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.
One of the most contentious topics in economics has been the concept of interest and interest rates. In ancient Israel, the payment of interest was outlawed for fellow Israelites, most likely because most loans were for consumption, and borrowers desperate for the funds could be exploited.
This view was also held by some of the ancient Greeks. Aristotle thought that interest was unnatural because it required an increase in money, which interfered with the purpose of money as a medium of exchange.
The term “usury” derives from the Latin for “use” and originally meant the practice of lending money at interest, and later came to mean lending at an excessive or illegal rate of interest. If any payment of interest is morally wrong, then all interest is usury.
Roman law had allowed interest, but during the Middle Ages, St. Thomas Aquinas condemned all interest as usury. The Catholic Church opposed the payment of interest on the basis of Scripture. Islamic law as currently interpreted still forbids the payment of interest; banks instead become partners in enterprises. But in Europe, towards the end of the Middle Ages, it became recognized that parting with one’s money constitutes a loss of opportunity, and that present-day money has a higher value than future money.
A turning point came when John Calvin in the 1500s allowed the payment of interest in principle. The philosopher John Locke wrote about economics along with ethical and political philosophy, and said that regulating the interest rate is futile — people will evade the law, and the supply of loanable funds will be reduced.
Economists during the 1800s did not have a good understanding of what causes the rate of interest. Some thought it had to do with the amount of money. Some had a “fructification” idea that interest rates were related to the natural growth of crops and value added such as when wine ages and becomes more desirable.
Interest was regarded as a return to capital, or the profit made by providing capital. Some thought interest was a reward for abstinence or waiting, for going without goods for a while. Marxists considered interest as inherently exploitative of labor.
In 1884, the Austrian economist Eugen Böhm-Bawerk wrote a book entitled Capital and Interest. He refuted all the past doctrines of interest, proposing instead that interest came from “time preference.” Most folks prefer to have goods at the present time rather than in the future, because life is short and uncertain. Entrepreneurs also typically want to borrow to start enterprises in the present, using other people’s savings.
The Swedish economist Knut Wicksell combined Austrian and classical ideas and developed the concept of the “natural” rate of interest, the rate in a pure free market. The actual “market” rate of interest can be lower than the natural rate in the short run if the amount of money grows rapidly, but not in the long run as prices go up.
The Austrian economist Friedrich Hayek then theorized that when the market rate is below the natural rate, investment gets distorted, and some projects will not be profitable and fail. The American economist Irving Fisher then put it all together in 1930 in a book entitled Theory of Interest. Fisher recognized that interest is not just a return to capital goods. The rate of interest measures the price of using goods now rather than later.
So it was not until 1930 that economists really understood interest rates. However, older ideas about interest rates still circulate, as some folks still think that interest is a bad thing and has to do with banking and money monopolies and the return to capital.
Economists distinguish between the “nominal” or money rate of interest, the figures quoted by banks, and the “real” interest rate, which is the nominal rate minus the inflation rate. What matters in economics is the real rate. Interest rates today are distorted not only from inflation, but from taxes, since interest income is taxed while often interest payments can be deducted from taxable income. Taxes and excessive regulations distort prices and profits in general, further skewing interest rates. Easy bankruptcy increases the interest rates of loans to folks without much collateral. The government monopoly of fiat money and its control over the banking system further distorts interest rates.
The pure natural rate of interest is the interest that would exist in a pure market economy, with no inflation, no taxes, no central banking monopolies, no restrictions on exchange rates, and apart from any premiums paid for the riskiness of loans. In a pure market, public revenue comes from user fees and land rents, which do not affect interest rates. Interest could be lower than it is today, since one would not have to borrow to pay for land, as the public collection of the rent would drive the price of land down to near zero, and there would be no tax premium. But interest rates would not fall to zero, since even in a prosperous society, young adults would borrow to buy a house and car, and entrepreneurs would want start-up funds to finance a business or some project.
Since the natural rate of interest is based on the time preferences of people, when folks want to save a lot of their income, interest rates would be lower, and when they would rather save less, interest rates would be higher. Interest rates rise in a growing economy and fall during a depression.
In a pure market, interest rates would be set by the supply and demand for loanable funds based on time preferences. If interest rates are set by the pure market, then neither high nor low interest rates are an economic problem. Only when government intervenes with taxes, restrictions, and money monopolies do interest rates become exploitative usury. Pure free-market interest rates are as natural as time itself.
Do you have an opinion on interest and usury? Tell it to The Progress Report! 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.
When President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935, the life expectance of an American was 62 years. The solvency of Social Security depended on many folks dying before they could collect it. That is the reason SS provides a positive return to those who live to collect it.
But those days are coming to an end. Folks are now living to 80 years of age, and there is a wave of babies born after World War II who start turning 65 starting five years from now, and then they will drain the trust fund of SS until it goes bust. Then what? Either benefits are cut, or more revenue sources are taxed or borrowed.
As folks live longer, the return on those who live to collect it decreases. The expected return in the future is about one percent. The real long-run return on the stock market is seven percent. All workers would be much better off with private accounts than with Social Security.
So why are people opposed to privatizing Social Security? Those who oppose privatization either dont understand it, or else they are solidarity-seeking state socialists who love government and hate individual choice. They dont wish to admit this, so they make up phony arguments against providing individual choice. (See, for example, the report Selling Us Short at www.thetaskforce.org.) Here are some common myths:
1. That SS lifts folks above poverty. False! The money was taken from them in the first place. If the same money were invested in private accounts, the retired would be much richer.
2. Keep SS because it also provides insurance. No! The insurance aspects can be split off into a separate program, or privatized. It is not a sound excuse to preserve the retirement part.
3. Private accounts would not be adjusted for inflation, while SS is. False! Privatization can adjust for inflation either with stock-market and commodity investments that increase more than inflation, or with inflation-protected bonds where the investment stays adjusted up for inflation.
4. Private accounts would not provide a lifetime income, while SS does. False! Privatization can and should convert the retirement funds into an annuity that would provide lifetime income.
5. Private accounts do not provide benefits to heirs and survivors. False! Private accounts provide more benefits, since the total amount is private property transferred to heirs, and private plans today do offer insurance to survivors.
6. That private accounts would force folks to invest in companies they feel are morally bad. False! There are today ethics-based socially responsible mutual funds that avoid investing in vice-based or war-based outputs. Or one may invest in treasury bonds. These choices can and should be included in privatization.
7. That private accounts would have large administrative costs. Wrong. Today one can obtain professionally managed large accounts for an administrative cost of one percent of assets.
8. That SS provides greater benefits than private accounts. Ridiculous, since even bonds provide a higher return than SS.
9. That privatization is a risky gamble. False, a misunderstanding of financial markets. During a 45-year time interval (age 20 to 65), stock-market averages consistently rise. The portfolio should become more conservative as one approaches retirement. There would also be an option to invest only in inflation-protected treasury bonds, which never lose value.
10. That there is a huge transition cost to privatization, which would require huge borrowing and increase interest rates, causing a depression. Not if it is done correctly. The privatization should begin with individual accounts funded with treasury bonds. Government would not need to sell bonds to the market, because the bonds would be directly deposited into the private accounts. The increase in government debt is offset by a decrease in future liabilities to pay social security benefits. Privatization does not increase government liability, but only shifts it in time.
The fact that opponents of privatization have to make up myths shows that they do not have a good case. At 70 years of age, Social Security is unsustainable. It creates poverty and depresses economic growth as earnings get transferred rather than invested. Social Security is a statist monster that needs to be humanely expired. It was a bad idea in the first place.
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.Also see:
Visit The E-Book on International Finance and Development
(Publisher’s note — we received the below notice about a new online resource on international finance and development, and decided to check it out. Lots of interesting stuff. You will definitely find some value at that site, and if you leave behind some remarks of your own you’ll add to the value that others can get. Mention the Progress Report if you please. Check it out!)
It will help you understand the complicated world of international finance, e.g., the Asian financial crisis and its global repercussions.
What’s on the E-Book website?
–An informative handbook, with hyperlinks and bibliographies, covering the meaning of development, the functions of the IMF and the World Bank, changing conceptions of development in the 1990s, and international finance in a globalized economy.
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–A Perspectives feature, which posts essays on international finance and development.
The E-Book on International Finance and Development is a website that helps empower laypeople with information about the global financial system. Thanks.
Enrique R. Carrasco Professor of Law University of Iowa College of Law Tel:(319) 335-9059 Fax:(319) 335-9098 Homepage: http://www.uiowa.edu/~erclog/ E-Book: http://www.uiowa.edu/ifdebook
THE ORIGIN OF SPECIOUS: National Mutation Through Unnatural Selection
To compete economically in the global economy, America’s children need good preparation in things such as science. Instead, Bush wants them to move away from science, so the best jobs will go to better-educated people in other countries.
Here is a strong guest essay.
by Dom Stasi
The fundamentalists, by ‘knowing’ the answers before they start examining evolution, and then forcing nature into the straitjacket of their discredited preconceptions, lie outside the domain of science – or of any honest intellectual inquiry.
- Stephen Jay Gould
George W. Bush wants to see different ideas introduced into the science curriculum of our public schools.
Thats fundamentalist code for, I want to indoctrinate your children to Creationism.
In case youve just arrived here from the outer planets and havent heard the news, the latest inanity our prez has used to throw the countrys reporters off the Karl Rove stench, while driving another wedge through what remains of her peoples unity is this comment he made last week: I think part of education, expounded Bush the philosopher, is to expose people to different schools of thought. He went on to say he would endorse placing intelligent design on an equal curricular footing with evolution.
My god! Are we so insane now that were about to allow George W. Bush to influence our childrens thinking and thus the next generation of American scientists - or would alchemists be a more appropriate title? How about sorcerers?
I shudder at the thought, because we do not teach fantasy in science class. If the only criterion we use for selecting our impressionable young students material is that it represent a different school of thought, or a different idea, perhaps we should begin teaching history students that the holocaust never happened. Thats a different school of thought, and a widely held view by those who have a problem with reality. How about the one that says we never landed on the moon? Then there are those who say the 3.5 billion year old Earth is really 4000 years old. Bush is one of the millions who buy that different idea. What interesting geography lessons (if rather hapless geographers) those different schools of thought would produce.
No. When facts contradict or fail to support hypotheses, there is no place for such speculative mental meandering in the disciplines. Different schools of thought about solid deterministic tenets, whether viable or specious, are examined in philosophy class or the advanced sciences, and generally to mature, trained minds. When ideas grow up and get factual, then they can find their way into the proximate (elementary and secondary) disciplines. Until then, and if were serious about the development of rational young minds, fantasy-subjects will just have to languish in the electives.
