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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Electoral Fraud from the GOP

The predicted voter fraud is occurring. Of course it involves corrupt and dishonest officials private companies and Republicans, as usual:

"Problems first emerged earlier this week in Palm Beach County with forms turned in by Strategic Allied Consulting, which the Republican National Committee (RNC) paid $3.1 million to register voters in Florida and six other swing states. Palm Beach prosecutors are examining 106 voter registration forms submitted by one Strategic Allied Consulting worker, some with apparently forged signatures."

So much for worrying about Democrats voting, much less committing voter ID fraud. These efforts are designed to make sure only Republicans vote. As usual voter fraud, by ordinary democrats, is abusive projecton by folks seeking to protect their power despite the fact that people loathe them for the crooks and liars they are.

" Nathan Sproul, the firm’s owner, has been well-known in top GOP circles for years. Operating under other corporate names in the past, his firms have been accused of “dumping registration forms filled out by Democrats and other improprieties aimed at helping Republican candidates.” He has a long history of shady operations while in the pay of GOP officials both within states and on a national level."
"As a result of this reputation, the RNC insisted he create a new corporate entity before giving him $3.1 million to voter “registration” in seven swing states."

Monday, September 17, 2012

Secret Sins

Nitzivim - Garrisons

The theme of the beginning of the portion of the Torah known as Nitzivim (Deuteronomy 29) is “secret sins” versus “do the right thing.”

“Perchance there is among you some man or woman, or some clan or tribe, whose heart is even now turning away from the Lord our God to go and worship the gods of those nations — perchance there is among you a stock sprouting poison weed and wormwood. 18 When such a one hears the words of these sanctions, he may fancy himself immune, thinking, "I shall be safe, though I follow my own willful heart" — to the utter ruin of moist and dry alike. 19 The Lord will never forgive him; rather will the Lord's anger and passion rage against that man, till every sanction recorded in this book comes down upon him, and the Lord blots out his name from under heaven.”

When Moses warns the people of Israel about the dangers of “serving the gods of the nations” I’m sure most of us think, “I only worship the one God” I’m not in danger of having a heart of “poison weed (also known as Gall) and Wormwood”. But of course we are surrounded by the results of folks who think that they are immune from the rules that apply to everyone else.

Unfortunately these folks often try to conceal their true feelings and beliefs. But it is obvious in their actions. How many people we know worship the stars in Hollywood or the dollar? How much better would this world be if folks would apply the principles of justice to their business dealings or their political acts? We can’t know what kind of “gall and wormwood” is in someone’s heart until it comes out in something they do, but such behavior affects us too because God does know and because as Rashi notes; people who have hearts of “wormwood and gall” tend to increase evil among us.

This passage also says: “Concealed acts concern the Lord our God; but with overt acts, it is for us and our children ever to apply all the provisions of this Teaching.” So this gives us one guideline for dealing with the potential gall and wormwood in our own hearts. When I look at my own heart and see anger rising, jealousy, frustration, or rage; I know that sooner or later my hidden feelings are going to surge out and cause me to do some overt thing that is really going to mess me up. It comes down to where is my heart centered? Is it centered on the pursuit of enlightenment and awakening, or am I worshipping money and power? Am I focused on spiritual improvement and love for God and others, or am I consumed with lust for the God of wealth and status? What do I really need and why should I pursue it? If our foundations are solid, then our hearts won’t be of “gall and wormwood” anymore. But what secures that?

The Hasidim believed that there were two things that could give us strong foundations: Respect for truth and Love of God (Ahavat Hashem), which equals love of the Law (Ahavat Torah), which equals love of ones fellow man (Ahavat Israel. It is community and love for each other flowing out of respect for the Rules that make that community what it is that can give us the foundation for a life time of faith and learning. And it is friendship that is the basis for all these loves, because we build our love for Israel on a foundation of loving one another.[Source Somewhere A Master -- Elie Wiesel]

But of course that love for community can also be a basis for trouble too. Too often a love for our own friends, our own causes, makes us forget that it is God’s laws that apply, not the ones we make up, or even our own interpretations of them. Gods laws aren’t what we tell each other they are, they are what the ineffable one decrees in actuality. They are reality not some codice. None of us can afford to fancy ourselves immune to the corrupting influences of pride, vanity, or simple misunderstanding on ourselves and our communities because that leads to misunderstanding and delusion.

