Friday, December 21, 2012

Consumer Price Index - CPI

The Eastpointer

There is no Inflation.

By Richard E. Noble

I don't want to upset all you retired folks out there but I have found out that the Government has been lying to us about inflation.

I know ... I know, you are all shocked. You can't believe I could actually come right out and say the U. S. Government is lying. I am sure some of you think I should be charged with treason and sent to a foreign country to be tortured. I know to actually believe our government would lie is really hard to swallow. There must be some other explanation? Maybe it only appears that they are lying? Maybe I have misinterpreted the facts? Well, I'll let you be the judge.

Inflation is interpreted by the government as CPI. The CPI is the Consumer Price Index. This index was once calculated by comparing the prices of a certain group of goods and services from time to time and then estimating the increase or decrease in their costs. This task was performed by the BLS, the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As the cost of everything in this so called basket of goods and services kept rising, the government decided that something had to be done. Something had to be done because this method was costing the government too much money in cost of living adjustments to retirees, retired veteran’s pensions, Medicare payments, government employees, bond holders and whatever. So they appointed somebody named Boskin and instructed him to form a commission and study this problem.

If you are retired, receiving a pension, have your life's savings invested in government bonds, working under a government contract, or anything that is adjusted for inflation by somebody and you now find that you can only afford to buy half a tank of LP gas, or you can no longer afford to drive your car more than one block in any direction, or you are wondering if cat food can be consumed by humans, you can thank Michael Boskin and his Commission. He and his commission rearranged the methods for estimating the Consumer Price Index.

Mr. Boskin had some "overlooked" economic concepts that he brought into the CPI evaluation like; substitution, hedonics - quality estimations, geometric weighing, seasonal adjustments, along with the elimination of certain incalculable volatile variables like energy, food and local, state and federal taxes. So, for example, when the CPI was calculated without consideration for food, energy and taxes it was often found that there had been no inflation at all. Wow! Isn't that great?

So you ask; why is it that I don't have enough money to live on any more? Well, obviously you are still heating and cooling your home, eating food and paying your taxes. If you will just stop doing those things you will find that you have just as much money as you always had.

But just in case that wasn't enough to bail out the government, Mr. Boskin thought up a few other safety measures to guarantee that inflation didn't go up.

One of his measures he called "substitution." In other words if the price of beefsteak in our typical basket of goods went up from the last time that Mr. Boskin went shopping, he substituted hamburger; and if hamburger was too high he substituted chicken; and if all the meat was too high; he substituted vegetables; and if vegetables were too high one can imagine that Mr. Boskin would have us consumers check out the ingredients on a bag of Friskies. Then, of course, we don’t have to buy the name brand Friskies, we could buy Gritskies and we don’t have to buy Ritz Crackers we can buy Fritz or Blitz Crackers.

Next on Mr. Boskin's list of improvements was "hedonics" or quality compensations. Let's say that Mr. Boskin bought a TV for $329 on his previous expedition and then on his following survey the same model TV cost the exact same price. But the new TV had a better picture, was estimated to last 2 years longer, and due to improvements in technology it had a much better sound. Mr. Boskin figured that even though RCA chose not to charge us for these improvements the government had no obligation to be so generous. Mr. Boskin estimated, for example, that these improvements were worth in terms of quality enhancement, $135. He therefore calculated that a new TV didn't really cost the consumer $329 but only $194. As you can plainly see our CPI actually went down instead of remaining exactly the same.
But hedonics only seems to travel in one direction. If you personally don’t benefit from these new technological wonders because you have grown old and your vision and hearing have diminished or even if you didn’t need and don’t want the new and improved model, you still get billed by Boskin nonetheless.

I could explain to you Mr. Boskin's "geometric weighing" as opposed to the old antiquated arithmetic method and his seasonal adjustments but I don't really think it is necessary. I think that most of you out there will agree with me when I say that Mr. Boskin and the U.S. government who hired him are not simply spinning the truth but are really telling lies.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Are We Not Righteous Men

Are We Not Righteous Men

By Bill Osher

Book Review

By Richard Edward Noble

Bill Osher is an ordained Methodist Minister. He has his PhD in counseling psychology and has been employed as such at a college university.

Politically, Mr. Osher is clearly a Progressive. He helped found the Georgia Progressives. A very lonely endeavor, I would imagine. He now lives in New Mexico and is actively involved in the Democratic Party.

This book is a satirical, rephrasing of many popular Old Bible stories familiar to all Christians. One might say that Professor Bill has modernized and upgraded these tales and placed them in a modern-day, rightest format – telling us these tales as Newt Gingrish might interpret them.

Of course, anyone attempting to use the Bible as a stepping stone to humor is on very dangerous ground. But Mr. Osher manages quite well and makes his points with a laugh. Yet I have no doubt this book will be severely criticized when discovered by political pundits from the opposition.

Mr. Osher, as with many good Christians today, is obviously fed up with the hypocrisy being spewed out by the high volume Christian Right.

This is a short book, a mere 90 pages but I would imagine it took the author some time to put it together. Along with the sarcasm it is also very clever. It took some thought to accomplish.

This book reminds me of the Ferengi 286 Rules of Acquisicion. If you are a Star Wars Fan, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If not give it a Google. Lots of laughs.

A few poignant quotes from the book:

Blessed are the rich for they have labored mightily and thus enjoy God’s favor.
Blessed are the warmongers for they make the weapons industry flourish.
A hand up is a handout.
Charity beginneth and endeth at home.

I like best, though, this quote on the final page by Upton Sinclair:

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it.”

I found lots of food for thought in this little volume, though I doubt if any conservatives will feel likewise.

Khatyn - Book Review


By Ales Adamovich

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

This book is tragically exhausting, not just for the main characters but for the reader.

The pain and suffering are overwhelming. The physical effort is beyond endurance. And the reader feels it all, every step of the way, page after page.

I think that was probably the author’s focal point in writing the book.

The main characters are constantly on the go … trekking. They are starving. Their hardships are superhuman yet real and not doubted for a second.

It reads like nonfiction. The main characters are physically weak. They are exhausted. But they keep going … and going … and going … and going … and going.
They are involved in a cause in which they are outnumbered and overwhelmed. But they endure.

The cause is apparently the war but in truth, it is survival. They endure because they must.

The reader keeps asking himself how this man can keep going. How can all these people keep going. Why don’t they all just lay down and die?

And this was the Nazi’s psychological intent. Make the enemy want to die. Make him want to give up, quit the fight and surrender. But the persecuted were all too aware that to surrender was to die. They would be tortured and killed whatever choice they made.

So they must persist.

This is a horror story and you are there to witness it all. You see it through the very, cold, war weary eyes of the main characters in the partisan army and the suffering masses around them.

The account is almost devoid of passion. Instead it is filled with endurance.

Again, I think this is also part of the author’s intent. He wants the reader to witness it as he saw it … as they all saw it. He wants the reader to see the senseless persistence in the midst of hopelessness, accepted slaughter, murder and senseless human brutality.

This is the story of war and the atrocities that inevitably come with it. It is the story of burnt and destroyed villages, of tortured, unarmed men, women and children who are murdered in the most horrible, cruel and senseless manner.

There is a love story mixed in with this war of horror but it is secondary. It hardly deals with love. There is the involvement of one man and one woman but it is all mental. There is no sex or romance to it. But it helps to make the book human and tolerable.

The main story is the war and the shock and dehumanization of it all. The reader is torn between the conflicting emotions of wanting to put the book up and stop reading and the moral necessity to turn the next page.

In every war the soldiers’ bodies are tabulated but it is always the civilian population with the majority of casualties.

Belarus in Russia is the setting. The main characters are all a part of the partisan resistance. They are a small but dedicated group. But for every minor victory they achieve, the Nazis repay ten fold.

I’ve read many true historical accounts of this area and the treason, slaughter and massacres involved. The German Nazis and their killer extermination policies are behind everything but they get lots of help.

