Archive for November, 2008

U$A Inc.

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

If the United States government acquired the facilities for big-time automotive manufacturing and committed the nation to operate such an enterprise, employing factory workers and producing motor vehicles, it might make an interesting experiment in post-capitalist economics. We could manufacture the government fleet and transform it. We might provide for employee governance of day-to-day operations and a US government board to oversee the business, for example, or we might make it an independent agency. It could work if our factories made decent cars that were worth the cost of production, something the US for-profit sector hasn’t been able to do.

What we wouldn’t want would be a joint venture between government and private manufacturers for mutual profit. Public policy would have to run in favor of the government-sponsored enterprise and against competitors. That would signal the end of open markets in the automotive business and in every other industry in which government dabbled.

Private parties would have access to the federal treasury in such a scheme, and profits would be guaranteed. Try to imagine the new ways businessmen would find to corrupt public officials with the proceeds. We can see it already in government contracting, most recently with the conviction of a senior member of the US Senate, soon to join a contingent of congressmen in the federal slammer. With the government’s acquisition of a share of private business, rich profiteers would wield greater influence than ever before over public institutions, public assets, and public employees.

Government participation in private business has been tried before. It was a mainstay of the National Socialist agenda in prewar Germany. So successful was the experiment that the Third Reich eventually turned conquered populations into a supply of slave labor for German business. The Nazi government’s military adventures in Europe quickly became a profit-center for privileged capitalists, creating new incentives for a policy of conquest and occupation.

Another problem with public-private enterprise is selecting what to invest in. We seem to be concentrating everything on failing industries. The proposed partnership with GM and Ford is on the table, but the ink is dry on the deal with banking and finance. Finance used to be a conservative enterprise. Decisions were made with great deliberation and for the long term. Risks were kept to a minimum, largely because of the regulatory structure imposed on the industry after the crash of 1929.

With the rise of right-wing government and the corruption of conservatism by big money, predators gradually took over, detailing moles to Congress and the executive. Their mission: to destroy the regulatory framework that had kept racketeers at bay for 60 years. Facilitated by corrupt voices in the commercial media and both major political parties, the mission was accomplished.

Drunk with deregulation, banks and other financial networks defied tradition and ethical practice, bidding up assets with easy money, grabbing their profits up front and handing them out promptly to rich folks and their acolytes in organized crime, banking and government. These are the people we’ve just gone into partnership with. A better idea might have been to take control of all of the assets of an insurance company, for instance, and use the corporate infrastructure, including employees, to administer a single-payer health insurance plan.

And what about car manufacturing? The decision-makers in that industry bet everything on the filthy, wasteful technologies of the 20th Century and the foolish habits of a small number of sociopathic drivers. If the public ever accepts a stake in this, we become responsible for maintaining a market for the internal combustion engine, whose utility, outside of racing, is history. Moving a ton of steel at 90 miles per hour is so wasteful as to border on criminal conduct, and yet that’s what the US car industry is peddling. It’s unfortunate that the personal craving for speed and power, now obsolete, generates the principal livelihood of a considerable proportion of the working class. This is a model of economic instability, and it’s an industry without a future.

Aren’t we throwing good money after bad when we keep these failed concerns going just so people can go to work every day? Might as well invest in the buggy whip industry or horseshoe nail futures. Manufacturing concerns that trade on brand identification instead of quality and progress should perish along with the owners that spawned them, and banks that embraced the new model–get the money up front and damn the long term–should go the same way. Businesses that stuck to basics will survive without help, and they will take up whatever slack is created by the failure of their cutting-edge competitors. This is natural selection, where mortality makes for stronger institutions and a hardier economy.

Corps Values

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

From Rich Donaldson for Veterans Day:

On 10 November 1775, the Second Continental Congress resolved to create two battalions of Continental Marines.  In 1985 the Marines agreed to swap the Colt 1911 .45 for the Beretta 9 mm. The Colts entered in the competition were heavily used and well worn yet still proved just as reliable as the eurotrash. Ammo was cheaper, the gun didn’t kick as much and the krauts swore by them, but hey, they LOST that war.

It wasn’t a fair test and I’ll never forgive the Marines for knuckling under to the DOD, who rejected the Colt because it was, “so last season”. *

There were unexpected consequences, too, like famous quotes becoming unsuccinct and sounding wimpy, even when uttered by a manly man.

Compare Humphrey Bogart’s famous line:

“I never saw a dame yet that didn’t understand a good slap in the mouth or a slug from a .45.”

with

“I never saw a dame yet that didn’t understand a good slap in the mouth or an Avogadro’s number of cost-effective 9 mm projectiles exiting an aesthetically pleasing, Italian-made Beretta 92F.”

* OK; the Navy knuckled under way before the Marines, but what else would you expect? The Navy didn’t trust any of us with firearms or pointy objects. The standing order was to drop our typewriters on the heads of any enemy combatants entering the station. The Underwood packs quite a wallop after a two-story drop, but they’re only good for one shot. Besides which, according to scuttlebuttal evidence, most enemy soldiers won’t let you go downstairs to retrieve the typewriters for a second volley and after the typewriter, the only things left to drop were headsets and pencils that always fall eraser first.

* * *

This is my Colt .45. There are many like it, but this one is mine. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Without me my Colt .45 is useless. Without my Colt .45, I am useless. I must fire my Colt .45 true. I must shoot straighter than the enemy who is trying to kill me. I must shoot him before he shoots me. I will. My Colt .45 and I know that what counts in war is not the number of rounds we fire, the noise of our burst or the price of the ammo. We know that it is the big diameter hits that count. We will hit big-diameter hits. (Pistolman’s Creed - pre 1985).

Corrupting Obama

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama could become a criminal.  He will succeed to the leadership of a murderous regime, taking control of a racketeering enterprise that is monumental in its reach and breathtaking in its unabashed openness. If he doesn’t promptly discontinue its criminal activities, he will become culpable. 

He will inherit a global system of concentration camps in which an untold number of luckless men, women and children are being held without charge. He will take command of the illegal military occupation of two countries and an aggressive airborne bombing campaign that kills noncombatants knowingly and without hesitation. He will become party to contracts with companies of hired killers. He will assume leadership of a vast surveillance operation that intrudes on Americans without any legal process whatsoever. And he will find himself at the center of a conspiracy to obstruct the prosecution of his predecessor in office for these and other crimes.

As a lawyer, Obama knows that he bears the same liability as Bush if he doesn’t reverse the criminal policies that Bush will bequeath him. This honest and upright man must know that he is not ascending to a seat of honor but descending into a pit of corruption as he takes control of a criminal conspiracy that was once a government.

He has the power to reverse course, but does he have the resolve? He assumes an office that has been placed above the law by the Congress, and so he is assured of a free pass from the legislative branch if he decides to prolong the mischief. The crimes of Bush and Cheney were no secret, and Obama has promised to govern as if they had never been committed, putting the people who voted for him on notice that he has no plans to change course. All forces are arrayed to draw him into the web of evil that was constructed by his predecessors.

It would take an act of modest courage for Obama to announce that he won’t drop bombs on another foreigner or continue the imprisonment of another innocent or allow government agents to chuckle over another of your emails. And that’s what he must do to keep from becoming part of the racket. And if you’re disposed to agree with John McCain, that we must help the new president to succeed, it’s incumbent on you to urge him to repudiate the crimes of his predecessor. It’s no less than you would do for your own best friend if he were about to fall in with crooks.