The Dollar Sucks So Bad that Israel Demands US Aid in EUROS

SATIRE — This is a petite follow-up to my recent Essay — My Big Fat Rant: Saudi Arabia Set to ABANDON the U.S. Dollar — wherein I discuss strategies for protecting yourself against the accelerating crash of the USD.

How bad is it?

Secretary of State Rice has acknowledged a communique from Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Levni which requests that all foreign aid payments and loans from the United States be made in Euros rather than in Dollars. Foreign Minister Levni cited the rapidly declining dollar and it’s disfavor as a world currency as reasons for the request.

FYI (and ROFL) — the Euro is now worth about 1.4 US Dollars.



I’m going to keep this Essay short because, like a fine champagne, a mere sip of this elixir of exquisite irony is enough to savor the cacophony of the underlying thud as life as we know it hits bottom.

“In the spirit of Yom Kippur, the United States will not hold Israel to any agreements obligating them to accept Dollars as payment for their foreigh aid. We will translate our obligations into Euros or whatever currency that best fits Israel’s needs” Secretary RIce said in the Friday, Sept 21 announcement.

“We need to place our Israeli obligations at the top of our national prioriy list. Israel should not suffer any inconvenience due to currency fluctuations” said Rice before heading off to Camp David.

“In the spirit of Yom Kippur?” Oy vey.

A similar request from Egypt was declined last week. Who’s next? Haiti? Sudan? Signs are now appearing in the government offices of the poorest nations of the world that read:

Sorry folks, we can only accept Euros for our foreign aid. Thank you for your cooperation.

Actually, this “story” really is very funny; perhaps because it has the ring of truthiness.

Pony Party: How to make a pickle glow – Part II

Light Emitting Pickle here to bring you the most recent open thread. First, a few words about Pickle Pony Parties:

Please do not recommend a Pony Party when you see one.  There will be another along in a few hours.

Now that you’ve got your pickle all set up, we’re ready to make it glow! You need to fork your pickle. Stick one fork into your dill-icious cuke, then the other. Make sure the tines are all the way in, but NOT touching. Clamp each fork to a ring stand, plug the cord into a variac (NOT THE WALL!). Turn off the lights and slowly turn up the juice. The pickle will start to smoke, as water evaporates, and then you’ll see this:

Congratulations! You can make pickles emit light!

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Pony Party: How to make a pickle glow – Part II

Light Emitting Pickle here to bring you the most recent open thread. First, a few words about -Pickle- Pony Parties:

Please do not recommend a Pony Party when you see one.  There will be another along in a few hours.

Now that you’ve got your pickle all set up, we’re ready to make it glow! You need to fork your pickle. Stick one fork into your dill-icious cuke, then the other. Make sure the tines are all the way in, but NOT touching. Clamp each fork to a ring stand, plug the cord into a variac (NOT THE WALL!). Turn off the lights and slowly turn up the juice. The pickle will start to smoke, as water evaporates, and then you’ll see this:

Congratulations! You can make pickles emit light!

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Iraq: A GOP Change in Strategy

According to multiple sources of mine at the White House, RNC, Capitol Hill, and several Georgetown bars, a consensus seems to be forming among White House and GOP strategists on a bold new political strategy that can be spun as an Iraq withdrawal plan and as a much needed cost cutting measure to reduce Operation Iraqi Freedom expenditures.  When this efficient new strategy is implemented, millions of taxpayer dollars will be saved on Army transport, supply, and logistics costs; and troop levels in Iraq will be systematically reduced on a timeline, in accordance with the wishes of the American people. 

Advocates of this developing GOP strategy for Iraq, not to be unveiled until the propaganda is sufficiently catapulted, are impressed with its cost-effectiveness elements and the bottom line business rationale behind it.  According to this rationale, there’s no way to prevent at least 1,000 American soldiers from being killed over the coming year, in a prohibitively expensive occupation that needs some cost cutting, so why even deploy them to Iraq? 

Just blow them up here.

 

This bold new GOP strategy is still in the process of being honed to perfection, various details still need to be worked out, but it’s adherents are confident that this dramatic new phase in the war on terror will confuse the hell out of the insurgents and buy time for the Surge to work even better than it already is. 

This is the basic plan:

Once a month, in a spirit of bipartisan unity, Joe Lieberman would pick 100 soldiers at random from our stateside combat brigades in training for their next deployment to Iraq.  They would be flown to Washington and lined up in formation on the White House lawn.  The Commander Guy would swagger out to a podium, give a speech about the great job they’re doing defending freedom, etc, etc, and then a patriotic defense contractor would blow them up, at the bargain price for the taxpayers of only $100,000 per soldier.

After each of these monthly demonstrations of Bush’s heroic resolve to win the war on terror, Sean Hannity would have a Freedom Concert on the National Mall.  Halliburton employees would retrieve the body parts from the White House lawn and FedEx them to the concert so Sean and the other real Americans in attendance can give the fallen heroes a grateful moment of silence, and then the Clint Black songs and proud celebrations of America’s greatness would resume. 

Like any plan, this one still has a few minor drawbacks to sort out before unleashing it on the evildoers.  Monthly explosions in Washington might be misinterpreted by the liberal media as discouraging, but their whining can be dismissed as typical leftwing cowardice.  There’d be fewer troops in Iraq but Blackwater USA could pick up the slack.  No problem.  And all those predatory lenders outside the gates of Army bases would lose some business, but they could be compensated by the DHS designating them as national landmarks and thus likely terrorist targets, which would land each of them $500,000 in government grants. 

Reid and Pelosi will be shocked when they first hear about this decisive new GOP strategy, but they’ll come around.  They’ll issue a press statement or two deploring the blowing up of American soldiers by defense department contractors, they’ll call it a misguided, irrational and counterproductive strategy.  But they’ll cave when Bush scolds them for “not supporting the body parts”.

The families of Holy Joe’s selected soldiers will be horrified and outraged, but who listens to the families of dead soldiers anyway?  Besides, they can be dismissed by the very serious conservative pundits and foreign policy experts on TV as isolated people who only have a limited personal perspective of this, and who are consequently unable to see the bigger picture and grasp the important strategic benefits.

Three out of every four Americans will be stunned when this strategy is unveiled.  Some of them might even call their congressmen and senators about it.  But they’ll be brushed off with polite clichés from a staffer thanking them for their views, and will then be asked for a reelection campaign contribution.  Bush’s base will be assured in a glossy direct mail brochure that the 100 soldiers selected to be blown up each month will by pure coincidence be Black, Latino, Asian American, or Native American, so they’ll enthusiastically praise the plan, and proclaim all over rightwing talk radio that future historians will hail it as a stroke of political and military genius. 

