How the Other 0.00000003 Percent Lives

Back in February–when even the mainstream media was convinced the capitalist economy was in full-blown meltdown mode–Newsweek magazine ran an article titled “Why there won’t be a revolution.” Newsweek wanted to reassure the rich–and convince working people–that the masses weren’t getting ready to dust off their pitchforks and head to the town square.

“Americans might get angry sometimes,” they wrote, “but we don’t hate the rich. We prefer to laugh at them.”

Newsweek couldn’t be more wrong. The 10 percent of Americans who rely on food stamps, the 25 percent of Ohioans who are waiting in lines at food banks, the 500,000 people who lost their jobs last month and the millions more who can’t find work–these people aren’t laughing.

And plenty of Americans–rightly–hate the rich. While our homes go into foreclosure, while our credit card rates go up, while our jobs disappear and college tuition shoots up, the well-heeled “masters of the universe” on Wall Street are still making out like bandits, but now with hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer money, courtesy of the Obama administration.

A lot more people would be even angrier if the mainstream media reported the truth about the rich and powerful in America–who they are and how they “made it” to the top. Consider the 10 richest people in the country as of last September, according to the annual Forbes magazine list.

Number 10-9
The Koch Brothers
Charles Koch ($19 billion) and David Koch ($19 billion)

Studies show that the most likely job of any child is that of their parents. If your mom or dad is a janitor, you’re more likely to be a janitor than anything else, according to the statistics.

Charles and David Koch are no exception to the rule–only much luckier. Like their father, Fred Koch, they run the largest privately owned energy company in the U.S. Koch Industries–with annual revenues nearing $100 billion–is also one of the biggest polluters in history.

Fred founded Koch Industries in 1940, and during the Second World War, he made a bundle helping the USSR’s ruler Joseph Stalin build up an energy infrastructure in his country. After the war, however, Fred “saw the light” and became one of the founders of the right-wing anti-Communist John Birch Society, which helped whip up a hysteria during the McCarthyite witch-hunts of the 1950s.

When Charles and David took over the family business, they also took over dad’s right-wing political projects. The Koch Brothers fund a host of conservative groups through the Koch Family Foundations. They founded the pro-corporate libertarian Cato Institute, and David Koch was the vice-presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party in 1980.

The brothers also provide money to Americans for Prosperity, the outfit that helped organize the right-wing “tea parties” earlier this year and that toured non-plumber Samuel Wurzelbacher (a.k.a. Joe the Plumber) through Pennsylvania to present a “working-class” speaker against the Employee Free Choice Act, legislation that would make it easier for working people to organize unions.

Number 8
Michael Bloomberg
Net worth: $20 billion

Before more or less buying the New York City mayor’s office (so far, he’s spent just under $150 million on his mayoral campaigns), Michael Bloomberg accrued his fortune by wiring the country’s financial system through his software services company. Bloomberg LP’s “Market Master” terminals helped make possible the complex computerized trading that became commonplace before the 2008 financial crash.

But the recession has been good to Bloomberg, too. Since 2007, he went from “only” 147th on the list of richest Americans to eighth place.

Bloomberg tries to present the image of a philanthroper and down-to-earth businessman, but his reign has proved to be a disaster for poor and working-class New Yorkers.

He has given millions of dollars to charities in New York City, but the sum is paltry compared to his overall net worth–and his contributions have also tied up city nonprofits with the political interests of the billionaire mayor. Bloomberg likes to tout the fact that he doesn’t live in Gracie Mansion–the traditional home of New York City mayors–but aside from his apartment in Manhattan, he owns multiple homes in Britain and Bermuda.

As mayor, he’s pushed through massive service cuts and layoffs in New York City (even before the onset of the current crisis), closing down day care centers, health clinics and worse. Now, claiming a $500 million budget shortfall–which he could easily cover himself and still be a multibillionaire–he plans more painful cuts.

In truth, Bloomberg isn’t the mayor of the majority of New Yorkers. He’s the mayor of moneyed Wall Street interests.

Number 7-4
The Waltons
Christy Walton ($23.2 billion), Alice Walton ($23.2 billion), Sam Robson Walton ($23.3 billion), Jim Walton ($23.4 billion)

The Waltons earned their money the old-fashioned way–they inherited it. They struck it rich when papa Sam Walton, founder of the low-wage union-busting Wal-Mart chain, kicked the bucket.

Wal-Mart is the largest corporation in the world–so Sam Walton’s heirs are some of the wealthiest people in the world. As labor author Nelson Lichtenstein described the company:

With sales approaching $300 billion a year, Wal-Mart has revenues larger than those of Switzerland. It operates more than 5,000 stores worldwide, more than 80 percent of them in the United States…It employs more than 1.5 million workers around the globe, making Wal-Mart the largest private employer in Mexico, Canada and the United States.

Wal-Mart became the behemoth it is today by driving down the wages of its own employees–and by using its weight in the market to pressure suppliers to drive down wages for their workers. Prior to Wal-Mart’s rise, labor comprised about 30 percent of total costs for an average retail company. Wal-Mart drove down labor’s share to 15 percent.

One important way Sam Walton did this was by fostering a corporate culture of messianic opposition to labor unions. Wal-Mart managers are under constant pressure to keep the union out. When unions do get a foothold–as they did recently in Quebec and Mexico, and 10 years ago with butchers at a Wal-Mart in Jacksonville, Texas–the company has closed down stores, or in the case of the butchers, simply abolished the department.

The impact on employees is obvious. Only a minority of “associates” is covered by the company health care plan, and Wal-Mart was publicly embarrassed by revelations that it encouraged workers to go on welfare to subsidize their meager wages and benefits.

In the 1950s–the era of the so-called “American Dream”–General Motors was the largest employer in the country. Strong unions helped GM workers win decent wages and good benefits.

