Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dramatically Worse Off

Thomas Pogge reports in Dissent Magazine that

"The United States is fairly typical here: households in the top 1 percent of the income hierarchy expanded their share of national pre-tax income from 9 percent to 21.2 percent since 1979. The bottom eight deciles sustained corresponding losses. The bottom five deciles collectively declined from 26.4 percent to 12.8 percent of national consumption expenditure."

IOW, if your household income is below about $44,000 per year, since 1979 you have lost more than half of your share of the national goods and services then. Let's translate a little more-you have lost transit, you have lost public parks and good education, you have fallen dramatically behind in healthcare, what you actually get is about a half of what you would get for being the same person in Norway or Japan. And the process of losing ground that has gobbled the substance of the poor has been accelerating.

They tell alcoholics that the first step in beating the problem is to recognize they have a problem. I'm guessing the same thing is true for nations, too.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

EK (Evening Kitten- l) and Libby (r)

A Brief History of Murder Incorporated

With the 'closing of the frontier', the US entered the 20th century with murderous and rapacious impulses that could no longer be sated by killing and stealing from the domestic population. Campaigns in Cuba, the Philippines, and throughout Central America absorbed some of this energy, but in the wake of WW II our thieves and murderers saw opportunities that the American people would not support, and so the CIA was born.

The initial impulse of the CIA was to work with gangsters and mafias. Mafias, with a little help from their friends, are self-supporting engines of destruction, reliably rendering self-government impossible. With funds from the French Connection, democracy in northern Italy was prevented, and the pattern of using narco-trafficker money to fight democracy was repeated in SE Asia, Afghanistan, and Colombia.

American policy always favored supporting dictatorships, however, and in the mid-80s a rogue, and quite literally insane, hidden policy of supporting death squads began to vie with supporting mafias. As effective as death squads were at killing hundreds of thousands of people, they posed the risk that self-government might arise even in a death-squad nation.

The solution was, in retrospect, obvious- combine the death squads with the narco-traffickers, as we now see in Colombia, where Uribe rules in cahoots with the paramilitaries, and "wins" elections by having the opposition murdered.

But what of Iraq? There we have a two-pronged strategy, of Albanian and Georgian mafias trafficking the widespread misery of the Balkans, the middle east, and through to Afghanistan, and the death squad approach favored when the need to prevent self-government exceeds the ability of contraband traffic to disorganize the state. A further complication is that the substance most widely smuggled in Iraq is oil, which the US actually wants to openly monopolize, thus making self-defeating the normal tendency to finance social disintegration by contraband trafficking. Another complication is that the forces of "morality", usually harnessed in the service of reactionism , and in creating prohibitions that are necessary to stimulate a contraband traffic- in Iraq and Iran these forces of "morality" are opposed to the US.

Meanwhile, "back at the ranch", American Drug Prohibition ensures that, whatever the outcome in foreign lands, gangsterism will continue to erode our own ability to govern ourselves. Sic transit gloria.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

From the Trinity to Unitarianism

Some years ago I took a social work survey course taught by Scott Brier, then dean of the U of W School of Social Work. He emphasized to us that social workers believed there were three "great institutions", the Family, the Church, and the State, so firmly and long established as not, in their basic structures, to be challenged.

That was then, this is now. More children are now born out of wedlock in the US than are blessed by holy matrimony, and that's just the beginning- everybody divorces and then remarries, creating numerous mixes and remixes. The nuclear family, if it ever existed, if it ever should have existed, is toast.

Nor is support for the church that solid. It seems that if you ask people how much they drive, instead of whether they attend church, you get a church-going population that always walks to church- or a whole bunch of people who don't get out on Sunday as often as they think they do.

For better or worse, it looks like- maybe not too long from now- there will be only one Great Institution- the state. And won't that be fun.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

How Old Is The Earth?

Well, consider the marijuana plant. When the sun disappears, as it will when an asteroid hits the earth, and prays millions of tons of dust into the atmosphere, the marijuana plant panics, thinks it will never find a spouse, and becomes a hermaphrodite in order to have little marijuana plants and save the species.

That's called evolution, and it didn't happen all at once. An asteroid, or a supervolcano, blanked out the sun, and most of these plants died. Then a million years passed, and it happened again. Tens of millions of years passed, producing a small number of events that blocked out the sun.

And eventually- adapting to events that only happen once in ten million years- the marijuana plant became evolved. Turn out the lights for a week and you get hermaphrodite plants.

That's how old the earth is.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

How McCarthyism Works

"We were trying to get signatures on a petition that a [freeway] wouldn’t go through Washington Square. This was in the 50s and we set up a table with petitions near the park and asked everybody who came by and was enjoying the park if they would sign. And so many people wouldn’t sign. We’d say, "Well, you don’t want a road through here, do you?" No, they didn’t want a road through there, but "You don’t know who else might be signing. It might be dangerous to sign." Sometimes a husband would tell a wife."

That's Jane Jacobs, in an interview with Jim Kunstler describing how McCarthyism cows us.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Brilliant, Absolutely Brilliant

So, the US has been building dozens of bases in Iraq- you know, airfields, bunkers, command posts, barricades, etc...

Of course, should we be forced out of Iraq, somebody else could use those bases....

Real cats love to wade...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Sad Fact Is...

.....even if those oil reserves at the North Pole were filled with Bunker Crude, we can't use them. We're in the position of the former smoker who gets a carton of cigarettes for Christmas or the former alcoholic who finds a case of Scotch stashed away in the basement.

And the prices are never coming down. You knew that already because, for pete's sake, we're talking oil companies here, but even a government of Socialists and Greens would have no choice but to keep the prices high.

It's save-the-planet time. The long party is over. One way or another, there will be some changes around here.