Just what is socialism?

by Pete Talbot

(Consider this an open thread.)

Lots of folks bandying around that nasty “s” word these days.

For example, according to Ward 5 Councilman Dick Haines, an updated historic preservation ordinance ” … has the unmistakable stench of socialism to me.”

Jay writes over at LiTW that the current RNC motto, written by someone who skipped Marketing 101, is: “Save the country from trending toward Socialism!”

At the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, they just couldn’t use the “s” word enough:

“The hope and change the Democrats had in mind was nothing more than a retread of the failed and discredited socialist policies that have been the enemy of freedom for centuries all over the world,” Senator Jim DeMint, of South Carolina, said.

Let’s take a look at some of those failed and discredited policies. Germany, which is a democracy and part of the world last time I checked, has universal health care, a unionized work force, a strong social safety net … it must really be in trouble (courtesy Harper’s):

For here’s a strange fact: since 2003, it’s not China but Germany, that colossus of European socialism, that has either led the world in export sales or at least been tied for first. Even as we in the United States fall more deeply into the clutches of our foreign creditors—China foremost among them—Germany has somehow managed to create a high-wage, unionized economy without shipping all its jobs abroad or creating a massive trade deficit, or any trade deficit at all.

And claims that America’s business sector is being taken over by government are a bit exaggerated, as this dandy graph illustrates (courtesy Atlantic Monthly magazine):

socialism chart.png

But I haven’t answered the headline’s question. Even the “experts” disagree — just what is socialism: planning and zoning, Social Security, Medicare, public education? Should we scrap these?

I have a feeling that the right is confusing socialism and communism, and using that confusion to scare the bejeezus out of the masses. It’s not saying that we might become another Germany (or France or Sweden). It’s saying that we’re becoming another Cuba or North Korea.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

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  1. Why ask a question if you’re not going to attempt to answer it?

    • petetalbot

      Rusty,

      I’ve spent all morning looking at definitions and they’re all over the map.

      You’re correct, though. I posed the question before I had an answer.

      So I’m updating the post to make it an open thread. Maybe the fine readers, such as yourself, would like to take a crack at it.

      Pete

  2. problembear

    the russian monarchy used this term to margianalize their enemies in an attempt to forestall the russian revolution.

    the word probably first appeared in the french aristocracy lexicon during voltaire’s time.

    right now it is corporo/aristocratese for anyone who tries to level the playing field so that the middle class can survive.

  3. problembear

    simply and for me, socialism means people before profits.

    there are elements of it which are useful but i see it as an impossible ideal. my geology background does not permit me to stray far from the primitive instincts which reside in all of us to better ourselves and to duplicate ourselves first before reaching out to help others.

    many equate wealth with freedom, just as many equate wealth with religion. that is also not for me because it describes a primitive animal instinct to better oneself and imbues it with bullshit. i.e. i am wealthy; therefore i am good/better than those who aren’t.

    there are aspects of human nature which are good but overall selfishness is too much a part of our primitive dna to ever evolve into true socialism.

    capitalism with regulation to restrict the power of the greedy who profiteer is still the best answer for our country. the trick is finding the balance that promotes job growth and income for those who work and keeps unbridled greed in check which threatens to devour the golden goose.

    • problembear

      as hemingway wrote:
      He remembered poor Julian and his romantic awe of them and how he had started a story once that began, “The very rich are different from you and me.” And how someone had said to Julian, “Yes, they have more money.”

  4. Big Swede

    Socialism always starts with a commie in the whitehouse.

    • problembear

      obama provides the ruling elite with everything they want, swede. in fact, obama is probably less mavericky and scary to them than mccain would have been.

      obama placates the suffering masses with verbage while rahm emanual and jim messina give corporo/aristo messengers the keys to the treasury.

      you are just another clueless participant of the punch and judy show that the elite have manufactured to keep us all busy while they loot us.

    • Socialism always starts with a commie in the whitehouse.

      Funny that, Swede. Actually most of America’s remarkably successful socialist endeavors started in the Constitution (common defense from a standing military, militia organization, etc.) or with the founding fathers themselves (common banking, the post office). Yeah, that George Washington was big ole commie, wasn’t he?

      • Big Swede

        Got me on that military example.

        How’s the banking and post office thing working out?

        • Swede, the only remnant of the common bank is that we have a common currency. We could more easily stabilize our monetary system if we would re-nationalize the Bank Of America. And what’s killing the post office are a) deregulation, forcing them to compete on a for profit model, but still provide the socialist service they were founded on (public mail) and b) technology.

          Now, since your are wise to the wiles of us crafty socialist types, perhaps you can explain two things for me:

          Why is the most stable bank in America, during our current troubles, a socialist bank, the state run Bank of North Dakota?

          How comes it that the only utility company in America’s history which never ran in the red was a *socialist* public company, Montana Power? That is, of course, until the capitalists dissected it and consumed the corpse …

        • Don’t ever go deep with Swede. (Dope slaps.)

  5. If Democrats are going to be tarred with the socialism brush, then maybe they should start offering up true socialist policies – perhaps institutionalizing land use planning (oh no, not our private property ‘rights’), nationalizing the airports, utilities, ports and toll roads, taking back our military campaign from private soldiers, winding up voucher systems that can be spent at private schools, and withdrawing federal financial aid for private universities.

  6. In truth, Pete, I think the question is loaded beyond the point of being able to answer outside of context.

    Orwell argued (rather effectively) that one can make a word mean anything, as long as you first make the word meaningless. As you indicate, that’s pretty much what’s happened to the word ‘socialism’. It has been so conflated with governmental systems (which it isn’t) and social mythologies that the word now bears little similarity to the original socialisme. What’s funny to me is that those who have the greatest will to make socialism mean anything bad are mostly the same who have removed capitalism from any meaning as well.

