Sunday, September 27, 2009

Obama's Hell-Ride to War on Iran


Daniel McAdams
LRC Blog
September 26, 2009

Faced with the uncomfortable and politically unacceptable reality that there exists no evidence that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapon, confirmed by his own intelligence community, President Obama has taken a page from the book of his predecessors FDR, LBJ, GWB, and so on: he simply made something really scary-sounding up to justify his push toward war.

It is 2002 all over again, but worse.
This time it is the artificially manufactured hype around an Iranian uranium enrichment facility that is under construction. Keep in mind that as a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Iran, under Article IV of said treaty, has every right to enrich uranium to its heart’s content. The treaty clearly states: “Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination and in conformity with Articles I and II of this Treaty.”

Iran has, dutifully and ahead of required schedule, notified the International Atomic Energy Agency, tasked with monitoring adherence to the NPT, of its intent to bring this enrichment facility online in approximately 18 months. But where there is no smoking gun, lighter fluid must be ignited: to undercut the Five Plus One talks with Iran scheduled to begin on October first, the Obama administration has invented indignation over discovery of this plant while at the same time holding to the story that the US Intelligence Community has known about this facility, which Obama says is “inconsistent with a peaceful (nuclear) program,” since 2006. As one administration official stated regarding the upcoming talks in light of his “discovery”: “Everybody’s been asking, ‘Where’s our leverage?’ Well, now we just got that leverage.” And right in the nick of time!

But hang on a minute: the US Intelligence Community has known since 2006 that Iran is building a facility to manufacture nuclear weapons but still in 2007 allowed a National Intelligence Estimate on Iran to conclude with “high confidence” that Iran was not pursuing a nuclear weapons program? Considering the discrepancy, one could be forgiven for concluding that either deception or incompetence is the order of the day in our enormously expensive Intelligence Community.

It is 2002 all over again, but worse: this time a good chunk of the antiwar movement will have been sidelined over its fatally wrong-headed decision to sign on with the pied pipers of the war party over the Iranian elections in June. By “going Green” (going pro-opposition instead of remaining neutral) much of the antiwar movement has been effectively silenced, its side-taking giving voice to one of the war party’s most critical claims: “any government that will cheat as horrifically as it did on these elections will certainly cheat on its IAEA reporting obligations.” No further proof needed. It is a refrain we have heard time and time again since June: “you mean you are going to believe them about their nuclear program? A regime that would cheat like that in its elections?” Antiwar movement: largely silenced. Credible proof of outcome-changing fraud: none. Coming cost in death and destruction: priceless.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Jobless and Recoveryless Recovery


