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Author: The Old Viking

Karl Marx Said Unbridled Capitalism Will Destroy itself, and He was Right

Karl Marx Said Unbridled Capitalism Will Destroy itself, and He was Right

The rich will do anything for the poor but get off their backs. – Karl Marx 

Bloomberg BusinessWeek has been extolling the works of Karl Marx over the past few weeks. One article, “Marx to Market” by the Bloomberg News Services economics editor Peter Coy, brought me to a reflection on my own studies in Karl Marx in the early 1970s at the University of Pittsburgh. Although my focus was on alienation themes in his treatises, one could not help but be captured by the breadth and depth of his writing. In 1999 the BBC did an extensive polling to determine who were considered the greatest men and women of the millennium. Karl Marx topped the list followed by Einstein, Newton, and Darwin.

My interest even led me to London where I ordered an ale from the same corner of The Museum Tavern in Bloomsbury where Marx revived himself after his efforts at the British Museum across the street. I also came to identify with Engels plea to Marx, “You just read, read, read. It’s time to stop reading and start writing.”

Even the Vatican signed in on Marx in 2009 when L’Osservatore Romano praised his diagnosis of income inequality—a phenomenon that is becoming increasing rampant in American society.

Marx argued that overproduction was in fact endemic to capitalism because the proletariat isn’t paid enough to buy the stuff that the capitalists produce. Again, that theory has lately been hard to dispute. The only way blue-collar Americans managed to maintain consumption in the last decade was by overborrowing, according to Coy.

That statement reminded me an encounter between Henry Ford and Walter Reuther decades ago. Ford, showing Reuther a new factory that was to open and noting all of the automated assembly machines, baited Reuther with “You won’t get many union members from those machines.” Reuther’s reply was prophetic, “And you won’t sell them many Fords.”

Because, as Marx noted, the wild excesses of capitalists tend to sow the seeds of their own complete destruction, deregulation is actually disastrous for capitalism in the long run.  Former Oxford professor David Harvey believes that “The Republican Party is en route to destroy capitalism and they may do a better job of it than the working class could.”

Marx predicted that companies would need fewer workers as they improved productivity, creating an “industrial reserve army” of the unemployed whose existence would keep downward pressure on wages for the employed.

Although Adam Smith is often cited as the first economist to describe capitalism, Smith fell short in his projections missing the growth of child labor sweatshops, the deliberate displacement of workers to keep pressure on workers to work for wages that were not commensurate with their productivity. Neither did he foresee the alienation of labor from its work product as assembly lines developed. Marx did.

Critics often point to the USSR as failures of Marxism but they did not exemplify the teachings of Marx either in concept or in the development of the proletariat. Both of them jumped from feudalism to socialism skipping the important step that Marx required: Going through a stage of capitalism first. That’s why the socialism of the Scandinavian countries is so effective.

Marx believed that societies follow laws of motion simple and all-encompassing enough to make long-range prediction fruitful. Second, he believed that these laws are exclusively economic in character: what shapes society, the only thing that shapes society, is the “material forces of production. Third, he believed that these laws must invariably express themselves, until the end of history, as a bitter struggle of class against class. Fourth, he believed that at the end of history, classes and the state (whose sole purpose is to represent the interests of the ruling class) must dissolve to yield a heaven on earth.

Evidence of stage three is all about us.

Marx was much more original in envisioning the productive power of capitalism. He saw that capitalism would spur innovation to a hitherto-unimagined degree. He was right that giant corporations would come to dominate the world’s industries. He rightly underlined the importance of economic cycles (although his accounts of their causes and consequences were wrong).

The central paradox that Marx emphasized, “namely, that its own colossal productivity would bring capitalism to its knees, by making socialism followed by communism both materially possible and logically necessary” has turned out to be false (so far). As Coy points out, Marx could lay claim to having sensed more clearly than others how far capitalism would change the material conditions of the world. And this in turn reflects something else that demands at least a grudging respect: the amazing reach and ambition of his thinking.

