I am still Charlie — Je suis toujours Charlie

January 7, 2016 marks the one year anniversary of the attack by Islamist extremists on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. I noticed little or no mention in the so-called alternative American press about that horrible event of one year past. Not by Democracy Now nor by KPFK’s Sojourner Truth program. I recall when it happened that the U.S. Left displayed ignorance about Charlie Hebdo, not to the point of justifying the attack on Charlie Hebdo but questioning the magazine’s choice to use blunt satire about Mohammed and in some cases calling the magazine racist.

That ignorance was ignorance by omission, ignoring the simple fact that Charlie Hebdo satirizes all religion. But Charlie Hebdo supports the rights of immigrants including Muslim immigrants. The editor StĂ©phane Charbonnier, aka “Charb”, who was killed by the terrorists, was an outspoken atheist but also a strong supporter of immigrant rights. For example he opposed law in France that bans Muslim women from wearing the veil. Here is quote from an interview with Charb: “Of 1058 numbers, there are only three covers on Islam. Every week we defend the undocumented, many of whom are Muslims, we fight against racism and discrimination, it is for the right to vote for immigrants … And as a personal note, I was against the law against wearing the veil. But the media never talk about Charlie Hebdo for these positions, which are more in favor of Muslims.”. Here is the full inteview with Charb (in French).

In some broadcasts by the left after the attack, such as on Lila Garrett’s show Connect the Dots, Charlie Hebdo was referred to as being racist, an ironically false statement. I attempted to educate Lila to that effect in this email exchange

So, on this anniversary of that tragedy, we should honor the unbridled voice of Charlie Hebdo and all brave journalists who satirize all that deserves satire, and that includes all religions.

Here is a sample of images of past front pages of Charlie Hebdo, showing the diversity of sarcasm towards all who deserve sarcasm: (click here to open an enlarged view of these images)
Charlie Hebdo front pages

The Zombification of America

THE ZOMBIFICATION OF AMERICA
Mikhail Branski
Merida, Mexico
copyright 2015

Zombification is the cruel consequence of unbridled consumer capitalism which has now become the economic model for the modern age. The American brain has withered before the onslaught of media images seeking to glorify a hedonistic, narcissistic, material lifestyle. The ‘selfie’ (I cringe to even say it) is the ultimate in ego-centrism. Critical thinking has all but disappeared before the tsunami of the glorification of the God of Consumerism.

Contrary to what Americans have been taught about totalitarian regimes, indoctrination is even more insidious in America, the hallowed nation of ‘freedom’. That freedom which was once so noble has turned itself into an excuse for licentiousness run rabid, perverting and corrupting the American psyche. So too, that other supposed American virtue, Individualism has morphed into Narcissism or Ego-Centrism. (Thoreau, Whitman and Emerson would puke and gag if they were alive today).

Our forefathers, so often praised for their genius, would be aghast at the present state of American society. Imagine, if you would, Jefferson, Adams or Washington being teleported to modern times. Do you really think they would be admire the current state of affairs? Can you imagine what they would think, these men of the Enlightenment, if they watched television for 24 hours? Forget the political system. Jefferson would be calling for a revolution.

Drugs and medication have narcotized the population because the ‘mental (read emotional) health’ of the population has been very seriously impacted. Half the population is depressed or suffering from anxiety disorders and the other half suffers from unrealistic expectations and an infinitude of desires that can never be satisfied….all fodder for the pharmaceutical companies and the rest of corporate culture ready to fill those ‘needs’ with drugs, trinkets, fashionable clothes, suave hair-dos, cars, the latest in home-entertainment, packaged vacations, etc.

And this is no accident, really. The power of socialization under our consumer-capitalist system….creates zombified creatures which it requires to spend money and buy stuff. Critical thinking, responsible, psychologically healthy beings will NOT behave that way. So, zombification is required. It takes brain-washing to a whole new sophisticated level. Consumerism preys on feeding base instincts and exploiting psychological weakness. It promotes infantilization. It mesmerizes the population into believing the way to success or happiness is just a possession away.

