Sept. 26, 2008
To the Editor, Tyler Paper
Alexander Hamilton must have been one of the first human beings to read Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, the "free market Bible"; we don't know, nor do we know how many times he read it from it's publication in 1776 until Hamilton was sworn in as the first Secretary of the Treasury in 1789. That he believed in the principle of the free market is, however certain and in successfully promoting the establishment of the First Bank of the United States as a private enterprise with private bankers in charge of the nation's commerce and money supply he started the great American capitalistic juggernaut, the envy of the world. The world may not be so admiring of late.
Neither Hamilton's wisdom nor Adam Smith's has been questioned by those in charge of the American government except for Andrew Jackson who "sued for a divorce" between the American government and the Second Bank of the United States and was granted the same. Jackson was a populist President and believed the government should not show favoritism to the rich to make them richer at the expense of the common people.
Perhaps the time has come to question both Hamilton's and Smith's wisdom of free trade, free markets, supply-side economics, Reaganomics, deregulation, privatization, trickle down economics, Laissez-faire, or whatever label one wishes to use to describe the present economic system of the United States where the bottom line displaces the view to do the moral thing in all circumstances.
The truth is the free market shouldn't be allowed to be "free", that is, free from doing the right thing. Those who ask the masses to trust them to be alert to the "welfare" of the People should never be trusted. When it comes to making money, no one can be trusted to place the common good above personal interest. Our times are characterized by
the claim that it is best to turn business loose, trust them to always do the right thing, everyone will benefit! Everyone will get a piece of the pie! No! That's a lie!
Human nature being what it is, individuals, businesses, banks, all human endeavors must have requirements to do the right thing. Rules must be made and enforced. The reluctance of the American people to make this requirement of their politicians and of commerce has now brought the entire world to the brink of financial disaster not to mention the potential suffering of our own People.
The hard learned lessons of the other "great depression" have apparently be lost and the resulting complex safeguards have been steadily dismantled replaced with a spend now; pay later mentality. The present bailout talk describes the "tax payer" as picking up the tab. Not so. The government just prints the money and no one pays more or less in taxes as a result of trillion dollar wars or trillion dollar bailouts. The idea of fusing paper, ink, and thin air to create billions upon billions of dollars with value is absurd and is as offensive to hard working people as the cooked books of ENRON.
The free market era is over. Working class Americans paid dearly. Perhaps the government should now focus on it's Constitutional duties of watching out for the welfare of it's People.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Sept. 26, 2008
Published on Wednesday, September 24, 2008 by The Wiscasset Newspaper
by Christopher Cooper
Remember the Communists? The Red Menace? You young people won't of course, because as I sit here Monday night writing this sorrowful recitation Public Television is furnishing me with a gleaming, glowing, grand video hagiography of Ronald Reagan, by which I understand that The Great Communicator defeated those evil, dangerous threats to the American Way Of Life through toughness, resolve and horsemanship. Communists were before your time and you may be forgiven for worrying more and properly about our current threat to The American Way Of Life, International Terrorism.
But if you do recall those decades, you remember we, the self-proclaimed Greatest Nation On Earth, with the most modern, powerful weapons at our disposal, and the bravest soldiers and the smartest generals and the benevolent will of Great God Almighty watching over us and guiding us, nevertheless lived in fear of them-those Communists. We were bigger and we were better, and we were scared, but we were also bold and belligerent and self-assured. But deep down inside, we were scared.
But though Nikita Khrushchev (a fat, bald, loud, funny Communist) or Chairman Mao (a goofy little Communist from China-Red China), or even Fidel Castro or Ho Chi Minh (secondary or subservient Communists we sometimes called 'puppets', but of whom we were also fundamentally afraid, yet contemptuous), while any or all of these might wish to annihilate us with atomic bombs or multi-million-man armies that would march across the Pacific and into the living rooms of good, TV-watching, barbecuing Americans, there was one glorious weapon, of immeasurable power and undeniable goodness that would render us triumphant: our economic system.
