A Freeway in Hell

My thoughts on the nature of our late capitalist society. The title should give some clue what I think of that! US 101 or I-80 as metaphor for our imperatives. Besides worrying about what sort of black hole we are speeding into, I like airships. One reason being the almost inescapble desire to have one to get out of a traffic jam!

Location: Sonoma County, California

Grew up a military brat, Californian-in-exile, reactionary libertarian-essentially spent the 70s on Mars, for I am hearing impaired and I did not know what the music was saying. Generally still don't unless I listen to it over and over or find the words captioned on a movie or somewhere on line. Came "back" to California to begin my adult life, have not lived elsewhere since. No regrets there despite our problems here. Have studied physics, more math than most human beings will ever need, worked on spaceship projects (well, one) at JPL. Lived with a wonderful disabled person who lives no more--L Natasha Littletree RIP October 2004. I have a life plan, just kind of vague on some of the short-term stuff.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Mission and purpose of Big Brass Blog

Melissa McEwan, AKA Shakespeare's Sister has been pulling together the Big Brass Blog to unite our efforts to bring Bush and his minions (or masters, whatever, they all look like flying monkeys to me) to an accounting specifically for the war on Iraq. The "Downing Street Memos," if only they were more widely known to the US public, are a damning indictment, an indication that the alleged grounds for war were fabricated. But let Sister Shakes express it:

  1. After Downing Street is a Coalition of veterans' groups, peace groups, and political activist groups, which launched on May 26, 2005, a campaign to urge the U.S. Congress to begin a formal investigation into whether President Bush has committed impeachable offenses in connection with the Iraq war. The campaign focuses on evidence that recently emerged in a British memo containing minutes of a secret July 2002 meeting with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top national security officials.

  2. The name is a reference to the Downing Street Memo, a British memo recently made public in the London Times, which contained the minutes (pdf) of a secret July 2002 meeting between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his top national security officials.

  3. After Downing Street reports: In response to the release of the memo, John Bonifaz, a Boston attorney specializing in constitutional litigation, sent a memo to Congressman John Conyers of Michigan, the Ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, urging him to introduce a Resolution of Inquiry directing the House Judiciary Committee to launch a formal investigation into whether sufficient grounds exist for the House to impeach President Bush. Bonifaz's memo, made available today at www.AfterDowningStreet.org, begins: "The recent release of the Downing Street Memo provides new and compelling evidence that the President of the United States has been actively engaged in a conspiracy to deceive and mislead the United States Congress and the American people about the basis for going to war against Iraq. If true, such conduct constitutes a High Crime under Article II, Section 4 of the United States Constitution."

  4. Congressman Conyers is now seeking 100,000 signatures to sign a letter on the Downing Street Inquiry. Information available at Raw Story and dKos .

  5. Sign the letter here. Write to your Congresspeople here.

Another Salon article by Juan Cole, is that Tony Blair had to convince George Bush to go after al-Qaida in Afghanistan, and Bush would only do so in exchange for Britain's support of the Iraq invasion:

"Astonishingly, the Bush administration almost took the United States to war against Iraq in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11. We know about this episode from the public account of Sir Christopher Meyer, then the U.K. ambassador in Washington. Meyer reported that in the two weeks after Sept. 11, the Bush national security team argued back and forth over whether to attack Iraq or Afghanistan. It appears from his account that Bush was leaning toward the Iraq option.

"Meyer spoke again about the matter to Vanity Fair for its May 2004 report, 'The Path to War.' Soon after Sept. 11, Meyer went to a dinner at the White House, 'attended also by Colin Powell, [and] Condi Rice," where 'Bush made clear that he was determined to topple Saddam. "Rumors were already flying that Bush would use 9/11 as a pretext to attack Iraq," Meyer remembers.' When British Prime Minister Tony Blair arrived in Washington on Sept. 20, 2001, he was alarmed. If Blair had consulted MI6 about the relative merits of the Afghanistan and Iraq options, we can only imagine what well-informed British intelligence officers in Pakistan were cabling London about the dangers of leaving bin Laden and al-Qaida in place while plunging into a potential quagmire in Iraq. Fears that London was a major al-Qaida target would have underlined the risks to the United Kingdom of an 'Iraq first' policy in Washington.

