Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Is “Legally And Peacefully” Still An Option?

When I look back on the past two years I wonder if I should have bothered to be an activist. I wonder if I should have given money to the DNC for the 2006 election. I wonder if I should have bothered to go to peace protests. Maybe instead I should have been considering other options.

On the right there are primarily two major elements in their base. The Christian nutcases and the business elitists. In the last 6 years the GOP has given their base everything they’ve asked for. But what about the DNC?

Despite that 75% of the population supports “Democratic” positions such as ending the war, raising the minimum wage, protecting the environment, and establishing national healthcare, what has the Democratic party delivered? They have said impeachment is off the table, and don’t even have the gumption to push a meaningless “no confidence” vote on Gonzo.

The Dems were elected for 2 reasons: ending the war and impeaching Bush. On the later they have steadfastly refused, and on the former they have shown the kind of spinelessness I thought that was humanly impossible.

Instead of refusing to fund the war as 70% of the US population demands, the Dems have instead funded the war so they won’t look “weak” to the 25% of the country still supporting Bush.

So I have to wonder...when are the Dems going to stop trying to win over Reich wingers by being Republican-lite and start working for OUR interests? Suppose for a moment that Bush declared himself dictator for life and the barricades went up. How much opposition do you think you can count on from the Dems?

I don’t think jumping ship to the Greens will help any. I don’t think getting “better” Dems into office will help. What we are looking at is the complete breakdown of the representative theory of government.

In short, the overwhelming majority of the American populace has just been spat upon by the very people we just put into power just a short 6 months ago. I think we need to figure out some way to get the Dems to represent and work for OUR wishes and OUR demands. And I’m beginning to wonder if there really is a legal and peaceful way to do that.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Cheap Labor Conservatives.

When you cut right through it, right-wing ideology is just “dime-store economics” – intended to dress their ideology up and make it look respectable. You don’t really need to know much about economics to understand it. They certainly don’t. It all gets down to two simple words.

“Cheap labor”. That’s their whole philosophy in a nutshell – which gives you a short and pithy “catch phrase” that describes them perfectly. You’ve heard of “big-government liberals”. Well they’re “cheap-labor conservatives”.

Once you understand the general concept, you will frequently find yourself in debate over specific issues, like healthcare, social security privatization, public school vouchers, the “war on drugs” and of course the war in Iraq. What better way to put your conservative opponent on the defensive than by exposing the true motivation for his position – “cheap labor”. Can you really find the “cheap labor” angle in every conservative policy initiative, and every conservative position on any particular issue?

Yes, you can. Here is a catalogue of some of the major issues on the national agenda. In every single one of them, the conservative position advances the cause of “cheap labor”. I defy any conservative reading this to show me one single conservative position, belief, principle or policy that has any tendency to boost the earning power of labor.


Twenty years ago, cheap-labor conservatives claimed that tax cuts would stimulate the economy, and lead to balanced budgets. They don’t even bother spouting that crap any more. Now they say that deficits “aren’t so bad”, they don’t drive up interest rates, and they don’t create inflationary pressure.

Here’s the real skinny. The purpose behind tax cuts and budget deficits is to bankrupt the government.

Conservatives hate “social spending”. That’s what they mean by “big government”. They want you naked in as harsh an economic environment as they can create. But here’s the problem. Most ordinary people aren’t so ruthless. Most people think life is for living, not working your ass off until you drop. So if we the people can provide some basic social infrastructure for things like a basic retirement, assistance for higher education, unemployment compensation to get you through those Republican periods of high unemployment – well, most people support all of that stuff. Conservatives lose elections when they talk about undoing it.

So the manipulative sons of bitches – who don’t really believe in your right as a citizen in a democracy to establish institutions that do you any good – have come up with a “stealth plan” to get rid of our entire social welfare infrastructure. It’s called “bankruptcy”, and it is not an accident that the first thing Dubya did when he took office was bring back the deficits Bill Clinton had eliminated.


This is obviously directly related to “cheap labor” and doesn’t require much further explanation. In fact, the heading serves as the “One Sentence Response” – and I would stress the “every improvement in US history”, all the way back to abolition of slavery, and such obvious reforms as child labor laws. Cheap-labor conservatives have never been the friend of working Americans. Ever.