Capitalism! This, they beat into us all through high school, was what made us great. Maybe the Soviet Union and even Red China could build big chemical rockets and equip them with nuclear warheads. But they could never build as many or update their design as frequently or keep them as shiny and oiled and pretty as ours because those nations labored under the handicap of the government ownership of the means of production. Communists (and to a somewhat lesser but still disturbing degree, Socialists) believed that factories and farms were owned by the citizens collectively, through the agency of government. In America, by contrast, our teachers assured us, individuals started, owned and ran the machinery that made us great.
And, in doing so, each of us who might choose to start a business, build a factory, create jobs, add to the Gross National Product, had a chance to become comfortable, secure, and if everything worked just right, even rich. We might also, of course, make bad decisions and go bankrupt, but that didn't often happen, my teachers told me. This was the Land Of Opportunity and only the lazy, those who would not apply themselves, work hard, get their hands dirty, would fail to prosper. Persons who failed to prosper might end up on welfare. (Years later, Bill Clinton promised to 'end welfare as we know it', and pretty much did, so now life might be just a bit rougher even for those lazy misfits lacking sufficient ambition.) That was the deal, and most people most of the time believed it was a good one.
But time passed. Conditions, I guess, changed. In 1979 Congress took pity on the Chrysler Corporation, the smallest of America's three giant automobile manufacturers, and provided an infusion of half a billion dollars or so to help those good folks over a rough spot in their road. Then, after being freed from some troublesome government regulations in the early 1980s, America's savings and loan institutions went into the real estate business in a bad way, and began imploding suddenly and publicly. Neil Bush, son of a president and brother of the current officeholder, ruined an institution called Silverado Savings And Loan. When the federal government stepped in to rescue that one institution alone, it set back the taxpayers more than a billion dollars. Taken all together, this episode, known as 'The Savings And Loan Debacle', cost us about 124 billion dollars. More or less.
These were memorable and costly government interventions, but each time we were assured that the cost was well borne because the institution or industry was 'Too Big To Fail.' That is, if Chrysler stopped making cars or Neil Bush's bank went under due to its own bad business ethics, moral turpitude or criminal stupidity, we, the individual taxpayers and wage earners of America, wouldn't like the result. So government dabbled in the business of 'bailouts'. But, except for a few excursions into total ownership (such as, for instance, the taxpayers' assumption of the insurance exposure of nuclear power plants which the private insurance companies consider too risky to insure), the washing of corporate wounds in the salve of our money has been limited to a crisis every decade or so, and as time has passed even the very numbers have seemed to diminish-only five hundred million for Chrysler?
But now, in the space of a single summer, Federal Reserve Chairman Benjamin Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson have, one concludes, gone over to the enemy. No longer proper Capitalists, trusting in The Miracle Of The Free Market, they've been casting cash at pretty much any old mortgage company that lent all its money to crack house entrepreneurs or took the company bank account to Vegas. Oh, they got tough with Lehman Brothers, but only after pledging seventy billion to an outfit called AIG-the American Insurance Group. I sleep better now, knowing a giant insurance company has been rescued.
Merrill-Lynch may have been saved by the Bank Of America (concentration of capital no longer an issue) and Bear-Stearns was swallowed by JP Morgan-Chase, but tonight my computer crackles with news that Morgan-Stanley and Goldman-Sachs are panicky. Fortunately, if theoretically reluctantly, government will ride to the rescue not of single entities any longer, but now comprehensively to lift out of the mire any struggling member of the 'Financial Services Industry.'
People, this is no industry. It's a shell game. This is not a bailout; it is an unraveling. You and I are being sold out, blatantly, publicly, and with the cooperation and collusion of the press and Congress. Was it a bad thing, that idea Karl Marx and Fred Engels hatched for the people to collectively own truck factories and potato farms? Maybe it was. But it's a far, far worse idea that we should put up our savings to buy discredited institutions that exist primarily to shuffle and reshuffle money in the interest of ever-greater, ever-shakier and more precariously-propped-up profits.