"Meyer told Vanity Fair, 'Blair came with a very strong message -- don't get distracted; the priorities were al-Qaida, Afghanistan, the Taliban.' He must have been terrified that the Bush administration would abandon London to al-Qaida while pursuing the great white whale of Iraq. But he managed to help persuade Bush. Meyer reports, 'Bush said, "I agree with you, Tony. We must deal with this first. But when we have dealt with Afghanistan, we must come back to Iraq."' Meyer also said, in spring 2004, that it was clear 'that when we did come back to Iraq it wouldn't be to discuss smarter sanctions.' In short, Meyer strongly implies that Blair persuaded Bush to make war on al-Qaida in Afghanistan first by promising him British support for a later Iraq campaign."

...Finding out if this underreported outrage is true is an important part of the inquiry for which After Downing Street is fighting. That President Bush's entire presidency has relied on his ostensibly unique ability to "keep America safe," even though he had to be cajoled into going after the party truly responsible for 9/11, is not only an outrage, but a national disgrace.

Of course I agree. Back in 2002 I knew that Bush had always meant to make war on Iraq and didn't need inside information to disbelieve any and all of his claims; for that matter I doubted the basic wisdom of invading Afghanistan and certainly believed Bush was making a mess of that effort too. That Bush promised the invasion of Iraq would be a "Lightning War," which is of course English for "Blitzkreig," was merely the added outrage that prompted me to write my Senators (Boxer and Feinstein, I'm in California) to urge them to listen to nothing these proven liars/incompetents had to say. Sadly, Feinstein informed me she had classified information leading her to support the President's bid for war, which she did. Idiot. The Dems could not have stopped the war train perhaps, but at this point, and last November for that matter, they, and we, would be better off if they could say it was not their train wreck now. And they can't say no one warned them; plenty of people better informed than me could see this was all nonsense.

But it is nice to have evidence. Now it is important for people to know it exists.

Recessional: for our modern Memorial Days


God of our fathers, known of old,
Lord of our far-flung battle line,
Beneath whose awful hand we hold
Dominion over palm and pine -
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget - lest we forget!

The tumult and the shouting dies;
The Captains and the Kings depart:
Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,
An humble and a contrite heart.
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget - lest we forget!

Far-called our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,
Lest we forget - lest we forget!

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose
Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,
Such boastings as the Gentiles use,
Or lesser breeds without the Law ~
Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,
Lest we forget - lest we forget!

For heathen heart that puts her trust
In reeking tube and iron shard,
All valiant dust that builds on dust,
And, guarding, calls not Thee to guard.
For frantic boast and foolish word -
Thy Mercy on Thy People, Lord!

Rudyard Kipling

Many of us find Kipling's self-righteous assumption that the British Empire was carrying out the will of God, and that the historical practices that gave them "Dominion over palm and pine" were decent and pious. But in fact the British Empire was not just a sustained act of piracy; it owed its strength while it had it in part to judiciousness and restraint. We Americans like to believe that we have acted with restraint and kindness in our own period of world hegemony; to the extent we actually have we could expect strength beyond mere strength of our arms. And to that extent, the men and women who like buried in our graveyards and under foreign soil died in a noble cause.

But when Kipling wrote this, for Queen Victoria's Silver Jubilee, few would foretell the dark fate overshadowing the Empire on which the Sun never set. British power and prosperity were riding high. The disease he diagnoses eating away at this apparent ruddy health and strength might be interpreted as the small-minded, Phariseeical creatures who run our country today would do, as a failure of piety and authority. But read the words; the sin is the sin of pride in material power, the power to coerce and threaten. What nation today places more "trust/in reeking tube and iron shard" than ours? Who has done more to totally forget all moral laws in the course of having "our" way?

It isn't the soldiers who are making these decisions, though horribly it is they who carry them out. Some are corrupted by this, others have always been corrupt; most are damaged, and all are placed in the front line of the danger of inevitable retribution.

It matters so much what they die for. Bring them home before more die for destruction only.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

A letter to the editor of the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat

On May 18th the Santa Rosa Press-Democrat printed this editorial:

"New Nukes: Is it so crazy to consider reviving America's nuclear program?"

