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Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Pope Francis – Washington Post
Pope Francis is beginning to remind me of Mikhail Gorbachev. the same noble intention to open up a very old, very secret, very bureaucratic, very vertical organization, and make it more transparent (Glasnost) and reform it (Perestroika).
When Gorbachev touched his organization it disintegrated like a termite-ridden, antique chest of drawers and everyone, everywhere thought it was wonderful … except the people that lived in it. Everyone, everywhere loves Gorbachev except the Russians, who hate and despise him. Francis will be fortunate indeed to escape the same fate as Gorby’s
I don’t think the Church’s fussvolk, the ones who really live there: the sour old ladies that take communion every day, the Opus Dei bankers, the Paul Ryans, the Antonin Scalias, the Pat Buchanans and the Rick Santorums are going to be very enthusiastic about Francis’ intentions … it will those of us on the outside, lapsed and otherwise, that will be applauding the most.
Now His Holiness in his own efforts toward Glasnost and Perestroika has hired the world renowned auditing firm of Ernst &Young to lift up all the rocks in the Vatican and see what scurries out from under them after centuries in the dark, and (literally) God only knows what they will find.
It can be said greatly in the Pope’s favor and without any irony intended, that only someone with a truly deep faith in divine grace and the mysterious power of the Holy Spirit would take such chances.
And shifting the paradigm a bit, the Church reminds me a lot of Kodak, another rich, near monopoly, which was bankrupted by a disruptive technology that they could neither absorb nor defeat. In the Church’s case I don’t think it will ever be able to adapt itself to the new role of women in developed societies: working, educated, with their own money and in control of their own bodies.
The contradictions abound. For example, if the Church is really serious about the gravity of abortion, which I think they are, perhaps they should consider making the ingestion of the birth control pill a sacrament, as it is probably the only effective form of preventing the “murder” of fetuses. That such a tradeoff seems absurd is just an example of the mental sclerosis that Francis will be confronting in his Perestroika.
Like Gorbachev, I find Pope Francis admirable for the truth he speaks and I hope he does not have to live Gorbachev’s tragedy of watching those truths destroy the very thing that he loves the most.
Cross posted from: http://seaton-newslinks.blogspot.com
Things may unravel but at least there is hope. Perhaps this is what is most threatening to Netanyahu. He has never been willing to test the Palestinians in a serious way — test their good faith, test ending the humiliations of the occupation, test from strength the power of justice and peace. He has preferred domination, preferred the Palestinians down and under pressure. Obama and Kerry have invited Netanyahu to think again — and not just about Iran. Nothing, to judge by the hyperventilating Israeli rhetoric, could be more disconcerting. Roger Cohen – New York Times
If a diplomatic solution to the Iran nuclear issue is blocked and war follows, Israel will be accused of dragging America into a conflict. But if Mr Netanyahu confronts the Obama administration through the US Congress – and loses – the fabled power of the Israel lobby may never be quite the same again. Gideon Rachman – Financial Times
High political drama is in the offing, it appears that the President of the United States has (with appropriate deviousness) lured Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu into a decisive political battle on a battlefield of the president’s choosing; with world political opinion on Obama’s side and the American people recently having firmly signaled the US Congress their strongest reluctance to any more military involvement in the Middle East.
Obama just might win this one.
At this point what I find most truly interesting about the Iran deal as how secretly it was worked up… and that the Israelis apparently were kept in the dark… This is leading to a direct conflict between the United States and Israel… If Obama loses this test of strength, nothing much will have changed, every US president who has ever confronted them directly, has been defeated by the AIPAC or had their careers ruined, (with the exception of Eisenhower, when he pinned their ears back during the Suez crisis), but if Obama wins, that victory will mark a sea change in American politics.
Writing up the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination has become a momentary cottage industry and I have little that I wish to add and will spare my readers all my “where I was when I heard the news” drivel. However, I would only remark what I personally find the most important result of that magnicide: namely the sensation that Kennedy’s death marks the moment when “everything began to go wrong“.
I would even date the origins of the rancor and hostility surrounding the recent “shutdown”, if not the issues themselves, to the breakdown of trust and national unity that resulted from the widespread and still prevalent suspicion of a coverup that followed the enormous catharsis of emotion and grief of the flight back from Dallas and the funeral: the blood spattered widow, the pathetically saluting baby son.
All the unity of the shared experiences of the Great Depression, World War Two and the presidential funeral itself went up in smoke with the Warren Report… the fallout is too abundant and painful to enumerate here.
Among the casualties of the Snowden stories are an embarrassed and chastened White House, an American technology sector which has seen its own government tarnish its business model of a global, open internet and the strong US relationships with allies such as Germany. Financial Times
In English we make a clear difference between “mature” and “ripe”.
We also distinguish between ripe and too ripe with the word, “overripe”, which is common enough a concept to have one whole, unhyphenated word all to itself.
ma·ture adjective \mə-ˈtu̇r, -ˈtyu̇r also -ˈchu̇r\
: having or showing the mental and emotional qualities of an adult
: having a fully grown or developed body : grown to full size
: having reached a final or desired state Merriam Webster
over·ripe adjective \ˌō-və(r)-ˈrīp\ :
: grown or aged past the point of ripeness and beginning to decay
: too ripe : not new or young
: not fresh or original Merriam Webster
We don’t have a word for “over-mature”, as being mature is thought to be good and it is hard to see how you can have too much of it, but ripe, which in itself is good, past a certain point can become bad.
I would maintain that history’s most advanced and developed version of capitalism, the American version, instead of being mature is overripe.
The snippet from the Financial Times that tops this post reveals “the worm in the apple”, the conflict or “contradiction” in the system, simple to identify, but whose resolution or synthesis is very difficult to predict.
The most creative and innovative sector of the American economy, the sector that most represents a future prosperity for American business, is symbolized by Google, a huge organization, whose business model is based on the free flow of information and especially on obtaining the personal data of everyone on an interconnected, frontier-less planet, in order to anticipate and satisfy their every want and desire by knowing even their unconscious needs and motivations. This obviously requires enormous quantities of trust on anyone who uses Google… as users confide to Google, knowingly or unknowingly, things that they would never confide even to their dearest friend or most loved and trusted family member. Trust, friendliness, goodwill then, are the central, essential qualities of Google’s business proposition.
Google’s antithesis is the NSA, who also wants access to the personal data of everyone and to know (and especially anticipate) their needs and desires, conscious and unconscious in order to dominate and control them. This organization’s philosophy is not to trust anyone, not even ones closest friends. And whose process of knowledge to action might be symbolized by the drone strike. Certainly trust, friendliness, goodwill then, are NOT the central, essential qualities of NSA’s “business proposition”.
However the two “business propositions” are deeply entwined. It is hard to imagine a “Swiss” Google or anything as all-encompassing as Google in any country that did not physically control the Internet and set and enforce the world’s rules of commerce and supply the world with its reserve currency, while physically controlling the seas and air all over the world with the greatest accumulation of military power in the history of our planet. And conversely it is hard to imagine an intelligence agency as “penetrant” as the NSA without access to the resources of Google, Yahoo and Facebook.
The same as mixing Clorox with gasoline will cause an explosion and it is vital to keep the two apart, so it is vital for America’s new economy to keep the idea of the NSA as far away from the idea of Google as possible… I should say “was” because Snowden has let the cat out of the bag and like putting toothpaste back in the tube, all the king’s horses and all the King’s men will never put Humpty Dumpty back together again. With the wisdom of hindsight this Achilles’s heel of American power was obvious, but Edward Snowden, or whoever (if anyone) runs him has fired a deadly torpedo directly under America’s waterline.All that was needed was to find the right person at the right time and get him and his information where the United States could not prevent its dissemination.
Like taking candy from a baby.
Returning to the original metaphor, the connection NSA/new economy was (over) ripe for the plucking. Some would say that when our economic system reached it’s full worldwide potential and maturity such a conflict was bound to arise, others have been hoping and praying for such an event since the 19th century… we are “fortunate” enough to be here to witness how it plays out.
I posted this first on December 8th, 2010, and this is the second time I have reprinted it, but with every passing year, the story seems even more relevant than it did back then. DS
Once upon a time in a far off and pleasant land, during the reign of King George the Idiot, there lived a young man who dreamed of fame and greatness.
He yearned so long and so deeply, that the Good Fairy was moved by his constant pleading and praying and appeared before him in all her beauty and magic splendor.
“Young man,” she said, “because of the depth and especially because of the unusual insistence of your desires, I have decided to grant you three wishes. After each wish I shall disappear until the wish has been granted and then return to grant your next request. Now, think hard, what is the first boon that you wish for?”
The young man thought for a moment and said, “Oh Good Fairy, I would like to write my life story and have everyone in the kingdom read it and think that I am wonderful.”
“Really?” asked the Good Fairy, “Since you are very young and haven’t done very much, that will be a lot of work for me… Are you sure?”
“Puhleeeeeeeeeeze!” the young man begged.
“So be it!” said the Good Fairy, and disappeared.
No sooner had the Good Fairy left then the young man sat down at his table where the few sheets of paper on it magically multiplied into hundreds, and soon a magic quill pen appeared out of thin air, and taking it in his hand he began to write well into the night, as if his hand had a life of its own, which indeed it had.
He awoke the next morning to find that a thick manuscript sat on the table before him. As in a trance he took it in his arms and presented it to a publisher, who, as if hypnotized, immediately ordered all other work in his print shop to stop and for all the printers to work at nothing else but printing the young man’s life story.
The very next day the freshly printed life story of the young man appeared in all the book shops of the land, and it sold out immediately. In no time at all the entire Kingdom could talk of little else than the young man’s fascinating life story.
He sat at home enjoying his new found fame, when the Good Fairy appeared for a second time.
“It is time for your second wish.” the beautiful Good Fairy said, “Have you thought of what you want to wish for?”
“As a matter of fact I have.” the young man replied, “I would like a golden tongue and the power of rhetoric, so that all who hear me will be enchanted by whatever I say, no matter how pompous and platitudinous it might be”.
“That won’t be so difficult.” the Good Fairy said, “Talk is cheap. Are you sure that is all you want?”
“Puhleeeeeeeeeeeze!” the young man implored.
“So be it!” said the Good Fairy, and disappeared.
In a short time everyone in the entire kingdom sat in awe of the young man’s marvelous speeches, their mouths dropping open, while visions of sugar-plums danced their heads, as they dreamed of the beautiful land of milk and honey that the young man’s golden tongue evoked. Soon crowds followed him wherever he went hanging on his every word.
The Good Fairy appeared for the third time.
“Think carefully young man” she said slowly and gravely, “This is your last wish…” She paused, “Have you decided what you want now?”
“Oh yes!” he cried out, “Old King George is abdicating… I want to be King!”
The Good Fairy looked at him steadily and for a brief instant a cloud of melancholy crossed her charming features. “Are you absolutely sure, young man? George wanted the job as much as you do and look at what a horrible time he is having, all he wants to do now is to retire into the forest and cut brush like a common wood cutter. Are you absolutely sure?”
“Puhleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeze!” the young man wailed.
She shrugged her pretty shoulders.
“So be it!” said the Good Fairy and disappeared.
No sooner than she had disappeared a great clamor rose up in the land and great cheering crowds appeared before the young man’s home and he was carried on their shoulders though the gates of the palace and crowned king of the land with all pomp and splendor. Masses were sung and soldiers paraded and all was feasting and wassailing for days on end as the kingdom reveled in the joy of having such a splendid new ruler.
The magic spell wore off: the money lenders appeared with insatiable demands and the treasury was emptied by endless wars and sadness gripped the people. In the market place and in the countryside the peasants and nobles muttered and plotted against the new king. The adoring courtiers that once clustered around him, showering him with flattery, abandoned him to his fate and returned to their homes to write their memoirs.
The young man tried to speak to the people as of old, but his tongue seemed glued to his palate and nothing but mumbling issued from his mouth.
One night in the darkened palace, with his hair turned gray, he slumped on his throne in the empty throne room, abandoned by all, weeping disconsolately and ruing his fate.
“Woe is me,” he sobbed, “How did I ever get into this mess?”
The Good Fairy appeared for a fourth time.
The young king fell on his knees and implored her, “Can you help me?” he groaned.
“Sorry, you’re on your own now, buster”, she replied, a hardness he had never seen before was in her eyes and a coldness he had never heard before was in her voice… once so sweet, now metallic. Slowly her beauty vanished and before him stood a hideous hag.
“You had your three wishes” the apparition said, “I gave you everything you asked for. You could have asked for wisdom, you could have asked for a long life and the gift of contentment, but this is what you wished for, so you have made this misery all by yourself.”
“I wish I had never seen you!” the young king shouted, “I wish you didn’t exist!”
“So be it.” said the Good Fairy and disappeared for the last time.
Moral: Everyone has their wants and their wishes but if a fairy asks, don’t tell.
Something that has always fascinated me is how Barack Obama ever got into politics in the first place. As we have seen on many occasions, but most clearly during the shutdown, he seems to be lacking the basic tools of common and garden variety politics: he is totally unable to get close to people on a personal level and talk them into doing what he wants them to do.
Sociability and politics go hand in hand in democracy, the knack for connecting with strangers on a human level is what democratic politics are all about and Obama seems to be lacking this basic skill most notably.
I can imagine a North Korean “dear leader”, being a trifle distant, dictators don’t schmooze much, Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator, was famously frosty and aloof, but in democracy, an antisocial politician is a contradiction in terms, like a one-legged tap dancer or a tone deaf violinist.
