Saturday, March 14, 2009


Dear Mr. President and Congress... It's Time To Legalize Marijuana

Can Marijuana Help Rescue California's Economy?
A state police officer stands amid marijuana plants found in a greenhouse at a AP – A state police officer stands amid marijuana plants found in a greenhouse at a ranch in Tecate, Mexico, …

Could marijuana be the answer to the economic misery facing California? Democratic state assemblyman Tom Ammiano thinks so. Ammiano introduced legislation last month that would legalize pot and allow the state to regulate and tax its sale - a move that could mean billions of dollars for the cash-strapped state. Pot is, after all, California's biggest cash crop, responsible for $14 billion a year in sales, dwarfing the state's second largest agricultural commodity - milk and cream - which brings in $7.3 billion a year, according to the most recent USDA statistics. The state's tax collectors estimate the bill would bring in about $1.3 billion a year in much needed revenue, offsetting some of the billions of dollars in service cuts and spending reductions outlined in the recently approved state budget.

"The state of California is in a very, very precipitous economic plight. It's in the toilet," says Ammiano. "It looks very, very bleak, with layoffs and foreclosures, and schools closing or trying to operate four days a week. We have one of the highest rates of unemployment we've ever had. With any revenue ideas, people say you have to think outside the box, you have to be creative, and I feel that the issue of the decriminalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana fits that bill. It's not new, the idea has been around, and the political will may in fact be there to make something happen." (See pictures of stoner cinema.)

Ammiano may be right. A few days after he introduced the bill, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that states should be able to make their own rules for medical marijuana and that federal raids on pot dispensaries in California would cease. The move signaled a softening of the hard-line approach to medicinal pot use previous Administrations have taken. The nomination of Gil Kerlikowske as the head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy may also signal a softer federal line on marijuana. If he is confirmed as the so-called drug czar, Kerlikowske will take with him experience as police chief of Seattle, where he made it clear that going after people for possessing marijuana was not a priority for his force. (See a story about the grass-roots marijuana war in California.)

In 1996 California became one of the first states in the nation to legalize medical marijuana. Currently, $200 million in medical-marijuana sales are subject to sales tax. If passed, the Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act (AB 390) would give California control of pot in a manner similar to that of alcohol while prohibiting its purchase by citizens under age 21. (The bill has been referred to the California state assembly's public-safety and health committees; Ammiano says it could take up to a year before it comes to a vote for passage.) State revenues would be derived from a $50-per-oz. levy on retail sales of marijuana and sales taxes. By adopting the law, California could become a model for other states. As Ammiano put it, "How California goes, the country goes."

Despite the need for the projected revenue, opponents say legalizing pot would only add to social woes. "The last thing we need is yet another mind-altering substance to be legalized," says John Lovell, lobbyist for the California Peace Officers' Association. "We have enough problems with alcohol and abuse of pharmaceutical products. Do we really need to add yet another mind-altering substance to the array?" Lovell says the easy availability of the drug would lead to a surge in its use, much as happened when alcohol was allowed to be sold in venues other than liquor stores in some states. (Read why Dr. Sanjay Gupta is against decriminalizing pot.)

Joel W. Hay, professor of pharmaceutical economics at USC, also foresees harm if the bill passes. "Marijuana is a drug that clouds people's judgment. It affects their ability to concentrate and react, and it certainly has impacts on third parties," says Hay, who has written on the societal costs of drug abuse. "It's one more drug that will add to the toll on society. All we have to do is look at the two legalized drugs, tobacco and alcohol, and look at the carnage that they've caused. [Marijuana] is a dangerous drug, and it causes bad outcomes for both the people who use it and for the people who are in their way at work or other activities." He adds, "There are probably some responsible people who can handle marijuana, but there are lots of people who can't, and it has an enormous negative impact on them, their family and loved ones." (See pictures of Mexico's drug wars.)

In response, retired Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray, a longtime proponent of legalization, estimates that legalizing pot and thus ceasing to arrest, prosecute and imprison nonviolent offenders could save the state $1 billion a year. "We couldn't make this drug any more available if we tried," he says. "Not only do we have those problems, along with glamorizing it by making it illegal, but we also have the crime and corruption that go along with it." He adds, "Unfortunately, every society in the history of mankind has had some form of mind-altering, sometimes addictive substances to use, to misuse, abuse or get addicted to. Get used to it. They're here to stay. So let's try to reduce those harms, and right now we couldn't do it worse if we tried."