Reality Receding
By James Howard Kunstler
on September 14, 2009 6:33 AM

Now that everybody in the USA, from the janitors in their man-caves to the president addressing congress, has declared the "recession" over, is exactly the moment when what's left of the so-called economy is most likely to implode. If there were still shoeshine boys on Wall Street, they'd be starting their own hedge funds now, and CNBC's Larry Kudlow would be toasting them in the Grill Room of The Four Seasons. What we've seen in the vaunted rally for the last six months is the triumph of wishing over facts, combined with the most arrant market manipulation by floundering banks backstopped by a panicked government -- all pounding sand down a rat-hole of hopeless non-performing debt, while pretending that the machinery of capital finance still grinds on.
Despite what a few elderly Mr. Naturals may say about abolishing "capitalism," we're not going to have an advanced economy without a coherent banking system, and by advanced economy I mean one in which the lights stay on. By coherent I mean a system that is able to deploy accumulated wealth for productive purposes, in the service of continuing civilization. (And, yes, I know that the followers of Daniel Quinn are not so sure that civilization is worth the trouble, but unless you support the killing-off of about six billion humans right away, things on Earth are not favorably disposed just now for a return to hunting-and-gathering.)
I would hasten to cut through the fog of despair to reassert -- for the thousandth time -- that a true American perestroika is possible, if the public could overcome the plague of cognitive dissonance sweeping the land and form a consensus for action that comports with reality's agenda. But that is looking less and less likely. Instead, what we see is a rush into delusion, seasoned with grievance and gall. Spectacles like last weekend's march on Washington don't happen for no reason, of course. From where I sit, the uproar can be attributed to comprehensively bad American leadership, a crisis in authority and legitimacy that has left a functional vacuum in every executive office throughout the land -- from the White House to the state houses, to the lairs of the CEOs, to the towers of the deans and department chairs, to the glitzy sets of the nightly news deliverers, to the makeshift quarters of the NGO chiefs. In former times, clueless and impotent leaders stuck their heads in the sand. Nowadays, with pandemic narcissism abroad in the land, the heads are more usually inserted into the aperture that leads into the large bowel....
But I indulge in diverting objurgation when I should perhaps explain this American perestroika more clearly. The Russian word roughly translates to "restructuring." They flubbed it in 1989 because their system was too ossified and too far gone -- though history and circumstance eventually did it for them. A similar outcome is possible here, too, in which things just have to completely fall apart before emergent reorganization occurs. But you can be sure that if we allow this to happen, an awful lot of things will get smashed along the way, including lives, careers, families, property, and cherished institutions.
This monster we call the economy is not just an endless series of charts and graphs -- it's how we live, and that has to change, whether we like it or not. Now, it is obviously a huge problem that a majority of Americans don't like the idea. If they were true patriots, instead of overfed cowards and sado-masochists, they'd be inspired by the prospect. But something terrible has happened to our national character since the triumphal glow of World War Two wore off. I just hope that the Palinites and the myrmidons of Glen Beck don't destroy what's left of this country in a WWF-style "revolution." In the best societies, such idiots are marginalized by a kinder and sturdier consensus about justice. In America today, the center is not holding because there is no center.
American perestroika really boils down to this: we have to rescale the activities of daily life to a level consistent with the mandates of the future, especially the ones having to do with available energy and capital. We have to dismantle things that have no future and rebuild things that will allow daily life to function. We have to say goodbye to big box shopping and rebuild Main Street. More people will be needed to work in farming and fewer in tourism, public relations, gambling, and party planning. We have to make some basic useful products in this country again. We have to systematically decommission suburbia and reactivate our small towns and small cities. We have to prepare for the contraction of our large cities. We have to let the sun set on Happy Motoring and rebuild our trains, transit systems, harbors, and inland waterways. We have to reorganize schooling at a much more modest level. We have to close down most of the overseas military bases we're operating and conclude our wars in Asia. Mostly, we have to recover a national sense of common purpose and common decency. There is obviously a lot of work to do in the list above, which could translate into paychecks and careers -- but not if we direct all our resources into propping up the failing structures of yesterday.
The most dangerous illusion, of course, is a belief that we can return to a hyped up turbo debt "consumer" economy -- and perhaps the most disappointing thing about Barack Obama, is his incessant cheerleading for a "recovery" to what is already lost and unrecoverable. The man who ran for office on "change" doesn't really have the stomach for it. But, of course, events are in the driver's seat now, not personalities, even charming ones. I'd venture to say that if Mr. Obama thinks he's seen a crisis, and gotten through it, then he ain't seen nothin' yet. We are for sure not returning to the kind of credit orgy that made the last twenty years such a nauseating spectacle -- of which, by the way, the misfeasances and wretched excesses of Wall Street were just one manifestation.
Some theorists out there say that economy follows mood, not vice-versa, and that the anger and sourness on display around the USA, in events like the weekend Washington march, is a clear sign that tectonic shifts in the structures of everyday life are sure to follow. There are too many truly good and intelligent people in this country, to leave our fate to the Palins and the Glen Becks. But the good people had better man up and start telling the truth with some conviction that the truth matters

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Marycrest Community Remembered --- and its Post-Vatican II Death


A Vision on a Hill
Recalling Marycrest, an inspiring experiment in Christian community
By Jack Holland

There is still only one road through Marycrest, the Catholic community that for more than 50 years has lain buried in the woods of Rockland County about 25 miles north of New York City.

The woods have thinned somewhat since 1950, when the first Marycrest members dug the foundations for the first house. But the leafy canopy is thick enough on a summer’s evening to remind a visitor of what it must have been like five decades ago when they came, from the Bronx mostly, city slickers with a vision of a Christian life they thought they could realize here in the tranquility of the tree-covered countryside that was Rockland before it was a suburb.

Of the 12 original members of the community who shared that vision, only three are still alive -– Alan Hudson, Jack Dermody and Phil O’Brien; two of them, Dermody and O’Brien, still live in Marycrest, in the homes they constructed with their own hands 50 years earlier. But now parcels of what remains of the community’s original 56 acres have been sold off, and new $600,000 houses have sprung up, some with sumptuous swimming pools, all redolent of the prosperity of suburban America. An exclusive golf club of 227 acres owned by a Japanese consortium now impinges on the community’s borders just a few yards down the road. Plans are afoot to construct 10 $5 million homes nearby. These things belong to the kind of world that Marycrest set out to defy.

“Our principle aim was an experiment to create a Christian community,” recalled Jack Dermody, who has just celebrated his 80th birthday. “We wanted to find out what a Christian community would be like.” Dermody is spry and lean, with a riveting gaze when he talks that still conveys the kind of passion that helped inspire the Marycrest experiment. “It was essentially about having charity toward each other,” he continued, “caring for each other’s children.” Children were a major factor in the Marycrest enterprise: the average family there had 10 of them. They, being devout Catholics, allowed no form of artificial contraception.

The attraction of owning your own home, even if you had to build it yourself, was an important incentive for all the original community members.