Health care costs are outrageously expensive, and threaten people with financial ruin. Also, health insurance is primarily provided by employers through “group plans”. So if you lose your job, you lose your health coverage. This is not quite as a big a problem, since the passage of COBRA – which was opposed by guess who? That’s right, the cheap-labor conservatives.

In short, national health insurance would provide a huge measure of security for working Americans from potential financial catastrophe – which catastrophe is therefore no longer a force keeping you suitably intimidated by your employer.


Way back in the late nineteenth century – where the cheap-labor conservatives are trying to take us – conservatives opposed universal public education. You can go to “Freeper” right now and find cheap-labor conservatives who still oppose it. And the reason is simple. Ignorant and illiterate people have fewer options in life, making them fit subjects for “industrial serfdom”.

In other words, an ineffective public education system is necessary to create a semi-literate workforce of “industrial serfs”, which accounts for cheap-labor conservative opposition to increased teacher pay, smaller class sizes, improvements in physical infrastructure, and anything else that might actually work.

Let’s just propose a simple thought experiment. Suppose we had 95% functional literacy, with similar high school graduation rates, and vast numbers of those high school graduates going to college, or receiving specialized technical training. When everybody is properly educated, who is going to ride on the back of the garbage truck? Who is going to pick tomatoes? Who is going to digger footers on construction sites? And what kind of wages are such workers – who are in short supply and smart enough to know it – going to command?

But wait, there’s more. Let’s consider your average dittohead “wannabe” living in the suburbs. Does he really want his children competing with those “brown” children for a seat in the university? What interest does he have in universal education that actually works? And you know how conservatives are about their “self-interest”.

Well, he can’t very well advocate “resegregation”. So here’s what the cheap-labor conservatives came up with. “Vouchers”. Some of those “brown” children can escape from failing schools – but not all of them. As for the one’s that are “left behind”, well there’s a garbage truck with their name on it – assuming they don’t wind up in jail.


According to cheap-labor conservatives, the only legitimate function of government is to protect the fortunes and privilege of the “haves”. Economic progress like “full employment”, living wages, and first rate education system, all improve the living standards and prospects of the “working poor” – and the “cheap-labor conservatives” can’t have that, can they. So that leaves prison as the only “social program” the conservatives support. They say we “throw money at every problem”. Well “cheap-labor conservatives” throw prison at every problem.


They say they are defending American “culture” – but that “culture” is the culture of the corporate “middle class”. It features conformity, hierarchy, “respect for authority”, regimentation and other “values” of the industrial work place. In fact, America was founded by a group of decidedly undisciplined nonconformists. But that won’t do at all, if you want a docile workforce who will work cheap.


This one is amazingly easy to understand. Dividing working people against each other along racial, gender and ethnic lines keeps them from uniting along class lines. Consider the following example. In 1990, the nation was suffering under yet another period of Republican high unemployment. That was the year that Jesse Helms ran his famous “angry hands” commercial against Harvey Gantt, former African-American mayor of Charlotte. “You needed that job, but they had to give it to a minority.”

This gambit is 150 years old. The cheap-labor conservatives produce a high deficit, high interest rate, “structurally sluggish” economy – then tell struggling white wage-earners that the “problem” is “unqualified minorities”. It was classic “scapegoating”, when the real culprits were the cheap-labor conservatives who liked that sluggish economy.

And in case you doubt whether they liked the sluggish economy, consider the eight year tantrum they threw as President Clinton undid the deficits, brought interest rates down, and fueled an eight year economic boom, bringing unemployment to a 30 year low. Naturally, throwing a wrench into that economy was the first order of business after Dubya’s inauguration.


Since prison and punishment are generally ineffective to reduce crime, and since the “cheap-labor conservatives” will hear of no economic improvements that are effective, “self defense” is about your only protection from crime. Instead of better schools, full employment and other improvements in social conditions, the cheap-labor conservative solution is “buy a gun”.


Maybe you don’t see the cheap-labor connection. It’s there. The “libertarian” position on this is that what you choose to voluntarily ingest, is your business. And of course, marijuana isn’t nearly as bad for you as say, alcohol abuse. But cheap-labor conservatives don’t give a rat’s ass about you’re health, anyway.

