Friday, February 24, 2012

Gonzo is Here, Now and Forever

“Vultures’ Picnic – In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates and High-Finance Carnivores,” by Greg Palast, 2011

It’s a good time to be an investigative journalist. Funny or crazy guys like Thomas Frank, Matt Taibbi, John Perkins, Michael Lewis and yes, Greg Palast, are bringing the spirit of Hunter S. Thompson into the fucked-up ‘modern’ age. Are they going to run out of crooked disasters and lies? No! After this book, I’m thinking Palast is the craziest and most dangerous of all.

This bald-headed left-wing gumshoe gets into every big disaster since the Exxon Valdez – or at least he starts there historically. He pulls the pants off of the lies, fraud, cover-ups, crooked schemes, conspiracies and hair-pieces of modern corporate America. He focuses first on our friends the oil companies - you know, those vampires who only think about ‘shareholder value’ – or perhaps, just their own value. He starts with the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf and goes from there.

Palast had to go to work for an actual public television/radio station in another country, the BBC, to be partially paid for his time. And an actual newspaper, the British Guardian. National Petroleum Radio – home to the same talking heads as CBS/ NBC/ ABC/ CNN/ FOX – wouldn’t touch him. Who wants a guy who doesn’t believe a comforting, cliché’d lie when he hears one? If all the ruling class big shots and newspapers say something, Palast figures it can’t be true. And he’s nearly always right. NPR reporters are trained to lob softball questions in unctuous, kind voices to every corporate, political and military hack they interview. Palast does not fit in. As he puts it: “Must U.S. reporters submit to hypnosis before interviews? Lobotomies? Or are they just drugged by careerism and lazy-fuckism?”

Palast, son of a frustrated furniture salesman, started out lying his way into the University of Chicago and got to be friends with Milton Friedman and the Chicago Boy’s ‘economics’ department. What is up with that? Then he got side-tracked by union commies like Frank Rosen in Chicago, who put his economic analysis skills to work digging up dirt on corporate Chicago energy entities like Con Ed and People’s Gas. And the rest is history.

I’m not going to detail every incriminating fact Palast digs up, but the list of targets is long – oil companies British Petroleum, Shell, Chevron, Exxon; nuclear construction and maintenance companies Stone & Webster and NRG; rapacious power companies Entergy, Southern Company and Reliant; international hedge funds that rape small weak countries like Greece and Liberia; large banking cartels that get the public to pay for their scams; the IMF and the World Bank in cahoots with the banking industry; incompetent construction behemoths Halliburton, Shaw Construction and Brown & Root; government bureaucrats and whole governments on the take; phony journalistic outlets, corrupt judges, front-groups for corporations, companies that buy Inuit islands for $1 in the modern age – the list is endless. Hell, he even uncovers the fraud about Fukushima.

A note to readers of “Collapse” – here is the real story of those sainted entities Chevron and Shell that Mr. Mainstream Green Diamond does not tell. (Review of “Collapse” below.) After all, Chevron named one of their ships the “Condoleezza Rice” after her sterling work for them in Kazakhstan. In other words, if you think the word ‘conspiracy’ is not nutty, but factual too much of the time, you will understand Palast’s angle. He knows there is a smoking gun under every conventional explanation.

Just one set of facts to whet the appetite as a prelude to the whole sorry oil story. We all remember the simple old tale of the “Exxon” Valdez – about a drunk captain who ran onto a reef and leaked 32 million of gallons of oil into the water and land. Bad man. Case closed. Here is what Palast dug up:

The Alyeska Cartel (which was really run by British Petroleum, who hid behind Exxon) had promised to the State, the U.S. government and the native villages that, if they got permission to build an oil port in Prince William Sound, they would:
A, use ‘state of the art’ radar on their ships to avoid the very dangerous reef in Prince William Sound. What was the state of the radar at the time the Exxon Valdez ran aground? Not working.
B, have oil spill equipment set up in case a disaster happened. Where was the equipment? Missing and its absence concealed.
C, have spill containment barges on standby. Where were the barges? Not operating, not usable, condition concealed.
D, have trained ‘spill response teams.’ Where were the teams? The jobs terminated, the teams disbanded and this was also concealed. They ignored native pleas to have a station on the island near the reef to warn ships. Alyeska ignored employees and others who warned about these failures before the disaster struck. To cap it off, all the partners in Alyeska privately agreed to these violations of their contract to save money. I.E. – it was a conspiracy. We’re talking RICO.