“We had five daughters in a one-bedroom apartment in the Bronx,” remembered 82-year-old Alan Hudson, whose family was the first to move into Marycrest, in late 1950. When completed, their new home would have five bedrooms. “We built it for $6,000,” he said proudly. The bedrooms were soon occupied as the Hudson family expanded to 10.

Among the original aims of the Marycrest pioneers was to create a community where fathers would be able to spend more time with their families.

“We felt the big hole in modern life was the family’s deprivation of the father,” Dermody said. “We wanted fathers to be present, rather than absentee fathers. We wanted to overcome that so that he could be a contributor to the family. Too often fathers were just a threat used by the mother to keep the kids in line.”

The idea of the community had come about in the late 1940s, mainly through informal meetings held by a group of men in each other’s homes. They were partly inspired by a radical Catholic magazine, Integrity, and its charismatic editor, Ed Willock. They were influenced by some of the ideas circulating in the Catholic Worker movement and the Christian Family Movement. Dermody, Hudson and another of the founding members, John Hogan, all belonged to the CFM.

“There was a lot of idealism around after World War II,” said Phil O’Brien, who is 85. He was deeply influenced by the cooperative movement, and saw the Marycrest experiment in those terms rather than as a primarily religious community.

The men who gathered to discuss and debate these ideas were for the most part of Irish-America background. Few had a university education. O’Brien had been a cop and then a fireman before he went back to college to take a degree in mathematics. Jack Dermody worked as a technical illustrator, Alan Hudson as an agent for a railway company. But they read widely about the history of the church, and thought hard about issues raised by Catholic morality, and how they did or did not square with the challenge of life in 20th century America. All agree that Ed Willock was the guiding genius of the experiment. As editor of Integrity, which at its peak sold 25,000 copies a month, he critiqued modern institutions through the eyes of a follower of St. Thomas Aquinas.

“Ed was a natural leader; he had intelligence, courage and integrity,” said Dermody, who worked for a while as the magazine’s circulation manager. “You couldn’t fool him, buy him or scare him.”

Willock was a Southie from Boston. After being injured in a football accident, he was laid up for five years and spent it educating himself. He was a voracious reader, as well as an artist. He was deeply influenced by Peter Maurin a radical Catholic thinker, and Dorothy Day, one of the founders of the Catholic Worker movement.

“He was a profound thinker on social matters,” agreed Alan Hudson.

56 acres on a hill

Willock was convinced that a truly Christian community could be established –- within driving distance of New York City. Two of their group, Charles Neill and Charles McGroddy, who were both lawyers, learned that a piece of land was going cheap in Rockland County. Hudson, Dermody, John Hogan and the two lawyers decided to go take a look at it. More than 50 years later, Hudson still remembers that day.

“It was Feb. 12, 1949 –- a Saturday,” he said. “It was a mild, spring-like day. We took the train to Tappan, where we met Neill and McGroddy, who took us to the site.”

What they saw was 56 acres of woodland on the crest of a hill, a place still frequented by deer hunters. The asking price was $7,500. One might have thought that the prospect of turning this wild spot into a living community would have intimidated a group of guys from the Bronx who had little or no experience of building or living in the country.

“We were so full of hope for an escape from our plight,” Hudson said. “We were just overjoyed when we saw the place. We didn’t think about the difficulties.”

A trust agreement was drawn up and the Marycrest Association formed, named because of the hilltop location of the site. Its 12 founding members were Charles Neill, Charles McGroddy, Bill O’Mahoney, Ed Willock, Bill Cob, Dick Bourett, Phil O’Brien, John McCue, Jack Olive, John Hogan, Alan Hudson and Jack Dermody. They were a mixed group, ranging from Cobb, who was a Jewish convert to Catholicism, to O’Mahoney, an on-the-run IRA man who had lost an eye in a gun battle with the Black and Tans in the Irish War of Independence. Over a period of between six and nine months they drew up a constitution, the trust agreement and bylaws. The initiation fee for each member was $600. This entitled him to a one-acre homestead and a share in the remaining acres, which were eventually put under the control of a group of trustees.

Work began cutting down trees, clearing the land, and sinking wells. The first building that the Christian pioneers from New York erected on the new site was a shed that had been a 100-foot-long U.S. Army latrine. They had bought it and reassembled it for use as a work shed. Work began on the first house, for the Hudson family, in early 1950. On Nov. 3 that year, the family moved in.

Their translocation from the Bronx to the Rockland woods was celebrated in the newspaper of Our Lady of Mercy parish in the Bronx, from where they were moving, as something close to a miracle.

“It is almost unbelievable,” declared the paper in the issue of Nov. 13, 1950, “that the Hudson’s house as it now stands was done for the most part by amateurs.” The only indication that the work had indeed been done by amateurs was the fact that the house was built back-to-front. But the parish paper did not mention that.

The paper went on to applaud the Marycrest effort. It wrote: “Behind the whole community idea is the desire of the members to raise large families and to bring them up to be saints. City life, the members feel, works against large families and it works against their growing in a deep love of God.”