Do you know what a 'credit default swap' is? No, of course you don't; neither do I; neither do most members of Congress. Can you define 'mortgage-backed securities' or 'collateralized debt obligations'? I didn't think so. Well, you're buying a slug of 'em. Seven hundred billion dollars worth, they tell me. But it 'might top a trillion.' Sure. OK. Whatever. How'd the Red Sox do last night? Of course the press has whored itself out to megabusiness; we know that. And, as ever, Congress is startled and agitated but will, as always of late, go along with whatever gross deal Bush and the bankers and the moguls and the morons of Wall Street cobble together. But are any of my neighbors angry about this? Will we stand for it? Will we accept that it's for our own good?
I just popped up the Population Clock on my computer here Monday night just shy of midnight, and found the estimated number of persons with whom I share these United States stands at 305,229,725. If the burden were to be borne equally across the population, each of us would be assessed $2293 dollars as our share of the seven hundred billion. A family of four would be debited $9173. But you and I, fellow laborer, will inevitably pay much more because so many will pay nothing. Remember those tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires we all thought were such a good idea just a few years ago when we still reveled in the satisfaction that, however low we might have fallen or yet fall, we were still, one and all Capitalists, and what benefited the wealthy would trickle down to us as the marketplace worked its magic and business, free of burdensome regulation, rolled gloriously onward.
So Dick Cheney got his tax breaks and his trillion dollar war, and now his buddies who screwed up, lost, corrupted, twisted, misused, tainted or pissed away every decent dollar they were entrusted to handle will slide out the back door with their salaries and stock options, and any worthwhile thing the next president might have done for us or our country or the world will be hostage to the inevitability of paying the vig on the loan we're going to take out to make this terrible deal go down. Because we don't have the money. There is no seven hundred billion at hand. We'll borrow it. From the Chinese. The (still) Red Chinese.
So we'll raise the cash and we'll put aside our principles and we'll put a good face on it, won't we? John (The Maverick) McCain wants a bit more oversight in the future (too little and too late, you shallow dotard), and Barack (The Great Compromiser) Obama will vote for the bailout as long as it's attached to 'an overall plan.' Make of that endorsement what you will. Congress will posture, then Congress will approve, and you will pay. And your children unto the seventh generation. They're even calling it a 'rescue', as though an innocent animal or person was being saved from cold or fear or hunger or maltreatment. These men in suits will bugger the language as well as the law.
What are we getting for our money? 'Devalued Assets.' Houses nobody else will buy. Bad paper. Failed institutions. Worthless instruments. Crap, waste, detritus, byproduct, junk, trash, nothing you need, nothing you want, nothing that will do any of us any good. I'm going to use a bad word now, and if you don't like vulgar language, I'd suggest you put this journal down right now and go mow the lawn. And I'm counting on my editor to stand by me today and fight for my right, my duty to speak plainly and forcefully if crudely when I am compelled to discuss what pretty much everybody agrees is the worst mess this country has been in since the Great Depression.
My mother used this expression, and in the thirty-seven years since she died and in the nearly fifty-nine years I've lived in this marvelous Capitalist wonderland and paid my taxes and been screwed by insurance companies and given numerous banks their per centages and worked as many jobs as required to close the hole and hold firm the door against the wolf of cold and the terrors of hunger and despair, I've not heard a better description of the plan being put together today, tonight, this week, by the men who rule America. We are getting, as mom used to say, 'shit and shoved in it.'
Be careful with your credit cards. Nobody believes you're too big to fail.
Mr. Cooper has no investments, owns just one home, and, in the vernacular of his peculiar little Maine village, 'doesn't give a rat's ass' how many millionaires and billionaires and CEOs and traders suffer for their stupidity and greed and malfeasance. Readers wishing to try to correct his fallacious thinking may send advice and counsel to email@example.com.
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1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy
2. Create a gulag
3. Develop a thug caste
4. Set up an internal surveillance system
5. Harass citizens' groups
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release
7. Target key individuals
8. Control the press
9. Dissent equals treason
10. Suspend the rule of law
The witch hunt is begun.
