Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Is This Treason?

Benedict Arnold’s Procession Wagon

Living my entire 52 years in New Jersey I am constantly reminded of our beloved state’s revolutionary heritage. Commemorative plaques and historical road markers are everywhere. New Jersey played a critical role in the American Revolution and almost every house that was around at the time has a plaque to attest that George Washington slept there. Old George slept around a lot in New Jersey. He couldn’t afford to linger long in anyone spot because the damn Redcoats were always close on his heels chasing him across the state. But it is heartening to know that so many of the long passed Jersey citizens supported the cause by giving the Continental Army’s General a bed for the night. Yes I am proud of my states contribution our country’s revolutionary cause. This pride continues to fuel my detest of the name and memory of Benedict Arnold. He was the guy who betrayed the confidence of General Washington by conspiring to deliver West Point into the hands of the British. For this dastardly deed Benedict Arnold’s name will forever more be synonymous with treason and traitor.

Treason is a pretty strong word. It conjures up depraved villains engaged in subterranean subterfuges employing Machiavellian machinations in unholy alliances with foreign subversives intent on bringing our great country to its knees. Lately the word traitor has been liberally bandied about by the likes of Ann Coulter and Michael Savage to describe anyone who’s vapid nationalism falls short of their fanatical obsessions. This summer Michele Bachmann the congresswomen from Minnesota gained some notoriety for stating that she believes that an anti American cabal exists in the legislative branch of our government. According to them treason is rampant and traitors in the guise of democrats, progressives and liberals are everywhere.

The word treason has now curiously surfaced again to describe the Republican Senators who are opposing government financial assistance to save US auto manufacturers. The Big Three auto makers, Chrysler, GM and Ford; desperately need a capital infusion to remain solvent. Southern states are home to foreign automakers. They located down south because these states offered generous tax incentives and the availability of cheap non-union labor. These Southern Senators have vigorously opposed the aid package insisting that the Big Three need more fiscal discipline. They point to the generous wage scales and benefit programs the UAW workers at the Big Three receive. To some observers it appears that these Senators are more intent on protecting the foreign auto companies located within their states. They seem willing to sacrifice millions of jobs and the manufacturing infrastructure of the United States. The southern based foreign owned manufacturers are a more important constituency for these Senators then their Big Three competitors. This is a striking example of the economic and political contradictions that globalization creates for nation states.

In and of itself I don’t believe that the southern Senators political position is evidence of treason. The accusation of treason is pretty serious stuff. I am disposed to accept the southern Senators protestations that their opposition to the Big Three aid package is based on firm ideological commitment to letting the free markets do its work. If a capitalist enterprise cannot sustain itself it deserves to fail. After all, they claim that fiscal responsibility is a true Republican virtue even if the evidence of record budget deficits during the past 8 years of the Bush administration belies that claim. But the surfacing of the Action Alert Memo circulated to Senate Republican’s prior to the vote of the rescue package in congress raises some serious doubt about their true motives in opposing aid to the Big Three.

If it is authentic, the memo advises Republicans to block the Big Three aid package as a weapon to bust the UAW to weaken their Democratic Party rivals. Gone are their concerns for free market capitalism. In its place is the attack politics that the Republican Party have perfected to cram their conservative agenda down America’s throat. We witnessed the hollow pronouncements of The Country Firsters during this years presidential election. Their patriotic posturing and love of country claims offered the country no vision or alternatives to the existing Bush agenda of tax cuts for the wealthy, continuation of aggressive foreign policy, pro business anti-labor industrial policy, social welfare cuts and an expansion of the culture war on all fronts. The Republican privatization practices of using tax receipts to enrich parasitic private sector profiteering was a center piece to their program. The Republican legislative agenda funded the creation of the private mercenary army Blackwater and a myriad collection of other service providers to address elections, education, prisons and homeland security.

Is it treason to create and fund corporate entities to serve and administer government functions that are corrupt, wasteful, ineffective and whose primary allegiance is to shareholders? Probably not, but using taxpayer money to finance a mercenary army whose primary allegiance is to its shareholders probably comes pretty close.

Since the Reagan Administration this conservative agenda has resulted in the dismantling of our manufacturing base and a corresponding erosion of union jobs. In 1980 20% of the workforce was engaged in manufacturing. Today the number of manufacturing jobs is less the 10%. Our free marketeers engaged in a concerted program to outsource our industries to lower cost ares of the globe to improve returns on capital allocations to the private benefit of shareholders. Billionaire Micheal Milken plundered the “rust belt” states by closing down outdated factories in need of retooling and moved them overseas. By doing so he enriched the shareholders of the companies, his investors and the national economy of the country where the factory relocated. Unfortunately the economy of the town and state where the factory moved from didn’t fare to well. Workers saw their quality of life deteriorate due to lower wages and the social and cultural decay that accompany a deteriorating economy. State and local governments also took hits in tax revenue and had to pony up extra dough to pay for unemployment benefits and expanded social services that economically depressed areas require.

When you do this to enough towns and states, pretty soon it has a negative effect on the nation. Is that treason? Probably not, but a concerted policy to enrich yourself by helping a foreign country benefit at the expense of yours gets pretty close to the definition of treason.