The Nazis are not just German but traitors and sycophants from the ranks of the local villagers who sold their souls to the devil for the opportunity to vent their hate on their neighbors.

The book does not elaborate on this treason. It concentrates on the actual war experiences of one man and one woman and the small band of partisan, anti-Nazi resisters they are a part of.

I’ve read more non-fiction accounts of the atrocities of World War II than I have novels and fiction. There is truly very little fiction involved here. The author elaborated on the plot and the details, but the facts of the slaughter of Khatyn and Belarus are all detailed and recorded in the historical archives of the war.

The actual history can be even more gruesome. But in a novel such as this, written by someone who was there and experienced it all firsthand, and then creatively fictionalized the events, a different dimension is added.

In my non-fiction reading, I never felt the hopelessness, or the raw spirit of survival or the exhaustion.

I was expecting the hero and the heroine to simply lie down and die at some point. What was the sense to it? Who was there to come to the rescue? Nobody. It was all on their shoulders.

This is one of those books that we would all rather not read but once we have finished it we feel a sense of achievement.

Read it and weep.

The reader will have to be the one to weep because the participants had reached a point where tears were impossible. They had none to offer.

They just stand and stare.

The High-Beta Rich

The High-Beta Rich

By Robert Frank

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

This book, written by a Wall Street Journal senior writer, consists of a small selection of super wealthy individuals who suffered substantially from the economic crash of 2008.

Some went from billionaires to millionaires, some multi- millionaires to lesser status millionaires, and some went bankrupt.

“The year 1982 marked the year of the high-beta wealth.
“For nearly thirty years after World War Two, the American wealthy were a small, quiet, financially conservative group … There was plenty of wealth created in America during the postwar years. But it didn’t pile up at the top the way it did after 1982. Wealth was more broadly shared, thanks to high taxes on the wealthy, strong unions, New Deal programs, protectionist trade policy and the nations manufacturing power … From the wealth perspective, 1947 to 1982 was a sturdy bridge built by the working class.”

Most of the millionaires and billionaires in this book were certainly not geniuses.

The author’s main thesis has to do with the rotation in the ranks of the top 1 percent and the perilous volatility created in a world or society dependent on this class for its revenue.

He accepts the inevitability of this scenario which is that our nation is and forever will be a country dependant on the erratic and extremely volatile income of a super wealthy class of gambling casino junkies.

At the conclusion of the book he offers possible alternative solutions available to the U.S. government and the state governments as well.

This book is, on the one hand, a political statement and on the other hand a presentation of entertaining stories. It is my opinion that the one has nothing to do with the other.

The stories are good. The political statement by the author is in my opinion confused.

The author makes reference to “The Gilded Age” throughout the book. I think it must be understood that the Gilded Age was a satirical phrase thought up by none other than Mark Twain. He coined it to describe a period in American history marked by deceit, corruption and exploitation of the poor and working class by the wealth mongers and greedy and “gilded” with a thin veneer of gold by the press, media and political propagandist of the time to give it the appearance of a proper and righteous prosperity.

The author’s political statement is:


The author never says this outright. In fact, he would deny it, I’m sure. But this is the basic message I get and it would be consistent with the general dogma preached by writers from the Wall Street Review.

I think his suggestions at the end of the book on how American government is to manage are tongue in cheek. If the author is truly sincere, he is clearly severely confused by his own research.

Let me make my case.

To deal with the author’s message, skip the stories about the lives of the rich and famous entirely. They are interesting and entertaining but have little to do with the author’s underlying message.

Read the introduction and then skip to the back of the book and start reading the chapter entitled “What’s Wrong with California.”

Before we do that let’s have a reality check:

Taxes are necessary.
Everyone must pay taxes.
The rich are required to pay taxes and they should.

Now we move onto the author’s elaborate contention.

The top 1% of America’s wealthiest people are no longer a consistent, stable group of people. There is rugged competition for the top earner positions and the names of those in the ranks of the top 1% change every year. The lives and incomes of these individuals are precarious and extremely “volatile.” Therefore the money coming from these individuals in taxes is also extremely “volatile.” An individual from this group may make a tax payment of 100 million dollars one year and be bankrupt the next year and send the government nothing. This puts the government in a boom or bust situation according to the author.

Well, it seems to me that if we are talking about consistent income changing hands in the upper 1%, the government’s income would remain stable and consistent. It would be collecting equal amounts of money but from different people each year. If this is not the case, then we are dealing with other factors here that must be analyzed. Money simply changing hands should not affect government revenue.

The volume of money that is changing hands must change to affect government revenues.

If it is the volume of money that is changing then we are looking at another problem.
If the volume is changing then money is disappearing.

The money could be disappearing for a number of different reasons. If the volume is disappearing then money is leaving the state or the country without being taxed or the money being taxed each year is from one time liquidations of capital goods, services or businesses.

In other words businesses are liquidating their assets and disappearing from the various states and the country.

We have known this has been happening for a long, long time. This is nothing new. Huge amounts of money are also being secreted out of the country and into offshore accounts or put into approved tax shelters with no taxes being paid.

The author does not address any of the above and concentrates on the “volatility” of the situation.

It may not really be all that volatile. The volatility may be a temporary factor resulting from the continuing abandonment of moneyed interests from American shores.

The solution would not be to adapt to the temporary volatility being created via the abandonment and liquidation of assets by more and more American companies, millionaires and conglomerates but to institute policies that take action against this ongoing bankrupting of American wealth and the American people.

In the beginning of this review I quote the author on his understanding of how we maintained prosperity and stable growth in the hands of a strong working class from 1947 until 1982.

The formula seems simple enough … why not work to reestablish that situation on those basic principles once again?

Rebuild our middle class, increase the wages and earnings of the poor, and the middle class, re-establish viable and futuristic industries that will supply the energy and material needs for us and the world, establish jobs with a future here in America and guarantee their longevity. As the middle and bottom earn more they will then pay more and be once again the breadwinners and the stability of our country and government.

Make the wealthy pay their dues but wean ourselves off a dependency on this group of spindly legged gambling casino junkies and put our burdens back onto the strong shoulders and burly arms of our stable working class. Improve our education system, retrain our workers and pay attention to the foundation of our home base. Rebuild America, its roads, highways, bridges, factories, and its working class.

Come on America there are choices here and good ones.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The European Dream

The European Dream

By Jeremy Rifkin

Book Review

By Richard Edward Noble

The “European Dream” by Jeremy Rifkin was published in 2004, well before the Great Recession. I knew the book would be out of sync with the current world economy but I thought it would be interesting to see how Jeremy’s ideas held up through this trying period.

First, what is the European Dream and what is the American Dream for that matter?
The European Dream according to Jeremy Rifkin:

“The European Dream emphasizes community relationships over individual autonomy, cultural diversity over assimilation, quality of life over the accumulation of wealth, sustainable development over unlimited material growth, deep play over unrelenting toil, universal human rights and the rights of nature over property rights, and global cooperation over the unilateral exercise of power.”

And now for Jeremy’s interpretation of the American Dream:

“That dream emphasizes the unbridled opportunity of each individual to pursue success, which, in the American vernacular, has generally meant financial success. The American dream is far too centered on personal material advancement and too little concerned with the broader human welfare to be relevant in a world of increasing risk, diversity, and interdependence. It is an old dream, immersed in the frontier mentality that has long since become passé.”

Jeremy contends that the European Dream, sponsored and promoted by the EU (European Union), is extremely progressive. He is clearly an intellectual progressive.

So first the reader must ask if this is all Jeremy’s imagination or objective fact.
Jeremy supports his thesis with declaration after declaration from the EU coupled with policy notions and contentions that support his interpretation of the economic community. These declarations certainly support his thesis.

So it is contended and seems to be fact that the EU is/was a progressive economic organization up until the year 2004.

