Friday, April 30, 2010

the tangled web they wove

Just as a follow up to my last couple rants, I would like to point you to this article about how Iceland's banks failed.

Corruption among banks, it would seem, is not limited to merely one country. And considering banks own a lot of the liquid capital used to fund industry and fuel commerce, perhaps we should be thinking twice about letting competition among usurers pass as the form of our global "economy."

Otherwise, we'll have to look at their smug smirks towering over our suffering for the rest of our lives.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Reflections On Confederate History Month

Well, Virginia's Confederate History Month- which was basically her white governor's big " fuck you" to his constituents who had the bad taste to deliever his state to Barack Obama in Nov. 2008- is over. Time once again to reflect on the long history of the white Southern elite's attempt to rewrite history- an effort that they undertook while the last corpse produced by their disasterous rebellion was still warm.
The standard slavocrat portrait of " the peculiar institution" was ( and still is among some of their descendants) one of happy " servants" singing in the fields, knocking off early to devour large meals of meat and veg, and basking in the glow of the benevolent master's love. 19th century or 21st century, this crap is still gospel to the Unreconstructed Rebel crowd. " Well," say the neoconfederates, " look at how those damnyankees ( yes, pronounced as one word) treated those immigrant workers in their factories ( as if one form of oppression justifies another)." Well, yes, no one denies that workers in Northern factories toiled in horrible conditions for low wages for the profit of moneygrubbing assholes. But at least the Yankee worker's daughters were not the property of his boss, to be raped whenever he felt like it. Nor could the Yankee's employer break up his family forever when the boss decided to sell his wife. And I wonder what those Southern apologists make of the thumbscrews, whips, and brands used by overseers on slaves who tried to escape the Worker's Paradise of the Land Of Cotton? Perhaps they were used to improve the soprano section when the field hands were singing "massa's" praises?
But why dwell on slavery at all? Everybody knows that the war was about- wait for it- state's rights! Of course! The evil Federal Gub' mint was pushing around the poor little Southern states because it was controlled by abolitionists, who were interfering with the state's rights to... well what exactly? Regulate banking? Issue commemorative postage stamps?
Alexander Stevens, the Vice- President of the C.S.A., knew exactly what the Southern rebellion was all about. He said it plainly in his now infamous Cornerstone Speech that slavery was "the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution." So much for slavery not being the cause of the war ( to be fair to Governor McDonnell, he did admit that slavery was the root cause of the war).
But cannot the South take pride in her military accomplishments during the war? Well, sure, if you want to glorify the idiocy of lines of workers and farmers blasting the shit out of each other at close range with .58 calibre rifle- muskets. Military glory is for histories about generals- nice clean maps with colorfull arrows showing that Stonewall Jackson flanked this way and General Longstreet flanked that way. For the poor slob in the ranks it meant getting his guts shot out or limbs hacked off while most of the planter aristocracy, the ones who called loudest for seccession, sat the war out in their mansions. Probably the greatest defeat for the confederacy came not from Yankee bullets, but her own crass and greedy elite, who began conscription in 1862 to provide the Southern armies with more cannon fodder in order to defend their property. See, what popular Civil War history doesn't tell us is those poor Southern boys weren't dumb, blindly following the battle flag into the next slaughter. A hell of a lot of them were beginning to see what the fighting was all about after the promised six- week war evaporated. And the Confederate government confirmed their worst suspicions when men who owned a certain amount of property could avoid conscription. As Private Sam Watkins put it: " It gave us the blues. We wanted twenty negroes. Negro property suddenly became very valuable, and there was raised the howl of ' rich man's war, poor man's fight'... we cursed the war... we cursed the Southern Confederacy. All our pride and valor was gone."
And what do we make of the silence of our Confederate apologists on the way the Confederacy was created? After all, the word " freedom" drips from a Southern politician's mouth like shit from a goose's ass. But not a word on how the Confederacy was created in the most undemocratic manner possible by the planter class and a few governors ( sound familiar?). Opposition to secession was silenced by the familiar tactics of intimidation and electoral fraud.
These are but a few of the inconvienient truths that torpedo the sugar- coated, neoconfederate version of the history of the Confederate States Of America. By all means, let's have a Confederate History month- but in every state. Let us remind the American people that because of a few greedy and ruthless bastards this country was plunged into the bloodiest conflict in its history. That they inflicted untold suffering upon the people and soldiers they called upon to defend their way of life- a way of life that was parasitic and benefitted only themselves.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I got your "Après moi, le déluge" right here, motherfucker.

Well, well, well. I had hardly even just spoken of the devil and it has to drop in to make sure I got it's fucking evil record totally straight.

If you've seen Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story," this particular leak from Sachs might seem in the same bitter flavor as the now-infamous Citibank Memo. (Which, of course, warrants its own discussion.) Or, if you've ever seen the documentary "The Corporation," which makes a brilliant case that corporations themselves are sociopathic in relation to humanity, you might remember the bit with the employees at Enron. (Incidentally I think "The Corporation" makes its case, and makes its case well. If you're not read up on corporate personhood and the 14th Amendment I suggest you do so quickly.)

It ought not come as any sort of surprise. If anything, it ought to come as a clear sign that the citizens of New Jersey should rally outside the Goldman Sachs building and not let any of those bloodsucking sonsofbitches work another day at their sad parasitic excuse for a job.

But then again the implications for this are immense. If one gigantic financial institution - and 6 such institutions have assets equaling 60% of our GNP, so you have to wonder what their influence is like - is parasitic and bloodsucking and essentially a danger to humanity, how many of the other 500 biggest corporations issue memos like this on a daily basis?

You know that the profit you make for your boss at work is just used to invest in machinery that eventually will replace you. Your boss - not the dude just above you making a buck more an hour but the celestial tool in some office a thousand miles away making decisions that will make or break your life - knows it too. It's an idea behind every word and phrase that bastard issues "to" you (more like "at" you) but is hideously clear in the internal correspondence that is passed to and fro from day to day without ever seeing the light of the public.

Such is the insulation that private (read: undemocratic) corporations provide their scheming bureaucratic despots.

This is an age in which Capitalism is king. In which money buys and sells us on a labor market. In which loans and interest rates make or break families. This is a system whose highest echelons are so removed from reality that humanity appears to them only as red ink in the expenses columns of their accounting books. These are the tyrants we allow to set policy and buy and sell entire neighborhoods, if not whole counties and states.

What this leads me to ask of you is precisely this: Question the free market.

Question who it defends, and who defends it. Question the logic of selling your power to work on a market. Question our basis of ownership in this society. Question your conceptions of the people, past and present, who have stood up against this system. But most of all: Question your complacency with it.

Because it's all well and good that The Establishment is beating the war-drums and going after Gold Man-Sacks. The Establishment always finds someone to call naughty and slap on the wrist just to alleviate public discontent. It has to maintain some facade of objectivity or the whole goddamn thing goes to pot, right?

Sure The Establishment will pursue, from time to time, the occasional torture case, or some specific member of the CIA. And the media will call attention to it for a little while, and somebody might get fired, but the whole intent is to Restore Credibility. (Which, let's face it, our government today lacks - whether you're looking from the left or the right.) The United States government has always walked an insanely thin line. And to boot, it's always kept a really firm heel over all its discontent. But increasingly, it's running out of wiggle-room. The late twentieth-century showed some incredibly deft maneuvers. Obama himself was from the outset a wondrously smart choice to nudge towards Presidency.

But reviling Golddigger Sacks to rile support for the financial reform bill (standing at 80% polled support as of this afternoon, I believe) is only going to do so much. The retail property market continues to look shaky, unemployment isn't poised to shrink, and even in the best-case economic scenario climate change is going to render our best laid plans awry.

This is just The Establishment giving the masses another installment of Justice Theater.

How much longer will we suffer it?

EDIT: "Dresden," some of you have asked me, "don't you have a position on SB1070 to share with us?"

"My brothers and sisters and siblings," I have said, "I know nothing better to say than those who have gotten up in the ugly face of capitalist power and spoken themselves."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Armed And Dimwitted

One thing you should know about commies- a lot of us own guns. Despite the stereotype of granola- crunching, sandle- wearing, pacifistic leftists propagated by the blowhards on The Man's News network most of us are just ordinary workin' folk- some of whom enjoy hunting, skeet, or blasting the hell out of tin cans with a semi- automatic rifle as much as any conservative.
There are a growing number of us Lefty shooters organizing at the grassroots level to counter the uber right and corrupt political activities of the National Rifle Association. Firearm ownership has been described by that same organization as an " awesome responsibilty" yet its membership seems determined to act in a awesomely stupid and irresponsible manner.Just look at the recent gathering of openly armed,overweight white dudes in northern VA. They claimed to be defending their 2nd Amendment rights. Yeah, sure guys. What you really wanted to do was parade around in public with a rifle slung over your shoulder and intimidate people you see in your myopic world view as " un- American".
Its that kind of crap, which the NRA remains silent on or even endorses, which is spurring the growth of alternative gunowner organizations who believe that it's not cool for a maniac to walk into a gun show and purchase any damn thing he wants. Or believe that walking around in public trying to scare the shit out of people is kind of an asshole thing to do.
But then again, could you imagine the pants- shitting FOX & Friends would do if a hundred Reds marched through a park with AR- 15s and AKs on their shoulders? Hmmmmm... May Day is coming up.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Goldman [Nut]Sachs


More bullshit.

A bullshit triumvirate, even.

What Goldman Sachs does is usury. Merriam-Websters defines usury as "the lending of money with an interest charge for its use." There is a reason most religions outlaw usury.

"But Dresden," the political economists howl, "without interest rates, we would have no banks!"

Think about that for a minute. Why do we have banks? Ostensibly, we are told from a young age, to house our money. To keep it safe.

Now if that ain't the fox guarding the henhouse!

You know why they have a big fancy safe and an armed guard? Cuz they're bastards, and if people caught on to their game, there'd be riots in the streets, and the people would march into the lobby and redistribute the wealth. Along the bottom. Among the people who created it.

Why do the banks, in our society, safeguard the housing deeds? Why do they stand between us and our ability to have a good life? Why are we only allowed a home when it brings them a profit?

Goldman Sachs contributed to the financial meltdown of the global economy! Not just a local economy, not just one country. THE WHOLE. FUCKING. PLANET. The whole thing. From pole to pole, from midnight to afternoon. Iceland collapsed because of the fallout of the decisions made behind these doors:


Countries. Livelihoods. Lost. Right there under those flags.

All the government money? To the banks. To Sachs.

Fraud is the least word for what has gone on here. It's outright banditry on the one hand, and one giant systemic old boy's club on the other. Their thirst for profit, their industry's outright ownership of the US government, is swiftly driving the world economy into convulsions.

And yet they scream bloody murder when they're held to standards of accountability. And their welfare, of course, is intrinsically tied to the stock market - that so-called indicator of economic prosperity. There is no daily measure of how the working class fares. If we had a play-by-play of job turnover, petty layoffs, workplace safety violations, etc. etc. etc., we would be consumed by a collective dread at the drudgery we share under a common yoke. But so long as the focus is on high rolling pricks like the fine business majors at Goldman Loot-and-sacks, we'll go on believing that teachers at failing schools ought to be fired and business execs who crash a planet's economy can be given a second chance.

"The heathen were able, by the light of reason, to conclude that the usurer is a double-dyed thief and murderer. We Christians, however, hold them in such honour, that we fairly worship them for the sake of their money.... Whoever eats up, robs, and steals the nourishment of another, that man commits as great a murder ... as he who starves a man or utterly undoes him. Such does a usurer, and sits the while safe on his stool [or in his corner office], when he ought rather to be hanging on the gallows, and eaten by as many ravens as he has stolen guilders, if only there were so much flesh on him, that so many ravens could stick their beaks in and share it. Meanwhile, we hang the small thieves ... Little thieves are put in the stocks, great thieves go flaunting in gold and silk."
- Martin Luther, as quoted by KARL MARX in Capital, volume 1

It's time we gathered up the money-lenders and imprisoned them for life, and never let interest and credit rule our society again.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


Well, another tax day has passed us in the good ole USA. And as usual, the Teabaggers picked up their signs and went out a-marchin'.

But what really interests me (since anyone who knows anything about US government and economics knows the Teabaggers have about as much ground to stand on as an astronaut doing a space-walk) is how every year CNN finds some dude to talk about tax reform. And, year after year without fail, it's the flat tax.

Now, it's quickly becoming uncool in some political circles (on the right) to use the word "progressive." (Mostly because conservatives are by definition against progress. Before anyone argues that this is a generalization, consider how the right approaches science. You don't see labor unions calling for the construction of Intelligent Design museums.) But, once upon a time, we had a progressive income tax in this country.

That meant that the more money you made, the more money you paid.

But the flat-tax means everyone gets charged one simple percentage. No if ands or buts.

The problem with the progressive tax wasn't the progressive tax; it was the government and corporations. Corporate lobbyists (you know them, they're the people that actually run our government ... well, them and the unelected bureaucrats) could throw money (and other promises, like sweet jobs and speaking tours) at elected officials and get more and more exemptions added to the tax code.

Until today, when you practically need a lawyer to understand the red tape. And you can drive an armored truck through the loopholes.

Some complications in the tax code benefit working people. It's nice to get a rebate; it's like the government recognizes how hard you work for your money and gives you a tiny little tip of the hat. (Whereas they spit on us the whole rest of the year.) But for the most part, the corporations hire entire departments of people, lawyers and white-collar workers, to figure out how to keep their profit from being converted into taxes.

Because heaven forbid the Fortune 500 and their billions in profit should actually pay for my healthcare, education, or roads. Heaven forbid they should have to give anything back.

You know what, Teabaggers? There are bigger problems than a little bit of your weekly paycheck going to what is admittedly a sprawling, out-of-touch, bloated central government.

What about the faceless corporation that uses you every day of your life to make money? You do the work; you make them thousands, if not millions of dollars every day, and they send you home with chump change. And you scream because the government touches a fraction of a fraction? You're being raped at work and you scream bloody murder because the government is, by equivalent, undressing you with its eyes?

It's foolish. The only entity that would benefit under a flat tax is the corporations.

Let's take three families as our example: a family of the "working poor," a union family from the "middle class," and a wealthy family, maybe from a law background.

Family A, between several low-wage jobs, pulls in $20k a year. They're just above the poverty line (which I myself haven't been above since I graduated college and moved away from home). They can feed their kids and make their rent, whatever. But the parents work long hours, maybe three or four jobs between them or another adult in the family. (I'm not pulling this out of the ether; this is the way it goes in, say, Harlem. Read No Shame in My Game for the deets.) If they pay 10% in taxes, that's $2,000. In their context, that family can't afford to lose that much money. That could be school supplies, three months of groceries, rent or mortgage payments. You start to worry if you can keep shoes on your children's feet. Maybe your kids have to get jobs as teenagers just to help make ends meet, so they can't do as well in school. 10% is a death-blow. Don't even mention health insurance.

Family B, maybe there's two incomes, but one's primary and one's backup. (This is how my parents live.) There's a house, a couple kids, and a couple cars - because, of course, we don't have any goddamn mass transit. If they make, say, $80k, they're doing good. That's about middle class. (With apologies to Senator John McCain.) If they have to pay 10%, that's $8,000. By no means does that signal total demise, but it might make it hard to send both kids to college (as my sister and I found out - I went to state college, she's having trouble continuing her education). It might make it hard to make a car payment here and there, to make renovations to the house, to take care of a sick relative who isn't covered by insurance. The fact of the matter is, the gains made by the labor movement - which brought blue-collar workers into the middle class, previously a realm for professionals and business owners - are being rolled back. More and more of these people are getting foreclosed on, losing their factory jobs, just plain losing out. 10% is precarious for them.

Family C. Ah, Family C, you only think you're middle class. (Of course, compared to the super-rich, who, like those below the poverty line, we've left out of our discussion so far, you are.) Let's say for the sake of argument that only one of the parents work, and they make 163k. Easy enough for a decent lawyer, as long as they're not a public defender. They probably have the nice house in the suburbs or on the coast, can take a foreign vacation every year or two. Don't have to worry about any but the most tragic illnesses, disasters, acts of god. 10% of that income is 16,300. Is that a lot of money? Yes. Can the lawyer live without it? Probably. But again, heaven forbid they forego a new car this year, or can't renovate the kitchen.

We can see as the income goes up, the 10% tax means less and less. To the top 1% of income earners - those who do not live on an hourly wage, but just get boatfulls of money dumped in their account for having gone to business school - 10% is laughable. 10% of a million dollars is only $100,000 - that doesn't matter a goddamn bit when you've got the other $900,000 to play with. Ridiculous executive bonuses are the same way.

But if you live below the poverty line, if you make $10,000 or less, 10% is $1,000, and that could be the difference between a studio apartment in the bad neighborhood and sleeping in your car with a couple stray dogs to keep you warm.

Let's not have a flat-tax. Let's pour the obscene Fortune 500 profits into free housing, healthcare, and food for everyone, huh? I mean, I know that's socialism and all, but this flat-tax bullshit is just lazy.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Go Back To Smoking, It's Less Lethal

Many fast food joints have inflicted culinary atrocities upon the American public, but Kentucky Fried Chicken has pushed the envelope- well smashed right through the fucker, actually- with its Double Down chicken sandwich. Who else but the inventors of the " Famous Bowl", in which every item on their menu was shoved into a cardboard trough and covered in gravy, could think replacing the bun in a sandwich with two pieces of fried chicken was a good idea. There is bacon, processed cheese, and some kind of special sauce in between the chicken pieces. The overall impression of the cheese and dressing oozing out between the chicken breasts is that the Double Down is the end product of a chicken necrophiliac fetishist's sodomization of a batch of Extra Crispy.
This is not a review. When I see a disgusting pile of shit, I don't wander over to it and take a bite- I already know it's not good to eat. I'm not a granola cruncher on some anti- meat rant, either. This sandwich has pushed fast food past the limits of decadence. It is obscene. It is base. It is something from a Lovecraft novel- the geometry is alien and the angles are wrong. If the Old Ones got together for a picnic, they would serve sandwiches like this.
What is really disturbing is that while the Double Down is being sold as a gimmick in upscale suburbs and college towns for a limited time, it is likely to join the McRib and Chicken Fries as a staple fast food item in poorer urban and rural areas around the country. The final, grotesque irony is that while capitalism deprives millions of poor children around the world of a subsistence diet its adherents in the American food industry make the most unhealthy, least nutritious food known in history more affordable than anything else to eat.

Monday, April 5, 2010

A Different Pothole Patch

It's the 21st Century, people.

I might have to start a lot of entries like that, but I feel like our frame of reference is so often the dark ages of our past that we don't stop and ever think about the amazing level to which our global society has ascended.

That said: why don't we have an efficient network of mass transit?

I'm not talking like, "oh why don't more people ride the Greyhound."

I mean like, why can't we ride from New York to Los Angeles on high speed commuter rail.

Or even Minneapolis to Milwaukee, for Christ's sake.

Just look at the potholes in your neighborhood. Just look at em. Those rifts in the concrete that you have to dodge around every day on your way to work, school, home? Those rough patches that throw off your alignment ever-so-slightly (or maybe it feels like it's going to snap your axle in half?) every time you run it over?

That is twentieth-century technology, man.

(The twentieth-century doesn't deserve to be put in caps. It doesn't deserve a numerical shorthand. The twentieth-century was a century of blood, sweat, and imperialism. The twentieth-century was ten decades of idiocy and madness. The twentieth-century was one fucking cop-out to corporations after another.)

Yet here we are, mending and patching and filling the infrastructure. What did we do when the I-35 bridge collapsed in Minneapolis? We built a new, awesome bridge. Now, these potholes aren't killing anybody. (Yet. There's a nasty one in the alley next to my apartment, though. That fucker looks downright hungry.) Right? A pothole is relatively innocuous, right? An everyday little problem that we complain about when we want to point out how bad a job the local government is doing.

Well let's be honest. Minneapolis and Saint Paul do fix their potholes. You kind of have to in a region where the winters are so bad, the roads get severely damaged. But you know the recent budget woes will translate into worse streets. (The article's a little old now, sorry.) And bad streets translate into car repairs for the residents of the Twin Cities and suburbs. Car repairs we probably can't afford, considering we have other things to deal with. (You know, foreclosures, getting a job if we need one, health insurance bills, car insurance, the cost of child rearing, the outrageous cost of laundry in our apartment buildings ... that sort of thing.)

But then you have to think to yourself, isn't there a better way?

I mean, we're the most productive country in the history of the planet. We're such an innovative people that we can put men on the moon (and vaporize women and children in Hiroshima).

Isn't there some way to get around the potholes?

I imagine expanding the lightrail system here in the Twin Cities is a move applauded by the general population. But it isn't enough; in fact, it's hardly anything. It's like trying to set carbon dioxide emission cuts 50 years from now ... by the time it takes effect, it'll hardly even be adjusting to fit the situation. By the time the lightrail line in the Twin Cities gets implemented, we'll have god knows how many new commuters on the road. (All of them clogging the expanded 35W, of course.)

I say, quit dicking around. The mayor and the city council and most of all, the people of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, need to come out and say, rip up some streets. Rip up some freeway. Put in more rail. Put in enough rail that not one resident needs to set foot in a car to get where they need to go. Cut out these low-occupancy vehicles (we call them cars) and put in transit that will cut down on pollution. Hybrid trains, electric trains, magnetic trains, whatever.

That will put hundreds of people to work, if not thousands. And then we can decouple bus funding from new car sales. (Yes, your buses are funded by a tax on new car purchases - wrap your head around that one.) We can expand the bus coverage for the streets that are left and lower the fare.

We need to take the burden of transportation off the commuters. We can cover the cost with a low fare, a tax on the privilege of doing business here (for the big corporations), and subsidies from the federal government. (After all, they bailed out the banks and subsidize big business all the time, it's time to give a little kickback.)

While that's being done, we could add high-speed rail lines to connect to Chicago, Milwaukee, Iowa City, and anywhere else our intrepid little hearts desire.

Because this is the 21st Century.