October 15, 2010

Positive Freedom: Nietzsche, Marx, and Anarchism

Filed under: American Revolution, Freedom, Marx, Nietzsche — Tags: — Russ @ 9:13 am


One of Nietzsche’s core ideas, and one of his most misunderstood, is his contrast of noble morality vs. slave morality.
The essence of the distinction is this. “Noble”, or what I’ll call positive morality, defines itself as the good and seeks to act affirmatively based upon that definition. It only derivatively defines “the bad”, and reacts, according to what contrasts with itself.
“Slave” morality, by contrast, starts out reactively, defining “the masters” and any other alien as “evil”, and only derivatively defines itself as the good. In either case its action is merely a reaction.
So to use Nietzsche’s description, the positive morality defines itself and the good according to what it calls honesty, loyalty, courage, principle, gratitude and revenge (in both cases paying back what is owed). It derivatively describes the bad, the slavish, according to the antonyms of these: lying, faithlessness, cowardice, cynicism or nihilism, the unwillingness to pay what is owed out of some despicable lassitude – ingratitude, laziness, cowardice.
By contrast, the slave morality starts by revaluing the “noble” virtues as vices. What they call honesty it calls haughtiness and arrogance. What they call loyalty it calls a stupid or childish adherence to dead ritual. What they call courage it calls aggression and recklessness. Principle becomes either stubborn impractical “purism” at best or a complete fraud at worst. Gratitude or revenge become empty interest-seeking.
It then revalues its own traits, considered contemptible by the positive morality, as “the good”. Its lying and faithlessness become humility, cleverness, prudence, the measure of intelligence. Its physical cowardice becomes virtuous pacifism and its moral cowardice becomes a salutary will to compromise, to be “inclusive”, to “find common ground”. Its lack of principle becomes “pragmatism”. Its ingratitude becomes the sense of entitlement, and its inability to avenge becomes “tolerance”.
Nietzsche’s ideas here are crystallized in Beyond Good and Evil section 260, and he develops them at greater length in On the Genealogy of Morals, Essay I.
Nietzsche himself wrote about psychological, spiritual, and creative issues, not about politics and the economy. (Indeed, he affected to despise the latter, and one of the inferior elements of his writing is his intermittent attacks on political radicals, for whom he used “anarchist” as a catch-all term. He was basically ignorant about politics and economics and didn’t want to know about them.) But although I no longer subscribe to his spiritualized cult of aristocracy, I’m finding that if I transpose his ideas on spiritual and intellectual creators to an expression about producers in general, then almost everything he says can be redeemed for anarchism.
By producers I mean producers who have political self-respect and the will to fight.
So I’m thinking out the idea of transposing the master/slave morality in this way:
Master morality = Positive freedom, the bottom-up assertion of political and economic democracy, the assertion through day-to-day action of freedom and human dignity, and worker self-actualization. This is not primarily a “rebellion” against the criminals, seeking “liberation” from them, although it is that as well. It is first and foremost a Renaissance of our humanity, a rebirth, a revolution in the classical sense of “revolving back” to the primal human order.
Slave morality = The fetish of negative/bourgeois freedom (negative freedom is a wonderful thing, but only as a tool toward some human goal, not as a value in itself), the desire for “enlightened” elitism, “benevolent” despotism, the rancid dream of trickle-down (political, economic, spiritual, cultural), everything that is characteristic of liberals and conservatives.
One of the many parallels between Marx and Nietzsche is the shared philosophy of the producer. Marx wrote about the worker, but conceived him as a producer seeking fulfillment through his self-owned and -directed work. He conceived his ideal society based upon this. He didn’t see the worker as the consumer, except derivatively. He didn’t view people as naturally experiencing work as a chore to be endured and completed so they could get on with consumption.
We can see here how he had his own idea of the positive morality of the worker as creative producer, vs. the slave morality of the consumer. This is an extension of the labor theory of value, which Marx didn’t invent but expanded into a vision of society. The best society is that in which the laborer has freedom over his labor, where he produces as a free human being. Any coercive elitism, any hierarchy, any extraction, alienates the worker from his work.
And so it’s true in general. All parasitic elitism, all wealth and power concentration, stands between us and our freedom, between us and our labor fulfillment, between us and our humanity. It aggressively alienates us from our birthright. The criminals have taken what could have been such a wonderful world and turned it into a place of, at best, bare struggle and tension and fear, and at worst, more often, misery and slavery and violence.
Similar to Marx, Nietzsche wrote about art and philosophy, but wrote about them from the perspective of the artist and the thinker, and that’s the audience for whom he wrote. He didn’t write primarily for the art lover and reader of philosophy.
So in a sense it’s an “elite” mindset, but for the active strata among the productive populace. Both despise parasites, wasteful idlers, rentiers of every sort. It’s just a different emphasis. So in both cases the “elitism”, if we can call it that, overt in Nietzsche’s case and implicit in that of Marx, is that it’s a philosophy of, by, and for the producer, not the consumer. It envisions a social world constructed for the self-actualization of the producer, not the comfort of the consumer.
By contrast, every kind of what can be called passive elitism, all concentrated wealth and power, every trickle-down political and economic ideology – corporatism, capitalism, liberalism, representative democracy, etc. – seems focused on the hedonism of the consumer. It wants to pander to passivity. (And of course none of it works the way it claims. The comfort of the consumer, as we’re now seeing, was only provisional and temporary.)
The best of Marx’s self-directing worker (without the contradictory centralism) and Nietzsche’s self-directing thinker and creator (without the ivory tower snobbery) are combined in anarchism, which also revalues the seeming “elitism” of the affirmative producer philosophy through the egalitarianism of direct participation, equality of opportunity to work, to create, to seek human fulfillment.
Here’s some ideas from the Anarchist FAQ, an excellent and encyclopedic resource on every aspect of anarchism. These are quoted from sections 2.7 and 2.16.

Direct action has an empowering and liberating effect on those involved in it. Self-activity is the means by which the creativity, initiative, imagination and critical thought of those subjected to authority can be developed….

Society, while shaping all individuals, is also created by them, through their actions, thoughts, and ideals. Challenging institutions that limit one’s freedom is mentally liberating, as it sets in motion the process of questioning authoritarian relationships in general. This process gives us insight into how society works, changing our ideas and creating new ideals….By changing the world, even in a small way, we change ourselves….

Anarchists, however, do not think that self-liberation must wait for the future, after the “glorious revolution.” The personal is political, and given the nature of society, how we act in the here and now will influence the future of our society and our lives. Therefore, even in pre-anarchist society anarchists try to create, as Bakunin puts it, “not only the ideas but also the facts of the future itself.” We can do so by creating alternative social relationships and organisations, acting as free people in a non-free society. Only by our actions in the here and now can we lay the foundation for a free society…..

Revolution is a process, not an event, and every “spontaneous revolutionary action” usually results from and is based upon the patient work of many years of organisation and education by people with “utopian” ideas. The process of “creating the new world in the shell of the old” (to use another I.W.W. expression), by building alternative institutions and relationships, is but one component of what must be a long tradition of revolutionary commitment and militancy…..

In other words, anarchy needs anarchists in order to be created and survive. But these anarchists need not be perfect, just people who have freed themselves, by their own efforts, of the superstition that command-and-obedience relations and capitalist property rights are necessary. The implicit assumption in the idea that anarchy needs “perfect” people is that freedom will be given, not taken; hence the obvious conclusion follows that an anarchy requiring “perfect” people will fail. But this argument ignores the need for self-activity and self-liberation in order to create a free society. For anarchists, “history is nothing but a struggle between the rulers and the ruled, the oppressors and the oppressed.” [Peter Kropotkin, Act for Yourselves, p. 85] Ideas change through struggle and, consequently, in the struggle against oppression and exploitation, we not only change the world, we change ourselves at the same time. So it is the struggle for freedom which creates people capable of taking the responsibility for their own lives, communities and planet. People capable of living as equals in a free society, so making anarchy possible.

This is the essence of positive democracy, positive freedom. Posted in honor of Nietzsche’s birthday (1844- ).