When one looks at the huge increase in families living in poverty, at the fact that the laboring class has not realized any increase in their true income in over 40 years and the fact that a small percentage of Fat Cats have nearly half of the total income in this country one can only wonder what the defenders of our form of capitalism can say to defend it.

They will probably sound like the slave holders of many years ago who proclaimed that they provided a wonderful life for their slaves who were much better off than if they were on their own. Not surprisingly that sentiment was repeated in a pledge that was signed by many of the Republican candidates this year when they agreed that the family structure of the slave family was preferable to the family structure of black families today. A blatantly false representation because families were torn apart as they were sold off. But don’t let facts get in the way.

That wonderful, C-minus student (in Animal Science at Texas A & M), Governor Perry, knows better than to trust science with its facts. (His statement of Galileo Galilei: namely that the scientists of his time didn’t believe him was 180 degrees off the mark. All the reputable scientists in Rome and elsewhere accepted a heliocentric universe. It was the church–e.g. the government–that wouldn’t accept his theory just as there are people today who make a political determination that man has no part in global warming.

One more example of capitalism working very hard at its own destruction.

Let’s start deficit reduction by eliminating the Double Irish and Dutch Sandwiches

Let’s start deficit reduction by eliminating the Double Irish and Dutch Sandwiches

For the past year or so the business magazines have discussed the way in which U.S. corporations use offshore shells to dodge some $60 billion in U.S. corporation taxes each year.  The most prevalent strategy has earned the sobriquets “Double Irish” and “Dutch Sandwich” because they rely on the laws of Ireland and its relationship with the Netherlands.  I developed a schematic or pert chart to make it clear to myself

It works like this.  Company 1, an American corporation–Microsoft is one of them–sets up a separate company (company 2) in an offshore tax haven such as Bermuda or the Cayman Islands.  That company is licensed to conduct all overseas sales.  Actually there is no one in that office.  It’s a paper fiction and a law firm performs “corporate administrative services”.

Company 3 is set up in Ireland as a wholly owned subsidiary of Company 2 and is licensed by company 2 to sell the products and services of Company 1.  Company 3 pays royalties and fees to company 2 but they are untaxed by Ireland, the Caymans, or the U.S.  What company 2 retains in its tiny office could be taxed by Ireland at 12.5% but Ireland has an arrangement with some European countries that permits payments between Irish and companies in selected European countries to be untaxed.  The money that remains with the Irish office (company 3) is taxed at 2.4%.

Company 4, a Dutch company receives the payments from Company 3 and immediately sends them to Company 2.  (Remember, no corporate taxes in Bermuda or the Caymans.)  The stop in the Netherlands is no longer than a plane landing and departure.  There is no office and no staff, just a forwarding service.  The Netherlands has 13,000 such entities.

When the money gets to company 2 it just stays there and is taxed only if sent to company 1.  But company 1 rarely does that.  It uses the money for overseas expenditures or for certain investments or it just draws interest.  More important the corporation has dodged millions of dollars in U.S. taxes.

It gets worse.  In 2004 the GOP Congress enacted a one-time exemption that permitted companies to bring their money “home” at an effective tax rate of 5.3% instead of the standard 32%.

Next time a Tea Party adherent proposes a deficit-reducing budget cut that is designed to bring pain to the most helpless among us, tell them you will take them seriously when they have eliminated this travesty.

For a perspective on this practice, take a look at this Bloomberg article, “U.S. Companies Dodge $69 Billion in Taxes with Global Odyssey.”

Bigoted Anti-Islamist Swede with Suicidal Tendencies

Bigoted Anti-Islamist Swede with Suicidal Tendencies

Radio Sweden reports:

Jury decides posters were not racial agitation

After just an hour of deliberation, the jury had already decided that small-time local politician Carl P Herslow was not guilty of inciting ethnic agitation.