This tone deafness is extraordinary in any professional politician: even the most modestly endowed of them, down to a town alderman, usually possess an innate ability to connect with people. Even George W. Bush, America’s worst president, was able to take a bullhorn, climb up on a pile of rubble, put his arm around a fireman’s shoulder and be, if only for a moment, an inspiring leader on a personal, human level.
Obama having so little natural talent for human contact, more than once has made me think that there was something “magic“, truly supernatural, about his rise to power. The magic seems to have worn off nowadays, at least internationally, if the following snippets are any sample:
The Democrat, who prefers to spend his evenings with his family or alone in front of his computer, has made it no secret in Washington that he does not want to make new friends. That maxim especially applies to his foreign diplomacy. Unlike his predecessor George W. Bush, Obama is loved by the people of the world, but much less by their heads of government. On the heels of recent revelations that US spy agencies might have monitored Chancellor Merkel’s cell phone, the complaints about Merkel’s “lost friend” Obama are misplaced. Obama doesn’t want to be a friend. During a recent visit by a European head of government to Washington, the atmosphere was described as frosty by those in the entourage from Europe. Obama didn’t find the time for even a little small talk, the sources said, and “it seemed to some like an appointment with a lawyer.”(…) So much non-diplomacy is new among US presidents. Reagan wooed Margaret Thatcher. George H.W. Bush confided in Helmut Kohl as Bill Clinton did in Tony Blair. George W. Bush, who many thought was an isolationist, could count on a whole team of “buddies,” such as the then-prime minister of Spain, José Aznar, and the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. He even entertained them at his ranch in Texas. Merkel was also invited there, and in return Bush ate a dinner of wild boar in her German electoral district. The chancellor has from time to time said that she values such trans-Atlantic closeness. That is over. “Coolness has its price,” Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl wrote in 2010, adding that Obama appeared to have no genuine friend among world leaders. But what for? He has the NSA. Der Spiegel
In stark contrast to Mr Obama Merkel has a tendency to under-promise and over-deliver.(…) If the Americans really have been listening in, they might be able to confirm an interesting rumor – that Ms Merkel does not really rate President Obama and considers him to be something of a gasbag. Gideon Rachman – Financial Times
This was all well defined by Obama’s lovely wife Michelle, (the best First Lady I can remember) who described him perfectly when she said, “sometimes I think Barry was raised by wolves“. “politician” and “introvert” are contradictory terms.
Ironically he may go down in history as a good president for what he doesn’t do, like going to war with Syria and Iran… Hillary Clinton would already be at war there if she had been elected president, not to mention either McCain or Romney.
Twerking: The act of moving/shaking ones ass/buns/bottom/buttocks/bum-bum in a circular, up-and-down, and side-to-side motion. Urban Dictionary
Congress capped off a tense and exhausting day Wednesday with back-to-back House and Senate votes on legislation to re-open the shuttered government through Jan. 15 and avert a catastrophic default on the country’s debt until at least Feb. 7. Talking Points Memo“Brevity is the soul of wit”
I think we can be almost grateful for the idiotic crisis in Washington, which even with its possibility of a default which may do heavy damage to the world’s economy, is giving us an ample warning of a far greater crisis looming in the foreseeable future, a crisis of democracy itself.
