Dec 30 2012
Van Jones said not so long ago: “If we want to fix the economy, the first thing we got to do is repeal the Bush tax cuts and pull back our military expenditures to Clinton level expenditures.” The first corrective action one takes does not have to be a vanguard one, but it is clear that President Obama's second term requires an understanding of the stakes for labor and capital, ones greater than those at the Clinton levels. Critical analyses might require interrogating the problem of how the base economy depends on the superstructure’s contractual complicity in coordinating industries that have regional impacts and cultural effects. In the case of the Fiscal Cliff(FC), a critical political economic analysis of the defense sector and its associated practices including procurement pork-barreling can give us some small insights on the fictive, yet dimensional nature of the capital and labor involved. The myth of the cliff metaphor functions as though lemmings were at risk. But as with everything "we have entered the house of language and the doors are closing behind us".
For those requiring a summary:
“The “fiscal cliff’, however, is an invented term applied by politicians to the date various temporary legislative changes to the country’s tax code and spending policy take effect. Politicians began instituting temporary tax cuts with the intention of later transforming them into permanent law in the 1990s. According to a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report, this practice exploded during the George W. Bush administration and was accompanied by budget gimmickry to hide their affect on the federal deficit. The Bush era tax cuts, known respectively as the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 and the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003, are at the center of the storm that is raging around the “fiscal cliff’. The legislation, which was set to expire in 2010 but was extended to 2012, significantly reduced rates on income, estate and dividends and capital gains taxes and exemptions. After the sunset of the Bush era tax cuts, estate and gift tax exemptions will end raising the tax rates on transferred estates over $1 million to 55%. Long-term capital gains taxes will rise from its current rate of 15% to 20%. The tax bracket for the country’s wealthiest citizens will rise from the current 35% to 39.6%. In other words, the tax code will largely return to the rates that were in place prior to the George W. Bush administration.”
The Myth of the Fiscal Cliff: Another False Apocalypse (h/t Jonathan Turley)
For our purposes here, the cliff is more like a speed bump because the funding for defense will continue with little effect because of the contractual aspects of procurement that occur in a spatial and temporal context.
For their part, some defense contractor executives are now making it a point to stress that sequestration, if a fiscal cliff deal isn’t reached by Jan. 1, would be less of a “guillotine” than a “speed bump.” That’s long been the view of military analysts. “The fiscal cliff metaphor just isn’t accurate,” says Todd Harrison, senior fellow in the Defense Budget Studies program at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington. “It’s more of a slope – but it is a slippery slope.” Moreover, sequestration does not apply to cases in which defense companies are working now on vehicles and weapons contracts that have already been obligated. “That’s an important point, because if you’re a defense contractor, whatever you’re working on now is something that has already been obligated, and that will continue until the money runs out,” Mr. Harrison says. “There won’t be any immediate impact on Jan. 2.”
Christian Science Monitor
The Fiscal Cliff is largely such a speed bump in the ever-self-correcting however badly managed capitalist economy, given that it has all the sausage of policy problems derived from trying to constrain one form of the ideological state apparatus (the legislative branch budget power) with another more materially destructive institution like the Military Industrial Complex (MIC). Without rehearsing what others have contributed, I want to make a small point on the spatial analysis of the FC with respect to the defense industry if only to make a point concerning the regulation of the firearms industry and citizens. The subsequently mediated cultural effects that produce calls for citizen disarmament illustrate a false consciousness that show that political power (can) grow out of the barrel of a gun, real and digitally imagined because of a lack of awareness of armaments production, or its application abroad. Yet militarization whether domestic or international will continue unabated; an FC agreement will be made, compromises will be achieved, and the continuing path of exploitation and stagnant growth will run through the first quarter(s) of the Second term. Recent domestic historical spectacles of violence have obscured the necessary path to global demilitarization which cannot be called at any moment world peace. Another diarist came to this spatial contradiction recently.
But of course in a country which cares so little for however much collateral damage we inflict on innocent civilians with drone strikes, so long as none of our boys and girls get hurt, it's hard to expect that emotional pain visited on Afghani non-combatants counts for much in the American scheme of things. We have a national melt down over twenty dead school children in Connecticut. Twenty dead Pakistani school children lost to a drone strike not so much. It's who we are. It's about us. Always about us. Little brown people on the other side of the world are beyond our awareness. I don't have to like it, but that's how it is.
We value things that seem closer to us but as its says in our cars’ right hand mirrors: “objects closer may appear larger than they are”. As it is with tragedy, the proportion of its causes are disproportionate to its scale. Self-defense and self-determination must be bravely seen in their globalized context with a constant goal of nonviolence and choose the appropriate targets for regulation whether individual products or entire industries, tempering social costs with social justice. Please follow me below the orange squiggle to view exceptionally grim(m) triggers for more moral hazards.
