Thursday, April 26, 2007

William Kristol's Revealing Slip of the Tongue, Transcript

See my prior post for more explanation. Kristol is being interviewed by Robert Siegel on NPR's "All Things Considered" about John McCain's current candidacy and asks Kristol what McCain's advantages are over other candidates. In part of his reply Kristol states:
"... but ultimately this is going to be a wartime election [2008], this is the first post-9/11 primary among Republicans, 2004 was a post-9/11 election but obviously Bush wasn't challenged, and I do think it will be a foreign policy election--that will be McCain's claim, that he can lead this country through the wars or through the difficult challenges [embarrassed chuckle as he says the word "challenges" correcting his slip "wars"] that we face."
That this warmonger-ideologue is still being so frequently interviewed on radio and TV unfortunately demonstrates that pseudo-conservatives have NOT been so embarrassed by their patently horrendous advice leading us into the Iraq War that they are discredited; one wonders: 'what will it take?'

What You Can't Make a Profit At

I've been thinking lately of what would be on the list of things that are essential but which you can't make a profit at (or enough of a profit). Last night on Bill Moyers Journal (first show of a new series) mention was made of how 'expensive' it is to hire the personnel necessary to research and report real factual news stories as opposed to how cheap it is to hire pundit 'experts' who merely sit and pontificate about their opinions. As a result more and more newspapers, 'news' magazines like "Time", and news bureaus for TV are getting rid of their news reporters/researchers and hiring more 'experts' to give opinions. Fewer facts and more opinions: the 'modern' fourth estate. The free press that is so essential to democracy.

I recall a fellow who had just finished yet another book on our health insurance 'crisis' who pointed out how it just wasn't profitable to provide care for people with serious chronic illnesses. Since we are such a 'Christian' society I guess Jesus would have preached that those people with chronic illnesses would just have to fend for themselves. (The Gospel according to capitalism.)

Being responsible for cleaning up one's own environmental pollution is apparently not profitable either.

I've heard discussions of medications in which it was revealed that certain drugs are just not profitable enough, thus drug companies don't research improvements in those regardless of how efficacious they would be for health. I guess Jefferson should have written:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness, if said rights can be profitably pursued. — That to secure these rights, Corporations are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the Board of Directors.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

William Kristol's Revealing Slip of the Tongue

In my car about a half hour ago I was listening to All Things Considered on NPR. Robert Siegel was doing a piece on John McCain since McCain officially announced his candidacy today. The second part of the piece was an interview with pseudo-conservative William Kristol who is a McCain admirer. During this interview Kristol said something to the effect that we need a wartime president and then followed this with the remark that such a president would be necessary to fight the "wars" we would be involved in. After he said "wars" he gave an embarassed laugh and corrected himself to say "war". The transcript and the audio will be available by tomorrow at which time I will listen again and transcribe exactly what he said. Kristol is a rabid hawk and knee-jerk supporter of the Israeli far right and if he has anything to say about it we will have more "wars". Recall my previous post on Kristol during the Israeli bombing of Lebanon last year. There I wrote:
Claiming that Hezbollah, a group supported by Iran but with its own extensive political and social base among the 40% Shia population in Lebanon, is identical with Iran, Kristol suggested that either the United States or Israel “consider countering this act of Iranian (sic) aggression with a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities. Why wait? Does anyone think a nuclear Iran can be contained? ... Yes, there would be repercussions—and they would be healthy ones, showing a strong America that has rejected further appeasement.”
One of the healthiest things I've heard in a while was the comment by some pundit on TV recently that many Americans are concerned that the Republican Party is too warlike. I certainly hope this is true because the Republican Right would be only too likely to get us into more wars if they listen to Israel Lobbyists and war cheerleaders such as William Kristol. This is the same Kristol who told NPR audiences prior to the Iraq invasion that the idea that the Sunnis and Shia would get into sectarian conflict was "pop sociology".

