October 11, 2011

Meanwhile, Back On the Farm

I was a high school freshman the first time I read George Orwell’s Animal Farm.  Orwell was a dedicated Marxist socialist who took great exception to Soviet style Communism.  He was especially dismayed with the brutality exhibited under Joseph Stalin.  Animal Farm was his anti-Stalin allegory decrying the excesses of the Stalin regime.

The story relates an uprising by the animals of Manor Farm against abuses and neglect inflicted by Mr. Jones.  Just as the 1917 February Revolution forced abdication by Tsar Nicholas II, the animal rebellion forced Mr. Jones to flee Manor Farm.  Other easily identified characters are the pigs (Politburo), led by Napoleon (Stalin).  It was Napoleon who eventually took control after driving Snowball (Leon Trotsky) off the farm.  Napoleon consolidated his power through executions (Great Purge), carried out by his personally trained pack of dogs (Soviet Secret Police).

Some may wonder why bring up an old story about something that happened almost a century past.  Perhaps because the OccupyWallStreet participants remind me of those Manor Farm denizens I read about over 40 years ago.  Today's seemingly clueless protesters are very much like those barnyard inhabitants who, unhappy with their lot, rose up against their perceived oppressors.  Only in this case, evil “millionaires and billionaires” have supplanted Mr. Jones and the humans as objects for their outrage.  As of yet, no clear Napoleon has surfaced, but the dog packs have already made their presence known in the form of union activists.

Many of those marching in the streets, demanding change, would be well served to read Orwell’s story, look about, and decide for themselves if they want to be among the sheep bleating, “Four legs good - Two legs bad.”  I would offer them one other bit of advice.  Consider the admonition of George Santayana from his Reason In Common Sense, Volume One of The Life of Reason:
“Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Dennis P. O'Neil

October 3, 2011

Reparations for Thee, Why Not Me?

Re-post of an earlier essay in response to renewed claims that white people can't understand the overwhelming support for Obama among black voters because white people never had to go through what black people endured.

Their history as human chattel in the New World is disturbing.
“They came as slaves; vast human cargo transported on tall British ships bound for the Americas.  They were shipped by the hundreds of thousands and included men, women, and even the youngest of children.
“Whenever they rebelled or even disobeyed an order, they were punished in the harshest ways.  Slave owners would hang their human property by their hands and set their hands or feet on fire as one form of punishment.  They were burned alive and had their heads placed on pikes in the marketplace as a warning to other captives.”
Harvard professor Henry Gates, central figure in the racially charged incident involving Cambridge police, is an ardent proponent of reparations to Black Americans for the atrocities of the African slave trade.  However, Gates's ethnocentric outrage conveniently ignores the full history of slavery in the Americas.  The above excerpt does not describe the plight of black slaves torn from their families in Africa.   It comes from White Slavery: The Slaves That Time Forgot by John Martin detailing the trade in Irish slaves.

The story of Irish slaves is one the politically correct manage to overlook while damning the United States for past transgressions against blacks.  It is not discussed in schools when teaching about slavery.  The history of Irish slaves is so completely buried that students gain a false impression that slave trade began when white Europeans raided Africa for cheap black labor.  In truth, the majority of early slaves in the New World were white, victims of that dehumanizing practice long before the establishment of an African slave trade.

The Irish slave trade began when James II sold 30,000 Irish prisoners as slaves to the New World.  His Proclamation of 1625 required Irish political prisoners be sent overseas and sold to English settlers in the West Indies.  By the mid 1600s, the Irish were the main slaves sold to Antigua and Montserrat.  At that time, 70% of the total population of Montserrat were Irish slaves.”
Treatment of the Irish people under King James II and Charles I by the likes of Oliver Cromwell amounted to little more than state sponsored genocide on a scale not seen again for nearly three centuries.
From 1641 to 1652, over 500,000 Irish were killed by the English and another 300,000 were sold as slaves.  Ireland’s population fell from about 1,500,000 to 600,000 in one single decade.  Families were ripped apart as the British did not allow Irish dads to take their wives and children with them across the Atlantic.  This led to a helpless population of homeless women and children.  Britain’s solution was to auction them off as well.
During the 1650s, over 100,000 Irish children between the ages of 10 and 14 were taken from their parents and sold as slaves in the West Indies, Virginia and New England.  In this decade, 52,000 Irish (mostly women and children) were sold to Barbados and Virginia.  Another 30,000 Irish men and women were also transported and sold to the highest bidder.  In 1656, Cromwell ordered that 2000 Irish children be taken to Jamaica and sold as slaves to English settlers.”
Even a growing trade in African slaves did nothing to alleviate the hardships of Irish slaves.  If anything, it only made their lot worse as the lowest members in a perverse caste system.  African slaves were a prized commodity, often fetching prices 10 times that of the Irish.  To minimize expenses, slave owners forced Irish women and girls (many as young as 12) to breed with African men.  The “mulatto” offspring of these rapes were more valuable than their Irish parents, yet considerably cheaper than purchasing new Africans.

