Monday, June 28, 2010

Week of 06/28/2010

The GOP: The Real Party of Lenin
– by David Matthews 2

I’m sure this is going to make some old Cold War fighters blanche when they read this… but it seems that the GOP, formerly the Party of Abraham Lincoln, the Party of Ronald Reagan, and the Party of the Bush Family, apparently has a new patron figure, and they have been quick to adopt his tactics.

I’m sure some of you might think that their new figure would be someone like Rush Limbaugh, or maybe even Glenn Beck. Maybe someone historical like Senator Joe McCarthy or General Douglas MacArthur. You’d be getting warm, but you’d be off by about forty years.

On the surface, the GOP’s ongoing insurrection and political sabotage may appear to be nothing more that stubborn sour grapes over losing power, but historically, this tactic was successfully carried out by someone that the GOP would publicly condemn and castigate, but would be considered by many in his time to be a great idealistic leader. That is… if you lived in Russia.

That leader’s name was Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov… although he would later change his last name to Lenin.

Lenin was a revolutionary. A student of Marxist leader Georgy Plekhanov, whom he met while in Siberia for plotting against Czar Nicholas II. He spent many years in exile, hiding from the Czar’s forces, trying to spread the word of Marxism, trying to get support for getting rid of the Czar, and yearning for the day when his fellow Russians would stand up and get rid of the old ruling system and pave the way for (what Marxists considered) “the future”.

Then one day, Lenin’s wish came true. The people DID stand up and revolt in 1917. They finally had enough. They forced the Czar to go into hiding, to abdicate his power.

Lenin got his revolution.

Unfortunately he wasn’t there when it happened!

Yes, the revolution that removed Czar Nicholas II from power happened in February of 1917, when Lenin was still in Switzerland. Worse yet, it started not from some grand scheme of political idealists or military leaders. It was started by a bunch of people complaining about the lack of BREAD!

When Lenin managed to return to Russia a few months later, the country was already under the control of a new government, one that promised to ease the misery that was responsible for the uprising in the first place. Obviously that would not be acceptable for Lenin or his supporters. How dare the people of Russia make change without them!

So what Lenin and his supporters did was they stymied that recovery. He venomously opposed the new provisional government, called for strikes and protests, especially when the provisional government decided to continue support of the war against Germany (which we today call World War I). When the provisional government condemned Lenin’s activities, when they finally moved to have him arrested, it only served to generate even more support among the people, who saw the provisional government as being nothing more than following through with the failed policies of Nicholas II. They believed they had just traded one failed government for another just like it.

In the span of just a few months, Lenin and his Bolshevik supporters created a social and political environment that was so toxic, so poisonous for any kind of progress, that by October of that same year, they were able to overthrow the provisional government and put themselves in charge.

Lenin finally got his revolution… and this time around it was on HIS terms.

Ninety-one years later, the circumstances are the similar, but the names and the country are different.

The country in dire social and economic straits now is the United States. Torn by not one but TWO wars, depleted by an economic recession not seen in generations, cities and states are strained to the breaking point to provide needed services and to help those in need.

And there even was a “revolution” of sorts by the people. The people were upset at the misery they were being force-fed and they chose new leadership. Unfortunately, this time around, the GOP are both the Czars AND the Bolsheviks. Thus they didn’t just “miss out” on the “revolution”… they were the victims of it.

The GOP are prepared to take over… but first they have to deal with the government already in charge.

And thus their grand scheme is to do what Lenin did… venomously oppose the new government, call of its ouster, and do everything within their power to continue the economic misery, to keep the masses so riled up that they would welcome that “second revolution” that would be on the GOP’s terms.

Let’s get brutally honest here… the GOP is engaging in the same tactics as the founder of the Soviet Union, the very enemy that America pledged to destroy for three generations! They are engaging in these tactics to keep Americans miserable. To keep them in pain and torment. Because they know that Americans will instinctively blame the people in charge, and will turn to anyone who promises to end it… much like the Russians did in October of 1917 when they turned to very people that were secretly keeping them miserable.

