We are Hanno Beck, Lindy Davies, Fred Foldvary, Mike O'Mara, Jeff Smith, and assorted volunteers, all dedicated to bringing you the news and views that make a difference in our species struggle to win justice, prosperity, and eco-librium.
Bush Administration Tells Taxpayers to Pay for Mining Companies’ Toxic Pollution
Unlimited Toxic Waste Dumps Allowed on Public Lands
Mining corporations, many of which are not even American, receive huge welfare handouts from U.S. taxpayers in the form of access to public land at far less than the market value. Billions of dollars’ worth of precious metals and other natural resources have been taken from public land, without any compensation to U.S. taxpayers.
Now in a new development, instead of reforming this scandalous situation, the Bush administration is making it even worse by telling mining corporations they can pollute public lands without liability — the full cost and liability hits the taxpayers instead.
Bush Administration Bestows Special Privilege at Huge Taxpayer Cost
A new opinion issued by the Bush administration will permit unlimited toxic waste dumping by companies that mine for gold, silver, copper and other precious metals on public lands owned by U.S. taxpayers.
Interior Secretary Gale Norton was pressured by members of Congress sympathetic to the National Mining Association to have the new opinion issued by the Interior Department Solicitors Office.
The decision nullifies a limit reflected in federal mining law, which was reinforced by a previous decision issued in 1997.
Negotiated behind closed doors between the Bush administration and Americas most toxic industry, this outrageous reversal directs the government to quit enforcing existing federal law, said Steve DEsposito of Mineral Policy Center.
Added DEsposito: It puts clean water and community health at increased risk, with an open invitation to dump massive quantities of toxic mining waste on unlimited amounts of our public lands.
More toxic waste is produced by hardrock mining than any other industry in America, as shown by the industrys own reports to EPA. 2.8 billion pounds of toxic waste were produced by hardrock mines in 2001including 366 million pounds of arsenic, 355 million pounds of lead and 4 million pounds of mercuryaccording to the most recent numbers released last month by EPA.
Americas federal mining law was written in 1872 to encourage homesteading in the American West. For each 20-acre mining claim, the law allows 5 additional millsite acres for activities ancillary to mining. In 1872, a millsite provided room for equipment to process newly-extracted ore.
But modern mining techniques and pollution are dramatically more dangerous and toxic now. Chemical leach technology, widespread since the 1970s, uses poisons like cyanide to extract trace amounts of metal from tons of earth. Millsites are now used for dumping these giant piles of waste rock and tailings contaminated with poisons like cyanide and massive amounts of heavy metals like arsenic, lead and mercury.
Now mining companies, seeking more public land for dumping toxic waste rock, have succeeded in pressuring the Bush administration into lifting the 5-to-20 ratio established under the mining law.
The new opinion issued by Deputy Solicitor Roderick Walston directly contradicts an opinion issued in 1997 by then-Solicitor John Leshy, which stated the millsite provision of 5 acres for each claim should be enforced. Leshys opinion gave federal land managers the ability to deny mine permits in cases where hardrock mines proposed dumping excessive amounts of waste on public lands.
Leshy said: President Bush is trying hard to paint himself as a moderate on the environment. There is nothing moderate about capitulating to the hardrock industrys request for an unlimited legal right to dump polluting waste on our public lands.
Here is a wide-ranging declaration from the Global March Against Child Labour.
Every day children are born into a world where racism and discrimination limit their future choices. Children from minority and indigenous groups and from lower castes are denied the right to an adequate quality education and a happy childhood, solely due to their race, ethnicity, colour, caste, or social origin. Instead many have to work under atrocious conditions as bonded labourers, child servants and child prostitutes. These unfortunate children are caught behind invisible walls of ignorance, discrimination and hatred.
Racial discrimination and child labour perpetuate each other. The children of minority and indigenous communities are born into a vicious cycle of poverty in which they are forced to work since their parents cannot afford their education and depend on their extra income. Denied their right to education, these children are bound to stay illiterate and vulnerable unless we take action to break the cycle of poverty and provide them with an empowering education. These children, and in turn their own children, will all be victims of discrimination unless we face this challenge now.
We strongly feel that quality education for all children without discrimination is an essential way to eliminate racism and other forms of discrimination. Moreover, special emphasis should be given to the situation of minority children within the broader efforts to end child labour.
Therefore, the Global March Against Child Labour calls for:
** The world community to recognise that child labour and denial of education are vital links in the chain that perpetuates racism and discrimination
** Civil society to eradicate the belief among majority social, ethnic and racial groups that minority children are born merely to work
** ILO, UNICEF, UNHCHR and other UN Agencies to make the elimination of child labour of minority children one of their top priorities for action
** National commissions against racism and other forms of discrimination to address child labour among minority children as one of their key issues
** National programmes for the elimination of child labour to pay particular attention to protecting minority children from child labour and providing them with quality education
** Organisations fighting against racism and other forms of discrimination to make special efforts to prevent child labour and the denial of education to children of minority groups
** Governments and communities to make all possible efforts to ensure that the children of minority groups fully enjoy their right to quality education, including: addressing inequalities in funding, training, and support for schools in areas dominated by minority groups; addressing the issue of high drop-out rates among students from minorities; ending the use of corporal punishment in school, noting that it has been selectively used to suppress minority children; ensuring the full enforcement of compulsory education laws, noting that the non-compliance with these laws leaves minority children outside the education system; providing anti-racism training for teachers to ensure that no child is discriminated against at school; teaching all students to understand and respect racial, social, ethnic and religious differences; providing scholarships and financial assistance as needed to support the education of children from minority groups
** Governments to enact and enforce strict penalties to deter employers from using children of minority groups as a source of cheap labour
** Governments to take effective action to remove racism and bias among labour inspectors, and to appoint and empower representatives of minority groups as child protection officers to prevent the exploitation of minority children
** Governments and civil society to eradicate the practice of using children from minority groups as domestic servants, noting that it perpetuates a belief of superiority among children and adults of the majority group and feelings of subservience among children of the minority group
** Governments and civil society to inform all children of minority groups of their rights as children and human beings, and to establish effective mechanisms for them to defend those rights
** Governments to uphold their promise to provide rehabilitation, education and financial assistance as needed for children from minority groups removed from the worst forms of child labour
** ILO and UNHCHR to research and publish a report on the exploitation of children of minority groups as child labourers
** National census surveys and other research efforts to report on the exploitation of minority children as child labourers
** Media to investigate the economic exploitation of minority children and bring this issue to the attention of the public
** IMF and World Bank to be held accountable for their policies and actions that perpetuate child labour and lead to the exploitation of minority children
** Governments to give priority to promoting employment opportunities and the economic development of families of minority groups
** Governments to report annually on the per capita amount spent on education and social services for minority children, and to ensure that this is no less than the amount spent on children of the majority groups
** All governments and people to pledge that children from minority groups will enjoy their full rights as the children of one united human race
The Global March Against Child Labour represents over 2,000 partners in 140 countries.
What’s your opinion on this declaration? Did it leave anything out, or did it say too much? What’s the next step? Tell your views to The Progress Report!
I was in South Africa from February 28 to March 6, 2005, for a conference on the enclosure and control of space. The presentations focused on the gated communities of South Africa. I had an opportunity to talk with people during and after the conference about the country’s economy.
I visited the Museum of Apartheid, which presents the horrors inflicted on the non-white population by the supremacist nationalists. Many South Africans consider it a miracle that after the fall of the apartheid of white-folks supremacy, the country was blessed with leaders such as Nelson Mandela who fostered a constitution of reconciliation, equality, and human rights.
The economy of South Africa has much in its favor. There is a developed infrastructure of highways, cities, and communications. The educated people have mostly remained in the country. South Africa continues to profit from its mining, agriculture, and industry.
However, violent crime poses a threat everywhere. The relatively wealthier population, which includes those who enjoy a standard of living comparable to that of the USA or Western Europe, has had to wall itself off from theft and assault. In every residential area I was in, homes were protected all around by high walls and fences. Typically, above the wall there is an electrified fence. Almost all homes are also protected by ‘armed response’ security firms.
Many neighborhoods have also enclosed their space. If two-thirds of the residents approve, the residents form an neighborhood association, erect walls around it, and create controlled access. There is often a boom across a guarded entrance, and the identity of cars is recorded. Some wealthier communities are entirely private, in which case a non-member may enter only with permission.