Jun 18 2012
We are told we need the law. We need a million rules to ensure everyone has a fair shake, a level playing field we rely on as we move through life. But if you are lesbian or gay, the majority have recently passed laws giving people who prefer heterosexual coupling an advantage. The federal government has done nothing to come to this minorityâs assistance. These laws are just the latest in a long litany of discriminatory laws.
We are told we need the law to define culture, to give the boundaries of permissible behavior. Yet, do you think you are aware of every law you live under? In every jurisdiction, outdated laws remain on the books. You are likely to have broken some of them without even knowing. In fact, most new endeavors begin with consultation of a lawyer. Legal professionals research for hours to ensure their clients wonât inadvertently break some little known law. Many of these laws unduly invade our private lives to restrict trivial actions, like putting a window in a wall of your home, so the state or some industry can make money.
We are told without the law, our society would crumble into brutish chaos. To me, the image of John Pike, dressed like an SS officer, strutting around a circle of passive students shaking a can of pepper spray, meant to be used at distance on an advancing crowd, is the image of brutish chaos.
Or perhaps those words conjure up the image of an octogenarian pepper sprayed in the eyes for speaking out against a government that coddles the rich and abuses the poor.
Or the Berkley students night-sticked in the bread basket to discourage peaceful assembly:
Yet, surely our teachers and parents are right. Surely we need the rule of law to guide society. We need some rules.
Today we crawl outside one of our deepest and oldest mental boxes to consider the unthinkableâthat changes in the law cannot cure societyâs ills, because the law, itself, is part of the problem. Today we take a walk on the wild side in a lawless society.
Apr 23 2012
[The conversations represented here took place over the last week and are compressed for your reading pleasure. My husband and I are real people and said the things represented here. The rest of the dialogue is provided by intentionally fictionalized characters that are not meant to represent any one person. All sentiments and facts expressed here are genuine to the best of my recollection, but the characters saying them were selected by drawing names from a hat. I, alone, am responsible for this content.]
“They canceled Andrianna’s tubals yesterday,” I inform Steve in the hall outside the conference room. “They didn’t even give her a whole day’s notice so she could talk to her patients before they did it.”
“I got virtually no notice either when they canceled mine on Monday,” he replies.
“Really?” I am shocked by this. I have never heard of a hospital canceling cases so abruptly without involving the surgeon. “Who ordered the cancellations like that?”
“Don’t know. We’re only told the surgery scheduler, but someone gave her the order.”
We enter the conference room to find Norm waiting for us. The other gynecologists filter into the room. Both the hospitals the Sisters of Orange own are represented: the hospital in my town, St. Joseph’s, and the one south of us, Redwood Memorial.
“We had hoped this would blow over but the sisters feel backed into a corner.” Norm starts. “They have no choice but to get tough on this issue.”
“What brought all this on?” Steve asks.
“The edict came down from the new Bishop in Santa Rosa,” Norm says, “but we got targeted when they pulled the diagnosis codes for the hospital. It was obvious we were doing more sterilizations than they were in Southern California.”
“In Southern California you can go down the street from any Catholic institution and run into a secular hospital.” I try to defend us. “The Catholic Church bought almost all the hospitals in this area. For the last six years they’ve been trying to drive the last secular hospital under.”
“Never the less, we were doing a lot of tubals for ‛psychological’ reasons.”
“We were hardly doing a lot of sterilizations,” I say. “Other hospitals preform far more tubals a year. The stigma the Church gives the procedure already curtails many woman from asking for sterilization.”
“So what’s the plan?” Steve says, rescuing the meeting from disintegrating into complaints about the Church.
“Nothing.” Norm states. “This is a game we can’t win. The more public pressure the Catholics face, the more they will dig in. We have to keep quiet and wait. That will take the pressure off the nuns. When you’re approached by the media, and you will be approached, my advise is to refer them to the CMO. That’s what he gets paid for. Don’t talk to the media, or write letters to the editor. Don’t talk to your patients about it. We need to keep the lid on this to stop it from blowing up.”
“Too late. The patients already know.” I inform him. We all know there was an article in the local alternative paper, The Journal. The “real” paper in town, the Times Standard, has been silent on the issue. “I spent half an hour at a Pap smear today with an irate woman who vented the whole time about how this was unreasonable and unfair.”
“I wouldn’t encourage her. And don’t talk to your staff about this either,” Norm says.
“How am I going to do that? I’m taking my patients to Mad River. They all know why I stopped operating at St. Jo’s.”
“What do you say to the patients?” Steve wants to know.