Read "An American Pastime: Smoking Pot."

Friday, March 13, 2009


John Stewart and the Daily Show... doing the Best Investigative Journalism in America.


10 Conservative Blacks Who Have Done the Most to Hurt Blacks: Can You Say Yes Sir Boss!!!

10. Ken Hamblin.
9. Larry Elder
8. Armstrong Williams
7. Alan Keyes
6. Niger Innis & Roy Innis
5. J.C. Watts
4. Clarence "Uncle Tom" Thomas
3. Michael Steele
2. Ken Blackwell
1. Ward Connerly

While they all sat around listening to Chip Saltsman's rendition of "Barack the Magic Negro," these Negroes of opportunity take advantage of Mr. Charlie's generosity of offering them token positions in their establishment. The testament to that is how Party Boss Rush Limbaugh went after Michael Steele for speaking the truth about conservatives on D.L. Hughley's talkshow on CNN. Too bad these men wake up on the morning and look in the mirror and deny who they are and the white supremacy that oozes from the pustules of their party. We should all thank all of them for taking us back to the days of Dred Scott.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Ari Fleischer Goes On Hardball To Once Again Claim That Saddam Hussein Attacked Us On 9/11. Jesus, how dumb does he think we are?

"After September 11th having been hit once how could we take a chance that Saddam might strike again? And that's the threat that has been removed and I think we are all safer with that threat removed." - Ari Fleischer former Bush Press Secretary on Hardball Wednesday March 12, 2009.

For the Record "We have no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in the September 11th Attacks." - George W. Bush September 18, 2003.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Right Wingers Continue To Turn To Ayn Rand. Even Though It Was Greed and Selfishness That Got Us Into This Mess.

Culture of corruption: the legacy of Ayn Rand
By Julian Edney
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jan 24, 2006, 22:16

Email this article
Printer friendly page

A Zogby poll conducted when Bush was re-elected showed American voters actually more worried about economic justice than abortion. Specifically, when asked to choose the most urgent moral crisis, 33 percent of voters chose ‘greed and materialism’ and 31 percent ‘poverty and economic justice.’ Twenty percent named abortion [1].

We’ve had no moral relief in the intervening year. More high profile businessmen have appeared in court after looting their clients; the Senate majority leader booked on money laundering charges; Martha Stewart, style-setter -- in and out of jail and grinning for the cameras. Those petro giants’ profits while some poor could not afford to buy gas; other people lined up in droves to file bankruptcies.

A recent poll shows 49 percent thinks Congress is corrupt [2]. The official line is that the place to find evil is in the Middle East.

Whichever way you connect this year’s dots, there is a shadow on the land.

My point: we haven’t been ambushed. We’re not entitled to surprise. This corruption is a slowly rising tide and plenty of time to notice, but once more, the public just doesn’t know what to do. Largely, we just stare. So typically, when New Orleans filled with water and FEMA did nothing, we stared, and we watched an old pattern unfold: where there are a lot of people in crisis, somebody will make formidable money.

We should have known it was coming.

If FEMA’s response had been swift and effective it would have looked heroic, for both the common person and for the common good. FEMA’s inaction was not a botch. There are deep corridors behind this.

It was close to what Ayn Rand’s disciples have in mind, and I believe there are plenty of Rand’s disciples in places of high influence.

Ayn Rand’s ideology, powerful since the 1940s, denies the common good. It actually prescribes not helping. In particular, selfishness and greed are virtues, altruism is a vice.

You laugh: that’s a stretch, nobody reads Rand anymore. Actually Rand’s ideology, an elaboration of the Nietzschean superman ethic which was carried in two novels, The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and two books of essays [3] is still selling very well; one biographer estimates that after 50 years, Ayn Rand’s books and those of her followers are still printed worldwide at 400,000 copies a year [4] -- and I am guessing there are dog-eared copies on many American baby-boomer’s bookshelves.

While she was alive and touring, Rand’s oratory was persistently confrontational. She was restlessly negative and she did everything she could to hoist herself up to position of philosopher and authority, to establish her dogma. In practice she was a humorless bully, and she browbeat her students. Philosophers largely rejected her published harangues, but she did attain status as an ideologue of the era.