The enclosures are controversial, since the streets remain public. Some South Africans think there should be compete freedom of movement, with no barriers to neighborhoods, while others claim they have a right to security. Both rights are in the constitution.
Why is there so much fear and crime in South Africa? Poverty and unemployment do not necessarily cause crime, but in the culture and historical context of South Africa, much of the violent crime is induced by poverty. The official unemployment rate is 40 percent.
The main cause of unemployment in South Africa is labor laws, backed by the labor unions, including minimum wage laws and laws restricting the dismissal of workers. Priced out of the market, many who had worked on farms came pouring into the cities. But in the cities too, the cost of unskilled labor was often higher than its contribution to output. Blocked from labor markets, desperate people resorted to crime.
Taxes on production contribute to the high unemployment. South Africa has an income tax and a value added tax. These reduce production and investment, and so decrease employment. The largest city, Johannesburg, benefitted from having the property tax be only on the land value, but new laws will make the property tax based on the total value, building and land, and will reduce construction and growth, further hampering the labor market.
If South Africa taxed land values and stopped taxing income, value added, and buildings, unemployment would fall and wages would rise. This tax shift, plus greater police protection from violent crime, would surely bring crime down. But such as shift is politically impossible in South Africa. The ruling party has wide support, and opposition to its policies is not welcome by many.
South Africans could bring on wider prosperity without waiting for the national government to change the law. Another approach would be to promote more private communities and replace governmental services with those provided by neighborhood associations. The financing of private communities is based on levies that are essentially site rentals. If most of South Africa was in private communities, the association levies could be used to provide worker dividends to employers, reducing their cost of labor, and so reducing unemployment and crime.
Cry, beloved South Africa, because you have created fiscal apartheid. You have separated labor and capital from its product. The wage is segregated, some going to government, some to the worker. There is land-rent apartheid, splitting the country into landed rent takers and the non-landed rent payers. The rentals generated by government works gets redistributed to privileged landowners, while only a little is used to pay for those works.
Fiscal apartheid is less visible than racial apartheid, but in the end, fiscal apartheid is as brutal and unjust. Just as Henry George forecast, there are new barbarians created when they are deprived of liberty and economic justice. Cry, o beloved South Africa, because just as Argentina cries from having descended from wealth to poverty, your gold and education will not save you from deterioration and destruction in the end if you persist in bad economic policy.
South Africa could implement a deeper equality and honoring of human rights by adopting true free trade. Let labor be proudly free, unshackled by taxation, minimum wage laws, and dismissal protections. Let industry be free of taxes and restrictions. Let the land truly belong to all South Africans by tapping its value for public revenue and citizen’s dividends. Then the house walls could come tumbling down, because crime would only come from greed, not need.
Copyright 2005 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
Hearing in the news lately about possible new hope for the Peace Process in the Holy Land, I got to thinking about the pressure the world places on the long-suffering real estate of Jerusalem, and the people who live there. No one could doubt the holiness of that place, but I can’t help but feel that the focus is too intense — that it’s unhealthy, somehow, to expect just one place to bear the weight of so many hopes and passions.
I don’t doubt that sacred sites exist. There’s just too much evidence — well, evidence is not the right word, is it? There’s just too much phenomenological data, anyway, that certain places in this world of ours are imbued with spiritual power. “Power spots” exist. I can’t prove it, of course — we’re talking about things of the Spirit — but I have been privileged to visit a few of them, and I can report my own experiences.
The Glastonbury Tor in England, with its uncanny winds, is undeniable. And I confess an overpowering awe in the face of Sandia Mountain, just north of Albuquerque. But the most powerful spot in my little life was a little hill on Central Ohio, right off of a golf course, outside the little town of Granville. I had become a sort of local history buff during my college years, and had read about the ancient Indian mounds in the area. One of the lesser-known of these mounds was on this hill near the golf course. It was called “Alligator Hill”, having the character of what archaeologists term an “effigy mound”.
The description of this Mound’s location was very clear, and I was pretty sure I was in the right place, but I saw no alligator. I went back a second time (it was a rather pleasant two-mile walk from the campus) and saw some undulations in the ground, perhaps, but no effigy. Disappointed, but still up for a good spring walk, I went back once more. I jogged up the hillside, stood catching my breath and…
Bam! There it was. It looked more like a ‘possum to me — the tail was coiled, much longer than an alligator’s — but there it was, an unmistakable four-legged creature sculpted out of the earth beneath my feet. It was about fifty feet long, and it lay — it suddenly became clear to me — atop a hill that was more perfectly conical than any other hill around: a work, not of nature, but of craft. And yet of nature, too because the way the shape teased my eye, and finally revealed itself, couldn’t possibly have been part of the original builders’ design. From that day forward, I have not doubted that “power spots” exist.
There might be a temptation in some circles to believe that such places have supernatural powers; that they are foci of such energies as arise in, say, the Lost Ark of the Indiana Jones moves. However, I think there’s an important distinction to be made between the supernatural and the spiritual. If we’re talking about physical forces, things that can make Nazi faces melt and stuff, then in a sense there really is no such thing as “supernatural”, is there? It’s just a matter of forces and reactions that have yet to be described objectively. Whatever the spiritual may be, it isn’t that. The spirit “passeth all understanding” — being inherently beyond the reach of scientific description: “such knowledge is too wonderful for me”. This leads many people to deny its existence — which, of course, is fine, too.
In any case, every culture in the world has a tradition of holy places. Some are renowned, and remain hallowed; others are callously profaned (I must report, with sadness, that a condo development was coughed up right around that Ohio site sometime during the 1990s. When I last visited, I didn’t have the heart to hike back there to see whether the mound itself was still intact, or had joined the hundreds of ancient effigies that had been plowed under over the years.) Others exist in a kind of limbo somewhere in between numinous eternity and the vagaries of modern real estate. Sandia Mountain, for example, is owned by the Indians of Sandia Pueblo, who lease it to the National Forest Service, who sub-lease to a private contractor the right to operate a tram and restaurant on the mountain. A Rube-Goldberg arrangement to be sure, but one that maintains the mountain’s habitat with some respect, and allows a non-mountaineer like me to be Wowed by the place.
In India there are tree shrines, small prayer-chambers that have been built into — and over the slow unfolding of years have become inseparable parts of — the roots of great trees.
In England there are stone rings, lesser cousins of Stongehenge, rising, weird and ancient, out of sheep pastures; their astrological meaning only dimly seen, if at all.
Langston Hughes wrote, “I’ve known rivers — ancient, dusky rivers. My soul has grown deep like the rivers.”
The more I think about the existence of holy places, the more I’m drawn to the Native American view, as most famously articulated by Chief Seattle in his 1854 speech (the real one, not the Hollywood version):
Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every hillside, every valley, every clearing and wood, is holy in the memory and experience of my people. Even those unspeaking stones along the shore are loud with events and memories in the life of my people. The ground beneath your feet responds more lovingly to our steps than yours, because it is the ashes of our grandfathers. Our bare feet know the kindred touch. The earth is rich with the lives of our kin.
For Seattle, as for many, many people in the world who share a pre-real-estate view of life, the existence of sites with concentrated spiritual power does not deny the sacredness of all the land. That, I believe, is a very important insight, something that should always be remembered in a climate of tit-for-tat shrine-burnings. I mean no disrespect to the undeniable spiritual importance of The Dome of the Rock, or the Ka-ba, or Church of St. John — but it may be that when the human heart is open, it can worship and find peace on any street corner, or its own backyard. Surely we mustn’t make “access to holy places” an excuse to kill each other. Perhaps the stones may yet actually weep.
Top Socialist Admitted Need for Henry George’s Reform
Norman Thomas is the man who ran national campaigns for President more times than anyone else. Thomas also did more to popularize socialist ideas in the USA than anyone else. Although The Progress Report opposes socialism, we find many of Thomas’ views to be worth note. Here is an excerpt from his 1951 book, A Socialist’s Faith.
I am less puzzled by British socialist difficulties with wage problems than by Labour s neglect in promise and performance of that nationalization of land long dear to the heart of British socialists. For a good many years, British socialists and laborites were inclined to accept the Henry George principle of the expropriation of the rental value of land by a tax as the primary element in asserting social claim to land. But almost nothing has been heard of it under the Labour government.