The idea is presented that the EU desired to become a sort of United States of Europe. As with the United States an immediate battle ensued between the sovereign rights of the individual nation states and the economic community. This battle the author admits is/was on going.

Unlike the United States the EU is a non-territorial community based on universal human rights and the sharing of their economic interests. Like the United States it is founded on an idea or philosophy and not one’s place of birth.

One goal, for those presenting this view, has been to promote the notion of nation state members thinking of themselves as being European as opposed to being a Frenchman or a German.

Another goal is the globalization of the community outlook in tune with their notion of universal humanitarian rights as opposed to individual nation states' rights – private property and other exclusionist notions.

Since the world economic collapse we have seen changes taking place and conflicts arising in both the U. S. and Europe.

In our last presidential election here in the U.S. we all witnessed a direct assault on progressive notions of any sort. The moneyed interest attacked and put forward a program of extreme regressive, conservative notions. They were supported by a large number of Americans but in the final tally they were defeated by a majority of American voters.

After reading Jeremy’s book it appears that a similar assault has been taking place in Europe.

The progressives, liberals and workers are rioting in the streets of one nation after another in Europe while the moneyed interest and the conservatives attempt to enforce their will from the main governments and the power positions.

It is very easy to see now after reading “the European Dream” why the power brokers, moneyed interests, conservatives and plutocrats would be so vehement in attacking liberalism and the spread of progressivism in Europe. These liberal and progressive notions were much more advanced in Europe than in the U.S. To turn Europe and the European Union around in its direction would be a major victory for the conservative and moneyed interests around the world.

The war between labor and capital interests has never been concluded. No truce or treaty has ever been signed. No laws or settlements have ever been arranged.

Consequently exploitation by capital management is strong in third world countries and the first world countries have closed their eyes to the goings-on in these poorer nations. They trade freely, ignoring humanitarian rights and violations to basic human dignity.

This has kept the capitalists fat, sassy, wealthy and powerful. Now they are making their bid for the re-establishedment of their basic dominance in mainstream industrial nations and all the old rivals are back at each other throats. We are witnessing a replay of the period from 1850 through 1950.

The fighting in the streets is also more advanced in Europe than the U.S. because the workers, middle class and the lesser-off have much more to lose in Europe than they did in the U.S.

Although I agree with much of what has been presented in this book in terms of goals and aspirations, once again, I find Mr. Rifkin far more advanced in his thinking than the world at this time is ready to accept.

I find Mr. Rifkin’s idea of a non-territorial, non-ethnic, global economic cooperative at least 100 years too soon. I even have doubts about such a possibility at all.

Nation state loyalty, pride, patriotism, competitive well-being and security may be more genetic than contrived as Mr. Rifkin contends.

The “I’m a citizen of the world” idea was presented a couple of centuries back by Tom Paine. The world was not ready for it then and is not ready for it now in my opinion.
There are more people claiming to be World Citizens today than there were in 1776 but it is still a very small minority. Those that speak in those terms are still looked upon as lonely voices screaming in the wilderness.

I doubt if any French or German citizens are contemplating disavowing their Nation State for a World Citizen birth certificate.

I don’t see any such thing happening here in the United States either.

The global economy is also losing ground. Americans are screaming for more products to be made and manufactured here in America and Europe seems to be heading in that direction also.

None of the workers of the Western advanced economies are looking forward to a lower standard of living. The wealthy, capitalists, and international conglomerates are saying they must and the laborers and workers are saying they will not.

I see Nation States here to stay and growing stronger and the global economy waning and getting weaker – not the reverse.

The European Dream is food for thought as are the other books that I have read by Mr. Rifkin.

I see Mr. Rifkin as ahead of his time and utopian in scope and flavor. He certainly has a dream. But to me his dream is more of a fantasy.

One interesting aside to me, as pointed out by the author but expressed in my words and not his, is how the American government and its love for war and imperialism has been instrumental in promoting the European Progressive Dream. If it were not for the American Government’s huge military spending in Europe a much greater portion of the European citizen’s tax money would have gone into their national defense programs and consequently their advanced progressive agenda would have been curtailed somewhat. If not curtailed, it would have taken a greater monetary commitment and sacrifice on the part of the Europeans to achieve these positive social goals.

As it turned out, the U.S., in the name of national security, financed a good portion of the better life for the European citizens while sacrificing a better life for its citizens here at home.

This was and is not a good bargain in my opinion.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

M.R. Street - Blue Rock Rescue

Blue Rock Rescue

M.R. Street

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

Andy Broome is the hero of this children’s novel, “Blue Rock Rescue.”

The setting for the story is the Blue Ridge mountain area with its low hanging fogs, rocky shorelines and rapid flowing mountain streams.

In the prologue we learn that Andy’s mother died tragically. We are not told how, when, where or why. But we are made aware of the emotional trauma to both Andy and his dad and the cautionary effects it has injected into both their lives. We get bits and pieces of an explanation as we follow along throughout the tale of Andy and his father’s everyday adaptations. And in Andy’s case we even hear his lost mother’s ghostly admonitions and sage advisories.

Andy meets Trudy, the new girl in town at the country bus stop. Andy loves horses and horseback riding. Trudy has no such desire and displays a rather hostile attitude to anything to do with horses.

The author of this tale is clearly knowledgeable on both horses and horseback riding. And the reader is introduced to many related terms and inside jargon.
Andy and Trudy do not hit it off immediately as friends but the relationship grows as the story progresses.

Both Andy and Trudy are captivating characters and their interaction is more than adequate to keep the reader’s attention and provide sufficient distraction from the initial question placed in the reader’s mind in the prologue, What happened to Andy’s Mother.

But Andy’s mother is not allowed to be forgotten. We are periodically exposed to her via Andy throughout the drama.

Trudy’s ability to better all the boys at any challenge, even baseball, adds an additional series of conflicts to the story that keeps the reader occupied and entertained.

The heroic and truly exciting and drama filled finale to this story puts all the pieces together in a breathless and daring rescue.

This is a great story for the teenage crowd. Lots of modern, country type, kid interplay and excitement.

For some reason I can’t explain, the drama of the ending of this not so complicated “Blue Rock Rescue” brought back to my mind the ending in that famous socially pertinent and penetrating novel by John Steinbeck, “The Grapes of Wrath.” The two books are not similar but the moral for the lust of life and living emphasized in the endings of both books must be what triggered my memory in that direction.

All in all “Blue Rock Rescue” was very entertaining even for this seventy year old.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Bread and Roses by Bruce Watson

Bread and Roses

Mills, Migrants, and the Struggle for the American Dream

By Bruce Watson

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

My discovery of the Bread and Roses Strike of 1912 in Lawrence, Massachusetts has provided me with an extremely interesting source of intellectual and personal insight.

Although I was born in Baltimore, Maryland my life from a few months old to age 27 was spent in Lawrence, Mass.

My father and my mother were ex-mill workers, as were their fathers and mothers.
My father was from the established English heritage and my mother descended from the later Eastern European migration. She was Polish.

I only worked briefly as did my older brother in a reconstituted, worked-over enterprise that rented old mill space after the mills were abandoned by their textile owners. But even though I never worked in a textile mill, those mills played an ominous and hauntingly important part in my life.

The original mills were the reason for being for the city of Lawrence.

First God built the mills and then he sent the people to work them.

The mills came first and the people came second. That is the history of the mills of Lawrence and maybe mill towns all over America and the world.

It is always interesting to me that when it was all over what was left was row upon row of empty redbrick pyramids and mile after mile of drained, sapped people and landscape.

It was like a war zone where the weapon of choice was not explosives but a psychological sort of neutron bomb.

Fighting for the jobs and positions at the mills basically determined the social status of the populous.

From the 1840s to the 1950s the mills were the heart and soul and supplied the bread and the few roses that might have been scattered here and there throughout the city.
From the time of my birth forward the mills were on a steady decline and by the end of World War II the mills had, for the most part, abandoned Lawrence.

