Our visit to Pravda gives us this explanation of Russian President Vladimir Putin's decision not to sell Syria a class of Russian made missiles (during a visit to Israel), though Russia is planning on selling a shorter range, fixed air defense system to Syria (though the Russians have evidently fully disclosed the specifications to Israel, including noting that the system proposed cannot be used as shoulder fired missiles).
Although I understand this is the first visit by a Russian leader to Israel, Russia's relations with Israel (when compared, say, to the Soviet era) are "pretty good". For one, Israel has something like around a million ethnic Russians in its population these days, many of whom still have friends and/or kin back in mother Russia. For another, Russia just wants to be a player, and it jealously guards its role in 'the quartet" (the US, UN, EU and Russia) to try to broker a Mid-East peace settlement.
Supposedly, the US of A threatened sanctions against Russia if it sold certain systems to "terrrorist sponsoring" Syria (notwithstanding the Administration taking full credit for Syria's decision to leave Lebanon, or at least, have its overt military presence there come to an end). Russia notes that it is not that big a player in Mid-East arms sales (a possible growth market!)
A world where the Russian President visits Israel is topsy turvy enough, I guess... everything else that follows can't be all that surprising...
The Florida Supreme Court (by a 4-3 vote) decided to uphold the right of prosecutors to seek Rush Limbaugh's medical records to determine (presumably determine) if Rush committed a felony by "doctor shopping" in order to gain vast amounts of prescription drugs, in violation of Florida law (going from doctor to doctor with his medical complaints, obviously not telling each doctor about other doctors he saw).
While I love sport as much as the next guy, and would love to see Rush behind bars, where he can see how many fans he has inside, this certainly smacks of "Big Brother". The fact is, there are certain things that we are supposed to presume are private. If my doctor is committing a crime, or some professional infraction, then certainly, protecting his or her patients, and the public, may require the government looking at those records (assuming appropriate protections of the patients' privacy are maintained).
But not to prosecute the patients. The patient has a right to privacy when seeking medical treatment. Even when that patient is a scum-sucking no-redeeming-values-as-a-homo-sapien hypoctritical and monstrous propagandist like Rush "Doc Goebbels" Limbaugh. Sorry, but we're supposed to be a free country. We're already in too much jeopardy about everything else we do. Getting medical treatment just has to be off limits. Even if guilty hypocrites/criminals like Rush Limbaugh walk because of it.
Because regardless of what Rush himself may think, the ends do not justify the means when the means are those of a police state. Even if Rush himself would suggest they do (as long as someone but him is involved.)
The President has threatened a veto of a very popular highway rehabilitation bill if its cost exceeds a certain magic number ($282 billion over six years, or something).
While its nice to see anything at all resembling fiscal restraint on the part of the Bush Administration, for the umpteenth time, it is necessary to revisit our little nursery school exercise on the federal budget. Picture the federal budget as a large pie, representing around $2.5 trillion out of our $11 trillion or so GDP. That $2.5 trillion works out very nicely into five more or less even parts of $500 billion or so annually, spent on interest/debt service (legally inviolable), defense/homeland security (politically inviolable), social security (until recently, politically inviolable), medicare/medicaid (politically violable) and.. everything else. The highway bill falls into that 20% "everything else".
Not to worry: revenue losses from the loss of the estate tax alone will probably more than be reflected in money not going to highway construction and safety projects. Sure, those programs reflect jobs to Congress members' districts... but the contracts are all so damned... spread out! No one stop shopping for those Swiss bank account deposits... like in so-called defense contracts.
Oh well. You needed to get those shocks repplaced anyway...
With numbers like these as shown in this WaPo poll (2/3 opposing senate fillibuster changes, a healthy majority of people oppose the social security changes, and the presidential job approval rating is, overall, under 50%) one wonders why the nation keeps electing Republicans to strong majorities to both Houses of Congress and the White House if this is how the nation feels about that party's governance.
Oh wait. One thing to note is that on national security and terrorism, the polls still show that the President has well over 50% approval, which he will doubtless continue to have until such time as we have another large-scale foreign terrorist incursion in North America, thanks to decades of effective "liberals = pussies" propaganda. Seeing as we've only had one 9-11 type attack in 200 years, the odds are pretty good for Bush, all things told. (Then again, seeing as the one we've had was on this President's own watch...)
One wonders, of course, how the Democrats will once again manage to blow it all, given such gaudy poll numbers. But wait and see: Democrats will manage nonetheless to snatch defeat where they can, even on the ability to block "extremist" judges (the number of which seems to range from a high of seven to a low of two in number). Fortunately (or perhaps not so fortunately), Democrats (with help) will block "reform" of social security... on both of these items, what will most likely happen is that a sufficient number of self-interested Republican lawmakers will thwart their own party's "leadership" (lest they have to run against "you voted to destroy social security"). Indeed, if the judicial fillibuster is preserved (a most undemocratic check on a most undemocratic institution!)
we will owe it, once again, to Republican members of Congress.
Those who have plaudits for Harry Reid as the new senate minority leader lead me only to ask one question: why are you giving him plaudits? He's not doing anything: on the one thing THAT MATTERED (bankruptcy reform), not only did he himself sell out to the banks, but so did half the Democratic delegation. Let's not even talk about the estate tax giveaway. "Extremist judges"? I'm not going to argue that our nation's district court and court of appeals judges are unimportant in any sense-- but to make this THE ONLY ISSUE that the Democratic Party is willing to fight for? Doesn't sound anything like good leadership to me... Nope.
The Chinese Commerce Minister, according to this piece representing our visit to Beijing's People's Daily, warns that, though currently strong, Chinese-Japanese economic relations may eventually suffer as a result of lukewarm (or worse) political relations.
The Japanese seem hell-bent on denying their own role in World War II era atrocities, particularly things like the Rape of Nanking and the forced enslavement, rape and murder of thousands of women in China and environs.
Japanese have issued new school textbooks that amount to a whitewash of WWII atrocities and Japan's premier frequently visits the Yasukuni Shrine that, frankly, honors war criminals.
If the Chinese are sufficiently pissed at Japan, one of their largest (though no longer their number one largest) foreign investors and customers, you know they're pissed. It's a lesson we (and the Taiwanese) people need to understand about our new Chinese overlords: saving face is a big deal. Which is why I'm kind of o.k. with the Taiwanese being a free, independent and democratic people in reality, if not in name. If in order to maintain that, the Mainlanders want the illusion of Taiwan being "a renegade province", then what the hell, right? Given our addiction to Beijing financed deficit spending, we had damned well better get used to playing it whatever way makes Beijing happy...
Will the Japanese learn the same lesson? Well, I wouldn't take bets...
For those wondering, your talking dog's additional postings have been somewhat hampered by some physical problems (yes, Mr. Marathon Man) which landed him in an emergency room Friday afternoon, with a probable muscle spasm which at least felt all too close to a heart attack, and of course, with various machinations associated with Mrs. TD and I hosting the family Passover Seder. For those wondering, the "citizen journalist" thing is not a one-off. Stay tuned.
And now, a day late and a ruble short, we give you this round-up of goodies from our comrades at Pravda, a source not afraid to tell it like it is on anything. We'll start with this gem, questioning whether "Russian expert" Incompetetentallezza Rice, the American Secretary of State, even speaks Russian (conclusion "Da...Nyet, nyet, nyet...") Let's just say that whatever it is America's chief diplomat Dr. Rice does... it's not particularly "diplomatic"...
Moving on, we get discussions of a NATO meeting in Vilnius (Lithuania), between NATO members (including Dr. Rice) and non-members Russia and Ukraine; from the machinations of Dr., Rice referring to Byelorusse as the last dictatorship in Europe (she might want to consider a country like "Great Britain", where, say, 90% of its people oppose a particular war, and the elected dictator goes and enters it anyway...) Pravda's assessment is that Byelorusse might well become subject to the next "color revolution" (orange was the official color of Ukraine's recent political upheaval; of course, Byelorusse means White Russia, but as they say, "don't go there...")
And over a bit we go to this discussion of Turkmenistan and its "absurd" isolation, now including the banning of foreign newspapers and magazines. Naturally, being a key American ally in Central Asia, this is not the sort of story (as usual) you will see in the usual American sources...
And finally, we get the Russians to tell us about domestic American politics, and these efforts to thwart the strongest Democratic candidate and likely next President of the United States: Hillary Clinton. The Republicans are frustrated by Mrs. Clinton's ability to outmaneuver them on fundraising and so-called "moral issues". Let's just say that Hillary Clinton (who shares a birthday with Leon Trotsky and... me) has changed a lot of minds about her ability to serve as President... such as my own. Politically deft positioning to the right of well, everyone (where necessary) used to be something I considered a bug. Now it would seem to be a feature...
Das vidanya y'all...
You get a damned bad day to post your damned rare-for-us-sparsely-read-blogs interview with "unlawful combatant" and dirty bomb suspect Jose Padilla's attorney, Donna Newman.
In May of 2002, the Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, presided over
a somber ceremony to mark the completion of the World Trade Center site clean-up from the deadly attacks there just eight months earlier. Just a few blocks away, Chief Judge Michael Mukasey of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York assigned criminal defense attorney Donna Newman to represent a man arrested on a material witness warrant in Chicago and transported to New York. Subsequently, the Attorney General of the United States would announce the capture of this man supposedly involved in a "dirty bomb plot" with great fanfare (during a visit to Moscow, Russia no less, an irony naturally lost on the Bush Administration), and the President would declare Jose Padilla the first "unlawful combatant". For the first (and only) time in American history, a United States citizen arrested in the United States was, and remains, held without charge as a purported threat to national security, solely on the say-so of the President. For some time, Mr. Padilla was denied even contact with counsel.
Almost immediately after the "enemy combatant" declaration, Ms. Newman
prepared a petition for habeas corpus demanding that Padilla be charged or released. She has been working tirelessly on this matter ever since. That case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court (in what I have opined is the most important case of our lifetimes), and after the High Court dismissed the habeas petition on a procedural technicality ("improper venue"), it has been re-commenced in South Carolina and an appeal from a District Court Judge's granting of the petition will be heard by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Richmond, Virginia later this year. Until then, the Government continues to hold Mr. Padilla without charge or trial, long after itself acknowledging that he has no more useful information for interrogation purposes and that it had virtually no evidence of the supposed "dirty bomb" or other nefarious plot involving him.
On April 18, 2005, Ms. Newman was kind enough to speak to me by telephone.
Below is the "Q&A" (based on my interview notes, with some corrections provided by Ms. Newman):
Talking Dog: Where were you on the morning of September 11, 2001?