Well, yes, I think it is pretty crazy. Here is my letter, just under 200 words with all address elements in place:


There is a key word missing from the nuclear debate: security. Unlike any other power source, fissionable metals and their waste products are suitable for making very deadly weapons of mass destruction. Radioactive materials are highly effective poisons. And if the rosy promises of the nuclear lobby are to be kept, we cannot rely on scanty supplies of uranium--we must build breeder reactors to turn low-grade fissionables like thorium into plutonium. Not only is plutonium even more poisonous than most radioactive materials, it is weapons-grade material. If we have a nuclear powered economy, we must consider not only the likelihood of accidents and the problem of waste disposal, we must also stop deliberate attempts to abuse it. A nuclear powered world will inevitably suffer nuclear weapons proliferation to both nations and wild terrorist groups, and inevitably some of these weapons will be used while others will pose a constant threat of blackmail. We would be insane to consider nuclear power as anything but a last desperate recourse, and if we use it we would need to run the industry behind fortifications.

Mark H. Foxwell
Windsor CA 95492

We'll see if they print it. It is probably just as well that I had no space to express my misgivings about any future nuclear power industry being run by private companies. We have little reason to think that all companies would keep up the highest standards of security and safety at all times. On the contrary during hard economic times, the less well off power companies might well scant on securty, alienate their workers, or even themselves conspire to commit nuclear fraud, selling materials for ready cash. I believe that if we do develop nuclear power, we should give the whole job to the Army--let them hire the researchers, engineers, and contractors, and run the plants with uniformed soldiers--fully trained to be professional plant operators, but also fully trained and with their main allegiance as soldiers. If we need nuclear power, it becomes a national priority, and at the same time the public must be protected from its risks. I would propose that the whole nuclear industry past the mining stage be moved behind the fortified walls of great isolated Army installations--processing, forming of power materials (and weapons), the plant itself, and all its wastes all to remain on one site so there is no danger of hijacking nuclear materials. A number of such fortress complexes might be hardened to survive even nuclear attack, and buttoned down so that no one but Army personnel on duty and closely watched authorized visitors enters, and nothing radiocative (except perhaps bombs made on site) ever leaves. Such plants would be inconvenient to the power grid, but we could use their power to synthesize fuels. The military ethos is I think far more suited to the task of running and guarding such a concentration of power and risk than is the security division of any private company, for career soldiers and officers are committed to a long-term perspective and are held accountable for what they do even decades after the fact.

Naturally the Bush Administration has no such plans; their idea is to pour more pork into the mouths of their corporate overlords. A mess of private companies, with plants scattered over the map and nuclear materials changing hands continually is the perfect nuclear nightmare.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Sinners in the Hands of An Angry Blog

Your Deadly Sins

Lust: 40%

Pride: 20%

Sloth: 20%

Wrath: 20%

Envy: 0%

Gluttony: 0%

Greed: 0%

Chance You'll Go to Hell: 14%

You'll die of a yet to be discovered STD.

I tried to be totally honest in my reactions to each questions but I might have overstressed my actual lust and understressed my gluttony. Still, I think this accords well with the "virtuous pagan" evaluation I got from the Dante's Inferno test.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Natasha blogging

L Natasha Littletree's 53rd birthday would have been Wednesday before last, April 27. This past Friday she was honored at the Area 4 Board on Developmental Disability's Legislative Forum. I wrote a very short indication of who she was before an award was given in her name for lifetime achievement in advocacy for disabled people.

Here is that:

Hello, all of you. I’m Mark Foxwell, and I was Natasha’s partner and care provider from the month I met her 16 years ago until this October when she died at Memorial Hospital here in Santa Rosa. Many of you were able to come to Natasha’s funeral and were there for her or thinking of her in her last days; I am sure first of all she would want me to thank you for that. The last years of her life she was both anxious and yet thrilled and fulfilfilled by the chance to work with so many of you, and the hope of meeting you all. In the months just before I had to take her to the hospital she was determined to shephard in another Legislative Forum, and now here you all are again. So she would thank you all for that. I met Natasha in a community college class at Pasadena City College in 1989. There was this very cute young lady in a wheelchair behind me in class, who looked fascinated. She caused people to notice her. She more than the impression she made, and she was in control of it. Everything she ever came near got twisted a bit out of whack from everyday reality. She had the power of finding names for things, names that were apt and made the thing more real. Her strength had a foundation in love but tempered in adversity, as she had to struggle so often. But she was never bitter; she believed in working herself and those around her to near exhaustion but also in having fun. Being close to her was demanding, but also very rewarding. She lived a life many ordinary people would envy, hanging out with rock stars when she was young, but she dreamed of things ordinary people take for granted, like a job, marriage, and a home of her own. Living with her I quickly came to suspect she was just magic. All I can say for sure is this--Natasha Littletree lived a life that was worth living, and at least the 16 years I spent with her were years I lived a worthy life too. No matter what else I might ever do, I will always be proud of the time we spent together, and wish we had more time with her. The one thing she wanted the most was to be remembered--”I live in the hope of becoming a memory” was a phrase she repeated often. On her behalf I am grateful to you all for remembering her today.