Rand’s toxic ideas of the good life, and how businesses should be conducted, are more than popular: they saturate upper business echelons. Alan Greenspan was a personal student of Rand’s; he contributed three of the essays to her Capitalism [5]. The Reagan administration was largely Randian [6]. And her values, expanded in derivatives such as Ringer’s popular Looking Out For Number One and Winning Through Intimidation were catalysts for the ‘me’ generation of the 1970s and 80s. They continue to spread.

The trademark arrogance in her ideas (and personally Rand always insisted on everything) also animates her novels’ protagonists. They were heroes who were no-holds-barred productive, and who were arrogance incarnate. Rand rewrote Nietzsche’s point that very successful people, the very strong, are categorically different from the rest of us. They are above public morality. Rand also insisted on no compromises, because compromise betrays weakness [7]. She argued for a return to the 1890s Golden Age style of business, monopolies run on personal will power, in which great fortunes were made, partly through inhumane exploitation of immigrants and the poor.

The dark side of business is nothing new, but in Rand’s utopia there was nothing wrong with letting the laggards perish. Rand was also a Social Darwinist. Social Darwinism was a robber baron-era philosophy which held that evolutionary pressures -- natural selection -- apply to humans. It held that you actually help the nation along by permitting the weak to fall by the wayside: thus welfare is a mistake because it interferes with nature’s way of weeding out the unfit. Absolute laissez-faire was Rand’s ideal -- no government constraint on business and no assistance to the poor, only glorious liberty to be as selfish as you want. This, she said, is also rational.

One of her novel’s heroes stated that a nation’s morality is its money. That was a silly thing to say; but modern Libertarians embrace these points, and many young readers still find her message uplifting.

My second point: if you tried to overlay the administration’s post-Katrina actions on Ayn Rand’s dogma, the fit would be snug.

In the days after hurricane Katrina folded death and despair into the doorways of New Orleans, the Wall Street Journal blithely ran a front page interview with a member of the city’s moneyed elite, whose house was largely spared, being on higher ground. Sipping a highball he told the reporter that after the worst was over he and his neighbors had plans for New Orleans to be rebuilt differently. New Orleans had a teeming underclass; and this Great Gatsby character was going to change all that. What local African American leaders fear now is that the moneyed elite plan a rebuilding which shifts the political base by largely excluding the poor and blacks [8].

We all read the news. The tectonic divide between American rich and poor grows. American poverty is up [9], American hunger is up [10], more and more ordinary people are deeply in debt; and the nation itself is deeper than ever in deficit.

Trust is fading year by year [11]. Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is required reading in many corporate boardrooms. Citizens everywhere continue to buy guns.

In many quarters it appears the rich are disinterested in any but the rich. Whatever happened to the concept of the common good?

This is the threat: Without a focus on people helping one another, for the common good, it may be difficult to prevent a gradual decay into a war of all against all. But Ayn Rand’s propaganda -- and she insisted her ideology was propaganda [12] -- dismantles the common good. In Rand’s utopia, the good people are brass-knuckled individualists who are never interested in anything average; they despised the weak. The powerful are in splendid position to loot lesser people, and this never offended Social Darwinism.

So we read the news, and wonder: is the official policy in New Orleans a war on the poor?

I am saying there is nothing here that could not be predicted. This past year’s events in New Orleans are a legacy of sorts. We are where Rand in the 1960s wanted us to go. The concept of the common good has all but disappeared. This, I believe, goes hand in hand with the nation’s ebbing morality -- the common factor is a decline in altruism, which Rand actually insisted was incompatible with freedom [13] and destructive to civilization.

Pick that copy of Rand’s The Virtue of Selfishness off your bookshelf and glance through it:

“It is only on the basis of selfishness . . . that men can live together in. . . . society.” [p. 32]

Something out of a bad dream.

Ayn Rand is not with us any more, but the ideological boulders she pushed down from her heights are still falling; in fact they are gathering. Public corruption is getting worse.

After decades of “looking out for number one,” it is not surprising the left wing has been brought to a collapsing halt. It stands ideologically naked. Now in policy making, and now in business, Liberty exalts; Equality hides her face.

Social Darwinism is rising again. It is poisonously inegalitarian; it is a frontal threat to democracy. But we have heard so much, and with such insistence, that we have become cowed. We have become like dogs that bite the stones thrown at us, not the thrower.

