Archives: March 2006
Wed Mar 29, 2006
and Hilarity ensues...
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Tue Mar 21, 2006
You know who was an interesting man? Jude Wanniski, Reagan's source for his supply side tax cuts. I say was because I just found out that he had died last year. Every once and a while, my anti-war google searching winds up on some brilliant quote on his website www.wanniski.com. I'm always delighted to find interesting conservatives who run against the dreck that is modern day reactionary cultural elitist neo-conservatism - and that's why I'm also sad to read about his passing.
Anyway, I was just adding John Perkin's book (which I've just started reading) Confessions of an Economic Hit Man to the left side bar here, and searching around for comments to quote on this great book, I ran across Jude Wanniski's comments on the book from January 2005. I'll get to his quote, but before I go there it's interesting that Wanniski is known as the 'Father of the supply side economics' and hence basically the Reagan Revolution, and an advisor to economic conservatives Kemp, Forbes, etc.. Mr. Wanniski's book The Way the World Works is one of the National Reviews' 100 most infulential books of the 20th Century. I may not have the knowledge to know exactly how to talk about him, but his small-government-conservative/economic cred is immense... no?
Back to John Perkin's book - 'Confessions..', and Jude's thoughts on the premise of it. Read his blog on wanniski.com and you'll find lots of big fat red flags on Bush's economics, and the folly of this war, and the corruption of the IMF and WTO:
What’s this all about? The book was published last fall, but only now shows up as a best-seller? It only recently was brought to my attention by a website fan who knows I’ve long argued that the International Monetary Fund and its sister organization, the World Bank, constitute an “Evil Empire.” The two “international financial institutions” (IFI’s) were founded in 1945 during the genesis of the United Nations as “do-good” enterprises. The IMF would assist countries trying to keep their currencies tied to the dollar under the terms of the 1944 Bretton Woods Agreement. The World Bank would lend money at low interest rates gathered from the rich countries to help poor countries get off their backs.More...
Over the years, the process has been corrupted, with both the IMF and World Bank becoming controlled by the multinational corporations and their banks. When President Nixon went off the gold standard in 1971, the IMF’s reason for existence evaporated, because Bretton Woods and the fixed dollar went up in smoke. Now the problem for the big banks like Chase Manhattan, Citicorp and the Bank of America became two-fold:
1)As surplus dollars accumulated in their reserves and there were no credit-worthy Americans wanting to borrow, the banks had to think of ways to lend the money abroad or it would sit in their vaults earning zip, which means it really is losing money as the paper dollar – freed from its gold anchor – was inflating and losing purchasing power. Citigroup’s Walter Wriston (who died last week), came up with the idea that the surplus should be loaned to poor countries, even though they had no collateral, because governments had to pay off their hard-currency loans or lose their international credit ratings.
2)If the countries that borrowed from Chase or Citicorp could not pay back interest or principle and did not worry about stiffing the private bankers, they would have to swallow the non-performing loans. The solution was to have the IMF, looking for something to justify its existence, step in to collect the debt. All it had to do was persuade the U.S. Congress to ante up billion or two of taxpayer dollars to fill their coffers (and “replenish” them from time to time). They could then go to the deadbeat country and say, “We will give you this money so you can pay Chase and Citicorp what you owe them, but you will have to raise taxes on your own people and devalue your currency as the conditions for the loan!
What we have in this book from Mr. Perkins is an account of a foot soldier in these operations of the Evil Empire. I’ll get his book and check it out, but from what I can gather about it on the internet he is well within the ballpark of what has been going on. Are bankers evil by nature? Of course not. But as bankers they follow the money, not giving a second thought to the conditions in which they leave their debtors. The first priority of any institution is self-preservation, and for the big banks, that means getting paid back on their loans. Is this any way to run the world? No. It is a dreadful way to operate, and it would end if our government returned to a dollar/gold system and abided by it. If not, I’m afraid nothing Mr. Perkins writes or that I write will change a thing. The folks who control the money control our government and that’s that. It is interesting that Perkins does identify the Bechtel Corporation and Halliburton as agents in this quiet conspiracy to make sure the good old USA flourishes, even though it means the relentless impoverishment of the poorest countries of the world.
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I heart Helen Thomas.
According to radio this morning, She asked a question during a rare 'unscripted' question and answer period after Bush's speech in Cincinnati this morning - "Evey reason you gave to go to war in Iraq has been proved not true, so what's the real reason?"
to which be blathered on about 9/11, terror, 9/11, war on terror, 9/11, 9/11, 9/11.
She interrupted him to keep asking the question, because he's not answering it.
Bush, perturbed: 9/11, 9/11, 9/11, war-on-terror..