And to top it all off… the instigators of our continued misery are using their cohorts in talk radio to cover up the tactic by throwing about words such as “socialist” and “communist” about, to continually paint their opponents as being Marxists and communists, all the while they are employing those same tactics to keep the misery in the United States going. The wars that are not popular continue. The banks continue to screw over America. The businesses continue to screw over America. The help that Americans in trouble need is not there. And all the while dropping in little subtle hints of needing a “new revolution”. And the more those in charge condemn the talk of insurrection and the talk of “revolution”, it only serves to hurt the ones in charge, because the masses now start to believe that they have traded in one failed governing body for another one just like it.

This commentator certainly does not wish to see history repeat itself, especially when the architects of America’s misery have managed to paint themselves in both the roles of villain AND savior.

The best way to prevent history from repeating itself lies in the current administration not making the same mistakes as the Russians did for those few brief months in 1917. Their continual demand for compromise and consensus, their continual failure to prosecute the instigators of our misery, the continual failure to actually enact meaningful change to alleviate this misery that has plagued America for two years now, these are the things that are destroying their own credibility. These are the things that will compel Americans to turn to someone, anyone, who can promise to end their pain.

And right now, President Obama… right now, Democrats… YOU are not seen as the solution. YOU are seen as the continual problem. We have seemingly traded one failure for another, and that is not acceptable.

And that is exactly how the GOP… the REAL Party of Lenin… wants it!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Week of 06/21/2010

Open Letter To Billionaires Looking For “Charity”
– by David Matthews 2

Dear Billionaires With Money To Spend,

Somewhere in between the overhyped nonsense about World Cup Soccer, some tattoo freak “actress” who thinks she’s beautiful and promoting her new film, and of course the ongoing misery in the Gulf of Mexico, I heard that two of the richest men on the planet are looking for other billionaires to donate billions for charity.

Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor, boasts about giving away 99% of his $46 billion to charity. He and Microsoft founder Bill Gates plan on convincing other billionaires to give up to $600 billion to charity groups.

And that’s great! Don’t get me wrong, that is a laudable effort to get people who will never ever have to worry about money ever again to give up some of it for charity. That is terrific! Someone give them a Nobel Award! Make it a double!

But while you’re pressing the flesh of your platinum club members looking to match your generosity, I want to suggest a charity that is in desperate need of your assistance.

The American people.

Sure the people in the Gulf of Mexico will be in sad need of assistance, and I really don’t see the perpetrators of their misery - British Petroleum and their cohorts - really being willing or able to step in and, in their own words, “make things right”. A $20 billion escrow account in $5 billion payments is a drop in the bucket compared to the potential devastation to the southeastern part of the nation.

The people in the Gulf certainly need help, but they are not the only ones who do.

There are millions of otherwise hard-working Americans who have lost their jobs. They have lost their life savings, their homes, their dreams, their futures… they are doing everything they can to keep up with a system that has essentially abandoned them.

They have not just been abandoned by the commercial market, but they have also been disowned by their representatives in government. They have been branded as “lazy” people looking for “big government” to fund their fictional sloth.

These are not people looking for handouts. They are looking for a hand-up from the economic holes that they have been thrown into and left there to rot and be buried over by foreclosures and bankruptcy.

And as long as they are abandoned by the commercial market and disowned by their representatives in government, they will not be able to help the American economy out of the biggest single downturn in eighty years. They will not be able to provide needed revenue to stores both locally and around the world through the magic of online commerce. They will not be able to purchase and enjoy the new technology that companies like Microsoft boast about providing. They will not be able to purchase those new cars with the safer features and the better gas mileage and the alternative fuels. They will not be able to invest in a retirement program or plan for their futures. They currently have no future.

You could help them reconnect with that future.

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get brutally honest here… the American people need your help! The struggling Americans that are being buried alive in a financial nightmare with no end in sight need your help! They need jobs. Jobs that would be created by investing in new American enterprises.

Various social and career experts on the Huffington Post continually talk about the need for people to follow their dreams. But following one’s dreams requires more than just that dream. They require investment. They require investors willing to take a risk and who believe in the potential of that dream enough to see it through.

How many of today’s billionaires were allowed to follow their dreams to fruition? You know how you got to where you are today. What greater way to share in your wealth than to help show others how you were able to get there?