In case you were wondering

I am:
"You're a damn Commie! Where's Tailgunner Joe when we need him?"

Are You A Republican?

Where have all the nuke plants gone?

Back when I read a lot of science fiction in the 1970s, when I was in junior high and high school, I used to be a believer in many if not all of the planks of the modern Republican platform. I placed great store in advancing technology opening up doors and holding off otherwise certain disasters such as power crises. In particular nuclear power seemed on the whole the power source of the future. Why is it that today I no longer think so?

Well, there are several problematic aspects of nuclear power I was unaware of. Besides the danger of accidental breakdowns during operation, what are we to do with the waste products which will remain dangerous for centuries or millenia after we have made use of the metals? This is the problem of disposal and the only solution proposed so far is to find someplace full of suckers who won't realize their danger or political losers who don't seem to have the power to resist, and sneak it into their neighborhood when they aren't looking or can do nothing to stop you. Not even as right-wing a state as Nevada has people that sold on the rightness of the corporate line or that stupid; both the state's Senators (Democratic Minority leader Reid and Republican Ensign) are dead against the proposed disposal site. But if not Nevada, where? And if we outsource it to India--might we not regret it, for a leak even there might ultimately affect us here, and someone digging down and stealing some only slightly cooled wastes to deliberately fling at someone or put in their water would be more likely on the soil of poor exploited nations than in those regions where the power was once of some use.

Meanwhile, in order for known and likely radioactive ores to serve as power metals for "centuries" it is necessary to build breeder reactors which will create plutonium to be fissioned in power reactors. Plutonium is a much more dangerous material than uranium is.

At some point or other someone will speak up for fusion. We have not yet accomplished commercialy feasible sustained nuclear fusion. If we can, with an unknown amount of investment over an unknown period of time, develop that, we will indeed be freed of fears of depleting the power supply for perhaps millenia--presumably in that time we will develop still better alternatives that could even keep up with the exponential growth of power usage such a system might allow. But barring truly radical breakthroughs every practical method of harnessing the power of fusion involves capturing the energy it would release _mainly_ in the form of fast neutrons, in a blanket of fissionables that would be transmuted into plutonium in much the same way as in a fission breeder reactor. So actually such a system would involve precisely the same risks and costs as I outline below, except that if the plant is cheap enough then we will be doing it all on a bigger scale with even greater risks of something going horribly wrong.

And here we come to a crucial point--all this discussion of safety refers to a rational world where people have no malice. In reality there is a great deal of discontent and viciousness floating around the world, from disgruntled employees to religious fanatics who think they should kill the world's population because it is God's will. In between there are angry, desperate politicans, crazy soldiers, and dictators contemplating being removed from power. In this context--consider the actual history of nuclear power.

1) long before there was a power industry, there was a weapons industry.

2) Economically, nuclear power never did fly in this country. It took decades of gung-ho boosterism by the "Atomic Energy Commission" which used to be in charge of both regulating and promoting nuclear power to persuade private power conglomerates, even the largest ones with the biggest and most stable markets (best for nuke power, that requires a steady output) to buy in. When they did--they found the plants and the metals incredibly difficult and expensive to build and use. Rates have not gone down where nuke plants have been built, they have gone up. And this despite a package of incentives that included total freedom from liability in case of an accident. Other nations that have developed nuclear power aggressively such as France or the USSR, did so with massive government subsidy and guarantees--including comparable guarantees that the government will protect the plant operators from lawsuits or screaming lynch mobs if something goes wrong.

3) I believe this is because industry boosters delude themselves on the economics of fission power. It is actually difficult to locate, mine, and refine the basic ores. Then isotopes have to be separated (a very laborious process); radioactive materials worked with, and transported to power plants where they must be installed and then years later, removed, reprocessed--the waste disposed of in a way that will not come back to haunt us. All this takes an economic toll. In fact I believe even the meagre profits that have come to American nuclear plant operatons are heavily subsidised by the taxpayer.