According to Palast, it is only the actions of courageous inside individuals who told their stories in spite of real or threatened economic and physical retaliation that any of these facts came out, and any court or journalistic victories won. As Palast puts it, the U.S. media totally dropped the ball on that spill in 1989. BP took that lesson and did the same thing in the Gulf in 2010. Nothing had changed 20 years later.

When you get done with these multiple stories, you will understand that much of modern day capitalism is nothing but a literal criminal enterprise – not just bad people who make serial mistakes. It strengthens any argument for immediately nationalizing the oil, banking, construction, auto and energy industries as anti-social and anti-environmental organizations.

Palast is a funny, easy, personal read, and perhaps his aging hat act wears a little too thin around the sexual and alcoholic edges. But so what – we’re all human. At least that is what they say.

And I bought it at Mayday Books!
Red Frog, February 24, 2012

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bad Habits Die Hard

“Collapse – How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed,” by Jared Diamond, 2005

Jared Diamond has written a wonderful anthropological story about the failure of certain societies based on environmental collapse. His political approach, however, reminds me of a scientist who has just discovered that God did not create the world – yet still believes in ‘him.’ The “him” in this instance is the inevitable ‘shareholder-centered’ capitalist corporation.

Diamond, the author of “Guns, Germs & Steel,” is a professor and officer of the World Wildlife Fund ("WWF"), which some Greens call one of the “Big Green” organizations. Big Green organizations live on donations, but have no members or membership meetings, only a group of bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. who seek to influence policy. Diamond mars his telling of the collapse of societies in Easter Island, Pitcairn Island, the Anasazi, the Maya, and the Greenland Norse (and by implication Ankor Wat, pre-Incan civilizations and others) by having, like Christian Parenti (see review of ‘Tropic of Chaos,’ below) a weak solution to societal collapse. His is ‘consumer power’ - it’s almost laughable actually. The real meat of this book, however, is his very careful dissection of environmental catastrophe and problems, past and present. And here he knows what he is talking about.

Diamond maintains that there are 5 main issues that impact the environment and destroy societies. 1. Damage societies inflict on the environment, intentionally or otherwise. 2. Climate change due to various causes. 3. Hostile neighbors. 4. Lack of support by formerly friendly neighbors. 5. The society’s response to their problems. Here, he highlights the role that social elites play in squandering the environment and labor, or in refusing to change course or learn from mistakes.

Diamond starts the book in Montana, USA, a place he is personally familiar with. He explains the multiple environmental problems of a state that most people think is quite perfect – including the poisonous legacy of gold and copper mining in Butte. (Also covered by Jeffrey St. Clair in “Born Under a Bad Sky,” reviewed below) His most shocking point is that more money comes into Montana from outside the state (via government / private monies) than are generated within Montana by various agricultural, tourist or mining concerns. Essentially, Montana is on welfare.

Diamond moves on to study the effects of deforestation, monument building, erosion, over-fishing, reef-destruction, over-population, internal war and extinction on Easter Island in the Pacific. He considers this an almost pure example of ecological social collapse. He links this to another study of Polynesia – at Pitcairn and Henderson islands far to the west of Easter. Then Diamond moves to the Southwest and the Anasazi societies of Mesa Verde and Chaco Canyon, and their failed response to deforestation, drought and over-population. The Maya of Guatemala, Honduras, and several states of Mexico figure in the next story. The Maya were an advanced society that developed a calendar, writing and an intricate social structure. However, they failed to adjust to population increases, climate change, deforestation and violence caused by their own rigid society. Like Easter Island, environmental and social goods were squandered in temple-building and war by Mayan rulers, leading to social collapse.

Diamond’s history of the Greenland Norse, who for 400 years occupied two areas in southern Greenland, is very detailed. First settled by Eric the Red, the Norse came to Greenland as pagans, converted to Christianity, and attempted to live an economic and social life similar to their former life in Norway and Iceland. Eric was kicked out of Iceland (which faced its own serious environmental degradation that still exists to this day…) and after discovering this land mass, called it ‘Greenland’ to get fellow Norwegians to join him. It is not for the most part green! Diamond shows how the effort spent on maintaining Christian churches was actually counter-productive to the survival of the society; how the Norse chiefs gradually pauperized segments of the former Viking community; how the Norse refused to learn anything from the Inuit people, like kayak making, and instead only killed them. And, incredibly, never ate fish, which teamed in abundance right off shore, because they were focused on cows, sheep, pigs, goats and seals, as in the old country. This from a society that eventually starved to death due to environmental damage in the fjords where they lived. As Diamond put it, the chiefs gained the right to starve last.

Diamond reviews recent ecological situations in China, Australia, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Rwanda that are repeating the deadly patterns of prior systemic failure or prove to be successful attempts to counter it. He illustrates how one Pacific island, Tikopia, successfully banned pigs because they were eating the undergrowth and denuding the land, and this decision saved the soil that the agriculture of Tikopia was based on. The pigs in Tikopia were a valued food, obviously, so this shows the kind of foresight the society had – to deny themselves something in order to save something more important. (Note to carnivores...)

His history of recent events in Rwanda is enlightening, as he links the ‘genocide’ and violence there to over-population, deforestation, drought, erosion, and not just ethnic/class antagonisms. In one study of the Kanama area, he describes how landed Hutus killed other, poorer Hutus because there was not enough land to go around. Rwanda is one of the most populous places on earth, and as he quotes Rwandans themselves, it was no secret that ‘killing’ was a way to reduce that population, and allow the survivors to raise enough crops to live.

Diamond finishes his book with a panegyric to Shell Oil / Chevron Oil, and an oil field they built in Kutubu in Papau New Guinea. Diamond worked with the WWF and Chevron to certify this oil field as ‘green’ – one which did not damage the environment. And from his description, the immediate impression is that this is the best way to build a well field, if you have to do so. Chevron was reacting to pressure from the government and surrounding people of Papua New Guinea, who might have closed the wells if they did damage the environment. Diamond believes that profit-making companies will build ‘clean’ wells in order to make more profits, if consumers and governments pressure them.

However, this oil field seems to be somewhat of a Potemkin Village, if we look at Shell/Chevron’s other oil fields. Shell is involved in pumping oil out of the Arctic to Prudoe Bay on the continually leaking pipeline, has negotiated a concession to drill in the Arctic in Inuit lands when the ice melts; is involved in the destructive Alberta Tar Sands project, and is part of the massive oil spills and police state in Nigeria. Shell also has its refineries on Cancer Alley in Louisiana. Chevron is invested in the corrupt Azerbijan government with BP, and the polluting Azeri oil fields, and is a defendant in the lawsuit brought by native peoples in Ecuador against the massive oil spills there. Chevron helped fire the head of the Louisiana Hurricane center at LSU, as he recommended restoring wetlands south of New Orleans to stop hurricanes. There will be more next week, as I finish Greg Palast's book, "Vultures Picnic."

Will ‘consumer’ choices change the bloodthirsty, corrupt and environmentally destructive policies of various societies? Will capital be restrained if I buy from Chevron (or Citgo) instead of BP or Koch? Or from the handful of certified wood providers over the rest? Or from organic foods over factory-farmed food? Well, a bit. But, again, if we face ‘collapse’ on a global scale – then obviously the slow, incremental changes that this method involves (and that is assuming enough “consumers” will do so) is insufficient to finally stop self-destruction. Something more is needed – eco-socialism.

A final good word from Diamond, showing how travel informs political views. He wrote this book as another warning to the global North. In response to critics who think environmentalism is a ‘luxury’ only for upscale yuppies, I quote: “This view is one I have heard mainly from affluent First World yuppies lacking experience of the Third World. In all my experience in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, East Africa, Peru and others …I have been impressed that their people know very well how they are being harmed by population growth, deforestation, overfishing and other problems. They know it because they immediately pay the penalty…”

In a sense, understanding the environment is essential to survival - quite clearly the intellectual workings of Darwinism on the human social scale. Political and cultural ideas that are maladaptive are incompatible with the continued existence of the human species, which is why even in the realm of ideas, the battle for survival continues.

And I bought it at Cheapo Books, now down in the basement of Cheapo Records.
Red Frog
February 19, 2012

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Dear Fellow Commodity,

On payday, should you thank the boss or should the boss thank you? Owners seem generous to some. After all, they take some of their money and share it with you. But the money they “share” comes from your labor. YOU provide the money they pay out!

The following piece was written when Governors Walker of Wisconsin, Daniels of Ohio, Snyder of Michican and others enacted harsh legislation against their states' workers. This triggered an unprecedented explosion of anger; and there's much more to come.

...when your boss or Governor tells you to take a pay cut or pay more for your healthcare or retirement, etc. tell them you already pay for everything! Your labor pays for your wages, your pension, your health care, your vacation, your sick leave, your PTO and your labor pays for the building you work in, the heat, water, electricity, gas, real estate taxes, advertising, bribes to public officials AND it pays for his Cadillac, his mansion, his alimony, his world travels...your labor pays for EVERYTHING!
Tom Dooley - St. Paul, MN

Friday, February 10, 2012

Land of the Lotus Eaters

“News From Nowhere – An Epoch of Rest (Being some chapters from a Utopian Romance),” By William Morris (1890)

William Morris was an early supporter of Marx in England - and a poet, novelist, publisher, designer, craftsman, socialist activist, conservationist and businessman. This Renaissance man would be an odd duck to some modern folks – philosophically a multi-talented lover of romantic medievalism and socialism too. Morris was an activist in various Socialist organizations starting in the 1870s while keeping up other practical and intellectual pursuits. Besides British Marxism, Morris influenced the English National Trust, the Arts & Crafts movement, modernist architect Walter Gropius, town planner Lewis Mumford and the English Green Party.

Like Tolkein, Morris had a love for the small English village and its life. This love infuses “News From Nowhere,” a Utopian vision set in the year 2102, after a successful English communist revolution in 1952. The happy inhabitants of 2102 England can barely remember the crude, poor and violent society from which they emerged so long before. The narrator – ‘Guest” - goes to sleep in the 1800s - and wakes up in 2102 in a guesthouse along the Thames. Outside is a vision of gorgeous nature, beautiful men and women, quietude, health, happiness, physical abundance, mental care, artisanal technology and a lack of classes. The living modern equivalent might be a visit to the Renaissance Festival – minus the King, his Knights and the Mud Wenches. Time traveler Guest is impressed by the beautiful clothes that everyone wears in 2012, the detailed quality handwork gone into architecture and town planning, the communal sharing of food, goods, housing and transport, the physical strength and skills of the citizens, the leisurely pace of life, the almost complete lack of violence, and the personal consideration of citizens for each other. The rich and the poor no longer exist, nor do prisons, marriages or any government. Of course, the old geezer Guest gets a crush on one tanned beauty, which he must relinquish when he is thrown back into the 1800s at the end of the book.

Morris carefully shows how Marxist ideas like the ‘contradiction between town and country’ have dissolved, as the city of London is now no more than a rather large town, spread-out, with green-fields about. Another Marxist concept, of ‘non-alienated’ labor is shown for all it is worth, as each citizen – or neighbor, as they call themselves - does what he can for the general good, working on the tasks he is best at. This accounts for the high quality of the work surrounding everyone. Work itself has become a joy, not a burden. The leisurely pace of work is a nod to Marx’s son-in-law, Paul LaFargue, and his idea of the “right to be lazy” - or at least, relaxed. War and crime in 2012 barely exist – crimes of property no longer do. One man is killed in an act of self-defense during the book, due to jealousy, but that is all. Decisions are made by counsels, which work towards agreement, but if no agreement can be reached, then by majority vote.

The book is divided into 3 sections – two journeys by horse cart and boat - surrounding a long question and answer session with an old learned man, Hammond, who knows history. The Revolution of 1952 is described by Hammond in terms that are familiar. The revolution starts with a general strike, which leads to the rise of dual power – the ‘Committee for Public Safety” (The same name as the revolutionary organization during the French Revolution of 1792), then fights with groups of roving rich kids - who I would say are the fascists in this situation. The arming of the revolution is prompted by a massacre, now put in 1952, which leads to a civil war. This was based on Morris’ own experience of ‘Bloody Sunday’ – a real 1887 massacre of workers in London’s Trafalgar Square by British soldiers using Gatling guns. Eventually the majority of the English Army sides with the revolutionaries and the civil war is won by the communists. After all Morris, for all his romanticism, was not a head-in-the-clouds pacifist. He knew that capital would not give up power without a fight, even if it lost an election or a series of elections.

The most interesting thing about this vision of the communist future is the view of nature and technology. Marx called some of Morris’ friends ‘medieval socialists’ due to their views that technology was inherently evil. Marx believed that machines could overcome drudgery and increase human productivity, thus leading to more leisure time and a sufficient material basis of life. Under capitalism, machines are used to both increase unemployment and to increase the intensity of labor, while also adding to the burden of fixed capital. Under Morris, technology has returned to the artisan stage, with handcrafts and human labor being the main forms of production. For instance, haying in this utopia is done by large groups of people in a festive atmosphere, living in tents, using scythes, not tractors. Buildings are constructed by groups of neighbors, much as in American pioneer life. Horses, wagons and water skiffs provide transport. While ‘mills’ line the Thames, they all seem to be run by water power. One mysterious barge has some kind of power, but Morris is unable to explain how it works. Electricity and steam are not in evidence in this natural paradise, nor is coal - mills and factories belching fumes have disappeared. Nor are there any windmills or solar collectors, things perhaps too high-tech for Morris.

Morris understood the negative effects of technology on nature, and this understanding is something modern socialists, if they are scientists, must accommodate. Marx’s environmentalism is being re-discovered - see the reviews of “Marx’s Ecology” and “The Ecological Revolution,” both by John Bellamy Foster, below. For those socialists whose vision of communism is something along the lines of George Jetson, this book is a nice contrast. It is inevitable that socialists might have to accept a lower standard of living in the matter of goods to deal with global climate change, population and peak oil, if no clean energy source is available. And one is not yet on the horizon. I have suggested the year 1947 in a prior post – prior to the development of suburbia and the mass use of the automobile – as a year in which it would be possible for millions to live on a technological basis, while still retaining all social goods. Morris himself chose, oh, probably 1825 or maybe even 1625, prior to the development of railroads and the modern capitalist economy, as his years of inspiration. I see no reason why this kind of life could not also partially exist under socialism, much as it does under capital, i.e. the Amish, if people wish to live that way, or if these methods are actually more sustainable.

Morris portrays people in 2012 England as not going to school, but educating themselves in small groups, in training on the job, and on their own. Many do not read a lot, and instead value physical work and skills. The picture here reminds one of the cult of physicality in the USSR in the 30s and later, and the experience of the cultural revolution in China, where people from the city were sent to work as peasants. Morris here illustrates another Marxist point – that physical/manual and intellectual labor have to be combined, and both appreciated. Under capital, physical work is not compensated well, is looked down on, and so are the people doing it. Some call them ‘stupid.’ Many of the middle-class people putting workers down have no physical, mechanical, artistic or emotional intelligence themselves – though these 'geniuses' never recognize this. Morris himself was a sterling example of the opposite – that intellectual and practical physical skills can be combined. In the U.S. the modern middle class has few practical skills, and must rely on buying the labor of others to do the simplest things. Conversely, many blue-collar and white-collar workers do not crack a book, or get any real intellectual training - which is one reason why the U.S. is so politically backward. That is one of the reasons for the existence of Mayday Books.

And I bought it at Mayday Books, where it is
NOW ON SALE for $8 in the Used Area

Red Frog, February 10, 2012

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bradley Manning

Bradley Manning should be
set free and awarded the

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Liberty for Capital

Who is Ron Paul?

Ron Paul is running for President in the Republican Party primaries, but he’s more important for what he means outside the Republican Party than in it. He’s appealing to independents, youth and even some anti-war people. He might run as an independent again, like he did once before in 1988 as the Libertarian candidate for president, though I doubt it. If he or his son develop a long-range independent political organization, he could claim part of the political space that a populist Labor party might claim. What is clear is that his newly prominent status is due to a vast failure of the Left to provide an alternative to capitalist policies, either of the Democratic Party kind or of the Republican kind. A vacuum needed to be filled, and it is being partly filled by Paul.

Paul also draws on the collapse of the economy - and the growth in sectors the ideologists of capital like to call 'entrepreneurial' -independent consultants, entrepreneurs starting cupcake stores, people with tech and internet start-ups. This even involves the hipster zone - artists of various kinds, yoga instructors, craft brewers and bicycle-makers, etc. - all provide a seeming alternative to the drab life of a cube dweller, retail salesperson or factory hand. "Being your own boss" seems to be a way to escape wage slavery - without a revolution. This is a great draw for young people coming out of college, and those unemployed or hating their present jobs. Of course the success rate for entrepenuers over 10 years is 29%, according to Scott Shane.

Two ideologists of Libertarianism are Ayn Rand and Friedrich Hayek. Ayn Rand was a refugee from the revolution in Russia. Her views were completely shaped as a reaction to Marxism. Fredrick Hayek grew up in Austria, and also developed in reaction to European socialist theoreticians and later, the partly planned economies in Eastern Europe. Both developed a sort of extreme right-wing anarchism in response. This has been adopted by American Libertarians, who blend it with long-time American ethics of individualism and proprietorship, and sometimes other ideologies, like Agrarianism, classic liberalism and evangelical Christianity.

The key thing in the analysis of a politician is, A, what class he represents, and B, what class backs him. 'A' is primary. So looking at Paul, it is pretty easy to see he represents the simon-pure ideas of a small businessman. And that is what Libertarianism is. His opposition to international imperialism reflects most small businessmen's views – because for the most part they only do business in the U.S. His opposition to the government’s growing police & other powers reflects the fact that small businessmen do not benefit as much from the government as large capital. The government is seen by them as being in big capital’s pocket, and for good reason. In the case of the drug war, I think many small businessmen are salivating at the legalization of pot, at least. Apply this logic to almost everything he says, and you will see it is from the view of a shoe-store owner in Muncie, Indiana. But not exactly Wall Street – until you draw out the implications. Then even large capital benefits by libertarian ideas – as they both embrace the myth of the ‘free’ market, among other things.

You can see this class outlook even here in Minneapolis when Libertarians in the Minneapolis Republican Party and some Greens coalesced around the mayoral campaign of Papa John Kolstad, a small businessman on Lake Street. Kolstad made the center-piece of his campaign the onerous regulations on small businessmen. (Kolstad’s 2009 campaign reviewed below.)

Is Paul backed by the ruling class right now? No, even though he’s running in the Republican Party primaries, a party dominated by a wing of the ruling class. The establishment Republican Party ‘black shirts’ (as I call them) do not support him. The establishments of both parties have never lost control of the nominating process in the recent past – except in the cases of Goldwater and McGovern. I do not think it will happen this year either. The Republican Brownshirts – Bachmann, Perry, Cain – and the fake Brownshirt, Gingrich – are all dropping one by one.

Politics should not be like a bad Chinese restaurant, where you pick one policy from column A, and 3 from column B and don’t order from column C, and then you ‘vote’ for the politicians with the ‘best’ policies. Once you understand the class roots of a politician, his seemingly ‘good’ policies (or perhaps just words…) become transparent as to their source. This applies to both Paul and Obama. That is what a class analysis does – it allows you to see beneath the hype and hope.

Paul represents the area around Galveston, Texas and was a doctor. His district is one of the top recipients of federal money in the country - $31B since 2000. This is similar to the rest of Texas, which got twice as much from the Federal government due to things like Fort Hood, the biggest employer in Texas. In 1988 he ran on the Libertarian Party ticket. Paul was one person who understood that deficit spending on the Vietnam war ended the gold standard, and brought large federal deficits. (See review of “Debt – the First 5,000 Years” on the role of war in creating government debt – reviewed below.) He gets 48% of his money in small contributions – with a few corporations, small businesses and professionals donating too. In a new development, Paul has relied on the kindness of PayPal founder Peter Thiel , a like-minded libertarian in favor of the smallest government possible, who gave $900,000 to Paul’s “Endorse Liberty” Super PAC. So like other candidates, he has a rich sugar-daddy.

Many members of the US military donate to Paul, which is interesting, given his stand on the wars. Paul also has supporters who are neo-Confederates, white supremacists and Nazis. He has been endorsed by Klansman David Duke, among others. His newsletters reprinted racist material, and Paul doesn’t understand how that material got in there. Right. Paul is also a former member of the John Birch Society. And the Republican Party today is, if nothing else, a giant Birch Society.

So what would Paul’s election mean for workers? Selections from Menu A:
* Ron Paul’s website doesn’t mention either “jobs” or “unemployment” under the category of “issues.” Nor is there one word about foreclosures. Think about that for awhile. In the middle of the greatest job and house losses since the 30s, not a word! The closest he gets is advocating the passage of more anti-union “right to work” laws. So he’s anti-union. In other words, he’d be on the side of Walker in Wisconsin. He does not support the theory of unemployment insurance or its extensions or ANY benefits for working-class people. But in his program, he does bow a bit to the existence of social security, veteran’s benefits and Medicare/Medicaid, and does not openly call for the end of unemployment yet. He thinks unemployment insurance should eventually be ‘privatized.’ He’s against NAFTA (managed trade) … but for free trade. Again, reflecting his support of small business, who were not the drivers of NAFTA.

Oddly enough, the Libertarian Party itself wants to repeal the National Labor Relations Act ("NLRA") and state right-to-work laws. But they oppose the closed shop or collective bargaining too. They also support child labor, oppose the minimum wage and all welfare programs of any kind. Some people in the labor movement have also called for abolition of the NLRA, which would cut the legal rationale of government controlling union and labor affairs.

* Paul opposes the Civil Rights acts of the 1960s because they infringe on private property, and hence he would also oppose affirmative action in hiring. So black, women and brown workers would not be able to get a leg-up against discrimination. Much of the hiring in government or government-contracted jobs in the past would have been much whiter if Paul had been in control. Implicit in this is support for a return to Jim Crow and ‘white only’ businesses and employment.

* He wants to lay off 10% of government workers and privatize many parts of government, closing 5 Departments. I guess Perry borrowed his ideas from Paul, though he can't remember. Laying off 10% of government workers was also the position of Obama’s Deficit Commission. Paul wants to allow young workers to opt out of Social Security, which would slowly destroy the program. He wants to deregulate Wall Street even more, and get rid of even the most timid attempts at regulation, so the early appearance of Paulites in the OWS protests is basically dishonest. Their only interest was ‘abolishing the Fed’ and did not go beyond that. He wants to eliminate capital gains taxes and those on large estates.

* He supports privatized medical care and does not want a mandate. The latter benefits big insurance and corporations, but might be rough on small businessmen. Like all the other candidates, he wants to cut the federal budget, this time by $1T in just ONE YEAR. Remember the Deficit Commission wanted $3.5T of cuts over many years. He supports home schooling, charter schools and vouchers, all which will undermine public education, union jobs and decent educations for working-class children, but will benefit business by privatizing education. This position is similar to all the other candidates in this race, including Obama and his dreadful Education Secretary, Ernie Duncan. Think about that, teacher union members.

*Re: immigration, he wants to ‘end the welfare state,’ (a direct quote) which he incorrectly thinks is being ‘used’ by immigrants from Mexico. Immigrants pay more into the system then they ever get out of it actually. He also wants to end ‘birthright citizenship.’ His position on immigration will mean an even more oppressed section of the U.S. working class. Abortion? He’s agin’ it. So women workers will be forced to have children if there is a slip-up.

* Paul mentions nothing about using the state against the working class. His whole program is based on the legal sanctity of private property by the State, so I do not think Paul would be against the courts if they acted against strikers to 'protect private property.' He does not want to repeal Taft Hartley, in other words. Paul unsurprisingly thinks global warming is a ‘hoax.’ So I guess you could say he wants workers to cook, and not just in the kitchen.

And from Menu B - here are some of the good things Paul supports: Quote from Paul in 2007: "We're not moving toward a Hitler-type fascism, but we're moving toward a softer fascism," he said. "Loss of civil liberties, corporations running the show, big government in bed with big business." Hmmm.

Paul opposes the drug war, some of the encroachments of government on civil liberties, and the broader imperial military & foreign aid project. So workers would not be sent overseas to die, and this approach would partly de-militarize the U.S. However, he does not have an industrial plan for what to do with all those laid-off workers – nor does he believe in one. Paul’s plan would lower the massive racist incarceration rate for poor working people, who are usually the ones jailed for drug crimes. This might weaken the for-profit incarceration industry. It would also weaken the ‘total police state’ that has been developing, which is used against strikes and the working class, as well as any other protest movements. The very term ‘terrorist’ in fact has been applied to strikers. Paul is against most farm subsidies – many of which benefit corporate farms and large farmers. Paul comes from a part farm district, and I’m guessing there are some small farmers there who do not benefit so much from Big Agriculture welfare. Paul wants to audit the Federal Reserve, which IS a secretive banker’s cabal, and should be audited - and ended. He’s actually for more alternative medical treatments to be available, like acupuncture and homeopathics. He does mention, like the UE, that his salary will be that of a worker’s median income - $35,000. Of course, his earnings on investments, like Mr. Romney's, will make sure Paul is not too poor.

So what would really happen if Paul was actually elected? Quite simply, the ruling class would prevent those parts of his program they don’t like from going into effect, while endorsing the others. It could basically drag the U.S. back to the late 1800s – even prior to Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt. His positions share much in common with the rest of the Republican candidates, and with some parts of Obama’s program too. However, his ‘base’ of young college people and small businessmen is not sufficient to actually win power in the U.S.

Many think he’s running interference for his son, Rand Paul, who is already bending on certain libertarian/Ron positions. Rand once said, “there are no rich or poor people.’ Ok, let the laughter die down.

We’ve already had a Libertarian in high places, remember? Alan Greenspan, chair of the Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006 – 20 years! – re-appointed under both Republicans and Democrats. An exemplar of laissez-faire capitalism and a personal friend of Ayn Rand to boot. What did this great Libertarian do? Greenspan supported the ending of Glass-Steagal, along with Clinton/Reich/ Schumer and the whole Republican Party. (Their motto? “We’re all Libertarians now!”) This created ‘too big to fail’ banking institutions, and brought gambling into the normal ‘banking’ world. The Fed’s low interest rates destroyed interest-rate products, and pushed people into the stock market. The rates also provided fuel for the bubbles of housing and derivatives, commodities and gold. (the latter, no surprise for a Libertarian.) Greenspan came out for adjustable rate mortgages (“ARMs”), and believed that Wall Street could be ‘self-regulating.” In essence the ‘low doc/no doc’ mortgages being sold as the basis for derivatives were to be treated with a position of ‘buyer beware’ - and not regulation. That is an Ayn Rand position on fraud, by the way – ‘caveat emptor.’ If you get ripped off, it is your fault. Government has no role in protecting you. Greenspan supported privatizing social security and opposed tax cuts for the wealthy. Unsurprisingly, he worked at a Wall Street Bank prior to the Fed. Greenspan's cheap money allowed the banks to make high interest rate loans on public funds - it was a no-loss proposition for the banks. The policy was followed by Bernanke, another bi-partisan Fed chairman after the 2008 crisis, and continues to this day. Greenspan never called for an audit of the Fed, however, unlike Paul.

Some anti-war activists are voting for Paul in the primaries, and I don’t see much wrong with this tactic, as it could fuck-up the Republicans a bit. But as a general strategy against war, it will be a failure. And as a general plan for society, Paul would be a failure too.

Red Frog
February 4, 2012