The time for that help is now. There is a workforce hungry for work. There is a marketplace eager for customers. And there are countless millions of commercial buildings that are currently vacant in need of commercial tenants. You could assist in staving off a second real estate crash and a double-dip downturn by investing in the commercial ventures that would put businesses in those buildings, provide jobs for the people who need it, and help make more dreams realities.

True charity is not just giving money. It is helping people who truly need help. Help them up, and help them re-connect with a society that has for all intents and purposes abandoned them. You would be doing a far more social good than simply giving away money. You would be giving the American people back their future.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Week of 06/14/2010

Birth of the Corporate-State
– by David Matthews 2

Here’s something that should make you shiver…

At some point in the near future, someone will OWN Greece.

I don’t mean that metaphorically. I don’t mean through political corruption or military intimidation. I mean someone will literally OWN Greece. Lock, stock, and barrel. The whole nation, its government, everything. Some private entity will at some point PURCHASE and OWN the whole country of Greece.

If it isn’t a single person that makes the purchase, then it will be a private entity. A multinational bank, or perhaps a private group like OPEC.

And if it isn’t Greece, then it will be some other nation that is in a similar situation. Maybe the United States?

Unthinkable? Not really.

Greece is in some economic dire straits right now. Far worse than America’s problems. They are in an economic hole so deep that they can’t even begin to get out of it without outside assistance. And every solution from the government seems to result in making matters far worse.

The first thing a new leader in Greece does is hire more public workers. This is a short-term solution, especially when the private sector is temporarily unable to do that job. But public workers must be paid by the government and government has to get revenue SOMEWHERE. Usually that comes through tariffs, taxes, or debt. According to European economists, Greece hasn’t exactly been too keen on collecting taxes. So they have been getting their money like many Americans (and their leaders) have… through debt.

Unfortunately, Greece is now in a situation where they can’t tap into debt like they used to, they don’t want to go after the tax dodgers, and the bill is due for all of their public sector jobs they’ve created and sustained with some of the best wages and benefits in Europe.

As it is right now, Greece is getting help from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. But their leadership is going to have to make some tough choices about how they spend what money they currently have. They’re not used to making these kinds of choices, but they had better learn quickly.

Time will tell if the leaders in Greece will be smart enough (and lucky enough) to pull through. But even if they are able to do it, Portugal, Spain, and even potentially the United States itself may have to do the same thing.

But at some point, a country like Greece, or Portugal, or Spain, or the US, will get so far in the hole that there will be no choice but turn everything over to a private entity.

The idea of a Corporate-owned state was always the stuff of science fiction. “In some distant future”, the prologue usually goes, “the governments of the world have been replaced by major corporations.” This is the fantasy that leads into movies such as the original “Rollerball”, or even the near-future world of “Robocop”. And traditionally that is where such ideas end.

We all laugh at the concept of any country, especially the United States, being owned by private entities. It’s just unheard of! Nobody would EVER have the money needed to make that kind of a purchase! And the leaders certainly wouldn’t “ALLOW” such a takeover to happen, would they?

And yet we are getting closer and closer to making that kind of world a reality than most of us would ever admit to.

The U.S. Government has been putting itself on the biggest credit card in the world, financed through a perpetual stream of treasury notes. As long as there were banks or countries that were purchasing those notes, the government had money to spend on anything and everything it wanted. When those notes came due, we financed another batch of notes to pay for those, and so on and so forth.

Yes it’s reckless, but that is what we’ve been doing for years, and nobody really cared way back when about the consequences.

Conservatives and neo-conservatives are quick to blame President Obama and the Democrats that run Congress for this massive debt that America has amassed, but in truth the spending spree started with their predecessors. With George W. Bush and the GOP-ruled Congress using their USA Ultra-Platinum Card to finance two wars, expanded government programs, disaster recovery, overhauling national security, bailing out the airlines in 2001, and bailing out Wall Street in 2008. Let’s not forget the extensive tax cuts given to big corporations that were supposed to “stimulate” the economy in 2001 and 2008 but only served to fatten the profit margins.

No matter who was responsible for our current mess, the fact of the matter is that we are in the thick of it, and with Corporate America FAILING to do their bit and create new jobs to offset the massive unemployment, that only serves to make the burden in the public sector even worse. And while massive spending now may be needed to get America out of its immediate economic doldrums, the overall problem of debt continues to loom.

