Sunday, February 22, 2009

On Wall Street today...

For years on the news we’ve heard “On Wall Street today…” followed by a recital of a bunch of numbers that the majority of us don’t have the time to understand. And when something happened in the world of any importance, we would hear how Wall Street reacted. After a while, it became evident to anyone paying attention that Wall Street ran this country and pretty much dictated the terms of the debates, such as they were. Even though the words “Wall Street” don’t appear in our Constitution, the reality of Wall Street was more important. This is really the essence of right-wing and so-called free market ideology.

Conservative social and cultural issues such as abortion are only battering rams to keep the people divided, and this should be obvious if you observe that the huge corporations that have benefited from right-wing political dominance are never averse to financing and disseminating cultural products that are anything but “conservative.” NewsCorp, for instance, which owns Fox, is in the pornography business, as is Time Warner and many other big players.

The ideology of Wall Street is that profit trumps all values. We may give lip service to “all men are created equal” and other sentiments from the era of the nation’s founding, but in practice the only motive that is considered valid without question is the profit motive. Regulation, therefore, contradicts free market ideology, as does government action towards any public good considered to be independent of profit, or potentially limiting to business. At the libertarian end of the spectrum we have the absurd naivete of Ron Paul, who thinks that the market would work just dandy if government did virtually nothing. People know that it’s dangerous nonsense, which is why libertarians never win elections. The Wall Street ideology, on the other hand, sees government as a clenched fist protecting corporate interests, maintaining economic hegemony through military might abroad while greasing the wheels for privileged elites to make money off the working majority at home. The people bought into this sucker’s game because it sustained enough of a consumer lifestyle to keep them docile, and kept us divided by scapegoating minorities and playing on fear—first of communism, later, of terrorism.

The unique moment we are experiencing now is the utter collapse of Wall Street’s claims to legitimate rule over our lives. Of course people are afraid of this. Our de facto rulers, the Big Daddies of America, were supposed to have things in hand. Now we’re expected to quake with fear at the prospects of losing our jobs, our homes, our lifestyles. But at the risk of alienating some readers, I have to confess a kind of grim pleasure at the spectacle of all these government “experts” and economists and financiers and media pundits going spastic in hysteria as they contemplate the collapse of their beloved hog trough, the American economy. No, I do not enjoy the suffering of the millions of ordinary men and women who are the real victims of their masters’ rapacity. And I certainly am not pleased to witness the complete lack of consequences for the thieves who speculated the banking and credit system into the dirt. But I do think this was all bound to happen, and the fact that it is finally happening marks a decision point for our country and the world.

One of my constantly reiterated themes since I started this blog has been the distinction between the conventional view of what’s happening as some kind of malfunction within an essentially valid political framework, and my own view that corporatist rule constitutes a criminal enterprise. I include so-called “centrist” approaches within my indictment, because the interests of the financial elites still obviate all other values. The United States treasury has simply been looted by the ruling class. A criminal element gained political and military power and proceeded to steal public wealth to enrich its own private coffers. And when the stealing reached a certain point, the system began to collapse. That’s the truth, and that’s what you won’t hear in the media or from politicians.

I’ve come to believe that one of the ruling ideas of the Cheney regime (not Bush, who was too simple-minded to do anything but obey his handlers) was that a Third World-type dictatorship would be eventually necessary in the United States if rule by economic elites was to continue. For 1% of the people to maintain a monopoly on the country’s wealth, what was left of democratic institutions had to be radically modified, ensuring military and political dominance world-wide. Thus a permanent war on terrorism, a permanent state of emergency requiring a “unitary executive” (a dictator) who would be above the law, torture and other forms of state violence in order to keep people in fear, and so forth, were all components of the rightist “vision” of the future. The enemy was not terrorism, but the American people.

The ascension of Obama represents a setback to that vision, a victory for the old-fashioned East Coast establishment with its ties to European capitalism, as opposed to the cowboy Reaganist upstarts who dreamed of total American dominance. But the danger of dictatorship is not over. The centrists who are now in charge still seek to prop up the rule of Wall Street, to somehow save the system which places profit above all other values. The alternative, we are told, is socialism, which is unthinkable, so we carefully refrain from thinking about it. The danger, however, is that these attempts to save Wall Street may only exacerbate the crisis, leading to a resurgence of neo-fascism, which will be sold to us as the only way out.

So this is an important time, because we can all see that the emperor is naked. There is a lot of anger against Wall Street right now, and that’s a very healthy thing. This anger needs to build into a demand for economic justice in which the mass of working people are released from the vise of this destructive and criminal system. Thieves must be identified as thieves and their ill-gotten gains taken from them, through taxation or other means, and redistributed downwards. Yes, I’m talking about spreading the wealth to the people who actually created the wealth—us. Our work created our country’s wealth. The bankers and speculators did not create their own wealth; they gambled ours. And lost. The vast sums devoted to military dominance need also to be redirected to our real needs—housing, education, health, infrastructure. Our anger at Wall Street can be a fuel to ignite these demands. They are not only reasonable, but necessary for the survival of our republic.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Numbers Don't Lie

African Americans make up 13% of America’s population. The population of the American prison system, on the other hand, is roughly 50% African American.

The very first conclusion I draw from this fact is that our judicial system, within which I would include law enforcement and corrections, is institutionally racist. To put it another way, white supremacy is built into the judicial system as it operates today.