Said Dermody: “We built seven homes without a single penny of bank money. It all came from friends and relatives –- or personal resources.” They built about one house a year after the first.

Children everywhere

The Hudson’s and their five daughters, all under the age of 7, spent their first winter in the woods like solitary pioneers. But Alan’s wife, Dorothy, did not notice that aspect of it.

“I was so thrilled to own a home, being poor” she said. “It was wonderful to move into the countryside. The kids were out all day. You never had to worry about them.”

As the other families gradually moved in, Marycrest was soon teeming with children. By the late 1950s, there were 107 children in the community.

“I loved living there,” recalled Regina Hudson, one of Alan and Dorothy Hudson’s seven daughters and three sons. “It was like having a hundred cousins. There was always someone around to play with.”

Mary Ann Olive was 2 when her parents brought her to Marycrest.

“It was a wonderful place to be raised, playing in the woods,” she said. She remembers the names the children gave to of their favorite spots –- the First Brook, the Angel’s Forest and the Devil’s Forest. “Today you have to have play dates –- you have to arrange to meet other kids. Here, you just opened the door and there they were.”

Virginia Olive, Mary Ann’s mother, had 11 children. Their aim, like that of the other families in the community, was to be as self-sufficient as possible, she recalls. Her husband Jack, one of the founding members, who died four years ago, used manure from the chickens he kept to make butane gas. Virginia baked the family’s bread. They grew many of their own vegetables. Jack Olive produced and printed The Marycrest News And Views that appeared once a month. He also found time to build astronomical telescopes.

“He was a real pioneer,” Mary Ann said of her father.

Virginia Olive recalls the life of the community being centered on Catholic rituals and feast days.

“We used to kneel down and say the Rosary every night,” she said. “Sunday Rosary was said on the Hudson lawn in front of a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which stood in a bird bath.” Then there was the Blessing of the Fields in May and the Feast of St. Nicholas, when Ed Willock disguised himself as St. Nicholas and Jack Dermody would dress up as Black Peter to terrify those children who had been bad and reward those who had been good.

A community unravels

That first generation of Marycrest children are now in their 40s and 50s. Recently, on a muggy Saturday afternoon, about 150 of them gathered with their own children, their friends and relatives under a white tent to celebrate Jack Dermody’s 80th birthday. Four generations were there. It was a time for reflection as well as celebration. What happened to the vision of the Christian community?

There were problems right from the start, according to Dermody.

“You had 12 different men with 12 different opinions on everything,” he said. Some resigned from the association before the building even began.

“Some went off the deep end in religious matters,” said Phil O’Brien. “They saw it as a kind of Franciscan community. I thought it should be broader -– more of a cooperative. I brought Jewish people up here.”

Marycrest suffered a serious blow when Ed Willock was felled by a stroke not long after moving into his home. There was no one to replace him. Disputes continued on doctrinal matters. At least as far as men were concerned, they were doctrinal, but for the women, some were decidedly practical. Alan Hudson’s daughter Mary, the second eldest, remembers the men debating as to whether washing machines should be allowed into the community.

“There were some real inclinations to go back to a more primitive means of production,” Dermody said. “But there were also discussions in the 1960s about machines liberating women.” They successfully kept TV at bay until 1954. “Bourgeois” remained a bad word for many years. One of Ed Willock’s more famous sayings was:


“Mr. Business went to Mass: he never missed a Sunday.


“Mr. Business went to Hell for what he did on Monday.”


Practical matters, however, dominated the discussions. Some members were unhappy with others for not pulling their weight. In 1962, Alan Hudson resigned and left the community, angry over a refusal, he said, to apply the rules fairly to everyone. As the cost of land in Rockland County soared, some members wanted to sell off the remaining undeveloped acres. An ailing Willock commented shortly before he died in 1960: “We are now in the hands of the bookkeepers.”

Land was gradually sold off to non-members who simply wanted a pleasant place to live. After a long dispute about who owned the right to sell off the remaining acres, the trustees or the individual members, Marycrest was wound up in 1974 as an association. It became a corporation.

Underlying this, however, there is a deeper failure, one that visionary communities of whatever ideology usually have to confront. Not only did the community unravel, of the children it produced, almost none are practicing Catholics. What had happened to a community whose ambition was to raise saints?

“It is the greatest failure in my life,” admitted Dermody, the day after he had turned 80, “the most brutal irony.”

Alan Hudson nodded his head in grim agreement. “Along came the sexual revolution -– that wiped them away,” he said. “That was a major factor. We lost an entire generation.”

Yet anyone who attended the Dermody party the day before, and saw the children, the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren enjoying themselves just as they did in the days gone by, might not see any failure at all, but a loving community still in existence, though the old Marycrest is gone.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

America's Widening Income Gap -- Not Then, Now!

The Widening Gap In America’s Two Tiered Society

Emily Spence
Thomas Paine’s Corner
September 7, 2009

Americans, particularly ones from the middle class, need to realize that there are no core entitlements imparted by their government representatives, nor any other sources. They have none and should adjust their expectations accordingly.

If the U.S. populace somehow imagines that its members are viewed any differently than any other populations across the world that are used to produce maximal profits for the top economic class, there’s a rude awakening in store ahead. Further, most legislators simply do not care whether middle and lower class interests are or aren’t well served as long as they, themselves, can somehow make out well in the times ahead.

Besides, why should any Americans feel that they deserve to be treated more favorably by the transnational moneyed elites and their government backers than their counterparts across the rest of the world? As A. H. Bill reminds: “The richest 225 people in the world today control more wealth than the poorest 2.5 billion people. And… the three richest people in the world control more wealth than the poorest 48 nations.”

Occasionally someone making a staggering amount of money in a crooked sort of way might raise a few officials’ eyebrows or induce a mild reprimand. In addition, he might, occasionally, be singled out as the token fall guy so as to be made into a warning example as was Bernie Madoff. Most of the time, though, no action is usually undertaken to correct the situation when directors of major companies carry out activities that are, obviously, right on or over the edge of fraudulent practices.

As Barack Obama, perhaps hypocritically, chastened, “Under Republican and Democratic administrations, we failed to guard against practices that all too often rewarded financial manipulation instead of productive and sound business practices. We let the special interests put their thumbs on the economic scales.”

Yet, he, himself, showed no hesitation during his election campaign over collecting $40,925 from the bailout fund recipient and nearly bankrupt investment house Bear Stearns, $161,850 from the bailout fund recipient and mortgage underwriter Morgan Stanley, as well as benefits from countless other institutions that have received government favors at taxpayers’ expense. As such, it’s hard in actuality to deliver more than just a mild verbal rebuke about these organizations’ modus operandi if one picks up a personal windfall from not meddling. Thus, the financial corruption continues at all levels of government.

A case in point is the self-serving oil trader Andrew Hall. His relationship with Citigroup’s (C.N) Phibro energy-trading unit brought him approximately $100 million in 2008 despite that his parent company registered a net deficit of $18.7 billion for the same year and received $45 billion in TARP funds.

However, it’s been pointed out that he could moderately adjust his current level of gain and continue to maintain the same procurement pattern if he manages to stay out of the limelight. If he follows this plan in the near future, his earnings and bonuses won’t likely duplicate the $250 million personal compensation that he’d received in the past five years. Yet, he could still make out quite well all the same!

In any event, one has to question such lavish rewards considering that Citigroup suffered a 95% loss of its share value since 2007 in relation to which Phibro “occasionally accounts for a disproportionate chunk of Citigroup income.” At the same time, the U.S. government will shortly be the owner of 34% of this company. Put more bluntly, is Andrew Hall’s personal prosperity and propensity to add to his private art collection the best use of taxpayers’ funds?

As long as he’s a lavish beneficiary, would he care if they weren’t? As the economist John Kenneth Galbraith once suggested: “The salary of the chief executive of a large corporation is not a market award for achievement. It is frequently in the nature of a warm personal gesture by the individual to himself.” Naturally, Andrew Hall aims to keep such a cozy arrangement intact.

Besides, his personal take is relatively inconsequential. It’s a mere pittance contrasted to the almost two and a quarter billion dollars grand total — roughly $2,217,800,000 — that the top ten U.S. business moguls collectively grossed as their own recompense in 2008. [1]

At the same time, it cannot not be expected, in a market based economy, that political influence is not also a purchased commodity. Clearly, opinions are bought and sold just as easily as are any other products and services with payment being campaign funds, such as Obama’s, from big industry; offers of high paying future jobs and other lavish advantages dangled as bait.

On account of this kind of shady deal, tax subsidies connected to executive pay amounted to $20 billion in 2008 according to United for a Fair Economy (UFE) and Institute for Policy Studies. (Imagine if this money, instead, were allocated towards improvements in public education, provision of a universal heath-care plan or any number of other programs that could uplift the American public as a whole.)

During the same period, average CEO pay, at $10.54 million, was 344 times higher than typical worker pay. This disparity, also, is generally indicative of a trend that increasingly funnels wealth upward rather than having it more equitably distributed across class lines.

Another sign of this ascendant drift can be found in the change between the first Forbes 400 report (1982) and its 2008 version. In 1982, an entrepreneur only needed slightly more than $100 million dollars to get on the list. By 2008, he wouldn’t be in the top 400 unless he’d garnered at least $1.3 billion. In other words, so much more wealth shot upward in the last twenty years that $100 million now is almost viewed as chump change in comparison to the new top gains.

