Monday, February 28, 2011

Multiculturalism vs. Diversity

The reports of the death of “multiculturalism” have been greatly exaggerated, I fear. But it is significant that, in quick succession, three European leaders (Merkel, Cameron, and Sarkozy) have laid a pall over this Utopian delusion. Now, “multiculturalism” in the European context is little more than a code word for “Islam”, the way “diversity” over here is a code word for “black”. In this land of plenty, if you're black you're fully accredited as being “diverse”, even if you never set foot out of the all-black, all-the-time, inner city. White people, on the other hand, can only “support diversity” by disowning their own race, with all of its pomps and works, and its history of “racism”. So in theory, if all of our DNA could be altered in mid-stride to make us all instantly black, we would be the most “diverse” nation on earth. And so goes the degeneration of language into topsy-turvy la-la land when liberals are allowed to set the rules.

Europe has a slightly different problem. Nearly every nation in Europe can lay claim to a single language as part of its heritage... and the ones that can't, like Belgium, suffer daily from their bimodality. Each nation has a relatively coherent cultural background, set of customs, legal system and precedents, mode of government, and -- most importantly for the present discussion -- faith tradition (or lack thereof, which is a tradition in itself). I'm not saying that European nations are monotonous or uniform; they are actually quite rich in cultural depth. But they are fairly consistent and predictable in these matters. There is sufficient national cohesion that when you cross the border from one to another – unguarded as it might be – you can see, hear, feel, smell, and taste the difference.

Now, against that background, Europe has an “unassimilated immigrant” problem that probably began in earnest a few decades back, when “guest workers” started showing up from North Africa, the Middle East, and other places. These people had their own customs, creeds, belief systems, etc. which were not readily replaced or transformed into the standard Western European socialist model – and what, after all, would have motivated the newcomers to do so? What were their incentives? I suspect they were as lacking then as they are now. And yet this situation didn't seem to cause any major disruptions in the rhythm of things until religion and religiously-based customs and mores became an issue. That's the point at which it “hit the fan”, so to speak – certain parts of certain cities in Europe having become, for all intents and purposes, enclaves or redoubts of traditional Islam, with its admirable history of egalitarianism and tolerance. That's a joke, of course – and the result has been a sort of culture war somewhat reminiscent of the Reformation, in that it has religion as its core. Compare the urgings of sharia law with pathologically “tolerant” Western European socialism – it's hard to imagine any two things less compatible.

But the reaction of European governments to all of this was, at first, to give up on the old assimilation idea without even having tried – and to give its blessing to parallel cultures existing within the borders of a single nation, each being allowed to live by its own rules – and even legally given a partial pass (the way certain minorities are in this country -- not that this is necessarily a bad thing). And the reaction of the citizenry – the old-time majority, that is – was to embrace the idea and run to welcome the newcomers with all of their treasured, non-assimilable differences. I'm kidding, of course; the reaction of the old timers, not unlike the reaction of conservatives on our side of the Atlantic, was to protest the watering-down of their own culture (and, let's admit, their privileges) and what almost seemed to be a preference, on the part of the government, for the new and strange (sort of like what we call “affirmative action”). So the populists rose up, and their cause was not at all harmed by some of the nastier habits of their Moslem neighbors – things like “honor killings”, for instance, that are just a ho-hum fact of life in places like Afghanistan. (I'm not sure how the practice of keeping boy mistresses has fared in la France – but I wouldn't be surprised if that had been given some leeway as well.)

Plus, the tender feelings of the multiculturalists were not even reciprocated! Pat Buchanan points out, in a recent column, that “Islam is a faith that is, itself, anti-multicultural”, even when it finds itself on foreign soil. And, as Buchanan also points out, “these European leaders are far behind the people, and their belated appreciation of the idea of national identity is but a product of political panic” -- i.e. not based on any sort of national feeling or loyalty. True enough, and you'll find that most of the energetic proponents of “diversity” over here are either actively anti-American, or at least neutral and indifferent when it comes to notions of national identity. They are, invariably, promoters of “social change”, which means, when you get right down to it, “You throw your cultural heritage on the bonfire, and we'll let certain other people retain theirs.”

But here's the difference. European leaders can, for whatever reason, pronounce multiculturalism a failure because it stands in sharp contrast to a well-developed, age-old set of images, ideas, and concepts that constitute “national identity”. Everyone knows who, and what, a German is... and likewise a Frenchman or an Englishman. No one is ever going to confuse one with the other, especially not if they're a member of one of those groups. But what is an “American”? I've already gone on at great length about how this nation is ideational – founded on ideas rather than on race, ethnicity, or religion. (Even the so-called “Judeo-Christian tradition” represented by most white people has become so watered down and compromised that it hardly counts any more as an identifying trait. What we have instead is a kind of blind cultural inertia that is in danger of being swept away by the winds of "change".) Not only that, but, as pointed out incessantly by the “diversity” buffs, we are, in fact, a “nation of immigrants” -- or the descendants thereof. What we really are is nation of racial, ethnic, and religious groups that conquered a pre-existing non-nation of aborigines, AKA Indians, AKA “Native Americans”, who themselves had a certain degree of “diversity” of faith and custom, not to mention strong tribal consciousness. But they were, in fact, no more “multicultural” or “diverse” within the tribes than the Moslems in Europe – which is, truth be told, the natural state of man in groups. (It has been pointed out that many of the tribal names given to “primitive” peoples are simply the word for “man” in their language – the implication being that members of other tribes are less than men... less than human. This is also a fairly typical attitude of people in groups, and “civilization” hasn't done a whole lot to make us evolve out of this, despite the exertions of the idealists.)

My point is that the parallels between “multiculturalism” in Europe and “diversity” in the U.S. are limited. The issue in Europe is debated against a backdrop of a relatively coherent culture (within each nation), and the contrast between that culture and the “stranger” culture is stark and unavoidable... and neither side seems all that anxious to compromise. Only the leaders – being socialists and idealists – believe that such a thing is (1) possible, and (2) desirable. The ordinary people (on both sides) don't think it's desirable, and now it turns out that it's not possible either. It's truly a culture clash, and both sides can't win (but both could lose). Our situation – and this goes back to the early years of the Republic – is that, even if we once had a coherent cultural background, it was trumped, at least officially (and legally), by Utopian ideas... and this constitutes a much weaker form of resistance to the new and the strange than European-style cultural cohesion does. And this is not to say that there wasn't resistance; every new immigrant group was met with hostility, prejudice, discrimination, and in some cases downright violence. But again, ideas triumphed in the long run, and ethnic identity became something quaint and charming rather than a strong motivator. Religious identity – again, because of the idea of “tolerance” -- was also watered down, to the extent that it now has very little direct influence on politics (an example being the myth of the “Catholic vote”). (And yeah, I know, the “tea partiers” and many conservatives have a tendency to be Protestant Evangelicals – but how much influence do they ultimately have on domestic policy? Little or none, I'd say. Foreign policy is a different matter... but if the Evangelicals were the only ones supporting invasions of countries in the Middle East, I don't think we'd have developed the habit.)

So the United States at present has no strong, decisive resistance to racial, ethnic, and religious intrusion, assimilation, or melding. It might have at one time, based on cultural inertia – but the sheer pressure of successive waves of immigration weakened it to the point where now it barely exists. New immigrant groups show up all the time with nary a murmur of protest from those already here. And this is, in fact, the way it was meant to be – paradoxically, our national identity has, as its first principle, the lack of a national identity. And you might say, but... but... how about all those ideas? Don't they fill in, and do the job that those old-fashioned factors used to do? Well, no. The funny thing about “modern societies” (starting, lets say, with the French Revolution) is that they may be motivated and energized by ideas, but their survival as societies ultimately depends on the older values. Did the French become any less French because of their revolution? If anything, they became more French – or at least more distinct (i.e., more delusional and power-crazed). Did the Russian Revolution make the Russians any less Russian? It was certainly not good news for the racial, ethnic, and religious minorities in the Soviet Union, but I don't think it did a whole lot for homogenization. The minute the Soviet Union broke up, those minorities reasserted themselves and formed countries, or virtual countries within Russia, or rebellious enclaves, etc. They never forgot for one minute who they were, in other words. And even in this country there are still strong feelings of identity and cohesion with one's ancestral group – Pittsburgh being one of the better examples. But again, it doesn't seem to percolate all the way to the top (or even to the middle) politically, and is, again, trumped by ideas whenever the two are opposed. Another way of putting this is that ethnic and religious identity is a fine thing, as long as one doesn't take it seriously – and in any “serious” political discussion it becomes a liability... something to feel a bit awkward or embarrassed about, like the old folks who never quite learned English, so have to be kept upstairs when company comes.

Ah, yes – the great American “melting pot”. So warm, so comforting! In truth, so empty, so sterile. Ideas may serve to sustain a few socialist intellectuals and eggheads at the top of the government and academic food chain, but they are thin gruel indeed for people with a more grounded, tangible sense of identity (and with their sexual apparatus intact – there, I said it). But you see, those people – the normal “Joe Six-pack” on the street – have no political influence. They lost the culture war ages ago, and are now wandering around in a daze, politically (if not literally) emasculated and neutralized, but with enough life left in them to make them ripe for exploitation by fast-talking politicians and “social change” agents (not to mention the entertainment media and professional sports, America's version of the “games and circuses” of ancient Rome). We are, by and large, a nation of victims... and our victimhood is amplified all the more by the fact that few of us realize it. (The “tea parties” are, again, a symptom of a kind of vague, partial awakening to the reality of all this, which is why the Regime and its media servants have taken on, as Job One, the suppression and extermination of the tea parties and all their ilk. Nothing is more dangerous than a slave who, one day, realizes he is a slave – we saw this in the run-up to the Civil War.) (Or, on a lighter note, the classic Gary Larson cartoon that shows a herd of cattle in a field. One of them looks up and says, “Wait a minute! This is grass! We've been eating grass!")