Who Said It? Bob Altemeyer.

Filed under: Global War On Terror — Russ @ 4:02 am


OK, I hope this was worth the guessing game and the wait, and that the discussion of what kind of person would write something like that was worthwhile.
The answer is Bob Altemeyer, author of The Authoritarians, available free online here. (I apologize for sticking the answer in the title. Even we filthy peasant rebels, if we’re bloggers, must bow to the dictates of the all-mighty search engine.)
The book is very interesting. It details and documents Altemeyer’s development of the Right Wing Authoritarian (RWA) scale. This is a measure of conformity to system “authority”. It’s not ideology-specific. Instead, Altemeyer defines “right wing” authoritarianism as submissiveness toward constituted structures and the willingness to be their active tool. He gives a good example – during the Cold War, the flag-waving American patriot and the Russian Communist party member were likely to be the same kind of right wing authoritarian type.
So what’s the most obvious example of this today? It’s clearly how Obama’s cultists are every bit as stupidly and aggressively tribal as Bush partisans were, and on behalf of the exact same policies, on democratic* political participation, the economy, banks, corporations, transparency, the wars, civil liberties, energy policy, and even liberal social issues like abortion and gay rights.
[*From here on I'm going to dispense with the "small-d" disclaimer and assume readers will understand what I mean based on whether or not I capitalize the word. I'll be extra-vigilant to avoid typos there.]
What’s most amazing is how the liberals and “progressives” claim to support Obama and the Democrats based on a belief that he’s doing the opposite of what he obviously really is doing. Bush supporters may have supported very stupid things, but at least they were less often wrong on a basic factual level about what they were supporting. They wanted escalating war and got it. Obama supporters support a president who is also escalating the war, but claim to believe he’s winding it down, and many of them are probably ignorant enough that they do believe this. The RWA phenomenon doesn’t get more typical than this. (And how characteristic of liberals – most of those who are pro-war are too cowardly to openly want escalation, and those who in their moods are anti-war are still too cowardly to demand full immediate withdrawal, because of some unarticulated but implicitly horrible consequences which would allegedly ensue. No, they want a gradual winding down. That gives their RWA trait full room to range. If Obama says we withdraw now, that’s great. If he says it’ll take years, that’s great. If he says we’ll be there for a hundred years, which is in fact what he has implicitly been saying, that’s great too.)
So guess who is himself one of these RWA cultists? After all his decades of studying the phenomenon, Altemeyer himself is completely un-self-aware of how his entire world view is simply derived from Democrat and corporate propaganda, evidently going back to his student days.
I’ll reproduce the short exchange, which can be found here. (I think it runs onto the next page. I haven’t read the entire thread since then to see if anyone else challenges him on the same point.)
I saw how Altemeyer had written a note on the tea partiers as RWAs, which is insightful as usual because he’s talking about Republicans, his partisan enemy. So I asked if he was going to write a similar note on the Obama cultists. He starts out denying there’s such a thing as an Obama cult. (It’s also funny how he says, “I read two liberal blogs and two conservative blogs”, and names the Huffington Post.)
Knowing there was a problem, I expanded my question to include himself as a possible cultist.
Here’s the full exchange:

04/23/10 at 05:06 PM


Are you planning on also writing a note on the Democratic RWA followers who persist in believing Obama and the Democrats are “progressives” even as they continue and in most cases escalate Bush/Cheney policies on the Bailout, the war and war crimes, the assault on civil liberties, and corporatism in general, just to name a few?


Bob Altemeyer Email

05/11/10 at 11:46 AM

Hey, I got here in only three tries!

To Michael: Yes, putting the Global Change Game on-line would be wonderful, if it could be done right. But I doubt anyone is interested in investing the time and money it would take, and running the thing would probably be a beast.

To Russ: Well, if somebody shows me the studies that demonstrate the Democratic RWA followers supporting these things, while they condemned Bush/Cheney for doing the same things, I’ll write that note. But I read two conservative blogs and two liberal blogs each day, and both TPM and (especially) Huffington Post have been at least as persistent at pointing out when Obama continues Bush policies as Matt Drudge and Politico have been. Moreso, in fact. Which fits into my findings rather well. Anybody who expects liberals to march together to the same drum, compared to the way high RWAs insist on group loyalty, is probably going to be proved quite wrong.

(For the record, I personally supported TARP as necessary, and the war in Afghanistan. As my wife will tell you, I am not much of a progressive.)


05/20/10 at 10:01 AM

Bob says:

“For the record, I personally supported TARP as necessary, and the war in Afghanistan.”

Out of your own expertise, or because you were told so by your betters, and never mind the evidence?

Looks like you better retake the RWA follower test yourself.

How about assassinations?


Bob Altemeyer Email

05/20/10 at 03:12 PM


To Russ: Well, your comment’s a bit ad hominem, but I’ll answer it as best I can.

In a world of ever-advancing knowledge, one can’t know a lot about everything. So you do have to listen to those who have expertise. In some fields (economics would sure be one) the experts often disagree, and the wise non-expert makes sure he listens to the differing opinions.

Now as for TARP, I have some background in economics. I took two years of econ as an undergraduate business major, including a memorable semester of macroeconomic theory from an anti-Keynesian young turk. I also had a semester course in corporate finance. So I probably had some sort of a handle on the crisis that hit the American financial sector in the summer of 2008. I believed that the economy would plunge into a deep depression if the major banks failed and credit virtually disappeared. It was difficult to imagine where the dominoes would stop falling as one sector after another collapsed. And I haven’t heard anyone who has criticized TARP acknowledge what would have happened if the government had not stepped in.

In the case of TARP, I’ve only heard of one economist who said the government should not step in. The experts seemed virtually unanimous, and what they said made sense to me. It was also true that the Bush administration, including the secretary of the treasury, and the Democratic nominee, Barrack Obama, and his economic advisers agreed TARP had to happen. True, most of the Republicans in Congress voted against it, but their reasons seemed short-sighted to me. I didn’t like the idea of bailing out the banks any more than Sen. McConnell did. But I thought it was more important to keep the economy from collapsing.

I think you’ll find, by the way, that a lot of the TARP loans have already been paid back, and in one way or another, most of the government investment will return to the treasury.

As for Afghanistan, it was a rogue state under the Taliban that was the breeding ground for terrorist attacks around the world, including 9/11. I knew both the British and the Soviets had come to grief fighting wars in Afghanistan, and I knew the power of the war lords in the countryside and the refuges available in Pakistan would make the military mission difficult. But I believed the Taliban had to be defeated in their home base, and I still believe that today, although the problems with Karzai remind me more and more of Vietnam. I also feel we owe something to people in Afghanistan, especially the women there who have become educated,
to stay and see the mission to its close.)

You suggested that my beliefs came from “what I was told by my bettors, never mind the evidence.” I can’t even think whose opinion I cared about regarding Afghanistan. I mean, everybody knew where the terrorists were being trained, and where Osama bin Laden was based. You’ll have to tell me about the evidence I ignored.

I’ve told you why I thought as I did. Maybe you could tell me what and why you believe in these matters.

At that point I was frankly amazed and gave up on the exchange. It was a surprise to realize how unused I am to talking to total ignoramuses. I know how to discuss with fellow informed citizens, and how to argue with liars, but not how to tell it like it is to people who know it like it ain’t.
I should have sent the link to The Truth About the Bailout, although that doesn’t include stuff like the basics on the TARP being only one part of the Bailout and so on.
So I thought that was an interesting case study in how rampant and insidious the cult-think is, that even a commenter who is known specifically for analyzing this kind of tribalism is such a tribalist himself. (I meant to post this earlier but it kind of fell between the cushions and I forgot about it.)
So I hope people found this interesting.

