Monday, August 30, 2010

Big Government or Big Business?

A friend of mine recently asked me a question that I had a difficult time answering until I thought about it some.

I now realize it was a trick question.

He asked me; “would I rather have to deal with big government or big corporations?”

That's like asking me if I would rather be shot with a .45 or stabbed with a bowie knife. Neither, thank you.

And then I got to thinking about what a trick question it really was. Because when you think about it, it isn't an either/or situation – because big business loves big government – as long as big business can control it.

  1. Big business loves big government because they can get everyone else to pay their taxes. A number of corporations in this country pay hardly any or no taxes whatsoever. What's not to love.

  2. Big business loves big government because they can get big subsidies. Between 2002 and 2008, the fossil fuel industry received over $70 billion in subsidies from the U.S. government (well, really the U.S. taxpayers). Now that's showing some love – for an industry that obviously doesn't deserve it because some of these corporations are making more money than any other in world history – destroying our environment – when there are better options.

  3. Big business loves big government because they can get lots of regulations. Not for themselves, of course. For their competition. For example; returning veterans from the Gulf wars with post traumatic stress have many times claimed that marijuana works far better than Prozac, Zoloft, etc. But marijuana is illegal (essentially because it makes you happy). It's certain that the big drug corporations just love the fact that big government continues to keep a more effective (and in some ways less dangerous) competition illegal.

  4. And of course, big business loves big government because this exempts them from the free market. If their business is too big to fail, they get a bailout. We need to face the obvious fact; you can't have socialism for the rich if you don't have big government.

Big business and big government go hand in hand. And if anyone on television tells you otherwise, they're lying. Why? Because they work for big business.

We've been living a lie. The whole “Government is the problem” speech was a lie. It was a lie to facilitate the takeover of big government by big business. There has been a coup d' etat. Our American peoples' democratic republic is practically gone. Yet, since the Republican (counter) revolutions, big government hasn't actually shrank. It has just morphed into a huge team of big business yes men. And face it, because of the expensive election process, we only get to vote for big business puppets.

...But big business pretends that isn't so.

Big government is the whipping boy for big business. Big business blames all our problems on big government. But wait a minute here; big business spends millions on controlling big government. (Of course, they make it back in billions.) Over the past few decades, we have all witnessed the lobbyists, the campaign contributions, and the revolving employment doors turn big government politicians and regulators into trained monkeys for big business.

It's time to ask yourself; since big business controls big government, why are they always preaching less government? Because “we the people” still have a tiny sliver of power left, and they want to take that too.

Big business, the corporate oligarchy, the “too big to fail” team wants to keep us in line. They want to keep us from taking back control over our own government. They've been keeping us like mushrooms (in the dark and feeding us BS). And they have framed this all as a liberal/conservative conflict. Because if they keep us fighting amongst ourselves we won't organize to challenge them.

Benito Mussolini, the fascist leader of Italy during WWII, once said: “Fascism is definitely and absolutely opposed to the doctrines of liberalism, both in the political and economic sphere.”

Now, I'm not claiming that everyone who is against liberalism is a fascist. And I'm not claiming that America is anywhere near Mussolini's version of fascism. However, we absolutely need to pay attention to the signs. Our beloved nation has become very militaristic, even outright aggressive. Our economy has become dominated by monopolies. Our government is practically controlled by the (economic) powers that be. And everyone but the super-rich are getting poorer.

Benito Mussolini is also claimed to have said; “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.”

Perhaps we should take a hint from Benito Mussolini. He believed that big government and big business went hand in hand.

Whatever you call it, what we have here in America is not a choice between big government and big business. I see it as a choice between a democratic republic with sensibly regulated open markets vs. big government with big business oligarchy control of “open markets” (which are, in actuality, anything but open).

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Eaarth Monopoly

(No, I did not misspell Earth. That is Bill McKibben's spelling for the harsh post-natural world we have created, and must now live in.)

The situation most of us don't realize about the economy is that some people do quite well when the chips are down for the rest of us. In other words, some people may actually want there to be hard times.