    I think what the modern American right has done is not just to confuse socialism with communism, but rather to confuse it with a moral structure. In that light, the question asked becomes simple to answer because it always begs the question, putting the answer first. What is bad is ‘socialism’. One doesn’t need to ask if the Interstate highway system is a structure of socialism. It’s good, so it’s not (even though it really *is* the product of socialist cooperative endeavor.) Once you’ve started that kind of circular reasoning, any ridiculous conclusion can form from it. The simple dictum, of which Rusty is a true adherent, is that if Democrats/Leftists/Liberals want it, it’s bad, so it must be socialist.

  7. problembear

    “I have a feeling that the right is confusing socialism and communism, and using that confusion to scare the bejeezus out of the masses.”

    Pete:

    i believe it is more sophisticated than that

    the right is just delivering the message that the ruling elite want them to deliver. the funny thing though is that the ruling elite and their big corporations do not mind certain forms of socialism at all as long as the money and all the profits accrue to them….

    some examples:
    1. military industrial complex
    2.pharmaceutical companies
    3.health insurers
    4.medicare contractors
    5.food and agribusiness conglomerates
    6.architects, building and road contractors
    7.big banks

    i am sure many of us can add to this list.

  8. Big Swede

    Took me a while to read the article Pete.

    Interesting to note the oldest comment had this gem.

    “I have never yet heard anyone who touts the superior efficiency of “free markets” provide an example of this metaphysical entity that is not supported, stabilized, institutionalized, defined, and operated through a complex system of supposedly “inefficient” government structures. The only thing approaching an international market system, as far as I know, it the illegal drug trade. The unmentionable dichotomy between an investor class and those who rely on wages is far more realistic than the government/market paradigm used to fog the issues.”

    • Please clarify, what exactly did you find interesting about it, Swede, and why?

      • Big Swede

        The govt tentacles are reaching in and choking the life out of commerce.

        • That’s funny. What it says to me is that these Galts of industry cannot operate without socialist structures of transport, legally defined corporate entities, antitrust laws, police support, social labor support and common currencies. Perhaps you favor the drug trade, and the ‘road warrior-esque’ violence that ensues from it without those pesky government tentacles? Or perhaps you favor communal barter, where the greatest producer becomes the target of any entity that can take what he has, given that numbers and force confer power?

          No. You like having protection for your social arrogance. You favor “property rights”, the 2nd amendment and strong civil defense. You might be more socialist than you think, Swede.

          • Big Swede

            All those items you mentioned did indeed help build this great nation. They’re status now-overbearing, out of date and non innovative, deserving more discussion than this post allows.

            Instead I find your assumption of my perfect world intriguing. Would I like to live the life my great grandfather led unobstructed by govt intrusion breaking ground in the Dakotas? Anti trust, unions free, and dirt track hi-ways? Trading crops and stock for credit at the local store?

            You don’t know how close I am.

          • Wulfy: You have a job that relies on gov’t money, your argument is invalid.

          • Rusty, you don’t have the first clue what you’re writing about, do you?

            A) My job doesn’t rely on “government money”. It relies on people making an economic choice to better themselves, and us providing the tools. Why do you hate capitalism, you commie bastard?

            B) Even if my job did rely on government money, that wouldn’t make my arguments invalid. You’ve made a claim here you can’t support, wingnut.

            I’ve shown quite clearly how you’re full of shit, Rusted. Do you care to reciprocate?

            Nah, didn’t think so.

          • Big Swede

            Rusty, you’re on to something.

            Stamp out waste and fraud in the state’s workforce.

            Privatize Montana’s University book stores.

          • every time i hear privatize i think about Montana Power and how much bigger the checks i have to write to Northwest power co based out of south dakota are.

            thanks to meat heads like rusty and swede, fred thomas and our old pal mark racicot we all pay a lot more for our power now.

            so you going to tell us all how much money you will save us by handing everything over to thieves like Enron or do you think the Borders business plan of going bankrupt is better for us?

          • Privatize Montana’s University book stores.

            That’s the true comedy here, Swede. Both the UM Bookstore and the MSU Bookstore *are* privatized. We are corporations, not publicly funded at all. You dinks just don’t seem to want to get that fact.

            Can you see why I’m laughing yet, Swede?

          • JC

            Goes to show what you know, BS.

            The Bookstore at the University of Montana is an independent nonprofit, and is not ran by or subsidized by the state. It also owns The Market, and merged with Fact & Fiction (a private bookstore) a few years back. It’s quite the thriving independent business.

            The MSU Bookstore is an independent business owned by the students and faculty of MSU, and is independent of state funding.

          • Swede and rusty should sell tickets….

            Only problem is I can’t decide who the straight man is?

            Great comedy from the brain trust of the far right.

          • Big Swede

            Here it is, my bad.

            “The store is independent of the university, owned by the faculty and students of the MSU, and is governed by an elected board of directors that includes both faculty and students. Its excess revenues are rebated back to its ownership in the form of discounts on text and trade books, making MSU Bookstore the leader in lower-cost textbooks in the United States.”

            Ya have to admit tho.

            Sounds a little like a 60’s style commune.

          • Which functions better than a 2010-style free market, but what’s actual value for consumers got to do with it?

          • Big Swede

            Functions better than Amazon, Mark?

          • JC

            “Sounds a little like a 60’s style commune.”

            Still bashing hippies, eh, BS?

            Actually, it sounds more like a coop.

            You ever buy gas and oil or feed/farming/ranching supplies at Cenex, or use your local Credit Union for a bank? Have an account with your local rural electric, or telecom? Shop at any one of hundreds of coop businesses in Montana or Wyoming? Use barter?

            Heck, you’re probably an old commie hippy, too. Just too ashamed to admit it.

        • Swede – “Amazon” equals “The Internet”, which has upset many business models (and which corporate America is yet to contain). But the bookstore is still there. Could it be the social environment of a community store, the texture and feel of a book, a candy counter and 73 year-old checkout girls on roller skates?