Ellie Wiesel, writing about the historical fight between the Hasidim and the Gaon of Vilnius writes “The ancient Sages Shammai and Hillel differed in most areas of Jewish life, yet they maintained relations of mutual esteem and affection.” “why was it that no authoritative voice was heard … to proclaim that both the words of the Besht and the Gaon of Vilna reflected Gods living truth?”

I would submit that most of our historical conflict start from the secret sins of pride and fear that prevent us from being able to communicate with one another without conflict and that if we simply could take the time to get to know one another, be humble about our knowledge, and agree to learn from one another, we’d have fewer overt sins because our secret sins would no longer come from hearts of “wormwood and gall” and we’d stop being afraid to be friends. The literature is meant to be understood, not taken out of context, or used as a pretext for violent behavior. And the temptation to pride is strongest in political and religious leaders -- so we need to learn to spot it in others as well.

Of course once wormwood and gall are in the heart, they tend to grow and push aside any genuine friendship and mutual respect and replace it with demagoguery, egoistic assertions that “I’m right and you are wrong” and vilification. Thus the secret acts that God punishes flow into very overt misdeeds that bring about our own problems and that can utterly destroy people and communities. They don’t stay secret very long.

Dogma is the development of rigid doctrines governed by authority of men. Men are fallible. Authority is the assertion of men’s opinion over spiritual matters that they can dictate either/or what God says, or what is meant by scripture. Dogmatic people are so arrogant they try to bind future generation to interpretations and arbitrary understandings as if they were God. They usually have good sounding reasons. But the results of arrogant dogmas are all around us in tyranny, oppression, poverty and ignorance. It is our duty to redeem them by digging out the diseased wood (wormwood) and removing the Gall. Then their original context can be understood and their wisdom applied to the present. Not always an easy thing -- but a duty of any spiritual person. Because with religious doctrine, wormwood and gall is also the ossification of what had been legitimate and living teachings into the lifeless dead hand of authority and dogma. Every generation has the duty to bring their literature alive so that it can teach and guide present generations not enslave and oppress them.

Once one understands that religious literature is literature; not history, a compendium of scientific facts, or necessarily direct truths about material reality, one can both appreciate all religious literature and see revealed the monstrous nakedness of most people claiming religious authority. The Bible doesn’t necessarily say what people claim it says. Because, it was written down by men, God didn’t necessarily say that because he told Moses so and so, that we are to treat modern people the same way. If God says to do something and we are part of a religion, there must be some reason. If God appears to be saying something not true, then the liar is not God, it is the person's understanding of what is being said or the context.

The source of both spiritual enlightenment and humility is when people realize that even if scripture says something, that doesn’t automatically make it the right thing to do. Scripture refers to spiritual social and conventional beliefs and practices at some point in time; the other pertains to the rock of actual current reality. Those who would distort religion for personal advantage can always use religion the way a ransomer uses the words in the newspaper to fashion a ransom note. But they are just liars. Just because the Bible has God telling people they should stone for certain sins, doesn’t mean that is an appropriate punishment for us, or even that we are, any of us, qualified to render such judgment. Both the ancient Rabbis, and the founder of Christianity understood this when they said "let he who is without sin cast the first stone." The most grievious sins are the secret ones, and the "gall and wormwood" that causes people to disdain others or be too certain that they are always right and others are wrong.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

When Religion Matters -- Why inflame people?

Today's news confirms that our "Sam Bacile" [see previous post,] is actually; Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, who apparently was behind "Innocence of Muslims,"

"Federal authorities have identified a Coptic Christian in southern California who is on probation after his conviction for financial crimes as the key figure behind the anti-Muslim film that ignited mob violence against U.S. embassies across the Mideast, a U.S. law enforcement official told The Associated Press on Thursday."[AP via Arizona Daily Star]

The Government now claims:

"The official said authorities had concluded that Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, was behind "Innocence of Muslims," a film that denigrated Islam and the prophet Muhammad and sparked protests earlier this week in Egypt, Libya and most recently in Yemen. It was not immediately clear whether Nakoula was the target of a criminal investigation or part of the broader investigation into the deaths of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya during a terrorist attack."[]

And of course they Government found "Bacile" after AP did.

