Thursday, December 18, 2008

Excerpt from Wealth, Women and War

Executive Summary

Born in 1957, coming of age in 1967, my view of politics and industry was skewed by the counter culture of the Consciousness Revolution of the late 1960s. I was taught that we were a democratic republic, and that we as individuals were duty bound to engage in civic discussion. I was taught that this was the American way. I was taught that this ideal of representative government was the height of enlightenment.

Over the intervening years, I have come to learn that these teachings were the idealistic wishes of an American intelligential class engaged in social engineering to halt the darkness of the Capitalistic system. This book is not a work of disillusionment. It is an acceptance of the reality of U.S. culture and an examination of this culture based on what I see in history. While it is titled Wealth, Women and War, it could have also been titled Everything I Have Learned About the United States Over the Past 50 years.

I love my nation. I am proud of her Constitutional ideals. I enjoy my fellow citizens, even when we disagree. I worry about the future of the United States the way a father worries about the future of his children. I am sure the United States will be “okay,” and I am optimistically certain that we will manage to get past the rough spot we find ourselves in now. But I fear what it will take to get us from where we are now to the future for us as a nation.

We may very well be on the cusp of a new social order described in such classics as Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, the 1977 science fiction movie, Logan’s Run, or the 1973 movie Rollerball. The darkness of each of these futuristic fantasies illustrates the fear we have of losing our individuality and control to an unresponsive management.

I’ll confess that I’ve not been keen on getting involved in the Free-Trade versus Fair-Trade arguments. Those arguments strike me as political wrangling aimed at making points with constituents. I am skeptical that it will lead to any pragmatic solutions to the dark side of the globalization process. My goal is to discuss globalization ? from a pragmatic perspective based on social science and historical fact.

Free-trade, also known as run-away competitive capitalism, as expressed in globalization is here to stay for the near future. Some link the origin of free-trade the Silk Road Trade Route out of China around 100 C.E. My opinion is that free-trade began in the aftermath of the “Black Death” in the 1340s.

Europe lost at least one third of its population over the course of two years. Estimates put the global fatality rate at 75 million people, with 20 million dying from the bubonic plague in Europe alone. This massive loss in manpower created an employee’s market and feudal lords began a clandestine competition for labor. The destruction of the ecclesiastic ruling class also gave rise to a loosening of the moral standards previously considered to be edicts of God. The void created in the feudal political system opened up opportunity for the merchant class to flourish through the delivery of good and services. It is during this time that we begin to see what we now call capitalism.

Today it has become open competition to find labor pools that are willing to work for the least amount of money relative to the cost associated in another region. Thus industry and production are developed in remote areas. In the process of developing these human resource pools, certain exceptional individuals within the developing pool are allowed to relocate to the mother country. This allows a talented and intelligent individual to become indoctrinated into the ethos and mythos of the mother country’s culture. The hope of the corporate sponsors is that a bond will occur to insure loyalty to the mother country. The process doesn’t seem to work that way, but most executives are not discouraged by fact.

This is the colonial model and is the business model being applied within the globalization approach to business. The colonial model is not new, but it does have pitfalls. One of these is that often within the shining stars of the colony there are men and women bright enough to see that their country is being ravaged by the mother country. Ho Chi Minh was such a shining star as was Gandhi and Khomeini .

Such individuals wait until the advantage shifts toward their nationalistic cause and then struggle against the mother country. In two of these cases this was the United States. Of the three individuals mentioned Gandhi was the most successful. He effectively shamed and embarrassed England into giving up India. Khomeini could arguably be considered the second most successful. Ho Chi Minh comes in last place. To evaluate effectiveness one only has to look at the resources invested in the struggle against the loss of resources and the resources consumed in the struggle. Gandhi’s model comes out the clear “winner” in that approach.

The people of the United States are chided for the activity of the U.S. government forces from 1955 to 1975 in Vietnam. There is some validity to that critique. However, this was initially a war to liberate Vietnam from Japan as a part of the ongoing struggle of World War Two. Following World War Two, it became a war of liberation against the French colonial power. When the French pulled out of Vietnam, the struggle degraded into a Civil War. That played into the United States position against communism. This war never altered its classic violent aggressive approach. It is worth academic speculation to what would have happened if Ho Chi Minh had taken the same nonviolent social approach to the liberation of Vietnam as Gandhi took in India. The United States takes the blame for certain events in Vietnam, but the violence was also committed against the forces of the United States. That violence was the reason U.S. forces entered the region in the first place.