Donna Newman: I was supposed to go to court in Manhattan. At that time I lived in New Jersey and before I left my house, I found out what happened and saw it on television.
Talking Dog: Where was your co-counsel Mr. [Andrew] Patel that morning [Mr. Patel's office is now across the street from my own, around 100 yards from the World Trade Center site]:
Donna Newman: Mr. Patel was at his office that morning, and came outside. I understand he suffered burns to his eyes as a result of what happened.
Talking Dog: Where was Mr. Padilla that morning?
Donna Newman: I don't know.
Talking Dog: You were assigned to represent Mr. Padilla in connection with a material witness warrant for his testimony before a grand jury. Do you have any idea what evidence did the government expect him to give? And did that grand jury ever indict anyone?
Donna Newman: As you know, the grand jury process is secret, so I can't really discuss Mr. Padilla's testimony. I don't know whether the grand jury ever indicted anyone. And the government has never let me in on what it was doing-- what it was investigating. The Government feels that defense counsel deserve no information of any kind, and we are there simply by the graces of the government itself. The Government has not seen fit to share any evidence pertaining to Mr. Padilla with me.
Talking Dog: This would include the [Defense Department employee] Michael Mobbs Affidavit [used in earlier proceedings to justify Padilla's detention] and documents referred to in it?
Donna Newman: Yes, it would include the Mobbs (pronounced "MOBES") affidavit; a judge down South knew it was supposed to be pronounced "MOBES", so he made it a point of pronouncing it
"MOBS". There were two Mobbs' Affidavits-- one released to the public, which we saw, and a second one for in camera review by the court under seal, which we were not permitted to see.
Talking Dog: Did the scope of your representation include the habeas corpus petition, and did the government ever challenge paying you attorneys fees for that?
Donna Newman: The duties of assigned defense counsel include bringing habeas corpus petitions. Interestingly, the government never questioned my right (or Padilla's) to bring a habeas corpus petition, nor did it challenge my applications for attorney's fees for the work. However, the Government (the Department of Defense) refused to let me meet with or communicate with my client, nor did it give me any other information whatsoever to enable me to prepare a necessarily effective or meaningful defense.
Talking Dog: So as American taxpayers, we should let our fellow citizens know that the government has no problem paying defense counsel, it just doesn't want them to be able to do anything meaningful--
like putting up an actual defense.
Donna Newman: Well, that would seem to be the case.
Talking Dog: Am I correct that as we sit here, Mr. Padilla and Yaser Hamdi (who has since been released and returned to Saudi Arabia) are the only U.S. citizens designated "enemy combatants"?
Donna Newman: Yes, as far as I know, the only two ever. Though I understand from news accounts that a third-- a U.S. citizen-- has been held in Iraq as an "enemy combatant: as well. I believe that came out last week.
Talking Dog: Can you comment on the Supreme Court's decision to dismiss your habeas corpus petition on venue grounds in Padilla v. Rumsfeld?
Donna Newman: This is a live issue for the Supreme Court. Venue becomes a very important issue in a lot of contexts, notably immigration, where detainees are not held anywhere, but in a few large centers in a few cases.
For example, the Fifth CIrcuit (based in New Orleans) has a lot of these cases and a developed body of law on this because there is a large detention center in Louisiana. So detainees would try to bring their habeas corpus petitions where they thought they had the best chance-- either where they lived, or
where they were detained, or wherever else they thought they could get venue. Another example is a prisoner from Washington, D.C. They may be charged, tried and convicted in the District of Columbia, but the
detention facilities are in Virginia. After the Supreme Court's decision, what now matters is where the GOVERNMENT choses to detain you. The government can forum shop for a venue more friendly to it simply by selecting where to detain someone. The trend in the federal courts (particularly in
the Second CIrcuit, that includes New York) was the other way. But this is what the Supreme Court ened up holding. That was not necessarily the result intended by the Supreme Court, which was just deciding this case, but that is certainly going to be the result of it. The Supreme Court dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction, without prejudice to bring another petition. Of the 13 judges who heard the case, eight agreed that there was jurisdiction (Chief Judge Mukasey of the District Court, three judges on the Second Circuit panel and four dissenting Supreme Court justices), but the five who did not happened to be the majority of the Supreme Court.
Talking Dog: Had you considered bringing the habeas corpus petition for Mr. Padilla in South Carolina?
Donna Newman: Well, you have to remember something that the Supreme Court and others conveniently overlooked: I didn't know where Padilla was at the time I filed the habeas corpus petition in Manhattan. The Government moved him without bothering to tell me or anyone else where he was. I wrote that "on information and belief" I thought he was in South Carolina because I got that out of press accounts. I don't usually swear to things based on press accounts, so I said on information and belief. I only learned where he actually was much later in time, when the government saw fit to tell me, though for a while I had no ability to meet with Mr. Padilla.
Talking Dog: The Government has since permitted you to visit Mr. Padilla in order to improve its position before the case went to the
Supreme Court, did it not?
Donna Newman: Well, I'm not going to speculate as to why the Government did or does anything...
Talking Dog: The timing of the Government's decision to allow you to meet with Mr. Padilla certainly coincided with when the case was heard by the Supreme Court, did it not?
Donna Newman: Oh yes-- that's certainly true.
Talking Dog: Now, when you meet with Padilla, I take it that the government still records and monitors your conversations?
Donna Newman: That has changed over time. Originally, of course, Padilla was too dangerous to even meet with defense counsel, and defense counsel were presumed untrustworthy-- like we would be part of some terrorist plot. As if it were necessary, we were vouched for by the Chief Judge of the Southern District [Michael Mukasey], who told the government we could be trusted to meet with Mr. Padilla. But the government kept insisting that Padilla was too dangerous, and that he was being interrogated and that meeting with counsel would interfere with the interrogation process. Since that time, of course, they have announced that they are no longer interrogating him, but they are still holding him anyway. At the meeting with him before the Supreme Court case, conversations were monitored by a naval office, and video-tape recorded. Since that time, procedures have somewhat loosened up, and while not exactly private, meetings are now not dissimilar to other meetings with other clients in other penal institutions-- they're not monitored or recorded to my knowledge.
Talking Dog: Do you feel pressure in your legal practice as a result of the Lynne Stewart prosecution?
Donna Newman: The Lynne Stewart case hangs over all of our heads. All defense attorneys. I mean, what constitutes "going over the line?" What constitutes "a crime"? It's determined by the Government itself. Is it a rule? Is it a crime? I mean, you sign a contract with the government saying you'll do X, you do X, I understand that, and when I sign such a thing, I try to operate within the confines of my agreement, and if I want to challenge it, I do so through the appropriate channels. I understand that. But... in the Lynne Stewart case, what is going on? It seems to have been an adminsitrative rule that the government itself declared was a crime. very scary stuff. But let's compare it to a statement made by [Deputy Attorney General James] Comey [in June, 2004; CNN account here.] Comey's statement divulges, supposedly confidential information revealed by Padilla during interrogations from him. Now this should raise some eyebrows for a number of reasons. For one, Mr. Comey is trying his case in the press, conveniently failing to point out that Mr. Padilla himself disputed what Mr. Comey was saying- and this was dispsute was disclosed in a report to Congress [in response to an inquiry from Senate Judiciary Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah which declassified some information pertaining to Mr. Padilla]
Talking Dog: Wait a minute-- that was in a footnote...
Donna Newman: Oh, that's right! Footnotes don't count! Anyway, Mr. Comey is trying his case in the press, and apparently disclosing confidential supposedly dangerous information to do it. He is, by the way, the subject of an ethics complaint-- not brought by me--but by the Center on Constitutional Rights. I'm not part of their complaint [that complaint alleges a violation of lawyers' disciplinary rules by Mr. Comey for disclosing a supposed admission during interrogation that he was a terrorist]. So you ask yourself-- what really is the difference between what Mr. Comey did and what Lynne Stewart did? One is a defense counsel and one is the prosecutor. But at some point, defense attorneys have to be able to act as defense attorneys.
Talking Dog: At this point, you have said that the government no longer needs to interrogate Mr. Padilla... are they still contending he poses too much of a treat to be released?
Donna Newman: The Government has now said that there was never a plan to detonate a so- called dirty bomb. Then Mr. Comey announced a plan to bomb apartment houses. But the government seems to have nothing to support that either...
Talking Dog: So then, if Padilla has no useful information and isn't really a threat, why pick him up?
Donna Newman: The Government wanted information. They wanted the ability to grab people off the street and interrogate them with no due process. The idea is that we somehow get better intelligence this way. The thinking is that its coercive intelligence-- like we're going to torture someone and he's going to tell us where a ticking bomb is. But... as we have learned in Guantanimo Bay and in Iraq, tortured, coerced intelligence has not proven effective. It doesn't lead to good intelligence... In any event, they are no longer interrogating Mr. Padilla, and he apparently is no longer a threat.
Talking Dog: If Padilla no longer has useful intelligence, why not charge him or release him?
Donna Newman: When is the last time you saw a criminal defense attorney BEGGING the government to charge their client with a crime?
Talking Dog: Do you think this is about politics-- not wanting to make the Bush Administration look bad by simply releasing him-- or charging him and not getting a conviction?
Donna Newman: The government has no exit strategy for this case (kind of lack in Iraq where they also have no exit strategy!) The government needs to find an exit strategy, and it doesn't have one here, so they continue to hold him indefinitely...
Talking Dog: As you know, in the case of Zaccarias Moussaoui, the Government chose to charge him and bring that case through the judicial system. Has anyone in the Government (or anywhere else!) reconciled why Moussaoui gets an indictment and a charge, and Padilla just gets legal limbo?
Donna Newman: These are ad hoc policies thought up seemingly with no thought at all. No, no one has even attempted to reconcile what the Government is doing in these cases....
Talking Dog: You obtained a favorable ruling out of South Carolina on your new habeas corpus petition. Does it look like the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals will hear that case soon?
Donna Newman: Yes, argument has not yet been scheduled, but that court should certainly hear the case this year.
Talking Dog: Do you think that, by and large, the American people actually care about this case, and care about what happens in it?
Donna Newman: I'm afraid the answer is no. Most people think that at least they're taking a terrorist off the street- they're making ME safer. But they're not, of course. This makes us less secure-- not more secure. What's that famous statement...