If you think these fascists are going to go away easily, I've got some real estate mutual fund stock for 'ya!
Thursday, September 18, 2008
This series of e-mails were exchanged recently starting with the argument about who has the best qualifications to be president with my good friend Dave Collins jumping albeit reluctantly into the fray. What started out as a discussion of lawyers vs. business leaders ended with Dave suggesting who really is running the show in the good ol' USA: It's not the democrats, republicans, lawyers and certainly not the people. If that were true, we'd be out of Iraq today. We are no longer referred to as citizens. We are repeatedly referred to as 'the average consumer' in the media and our leaders. I submit that we are but cattle just as cows are fed grain to produce our McDonald's Big Macs. Just as the 'average consumer' is fed our microwave dinners along with cars, toasters and 401K's to produce yachts and vacation homes and the best boarding schools for the offspring of the top 1%. Only during election time are we ever called citizens. Elections are an illusion disguised as our contribution to democracy. The Democratic and Republican parties are just ranch hands for the corporations and the people who run them. Don't believe me? Follow the money that's being sucked out of the taxpayer's coffers to bail out the ruling class as the American electorate cattle allow themselves to be polarized and constantly at each other's throats, blaming one another for the threats posed by the other over ridiculous issues that are born out of fear. We the people? United we stand? One nation, indivisible? Give me a break. We are being manipulated like marionettes and we even think it was our idea to dance.
Occidental College - Two years.
Columbia University - B.A. political science with a specialization in international relations.
Harvard - Juris Doctor (J.D.) Magna Cum Laude
University of Delaware - B.A. in history and B.A. in political science.
Syracuse University College of Law - Juris Doctor (J.D.)
United States Naval Academy - Class rank 894 of 899
Hawaii Pacific University - 1 semester
North Idaho College - 2 semesters - general study
University of Idaho - 2 semesters - journalism
Matanuska-Susitna College - 1 semester
University of Idaho - 3 semesters - B.A. in journalism
Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard
Walt Disney never went to college
Gen. George Patton finished last in his class at West Point
The Democrat Party has become the Lawyers' Party. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are lawyers. Bill Clinton and Michelle Obama are lawyers. John Edwards, the other former Democrat candidate for president, is a lawyer, and so is his wife, Elizabeth. Every Democrat nominee since 1984 went to law school (although Gore did not graduate).
Every Democrat vice presidential nominee since 1976, except for Lloyd Bentsen, went to law school. Look at the Democrat Party in Congress: the Majority Leader in each house is a lawyer.
The Republican Party is different. President Bush and Vice President Cheney were not lawyers, but businessmen. The leaders of the Republican Revolution were not lawyers. Newt Gingrich was a history professor; Tom Delay was an exterminator; and, Dick Armey was an economist. House Minority Leader Boehner was a plastic manufacturer, not a lawyer. The former Senate Majority Leader Bill First is a heart surgeon.
Who was the last Republican president who was a lawyer? Gerald Ford, who left office 31 years ago and who barely won the Republican nomination as a sitting president, running against Ronald Reagan in 1976. The Republican Party is made up of real people doing real work.
The Democrat Party is made up of lawyers. Democrats mock and scorn men who create wealth, like Bush and Cheney, or who heal the sick, like First, or who immerse themselves in history, like Gingrich.
The Lawyers' Party sees these sorts of people, who provide goods and services that people want, as the enemies of America And, so we have seen the procession of official enemies, in the eyes of the Lawyers' Party, grow.
Against whom do Hillary and Obama rail? Pharmaceutical companies, oil companies, hospitals, manufacturers, fast food restaurant chains, large retail businesses, bankers, and anyone producing anything of value in our nation.
This is the natural consequence of viewing everything through the eyes of lawyers. Lawyers solve problems by successfully representing their clients, in this case the American people. Lawyers seek to have new law passed, they seek to win lawsuits, they press appellate courts to overturn precedent, and lawyers always parse language to favor their side.