It is said that every oppressor needs a villain to rally the people for a nationalistic cause. When the French left, the United States became that villain. The notion that Ho Chi Minh and allies were some kind of peaceful force of liberation is a national Vietnamese myth. The communist government of North Vietnam decided on the destruction of their own population through force of arms rather than accept a negotiated peace and alter the tactics they were using to secure the liberation of the South. Based on Gandhi’s model, already proved successful in the 1960s and 1970s, it could have been done.

Had the United States “won” in Vietnam, criticism of the U.S. intervention would be different in texture. We would be chided for supporting a market based economy in a country which was leaning toward communism. There was, however, no “winning” in Vietnam. The best that could have been hoped for was a draw. Ho Chi Minh, and those who followed him, would not settle for a draw. Moreover, they did not accept two separate negotiated peace agreements during that era. They opted instead to continue a protracted aggressive war. This contributes to the globalization process going on today.

Back to the colonial model, two things occur as colonies are built. One is the shift of production from the mother country to the colony. Two is the shift of capital from the mother country to the colony. This depletes both the capital resources and economic opportunity in the mother country. This is what is happening in the United States today.

The conservative taunt that the citizens of the United States have to be “good enough” to compete globally is propaganda. The corporations running the U.S. economy prefer to pay less to the colonial workers than they would have to pay to U.S. workers. These corporations use this propaganda to cover up the obvious fact of economic life for them. This propaganda is so effective that during a conversation which I was having with a clerk at a book shop some time ago, I was told that even the college educated citizens of the United States were not as good as the foreign nationals. We go to great lengths to belittle our own people. Rather than assess the assets which we have within our borders we look elsewhere and claim that the “new guy” is like a superman compared to our own people. Why not? It serves the objectives of the corporations.

Being “good enough” has nothing to do with U.S. skills and education. We have more literate people in the United States than Japan has people in total. One third of all U.S. adults have college degrees. One half of all adults in the United States are involved in some form of college level education. In raw numbers we have a very large educated labor pool. That labor pool is being punished. Why? Foreign labor is much less expensive!

The only response to the effects of globalization has to be pragmatic. The response also has to be nonviolent. U.S. workers are on their own. I would not expect assistance from corporations or the government which they own. Collectively the government and the corporations have, based on their actions and rhetoric on the decision that the people of the United States are their foe.
There may be some validity to that perception on their part. It is good to know where they stand. U.S. workers do not have to work with corporations and government any more than is necessary, nor do we have to call them the enemy. We workers can now work together, separately from the corporations and government, and circumvent them. There needs to be a union of clear heads to address the disparity created by the corporations. We workers can fix this mess.

Since there is great wealth to be made through free-trade, it is my opinion that free-trade advocates will persevere. Therefore, it is best that those who live at the ground level of the economy come to grips with what is likely to occur, and how to approach some survival in the world today. As such, this book is a business report. One might call it a competitive intelligence report for the working-class.

My background is in management. I have worked in the fields of Food Services, Electronic Servicing and Manufacturing, Construction, Financial Services, Ministry, Private Industrial Security, Disaster Recovery, and Information Technology over the past forty three years. My bachelor’s degree is in Telecommunications Management. This degree includes studies in Psychology, Accounting, Statistical Analysis, Economics, Organizational Change, World History and the rather nebulous subject area called Management. I also hold a diploma in Radio Broadcasting, a CompTIA A+ Certification, a Texas Class III Security Officer’s Commission, and an honorary Ph.D. in Metaphysics.

This specific work began while I was working on a course in Criminology for a Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice. During that course I read a section on Critical Criminology which began the thinking process that has culminated with the book you have in your hands now.

I have learned is that addressing a problem is not enough. It does not solve the situation and renders the data useless. Management is, if nothing else, the science and art of solving problems. What any of us “feel” about a problem is of value in determining if the situation should be fixed or not. Once that determination has been made, the situation needs to be addressed and recommendations made.

From the first chapter of this book on the social contract to the final chapter on recommendations there is little which is happening in the U.S. today which is not touched upon. There are no sacred cows, and no single philosophy excluded.
Based on the pool of resources in the U.S. we can make some reasonable assessments about the future, and adjust accordingly, considering the environment and that we need to work together.

The current free market system is not fair. The capitalist system is brutal. The corporations are looking out for their own interest. The United States is now available to the highest bidder. We are an economic imperial force. We are engaged in wars to secure access to economic resources. We are attempting to secure economic liberty for the wealthiest portion of our population at the expense of all other segments. Our intellectual community has stalled in forward progress to find viable solutions. We are a civilization which has become uncivilized at best. This is not new; it was documented in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle in 1902. The only change in the last 105 years is the degree to which we allow the facts of economic life to ravage our population. And by “we” I am not talking about the government, the corporations, or the academics. I am referring to us who are core of the economy. We actually make production happen and purchase the results.

The European Union is not more competitive than the U.S., China is not more competitive than the U.S., India is not more competitive than the U.S. Europe, India and China all have their challenges, and can easily unbalance their respective economies. While the free market capitalist system as currently practiced by the corporations and government is brutal, it also works. There are more wealthy people now than have ever existed in history. That is the point of view which we have to understand. Since free market capitalism is working, what we have to do is modify it in order to spread the beneficial effect across the social spectrum while holding the negative aspect in check. That is the challenge. That is what shrewd management is all about.

Our current dilemma is due to multi-national corporations. They are the ones in control of the economy at the moment. Within the text I deliberately truncate the term “multi-national corporations” to “corporations.” This is an attempt on my part to put each of you into the picture. If we address the problem as one created by “them” we never see it as something which we are participate in. Most of us, at some level or another, are connected to corporations. By using the simpler term “corporations” we can begin to see that we are part of the picture. When we are part of the picture, we can be part of the solution. When the corporations succeed ethically, we succeed ethically. When they lose control of the competitive force, we lose control of the competitive force.

Due to the self-serving propaganda of the decade, I vilify corporations a bit. I feel they have become arrogant. That is, in part, because the U.S. has become arrogant. Corporations’ arrogance is an arrogance that comes from success. There are still certain “us” and “them” differentiations within this discussion.

Since NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), if not before, the U.S. has been under increasing pressure to compete globally. Situations are fluid and people are creative. Add the forces of nature (i.e. icebergs, hurricanes, altered currents in the ocean, fires, floods, global warming, ice ages) that enforce change. We adapt if we do not become complacent. I think we are past the point of being complacent at the present time.

There is not a single working soul in the United States who is not pressed for time. However, this is keeping all of us out of balance. It is summed up in the instructions of Robert Greene in The 48 Laws of Power:

Keep people off-balance and in the dark by never revealing the purpose behind your actions. If they have no clue what you are up to, they cannot prepare a defense. Guide them in smoke, and by the time they realize you intentions, it will be too late …

It is my hope to lift some of that ‘smoke’ in Greene’s words, by shedding some light on as many human issues as possible.

In business the analogy of gambling is often used. Based on that analogy there seems to be a popular but gross misunderstanding of what the game is. When played on the domestic level, the game is more akin to Black Jack, or 21. The player brings their money to the table, puts enough in to be in the game, and then bets on the cards he or she is dealt. Each person is betting that the cards they hold are better than the cards held by the house, or gambling host. The house in the game of business is not other players, it is the marketplace. Management, labor, law enforcement, politicians, and corporations are all players in this game. As long as the playing cards are not compromised in favor of one of the players, or the house, everyone at the table can win a little and lose a little. A very smart player can win a lot and lose a little. The game is guessing what is in the market’s hand, and playing the player’s hand for the best position possible to reap the rewards. It is a mistake to consider other players as opponents.
At the international level the game is poker. It is simple five card stud, jokers are wild, and the deck is full of jokers. Each player is there for himself and to some degree his country.

On the domestic level today we are applying the rules of poker to the blackjack pit. It isn’t working because they are two different games, governed by two entirely different sets of rules. Domestically, if there are too many losers and not enough winners, the table rules will be changed, and the winners penalized for winning. If a winner dominates the house position, then the winner will, one way or the other, be removed from the game. Remember the words of Jacob Marley, “Business! Mankind was my business! The common welfare was my business.

The essence of what I have to say is this - the people of the United States are “good enough.” We can compete and we will compete. In order to compete, we need to create a sub-economy built on a human sub-system within the global market place that functions independently of the multi-national corporations and the respective governments which they own. While I do make some suggestions as to how to create those economic sub-systems, I leave the specifics up to you.

With that, I offer you Wealth, Women and War. I think you will enjoy reading it.

Excerpt from Conspirators, Confederates and Cronies

Apples for Sale

"Those who would renegotiate the boundaries between church and state must therefore answer a difficult question: why would we trade a system that has served us so well for one that has served others so poorly?" (Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner on the Ten Commandments ruling, June 27, 2005)

During the early days of the Great Depression of 1929, displaced workers took to street corners selling apples at a nickel each. In the late 20s, President Hoover praised such individuals as being the shining example of capitalism and free-market enterprise. They were actually desperate people doing anything they could to get a little money in their pockets.

During the 2004 election, a woman managed to get through the screeners to tell Bush that she was working three jobs to make ends meet. Mr. Bush’s retort was to the effect, “Isn’t America great?” That comment showed an unashamed lack of mercy toward the privation which Bush has brought upon this nation. With idealistic zeal, the Christian community helped George Bush get re-elected. That is a poor commentary on our country, and an even poorer commentary on the Christian community in the United States of America.