Unemployment through the late forties and onward through the fifties rose to over forty percent. That was a number that I had been seeking for some time. The 1929 Depression was approximately 30-40% unemployment.

I always knew the situation in Lawrence was serious because my dad was one of that 40%, but as is always the case, even with 40% unemployed, 60% still had a job. That 60% living at the time knew only too well how lucky they were, but their descendants have long since forgotten or were never made aware of the hardship of their neighbors.

I found that 40% figure in this book by Mr. Watson.

Another question that had perplexed me is why I had never heard of this strike.

Why I had never seen any monuments in the city parks.

Why my parents and relatives never spoke of it.

Why the Nuns in grade school never mentioned such an event even in passing.

Why the Brothers didn’t teach it in high school.

And the bigger question, why the history books ignored the American Labor Movement almost entirely – not just in Lawrence but throughout our nation.

I first got interested in this subject matter by discovering, by accident, the Bread and Roses Strike. Researching this strike then led me to the Labor Movement in the U.S. and then in the world.

For me making this discovery was like finding the missing link or the lost piece of the puzzle.

I feel now that understanding labor history or the history of the Labor Movement is the Rosetta Stone for interpreting our modern civilization.

This is where our modern history begins. This period in man’s evolution has not come to an end yet. It is the latest episode in a long continuous battle for freedom, dignity and equality.

Mr. Watson explains in his Epilogue that the history of the Lawrence Bread and Roses Strike was suppressed in the area because it had been a brand of shame for the city as a whole throughout the entire U.S. and throughout the world.

Lawrence became a poster child for how not to handle a mill strike and how not to treat new immigrants, working women and children in America.

The City (establishment) of Lawrence had been disgraced and shamed and they then proceeded to propagandize a cover-up story or a rationalization to hide and shade over what they had done and what had actually happened. It worked because all that remained for the rest of the century was the establishment version of the event. It is only until recently that the whole truth of the matter has been seeping out.

It seems to me that this is basically the same story with regards to the American Labor Movement. The truth about it is also beginning to seep out.

Just as the German nation was the last to admit the horror of the Holocaust and the Japanese nation the last to accept the Rape of Nanking and their other World War II atrocities, America will be the last to admit its persecution of the working class and the working poor.

Much of America hates poverty and hates to accept or admit the fact of it even more.
America is filled with poverty, slums and industrial blight and it has been since the 1850’s. Yet most Americans will deny its very existence and so it goes on and on and on.

Reading this book was more than a history lesson for me. Since I was raised in the area, every street name brought back an old memory. All the family names brought back friends and neighbors. The stories brought back reason and insight into many personal mysteries.

I really enjoyed this book and I’m happy Mr. Watson wrote it. I will add it to my collection of Lawrence memorabilia and labor union history.

I am left with the desire to read more about Lawrence and I know from other reading that there is a lot more to read. Every open door leads to another door yet to be opened.

Very surprising to me is the discovery that at Cornell University there is actually a school of Industrial and Labor Relations that offers a four year degree in labor studies. It was started in 1945 and is the only college in the United States offering such a degree as far as I know.

Bread and Roses by Bruce Watson is a great read for anyone interested in history in general, and the Labor Movement in particular.

This book should be required reading in every high school in the Greater Lawrence area but I have no doubt that it is not and will not be in the future.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Charlie - Review by Christine Lewis

A Summer with Charlie

Book Review

By Christine Lewis

Christine Lewis is a journalist, researcher, writer, and photographer. This review by Christine appeared in the Merrimack Valley Magazine July/August edition 2010 along with the first chapter of the novel and a write-up about the author.

If memoirs are the reality TV of the literary world, self-published memoirs are the local cable TV version. The show could be raucously enjoyable, but who’d know to watch it? Such is the experience with a recently discovered gem of a book, A Summer with Charlie by ex-Lawrencian Richard Edward Noble. Published by Noble in 2004, the book tells the story of a young man, Charlie who spends his last days with his boyhood friends at a Salisbury beach summer rental. Charlie has been discharged from the Navy, sent home to die and wishes above all to be “treated normally.” Eight young men do their best to accommodate Charlie during the summer of 1961 and in return receive early lessons on how to live and how to die with grace.

Noble begins the story by providing a humorous background of growing up with the street corner gang in the city of Lawrence. The reader is introduced to the crazy hothouse characters that populate the local YMCA, a hangout more hospitable for the maturing young men. There’s “Harry the Walker” who mysteriously materializes everywhere, bearing a spooky resemblance to an Alfred Hitchcock cameo. Or “Fat George” who shares his encyclopedic knowledge of dirty jokes for hours at a time, never telling the same joke twice. As appealing as these characters may be, the siren song of Salisbury Beach draws the gang to its shores, providing the perfect troika of summer fun: booze, babes and beach.

Charlie reunites with his gang at the Y and asks to be included in the rental when he hears there’s one bed left. The gang says yes but with apprehension: born and raised as Catholics, they want to have their fun and not worry about eternally damning Charlie’s soul due to their debauchery. Charlie spit shines the cottage, the streets and indirectly, the guys with a quiet, unassuming charm. Neighbors begin speaking with the guys, inviting them over for backyard barbecues, even asking them to briefly babysit their kids. Young women are no longer fearful of walking by the cottage or attending parties hosted by the guys. All of this is met with shock on the part of the group, who still like to think of themselves as a wild wolf pack.

While the females are featured indirectly in this story, there’s never any doubt that the women are strong and in control. Niki, the local striptease artist, is clearly capable of holding her own with this crowd. Helen, a young woman who falls in love with Charlie, is artfully fleshed out through her gestures and actions, while the dialog, strictly Lawrencian, belongs to the guys.

The reader is introduced to the inevitability of Charlie’s death in the first chapter, the author surprises instead with how Charlie’s final days lead this group together to manhood. This is a coming of age story that is both tragic and funny and charmingly local.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The End of Loser Liberalism

The End of Loser Liberalism

By Dean Baker

Book Review

By Richard Edward Noble

Dean Baker is an economist. He earned his B. A. from Swarthmore College and his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan. He is currently co-director of The Center for Economic and Policy Research.

He has written a bunch of books. I downloaded this one for free. It is the first book by Mr. Baker that I have read but it won’t be the last.

Dean Baker calls himself a liberal progressive. Of late I have been referring to myself as a “progressive.” Mr. Baker is far more progressive than I am. He’s another “idea” man. And he does have ideas. At some points in this book I was laughing openly. Not at Mr. Baker but at his unique ability to turn the tables upside down and backwards on the smart crowd.

What a book this is!

The simplicity of many of his ideas makes a reader wonder why he never thought such things.

Mr. Baker is a free market man … I think. But he takes these free market principles and turns them back onto the hands and heads that have been feeding them to us all for these many confusing years. He makes an art of “quid pro quo.”
How many times have all of us worker types heard the sorrowful whine, But what can I do? The free market dictates.

When our paychecks are cut, it’s the free market competition. When we lose our jobs it free market competition. When they close down the plant and take it overseas, it’s the free market Global economy. When they take our home, it is simply the free market at work. When we can’t afford medical care, it is once again a simple matter of free market competition. Next we will have to dig our own graves preemtively to save the cemeteries on labor costs.

It’s the bottom line. It’s the way things are. It’s inevitable. It’s the way the free market operates.

It’s like the old Greek adage, “Magister Dixit, the Master has spoken.”
Well the gods may have stipulated and the Master of the free market may have spoken but the Master has a new interpreter, Dean Baker.

The Professor, as a free market advocate, takes these so called free market aphorisms and applies them to rich and poor alike, to the humble and the powerful, to the panhandler and the professional.

There were times when I thought my man Baker was just putting the world on, kind of a tongue in cheek thing. But if the man is joking the joke is on the rich, the powerful, the established and the smug.