  9. Nonsensical cartoons? Really?

  10. Lizard

    i guess you can’t really expect much from a thread like this when those on the right who abuse the term feel no embarrassment about exposing their bizarre political schizophrenia.

    did they care about bush’s draconian expanse of govt by creating the department of homeland security? did they oppose the patriot act? did they oppose domestic spying? do they understand fiscal recklessness of tax cuts for the wealthy?

    no, the govt stuff they despise is anything that gives poor people the opportunity to access basic services. and even then, they are accusing obama of something he is NOT DOING.

    what an amazing system we have. the lobotomized right, and wool-eyed left, locked in an endless, imbecilic waltz toward national insolvency.

    • I’m not trying to be overly rude, but if you are disappointed in the thread, Lizard, then why do you bother to comment?

      • Lizard

        i bother to comment on threads like these because the thought of watching dems spend the next three years responding to bullshit republican talking points makes me nauseous, and i feel compelled to shift that useless focus to the current war-criminal in office (by the way, did you hear about how we execute handcuffed children now?)

        since this thread is now an open thread, i won’t be derailing it by asking anyone who voted for obama how they feel about his extending the patriot act? does that make anyone here angry? how about the other betrayals?

        if you are angry, as you should be, then you better start expressing it in ways that will be effective beyond the blue tent, because the right is harnessing the rage right now, and it will sweep the jellyfish known as democrats out to sea in november if you just keep pointing and shouting about how crazy the wingnuts are.

        if you want to get inspired, check out the continuing efforts of students and educators in california. how about a thread on that? examine a microcosm of what’s happening to this country:

        The State of California’s political elites and business leaders routinely use the language of crisis now whenever discussing the UC. In the past few decades, state funding of the university has suffered steady erosion. The UC now receives more funding than ever from private corporations and the federal government (the latter being in most instances pretty much the same as the former). Its various revenue streams range from student fees to several billion dollars in medical hospital revenue to private grants and donations, to its own hedge fund-like investments portfolio, to atomic bomb dollars from the Department of Energy.

        Thus, despite the state budget cuts, the UC’s overall revenue reached an all-time high of $19.42 billion in the 2009-10 academic year, and the Regents’ claim that the UC faces an “imminent and substantial” funding deficit is inaccurate, to say the least. According to both the university’s own financial documents and Moody’s bond rating agency, the university had access to over $8.3 billion in unrestricted investment funds it was holding in reserve at the time.

        The university has undergone a neo-liberal-style “structural adjustment” at the behest of the UC Regents, and this transformation has been accelerated during Yudof’s tenure as president. Under the leadership of California’s economic elite, the UC has become the leading prototype for a “disaster capitalist university.”

        i voted for obama and allowed a small part of me to remain open to the possibility that my educated cynicism was wrong. well, i will never vote for a democrat (or republican) president ever again. obama has surprised even me with how prominent his center-right tendencies have become. i mean, jesus, the guy can’t even sign off on an anti landmine resolution!

        i feel like i should try to finish off with something positive, so here it goes: obama is doing us all a big favor. he is providing the true teaching moment for us, so we can finally understand why a system that allows unregulated crony capitalism (a term widely used, with a nod to JC for using it) to run amok is destined to grow top-heavy and topple.

        who knows. maybe once the dust settles, there really will be a chance for something better to emerge.

        • i won’t be derailing it by asking anyone who voted for obama how they feel about his extending the patriot act?

          Perhaps it’s just a matter of focus. I’m vastly more disappointed in Congress, and Jon Tester, then I am Obama. But then, I’ve been disappointed in Congress for decades now. Mark will no doubt lay blame of juvenile thinking, but let’s be factual. I have never expected the President to represent me, except to the world. Being my representation isn’t his job, and never was. That is the job of Congress, and most of my cynicism is based squarely on that fact. The Constitution, my Constitution, calls for advocates to fulfill my will, and an executive to *execute* the will of my advocates. Things have gone terribly wrong in this country. We’ve decided we want a King, instead of advocates, and the King is owned by our ‘betters’.

          • Lizard

            way to wiggle out of answering my question wulfgar!

            maybe instead of compartmentalizing your disappointment in congress, and focusing your anger on the right (and mark) who so easily push your buttons, you will one day evolve your thinking about the systemic rot that has destroyed both parties, and join with others to find third party alternatives.

            and for anyone interested in how far gone congress has become, they should really check out sibel edmonds

            maybe some of these treasonous public officials she names need to be reminded that treason in punishable by death.

          • It is very difficult to get him to focus, I’ve noted. For one thing, he tends to intellectualize easily explainable phenomena. For another, he enjoys the semantics more than the substance often as not. And finally, he brings to the game a kind of childlike naivete, which is interesting given that he has intellectual chops. Then he’s got an irascible nature, but who am I to talk.

            Wulfgar – Democrats behave in an easily predictable manner within the framework of the two-party/one-financier structure. Couple that with the ability of people to project sincerity into cameras while harboring deceit in their hearts, and you have the real world. If you choose to operate within the proscribed framework, you are effectively neutralized. If you choose to operate outside, it is rife with uncertainty, doubt, and you will be spat upon by the insiders.

            But you will have fun, at least. How can being a Democrat, after seeing 14 months of Obama, possibly be fun?

          • way to wiggle out of answering my question wulfgar!

            Then ask a question that makes sense next time. As I indicated, Obama didn’t extend the Patriot act, certainly not alone.

            It is very difficult to get him to focus, I’ve noted.

            Actually, Mark, what you’ve noticed is that I refuse to be pigeon-holed, which is completely antithetical to your circular reasoning of situations. Convinced of my naivete, you constantly repeat what I already know. I passed your lecture a very long time ago. What you fail to see is that “working” outside of the system leaves you every bit as neutralized as ‘being a Democrat’, and because it also leaves you marginalized, there is the far greater threat of adverse consequence. You laud who end up in prison, but fail to see that the Freemen also followed your path. Perhaps that’s what you find fun. Let’s just say I have a different view.

