Guest Thinkers Contemplate Culture War and the Hijacking of Capitalism

Continuing in a political vein… I’ll hand over the floor to a few Large Minds – some of them pals – offering them a chance to lay some politically redolent thoughts on you.

== Two Successful Capitalists Decry The Hijacking of Capitalism ==

Let’s hear from two fellows who are unabashed capitalists and acolytes of Adam Smith… just like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates (and me!)… starting with one of the world’s top/respected pundits on technology industry, Mark Anderson, CEO of the Strategic News Service:

“For me, there is no more poignant example of the Bush 9.11 era, and the need to get beyond it now. Like two slides, I picture, first: an army of soldiers surrounding bin Laden in the mountains of Tora Bora, and then being ordered by Team Bush to wait until the locals can get there and participate, at which point the enemy has escaped.

 “I compare that slide to the story of this year: after a year in secret investigation and preparation, Team Obama finds a likely target compound in Pakistan, orders in Seal Team Six via stealth choppers, uses overwhelming force, and shoots to kill. DNA samples are taken to confirm ID, and the body is dumped ignominiously in the ocean, with no propaganda pics for the enemy, and no burial process or site to rally round.” What a difference.  And yet, which man is called a “wimp”?”

(I will soon put up an essay appraising the different ways that democrats and republicans use military might and wage war.  You’ll be astonished by how stark it is, like night and day. Almost like two different species.)

Another guest voice is venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, a solid member of the 1%, explains the problem of wealth disparity:

There can never be enough superrich Americans to power a great economy. The annual earnings of people like me are hundreds, if not thousands, of times greater than those of the average American, but we don’t buy hundreds or thousands of times more stuff. My family owns three cars, not 3,000. I buy a few pairs of pants and a few shirts a year, just like most American men. ….I can’t buy enough of anything to make up for the fact that millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans can’t buy any new clothes or enjoy any meals out. Or to make up for the decreasing consumption of the tens of millions of middle-class families that are barely squeaking by, buried by spiraling costs and trapped by stagnant or declining wages. … Rich businesspeople like me don’t create jobs. Middle-class consumers do, and when they thrive, U.S. businesses grow and profit. That’s why taxing the rich to pay for investments that benefit all is a great deal for both the middle class and the rich.”

Now, this one-percenter is a hero.  I like him and agree with ehat he says.  But still, just among us chickens, the point he’s trying to make is a bit more complicated than it appears.  Supply Siders do not expect 1%ers to help the economy by buying stuff (which is high velocity stimulation), but rather by investing in new “supply” systems like plants and equipment and factories and inventions.

The irony?  This is exactly what Hanauer and other venture capitalists are doing!  Indeed, I believe that what they do – (starting new companies that create new goods and services) – should be rewarded with very low capital gains taxes.  It is risky and does a lot of good. And does that make me a supply-sider?

The problem is that the Supply Side cult as a whole is wedged. It envisions ALL one-percenters to be risk-taking primary investors in new enterprises and new employment and new productivity, like Hanauer. Instead most are passive recipients of dividends and capital gains from established stocks, and beneficiaries of immense tax-breaks. They do not use increased income to create new productive enterprises, or jobs. They use it to get richer. Period.

This is catastrophic during a depression, when you want money to be high velocity, not clutched tight or sitting in a vast scrooge portfolio, but passed from dockworker to barber to dentist to grocery chain to janitor to gas station. Supply siders tout the he lowest-velocity use of money, rewarding the least economically useful activity, which has never ever ever done what the supply siders claim it would do.

== Why Culture War? ==

Yes, Phase Three of the American Civil War has been foisted on us by powerful, cynical men for their own political and economic gain.  But there have to be deeper things going on.  Psychological drives that those men cleverly exploit.

Our next guest, researcher and science fiction author Dr. Charles Gannon, has offered his own diagnosis of Culture War and why so many millions of our neighbors nod along with Glenn Beck, marching willingly to enlist in the Great Big War on Science… and on teachers, doctors, journalists, civil servants, and so on, biliously hating every American knowledge profession.

(Go ahead and ask your crazy uncle to name ONE major center of American intellect and knowledge that isn’t under attack by Fox & co. Make it a wager!)

Chuck Gannon suggests that in this modern, dizzying age, people respond to that most primal of all fears: fundamental loss of control.

“In short, people are realizing more and more that they know less and less about almost everything in their lives. How many people understand what is going on with the euro and how that’s part of a much bigger picture? How many understand ANYthing about how their smartphone works–not what it does, but how it WORKS?  What are the ethics of cloning? Of copyright? Of no child left behind versus the death of rigor and excellence?

“Head in hand, they feel the grey matter between their hands threatening to explode. And they want relief. And  they have their eureka moment. “I know! I will adopt a stance! And so what if I can’t figure out my own stance? I can BORROW one! 

“I will shop amongst the bazaar (bizarre) of demagogues and choose the one that says the things I like best. And the details–well, they’re only details. Someone else will think about those–and besides, I’m fed up with details. (Secretly, where they can’t even hear it: “all those details I don’t understand make me feel stupid….”)

“I suppose, at some level, it has ever been thus. However, I think the Tofflerian Waves and Culture Shocks geometrically amplify the discomfort. The distance between the haves and have nots is growing, yes–but I think the separation between the knows and know-nots is growing just as fast. It is not that they ARE stupid, but they feel that way. 

“And in a culture which panders to couch-potato passive consumption of media and goods, dumbs down the critical reasoning component of schools (and life), and in which an integrated view of “reality” moves further and further beyond the reach of even the most cognitively proactive folks, they hardly have the role-models or encouragement, or preparation to FIGHT through the tides of uncertainty in their lives and set sail upon the high seas of perpetual indefinitude that is the modern world.”

Worth pondering.  Thoughts anyone?

== Call the GolgaFrincham B-Ark! ==

Our next guest, my cousin Jonathan Baskin, has some pretty cool insights into the pathetic world of Public Relations spin-doctoring.

“The public relations industry’s trade association is running a campaign to come up with a new definition for PR. I can see the problem, since social media technologies have democratized the tweaking, spinning, and obfuscating of the truth that used to be the exclusive purview of PR professionals. In an age when anyone can be an expert on anything, every opinion is as valid as the next and no fact need go unchallenged, contradicted, or ignored. The mediascape has become a truth free zone. You’d think the PR people would have died and gone to heaven, but there’s no money to be made when nobody needs an intermediary to peddle access through those Pearly Gates.

“We’re all PR people now.”

== Good News? ==

In 2010 there were 34.3 births among every thousand girls between the ages of 15 and 19. That’s down 9 percent from 2009. And it’s the lowest number in nearly seven decades of reporting. The figure comes from a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called Births: Preliminary Data for 2010. [Brady E. Hamilton, Joyce A. Martin and Stephanie J. Ventura] And it’s filled with interesting stats. For one, teen births have hit that record low. And that statistic includes more good news – birth rates are at record lows for all ethnic and racial groups, and even for younger teenagers.

The number of births to unmarried moms also declined. And pre-term births declined. The trend towards lower numbers is general – the birth rate fell overall by 3 percent. It’s also down for women in their twenties and thirties, according to a recent article in Scientific American.

So…let’s see. In addition to all this good news… crime has plummeted. So has illegal immigration. (See below for details.)

The Soviets are gone and the terrifying muslim world is democratizing. Osama’s dead.

Federal taxes consume less of the national income than at any time since 1950.

Tax rates are the lowest in 80 years.

So why are these the areas people scream about?  Instead of all the ways things have genuinely gone worse?

== A Prediction I wish Never Came True…. Has ==

Shock as retreat of Arctic sea ice releases deadly greenhouse gas.  There are truly vast amounts of hydrated methane ices on the ocean floors.  As temperatures rise, these will be released. And methane is far more powerful a greenhouse gas that CO2.

== And finally… some political potpourri ==

* Said it before and I will keep saying it: I want a second “clock” set up next to the National Debt Clock, showing what our debt would have been by now, if the US government had been allowed to collect royalties, like a business, on its own inventions. Like the Internet, communications satellites, weather satellites, pharmaceuticals, microchips, weather forecasting, aeronautics and jet engines, and so on…. All were given to businesses and the world for free!

And that’s not a subsidy? Not socialism? Or better — is it proof of the value of a mixed social contract, in which vigorous entrepreneuialism and competitive creativity have been fostered by a generally benign and responsive government? Do you doubt that the Alternative Debt Clock would be in the black and running backward?

If nothing else, it would graphically repudiate those now proclaiming that neither science nor government have any value.

* It’s 1999. America rides high, making so much $$ off innovation we use WalMart to uplift a world middle class. Our Pax is unchallenged. A rich, scientific people. What mistakes would an enemy lure us into making, to change all that? Repeat Vietnam? Repeat our Civil War? Wreck our science and expert classes? How about all three? Read The True Cost of 9/11, by Joseph E. Stiglitz.

* See a vastly detailed and deeply disturbing article in Bloomberg about the Koch brothers — getting richer with secret Iran sales. Seriously, read at least the first ten paragraphs or so.

* Think Adam Smith would have approved? Goldman-Sachs manipulates the world’s aluminum supply AND makes money renting the storage space.

* Evidence for influence of the Saudi Royal House in American affairs has piled high, such as the way President George W. Bush openly spoke of having been “partly raised by” Prince Bandar bin Sultan and walks with him holding hands – a friendliness that showed whenAmericans were forbidden to fly for two days after 9/11, but every well-connected Saudi was rushed out of the U.S. and away from the reach of FBI interviewers, on luxury charters at taxpayer expense.

Lately, we’ve seen how Rupert Murdoch’s top partner at News Corp. and Fox is Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, whose direct sway at Fox is not related in a recent article by Accuracy in Media.  But connect the dots.  The same media empire that is drumming up Culture War and spite toward all American scientific or intellectual castes… and the same one that pushed for the US to get mired in a decade of draining land wars in Asia. Hm.

* Wow, this was more interesting than I expected it to be. “On Debt, Democracy, and all that...” by Michael Hudson

 * “Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich have promised to complete a nearly 1,950-mile fence to secure the U.S. border. Michele Bachmann wants a double fence. Ron Paul pledges to secure the nation’s southern border by any means necessary, and Rick Perry says he can secure it without a fence — and do so within a year of taking office as president.”

Meanwhile, the actual rate of illegal immigration is plummeting.   Many sources, including the Pew Hispanic Center, agree that the number of illegal immigrants in the United States peaked at 12 million in 2007, but then dropped by almost 1 million through 2009, and has largely held steady since then at about 11.1 million. Border Patrol apprehensions of illegal immigrants have also fallen sharply. In fiscal year 2011, which ended Sept. 30, the Border Patrol captured 327,577 illegal immigrants on the southwestern border — the lowest total in four decades.

* President Obama recently gave a speech in Osawatomie, Kansas, the same place where, back in 1910, Theodore Roosevelt said: “We grudge no man a fortune in civil life if it is honorably obtained and well-used,” Roosevelt said, but added: “We should permit it to be gained only so long as the gaining represents benefit to the community.”

Describing what he called a “new Nationalism,” Roosevelt said it “regards the executive power as the steward of public welfare. …It demands of the judiciary that it shall be interested primarily in human welfare rather than in property, just as it demands that the representative body shall represent all the people rather than any one class or section of the people.”

* And finally, from Scientific American: “The Horn of Africa is in the midst of its worst drought in 60 years: Crop failures have left up to 10 million at risk of famine; social order has broken down in Somalia, with thousands of refugees streaming into Kenya; British Aid alone is feeding 2.4 million people across the region. That’s a taste of what’s to come, say scientists mapping the impact of a warming planet on agriculture and civilization.”

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1 Comment

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One response to “Guest Thinkers Contemplate Culture War and the Hijacking of Capitalism

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