That Bush casually disagrees with the worlds greatest minds on the origin of species, particularly so as relates to the creation - or genesis — of humans is hardly a basis upon which to change traditional education and qualify solid science. Simply stated, though I doubt he is aware of it, Bush prefers the hypothetical postulation of intelligent design to the evidence-laden Unifying Theory of Biology. The former is popularly, if often incorrectly, known as creationism; the latter is popularly called Natural Selection, Survival of the Fittest, or of course the biggie (or Big E) – Evolution (Never to be confused in the Creationist mind with the infinitesimally small e - evidence). Thus, he wants this patently religious, Christian fundamentalist contrivance taught in our tax-funded, secular public schools and he finally came out and said so. Though it has come to the surface this week through Bushs comments, this personal if irrational preference is strikingly absent in his approach to governance. On that front - through bullying, intimidation, retribution, rewarding loyalty, imposition of force, size, physical strength, bigotry, violent elimination of the physically inferior, obeying the orders of those he considers his betters, reacting to instead of leading with ideas, pack-mentality dedication to those of similar stripe, etc. — his actions are social Darwinism made manifest.
But lets get back to the disturbing prospect of imposing Bushs brain on the brains of our school children. As usual, when obviating fact through fantasy, the child-like Bush eschews empirical evidence and is ignorant of both fundamental logic and scientific method. He presumes instead to change the physical world through the adamant insinuation of personal preference, often sans the requisite reality check. He hears something, usually from God or some guy with bad hair and a fake southern drawl, he believes it if it suits him, and thats all there is too it. From that point forward it is policy — or will be. This is not unlike a petulant child clenching his fists and holding his breath to presumably get his way with a pliable parent.
With a worthless legislature in place thanks to choices made at the midterms by our credulous, fear-driven general population, the parent - in this case, Congress — is more than pliable, its downright obedient.
Now, in keeping with his ever-more-apparent disregard for what his slowly-awakening constituency actually wants, or more to the point what is obviously and irrefutably in the American publics best interest, Bush is suggesting that intelligent design be taught in the science classes of our tax-supported public schools.
Not content to use my tax money to simply kill other peoples grandchildren, he now wants to use more of it to confuse mine by exposing them to what is nothing more than a hoax all dressed up as science.
Not surprisingly, this latest intelligent design utterance has gotten a lot more ink from the corporate press than has Bushs silence regarding the probability of a traitor creeping around inside the oval office while President Tex enjoys his 362nd day of vacation. Nonetheless, it does little to belie that our president is a slave to his personal biases and monumental ignorance, not to mention the will of his ideological masters. He has referred to evolution as only a theory. By doing so he reveals his misunderstanding of theory in the scientific sense, or deliberately confuses it with hypothesis. Either way, hes got it wrong.
Let me make this abundantly clear, because it is abundantly clear: Intelligent Design (I prefer simply ID, as the concept is neither intelligent nor have its proponents produced any viable evidence of design) is not science. Its not even bad science. What else ID aint is a theory. Its a hypothesis, hardly more than an assumption, plain and simple. Or more simply stated, a chimpanzee in an Armani suit is still a chimpanzee.
Science - real science — is not some convenient collection of ideas and preferences whose fundamental tenets are not falsifiable. Neither does spelling out the postulations of convenience comprising ID in non-peer-reviewed essays laced with esoteric language elevate them above what they are - baseless fantasy.
No. No! Science is a very rigorous mechanism of processes, falsifiable proofs and refereed or demonstrable conclusions. Science is how humanity aggregates its knowledge. Each subsequent generation starts where its predecessors left off, adds its findings to that, and passes it all on to the succeeding generations, ad infinitum. Science - science in a culture that has sent its people to another world, cured infectious diseases, yes, blown ourselves up on more than one occasion — is not a mechanism for justifying concepts spelled out in an ancient book. To paraphrase author Sam Harris, the people who wrote the Bible would have been absolutely flabbergasted by the sight of something as futuristic as a wheelbarrow! If the Bible is indeed a human transcription of the word of God, then its deliberate misinterpretation in the light of knowledge, for whatever reason, is heresy.
The Bible is not a natural science text book, nor does it intend to be. It is a religious book and consequently one cannot obtain information about the natural sciences from it. One cannot get from it a scientific explanation of how the world arose; one can only glean religious experience from it. Anything else is an image and a way of describing things and whose aim is to make profound realities graspable to human beings. – Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, 1995 (Now Pope Benedict XVI)
The Bible, for all its majesty, is not the place to learn good science in the modern world! The Earth has no corners or edges. It is not a circle. It orbits the sun. So on. We get it. But science is not about ambiguity or metaphore. Its about science. If the Republican Right want to get their science from literal interpretations of the Bible, they should find some physical evidence for the flood. Where, for example, did all the extra water come from? Where did it go? How could all the animals have fit on the ark - any ark. If they figured out these things, they could then pollute and overpopulate to their black little hearts content and maybe then theyd shut up.
Science is our greatest blessing; willful ignorance our greatest curse. Intelligent Design comprises none of the former, and all of the latter. Each of its postulations has been either soundly debased or built upon an obviously incomplete and juvenile interpretation of very complete laws.
For example, Ive personally witnessed IDs proponents and preachers fail miserably to prove their assumptions through the deliberate misuse of known scientific tenets. Ive endured their misuse of entropy theory to postulate a completely new Conservation of Information law. Ive watched them attempt to make converts through a childish corruption of the 3rd Law of Thermodynamics (an especially esoteric concept IDs proponents knew the vast majority of their sycophants would not understand). That failed attempt at legitimacy had this writer and many others far better versed than I, shouting from the aisles. Did they actually think no one knowledgeable in these areas would take notice and speak up?
Finally, having failed as well to have their postulations included in but a single refereed scientific journal on the topic, IDs leading apologist William Dembski has come up with a quite amazing 4th Law of Thermodynamics in a desperate ploy to prove his point. Though his legion of faithful believe him, no empirical evidence or viable postulation of such a phenomenon as Dembskis 4th Law has yet been forthcoming. It is a hoax on the order of Piltdown Man. Nonetheless, one can only imagine the traffic jams that must be collecting even now as the trucks delivering the many Nobel Prizes as would surely accrue to such a discovery jockey for position outside Dembskis laboratory. No? No prizes? Well, have faith. Yeah, thats the ticket.
If the ID gang, or creationists, or whatever theyre calling themselves today really want some empirical evidence to refute evolution, they need only look inward - to one of their own: G.W. Bush. After all, the scientific pretext of evolutionary theory is elevated above hypothesis by postulation from empirical evidence. Thus, we who comprise todays remnant of the American republic have for some time considered the empirics which conclude that in a mere 200 years, the impossible linear successor to the genius of Thomas Jefferson, is none other than a drug and substance abusing military deserter and business failure whose family fortunes derive in part from Hitler and Bin Laden, and whose intellect is roughly akin to that of Australopithecus. Simply stated, our president has the smarts of a pre-adolescent human child and the mores of a mosaic virus. This character with his finger on the button that can destroy the world is a demonstrable bonehead. Think what he might do if he ever learns to pronounce nuclear. But the point is this, if evolution is real, wouldnt presidents be getting smarter? Why then do ID scientists fail to ponder that?
Preeminent Harvard psychologist, Lawrence Kohlberg sums up human moral development in five categories. The least of these is not surprisingly Stage Zero. Kohlberg writes, “Stage Zero: Egocentric judgment. The child makes judgments of good on the basis of what he likes and wants or what helps him, and bad on the basis of what he does not like or what hurts him. He has no concept of rules or of obligations to obey or conform to independent of his wish.” Perhaps this stage of arrested development is best evident in our grown-up presidents own words, I see things in black and white. Im not about nuancing. Or, in his summation of the ideological motivations of the entire human race, all 6.8 billion of us, Youre either with us, or youre with the terrorists. And my personal favorite, when speaking to Bob Woodward of Watergate fame, the president of the United States said, “I am the commander, see. I do not need to explain why I say things. That’s the interesting thing about being the president. Maybe somebody needs to explain to me why they need to say something, but I don’t feel like I owe anybody an explanation.”
Responding to this last statement, psychotherapist Dr. Carol Norris observes, What a profoundly childlike thing to say (not to be confused with childish). It sounds to me like a kid trying desperately, yet transparently, to convince people he is fit for a role he secretly is unsure he can fulfill and discuss. She goes on to add, It’s called: Stage Zero.
In a representative democracy, these learned assessments say at least as much about a presidents constituency, as they do about the leader. In aggregate, thats whats really troubling really, really, really troubling. If there are none so blind as those who will not see, then the blind truly are leading the blind in the intellectual disgrace that is 21st Century America.
What then qualifies Bush to presume expertise on our childrens science education. It cannot be his record of performance or decision-making skills. Lets look back:
Easily persuaded by his delusions of god (God wants me to run for President. I can’t explain it, but I sense my country is going to need me. Something is going to happen… I know it won’t be easy on me or my family, but God wants me to do it. George W. Bush) and those of his advisors ( he doesnt know very much. – Richard Perle), Bush has been little more than a credulous, exploitable mouthpiece for the Reagan era ideologues and crooks with which hes surrounded himself. The president of the United States is little more than an organic ventriloquists dummy with some sort of inexplicable - if fast eroding — populist appeal. His stupidity and the tragedy of September Eleventh have been used to plunge this country into war and insolvency for reasons neither this president nor his advisors can or will demonstrate. He’s been prepped and coached and used to mutate a great American tragedy into an instrument of even greater tragedy: September Eleventh/Operation Iraqi Freedom (or its original name, Operation Iraqi Liberation: O.I.L. for short). Lest we forget, this is the man who stood upon the crushed and smoking remains of the dead at Ground Zero, and used his words to seal the fate of more innocents than Osama (Remember Osama?) had ever dreamed. He stood upon that hallowed ground and deliberately misled this country into believing he is a great deal more than the abject incompetent that has characterized every single one of his prior and subsequent endeavors. From his Washington easy chair, hes taken countless lives, while the news tells us of the Runaway Bride, baseball players on steroids, common crime, and Bradjolina.