October 14, 2010

More Obama Vileness: Ethanol Bailout

Filed under: Corporatism, Food and Farms — Tags: — Russ @ 4:13 pm


Every day it’s just more and more.
Obama and his EPA are choosing today to double down on the already busted ethanol hand. We already know that ethanol neither conserves fossil fuels (because a large amount go into producing it) nor does it cut down on greenhouse gases (again on account of all the fossil fuels that go into it). Meanwhile it’s an environmental disaster in itself, wasting obscene amounts of water, further entrenching destructive monocropping practices, and indirectly driving rainforest destruction in South America. (Corn ethanol subsidies drive increased corn production which crowds out domestic soybean production, which drives expansion of soy production in Brazil, which crowds ranching into rain forest territory.)
I wrote about ethanol more extensively here and here.
Here’s a summary quote from one of those pieces:

As for the economics of aggrofuel, the CBO estimates that the diversion of corn to ethanol production was responsible for 10-15% of the big US food price runup in the year ending 4/08. The cascade of effect is typical: this diversion of food to fuel drove up the price of livestock feed and therefore of meat and dairy products, which in turn drove up the price of all foodstuffs.

This is just the tip of ethanol’s malevolent food price influence, which last year led directly to mass shortages, hunger, malnutrition, food riots, and state violence all around the Third World. While an American consumer may have the right to decide to pay more for food so he can continue filling the tank of his SUV, he has no such right to make that decision for his neighbor, let alone to starve the world poor. The moral economy of ethanol is even less sustainable than its fiscal, energy, and environmental economies. Yet so far the American government has chosen to subsidize all of these, to convey to a kept industry however much money and unaccountability is necessary to force zero minus one to equal two.

The ethanol industry is currently in a precarious position. It is not a capitalist but a feudal operation, 100% dependent on the rent-seeking opportunities afforded by government handouts, government-generated captive markets, and high oil prices. It needed all of these to turn a profit, and since oil prices plummeted last year, the business, which had bet contango on Peak Oil price effects and had been building new plants at breakneck speed, found itself overextended and unviable even with massive government assistance. One of the top producers, VeraSun, went into bankruptcy and the others are hurting.

So what can a parasitic industry do when one of its hosts is no longer available? It must seek to feed more on the other, in this case the government. Sure enough, what we’ve been seeing is a frenzy of anti-capitalist, anti-market, rent-seeking lobbying.

The main effort is to get EPA to increase the ethanol/gasoline blend wall from the current 10% to 15-20%. There is no economic or practical basis for this whatsoever, just as there no longer is even for the 10%, now that we know that corn ethanol’s energy and environmental promises were lies. Rational policy would dictate that we do away with the existing requirement, and with all ethanol RFS standards. But of course reason has no place in a corporatist system, which is based on distortions, riggings, and rackets. No one in industry or environmental circles wants this blend wall increase. Every kind of machinery maker fears that a 15% blend could damage its products (true to the system, the 2007 energy bill absolved the ethanol racket from any liability for engine damage from ethanol products, so any such damage would be completely externalized onto the consumer and product manufacturer).

What’s odd is how even the ethanol gang doesn’t bother trying to argue that a blend wall increase would benefit anyone but themselves. Clearly they’re simply so confident in their congressional (and presidential) flunkies that they think they can just demand whatever they want, at whatever cost (for everyone else).

So both the “industry” and the DoE are saying, “the free market was wrong before, and it’s wrong now; we must mandate a higher blend wall”. Perhaps by now we must suspect, where it comes to corn ethanol, the free market will always be wrong.

They’re also stepping up demands for more welfare, and for this to be extended into the indefinite future. The argument originally was that “first-generation” biofuels, i.e. corn ethanol, needed temporary government support. This would allegedly lead to a self-reliant first-gen industry and more importantly show the way toward the “second generation” of cellulosic ethanol which would be even more cost-effective and environmentally sound.

Yet today all of this is looking to be a lie. Corn ethanol remains unviable and a ward of the state. There are lots of plans on paper for cellulosic production plants, but no investors. The only money now available is coming in the form of government welfare. For example, one of the few projects still moving forward, Poet’s Emmetsburg plant, is funded so far only by close to $100 million in federal and state grants. They’re still waiting on a federally guaranteed private loan (that should give you an idea of how dubious these economics are: even with a fed guarantee no one wants to loan them money).

According to the 2007 energy bill, 100 million gallons of the biofuel mandate are supposed to come from cellulosic in 2010. It doesn’t look like they’re going to make it. The American Petroleum Institute thinks they’ll dribble out maybe 1-5 million. That’s how much all that government largesse is buying. As API’s cadre said, “We know how to make cellulosic ethanol. We don’t know yet how to make it economically.” (We’re still saying that for corn ethanol as well, and probably always will be.)

Renewable Fuels Association president Bob Dineen sums it all up: “The government needs to step in right now to help these companies.”

Any entrenchment of corn monoculture is also an ongoing socioeconomic disaster, as America continues to commit suicide by further driving out smaller, more diverse farming. For our prosperity, for our democracy, for our freedom, and for our literal survival (that is, if you and yours need to eat), America needs millions of new farmers, and very soon. But our elites’ premeditated murder of democracy, and soon our biological destruction, continues apace.
This benefits only the ethanol racket, Big Corn, and the techno-ghouls who leech off ethanol-study grants. Meanwhile it’s so stupid that even the likes of Big Oil and Big Auto oppose it, and their reasons, however self-serving of course, are nevertheless true. A higher blend wall is likely to slowly corrode engines. In order that the ethanol racket can survive, you’ll end up with a damaged car, and perhaps damage to anything you use which runs on gasoline. There’s even trials that show a 15% ethanol blend in something like a chainsaw can actually cause it to spring to life while supposedly not on full power, like some crazed machine out of a Stephen King story. But this is no fairy tale.

The ruling, which was requested by ethanol producers, was widely expected but is the subject of heated debate over whether E15 is safe for cars and other gasoline-powered devices. Fuel sold today typically contains as much as 10 percent ethanol, but automakers and other critics say that a higher blend of ethanol could corrode engines.

The agency said Wednesday that government testing found the blend would not damage the engines in cars with a model year of 2007 or later — about one in seven cars on the road — and would not cause unacceptable increases in air pollution. The agency is still testing cars for the 2001 to 2006 model years and expects to issue a ruling on those as soon as next month.

How picayune is that pitch? “We think it won’t harm engines earlier than 2007.” Not exactly a ringing safety endorsement, is it? BTW, the 2007 energy bill absolved the ethanol manufacturers from liability for such damage. So when ethanol destroys your car, you’ll be left trying to collect from……..?
(An obvious implication of this is that widespread deployment would hasten the obsolescence of pre-2007 cars, exactly at the time more and more of us are going to be needing to make older cars last as long as possible. This is intentional on the government’s part. So it wouldn’t surprise me if this is meant to be a kind of back-door Mandate to buy a new, E15-approved car.
And as the lobbyist vermin says in the piece, the racket views this as just “the first step”. The original EPA demand was for a 20% blend.)
Obama’s EPA is of course full of lies about how they had no choice but to do this, and how it’s going to be for our good. The elites always know better.

Gina McCarthy, the E.P.A. assistant administrator for air and radiation, said that the decision advanced an important national goal of reducing oil consumption. The federal government would like to see Americans use 36 billion gallons of alternative fuels by 2022, including 21 billion from advanced biofuels beyond the corn-based ethanol that is prevalent now. Currently, the industry says it can produce about six billion gallons of corn ethanol a year.

This flunkey’s lies are contradicted by her master’s love affair with offshore drilling and BP. We know Obama wants to go back to business as usual where it comes to oil consumption. That’s why his “stimulus” centerpiece was the scam cash-for-clunkers, which of course was never meant to get rid of clunkers (on the contrary it moved plenty of new ones), but to prop up the personal car itself during a rough patch.
The piece affects some uncertainty as to the timing of the decision, but then gives the obvious short-term political answer.

It was not clear why the agency made an announcement on one group of cars when a decision on another group is coming in a month or two, but analysts suggested that election-year politics played a role.

Kevin Book, an analyst at ClearView Energy Partners, a research firm, said that in the midterm Congressional elections in three weeks, “there are nine at-risk Democrats from the top 10 ethanol producer states. If you’re fighting for every seat in a midterm election, you can’t afford to wait until the rule is finished.”

But Ms. McCarthy said the agency was obligated to respond to a petition by an ethanol producer group, Growth Energy. It had originally intended to reply this summer.