In addition, Congressional reports have indicated that widespread tax avoidance tricks, like use of overseas banks that do not report amounts to the IRS, have cost taxpayers more than $2 billion annually. Certainly, these lost moneys could well be used to help people less fortunate. For example, the hidden $2 billion could be used to create job training programs for any of the one in nine Americans currently forced to rely on food stamps as an alternative to starvation.

To be eligible for such aid, a family of four, for example, has to have no more than $2,389 as its gross monthly income or 130% of the official poverty level and no more than $1,838 net monthly income or 100% of the poverty level. (There are few deductions and exceptions to the requirements allowed, along with limits for owned property value imposed, that further determine whether one meets qualifications.)

In other words, a typical household of four cannot receive this help if the gross income for the foursome exceeds $28,668 annually and, for an individual, the gross not to be surpassed is $14,088. Additionally, recipients cannot have a great deal of assets with a clearly defined, too high level of worth.

As such, they have to be nearly broke across the board. Meanwhile, it’s clearly disgraceful that more than 27,651,388 Americans are so extremely poor they require food assistance to try to make ends meet.

Even that help, though, is often not enough to prevent further poverty and many folks are unable to avoid outright destitution across the so-called wealthy U.S.A. So next, they lose their homes… and they lose them in droves.

The huge portion of Americans who do so are staggering: While the number of U.S. foreclosure filings climbed by more than 81% in 2008, the total is still sharply rising in 2009. In relation, 300,000 homes foreclosed per month from March to May in 2009 and 1.8 million homes represented the anticipated total for the first half of the year. With such a backdrop, one out of every 398 homes received a filing in April and a whopping 6.4 million homes are anticipated to be in foreclosure by mid-2011. Simultaneously, a record number of individuals, also, applied for bankruptcy.

•A d v e r t i s e m e n t
•In a similar vein, the jobless rate, despite some minor dips downward, is still seemingly on the rise. Therefore, the current number of out of work adults could well exceed 20% if all of the hopeless ones, who are no longer collecting unemployment benefits and who gave up looking for opportunities, are added into the mix.

Moreover, they will not be able to jumpstart the economy so long as they cannot find work, and especially work at a living wage. After all, how can anyone make lots of purchases or take out bank loans if he has no reasonable income? So it follows that even more retail and wholesale stores, along with banks, will go belly up.

At the same time, the supply side of the market, itself, has created labor troubles. This is because goods have been overproduced. Consequently, there is overstock piled high in warehouses and shipping containers across the world ready to resume its path to the market once the spending reinitializes. However, spending cannot resume as long as the money has largely flowed to the top economic tier and away from average former and low wage workers, who can not expect to have decent paying jobs to create more goods until the current product glut diminishes.

In other words, consumers can’t buy much when money’s tight and work won’t be provided when there’s an oversupply of merchandise largely produced in second world sweatshops whose workers are paid so little that they hardly can put food on their own tables let alone make many more extravagant purchases — ones like toothpaste, soap and shampoo. Besides, they, too, face employment opportunities diminishing because worldwide sales are down for many of the products that, previously, their companies too copiously produced.

Concurrently, the bailouts, oriented towards fixing the credit side of the equation, are not addressing these sorts of supply side problems. Therefore, they will not keep the financial collapse from worsening.

Alternately put, TARP and other payoffs to the self-serving, unconscionable banksters and Wall Street high rollers largely responsible for the downturn will not produce an abundance of jobs. So the reasonable salaries, ultimately needed to buy the wares to cause industrial output to resume, won’t materialize any time soon.

It’s rather simple to understand, really. So why don’t Ben Bernanke and his colleagues seem to notice that massive job loss, itself, needs to be addressed posthaste? Why hasn’t a public works program been initiated? Why don’t they grasp that the act of offshoring all kinds of American jobs to maximize profits at the top tier does not ensure that products will be avidly snapped up by a greatly unemployed and underemployed public?

Since they, apparently, don’t understand, the downturn, with a few small upward twists, will remain in its plunging slide, which in turn will create further layoffs. All the while, the ├╝ber-wealthy and their corporate supporters, such as most members of Congress, will continue to pamper themselves with capital largely derived from struggling taxpayers and massive loans that raise the federal deficit.

More to the point, how could the slump not last when the affluent elites gamble away huge fortunes comprising of their own and others’ money while manufacturing bubbles and Ponzi schemes in the process? How could anything change when they keep amassing more and more assets for themselves while indifferent to their impact on society as a whole?

Such practices as theirs, obviously, cannot sustain the American middle and under classes and it cannot buoy up the utmost bottom rung either. On account, scores of individuals of all ages continue to wind up in tent cities or ensconced on public park benches. (Supposedly, families with children represent the fastest growing subset of the homeless population in the U.S.A. at present and the average age of a homeless person is nine years old.)

When the upper-crust keeps getting richer by taking an ever greater portion of the overall wealth and government schemes assure that the process continues, nearly everyone else becomes increasingly cash poor. When every now and then big investors suffer hefty losses, the government steps in to shore them up again and again. However, this practice, clearly, does not help the populace in general. The evidence that it does not can be seen everywhere across the American landscape and the entire world.

