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September 2011

A Suggestion for Progressives:

Vote sticker cropped

Progressives who care about fighting such things as war, corporate welfare and assaults on our civil liberties might do well to register GOP for the primaries and help Ron Paul get the nomination. They can still vote for whatever Dem or independent candidate they want in the presidential election.

Here's what Ralph Nadar has to say about him:

“Look at the latitude,” Nader says, referring to the potential for cooperation between libertarians and the left. “Military budget, foreign wars, empire, Patriot Act, corporate welfare—for starters. When you add those all up, that’s a foundational convergence. Progressives should do so good.”



The Evils of Money

This is a response I wrote to a friend's FB post lamenting the money-grubbing nature of the guy in the video below.  My friend accused this guy of being part of the problem, so I felt compelled to write this.  And then after doing so, I realized it kind of encapsulated what I'd like to say to the rightly outraged folk who are occupying Wall Street, and to everyone who is fed up with being stolen from but, I think, doesn't quite understand how it is they're being stolen from or who is doing the stealing:



Sigh.  I wasn't going to post here because I don't want to get embroiled in a whole debate, but it just keeps gnawing at me and it is such a critical distinction to make so I'm going to try:  This guy is NOT the problem.  Money is NOT the problem.  He may be "money grubbing" and greedy and all kinds of things you don't like, but he did not start this mess and no, he is not fueling it.  What started it was the bastardization of money through government manipulation of it that allows the govt. to sap the wealth of everyone else for its own ends.

Money is a tool that was developed by human beings to make their lives easier.  Just like you’ve noticed that your landlord doesn’t want to take rent in bamboo or bananas, most people would prefer not to have to go around looking for other people who want precisely what they happen to have at the moment, in order to get what they want.  Money is the tool that allows people to exchange bamboo and bananas for a place to live, without having to carry around bamboo and bananas all the time.  THAT’S PRETTY MUCH IT.  To impute some kind of malice or evil to the institution of money is to completely misunderstand it.

This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if it weren’t for the fact that so many people aim their rage for the current economic mess we are in at the “greedy money grubbers” or “capitalism” or even money itself.  As long as we all keep misunderstanding what caused the problem, we’re going to keep experiencing the same problem over and over and over again.  

Here’s what actually happened - starting a long, long time ago:  Left to their own devices, people came up with things that could be used as media of exchange and as stores of value.  These things ranged from salt to seashells to big-ass rocks under the ocean that no-one could even move.  Historically, people have favored precious metals because they are easily transportable, limited in quantity and hard to fake, easily divisible, don’t spoil when you keep them for a long time, etc. etc.  

Governments, all over the world and at different times, have taken over the once voluntary and grass-roots institution of money.  They have declared themselves the arbiter of what is and is not to be used as money, how much it is worth, and more recently, they have removed money from any link to anything real (like salt or seashells, or gold or silver).  Fast-forward to today’s world and what we have is (in the country I live in) a government that monopolizes the issuance of money, and the money it issues is just paper.  That’s it.  They don’t even pretend that it’s tied to anything else.  It is “worth” what they say it’s worth.  

Through various means (fractional-reserve banking, central bank interference in the market for money and manipulation of interest rates, etc.) the government is able to inflate the money supply to its own benefit.  For a more rigorous and scholarly understanding of how this works, please refer to this Scrooge McDuck cartoon.

Essentially, the folks (and the people they pay - think military contractors, etc.) who create the money are the ones who get to use it at full value.  By the time it gets down to the rest of us, it holds only a fraction of its value and we need a lot more of it to buy the things we want and need.  

Meanwhile, by pumping extra money into the system, the central banks create artificial booms which later turn into very real busts.  People think there is more (real) money than there actually is.  The price of money (the interest rate) is lower than it should be, so people believe that it is cheaper to invest than it actually is.  All kinds of people (not just “money-grubbing traders) invest in things, thinking the cost of doing so is cheaper than it is, and you’ve got a bubble.  This is what caused the dot com bubble and bust, and it’s what caused the housing bubble and bust.  And before you dismiss my analysis, please note that the only people who accurately predicted the housing-market bust (Peter Schiff, Ron Paul and a few others) were the people using this same analysis.  

You can argue that the banks and bankers are a big part of the problem, and you’d be right.  But not for the reasons you think you are.  They are not part of the problem because they are “greedy” or because they deal in “money”.  They are part of the problem because they are profiting from what is essentially counterfeiting.  They are destroying the money supply, and much of the wealth that ordinary people have built up for themselves.  They absolutely are profiting at our expense.  But unless you understand HOW they are doing that, you’re not going to even come close to addressing the real problem.  In fact, you will probably make it worse by calling for “more government regulation of the financial industry.”  This would be nonsense.  It is government’s involvement in the world of finance, and more centrally, in money itself, that is at the source of the problem.  

You are right to be outraged at those who have caused the financial mess the world is in right now.  But please please please take a few moments to understand precisely who those people are and how they did it before launching an all-out offensive on anyone who deals in the world of “money.”  If you do, you might actually help prevent it from happening again.


UPDATE: Someone posted this great little video which I think explains what I was trying to explain above perhaps more clearly:



A-Bomb Victims' Drawings

I'm taking down the image that I had had here, because the site now says that they do not allow them to be reproduced. But you can see the images here, and you should.

Because I think that anyone who supports the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (or any act of war for that matter) should be very clear about precisely what it is they support, here are some personal accounts and hand-drawn pictures.  These are from "Floating Lantern", a "collection of the notes and memorandums written by the bereaved family members of the A-bombed teachers and students." 


Are There Any Arguments for Nuking Hiroshima?