This guy is good. He is not to be taken lightly. He gives details. Some of his solutions are truly frightening but frightening or not they are often more than justified and long overdue. Many of the ideas suggested, for the most part, have already been used and used regularly with religious zeal and conservative vindictiveness … but only from the top down, never from the bottom up. They have been applied to the working class, the poor and the middle class without compassion in a strict business, free market approach. Mr. Baker responds in kind. He’s tough but very enlightening. He goes to the gut of the matter and dives in with some very heavy body blows. Lots of good stuff here for the liberal arsenal.

Mr. Baker is a progressive for progressives. He has published several other books that I am definitely interested in reading that deal with the truth about Social Security, the Consumer Price Index, how the rich manipulate the system to stay rich and make themselves richer. Looks like some great stuff.

I will close this review with a few paragraphs taken from the conclusion of “The End of loser Liberalism.”

"It is not by luck, talent, and hard work that the rich are getting so much richer. It is by rigging the rules of the game: From a political perspective it is much better to say the progressive agenda is about setting fair rules for the market. The argument that highly paid professionals should face the same international competition as factory workers is a compelling one, and more arresting than the argument that we should redistribute money from the winners to the losers.

“Since public debate is so badly misinformed on almost all economic issues, most people will be hearing these arguments for the first time. Few realize that an agency of the government, the Federal Reserve Board, actively throws people out of work to fight inflation. Few know that the loss of manufacturing jobs and the downward pressure on wages of manufacturing workers are not accidental outcomes of trade agreements but rather the whole basis for them. (The enigma of trade is that it can make a whole country richer and yet most of its people poorer.) And hardly anyone understands that a higher valued dollar intensifies the hurtful effect of trade by putting further downward pressure on the wages of workers subject to international competition.

“Our Federal Reserve Policy, trade policy, and dollar policy redistribute income upward from the less advantaged to those who disproportionately control the nation’s wealth and political power. Each policy is designed for this outcome. Knowing this economic reality is not the same as changing it, but it is an important first step.

“Progressives have to start playing hardball. The right is not just trying to win elections; it is working to destroy the basis of progressive opposition. Breaking private sector unions in the 1980’s was not just getting lower cost labor; it was also a deliberate effort to undermine one of the pillars of progressive politics in the United States. Recent efforts at the state and federal level to weaken public sector unions are not about saving money for the government; they are deliberate efforts to destroy the strongest remaining segment of the labor movement.”

The author also explains the foolishness for attempts to privatize Social Security and Medicare. With regards to Social Security the author matter-of-factly states, “The only value question here is whether it is better for workers to keep their money or for the financial industry to have it.”

And Medicare: “The issue in this case is simply whether retired workers want to have 34 trillion pulled out of their pockets and handed over to the insurance and health care industries.”

This author has the brains, the knowledge and a lot of in-your-face arguments for the progressive side of the political spectrum.
Read Dean Baker’s “The End of Loser Liberalism” and load up. He’s got the ammunition and the firepower, speaking Republicanly.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Truth About The Obama Phone

The Truth About The Obama Phone: pOn Thursday, the Drudge Report splashed a video of an undentified woman who claims to have recieved a free “Obama Phone.” The video has captured the attention of the right online, who see it as proof that Obama supporters are dependent on government. On his show today, Rush Limbaugh weighed in: So these are the [...]/p

Monday, September 17, 2012

Summer on the Moon - Adrian Folgelin

Summer on the Moon

By Adrian Fogelin

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

This is a book about two good pals, Socko and Damien. They are teenagers stuck in poverty in a tenement inner city. They hang out on rooftops, play in broken elevators and idle their way in and out of trouble.

Junebug, a skinny, female pre-adult, is the third member of this tiny, inner city gang.

Junebug has had herself confiscated by “Rapp,” local gangsta wannabe who, along with “Meat” and several others, dominate the streets and rooftops in the immediate ghetto area.

A mixed sort of Dickensian good fortune strikes Socko and his struggling, hard working mom, Delia, and they move into “Moon Ridge Estates” – hence the title “Summer on the Moon.”

From here on the story rolls into mystery, crime, romance and adventure and is packed with interesting, realistic characters.

A great tale designed for young people but plenty of interest for any adult, male or female.

I hate to use the old cliche about a book being too good to put down but Adrian Folgelin certainly captured me. I put aside all my other reading and didn’t stop reading “Summer on the Moon” until I came to the last page.

For the conscientious parent, there is nothing in this story to shock or corrupt any child, no bad language or any other socially unredeaming quality.

I enjoyed reading this book very much. I don’t want to elaborate on any of the plot intrigues and spoil the story for future readers.

I have now read two of Adrian Folgelin’s books. “Sorta Sisters” was my first exposure to this author. She is very, very good. A talented and imaginative writer who specializes in books for young adults. She has written several. I will be reading more of Adrian Folgelin in the future.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Hooked on Books - J.K. Galbraith

A Short History of Financial Euphoria

John Kenneth Galbraith

Book Review

By Richard E. Noble

This book is indeed a “short” history of Financial Euphoria. I would have liked a much longer and more detailed history by Mr. Galbraith.

In a previous book, “The Great Crash 1929,” much of what is in this book has already been expressed. In fact, I think most of this work was excerpted directly from the “The Great Crash” verbatim.

The advantages of this little book are that all these cases of speculative mania and fraud are lumped together in this one volume with updated commentary and some modern day comparisons. The author covers these type incidences up to the crash of 1987 in the later part of the Reagan administration.

The author makes the point that all of these mania, panics or crashes have similar components. They are all based on speculation and leveraging.

The mania is attributed to basic insanity and the misguided notion that because someone is rich he must therefore be wise.

“In the first forward to this volume, I told of my hope that business executives, the inhabitants of the financial world and the citizens of speculative mood, tendency or temptation might be reminded of the way that not only fools but quite a lot of other people are recurrently separated from their money in the moment of speculative euphoria. I am less certain than when I then wrote of the social and personal value of such a warning. Recurrent speculative insanity and the associated financial depravation and larger devastation are, I am persuaded, inherent in the system. Perhaps it is better that this be recognized and accepted.”

There are two types of speculators who invariably get involved in these troublesome episodes or “bubbles.”

“There are those who are persuaded that some new price-enhancing circumstance is in control, and they expect the market to stay up and go up, perhaps indefinitely. It is adjusting to a new situation, a new world of greatly, even infinitely increasing returns and resulting values. Then there are those, superficially more astute and generally fewer in number, who perceive or believe themselves to perceive the speculative mood of the moment. They are in to ride the upward wave; their particular genius, they are convinced, will allow them to get out before the speculation runs its course. They will get the maximum reward from the increase as it continues; they will be out before the eventual fall.”

He points out that warnings about the temperamental nature of the present boom are never heeded and those who offer them are looked upon with derision.

“In the winter of 1929, Paul M. Warburg, the most respected banker of his time and one of the founding parents of the Federal Reserve System spoke critically of the then current orgy … and said that if it continued, there would ultimately be a disastrous collapse … He was held to be obsolete in his views, ‘he was sandbagging American prosperity.’”

This danger of speaking out against the speculative orgy as it is taking place often makes the bearer of such tidings the accused when the bubble finally bursts. It is a lose/lose situation in Mr. Galbraith’s estimation. Yet he points out that he did the same himself in 1986 … to no avail and much acrimony.

So the speculative bubbles come and go and are endemic to the capitalistic system according to the Professor. He also suggests that they are cyclical. They reoccur every twenty or thirty years. They are directly proportional to the amount of time necessary for the previous fiasco to be forgotten and a new generation of semi-educated fools take their positions in the financial community.