            And to answer your question directly, no, being a Democrat has rarely ever been fun. But if I *expected* politics to entertain me, I’d become a Republican. Not that I don’t find most politics entertaining; I simply don’t personalize it the way you do. I just think it ought to have more value to me than American Idol.

          • Lizard

            wulfgar! says:

            As I indicated, Obama didn’t extend the Patriot act, certainly not alone.

            um, yes he did, and while he didn’t do it alone, no one was holding a gun to his head (at least from what i could tell).

            you’ve said, on numerous occasions, that you deplore willful stupidity. well, i deplore willful ignorance, and as obama’s administration stumbles along, anyone who thinks democrats are capable of delivering on their campaign promises is suffering from that unfortunate malady.

          • Actually, Wulfgar … when you start out with the word “actually”, you have reflexively looked to your right, the creative side of your brain, and are about to spew some bullshit.

            I know you think you are beyond this, and this is why your are so susceptible. By keeping you in the Democratic Party, your energies are contained. You can do no damage.

            Obama’s people put together an effective organization to get him elected, and then quickly set about disassembling it precisely because they know the power of community organizing. It was no accent that ACORN was acrimoniously dumped. It’s no accident that with health care, he threw progressives off the bus at the beginning.

            There is a reason why you will never end up in jail. You don’t scare anyone in power. You’re a Democrat.

            Good grief -do you think that police escorted Nader from the debate in 2000 because he was annoying? It was because they perceived him as dangerous.

            Again, your understanding of politics is not much beyond that of a 9th grade civics student.

          • anyone who thinks democrats are capable of delivering on their campaign promises is suffering from that unfortunate malady.

            Now see, that’s the funny part, Liz. Since you brought up willful ignorance, perhaps you can show me where Obama ever promised to end the Patriot Act. You can find a whole lot of people saying he did, but none of them can find him saying it either. Yeah, there’s a whole lot of willful ignorance going on here, but it ain’t coming from me.

            And Mark, you’re apparently off your meds again, though I did enjoy that brief bout of sanity you suffered from.

            There is a reason why you will never end up in jail. You don’t scare anyone in power. You’re a Democrat.

            No Mark, I won’t end up in jail because I don’t make it a habit to break the law. What I tried to point out to you, and you remain too addled to understand, is that operating outside of the system is often operating out of the law. To your value system, Mark, there is little moral difference between how you whimper and beg others to behave (but you remain afraid to) and how the Freemen behaved. When certain of our rightward brethren have accused you of being terrorist sympathizer, they have a point. (In truth, Mark, I don’t hold that against you because there’s nothing wrong with it. Until such point as you incessantly demand action of others you haven’t the courage to engage in yourself, that is.)

            do you think that police escorted Nader from the debate in 2000 because he was annoying?

            No. They did it because he was disturbing a peaceful assembly, which strangely enough is against the law. You’re back to your conspiracy theories about how the Corporatocracy used their brainwave transmitters to order the event organizers to neutralize the mighty threat to two party structure. Why it’s a marvel that poor Ralph wasn’t drug to an alley and shot dead in a fake mugging. But at least we know that you were with him in spirit, if not actual risk of horrible demise.

          • Lizard

            fine, so you’re not willfully ignorant, obama never said anything about killing the patriot act, no one should act outside the system or they are outside of the law and a terrorist sympathizer.

            what about obama acting outside the law? what about extrajudicial killing of american citizens? what about torture and domestic spying? what about espionage and whistleblowers like sibel edmonds? what about fraud, exhortation, and ponzi schemes so enormous, the entire global economy is at risk?

            keep sipping on that koolaid, wulfgar!, because you’re going to need it to get through the next three years.

          • No Mark, I won’t end up in jail because I don’t make it a habit to break the law. What I tried to point out to you, and you remain too addled to understand, is that operating outside of the system is often operating out of the law.

            That is terribly naïve. Who makes the laws, and what purpose do they serve. Why do people sit in jail for burglary, but Wall Street crooks get bonuses? Why was Eugene Debs in jail? What did Nader do that was illegal?

            To your value system, Mark, there is little moral difference between how you whimper and beg others to behave (but you remain afraid to) and how the Freemen behaved. When certain of our rightward brethren have accused you of being terrorist sympathizer, they have a point. (In truth, Mark, I don’t hold that against you because there’s nothing wrong with it. Until such point as you incessantly demand action of others you haven’t the courage to engage in yourself, that is.)

            Now I have whimpered and begged others to behave? You are off on a rant here, but have lost your bearings. I support community organization as a means of putting pressure on politicians, who are by definition bought, to give ordinary people things that they need, like health care reform. That is the only thing that has ever brought about progressive change. The Freemen are quite different, in that they hole up and arm themselves against illusory enemies. If that wasn’t sucha stupid thing to say, I’d be insulted. You’re off your rocks.

            No. They did it because [Nader] he was disturbing a peaceful assembly, which strangely enough is against the law. You’re back to your conspiracy theories about how the Corporatocracy used their brainwave transmitters to order the event organizers to neutralize the mighty threat to two party structure. Why it’s a marvel that poor Ralph wasn’t drug to an alley and shot dead in a fake mugging. But at least we know that you were with him in spirit, if not actual risk of horrible demise.

            He walked up to the door and tried to enter as a private citizen. He was arrested because it was a nationally televised even, and he was considered dangerous – dangerous in the sense that the ideas he espouses are the kind that spread easily when given a platform.

            You just made up some shit, an ass pull. That’s RightsaidFred’s turf. Watch yourself.

        • Mary Rose O'Leary

          Lizard, thanks for your insightful, amusing commentary. I share your reluctant disillusionment with Obama. It does break my heart, though, that you’ll never vote for a Democrat again.