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All nations indoctrinate their youth to some degree while in schools. In fact, this is the primary raison d’ĂȘtre for school: socialization. Patriotic holidays and celebrations also drive home the point of the grandness of being a member of some ethnic group or nation. But when patriotism is emphasized in the extreme, it is a symptom of fear and insecurity on the part of those that pull the strings: the plutocratic elements that wield tremendous influence in the halls of power. And in America, it is not hyperbole to say that we now live in a plutocracy where banksters and other white collar criminals run wild and roughshod over the rest of the population. Even a Republican intellect, Kevin Phillips, admit this (see his book Wealth and Democracy).

To secure citizen allegiance, our National Legislators have opted to utilize classic Orwellian language techniques to this end. Terms such as Homeland Security and the Patriot Act are reminiscent of fascistic-like language from the 1930s. The constant reference to those acts reminds citizens of the desire of the government to ‘protect’ us. This strategy has been extended to other domestic laws.

To secure corporate domination over the electoral system, plutocratic forces influenced the Supreme Court to allow unregulated corporate wealth to play such a huge role in American politics, again utilizing more Orwellian language: Citizens United was the name of the case brought before the Supreme Court. Really? Don’t they mean, Corporations United! (No, you fool. Please! We must be more subtle).

Language aids in controlling ‘how one thinks’ about things and this well-known fact has enabled Republicans, especially, to utilize it marvelously as the craven, helpless Democrats fall in step. Problems in the education system? No matter, the No Child Left Behind Act will fix the ‘education’ problem.

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If you really study American history closely, what really stands out is the domination of the political system by plutocratic forces whose influence has grown in direct proportion to their assets. Money (or the threat of withdrawal) buys access, persuasion and real power. In many cases, it simply buys a Senate or House seat. Oh, how times have changed. One recalls Teddy Roosevelt who tried to take on these Plutocrats. Lincoln mentioned them also during the Civil War. Jackson was wary of a National Bank. Teddy’s cousin FDR too, recognized the dangers posed by Corporations and they hated him for it. FDR wrote, for example:

‘The real truth of the matter is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the larger centers has owned the Government ever since the days of Andrew Jackson — and I am not wholly excepting the Administration of W. W. The country is going through a repetition of Jackson’s fight with the Bank of the United States — only on a far bigger and broader basis.’

Even Eisenhower recognized the threat of corporations when in his last speech before leaving the Presidency, he made his now-famous comment about the dangers of the military-industrial complex.

In fact, a strong argument can be made that as an increasing percentage of the population got the vote and ‘could vote’, that corporate power grew in proportion. You will recall the vast segments of American culture could not vote for the majority of our history: Negroes, Women, Immigrants (whose numbers swelled the population between 1850-1910) as well as those between the ages of 18-21. Even those without property or who paid no taxes were prevented from voting in many jurisdictions or states prior to the 1830 or even later. If you were Black, Indian or Mexican, forget it. As the percentage of voters increasingly grew and more of the population was included in the electorate, Corporate Power grew in direct proportion to influence the political machinery of governments in states and at the national level. One can even make the case that we have had a actual plutocracy within the U.S. since its inception.

The framers of the Constitution were all White men, propertied and/or professionals, and well-off or connected. In order to achieve a union of states, they had to bribe the Southern states by allowing slavery. And, in addition, the slave states could count Negroes as 2/3s of a person to allow for increased representation of said states! To speak in the parlance of contemporary times: “What the FUCK?!”

Wow, those Southern cotton planation owners were more than enough for the Northern states. Abolitionists were but an irritation then. And the Southern states were more populated with all those slaves too. Washington and Jefferson, two of our most revered Presidents bought and relied on slaves like so many commodities. Five of our first seven Presidents were slave owners.

You might not know that the right to vote was not guaranteed in the Constitution, and states could establish their own requirements. Even Jews, Catholics and Quakers were prohibited from voting in many states in the early elections. All kinds of prejudices and fears kept lots of people from voting. Workers often were told for who to vote or even had their ballots marked for them.

During the Occupy Wall St. protests that spread throughout the country, one embarrassed woman revealed that her husband, working on Wall Street, admitted to her that he was ‘told and expected to vote Republican’. In fact, some (or many) corporations on Wall Street even make it clear to their employees that they are expected to ‘donate’ money to Republican candidates.

