Back To The Moon!

I’ve recently discovered a fantastic magazine called Jacobin, which is unreservedly Left leaning and offers a nice, refreshing alternative voice to the wishy washy liberal middle-of-the-roadism you find in a lot of other “Lefty” sites.

Over on the Jacobin Blog, Leigh Philips proves the magazine’s worth (to me at least) with a piece about how capitalism killed the Space Program:

[…] Nobody is asking why it is that the high point of manned spaceflight was reached at the end of the sixties, wondering whether there might be a reason for this drop in ambition, this retreat from humanity’s destiny in space. It’s not as if the planet has abandoned its love of space. The international excitement over the landing of the Mars Science Laboratory hints at a yearing to be thrilled about the possibility of life on other planets.

At the same time, a kind of left-wing cynicism about  space exploration has bubbled up. Wasn’t this simply a distraction from the crisis? How can we be spending money on space while the Earth burns? How can we care about the improbable chance that we find possible evidence of the conditions for microbes having aeons ago existed on Mars when thousands of Americans are losing their homes to repossession, when half of all Spanish youth are without work?


Because these questioners might as well be asking: “Why bother exploring at all? What has curiosity ever done for us?” And this way of thinking is itself unwittingly framed by a neoliberal set of metrics, demanding immediate return on investment, and accepting the falsehood that we have an extremely limited reserve of public revenues, the greatest share of which must be directed to those areas with the highest priority.

The first point is obvious. We don’t know what benefits will be achieved when one sets off to investigate distant terrain. The adventure of exploration of the unknown is its own reward.

This comes along with Matt Novak’s appreciation of The Jetson’s on their 50th anniversary, and why they still matter:

It’s easy for some people to dismiss “The Jetsons” as just a TV show, and a lowly cartoon at that. But this little show—for better and for worse—has had a profound impact on the way that Americans think and talk about the future.

Somewhere along the way, we lost sight of exploration and innovation for its own sake. And by we, I mean our capitalist overlords. The 1% who demand that every human endeavor turn a profit, that they get the lion’s share of that profit, and that everything not profitable (to them) be scrapped. This attitude, what I’ve taken to calling Economic Calvanism, is what’s keeping us from recovering from the Great Recession, let alone settling Mars. We used to do great big things back when our leaders weren’t all greedy bastards and knew that to make money you have to spend money, often and especially on things that don’t return the investment, simply because they produce knowledge about  the Universe and provide and investment in human worth, something that cannot be balanced out on ledger or calculated for in your semi-annual report.

Or, as Leigh Philips put it:

Of course, if there were a limited pie of public resources, then a prioritization of other areas would be legitimate – Gill Scott Heron would be right. At the moment, there are other areas in more dire need. But money can be found.

The UK’s Tax Justice Network in July published research showing that revenues lost to public coffers by the super-rich hiding these sums in tax havens amounted to $21 trillion as of 2010 – as much as the US and Japanese economies combined, and the figure could be as high as $32 trillion.

There is more than enough money out there to have decent social services – and new ones, guaranteed incomes, well-funded pensions, a transformation to a low-carbon (or even carbon-negative) economy, and investment in space exploration. It’s a false choice to say: either space or everything else. The choice is actually between the current crop of political ideologies clustered around the neoliberal center, and something genuinely transformative on a global scale.

Want to Save the World? Raise Taxes

Stephen King wants to pay more taxes:

If you want to pay more, pay more, they said.

Tired of hearing about it, they said.

Tough shit for you guys, because I’m not tired of talking about it. I’ve known rich people, and why not, since I’m one of them? The majority would rather douse their dicks with lighter fluid, strike a match, and dance around singing “Disco Inferno” than pay one more cent in taxes to Uncle Sugar. It’s true that some rich folks put at least some of their tax savings into charitable contributions. My wife and I give away roughly $4 million a year to libraries, local fire departments that need updated lifesaving equipment (Jaws of Life tools are always a popular request), schools, and a scattering of organizations that underwrite the arts. Warren Buffett does the same; so does Bill Gates; so does Steven Spielberg; so do the Koch brothers; so did the late Steve Jobs. All fine as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go far enough.

What charitable 1 percenters can’t do is assume responsibility—America’s national responsibilities: the care of its sick and its poor, the education of its young, the repair of its failing infrastructure, the repayment of its staggering war debts. Charity from the rich can’t fix global warming or lower the price of gasoline by one single red penny. That kind of salvation does not come from Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Ballmer saying, “OK, I’ll write a $2 million bonus check to the IRS.” That annoying responsibility stuff comes from three words that are anathema to the Tea Partiers: United American citizenry.

This message is going to be a hard sell tot he American populace, who have been told by heard the GOP for the last 40 years that raising taxes is evil, a sin not unlike kicking puppies and raping grandma. They claim a marginal increase on the 1% is tantamount to class warfare. Except that class warfare doesn’t involve taxes, it involves guillotines and nooses, pitchforks and torches. You know, actual warfare.