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Support Norman Finkelstein for Tenure at DePaul

If you go to Norman Finkelstein's website you will find articles from the New York Times and The Independent about how Alan Dershowitz is trying to get Finkelstein's tenure turned down; although it has been OK'd by his Department and College there is a Dean who is giving in to outside pressure and saying Finkelstein should not get tenure. Finkelstein's crime is that he has been a very effective critic of Israel's mistreatment of the Palestinians (even though both his parents were in Nazi concentration camps). I have read two of Finkelstein's books and he is a very effective scholarly researcher who has received the admiration of very respected scholars in the fields about which he writes. His 'fault' has been that he is willing to attack scholarship that he thinks is wrong and he takes controversial positions. (God forbid anyone might take controversial positions in American academia.) Dershowitz tried to stop University of California Press from publishing his book "Beyond Chutzpah" and now he is trying to stop Finkelstein from getting tenure.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Now Here's a True "Must Read"!

I am just beginning a very unusual book, When Corporations Rule the World, By David C. Korten. Both the author and his writing style are very unusual. The author is a 70 year old with an MBA and Ph.D. from Stanford's Graduate School of Business, who taught and did research at Harvard's Graduate School of Business and has thirty years of field experience working in Asia, Africa and Latin America for the Ford Foundation, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and a number of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). With a background like this one does not expect to read a book like When Corporations Rule the World!!! Moreover, his writing is remarkably honest and extremely clear--one cannot mistake what his values are and what he is saying; this in itself is an unusual blessing. Here's an excerpt that gives the flavor of the book (pp. 9 & 12):
[T]he systemic forces nurturing the growth and dominance of global corporations are at the heart of the current human dilemma.... These forces have transformed once beneficial corporations and financial institutions into instruments of a market tyranny that is extending its reach across the planet like a cancer, colonizing ever more of the planet's living spaces, destroying livelihoods, displacing people, rendering democratic institutions impotent, and feeding on life in an insatiable quest for money.
But let me point out how the author is an authentic conservative as opposed to pseudo-conservatives such as William F. Buckley. Here is Korten's description of his "values" (a much-abused word in contemporary America):
With regard to political values, I remain a traditional conservative in the sense that I retain a deep distrust of large institutions and their concentrations of unaccountable power. I also continue to believe in the importance of the market and private ownership. However, unlike many contemporary conservatives, I have no more love for big business than I have for big government. Nor do I believe that posession of wealth should convey special political privilege. I share the liberal's compassion for the disenfranchised, commitment to equity, and concern for the environment and believe that there are essential roles for government and limits to the rights of private property. I believe, however, that big government can be as unaccountable and destructive of societal values as can big business. Indeed, I have a distrust of any organization that accumulates and concentrates massive power beyond the bounds of accountability.
OK, here's the essential kernel that separates the sheep from the goats: However, unlike many contemporary conservatives, I have no more love for big business than I have for big government. This is what separates many authentic conservatives from pseudo-conservatives. The latter chatter incessantly about the horrors of 'collectivism' inherent in 'big government'; but they are stone silent about the 'collectivism' that is only too obviously involved in the growth of the modern corporation since 1865 in the United States. Korten is a very unusual fellow in that he is consistent on this point.

Actually, I've just been thinking about the meanings of "conservative" and there is a strain within conservatism which says that rule by the rich and well-born is best and that the 'mob' cannot be trusted. (John Adams believed this.) If one takes that seriously then people like William F. Buckley could be labelled 'conservative' in the latter sense because they certainly do support the powers that be. However, in this case Buckley is simply a liar because he does not honestly state that he distrusts the people and thinks the rich and well-born (like himself) should rule; rather he uses a variation of classical liberalism like that of Milton Friedman to rationalize his views and identify himself as a defender of 'liberty'. He attacks the state but is an ardent defender of business and the corporation.

