Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Giuliani vs Kucinich

Which side you on, boys, which side are you on?
"This attempt to foment a war is really against the best interests of America, it is against the spirit of the country, it is against the economic interests of the people." - Denise Kucinich, 2002
The New York Times "Election Guide 2008" lists the views of the candidates on a variety of topics. Specifically I was interested in the candidates' take on the war against Iraq. The opposite poles turn out to be Dennis Kucinich and Republican Ron Paul on one side, with Rudy Giuliani and John McCain on the other.

How anyone in their right mind can claim that Giuliani or McCain are moderates is beyond me. In fact, reading Giuliani's take on things, I am pretty convinced he has gone mad. All this guy thinks about is the "War on Terror."

Want an expanded police state? You can't do better than voting for Giuliani, thats for damned sure!

Meanwhile, Kucinich running what has become his expected protest campaign (but among the candidates, he easily wins in the hottest wife category), is right on the money and consistent over time. It is sad that neither the interests of the corporate media nor our government are not in alignment with those of the masses.

Only when the power is taken from the hands of the few and restored to the collective will of the many will peace prevail. We must end arrogant capitalist rule and the vanity of nationalism. Only a socialist reordering of society will bring about an end to war and the lies that lead to them.

From the New York Times:
Dennis Kucinich, Democrat

This attempt to foment a war is really against the best interests of America, it is against the spirit of the country, it is against the economic interests of the people.
-- In an Interview, Sept. 21, 2002

This escalation means a continuation of the occupation, more troop and civilian casualties, more anger toward the US, more support for the insurgency, more instability in Iraq and in the region, and prolonged civil war at a time when there is a general agreement in the world community that the solution in Iraq must be political not military. What is needed is a comprehensive political process. And the decision is not President Bush's alone to make.
-- In a Speech, Jan. 8, 2007

I think it's inconsistent to tell the American people that you oppose the war, and yet you continue to vote to fund the war, because every time you vote to fund the war, you're reauthorizing the war all over again.
-- At the Democratic Candidates Debate, April 26, 2007

Rudy Giuliani, Republican

I think it's quite appropriate to go back and explain, 'Well, I might have done it this way, or I might have done it with more troops, or I might have done it some other way.' But here's the reality of it: We're at war. And we're at war because they're at war with us. They want to come here and kill us so we've got to put Iraq in the context of a much broader picture than just Iraq.
-- On " Hannity and Colmes", Feb. 6, 2007

I support what the president asked for support to do and what General Petraeus has asked for support to do, not because there's any guarantee it's going to work. There's never any guarantee at war. But if we can come out with a correct solution or a better solution in Iraq, it's going to make the whole war on terror go better.
-- On " Hannity and Colmes", Feb. 6, 2007

I detect in the Democrats a kind of attempt to go back to a pre-September 11 mentality in which we're not anticipating. And I also believe that they would not have made the mistake of wanting to force us to give our enemies a timetable of our retreat I've never heard of an army in the history of the world being required, if it's going to retreat, to give its enemy a timetable of that retreat..
-- On " Fox News Sunday", May 14, 2007

Friday, September 14, 2007

Productivity and the Crisis of Capital

It is truly telling when even capitalist wonks are making the same critiques (with some of the same conclusions) of the financialization of capital as Marxists have been all along. The fellows at Minyanville fall into that category and have these interesting posts over the past two days:

Kevin Depew:
Eric Weiner in an article published in Tuesday's LA Times (Use time wisely -- by slacking off) writes, "Attitudes toward work differ not only across time but also place. Corinne Maier's appropriately slim volume, "Bonjour Laziness: Why Hard Work Doesn't Pay," advocated that workers resort to "active disengagement" at the office. It was a bestseller in France but didn't resonate on these shores."
  • Yes, when it was published a year ago, Maier's book advocating laziness didn't resonate on these shores.
  • But that is already changing.
  • Weiner writes in the Times:
    "In his essay, "In Praise of Idleness," British philosopher Bertrand Russell proposed reducing the workday to four hours, convinced that "the road to happiness and prosperity lies in an organized diminution of work." I agree. So be creative, be happy and waste some more time. Read this article again and again. Try reading it backward. E-mail it to co-workers. Translate it into Mandarin, then back into English. Then grab a coffee and enjoy some down time."
  • What is the connection with financial markets?
  • Think back for a moment to the Greenspan Productivity Miracle.
  • Well, the former Fed Chairman was certainly right about that.
  • The U.N.'s International Labor Organization recently issued a report that found that the U.S. leads the world in worker productivity -- and by a wide margin, Weiner notes.
  • So why would it change?
  • Productivity, like most "financial virtues," is the products of positive social mood trends.
  • As social mood transitions to negative, we can expect to see less and less "virtue" in hard work.
  • Think about it: real wages are virtually stagnant, so it's not as if people have experienced real reward for their work.
  • What has been experienced is an unconscious and shared herding impulse trending upward; a shared optimistic mood finding "joy" and "happiness" in work and denigrating the sole pursuit of leisure, idleness.
  • If social mood has, in fact, peaked, we can expect to see a different attitude toward work and productivity emerge.
  • Note that Weiner's article doesn't simply value leisure - it values "slacking off."
  • The phrase itself carries negative connotations:
    • Slacking - loosening, becoming less tight, less taut
    • Off - disengaging, dropping, deflating
  • These are not accidental connotations.
  • Within a positive social mood regime this might instead be called "pursuit of leisure."
13-Sep-2007: Minyanville, Five Things You Need to Know
And later:
Prof. Depew,

I think you've hit on one of the major causes of the productivity backpedaling when you point out that workers have long been receiving deteriorating real compensation. I think that as credit dries up, they will be left to face the impact of this lack of real income growth. Credit has simply masked that impact for years (indeed, the deteriorating real incomes have probably spurred the very same runaway consumer credit growth).

But I think there is another side to the drop in productivity, which I also expect to continue in force: the business world in general seems to have forgotten how to create progress at its financial core (wisely financing innovation). If too much malinvestment predominates, then you have entire enterprises of people running around to no profitable end, regardless of how "hard" they work. Ultimately, the debt tied to malinvestment does not get paid back, at which point it effectively subtracts from the GDP, and shows up as lower bulk productivity in the economy.

In a series of mass economic bubbles, such as those which have come to dominate the U.S. economy, you have a rolling pool of malinvestment, which remains even if the current bubble changes. The bubble sucks millions of people into fictitious bubble jobs, all of which are essentially malinvestment. Just think of the hundreds of thousands of pointless and unnecessary jobs and trillions of dollars of fictitious wealth created in the housing finance bubble (ignoring the companion home building bubble).

I would place the number of such jobs in our economy at at least 5 mln, including the housing bubble, the (overpriced) health care bubble, and the Homeland Security bubble. That's a lot of productivity decline baked into the cake...

14-Sep-2007: Minyanville, Malinvestment Behind the Return of the Slacker
Pretty amazing stuff. Of course, these guys are very faithful to their religion, and believe strongly that allowing the "free-market" to work without interference from central banks (such as the Federal Reserve) or from the governments would solve all the ills of the world. They believe that the crisis is an exception to the rule, rather than the rule itself.

This is plain wrong. The financialization of capital is a natural outcome, predicted by Marx, of the capitalist system rooted in the M-M1 circuit of money capital.

So we have:
The monetary crisis referred to in the text, being a phase of every crisis, must be clearly distinguished from that particular form of crisis, which also is called a monetary crisis, but which may be produced by itself as an independent phenomenon in such a way as to react only indirectly on industry and commerce. The pivot of these crises is to be found in moneyed capital, and their sphere of direct action is therefore the sphere of that capital, viz., banking, the stock exchange, and finance.

Capital Vol. I, Ch. 3, Karl Marx, 1967
It is to finance-capital that the capitalist future belongs. But this, both in the international struggle of competition and in the internal class struggle, means the most brutal and violent form of capital.

Finance-Capital and Crises, Karl Kautsky, 1911
The best solution is to overturn the system itself and replace it with a socialist system based on the logic of human need, as opposed to the exploitive capitalist system which is only interested in profit.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Who Manufactured Bin Laden?

A 50-year old web designer who works from her home in South Carolina!

Suprised? Today the Washington Post reports that "Laura Mansfield" has been behind the release of many Bin Laden videos since 9/11/2001.