          I remember the 1968 Presidential campaign, when hawkish Hubert Humphrey won the nomination over liberal anti-war Gene McCarthy after Bobby Kennedy’s assassination here in LA and a bloody convention (remember the Chicago Seven?). I was all of 12 at the time. I heard my mother say over and over again to liberals who were so pissed off with Humphrey over his stand on the Vietnam War that Humphrey was “the lesser of two evils” and they needed to vote for him if for no other reason than the Supreme Court appointments.

          I found this blog because I was searching for more info on Missoula’s own awesome Councilwoman Cynthia Wolken, who’s just inspired the Missoula City Council to take on the disastrous Supreme Court “Citizens United” decision that grants corporations all the rights of a person. The five Supreme Court justices who voted for it were all appointed by Republicans. The four who opposed it were all Democratic appointees.

          That decision brought us the Tea Party infiltration of government, funded by right-wing billionaires. But the ultimate reason the Tea Party got where they are today is because people VOTED for them. My point is that, if bright liberals like you decide to throw in the towel on voting, the bastards have won.

          You Missoulans should be mighty proud of Cynthia Wolken and your City Council — with the noted exception of Dick Haines and Renee Mitchell. I’m sending word to my councilman and the president of the Los Angeles City Council that they should follow Cynthia’s lead.

  11. Calling Obama and the Democrats “socialists” is not meant to in any way be informative. It’s meant to be a smear that sticks, a mushroom stamp.

    It is far better to simply understand the political dynamic. What they are doing is a smear that only works with people who are intellectually dead. You can’t have a discussion in this environment. We may care about real meaning over here, but the other side is brain jelly, and no, it is not just you, Shackleford. It’s most of you.

    We are a socialist country in many ways, but most of the benefits of our socialism attend to the military industrial complex, and lately our large banks. It is in essence our version of central economic planning, as real as any other place on earth, socialist or not. We just don’t call it that.

    But the word, as used, means, as PB said, any government program that benefits ordinary people, and as usual, the people who would benefit most from these programs are the ones gnawing their own feet off.

    So why bother?

  12. chowder heads like rusty and swede say we should be free to choose in a free market. but they don’t want any of us to be able to choose public option for our health insurance when the weasels start to really bear down on us……

    god no. these geniuses want to limit our right to choose to a bunch of profiteering private companies like United health care, Cigna and Blue Cross….

    god forbid we should be allowed to choose some affordable choice. that would be socialism.

    MORONS!

    • and the funniest part is they are afraid of having a public option for health insurance because it might put their precious thieves out of business because they couldn’t compete. that is priceless stupidity.

      so we are left with no regulation and no affordable health insurance thanks to these ignorant old dinosaurs.

  13. acually, i kind of like the idea of rusty and swede investing in a big state wide book store…..

    just bought a device for 279.00 that can download 10,000 books off of amazon for 9.99 each.

    idiots.

  14. JC

    Socialism–as used by republicans, conservatives and tea baggers–is nothing more than a term they use to demagogue democrats, liberals, progressives, and anybody else to the left of their self-proclaimed positions.

    I’ve heard that the strategy of the GOP for the upcoming elections is to jump out and define their opponents before they can successfully define themselves. Policy will become subservient to the demagoguery we will see.

    All this socialism talk is nothing more than an attempt to define the “enemy” and create the boundaries within which the next election’s rhetoric will be conducted. It is pure McCarthyism and Buchananism at work.

    And if/when democrats fall for this, they will be sucked into a meaningless argument about what a socialist is or isn’t or whether or not they are one. And the next election will be worthless.

    Socialism, in all of its forms, is a far more diverse school of thought than could ever be discussed here in one thread, re: as to what it is.

    The same sort of mentality that has people on Medicare lambasting “government run healthcare” will decry socialism as they drive to the rally on roads built and maintained through a socialistic government program.

    There is no reason to argue “socialism” with people who have absolutely no idea what it is. To them it is bad, and if you can hang the label on someone, then they are bad.

    Democrats should embrace socialism as a generic term, and work to define how it is that socialism has built America to where it is, how the Founders built socialist mechanisms into our nation and the Constitution and Declaration (“promote the general welfare”), and how socialist themes have run through our history in a myriad of ways.

    Much as how “social democracy” has come to define a popular brand of socialism in Europe, we need to strengthen our forms of socialism, and properly educate our citizens on the role and value of the various social institutions that make up this country. Ever wonder why “civics” classes have faded in America? It’s because the radical right doesn’t want students to be taught about the socialist elements of our government.

    Otherwise, the tea baggers with their racist white face joker placards of Obama with socialist plastered all over them are just leading the charge to the next civil war in this country, to be waged between the radical, extremist right, and the rest of the country.

  15. Ever shop at costco swede to stock up your self sufficient fortress?

    You’re supporting a private coop.

    Keep up the straight lines + we’ll keep the punchlines coming.

  16. what about obama acting outside the law? what about extrajudicial killing of american citizens? what about torture and domestic spying? what about espionage and whistleblowers like sibel edmonds? what about fraud, exhortation, and ponzi schemes so enormous, the entire global economy is at risk?

    What about you actually do something about it, instead of begging others to do it for you, Liz? And don’t bullshit anybody about how you already do, Mr. Anonymously-whines-for-acceptance-on-the-Intertubes. I don’t think you’ve done one fricking thing more than I have, except bellyache a whole lot more.

    Mark T.:

    Who makes the laws, and what purpose do they serve. Why do people sit in jail for burglary, but Wall Street crooks get bonuses? Why was Eugene Debs in jail? What did Nader do that was illegal?

    And you call me naive? I never said the application of law was fair, Mark. I wrote and stand by that you beg, worship and whine for others to break the law while you remain a simple bloviating jackass. What you seem impossibly deluded to understand is that others may not want to serve you in the fashion where they bear consequence and you lord it over them.

    Now I have whimpered and begged others to behave?

    No, Mark. Your delusion serves you poorly. You whimper and beg for others to misbehave, while you stay safely behind your wall of words.

    I support community organization as a means of putting pressure on politicians, who are by definition bought, to give ordinary people things that they need, like health care reform. That is the only thing that has ever brought about progressive change.

