Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jeffrey Sachs Lets Cat Out of Bag


World-renknowned economist Jeffrey Sachs who, among other things, administered shock treatment to one of the Eastern European countries after the dissolution of the Soviet bloc, has now come to realize that this is not the right path. He supports the OWS movement.

On Fareed Zakaria's GPS today he stated clearly that countries need a mixed economy, a collaboration between government and business.  He duked it out calmly but convincingly with British conservative economist Niall Ferguson, a leading proponent of the argument that the 1% create jobs, and a regular on GPS.

I have been waiting for a long time for someone authoritative to come out of the closet on this, and Sachs made my day.  He stated that other developed countries, including those in Europe, having significantly higher tax rates than the U.S., which allows their governments to invest in infrastructure, education, health, and housing.

Having lived in half a dozen European countries (on both sides of the then Iron Curtain) I have been trying to get this message across to my compatriots.  But who am I?

Here is an excerpt from Sach's bio as it appears on the home page of the Earth Institute at Columbia University,

"Jeffrey D. Sachs is the Director of The Earth Institute, Quetelet Professor of Sustainable Development, and Professor of Health Policy and Management at Columbia University. He is also Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. From 2002 to 2006, he was Director of the UN Millennium Project and Special Advisor to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan on the Millennium Development Goals, the internationally agreed goals to reduce extreme poverty, disease, and hunger by the year 2015. Sachs is also President and Co-Founder of Millennium Promise Alliance, a nonprofit organization aimed at ending extreme global poverty.

Professor Sachs is widely considered to be the leading international economic advisor of his generation.  For more than 20 years Professor Sachs has been in the forefront of the challenges of economic development, poverty alleviation, and enlightened globalization, promoting policies to help all parts of the world to benefit from expanding economic opportunities and wellbeing.  He is also one of the leading voices for combining economic development with environmental sustainability, and as Director of the Earth Institute leads large-scale efforts to promote the mitigation of human-induced climate change."

Ironically, Zakaria chose to end his program with the news that Argentina's president, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, was reelected by a landslide, after continuing her dead husband's social democratic economic policies.  The Nestor de Kirchner brought the party that grew out of the Peronist movement into the Socialist International.

Under the two Kirchners, Argentina went in ten years from a failed economy to 9% annual growth.  Zakaria felt obliged to close on a familiar note of warning: inflation is creeping up in Argentina, and soon it will be time for a reckoning.

I am not an economist, but I would bet that economists like Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman would tell Zakaria that it is possible to tinker with the system to prevent inflation from getting out of control.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Yes We Can Has Become No You Can't

Got a lot of flack on Daily Kos for this post this afternoon, but tonight's news includes everything in my 'kitchen sink' piece, which follows:

Even those who campaigned most fervently for Barack Obama in 2008 are beginning to realize that, for whatever reasons, he has failed them. Yes You Can Has Become No You Can’t.

As the few begin to realize the breadth and depth of the disaster they have created ,established standards for police behavior are jettisoned, leading to violence against the many.

I was out of the country during the Viet Nam War, but the campus violence reported then will have been as nothing compared to what is coming. At that time, ‘the people’ were saying to power ‘No you can’t make war in a faraway land for spurious reasons’ (the so-called Communist threat).  Now power is saying to the people ‘No, you can’t prevent us from taking all the marbles’.

The spotlight shines mainly on financial crimes, but the Tea Party is relentlessly at work at the state level. Melissa Harris Perry reported this morning on MSNBC that Mississippi wants to amend its Bill of Rights to define a fertilized egg as a human being.  (The irony is that meanwhile we continue to fight Muslims because women are second-class citizens.)

How did this come about? In the sixties, counter-culture ideology was limited to ‘make love, not war’.  The middle class went on living as before, many better than before as the postwar economic miracle kept giving. But the cult of economic growth led to working class poverty. Today we are fighting a nine year old war in Afghanistan, and only winding up in Iraq to make troops and materiel available for other interventions, as we scrounge for the last barrels of oil that keep our economy going for the few.

Heavily influenced by Buddhism, instead of socialism, the 60s ideology failed to reject the capitalist ideology and tuned out the message of the “Limits to Growth”. Today’s 99 are against war, and are finally beginning to realize that only a mixed economy can provide greater equity.  But they too are failing to connect the dots: capitalist-driven greed is rendering the planet unfit for human survival, and we are now confront with “The Tragedy of the Commons”.

P.S. Tunisia’s first ever democratic election resulted in Islamists gaining the largest number of votes, with two left of center parties dividing most of the rest. The Arab Spring’s left-wing tradition goes way back, via France.

P.P.S.  Anyone notice various people in the Occupy Movement sporting Palestinian kheffias?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Broken World

On the same day that I read the gut wrenching article in the November Harpers by Ed Vulliamy entitled ‘Broken Britain’ that details how Britain went from relative prosperity to a country falling apart in ways familiar to Americans, I receive a link to a scientific study that identifies the 147 corporations and banks that literally rule the world:

As thoughtful people everywhere ask over and over again the question “why are ‘they’ doing this?”, the answer becomes increasingly clear: the earth cannot support the 10 billion people projected for mid or late century, hence those with power have set about seeing to it that increasing numbers become expendable.