Capitalist theory, as it is talked about in books, bares little relation to how it is practiced. Capitalism has been tamed a bit for the sake of giving damn rights to humans (that’s the real Republican moan). But the practice of capitalists the world over is to gain an advantage ‘by virtually any means necessary’. Try collusion and price fixing through speculation and the creation of new investment ideas…..that’s more how the the giant corporations and banks function. And the CEOs often become advisors for our Presidents. Goldman Sachs provides the financial wizards our Presidents depend on.

You can hear the echo of the plutocratic forces amongst super-wealthy who own most of the wealth in America. Supposedly some 400 families own more wealth than the bottom 50%. Another statistic puts the figure that .1% of the population possesses 22% of the wealth and that has grown in recent years. One percent of the population owns somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-50% of the wealth. Money may not bring happiness but it sure as hell makes for power, especially in Washington D.C.

Upward mobility, once the pride of American culture, has virtually disappeared (almost). Many segments of society do not have the opportunities their ancestors (parents or grandparents) did. Real wages have not risen since 1970 (or barely so). Most families have two income streams and much of the population works at minimum wage jobs. Half of the population is dependent on subsidization of some kind to survive at a basic level.

And for Republicans, that is as it should be. One hears nary a peep from the vast majority of Democrats who have been metaphorically ‘enslaved’ by the Plutocrats who whisper behind closed doors:

‘Damn, we have to remind those politicians who really rules this country. Pay good money to do it, too.’

Democrats were compelled to seek Corporate donations to run their campaigns to compete with the Republicans. After the Reagan and PapaBush years, the Democrats sought this corporate funding to compete. Indeed, Clinton, a moderate Democrat probably only won the election because of that funding in part. Also, recall that Ross Perot ran as a third party candidate, taking some 19% of the vote, thereby preventing Bush’s re-election.

The ultimate result? Democrats moved to the ‘right’ along with the rest of the country especially with the influence of the Christian Right, Rightwing Radio and Fox News all which took a ‘no-holds barred’ strategy of dealing with Democrats who typically were not up to the task of confronting these forces. After all. Democrats were not gobbling up corporate funding as quickly as The Elephant at a water hole.

After Insider-Trading Laws were changed decades ago, it was revealed that they did not apply to our Federal legislators. And people like Nancy Pelosi, already a millionaire, a major Democratic Liberal took advantage of this. And when confronted, was miffed that anyone ‘dare’ imply she was acting just like a Republican: greedy and unethical.

These are our ‘progressive’ legislators? Once upon a time Joe Lieberman was nominated to by V-P with Gore in the 2000 election when Gore won the popular vote and was cheated out of the Presidency by the Supreme Court and shenanigans down the way in Florida where Bush’s brother was governor. Eight years later, Lieberman was transformed into a Republican supporter and became an Independent supporting McCain and Palin. Word has it that he was bitten by some creature and that accounted for the transformation.

His wife, by the way, Hadassah Lieberman, who “previously worked in communications and public affairs at two drug manufacturers, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and Hoffmann-La Roche, became a “strategic counselor on health-care policy and public health initiatives” in the Washington, D.C., office of Hill & Knowlton USA, according to the New York-based company.”

And Joe? He refused to support Obamacare and even other options. The reach of the plutocratic (corporate) forces is all pervasive. True liberals are hard to find within the Democratic Party. I mean, what is a liberal in today’s America? I myself am not sure.

***************

It is also worth noting that nearly all Senators are multi-millionaires and you can bet the farm that if they lose an election or retire, they will find a nice job as a lobbyist or working for some firm connected to those that once contributed to their campaigns. Indeed, these same plutocrats often find jobs for family members. It’s just one big incestuous party. And the parties are so extravagant. Major entertainment stars often make appearances at gala affairs attended by our elected officials. Their wives all love it. So true.

There is, after all, an advantage in wearing an expensive suit or extravagant dress as well as a coiffed hairstyle. For most people, it is assumed that clothes make the man/woman. People with suits are, generally speaking, more trusted as the suit conveys success, money, status, trust. Try on a suit and see what I mean. You might have to practice getting into the role but practice makes perfect. People, unable to judge your character, assume that the suit conveys decency and fidelity to honor. I know, how ironic.

