Tag Archives: capitalism

GAMING AMERICA: CASINO POLITICS,By Louise Annarino,September 26,2012

26 Sep

GAMING AMERICA:CASINO POLITICS, By Louise Annarino,September 26,2012

 

The economic hardships Americans are experiencing have been a long time coming. There have been numerous signs along the path to our economic bust;most of them ushered through our consciousness by snake oil salesmen with booming voices,explaining away our intuitive discomforts as a housing market boom, and investment boom, an hedge fund boom, a stock-market boom, and a commodities boom. BOOM, BOOM,BOOM! Such charlatans blew up our manufacturing base, our banks, our mortgage companies, our insurance industry, and our personal economic lives.

 

“Put your money down,folks!” You, too, can make millions. These salesmen, for that is what they are, started small scale selling pyramid schemes. Americans who got into the game late moved on from home-based sales of baskets, bowls and toilet-bowl cleaners to become dealers themselves,selling others the right to sell and keeping real profits at the top of the pyramid. There was something wrong with this picture but it changed so rapidly, and the booming voices were so distracting that many simply moved from one scheme to the next.

 

Pyramid sales schemes attracted lower income wage earners who could see no way ahead to break out of their economic class to reach all that America seemed to promise. They watched the investment class drive the cars they could not afford to buy, build McMansions they could not afford to heat and looked for a way out.

 

Those born into the investment class who lived on the returns from investment portfolios their parents had created for them were satisfied for awhile.They, too, looked for a way to become wealthier. They would make that wealth work for them. They became skilled in moving around investments like pieces on a chess board, increasing wealth as they won the games they joined. They bet their winnings on bigger games for larger stakes.

 

But, rich or poor, enough is never enough for most of us. Like children, we always want more and don’t always know what is good for us. We don’t mind hedging our bets. Low earners hedged their bets on pyramid schemes; high earners hedged their bets on hedge funds, created by the snake oil salesmen of Wall Street.

 

Those playing chess with American corporations as pawns saw another avenue for wealth creation. Instead of merely playing the game, they bought the board and all the pieces on it,after talking other investors into buying a potential share of the profits from the game. “Put your money down,friends!” The only risk was losing the game, but this could be ameliorated by selling off the poor-performing pieces;and, sometimes the better-performing pieces, to keep the game competitive. THe trick was to keep the game going until enough investors paid back the new owners’ costs, plus massive profits. The game itself, and the pieces on the board, had become meaningless.

 

Those running the game soon realized that the pieces on the chess board did not always cooperate. These game pieces had formed unions in order to make sure the game was played by the rules. But playing by the rules was getting in the way of profits for those betting on the game. No longer did the chess pieces have value other than a means of greater profit.Safety,reasonable hours,equitable pay,moderate health care coverage, and secure retirement benefits interrupted the unbridled movement of the chess pieces. “What if,” the private equity company who bought the board asked, “we could get rid of unions?” “What if we simply move the game” to a different city, county, state, and eventually country where such rules don’t apply? And take our profits offshore as well to avoid taxes?” “What if we sell off the tables,chairs,benches,game board and pieces;then,declare bankruptcy because we can no longer play the game without a board and equipment,avoid any debts we owe and pay off the investors whose money we used to make our own profits?”

 

We know what happened. How did we allow it? How do we find ourselves with one of the best snake oil salesman as a presidential candidate? How do we stop this from happening again?

 

It was when a friend with no finance or business training or experience tried to sell me an investment portfolio after becoming a part-time employee of an insurance company that I first realized how far we were into the game. As mortgages changed hands several times a year, from bank to bank, and between investment groups it occurred to me that not only had I no idea who held my mortgage;but, the company holding my mortgage had no idea of its worth. The walls raised by Glass-Steagall had been removed. Security and Exchange Commission/SEC and Commodity Futures Trading Commission/CFTC oversight had been limited by staff cuts meant to down-size “Big Government” and de-regulation. Snake Oil salesmen moved between both worlds, as traders and as regulators. The rules were gone, the walls were gone; and, the fox was guarding the henhouse.

 

President Obama did bring change to Washington. He also brought change to the snake oil salesmen who are furious that their “game is now up”. They attack Obama for the failures wrought by their own failed gamesmanship. They insist he hates capitalism and doesn’t understand how the game is played. Oh, he understands alright! He simply insists that we regulate the game; protect the game board, pieces and assets; and, assure a fair game. America is ours to protect. The game belongs to all Americans. Only Obama has America’s best interest at heart; not the snake oil salesman who wants to get back to his rigged game.

 

Is it mere coincidence that states are turning to casinos to generate wealth? Isn’t it all of a piece? Isn’t the game the same as that being played by the Republican party? Isn’t that what “Citizens United” is all about? Isn’t that what voter I.D. laws are all about? We won’t be fooled this election. The “Booms” we heard crash did not fall on deaf ears. We know a rigged game when we see it. We want no part of it. Vote for President Obama. Vote for those Democrats who refused to become snake oil salesmen running rigged games.

Advertisements

TWENTY QUESTIONS:PLANT OR ANIMAL ?

2 Apr

TWENTY QUESTIONS: PLANT OR ANIMAL ?

Louise Annarino

April 2,2012

We Americans base our social, economic, and political systems on competition. A “winner-takes-all” theory that other democracies cannot quite completely accept, we embrace. It seems to make sense in the sports world. How else do we determine the participants in the NCAA Sweet 16, Final 4, and eventual National Champion collegiate basketball team? Such competition often leads to violence in fans of losing teams tearing across soccer stadiums with fists flying, or college students of winning teams burning cars and couches in the streets after football and basketball games. Those of us living near OSU often hope for a loss to avoid property damage from the mayhem which follows a big win. The increased presence of police and fire protection causes great expense, and results in very few arrests. Television stations downplay such violence as the hi-jinks of “exhuberant fans” and “student enthusiasm boiled over” while smiling and laughing about such violence on-screen.

There is a much different response and on-screen by-play when political rallies turn violent. I have attended enough of these to know the peaceful protesters seldom start the violence. Pepper spray seems to be liberally used, police make efforts to clear the streets, many injuries occur, and there are multiple arrests. Property damage is usually limited to destroyed placards and signs. Community response becomes especially brutal when the social or political gathering involves people of color. Such gatherings are met with tension and outright fear of first responders, rather than the mutual rejoicing which occurs after an OSU football game, while students take over streets beers in hand,chatting with police officers. Newspersons are not smiling and laughing when they report on political events. Does competition foster violence?

Competition is necessary, we assert hour-by-hour and day-by-day, in a capitalist economic system. We forget ours is not a purely capitalist system but a mixed economy of capitalism, and socialism; often a cooperative effort between government and the private sector. We have no problem accepting this when roads, dams, railroads and bridges need built. We also seem to welcome private contractors/government mix when it comes to space exploration and war. It has always been so. Currently, presidential candidates who need financial support from “Citizens United” PACS funded by private corporations, are forced to ignore the cooperation inherent in a mixed economic system, demonize socialism in any form, and label “weak” any leader in either party who acknowledges the need for cooperation. Attacking an opponent for ultimate victory is not new in a competitive political campaign. The amount of money, the source of the funds, and the lack of transparency or accountability for those generating the cash is new.

Many countries have a parliamentary system which affords an opportunity for multiple party participation; unlike our more direct presidential system in which a third party becomes the “spoiler”. While the need for cooperation and compromise is more obvious in a parliamentary system, one must after all somehow form a government among so many winners, the need for cooperation also remains strong in a two-party system. Somehow, we have fooled ourselves into a belief that “winner takes all” means cooperation is not only unnecessary, but self-defeating. It seems wrong to win the prize, then share the win with the “other side”. This is the danger: a belief that the other side is a social truth, not a mere political fiction. This leads to civil war. It has happened before in this country. We are watching it happen all over the world, especially in emerging democracies who are guided by what they see of the world’s greatest democracy, the United States of America. How we live our democracy at home affects democracy around the globe.

Did you play the game “20 Questions” as a child? One can ask twenty questions calling for a “yes” or “no” response; narrowing the possibilities until one can name the “thing” the respondent is thinking of. One of the routine questions is “Is it an animal?”, or the corresponding “Is it a plant?”. Either question provides the same information. Does it matter which we are, animal or plant? Are we not genetically both? We have accepted that “survival of the fittest”, is a truism of both classifications. It is that belief upon which we base our “winner takes all” philosophy. When we teach the Constitution, we teach that it was based upon an understanding of the natural order, including the concept of “survival of the fittest”, upon which we base our electoral system. What if our insistence that “winner takes all” is not necessarily a universal biological truth? What if nature has found a better way for species survival? The better way is cooperation, recognizing our interconnectedness.

In the 60’s every high school biology text suggested an experiment in seed germination. Most student chose to germinate bean sprout. It was easy and quick. Put seed and water in a petrie dish and within 8 days, voila’, a sprout! I chose cantaloupe seed germination because I liked cantaloupe better than beans. After 3 weeks, I still had no sprout. I did have moldy seeds. While my classmates quickly wrote and submitted their findings, I was forced to spend hours at the Denison University library researching why I got the results I did. I learned a lot about plants, especially dry horticulture and desert plants. Unlike what I was taught about the animal kingdom, the plant kingdom stresses cooperation. Nowhere is this more clear than seeds germinating under dry conditions. If lack of water allowed only the strongest plants to survive, in dry spells every plant would die, even the strongest plant. The plant kingdom, instead, opts for cooperation between seeds. All seeds wait to optimize their personal growth by sharing resources as they become available. All seeds grow at the same rate, slower or faster, as a group. For any species of plant to survive, the plants are willing to cooperate with one another, ESPECIALLY when resources, or economic indicators, threaten the plant society’s optimal growth or even survival. Watch how your garden grows, plants steadily reaching up to the sun together, closing their leaves to the cold together, slowing down growth together when the rains slow. Plants are in this “together”. The plant world is interconnected.

Are plants socialists? Or capitalists? Or both? Is the plant realm a mixed economy, like that in the United States?  Each plant seeks maximum growth and productivity; but, it recognizes its interconnectedness to every other plant and the need for cooperation in order for any plant, or community of plants, to survive and thrive.

Perhaps this cooperative model is also true within the animal kingdom. Within the last few days, an interesting story with photo has been circulating on Facebook. What compels this story’s momentum is “ubuntu”, a Bantu word. The photo is that of a group of perhaps 20 children sitting outdoors in a circle, the feet of each child touching the feet of the child on his or her left and right. The image is organic. At first it looks like a flower, each child a petal. The accompanying story describes an “experiment’. The children of a village in Africa were told that a bag of candy had been placed on a branch of a distant tree. On the signal to run, whichever child reached the tree first would get the entire bag of candy, “winner takes all”. When the signal was given, the entire group of children clasped hands and ran to the tree together. One child grabbed the bag and immediately shared the entire bag with the group. When the children were asked why they shared the candy when the instructions were not to do so, they answered they could not enjoy the candy unless everyone had candy.

Rev. Desmond Tutu explains such cooperative behavior in a 2008 interview: “One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu – the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can’t be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality – Ubuntu – you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.” “Ubuntu Women Institute USA (UWIU) with SSIWEL as its first South Sudan Project”. http://www.ssiwel.org/ [Note: This web page no longer exists.]

Nelson Mandela explained Ubuntu in an Experience Ubuntu Interview: “A traveller through a country would stop at a village and he didn’t have to ask for food or for water. Once he stops, the people give him food, entertain him. That is one aspect of Ubuntu, but it will have various aspects. Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. The question therefore is: Are you going to do so in order to enable the community around you to be able to improve? File:Experience ubuntu.ogg

Animal or vegetable? We are both. Our community is organic,planting seeds seeking the life-giving sun, unfolding our individual potential, amid a productive garden of growth. We are interconnected in ways we need not imagine. Examples abound within the plant and animal kingdoms. It is time we got in touch with our nature as human beings, and with nature as a whole. It is time to play 20 Questions with our politicians.