Category Archives: Books & Ideas

Michael Harrington, b. Feb. 24, 1928

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Today is the anniversary of the birth of MICHAEL HARRINGTON. Harrington provided the intellectual ammunition for what became President Johnson’s War on Poverty when he published THE OTHER AMERICA examining poverty in the United States

Influenced in his youth by Catholic Social Thought, the continuing secret of the Church, Harrington joined the Catholic Worker Movement, a peace-justice group founded by Dorothy Day. Although tending toward a secular understanding later he always held himself out as a fellow traveler of Catholicism. From Catholic activism he migrated to Democratic Socialism and helped to organize what has become the Democratic Socialists of America.

I was privileged to have had lunch with Michael within the year prior to his death when he visited a mutual friend in Saint Paul, Minnesota. A soft-spoken decidedly rational man we talked about progressive politics, homelessness and socialist humanism. It’s been a quarter-century since his death and he remains an influence on my politics and thought today.

Lawrence A Winans

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The 85 — Too Few to Have So Much When Too Many Have So Little

Michael Parenti

The world’s 85 richest individuals possess as much wealth as the 3.5 billion souls who compose the poorer half of the world’s population, or so it was announced in a report by Oxfam International. The assertion sounds implausible to me.  I think the 85 richest individuals, who together are worth many hundreds of billions of dollars, must have far more wealth than the poorest half of our global population.

How could these two cohorts, the 85 richest and 3.5 billion poorest, have the same amount of wealth? The great majority of the 3.5 billion have no net wealth at all. Hundreds of millions of them have jobs that hardly pay enough to feed their families. Millions of them rely on supplements from private charity and public assistance when they can. Hundreds of millions are undernourished, suffer food insecurity, or go hungry each month, including many among the very poorest in the United States.

“The number of people living in poverty is growing at a faster rate than the world’s population. So poverty is spreading even as wealth accumulates. It is not enough to bemoan this enormous inequality, we must also explain why it is happening.”

Most of the 3.5 billion earn an average of $2.50 a day. The poorest 40 percent of the world population accounts for just 5 percent of all global income. About 80 percent of all humanity live on less than $10 a day. And the poorest 50 percent  maintain only 7.2 percent of the world’s private consumption. How exactly could they have accumulated an amount of surplus wealth comparable to the 85 filthy richest?

Hundreds of millions live in debt even in “affluent” countries like the United States. They face health care debts, credit card debts, college tuition debts, and so on. Many, probably most who own homes—and don’t live in shacks or under bridges or in old vans—are still straddled with mortgages. This means their net family wealth is negative, minus-zero. They have no  propertied wealth; they live in debt.

Millions among the poorest 50 percent in the world may have cars but most of them also have car payments. They are driving in debt.  In countries like Indonesia, for the millions without private vehicles, there are the overloaded, battered buses, poorly maintained vehicles that specialize in breakdowns and ravine plunges. Among the lowest rungs of the 50 percent are the many who pick thru garbage dumps and send their kids off to work in grim, soul-destroying sweatshops.

The 85 richest in the world probably include the four members of the Walton family (owners of Wal-Mart, among the top ten superrich in the USA) who together are worth over $100 billion. Rich families like the DuPonts have controlling interests in giant corporations like General Motors, Coca-Cola, and United Brands. They own about forty manorial estates and private museums in Delaware alone and have set up 31 tax-exempt foundations. The superrich in America and in many other countries find ways, legal and illegal, to shelter much of their wealth in secret accounts. We don’t really know how very rich the very rich really are.

Regarding the poorest portion of the world population—whom I would call the valiant, struggling “better half”—what mass configuration of wealth could we possibly be talking about? The aggregate wealth possessed by the 85 super-richest  individuals, and the aggregate wealth owned by the world’s 3.5 billion poorest, are of different dimensions and different natures. Can we really compare private jets, mansions, landed estates, super luxury vacation retreats, luxury apartments, luxury condos, and luxury cars, not to mention hundreds of billions of dollars in equities, bonds, commercial properties, art works, antiques, etc.—can we really compare all that enormous wealth against some millions of used cars, used furniture, and used television sets, many of which are ready to break down?  Of what resale value if any, are such minor durable-use commodities, especially in communities of high unemployment, dismal health and housing conditions, no running water, no decent sanitation facilities, etc? We don’t really know how poor the very poor really are.

Millions of children who number in the lower 50 percent never see the inside of a school. Instead they labor in mills, mines and on farms, under conditions of peonage.  Nearly a billion people are unable to read or write. The number of people living in poverty is growing at a faster rate than the world’s population. So poverty is spreading even as wealth accumulates. It is not enough to bemoan this enormous inequality, we must also explain why it is happening.

But for now, let me repeat: the world’s richest 85 individuals do not have the same amount of accumulated wealth as the world’s poorest 50 percent. They have vastly more. The multitude on the lower rungs—even taken as a totality—have next to nothing.

Michael Parenti is an author of note who is known for the classic text on political science and American government “Democracy for the Few”. His work can be found at http://www.michaelparenti.org. This post was first published at COMMON DREAMS and distributed by PORTSIDE (See Links below)

Great Is Our Sin

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Charles Darwin

Beautiful America, Land of Lesbians & Socialists

The Right-wing is in a tizzy over a Coca-Cola ad during which many people sang “America the Beautiful” in the different languages which make up the American melting pot. “Un-American” they say.

Rush Limbo started bouncing in his chair as he raged over this latest perceived insult to “his America”.

If they only knew.

“America the Beautiful” was written by Katherine Lee Bates, a professor of English at Wellesley College. If being an Eastern intellectual wasn’t bad enough, get this, Katherine was a Socialist and an active supporter of the rights of working people and women’s suffrage.

But that’s not all. Katherine Lee Bates was . . .  gosh! . .  a Lesbian!

So can you imagine what they’d say if they knew that the patriotic hymn so dear to their hearts was written by a Lesbian Socialist.

Friends, they’ll eventually find out but perhaps for their sanity and ours, we should probably keep the next little fact a secret just between us. The Pledge of Allegiance was written by Francis Bellamy, a Christian Socialist, who was cousin to Edward Bellamy, author of the Utopian Socialist classic “Looking Backward”.

Fact is that there were and are many patriotic Americans who are also lesbians, gays, Socialists, Anti-Capitalists, union members, immigrants, liberals, professors, students, artists, musicians, atheists, secularists, Buddhists and so forth. Get used to it, we’re not going anywhere.

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Capitalism Works (If You’re a One-Percenter)

Capitalism_Works

The Jihad in Egypt

We have been concerned that the United States has failed to understand what is really going on in the Middle East. As a result, and due to an excessive deference to the oil sheiks of the Arabian Peninsula, American foreign policy has tilted towards aid to the very same people who attacked us on 9/11.

In Egypt, the U.S. put pressure on the Egyptian armed forces to overthrow a secular ruler and replace him with an Islamist. Even after Muhammad Morsi revealed his anti-American Islamist bias, the Obama regime continued to support him against the wishes of the Egyptian people. Propagandists on his behalf covered up evidence as to his Islamist ties.

Now Morsi is on trial, and Egyptian media is discussing the extent to which the Egyptian people barely avoided being handed over to an Islamic tyranny. Most recently telephone recordings of conversations between Morsi and Muhammad al-Zawahiri were released. Zawahiri is the brother of Al Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and a dedicated Islamist.

The recordings back the prosecution’s case that Morsi was conspiring to persecute Christians and secular-oriented Egyptians. Apparently, the recordings make clear that Zawahiri was giving orders to Morsi. Morsi promises Zawahiri, “We have taken deterrent measures to combat those few, and new legislative measures to limit their media, and in the near future, we will shut down these media stations and launch large Islamic media outlets.  We are even planning a big budget from the [Brotherhood] International Group  to launch Islamic and jihadi satellite stations  to urge on the jihad. There will be a channel for you and the men of al-Qaeda, and it can be broadcast from Afghanistan.”

The United States Government helped to create the monster that became Al Qaeda, and yet seems to have forgotten. It is time for America to end its support for Jihadis in Egypt, Syria, Libya . . . and in Saudi Arabia.

SOURCE: Raymond Ibrahim, author of Crucified Again: Exposing Islam’s New War on Christians

A Reasonable Deduction

On the CBS TV series, “Elementary”, during the episode “We Are Everyone”, Sherlock Holmes describes AYN RAND as “the philosopher-in-chief for the intellectually bankrupt”.

Ye Gads, Man! How indeed does he figure it all out?