So, in a sense, resistance to “multiculturalism” and “diversity” is like resistance to a disease – one has to be inoculated, soon after birth, with a hefty dose of racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural identity and – yes – pride. On some level, one really does have to think that his group, even with all of its odd quirks, is somehow better, or more preferable, than others. In the words of the Gilbert and Sullivan song:

He is an Englishman!
For he himself has said it,
And it's greatly to his credit,
That he is an Englishman!
For he might have been a Roosian,
A French, or Turk, or Proosian,
Or perhaps Itali-an!
But in spite of all temptations
To belong to other nations,
He remains an Englishman!

Now, this is satirical, of course – but nonetheless true... in England. But can the same be said over here? The sheer volumes of verse, prose, speech, and iconography (not to mention the mountains of public school "civics" and "social studies" textbooks) that have been devoted to promoting the notion of America, or “Americans”, speaks, in my opinion, to the fact that the thing has remained not easy, but impossible, to define for all these years. We have been trying, for 235 years now, to extract something tangible out of a floating vapor of vagueness, and we cannot do it – and yet we persist. We cannot claim any sort of exclusivity when it comes to the traditional factors of identity, because – officially at least – this nation was founded as a bastion of resistance against such troublesome old things. So we have had to replace them with ideas... but some of those ideas have been found wanting, some have been found impossible to realize, and some have met with general apathy. (And even the best ones have been found to have limited applicability -- usually only to this country or to ones a lot like it. Like "democracy", for instance.) Very few Americans, for example, truly believe, on principle, in freedom of speech, or of the press, or of assembly. Oh, they believe in their _own_ freedoms and those of their group all right, but never for the other guy. (Note, for example, how the ideas about which portions of the media have to be “controlled” and which political groups and points of view are “dangerous” and “a threat to our liberties” vacillate depending on who has a majority in Congress.) And yet the whole idea of “diversity” is supposed to be based on tolerance... with a firm legal grounding. But as I said before, “diversity” is a code word that, for example, stands in direct contradiction to freedom of association – a notion that has become regarded as, at best, quaint. The difference is this. You can tell a basic, “God-given” freedom by the fact that it doesn't impinge on anyone else's legitimate rights. And you can tell a made-up, latter-day Utopian “freedom” by the fact that it's part of a zero-sum game where for one person to win, someone else has to lose. And many of the manifestations of “diversity” involve just that... as do their predecessors like “affirmative action”. In fact, it's not even a zero-sum game, but a negative-sum game. The winners never win as much as the losers lose – in opportunity, resources, morale, self-respect. The only guaranteed winner is the government, and those in charge, because in order to enforce “diversity” you need an immense power structure backed up by volumes of legal code.

So with all the above in mind, you might expect that anti-immigration sentiment would be much greater in Europe than in the U.S. -- and you'd be right. And the Europeans are unabashed about this; they are going directly against the policies of their respective governments, and they don't care... and their governments are, at least, not working full time to marginalize and shun the people who feel this way – unlike our own government, which not only does this but persecutes and files lawsuits against state and local governments, and elected officials, that try to hold back the tide. So while Europe may have turned the corner on this issue, we're still headed for self-imposed cultural annihilation – at least as long as the government has anything to say about it. And what I suspect is that this is not simply an ideational battle – you know, the government's “idea people” (I call them “nerds with a gun”) vs. normal citizens. If you can deracinate people... culturally neutralize them... commit cultural genocide... then you'll have a population of demoralized, depressed clones who will be more likely to put up with other forms of oppression and exploitation. In other words, strike first at pride by striking at the heart of a culture... and with pride goes self-respect, and with that goes the ability, energy, and willingness to defend oneself against further assaults. All totalitarian governments have taken great, ahem, pride in, first and foremost, wiping out annoying and bothersome “differences” based on traditional cultural values. Uniformity is always to be desired... and as I've discussed previously, “diversity” is little more than uniformity in disguise. If to “respect other cultures” requires you to disrespect, disown, and shun your own... well then, won't everyone sooner or later be obligated to disrespect, disown, and shun their culture, in which case what will be left? How can someone else honor my culture if I refuse to, or am unable to? They can't. So the agenda of the Regime is clear on this – the ultimate agenda of “diversity” is to eliminate all differences that might have any impact on political, social, or moral attitudes – which means all differences, period. (Including those of gender and sexual identity, I might add. Not being satisfied at striking at the heart of people's social identity, they have to strike at their DNA and endocrine systems as well, in what bears a remarkable resemblance to policies in the early years of the Soviet Union.)

Buchanan provides a quote from James Burnham: “Liberalism is the ideology of Western suicide.” I would reword this slightly to say that American liberalism is the ideology of multiple cultural genocide – with the goal of achieving a great, gray sameness and a level (non-)cultural landscape, over which the elite may rule as they wish. This vision of the future may inspire them, but it ought to inspire the rest of us to strong and vociferous opposition.

I might add that, if one lives in the Washington, DC area it would be tempting to think that it's too late, because the only visible and significant cultural groups are the “diverse” -- i.e. black – and everyone else. But living in Pittsburgh gives me cause for hope. There are still a few warm coals of ethnic pride remaining here, and they could be fanned up to include a more serious and integrative approach to religion, and then extended in a meaningful way to politics. As it is, people here are being driven by slavemasters, just like everyone else – but they at least have the makings, and in some cases a living memory, of what it would take to recover their pride and identity. The problem is, no one is appealing to them on that basis, because it's so politically incorrect – even in this area. As the old timers die off, very few are stepping up to take their place. They prefer to be part of the bland, tasteless American gruel than part of something with balls (there – I said it again)... something dynamic... something real. But the promotion of ethnic pride (among white people) is probably one of the least popular causes in the country... and bringing religion into politics is strongly disfavored by the Regime as well (although they will exploit this to the hilt when it does happen). And of course, racial pride, for the non-diverse, is completely beyond the pale (because, don't you know, the only people who feel that way are the Klan and those “white supremacists” out in Idaho). So the first thing that has to be overthrown is the psychological rule of the Regime over our minds; then the political piece will become possible. Otherwise, it's a lost cause.

Friday, February 25, 2011

America's #1 Political Prisoner

Here's another story that keeps coming around with depressing regularity. It is the never-ending saga of Jonathan Pollard, convicted spy, who is serving a life sentence. All well and good. This is the sort of character we used to trade to the Russkies in exchange for one of our own spies who happened to get caught. Even the Cold War had its conventions of diplomacy. But Pollard's case is a little bit... different, shall we say. For he was not spying for any of our traditional enemies, but for none other than Israel. Now... I've referred to this case before, in discussing our bizarre and suicidal obsession with “defending” Israel at all costs. Diplomatically, economically, militarily, we are joined at the hip. And it didn't have to be this way. I mean, the establishment of the State of Israel was, basically, the result of a conspiracy among us, the Brits, and the Zionists... with the French thrown in for good measure, since they had some interests in the region. And why was the establishment of the State of Israel necessary? Well, because the Jews felt a need for a safe haven, after the recent unpleasantness in Europe. No one was about to go back to Poland or Ukraine, for instance... and for some reason, they didn't all want to come to the United States either, although they could have, very readily. The U.S. had long since established itself as the “Gold Mountain” for the Jews, and they had prospered here like nowhere else in ages. But Zionism – the idea of returning to the land that they rightfully owned – was too powerful an idea to brush aside for mere practical purposes, and so the European powers and the U.S. were enlisted in what became the triumph of Zionism – although, ironically, it was only made possible by Hitler and the Holocaust. If it had not been for der Fuehrer, the Jews would still be happily ensconced in central and eastern Europe, and the only people interested in settling in Palestine would be a bunch of fanatics (as was the case prior to World War II). But it was not meant to be... and so, in what was probably the greatest diplomatic blunder of the 20th Century, the State of Israel was established right in the heart of enemy, i.e. Moslem, territory, on land formerly part of the Ottoman -- i.e. Moslem -- Empire and inhabited, by and large, by Moslems. You could not have imagined a scenario better designed to insure perpetual trouble, expense, aggravation, and violence – and yet there it was, and we signed off on it enthusiastically.

Then a funny – but predictable – thing happened. The European powers very gradually slinked into the tall grass and disappeared, where support for Israel was concerned, leaving the U.S., basically, holding the bag and supporting an increasingly unpopular idea, now that Islamic militancy was on the rise. But Israel – to give credit where credit is due – held its own through wars with its Moslem neighbors (not without our help, of course) – so the “reality on the ground” is that the “Zionist entity”, as the Islamists call it, is alive and well, and is, for all intents and purposes, the 51st state in the U.S. -- although it's much more expensive to maintain than any normal state its size would be. And the U.S. finds itself increasingly isolated, diplomatically, because of this – often being the only one voting against a U.N. resolution chiding Israel for some offense or other. It is, in other words, us and Israel against the world – and we can see that our other “allies” are lukewarm at best about this, and in many cases downright disgusted. But we must soldier on, because... well, because Israel is our only reliable friend in the Middle East, and without their cooperation we wouldn't be able to pursue our main agenda in that region, which is... protecting Israel. Is that clear? OK.

