Subject: ON DYSFUNCTIONAL RELATIONSHIPS DURING THE CURRENT CAPITALIST DEBACLE.
30 June 2012
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
No one in Europe or North America can escape noticing the increasingly important role science and technology are playing in our daily lives. Hundreds of millions of us --from public school teachers, to private secretaries; from students, to part-time employees – are caught in the snare of complex machinery which frequently ceases to function properly. Whether it is a disposable satellite telephone, or a new wifi printer that is programmed to die after a limited number of hours, or some technical service unable to connect hardware so that it operates correctly, or some other service purportedly created to make our lives more efficient and more productive – in this world of electronic hardware and ever-changing software, when it stops functioning we know we’re screwed. We are pushed into a “metaphysical” universe, where “probability” calculations replace “cause-and-effect” analyses, which we are accustomed to using in order to sort out our problems. We now stand outside of ourselves, so to speak, wondering how in the hell all this is going to end and what effect it will have on our bodies, our minds, and on the systems of which we are a part.
This depersonalization of life cannot go unnoticed. We have been thrown into a morass, like ingredients into the batter of some unknown recipe. We are made to feel like surplus commodities, a condition which Marxists call alienation . . . .
Theoretical physicist Michio Kaku, author of Beyond Einstein: The Cosmic Quest for the Theory of the Universe (1995), discusses his take on the history of trends in human thinking: from religious, through humanist, to scientific propositions. The early godlike perspective, adopted by pre-scientific cultures and through the Middle Ages, says Kaku, produced “flatland two-dimensional” perspectives, in which people were confined by their perceptions to surface relationships as if interacting on the surface of a plane –no more than “forward or backward” and “left or right”—which easily imprisoned them within closed lines, since they had no access to the third-dimension which would enable them to leap over lines on the surface and escape their confines. This two-dimensional flatland perspective, Kaku argues, was produced by the creation of an imaginary three-dimensional god.
A revolution in thinking occurred when a three-dimensional perspective was created by introducing a four dimensional point of reference. Beginning in the 15th Century, “Man” displaced “God” during the Ressaissance as a new four-dimensional vantage point, which made use of the dimension of time. This fourth dimension of before and after, past and future was superimposed on the existing dimensions of points (which possess, in fact, no dimensions), and of 1D lines (with only “forward and backward” movement possibilities), and of 2D planes (which included, also, “left and right” dimensions), and of 3D cubes, and spheres, and cones, etc. (which added a third dimension of “above and below”). The fourth dimensional perspective provided the necessary experience which influenced more and more people to recognize the properties of their three-dimensional existence, including activities involving spaces “above and below” which exist outside the two-dimensional experience on the surface of a plane, which itself is outside the one-dimensional experience of “forward and backward” along a single line. In order to recognize the co-existance of a fourth dimension, which would be incorproated in the dimension of time, we would have to gain a perspective from at least a fifth dimension, which, according to Kaku, can be grasped theoretically (by logical extrapolations) but cannot be geometriclly visualized easily.
“Mainstream physics has far outstripped the imagination of any science fiction writer,” concludes Kaku. The mathematics of superstring theory focuses on different dimensions (poinst, lines, planes, cubes, time, etc., etc. …) and their co-esistence in a field of dimensions which pre-dates the 'big-bang’ origins of our own universe, and has the theorietical power, claims Kaku,"of explaining everything" . . . .
Historical materialism is not, perhaps, totally irrelevant to this mathematics. The Marxist proposition that Man is no longer the center of focus but rather that all social classes (and individuals therein) are derived from the social relationships determined by changes in material existence, represents an epistemological break with Renaissance thought. The humanist focus on society was supplemented by the focus on dialectical relationships between structural elements and functional aspects of components of a given economic system in its entirety.
Modern science has expanded this focus to include the physical effects of the material presence of the observer on what he/she is observing. Thus, the system is recognized as nothing more and nothing less than interpenetrating subsystems, or parallel realities of which we are all a part and which are perhaps connected, according to superstring theory, by “wormholes.” (Einstein disagreed and thought that though parallel dimensions no doubt existed, these worlds could not be breached because of the superabundant energy that would be required to pierce the super-imposed dimensions, not to mention the inability to recognize what you are looking at, if ever contact were made.)
We can see an unmistakable convergence of Art and Science, as two indispensible disciplines both of which require imagination and a high degree of emotional and cogntive awareness if one is to embark upon understanding and changing the world. Only a deep appreciation of the social history of art and science can give us access to a recognition of the world around us and the constraints this world places upon the lives of ordinary people, most of whom are deprived of access to knowledge, understanding, and compassion which are necessary if they are to satisfy their human needs against the aims of The One Percent.
In the 5 items below, CEIMSA readers will grasp the severe disorientation that has been produced by the ideological warfare waged by the 1% and their allies. This class war is by no means new, but the battles being fought are more visible than ever, and each victory and defeat is of more consequence.
Item A., from Greg Palast, is his article on the euro’s "great ‘success’.“
Item B., from Professor Edward S. Herman, is an essay on the history of “Deficits and Class Warfare.”
Item C., from Marc Ollivier, is a article by Bill Moyers, Matt Taibbi and Yves Smith, first published on Alternet.com, on “How Wall Street learned from the Mafia.”
Item D., from Counter Punch is an article by historian Professor Gabriel Kolko, “Creating a Warrior State: The Enigma of Israel.”
Item E., from News from the Underground, is an article by Paul Melia and Luke Byrne on “€54m voting machines scrapped for €9 each” in the Republic of Ireland.
And finally, we offer CEIMSA readers an educational video from 2006, What The Bleep Do We Know!?, which introduces the search for a new vantage point from which to understand what is happening to us and why and what we should do about it . . . .
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Université Stendhal Grenoble 3
from Greg Palast :
Date: 26 June 2012
Subject: The Euro: who profits?
The Euro is a Big Success - No Kidding
by Greg Palast
The idea that the euro has "failed" is dangerously naive. The euro is doing exactly what its progenitor – and the wealthy 1%-ers who adopted it – predicted and planned for it to do.
That progenitor is former University of Chicago economist Robert Mundell. The architect of "supply-side economics" is now a professor at Columbia University, but I knew him through his connection to my Chicago professor, Milton Friedman, back before Mundell's research on currencies and exchange rates had produced the blueprint for European monetary union and a common European currency.
Mundell, then, was more concerned with his bathroom arrangements. Professor Mundell, who has both a Nobel Prize and an ancient villa in Tuscany, told me, incensed:
"They won't even let me have a toilet. They've got rules that tell me I can't have a toilet in this room! Can you imagine?"
As it happens, I can't. But I don't have an Italian villa, so I can't imagine the frustrations of bylaws governing commode placement.
But Mundell, a can-do Canadian-American, intended to do something about it: come up with a weapon that would blow away government rules and labor regulations. (He really hated the union plumbers who charged a bundle to move his throne.)
"It's very hard to fire workers in Europe," he complained. His answer: the euro.
The euro would really do its work when crises hit, Mundell explained. Removing a government's control over currency would prevent nasty little elected officials from using Keynesian monetary and fiscal juice to pull a nation out of recession.
"It puts monetary policy out of the reach of politicians," he said. "[And] without fiscal policy, the only way nations can keep jobs is by the competitive reduction of rules on business."
He cited labor laws, environmental regulations and, of course, taxes. All would be flushed away by the euro. Democracy would not be allowed to interfere with the marketplace – or the plumbing.
As another Nobelist, Paul Krugman, notes, the creation of the eurozone violated the basic economic rule known as "optimum currency area". This was a rule devised by Bob Mundell.
That doesn't bother Mundell. For him, the euro wasn't about turning Europe into a powerful, unified economic unit. It was about Reagan and Thatcher.
"Ronald Reagan would not have been elected president without Mundell's influence," once wrote Jude Wanniski in the Wall Street Journal. The supply-side economics pioneered by Mundell became the theoretical template for Reaganomics – or as George Bush the Elder called it, "voodoo economics": the magical belief in free-market nostrums that also inspired the policies of Mrs. Thatcher.
Mundell explained to me that, in fact, the euro is of a piece with Reaganomics:
"Monetary discipline forces fiscal discipline on the politicians as well."
And when crises arise, economically disarmed nations have little to do but wipe away government regulations wholesale, privatize state industries en masse, slash taxes and send the European welfare state down the drain.
Thus, we see that (unelected) Prime Minister Mario Monti is demanding labor law "reform" in Italy to make it easier for employers like Mundell to fire those Tuscan plumbers. Mario Draghi, the (unelected) head of the European Central Bank, is calling for "structural reforms" – a euphemism for worker-crushing schemes. They cite the nebulous theory that this "internal devaluation" of each nation will make them all more competitive.
Monti and Draghi cannot credibly explain how, if every country in the Continent cheapens its workforce, any can gain a competitive advantage. But they don't have to explain their policies; they just have to let the markets go to work on each nation's bonds. Hence, currency union is class war by other means.
The crisis in Europe and the flames of Greece have produced the warming glow of what the supply-siders' philosopher-king Joseph Schumpeter called "creative destruction". Schumpeter acolyte and free-market apologist Thomas Friedman flew to Athens to visit the "impromptu shrine" of the burnt-out bank where three people died after it was fire-bombed by anarchist protesters, and used the occasion to deliver a homily on globalization and Greek "irresponsibility".
The flames, the mass unemployment, the fire-sale of national assets, would bring about what Friedman called a "regeneration" of Greece and, ultimately, the entire eurozone. So that Mundell and those others with villas can put their toilets wherever they damn well want to.
Far from failing, the euro, which was Mundell's baby, has succeeded probably beyond its progenitor's wildest dreams.
from Edward S. Herman :
Date: 27 June 2012
Subject: Deficits and Class Warfare.
Deficits and Class Warfare
by Edward S. Herman
Deficits have long been used as an instrument of class warfare, and even of revolution and counter-revolution. In the French Revolutionary era King Louis XVI was forced to convoke the Estates General in 1789 because the financial crisis was so severe that he had to reassure the Third Estate (and the financial markets which they dominated) that financial reform was in the offing. As expressed by one of the major activists of the time, Comte de Mirabeau, “The deficit is the nation’s most valuable asset.” (Quoted and put in context in Gaetano Salvemini, The French Revolution 1788-1792.) In this case the situation got badly out of control and resulted in a revolution, the fall of the feudal regime and monarchy, the guillotining of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the Napoleonic era, and a transition to a new bourgeois society.
In England the threat of the growing national debt was considered dire by the elite at each phase of the debt’s enlargement, and, writing after the Napoleonic Wars in the early 19th century, Lord Macaulay noted that “At every stage in the growth of that debt it has been seriously asserted by wise men that bankruptcy and ruin were at hand.” But, Macaulay went on to say, even after the post-Napoleonic-War rise of the debt’s size to the fabulous level of 800 million pounds, when those wise men were now sure the end was near, it wasn’t. “After a few years of exhaustion, England recovered itself and the bankrupt society not only proved able to meet all its obligations, it grew richer and richer so that the growth could almost be discerned by the eye.”
Government deficits have always been viewed suspiciously by the business community as there is always the possibility that government will fall into the hands of irresponsibles who will spend recklessly, service the wrong people and ends, and produce inflationary conditions. It wasn’t till the Great Depression and the rise of Keynesian economics that deficit spending became accepted public policy and was integrated into mainstream economic thought, although even then it remained worrisome to business and conservatives and opposed by many. It was also noteworthy that despite the enormous deficits of World War II and resultant huge national debt, here again bankruptcy and ruin didn’t follow, the country got richer and richer, and the debt burden fell steadily with the rise in the GDP and tax revenues, till the coming into office of Republican President Ronald Reagan. The debt/GDP ratio fell from 112 percent in 1945 to 27 percent in 1974, rising sharply again only in the Reagan era and later, to 71 percent in 2012. In the “liberal” era, from roughly 1940 to 1970, economic models proliferated that showed how economic growth could make—and had regularly made—what appeared to be frightening debt levels, manageable.
But the tide changed in the late 1970s and after, with deficits and inflation treated as central threats, the Chicago School and Milton Friedman displacing Keynesianism as the dominant core of economics. In our time, also, the deficit and its threat have become a more active instrument of the right, used in opposition to “populism” and to help dismantle the welfare state, and. with Keynesianism taking on a more militaristic hue. We may recall that Bill Clinton claimed that the bond market had stymied his desire to “put people first,” although he continued sincerely to “feel their pain.” So he kept his budget in good order, with the help of the stock market bubble and mini-boom, and the associated rise in tax collections, and in his last three years in office he ran a budget surplus and chose to reduce the national debt rather than invest in people-first social projects. He was (and remains) a first class trimmer, who knows which way the winds-of-power blow and adjusted (adjusts) his sails accordingly.
Even before Clinton, the 1 percent’s attitude toward budgets and deficits had had its classic display in former Citibank Chairman Walter Wriston’s sharp 1978 critique of Democratic President Jimmie Carter’s budget deficit, which Wriston claimed was "diverting available capital from productive private investments to finance public expenditures. Only a reduction in the federal deficit would reverse this trend." But with Reagan in office in 1988, Wriston said that we must distinguish between capital and operating budgets, and that the normal household does not treat its home as a current expense, so that we need not worry, as there is "near balance in the operating budget." There had been no distinction between operating and capital budgets with Carter. The business-trustworthy Reagan could run deficits, and ran big ones; Carter should not, and was under fire for smaller ones.
This priority system was also made evident in the Congressional elections of 1994, with a Republican victory that was a high point in Newt Gingrich’s political career. A late 1994 Forbes/Gallup poll found that 88 percent of 338 corporate CEOs thought the Republican victory would help “the country,” and only 2 percent thought it would be detrimental. Although Clinton had put the bond market first, he was felt to be not completely reliable, and on important matters like environmental rules the Republicans were greatly preferred. Clinton had pushed for and signed the North American Free Trade Agreement, ended the New Deal federal welfare guarantee, and was doing a fine job in building the incarceration state and protecting the Pentagon budget in the wake of the fall of the Evil Empire. But there was still too much feeling of pain and (mainly nominal and potential) responsiveness to the interests of his popular base. The Gingrich Republicans were happy to inflict pain.
With the victory of George W. Bush in 2000, once again a trustworthy representative of the 1 percent was in power, so there was an intensification of the one-sided class war, notably regressive tax cuts, a new arms boom and international aggressiveness, and a surge in deficits. The national debt grew substantially during the Bush terms, as it had in the Reagan years, without producing a “Tea Party” concerned with Big Government and without the mainstream media, pundits, or the Democratic Party leadership getting very agitated about the threat of national bankruptcy and urgent need for deficit control.
With the return of a Democrat to the presidency in 2008, the familiar pattern ensued: The deficit once again rose in importance for officials and the media, the “Tea Party” came into existence to protest Big Government and government deficits and debt, and it got attention levels in the media not justified by event numbers. As with his predecessor Democrats Carter and Clinton, Obama leaned over backwards to prove his reliability to the election-funding community and his rejection of "populism" and any substantial action that might meet the needs of the general population.
The class war forces have been steadily encouraged by Obama, who makes concessions beforehand, thereby conceding the justice of the 1 percent’s claims and weakening any negotiating position on behalf of the 99 percent. Obama agreed that “entitlements” (those to the 99 percent) are excessive and need cutting, and he appointed a National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform to study the problem, headed by two individuals known to favor “reform” (Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson). Their personal report (not approved by the entire commission) called, predictably, for Social Security and Medicare cutbacks and tax cuts along Bush lines. Obama’s two year wage freeze for federal government employees fed well into the class warriors campaign of denigration of government (civil, not Pentagon-CIA). Obama signed a Budget Control Act in August 2011 that provided for substantial expenditure cuts in exchange for the Republicans kindly allowing a federal debt-ceiling increase that prevented a federal government default.
The Obama years have seen another $4 trillion added to the debt, but this was not because of any direction of resources toward the general public. No, it was the result of the fall-off of revenue from the recession, new unavoidable recession-based outlays, and the impact of the still-operative Bush tax cuts and continued huge military outlays.
The right has gotten more powerful and aggressive from the Reagan years to the era of John Boehner and Paul Ryan, and the use of the budget deficit to defund “the beast” (the civil budget) has become bolder. Even before Reagan, in 1978, Alan Greenspan was claiming that the major objective of tax cut programs was ”to reduce the momentum of expenditure growth by restraining the amount of revenue available and trust that there is a political limit to deficit spending.” Reagan made the same point, and George W. Bush spoke of a “fiscal straightjacket” that his tax-cuts would provide. Of course they didn’t, and the national debt grew by some $4 trillion during his term in office. But this was still “responsible” deficit-making, with its huge bias toward tax cuts for top earners (“my base”) and the military-industrial complex.
But the Republicans are still not satisfied. They have gotten away with the use of the debt-limit blackmail threat to shrink the beast and protect the interests of their tiny base. But they want more, and the Paul Ryan plan would provide that with massive cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, food aid, public infrastructure investments, and $4.6 trillion in tax cuts, disproportionately benefiting the wealthy. Ryan claims that his budget addresses the “deficit” issue, but all his specific budget proposals add up to a larger deficit—the further revenues to balance the budget are still to be named! So the idea that this rightwing budget is addressed to debt-deficit problems is a complete fraud—it is a major class war-attack, barely concealed.
We may ask how Ryan can get away with such a fraud, and how he and Boehner and their colleagues can escape unrelenting attacks from the mainstream media for lying and aggressive and inhumane class warfare against the 99 percent? The answer must lie in the growth in power of the 1 percent, their domination of the flow of information (and indignation) that can allow and facilitate a use of the threat of a growing debt as a counter-revolutionary weapon. This is a sick democracy with a power-accommodating media, and a failing state. The public is kept ignorant and confused and Ryan and Boehner are impudent. And as Ralph Waldo Emerson said many years ago, “The imbecility of men is always inviting the impudence of power.”
from Marc Olliver :
Date: 27 June 2012
Subject: The Wall Street Mafia.
As tu reçu ce document ? Crois tu que l'on peut le considérer comme fiable ?
J'espère que vous allez bien. A plus,
How the Wall Street Mafia Holds America -- and the World -- Hostage
By Bill Moyers and Matt Taibbi and Yves Smith
from Counter Punch :
Date: 18 March 2012
Subject: The Enigma of Israel
Creating a Warrior State: The Enigma of Israel
by GABRIEL KOLKO
from Mark Crispin Miller :
Date: 29 June 2012
€54m voting machines scrapped for €9 each
by Paul Melia and Luke Byrne
THE Government has sold the infamous €54m e-voting machines for scrap -- for €9.30 each.
A huge fleet of trucks will begin removing the 7,500 machines from 14 locations on Monday.
They will be taken to a Co Offaly recycling company, KMK Metals Recycling Ltd in Tullamore, where they will be stripped down and shredded.
Ironically, the owner of the firm, Kurt Kyck, cast his vote on one of the machines in the 2002 elections. He has now paid €70,000 for the lot.
Scrapping the machines brings to an end the embarrassing e-voting debacle which has cost the taxpayer more than €54m since it emerged the expensive equipment was faulty.
They could not be guaranteed to be safe from tampering. And they could not produce a printout so that votes/results could be double-checked.
But last night the man who first proposed using them washed his hands of the affair.
Former Fianna Fail minister Noel Dempsey suggested e-voting in 1999 but the machines were purchased by Martin Cullen three years later.
Mr Dempsey refused to comment, directing questions to his successor in the Department of the Environment.
"I'm a private citizen," he told the Irish Independent at his home in Trim, Co Meath.
"Ask Martin Cullen, he bought them," he added. And then he walked into his house.
Mr Cullen could not be reached for comment.
The machines had also been strongly supported by former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who said Ireland would become a "laughing stock" unless we stopped using pencil and paper to record our votes. Mr Ahern also refused to comment when contacted by this newspaper.
Bought in 2002, the machines were supposed to be used in local, general and European elections, and in referendums. But an independent commission found two years later that the lack of a paper trail and security issues meant they could not be used. They have languished in storage ever since, costing up to €700,000 a year, before a decision was taken in 2007 to move 60pc to a secure storage site at Gormanston in Co Meath to save money. Annual storage costs have run to €140,000 a year since, but all payments will cease at the end of this year.
The total cost of the machines was €51m. Storage added another €3.2m to the bill.
In April 2009, a decision was taken to scrap the system because it would cost too much to upgrade them.
Last January, companies were invited to bid to purchase the machines with KMK Metals Recycling Ltd in Tullamore awarded the contract just 10 days ago. The company will pay the State €70,267 for the 7,500 machines and associated equipment -- 0.13pc of the amount they have cost the State.
Yesterday Environment Minister Phil Hogan said he was happy to bring the "ill-conceived" plan to an end.
"I am glad to bring this sorry episode to a conclusion on behalf of the taxpayer," he said. "From the outset, this project was ill-conceived and poorly planned by my predecessors and as a result it has cost the taxpayer some €55m.
"While this is a scandalous waste of public money, I am happy to say that we will not incur any further costs in the disposal of the machines. KMK Metals Recycling Ltd will pay €70,267 for all of the equipment.
"Removal from from the present storage locations and transportation to the recovery facility will commence in the coming week and will be completed by September. The storage costs of the machines were €140,000 per year for the past three years, and from next year we will not incur those costs any longer."
A massive operation to transport them to the company's plant in Offaly begins on Monday, and it has 70 days to remove all the equipment from 14 locations across the State.
Four will be kept by the Department of the Environment and stored in the Custom House.
The equipment is stored in Louth, Sligo, Mayo, Clare, Donegal, Monaghan, Roscommon, Leitrim, Wexford, Laois, Offaly, Longford and Kerry, with the bulk of the machines (60pc) at Gormanston in Co Meath. The first wave of machines will be taken from a storage depot in Wexford to Offaly, where they will be dismantled.
A condition of the contract is that two electronic chips in each machine, which hold information on how the equipment works, are destroyed.
- Paul Melia and Luke Byrne
For more News From Underground, visit http://markcrispinmiller.com