4) There is a symbiosis between the nuclear weapons industry and the power industry. A nation determined to make the weapons will need to mine far more ore than they can use for weapons--for to make a nuclear explosive you need to concentrate isotopes not needed in such concentrations for power purposes. If they can use some of the rejected material for power generation this represents a recovery of some of the cost of the weapons program. Vice versa, a nation that runs a "peaceful" nuclear power program is in the position of being able to divert material into a weapons program fairly easily. Therefore I am alarmed by any nation that does either because it will entail the other. Even those nations like Japan, Germany, or Australia which participate in nuclear power but won't develop weapons are operating in a global economy that does include nuclear weapons programs; I believe that in a world without nuclear weapons nuclear power would not have even the appearance of profitability.

5) Meanwhile with mining and enhancement operations going on, breeder reactors producing plutonium, trucks rumbling across country hauling dangerous plutonium into dispersed plants and hauling equally dangerous wastes out--there will be plenty of opportunities for people to steal some radioactives--if not fissionables to make an actual nuclear explosive, then poisonous radioactives to make a fallout bomb with. We must also consider the danger of corrupt people in the process who sell materials for personal graft (as well as idealist fanatics who work their way into the system to get access to them) and the danger of corrupt officials who order materials diverted. Finally we need to consider the risks involved if terrorists with no inside access decide to just assault a nuclear plant, battering their way in to steal what they can and do what damage they may, including release of radioactive materials and melting down the plant deliberately, or just blowing it open.

All these risks might be necessary to face if nuclear power were the only way. However I don't believe this is true--many alternative sources of power exist, and if we had spent a fair share of development dollars on them during the Reagan and Bush Administrations (and Clinton did not do much for these investigations either) we probably would not be discussing "cheap" nuclear power as an option--it would be eclipsed by alternatives. But as I mentioned, we do have a nuclear weapons industry and bypassing our nuke power industry makes paying for the former more difficult, so corporate and governmental interests converge on pretending that nuclear is the only power source the future offers. Remember, these are people who upon finding a working solar power system installed in the White House, its development already paid for, saving heating costs already--ripped it out at whatever that cost, and cheerfully paid for more heating oil.

They are also the most irresponsible administration ever to occupy that house. Giving them a go-ahead for nuclear power is like handing a 16-year old who is swigging a bottle of vodka the keys to a Hummer. Yeah, he might survive the inevitable crash--that is part of the problem. The bigger part is, all the innocent bystanders who would not.

With a whole world of innocent bystanders around who never promised not to hold us liable, I don't think we should go nuclear unless we absolutely have to. And if we ever do, I would much prefer putting the Army in charge of designing, building, and operating the plants as well as mining the metals, and centralizing as many operations as possible in fortified compounds which the materials never leave. The charade of private enterprise would be too costly and risky to maintain with fission power; we tried that experiment already and it is not worth keeping up nor would we have the luxury for it in such a national emergency. No corporation should be trusted with the sort of blackmail potential fissionable materials place in their hands. Perhaps no army should be either but we've had that situation since 1945 and we know more or less how to deal with it and how reliable they are. Not quite as reliable as they should be unfortunately--it would be best to get out the fission business completely.

Let's be fair then!

Half Sigma, who appears to take pride in claiming to fall between ideological stools while to my cursory overview, shilling mindlessly for the Right, comments on the post by Cookie Jill to Skippy I reproduced below, to the effect that "Not every figure is Bush's fault."

Here it is in full:

Most of these figures are important ones and worth talking about.

But not every figure is Bush's fault. How about a series of blog post where you write about each figure, and explain what a president other than Bush would have done differently?

For example, the stock market is down because it was in a bubble when he took office. Not Bush's fault.

Gas is up because supply is not increasing as fast as demand. Don't blame Bush because Mother Nature blessed the planet with only a finite amount of oil reserves.

Cost of a 4 year public college is up: this is controlled by states not the federal government. Too may people go to college anyway.
For quite some time I pointed out in my contrarian way that much evil we would like to attribute to Bush was not his doing. I think it should be obvious that our economy has deep cycles and neither Presidents nor Congresses are responsible (within the cycle) for its upturns and downturns. What they are responsible for is perpetuating the conditions that underlie the cycle--but in principle, we might generally agree the cycle is a necessary part of our economic existence. What I really hold them in contempt for is, that they avoid facing the issue of the existence of the cycle at all, that when the markets are doing well they take credit and when they tank they scuttle around blaming their enemies, but none of them--especially not the "pro-business" types, ever seem to notice the decade-long cycle we have all lived through a few swings of and that goes back far past living memory to the early 19th century.