It all started during an election meeting in May 2010, small-time local politician Carl P Herslow showed posters depicting the Prophet Muhammad and his 9-year-old wife, both naked. The posters were simple drawings and the message read:

“He is 53 and she is nine. Do we want to see these kinds of weddings in Skåne?”

The posters shocked many in the southern city of Malmö and Herslow, the leader of Skånepartiet, a local separatist and anti-immigrant party, was reported.

The case had been controversial.

The Swedish court may have acquitted him, but I’m pretty sure there are some Muslims out that have issued a fatwā, and this Swede is on their short list.

Cookie Stealing CEO’s and $100 Bill stacked on Football Fields

Cookie Stealing CEO’s and $100 Bill stacked on Football Fields

A couple days ago I saw this comment posted on CNN:

A CEO, a Tea Party member, and a union member are sitting at a table. There is a plate with a dozen cookies in the center of the table.

The CEO grabs 11 of them and says to the Tea Party member, “The union guy is trying to steal your cookie.”

I emailed it to a Republican friend, and he replied that I should never believe CNN and that it was the union (public sector) guy that grabbed 11 cookies.

I decided to take the Census Bureau statistics and illustrate the CEO’s riches in terms of money stacked on a football field:

If you lined all the Americans up along the sideline from one goal line to the other in the order of their annual income the median (middle) American would be on the 50-yard line.

Here is how the money in this country is distributed in stacks of $100 bills.

  • 50 yard line $40,000 (a stack of $100 dollar bills 1.6 inches high)  No CEOs but lots of union members
  • 95 yard line $100,000 (a stack 4 inches high)  No CEOs but a few union members, mostly from the skilled trades
  • 99 yard line $300,000 (a stack 12 inches high)  No union members a few CEOs from small corporations  (The top 1% of the population is in that last one yard)
  • 99 & 2/3 yards (a foot from the goal line)  $1,000,000 (a stack 40 inches high)  CEOs welcome
  • At the goal line the pile grows to 30 miles high.

You see why the CEO felt he could take 11 cookies.  It’s his entitlement.

And another way of looking at income distribution in this country:

  • The top 0.01% (one-tenth of one percent) of Americans average $27 million per household in annual income.
  • The top 10% control two-thirds of all of the wealth in this country.  (The top 1% control 35% of all wealth in this country.)
  • That leaves 27% for the bottom 90%.  This is the worst disparity since 1929 and it has grown much more extreme over the past 15 years.  No gain for the worker in the middle and obscene gains for the guys at the top–gals need not apply)

Mother Jones has a series of graphs that say it all.  Go there and take a look.BTW, if you look at the financial statements of the newly elected Tea Party members in Congress, most of them are standing around the 98 yard line.

Makes me proud to be a Socialist and a Swede.

Conservatives are a Selfish and Mean Group

Conservatives are a Selfish and Mean Group

The Old Viking has often contended that when one looks deep into the hearts of a conservative they are basically a selfish, perhaps even a mean, group.  The OV believes that they have shown that they are willing to deny necessary support to 90 needy families in order to insure that ten undeserving families don’t also get unwarranted benefits.

Today’s release of a Gallup Poll finding reinforces that point. Take a look at these numbers

Favor:                                                  Extending tax cuts                 Extending unemployment

Conservative Republicans                                   87%                                          38%

Moderate/Liberal Republicans                             78%                                          62%

Conservative/Moderate Democrats                     64%                                          85%

Liberal Democrats                                               39%                                           89%

Read more at GALLUP.com.

The willingness of the conservative to selfishly add to the national debt for their own financial benefit is, of course, quite predictable.  But to deny benefits to the victims of the financial misdeeds that are a result of the rapacious avarice of the financial barons in this country is unconscionable and goes to the very heart of their meanness.

Sure, they tell you that they contribute to private charities to alleviate some of the distress of those in need but those private charities cherry-pick the individuals or groups that they will help and they will require that recipients adhere to the basic idea that the government is behind all the pain and suffering in this country.  Even their charitable giving is miserly.  The most recent analysis (pre-2007) that I could find showed that, on a percentage of income basis, the poorest among us give the most.  Those with incomes below $20,000 gave 4.6% to charity.  From there it declines to 2.4% from those in the $75,000-$100,000 income range.  It jumps slightly for the over $100,000 income group which gives 3.1%.  It is worth noting that one-third of charitable giving goes to religious organizations.  Source: Portfolio.com.

Not to overanalyze the perception that conservatives are selfish and mean but my guess is that they wonder why everyone can’t be just like them and those who vary from their model citizen—the unemployed and underemployed, the substance abusers, the sexually profligate, etc.—have forfeited their claim to public support.  They even expand that outcast group to the mentally ill and the developmentally challenged when they call for their execution for crimes that were a result of an underlying condition that may not always be manageable.

The Old Viking’s Recipe for Glögg

The Old Viking’s Recipe for Glögg

It’s December and it’s getting cold, so you need a hot, hearty beverage to heat youself up from the inside out.  I think a steaming cup of Glögg will do the trick.

Ingredients:

Burgundy (I use Carl Rossi) 1.5 liters
Ruby Port (not Tawny port) .75 liters
Sugar (adjust to preference) 6 ounces
Raisins 1-2 ounces
Cloves 15
Cardamom seeds (peeled) 24
Almonds (Filberts okay) 24
Fresh ginger 3 pieces 1” x ½”
Cinnamon sticks 6 to 8
Dried Figs (optional, I use them) 4 to 6

.75 liters of akavit

(I make a lot. Adjust accordingly)
Also, use inexpensive wines because the spices change them)

Directions:

Best prepared the day before serving. Heat slowly. I use a crock pot. Take one hour to bring to the simmer. Test every half hour after heating has begun and correct spices and sugar if necessary. ( I never have to change it.)

Strain out all spices and save for another batch (except don’t save raisins.)
When serving reheat slowly. When hot add akavit. You can flame it if you want at that point.

The day before soak some raisins and almonds in akavit. Leave until serving.
To serve: put 6 raisins and almonds in a cup and fill with Glögg. Serve with small spoon to dig out the raisins and almonds.

Obama’s Nobel Speech based on the Writings of Niebuhr

Obama’s Nobel Speech based on the Writings of Niebuhr

The theology that was evident throughtout Obama’s Nobel speech was that of Reinhold Niebuhr.  His book, The Irony of American History (1952) made the case for the just war.  In the ’50s and ’60s I was a reader of Niebuhr when he was noted as a neo-orthodox Christian and I would read him either in the New Republic or Nation magazine.  (Wikipedia has a good bio that doesn’t mention neo-orthodox but certainly describes it.)  The shift that R.N. made during his lifetime as a minister and professor of theology is quite dramatic.  He was the first intellectual religious writer that I encountered.  It is interesting to note that Martin Luther King was also greatly influenced by Niebuhr but his writings moved MLK towards non-violence and pacifism.

This site has a lenghty discussion of the relationship between Niehbur’s writings and Obama’s speech:

That book was written in 1952 at the height of the Cold War, but it is as relevant today as it ever was. Andrew J. Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, and author of “The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism,” has written an introduction to a new edition of Niebuhr’s classic work.  In a Boston Globe essay penned after Obama’s election, Bacevich explained Niebuhr as he explored the new president’s affinity for the theologian:

“At the root of Niebuhr’s thinking lies an appreciation of original sin, which he views as indelible and omnipresent. In a fallen world, power is necessary, otherwise we lie open to the assaults of the predatory. Yet since we too number among the fallen, our own professions of innocence and altruism are necessarily suspect. Power, wrote Niebuhr, ‘cannot be wielded without guilt, since it is never transcendent over interest.’ Therefore, any nation wielding great power but lacking self-awareness — never an American strong suit — poses an imminent risk not only to others but to itself.”


 
Because Niebuhr (1892-1971) was not cited explicitly, those who did not pick up on the Niebuhrian themes (not to mention the speech’s thoroughly religious and moral orientation) understandably seemed flummoxed.  Without the theological framework, Obama’s address read not as irony but as a series of contradictions that collapsed in on themselves — because they were viewing Obama through the “dualing” political categories of liberal-conservative, dove-hawk, president-candidate.  Yet as a theological meditation of the sort favored by Niebuhr (and, yes, MLK and JFK and JPII) Obama’s speech makes perfect sense because it recognizes that we are imperfect creatures in an imperfect world that requires hard thinking and tough moralizing, about oneself and about the world. 
Michael Gerson of the Washington Post, a former speech writer for Bush, had noted Obama’s Niebuhrian affinities a year ago, and he saw them again Thursday in “a Niebuhrian tension between a fallen world that demands force to restrain evil and a realm of ideals that draws us beyond those compromises.  And he embodied this argument in a kind of dialogue with Martin Luther King, Jr., recognizing the power of nonviolence, but pointing out its limits.  It was a bold and powerful historical statement.”

The Old Viking tries to instruct his brother on the US efforts to recreate Iraq

The Old Viking tries to instruct his brother on the US efforts to recreate Iraq

Brother,

The upsurge in violence in Iraq this week has been troubling and sent me back to my notes and a couple of authors that I relied on because of their documentation of data and quotes.  It’s too cumbersome to give you chapter and verse citations; suffice it to say that if your pore over two books–Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism and Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone–you will have all the references that you need and want.

Knowing that you share a curiosity for the workings of foreign societies, for what it is worth, I decided to summarize my notes on the economic issues of Iraq and to share them with you.  (My notes on religious affiliations and political entanglements exist but in a more esoteric and unmanageable form.)

You need to know that as a Keynesian, my perceptions go against privatization for the sake of privatization and that, as a Marxist, I am well convinced that the economic manifestations of a society reflect the central core of belief of that society–not always flattering to us.

While Iraqis were consumed with the daily emergencies in Iraq we sold it off through privatization.  What we called “nation building” was really “nation creating.”  We destroyed everything that was in existence and established Paul Bremer and the CPA as the ruling government with the mission of redoing everything.

(As an aside, one contractor was convicted in the US of fraud and fined $10 million. He appealed on the basis that he gave his [fraudulent] reports to the CPA, which, he contended, was not an official government and he won when the court in Virginia sided with him.)

Bremer fired 500,000 government workers and 400,000 military (who went home with their weapons) and he was left to govern 25 million people with a staff of 1,500. (Halliburton had a staff of 50,000) Iraq had a number of government-owned businesses ranging from the oil industry to cement factories, medical facilities, and food producers.  It also had 67% unemployment.  In the face of that, in the name of privatization, we stopped food handouts and ended subsidized gas prices.  Then we opened the border to unrestricted imports, permitted foreign companies to own 100% of Iraqi firms (which meant that a Kuwaiti business would buy a factory at fire sale prices, lay off most of the workers and bring Kuwaitis in to staff it).  It destroyed the Iraqi businessmen.  Bremer, taking his orders from the Pentagon, privatized the 200 essential government-owned businesses and cut the corporate tax rate from 45% to 15% — but foreign investors could take out all of their profits and pay no tax.  This is The Chicago School of Economics (Milton Freidman) run amok–as they did in Chile and Uruguay.

Bremer, on his own authority, took $80 billion from the Iraqi oil fund for “discretionary spending.”  $8.5 billion is still missing. 

Eight days after declaring “Mission Accomplished,” Bush announced the establishment of a U.S.-Middle East free-trade effort and appointed Dick Cheney’s daughter, Liz, in charge.  This was to give us access to Iraqi oil.  Iraq has one-third of the known oil reserves in the world.  Those who say this fight wasn’t about oil are mistaken.

Although we created a “Marshall Plan for Iraq,” we ran an anti-Marshall Plan.  The original Marshall Plan did not permit foreign ownership of rebuilt factories in Germany and profits and workers stayed in the German economy.  We made no move to rebuild factories in Iraq until 2006, when the blow-back brought us to our senses and the Iraqi government began to exercise more influence in the economy.  (In February 2004, 21% of the Iraqis said that they preferred an Islamic government.  Six months later, 70% had that preference.) 

Our ignorance and incompetence was outstanding but not surprising.  One observer noted, “Conservatives cannot govern well, just as vegetarians cannot make a world-class beef bourguignon:  If you believe that what you are doing is wrong, you are unlikely to do it well.”

Examples,
We gave Creative Associates $100 million to produce new textbooks.  The Iraqis tossed them as not acceptable. 

Research Triangle had a $466 million contract to “bring democracy to Iraq”!  RT is run by Mormons who believed that they could persuade the Moslems that the Book of Mormon was compatible with the teachings of Mohammed.  The point man, Mayfield, was even so audacious as to email that “that the Iraqis will erect a statue of me as their founder of democracy.”

The contractors–Halliburton, Parsons, Bechtel, etc–brought in thousands of foreign workers rather than employ the skilled, out-of-work Iraqis.  In one narrative, a worker tells about a confrontation with the manager of a cement factory that was going under foreign ownership and a huge projected layoff.  He said that before that would happen they would burn the factory down or go inside and blow it up.

Instead of rebuilding cement factories (under Iraqi ownership) the contractors imported cement at 10 times the cost.  When they were brought to their knees in 2006 they got some Iraqi cement factories up and running and expressed surprise that they weren’t is such bad shape and that they had good workers.  The American who put the effort together was called a “Stalinist” by his colleagues because he had abandoned the privatization model.

The American who was put in charge of health care was an opponent of publicly run clinics and tried to even privatize the prescription delivery system to children.  70% of the children’s deaths in Iraq are preventable with proper medication and sanitary conditions.

Often the US contractors would sub-contract with Kuwaiti firms who would sub-contract with Saudi firms who used foreign (often Pakistani) workers.  If they had to use Iraqis, they would go to the Iraqi Kurds.

Parsons was contracted to build 142 clinics.  They built 6 (poorly).

You’ve read recently of several American troops being electrocuted in facilities that are maintained by a Halliburton subsidiary.  The firm said that they had noted the faulty groundings, but “it wasn’t their responsibility to repair them.”

Of 8 water projects that were completed, only one was in operation a year later.

Bremer tried to lock in all of his laws and that was why Bush was so adamant about a new Constitution for Iraq.  The existing Constitution was quite satisfactory–the problem was that Saddam didn’t abide by it.

Much of the chaos that created the blow-back and the civil war could be attributed to Bremer’s (Pentagon-directed) decisions.  The firings removed skilled people from the government and weakened the voice of the secular Iraqis.  It also fueled the resistance with angry people.  And the businessmen who resented the foreign takeovers gave what little money they had to the resisters.

When Bremer left and the Iraqis took over there was poor water quality, no sewage treatment, limited gas supplies, and, at best, two hours of electricity a day.  That’s still true today.

Meanwhile on the home front, as part of the Disaster Capitalism (while the people are still in shock, sock it to them economically) effort, Rumsfeld cut 55,000 jobs from the Department of Defense and the Veterans’ Administration and privatized them.  You wonder how Heath Net had such strong profits and growth–they got the contract to provide medical care for returning, injured military and we know what a lousy job they did to keep the bottom line attractive to shareholders.

In Iraq, Moqtada al-Sadr, Shiite cleric, filled the vacuum by creating his large militia but, more important, created a cadre of workers who went into the community repairing electrical problems, providing food and medical care, etc.

