Saturday, December 31, 2011

Creating Jobs Out Of Cow Manure

Republicans are credited and rightly so for controlling public debate in the country, with the help of a vast network of think tanks, media outlets and activist organizations, by monopolizing talk radio and by downplaying internal differences and concentrating on the one goal of holding on to power.


Along the way to controlling the agenda they have convinced people to believe a lot that's not supported by any evidence. That socialism was a threat. That socialism still is a threat. That Americans are exceptional. That the market is free. That the market is controlled by an invisible hand that allots resources better than can people acting in congress who have a lick or two of common sense among them. That Ronald Reagan was not an amiable buffoon who left office with low popularity ratings. That Ronald Reagan didn't raise taxes.

 One of the dumbest, but most nefarious things Republicans have convinced people of is that when the government lowers taxes on "job creators," i.e. the rich, these people create more jobs.

That truism is one of the basic tenants of Neoliberalism, that is, of Reaganomics. If you raise taxes, it holds, business people don't have the money to hire people. If you keep taxes low, business people create jobs. If you lower them further, they create even more jobs.

To think about how that would work out, use this example, or use any example, as long as it demonstrates what they are saying. My example is that if you cut a business person's taxes by, say, $100,000 per year, that would allow them to hire, say, five people at $20,000 per year.



Those people would be put to work making things or performing services. If the business was, say, a shirt factory, that already employed ten people, who were making 100 shirts per day, these five new employees could make 50 extra shirts per day.

The exact numbers don't matter. The business doesn't matter. Put in any numbers you care to, and use any example you can come up with, but you have to be able to demonstrate the theory that cutting taxes translates into jobs, which transltes into more goods and services created.

In this example, a $100,00 tax cut has translated into five additional jobs, and 50 extra shirts per day. But what is not included in the truism is this: Now that there are an extra fifty shirts per day on the market, the businessperson has to hope he or she will sell them.

This part of the scenario isn't addressed in the cutting taxes = job creation truism. Of course, it's possible that the shirts will get sold. Maybe there is pent up demand. Maybe working peoples' pockets are full of money and they want to buy shirts with it. Maybe the flood of goods and services that enter the market because tax cuts have been given to all businesses all will get sold.

Or maybe not. It doesn't really matter. My point is that no consideration of the market is included in the Republican truism that cutting taxes means job creation.


One doesn't have to be a business person or an economist to realize how stupid the truism sounds on its face. It not only sounds stupid, it is stupid, because so called "job creators" do not create jobs. Demand creates jobs. Working men and women having money in their pockets, by which they can meet needs or fulfill desires, creates jobs.

Job creators don't create jobs. Tax cuts don't create jobs. Free money doesn't create jobs. Do you think that, if a business person finds $100,000 on the sidewalk, it will actually even occur to them to use the money to hire some people and have them make things and then hope they business can sell those things?

Business people must know the truism is stupid, but don't point out how stupid it is because they want the $100,000. They are not stupid.

What's stupid is that no Democrat I've ever heard has pointed out how stupid the Republican truism about cutting taxes equaling job creation is.

Of course, it could be that Democrats are aware of how stupid it is, but are afraid that if they point out how stupid it is, their campaign contributions will dry up. It also could be that they agree with the Republicans, but know that their role in American democracy is to pretend that they represent the interests of working people while actually representing the interests of the rich.


Entrepreneurial Spirit
 

A word about that risk taking entrepreneurial hero of American Capitalism, the one Republicans and Democrats alike hold up as an example of what makes America so exceptional. The entrepreneurial spirit, they all say, is what causes innovation. But people don't go into business out of some innate desire to innovate. They go into business out of an innate desire to get rich. To accumulate wealth. To make life easier.

Yes, sometimes people start business not knowing if they will be able to sell the goods or services they are about to offer on the market. They take that risk. Whether they are acting intelligently or not, they take that risk. It's often said that half of all new businesses fail, and the primary reason new businesses fail is that the owners have not been able to calculate the demand for their good or service beforehand.

In other words, they produced good or services hoping they could sell them. Just like the business person doesn't do in my example above, but would have to do if the Republicans' truism that tax cuts = job creation was true.

Established business don't take such risks, and it is established businesses that fill Republican bank accounts and that Republicans are talking about when they repeat the mantra about job creators creating jobs.



When established businesses think about expanding, they have many means at their disposal by which they can find out if there is demand for the added goods or services they will create.

But they usually don't even have to make a good guess, because what happens, in the real world, in the real economy, is that an established business, say, a shirt factory, that is producing, say, 100 shirts per day, gets a call from the people they supply shirts to, or they call that person. As a result of the call, they now know that the people they supply shirts to wants more shirts. The result of the call is that they now have an order for another 50 shirts per day. An order is a comittment ot purchase, and at a specific price.

They have the order because the demand is there, already, and when they get the order, then and only then will they they spend the money to hire more workers. And if they don't have the money they will borrow it, and they will borrow the money because they have in hand an order for more shirts, at a certain price, and they and the lender know beforehand that they will make more than the interest costs, the labor costs, and the expanding the factory costs.

Getting back to the Republican truism. There is no reason for a business to spend any extra money they come across, whether it's profits, from tax cuts, or found on the sidewalk, unless the demand, represented by the order for more shirts, is already there, or if their research tells them there is a reasonable expectation it will be there. If the demand is not there, any extra money they come by goes straight into their pocket, and if the demand is there, their tax expense is only one of many expenses that go into the cost-benefit equation that tells them they will profit from the expansion.

But Republicans want us to believe that that extra money goes into creating jobs. That it goes into producing extra goods and services, which are then thrown onto the marketplace in the hopes someone will buy them.


One More Thing

As I say, taxes are just one of the expenses a business has. If there is demand, it doesn't matter how high taxes, or other expenses, are. The demand could only exist if the people had enough money in their pockets by which they can realize needs and desires, and taxes and other expenses are already figured into this equation, because it is part of the price the business is asking for the good or service.

It's like this. If each of the pool of potential customers only has $100 each, there won't be a market for Mercedes Benz cars. If each has 1 million, there will be.

There is a relationship between the price and the demand. If the price is too high, the demand will melt away. Either someone else will find a way to produce the item at lower cost, or the consumer will buy something else that satisfies the need or desire.



Republican policies of propping up businesses lets some businesses that would have failed continue on inefficiently. But there's not a free market, and Republicans  don't want a free market, they want a rigged market. If the market was really left to decide who fails and who succeeds at business, we'd have better business owners. Smart business people find a way to make money in spite of high expenses, as they do in Europe, where, as Federick Allen, an editor at Forbes, reported the other day, automakers, despite paying double in salary costs as they do in America, are more profitable than they are here.

There is one more fallacy behind the Republican truism that giving money to a business person will cause the business person to create jobs. Republicans also want to lower wages, meaning that the price at which something is no longer demanded is reached even more quickly. The theoretical end points for price, for wages, and for demand, when wages are in decline, are all zero. Going in the other direction, when wages are on the rise, there is no end point.

But this would lead to hyper inflation, right? No. When everyone's demands are met because they can afford to met them, demand will fall off, and prices will drop. Demand for raw materials will also drop, and prices for them will drop. Prices and wages will stabilize and wages will not have to increase any more in order for workers' demands to be met.

In fact, there will be downward pressure on wages, as demand dries up and sales slow. Taxes, which will go toward providing social services -- education, health care, retirement -- can remain high. An equilibrium will be achieved, as it is in Europe, where standards of living are higher than in the US and where health care is free and universal.

Or at least all that was true before Neoliberalism began to be implemented in Europe, too. Before the Eurozone and the IMF and the World bank all adopted Neoliberalism. The reason that happy state of equilibrium with high wages and successful businesses and health care and education and all the rest can't happen now, of course, is that Republicans, and their counterparts in Europe, are lying, and Democrats and their counterparts, for whatever reason, whether they are ignorant or are on the same side as Republicans, don't call them on it.

Neoliberalism was always a lie, from the moment Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher first began to implement it. It is not an economic theory, but a collection of focus group tested campaign slogans. It is a scheme devised to redistribute wealth upward, devised when, in the post World War II years, the working classes in the US and Europe had achieved the highest standard of living in the history of the world.

To be sure, that standard of living was the result not only of a fairer distribution of wealth. It was the result of much of the sum total of US and European wealth being stolen and extracted by force from other peoples, from the so called developing nations, from the so called third world. The Occupy Wall Street movement shows signs of being universal in nature, and some in it are taking into account the global disparity of wealth, and there are others in the Us and in Europe who definitely take it into account. but so far, the discourse in the US and in Europe only compares the western working classes with western Capital, and only compares the state of fairness now with what it was before.

And in that context, Neoliberalism is achieving its goal, as wages and standards of living for working people are in decline and inequality of wealth is back to the levels it was at in the 1920s, a time of unregulated, voracious Capitalism, when Capital routinely used state violence to suppress the working class. Conditions had become so intolerable that they led to the rise of the Labor Movement, and Socialism, and increasing living standards for the working class.

We see the precursors for history to repeat itself. Voracious, unregulated capital is back. The Occupy Wall Street movement is raising consciousness among the working classes. But Capital will do everything it can to make sure things don't get out of control, to make sure that working class consciousness isn't raised to the level at which the working class realizes its power. Capital in fact is showing us that it will do everything in its power to prevent that, including using violence committed by the police, one of the coercive arms of the state that is at its service, now, as then, a state run by Republicans and Democrats alike.





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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Massacre Accomplished


This happy little picture is running on the sidebar in the Direct Action Newsletter, an activist web site based in Brighton, England, which, incidentally, is a good, feisty way to keep up with activism in England, especially of the Anarchist variety. They recently, for example, did some good stories about people who are squatting in vacant commercial buildings. 

The number of Iraqis who have died as the result of our illegal, unnecessary and wanton destruction of that country is given as, depending on who is counting, anywhere from 104,000 by the web site Iraq Body Count to, in the authoritative survey by the British medical journal the Lancet, a block by block survey of excess deaths, in a range of between 392,979 and 942,646, with a statistical likelihood of just over 600,000, to the New York Times' recent estimate of "tens of thousands," an estimate apparently made up by an editorial writer while he was in the process of writing the editorial, and about which a letter to the editor by Ian Sinclair of London said, "...to significantly underestimate the death and destruction in Iraq will likely lead to more support for this war — and future wars — than would be the case if the true costs were widely known." Which is a lot more politely than I would have put it.




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Monday, December 26, 2011

Go Daddy, Please


The discount web site hosting company Go Daddy, mentioned in my previous post after it drew the ire of Anonymous, among many others, for coming out in favor of two bills in congress that would throttle free speech on the internet, is getting a lot of bad publicity, and many, most notably Wikipedia, are leaving the company, but so far it's not a mass exodus, writes Joe Wilcox on the web site betanews, who looked up the statistics, but who also describes the bills before congress:


House representatives introduced SOPA in October, following Senate bill PROTECT IP introduced in May. (Review the bills: PROTECT IP. SOPA.) Either bill would give the government broad powers to take down websites, seize domains and compel search engines from indexing these properties. Little more than a request from copyright holders is necessary. It's essentially guilty-until-proven-innocent legislation that would punish the many for the sins of the few, while disrupting the fundamental attributes that made the Internet so successful and empowered so many individuals or businesses to accomplish so much. 

It's also being widely reported on the blogosphere that Go Daddy was exempted from the legislation by an amendment inserted by Republican Lamar Smith, who sits on the committee the House version came out of, and others have already tracked down the fact that Smith and other committee members took money from Go Daddy.

But forget about that. Sufficient reason to boycott Go Daddy is provided by a series of tasteless, sexist, utterly lame TV commercials they've commissioned, such as:



The ad is billed as having been banned from the Super Bowl. No, sorry, that's just a way of hyping the ad, of getting people to watch it. That ad was never intended to be aired. It's nowhere near the caliber you'd see in such a high priced venue as the Super Bowl. The writing, the production, the acting, none of it is even everyday network TV quality.

The only time I've ever seen anything that lame and tasteless is when I lived in Charleston, SC, and local TV ran ads like one where an old redneck used car dealer walked up to a model who was standing on the hood of a car and wearing a bikini under a long, billowy skirt, and ripped her skirt off.

Charleston is also where I saw my first infomercial, an ad disguised as a talk show. I was shocked by it and called the station manager and complained. I said I thought it was immoral, and that he should at least run a disclaimer saying it was not regular programming. He disagreed, and the next day I got an envelope from him in the mail. He'd torn out ads from the local newspaper that showed women wearing bras. Now this, he had scribbled in the margin, is immoral.

The same station manager in an editorial referred to the Civil War as The War of Yankee Aggression. But that's Charleston, home of the confederacy, where the local paper, defending  the flying of the Confederate flag on the state capital, editorialized that if people wanted the Confederate flag to come down they'd first have to stop celebrating other symbols of division like Martin Luther King.

And where the insurance industry sent the local state senator, a good looking blond who always wore a big bow in the back of her hair, on plush island vacations, and then sent her out to stand in front of the TV cameras to explain why we needed insurance reform. The state legislature set insurance rates, and a bill had to be passed to change the rates. Reform was needed, she'd tell us every year, because of uninsured drivers, that was why our insurance rates were so high. And every year, after insurance reform was passed, my rates would go up.

Charleston is an isolated, back woods town living in a time warp, a racist, corrupt little cesspool, but where they're always smiling when the tourists get out of their cars, and Go Daddy now says it doesn't support the internet censorship bills, that in fact, it has been trying to reform the bills for three years as they have passed through congress.

Charleston, Go Daddy. Go Daddy, Charleston. Two birds of a feather.




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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Mount Mount Rushmore II

The latest video from those hackers for truth and justice, those modern day cyber Robin Hoods,  Anonymous,  has to do with the decision by Go Daddy, a big commercial web site hosting service, to get behind SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, the Senate version of a nefarious bill that will give the government complete control over the internet. Along with the provisions in the defense budget just passed and signed into law by President Obama, that give the military the authority to imprison, without charge, without recourse, without access to an attorney, without telling you why, forever, anyone who is deemed to be a terrorist, to include, according to how our government has already used that term, environmentalists, supporters of Palestinian rights, or simply people who disapprove of the government whether from the Left or Right, it is the kind of action a ruling elite takes when it knows it has lost legitimacy with those it rules, says Dan Dewalt, writing for the web site This Can't Be Happening. (I detailed both bills, here and here.)
,
 After you see a video on YouTube, a screen comes up with other videos you might be interested in. One came up today that has received a lot of views and that I found to be pretty funny in places, not so funny in others, and that I think may give some insight into the generation that will soon be in charge of the world. It's raunchy in places and even racist and sexist in places. My generation was raunchy and sexist and racist in places but it was kept more undercover, so that we could pretend it didn't really exist, and it was always bubbling to the surface in various ways. Now it's more out in the open. I think it's better this way. Censorship cuts both ways. It can conceal the truth, or merely disguise it.


Both videos follow.

Note: The Anonymous video was released 12/23. Already Go Daddy has retreated
to a neutral position, saying they neither support or oppose SOPA.


Note: On the second video you may have to stop the video in some places to be able to read what is on the screen.









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Blogomania

I finally found the motivation to export the content from my Blogger blog to my Wordpress blog. It's very easy, once you know how to do it, which is the same thing my ex wife told me on our wedding night.

I have always written all my posts except for a couple in the Blogger blog. I started a Wordpress blog but never got around to learning how to use it.

There are a couple of ways to export/import a blog. The process I used involves converting the Blogger blog to a html file, which is the same thing you'd do to save the contents of your blog. I saved that to my hard drive. The Wordpress blog is set up to import a file like that. All you do is, from your dashboard, find the html file on your computer and let it import it.

It transferred all the pictures, comments, everything. It made posts that look different, but they look pretty good.

I don't know how to transfer new posts individually. It could be that I have to import the entire blog each time. I just don't know.

There were more than 200 posts at the Blogger blog. Hopefully anyone who is subscribed to the Wordpress blog didn't get more than 200 emails notifying them of new posts. If they did, I apologize. In order to prevent that from happening I will post to each blog separately for the time being, until I know what I'm doing. Hopefully things will go well, unlike my wedding night.

http://bubbamuntzer.blogspot.com/

http://bubbamuntzer.wordpress.com/




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Saturday, December 24, 2011

Now We Know Why Reagan Never Made It Up There




Archeologists in a distant future studying this era may well categorize photographs like this in the "Too lazy to take it out of the rack, too lazy to buy it" genre.

They will note that the genre's rise coincided with the widespread availability of the cell phone camera and the advent of drive-through everything.




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In Summary

There are a few things of note I've been setting aside that did not turn into full blown posts.

The "Debt Crisis"

"We have experienced the most sustained fall in living standards since the Great Depression," hummed Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England.


Mervyn King
That quote is in the current installment of Marxist analysis of the global crisis of Capitalism at the web log The Wolf Report. It helps to have a basic understanding of Marxist Economic terminology, but even so, these articles are very revealing. This one unravels the meaning of the latest developments in the European "debt crisis," which are very germane to the concurrent attack on the US working class.

It's not about governments outspending their means at all. It's about the use of debt by those who have money and want more of it, ours. Much Leftist economic analysis of late has been demonstrating how debt is being used as a tool to strip nations of their assets and loot their citizens of their personal wealth.


Before The Arab Spring

In a 1999 article in Monthly Review, UCLA Professor of History Robin D.G. Kelly revisited Discourse on Colonialism, a 1955 book by Aime Caesaire, a thinker, writer and later politician from the Caribbean nation of Martinique, that is considered to be one of the fundamental texts of Black Nationalist thinking. Caesaire's book, and writings of the period like Franz Fanon's "The Wretched of the Earth," which was on my Father's book shelf, not only helped ignite and provide the theoretical background for the stunning series of rebellions and revolutions that eventually freed every African country from European colonial domination, but also have influenced many prominent African American thinkers.


Aime Cesaire
 Malcom X, for example, whose writings and speeches have never gone out of style and who continues to influence and be widely respected by intellectuals of all races, despite having always been characterized by the US mainstream as irrelevant and "uppity." Malcolm personified the Black Nationalist. If you have heard the term Black Nationalism and wondered what it's all about, Kelly's article will provide you with a good background.
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Malcolm X
 I learned of Kelly's article when he was interviewed recently on the Pacifica radio program Against The Grain, which I listen to via their podcasts and which is one of my must hear programs. The interview focused on Caesaire but also touched on a forthcoming book by Kelly, Africa Speaks, America Answers, about a back and forth that has existed between African music and American jazz. You can get the mp3 file here or subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.




Trouble On The Plantation

Hugo Chavez, el Presidente of oil-rich Venezuela and a convert to socialism after his first election as president, recently called US President Barak Obama a "clown" and an "embarrassment,"
according to The Guardian.

Chavez no doubt received several nods of agreement from fed-up Americans on that, and when he advised Obama to "Focus on governing your country, which you've turned into a disaster."
 

We are well aware of the disaster part, the many disappointments, the permanently high unemployment rate, the continuing tsunami of home foreclosures and a housing market still in intensive care after three years, policies that protect the interests of the rich and his never ceasing subservience to congressional Republicans, his hostility to the environment, his refusal to prosecute even one person involved in the looting of the American economy that led to its meltdown, the continuation of torture and spying on US citizens, his newly initiated policy of murdering anyone he says needs to be murdered, his military adventurism in the service of Capital, his record number of prosecutions of government whistle blowers, and on, and on, and on.


In the part of that sentence about Obama needing to focus on America, Chavez refers to his continual demonization by the Obama Admnistration and the many ways it is seeking to undermine his government. Like all previous US administrations, the current one misses no opportunity to portray leaders in Latin America who assert their independence from the Yankee Empire, which has long regarded all of the Americas as its private plantation and under its domain, as a dictator, as authoritarian, as unstable, as a crackpot, and whatever else they can think of so that, hopefully, Americans won't notice that they are daring to create a more humane alternative to Capitalism, or mind so much when they send in the CIA to murder them. Chavez' outspoken manner has left him especially susceptible to such attacks.

 Chavez has made a lot of progress toward building a society that takes care of all its members, where things like health care, housing, and education are universal rights. The Western, Capatalist media ignores all that and gleefully participates in the erroneous characterizations. The Guardian, especially. It has a tradition of stationing a reporter in Latin American who spends most of his time demonizing Chavez. Until recently it was Rory Carroll.


A better way to keep up on what's happening in Venezuela is the web site Venezuela Analysis. You don't have to read too many articles there before you're shaking your head and wondering why the same thing Chavez is doing there isn't being done here, and everywhere.
 



Voter Fraud - By Republicans

The Obama Administration has done a few things right, like going after some of the many Republican controlled states that are trying to restrict the voting rights of minorities and those with lower incomes,
people who traditionally tend to vote Democratic.


Benjamin Jealous
Democracy Now recently covered this, interviewing Benjamin Jealous of the NAACP and Bob Edgar of Common Cause. Video, audio, and a written transcript of the segment are available.

New Mexico, where Susanna Martinez as a newly elected Republican governor swiftly launched an attack on voter fraud, gets a mention in the scandal. Republicans have been trying to justify their many assaults on voting rights (more than 30 states have passed laws restricting voting. The federal government is only going after those states covered by the Voting Rights Act, i.e., southern states) by saying they are passing all these restrictive laws in order to prevent voter fraud. They are requiring voters to have a separate picture id especially for voting that is difficult if not impossible for many poor people to obtain, they are eliminating or reducing early voting, and eliminating same day registration, among other things.


 The problem is that voter fraud barely exists. In New Mexico, in the 2008 general election, a combined 819,254 votes were cast for Democrat Barak Obama and Republican John McCain. Jealous says New Mexico spent $1 million looking for fraudulent voters and found two of them.

That means .0000024 percent of votes in New Mexico were illegally cast. It's hard to even make that number meaningful. It's one quarter of one thousandth of one percent. Another way to break it down is that Martinez spent a half million dollars to uncover each fraudulent vote.

Republicans, with a straight face, say that they are protecting the integrity of the electoral process, which is necessary for there to be democracy. Democracy isn't in danger because of fraudulent voting, it's in danger because of Republicans.

 


But Who Has The Riches?


Half the US population is now classified as living in poverty or as low income. A CBS News story blames this on people being too rich to qualify for food stamps and other assistance. Guess how that reporter, and his editor, vote?

What happened to America being the richest country in the world? Ever since I started this blog I've documented the decline in wages and living standards in the US, and the continual attacks on those government programs we are all too rich to receive. I've also tried to lay out the basics of Neoliberalism, also known as the Washington Consensus, which is the consensus among Democrats, Republicans, the IMF and World Bank, and the political class in Europe. It's panned off as an economic system, but it's merely a set of practices designed to lower the living standards of the working classes in the Western Democracies. When it was introduced by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher 30 years ago it was sold as trickle down economics, and for 30 years now it hasn't trickled down, as wealth and income disparities -- the gap between the rich and the rest of us -- are now back at 1920s levels.


Franklin Roosevelt
 Social programs in the US like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Workman's Compensation, SSI disability insurance, Food Stamps, Aid To Families With Dependent Children, housing assistance, student loans and grants -- and an even more generous social safety net in the European countries, were put in place because there used to be an alternative to Capitalism. It was Socialism. In the latter part of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th, Socialism had begun to be a viable political expression in the US. There were many elected Socialists. Socialists were elected as mayors in cities like Minneapolis and Milwaukee. Capitalism headed off this threat to its privileges with Franklin Roosevelt, who was of the one percent and whose New Deal programs took much of the steam out of Socialism in the US by enacting into law much of what the Socialists had been demanding.
 

Frank Zeidler
The relentless attack on Socialism of the McCarthy era with its Blacklists and loyalty oaths and FBI persecution took some more of the steam out of Socialism in the US. More was taken out by the US-initiated Cold War with its constant propaganda about the threats of Socialism, the USSR and China, threats that were all non existent. To combat the influence of Socialism among the working class, Roosevelt had removed many of the restrictions that made it hard to organize workplaces, on the condition that unions expunge all their Socialist and Communist officers and members. As the barriers to organizing were lifted, union membership increased to more than 35 percent of the US work force, and as a direct result of that, the American working class in the post World War II years achieved the highest standard of living of any working class in the history of the world.

Hubert H Humphrey
Now, the Washington Consensus, Neoliberal thinking goes, there isn't an alternative to Capitalism. Now, the thinking goes, it's time to do away with unions, time to discipline the working classes, to include the so called Middle Class who thought they had risen to the point that they didn't have to worry about slipping into poverty, didn't have to worry about ever being called low income again.



 



Too Big For The Law


This may be the most gut wrenching thing I've heard lately. Former Wall Street investment banker turned crusading journalist Nomi Prins says that the conditions that led to the economic collapse of 2007-2008 are worse now than then. Big banks are holding more so called derivatives, where they, for example, bundle thousands of home loans into a package and then sell shares of that, than they did when the collapse occurred.

In other words, the financial industry reforms touted by President Obama and passed by the congress did nothing to confront the problem. That's how bought and paid for our elected officials are.

Prins, who worked at Goldman Sachs and Bear-Stearns, has written about this a lot, as have others, and she talked about it at length on the Democracy Now program of Dec. 14. There are audio and video downloads and a written transcript of the interview.


Besides our economy being vulnerable to another crisis caused by the gambling and graft of the 1 percent, the $800 billion bailout we hear about, which Conservative media outlets glory in saying has already been almost repaid, are just a fraction of the trillions our government and the Federal Reserve have handed over to the banks, by such means as giving the big banks interest free loans which they can then use to buy interest bearing treasury bonds. The latest figure for the total bailout is $29 trillion.

By our government opening the treasury vaults to the big banks, and by the other means by which they extract wealth from the US economy, the big banks have fleeced our future out from under us. They have had themselves officially classified as too big to fail, ensuring that when the next crisis comes they will again be lined up at the public trough, and congress and the president will be there to ladle out our money for them.


 


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Friday, December 23, 2011

To All The Statistics, Peace



This chart appeared a few days ago in an article about the housing market. It shows vacant houses, the bottom line, doubling, from roughly 1.5 million to 3 million, as the economy worsens and as the banks throw more people out of their homes. In articles like these, that's not how it's said. It's said that homes are foreclosed on, or even better, that 'foreclosure rates increase.' In the chart, it's "home vacancy rate."


Whatever your outlook, it's an interesting chart, to me. For one thing it shows how we think about things, and how people become statistics.

Another thing about the chart that interests me is the relationship between the two lines. You might conclude that as people are thrown out of houses, they either become homeless, or move in with others, or that they move into rental housing.

One of the Republican presidential candidates, Mitt Romney, awhile back in two or three breezy sentences explained how the increases in foreclosures was an investment opportunity. Investors will buy up the foreclosed upon homes, he said, and rent them out to people who had lost homes.  Everyone would be happy.


That scenario is reflected in the charts, in the statistics, although there is some lag time before rental vacancy rates start to nosedive, that is, as apartments start to fill up, as there are fewer vacant apartments. You can see that during the worst of the recession, as presented on the chart, the rental vacancy rate actually climbed sharply. People weren't living anywhere. They lived with other people or were homeless.


Eventually the vacancy rate drops. Apartments start filling up. What the scenario doesn't include is the fact that landlords keep an eye on that vacancy rate. Their expenses haven't changed, but when there aren't any vacant apartments left, when you have no place else to go, that's when they raise your rent.

Which means that, statistically speaking, there's more money extracted from the economy. It slows the economic recovery, or speeds up its decline as the case may be. And for people already having a hard time, life gets a little harder.




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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Copyright, Dickheadedness, and Love

I redesigned the blog, somewhat. I kind of wanted to make it less gloomy looking, even though now, when I want to express gloom and doom, which I enjoy doing and do often, I'll have to work harder at it.

A couple of people whose blogs I follow and whom I admire redesigned their blogs lately, and they had really nice looking blogs already. I wondered about that. Had the people who host these web logs put in some new software they wanted to try out? Are they particularly courageous people? Do they have a lot of spare time on their hands?

I had been tired of how my blog looked for some time, but didn't have the time or inclination to do anything about it. I devoted yesterday to the redesign, at the expense of furthering a little short story I just started and am kind of excited about. For me it was like getting a hair cut. I put it off and put it off and then finally get so tired of putting it off that I do it. Like the hair cut, I don't like how it looks. I''m just glad to be done with the self recrimination.

Here, by the way, are two versions of a picture I wanted to use in the header, followed by the original. I was trying for something in between the first two, but ran out of time and inclination.




 


 The original was in a file folder full of pictures I was going to consider using, but I got so wrapped up in making the header I did make  that I never even looked at them. C'est la vie. Mine, anyway.

 I don't see how the forms for designing a blog have changed very much. It's harder for me to find way around in that area, is about all, but that could be me, too. They say technology advances more rapidly all the time, and it was advancing a little too fast for me already.

I tested out some new ideas on another blog I started once -- but never did anything with -- when I was working in the oil and gas fields. I sometimes was at wells where they were doing fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, where they pump chemicals down into the ground at high pressure to break up the rock so more oil or gas will flow out. When he was vice president, Dick Cheney, who had been the president of Haliburton, the biggest frackers of them all, had gotten a law passed that said they didn't have to say what was in the fracking fluid. It was supposedly because it was a trade secret, but the real reason, I'm sure, was so environmentalists couldn't look up the chemicals and then announce how dangerous they were, how cancer causing and birth defect causing they were. It's Dick Cheney, after all. It was a Republican administration, after all.

I was working on a contract basis, for a contractor, and I was asking a lot of questions out there, about how the industry is organized and things like that, trying to get a grasp on the parameters of the business and logistical end of it.

The guy I worked for had seen my resume, of course, and so he knew I'd been a newspaper reporter. He flew us to where we'd be working, and we were supposed to stay for four weeks, then he'd fly us home for a week off. My first time out, I stayed six weeks, and then he flew me home, and he never called me back. When I didn't get a call after my week off I called him to see what was going on. He wouldn't answer the phone and didn't return my messages, and I suspect he suspected my motivations for being out there. Maybe not specifically, but all my questions might have made him wonder. Maybe.

I had planned to get a sample of fracking fluid and get it analyzed, and then either give that information to an environmental group of write about it myself. Probably both at once. I don't know if it was the reason he never called me back. I just never talked to him again. He owed me about $125, too, but I just let it go. It was terrible work, and I had only taken it out of desperation, and the fracking fluid idea just came to me after I got out there. It could have been other things, too. It's a strange world out there, that business. It's all contractors, people who come from all over and don't now each other and are suspicious and wary of each other. It's like truck driving in that regard. It's like life in general, but more so.

Anyway, I did the redesign, but I started this post intending to talk about copyright. When I was trying out my blog redesign ideas on that other web site, I saw that there was a place on the web log form for you to put a copyright notice on your blog.

When I started this web log I put some kind of copyright notice at the bottom. I post little short stories once in awhile, and I wanted control of those, and I wanted the name Bubba Muntzer to be under copyright protection.

It's probably not common knowledge, but a copyright notice isn't needed for something to be copyrighted. The act of publishing something gives it automatic copyright protection. But even newspapers, where they know this perfectly well, will put a copyright notice on a big, exclusive story. That's just a way of them saying 'Hey, this is a big, exclusive story, and we know it and we want you to know it and more to the point, we want you to buy a paper because advertising rates are always based on a paper's average paid daily circulation, OK?'

I know a copyright notice isn't necessary, too, but I use one anyway. It's like putting up a No Trespassing sign. It doesn't make trespassing any more illegal. I wanted to talk about copyright because I got to thinking about why we, I, want things to be copyrighted. It's the profit motive. It's about who, if anyone, will profit from my work, my ideas, my creativity or even, in some cases, my good fortune.

By profit I mean not only monetarily, but in other ways. Writing, creating, blogging, of course, has the potential to bring someone fame and fortune. It could, potentially, mean a different lifestyle than the one we are living, a lifestyle that seems easier, better. A big, sprawling house with a view, with a big garage with one or more really cool cars in it, a clean refrigerator, better sex partners than we have now.

Or, sex partners. The existence of sex partners.

But we, I, write, we create, we state our opinions, we blog, for more than one reason, and each of us has her or his own set of reasons. Not everyone expects to profit monetarily. But we don't want someone else to profit monetarily, or to profit in some of the other ways we profit or hope to profit, either. Hence, copyright.

But where, in the psyche, does all of that reside?

The image of that other lifestyle, the image of someone else getting it, from our production, and the desire to deny them that, resides, of course, in that nexus of fear and greed that enshrouds the conscious mind, which is the conscious manifestation our ego conjures up out of unconscious urges and presents us with, unconscious urges to live and survive and to make sure our progeny survive, urges that can get way out of whack under Capitalism.

Some people, mostly people of Leftist political views who are engaged in trying to find ways to have a better world, among which are finding ways to manage those very conscious and unconscious urges, by the way, now copyright things under something known as the Creative Commons License.


It's a very interesting concept. It's a new kind of legal framework for copyright and for intellectual property rights. It's a way to retain some control over your production but in a way so as to not be a dickhead about it. If someone wants to borrow your stuff and use it to make a better world with, fine, but if they just want to use it to profit, no. You are able to define which rights you retain and which you give up freely.

Put another way, a Creative Commons copyright means someone can use your stuff if they are not going to profit from it, whereas classic copyright law means that you can't use my stuff, period, for any reason.

Creative Commons copyright, then, means I want some control over my production but I'm not going to be a dickhead about it.

And not being a dickhead is a necessary precondition, at this historical juncture, here where we are right now, at this late stage of Capitalism, as it lurches from one crisis to the next, as the opportunities for the Capitalist class to profit dry up and they have taken to profiting by extracting more wealth from we, of the working classes -- which is what Neoliberalism is, concisely -- and with all the fear and loathing and suspicion that an economic system careening down this particular path is bound to engender, it's a good thing there are people who are trying to put into place systems and structures and forms that will allow us to, at least, be less dickheaded, to attain the less dickheaded precondition, by systems and structures and forms that remove some of the barriers that prevent us from expressing what we actually need to be expressing, that prevent our production from being for the purpose of what we are naturally inclined for it to be for, which is, in my estimation, love.

I assume everyone has had the experience of meeting someone who at first seemed like a dickhead, but when you got to know them, you saw another side of them. Maybe you entered into a social system, like a workplace, and were treated harshly by this person. You asked someone about them and they said, "Oh, that's just his way."

After time, or by way of being forced into regular close proximity with this person, you discovered that there was, indeed, a real person in there, a nice person, and if you are of an analytical bent you knew then that the harsh exterior was a defense mechanism. For some people, life has been so mean that they assume a preemptive meanness. It's a type of defensive shell. I'll get them before they get me. This will keep them at bay. It becomes habitual, unconscious.

Almost invariably there is a nice person behind the protective shell of anyone. We want to be nice. It's our natural state. We naturally love other members of our species. Even other species, other living things. Inanimate things even.

To express love is our natural condition, our natural inclination, but the social structures we live under, which are determined by the Capitalist economic system and all that it requires of us if we are to survive under it, cause each of us to form some kind of defensive shell. You can reform Capitalism, as happened from the 1930s through the 1970s. You can put a kinder face on it, but it's just a matter of degree, and as we see happening now, with income and wealth disparities back to where they were in the 1920s, the forces that drive Capitalism reassert themselves, and reassert themselves in the particular ways they do because Capitalism, and its ideological partner Conservatism, are nothing but ways of managing our lesser natures, our greed and fear.

All the while we walk around behind a shield. A facade. Our public face. Only with those people we know well are we able to let down our defenses, be nice, friendly, kind, loving. But that loving core is always there, in all of us. It's our natural state of being, and if you take an honest account of your life, of all your normal daily interactions and what their nature is, you have to realize that we can't attain that natural state under Capitalism, at least not many us us can, not more than a few of us.

In fact, having more material wealth sets into motion psychological processes that result in being afraid we are going to lose it. The rich and famous rarely even appear in public. Their circle of trusted friends shrinks, and it's not simply material loss they are afraid of. It's the mental, psychological, emotional demands people put of them, that they begin to avoid at all costs.

They buy their way out of their condition. They give a percentage. They start foundations in their own name. Between that and the material satisfaction and the power and the ego trip, it's enough, but they can't enjoy the simple pleasure of walking down the street smiling at everyone and wishing them a nice day. They can't know the joy of loving all the members of one's own species, of loving, and being loved, by everyone, of sharing what you have, that is, of distributing wealth equitably, of relinquishing  your rights of ownership even if just a little at a time, of not doing the opposite, not being caught up in the mad, unnatural process of accumulating more and more, much more than we physically need, which is what Capitalism is.
 








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Saturday, December 17, 2011

Comet Lovejoy Lives

Comet Lovejoy was expected to vaporize and flare up brightly as it passed within a few hundred thousand miles of the sun. Cameras from several satellites, American, European and Japanese, were trained on Lovejoy as it entered the sun's corona, where temperatures can reach 2 million degrees, and scientists were surprised when it emerged on the other side.  

(click "read more" to view a moving picture of the comet and read the rest of the post.)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Screen Shot, top right corner, Google news aggregator, 4:45 p.m. Dec 14, 2011





Yep. Yes, indeed.

And the Occupy Wall Street movement continues to expand.






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Sunday, December 11, 2011

I Protest, Therefore I Am


The web site Buzzfeed has posted pictures of some of the best protest signs of the year. They are creative, funny, inspiring. I enjoyed reading them immensely and encourage you to take a look. I put one here; the guy holding it happens to be one of my favorite intellectuals, Princeton Professor Cornel West, who I think understands America better than anyone.

The signs are from the uprising in Wisconsin, the Arab Spring revolutions, the Indignados (the Indignants) in Spain, the student movement in Chile, the Occupy Movement, and other protests during the year. Some of the best are counter-protests to those religious right wing wackos who hold up signs saying "God hates fags," often at the funerals of our soldiers killed in the Middle East.

There are protests everywhere now, all the time, on every continent, and even in Russia now, where after questionable elections this past week the largest protests since the fall of the Soviet Union are underway. A year ago it was business as usual. There was a continual, low rumble of complaints about inequity, and then everything changed.

It may be especially visible to me, owing to the media I keep track of, which is keeping track of all of it, but it creeps more and more into the headlines, where it's even being debated whether or not the protest movement has changed the terms of the debate. It's difficult to argue that it has not. It's like nothing I have ever experienced. I've spent my adult life wondering why Americans never stood up for themselves. It's exhilarating to see it finally happen. It brings tear to my eyes sometimes.

It all can be traced back to the uprising in Tunisia, just a year ago now, but as some point out, that uprising can be traced back to the heroic actions of a brave US Army Private First Class, Bradley Manning, the alleged leaker of tens of thousands of US government documents that demonstrated the underhandedness, the cynicism, the double dealing, the lying our government commits on behalf of US Capitalism.
Some of those documents, which are still gradually being released by WikiLeaks, had to do with US government knowledge and appeasement of massive state corruption in Tunisia. Their release caused outrage in Tunisia, and it was directly after the leak of those documents that the Tunisian uprising broke out. From there it spread to Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, Libya, where they were also reading leaked documents, and finally reached the US and the rest of the world.

Recall that the first things leaked were videos of US pilots killing what they knew to be Iraqi civilians from the air, and joking around about it. Those were but a portend of the dirty secrets our government was hiding, and it was the moral duty, indeed, the patriotic obligation, to, once knowing of the corruption that infuses all levels of our government and military establishment, to make sure that truth was known to the American people, no matter the personal sacrifice.

 PFC Bradley Manning still sits in the brig at Fort Leavenworth, MO. He has not yet been charged with anything, after more than a year in military prisons, much of it under harsh conditions and in solitary confinement. It is widely believed the Obama Administration is attempting to break him psychologically so he'll turn on Julian Assange of Wikileaks. We owe Bradley our gratitude and support. He's the patriot.


Please visit the Bradley Manning Support Network web site and bring yourself up to date on his case. He has some good people and some good lawyers behind him, and the more the better.








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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Location, Location, Location, and Taxes

On the one hand, the literature on opening a business often contains the advice that the three most important considerations when opening a business are location, location and location. I'm not an expert, but it makes sense to me. I only stop at businesses that are on my way home from work. If they don't have it, I don't need it. Furthermore, I think most people open businesses near where they live. In the same town, usually. They are there because they want to be. They own a home there, their kids go to school there. Their friends and family are there. You wouldn't move a surf shop from California, which is near the ocean to, say, Arizona, which isn't, to take advantage of lower taxes.

But a story being widely reprinted on web sites from Fox News to Andrew Breitbart to Yahoo News to a web log called Capitalist Preservation (dedicated to "Exposing the absolute weightlessness of Progressive logic") by AP business writer Michael Gormley about taxes being raised on millionaires in California and New York, which blames the tax increases on the Occupy Wall Street movement, repeats the often heard canard that raising taxes on businesses will cause them to move. There is no evidence for this whatsoever. Like much of what passes for economic analysis, it's simply conservative propaganda; focus group tested phrases designed to hit hot buttons and obscure.

Not so fast, though. I did find this photograph, which proves conclusively that if you raises taxes on a business, the owner will pick up and move
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All that you have done to our people
is registered in notebooks


Republican candidate for president Newt Gingrich this week called the Palestinians an "invented" people, repeating the claim made by Joan Peters in her 1984 book From Time Immemorial, the entirety of which book has been thoroughly discredited and is not even taken seriously in Israel anymore, although the claim still reverberates among large numbers of American supporters of Israel whose votes Gingrich craves.

 The assertion that there never was a Palestine is part of the process of legitimizing their dismissal, and elimination. And yet in the same rambling sentence, Gingrich says the non-existent Palestinians "had a chance to go many places." In this he refers to the mass slaughter and expulsion of Palestinians from their homes, villages and towns by Jewish gangs and militias upon the bloody formation of Israel in 1948, which the Palestinians call al Nakba, the catastrophe. It is often claimed that the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who were made refugees then, the descendants of whom now total in the millions and still live in refugee camps in Lebanon, Syria and Palestine, voluntarily left their homes, villages and towns.

By a vote of the UN General Assembly -- not the Security Council --  in 1948, the Jews who amounted to 12 percent of the population of Palestine were given just over half of Palestine on which to form a Jewish state. By way of various land thefts in the intervening years, Israel has expunged Palestinians from most of the rest of historic Palestine.



 



The ethnic cleansing of Palestine continues. The 40-year long, US sponsored "peace process" has been a guise to provide cover for the ongoing theft of land and murder and displacement of Palestinians. All one needs for proof of that is listen to mainstream American politicians, like Newt Gingrich.

Israel militarily controls the remaining Palestinian territory it has not yet seized, i.e. Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem. It militarily occupies the West Bank and East Jerusalem, where it rigidly restricts the movement of Palestinians, and tightly controls of the borders of Gaza, allowing in only limited amounts of food, fuel and other supplies. Gazans survive on UN food rations. The goal is to make life so unbearable for Palestinians that they simply leave.

The Palestinian Center For Human rights publishes weekly reports documenting the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine. The reports list killings and abuses of Palestinians by the Israeli military and Jewish "settlers," i.e. Jews who are actively engaged in the theft of Palestinian land. It documents Palestinians home demolitions and records the amounts of goods the Israeli military allows into and out of the Palestinian territories. It documents the frequent rocket attacks and bombings of Palestinian homes by the Israeli military.