Meanwhile, all the in wingnut-o-sphere is marching in step calling her a 'moonbat' and a old, diseased chestnut, another example of the 'liberal media'... ho hum. How sick I am of that label, 'moonbat'.
anyway, I'm looking for the Bush/Helen Thomas transcript hope to post it later..
Edit: here is the transcript at the Washington Post. A better version is here. Read more for it.. More...
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Mon Mar 20, 2006
on listening to right wing radio
Wow, Listen to this Rush Limbaugh wannabe, Lars Larson try to debate Portland State University Conflict Resolution professor Amanda Smith Byron with classic style black and white thinking. - MP3
He keeps saying the same things, over and over.
It's painful to listen to right winger hate radio. They barrel over the callers, isolating one thing they said out of context, chipping away and trying to get the guest worked up so their knuckle dragging listeners can cheer and jeer when the sensitive and intelligent person gets the final shout down from the angry father type who ain't gonna take it no more.
The 'Medium is the message', I guess.
This is what our media give us in the land of the 'free'? The equivalent of aural bitch slapping for sport, making a mockery out of any issue in order to make sure an humiliate those who dare to have critical thinking?
I met a wonderful Iraqi woman, Eman Ahmed Khamas, who is in Portland for 2 days for speaking engagements. She talks about her experience in Baghdad, as an Iraqi, and a woman, and as someone who believes the US troops should leave. She mentioned being on a right wing show here where she was shouted down, they laughed at her, and she didn't even know how to deal with it. To her she couldn't understand, because they invited her, and they just wanted to talk over her, cut her off and take her out of context, and jeer at her. Really when you think about it, it's like we are putting immaturity and agressiveness on a pedistal with all these shows.
I look at the dozens of grisly photos and video stills of civilian casualties from high altitude U.S. Bombing that Eman took herself in Baghdad, listen to stories of people disappeared, and I wish to God that other people in this country would start seeing things like this, hearing people like Eman.
Sometimes I think how it seems like we as a society have been going backward.
Right-wingers, have you brought any Iraqi people to your churches lately to speak about their misery? When a mother who has lost her soldier son asks the president 'was it worth it', do you ask her what her political party is? Did you think that the military alone would be able to just go out and 'fight them over there, so we wouldn't have to fight them over here'? Have you brought a soldier to your church who has pulled the trigger, and not known how to live with himself? How complicated life has become, nuanced in shades of grey rather than the utopian and dare I say Stalinist black and white that your flunky cheap labor fear mongering corpratist party mouthpieces have coached us to? Have you figured out their populist nationalism is just a schtick, and they are preying on you, while feeding your vicimization back to you, as all these right wing radio hosts have been doing for the last 15 years? Is it time to start questioning those who wrap themselves around the flag and kissing cross while ripping both to shreds?
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Sun Mar 19, 2006
Portland Peace Rally
I was amazed by the people and Portland today — at least 10,000 to 15,000 came out and participated in the rally to mark the 3 year anniversary of the start on the war in Iraq.
I found this great photo on indymedia portland of the rally. This is the view from the Morrison bridge.
It was a sunny perfect day, too..
As much as the right wing likes to post pictures of crazy looking people at protests, I am always struck how most of the people look like... gasp, uh normal people.
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Mon Mar 06, 2006
Kurt Vonnegut Wrote Circles Around Both Gore and Capote
Published on Sunday, March 5, 2006 by the Columbus Free Press (Ohio)
Kurt Vonnegut's "Stardust Memory"
by Harvey Wasserman
On a cold, cloudy night, the lines threaded all the way around the Ohio State campus. News that Kurt Vonnegut was speaking at the Ohio Union prompted these “apathetic” heartland college students to start lining up in the early afternoon. About 2,000 got in to the Ohio Union. At least that many more were turned away. It was the biggest crowd for a speaker here since Michael Moore.
In an age dominated by hype and sex, neither Moore nor Vonnegut seems a likely candidate to rock a campus whose biggest news has been the men’s and women’s basketball teams’ joint assault on Big Ten championships.
But maybe there’s more going on here than Fox wants us to think.
Vonnegut takes an easy chair across from Prof. Manuel Luis Martinez, a poet and teacher of writing. He grabs Martinez and semi-whispers into his ear (and the mike) “What can I say here?”
Martinez urges candor.
“Well,” says Vonnegut, “I just want to say that George W. Bush is the syphilis president.”
The students seem to agree.
“The only difference between Bush and Hitler,” Vonnegut adds, “is that Hitler was elected.”
“You all know, of course, that the election was stolen. Right here.”
Off to a flying start, Vonnegut explains that this will be his “last speech for money.” He can’t remember the first one, but it was on a campus long, long ago, and this will be the end.