Yet from all sorts of angles the land problem is pressing in Britain. For centuries it was preeminently true in that country, as Lloyd George used to say, that to prove one s legal title to land one must trace it back to the man who stole it. Highhanded land enclosures in the eighteenth century were a major factor in driving landless men into the factories. Land ownership is still highly concentrated.
At the same time in that crowded island land is scarce and precious. It is needed for conflicting purposes. Much good agricultural land must be sacrificed to the growth of urban areas and the desire of the people for well-ordered suburbs. More is necessary to supply parks and recreation for a growing population. At the same time, an increase of the domestic supply of food is vital. These problems are interrelated yet the tendency has been to treat agriculture and town and country planning as separate matters.
In both fields something good has been done. The theory and practice of town and country planning are far more advanced than in the United States, and theoretically at least the government has asserted the right of the nation to the unearned increment arising from the future development of land.
In agriculture much power was given to the Minister of Agriculture in the interests of a program of stability and efficiency. All parties in Britain have agreed to controls to achieve these ends which have been bitterly and often unfairly attacked by American critics in the name of free enterprise. There has been genuine improvement in agricultural production, despite some irritation at bureaucratic control. There has not been the correlation one would expect between the Ministry of Food and the Ministry of Agriculture. By and large a final socialist answer to Britain s land problem is yet to be found.
On this complicated subject I refer readers to Robert Brady: Crisis in Britain, Plans and Achievements of the Labour Government (University of California), a mine of information apparently fairly presented; I do not, however, wholly agree with the author’s standards of judgment or his application of them.
Is Mr. Thomas clear, or muddled? What is the main point? Tell The Progress Report!
Let’s end the embargo and have free trade with Cuba. There is no military reason for the trade embargo. The policy of using trade barriers as a tool to push the Cuban government towards more democracy has not been working. The embargo violates the liberty of U.S. citizens in the name of trying to induce more liberty in Cuba. Politics, not justice, is the real reason for the embargo.
The Clinton administration has sent mixed signals about its policy towards Cuba. With one had it has liberalized sending private aid to Cuba, and with the other hand, it has blocked the entry of Cubans to an academic conference titled “A Dialogue with Cuba,” held in Berkeley on March 19-21. The main barriers against trade and travel have been put in place by Congress, and the anti-trade lobby will make any reform politically difficult this year. However, if the courts were doing their job properly, they would uphold a challenge to the embargo as violating the Constitutional rights of U.S. citizens to engage in trade abroad. And a proper jury system would let U.S. citizens, not government authorities, decide if the embargo is just.
It was announced on March 20 that the Clinton administration will allow direct flights to Cuba and let family members in the United States send up to $1200 per household in medicine, clothes, and cash to relatives in Cuba. This liberalization, reversing bans imposed in 1996, was criticized by members of Congress representing Cuban exiles opposed to the Castro regime. Administration officials stated that this relaxation of restrictions was a response to the visit to Cuba in January by Pope John Paul II. Aid previously had to be sent via other countries such as Canada, so this mainly makes it less expensive to send funds and visit.
The Conference at the University of California in Berkeley was labelled the first major public dialogue between Cubans and Americans. This year, 1998, is also the 100th anniversary of the Spanish-American War, during which the U.S. took possession of Cuba from Spain. The U.S. occupation is documented in the postage of that era, when in 1899, U.S. stamps were overprinted with “CUBA” for use there. An independent republic was then set up by the U.S. military, which lasted until 1959, when Castro took control and brought Cuba into the Soviet rubric. The U.S. government then enacted an embargo on trade and investment in Cuba, which has continued for 35 years. Under the 1996 Helms-Burton Act, passed after two airplanes flown by anti-Castro activists were shot down in Cuba, the embargo may not be lifted without the approval of Congress, and Clinton’s liberalization may be challenged as violating that Act.
Yet while private aid was being liberalized, the U.S. State Department denied visas to 12 out of the 20 Cubans who were invited to participate in the Berkeley conference. Some of those blocked from entry were members of Cuba’s National Assembly, but others were scholars. Six of the Cubans banned from attending were able to provide video tapes of their presentations. State Department officials cited a directive of 1985 by President Reagan banning visits to the U.S. by members of the Cuban government and Communist Party. The conference was also criticized by some members of Congress for not including opponents of the Castro regime, while other members supported the conference. It seems inconsistent to liberalize aid while stifling academic dialogue with Cuba.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce favors lifting the embargo. Trade would benefit U.S. business and consumers as well as the Cubans. The rationale for the embargo that it pushes Cuba towards democracy is contradicted by the U.S. position that trading with China helps open up that country to liberalizing influences. U.S. trade policy is contradictory. The real reason for the embargo is the strong anti-Castro lobby in Congress. Since Cuba is not a military threat to the U.S., a citizen of the United States has a Constitutional right to trade with people in Cuba, a right that ought to be recognized by U.S Courts. It is therefore not just Congress, but the U.S. Courts and the lack of a proper jury system that maintains the unwise, counter-productive, and long obsolete embargo on investment, travel, and trade with Cuba.
What’s your opinion about trade with Cuba? Tell The Progress Report what you think! Copyright 1998 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieveal system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
Broadcast Station Owners are Corporate Welfare Queens
BROADCASTERS CELEBRATE BIG GAINS FROM VIOLENCE AND GREED
by Norman Solomon
Does America have a military-industrial-media complex?
Whether you consider the question in terms of psychology or economics, some grim answers are available from the National Association of Broadcasters, a powerful industry group that just held its radio convention in San Francisco.
When a recent Federal Trade Commission report faulted media companies for marketing violence to children, various politicians expressed outrage. But we’ve heard little about the NAB — a trade association with a fitting acronym. The NAB has a notable record of nabbing the public airwaves for private gain.
Nearly 40 years ago, a farewell speech by President Dwight Eisenhower warned about the “conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry.” He said: “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” That potential has been realized, with major help from media.
Rather than scrutinize the merchants of militarism, large news organizations have been inclined to embrace them. In some cases, as with General Electric and NBC, the arms contractor and the network owner are one and the same. The Pentagon’s key vendors can rest assured that big TV and radio outlets will function much more as allies than adversaries.
On television, the recruitment ads for the armed forces symbolize the cozy — and lucrative — ties between the producers of fantasy violence and the planners of massive carnage. Military leaders have good reasons to appreciate the nation’s entertainment media for encouraging public acceptance of extreme violence.
In practice, big money rules the airwaves, and that’s the way the NAB likes it. The industry is swinging its mighty lobbying arm to knock down a proposal — approved by the Federal Communications Commission — to license low-power radio stations. The specter of community-based “microbroadcasting” worries the NAB, which sees wealth and privilege as vital preconditions for control of broadcast frequencies.
But the NAB has championed some new laws, like the landmark Telecommunications Act of 1996 that made it possible for a single corporation to own several radio stations in the same city — and hundreds of stations across the country. Now, more than ever, cookie-cutter stations from coast to coast are beaming identical syndicated garbage to millions of listeners.
With autumn getting underway, the NAB convention’s keynote speaker was a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “Colin Powell is a true national hero,” said NAB’s president.
Powell won great media acclaim for overseeing the Gulf War slaughter of Iraqi people — 200,000 of them in a six-week period, according to a Pentagon estimate. At the time, America’s broadcasters and their cable television colleagues presented the bloodshed as a glorious exercise of military prowess — rendered on TV screens as dramatic video games.
Political bluster tells us that children should not be desensitized by media images of simulated violence — but it’s A-OK to depict the real thing as a big feather in the nation’s patriotic cap. The military-industrial-media complex takes its toll with deeply ingrained patterns of newspeak and doublethink. Orwell recognized such patterns long ago.
American media’s high comfort level with sanctioned violence — imaginary or real — has a numbing effect on people of all ages. Meanwhile, the dominant weave of propaganda and militarism is, for some, a brocade embossed with gold.
Since September 1998, Powell has been on the management board of America Online. Nine months ago, the retired general voted with other members of the board to approve AOL’s purchase of Time Warner.
Gen. Powell holds AOL stock options worth $13.3 million. His son Michael Powell — one of the five FCC commissioners — has refused to recuse himself from the agency’s pending vote on whether to approve the merger of AOL and Time Warner.
Dissent was not on the agenda at the NAB convention. But I was glad to be among more than a thousand people who protested nearby, in the streets of San Francisco, to confront the dire centralization of media ownership.