It follows, then, that, “in the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. As of 2004, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 34.3% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.3%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 85%, leaving only 15% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one’s home), the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 42.2%…”, according to G. William Domhoff, a sociology professor at University of California at Santa Cruz. [2]

Another way to measure the shift in wealth is by noting some of the corporate trends, themselves. As Sarah Anderson and John Cavanagh, at the Institute for Policy Studies, point out:

Of the 100 largest economies in the world, 51 are corporations; only 49 are countries (based on a comparison of corporate sales and country GDPs).

The Top 200 corporations’ sales are growing at a faster rate than overall global economic activity. Between 1983 and 1999, their combined sales grew from the equivalent of 25.0 percent to 27.5 percent of World GDP.

The Top 200 corporations’ combined sales are bigger than the combined economies of all countries minus the biggest 10.

The Top 200s’ combined sales are 18 times the size of the combined annual income of the 1.2 billion people (24 percent of the total world population) living in ‘’severe” poverty.

While the sales of the Top 200 are the equivalent of 27.5 percent of world economic activity, they employ only 0.78 percent of the world’s workforce. [3]

Especially exemplifying this type of corporate immensity is the Wal Mart company. For example, the Walton heirs have a collective worth of around $65 billion and over 1.7 billion shares, or 43%, of Wal Mart stock in addition to earning $29 billion off the stock price rise alone from November 2007 to June 2008.

Meanwhile, the Waltons pay their jean laborers in Nicaragua approximately $1.50/ day. Simultaneously, their average U.S. workers are given wages of about $12,000/ annum causing a full one half of Wal Mart’s 720,000 employees to qualify for food stamps.

At the same time, the clearly exploitive Wal Mart business model is considered an unqualified success — one that should be more often duplicated across the board. After all, it shows the capitalistic free market with its best possible outcome — profits beyond imagination and the American Dream come true (for the few who manage to take unfair advantage of the actual wealth producers)!

Perhaps, though, the best way to look at the new arrangement between citizens, State and the rising corporate structures is through this superlative summation by Benito Mussolini:

The corporate State considers that private enterprise in the sphere of production is the most effective and useful instrument in the interest of the nation. In view of the fact that private organisation of production is a function of national concern, the organiser of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction given to production.

State intervention in economic production arises only when private initiative is lacking or insufficient, or when the political interests of the State are involved. This intervention may take the form of control, assistance or direct management. [4]

Even if Benito Mussolini’s position has an alarmingly familiar ring to it, no one still should expect U.S. legislators to create laws any time soon that would enact tax code changes in order to remove subsidies that encourage overpayment to executives and that cost taxpayers $20 billion a year. Indeed, nobody should expect any major changes at all that would level the financial playing field, remove a sense of economic injustice or bring back jobs and reasonable wages to the American people.

As Joel H. Rassman, Toll Bros. CFO in 2006, explained about CEO Robert I. Toll’s $20 million compensation while shareholders were suffering a 22% loss: “I have yet to meet the person who has enough money.”

Like Toll, a majority of Congressional representatives, of whom many are multi-millionaires, apparently imagine that they never have quite enough for themselves and justify their dodgy choices accordingly. They, also, know who butters their bread and it surely is not the increasingly impoverished average U.S. citizens, who continue to be the indirect victims of corporate rapacity and pathetic corporate oversight by executives and Congressmen alike.

In relation, one wonders when a significant number of Americans will, finally, recognize that they’ve been had. Put another way by Andrew Greeley: “It should be no surprise that when rich men take control of the government, they pass laws that are favorable to themselves. The surprise is that those who are not rich vote for such people, even though they should know from bitter experience that the rich will continue to rip off the rest of us. Perhaps the reason is that rich men are very clever at covering up what they do.”

This explanation in mind, we need not worry as much about the terrorists from abroad as the terrorists from above and the duped voters who repeatedly fall for political candidates pandering to this broadly malignant upper class. The latter bunch and their sycophantic legislative admirers, more than any foreign guerrillas, are leading the world’s wealthiest nation into ever deeper ruin.

REFERENCES:

[1] Top CEO collected $702 mln in 2008: US survey – Yahoo! News
(http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20090813/ts_alt_afp/usbusinessexecutivepaypolitics_20090813190411).

[2] Who Rules America: Wealth, Income, and Power (http://sociology.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/wealth.html).

[3] CorpWatch : Top 200: The Rise of Corporate Global Power (www.corpwatch.org/article. php?id=377).