I'm not just making this up. We've seen this happen in numerous other countries that have been forced to take austerity measures while some people in these counties (and some international corporations) squeeze out unscrupulous windfall profits. When this happens, the situation is as blatant as it is unfair. And all to often, they get away with it (at least for a while). We need to face the horrible truth; some people sit around scheming to get rich at the deep expense of everyone else. Naomi Klein calls this “disaster capitalism.”

...And we've been watching it happen in Europe for the past few months. First, Greece's economy imploded. And then all of Europe has been forced to enact draconian austerity measures to get out of what is essentially contrived debt.

Two years ago, when the mega-banks' gambling habits resulted in the world-wide financial crisis, America and European countries bailed them out. It cost far more than our governments could afford, but our leaders felt that it had to be done – to save the economy. It may have worked a little, temporarily. But what Greece found out, the hard way, was that the banks were playing them all along.

John Lichfield wrote in The Independent: “Broadly speaking the same people are now complaining (or trying to profit from the fact) that the money spent to rescue them last time has left national governments dangerously indebted.”

In other words; It weakened our national governments to bail out the banks, and now the banks and financiers are taking advantage of our weakened governments! Moreover, when our governments bailed out the banks, there were no imposed requirements on the banks. But, now that Greece needed a loan, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has a number of requirements – including higher taxes and deep austerity cuts – to pay off the banks!

This reminds of that old carnival saying; “there's a winner every time,” them. They profited from the bubble, they profited from the bailout, and now they're profiting from taking advantage of those who are now in debt from bailing them out!

It makes you wonder... It really makes you wonder if the paranoid conspiracy nuts just might be right – that this is all part of some evil scheme to monopolize the Earth.

It leads you to wonder... what if some of the people who run these mega-banks actually created the 2008 world financial crisis on purpose? Think about it.

Besides making an enormous pile of money during the bubble, the mega-banks knew they would be bailed out. They knew they would be bailed out on more-or-less their own terms. And they probably knew that if they panicked our governments into acting immediately, they would likely get massive piles of bailout money without any conditions whatsoever.

The mega-banks must have also known that the countries that would bail them out would then be economically weak, and thus vulnerable to an even bigger killing.

We really need to think about why all the nations of European Union are simultaneously gutting their social safety nets. These are acts of desperation. And most Americans don't have a clue as to why the EU is so desperate.

Ira Sohn wrote in Barron's; “The danger is that banks could do what they did with Greece: load up on sovereign debt with no capital requirement, then turn around and sell credit default swaps, wrecking the credit status of the country.” Greece was attacked. Greece was brought to its economic knees by a financial attack. This attack was in some ways every bit as damaging as if the banks had dropped bombs on Greek businesses. And every other country in the EU knows they could be attacked too.

Which leads us to what is effectively end-game disaster capitalism – the world wide systematic financial gutting of every vulnerable country that has done business with these banks.

...What if this were all planned? What if this was all planned in order to take everything from everyone on the planet?

For the past 30 years, we have been watching the banks and the financiers in America getting stronger and richer, while the rest of the economy has been getting weaker and poorer. For the past 30 years, we have been watching one economic bubble grow and bust after another.

These economic bubbles are terrible for most of us. Moreover, during America's glory years, between 1945 and 1980, there were no bubbles like this. Which logically implies that these bubbles would be stopped immediately today – if somebody powerful wasn't making a killing on them. And, of course, somebody has.

I highly recommend you read the article by Matt Taibbi, The Great American Bubble Machine, in Rolling Stone; about how Goldman Sachs has been behind every major economic bubble for the past 20 years. This includes the dot com bubble, the housing finance bubble, the gas price bubble, the food price bubble, and the planned carbon cap-and-trade scheme.

Oh, and guess what; Goldman Sachs is deeply involved with the IMF... You know, the organization that is forcing the “austerity” measures on Greece that is driving Greece into an economic “death spiral.”

This is all starting to look a little too contrived – a little to planned - a little too controlled by all the wrong people. Especially when we saw them all get together at the G20 summit to agree to drastically cut social spending worldwide to pay for the bailouts - and not charge the banks a thing.

David Dayen wrote in the article, G20 Cancels Fiscal Expansionism: Hooverism on a Global Scale, on the website FireDogLake; “This is precisely the kind of thinking that turned a jarring stock market crash into a worldwide depression in the 1930s.” This kind of thinking isn't new. This is simply what oppression of the poor and the middle class looks like – again.