"The AP located the man calling himself Bacile after obtaining his cellphone number from Morris Sadek, a conservative Coptic Christian in the U.S. who has promoted the anti-Muslim film in recent days on his website. Egypt's Christian Coptic populace has long decried what they describe as a history of discrimination and occasional violence from the country's Muslim majority." [AP via Arizona Daily Star]

His partner, Sam Klein also hates Mormons:

"The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, said Klein is a former Marine and longtime religious-right activist who has helped train paramilitary militias at a California church. It described Klein as founder of Courageous Christians United, which conducts protests outside abortion clinics, Mormon temples and mosques."

Of course they aren't following the money, and if the investigation stops with Sam Klein and "Bacile" it will be failing to do the most important thing that any investigation can do: "Follow the Money" because the Coptic community doesn't have the kind of money or the incentives to want to inflame Egyptians more than they already and a production like this takes more money than a small-time con man can manage on his own. I wonder who funded "Sam Bacile"'s efforts. I think it is highly suspicious that this film was timed to be released just enough before the elections to try to provoke an Iran Hostage type reaction from Moslem fundamentalist/ literalists.

And of course the people taking advantage of this situation are being described as "Salafists" which is a code speak for front groups for Al Qaeda, so it's already done it's job.

Who Benefits?

The question remains who benefits from inflaming violence? Romney launched his attack almost before the embassy was attacked. He ended up criticizing a dead ambassador for trying to defuse an incendiary message to local moslems. So Romney thinks he'll benefit from inflaming the middle east, and his cohorts feel the same way. So, could there be money from one of his secretive backers paying for this film? It certainly makes the Citizens United movie about Hilary seem like a chump change investment by comparison. This is a gift that keeps giving for war-mongering imperialists.

And of course Al Qaeda benefits from inflaming Salafists too. They were almost on their last leg. What Moslem wants to wear 8th century clothing and get himself killed so that the Saudis can charge more for their oil? But of course it's a lot easier to recruit fundamentalists if the "enemy" is insulting their religion. And Bacile claiming to be a Jew has the benefit of inflaming both Jews and folks who want to kill Jews. Anyone seeking to diabolically create an intentionally unstable situation (maybe to sell guns) benefits here. Take your pick, could be Machiavellian Arabs doing it to themselves or Machiavellian Republicans behaving as traitors to their own country.

So, this being a, so far successful, conspiracy; we may never know who funded "Sam Bacile" but we know who seems to have been planning to use these attacks to get himself elected.

I'm sorry, but I don't put it past them. I wish this were an extreme opinion.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

