Monday, December 21, 2009


About a month ago, reports emerged about NBA games being fixed. Former referee Tom Donaghy, speaking on 60 Minutes, described in detail the manner in which he could predict the outcome of NBA games for his own gambling purposes. You can view the interviews here and here. In his book, "Blowing The Whistle," which ended up not being published, Donaghy said the following about famed NBA coach Dick Bavetta:
That very first time Jack and I bet on an NBA game, Dick [Bavetta] was on the court. The team we picked lost the game, but it covered the large point spread and that’s how we won the money. Because of the matchup that night, I had some notion of who might win the game, but that’s not why I was confident enough to pull the trigger and pick the other team. The real reason I picked the losing team was that I was just about certain they would cover the spread, no matter how badly they played. That is where Dick Bavetta comes into the picture.

From my earliest involvement with Bavetta, I learned that he likes to keep games close, and that when a team gets down by double-digit points, he helps the players save face. He accomplishes this act of mercy by quietly, and frequently, blowing the whistle on the team that’s having the better night. Team fouls suddenly become one-sided between the contestants, and the score begins to tighten up. That’s the way Dick Bavetta referees a game — and everyone in the league knew it.


Studying under Dick Bavetta for 13 years was like pursuing a graduate degree in advanced game manipulation. He knew how to marshal the tempo and tone of a game better than any referee in the league, by far. He also knew how to take subtle — and not so subtle — cues from the NBA front office and extend a playoff series or, worse yet, change the complexion of that series.
As a long time NBA fan, frankly I wasn't surprised by these revelations. I saw far too many games where it was clear the one team received an inordinate number of fouls in situations where it was also clear the both teams were doing things worthy of fouls. The things related above about Bavetta were also not difficult to see without knowing the facts above. Often a game would cruise along, sans fouls, until some point near the end of the game, when things would mysteriously grind to a near halt. The revelations that all of this was conscious on the part of the referees for various reasons shocked me, but didn't surprise me.

In a parallel realm, but with far more dire consequences, it should be increasingly clear to even casual observers that we Americans are Officially Fucked. Quite frankly, I've been too depressed to even write anything recently. The effort seems hopeless on so many levels. As we've watched the healthcare "debate" in DC, it should be obvious to anyone with a modicum of consciousness that the game is fixed. We saw, as an example, 30 Democratic Senators vote against an amendment to the healthcare bill that would have allowed Americans to purchase prescription drugs imported from Canada and elsewhere. We were told, point blank, that this happened due to White House pressure to make sure the agreement Obama made with Big Pharma didn't fall apart.

So our Senators voted against our interests. Meanwhile, they've created a legislative Frankenstein healthcare bill that won't go into force for four or more years. 2014. W.T.F......

Then last night I saw this piece on 60 Minutes:

Watch CBS News Videos Online

The population of Wilmington is about 12,000; the 60 Minutes report says they lost 10,000 jobs. 10,000. One can assume that the job losses, largely the result of DHL's decision to abandon its US market in 2008, affected a much larger population than Wilmington; but basically this move by DHL eliminated almost all the jobs in this small midwestern town.

As I watched this piece, I felt ill. As I am currently unemployed, it struck me as to how close such an eventuality is for me, and millions of other Americans. Fortunately my girlfriend is able to support us for now. Obviously, though, nothing is guaranteed. I live in the Detroit area, where the unemployment rate in the city proper approaches 50%. And none of this takes into account the mammoth psychological toll this places upon me and others. This year marks the first Christmas in my adult life I've been unemployed. I am simply not used to this. None of us are.

Are we all lemmings? Is the fact that our individual and collective interests are being sold out, piece by piece, by our own elected officials, something we are unable or unwilling to do anything about? Is the obvious fact that our own government is under the control of corporate interests, lobbyists hired by giant companies willing to pay or do anything to advance their own interests, something we all simply choose to ignore?

I've argued with friends about the conspiratorial nature of all this. I think that corporations are purposefully working to bring about the demise of the middle class in this country. And my opinion is shared now by even former U.S. Senators:
Who is against jobs in the United States? The big banks, Wall Street, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Business Roundtable, the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, Corporate America, the President of the United States, Congress of the United States.
Stop for a moment and reflect on this statement. A former U.S. Senator claims that the President of the United States, Barack H. Obama, who I campaigned for, who campaigned on a promise of "change we can believe in", is against jobs. He then presents evidence of this fact. Very much like former NBA referee Donaghy, he points out what has been obvious for a long time to anyone wishing to see it.

Corporations bray about the fact the good management all gets down to a matter of results. Fine. If we look at the results of their management of company after company, particularly in the case of for-profit, publicly held, multinational corporations, is it difficult to see the results? When corporations move their factories from this country to elsewhere, with the result being entire towns, counties, states falling into massive unemployment with little hope of jobs returning at any time soon, while their stock price goes through the roof, what rational person can deny that this result isn't purposeful? When we see the stock price of insurance companies reach a 50-year high after the Senate announces its healthcare plan, do we really need any help to see who benefits from all this?

As I observe all this, it appears increasingly clear - which I hope is merely my fear - that no substantive change will take place here through civil means. The fix appears to be in. While the details of the conclusion of the game may be left somewhat to chance, like the NBA games alluded to above, the conclusion, the outcome, has already be decided. Can we muster any collective strength as our national hour of darkness increases to do anything that will right our ship? Or is our democratic experiment already over, and those of us who thought otherwise are fools? Are we all such lemmings, or will any consciousness on these vital areas awaken us to the point where we can wrest our destiny from the corporate overlords and leave a world for our children that is in some way better than the world we received?

The Obvious

Former Senator Fritz Hollings posted the following on Huffington Post. His brutal honesty makes the point I've been arguing about for some time. I quote his article in its entirety here without comment. More to come:

Who is against jobs in the United States? The big banks, Wall Street, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Business Roundtable, the United States Chamber of Commerce, the National Retail Federation, Corporate America, the President of the United States, Congress of the United States. Everyone is crying for jobs, but no one seems to understand why there aren't any. And the reason for those opposing jobs is money.

Beginning in 1973, big banks made most of their profit outside of the United States. Industries off-shoring, investing, banks financing the investments, transfer fees, fees and interest on the loans made for bigger profits. Long since, the big banks under the leadership of David Rockefeller have led the way to off-shore and make a bigger profit. Goldman Sachs, AIG, Citicorp and Wall Street, conspiring for a bailout and now using it for bonuses, make more money from the off-shored operations.