See, that’s how American democracy is. Clothe the plutocracy in elections and, moreover, have lots of them, and, finally, have very long election campaigns. Then, add the news-entertainment bureaus owned by the corporate media, and work to create the illusion that all that talking, interviewing, campaigning, and voting adds up to just a super-dumper democracy, made in the good ole U.S.A!! I mean its election-city 24/7. I mean, did you ever just wonder how many times you said the pledge of allegiance? Most civic meetings start with the pledge. Why? Because we need to remind everybody to hold their allegiance to the flag and what it represents, the republic and one nation under fricken God-almighty… lest you forget!!!

All sporting events have a preamble of the Star Spangled Banner to remind us that our country was born fighting for and preserving freedom! Francis Scott Key, who penned the poem during the War of 1812, did not know that his paean to America was to be turned into a song with a melody so embarrassingly difficult to sing, not to mention that so few Americans know the lyrics. The point, however, is to remind everybody at sporting events that we are good little patriots and that our military bases dotted around the globe (I’ve lost track of how many) serve to remind others of that same fact. After 911, some Major League baseball teams added the quaint tradition, during the seventh-inning stretch, of another patriotic song being sung. One just was not enough. I am not even sure what it is now that I don’t watch baseball much anymore. I think it is American the Beautiful, a song I actually like.

Now, good Americans get to stand twice and feel patriotic just in case they were thinking of getting upset at the Banksters. And if you don’t stand with hat doffed….you may just get the evil eye and even some patriot telling you that ‘people died for your freedom’! My brother was confronted by such a patriot and reminded him of freedom of speech….which did not please this particular true-blue American, with clenched teeth and cheeks flushed with rage at my brother’s insistence to sit.

And don’t forget three solid years of serious inculcation in American history told through the eyes of history books edited and published in Texas. Yes, in most states, three whole years of U.S. history are required. In California, it is in the 5th, 8th, and 11th grades. And then, add another 1/2 year of civics, government, and what not; most of this taught superficially with a hardy dose of how great America is.

Still not sure you are going to be a nice little patriot who believes in the flag, mom, apple-pie, the Republic, democracy, the President, the three branches of government (ah, okay, so most Americans can not name those branches, so what!)?

The corporate news media are dedicated to presenting our people in government in their best light. And when these persons do evil things that are discovered, the news media assures us that these bad people had moral or ethical lapses…. just like the nice bankers on Wall Street or officials at Exxon….all who got away with white-collar crimes so hard to prove in court because they ‘gots the best lawyers!’ I mean who wants to spend all that time in court anyway?

Churning out good little zombies has become standard fare for the system, the institutions of which all are solidly behind the process of zombification. The education system, the entertainment system, the political system: all working together to get the correct response from most of the American voters!!! “Yes, American is great. We are a Republic. The best democracy in the world. USA! USA! USA!

Back behind the curtain, the plutocrats enjoy themselves as the zombies stroll into malls and consume all the shit that makes America so free. Free to own lots of shit. Free to choose between the variety of brands, the selection of phones and phone plans, the car you want to reflect you character and status, the home you have to have to demonstrate to the world that you are successful, the clothes you parade yourself around in to attract the attention that you were pathetically deprived of as a child.

And the plutocrats laugh and pull the strings. Good Obama. Good. That’s right. Select those who worked with the banks and the financial institutions to screw the public and put them in your cabinet. Nice job, Obama. Yo momma be proud. It’s called being moderate. And with Republican dobermans set loose, Obama (like all Democratic Presidents) realized, he indeed was NOT in Kansas nor Chicago but Washington DC (the Devil’s Concubine) so close to Wall Street, the center of power in America….the sorta beautiful. And he had to be taught a lesson. Uppity Black Man!

The voters go into the booths. They vote. They go home and watch results. They see “democracy” in action. The plutocrats toast to the voting zombie public. They laugh, they smirk, they say the right things, they remind politicians of their bribes. Ha. Ha. Ha. Yeah, I know, I have gone to far, my critics contend. I have flipped my lid. “It’s not that simple, you dummy.” Or, “Wait a minute! Are you saying that the people don’t decide who is President and who are senators and reps are?” Or, “You have their privilege to vote.” Gosh. Gee whiz. I am almost excited, NOT!