Look, rich people, it’s simple: Taxes are the dues you pay for living in civilized society. You’re lucky to have the opportunity. So shut up and pay your taxes.

Do your patriotic duty. You claim that America is the home of the free and land of opportunity.  Well, just like a venture capitalist, America invested in you. This country fostered your creativity, gave you the opportunity for education and the elbow room to try that risky buisiness. Now that it’s paid off, it’s time for you to pay back that seed money. Pay your taxes.

You like to claim this is a Christian nation, so do the Christian thing and help your neighbor. Charity doesn’t cut it, so pay your taxes.

Or else.

Tip of the Triangle

I can’t believe I never saw how Glenn Beck fits into the Illumniti Conspiracy* before. It seems obvious, once you think about it.  but I must admit, I’m baffled about the whole “Rappers are part of the Illuminatti” thing. How did I miss this?

[Glenn] Beck and Jones have thousands of followers who believe as they do. They include Tea Party types, the right-of-center Rand Pauls of the world, militiamen who feel this nation’s sovereignty is under attack from some very serious and credible forces. They’re primarily Republican (though more conservative), white, male, married and over 45, according to a New York Times/CBS News poll.

Unearthed in that same poll: Tea partiers are better educated and wealthier than the average American. More than half say the policies of the Obama administration favor the poor, and 25 percent think that the administration favors blacks over whites—compared with 11 percent of the general public. They are more likely than the general public, and Republicans, to say that too much has been made of the problems facing black people.

And then there’s Nikki, a 20-something woman drinking with friends at El Toro, a bar on Belmont Avenue, just off Lancaster Avenue in West Philly. She also believes that shadowy forces—the real power behind the power—are at play to overthrow the American government. The Illuminati: a conspiratorial organization of cultural elites with unspeakable wealth who control world affairs through governments and corporations.

Nikki says that President Obama was “selected, not elected” president by the Illuminati, and that he’s now carrying out its homosexual agenda by “appointing more gays to his Cabinet than all the other presidents combined.”

But unlike Beck, Jones and their followers, Nikki happens to be young, black and a huge fan of hip-hop. Oh, and she believes rapper Jay-Z is a part of the Illuminati too.

Apparently goat heads/skulls, pyramids, and coded references to other illuminati symbolism have been popping up in Jay Z’s videos and other pop/rap artist’s work for years. And I say bully for them. White people may have invented conspiracy mongering, but they don’t own it. And as we all know, multi-culturalism is one of the hallmarks of the Illuminati so it was only a matter of time before the likes of Obama, Beyonce and Jay Z took their rightful place in the longest running and most popular conspiracy of all time.

Sure, it may be just a way to sneak coded racism into the debate over who caused the Second Great Depression, but that’s just what they want you think. Clearly, it’s time for me to get back in the game as I have missed out on a lot of conspiracy related material in the last few years. The Birthers, Truthers and the Tea Party didn’t just pop up from nowhere. They have an intellectual lineage going back decades, if not centuries. And clearly, I have been remiss in my studies of these phenomenon.

* I have no idea if this sight, FML, is legitimately connected to the American Freemasons or if it’s a fan site or what. Poe’s Law is in full force here.

Living to Work

Douglass Rushkoff is making some noise again:

I understand we all want paychecks — or at least money. We want food, shelter, clothing, and all the things that money buys us. But do we all really want jobs?

We’re living in an economy where productivity is no longer the goal, employment is. That’s because, on a very fundamental level, we have pretty much everything we need. America is productive enough that it could probably shelter, feed, educate, and even provide health care for its entire population with just a fraction of us actually working.

According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, there is enough food produced to provide everyone in the world with 2,720 kilocalories per person per day. And that’s even after America disposes of thousands of tons of crop and dairy just to keep market prices high. Meanwhile, American banks overloaded with foreclosed properties are demolishing vacant dwellings Video to get the empty houses off their books.

Our problem is not that we don’t have enough stuff — it’s that we don’t have enough ways for people to work and prove that they deserve this stuff.


But there might still be another possibility — something we couldn’t really imagine for ourselves until the digital era. As a pioneer of virtual reality, Jaron Lanier, recently pointed out, we no longer need to make stuff in order to make money. We can instead exchange information-based products.

We start by accepting that food and shelter are basic human rights. The work we do — the value we create — is for the rest of what we want: the stuff that makes life fun, meaningful, and purposeful.

People like to work on their own projects, not just work for the sake of work. We have the ability to provide all the basic necessities for every citizen, thus enabling them to choose personally meaningful work without having to worry about whether it pays the bills. There are thousands of great musicians, novelists, makers, hackers, builders, painters, sculptors, innovators and doers out there who have to put their passions aside and do some menial job, just to buy the necessities that are their right. Sure, a lot of people aren’t any of these things and they would just sit around watching TV and masturbating to internet porn. But so what? Eventually,they’d get bored and find something meaningful to do with their time. Maybe it would just be building birdhouses but it could also be volunteering at their local library or soup kitchen.

Of course it will never happen so long as we let the rich lead us into Economic Calvinism and demand that the poor and working class live in abject poverty and depredation.  It will require rewiring society as it is currently built but that wiring is old and in need of replacing anyway.

You know Who Else Made the Trains Run on Time?

Over at Slate,  David Weigel wants to know what Conservatives have against trains:

In the movie version of Atlas Shrugged, there is a scene in which Ayn Rand’s libertarian heroes defy all odds, deploy some untold amount of private funding, and launch the fastest high-speed train in history over rails of experimental metal. “The run of the John Galt Line is thrilling,” wrote the libertarian federal judge Alex Kozinski. “When it crossed the bridge made of Rearden Metal, I wanted to stand up and cheer.”

That’s in the fantasy world. In the real world, libertarians aren’t cheering for high speed rail but rather trying to stop it from being built. They are succeeding. In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich campaigned against a high-speed rail line funded by the stimulus, got elected, and turned down the funding. In Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker did the same thing, only more so—his anti-train campaign even had its own Web site. In Florida, the state Supreme Court has just approved Gov. Rick Scott’s decision to reject $2.4 billion of federal funds to build a Tampa-Orlando rail line; the state was being asked to contribute only $280 million to finish it off. The funding was originally agreed to by Charlie Crist, one of the Tea Party’s archenemies, so Scott’s victory could hardly be any sweeter.

But it could hardly make less sense to liberals. What, exactly, do Republicans, conservatives, and libertarians have against trains? Seriously, what?

The answer is simple. Unlike in Rand’s wackadoodle fantasy, in the real world, trains are the ultimate symbol of collectivist action. They require vast cooperation to build, as they run across state lines and in crowded locals like Europe, across country boarders. They’re cheep and egalitarian — a first class passenger on a train who shelled out the extra cash for a private sleeper car still has to rub elbows with the proles in order to use the rest room.

Conservatives may gripe about the cost but seriously, you know when a conservative is bullshitting? They start talking about the cost of things. They only care about what some service or enterprise costs when it might enable poor people to gain some upward mobility. That’s why they hate universal healthcare and it’s why they hate trains: it benefits poor people and the middle class. If people started taking trains instead of driving cars and flying, we wouldn’t need as much gas. And as we a ll know, guzzling gas is our patriotic duty. Trains are insufficiently capitlaistic. They remind us that we’re social creatures and are common in places where “Socialism” runs rampant: Europe and Asia. It’s anti-American to conserve resources and work together. We should all drive alone in our cars as individualistic individuals, racing and competing against one another to get nowhere, fast.

Link via Abbas Raza.

Talking Heads

I could have a weekly roundup called “what the Rude Pundit said” so yeah, what he said:

If the Rude Pundit were a really, really rich motherfucker, like in the several hundred million and above club, he’d call a meeting of all his fellow really, really rich motherfuckers and he’d tell ’em that we’ve crossed a line, and, unless we want our houses burned down, our assets confiscated, our dogs raped, and our children killed like they were the brood of the Tsar, we better stop acting like such greedy pricks and demand that the people we all own in the government stop licking our taints clean for a little while and start acting like we’re regular Americans, not First Class Black Card Americans.

The really, really rich Rude Pundit would point out that the filthy masses are getting all squirrely about collective bargaining rights and budget cuts on programs for the poor and middle class in order to pay for our tax cuts and the failure to prosecute a single person for shitcanning the economy. He’d then inform everyone that once the income gap gets more fully into the rhetorical mix, well, we really, really rich motherfuckers would be fucked and a half.

You 1%ers may think your hot shit, untouchable, above the law. But so did Louie XVI. He ended up with his head in a basket. And that’s not a euphamism for Marie Antoniette’s crotch. The motherfucking King of France had his head chopped off by Guillotine. It rolled like a bowling ball landing, bloody, in a basket. Why?

He refused to feed poor people. So they killed him.

Not right away of course. No revolution happens overnight. Louie XVI, like many blinkered rich fuckwits, was presented with several opportunities to change his mind and fund popular programs for the poor and middle class. If he had accepted the program of gradual change offered by reformers, giving up a thin slice of money and privilege he’d never even miss, so that the rest of his poeple could have a better life, the revolution could have been averted. But Louie and his supporters heard the reformers asking politely for gradual change and libeled them as radicals. They called them freethinkers and libertines, which was the 18th century equivalent of Socialist and Marxist.

So things got worse. Not for the rich of course. their money and privilege insulates them from the depredations that turn the middle and working classes into disgruntled protesters, and later, if it’s allowed to continue, into revolutionaries shouting for blood and revenge.

By refusing to accept the deal offered by liberals for gradual change, Oligarchs ensure that one day, they’ll have to face the revolutionaries. And not all of them are as peaceful as those in Lybia and Egypt. Just ask the severed head of Louie XVI.