[4] Benito Mussolini, 1935, Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions, Rome, ‘Ardita’ Publishers. pp. 133-135.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Legendary Spanish Civil War Photograph Faked


‘Anti-Fascist’ Legend Falls in Spain
By K R Bolton
Academy of Social & Political Research, Athens


As has been commented upon repeatedly by sundry historians and authors, the Spanish Civil War served as a prelude for World War II, giving the Big Powers and competing ideologies the opportunity to test out their weaponry and tactics. Spain also served as a testing ground for propaganda, and the Franco side has expectedly come off second best, as the Popular Front are still portrayed as noble champions of liberty, regardless of the Masonic-Bolshevist assaults that were perpetrated with the same sadism that had already been manifested in Russia and Hungary.

Like World War I, with the British-US propaganda depictions of Germans bayoneting Belgian babies, and World War II with the Soviet-Allied propaganda which is still being presented to the world as though the war against the Axis remains in full swing, there are several salient propaganda devices deriving from the Spanish tragedy which have endured, one of which has recently been dealt a fatal blow (the other being the legend of the Basque town Guernica, supposedly bombed by German aircraft, but more the victim of Leftist dynamiting, the fires from which the Leftist mayor did not allow the fire brigade from Bilbao to extinguish. See for e.g. the first hand account of British journalist and author, F Yeats Brown, European Jungle, Eyre and Spottiswood, 1939; chapter on Spain available as a reprint from this writer).

The legend that has recently fallen is that of the very famous supposed photograph of the death agonies of a noble knight for democracy (aka a servant of Bolshevism and Masonry), entitled “Falling Militiaman” by Robert Capa.

An Associated Press report describes the photograph as follows:

“Robert Capa’s photograph of a falling Spanish Civil war militiaman became one of the most famous and enduring images of conflict of the 20th century.
“Now, Spanish researchers who have studied events surrounding the picture believe it was staged.” (Civil war photo ‘a fake’, AP Report, Dominion Post, Wellington, New Zealand, July 25, 2009, B3).

The picture was first published in 1936 in the French magazine Vu and then in Life magazine in the USA. The caption said that the photograph depicted the moment a Republican rifleman was killed.

Interestingly, the AP report states that the location was given as Cerro Muriano on the Cordoba front, where Franco’s forces were fiercely engaging “soldieries loyal to the elected Republican government.” Note that even in this passing reference in the AP report, the legend endures regarding the implied legitimacy of the “elected Republican government” (sic) fighting the illegitimate rebels under Franco. Regardless, the legend continues of Republic heroism against evil fascists, with little or no consideration of the causes of the civil war, of the violence perpetrated by the socialists and communists against Rightist and monarchist parliamentarians, of the cowardly shooting of Falangist leader Jose de Rivera while in government custody, of the policy of summary executions used by the anarchists, the burning of churches and the shooting of priests, in a re-enactment of the Russian Bolsheviks two decades previously. (Lately there have been ‘revisionist historians’ attempting to lower the estimates for the number of priests and monks killed by the ‘loyalists’. See for e.g. Antony Beevor, The Spanish Civil War 1936-1939-, Penguin, 2001).).

The AP report continues that the location was probably not Cerro Muriano and that the militiaman was probably not shot. After studying the photograph and new images as part of an exhibition at Barcelona’s art gallery museum, four researchers state the photographs were taken 5 kilometres away in an area where there was no fighting at that time.

‘“It quickly became obvious to us that among the new photographs – 34 attributed to Capa, six to his companion Gerda Taro – there were four that revealed the exact place where Capa had taken the shots,” film maker Raul Riebenbauer said.’ (AP report, ibid.).

Historian Francisco Moreno studied the geographical features of the photograph, including the shape of the hills, the location of two farmhouses and several roads, and identified the location as a hillside east of Espejo township.

The AP report states that “Falling Militiaman” catapulted the career of Capa as the world’s foremost war photographer. Now after over 70 years he can join the sullied ranks of one of the world’s foremost propagandist frauds in the service of the Left.

(K R Bolton is a Fellow of the Academy of Social and Political Research, author of Thinkers of the Right, England, 2003, etc.; and a columnist for The [Kapiti] Watchman, New Zealand).

Friday, August 21, 2009

Pius XI's Words of Wisdom on Hollywood

In his encyclical, Vigilanti Cura, Pope Pius XI wrote that he was “deeply anguished to note with each passing day the lamentable progress of the motion picture art and industry in the portrayal of sin and vice.”

That encyclical regarding film immorality was issued on June 29, 1936. The Pope lamented that “the road seemed almost closed to those who sought honest diversion in the motion picture.” The situation has hardly improved in the ensuing 70-plus years.
The best we can hope for today is that Catholics everywhere will be judicious in the choice of movies they attend – and especially those they allow their children to see – in hopes that, as Pius XI said, movies become a “valuable auxiliary of instruction and education rather than of destruction and ruin of the soul.”
In the Pope’s judgment, the art, science, and technology of movie making were all true gifts of God. Yet he admonished that these talents be used “to promote the extension of the Kingdom of God upon earth.”
Perhaps that should be our guide as well in determining which movies we, and our children, choose to watch.