See, it’s beyond just a lot of people, even so-called intelligent and seemingly informed ones. They just do not get it. I mean, comparatively speaking, a relatively large segment of Americans have ‘The Good Life.’ They have security and everything most people could ever want. This is the Upper Middle Class, that stalwart segment that gives hope to the rest of the middle class that they, too, might have lots of stuff. And status. Once you possess your own home and have security and material things to enjoy, it is difficult to admit that America is owned by the corporations. There is no motivation to be honest about it. And, let’s face it, those that ‘have’ don’t really spend all that much time thinking about the true state of affairs in America. It’s best to believe that ‘Life is Good’ and that we really do ‘live in a democracy’.

And the Republicans? They talk a lot these days about removing the social safety net that gobbles up so much of revenues. They say they would like to get rid of social security, welfare, Head Start, and Obamacare….they want to return to the good old days before the masses shared in any prosperity.

Mostly, it is blather. What protects America from riots and rebellions are these very programs that provide some very basic care to the masses, the underclass, those who can not survive on the pittance of the wages they earn.

The plutocrats know a good thing when they see it. The whole world will consume like fucking mad, the environment will take care of itself and if it doesn’t, who gives a shit, our grandchildren? Ha! Ha! That’s a good one. By then, the little creatures will be pathetic zombified offspring of adult Zombies. And most humans will be living inside, afraid to go out, afraid of contamination of the air, land, water, rivers, oceans. I exaggerate. It is not THAT bad? Is it?

Crap man, you should see some cities in China, India, Africa!, Latin America. You can’t just plunder metals from mountains forever and dig into the earth for oil just so you have fuel or need materials to make more shit. And the clouds of contaminated air that spew out pollution?

Even in so-called ecologically minded pristine places like Costa Rica, outside the national park destinations where tourism is promoted, there are signs telling you that creeks are contaminated. Man, all you have to do is look. And it is the same in most undeveloped and even most developing or developed countries. Buying water in a plastic bottle promotes good health.

Look around you. Do you see the zombies? Do you see them shopping? Especially at the malls. Do you see them all lonely in their homes. zombied-out as they watch the zoombie-tube? Do you see them watching homogenized, zombiefied entertainment events? The Superbowl half-time show is, probably, the most infamous Zombie event of all even though I have never watched it. Turns my stomach. I get zombi-rhea. Television, entertainment, sports, politics, education, the news: the process of zombification is institutionalized. We all be zombies, or at least many of us. We don’t need no stinking Pods from outer space. We don’t need no Stalin, Hitler, Mao, or totalitarian state! No. America is the best in the world of making zombies. The cost/benefit ratio is excellent.

I know. I know. You want to argue religion is better at making zombies. Okay, I see your point. So, let’s just say that America blends social-political zombification with religious zombification to get highest rate of zombification in the world. We have highest per capita of zombies in the world. Put that statistic in your pipe and smoke it. Woo! Woo! Better than Jamaican, mon!

I mean, after all, half of Americans believe the Earth is 5000 years old and deny evolution. Talk about the power of zombiefication! Yikes.

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Now, please repeat after me, the Zombie Creed:

“I pledge allegiance to the corporations of the USA and to the plutocracy which runs the show with consumerism, materialism and entertainment for all. And a big shout out to God who sent his only son, Jesus, to make sure we all would keep buying crap and, still, somehow, end up in heaven.

How to remember what Ex-Dividend date means

In the term Ex-Dividend Date, think of “Ex” as “Excludes”, the first date at which the dividend is excluded.

When buying or selling a stock that pays a dividend, the Ex-Dividend date is the first date on which you will be excluded from receiving the dividend. For example, suppose a stock has an Ex-Dividend date of January 28. That means that if you purchase the stock before the market closes on January 27, you will receive the dividend but if you wait until January 28, you will not receive the dividend. Analogously, if you sell the stock before the market closes on January 27 then you will not receive the dividend but if you sell on or after January 28 you will receive the dividend.

Stolen passwords? Not to worry. Advice about passwords.

The recent theft of a billion user names and passwords by Russian hackers is nothing to worry about as long as you understand a few simple facts and rules.

KNX News Radio Los Angeles (CBS) would have you believe pundits who sell password generator software and other nonsense. KNX is either misreporting or missing the story. They should instead be interviewing qualified representatives at Bank of America, VISA, ETrade and other financial institutions to ask them if passwords can be stolen. The answer is that passwords cannot be stolen because those institutions do not store them.

Sites such as your bank or stock brokerage do not, I repeat, do not, store your password. So no one can steal your password from your bank. What is stored is an encrypted value that is based on your password. That encrypted value could be stolen but, by itself, is useless for logging in. In other words, there is no file at your bank or other reputable financial institution that contains your password so there is nothing to steal.

How, then, is it possible for you to login using your password? The answer is that logging in works by encrypting your password and comparing the result to the stored encrypted value. If they match you get to login, if not your login attempt fails.

The beauty of this scheme, used in UNIX systems since 1969, is that the process is not reversible. Someone could publish the encrypted value on a bill board and that would still not help a hacker login. Only you know your password. The hacker would still have to effectively guess your password in order to get logged in by your bank site.

Don’t store your password on your computer nor in one of those stupid password “vaults” or password generators. Instead, memorize your password. It’s OK to write it down on a piece of paper you tuck away some place.

You should pick a good password that is easy for you to remember but hard to guess. Make it at least 8 or 10 characters long and be something that is not words in a dictionary. One trick I use is to think of a sentence then use the first letter of each word of the sentence as my password. For example “Only you know your password. Don’t store it in a file” would become: oykypdsiiaf. That password is actually fairly easy to type. The phrases I use make my passwords (I have a few) even easier to type. I use phrases about people and things I like so my phrases are almost like rhymes and easy to remember. Mine have more than 10 characters. I usually include a special character (such as a colon or asterisk) although some web sites stupidly refuse to allow special characters.

For sites that are not important (most sites) use a different password than your main passwords you use for important sites. It’s OK to use the same password for all the unimportant sites. I only have about three or four passwords, about three really secure ones (longish, hard to guess) and just one that is shorter and easy to remember that I use for ALL of the sites I just don’t care about that much if someone were to get in.

I hardly ever change my passwords since they are secure to begin with. But when and if I do, I just modify say the first three words of the phrase so it’s easy for me to remember the new password, it being similar to the old one.

There does remain a couple of things to know about as to how hackers can manage to steal passwords and how you can remain confident that you are secure.

One way hackers can steal passwords is by setting up a man-in-the-middle attack that is able to intercept communication between you and your bank. Thankfully, modern protocols use SSL (the same “S”, for “Secure”, as in the little “HTTPS://” prefix you sometimes see in your browser address bar). As long as you communicate with reputable institutions, all login communication is done using SSL which has been engineered to thwart man-in-the-middle attacks. If you ever see a message from your browser that warns you that the Security Certificate of the site you are logging to has not been authenticated, that means you should not connect to that site.

There is also the thorny issue of keystroke snooping. If a hacker can manage to take control of your computer or of the server into which you are logging in (or think you are logging in) at a level where your keystrokes can be recorded, then Houston we have a problem. Such deep attacks are rare but possible. The best way to feel confident one has not been attacked at that level is to keep your computers and devices updated with the latest security updates for your OS and only do important financial transactions with reputable web sites. Personally, I don’t use Norton or McAfee crap. Those things just waste CPU in my view. Instead, I keep my systems up-to-date, I use good passwords as outlined above, and I store important information on reputable sites.

As for LifeLock, see: Amazon not-so-good reviews about LifeLock

Cheers,
Dennis Allard
Santa Monica
August 6, 2014

U.S. Military contractors engaged in de facto Human Trafficking

I find this latest report of human tafficking by U.S. military contractors in cahoots with local so-called subcontractors to obtain workers for U.S. bases to be so annoying I had to mirror the Democracy Now/Al Jazeera report here as my small part in spreading the truth.

The U.S. military industrial complex has no soul.

Some facts about Venuezula from TheRealNews

Ironically, the very measures that Venezuela has taken to empower the poor have contributed to a confrontation with the world oligarchy.

I just discovered TheRealNews.com, which published this report and analysis of Latin American democracy in action. [I promise you’ll like this — Ed.]

Old forces are at play In the post-Hugo Chavez period in Venezuela.