In conversations with right-wing business people, I hear the same timbre: this insistence. Liberals, unfortunately, sound different. From them I hear a kind of thin and sophisticated despair, a hope that somehow this will all be humanized. But that is not enough to halt corruption.

There was no Ayn Rand of the left. So what are we supposed to be doing, and which direction to start?

As grim as Rand’s rants were, she reminded us ideas are everything.

The first order is awakening, a raising of consciousness and a reclaiming of our positions. Policy makers will hear us if we also start insisting.

Our values are not abandoned. Nor is reason. We can still watch for justice, pick up our concerns over greed and materialism which were dropped after the ‘60s. We should reclaim these basics: What is isn't the same as what is right. Might still does not make right. Selfishness is still a vice. Corruption is still wrong. Democracy is still precious. The common good exists.

Stand up. Bring it up.

Explain: We want our morality back.


1. “American voters say urgent moral issues are peace, poverty and greed,” The National Catholic Peace Movement -- Zogby International, 11/12/2004.

2. “Poll: -- Half believe Congress is 1/3/2006.

3. Rand, A. Capitalism: the unknown ideal. New York: Signet Books, 1946 and The

virtue of selfishness. New York: Signet Books, 1961.

4. Walker, J. The Ayn Rand cult. Chicago, Ill. Open Court. 1999.

5. Rand, A. Capitalism: the unknown ideal. New York, Signet Books, 1946.

6. Walker, The Ayn Rand cult.

7. Rand, The virtue of selfishness, p. 68.

8. Cooper, C. “Old-line families escape worst of flood and plot the future.” Wall Street Journal. A1. 9/8/05.

9. Havemann, J., and Alonso-Valdevar, R. “US poverty rate rises again in 2004.” Los Angeles Times 31 August 2005 p. A 13. This article reports some recent US Census Bureau statistics, and other sources.

10. Nord, M., Andrtews, M., Carlson, S. Household Food Security in the United States, 2004. United States Department of Agriculture report ERS-ERR-11, October 2005.

11. Lane, R.E. The loss of happiness in market democracies. 2000. New Haven: Yale University Press.

12. Walker, The Ayn Rand cult. p. 288.

13. Rand, The virtue of selfishness. p. 94.

Julian Edney teaches college in Los Angeles. He can be contacted through his website.


The Failure of Ayn Rand: George W. Bush's America

The Last Person On Earth To Turn To Now Is Ayn Rand
by Johann Hari

In a depression triggered by raw greed and unhinged deregulation, who should you turn to for advice? I would say the last person - the very last on earth - would be Ayn Rand, the Philosopher-Queen of America's billionaire CEOs, a woman who wrote a book called 'the Virtue of Selfishness' and meant every word. Yet she is one of the strange beneficiaries of this crash.

Her philosophy was summarised perfectly on 30th December 2004, when it was becoming clear that the Boxing Day tsunami had washed away whole generations in South East Asia. The Ayn Rand Institute sent out a stark press release. It was headed: "US Should Not Help Tsunami Victims." Do not give cash. Do not send help. Leave them.

This was not a random piece of spite. It expressed - with admirable clarity - a philosophy that has influenced some of the most powerful people in the world. Ayn Rand is the only novelist whose work has been read by every single US Congressman. Nor is her appeal confined to an elite: when the Library of Congress recently conducted a massive poll to find the most influential book in the US, her 1070-page parable of market fundamentalism, Atlas Shrugged, came second. The only author to beat her was God. Rand's centenary was greeted with a slew of official celebrations, including a US postage stamp bearing her fierce smile.

The story of Ayn Rand is strangely revealing about the world - and the America that is slipping away. She was born into a family of wealthy Russian merchants during the moody dawn of the twentieth century, and she spent her teenage years watching their riches and their dignity being stripped away by the Bolshevik Revolution and the psychopathic police state it created. She escaped as a young woman to America, and began to outline a philosophy called 'Objectivism' that was the exact opposite of everything she had fled. Where the Bolsheviks collectivised everything and left the individual with nothing, Ayn demanded a mirror-image world where everything was privatised and nothing - no scrap of humanity - was left for the public sphere. The pure, unfettered individual was all. There should be "no other nexus between man and man than naked self-interest" - so taxation should be abolished, and all human worth should be measured by "exchange value". Altruism - like giving to an orphaned tsunami victim - is an "evil" betrayal of your own ego, an unforgivable act of pity. The only beneficiary of you actions should be you.