Now, against this background, consider the absurdities and ironies of our having arrested, tried, convicted, and imprisoned an Israeli spy. The first question anyone should ask is, why did he need to do any spying in the first place? Because surely we hold nothing back from our “eternal ally”... not money, not diplomatic support, not weaponry, not technology, not military assistance. So what was there to spy on? And even in the unlikely event that there were things we had, or knew, that Israel did not have, or know, didn't they just have to ask? Why recruit some dweeb to rummage around and obtain information under cover of night? These are questions that, after all this time, have yet to be asked (publicly, at least). And the reason they aren't asked is that there is no answer that makes any sense.

For another facet of this issue, consider the “security briefings” I used to be subject to, along with all the other Defense Department clones, on a regular basis. These were invariably conducted by some guy right out of the movies – black suit, skinny black tie, buzz cut – and they would painstakingly go over the current rules and regulations about keeping classified stuff out of the hands of the enemy (whoever they were). But the best part of the briefing was always the “horror stories” about real live spies, and all the damage they caused, and how they were finally caught and brought to justice, the dirty traitors! And the pantheon of spies always included the same three names – Aldrich Ames, Robert Hanssen, and... you guessed it... Jonathan Pollard. That's right! The security guys considered this person to be one of the most notorious, baddest-of-the-bad, spies of all time... or at least of the post-Cold War era.

Now... the funny thing is that these security guys never mentioned that Pollard had been spying for Israel. That was, apparently, considered a bit too controversial, even for a non-public (but not classified, I hasten to add) forum. And it might, in fact, have led to awkward questions, like the ones I raised above: If they're our friends, why are they spying on us? And if they're our friends, why do they even need to spy on us? And even if they thought they needed to and did, why is that such a bad thing? As Frank Anderson, ex-CIA, said in a recent column, “Under this theory, spying for Israel was not serious because it was on behalf of an ally and a friendly government, rather than an enemy of America.” Depends on what you mean by “friendly”, I guess...

In any case, Israel has been mounting a full-court press ever since the day Pollard was convicted, to have him freed and... what? Welcomed to Israel with open arms, I guess, the way Russian spies we and Britain traded were welcomed back to the Motherland. These appeals come around on a regular basis, the most recent having occurred last month in the form of a letter from Netanyahu to Obama. So it's an extremely awkward situation for our government, which already spends every waking moment, and every spare dollar, sacrificing our interests to Israel. Why not just let the guy go? My theory is that it's a way of making a statement, or reassuring people – not that the government has any real problem with the spying aspect, but they do feel a bit of heat from time to time regarding our unprecedented and (to put it very mildly) ill-advised relationship with Israel. Why, there are rumors that the Israeli lobby “owns”, to put it bluntly, a large portion of Congress... and we know that every presidential candidate gets thoroughly vetted by the Israeli lobby and by Zionist organizations before they're allowed to proceed on their quest for glory. (This last point is, by the way, not only not a secret, but is common knowledge. The mainstream media report on this process with every presidential election, and no one seems to think there is anything wrong with it.) So in the light of all this, and the notion that no one in the government is “their own man” (or woman) in this matter, Pollard has been singled out as the one, sole example of how we are indeed our own man, and haven't been mesmerized or blackmailed by Israel, and how we're protecting the integrity of the nation and its defenses, etc. In other words, Pollard is a kind of scapegoat, and the chances are that all of the various interests pleading for his release know that. So they have to keep up the pleas as a matter of form, and so as not to lose face... but they know (because they've been told) that he serves a purpose, and that as long as this purpose exists to be served, he will remain in custody.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Footnote Parade

A sampling of current news, with no particular theme or order of importance:

“American jailed in killings is CIA agent.” Whoa, didn't see that coming! Well... you can bet that any time an “embassy employee” gets in trouble, but no one wants to reveal exactly what his job is, it can only mean one of two things – either CIA or a mercenary of some sort. And, in fact, this guy Davis is not a CIA employee per se, but a “contractor” -- i.e. mercenary. Now, we know these people exist and that every American embassy on earth is swarming with them... and the point is, the American Empire is alive and well as long as it's supported by these types. We can be melting down and turning into green slime on the home front, but, by gosh, our agents are still covering the world with their plots and intrigues... creating (or preventing) revolutions... assassinating people... and so on. Wonder what happens when the day comes that they have no place to go home to?

“Senior minister: Britons don't grasp depth of cuts.” This is in reference to “austerity measures” in jolly old England, which are apparently just now getting under way... and the message is, “You ain't seen nothin' yet.” Now... I have a bit of insight into this situation from some years back. We had an “au pair” working for us, from Newcastle upon Tyne, in the north of England. She talked exactly like the Beatles – quite delightful, really. At one point, she was showing us some photos of her relatives – mostly young families, cozily ensconced in some sort of modest dwelling – and whenever we asked what the father did for a living, the answer was “Oo, 'e's on the dool” -- the dole, meaning welfare. Now... these guys were able-bodied, and completely able to hold down a job. But the system in Britain had corrupted them by offering more benefits for not working than for working. And this is what is being talked about at present – not some cruel, draconian, Dickensian throwing of people out into the cold, but simply a return to some sort of sanity. And it's not going to impact just those who are “on the dool”, but the middle class as well – since they are much more dependent on government handouts of various sorts, and entitlements, than they think they are. Sound familiar? Yeah – the day will come when we have to make much the same sort of reckoning... and I suspect we won't “grasp the depth of cuts” either, until we experience them first hand.

Oh no, not this character again. I swear, if I have to read one more news item about Michael Skakel, I think I'll scream. You know who Michael Skakel is, don't you? He's that “Kennedy cousin” who was convicted of murder back in 2002 (the event having happened 27 years earlier, when he was in his teens) and who has spent every waking moment since appealing the verdict. Now... I'm all in favor of people seeking justice, and all that... but don't you get a feeling that the Kennedy myth is at work here as well – those delusions of grandeur, and that extreme sense of entitlement? After all, these people are royalty! And they should be exempt from the minor botherations of the law, since that was meant to keep the “little people” under control, but surely not them! I mean... anyone remember a place called Chappaquiddick? Yeah, I know, Washington is, at long last, “Kennedy free” -- but wouldn't it be nice if the country was as well?

“Clinton, Bush will lead institute on civility in politics.” OK, you can clean up the mess you just made; you shouldn't have read that with your mouth full. The “Clinton” in question is, of course, Bill, who is one of most vicious, and least civil, politicians of our time. And as for Bush – well, that's not quite as bad, since he was never in the loop anyway, so had no reason to be anything but civil. But still, the thought of these two characters getting together and giving people advise about "civility" is just... well, "uncivil".

Yeah, and how about that ailment that broke out among people attending a conference at the Playboy Mansion in L.A.? There are all kinds of theories as to what caused it, but I suspect it was just the sheer biological pressure of all the STD's that have been floating around that place for years. I mean, that has to be about the most toxic environment imaginable, wouldn't you think? (And that doesn't include moral toxicity.)

In global warming news, it seems that “a return to New England winters more typical of decades past” has led to a modification in the predatory patterns of barn owls. OK, so... the owls are telling us that this global warming thing may be pure horse hockey. Now let's get the owls together with all the drowning polar bears, and see what they come up with.

And under the heading of “totally predictable” comes this: “Citing threats, Pentagon seeks highest funding ever.” And this is “driven by an expanding list of what defines national security” -- including things like “pandemic diseases, human trafficking, rising oceans, national debt, education, (and) cyber warfare.” What, no “hate”? I guess that'll be in next year's budget proposal. All agencies experience “mission creep” in the endless quest for more power and bigger budgets – but when the Defense Department does mission creep, they go all the way. And one objection (thank goodness there was at least one!) is that “the insistence that the United States fund a military poised to address every type of possible threat... makes it difficult to set priorities on what threats the nation really faces.” Very true... and it is, in fact a good question. What bonafide threats _do_ we face at this time? The Cold War is long gone, but it's been replaced by... virtually everything else. I know, the stock answer is “terrorism”, but we've gone over this before -- “terrorism” is something our government invented in order to justify expanding power and greater expenditures. The “terrorists” don't call it “terrorism” -- they call it “trying to get the Americans to get the hell out of their country and go home”.

And on the home front – the straw poll at CPAC put Ron Paul at the top of the list of potential Republican presidential candidates – a fact which the MSM immediately ignored, because... well, after all, it was just a straw poll, conducted by a bunch of extreme right-wing “haters”. But what if it had been a poll of the more left-leaning members of the Democratic Party? Well, then the results would be holy writ, and... forget about a convention, let's just give whoever it is the nomination by acclaim. In any case, Romney came in at #2, with everyone else falling far back in the field... which leads me to my quadrennial (and always wrong) prediction that the 2012 race will be Romney vs. Obama, and Obama will win. Everyone else is just wasting their time. But hey, let 'em do it; it's better than most of what they could be doing instead.

And in south-of-the-border news, “Mexican leaders try to halt game showing violence in Ciudad Juarez.” Right, that's the ticket – ban the video game that depicts “drug-fueled” violence in a border town. That's a whole lot easier than actually doing something about the violence. It's too bad, really...I mean, Mexico has always been a kind of sketchy place, but it used to be worth the risks. Nowadays, I wouldn't go down there for all the tea in China. And of course, it's not all their fault – where does the demand for all the illegal drugs come from? And whose government insists on keeping them illegal for purposes that have nothing to do with the welfare of the citizenry? Yeah, Mexico just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time... and I can't see anything changing very soon, if ever.

Debtors' Prison

Well, I have to admit it – the “tea partiers” in Congress seem to be holding their own. They have not yet accepted the sick, twisted marriage proposal from the mainstream Republicans... and they're being stubborn about things like the deficit and useless government programs. Of course, they are still a very small minority, and you can count on the mainstream Republicans (not to mention the Democrats!) to try and marginalize them as soon as possible. But in the meantime, they're “walking proud and talking loud”, and defying the principle of “business as usual”... and it's a fine thing to see.

And then we have the economy, which – for those who are employed – seems to have lost some of its toxicity... except, of course, for deficit spending, the national debt, “untouchable” entitlements, and the cost of waging perpetual war. But what are those trivial matters compared to the surprisingly robust recent performance of the stock market? After all... well, come to think of it, the stock market is owned and operated by the financial and power elite, so you would expect it to be doing well. And all of the economic discontents are “owned” by the taxpayers... i.e., they're the ones who are going to be stuck with the bill for all of the inevitable failures. Not unlike what happened to the financial sector, for that matter – the taxpayers paid for the bailouts and the economic stimulus plan, and the elite collected the benefits. Yes, it's good to be king...

And now we have the prospect of a “government shutdown” -- which, it seems to me, would be a good thing, but few in Congress seem to agree. It's all about a “showdown” on budgetary matters, just as it was back in the Clinton days... and, as usual, the budget-cutters will be the first to blink, since they know that the media are on the side of tax and spend... and as the media so, so go their constituents. Sad, but true. But, in fact, it may actually be too late to do anything about deficit spending, or the national debt, in a controlled, prioritized fashion. In other words, there may, at this point, be no other choice than to face up to eventual, and inevitable, economic collapse... except, as I always point out, for the Regime. If they had wanted the American economy to collapse, they would have allowed it to already – I mean, what was standing in the way? But instead, they've kept it on life support for reasons that are not readily discernible... and they might just keep it on life support for years to come, even in the face of an impossible, fantastic level of debt. I mean, if we can owe ourselves (and other governments and international financial entities) $14 trillion, why not $28 trillion? Why not $100 trillion? Why not $1 quadrillion? There seems to be no limit... and that's the point, I guess. The national debt is already way past the “ever repayable” point, so it's never going to be repaid; it's as simple as that. (Well, I guess it could be if we instituted intentional hyperinflation, and repaid it with “Zimbabwe bucks” -- but that's not really repayment. Not in principle, at least.) So if it's never going to be repaid, then why worry about putting limits on it? The only reason for setting (and repeatedly raising) arbitrary limits is to try and lay claim to some level of fiscal responsibility... but it's too late for that as well.

Of course, there are other limiting factors. You can't raise the national debt without raising the number of people, or entities, who are willing to loan money to the government... or without raising the aggregate amount they are willing to loan. China, for instance, which has been more than willing to loan us money over the years, is starting to get cold feet. Average Americans have less money every day to loan to _anybody_, including the government. And so that leaves... who, or what? I would say, basically, it leaves the global financial cartel, AKA The Regime, which is, IMO, based in Europe. They have as close to infinite resources as any entity on earth... and I guess they could keep “investing” in the American economy indefinitely – with the agenda of enslaving us, of course. You see, right now the “national debt” is what the “nation” owes everybody else. But what is to prevent someone, at some point, from liquidating the national debt by distributing it among the citizenry? In other words, if each person's share at present is a bit over $45,000, why can't the government simply tell all of its creditors, “We're making a minor accounting adjustment and shifting the so-called 'national debt' onto the people who really owe you this money – namely the American citizens. They each owe you $45,000, and you're welcome to collect it in any way you see fit... and you have our full support in this matter.”

Madness, you say? Well... no more mad than the process that has already gotten us to this point. I mean, FDR confiscated everyone's gold; that was a form of madness (or tyranny)... Nixon got us off the silver standard... and the national debt, which was supposed to be a short-term mechanism for funding in times of extreme national crisis, has become a chronic, and fatal, disease. No, the madness has already happened... the impossible has come true... and it only remains for someone to take a poke at this house of cards. But again, the people in a position to do this have chosen not to do it... yet.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A New Line in the Sand

The mainstream media have been unusually candid – realistic, even -- in their reporting of events in Egypt, and I suspect that the reason is that they have found themselves without a party line to follow. So without a set of “talking points” and foregone conclusions passed down from on high, they are forced – out of sheer desperation – to actually report the facts for once, without a lot of contrived embellishment. Admittedly, they don't seem to know when, or whether, or for whom, to cheer... or to “regret”... or to “advise caution”... but this forced neutrality is, in my opinion, refreshing -- especially since it's virtually unknown when it comes to domestic reporting.

Well, if this is true – you might ask – are their masters in the Regime counseling neutrality and a “just the facts, ma'am” approach? Is it possible that they don't have any opinions on the matter? No, of course they have very strong opinions on the matter, but to express them through their media flunkies would create, let's say, a bit of awkwardness at this time. Because what they would have to say is something like: “We're mad as hell that one of our puppet Arab tyrants has been run out of office by an unwashed rabble, and we wish he had shown more courage in resisting this exercise in naked populism.” What is even more unspoken, of course, is: “At any other time in history up until recently, we would have sent troops [trans. - U.S. troops] in to prop up his regime. But we're already fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and gearing up for an invasion of Iran and who knows where else, so an operation in Egypt would have stretched our [U.S.] forces a bit too thin – not to mention the political problem of siding with a tyrant against his own people. The 'Arab street' has grown troublesome of late, and we, frankly, don't know exactly how to deal with it.”

That would have been an honest statement. Machiavellian, to be sure, but honest. But, since honesty is, to put it mildly, not the strong suit of the Regime, they had to be content to sit back and “wait for things to develop” -- and to counsel their servants in the White House, Congress, and the media to do likewise. It was good, you'll admit, to see people who usually spend every waking moment mouthing words be struck dumb for once -- or forced to mouth words that had even less content than usual.

The significance of this is not to be overlooked. Not only are the mouthpieces for the Regime speechless, but it's now clear that the Regime's power ends – or, at least, drops off precipitously – somewhere between the richly-upholstered parlors of the Arab ruling class and the streets full of ordinary citizens. In other words, if the rulers are puppets of, and collaborators with, the Regime, their subjects most definitely are not. And I'm not talking about the “militants” and “Islamists” here – to say nothing of the “terrorists”; I'm talking about ordinary people. It seems that they have never subscribed to the theory that what was good for the U.S., and for Israel, was also (or should be) good for them. Who knows, they might even have been interested in self-determination independent of the chronic power games we play in the Middle East. But this is the kind of ordinariness that totally escapes the notice of the Regime, because there is no place in for it in their philosophy. And this may, in fact, be why it seems to have worked – i.e. why the Egyptian people actually managed to pull off a relatively non-violent revolution. It's because it shouldn't be possible, and it can't happen, so they were able to sneak in under the radar. The oppressed peoples of the Third World are supposed to stay oppressed – and if they don't like it, they're expected to at least be quiet about it, and not riot or demonstrate... to say nothing of deposing a ruler. You see, the Regime has its theories too – and like all theoreticians everywhere, if events don't fit the theory, then the events must be wrong, because the theory can't be. And yet, there it is, staring them in the face. And all their lackeys in the administration can do is stand there with feces-consuming grins on their faces.

The next struggle in Egypt, as has already been pointed out by many commentators, will be centered around the issue of whether the people prevail or wind up compromised, co-opted, and duped, and get nothing more than “a new boss, just like the old boss” for their trouble. The same question can, of course, be asked about Tunisia, and it may have to be asked, before long, about other countries in the Arab world – you know, those other ones ruled by our “friends”. The power of ideas has once again asserted itself, and there's not a soul from Marrakesh to East Timor that hasn't taken notice, and hasn't started to think, “Maybe it could happen here as well.”

But will the Regime be caught (relatively) flat-footed the next time? Again I say, it's not a question of resources; in the old days we'd have landed a brigade of Marines on the quay at Alexandria and the whole thing would have been over with in 24 hours, and our man Mubarak would, once again, be set for life, after only a minor irritating incident. We've done this countless times over the years; it was a major theme in Vietnam, for example. Our presidents have, to a man, decided that they never met a third-world dictator they didn't like (except maybe for Saddam), and have without hesitation “invested” American lives and wealth for many decades in order to keep them in power. “American boys” have been propping up dictators as far back as anyone can remember – but it was always OK, because “American interests” were at stake. But even those interests have morphed over the years – from natural resources and trade to containing communism to defending Israel to dealing with “terrorism”. There is always another reason why we can't just stay home and mind our own business. And now we find ourselves not only slaves to our own rapidly-decaying delusional idealism, but servants of a global cartel that values the interests of the American citizen not in the least. And they do not hesitate to send us into quagmires and unwinnable wars, because even though we're their chief source of cannon fodder, they also want to put a ring in our nose politically and economically – which they have, in fact, done. So whether the ultimate cause is Israel or oil – or some combination thereof – they'll keep us healthy enough to do their fighting for them while expecting us to subsist on thin gruel, the main ingredient of which is delusions about empire.