This trade in Irish slaves continued for well over a century as England sold thousands of Irish into slavery after the 1798 Irish Rebellion.  England finally renounced its official participation in slave trade in 1839, far too late for those hapless Irish dragged away in chains.  The Reconstruction Amendments after America's Civil War codified the rights of all men and women to live free of slavery's chains.

The horrors sustained by all people subjected to slavery are undeniable.  Many freed blacks returned to their ancestral homeland to restart their lives anew.  Many more Africans migrated to America on their own accord in search of the American dream.  Yet, as the Martin article concludes:

None of the Irish victims ever made it back to their homeland to describe their ordeal.  These are the lost slaves; the ones that time and biased history books conveniently forgot.”
For anyone such as Dr. Gates to proffer slavery as a uniquely Black experience requiring reparations to descendants of Black Africans is an insult to everyone of Irish ancestry.  It is a ludicrous proposition that all whites now living in America are responsible for sins against blacks going back over 200 years, and therefore should be held monetarily accountable.  It would be equally ludicrous for me to demand some type of payment from all blacks now living in America for their ancestors' participation in the forced rapes of Irish women so long ago.

However, if Gates and others insist on pushing the reparation issue, I will be equally insistent that the Irish be the first recipients, at least to the extent that blacks have benefited so far.  I demand the atrocities committed against the Irish be finally recognized and taught in our schools along with those of the Africans.


Note: Although enslavement of the Irish may have been the most egregious as far as numbers and percent of population, the treatment of other white European slaves from Spain, Portugal and Scotland was no less heinous, and equally deserving remembrance.

Dennis P. O'Neil

Originally posted at Townhall.com on July 26, 2009.

September 24, 2011

"Benito" Obama?

The New York Times reported that President Obama is considering the swap of the preferred stock in banks the government now holds for shares of common stock.  Under the original TARP plan, the government wasn't even supposed to take any stock at all.  However, congressional Democrats forced through provisions for acquiring stock in troubled banks to guarantee the taxpayers “got something” for bailing out the banks.  There were those who warned Congress to include provisions in the TARP legislation stipulating TARP funds be secured by preferred stock only.  That way, if an institution receiving TARP funds still failed, the American taxpayers' “investment” would be protected as much as possible.

As senior debt holders, the taxpayers would get first in line privilege for any repayments through bankruptcy.  Such language never made it into the final bill.  The crisis was too great to delay action on TARP during the sky-is-falling rush to pass the bailout bill.  Besides, no one would take common stock over interest-paying preferred stock.  Doing so would place them in the position of junior debt holders, and at the back of the payout line.

So, why would Obama violate his fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers?   Because for Obama, it is not about the money.   It never was.  It is about control.   Preferred stock may have more value, but common stock has voting privilege.  As holder of the largest block of voting shares, Barack Obama can direct how the businesses are run.  Barack Obama gets to say who sits on the boards of directors, and who are the CEOs.  Barack Obama can dictate what types of loans are made, at what interest rates, and set required qualifications.

That Obama admitted he was considering this open power grab for control of the financial institutions, was quickly decried by conservatives as proof that Obama is really a socialist and Marxist.  They are incorrect in their assessment.  Obama understands he doesn't need to completely nationalize industries like Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, or even “socialize” them as Maxine Waters threatened oil executives.  He only needs to own a big enough chunk to drive an industry in the direction he wants it to go.  Or more simply, Obama is an economic fascist.

The economic philosophy of fascism is most accurately described by Sheldon Richmond at Library of Economics and Liberty as “socialism with a capitalist veneer.” As Richmond explains:

Where socialism sought totalitarian control of a society’s economic processes through direct state operation of the means of production, fascism sought that control indirectly, through domination of nominally private owners. Where socialism nationalized property explicitly, fascism did so implicitly, by requiring owners to use their property in the “national interest”—that is, as the autocratic authority conceived it.... Where socialism abolished all market relations outright, fascism left the appearance of market relations while planning all economic activities. Where socialism abolished money and prices, fascism controlled the monetary system and set all prices and wages politically. In doing all this, fascism denatured the marketplace. Entrepreneurship was abolished. State ministries, rather than consumers, determined what was produced and under what conditions.
Now comes the Obama engineered, structured bankruptcy for Chrysler.  The directing body for the hybridized Chrysler/Fiat will have nine seats – six of which are reserved for Obama appointees.  Obama will also have control over naming the new CEO.  That leaves Obama in position to dictate the type of cars the company can build, the type of technology to be used, how many unit per year, the selling price, even minimum and maximum wages for Chrysler employees.  Government control without resorting to direct state operation – more economic fascism.