She explained her philosophy at first through pot-boilers like The Fountainhead. One of her heroes boasts that he is the polar opposite of Robin Hood: "He was the man who robbed the rich and gave to the poor. I'm the man who robs the poor and gives to the rich, or to be more exact, the man who robs the thieving poor and gives back to the productive rich." If you want a sign of Rand's quiet victory, close your eyes and realise this could be Dick Cheney in one of his more candid moments, explaining the logic behind his massive tax cuts for the wealthy.

Rand's morality was a perfect fit for the age of the celebrity billionaire. She conjures a world where the CEO is Messiah, where the sign of the Cross is replaced with the sign of the dollar, and where hideous penis-proxies like Trump Towers are the pinnacle of human achievement. In her novel Atlas Shrugged, the world's billionaires - the Ted Turners and Donald Trumps - go on strike in protest against the "insane regulations" and "exorbitant tax" handed down from Washington D.C. The country quickly regresses into anarchy, with businesses collapsing, food distribution networks falling apart, and America becoming a wasteland - until finally the grateful populace welcomes back their economic Overlords and promises to never again pester them with wild notions like taxation or regulation.

Rand's extremism is often indistinguishable from parody. In an episode of The Simpsons, baby Maggie is despatched to the Ayn Rand School For Tots, motto: Crying is Futile. The headmistress explains that babies are not allowed bottles because "When a baby reaches for a bottle, she is saying 'I am a leech!' Our aim here is to develop the bottle within." But is this more comic than the actual decision of the Ayn Rand Institute to picket Bill Clinton's summit discussing how to increase volunteerism in the United States, on the grounds that unpaid voluntary work is an "unforgivable act of altruism"? Is it more ludicrous than that fact that when Rand died in 1982, her body was laid out beside a six-foot tall floral arrangement in the shape of a dollar sign?

It is just about possible to understand how Rand herself could have formulated this preposterous vision as a kind of political post-traumatic stress disorder after the nightmare of Leninism. But how can we explain her extraordinary popularity in the United States among people who have never experienced communism? Many of Rand's personal disciples now fill the most powerful slots in US public life, from the benches of the Supreme Court to (until this year) the head of the Federal Reserve. For example, Alan Greenspan - who was considered by many people to be the most powerful man in America for the decade he headed the US central bank - was a fervent Randroid. He wrote that Atlas Shrugged is a great novel because it shows how "parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish, as they should." Her appeal spread higher still: Ronald Reagan loved her novels, and if George Bush could read, he would too. Nor is her appeal narrow: her books still sell half a million copies a year, and even the freshmen class of the putatively liberal Berkeley campus recently voted her the author who had most influenced them.

Of course, her practical influence should not be exaggerated. Even most right-wing Americans consider the specifics of Rand's philosophy to be loopy. Many prominent conservatives loathe her strident atheism (one of her few appealing characteristics), and some even see fascism in her tracts. Whittaker Chambers famously wrote in the National Review, "Just as her operatic businessmen are, in fact, Nietzschean supermen, so her ulcerous leftists are Nietzsche's 'last men', both deformed in a way to sicken the fastidious recluse of Sils Marnia... [In her vision] resistance to the Message cannot be tolerated because disagreement can never be merely honest, prudent, or just humanly fallible. Dissent from revelation so final can only be wilfully wicked. There are ways of dealing with such wickedness, and , in fact, reason itself enjoins them. From almost every page of Atlas Shrugged, a voice can be heard, from painful necessity, commanding, "To a gas chamber - go!""

But Rand's rabid anarcho-capitalism has clearly tapped into something primal in American conservatism: it is revealing that she is almost invariably described as an "idealist", rather than a maniac. She appeals to the ugliest side of Americanism (contrasting with its many, many strengths): a fear and hatred of the state, even in its most democratic form, and of wider collective action. Rand has only one conception of liberty -freedom from government. As one of her heroes, Howard Roark, says, "The only good which men can do to one another and the only statement of their proper relationship is - hands off!" Like most of the American right, she has no conception of positive liberty. When asked how free a man in Harlem with no healthcare insurance and a kid with cancer is, she has no answer. She cannot see when hands have been kept too far off.