I’m not sure why that’s supposed to help Democrats. Corn state Republicans are just as ardent in their ethanol whoring. The whole policy is, after all, a Bush/Republican initiative based in the 2005 energy bill and supplemented by the 2007 bill. So it’s bipartisan all the way.
While I hope the Democrats get zero credit for this at the ballot box in the self-destructive farm states (where voting for industrial agriculture is of course voting for their own liquidation), I do hope that anybody who still has any doubts about Obama and the Dems will add this to the list of Obama’s freely chosen, unforced criminal actions. Despite the lies in the piece, Obama’s EPA had total freedom to reject this demand emanating from a few scumbags. They freely chose to side with scum and against the people. 
The most depressing thing about this is how typical it is of a terminal kleptocracy. It absolutely refuses to cut a single criminal loose, even such an obnoxious, sniveling one as the ethanol racket. The system just keeps piling crime on crime, waste on waste, destruction on destruction. Every single step, down to the smallest details, is in exactly the opposite direction from reason, sanity, practicality, morality, freedom. This is a system committed to murder-suicide, to consuming as much of what still exists as it possibly can in the flames of its own self-immolation.

Question For Readers

Filed under: Uncategorized — Russ @ 7:41 am


I’m going to quote somebody, and I’m interested in what people’s impression is of the quote and the person who wrote it.
I’ll reveal who it is and give a link afterward, but first I want to see what people think before they know who it is. (It’s from May, BTW).

Now as for TARP, I have some background in economics. I took two years of econ as an undergraduate business major, including a memorable semester of macroeconomic theory from an anti-Keynesian young turk. I also had a semester course in corporate finance. So I probably had some sort of a handle on the crisis that hit the American financial sector in the summer of 2008. I believed that the economy would plunge into a deep depression if the major banks failed and credit virtually disappeared. It was difficult to imagine where the dominoes would stop falling as one sector after another collapsed. And I haven’t heard anyone who has criticized TARP acknowledge what would have happened if the government had not stepped in.

In the case of TARP, I’ve only heard of one economist who said the government should not step in. The experts seemed virtually unanimous, and what they said made sense to me. It was also true that the Bush administration, including the secretary of the treasury, and the Democratic nominee, Barrack Obama, and his economic advisers agreed TARP had to happen. True, most of the Republicans in Congress voted against it, but their reasons seemed short-sighted to me. I didn’t like the idea of bailing out the banks any more than Sen. McConnell did. But I thought it was more important to keep the economy from collapsing.

I think you’ll find, by the way, that a lot of the TARP loans have already been paid back, and in one way or another, most of the government investment will return to the treasury.

October 13, 2010

The Land Scandal and Blurring Legal/Political Terrain

Filed under: American Revolution, Land Reform, Law — Tags: , — Russ @ 3:01 am


Although on its surface the Land Scandal is a legal scandal, it’s really a manifestation of the political war now raging in America. MERS, faulty or neglected transmission of title, fraudulent trusts and securitizations, perjured affidavits, forged documents, illegal claimants, fraudulent conveyances from bankruptcies, kangaroo courts……sum these up and locate them in the overall context of normalized organized crime, and we have not the use and abuse of the law, but the complete overthrow of law. And now that these crimes are coming to light, the criminals will attempt a “political” solution (which is really anti-political; kleptocratic pseudo-democracy is actually the death of politics). The government will try to accomplish this political fix. Any attempt to fight back, to impose the rule of law, must itself be a political struggle.
This is a hybrid legal/political terrain, and therefore calls for hybrid tactics and a hybrid moral sense. It has no clear boundaries and no predictable strong points. We see how the system wants to legalize and/or politically normalize all fraud and ownership uncertainties, and beyond that all the obscenities of an economy, a “society”, a (dis)order founded on monopolies of crime. To prop up their crumbling wealth and power, to “fix” all the crises, from technical glitches to fundamental legal abdications like losing the chain of title to profound political dilemmas like sustaining permanent mass unemployment, they’re going to probe every point they can, looking for places to break out of the ever-tightening encirclements of the forces they’ve conjured against them.
This is no longer a legal process where any significant power base is actually reverent toward the law, nor can a new citizen base build itself starting with the law. The existing law is irreparably corrupted and broken. Legal technicalities are now tools, weapons, or obstacles. That’s the way all elites think and act, especially those in the FIRE sector. To try to fight back with reverence toward the same law which has already been rigged in favor of America’s enemies, who themselves will only ever abide even by their own rigged law to the extent it’s convenient for them, is to hobble oneself tremendously from the outset. And we already face long odds.
If we look at the series of legal derelictions and crimes, we see how the rule of law has been overturned even in the technical sense. This is now a political issue and an economic crisis (which reinforces the political aspect, since economic crisis always threatens political crisis).
Over what did the banks preside?
1. They weren’t punctilious about transferring the note. (Not to mention fraud in writing many of the subprime mortgages in the first place.)
2. Nor about keeping the note and lien together as you have to in 45 states to maintain the unity of the secured mortgage.
3. Nor about putting the note in the securitization trust.
4. Nor about informing buyers of the MBS that the notes hadn’t been properly deposited in the trust. (Not to mention the rampant lies about the proportion of subprime loans, often ones that were calculated to fail, in these securities.)
5. Once they had to answer questions in court, they started out by lying about accidentally losing or destroying the note, claiming it was an isolated incident.
6. Once this was escalating, they systematically churned out fraudulent affidavits.
7. And they systematically forged allonges and other documents and even the notes themselves.
Now that this is becoming clear, the response of the administration, Wall Street, and the MSM has been to lie about it. They’ve put up a united propaganda front in order to downplay the fraud and title abdication issues and represent it as technical problems resulting from sloppiness on the part of bad apples. But the system remains secure, foreclosures are legally sound and economically healthy, the more people who get kicked out of their homes believing it’s a crime on the part of gangster banks, the sooner and surer a recovery we’ll have. (What a bizarre political argument going into an election.)
Meanwhile Congress rushed to try to jury-rig at least one fix, a bill to absolve some foreclosers of the necessity for forging notarizations by forcing states to accept phony electronic ones*.
[*It wouldn't be Congress without a corporatist boondoggle. Probably the real impetus for the original bill was to force governments to buy proprietary stenographical machinery. Just another patent tollbooth through which a parasite wants to force us all to pass. We can't have stenographers using non-proprietary work methods, oh no!
At first I didn't understand the stupid story the bill's sponsor told about how "stenographers among my constituents complained about how it's hard to do their jobs, and they need federal relief", but now I get it.
These "stenographers" were really corporate lobbyists, perhaps illegal unlicensed ones.
It's crystal clear that this government, for as long as it continues to exist, will never again undertake any policy except for the purpose of setting up more rent-seeking corporate tollbooths.]
If and when the bill passes it still won’t go to the heart of their problem. It will just regularize some of the “irregularities” they’ve been deploying to cover up the structural problem, that they broke the chain of ownership, and that all their toxic “assets” are even more toxic than we thought.
They’ve been getting to work degrading the standards and otherwise muddying the picture of what the legalities really are while they try to figure out the real fix. Meanwhile propaganda pushes the Orwellian claim that their obfuscations and obscurities are really clarifications. And meanwhile the alternate route of kangaroo courts and street thugs continues.
(Perhaps all this is better for the citizen, however. Fewer people all the time are willing to believe the lies. More people are able to see the truth in spite of the fog.
So for the government to formally, but pseudo-legally, ratify the criminal status quo, to “legally” regularize what they call the legal irregularities but which everyone knows are the illegal regularities, may render the big picture more clear than ever: This is a terminal kleptocracy which can never be reformed. Our freedom, our recovered prosperity, our very lives, depend upon getting rid of it.) 
The way things are nowadays I assume any law that can give functionaries, including judges, cover to do the “expedient” thing is intended to have that effect. If judges take it the way they know the banks, Obama, and the Congress want them to take it – as all the legalistic pretext they need to “legalize” the whole mess – it will have that effect. At the very least, any judge who already wants to do that will take it that way. They’re already keen to normalize things even given just the existing traduced law, as we see with the dedicated kangaroo courts in Florida. They don’t need much more political encouragement.
So there’s where we’ll see if there’s any vitality left in the law. The goal is to bring an anti-politics into the courts to replace the law and help kill all politics in the greater society. This comes from extra-judicial political pressure, from the pseudo-legal maneuvers of Congress, and from the top down among rogue anti-constitutional courts themselves, namely the rogue SCOTUS.
If this is true, then we cannot build on the existing law or the existing constitutional interpretation, but will need to inaugurate our own transformational convention to reinvigorate this trampled document and renew the shattered law.
Meanwhile this whole affair is mind-boggling. At one end the banks have technically abrogated their ownership of the land, at the other end they’ve also stripped their MBS, the very foundation of their balance sheets, of all “value” and even legal existence.
While we can expect the government to do whatever it has to do to “legalize” everything, even that won’t be enough to put the Humpty Dumpty of economic confidence back together and up on the wall again.
The entire psychological basis of the global economy depends upon the perceived legal integrity of this paper. That integrity was ever less credible even before this SNAFU came to full light.
Going forward who could ever trust any of this again? Who will ever participate in any of these “markets” except to the extent he’s coerced? Who that still has some fiduciary duty could plausibly argue that he was justified putting anyone’s money into any of this? And when he’s sued, he like everyone else will have to rely on brute corruption in the courts. The courts themselves will have no choice but to plunge fully into the cesspool, since there’s no other way they’ll be able to countenance the way the executive and legislative branches are going to try to “fix” the most extreme economic crimes in history.
Do they have any other choice? 

