Swans Commentary » swans.com July 28, 2008  



Blips #71
 From The Martian Desk


by Gilles d'Aymery





"The more people you seek to talk to, the less you can say to them."

Harry Shearer's Law


(Swans - July 28, 2008)   THE IRRECONCILABLES OF THE IRREDEEMABLE LIB-LABS: You may recall Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, the bloviator at Daily Kos, castigating Ralph Nader just about one year ago. "Yep, he's still an idiot," then averred the bloviator, who did not have the stamina to answer the questions I directly posed to him -- another example of a profile in intellectual cowardice that is so often displayed in the lib-lab ranks. They've been savaging Nader-the-spoiler boundlessly (of late they have taken their cue from the corporate media and have chosen to boycott him -- out of the news, out of mind). Still, for them, Nader remains this egomaniac spoiler like all third-party candidates who offer alternatives to the duopoly. All third-party candidates? Not so fast. Here is what one could read on the front page of Daily Kos on July 17 by some "BarbinMD":

Abbreviated Pundit Round-Up
by BarbinMD
Thu Jul 17, 2008 at 05:24:30 AM PDT

Your one stop pundit shop. [...]

Bob Barr takes a few shots at John McCain. And in November, hopefully he'll take a few point [sic] from him.

A LINK POINTS to an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal, "Judges Are No Reason to Vote for McCain," in which Bob Barr concludes, "The best way to get better judges is to expand candidate choice beyond the Republicans and Democrats. Supporting the political status quo guarantees more jurisprudence based on political convenience, not constitutional principle." So, for the lib-labs Bob Barr is not a spoiler, or perhaps in the oxygen-deprived bubble from which they operate there are two spoiler syndromes, the good one and the bad one. Ross Perot was a good spoiler in 1992 and so is apparently Bob Barr in 2008 -- as long as it helps defeat the Republican candidate (as it sure did in 1992). Nader, on the other hand, is Lucifer personified. Talk about intellectual consistency!

I'VE LONG WONDERED how to define lib-labs in a nutshell. I think it comes to this: A lib-lab is a brainwashed idiot who believes capitalism can be changed by using capitalism! Seems too reductive or grossly exaggerated? Well, take Barney Frank, the US representative from Massachusetts and Democratic chairman of the powerful House Financial Services Committee, a man that Rush Limbaugh and his dittoheads love to hate -- Frank is gay and considered a liberal, a hysterical leftist, a defender of widows and orphans, almost a commie... Let's see how much of a liberal Rep. Frank is, in his own words:

"Inequality is not a bad thing in a free market economy; indeed, it's essential if we're to benefit from the incentives and efficiencies that make the market so effective a producer of wealth."

"I'm a capitalist, and that means I'm for inequality. But you reach a point where you get more inequality than is healthy."

"Inequality is not necessarily a bad thing. It's necessary in the capitalist system, and I'm a capitalist. But we do not have to have a government that reinforces it."

"No one expects equality, equality is not a good thing, you can't have an economy that works if everything's equal. But too much inequality also has negative consequences."

A BONA FIDE LIB-LAB, this Barney Frank, no? Go read the excellent analysis by Bill Van Auken, "'Equality is not good' - Barney Frank and the putrefaction of American liberalism" (WSWS, July 18, 2008), to learn more about Frank's "liberalism." This is the same Barney Frank who applauded the actions taken by Hank Paulson (Treasury) and Ben Bernanke (FED) to bail out our financial elites (Bear Sterns, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac) by taxpayers -- a government rescue that Paul Krugman, another lib-lab in good standing, writing about Fannie and Freddie, rightly concludes, "means that profits are privatized but losses are socialized. If Fannie and Freddie do well, their stockholders reap the benefits, but if things go badly, Washington picks up the tab. Heads they win, tails we lose." ("Fannie, Freddie and You," The New York Times, July 14, 2008.) But Krugman is quick to reassure his readers that this is just normal procedure. He asks whether it is not "shocking that taxpayers may end up having to rescue these institutions?" "Not really," he answers. "We're going through a major financial crisis - and such crises almost always end with some kind of taxpayer bailout for the banking system." Et voilà, liberalism at work! Privatize profits, socialize losses...isn't capitalism great?