But at this point in the cycle, by now, halfway through one, I would say GW Bush's policies have had their stamp on it. In 2001 it may have been unfair to blame the character of the downturn on him. Not so in 2005. If there are elements to all the economic variables that are cited that are nondiscretionary and happen "behind the backs" of all planners public and private, there are others that can and do respond to public policy.

Public policy, rammed through by a Congress that slavishly follows the most irresponsible and accountability-free, and mindlessly ideological, Administration ever, has been a relentless application of the idea that the rich must benefit and everyone else follows along in their train. If we have a boom and revenues to states pile up--we need tax cuts, going to the rich since the poor dears pay more. If we have a collapsed economy and states and the Feds suffer short revenues--we need tax cuts to "stimulate" the economy so more revenues might ("will," say the supply siders with their Laffer curves, but not only are they wrong, but they plan to cut tax rates on the rich yet again if this happens or if it doesn't) rise again. 99 percent of the population must rely on trickle-down from the 1 percent that is being consulted and slavishly flattered.

Proof is in the pudding. Does it work? 5 years into the cycle starting from the crash--we should not still be stagnant. But anyone with a brain watching economic history should realize that bribing the rich to "give" us a vibrant economy never works. Their rational interest is to take the free revenue they are getting or being suddenly told to keep, and sit on it or blow it on themselves, and let someone else take the risk of starting up a new boom. If that starts to happen there is plenty of time to cash in on it.

It is working people who create the wealth of the world, and it is they who suffer during downturns. If we were honest about the cycles, accepting them as real and normal and necessary, we would have policy designed to help working people through the phases when the economic machine is down and does not need them. But actually if we understand the cycle, we would learn that part of why we have periodic downturns is to "discipline" working people, to force them to accept lower wages and more dangerous working conditions by subjecting them to the threat of no job and no legitimate avenue of survival at all. Looked at that way, capitalism is a form of diffused class slavery. And this is why we don't have a coherent, useful school of economics at all in this great nation, or indeed in the whole capitalist world.

Let's take a look at those hooks you want to let Bush off of again:

"For example, the stock market is down because it was in a bubble when he took office. Not Bush's fault."

It is quite true that the global downturn began on schedule, as it has every decade, preceded by a feverish boom which is always part of the cycle (unless you have one so mired in the doldrums it never really booms at all, as can and has happened.) The downturn began under Clinton. Let us not forget that the boom also happened under Clinton, but perhaps you want to credit that exclusively to the Gingrich Republican controlled House? If you want to be fair and rational about this stuff, you had best acknowledge that politicians and businessmen alike are like children building sand castles by the shore while the big economic waves roll in from the global ocean.

There is a difference--economics unlike the ocean is made up of human behavior, and in principle political and social decisionmaking can modify that. The beginning of wisdom is to acknowledge what is. If Bush had done that coming into office, he would have recognized that the global economy was tanking and made proposals that took that into account.

When the world slides into depression, it ceases to be rational for individual investors to risk their money in stocks or productive investments in general. When an economy is healthy the source of the growth of wealth, which investors tap into, is the expanding work done by working people who are satisfying more and more general human needs and wishes. Because in general it is possible for healthy people to create more material wealth in a day than they need to consume that day, economies can grow, and so risking existing wealth by tying it up into time-bound productive processes is quite likely to pay off in selling the products for more value than was put into it by the investor--the difference is added by the work of the workforce. The investor however, under capitalism, owns the whole product, having hired workers not to provide a given amount of value but to be totally at his disposal during work hours--the workers own none of it but are owned only their wages that they have agreed to separately. All this is sustainable and ever-expanding--provided that all the actual stuff that is ultimately produced finds a market in a reasonable amount of time. The trouble is this--the system has no overall rational coordination and individual investors seek the most profitable investments, even though other investors are going after the same markets, while less hot markets languish for lack of investment.

This is the basis of my "Freeway in Hell" metaphor by the way--just as I wait impatiently for an opening into the lane next to me that is whizzing past me stuck into a jam, but the second I enter that lane at last it grinds to a halt, not by accident but because many other drivers seized the same opportunity I did when it finally came and so we filled and jammed the lane (while freeing up the one we left to move in its turn)--so it is that the capitalist economy does not smoothly fill in gaps of investment according to long-term need but, driven by hindsight and the desire to grab the best profits first, surges drunkenly from one crisis to another.