Albert Einstein was a socialist

Einstein Chalk Many of my liberal friends defend Capitalism, believe that “Hugo Chavez was a dictator”, and think that the radio station I listen to, KPFK, is a bunch of wacko leftists. At times, it makes me question my own beliefs. Am I really wrong in believing in socialism? So it was with a kind of relief when I discovered a fact that makes me feel content and even justified in having my so-called radical views. The fact I discovered is not by itself a reason to believe what I believe. It has taken me a life time to come to my beliefs and I realize how hard it is to change ones beliefs or the beliefs of others. But this fact I discovered somehow made me feel like I no longer have to defend myself to the liberals or the conservatives or the libertarian fundamentalist masses. The fact I discovered is that Albert Einstein was a socialist. I had not known that. Somehow, I felt soothed. If Albert Einstein, one of history’s most accurate thinkers, came to the same views I hold, I can walk a little taller, on surer footing. Einstein outlined his views in his article Why Socialism. Everyone who cares about the current economic crisis should read that article.

Socialism is a dirty word in America. Albert Einstein favored a society in which “the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion”. To some, especially the libertarian fundamentalists, that is a formula for control by government. I disagree. Einstein did not make precise the mechanism by which society owns or plans. I propose a definition of socialism that is consistent with Einstein’s goals for socialism but at first sight sounds as if it contradicts long standing beliefs about what socialism means. Namely, I propose that socialism is a way for more people to own more private property and have more control over their lives.

What is happening in the U.S. and world economy at the outset of the 21st century is that fewer people are owning and controlling the economy. That is Capitalism. A few people own and control, well, pretty much everything.

Is the only alternative to this skewed system of power one in which the government has more control? I think not.

What if, instead, more people owned the land they lived on (were no longer renters), owned more of the company they worked for (so the company was no longer owned by a few large share holders), and people shared ownership of commercial properties and voted on rent levels so that small businesses could thrive instead of enriching land lords of commercial properties? I am proposing that Socialism can be and is compatible with private property ownership. The difference with Capitalism is that under Socialism, as I am proposing, more people both individually and collectively own more things, not less things.

In other words, I acknowledge that “money is power”, to use a well worn phrase. I acknowledge that the structure of society is based on ownership. I do not attempt to deny that structural reality. Under some kind of fantasy “communism” that reality might change but we are not talking about “communism”, we are talking about a form of “socialism”. The socialism I am proposing does not attempt to overturn the structural fact of ownership. Instead, the form of socialism I propose is one that has as the goal to create a more equitable society with broader ownership.

This is not to say that socialism does not involve aspects of a planned economy with major government participation and control. Actually, in our Capitalist economy the government already engages in massive control, the details of which I will not try to enumerate here. So, socialists, unlike libertarian fundamentalists but like most practical Capitalists, are aware that government is both necessary and ultimately a good thing if done right. Socialists stress that there are issues beyond the control of jungle Capitalism that require democratic government planning and tax-based programs (social security, medicare, unemployment, the space program, the military, FDA, etc.).

The move I am proposing for the zeitgeist of socialism is to embrace the notion of private ownership where the ownership is spread to more people, not to fewer. The hard part is, of course, how to achieve this. The answer will not be just to increase taxes, although very progressive taxation is not harmful as shown by the booming US economy post World War II during the 1950s to the 1970s when tax rates on high income was much higher than it is today. The answer will involve major restructuring of laws towards increasing ownership of businesses by workers, strongly limiting rent on principal residences and facilitating purchase of primary residences in lieu of renting, concession models and other means for citizens of a city to take public ownership of commercial property, and nationalization of commodity services such as banks and insurance, removing those from for-profit-for-the-few mode. The people should own the banks and the insurance companies and elect high paid competent individuals to perform administration of those vital services. Measures such as these would take one or two generations to put into effect and most likely will require a new popular party to place them on a party platform. The Republicans and Democrats are not going to do this any time soon, although a venerable Democrat, Franklin Roosevelt, did attempt to point the country in this direction back in 1944 when he proposed his Second Bill of Rights. When will be begin to follow FDR’s and Albert Einstein’s advice?

A good place to read about how to achieve socialism is Democracy at Work.