Here are two excerpts from Vulliamy’s article:

(Prime Minister) “Cameron spoke of a ‘slow-motion moral collapse’  of the country he used to call, when in opposition ‘broken Britain’.  He insisted on the need to confront ‘the attitudes and assumptions that have brought parts of our society to this shocking state, including irresponsibility, selfishness, behaving as if your choices had no consequences.’


“The ‘moral collapse’, it seems, starts at the top  Yet no one wants to connect the dots - to look at the miasma of treaties, social and political alliances, cycles of back-scratching and mutual convergences that define the British elite.  Britain’s problems are singular: singularly serious, singularly fetid, and singularly vulgar.  The country that packages itself as ‘Cool Britannia’ has become greedy, obsessed with commercialism at the expense of any other value or norm...”

After detailing the disastrous state of formerly state-owned utilities and services, Vulliamy compares them to those of France, Germany and the Netherlands, countries with a healthy respect for government-owned public service entities, and which until recently, harbored an equally healthy mistrust of American style capitalism; none of them has seen the kind of violence that rocks Britain.

Back now to the New Scientist study, as reviewed by Julianne Escobedo Shepherd on Alternet:

“Less than 1 per cent of the companies were able to control 40 per cent of the entire network.... Most were financial institutions. The top 20 included Barclays Bank, JP Morgan Chase & Co, and The Goldman Sachs Group. [...]”

A complex systems expert who has advised Deutsche Bank remarked that it is disconcerting to see how connected things really are.

“For OWS purposes: Merrill Lynch is at number 10, Goldman Sachs at 18, Morgan Stanley at 21, Bank of America at 25. Number one? Barclays, (the British bank) “which currently helps fund Robert Mugabe, among other things.

The scientists in the study were split on whether economic concentration necessarily amounted to political power, but it's certainly a porous distinction in some places.”

Progressive writers need to stop walking back from the evidence.


_Join the  Petition to Amend at /

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I Got It!

Oct, 25th Apologies!  For some strange reason (sic), I sent out the notice about this post, but forgot to post it!

Corporate newscasters like Dylan are not the only ones who demonstrate a lack of ideological literacy. Their ignorance partly accounts of that of the brave and joyous occupiers of Wall Street, who are sounding more and more like the sixties, having recreated a commune in a New York City park.

An excellent article in the new NYR by Michael Greenberg, makes clear the reason why occupiers insist they’re neither right nor left: it’s because they reject both Democrats and Republicans, for being subservient to the corporatocracy. Notwithstanding this stark reality, in the minds of the protesters, the Dems are in their new iteration are still ‘left’ and the Republicans are ‘right’. Hence to be against both is to be ‘neither left nor right’.

They have yet to realize that the Dems are not ‘left’ according to the definition of left in the rest of the world. If they get access to Ideology 101, they will know the difference between Communism, Socialism and Social Democracy For more than fifty years the latter has brought Europe prosperity and peace - until, with Barack Obama’s election it allowed itself to believe that the Democratic Party was once again a Left party (meaning it would succeed in gradually transforming the corporatocracy that hurts so many citizens, into an American version of social democracy). The commonly held belief by the European and American ‘left’ that the Democratic Party was on its side resulted in the blind faith in the American financial system that led to the massive financial crisis that affected mainly us and them.

The Occupiers need to add to their new form of participatory democracy an on-going sketch of a governing system that will allow us to get from growth at all costs, to sustainable no-growth societies. They could add to their reading ‘Ecologica’ by the French essayist Andre Gorz, information about bitcoin, local currencies and the many experiments in self-governance and survival that are out there.

Sign the "Move to Amend Petition"!

Finally, we have a chance to change some of the rules.  Don't let it pass you by.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Will Dylan Ratigan Get Away with It?

The man keeps repeating it, like a mantra:  the Occupy movement is not a left/right issue.  Maybe he needs to read some history that goes further back than Teddy Roosevelt, and includes the other side of the pond.

One begins to suspect that the MSNBC host is being handed a line by the White House.

It wouldn't be the first time, but this time it's particularly galling because Ratigan pretends to be on the side of the 99.

I'd like him to explain to me how the existence of a numerical expression 99/1 can represent anything but class warfare, which by definition pits the left (the 99) against the right (the 1 percenters).  Calling it a top/bottom issue show's his total lack of ideological culture, on par with that of most of his audience.

Will someone with more clout than me call him on this, or is he going to get away with it?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Not a Left/Right Issue, Dylan?

It’s tempting to think that the MSNBC p.m. roster is mostly on the people’s side, but even Dylan Ratigan disappoints.

Today he insisted over and over that the Occupy Movement’s issue with the banks was not a left/right issue. We just need somehow to regulate them and our problems will be solved.