The American Empire – which was never really much of a success as empires go – has now morphed into a globalist, if not global, empire overseen by a nameless, faceless cartel. The main role that is left for us is to pay for it and fight for it – but certainly not to profit by it, at least not anyone except the ruling elite. And in this, I say that it has roughly followed the trajectory of other empires down through history, even though they were, by and large, much less amorphous and less hidden. Our pursuit of empire is supposed to be done, by and large, in secret – hence the neologism “military-industrial-security complex”. The “security” part means that we pursue empire without anyone noticing. But the funny thing is that the rest of the world – even the most unwashed of the unwashed peasants and urban poor – can recognize our hand in things. They considered Mubarak our puppet, and rightly so – not that he necessarily hung on our every word, but he would never do anything in direct opposition to our interests, and most of the time he was serving our interests quite well, thank you. He was, for one thing, one of the more de-fanged, de-clawed Arab leaders when it came to Israel – and thus, I'm sure, a further source of indignation for the true believers in Islam. And yes, the notion of restoring the caliphate in the Middle East is a bit delusional – but since when does an idea have to be non-delusional in order to gain strength? It's almost the opposite. The peoples of the Arab world are reacting against us and our puppets... but they are also acting “for” the reclaiming and purification of their faith and their culture. And yes, I know, they have no “right” to do that, but they're doing it anyway.

In any case, the Arab world has miles to go before it... well, “sleeps” is not the word. Maybe “fully awakens” would be more apt. And whatever happens cannot possibly be more compatible with our, or Israel's, interests than keeping dictators in place over a drugged and anesthetized populace has been. I'm content, for now, to take courage from the obvious fact that there are limits to the Regime's power... that it can't simply do anything it wants to anyone at any time. And there are two (at least) corollaries to this. The first is that technology – high-tech weaponry, drones, atomic submarines, cruise missiles, etc. -- the entire extravagant armamentarium of the New World Order – is not enough to overcome popular movements and the will of the people, if enough of said people get together at the same time and in the same place, inspired by the same idea. We already experienced the limits of air power in Vietnam, for example – the fact that when you're fighting an asymmetrical war, high-tech against low-tech (or no-tech), bombs are not enough. (Or, when it comes to Afghanistan, how can you bomb people back to the Stone Age when they're already _in_ the Stone Age?) You've got to have “boots on the ground”, and when you get to that point you're no better off than the people you're fighting. You're worse off, in fact, because they're on their home turf. They have, if you will, “home field advantage”.

See, if you're fighting a symmetrical war – when the enemy is as technologically sophisticated as you are, and has the same attitudes about strategy and tactics – then air power makes sense, because you can go after immovable infrastructure like factories, shipyards, etc. This is the way it worked in World War II, for example. But this notion of, if we can lick a heavily-armed place like Germany, or Japan, why can't we lick a rag-tag bunch of peasants like the Vietcong? -- this is based on the wrong set of premises. We depend on certain things for our success, first and foremost being weaponry – overwhelming superiority of firepower, combined with logistical capability. The combination of the two is called “force projection”, and it is the very foundation of our foreign policy. Take it from me, there is no other; without that threat behind everything we say, no one would sit down across from us at any conference table. And sure enough, “force projection” enabled us to throw Saddam out of Kuwait, and later on out of power and into the arms of the hangman, because he was playing by the same rules we were, in the military sense. But those rules did not serve us well in Vietnam, and they are not serving us well in Iraq and Afghanistan... and they won't serve us well anywhere else in the Middle East, if we find ourselves fighting an asymmetrical war against the people, or insurgents, or some combination thereof.

Secondly, when it comes to dealing with a “native uprising”, besides their obvious advantages in cover and concealment, and fighting on their home soil (or the home soil of a passably familiar place), they also have a demographic advantage. In other words, there are just too damn many of them. We like to think that if we only send a few highly-skilled “specialists” into a war zone, our sheer technological superiority will carry the day. “Gentleman's war” and all that. Well, fine, then how about explaining IEDs? And how about explaining why bin Laden is harder to catch than Hitler, Mussolini, or Tojo? Again, different rules – and this doesn't even include the “psy ops” factor – you know, what happens when we keep accidentally-on-purpose bombing wedding parties, family gatherings, meetings of village and tribal elders, bar mitzvahs (oops, wait...). Despite what we think of “terrorist” tactics, the propaganda war seems to favor the other side more often than not... or if “favor” is not the word, then it at least seems to disfavor us. The “terrorists” are at least the devil that they know, and they do share the same creed... but what are we? Invaders and infidels. I mean, we've seen this elsewhere in the world; if someone is going to be blown up, then they'd rather it was by a countryman than by an invader or occupier. Strange, but true – and our great minds in Washington never seem to get it. I mean... at least the “terrorist” is willing to put his own life on the line. Those drones of ours are operated by some guy in an air-conditioned bunker in Nevada. Which one would the average person in the Arab world think of as having courage, and which as being cowardly?

So we encounter, once again, limits to our power... which means that those whom we serve encounter limits to their power as well. But the wars will rage on, since they have nothing to lose, even if we do. It's a delicate balance, and a very subtle game that they're playing... and I admit that large portions of their agenda remain murky. What is their long-term plan for the United States, for instance? Suffice it to say that it's in their interest that the wars continue, and that we continue to make meaningless and absurd sacrifices – made possible not by an intimidated and overtly-enslaved citizenry, but by our ideational fixations, politics, cultural habits, and delusions. We are being used – the American citizenry is being used, and its leaders are being used. But very few see it, because it's too big – like “the big lie”, if you can make something big enough, it becomes invisible. It becomes part of the baseline – part of that which people consider “reality”. The U.S. “has to” do this, that, and the other, because if we don't, who will? Never is the question asked, do these things have to be done at all, by anybody? Because that would probe too deeply into the reality – it would rock the foundations of the world we think we live in if we started to think that way. So it's left to a few lonely souls... and they are wasting no time commenting on events in Egypt. They see it as a new line drawn in the sand, with the Arab people on one side and the American Empire on the other. True, but they don't go far enough. It's not the American Empire on “our” side of the line, but the Regime itself, of which the (increasingly feeble) American Empire is just a subset. But they are correct in seeing it as a major fault line – perhaps the major fault line of our time.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Deutschland über alles

I have to admit, I was afraid I might be overreaching a bit when I speculated that the heart of The Regime – i.e., the overarching political and financial power that dominates the West (as opposed to Russia, China, and the “Third World”) -- was not in the United States but in Europe. After all, didn't “we” win World War II, and bail out Western Europe? And yet I felt that they never really lost their grip on world finance – and that it's been getting tighter ever since. But if “Europe” was the answer, the question remained as to precisely where – England? Germany? Switzerland? Belgium? Well, now it seems we have an answer – or at least the beginning of one. All of a sudden, like a bolt out of the blue, we are seeing headlines like this: “German takeover of New York Stock Exchange seen next week.” Yes, I'll admit it – when I first saw this I thought it was a gag. Is it April 1 already? Or maybe an “Onion” spoof? But no, it really does look like – and please, let's not have any of those idiots on the SEC say they “saw it coming” -- Germany, or a German firm, will soon have a majority interest in the umbrella organization that includes the Exchange. Which seems a bit like – oh, I don't know – selling Mount Rushmore to Japan... or leasing the redwood forests to Korea for lumber harvesting... or turning the Gulf of Mexico over to British Petroleum. (Oops!) It seems, in other words, vaguely un-American... more so even than selling Treasury notes to China, or letting Mexican truckers run amok on our Interstate highways... or using foreign case law as the basis for federal court decisions. I mean... isn't it still true that, as Calvin Coolidge said, the business of America is business? And to think that the iconic shrine of American business will soon be ringing with the sounds of Bavarian oompah-band music. Well, maybe the traders will be allowed to drink beer on the job – that would certainly be an improvement over the three-martini lunch.

But not to worry! According to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, it's a perfectly fine idea, because “it's going to give us access to Europe, and the Europeans access to the United States...” Wow, more than they have now? (And people call Glenn Beck paranoid when he warns about us being merged into a world economy.) Bloomberg also says that “merging the iconic New York Stock Exchange with Germany's Deutsche Boerse will force European companies to switch to using U.S. accounting rules which have superior disclosures.” Superior to what? The Cosa Nostra? It was the very lack of disclosure that helped to aggravate the effects of the economic meltdown – and, in fact, probably helped precipitate it in the first place. But, Bloomberg had to admit that “U.S. rules did not prevent Bernard Madoff from swindling billions of dollars through a Ponzi scheme.” Precisely. And what makes him think that this merger won't lead to even bigger and better Ponzi schemes – with the loot all winging its way to Europe instead of, at least, staying in the country? The point is that the people who make the rules are the same ones who do the stealing; it's like hiring a burglar to install a burglar alarm in your house.

Plus, get this: “U.S. rulemakers have been working on aligning their accounting standards with international rules used by more than 100 countries, including European nations. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has said it will decide some time this year whether to require U.S. companies to switch to international standards.” OK, now wait... the merger will force European companies to switch to using U.S. accounting rules, according to Bloomberg. But at the same time, our accounting rules are being changed in order to line up with Europe's. Am I the only one who sees a shell game going on here?

But it gets better. Another commentator says it will get the Exchange even more involved in derivatives markets – sounds like a winner to me, since that was one of the main reasons for the mini-crash and the Great Recession.

And here's the best part (maybe): “U.S. politicians were unusually quiet about the deal...” Well, yeah – they're all servants of the Regime, and if the Regime wants this deal to go through, it's going to go through, and no mere politician is going to be allowed to stand in the way. I mean, we've already seen this sort of thing in other major strokes by the Regime – NAFTA, the EU itself, the euro, farming out our debt to China, imposition of foreign case law on American courts, and so on. It's all a way of injecting poison into the American system, like some predatory insect or reptile, and letting it do its work, after which time it will be softened up and ready to devour. But of course, it won't be the elite that gets devoured; they will be kept on as loyal servants and collaborators. The people who stand to lose the most are – say it with me – the good old American middle class, once again. Yep, those folks who are blamed for just about everything, who get no preferences, no set-asides, no affirmative action, and whose lifestyle and values are under constant attack from the government, the mainstream media, and the entertainment industry. And now, still another mechanism is being set up to deprive them of their assets and economic freedom. Now we'll have a chance to lose even more on derivatives, and to get involved with the ne'er-do-well economies of Europe (the “PIGS”), on the – let's say -- “supply” side... as if bailing out state and local governments in our own country isn't enough.