When Religion Matters -- Loony Toons

I'll See Your Loony Toons and raise you ours

You see this movie Innocence of Muslims  was made by people who acted one set of lines and thought they were making one movie, and then nasty words were dubbed in, and the director turns out to “not exist.” This is classic “agent provocateur” behavior. And if it fools people, all the better for the ones who staged it and provoked it.
"The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer," they said in a statement to CNN about the movie, ".
The Cast and crew were played. And now simple Moslems the world around are being played. And who is playing with them?
The Wall Street Journal identified the filmmaker as Sam Bacile, an Israeli-American real estate developer. The Journal reported that, in its telephone interview with Bacile, he characterized his film as "a political effort to call attention to the hypocrisies of Islam."
The Al times claims:
"“Sam Bacile” told The Wall Street Journal and The Associated Press in interviews Tuesday that he was an Israeli-born Southern California-based real estate developer, who received $5 million from “100 Jewish donors” to finance his anti-Islam film, Innocence of Muslims, “Islam is a cancer,” he told the Journal and AP."
So is this a cynical manipulation by the Mossad? What does Israel gain from Moslem hatred of their people? Nothing. It could be the work of cynical arms producers or warmongers, because only warlike and warmongering factions can gain at Israel’s expense. Ordinary Israelis gain nothing from the terrorist attacks such reactions provoke.
Except for one problem.  Sam Bacile may not exist!  Some of the actors talked about this “Bacile” fellow speaking perfect Arabic and looking like an Egyptian with an Arab entourage.
“But several elements of “Bacile’s” story appeared on further examination Wednesday to be phony. There are, for instance, no California real estate license records  for anyone with the last name Bacile.  And the fact that Bacile said precisely “100 Jewish” donors financed the project also seemed dubious. Israeli officials, contacted by Al-Monitor, declined to say if Bacile was an Israeli citizen, demurring in part because of uncertainty over whether that was a real name”
My own suspicions point to Karl Rove, and/ or the Saudi Secret Service; or maybe sinister arms dealers.  The article says this identity has to be fake because Bacile can’t have Jewish family members in Cairo and still be Jewish:
“Steven A. Klein, a Hemet, Calif.-based “consultant” to the film and self-styled terror expert, told the AP Wednesday that Bacile had family members in Egypt. With reports suggesting there have been fewer than 100 Jews living in Egypt since 2004, it did not seem that Bacile's Egyptian Jewish family members would be hard to locate — or easy to protect. 
He’d better stay in hiding because I’d like to kick his ass too. On the other hand. Steven Klein really exists and is defending the movie. Who is Steven Klein? Who is Bacile? Steve admits [Bacille]’s not Jewish:
Klein, in an interview with The Atlantic’s Jeff Goldberg on Wednesday, admitted that “Sam Bacile” is a pseudonym, and that Bacile is neither Israeli nor Jewish. Klein further claimed to Goldberg that he didn’t know Bacile’s real name, didn’t know his origin, and that he had only met him in total for one hour.
This looks like a setup job, an agent provocateur. An effort to inflame religious hatred for the sake of politics.  Even if the Mossad had been involved or my theory about Karl Rove turns out to be true. It ought not to be so easy to cynically use people this way.  Maybe this is a teachable moment.
A trace of the cell phone number used by “Sam Bacile” led the AP to a man named Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, outside Los Angeles Wednesday.  Nakoula, of Egyptian background, acknowledged to the AP that he had been a manager for the company which produced the video, but denied he directed it. Court records show that Nakoula was convicted of federal bank fraud in 2010 and sentenced to 21 months in prison.
The article goes on to implicate Egyptian Copts.
“The AP said it had originally been given Bacile's cell phone by Morris Sadek, an Egyptian-American Copt and anti-Islamic activist who is a principal with the National American Coptic Assembly. Coptic groups sharply distanced themselves from Sadek and the film, and expressed sorrow for the violence in Egypt and Libya.”
But  I don’t think they want to be attacked any more than Israelis, Jews or Wall Street Financiers do.  Copts have been victims of some awful violence lately. And unless we want them all to immigrate to the USA I don’t thing they’d want to be tied to something so incendiary either. But who knows?
No this looks like a Right Wing setup.  And Klein is no mere insurance salesman:
“Klein describes himself in the bio of a self-published 2010 work, Is Islam Compatible with The Constitution, as a Vietnam vet who since 9/11 has used contacts in the Arabic Christian diaspora community as translators as he has scoured Southern California mosques hunting for terrorist cells. “With 9/11, 2001 I immersed myself with Islam in America; went to every major Mosque in SoCal with Arabic speaking Christians as translators and uncovered useful information about many Mosques being the headquarters of terrorism in America,” Klein wrote.”
So Klein turns out to be a member of a Right wing Church:
Klein is a member of the Church of Kaweah, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) as "a secretive cohort of militant Christian fundamentalists preparing for war" with Muslims. Klein said that he, Bacile, and the others responsible for the film were refugees from the Middle East.
So I see the cynical and exploitive hands of folks like Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers here.  The “100 Jews” will probably turn out to be one or two wealthy billionaires and this whole thing will probably turn out to be a cynical attempt to manipulate the USA election by stoking up trouble outside the USA.
“An examination of California public records by Al-Monitor shows that in July 2011, Klein registered a group called the Concerned Citizens for the First Amendment (CCFA) as a California business. The group has reportedly staged a few protests in front of Southern California high schools in 2011 to express opposition to mosques. “
Last year Loonwatch covered them as the loony toons they were last year. In May 2011:
“About a dozen members of Concerned Citizens for the First Amendment perched themselves on the sidewalk outside Murrieta Valley High School Tuesday, handing out fliers to students walking by.”
You see our loons provoke your loons, and the cycle becomes a death match of stupidity.  I don’t criticize the religions themselves. But our holy people and leaders need to engage in some reflection.   It is the maturity and wisdom with which Islam, or Christianity, is interpreted that is at stake and failure to use real spiritual wisdom allows both our peoples to be manipulated and both religions to be corrupted.  Moslems and Christians are both being played and as long as they are both led by religious charlatans and demagogues the results of such games are going to continue to be ugly and tragic.
There is a spiritual war within the hearts of people, and until we awaken and see the many corridors in our hearts there is every possibility that surface teachings will be used to shut down access to deeper ones, and that folks will be played into enmity by evil persons who pretend (and may even have convinced themselves) that they are good and righteous people. Other issues are being played the same way, and no people are immune from such manipulation of their cultural fears and understandings. A little doubt is a good thing. Too much certainty is the road to the darkside.
This is why we not only have to practice separation of religion and politics in our civil life, but we also have to struggle with the same subject in melding our spirituality with living in this material world of needs and desires.

