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Posts tagged “capitalism

The Conservative Church

There exist a few kinds of conservative in the United States.  First and foremost, it should be noted that the first group I’m going to mention don’t consider themselves conservative at all; instead, they consider themselves true liberals.  These are the libertarians.   Social freedom, as well as economic freedom are the main tenets of their ideology.  They claim to be the ideological heirs of the Age of Enlightenment, and as such many (but by no means all) libertarians, men such as Penn Jillette and Christopher Hitchens, consider themselves hardened realists (i.e., atheists) and even more hardened believers in the free market.   The first tenet seems to be optional; indeed while many libertarians are free thinkers, skeptics, and men of science and reason, many others also happen to be religious.  The second tenet, that of economic freedom, however, seems to be a must for anyone who labels themselves a libertarian.   You see, that’s because to libertarians, free people are almost absolutely free.  It means as few laws as possible, both in our social lives and our economy; no distinction is made between society and economics.

Which brings me to the second group of conservatives, the ones we all know as Republicans.  They’re libertarians with a twist: they also happen to be deeply religious and comfortable with establishing rules that govern your private life.  They tend to appeal to religious sensibilities.  What they do retain from libertarian philosophy is a rabid dedication to fiscal conservatism which, I hope I don’t have to explain, is really another name for free market capitalism.  Remember, libertarians really stress the “free” in free market.  In the economic sense at least, Republicans are very liberal.   In fact, they’re sometimes considered “neoliberals”.  This is why Bush wasn’t really lying when he said he wanted to promote “freedom” in the Middle East; by freedom he didn’t mean freedom from the bonds and shackles of their royal overlords – such as those who rule over our ally Saudi Arabia – rather the freedom of corporations to do business however they see fit, free from laws and regulations, unaccountable to the people.   Of course, they had many of us believing the former, stressing the latter very little, if at all.  That’s because if the people were really told about our true intentions in Iraq, nobody would go for it.  And that’s because I believe that at the end of the day we really are an altruistic people; we were told we went in to “free” the people of Iraq (OK, so it was after we were told that we went in to eliminate nuclear weapons and that Saddam and Bin Laden were butt-buddies).   That’s why Republicans need religion; I believe that if people were told the truth about who profits from free market capitalism and who gets the shit end of the shit stick, none of their ideas would ever fly with the American people.   Why else do you think they have to lie to you?  You know something is wrong when millions of corporate dollars are funneled into free market think tanks to promote an economic system that goes against both your own economic interests and your very human sense of altruism.  And, somehow, it’s working.  A large, overwhelming chunk of Republicans are people of faith, and yet they believe in an economic philosophy that finds itself at odds with the altruistic principles of their faith.   Christianity is utterly incompatible with a capitalist worldview…but Republicans somehow make it work.  Some do so by shortchanging the Christianity.  Once again, it’s telling that when it comes down to your social values vs. your economic values, some go with the money.  Mike Huckabee, on the other hand, seems like a good man; if I ever meet him I’m going to ask him how he reconciles these two opposing ideas.  With apologies to Huckabee, I believe many Republicans posing as Christians would do better to ditch their religion and embrace their greed; at least then they wouldn’t be hypocrites.  Their adherence to moral religious principles tends to be little more than a veil.  Real libertarians adhere to principles of social freedom, which if followed means having no sexual hang ups or hatred for homosexuals; in this country, Republicans constantly demonize gays only to be themselves discovered hiding in the closet…along with many other skeletons.

According to Ayn Rand, the core of her libertarian principles is called “ethical egoism”.  I prefer to call it “egotism” myself.  To put it bluntly, it’s about selfishness and greed, living for self and nobody else.  An economist by the name of Milton Friedman would go on to elevate this human trait into something wonderful – kinda like how an Aztec priest by the name of Tlacaelel elevated the bloodthirsty practice of human sacrifice into something good, even necessary, for the survival of the world.  Greed all of a sudden became something good, an engine for running a fair and just system.  The irony of the libertarians is that for people who prize reason, they cling to the irrational belief in an invisible hand that guides the economic world, and that if people just let it be that everything would fall harmoniously into place and everybody would be rich and prosperous and well fed and free.  Except that’s not what happens under a free market economy.  If you want to see what an economy free from restrictions looks like, look at Iraq.