Articles probing the current clout of America’s broadcast industry are posted at www.mediademocracynow.org — a website that’s unlikely to be mentioned on the national airwaves. One of the most insidious prerogatives of radio and TV giants is that they largely filter out news about challenges to their own power.
Norman Solomon is a syndicated columnist. His latest book “The Habits of Highly Deceptive Media.”
How would you challenge the NAB monopolists? Tell your fellow readers!
Below is the text of a radio broadcast by the Justice Party in Australia. The concepts apply everywhere.
Consider how a tariff operates. Suppose that you require certain goods, and that they can be obtained for overseas at a price of 100, while a local manufacturer cannot sell them at less than 130. Then a pressure group induces the Government to impose a customs duty on the imported article so that its final cost to you is 150. No doubt you will buy the local product for 130 instead of paying the 150. Note that it is you, the consumer, who pay the tariff, and not, as we are often told, the foreigner.
[Meanwhile, the domestic producer is not encouraged to improve, to upgrade, to better compete with the foreign producer. Instead, the domestic producer becomes flabby and dependent on government handouts.]
From the national viewpoint it is the burden on our primary industries which forms the most serious effect of those high tariffs which in many cases encourage uneconomical and inefficient secondary industries. Labour and materials are diverted to our sheltered secondary industries when they could be more profitably utilised in our rural industries.
But it is not only primary producers who are exploited by the tariff. In the year 1951-52, 100 million pounds were collected by the Australian Government in customs duties, but this does not by any means represent the total taken from the pockets of you, the consumers. Wholesalers and retailers must make their profit on the tariff taxes, while local manufacturers take advantage of the tariff and exchange to raise the price of goods that they produce in Australia. Actually, it has been estimated that with tariff taxes, for every 4% taken from the consumer only 1% reaches the Government Treasury. The time for revising this inefficient method of collecting revenue is long overdue.
Remember, that before any Customs duty is imposed, 25 per cent. exchange is added to invoice price; then after the tariff tax there is, in many cases, primage tax. In addition there are overseas freight (about 15 per cent.), insurance and other costs. No wonder the purchasing power of consumers is diminishing! We are often told that Protection is Australia’s settled policy, but unless we are careful, Protection will have “settled” Australia.
Cordell Hull’s words are terribly true. “If goods are not allowed to pass frontiers, sooner or later armies will.” It is time that we grasped that this globe is fundamentally one world, and that total economic self-sufficiency is both impractical and undesirable.
The Justice Party stands for the progressive reduction of tariff barriers which benefit only a privileged minority, which exploit the vast majority of consumers, which often entail serious economic inefficiency, and which not only promote ill-feeling but indeed sow the seeds of war among the nations.
Free trade means removing special privileges. Nowadays, so-called “free trade” is often a code word for protecting special privileges! We need true free trade. What’s your opinion? Tell your views to The Progress Report!
New Report: Tax Policy Can Preserve Environment, Cut Pesticide Use
There is more to agriculture than just pouring toxic chemicals all over the land. A modernized agriculture, with less pesticide use, is actually stronger economically.
Friends of the Earth and other organizations have released a “Green Watchdog” report, calling for higher taxes on environmentally-destructive practices.
California’s farmers struggle with plummeting prices and fierce competition. According to a new report, “Healthy, Fair and Profitable: A Win-Win Pesticide Policy”, released as part of the Green Watchdog project, California’s lagging farm sector could actually improve its economic situation by reducing use of pesticides.
Every year farmers shell out more money for increasingly expensive pesticides in a hopeless race against insects that grow more resistant with each application. Meanwhile, demand for certified organic and non genetically modified foods is skyrocketing due to growing concern about the dangers of pesticides and rising global political opposition to bio-engineering.
Economist Gary Wolff’s analysis of rising costs of pesticide use and successful experiments in pesticide reduction suggests that farmers could actually save money by reducing pesticide use. The report also considers organic product markets and concludes that there is tremendous potential for the economic future of California agriculture in a transition to practices that reduce or eliminate pesticide use.
The new state budget is under severe pressure, and funding for the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) is unstable. Pesticide regulation costs California taxpayers over 30 million dollars annually. These costs do not include higher costs of pesticide-related damage to health and the environment.
The new report recommends a two-part policy: create market incentives to reduce pesticide use by increasing pesticide (“mill”) fees, and use the fee revenue to fully fund the DPR and invest in education and transition to sustainable practices. The state should consider cutting-edge clean agricultural technology a worthwhile investment, instead of continuing to subsidize harmful practices.
The Green Watchdog project which includes Friends of the Earth, Green Capitol, the Pacific Institute, the California Tax Reform Association and others will be recommending these policy changes to the Department of Pesticide Regulation, and to the state legislature in the coming year.
Which makes more sense, subsidizing the use of pesticides, or taxing their use? Will people listen to the Green Watchdog report? Tell your opinion to the Progress Report!
Bush Administration Continues Fight Against Free Market
The Bush administration is harming Alabama by cutting its ability to do business with Cubans. Why would it pursue such a stupid policy?
Here is an editorial that appeared recently in the Montgomery Advertiser (Alabama, U.S.).
Cuba cash rule bad for state
Anyone looking for an example of how a bureaucratic decision in Washington can have a powerful impact on a state will find one in this week’s lamentable decision by the Treasury Department to change the rules on U.S. sales to Cuba. This decision will hurt Alabama, which is beginning to develop a significant trade relationship with Cuba.
For 40 years, Washington imposed a trade embargo on Cuba in what proved to be one of the least successful foreign policy maneuvers in history. The intent was to weaken the communist regime of Fidel Castro, still the president of the island nation nearly half a century after the revolution he led there toppled the previous government.
It failed miserably. Clearly, Castro himself never suffered and the only harm done was to the Cuban people. Finally, in 2000, the policy was altered to allow sales of agricultural and medical products.
That opened a long-closed door for Alabama, where the state’s economy is a good fit for trade with Cuba. Two of the things Cuba most needs to import are also major elements of Alabama’s economy — forest products and poultry.
The port of Mobile is another natural for trade with Cuba. It allows easy shipment of Alabama products there, as well as products from other states.
This is not some minor market. A trade mission to Cuba in December resulted in $18 million in arranged sales of Alabama wood and poultry products. Delegates from other states were there as well and agreements were reached for sales of $125 million in U.S. farm products. About $50 million of that will ship through the port of Mobile, according to state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks.
But this beneficial trade relationship is threatened by the Treasury Department’s unwise decision on payment practices.
Since the 2000 policy change, exporters have been permitted to ship their products to Havana Bay, then physically hand them over to Cuba once a third-party bank had transferred payment to a U.S. bank. Now, however, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control has decreed, cash payment must be made before the shipment. That is widely seen as damaging to U.S. trade prospects and as a needless bureaucratic impediment.
Back in December, when the arrangement was under review by OFAC, Sparks warned that a change in payment policies would not be good for Alabama. “It’s either Alabama fills these chicken orders or Brazil fills these chicken orders,” he said at the time. “If someone else fills these chicken orders, we’re not going to get them back.”
“Seldom has the use of food as a foreign policy weapon been successful,” said Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, who represents a major agricultural state. “The position taken by OFAC represents a policy decision that will harm both American producers and the Cuban people.”
He’s right. Payment upon transfer of title to the goods had been the accepted practice since the loosening of the embargo in 2000. There is no valid reason to change it. OFAC’s claim that it is being “steadfast in effectively administering the Cuba sanctions program to hasten freedom to the Cuban people” is absurd.
Hasten freedom? After 40 years of unrelieved failure in that effort, that argument just won’t fly.
We find the Green Party and the Libertarian Party to be the best representatives of what is good about America. However, some people consider one of the mainstream U.S. political parties to be fixable, and there is much merit in that idea.
If there is any hope for the Democratic Party in the U.S., it is to be found far from that corrupt party’s mainstream. Here is a fresh breeze of hope.
A PARTY OF LIMITED GOVERNMENT? YES, BUT NOT THE ONE YOU’RE THINKING OF
St.Joseph, Missouri, U.S. — “That government is best which governs least,” said Henry David Thoreau, an iconic figure to anti-war liberals and anti-tax conservatives alike. That sentiment is often erroneously attributed to Thomas Jefferson — third President of the United States and founder of the Democratic Party.