And - again like the rest of the American right - she finds it impossible to imagine a clash between the interests of the super-rich and the rest of society. While Rand is (rightly) appalled when the state kills people, she considers businessmen taking risks with the lives of ordinary people or government bureaucrats to be actually heroic. In Atlas Shrugged, the heroic Nat Taggart "murdered a state legislator who attempted to revoke a charter granted to him" and (ho, ho) "he had no trouble with legislators from then on." And that's not all: "He threw down three flights of stairs a distinguished gentleman who offered him a loan from the government." Anybody who tries to impose regulations to protect ordinary workers is "a louse." This is partly because she really does seem to see the rich as more deserving of life than the poor. She refers to the rich as "really alive," while ordinary people are described variously as "savages," "refuse," "inanimate objects," "imitations of living beings." Who cares if the Ubermenschen take risks with these creatures? Who needs regulation?

Indeed, her contempt for ordinary people extends so far that when a railway worker in 'Atlas Shrugged' decides to punish the wicked socialist government by making a train crash happen, Rand implies the passengers had it coming. She runs through the politics of the train crash victims, implying they were accessories to the socialist government that is being justly punished: "The man in Bedroom A, Car No One, was a professor of sociology who taught that individual ability is of no consequence, that everything is achieved collectively, that it's the masses that count, not men... The woman in Roomette 10, Car No 3, was an elderly school teacher who who spent her life turning class after class of helpless schoolchildren into miserable cowards, by teaching them that the will of the majority is the only standard of good and evil, that they must not assert their personalities, but do as others were doing." And so endlessly on, through over a dozen deserving victims. "There was not a man aboard the train who did not share one or more of their ideas," she notes - so let them burn.

Rand did not even understand why her beloved capitalism works. She attributed its success to the unleashing of the "motive power" of a few rich men, a concept chillingly similar to Nietzsche's will-to-power. In fact, markets are a useful tool - provided they are checked by democratic regulation, a redistributive state and strong trade unions - for Haykian reasons, not Randian ones. Friedrich von Hayek saw that the strength of markets lies in their epistemological function: markets can access dispersed pockets of knowledge and process them better than any central planner. Look at the housing market, for example. Hundreds of thousands of dispersed home buyers sending signals about what kind of house they want by buying them is a far more effective way of gauging the kind of homes people actually want to live in than a central planner - however smart - trying to guess their desires. But Rand cannot see this reasoning. She cannot see that even if her beloved handful of geniuses did indeed go on strike, market economies would still be fairly efficient at generating wealth, and the world would carry on much as before. The genius (such as it is) resides in the system, not in a string of Ubermensch at the top gazing in horror at the imbecile masses.

But that is not the only flaw in her understanding of markets. She did not understand that the kind of pure selfishness she advocated would quickly corrode capitalism itself. The economist Alfred Marshall has shown that without "economic chivalry" - a willingness to stick by the rules, even when they work against your selfish interests - markets become unworkable. Only regulation by (cue thunder) the state can guarantee this chivalry. Rand's philosophy would simply create an unsustainable Enron economy of rip-off merchants - much as the Bush administration's bonfire of regulations has. But Rand could not see the dense interconnection between the market and the state: she spoke absurdly of establishing "a separation between government and economics" analogous to the constitutional separation between church and state. But without institutions of government like the police and courts, who would enforce contracts? Nor could she admit that the corporations she lauded as heroic were just as often beneficiaries of government subsidy as of market innovation. Wal-Mart, for example, is often supposed to be an icon of the success of the free market, when in fact it has - according to Multinational Monitor's investigations - received over $1bn in state subsidies.

Although Rand despised Russia, she was far more shaped by her Russian adolescence - and her interaction with Bolshevism - than she could ever have imagined. Even as she preached freedom, she created a personality cult around herself - sardonically dubbed The Collective - which permitted no dissent and even adhered to her list of banned books. Any dissent from the Leader's opinions was punishable by excommunication - a fate that even befell her lover, Nathaniel Braden, when he withdrew his sexual favours. She ended up creating a Leninism of the market fundamentalist right, based on the need for a small cadre of true believers to enact a violent revolution against the state (democratic or otherwise) that will usher in a utopian society without conflict, modelled on the Ideal Man of her own creation. Even her Objectivist epistemology reeks of Lenin's dialectical materialism.