Now, while blowing up two foreign lands, imposing untold suffering on random innocents, depleting the US Treasury of what will ultimately become $7 trillion, and using the naiveté, grief, nationalism, and terror of our own citizens as carte blanche to advance the agenda of the warmongering lunatics comprising his cabinet, he got away with it and was returned to office after refusing to reveal what was probably the most important part of a tax-funded report on the events and motivations leading up to the whole horrific affair. Do not forget, the President of the United States refuses to this day, to release us a major part of the very report we the people had funded and for which we’ve been waiting through four of the most divisive and critical years in our nation’s history. To this day Bush refuses to release to us, huge sections of the very report justifying or criticizing the greatest act of faith exhibited by any peoples toward any leader in our combined national history. He’s taken us to war. He’s bankrupted us. Our children are being murdered in foreign streets daily. He’s encouraging the loss of personal freedoms. But no matter how heinous the outrage, most Americans have gone along with the apparent stupidity out of some sort of nationalistic sense of country. Some might call it fear.
As he today hides evidence concerning who outed Valerie Plame, withholds 50,000 pages of background information on Judge Roberts, sneaks a whacko UN Ambassador into office while the country is at war and the peoples branch is in recess, let us not forget the most important secret Bush continues to harbor. To this very day, while he pulls weeds on his Crawford ranch, Bush still has not told us truthfully why we are at war! The reasons remain hidden as our young people die, hidden, horded by these tyrants in the used and abused name of security. Why are we allowing it? Why have we forgotten it? How do we know such control of information is not compromising our security? Where in the hell is the outrage? What in God’s name has become of us?
Consider how this mans simplistic interpretations led us to this travesty of power. Bush was told of a New Domino Theory. It went something like this: once a tyrant or two falls through overwhelming American military force, democracy would spread through the Mid East country-by-country like tumbling dominoes. He liked what he heard. With no substantive frame of reference, the stupid president believed it. Perhaps uncurious George W. Bush should have read about the old Domino Theory before invoking the new one, since it was, after all, only a theory. But he acted on his faith - a dismal substitute for knowledge — despite that there is no evidence in all of human history to support such lunacy. Thousands upon thousands died and are dying still. Now, having used up all of his prior excuses, he justifies the bloodshed with sophomoric claptrap. He’s already sacrificed our troops to Afghanistan only to let it fall back into the chaos of a Taliban controlled heroin capitol of the world. Now, with the place in a worse shambles than it was when he found it, but with a powerless American-installed puppet government in place, Dubya’s cronies crouch in the shadows, waiting to step in and build the pipeline from the sea to the Urals that his own father tried and failed to do by creating the Taliban in the first place. And finally, with Iraq on the verge of civil war as we endure the bloodiest days since the invasion began, the road to ruin spreads before us. We need only keep following it, driving at breakneck speed with the headlights off and our eyes clenched.
One year after 17% of voting age Americans swept this familied neer-do-well into office, a panicked and irrational electorate swept away our founders and our constitutions system of checks and balances by replacing the balanced legislature with an equally frightened gaggle of primitives, thus leaving the criminal usurpers of the executive branch free to pillage our nation. They did exactly that again in November of 2004. Within this administrations tenure we will see the largest federal budget surplus in American history gave way to the largest government deficit in the history of all the governments of the world combined - 5.4 trillion dollars. Nearly a trillion federal tax dollars have already vanished since 1999. Where are they? Tell me. I challenge you to tell me the truth without incriminating this administration!
Every week comes a new outrage.
How very far weve fallen as a peoples in but 200 years. Two hundred years ago Thomas Jefferson was Americas president. It seems incredible. Hed already written the Declaration Of Independence. No man since has been better fit to lead this country, no man more deserving of the honor. On January 1, 1801 Jefferson was inaugurated Americas 3rd President. At his inauguration, he said these words, these amazing words, “The essential principles of our Government… form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty and safety.
Two-hundred years later, the masterpiece our countrys architect had built us, fell before the twin wrecking balls that are today his party and his high office: the unelected Republican partisan, George W. Bush.
And while lineage, wealth, family, and observed behavior clearly qualify Junior as what Jefferson rightly called an artificial aristocrat without virtue or talents, his nearly every word and deed expose his dismally inadequate intellect as well and disqualify him as our president to say nothing of the architect of our childrens schooling.
Nothing in his past qualifies him to be our president. Nothing in his DNA qualifies him to be our president. Nothing in his actions or policies qualifies him to be our president. Nothing in the 2001 election results qualifies him to be our president. Every day it becomes more apparent that nothing in the 2004 elections qualified him to be our president. So despite the admonitions that we get over it coming from the morally-superior hypocrites such as Rush (the name takes on a whole new meaning today, doesnt it) Limbaugh and the other charlatans whose babble dominates the American airwaves, this American — me — will never get over it. Never! Not while theres breath in my lungs and blood in my veins. Now he wants to have at our childrens very minds.
The willingness to believe when faced with a mountain of contradicting facts which characterizes the Bush supporters has always been based upon a heady amalgam of convenience, ego, and ignorance. Its an easy mindset to instill in the young. When it comes to the sciences, a topic difficult at best to understand, such behavior is not uncommon in humans. At least it is not uncommon in humans who inhabit places like the American Bible Belt, or the interior reaches of Borneo. What is unusual, is that today America finds herself with a president who not only rejects the theory of evolution, but whom all evidence would suggest, has also neglected to participate as vigorously as he should have in its practice. Stated more simply, George W. Bush is verifiably dumber than his traceable human ancestors, and history confirms that hes dumber than every single one of his presidential predecessors - Reagan included. In fact, quoting a description of George W. Bush offered to reporters (back when there were reporters) by Richard Perle one of Bushs most trusted advisors — and the man who invented the reasons for war with Iraq — Perle said, He (Bush) doesnt know very much. Indeed he does not.
Conclusion: While spouting off about bringing unity to Americas people, Bush and his band of parasites and tyrants have used every trick in the book to polarize us culturally. Theyve given us labels. Theyve preyed upon the fears of the simpleminded, used our disdain for and our ignorance of one another from day one. Divide and conquer is their mantra. They persuade us that were a nation of left and right and nothing in between.
Baloney! Were almost all of us in between.
Creation science, intelligent design, call it what you will, is simply another, and completely divisive, wedge this gang is attempting to drive through the heart of the American people. It takes great pains to ignore or to discredit the findings of biology, archeology, physics, and paleoanthropology - and it fails. It ignores the body of work done by the very Vaticans own scientists in the field of Developmental Creation (theistic evolution). All of which adhered to strict scientific method, thus adding to the knowledge rather than defaming it in order to impose unacceptable divisive absolutes.
No. Instead, by taking such extraordinary pains to set traditional biological science in conflict with learned religious theology through the insinuation of nonsense, when it is far simpler and eminently more logical to celebrate and analyze the similarities extant in the theological and theoretical portrayals of the origins of life, IDs proponents expose their underlying objective. They seem far less interested in enhancing our knowledge, than in dividing our people.
The author is an engineer working in the television and motion picture industry in Hollywood. A veteran, Mr. Stasi flew aerial reconnaissance during the Cold War and worked on Project Apollo. He is a frequently published science and technology writer.
Years after starting the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq, and not getting much success in either one, Bush still has not attended a single funeral for a fallen soldier. That says a lot about a person who is supposed to be a leader.
by Norman Solomon
Mid-August 2005 may be remembered as a moment in U.S. history when the president could no longer get away with the media trick of solemnly patting death on its head.
Unreality is a hallmark of media coverage for war. Yet — most of all — war is about death and suffering. War makers thrive on abstractions. Their media successes depend on evasion.
President Bush has tried to keep the loved ones of Americas war dead at middle distance, bathed in soft fuzzy light: close enough to exploit for media purposes, distant enough to insulate the commander in chiefs persona from the intrusion of wartime mourning in America.
Whats going on this week, outside the perimeter of the ranch-style White House in Crawford, is some reclamation of reality in public life. Cindy Sheehan has disrupted the media-scripted shadow play of falsity. And some other relatives of the ultimately sacrificed have been en route to the vigil in the dry hot Texas ditches now being subjected to enormous media attention a few miles from the vacationing presidents accommodations.
At this point, Bushs spinners are desperate to divert the media spotlight from Sheehan. But other bereft mothers arriving in Crawford will hardly be more compatible with war-making myths.
Consider the perspective of Celeste Zappala, whose oldest son Sherwood Baker was a sergeant in the Pennsylvania National Guard when he died 16 months ago in Baghdad. She is a co-founder of Gold Star Families for Peace, and what she has to say is gut-wrenching and infuriating: George Bush talks about caring about the troops who get killed in Iraq. Sherwood was killed protecting the people looking for weapons of mass destruction on April 26, 2004. This was one month after Bush was joking [at the Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner, on March 24] about looking for weapons of mass destruction. And then my Sherwood is dead trying to protect people looking for them because Bush said it was so important to the safety of our country.
Disregarding the tacit conventions of jingoistic newspeak, Zappala adds: I dont want anyone else to go through this, not an American, not an Iraqi, no one. As a person of faith, I firmly believe we have the ability to provide better answers on how to resolve conflict than what Bush is offering us. Ive tried to meet with Rumsfeld at the Pentagon, I was turned away by armed guards. Its incumbent upon everybody to take responsibility about what is happening in our country. I have no recourse but to go to Crawford to do what I can to change the disastrous course we are currently on and to bear witness to the true costs of this war.
The true costs. Not the lies of omission.
War PR and war grief have collided at the Crawford crossroads at a time when the Bush administration is in the midst of launching its scam about supposed plans to begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that a spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he did not know how many extra troops might be needed during the referendum and election period through the end of this year. The AP dispatch added: Other officials have said that once the election period has passed and the troop total recedes to the 138,000 level, a further reduction in the range of 20,000 to 30,000 is possible next spring and summer. That could change, however, if the insurgency intensifies or an insufficient number of U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces prove themselves battle-ready.
When a mass killer is at the helm of the ship of state, taking a bow now and again while Hail to the Chief booms from big brass bands, a significant portion of the countrys population feels revulsion. And often a sense of powerlessness — a triumph for media manipulation. Passivity is the health of the manipulative media state.
Cindy Sheehan and Celeste Zappala have joined with others in Crawford to insist that death is not a message for more death — that we can understand death as a profound reality check, imploring us to affirm and defend life.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light, Dylan Thomas wrote. The unavoidable dying of life is bad enough. The killing is unacceptable.
Norman Solomon is author of the new book War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. Excerpts are posted at: www.WarMadeEasy.com
It’s bad enough that the U.S. government’s war on drug users often treats them more harshly than those committing violent crimes. It’s worse that those who are only slightly involved or who don’t even touch drugs are also getting caught in the zero-tolerance net. The government snares the innocent and guilty alike with its snitching policy.
