Monday, November 1, 2010

Eve of Destruction (er, Election)

This is what I wrote on this blog, back in February of 2009:

When I saw President Obama's speech before congress last night I was reminded of this film. Everyone seemed to be having such a great time (except for the Republicans of course) and our president was literally beaming with confidence. However, as is becoming increasingly evident, the barrier confronting them is not one that can be climbed over, tunneled under or smashed through. Like the door of the dinner party or the Zen koan, it is a gateless gate. The wealthy, privileged and spoiled partyers of Bunuel's film start the evening happy and carefree, but as the film progresses, food and water become increasingly scarce and the social order disintegrates.
The film I was referring to was Luis Bunuel's The Exterminating Angel, one of the most powerful and disturbing films I've ever seen. It begins with a lavish dinner party. The host and guests indulge themselves with great relish, but when it's time to leave they can't. The door is unlocked but for some mysterious reason they are unable to pass through it. This is an example of the Mumonkan, or Gateless Gate, the name of a famous anthology of Zen koans. For me, the parallel between this party and the exuberance of the Democrats just after Obama's election was too good to resist. Because, after all, I am not only an "economist" but also: a poet.

And now, it seems, the prophecy is coming true. The party is over, there is no escape. But the denizens of this dinner party are not only the Democrats, but the Republicans -- and the Tea Partiers -- as well. There is no way out, because the economy has already collapsed, as I've been arguing all along. You'll read endlessly in article after article, book after book, about all the things that went wrong, but when you read about how to fix it, the remedies are unconvincing. There is no way out. The economy has already collapsed and we are now living in the interlude between the collapse and the acceptance of that collapse. Meanwhile, everyone is in a state of denial, proposing this remedy or that, austerity, deficit spending, quantitative easing, stronger currency, weaker currency, more inflation, less inflation, more lending, less lending, more regulation, more deregulation, more government intervention, less government intervention, no government at all, etc., etc.

If it weren't so terrible it would actually, like Bunuel's film, be very amusing. For example, the ultra-conservative "Tea Partiers" demanding an end to government control are actually advocating the most radical of all leftist positions: anarchism! Meanwhile, pseudo-leftist "Truthers" have become convinced that the 9-11 attacks were a plot engineered by Bush and Cheney, and the Twin Towers collapse was caused by a pre-planned implosion! (Yee Gods where do they get this stuff?) And pseudo-fascist pinheads like Limbaugh and Beck are screaming that Obama's pathetic efforts to preserve free market capitalism at all costs are examples of socialist extremism. You couldn't make this stuff up. What a laugh! In other words, the situation has become so dire that no one understands anymore how or what to think.

If the Democrats had refused to go along with the TARP bailout from the beginning, and simply allowed the financial system to collapse, then the power of the oligarchs now spending billions to defeat them would have been broken, and we might now be in a position to once again develop a truly democratic system of government. Instead, the oligarchs have recovered very nicely, thank you, and are ready to resume their efforts to completely take over our economy, our government, our country. They won't, however, because: there is NO way out. Sooner or later it will all come crashing down on their heads and we will, at last, be free.

Only don't hold your breath. VOTE DEMOCRAT!!!!!

Get Real Party Endorsements

OK, I got a request from an admirer to post something today, so my many (????) fans will know how to vote tomorrow. Vote the straight Democratic Party ticket, folks. Because a vote for any Republican is a vote for disaster, well above and beyond what Bush brought us. My hope was that a complete breakdown of the financial system would force the world to reject the phoney "free market" system once and for all and finally accept that the "dog eat dog" so-called "enlightened self-interest" philosophy of Ayn Rand can't work, and we are all in this together and need to look after one another. Because as I see it, truly enlightened self-interest is exactly equivalent to the Golden Rule: do unto others as one would have others do unto you. A world in which I thrive at the expense of my fellow humans is NOT in my interest, since I prefer to live in a sane and caring rather than an insane and indifferent enviroment, ruled by avarice and arrogance.

What I didn't expect, however, was the resurgence of extreme right wing ideology, almost to the point of out and out fascism that has now been set in motion. The so-called "Tea Party" wouldn't be so bad if there weren't so many billionaires working so hard to co-opt it to serve their own selfish, greedy and power hungry interests. As a result there are some truly dangerous characters being heavily promoted as Republican candidates and whatever once existed in that party that might have been meaningful has been destroyed.

In short: Fight Fascism -- vote Democrat!

As far as the Get Real Party is concerned, I'm afraid the world is not quite ready, as yet, for a reality and sanity based party. So we'll need to settle for now on Obama and the Democrats, despite all their many failings.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Get Real

It's been a long time since I've posted here. I'd said just about everything I wanted to say and then decided to settle down and see whether my predictions were going to come true. I guess the result at this point remains inconclusive. Things have certainly been going steadily downhill for most of us (NOT the bankers and big time investors, natch; after all, they are under the protection of the US Government) and now seem to be approaching a crisis, but my main prediction was wrong. The total collapse I predicted for last summer has been either averted or more likely delayed, due as it would seem to further inflation of the same Ponzi balloon that lead to the previous crisis. If you feel free to print money with no constraints, then you can keep a Ponzi scheme floating indefinitely, it would seem.

Meanwhile, however, the political situation has turned from embarrassing to disturbing to bizarre to even more embarrassing to downright scary. What particularly got me down was a recent TV ad by a candidate in a local congressional primary announcing to the world that he is both "pro-life and pro-gun." Which wouldn't be so strange except that this guy is running as a DEMOCRAT!!!!

That did it. I'm starting my own party. It's called the "Get Real" party and it has a platform guaranteed to alarm both wishy-washy liberals and know-nothing conservatives:

1. Big government has no right to tell any of us what to do with our own bodies and therefore big government should not be allowed to dictate to women whether or not they should have abortions. Neither should small government. A fetus is not a baby, a human fetus is not fundamentally different from an animal fetus so if we have no problem doing away with animals we should have no problem doing away with unwanted fetuses. I'm as pro-life as hell and would greatly prefer that no living thing ever have to be sacrificed. I'm also against the hunting of innocent animals and have serious reservations about their use in scientific experiments also. But if we recognize that there are times that innocent animals must be sacrificed then GET REAL -- there are also times when innocent fetuses must be sacrificed. Let's by all means work as hard as we can to minimize the tragic necessity for abortion, not only for the sake of the fetus, but the woman forced to make such a horrific choice. But we must also recognize that in some cases this is the only humane option available and it should therefore be both legal and covered by health insurance. And yes, being humane is a part of the "Get Real" platform, a very important part. That should go without saying, but to listen to just about everyone in the Republican party, being humane is tantamount to being "liberal," which is of course just about the deadliest sin imaginable. The only thing worse for Republicans, I'd imagine, is actually being Christian -- but hey, the Republicans have managed to co-op both Christianity and Christ himself to serve their own selfish, greedy ends. If they knew which way was up, maybe they'd have a better understanding of which direction they'll be headed on Judgement Day.

2. There is no part of the constitution that guarantees the unrestricted use of firearms, therefore GET REAL: firearms are dangerous and have in fact become a menace in the United States and should therefore be strictly controlled by the federal government. The "right to bear arms" is NOT the right to purchase any weapon one might choose, nor is it the right to carry any firearm anywhere one might want. Just as the right to free speech does NOT give you the right to cry "fire" in a crowded building or utter offensive racial slurs in public. GET REAL.

3. Global warming may be real (or maybe not), but hysterical attempts to reverse its effects by controlling the output of carbon, or institute the trading of "carbon credits," will without question lead to even worse consequences, exacerbating an already fragile economic situation, with devastating consequences for the vast majority of the world's people. All the evidence tells us this trend cannot be reversed or even meaningfully contained. So all the efforts to control it will do little more than make affluent liberals such as Al Gore feel better about themselves -- at the expense of the most vulnerable among us. So GET REAL: if global warming will lead to higher ocean levels, there is no way we'll be able to stop that trend, just as there is no way we'll be able to replace those melted glaciers. But if we act quickly enough, we just might be able to stave off the rising seas by building dikes. If that seems like an impractical option, take a look at what the Dutch were able to do, with relatively primitive technology, hundreds of years ago. If certain parts of the world will become uninhabitable due to changes in climate patterns, other parts of the world will become open to habitation, including vast regions of Russia, Canada and Alaska. The answer to global warming is not to turn back the clock -- that's no longer an option -- but to do what countless generations before us have done when faced with climate change: GET REAL, i.e., adapt.

4. The current oil spill in the gulf is going to be highly destructive for sure, but if the lesson we learn is to halt or restrict offshore drilling then we have learned the wrong lesson. For one thing, crude oil is as organic as alfalfa sprouts and wheat germ. All it is, really, is fossilized organic matter, the remains of our pre-human, pre-animal ancestors, in fact. It happens to be a natural part of the ocean environment, where deep fissures at the bottom of the sea, many of which have been regularly opened by earthquakes over thousands and in fact millions of years, permit subterranean oil deposits to spill into the ocean, which is certainly nothing new and can happen at any time in any part of the ocean due to natural causes. The real lesson of this latest spill is that "fail-safe" technologies are not necessarily foolproof and when they fail that can indeed have dire consequences. If a "fail-safe" device on an oil rig fails, that can have serious consequences for sure, and every effort should be made to improve these technologies. Imagine, however, what the failure of a "fail-safe" device in a nuclear power plant would mean. If we restrict access to fossil fuels, and less dangerous methods such as solar energy and wind power are not yet ready, then our only alternative will be the wide, unrestricted use of nuclear power, a far worse alternative, believe me. So GET REAL: The oil now spilling into the gulf will eventually sink to the bottom, taking its place among the innumerable tons of organic remains already sitting there, waiting to become part of the food chain. But the effects of a nuclear disaster could mean the destruction of many thousands or even millions of lives and the irreparable destruction of vast areas, including whole cities, with no hope of restoration for thousands of years.

5. There's a good reason why conservatives and their proto-fascist allies, the so-called "Libertarians," carry on continually about the evils of "Big Government." In the United States, big government is what we, the people, have put in place to ensure democracy, and protect us from the overstuffed oligarchs and plutocrats who are pulling the strings of equally overstuffed puppets such as Rush Limbaugh, Glen Beck and their disgusting and offensive ilk. GET REAL! Without big government, i.e., our democratically elected representatives, we would be completely at the mercy of "conservatives" whose notion of "enlightened self-interest" is to promote their own selfish interests at the expense of everyone else. They have heaps of money to spend and have used it to literally create the so-called "conservative" and "libertarian" movements out of whole cloth. If you look under the hood you'll see that there is nothing of substance actually there. "Conservatives" aren't really conservative. If they were, they'd be fighting FOR and not AGAINST the time-honored American ideals of honesty, equal opportunity and fair play. And "Libertarians" are not interested in any sort of liberty aside from their own freedom to do whatever they like regardless of the consequences for anyone else. The fat cats who once upon a time were millionaires and multimillionaires are now billionaires and multi-billionaires. If you think for a moment of all the destructive things someone can do with a billion dollars, someone crazy enough, Ego-driven enough and ruthless enough (and there is no shortage of people in these categories), then you'd stop complaining about "Big Government" and start working to make our federal government, our government "Of the People, By the People and For the People," even more powerful, in order to protect our freedoms from those whose money and power have driven them mad with greed. While it's true that many in government have in fact been corrupted by the billionaires, they can always be voted out of office by an enlightened electorate. The oligarchs and plutocrats, on the other hand, are with us to stay. All we have on our side is the counterweight of a democratically elected President, Congress and Senate.

6. What any fair minded person would refer to as the bare necessities of a civilized society have come to be known as "entitlement" programs. And to the lasting shame of our so-called "liberals," hardly anyone has come forth to challenge this term. No one in a democracy should have to be seen as "entitled" to basic necessities such as food, shelter, health care and an education for his or her children, as though providing them with such "entitlements" was something the more affluent among us do out of the goodness of our hearts. It is in NO ONE's interest to deny such necessities to our citizens on any basis whatsoever. What we are all "entitled" to is to live in a society characterized by decency, civility, fairness and compassion. Because the alternative is: India, where only the affluent are "entitled" to anything at all. If you think there's a problem with all these "entitlements" then imagine yourself living in a community where beggars with bleeding sores and children with burned out eyes and lopped off limbs are continually holding their hands out for a crumb of food and people are dying in the streets around you.

We are continually being reminded that we "cannot afford" all these "entitlements." Well, the truth is that the United States is a nation of vast wealth, vaster by far now, even after the economic "collapse," than ever before in history. The Wikipedia lists a total of 403 billionaires in the United States alone. The list would undoubtedly be significantly larger if it weren't for the additional billions socked away in secret bank accounts overseas. Bill Gates alone has $53 billion, Warren Buffet $47 billion, Lawrence Ellison $28 billion, Christy Walton $22.5 billion and Jim Walton $20.7 billion. There is in fact more than enough money in this country to fund any "entitlement" program you might care to think of. What we lack is not the money, but the will to stand up to the billionaires and insist that they pay their fair share of federal, state and local taxes.

(to be continued)
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