In this country, neither the Democratic party nor the Republican party represent pure libertarianism, but when asked to choose between the party that (supposedly) promotes social justice (Democrats) and those that promote laizzez faire capitalism (Republicans), money seems to be the deciding factor – most libertarians go with the guy promising less taxes instead of the guy promising gay rights, legalization of marijuana…except that Democrats don’t do that, either.   And here I always though that “Blue Dog” Democrats were more in line with libertarian principles than Republicans.

Which finally brings me to the “conservative church”, the third type of conservative.  I respect libertarians because they are open to reason; I respect real Republicans because they are altruistic people.  I can find common ground with either of them.  If I can make a good case for promoting a more fair economy, I might be able to debate a libertarian.  If I can appeal to a Republican’s religious sense of kindness and charity, I can see eye to eye with them.  What I can’t do is talk to anybody who is a member of the conservative church.  These people are the fundamentalist of their “religion” – and believe me, it really is a religion.  They combine the most exaggerated and worst aspects of both of the aforementioned philosophies – the greed and self-centered philosophy of the libertarians, and the rabid religious fervor of the worst Republican Christians; in fact, they ARE the worst Republicans.   Gone is the reason of a libertarian like James Randi; gone, the compassion of a Christian like Mike Huckabee.  In their place, the ignorant, jingoistic, racist, and most vile members of the human species.   I call it a church, because they are dogmatic in their beliefs, closed to all appeals to reason and logic; you can not win a debate with a fundamentalist in this church.  The following are just a sample of their latest beliefs:  Obama was actually born in Kenya; Obama is a socialist; health care reform is about building death panels for you grandma.  Their greatest hits: Obama is a Muslim; Obama is the Anti-Christ; John Kerry was a coward, gays will burn in Hell; Mexicans should go back where they came from; Saddam has WMDs; Saddam planned 9/11; evolution is “just a theory”.  Their clergy are the fat, loud, obnoxious hypocrites on Fox News and just about all of talk radio; their pope is Rush Limbaugh.  Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter, and Laura Ingram are the unholy trinity, each a grotesque inversion of the holy Virgin Mary (though it should be noted that I don’t consider any of them their equivalent of the Virgin Mary; that role belongs to Ronald Reagan).  Their clergy preach from on high to an audience of stupid, unquestioning hillbillies who go on to do stupid shit like disrupting town hall meetings, hanging congressmen in effigy, or shooting abortion doctors.

In recent days, members of the Conservative Church have become increasingly visible.  It’s no surprise; haven’t you heard that we recently elected the Anti-Christ?  For months people had been talking about the death of the Republican party.  What they should have been talking about was the renaissance of stupid.  The Conservative Church never died; it got angrier and mobilized, fueled by corporate dollars and by think tanks that they don’t even know exist.  They don’t know about the Cato Institute and that they’re funded by the richest corporations to promote an economic system that rips them off; all they know are the ads and the literature they put out (Not that they read the literature themselves; Fox News does all their reading for them).   They don’t know that beneficiaries of the largest health and pharmaceutical companies are funding Recess Rally; all they know is that Obama is a socialist who wants to kill your grandmother.  In short, Bill Maher is absolutely right.

I’ve just dedicated a massive amount of text to conservatives, now a word to the rest of you.  To those of you who believe in social and economic justice – make no apologies for it.  You have the moral high ground against the vicious fundamentalists of the Conservative Church.  You also have the facts on your side, so that no amount of Faux News propaganda can sway your judgment.  You are the reasoned intellectuals of the Enlightenment and the compassionate followers of God.  You are progressives.

Wall Street Journal: “Fuck Main Street”.

That’s the prevailing attitude of America’s pre-eminent capitalist rag.  Noam Chomsky once cited the Wall Street Journal, along with the Economist, as his newspaper of choice because in the interest of delivering to Wall Street the accurate information it needs to make wise investments, the WSJ absolutely HAS TO tell the truth about what’s going on in the world.  I always questioned that assumption.  After Rupert Murdoch’s take-over of WSJ, I trust that Chomsky has been seeking his news elsewhere.  The WSJ is little more than the paper edition of Faux News, at least as far as its editorial staff is concerned.

Take today’s disgusting editorial from Mary Anastasia O’Grady that starts off thusly: “In a perfect world former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya would be in jail in his own country right now, awaiting trial.”  I kept reading because I wanted to see what she’d pull out of her ass to support that statement.  She then goes on to state that his removal from office was not only morally justified – forget morally justified – but legal.  So here it is, folks: military coups = legal.  Let me hear this lady say something like, “we were right to back the coup in Chile and install Augusto Pinochet”.  Like Michelle Malkin arguing the case for detaining Japanese Americans during World War II, O’Grady is looking to defend the indefensible.  And like Malkin, she does it by being dishonest with her readers.

She accuses Zelaya of a power grab.  Since when is a “non-binding poll of public opinion” a power grab?   He wanted another term to carry out his presidency, which would bring his years in power to a grand total of 8 – the exact same number of years we allow US Presidents not named Roosevelt.  He wanted the people to vote on a referendum that would, in theory, give him at least the popular vote to change the constitution so that it would allow him to run for one more term.  She goes on to say that Zelaya threatened violence against his opponents, linking him to Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez.  Except that Hugo Chavez is actually liked by over half his country; Zelaya isn’t very popular.  The poor seem to like him though.  Funny how the Wall Street Journal and leaders advocating economic justice for the poor so rarely seem to get along.  Anyway, here’s her smoking gun:

“A week later some 100 agitators, wielding machetes, descended on the attorney general’s office. “We have come to defend this country’s second founding,” the group’s leader reportedly said. “If we are denied it, we will resort to national insurrection.”

“These experiences frightened Hondurans because they strongly suggested that Mr. Zelaya, who had already aligned himself with Mr. Chávez, was now emulating the Venezuelan’s power-grab. Other Chávez protégés — in Bolivia, Ecuador and Nicaragua — have done the same, refusing to accept checks on their power, making use of mobs and seeking to undermine institutions.”

Hey O’Grady, those “mobs” you kept referring to?  That’s the will of the people.  You can’t argue against that.   Oh, your newspaper and many others have tried.  You and your ilk were the types to portray Hugo Chavez as a Saddam Hussein-type dictator who stole the election, despite the fact that he was democratically elected.  I can only imagine the party you threw when right-wing insurgents tried to pull a Salvador Allende on him – and failed, only by the grace of God and because of the intervention of certain “mobs”.

And finally, the Honduran National Congress unanimously voted to accept what they said was Zelaya’s letter of resignation, but Zelaya said he did not write the letter.  In other words, they forcibly had him removed, then lied to the people about his resignation.   So who’s power-grabbing?  You lose the moral high ground when you have to lie to the people to make your plans work.  That’s because telling the truth means revealing your intentions for the public.  If they lied about Zelaya’s resignation, then by that act alone they have already subverted the will of the people.  You won’t see O’Grady or the WSJ talk about that, however, because they don’t mind when capitalists do it.

If the US government had any involvement with that coup, I don’t even think President Obama would know, given the fact that our CIA doesn’t seem to answer to the US government anymore.  In fact, I haven’t heard anything about restoring many of the privatized sectors of the military and homeland security that were given away under Bush; perhaps they’re being funded by the Wall Street Journal.  Or maybe, just Wall Street.

UPDATE: After posting my response at the Wall Street Journal page I received a lot of criticism from the locals.   You can follow our interaction on the comments page.  I also learned about a few interesting details regarding the scandal.  This is Article 239 from the Honduran constitution:

ARTICULO 239.- El ciudadano que haya desempeñado la titularidad del Poder Ejecutivo no podrá ser Presidente o Designado. El que quebrante esta disposición o proponga su reforma, así como aquellos que lo apoyen directa o indirectamente, cesarán de inmediato en el desempeño de sus respectivos cargos, y quedarán inhabilitados por diez años para el ejercicio de toda función pública.

In a nutshell, apparently it means that just the act of proposing the issue of term increases by an acting president is literally against the constitution.  It would seem to prove O’Grady right.  That is until you read a bit more into their constitution and discover they also have a funny thing we used to have here; Bush’s predecessors called it “due process”.   The following comes from the blog and was written by “lancemh”:

I am amazed at the fundamental ignorance of this issue that is taking place out in the blogoshpere and in the media. I have seen dozens of references to this section of the Honduran Constitution – but not ONE reference to HOW the impeachment process occurs.


First: The Honduran Constitution requires that if a high-ranking member of the Executive Branch has violated the law or exercised authority outside the dictates of the Constitution (which is treason), the Congress shall then file a petition for impeachment in the Supreme Court and the individual is to be tried with all rights of due process attaching. It seems apparent under those circumstances that they could arrest him (LAW ENFORCEMENT – NOT THE MILITARY) and hold him in jail pending trial.

LET US BE CLEAR ON THIS FIRST POINT – the allegation of Zelaya’s unconstitutional acts do seem to violate the constitutional prohibition against a President attempting to amend the constitution in respect to term limits – if so, he had committed treason. HOWEVER, the Honduran Supreme Court nor Congress has the power to order the military or anyone to “remove him” until such trial has taken place. Procedurally speaking, the President’s powers would be suspended after his arrest, and during his detention while awaiting for trial. And under the constitution, an interim President would be designated until case on the article(s) of impeachment was tried. Assuming he is convicted after having had full due process, his Presidency would terminate, and the acting President would then serve out the remainder of the term, and he would not be allowed to run for another term.

Second – The Obama Administration is backing the world-wide accepted principle that proper democratic procedure MUST be followed to the letter of the law. Otherwise, the notion of democracy becomes a farce.

Honduras did NOT follow their own constitutional procedure for impeachment and removal – IRRESPECTIVE of whether this guy violated the constitution first. That makes them hipocrites – just like they have labeled him.

Here’s what I think happened: a pro-business majority in the Honduran congress jumped at the opportunity to have Zelaya ousted.  When he slipped, they sicked the dogs on him, kidnapped him, had him extradited to Costa Rica, and then lied to the people by telling them he’d offered a letter of resignation.   Yeah…real legit.  To her credit, O’Grady did say that “in a perfect world”, Zelaya would be “sitting in jail, awaiting trial”.   Is she perhaps in favor of prosecuting the conspirators involved in the coup?  How about the members of Congress who lied about his resignation?  If O’ Grady insists that Zelaya committed a crime against their constitution, she should then have no problem being in favor of granting him due process either.  That is, if her motivations are not as corporate as the paper she works for…

The Shock Doctrine

This is one of the most important books I’ve ever read, I bought it yesterday on a whim and I literally could not put it down.  If I had it my way, it would be required reading for every social studies classroom in America.  The following video is just a trailer, a taste of what the book is about.

This book confronts the sainthood of Milton Friedman, an ideologue on the opposite side of the spectrum from Karl Marx.  Actually, to say that he is on opposite sides of Marx is incorrect; Marx was a relatively low-key and obsure figure in his time who only observed history from a certain point of view and he never played an active role promoting Communism on the world stage the way Friedman did.  Marx only predicted the conditions needed to create a Communist world – Friedman himself hustled his religion to the masses, with disastrous results.   The myth of Milton Friedman is widespread and taken as fact by die-hard corporatists and apologists for capitalism.  This book destroys that myth.  Milton Friedman is to capitalism what Osama bin Laden is to Islam; yet again even that comparison may be off.  Friedman continues to be far more influential, his followers far more entrenched within the halls of power – and his ideas far more destructive – even 3 years after his death.   If you’ve ever wondered WHY Chile fell to Auguste Pinochet, or why we REALLY went to war in Iraq, this book ought to clear a few things up.

Check it out at your local library, or find it at a local bookstore or Amazon.