This week the Iraqi Army went after al-Sadr’s militia in Basra.  Friday was the deadline for them to surrender their weapons but Malaki has now extended it by ten days.  I think he sees that he is in a losing cause. 

Brother, we created an economic mess–outside of the invasion–beyond all comprehension and we did it in the name of placing the neoconservative ideal of unrestrained capitalism ahead of the wishes of an informed democracy.  Iraqis are well-educated, secular people but we messed it up and now they, more than us, will be paying a heavy price for years to come.  When emotion trumps reason there is no limit to the extremes to which people will go in desperate times.  Don’t you agree that we should get Nixonian and declare a victory and leave?  Let’s support the IMF and the World Bank in reconstructing the Iraqi economy and stop our partisan meddling.

My guess is that you are as outraged by all this as I am.

The Old Viking (and brother)

God-O-Meter

God-O-Meter

It was in the late 1940s when, as a pre-teen,  I first heard the word “bigotry.”  Washington State had restrictive liquor laws.  No Sunday sales.  You could not carry a drink in a bar.  If you wanted to change tables you had to call for a barmaid (hey, it was 60 years ago) to take your beer to your new location.  Few places had liquor by the drink.  I can remember my folks going to the old Dick Parker’s dance hall in north Seattle where they would set a bottle of liquor under the table, order set-ups from the house and enjoy an evening of dancing to Duke Ellington’s band. 

Well, an initiative was placed on the ballot to liberalize the laws and create a “Class H” license whereby liquor by the drink would be readily available.  Although I was a constant captive to the church’s message that this was the work of Satan I was struck by the theme of the pro-initiative forces who called the church groups bigots, which they defined as “I don’t like it so you can’t have it!”  The initiative passed and some still contend that Satan prevailed.  They have a hard time separating “secular” and “Satan.”

Yesterday we had Huckabee echoing the illustrious Ellen Craswell in his statement to the effect that the Bible trumps the Constitution.  The evangelicals captured the Republican party in Washington a few years back and Craswell was nominated to run against Gary Locke–his good fortune.  She repeatedly proclaimed that she would use the Bible as her guide if there were a conflict with the Constitution.  She was trounced.  Huckabee’s religious belief that the wife should be subservient to the husband should make him a good target down the line. 

One of my favorite defining court rulings was by the California Supreme Court when it ruled that a school board, which had banned a book from its district libraries because “it offended Christian values,” had acted unconstitutionally.  It noted that books could be deemed inappropriate but not on the basis of religious considerations.

All of this is an introduction to the God-O-Meter  Earlier today on MSNBC I viewed an interview about it.  Go to the site and start wondering who the bigots are in this country.

H. L. Mencken noted:  Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority.  The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right  and what is wrong.  All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them.  The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant, in this field as in all others.  His culture is based on “I am not too sure.” 

Rice – I – Rony

Rice – I – Rony

During her Friday visit to Moscow and after meeting with Vladimir Putin, a critical Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated, “In any country, if you don’t have countervailing institutions, the power of any one president is problematic for democratic development.”  Rice went on to criticize Putin for usurping so much power from Russia’s judiciary, legislature and media.

Her concern is well placed but many of us wish that she would shout the same warning in the White House.  Now that our Rasputin has vacated the premises, our president could be instructed on the parallels between his amassed power and the activities of his “soul mate” in Moscow.

Or perhaps she doesn’t recognize the irony of her statement.

Maybe Republicans’ failure to grasp irony goes to that research showing that flexibility is an unknown attribute in the brain of a conservative.  I used to assess early kindergarten admissions by a test of the child’s ability to engage in reciprocal reasoning.  If a boy had a brother, he would be asked, “Does your brother have a brother?”  To the chagrin of many doting parents who knew that they had a genius on their hands, most would say “no.”  Usually the parents would interrupt the child to correct the answer.  Jean Piaget’s research on brain development indicated that this quality of “reciprocity” didn’t develop until about age 6.  Maybe it never develops for some.