The Living Spirit of Transylvania

Filed under: Food and Farms, Relocalization — Russ @ 2:55 am

I don’t trust these academics, though.

Link here.

In this part of Romania, villagers live in handsome old homes — washed in bright blue, green and ochre colors — on winding cobblestone lanes lined with pear trees. The houses are set close together, which makes the streets pleasantly walkable, but each family enjoys considerable space in the long courtyards behind their homes enclosed by walls and timber-frame barns. Beyond the barns lie vegetable gardens, orchards, walnut groves and small farm plots. Farther out are meadows and pastures used cooperatively by the villagers for grazing animals and making hay. They are carpeted with wildflowers, including some varieties said to grow nowhere else in Europe. Finally, one reaches the oak and beech woods that cover the steep hillsides, where people gather firewood and building materials….

It was cows, however, that seized the imagination of almost everyone in the ND group. After grazing all day in pastures on the outskirts of the village, the cows ambled home at dusk on their own, each returning to its own barn to be milked. Who knew cows could do that? It seemed to symbolize the possibilities that modern society misses in not paying closer attention to the cycles of nature…..

……Professor Krusche first visited the Saxon villages as a graduate student in Dresden. That initial encounter was part of a project sponsored by the Prince of Wales, whose work with the local Mihai Eminescu Trust has promoted economic incentives to maintain the region’s distinctive culture. The Romanian organization had bravely opposed Communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu’s plans to level the villages. In recent years it has funded the restoration of 300 buildings and encouraged some 1,000 Saxons to move back into the region from Germany.

Other initiatives train villagers how to use traditional skills — weaving, folk dancing, tilemaking, baking and the production of jam, cheese, honey and garden vegetables — to make a better living or start new businesses ranging from bed-and-breakfasts to a commercial organic orchard. The Trust also drove a proposed Dracula-themed amusement park out of the area.

The students’ work supports this kind of local economic development by offering ideas for how craft workshops, visitor centers, cafés, guesthouses or shops might thrive in existing buildings, bringing needed services and jobs to the villages while ensuring the preservation of a valuable way of life.

October 12, 2010

Setting Records in Breaking Promises (Obamacare)

Filed under: American Revolution, Health Racket Bailout — Tags: , — Russ @ 3:24 am


The health racket bailout was sold with a welter of promises. Yes, we were to be coerced into buying these policies, but the bill contained so many safeguards and inducements that we’d be the beneficiaries of the exchange.
In fact, even if everything in the bill came true, that would not be anywhere near sufficient recompense for yet another major assault on our economic and political freedom, and yet another major entrenchment of criminal corporate tyranny. But, as critics of the bill recognized and warned from the start, even the alleged crumbs are lies.
The fact is that this bill has no purpose whatsoever but to extort revenue from an already staggering population and provide nothing in return except for a worthless piece of paper which certifies that one went through a predatory toll booth and paid the toll. Since the American colonists similarly were to have revenue extracted from them by an Empire whose benefits were nowhere near sufficient to justify the extraction and the debasement of freedom; and since they were to get in return a wretched piece of paper, a Stamp; so here too I propose we refer to these forced “insurance” papers as Stamps, and the Mandate to purchase them is the Stamp Mandate.
The core political lie of the Stamp Act was Obama’s constant mantra, “if you like what you have, you’ll get to keep it”. But this is already being proven a Big Lie. Already the rackets and employers are moving in parallel tracks toward the real intended goal of driving people out of employer-based insurance and onto the far more expensive, far less protected individual market where we’ll have to face the rackets alone to buy our individual Stamps. This is how they plan to solve the problem of getting employers out of the responsibility of providing health insurance while letting the government still refuse to exercise its own responsibility to do so. The real goal is to revoke organized health care itself for large swaths of the population. I’ll develop this idea further in an upcoming post, The Health Racket Bailout As An “Austerity” Bill.
For today I’ll just focus on two particular lies which are already drawing their consequences. One is the subversion of the bill’s vaunted “regulations” by granting prolific waivers to employers. The other is the racket campaign to gut the 80% rule. (They’re also already stonewalling on covering “children” up to age 26 on parents’ policies, threatening to stop writing policies for children altogether. But this too was a showcase promise of the bill, and the reason young adults can’t get their own insurance is because there are no jobs for them, and these jobs are not coming back.)
Employers like McDonald’s have already received waivers allowing them to continue to offer inferior Stamps which don’t meet the standards of the bill. The administration has already granted 30 such waivers. Remember, this is waiving all the provisions that Obama, Krugman, and all the other hacks promised would make the bill such a great thing. They’re already gutting it all. (And not a peep from Thugman, who was so garrulous last winter. I guess his work here is done. Just like on the war he pretended to oppose when it was Bush’s war.)

How much the administration can, or should, compromise in ways that could dilute the effect of the new law in the next few years is a subject of much debate, depending on the politics from state to state or the economic dynamics in a particular market.

There’s no debate here at all. Maybe there’s a “debate” among the hacks still pretending and “progressives” who still refuse to see the truth, but the fact is that the administration and the rackets always planned to dilute, as the NYT calls it here. Or as we citizens always said, they always planned to refuse to enforce any of the “regulations”. We’re already being proven right. McDonald’s and others have already gotten waivers to provide Stamps which cover far less than Obama promised. And the rackets are getting waivers to sell Stamps which cover far less than Obama promised. While we’ll have to buy Stamps, McD’s, Walmart and others won’t have to help their employees pay for them. So our taxes will also have to go to helping to pay for these Stamps.

The waivers issued so far include the policies offered by McDonald’s to its fast-food workers, typically capped at just a few thousand dollars, sold by a profit-making company owned by Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans. As a result of the administration’s efforts, McDonald’s says it is “confident that we’ll continue to provide health care coverage for our 30,000 hourly restaurant employees.”

Aetna and Cigna have also received waivers to continue selling limited-benefit policies, according to the list released by the Department of Health and Human Services, as have small employers like Sanderson Plumbing Products and Guy C. Lee Manufacturing. HealthMarkets, which offers policies through MEGA Life and Health and other insurers, says it also plans to apply for a waiver for some of its plans.

Meanwhile the states, upon whom Obama placed much of the unfunded burden for administering and enforcing Obamacare, are trying to evade these burdens by also granting exemptions.
This leads to the second example.

These early exemptions offer the first signs of how the administration may tackle an even more difficult hurdle: the resistance from insurers and others against proposed regulations that will determine how much insurers spend on consumers’ health care versus administrative overhead, a major cornerstone of the law.

Several leading insurers, including WellPoint, Aetna and Cigna, have also objected to new rules requiring them to cover even those children who are seriously ill, warning that they will stop selling new policies in some states because the rules do not protect them from having to cover too many sick children.

The bill claims to require the Stamp rackets to spend at least 80 cents of every dollar extracted on patient care. But Obamacare intentionally left this vague. How are these to be measured:
1. What counts as premium revenue, 80% of which has to be spent on patients?
2. What spending counts toward the 80%?
The rackets have already set up a lobbying cabal to gut the provision by eroding both of these standards. Thus, for example, they want Stamp sales commissions deducted from the gross before the 80% is applied. And they want all sorts of administrative “costs” to count as part of the 80%.
This quasi-surreptitious lobbying attack was by prearrangement with the Democrats, as per the deal Obama and Baucus struck with the rackets. The NYT’s dry comment

The new standards may prove a challenge to the administration in its attempt to protect the limited-benefit plans. Under the legislation, insurers are required to spend at least 80 cents of every dollar in premiums on the welfare of their customers, and many of these plans spend far less.

is therefore true, though not in the way they want us to read. I suppose it is a challenge to oversee the intentional scuttling of your own centerpiece policy as you enter an election. (They’re counting on a lot of help from the “progressives”.)
According to this the administration will accommodate the rackets on the 80% rule, although the states are offering some objections.

The administration says it has the authority to change the way medical spending is calculated. But the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, which has been charged with drafting the regulations that will go to the Health Department for approval, has so far rejected the notion that these plans deserve special treatment.
A committee looking at the issue concluded that there was no reason to calculate spending differently for these plans, saying state regulators could always request exemptions later if they foresaw too much market turmoil.

It looks like it’ll be a race to the bottom, as the states look for ways to weasel out of the impossible position Obama’s put them in. 
Our plight is far worse than that of the colonists, and our cause even more just. The colonies did not economically or militarily need the British Empire and rightfully concluded that there should be a flourishing trade relationship, and perhaps a loose political relationship, but absolutely not a relationship where the Empire could tax them and otherwise legally and forcibly subordinate them. But at least they did get great benefits from the trade relationship, and still did feel ties of emotional kinship, thus the long reluctance to make the final psychological break and demand Independence.
We, on the other hand, get absolutely nothing from these rackets, and have no bonds of any sort with them. The only relationship is one of fraud and soon force, from the smallest day to day dealings to the most momentous transactions of government.
There’s also the difference that the colonists were on the upswing of prosperity. They could have afforded to pay the British exactions without much difficulty. But they chose to make a stand on principle. We, on the other hand, are economically already suffering hardship or face the prospect of it, and therefore already experience the fear of it, which is already a reality. We can’t afford the predations of these criminals as it is, let alone having to buy this hideously expensive Stamp.
So what must we be by comparison with our forefathers if, in addition to having at least as good a principled claim, in fact a better one, we also have a far greater economic necessity, and yet we fail to rouse ourselves to assert our freedom and safeguard our prosperity with the same level of vigor, resolve, and confidence?
(Is that the real issue right there, the lack of confidence? Then that’s what we have to work on. Confidence can be supplemented by education, but is built most of all in the course of action itself.) 
We should have, as a solid mass, declared Independence of these rackets at the outset and demanded Single Payer, absolutely refusing to accept one jot less, or to listen to one lie more. Well, we didn’t do that when it would have been easiest. But the next best thing is to do it now. We must organize to resist the Stamp Mandate.

October 10, 2010

Kangaroo Court in Action: The Health Racket Mandate


A federal judge has given the first adverse ruling against one of the many lawsuits declaring Obama’s health racket Mandate unconstitutional. The ruling demonstrates the “logic” of a corrupt corporatist ideologue and how he views the Constitution. A corporatist assumes as the god-given order of things that the purpose of America is to be mined by powerful corporate interests. He then views the Constitution purely instrumentally toward this goal. As we’ll see, this judge views the artificial, ideologically fabricated and imposed “market” as sacrosanct and beyond the Constitution’s purview. He views the written Constitution, and by extension the sovereign people’s inherent constitution, as subordinate to the corporate imperative. This is the essence of corporatist ideology. It views sovereignty itself as reposing in corporations, not the people. The constitution is only the corporate constitution. The written Constitution is therefore the servant of corporations.
A judge like this might even try to argue that the fact that the Constitution never once mentions the word “corporation” is proof of his thesis that corporations are not below the Constitution, but above it. At any rate he’d argue that the absence of such specification gives him license to interpret things that way.
The human truth is the exact opposite. Society exists in the first place only of, by, and for human beings. Sovereignty reposes only in the people. The constitution can never be anything but of and for the political health of the people. The written Constitution can only be legitimately interpreted toward this human imperative. Corporations have no right to exist at all, and certainly have no right to act against the people. Wherever they do, any government has an affirmative obligation to smash them. Where it fails to do so, let alone where it actively supports corporate organized crime, it abandons all sovereignty, legitimacy, and authority. The people then have the right and obligation to repudiate the system, smash the criminals themselves, and redeem society on a human basis.
Let’s go to the case. The suit claims the health racket bailout in general, and in particular the racket Mandate, violates the Commerce Clause, the 5th and 10th amendments, the Free Exercise of religion*, and that it’s an unconstitutional tax. The decision rejects the demand for a preliminary injunction and throws the case out completely. The decision focuses on rejecting the Commerce claim, also rejects part of the tax claim, and declares it doesn’t need to reach another part.
[*Some of the litigants are anti-abortion and claim the Mandate penalty, i.e. the poll tax, violates their religious beliefs because the fungible money would help facilitate abortion.
While that's not my angle, this bill nevertheless does violate the separation of church and state by allowing a religious exemption to those "who oppose health insurance in principle" (decision p. 11), but not for those like me who oppose health insurance on principle on secular philosophical grounds.
You'd think we'd settled this with the SCOTUS decision that conscientious objector status can't be limited to those whose pacifism is religiously based, but must also encompass secular pacifism. How could the same principle not be universal?
But no, everywhere you look since at least the 90s, there are exemptions which unconstitutionally apply only to religious objectors but not to philosophical ones. So far the courts seem fine with this. This bill and this decision represent another example of this creeping theocratic phenomenon.]
In the so-called “factual background” the judge launches right into the propaganda. He intones:

The Health Care Reform Act seeks to reduce the number of uninsured Americans
and the escalating costs they impose on the health care system.
(p. 2)

and follows with a series of details. This is standard political fraud from the bench. As a matter of dogma, the judge is supposed to assume the legislature is a public servant and not a criminal cabal. So the court’s default is to aid and abet organized crime in the legislature. At the very least, even if the court is going to strike down an act (because of some ideological squabble among elites, not because the act is against the people), it still engages in this pretense of legislative good faith. That’s SCOTUS dogma going back a long way. (Anyone who follows the MSM is familiar with the how it’s their established practice to report as fact the self-proclaimed intentions and mindset of elites, especially political elites. The courts have the same practice.)
Everywhere else judges are supposed to infer motives from actions. Why is that reversed here, and the dogmatically assumed motive is used to tendentiously interpret the action? It’s because here the system is functioning as an integrated machine. Elsewhere it’s the system against the people or individuals, so there the interpretive dynamic is reversed.
So here this judge proclaims that the Mandate is “integral to the legislative effort”, but everything he claims about what that effort is, and the constitutionality of the effort itself, is a lie. The Mandate is indeed integral to the effort, but the effort’s intention and goal is the opposite of Congressional and judicial lies. The effort is of course not to ensure better health care for more people at lower cost. A Congress who wanted to do that would’ve instituted Single Payer. Period.
The effort is to bail out the parasitic insurance rackets, who already have an institutionalized anti-competitive monopoly, by absolving them of having to compete with non-participation as well. That’s the one and only objective of Obamacare.
The decision moves quickly (p. 3) to bashing alleged deadbeats, the mythical free riders at the ER. But the entire premise of “the legislative effort” is to bail out a tremendous but politically powerful deadbeat and parasite, the insurance racket. So right at the outset we can see the judge’s bad faith. It’s not possible to be concerned about free riders but still support this deadbeat bailout bill. So on its face anyone who supports the bill (or finds it constitutional) but claims to be concerned about free riders is lying. Again, if Congress had been concerned about free riders, it would have enacted Single Payer instead of bailing out the insurance parasite. So on its face the judge’s entire rationale regarding the legislative intent is invalid.
We also have the moral fact that anyone amid a system based on organized corruption, legalized fraud, and massive robbery in the form of corporate welfare who would ever make a top-down anti-deadbeat argument must be a vile immoral criminal himself. It’s not possible to face such monumental system crime and still say the individual deadbeat is just as bad, or to bother with him at all. And then there’s the fact that the vast majority of individuals in that position are not deadbeats at all, but the victims of an aggressive kleptocracy which has mugged them into poverty.
As I said, this proves the judge is corrupt and acts in moral bad faith, so his “legal” reasoning must be judged from that point of view.
He has the haughty nerve to claim that it’s individuals, mugging victims who show up at the ER, who are “shifting costs onto third parties”. But the fact is that we the people ARE the victimized “third party” here, while the rackets and their bought politicians and judges are the only market “participants”, the only “stakeholders”, as their own flunkies would concede.
In a gesture of noblesse oblige the judge grants that the plaintiffs had standing to sue (p. 4). (But not before a lecture on the monetization of standing, how as far as the courts are concerned the only measure of citizenship is property, and the only measure of values or injury to those values is a monetary injury. This filthy doctrine must always be enforced. As usual, the first priority is to deny true citizen access to the law.)
The judge, as a petty crook aping a benevolent despot, magnanimously grants that a person without much money may already be feeling trepidation over the Mandate and acting accordingly, so standing is granted. The whole passage is sickening. The judge’s hypocritical, bloodless, wonkish, trickle-down “generosity” is even more repulsive than open, naked greed. How could any decent person even discuss this without outrage over the fact that those already suffering from the depredations of the FIRE sector gangsters are to, by the judge’s own admission*, be made to suffer even more in order to pay further extortion to some of the most worthless and repellant criminals afflicting us today?
[*P. 8: "..the injury-in-fact in this case is the present financial pressure experienced by plaintiffs due to the requirements of the Individual Mandate."
This pressure is being put on by already-rich robbers who want to steal even more, and helping them commit this further robbery is the one and only intent and goal of this bill. That's the vision of "civilization" and "law" this judge seeks to uphold.]
We get to the Commerce Clause. Here’s the first time I’ve come across the Orwellian name for the Mandate: the “Shared Responsibility Payment” (p.11). Deciphering the totalitarian code: It’s the Full Responsibility of those who do all the work to hand over almost all they produce as extortion Payment to wealthy parasites who have and assume Zero Responsibility.
The judge is honest about this: The Mandate is regulation of “inactivity, or a person’s mere existence within our Nation’s boundaries.” He admits it’s a poll tax.

The crux of plaintiffs’ argument is that the federal government has never attempted
to regulate inactivity, or a person’s mere existence within our Nation’s boundaries, under
the auspices of the Commerce Clause. It is plaintiffs’ position that if the Act is found
constitutional, the Commerce Clause would provide Congress with the authority to regulate
every aspect of our lives, including our choice to refrain from acting.

The decision says this case involves the third aspect of Interstate Commerce – “those activities that substantially affect interstate commerce.” Since that’s as vague as can be, and since by the reasoning here it can apply to literally anything the system wants it to, the judge confirms what we who oppose the Mandate always said. This Mandate is not only a crime in itself but a totalitarian precedent. If it goes through it can serve as the template for mandates to buy literally anything the system wants to force upon us.

The Supreme Court has expanded the reach of the Commerce Clause to reach
purely local, non-commercial activity, simply because it is an integral part of a broader
statutory scheme that permissibly regulates interstate commerce. Two cases, decided
sixty years apart, demonstrate the breadth of the Commerce power and the deference
accorded Congress’s judgments. (p. 12)

The decision discusses two highly disputed cases, Wickard v. Filburn and Gonzales v. Reich, as alleged precedents. With seeming lack of self-awareness he trumpets the striking down of anti-gun and anti-domestic violence laws as the SCOTUS philosophically “placing limits” on Congress.
Um, no. The judges on the court majorities simply support gun rights but don’t support marijuana rights, and don’t care about domestic violence. That’s the one and only difference which went into these decisions – how the subject of each case squared with their non-judicial ideology. The judicial ideology almost without exception is servant to the political ideology. Scalia’s anti-federalist vote in Gonzales was a spotlight example of how fraudulent his ideological pretensions are. He simply doesn’t like marijuana, period.
(To be clear, I reject all four of those laws on federalist grounds, just as that’s one of my objections to this bill. Any consistent person who really has a legal principle here would decide all five cases the same way, rejecting or upholding.)
The decision admits the novelty of the case.

Plaintiffs in the present case focus on the common fact that each
of the regulations that survived Supreme Court scrutiny under the Commerce Clause
regulated an economic “activity,” as opposed to the “inactivity” they have demonstrated by
merely existing and not purchasing health care insurance. The Supreme Court has always
required an economic or commercial component in order to uphold an act under the
Commerce Clause. The Court has never needed to address the activity/inactivity
distinction advanced by plaintiffs because in every Commerce Clause case presented thus
far, there has been some sort of activity. (p.15)

To get around this the judge engages in what he himself calls “mental gymnastics”, and more fraudulent divination of Congressional intent.
Now we get to the core of obscenity:

The health care market is unlike other markets. No one can guarantee his or her
health, or ensure that he or she will never participate in the health care market. Indeed, the
opposite is nearly always true. The question is how participants in the health care market
pay for medical expenses – through insurance, or through an attempt to pay out of pocket
with a backstop of uncompensated care funded by third parties. This phenomenon of costshifting
is what makes the health care market unique.
(p. 16)

Think about that sentence, the two allegedly equivalent and interlinked propositions:
“No one can guarantee health..”  That’s self-evident.
“…or ensure that he or she will never participate in the health care market.”
What?! We could ensure we don’t have to participate in a criminal market by getting rid of it. We could, for example, institute Single Payer, which would cost far less, provide far more care far more efficiently, and would even solve that individual free rider issue guys like the judge have such a fetish about. It would not be a moral affront to the people, as it would eradicate the free riding parasite rackets. We’d be free of their depredations and extortions.
But the decision depicts this “market” as a law of the universe. It would be hard to imagine a more grotesque example of begging the question. I don’t know if the conservative plaintiffs themselves care, but in the case of we who reject the Mandate on citizenship grounds, we reject any constitutional basis for the entire system based on private health “insurance”. We didn’t try to sue over it before (and of course we would have lacked “standing”), so long as we had the option of non-participation.
But now we’re going to have to sue against this Mandate. But when we declare* the Mandate unconstitutional, we’re saying that’s the most aggressive unconstitutional manifestation of an extra-constitutional, outlaw system.
[* And we as citizens do declare it so. We do not beg a court to do so for us. We demand that if the courts really do serve the people, they'll ratify what we the people already know and declare.
Since the prospect that these suits will do the trick is dubious, we need to start preparing for citizen disobedience and resistance.]
So the judge’s rationale is non-responsive. Especially as he moves on to a series of flippant absurdities.

As inseparable and integral members of the health care services market, plaintiffs have made a choice regarding the method of payment for the services they expect to receive. The government makes the apropos analogy of paying by credit card rather than by check.
(p. 17)

We are NOT “members of this market”. This market is an alien assault being artificially inflicted upon us. The “market” has absolutely nothing to do with health care. The two are completely separable and separated. Paying by “..credit card or check…” – when of course the real issue centers on the fact that it’s a mugger demanding this payment in the first place.

Similarly, plaintiffs in this case are participants in the
health care services market. They are not outside the market. While plaintiffs describe the
Commerce Clause power as reaching economic activity, the government’s characterization
of the Commerce Clause reaching economic decisions is more accurate.

We are NOT “participants”. We ARE “outside the market”. We are disenfranchised, coercively indentured subjects of this “market”. Victims.
What level of depravity does it take for someone to not only ignore the one fact of the case, but to turn around and accuse the victim of that very crime? What can decent people do with a criminal like that?
Now he comes to his decision, and his defining lie:

The Act regulates a broader interstate market in health care services. This is not
a market created by Congress, it is one created by the fundamental need for health care
and the necessity of paying for such services received. The provision at issue addresses
cost-shifting in those markets and operates as an essential part of a comprehensive
regulatory scheme. The uninsured, like plaintiffs, benefit from the “guaranteed issue”
provision in the Act, which enables them to become insured even when they are already
sick. This benefit makes imposing the minimum coverage provision appropriate. (p. 18)

This is incontrovertibly a market created by Congress. On its face that’s a clear fact. The bill’s very purpose is to bail out the rackets who, even though they have an anti-trust exemption (another creation of Congress), and can therefore quash innovation and competition, are increasingly unable to compete with non-participation, which more and more Americans are rationally choosing, as is their constitutional right as citizens. The purpose of this bill is to eliminate this competition as well. The purpose of this decision is to eliminate our constitutional rights.
And once again, what we must always remember immediately, every time we hear anyone like this judge say a word about “shifting costs”, “third parties”, free riding, or any other “deadbeat” language, is the obscene fact that this “market” exists at all for one reason only. It’s to enable the parasitic extortions and extractions of this insurance racket which is indeed a third party to us all, which does nothing but shift costs to us all, free ride upon us all. That’s the one and only reason the bill exists at all. That’s the one and only reason this decision was made the way it was.
Every word of it is a crime against the Constitution, just like the bill itself. We are under the thumb of stateless, lawless, non-sovereign predators. This Mandate is a major step forward for their criminal regime. As this incident makes clear, we cannot rely on the courts to help us uphold our constitution. We must do that ourselves.

October 9, 2010

Negativity and Affirmation: Food Stamps, Soda, Farmers’ Markets

Filed under: Food and Farms, Freedom, Land Reform, Nietzsche, Relocalization — Russ @ 2:43 am


By doing we forego. – I abhor all those moralities which say: “Do not do this! Renounce! Overcome yourself!” But I like those moralities which urge me to do something and keep doing it, from morning till evening, and then to dream of it at night, and to think of nothing except doing this well. When one lives like that, one thing after another that does not belong to such a life drops away. Without hatred or aversion one sees this take its leave today and that tomorrow, like yellow leaves that at any slight stirring of the air depart from the tree. We may not even notice this leave-taking; for our eye is riveted to the goal – forward, not sideward, backward, downward. What we do should determine what we forego; by doing we forego – that’s my principle. But I do not wish to strive with open eyes for my own impoverishment. I don’t like negative virtues – virtues whose very essence it is to negate and deny oneself something.

.       -Nietzsche, The Joyful Science, section 304.
New York City wants to ban the use of food stamps for soda and other beverages which are nothing but sugared water. This is supposed to be a measure to fight obesity and encourage better nutrition among food stamp users.
The architects of this proposal may have some such thoughts. But the real nature of this also involves the paternalism of how allegedly stupid the poor are, that they don’t even know how to eat, and the bullying moralizing of, “my tax dollars are paying for that, so they shouldn’t be drinking soda with it!” This negative morality and the negative policy (bans, restrictions, limits) which follows from it is a value in itself. It’s one of the reasons liberals are who they are – elitists who want various forms of public assistance programs, but always in the form of nickels and dimes with the recipient liable to endless sermonizing and the petty harassment of restrictions like this.
Obesity is a significant problem, and the poor do tend to have poor eating habits. The reason for this, however, has nothing to do with any alleged turpitude. It’s because junk food loaded with high-fructose corn syrup, like soda, is artificially cheap because of the massive subsidies Big Corn receives. Domestic sugar is also a major corporate welfare recipient in the form of subsidies and tariffs, though not as much as corn. by contrast real produce is relatively expensive. So when you’re poor and hungry and your “society” denies you the ability to grow food or otherwise work for it, but does give you a niggardly stipend in the form of food stamps, unfortunately your most rational calorie-maximization option may be to use it for junk food.
Meanwhile the same people who are so sanctimonious about their tax dollars being used for food stamp soda are far less likely to yell about their tax dollars subsidizing industrial corn production, even though that massive welfare program is the reason soda is so much cheaper than fruit and vegetables. How much of the bullying mindset goes into that decision on what to focus on, who to bash?
More importantly, regardless of the merits of this particular restriction, this is yet another example of the way people see a problem, claim to want a solution, and their knee-jerk response is always negative policy, negative morality. We can only get there through fighting against something, not by starting with fighting for something. We can only ban something, not build something affirmative.
In this case the problem is said to be that food stamps are being used to buy junk food. The problem is bad nutrition among the poor. A more accurate way of expressing these is that when you’re on food stamps produce is relatively expensive, and it’s often hard to find anyway. And even where farmers’ markets are accessible, few of them are set up to accept food stamps.
Faced with this probelm, what does affirmative morality and affirmative policy say? The solution is to increase access to good food, and render it more affordable. While the big picture does demand a negative policy, it’s not to nitpick the poor, but instead to get rid of crop subsidies. (And the bigger, affirmative goal there is to transform the land dispensation so that farmers can make a living without subsidies and becoming mere functions of Big Ag.)
At the more micro level we’re discussing here, the affirmative solution is to expand food stamp usage at farmers’ markets. The first hurdle here is the transportation issue. Then there’s the fact that it requires expensive machinery to swipe the card. And finally there remains the relative cost discrepancy. In response to these challenges some markets have organized bus service. They’ve found ways to either procure the machines or find alternative ways the stamps can be redeemed for some other currency which can then be used at the market. Matching dollar programs help make good food as economically accessible as the bad.
Those are a few possibilities. Of course in the long run we need a complete transformation of the food production and delivery system, and this in turn means Land Reform, which means lots of other things….And it’s all toward the affirmative goal of living better, living as human beings. This includes eating better.
So we can see how picayune is Bloomberg’s typical elitist-liberal-technocrat proposal. It fixes nothing and is meant to fix nothing. At best it’s another wretched little tinkering amid total catastrophe. More likely it’s real purpose is to add insult to injury. First they steal and impoverish, and then when they deign to sprinkle down a few crumbs, they make the miserable recipient listen to a lecture and jump through a hoop.
“My style is affirmative and deals with contradiction and criticism only as a means, only involuntarily,” Nietzsche reminds himself in the midst of his terrific rant on education in Twilight of the Idols. (N’s discussion there seems topical in today’s America although he’s writing about 19th century German schools.) It’s easy to see how we too are tempted to forget ourselves amid such disgusting enemies, who are so relentless and at the same time so paltry, mean, and ugly in their crimes. It’s hard to be affirmative in the face of their scabrous negativity, and not reciprocate petty meanness for petty meanness.
But I try to keep my thoughts on the wing, and I try to be affirmative, thinking and fighting for what’s good and right, not hating on what’s rotten. That’s why relocalization activism is such a fruitful opportunity for us all. It’s what we need to do, it’s the road to the goal of our human redemption. But it’s not only the means to this end, it’s also this end in itself. Freedom isn’t just an end state you fight for and win, like a piece of ground. Most of all freedom is won in the very act of doing and fighting.
A place like a farmers’ market, or the farm, or a craftsman’s shop, is the place of living the freedom which is the means and end of all we do. So we should look to this act, and a way of life based on the act, as the basis of affirmative living and thinking. And this affirmative tense must suffuse all that we advocate and demand. There’s always the goal, and if some obstacle is in the way, that’s just an occasion, and overcoming it is merely a derivative of the goal.
Anyone who lives this way will find that the way of life itself becomes the goal embodied, every day, every hour. Freedom realizes itself through the struggle for it. In the end, we attain humanity in no other way than by living as human beings.

Peak Oil Cartoon

Filed under: Peak Oil — Russ @ 2:38 am

This is a fun little cartoon, accurate and optimistic.

(Found here.)

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