    And yet not once have you ever shown, not once, why this change must happen outside the system. Perhaps you are grossly naive about what the system is, as I suspect you are. Like a child, Mark, you focus on form as if it is the function. Here’s a hint, it ain’t.

    The Freemen are quite different, in that they hole up and arm themselves against illusory enemies.

    No, Mark, they aren’t. The only difference between them and you is that they have the balls to arm themselves. You expect others to do it on your behalf. You want people to work outside the system, but foolishly expect that they will follow your deluded rules for doing so. No, Mark, they won’t. Your enemy is the Illuminati Corporate Rat-Bastards who run the political theater for the benefit of all who aren’t you. In truth, your enemy is the corporate sponsorship of political campaigns for very specific politicians who we must remove. But you can’t be so mundane as to actually acknowledge specifics. Why, that would be the system! So you follow your fool’s quest that the system is corrupt and you can somehow do something about it if you just insult everyone around you a little bit more.

    He walked up to the door and tried to enter as a private citizen. He was arrested because it was a nationally televised even, and he was considered dangerous – dangerous in the sense that the ideas he espouses are the kind that spread easily when given a platform.

    Mark, again, you are simply wrong. As I read it, Nader wasn’t arrested, he was removed. His intent was not to appear as a ‘private citizen’, anymore than Schweitzer did at a Bozeman City Commission meeting. Quit being so naive. And here’s the part you find beyond any ability to get a hold of: of his ideas would spread so easily, then why did so many hear ad nauseum about them, and reject them anyway? Could it be that he, like you, was a fucking nut? Why yes, yes it could.

  17. Lizard

    What about you actually do something about it, instead of begging others to do it for you, Liz? And don’t bullshit anybody about how you already do, Mr. Anonymously-whines-for-acceptance-on-the-Intertubes. I don’t think you’ve done one fricking thing more than I have, except bellyache a whole lot more.

    this comment is the last refuge for someone with nothing substantive to say. you can’t respond to the indictments against your party, so instead you try to put me on the defensive.

    first, i am not begging others to do anything i’m not willing to do myself, nor whining for acceptance on the intertubes. i am merely articulating my frustrations with the two corporate options i am given in this fan-fucking-tastic democracy of ours, and asking difficult questions about the president who so many hoped was capable of actually following through on his campaign rhetoric.

    second, your assumption that i am bullshitting people about what i do in my personal and professional life to accomplish some modicum of good in a broken system is unfounded and pathetic.

    like problembear, i’m a writer, mostly poetry. you can read my stuff here. hell, you can even see me read a few poems at an upcoming reading in missoula on march 19th for peace and social justice.

    as for the anonymity, last i checked, i’m not the only one who doesn’t disclose his/her real name (i’m a him, by the way) or profession, so trying to use that against me like i’m some coward hiding behind a pseudonym is in poor taste.

    • problembear

      ya wanna know what i think? i think we’re all a little frustrated and cranky….

      • Lizard

        that’s an interesting clip, thanks pbear. makes me cringe about hollywood’s nod to hurt locker when a film like redacted is what we really need to acknowledge.

        yeah, lots of people are frustrated. and some people are doing something about it, like teachers. i would urge anyone who cares about public education to read this piece (yes, in counterpunch) by shamus cooke.

        here’s a big chunk about obama’s variation of no child left behind, called RACE TO THE TOP:

        Race to the Top is a competition between states to kill public education: the states that massacre schools and teacher unions most efficiently and ruthlessly are given desperately needed federal funding, while the losers are given sadistic examples of how to earn the President’s praise. Obama spoke highly of the recent mass firing of every teacher in a Rhode Island school, an incident that other school districts will be pressured to imitate if they want Race to the Top money. When this happens — and it will — a fundamental question must be answered: do the union contracts of teachers mean anything to the President? And if teachers cannot be protected by their contracts, cannot this be extended to other fields of labor? These questions answer themselves, and have gigantic implications for the U.S. labor movement.

        It is no coincidence that the “finalists” for the Race to the Top are states that have the most brutal anti-union records: most of the finalists are from the anti-union South. Louisiana and Illinois are finalists — two states that have made the most “progress” in shutting down public schools and replacing them with private charter schools — while having fired teachers en masse.

        Who are replacing these fired teachers in the newly opened charter schools? Not qualified or certified teachers. Companies like Teach for America are springing up to fill the demand of low cost, non-union teachers. Teach for America is a “non-profit” company — with an operating budget of over $73.5 million — that offers only five weeks of training before one becomes a teacher. No background in teaching is necessary.

        Although companies like these are touted as “elite” institutions, The New York Times admits that “…so far, both merit-pay efforts and programs that recruit a more-elite teaching corps, like Teach for America, have thin records of reliably improving student learning.” (March 2, 2010).

        In Chicago, charter schools need only 50 percent of their teachers to be certified, while no charter school teacher is allowed to belong to the Chicago Teachers Union.

        Drill sergeants are also replacing certified teachers. In Chicago, shut down public schools have been re-opened as military recruiting centers; five military high schools and 21 military middle schools are now in operation. This was done under the watchful eye of Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan — no doubt achieved in anticipation of the expanding wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the need to fulfill recruiters’ quotas.

        Oddly, the national discussion over why students are testing poorly has been ridiculously crude, if not outright dumb. Both politicians and the media have focused the blame exclusively on teachers. No attention is given to the fact that so-called failing schools have been bled dry of funding. It is impossible for a teacher to succeed when there is not enough money to buy books for all the students or when classes are overcrowded, especially in schools that have students with special needs.

        Poverty, and the countless social ills born from it, are the obvious reasons why students perform poorly (high income schools are never labeled as “failures”). By ignoring this glaring fact, politicians reveal themselves to have ulterior motives. And just like the “war on terror” benefited profit-hungry oil and weapons companies, the war on education has a host of corporations clamoring for an increase in hostilities.