And, I repeat, U.S. politicians are “unusually quiet” -- which means that they know it's a done deal. So... are they traitors, collaborators, or merely cowards? Have they been bribed, or blackmailed, or paid off in some pathetic way, like a bunch of two-bit street hustlers? I'm sure I don't know; for every scenario you can come up with, there's probably at least one case that fits. And after all, our economy as well as our political freedoms – not to mention the “American way of life”, for good or ill – have been gradually sold out to the Regime – the global elite – for decades now. One can trace it to the very moment we entered upon the “world stage”, which, I guess, would be the late 1800s – but the process began in earnest during World War I and went into high gear with World War II. The American people have long since ceased to have any significant voice in what happens to them, their resources, or the things that they value... and now it looks as though the process is shifting to the United States as a nation... and to its very future as a nation. We no longer – or very soon will not – have anything to say about our political or economic fate on the world scene. We pretend to be the policemen of the world, and to be in charge of “spreading democracy”, but we are, in fact, only servants of a much larger power – and I suspect that all of our more intelligent politicians know this, and choose to go along... or very quietly fight it. The stupid ones are easily deluded and flattered, and so can be blamed for ignorance if not outright treachery.

So, as to this merger, I just can't imagine any good coming of it for ordinary people. It's a game being played up in the economic and business stratosphere, and it's simply going to accelerate trends that have already gone into overdrive in the last few years, and which add up to the not-so-gradual liquidation of the American middle class, after which... well, what then? We'll have a global elite sitting on a mountain of wealth, and a great, gray proletariat... and not much in between. Kind of like sub-Saharan Africa writ large. Sounds awfully dull and depressing to me, frankly... but this is apparently what they want, and I don't think all the tea parties in the world are going to keep them from getting it.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Chump Time

I've expressed the opinion, on a number of occasions, that the stock market is a racket. And by saying this, I don't mean that it's unnecessary, or not constructive, or not a pillar of the capitalist/free enterprise system. It is all of these, and undoubtedly more. But it's a racket in a way similar to “modern medicine” (which also does much good), or the legal profession (which is, regrettably, necessary), or the civil rights movement (which did worthy things in its day, but which has degenerated into an outright racket), in that it is run by an elite primarily for its own benefit. And this is not to say that other benefits don't accidentally – or even on purpose – trickle down from time to time, because they do. That's part of which keeps these systems going – that and favorable legislation, regulation, and court decisions. But in the case of the stock market, it has to be realized that, whereas for the ordinary investor – the non-insider – it's a gamble and a game of chance, for the insider it's much more of a sure thing. Not a 100% sure thing, but enough of one that it pays to stay in and play. And “playing” the stock market becomes a career for many... a hobby for some... and an obsession for not a few. And when you consider also that many of the insiders also benefit from the government's habit of covering losses (with taxpayers' money) but not demanding any share of profits... well, one would have to be a complete fool not to be in the game.

Now, the consequence of this in everyday terminology is that $100 invested by an outsider – an ordinary “player” -- is more at risk than $100 invested by an insider. And it's not just that the insider has more, and better, information (which he does), but that he – or a large-enough aggregate – has ways of influencing trends. If you “gamble” that a given stock will go up in price, aren't you going to do everything in your power to see that it does? But it takes a great deal of power and leverage in order to do this. And if you “gamble” that it will go down, aren't you going to do likewise? This seems so obvious – and yet we all subscribe to the myth that the stock market is a level playing field, and that insider trading is a rare thing, because... well, for one thing it's illegal! And you might go to jail, like Martha Stewart. And so forth. Well... this mentality is stored in the brain right next to the idea that pro wrestling is a real sport, with no fakery. Or that steroid use among athletes has finally been cleansed from the American scene. Or that the government has told “the whole story” about the Kennedy assassination and 9/11. Or that... well, you get the idea. And add to this the Byzantine nature of the stock market, and securities markets in general... not to mention banking (especially the international kind)... and the fact that – I'll say it again – any halfway-competent stock trader is way smarter than any regulator (not to mention much better paid -- no coincidence there)... well, the harvest is plentiful and ripe for the picking. And the people who are ripe are – guess who – the average, dumb outsiders who (mysteriously) have money, but aren't all that good at hanging on to it. For them, the stock market is an adventure... a walk on the wild side... a climb up to the rarefied air of “high finance”... not to mention, it holds out promise of a better return than a passbook savings account. But what do we say about a person who ventures out of their sphere of knowledge, or their comfort zone? One could say “daring”. But the word “fool” also comes to mind... along with “chump”, “sucker”, “dupe”, etc. So if this is true, what keeps the system going? Well, it's the same as gambling – I mean it's the same as the thing that is actually _called_ gambling. People place bets on random events because, once in a while, someone wins; even idiots win now and then. Some truck driver in West Virginia wins the lottery; next time it could be me! Plus, there's the excitement... that adrenalin rush... the fantasy that you're James Bond in Monte Carlo, sitting at the roulette table with Miss World perched on one knee... even if most of your actual gaming-table companions are pasty, overweight chain smokers dressed in thrift shop clothes. So... in that sense, gamblers get what they pay for, whether they win or lose. (And BTW, most of them think they're “ahead” -- but that's a discussion for another time.)

Then there's that other pesky problem: What do you do with your excess money? I mean, let's be optimistic and say you've already bought your McMansion, your boat, and your Lexus... the kids' college funds are healthy... you and your mate have ample food and clothing... you've eased your conscience about charitable donations... and you still have something left. Yes! You're living the American dream. But you know better than to just sink it all into a bank account... and bonds seem a bit too stuffy... and futures too risky... and gold too “right-wing”... and you aren't anywhere near being able to play the art or classic car markets. But there sits the stock market, beckoning like a mermaid on a coral outcropping – “come in, come in, the water's fine, there's no real risk, and you could get rich”, etc. Plus, who doesn't know some blockhead down the street, or at the office, who “made a killing”, and... why, I'm a whole lot smarter than he is, right? So in you plunge – putting the fate of your money into the hands of total strangers! And who knows what they're going to do with it, or why. For all you know, the CEO might be ready to bail and hop on the next plane to Brazil, leaving the company bankrupt; it happens all the time. Or some new government regulation will go into effect that crushes the life out of whatever goods or services sector the firm is involved in. Oh – mutual funds, you say? Well, fine – but you still don't know the people running them or what goes into their portfolio decisions. For all you know, they're getting kickbacks from the companies whose stocks they buy. Maybe it's just a way for a bunch of places that are about to go under to cover their losses until their managers can hop on that same plane to Brazil.

And so on. So... your money, basically, disappears into a black hole, and you spend half your waking hours from that moment on wondering what on earth is happening inside that black hole. But, oh yeah, it sure beats that small-town bank down the street that loans money out to honest farmers and guys starting pizza parlors. See what I'm getting at? You're playing a game, you think you're a “player”, but actually you're as ignorant when it comes to the stock market as a Hottentot is when it comes to fighter jets. It exists in a different world from the one you live in – and it's full of extremely smart, extremely aggressive, extremely devious people, for whom you – and your hopes and dreams – simply don't count. So what are the chances they're going to “care for” your money? They'll use it, sure; but once they use it, how much is going to be left? Or, more precisely, do you really think your return is going to be anywhere near their return? I mean, they put in 16-hour days, reading reports, running computer programs, staring at the “big board”. And what do you do? You sit home and worry. If it's a matter of “sweat equity”, let's face it – they probably deserve a better return than you do.

But it gets better. They have devised ways to win – to come out ahead – no matter what happens to stocks. If the market goes up, they profit. If it goes down, they also profit – for reasons too complex for the ordinary person to comprehend. I always say, if you want to know who is really in charge, look at who wins no matter what. That select group includes doctors, lawyers, bankers, and investment insiders. Doctors still get paid if their patient dies... lawyers still get paid if they lose a case... bankers take a cut every time money passes through their hands in any direction... and investment insiders seem to come out on top no matter what. And what this means is that you – the ignorant one – come out on the bottom no matter what... not necessarily in an absolute way, but relatively speaking. In other words, when you lose, they still win – and when you win, they win even more. And my model for all of this also includes the notion of what I call “churning” -- that the insiders gain every time a stock changes hands (whereas you're likely to pay a fee)... which means that the more they can speed up the process, the more they're going to make (and the more you're going to not make). So you're caught up in a whirlwind – but guess who's controlling the giant fan? So gradually, over time, your wealth – and the wealth of the great, gray middle class – is turned into the wealth of the ruling elite. But the process has to be gradual, like blood-letting. Too much, too fast would tend to kill the golden goose. Or, it would tend to expose the process for what it actually is. This is why the “downturn” that was one element of the Great Recession was so upsetting – not only that people lost money, but that they (or some of them, at least) started to suspect that the whole thing was a racket – that the playing field was anything but level, and that insiders were calling the shots. And who can blame them for feeling this way, since, once the value of their stocks had significantly dropped, there was always someone right there who was willing to take them off their hands – maybe the same people who had sold to them in the first place (at much higher prices, of course). And of course, the conventional wisdom – what comes through the mainstream media – when stocks are down is “Sell, before things get worse!” And those would be the same people who, when the stocks were about at their peak, are screaming “Buy, because they're going to keep going up!”

Are you starting to see a trend here? There is always someone out there giving the wrong advice – and those “someones” are almost always lackeys for the Regime. What they're trying to do is build in an unfortunate habit of buying high and selling low – just the opposite from the classic advice, and just the opposite of what the insiders do. I mean, have you ever wondered why, when things are going splendidly, there is always someone willing to sell? Are they nuts? Who is the “bigger fool”? A visit to the mirror might be of profit. But they are using time-honored psychology in their quest to part you and your money. They know that people will only buy things that “look good”, and that they will only sell things that “look bad”. So that enables them to always be at the right place at the right time. And if you allow for the very real possibility of stock manipulation (not only individual stocks, but stocks in the aggregate), the fact they they always sell high and always buy low has nothing to do with luck, or with intuition. It's because they know when things are topping out, or bottoming out, because they had a lot to do with it – with making that determination.

But wait, you'll ask – what about “market forces”? People talk about this as if it's some kind of abstraction – as if it's a force of nature. But isn't it really nothing more than the net product of individual actions? And how many of those actions is one even aware of? How do they interact with politics? It's certain that they do - but which is in the driver's seat? And what goes into the price of a given stock at a given time? As I've said before, if it's all about tangibles, then stock prices should be quite stable. If you move into management competence, sales, and so on, things get a bit more vague – then if you get into innovation, and popular fads and crazes, it gets even vaguer. But I don't accept that the price of a stock (as opposed to its value) is simply a matter of agreement between buyers and sellers. Someone has to decide to buy, or to sell – and these things are traded, in many cases, in huge blocks. If you don't like the direction a company is heading in, you can dump its stock, which plunges in value, and your prophesy becomes self-fulfilling. The same goes for predicting success. So who makes these decisions? Mr. Average Joe On The Street? Hardly. What I'm saying is that once someone gets high enough in the hierarchy, they can more or less write their own success – give themselves a carte blanche. It's a concentration of power and a concentration of wealth at the same time – and the two are, to say the least, highly fungible. One of the many privileges of power and money is that one acquires the means for keeping them – means that are simply not available to the average person, and in fact are not even imagined by the average person.

So with that overly-long introduction, I refer you to a tiny tidbit hidden in Wednesday's paper, in an article from AP entitled “Dow tops 12,000, buoyed by business”. Well – what else would it be “buoyed” by? Party balloons? But that's not the point. The lead-off follows: “Two years ago, the stock market was roadkill on the financial highway. [AP is getting more picturesque in its verbiage, you must admit.] Now, one of the greatest bull markets in history is rolling along – maybe enough to finally get the attention of average investors.” Did you get that? “Average investors”. That's you and me, bub – the ignorant, the unwashed, the outsiders -- just waiting, like sheep, for their next shearing. And why is this? Well – if the Dow is already at 12,000 and is only now “getting the attention” of the ordinary investor... isn't it possible that it's at its peak, or close to it? I mean, after all, the all-time high for the Dow was a bit over 14,000. So maybe all of the “value” of the stocks that make up the Dow has already been squeezed out – by those who are now selling, note – and so is not available to the ones who are just now starting to buy. I imagine there are people who are, even as we speak, bailing out of gold and getting back into stocks – and, BTW, there are always people who are willing to buy your gold. (What do they know that we don't? This is the flip side of the stock market – but is it any less of a racket?)

See, it's always the same game – between the knowers and the non-knowers. And as I've commented on other occasions, if the stock market consisted solely of insiders, there wouldn't be a problem. If everyone is an insider, then no one is an insider, in other words. But that would defeat one of the main purposes – that one that makes it a racket – namely to separate the ignorant from their money.

So here are the mainstream media, drumming up the stock market, where it wasn't that far back that they were donning sackcloth and ashes. Now is the time to buy! Well, no – it's more likely that now is the time to sell, and to use the proceeds to buy some of that gold that people are unloading. And believe me, this is precisely what the “knowers” are doing at this point – but not in so obvious a way as to cause “panic”. (“Panic” being the word for what happens when people realize what is actually going on.)

Oh, and here's another gem from the same article: “... stocks are still cheap by historical standards.” Now what on earth does that mean? You can make any argument you like if you select the right “historical standards”, and draw the right curves on the right graphs. Were stocks “cheap” just before the mini-crash of 2008-2009? Apparently not. Plus – the assumption is always that the stock market is an island, entire of itself. But this, of course, can't possibly be true. It's common sense that stock prices are impacted by inflation – but how about deficit spending and the national debt? Might they not have some impact in the long term? How about unfunded entitlements? How about health care? How about estate taxes? How about our extravagant expenditures for unnecessary wars, foreign aid, “intelligence”, “security”? (All rackets, by the way.) Those things might be good for some businesses, and hence for their stock values – but overall? I don't have a model to base this on, but I can't imagine that the answer is good. How do you feed, or “grow”, an economy by sucking the life blood out of it at every possible opportunity? And how can an economy that is on the ropes in virtually every respect yield up a thriving stock market? There's a disconnect here somewhere, and again I think it has something to do with the “hidden agenda” I discussed above. The stock market bears as little relation to reality as it does because it's being manipulated, controlled, and engineered for the purposes of those in charge. It's a fantasy world, in other words. We wonder why gambling casinos and lotteries do so well when times are tough – well, that's a similar case. People are looking for an advantage... an edge. And as W.C. Fields said, “you can't cheat an honest man”. And why, for that matter, are savings accounts only held by little old ladies any more? Who killed that -- at one time huge -- sector of the banking industry? Why, government, of course – through regulation, taxation, and planned inflation. They forced everyone to become a gambler -- even people who had no business gambling. Plus, our money has no backing any longer... so why attempt to save that which doesn't even exist? Try thinking of it that way.

And get a load of one of the things the article attributes the stock rise to: “...a bond-buying intervention by the Federal Reserve.” Which is another way of saying, an increase in the national debt paid for with newly-printed – i.e. inflationary – money. And this is supposed to be good news? If your stock appears to go up by 20%, but the value of the currency it's denominated in goes down by 30%, what profit is there in that? I mean – I guess it's better than holding on to the cash itself, but still... it has all the makings of a gigantic fraud, which is what I believe it is.

So – the article goes on -- “Anyone who bought an S+P 500 index fund (on March 9, 2009) has doubled his money.” Precisely. But who was buying on that dark day – when the Dow was at 6,547 and, for all anyone knew, it was headed for 4,000... or 2,000... or total oblivion? The answer is, the insiders were buying, because they _knew_. And who is selling now? Why, the same people, of course. So... with the Dow up approximately 5,500 between then and now... who made that money, and who lost it? Well, if you've read this far, you know the answer.

Want more proof? Here's the frosting on the cake. “The market has been rising without much buying by small investors. It's the professionals who have pushed stock prices higher for two years because they expected corporate profits to rise.” Well put! But it wasn't just because they expected corporate profits to rise – the wanted their own profits to rise. And rise they have. So now it is time to sell to the little guys, and once that's accomplished the demolition process will begin again.

So the next time you see a news clip of those assholes up on that balcony in the New York Stock Exchange ringing that damn bell – ask not for whom that bell tolls. It tolls for thee.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Revolting Developments

I don't have much of anything to add to the comments that are already circulating through the mainstream, and alternative, media re: the chain-reaction revolts, uprisings, and demonstrations in the Arab world. These are things which were, clearly, long overdue, and should not be a surprise to anyone (even though Hillary Clinton is walking around with Eddie Cantor eyes, and looking a bit frayed, these days). And everyone seems to agree that it's surprising that all of the various kings, dictators, shahs, tyrants, etc. in the Arab world have held on as long as they have, given the propensity for restiveness in their populations. And it's even admitted that the United States has had a lot to do with this, over the past few decades – pretending to be “pro-democracy” but actually being “pro-keeping things just the way they are” for the sake of – or so it is alleged – keeping the oil flowing. So we don't really care, despite all of our pretensions, about the forms of government in that part of the world, or how democratic they are, or how repressive, or how much wealth is concentrated vs. distributed among the people. These are polite considerations that occasionally merit discussion on an otherwise slow day... but what we really care about – first, last, and always – is oil. OK, fine... I mean, oil is absolutely essential to the “American life style” -- no sense in denying it. And we can't produce enough for our own use (or the environmentalists won't let us, which amounts to the same thing), so we have to look elsewhere, and that “elsewhere” is a part of the world where, up until less than a century ago, all of the residents were filthy camel-herders living a subsistence lifestyle in a terrain about as hospitable as that of the Moon. At least that is the stereotype – deny it if you will! So we had to “make nice” with these people any way we could, and put up with their bizarre customs and revolting table manners and sexual habits, in order to mine their “black gold” -- and sure enough, they (or at least their rulers) became filthy rich as a result – but no less mysterious or obnoxious. And now we're stuck with them – or at least with anyone who happens to be in charge, and it obviously serves our purposes much better if there is an old-fashioned king, shah, dictator, or tyrant in charge than some “people's democracy” or a bunch of mullahs. Because, hey, those latter types might actually start getting hostile at the thought of “the infidel” invading and occupying their lands and buying off their leaders. And sure enough, that is what is starting to happen – although the first major instance, I suppose, was Iran back during Carter's administration (and talk about a perfect storm – an Iranian revolution and the Carter administration at the same time? Oy...). So, although it has taken a while, the idea of rising up against corrupt dictators who are aligned with the West – i.e. with the infidel – is starting to spread. And this, of course, is why our president and his secretary of state are so atypically mute as events unfold – they can hardly come out in disfavor of “the people”, but at the same time they surely wish everyone had just stayed calm and that our “friends” had remained in charge and unchallenged. But again, it's a bit late for all that – we have been propping up these clowns, and giving them a lifeline, for decades now, and it has not escaped the notice of the people, nor of the Islamic militants. And in those rare cases where we've come out in favor of some token bit of actual democracy, well guess what – the people voted into power are invariably militants, and the ones voted out of power are our puppets.