The Council on Foreign Relations ought to be renamed the Council on Making Money. A recent PEW poll reported fully 85% of Americans said that protecting United States jobs should be a top foreign policy priority. But only 21% of the Council on Foreign Relations agrees. Financial interests organized the Business Roundtable to continue off-shore investment and profit. The local Chamber is for Main Street America, but Tom Donahue and the United States Chamber have sold out to the financial interests and oppose jobs and producing in the United States. Thirty years ago, hundreds of thousands of Arrow shirts produced in China were a best seller in the United States. But at Christmastime, the Chinese supply ran short and the retail stores had to order the same shirt from New Jersey. They made 20% less profit on the New Jersey shirt. Retailers are all for profit from imports and against domestic production and jobs in America.

Corporate America would fight any initiative by the President, the Congress, or the government to create jobs in the United States. That is, production that faces competition offshore. In globalization, U. S. production can't make a profit, can't survive. Its competition will off-shore the same article for a lesser price, putting you out of business. Moreover, Corporate America doesn't have to bother with labor in China. The China government controls labor and you don't have to worry about a work stoppage or minimum wage. All they have is a maximum wage.

And Corporate America doesn't have to worry with clean air and clean water or the environment in China. Nor does it have to worry with OSHA and all of its safety rules. Many times the factory building is furnished and you don't have to worry with capital costs. If you make a profit, you can just reinvest it in an additional operation and not have to pay any U. S. income tax. If the operation fails, walk away with no legacy costs. Corporate America bitterly opposes its government protecting and strengthening the U. S. economy because producing again in America will put the executives back to work. They can send a Jaycee to China to watch the quality control daily and sit on the 32nd floor on Sixth Avenue with the internet, keeping check, and, leaving early for a massage and drinks. With production in China they don't have to work.

As Commander-in-Chief, the President dithered for months over the number of troops. But he can't equip the troops except for the favor of a foreign country. The War Production Act of 1950 requires the President to make sure that we can produce in- country those articles necessary for our national defense. Enforcing this law would limit the campaign contributions. Under Section 201 of the trade laws, the President is supposed to take action, like impose tariffs or quotas, when a certain production is endangered. Not only endangered, our automobile production has been bankrupted. But all the President does is give Detroit bailout welfare. The President doesn't want to limit the campaign contributions.

The same with Congress. Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota long ago tried to allocate the tax incentive for foreign jobs and production to domestic jobs and production. The Business Roundtable and the U. S. Chamber fought it like a tiger and killed it.

As the President said in his West Point talk, there is fierce competition in international trade and globalization. All countries move to protect and build their economies while the United States goes out of business. The one advantage that the U.S. has is its richest market in the world. It is fast becoming the poorest market and the U.S. is losing any clout to maintain a strong economy.

The economy is in the hands of Summers, Bernanke and Geithner. Campaign contributions are in the hands of David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel. The poor President is smart, diligent and working his head off campaigning. But he is inexperienced and not governing, and the Congress is in a Mexican standoff over an archaic filibuster rule that reveres democracy by the minority.

Of course, the media, which knows this and keeps it top secret, is owned by big business.

If I don't meet you in the breadline, my children will.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What He Said

Finally there are a few sane voices regarding the need for a different economic direction! In this clip, Representative Peter DeFazio brings up the obvious:

Yes, Timmy Geithner and Larry Summers DO need to go. I don't think this even begins to remedy the myriad problems with the economy; perhaps this would only be symbolic. After all, for every well-known name like either Geithner or Summers, there is a long list of other people, some of whom probably having even more influence than either of these fools. Clearly, as the daily Dow Jones average shows when compared with the unemployment figures, these people work for Wall Street, not Main Street.

That said, their removal will have little effect on the continual slide of the middle class in this country toward its seemingly inevitable demise. I sincerely hope that some cataclysmic event isn't necessary to produce some fundamental realignment in the United States. The prospects, however, do not look good....

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

We're All Slaves Now

An article on Talking Points Memo by blogger Saladin reflects similar thinking to mine. There is a comment posted by one commenter named peoplechoose that discusses the intentionality of this rise in debt.

I agree with the writer that this entire debt mess is intentional. I think it serves several purposes.

First of all, the vast accumulation of debt in this country has, in fact, already caused the demise of the middle class. Most people who call themselves "middle class" don't actually own much at all. Who do you know that actually owns their house and their car? In Michael Moore's recent Capitalism, A Love Story movie, he recounts how his father, working for AC Delco in Flint, MI, owned is house outright by the time Moore was four, and bought a new car every three years. What person in our time, working on stagnant wages that haven't gone up in more than a decade, can do that?

The student loan factor that Saladin discusses here is a key to this slide into servitude. By training young people that huge amounts of debt is the norm, the stage is set for successive moves on the debt game board. Once a young person is convinced that six figure debt is inevitable, even larger amounts of debt seem normal.

Secondly, I argue that this effort to normalize debt is intentional. The intention of this effort is manifold, but should be obvious. If we ask, who benefits from this huge mountain of debt, the answer is simple: for profit, publicly held corporations. This accumulation of debt serves their need for ever-rising stock prices. Additionally, if the middle class in this country collapses, then at some point in the future, corporations can re-sell us all this cool stuff again. First convince the Chinese they want to be like the US. We buy all their cool, cheap stuff and go into untold amounts of debt doing so. Our economy collapses under the weight while China prospers. Once we fall, these same corporations can flip the whole mess around....

Finally, this effort is profoundly undemocratic. As Kevin Phillips argued in his book, Wealth and Democracy, the tension between accumulation of vast amounts of wealth and the democratic impulse dates back before the founding of this Republic. The few who have accumulated these vast amounts of money have no real interest in democracy. An indentured body of citizens serves them well.

Please read this series of articles:

The Structures That Divide Us
The Mess of 2009, Part 1
The Mess of 2009, Part 2
The Mess of 2009, Part 3

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Obama Campaign Promises

So now the status quo forces begin to talk about the Left - again - as if we've lost our minds. Chris Matthews recently said this in a conversation on MSNBC with Andrea Mitchell. (I'm sure that she and her husband never talk politics, and it never influences her reporting....)
Everybody is doing their politics here. She represents San Francisco and she represents, I know the Speaker's role. you have to respond to the nosiest elements in your caucus, and the most passionate and apparently, I assume just knowing the Democratic House, the voices she's hearing from every single day are the left who want out. Now this president never promised to get out of Afghanistan. And he's not gonna...

He never promised to pull out, that was the good war, the necessary war. Oh, by the way he never ran on the public option. Somebody's got to tell these people on the left and the netroots and some of our colleagues, yeah, he might like the idea of a public option, he may prefer it. He didn't run on it.
He didn't get elected for it. So this idea that he somehow betrayed a left wing mandate is nonsense.
Well, yes he did - this is from the PDF document, The Blueprint For Change - Barack Obama's Plan For America:

Quality, Affordable and Portable Coverage for All
(1) Obama’s Plan to Cover Uninsured
Obama will make available a new national health plan so all Americans, including the self-employed and small businesses, can buy affordable health coverage that is similar to the plan available to members of Congress.