Here's a relevant question for you. Is our wealth surreptitiously being drained away from us? You know the answer to that. Our money is. Our real wealth is. The commonwealth is. The environment is.

It's time to recognize the obvious. The whole corporatist economic mentality is based upon the exploitation of our planet and its people. And frighteningly, things have gotten a lot more exploitative recently.

I am convinced that most people have not fully thought about what the term “maximizing one's profits” can really mean if taken to the extreme. To truly maximize your profits, one would have to consider minimizing everyone and everything else's wealth. The eventual goal, in this ever escalating game of Eaarth Monopoly, is to take everything now – to ultimately leave the land barren, to make the productive people your slaves, and to kill (or let die) all the others.

A friend of mine has used the term “Craps vs. Crops” to explain the hostilities between the City of Las Vegas and Rural Nevada and Utah. The rural people want to maximize real, tangible, consumable wealth – crops. While Las Vegas wants to maximize an indicator of wealth – money. The same is true for these mega-banks. They have been gambling with our money, at the expense of the true wealth generating sector of America's economy. And to get even richer, it appears they are attempting to turn America and Europe into third world nations.

Here's a video of how a Marxist views what is going on. (And no, I'm not a Marxist. But it's interesting to see how accurately they view our predicament. Which means; if we don't deal with these issues, some people will turn to Marxism – as they have in the past.)

Of course, I'm not fully convinced anyone sits around in banks planning the takeover of the world. I suspect that most of these people are just opportunists. And most of these people haven't fully realized the consequences of all our actions taken together.

But if this were all planned, the banks have made one huge mistake. Not every country on the planet has been willing to play their silly game. Not every country on the planet is vulnerable to their monopoly tactics. There is this matter of China – which has been getting stronger every year we have been getting weaker. Could the banks crush China's economy too? Maybe. But so far it looks like the mega-banks have been so busy gutting every other country that they have been playing right into China's hand.

Here's an interesting question (that has now become relevant): Could it be that “free market” economics ultimately leads to communism? This speculation would have sounded preposterous a generation ago. But China seems to be doing quite well at “free market” capitalism. In fact, they've been proudly predicting their ascent to world economic domination because of state sponsored capitalism.

But I guess it doesn't really matter. What difference does it make whether we're driven to abject poverty by capitalists, communists, or some form of hybrid capitalist/communists? And ultimately, what difference does it make whether the scheming demons had it all planned out or just followed the path of least resistance to maximize their profits.

When it all comes down to whether you're going to get your next meal or not; it doesn't really matter what name you give it, tyranny is still tyranny – whether it be at the point of a sword, the point of a gun, or the point of a pen.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Desalination Is Cheaper!!!

Thank you George Knapp, the I-Team, and KLAS TV-8 News NOW.

Your reporting has shown that desalination is cheaper than the Las Vegas watergrab pipeline.

But there are a couple of other reasons desalination is cheaper also.

  1. With desalination, Southern Nevada's water needs can be dealt with incrementally, as needed. The watergrab pipelines, wells, and pumps all have to be built at once – to minimize the disastrous environmental effects expected. This will cost billions. As shown by the Yuma Desalination Facility, smaller bites are far cheaper up front.

  2. If SNWA were to undertake desalination projects, the smaller up front costs would lead to lower finance costs, and much lower risk if Southern Nevada doesn't grow as anticipated.

  3. By insisting on the watergrab pipeline, SNWA is inferring that the residents of Las Vegas pay for water for new residents – and the financing of the massive project. By choosing desalination, the cost of new water could be shifted to developers, and therefore the new residents who will actually be using the water.

In a nutshell; greedy developers want Las Vegas residents to pay for water for developments outside of Las Vegas. I call this Water(grab)gate.

Of course, Southern Nevada politicians are participants in Water(grab)gate also.

SNWA jumped the gun when they spent 70 million dollars on rural ranches for water almost 300 miles away. And now that desalination has dropped in price so much and Las Vegas isn't growing virally, politicians such as Rory Reid (who once headed SNWA) have to pretend desalination isn't a good option.