So far so good. I mean, very little of what is being said about these events is untrue. But it is misleading, in that very few commentators dare to bring up the “I” word – by which I mean Israel. It may have been all about oil up until, and through, World War II, but since then it has been a kind of hybrid foreign policy, made up partly of the lust for oil and partly of the perceived need to support and defend Israel at all costs. I frankly don't know what proportions to assign to these respective motives, and I suspect that it has tended to vary over time and across administrations. Clearly, under George W. Bush the overwhelming priority was Israel, since we'd have gotten a lot more oil, and cheaper oil, out of Iraq if we hadn't invaded (and destroyed most of their infrastructure in the process) on behalf of Israel. So while the two motives are complementary up to a point, they do tend to diverge in extreme cases. And when it comes to Arab dictators, Saddam Hussein has to count as an exception, by which I mean that, in general, those dictators are (as it turns out) more willing to compromise when it comes to tolerating Israel than their citizenry would be. Of course, they huff and puff a lot, and rattle sabers, because that's what's expected. But they have learned, by and large, that attacking Israel simply doesn't pay off, and so they've learned to live with it – not to mention the incentive a few billion dollars in walking-around money, courtesy of the U.S. Taxpayer, can provide. So any militancy they might have felt has long since been compromised, co-opted, and neutralized. They may not be quite our poodles, but they have been tamed and civilized, mostly by “aid”, and also by the realization that, hey, Israel has nukes and they don't. That's the sort of thing that concentrates the mind wonderfully.

But what about the people? The “Arab street”? Have they profited by all this oil money, or foreign aid? The answer, of course, is no – hardly ever. So they have absolutely nothing to lose by dethroning whatever tyrant they feel is holding them down, and reclaiming not only their lands but also their culture – which includes a more militant variety of Islam, which means less of a tendency to compromise on the Israel question. So all of these revolts spreading like wildfire across the Arab world are bad news for us when it comes to oil – but also bad news (to our policy makers) when it comes to Israel – not to mention bad news for Israel itself. Suddenly Daniel is in the lion's den not with toothless, overstuffed lions, but lions that are hungry and P.O.'d. Now... it's one thing when Israel senses a threat from a place like Iraq. Then all they have to do is call up a chump like George W. Bush and tell him to invade and commit “regime change”. Mission accomplished! But how does it work when the country has already overthrown its tyrant, and is now ruled by a rag-tag bunch of populist politicians and mullahs? Well, Iran is an example... and you'll notice we haven't invaded yet, even though Israel has been urging us to do so for decades. And this, in face of the hostage crisis! I mean, if any country deserved to be slapped down for having plain old bad manners, it's Iran. Not to mention Ahmadinejad and all his trash talking. But instead we've gotten bogged down in Afghanistan, which... well, it has to be pretty far down on the list of “countries that are a threat to Israel”, don't you think? And do they even have any oil? So why are we there at all? Oh, never mind...

So basically, as Arab tyrants go, so go us – our occupying troops, that is – and so goes, possibly, our oil... and so may go Israel. We can pick tyrants off one at a time, but how do we deal with 1½ billion Muslims, many of whom are right on Israel's doorstep and ready to take up daggers and start cutting Israeli throats? How do we deal, in other words, with a mass movement – a populist movement – that seems to be overtaking the Islamic world? We can't bomb them all, or shoot them all, or lock them all up in Gitmo. Sooner or later a human wave will have to overwhelm Israel... and, with each day that goes by, we become less and less able to do anything to stop it, because of our economic woes. It's no wonder Obama and Clinton are looking a bit nervous these days, since serious cracks are forming in one of the pillars of our foreign policy. “Power to the people” is the last thing we want in that part of the world.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Name of the Blame

A new report is out that purports to explain the reasons behind the economic meltdown and the resulting Great Recession. Gee, I thought that had been figured out a long time ago... but guess not. The problem with this report, as I see it, is that it blames everybody... which is pretty much the same as blaming nobody. But despite all of that, it “also asserts that the near meltdown did not have to happen.” Well duh, of course it did not “have” to happen... but think of all the people who have profited by it. And think of the fact that they are the same people who were key players in the meltdown to begin with. It's kind of like Pat Buchanan saying that World War II did not have to happen – true enough, and if we could have just gotten rid of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Tojo, Roosevelt, Churchill, etc., and all of their followers, in time, it could all have been avoided. In other words, if half the world had disappeared on the eve of the war, it wouldn't have started. Right. And if a few thousand key players in New York, Washington, Brussels, Zurich, London, etc. had all been run over by buses on the same day, the economic crisis wouldn't have happened either. The point is, it did happen, and it wasn't an accident, or a “perfect storm”, or anything of the sort. All of the so-called failures were planned... and the way we know this is that they weren't failures at all, but wildly successful. They turned trillions of dollars in middle-class money into trillions of dollars in ruling elite money – once again, as planned. And the people who were responsible were not only not relieved of duty (to say nothing of tried, convicted, and jailed), but were put in charge of the “reform”. It was the economic crime of the century (so far, at least), and its very enormity has, I believe, blinded people to the truth. Sure, a few members of the elite took a few token hits, but in the long run they'll come out of it not only intact, but much better off. Most of them already are better off. As usual, it was the middle class that got bamboozled, and make no mistake, they're being set up again even as we speak, because they still, even after all of this, still have too doggone much money.

But here's what I find fascinating (the preceding being old news at best) – the commission was not unanimous in its conclusions. While the “Democratic majority” signed onto the “blame everybody” model (which is what one would expect, given their tendency to blame “society” for every human ill -- at least for the ones that they can't blame on Sarah Palin or Rush Limbaugh), the Republican minority blamed the crisis on “government intervention in the housing market, including the support given to mortgage buyers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac”. Well, fair enough, those factors were certainly in play. But the government interventions were based on orders from the Regime, as were the actions of FM and FM. They were certainly guilty, but they had also been set up, which is to say that someone had to take the rap... someone had to be identified as “Patient #1”, and why not the housing market and its mishandlers in Washington? But if you're trying to tell me that the entire edifice -- world-wide! -- toppled because of American sub-prime mortgages, I'll ask you for some of what you're smoking. I just don't think it's possible, and I don't think anyone else really does either. I think FM and FM have been told that they're going to take a hit for the team, and objections will not be entertained. (And you'll notice that no one speaking for FM and FM has said a word all this time; they have been totally silent on the matter – again, as ordered.)

But wait! We're not quite finished yet with minority opinions. Some other Republicans said “the crisis was the unavoidable result of global economic forces”. Well... this is actually closest to the truth, but not for the reasons they think. “Global economic forces” sounds like some sort of blind force of nature, like a hurricane or earthquake. It also makes the U.S. look, or sound, like a passive victim... which is, again, true – but not for the reasons one might think. After all, even “global economic forces” have to start somewhere. There are key points at which initiatives are taken, and key choke points. There are laws, regulations, procedures, and customs -- not to mention a secret infrastructure. And the concept somehow creates a picture of banks, businesses, and national economies all being driven around in a gigantic whirlwind, with no one in charge and everything out of control. My view of the matter, as I've explained any number of times, is quite different. I believe that things were, and are, very much under control – just not by us. That is, not by the American people or their representatives, or by anyone who has the American people's (or any other people's) interests at heart. The global economy is being run, in short, by, and for the benefit of, the ruling elite, and they suffer no distraction from nationalism or loyalty to any form of government or style of economy. If it's good for them and for their interests, it's good, period. And this is more or less what one would expect. People in charge, at any level, will naturally tend to look after their own interests first, and if anything happens to trickle down to others, well OK – but that's not the priority. And I believe, futher, that any form of government, including democracies, will gradually "morph" in that direction -- i.e. of increasingly-centralized control by an elite. And likewise, we can expect any collection of similar governments and economies to collectively morph in that direction -- hence the EU, for example.

So when the crisis is called “the unavoidable result of global economic forces”, it's true that it was unavoidable, by anyone who had the economic welfare of Americans in mind, because anyone like that would not be in a position of sufficient power to do anything about it. And it was “global” for certain, since (I suspect) many, if not most, of the shots are being called in Europe, or by a cartel made up of Europe and North America. But the “forces” involved are not blind, or accidental, or random – they are conscious and purposeful, and their plans typically work out quite nicely (for them). All of these other alleged culprits are tentacles of the larger squid – or cogs in the machinery. And as for blaming the poor saps who signed up for “adjustable-rate” and “no money down” mortgages... well, they're about as much to blame as compulsive gamblers or heavy drinkers or drug users. Yes, they made unfortunate choices, but if the “pushers” hadn't been standing right there singing their siren songs, those choices would not have been available. Doesn't anyone remember how exciting all those new, “creative” ways of financing home ownership were, back when they were riding high? It reminded me of nothing so much as what happened when news of the latest “killer weed” spread through the hippie community; no one could wait to get their hands on some, at any price. I mean – people are foolish and subject to temptation, let's face it. But to blame them instead of the pushers – well, that's just scam piled on scam.