THIS IS NOT FUNNY. Have you looked at the value of your pension funds and mutual funds, if you have any? Down about 30 percent. Do you have savings? What kind of interest do you get? I'd guess 2 to 3 percent at best as the inflation rate, the real rate, not the cooked-up CPI, is bordering 10 percent. So you are losing some 7 percent of your savings and to add insult to injury you must pay taxes on the 2 or 3 percent interest you get, taxes that will help bail out the big players that have been fleecing you for decades. In good times they fleece you, in bad ones they bleed you. Yup, heads they win, tails we lose.

WHAT'S SO INFURIATING is that this financial tsunami, as F. William Engdahl calls this crisis, did not have to happen but reminds those who are willing to listen that it had been predicted as far back as 1991 by Thomas H. Stanton, an attorney, presently a fellow of the Center for the Study of American Government at the Johns Hopkins University, in his book, A State of Risk: Will Government-Sponsored Enterprises Be the Next Financial Crisis? (Harper Business). Incidentally, in January of that year, the retiring chairman of Fannie Mae, David Maxwell, received a paltry handshake of 27 million dollars. And successive heads of these financial institutions have received multi-million-dollar financial compensation packages ever since, as they cooked the books, engaged in scams of monumental fraudulent proportion. And now the taxpayers have to pick up the tab left by these scoundrels. As Nader points out, "Washington-based right wing corporate funded think tanks and the banking lobbies battered down the regulatory guards and the federal cops." One of the leading lobbyists was Citigroup, where former Clinton administration Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin now resides. Rubin managed the passage of the Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, which killed the 1933 Glass-Steagall Banking Act that regulated investment and commercial banks and permitted this rampage-turned-tsunami. Nader again: "So now only the American taxpayers and their creditworthiness inside a deficit-ridden government and a debt-loaded Federal Reserve stand in the way of a far bigger financial collapse than the stock market crash of 1929."

AND YOU, GOOD PEOPLE, are going to vote for one of the two bums that are representing the interests of the people that have been fleecing you for decades. When will you ever learn? What else do you need in order to learn? Are the housing crisis, the financial tsunami, the frozen credit system, the energy and food crises, the job losses, wars without end, decrepit infrastructure, a dollar that has lost 60 percent of its value to the Euro, and governmental and personal debts beyond any capacity to ever been repaid, not enough for you to learn? The people who are responsible for this catastrophic debacle are not only smiling all the way to the bank, they remain in power, and you are voting for them. Mind-boggling, fucking mind-boggling!

JUST HOW STUPID ARE WE? is the title of a recently-published book by Rick Shenkman, an associate professor of history at George Mason University and founder/editor of George Mason University's History News Network (Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth About the American Voter, Basic Books, June 2008). Shenkman is no revolutionary -- a centrist Democrat or an Eisenhower Republican. He deliberately chose the provocative title. What he really means is that Americans are mostly ignorant and definitely ill-informed, which should not be a surprise knowing that 65 percent of the American people get all their news from television (which is 100 percent controlled by corporate interests). Did you know that according to a National Science Foundation survey 20 percent of the American adult population believes the sun rotates around the earth and that 45 percent do not know how long it takes for the earth to orbit the sun? Forty-nine percent believe the president of the USA has the authority to suspend the Constitution. Only 40 percent of voters can name the three branches of the federal government. Five and one half years after the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and more than 15 years after the first Gulf War, six out of seven Americans are incapable of locating Iraq on a map. People still believe that there were WMDs in Iraq and that they have been found -- in total contradiction with all the official findings. Worse, people keep believing that Iraq was behind 9/11. Writes Shenkman: "As became irrefutably clear in scientific polls undertaken after 9/11...millions of Americans simply cannot fathom the twists and turns that complicated debates take." How can brainwashed people fathom anything, Shenkman? Don't provoke. Vote the bums out and elect Ralph Nader!

THESE ARE THE PEOPLE who will vote for one of the two bums and justify their ignorant choice by either advocating free markets (which do not exist except in one's figment of the imagination), lesser-evilism (when was lesser evil not evil?), and -- that's the latest idiocy I've heard -- "incrementalism." What's incremental about the fleecing of the commons? WHAT? It's not just "stupidity" and ignorance -- I've long reconciled myself with the state of disunion. What we are witnessing has to do with wholesale social suicide. The obtuseness of the electorate is unfathomable. Voting, as George Carlin once said (and Phil Greenspan repeated over and over), is a waste of time. "If you want change, take to the streets," these two advocated. Or you can vote for Ralph Nader. He will make you proud to be an American.

PLEASE, IGNORE THE LIB-LABS. From Katrina vanden Heuvel to Stephen Zunes, and the "incrementalists," they have espoused William Kristol's take on the American "experiment." Throw the bums out. Run to the streets. Vote Nader!


WANT MORE ABOUT FLEECE? Remember Leona "Queen-of-Mean" Helmsley, the real estate billionaire and luxury hotelier who died in August 2007 after bequeathing $12 million to Trouble, her Maltese purse dog? A Manhattan judge cut the amount to be placed in a trust fund for the dog down to $2 million, but she now must address another decision that the real estate magnate made before dying. Apparently, Helmsley instructed in a two-page document that the totality of her assets valued at up to $8 billion be used for the care and welfare of dogs through the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, a non-for-profit foundation. These charitable gifts by the moneyed class are embraced by Congress to the extent that they are tax-exempt, which allow the wealthy to create what is known as a perpetual private foundation.

HERE HOW IT WORKS: the charitable gift is exempted from the Estate Tax. In the case of Mrs. Helmsley, her $8 billion would have been the subject of a 45 percent tax. In other words, the taxpayers are literally giving away $3.6 billion to the charity and Mrs. Helmsley only contributed 4.4 billion. Obviously the taxpayers have not been a party to the choice made by the Queen of Mean. She could as well have decided to have the funds used to promote the education of religious principles within the atheist community, or the teaching of good manners to feral cats -- the government is very liberal in consenting to the whims of the wealthy. The taxpayers have no say in the matter as they are being fleeced from a nice chunk of money. Whether or not those $3.6 billion could be better spent on educating kids or paying for the care of our destitute elderly population is not for the taxpayers to decide.

ADDING INSULT TO INJURY, some of you will believe that I am a sour grape, that the free-of-tax, to-be-disbursed funds are for a good cause, the welfare of dogs. I love dogs and two of them bless my daily life, but I am neither an idiot nor an ill-informed biped. This is an institutional scam of extraordinary proportion that only serves the egomania of the moneyed class. In all due respect, the expectation that money will be spent on the welfare of dogs is close to nil. Here is how the scam works. Private charitable foundations' only legal obligation is to spend 5 percent of their assets each year. That percentage includes the fees paid to the trustees, the administrative expenses (the JP Morgans of our times that manage those assets, salaries of the staff, and operating expenses). Now, stay with me for a moment, if you please. These kinds of foundations -- the multi-billion-dollar ones -- get an average return on investment well above 10 percent a year, and at times much more. But let's take the 10 percent mark. That's $800 million...but the foundation must only spend $400 million by law. See the gain? Get the picture? Understand the law of compounded interest? Why do you think these private entities are known as perpetual private foundations? Because they have to disburse less than they make, therefore their capital keeps growing. They do not pay taxes (except for a 1% excise tax). They do not have to spend much of anything, except upon themselves. They are essentially tax shelters and instruments for wealthy families and their descendents to enjoy the good life when you have to keep tightening your belt in order to make do.


GUESS I NEED TO END WITH FUN STUFF -- these are not fun times, as I said earlier...

JUST HAD AN ENCOUNTER with a rattlesnake that had taken quarters under our small 8'x12' entrance deck -- a nice 5-footer that appeared well fed. That evening, I had gone there for a smoke when I heard a strange noise that sounded like a water or gas leak. I could not figure out what it was. Not propane for sure because there were no smelly fumes. And I could not find any trace of water as I was checking in between the wooden boards with a small steel rod. The sound kept going and going. I tried to look under the tiny deck through a small opening to no avail. The sound kept going for 15 minutes or so and then stopped. Well, the next day, I went back there for another smoke and here, coming out of the small opening, was this big rattlesnake, lavishly striding to the big outdoors... Pic: "Marcel the Menace" Photo, Jan Baughman - Size: 5k I did ask him whether he was an American or an illegal immigrant. He did not respond, just slithered away until his path crossed our latest rescue, Marcel the Menace, which he felt would add to his diet. Fat chance, and besides he was way too close to home. I got my 20-gauge, the rattling stopped for good...and Marcel keeps smiling. I guess the deadly critter was an incrementally-inclined Democrat.


DOLORES VANETTI MEMORIES: I wrote the following to Art Shay: "Art, have you heard or read that Dolorès Vanetti died on July 13 at age 96? You may recall that she had an affair between 1945 and 1950 with J. P. Sartre, which may well have been the catalyst for the Algren-Beauvoir affair. Vanetti was quite a character. She kept company with some great names like Calder, Duchamp, Breton, Dos Passos, Léger, Lévi-Straus, Saint-Exupéry, Lazareff, Ernst, Duthuit, Hemingway, etc., etc., etc. -- a disappearing world..." Art shot back:

I remember Simone's fury -- as told to Algren who told me -- that Vanetti was "shorter than Sartre!" but apparently a voracious fellatist who was given to memorizing Sartre's best lines... I have heard today from Christine Fiszer, whom I met in Paris -- she filmed me for some unknown to me project. But she introduced herself as "Claude Lanzmann's mistress..." I guess the French "maitresse" has deeper meanings. It was she who got me on the phone with Claude. I had thought he abominated my Simone picture but he said he loved it and wished he had taken it and was momentarily laid up recuperating from surgery or would have attended my Paris opening. So I offered him a signed print, and now will send it to Him -- but with a spare that he can send back autographed. As Studs says, "It's all connected." Reading your golden role of the great dead invoked the kind of stream of consciousness Studs has in mind I think... I remember when I was on Life in 1948, I wrote a story in San Francisco about a flagpole sitter (resurrecting a thirties phenomenon)... Life ran the story but gave me no byline thus precipitating my ultimate departure. But during the time between the time I wrote it and the time Life ran it, "Flagpole Sitter" would sit on the Life story list week after week (around that time a 3 or 4 year old take on California's Imperial Valley seemed mired on the list forever, but ultimately ran, as did my piece). But what brought it to mind was your mentioning Dos Passos.... My name and story were on the list just above Dos Passos and his story...so I always got a frisson de joie seeing my name in tandem with that of the writer of USA... So did my literary father who was a friend of the young Trotsky (we have a snapshot!)... Saint-Exup.'s work got me interested in aviation, and no doubt contributed to my leaving Brooklyn College after nine months and enlisting in the Air Corps in 1943... I knew of Max Ernst early on, because he was art-dealer-mal-vivante art dealer Peggy Guggenheim's boy toy -- I think she eventually married him and raised his market prices... One of my favorite pictures I ever shot was a Duchamp painting at the Art Institute, which he punctuated by thrusting a toilet brush into it -- about three feet long! I photographed Soviet ladies looking up at Duchamp's little joke... You've seen the picture of me at 24 with Hemingway reading a manuscript at 8th Air Force HQ in High Wycombe, outside London... Algren once told me that Beauvoir had him dead to rights at the Scribe Hotel in 1945, and he was too drunk to do her any good... I remember Léger as a pretty good photographer as well as painter but never knew him... I love Calder's work -- a billionaire I knew until he died last year at 96, donated a beauty to the Art Institute here... I don't know Lazareff or Duthuit, but as Vonnegut said, so it goes... best, Art

YUP, THESE AGES are going, going, going...gone...and we are still alive -- which reminds me of what Angelo Rinaldi wrote in La dernière fête de l'empire: "C'est ainsi qu'un jour, par hasard, nous nous rappelons tant de visages, tant de choses, mais il n'y a plus personne pour se souvenir de nous, et nous sommes encore vivants."

 . . . . .

C'est la vie...

And so it goes...


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La vie, friends, is a cheap commodity, but worth maintaining when one can.
Supporting the life line won't hurt you much, but it'll make a heck of a 
difference for Swans.

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Internal Resources

Blips and Tidbits

America the 'beautiful'


About the Author

Gilles d'Aymery on Swans (with bio). He is Swans' publisher and co-editor.



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This Edition's Internal Links

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Swans -- ISSN: 1554-4915
URL for this work: http://www.swans.com/library/art14/desk071.html
Published July 28, 2008