Knowing this is the nature of capitalism, it is futile to"push at string" by filling the coffers of the already rich with tax breaks. Rational capitalists will not invest in productive enterprises when the cycle is broken, for tying up liquid wealth into concrete production processes will become a loss and not a profit if the product of production cannot be expected to be sold! Therefore the Bush tax cuts which you may recall were his very first priority, right after putting in John Ashcroft for Attorney General, were a stupid and vicious piece of economic policy, for not only did they divert national wealth where it would do no good, they impaired the ability of the government to undertake investments of its own which could have done some good directly guaranteeing some paychecks, whose earners would buy things thus sustaining the level of consumption in general thus restoring confidence in consumer markets sooner. Bush of course did the very opposite, slashing all programs that divert money toward poorer people who tend to spend money more effectively while enhancing the welfare of the class most likely to just hoard it away or divert it overseas. So, it was not his crash, but he's the one who sent fire trucks to spray gasoline rather than water onto the fire.

"Gas is up because supply is not increasing as fast as demand. Don't blame Bush because Mother Nature blessed the planet with only a finite amount of oil reserves."

Ah yes. Speaking of gasoline etc. You don't suppose, do you, that it was foreordained that the world would reach peak oil during the Bush/Cheney administrations do you? Aside from finite supplies, there are rates of consumption to consider. Back in the 1970s we got a real scare, receiving a global demonstration in the vulnerabilities of a technical society dependent on a resource people elsewhere in the world are able to disrupt. Some people had the wisdom then to point out, even if the foreigners are all benign and harmless, even if we ourselves had all the oil in our possession--someday it is going to run low. What then? A rational person might think, well, let us look for alternatives to this stuff. The sooner we find other ways to meet our needs, the less dependent we are on oil, the less subject we are to foreign blackmail, the more options we have for the future. This long-term vision coordinated with the short-term panic to save money on suddenly skyrocketing oil costs through conservation measures. The result was a dramatic reduction in consumption which very largely happened not through bitter sacrifice but superior efficiency. This lowered the demand which tended, despite ongoing political shocks, to lower the price of oil.

Now I would say that when the price dropped, political wisdom would be to found a new tradition of setting a floor on consumer/industrial petroleum product prices by ramping up taxes as long as prices fell, and holding the line on them if market prices rose, so that oil would remain expensive to the ultimate user thus keeping the pressure on to conserve and to find alternatives. Meanwhile since the government would be taking a cut of the price difference, that money could be used to actively promote the development of ever more advanced alternatives. Remarkable progress was made (without the help of such a dedicated stream of revenue from the pump) in the late 1970s. What if it had continued?

Instead however, we got Ronald Reagan. Jimmy Carter had installed a solar heating system in the White House--Reagan had it ripped out. You explain to me the economic rationality of that move! There was none of course--the idea was to signal the oil people that the Reagan policy would be damn the solar cells, it's all "our oil" no matter whose soil it is under, and Americans were entitled to burn it up cheaply. The military buildup necessary to "safeguard our interests" in the Persian Gulf (not to mention keeping our thumbs on the people of places like Indonesia, Nigeria, and Venezuela via the dictators we imposed on them, so their regimes would keep the oil flowing) cost far more than the most ambitious technological "energy independence" projects, but the latter would yield a guaranteed and continual return in accumulating degrees, while the former has cost us not only a constant economic drain but global goodwill as well, and leaves us all vulnerable to this day that is arriving now, when we still need the oil-but we already burned it up.

Reagan was succeeded by Bush Sr who continued our policy of temporary glut through military conquest to be followed by deluge after them. For the Cheneys of the world are set up to be chief vampires, to reap what huge profits come to those who hold the key to the last oil reserves. Suffering will fall on the world as the price skyrockets again, but the corporate conglomerates who have created Bush Jr as their front will keep their revenues high at the cost of everyone else. What will they do when it is all gone?

At any rate we can and should blame Bush for the lack of any development of alternatives to oil dependency since his assumption of power, and recognize that his political side is largely responsible for the lack of progress on this front in the decades before as well. The fact that Bush's faith-based beliefs and policies, his contempt for facts and reality, has been reflected in a severe reduction of support for real science and useful engineering in favor of grandstanding and militaristic stunts and fundamentalist hogwash, makes this situation all the worse. And knowing that while the majority of Americans will suffer with rising pump prices that Bush's billionaire "base" will profit, it is impossible for me to credit him with any good intentions in this matter. This is, by 2005, presumptively Bush's policy and his fault.

