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Archive for March, 2012

Your business

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I recently read an interesting Newspaper headline, made me think a bit.

The rest of the article was ho-hum, but the headline was good

People should learn to mind own business

Well, yes… exactly.

Although…

Now we just need to decide on what our own business is – and what it isn’t.

I must say, my opinion currently is that we seem to have it all 180 degrees wrong.

We get all concerned about stuff that really is none of our business, yet proceed to ignore the things we should all be vitally concerned about.

Is it just because the important things are often too big and too removed for us to be able to effectively engage with them…?

Or is there something more sinister at work?

Are we being actively and systematically propagandized to divert our attention from the man behind the curtain – and onto something/anything else, of zero actual consequence?

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Guest 5

[edited/redacted  ~R]

Here is an interesting and different perspective.

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In the US the Right is eating itself – Cameron, take note.

American Republicans are divided along almost every axis. It’s something that could still happen to British Conservatives.

     (guardian.co.uk)   Friday 9 March 2012

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The US presidential campaign of 2008 proved so enthralling that HBO will air a movie, Game Change, based on a single, small aspect of it: the travails of Sarah Palin, as recreated by Julianne Moore. The battle of 2012 could never hope to compete with the drama of four years ago, with its epic struggle of Obama v Hillary, pitting two historic firsts against each other. But the current Republican primary contest might nevertheless have movie potential – if only for Comedy Central.

The race has produced no end of laughs, most recently multimillionaire Mitt Romney’s attempts to come across as a regular Joe. The latest was his admission that, while not himself a fan of Nascar racing – a sport that plays big in the white, male, lower-income demographic – “I have some friends who are Nascar team owners”.

Earlier he had sought to ingratiate himself with a Detroit audience by boasting that, as a good patriot, he drove American cars and that his wife even drove “a couple of Cadillacs”. Short of wearing an “I am the 1%” T-shirt, it’s hard to know how he could have got it more wrong.

Still, the best Romney joke is not by him but about him, taking aim at the ideological contortions the limping frontrunner has performed in his bid to win the Republican nomination:  “A conservative, a liberal and a moderate walk into a bar. The bartender says, ‘Hi, Mitt.'”

And yet if that gag applies to Romney, it also applies to his entire party. This week’s “Super” Tuesday, in which Romney squeaked ahead in yet another split decision, revealed a Republican party that is deeply, even structurally divided. The personality quirks of this second-rate field (~R) have hidden the extent to which the four remaining candidates represent distinct strands within Republicanism that are proving impossible to reconcile.

Romney is the embodiment of country club Republicanism:  Patrician, fiscally conservative, faithful to Wall Street, with roots in the more liberal north-eastern US.

Santorum speaks for theo-conservatives:  whose chief political creed is religion and who share his regret that the supreme court legalised contraception in 1965 and that so many women now work outside the home.

Newt Gingrich:  is a skilled exploiter of the culture wars, though that sits alongside  “techno-optimism”, typified by Gingrich’s fly-me-to-the-moon fantasies about colonising space.

Lastly, Ron Paul:  who represents undiluted libertarianism.

If the Republican party cannot settle on one of these four candidates, it’s partly because it cannot settle on any one of the four creeds they represent.  The party is divided along almost every axis, by religion, class and region.

With Romney, the Mormon millionaire from Massachusetts on the wrong side of each line.

In the past, Republicans have suppressed those divisions in order to rally behind a candidate who they believed could win. But in 2012, with the party selectorate now dominated by hardcore conservatives, they’re unwilling to make that compromise.

The result is that the party is caught demanding “incompatible, impossible things”.

Ever lower taxes – but higher military spending and untouched entitlements, especially for the elderly.

It wants government to stay out of, say, the auto industry (Romney) – but to get into the bedroom (Santorum).

The tension between these positions is getting unbearable, with only a dogmatic loathing of the very idea of government to unite them.

When David Cameron travels to the US next week, doubtless removing his jacket and rolling up his sleeves to watch a game of college basketball in Dayton, Ohio with Obama, he will comfort himself that such headaches are an ocean away from home.

And yet this week laid bare the divisions which (while lacking the lurid colours of the Republican fight) increasingly mark his own party.   Neatly characterised by one Lib Dem source in the Times, as Economist readers v the Country Life set. The former group is made up of unsentimental economic liberals, metropolitan in outlook, whose spiritual leader is George Osborne. The latter consists of shire Tories, who believe the countryside and property represent something more than a source of revenue.

Some of them hope that, underneath all that Notting Hill modernising nonsense, Cameron belongs to their tribe.