If SNWA were to admit that the 70 million dollars spent in Rural Nevada was no more than a long term investment (or maybe even a mistake), it would be political suicide for Pat Mulroy, Rory Reid, and likely everyone on the SNWA Board.

But the real cause of all this mess is Nevada State water law. Our State's water law promotes immediate exploitation. There is no option for Las Vegas to save the water for future use. If SNWA were to drop the water apps, someone else would immediately apply to take the water away.

Nevada water law states that those who use the water first get senior water rights. What this means in the real world is those who waste the water get the water for free. Nevada water law just slices up the pie, with no real thought of the future.

If Rory Reid were to say that he wishes to reform Nevada water law to save some water for future use; Las Vegas could get long term water rights to unused water in Rural Nevada, people could still live in and move to Rural Nevada, and at least until Las Vegas is truly desperate (which they are no where near now), a chunk of the Great Basin almost the size of Vermont can remain more or less natural.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Invisible Fist

Americans disagree vehemently on how to fix our economic system. The reason why is simple. There's a lot of really bad advice out there. Consequently, my advice is what Barry C. Lynn suggests; to believe what you see with your own eyes.

So, what have we seen? For the past 30 years; the mega-rich have become the super-rich, the poor have become the primary growth segment of our society, and the middle-class has been shriveling away. For the past 30 years we have witnessed the monopolization of just about every business sector. And for the past 30 years, we have lost millions of jobs to foreign countries. Our nation has gone from the most economically powerful in the world to a borderline third-world nation.

In other words; we've been doing something wrong for the past 30 years.

But you won't hear that from the people who are now super-rich. In fact, they're still preaching that the “free” market economy is the way to go. …Yeah, right... You can see where it's going – straight to a privatized authoritarian oligarchy (some inevitably crashing combination of Brave New World, 1984, and the movie Brazil).

But it didn't have to be this way.

From the years just after WWII until the 1970's, our nation's economy grew steadily and all our citizens benefited. For a few decades, almost every American child had a chance to go to a good public school – and at least some of the poor actually had the opportunity to break free from the inter-generational grip of poverty.

For a while back then, the Great Depression was still fresh in our leaders' memories. For a while; we wouldn't let the money changers, the financiers, the speculators, the corporate raiders, and the super-greedy take control.

But that was before Milton Freedman preached that if our markets weren't a free-for-all, they weren't really free. He even claimed that if you weren't a “free” market capitalist, you were a socialist. Talk about revisionist history. Apparently we were all socialists before 1980. I did not know that.

But Americans weren't really paying attention. And what we had accepted as normal; sensibly regulated open markets, got rebranded. They were now “free” markets – and “government was the problem.” The goal was no longer to fix our imperfect regulations. No. The goal became to throw the baby out with the bathwater. And instead of “there ought to be a law,” we started believing that there ought not be any laws.

The pundits spread the “free market” word with religious zeal... But it didn't free us. And it didn't save us. Instead, we developed a nationwide mono-culture of atrophied minds that believed that the “free” market was the only answer. This left us particularly vulnerable – which is likely just what the “free” market zealots intended all along. We were vulnerable to the corporate raiders, the mergers and (lay-off funded) acquisitions, and the exportation of American jobs and industry.

Of course, a few people got really rich gutting everything. And a whole lot of small investors made money in the stock market for a while – even though they didn't fully understand the profits were actually coming from the gutting of American companies, and that they would eventually lose all of the money back (when the contrived bubbles burst).

Allow me to explain: “Free” markets have led to the control over American companies by investors and financiers, who favor windfall profits over the health of the companies they control. “Free” markets have led to predatory markets. And “free” markets have led to the monopolization of almost every market in the U.S. Think about it; when I mention food, clothing, and shelter; what comes to mind are McDonald's, Wal Mart, and Home Depot. We should have figured out long before now that this is NOT the kind of capitalism we really want. (Monopolies lead to poor quality goods/services, less selection, less innovation, and of course, higher prices – as you may have noticed over the past few years.)

All I ask is that you believe what you have seen with your own eyes.