Washington DC 2009 is starting to look a lot like Rome 1922.

Dennis P. O'Neil
Originally posted at TownHall.com on May 02, 2009.

August 12, 2011

Reviewing the Iowa GOP debate - Redneck style

Although many pundits tout Romney as the winner in the Iowa debate, I prefer to rate the contenders by how they improved their positions in relationship to the others in the field.  I saw the debate much like a NASCAR mid-race pit stop.

Big winner out of the pits:
Newt Gingrich - Speaker Gingrich demonstrated a superior command of facts and knowledge of history, along with the ability to articulate his stance on issues.  His "take no prisoners" chastising of Chris Wallace was classic.  He has the horsepower if he can keep it on the track.

Next out:
Herman Cain – Mr. Cain entered the debate pegged as the also ran with a sputtering engine due to missteps and poorly phrased responses during recent interviews.  While many expected him to falter again, Cain had done his homework, and came race prepared with a surety of purpose.

Following by a whisker:
Michele Bachmann – Representative Bachmann continued to gain on presumptive leader, Romney, with her poise under attack.  While seeming imperturbable in her response to Byron York’s misogynistic question about her marriage, she showed she was not afraid to mix it up in the corners when she put Pawlenty into the retaining wall.

Maintaining their positions:
Rick Santorum – Senator Santorum exited unscathed, with his conservative credentials intact and still in the trophy hunt.
Jon Huntsman – Governor Huntsman gave no indication he was ever serious about his run.  He entered in last place, and seemed content with cruising along as if he were going for a Sunday drive.

Falling back:
Mitt Romney – Well, falling back may be a bit strong.  Governor Romney looked and sounded Presidential.  He did himself no harm.  He came in as the overall points leader and left as the points leader.  However, he did lose ground to the hard charging Bachmann.

Dropping way back:
Ron Paul – Representative Paul blew a tire with his assertions that Iran having nuclear weapons would be no threat, and they had the “right” because other nations possessed them.  He has no chance, but his spin-outs keep the race interesting.

Behind the wall:
Tim Pawlenty – Governor Pawlenty tried desperately to make a move, but playing bumper tag with Bachmann and Romney proved a poor strategy.

On the infield grass picking flowers:
Gary Johnson – A non-qualifier mentioned only because he is still an officially announced candidate.

Dennis P. O'Neil

August 6, 2011

Why not a WPA type program? My take.

A friend responding to one of my facebook status posts about S&P's downgrading of U.S. debt from AAA to AA+ asked a fair question on a sentiment expressed by many:
... why don't we do something like the programs many years ago that employed lots of people to build roads and interstates and plant forests and stuff. Seems it would be good for all of those forest fires out west. And we wouldn't have so many bridges falling apart. Seems better than becoming a welfare state.
The following was my reply:
While something like re-instituting a modern version of the WPA may sound good on paper to proponents of Keynesian economics, the numbers never add up in the end. They contend that government spending money by creating “make work” jobs will grow the economy. Their argument being that people on the receiving end will spend that money on goods and services, and pay taxes on that income, increasing the government revenues.
Take a hypothetical pair of workers, Bill and Phil. Bill works in the private sector, receives a weekly pay of $1000 and pay taxes of 20% on that income, adding $200 weekly into government coffers. Phil works at a government “created” job, also receives $1000 per week, taxed at the same 20% rate. Keynesians point to Phil and reason that they have “grown” the economy by $1000 and increased revenue by $200.
However, while Bill and Phil contributed a combined $400 in tax payments, the government paid out $1000 to keep Phil working – a net LOSS of $600. Therefore, the government must tap not only Bill and Phil, but three other workers at $200 per week just to keep the books balanced. In other words, the government must take $800 out of the private sector (taxes paid by Bill and three others) just to maintain one job for Phil.
Now let’s assume both Bill and Phil are tradesmen skilled in bridge building. A company gets the contract to replace a failing bridge. The company owner can hire Bill, using money out of his own pocket, or he can hire Phil and have the government pick up the tab. What company owner would pass on that deal? Phil gets the job and Bill is out of work, with the net result of government revenues dropping by $200.
The government must now find that extra $200, either by raising taxes on Phil and the three remaining workers, taking more money out of circulation, or borrowing enough to cover the difference – plus enough extra to cover unemployment insurance payments to Bill until he can find another job. That is the beginning of a downward spiral with only one outcome, a shrinking economy burdened by excessive government debt.  -- Sound familiar?

Dennis P. O'Neil