The reports are breathtaking not only in their detail but in their length.

The title of this post is a line from a poem by Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish.


Our Country is a Graveyard


Mahmoud Darwish
 

Gentlemen, you have transformed
our country into a graveyard

You have planted bullets in our heads
and organized massacres

Gentlemen, nothing passes like that

without account

All that you have done to our people

is registered in notebooks 


Translated by Assad Abu-Khalil

(Originally posted here - Khalil, a UC-Stanislaus professor of politics, authors the widely read web log The Angry Arab, where he often comments on Palestine.)



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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Time

If you are tired of changing the time on your digital watch every time the time changes between daylight savings and standard time, consider this ingenious solution:


  
Instead of trying to change the time on your watch, just change watches.

I don't know which time we're on now, standard or daylight savings, and I don't care. Having to change time is a pain in the ass. I've heard various stories for why we do it. It was for the railroads. Whatever that means. It's so factory owners can save money on their light bills. It's so it would always be dark when Herbert Hoover's wife went for her morning bare naked run through the streets of the capital. Richard Nixon started it during that time when he was doing drugs and studying voodoo.

Whatever the reason, I don't, as I say, care. It's an inconvenience I don't need. It always takes me a day to realize the time has changed and meanwhile I'm an hour late or hour early for everything, but mainly I hate it because I have to change the time on my watch.

I wear the $10 digital watches made in China. The Chinese people make wonderful watches. They keep perfect time. Every year the watches are fancier, cheaper, and do more things. They are stop watches and chronographs. They are alarm clocks, even if you have to be wide awake and holding the watch up to your ear to know the alarm is going off. They work underwater and in outer space. They do trigonometry, taxonomy and astrology. They tell you how much wallpaper you need to buy for your bathroom. The newer ones tell you Oprah's weight, both real and advertised. The readout flashes back and forth between the two.

But for all the Chinese watchmakers' prowess they do not know how to make it easy to set the time on their watches. There is no such thing as one-click time setting. To set or change the time, you have to push a series of different buttons, first to change the hour, then again for the minutes, and again for the seconds, and after I figure out how to set the hour and want to set the minutes, I can't even remember which buttons I just pushed to set the hour, let alone, when it's time to adjust for the change in time, remember which I buttons I just pushed six months ago the last time the time changed.

And so solving this problem was a personal moment of triumph for me, and I say that with the realization that you may be thinking; 'There are poor children in Africa who can only afford one cheap $10 digital watch,' or you may be thinking, 'If coming up with that idea was a personal moment of triumph for him, he has not had very many personal moments of triumph in his life,' which although it may be true, is beside the point, as far as I'm concerned.

Now here's a tangentially related video of the Chambers Brothers doing a strangely truncated version of their song Time Has Come Today on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1969.








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Sunday, December 4, 2011

Senators Bingaman, Udall Vote For Police State
"Deranged" Senate approves alarming bill 93-7


It's actually much easier to list the senators who voted against the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, the one that contains, as Andy Worthington notes, "a number of astonishingly alarming provisions" such the mandatory indefinite detention without trial of terrorism suspects by the military in, most likely, the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which facility the act makes virtually impossible to close.


President Obama, who as my last post demonstrates has taken every opportunity to make America more like a police state, has threatened to veto this bill for the simple reason that it usurps some of his powers, although the addition of an amendment that would allow him to transfer detainees to civilian prisons, and his habit of backpedaling and flip flopping after first taking high sounding, principled positions, as well as the upcoming elections, make it unlikely he will muster up the courage to actually use his veto. 


Voting against the bill:

Tom Harkin, D, IA
Rand Paul, R, KY
Tom Coburn, R, OK
Jeff Merkley, D, OR
Ron Wyden, D, OR
Mike Lee, R, UT
Bernie Sanders, I (socialist), VT


Every single other senator voted for it.





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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Barak Obama's Assault On Civil Liberties

When President Obama signaled through the media that it was OK if local jurisdictions broke up Occupy Wall Street encampments around the country by whatever means they chose, and when the attacks on encampments nationwide turned out to have been coordinated by the administration, and when police who broke up the encampments were systematically violent, it raised calls among activists that the US was becoming "a police state." The calls increased when the president had two US citizens assassinated in Yemen, with no evidence for their guilt ever having been provided, to anyone, not even a judge, and when people realized that no US citizen, anywhere, is protected under the law from being murdered at the order of the president.
Oppressive Regime Promises Reform


US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Myanmar President Thein Sein.

  "As a first step in the process of normalizing relations between our two countries, we have agreed to implement democratic reforms and stop the violent suppression of protests," Clinton said in a statement after the meeting.





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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tahrir - Freedom

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Tahrir Square
Emad Hajjaj, Cagle Cartoons, Jordan





While Egyptians voted this week in the first free elections in their country, for members of parliament that will be responsible for writing a new constitution, protests continue in Tahrir Square in Cairo and in Alexandria and Giza against the military council that has been running the country since the fall of US backed dictator Hosnai Mubarak earlier this year. The council, made up of top members of the Mubarak regime, is simply a continuation of the Mubarak regime without Mubarak and has been maneuvering to retain its power and privileges even after the adoption of the new constitution. Under the council rule, more than 12,000 civilians have been tried and convicted in military trials on charges associated with protesting.

Meanwhile the US Senate Wednesday approved a military budget that contains provisions slipped into it without public hearings being held on them that would give the US military vast new powers to detain indefinitely anyone, anywhere. Under the new provisions, US citizens could be snatched off the street in the US and held forever without any proof being offered for their guilt and without their case ever being reviewed by any judge or court of law.

This comes not long after President Obama began using new powers granted to him that allow him to order the assassination of US citizens "suspected of terrorism," evidence for which likewise is secret and not subject to judicial review or oversight. Both measures are ostensibly intended to be weapons in the war on terror, under which the US has entered into what is looking more and more to be a state of permanent war, against an ill defined enemy.

Whether there even is an enemy is doubtful. Most of the highly publicized arrests of so-called terrorists in the US since 9/11 have turned out to be cases of the entrapment of impressionable young Muslims by the FBI or other law enforcement agencies, or of unbalanced men acting alone. Al Quaeda, the group once headed by the late Osama bin Laden, that was responsible for the attacks on the World Trade, no longer exists as a viable entity, our intelligence services say.

Both measures also coincide with the rise of the Occupy Wall Street movement.





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