For those who are not up to speed on US crime lingo, to “snitch” means to be an informer for the police. If you are arrested and you provide the police with information on others who may be accomplices or who may have violated the law, you snitch on them. It’s an old thieves’ slang word that originally meant to steal something. The informer “steals” from those he is fingering by reducing his prison time at the expense of their prison time. A snitch in time saves time.
During the past few years, a third of those accused of drug trafficking received reduced prison time and sometimes no time at all by snitching on others. Informants have become a key tool in putting drug users in prison. Those accused are usually small- scale users and dealers, since these are the ones most snitches know about. The result is that American prisons are filled with many small-time offenders serving long sentences.
The worst part of this is that the word of a snitch is weighed as heavily as physical evidence in court. According to the information in www.pacifica.org/programs/democracy_now/, “people can be convicted of drug charges solely on the word of snitches, without any substantiating physical evidence.”
The PBS television program “Frontline” will show a documentary on drug snitching this coming Tuesday, January 12, called “Snitch” (my local PBS station is playing it at 10 PM, but in others, it will play at 9 PM). The show looks at how mandatory minimum sentencing laws combined with snitching are giving minor violators harsh prison sentences. The program also raises the question of whether “winning” the war on drugs means losing our heritage of justice.
Besides the Pacifica web site mentioned above, another web site related to unjust prison sentences is www.famm.org by Families Against Mandatory Minimums. FAMM seeks to reform mandatory sentencing laws that do not allow for judicial discretion according to circumstances. Its web site www.famm.org has details on the Frontlines program as well as recent articles in magazines and newspapers.
Sometimes innocent people are accused and put in prison, because the snitches are notoriously poor sources of information. Others get put in prison for minor assistance such as driving for friends who use drugs. Snitching violates the motto, “honor among thieves.” Criminals hurt the public, but normally they protect one another in their own self-interest. The snitch is the lowest of the low, one who violates the code of the underworld. The snitch is not even a smart criminal, since he got caught.
Since the informant gains by snitching, it is in his interest to finger others whether they are guilty or not, and the innocent person or one who is only incidentally involved can then be put in prison just on the word of an unreliable informant. This turns the cherished anglo-American legal system on its head. No evidence is required to put someone in prison for many years, just the word of a self-serving criminal loser.
When drug dealers snitch, often the result is that the prison sentence of someone heavily involved in drug dealing gets reduced, while those less involved or not involved at all get put in prison. The whole concept of letting the punishment fit the crime gets turned on its head. American taxpayers then pay heavily to incarcerate the little fish while the big fish keep on drug dealing. Is this what the American public wants?
For more on this issue and program, see also www.pbs.org/frontline, and for information on what you can do about this problem, see www.famm.org. Let’s put an end to mandatory minimum sentences for drug charges, and let’s put due process back into our justice system by requiring more evidence than just the word of a weasely snitcher.
What is your opinion? Share it with The Progress Report! Copyright 1999 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 a just economy all jobs would pay enough for people to live. Today they don’t. Some Canadians want government to raise wages without addressing deeper economic justice questions — is that wise?
Instead of propping up some wages for some people — and leaving the wages of the jobless at zero — we’d rather see a just economy, where all people can make their own way without government intereference.
by Greg deGroot-Maggetti with research assistance by Jeanette Unger
A job is the best route out of poverty. That common wisdom was heard often when federal and provincial ministers met in the 1990s to talk about child and family poverty.
For Dave, the cabbie who drove me to the airport in Winnipeg on a recent visit, reality was a bit different. The two, low-paying jobs he held were not quite enough to lift him, his wife and children out of poverty. And provincial welfare, which he had to rely on during a spell of unemployment, offered no training to help him get a better paying job. A job that pays a living wage.
A living wage. Thats a term coined in the 19th century that is being heard more and more across Canada and the United States.
The living wage is about making sure that families have enough money to live on. Its a basic battle. It was won before. It needs to be fought again.
The stark reality is that, for many people, a job is no passport out of poverty. There are workers whose home is a shelter, whose grocery store is the food bank. More and more people and groups are waking up to the fact that you just cant make a living at the minimum wage or just above it.
And that awareness has fuelled the growth of living wage movements across North America.
In the U.S., where living wage campaigns emerged in the 1990s, the focus was on local governments. Campaigns called on local governments to implement living wage ordinances, which require any business that contracts with the municipal government to agree to pay a living wage. Different cities set the living wage at different levels. Ordinances can also include other workplace standards such as health benefits, overtime and vacation pay, for example. To date, more than 120 U.S. cities have implemented living wage ordinances and the movement has included universities and other publicly funded institutions in the call to implement living wage policies.
In Canada, living wage campaigns generally focus on raising the minimum wage and social assistance rates. There are campaigns in almost every province and territory as well as national groups advancing the call for living wages.
Not all of the campaigns use the term living wage. In PEI, the call is for liveable incomes. The Working Group for Liveable Income looks at the mix of wages, employment insurance and welfare needed to lift islanders out of poverty reflecting the seasonal nature of the PEI economy. The movement in Quebec, by far the most developed in Canada or the U.S., mobilized around the banner of a Quebec without poverty. This broad-based movement succeed in getting the Quebec government to pass legislation requiring it to work toward the elimination of poverty. The movement has moved onto fleshing out the specific policies minimum wage levels and social supports to achieve the goal of a Quebec with no poverty.
Groups in Ontario have gathered force around the Ontario needs a raise campaign. In Manitoba, the Just Income Coalition is leading the call to raise the minimum wage. In Saskatchewan it is the Living Wage Coalition, in New Brunswick it is the Common Front for Social Justice.
And there are groups in BC, Alberta, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Yukon actively working to raise minimum wages and social assistance rates.
At the national level, the National Anti-Poverty Organization (NAPO) has been a catalyst in bringing together representatives from many of the provincial and national groups calling for a living wage.
So what is a living wage? Most groups are calling for a minimum wage that is high enough to lift a single adult working full-time, full-year, above the poverty line defined as either the Low-Income Cutoff or the Market Basket Measure in a large city. Campaign 2000 has built on that to calculate the level of child benefits that would be needed to keep family incomes above the poverty line. Others are looking at what additional income supports would be needed for part-time, part-year workers. And groups like the Worker Action Centre in Toronto are committed to make government enforce basic employment standards.
Across Canada, nearly one in four jobs (23.6%) pay low wages less than $10 an hour. For many people in these jobs, there is little job security and few or no benefits. For some, like Dave, this means piecing together more than one job and working 60 or 70 hours a week. Others simply cannot get enough work or must work for unscrupulous employers who dont even pay the legal minimum wage.
It may be hard to believe that we are back to fighting one of the most basic battles for social justice the battle for living wages. That battle was fought and largely won over the course of the last century. But two decades of neglect or outright assaults on the basic pillars of income security minimum wages, unemployment insurance and social assistance have turned back the clock. Once again we have learned that food banks, soup kitchens and homeless shelters are stopgaps whose need will only decline through a renewed commitment to policies rooted in social justice.
Living wage movements offer real hope for making Canada a place where a job is, indeed, a route far from poverty and where those who cannot work are assured the dignity of an adequate income and good public services.
In my judgment, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were huge evil mistakes. On the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, editorials still debate whether the use of the atomic bomb was justified. Im down on the side that it was a historic blunder. If he spoke French, President Truman should have said, Hiroshima, mon errour.
The argument in favor of dropping the bomb is that Japan refused to surrender, and the US would have otherwise had to invade Japan at a huge cost of American lives. Japan still refused to surrender after the Hiroshima bombing of August 6, and a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki on August 9, which killed 150,000. Japan surrendered on August 14.
But if the aim was to demonstrate the power of the bomb, the US could have dropped a demonstration in the ocean near Tokyo. That would have prevented the death toll from the bombing of Hiroshima of about 200,000. The US could have given the Japanese a few days to ponder their fate.
One credible reason for using the atomic bomb was to show the Soviet Union that the US had and was willing to use the bomb. This would enhance the influence of the US in dealing with the USSR. Indeed, President Truman delayed his meeting with Stalin until the bomb could be tested in the US. But this backfired, since the effect on the Soviet Union chiefs was to make them want the bomb too.
Many of the physicists who had worked on developing the atomic bomb were vehemently opposed to using it against Japan. Their motivation had been to target and deter Nazi Germany, which had sought to create an atomic bomb. After Germany was defeated, the physicists argued that it would be immoral to use the bomb on Japanese civilians. There were several petitions from physicists opposed to the use of the atomic bomb.
Truman himself did not fully accept responsibility for the effects of the bomb. In a radio speech on August 9, Truman declared that Hiroshima was a military base, which was bombed to avoid killing civilians, and only warn the Japanese of what could happen. When Truman spoke, the second bomb had already dropped on civilians in Nagasaki. Truman obviously misled the American public, since both bombs did target cities, not just military bases.
The US military was already using incendiary bombs on Tokyo and other Japanese cities, causing massive fires. Moral concerns about killing civilians gradually diminished during the war as the fierce battles with Japanese, who fought to the death, killed thousands of Americans.
One reason the Japanese did not wish to give up was that the Americans were demanding unconditional surrender. If the US had offered terms similar to what the peace treaty later specified, including the honorable preservation of their emperor, the Japanese would have most likely been willing to negotiate.
The petitions against the use of the bomb were led by Leo Szilard, a Hungarian-born physicist. The memorandum was meant to be presented to President Roosevelt. It warned that the use of the bomb would start an arms race with the USSR. But President Roosevelt died before the petition could be presented to him.
Truman would later provide contradictory statements about his decision to use the bombs. Truman referred to the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and the only language the Japanese understood was force. He claimed Hiroshima was an industrial center, but in fact most of its industry was not destroyed. He knew the main target was civilians.
The worst-case scenario for a US invasion of Japan was an estimated of less than 50,000 American deaths. Those who defend the atomic bombings, including in history textbooks, often use grossly inflated numbers of potential casualties.
In reality, American chiefs of state have been ashamed of the atomic bombing, and perhaps in self-delusional denial. A film on the effects of the bombings was suppressed by the US government until recently. The chiefs of the US occupation did not allow photos and reports of the aftermath to be published.
Most Americans have readily swallowed the propaganda that using the atomic bombs were necessary to end the war against Japan. It is not pleasant to admit that America, champion of human rights, committed a colossal immoral historic blunder.
The consequences of using the atomic bombs on Japan extend beyond the nuclear arms race with the USSR to the proliferation of nuclear weapons and now to the Levantine terrorists use of the bombings to justify their own threatened atomic attacks on the USA. The anti-American terrorists say that just as the US justified killing hundreds of thousands of Japanese during World War II, so too the violent jihadists justify killing thousands or million of Americans in their war.
This first of all presumes that the American use of the atomic bomb was morally justified, and the evidence seems to me to be overwhelming that it was immoral and militarily unjustified. Secondly, even if the American use was justified, a mass murder of American civilians could spur massive angry retaliation rather than surrender. The military and political circumstances of the US war on terror is utterly different from that of the US-Japan war of the 1940s.
Nevertheless, these arguments are made and endorsed by some terrorists under the guise of religion and perceived grievances. The US use of the atomic bomb is coming back to haunt us. Those who live by the sword risk having it used against them.
Mainstream Wimpmedia Fail to See Bush’s Contradictions
Media Flagstones Along a Path to War on Iran
Israel and Pakistan have nuclear weapons and have refused to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Iran has no nuclear weapons and has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. So Bush is mad at … you guessed it … Iran.
by Norman Solomon
On Tuesday, big alarm bells went off in the national media echo chamber, and major U.S. news outlets showed that they knew the drill. Irans nuclear activities were pernicious, most of all, because people in high places in Washington said so.
It didnt seem to matter much that just that morning the Washington Post reported: A major U.S. intelligence review has projected that Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years, according to government sources with firsthand knowledge of the new analysis. The carefully hedged assessments, which represent consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies, contrast with forceful public statements by the White House.
By evening — hours after the Iranian government said it would no longer suspend activities related to enriching uranium — American news outlets were making grave pronouncements, amplifying the statements from French, British and German officials closing ranks with the Bush administration. On television in the United States, a narrow range of talking heads detoured around the USAs profuse nuclear hypocrisies.
Yes, officials in Washington and their allies conceded, an Iranian restart of uranium enrichment activities would not violate the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. But, as a Washington Post article put it Wednesday, the Iranian nuclear program was built in secret over 18 years and the clandestine nature of the effort created deep suspicions in Washington and elsewhere about Irans intentions.
In sharp contrast, no suspicions are needed about the nuclear activities of two of Irans bitterest enemies, Israel and Pakistan. Both have produced atomic weapons. Unlike Iran, those two U.S. allies have refused to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty and do not submit to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
For good measure, last month the U.S. government announced plans to engage in cooperation on atomic energy projects with the Indian government, which has nuclear bombs and has not signed the NPT.
So, the nuclear moralists in Washington have no problem with Israeli, Pakistani and Indian nuclear weapons, developed and stockpiled with contemptuous disregard for the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But the White House and talking heads of U.S. television are insisting that Iran has no right to do what the treaty allows it and other signers to do — develop nuclear power, ostensibly to generate electricity.
The latest U.S. media uproar about Irans nuclear program is part of a dream starting to come true for neo-cons in Washington who fantasize about regime change in Tehran. More realistically, for the nearer term, the Bush administration is setting the agenda for a U.S. air attack on Iran.
This notion that the United States is getting ready to attack Iran is simply ridiculous, President Bush told a news conference in late February. He added in the same breath: and having said that, all options are on the table. Assembled journalists laughed.
Norman Solomon is the author of the new book War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. For book excerpts and other information, go to: www.WarMadeEasy.com
Ridiculous-Sounding Group Makes Sensible Statement
Energy Bill Fails to Deal Aggressively with Dangerous Oil Dependence
Here is a news release from a group calling itself “Republicans for Environmental Protection America.” We wonder if that group consists of more than one or two people? There used to be a handful of environmentally-responsible and fiscally-responsible Republicans, but we suspect they have long since been hounded out of that party.
Well, you can make up your own mind on that. Certainly this news release is on-target, so let’s wish luck to REP America.
The energy bill passed by Congress fails to deal responsibly with the most pressing energy issue that is facing America our nations increasingly dangerous dependence on oil.
America depends on oil for 40 percent of its energy consumption, yet holds only 2 percent of global conventional oil reserves.
Congress refused to enact a responsible increase in motor vehicle fuel economy standards, the single most important step we could take to reduce oil dependence. Our elected representatives could not even bring themselves to include mild language in the bill calling for a plan to cut oil consumption a mere 5 percent by 2015. The Saudi royal family must be very pleased, said REP America Policy Director Jim DiPeso.
Left on the cutting room floor was a requirement for utilities to obtain at least 10 percent of their electricity from renewable energy resources by 2020.
While rejecting a slew of common sense measures that would improve efficiency, diversify our energy resources, and safeguard the environment, Congress declared Christmas in July for the oil and gas industry, lavishing it with taxpayer funded giveaways and special treatment, said REP America Government Affairs Director David Jenkins.
The bill exempts certain oil and gas drilling on public lands from clean water requirements, endangering drinking and irrigation water for Western communities. The bill also directs the Interior Department to identify lands, including lands within national forests and wildlife refuges, to be traded away if they might contain oil shale and tar sands, a potential boondoggle threatening water supplies, private property owners, and taxpayers.
At a time of record fuel prices, out-of-control energy demand, peaking oil supplies, and rising greenhouse gas emissions, we must change course on energy quickly. Unfortunately, Congress did not rise to the occasion, settled for politics as usual, and failed the American people, Jenkins said.
REP America supports a strategic energy policy to strengthen the nations energy security, reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and provide greater economic opportunity. The path forward requires a mix of standards and market-based policies that will boost energy efficiency and accelerate the commercialization of cleaner energy technologies.
A draft of the Bill of Rights in the forthcoming Constitution of Iraq, as of July 20, 2005, tells Jews who fled Iraq: you are not welcome to return. Jews from Iraq who fled before 1968 are not eligible to obtain Iraqi nationality and citizenship.
An earlier draft published in June 30 stated, Any individual with another nationality (except for Israel) may obtain Iraqi nationality after a period of residency inside the borders of Iraq of not less than ten years for an Arab or twenty years for any other nationality. The July 20 draft states that Iraqis who lost citizenship after 1968 may regain it, thus still excluding almost all Iraqi Jews, but at least not exclusively.
Before Israel become an independent state in 1948, there were 150,000 Jewish citizens in Iraq. Israelites have lived in Iraq for over 2500 years. In 586 B.C.E., Babylon conquered Judea and brought many Jews to what is now Iraq. Baghdad later became a major center of Jewish thought. During the 1930s and 1940s, Nazi ideology infected the Arab region. In 1941, led by a mufti allied with Nazi Germany, there was a pro-Nazi coup, followed by killing, raping, and looting of Jews. Iraqi Jews call this the Farhud, or violent dispossession. The British army then came in and squashed the pogrom.
After World War II, the government of Iraq enacted Nazi-like anti-Jewish laws. Most of Iraqs Jews fled to Israel. In 1952, the Iraqi government prohibited Jews from emigrating. Additional restrictions were placed on Jews in 1963 when the Baath Party came to power. After 1967, Jewish property was confiscated and Jews were executed. Most remaining Jews were allowed to emigrate from Iraq during the 1970s.
This Jew-hating ideology still reigns in Iraq. There is also a concern that if Iraqi Jews are allowed to return and become Iraqi nationals, they will seek to be compensated for their confiscated property. Also, if Iraqis abroad are able to vote in Iraqi elections, Israeli Iraqis would be voting also, and many Iraqi Arabs dont want foreign Jews voting in their elections.
Muslims, especially Arabs, denounce Israel for not letting Arab Palestinians return to their original places. How, then, can Arabs justify not allowing Jews to return?
In his article Iraq: What are We Fighting For? in antiwar.com, Justin Raimondo writes, national socialism with an Islamic veneer is the guiding principle animating the founders of the new Iraqi state. It is not enough for Iraq to establish democracy. Iraq needs to be cured of fascism, just as the Germany and Japan were, to a large extent, after World War II. The new Iraqi government seeks acceptance by other Arab states, so of course it cannot recognize the State of Israel until all the other Arab states do. But the Constitution of Iraq should not exclude Jews who fled Iraq from seeking Iraqi nationality. In practice, very few Iraqis would want to return, anyway.
Although the new draft seems to have changed the except for Israel language, on July 27, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) wrote a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, noting that Article 1, Section 3 of the draft constitution states that, “Any individual with another nationality (except for Israel) may obtain Iraqi nationality,” and Article 4 states that, “Any Iraqi may have more than one nationality as long as the nationality is not Israel.”
The new Constitution of Iraq is still being worked on, with a deadline of August 15. Some seek to extend the deadline, but that would also delay the elections and perpetuate the violence. It would be best to stick with the August 15 date, and proceed with the new elections. The flaws of the constitution can be corrected, and momentum towards constitutional rule is important.
The U.S. should use its influence to maximize liberty and equal treatment in the new Constitution of Iraq. But then the constitution and the sovereignty of Iraq should be respected. The U.S. government should proclaim that it does not seek a permanent presence in Iraq. Permanent American military bases in Iraq will keep the country roiling with rebellion. To really stop the insurgency, the U.S. should declare that it will completely leave Iraq when the country has achieved a sustaining democracy capable of defending itself.
Meanwhile, Israelis can perhaps take comfort in Iraqs exclusion of its former Jews, since that helps to blunt criticism of Israels exclusion of former Arab residents.
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.
FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF DALLAS VOLUME 10, NUMBER 2
— Richard W. Fisher, President
Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas
Americans are again confronted, both domestically and internationally, with the clash of protectionist and free trade senti- ment. A deeply divided U.S. House just barely passed the Central American Free Trade Agreement [2005 July 27]. Politicians who a few years back supported the North American Free Trade Agreement now adamantly oppose CAFTA. Americans are torn between enjoying the benefits of globalization, with its increased consumer choices and lower prices, and worrying about the costs to the nation that some claim come with global free trade.
There is nothing new about this clash of ideas, as this latest Economic Insights points out; they have been vigorously debated before, most notably during the late 19th century. In the center of that debate was one of this nation’s most famous economists — Henry George. Today, few Americans recognize his name, yet his Progress and Poverty is the best-selling economics book ever written and outsold all English-language books save the Bible in the late 1890s. He touched off a worldwide movement for major tax reform, and societies and institutions still bear his name and span the globe.
Who was George? Why was he so influential? And what did he have to say about protectionism that we might profit from today? We offer this short biographical piece to answer these questions.
Strange, isn’t it, how people can claim that the wars in Colombia are about drugs, or the CIA, or ideologies, or freedom, or fascism, but when it comes down to settling a peace plan, the one item that tops everyone’s list is LAND. SAN VICENTE DEL CAGUAN, Colombia — Colombia’s leading rebel army will control a vast swath of territory around this town in the country’s southern jungle and savanna for at least another six months, a government official said on Saturday.