"Cost of a 4 year public college is up: this is controlled by states not the federal government."

The feds tax the people of every state more than any state does; the states have to be very careful in meeting their responsibilities in that context. The formula used to be, Uncle Sam would take in lots of money via income tax, but kick back much of it via programs and grants to the states again. Today, the same political groups who want the Feds to butt out of allegedly "state" responsibilities also want the states to throttle back their taxes too. Whenever I see an argument that such and such is not a Federal responsibility, the real aim is always clearly to stop it from being done at all. That at any rate is the clear trend of the Bush education policy. A relentless dumbing down of every aspect of education in this nation has been the outcome. Primary schools have been diverted to preparing for tests that measure only the ability to mindlessly regurgitate meaningless "facts," and every form of Federal support for higher education has been chopped, while the very freedom of academics to speak or think freely is being threatened by campaigns for ideological conformity. Meanwhile other state responsibilities are seeing the Federal share of support being cut there too, forcing states to either seek new revenues or cut them all back. Since revenues are based on economic production and the Bush economy is still stagnant, the intent is clearly to force cutbacks both in education and social services. To suggest that Bush has no responsibility for these state actions is--Republican morality and conservative acceptance of responsibility for actions they have taken at the very finest level we have learned to expect of so-called "conservatives."

"Too may people go to college anyway."
Yes, Mr or Ms Sigma, I suppose too may people do go to college. Of course if they don't go to college and learn to spell good and use write grammar, I guess that is a good reason for them to have to accept jobs that pay far too little to stay ahead of debt and cover life's necessities? It is a fact that today not having a BA at least is as bad as not having a high school diploma was a generation before. I certainly can agree that people ought to go to college if and only if they have a passion to learn what is there. If we were moving our society toward one that did not shut doors in people's faces merely because they do not have diplomas with their names on them but recognized people for what they do, I would expect that fewer, far fewer, people would go there. As it is--your proposal is to slam another door in their faces and thus ration the diplomas--on what basis? Old fashioned ability to pay, to reserve the better jobs for those with richer parents? Or some kind of judgment of "merit" by tests or graders who in real life, have ties to the social power structure and will in fact ease the way in for kids with privilege and filter those without so the latter will be chosen for their serviceability to the former? That was characteristic of the "good old days" too. Actually the great expansion of college today traces back to the GI Bill of Rights, which would have turned into a boondoggle had it not been the case that the American economy, taking over the role of the ruling economy of the capitalist world after WWII, had a vastly expanded need of workers with advanced skills. That people need higher degrees to qualify for jobs is at least in part a reflection of the reality that modern jobs do ask people to take their place in a more sophisticated global workforce. The other thing that higher education might accomplish is opening doors to ordinary people being better informed democratic citizens. But if you don't care about that because the ruling class has it all well in hand anyway I don't suppose you'd value that. Away with the rabble then!

By those standards your President is a great success. In terms of outcomes for the ordinary people of this nation whose welfare he is supposed to be concerned with, he is a miserable failure--with all due accounting for circumstances, the worst President ever.

First a post swiped from our friends at Skippy International!

This was put up by Cookie Jill and is worth quoting in full: (Capitalization somewhat restored by me; this is after all a blog that comments on Capitalism!)

Begin Quote:<<

Report cards are in...a few 1600 Crew Children were left behind in Economics 101

The Center for American Progress issued a report card for President Bush.

The numbers below are for 2000-2004.

The financial markets
s&p 500 -15%
nasdaq -36%
dow jones -5.3%

Consumer income and expenses and standard of living
price of a gallon of gas +46%
real value of the minimum wage -7%
median household income -4%
average cost of 4-year public college +24%
poverty rate +11%
americans filing for bankruptcy +33%
annual increase in prescription drug prices (from 4.1% t0 6.8%) +68%
number of Americans without health insurance +18%

Federal finances
Federal debt +39%
monthly trade deficit +75%
annual trade deficit +53%

The dollar
dollar versus euro -30%
dollar versus yen -11%

Consumer debt
home mortgage borrowing +100%
total outstanding consumer debt +28%
household debt as a percentage of assets: +20%
household debt as a percentage of gdp +21%

Big tips of the kangaroo tail to Bonddad's Daily Kos Diary and the delightful named Yes, I Do Take It Personally.

I heartily agree with Bonddad's suggestion of "Posting these figures at work, use them in emails, shave them into your head, whatever. Get the word out."


My response to the first comment is above in the next post