Confined to the narrow practice of law, that is fine. But it is an awful way to govern a great nation. When politicians as lawyers begin to view some Americans as clients and other Americans as opposing parties, then the role of the legal system in our life becomes all consuming. Some Americans become 'adverse parties' of our very government. We are not all litigants in some vast social class-action suit. We are citizens of a republic that promises us a great deal of freedom from laws, from courts, and from lawyers.
Today, we are drowning in laws; we are contorted by judicial decisions; we are driven to distraction by omnipresent lawyers in all parts of our once private lives. America has a place for laws and lawyers, but that place is modest and reasonable, not vast and unchecked. When the most important decision for our next president is whom he will appoint to the Supreme Court, the role of lawyers and the law in America is too big.
When lawyers use criminal prosecution as a continuation of politics by other means, as happened in the lynching of Scooter Libby and Tom Delay, then the power of lawyers in America is too great. When House Democrats sue America in order to hamstring our efforts to learn what our enemies are planning to do to us, then the role of litigation in America has become crushing.
We cannot expect the Lawyers' Party to provide real change, real reform, or real hope in America Most Americans know that a republic in which every major government action must be blessed by nine unelected judges is not what Washington intended in 1789. Most Americans grasp that we cannot fight a war when ACLU lawsuits snap at the heels of our defenders. Most Americans intuit that more lawyers and judges will not restore declining moral values or spark the spirit of enterprise in our economy.
Perhaps Americans will understand that change cannot be brought to our nation by those lawyers who already largely dictate American society and business. Perhaps Americans will see that hope does not come from the mouths of lawyers but from personal dreams nourished by hard work.
Perhaps Americans will embrace the truth that more lawyers with more power will only make our problems worse.
I would not normally respond to something like this written by somebody I do not know but as I do know some of the other folks on this distribution I am making an exception.
Sir, you write with apparent respect for the leadership of corporate America. May I inquire; to what extent have you worked with the men and women who occupy the senior executive positions of the pharmaceutical industry, financial services industry, communications industry, hard rock mining industry, automotive industry and consumer products industry? For myself, I spent 20 years doing so with clients in each of those industries who served as Chief Executive Officer, CFO, COO, CIO, plant general managers, division executive VP and so on. I am not an attorney (in fact, I have the shortest legal career on record - the time required to walk down the steps of the law school and dispose of the school bulletin). But, after my experience and observing the behaviors of those men and women and those who hoped to rise to displace them, I too, rail against the corporations of this nation. These are not individuals who care one whit for the working folks of their companies, no matter how many crocodile tears are shed as they sign the papers to send the jobs to some other country, who bemoan the hardships they create when, in order to bolster the quarterly filings they gut employee benefits. They care nothing for the communities in which their offices, plants and facilities are located, only how many tax payer dollars they can intimidate corrupt political officials into offering up as enticements to come or to stay.
During the first half of the life of this nation established by "we the people" corporations were held on a very short leash, distrusted by government officials and the people who elected them. Strict constraints were placed on those legal entities and in many cases were limited to the life of a single project and then forced to disband. Here in Texas, when the Constitution was drafted the only state official given explicit, detailed duties was the Attorney General. His only specific job requirement (beyond the general requirement to enforce the laws of the state and serve as legal representative to state agencies and offices) was this:
- " shall especially inquire into the charter rights of all private corporations, and from time to time, in the name of the State, take such action in the courts as may be proper and necessary to prevent any private corporation from exercising any power or demanding or collecting any species of taxes, tolls, freight or wharfage not authorized by law. He shall, whenever sufficient cause exists, seek a judicial forfeiture of such charters"
As you may know, the nature of corporations in this country changed dramatically in the1886 Supreme Court ruling in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. In this ruling the court created the legal fiction of "personhood" for corporations. Well, actually, they did not but courts have acted for over 140 years as if they had. It turns out that a clerk to one of the justices wrote what is called the "head notes" for the ruling, mis-stating the intent of the ruling. That clerk was a former employee of the Southern Pacific Railroad.