What they do care about is delegitimizing the “counter-culture”. If they could do it, they would outlaw deviations from the conformist culture of the “corporate middle class”. They can’t do that directly, so they have come with a “back door” method. They find cultural practices – like smoking a joint – and punish those. Today, they deny education benefits if you have any drug conviction – even for simple possession. They have also encouraged this “privatized” harassment of corporate workers through drug screening, etc. in an effort to economically marginalize the “counter culture”. It is really an exquisitely efficient means to keep the industrial work force intimidated.


Answer this question, why don’t we have efficient cost effective renewable energy systems? Why didn’t we follow Jimmy Carter’s advice in 1979, and undertake the “moral equivalent of war” for energy independence. The technology has been around for decades. In the case of hydrogen fuel cells, the first one was invented in 1843 – that’s “eighteen forty three”.

Energy is like labor in its central importance to the economy. But while conservatives want “cheap labor” they want “expensive energy” – in sources they can monopolize and control. Unfortunately, sunlight is like air. It’s kind of hard to “corner the market” on it. Meanwhile, the biggest beneficiary of “cheap energy” is the work force – who pay a larger portion of their income for energy. Well, we can’t have that. Lowering a wage earner’s “balance of payments” is just like giving him a raise. The same logic, by the way, motivates a “high interest rate” environment.

Now you know why conservatives bad mouth “renewable energy”, and claim that the government “has no business” subsidizing R&D into this technology – as if the government hasn’t subsidized R&D into virtually every piece of high tech gadgetry in your house. Meanwhile, there is one form of “alternative energy” they like. Nuclear power. Why? Because nuclear power is horrendously expensive, and can be monopolized by the huge corporations selling it.

Meanwhile, they support destruction of pristine habitats like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and unlawful invasions of sovereign nations – sitting on a “sea of oil” to use the words of Paul Wolfowitz. All of which proves that the cheap-labor conservatives will do anything – and I mean anything – to prevent any improvement in the wage earner’s economic circumstances, including making sure he doesn’t have access to “cheap energy”.


Perhaps, you thought this should be first – since it is highest on the national agenda right at the moment. Actually, the War in Iraq is an aggregate application of a number of simpler “cheap-labor” policies. First of all, Republican “demonization” notwithstanding, Saddam Hussein was a “target of opportunity”. Paul Wolfowitz said so. Saddam sat atop a really odious regime, in a country sitting atop a “sea of oil” – to again quote Paul Wolfowitz. As for global opposition to the US invasion, that was not an “unforeseen complication”. It was another ”opportunity”. In fact, one of the objectives was to demonstrate to the world that the US can do whatever it wants.

But what about the “cheap-labor” angle, you ask. The invasion of Iraq is the first step in establishing a US led global corporate empire, with a wealthy corporate elite living off of a global pool of “cheap labor”.

Don’t’ believe it? Go to whitehouse.gov and look at the National Security Strategy of the United States. This remarkable document lays out the “cheap-labor” foreign policy of the United States. In addition to the doctrine of “pre-emption – which is nothing new, we’ve been doing it for fifty years – there is the general strategy of “forward deployment” of US forces in the middle east and east Asia, along with the express goal of “discouraging” the emergence of a military rival.

But the National Security Strategy doesn’t stop there. It goes on to discuss which internal policies of other nations the US will “encourage”. Guess what those policies are? The very same policies they are promoting here, including “free trade”, “flattening” tax rates, shifting taxes away from passive investments, reducing the “public sector”, and generally paving the way for corporations to dominate other societies.

The US military will be the “police force” for this global “corporate order”, and Iraq is nothing more than the start of establishing the “military pre-eminance” of that “global police force”. Notice that the neocons are specifically intent on destabilizing international organizations that don’t promote corporate dominance. The conservatives don’t like the World Court, the United Nations or similar organizations. But GATT, the IMF and the World Bank don’t bother them a bit – since those organizations undermine the ability of third world nations to establish anything like our “New Deal mixed economy". And don’t forget, the cheap-labor conservatives are busy destabilizing our own “New Deal mixed economy”, in favor of an economy that strongly resembles present conditions in say, Argentina.