    • this comment is the last refuge for someone with nothing substantive to say.

      That’s your problem, jackass. You expect someone to respond to your bullshit as if you are owed a response. You’re not. And kindly notice when I say that’s your problem. It certainly isn’t mine.

      • Lizard

        no, wulfy, it’s your party’s problem, and it’s america’s problem. you’re good at shooting down wingnuts like fish in a barrel, but when pressed from the left your attack mode is grossly inadequate.

        call me whatever you want, if it makes you feel better. obviously all you got left is personal attacks.

        • That’s your problem right there, Liz. You didn’t “push from the left”. You demanded agreement with a ridiculous point, hidden behind a silly contra-factual question ( a rather particular right-wing tactic, in fact.) No, Liz, you being a dick and expecting others to respond with agreement is exactly your problem. It’s very personal to you, in point of fact.

          • Lizard

            you need to be more clear, wulfgar! because i don’t understand what ridiculous point and contra-factual question you are referring to. also, it sounds as if you are accusing me of being a rightwinger, or at least of using their tactics. please, clarify.

            and yes, it is personal. i have a young son and another on the way, and the democrats are the ones who are currently fucking up the country i love, and that makes me angry. does it make you angry? apparently not. only wingnuts get your blood up. and dicks like me, of course.

          • Ridiculous point:

            Obama is a war criminal.

            Contra-factual question:

            asking anyone who voted for obama how they feel about his extending the patriot act?

            He is the President; he is not a king or dictator (a right wing talking point.)

            it sounds as if you are accusing me of being a rightwinger, or at least of using their tactics. please, clarify.

            Yes, you are using their talking points. As I have clarified to wingnuts, the left is more skilled at attacking Obama than the right could ever be. The only question is what you hope to gain.

            i have a young son and another on the way,

            Congratulations, seriously.

            the democrats are the ones who are currently fucking up the country i love, and that makes me angry.

            It should, but it shouldn’t make you unreasonable. No label is fucking up your country. People are, very specific people. (Corporations are people now, right?) It isn’t the Democrats or the The Republicans any more than it is the ghastly vapors of the remnants of Xenu. It is people, and yes they piss me off too.

            only wingnuts get your blood up. and dicks like me, of course.

            No. Act like a dick and I’ll call you one. Insult, when applied correctly, is simply opinionated observation. When you dismissed my arguments based on your fear of insult, you started engaging in Ad Hominem argument. That’s a particularly dick move, one often if not always used by the right wing.

          • Lizard

            calling obama a war criminal is not ridiculous. the fact that many democrats can’t even imagine questioning the legality of unmanned drone strikes murdering civilians inside an allied country we haven’t declared war on indicates, at least to me, that democrats have moral blinders on when it comes to the international transgressions of their prez.

            next, you seem to imply that because obama is just some lowly president, and not a king or dictator, he has no culpability in continuing the unconstitutional policies of his predecessor as embodied by the patriot act. seriously?

            and what do i hope to gain? a third party contender to scare the hell out of the corporate plutocracy. i kid can dream, right?

            third, thank you. being a father is a phenomenal experience.

            fourth, do you really think i’m being unreasonable? have i called you a dick, a jackass, a whiner, and asked you what you do in your personal life, or why you post on a blog anonymously?

            then there’s this:

            When you dismissed my arguments based on your fear of insult, you started engaging in Ad Hominem argument. That’s a particularly dick move, one often if not always used by the right wing.

            maybe this refers to my kool aid comment, and i’ll concede that was dickish. i’m not sure about the “fear of insult” angle, or how i started the ad hominem, but there’s a lot i don’t understand about how our political discourse (in general, not us specifically) has devolved to such a truly dispiriting level.

  18. A show of hands…who here collects a paycheck from the public sector?

    • JC

      Looks like your hand is up over there in your cute avatar.

      To answer your question with another, why does it matter?

      FWIW, I work for a small business, and run my own small business on the side. Never pulled a public check in my life.

    • ins & pension 2

      I do.

      Work hard for it too.

      Harder than I ever worked in the private sector.

      Only complaints I get are from socialists!

      Speaking of which, socialism is an economic system that fails to reward the rights of individuals to what they earn through the labor of their physical and mental selves; the monetary rewards for their efforts, intelligence and inventiveness is taken away from them and given to others by government. Essentially, it’s partial slavery.

      Yes, such wealth transfers are different than limited government taking money from each of us for the basic functions of government that are otherwise unprovided; criminal and civil justice system, public health and safety, the national defense, and public schools.

      • Yes, such wealth transfers are different than limited government taking money from each of us for the basic functions of government that are otherwise unprovided; criminal and civil justice system, public health and safety, the national defense, and public schools.

        Now that’s problematic, idn’t it? Different how? I don’t have children; why should I be a “partial slave” to educate yours? And that public health thing? Isn’t that what universal health care provides, just like Canada or Germany? Instead, I’m a partial slave paying an insurance company for others to make babies, or buy Viagra, or take anti-depressants to make it through their day. The difference is, under Capitalism, I get to pay more because I am a slave to the Insurance company’s bottom line. Now THAT sounds like an economic system that fails to reward the rights of individuals for their efforts. I think we call that capitalism.

        I *had* an equitable power company, but now I’m a partial slave to pay Northwest Energy, in subsidy for power rates set in California. Capitalism pulled that one off, not socialism. Wouldn’t that be “wealth transfer” from hard working individuals to the ‘undeserving’? Sure it would.

        Simple fact, Wannabe. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t bitch and whine about your desire for socio-economic Darwinism while claiming the moral high ground for its rejection. That’s pretty much what you’ve done here. And for the record, if you do actually work public sector with insurance and pensions, and still hold the views that you espouse, you’re either an incredible idiot or in the wrong line of work.

    • JC

      I suppose you’d denigrate those who are in the military who get a public check, too… right? And police and firemen and the guy who runs the sewage treatment plant who purifies your shit?