Return to Previous page:


When Religion Matters Part I Background

When Religion does matter Part I


Our founding fathers had a completely merited and two way fear of religion and politics. They were familiar with atrocities such as the inquisition, the Salem Witch trials, and the violence of the reformation and counter-reformation; and they didn’t want to see that kind of violence in the USA.  They knew that at the root of such violence comes from the influence that authoritarian, dogmatic, and corrupt religion can have on politics. They knew the predilection of preachers, ministers, and priests to engage in convenient, parsed, polemical and sometimes corrupt interpretation of religion, in the pursuit of fame, power and money.  And they knew that such religious demagoguery could lead to the rise of fanaticism, dogmatism and authoritarianism.  They also knew that politics can exert a multiplying influence on the rise of such corruption if religion is allowed to become a tool of politics.  Thus Separation between church and state was meant to protect the Church from the corrupting influence of political power and politics from the violence of corrupt religion.
They weren’t wrong.  We see how religion is corrupted by politics, and how the corrupt use politics to corrupt religion and intrude on people’s lives.  Once we see this in terms of the moral issue of “corruption” we have an incomplete framework for analysis, because we need a yardstick to measure the corruption of religion or politics. 
I’ll save a full discussion of this issue for another time, but one measure of both the ideological and the potential for corruption is the ease with which religious beliefs can be manipulated by the cynical and ambitious.  On that score literalist and facile understandings of religion are the most vulnerable. Because the cynical can understand religious beliefs and motivations and exploit them, even when they don’t believe them themselves.
All modern religions have a level of understanding that says “both material truth and textual truth are true, if you think one contradicts the other then you don’t really understand the material and are not truly enlightened.”  Priniciples such as “right to life”, “the Trinity”, and various  conflict between obvious norms of behavior and religious texts,  exist in all religions.  Really spiritual beings manage to observe these conflicts and resolve them without being trapped into insanity.  Fundamentalists of all religions tend to seem to ignore the fundamentals of textual interpretation and never penetrate beyond surface meanings.  They seem to get locked into resolving conflicts between material reality and religious text – by rejecting material reality.  This happens largely because their teachers are manipulating them. And it makes a point on which others can take advantage of them.
An example of such a conflict is the mandate, felt by most Moslems to protect the name and reputation of the Prophet.   The result of this mandate is that Moslems get tricked sometimes or miss the point of the mandate completely. 
I’m not a Moslem so I won’t offer any literary suggestions for those who would honor folks who stab, attack or blow up critics of the prophet.  But I can offer the suggestion that if you feel that way someone is manipulating you.  And the ease with which religious charlatans and demagogues from within a religion can manipulate believers is directly proportional to the maturity with which religion is interpreted and believed in.  It doesn’t reflect well on Islam or modern times that people can provoke wars, riots and authoritarian revolts by deliberately creating a movie to criticize the Prophet Mohammed.   You are being played folks.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The difference between evolution and being just plain a scoundrel

