Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Iowa Caucuses and the GOP Tragedy

The State of Iowa plays the opening role in America's Presidential election years. It is a farm state with a population of just over 3 million, most noted for its rich soils and agricultural productivity. Despite that over 60% of its citizens now live in urban areas.

When Iowa became a state in 1846 (notably, a "free" state, one prohibiting slavery) the Whigs were slugging it out with the pro-slavery Democratic Party. When the Republican Party formed at the far-left of the American political spectrum in the 1850's, Iowans embraced it. In 1856 Iowa voted for the first Republican Presidential candidate John Fremont. The Civil War cemented the Republican triumph. Although the Democrats returned in strength during the Great Depression, afterwards Iowa reverted to the Republican fold.

Of late the Democrats and Republicans have been more evenly balanced in Iowa, with Clinton and even Al Gore carrying the state, then it switching to George W. Bush. Most recently Barack Obama captured the state in 2008, but Republicans captured most statewide offices in 2010.

Next week Iowa will hold its partisan caucuses. These require more of citizens than just showing up and voting; they have to actually sit through a meeting. The process amplifies partisanship, since only the most committed partisans are willing to engage in it.

No one substantial is challenging President Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination this year, despite his unpopularity in his own party. That leaves us with the Republican lot of would-be Presidents.

Pretty much all of the Republicans are more experienced than Obama was when he became President. On the whole the problem is not the candidates, though I have enjoyed criticizing each of them individually. The problem for America is the Republican activists who will dominate the caucuses.

Historically, there is a lot good to be said about the Republican Party. They abolished slavery and tried to make the former slaves equal in the eyes of society and the law. They treated the American Indian tribes much better than the Democrats ever had. They tried to do something about America's alcoholism problem. Excepting the Spanish American War, they were the anti-war party until President Eisenhower retired in 1960. The Republican core values of being an economically responsible, law-abiding, moral citizen and good neighbor are hard to argue with.

Where did the people who dominate the Republican primary process come from? It is as if the doors of hell have opened and the legions marched forth. Instead of taking responsibility and building an economically strong, just, and durable America, they want to blame anyone but themselves for their troubles. They don't want to pay taxes even though Iowa is probably the most heavily subsidized state in the nation. Iowa's relative prosperity is propped up by food stamps (which prop up grain prices), ethanol subsidies, and direct crop subsidies.

The Christianity of these people makes Islam and atheism both look good. It is a narrowly-constructed Christianity, carefully avoiding entire directives from God himself. Jesus said to pay your taxes and stop complaining ["Give unto Caesar ..."]. He said to be kind and charitable. He asked Christians to find a way to feed the hungry even if only a few loaves and fishes are available. The activist Republicans instead want to regulate birth control, deny human rights to women and homosexuals, and let the weak starve and freeze.

The Republican activists pretend to be supporters of free-market capitalism, but mainly they have a criminal mentality that should frighten all decent American citizens. They want to make money by destroying the environment, destroying the health of their neighbors, and endangering the lives of workers. Why not just sell crack or weed or untaxed bathtub gin, if you need money?

I'm not saying that every government agency or regulation is necessary, but I do know that the threat of enforcement deters crime. Have we had too little economic crime these past 10 years? Too few Madoff's and mortgage derivative scams? Too few nuclear reactor meltdowns? Too few oil spills? I think not.

I know there are plenty of sensible Republicans out there. It is still a big party. With a little bit of reform—throwing out the Tea Party mad dogs and the corporate security state operatives—it could be a beloved American Party again.

But who could those sensible Republicans vote for in Iowa?

While I like Ron Paul's stance on dismantling the U.S. global military empire (which would straighten out the federal budget deficit pretty quickly), his love of nutty, discredited ideas like the Gold Standard limits him to being my second choice.

I think Mitt Romney is by far the most competent of the Presidential candidates in the field. This might seem like a dangerous thing to Democrats, who would prefer an less competent opponent, like Michele Bachman. But consider:

When highly competent people have been elevated to being President of the United States they have usually stepped outside of the narrow interests of their pasts. It Mitt's case, I don't think his Latter Day Saints upbringing or Bain Capital days will prejudice him.

I think he is the kind of individual that will try to serve all of the American people if elected. He won't just serve his Wall Street friends, or any particular constituency. He'll do what a President can to get the economy humming, without disregarding environmental or consumer safety. He'll stand up to corrupt interests in Washington, and to the worst impulses of the Tea Party.

Let me repeat: Romney excels in competence. He didn't use his family fortunes to put coke up his nose and then party on borrowings against his inheritance. He got both an MBA and a Law Degree from Harvard in just four years, no easy feat. He excelled in business and then served as governor of Massachusetts.

Romney makes me think of Joe Kennedy, the father of President John Kennedy. In his early life Joe was a lot less ethical than, but just as competent as, Mitt Romney. Joe got rich on Wall Street and was notorious for his slick dealings that made him a billionaire (he even sold his stock holdings well before the 1929 market crash). When it was time to reform Wall Street, President Franklin Roosevelt chose Joe Kennedy to be the first head of the SEC. Having used every trick in the book himself, Joe was able to create a set of regulations that served American investors, large and small alike, from the 1930's until a new wave of mischief was invented in the 1980's.

Of course, there is the opposite story of competence, Robert Rubin, U.S. Treasury Secretary from 1995 to 1999. He used his position to gut regulations, including the Depression-era Glass-Steagall act, thereby heavily contributing to the economic calamities of the following decade.

So, if Mitt Romney becomes President, let us hope he turns out to be a Joe Kennedy, not a Robert Rubin.

In any case, it would take three or four Barack Obamas to match the competence of one Mitt Romney. Muddling through is not what we need right now. Four years of that is enough.

I am not, however, endorsing Mr. Romney. He is still part of the two-party, corporate security state system. I will probably support the Green Party nominee, Gill Stein, or an independent candidate, depending on who emerges. Mitt is just the best I think we can hope for out of the old, hopefully dying, two-party system.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

De Facto Governments and U.S. Foreign Policy

On this Christmas day you might want to consider the virtue of our early American republic's foreign policy.

That foreign policy can be summed up in two key ideas: de facto recognition of governments, and non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations, including those with de facto governments.

The best known statement of these policies was made in the Monroe Doctrine. President James Monroe had fought in the Revolutionary War, served in the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation, and played a key role in getting the new Constitution adopted by the State of Virginia. In 1823 President Monroe warned against Spain trying to regain control of any of its former North or South American colonies that had become independent. Partly this reflected a sympathy for Republics and Democracies over the reassertion of monarchies then prevalent in Europe. Partly it reflected the desire of the ruling class of the U.S. to exert influence over a potential commercial empire. But consider it as just principled, sincere policy.

As to the colonies still in the Western Hemisphere, the Monroe Doctrine stated, "With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power, we have not interfered, and shall not interfere." It is notable, however, that in the Spanish-American War the United States not only interfered with the remnants of the Spanish Empire, but grabbed Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines.

Further, the doctrine with regard to Europe was "not to interfere in the internal concerns of any of its powers; to consider the government de facto as the legitimate government for us; to cultivate friendly relations with it."

It makes sense that the founding citizens of the United States of America should see the value of recognizing de facto governments, and of one nation not interfering in the internal affairs of another nation. The Continental Congresses and individual State governments that fought the British Empire during the American Revolution were precisely de facto governments. The British legal system did not recognize them, nor, at first, did any other members of the international community. The Royal governors of the British Empire were the legal, de jure, government of the British colonies, and in certain places, the very real government right up until the King agreed to the independence of the colonies.

Non-interference was also important to our early republican democracy-in-the-making. Monroe, Patrick Henry & their crew were not in a position to interfere in the internal affairs of other nations, but the great powers of Europe had occasional reason to interfere in the relatively weak United States.

Of course, like all general principles, de facto recognition and non-interference have their particular issues in real world circumstance. Before taking on that complexity, it should be admitted that neither principle got in the way of American appetites for land speculation and empire. American Indian nations were interfered with and stomped on with little or no justification. Florida was grabbed from Spain, Northern Mexico was grabbed, Hawaii was grabbed (its native de facto and de jure government ignored). For good measure the de facto government of the Philippines was not recognized, the U.S. preferring to pretend that Spain still held the colony, so that it might be transferred easily to U.S. control.

Basically, the more powerful the United States government (and its economic ruling class) became, the more the U.S. interfered in the affairs of other nations. Bullying of Latin American nations became a regular event as the 19th century wore on (and we ran out of Native American tribes to reduce to ethnic "reservations"), puppets were installed when feasible, and starting with President Woodrow Wilson, U.S. troops were sent in on almost any pretext. In Asia, even before the U.S. program of genocide in the Philippines, we started manipulating the Chinese and forced Japan to provide fueling stations for the U.S. Navy (which needed to refuel on its way to and from bullying the Chinese).

Many Americans wished we had done some interfering with the Spanish Civil War and the National Socialist rise to power in Germany in the 1930's. They argued that if we had supported the Republicans in Spain, World War II would not have happened. That, and Pearl Harbor, was pretty much the end of non-interference. During World War II the U.S. even set up the United Nations to provide a fig leaf of democracy for the new global empire. Internal interference became the rule.

Unfortunately the new bossing-other-nations-around foreign policy of the U.S. has not been used to promote democracy, freedom of religion and speech, and other rhetorical ideals. In every case the sole deciding factor has been the "interests," mainly economic, but sometimes strategic, of the capitalist, imperialist class. Examples could fill a book on U.S. (or global) history since World War II. Just a few:

When it looked like elections would result in parties winning that were not considered "pro-U.S.," the U.S. has installed dictators. South Korea, South Vietnam, and Iran, were major examples in the 1940's and 1950's. Most Latin American countries have suffered at times under U.S. backed military regimes in the last half-century.

Elections are only encouraged when they will get rid of anti-U.S. regimes. This was true in Eastern Europe. The elections held in Iraq and Afghanistan would have been shut down had anti-U.S. politicians won them. We saw that in Algeria in the 1980's. Only elections won by pro-American political parties are honored by the State Department.

Somalia is a rather spectacular case of counter-productive interference in foreign nations. The United States did not like a mildly Islamic regime (the Islamic Court System) so we paid to overthrow it. The result was a de facto government by Al Shabaab fighting a non-stop civil war with a U.S. appointed and financed "provisional" government. The holocaust of the Somali people this past decade can be directly attributed to the actions of the U.S. governments led by Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

But what else would you expect from the new, pseudo-democratic American corporate security state?

Aside from the likely Green Party presidential nominee, Jill Stein, the only current presidential candidate who supports non-interference as a foreign policy is Ron Paul. Hopefully when the election comes around you will be able to vote for non-interference, rather than feeling you have to vote for one or the other of the two corporate security state nominated candidates.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Legal Basis for the Separation of States

Suppose the citizens of one of the states constituting the United States, for whatever reason, wanted to separate from the United States. How could they do that?

So far in U.S. history there is only one precedent. The states of South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina, by the end of 1861, withdrew from the United States of America by votes within their states. President Abraham Lincoln, supported by a Republican Party-controlled Congress, simply made war (the Civil War) on the untied states, and the federal government won that war.

Since then the predominant thinking in the re-United States has been that a state cannot separate from the Union because military force will be used by the federal government to overcome any such manifestation of local democracy. Kind of like when Czechoslovakia tried to opt out of the Soviet Block. Because the issue of slavery was entangled with the issue of separation of states during the Civil War, it is still hard to have a rational discussion of the topic.

Clearly the U.S. Constitution allows for an amendment that would either allow a particular set of states to separate, or would set rules for separation in general. In fact, one could dissolve the entire Union with a Constitutional amendment. However, before writing such an amendment, we should look at the Constitution as it now stands.

Reading the Constitution, you will not find a single phrase that says that a state cannot withdraw from the union. Nor does it say that a state can withdraw. This is not that different from many issues of federal powers. How broad the specific powers granted the the Federal government are to be in practice has been a constant source of argument and litigation since the ink was dry on the original Constitution.

A majority of Americans opposed the Constitution as written at the time. To get it passed by the nine required states a great deal of bribery and intimidation was used. Also, it was promised that a number of amendments would be appended to the Constitution, to make the package more attractive.

Regarding the separation of states, clearly Amendment X, the Tenth Amendment, has the greatest bearing. Many people voted for the new Constitution with the idea that their state could withdraw from the Constitution if the whole experiment did not work out. They feared a central government that could become as tyrannical as the British Empire had been. Hence the amendment: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

I don't think you can get more clear than that without illegally declaring war on your neighbors, as Abraham Lincoln did. No where in the Constitution did it say that the Federal government could prevent a state government from withdrawing. The power to decide whether to be part of the United States was clearly a power "reserved to the States."

To force people to be governed against their will by any government, including the Federal government of the United States, is against the natural right of the people to govern themselves. That was recognized by the architects of the American revolution, or at least was prominent in their rhetoric.

If citizens of a state should ever decide they want to separate from the United States, I suggest they go about it with more care than the State of South Carolina did in 1860.

First, the government of the State in question should write a state law saying that it has they right to separate and is indeed separating. Then this should be the basis of trying a case in the Supreme Court of the United States.

The Supreme Court is most likely, in fact certain, to rule that the State cannot secede by virtue of its own legislation. The point is not to expect an honest verdict, but to get a statement of why they cannot rule themselves, and of the construction of the Constitution the court uses to rationalize this un-democratic ruling.

Then, having been ruled to still be part of the United States, the state needs to introduce legislation in the U.S. Congress allowing it to leave. Its leaders should also try to pass a U.S. constitutional amendment making it clear what the rules are for leaving.

Of course, this whole path could be cut off by a Constitutional Amendment saying, roughly, "no State shall be allowed to separate from the United States, and the President and Congress shall have the power to use the military to enforce this provision."

The United States went to a great deal of trouble to break up the former nation of Yugoslavia just a couple of decades ago. We broke Vietnam in half in the 1950's when we did not like the projected outcome of elections there. I don't see why U.S. states should not be granted the same rights of divorce that the U.S. empire has so gladly imposed on weaker nations.

On the other hand, no one should want a messy divorce. Any such separation should be mutual and amicable.

But, given sufficient unaddressed grievances, a Declaration of Independence, backed by the right to self-defense, may be worth a try.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Immigrants and Housing Proposal

I was surprised to find the following in the New York Times this morning:

"Two senators, Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, and Mike Lee, Republican of Utah, have proposed a bill that would offer three-year visas to foreigners who spent at least $500,000 to buy homes in the United States. But the idea has many opponents who fear expanding the nation’s oversupply of workers (a worry not shared by a fair number of economists)."

That was in a longer article, Goodbye House, Hello Pot Plantation by Catherine Rampell. There are over 1.2 million for sale and empty houses in the U.S. today, including hundreds of thousands repossessed by banks but being held off the market. On the other hand moving the unemployment number back to 5% would soak up all of this housing (partly in the form of rentals) and create more than enough demand for another construction boom.

We are in a massive housing and economic Catch 22. We probably can't get to 5% unemployment unless there is strong new construction. Housing construction requires local labor (can't be done overseas) and the materials used themselves are heavy enough that shipping is a large cost component, so they tend to be regional as well. In addition banks are reluctant to loan to home buyers. That would change if housing prices firmed.

I proposed moving house-buying immigrants to the front of the line back in A Cheap, Quick Housing and Economy Fix [November 18, 2008]. A number of people thought it was a good idea, but getting traction in anything related to immigration is difficult.

If you want to look at the Lee-Schumer bill or track it through Congress, it is S. 1746: Visa Improvements to Stimulate International Tourism to the United States of America Act. Here is the key text:

(a) Nonimmigrant Status- Section 101(a)(15) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended by section 5(a), is further amended by adding at the end the following:
‘(X) subject to section 214(t), an alien who, after the date of the enactment of the VISIT USA Act--
‘(i)(I) uses at least $500,000 in cash to purchase 1 or more residences in the United States, which each sold for more than 100 percent of the most recent appraised value of such residence, as determined by the property assessor in the city or county in which the residence is located;
‘(II) maintains ownership of residential property in the United States worth at least $500,000 during the entire period the alien remains in the United States as a nonimmigrant described in this subparagraph; and
‘(III) resides for more than 180 days per year in a residence in the United States that is worth at least $250,000; and
‘(ii) the alien spouse and children of the alien described in clause (i) if accompanying or following to join the alien.’.
One of my complaints about the New York Times and other traditional web sources is that they hate it when a link takes you off their site, unless it is a paid ad. Not only do they not link to one of the bill tracking sites (there are several), they do not even give the official name of the bill, or its number. So getting more detail is unnecessarily difficult in this hyperlinked age. That is poor reporting, in my view. Probably not because of the reporters themselves, but because of "policy."

Monday, December 5, 2011

Richard Grossman, Compost in Peace

Richard Grossman, a noted political activist in the United States of America, died this November 22, 2011. Richard was known for his criticism of for-profit corporate control of the American (and global) political system, economy, and culture. Richard had no issues with criticizing other dissidents who did not agree with him on strategy and tactics. To honor his memory, I will not refrain from criticism (as is typical in a requiem) while I share my personal experiences about Richard.

Richard tried to influence the discourse of American environmental and pro-democracy dissidents, with varying degrees of success. I had never heard of him until my wife, Jan Edwards, began working with Alliance for Democracy and made herself the first modern crusader against the legal doctrine of corporate personhood (c. 1999). I could not say exactly when Richard came into the mix, as I was never "wowed" by him or his organization, POCLAD (Program on Corporations, Law and Democracy).

But at some point, when Jan was determined to get the City of Point Arena to pass a law against corporate personhood, I became aware that she was talking on the telephone to one Richard Grossman, among others. Richard never really adapted to computers (he was born on August 10, 1943), but large packages of xeroxed copies of old articles about corporate power began arriving at our house.

Jan had a fixed idea that corporate personhood was the central evil of the modern era. Richard did not agree with that; he tried to expand her attention to other issues of corporate power. But he did provide us with a lot of material about corporate personhood, notably Personalizing the Impersonal: Corporations and the Bill of Rights by Carl J. Mayer [Hastings Law Journal, Vol. 4, March 1990] and a series of articles from the 1950's by Howard Jay Graham. These were fine, but too much, too fast to serve as introductory material.

No one at POCLAD had written anything substantial about corporate personhood. Jan, assigning duties to our small local team of activists, decided I should write the first modern introduction to the topic. This resulted in Santa Clara Blues: Corporate Personhood versus Democracy.

With a million things going wrong in the world, do-gooders argue among themselves about priorities, strategies and tactics. Richard stated, strongly, that he thought the environmental and social justice movements were taking the wrong approaches. He believed that because of corporate power activists might win an occasional point (the Clean Air Act, or temporarily protecting an individual habitat) but were regularly losing ground on the whole.

Richard Grossman wanted to challenge fundamental legal doctrines that (with money) are the foundations of corporate power. These include, but are not limited to, corporate charters being treated as contracts, the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution, limited liability, and the ability of corporate money to influence elections.

The question activists asked, in return, was how was that to be done? What was to be sacrificed (streams, mountaintops, oceans, human beings) in the meantime if activists stopped what they were doing and all ran to law libraries and spent a half-century arguing for legal reform?

Richard's point was not to train more environmental or social justice lawyers. They are plentiful enough, so much so that many can't earn a living, or even end up being employed by corporations. He did not want to fight corporations within the law. He wanted to change the law.

Changing the law really happens in only one of three ways. You can win Supreme Court cases. You can change the law with legislation. Or you can have a revolution and write the law anew.

The Revolution never came in Richard Grossman's lifetime. This is the sad fate of most revolutionaries. I cannot fault Richard for trying, and for thinking outside the usual boxes.

Knowing a little history, however, makes one wonder if Richard ever deserved to be the intellectual leader of American dissidents, as was clearly his wish. Richard moved from being the executive director of Greenpeace in the 1980's to a messenger of the nature of corporate power.

It was not a new message. You probably did not know old-time American Communist Party members, but they talked a lot about corporate power. It tied in well with their strategy of radicalizing labor unions so that the working class (or at least its authoritarian vanguard) could come to power in this bastion of capitalism. Anarchists, too, long pre-dated Grossman in their analysis of the System, but did not care to try to change obscure doctrines like corporate personhood. They wanted, and want, to go straight to building a new society out of the ashes of the old.

Without the legal framework of corporate power we would most likely just have private ownership of large businesses, much as is the case in the Soviet Union today.

How do you de-power the ruling class when they can buy politicians and courts and, yes, can even divert activist organizations simply by strategic donations of money? Richard could never answer that question. Perhaps simply raising taxes on the rich, in particular with estate taxes, would do the trick. Taxes could break up the growing "title of nobility" that the Constitution warns against in Article I, Section 9.

Perhaps with a third party. Perhaps with the tactics being practiced by CELDF or MoveToAmend (both groups spawned by Grossman). Perhaps by anarchists, or communists, or social democrats, or revolutionary environmentalists. Why, it is not absolutely impossible that reforms could come from the progressive wing of the Democratic Party.

No one knows. Richard Grossman's greatest trait was his willingness to revise his views. He kept revising them until the day he died. Maybe if more people did more thinking outside their usual boxes, we might collectively find a solution that can transition us to an environmentally sound, ecologically sustainable, and culturally rich world.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Professors Barack Obama, Newt Gingrich, and Woodrow Wilson

This week Newton Gingrich has become the Republican Party Presidential primary candidate best positioned to beat front-runner Mitt Romney. Before he was a politician Newt was a History Professor. President Obama was a Law Professor before he became a politician. When you look at the history of American Presidents, college professor is not a very common occupation. The other exception was Woodrow Wilson, who was a professor of Political Economy at Princeton.

While Newt has not been, and may not be President, he did hold what I believe should be a more important office, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives (from 1995 to 1999).

There is a saying that if you can't do, teach, but teaching is an important human activity. College professors also usually do some research and writing. How good is that as preparation to be President of the United States of America?

Woodrow Wilson served as President of the United States from 1913 until the beginning of 1921. Before that he served as governor of New Jersey from 1911. He is typically portrayed as a progressive President who also showed his spine by siding with the British Empire and the French Empire against Germany in World War I.

While Wilson did support some needed reforms like women's right to vote, on the whole he was a romantic reactionary. Most notably, he was a racist. When he ran for President in 1912, as a Democrat he could depend on the "Solid" racist, south, where Negroes (a respectful term then) were not allowed to vote. He made campaign promises to Negro voters in northern states, gaining many of their votes. Then he presided over segregation of the federal government, even instructing Post Offices to set up racially segregated windows to serve customers. He also fired most black federal employees and appointed white southerners in the places.

In other words, although Wilson was able to break with the past on some issues, his mind was not unusually far ranging. He lectured the nation and Congress, but all too often his lectures had no basis in human experience. I would argue that Wilson was a disaster, and that disaster echoed through the 20th century, adversely affecting not just Americans, but people around the globe.

For instance Woodrow Wilson thought no one should drink alcohol. Is that progressive or conservative? He refused to serve it at the White House, and on January 16, 1919, the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified, making "intoxicating liquors" illegal throughout the United States. Certainly consumption of alcohol has some bad effects. But Prohibition did not stop the flow of alcohol. Instead it created black markets and attendant crime and political corruption. Just like Barack Obama's attacks on medical marijuana clinics are doing today.

Imperialism was a big issue in the 1912 elections. The United States had become an imperialist system in the late 1800's. Both Democratic Party farmers (the nation was not yet mainly urban) and reformers were against imperialism, and candidate Wilson said anti-imperialistic things, just as Barack Obama would hint he was an anti-war, anti-defense spending candidate in 2008. But Wilson invaded more nations that any other President, not even counting World War I. He invaded Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Cuba, and Mexico. For good measure he bought the Virgin Islands. In the super-hypocrisy department he signed the Jones Act in 1916, which promised independence to the Philippines. The Philippines did not get independence until the Japanese granted it to them during World War II.

For Wilson the idea was more important than the deed. Because he thought the South should have won the Civil War, he supported the idea of what we would now call national autonomy. Back then it was called national self-determination. But, after World War I, when the Japanese asked that Asia be de-colonized, Wilson vetoed that idea. Self-determination, he made clear, was for white people, not subhumans, which is how he regarded non-white ethnic groups. This insult to the Japanese and the people of Asia would result in the disintegration of China, a number of colonial wars, World War II, and then more colonial wars, ending only when the British Empire, a bastion of autocratic governance unparalleled in history, ceded Hong Kong back to the nation of China.

Barack Obama, too, is better at speaking than at getting things done. That is probably a good thing, considering the blow back the U.S. is getting from his attempts to boss around Islamic people. If Barack does not get a second term, at least his acts are unlikely to cause as much damage in the 21st century as President Wilson did in the 20th.

Which brings us to Newt Gingrich. If you compare Newt to Wilson or Obama, he is clearly the more competent guy. Even though I disagree with his policies, his strategy and tactics in the 1990's were brilliant.

The problem with Newt is not that he does not know history. I grant him a knowledge of history. His problem is that his mind filters out all the facts that do not match his pre-determined conclusions about how America and the world should be governed.

He has not even learned the lesson of the Great Depression, and a whole string of forgotten depressions earlier in U.S. and world history: capitalism destroys itself, left unchecked. Another lesson: too much concentration of wealth leads to poorly performing national economies. Another lesson: empires that spend too much on their militaries suffer economic collapse.

I am forced to conclude that electing former professors to be President is not, in general, a good idea. There could be exceptions, of course, but neither Mr. Gingrich nor President Obama is one of them.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Deliberately Forgetting History

In his Memoirs former U.S. Secretary of State Cordell Hull wrote:

"Japan violently and fraudulently misrepresented the idea of the Monroe Doctrine, deliberately forgetting that that doctrine did not give us the right to conquer and occupy or dominate sections of the Western Hemisphere or close them off to the trade of other nations. And she ignored the basic concept of the Monroe Doctrine, which was to preserve the security and independence of the nations in the Western Hemisphere. Also, the Monroe Doctrine was designed to prevent foreign nations from making conquests in this Hemisphere, whereas the Far East was being threatened by no foreign nation whatever." [page 282]

As an example of corporate security state thinking, this is perfect. Cordell was writing about the situation in 1933 and afterwards [the Memoirs were published in 1948]. This same type of thinking infects America today and applies to such perceived enemy states as Iran, Pakistan, Palestine and Somalia, or any others that may arise.

Without in any way excusing Japanese militarism, lack of democracy, war crimes or crimes against humanity from that period, I want to focus on the American side of the war and peace equation.

In case you need a refresher, James Monroe was President when he issued his annual message to Congress on December 2, 1823, part of which came to be known as the Monroe Doctrine. It basically said we would not interfere in European affairs, and expected the Europeans to keep their noses out of North and South America. At the time, however, many nations in the Americas, including Canada, were still European colonies.

Hull's interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine is questionable, but then the Doctrine may be seen to have evolved over time. He says the doctrine "was designed to prevent foreign nations from making conquests." However, it does not seem to have been designed to prevent the United States of America from making conquests. Between 1823 and 1833 the U.S.A. conquered: a variety of Native American Indian nations; northern Mexico (now Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and California); Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines. In addition we invaded various North and South American nations on a regular basis, and did our best to set up puppet governments in those that were nominally independent.

So really what Hull could have said, had be been franker, was that a Japanese Monroe Doctrine in East Asia was feared to be exactly like the actual practice of the U.S. under the Monroe Doctrine. Elsewhere in his Memoirs, Hull claimed to be a keen scholar of American history. He served (but did not fight) in the Spanish American war. So it was Hull that was deliberately forgetting.

Adding color, consider the source of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt family fortune [Roosevelt was President while Hull was Secretary of State. His uncle Theodore was the genocidal maniac who presided over the Philippines genocide]. On the Delano side it came from illegally running opium into China [See Warren Delano]. When China tried to stop the opium trade the result was the Opium Wars. Did the U.S. side with China against Britain in those wars? No. Britain grabbed Hong Kong and both the U.S. and Britain rewarded themselves with the de facto commercial overlordship of China. The U.S. even invaded China during the Boxer Uprising. U.S. gunboats ran up and down Chinese rivers bossing Chinamen around during the early 20th century, and were still there in 1933.

Hull was doing the classic "do as I say, not as I do" dance. He did not object to American, British, Dutch, or French colonies in East Asia. They already existed, and the horrendous treatment of the native peoples by those powers were of no concern to Hull.

It seems long ago now, but in 1933 two incidents in particular were fresh in Japanese memory. One was the U.S. conquest of the Philippines. Not the cowardly surrender of the Spanish garrison during the Spanish-American war, but the genocidal war against Philippine independence. The lesson some Japanese took from the Philippines was that Americans would kill hundreds of thousands of Asians to prevent democracy and self-determination of nations.

The other lesson was in treaty breaking. Hull says the Japanese don't honor their treaties. Putting aside the stretch of broken treaties made with Native Americans, there was the annexation of Hawaii. The U.S., France, Great Britain, and Japan had all signed a treaty saying that none of them would grab Hawaii, so that it would remain an independent nation. The U.S. annexed Hawaii in 1898. At the time the Japanese were the largest ethnic group living in the islands.

So it was the United States government that taught Japan that treaties are a convenience, to be scrapped when inconvenient.

Getting back to the Monroe Doctrine, a close look shows that the U.S. promises not to meddle in the affairs of nations outside of the Western hemisphere. It says we will recognize de facto governments. That means we won't try to overthrow governments, even if we don't like them.

Deliberately forgetting that policy, lately we have interfered in Palestine, Libya, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia.

Americans like to think that ours is an exceptional nation. If that means excepting ourselves from the ordinary rules of ethics and international law, we are correct.

Note that today's news that the U.S. attacked a Pakistan border outpost shows that my analysis in U.S. Close to War with Pakistan [April 23, 2011] was and is, sadly, correct.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Gang Rape of Somalia

Somalia is being gang-raped. The attempts by the people of Somalia to establish their own independent government, culture and society have been repeatedly thwarted in this last decade (actually, since about 1500) by foreign invasions. In the current round the invaders are from Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Burundi. Other nations are thinking of jumping in. The United States of America is supplying funding and military training for the rapists, as well as attacking Somalis with armed drones. There are substantial rumors that the United States has, at least occasionally, put its own gunmen and spies on the ground. France too, has joined in, firing artillery from warships and providing "air support" to the invading troops.

The American propaganda campaign is running full tilt, with even National Public Radio (NPR) and the New York Times running extremely biased, anti-Somali "news." They do not even allow the Somali side of the story to be told. The new enemy, the de facto government of the people of Somalia, is simply described as an Al Qaeda affiliate. In other words, dreaded terrorists.

A bit of analysis reveals the cracks and crevices in the lying picture promulgated by the CIA and the U.S. government. Our puppet provisional government in Somalia admittedly, until recently, controlled only a few blocks of Mogadishu (the capital city) out of the entire nation, and that with the "help" of invading armies from Uganda and Burundi. Recently the de facto (real) government, usually referred to as Al Shabaab (but in fact a broad coalition of anti-U.S. Somali nationalists), pulled back its troops from Mogadishu. They were simply not strong enough to expel the U.S. financed government and the gunmen from the African Union, so they decided to cool the war and consolidate in the vast areas of Somalia controlled by the Somali people themselves.

Meanwhile, the U.S. (and probably France and maybe other traditional imperialist powers) paid Kenya and Ethiopia to invade. Kenya thought its professional, western-style army, complete with tanks and fighter-bombers, would quickly defeat the Somalis. Their army seems to be bogged down and probably would be wiped out if deprived of air support. To further enrage Somalis, who are mainly Islamic in religion and culture, mainly-Christian Kenya made a pact with Israel for weapons and training.

All of the invaders are largely Christian nations. This has become a religious war of the worst kind, and again Islam is the victim. How is it that Christians and Jews portray Islam as an aggressor religion when their has been no Islamic aggression (in the sense of nation invading) since the 1800's? When Jews have invaded Palestine, France and Britain invaded the old Turkish Islamic sultanate, while the U.S. invaded Iraq and Afghanistan and is threatening Yemen, Pakistan, and Iran?

And who is the gang rapist in chief? That would be none other than the President of the United States, Barack Obama, head of the Democratic Party. Americans are worried about their economy and have a simplistic nationalist outlook that makes them very gullible in matters like Somalia. They can't get accurate information, and even when they do are so trained in hypocrisy they don't apply ordinary rules of decent behavior to their own government.

Then there is the United Nations, which gives international weight to the imperialist slaughter of the innocents. The U.N. was created as an instrument for big power (notably U.S.-British) domination of the world. In its history it has never protected a small nation from invasion by the great powers. It is not a democracy with each nation of the world represented in proportion to its population. In its essence it is a dictatorship by the majority (Britain, France, and the U.S.) of the permanent members of the security council.

The only way to end the tragedy in Somalia is for all foreign powers to withdraw. But there is no force that can make them withdraw. The Somalis are not going to like foreign, Christian thugs running their country. So be prepared for a tragic, long, long war of national resistance.

Somalia and east Africa

Monday, November 14, 2011

Occupy Political Offices

"Good authors too who once knew better words
Now only use four-letter words
Writing prose.
Anything goes."

When Herman Cain can put his hands upon
Any skirt that he should chance upon
Heaven knows,
Anything goes.

I chanced upon yet another ancient surprise this weekend, the Child Labor Amendment, proposed in 1924. Mostly child labor has since become illegal or highly regulated, but in 1924 children were still working under appalling conditions in a variety of industries. Not only was there not a federal law prohibiting child labor, but the Supreme Court had struck down, over the years, a number of state laws prohibiting or regulating child labor (just as they had struck down other labor laws.). For instance, in 1923 the Supreme Court ruled that even in the federal district of Washington, D.C., a minimum wage law for women and children was unconstitutional, in Adkins v. Children's Hospital.

The Amendment was opposed not just by the crueler members of the business community, but by the Catholic Bishops. In their wisdom they felt the amendment would lead, eventually, to government control of child rearing. In Catholic Countries they took a different attitude. There the Church used the Government to force Catholicism upon all children. That would be a central dogma of fascism in the next two decades, and in Spain until the death of General Franco.

Text of this amendment, worth considering (for style, not content) by those who are moving to amend the U.S. Constitution:

Section 1. The Congress shall have power to limit, regulate, and prohibit the labor of persons under eighteen years of age. Section 2. The power of the several States is unimpaired by this article except that the operation of State laws shall be suspended to the extent necessary to give effect to legislation enacted by the Congress.

28 states passed the amendment before the drive petered out.

At least they needed laborers in the 1920s. The U.S. people had made out like bandits in World War I. In fact, the U.S. people acted exactly like bandits in World War I. We sold our excess products to the warring parties and loaned Britain and France vast sums of money. Then we entered the war at the last minute and helped Britain and France to loot Germany. Holding most of the world's money at the end of the war, and reaping interest and principal on the loans, enough trickled down from the big New York banks to allow the entire nation to have a party that included a real estate boom and a stock market anyone could get rich playing.

Then things fell apart. Capitalism fell apart without any help from government regulations. Don't forget that.

Occupy Wall Street and its spawn continues to evolve and exchange DNA with labor unions and political ideas and trends of all kinds. Can Occupy, or some related organization-like substance, do what the Tea Party did in 2010? Which is to say, convert ideas into practice.
That would take something the Left is very bad at: winning political offices. Winning here meaning elected our own people, and ones with backbone, rather than allowing career politicians to slightly change their election rhetoric and appear to be aligned with us.

We have a big disadvantage compared to the Tea Party: a lack of billionaires willing to fund our campaigns in the way necessary to actually win political elections. But we also have some serious cultural issues of our own holding us back. First, like the Tea Party, we mostly don't really like government. But, like the Tea Party, we should not let that stop us. We should capture the government that is there now and make it smaller. We should cut Pentagon spending and eliminate an entire branch of the armed services, the Marine Corps. We should minimize the DEA. We should abolish the system of farm subsidies. We should kill federal transportation dollars and allow the states to take care of their own highways.

We should also close all tax loopholes used by the rich. All capital gains in liquid assets (stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments) should be taxed at the regular income tax rates, with capital gains taxed the year they accrue (not waiting until an instrument is sold, as is currently the practice). The oil and gas industry should lose its subsidies and tax breaks. Once we start paying down the deficit run up by the Pentagon and oil companies, we can adjust tax rates to optimize happiness for the rest of us.

But to do all that, we need our own people in office. We need the kind of backbone in the state legislatures and Congress that the Tea Party has now. And that means pissing off the Democratic Party establishment. Pissing on them until they go away and we can occupy their old offices. Face up to reality: in the short run we can't occupy many offices held by Republicans. But we could occupy a significant number of offices held by establishment Democrats.

That means taking risks, just like the Tea Party took risks in trying to win offices from the Republican Party. The mainstream and Wall Street Republicans told the Tea Party that if they ran their own candidates in primaries, even if they won the primaries they would just lose the general elections and put more Democrats in office.

For decades I have heard the same argument from establishment Democrats: run your own candidates in the primaries, and even if they win, they would just lose the general elections and put more Republicans into office. We wouldn't want that, would we?

People are mad at incumbents, but they need some outside agitation to make offices actually change hands. This is the opportunity of a lifetime. Now is the time to start organizing campaigns for 2012. It is not easy. The banks have robbed us, and the law allows them to give themselves bonuses. We are not allowed to rob banks to finance our campaigns; that would be against the gruel of law. But ways and means must be found, or America will become increasingly like a capitalist gulag for the vast majority of American citizens.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Federal Education, Cordell Hull, and States Rights

I am reading Cordell Hull's Memoirs. This is the last major work I plan to take notes on before starting on the final draft of The U.S. War Against Asia. I knew little about Cordell Hull except that he was Secretary of State under President Franklin D. Roosevelt, which meant he played a major part in the events leading up to the Battle of Pearl Harbor. This just illustrates how even history buffs like myself tend to think in terms of Presidents, when actually Congress is the body that is entrusted to govern our nation. Problem is, there is a lot of history, so it is a lot easier to remember the names and actions of a few Presidents, rather than the tens of thousands of citizens who have been elected to Congress since 1776.

Cordell Hull was from a Confederate family in the hills of eastern Tennessee, and he took an interest in politics from an early age. He reports:

"It was at that age, and at Celina, that I saw my first daily newspaper. This was the Nashville American. In that year, 1886, a Senator from New Hampshire, Henry W. Blair, introduced a bill for Federal aid to State education. That was the major issue in the 1886 campaign. I read about it avidly in the newspaper, and we discussed it among ourselves. The bill was considered to be an attempt to infringe on State rights and to give the Federal Government power to go down into the States and interfere with their education systems. The amount of Federal aid the Senator proposed was only nominal at the time, but the incident is illustrative of how serious such issues could be in those days." [Memoirs of Cordell Hull, New York, The Macmillan Company, 1948, p. 17-19]

The U.S. Constitution says nothing about education. It is a fair argument that for a very long time education was a matter reserved to states and localities. On the other hand, the Constitution says nothing about education. It does not explicitly say that Congress can't spend money on education.

I don't know the full history of federal funding of education. Aside from research grants to universities, I believe Head Start and the School Lunch program were among the earliest large scale programs. Head Start was authorized in 1964. But the School Lunch program was initiated much earlier, in 1946. Federal money for school lunches for children from poor families would not, in itself, have any effect on how local schools were run, like the curriculum or teaching methods. It was not even used as a wedge to desegregate (black and white) schools.

I was on a local school board for 7 years, and I can only describe federal funding of public schools as a mixed blessing. The amount of "paperwork" involved, mostly computer work now, was staggering. The federal money was not just targeted, in the sense that it could only be spent on one type of thing (hence the paperwork to prove that). It often brought rules with it that were really unrelated to the cause for which the money was given. This included the school lunch program. Do this, don't do that, or we will take the school lunch money away.

I'm not sure how effective the federal rules are, including No Child Left Behind. Intentions, I think, were good. It just is not possible to legislate good behavior of students, parents, or teachers (or school boards, for that matter). I used to joke that my School Board should just pass a resolution that "All children in the district shall behave all the time." Like that would put an end to our discipline problems. Behave, Suzy, or we'll send you to detention at the White House Oval Office. Fail to read at grade level, and the First Lady will read with you at night when you would rather be playing video games.

I believe that, on the whole, schools would be better off if they were governed by local school boards using local (including statewide) funds. Sure, some districts would be poorly governed, but most would not, and none of them would be stuck with federal paperwork and misguided guidelines. The main problem with the all-state and local solution is that not all states and localities have healthy economies that can easily support good schools. You can see how a collapsing rust belt city, or a poor rural area, would be unable to provide good schools with local funding. Worse, anti-tax states and localities might refuse to raise taxes needed to fund good schools, even though their economies were strong enough to support the additional taxation.
Leaving this educator, on the whole, feeling that we need a more pragmatic approach to funding.

Those who believe in the wisdom of a national education system should work for an amendment to the Constitution that would give Congress the power to run or at least oversee the public schools of the entire nation, using a federal tax base. Those who want a states-only education system should try to pass an amendment to forbid the federal government from interfering with state education systems.

The rest of us should aim for excellence and hope to muddle through. Send federal money, not a complex set of rules and regulations that take up too much teacher and administration time. Increase the local tax base for public education. Focus, district by district and school by school, on what (and who) works. Some things may work in every district in America, but a lot of actions need to be district specific, school specific, even child specific. Large bureaucracies can have their beneficial moments, but they are notoriously bad at dealing with rapidly changing specific situations.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fred Koch, Stalin, and Social Security

The Koch brothers, or the two of them that own Koch Industries, Charles and David, are now well known financiers of the Tea Party and, more generally, the movement to dismantle all social welfare programs at the international, federal, state and local levels. They are the main backers of Herman Cain [See Ready for a Caining?] and for that matter directly or indirectly fund a number of current candidates for the Republican nomination for President of the United States.

Charles and David Koch run a lot of industries. They are smart, competent guys. How did they end up with their current political ideology? Can the rest of us, who are inclined to like Social Security and Medicare, learn anything from the brothers Koch? I think we can learn a lot from examining the history of their father, Fred C. Koch, and his relationship with Joseph Stalin, who was the leader of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Soviet Union) from the late 1920's until his death in 1953.

Fred Koch's father had immigrated to the United States after learning the printing trade in Europe. He owned a small town newspaper, the Tribune-Chief in Quanah, Texas. That means he was one of the chief citizens of Quanah, but in the American scheme of things was a hard-working member of the middle class. Fred's older brother, Anton, stayed with the family business, and thus remained in the middle class. Fred Koch was sent to college, graduating from MIT in 1922 as a chemical engineer. At some point he aspired to being more than middle-class. He became an petrochemical engineer and in 1927 invented a process that improved the efficiency of turning raw oil into gasoline. I count that as a good thing: if you are going to make gasoline, you might as well make it efficiently.

Koch then saw the mean side of monopoly capitalism. He licensed his methods to a number of (relatively) small, independent oil companies. The larger oil companies buried him in litigation, forcing him out of business in the United States. He had more success overseas, where the new Soviet Union became one of his large clients. Joseph Stalin had been Communist Party boss there since 1922 and was effectively dictator by 1928. Stalin decided to collectivize agriculture and at the same time push to industrialize the Soviet Union. While this forced industrialization was no more brutal in total than the capitalist industrialization process had been in Great Britain, Germany, and the United States, it certainly was no less brutal, and served anti-communists with many propaganda points. More significant was Stalin's penchant for imprisoning and executing people (probably 800,000 in total, many of them Communist Party members, not counting those who died of hunger and disease), which was done on a scale that made rough forms of capitalist politics seem minimally violent.

Therein lies a contradiction: the Koch family fortunes are largely based on Communist money. Fred Koch, however, did not like Stalin's methods any more than he liked the monopoly tactics of the Rockefeller family. He became one of the founding members of the John Birch Society in 1958.

It has been a while since I studied John Birch Society doctrine, but my understanding is that, much like George Orwell (who was an anti-Stalin socialist), Birchers believed there was a conspiracy by some of the richest members of the ruling class to use the working class and impoverished non-workers as a weapon to take wealth and political power from the middle class, in particular from small private business owners. Thus to the Birchers communists like Stalin and monopolists like the Rockefellers were at least playing the same game against the middle class, and probably actually cooperating with each other. Recall that by the time the Birch society was founded in 1958 the Rockefeller family had turned liberal, at least by Republican standards. Liberal Republicans of that era favored civil rights, a progressive income tax, and social security. In that era too the conservative wing of the Democratic Party (mostly, but not exclusively, southern Democrats) was against civil rights for African Americans, but had come to accept social security and the income tax.

Fred Koch made his money honestly and made so much that later in life he was, by wealth if not by ideology, a certifiable member of the ruling class. His sons are made of different stuff, inherited money. Thus while Fred's political beliefs were pragmatic (if, as I will show, somewhat mistaken), Charles and David's are ideological, free of any meaningful real-world testing. This does not mean they are stupid or mean-spirited, but they were not able to get a clear view of political, economic and social realities because they were wrapped in a fog of great wealth since birth. They have become, in effect, the very type of capitalists who tried to destroy their father's early engineering business.

I have actually met a number of people who thought highly of Stalinism. Mostly they were either aging CPUSA (communist party U.S.A.) members who refused to believe in reports of Stalin's purges, or young organizers who were angry enough to rationalize killing (in a non-war, non-civil war situation) as a legitimate political tool. In the 1980's in the U.S. you could still find a few thousand such people in the U.S. Today, as best I can tell, they number in the hundreds at best.

It is not right to equate Stalinism with socialism. Before the Russian Revolution most socialists, including most Marxists, were Democrat Socialists. They believed the preferred method for reaching a socialist society was through organizing the working class to vote for socialist parties in free elections. The Bolshevik Revolution was actually a catastrophe for the global socialist movement. The Bolsheviks attacked and eventually destroyed the larger socialist groups (anarchists, Mensheviks, Social Revolutionaries and others) when they consolidated power. According to anarchist thinking the Bolsheviks did not represent the working class achieving power, but the establishment of a new capitalist class that in effect made the state into one big oppressive industrial monopoly.

Outside the Soviet Union, communists worked as hard to destroy other socialist groups as they worked to actually overthrow capitalism.

Socialism does not require a dictatorship. Socialist parties have come to power many times in democracies, and when the voters tired of the government, left power peacefully to become the opposition party. Judging all socialism to lead to Stalinism is like saying all capitalist rulers are just steps in the path to the type of regime General Franco ran in Spain. I may not like Bill Clinton, but I'll take him any day over General Franco.

Socialism can mean government ownership of industry, but how much government ownership of industry is there in the U.S. today? Very little. The Post Office and the TVA are the only significant examples [See Our Socialist Constitution Framers]. Social security is not an industry, it is a national pension system, and there are good reasons the government runs it. Only an ideologist would want to move America back to the days before social security. If you want to get rid of social security, why not get rid of the internal combustion engine, the printing press, and that newfangled Christian religion that vilifies the old fashioned religions of our ancestors?

The Constitution gives Congress the power to promote the general welfare. The most common abuse of that power is when a member of Congress uses that power as a cover to promote the interests of political donors, who are typically already very wealthy.

The idea that social security is a step on the road to socialism is disputed by the Marxists themselves. Most Marxists see the socialist revolution as most likely when the working class, and those unable to find work, are most miserable. Thus food stamps, welfare, Social Security and Medicare are seen as attempts to shore up capitalism. They are the modern equivalent of bread and circuses (we now let private industry take care of the entertainment fix), designed to keep the Democratic Party and its basically capitalistic, imperialistic, corrupt political machine in power.

I think most Americans should agree that freedom has many dimensions. Before the Civil War the slavery of many was the freedom of the few. We reject individual freedom when it is the freedom to take away the freedoms of the rest of us. We don't want the government running Wal Mart or the local bar, but we don't want private industry tearing pieces of flesh out of us like it would if it ran social security. Bad enough the banks are private. We are mostly tired of the medical insurance industry, and medical capitalists and even doctors, tearing more out of us than their services are fairly worth.

My basic conclusion is that it is a very bad idea to let people who are born rich run the government. It is as stupid as having whatever idiot a king has for a son become the next king. Not everyone who is born rich gets as out of touch with reality as the Koch brothers, but there are plenty of smart, hard working thinkers from the middle class who will take better care of our governance. That is as close to the Birch society as I am willing to get.

To the extent I believe in Americanism and the original Constitution, I oppose the existence of a titled nobility. We don't have a system of Sirs and Lords, but we have allowed the economic equivalent to take root. I would like to give the modern interpretation to this phrase of the Constitution [Article I, Section 10]: "No state shall ... grant any title of nobility." A reasonable interpretation of that is that, since great wealth is effectively nobility, no person should be able to accumulate great wealth in their lifetime, and no person should be allowed to inherit great wealth. As to how much wealth constitutes great wealth, I am willing to leave that open to debate for now.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Horrors from American History

When people think of horrors rising from the grave at Halloween, if they think about American history the best they can come up with is usually Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman. That just shows how well-built our mental defenses are against true horror.

Perhaps tonight some unlucky people will see the ghost of John Woods. His older brother had been conscripted into the Tennessee militia in the war of 1812. For reasons unknown John, who was just 17, took his brother's place in Andrew Jackson's army in February, 1814. They had been fighting Indians, and none too victoriously. "He made the mistake of arguing with the Officer of the Day outside of the General's tent. Jackson stepped outside and ordered: "Shoot him." Two days later, on March 14th, at 10 A.M. John Woods was shot dead by his fellow soldiers at Jackson's command. The General now believed he was ready to fight the Red Sticks again, with less insubordination from his underlings." [from Andrew Jackson Fights the Red Sticks]

John Woods was hardly the only victim of Andrew Jackson, a slaver who went on to create the Democratic Party and use it to make himself President, but let's make this a variety horror show. There were, of course, the natives. If every murdered American Indian showed up on Halloween, it would be a sight. Practically every major figure in American history up to the Civil War was an Indian killer of some magnitude. George Washington killed Indians, as did Thomas Jefferson, as did hordes of forgotten European colonizers. The rapid accumulation of wealth and establishment of a ruling class in the United States was largely accomplished by the murder of Indians and theft of their lands.

Ghosts of dead slaves, too, could put together quite a Halloween ball. Many died horrible deaths while in chains in Africa or on the ships that brought them across the Atlantic. In America the life expectancy, and living conditions, of slaves working at cotton or tobacco culture was nothing to sing songs to Jesus for the blessings of Christianity about. Again, the same names pop out of our history books, slavers George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Andrew Jackson not being particularly noted for their cruelty, but rather as the political frontmen for the owners of larger lots of expendable human workforce. Of course, even after the Civil War, the Democratic Party made sure that life for African Americans was halloween everyday in the former slave states.

White people, don't despair. Not all of our ancestors were Indian killers and racists. In fact, most white people who arrived in the colonies before the American Revolution came over as indentured servants, and their ghosts, in their millions, could tell some tales. While indentured slavery was for a period of time, usually 7 years, and many survived and went free, most were worked and starved to death by the end of their term, that being more profitable than turning free a healthy, well fed human being.

I cannot neglect to mention the foreign wars. There are too many ghosts and spooks to mention them all here, even in lumps, so a few must represent all. The Philippines War, an addendum to the Spanish American War, was carried on with the same principles of an Indian extermination campaign. No one knows how many Filipino freedom fighters and civilians died under the cheery tutelage of Theodore Roosevelt and crew, but rough estimates range from a low of about one-half million to a high of two million. The U.S. war to occupy Korea and the Vietnam War are worth an all-saints mention.

If you are looking for glow-in the dark zombies, perhaps you would enjoy the resurrection of the only large bodies of people killed by atomic weapons, the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan. The average American, who deserves to be haunted into an early grave, simply repeats the charming meme, "it saved lives of American soldiers." That the rules of war have always said it is not okay to kill civilians to save your own soldiers seems lost on people. That Science, which should be a beacon of light, was bent to this unholy purpose, makes it all the more criminal. President Harry Truman, the leader of the Democratic Party, made the decision to drop the bomb. The Democratic Party is the only party in history that has dropped atomic weapons on human beings. Had America lost World War II, or had a fair and impartial system of international justice been created, the Democratic Party would have been permanently banned, just like the National Socialist German Workers Party was.

For me, the horror is walking out into a world where a bunch of Democratic Party zombies grope about in continual denial of the reality of what their party has done, and what they have embraced by joining it. How many more people will die violent deaths at Democrats' hands before its reign of terror fades into history?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Our Socialist Constitution Framers

The Tea Party clan has been infused with the idea that there is a Fundamentalist Constitution. They say this is the U.S. Constitution as understood when it was written, plus the Bill of Rights, which is its first ten Amendments. Tea Party types like certain of the amendments, like the part about citizens being able to own automatic weapons (and, arguably, artillery), and the one about powers being given to the federal government not being meant to infringe on the powers left to the States. To reinforce this position with metaphysics, most of them insist the Constitution (but not the later income tax or civil rights amendments) was written by God Himself, though apparently he forgot to sign the document.

Aside from having to ignore much of what was written about the Constitution when "the people" (rich white males, mostly) were thinking about whether to vote for it (a majority probably voted against it, but that is another story), there is a big problem with the Fundamentalist Constitution:


Yes, it seems our Founders wrote socialism right into the Constitution, and it has been a specter haunting America ever since it was sent out for ratification on September 17, 1787.

The Framers of the Constitution actually thought government, including the federal government, could do some things better than private industry.

Let us enumerate them (mostly from Article I, Section 8):
"Provide for the common Defense" and "raise and support armies" and "a navy" [rather than hire out the job to mercenary private businesses]
"Establish Post Offices and Post Roads" [rather than contract out the job]
"the erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards and other needful buildings," in the various States.

Let us call these things what they are: socialism. The government owning and running large organizations that are not essential to government itself. Anybody that thinks that our military is not a socialist organization has got a mental blind spot. Modern socialism of the authoritarian sort (Marxism Leninism) is largely modeled on military organizations.

But then, the real founding fathers had experienced and even studied reality, including the reality of mercenary armies. They were influenced by ideology (Thomas Jefferson more than others), but they were mostly powerful men, from powerful families, with plenty of school-of-hard-knocks experience. Think back to the Boston Tea Party itself. That gang of ruffians was not just protesting a consumption tax of the exact kind that Tea Party politicos like Herman Cain are proposing to burden us with. They were protesting against a private company, the East India Company. The tax was necessary, according to the British government, to pay off war debts. And what is our current vast national debt but a war debt?

Even in 1787 some things just made more sense to do through government, rather than through private industry. There are forms of Socialism that say a lot more should be owned and operated by the people through their government, and even forms of socialism that would have no government at all, but worker ownership of all businesses. I'm not saying any Framer was in that camp. They were, I repeat, pragmatic men.

Our Framers furiously debated the articles of the Constitution. Then the voters in each state debated whether to adopt the document. Socialism is not mentioned in the Constitution, but neither is Capitalism or the theory of free markets.

If some people, despite all the evidence of history, are against having a government that does its best to help its people cope with the difficulties inherent in reality, that is fine, we can debate that view.

Nothing they can do, however, can undo the fact that the postal system was a business specifically selected by George Washington and crew to be run by the government, for the people. That is not an all-encompassing system of socialism, but it is socialism as a pragmatic response to solving a particular human problem, the need for a postal system.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Kenya Invades Somalia: World War III?

On Saturday, October 15, 2011, Kenya invaded Somalia. Earlier in the week President Barack Obama announced he was sending U.S. combat troops to Uganda [See Obama Sends U.S. Gunmen to Uganda]. Uganda and Burundi already have troops occupying part of Somalia. Meanwhile the U.S. occupation army has not quite left Iraq. The U.S. is now in an undeclared war with Pakistan [as I predicted in U.S. Close to War with Pakistan on April 23, 2011] and has operations in Oman and other nations. Iran, too, is on U.S. target lists.

Note that the United Nations (U.N.) is not going to protect Somalia. The U.N. does not exist to protect weak nations from invasions by stronger ones. The U.N. exists mainly to further the agendas of the Great Powers, and right now the only powers of any global importance are the U.S., Europe, and China. None of them care for the current de facto government of Somalia, the militia/political party Al Shabaab. Surprisingly the Kenya military did not announce it was "invited in" by the "provisional government" of Somalia, a hand-picked group of U.S. puppets backed by hundreds of genuine supporters and those Ugandan troops already mentioned.

Maybe the U.S. forgot to order President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed to invite in Kenya as an ally in the civil war. Don't forget the formidable Ethiopian army invaded Somalia in 2006, financed by the U.S., with the same purpose, with the brilliant result of destroying the moderate Islamic de facto government, leading to the rise of Al Shabaab as the dominant popular government. [Sharif Ahmed, now a U.S. puppet, was a leader of the regime destroyed by Ethiopia, the Islamic Courts Union.]

Sure, there are a lot of moving parts to keep track of, but this is really beginning to look like World War III, with the United States playing the role Britain played in World War II: an imperialist power about to be bankrupted.

Neither World War I nor World War II started on a single day. Both had their preludes and aftermaths. A smart and strong U.S. President could defuse the situation by withdrawing from Afghanistan, apologizing to Iran, Pakistan, and Oman, recognizing Al Shabaab, and recognizing the state of Palestine and the right of Palestinians to have their private property returned to them. Obama can't do that; he has become a subservient tool of the U.S. corporate security state, and was certainly vetted for that role before being allowed to become the Democratic Party frontrunner in 2008.

A single incident, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, is said to have started World War I. More important than the spark were the stacks of powder kegs all around: the rivalries of the imperialist, industrialist powers, most notably between the British capitalists and their German cousins.

World War II is more instructive. It is generally marked as starting when German armies attacked Poland on September 1, 1939, or when Great Britain declared war on Germany the next day, escalating a regional conflict into a global war. But in East Asia the anti-imperialist war of Japan and its allies against the European colonialists had long been underway, and would last until the United States withdrew, defeated, from Vietnam in 1975. In Europe World War II probably became inevitable when Britain, France, and the United States refused to support the democratically elected government of Spain in its civil war with General Franco (with support from his fellow Catholics Pope Pius XI, Adolf Hitler, and Benito Mussolini), leading to Franco's victory in March 1939.

Al Qaeda is not a great industrial power that can have its factories bombed into impotence, as happened to Germany, Italy and Japan in World War II. The strategy of Al Qaeda has always been based on Osama Bin Laden's analysis of the fall of the Soviet Union. It was caused by a lopsided militaristic economy, aggravated by the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Al Qaeda's goal has always been to cause a similar collapse of the United States economy by irritating the U.S. into asymmetrical expenditures. It has largely succeeded. At this point the only way Al Qaeda can fail is if the U.S. severely cuts back its military and homeland security expenditures and starts taking care of its own people. Instead our leaders continue to fall into the Al Qaeda trap.

Al Qaeda, however, will not be the ultimate winner in this global contest. Al Qaeda has proven it knows how to fight, but not how to govern. When Germany and Britain fought for world dominance in World War II, it was the U.S. that inherited the earth. Who will dominate the economy and culture of the next century is not easy to predict, although the easy bets are on India and China. Hopefully no nation will be stupid enough, after the lessons of the 20th century, to try to become the global superpower. That is just a recipe for eventual bankruptcy.