Talking Dog: Ben Franklin's quip that "they who would trade their precious liberty for a little temporary security
Donna Newman: Exactly. What we have here is a decision not made by the people-- but by their government. In this country, the Congress makes the laws, and the President executes them. The President MUST follow the laws of Congress. Congress passed a law [18 U.S.C. ß 4001(a) (2000) (the "Non-Detention Act")] expressly prohibiting the President from detaining citizens on U.S. soil without CONGRESSIONAL authorization to do so, and the President had, and has, no such authorization. The President didn't ask Congress to pass a law to give him such authorization. And even if he did, such a law would probably be unconstitutional. Not because anyone condones terrorism, or anything like that. But there are reasons we do things. In Germany-- and I hate to use that as an example, but it's true-- in Germany people turned their backs on the first few infringements and it just kept going. For another thing, we need to protect our soldiers over in Iraq and elsewhere fighting for us. That's why we're strong. It's our laws and that we follow them that make us strong. Without them, how are we different from other countries? I believe in our Constitution. YOu just can't take someone on the street, lock them up, and say that the rules don't apply to them. You just can't.
Talking Dog: Do you believe that Mr. Padilla's background-- a Latino, an ex Latin King gang member, someone convicted of taking part in a homicide as a juvenile-- in short, do you think that background, as opposed to say an upper middle class Caucasian-- effects why the American people don't seem to have a great deal of interest in Mr. Padilla or this case?
Donna Newman: That's certainly a possibility. There's no question that his background may be a factor in why people don't seem too concerned. But look: you have a government that tells us it "cares about life", and yet here it arrests a man and just says they are going to hold him in jail for the rest of his life-- no due process, no trial-- it all seems very hypocritical when you look at it that way.
Talking Dog: Are you aware of the internet rumors circulating about this case, for example, a rumor associated with a picture of Mr. Padilla
juxtaposed with Jon Doe No. 2 from the Oklahoma City bombing case?
Donna Newman: You know, I don't have time to follow all of the rumors and other nonsense out there.
Talking Dog: Ms. Newman, on that note, I thank you for being so generous with your time for me.
Donna Newman: Well, I just want your readers to know that I believe in our Constitution, and in our freedoms, and that's why I'm doing this. This could happen to any of us. And it cannot. It just cannot be allowed to happen again.
Your talking dog made the most of it, engaging in his preferred sport, that which suits his patient (read "stubborn") character and personality, but alas, not his body-type, which is forever insisting on weighing at least 15 or 20 pounds above what those awful charts insist he should weigh...
A spate of unseasonably warm weather coinciding with scheduled marathon runs entered its third straight, with an unseasonably high in the mid 70's at the ninth running of the New Jersey Marathon down the shore (pronounced shawww), the 8th such "26" for me. Hence, a delightful and breezy first half led to a "blazing" 2:12 for the first half of the race, but, close and windless conditions and higher temperatures (and the aforementioned blazing early pace) led to an overall 5:12 for the event...
Pretty good by the standards of a 42-year old sedentary office worker... still nearly two hours to shave off for Boston qualifying... especially disappointing after the nice start... once again, my personality insists that I go for it, even though my body knows better...
And you can count on that patience (stubbornness) on an ongoing basis here...
We'll start our slightly overdue visit to Pravda (belayed by exigeses on the Communist Manifesto no less!) with this Steve Darnell piece sure to re-open wounds associated with the Schiavo case.
And then we get the yan to Mr. Darnell's yin in the form of David Hoffman's unbelievably ambitious essay "I am a loser", which I insist that you read now... here-- click on this. Read it.
All I can say is, I hear you, Brother David. I hear you.
Check out this story on Kyrgystan-- not on the political upheaval there, but on a literal landslide which may cause an environmental catastrophe as having unleashed spent nuclear fuel rods-- a story I predict will not be widely reported in Western media. The kind of story the Bush Administration has no interest in you'all knowing about, while it proposes expansion of nucular energy as part of its "domestic energy independence" scheme.
It's a big, topsy-turvy world out there. A world where the former voice of the Soviet Union is now one of the dwindling number of sources on which we can rely to tell us what's going on here...
The great aphorism of Seinfeld's George Costanza might apply to this Gerard Baker piece in relatively new side-bar source (Murdoch's) the Times of London, in which the author asserts that George and Condi are, in fact, trying to make a warmer and fuzzy Washington, and that contrary to the obvious (which, just because it's obvious, doesn't make it untrue), the nomination of the likes of career-UN-basher John Bolton as American representative to the United Nations is not a signal that Term II will be a clone of Term I, but the opposite (don't ask me how...)
Mr. Baker asserts:
It has been generally assumed in the rarefied world of foreign policy practitioners and pundits that Mr Boltonís nomination is a kind of lie-detector test applied to the Administrationís second-term rhetoric. For all the nice language of the Presidentís garland-strewn trip to Europe in February, for all Condoleezza Riceís sharp suits and winning smiles, for all the talk of pages turned and pasts behind us, the Bolton nomination is said to reveal that the second Bush term is going to be a straight rerun of the first.
But the truth, I think, is precisely the opposite. Mr Bolton has gone to the UN not just because Dr Rice wanted him out of the State Department building. His job will be not to pour scorn on multilateralist approaches to international problems, but, however improbable it may seem, to use his rather special skills to make them work. The second Bush term will place a much higher premium on the value of international support, and work much harder to get it.
Two big developments lie behind this change of approach. The first is the remarkable ascendancy of Dr Rice. She did not distinguish herself much as National Security Adviser in the first Bush term. Seeing her job as one of interpreting events and mediating disputes for the President, she did not play the part of a foreign policymaking principal.
Now she is, in truth, in charge of foreign policy. Donald Rumsfeld is still around but he is a diminished figure, assumed to be on his way out within a year or so. Dick Cheney is still there, but his influence over the President has waned as the Secretary of Stateís has waxed. The fact is that Dr Rice now enjoys the closest relationship a secretary of state has had with a president since Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon more than 30 years ago.
Although her own world view is still a little cloudy, it is very clear that it is not the robust, UN-despising, Europe-denigrating one in vogue at the Pentagon and in the Vice-Presidentís office. She won a clear victory on the first big foreign-policy question of the new term ó whether to back Europeís diplomacy on Iran; and she has won a host of other, smaller arguments.
But there is an even bigger reason why change is now in the air in Washington. There is a growing confidence across the Bush Administration that the hard and unpopular choices made in the first term have begun to bear fruit. Iraq is rapidly becoming the success the Left has feared. There is talk at the Pentagon that the first withdrawal of US troops could take place next year. There is evident excitement and optimism about the broader Middle East; democratic change from a free and peaceful Palestine to Afghanistan is no longer a neocon fantasy.
This has created not simply a sense of vindication in Washington but also a belief that the second term need not be so preoccupied with divisive issues. This has made the Bush team less defensive about the decisions made in the first term. They know Europeans wonít ever admit that the Iraq war was wise, but they know too that even the French cannot continue to insist that it was a disaster.
It's good to see that Murdoch outlets the world over have the same view of reality: the senseless slaughter of American soldiers and foreign civilians in an exercise that will almost certainly destabilize our nation's financial position (not to mention it's standing should it ever need international support again) is the definition of "success".
Right wing triumphalism these days frequently reminds me of the court-reporter read-back in the courtroom scene in Woody Allen's Bananas. Would that either said triumphalism (or Woody himself these days) were actually funny...
A future of work-houses and prisons... a future where Americans who lose their jobs, or get sick (or have a relative get sick), or get divorced, or any of the usual hard luck stories associated with financial troubles, will now have to go through several more hoops and pay back some or all of their credit card bills, 'cause the President is about to sign bankruptcy reform legislation.
What's interesting is not that virtually every single Republican member of Congress voted for this clear whoring for large banks and credit card companies, but half of Democrats joined in the banking Bacchanalia, including such notable whores as Joe Biden. As I said, who needs fake Republicans when you can have real ones...
Just as our nation's current tax scheme is designed to shift "the burden" from those most able to bear it to those least, we now have a commercial regime that is literally designed to include interest rates often in excess of over 30% annual interest rates precisely because bankruptcy had been so liberal. Any bets on whether rates will come down once bankruptcy laws aren't quite so accommodating?
Any bets on a windfall profits tax to the banking industry? No takers?
The House of Representatives continued its streak of brilliant legislation, following up on the unpopular, unconstitutional, and best of all, ineffective Terri Schiavo private legislation, by addressing the most burning and important issue in the nation: whether those standing to inherit over $5,000,000 should ever pay any taxes again. That's right: the People's House passed a bill to make estate tax repeal a permanent feature of the American landscape.
Of course, this being America and all, chances are, even though at this point less than 1% of the population even stands to be in a position anywhere near being involved with an estate likely to pay the estate tax... (only a few thousand people a year leave estates over $5,000,000) the measure will at least be popular, cause we loves our rich folks. Yessirree.
Well, yee ha. Last I looked, those air-craft carriers weren't refurbishing themselves... somebody's just got to pay for our government. And if we keep lifting "the burden" from our rich folks, it's probably going to be everybody else paying MORE in tax to subsidize them. And yet, the estate tax repeal is popular.
The House passes this repeal of the estate tax. The same House that stripped bankruptcy protection from millions of our most vulnerable and desperate citizens and refused to pass an interest cap of even an outrageously high 30%. You don't even know what to say, after a while.
Apparently, this is not advice to Americans visiting the Third World, as advice to marathon runners to limit fluid intake to avoid possible hyponatremia (abnormally low blod sodium)... advice announced seeing as next Monday is the Boston Marathon.
Interesting to me, for a variety of reasons. For one, I handled a legal case involving a patient who, unfortunately, during a gynecological procedure, was infused liters and liters of fluid, and died from... hyponatremia. A most unpleasant condition-- it leads directly to brain damage, and quite possibly, death.
For another, I've finished seven marathons (with an eighth one scheduled for this Sunday morning...) Different races feature different protocols; New York City, of which I've completed the last four, dispenses water and/or gatorade at every mile (after the second or so)... other races dispense less often.
The fact is, different racing conditions (i.e. temperature and humidity) change the need for fluid intake... common sense (ha! who running over 26 miles has any common sense?) would dictate that a runner should "listen to their own body"... I find that as I do more of these, I personally learn more of the ropes... one simply gets a better idea of their intake needs after a while. Of course, a gung ho first timer told to "hydrate hydrate hydrate..." Well...
Still, yet another area where conventional wisdom is not only wrong, but far more likely to be fatal than is ignoring it. CW is not merely a disaster in politics, folks... I'll continue to strive to give you the opposite of conventional wisdom at every turn... ignore it... at your peril...
President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard "Dick" Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld were paid the ultimate scientific homage by a group of retired Cornell University entomologists: they get to have slime-mold beetle species named after them. (Hat tip to Mrs. TD.)
Two of the three named species, Agathidium cheneyi Miller and Wheeler and Agathidium rumsfeldi Miller and Wheeler, are found predominantly in Mexico, while the third, Agathidium bushi Miller and Wheeler, is, appropriately enough, found in such Red States as Ohio and North Carolina. The beetles feed on slime mold (some kind of fungi type... stuff), and it's not what you think: the scientists did this as an homage to Messrs. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, admiring them for their kick-ass-ness.