Hiroshima Victim10

For anyone who missed it, I had an article up a little while ago in response to a reader's response to "Remembering Mr. Miyamoto."  From the article:

"...When those who act on behalf of the state choose to commit a crime like this, they do so with the knowledge that as long as they are successful – that is, as long as their side is victorious and they don’t end up on the wrong end of a war-crimes tribunal – they will face no consequences for their actions.

"Former Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara has admitted as much, saying that the firebombing of Japanese cities and the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki would have been considered war crimes had the US lost the war. He has asked "(w)hat makes it immoral if you lose and not immoral if you win?"

"There is never only one way to resolve a conflict. Ask yourself, if Truman had declared that the only way to end the war was to nuke Toledo, would you have accepted his reasoning so readily? Those who make these decisions don’t look for other options, because they don’t have to. They do not face the same consequences the rest of us do for our actions. As long as the state has a monopoly on justice, and on determining who gets to use violence and under what circumstances, it cannot be held accountable in any real sense. And it therefore cannot be effectively prevented from inflicting horrors like the rape of Nanjing and the bombing of Hiroshima on the rest of us."


Important Soup

WTC from 71 Bwy_cropped 1

I was in Paris, walking down a street near the Champs Elysees.  I came upon a French woman trying to explain something to a foreign couple.  She seemed very agitated and I stepped in to help.  Buildings in New York had been attacked, she told me in French, and I told the couple in English.  Two separate airplanes had flown into them, so we know it wasn’t an accident.  It was terrorists.  My heart began to race.  Only a few days ago I had flown out of New York City, having just begun what was to become a doomed love affair with a man who lived at the corner of Broadway and Rector.  “Which buildings?!?”    

It was the closest thing I had ever felt to patriotism.  At that time, I had spent the majority of my adult life living overseas.  I felt like a stranger in America.  I can’t say that changed on 9-11, but when I heard about the attacks, I just wanted to get back to New York.  I had only lived there for a year, four years earlier.  But it was the only place in America that I felt at home.  On September 11th, I felt like my home had been attacked and I wanted to get back to help it.  I may not have felt like an “American”, but I felt like a New Yorker.  

I was angry at the people who had done this to “my” city.  And I knew that there was little chance of most Americans recognizing the attack as an act of vengeance, of their spending even a few seconds examining their own government’s actions that might have played a role in motivating 18 young men to engage in an assault that would end their own lives.  More than any of that though, I felt an overwhelming urge to make something.  I felt so powerless against the dead terrorists and the inevitable government backlash that was yet to come.  It seemed that the only way to fight back against the violent aggressors on both sides was to create.  Anything.  

The first thing I did when I got back to New York was to go to the grocery store with my boyfriend.  We bought vegetables, and I made soup.  At that time in my life, it was the most important soup I had ever made.  I then set about finding a ballet class.  I found one nearby, and there were days when we could smell the putrid stench of the site even in class.  It is a very specific smell that I will never forget.  People living downtown back then took to wearing surgical masks when they went outside.  I used a handkerchief, and tried not to think about what I might be breathing in.      

All of downtown was plastered in fliers.  They covered walls, fences, lamp posts.  They showed the faces of loved ones lost when the towers came down.  “Lost” and “missing” really meant “gone.”  We all knew those people weren’t coming back.  The people who put them up probably knew too, but how could they not put them up?  Someone they loved was gone and they couldn’t just do nothing.  They had to do something.  Anything.  

The saddest of the fliers was one I now wish I had taken a picture of.  Of course back then it would have been crass to take pictures (that didn’t start until a few weeks later, when crowds of tourists would pile on top of each other next to the fence surrounding the site, vying for the best angles.)  A man had posted a picture of his friend, a man who had worked in the WTC.  A man who, years ago, had taught his friend to ride a bicycle.  The poster wrote a long paragraph about his friend, saying he knew he wasn’t coming back.  He had tried for weeks to locate him, looking for any hint that he might have made it out of the towers.  He knew now that he had not.  He knew he would never see his friend again, and he just wanted to write about him, to memorialize him for everyone to see.  

Ten years later, we are asked to “Never Forget” the 2,996 innocent souls who died that morning - but to ignore the more than 100,000 who have since perished as a result of our government’s opportunistic aggression overseas.  The assault on our civil liberties at home, while predictable, has surpassed even what I imagined back then.  “What have we learned?” everyone asks.  And to their credit, more and more Americans are making the connection between their government’s aggression in the world and the aggression that then comes our way.  

But what I learned back then, in those days and weeks after 9-11, is something I had learned before and something I’m sure I will have to learn again.  I learned that the way to fight destruction is through creation.  I learned that we - or at least I - are here to create, not to destroy.  That even fighting evil, while perhaps a noble pursuit, is not our true purpose.  I spend a lot of time “fighting evil”.  I write about the evils I see in the world, in the hopes that it will help us figure out how to do things differently, how to live without granting the power to murder, abuse, control and steal to a select bunch of people and then expecting them not to abuse it.  I think it is important to fight evil, and I’m not going to stop doing it.  But I spend way too much time doing it.  I keep having to remind myself that it’s not really what I’m here for.

So I spent yesterday creating.  On the tenth “anniversary” of the September 11th attacks, I drew a picture.  You can see it below.  It may not seem like a big deal, but it’s one that’s been giving me trouble for a while.  It’s a picture that will go in a book I’ve written called “Mermayde in the City”.  I finally got it pretty much right, although I’m not happy with some of the details and will re-do it to fix those.  Anyway, I did it and I’m happy with this first cut.  I also cooked some things for my family and yes, I made soup.  None of these things are as “big” as what happened on September 11th ten years ago, but they are much much more important.  That's what I want to remember.


Mermayde art 1 small