The Obama Plan will have the Following Features:
Guaranteed Eligibility: No American will be turned away FROM ANY INSURANCE PLAN because of illness or pre-existing conditions.
Comprehensive Benefits: The benefit package will be similar to that offered through Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), the plan members of Congress have. The plan will cover all essential medical services, including preventive, maternity and mental health care.
Affordable Premiums, Co-Pays and Deductibles.
Subsidies: Individuals and families who do not qualify for Medicaid or SCHIP but still need financial assistance will receive an income-related federal subsidy to buy into the new public plan or purchase a private health care plan.
Simplified Paperwork and Reined in Health Costs.
Easy Enrollment: The new public plan will be simple to enroll in and provide ready access to coverage.
Portability and Choice: Participants in the new public plan and the National Health Insurance Exchange (see below) will be able to move from job to job without changing or jeopardizing their health care coverage.
Quality and Efficiency: Participating insurance companies in the new public program will be required to report data to ensure that standards for quality, health information technology and administration are being met.
This document was circulated widely by the Obama campaign. Some might argue that nowhere does this document champion a "public option." If this description isn't about an optional public plan, I don't know what is. The accompanying quote from an Obama campaign speech spells it out:
“We now face an opportunity – and an obligation – to turn the page on the failed politics of yesterday’s health care debates.... My plan begins by covering every American. If you already have health insurance, the only thing that will change for you under this plan is the amount of money you will spend on premiums. That will be less. If you are one of the 45 million Americans who don’t have health insurance, you will have it after this plan becomes law. No one will be turned away because of a preexisting condition or illness.”
--Barack Obama, Speech in Iowa City, IA, May 29, 2007

This was the change we could believe in. Those of us who now expect the President to keep his word are not the left wing nuts that the MSM portrays us as. The President's words are clear and unambiguous. Mr. President, keep your word.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Economic Voodoo

As I've written in several places earlier, the rise of debt in the United States, and elsewhere has had profoundly negative effects on various parts of the American psyche. I've argued that we Americans have been seduced into thinking that debt is neutral, or perhaps good. I've also pointed out the obvious fact (at least obvious after some reflection) that corporations have made a conscious effort to convince us that debt is a good thing, that the world will come to an end, or perhaps fall off its axis, if we don't take on more and more debt. I've also pointed out that the move toward more and more debt produces slavery, rather than the freedom pronounced in commercial after commercial by Visa, Mastercard, AmEx, etc. This slavery, I contend, is intentional, and produces a dramatic dampening effect on the force of democracy here and elsewhere. People who are in debt slavery are resistant to efforts to rock the boat. If you have a huge amount of debt, maintenance of the status quo is crucial to keeping the status quo.

I have also stated my ongoing concern about the pronouncements from the Obama administration regarding our economy, and the fact that the same ship of fools that got us into this mess are hard at work now within the Obama White House. In last few days, some additional analysis of some of the President's recent comments on our economic travails. Referring back to a speech the President gave in April 2009, economist Steve Keen points out an obvious fact. First here's the speech, with the section in question:
Of course, there are some who argue that the government should stand back and simply let these banks fail – especially since in many cases it was their bad decisions that helped create the crisis in the first place. But whether we like it or not, history has repeatedly shown that when nations do not take early and aggressive action to get credit flowing again, they have crises that last years and years instead of months and months – years of low growth, low job creation, and low investment that cost those nations far more than a course of bold, upfront action. And although there are a lot of Americans who understandably think that government money would be better spent going directly to families and businesses instead of banks – "where's our bailout?," they ask – the truth is that a dollar of capital in a bank can actually result in eight or ten dollars of loans to families and businesses, a multiplier effect that can ultimately lead to a faster pace of economic growth.
In these words, President Obama spells out the strategy of bailing out the financial institutions that got us into this mess, rather than directly giving money to individual Americans. Read it carefully. Can you spot the problem with this strategy?

Steve Keen makes this statement of the obvious, once you discover the fly in the ointment:

This argument comes straight out of the neoclassical economics textbook. Fortunately, due to the clear manner in which Obama enunciates it, the flaw in this textbook argument is vividly apparent in his speech. This “multiplier effect” will only work if American families and businesses are willing to take on yet more debt: “a dollar of capital in a bank can actually result in eight or ten dollars of loans”. So the only way the roughly US$1 trillion of money that the Federal Reserve has injected into the banks will result in additional spending is if American families and businesses take out another US$8-10 trillion in loans. What are the odds that this will happen, when they already owe more than they have ever owed in the history of America? …

Our President, who I voted for and campaigned for in the 2008 election, presents me with a gift I must refuse: more debt. He states that for all of this to succeed, we all must go into debt yet more! Be it a business or an individual, the only way for this economic stimulus to work as planned is if, for every dollar given to a lending institution, we all borrow ten times as much!

I, for one, must just say "NO" to this idea. Not only is it a bad financial idea, it is also bad for our democracy. Keen argues, and I think convincingly, that money given to consumers would have a far more positive effect on the economy than the Bernanke/Geithner/Summers plan for us all to go directly to debtor hell. I argue, further, that, in addition to the economic travail produced by more and more and more debt, that our democracy will falter yet further, that Americans will feel more and more inslaved - and more and more powerless - if they mount up more and more debt, which appears to be the plan, in the President's own words.

This is a very bad idea. These people are playing with fire. We've seen recently that a certain segment of the American population already feels that our socialist, communist, Marxist, Kenyan undocumented worker president (their fears, not mine) will do from the inside what Osama bin Laden tried from the outside on 9/11. They already carry signs suggesting that the next time they show up that they may do something with all those guns they own.

Now the economic idiots, who are apparently very bright folks, think we should take on more debt? This is a very bad idea. Debt slavery will only add more fuel to this fire. It will produce the mentality of slaves among those who take on more debt. And slaves will, at some point rise up and throw off their chains.

This is exactly what we don't need. I will give President Obama the benefit of the doubt on this; however, perhaps he's thinking too much like the other wealthy white guys he's surrounded himself with. Perhaps the President needs a refresher course on what it's like in the neighborhood his Chicago house is in. You can be sure that most of those folks are already feeling that things have not gone well economically. The more that the average American senses that his or her government is operating for the advantage of a select few rather than the people at large, the greater the threat that those left out will find less peaceful means to resolve their grievances.

And that is something to avoid at all costs.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Message to Teabaggers

This message is in response to this comment on Huffingtonpost about the supposed Post-racial world after the Obama election:

OK Mr. Teabagger....where was your rage at out of control government when our out of control government - run by Republicans - invaded Iraq? Where was your anger at being fooled into supporting an effort that had NOTHING to do with "defending our freedoms", which we heard time after time from the Bush administration? Where was your rage a year ago this month - BEFORE Obama was elected - when the Bush administration cooked up the entire financial bailout deal that got us into this mess?