“The truth. I don’t think it’s fair to deny all the women in an entire county a procedure on religious grounds. And the patients agree with me. I have an eighty year old woman who lives as far south in the county as you can go. I told her why I was taking my patients north, but seeing where she lived and considering her age I told her I would make an exception for her and operate on her at St. Jo’s. She told me, ‛Don’t you dare. I don’t want to support that any more than you do.’ This octogenarian wants to drive past the two hospitals the Sisters own to have her surgery at Mad River Hospital.”
“This hospital is facing hard times right now.We’re barely holding on ourselves. We can’t afford to lose any patients. We don’t want to lose patients or doctors.” Norm seems genuinely alarmed.
“Great. Go back to the way it was, and I’ll bring my surgeries back to St. Jo’s.” I feel for Norm, but I will not be moved.
“Look, if they made us take all the hysterectomies to ethics committee, the way they threatened to, then I would do the same thing.” Wendy said. “But it’s just the tubals.”
“The only reason they didn’t is because they found out the insurance companies already reviewed all our hysterectomies and would not pay without an adequate medical diagnosis.” I tell her. “They weren’t being magnanimous. They just didn’t want to duplicate the work.”
“You can’t take your surgeries to Mad River.” Quinn, always the practical one, tells me. “I’ve looked at the labor numbers. St. Jo’s is hemorrhaging money in Obstetrics. The hospital will take the Laborist program away. The only reason you came here was for that program. You don’t want to see it die, do you?”
“I don’t.” Everything he says is true. Medicaid doesn’t even cover the cost of deliveries for most hospitals. The one wing devoted exclusively to women is a loss leader for most hospitals in the nation. Obstetricians get treated like the red-headed-step-children of the family of physicians because we don’t make the hospital any money. Having a Laborist program is a rare luxury. It meant I could sleep through the night for the first time in years, watch a whole movie in a theater, have a conversation with my husband–uninterrupted by the other woman…one with vaginal discharge. I do desperately want to keep that indulgence. “It’s not just about what I want. If they take the Laborist program, there’s little reason for me to be at St. Jo’s at all. I’ll not just take surgery to Mad River, I’ll take my labor patients as well.”
“If we don’t support the hospital it won’t be there to care for us.” Wendy says. “I for one want a hospital here when I retire.”
“Not taking care of the needs of half of the population is not caring for us.” I can feel my control slipping. “If they are unwilling to serve half the population’s health care needs, what are they doing in the business in the first place? They should sell the hospital-preferably back to the community to be run cooperatively.”
“This happens every seven years or so.” Elroy, the oldest member of our tribe, says. “The last time it was a new nun sent to take over the hospital. She had all the tubals canceled too.”
“How did that get resolved?” I ask.
“She died and it got forgotten.”
“So we’re waiting for the Bishop to die? Or just waiting for him to change his mind?” I say with more than a little heat. “The Bishop isn’t the only one with strong feelings on this.”
“The hospital can make it hard for you.” Adrianna has arrived late to the party due to her patients. “Remember Tony? He got in that spat with the hospital and started talking to people-even people in the Foundation. It got back to the Board of Trustees and they dragged him into Medical Executive Committee. Now he has that mark on his record forever.”
I know she is trying to warn me. I’m no stranger to this tactic. Though I have not seen it used at St Jo’s, I’ve seen it used elsewhere to strike fear into doctors. A hospital will use its power to remove incompetent doctors on a doctor who is medically competent but has a disagreement with the hospital. They sacrifice one physician, ending his or her career, to scare the other physicians into compliant silence. There are even courses for hospital administrators instructing them how to do this effectively. I’ve avoided such abuses of power so far, but I’ve seen it used time and again on colleagues.
“Look, it’s not just our patients. I was already scheduled to talk about this subject on a national level. I can’t act like it’s not happening to me on a personal level as well. You see, I’m an editor of this blog…”
Apr 02 2012
Reprinted from: Daily Kos
In an unprecedented move, we are delaying the publication of our regular Anti-capitalist meet-up diary to bring you a special report. Four hours ago, several hundred US citizens and residents, reportedly members of OWS (Occupy Wall Street), occupied both chambers of the United States Congress.
Corporate media sources have refused to report the event until control can be reestablished by authorities. However, according to Al Gazeera, who just started running a live stream an hour ago, the occupiers entered both houses and forced the Senate into the House of Representatives Chamber for a joint session. We can only speculate whether the occupiers used guns to force the Senators into the Chamber or simply took over using the force of their numbers. We understand they dismantled the microphones in the chamber and began a General Assembly using the human microphone.
Jan 01 2012
en-TEL-uh-kee\ , noun;
1. A realization or actuality as opposed to a potentiality.
2. In vitalist philosophy, a vital agent or force directing growth and life.
My husband pecks my cheek and heads off through the cacophony of clanging metal, buzzers, and ringing bells that is his playground. We are on the road, and have forgotten to get cash for lunch. It would be an easy crisis to remedy, but it gives him an opportunity to show off his talent. I stand at the edge of the action, unable to banish my ill ease at seeing the money in our pockets put at risk so he can exercises his inexplicable power.