If you look around, you'll likely see examples everywhere. I have a personal example: Yesterday, I had a brand new inner tube in my new (Asian made) mountain bike just break – on my very first ride. I have never had a bike inner tube just break on me before. And this was an ultra-thick tube (three times the thickness of an ordinary tube). I looked at the inner tube to see who made it, and there was no brand. But it probably didn't matter anyway because they're probably all made by the same Chinese company. And since I have to buy another tube, they'll likely make twice as much money for doing a crappy job – or maybe more if they've raised their prices. The “free” market left me out in the wilderness on a broken-down over-priced mountain bike. And I can't even call anyone to complain to.

We have been “free” market lemmings. And as consumers, we now have no choice but to pay.

But the worst result of “free” markets has been the wholesale gutting of our manufacturing segment of the American economy. Millions of jobs have been lost. We hardly make anything anymore in this country. And why? Because some other country is willing to allow their employees to be treated like slaves? This has been devastating to our economy. It's like someone just ripped out our lungs, and then tells us that this is good for us, it's natural, and it's just the price of being free. What a LIE! ...Excuse me, but I want to be free, not work for free.

This shows us exactly where “free” market economics is ultimately headed – towards a world of filthy rich and dirt poor – and your odds of being one of the filthy rich are essentially zero.

The “free” market fanatics told us that anything else was socialism. Yet, if the filthy rich get into financial trouble, the rest of us have to bail them out. Hey, wait a minute. This was supposed to be a free market. But now that the monopolies are so big, we can't afford to let them fail. Let's face it; the economic system that America has now is far more socialist than before 1980 – for the super-rich, that is.

There are powerful people in this country (who claim to be patriotic Americans), who've done far more damage to our country than any terrorist ever dreamed of. These super-greedy “Americans” only care about themselves. They want the freedom to maximize their profits without any concern for the consequences. They want the freedom to not pay any taxes, while they also manipulate lawmakers to steal our tax money. And worst of all; 150 years after Americans fought a bloody Civil War to end slavery in our country, there are still “Americans” who want the freedom to enslave.

We have allowed these “free” market fanatics to operate freely for the past 30 years. And this is what we get. They blame it all on the liberals, you know. But there hasn't been an bona fide liberal President since Lyndon Johnson. Moreover, when you think about it, back when the super-greedy screwed up the last time and left us with the Great Depression, it was wasn't conservatives who fixed things.

So, where do we go from here. Our business economy has been gutted. Our government has been financially drained. The only money left for them to take is what's left of our tax money. They want to take our social programs.

Just ask Nevada's Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, Sharon Angle. She wants to privatize Social Security. You would think that issue would be dead after the financial meltdown. You'd think no citizen in their right mind would allow Wall Street to gamble with our retirements again. Doesn't anyone remember what happened to our 401Ks?

But there isn't much else left to pillage. The only big money left to take in America is from the social programs for the poor and the middle class. They want it all. They don't intend to leave us with anything. And without our economy or our government safety nets, America will then be a third world nation... While some people will get filthy rich making it happen.

We can stop this pillage now - maybe even start to fix things. But let's not wait for another Great Depression.

To see a Book TV video of Barry C. Lynn's synopsis of his extraordinary book click here.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Nothing Is As They Tell Us

It's no surprise that there are massive efforts to control what we think. But possibly more important is:

We've been told how to think.

The stories we've been told, over and over again, have framed how we view the world and how we see ourselves in it. Such is the nature of cultures. But our culture is the first culture to be primarily influenced by the stories we see on television. This is neither normal, nor is it better.

For tens of thousands of years (for all of prehistory actually) cultures were formed by the interaction of small communities and extended families. People (our ancestors actually) told stories that related to their lives and the conditions they lived in – and they changed their stories (and thus the culture adapted) as those conditions changed. These were healthy cultures.

Today, famous pundits are paid riches to tell stories to millions of people they don't know. These pundits are paid by people who want to change the culture (for their own selfish schemes). We call this propaganda. We all know this exists. But we all deny it effects us. That's what makes it so effective.

Nothing is as they tell us – especially when it comes to politics.

First, they infer that we only have two options. You're either a Liberal or a Conservative. But this has more to do with our two-party political system than reality. Personally, I don't feel like I fit into either category. And I suspect that most of us have become quite dissatisfied with only two options on election day... However, when it comes time to voice our perspective, we usually pick one of the two sides. It's as if our minds have been boxed into a perspective that only allows us to see things as we are told.

What if this whole Liberal/Conservative conflict is just a way of playing us – to keep us fighting amongst ourselves? Consider this: The most effective way to keep the masses weak is to keep them at each other's throat. Distraction can be used as a weapon.

The truth is: both Liberal and Conservative Americans agree on more things than we disagree on. We all want to live happy, productive, rewarding lives without being ordered about or taken advantage of. Most of the time, we agree on things. But where in the mass media are the stories that remind us of that?

I'm convinced that there is a reason why stories that would help us constructively work together are rare in mass media. If we were willing to work together, that means we would organize. And if we organized, we just might fix the corruption in our political system. Of course, the powers that be don't actually want that. They like corruption – since it favors them. Why would they want our systems to be fair and sensible? They're making too much money taking advantage of us.

We all know deep down inside; it's not about liberal or conservative agendas, it's about money.

Our unhealthy obsession with money is the reason our political, economic, and informational/educational systems are failing us. Making money can be a reasonable goal. But money has become the point of it all. Now wait a minute. Money is not true wealth. Money is not happiness. Money is only a tool. Money as an obsession is a lie. And the biggest lie is that money is good, no matter how you get it – even if you have to lie – even if you have to believe lies.

It is obviously not a coincidence that the stories the mass media tell us tend to favor their owners and advertisers.

The dogma shattering fact that they don't want us to think about is; the same people who are buying off politicians in Washington are buying off the mass media (or they own it).

Television has been called the “idiot box,” the “boob tube,” and the “cheap babysitter.” It doesn't take a genius to see that most television programming is not educational. Apparently, that's what the public wants... Or is it that we see through “news” programming? Most of what they call “news” is just a distraction. Why bother? The sad truth about mass media “news” is quite obviously: if you get all your education from the “idiot box,” the very best you can hope for is to be a well-informed idiot.

Not that there isn't any good information on television (and other mass media) news. It's just somewhat sparse – and most importantly, limited in scope. And it's this limitation in scope that keeps us in line. Most of us don't think outside of the “idiot box.”

It's time to think outside of the box. Not everything can be framed as a conflict between the right and the left. Sometimes the conflict is between the greedy and the needy. Sometimes the conflict is between us and future generations. Sometimes the conflict is between the mentally healthy and the obsessive. And sometimes the conflict is between the passive and the aggressive. Nonetheless, the most important overlooked conflict is between the quick buck for a few and stability and sustainability for all life on Earth. These are not minor oversights.

News coverage certainly could be more thorough. But it is pretty easy to see that mass media news coverage has been dumbed down on purpose. Those who control what we know don't want us to think for ourselves. And they especially don't want us to think outside of the box. We might actually try to fix things.

Which, in a way is good news. They're afraid we can fix things.

Together, Americans can still fix things. That's why they keep trying to divide us. That's why we need to try harder than ever to get along. We have the power. And they know it. We have the power to ignore the puppet masters and to seek out greater truths. We have the power to make our systems healthy.

No matter what your political affiliations, cleaning up the corruption in politics is the first step towards achieving anything worth a damn. No matter what your political affiliations, this is something we can all do together.

This is going to take far more than just electing a new set of politicians (because the best candidates are often filtered out by our campaign process.) This is going to take at least a U.S. Constitutional Amendment – and constant vigilance of an organized populace.

We have yet to achieve anywhere near a corruption-free government, but we have done better. The worst thing we can do now is fight amongst ourselves. The second worst thing we can do is nothing.

The politicians won't do this for us. The powerful won't do this for us. We have no choice but to fix the system ourselves.

You can start by signing a petition. Click Here

You can do more by visiting my Reboot Democracy post, which has links to more efforts to get the money out of politics. Click Here

But the least you can do – the very least; is when someone starts parroting the pundits and blaming the liberals/conservatives for all our problems... remind them that it's not really about liberals and conservatives – it's about money. And as long as they continue to see the world as those who wish to manipulate us want us to perceive it; we can't all work together, we can't organize to end corruption – and we will soon be scammed again.