Friday, August 31, 2007

The Cost of Capitalism

Naomi Kline talks about the body count of capitalism's latest stage of "development."

"I don't think our problem is money, lack of resources to act on these
basic ideas. Now, at the risk of being accused of economic populism, I
would just point out that in this city, the employees of Goldman Sachs
received more than $16 billion in Christmas bonuses last year, and
ExxonMobil earned $40 billion in annual profits, a world record. It
seems to me that there's clearly enough money sloshing around to pay for
our modest dreams. We can tax the polluters and the casino capitalists
to pay for alternative energy development and a global social safety
net. We don't lack ideas. Neither are we short on cash."

See Darwin's Nightmare for a graphic treatment of these ideas.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

On Being a Tool

Heard this commentary this morning from an African-American student from a working class family that is in her second year as a student at New York's elite Sarah Lawrence College. In it she talks about her alienation from the well healed student body in her first year as a Freshman. The commentary itself is quite compelling but what caught my ear was her quote from Audrey Lorde: "you can't use the master's tools to tear down the master's house."

Yes and no...

Reading? yes. Math? yes. Economics? yes. Science? of course. Now all of these tools can and are used in subjective ways that keep the master in banks, bimbos and armies but as a teacher I notice that lots of urban kids become nihilists and across the board oppositionists. It's a fine line then between having a radical pedagogical perspective and a bent towards progressive change and being an apologist for the system. Because you need to know how something works if you want to break it down to say nothing of putting something positive in its place. Students see that the system is failing them and the larger community so they reject all institutions, including education, and authority because they see any kind of accommodation as selling out, particularly for black males.

The commentary also reminded me of the old story about Che and the National Bank of Cuba. So the story goes that around 1962 or so Fidel called in the tops in reaction to the dismal state of the Cuban economy with Che as the head of the bank. Fidel then said, "hey remember when I asked are any of you guys an economist because I have an important job for you and Che spoke up and said, I am, I want the job?" At that point Che got up and said, "oh, I thought you said are any of you guys a communist?"

Moral of the story: it's not always red over expert.

History and Its Uses

Brian Concannon looks at how the Haitian Revolution is celebrated, or not, and its role in the international abolition movement. Check out the quote by Frederick Douglas.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Kopi Luwak

In an effort to distinguish itself from the crowd in late capitalism the plutocracy must seek wider and wider not only geographically but alas intestinally. Yes, the fruits of the bowls are now being mined for the most unique, and expensive, coffee in the world the elusive Kopi Luwak. Now you may ask what makes this coffee so unique that it could be sold for $50 a cup? The answer my friends is that it first is "passed" through the system of the Asian Palm Civet, a cat like beast that for some reason eats coffee beans. Yes my fellow plebes if you want to be in the elite and feed your addiction in the morning a poor Indonesian must first sort through the scat of the lowly Civet. I'm sure Richie Rich rarely spares his fellow breakfast mate the story of how the bean traveled to his table.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Stories from the Plutocracy

While liberals argue over which country in Asia to bomb and whether or not Michael Moore is nice enough the discrepancy in wealth in the United States has returned to 1920's levels. Below are a few stories about how the super-rich are handling their new ill gotten gain. By the way most of the wealth "created" in the last 20 years or so is not from actual capital (things) but made from selling services, financial and otherwise, and through the massive inflation in real estate.

One personal note: I was at a seminar at Columbia U. this July and one noticeable phenomena on the upper West side and in Central Park I couldn't help notice were the hundreds of nanny's, seemingly mostly women from Latin America, taking care of the children of the super-rich. Not something I had noticed in Gotham in the past.

By the Numbers

Forbes gloats about things billionaires can buy after they get tired of shopping or can't think of anything else to but.

Toys of the Super-rich

NPR is looking for a camp for the young of the rico nuevo.

Camp Teaches Newly Rich how to Manage Money

The Super-rich Are Out of Sight

by Michael Parenti

New York Magazine

Don't Hate Them Because They Are Rich

The Washington Post

The Forbes 400 are all Billionaires

The Wall Street Journal travels to

By the way there are over 500 billionaires in the US.