Did Capitalism Rescue Chilean Miners…or Trap Them??

One of the basic philosophical differences between the political right and the political left regards the economic system known as capitalism and its impact and implementation upon the common good.

Those on the right tend to believe that capitalism should be left to police itself, and that the economic free market all by itself will keep the national economy healthy and growing, and the middle class happy.  They do not support regulations on business, believing that the only thing that regulation does is stifle business and investment.

Those same folks hold the belief that allowing the rich to get richer benefits the middle class, by generating a top-down flow of wealth known as the “trickle-down” effect.  Furthermore, they point to all of the innovations and inventions that have improved the lives of humanity.  Their claim is that, but for the profit motive of capitalism, these things probably wouldn’t exist today…or ever.

The more extremists on the right claim that liberals want nothing less than government ownership of all businesses in the USA, thus destroying the profit motive and its resultant innovation.

However, despite what the loony-tunes tea-bagging wing-nuts claim, most liberals in the USA actually support the capitalist system, have a stake in it, and want it to succeed.  The main difference from the right wing view is that liberals believe that regulation and oversight are not only necessary, but critical to prevent abuses and threats to the economical well-being of the country, and to protect the middle class.

It is, after all, the middle class that is actually employed by big business;  it’s the middle class that does most of the actual production of wealth for the business owners and stock-holders.

But the political right is undeterred in their offense and opposition to government regulation of the capitalist system.  An article from the Wall Street Journal entitled “Capital Saved The Miners” demonstrates that very view.

The article claims that because of the profit motive, a company in Pennsylvania developed and produced the innovative drill bit that was used to drill through a half-mile of rock.   The drill ultimately reached and made possible the rescue of the 33 trapped Chilean miners.  Those miners had been forced to survive in an underground chamber with no means of escape for over two months.

The article further touts all of the other high-tech equipment and electronics involved in the rescue of the miners, claiming that the capitalism manta of “profit = innovation” saved the miners.

Is the article right?  Did capitalism save the miners?

The short answer is yes.  But there’s more to this story.

To start with, it is an known axiom of economics that profit is a primary motivator for innovation and invention.  No intelligent person can dispute that.  In that sense, capitalist profit motivated the invention and development of the drill bit.  So far so good.

But on the other hand, capitalism is also the cause of  the miners getting trapped in the first place. The company took short cuts, violated existing safety regulations, failed to install an exit shaft before the miners where sent into that area of the mine, and didn’t adequately protect the safety of the miners.  The primary motivation and cause was the same as the cause of the development of the drill bit:  profit.

It’s also a known (and often ignored by the right) axiom of economics, as well as human behavior, that left to their own devices, capitalist companies will cut corners and do whatever they can get away with to minimize their expenses and thus maximize profits.  This includes abuse and neglect of  employees little regard for their health or physical safety.  This near-universal abuse within the capitalist system, particularly during the industrial revolution of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, ultimately gave rise to workplace health & safety regulations, child-labor laws, government workplace rules and unions.

Incredibly, these abuses continue today, often in violation of existing laws and regulations.  The Chilean mine company failed to complete a mandated escape shaft for the area of the mine in which the 33 miners were working.  This recurs everyday in many businesses;  remember the BP oil rig explosion and the worst oil spill in US history?

This article’s claims that “Capitalism save the miners” is typical of the political right espousing unbridled and unregulated capitalism:  it glorifies the plus side of capitalism while ignoring the minus side of capitalism.  Not surprisingly, the article is extremely one-sided, but that’s par for the course for those who deny the existence of global warming, water and air pollution, toxic waste dumping or that cigarette smoking causes cancer.

It’s also typical of the tactics folks on the extreme right use to convince the stupid and the lazy, who don’t want to and/or cannot think for themselves.

Timothy Leary once said, “Think for yourself and question authority.”

Don’t you wish the the stupid and the lazy heed that advice?  After all, they’re gonna vote next Tuesday!

Shouldn’t a US Senate Candidate Know the First Amendment?

With only 13 days left before the mid-term elections, it’s looking more and more like the democrats might well lose control of the US House of Representatives, according to a new Wall Street Journal poll.

Although democrats are favored over republicans for congress among registered voters by 46% to 44%, among likely voters the GOP leads the democrats by 50% to 43%.  Thus, according to the poll, that seems that in the 92 most competitive congressional districts, the GOP is likely to pick up as many as 53 congressional seats.  This would far exceed the 39 seats they need to take from democrats in order to retake control of the House in January 2011 that they lost in 2007.

It’s almost as though Americans have been struck with massive amnesia regarding the causes of the recent financial disaster. They need to remember that the recent deep recession occurred as a result of republican policies when the GOP controlled both houses of congress until the 2006 elections when the GOP lost control of the House of Representatives to the democrats.  They also controlled the presidency, doncha know….remember GW Bush??

Adding to this amnesia is the apparent willingness of many people to believe the dirtiest and most hateful (and dishonest) political campaign ads to ever be aired over the  US mass media.  While both political parties of guilty of this tactic, it is the GOP with massive amounts of money from anonymous billionaires and organizations that has been able to dominate the media with these expensive ads.

Inject into this environment the virtual deification of stupidity and ignorance, and you have a recipe for what may well be a rout of congressional democrats on November 2, 2010.  And there is no shortage of stupidity ignorance right now.

First, Sarah Palin, GOP ex-US vice-presidential candidate, possible candidate for US president in 2012 and self-appointed supreme commander and goddess of the conservative wing of the GOP continues to demonstrate that she and her followers think ignorance and stupidity are things to be proud of, and to distinguish them from the “Ivy League elitists” like President Obama.

Then, Christine O’Donnell, GOP candidate for US senate in Delaware states publicly on the record that she didn’t know that the First Amendment to the US Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion“.  She actually asked the question publicly and on the record, “That’s in the First Amendment…?

It turns out that both she and Sarah, as well as another GOP candidate for US senate from Nevada, Sharron Angle, support the religious doctrine of creationism to be taught in public schools as a “science”.  They seem oblivious to the fact that that this issue has already been litigated in several US courts and the judgment has consistently been that creationism is religious doctrine, not science.

Sometimes you just have to scratch your head at the discouraging realization of how many people still support these extremist folks and their lack-of-knowledge-based weird ideas, and say “WTF!!!!”

However, in the long term it may not be a completely bad thing for the democrats if the GOP takes control of the House of Representatives.  After all, if recent history is any indicator, the GOP will simply continue their obstructionist tactics and nothing will get done in congress.  The more the GOP obstructs, the more the democrats can point the finger at them and identify them as obstructionists.  The GOP tactics would probably anger the US voters even more,  just in time for the democrats to use that as a campaign issue in the 2012 general elections.  Independent voters who helped the GOP get elected may well be the ones to get the most annoyed, and switch back to the democrats.

Furthermore, if the GOP also wins control of the senate, then the only two choices they will have are both bad for them:  either cement their obstructionism even further, or compromise with the Obama administration.  If they choose the former, they lose the independent voters.  If they choose the latter, they will be perceived by some in their own party, such as the wingnut Tea-baggers, as traitors to the conservative cause, and lose them.  Either way, Obama and the democrats may reap a huge political benefit after two years of no progress in congress with the GOP at the congressional helm, just in time for Obama’s re-election bid.

The only piece of the political puzzle that still needs some work is that so many people forget that the GOP that controlled the government and its policies until the 2008 election.  But the picture is a bit more complex.  Without the jobs picture having improved significantly since the democrats took control, many voters who voted for democrats have become disappointed and discouraged, and have decided to sit this election out.  That has energized the political right like sharks smelling blood in the water, which explains the difference in the above Wall Street Journal poll between registered voters and likely voters.

What is absolutely certain is that at some point, the massive infusion of anonymous money pouring in that is funding mostly extremist political ads has got be addressed…not so much because of their extremism, falsehoods and hate-mongering…but because so many stupid, uninformed, and lazy people actually believe them.

Biketoberfest Takes Precedence!!

…and as a result, no blog will be published this week.  But if you have a chance, check out the following link featuring Saturday Night Live’s parody of Christine O’Donnell’s political ad in which she claims to not only be a witch, but more importantly, claims to be you!

Are you her??

Anyway, check it out.  It beats any parody of Sarah Palin that SNL ever did!  And remember, it’s just a parody…or so we’re led to believe…..   😉


Ultra-Extreme-Right: Bullying, Like Global Warming, Is Liberal Myth!

The media has recently stepped up their reporting of a behavior that is probably as old as humanity itself – the bullying of one person, or group of people, by another, or by a group of others.

Most people have either witnessed or experienced bullying, either as an observer, perpetrator, or victim at least once in their lives, quite possibly in school.

A typical act of bullying might involve one student intimidating another student with either implied or explicit threats of physical and/or emotional violence and/or extreme and and continuous ridicule by others.  These “others” can be members of the greater peer group, such as students in the same school.  These “others” refraining from direct involvement in the act of bullying,  but they become accomplices by observing the bullying and the victim’s resultant physical or emotion.  They then laugh at or ridicule the victim, thinking it is “funny” or “amusing” entertainment.

Bullies tend to enjoy genuine pleasure and satisfaction from the pain inflicted on others.  To some extent, at least, their behavior mimics that of sociopaths.  While there might be many causes for this behavior, one possible cause that is coming under increasing scrutiny is the actions and behaviors of the bullies’ parents.  If the parents are expressing hatred and desire to do violence to others, their children are most probably adopting that view as well.

The victims, on the other hand, are often different from the mainstream in some fashion, whether physically, socially, or culturally distinct from the rest of the group.  They tend to have a fear of fighting back, believing that they should avoid physical violence at all costs.  Unfortunately, the result of that avoidance is often massive emotional violence, but the bully capitalizes upon the victim’s reluctance to fight back.  The victim feels helpless, defenseless and alone, and is thus forced to endure the torment and terrorism, often in complete silence because of the fear and shame experienced.

As with bullies, the victims’ parents may be demonstrating behaviors that teach children to appease rather than to stand up and confront the bullies.  In other words, their children are not prepared to deal with potential conflict effectively, because their parents were not prepared by their parents, culture, and/or social environments.  Simply put, teaching a child human empathy while also teaching that standing up to bullies often the most effective way to stop them is not what these parents know how to do.

In light of the increasing bullying in America’s schools, it is both amazing and horrifying  to note that some ultra-religious-right fundamentalist groups are attempting to politicize the issue of “bullying” as a liberal attempt to push homosexuality into the mainstream of schools. These groups,  such as Focus on the Family and American Family Association (AFA), both of which claim to represent the highest values of Christianity, promote hate and fear against gays, among others.

These two organizations have lobbied heavily against both federal and state legislation targeting bullying, with some success.  They make the claim that these statutes are just “a Trojan Horse to sneak [homosexual activists’] special rights agenda into law” and to “legitimize homosexual behavior” which is “a practice scientifically proven to result in a dramatically higher incidence of domestic violence, mental illness, illegal drug use, promiscuity, life-threatening disease, and premature death.”, as stated by the Michigan chapter of the AFA.

Focus on the Family claims that the anti-bullying legislation presently before Congress “cater[s] to a narrow political agenda” that “becomes a gateway for homosexuality promotion in school.” These and other extremist fundamentalist groups are the same folks believe that global warming is a liberal myth invented to give the government more control over everyones’ lives.  And they advocate that parents, not the government, are whom should be taking care of the bullying issue, if one even exists!

But what if it’s the parents themselves who are the origin of the bullying problem?  What if these self-same parents are projecting hate, fear and ridicule of homosexuals as acceptable behavior to their small children?  What if a child who is being victimized by a bully is too afraid to tell his or her parents?  What accountability exists which insures that victims can come forward and find effective relief from the torment they are enduring in private?  What accountability exists regarding the children whom, experiencing complete and total hopelessness, take the only escape left to them…suicide?

Well…maybe ultra-extreme-right fundamentalist groups think that suicide is an effective tool in their war against gays…and anyone else they abhor…like non-Christian-White-Anglo-Saxon Americans, non-abstaining single heterosexual women, and all homosexuals…or the worst group of all to these self-appointed, self-righteous keepers of the fundamentalist faith…