Once again, good Christians are bringing the wrath of humanity down upon themselves in the naive belief that they are standing up for Jesus. Unfortunately, they cannot see the damage they are doing to the nation as they try to turn the United States into the Kingdom of God. Having been given assurances of wealth and prosperity, Christians have turned their backs on the words to which they demand adherence:

Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see .

Such words fall on deaf ears. Why? Like the religious leadership at the time of Jesus, today’s Christians think they know God, that he is pleased with them, and that they can do no wrong. In their righteousness, they are unwilling to admit to any error, human frailty, or lapse in judgment. Christians exalt themselves before their God and condemn all others. They don’t question themselves. Their way is supreme. They go unchecked.

People don’t discuss religion or politics in polite society. Because these issues are not addressed, power-hungry Christian despots have been ignored. I had a recent conversation with a conservative who told me that the neo-conservative Christian Right was a very small part of the GOP. He assured me that the mainstay of the Republican Party could keep the Christian Right in line. As he said those words, I could hear the echoes of Chamberlain’s assurances that Hitler could be reasoned with. It did not happen in 1938, and it is not going to happen here in the United States in 2006. There is no reasoning with a political group that views everyone else as inferior.

Ignoring, or appeasing, these power hungry clerics is not going to make them go away. According to their own words, it is just going to make them stronger.

Our nation’s founders believed in reasoning with the likes of the Religious Right. However, as time has shown repeatedly, there is no benefit to reasoning with extremists. As it was with the Nazis, the Taliban, and the religious fanatics in Iran, these groups know nothing but the belief in their own superiority over all others.

These people, and the ones they support, have to be swept aside if we are going to come out of this grave, which we have all dug for ourselves. How long do you think the American people will sit by and allow our current government to run unbridled through the globe? How long will other nations allow it to happen?

The June 3, 2006 business section of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tells of flattening job growth, with May’s job increase 100,000 fewer than projected. At the same time, top executives have netted millions in stock options. Ethanol, used in the E-85 alternative fuel blend, has hit an all-time high of $3.86 a gallon at the Chicago Board of Trade. According to another article, the U.S. ethanol industry “lacks sufficient capacity.” This is all part of the idealist approach to the “free market” economy: Some play (the top executives) and some pay (the rest of us). This is as I said in Well Past Midnight.

This evening, I stopped at a gas station to pick up my weekly treat, a fried pie and a coke. While waiting in line to pay, I saw the current copy of U.S. News and World Report, its cover describing Bush’s declining ratings. I wanted to pick up a copy, but I could not afford it. It cost more than my fried pie and coke. It was nice to see, however, that the mainstays of the GOP are worried.

It seems that most of us are out on street corners selling apples, working one, or two, or three survival jobs, and we are all forgotten by the people running the country.

The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government. – Jefferson.

Is Mr. Bush speaking for God? Do we need the schools turned over to the churches, and the unions abolished by Rev. Falwell? Do we need our CIA murdering foreign leaders who disagree with our policies, or our own State Department nuked to please Rev. Robertson? Are those the hallmarks of a legitimate government? Is the government of the neo-conservative Right, the Theocon Nation, a legitimate government?

Excerpt from Radicals, Religion and Revelation

Contemplating Hard Questions

I wonder if God is real. Is YHVH of the Old Testament the one and only God as has been said? Is He one of many gods brought forth by a people who, in radical racism and nationalism, claim to be the Chosen People, superior to all others in God's view? Are those people actually a priest class who are meant to minister to and judge the rest of the world?

I wonder if this God, or any other goddesses or gods, exist outside humanity. I wonder if He/ She/They are beings outside us, or if He/She/They are but a codified expression of the Higher Self, the Ideal, the Freudian superego, or the Jungian collective awareness. I wonder if there is any true power in the universe to eliminate suffering and hardship and to reward kindness. Does a being, or beings, exist who help the individual in times of trial and celebrate with him in times of joy? If so, who are they?

Is life simply suffering thousands of pinpricks, each small and insignificant, but collectively torturous, that drives the good mad? Are there other realities, or are there absolutes? Is that which we see the only reality, or is there really anything beyond this plane? Are we beings that conceive and create the gods, or are we the creation of the gods? Does it matter how we pray, what we believe, what we hope, in whom is our faith; how, where and when we cast what spell? Is it all an illusion that is taken away by the strong man as he imposes his will on others around him? Are there any answers, truths, or absolutes?

Are all the fairy dust, visualizations, and fire chants just games we play with ourselves to minimize the pain that is life and to generate a focus out of the mundane drudgery of common existence? Are these rituals simply painting on the canvas of life that add color to the dark and gray, and having added that color take away the gloom?