There are other divides too, while John Major faced just nine Euro-rebels, Cameron saw 82 of his own MPs vote against him on the EU.

Class plays a part too:

Witness Pritchard’s past description of himself as a “little council house lad”,

Or Nadine Dorries’s complaint that “policy is being run by two public school boys who don’t know what it’s like to go to the supermarket and have to put things back on the shelves because they can’t afford it … what’s worse, they don’t care either.”

Even US-style family values feature. Some of those Tories opposing the cut in child benefit to higher earners are appalled that the effect will be to punish those families where the woman has chosen to stay home to bring up the kids – precisely the values, they say, Tories should be encouraging.

Central to the problem is Cameron himself. Forced to run to the right to defeat David Davis in 2005, he led plenty of Conservatives to believe he would be one of them, on Europe and the rest. They are disappointed, “restless and disgruntled” and looking for a cause on which to fight, according to one coalition insider.

None of this equals the fratricidal viciousness currently on display in America, but what Cameron sees next week should serve as a warning to him: this is what happens when the right divides against itself.

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Very interesting article.  

Seems like the death of traditional two-party politics is imminent.  Political parties used to be broad-church organisations, and the divisions within were not so large as to be unbridgeable.  But that seems to be less and less the case currently.  And perhaps this is a broader reflection of society as a whole.

Beyond observing that a house divided cannot stand, what are the implications of this.

It would suggest that the potential for a new alternative Option/Party to rapidly fill the political vacuum under the correct circumstances is becoming increasingly likely.

The failure of established organisations to rally their nominal and historical supporters, will inevitably mean that  a charismatic leader(for instance) could provide an alternative motivation for concentrating political support and allegiance.

If the old creeds no longer serve – then a new creed will perforce need to be found.

The danger lies in what that has previously brought us; including such charming political movements as Bolshevism/Communism and Nazi/Fascism.

Nothing like a little war-mongering to pull everyone in behind…

If this opening is left to the opportunists and scavengers, then we are going to be ruled by Hyena’s.

“For evil to succeed, it is only necessary for good men to do nothing”.

~R.

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Guest 4

[edited/redacted  ~R]

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What if democracy is just an illusion?

In the US, the dominant political discourse consists of ideas put forth by the ruling class..

~ John Stoehr.  (editor of the New Haven Advocate and a lecturer at Yale)

From Al Jazeera – 13 March 2012

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Karl Marx never visited the United States, but he nevertheless understood the country, because he understood capitalism. As you know, there’s no American ideology that’s mightier than capitalism. Equality, justice and the rule of law are nice and all, but money talks.

In their 1846 book The German Ideology, Marx and co-author Frederick Engels took a look at human history and made a plain but controversial observation. In any given historical period, the ideas that people generally think are the best and most important ideas, are usually the ideas of the people in charge.

If you have a lot of money and own a lot of property, then you have the power to propagandise your worldview – and you have incentive to avoid appearing as if you’re propagandising your worldview.

Or, as Marx and Engels would put it: The ruling ideas of every epoch are the ideas of the ruling class.

Oh, yes, it works nicely for the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country, especially if they want to shroud their efforts to influence politics behind shell corporations.  It just doesn’t happen to work if you think we are a democracy and not a plutocracy.

The ideas of the one per cent become the dominant ideas because the one per cent convinces the 99 per cent that its ideas are the only rational and universally valid ideas. Consider free-market capitalism. The idea says that growth provides prosperity to all, that government governs best when it governs least, so there’s no need to discuss the redistribution of wealth. That’s neoliberalism and that idea has been the only acceptable economic policy since the Clinton era.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan was its greatest champion. After the collapse of the housing market, he said he was dead wrong. Even so, the idea remains dominant. Why? Forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but the ruling class happens to make a lot of money from a “free market”.

Americans tend to look askance at Marx and I don’t blame them. He was, after all, the father of socialism, as well as the guy associated with Josef Stalin, who was, you know, a homicidal totalitarian dictator.

But as philosopher John Gray has noted, Marx got a lot wrong about Marxism – but he got a lot right about capitalism. He understood that ideas don’t exist in bubbles – they have a concrete material context and have a human cost.

It’s hard to imagine a better illustration of Marx’s theory of the ruling class than Citizens United, the 2010 case brought before the US Supreme Court in which the majority decided that political action committees (or PACs) cannot be subject to campaign finance laws. PACs do not formally represent candidates and instead, express their own political views. So the money they spend is more like free speech. Therefore, political money is speech protected by the US Constitution’s First Amendment.

These organisations can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, as long as they don’t explicitly endorse or challenge a specific candidate. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, they have raised more than $130m in 2012 and spent almost $75m on attack advertisements carried over broadcast, cable and radio. Of that total amount, 25 per cent comes from just five people.

In theory, this is an egalitarian ruling. Any citizen can spend any amount of money to promote or attack any issue they want. But we don’t live in an egalitarian society. As Gore Vidal has said, America is a very good place to live if you have money and property. Not so much if you don’t.

And perhaps there’s the real problem.

If you believe the US is a democracy, if you believe in the rule of the many and not the rule of the few, then the Citizens United ruling could not be more troubling.

But what if this is not a democracy? What if this is an oligarchy of billionaire capitalists?

More horrible to ponder, what if democracy is yet more intellectual cover, another one of those illusions, for the exploitation of American workers?

Then the theory of the ruling class fits perfectly. Citizens United and the United States were made for each other.

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Light Humor

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Extracted (edited) from a Zero-Hedge article  ~ R.

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FoxConn Workers Furious At Work Hours Cut, Demand More Work

At the Foxconn factory gates, many workers seemed unconvinced that their pay wouldn’t be cut along with their hours. For some Chinese factory workers – who make much of their income from long hours of overtime – the idea of less work for the same pay could take getting used to. “We are worried we will have less money to spend. Of course, if we work less overtime, it would mean less money,” said Wu, a 23-year-old employee from Hunan province in south China.

Foxconn said it will reduce working hours to 49 per week, including overtime. “We are here to work and not to play, so our income is very important,” said Chen Yamei, 25, a Foxconn worker from Hunan who said she had worked at the factory for four years.”

Hold on, Hold on… You mean to say that whatever values are cherished in the good old US of lazy A, such as bathroom, coffee and cigarette breaks, not to mention “democracy”, “American Idol”, “high cholesterol”, $0.99 apps” and “liberated oil” just may not be appropriate to the 95% of other people around the world?

But… But… how will America spread its deeply unique “humanitarian” values of globalized freedom and trade interchange,

and occasionally using kinetic intervention (never war: one needs Congressional approval for that)

when said people dare to express a different outlook, and set of values on life?

Preposterous. Nay, Inconceivable!

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Guest 3

[edited/redacted.  ~R]

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The third British Empire

~ Dan Hind.   (from Al Jazeera)

Historians tell us that there were two quite distinct British empires.

The first an Atlantic empire built on North American colonies and Caribbean possessions

And the second an Asian empire, built on control of India and coercive trade with China.

These two empires were deeply criminal projects, in the specific sense that they relied heavily on profits from slavery and the sale of narcotics.

Empire on the British model was a moneymaking venture, where moral considerations took second place to the lure of super profits.

The first British Empire came to an end when the Americans fought a revolutionary war for independence in the 1770s.

The second British Empire began to fall apart with Indian independence in 1947.

Arab and African nationalism progressively undermined British influence in the years that followed. At some point, perhaps with defeat in Suez in 1956, or when Britain withdrew from its last significant overseas possession, Hong Kong, in 1997, the game was finally up.

Nowadays, if you believe what you’re told by respectable historians and broadcasters, Britain has turned its back on its imperial past and is trying as best it can to make its way as an ordinary nation.

The reality is somewhat more complicated. One day, perhaps history will describe a third British Empire, organised around the country’s offshore financial infrastructure and its substantial diplomatic, intelligence and communications resources. Having given up the appearance of empire, the British have sought to reclaim its substance.

Banking on Billionaries

Two news stories from last week help us sketch the outlines of this third, offshore empire. On Tuesday, March 20 (2012), a Russian banker was shot and seriously wounded outside his flat in Canary Wharf. On Sunday, March 25, the co-treasurer of the Conservative Party resigned after the Sunday Times claimed that he had been soliciting donations to his party from what he thought was a wealth fund based in Liechtenstein. These two apparently unrelated events together tell us quite a lot about contemporary Britain.

The United Kingdom allows foreign residents to hold their funds offshore and only taxes them on money they bring into the country. This approach, a relic from the days of openly declared empire, makes the country a popular place of residence for billionaires from all over the world, from Africa, mainland Europe and India.

Once in London, a sophisticated legal and financial apparatus arranges for foreign funds to be deposited in a network of offshore jurisdictions. In his groundbreaking book, Treasure Islands, Nicholas Shaxson describes London as the centre of a spider web that links to the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the Caribbean. With impressive frugality, the British have reinvented the scattered remnants of formal empire as instruments for serving the needs of global capital.

When the Soviet Union broke up, those who secured control of the privatised Russian economy flocked to London. They had little in the way of a social base in their own country and their position was chronically insecure. They needed a way to channel profits overseas, and London offered them access to a world-class financial centre and favourable tax rates.

The city also gave some of them a public profile outside Russia. In buying Chelsea Football Club and the Evening Standard, Roman Abramovich and Alexander Lebedev respectively have made themselves international figures. Moves against them by opponents back home are thereby made that much more difficult.

The British state does more than provide a hospitable, low-tax jurisdiction and the means to acquire a higher profile abroad. It puts its diplomatic resources at the disposal of favoured foreign residents.

In July 2001, Tony Blair wrote a letter to Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase to support Lakshmi Mittal.  But while Mittal did not employ many people in Britain, or pay much tax there, he did make a significant contribution to the Labour Party.  In May 2001, two months before Blair wrote his letter, the Indian magnate had given them £125,000 ($199,750). It is hardly surprising that Peter Cruddas was happy to talk with financiers from Liechtenstein about donations to the Conservative Party. Donations from foreigners are illegal, but it is a relatively simple matter to set up a company registered in the UK to handle the transaction. Offshore blurs the distinction between domestic and foreign.

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Capital of capitalism

All this is part of a much larger imperial project, whose full scale and significance is difficult to appreciate. This is not an empire that advertises itself widely. Indeed, it tries to hide the very fact of its existence.   But there is no doubting the ambition. For decades now, Britain’s rulers have sought to make London the capital of global capitalism.

The state has reorganised itself to this end. Deregulation brought foreign banks to London. The financial sector, the intelligence establishment and the political parties are committed to a project that the major media can scarcely bring themselves to discuss.

Elections become ever more hallucinatory exercises, in which shallow differences in tone and detail obscure a far deeper complicity.

Occasionally, the dynamics of the offshore empire become visible as scandals or sensational crimes. Power struggles cause ripples that can’t be missed. A foreign businessman is shot in the street. The sheer strangeness jolts us for a moment out of our obliviousness. A politician is caught soliciting donations and resigns.

Rupert Murdoch, a significant figure in Britain’s revived imperialism, owns the Sunday Times, the paper that broke the Peter Cruddas story. One faction in the empire is sending a message to another. For a moment, what cannot be discussed is mentioned obliquely, as is the way of empire.

The third British Empire is not an industrial or military superpower. Indeed, it is intensely vulnerable. The United States and the great powers of Europe could do a great deal to hamper it, if they chose to do so.   [they are all co-opted]

The empire is a standing temptation to betray the local or the national for the sake of membership of a far more exclusive and elusive entity – an entity whose allure is intimately linked to its tact, its capacity to avoid straightforward description.

Empire prospers to the extent that it can exploit, and where possible foster, corruption elsewhere.  Much of the old bombast is gone. There are fewer flags and trumpets. But in other respects, the third empire closely resembles its predecessors. Like them, it must do all it can to prevent effective democracy from breaking out at home, as it profits from tyranny abroad.

The dedication to the needs of global capitalism benefits only a tiny minority of the population. The rest face a future of steepening inequality and shrinking prospects. Besides, as in previous centuries the people at home must pay up when adventures abroad turn expensive.

And like the first two British empires, the current one is a criminal enterprise.

After having previously specialised in slavery and drug trafficking, the current Empire’s signature crime is tax evasion.

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[only the small people pay taxes – know your enemy.  ~R]

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Dan Hind is a journalist and publisher.

He is the author of ‘The Threat to Reason’ and ‘The Return of the Public’.

 His new ebook on the Occupy movement and deliberative politics:

Common Sense – Occupation, Assembly and the Future of Liberty.  

was published online on March 20.

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Guest 2

[Edited/redacted ~R]

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How To Bring Down the System,  Any System

Non-violently

By: Gary North   Mar 18, 2012    ( the Market Oracle )

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Four words: “Follow the rules exactly.”

That’s it?   That’s it.

Any system?   Any system.

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There are reasons for this. These reasons are universal.

First:   every institution assumes voluntary compliance in at least 95% of all cases.

This may be a low-ball estimate. Most people comply, either out of fear, or lack of concern, or strong belief in the system and its goals.

Second:   every institution has more rules than it can follow, let alone enforce.

Some of these rules are self-contradictory. The more rules, the larger the number of contradictions. (There is probably a statistical pattern here – some variant of Parkinson’s law.)

Third:   every institution is built on this assumption: partial compliance.

Not everyone will comply with any given procedural rule. There are negative sanctions to enforce compliance on the few who resist. They serve as examples to force compliance.

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Conversely, very few people under the institution’s jurisdiction will attempt to force the institution to comply exactly with its own procedural rules.

These three laws of institutions – and they really are laws – offer any resistance movement an opportunity to shut down any system.

JAMMING THE GULAG

When we think of institutional tyrannies, few come close to matching the system of concentration camps in the Soviet Union: the Gulag. They operated from 1918 until after the Soviet Union collapsed in December 1991. It took time to close them in 1992.

In his book, To Build a Castle, Vladimir Bukovsky provides one of the finest descriptions of institution-jamming ever recorded. He organized it.

What you are about to read is like nothing you have ever read. I have spent over 45 years studying bureaucracies in theory and practice. I have seen nothing to match it.

Bukovsky spent well over a decade in the Soviet gulag concentration camp system in the 1960s and 1970s. He was arrested and sentenced in spite of specific civil rights protections provided by the Soviet Constitution – a document which was never respected by the Soviet bureaucracy. But once in prison, he learned to make life miserable for the director of his camp.

He learned that written complaints had to be responded to officially within a month. This administrative rule governing the camps was for “Western consumption,” but it was nevertheless a rule. Any camp administrator who failed to honor it risked the possibility of punishment, should a superior (or ambitious subordinate) decide to pressure him for any reason. In short, any failure to “do it by the book” could be used against him later on.

Bukovsky became an assembly-line producer of official protests. By the end of his career as a “zek,” he had taught hundreds of other inmates to follow his lead. By following certain procedures that were specified by the complaint system, Bukovsky’s protesting army began to disrupt the whole Soviet bureaucracy.

Each complaint had to be responded to. The camp administrators grew frantic. They threatened punishments, and often imposed them, but it did no good; the ocean of protests grew. Since complaints follow a complex route and have to be registered every step of the way, they spawn dossiers and records of their own.

The bureaucratic machine is thus obliged to work at full stretch, and you transfer the paper avalanche from one office to another, sowing panic in the ranks of the enemy. Bureaucrats are bureaucrats, always at loggerheads with one another, and often enough your complaints become weapons in internecine wars between bureaucrat and bureaucrat, department and department. This goes on for months and months, all bureaucrats suffered. There went the prizes, pennants, and other benefits. “The workers start seething with discontent, there is panic in the regional Party headquarters, and a senior commission of inquiry is dispatched.  The entire bureaucratic system of the Soviet Union found itself drawn into this war.

Finally, in 1977, they capitulated, the leaders of the Soviet Union could bear it no longer: they deported Bukovsky.

FROM GANDHI TO ALINSKY

You may have heard of Saul Alinsky. He died in 1972.  Alinsky was a follower of Gandhi. That means he refused to use violence in his protests. He was a radical. He was a revolutionary. But he was also an opponent of violence.

There was a crucial difference between Gandhi’s tactics and Alinsky’s. Gandhi had a genius for analyzing the British system of controls. He then broke a specific law. That forced the British to arrest him. That gave him a public platform. He spent years in various prisons. This was a high-cost system of resistance. It made him a celebrity. He gained followers. He was world famous.

Alinksy realized early that very few people will pay the price that Gandhi paid. So, he devised a system of resistance that lowered the risk, thereby lowering the cost. He understood the economists’ law: “When the cost of producing anything falls, more will be supplied.”

More of what?    Resistance.

His system involved at least one of two tactics:

(1) violating a rule to which only a minimal negative sanction was attached.

(2) follow the organization’s procedural rules to the letter in a Bukovsky-like manner.

He tested his non-violent strategy and tactics in the 1960s in Chicago. He wrote a book on his system, Rules For Radicals(1972). He wrote this.

Let us in the name of radical pragmatism not forget that in our system, with all its repressions, we can still speak out and denounce the administration, attack its policies and work to build an opposition political base. True, there is still government harassment, but there still is that relative freedom to fight. I can attack my government, try to organize to change it. That’s more than I can do in Moscow, Peking, or Havana. Remember the reaction of the Red Guard to the “cultural revolution” and the fate of the Chinese college students. Just a few of the violent episodes of bombings or a courtroom shootout that we have experienced here would have resulted in a sweeping purge and mass executions in Russia, China, or Cuba. Let us keep some perspective.

We will start with the system because there is no other place to start from except political lunacy. It is most important for those of us who want revolutionary change to understand that revolution must be preceded by reformation.

To assume that a political revolution can survive without a supporting base of popular reformation is to ask for the impossible in politics. Men don’t like to step abruptly out of the security of familiar experience; they need a bridge to cross from their own experience to a new way.

A revolutionary organizer must shake up the prevailing patterns of their lives – agitate, create disenchantment and discontent with the current values, to produce, if not a passion for change, at least a passive, affirmative, non-challenging climate.

John Adams wrote. “The revolution was effected before the war commenced,  Revolution was in the hearts and minds of the people… This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments and affections of the people was the real American Revolution.” A revolution without a prior reformation would collapse or become a totalitarian tyranny.

Understanding this about the nature of man and social change, we should at least give heed to his conclusions concerning tactics. Not bombs but protests and petitions. Not guns but getting people involved in dragging their feet.

We need a positive program of changing people’s minds. We also need a negative program of successful resistance techniques that will get the State off our backs long enough for us to go about the work of positive reformation. Meanwhile, we can gum up the works.

That literally happened under Alinsky. Some Christian college was foolish enough to allow students to invite him to speak on campus. A group of disgruntled students met with him after his speech. “How can we change this place? We can’t do anything. We can’t smoke, dance, go to movies, or drink beer. About all we can do is chew gum.” Alinsky told them, “Then gum is your answer.”

He told them to get 200 or 300 students to buy two packs of gum each. Chew both packs simultaneously every day, and then spit out the wads on campus walks. As he said, ‘Why, with five hundred wads of gum I could paralyze Chicago, stop all the traffic in the Loop.” He told them to keep it up until the rules were loosened or abolished. The tactic worked. Two weeks later all the rules were lifted. One new rule was substituted: no gum on campus.

That college administration was weak. Its leaders really did not believe in their own standards. They could have immediately banned gum from the campus the second day, with immediate expulsion as the penalty for anyone caught chewing it.

But this would have made them look ridiculous to people on the outside. Expelling kids for chewing gum, when other campuses are being bombed by student radicals? The outsiders would never have seen the hundreds of wads of dried gum on the walkways every morning. Bureaucrats never ever want to look ridiculous. They capitulated. They were, in short, fearful bureaucrats.

We can learn from Alinsky.

Here are Alinsky’s 13 tactical rules:

1.  Power is not only what you have but what the enemy thinks you have.

2.  Never go outside the experience of your people.

3.  Wherever possible go outside the experience of the enemy.

4.  Make the enemy live up to their own book of rules.

5.  Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.

6.  A good tactic is one your people enjoy.

7.  A tactic that drags on too long is a drag.

8.  Keep the pressure on.

9.  The threat is usually more terrifying than the thing itself.

10.  The major premise for tactics is the development of operations that will maintain a constant pressure upon the opposition.

11.  If you push a negative hard and deep enough it will break through into its counter side.

12.  The price of a successful attack is a constructive alternative.

13.  Pick the target, freeze it, personalize and polarize it.

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CONCLUSION

Every system can be brought down. Every system is vulnerable. If you can spot the weak point in the system, you can exploit it.

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Guest 1

[Edited/redacted  ~R]

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The Ascendence of Sociopaths in US Governance:

How to Surive What’s to Come

~ Doug Casey  Casey_Research   Mar 21, 2012   [from – Market Oracle]

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Throughout history, almost every place has at some point become dangerous for those who were stuck there. It may be America’s turn.

I understand the hesitation you may feel about taking action; pulling up one’s roots (or at least grafting some of them to a new location) can be almost as traumatic to a man as to a vegetable.

As any intelligent observer surveys the world’s economic and political landscape, they have to be disturbed – even dismayed and a bit frightened – by the gravity and number of problems that mark the horizon.  We’re confronted by economic depression, looming financial chaos, serious currency inflation, onerous taxation, crippling regulation, developing police states and, worst of all, the prospect of a major war. It seems almost unbelievable that we are talking of the US – which historically has been the land of the free.

How did we get here? An argument can be made that miscalculation, accident, inattention and the like are why things go bad.  Those elements do have a role, but it is minor. Potential catastrophe across the board can’t be the result of happenstance. When things go wrong on a grand scale, it’s not just bad luck or inadvertence.

It’s because of serious character flaws in one or many – or even all – of the players.

In this article, I’m going to argue that the US government, in particular, is being overrun by the wrong kind of person. It’s a trend that’s been in motion for many years but has now reached a point of no return. In other words, a type of moral rot has become so prevalent that it’s institutional in nature. There is not going to be, therefore, any serious change in the direction in which the US is headed until a genuine crisis topples the existing order. Until then, the trend will accelerate.

The reason is that a certain class of people – sociopaths – are now fully in control of major American institutions. Their beliefs and attitudes are insinuated throughout the economic, political, intellectual and psychological/spiritual fabric of the US.   [system capture.  ~R]

What does this mean to the individual? It depends on your character. Are you the kind of person who supports “my country right or wrong,” as did most Germans in the 1930s and 1940s, or the kind who dodges the duty to be a helpmate to murderers?

What the ascendancy of sociopaths means isn’t an academic question. Throughout history, the question has been a matter of life and death. That’s one reason America grew; every American has forebears who confronted the issue

You may be thinking that what happened in places like Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia and scores of other countries in recent history could not, for some reason, happen in the US. Actually, there’s no reason it won’t at this point.

All the institutions that made America exceptional – including a belief in capitalism, individualism, self-reliance and the restraints of the Constitution – are now only historical artifacts.

On the other hand, the distribution of sociopaths is completely uniform across both space and time. Per capita, there were no more evil people in Stalin’s Russia, Hitler’s Germany, Mao’s China, Amin’s Uganda, Ceausescu’s Romania or Pol Pot’s Cambodia than there are today in the US. All you need is favorable conditions for them to bloom.  Conditions for them in the US are becoming quite favorable.

Have you ever wondered where the 50,000 people employed by the TSA to inspect and degrade you came from? Most of them are middle-aged. Did they have jobs before they started doing something that any normal person would consider demeaning? Most did, but they were attracted to – not repelled by – a job where they wear a costume and abuse their fellow citizens all day.

Few of them can imagine that they’re shepherding in a police state as they play their roles in security theater. (A reinforced door on the pilots’ cabin is probably all that’s actually needed, although the most effective solution would be to hold each airline responsible for its own security and for the harm done if it fails to protect passengers and third parties.) But the 50,000 newly employed are exactly the same type of people who joined the Gestapo – eager to help in the project of controlling everyone. Nobody was drafted into the Gestapo.

They might now be shoe clerks, mailmen or waitresses – they seem perfectly benign in normal times. They play baseball on weekends and pet the family dog. However, given the chance, they will sign up for the Gestapo, the Stasi, the KGB, the TSA, Homeland Security or whatever. Many are well intentioned but likely to favor force as the solution to any problem.

But it doesn’t end there, because 20% of that 20% are really bad actors. They are drawn to government and other positions where they can work their will on other people and, because they’re enthusiastic about government, they rise to leadership positions. They remake the culture of the organizations they run in their own image. Gradually, non-sociopaths can no longer stand being there. They leave. Soon the whole barrel is full of bad apples. That’s what’s happening today in the US.

It’s a pity that Bush, when he was in office, made such a big deal of evil. He discredited the concept. He made Boobus americanus think it only existed in a distant axis, in places like North Korea, Iraq and Iran – which were and still are irrelevant backwaters and arbitrarily chosen enemies.

Bush trivialized the concept of evil and made it seem banal because he was such a fool. All the while real evil, very immediate and powerful, was growing right around him, and he lacked the awareness to see he was fertilizing it by turning the US into a national security state after 9/11.

Now, I believe, it’s out of control. The US is already in a truly major depression and on the edge of financial chaos and a currency meltdown. The sociopaths in government will react by redoubling the pace toward a police state domestically and starting a major war abroad. To me, this is completely predictable. It’s what sociopaths do.

There are seven characteristics I can think of that define a sociopath, although I’m sure the list could be extended.

0.Sociopaths completely lack a conscience or any capacity for real regret about hurting people. Although they pretend the opposite.

0.Sociopaths put their own desires and wants on a totally different level from those of other people. Their wants are incommensurate. They truly believe their ends justify their means. Although they pretend the opposite.

0.Sociopaths consider themselves superior to everyone else, because they aren’t burdened by the emotions and ethics others have – they’re above all that. They’re arrogant. Although they pretend the opposite.

0.Sociopaths never accept the slightest responsibility for anything that goes wrong, even though they’re responsible for almost everything that goes wrong. You’ll never hear a sincere apology from them.

0.Sociopaths have a lopsided notion of property rights. What’s theirs is theirs, and what’s yours is theirs too. They therefore defend currency inflation and taxation as good things.

0.Sociopaths usually pick the wrong target to attack. If they lose their wallet, they kick the dog. If 16 Saudis fly planes into buildings, they attack Afghanistan.

0.Sociopaths traffic in disturbing news, they love to pass on destructive rumors and they’ll falsify information to damage others.

The fact that they’re chronic, extremely convincing and even enthusiastic liars, who often believe their own lies, means they aren’t easy to spot, because normal people naturally assume another person is telling the truth.

They cultivate a social veneer or a mask of sanity that diverts suspicion. They’re expert at using facades to disguise reality, and they feel no guilt about it.  Political elites are primarily, and sometimes exclusively, composed of sociopaths.

It’s a serious problem when a society becomes highly politicized, as is now the case in the US and Europe.  Sociopaths sense this, start coming out of the woodwork and are drawn to the State and its bureaucracies and regulatory agencies, where they can get licensed and paid to do what they’ve always wanted to do.

It’s very simple, really. There are two ways people can relate to each other: voluntarily or coercively. The government is pure coercion, and sociopaths are drawn to its power and force.

The majority of Americans will accept the situation for two reasons: One, they have no philosophical anchor to keep them from being washed up onto the rocks.  And, two, they’ve become too pampered and comfortable, a nation of overfed losers, mooches and coasters who like the status quo without wondering how long it can possibly last.

It’s nonsensical to blather about the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave when reality TV and Walmart riots are much closer to the truth.

The majority of Americans are, of course, where the rot originates – the presidential candidates are spending millions taking their pulse in surveys and polls and then regurgitating to them what they seem to want to hear.  The whole point of spin doctors is to produce comforting sound bites that elude testing against reality.

In that light, it was interesting to hear Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, speak about the lower, middle and upper classes recently. Romney is an empty suit, only marginally better than the last Republican nominee, the hostile and mildly demented John McCain.

In any event, Romney is right about the poor, in a way – there is a “safety net,” now holding 50 million people on Medicaid and 46 million on food stamps, among many other supposed benefits.

And he’s right about the rich; there’s no need to worry about them at the moment – at least until the revolution starts.

He claims to worry about the middle class, not that his worries will do anything to help them. But he’s right that the middle class is where the problem lies. It’s just a different kind of problem than he thinks.

People generally fall into an economic class because of their psychology and their values. Each of the three classes has a characteristic psychological profile. For the lower class, it’s apathy. They have nothing, they’re ground down and they don’t really care. They’re not in the game, and they aren’t going to do anything; they’re resigned to their fate.

For the upper class, it’s greed and arrogance. They have everything, and they think they deserve it – whether they do or not.

The middle class – at least in today’s world – is run by fear. Fear that they’re only a paycheck away from falling into the lower class. Fear that they can’t pay their debts or borrow more. Fear that they don’t have a realistic prospect of improving themselves.

The problem is that fear is a negative, dangerous and potentially explosive emotion. It can easily morph into anger and violence. Exactly where it will lead is unpredictable, but it’s not a good place. One thing that exacerbates the situation is that all three classes now rely on the government, albeit in different ways. With sociopaths in charge, we could very well see the Milgram experiment reenacted on a national scale.  The men in authority today are mostly sociopaths.

One practical issue worth thinking about is how you will manage in a future increasingly controlled by sociopaths.

My guess is poorly, unless you take action to insulate yourself. That’s because of the way almost all creatures are programmed by nature. There’s one imperative common to all of them: Survive! People obviously want to do that as individuals. And as families. In fact, they want all the groups that they’re members of to survive, simply because (everything else being equal) it should help them to survive as individuals. So individual Marines want the Marine Corps to survive. Individual Rotarians want the Rotary Club to prosper. Individual Catholics leap to the defense of the Church of Rome.

That’s why individual Germans during World War II were, as has been asserted, “willing executioners” – they were supporting the Reich for the same reasons the Marines, the Rotarians and the Catholics support their groups. Except more so, because the Reich was under attack from all sides. So of course they followed orders and turned in their neighbors who seemed less than enthusiastic. Failing to support the Reich – even if they knew it had some rather unsavory aspects – seemed an invitation to invading armies to come and rape their daughters, steal their property and probably kill them. So of course the Germans closed ranks around their leaders, even though everyone at the top was a sociopath. You can expect Americans to do the same.

Americans have done so before, when the country was far less degraded.  The examples are legion among humans, and the US was never an exception.

Libertarians, who tend to be more intelligent, better informed and very definitely more independent than average, are going to be in a touchy situation as the crisis deepens. Most aren’t going to buy into the groupthink that inevitably accompanies war and other major crises. As such, they’ll be seen as unreliable, even traitors. As Bush said, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” And, he might have added, “the Constitution be damned.” But of course that document is no longer even given lip service; it’s now a completely dead letter.

It’s very hard for an individualist to keep his mouth shut when he sees these things going on.  But he’d better keep quiet.  In today’s world, just keeping quiet won’t be enough; the national security state has an extensive, and growing, file on everybody.  [Facebook – and you gave it to them…  ~R]

What we’re now facing is likely to be more dangerous than past crises.  In truth, security is going to be hard to find anywhere in the years to come. The most you can hope for is to tilt the odds in your favor.  Linking up with sound, like-minded people who share your values. And staying alert for the high-potential that inevitably arise during chaotic times.

…………………….

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Follow-up:  Casey, part 2.

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