He cruises up and down the rows of noisy machines, looking from side to side. Other patrons sit with their backs to him, focused on their own trials with fate. A Native American woman offers him a drink, but he declines. Instead, he tilts his head, like a spaniel listening to a whistle pitched too high for the human ear. He turns away from her, and takes a seat in front of a one armed bandit. In five pulls, the machine gives up its bounty with the loud clang of coins dropping into the metal tray below the spinning symbols of fruit. He scoops up the riches and stalks another machine. Eight pulls later he has enough for both our meals at the best restaurant in the casino.
The first time he did this, the logical one in the family informed him that he was playing into the casino’s evil plan by deluding himself that he had some sort of gift. The house plays the odds, which clearly can not be altered. He might win here and there, but, over time, they have the better odds, and will always get more money than they give. Now, I have seen him do it so many times, I no longer try to make my case.
As it turned out, science weighed in on the talents of gamblers and handed the logical one her ass in the process. Not only is my husband right to believe that he can sense a gambling machine about to pay out, but part of his talent is probably altering the odds that it will pay with nothing more than the power of his resolve.
So shove that testy white rabbit out of the way, and follow the girl with the apron down the hole. On this day of resolutions, I am taking you on a walk through the Wonderland of science. Today, we peer into the power of intent.
Jan 01 2012
What is Government?
Why do we submit to the law?
We can’t run very fast. We have no sharp teeth or claws. Long ago it became obvious that it was in humanity’s self interest to ban together for our mutual security. We each give up a small amount of personal freedom, for the greater good of the whole. That is the basis of the social contract.
As citizens, our responsibility is to uphold the laws of government. The government, in turn, also has obligations. The bare minimum of those obligations are to protect the majority of people from enemies both foreign and domestic. What enemies do we wish to protect ourselves from? At the very least hunger, disease, invasion by hostile forces (external security), and threats to our self-governance (internal security).
So how are we doing in that respect? Lousy.
We all but wiped out hunger in the US shortly after the Kennedy administration (ended 1963), but the government intentionally reintroduced it in the Reagan administration to drive down worker wages. What is left of our health care system is sowing the seeds of its own destruction. Foreign NGO’s have been invited by the Supreme Court to financially manipulate campaigns and thus our government. Internal threats to self-governance are too numerous to recount here, and in any case the Supreme Court has abandoned all pretense that this was a democracy and officially ruled the US a plutocracy.
We are in essence living in a failed state. Just because I am writing about the US, don’t think your country is doing any better. Most of the Western world is in the same boat.
Other articles have detailed the complex road we took to get here. That is not the purpose of this series. This series discusses how we get out.
Specifically, how to tell our government “No!”
Dec 19 2011
I sit on the floor of the Duck House with thirty others, brainstorming for the January action. Neither men nor women dominate the group. We are young, and surprisingly old. Counter-culture and conservatively clad. We question whether it is nobler to seek permits or just show up unannounced. We speak of banners, flyers and street theater-anything to educate the public about our goal.
Even when I still lived in Arizona, I had heard of this place. Democracy Unlimited Humboldt County (DUHC) or “Duck” was on the forefront of the war against corporate power. In 1998, they helped pass a ballot initiative establishing the Democracy and Corporations standing committee in Arcata’s city council here in California.
The Committee’s primary functions are: to research and present to the Council options for controlling the growth of “pattern restaurants” in the community; to cooperate with other communities working on socially responsible investing and procurement policies; to make recommendations to the Council, and/or with the Council’s approval, provide educational opportunities to promote “fair trade”; to inform citizens of corporations with negative social and environmental impact; and to provide advice on ways to foster sustained locally-owned businesses, publicly or locally owned services and worker-owned cooperatives and collectives.–City of Arcata
The committee was hailed by Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and Jim Hightower. Ralph Nader commented, “I look forward to Arcata being a luminous star in the rising crescendo of democracy in our country.”
Embolden by this success, they passed Measure T in 2004. It forbid nonlocal corporations from contributing to local political campaigns. Two corporations immediately challenged the initiative as unconstitutional. Before the case could be decided by the courts, Humboldt’s Board of Supervisors succumbed to corporate pressure and declared this popularly elected law nullified.
DUHC learned from this experience. They won’t be going it alone, this time. They are but one small seed of democracy, but they are amassing with others to change the political landscape in America. They have joined Move to Amend in a miliary campaign, and this time their aim is not a city ordinance in some far off town on the edge of America, but changing the highest law in the land.