Mr. Custer, the power and influence that the corporate entity has gained in this country , aided and abetted by politicians of both parties has twice led it to the brink of destruction. The first time was the Gilded Age of the late 19th and early 20th century, ultimately undone by the combine effects of T. Roosevelt's trust busting (remember inter-locking directorates?) and the excesses that led directly to the Great Depression. Then, after WW II the same forces, often the same families - the Walker and Bush families among them - began dismantling the reforms intended to control and tame the corporate beast. By the time William Jefferson Clinton left office and turned it over to the idiot with an illegitimate MBA, not only had the last shreds of those regulatory protections been stripped away - by the actions of both parties - but the ground work had been laid for the outsourcing of huge segments of the federal government to those corporations. So, today, fully 1/3 of the Pentagon budget (which is greater than the combined total of all other nations of the world, by the way) goes for SEVICES - not weapons, planes, tanks or ships - provided by private corporations. From the wholly dysfunctional FEMA to the National Security Agency to the EPA, it is common to enter a federal office and find more corporate contractors than federal employees. There is a political and economic theory that describes such a relationship between a national government and private corporations. Benito Mussolini coined that term; he said that the proper term for his party was not fascist but "corporatist".
Among many of my colleagues there is a bright light of hope that as the economy continues to collapse and the lives of average, middle and working class families become more and more dire they will recognize the true source of their hardship - the mega wealthy executives that were once my clients and their bought and paid for government enablers. You sir, do not inspire hope for that outcome as it appears you have a serious problem with what we in the military (USMC 1967-71) refer to as "enemy identification.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
An e-mail from Cousin Quinn:
Just had a great idea sweep over my thoughts. forget the Veterans Memorial-- let's all be able to sign a slab of concrete in the middle of downtown with our names on it and then everyone for all eternity will know we were here! Saves money --could cost money -- to be given to the donation of whatever-- but at least it would take care of everyone that has to have their name on something-- seems that is all important in this city.
Can't wait to sign Quinn Dahlstrom -- militant. or misconception Dahlstrom.
Have a great day-- I just did
That's an interesting idea. I often question the motivation of erecting those memorials. About the only memorial in my mind that made any difference besides glorifying war was the Vietnam Memorial in DC. It seems to me that most memorials are in tribute to people who died as a result of a violent act in service to their community or country. How about a memorial that transcends the politics of war and erect a memorial to all that have served his/her community. This would include teachers, garbage collectors and people such as you, Quinn. In my short life, I have come to realize the NEED for opposing forces. I never understood our Congressmen and Senators referring to the 'loyal opposition.' Too much power in too few hands spells disaster. Take the current junta in power for example. Our Repugnicon legislators voted lock-step with W, and the DemocRats went along and voted for political safety, save a few notable exceptions. And the corporate controlled press was no help. Not so obvious is the fact that our forefathers built into the system to accomodate those opposing forces. Without it, we get nepotism, runaway corruption and loss of civil liberties. All we got left are unsung heroes such as Quinn who remains a burr in the saddle of city government. Not so obvous is the fact that her mere existence makes said government stonger and more effective for its citizens.
Quinn Dhalstrom who remains vigilant
against the forces of tyrrany!
Generated at GetGreatCodes.com
(no, she's not dead)
Sunday, September 7, 2008
This is a talk given by the daughter of the famous Leakey family. She argues from the evolutionary anthropologist point of view that we are at a precipice in species survival where business as usual will lead to a dead end in the tree of life. It's too bad followers of the Christian and Muslim faiths will not (and cannot) hear it, for they have painted themselves into a corner with their belief system. All of humanity dealing with this issue is paramount to our survival as a species.
Louise Leakey: Digging for humanity's origins
From the page: "Louise Leakey asks, "Who are we?" The question takes her to the Rift Valley in Eastern Africa, where she digs for the evolutionary origins of
humankind -- and suggests a stunning new vision of our competing ancestors."