It’s no surprise, then, in this era of big-government Republicanism, to see libertarians rallying to the Democratic banner. “Republican politicians have talked the talk of limited government since Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign,” says Mike A. Bozarth of St. Joseph. “But after ten years of total control in Washington, they have yet to deliver. And the Democratic Party, after ten years out of power, is seeking to reinvent itself.”
That’s why Bozarth, a long-time Libertarian Party activist and columnist for the St. Joseph Telegraph and Jefferson City Telegraph, has cast his lot with the Democratic Freedom Caucus. Working with other activists around the state, Bozarth formed a Missouri affiliate of the DFC last month.
“The Democratic Party has strong libertarian roots,” says Bozarth. “Our job is to water those roots by turning out pro-freedom volunteers for Democratic campaigns, providing Democratic leaders with pro-freedom policy analysis, and bringing pro-freedom voters into a Democratic coalition that can re-shape Missouri and America.”
The DFC has existed as a national organization for several years and is experiencing strong growth in the wake of the 2004 election. While the DFC emphasizes familiar libertarian themes — smaller government, more freedom, lower taxes — it also advocates social justice and fairness in rolling back social safety nets.
“We advocate tax cuts and ending welfare,” says Thomas Knapp, 38, of St. Louis, a member of the new DFC affiliate. “But we tend to favor cutting taxes from the bottom up instead of from the top down, and to place a higher priority on ending corporate welfare than on ending the food stamp program for the working poor.”
The group is still in its formative phase, but has already begun publishing a series of policy briefs for distribution to Democratic legislators. The first such brief, delivered last week to Democratic state senators, offers a pro-business rationale for opposing SB 32, introduced by Matt Bartle (R-08). That bill would levy a $5 per customer head tax, and an additional 20% state income tax, on “sexually-oriented businesses.” The group also plans to publish a “grade card” on Missouri’s legislators, and to support Democratic candidates in the 2006 election.
The panel’s press release of Feb. 16, 2005, says that for now the panel seeks comments on the bad aspects of current taxation. If you know of specific bad aspects, do send them in. The panel asks for desirable goals. In my judgment, the goal should be to minimize the excess burden or deadweight loss of taxation, the waste of resources and loss of output, investment, and productivity caused by taxation. Send in your comments by March 18, 2005.
The panel says that for now it is not asking for specific proposals. But when it does ask for them, mine will be the following:
The sources of public revenue that do the least damage to society, and can even do some good, are user fees, pollution fines, and land rent. User fees are like market prices for services, voluntary payments based on benefits.
Any government service for which the beneficiaries can be identified should be paid for by user fees, such as a fee to get a passport. Many user fees are economically land rent paid to be in some location during some time. The fee to enter a park, for example, pays rent for the use of that area. A parking meter is really a rental paid for that street space. Use user fees whenever possible, at the amount that covers the cost. For example, fees to enter national parks should be increased so that they pay for much-needed maintenance.
The U.S. government deals with pollution mainly with regulations. This is inefficient. The government should make all polluters pay the social cost of the damage they cause. Germany does this with good effect. The federal government should tax pollution that affects a wide area, such as the atmosphere. State and local governments should tax more local pollution, such as from car exhaust. Pollution taxes could raise billions of dollars without harming the economy, because the pollution is harmful, and if polluters are not charged, they get subsidized, making others pay for their social costs.
Most economists agree that a tax on land rent is efficient in not causing any economic damage. But it gets better, because taxing land rent can even improve the economy, promoting infilling in cities and reducing development in the urban fringes. Taxes on land value are also equitable, since much of the value of land comes from government’s public works and services, and a tax on the land value repays value received from government.
It is Constitutional for the federal government to levy a direct tax on land value, apportioned by the population of the states. The federal government did this in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The land-value tax can replace federal income taxes.
The advocates of consumption or sales taxes talk as if the only tax sources are income and sales. They ignore the option of taxing land value. It would be a big mistake for the federal government to impose a national sales tax. The purpose of production is consumption. If government stifles consumption, it stifles production. Sales taxes are also hard on the poor. Why tax consumption, when the land is sitting there just waiting to be taxed?
Unlike labor, land likes to be taxed, because that puts it to its most productive use. Workers enjoy leisure, but land does not seek to go on holiday. If Mother Earth could talk, she would say, “I want all my children to benefit from my land! I want land to be useful. People need places to live and work in. Please let land do its job! Collect rent for public benefit!”
At the panel’s web site you may also subscribe to their email list for updates. Those of us who seek liberty and economic justice should take advantage of this opportunity to promote our insights. The panel meets again on March 3, 8, and 16. Let’s make the most of this rare opportunity!
Copyright 2005 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
In the midst of a record-breaking budget deficit, how vital do you think it is to hand taxpayer money out to luxury beachfront land owners, some of whom are not even American?
Here is a news update from Taxpayers for Common Sense. TCS is the best organization that monitors excessive government spending, corruption and corporate welfare.
Beach Budget Scandal
As you dream about your summer vacation, imagine stopping at the bank on your way to the beach, taking out all of your money, and dumping it into the ocean. Sound crazy? Well, that’s exactly what the Army Corps of Engineers does with millions of tax dollars every year under the federal beach renourishment program.
America’s beaches attract more than just sand crabs and surfers: they are also a magnet for the rich and famous. The American cultural elite have long flocked to the beach during the dog days of summer and increasingly, they have taken to buying beachside properties, building beachfront villas, and plastering up “No Trespassing” signs. At the same time that this building trend has intensified, America’s beaches have been doing what they always did — eroding and shifting. In an expensive exercise worthy of Sisyphus, these wealthy beach landowners have convinced Congress that pumping sand on beaches to keep their poorly placed houses from floating away should be a federal responsibility.
The Army Corps renourishment efforts are both costly and ineffective. Though it continues to seek federal funds for beach restoration year after year, the Corps knows very well that these projects are bound to fail. The agency dredges sand from offshore locations and pumps it onshore to rebuild eroded areas. But, beach erosion is a continual process, and replenishment projects serve only to temporarily keep sand from washing back out to sea.
Today, from Florida to New York to California, Corps restoration projects are increasingly becoming the primary “solution” to beach erosion — which is a problem only when private developers built too close to the coastline and are at high risk for hurricane and storm damage. Beach rebuilding is now the fastest growing area of the Corps’ work. In New Jersey, the Corps has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to dredge sand from the ocean floor and dump it on miles of coastline. Experts agree that virtually no beach replenishment program has lasted more than five years without costly rebuilding efforts — in New Jersey, most of the Corps work eroded within three years. In one case, more than half of a 350-foot wide beach all but washed away.
Beach lovers might argue that the replenishment program is necessary so Americans can continue to spend summer vacations at the beach. But who really benefits from beach restoration? Homeowners benefit from increased property values and communities might benefit from increased property taxes and tourism. But, even though public access is the law on replenished shorelines and federal taxpayers have spent hundreds of million on beach renourishment, some cities and towns that willingly receive the federal subsidy are creatively blocking “outsiders” from using “their” beach.
Efforts by the Clinton and Bush administrations to reduce the federal beach building program have been met with fierce resistance by New Jersey and Florida lawmakers who are unwilling to give up millions in federal dollars. Both administrations argued that popular coastal areas can and should pay the majority of replenishment costs because they are the ones who benefit economically. The 2006 budget continues this trend by saying that repetitive renourishment of beaches should be a local responsibility. The Bush administration has requested only $46 million for these types of projects, less than half of what the Congress provided last year.
Taxpayers need to put a message in a bottle, and cast it down the Potomac to Capitol Hill: draw a line in the sand and stop sending our hard-earned tax dollars out to sea.
For more information, contact Keith Ashdown at (202)-546-8500 ext. 110 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org TCS is at www.taxpayer.net
The world would be better off if people tried to become better,
And people would become better if they stopped trying to be better off.
For when everyone tries to become better off nobody is better off.
But when everyone tries to become better everyone is better off.
Everybody would be rich if nobody tried to become richer.
And nobody would be poor if everybody tried to be the poorest
And everybody would be what he ought to be if everybody tried to be what he wants the other fellow to be.
Peter Maurin, along with Dorothy Day, founded the Catholic Worker movement in 1933. We have great esteem for this movement, which continues to flourish. There are many Web sites that can tell you more — our favorite is the Houston Catholic Worker site.
If you have reactions to Maurin’s words, tell The Progress Report!