A famous naturalist was quoted as saying that in all his years as a naturalist, he learned that God really had a thing for beetles (there are thousands of varieties of them...)
Well, three of them will go down in the annals of slime-mold beetles, as named after three Americans for whom I certainly have no problem associating with slime-mold sucking insects. America she's a great country.
And now to the final part of our brief survey of The Communist Manifesto, Parts III and IV, entitled Socialist and Communist Literature and Position of the Communists in Relation to the Various Existing Opposition Parties, respectively. As usual, Marx and Engels prove absurdly accurate in their diagnosis, and even in their prognostication (note how chilling the section on German Socialism is) and as usual, can't seem to come to a decent plan of action as to how to make any of it actually work out in anything other than a hash, rejecting one scheme which actually seems somewhat viable-- the premise of more or less trying to have the proletariat join the bourgeoisie (Nordic style universal middle class socialism...)
Well, I submitted that Messrs. Marx and Engels were the equivalent of physicians using first rate diagnostic equipment only to prescribe leaches, cuppings and assorted Middle Ages potions as their "cure"... The question I keep asking is why we now have an American government so damned hell-bent on trying to reproduce the social and economic conditions that made these two so damned appealing to so many in the first place. Well, for sheer audacity of thought and observation, Marx and Engels don't disappoint, as shown in excerpts from parts III and IV of the Communist Manifesto:
III -- SOCIALIST AND COMMUNIST LITERATURE
1. REACTIONARY SOCIALISM
a. Feudal Socialism
Owing to their historical position, it became the vocation of the aristocracies of France and England to write pamphlets against modern bourgeois society. In the French Revolution of July 1830, and in the English reform agitation, these aristocracies again succumbed to the hateful upstart. Thenceforth, a serious political struggle was altogether out of the question. A literary battle alone remained possible. But even in the domain of literature, the old cries of the restoration period had become impossible.
In this way arose feudal socialism: half lamentation, half lampoon; half an echo of the past, half menace of the future; at times, by its bitter, witty and incisive criticism, striking the bourgeoisie to the very heart's core, but always ludicrous in its effect, through total incapacity to comprehend the march of modern history.
The aristocracy, in order to rally the people to them, waved the proletarian alms-bag in front for a banner. But the people, so often as it joined them, saw on their hindquarters the old feudal coats of arms, and deserted with loud and irreverent laughter.
In pointing out that their mode of exploitation was different to that of the bourgeoisie, the feudalists forget that they exploited under circumstances and conditions that were quite different and that are now antiquated. In showing that, under their rule, the modern proletariat never existed, they forget that the modern bourgeoisie is the necessary offspring of their own form of society.
For the rest, so little do they conceal the reactionary character of their criticism that their chief accusation against the bourgeois amounts to this: that under the bourgeois regime a class is being developed which is destined to cut up, root and branch, the old order of society.
In political practice, therefore, they join in all corrective measures against the working class; and in ordinary life, despite their high falutin' phrases, they stoop to pick up the golden apples dropped from the tree of industry, and to barter truth, love, and honor, for traffic in wool, beetroot-sugar, and potato spirits.
As the parson has ever gone hand in hand with the landlord, so has clerical socialism with feudal socialism.
Nothing is easier than to give Christian asceticism a socialist tinge. Has not Christianity declaimed against private property, against marriage, against the state? Has it not preached in the place of these, charity and poverty, celibacy and mortification of the flesh, monastic life and Mother Church? Christian socialism is but the holy water with which the priest consecrates the heart-burnings of the aristocrat.
b. Petty-Bourgeois Socialism
The feudal aristocracy was not the only class that was ruined by the bourgeoisie, not the only class whose conditions of existence pined and perished in the atmosphere of modern bourgeois society. The medieval burgesses and the small peasant proprietors were the precursors of the modern bourgeoisie. In those countries which are but little developed, industrially and commercially, these two classes still vegetate side by side with the rising bourgeoisie.
In countries where modern civilization has become fully developed, a new class of petty bourgeois has been formed, fluctuating between proletariat and bourgeoisie, and ever renewing itself a supplementary part of bourgeois society. The individual members of this class, however, as being constantly hurled down into the proletariat by the action of competition, and, as Modern Industry develops, they even see the moment approaching when they will completely disappear as an independent section of modern society, to be replaced in manufactures, agriculture and commerce, by overlookers, bailiffs and shopmen.
This school of socialism dissected with great acuteness the contradictions in the conditions of modern production. It laid bare the hypocritical apologies of economists. It proved, incontrovertibly, the disastrous effects of machinery and division of labor; the concentration of capital and land in a few hands; overproduction and crises; it pointed out the inevitable ruin of the petty bourgeois and peasant, the misery of the proletariat, the anarchy in production, the crying inequalities in the distribution of wealth, the industrial war of extermination between nations, the dissolution of old moral bonds, of the old family relations, of the old nationalities.
In it positive aims, however, this form of socialism aspires either to restoring the old means of production and of exchange, and with them the old property relations, and the old society, or to cramping the modern means of production and of exchange within the framework of the old property relations that have been, and were bound to be, exploded by those means. In either case, it is both reactionary and Utopian.
Its last words are: corporate guilds for manufacture; patriarchal relations in agriculture.
Ultimately, when stubborn historical facts had dispersed all intoxicating effects of self-deception, this form of socialism ended in a miserable hangover.
c. German or "True" Socialism
It is well known how the monks wrote silly lives of Catholic saints _over_ the manuscripts on which the classical works of ancient heathendom had been written. The German literati reversed this process with the profane French literature. They wrote their philosophical nonsense beneath the French original. For instance, beneath the French criticism of the economic functions of money, they wrote "alienation of humanity", and beneath the French criticism of the bourgeois state they wrote "dethronement of the category of the general", and so forth.
The introduction of these philosophical phrases at the back of the French historical criticisms, they dubbed "Philosophy of Action", "True Socialism", "German Science of Socialism", "Philosophical Foundation of Socialism", and so on.
The French socialist and communist literature was thus completely emasculated. And, since it ceased, in the hands of the German, to express the struggle of one class with the other, he felt conscious of having overcome "French one-sidedness" and of representing, not true requirements, but the requirements of truth; not the interests of the proletariat, but the interests of human nature, of man in general, who belongs to no class, has no reality, who exists only in the misty realm of philosophical fantasy.
This German socialism, which took its schoolboy task so seriously and solemnly, and extolled its poor stock-in-trade in such a mountebank fashion, meanwhile gradually lost its pedantic innocence.
The fight of the Germans, and especially of the Prussian bourgeoisie, against feudal aristocracy and absolute monarchy, in other words, the liberal movement, became more earnest.
By this, the long-wished for opportunity was offered to "True" Socialism of confronting the political movement with the socialistic demands, of hurling the traditional anathemas against liberalism, against representative government, against bourgeois competition, bourgeois freedom of the press, bourgeois legislation, bourgeois liberty and equality, and of preaching to the masses that they had nothing to gain, and everything to lose, by this bourgeois movement. German socialism forgot, in the nick of time, that the French criticism, whose silly echo it was, presupposed the existence of modern bourgeois society, with its corresponding economic conditions of existence, and the political constitution adapted thereto, the very things whose attainment was the object of the pending struggle in Germany.
While this "True" Socialism thus served the government as a weapon for fighting the German bourgeoisie, it, at the same time, directly represented a reactionary interest, the interest of German philistines. In Germany, the petty-bourgeois class, a relic of the sixteenth century, and since then constantly cropping up again under the various forms, is the real social basis of the existing state of things.
To preserve this class is to preserve the existing state of things in Germany. The industrial and political supremacy of the bourgeoisie threatens it with certain destruction -- on the one hand, from the concentration of capital; on the other, from the rise of a revolutionary proletariat. "True" Socialism appeared to kill these two birds with one stone. It spread like an epidemic.
The robe of speculative cobwebs, embroidered with flowers of rhetoric, steeped in the dew of sickly sentiment, this transcendental robe in which the German Socialists wrapped their sorry "eternal truths", all skin and bone, served to wonderfully increase the sale of their goods amongst such a public. And on its part German socialism recognized, more and more, its own calling as the bombastic representative of the petty-bourgeois philistine.
It proclaimed the German nation to be the model nation, and the German petty philistine to be the typical man. To every villainous meanness of this model man, it gave a hidden, higher, socialistic interpretation, the exact contrary of its real character. It went to the extreme length of directly opposing the "brutally destructive" tendency of communism, and of proclaiming its supreme and impartial contempt of all class struggles. With very few exceptions, all the so-called socialist and communist publications that now (1847) circulate in Germany belong to the domain of this foul and enervating literature.
2. CONSERVATIVE OR BOURGEOIS SOCIALISM
A part of the bourgeoisie is desirous of redressing social grievances in order to secure the continued existence of bourgeois society.
To this section belong economists, philanthropists, humanitarians, improvers of the condition of the working class, organizers of charity, members of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, temperance fanatics, hole-and-corner reformers of every imaginable kind. This form of socialism has, moreover, been worked out into complete systems.
The socialistic bourgeois want all the advantages of modern social conditions without the struggles and dangers necessarily resulting therefrom. They desire the existing state of society, minus its revolutionary and disintegrating elements. They wish for a bourgeoisie without a proletariat. The bourgeoisie naturally conceives the world in which it is supreme to be the best; and bourgeois socialism develops this comfortable conception into various more or less complete systems. In requiring the proletariat to carry out such a system, and thereby to march straightaway into the social New Jerusalem, it but requires in reality that the proletariat should remain within the bounds of existing society, but should cast away all its hateful ideas concerning the bourgeoisie.
A second, and more practical, but less systematic, form of this socialism sought to depreciate every revolutionary movement in the eyes of the working class by showing that no mere political reform, but only a change in the material conditions of existence, in economical relations, could be of any advantage to them. By changes in the material conditions of existence, this form of socialism, however, by no means understands abolition of the bourgeois relations of production, an abolition that can be affected only by a revolution, but administrative reforms, based on the continued existence of these relations; reforms, therefore, that in no respect affect the relations between capital and labor, but, at the best, lessen the cost, and simplify the administrative work of bourgeois government.
Bourgeois socialism attains adequate expression when, and only when, it becomes a mere figure of speech.
Free trade: for the benefit of the working class. Protective duties: for the benefit of the working class. Prison reform: for the benefit of the working class. This is the last word and the only seriously meant word of bourgeois socialism.
It is summed up in the phrase: the bourgeois is a bourgeois -- for the benefit of the working class.
3. CRITICAL-UTOPIAN SOCIALISM AND COMMUNISM
The first direct attempts of the proletariat to attain its own ends, made in times of universal excitement, when feudal society was being overthrown, necessarily failed, owing to the then undeveloped state of the proletariat, as well as to the absence of the economic conditions for its emancipation, conditions that had yet to be produced, and could be produced by the impending bourgeois epoch alone. The revolutionary literature that accompanied these first movements of the proletariat had necessarily a reactionary character. It inculcated universal asceticism and social levelling in its crudest form.
The founders of these systems see, indeed, the class antagonisms, as well as the action of the decomposing elements in the prevailing form of society. But the proletariat, as yet in its infancy, offers to them the spectacle of a class without any historical initiative or any independent political movement.
Since the development of class antagonism keeps even pace with the development of industry, the economic situation, as they find it, does not as yet offer to them the material conditions for the emancipation of the proletariat. They therefore search after a new social science, after new social laws, that are to create these conditions.
Historical action is to yield to their personal inventive action; historically created conditions of emancipation to fantastic ones; and the gradual, spontaneous class organization of the proletariat to an organization of society especially contrived by these inventors. Future history resolves itself, in their eyes, into the propaganda and the practical carrying out of their social plans.
In the formation of their plans, they are conscious of caring chiefly for the interests of the working class, as being the most suffering class. Only from the point of view of being the most suffering class does the proletariat exist for them.
The undeveloped state of the class struggle, as well as their own surroundings, causes Socialists of this kind to consider themselves far superior to all class antagonisms. They want to improve the condition of every member of society, even that of the most favored. Hence, they habitually appeal to society at large, without the distinction of class; nay, by preference, to the ruling class. For how can people when once they understand their system, fail to see in it the best possible plan of the best possible state of society?
Hence, they reject all political, and especially all revolutionary action; they wish to attain their ends by peaceful means, necessarily doomed to failure, and by the force of example, to pave the way for the new social gospel.
Such fantastic pictures of future society, painted at a time when the proletariat is still in a very undeveloped state and has but a fantastic conception of its own position, correspond with the first instinctive yearnings of that class for a general reconstruction of society.
But these socialist and communist publications contain also a critical element. They attack every principle of existing society. Hence, they are full of the most valuable materials for the enlightenment of the working class. The practical measures proposed in them -- such as the abolition of the distinction between town and country, of the family, of the carrying on of industries for the account of private individuals, and of the wage system, the proclamation of social harmony, the conversion of the function of the state into a more superintendence of production -- all these proposals point solely to the disappearance of class antagonisms which were, at that time, only just cropping up, and which, in these publications, are recognized in their earliest indistinct and undefined forms only. These proposals, therefore, are of a purely utopian character.
The significance of critical-utopian socialism and communism bears an inverse relation to historical development. In proportion as the modern class struggle develops and takes definite shape, this fantastic standing apart from the contest, these fantastic attacks on it, lose all practical value and all theoretical justifications. Therefore, although the originators of these systems were, in many respects, revolutionary, their disciples have, in every case, formed mere reactionary sects. They hold fast by the original views of their masters, in opposition to the progressive historical development of the proletariat. They, therefore, endeavor, and that consistently, to deaden the class struggle and to reconcile the class antagonisms. They still dream of experimental realization of their social utopias, of founding isolated phalansteres, of establishing "Home Colonies", or setting up a "Little Icaria"  -- pocket editions of the New Jerusalem -- and to realize all these castles in the air, they are compelled to appeal to the feelings and purses of the bourgeois. By degrees, they sink into the category of the reactionary conservative socialists depicted above, differing from these only by more systematic pedantry, and by their fanatical and superstitious belief in the miraculous effects of their social science.
They, therefore, violently oppose all political action on the part of the working class; such action, according to them, can only result from blind unbelief in the new gospel.
IV -- POSITION OF THE COMMUNISTS IN RELATION TO
THE VARIOUS EXISTING OPPOSITION PARTIES
The Communists fight for the attainment of the immediate aims, for the enforcement of the momentary interests of the working class; but in the movement of the present, they also represent and take care of the future of that movement. In France, the Communists ally with the Social Democrats* against the conservative and radical bourgeoisie, reserving, however, the right to take up a critical position in regard to phases and illusions traditionally handed down from the Great Revolution.
In Switzerland, they support the Radicals, without losing sight of the fact that this party consists of antagonistic elements, partly of Democratic Socialists, in the French sense, partly of radical bourgeois.
In Poland, they support the party that insists on an agrarian revolution as the prime condition for national emancipation, that party which fomented the insurrection of Krakow in 1846.
In Germany, they fight with the bourgeoisie whenever it acts in a revolutionary way, against the absolute monarchy, the feudal squirearchy, and the petty-bourgeoisie.
But they never cease, for a single instant, to instill into the working class the clearest possible recognition of the hostile antagonism between bourgeoisie and proletariat, in order that the German workers may straightway use, as so many weapons against the bourgeoisie, the social and political conditions that the bourgeoisie must necessarily introduce along with its supremacy, and in order that, after the fall of the reactionary classes in Germany, the fight against the bourgeoisie itself may immediately begin.
The Communists turn their attention chiefly to Germany, because that country is on the eve of a bourgeois revolution that is bound to be carried out under more advanced conditions of European civilization and with a much more developed proletariat than that of England was in the seventeenth, and France in the eighteenth century, and because the bourgeois revolution in Germany will be but the prelude to an immediately following proletarian revolution.
In short, the Communists everywhere support every revolutionary movement against the existing social and political order of things.
In all these movements, they bring to the front, as the leading question in each, the property question, no matter what its degree of development at the time.
Finally, they labor everywhere for the union and agreement of the democratic parties of all countries.
The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.
Proletarians of all countries [Workers of the World], unite!
And there you have it. The masterpiece of political economy that, along with the rest of the canon of Marxist literature, probably constitutes the only work of letters responsible for more slaughter and human suffering than the Bible. The irony is, by reading it yourself, you see that messrs. Marx and Engels' thought processes and analyses are not at the level as, say, dweebs we often find on American college campuses who understand Marx and Engels through parody (a popular one being Ayn Rand, herself a parody; just think "labor theory of value.")
These guys were first rate economic scientists-- as far as I'm concerned, their workings of the mechanics of the free market and industrial organization were second to none. Their small v vision was second to none save maybe Charles Dickens.
However... their large V vision... that was a problem. A huge problem. It simply didn't dawn on them that capitalism could actually produce enough goodies for everyone to the point when even dirt poor people in an industrialized society (think Western and Northern Europe) nonetheless had homes, food, health care, and at least some opportunity to seek decent work... Of course, capitalism is always capable of abuse-- we could see returns to child labor (source of a great many of the goodies you buy down at Walmart), or erosions of, say, overtime pay (oh wait) or worker safety protections (oh wait) or, say, taxing capital more favorably than taxing labor (oh wait)...
Marx and Engels, in short, summarily rejected as a sell-out the sort of "capitalism with the edges off" that has proven pretty successful in places like, oh, Canada, or Australia, or the EU for example (interestingly, just as the current Republican Party and seemingly the DLC wing of the Democratic party are rejecting that approach here!) But... it's proven successful. At least, more successful than anything else ever tried.
But if there's another buck to be made another way... Well, there you have it. I repeat the apocryphal line from Karl Marx's mother (Karl was a terrible person, btw-- few friends, disowned by his family... but I digress)... if only he had tried to acquire capital, instead of writing about it... things would have been better...
Experts from China, according to this week's visit to our friends at Beijing's People's Daily, assert that even if China takes strong steps to adjust its currency (the yuan... or the RMB... or the renminbi... which I believe are all the same thing...) against the yankee dollar, the structure of the American economy (household debt off the chart, national savings non-existent, the federal government borrowing because actually taxing those with ability to pay taxes would be taxing the people's money) will still cause us to run massive trade and current account deficits with China... so instead, we'll just borrow the People's Republic's money...
In short, even if, as expected, Beijing makes some adjustment strengthening the yuan... or the RMB... whatever... against the dollar (in response to a bill passed in the senate threatening 27% tariffs on PRC imports unless Beijing makes currency adjustment)... Middle America will still borrow heavily from the Middle Kingdom... Chinese goods and services will be priced so preposterously competitively, that we'll still keep buying them... even as China (and the rest of the world) quietly shifts reserve holdings into euros...
China still spits out tons more engineers than we do, and lots of other professionals that are essential for a value added economy... even as we chose not to make certain... investments in such a future...
The piece notes, correctly, that we buy tchotchkes from China cheaper than we could get them from anywhere else (especially domestically), and because of these prices, profits (and ultimate wages) in China are well below where they could be, so we do derive quite a benefit from the relationship, especially where the currency makes it even more favorable for us...
And so, we'll continue my deconstructive/reconstructive view of the surprisingly accurate diagnostically and (not surprisingly) absurdly inaccurate prognostically Communist Manifesto, by our long dead buddies Fred and Karl. We'll move onto the Second part entitled "Proletarians and Communists".
Here, we get into more specific discussions of Marx's/Engels' grand plans with some specificity: not the abolition of all property, but the abolition of bourgeois property. The problem, of course, is what (the f***) in practice this actually meant. History only proved that one of the Marx/Engels' prognosis proved deadly accurate:
Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore, which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionizing the mode of production.
"Despotic" and "economically insufficient and untenable" proved very accurate. As always, Marx and Engels were brilliant diagnosticians. The problem they failed to overlook was the intrinsic seductiveness of the bourgeoisie: the abililty of the ruling class to convince the workers that they can join the ruling class (or, in America, for example, why 19% of the nation THINKS its in the top 1% of income and another 20% thinks they WILL BE). At some point, the bourgeoisie, both by actually doing it as well as promising it, lets large numbers of proletarians into either the ruling class itself...
Well, I still think F.D.R. saved capitalism from itself by going to an intermediate stage of socialism, and a self-sustaining one at that-- a stage that the current government wants to end, and thereby take us back to... the good old days! (The good old days which inspired Marx and Engels, that is.)
I especially enjoy posting this analysis this the same day the prior order stages a most unrepentant "Royal Second Wedding" (reminding me of a Russian spy character in Casino Royale, who, upon observing free-roaming lions on the country estate of James Bond announces "I did not come here to be devoured by symbols of monarchy!"), and hence, without further adieu, we give you excerpts from Part Deux of Le Manifeste Communiste (en anglait):
The distinguishing feature of communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property. But modern bourgeois private property is the final and most complete expression of the system of producing and appropriating products that is based on class antagonisms, on the exploitation of the many by the few.
In this sense, the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.
Hard-won, self-acquired, self-earned property! Do you mean the property of petty artisan and of the small peasant, a form of property that preceded the bourgeois form? There is no need to abolish that; the development of industry has to a great extent already destroyed it, and is still destroying it daily.
Or do you mean the modern bourgeois private property?
But does wage labor create any property for the laborer? Not a bit. It creates capital, i.e., that kind of property which exploits wage labor, and which cannot increase except upon conditions of begetting a new supply of wage labor for fresh exploitation. Property, in its present form, is based on the antagonism of capital and wage labor. Let us examine both sides of this antagonism.
To be a capitalist, is to have not only a purely personal, but a social STATUS in production. Capital is a collective product, and only by the united action of many members, nay, in the last resort, only by the united action of all members of society, can it be set in motion.
Capital is therefore not only personal; it is a social power.
Let us now take wage labor.
The average price of wage labor is the minimum wage, i.e., that quantum of the means of subsistence which is absolutely requisite to keep the laborer in bare existence as a laborer. What, therefore, the wage laborer appropriates by means of his labor merely suffices to prolong and reproduce a bare existence. We by no means intend to abolish this personal appropriation of the products of labor, an appropriation that is made for the maintenance and reproduction of human life, and that leaves no surplus wherewith to command the labor of others. All that we want to do away with is the miserable character of this appropriation, under which the laborer lives merely to increase capital, and is allowed to live only in so far as the interest of the ruling class requires it.
In bourgeois society, living labor is but a means to increase accumulated labor. In communist society, accumulated labor is but a means to widen, to enrich, to promote the existence of the laborer.
In bourgeois society, therefore, the past dominates the present; in communist society, the present dominates the past. In bourgeois society, capital is independent and has individuality, while the living person is dependent and has no individuality.
And the abolition of this state of things is called by the bourgeois, abolition of individuality and freedom! And rightly so. The abolition of bourgeois individuality, bourgeois independence, and bourgeois freedom is undoubtedly aimed at.
By freedom is meant, under the present bourgeois conditions of production, free trade, free selling and buying.
You are horrified at our intending to do away with private property. But in your existing society, private property is already done away with for nine-tenths of the population; its existence for the few is solely due to its non-existence in the hands of those nine-tenths. You reproach us, therefore, with intending to do away with a form of property, the necessary condition for whose existence is the non-existence of any property for the immense majority of society.
In one word, you reproach us with intending to do away with your property. Precisely so; that is just what we intend.
From the moment when labor can no longer be converted into capital, money, or rent, into a social power capable of being monopolized, i.e., from the moment when individual property can no longer be transformed into bourgeois property, into capital, from that moment, you say, individuality vanishes.
You must, therefore, confess that by "individual" you mean no other person than the bourgeois, than the middle-class owner of property. This person must, indeed, be swept out of the way, and made impossible.
According to this, bourgeois society ought long ago to have gone to the dogs through sheer idleness; for those who acquire anything, do not work. The whole of this objection is but another expression of the tautology: There can no longer be any wage labor when there is no longer any capital.
But don't wrangle with us so long as you apply, to our intended abolition of bourgeois property, the standard of your bourgeois notions of freedom, culture, law, etc. Your very ideas are but the outgrowth of the conditions of your bourgeois production and bourgeois property, just as your jurisprudence is but the will of your class made into a law for all, a will whose essential character and direction are determined by the economical conditions of existence of your class.
The selfish misconception that induces you to transform into eternal laws of nature and of reason the social forms stringing from your present mode of production and form of property -- historical relations that rise and disappear in the progress of production -- this misconception you share with every ruling class that has preceded you. What you see clearly in the case of ancient property, what you admit in the case of feudal property, you are of course forbidden to admit in the case of your own bourgeois form of property.
Abolition of the family! Even the most radical flare up at this infamous proposal of the Communists.
On what foundation is the present family, the bourgeois family, based? On capital, on private gain. In its completely developed form, this family exists only among the bourgeoisie. But this state of things finds its complement in the practical absence of the family among proletarians, and in public prostitution.
The bourgeois claptrap about the family and education, about the hallowed correlation of parents and child, becomes all the more disgusting, the more, by the action of Modern Industry, all the family ties among the proletarians are torn asunder, and their children transformed into simple articles of commerce and instruments of labor.
National differences and antagonism between peoples are daily more and more vanishing, owing to the development of the bourgeoisie, to freedom of commerce, to the world market, to uniformity in the mode of production and in the conditions of life corresponding thereto.
The supremacy of the proletariat will cause them to vanish still faster. United action of the leading civilized countries at least is one of the first conditions for the emancipation of the proletariat.
In proportion as the exploitation of one individual by another will also be put an end to, the exploitation of one nation by another will also be put an end to. In proportion as the antagonism between classes within the nation vanishes, the hostility of one nation to another will come to an end.
When the ancient world was in its last throes, the ancient religions were overcome by Christianity. When Christian ideas succumbed in the eighteenth century to rationalist ideas, feudal society fought its death battle with the then revolutionary bourgeoisie. The ideas of religious liberty and freedom of conscience merely gave expression to the sway of free competition within the domain of knowledge.
"Undoubtedly," it will be said, "religious, moral, philosophical, and juridicial ideas have been modified in the course of historical development. But religion, morality, philosophy, political science, and law, constantly survived this change."
What does this accusation reduce itself to? The history of all past society has consisted in the development of class antagonisms, antagonisms that assumed different forms at different epochs.
But whatever form they may have taken, one fact is common to all past ages, viz., the exploitation of one part of society by the other. No wonder, then, that the social consciousness of past ages, despite all the multiplicity and variety it displays, moves within certain common forms, or general ideas, which cannot completely vanish except with the total disappearance of class antagonisms.
We have seen above that the first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy.
The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degree, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class; and to increase the total productive forces as rapidly as possible.
Of course, in the beginning, this cannot be effected except by means of despotic inroads on the rights of property, and on the conditions of bourgeois production; by means of measures, therefore, which appear economically insufficient and untenable, but which, in the course of the movement, outstrip themselves, necessitate further inroads upon the old social order, and are unavoidable as a means of entirely revolutionizing the mode of production.
These measures will, of course, be different in different countries.
Nevertheless, in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.
1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
5. Centralization of credit in the banks of the state, by means of a national bank with state capital and an exclusive monopoly.
6. Centralization of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the state.
7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the state; the bringing into cultivation of waste lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
8. Equal obligation of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of children's factory labor in its pre
sent form. Combination of education with industrial production, etc.
When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so called, is merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another. If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organize itself as a class; if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class.
In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonisms, we shall have an association in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.
Once again, I am amazed at how accurate their critiques of capitalism were, and how unbelievably wrong they were about the effects of communism. The fact of the matter is, the advance of industrialism in Western Europe and Northn America and Japan made communism as such intrinsically untenable in those areas: management of the industrial state (and ultimately, the super-industrial state) became so complex that the bourgeois became so large that it needed to recruit sufficiently large numbers of people out of those who would otherwise be proletarian, that the proletariat could never be fully exploited to the ranks of the totally hopeless, subsistence state that Marx and Engels envisioned. With so many people required for the managerial class, the fearsome competition envisioned by Marx and Engels to be subsistence labor was not quite so fearsome, so wages could be above subsistence levels. This was not the case in industrially underdeveloped Russia and China, of course, where serfdom had not even ended at the time of their communist revolutions, and indeed, industrial workers in those areas, while better off than serfs, weren't much better off than serfs.
Further, Western Europe (notably Germany, under Bismarck) had, whether inspired by Marx and Engels, or despite them, decided to head off possible revolution by preemptively introducing the modern social welfare state (decades ahead of FDR).
Where am I going? You got it: our nation's current non-industrial policy (that is, I affirmatively submit that our nation's policy is to effectively de-industrialize the nation) for the benefit of a few fabulously wealthy people, as manifested by such factors as a decline in the technical qualifications of our workers, "out-sourcing" of knowledged based jobs to Bangalore and Chenai and Kuala Lumpor and wherever else they are going, our regressive tax system perversely discouraging savings and encouraging consumption and debt, and other factors, are on their way to potentially replicating (in the United States) what Marx and Engels considered the preconditions for communist revolution.
Marx and Engels were outrageously inspecific about what eliminating bourgeois property meant in practice, of course, eliminating the bourgeoisie, who happened to be the people most capable of assembling and managing the industrial structures that led to the formation of the capital. One sees no reason why a future "revolution" wouldn't make the same bloody and self-defeating assumption: resentment of others remains one of the fundamental human emotions (probably THE most fundamental).
One wonders why, quite frankly, simple impositions of conditions 2 (progressive income tax), 3 (progressive tax on inheritances) and 10 (ending child labor and imposing compulsory public education) wouldn't solve ALL of the excesses of capitalism, all by themselves. Because, quite frankly, when employed in European socialist states, they did. Marx and Engels would have had to hang around at least another 50-100 years to have seen that, of course...
But my point remains: very simple and not particularly expensive tweaks (think "minimum wage" including mandated health insurance coverage, inheritance tax at same rate as income tax, progressive income tax, old age and disability pensions... can keep capitalism from spinning into the sort of insanely exploitive relationships that sow the seeds of possible revolutionary change. And our government, for the last 3/4 of a century, has been engaging in those tweaks, until the current government wants to bring them all down (even as dissenters within the Republican Party itself may slow this down... for a while...).
It's all fascinating, no?
I had promised not long ago to analyze the Communist Manifesto against my proposition that Karl and Fred were, in fact, brilliant diagnosticians using tools like magnetic resonance imagers and microbiology, and then, after diagnosing the iillnesses of capitalism with brilliant precision, proceed to prescribe leeches and cupping, thereby accomplishing... well, you know the rest.
Section I is entitled "Bourgeois and Proletarians." One of the suppositions of Marxian theory is that capitalism always sows the seeds of its own destruction, as the necessity for the bourgeoisie to grab ever more power and fruits of production at the expense of a class of subsistence workers thrust onto the cruel vagaries of market forces, will, eventually, lead to revolution. The observations below (I'm excerpting), though written in the 1840's, seem every bit as relevant now. Draw your own conclusions as to whether (as I believe, btw) Franklin Roosevelt saved capitalism from itself by ostensibly redistributing some bourgeois goodies (like old age pensions) to the working class, and as I (and evidently, Marx and Engels) submit, if social safety nets are slashed and workers are made ever more powerless systemically, the whole system is... well, doomed. The query is relevant, of course, because really for the first time since FDR's day, we have a government with not merely the inclination, but quite possibly the ability, to dismantle a great deal of the social safety net of the last 3/4 century... and I submit by doing so, may well put us back on the path to the kind of Marxian style (nothing is ever exactly the same of course) revolution that marred the last century (most ironic as we are getting our ass kicked capitalist-wise by an ostensibly (or at least officially) communist country.
Anyway... some surprisingly apropos of modern times excerpts from Section I (Bourgeois and Proletarians):
The discovery of America, the rounding of the Cape, opened up fresh ground for the rising bourgeoisie. The East-Indian and Chinese markets, the colonisation of America, trade with the colonies, the increase in the means of exchange and in commodities generally, gave to commerce, to navigation, to industry, an impulse never before known, and thereby, to the revolutionary element in the tottering feudal society, a rapid development.
Meantime, the markets kept ever growing, the demand ever rising. Even manufacturers no longer sufficed. Thereupon, steam and machinery revolutionized industrial production. The place of manufacture was taken by the giant, MODERN INDUSTRY; the place of the industrial middle class by industrial millionaires, the leaders of the whole industrial armies, the modern bourgeois.
Modern industry has established the world market, for which the discovery of America paved the way. This market has given an immense development to commerce, to navigation, to communication by land. This development has, in turn, reacted on the extension of industry; and in proportion as industry, commerce, navigation, railways extended, in the same proportion the bourgeoisie developed, increased its capital, and pushed into the background every class handed down from the Middle Ages.
The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations. It has pitilessly torn asunder the motley feudal ties that bound man to his "natural superiors", and has left no other nexus between people than naked self-interest, than callous "cash payment". It has drowned out the most heavenly ecstacies of religious fervor, of chivalrous enthusiasm, of philistine sentimentalism, in the icy water of egotistical calculation. It has resolved personal worth into exchange value, and in place of the numberless indefeasible chartered freedoms, has set up that single, unconscionable freedom -- Free Trade. In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, it has substituted naked, shameless, direct, brutal exploitation.
The bourgeoisie has stripped of its halo every occupation hitherto honored and looked up to with reverent awe. It has converted the physician, the lawyer, the priest, the poet, the man of science, into its paid wage laborers.
The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation into a mere money relation.
The bourgeoisie has disclosed how it came to pass that the brutal display of vigor in the Middle Ages, which reactionaries so much admire, found its fitting complement in the most slothful indolence. It has been the first to show what man's activity can bring about. It has accomplished wonders far surpassing Egyptian pyramids, Roman aqueducts, and Gothic cathedrals; it has conducted expeditions that put in the shade all former exoduses of nations and crusades.
The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connections everywhere.
The bourgeoisie has, through its exploitation of the world market, given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country. To the great chagrin of reactionaries, it has drawn from under the feet of industry the national ground on which it stood. All old-established national industries have been destroyed or are daily being destroyed. They are dislodged by new industries, whose introduction becomes a life and death question for all civilized nations, by industries that no longer work up indigenous raw material, but raw material drawn from the remotest zones; industries whose products are consumed, not only at home, but in every quarter of the globe. In place of the old wants, satisfied by the production of the country, we find new wants, requiring for their satisfaction the products of distant lands and climes. In place of the old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations. And as in material, so also in intellectual production. The intellectual creations of individual nations become common property. National one-sidedness and narrow-mindedness become more and more impossible, and from the numerous national and local literatures, there arises a world literature.
The bourgeoisie, by the rapid improvement of all instruments of production, by the immensely facilitated means of communication, draws all, even the most barbarian, nations into civilization. The cheap prices of commodities are the heavy artillery with which it forces the barbarians' intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilization into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves. In one word, it creates a world after its own image.
The bourgeoisie keeps more and more doing away with the scattered state of the population, of the means of production, and of property. It has agglomerated population, centralized the means of production, and has concentrated property in a few hands. The necessary consequence of this was political centralization. Independent, or but loosely connected provinces, with separate interests, laws, governments, and systems of taxation, became lumped together into one nation, with one government, one code of laws, one national class interest, one frontier, and one customs tariff.
The bourgeoisie, during its rule of scarce one hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all preceding generations together. Subjection of nature's forces to man, machinery, application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing of whole continents for cultivation, canalization or rivers, whole populations conjured out of the ground -- what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labor?
The weapons with which the bourgeoisie felled feudalism to the ground are now turned against the bourgeoisie itself.
In proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e., capital, is developed, in the same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working class, developed -- a class of laborers, who live only so long as they find work, and who find work only so long as their labor increases capital. These laborers, who must sell themselves piecemeal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market.
Owing to the extensive use of machinery, and to the division of labor, the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and, consequently, all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is only the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him. Hence, the cost of production of a workman is restricted, almost entirely, to the means of subsistence that he requires for maintenance, and for the propagation of his race. But the price of a commodity, and therefore also of labor, is equal to its cost of production. In proportion, therefore, as the repulsiveness of the work increases, the wage decreases. What is more, in proportion as the use of machinery and division of labor increases, in the same proportion the burden of toil also increases, whether by prolongation of the working hours, by the increase of the work exacted in a given time, or by increased speed of machinery, etc.
No sooner is the exploitation of the laborer by the manufacturer, so far at an end, that he receives his wages in cash, than he is set upon by the other portion of the bourgeoisie, the landlord, the shopkeeper, the pawnbroker, etc.
But with the development of industry, the proletariat not only increases in number; it becomes concentrated in greater masses, its strength grows, and it feels that strength more. The various interests and conditions of life within the ranks of the proletariat are more and more equalized, in proportion as machinery obliterates all distinctions of labor, and nearly everywhere reduces wages to the same low level. The growing competition among the bourgeois, and the resulting commercial crises, make the wages of the workers ever more fluctuating. The increasing improvement of machinery, ever more rapidly developing, makes their livelihood more and more precarious; the collisions between individual workmen and individual bourgeois take more and more the character of collisions between two classes. Thereupon, the workers begin to form combinations (trade unions) against the bourgeois; they club together in order to keep up the rate of wages; they found permanent associations in order to make provision beforehand for these occasional revolts. Here and there, the contest breaks out into riots.
Hitherto, every form of society has been based, as we have already seen, on the antagonism of oppressing and oppressed classes. But in order to oppress a class, certain conditions must be assured to it under which it can, at least, continue its slavish existence. The serf, in the period of serfdom, raised himself to membership in the commune, just as the petty bourgeois, under the yoke of the feudal absolutism, managed to develop into a bourgeois. The modern laborer, on the contrary, instead of rising with the process of industry, sinks deeper and deeper below the conditions of existence of his own class. He becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth. And here it becomes evident that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society, and to impose its conditions of existence upon society as an overriding law. It is unfit to rule because it is incompetent to assure an existence to its slave within his slavery, because it cannot help letting him sink into such a state, that it has to feed him, instead of being fed by him. Society can no longer live under this bourgeoisie, in other words, its existence is no longer compatible with society.
The essential conditions for the existence and for the sway of the bourgeois class is the formation and augmentation of capital; the condition for capital is wage labor. Wage labor rests exclusively on competition between the laborers. The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the laborers, due to competition, by the revolutionary combination, due to association. The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.
Submitted for your approval, as now we have a government committed to curtailing social safety net programs and worker protections such as worker safety laws, the ability of working people to bring law suits, overtime pay, bankruptcy relief... all while inverting the tax code so that the burden of taxation falls most heavily on labor and least heavily on capital. Is the Bush Administration engaging in a grand social experiment to try to prove if Marx and Engels' 150 year old diagnosis is correct?
Next time, we'll move from diagnosis into prognosis (and, of course, that keen eye for diagnosing problems shifts to solving them to... leeches and cuppings... and where, frankly, one starts to wish (perhaps) that Marx had taken the apocryphal advice of his mother and tried to acquire capital instead of writing about it.
Legislators in Florida are hell-bent on passing legislation that would radically reduce possible criminal liability for those who decide to invoke violent deadly force merely because they feel threatened.
The prior rule would allow a presumption of deadly force in the home (damned Jehovah's Witnesses!... oh wait... IN the home...) This will expand that to everywhere. If you cause some gun totin' maniac to "feel threatened", he (it will always be a he) may blow your ass away, without fear of prosecution.
Home is evidently where your Glock is. As if there weren't enough reasons never to set foot in that psycho-ward masquerading as an American state... another one comes out of Florida. OK: I'm convinced. Colombia? Check. Iraq? Check. Florida...
Vice-President Dick Cheney told the editorial board of The New York Post (you didn't think he'd be talking to the Nation did you?) that he disagreed with Congressional Great Leader Tom DeLay's suggestions of "retribution" against the federal judges who refused to order reimposition of a feeding tube or other life-extending or saving measures for Terri Schiavo. (Perhaps, in my best "Hillary Clinton", there are bridges to be built: even those of us who may have disagreed with the underlying decision to end Ms. Schiavo's life by a fortnight's dehydration and starvation still appreciate the agonizing work of the federal judges who had to weigh just the case in front of them without thinking about the global political implications; "us" in this case would not include the House Majority Leader, of course).
Cheney certainly recognizes where this could logically go; while the irritating District Judge James Whittemore was an appointee of the dreaded Bill Clinton, IIRC, Whittemore was confirmed by a Republican senate. Indeed, most of the judges who proceeded to affirm Judge Whittemore's initial ruling were appointed by Republican Presidents, confirmed by Republican-controlled senates, or both. And worst of all, the buck-passers of last resort happen to be Cheney's own buddies, including duck-hunting pal Nino Scalia and the rest of the crew to whom he not only owes his job in the first place, but owes the continued secrecy of his taxpayer funded meetings with oil and energy industry lobbyists to rewrite national energy policy in the interests of the... oil and energy industry... In short, Cheney sees the big picture, and he just isn't happy with where the Sweet Land 'Sterminator is going on this-- if the lower court guy gets a vendetta, it won't be long until Pinafore Commander Rehniquist and Ducky Nino and Clarence and Sandy and Tony and the Rest are targeted for... the Bug Man's Paybacks. Most unbecoming. MOST unbecoming.
Must... be... careful... This could all be a Texas Two Step. It appears that Karl brought Dear Leader into this rather early, by having him fly back from his Endless Summer in Crawford to sign "Terri's Dead Letter Law", but then seems to have been largely quiet in the unsuccessful aftermath. Cheney often signals things from the top (the top being, of course... himself). In this case, Cheney tells us he has no intention of running for President in 2008, thereby confirming that he will wait in the wings and see if there is a clear frontrunner before deciding whether he will run or not, and further identifying himself with the corporate banditti wing of the Party rather than the Jesusland wing... as if there was any doubt of this to begin with.
Of course, it is unclear what this interesting notion about just how Great Leader even can retaliate against judges with life-time tenure (primary challenges are right out), how does this grandstanding effect "the nuclear option" of taking away the fillibuster option for judges... I could easily see DeLay's blatherings backfiring on the Republicans...
Who knows? Let's not discount the possibility that Tom is taking one for the team here: everyone at 1600 took a hit from recent events, including the President. It's been a remarkable gift of Bush, Cheney, et al. to distance themselves from events for which they bear full and sole responsibility, and then to get away with it. While there's always a possibility of an overplayed hand... let's just say when playing poker with Dick Cheney, that's not how you bet. These guys are up to something... their version of Texas Hold'em is a game the rest of us don't want to play.
Our comrades from Beijing's People's Daily give us this account of the "Millenium Assessment" report from the UN contending that around 60% of the world's eco-system is in grave danger of permanent degradation as a result of human activity; China evidently pledges to build a more sustainable society. On cue, Chinese President Hu Jin-tao, on the occasion of the equivalent of Chinese Arbor Day, told the Chinese people that it was their duty to live in harmony with nature as he participated in a tree planting in Beijing.
I have heard it suggested that it is most unlikely there would be enough copper in the world to wire China for telephones (at least by copper wire) in the same manner that the United States is so wired (throw in India, and this supposition is twice as likely!) So, China moves ahead with wireless and fibre-optic and other technologies, as do many heretofore "developing nations" that allows them, in some instances, to pass even American standards in some communications (and other high-tech) applications, even whihle using less energy and natural resources than we, in the process, at least on a per capita basis. And this is good-- because, as noted, there just aren't enough resources in the world for some of their likely demands.
In short, as the emerging Asian superpowers (China and India) develop, they will, of necessity, put extreme pressure on their domestic resources, and demand the world's natural resources at unprecedented rates (the two nations having around 3-4 times the combined populations of the United States, Western Europe and Japan). While schemes such as the Kyoto Protocols leave much to be desired, American arrogance and refusing to take a leadership role in world environmental matters will, most likely, result in less American control over our future fate than more.
As I like to remind us, we owe our overlords in Beijing lots of money; they hold huge surpluses against us in trade, and in terms of buying our government debt. It is inevitable that, at some point, the Chinese will exercise their leverage to make sure we don't destroy their environment. Maybe they will end up making us do the right thing. Or maybe they will do so in a way we might consider "heavy-handed".
Who knows? I tend to think of American official global environmental attitudes (which, btw, are probably opposed by the huge majority of Americans, but since, unlike oil companies, the 'average person' doesn't employ lobbyists) to be as self-defeating as drilling a hole in the bottom of a life-boat. But what do I know?
His Holiness the Pope John Paul II has passed away at 84.
I'm sure many more eloquent than I will comment appropriately. Let's just say that John Paul II, longest serving pope of the 20th century and third longest of all time, was a towering figure, a man whose moral and rhetorical stature was just about as large as the post he held.
Naturally, the best take I have read on the Michael Jackson Judicial Jamboree comes to us via our comrades at Pravda, specifically this comment by Steve Darnell. The gist of the story amounts to "A Tale of Two Jacksons"-- noting the (interesting?) involvement of the Rev. Jesse Jackson ("the evangelical corporate ambulance chaser") as Michael Jackson's daily spiritual advisor during his trials and tribulations... well, one trial actually, that for his latest round of accused child molestation. (Darnell believes Jesse Jackson is as disgusted as everyone else at Michael's behavior, but while always willing to see red on matters of black and white, Jesse's favorite color remains "green".) Darnell's take is, while not exactly identical to my feelings on the subject (I actually think Michael Jackson is too deranged to stand trial), not all that different from my own feelings on the subject (and I would submit, most if not all, parents with small children):
According to reports, Michael Jackson, the accused child molester, apparently spends most of his time playing with children at his Neverland Ranch. I'm not a psychiatrist, but I think Jackson really believes he is Peter Pan and that Tinker Bell and the rest of the Lost Boy's are on some great adventure flying around Neverland fighting Captain Hook.
Why else would he show up in court wearing pajamas? He must have been up all night fighting Captain Hook.
The only problem with Jackson's fantasy is that Captain Hook in reality is District Attorney, Tom Sneddon. And if Jackson loses his battle with Hook he could end up playing Diana Ross in the cell of a very large, love starved, convicted murderer.
I'm sure there are people out there who believe Jackson is innocent of the child molestation charges leveled against him. I tend to think he is guilty. In my opinion any grown man who has pajama parties with young children in a king sized bed, is a freak of nature and should spend the rest of his life in prison. Even if he is found not guilty. (emphasis mine).
Well, one thing we'll say of (Michael) Jackson: if he goes down, it won't be because he had lousy counsel or because he couldn't afford to mount a defense. A huge part of his problem (aside from himself-- I'm sure his lawyers advised him that disrespecting jurors by showing up late and/or in pajamas was not really a good idea given their power to impose guilt upon him) is a California law allowing prior accusations of child abuse to come in against him. This, of course, is because he had successfully bought off so many prior accusers with huge civil settlements that the state changed the law accordingly: Jackson will be hoist on his own petard on this (if convicted).
I remain perplexed: Jackson is a one-man franchise worth at least hundreds of millions of dollars, and I'm sure hundreds of people owe their livelihood to that franchise. After accusation after accusation against him of this nature, I just don't understand how his handlers allowed him to jeopardize their investment in him, time after time. This is simply not a man that should ever be left alone with children (including his own). Even if completely innocent, he still opens himself up to shakedowns (which may nor may not be the current case).
We'll see: Jackson may still be able to invoke the "all-purpose" provisions of California Penal Code Section 4-117(c) (in relevant part, "celebrities are above the law"). But juries don't take kindly to being disrespected, either. I mean, O.J. never showed up late to court in his jammies. Well, who knows how this will turn out. Of course, if Jackson is indeed convicted, extra precautions will need to be taken, especially if he starts singing "We can fly, we can fly, we can fly..."
After having successfully evaded his own responsibilities associated with the failure of intelligence vis a vis Iraq and its non-possession of weapons of mass-destruction (for which the President was rewarded with reelection, Incompetetentalleezza Rice was elevated to the post of Secretary of State, her deputy Stephen "Yellowcakes" Hadley elevated to National Security Advisor, former CIA Director George "Slamdunk" Tenet was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and Deputy Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz was universally praised and now made head of the World Bank), the President continued to heap lavish praise on the commission he anointed to make findings as to pre-war intelligence failures, particularly since not a single intelligence failure appears to have involved him.
Commenting that he successfully invaded Iraq on the strength of pure faith and emotion and with no actually correct intelligence whatsoever, the President announced with regret that he was dismissing Jim Towey as Director of the White House Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives, merging that unit with the National Intelligence Directorate, now headed by John "I Brake for Right Wing Death Squads" Negroponte.
Originally, the President intended to name former Defense Department Official Douglas Feith to the joint position (which he would term "Feith-based initiatives"), but the President said "When it comes to Right Wing Death Squads, John is second to no one."
Former Secretary of State Colin Powell declined comment, saying "Don't get me started. Just don't."
With the opposition safely in the lead in early polls in Zimbabwe's parliamentary elections, a team of international observers led by former Secretary of State James Baker and Congresswoman Katherine Harris (R-FL) have declared Zimbabwe's elections to be "above-baord, free and fair". Indeed, both Baker and Harris commented on the lack of allegations that voers of color were being denied access to the polls.
President Mugabe dismissed allegations that exit polls showing a strong win by the opposition party or allegations that the voting process was not transparent are of any merit, noting that he considered whatever happens "a mandate of my careful stewardship of Zimbabwe" and said he anticipated having a great deal of political capital after the polling, when he predicted he would have 92 seats out of the nation's 150-seat parliament (although there was some dispute when an aide suggested his party would have 95-seats; evidently, there was a dispute among members of the ruling party about how large they wished their landslide to be.)
Mugabe praised the Zimbabwean people for the orderly process, and thanked God for not blessing Zimbabwe with large oil reservers.
Following the high-profile death of Theresa Schiavo, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay announced that, after unusually cordial discussions with House Minority Leader Nancy Schiavo, Senate Majority Leader Frist and Minority Leader Reid, a broad consensus had finally been reached on a variety of issues resulting from the high-profile (and unsuccessful) efforts to intervene in the legal case which, having determined that Ms. Schiavo's own intention was to have all medical treatment including having a feeding tube withdrawn, resulted in her death yesterday morning.
DeLay said that the "culture of life" had to mean a general respect for life. Specifically, DeLay said "A country as rich as ours that spends nearly 16% of its national income on health care can afford to make sure that the primary care given to an agricultural worker's children is the same top-notch care that I can expect from my taxpayer-paid plastic surgeon and dermatologist.
"Indeed, it is a moral imperative that our unacceptable national levels of infant mortality and life expectancy, neither of which is anywhere near its rightful place of best in the world (which is what we pay for) be improved dramatically, for all Americans.
"I have, therefore, introduced a series of bills in the House (and Majority Leader frist assures me that he will also introduce these bills in the Senate) which will
*Increase the minimum wage by $1 per hour each year until 2010, after which the minimum wage will be indexed to rise at the same rate as social security benefits increase
*Mandate that a portion of that minimum wage increase be applied to a minimum health care plan for all Americans working more than 250 hours per quarter, so that no hard-working American need ever again fear being uninsured
*An extension of the Medicaid program to include all Americans receiving unemployment insurance benefits, all children not otherwise insured by their parents, and all Americans earning less than 1,000 times the hourly minimum wage per year
*A "Marshall Plan" for disease eradication, with goals of eliminating AIDS, cancer, malaria and the world's top ten diseases by 2025, including trebling the funding for the National Institutes of Health and other research efforts
*A lifting of restrictions on stem cell research to include embryonic research as long as the embryos were not created expressly for this purpose
*The establishment of an office of family planning within the Department of Health and Human Services whose mission is to reduce the number of abortions through aggressive dissemination of birth control education, prophylactic and medical devices
*A national default "living will", that would provide that the presumption of every patient was to receive the full panoply of medical care available to them, unless they specifically opted out via a standardized, witnessed document that specifically enumerated their care preferences."
DeLay said that he strongly believed that America as a nation greatly valued a "culture of life", and that he didn't mean that as a code-word to abuse and ostracize women who wanted abortions, but in its literal sense. DeLay said that he expected quick passage of the bill "lest Terri's demise at the hands of liberal judges be in vain", and he said he was sure the President would sign these measures, which would be known as the All Purpose Responsibility In Lifestyle Federal Omnibus Oversight Law, just as soon as he got back from Crawford, and Karen Hughes had a chance to explain it all to the President using a specially prepared briefing and coloring book.