, mostly peaceful and in one case even "velvet," that overturned entrenched party regimes already weakened by political sclerosis. In Eastern Europe, one form of "actually existing socialism" was established at a particular historical moment–the beginning of the cold war struggle between an enormously wealthy, nuclear-armed United States and a significantly weaker Soviet Union. Forty years later, communism fell when political crises, economic stagnation (but not economic collapse) and a will to change the way the system worked coalesced at another historical moment. To the lasting dismay of democratic socialists in Europe and elsewhere, it was a moment of Thatcherite/Reaganite neoliberalism, vigorous anticommunism and muscular military and covert operations against the left and radical movements in all parts of the globe. As for socialism, what originated in the early nineteenth century as a noble political philosophy devoted to promoting the common good was reduced to an epithet hurled at anyone skeptical of the workings of laissez-faire or the idea that capitalism is intrinsic to the natural order. Socialism has a long history, but it has not been able to escape the crushing burden of its recent Leninist incarnation.
The rest of Ronald Grigor Suny’s assessment in The Nation is here.
After the last few posts, one would think it cannot get any worse. But it can: The Phillies lost their bid to repeat as World Champions! Congratulations to the Phillies for a great season (special shout out to the vastly underappreciated Carlos Ruiz).
Congratulations,too, to the Yankees, of course, of course. As a baseball fan, it is fun to watch Jeter, Sabathia, Damon, Matsui, et. al. But note:
Yankees 2009 payroll: $208 million.
Phillies 2009 payroll: $111 million.
This means it cost the Yanks $97 million to get those last two games. I know the NYC fans think it was worth it. But institute a salary cap and floor in MLB and see what happens then!
Three months ‘til spring training!!!
The bill of particulars:
U.S. budget is dependent on foreign finance.
U.S. too weak for diplomatic efforts; can now only use force of arms.
U.S. costs out of control to the benefit of the rich only (example—no money for universal health care, but we spend $400 a gallon for gas used by troops in Afghanistan.
U.S. political leadership rife with corruption (example—many on the take from private insurance companies)
etc., etc., etc.
This is a problem because:
In any failed state, the greatest threat to the population comes from the government and the police. That is certainly the situation today in the USA. Americans have no greater enemy than their own government. Washington is controlled by interest groups that enrich themselves at the expense of the American people.
McClatchy’s inquiry found that Goldman Sachs:
- Bought and converted into high-yield bonds tens of thousands of mortgages from subprime lenders that became the subjects of FBI investigations into whether they’d misled borrowers or exaggerated applicants’ incomes to justify making hefty loans.
- Used offshore tax havens to shuffle its mortgage-backed securities to institutions worldwide, including European and Asian banks, often in secret deals run through the Cayman Islands, a British territory in the Caribbean that companies use to bypass U.S. disclosure requirements.
- Has dispatched lawyers across the country to repossess homes from bankrupt or financially struggling individuals, many of whom lacked sufficient credit or income but got subprime mortgages anyway because Wall Street made it easy for them to qualify.
- Was buoyed last fall by key federal bailout decisions, at least two of which involved then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, a former Goldman chief executive whose staff at Treasury included several other Goldman alumni.
More evil here.