“The circumstances that induce the current lapses into financial dementia have not changed in any truly operative fashion since the Tulipomania of 1636-1637. Individuals and institutions are captured by the wondrous satisfaction from accruing wealth. The associated illusion of insight is protected, in turn, by the oft noted public impression that intelligence, one’s own and that of others, marches in close step with the possession of money…”

The mistaken notion that since a person is rich he must be intelligent is emphasized over and over throughout the short text.
So what is Mr. Galbraith’s solution?

“The only remedy, in fact, is an enhanced skepticism that would resolutely associate intelligence with the acquisition, the deployment, or, for that matter, the administration of large sums of money … there is the possibility, even the likelihood, of self-approving and extravagantly error-prone behavior on the part of those closely associated with money … a further rule is that when a mood of excitement pervades a market or surrounds an investment prospect, when there is a claim of unique opportunity based on special foresight, all sensible people should circle the wagons; it is the time for caution … Yet beyond a better perception of the speculative tendency and process itself, there probably is not a great deal that can be done. Regulation outlawing financial incredulity or mass euphoria is not a practical possibility.”

This conclusion I find very interesting and extremely disappointing. After all his great insight and explanation of the circumstances precipitating these speculative fiascos he closes with: Regulation outlawing financial incredulity or mass euphoria is not a practical possibility.

This conclusion appears somewhat demented also. Mr. Galbraith, it appears, has completely forgotten that in most of these cases a crime was committed and that the euphoria involved was not inclusive of the masses, as he states, but of a select group of people within the masses reigning in the financial community.

The Tulipomania is rather unique. It seems to be the perfect example of innocent mass insanity. But most of the other cases involve crime and criminal personalities not simply a massive delusion. There was swamp land in the 20’s in Florida involving everyone’s favorite con-man Charles Ponzi. There were gold mines that didn’t exist and were never worked or mined. There were worthless stocks and bonds and real criminals involved in the various scams.

During the course of the book the author mentions that some of these individuals were punished with prison sentences or ostracized, and “justifiably so” says he.
Instead of fraud he now seems to be defining the criminal behavior involved in each of these scandals as “inciting financial incredulity or mass euphoria” which, I agree, would be difficult to prosecute.

Where is his outrage for the crimes and criminals involved?

I find it interesting to note that if a man robs a corner store with a gun and steals one hundred dollars, he will most likely end up in prison. The man or the men who rob millions of innocent people of their assets through fraud and other criminal shenanigans are given an indifferent shrug by Mr. Galbraith. “Oh dear, what to do?” seems to be the gist of it.

In our last scandal that nearly collapsed the economy of the entire world we clearly had criminal fraud, falsifying of documents, false testimony, false accounting procedures and figures and basic embezzlement.

Most of us were victims yet not participants in the speculative mass euphoria – just as in 1929 and in other of these big financial calamities.

We bought nothing and sold nothing. Yet when the final tabulations were given we lost tens of thousands, and some of us hundreds of thousands on our home equity and life savings. Our retirement pensions were looted.

A property that was estimated before the euphoria at $125,000 may now be estimated at $50,000 or less.

Because of the indulgences of the speculative euphoria in the financial and real estate sector we are all made to suffer and pay dearly. And the bandits are not even being pursued by a posse.

It seems that this was the mindset of those involved. They knew they were acting criminally but made the calculation that as long as the majority in their industry participated in the crime, they would be in effect “too many to be prosecuted.”

It now appears that they were correct. We have an obvious case here of “Crime and No Punishment.”

This indicates to me that this criminal behavior is far from over. The thief who is successful in his thievery is encouraged to rob again. The next massive robbery seems to me to be just a matter of time and manipulation.

At the beginning of this review I pointed out that Mr. Galbraith suggested that all of this business is inherent in the capitalist system – it is not only systemic but endemic. And now we find that it is also incurable and beyond regulation and justice.
So then we are to sit back and periodically – every twenty years or so – let our wealthier sector rob us of all or part of whatever it is we thought to be our little nest egg or share in this great society. Crime on the part of certain groups among us is inevitable and any type of preventative attempt on the part of us or society is futile.

If that is the reality of the capitalistic system, then maybe it is time to take a closer look at this capitalist system.
This is like saying: Men will rape women. So girls, ready yourselves for the event and get used to it.

This is very poor logic coming from a very intelligent man.

I need a better solution than what the good Professor is offering here.

Unfortunately, Mr. Galbraith died before this last economic disaster. I wish he lived to tell us his thoughts on this situation.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Hooked on Books - America's Nazi Secret

America’s Nazi Secret

By John Loftus

Book review

By Richard E. Noble

This is my second adventure into the world of espionage and Nazi hunting with John Loftus.

Make no mistake, this is a very confusing and deceptive business with agents, double agents, triple agents, counter spies, terrorists and most frightening of all, U.S. government agencies. Mr. Loftus is not appreciated in the world of governments. His books have all been censored for years. He was warned with the threat of imprisonment not to print certain information in his possession thirty years ago and has been restricted accordingly.

In this book Mr. Loftus takes on the Justice Department, the CIA, the OSS, the DoD, the State Department, several presidents and numerous bigwigs in the business of espionage and spying. He names names and gives addresses. There is no doubt in this reader’s mind that this author’s life and that of his family has been under constant threat for many years of his adult life. He is playing with some of the worst people on the planet. He is one of a small handful of writers who have taken up the justifiable cause of exposing Nazis in the United States and around the world. This is a mighty scary business but yet he remains very civil and extremely understanding of people and their mistakes.

The philosophies of Nazism and fascism are philosophies of guiltless slaughter.
Unlike socialism and communism which are based on idealistic, utopian principles that have been corrupted by unscrupulous individuals, Nazism has no idyllic base. It is a declared philosophy of unconscionable acquisition, genocide and murder. I know of no other political philosophy as horrendous and deserving of suppression.

I see no political prejudice in this author’s work. He is harsh to both sides but mostly to individuals.

Certain names keep reappearing in these books: the Dulles Brothers, Gehlen, John J. McCloy, Wisner, Cheney, Bush, Bohlen, William Casey, the Carlisle Group, Averell Harriman, George Kennan, Joe McCarthy, Henry Kissinger, General Patton, Ronald Reagan, Radio Free Europe, Rockefeller, Harold and Kim Philby, William Donovan, Edward, the Duke of Windsor and others.

“Of the 15,000 Nazi war criminals officially estimated to have lived in America, fewer than one hundred received any form of mild sanction from the Justice Department, and that at the staggering cost of more than a half-million dollars per case. Congress had delivered the money, but Justice never delivered the goods. Nazi hunting may have been the least effective program in Justice Department History.”

This lack of efficiency does not seem to be totally bureaucratic or institutional but contrived and purposeful. Most folks dismiss all this lack of desire to capture and bring ex-nazi war criminals to justice to the Cold War mentality. But the more I read it seems much more complicated. There is more to this negligence than simple anti-communism.

“…the Muslim Brotherhood was the original Arab Nazi movement, working for the British intelligence to crush the infant state of Israel. In the 1980s it was hired by American intelligence to recruit the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan, and it is now the parent organization of every Sunni terrorist group in the Middle East.”

The point that there is an Arab/Nazi connection in this Middle East situation does not get very much attention or consideration when discussing Middle East problems. But the Arab nations supported Adolf Hitler and his Nazis and the Axis cause during World War Two.

We hear much more about Lawrence of Arabia and his little band of pro-western supporters than about a whole world of Arab Nazi enthusiasts. Not too much is written or reported on the great bulk of Arab nations and their connection to Nazism.

In our own home politics much is made of the connections of the left to socialism and communism but the obvious links of conservatives to fascism, Nazism and totalitarianism are very rarely discussed.

In this book the author concentrates on the Belarus area of Russia.
Once it was successfully occupied by German forces during WWII large segments of the Byelarussian population turned against their own people and became active, willing and supportive of the Nazi intruders.