Now go look at the pictures of the rally this last weekend in DC - what color are all the people there? Is is possible, despite your black friends, that something may have slipped your notice about who you hang out with? Maybe it's true you're not racist, but what about all your cohorts?

Now, for the record, my skin color is probably closer to yours than to Obama's. My ancestors came to this continent about 400 years ago, but not as slaves. I, too have many black friends. Hell, I play jazz and R&B for a living. (that's "black" music) With black folk. But the color of my skin doesn't prevent me from seeing what is patently obvious. When your fellow teabaggers start bragging about their 2nd amendment rights while carrying guns to town hall meetings, and showing up at events where our president is speaking, only a fool could mistake the non-subliminal message these people wish to convey. When the President is receiving death threats at a rate 400 TIMES as many as previous presidents, no person with lineage back to Africa is either surprised or confused about the reasons why.

You call yourself a conservative. What exactly do you want to conserve? What is it you don't want to change? The insanity of the Bush years? The wanton spending propagated by other "conservatives"? The unbroken history of control of the White House by white males - until now? Do you really think that this country has broken with its tragic racist past?

If you have black friends, ask them what THEY think of all this. Go ahead. Then have the courage to write back with the results.

We Americans must have the courage to do much to deal with this issue. First of all, we must have the moral fortitude to look at things as they are in matters of race. It is we, who call ourselves "white" (I'm still looking for that actually white skin on my beige skinned body) who imagined that this group of people WE stole from their homeland are "black" (even very few of them have skin color that is really black, and not brown). We imagined that they were another "race" aside from the human one. We enslaved them, not the other way around.

Secondly, there are still consequences for our actions when we hang out with people who are still racist. The spike in the sale of guns after the 2008 election is not accidental, particularly when the people buying the guns proclaim, point blank, that they're buying guns because there's a negro in the White House. If you have black friends, where in the world is your rage at THAT injustice? Do you have the courage to speak out FOR your black friends?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Nature of Corporations

Those of you who have followed my earlier threads on corporations are aware of my argument that, since the turn of the 19th/20th century, corporations, particularly those spawned in the United States, have a character. That nature, I contend, is anti-democratic, and has also actively worked toward the demise of the middle class.

Today on Daily Kos, on blogger echoes my thoughts and concerns about this well. Entitled This Corporate Life, the writer discusses the recent book by author Douglas Rushkoff, Life Inc.: How The World Became A Corporation and How To Take It Back. Here are a few points made by the blogger and the author that I believe are quite important to any discussion about our current state of national travail.
How would the people screaming around the reflection pool this past Saturday react if you told them that a big part of what drove the American Revolution was not the unfair actions the British government, but the grinding tactics of British corporations?
This fact echoes my own concerns about corporations that few Americans stop to consider: The original Boston Tea Party was an act against a corporation, The East India Tea Company. The American colonists took up arms over the support by the British government of this corporation. The rallying cry, "No taxation without representation" arose out of the fact that the East India Tea Company received favorable tax treatment that the British withheld from American colonists.

Rushkoff shows that corporations don't owe their origins to a desire for fostering innovation or to open up the investor class. It wasn't about building an "ownership society" or encouraging enterprise. Corporations were invented to stop all those things. They were invented because the ruling class saw that the middle class was ascendant, that the would-be bourgeoisie were expanding their wealth and threatening to squirm out from under the thumbs of their upper-class lords. The aristocracy created the corporation to perpetuate the control of the aristocracy.
This is a critical point. As I argued here, the move by corporations to encourage debt for the middle class folks was purposeful, designed to actually bring about the demise of this middle class. By fooling Americans, and others, to accept the false premise that we can be "free" while enslaved to massive personal debt, corporations have succeeded in dissolving the middle class in the United States. By creating a debtor nation, too fearful to speak up in the totalitarian workplace, corporations have succeeded in dismantling the middle class. By trading actual ownership for debt, corporations have successfully enslaved the large majority of us.

Here is another key point:
It’s not that individual corporations are bad. It’s that corporations can’t help but be bad. It’s built into the design.

Integral to every modern corporation is a model that incorporates (literally) the power structure of the late Middle Ages, and the colonization strategy of 18th century empires. They don't open a store in an area, they establish a colony.
Corporations are designed a certain way. In particular, publicly held, for-profit corporations, by law, must increase profits at all costs. The colonial model, which involves, first of all, having power over the colonists, is the centerpiece.

The blogger moves to this key point:
What each chapter of the book drives home is that this activity doesn't require evil people at the helm. There doesn't need to be a cackling set of greedy bastards circling the board table. The structure of a corporation dictates how it will operate. Force of law and force of habit ensures that any action not intended to improve the corporation's means of exploitation is discarded. The corporation is drive to act... like a corporation. It's not an evil plot, it's an evil system.
Please consider this point carefully. Corporations act as they are designed to act. A small group of people have benefited inordinately from this effort. Most of us aren't in that minuscule group.

Until we, as Americans, face this fact, little will make sense. Consider, as an example, the reaction of people under the spell of right wing radio and TV commentators, supporting insurance companies, worrying that the public option will spell the demise of insurance companies. Where is the person who, when actually attempting to get benefits from their health insurance company, ends up thinking, "Wow, what a great company!" ?

Finally, consider these words:
But the stories about corporations aren’t the worst of it. In fact, that’s just the set up. The world is under the control of giant international companies which employ ruthless tactics to break down national barriers -- actually, who often don't even notice national barriers -- and we've all cooperated to the extent that we've helped them dismantle the few things that stood between these relentless abstractions and real people. Yeah, what else is new?

What’s new, at least relatively so, is the extent to which we’ve internalized the values of corporations. We criticize corporations for acting as if only the next quarter counts, but how often do we treat our own investments (an not just our financial investments) in the same way? How often is our response on any issue made on corporate terms, on terms that assume life is a zero-sum game where your advancement means my stagnation?
This type of corporate-think is pandemic. I fully admit that the specter of changing this seems almost beyond our scope. Corporations, and the manner in which they think and operate, are ubiquitous, the norm. To think otherwise seems Luddite. We see the same kinds of arguments about corporations as we do about guns: Corporations aren't either good or bad, it's how people use them.

This notion is false. Corporations will destroy the middle class, and democracy, here and elsewhere unless we recognize this threat and change the laws governing corporations to our advantage. We must make these legal fictions serve our needs. Unless we take this on, corporations will continue to work, consciously and deliberately, to enslave us, to get us to serve their needs.


My writing has been sporadic. I've been hustling my music career and other work. But I'm going to write more....