To fill the economic vacuum caused by the closure of our factories we built a service economy based on the unbridled expansion of our banking industry and the availability of cheap credit. This lead to speculative bubbles in the equity, real estate market and credit markets. These bubbles spawned a perverse credit culture that mortgaged our future and transferred enormous wealth to well heeled investors and speculators. Much of the wealth has been transferred to the sovereign wealth funds of foreign nation states. They now hold the mortgage on our country’s future. Benedict Arnold sold the plans to invade West Point for a Generals Commission in the British Army and the sum of 10,000 Pound Sterling. Vulture capitalists aided and abetted by an accommodating conservative political agenda and willing politicians plundered and exported Americas prized assets in allegiance only to their own self interest and economic benefit.

Is this treason?

You Tube Video: My Country Tis of Thee

Risk: labor unions, industrial policy, recession, privatization

December 12, 2008 Posted by | business, economics, politics, unions | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

City of Broad Shoulders

“Boyish Man”

The cosmic scales are correcting Chicago’s over abundance of positive karma. A rebalancing was clearly overdue. The Windy City’s favorite son, Barack Obama was beaming constellations of light and hope like an exploding quasar showering positive electrons onto a depressive American culture in a recessive state of mind. We needed the positivism. We needed a reason to believe that we can uncouple ourselves from the fear and loathing of a broken political system, bankrupt bankers, the drudgery of war, the gloom of recession and a nation tearing itself into a thousand pieces along the million fault lines of our fractured cultural divide. President Elect Obama convinced us that it didn’t have to be. We could arrest our slide into the slow boil of constant simmering conflict within our boarders and in the far reaches of the globe where America is intent on projecting its dissipating power. The man from Chicago said it didn’t have to be. The man from Chicago said he had a better way. The people from American agreed with the man from Chicago and said, “Yes We Can.”


But fate, destiny and determinism has a curious way of bringing us back to earth. After we have looked over the highest peaks of our expectations to glimpse the possibility of our ideals we get smacked in the face by greed, corruption and the callous disregard for others that human beings use much to frequently as the common currency to guide our interactions and relations with one another.


First there is the greed exemplified by Sam Zell. That crusty Chicago street guy who is as tough as he is smart. He parlayed his gifts and built a multi billion dollar real estate empire in Chicago and eventually sold his company at the height of the market. He pocketed a cool $6 bn in that transaction and used a tiny fraction of the proceeds from that deal to buy the Chicago Tribune newspaper chain; owner of the LA Times and the Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field as part of the package. Mr. Zell financed the large portion of this transaction with equity participation and debt assumption collateralized by the assets in the Tribune Company pension funds. As the fundamentals of the newspaper industry deteriorated the Tribune deal quickly went south prompting Mr. Zell to initiate his exit strategy while the company filed for bankruptcy. Zell’s trying to cash out of the deal recouping his small initial investment. Workers at The Tribune Company feel Mr. Zell did irreparable damage to workers retirement funds and degraded the company brands by placing the company in a most precarious financial position to extract a maximum return on Zell’s small initial investment.


Next there’s the story of the month, the arrest and indictment of Illinois Governor Milorad “Rod” R. Blagojevich. Mr. Blagojevich is accused of seeking compensation or favors in anointing the successor to sit in Mr. Obama’s vacated US Senate seat. Apparently this is a trend with Illinois Governorships. Once they leave the governor mansion the career path leads to a cell in a federal penitentiary. Three of the last four sitting Governors made the move and one is still serving time. The culture of corruption among our country’s political and business elites seems to know no bounds and its symptomatic of Americas deep crisis in leadership and citizens deepening cynicism and distrust of institutional leadership. This distrust was a major reason why the American electorate overwhelmingly turned to Mr. Obama. His message of change resonated with our deep revulsion of executive fiat placing their personal interests first last and always in any decision or program.


This scandal has legs. It has the potential to walk down Wacker Drive taking with it important allies and supporters of our President Elect Obama. Already Senate Candidate #5, Jessie Jackson Jr. name has surfaced in this scandal. Republicans can make this a major political trauma for the incoming administration. Good grist for partisan politics is bad medicine for the United States as it desperately needs strong and focused leadership from our executive branch of government to get us through our current multidimensional crisis.


Lastly we have an industrial action at Republic Windows and Doors. The management of the company shut down the business stiffing the 300 plant workers of their separation pay and benefits rightfully due them under federal labor laws. In response, the workers have taken over the factory and refuse to leave until they are paid the separation compensation due them. This is the callous part of our initial equation of greed, corruption and disregard for those who are vulnerable. We salute the courage of the Republic workers actions. The Republic workers have turned their vulnerability into a strength that inspires all Americans and hopefully will open the hearts of Republic management to settle accounts with their former employees.


Yes the cosmic scales over Chicago are correcting. They are tilting back in an infinite flux of balancing the attainment of our desires and needs with the prohibitive reality of restraint borne from the power elites inability to cede anything. A return to normalcy as its business as usual in sweet home Chicago.


CHICAGO

HOG Butcher for the World,

Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,

Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;

Stormy, husky, brawling,

City of the Big Shoulders

Carl Sandburg



You Tube Video: Muddy Waters, Mannish Boy


You Tube Music Video: Buddy Guy, Sweet Home Chicago


Risk: political, ethical, moral,

December 12, 2008 Posted by | corruption, Obama, poetry, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment