Thursday, September 13, 2007

A follow-up post scriptum(s) to last post...

A case in point of how Debt has become as American as Coca-Cola is a former Boss I had who continually lamented about his bills, how far that he and wife were in debt(they recently purchased a huge four bedroom house - when all their kids were grown and had fled the coup), and he was barely paddling in the water. Finally, he got one of these Debt Consolidation deals that reduced his costs and got his mortgage within some means of payment with his and her incomes. The ink wasn't dry on the contract, and ONE DAY after the signing of it, I caught ex-Boss going over a catalogue full of televisions in the breakroom, and he said that he also needed a new riding lawn mower(he already had a good used John Deere); at lunch he visited the car dealership across the street and returned an hour later with the paperwork on a new auto. And this guy was always complaining that his kids couldn't manage their money....

[ Said former Boss also watched Golf AND Bowling on his 150 inch flat screen TV; feature that ex-Boss is one who thinks that reading books is a "complete waste of time." He asked me what a 'Buddhist'(this guy had some three years of college) was once, and another time he wanted to know if Mark Twain was the current kin to some bimbo Country singer with a weird first name....]
Congratulations America! We are not only the undisputed masters of the universe in Debt, we ain't resting on our laurels either: we've passed the $9,000,000,000,000 mark of Gross National Debt. Hurrah! 'We're #1!! We're #1!'

Where are the Flag Wavers when you need them??

Feature that the USA does not assume a great portion of this nine trillion dollar national debt, and we are kept from insolvency by foreign nations buying up T-Bonds and what have you. It's academic that if the Dollar tanks, these guys will get panicky and begin to call in their loans - which our government is in no position to pay.

Credit Card Lobbyist Stooge, Senator Grassley of Iowa, got the bill passed a few years back that makes it difficult for individual Americans to file Bankruptcy. Grassley and his other minions are part of the reason why we are approaching insolvency as a collective whole in Americana, yet this person has the gall to finger-wag the American people that they need to be more responsible with their money. The fact is, abuse of bankruptcy filings was not all that common and many Americans over-extended themselves on credit due to job outsourcing or medical bills. Besides, these guys at the Top has pushed this Debt Culture on the rest of us, then they whine when people 'aren't paying their bills' (and I thought only liberals had this "do as I say, not as I do" con down).

Guess we can blame South Dakota. In the early 1980s when the economy was actually in a depression, the Credit Card industry was near collapse, on its last legs. South Dakota's Governor want to jump-start the economy so he abolished the state's usury laws and invited the Credit Card New York City fellas to set up shop in his state. This sparked a chain reaction and all the other states in the Union that had usury laws knocked them down, one by one, and the Debt Culture was born....(no wonder some people want to put Reagan's mug on Mt. Rushmore, eh?).

Concur that a credit card is useful in emergencies, but the plan of attack from this industry is to get the user of it head over heels in debt with the Card so he or she is just paying the high interest. It's a racket, and the Credit Card lobby admits this: they totally despise people such as myself who pays any credit card purchases off in full, monthly. To combat those who 'just pay their bills', the Credit Card shysters will then offer extended lines of credit to entice the frugal to go out and spend and get so far in debt that they will just be doing the interest; once I had a credit company that voluntarily bumped-up my line beyond the sum that I was earning at the time in a single year. So, I looked the gift horse in the mouth and returned my cut-up credit card in response to this magnanimous offer;-).

This lobby needs to be checked, and Left-Federalist fully supports the re-institution of usury laws at the federal level.

'Work on 'em when they're young'.... the Debt Cartel knows this and practices it with gusto. A Kindergartner can get a Visa card these days, and so can his dog, Spot. It used to be a tradition in some American families to get Junior his own savings account passbook at his watershed sixth birthday, now we indoctrinate him in the 'Off-the-Cuff Existenz' before he can spell d-e-b-t. 'Saving for College' is no longer a common expression - the ticket is for Dick and Jane to take out loans for higher education with ever higher tuition costs just when their lives are just beginning;his/her Piggy Bank is now full of IOU's rather than US Currency....

I still bank at the same institution that I got my original Savings Account as a wee lad. Last year, this Savings& Loan abolished 'savings accounts' officially; once I asked a typical dimwit Teller there about their rates of CD's(just to test her knowledge) and she looked at me like I had come from Alpha Cenauri.

Basing an economy on Debt/consumption alone is a house of cards and it could easily collapse. I have this theory if just a quarter of the US population tears up their credit cards and never gets one again, this entire edifice will end up smoking rubble. We could easily turn the Consumer culture on its head, but won't happen: John Dole needs his 150 inch flat screen TV because Jones has a 140 inch one, and Mr. Dole needs a bigger house five years after he purchased it. He'd never think of saving for anything....

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Outside of Sports, automobiles and talking Shop, one of the conversation bits that come up when the American Male species of two-legged mammals engages in what sociologists dub *Male Bonding*, knocking-back a few with his buddies, is - "Who would you do if your were trapped on 'Gilligan's Island'?

Being the type of hominid that I am who doesn't like either/or situations, want my beer and drink it too, I always toss a wrench into this question - 'You're leaving someone out of this here - what about Mrs. Howell??'

When shock manifests - " You'd do that Old Bag?!?' - I merely answer that 'Lovey' needs some lovin' too - her husband 'Thurstun' sleeps in a separate cot with a Teddy Bear, for chrissakes. And they say that older women turn into HornDogs when their hormones start rearranging at that age. Though I haven't a Granny Complex and very much prefer Ginger and/or Mary Ann as a mating partner, think of it this way: get in good with Mrs. Howell, give her a few good humpings, whack Thurstun and get all of his money - then you can BUY both Ginger and Mary Ann( yes, Mary Ann can be bought...her innocent Kansas farm-girl act didn't fool me a bit - and I know all about Kansas farm gals.) ;-)

American males are often so one-dimensional and they don't even have a good game plan even when thinking about studding TV actresses...
My last post may have been offensive to causcasoid members of the underclass, but I'm actually in their corner( I come from the same poor agrarian turned working class that they do and I so remain, not ashamed.). The major beef is when they get parvenu and uppity when some extra money comes their way and they have more than what Gramps and Granny had, and think that extra il dinero actually makes them somebody, when they aren't well-rounded fellows or care about being good citizens. Gramps&Granny may had been as poor as dogsnot, but they were probably better human beings?

Jim Goad wrote a sociological masterpiece regarding said white underclass , The Redneck Manifesto. Goad neither took a typical leftist path on it as Barbara Ehrenreich did, and neither is he a 'white power' advocate as some may initially think. Rather, said book is a balanced and well-researched text(and funny as hell, to boot) regarding America's historical attitudes to the White Trash, and the panache of the White Trash themselves. The sum of the book's message is that the white underclass has always been the convenient group to pick on, because they've always been so powerless, and they don't care that they are, really.

I've felt like 'getting Moe Howard' on HL Mencken lately, so I will continue. Many hail Mencken as muckraker for civil liberty and personal dignity such as his long campaign in the 1920s bashing the Ku Klux Klan in print. That's noble on the surface, but Mencken adorers(found today in the 'libertarian' ranks) need to realize that his hatred for the Klan, other white supremacy groups, and religious fundamentalism was motivated entirely from his classist snobbery: Mencken was a rare bird who hated both Jews and what he dubbed to be White Trash. His upbringing in Baltimore was high-bourgeoisie and he had that typical Southern upper-class distaste for Hillbillies and Hayseeds. 'Distaste' is a mellow word for it; Mencken believed that the underclass of Appalachia was fitting for extermination. His later opposition to the TVA New Deal program was in lieu that he didn't believe that these folks deserved any help. His championing of civil rights for Black Americans was only because he hated the white underclass more. Mencken was not a 'humanist' by any wild stretch, and Blacks were okay just as long as they worked in his daddy's cigar factory or served as cleaning help and chauffeurs.

The Mencken family married into the Hohenzollern aristocracy; Henry Louis's branch of this DNA left Germany in 1848 not because they felt that the democratic Republican revolutionary movement there would be gunned down in the streets(what ultimately happened) - but because Opa Mencken thought that they would win. The Menckens were not the liberal Forty-Eighters as was typical of German immigrants here in the 1850s and 60s; Hank wrote esoterically as if he had been deprived of his aristocratic heritage in America, and sought a way to get it back. Therefore, his attraction to Nietzsche, and he had the standard misreading of Nietzsche's thought - except the Master vs. Slave morality thingy - and Mencken undoubtedly felt himself to be a Herrenmensch, when Nietzsche himself wouldn't had liked him (there weren't too many that Nietzsche did like anyway). Though Mencken's personal politics contained those Jeffersonian memes, he had no love for even representative democracy and a biting and vicious rancor of anything smacking of populism and/or having an energetic citizenry from all walks of life promoting civic nationalism....

'Digression' is my middle- name. The message can be NutShell'd as this: There is nothing wrong with the underclass steppin' up in the material world, but when they forget where once both feet were planted, there is the problem. Having more $$ than your parents did, doesn't make you a better person if you also do not work on being. And please, do not confound it more by adopting a hyphenated surname, and pretend that you are part of the jet-set because of your admission into the local Elks Club, or that the Masonic Lodge wants you(they'll take anybody these days...even I was approached once by one of their recruiters), and you go into further debt by buying a house or vehicle that shows status, but is nevertheless beyond your means...

Friday, September 7, 2007

Another thing that I find curious about some of my fellow Americans(mostly the females) are those who adopt hyphenated surnames. I mean, who the dickens do they think that they are - British aristocracy(didn't we have a Revolution some 200+ years ago to throw these types out of the country, or did I miss something??)?

Reading the local neighborhood committee's insert placed in my mailbox the other day, I noticed a hyphenated surname of an American female that I have known most of my existenz on the steering committee of said organization. Well, I just had to laugh: said female-human American with the hyphenated surname, hails from the biggest WHITE TRASH family(s) in the entire county and so does her Better Half! Her DNA is so White Trash, that the guests on the Jerry Springer Show would hold their noses up in the air if they met up; she's so White Trash, that field rats jump into water to cleanse themselves if they ever found themselves near her; she's so White Trash, that the inbred Hillbillies of Tennessee(where her protoplasm originally comes from) ran all of her kin off with shotguns because they didn't want to appear slumming by having them share the same mountain, near Bugtussle....

And this person, who couldn't find Great Britain on a map or care if she couldn't, has adopted a hyphenated-surname???
The two pillars of the current' American Way of Life' -work and individualism - have both shining and glaring contradictions. Though we today do the 24/7 work/consumption(and debt) routine, we are some of the laziest people on the planet outside of the job site(s). We work longer and have got fatter than the previous generation, and at the shopping mall - even in fair weather - witness the bipeds drive around the busy parking lot for 10 minutes just to find an open space that is close to the entrance ( once I watched this fat bitch - who nearly tagged my truck - in a BMW do this. I parked way back in the boon docks and hiked in in less than a minute. I walked in the door and noticed that she was still driving around searching for an opening, close-by. She finally made it in the store and I noticed that she had *Slim-Fast*products in her cart!); one spouse of a relative insists on driving to her job though she lives a mere two-blocks from it; the other day I opened the office door for a banshee who didn't want to make the effort to get her own key and walk back(she was the same distance from said office that I was;Banshee was on her way to the Athletic Club for a cardio, undoubtedly.) These are some subjective observations out of numerous....

As for individualism, Americans are the most Herd-like creatures - whilst they be Squares or think that they are part of the *Cool Ones* maximizing their individualism for all the world to see. I don't have much bones to pick with the Squares(Frat Boys/Chamber of Commerce/Stock Broker/Insurance racketeers, etc.) since most will fully admit that they are going along with the flow, playin' the Game, keeping up with Jones - it's these coffeehouse/hirsute/ purple or Ronald McDonald haired Roosters adorning themselves with fishing lures in their faces, thinking that having shit permanently engraved in their skin makes them really unique specimens in the known universe. Each their own - I'm keen on that. If people want to look like Walt Disney puked all over them, that's okay with me. If they have more pieces of metal in their faces, tongues and other body parts than I have in my fishing tackle box - bloody well n' good. What is the objection is that when such creatures somehow believe that they are non-conformists and that they're their own personal archetype of an *Individual*(just ask them). The negation is that they're merely conforming to a notion of non-conformity - doin' what their friend or some celebrity is doing;notice that these self-proclaimed individuals always run in packs, just like all other humans do. Those who confess that they just want to be 'Goth', 'Punk', Metal Face,HipHopper, Rastafarian(the Caucasian Dreadlocked bunch are particularly amusing to behold) neoHippie/neoBeatnik, whatever category - I respect them for being truthful. But don't give me any of this 'individuality' crap - they have little concept of it.

And few homo sapiens sapiens are true individuals/non-conformists - just like true Genius comes around once in a blue moon. Genuine article individuals are usually found in the NutHouse or they inhabit downtown streets and eat out of garbage cans(in the Middle Ages they were burned at the stake for being witches), and they can keep it. We're all Herd and social animals regardless how much persons deludes themselves thinking - "I'm a unique Individual and the sun personally revolves around Me!"

And Yanks are the most adroit cattle-grazers that there is. They know all about having&doing mind you, but speak on Being - you might as well be trying to converse in Swahili with them: just greet a colleague with "How are you being?" instead of 'How do you do?" and watch the momentary blank look on their countenances before they reply....

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Post Labor Day Thoughts

A liquor store employer remarked to me and the other patrons in his store, last Saturday, that Labor Day is the day of 'not-to-work', but Americans with their Consumer Cult need for 24/7 service, no longer abide by this. He said that he would be damned if he was going to work on Labor Day, and neither were his employees. These are not the words of a labor unionist or socialist - he owns a small chain of liquor stores and seems to be quite well to do. He began as a mere grocery store clerk however, and obviously hasn't forgot what it means to be an employee.

Naturally, I put my two-cents in, and replied that first they took away May Day from the American Working Stiff, now they went to work on the first Monday in September; there are companies who don't even have Labor Day as a paid-holiday for their staff. Some - most Yanks - gasp that May Day is a 'Commie Holiday', and no red-blooded true American would observe it. Actually, May Day goes back to pagan times before Karl Marx&Co. were spermatozoa swimming in their daddies' MuleJuice. It's actually as American as Apple Pie: the first of May was one of the days that George Washington ordered the Continental Army to stand down when they were not in military engagements, for instance...

The fact is, that Yanks in the 21st Century work longer hours than at anytime in the 19th Century - the period that some erroneously view as the golden age of the Protestant Work Ethic. Some slave-driving American capitalists joke about the 'lazy bums' in places like France with their 35 hour work week(soon to abolished by Paris's NeoCon and laissez-faire Le Predator, Nicky Sarkozy?), yet the Frenchies today work longer than their grape-pickers in Alsace did in the Middle Ages. Our ancestors were 'slackers' in comparison to present times, but still we hear Old Foggies lamenting - " they sure knew how to WORK back in them thar days!" Yeah, they did. They worked their butts off via lack of technology, artificial lighting, but they also knew what leisure meant. The medieval peasant, the apprentice blacksmith, would not be employed at any company in the 21st Century because he would insist on having his holidays - which were more numerous than those today. And from what we know about the sociology of the Working Stiff in the 13th Century, it appears that they largely kept their own hours and were not regimented to a defined daily punch-in and out. Many have this image of the Feudal Lord standing over his Manor occupants cracking the whip; though feudalism was a form of slavery,the Lords actually seemed to have been loose, lackadaisical bosses - just as long as they got their cut from the crops and whatnot that their peasants toiled over to bring in. Their workday, as an aggregate whole, probably didn't extend much over five hours - yet civilization continued. Thus, the 24/7, three-jobs, 48hour + a week Consumer/ Work Cult today is more indicative of decline than that of social benevolence...

Even when Americans are off from their jobs come Labor Day, many spend it working about their houses and whatnot( as they do come their summer vacations and leave - if they have vacations, that is.) Even those who utilize their granted holidays and leaves, they remark that they'd had rather been working and didn't know what to do with themselves when granted leisure, even if it is paid; humans that spend their weekends not doing something, are often derisively regarded as 'loafers' by these above robotic workaholic creatures - even if the loafers are punching a clock consistently during the week, and have a dedicated ethos on the Job. I personally know people who would rather work than to fuck, for that matter - "..sorry, Miss Penthouse Pet of the Year, I gotta get to my third job at the Convenience Store!" Maybe I exaggerate here, but I wonder about some of these guys who slave-drive themselves(?)

Another thing that is deeply annoying are these workaholics who complain that they haven't time for their Families and maybe they should downsize their worship of the Protestant Work Ethic. The fact is that they don't even know their *family*(they're always working, how could they?), and would undoubtedly end up in divorce, wife-beating and child abuse if they were in the situation to "spend time with my family". If one is truly into *Family Values* they would had tried to fathom a way that they could work less, anyway. But they actually think that Family dedication is having things to keep up with the Joneses and the latest gadget trends. This has become the true-blue American concept of Family, so workaholics had better not cry on my shoulders about their neglected families - spouse & the biped spawn from their loins are mere possessions for them. I once played the workaholic game, time to time, but I learned to grow-up out of it.

And I don't work at a goddamn thing on Labor Day, either, and I'd probably shoot the person who tried to coerce me to work that day.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Ode to Ike; the Zen of Golf

Critics of Consumer Cult Critics(yours truly) always state that we want every American to become Silas Marners, live in hovels and don sackcloth for clothing as we count our money stowed away in coffee cans. Far from that! Actually, what I personally envision is close to what we had in the 1950s when Papa Ike was running the Show: we had our gadgets, a car in every garage but Yanks had Savings accounts,also. 'What is Above, is Below'(again). President Eisenhower, people must remember, was a true *fiscal conservative*( not a fake one like most GOPers are presently): Ike looked on everything in the Budget with a administrative accountant's eye - including the Pentagon. There was nothing of this later gnosticism of Reagan about him that somehow, over-spending on Defense is not detrimental to the health of the Budget, but domestic spending is wasteful and inflationary. Eisenhower had the horse sense to know that the Cold War would ultimately bankrupt us, and Ike had wisdom. That is why following the death of Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles - Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz couldn't hold a candle to that bastard - Eisenhower began pursing the policy of detente' with the USSR and hence, his famous Farewell Address warning Americans of the 'military-industrial complex'. We didn't listen to Ike and we got what we have now. Eisenhower, one of the architects of the NATO alliance, admonished incoming President John F. Kennedy in January of 1961 that the time had come for the United States to gradually disengage from this military alliance. You know, Ike was a Five Star General, and if anyone in that period and thereafter had a grasp of military entanglements, the pluses and minuses, it was him.

Contrary to the belief of Adlai Stevenson democrats, Ike did much more in his eight years in the Executive Office than play friggin' Golf. This is what an Adlai Stevenson liberal, Fred Greenstein, demonstrated in his book about the statecraft of Eisenhower, The Hidden Hand Presidency. Eisenhower cultivated the public persona of a smiling face with a five-iron, the optimistic panache that everything was Okay. He looked and acted like anyone's benevolent Grandpa. Nixon in later life remarked that America had no idea that behind the scenes, Ike had a devious streak(Nixon should know all about that); off the Golf Course, Eisenhower burned a lot of midnight oil and this was all part of his asymmetrical rule, his refusal to engage personalities directly. Like George Washington, Eisenhower wanted to appear above politics. Privately, he'd call in Cabinet members and slap wrists when need be, dress them down like the old General that he was. Few knew the ends and outs of bureaucracy like he did. Let's face it: the man held the Allied Coalition together in WW2, and no other general from either side could had done it. Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, who seldom gave anyone besides Bernard Montgomery praise, admitted as such. The key to Ike and his commanding respect is that when he gave his Word - it was gold. His famous Grin was genuine, but hell hath no fury when one crossed Ike and got his dander raised. Eisenhower had a fierce temper that he kept cloaked from the public, but it was like a sudden thunderstorm, and he was not one to carry long-term grudges against someone. Many people say that 'hate is not part of my vocabulary'(some of these types are some of the most prolific haters, actually), and this is true of Eisenhower. Nixon, his Vice President - no stranger to hatred - remarked that Ike had no concept of the term and didn't understand it. Ike was both a responsible statesman and also a benevolent human being - rare in the political arena.

Dwight D. Eisenhower had his faults and big ones like anyone. He listened to Dulles too much and actually enabled the growth of the military-industrial complex/National Security State by looking the other way on CIA shenanigans in Iran, Guatemala and elsewhere. The Domino Theory was erroneous. But his finest hour was in 1956 when he refused to directly engage the USSR over Hungary and in no uncertain terms he told the British-French-Israeli tag team on the Suez Canal to back-off - such prevented the USA-USSR from going to nuclear war and ending human civilization. The John Birch Society called Ike a 'Communist' because he didn't think that turning the Earth into a radioactive crater was a good idea. Go figure, consider the source....

As I previously remarked to my virtual friend, Howard J. Harrison, over at 'The Economic Nationalist', the 1950s under Papa Ike was perhaps the last decade of the 'American System' economics - even with the antithesis of Bretton Woods: internal improvements(the Interstate/Autobahnen Plan), fiscal responsibility;Ike believed in Carey's harmony of interests as well. Eisenhower admired rich industrialists and brought some of them into his Administration, and they are those he cultivated as golfing partners. But unlike 'Republicans' today, Ike accepted the social-market of the New Deal and thought those who wanted to destroy the social-safety net were correctly, STUPID! Not that he was a Guns n' Butter liberal either - Ike was at heart a conservative and spoke in nostalgia and wistfully of small-town America, like Abilene, Kansas that he grew up in, and he was a firm believer and practitioner of the old Protestant Work Ethic. Yet, he knew that not everyone could enjoy the benefits of this, and some people were born with strikes against them that they could not overcome. Again, noblesse oblique. Eisenhower was neither a Calvin Coolidge nor a Great Society patron. Out of all the post WW2 presidents of the USofA, Ike came the closest to finding the Synthesis in national economic policy.....

The reader must know that I am a bit bias since like Ike(no pun), I am also a Kansan. Visiting his Presidential Library in Abilene is like a pilgrimage site that Roman Catholics have to Lourdes and Rome. He's the Sunflower State's Guy that rose above the detrimental reputation of 'Hayseeds &Methodists'( coined by that bigoted, classist slug, Free Market Bolshevik & Nazi sympathiser - HL Mencken) and made good in the realm of the City Slickers, and he was the best that Kansas ever produced for the United States of America in the political arena - Bob Dole could not shine Ike's shoes, because Bob Dole lacked the certain essential ingredient that Ike had - Great-Souled Man.

Few Presidents could look the Founding Fathers in the eye and say that they passed muster. Dwight D. Eisenhower was one who could, and he would smile when he said it.....

Friday, August 31, 2007

Bush's Solution for every economic malfunction: cut taxes. Dean Baker at 'Beat the Press' does a fine job demonstrating that the Shrub's plan to help Americans suffering from the foreclosure epidemic is not only empty symbolism, but stupidity. Of course, the wealthy who over-extended themselves in real estate speculations will benefit the most. Another classic case of the OverClass's assault on the American Dream - that every citizen can 'build a home where the buffalo roam' - is now getting to be just that.....

Glad that College Football Season is commencing, this Saturday! It should be a civic Holy Day. The NFL does not quite have the 'soul' as football does at the University level; anymore I could care less who gets to the Super Bowl come next February.....

"My Country, Right or Wrong - still my Country." I'm down with that and always have been. Yet Americans generally lack the ability or desire to look into the mirror - especially those who they elect to public office(s). When any citizen takes issue with the detrimental general behavior of their fellow Americans, the imperial hubris of foreign and defense policy craftsmen, the NeoCon lobby always screams that such an analytical citizen is some American-hating Leftist, a 'Fifth Columnist'(?), or some other label. If Americans forget that they are all-too-human like anyone else, how can we ever know when our Country is in the right direction??.....

'What is Above, is Below' - This is another thing that Europe still in part retains whilst Americans have lost the concept of, or never really had - the duality of the macrocosm/microcosm. My fellow Yanks scratch their heads when the totality of Being is discussed;instead we Americans have a worldview of have and do, and think that having and doing something is segregated from the so-called 'great chain of Being'. This is why post WW2 Existentialism never caught on much on this side of the Pond except in academic or bohemian circles; for allegedly being so 'modern', Existentialism is broadly a continuation of the old medieval macrocosm/microcosm interaction, though with heavier emphasis on the micro- individual's role in this. We are supposed to be such individualists here in the USofA, yet we lack the spiritual essence within existence , and often dismiss any heady discussions of Being as gobbly-goop - we got the wrong verbs as guidance, that's why.Finger-pointing? Yup, a man named John Locke - America's 18th Century Enlightenment patron philosopher - for starters...

Spenglerian 'second-religiousness' doesn't apply to spirituality: religion is often divorced from spirit and often have no correlation. If/when we go down the commode, it will be because the spirituality of the macro/microcosm is out of whack, regardless of how many Americans attend church on Sunday to beat the Bible and make some lazy-assed shyster preacher or priest, well-to-do. A total atheist is often more spiritual than your token orthodox true-believer and less susceptible to experience what we in the US has, from Top to Bottom, spiritual death. Even if every American fills the church pews come Sunday morning, it shan't make a bit of difference and hold back the Fall of our own creation(?).....

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Was going to do a sarcastic piece on Larry Craig and the Party of *Family Values*(GOP) but anyone can read about it anywhere else, and the writer will probably do a better job of it....

This is to inform any reader that for the time being, posting here will be less frequent. I am in the abyss of redundancy and it is getting difficult to spin any post regarding Free Trade, Protectionism, etc., where I do not wax like some Dittohead merely repeating what His Fat Hypocriteness, Rush Limbaugh( I know.. Mikey Moore is fatter and he recently did a health-care movie.Not seeing it.),spews out daily - which are the same things he said the day before, and before, and before....

Not that Left-Federalist has thrown in the towel, and I'll probably utilize this blog space for unrelated topics; I'm just as earnest on the core issues discussed here as ever. I've not hit a block, but a broken record, and it's time to turn it off for a bit. Unlike Limbaugh, I'm not getting paid to be repetitious, and other things require my attention in this thing called existence......

Friday, August 24, 2007

Another thing that has contributed to the demise of American Working Class culture is that no longer is Joe Six Pack paid for his blood, sweat and tears, weekly. 'TGIF' used to have more significance in that the Blue Collar guy could look forward to getting his wages - now he usually has to wait biweekly for them, and like myself, he is oft not paid on a Friday. Who killed Friday PayDays? I have this theory that a long time ago in a drone mill or factory in Anytown, USA, some lazy accountant who was swapping spit with the Boss convinced him that if payroll was done only twice a month, their beautiful special relationship would only get better. Hence, the meme was passed down to all the lazy personnel in payroll at companies everywhere and it has become adopted, almost everywhere.

It's bad enough that the corporate overclass has to bust up unions, buy off politicians for passage of *Right to (screw) Work(ers)* laws - they then attacked the general morale of the workin' stiff by taking away the joy of all Fridays. Feature that many people do not earn enough to properly budget(what's that?) their earnings in the first place, and this biweekly business throws another wrench into it. And whoever came up with the idea of 'rotating shifts' - that messes up an employee's biological clock - needs to be tarred&feathered, beat with in an inch of his life, then shipped off in a cargo hold full of big rats and presented to trial at the Hague for crimes against humanity.......

[Also I have this other conspiracy theory about something else: shyster divorce lawyers at some conference in the 1990's were lamenting that since more normal heterosexual couples have opted to just shack-up instead of going through the traditional ritual of pair-bonding - they decided to push this Gay Marriage bit to drum up more business . Given that infidelity is the #1 cause of marital breakups, and male homosexuals are the most promiscuous out of all genders of sexual orientations - divorce lawyers could then clean-up at court. What a bloody racket!]
Spiegel Online has a cooing article regarding Ukraine's economic 'boom' and between the lines said article insinutes that said GNP growth is because of laissez-faire policies - "politics is politics, business is business". Certainly the Free Market Bolsheviks at the Cato Institute have picked up on this info and are strutting about with chub-ons. Well, a time will come shortly that they will need Viagra to maintain them: Ukraine still has its old industrial base which as we know, hard- industry is the key for economic growth and without some form of dirgist public planning, booms will ultimately go bust. Ukraine also has a growing service sector which is anthema to industry and sets out to rob the labor force;if some checks are not put on said service sector, and if Ukraine does not protect its industrial base, watch them slide into Americanization. That Ukraine also has a growing speculative force should be reason for Kiev to have yellow lights flashing now. Plus, the Spiegel article lauds the growing consumerism of Ukrainians. Really now, the last thing that a growing national-economy needs is to adopt the USA's Consumer Cult! Ukrainians should be saving instead of spending on Mickey Mouse gadgets. Yeah, I know that they were deprived of their toys under the horrible, central-planned Leninist State economy of the USSR, but going full-throttle in the other direction is not the answer. Look what happened to us Yankees here, Ukrainians, and learn: autocratic State Socialism isn't the answer, and neither is the neofeudalism of globalist laissez-faire.....

Morris Berman loves to point out how the materialist, hedonistic Consumer Cult has robbed Americans of their soul, yet he omits the role that his side has played in this. Though I don't think that Berman is a cultural-Bolshevik himself, he is a man of the Left, and the Frankfurt School import here was anything but good in post-WW2, USA. But Berman is on par that America as the beacon of liberty was from its inception based on negative freedom: we held liberty as against something else instead of for. But Berman's criticisms of America does not have the hue of his Leftist counter-parts like Howard Zinn and Michael -'let's not pick on Stalin'-Parenti( as I'd love to time-warp Holocaust Deniers to Auschwitz, circa 1944, same applies to Gulag Deniers like Parenti - a logging camp on 600 calories per day in 1930s Arctic Siberia would do him nicely.) and he acknowledges that America was once a good idea and the Federalists of the Early Republic were the real Menschen of classical-republican virtue and retained that benevolent aristocratic meme of organic Europa melded to said 'small-r' republicanism. Berman rightfully blames the Jeffersonians for mucking all of this up, when usually Lefties coo over the Jacobin world-view of TJ. Neither does Berman champion the meme of full-fledged participatory democracy, and he grasps in his own wording what is needed in a healthy society of a nation is a harmony of interests between the Few and the Many - not leveling from either/or. The Few have leveled the USA by hyper individualism in the name of laissez-faire. But a negative harmony does exist : the Many keep voting these cruds in to rule them, or they don't even care to go to the ballot box to do so. The excuse that there is a case of no real alternative, and why should the Commons even bother to vote, rings hollow. Many times in American election history we have had third parties on the ballot that was an alternative to the Demo-Repub duopoly, but few have ever made more than a sharp splash with the voting population. For instance, in 2000 we had alternatives both on the Left and Right(Nader/Buchanan) to Gore and the Shrub - two that few were enthusiastic about and they were roughly the same species - but how many voted for either two of the named alternatives? The excuse that voting for a third party candidate is "wasting your vote" is stupid( as if voting for some corrupt dummkopf that a voter doesn't like isn't wasting a ballot). This is exactly what the Demo-publican party-power structure wants the voter to think, and it works, apparently.
Notice how Americans with their cult of individualism are actually herd-like within it: they all indulge their consumerist hedonism based on what their neighbor has, or what some cool&trendy celebrities and other aspiring criminals are doing and wearing. For instance, this current tattoo craze originates from that one of the Beautiful People, somewhere, decided to get a Tat one night when drunk, and then subsequently the Sheep were standing in line at the Tattoo Parlor, bleating to get their wool adorned with, (cough) body art.

Many other examples exist on how conformist and collectivist Americans truly are despite their 'rugged individualism', and they have the individualism/communitarian dichotomy in all the wrong places, flip-flopped back asswards.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Time to be Thankful

Barak Obama has been showing that he can be John Wayne,too(reference to his comments on Pakistan,etc.). Imagine him and Duncan Hunter getting together and playing Cowboys & Indians in elementary school....this demonstrates that the Democratic Party is the one of *Empire, Lite* and will not change too much the current foreign policy shenanigans of neoimperialism, and neither will they check the power of the 1% OverClass despite their occasional rhetoric to the contrary. Feature that the *National Security State* was created under a Democratic Administration(Truman) in the first place, as Chomsky points out in his lectures. The Dems lone candidate actively endorsing America's full pull-back from Empire and return to the social-market edifice of the New Deal is Dennis Kucinich; if the Midget gets more than 5% of the vote in the upcoming Iowa Caucus - it will be proof that God indeed does exist. He's a joke within the Democratic Party and doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell. The GOP's authentic maverick and anti-imperialist, Ron Paul, doesn't either. This is a grim reality that we will probably be looking at President ClintonII in '08, or another *compassionate conservative* like that idiot Morman, Mitt Romney. Start waving bye-bye to the Republic then - because it will be then beyond a doubt - finito . It may have already fled the nest, and we know who is to blame. The sad situation is that most of the American citizenry doesn't give a shit just as long as they have their toys and gadgets, satellite TV with 500 channels of kitsch on it and that there is always low prices at Wal-Mart( yes, it IS this bad); women can qualify for liposuction/cosmetic surgery on their health insurance and the drive-thru is open 24/7 at McDonalds; Johnny can have his Ritalin and there is another sports arena built in their local city for more Bread n' Circuses entertainment - 'A Republic?? I don' care!'

Thank you very much, my fellow Americans, and to the bastards&bitches that you elect as public officials to run the country into the ground(those of you who do vote) -

"...thanks for the last and greatest betrayal of the last and greatest of human dreams."

- William S. Burroughs, A Thanksgiving Prayer

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bretton Woods& Berman

Dean Baker has a nice snippet at 'Beat the Press' about 'Wall Street Welfare Queens' - you get 'em Dean!

Alas, the subject of this post pertains to the current book that I am reading, Dark Ages America. I've read a few other texts by the author before(good ones) and I possess a sense of loyalty to authors that I like. Initially, I was not all that keen on reading Dark Ages given that I am already pessimistic enough about the fate of America, but I do have a hunch that the window is open enough that things can be turned around with the right people conducting the orchestra. Also, one review of Morris Berman's latest book proclaimed that Jimmy Carter is the hero of it, and that kind of put me off - I never could abide Carter much(though Jimma' deserves two thumbs-up for his dedication to Habitat for Humanity, which is also my pet charity.). I waited until the local Uni library had a copy available, and now so I read it.

Morris Berman presents the similar theme with his current one that was in his previous, Twilight of American Culture. Now, he states that the sky is not only foreboding, it is already hailing & raining on us but we do not know it fully as yet. Berman is Spenglerian without ever mentioning Spengler in Dark Ages and he states unequivocally that TINA is the reality, though Berman's TINA has a strong case of STD's - he doesn't like the whore and is not a protagonist, willing Trick for her.

The focal point of this post will be his economic comments of Berman's book, and I found some of them spot-on, though he leaves out some essentials that should had been addressed for his arguments. Namely, Berman regards the demise of Bretton Woods as the epicenter of the end of the USA's economic hegemony which is but partially true. Berman believes that Bretton Woods was the 'check' on globalist laissez-faire and he looks upon economics as a sociologist/cultural historian that he is( we need more economists with this panache). Rightfully he remarks in said text that the post- Bretton Woods era opened the door wide open for this globalist catastrophe that we are witnessing now;the floating-exchange rate of currencies is a predator-speculator's dream come true, and there have been no authentic checks on the ebb&flow of international capital as it was in the post WW2 Era because of said Bretton Woods Agreement.

Morris Berman, like other protagonists for BWA, ignores why the edifice collapsed. Instead, he merely states "...for whatever reason...". This is rather odd given that he is usually a well-endowed researcher, and one would think that if someone felt that Bretton Woods was the Thing, that they'd want to know why, and inform their reader. I covered the *WHY* in previous post, 'Nixon Shock, Revisited', and I'll not rehash it much here. A few months ago, I visited Berman's blog and posted in brief some of these factoids about the collapse of BWA, but he never responded(Berman seems to only reply to commentators who claim to be fellow educators and Ph.D's....I won't call him a snob, but question marks are there.) to it. He should had read George Greider's, Secrets of the Temple, before he wrote on the subject, but that is neither here now there.

Berman's hero of Bretton Woods is the British delegate at the conference in 1944, John Maynard Keynes. Yet, Keynes was not at all onboard on all the final accords reached there - BWA was essentially that of Harry Dexter White who was not a 'Keynesian'. True enough, Keynes does deserve accolades. One of the most major misconceptions about Keynes is that he was a socialist - far from it. He was a capitalist who wanted to put a 'human face' to it and he himself got immensely rich with sound investments in stock( it's ironic that most professional economists often loose their ass in their own personal speculations). Another Keynesian myth is that the current status qua of deficit-spending with gargantuan debt is all based on his plan - Keynes only sanctioned deficit spending as a temporary measure during severe economic downturns as remedy instead of raising taxes;Keynesian prescriptions during 'good years' called for balanced-budgets, federal restrictions on spending, national debt reduction and the necessary tax hikes to reach these ends - basic common sense. JMK met an untimely death in 1946 because Vienna School predator, Friedrich August von Hayek's magnum opus,The Road to Serfdom, was actually a declaration of war on Keynesian economics and Keynes was up to meeting the challenge. If he would had lived longer, Keynes would had undoubtedly cleaned the clocks of the minions of the Mont Pelerin Society (Wilhelm Roepke, excepted.Roepke was closer to Keynes than he was to his neoclassical colleagues in said MPS;Roepke is the genius who found the synthesis of neoliberalism &neosocialism, some say). The Vienna School would had been discredited and laissez-faire would had remained deader than fried chicken as it was by 1945 - ass-up-end into the dustbin of economic history where it belongs.

Morris Berman, a Leftist and Red Diaper Baby, waxes like a fiscal conservative in his narrative, and correctly identifies LBJ's costly Vietnam War and Great Society(yes! a lefty critic of of Johnson's spend-thrift, Guns n' Butter,pipedream to end poverty!) for the inflationary spikes that led us up to August 15, 1971. However, the author omits Kennedy's role in this morass: JFK began the policy of deficit-spending within productive economic times and he also cut taxes for the wealthy Overclass - a prelude to Reagan twenty years later. The Kennedy-Johnson Administrations were the main culprits in the Bretton Woods debacle, and all of this was thrusted into Nixon's lap.

The author sighs over Bretton Woods's collapse, but unlike other partisans of it like Ravi Batra and James Tobin, he doesn't believe that it can be re-instated. Berman also demonstrates that branches of the BWA such as the IMF and World Bank has become the antithesis, the alter ego of its original benevolence. They are now the Enemy after the laissez-fairists have taken them over and now their program is to install cosmopolitan corporate feudalism(or fascism?) all over the Blue Dot, and they're making a fine job of it.

The year Nineteen-hundred-seventy-three, being held as the epicenter of the end of America's hegemony internationally( a horrible, shitty year indeed; nothing good came out of '73.Nihil.), plus the omega of the USA's 'human-face capitalism', the Dark Ages America directly lends acquiesce to this. Nixon did try to re-set the Dollar at a fixed-rate as before, but no international consensus could be reached to restart Bretton, thus the 'floating-exchange ' rates of currencies was officially adopted, which has become a predator-speculator's nirvana. De-industrialization in the USA took off with a passion, real wages have plummeted and have not moved of any significance since 1968( to get the real wages to '68 levels, our current federal Minimum Wage law would have to be set at $8.08 per hour. Scandalous!), and inflation has literally ate us alive since them. But Berman and others must know that Bretton Woods should not have been set up as a permanent international order, and the real cause of America's economic demise was lack of protection. I can't write this enough.

Here's a harebrained idea where internationalist BWA nostalgics and tariff protectionists such as myself,perhaps all can reach an accord to turn-back the globalist monster, beat-it down and have a pseudo-cosmopolitan economic order as well: given that Bretton Woods was primarily oriented for economic recovery of Europe and to avoid pitfalls of laissez-faire, why doesn't the powers-that-be in DC say to Brussels - "hey, it's your turn." ? In this here simplified form, all participants agree that the Euro should be the reigning fixed-rate reserve currency backed by a species of gold from reserves from all said participating nations. Convertibility of Euros to gold are conditional on majority vote and with limits on the transfer of gold reserves from one nation to another. The US Dollar remains constitutionally sovereign but stabilized in this format. Tariff rates(yes) will be assessed based on the current fixed-rate of the Euro compared to the value of the Dollar. In short, this is a reverse- Bretton Woods with many of the holes of the BWA plugged. Nations will be allowed to unilaterally raise and lower their own tariff-rates to rectify their own trade imbalances or for policies that require internal improvements or their vital industries that are getting hit with inordinate foreign competition. Both the fixed-rate reserve currency and tariffs will cover one another in this sequence. As for the IMF and World Bank and WTO - to the graveyard they will go.

Maybe this plan has glaring caverns in it as well, but it is worth a try to tweak and should be satisfactory to both economic-nationalists and those who are hung-up on international stability of a consensus. Berman's declaration of an impeding dark age may be halted economically.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Don't Heart Huckabee(s)

Anyone wonder which GOP Presidential campaign that Karl Rove will try to latch himself to? Anytime that a public official proclaims his/her resignation to "spend more time with my family" one should know enough by now that this is a code-phrase meaning that he/she wants another job. These politicos would probably end up killing their families if they spent time with them anyway. Rove will write his book but keep his name out in the meantime. If there are no takers for his services with the GOP hopefuls, there are plenty of lobbyists that would hire him.......

Our current system of electing a President is sick. Sick! Sound-bites, one-liners, are what matters instead of serious discourses on issues and above all a candidate needs the endorsement of the One True God of the United States - Mammon. Though the Primary system was originally intended to have more democracy in the selection of Presidential candidates, it has become perverted and has degenerated into a funding sweepstakes. Besides, the rank and file of voters usually stay at home during the Primaries. Give me back the smoke-filled convention hall, or at least have a one-day National Primary in late summer, or a run-off, in an election year......

According to an article at American Prospect, the Religious Right are finding their Anointed One in Mike Huckabee - a charismatic Southern Baptist who also belongs to the Amen Lobby; the AL believes that the foreign policy of the USA should be merged with that of Tel Aviv. I would think that the Israelis themselves should be reticent in taking such praise and devotion from this group of Fundy bipeds: if it wasn't for their 'Rapture'/Armageddon mythology, these are the same people who'd be charging the Jewish people as 'Christ-Killers', and would had been cheerleaders for pogroms at ghetto gates back in the Old County in another time.As Michael Lind pointed out in his 'Up from Conservatism', Christian Zionists such as Pat Robertson have a strong dose of Anti-Semitism and Reverend Pat himself believes firmly in the Jewish Banker/Freemason/Illuminati (?)conspiracy......(I guess that includes 33rd Degree Mason, George Washington, Pat??) The Religious Right have nothing in common with the traditional non-aligned foreign policy of the United States and they're also for the most part have the economic and trade line of The Wall Street Journal (now owned by the globalist-predator &Free Market Bolshevik - Rupert Murdoch).....

Notice that even the Black churches are getting in on the *Prosperity Gospel* act when previously American Black churches had been a bedrock of Liberal Christianity and the Social Gospel(that is more in tune with the message of the New Testament that I've read). Jesus not only wants you with him in Heaven - he wants His Sheep with a BMW parked inside a three car garage in a overpriced home in the suburbs too. Jesus at the Second Coming wants to Rapture the faithful that have Rolex watches on their wrists, with sound Stock investment portfolios. This is nothing but a recycle of old Calvinism and Elmer Gantries in three-piece suits. Naturally, the Reverends want a rich flock to fleece because it will mean more tithes & offerings for them - so they can live affluent without having to do any work for it. These preachers touting the Prosperity Gospel heresy are nothing but parasites, regardless of their racial classification......

Am currently working on the pages of Morris Berman's,Dark Ages America, where the cultural historian takes a Spenglerian hue and proclaims we are are done for here, and he washes his hands. I do think that he is being unduly defeatist, but the message of the text is grim and compelling. Berman rightly assigns the blame for America's demise when we had transformed ourselves into a National Security State and simultaneously pushed globalist laissez-faire as essential ingredients of Pax Americana. American exceptionalism is filled with contradiction: the first nation to wipe-out the institution of titled-nobility(good), but forfeited the old organic noblesse oblique in the process, which was the benevolence of European aristocracy. That we are from birth a bourgeoisie country that didn't endure feudalism has come back to bite us on the ass, according to Berman. The author, a Leftist, did mention that the Federalists of the 1790s came close to finding the synthesis between collectivism and individualism but the pre- McCarthyite demagoguery of Jefferson's Republicans kept it from forming because anything slightly resembling the governance, social aspects and financial apparatus of old Europa was regarded as 'monarchist'.....too early for a long book review yet, and I don't know if I'll do a complete one on Dark Ages America....

Friday, August 17, 2007

Two for Adams

John Adams was not the successful administrator that Washington and Jefferson was;he was quite the absentee President and when he was in the capital attending to business, he would more times than not focus his energy in the wrong direction.

Many historians blame Hamilton for the demise of the Federalists and for Adams's re-election loss in 1800, but the biggest portion of the Federalist Party's downfall rests in the person of John Adams himself: he was the one who gave the Republicans the red meat that they wanted by pushing the Alien& Sedition Acts that was designed to punish Republican yellow-journalists who would often engage in personal attacks on Adams himself. The vindictiveness of JA's character is paramount here. Hamilton himself thought that the Alien&Sedition Acts was going too far - and he had endured more abuse from the Republican hacks than Adams ever had thought about. The mere proposal of these Acts were political suicide especially after Adams had broke the back of the Jacobin tendency of the Republicans in the 'XYZ Affair', and his re-election was a gimme. All that A&S did was to give the Republicans new life - something that both Jefferson and Hamilton realized.

Even without Hamilton's party- pamphlet circular attacking Adams as having an unstable personality (which the Republicans got hold of and published with glee) and unfit for the office of Presidency,John Adams would had lost in 1800 because of the Alien&Sedition Acts. True enough, I think it was partially a case of sour grapes with Hamilton since Adams had 86'd his last chance of military glory that he always craved, but the essence of said pamphlet also rang true: Adams was not up for the task of Chief Executive and Hamilton was hardly the first who realized that Adams was more than a bit neurotic. Adams's cantankerous, spiteful, and argumentative side of his persona was well known from his days in the Continental Congress in the 1770s; Benjamin Franklin realized that Adams was brilliant, but he "often left his senses" when political debate and discourses were engaged. The stories of Adams's temper-tantrums were reported by not a few, and one has the image of Hitler's conduct in the Der Bunker to compare with President Adams's behavior. The "right men for the job" was the one that preceded him, and the one who followed Adams into the executive office in 1800.

But let's give Adams some respect - he was a victim of circumstance. The fact of the matter is that there was no man in the Early Republic who could had been a good 2nd President of the United States. Jefferson in 1796 would had been a poor and even dangerous selection - he was still in his Jacobin phase - as he was the best one four years later. Hamilton would had not been a good choice in 1796 or at anytime(AH's talents were being an aide-de-camp, or an unofficial prime minister to a Chief Executive, and he was too controversial and divisive anyway). The 2nd President had to be always in Washington's shadow, and a more kinder and gentler man in Adams's place would had also been deemed a failure. John Adams, in a sense, took another proverbial bullet for the Team by even allowing himself to be elected President in '96 though he proved himself to be unfit for the Office.

John Adams retired to his farm in Braintree and lived another twenty-six years after he left the Presidency, writing his thoughts in a journal and later on reviving his friendship with Jefferson via a famed correspondence and he lived to see his son, John Quincy, elected President. Unlike most spawn from brilliant people, John Quincy Adams was more than a chip off the old man's block - Adams II was a certified genius, a wunderkind. But like his dad, JQA was a one-term President and not a successful one.

Though John Adams may rightly deserve an 'F' rating as President, few worked harder for the American Cause in the Revolution than he did, and he shall always be in the pantheon of the Founders. He had a keen legalistic mind and was a intuitive political scientist. Adams is the poster Founder of conservative thinkers like Russell Kirk, but I think that this is not a good judgment of John Adams: unlike Kirk, Adams was not an Anglophile; Adams had a distaste and fear of mobocracy, but being a New Englander with it's tradition of townhall democracy, Adams was and couldn't be undemocratic per se, even with a few Tory trappings here and there(Russell Kirk and his disciples should had moved to their beloved Great Britain and became genuine-article High Tories like Kirk's slobbering Anglophile hero, TS Eliot, did. I never fully understood why American conservatives thought that Russell Kirk was the Thing).

Adams was an astute Thinker and a leader among men - until he reached the Alpha political office, and the Presidency requires true Alphas. Adams came up more than a bit short, and it is a pity.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

One on Adams

Anytime I think of the second President of the United States, an embittered elderly gent lingering over his desk with ink and paper comes to mind - a taciturn New Englander who felt that his place in history was robbed, and he aimed to set the record straight according to his take on it...

John Adams is the Rodney Dangerfield of the Founders. Him being one of the 'old men' of the Spirit of 1776, he shared with Jefferson the notion that said spirit's carpet was pulled from underneath them by popinjays and parvenus and lesser men, and some Manichean conspiracy lurked beneath it. Adams was there at the Continental Congress and he was the one who stood up and endorsed George Washington to lead the Revolutionary Army; he tidied up the work in France for their recognition of America and later had to deal with insults and ostracism being the 1st American Ambassador to Great Britain. It was Adams who prodded the shy and semi-reclusive Thomas Jefferson to pen The Declaration of Independence. The thanks that he got for this was minimal, he believed, so forever walked about with a chip on his Yankee shoulder and nursed both his public and private grudges to his dying day.

John Adams took another one for the team by following George Washington into the office of the Presidency in 1797;anyone in succession of Washington would be under the gun to meet a certain criteria that no one at the time could surmount. The contrasts of the Adams Inagural were striking: here was outgoing Washington, hirsute, tall, regal looking, standing next to the short and rotund John Adams, who was bug-eyed and chrome-dome bald. Washington was a true Alpha Male who could command respect of his peers by merely entering the room - whilst Adams had to shout and argue to gain respect, but no cigar. John Adams was a legal scholar with all the classical education to go with it while Washington's schooling was minimal(like many of the Presidents of the Early and Middle Republic, George was primarily self-taught); Adams was a stickler for academia and felt that Washington's mind was not a good one because he never attended the Big Three Unis of America - he had a case of educational snobbery and thought he was being dwarfed by cerebral dilletantes.

Adams was the first middle-class President and had all the stereotypical frugal Yankee virtues in tow. He did not gel with the patrician plantation class, and couldn't abide their land speculative ways based on the institution of slavery. He also did not like or understand the nouveau riches of the big cities like Phili and ,and had a deep case of xenophobia. This is partially what binded him to Jefferson: though Adams was nominally a Federalist and often accussed of being a monarchist, he had much more in common with the Republicans of his day, for irony. He didn't understand the Hamiltonian financial system and generally loathed the idea of having a standing peacetime Army(though Adams was always a big booster for the Navy). Adams loathed the Jacobin tendency of the 1790s Republicans and their "womanish attachment to France" but he possessed no love for the British Empire or the Hanoverian Dynasty ( Ambassador Adams never forgot the insult of George III's turning his back on him at their initial meeting) that ruled it. Adams was objective enough to admit that there was benevolence in the British constitution, but he had always a profound hatred of titled nobility and was bigger than Ben Franklin on meritocracy. 'Adams the monarchist' is quite laughable - though he would at times direct a 'monocrat' hue in his Administration.

For all of Adams' crucial hard work directing the Revolutionary cause, when he reached the plateau of Chief Executive, immediately President Adams displayed lack of leadership. His hatred of Alexander Hamilton began full-flower in 1797, yet he kept AH's allies in his Cabinet and always complained about it when he could had just as easily dismissed them. Adams's conduct in Cabinet meetings was part court-room melodrama and partially a circus: John Adams loved to argue often for the sake alone and would occasionally play the role of gadfly just to hone his debating skills. Yet, said skills were not that fine-tuned because he would often get angry and throw temper-tantrums( some reports have Adams kicking his wig across the floor, and even throwing it at one of his ministers). The provincial Adams hated the big city of Philadelpia(then the US capital) and would spend long furloughs away - sometimes at seven months at a time - in his native Braintree, Massachusetts. Then Adams would play the martyr and complain that his government was out of control and that they would not listen to him! Of course, he blamed 'Hamilton's junto' for this, when John Adams was the one man with the duty to direct hands-on administration.

Many historians point to Adams's animosity toward AH from the election of 1796 when Hamilton behind the scenes tried to get Pinckney into the top spot, but there is a longer history to this: John Adams was devoted to his wife, Abigal, and to put it in modern day jargon, John Adams was quite 'pussy-whipped' - Abigal wore the pants. Abigal's personal and political opinions counted most with hubby John, and Abigal was usually prime influence on who John liked, and who John hated. Mrs. Adams took an instant dislike to AH, but she was always gaga on Jefferson. Out of all the public percieved 'meddlesome' First Ladies in US Presidential history - Eleanor Roosevelt, Edith Wilson, Nancy Reagan, Hillary Clinton - they could not hold a candle to Abigal Adams. This, compounded with Adams at the thankless and worthless job of Vice-President in the Washington Administration - where Hamilton had the most influence - Adams had a long- seated grudge and jealousy of AH before '96 who he regarded as a "foreigner...a bastard son of a Scotch peddlar".

President Adams's one shining moment could had been his handling of the 'XYZ Affair' (where France demanded a heavy ransom and other humilating tributes to conclude a new peace treaty with the United States). When the pro-French Republicans in Congress demanded to see the communique of the said 'XYZ' documents, them thinking that Adams was holding back on the "generous and friendly French', he called their bluff and did just that. The revelations shocked the nation and thus ended America's love-affair with France until 1917, and the US prepared for war against their one-time ally, and rallied around their President...

President Adams let his new popularity go to his head and began strutting around Philadelphia in a military uniform( something that was probably quite humorous to behold since Adams had the most un-military like physique and bearing)making patriotic speeches. For national unity purposes, he requested that George Washington form and lead the Army against what seemed an inevitable French invasion. Washington accepted, yet he tossed a big wrench in Generalissimo John's plan: George would only be the de facto head of the Army only from the capital or Mount Vernon in administrative capacity, and only if John Adams appointed Alexander Hamilton to Major General to do all the tasks that was needed to form, organize, and lead the Army on the battlefield. After contending with 'Hamilton's Junto' in his Cabinet, one could quite imagine Adams throwing his wig when he read Washington's condition. Now, Alex himself was back in public life, and head of the Army to boot, and once again overshadowing Adams.

John Adams grudgingly complied with Washington's demand, undoubtedly feeling helpless in the situation, yet began complaining that Hamilton was "another Bonaparte" set to usurp power for himself. President Adams as CIC was in the legal capacity to say 'no' if he truly believed the Caesarian ambitions of Hamilton, and he displayed his weakness paramountly here. Now, the War Hawk Adams began his transition to Dove and throughout '98 and '99 did his best to slow down the forming of the Army through delaying funds, denying Major General Hamilton's requests, and being purposely standoffish. Washington's death in late 1799 undoubtedly had Adams sighing in relief. Hamilton without his chief patron was now open season and Adams immediately sent another peace mission to Paris to conclude the matter without resorting to war, and subsequently disbanded the Army - something that Adams and many historians think that was his finest hour. Some have written that Adams "saved the Republic" from Hamilton's martial ambitions. But it was pure partisanism and related to his own animosity and jealousy of AH, and not for the sake of 'peace' that Adams took this dovish route and prevented war.
Adams's legacy of a peacenik is quite undeserved given that he was all John Wayne before the hated AH came into the picture of 'XYZ'. If someone else more to the taste of John Adams would had been Major General - or if Washington wouldn't had conveniently died - we would be reading of the *French War 1800- ?* in American history books today. War Presidents are more apt to be re-elected as John Adams to his chagrin discovered......

(to be continued)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Various Voices of Anti-Globalist Economics

"In the science of economics, theory and practice are virtually divorced from one another - to the detriment of both. Economists condemn practical men as mere followers of routine who fail to appreciate either or the grandeur of the doctrines enuciated by economists. Practical men, on the other hand, regard economists as mere doctrinaires who ignore the facts of life and inhabit a dream world of economic theories that exists only in their imagination."
- Friedrich List,
The Natural System of Political Economy,1837

"Free Trade definitely kept prices low - but so did the Great Depression."
- Ravi Batra

"To allow the market mechanism to be the sole director of the fate of human beings and their natural environment, indeed, even of the amount and use of purchasing power, would result in the demolition of society."
-Karl Polanyi

"In every country it always is and must be the interest of the great body of the people to buy whatever they want of those who want to sell it cheapest. The proposition is so very manifest, that it seems ridiculous to take any pains to prove it; nor could it have ever been called into question, had not the interested sophistry of merchants and manufacturers confounded the common sense of mankind."

" employed in the home trade, it has already been shown, puts in motion a greater quantity of domestic industry and gives revenue and employment to a greater number of the inhabitants of the country, than equal capital employed in the foreign trade of consumption."
-Adam Smith

"Today, the transnational corporation has virtually no allegiance except to its own global expansion and profit. What brings financial value to the shareholders is the only criterion even if jobs are destroyed and whole communities devastated."
-Jerry Brown

" agreements are crafted to enable corporations to play this game at a global level, to pit country against country in a race to see who can set the lowest wage levels, the lowest environmental standards, the lowest consumer safety standards. It is a tragic "incentives" lure that has its winners and losers determined before it gets underway:workers, consumers, and communities in all countries lose;short-term profits soar and big business - wins."
-Ralph Nader

"Free Trade is the religion of our age. With its heaven as the planetary economy, free trade comes complete with philosophical and analytical underpinnings. Higher mathematics are used to prove its basic theorems........Rather than promoting and sustaining the social relationships that create a vibrant community, the free trade theology relies on a narrow definition of efficiency to guide our conduct."
-David Morris

"Thank God I am not a Free Trader!"
-Theodore Roosevelt

"The global economy has become the world's closet dictator."

"Both enterprises and entire states see themselves trapped in a situation of relentless competition, where each particpant is dependent on the decisions of all other players. What falls by the wayside in this hurly-burly is the possibility for self-determination."
-Wolfgang Sachs

"We will not bind you to America. If you(US corporations) wish to shut down here and go to China - go to China! But your products will not re-enter the United States duty-free. They will carry a tariff to make up the difference between the cost of the Chinese labor you hired, and the cost of the American labor that you left behind."
-Pat Buchanan

"What in the hell are we waiting for?!? The time was YESTERDAY to fix bayonets and totally gut these bastards."

Monday, August 13, 2007

Meandering around Monticello, again.

Following reading "Burr: The Fallen Founder", Joseph J. Ellis's 1996 one on the Sage of Monticello - "American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson" was quite refreshing and is a tome of historical accuracy, unlike Nancy Isenberg's revisionism. The author delves into the complex worldview of the 3rd President, yet does not resort to extensive psychoanalysis of the man. Ellis's view of TJ is favorable if one reads between the lines, but he remains an objective historian enough to present Jefferson as a man and public servant where something was missing in his psyche and why he remains controversial and a complex enigma to this day. Ellis is an historian who has a literary sense and "American Sphinx" is entertaining for the layperson, professional historian, and the Wanna Bees such as myself.

But my criticisms are numerous of this book, and some will be explored here. Ellis remarkably does not spend a great deal of time writing on the Hamilton-Jefferson feud of the 1790s, and any biography of these two Founders I would think that narrating this ordeal at length should be a requisite of any biographer. He also glosses over TJ's flip-flop on the slavery issue and does not take him to task enough on it though he hits him at the necessary angle.Instead, Ellis devotes lengthy discussion on the Sally Hemings miscegenation controversy, which I think has little to do with discussing Jefferson's statecraft:one writer that I read once dropped an apt observation that biographers that devote inordinate length discussing their subject's sex life says more about the sexual panache of the writer than of the subject.
I could care less if Jefferson fathered children from an extraterrestial, but of course my opinion doesn't count.
Ellis does mention that Jefferson did truly loathe Alexander Hamilton, but doesn't go into much detail why: TJ was a big snob who only thought that the men who were there in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776 knew the authentic value of "the spirit of 1776", & they were entitled to decide and rule in the Republic. Hamilton was a parvenu immigrant who had energetic, even hyper-active ways that put the country-squire Virginian off, who preferred a genteel, aloof manner of statescraft and in personal relations (but Hamilton managed to rub-off quite well on another Virginian gentleman, George Washington). Jefferson hated British monarchy and became a Francophile and always felt that the Federalists with their push for a strong activistic government were set on restoration of the Hanovers. Ellis himself finds this notion silly and he writes -

"Hamilton's plans for a proactive federal government empowered to shape markets and set forth both the financial and political agendas were certainly not monarchical in character - if anything, they were more a precocious precursor of twentieth-century New Deal values than an archaic attempt to resuscitate the arbitrary authority of medieval kings and courts - but in Jefferson's mind these distinctions made no appreciable difference."

Ellis goes on to write hither and thither throughout the book about TJ's unfounded obsession with 'monocrats' and monarchists, and the author believes that if there was anyone who was a monarchist in the Early Republic it was Aaron Burr - who was Jefferson's first-term Vice-President and member of his Republican Party. Though John Adams(who was TJ's on-and-off-and on chum) wrote some good things about constitutional monarchy, Adams was a republican, though not an emotional, wear-on-the -sleeves type like Jefferson's partisans were. But Aaron Burr was not a monarchist per se - he was unprincipled in personal political power pursuits and one can easily see Burr being just about anything to reach this end; Burr in another century would had been a good Nazi, Communist, Falangist, Tory, Labourite, or Social Democrat - ideology didn't matter to him.

Like many Jeffersonian historians, Ellis gives President Jefferson's 1st Administration(1801-1805) a big thumbs-up and this is an accurate portrayal. Jefferson throughout most of his term(s) in the executive office was a hard-working - near workaholic - President, who was always up at five in the morning and at his desk. His only leisure was an hour or two spent riding his horse in the afternoon, an occasional dinner-party at evening, and he worked again at night until bedtime at 10pm. Jefferson always wanted to avoid heated debates, so seldom chaired full Cabinet Meetings and preferred to meet department heads one on one and he established a disciplined chain of command within the federal bureaucracy. Jefferson, however, was rather monkish in his statecraft and the man-of-the-People never gave a public speech in his entire period as President - he was only recorded as making brief speeches for his two Inaugural addresses. His shyness of speechmaking was probably in lieu that he had a squeaky, near-effeminate voice with an occasional lisp that he was undoubtedly self-conscious of, plus he probably thought that public speaking was pandering (TJ the aristocrat-phobe was always a patrician). Jefferson instead was a master of the Written Word and there was probably no other Founder that could match his wordsmithing. But TJ was even shy about publishing and guarded his correspondence deftly. When he wanted to put into print an onslaught on his perceived enemies, Jefferson would clandestinely pay hacks to do it for him, or badger his surrogate James Madison to pick up his quill and attack. Jefferson's only book was Notes on Virginia that contained some of his cranky theories within that does his mind a disservice. TJ seemed to believe that his draft of The Declaration of Independence said it all that he needed say for public consumption and his posterity?

TJ's 1st Inaugural contained the phrase - "we are all republicans - we are all federalists". Some have always believed that this was a conciliatory olive branch to his Federalist foes, but Ellis disputes this. TJ didn't capitalize either subject in his handwritten speech(in those days English-language writers capitalized all nouns, and Jefferson had impeccable grammar). Rather, President Jefferson was faced with the reality that his 1800 Second Revolution for "pure republicanism" was going to have a check on it, and a big one. It wasn't Hamilton who stood in the way, but Chief Justice John Marshall, who made it clear, tongue-in-cheek, that TJs desired purge of Federalism was going to be tempered by the Judiciary. Marshall was a rarity who was both a Virginian gentleman and a High Federalist;Marshall made both Adams and Hamilton appear moderate in some aspects. According to American Sphinx, Jefferson came to hate Marshall more than he ever did Hamilton or Burr, but Ellis does not explore into the caverns on this. Jefferson always wanted to eliminate the federal judiciary for this very reason and resented the 3rd branch of the government more than anything that he found disquieting about the US Constitution. TJ also believed that the Senate was a carbon copy House of Lords and he was an early champion for term-limits of Senators. He believed that the House of Representatives should had been the sole legislative body(AH's original plan for the House was actually more democratic than TJ's, btw),the only edifice that should govern the Republican Spirit, which he believed that he had the most correct interpretation of.

Jefferson came into the Presidency with a pre-Reaganesque promise: he was going to cut and eliminate internal taxes, reduce the size of the federal government and retire the National Debt(unlike Reagan, Jefferson cut Defense spending to pennies and totally scrapped the US Navy...unlike Reagan, Jefferson reduced the national debt). Publicly, Jefferson picked financial wizard, Albert Gallitin, as head of the Treasury to set -up a schedule of eliminating said National Debt. However, the first order Gallitin was given was to go over all the accounts of the Treasury and National Bank to get evidence that Alexander Hamilton had 'cooked the books' when he served in the department under Washington. This was not merely the old feuding political vindictiveness on TJ's account but related to his own battles with personal debt: no matter how much Jefferson kept dutiful records on his expenses, he never could come up with black ink. Like many spend-thrifts his solution of failed austerity was to go into debt even more. Jefferson couldn't believe that what he felt to be a lesser mortal could have his own private and public accounts in order without "tricks with numbers". Jefferson was always just a step ahead of his creditors and his debt -ridden ways caused him constant headaches; when Hamilton wrote that the National Debt could be a blessing, immediately TJ's ire was raised.
Albert Gallitan was an old foe of the National Bank and debt assumption and was perhaps the only man of his time who could hold his own in a financial debate with AH. However, via Gallitan's search for financial impropriety at Treasury and the BUS, he became a True Believer in the Hamiltonian financial system edifice. Gallitan reported to President Jefferson that Hamilton's accounting was clean as a virgin snow, that the system was on sound footing and it was ideal to maintain the method to schedule payment of the national debt. Gallitan recorded in his journal that Jefferson became crestfallen at this news, and he sat silent with his lips pursed in disappointment. The Sage never admitted that he was in error that AH was cooking the books, but nevertheless kept the National Bank and was partisan for it's recharter. Via moderate tariffs and agrarian exports, the Treasury was stocked full of sound dollars to buy the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon , and also Jefferson fulfilled his tax-cutting pledge and the national debt was being retired ahead of schedule. Though Jefferson was a Physiocrat and disparaged cultivating American hard-industries, he did use some federal monies for 'internal improvements', one of the cornerstones of what was later to be dubbed the 'American System' of economics. Ellis wrote that Jefferson's 1st Administration "was perhaps the most successful one out of all American Presidencies" and this is probably not convincingly debatable.

However, Jefferson II was fraught with disappointments as all-too many 2nd term Presidents encounter: graft was discovered by Republican officials in the Administration(Jefferson only thought Federalists were corrupt); his obsession with nailing his former Vice-President Aaron Burr on treason charges totally backfired, and the 1807 Embargo Act destroyed the humming and vibrant economy of his 1st Administration. Jefferson's intentions were noble - get peace between England and France by denying them US ports, and barring American trade with Europe - but agrarian America had no industrial base to fall back on, and the embargo hardly touched Napoleon or Mighty Britannia regardless. Jefferson, usually the assiduous chief-executive, became an absentee President in his last year and had turned over much of Presidential duties to his de facto prime minister and heir, James Madison. Unlike John Adams, Jefferson had a stable personality, but one gets the gist that TJ had a bout of incapacitating clinical depression in his final year as President and he spent a great deal of time in his hermitage at Monticello away from the fray in the District of Columbia.

Jefferson was an aloof personality who loathed controversy and avoided it whenever possible, John Adams seemed to thrive on verbal fights, and Hamilton didn't know when to shut-up, either in print or orally(Hamilton developed a habit of even talking to himself in public). George Washington conducted Cabinet Meetings as if he were still the Revolutionary War General having councils of War under the tent; though Washington hated bickering and factionalism, he wanted the opinions of all his staff together before he decided on a plan of attack. Jefferson only called his Cabinet together rarely, and liked the individual approach mainly to avoid debate. Even at his dinner parties when he'd invite both Republican and Federalist officials and politicos - politics was the taboo subject to raise!

TJ had very broad interests and was a bibliophile beyond par, and amature inventor. But like many intellectuals, he seemed to think that he was brighter than he really was. TJ liked to tell tall tales about his political battles and his interests that always put himself in the most favorable light. John Quincy Adams, a genuine-article Big Brain and erudite scholar, picked up on this side of Jefferson quite early on and learned to take some of the Sage's stories with a pinch of salt. TJ had a staid persona and liked to speak on the primacy of 'Reason', but he, like anyone, could be quite vindictive and guided by personal hatreds; Francophile Jefferson thought that the Federalists were 'Anglomen' and hehated Britain more than an Irish Fenian could - yet he believed firmly in nativist Anglo-Saxon supremacy. A constitutionalist who didn't like a great deal of the US Constitution and tried to circumvent at times...a shy Sage who despised public political displays but would resort to behind the scenes skulduggery..... an aristocrat for the 'little guy', but he never would think of rubbing shoulders with them personally and always hung-out with his fellow Virginian planters. TJ was a person who had an instinctive distaste for slavery; before the 1790s Jefferson came very close to being an Abolitionist, but became hardened later on and grumbled in old age about Yankee abolitionists. Slaves paid his copious debts and gave him Monticello and he never thought twice about buying or selling slaves(though he did prevent families from being broke up and there is no evidence that TJ himself was ever cruel to his slaves or deprived them of basic necessities for their bondage existence.)

However, as elder statesman, TJ came to reject absolutely Free Trade and realized the necessity for protected industries, that scrapping the Navy was a terrible mistake. What he never could admit to anyone or himself, was that this 'purist Republican' and one time heavy flirter with Jacobinism had evolved into a Hamiltonian on many issues. Jefferson could never see the paradox of his worldviews; though he was a hypocrite, he was one who didn't realize that he was.