Monday, April 09, 2007

A Thought on American Corporations

Listening to National Public Radio News this AM I heard a piece on how California and Vermont want to regulate Carbon Dioxide emissions in automobiles and how the auto companies have formed a group to sue them and argue that states do not have the power to regulate these emissions. The Attorney General of Vermont mentioned how this foot-dragging on the part of corporations was just like the huge fuss they put up opposing catalytic converters. Yes, and I'm old enough to recall the fuss they put up about seat belts and airbags too. Corporations have HUGE resources and they use them consistently to fight any social progress that they perceive as a danger to their profits; the hell with the good of society--they just buy up an army of lawyers and PR people to spin and argue that black is white and up is down. That is certainly what tobacco companies did for years regarding cancer and whether nicotine was addictive. Exxon-Mobil has spent millions of dollars funding propaganda that undermines the evidence supporting the existence of global warming. Here's just one article about this. For more go here.

A Thought on the Libertarian Party

Having gone through the Libertarian Party website and examined their platform my only large problem was their failure to articulate a position with regard to huge muti-national corporations. They have an email address where they say they welcome questions and I asked them about their position regarding corporations but got no answer. I have noticed that writers like Friedrich von Hayek and Milton Friedman LOVE to denounce what they don't like in government by using the terms "collectivism" or "collectivization". I frankly can't recall reading how they define the term however. I would include the huge centralization achieved by the modern corporation as a prime example of modern collectivization. If they fail to do so I believe I'd consider that an inconsistency. Although people on the right in America LOVE to idolize Adam Smith it is a little known fact that Adam Smith was seriously concerned about corporations if not opposed to their being too frequently chartered. Why? For one rather obvious reason Smith was thoroughly serious about real competition and felt that owners of businesses should be fully responsible for their business practices and this was most likely to occur if they had something approximating face-to-face relationships with their customers as was the case with single owners and partnerships. Moreover, Smith could see the liklihood that corporations might wield disproportionate power over government and thus distort the political process. Any American who doesn't see that that has occurred in the United States really must have their head in the sand or be a died in the wool pro-corporate ideologue. (For Adam Smith's attitudes toward corporations, he called them "joint stock companies", see the 2003 Bantam Classics edition and read Alan Krueger's Introduction.)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Rep. Ron Paul on Bill Maher Show

On Friday Mar. 30 Bill Maher had Congressman Ron Paul on his show for an interview. Although Paul was elected a Republican he is a Libertarian and, although Maher thinks of himself as a libertarian he was shocked by some of Paul's stands: Paul had the temerity to suggest that the CIA should be abolished! Maher thought this was just much too extreme and actually stated that he feels a lot safer knowing there's a CIA! Maher is hilarious and I never miss his show but some of his political positions are ludicrous. He actually feels SAFER knowing there's a CIA! What an idiot. Paul rightly pointed out that the CIA has got us into many problems including the overthrow of the constitutional Mossadegh government in Iran in 1953 for which many Iranians still hate us. Given the history of absolutely botched intelligence in our recent history Maher really must not have given much thought to this. The greatest threat to America's freedom and perhaps even to America's future existence is the military-intelligence-industrial complex. Eisenhower had that figured out in 1960! Maher's 'libertarianism' is apparently only about a micron deep.

Paul also had said that he thought we shouldn't have fought the US Civil War and Maher again was just shocked by this opinion. I myself have given some thought to this question and don't think it is absolutely clear that the Civil War was on balance a good thing. The one thing that came of it that was good was freedom for the slaves but otherwise what was so great about it? Lincoln's original goal was to preserve the union NOT to free the slaves. He was only pushed to emancipation by the circumstances of a prolonged Civil War; if the North had suceeded militarily sooner the slaves would not have been freed. What would have been so awful, other than slavery, if the South had seceded? They would still have been most economically tied to the North because of our proximity. There was nothing sacred about the union; it had been formed by a very close vote when the Constitution was adopted and there were some shenanigans about the voting that took place for the Constitution. If it took a vote to form the union why shouldn't some states secede later if they so chose? Apparently Bill Maher's "libertarianism" is mostly about freedom to use drugs, sexual freedom, and freedom to be atheistic. I support all of these freedoms as well but for him to be so shocked that someone would think the CIA should be abolished and the Civil War was maybe not such a great idea demonstrates how thin his libertarianism is.