Is it possible that some people actually see violence as a good thing? Are any of those people religious? Is violence moral when committed by U.S. government employees? Here is a darn disturbing article. “Actually, it’s a lot of fun to fight. You know, it’s a hell of a hoot. … It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right upfront with you, I like brawling.” — Lt. Gen. James Mattis; USMC Feb 2, 2005
by Dom Stasi
Feb. 22, 2005: What makes some guys like to fight? Why is it “a hell of hoot”?
Seems to me that even if one cares nothing at all for the humanity of his adversary, and even if he is beating women or children or defenseless men, even then, fighting will probably get you injured to some degree in return. The simple fact is that striking bone hurts ones fists. Does that add to the fun? Is there so much pleasure to be derived from beating another person that it’s worth the reciprocal pain? As an adult I’ve come to consider fighting a last resort, a life-saving or life-improving defensive necessity, sort of like surgery without the anesthetic. But fun? Hardly.
Further, if we skip the part about shooting people, then most real fighting brawling in particular implies touching another person, doing so violently, passionately, and having him touch you in return, with equal ardor or submission. This person-to-person touching is generally accompanied by grunting sounds and sweat. Inevitably, there is also pain and often blood. Consider the image. Is fighting the only thing that comes to mind? Of course not. So, is there a repressed sadomasochistic sexual component to the joy of fighting? If so, does that make fighting rape when one of the combatants is unwilling?
Or, as is more likely — and perhaps more disturbing — is there something in all of us that responds to fighting’s lure, the lure of physical domination? Is there a primitive compulsion to dominate that is perhaps stronger than anything the developed rational mind can use to counter it? Is there a thing in us so primal, so animal that it ignores or is oblivious to the inevitable repercussions of physical violence, repurcussions that only thinking humans can anticipate?
Did evolution weave some uncontrollable thing into the genetic fabric of its survivors that thrives on mortal combat?
So it seems.
Fun or fabric, the last real touchy-feely fight I had was as a teenager.
A big, dumb bully had injured my sister with a tossed firecracker. It left a minor scar. It was no big deal until I made it one. I encountered the culprit at the annual end-of-summer-vacation beach party. After a couple of beers, I decided that he wasn’t all that big. I introduced myself, and invited him behind a sand dune. Once there and alone, I realized he was big, really big. But I was fast. At first that speed seemed little more to me than an exit strategy. That’s when he swung. I ducked. He grabbed my head and I realized that for the first time in my life, I was about to be physically abused. It was a sick feeling. It was precicely then that thinking stopped, and something else took over.
Purely on instinct I dealt him a clean blow to the ribs and another to the midsection. He released me and I tagged him on the chin as he stepped back. To my amazement he fell to his knees. Then, in a textbook display of underage drinking’s affect on teenage hormones, I proceeded to beat him senseless.
Oh, I could have stopped when he asked me to stop, but was not about to let him stand up again. I should have stopped when he begged me to stop, for by then he couldn’t stand up again. Instead I beat him senseless. Was it fun? I dread to think it might have been.
The point of this, however, is that the big man’s arrogance left him wide open for a beating he should never have taken. He did not know how to fight defense! He was, after all, a bully. Defense was never an issue. He was all about the preemptive strike.
Upon returning to school I encountered the repercussions. My sister, my pretty and popular sister, could not get a date for a significant part of her junior year because all the boys thought her brother a violent maniac. She hated me for it. But it didn’t end there.
The bully became my new and unwanted best friend, following me around like a 230-pound pup.
I lost my position as varsity left fielder for having splintered the 3rd metacarpal bone in my right hand on the bully’s head.
Pretty girls who formerly avoided the bully suddenly felt — and several displayed — sympathy for his bandaged countenance while shooting me disapproving glances. He seemed richer for this. I, poorer. Was any of this in the plan? Plan? What plan?
If you were to say, big deal. This stuff happens every day at high schools all across America, you would be right. We grow up, and we grow out of it. Well, most of us grow out of it.
Consider then, yet another, uglier little slice of life, something that does not happen every day. But it happens. It happens because not all of us grow out of it.
Who among us has not heard the story of the woman who was constantly abused and brutally beaten by her husband? He was much larger, far more aggressive, and immensely more physically powerful than was she. As such, his small brain told him he was safe and could continue the abuse. Fun dominion. No possibility of reprisal.
What he failed to consider was that he had trapped her into a life no longer livable. She acted. Of course she did.
One evening as he slept-off yet another courage-inducing drunken binge, she duct-taped him into their bed, wrapping strip after strip of the sticky stuff around his arms and legs, and around the bed. She then prodded him awake and proceeded to beat him first with her fists, then with her high-heeled shoe, then with a baseball bat until he was dead. She drove off never to be heard from again. He rotted beneath the tape. When the police discovered the body, they estimated that the beating was administered over a period of twelve hours. More fun? Perhaps. Retribution? Absolutely.
The moral of these stories is simple. No one with a sound human mind remains helpless in the face of inevitable abuse unless of course he or she chooses to. In all of human history, few have chosen to. Sometimes retribution is swift, as with the bully, sometimes slower, as with the woman. But in every instance, victims can be driven beyond their concern for repercussions. That’s when even the physically weakest among us are moved to act.
I inflict these ugly little slices of life upon you gentle reader that it might illustrate how unplanned fighting among humans rarely yields the expected results. We call them repercussions. We too often ignore them before the fact in our quest for easy dominion.
It also illustrates quite typical human behavior. Bullies, even those who limit their violence to the abuse of women, children, and defenseless people, are still not entirely safe from reciprocal harm. Human abuse victims often have, or will surely find formidable and compassionate allies: friends and family. If that’s not enough, they WILL gain access to weapons when they need them desperately enough.
In the hands of the vindictive, these family, friends, and weapons will shift the balance of power. They will be brought to bear against the bully at some future date lest the abuse ends. Even a small ally can distract a big bully’s attention if he’s brandishing a club. Under such conditions, even the littlest guy can score a game punch. Hit the right place, and it’s the only punch he’ll need.
On a larger, but equally human scale, consider a defenseless little unarmed country. It is reeling from extended abuse by a big, dumb bully country that just wont leave it alone. Since countries are geographically fixed in place and cannot run away as people can, might not a country under assault befriend a big brother country of similar family name but of whom it formerly if only recently disdained? If the big brother was smaller than the bully, but meaner, might not the victimized country find reason to patch things up? Family is family, after all.
I’m speaking of course of Iraq and Iran and the greater Middle East as well.
In fact, if one looks back a few decades, back to a time before the Europeans came into the Middle East and drew borders and changed all the names, he would find that Iran was part of the very same nation state as Iraq. Their new names are made up. They are European Christian given names and nothing more. So, might not the N country find reason to sympathize with the Q country? After all, they are family. The only thing about which they formerly disagreed was religion. But America fixed that with this month’s US sponsored elections. They’re both under Shi’a control now.
Oh the media will tell you Iraq’s Shiite leaders are secular, unlike Iran’s Ayatollahs, and if we drink enough Bush Administration cool ade perhaps we’ll collectively find a reason why that matters. But lest we forget, the Shah and Saddam were secular too. By Middle Eastern standards even George W. Bush is secular.
That begs the question: So what? They’re all nuts. Shouldn’t that be what we focus on?
The point is this. With the emotional obstacle of religion out of the way, wouldn’t that family affinity grow warmer now that the U.S. sponsored elections have given power to the very same majority sect that so altered life in Iran: the big brother country?
(That’s right folks. We lost 1550 young troopers in order to turn Iraq into Iran. We did that by handing over control of Iraq to The Shi’a, the sect of the Ayatollah Khomeini.)
Amid the corporate press euphoria of elections in Iraq, elections where only 400 voters were killed, and amid the multiple orgasms in Washington because only 90 more Iraqi Shi’a were killed at Ashura observances this week, Russia, yes Russia, weighed in on the Nukes For Iran issue. On Saturday, February 19th, Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would help build an $800 million nuclear power plant in Iran. (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A36611-2005Feb18?language=printer) The only condition anyone set is that Iran must give back the spent nuclear fuel when depleted.