Dennis Allard
Santa Monica
January 12, 2014

No Rent and Distributed Ownership

Today’s morning thought is inspired by an interview of Russell Brand by Jeremy Paxman on the BCC Newsnight program.

I agree with Russel Brand. But. Brand and others on the left who have enough fame to be interviewed by the media need to be more effective in delivering their message.

THE LEFT NEEDS TO STOP BITCHING AND PROMOTE AN EXPLICIT PLATFORM.

Brand wants to reduce economic inequality in society. But interviewer Jeremy Paxman asks a good question… What *is* the solution?

Brand’s humorous response offers no solution. He mentions raising taxes and refers to some vague “alternative political systems” that “should not ignore the needs of the people”.

Russel, get a clue. People cannot guess what changes are needed and most of them are not going to go off and read some book that explains it to them. Here you are, on the air on BBC, the YouTube video has been viewed ten million times, and you offer no platform, no agenda, no specific ideas.

Paxman asks you what your solution would be like.

You respond by saying what it “won’t be like”.

You mention raising taxes and some vague idea about corporations being more responsible.

Ten million views wasted (except you are funny and entertaining so that’s good).

Let me be constructive and ask you to consider some concrete ideas that you and others on the left could promote, explicitly, when offered such opportunities.

To start, we need a platform based on FDR’s Second Bill of Rights. FDR proposed that in his State of the Union address on January 11, 1944!

Let’s get even more radical. I propose the following three changes to society:

(1) Everyone should own part of the company they work for and not just be wage slaves. By law the company should be owned in part by workers who work for the company.

(2) Ban rent on primary residences. Everyone should own their primary residence. The word “Lord” in “Land Lord” comes from feudalism. Let’s get to a point where we no longer have any Lords.

(3) Transform commercial rent to local government owned franchises. There would still be rent but it would be controlled by the local citizenry and benefit the local citizenry rather than a small class of commercial land owners.

Now that is a concrete platform. Please Russel, get some concrete proposals out there on the air. If not these, then something else, but something.

We should add a fourth item to the platform:

(4) Create a national bank owned by the populace. This bank would fund mortgages so that profits from mortgages go back to the populace rather than to to the oligarchy.

The above proposals are “socialist” you ask? You thought socialists are for government owning everything, right? No, not right. Socialists are for more people owning things, not fewer people owning things. In particular people should have significant ownership in their work place and homes.

You don’t get to an equitable society via charity and the welfare state (although those are necessary temporary measures). No, you get to an equitable society by acknowledging that the “free” market is a place where those with land and money are the ones who are free. Hence the need to shift land and money to more people.

It would not be easy to implement these concepts since implementing them means a transfer of ownership from a small minority to a large majority. That will take time, creativity, and true democracy. The concepts apply to commercial property as well as to homes. Why should a small business owner have to pay rent to a land lord who sucks money out of the economy? Although these ideas are easy to state they will be very hard to implement. But these ideas should at least be on the table.

Returning to the Jeremy Paxon interview of Russell Brand, I think Brand made one general point and two concrete points. The general one is that things are totally screwed up and need to change (there “will” be a revolution). That is obvious and has been stated by many over decades and centuries. The concrete points were the proposal to raise taxes and the observation that the Occupy movement made economic disparity a topic of public discussion. I would argue that is the only thing achieved so far by the Occupy Movement.

As for raising taxes, that does not solve the problem, which is distribution of ownership. One often hears about the screwed distribution of wealth. What does that mean? It means ownership. Ownership of land and of the work place.

We live in a “free market”, which is free to the extent you have power and you have power to the extent you have wealth. The market is free to those who have enough money and power to participate in it. Until more people have more power, i.e. ownership of society, the free market is a useless excuse for the status quo.

Of course we should use taxes (perhaps without need to raise them) to help people and not engage in military conquest. And we should keep the welfare state as a measure of last resort. But we still have a welfare state. How to change that? I encourage pundits such as Brand to bring in the concept of more distributed ownership into their talking points.

Another issue is the banks. Won’t we still all be paying the banks? Yes, so another thing we need to do is nationalize the banks, a topic for future discussion.

In these ways, by distributing ownership, wealth and power in society will belong to more people rather than fewer. It sounds simple and idealistic but it also rings true.

Dennis Allard
Santa Monica
October 27, 2013