Tuesday, March 17, 2009


It's a complicated situation, like most. But the recent violence in Northern Ireland makes clear that old wounds can be reopened by those who'd like to use them for their own ends.

I wanted to comment on that briefly on this celebratory day, on how it's clear that the economic boom in Ireland, a country that was poverty ridden for centuries, contributed mightily to the end of hostilities and a compromise that people abided by during the good times.

The same can be said for many places where there's been, or still are violent conflicts. If everyone in those regions is given an opportunity to make their lives better, to have what they call in this country a "middle-class" lifestyle—i.e. be able to pay the bills and maybe even own their own home—they have a stake in the peace.

But when hard times return, the old wounds can be reopened and put to use by extremists on any side who have goals of their own that old divisions might serve.

I believe Ireland should be free of all English control period. It's one country, obviously, look at any map, the dividing line between North and South is as arbitrary as most of the "national" boundaries created by the Brits during their centuries of world conquest and control.

But violence usually only breeds violence, which is often what those committing it intend. Hopefully, the peace will hold and economic stability will return before too much damage is done. But if there's any lesson to be learned, as I see it, it's that the more equally distributed "wealth" is, the less impetus for violence there is

If the pople in the West Bank and Gaza, or the Southern Sudan or Somalia, or the Congo or North Korea for that matter, were able to earn enough money to make starvation and homelessness and dire poverty a thing of the past, the violence and/or threat of it would equally diminish.

That was JFK's contribution to what rightwingers call "capitalism" (an economic system dependent on a "free market" which is an ideal that has never occurred in real life but generally is used to describe the mix of "socialism" and "capitalism" that almost every modern country's economic system is, including our own, etc.). JKF learned the lesson his father taught him from the Great Depression, when Joe Sr. said "I'd give up half of what I have to keep the other half"—because he realized paying higher taxes, sharing the wealth, etc. would bring the stability needed to keep the whole thing from tumbling down.

Out of that idea came JFK's (like the Peace Corps and other initiatives of his) with the aim of helping the poor to find ways to become more "middle class" and therefore have a stake in the "system" and in stability and peace.

Not a bad idea. Though having had this country and therefore much of the world run by rightwing Republicans for too long, who'd rather just keep it all (i.e. no-bid contracts in Iraq, crony-ism in government, deregulation, etc.) to the point of destroying the world economy in ways that is bringing back deeper poverty than ever in places where it had been virtually wiped out or was on the way to being (Eastern Europe, Asia, Ireland, etc.) is deeply ominous, as the news is making clearer every day.

Thank God Obama isn't an ideologue but instead is a pragmatist who has enough life experience, world experience, and heritage (he has a lot of Irish in him for one thing) behind his great intelligence to understand this and work toward rectifying the mistakes of the past eight years and longer.


JIm said...

Obama professed not to be an ideologue, but has proven otherwise. He has embraced the Socialist's war on the free market, including higher corporate and capital gains rates, than even Communist China. His anti trade and protectionist rhetoric is stirring up a trade war rumblings. Europe has already responded with a tariff on American ethanol, because of US government subsidies. His Cap and Trade policy will result in a 40% increase in residential heating costs according to the CEO of Duke Energy. The Card Check Union Bill that does away with the secret ballot and will discourage business expansion in the US. It is a big world. Business will go to a friendlier climate.

All and all, he is repeating the mistakes of Hoover/FDR.

PS Happy St. Pat's Day!

JIm said...

If you are going to rant at least attempt to get your facts remotely right. The economic/mortgage crisis began with Carter was expanded under Clinton. Frank and Dodd blocked all attempts to rein in the GSEs by Greenspan and Bush. Last time I looked Carter, Clinton, Frank and Dodd are all Democrats. The AIG bonuses were instigated by Dodd. Little Timmy Giethner failed to block them. More and more the Obama administration is being tagged with the incompetence label.The following is from Fox.
"While the Senate was constructing the $787 billion stimulus last month, Dodd added an executive-compensation restriction to the bill. That amendment provides an “exception for contractually obligated bonuses agreed on before Feb. 11, 2009” -- which exempts the very AIG bonuses Dodd and others are now seeking to tax."

-K- said...

"Fox, Drudge falsely assert Dodd put "bonus protections" into stimulus bill

A FoxBusiness.com article reporting on an amendment that Sen. Chris Dodd added to the recovery bill featured the false headline -- subsequently posted by the Drudge Report -- "Amid AIG Furor, Dodd Tries to Undo Bonus Protections He Put In." Additionally, Fox News' Trace Gallagher falsely claimed that Dodd "created a loophole that allowed AIG to give out these bonuses." Rush Limbaugh also falsely asserted that Dodd's amendment provided an "exemption from any limits on" contractual bonuses agreed to before February 11.

In fact, Dodd's amendment actually limited bonuses; it did not add "protection" for bonuses or "create a loophole" without which the bonuses could not be paid."


Anonymous said...

Dear MDL:

Great post. The right hates having a prosperous and educated middle class---those are the kind of people who tend to question authority, assert their rights (whether it's civil rights for blacks, gays, or women), and insist on true democracy. Republicans prefer to bow down to the latest authority figure---W. or Rush, e.g.---and demand that everyone else follow suit. St. Patrick was a Democrat.

JIm said...

If I mischaracterized the Dodd report, I apologize. The truth will out in the next couple of days.

The right loves a prosperous middle class because that is where the strength, morality and good sense of the country, comes from.

JIm said...

Today's AP story seems to back up Fox and Drudge.
"But talk of legislation only leads to more uncomfortable questions for Democrats.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., won passage of a provision earlier this year that they said would have prevented the type of payments now at the center of a storm.

It was dropped without explanation in the final compromise on the economic stimulus measure, replaced by a less restrictive set of conditions backed by Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., and accepted by the White House.

"The president goes out and says this is not acceptable and then some backroom deal gets cut to let these things get paid out anyway," said Wyden."

EDITOR'S NOTE: David Espo is AP's chief congressional correspondent.
The Associated Press

-K- said...

It looks like you were right:

"Dodd just admitted on CNN that he inserted a loophole in the stimulus legislation that allowed million-dollar bonuses to insurance giant AIG to go forward – after previously denying any involvement in writing the controversial provision."

JIm said...

Thank you. There is a lot to be said for civil discourse. You and I do not know each other, but I appreciate your honesty. It would have been easy not to reply and disappear into the Ethernet. We do not know each other and I suspect we are from different political persuasions, but that does not mean that we have to be nasty and discourteous. I believe the beauty of the American Ideal, is that free people can and will disagree with vehemence and reason yet share a beer or friendship at the end of the argument. There is a lot to be said for the real friendship that existed between President Reagan and Tip O'Neal, who were polar opposites, yet were close friends. I will attempt to be as courteous as you have been in the future.

JIm said...

Capitalism vs.Socialism-continued, in Milton Friedman's words

Milton Friedman vs. Obamanomics
Well, I can share with you a video of a testy but amusing confrontation between Friedman and liberal TV talk-show host Phil Donahue that took place in 1979.
Acting like Barack Obama, Donahue asks the renowned economist, “When you see the greed and the concentration of power, did you ever have a moment of doubt about capitalism and whether greed is a good idea to run on?"
Friedman shot back: "Is there some society we know that doesn’t run on greed? What is greed? Of course none of us are greedy; it's only the other fellow who's greedy. [The audience chuckled.]"
Friedman continued: “The world runs on individuals pursuing their separate interests. The great achievements of civilization have not come from government bureaus . . .
“In the only cases in which the masses have escaped from the kind of grinding poverty you're talking about, they have had capitalism and largely free trade . . .
“There is no alternative way so far discovered of improving the lot of the ordinary people that can hold a candle to the productive activities that are unleashed by a free enterprise system."
Friedman’s point is not that capitalism is perfect, but that it is better than all the other systems. Consider that the United States has just 5 percent of the world’s population, but its free-enterprise system produces 25 percent of the world’s GDP.
If Obama gets what he wants, attacking the rich and “spreading wealth around,” the U.S. will resemble the socialist economies of Europe — and it will also mirror their low rates of growth and economic activity. Obama’s plan will not just hurt the U.S. economy, it will take the steam out of the world economy’s engine.
But Milton Friedman still has more to say about Obama.
Recently, Newsmax’s sister publication, Financial Intelligence Report, included an economic analysis from market expert David Skarica.
Skarica cited Friedman’s 1992 classic work “Money Mischief.” As Skarica notes, everything that is unfolding today, including our government’s response to the current crisis, is all laid out in Friedman’s prophetic book.
“Friedman argues that, during recessions, governments turn on the printing presses,” Skarica wrote. “Interest rates plummet as governments move to inflate the money supply in response to an ensuing economic meltdown,” and the initial effects seem good.
That is, governments use spending to cover up economic ills, but that leads to rampant inflation.
Amazingly, what Friedman described is exactly what is happening today. Obama and the Democrats are unwilling to cut spending and be fiscally responsible, and instead will massively increase the money supply — which inevitably leads to inflation.
Skarica writes, “We are seeing this phenomenon unfold right now before our very eyes.”
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has said there is no problem with inflation, declaring on March 10, "We do think inflation will be low over the next couple of years."
And just this week, it was announced the Fed pumped another $1.2 trillion into the economy!
Bernanke surely knows what Friedman explained in “Money Mischief” — that it takes at least a year after the massive expansion of the money supply for inflation to rear its ugly head. And Bernanke is well aware, as Friedman so artfully explains, that inflation causes a brutal economic “hangover,” making things actually worse in the long run.
Sadly, our biggest problem today is not the economic one, but one of leadership and character. We do not have the Milton Friedmans to rise to the challenge.
Without Simon & Garfunkel’s new song, perhaps we can just change the lyrics in “Mrs. Robinson” to “Where have you gone, Milton Friedman? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you.”
Christopher Ruddy is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmax and publishes Financial Intelligence Report.