The Soviet Union invaded Poland on September 17, 1939, only two weeks after the German invasion (in fairness, Poland did not exist before the end of World War I, so both Germany and the U.S.S.R. claimed to be reclaiming lost territory). Yet the British Empire did not declare war on the U.S.S.R. Germany was seen as more of a threat to the British Empire, short run. Britain (and its ally France) was in no position to fight both Stalin and Hitler at the same time. So they chose to fight Hitler. Even that kind of pragmatisim did not save the British Empire (or the French, or Dutch empires) in the long run. When the French, after the briefest face-saving hint of battle, were brought over to the German side (by Marshal Petain, another Roman Catholic fascist), that should have meant global dominance for Germany. That, in turn, would have required more patience than Hitler had. The Catholic armies of Europe, instead of finishing off the British, attacked the athiest U.S.S.R., cheered on by the Pope. Everyone forgets that some 30 million athiests died before Hitler's Catholic hords were defeated.

If the United Nations were about peace, it would sanction Kenya and, if necessary, send in troops to expel the Kenyans from Somalia. Watch it do nothing, just as its predecessor, the League of Nations, consistently did nothing to prevent World War II. Again, there was a reason: Woodrow Wilson designed the League of Nations to be a racist, imperialist institution, and it stuck to that design.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

President Obama sends Gunmen to Uganda

The Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda are a nasty lot. Imprisoned, hanged, or shot dead in combat, it is hard to imagine anyone shedding a tear for them. What better excuse for his imperialist majesty Barack Obama to insert U.S. troops into east Africa. Apparently bribes and proxy troops are not getting the job done.

Most diplomatic and military analysts believe the U.S. military presence in Uganda actually has little to do with the Lord's Resistance Army. They are there to train the army of Uganda, and may use killing or "interrogating" any LRA soldiers they can catch as an exercise. Their real role is to reward Uganda for sending soldiers to act as U.S. proxies in Somalia, and to prevent the further spread of anti-Americanism in Africa. A look at the map of the region reveals the interlocking parts:

Uganda and east Africa

Note Uganda's proximity to the Republic of South Sudan, with its vast oil fields waiting to be tapped. To the east in Kenya, which is more of a region left over from Great Britain's imperial conquests than a nation. Kenya is a mostly Christian identified nation, but has substantial Islamic and (indigenous) pagan minorities. Further due east we have southern Somalia, including the "capital" Mogadishu, where Ugandan troops are stationed to prop up the unelected, corrupt and incompetent puppet U.S. "provisional" government. Note also Ethiopia to the north of Kenya. The U.S. paid Ethiopia to invade Somalia in 2006 and overthrow the Islamic Courts Union system (earlier referred to as the Islamic Justice Courts). While the Somalis eventually ran them out of the country, the peaceful and moderate backers of the Islamic Courts were radicalized by the struggle, leading to the emergence of Al-Shabaab as the most popular de facto government in Somalia (though it has done a lot since then to make itself unpopular).

So we can expect Barack Obama's soldiers to train the Ugandan gunmen who will be going to fight the people of Somalia. At the same time President-for-Life Yoweri Museveni's regime will be propped up. As leaders go Mr. Museveni started as a considerable improvement on his post-colonial predecessors. Somewhere along the way he decided that he was indispensable, and democracy had to play second fiddle (just like Franklin Delano Roosevelt). Instead of training and empowering the next generation of leaders, he is determined to take Uganda to the grave with him. In addition, he has supported harsh anti-homosexual laws.

Perhaps the Pentagon just wants to get in some real-life jungle training. American gunmen have a poor record in jungle warfare, as demonstrated by the Viet Cong. The Lord's Resistance Army might be easy prey, and then again they have already survived for a couple of decades and may be more adaptable than I, or anyone, expects. As to Somalia, only idiots like George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and their brutish henchmen think that playground has room for anyone besides the natives.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Barack Obama Sanctions Assassinations

Barack Obama yesterday announced he plans to impose sanctions on Iran for the alleged assassination plot against the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Adel A. Al-Jubeir. For all I know Mr. Al-Jubeir is a well-intentioned man, but he represents one of the most oppressive dictatorships on earth. Iran, on the other hand, is a democracy, at least as much as the United States can be said to be a democracy.

Note that President Obama is in no position to express moral outrage. Since bluffing his way into the office of President in 2008, Obama has become the number 1 murderer and war criminal in the world. Why anyone would expect anything less from a graduate of Harvard Law School, where the cooking the Gruel of Law is continually taught to the next generation of vipers, I don't know.

Democratic Party apologists (is there any other kind of Democrat Party activist?) say that Obama inherited his wars from President George W. Bush. They want us to forget that the Democrats won the 2006 congressional elections mainly by playing to anti-war sentiment. The war in Iraq was essentially over by the time Barack took office, but he escalated the war in Afghanistan at a time when it would have been easy just to pull out U.S. troops. Further, he has waged illegal wars against Pakistan and the people of Somalia, while U.S. assassins have murdered alleged U.S. enemies and innocent civilians in Yemen and throughout northern Africa.

President Obama said, "The second thing that we’re going to continue to do is to apply the toughest sanctions and continue to mobilize the international community to make sure that Iran is further and further isolated and that it pays a price for this kind of behavior."

This kind of behavior? Note a few facts: the Saudi ambassador was not harmed. It was a homeland security bureaucrat who actually planned to kill the ambassador. Homeland Security found an unstable, incompetent, greedy man, Mansour Arbabsiar, to claim to be the bagman for the plot. Can the U.S. manufacture evidence to implicate Iranians in the plot? Our physical manufacturing plants have mostly moved to China and Mexico and India, but one thing we can still manufacture is phony evidence. I think they teach that at Harvard Law, or maybe at Langley.

I agree that the ancient principle that all ambassadors are, in effect, sacred cows, is a good one. Peace emissaries would never be able to end wars otherwise. The pragmatic problem is that embassy personnel often use this fig leaf as a cover to commit a wide variety of crimes. The U.S. embassy in Iran existed largely to help murder opponents of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the self-styled Shah of Iran. Just like the employees of the U.S. embassy in South Vietnam existed to help murder opponents of the U.S. puppet dictators in the 1960s during the Vietnam war. And ... oops, this could easily devolve into the historic role of U.S. embassies and the CIA in murdering people who opposed U.S. imperialism. A subject for a 9 volume encyclopedia, not a blog posting.

War crimes are still war crimes even if you are POTUS and no one has the ability to try you and hang you like the Democrats used to hang unregistered potential Republican voters in the Solid South up until around the time Obama was born.

Barack Obama, and his top subordinates, should be tried by an impartial tribunal for each and every one for the numerous assassinations they have carried out in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and around the globe.

The American people should impose sanctions on the Democratic Party and Republican Party, the two greatest war crimes organizations in the world. Not one cent or one vote until both parties dry up and are replaced by a new politics of peace and prosperity.

See also: Saudi Arabia at Wikipedia

Barack Obama's remarks about Iran on October 13, 2011

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

small green gift ideas

Anything you buy, from a stick of gum to a Prius, requires energy for its creation. The amount of energy required is usually proportional to the price tag. Those who support a Buy Nothing policy, I applaud. Despite that, I have found a few small items to really be worthwhile in terms of their providing comfort while lowering overall impact on the environment.

First and foremost are flannel lined jeans, and similarly lined pants. I like to keep my heating bills to a minimum. In my barn-style house that means cutting firewood for the upstairs wood stove, and minimizing electric space heater use for downstairs (which is where I work). I've tried many warm clothing items over the years with varying success. Last year I finally bought LL Bean flannel lined jeans. I typically buy regular jeans at Target for around $15, so these seemed expensive at $49.99, but they totally changed the warmth equation. They are a lot more comfortable than wearing long underwear beneath jeans. I see this year the price has been raised to $54.95. Land's End is selling a variety of lined pants (jeans, corduroy, and chino) for $69.50. Another choice is NorthernTool.com, where fleece-lined work jeans are $39.99 and flannel-lined dungarees are just $34.99. I'm sure there are other brands and vendors as well.

With my flannel jeans I like thick wool socks over thin cotton socks, a knit long-sleaved mock turtleneck basic layer, and a quilted flannel work shirt.

Then there ... truthfully, I can't think of anything else right now. I don't really buy anything for myself except food, clothing, and books. I still collect physical books.

Oh, I know, I get a lot of utility out of blankets, including an electric blanket I keep by my office chair. You can keep your house or office at 62 degrees F. if you have warm clothes and an electric blanket handy.

Need to give a special person a gift despite your anti-consumption ethic? Check out my wife's environment and peace oriented jewelry site, PeacefulJewelry.com.