This comes on the heels of some very troubling revelations. Two days earlier, Bush’s new CIA Director Porter Goss testified before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, that Bush’s war has turned Iraq into a training ground for terrorists. At the same hearing, Vice Admiral Lowell Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency told the committee that “Our policies in the Middle East fuel Islamic resentment.” As evidence of this, Jacoby pointed out that attacks by a growing insurgency have increased by a staggering 240% in just the last year.(http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article8133.htm) And finally, thanks to us, Iraq is doing what it did not do, could not do, and would not do before we arrived: Iraq is now a breeding ground for al Qaida, and they’re both finally gonna get next to some nuclear weapons-grade plutonium.
But back to our story. If that new ally had nuclear weaponry, just think of the possibilities. Might not such a newfound friendship yield vindication against the abuser at some future date, repercussions notwithstanding, a date when the abuser is tired or sleeping or drunk with power? Or in a word: distracted. It takes post-MTV America about a millisecond to get distracted.
Further, this defensive behavior by our adversaries is normal behavior. It’s more normal certainly than liking to fight. It is also human, and it is just. Though the result of conflict is never predictable, the result of continued abuse is. There will be vindication coming out of the Middle East. It’s been going on in Palestine for 58 years so far. Now we’ve created another disaster in the region not another democracy.
Now, with Russia playing a hand by providing Iran with nuclear power, we’re in a high stakes game again, just like the Cold War.
This raises questions in my mind, questions the press seems to have overlooked, or been told not to ask. I’ll ask them here. They are, after all, obvious enough.
My first question is this: Does anyone really care what Iran does with its DEPLETED plutonium after a few billion years?
My second question is simpler still: We all know that Russia needs the $800 million they’re getting for building the nuke. That’s a given. But why does Iran, a country with more oil underneath it than a McDonald’s freedom fry, need a nuclear power plant at all? Hello is anyone out there?
Yet this is the country Iran – toward which we’ve driven Iraq with our stupid administration’s stupid war.
But I digress… how does all this relate to the subject of fighting and its aftermath?
Simple. In the realm of Earthly creatures, humans are slow and weak and not especially big. Yet we dominate. That’s because we are not programmed for helplessness. When it comes to fighting against humans, the only speed and strength that count are the speed and strength of the combatant’s mind. Only here does size matter.
Vindication is so simple and fundamental a form of human behavior so predictably primitive a response to abuse, that it might even be within the cognitive grasp of the few intellectually advanced Right-wing chickenhawks sucking at the teat of our current government. Yet their greed and power-lust prevents them seeing it. They will, though. We all will.
The human mind is a more formidable weapon than anything it can devise. Whatever the mind can devise, the mind can obviate.
Against the bodies of our adversaries, America’s weapons and warriors are devastating. But against their minds, even our nukes are reduced to so much irrelevant smoke. Add to this that our leaders are of inferior mind to their adversaries and are disdained by fully half of their own demonstrably better-informed population. Now, multiply that adversarial mind by 1.7 billion.
There are 1.7 billion Muslim minds out there in the world. They are being made drunk with hatred, hatred of their bigoted and persistent abuser: America. Their religious teachings deride violence. But so do those of the American armchair-warrior chieftain and his comparatively little group of never-bloodied war counselors who abuse them. We’ve all seen how malleable are religious teachings in the face of fear, hypocrisy, and hatred. Another few billion non-Muslim human minds despise our leaders because they realize they cannot share the planet with them very much longer and survive, nor can they assure the survival of their children at the hands of the Americans.
Simply stated, in the course of human events, our leaders are demonstrated failures, doomed to failure yet again. They’re just too dumb, greedy, and scared to see it. They will though. All of us on geographically fixed in place America will see it.
With billions of Chinese now clamoring for oil at any price, and the Euro kicking the Dollar’s ass everywhere else, no one will need America for very much longer. Oh, the French will smile and make nice to Condoleeza, and the idiots of the press will eat it up. But the EU members have already begun their economic neutralization of America. I see it every day. They do not consider an increasingly fundamentalist, ignorant, scientifically irrational society worth its place at the table of mankind. We’re a consumer of their goods, little more. As America spirals ever deeper into religious primitivism, we deliberately segregate ourselves from the modern world. Our economy is no longer the largest, our debt structure is unmanageable, our bonds are worthless to foreign markets, and our philosophies equally worthless to foreign minds. We’re boring, we’re boorish, and we’re broke. We’re also troublemakers. Nobody needs us any longer. We’re the big stupid guy who always starts the fight that gets himself and everyone with him, bounced from the party. Then, when the bully finally gets his ass kicked, he starts to suck up. Look at Bush and Condoleeza grinning their way across Europe even now.
And as for our war, did you know that behind the scenes we’ve been secretly negotiating with the Iraqi insurgents?(http://www.time.com/time/) I’ll bet that lets them know they can’t win. Better still, do our troops know that?
Sucking up. What a surprise.
So, fighting between humans is not quite the same thing as hitting your dog on the nose with a newspaper. Fighting between humans always yields repercussions. Most humans are vindictive not submissive. Eventually vindication overcomes concern for reprisal.
So one should not start a fight with innocent humans without an appreciation of those repercussions, and neither fighting nor shooting people should be fun when one combatant is neither willing, culpable, nor equally armed. In fact, shooting people should not be fun. Period.
Yet, when all is said and done, some guys just like to fight. They ignore the implications, and they invent justification for their actions. Consider what else General Mattis said:
“In Afghanistan you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.” (http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/ap/marine_s_comments)
But is it justification? The general seems to be ignoring both reality and recent history.
For example, though I can find no evidence of any American generals having been killed in the Iraq or Afghanistan fighting, 1540 of their troops have died there recently.(http://icasualties.org/oif/Details.aspx) How much fun were they having? How much fun will they never get to have? How many more will die simply as retribution for the general’s misguided attempt at bravado.
For do his words not incentivize an already suicidal enemy fully as much as those of our president when the latter foolishly bragged, Bring em on! They do, and perhaps more so. A general does not compromise the welfare of his men by incentivizing the enemy, an enemy our government is ostensibly attempting to pacify, not defeat, at this stage of the fighting. He knows this and should keep it top of mind. His words are damaging and disappointing because they came from a warrior leader of men, not from the brain damaged, drug abusing, alcoholic deserter who said, Bring ‘em on. Mattis’s words have meaning, for General Mattis is a good and worthy officer. He has boldly spoken out against prisoner abuse, and torture and done so for reasons only a soldier can appreciate. Study his record, and you’ll know he’s been there. For this general, this good man and true, there is no excuse for so blatant a lapse of judgment.
Further, they are empty, self-serving words.
Remember, one million fighters died in the Russo/Afghan wars before we arrived.(http://www.rense.com/general61/hate.htm) Yet those remaining Afghan fighters never gave up. It was the Russians who gave up. They went broke and quit the fight. So one should weigh his words carefully before deriding this enemy’s manhood. Warrior generals know better than to ridicule their adversaries, however tiny those adversaries might be. By deriding the enemy’s courage, a commander trivializes the courage of those fighting that enemy his own troops. This fight ain’t over yet. Remember al Qaida? Stronger than ever, and we’ve outspent the Russians with no results. Osama bin Laden is still free. Are you?
As for Iraq, words alone cannot describe our crimes. Our actions have left over 66,000 innocent women and children dead in Iraq.(http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A7967-2004Oct28.html) We’ve left countless more people maimed.
As relates to these atrocities, methinks that each and every one of the women and children we’ve killed in the Middle East and everyone to whom they mattered, would have preferred that they be slapped around for a while longer at least until they, or other rational humans found a better solution to their plight, a solution short of killing them.
After all, isn’t that why were still in this fight, to free people from oppression? Or was that last week’s excuse? I’ve lost track.