      Or do you make exceptions for your pigeon holes?

      • man bites bear

        Even a moderately perspicacious reader with a desultory reading of the reply could discern that I covered police and firefighters (public safety) and military (national defense) and “the guy” (just to point out YOUR gender bias) who “purifies my shit” (public health).

        The only “denigrating” is by you, JC. It seems “your (mental) shit” needs “purifying”. You present no evidence that I “denigrated” anyone, so your use of “too” is just so much stupidity. There. That’s denigrating. So you can recognize it, next time, “I suppose”.

        • JC

          Have you ever received a government paycheck, Rusty?

          And why did you raise the question if not to make a point about those who do receive paycheck’s from a public source?

          And, no, you did not say anything that would allow anyone to “discern” that you excluded certain categories of public employment.

          I do not view the word “guy” as gender specific, and those who do and use the word “gal” as the feminine form may have an issue with the majority of women in this country who don’t want to be called a “gal.”

          As to the local sewage treatment plant, we all use it–unless like pb you shit in the woods, or use an outhouse. Sorry it makes you uptight to talk about it.

          I find it amazing how the right can hate on the government and those that work for it–until they have to make some use of it. Nothing more than a case of “I got mine, but you’re a socialist” mentality.

          And where’s the tax breaks for the rich…?

  19. Big Swede

    What a find.

    A fifties era comic book about Socialism.

    http://www.ep.tc/problems/35/03.html

    • That is a great find. Especially that first page. It’s also very timely in that the authors rely on the readers ignorance to get away with bullshit outrageous claims, kinda like FOX news.

  20. In the private sector, if a business is forced to deal with whatever the circumstance may be, whether it be the cost of fees or taxes going up, the wholesale price of goods, or wages, this individual private sector business must choose their best course of action. Do they cut employees? Do they raise prices? No bonuses this year?

    In the public sector, when they’re forced to deal with whatever the circumstance may be, more often then not, they’ll either lobby for more taxpayer dollars, whether it be from local mill levies or asking the city/county/state/feds for more $$ for the upcoming budget year OR they can simply raise the fees imposed on the private sector businesses and citizens.

    Quick example: A business license for the state of MT rose approximately 15% from 2009 to 2010.

    It seems to me that the majority of the individuals who frequent this blog don’t have much of a grasp on private sector business. I’m just wanna make sure that everyone’s on the same page.

    • In the private sector, if a business is forced to deal with whatever the circumstance may be, whether it be the cost of fees or taxes going up, the wholesale price of goods, or wages, this individual private sector business must choose their best course of action.

      Right, like farm subsidies, local employer tax breaks, Federally subsidized loans. Of course I notice that you gloss over the obvious: if a private sector business must ‘react’ to the pressures of expenses, it’s usually because they can’t find a way to be profitable enough to act accordingly. The situation isn’t as simple as you paint it, Rusted.

      In the public sector, when they’re forced to deal with whatever the circumstance may be,

      Apples to oranges. I don’t think you know the difference. Kindly show me a public sector “business”, and then we’ll have a discussion.

      It seems to me that the majority of the individuals who frequent this blog don’t have much of a grasp on private sector business.

      As a manager in a private sector business, I can state with no reservation that you obviously don’t either, Rusted.

      • You’re telling me that if MSU closed up shop tomorrow the bookstore would remain open?

        • No one’s telling you anything rusty. You’re the one posing as a captain of industry here.

          Those I know who’ve put up the collateral and built a successful business are usually too busy to waste time on a blog bragging about how much they know or bellyaching – they accept the challenges before them and succeed.

          All you’ve succeeded here is make an arrogant ass of yourself.

        • JC

          If the sun didn’t rise tomorrow would it be cold?

        • If America had no more wars, you’re telling me that Lockheed Martin and Blackwater would remain open? Don’t be an ass, Rusted.

          MSU will not close up shop, tomorrow or otherwise. The DOT will not close up, tomorrow or otherwise, so I think we can expect that Johnston Industrial, the Gallatin’s many gravel pits and ConWay freight won’t close up either.

          Rusted, your ignorance becomes more evident with everything you write. A wee touch of advice; When you find yourself in a hole you can’t get out of, quit digging.

          • So, do you work for MSU or not?

          • JC

            Geez Rusty. You’re like the kid who falls asleep in class and misses the important point, only to wake up and ask the already been answered question.

            If you look about 1/3 of the way down the comments to this thread, you’ll see where both I and Wulfgar point to the fact that both the MSU Bookstore and The Bookstore at the University of Montana are independent businesses. They are not owned, ran by, nor supported by the state or the University system.

            Now up to the blackboard with you and write 100 times: “I will not fall asleep in class…”

  21. Wulfgar, JC – I hope by now you are beginning to see the futility of your behavior. Rusty cannot be salvaged. He has ingested deep pulls of Kool Aid,and is beyond reach.

    During the Cold War, Americans were faced with the bleak prospect of dealing with people who had been turned against them by communist propaganda. Once so turned, they could not be turned back. The answer, as Kissinger reminded Nixon, was to rid the body of the virus, to simply kill them. Millions of them.

    Now I am not, I repeat, not saying that we should kill Rusty. That sort of behavior is frowned upon when we are not formally at war with his side. But he is off the deep end, beyond reach, and will never again function in a democratic setting without deep deprogramming. Since that is impractical (there are simply too many of them), we have to wait it out, allow them to die off naturally, and then reseed the ground with useful crops.

    So I urge you to see that he is beyond reach, resist the urge to merely kill him, and move on with your affairs, and your daily business. My only advice is this – never, under any circumstances, is Rusty to be involved in the affairs of the family business. Give him something small to do, keep him busy and out of the way. And be careful, Wulfgar, as he might be used to set off your temper, you might go after him in anger, and they might machine gun you to death at the toll booth on the causeway.

  22. bloodyknife

    The difference between socialists and communists is the socialists don’t have all the guns yet.




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