Should Corporate America be allowed to continue with its ineptitude and abuses, the economy will NOT be allowed to recover and instead would put the United States in a situation very similar to that of Greece.

What will happen at that point is one of two scenarios, neither of which will be pleasant to undergo.

The first is that the United States will simply implode. Much like the old Soviet Union did in 1989, the government would fail, and many of the states would follow suit. It doesn’t matter what kind or how many taxes are imposed at that point. It doesn’t matter which political party would be in charge at the time. There would be no money for the military, no money for government services… no money, period. Without the financial backing of the FDIC, banks would outright fail. Without the continued bailouts to fund it, AIG, the largest insurance backer in the nation, would outright fail. Without Medicaid and Medicare and Social Security, several hospitals and insurance companies would outright fail.

What would happen after that would be anyone’s guess, but it is safe to say there would not be a United States as we know it anymore. If what happened to the Soviet Union is any guide, you’d see a fragmentation into several smaller nations, each with supporters and sponsors of other nations.

The other scenario would be essentially a leveraged buy-out of America. In that situation, either one or (more likely) a collection of nations and private industries (i.e. Bank of China, OPEC, Bank Swiss) could step in and own the debt that America has amassed, essentially OWNING the United States. The leadership and government structure would remain intact, but all decisions and legislation would be subject to revision and veto by the new “sponsors”.

This kind of takeover would be subtle. The kind of action that would be approved in the dead of night, without debate, and certainly not publicly acknowledged. In fact, this kind of action could have ALREADY happened and nobody would know. That would certainly explain the lack of accountability by the federal government and why certain private entities are seemingly allowed to get away with just about everything.

Let’s get brutally honest here… as long as we have to deal with gross mismanagement and incompetence from those in government… from ANY political party… the more and more likely the concept of a corporate-state would become a reality. And that does not mean that it would be an improvement. Quite the contrary; given the horrific experiences that many Americans have had to endure with corporate bureaucracies, a whole country being run by a corporation would be far worse. Indeed, without the mechanism in place to keep the private sector in check, corporate abuses would be far more draconian than even during the very Industrial Revolution that spawned such regulatory need.

There are some things that the private sector can do far better than would the public sector, but that still doesn’t mean they can govern any better. The private sector lives in a world of capitalism, of profit at all costs. When it becomes the caretaker of a nation, then that nation is also governed by that requirement. In other words, that nation would also be bound to the rules of capitalism, of decisions made not in the name of equality or of freedom or of any kind of “fairness”, but rather on the sole basis of profitability.

As Thomas Paine himself once commented, “The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth.” Neither should a country be run for the same basis.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Week of 06/07/2010

Short-Term Solutions - Long-Term FAIL
– by David Matthews 2

In honor of Dennis Hopper, who died recently

Pop Quiz, hotshot: Your friend got a deep and nasty cut on his upper leg in one of the major arteries and blood is shooting out. From the blood-soaked pant-leg and the puddle on the floor you can guess he’s been gushing blood for a few minutes now. He’s already starting to pass out and he’s lost the color in his face, but he’s still breathing. All you have on yourself is a band-aid, a cellphone that is out-of-range, and the clothes on your back. Do you (A) take off the belt on your pants and use it as a tourniquet, and use your shirt and/or pants to cover the wound until you can find some way to drag him within range of your cellphone? Or (B), do you try to put the band-aid on as much of the cut as possible and wish your friend well as you walk away so you could get back in cellphone range? What do you do?

If you choose the first one, albeit embarrassingly, you would be right. But if you choose the second one, then you’d be short one friend by the end of the day; not to mention that you’d look like an idiot, albeit one with your dignity intact.

That is the kind of choice that the United States Government is trying to deal with in regards to our economy.

We have a serious, deep, and gushing wound called unemployment. We have millions of people that, through no fault of their own, are out of work. A huge part of that is because of the near-criminal ineptitude of Wall Street with its various financial schemes, but also because of years of outsourcing and the gluttony of work visas. The business world is not willing or able to recoup those losses, and people who have been out of work for longer than six months are getting larger and larger.