In short, the invasion of Iraq has nothing to do with any “threat” of weapons of mass destruction. Neither do the cheap-labor conservatives really care about a “dictatorial regime” – since they prop plenty of them up, and even supported Saddam Hussein in years gone by. The real purpose of the invasion of Iraq is to provide a demonstration of American military “pre-eminance” – which will ultimately translate into global corporate “pre-eminance”. If you want another word for this “cheap-labor” foreign policy, try “corporate feudalism”.

These aren’t the only examples of “cheap-labor conservative” policies and positions. While I will be supplementing and expanding this list from time to time, you should be getting the idea. Anytime a cheap-labor conservative takes a position on anything at all, take a look at the details. See if somewhere in those details there isn’t some way the wage-earner loses out. I have not yet failed to find the connection. Either the conservative position undermines the bargaining power of the wage earner, limits his economic options, harasses the wage earner in some way, raises his cost of living, increases his economic vulnerability or accomplishes some combination of the above.

Now you can see how, in specific examples. More importantly, you have new tool to use to analyze cheap-labor conservative rhetoric, ideology and policy.

This piece originally posted at: Conceptual Guerilla.

It’s Interesting To Note Who Still Supports The Iraq War.

ABC News is reporting that “Al Qaeda’s No. 2 Mocks The Iraq War Debate”. Which is interesting to note, because it is false on two fronts.

For one, the Egyptian-born pediatrician Ayman al Zawahiri isn’t Al Qaeda’s No. 2 man. He is, in fact, the mentor of Osama bin Laden.

And secondly, al Zawahiri isn’t mocking the Iraq War debate in the United States. He is, in reality, a full and complete supporter of the Iraq War.

Al Zawahiri stated in his latest video release, “This bill will DEPRIVE us of the opportunity to destroy the American forces which we have caught in a historic trap.”

It is suspected that the latest video release by Al Zawahiri was made after the passage of The Iraq War supplemental which included pull-out language in the bill. But was made prior to President Bush’s veto of that bill.

Al Zawahiri continued saying, “We ask Allah that they only get out of it after losing 200,000 to 300,000 killed, in order that we give the spillers of blood in Washington and Europe an unforgettable lesson.”

So the mentor of Osama bin Laden wants us to STAY in Iraq so that his supporters will have the “opportunity” to kill thousands of American soldiers. Isn’t it strange that Reich wing nutcases find a lot of common ground with Islamic nutcases?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Gipper Won’t Win This One.

By Robert L. Borosage

As Republican contenders for the presidential nomination gather for their first debate Thursday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, they are caught between a rock and a hard place. The vast majority of Americans have given up on George Bush, the sitting conservative president. But the die-hards who still support him are loyal Republican primary voters that no Republican candidate can afford to offend.

How can the contenders distance themselves from Bush’s failures without alienating their own base? Expect them to invoke the conservative icon Ronald Reagan early and often. They’ll call for a return to the faith, pledge to follow in the footsteps of the Gipper and promise a new “Morning in America.”

But the Gipper can’t save them. Bush’s signature failures—the war in Iraq, Katrina, Enron and the corporate scandals, failed tax and trade policies, the attempt to privatize Social Security, the posturing around Terri Schaivo and stem cells – can be traced back not simply to the conservative ideology and ideologues that sired them—but to the core conservative doctrine that Reagan championed. The Gipper can’t lead Republican candidates out of the wilderness because, to paraphrase him, his conservatism is not the solution to their problem; his conservatism is the problem.

Over the last six years, with Bush in the White House, Tom DeLay ramrodding the Republican Congress, and Karl Rove focused on mobilizing the Republican base, conservatives have largely had their way. Bush pursued the core ideas of each strand of “movement conservatism” largely to catastrophic effect. In each case, he was simply walking in Reagan’s footsteps.

The neo-cons got the Iraq war they plotted for, and produced the worst foreign policy debacle in U.S. history. Their toxic mix of militarist unilateralism, scorn for allies and the United Nations, dismissal of international law, embrace of an imperial presidency above the law was Reagan’s opening act. In his first term, Reagan scorned détente, arms control, the U.N. and global accords. Reagan also fecklessly exposed U.S. troops in Lebanon—and had the intervention literally blow up in his face. He just had the good sense to cut and run, and then pick on a target easier to deal with—hapless Grenada in the Caribbean.