They joined enthusiastically in the slaughter of their own. They participated in the Nazi occupation government. Certain among them organized mass executions of area Jews, slaughtering as many as five thousand in one incident. They turned in their neighbors, worked in the prisons and extermination camps and apparently relished their new dominance and power over and their fellow citizens. They formed armies and fighting organizations who fought shoulder to shoulder and side by side with the

Nazis. They were traitors and collaborators.

After World War II they were reorganized into paramilitary groups by US intelligence agencies to prepare for the predicted and inevitable war with Russia. For the most part this was accomplished by a man named Wisner who was a leader and power broker in the US intelligence organization.

The Byelarussians were incorporated into spying networks and as time went on many, thousands, were smuggled into the United States under one guise or another.
The author presents detailed documentation of how certain of these war criminals were brought to the United States and granted citizenship with complete government knowledge of their heinous war crimes.

He wants the victims of these murders to receive justice and the government agencies and individuals involved in these cover-ups to be investigated and appropriate penalties applied.

He fingers individuals like Emanuel Jasiuk, Jury Sobolewsky, Anton Adamovitch, Mykola Lebed, Radoslaw Ostrowsky, Franz Kushel, and Mikolai Abramtchik.

The author brings to the table a completely different point of view.

Typically we see the threat to America and the American way of life via communism. This author sees the more realistic and vile threat of Nazism.

Since World War II ended and the Nazis’ plan for world domination defeated, America has dismissed the Nazi problem as a threat as if all the Nazis have been dead and buried. This author indicates that Nazism is alive and well and prominent in the Middle East and dominant among certain Arab groups, the Muslim Brotherhood in particular. It is alive also in South America and in the United States and Canada.
The author closes his book with this insight and his personal positive scientific prediction.

“Arab terrorism will continue as long as we continue to import Arab oil. A group of us in a group called Liquid Light, are preparing a bit of a shock for the Arabs. We have found a way to manufacture the Holy Grail of Alternative Energy, the Indium Gallium Nitride Solar cell (InGaN). Not only does this InGaN solar cell use 100% of the sun’s bandwidth (as opposed to 20% for existing cells) but it can be manufactured so cheaply that an InGaN solar cell can produce electricity at two cents per kilowatt hour versus 10-15 cents per KWH for a carbon based power plants.
“The long dark night of corporate corruption of the Justice Department may be coming to an end.”

Monday, August 20, 2012

Hooked On Books - Fortress America

Fortress America

By William Greider

Book Review

By Richard Edward Noble

Fortress America was published in 1998. At the time of the publishing of this book the Berlin Wall was gone and the U.S.S.R. had collapsed. With the disappearance of Russia as Public Enemy number one for the U.S., America was now in a quandary. The Cold War was over. What do we do about our massive military? Our Cold War enemy was gone. The Russian threat to our security was gone. Should we dismantle our military? Reorganize? Downsize? How do we do it?

Fortress America is a book that analyzed the problem in store for the U.S. in downsizing its military capacities.

I’m sure it was not Mr. Greider’s intention to present an apology on the impossibility of downsizing our military and the necessity for America to seek new enemies and unnecessary but available wars but this book, in my opinion, is the explanation for just such a scenario.

Mr. Greider in his thought provoking manner, his exhaustive research and his presentation of the facts and figures, makes our present state of affairs obvious.
“If the world is at peace, why should America now have to remobilize? There are no persuasive answers at present.

“To justify the significant budget increases that might rescue the military from its dilemma of competing obligations, political leaders will first have to find convincing dangers – a rising threat of actual war, and on a very large scale. Until they can do so, military leaders must keep hacking away at their own institution … People in the armed services know this…
“The political base that always supported the Cold War defense structure endures, too, without a strategy for the future except to change as little as possible from the past.”

Mr. Greider goes on to talk about our “Military Socialism” and our basic socialized Military Industrial Complex. He then explains the scope of this book.

“In short, our tour of Fortress America is about more than defense spending “in an era of general peace.” It’s about national vision and the “limits of empire,” about whether Americans really wish to govern the world with U.S. military power …
“This is a new world order that will require much more than the accumulation of weaponry, and it might even be subverted by a new global arms race.”

Now let me point out, I haven’t left the introduction to this book yet. We have yet to hit page one.

The book begins with a tour of the massive weapons storage facilities at Fort Hood, Texas: Bradley fighting vehicles, Dragon missiles, M-1 Abrams main battle tanks, Humvees, HEMTTs, HETS, and more than two hundred Apache and Kiowa helicopters. There are forty-eight separate equipment yards at Fort Hood – miles and miles of parking spaces with multimillion dollar units in every parking space.

“The Cold War is over, but not really, not yet … Too many tanks with nowhere to send them ... Defense spending, as one strategic analyst put it, has become ‘the new third rail of American politics.’ Most politicians are afraid to touch it.”

Then we come to the panic of peace.

“The Pentagon has been dumping old tanks like an army-navy surplus store conducting frantic ‘going out of business’ sales. Giving them away to friendly nations. Selling them at deep discounts. Offering them free to local museums. It dumped one hundred old Sherman M-60s into Mobile Bay off the Alabama coast to form artificial reefs for fish in the Gulf of Mexico. Several hundred more are being sunk along other coastlines for the same purpose. One year it gave forty-five tanks free to Bosnia and another fifty to Jordan. It shipped ninety-one tanks to Brazil under a no cost, five year lease, and thirty to Bahrain on the same terms. Another 160 were sold to Taiwan for $130,000 each, priced at ten cents on the dollar. Egypt got seven hundred free by picking up transportation costs … One way or another the Army has disposed of nearly six thousand older (1980 models) tanks during the last six years.”

To actually train men on all our fancy fighting equipment is too costly “It takes two thousand dollars an hour to operate a single M-12 tank in the field.” Instead we pay to build simulators. We have 25 million in video games sitting in one of our military video arcades.

Well, why don’t we mothball everything and then pull it out when we need it?
Unfortunately we can’t mothball very much in our new high-tech military. The electronics deteriorate; the crews take years to train, not weeks; things must be upgraded to stay on top or ahead of the competition. And in many cases we seem to be our own competition. Our independent “capitalist” arms merchants are selling to the highest bidder in the free market global arms race. Of course, we get dibs on the latest, most modern stuff – as long as we subsidize our arms manufactures with their storage costs, their labor costs and their research and development costs – cost plus contracts are nice too. And the fact that all American National arms merchants are basically one big interlocking network, doesn’t hurt the bottom line either.

The first time I read about this technique of selling to potential enemies was in The Arms of Krupp by William Manchester. When Adolf Hitler demanded the German arms manufacturer, Krupp, to stop selling arms to Germany’s enemies, Krupp threatened to take his whole operation, his knowledge and expertise, to Russia. Hitler and Mr. Krupp made a compromise. Krupp agreed to sell only last year’s models to Germany’s enemies. Hitler acquiesced.

They tried to dismantle Krupp industries after the war but found the task impossible. They denied Krupp the right to practice his craft in Germany. Krupp went to China and then to other international sites and became the richest man alive in his day – a great life for a man who should have been executed as a war criminal.

“After the Cold War ended, the government added 2,662 Tomahawks and other missiles to its arsenal. It increased air power capabilities by modernizing 961 night-capable aircraft and 707 precision-guided munitions-capable aircraft.
“The Air Force has so many long range bombers – the old reliable B-52, the troubled B-1, the new stealthy B-2 that costs 2 billion apiece – that it cannot afford to keep them all in the air. Yet, if you can believe its plans, the Air Force intends to increase the operational bomber force 25 percent by 2001.”

But there is always hope Mr. Greider explains: “After all there is always the dim hope that somehow the circumstances will change. Maybe North Korea will invade South Korea. Maybe China will turn belligerent. The (our) nation’s political and military leaders seem to be searching forlornly for a “they” that can restore purpose to the country’s mighty armaments.”

If the reader hasn’t got the point yet, Mr. Greider takes us to a few more military bases and arms storage facilities. The costs are monumental.
Mr. Greider then takes us for a brief look at the investment side of Arms merchandising.

“A decade ago, fifteen leading contractors accounted for two-thirds of the Pentagon’s spending on weapons. By 1995 the list was down to eight. Now, (1998) there are three ...

“The companies can’t keep boosting stock prices by doing more takeovers since there’s nothing much to take over ...

“The point people miss,” Gansler (an analyst) says, “is not that the defense companies are making huge profits. It’s that they’re charging huge costs to government to pay for all of this excess capacity that they’ve got lying around. The government pays for all that. The problem is, if a company becomes a sole-source contractor and there is no competition, then they have no incentive to reduce costs.”

Now it is onto the Global marketplace.

“We’re serious about being a global company, and that means expanding our workforce outside the United States,” says Lockheed Martin.
“LockMartin itself combines seventeen different companies that have collectively eliminated more than one hundred thousand jobs ...
“The American motive for expanding NATO is selling weapons ... American arms producers are loaning new NATO countries the money to buy their weapons and then moving their factories to these countries.”

Now you know why Poland was upset with President Obama and the new Obama European defense strategy. We were rapidly approaching the boom days of the “Merchants of Death” back in the pre-World War I era – sell weapons to anybody, lie, cheat, steal but sell, sell, sell.

“Provoking inadvertent crisis may be profitable for weapons firms, but it does not seem to be in the national interest – or for that matter the world’s”

I suggest that you all read “Merchants of Death” by Engelbrecht and Hanighen. You may have to hunt your library for it, but it will be worth your effort if your goal is to understand the present times. You can also read about the life and times of Sir Basil Zaharoff.

But what is coming in the future? Can we bend the Iron Triangle (Pentagon, military, government). Can we design a meaner leaner military? Can we cut, lower costs, contain, or redesign our mammoth military complex?

“Even if futuristic ideas prove to be sound, the pentagon and the arms industry are still reluctant to give up what already exists – their vast arsenal of conventional overkill. They cannot have it both ways, one would think, but so far they are doing their best to accomplish just that, with very little resistance from the political system.”

In his conclusion Mr. Greider says that first the American people must “say no to empire.”

“The global economic system, led by the United States, governs trade, financial markets, and the rights of capital by imposing complex rules but insists that fundamental human freedoms are not a legitimate basis for global regulation. Raising questions of environmental protection, labor rights, or social equity – not to mention the democratic principles of free speech and freedom of assembly – is described as an intrusion on the trading system, possibly even an impediment to the spread of prosperity. National sovereignty (including America’s) is told to yield to the efficiencies of the global enterprise.”

Mr. Greider goes on and on with one good suggestion after another on transitioning from a militarist nation to a less militarist nation, but that is now all behind us and this book falls into the category of wasted effort.

In retrospect we see that Mr. Greider had it right in his introduction. Finding new wars to fight and devising a new Cold War was easier and much less demanding than attempting to restructure the Iron Triangle and bring America back to a peace loving, cooperative nation.

So if you are wondering why we have two wars going and military spending through the roof, you might pick up Mr. Greider’s book Fortress America for a description of the details. But it appears clear to me – war is easier and more profitable than peace – especially when our system has been set up to deal with it for the last 100 years. We can’t afford peace we have too much invested in war. Sadly, achieving peace is too costly and too complicated. If you are hoping for an end to this “bully-bully” warmongering mentality it is going to take a lot more than wishful thinking.

Bloggon' Be My Life - Catch 22

Bloggin' Be My Life

The Hobo - Philosopher

Catch 22

It is rather shocking for me to think that here I am today a citizen of, without doubt, the greatest, most powerful, wealthiest, most culturally and scientifically sophisticated, nation state to be established to this date by mankind, and realize that two of its most basic sources of economic wealth are provided by the proliferation of drugs and the creation, manufacture, and sale of military weapons.

In the closing moments, and the subsequent years immediately following World War I, the peoples of the world were shocked and outraged to learn about the exploits of men such as Sir Basil Zaharoff, R. L. Thomson, Hirum Maxim, Alfred Krupp, M. Eugene Schneider, etc., arms manufacturers and salesmen, to mention but a few, who were involved in the promotion and “marketing” of war on an international basis. They were labeled, “Merchants of Death.”

Their mercenary, profit hungry, competitive tactics turned nearly the entire world against the capitalistic system. German bodies were being strung along miles of barbed wire sold to the French by German manufactures just weeks before. Frenchmen were being slaughtered by bombs and bullets manufactured by French industrialists and sold during the war to their enemies at high profits. British arms merchants sold to all combatants while the patriotic sons of their proud island died by the hundreds of thousands to protect the right of these “Merchants of Death” to make millions and billions on the blood of a naive free market mankind.

The international marketing of arms went on right through the war, and was supported by all the arms producing nations of the world – including the U.S.A.

These antics of international arms merchants when exposed to the world at large precipitated a disgust so great for the capitalistic system that the entire Russian army walked off the battlefield and into the humanitarian notion of a “not for profit” communist utopia, and the less drastic notion of socialism took root throughout the entire world.

Hatred of war flourished in the aftermath of this our first world war, in the form of pacifism. Resistance to war, and the novel notion of conscientious objection to military service became organized, and was supported by some of the greatest minds in the world.

A dialogue between war haters and warmongers began in the twenties and ran through the thirties. The “no war” notion was championed by men like Albert Einstein and Sigmond Freud and the “pro war” campaign championed by the distinguished Winston Churchill and the vociferous German champion of bombs and bullets, Aldolf Hitler.

Discussions were cut off with the outset of World War II.

During World War II, it was business as usual. The international arms industry flourished. While London was being bombed by German planes powered by Rolls Royce engines, Americans were being killed on the beaches of Normandy and elsewhere, by material and weapons of destruction sold to Nazi Germany by powerful American companies.

The Historian, William Manchester points out in his History “The Arms of Krupp” that F.D.R. was well aware of this fact but did not expose it to the American people for fear of undermining the morale of the war effort and consequently precipitating the victory of Adolf Hitler and his pure Aryan race advocates at home and abroad.

Politically, Americans could have voted with their feet, just as the Russians had done in World War I and toppled America into a similar utopic, communist dilution. F.D.R. had his political hands full. Many right-wingers were already calling him a Communist and worse.

It now seems that World War II has settled the issue. America is the leading trafficker in the international arms market. And, from what I can see, most Americans consider the marketing and manufacture of bombs and bullets for an international market an acceptable economic necessity. After all, if we don’t sell it to them, someone else will.

It is true that we have stiff competition in the bombs and bullets marketplace coming from France, England, Russia, China, and elsewhere. War, its promotion and preparation for, has become our most profitable industry. Without which, we tell our top-secret-clearance defense plant workers, our American economy would collapse, and topple us and the world into a depression that would make the rupture of 1929 seem like a time of economic prosperity.

So eat, drink, sell and drop bombs, and be merry, for tomorrow, as an economic necessity you, your children and your grandchildren may be selected to die.

As has often been stated, those who live by the bomb shall also die by the bomb.

Understanding this evolution in the bombs and bullets, international, marketplace makes me think of our drug industry. Is it now also out of control in this truly Joseph Heller-Catch 22 world that we are living in today?

Is it too, an industry, the promotion of which, our economic livelihood can no longer survive without?

We now have whole nations of people who are involved in the production and manufacture of drugs. We have whole armies that are buying their bombs and bullets from the profits accumulated through illegal drug trafficking.

The drug industry has been growing and profiting all of my life. It has not only infiltrated my cultural and social existence, but my government and its agencies – you do remember Ollie North and Iran Contra – the business community, banking, real estate and finance.

Though we pretend to be fighting it, as we pretend to be avoiding war, is it now true, as with war that it is now also an economic necessity. Drugs being a business, the promotion of which we, as Americans, can no longer survive without?