Those people who are trying to survive on what little money they have left and what little comes from unemployment benefits are not able to stimulate the economy. All of their money is spent on trying to keep bills paid and food on the table, and sometimes they are not able to do even that.

In addition the job market itself has been mirroring housing values in depreciation. Employers are looking for over-skilled hopefuls who are willing to work for half of their original wages, and in some instances only willing to pay them part-time.

Sure education and additional training can help, and you continually see ads for colleges on TV, but education does not give you the additional years of experience that employers then ask for.

Go to any job fair and what will you find? Half of the tables will be filled with colleges. Most of the rest are filled by businesses looking to hire salespeople, which don’t get paid unless they bring in sales.

Does that sound like the business world is “recovering”?

And as long as unemployment remains an issue, the economy will continue to falter. More people are having to file for bankruptcy than ever before. Foreclosures are still a threat in this country. Foreclosures mean more bank failures. Wall Street is STILL selling credit default swaps, the so-called “toxic assets” that led to their near-collapse in 2008. In other words, RECENT history will be repeating itself soon. The spend-gasm of commercial property construction will soon lead to that bubble bursting as there will be no new businesses to fill those office spaces and strip malls.

This is a serious GUSHING economic wound.

So what is the government doing about it?

They’ve extended unemployment benefits to up to 99 weeks. Or at least they’ve PROMISED to extend it. Unfortunately the insurrectionists in the GOP continually throw a monkey wrench into that coverage by screaming “DEFICIT SPENDING” and getting the month-by-month financial coverage to expire through procedural vetoes. (Even more damnably hypocritical is how they are screaming about the spending now and not five years ago when they held the purse-strings.)

In other words, they are using a series of short-term band-aids to try to plug up a SERIOUS LONG-TERM problem… and failing miserably at it.

Let’s get brutally honest here… this is a LONG-TERM problem and it requires serious LONG-TERM solutions! The Obama Administration and the members of Congress cannot simply throw short-term extensions at this problem and expect the economy to simply right itself. The private sector has neither the will nor the desire to do the right thing in this matter, and waiting for business leaders to get their act together is not a game of attrition that the American people can afford.

Businesses need to be encouraged to hire back the long-term unemployed. The best way to do that would be to reward those businesses with specific tax breaks for every American they hire back into the workforce that has been out of work for more than six months. Get them hired and get them OFF unemployment.

The creation of that program could, in and of itself, provide some relief for the unemployed by creating a new department and hiring ONLY from the ranks of the long-term unemployed, as well as leasing some of the office spaces that are currently going unused all across America. Jobs have to come from SOMEWHERE, and if the private sector is unwilling to do what needs to be done, then the public sector HAS to step in. DEAL WITH IT, CONSERVATIVES!

Another way to encourage more hiring is to terminate those various work visas that allowed businesses to bring in people from other countries. Also penalizing businesses that outsource jobs overseas. Those two gaping holes in our economy helped contribute to the ranks of the unemployed and they both need to come to an immediate end.

Getting Wall Street off their toxic assets addiction is another key way to encourage positive investments. They are treating this as the financial version of crack cocaine, so maybe it is high time we treat them as crackheads.

The Federal Communications Commission has a way to generate some jobs as well. Digital Satellite Radio currently has ONE provider. It used to have two, and that came from FOUR potential providers. Although DSR is a short-term solution, it is well within the FCC’s power to give more licenses for providers, and a way to eventually transition it to wireless Internet access for ALL vehicles. That would be a LONG-TERM business venture. The opportunity is there. There just needs to be someone with the vision and the resources to make it all happen.

This is a bitter pill to swallow for many in Washington. Certainly the career politicians and the un-convictable insurrectionists will be throwing fits at some of the ideas. But the Obama Administration and the members of Congress need to SWALLOW that pill hard, because their willingness to look at real LONG-TERM solutions to this serious LONG-TERM problem instead of playing around with short-term failures will determine if they will follow the path of Herbert Hoover - whose systematic failures and gross ineptitude only served to EXASPERATE the Great Depression - or of Hoover’s successor, Franklin Roosevelt, who got America THROUGH the Great Depression.

As the late Dennis Hopper’s character from “Speed” would ask: What do you do, hotshot? What do you do?