The contrast with Wal-Mart couldn’t be greater. As Lichtenstein observes:

During its heyday, factory managers at GM–hard-driving men in charge of 2,000 to 3,000 workers–took home about five times as much as an ordinary production employee. At Wal-Mart, district store managers–in charge of about the same number of workers–earn more than 10 times that of the average full-time hourly employee…

In 1950, GM President Charles E. Wilson…earned about 140 times more than an assembly line worker, while H. Lee Scott, the Wal-Mart CEO in 2003, took home at least 1,500 times that of one of his full-time hourly employees.

Of course, the Walton kids–who are flush with cash and still own more than a third of the company–live the good life. Some enjoy their vast wealth full time, while others have roles in the low-wage retail empire. Sam Walton has been chairman of the company–and daughter Alice is the family’s political activist.

In 2004, Alice donated $2.6 million to the right-wing outfit Progress for America, which ran ads supporting the Iraq War and thanking George W. Bush for supposedly preventing another 9/11-style attack on American soil.

One of Alice’s hobbies is horses. Another is reckless driving. In 1996, she was fined $925 for a DUI. In 1989, she struck and killed a 50-year-old woman in Arkansas. No charges were filed.

Number 3
Larry Ellison
Net worth: $27 billion

It’s the mid-1970s. There was just a wave of wildcat strikes across the country–and memories of the 1960s are still fresh in everyone’s minds.

In San Francisco, Harvey Milk is leading protests for gay rights. Women have won abortion rights with the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. The CIA recently aided in overthrowing the government of socialist Salvador Allende in Chile–and bringing to power the military dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

What would you be doing if you were young back then? Protesting? Organizing a rank-and-file caucus in your union?

Not Larry Ellison. Ellison was networking CIA computer databases for the Ampex Corp.–under the codename “Oracle.” In 1977, Ellison formed his own company, and he named it, of all things, Oracle. His first clients were Wright Patterson Air Force Base and the CIA.

Aside from doing IT work for coup-plotters and assassins, Ellison struck it rich by profiting off other people’s ideas. The crucial innovation for networking computer databases was actually pioneered by scientists at IBM who couldn’t figure out how to make money off their research. Ellison could–and he’s been raking in the cash ever since.

But billions of dollars isn’t always enough for Larry Ellison’s extravagant lifestyle. According to leaked letters and documents from his lawyer, Ellison is regularly maxed out on his billion-dollar credit limit. This, seemingly, is due to his penchant for buying multiple homes and yachts–one yacht cost him $194 million.

Ellison spends upwards of $20 million a year on “miscellaneous lifestyle expenses,” according to those documents. He lives on a sprawling estate modeled on a traditional Japanese village. For good measure, he also owns an actual villa in Japan (cost: $25 million).

Not only did Ellison do computer work for the CIA, and not only does he live like a latter-day Nero, but he also might be a “common criminal.” In 2001, he was alleged to have dumped 29 million shares of Oracle stock on the basis of insider information–netting $900 million–just before the stock price fell.

Number 2
Warren Buffet
Net worth: $50 billion

Warren Buffet has a reputation–especially after his support for Barack Obama in last year’s presidential election–as a liberal billionaire. He’s pledged to give 85 percent of his wealth to charity–after he dies, of course. He supports taxes on inheritance and lives in the same Nebraska home he bought in 1958.

But Buffet–born into relative wealth and privilege–isn’t really very different from other billionaires.

He grew up the son of a stockbroker and U.S. congressman. By age 11, he was working at his father’s brokerage house. By 14, he owned 40 acres of land that he rented out to tenement farmers.

In the 1960s, Buffet bought a textile company–Berkshire Hathaway–and turned it into a holding company, based on the “concept” of buying undervalued stocks and selling them when their values increased. In other words, he built his fortune on speculation.

The company–now Buffet Associates Ltd.–stopped producing textiles long ago, instead investing in insurance outfits like GEICO and AIG, corporations like Coca Cola, and media outlets/military contractors like the Washington Post, ABC and General Electric (which owns NBC).

Buffet’s supposed “liberalism” has a lot of limits, both in business and politics. In 2003, he was an economic adviser to the budget-cutting candidate for governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Buffet once famously quipped, “I’ll tell you why I like the cigarette business. It costs a penny to make. Sell it for a dollar. It’s addictive. And there’s fantastic brand loyalty.”

His relatively Spartan lifestyle (for a billionaire, anyway) also has limits. In 1989, he bought a private jet for $10 million and christened it The Indefensible.

His attitude toward his wealth–for all his supposed philanthropy–is also indefensible:

I don’t have a problem with guilt about money. The way I see it is that my money represents an enormous number of claim checks on society. It’s like I have these little pieces of paper that I can turn into consumption. If I wanted to, I could hire 10,000 people to do nothing but paint my picture everyday for the rest of my life.

Number 1
Bill Gates
Net worth: $52 billion

Bill Gates III is regularly held up as an example of a rich person who actually earned his wealth–the Horatio Alger of computer software. The co-founder of Microsoft, we’re told, made his way up from college dropout to running one the most successful corporations in history through hard work and intelligence. And he then retired to a life of magnanimous and progressive philanthropy.

The only problem with this story is that it’s just that–a story.

The modesty of Gates’ upbringing is greatly exaggerated. His father was a successful attorney, and his grandfather was the president of a national bank.

While Gates did drop out of Harvard to found Microsoft (thanks to a loan from his family), it wasn’t his skills for software development that made him rich, but his “genius” in taking other people’s ideas and marketing them. Since effectively cornering the market for PC operating systems, Microsoft’s primary goal has been to maintain its predominant position and drive potential competitors out of business.