The Switzerland-sized safe haven was ceded by President Andres Pastrana to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in November of last year to jump-start a peace process aimed at ending the country’s long-running guerrilla war, which has taken more than 35,000 lives over the last decade.
The territorial handover was set to end next Tuesday, when Pastrana theoretically could have poured government troops back into the 16,000 square mile (42,000 sq km) area.
But Victor Ricardo, the government’s chief peace negotiator, told reporters Pastrana had extended the deadline for the troop pullout until June 7 of next year.
A government resolution, giving the government’s official blessing to prolonged rebel control over the enclave, was signed by the ministers of justice, defence and the interior as well as by Pastrana himself, Ricardo said.
The deal creating “Farclandia,” as some jokers have taken to calling this dusty cattle town and four other municipalities from which Pastrana has withdrawn security forces, is highly controversial and prompted the resignation in May of Rodrigo Lloreda, the government’s widely respected former defence minister.
No ceasefire deal has been reached as part of the slow-moving peace process. And military officials argue that the supposed demilitarized zone has become a garrison from which the FARC’s estimated 17,000 fighters can launch attacks across the country.
Adding to the controversy over the FARC’s control over the safe haven is the fact that it is located near one of Colombia’s richest coca producing regions, the raw material for cocaine.
Officials say the drug trade is one of the FARC’s main sources of financing for its war against the state, together with a nationwide campaign of kidnapping, extortion and banditry.
Plans by Iranian investors to build a meat packing and storage facility in San Vicente have also caused some alarm, amid recent media reports that the FARC had hired military advisers or explosives experts from Tehran.
Iranian embassy officials in Bogota have staunchly denied the reports.
The FARC and smaller National Liberation Army have sharply escalated their attacks against population centres this year, even as the country’s fledgling peace process moves forward.
According to a report issued by the army Friday, the two rebel groups raided 67 towns and villages in the first 11 months of 1999 compared to just 27 attacks during the same period last year.
This news story was sent to us by the Colombian Labor Monitor.
What’s your opinion on the Colombian situation? Tell your views to The Progress Report!
Thousands of civilian women and children have been slain by, oops, Christians. Are any leaders willing to acknowledge that?
Here is an interesting item that appeared recently in the Toronto Star (Canada).
by Calvin White
Now that imams in Britain and Canada are standing up and publicly condemning terrorist acts as anti-Muslim and against the teachings in the Qur’an, I wonder if pressure might be put on Christian leaders to take a similar stand.
Contrary to what some might like to insist, Christianity is not the religion of “an eye for an eye” but it is the religion of Jesus, who refined those earlier directions and distilled the ten commandments into two. One was to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Pretty definitive isn’t it? As is the edict of turning the other cheek.
Jesus expected to be betrayed. He expected to be arrested by the authorities. There was no exhortations to prepare for battle. There was no bloody attempt to stop the proceedings.
Even as Jesus was brutalized while carrying his own crucifixion cross and being nailed onto the timbers, there was no violent counterforce from his disciples. Not even an outcry.
No matter where one reads in the accounts of Jesus, the only conclusion one can come to is that Jesus was about love.
So where are the Christian leaders when it comes to violent actions by our Western leaders? Where are the televangelists, who every Sunday take over the airwaves to trumpet the message of Jesus, when it comes to taking on bunker busting bombs and mass carnage?
Where are they when it comes to the death penalty prevalent in the majority of American states?
When President George Bush insists that billions of dollars need to continue flowing to the war effort in Iraq which leads to more American body bags and Iraqi graves, why is there no outcry? Why don’t the Christian leaders stand up and challenge those decisions, and passionately assert that Jesus would have sought another way of solving the problems?
In this time when Christianity is on the rise all over America, when there is a growing surge in extolling Christian values, why is it that when the born-again Bush says it’s better to fight “them” over there than on American soil, no concerted group of leaders stands up and yells that he’s got it wrong?
Like Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair is also born again.
Yet, their combined leadership has been responsible for excruciating death and injury to innocent civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq.
They both claim a righteousness in their policies of destruction. They were even counseled by their secular allies not to resort to the carnage. Where was the equal pressure from the Christian leadership?
Interesting, isn’t it, that Muslim fanatics use the idea of holy jihad and rewards in paradise to recruit their dupes into terrible acts of destruction, and in Christian circles there is the solemn assembling for prayer and seeking of blessings for the troops and leaders in their mission of war.
Interesting, isn’t it, that polling clearly indicates the Christian right in America is emphatically against bad language on TV and in the movies, horrified by Janet Jackson’s bare nipple — but drawn with considerable relish to violence in the same media.
The additional galling irony of Jesus being emblazoned on the foreheads of those in command of the sharpest swords is that Jesus was also all about intelligence. He was all about deeper understanding, about using insight and keenness of mind to solve problems. Think of how the Pharisees tried to trick him by holding up different sections of the law to trip him up.
His disciples picking corn, for instance, and thus working, on the Sabbath. Jesus answered that the Sabbath was for man and not the other way around. There was the adulteress brought before him to be stoned; he responded that any without sin might cast the first stone.
What kind of insight have Bush and Blair employed? What intelligence, what deeper understanding is demonstrated by the tactic of blast and shoot with as much technologically advanced weaponry as is available?
What compassion, what recognition of common humanity is shown when the biggest concern is how to pad the soldiers with as much body Kevlar and the humvees with as much armour as possible so they can kill all the easier without casualties and thus retain the support of the home front.
How do our current religious leaders think Jesus would react to the concept of collateral damage?
Calvin White is a freelance commentator and poet who lives in British Columbia.
Why are so many Americans so quick to vote against their own principles, and willing to empower so-called leaders who oppose American values? Here is an article that is sure to disturb you. “We have been children long enough. We must now unshackle our minds and begin acting as independent beings.” — Noah Webster, First American Dictionary
Or, Are Stupid White Men Really Stupid?
by Dom Stasi
Two framed pictures hang on my office wall. Each is accompanied by a timely message.
The frame atop holds a portrait of colonial patriot Samuel Adams. (Yes, the beer guy. My hero on so many levels.) Below the picture are his words, written at America’s birth: The liberties of our country, the freedoms of our civil Constitution are worth defending at all hazards; it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors. They purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood. It will bring a mark of everlasting infamy on the present generation — enlightened as it is — if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of designing men.
When I look at the framed document and I see the idealized portrait — Sam Adams of the set jaw and steely eyes — I feel as though he is reaching across the centuries and speaking directly to me, admonishing me to beware the artifices of designing men.
Then I lower my eyes. What I see lowers my spirits as well. For immediately below the Sam Adams quote hangs another frame. This one contains a front page from the London Daily Mirror. Above the newspaper’s headline floats another picture, this one of a befuddled-looking, newly reelected George W. Bush. The headline reads: HOW CAN 59,054,087 PEOPLE BE SO DUMB?
Now, while I’ve asked myself the same question innumerable times since November 4th, I’m not so sure the answer is as simple as the British tabloid would have us think. But think we must. So it is this lower frame, and the many messages and subtexts its simple words convey, on which I cannot help but concentrate my attention and this article.
If we’re not dumb, then how can 59,054,087 people — Americans all — appear so dumb?
For what did cause so many of our countrymen to behave so strangely on Election Day, 2004, and thus to appear stupid — very stupid — in the eyes of the rest of the world? We are after all, the melting pot, the world’s amalgam. Intelligence distribution is Gaussian.
To understand the Mirror’s headline one must understand its readers. The headline is not an indictment of American intellect by jealous Europeans as xenophobic propagandists like Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh would have us think (Forgive the writer’s indulgence. I’ve always wanted to use the words Bill O’Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and Think in the same sentence, if only to prove it could be done.)
No. By judiciously avoiding the word Americans in referring to the 2004 Bush voters, and simply calling them people, what the Daily Mirror’s headline does is articulate what seems an enigma to our foreign earth mates. To most of them America is smart enough, like it or not. America is the most commercially and scientifically advanced society on Earth, like that or not too, and ours is the only society we know that’s made it off Earth as well. So, to them, the sheer unexpectedness of our apparent and hopefully temporary stupidity is what has the thinking world reeling — not our actual stupidity. Our countrymen’s behavior has proven particularly vexing to Europeans. But they see this not as an American failure of intellect, but a human failure, thus the word people. So — unlike many of us — they’re asking legitimate questions, so is their press.
Look at the 2004 election from their point of view. The vast majority of Americans are descended from European families, even those Americans who trace their heritage to Mexico, the Caribbean, South America, Africa. European blood courses the veins of most Americans. European blood is shed on American battlefields. To a greater extent than all others combined, Europe is the foundation of American culture. In fact, even the most fundamental genetic science long ago proved our common lineage.
As such, Europeans do not hate America or Americans, quite the contrary. How could they? Neither do they think us stupid out of proportion to the world’s general population. No. They see us as themselves, their brothers and sisters who’ve left behind abusive parents to strike out on our own. We proclaimed that we did not need kings and overlords. We can govern ourselves! we declared. And by extension, so could they. The familial metaphors are profound.
So, when it seems that we cannot, when we — we who are free to select from all of our extraordinary people not just some arbitrary nobility — still select inbred dynastic fools to lead us, when we allow the most commonplace of buffoons to guide the supertanker of state that is America, Europeans take notice. When we get it wrong twice, they feel the sense of failure and disappointment even before we do ourselves. They have no skin in the American game, so they don’t fool themselves into denial. Their newspapers don’t sell well here. Their journalists can be objective. We’re cut from the same ancestral cloth. If we’re stupid, then by extension so are they. Europeans realize this, so they ask, how can it be? Is it in our blood? Are white people genetically doomed to self destruction?
To many of my readers, these may appear radical musings, even for me. But I assure you, I do not arrive at them lightly. I spend a great deal of time abroad, particularly in the capitols of Western Europe, and not as a tourist. In fact not a month has passed this year that has not found me working in a foreign city: Amsterdam, Barcelona, Frankfurt, London, Paris, Rome, Stockholm. Between times I might be in Oklahoma or Texas, LA or New York. I mediate among a very diverse group of humans, far more than most.
Wherever I may be, I drink the water, read the newspapers, or have them translated for me. I speak with my many friends in pubs and restaurants and coffee shops and the places where we work. I do this on both sides of the Atlantic, both sides of the Pacific. I watch their TV news programs. Many of my colleagues produce these programs, write these newspapers. I know what they think, and I know why they think it. Many of them consider their American journalistic counterparts cowards and whores. I find that I think it too. Sometimes I realize what’s happening, then I fight it back. Other times not. For there is but one constant among the variables: whether I’m in Paris Texas, or Paris France, I’m American. England or New England: American! American to the bone.