Under Bush, corporate conservatives took charge of economic policy and pushed through top-end tax cuts, Wall Street trade policies, deregulation and privatization, crony corporate staffing and subsidies, open assault on labor unions, rollback of consumer and environmental protections. The results were stagnant wages, a corporate crime wave, Gilded Age inequality, the worst trade deficits in the annals of time, billions squandered in subsidies to Big Oil and Big Pharma—and an economy now dependent on the good will of Chinese and Japanese central bankers. But Bush was only ordering from the Gipper's menu. He first served up the same noxious policy cocktail—and got the same results, even including the corporate plunder culminating in the savings and loan rip-off that cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars.

Small government conservatives didn’t get much from either president, since both favored top-end tax cuts and military spending over balanced budgets. But both Bush and Reagan cut back on spending on the poor and on domestic programs. Both disdained the civil servants they were elected to lead. Both starved vital infrastructure investments from levees in New Orleans to sewers in our cities. Both stocked regulatory agencies with corporate lobbyists intent on gelding the agencies that monitored their former clients. For Reagan, the scandals ranged from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to the Interior department. Bush was less lucky, as Katrina exposed the terrible price of conservative scorn for government.

Under Bush, fundamentalists got mostly gestures and a politics of division—posturing on gay marriage amendments, gag rules on family planning and birth control abroad, curbs on stem cell research, intrusion into the personal tragedy of Terri Schaivo. But Reagan first practiced that playbook, using race to divide, invoking conservative values but ducking pitched battles over them.

Why is Reagan popular and Bush dismissed? Much comes from personal nostalgia for the old performer and from the right-wing campaign to deify him. Unlike Bush, Reagan avoided losing a war. He talked tough but was actually cautious in the use of military force, much to the dismay of the neoconservatives who assailed him. He was also saved by his adversaries – the USSR’s Mikhail Gorbachev who essentially sued for peace, and Democrats in Congress who blocked many of Reagan’s domestic excesses—like the talk of gutting Social Security. Bush had no such luck. His catastrophic occupation of Iraq has provided al Qaeda and its franchises with recruits across the world, and for the last six years, his allies controlled the Congress and followed his lead.

So what will Republican candidates do? Stay loyal to a failed president? Embrace Ronald Reagan, whose conservative ideology is at the root of Bush’s failures? Adjust the right-wing catechism, or choose doctrine over experience?

Perhaps there’s one lesson the Gipper can offer. Republicans are going to need someone with Reagan’s ability to peddle the unpalatable. No wonder a yet-undeclared TV actor—Fred Thompson—is emerging as their new best hope.

Robert L. Borosage is the co-director of the Institute for America's Future. This article was first published in the Chicago Tribune.

LAPD Brutality On May Day.

To many people in the world, myself included, May Day marks one of the most important days of the year. May Day was the original Labor Day, and is recognized by most of the developed world as such. Not so much in the United States, despite that the celebration of May Day originated here.

Given the history of this worker’s holiday, it is only fitting for untold thousands of immigrant workers to march for better working conditions. And march they did. If the anti-war movement had a fraction of the organization and dedication that these non-English-speaking immigrants did, then chances are our soldiers would be home by now.

However, the May Day march in Los Angeles didn’t go off without a hitch. In fact, the marchers were attacked by the Los Angeles Police Department. “They were merciless”, said KPFK radio host Ernesto Arce, who took part in the march. For 30 minutes hundreds of activists and bystanders were shot with rubber bullets and beaten with night sticks. The cops “chased us through the park firing at anyone who might have been an obstacle. I witnessed many people who were shot at from the back,” Arce said.

Which, of course, given the well documented history of racism inside the LAPD, it isn’t all that surprising that the LAPD would attack peaceful protesters. This is the same police department that has ties to white supremacists, who hires cocaine smugglers, who shoots and kills African-American 13 year olds, 19 month old Hispanic toddlers, and 13 years after the history of the Rodney King beating, still clubs black men when they are surrendering to police.

Given this history, this kind of behavior by the LAPD won’t change until they are forced to change. Perhaps if police officers had to run for public office to keep their jobs, then maybe they wouldn’t be so quick to beat and kill their constituency. Until then, perhaps the immigrant community can learn a thing or two from the Black Panthers of yesteryear. Arm yourselves.