The students are hushed with the prospect of the final appearance of America’s greatest living novelist. Alongside Mark Twain and Ben Franklin, Will Rogers and Joseph Heller and a very short list of immortal satirists and storytellers, there stands Kurt Vonnegut, author of SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE and SIRENS OF TITAN, CAT’S CRADLE and GOD BLESS YOU, MR. ROSEWATER, books these students are studying now, as did their parents, as will their children and grandchildren, with a deeply felt mixture of gratitude and awe.
Nobody tonight seems to think they were in for a detached, scholarly presentation from a disengaged academic genius coasting on his incomparable laurels
“I’m lucky enough to have known a great president, one who really cared about ALL the people, rich and poor. That was Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was rich himself, and his class considered him a traitor.
“We have people in this country who are richer than whole countries,” he says. “They run everything.
“We have no Democratic Party. It’s financed by the same millionaires and billionaires as the Republicans.
“So we have no representatives in Washington. Working people have no leverage whatsoever.
“I’m trying to write a novel about the end of the world. But the world is really ending! It’s becoming more and more uninhabitable because of our addiction to oil.
“Bush used that line recently,” Vonnegut adds. “I should sue him for plagiarism.”
Things have gotten so bad, he says, “people are in revolt again life itself.”
Our economy has been making money, but “all the money that should have gone into research and development has gone into executive compensation. If people insist on living as if there’s no tomorrow, there really won’t be one.
“As the world is ending, I’m always glad to be entertained for a few moments. The best way to do that is with music. You should practice once a night.
“If you want really want to hurt your parents and don’t want to be gay, go into the arts,” he says.
Then he breaks into song, doing a passable, tender rendition of “Stardust Memories.”
By this time this packed hall has grown reverential. The sound system is appropriately tenuous. Straining to hear every word is both an effort and a meditation.
“To hell with the advances in computers,” he says after he finishes singing. “YOU are supposed to advance and become, not the computers. Find out what’s inside you. And don’t kill anybody.
“There are no factories any more. Where are the jobs supposed to come from? There’s nothing for people to do anymore. We need to ask the Seminoles: ‘what the hell did you do?’’ after the tribe’s traditional livelihood was taken away.
Answering questions written in by students, he explains the meaning of life. “We should be kind to each other. Be civil. And appreciate the good moments by saying ‘If this isn’t nice, what is?’
“You’re awful cute” he says to someone in the front row. He grins and looks around. “If this isn’t nice, what is?
“You’re all perfectly safe, by the way. I took off my shoes at the airport. The terrorists hate the smell of feet.
“We are here on Earth to fart around,” he explains, and then embarks on a soliloquy about the joys of going to the store to buy an envelope. One talks to the people there, comments on the “silly-looking dog,” finds all sorts of adventures along the way.
As for being a midwesterner, he recalls his roots in nearby Indianapolis, a heartland town, the next one west of here. “I’m a fresh water person. When I swim in the ocean, I feel like I’m swimming in chicken soup. Who wants to swim in flavored water?”
A key to great writing, he adds, is to “never use semi-colons. What are they good for? What are you supposed to do with them? You’re reading along, and then suddenly, there it is. What does it mean? All semi-colons do is suggest you’ve been to college.”
Make sure, he adds, “that your reader is having a good time. Get to the who, when, where, what right away, so the reader knows what is going on.”
As for making money, “war is a very profitable thing for a few people. Jesus used to be so merciful and loving of the poor. But now he’s a Republican.
“Our economy today is not capitalism. It’s casino-ism. That’s all the stock market is about. Gambling.
“Live one day at a time. Say ‘if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is!’
“You meet saints every where. They can be anywhere. They are people behaving decently in an indecent society.
“I’m going to sue the cigarette companies because they haven’t killed me,” he says. His son lived out his dream to be a pilot and has spent his career flying for Continental. Now they’ve “screwed up his pension.”
The greatest peace, Vonnegut wraps up, “comes from the knowledge that I have enough. Joe Heller told me that.
“I began writing because I found myself possessed. I looked at what I wrote and I said ‘How the hell did I do that?’
“We may all be possessed. I hope so.”
He accepts the students’ standing ovation with characteristic dignity and grace. Not a few tears flow from young people with the wisdom to appreciate what they are seeing. “If this isn’t nice, we don’t know what is.”
Not long ago we spoke on the phone. I asked Kurt how he was. “Too fucking old,” he replied.
Maybe so. But the mind and soul are still there, powerful and penetrating as ever. Just as they’ll ever be in his books and stories and the precious records of his wonderful talks.
Thankfully, Kurt Vonnegut is still possessed by the genius of seeing and describing the world as only Kurt Vonnegut can.
He is still sharp and clear, full of love and life and light. May he be with us yet for a long long time to come.
Harvey Wasserman read CAT’S CRADLE, SIRENS OF TITAN and SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE in college, sought Boku-Maru, and has never been the same.
Copyright 2006 Free Press
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