Last night Romney was at the Democratic convention. Not the Romney we are dealing with now, but the one who unsuccessfully challenged Ted Kennedy for the Senator position in Massachusetts. I'll never forget the debate from back then, and I got a refresher on it last night. It shows what a rascal and scumbag Romney really is. And the funny thing is, it shows what a rascal and scumbag he was then. And it is funny.
Romney said back then:
"ROMNEY: “I believe that abortion should be safe and legal in this country. I believe that since Roe v. Wade has been the law for 20 years, that we should sustain and support it. And I sustain and support that law and the right of a woman to make that choice.”"
Of course he doesn't support that position now. He was lying back then. You can't find his position on his website (though they will ask for money) but he was lying when he said the above, because while he was governor in 2005 he vetoed a birth control law that would have allowed the "morning after pill" to be legal.
The website About Mitt Romney gives us the contents of his veto message:
"To the Honorable Senate and House of Representatives:
"... To those who believe that life begins at conception, the morning-after pill can destroy the human life that was created at the moment of fertilization.
Boston Globe - A letter to legislators on the veto (July 26, 2005)

Monday, September 3, 2012

The Revolting Rich

Review of "Revolt of the Rich" Article By Mike Lofgren • August 27, 2012 in, of all places, The American Conservative : writes:

"It was 1993, during congressional debate over the North American Free Trade Agreement. I was having lunch with a staffer for one of the rare Republican congressmen who opposed the policy of so-called free trade. To this day, I remember something my colleague said: “The rich elites of this country have far more in common with their counterparts in London, Paris, and Tokyo than with their fellow American citizens.”"

He notes that at the time he heard this it seemed novel, but now it is not so surprising. I spent time hanging around academics as the "husband of" and if academic types find more in common with each other than those outside their fields, it shouldn't be surprising that the wealthy; who spend time at the same resorts, and places as each other, should be like this. But as he notes:

"That was only the beginning of the period when the realities of outsourced manufacturing, financialization of the economy, and growing income disparity started to seep into the public consciousness."[Article]

Mike Lofgren then says something interesting:

"There have been numerous books about globalization and how it would eliminate borders. But I am unaware of a well-developed theory from that time about how the super-rich and the corporations they run would secede from the nation state."[Article]

This may be something different from what the prophets wanted. The prophets were thinking that the rich and globalization would bring the world together. But our wealthy get their power from factions, from controlling resources, and they are never going to consent to run those resources in the common interest. No, Lundren puts his finger on it. The wealthy have decided to create an identity and power outside the nation state. They've become nullifiers, bushwackers and filibusterers. Lundgren writes:

"I do not mean secession by physical withdrawal from the territory of the state, although that happens from time to time—for example, Erik Prince, who was born into a fortune, is related to the even bigger Amway fortune, and made yet another fortune as CEO of the mercenary-for-hire firm Blackwater, moved his company (renamed Xe) to the United Arab Emirates in 2011. What I mean by secession is a withdrawal into enclaves, an internal immigration, whereby the rich disconnect themselves from the civic life of the nation and from any concern about its well being except as a place to extract loot."[Article]

Essentially they've made the whole world a colonial Empire. Never mind the wars and insurrections -- those are business opportunities. They can rule from behind the scenes. Both revolutionaries and dictators need their money, and will do their bidding. And they can make money as long as they can make deals. The world has become their Colony, and governments their subjects:

"Our plutocracy now lives like the British in colonial India: in the place and ruling it, but not of it. If one can afford private security, public safety is of no concern; if one owns a Gulfstream jet, crumbling bridges cause less apprehension—and viable public transportation doesn’t even show up on the radar screen. With private doctors on call and a chartered plane to get to the Mayo Clinic, why worry about Medicare?"[Article]

This explains the reckless stone faced impunity with which they are trying to take over our country from top to bottom. The gloves are off. Why fear Marxists when the Marxist wealthy are in their country clubs? The modern wealthy are "in the country but not of it;" Zen and the art of multi-billion deals. The result is the rise of an aristocracy that just plain doesn't give a snit about you or me:

"In both world wars, even a Harvard man or a New York socialite might know the weight of an army pack. Now the military is for suckers from the laboring classes whose subprime mortgages you just sliced into CDOs and sold to gullible investors in order to buy your second Bentley or rustle up the cash to get Rod Stewart to perform at your birthday party. The sentiment among the super-rich towards the rest of America is often one of contempt rather than noblesse."

But of course it is "we rabble" who are to blame:

"Stephen Schwarzman, the hedge fund billionaire CEO of the Blackstone Group who hired Rod Stewart for his $5-million birthday party, believes it is the rabble who are socially irresponsible. Speaking about low-income citizens who pay no income tax, he says: “You have to have skin in the game. I’m not saying how much people should do. But we should all be part of the system.”"

But of course the wealthy have it setup so they are exempt from that requirement.

"millions of Americans who do not pay federal income taxes do pay federal payroll taxes. These taxes are regressive, and the dirty little secret is that over the last several decades they have made up a greater and greater share of federal revenues. In 1950, payroll and other federal retirement contributions constituted 10.9 percent of all federal revenues. By 2007, the last “normal” economic year before federal revenues began falling, they made up 33.9 percent. By contrast, corporate income taxes were 26.4 percent of federal revenues in 1950. By 2007 they had fallen to 14.4 percent. So who has skin in the game?"

The result is Islands of privilege with no willingness to share powers or shoulder any share of the common burden. Nothing common about these folks!

"Yet for the president’s heresy of advocating that billionaires who receive the bulk of their income from capital gains should pay taxes at the same rate as the rest of us, Schwarzman said this about Obama: “It’s a war. It’s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939.” For a hedge-fund billionaire to defend his extraordinary tax privileges vis-à-vis the rest of the citizenry in such a manner shows an extraordinary capacity to be out-of-touch. He lives in a world apart, psychologically as well as in the flesh."

And that is what we are up against:

"The super-rich have seceded from America even as their grip on its control mechanisms has tightened. But how did this evolve historically, what does it mean for the rest of us, and where is it likely to be going?"

For those of you like me, who love the history of these things:

Further reading:

The Unions are to Blame?

In the Washington Post, Harold Meyerson, on September 2, writes:

"On Labor Day 2012, U.S. workers are in dire straits, and an increasing share of elite opinion says it’s their own damned fault."

Anybody without a net worth of 250,000$ and a legacy ought to be offended by this. Yet at the same moment you hear these folks beating the war drum against the rest of us (and getting some of us to march with them) with the comment "We Built this" -- as if. These same pundits, even some of them so-called liberals and progressives, make commentary about how it's our workers own fault. Nevermind outsourcing. Never mind abusive use of the B-1B program, never mind offshoring -- it's "our own fault!" You heard it all through the Republican Nomination Convention.

Meyerson: "Not quite so bluntly, of course. But it’s impossible to read the business press and the editorial pages without encountering the argument that the economy hasn’t perked up because of the “skills gap.” U.S. workers, this thinking goes, just don’t have the skills required by our advanced economy. If only our workers and schools were better, if only teachers unions ceased to exist, all would be well." [Harold Meyerson, Published: September 2]

I've seen it put pretty bluntly. I've watched companies advertize for jobs I can do, I go to interview and the wish list of skills, credits and abilities is so great that they seem to want a giant performer whose spent hundreds of thousands on training. But then I did a llittle digging and I found out they were just looking for an excuse to bring in a worker who'd work for half the usual salary, or for an excuse to contract that job to another country. Suddenly the requirement is a warm body who will work for less. Harold gives them more credit than they should get on this:

Harold Meyerson: "There are indeed some skills-gap problems plaguing the economy, but the downward mobility of U.S. workers results far more from their lack of power than their lack of skills."[Harold Meyerson, Published: September 2]

To me this is an abusive narrative that justifies the exercise of power. This is the elites blaming the victims and justifying their outsourcing and offshoring on that basis. In the Republican Convention; workers, engineers, teachers and other non-entrepreneurs got no credit for the mutual enterprise that is the USA economy. And we've gotten no credit materially:

Meyerson wrote: "Since the recession bottomed out in June 2009, median household income has fallen by $2,544, to $50,964 — a 5 percent drop — according to a new report by Sentier Research. It’s no mystery why wages are falling even during the recovery. In a study released last week, the National Employment Law Project found that 58 percent of the jobs created since 2010 pay between $7.69 and $13.83 an hour. New jobs in the mid-range of the wage distribution, paying $13.84 to $21.13, account for just 22 percent of the positions created since the recovery began, though they constituted 60 percent of the jobs lost in the downturn. Higher-wage jobs are just 20 percent of the newly created positions. The biggest increase in jobs has come in food preparation and retail sales."[Harold Meyerson, Published: September 2]

What these facts say is that the benefits of all these increases in productivity, some of them from the hard work of workers using new automation tools, and some of them coming from their own hard work went ot the already wealthy. This lack of gratitude is getting obvious.

Meyerson: "These numbers underscore the question of whether our primary problem is the lack of skills or, rather, the lack of good jobs. And the problem isn’t just that mid-range jobs were offshored or fell prey to the construction bust. It’s also the declining or stagnating wages and benefits in a far wider range of sectors — even where U.S. workers have the skills they need and then some."[Harold Meyerson, Published: September 2]

And this is not the stupidity of our workers, maybe our naivity in trusting business leaders whose only concern is the size of their next bonus, and the amount of gold in their golden parachute. So, as Meyerson writes:

"Is it really insufficient education that’s dragging down Americans? Since 1979, the share of U.S. workers with college degrees has increased from 19.7 percent to 34.3 percent, the Center for Economic and Policy Research found this summer. Yet the percentage of college graduates with good jobs — which the center defines as jobs paying at least $37,000 and providing health insurance and some kind of retirement plan — had declined from 43 percent in 1979 to 40 percent in 2010."[Harold Meyerson, Published: September 2]

So it's not that we are unproductive, lazy, ignorant, poorly educated, or even poorly trained:

Meyerson: "Are American workers becoming less productive? On the contrary, a Wall Street Journal survey of the Standard & Poor’s 500, the nation’s largest publicly traded companies, found that their revenue per worker increased from $378,000 in 2007 to $420,000 in 2010. The problem is that workers get none of that increase. As economists Ian Dew-Becker and Robert Gordon have shown, all productivity gains in recent decades have gone to the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans, in sharp contrast to the three decades following World War II, when Americans at all income levels shared in the productivity increases."[Harold Meyerson, Published: September 2]


Meyerson: "The primary plight of U.S. workers isn’t their lack of skills. It’s their lack of power. With the collapse of unions, which represented a third of the private-sector workforce in the mid-20th century but just 7 percent today, workers simply have no capacity to bargain for their share of the revenue they produce."[Harold Meyerson, Published: September 2]

Meyerson attributes this weakness to the destruction of our Union movement:

"This is not to say that there is no skills gap or that U.S. schools don’t need improvement. But the decline of unions has both weakened workers’ bargaining power and diminished the kind of apprenticeship programs that the building trades unions have long (and ably) provided. Under increasing right-wing pressure to justify their very existence, however, some unions in other sectors are embarking on skills training or professional development programs."[Harold Meyerson, Published: September 2]

This is a good trend. I think that Unions should channel the old concept of apprenticeship from their heritage in the middle age guilds. They should allow non-Union members to get a provisional or apprenticeship membership and train them and help them get a job once they are trained. Combine that with creating an independendent institutionalization from the closed shop and with open membership -- they might be able to defeat "Right to [not] Work, laws".

Meyerson writes: "The most notable is that of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), which has created an interactive professional development Web site for teachers called Share My Lesson in response to school districts cutting back on their ongoing teacher education. “Teachers want and need to share best practices with each other,” AFT President Randi Weingarten told me, so her union is rolling out this site as the school year begins."

But in the long run:

Meyerson: "Unions can address the skills gap just as, in the days when they were larger, they could address the economic power gap. But if the war that business and Republicans are waging on labor isn’t defeated, good jobs will continue to dwindle and work in America will grow steadily less rewarding."

We need an alternative to the New Jersey Corporation.

And like Meyerson: "And a happy Labor Day to you."

[Harold Meyerson, Published: September 2]

You might enjoy this from last year: