Ellsworth replies

I stopped by for a quick check of my inbox today to see that Congressman Ellsworth did in fact send a reply to my email. Ok, so it was probably a staffer sending a canned response, but it’s something. Unfortunately, he did very little to address my actual concerns or engage my proposed action – which makes sense if it was a canned response. There is a lot of talk about how outraged he is about the situation and about the initial bailout plan, and how much better the one they want to pass now is. I’m not buying it. He might be outraged, but I’m not convinced the current plan is any better. I don’t believe it’s any substantially different in the base principles than the original plan over which he was so outraged.

I’m going to attach his response to this post in Word format. I usually prefer to use .PDF or OpenDocument, but my computer is wonky right now and this is the only option I have. Fight the power, view this file in OpenOffice.org.

Congressman Ellsworth’s reply to my email

Letter to my Congressman on the bailout

I’m not usually a big believer in the governmental process as an agent of change, truth, justice, or whatever, and the current issue with the proposed Wall Street and bank bailout plans is no exception. I have very little expectation that my letter will actually in any way influence the decision of the representative for my district. I wrote this more as a way to get some of my thoughts down in one place. That being said, after I wrote it I figured hey, why not go ahead and send it? And now I’m posting it here. Feel free to pass it along or to debate the points presented therein, but realize that it is not a nuanced, technical policy position piece but rather a simplified, rhetorical one.

Dear Mr. Ellsworth,

I see that yesterday you voted in favor of the economic bailout plan that came to the House floor. I urge you to reconsider your position on the bailout. It seems quite disingenuous to provide billions of dollars in taxpayer money to bail out the institutions that have largely created this crisis through their own actions. It smacks of elite classism to allow corporate banking and finance executives to get off with their golden parachutes and allocate vast sums of what is supposed the people’s money to clean up their mess – moreso when it’s a clean up that is highly debatable with regards to its potential efficacy to actually do that which it purports to do.

I believe this so-called bailout plan is little more than an economic version of terrorism. For one, the Treasury and Fed say “give us the keys to the kingdom” of the economy. The proposed bailout as I understand it gives officials the power to essentially take over enormous swaths of the economic sector in an essentially arbitrary fashion, which would result in the economic directors having little-to-no accountability to the people the government and public officials are supposed to serve. The Bush Administration has excelled at taking advantage of crisis situations in order to consolidate power (particularly “emergency” power) under the umbrella of the Executive Branch, and this is just one more example of that tendency.

Furthermore, the bailout is in response to what could be essentially construed as a kind of terrorist threat on the part of the big banks. “Give us billions to fix our mess or we won’t give you house loans, car loans,” and so on. Without credit the economy fails, and those who hold the keys to credit have the ability to hold the people hostage.

The plan would involved the government basically buying assets from the bailed-out-companies above market value, thus providing the banks with a kick start in capital, which is a nonsensical proposition. If the bank owners are unwilling to utilize the market functions to raise the capital, which would ostensibly be both in their self-interest and in the public interest, then the government should only buy the assets at market value – or buy the banks at their market value, nationalize them, and nurse them back into healthy operation until such time as further action can be taken – either selling them to private interests or some other action that would not only return the banking activity to the private sector but also make up for some of the drain of public funds the whole financial crisis has engendered (and the public subsidies that have been involved in the operations of these banks throughout their history). Banks that will not submit to this process can be left to their own, and if they fail then they fail. As Adam Smith said, any business that does not operate within the public interest loses its legitimation.

In other words, if the government is going to intervene in the workings of these banks, as it appears it must, then do it in a way that makes sense and will actually work to making things better in the long run, and let those who are actually responsible for the mess be the ones who are punished, not the American taxpayers.

No capitalist system has ever existed for long without having to be regulated, modified, or bailed out by the government. No national economy that is strong today got to be so by utilizing “free market” principles; all of them, every single one, became prosperous through some form of government intervention/central planning. This case is no different – in voting for the bailout you vote to subsidize the foolishness of the robber barons who got us into this mess in the first place. I implore you to reconsider your position on the bailout and vote “nay” if it comes to the floor again.

Thank you,
Jason Barr
Evansville, Indiana

John Médaille has written quite a good piece at The Distributist Review on the bailout as a response to economic terrorism. TDR is consistently excellent and I highly recommend you read it regularly.

my sister shares her story about the I-69 tree sit

This past weekend a tree sit protesting I-69 was “evicted” by DNR, the Indiana State Police, and other “law enforcement” agencies. My sister was right in the middle of (some of) the action, and she’s shared her story on her blog.

Musings on meat and the recent recall

Well, unless you live under a rock you’ve probably heard by now that 143 million pounds of beef coming from a particular meat factory in California have been recalled due to concerns over health and safety related to the improper health-related treatment of certain “downer” cows. A few thoughts:

1) I saw on the news today an anchor ask a question I’m sure has been on many minds: “why did it take 3 weeks from the time the videos of the cruelty were released for action to be taken and the recall to happen?” The reason is that it was because the cruelty in and of itself was what drew USDA attention to the possibility of there being unsanitary goings-on at the beef plant – but the cruelty itself was not necessarily a matter worthy of attention such as a massive recall. The concern was not that animals were being tortured, but that proper inspection procedures had not been followed and therefore it was remotely possible that somewhere in the tons and tons of beef coming out of this bovine manufactory a certain amount might have been tainted. It is NOT necessarily illegal to prod a cow or to pick it up with a forklift, unless you use that as a means to circumvent health codes (which are, as anyone who’s read the USDA meat inspectors’ manual can tell you, not terribly reassuring). As a matter of fact, the people at the cattle mill may have thought they could get away with it within the law, as it turns out there may be loopholes in the USDA policy. Doesn’t that just make you want to run out and grab a hot, juicy burger at your local Wendy’s after an exhilarating session of midnight street luging?

2. They seriously expect us to believe that just because the company has fired the two workers “responsible for the problem” and that everything is all better (or a least it will be soon). And, because we’re sheep who want to believe everything is ok and we can go on consuming thoughtlessly like we usually do, they’re probably right. The fact is that (just as I said about the problems at Walter Reed hospital) these practices are not “aberrations from the system”, they are products of the system itself – the system that makes it profitable to get every animal that can be killed and ground up to the killing floor in at least a quasi-legal fashion. The entire industrial meat production system is founded on the atrocity that claims what animals are good for is consumption and making money in the most efficient manner possible, regardless of consequences for the animal or even for consumers. The “protections” built into the law are a joke, as anyone who’s read the USDA meat inspectors’ manual can tell you. Is there an echo? I think I said that already…

3. If people are horrified by videos of people prodding cattle and picking them up with forklifts, I can only imagine the reaction of disgust if they learned that a large portion of what animals to be slaughtered are fed comes from bone, blood, guts, brains, and other parts of slaughtered animals that couldn’t be used as meat, which are turned into feed by a process known as rendering. Rendering is only supposed to be done from USDA-approved cows, but the oversight for rendering falls upon the FDA, and their inspections of rendering plants only check to make sure animal feed containing cattle parts is labeled. They do not check to make sure the animal parts being used come from cows that were approved by the USDA. Contrary to official stock sweatshop spokesmen propaganda, the prions that cause bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), also known as “mad cow disease”, can and do jump species from cattle to humans – and these same microorganisms cause a disease in humans, Creudtzfelt-Jakob Disease (CJD), that essentially turns the brain into a spongy mess, much like Alzheimer’s. Not only that, but CJD is misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s enough times to be more than just statistically significant. And the rendering process does not kill prions. On that point and several others, you REALLY ought to read this article by Maria Tomchick from Znet. Vegetarians and vegans, don’t go thinking you’re safe just because you don’t consume meat/animal products.

4. BSE doesn’t usually show up in cows for 5-7 years. Most beef cattle are slaughtered by age 3. So there’s no telling how many carriers have already been eaten or otherwise processed. CJD can take 30 or more years to show up noticeably in a human. Doesn’t that make you feel great?

5. Even though the risk of being infected by BSE-contaminated beef or cattle products is relatively low, it’s a risk that has been completely placed off the map by the corporate PR machine, with a compliant US government bowing to its whims. And if the information linked above isn’t enough to make you angry about that, maybe the information on this site will be. As I said in a comment on my sister’s blog today,

The problem will never be solved until the system that makes it profitable for such abuses to occur is dismantled, and it will not be dismantled voluntarily by those who profit from it.

Nor will it be sufficiently challenged by the government that is inextricably entwined with the corporate industry – just check up on how many FDA and USDA officials used to be industry spokespeople or corporate officials, and vice versa. It’s not even that the corporates are masters controlling their government lackeys, the relationship is too reciprocal to be cast in those terms – but any way you look at it, the government-corporate conglomerate scheme does NOT have any of our best interests in mind. In the words of Urban Seeds, an Evansville gardening cooperative, “plant a garden – start a revolution!”

Interestingly, prions also means “let us pray”, in French. So… prions pour une révolution.

Internet cut in Myanmar, blogger presses on – from CNN

Internet cut in Myanmar, blogger presses on – CNN.com

From the story: According to The Associated Press, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Friday he believes the loss of life in Myanmar has been “far greater” than is being reported.

A Burgundy Revolution? – Time

While the official government-released death toll is 9, witness claim as many as 35 bodies from yesterday’s action lying in the streets. AP reported the possibility of 200 or more dead.

The obligatory 9/11 post

I wasn’t going to do this, I was just going to let the post about Stirling Bridge stand as my statement about 9/11, but I just wrote this for my Livejournal and thought it was worth sharing here.

“Further, the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.” – From the Project for a New American Century’s document Rebuilding America’s Defenses

Looks like they got it.

The document quoted above is a detailed summary of a strategy to project American military power across the globe and fits in nicely with the prospect of increasing American economic domination of essentially the whole world. Indeed throughout this and other PNAC documents, as well as other writings from neoconservative thinkers throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s the intersection of military and economic interests was argued for as an essential good or simply taken for granted. Preemptive war was touted as a strategy, and despite propaganda stating the alternative it was so clear to those in power that neoliberal (so-called “free trade”) economic policies lead to devastating economic inequalities that are likely to increase social unrest AND increase breeding grounds for potential “terrorists” that this was argued in later-declassified CIA and Defense Department documents going back to the 1990s. The neocons consistently argued that a force in Iraq would ensure stability of oil production and prices to help the US economic growth that would be necessary to sustain the project of empire (though they stopped short, so far as I am aware, of using that term).

Since 9/11 the rhetoric of terrorism and the war on terror has justified government-perpetrated atrocities, suspension of civil liberties, suppression of dissenting speech, and two stupid wars (Afghanistan and Iraq), situations where the reality and the rhetoric about why we should attack them did not often line up side-to-side. We have also seen increasing privatization of the military and its support functions. It is now estimated that, of combat personnel (that is, people who actually carry guns and shoot people), 1/3 of the “troops” in Iraq are contracted mercenaries, often referred to as “security personnel”. If you figure in the number of privatized support staff the number rises to over 1/2. These “troops” are accountable only to their corporate masters, and often they are there as a result of no-bid contracts and other shady business mechanisms. I’m sure most of you are at least somewhat familiar with the Halliburton scheme in which Dick Cheney’s former company was awarded billions in no-bid contracts, that is only one example. Rumors of graft, corruption, and human rights violations on a mass scale abound, directly linked to these corporate soldiers.

And one of the worst parts about it is the pain and suffering of those who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks is still being exploited to justify these atrocities. Support our troops? Yeah, support them… support them by encouraging them to apply for conscientious objector status. Support them by bringing them home, and never again sending them into harm’s way for the profit of a few fat cats and their multitude of minions. Support them by teaching them, from a young age, that the one and only purpose of a military is to steal, kill, and destroy (cf. John 10:10), and there are other options outside the military by which they might have life, and help others to have it also.

Now, with another potential war on the near horizon, this time with Iran, have we really learned anything, 6 years later? The media leads us right down the same path they did en route to Iraq, and “support the troops” is still a verbal mechanism used to squelch dissent, or at least it is in my part of the country.

Agnus Dei, qui tollis peccata mundi, miserere nobis, dona nobis pacem.

Kyrie eleison.

This may be the best opinion I’ve seen so far on the Libby verdict

Absolution Revolution has moved! You can read this article at http://absolutionrevolution.com/blog/2007/03/07/this-may-be-the-best-opinion-ive-seen-so-far-on-the-libby-verdict/