But unlike their counterparts in the American media, my foreign friends ask valid questions. They ask the same questions more and more independent Americans are finally asking ourselves in the absence of a relevant corporate media here. For example, if it’s accepted that it wasn’t widespread American stupidity, then what was it that caused Americans to reelect little Bush, and by doing so allowing ourselves to be cheated out of our freedoms and liberties by the artifices of the designing men with whom he’s surrounded himself?
What indeed. And, what caused so many Americans (59,054,087 if one believes the Daily Mirror and the vote count) to reward this profoundly failed president and his designing men with a second term? What motivated so many of our countrymen, after observing this guy, this mutant prince, this chronic incompetent whose proximate tenure proved him neither intelligent nor rational nor honest nor temperate, what caused us to unbridle such a dismal failure by providing him a docile, if equally corrupt legislative majority of more designing men to do his bidding and pillaging in our name? What blinded nearly 60 million Americans to the folly of casting their collective lot with big-money-globalists and against their own? against their nation’s economy? against their families? against their freedoms? against their futures? against their civil liberties? against their — and our — blood-won civil Constitution?
What persuaded a majority of the lowest income white guys from those areas the Europeans see as America’s provinces (the red states) to enable and support federal policies intended to ultimately repeal the dividend tax? the estate tax? to impose a wartime tax refund for people (the noblemen) in the top 2% income bracket most of whom live in the blue states? What made agri-workers in the breadbasket states endorse the very president whose $200 billion in welfare to corporate farms will be spent to continue automating their jobs into oblivion? What inspired them to vote for economic programs that would provide an additional $70 billion in annual tax breaks to designing men who move American manufacturing jobs offshore? Why did lower-middle-income workers believe it would benefit them to redistribute their Social Security withholding to Wall Street (the blue heart of the bluest state) on the heels of a market collapse while the actual Social Security surplus edges toward two trillion dollars? Are the adjusto-tabs on their polyester baseball caps being pulled so tight that blood flow is cut off from their brains? These are the questions I’m asked.
It should be evident that stupidity alone would not account for this widespread illogic, though in speaking and corresponding with representative samples of any but the absolutely wealthiest Republican voters it becomes clear that if not stupidity alone, then willful ignorance as well is prevalent among them. But neither can these attributes alone account for such self-destructive behavior among so many millions of so called Americans. Even idiots have survival instincts. Even sheep recognize the slaughterer’s shackle and pike.
What then? What specifically, caused a substantial majority of non-union, blue collar middle-income white males in this country to twice vote in favor of an economic plan that would reduce their overtime pay-rates, while diverting more billions of their earnings to the designing men who quietly consider themselves these working men’s masters. Why did white collar white men vote against genetic research whose advancement would create countless American skilled jobs forever and healthier lives for their descendants? Was it their religious beliefs? If so, have not the sciences blessed this country as generously as all of the gods of all her religious factions combined? What made such Americans endorse a policy of spend and borrow that will inevitably send interest rates thought the sky, and eternally indebt their children to foreign banks? What? and what? and why? and why? ad infinitum.
Last month a Dutch woman asked me what caused 55% of white American women to endorse a policy wherein a bunch of (designing) men would be allowed to make these women’s reproductive decisions for them? How do I answer that? How, when I wonder myself what it was that made these free American women willingly hand over control of their very bodies to a bunch of right wing creeps with little boy haircuts whom few of such women would deign to acknowledge in a social situation? How would you answer?
Last May I found myself engulfed by a Roman anti-Bush rally. Citizens of this city built from the spoils of conquest were demanding Bush and Berlusconi end their illegal war in Iraq. Afterwards, walking past a billboard showing the mud-caked and bloodied little feet of children killed in that war, I asked my companion to translate the caption below the disturbing picture. The Work Of Bush, she answered.
Emboldened, she asked me a question — three questions. Why, she said, are so many American women quietly abiding the violent physical destruction of so many thousands of (Iraqi) children at the hands of a marauding army? Why have they not protested more vigorously? Did they not understand the unspeakable horror of such a rampage? I could not answer her.
After all, the infanticide’s been proceeding unabated for three years now. Have such American women still failed to take notice, or do they just not care? I did not know then. I still do not. After all, 55% of white American women voted for Bush again.
Further, what motivated a staggering 78% of the most ardent and absolutely milky whitest American followers of Jesus to first enable and then endorse the murder of 128, 000 innocents (so far) and the maiming of countless more of God’s children, most of whom literally were women and children. What made them do so in the shadow of His very cross? This, while a comparable 75% of non-Christian American whites voted to end such brutality in 2004. Could it be that in the eyes of white evangelicals, humans lose their right to life once they’re actually born? That makes sense.
What inspired a majority of white veterans — and this one hurts most on a personal level — those who know the stink of burned and rotting flesh, of cordite and kerosene, those who know what it means to feel your wingman’s presence — to know absolutely — that he’s on your flank, at your twelve, got your back no matter what the odds — what makes such vets allow lesser men, men who were not there when we turned around, yet reappear as if by magic whenever it’s time to once more send our young to burn and rot, to kill and be killed on foreign soil based upon fear — fear and deception — what made most veterans support such scum? Have we too forgotten what was done to our generation by men such as these, safe in their Washington and Texas easy chairs? It appears we have. So soon. So very soon.
Elderly. What drove our white seniors to enrich those who consider the fixed-income elderly as excess baggage and a no-longer-useful element of society? What so enraged or so terrified Americans of the generation that faced down the Axis and the Soviets that they would vote for false security at the expense of the respite they’ve already paid for in blood, sweat, tears, money? What made these people throw in with those who will obviate their every social and financial contribution to our way of life by taking the money that American seniors themselves have set aside for an honorable and safe twilight of their glorious years. The fake conservatives in power today are uniformly on record as disdainful of anything public, such as Social Security, Medicare, and aid for the disabled. They brag about it. So what, then, drove a majority of our Caucasian elderly to empower these savages who want to divert every public penny to war costs or to themselves thus leaving our social programs bankrupt — deliberately bankrupt? What?
The answers to these questions are many and varied. None of them are flattering. None of them reflect the actions of a smart, rational or informed electorate. Many of them represent dangerous reactions by a downtrodden, emerging, easily-frightened, and politically ignorant white middle America. All of them are an inherent threat to representative democracy. All of them remain unchanged by the facts of these last five abjectly dismal American years. All of them should be disturbing — very disturbing — to real Americans.
Europeans seem to understand the founding principles of our democratic republic better than we. What will it take to awaken the real Americans?
That’s right, real Americans! By that I mean those of us — right, left, and center — who understand that representative democracy demands participation and who participate. (A God Bless America bumper sticker is not participation.)
By real Americans I mean those of us smart enough, aware enough, awake enough, American enough to know the difference between true patriotism and blind jingoism.
(A note to my legion of fuming detractors: after you look up the meaning of jingoism, get all judgmental on me and scrawl another of your angry, pointless, and unimaginative name-calling diatribes, let me help you with your research by answering the inane assumptions and mostly irrelevant questions you’ve already been programmed to ask me: I am a white guy and in that despised top 2% of Americans in both income and IQ. I report every penny of my income, none of which is derived from writing or any other form of environmental pollution. I am not a pacifist. I’m a veteran and unlike your poop-suited war-president, my USAF crewmates remember me as I do them. I’m prone to political compromise in the public interest. I am not now, nor have I ever been a member of the Communist party. I have no prison record, and have never taken an illegal drug. I eat meat. I drink mostly coffee, beer and Jack Daniels and have since childhood. I dislike all wines except champagne (from France!), which I especially enjoy in the company of one or more like-minded women (from anywhere). I’m not sure what latte is. In my teens I was a member of the Young Republicans. I once walked away from a job as US Foreign Service Officer because I would not engage in overt propaganda. I’ve three times held a Top Secret government security clearance, and three times I’ve obeyed its rule and its spirit to the letter. I’ve been married to the same long-suffering, amazing, and still beautiful gal for 40 years. My children respect and love me and even call me on the phone. I recognize wedge efforts at gun control as precisely that, but consider civil liberty a far more powerful weapon than any firearm — and one whose ownership is proportionally more threatened by this government’s attempts at control. I am a real American. And yes, I am a Hollywood Liberal and damned proud of it. At least most of you got that right. So, if you must waste your time and mine by calling me names, call me that one. Just spare me the other crap. Come up with something new, and add a comma now and then — it won’t use up that much of your crayon.)
As for the remainder of our countrymen and women, it should be apparent by now that few realize better than do I how tempting it is in this frustrating age to blame their apparent stupidity simply on actual stupidity. But, to do so would be a mistake. It would be a mistake that would mean their manipulators have manipulated you and me as well.
At this point things have gone too far to blame the still-widespread denial on stupidity: No WMD. No al-Qaeda connections to Saddam. Destruction of the world’s oldest civilization for no plausible reason. Terrorism run rampant as we spend and kill mindlessly. No yellowcake. No aluminum tubes. The Downing Street memo. Traitors in the White House. Remember the Road Map? How about the mission to Mars? Ha! I could fill the page with this administrations lies and failures. But the point is this. Continued denial by Bush’s supporters in the face of such evidence does not derive from their stupidity alone. It is much more serious than that, much more serious.
We must step back from our anger and realize this.
Most Americans — a substantive majority in fact, and whether liberal or conservative or anything in between — are neither stupid, nor do we all want different things from our government. What most of us want is honesty. We’re not getting it. If we force them to give us that, the rest will follow. But only those capable of critical thought realize this.
Many Americans simply refuse to accept such a view. It’s an ugly view of our beloved country. It’s really ugly. There is so much that is already ugly in the world of those who allow others to think for them — the world of Fox news and Ann Coulter. For these easily-led people to accept that we Americans are the proximate cause of so much of the ugliness would test their self-discipline too rigorously. Accepting that our beloved country and its form of government have fallen victim to criminals represents a monumental psychological obstacle to them — a cognitive dissonance — not unlike that faced by the mother who won’t accept that her child is the serial killer the police have been hunting. We’ve all seen such tragic people on the news.
Making such ugliness even more difficult to accept, is that, just like the mother, to accept reality is to also accept that the killer came from her genes from her very womb. Similarly, the voter who enabled the Bush administration must accept some responsibility for the mass murder, the war crimes, the suffering that proceeded from their actions. So they stand in strident denial. They ride beside us on the freeway. They’re the ones with the bumper stickers that say things like, Power Of Pride, whatever that means. They can bellow all they want, what their jingoism says to me is they’ve put self above country. Whenever you see such a bumper sticker, it should say it to you as well.
To not accept the glaring reality of what has happened to our beloved representative democracy is to put self above country. To do that yet live under her sky is patently un-American. Like the rest of us, the now growing majority of us, these people too must put pride behind them and do what is right — what is right for America. Their mindless flag waving makes me sick. If they don’t get what America means, then it is not their flag!
Though the manipulators of media and government do count heavily on their base being a little light in the critical-thinking area, that’s not stupidity. Laziness, credulity, naïveté? Yes. But not stupidity, not all of them, not even most. Be angry with that. It will allow you to focus on the right target. To focus on stupidity, however apparent it might seem, will be to waste your rage on the wind.
Add to this dissonance the realization that we’ve been raised and educated to expect good government. Everything we’ve been taught about America since childhood is that it is the beacon of good government. How then can one accept that at the moment, ours is the most dangerously corrupt government in the world, run by a gaggle of universally failed incompetents? Has adding high treason to the crimes of this White House further cemented their base of adamant intractables?
How does one who loves his or her country accept that, especially when his or her vote contributed to the atrocity?
By facing it, that’s how? By being an adult, that’s how. By being an American, that’s how! By being an American, that’s how! By being an American, that’s how! By being an American, that’s how! How many times must it be said before it sinks in? Must we fall first? We surely will if America is left to the artifices of the designing men who’ve taken charge of her government of the people, by the people, and for the people.
Though I cannot answer all of my European friends’ questions any better than I can answer those I ask myself, what I do know is this. Many Europeans have conveniently forgotten that before us, they were history’s fools. Many more have not. The latter realize that we are their families’ descendants. Our ancestries are common. Our future is too. Europeans eat cheeseburgers. Americans eat pizza. The world has gotten very small. A terrorist’s shrapnel kills all her people with comparable efficiency.
Thus, most Europeans do not think Americans are stupid. Neither do they want to think it. Inexperienced? Yes. Naïve? Yes. But not stupid.
Europeans see our countrymen’s behavior for what it is: naïve nationalism. They see us as falling victim to the same propaganda that has devastated them throughout recorded history. Today’s Americans — or half of us — are just the latest iteration of history’s fools. They wonder if we too will be its victims? Will we follow the disastrous path to fear-bred despotism that our country’s founders escaped? Have we already taken our first steps along that path?
We must wake up and regain our country from the criminals, fools, and traitors who’ve assumed it. We must regain it for human posterity. We must regain it for our children. Yet, instead, we are close to falling victim to the same exploitation that caused our ancestors to lose control of their destinies in decades and centuries past.
The vast majority of Americans are honorable people. But Americans are people who’ve been lied to by those in positions of trust for so long and so often that they’ve lost their ability or their desire to recognize the truth. Our countrymen and women won’t be brought back to rationality through anger. Only reason can accomplish that. And now, perhaps as no time before, as their leaders scramble and plot to save their own worthless skins, and do so with no thought of what their actions have done to the greatest country the world has ever known, perhaps, just perhaps, reasonable Americans are ready to put their pride behind them and literally, literally listen to reason.
I despise the hypocritical traitors of the corporate press, right-wing media, fundamentalist pulpit, and what today passes itself off for the Republican party as much as anyone can. My words have made that apparent. But we cannot let our anger become our enemy’s weapon. For to do that would be to follow our European predecessors to ruin. If they are more aware than we, it is because they learned a very hard lesson from a very stern master: history.
Will our countrymen ignore that lesson? Now that would be stupid.
Dom Stasi is a media executive and writer living in Los Angeles.
an answer for Jonathan of the Green Party (Nov 7): “What does ‘share our surplus’ mean?”
Our surplus is the values that society generates synergistically. It’s the money we spend on the nature we use: on land sites, natural resources, EM spectrum, ecosystem services (assimilating pollutants). It’s also the money we pay to holders of government-granted privileges like corporate charters. We could share it by paying for the nature we use and privileges we hold to the public treasury then getting back a fair share of the recovered revenue. Used to be, owners did owe rent (“own” and “owe” used to be one word). And presently, some lucky residents do get back periodic dividends: Alaska’s oil dividend and Aspen Colorado’s housing assistance. Doing that, instead of subsidizing bads while taxing goods, is the essence of geonomics.
Jonathan: “Is local currency what you mean?”
Editor: It’s not. Community currency is a good reform, but every good reform pushes up site values. That makes land an even more tempting object of speculation. Now, any good will eventually do bad by widening the income gap – until you share land values.
a POV that Spain’s president might try. A few blocks from my room in Madrid at a book fair to promote literacy, Sr Zapatero, while giving autographs and high fives to kids, said books are very expensive and he’d see about getting the value added tax on them cut down to zero. (El Pais, June 4; see, politicians can grasp geo-logic.) But why do we raise the cost of any useful product? Why not tax useless products? Even more basic: is being better than a costly tax good enough? Our favorite replacement for any tax is no tax: instead, run government like a business and charge full market value for the permits it issues, such as everything from corporate charters to emission allowances to resource leases. These pieces of paper are immensely valuable, yet now our steward, the state, gives them away for nearly free, absolutely free in some cases. Government is sitting on its own assets and needs merely to cash in by doing what any rational entity in the economy does – negotiate the best deal. Then with this profit, rather than fund more waste, pay the stakeholders, we citizenry, a dividend. Thereby geonomics gets rid of two huge problems. It replaces taxes with full-value fees and replaces subsidies for special interests with a Citizens Dividend for people in general. Neither left nor right, this reform is what both nature lovers and liberty lovers need to promote, right now.
the annoying habit of seeing the hand of land in almost all transactions. In geonomics we maintain the distinction between the items bearing exchange value that come into being via human effort — wealth — and those that don’t — land. Keeping this distinction in the forefront makes it obvious that speculating in land drives sprawl, that hoarding land retards Third World development, that borrowing to buy land plus buildings engorges banks, that much so-called “interest” is quasi-rent, that the cost of land inflates faster than the price of produced goods and services, that over half of corporate profit is from real estate (Urban Land Institute, 1999). Summing up these analyses, geonomists offer a Grand Unifying Theory, that the flow of rent pulls all other indicators in its wake. Geonomics differs from economics as chemistry from alchemy, as astronomy from astrology.
more transformation than reform; it’s a step ahead. Harvard economics students this year did petition to change the curriculum, in the wake of the English who caught the dissension from across The Channel. French reformers, who fault conventional economics for conjuring mathematical models of little empirical relevance and being closed to critical and reflective thought, reject this “autism” – or detachment from reality – and dub their offering “post-autistic economics”. Not a bad name, but again, academics define themselves by what they’re not, not by what they are, unlike geonomists. We track rent – the money we spend on the nature we use – and watch it pull all the other economic indicators in its wake. We see economies as part of the ecosystem, similarly following natural patterns and able to self-regulate more so than allowed, once we quit distorting prices. To align people and planet, we’d replace taxes and subsidies with recovering and sharing rents.
a way to redirect all the money we spend on the nature we use – trillions of dollars annually. We can’t pay the Creator of sites and resources and are mistaken to pay their owners this biggest stream in our economy. Instead, as owners we should pay our neighbors for respecting our claims to land. Owners could pay in land dues to the public treasury, a la Sydney Australia’s land tax, and residents could get back a “rent” dividend, a la Alaska’s oil dividend. We’d pay for owning sites, resources, EM spectrum, or emitting pollutants into the ecosphere, then get a fair share of the recovered revenue. The economy would finally have a thermostat, the dividend. When it’s small, people would work more; when it’s big, they’d work less. Sharing Earth’s worth, we could jettison counterproductive taxes and addictive subsidies. Prices would become precise; things like sprawl, sprayed food, gasoline engines, coal-burning plants would no longer seem cheap; things like compact towns, organic foods, fuel cells, and solar powers would become affordable. Getting shares, people could spend their expanded leisure socializing, making art, enjoying nature, or just chilling. Economies let us produce wealth efficiently; geonomics lets us share it fairly.
the study of the money we spend on the nature we use. When we pay that money to private owners, we reward both speculation and over-extraction. Robert Kiyosaki’s bestseller, Rich Dad’s Prophecy, says, “One of the reasons McDonald’s is such a rich company is not because it sells a lot of burgers but because it owns the land at some of the best intersections in the world. The main reason Kim and I invest in such properties is to own the land at the corner of the intersection. (p 200) My real estate advisor states that the rich either made their money in real estate or hold their money in real estate.” (p 141, via Greg Young) When government recovers the rents for natural advantages for everyone, it can save citizens millions. Ben Sevack, Montreal steel manufacturer, tells us (August 12) that Alberta, by leasing oil & gas fields, recovers enough revenue to be the only province in Canada to get by without a sales tax and to levy a flat provincial income tax. While running for re-election, provincial Premier Ralph Klein proposes to abolish their income tax and promises to eliminate medical insurance premiums and use resource revenue to pay for all medical expense for seniors. After all this planned tax-cutting and greater expense, they still expect a large budget surplus. Even places without oil and gas have high site values in their downtowns, and high values in their utility franchises. Recover the values of locations and privileges, displace the harmful taxes on sales, salaries, and structures, then use the revenue to fund basic government and pay residents a dividend, and you have geonomics in action.
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.
as unfamiliar as geo-economics. The latter is a course some universities offer that combines geography and economics. A UN newsletter, Go Between (57, Apr/May ’96; thanks, Pat Aller), cited an Asian conference on geopolitics and “geoeconomics”. The abbreviated term ‘geonomics” is the name of an institute on Middlebury College campus and of a show on CNBC. Both entities use the neologism to mean “global economics”, in particular world trade. We use geonomics entirely differently, to refer to the money people spend on the nature they use, how letting this flow collect in a few pockets creates class and poverty and assaults upon the environment, and how, on the other hand, sharing this rental flow creates equality, prosperity, and a people/planet harmony. This flow of natural rent, several trillions dollars in the US each year, shapes society and belongs to society.
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.
close to the policy of the Garden Cities in England. Founded by Ebenezer Howard over a century ago, residents own the land in common and run the town as a business. Letchworth, the oldest of the model towns, serves residents grandly from bucketfuls of collected land rent (as does the Canadian Province of Alberta from oil royalty). A geonomic town would pay the rent to residents, letting them freely choose personalized services, and also ax taxes. Both geonomics and Howard were inspired by American proto-geonomist Henry George. The movement launched by Howard today in the UK advances the shift of taxes from buildings to locations. A recent report from the Town and Country Planning Association proposes this Property Tax Shift and their journal published research in the potential of land value taxation by Tony Vickers (Vol. 69, Part 5, 2000). (Thanks to James Robertson)