The Occupy Movement would not be a left/right issue IF we had a mixed economy (a part government, part private system). Then we could, as in Europe, call for increased regulation of the banking system and a return to the sanity that prevailed before it caved to the call of the American Siren (see Greek mythology).

Iceland’s was only the most flamboyant crisis, and the countries that by and large avoided the 2008 crash and its aftermath are the fast-developing BRIC countries, which kept their financial systems in check in order to lift huge populations out of dire poverty, even as we pushed more and more of our populations into poverty.

It’s going to take a lot of education to make the public realize that this is class warfare, in other words, a left/right issue.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Iranian Plot

The tale of Iran plotting to have Mexican drug lords kill the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. really does sound ridiculous.

I wouldn't be surprised if it turns out that this was a Mossad sting.  Israel is not about to give up on its campaign to have Iran eliminated.  Never mind its more immediate problems.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Impossible Dreams of Tea Partiers and Occupiers

Today Fareed Zakaria interviewed various ‘experts’ on how to get America back on its feet: the diagnosis was severe, but all his guests agreed that if we do the right things, America’s best days are ahead.  (Never mind that, according to Tom Friedman, we are not only behind China, but also Brazil... And never mind that the fault lies as much with the media as with government.)

Sadly, From what I’m reading about New York and witnessing in Philadelphia, the much hoped for movement on the left that could be the counterpart to the Tea Party, shows the same lack of ideological literacy. Both want to ‘take back America’, one focusing on bootstraps, the other on cumbaya. The Tea Party thinks we can return to the early days of the country, when almost anyone could get rich if he were shrewd. The Occupy Wall Street and Move to Amend (the Constitution) movements model their demands on the Declaration of Independence, emphasizing the right of the people to be heard, but failing to mention the right to overthrow a government that doesn’t hear them.

With different emphases, both movements are about preserving a three hundred year old ‘liberal’ system.  The Tea Party sees solidarity as individual subordination to ‘the state’, urging competition and personal responsibility; the Occupiers also decry behemoth government, but  rather than calling for states ‘rights’ they favor decentralization, local power and cooperation. Both are out of synch with the rest of the world, which, starting more than a century ago, has tended to replace ‘liberalism’ with various forms of social democracy, based on cooperation and solidarity.

Pundits harp on the shortcomings of our system of education: not enough math and science (never mind that reading is at an abysmal level). Never do they mention the social sciences, the history, geography and economics of various governing systems. A pretty teenager at the occupation of Philadelphia’s City Hall held a sign that read: “Let’s Remain Focused and Not be Like The Tea Party”. I could not convince her that what made the Tea Party dangerous was precisely its ability to focus.

The suggested amendments to the Constitution and the list of grievances of the Occupy movement constitute a good start.  But to think that the present economic system can be reformed is as much a misconception as the one that led to Mikhail Gorbachev’s downfall. Believing the Soviet system could be reformed, he was ousted by Boris Yeltsin, who understood that it wasn’t meeting the needs of the people. But central planning was replaced in Russia and Eastern Europe by the American free market system instead of the social democratic systems that had brought prosperity to Northern and Western Europe, making them vulnerable when the financial bubble burst.

Unless the occupy movement accepts that it is indeed engaged in a mighty class war, it will be co-opted. Here’s an excerpt from Van Jones’ ‘Take Back the American Dream’ Conference of October 4th:

“A coalition of liberal organizations are planning to push for a liberal agenda and recruit progressive politicians at every level of government — with or without President Obama.

Taking hold of the momentum generated by the “Occupy Wall Street” protests occurring across the country, the liberal leaders have drafted plans to implement what they call an “American Autumn” — a realignment of American politics inspired by the pro-democracy protests in the Middle East dubbed the “Arab Spring.”

Really? Do Robert Reich and Jan Schakowsky think we can solve our problems by bringing together various shades of liberalism, as opposed to the ‘messy’ mix of liberals, communists, socialists, sunnis, shi’as, salafists, copts and others who together are trying to overthrow their authoritarian/liberal regimes?

Thanks partly to the failure of our mainstream media to inform and enlighten, most of the participants in our protest movements do not know that even when the European right governs, it cannot eliminate the gains made by working people in the last century. The demonstrations in Europe are presented as betrayals of the liberal cause, requiring IMF style austerity measures. But Europe’s financial crisis follows on the siren’s call of deregulation in a script written by the United States. Our ‘occupy’ movement should emulate the people of Europe, by affirming the superiority of cooperation over competition and solidarity over profit. After all, even liberalism’s star performer Tom Friedman touts a public/private system, only he doesn’t call it social democracy - yet.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Occupy New York Declaration

Whenever the mainstream media deigns to mention the Occupy Wall St movement that has been going on for more than three weeks now, its one comment is that there are no demands.  When I went to look up the demands, I happened onto this declaration, which suggests that the demands are not negligable.  I reproduce it here in its entirety.  Comment tomorrow.


As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.
They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.
They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.
They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press. They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.
They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives or provide relief in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantial profit.
They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.
They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad. They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.
They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts. *

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

*These grievances are not all-inclusive.