It is a sweet, neat irony that the centenary of this fifth-rate Nietzsche of the mini-malls was marked by something she would have despised: an unprecedented burst of charitable giving in response to the corporate elite. No society, not even George Bush's America, could be run on Randian principles. When confronted with raw human need - or a single crying child - the elaborate reasoning behind Ayn Rand's off-the-peg morality for an off-their-head corporate elite melts. Yes, read The Fountainhead if you must - but as a guide to the philosophy that brought us skidding into the catastrophe, not a roadmap for how to get out.

Johann Hari is a writer for the Independent newspaper. To read more of his articles, click here or here.

Johann is interviewed on the latest Drunken Politics podcast about Palestine, piracy, and what makes him happy. Part One is here. Part Two is here.


Jim Cramer is a Hack. Claims as a Hedge Fund Manager He Manipulated Markets. But I'm sure he's Not Doing That As A TV Host is he CNBC?

Jim Cramer Shorting Stocks, Manipulating Markets, Says the SEC Doesn't Understand and "It's a Fun Game."

From HuffPO

In light of the current economic crisis, and with the hullabaloo ignited recently by Jon Stewart over the accuracy of CNBC's reporting, we thought it might be useful to revisit this shocking 2006 interview Jim Cramer gave to's Aaron Task.

In it, the host of Mad Money says he regularly manipulated the market when he ran his hedge fund. He calls it "a fun game, and it's a lucrative game." He suggests all hedge fund managers do the same. "No one else in the world would ever admit that, but I could care. I am not going to say it on TV," he quips in the video.

He also calls Wall Street Journal reporters "bozos" and says behaving illegally is okay because the SEC doesn't understand it anyway.

Here are some gems:

-On manipulating the market: "A lot of times when I was short at my hedge fund, and I was positioned short, meaning I needed it down, I would create a level of activity before hand that could drive the futures,"

-On falsely creating the impression a stock is down (what he calls "fomenting"): "You can't foment. That's a violation... But you do it anyway because the SEC doesn't understand it." He adds, "When you have six days and your company may be in doubt because you are down, I think it is really important to foment."

-On the truth: "What's important when you are in that hedge fund mode is to not be doing anything that is remotely truthful, because the truth is so against your view - it is important to create a new truth to develop a fiction," Cramer advises. "You can't take any chances."

Special thanks to our tipster Henry Chukuka! Keep those tips coming team!




This Weeks Sign That The Apocalypse is Upon Us. The Punisher Talks about "The Biggest Loser"

Ok, I normally don't get into pop culture and television critique, but after watching the biggest loser last week and this week I had to say something.

For those of you that don't know, "The Biggest Loser" is a show about fat people trying to lose weight. They stay at a camp where they are trained daily and taught about how to eat properly.

The results are amazing. People lose 100 pounds in 10 weeks. Seriously. It's nuts. They're filmed the whole time competing in challenges for prizes etc. etc. and in true "reality show" fashion they are voted off when they don't lose enough weight or they have stinky gas, or they're a threat to someone else winning blah blah blah.

But the part I want to talk about are the commercials.

It used to be that product placement was subtle. You might not even notice that it was there. Or a product would sponsor an event like "this morning we're doing the Wheaties 13 mile mini-marathon." And I was cool with that.

But this show has taken commercials to a whole new level. The first time I saw one I couldn't believe what I was seeing. The scene was two of the contestants sitting down with the trainer "Jillian" and Jillian was explaining to them how to eat healthy. She kept emphasizing how fresh food was important.

Then, in a scene straight out of "The Truman Show" Jillian starts explaining how Ziploc Bags are the best for keeping food fresh. "That's why we have so many Ziploc Bags around here, because Ziploc Keeps Food Fresh!"

It was disconcerting. Jarring even. Here's a trainer who's supposed to be giving you unvarnished information about your health, and it turns out she's a paid shill for Ziploc.

Flash forward to this week. There's a scene where two of the contestants are sitting at computers. The other trainer "Bob" walks up and asks them what they are doing. They say they are making out their food menus for the week. Bob then says "Well.. make sure you include lots of Fiber." The contestants feign innocence... Fiber? And Bob says yes you need lots of fiber. And one of the Best Ways To Get Fiber is to Eat General Mills Fiber One Bars! They contain 35% of your daily Fiber! (Made with plenty of High Fructose Corn Syrup!)