Reading the snippets below in the order they appear will help give you the shape of what I am talking about:
During the downturn, 78% of jobs lost were either mid-wage or high-wage jobs and, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), three out of five newly created jobs are part-time, low-wage jobs. A growing number of Americans are realizing that “good jobs” aren’t coming back, and that for things to get better, they’re going to have to fight to turn their McJobs into something better. Nicole Aschoff – Dollars and Sense
W. Brian Arthur, a visiting researcher at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center’s intelligence systems lab and a former economics professor at Stanford University, calls it the “autonomous economy.” W. Brian Arthur, a visiting researcher at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center’s intelligence systems lab and a former economics professor at Stanford University, calls it the “autonomous economy.” It’s far more subtle than the idea of robots and automation doing human jobs, he says: it involves “digital processes talking to other digital processes and creating new processes,” enabling us to do many things with fewer people and making yet other human jobs obsolete. (…) And, he says, “digital versions of human intelligence” are increasingly replacing even those jobs once thought to require people. “It will change every profession in ways we have barely seen yet,” he warns. McAfee, associate director of the MIT Center for Digital Business at the Sloan School of Management(…) doesn’t see the recently vanished jobs coming back. The pressure on employment and the resulting inequality will only get worse, he suggests, as digital technologies—fueled with “enough computing power, data, and geeks”—continue their exponential advances over the next several decades. “I would like to be wrong,” he says, “but when all these science-fiction technologies are deployed, what will we need all the people for?” MIT Technology Review Magazine
“Insecurity of employment is a new strategy and a tactic for increasing profits by reducing as much as possible the reliance on human labor or by paying employees less. In the modern capitalist economy, the only factor whose productivity cannot be easily increased and whose costs cannot easily be reduced is human beings. There is therefore enormous pressure to eliminate them from the production process. This would be true, whether or not there were global competition. It is more the case that this is the excuse by which this process is justified today.” Eric Hobsbawm – The New Century, pg128
At the same time that Republicans want to increase the influence of the rich on our elections, they want to decrease the influence of the poor at the ballot box by passing a raft of new voter restrictions. This is a sinister, last-gasp move of gangsterism: when you’re losing the game, tilt the table. You must understand this larger plot to fully appreciate the Republicans’ current budget ploy. This is not so much about limiting government as it is about measuring power. Charles M. Blow – New York Times
So simply put our economic system is fast reaching a point where it can run profitably with very little human input, or put more precisely, to run profitably it must reduce human input to a minimum. Logically this process will make more and more people increasingly unhappy as it unfolds. In a democracy of universal suffrage such unhappiness would naturally have far reaching consequences as it did during the Great Depression, when it led to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal,” which freed millions of Americans from despair and destitution.
Avoiding the possibility of such a new New Deal is the fundamental raison d’être of the radical so called “conservatives”, who go under the name, “tea party” and their “fellow travelers” in the US Supreme Court.
The simple goal of those who fund all of this is to limit or neuter universal suffrage and to effectively return things to where they were in the early 19th century when only those who owned substantial property were allowed to exercise full citizenship.
This is terrible but it could be worse. In the days of the Wiemar Republic of Germany (1919-1933) the German super-rich, to avoid any danger to their power, wealth and privilege, funded one Adolph Hitler, who blamed all Germany’s problems on the Jews and led the country into a disastrous war, which left Germany in smoking ruins with many millions of Germans, Jew and Gentile, soldiers and civilians, dead. However it should be noted that those super-rich German families made money before the war, during the war and even after the war and today, are still the richest people in Germany.
This goes to show that what could be a disaster for everyone else in the entire world would not necessarily be a bad outcome for the super-rich.
Cross posted from: http://seaton-newslinks.blogspot.com
In American-Speak someone of little understanding is said to be unable to distinguish between excrement and shoe polish, we say then that he or she “can’t tell shit from Shinola.” It appears that in the Occupy Wall Street movement, a perhaps critical mass of Americans have taken it upon themselves to investigate the why and the how of the odor coming from the collective “shoe” and have set about to do something about it. Not a moment too soon if the the recent antics of the Republican House of Representatives are any sort of a leading olfactory indicator of the nation’s mental health. One gets the feeling that the spirit of the republic is a little like the Bruce Willis character in The Sixth Sense, he’s dead but doesn’t know it yet and only one small boy seems to understand the situation. Perhaps the Occupy Wall Street movement is that “small boy.”
There is certainly a sense that something is terribly wrong, something mysterious, but I think it could be something quite simple, if intractable, that is afflicting the system. Like the Bruce Willis character, we really don’t understand our true situation. In my opinion we are going through something similar to what the USSR went through only a little more than twenty years ago. Twenty years may seem a long time to someone under forty, but in historical terms it is nothing more than a blink of the eye. From the Versailles Peace Conference in 1919 to the outbreak of World War Two in 1939 is only twenty years.
Absurd, you say, the two systems are totally different, like oil and water … I would say that the similarities are more interesting than the differences and that America has simply been more efficient than the USSR was in resisting the same acids that are eating away at its structures in much the same way as they did at the Soviet’s.
Both the USSR and the USA have relied on huge government spending to propel their economies. The role of government funded research has been essential in almost every high tech area: computers, the Internet, aviation, etc, in all of them the input of the state has been paramount. Where the United States won hands down was in turning the sophisticated technology so expensively acquired into affordable consumer products and fomenting never-never credit to keep them affordable when salaries stagnated.
“What about freedom?” you say, to which I would reply that the social control of the Soviet system was extraordinarily brutal and primitive compared to our system of social control, which is infinitely more sophisticated than theirs was. I never lived in the Soviet Union and my experience of how a well-oiled dictatorship controls public opinion comes from having lived in Franco’s Spain. Franco lasted forty years and the Soviets lasted seventy. Although the USSR was communist and Spain’s regime was authoritarian/fascist, the similarities in maintaining control would be great.