Dom Stasi is Chief Technology Officer for an international media network. A pilot, Air Force veteran, and member of both the Planetary Society, and Center For Inquiry, he is a widely published science and technology writer. A father of two, Mr. Stasi lives in Los Angeles with his wife of 38 years.
a study of a phenomenon David Ricardo noted going on two centuries ago. When wine grapes rise to $10,000 a ton from the very best land (last year, cabernet sauvignon commanded an average of $4,021 a ton in the Napa Valley), then vineyard prices soar from $18,000 an acre in the 1980′s to $100,000 an acre five years ago and now for a top pedigree up to $300,000 an acre (The New York Times, April 9, via Wyn Achenbaum). Pricey land does not make wine pricey; spendy wine makes land spendy. While vintners make their wine tasty, nature and society in general – not any lone owner – make land desireable. Steve Kerch of CBS’s MarketWatch (April 5) notes that much of what a home sells for on the open market is a reflection of intangible factors such as what school district the house sits in. The price the builder has to pay for the land also tends to be driven by the same intangibles. Because the value of land comes from society, and because one’s use excludes the rest of society, each user owes all others compensation, and is owed compensation by everyone else. Sharing land’s value, instead of taxing one’s efforts, is the policy of geonomics.
one of many words I coined over 20 years ago: geoism, geonomics, geonomy, geocracy, etc – neologisms that later others came up with, too. CNBC once had a Geonomics Show, and Middlebury College has a Geonomics Institute. If “economy” is literally “management of the household”, then geonomy is “management of the planet”. The kind of management I had in mind is not what CNBC was thinking – top-down. My geonomics is not hands-on, interfering, but hands-off, organic. It’d strive to align policy with natural processes, similar to what holistic healing does in medicine, what organic farming does in agriculture. Geonomics attends to two key components: One, the crucial stuff to track is fat — or profit, especially profits without production, such as rent, or all the money we spend on the nature we use. Society’s surplus is the sine qua non for growth, needed to counter death – not merely more, but sustainable development, more from less. Two, the basic process to respect is the feedback loop. These let nature maintain balance automatically and could do the same for markets, if we let them. Letting them would turn our economies, now our masters, into a geonomy, our servant, providing us with prosperity, eco-librium (to coin a term) and leisure, time off — a hostile environment for economan but a cradle for a loving and creative humanity.
a study of Earth’s economic worth, of the money we spend on the nature we use, trillions of dollars each year. We spend most to be with our own kind; land value follows population density. Besides nearness to downtowns, we also pay for proximity to good schools, lovely views, soil fertility, etc. These advantages, sellers did not create. So we pay the wrong people for land. Instead, we should pay our neighbors. They generate land’s value and deserve compensation for keeping off ours, as they’d pay us for keeping off theirs. It’s mutual compensation: we’d replace taxes with land dues – a bit like Hong Kong does – and replace subsidies with “rent” dividends to area residents – a bit like Alaska does with oil revenue. Both taxes and subsidies – however fair or not – are costly and distort the prices of the goods taxed and the services subsidized. By replacing them and letting prices become precise, we reveal the real costs of output, the real values of consumers. Then, just by following the bottom line, people can choose to conserve and prosper automatically. A community could start by shifting its property tax off buildings, onto land – a bit like a score of towns in Pennsylvania do; every place that has done it has benefited.
a manual. The world did not come without a way for people to prosper, and the planet to heal and stay well; that way is geonomics. Economies are part of the ecosystem. Both generate surpluses and follow self-regulating feedback loops. A cycle like the Law of Supply and Demand is one of the economy’s on/off loops. Our spending for land and resources – things that nobody made and everybody needs – constitutes our society’s surplus. Those profits without production (remember, nobody produced Earth) can become our commonwealth. To share it, we could pay land dues in to the public treasury (wouldn’t oil companies love that?) and get rent dividends back, a la Alaska’s oil dividend. Doing so let’s us axe taxes and jettison subsidies. Taxes and subsidies distort price (the DNA of exchange), violate quid pro quo by benefiting the well-connected more than anyone else, reinforce hierarchy of state over citizen, and are costly to administer (you don’t really need so much bureaucracy, do you?). Conversely, land dues motivate people to not waste sites, resources, and the ecosystem while rent dividends motivate people to not waste themselves. Receiving this income supplement – a Citizens Dividend – people can invest in their favorite technology or outgrow being “economan” and shrink their overbearing workweek in order to enjoy more time with family, friends, community, and nature. Then in all that free time, maybe we could figure out just what we are here for.
a neologism for sharing “rent” or “social surplus” – the money we spend on the nature we use. When we buy land, such as the land beneath a home, we typically pay the wrong person – the homeowner. Instead, since land cost us nothing to make and is the common heri-tage of us all, rather than pay the owner, we should pay ourselves, our neighbors, our community. That is, we should all pay land dues to the public treasury, then our government would pay us land dividends from this collected revenue. It’s similar to the Alaska oil dividend, almost $2,000 last year. Indeed, the annual rental value of land, oil, all other natural resources, including the broadcast spectrum and other government-granted permits such as corporate charters, totals several trillion dollars each year. It’s so much that some could be spent on basic social services, the rest parceled out as a divi-dend, as Tom Paine suggested, and taxes (except any on natural rents) could be abolished, as Thomas Jeffer-son suggested. Were we sharing Earth by sharing her worth, territorial disputes would be fewer, less intense, and more resolvable.
suitable for framing by Green Parties. When Greens began in Germany two decades ago, they defined themselves as neither left nor right but in front. Geonomics fits that description. The Green Parties have their Four Pillars; geonomists have four ways to apply them:
Ecological Wisdom. Want people to use the eco-system wisely? Charge them Rent and, to end corporate license, add surcharges. To minimize these costs, people will use less Earth.
Nonviolence. Want people to settle disputes nonviolently? Set a good example; don’t levy taxes, which rely on the threat of incarceration, to take people’s money. Try quid pro quo fees and dues.
Social Responsibility. Want people to be responsible for their actions? Don’t make basic choices for them by subsidizing services, addicting them to a caretaker state. Let people spend shares of social surplus.
Grassroots Democracy. Better have grassroots prosperity. Remember, political power follows economic. Pay people a Citizens Dividend; to keep it, they’ll show up at the polls, public hearings, and conventions.
the policy that the earth’s natural patterns suggests. Use the eco-system’s self-regulating feedback loops as a model. What then needs changing? Basically, the flow of money spent to own or use Earth (both sites and resources) must visit each of us. Our agent, government, exists to collect this natural rent via fees and to disburse the collected revenue via dividends. Doing this, we could forgo taxes on homes and earnings and subsidies of either the needy or the greedy. For more, see our web site, our pamphlet of the title above, or any of our other lit pieces; ask for our literature list.
a neologism for sharing “rent” or “social surplus” – the money we spend on the nature we use. When we buy land, such as the land beneath a home, we typically pay the wrong person – the homeowner. Instead, since land cost us nothing to make and is the common heritage of us all, rather than pay the owner, we should pay ourselves, our neighbors, our community. That is, we should all pay land dues to the public treasury, then our government would pay us land dividends from this collected revenue. It’s similar to the Alaska oil dividend, almost $2,000 last year. Indeed, the annual rental value of land, oil, all other natural resources, including the broadcast spectrum and other government-granted permits such as corporate charters, totals several trillion dollars each year. It’s so much that some could be spent on basic social services, the rest parceled out as a dividend, as Tom Paine suggested, and taxes (except any on natural rents) could be abolished, as Thomas Jefferson suggested. Were we sharing Earth by sharing her worth, territorial disputes would be fewer, less intense, and more resolvable.
about the money we spend on the nature we use. It flows torrentially yet invisibly, often submerged in the price of housing, food, fuel, and everything else. Flowing from the many to the few, natural rent distorts prices and rewards unjust and unsustainable choices. Redirected via dues and dividends to flow from each to all, “rent” payments would level the playing field and empower neighbors to shrink their workweek and expand their horizons. Modeled on nature’s feedback loops, earlier proposals to redirect rent found favor with Paine, Tolstoy, and Einstein. Wherever tried, to the degree tried, redirecting rent worked. One of today’s versions, the green tax shift, spreads out of Europe. Another, the Property Tax Shift, activists can win at the local level, building a world that works right for everyone.
what you do when you see economies as part of the ecosystem, following feedback loops and storing up energy. Surplus energy – fat or profit – enables us to produce and reproduce. To recycle society’s surplus, the commonwealth, geonomics would replace taxes with land dues (charged to users of sites and resources, including the EM spectrum, and extra to polluters), and replace subsidies with rent dividends to citizens (a la Alaska’s oil dividend). Without taxes and subsidies to distort them, prices become precise, reflect accurately our costs and values; then, motivated by no more than the bottom line, both producers and consumers make sustainable choices. While no place uses geonomics in its entirety, some places use parts of it, most notably a shift of the property tax off buildings, onto locations. Shifting the property tax drives efficient use of land, in-fills cities, improves the housing stock, makes homes affordable, engenders jobs and investment opportunities, lowers crime, raises civic participation, etc – overall it makes cities more livable. Geonomics – a way to share the bounty of nature and society – is something we can work for locally, globally, and in between.