The mythmaking continues when it comes to Gates’ philanthropy. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is widely cited as a symbol of Gates’ sense of social responsibility, funding projects to provide health care and AIDS treatment in places like Africa. But a Los Angeles Times investigation in 2007 showed the darker side of the fund.

“[A]t least $8.7 billion, or 41 percent of its assets, not including U.S. and foreign government securities…have been in companies that countered the foundation’s charitable goals or socially concerned philosophy,” the Times reported.

For example, the foundation has stock from corporations “ranked among the worst U.S. and Canadian polluters, including ConocoPhillips, Dow Chemical Co. and Tyco International Ltd,” wrote the Times. The Gates fund invests in “many of the world’s other major polluters, including companies that own an oil refinery and one that owns a paper mill, which a study shows sicken children [in a Nigerian town] while the foundation tries to save their parents from AIDS.” Then there’s the “pharmaceutical companies that price drugs beyond the reach of AIDS patients the foundation is trying to treat,” the Times reported.

Like most rich philanthropists, Gates gives with one hand–and takes far more with the other.

Even before the economic crisis began, inequality had already risen to levels not seen in the U.S. since the eve of the 1930s Great Depression. In the 2000s, family income declined for the first time in decades, while those at the very top became richer and richer.

Ultimately, this wealth came from squeezing it out of the vast majority of people in the U.S. and around the world. The rich became richer by making workers work harder for less.

Now that we’re in a severe recession, hourly wages are declining, unemployment is skyrocketing and, without a social safety net, workers are cutting back–not on luxuries like Warren Buffet’s private jet, or Larry Ellison’s personal armada, but on necessities like food, housing, education and health care.
What should make us most angry is that it doesn’t have to be this way. The immense wealth of society doesn’t have to be wasted on these parasites. It could be democratically controlled by the working-class people who produced it in the first place, and used to meet human needs.

The good news is that people’s attitudes are changing. In early April, for example, a CBS News/New York Times poll showed that 74 percent of Americans favor increasing taxes on the rich.

(Revolutionary socialists, of course, favor taxing the rich out of existence).

In the months and years to come, more and more people may be ready to head down to the town square after all–and protest a society of obscene inequality.

36 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. David said on June 6th, 2009 at 8:47am #

    How quaint, Mr. Turl.

    “It [wealth] could be democratically controlled by the working-class people who produced it in the first place, and used to meet human needs.”

    I’m sure that this will happen just as soon as American working-class people learn to not like Mr. Gates’s boot being on their necks. Don’t hold your breath waiting for this momentous event.

  2. Don Hawkins said on June 6th, 2009 at 9:26am #

    Always’ remember so called elites and leaders are in control of nothing. They are in control of an out of control system. In the States so far we because of our leaders are the worst at doing nothing to slow some problems that will eat our lunch so to speak. Resources Worldwide are in bad shape. Many resources are almost gone. Oil is a big one. Water very soon and food. This is not a game but to watch our leaders it sure seems so. The rate Worldwide the Earth is being used up so 20% of the population can go out in style is mind boggling. You add climate change to the mix and the rate increases rather fast. Many countries are trying not the greatest Nation on Earth. When you read the Wall Street Journal or watch Fox they are the worst but CNN NBC almost the same it’s a game. The decision has been made to go out in style, style so that’s what they call it. Of course it’s not just the media but all those wonderful people who control the media and remember not in control of anything it’s still out of control. Think of this as kind of a war the time is now probably not a second chance. A new way of thinking is needed and soon. Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler and easy no easy it will not be.

    Ignorance, dangerous ignorance, has a firm foothold on Capitol Hill. And not just within the Republican Party. Ted Glick

    Remember not just Capitol Hill but the few who try and control Capital Hill are in control of nothing so far it’s still out of control. There is still time and to keep playing games is probably the wrong approach. Now some will say Capital Hill has always’ been ignorant in many way’s and could be the reason we are now at the crossroads in time and space, maybe. They can’t change oh they can change and the more people who find out they are in control of nothing so far it might be easer for them to change and soon. An old way of thinking that we see now it only get’s harder and harder and harder a new way of thinking well just thinking as a start and working together no more games. I am still waiting on the people of Earth speech and very sure it will be given hopefully before it’s to late.

  3. ned lud said on June 6th, 2009 at 10:17am #

    I”ll tell you what, I HATE those fuckers. I wish THEY were in Gitmo.

  4. Danny Ray said on June 6th, 2009 at 12:30pm #

    I sincerely hope that you people here In the dissident voice will not take this as a slight or slander but, for my own edification with you guys answer me a couple of questions.

    Number one, at what point does a person stop being middle class and become rich?

    Number two, what is a living wage, what would you set the average salary to?

    Number three the article speaks of several rich men who come from wealthy families, born to the purple if you will, what about those who are not, what about someone who comes from meager background goes through college spends twenty years working in twelve even fourteen hours a day. This person after giving up so much of his life to achieve his goals has finally made it, he has a six figure or better salary, a big home, a very lush retirement. So what do you intend for people like that, he was driven, he worked for his money, he has achieved his goals with no help of any one except his own intelligence and skill. He’s in the same boat you are , his 401K is now only worth 40 % of what it was even though it will be five times what yours is. So what about somebody like that.

  5. Don Hawkins said on June 6th, 2009 at 12:45pm #

    So what do you intend for people like that A little secret it’s not what anybody intends for anybody but what the Earth intends to do to all of us. The Earth is always’ trying to find balance and the last time I checked still on the job. We stay on this path of business as usual do all the hard work you like it will not amount to a hill of beans kind of like now and for most of the same reasons.