This is only the first conclusion. From there it is necessary to determine how we are to proceed in order to remedy the situation.

Unfortunately, only those people who are willing to consider the possibility that the status quo involves injustice will even come to this first conclusion. There is a sizeable and quite powerful segment of Americans, particularly in right-wing conservative circles, and more generally in the political establishment, who are unwilling to ever concede that the status quo involves injustice. Especially when it comes to race and race relations, these conservatives and establishment figures are determined to deny that there is anything wrong or unjust about American institutions, laws, or economic structures.

There is really no subtlety or nuance involved here, although the right wing has spent years trying to make it seem so. The simple question in this case is: why should the 13% of the population who are black furnish half of the prison population?

Once we’ve eliminated the possibility of chronic institutional racism, I would argue that the only other explanation is that there is something inherently wrong with African Americans—in other words, that they are racially inferior.

Since the civil rights movement, it has become less acceptable to maintain an intellectual position of white supremacy in public. Instead, conservatives have resorted to insinuations, code words, winks and nudges, directed at possible white constituencies who will respond with predictable fear and hatred, and then dutifully elect “tough” or “law and order” candidates.

Trying to reason from cause and effect is only a delaying tactic. If blacks are more likely to commit crimes, then why? Because of their race? Or does economic racism necessarily increase crime within the minority community? To admit the latter is impossible for the right-wingers, so they talk ad nauseam about personal responsibility, hoping you’ll forget about the lopsided statistics and settle into a complacent moralism. Nothing needs to be done, in other words, except wag our fingers at the poor black people and tell them to behave better.

The overrated gasbag Daniel Moynihan, a Democrat, began the fashion of blaming the problem on “culture.” African Americans had developed a dysfunctional culture, which led to single-parent families, drugs, and crime. Again, this begs the question, why? Are blacks simply racially predisposed to create inferior forms of culture? National Socialist doctrine, I would remind you, focused almost exclusively on culture as an indication of racial purity or impurity. The Jew’s culture was a primary threat to the German people, even more than Jewish money or politics. To try to explain racial disparity in terms of culture is to simply switch the terms of white supremacist arguments so that they sound more tolerant and civilized. We want to help these people develop a healthier culture, you see, so that they can succeed. At the same time, we don’t need to examine our judicial system or economic system with a critical eye, since the problem is “cultural.”

Every couple of decades or so, some white “scientist” or “researcher” will come out with a book or a study that proves statistically that blacks are inferior to whites. In 1994 we had a book called The Bell Curve, which actually created serious discussion and controversy. It was simply a resurrection of old fallacies in new and more sophisticated language, and mucked up with a lot of complex and ambiguous hedging about genes and intelligence and how that translated into “success.” Like the reemergence of the national id after years of attempted sublimation, white supremacist assumptions periodically resurface in order to justify the status quo.

This need to justify the status quo at all costs is a prevalent and widely held compulsion that applies across a wide range of issues besides race. It makes serious evaluation of our problems extremely difficult.

I ask again, then, and in this case the subject is racism: why are 50% of American prison inmates black, when black people are only 13% of our population? If you can’t start with the word “racism” (and then move from there into substantive discussions about how to change our society), I guarantee that you will end up twisting your mind into knots, all so that you don’t have to admit the problem—in short, so that you can stay comfortably asleep.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Not Important

Rush Limbaugh says he hopes Obama will fail. Limbaugh says that Obama is unqualified. Limbaugh, blaugh, blaugh, blaugh. How do I know this? Because it’s reported on the news. Apparently, Rush Limbaugh is news. He has a radio show, you see, a conservative radio show, and, uh, it’s newsworthy.

Yeah, AM radio. That’s where it’s happening. That’s what all the kids are listening to. Hannity and O’Reilly and Lou Dobbs and lots of other guys have radio shows. AM radio shows. That’s the wave of the future, you know. AM. When I’m tired of listening to good music with good sound quality, there’s nothing I like better than to turn on the crackling old AM and listen to some bellicose ignoramus raving and whining about whatever he happens to be hating on that day. Mmm, good.

These people that report on what Rush Limbaugh says apparently think that he is significant. I’d like to know how some fucking tub of lard on AM radio gets to be significant. Honestly, these shows are the most boring piles of shit in the universe. I can predict every single thing on them. Everything is the fault of liberals. Nothing is ever the fault of conservatives. Liberals are a priori wrong on anything, no exceptions. Even if conservatives have controlled the White House for the last eight years, and the Congress for twelve out of the last fourteen years, none of the problems we have are attributable to them. It’s always someone else’s fault.

That’s it. I’ve summed up the content of every single AM right wing “talk” show in a paragraph. It never varies. Anyone who can listen to this crap day after day, year after year, and not be bored out of his skull, is lower than a moron. He’s a sheep.

Rush Limbaugh is over, and deep down he knows it. The more these parasites lose, the crazier they get. Look for even more insane blubbering in the months to come, and look for it to be reported on as if it mattered. It does not matter. The cretins sitting home during the day listening to AM radio are dying. People are turning away from the putrid stink of wingnuttery in record numbers. There are actual problems that ordinary people are faced with, and fat ugly demagogues have nothing to offer them but more of the same ignorant rubbish. Eventually even the media will stop paying attention to Rush Limbaugh, and then he and his friends will dissipate into the air like yesterday’s fart.