Could the ice be finally melting from the llloooonnnnggg winter of Bush? No major Bush[...]
Read The Full Article:
To balance the furor over bureaucratic boards to decide whether the aged are worth saving with medical care, the financial wizards who brought on the mortgage meltdown have figured out a way to play roulette with their chances.
Bankers, the New York Times reports, "plan to buy 'life settlements,' life insurance policies that ill and elderly people sell for cash--$400,000 for a $1 million policy, say, depending on the life expectancy of the insured person. Then they plan to 'securitize' these policies, in Wall Street jargon, by packaging hundreds or thousands together into bonds. They will then resell those bonds to investors, like big pension funds, who will receive the payouts when people with the insurance die."
Gambling with Grandma's life expectancy is a free-market alternative to socialized euthanasia that may appeal to conservatives. They could invest in bonds that bundle policies from people with a mix of maladies--leukemia, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer?s--with due diligence to insure that not too many in the portfolio have an ailment for which a cure might be found. In that case, the value of the bond would collapse.
As the market develops, there could be the equivalent of socially responsible mutual funds, products that exclude those whom investors may find morally offensive such as sufferers from alcoholism or AIDS.
Yet, as in all investments, there will be risks. Even with computer simulations to estimate death rates, the new bonds will be taking a chance on the possibility that health care reform may be enacted and start to increase longevity.
If that were to happen and the market crashed, would there be another taxpayer bailout for bankers who bet wrong on American homeowners and then on their lives?
Read The Full Article:
In a blog on February 8, I worried about Obama?s emphasis on bipartisanship. You cannot achieve[...]
Read The Full Article:
When the people of an occupied country want foreign troops out while the people of the occupying[...]
Read The Full Article:
Part Two of Bertrand Russell's "The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism" comprises seven chapters under the heading 'Bolshevik Theory'. Briefly the main points of each chapter:
4. "Revolution and Dictatorship"
Russell begins this chapter by telling us the Bolsheviks have a definite program, set forth by Lenin, "for achieving Communism." He says it can be found in the answers sent by the Third International to the Independent Labour Party (of which Russell was a member) in response to a questionnaire sent by the ILP. This text can be found if you google 'ILP and 3rd International': it is an excellent brief presentation of the views of the Third International in 1920 and has for that era a basically correct understanding of the balance of forces-- its greatest weakness is in over estimating the revolutionary potential of the Western proletariat.
Russell's interpretation of the response by the Third International is not satisfactory as it misrepresents the positions taken by the Bolsheviks. This is not, I think, an intentional misrepresentation, but due to the class prejudices that Russell had due to his aristocratic background and definitely non-working class educational experiences at Cambridge.
For example, he says that after a revolution the Bolsheviks "then confine political power to Communists, however small a minority they may be of the whole nation." What the Third International actually said was that political power was to be in the hands of the workers and toiling masses of the population which make up the vast majority of the whole nation and who will express their will through soviets.
Russell goes on to discuss issues not covered by the response to the questionnaire and which involve the Bolshevik's views about the end game of the Communist movement-- i.e., that "the state will no longer be required." But his end game, through correct, is so far in the future-- we are not one wit closer in 2009 than in 1920-- that it has no practical significance in present day struggles (except to keep our eyes on the prize).
Russell, however, treats this end goal as a very real and approaching possibility that the Bolsheviks are aiming for as the outcome of the world revolution and the the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Bolsheviks were of the opinion that this would be a long drawn out process and be conditioned by specific conditions in each country and area of the world. It was then and still is now.
Russell proceeds to say that there are THREE QUESTIONS to be asked with respect to the Utopian ends that the Bolsheviks are striving for. 1) Is the end "desirable in itself?" Russell says the answer is YES! The present system of capitalism is so unjust it does not deserve to continue. "I concede the Bolshevik case," Russell writes. That case still stands today, by the the way.
It is the other TWO QUESTIONS Russell has in mind that he wants to discuss. 2) Is the the ultimate end "worth the price" that, according to the Bolsheviks themselves, "will have to be paid for achieving it?" To this Russell says NO!
Here is his reasoning. Nothing human is certain and we cannot be sure that a world revolution will actually create a better society. It will entail a long drawn out fight with the United States likely ending up "the main bulwark of the capitalist system."
The world wide struggle between capitalists and communists will be a life and death battle which will make World War I ("the late war") "come to seem a mere affair of outposts." The battle will bring out men's "bestial instincts" and "the general increase of hatred and savagery." Furthermore, whatever the ideals of Communism, a social system will reflect the level of civilization of its population and the violence of the struggle to overthrow capitalism, and the violence of the capitalists, will leave behind a world so "savage, bloodthirsty and ruthless" that it "must make any system a mere engine of oppression and cruelty." Barbarism no matter who wins! I will leave it to the reader to decide how accurate Russell was in predicting the future. I will say, however, this is NOT the price, "according to the Bolsheviks themselves."
Question 3) is the "most vital." This question is: "Is the end goal of Communism consistent with the methods used by Communists to attain it ?" Russell says NO! Some group of men and women must exercise control of distribution and control the military while the struggle is going on. It will be a long struggle and this group will get use to having power and privileges. It is certainly possible that Communists having state power "will be loath to relinquish their monopoly" of control.
"It is," Russell says, "sheer nonsense to pretend that the rulers of a great empire such as Soviet Russia, when they have become accustomed to power, retain the proletarian psychology and feel that their class interest is the same as that of the ordinary workingman." In fact, Russell maintained that already in 1920 he detected that the mentality of the capitalist class was to be seen in the rulers of Russia. So Russell rejects Bolshevism because 1) the price (Barbarism) is too high to pay for the end, and 2) the end that is professed is not the real end that would result.
How accurate was Russell in making these prognostications? We are nowhere near the end game. The struggle between capitalists and the working masses is still being waged. There was a major set back to the socialist cause with the downfall of the USSR and the Eastern European socialist states. Was barbarism created in the USSR in the Stalin era? Did the Communists become similar to the "capitalists" in their psychology and alienated from "the ordinary working man" and woman? We may be too historically close to these events to answer these questions. And we know that from Korea to Afghanistan capitalism has waged and is waging savage and barbarous wars.
What we can say is that if Russell was correct to concede the point that capitalism is unjust and must be replaced then the struggle to replace with it is still a noble and worthwhile struggle. People can learn from history and the mistakes of the past do not need to be repeated in the future-- even if they often are.
Stay tuned for part 9!
Read The Full Article:
There once was a political operative who loved to tell crowds he had a simple way of explaining to children the difference between Republicans and Democrats.I'm not even going to pretend that I am shocked, because I am not. Hypocrisy is simply what these buggers do best.
"Republicans get up and go to work," he would tell his son. "Democrats get up and go down to the mailbox to get their checks."
This man not only talked to his son about Republican values, he went into public-school classrooms and talked about them as well.
That man is Jim Greer ? the same Jim Greer who, as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, just threw a nationwide hissy fit, claiming that the classroom is no place for politics and Barack Obama's "indoctrination."
One Seminole County mother, Barbara Wells, remembers the day Greer spoke to her son's sixth-grade class. "My son said he made some sort of Hillary Clinton joke," she recalled.
Health Care, H1N1, Obama's Speech, and then some. Oh, and Grilled Steak Tabbouleh Salad.[...]
Read The Full Article:
The forces on the far right dedicated to neutering the Obama Administration have a new rallying cry: czars. If you've been to any of the recent teabagger events, you've run into that strain of garden variety Republican Party (and fellow traveler) nihilism. I want to take this opportunity when czars are on the tongues of so many 'tards and, predictably, obstructionists-- and when Glenn Beck has just gotten his first scalp-- to come at the question of czars from a somewhat different perspective.
The House of Romanov took over Russia in 1613-- and held on for a smidge over three centuries, widely considered the most authoritarian, despotic and authoritarian of all the European ruling families. When the last czar, Nicholas II, inherited the throne in 1894 at age 26, he was ill-prepared to rule and Russia tumbled from Great Power status to economic and military basketcase. Having lead his country from disaster to disaster, he abdicated in 1917 and was executed the following year. All my life I've been fascinated with an historical incident that took place in January, 1905, midway through his reign and Obama's selection-- the first one he made-- of Rahm Emanuel as chief of staff, brought it clearly back into my mind. Bear with me.
Russia is my ancestral homeland and I've paid some attention to its history. There has always been this tradition-- more a myth, actually-- that if Russia's downtrodden could only get a petition past the czar's evil ministers-- "if only our little father czar knew of our troubles, then he could help us"-- their grievances could be addressed. By 1905 the myth of the benevolent father had worn thin but among enough peasants and workers it seems to have persisted-- with no evidence to have ever bolstered it-- so that it led to what is commonly known as Bloody Sunday.
A month-long strike of as many as 100,000 workers in St Petersburg culminated in a peaceful march to the Winter Palace by workers and their families to present their "little father" with a petition. No one thought of their little father as a vampiric butcher, although they had every reason to. When he first ascended to the throne there were some hopes that he might move Russia in a more Democratic direction. Those hopes were as silly as the ones anyone is harboring today that the Obama Administration will be any less in thrall to the corporate state than Bush was. "[I]t has come to my knowledge," hissed the little father, "that during the last months there have been heard in some assemblies of the zemstvos the voices of those who have indulged in a senseless dream that the zemstvos be called upon to participate in the government of the country. I want everyone to know that I will devote all my strength to maintain, for the good of the whole nation, the principle of absolute autocracy, as firmly and as strongly as did my late lamented father." He then embarked upon, among other disastrous and barbaric policies, a series of pogroms that led to millions of Jews leaving Russia.
When the workers-- some carrying crosses, icons and portraits of the czar and singing "God Save the Czar"-- marched to the Winter Palace, the little father was neither there nor even in town. Prince Sviatopolk-Mirsky, the Minister of the Interior, with the czar's knowledge, brought in extra troops from outside of St Petersburg. They opened fire on marchers all over the city. Over a thousand were killed. It was the beginning of the end of the autocracy; peasants and workers around Russia finally came to the conclusion-- and voiced it-- that "The Czar will nit help us."
I imagine that the feeling in the White House this weekend-- in anticipation of Obama's speech declaring that he's sticking with the corporate powers and abandoning the American people-- is something like what Nicholas' sister, the Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, expressed at the convocation of the Duma (as an advisory body) half a year after the slaughter.
"There was such gloom at Tsarskoe Selo. I did not understand anything about politics. I just felt everything was going wrong with the country and all of us. The October Constitution did not seem to satisfy anyone. I went with my mother to the first Duma. I remember the large group of deputies from among peasants and factory people. The peasants looked sullen. But the workmen were worse: they looked as though they hated us. I remember the distress in Alicky's eyes."
video details and more
The Israelis really do have a difficulty when it comes to PR. To fire tear gas at peaceful protesters is bad enough; but to open fire on TV correspondents, while they are live on air, is one of the stupidest things I have ever seen.
They used to be experts in Hasbara, but they really are losing the plot at the moment.
Tags: Israel, Palestine, tear gas, protest
Read The Full Article:
And it was civil...