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Logical Flaw on Torture

There is an essential logical flaw to the notion that, because we tortured people in the past, and we're trying to look forward, we're not going to prosecute these past events. All crimes are in the past when prosecuted. We do not prosecute people for future crimes. We assert that, under our judicial system, all people are innocent until proven guilty. Obviously they are proven guilty of crimes they committed in the past.

On the basis of the logic some are attempting to apply to torture, one could argue that no crimes would ever be prosecuted, because we're looking forward. According to this logic, all victims should simply never complain or cry out for justice, since they are looking backward.

On the whole, the cry for justice always looks backward to past injustices, while attempting to right the wrong in the present or in the future....looking forward. To deny the need to look backward, to correct injustices in the past, those who advocate "looking forward" deny the very nature of justice - which ALWAYS looks backward.

I campaigned and voted for President Obama. I expect more from him than this "forward looking" stuff.

The Banks Own Washington

This last week the U.S. Senate voted down a bill that would have allowed for greater control over home loans and reduced foreclosures. Here are the details:

It continues to surprise and amaze me that so many Americans are unaware of the obvious facts. Corporations control DC. They have rights that we as individuals don't have. Under the guise of "freedom of speech" under the First Amendment - rights they took through a series of questionable court decisions leading up to the infamous Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company decision, which I discussed here - corporations can write off their lobbying. You and I cannot do that. I can't hire someone to lobby for me and then write off the cost of that expense from my taxes.

Until we Americans decide to fundamentally change the underlying laws that define how corporations operate in this country, none of us should be surprised that corporations rule DC and the rest of this country.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Mess of 2009, Part 3

In part 2 of this series, I outlined the use and effect of consumerism on American culture, particularly in the service of publicly-held for-profit corporations. Convincing Americans, first and foremost, that they are consumers, that some part of their self-identity is tied up with being a consumer of things, was a significant step in insuring the profitability of corporations. I consume, therefore, I am. Once a person on some level accepts the notion that they are consumers, that they consume and do so in increasing quantities, that person becomes more and more vulnerable to the machinations of corporations through advertising.

We can see how successful this effort has been by reflecting on the casual manner in which the word consumer is tossed about. A prime example is the monthly publishing of the Consumer Price Index, or CPI. This index is a measure of the average price of consumer goods and services purchased by households. We frequently hear references to consumer confidence as a barometer of how people in this country feel about buying things. Low consumer confidence is bad, high consumer confidence is good.

Think about that for a moment. This idea rests upon the notion that buying more things is good, in and of itself. So, then, high consumer confidence works against such notions as thrift, frugality, conservation, modesty, and other qualities. The more we buy, the higher consumer confidence rises.

I now want to move to another associated handmaiden of corporations that, combined with identification as a consumer, is a powerful hook to close the circle for endless profits. I’m referring to the notion of debt and credit. It is this idea, and the manner in which it has evolved over just a handful of years, that lies at the center of most of our current economic problems. The key, however, in understanding this idea lies in full awareness of what debt serves. Understanding that debt serves a specific purpose for corporations is vital in discerning a solution to this issue and the role of corporations in American and world culture.

Americans are bombarded with endless offers to get more and more credit. Of all things that corporations attempt to sell us, credit is the single element that is the basis for almost all advertising. Corporations try – and largely succeed – to sell us on going further and further into debt. There is hardly an item sold under any venue where we’re not also encouraged to buy the item on credit. Whether the item is a large item like a house or a car, a moderate item like a vacation or a TV, or a small item, that we can purchase for six easy payments of $14.95 (plus shipping and handling), nothing escapes the grasp of debt and credit.

More importantly, we’re sold debt on the basis of debt being at least a neutral experience, perhaps even a good thing. There is rarely a situation where anything negative is associated with increased debt. If you “own” a home (I use the term “own” loosely, since most of us, in fact, don’t own our homes – the mortgage company does) the mortgage company will inevitably try to sell you on more debt. Take out a home equity loan (which actually means, “buy” some more stuff and roll the cost of that stuff into your mortgage). Throughout such a process, there are never any “red lights” – never any effort on the part of the lender to say, as an example, “Do you really need that $30,000 pool in your back yard? Maybe you should save up that $30,000 and pay for it cash!”

As a result of this view of debt, I could, this afternoon, take my credit cards and find something to buy worth $75,000 and spread the debt across several cards, without any cash down. No one, none of the credit card companies, would ask me how such a dramatic increase in my debt would affect my life, whether I can really pay such a debt off, or any other questions that might cause me to pause before spending a tidy sum like that.

In order to grasp the magnitude of the change in attitudes toward debt, reflect back, if you’re old enough, to a time when credit cards were a rarity. If you’re too young to remember this, ask anyone who can remember the early 1960’s. I’ve asked this simple question of dozens of people: “How many credit cards did your parents have?” The answer is usually quick and unequivocal: “None.” Or maybe one – a gas card, or perhaps a department store card. Most often the answer is that our parents had no credit cards. Not a one.

In the early 60’s the public attitudes toward debt were vastly different. Debt was considered negative, something to be avoided. Going into debt brought a certain shame with it. In part, this attitude toward debt reflects longstanding moral restraints on excessive interest charges. The term usury implies charging excessive interest. Usury laws date back thousands of years, with prohibitions on excessive interest charges found in both the Old and New Testaments and the Koran. In particular comes this warning from the Old Testament:

The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender. – Proverbs 22:7

There are two key elements to these ancient words. The first phrase states what I consider a primary goal of rich people: rulership. While not universal, many rich people believe that their wealth gives them rulership rights. The second phrase then spells out their tool to accomplish their rulership permanently: debt.

I find it almost humorous to ask people who grew up in the 60’s whether their parents had credit cards. It’s almost like a light comes on when they think about this for the first time, which many people do because debt is almost an unconscious matter in our culture. In contrast, it is almost normal now for younger people to live in total dependence to debt, thinking that any and all debt is acceptable.

Crucial to this entire effort is this:

Take a moment to reflect on the reality this commercial attempts to conjure up. Going into debt keeps the wheels of progress moving ahead. Paying with cash stops the wheels of progress. Corporations, and the wealthy people they serve, want to convince us all the debt is freedom – like the credit card commercial set to the Rolling Stones’ lyrics, “I’m free to do what I want, any old time.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. This should be obvious once we stop to think about it. There can be no freedom in debt. Who of us feels free when we get our credit card bills? What factors keep us from rising up when we see injustice? Isn’t our indebtedness – our things, multiple cars, a myriad of electronic playtoys, two or more houses, you name it – the force that prevents us from saying what we really believe in that meeting at work?

Even now, despite the fact that the U.S. economy, which appears to be leading the rest of the world toward some economic hellhole, Americans seem so….quiet. We hear reports of older folks going to the homes of AIG executives demanding accountability. Realizing they have few remaining years left and little to lose now that their “guaranteed” 401K’s have evaporated, faced with the prospect of being a greeter at Walmart, what exactly do they have to lose? The rest of us yell… the TV.

I contend this is all purposeful. Corporations, serving the desires of a relative few on this planet, have created a clever web. I will detail that web in my next article.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Musician’s Manifesto

Do you still remember when it started for you? I’ve played music, it seems, since before I was born…and in my case that may actually have been literally true. My mother was a classical pianist and my father, a clergyman, also played pipe organ. I remember one conversation with my father about my bass playing where he noted to correspondence between the mighty sound of the pipe organ and the sheer power of an electric bass.

But there was a point where something touched me. As a bass player, (I already played guitar, piano, violin) there was a moment. I’d just moved to Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood, where the previous dwellers had left a copy of a fateful LP – “The Moods of Marvin Gaye.” One song started it – “One More Heartache.” The bass player – unknown to me at the time – played this bass line that changed my life fundamentally. I had just bought this 1952 Fender Precision Bass (damn I wish I’d kept that one!) for $100. Stunning instrument. Maple fingerboard. This bass line came out of my record player. I had headphones. I listened to it and numerous other Motown songs again and again.

I now know what happened to me. Something resonated - a sympathetic resonation. What I heard flowing from the genius hands of James Jamerson (who I consider the greatest electric bassist of the 20th century) started something vibrating inside of me – like a string somewhere deep in me, a string waiting to be caressed, to sing, to cry.

Do you remember that?

The music of that time had that same world shattering effect on so many of us. We sang about such important things. It was the irresistible beat that moved our feet – and our hearts – without our even noticing. Feet tapped. Heads moved in rhythm. Our bodies felt the groove – the groove of Something Different – a different call than anything we’d ever known before.

And our poets wrote. That same Motown tune:

One more heartache,

I can’t take it,

My heart is carrying such a heavy load,

One more ache will break it.

As I looked out at the world, my heart, indeed, did ache, to the point of “one more and I’ll explode.”

Other poets asked, loudly, poignantly, “What’s Going On?”

Mother, mother

There's too many of you crying

Brother, brother, brother

There's far too many of you dying

You know we've got to find a way

To bring some lovin' here today - Ya

Father, father

We don't need to escalate

You see, war is not the answer

For only love can conquer hate

You know we've got to find a way

To bring some lovin' here today

What’s going on?

Others imagined this:

By the time we got to Woodstock

We were half a million strong

And everywhere there was song and celebration

And I dreamed I saw the bombers

Riding shotgun in the sky

And they were turning into butterflies

Above our nation

We are stardust

We are golden

And we’ve got to get ourselves

Back to the garden

We all felt that place, inside – something moved – what we heard in this great music was, indeed, a call, a spiritual experience we all could taste.

For many of us, music plays that central a role in our lives. It is not “entertainment”. It is, as a great jazz drummer said to me at the end of recent set, music is “re-creation.” We are, indeed, re-created by music. The great African drum cultures, out of which blues, jazz, R&B and rock flowed, understood this. Drumming was not an “art form”. Drummers were not “artists” doing their art Over There. Drumming was the way the unseen forces communicated with the people. It served as a conduit, the way that this unseen realm engaged the village and made them a People, connected them to the earth and to each other.

This was no mere metaphor – just as the power of our music was no metaphor. The great movements of the 60’s – and they were great, indeed – were driven by the music. Those of us not born black took our first look into the world of African Americans through music, whether it was “race music” played on AM radios all over this country throughout the 40s and 50s, or the soul infection so many of us fell to from the truly ecstatic music that flowed out of Motown, from the hands of one of the most potent collections of musical genius we have ever seen. My man Jamerson was the shaman – he was the constant force thoughout that time, the channel that made the Motown sound the Motown sound. He and the drummers made music that changed the entire face of this country. And while the words did wonders, it was the unspoken portion – the music – that changed our hearts.

We didn’t have to go to church. There was no creed, no test we had to pass. It was direct, unmediated. It took no initiation – beyond, of course, the initiation of listening, which seemed impossible not to do. Who could resist it? It crossed all boundaries. Close your eyes. Listen to a Motown tune. There are both black and white musicians playing. Tell me which is which…can you do it? More importantly, does it matter? With my eyes closed, listening to this music, it didn’t matter anyway. It was soul music. And my soul knew it. It was transformed.

So many of us have had this experience. We Knew Something. It drove the revolutionary changes of that era.

What happened? Too many of us lost this sense.

We finally are hearing great voices rising up. It saddens me greatly that too few musicians rose up against the Iraq War. Those of us who remember the 60s and 70s know the power that music held in our movement. Those voices moved us to action.

There has been too little as of late. Too few of us spoke up against the expansion of the corporatist mindset in our culture. Our generation fell for consumerism. And musicians fell for it.

At this point in time, the life of a successful musician is this:

  1. Record a CD.
  2. Record company buys the CD.
  3. The musician or band goes on the road to hustle the CD and to play a few tunes from the next CD.
  4. The next CD gets recorded.
  5. Go back to step 3.

And that’s about it.

Is this really all that music is to us – yet another thing to hustle, that adds to the aggregate success of a bunch of suits?

There were many excesses in the 60s and beyond. We may have gotten too high. However, the thing we heard in music was real – authentic. It meant something. It is time we got back to that.

We live in a time at the cusp of something. I don’t know what it is, or where we go. But we all sense it – we’re on the edge. It is time for all artists to dig deep, to listen to those same primordial voices and rhythms that moved us before.

There should be no question that the suits led us down the wrong road. Corporations, as I discuss elsewhere on this blog, have attempted and largely succeeded in seducing us all to buy their things – all of them, lots of them. In doing so, I contend that their efforts have been quite conscious and deliberate – that their intent has been to decimate the middle class in the United States, and weaken our democracy in doing so.

It is time we musicians, artists, poets, find a loud and clear voice again. Once we stood up against a war we considered unjust, and we spoke out against a culture we knew was too rigid, too closed. It is time we rise up again. This is our time. Let us, once more, listen to those voices, the ones speaking through the rhythms in our music, rising up from a powerful authentic source.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Losing Our Religion

I made some comments earlier about Tim Geithner, and wrote about his comments that there was some "basic inherent economic value" in troubled Wall Street assets. I want to expand today on why I see statements like these as troublesome, and why Tim Geithner needs to be replaced.

My critique of Mr. Geithner - and perhaps of others in the Obama administration - centers around the fairly obvious disconnect between Geithner and others within the Wall Street Fantasy Land and the rest of us who actually live in the real world. Consider, as an example, this comment by CNBC talking head Mark Haines:

Raines makes the following breathtaking comment:
Let’s get back to what I regard as a fundamental issue here. I know it’s politically unpopular, politically incorrect. I know it goes against all of the populist indignation that’s out there right now. But you can’t really, it seems to me, expect that these Wall Street companies are going to be run well by a bunch of people who don’t make more than $250,000.
Let's take a moment, after picking ourselves up off the floor, to think about this bizarre notion.

First of all, Haines drops the "politically incorrect" stinkbomb, that roughly translates into, "now I'm going to speak in the secret code of all of us right wing lunatics. Once I say this please disperse it widely on FreeRepublic or Fox News."

After all, if this argument was rational, there would be some basis that Haines would proffer in support of this idea. We've heard, again and again from the right, that the plan to raise taxes on those making more than $250,000 would unfairly affect small business owners. Here's one example:
Obama's populist rhetoric suggests that he's only going after the super-rich. Yet reportedly half of individuals earning over $250,000 a year are small business owners. During the past 15 years, small businesses have been creating over 90% of net new jobs -- altogether, more than 20 million jobs. How smart is it for the heavy hand of government to come down on these employers?
Apparently this "half" of all those making more than $250,000, who create 90% of net new jobs aren't even qualified to do their own jobs. And their companies aren't run as well as the Really Big Companies where you need a person to make a Whole Lot of Money because they are Super Smart and Super Cool.

Maybe Haines should watch any current episode of
Celebrity Apprentice. These folks all make more than $250,000 a year. It should be clear to anyone that these folks are really, really smart.

Or to quote Borat, "Not."

Mr. Haines was apparently asleep during the Enron debacle. We saw, played out on the international stage, the depressing fact that Ken Lay thought he had been "fooled":
“I don't think I'm a criminal, number one,” says Lay. “Am I a fool? I don't think I'm a fool. But I think I sure was fooled.”
While no person wants to admit, on the world stage, that they were a fool, few of us who watched this corporate fiasco unfold can successfully parse Lay's distinction between "being fooled" and "being a fool."

And more to the point, as chairman of Enron, Lay was paid the big bucks
not to be fooled or be a fool. Supposedly these guys make all the money they do because they somehow see things that the rest of us don't. They have sufficient vision to be able to steer a large corporation away from foolish decisions, ideas and the like. They have the insight to direct a large company toward goals that won't be viewed as foolish afterward. If they don't have the qualifications to do this, so goes the myth, they aren't qualified to be a "captain of industry", to quote my favorite captain of industry, Tony Soprano.

Who, then were the fools in Enron? Was Ken Lay a fool, or were the Bright Folks who hired Ken Lay the fools? Or perhaps they were all fools? I favor the latter evaluation.

So back to Mark Haines, and Tim Geithner. I think it is important to state that Haines' comment that Wall Street corporations need people worth more than $250,000 a year is not a matter of political correctness.
It is critical to realize that most of the money made on Wall Street doesn't arise from actually making anything. Those men and women who run your 401K investment account don't create anything except more money (recently less money). At the end of the day, there is no picture they can take of this thing they actually made or built or helped build. As we've all seen, the vast sums of money recently bleeding out of Wall Street office suites was conjured up by manipulating debt. Borrowed money and credit lay at the center of any "bubble." After all, if there was something real at the center of these funds, there would be no bubble to break. This is like the difference between "owning" a house (when in reality the mortgage company really owns the house) and actually owning a house. No "bubble" can alter the fact the a home owner really owns a home, a house with a real address on a real street.

Since debt lays at the center of almost everything Wall Street does - whether we're talking about the accumulated and amalgamated debt of people like you and me surrounding our homes or autos, or the credit default swaps/wagers on whether those mortgages will or won't go sideways - it is critical to remember that all debt and credit depends on confidence - the belief that this person who I lend money to will pay it back with interest. This confidence is an
act of faith, not a matter of fact.

The notion that we need Really Smart People to guide the ships of industry is an act of faith within the Wall Street confidence game/religion. It should be painfully obvious that that idea is an act of faith every time you look at your 401K balance right now.

Likewise with Tim Geithner. When he says that Wall Street assets have some "basic inherent economic value" he speaks an article of faith, not a statement of fact. Again, check you 401K balance. Is there some 'inherent value' to it, or does it more resemble mine, which clearly appears to have a declining value, that appears to be an investment I should not and cannot rely on?

This gets to the heart of why I think Geithner and a bunch of these other folks need to go. They are speaking metaphysical mumbo- jumbo. They speak about such 'inherent value' in order to get me to believe these assets have some inherent value - not because really they do. They want me to believe this so that I will have confidence, so they can continue their gameplaying. Without my confidence in them, they cannot change water into wine, economically, or perform some alchemical alteration of lead into gold within the Wall Street arena. Like paper money itself, which only has value as long as we all believe it does, Wall Street hoodoo merchants depend on our confidence in them. Given what we've all witnessed in the last six months, can anyone produce a good reason for giving them our confidence?

Until we Americans come to grips with the plain fact that the likes of Ken Lay, Tim Geithner, and a list of other people, want to fool us into these confidence schemes, we will be bigger fools than they are. We've been talked into accepting the article of faith that debt is OK, that more debt is great, that betting on debt to make more money is a good idea. Until we divorce ourselves from these Articles of Faith in the Wall Street Religion, we shouldn't be surprised to find we need to lose our religion.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bad Tone

Was I the only person that found Dr. Christina Romer irritating on Meet The Press this morning? Here, as an example:

I have no comments about her content. But her tone and demeanor were just a bit too...chipper. Frankly, she smiled just a bit too much - much too ''light"..... David Gregory was decidedly serious. Romer could have been talking about her grandkids' performance at the grade school play she saw last night.

In contrast, when Jon Stewart had Jim Cramer on his comedy show this last week, Stewart did little to provoke a laugh - because the things he was talking about were just too serious to kid about.

Romer seemed just far too upbeat, too smiley, given the fact that, like millions of others, I lost my job a few weeks ago. I'm just not smiley and chipper about things. Those who lost their jobs long before I did inevitably carry more weight on their shoulders than I do. I, for one, just don't want any smiley, upbeat nonsense from anyone in Obama's administration. Any optimism right now must be tempered by the reality that those of us on the business end of our current financial debacle just don't feel real upbeat these days.

It's akin to going into surgery to get your left leg amputated, and the doctor telling you, cheerfully, just before you fade off under the anesthesia, that you'll be up walking around in a a couple of days.

Just a bit of a disconnect.....

Sticky Wicket

I've been a huge fan of Kevin Phillips for some years, having read all four of his recent books starting with the stellar "Wealth & Democracy." He commented here on HuffingtonPost about the current Obama financial team and its plans. Like others, I have big concerns about the likes of Geithner and Bernanke. I discuss my concerns here:

My concerns with these folks are manifold. As quoted above, Geithner's comments about the "basic inherent economic value" of Wall Street assets belies a basic level of nonsense talk. There is nothing "inherent" about the value of these assets. It's like saying that there's some "inherent value" in dollar bills - if there is, I'm now going to declare that toilet paper is money, has "inherent" value, and has increased value after usage, and then further declare that nothing smells about this...

Paper money only has value because we say it does. Wall Street assets have the same inherent value, the value being exactly "nothing".

I believe our problems run far deeper than Wall Street. A more fundamental problem, in my view, is the very position of corporations under the law. Until corporations no longer are viewed as "persons" under the Bill od Rights, something unheard of when the Bill fo Rights was written, until corporations can no longer use advertising and lobbyists as "free speech" under the Bill of Rights, they will continue to wield the inordinately huge influence they have over seemingly every aspect of American and world culture. We all decry the influence of "lobbyists" in DC without questioning WHY they have the right to sit in the offices of our national representatives and do nothing but push for the views of the corporations that pay their salaries.

Until the efforts of corporations, whether through advertising, lobbying, campaign contributions or a myriad of other channels, are no longer viewed as "speech" protected by the Constitution due to their supposed "rights" as "persons", nothing about Wall Street, or governance in DC, will change. Until a corporation no longer has the same voice as a real person, a real human whose free speech is protected by the Bill of Rights, and until the point where real citizens regain the real power over our government, we will see no significant changes on any of these issues.

I'm developing a series of pieces on my blog on this subject. Read these in order. More to come.

I fully admit that I'm sketching out a level of change for this country that is massive. It is difficult to imagine a world where corporations don't have the seemingly omnipresent power and influence they currently enjoy. It is vital, however, to remember the fact that, in large part, the American Revolution was fought over the influence of a corporation - the East India Tea Company - over the colonies, with the support of the then World Empire, Great Britain. We now face the need for a comparable revolutionary force, although hopefully within the context of our Constitution, without the need for a physical uprising. Our American conversation MUST move forward under that premise.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Drinking The Kool Aid

You really have to hand it to the Bush water carriers. They don't even flinch, having no shame, no remorse, no doubt. Yesterday's exchange between Chris Matthews and Ari Fleischer spoke volumes about why, in 2009, this country has so much ground to recoup. Here's the entire interview:

This stuff is breathtaking. Let's see if we can wade through this nonsense at all.

Fleischer: Of course, there is (sic) a number of people who believe in George Bush, believe in his policies, believe he helped contribute to a stronger, better America where we haven't been hit since Sept. 11...

Apparently Fleischer has been out of the country....what is "better" about our country as a result of Bush's presidency? The hallmarks of his presidency were 9/11, the Iraq War, and the Hurricane Katrina debacle. Those events were "better" in what way? (He just couldn't resist the 9/11 reference in the first 45 seconds, could he?)

Fleischer: Barack Obama should say thank you every day that he inherited a world without Saddam Hussein in it.

These folks won't give up on that, will they? Note to self, Ari - Saddam was not a threat to this country, He had no weapons of mass destruction. He had no delivery systems. The ultimate proof rests in the ease with which the Hussein rule fell - they offered virtually no resistance. Also - Iraq isn't near the United States - not even a long drive. How could they really be a threat to us?? (Going through all this stuff again is really dumb.....)

Matthews: Are you proud of the economic record of George W. Bush?

Fleischer: You know, I think he came in with a recession and left with a recession...
Matthews: No, really are you proud of it? Is it something to brag about?
Fleischer: Chris, it's not a simple, one word answer.

Well, Ari gave a one word answer: recession.

Fleischer: I think when people look back on the Bush years, the one thing people will remember the most is that he kept us safe, we've not been attacked since 9/11. The second is....Barack Obama has inherited a world without Saddam Hussein in it.

What bizarre logic. Somehow we're "safe" due to something the Bush administration did? Tell that to the more than 4000 American soldiers killed in Iraq and their loved ones - a war of choice that did not make us any safer. Tell that to the tens of thousands of wounded soldiers and their families who suffered casualties at the hands of the Bush administration. What sane person can argue that we are "safer" because we invaded Iraq? And just how is a world without Saddam a better world for President Obama?

Fleischer: We can all be proud that we haven't been attacked since Sept. 11...that's what people are gonna remember about President Bush's administration.

Perhaps Ari forgot about the anthrax attacks.

Why should we be "proud" - proud of what? Should we be proud of breaking international law when we attacked Iraq, a nation that was no threat to us, that did not and could not do anything to the United States? Should we be proud of killing hundreds of thousands - maybe millions - of Iraqi citizens as "collateral damage"? Should we be proud of our record on torture during this war?

It depends, then, on which "people" you're talking about who "remember" what happened.

Fleischer: Who is talking?...I don't recall you saying that James Carville, Paul Begala, those people shouldn't be on the air defending their boss.

What precisely does Fleischer have in mind that Carville and Begala had to defend that compares with the long list of egregious acts of the Bush administration? Are we going to compare the "sins" of Bill Clinton's White House tryst with Monica Lewinsky to the actions of George W. Bush? What is the moral scale that sets this kind of equivocacy up?

Fleischer: You were tough on President Clinton on his ethics and couldn't you be?

Gee, Fleischer, how couldn't you be tough on President Bush's ethics and morality? What was ethical or moral about the Iraq war? Does Fleischer really want to raise Clinton's sexual issues to the moral level of war?

Fleischer: He (Bush) wasn't warned directly, it was one of those vague warnings about Al Qaeda wants to attack in the United States.

What is this guy talking about? Richard Clarke writes vividly about his 'hair being on fire' regarding the seriousness and imminence of these attacks. Clarke could not get a meeting with Condi Rice on these issues. He was ignored. The Bush administration was not focused on terrorism before 9/11. That is the record.

Matthews: Do you believe that the administration made an honest case in taking us to war in Iraq?
Fleischer: Yes, yes...I said we were wrong, not was an intelligence mistake. We were all wrong.

I love it when people use the words "intelligence" and "mistake" together.

No, Mr. Fleischer, the mistake was a moral failure, a failure in judgement. Everyone didn't believe that Iraq had WMD's. The U.N. inspectors, who were doing their jobs right up to the start of Shock & Awe didn't believe there were WMD's. Scott Ritter, decorated U.S. Marine who was a major player in the inspection of Iraq as a U.N. inspector throughout the 1990's, knew there were no WMD's. He spoke and wrote about this passionately before the war.

These people are without conscience. There is no good reason to think they will ever admit their foolishness, their immorality, or amorality. I listened closely to Chris Matthews during the buildup to the War in Iraq. If he was against the war, which he now claims, I, for one, could not tell. That said, I applaud his current rage against the follies of the Bush administration. It may be too little, too late. But the likes of Ari Fleischer, who somehow musters the strength to go on national TV and tell more lies about the Bush administration, is beyond the pale.