I thought I was going to Vomit.

This kind of blurring the lines with advertising has gotten way out of hand.

Doesn't anyone have any standards anymore? Doesn't anyone look at this garbage and say enough is enough? How can these trainers sleep at night?

Maybe I'm just getting cranky in my old age, but this crap makes me lose all respect for anyone who would participate in it. Sorry Bob and Jillian, but you guys are now just paid shills, pushing products. Nobody should rely on either of you for objective information about weight loss.

Hugs and Kisses,

The Punisher.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


The Employee Free Choice Act: It's Good For America and You.

Andy Stern at HuffPo
Five Things You Need To Know About The Employee Free Choice Act

Today, the Employee Free Choice Act was introduced in Congress. Want some great reasons to support this bill that you've been hearing so much about? Here's five. (And if you already support it, please contact your Members of Congress and ask them to do the same.)

1. Because more jobs should be good jobs.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last year, it's no surprise that millions of Americans are out of work, losing their health care or their retirement money, or are otherwise in financial straits. Times are tough. And who's taking this economic crisis on the chin? Well, we are, of course.

Four million people have lost their jobs since the recession began in December 2007. It's not for lack of trying. In terms of productivity, people are working harder than ever-- but American workers still haven't gotten a raise. And while jobs and wages are down, the cost of living continues to rise: The average cost of family health insurance plan will go up to $24,000 by 2016. $24,000!

The Employee Free Choice Act says that workers should have the ability to bargain with their employers for better wages and benefits--like affordable quality health care.

2. It's good for the economy.

One of the biggest reasons for our current economic crisis? People literally don't have the cash they need to buy goods and services--which would in turn help the economy. Higher wages and higher benefits would give workers the purchasing power they need to buy more of the goods and services that this economy produces. According to a February report from the Center for American Progress Action Fund, unionization could pump more than $49 billion into the economy.

But don't take it just from us. Last month, forty leading economists, including three Nobel prize winners, took out a full-page ad in the Washington Post offering their reasons for supporting the bill. In the ad, they argued that one of the main reasons for our economic slump is the "erosion of workers' ability to form unions and bargain collectively," that shifted the wealth of our country from "broadly-shared prosperity" to "growing inequality."

3. Barack Obama loves it, and so do most of you.

Not to mention Joe Biden, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, and majorities in both houses of Congress. And according to recent polling, 73% of the public supports it. Just last week, speaking in front of a labor gathering, President Obama vowed to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, stating,

"I have every confidence that if we are willing to do the difficult work that must be done, we will emerge from these trials stronger and more prosperous than we were before. And as we confront this crisis and work to provide health care to every American, rebuild our nation's infrastructure, move toward a clean energy economy, and pass the Employee Free Choice Act, I want you to know that you will always have a seat at the table."

What's not to love about that?

4. Because CEOs should be helping workers, not hurting them.

Want to get really depressed about your paycheck? Compare it to a CEO's. As a testament to the growing income disparity between CEOs and the workers they employ, look no further than Wal-Mart's former CEO, Lee Scott. Scott earned $15,000 an hour in 2007 while Wal-Mart workers earned just $10.68 an hour. On average, CEOs earn 344 times what their typical employee makes.

And yet, when Goldman Sachs received $10 billion in Wall St. bailout funds, they turned around and spent $6.5 billion on bonuses! If the Employee Free Choice Act passed, workers would have more of an opportunity to share in the prosperity they helped create.

5. Because the other side is really scary.

Or at least, they're trying their hardest to scare us. The corporate interests opposing the Employee Free Choice Act have warned of everything from rioting in the streets to, literally, Armageddon if the bill passes. For a sense of just how extreme the other side has gotten, check out our "scary movie" video here:

Corporate interests are bent on lying about the Employee Free Choice Act - they'd have you believe that the bill means the end of the secret ballot - but nothing could be further from the truth. The Employee Free Choice Act simply gives employees the choice to join unions - not the employers. Right now, workers can join unions through majority sign-up or a secret ballot election, and they can do so under the Employee Free Choice Act, too. The only difference is it will be the employees' choice, not the employers.

But don't take it from me - watch Rachel Maddow destruct this argument:

If you're as fired up as we are, go to and sign up to help. It's time for the Employee Free Choice Act.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?