In addition to the satisfaction derived from inspiring their knuckle-dragging racist base, GOP strategists are savoring the economic benefits that would ensue.  According to Pentagon studies, getting a soldier killed in Iraq costs American taxpayers between $1 million and $5 million dollars, depending on how many deployments they survive before getting blown up.  Blowing them up here in America at the reduced price of $100,000 each would save a lot of taxpayer dollars, and restore Wall Street confidence that Bush and the GOP’s $900,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 spending rampage since 2001 was just a misunderstanding and that they truly are fiscally responsible. 

But much more importantly, this new strategy will strike fear into the dark hearts of Islamofascists everywhere.

It will bring them to their knees.

Allah’s warriors will tremble in shock and awe seeing Bush blowing up American soldiers right on the White House lawn.  They’ll see that two can play their little homicide bomber games.  They’ll see that their mighty adversary knows a thing or two about psychological warfare.  They’ll finally understand the steely resolve he has to win this clash of civilizations, and in less than a Friedman Unit this epic battle between good and evil will be all over but for the parades. 

Bin Laden will appear live on Al Jazeera and tell every active and aspiring jihadist from Djakarta to Algiers that it’s hopeless to resist a Commander Guy like that.  He’ll shave his beard, divorce his wives, accept Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior, take Communion, and tell them all to convert to Christianity and go shopping for the rest of their lives.  Then he’ll break his satellite phone out of storage, call the White House, arrange a flight to Pearl Harbor, and surrender on the deck of the battleship Missouri. 

Victory!

Two more terms for Bush!

Another Permanent Republican Majority! 

(This is the strategy, and these are the expectations of White House and Congressional Republicans, according to my many sources in Washington, who have universally staked their reputations on its authenticity.  This hasn’t reassured me much because they haven’t been right about anything yet, so I’ve been reluctant to post this.  They may just want to sucker me into destroying my credibility on Docudharma, but I can do that just fine without any help from them, so maybe there really is such a plan.) 

Ultimately, after pondering this for several sleepless nights, I’ve concluded that this plan and its projected impact on UBL, Iraq, and the jihadist movement are so bizarre and off the charts loony that who else could have formulated them but Doug Feith?

Consequently, I’m deeply concerned that the stupidest fucker on the planet is back in the saddle somewhere in the OVP or the Pentagon.  If that’s true, conditions in Washington, which many of us think cannot possibly get any more surreal, may be about to leave surreal far behind and head into territory so far beyond human experience that mere words will never be capable of describing it.

Four at Four

This is an OPEN THREAD. Here are four stories in the news at 4 o’clock to get you started.

  1. According to the Washington Post, the U.S. military’s Asymmetric Warfare Group in Iraq has a classified program to lure ‘insurgents’ with ‘bait’. “A Pentagon group has encouraged some U.S. military snipers in Iraq to target suspected insurgents by scattering pieces of “bait,” such as detonation cords, plastic explosives and ammunition, and then killing Iraqis who pick up the items, according to military court documents. ¶ The classified program was described in investigative documents related to recently filed murder charges against three snipers who are accused of planting evidence on Iraqis they killed.”

    Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, said such a baiting program should be examined “quite meticulously” because it raises troubling possibilities, such as what happens when civilians pick up the items. “In a country that is awash in armaments and magazines and implements of war, if every time somebody picked up something that was potentially useful as a weapon, you might as well ask every Iraqi to walk around with a target on his back,” Fidell said.

    It is unknown how many people have been killed by the baiting tactic.

  2. The New York Times reports post-9/11 cases fuel criticism of Michael Mukasey as the Attorney General nominee. “Critics say a 1984 material witness law was abused by the Justice Department, and by Judge Mukasey and his judicial colleagues, to hold terrorist suspects indefinitely after Sept. 11 without having to accuse them of a crime and afford them the rights of a criminal defendant. ¶ The roundup of men like [Osama] Awadallah under the material witness law in September and October 2001 was an early effort by the Bush administration to rewrite or reinterpret laws on the detention, interrogation and surveillance of people suspected of terrorist ties after the Sept. 11 attacks — a campaign that is now the subject of furious debate between the White House and the Democratic leaders of Congress. ¶ Critics say the material witness cases before Judge Mukasey after Sept. 11 offer insight into his performance and temperament at a time of duress. The cases came before him at a time when New York was still in turmoil, with the courthouse in Lower Manhattan, only blocks from the rubble of the World Trade Center, partly shut down and operating under extraordinarily tight security… Prominent defense lawyers and legal scholars have said that Judge Mukasey and other federal judges were too quick to accept the administration’s reasoning after Sept. 11 that young Arab men should be held as ‘material witnesses’ in terrorism investigations. It was a ruse, the lawyers say, for the government to detain them, often for months at a time, without any need to cite evidence of possible wrongdoing… ¶ The Justice Department’s widespread use of the 1984 federal material-witness law to detain dozens of young Arab men after the Sept. 11 attacks has been widely criticized by legal scholars as an abuse of the law, which was intended to prevent witnesses in criminal cases from fleeing before they could testify.” Mukasey is no friend to civil liberties. No wonder he is a good friend of Giuliani and Bush’s nominee.

  3. Iraq has backed down from its initial demand that Blackwater USA leave Iraq. Reuters reports, Iraq says no Blackwater move until after inquiry. “Iraq said on Monday no action would be taken against U.S. private security firm Blackwater over a shooting in which 11 people were killed until after a joint investigation with U.S. officials. ¶ Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had vowed to freeze the work of Blackwater, which guards the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, and prosecute its staff over the shooting eight days ago which he called a crime. But Iraq has since appeared to soften its stand.” The U.S. and Iraq are conducting a joint-investigation into the shootings. Plus the U.S. “embassy is conducting a separate inquiry into the circumstances of the shooting”. Iraq’s own investigation concluded Blackwater was unprovoked. According to Reuters, Iraq is saying now that a Blackwater departure from Iraq would leave a “security vacuum“. The AP reports that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki kept a “polite distance… and avoided discussion” of the shooting. Blackwater is employed by the U.S. State Department to protect embassy workers and diplomats.

    In other Blackwater news from the weekend, The News & Observer reported that the U.S. government is investigating Blackwater for illegal weapons shipments to Iraq. “The U.S. government is investigating whether private military contractor Blackwater USA… has been shipping unlicensed automatic weapons and military goods to Iraq. ¶ Two former Blackwater employees have pleaded guilty in Greenville to weapons charges and are cooperating with federal officials investigating Blackwater… ¶ The investigation into Blackwater’s weapons is noteworthy because Congress and the Iraqi government have criticized the company and accused it of acting with impunity. One of its contractors, for example, shot and killed an Iraqi vice president’s security guard on Christmas Eve in Baghdad. Blackwater sent the man back to the United States and fired him. He has not been charged in the U.S. or Iraq. ¶ Two sources familiar with the investigation said that prosecutors are looking at whether Blackwater lacked permits for dozens of automatic weapons used at its training grounds in Moyock. The investigation is also looking into whether Blackwater was shipping weapons, night-vision scopes, armor, gun kits and other military goods to Iraq without the required permits.” While yesterday, Reuters reported that Blackwater denies making illegal weapons exports to Iraq. “‘Allegations that Blackwater was in any way associated or complicit in unlawful arms activities are baseless. The company has no knowledge of any employee improperly exporting weapons,’ the company said in a statement… ¶ Two former Blackwater employees had pleaded guilty in Greenville, North Carolina, to weapons charges and were cooperating with the federal investigation. ¶ Court records showed Kenneth Wayne Cashwell and William Ellsworth Grumiaux pleaded guilty earlier in the year to possessing, receiving and concealing between May 2003 and August 2005 stolen firearms that had been ‘shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce.'”

  4. The Washington Post details how a nuclear-armed bomber was accidentally allowed to fly over U.S. airspace in they article, ‘Missteps in the Bunker‘ by Joby Warrick and Walter Pincus. Details point to “security failures at multiple levels in North Dakota and Louisiana”… A simple error in a missile storage room led to missteps at every turn, as ground crews failed to notice the warheads, and as security teams and flight crew members failed to provide adequate oversight and check the cargo thoroughly. An elaborate nuclear safeguard system, nurtured during the Cold War and infused with rigorous accounting and command procedures, was utterly debased, the investigation’s early results show. ¶ The incident came on the heels of multiple warnings — some of which went to the highest levels of the Bush administration, including the National Security Council — of security problems at Air Force installations where nuclear weapons are kept. The risks are not that warheads might be accidentally detonated, but that sloppy procedures could leave room for theft or damage to a warhead, disseminating its toxic nuclear materials.

One more story below the fold…

  1. The Guardian brings news that Marcel Marceau has died. “He was the poet laureate of silence, a melancholy clown with a white face and striped jumper who changed modern theatre and inspired a generation of moonwalking, door-opening street performers. ¶ Marcel Marceau, the world’s most famous mime artist, has died aged 84. A French Jew who survived the Nazi occupation, Marceau was France’s biggest theatrical export of the past 50 years.” The New York Times has Marceau’s obituary.

So, what else is happening?

Criticizing Speech Versus Punishing Speech

I have been very critical of Move On’s “Betray Us” ad. I thought the Senate’s censure resolution was silly but not serious. A waste of time but not a threat. Perhaps this description by Glenn Greenwald of a threat to PUNISH speech, in this case, Columbia University’s, for its decision to invite the Iranian President Ahmadenijad to speak there, will illustrate the difference between criticizing speech and punishing speech:

In an interview with The New York Sun, the speaker of the Assembly, Sheldon Silver, said lawmakers, outraged over Columbia’s insistence on allowing the Iranian president to speak at its World Leaders Forum, would consider reducing capital aid and other financial assistance to the school.

“There are issues that Columbia may have before us that obviously this cavalier attitude would be something that people would recall,” Mr. Silver said. “Obviously, there’s some degree of capital support that has been provided to Columbia in the past. These are things people might take a different view of . . . knowing that this is that kind of an institution” . . .

“It’s not going to go away just because this episode ends. Columbia University has to know . . . that they will be penalized,” an assemblyman of Brooklyn, Dov Hikind, who also attended the rally, said. . . .

Penalized. Punished. Not criticized. This makes all the difference in the world to me. Legally. And Substantively. Censuring Move On with a tootless sense of the Senate bill is silly. What Silver and Hikind propose is a violation of the First Amendment. The differences are stark. Where’s the blogswarm on this? Where’s the concern for free speech?

[UPDATE] A lesson in free speech.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took the stage at Columbia University on Monday to a blistering reception from the president of the school, who said the hard-line leader behaved like “a petty and cruel dictator.”

Ahmadinejad smiled as Columbia President Lee Bollinger took him to task over Iran’s human-rights record and foreign policy, and Ahmadinejad’s statements denying the Holocaust and calling for the disappearance of Israel.

“Mr. President, you exhibit all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator,” Bollinger said, to loud applause.

He said Ahmadinejad’s denial of the Holocaust might fool the illiterate and ignorant.

“When you come to a place like this it makes you simply ridiculous,” Bollinger said. “The truth is that the Holocaust is the most documented event in human history.”

Ahmadinejad rose, also to applause, and after a religious invocation, said Bollinger’s opening was: “an insult to information and the knowledge of the audience here.”

“There were insults and claims that were incorrect, regretfully,” Ahmadinejad said, accusing Bollinger of falling under the influence of the hostile U.S. press and politicians.

“I should not begin by being affected by this unfriendly treatment,” he said.

During a question and answer session with the audience, Ahmadinejad appeared agitated. In response to one question, Ahmadinejad denied he was questioning the existence of the Holocaust.

“Granted this happened, what does it have to do with the Palestian people?” he said. . . .

This is why free speech is good. The sunshine will wipe away the false and the vile.

Marx/ Prashad/ OPOL: Radicalism in a neoliberal age

crossposted at DailyKos.com

This is a defense of OPOL’s diary “Why I Am A Radical.”  Some of the respondents thought that OPOL wasn’t “really a radical,” others thought that  our “solution” to present-day political problems should focus on the election of Hillary or Obama or Edwards or whomever, more others just cheered another well-decorated OPOL diary.  Here I wish to set radicalism on the bedrock of economic thinking incited by Karl Marx in the Preface to “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy,” and compare the words of OPOL to those of Vijay Prashad, from his book “Fat Cats and Running Dogs.”

If you haven’t already, go back to read OPOL’s diary “Why I Am A Radical,” in which he suggests a break from the general notion of “constructive engagement” that has characterized most of the petty-reformist pseudo-initiatives we’ve seen over the past thirty years or so:

If you’re thinking I have nothing but scorn for our political system, you are right.  Just look what it has wrought.  It deserves nothing but scorn.

In the response section, many people doubted that OPOL was a radical.  Here was the most substantive portion of the explanation he gave in his diary:

The hope that we can re-purpose this evil machine and refocus our intelligence, talent and treasure on solving the very real problems of impending environmental disaster, sustainable agriculture, alternative fuels, providing food and potable water for the world’s population, providing rational and meaningful healthcare to all, fixing our broken system of public education, repairing and replacing our crumbling infrastructure and etcetera and etcetera makes me a radical.

Now, OPOL thinks WE can solve these problems.  He suggests, moreover, that our political system deserves nothing but scorn in this regard. 

So, for OPOL, being radical involves a basic support for popular rule, in which the people themselves are to solve their problems, regardless of how corrupt the politicians are.

This diary will involve a basic examination of the practical workability of OPOL’s idea of “being radical,” looking both at problem and solutions.

First, the problem:

In “Why I Am A Radical,” OPOL suggests that the main problem of our government is the domination of what he calls the “Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex”:

Now, take a careful look at the graph — all the links between the various entities are made by money.  This is, in short, economic analysis.  Thus, insofar as this actually describes the reality-at-hand, we are talking about economic power.

What I intend to suggest, in the paragraphs below, is that OPOL’s depiction of our corrupt political realities is confirmed by the economic realities of today, and that what we are faced with today is not that Bush hijo is some wild aberration from a calm and placid political reality, nor that the neoconservatives, nor the Republicans, are some singular villainy in a world otherwise permeated by the Forces of Good, but rather that what is going on today is the result of an economic system characterized by the distortions of neoliberalism.

Back to Marx

There is a philosophy, an old philosophy, which started with the reality of economic power and proceeded from there.  The philosophy I had in mind started with the preface to Marx’s 1859 work, the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy:

In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness.

So there are economic relations, and these economic relations form a foundation for society.  Law, politics, and social consciousness “sit atop” economic reality in this way.

Now, the debates I skimmed through when I was an English major in the late ’80s/ early ’90s borrowed directly from the passage I quoted above, so it’s pretty famous.  Those old debates, however, were about whether the economic base “controlled” culture, or could culture “control” itself or the economic superstructure.  The debate about what controls what, IMO, really ignores the way Marx has framed the above quote.  (Lots of folks claim to read Marx; some of them actually read Marx.)  So it was irrelevant.  Control isn’t the issue: the issue is that, when we read a work of literature or analyze a political system, we look at that object in light of the reigning economic system at the time of its formation, whether that system be early, agricultural capitalism or late financial capitalism or feudalism or the Roman Empire or whatever.

Let’s restore focus in this way.  Marx’s point here is that each cultural situation, regardless of time and place, is framed by the economic world that goes on around it.  Most important for Marx are the “relations of production” of this economic world.  So what are the relations of production?  For Marx, these were characterized under capitalism by the exploitation of wage labor.

Marx viewed the society of his time as divided into two classes: workers and owners.  The owners are that class which owned the capital assets: the factories and other production facilities.  The workers sell their labor to the owners, who use this labor to produce a surplus.  This surplus is represented by the fruits of the workers’ labor, commodities, which are then sold to realize a profit.  The profit, then, is used by the workers to extend their control over society as a whole.  This, in a nutshell, is the theory of surplus value.

In Marx’s version, the owning class serves as a class of vampires, sucking the profit out of the world much as we might imagine a vampire sucking the blood out of his victims.  In such a way, the theory of surplus value leads to a contradiction, which Marx eagerly seized: if the consumers of the working class are too poor because they’ve been working for no wages, they won’t be able to afford the products they created in the factories owned by the owning class.  Thus the capitalist system must eventually stall as an engine of growth, unless a consumer class is created that will buy the system’s products so that the capitalists can realize their profits.

Now, Marx was born too early to recognize the multiplicity of capitalisms that we see.  The biggest distinction we might make between our era and his is that our era has seen the invention of Keynesian economics and the managed economy.  It was this, more than anything, which was responsible for the creation of the modern consumer economy. 

Keynes’ innovation was to have governments provide guarantees for those whose economic failures would hurt the economy the most.  Government guarantees were provided by, basically, the printing of more money, and the value of this money would be realized by the growth of the economy as a whole.  It is the wholesale adoption of Keynesian economic policies in the more privileged nations that is responsible for the largest spurt of growth the capitalist system has seen in all history, between (more or less) 1948 and 1971.

Now, we no longer live in a (fully) Keynesian economy (though portions of it are still in evidence), and we probably can’t go back to Keynesian economics, either.  Let me explain.  Keynesian economics required three basic preconditions:

1) In each economy there needs to be a relatively autonomous national economic system.  In the abovementioned historical period, the autonomy of national economic systems was provided by the Bretton Woods system, which regulated the international monetary system.  Today, the global economy offers individual nations no autonomy, and the universal currency is the US dollar, under a condition known as dollar hegemony.

2) There needs to be a solid basis for economic growth in each nation, in order to realize each nation’s expansion of the money supply.  Instead, what we have today is uncertain economic growth, at an average rate (outside of China) that is significantly less than what it was during the heyday of Keynesian economics.

3) There needs to be a class compromise, in which the owning class and the working class both agree to avoid waging any sort of class warfare or class struggle against the other.  Today we witness a full-scale class war, directed from the top, an attempt to dispossess the working class led primarily by the Bush administration.

So none of these “relations of production,” such as once characterized the Keynesian era of capitalism (1948-1971, more or less), fully apply today.  Instead of Keynesianism, what we have for today’s “relations of productions” is neoliberal capitalism, or the “Age of Finance Capital.”  This era is characterized by (in Harry Shutt’s words) the “recurrent excess supply of capital in relation to the demand for it.”  (3)  There are simply too many investors trying to make a profit, and so government becomes the ultimate investment because, since it controls the printing presses which crank out the money, it can be made to crank out a profit for anyone who controls it.  Thus, unlike with Keynesianism, the world of the “Age of Finance Capital” operates within a slow and steady reversion to the “relations of production” that applied during Marx’s era of capitalism, in which what was most obvious was the owning class’s exploitation of the working class.

Situating radicalism in neoliberal times: Vijay Prashad

If we were to combine OPOL’s outrage with an economic analysis of this era, we might get Vijay Prashad’s (2003) book Fat Cats and Running Dogs: The Enron Stage of Capitalism

Now, Vijay Prashad is one of my favorite writers.  On the covers of his books he describes himself as “associate professor and director of International Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.”  He’s got a Znet page, and a bio put out by the University of Oregon suggests that he grew up in Calcutta.  He does, though, keep in touch with grassroots movements here in the US: his book “Keeping Up with the Dow Joneses” contains a discussion of the Kensington Worker’s Rights Union, among other organizations.  Those folks are radicals.  (Right now I’m busy reading his most recent book, The Darker Nations.  I’ll get back to you on that one.)

Fat Cats and Running Dogs, ostensibly about the scandal accompanying Enron’s bankruptcy, is really about how neoliberalism, as an economic doctrine, serves as a “manual for corporate terrestrial conquest” (68).  This, of course, is the logical extension of the excess of capital discussed in Harry Shutt’s The Trouble with Capitalism; the conversion of the world into a set of mechanisms for corporate profit.  The central metaphor of the book is that the “fat cats” are the corporate leaders, and the “running dogs” are the politicians.  Sound familiar?

So that’s the theme of Prashad’s book.  In the content of Fat Cats, Prashad shows the readers how the Enron scandal, far from being an aberration of the beginning of the 21st century, was the norm, and that “Enronism is here to stay, even as Enron is now gone” (149).  But that’s not why I’m bringing up this book.  I want to read a few select passages from its introduction, to reveal Prashad’s basic affinity with the prose of OPOL.

One of the first things Prashad does in Fat Cats is to suggest that the Enron scandal is not unique:

To indict corporations like Enron alone for the chaos that befell the world after the rise of neoliberalism is to miss the crucial function of the running dogs in the tale.  Politicians who managed the neoliberal state did not willy-nilly have to give in to rapacious corporations.  But they connived with the corporate logic to wrest sovereignty from the people and turn it over to profit.  What neoliberalism did in the last three decades for the nations of the overdeveloped world was to make democracy into a commodity and turn the people’s representatives into its employees.  (5)

Democracy a commodity, politicians sold out to corporations.  Does any of this prose seem familiar?  Prashad’s explanation for how this is so waxes poetic, in OPOL fashion:

The running dogs did not sell their votes; they are not opportunists and did not act on behalf of the fat cats only because they had been paid via campaign contributions.  Rather, they acted for the fat cats because both live off of the continent of sleaze and see the populace as a vast labor pool intended to fatten the hog upon which both feed.  (6)

Remember OPOL’s vow:

The knowledge that our system is so compromised by corruption that it will never (in its present form) serve the people makes me a radical.

And consider OPOL’s dismissal of the “better” running dogs:

The understanding that timidity, simple solutions, or half-measures such as ‘voting for better people’ will not have any appreciable affect on the entrenched and corrupt machine our government has become makes me a radical.

In the introduction to his book, Prashad proceeds to explain the Enron Stage of Capitalism in its essence:

Here is another push by capitalist forces to entrap areas of economic life that had once been outside the sway of the commodity form.  During the era of social democracy from the 1930s to the mid-1970s, capitalist relations did not overwhelm the realm of water, air, energy, health, and education.  But for over three decades, especially since the 1990s, during neoliberal times, these protected zones have come under pressure from transnational corporations and international finance institutions arguing that unproductive zones need to be opened to the efficiency of the profit-driven marketplace.  (7)

Look familiar?  Compare this with OPOL’s list of grievances, especially this summary:

The understanding that the greed-driven dynamic dominated by the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex will doom all life on earth in the foreseeable future if not changed and changed radically makes me a radical.

OK, so Prashad is a bit more specific than OPOL.  OPOL has charisma.  You do the comparisons here.

SO WHAT ARE PRASHAD’S SOLUTIONS?

They look like OPOL’s, though a bit more specific:

Build a people’s economy (202)

For some time now I’ve been trying to get OPOL to think in terms of creating an alternative economy, unplugging the life-blood of the people from the vampire-fangs of corporate control.  Most of my own personal energy has been in this vein, with work on Food Not Bombs and the Pomona College Natural Farm.

Dare to stop police brutality (206)

Certainly OPOL, who knows what police brutality is, can sympathize with this, one of the most central of Prashad’s theses.  OPOL’s words about the Bush police state:

The certain knowledge that our government spies on peaceniks and ordinary Americans as though they were heinous criminals makes me a radical.

Protest the assault on reason (208)

This seems really central not only to OPOL’s diaries, but to the daily fare of DKos as a whole.

CONCLUSION: Is OPOL a radical?

Does it really matter that much?  The entire political spectrum from “right” to “left” (whatever those terms mean anymore) today promises us and our children an eventual death from abrupt climate change or “privatization” or bad medical care or whatever Naomi Klein calls “disaster capitalism.”  What’s necessary is the oversight capability, to see and criticize the system as a whole.  The “mainstream” just isn’t doing it.

[poll id=”

63

“]

Frankenstein Finance: Supercomputers Play Craps with Mortgages!

No kidding – what is at the heart of the credit industry meltdown is so bizarre that Kurt Vonnegut might have channeled the story:  literally a game of computerized craps.

While the US homeowner is being impugned and scapegoated for the credit meltdown in the MSM, the comely mask was torn off a monster, exposing insider trading at the heart of the fiasco.  While the MSM pillories the US mortgage holders, finance media blogsphere erupts into a field day satirizing “Frankenstein Finance” and computers gone berserk

Time to shred the costumery and parlance adorning hedge funds.  This is too easy to understand.  This credit crash evokes 2001: A Space Odyssey and the treacly voice of Hal, one seemingly omniscient computer. 

Hal, you there?  Hal, can you help us make sense of this mess?

[note:  “LSD economics for poets…” is coming.  I need to put this up first as a sort of reference page – cross-posted at DKos to little notice]

“Dave?  Dave?  What are you DOoooing, Daaaaave??”

August 9 – The Wall Street Journal (Henny Sender and Kate Kelly): “Computers don’t always work. That was the lesson so far this month for many so-called quant hedge funds, whose trading is dictated by complex computer programs

 
“Dave, calm down…  You’re Getting Emotional, Dave…”

Quant funds – ‘quant’ stands for quantitative — generally operate by building computer models of market behavior and then allowing the computer programs to dictate trading
(…)
‘Our risk models failed to pick up the fact that we were due for a correction,’ says Keith Campbell, founder of Campbell & Co. ‘We were highly diversified. It was the perfect negative storm.'” source

In fairness not all hedge funds used the “quant” system.  But evidently the Frankenstein species is endemic now to hedge fund trade.

Yes, Computers Playing Craps

A fellow Kossack verifies that the name of the derivatives game (think of a dealer at a game table) is craps  in his response to my comment:

I used to be a “Derivatives” trader. I think that Craps is a better comparison for derivatives than Poker. All the side bets in Craps is what it is all about. That is exactly what derivatives are all about. Side Bets.
(…)
A friend of mine said I should go and play craps and that would speed up my trading in options. (Realize I was making hundreds of trades a day for a large discount brokerage at a large call center.) I went that weekend and learned to play craps and realized that derivatives and craps are basically the same game…

Again for fairness sake, please read the full comment, which explains that derivatives can  be a good thing (in the hands of humans).  Farmers for one would be lost without that trade. 

But recently a lot of supercomputers ripped the hull out of their collective boat, venturing up the proverbial creek sans paddle.  They weren’t programmed for stormy weather.

“Dave, stop.  Please.  Dave, I Can Help You…”

Oooopsie Daisy, a little insider trading comes to the light of day…

… inventors of these funds tried to put together what he labels an “Ivy League Ponzi scheme” that attempted to pair put-and-call options with borrowed money
(…)
“…when hedge funds multiply, they essentially bet against one another and require one another to validate their bets,” he says. It was doomed to failure, he says.  source

Borrowed money… mark that phrase.

But if They’re Rich Why Not Use Their Own Money?
And just how much borrowed money is in hedge funds?

Take a deep breath; sit down, consider what Al Martin has to say in his analysis of the New York Federal Reserve Bank’s public statement about hedge funds:

the $17-trillion hedge fund industry [figure includes actual assets plus “market positions” at the time of writing, now decreased – Stonemason], 93% of which is debt financed, or in other words, based principally on borrowed money (…)the principal driver of the global economic collapse scenario is and will be the hedge fund industry.
(…)
As the Fed points out, referring to the total “assets” of the hedge fund industry is a misnomer. It should be really called the total “debt” of the hedge fund industry, since 93% of their assets are debt, even though they carry it as “assets” on the books.
(…)
aggregate hedge fund debt is now approximately twice the average daily ‘free money supply’ of the entire planet. Free money supply (…) “free” meaning “net,” i.e. the unencumbered money supply of the planet.

In other words, they borrow money (at cheap interest rates) to lend the same money out (at very expensive interest rates) to mortgage holders of dubious credit and other debtors who “deserve” to have to pay high interest rates.

Hedge funds are exclusive because of the “risk” they take.  They seek money-lending situations where borrowers, through personal misfortune (such as being born in a third world country where “emerging market” debt is the hot up-and-coming “product”), are faced with extortionary levels of interest.  They briefly collect all the interest on these massive “packages” of debt then quickly toss the debts back on the game table.  Hedge funds’ dealer Mr. Derivatives then doles these debts to the next hedge fund at the table, and so on.

They buy and sell huge groups of mortgages… fast.

Speed of turnover is a part of avoiding “risk.”  The same debt might be “repackaged” and bought/sold several times a year – or a month – by various hedge funds (and, by the way, takes on a new identity as “collateral” in the global assets bubble each time).

Or think of a hedge fund (technically a private offshore investment bank) as a mower that comes along to mow “fields” of interest and then move on.  No responsible relationship with the parties who are paying all that principle and interest.

Did your mortgage rate change several times last year?  That would likely be because ownership of your mortgage was tossed like a hot potato from hedge fund to hedge fund.  You can thank computers for making those decisions. 

“Trust Me, Dave, Trust Me…”

This computerized craps game?  Insured

…Banks used to hedge their loan books with derivatives. Now they sell that insurance to hedge funds and other market players. The fallacy of banks selling insurance… is akin to “… buying insurance on the Titanic from someone on the Titanic.link

The insured status of our computerized craps game tempts what is known in the trade as “moral hazard,” when traders lack caution towards other people’s money for knowing that insurance safeguards their hubris.

The majority of “value” in the “securities” created by the hedge funds is the value of derivatives attached to these deals.  Remember:  a derivative is an advance selling option.  It is just like a crapshoot, with its side bets.  Someone’s going to win, you just don’t know who.  The banks have now insured the derivatives – literally an insured bet on a crapshoot.

“Dave!  Dave?  Let Me Explain, Dave…”

A chimerical force has been rampaging through global markets in recent months, wreaking widespread havoc. Cobbled together from myriad agreements, assumptions, and transactions by academics, financiers, and marketers, this labyrinthine creation was once seen as an unmitigated success of new age financial alchemy.

But now, with changing economic and financial conditions exposing the derivatives-securitization monster to the harsh light of day, the nightmare of Frankenstein finance is coming home to roost.  link

By the way, when the credit system crashed, it made a huge mess of finance markets everywhere. 

Think of dumping various foods into a blender, turning it on the highest speed, then taking the lid off as the blender is in action, liberally splattering every surface with the goo.  This is analogous to “risk spreading” within the money-lending realm (finance).  Everybody’s retirement has been splattered with this mixture of bad debts. 

“Dave, calm down… We Can Work This Out…”

Yes, a bunch of young ivory tower league money boys had quite a Ponzi scheme which got tipped over when their computers were unable to do thinking for them.  See how big their hubris grew:

So how did this hedge fund fiasco get started? You’ve got 12 to 14 TRILLION dollars out there which started out life as about $400 billion. Now nobody knows who owes what to whom. And there’s no market for those $12 trillion in securities.

…nobody actually knows who owes what to whom. This is the most complex and convoluted mess that has ever been created by man. source

What the craps game did was to “dice, slice, chop” etc. all the “risk” and bleed it into securities, equities, every kind of product on wall street.  Securities are baskets of previous debt groups “shuffled” in with yet other debt, repackaged, re-hypothecated, whatever it took to auger up the value, in order to use it at an elevated value again for collateral…

It’s like the flu for the finance realm.

Here is a picture of “baskets” of mortgages “changing identity” through the derivatives trade (also known as “structured finance”):

For years, industry insiders and so-called experts have proclaimed the virtues of slicing, dicing, and repackaging risk. (…) They suggested any sort of exposure could be disbursed and dissipated to the point where it essentially disappeared. Some even claimed that the crises of the past would no longer exist.

Yet amid the hype and assurances, few supporters spoke of the dark side of wanton and widespread risk-shifting. They didn’t seem – or want – to acknowledge that by combining complicated risks in unfamiliar and unnatural ways, the end result could be an uncontrollable monstrosity-one that eventually turned on its masters.

Nor did they heed the notion that by scattering risk into every nook and cranny of the global financial system, the vast web of overlapping linkages virtually guaranteed that serious problems in one sector, market, or country would trigger far-reaching shockwaves. Much like, for instance, the allegedly “contained” meltdown in the subprime sector has done.link

Yes we’re talking about your retirement portfolio here, no matter what:  everybody got hit with the mess, and no doubt it reduced all values.

“Dave?  Dave, Let’s Talk, We Can Work This Out…”

In fact this is the elephant in the great living room of finance which no one wants to mention.  And there is good reason why…  what people in finance and government fear most is a “bank run” – that people will rush to get their money out of the all-sacred finance sector.  This is why the scapegoat of the US homeowner is necessary for their cover at this time.

“Dave, Come Back, Where are you Going?  Dave?

Of course now that the rich have moved on… expatriating the US at a record rate of around 30,000/month, most of the bag-holders of this crash are going to be the little guy… the pensioner… (see comments on link):

The whining from Wall Street is growing louder. Those brilliant high-flying hedge fund managers are now facing the prospect of financial ruin. It seems that they are holding hundreds of billions of dollars of mortgage debt, some of which is worthless, and much of which is worth considerably less than it was a few weeks ago. Since the hedge funds are heavily leveraged (they borrowed heavily to buy assets), many of them could be wiped out.

Given the gravity of the situation, the hedge fund crew is doing what all good capitalists do when things go badly: run to the government.

Specifically, they want the Federal Reserve Board to bail them out with lower interest rates. They hope that this will buy them the time needed to dump their mortgages on less well-informed investors.
(…)
One final point: the hedge fund crew may try to take the homeowners hostage, arguing that the only way to keep millions of low and moderate income homeowners from being thrown out on street is to bailout the hedge funds. This is not true. Congress can just pass legislation that allows homeowners who default to remain in their house as renters, as long as they pay the fair market rent (as determined by an independent appraisal) for their home.

We must be careful not to confuse the plight of distressed homeowners with the plight of the hedge fund crew. As we all know, you can never give in to hostage takers, especially if they run hedge funds.

And how rich did the rich become due to hedge funds?

Solstice has only about 80 members. Platinum membership costs them $875,000 to join and then a $42,000 annual fee. In return they get access to 10 homes from London to California and a private yacht in the Caribbean, all fully staffed with cooks, cleaners and ‘lifestyle managers’ ready to satisfy any whim from helicopter-skiing to audiences with local celebrities. As the firm’s marketing manager, Cain knows what Solstice’s clientele want. ‘We are trying to feed and manage this insatiable appetite for luxury,’ Cain said with pride.
(…)
The reason behind the sudden wealth boom is, according to some experts, the convergence of a new technology – the internet and other computing advances – with fluid and speculative markets. It was the same in the late 19th century when the original Gilded Age of conspicuous wealth and deep poverty was spawned by railways and the industrial age. At the same time government has helped by doling out corporate tax breaks. In the Fifties the proportion of federal income from company taxes was 33 per cent, by 2003 it was just 7.4 percent. Some 82 of America’s largest companies paid no tax at all in at least one of the first three years of the administration of President George W Bush.
(…)
But who are the new rich? Some of the names are familiar, Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates and savvy stock investor Warren Buffett. But most are unknown, often springing from the secretive world of financial hedge funds.

Names, names…  From a now-defunct (scrubbed?) CNN article:

WASHINGTON (AFP) – What do three former US Treasury secretaries, one time secretary of state Madeleine Albright, a former US ambassador to the United Nations and ex Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar have in common? They have all been recruited by powerful hedge funds or private equity firms since departing government…

The secrecy surrounding such investment firms and media headlines about the vast riches generated by SAC Capital Advisors, the Blackstone Group and the Carlyle Group among others have only added to their mystique.

Industry alarm about a US regulatory clampdown, however, has risen amid calls from some congressional lawmakers for better transparency despite assertions by the US Treasury that the sector’s self-policing is adequate.

Executives and insiders say, however, that a feared regulatory assault only partly explains the race to hire well-connected officials…. Unlike public corporations, hedge funds and private equity firms are lightly regulated in the United States and as such operate largely out of the public eye.

Naming names… the last three Treasury secretaries; John Snow/chairman of Cerberus Capital Management, Dan Quayle; DE Shaw & Co. hired Clinton-era Treasury chief Lawrence Summers, Paul O’Neill advises Blackstone who also hired former Canadian prime minister Brian Mulroney; London-based Centaurus Capital hedge fund hired former US ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke, who is a vice chairman of Perseus; Former US President George Bush and ex-British prime minister John Major both worked for the Carlyle Group.

Looks like there’s a turnstile on the back door of Congress…

“Noooooooo… Daaaaave….. Noooooooooo….  Stopppppp, Puuut thaaaaaaaaaat doooowwwwnnnnn, Daa  aa  aaa….”

Immigrant Limbo

(because if we’re going to build buhdy’s “Big Picture,” this is an essential part of it! (promoted 2:18 PM EST) – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

When ancient Christian theologians began examining the system of eternal rewards and punishments manifested in the concepts of heaven and hell, they were soon faced with a conundrum. What would the fates be of those virtuous souls who had lived and died long before Christ’s earthy arrival, or those who died in infancy before baptism?  They neither qualified for heavenly inclusion nor deserved condemnation to hell.

The wise biblical scholars decided that there existed a place that was neither heaven nor hell. …A place for the righteous unsaved called Limbo, somewhere between heavenly bliss and the tortures of eternal damnation.

Today in the United States there exists for millions of foreign-born legal residents a different kind of Limbo. A legal limbo for those who have not been afforded the full rights and privileges guaranteed by citizenship but are spared the daily hell of the living as outcasts as undocumented immigrants.

Perhaps the cruelest part about Legal Resident Limbo is that most who live there, not unlike the un-baptized infants of the “Inferno,” have no idea that they have not reached the Promised Land. They go about their daily lives believing that, unlike the undocumented, their status assures them some protections against unwarranted detention, lack of due process, or deportation.

Most believe that if they commit minor infractions of the law they will be afforded the same privileges of all Americans. They believe that if convicted of a minor offense, once paying their debt to society, will be free to go on with their lives.

They do not to live in fear of being pulled over at traffic stops or calling for emergency assistance. They’re legal residents after all; they have no reason to fear the law.

Yet for many, they are living in a Limbo of false security.

In 1996 Congress passed the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) and a dramatic erosion of due process and civil liberties protection for noncitizens began.

Expanding the grounds for deportation and redefining what constitutes an aggravated felony when committed by noncitizens, the 1996 law subjected many long-term immigrants to mandatory detention and automatic deportation for relatively insignificant crimes such as shoplifting or marijuana possession. 

Today, in our current climate of fear and intolerance, these laws are now being applied retroactively, forcing many first time offenders and those who were found guilty of youthful indiscretions, in some cases, many decades ago, to be expelled.

“Monica” has been a legal permanent resident in U.S.for 24 years. Born in Bolivia, she moved here at the age of three. She was a good student and daughter, and received a bachelor’s degree in Social Work. But like many young people, she made a mistake in her youth.  She got arrested once on a minor drug charge for picking up drugs for a friend before a night on the town. The crime was minor, and resulted in nothing more “accommodation ticket” as its penalty. “Monica” then went on with her life.

Yet, Six years later, upon returning from a family vacation, she was detained for the same prior drug charge. She is currently in detention, facing deportation for a crime she had already paid the price for. 

These stories are becoming all too common as the concept of due process disappears for those living in immigration Limbo.

More Information on detention and deportation:
  Restoring the Right to Due Process  PDF. (Breakthough /Detention Watch)
Detention Watch
 

The Move On Money Machine

Matt Bai writes:

MoveOn’s management team – led by Eli Pariser, a 25-year-old Internet whiz – runs a sophisticated political operation, and its main preoccupation, beyond ending the Iraq war, is to keep growing. To do that, MoveOn is always looking for what Mr. Pariser and his team call “the message object” – the controversy of the month that will viscerally attract more liberals to sign up and write checks.

An attack on MoveOn from the Bush White House is, of course, the mother of all message objects. Six months after Mr. Bush’s re-election, when opposition to the Iraq war suddenly seemed to be breaking out like a rash around the country, Karl Rove publicly accused MoveOn and its liberal sympathizers of offering “therapy and understanding for our attackers,” and membership soared. That probably explains why MoveOn was eager to run the provocative Petraeus ad in the first place.

In a sense, MoveOn is shrewdly gaming liberal politics in the way the National Rifle Association has long gamed conservative politics; the more controversy, the more members it attracts, and the more power it has to leverage on their behalf.

Seeing how Move On leverages its power, by selling out on Iraq this year, I truly oppose the effect of this controversy. Move On has used the Netroots and the anti-war movement for its own greater glory, to the detriment of the chances of ending the Iraq Debacle. Their conduct has been deplorable.

Pony Party: How to make a pickle glow – Part I

Light Emitting Pickle here to bring you the most recent open thread. First, a few words about Pickle Pony Parties:

Please do not recommend a Pony Party when you see one.  There will be another along in a few hours.

By popular demand, today’s Parties will describe how to get pickles to emit light. My 9 am slot will give details on the set-up. The 3 pm diary will then describe the electrifying process.

Okay, on to the details. You’ll need a pickle (of course!) and two ring stands and clamps (or something similar, because you need to suspend your pickle), and a variac. Make sure you have LOTS of paper towels handy. And I’d strongly recommend trying this in a well-ventilated area.

If you need to make your pickle torture device, check out these instructions. (No, I’m not Lori!)

Now you’re ready to make that pickle glow! For details, tune in at 3 pm (PDT)!

The King’s Dimwitted Son

I wrote this diary a little over a year ago under the name of shruticounseling for dkos. It is my favorite entry and I never felt like it was appropriate for that site but couldn’t find an appropriate home for it. It is more of an essay. As I have been reading this site for the last several days, it has come to mind that this is perhaps a more appropriate home for it. Only time wilt tell. Here it is.

In my view Nature has little patience with dynasties. Instead Nature favors a cyclical system of checks and balances in which power is given and then quickly taken away after its purpose is served. To accomplish this, the universe has a variety of instruments and programs for reestablishing dharma or right living/duty. One of the great programs Nature has at its disposal for correcting imbalances is called “the King’s dimwitted son”.

All archetypes or personality types exist for a reason and play specific roles in the evolutionary process of the human condition. To redistribute horded wealth and power, for instance, there is no better instrument than “the King’s dimwitted son.” The King himself in this case is a man of great stature and ability who comes from a long line of similar leaders among men. He typically has flourished even while surrounded by controversy and has overcome great challenges in order to provide his subjects with peace and prosperity. Even though his family has given generations of such men to the world, it is inevitable that even this noble line will give birth to a dimwit of hostile proportions.

The dimwitted son possesses none of the positive qualities of his father, the King. He has neither the raw ability nor the drive to become the man his father is. Sensing this painful truth lurking behind every event and interaction, the dimwitted son sets about portraying himself as a brave and noble hero despite all evidence to the contrary. He bullies all who attempt to tell him the truth. Even if this son somehow had some small talent for governing competently, the circumstances of his life will be sure to thwart cultivating these higher qualities. Due to the sheer wealth and power of the royal family, everything is handed to the dimwitted son throughout his young years. He is pampered in every possible way and saved from ever having to face the controversies or challenges that might have strengthened his character. Instead he is given cushy assignments he might be able to fulfill without embarrassing himself or his family. When he fails even at these, he is bailed out by the powers that be. The dimwitted son becomes a young man who believes he can do no wrong and that no matter what he decides to do, it will turn out great.

Deep inside the King’s dimwitted son knows his real nature and knows he will never measure up to the King. He resents his father and often senses his father’s shame in having sired such a son. Years pass by and in due course the dimwitted son eventually becomes the king. As could be expected, in the role of king the dimwitted son does what he does best. He fails. Meanwhile, after years of peace and prosperity, the monarchy itself has grown soft and the people selfish and entitled.

The dimwitted son cannot find within himself the discipline to be bothered by the monotony of governing so a smooth talking shadow comes to his rescue. The shadow constantly murmurs to the dimwitted son about what a great king he is and what a mark he will make on history. The dimwit is an easy target after all. He trusts the shadow implicitly and embraces his ideas. Having no real plans to govern himself, the dimwit allows the shadow to rule from the shadows in his stead. The shadow is dark, paranoid and destructive by nature. He sets up an elaborate structure of defenses to ensure his own security and prosperity and moves forward with dark plans of his own. The only real decisions the dimwit makes are ones that inevitably destroy his father’s kingdom. Destructive by nature, both the dimwit and the shadow thrive on breaking whatever or whoever crosses their path. They surround themselves with others with the same annihilative tendencies and go to work. The dimwitted son destroys the kingdom because he hates his father; the shadow destroys the kingdom because he hates humanity. The affects, however, are the same. The kingdom is changed so radically as to be almost unrecognizable.

No matter what are our specific views of God or nature, we can see that destructive work is an ever-present part of the system that all life exists in. Something is created, nurtured and eventually destroyed and absorbed back into the whole. The dimwitted son, in his way, is doing Nature’s work. By destructively bringing down the kingdom, disproportionate distributions of power and resources are eventually re-balanced so that a newly made kingdom can eventually rise up.

When a company, family, government, kingdom, religion or any other institution of human creation begins to hoard its resources and the people within it tend toward selfishness, laziness and a sense of entitlement, the personality profile of the King’s dimwitted son cannot be far behind. When he finally does rise to power, the bloated, unnatural system he rules will become fractured beyond repair for the dimwit is doing Nature’s work and it will support him with as many catastrophes as are necessary to perfect his destructive masterpiece.
In a perfect universe filled with checks and balances, the King’s dimwitted son is one of Nature’s most efficient “checks” as he can easily destroy hundreds of years of work in just a few short years. If you are living in such a system and see the dimwit steering you towards the abyss, it is time you came up with plan B as evolution is certainly taking you and yours in a new direction.

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