From an article by Joby Warrick:
Early yesterday morning, a South Carolina Web designer who works at home managed to scoop al-Qaeda by publicly unveiling its new video, a feat she has accomplished numerous times since 2002. Within hours, cable news stations were broadcasting images of Osama bin Laden commemorating the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, and crediting the 50-year-old woman, who uses the pseudonym Laura Mansfield.

9/12/07 Washington Post: Bin Laden, Brought To You By...
How did she do it? The article reports that she and others like her scoure the internet network of terrorist web sites to find the video images, scooping the rest of the media, especially the sluggish "MSM".

One of these spooks, Ben Venzke, says "It's not about bragging rights, it's about the mission." Of course, the money probably doesn't hurt either. But his statement begs the question - what is the mission?

Doing some biographic research on Mansfield shows that she has been involved in Middle Eastern operations since the 1980s. According to her website, she was in Beirut working at the embassy when the terrorist bombing hit the Marine barracks.

But it seems likely that she is a plant and her entire story is made up. At this point I would not even be suprised if she or those she works for actually manufactured the videos.

Do the research and judge for yourself.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Union Busting USA

As union membership in the United States declines, support for unions continues to rise. A recent Gallup Poll shows that although union membership has declined to 12% of the working population in the US, 60% of Americans support unions and would join one given the chance (Unions garner public approval, Randolf Heaster, Kansas City Star).

Although a paradox to the capitalist press, it seems quite obvious why this is so. More people than at any time in the past 35 years need unions, but aggressively anti-union tactics in the private sector have taken away or suppressed worker's rights to organize. This process has been greatly assisted by a mass media which is extremely hostile to organized labor across the board (newspapers, magazines, television, radio and movies). Finally, the linking of liberal and Democratic Party causes to organized labor has made labor's political agenda subservient to these other forces.

The private sector has a low 7.4% of workers organized (compared with 36.2% in the public sector). This is a direct result of the private sector routinely breaking labor laws, using intimidation tactics and firings, and all with a blind eye from the so-called Department of Labor - more of a joke than ever under the Bush administration.

From an article by Cosmo Garvin in Union Review:
As a rule, they don't shoot workers in the fields and at the loading docks anymore [as long as they are white Americans, workers in the US and throughout Latin America are frequently beaten, forced to live in labor camps, held in slave-like conditions, and even murdered - RiR]. This Labor Day, we can all be thankful for that. But trying to form a union can make your life miserable still.

Just ask Gene Esparza, a forklift driver who’s been with Blue Diamond, the international almond exporter headquartered here in downtown Sacramento, since 1969. That’s 38 years. Esparza makes $15.45 an hour, and he pays $500 a month for health insurance for himself, his wife and his two kids.

Esparza is among the workers trying to organize a union at Blue Diamond. “We’re not trying to hurt the company,” he says, “but I’ve got a family to raise. My kids want milk in their cereal. I need to put gas in the car.” He said he hadn’t gotten a raise for 15 years, until the International Longshore and Warehouse Union started helping workers organize a union in 2004. For Esparza and other plant workers, unionization is a no-brainer. But the campaign has been bitter.

The company sends out regular anti-union memos and makes attendance to meetings with supervisors about the union mandatory. Bosses constantly dog workers to make sure they aren’t talking about union business, Esparza claims. “I’ve had bosses come up to me and ask me who I was talking to, how many minutes I was talking to them for. Every time that happens I whip out my little notebook and I say 'I feel you are harassing me right now.’

“There are a lot of people who aren’t very happy. The morale is low. And some people won’t talk to me anymore because they are afraid they are being watched,” Esparza said.

Union Review: Holding All the Cards
With the structural crisis in capital coming to a head over the housing crisis, it is only a matter of time before workers will turn to themselves and form unions to protect their interests.

Its time to fight for union rights now and to break the stranglehold capital has on our work and our lives.

Its time to force the government to enforce its own good labor laws and repeal the bad ones (such as the egregious Taylor Law in New York State, a favorite of Democratic governor Elliot Spitzer).

Its time for a socialist alternative, a true friend of labor, instead of the two-headed capitalist duopoly of the Democrats and Republicans, which has worked tirelessly and brutally to deny the rights of working people for over 150 years.