  6. Don Hawkins said on June 6th, 2009 at 1:36pm #

    Danny click on that web page and just look. That blue line in only five years will be more to the bottom of the chart and so will the Human race it’s a nobrainer. Sometimes we hear about the polar bears right. What we don’t from Fox or cnn and our fearless leaders is crops even in worst shape than they are now. Millions on the move water a bit of a problem to much and none for many forests going bye bye. So far these so called leaders with or with out billions still have there head up in a very dark place.

    Change now

  7. HR said on June 6th, 2009 at 2:21pm #

    The first few paragraphs hit the nail on the head for me. I have hated the rich bastards, and the Chamber of Commerce, all my life and learned at an early age about the myth of the murcan dream. Damn them all!

  8. Deadbeat said on June 6th, 2009 at 3:36pm #

    Danny Ray asks…

    Number one, at what point does a person stop being middle class and become rich?

    “Rich” is created because others are being exploited. What has to happen is ending exploitation and seeking a just society. Gates wealth came about because he was allowed to “fence in” knowledge that was essentially created by the community. Ellison as well got his started on the public dole. In other words the software should not have been “privatized” in the first place allow these two to obtain a “monopoly”.

    The point is that the structures of the society permitted “wealth” to be extracted from the public space. What needs to be restored is the public space.

    Number two, what is a living wage, what would you set the average salary to?

    Again that would emerge if labor (the people) have a democratic voice in the economy. Anyone can choose a number but say if more of the public needs was met collectively then there would be a diminished need for money. For example if housing, education, health care, transportation, child care were free or heavily subsidized then money become less of an issue. It is all relative to social condition, norms and expectation. In the U.S., have very little social programs and with the risk shifted onto individual money become a great need and people has to spend more time trying to obtain money in order to survive.

    Number three [essentially describes a Horatio Alger story]
    The fact is that there are very FEW Horatio Algers and the economy should not be structured towards Horatio Algers. That is a myth that is put out there by the ruling class to convince workers that they can become rich as well. This is what was sold to the American People these past 30 – 60 years and now we see the end result in crisis and Depression.

    Most “wealth” is inherited not achieve via “hard work” and much of the current wealth was extracted from the working class these past 30 years as productivity grew and wages remained stagnant. I find it kind of sad that you Danny would rather focus on the minority rather than the vast majority of workers and how these masses can reclaim what was stolen from them — their time and the wealth that THEY the workers created.

  9. Garrett said on June 6th, 2009 at 10:14pm #

    Danny wrote, “So what do you intend for people like that, he was driven, he worked for his money, he has achieved his goals with no help of any one except his own intelligence and skill.”

    There’s no such thing as a self-made man. Everyone has help when you take into account those things taken for granted, such as the roads your hypothetical drove on to get to and from work.

    And if your hypothetical lives in an imperialist nation such as the U.S., then he was certainly aided by that imperialism.

  10. Melissa said on June 7th, 2009 at 7:16am #

    . . . and who gets the most use out of the court system, pays for the most connected lawyers and can successfully bribe/seduce judges and the media . . . it’s not the majority of people, though WE pay for the courts. The wealthy have ownership of the courts and use them to increase their wealth or incrementally shift precedent and domestic policies. The average person is dragged to court, the rich find ways to get to court in order to gain. But again, we pay for the system by which corporations and the wealthy benefit the most, the average person can be destroyed by same system.

    No, there’s not such a thing as a self-made person. All of the so-called Giants rely upon the systems and infrastructure for which you and I pay. Your welcome.

  11. Don Hawkins said on June 7th, 2009 at 8:49am #

    My frustration arises from the huge gap between words of governments, worldwide, and
    their actions or planned actions. It is easy to speak of a planet in peril. It is quite another to level
    with the public about what is needed, even if the actions are in everybody’s long-term interest.
    Instead governments are retreating to feckless “cap-and-trade”, a minor tweak to
    business-as-usual. Oil companies are so relieved to realize that they do not need to learn to be
    energy companies that they are decreasing their already trivial investments in renewable energy.
    They are using the money to buy greenwash advertisements. Perhaps if politicians and
    businesses paint each other green, it will not seem so bad when our forests burn.
    Cap-and-trade is the temple of doom. It would lock in disasters for our children and
    grandchildren. Why do people continue to worship a disastrous approach? Its fecklessness was
    proven by the Kyoto Protocol. It took a decade to implement the treaty, as countries extracted
    concessions that weakened even mild goals. Most countries that claim to have met their
    obligations actually increased their emissions. Others found that even modest reductions of
    emissions were inconvenient, and thus they simply ignored their goals.
    Why is this cap-and-trade temple of doom worshipped? The 648 page cap-and-trade
    monstrosity that is being foisted on the U.S. Congress provides the answer. Not a single
    Congressperson has read it. They don’t need to – they just need to add more paragraphs to
    support their own special interests. By the way, the Congress people do not write most of those
    paragraphs – they are “suggested” by people in alligator shoes.
    The only defense of this monstrous absurdity that I have heard is “well, you are right, it’s
    no good, but the train has left the station”. If the train has left, it had better be derailed soon or
    the planet, and all of us, will be in deep do-do. James Hansen

    I am very sure the spin machine will be in high gear on this monstrous absurdity. Will it work I sure hope not. It looks like a watered down bill could pass then only a few will keep trying. If the train has left, it had better be derailed soon or the planet, and all of us, will be in deep do-do. Of course the thinking will change if you can call it that but we are all of out of time on the orb. On Fox News the other day some well dressed guy in so many words said that NASA just came out with a new report that tells us it’s the Sun not human’s that is causing the Earth to warm and that should make Al Gore and his people seem out of touch with reality. That’s not exactly what the report said but somehow after it get’s run through the fair and balanced filter that’s what we hear. Yes the spin machine is in high gear on this monstrous absurdity.

  12. ned lud said on June 7th, 2009 at 10:31am #

    Thanks for the above good comments, people. I hope things turn out better than they look right now.


  13. Tennessee-Bolivarian-Marxist said on June 7th, 2009 at 10:43am #



    ARTICLE 2. The Soviets of Working People’s Deputies, which grew and attained strength as a result of the overthrow of the landlords and capitalists and the achievement of the dictatorship of the proletariat, constitute the political foundation of the U.S.S.R.

    ARTICLE 4. The socialist system of economy and the socialist ownership of the means and instruments of production firmly established as a result of the abolition of the capitalist system of economy, the abrogation of private ownership of the means and instruments of production and the abolition of the exploitation of man by man, constitute’ the economic foundation of the U.S.S.R.

    ARTICLE 6. The land, its natural deposits, waters, forests, mills, factories, mines, rail, water and air transport, banks, post, telegraph and telephones, large state-organized agricultural enterprises (state farms, machine and tractor stations and the like) as well as municipal enterprises and the bulk of the dwelling houses in the cities and industrial localities, are state property, that is, belong to the whole people.

    ARTICLE 7. Public enterprises in collective farms and cooperative organizations, with their livestock and implements, the products of the collective farms and cooperative organizations, as well as their common buildings, constitute the common socialist property of the collective farms and cooperative organizations. In addition to its basic income from the public collective-farm enterprise, every household in a collective farm has for its personal use a small plot of land attached to the dwelling and, as its personal property, a subsidiary establishment on the plot, a dwelling house, livestock, poultry and minor agricultural implements in accordance with the statutes of the agricultural artel.

    ARTICLE 8. The land occupied by collective farms is secured to them for their use free of charge and for an unlimited time, that is, in perpetuity.

    ARTICLE 9. Alongside the socialist system of economy, which is the predominant form of economy in the U.S.S.R., the law permits the small private economy of individual peasants and handicraftsman based on their personal labor and precluding the exploitation of the labor of others.

    ARTICLE 10. The right of citizens to personal ownership of their incomes from work and of their savings, of their dwelling houses and subsidiary household economy, their household furniture and utensils and articles of personal use and convenience, as well as the right of inheritance of personal property of citizens, is protected by law.

  14. Melissa said on June 7th, 2009 at 1:16pm #

    blech . . . I’ll just be working to take back constitutional representative democracy. I stand for a Constitutional Republic, that’s what belongs in the USA.

    Keep your dream of living under communism, or better yet, go to one of the many countries that have successfully established the planks and enjoy.

    I cannot support your views for a communist USA. Better to return to the true democratic constitutional republic, complete with its radicalism and socialist underpinnings than to scrap it for a system that strips us of our Bill of Human Rights, our right to be individuals and all the good and bad that come with that liberty of individuals.

    There are plenty of places to go to enjoy or implement communism. . . but the USA is not one of them. Deal with it.

  15. Big Mike said on June 7th, 2009 at 1:51pm #

    Yes, the individual empowerment society of which you speak is the same ideal the Republicans have forced on us every time they get into office. But, this is not democracy. It is feudalism. I suggest you look up feudalism and you will quickly see the parallels between the Republican platform and the ancient form of governing called feudalism. Do I think communism is the answer? No. In fact there has never been a truly communist government on this planet…ever. The closest thing would be a Jewish Kibbutz. What we are talking about is socialism and mind you the U.S. has been a socialist democracy since Roosevelt and the new deal. What we are dithering is the amount of socialism needed to make a successful and prosperous society. But, you would need to believe in “society” or “community” before any of this would make sense and Republicans do not believe in either. They believe in the individual. Sadly, they have no plan after that goal has been reached and that is why they are indeed feudal in nature. They envision an end to the “death” tax because that would keep the money in the hands of an aristocracy and a reduction in overall taxation so that the snowball will keep picking up the “green” as it goes.
    All of that aside, I found your comment very similar to arguments proffered by many supposed Americans who would quell ideas and speech by knee-jerking the “Why don’t you just go live somewhere else if you don’t like my brand?” This is supposed to be a free society and your much vaunted Bill of Human Rights very clearly states that. I suggest that you actually read it and then take a long hard look at yourself. Then take a look at Canada and most of Europe and ask yourself if freedom is in peril in those societies. It isn’t. They are socialist and capitalist. Their Bill of Human Rights is almost identical to ours, but they interpret those basic rights to include education, health, and excellent public transportation. They even have rich people. It is all about dignity and opportunity. Two values that are quickly fading from the American way of life. I hope all of you that read this get something from it and not just Melissa. But, I hope that Melissa and like-minded people get more from it because I don’t need to preach to the converted.
    Have a great day.

  16. bozh said on June 7th, 2009 at 4:09pm #

    too many cooks spoil the broth. Too many ideologies; none of which can be proven true, spoils our life.
    it shld be mused over whether even a theory can be proven true; since the proof is found only on experimental ground and not in any verbal scheme.

    too many religions, damns THE and A religion. Too many orgs or movements spoils the movement and the organization; since, of course, it is of much needed truth that there be only movement or organization.

    too many languages wld spoil the language. Fortunately for us, nature endowned us with THE language. Bruder, brother, brat three different phonetic symbols; all stand for one entity.
    sister, schwester, sestra likewise denotes the same thing.
    so we all speak one language but use different phonetics.
    now we, by necessity, also have only one truth.
    ruling class dispenses thousands of their truths or what is to it necessary truths.
    of course, many ‘gods, ruin the god or our maker. Nature here cldn’t help us; ‘gods’ are not part of it; they are arbitrary inventions of bns of people over the last few millennia.
    belief in ‘gods’ also fall in theoretical area. Unfortunately not for some 3-4 bn people.
    and we are in deep trouble! tnx

  17. Don Hawkins said on June 7th, 2009 at 4:48pm #

    and there was light.

  18. Barry99 said on June 7th, 2009 at 7:06pm #

    Big Mike – No Arab has ever been asked to be a member of a Kibbutz. Socialism in one ethnic group is an oxymoron. Thus, the institution of the Kibbutz is not an example of a socialist enterprise.

  19. Christopher Lee said on June 7th, 2009 at 11:28pm #

    The world is comprised of “suckers” and “takers”. When the “takers” come to town, you’d be smart to get on board. Lest you become a “whiner” which is a subsidiary of “suckers”.

  20. Don Hawkins said on June 8th, 2009 at 3:23am #

    And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.

    There’s battle lines being drawn. Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong.

    Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

    A new way of thinking and soon if we wish to survive. Well just thinking would be a great start you know what I mean.

  21. bozh said on June 8th, 2009 at 5:42am #

    regarding the whether, global warming, cancer, our feelings, etc., one can note that these events are caused my many [un]known factors.
    if there are unknown factors for global warming, we need then to discover them and then describe them in colloquial english that most people use.

    is this what “making things simple” means? tnx

  22. Melissa said on June 8th, 2009 at 6:53am #

    Big Mike,

    Thank you for your reply; and I happen to agree with much of what you have said, believe it or not.

    “But, you would need to believe in “society” or “community” before any of this would make sense and Republicans do not believe in either.” -that’s exactly what it all boils down to, right? I agree with every word of that sentence, but contend that it’s not only Reps that suffer from anti-social, anti-human worldviews. I would also contend that Republicans in this country are not about empowering individuals, but are, and have been, collectivists all along.

    I agree, we have not seen democracy for quite a long time. Instead we seem to march closer to full-blown feudalism, the collectivism of the rich. I’ll take your word for it that the platform for one head of the collectivist party parallels feudalism. I see feudalism.

    “All of that aside, I found your comment very similar to arguments proffered by many supposed Americans who would quell ideas and speech by knee-jerking the “Why don’t you just go live somewhere else if you don’t like my brand?” This is supposed to be a free society and your much vaunted Bill of Human Rights very clearly states that. I suggest that you actually read it and then take a long hard look at yourself.” VERY GOOD POINT. I apologize. Seriously. Indeed, I have read the documents that describe the structure for a free society for the USA, as well as the letters, some books, and the arguments between the parties that eventually crafted the Declaration and Const. The significance of their arguments are not lost upon me, especially regarding the need to for us to have bottom-up stucture, not top-down. Some of those old white guys were also very adamant that the monetary system needed to remain of We The People, not in the hands and interests of for-profit bankers. They knew how feudalism was implemented, and they knew how tyranny and various forms of terrorism operated.

    No, the old white guys were not perfect, did not set up a flawless structure, saw the world through a veil of their own and thus contradicted themselves and destroyed others. But we don’t have to be so attached to our cultural veils, do we? Or our naive labels, and artificial divisions that preclude unity? Are you sure that the problem is really the idea of individuals, or is it the idea of needing groups and labels to perform righteous stand-offs with each other? -I recognize my participation, btw.

    “It is all about dignity and opportunity. Two values that are quickly fading from the American way of life.” No comment, just deserves to be said again. And again.


    “so we all speak one language but use different phonetics.
    now we, by necessity, also have only one truth.” Again, so sane. Peace.

  23. Big Mike said on June 8th, 2009 at 9:32am #

    I actually said that a Kibbutz was the closest thing to communism that this world has ever seen. Racial profiling aside, I stand by that statement as a Kibbutz is a commune. But, your point is well taken even if the middle east argument that you are trying to start is irrelevant to this discussion thread. That being said, I think that the point you were trying to make is that the Jewish people are just as capable of racism as any other race and because of their position of power in the region they can put it to frequent and nefarious use. Thanks for the heads up on that issue and I would be curious to know if the statement was true. I imagine that in this wide world that at least one Arab has been converted to Judaism, but has he/she ever attended a Kibbutz?

    I wish that all web-based interaction could be as civil as the response that you posted. In fact, I wish that all human interaction could be so civil. Your poignant and reasoned response was received well and I thank you for being big enough to take a step back on your original message.
    Republicans as collectivists? Hmmm? I might have to ponder that one, but my original supposition was based on my close friendships with conservatives here in Orange County (a bastion of conservatism) and they all eschew the very concept of “community.” Note the derision heaped on Obama for his “community leader” skills by the Republicans at the RNC in 2007. Would you care to expound on your theory of Republicans as collectivists? I am intrigued and open to being convinced, though skeptical. I would venture to say that given their fractious behavior of late that they could use a little collectivism.

    Big Mike

  24. bozh said on June 8th, 2009 at 9:39am #

    melissa, yes to your analyses
    modern rulers, such as in US, have learned to be interdependent to quite a degree. More so than patricians of europe who fought one another and waged wars.
    At the same time, they have imparted to school children the misvalue to be [often fiercely] independent.

    in nature, nothing seems to be independent or in isolation from other phenomena.
    in any case isolation/independence is a fiction; people trying to adjust to such fiction fare poorly.
    alcoholics, e.g., blame only selves because or their respective isolationist thinking. They don’t take into account a multitude of factors which cause alcoholism or other maladjustments.
    there’s genetic pool, other people making alcohol/drinking it, etcetc., are also causative factors; along, of course, selfblame, and other people’s condemnation.

    you name it, and people everywhere, blame a person for it. The reason for that is that they are thought to attribute most of the time one cause for any event.
    global warming deniers illustrate this. To deniers, we humans cannot be a factor in it; the cause for global warming is a natural event that repeats itself from time to time.
    For warfare or serial wars/killings, there is now just two or few causes: ‘terrorism’, one’s security, or defense of one’s interest.

    greed, delusion, deceptions, lust for control, hatred, intolerance, etc., applies only to people US ruling class doesn’t like. tnx


  25. Don Hawkins said on June 8th, 2009 at 3:29pm #

    Alright Bozh let me give this a try. Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler. Einstein

    Einstein it was said could wonder for day’s, hour’s, years. What he wondered about was an abstract thought at the time. Time is the key word here. Scientists say your first thought is usually the right one. Any problem or unknown when it comes to the Universe seems complex and the job is to make it simple but not simpler as it must work out mathematically the last test for us human’s. Climate change the greenhouse effect 15 years ago was known by some but still an unknown what it would mean for us human’s. A few probably had an idea but not for sure. You said it well the reason for that is that they are thought to attribute most of the time one cause for any event. Well they got on the job and many at NASA were put under stress by Bush and his people and for eight years it was tuff for them. Hard to stop scientists that whole in search of the truth part but some our tuffer than others. Not just NASA but Worldwide many on the job. It took the last 15 years of hard work and much thinking and the last word I got was we are all in deep do do. Remember the math the last test well it works. We are now putting CO 2 into the atmosphere at about 10,000 times the natural rate measured back in hundreds of thousands of years. On this path the Earth will warm and all that comes with that and the human race is in big trouble. What we human’s need to do now is make our lives as simple as possible, but not simpler in order to survive. We don’t have to and then the math becomes easer to figure. 20% of the population Worldwide uses most of the resources but with China who now want’s the good life and India sort of we will need three more Earth’s I did the math. The good life I’ll bet we could write 10,000 words on that one. What we have already done to the Earth the last one hundred years is not good. We are almost there for oil well yes tar sands oh boy kind of a nobrainer water land for crops land that can grow crops fish in the sea yes I said fish in the sea. You see it’s not just climate change but the systems we use that are almost out of control where we all will start to see it soon. The systems are out of control just oil is a big one to keep the system going like many on Wall Street like is not going to happen unless we can find another Earth somewhere. To slowdown until we can change these systems seems wise but so far it’s full speed ahead, oh well.

    For Pelosi and Waxman, any moves to assuage Peterson’s concerns — or those of Democrats on Rangel’s Ways and Means panel — risk alienating lukewarm supporters of the bill. Already, the measure is drawing criticism from both the left and right, because Waxman and Markey made significant concessions to get the proposal through the Energy and Commerce Committee.

    For instance, liberal environmentalists insist the effectiveness of the proposed greenhouse gas limits would be undercut by Waxman’s decision to allow more than two-thirds of the emissions allowances to be donated to electric utilities, trade-sensitive industries, oil refiners and other interests. Houston Chronicle

    Here in the States this isn’t even the illusion of knowledge it’s nut’s. I’ll bet in as little as two years this thinking could change but you never know these people are not to bright. One thing for sure in 10 then 20 years when the fight for survival begins for real the thinking will change. To slowdown until we can change these systems seems wise but so far it’s full speed ahead or is it? The one little problem with climate change is time passed a point we probably can’t stop it. They did the math we have about 6 to 10 years to level off CO 2 we put into the atmosphere and at least here in the States that doesn’t look to good. I really do want to see the witting from the few after this monstrous absurdity of a watered down bill called cap and trade in the greatest nation on Earth becomes law if that. Just in case the math is right not on this path. This Bill and the thinking so far is simple real simple and I don’t think that’s what Einstein had in mind when he wrote that.

  26. Don Hawkins said on June 8th, 2009 at 6:23pm #

    I get a lot of e-mails telling me to stick to climate, that I don’t know anything about
    economics. I know this: the fundamental requirement for transition to the post fossil fuel era is a
    substantial and rising price on carbon emissions. And businesses and consumers must
    understand that it will continue to rise in the future. James Hansen

    We don’t have to do that if it sounds to hard. Wait do you hear that it’s that laughter again where is it coming from.

  27. rg the lg said on June 8th, 2009 at 7:34pm #

    Interesting … in an earlier post to this site, I mentioned ‘academic masturbation.’ There are a lot of ideas here … but all of them require the same thing:


    We, the contributors to this sort of dialogue, are way too cozy to take action.

    But, is it kinda fun … maybe just like the real thing?

    RG the LG

  28. Don Hawkins said on June 9th, 2009 at 4:31am #

    Good one rg and let’s get right into it. The systems we use Worldwide are out of control and in just a few years trouble in river city. Could start real tuff times in one year. The answer so far from governments is more of the same keep using these out of control systems not to bright. The talk on Wall Street is do we drive small cars or big cars again not to bright. The so called leaders here in the States it’s cap and trade a feel good bill that does nothing. The masses us blame the government for the problems and we still do nothing to really change anything. Boots no new cars take mass transit if you can cut back on everything you can eat only the basic food no meat use electric only for what you need. That’s right many of us already do that and many more because they have to in the greatest nation on Earth. It’s going to be a very hard lesson to learn that we get what we need not what we want and it’s not to far away. In many way’s it’s better for the human mind to live in that way but not in this present system that is out of control. When the going get’s tuff the rich go shopping. Oh really well we slow it down that could be very hard to do. Come on are things that bad yes they sure are the egg shell is about to break just the amount of forests being burned for cattle and palm oil and feed to feed the cattle is a system out of control. When you add climate change to the mix the destruction of land starts to move much faster. The fish in the ocean are in bad shape for two reasons us and us. The oil and coal companies can make what they want we don’t have to use it only when needed. These food companies can open a new store everyday we don’t have to eat it. These car companies can make all the cars they want we don’t have to drive them and this is not just to sent a message but a new way of thinking or the same thing happens anyway even more out of control. So are we all just consuming what we can in an out of control system until it is no more yes we sure are. It always’ amazes me to watch the business people move forward knowing full well what they want to do requires another Earth then another. Tuff times ahead and all for the same reasons that have been tried before and this time a little more than tuff. Still time and if we try boring it will not be.

  29. rg the lg said on June 9th, 2009 at 3:57pm #

    Trouble in River City …

    “76 trombones …” maybe that is why I am such a gad fly … I played, not very well, trombone in High School. We were every band directors nightmare … we could out ‘blat’ the best of ’em.

    Seriously though, I need to harp on an old note: what we need is a much smaller population, world wide. I figure (being partially mathematical in my thinking & liking to create computer models using stuff like NETLOGO) that one quick solution would be to have Israel Nuke us. They have a bunch of stuff available and would wipe out enough Americans to reduce the total population of our greed-heads to make the number more earth friendly. Let’s say about 85% of all Americans dead … and our carbon load would drop significantly world wide. (that would solve twin problems: get rid of us and cut off the money-supply for Israel … ) Then the world could take out China … and THEN maybe the rest of the world would get the message and abort every pregnancy above one?

    Face it … that just might work!

    Of course the solution is brutal … but admit it … the current situation ain’t no cup of tea for those on the bottom of the heap. (Here, I am NOT talking about you and me and other readers of this space … I am talking about the folks who live in cardboard or worse where it rains a lot.)

    Plus, folks like the rapacious greed heads who started this line of responses (from the Kochs to the Gates) would have fewer people to screw over … and thus, it would take less time for them to sink back to the levels of pond-scum their ancestors clearly were. That would be poetic justice … only it wouldn’t happen nearly fast enough.

    I have been called a misanthrope before … and en masse it is true … but the fact we face is that we don’t like to admit we are part of the problem. We are complicit … we allow the rich to get richer. I suspect a large percentage of the people who have responded to this actually go to Wal-Mart, or their computer runs on MicroSoft … and THAT is why there are Waltons and Gates. Because you and support them … !

    Hate the fuckers? Sure, that will do a great deal in absolving you of your complicity. But here is the ultimate question for each of us hairless apes: what would YOU do in their shoes? Not much differently, I’ll bet.

    Finally, I like the idea of hairless apes. Why? Think about the hairless dogs … pretty ugly, no? Well, hairlessness is an aberration in the mammal world … and maybe THAT is worth considering. We are an aberration. Aberrations do not last long … so maybe we ought to do the rest of life a favor and self-destruct? Or, are we not already doing that?

    RG the LG

    For those of you who have read Doug Adams, maybe the Vogons should build a hyperspace bypass through this sector of the universe?

  30. Danny Ray said on June 9th, 2009 at 4:49pm #

    RG the LG, I have my large towel and am right behind you.


  31. Barry99 said on June 9th, 2009 at 6:02pm #

    RG – Have you started the revolt yet?

  32. Barry99 said on June 9th, 2009 at 6:14pm #

    Big Mike – A Palestinian that converts to Judaism is a Jew and so that wouldn’t count any more than other Arab Jews count (as being a kibbutz invited Palestinian). But hey, Palestinian Muslims/Christians converting to Judaism are a very rare breed and it is probably safe to say none has joined a kibbutz. In any case, the record is that no Palestinian has ever been asked to become a member of a kibbutz. That would go against the founding ideal of (racial) ‘purity of labor.’ Certainly, they’ve since been hired for their cheap labor – but membership – no.
    The reason I raise the issue is that Israel gets a free ride on that ‘noble’ institution – one that contributes little if anything to the economy these days. So whenever someone mentions Kibbutz, or making the desert bloom, or Israel as a light unto nations, or other such cliches – I make sure to intrude on the conversation.

    As far as the rich go – tax them at 80%.

  33. Don Hawkins said on June 9th, 2009 at 6:37pm #

    what would YOU do in their shoes? Not much differently, I’ll bet.

    Wrong at least in my shoes as in my younger day’s I was there and it isn’t pretty always’ looking and a total waste of time.

  34. Mike G said on June 9th, 2009 at 8:09pm #

    yes the world resources has been coming to an end for sometime now. Somehow it keeps on going quite nicely and as far as politics go, tyrants will continue to kill millions while millions cheer them on, and the poor will hate the rich and visa versa

  35. jules said on June 13th, 2009 at 7:02pm #

    very suprising that Michael Bloomberg networth grew from 4 something billion dollars to $20 billion when so called the market has crashed in 2007. on what tree did that money grow….unfortunately guy like Bloomberg never create/invented anything to show for the money. it is a little disturbing that only one litle ethnic group on planet earth knows how to make money grow and grow fast while every body else is suffering. if you believe the mainstream media they would have you think that Oprah is the richest person on planet earth….Fed reserve Bank,goldman Sachs,salomon brothers,Amex,Lehman,Bear stern,junk bonds,Hollywood movie industry, the mainstream Media,Casino just to name a few.
    who is really in controll in USA? How much power dos President Obama has?
    is he being used as a popert untill the next 4 years? a fondamental rule of the capitalism system is demand and supply…demand for oil has decline in all aspect but the price goes up from $33 to $74 in 2 1/2months? why USA can print bond note which is an IOUs but can not print it own money? our National debt is $11 +trillion dollars out of it we owed China $800 billion and that’s freak every body out but there is no mention of the $5 trillion that the govenrment owed to the Fed Bank. what did the nation bought for that money? is the Federal Reserve Bank a private bank or a government instutition? who choose our presidential candidate every 4 year? in USA show me a thinker,an inventor and I will show you some one with not many billions dollars then name me some one with many billions then I will point you toward a sales man. how much money does inventor of windows has by now we must know it is not Bill gate, the inventor of apple, and I go on and on….this is USA keep leaving the dream ( the land of the free).

  36. Dennis Byron said on July 6th, 2009 at 5:39am #

    What did Warren Buffet’s “tenement farmers” grow on 40 acres? Microwheat?