Friday, February 19, 2010

The Schlock* Doctrine

As our imperial stature declines the worst aspects of consumption culture show more hazardous and contradictory qualities. Our programmed fascination for new goods to replace old commodities has long been a social pathology in a system that breeds mental divisions among individuals to deny the existence of social structure. This, while it simultaneously rots the material foundation of that structure. We are now consuming more garbage then ever even as we attempt to stop the flow of sewage into our life support systems. We haven’t yet realized that the production and distribution of waste is essential to a political economy we need to transform before we are destroyed by its attempted maintenance.

We’ve long consumed useless goods we didn't really want and worthless services we didn't really need under mind management that convinced us we’d lack something vital without that necessary product. And the failure of each purchase to bring the bottom line of whatever it promised to create always meant the need for another newer, more stylish or healthy purchase. That conditioning has kept a majority shopping while a minority prospers from our search for survival through market warfare disguised as happy consumers seeking personal fulfillment or whatever else a particular sales item and promotion campaign promised.

Obeying the dictatorship of political economic advertisements for endless uncritical consumption has us performing as fabled lemmings, but we are rushing towards an all too real social extinction.

The Schlock doctrine teaches us to accept bargain outlet stores selling cigarettes long after they’ve been proved deadly to individual health and the social environment, usurious rates charged to the working poor in order to get cash advances on paychecks which are too little to meet expenses anyway, and higher costs for health care and insurance with less means for people to afford them. Previously reliable auto producers have to recall hundreds of thousands of unsafe vehicles, food supplies are regularly found tainted by contaminants and hospitals are killing more people than the nation’s traffic wars which take an average of almost one hundred lives a day. As fossil fuels become a greater environmental problem , public transit services are cut forcing more into their cars and furthering the use of fossil fuels .

And all this while we spend trillions for war, a stock market “recovers”, millions are newly unemployed and bank executives receive bonus checks which are paid for with massive loans from the working population.

An individual experiencing such contradictory behavior would be diagnosed as clinically insane and placed under protective control. In our political economic anarchy, no such power exists except for the most antidemocratic and totalitarian minority force of corporate capital.

We’re not only being victimized by shoddy material goods but even more by the Schlock Doctrine’s invasions of our collective consciousness. The propaganda machine that works to keep us fearing imaginary menaces outside while camouflaging the malfunctions of our internal system is working overtime to get us into a new war. The death profiteers who no longer have Soviet Communism to use as demonized source of evil switched to terrorism after 9/11, and none more so than the American protectors of israel who guided us into the Iraqi bloodbath and are now working more feverishly to destroy Iran. The mental garbage we have consumed about that nation and its leader would manifest as the largest dump of decomposed excrement imaginable if it assumed material form. Its putrid stench would make the world’s six billion people gag , yet this nation allows its fanatically perverse creators to continue running foreign policy. That could lead to a horror beyond anything yet experienced, and not only for the nation and people of Iran.

Whether we consider the impact on raw nature or in its reshaped form under human hands, it should be clear that continued total reliance on the private market mechanism could lead to total oblivion of the human social organism. That’s if we’re able to analyze and understand the evidence. Under the reign of the Schlock Doctrine it can seem that dumb conservatives, wimpy liberals, killer terrorists or evil spirits are mucking things up and as soon as we can produce more green garbage without interference from market molesters and do so in a diverse, multi cultural way, everything will be just fine.

Under present circumstances of a growing sense of social breakdown with little understanding of why it is happening, the least damaging outcome may be for a procession of millions of Americans openly carrying guns while angrily marching to city hall to marry their gay dogs. Or cats.

The state of emergency established by Bush neoconservatives has been extended by Obama neoliberals to help the market create more schlock for everyone else to consume. More than 700 foreign bases with more than a quarter million troops employed by taxpayers to maintain an imperial order that threatens to crumble on our heads, and we are urged to continue shopping for success that insures failure. Even in our confusion we‘re becoming aware that serious changes must be made not only for the survival of our nation, but of our world. Other national groups are ahead of us in realizing that systemic change is needed, but if our general sense of unease and physical failure are understood in time, we may still catch up and even overtake the rest of the world in moving towards salvation through material transformation. We can only hope that further forms of shock therapy are not needed to bring about real change in the Schlock Doctrine by which we are presently controlled. How much more war and recession can we tolerate? Don’t ask, just rebel.

* merchandise of very low quality or value

Copyright (c) 2010 by Frank Scott. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Open Fly Front

The Open Fly Front

The Open Carry gun movement has inspired a newer group of men to demand the right to appear in public with their pants unzipped. This Open Fly movement has caught authority with its pants down, since constitutional law doesn't seem to cover this aspect of freedom, which is being used by an even more vociferous group of rights-demanding American men. Legalienate interviewed the chairman of the New York chapter of Proudly Unzip That Zorch (Putz) at his home in Queens.

What has motivated you to demand this right to go out in public with your pants unzipped?

Anger around this issue has been building since Bill Clinton disgraced the country with his unmanly policies - like queers in the military and "No Fly" zones in Iraq. We want "Pro Fly" zones, not "No Fly" zones. We think it is time for American men to boldly present their manhood, or at least show that it is at hand for any emergency. We think that the sight of manly men with their pants opened and at the ready for exposure will help breed the respect, pride, and masculinity stolen from us by sissy culture.

Were you provoked by the Open Carry movement which has claimed the right to openly show a gun as long as it is unloaded?

We actually want to go one better because we feel the Open Carry movement is much less manly then our demand for Open Fly. In fact, I’ve long believed that men who need to show a gun are probably lacking in balls, and therefore need the feeling of comfort and security they get from carrying a fake weapon. We members of PUTZ, on the other hand, have got the real thing, always loaded, and we’re ready to flash it, expose it and use it at a moment's notice. That’s why we want to keep our flies open when we are in public, so that anyone who sees us knows that we are red-blooded American men who will respond as such in an instant, if provoked.

What does the law say about this?

There are laws against indecent exposure, but we will not expose ourselves unless there is a critical situation that demands it, in which case it becomes decent. So having an open fly is protected by law since it isn't prevented by law.

What would be a situation to cause you and other members to, uh, flash your members?

Well, if a terrorist or homosexual, for instance, was creating a problem, PUTZ members in the area could instantly expose their manly genitals and quickly bring the situation under control.


Well we know that terrorists are horrified by the sight of the human body, especially a bold American male genital organ, and homosexuals would be even more scared at the sight of a real man.

Really? You don't think a homosexual man might be excited by such a sight?

Uh.... . . maybe we need to rethink that one a little bit. But anyway, those terrorists are mostly heterosexual. Why would they want all those virgins at death unless they were heteros? More important is the fact that our movement is part of a rising up of Americans, especially men, who are pushing for a spurt of real change in a nation that has not only lost its way in the last few years but seems to have lost its masculinity as well. Our thrust is to prick holes in sissy culture by mounting an offensive for a re-birth of American freedom through proudly unzipping our flies and letting air into our pants while simultaneously airing out the American system of democracy which seems to have fallen into a socialistic communistic way of life that threatens our heritage, our future, and our sacred honor. We can't lick our enemies by remaining soft.

So you see going out in public with your fly open as a way of bringing about the change you think we need. How do you feel about other changes being called for, along with Open Carry, like gay marriage and the rejection of Don't ask Don’t tell in the military?

We think Open Carry and Open Marry are aspects of the same destructive, anti-real man culture, and the military rejection of red blooded heroic manly killers stems from the same communist-socialist plot to subvert our Founding Fathers and their dream of a nation of manly rich men in powdered wigs and corsets who owned slaves and kept women and made this country the great and powerful nation it has become. We say, Unzip for Freedom and let it All hang Out. But only if provoked, of course. We are law abiding citizens.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Must We Loathe David Irving?

by Michael K. Smith

"The chief problem in historical honesty is not outright lying. It is omission or de-emphasis of important data. The definition of 'important,' of course, depends on one's values."

------Howard Zinn, Failure To Quit

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the David Irving - Deborah Lipstadt libel trial. Irving sued Lipstadt and Penguin Books for having called him a "Holocaust Denier" as part of what he claimed was a campaign to ruin his reputation. In his opening statement to the court, he complained that the label Holocaust Denier was a "verbal yellow star," designed to destroy him for being an enemy of what Norman Finkelstein has termed "The Holocaust Industry."

Judge Charles Gray did not agree with Irving, but one hardly needs the sanction of judicial opinion to recognize that the Holocaust Denier label is intended to discredit, not illuminate, in the same way that "nigger" is. What would it mean to prove to the satisfaction of a court that someone "really was" a nigger? Only that racism was alive and well in the judicial system. In a similar way, the court's decision against Irving represents complicity in the demonization of Holocaust heretics, not a victory for history and truth, as was claimed by the capitalist media in the wake of the trial.

No one survives having the denier label affixed to his work, even when one accepts, as Irving does, that the Nazis inflicted appalling carnage on European Jews during World War II. The point of this defamatory label is not the preservation of historical truth (as though historians didn't regularly falsify history to advance the interests of favored states), but the destruction of official enemies. As the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci put it, intellectuals are "experts in legitimation," not scholarship, and historical fact is quite beside the point. Irving had to be "delegitimized" not for his historiography but because he publicly challenged the Holy Trinity of what has become a Holocaust religion: (1) homicidal gas chambers (2) the six million (3) intention to exterminate. The Holocaust Industry does not allow anyone to get away with that.

Predictably, the highlight of the case was Auschwitz and the homicidal gas chambers that are said to have existed there. Irving expressed skepticism that there had been any, while defense attorney Richard Rampton flatly rejected the idea that he had any obligation to build an affirmative case for them:

“I am not here to prove that Auschwitz had gas chambers, homicidal gas chambers. I do not need to do that. If you . . . have an open mind and you look at the convergence of evidence - eyewitness testimony from victims, perpetrators, and the contemporaneous documentary evidence and the archeological remains - you are going to conclude, as a matter of probability at the very least, that indeed what the eyewitnesses tell us is true."

Of course, as my co-blogger Frank Scott points out, this is magical thinking, and a prescription for reducing history to mythology, to wit:

"I am not here to prove that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. I do not need to do that. If you . . . have an open mind and you look at the convergence of evidence - eyewitness testimony from those who saw the empty tomb, Roman perpetrators of the murder, and the contemporaneous documentary evidence and the archeological remains - you are going to conclude that what the Bible tells us is true."

In the text of his decision Judge Gray admitted he was predisposed to believe in homicidal gas chambers (both sides in the Holocaust controversy agree that there were gas chambers to control disease). “I have to confess that, in common I suspect with most other people," wrote Gray, "I had supposed that the evidence of mass extermination of Jews in the gas chambers at Auschwitz was compelling.” The judge would have rendered a great public service had he inquired into exactly why a majority of people had come to believe in something whose material basis Gray himself admitted was largely absent. In any case, his predisposition to believe combined with the vast manpower advantage enjoyed by Lipstadt and Penguin Books, made the trial's outcome easy to predict.

To arrive at the conclusion that homicidal gas chambers existed, the judge accepted the legitimacy of a David Ray Griffin-style "cumulative proof," which dispensed with the need to find or cite direct evidence - a great convenience. Thus, the defense did not have to suffer the embarrassment of being unable to produce photographs of the homicidal gas chambers or their physical remains, nor contemporary German documents discussing the myriad complexities involved in (allegedly) systematically exterminating millions of people with an industrial assembly line of death.

In effect, the judge asserted that since solid evidence for the homicidal gas chambers was lacking, flimsy evidence would have to do. “The consequence of the absence of any overt documentary evidence of gas chambers at these camps, coupled with the lack of archeological evidence, means that reliance has to be placed on eyewitness and circumstantial evidence . . .”

But of course no one has to grant eyewitness testimony and circumstancial evidence the power to decide the case. After all, a cumulative proof based on inferential speculation is not nearly as convincing as an argument employing direct evidence, and it is curious that an alleged program of industrial extermination should be so lacking in such evidence. Judge Gray, who appeared eager to avoid having to judge historical questions, missed an opportunity to sidestep the thorny gas chamber question by pointing out the dubious nature of a cumulative proof.

Instead, he endorsed a speculative case based squarely on circumstantial evidence and eyewitness testimony, much of it patently ridiculous, which concluded that there "must have been" homicidal gas chambers. Accepting the validity of "must have been," of course, requires a certain leap of faith, which the trial's much invoked "objective, fair-minded historian" should not have required.

Judge Gray asserted that there was a "convergence" of evidence "which is to the ordinary, dispassionate mind overwhelming that hundreds of thousands of Jews were systematically gassed to death at Auschwitz." But in the very next breath he issued a qualification that ought to be posted at the entrance of every Holocaust museum in the world: ". . . the contemporaneous documents, such as drawings, plans, correspondence with contractors and the like, yield little clear evidence of the existence of gas chambers designed to kill humans. Such isolated references to the use of gas as are to be found amongst these documents can be explained by the need to fumigate clothes so as to reduce the incidence of diseases such as typhus." It's a wonder Lipstadt didn't accuse the judge of being a Holocaust Denier.

As for the eyewitness evidence, even the Lipstadt-Penguin team had to concede that it was not exactly sound. “The Defendants recognise that not all of the evidence which I have sought to summarise above is altogether reliable," wrote Judge Gray. "This applies with particular force to the evidence of the eye-witnesses.” He found that "witnesses may have repeated and even embellished the (invented) accounts of other witnesses with the consequence that a corpus of false testimony is built up." Nevertheless, he concluded that the "cumulative effect of the documentary evidence for the genocidal operation of the gas chambers at Auschwitz is considerable." How a stream of evidence heavily contaminated by "false testimony" leads an unprejudiced mind to belief rather than skepticism was left rather unclear by the judge.

Irving tried to get the case back on a material footing, but judge Gray rejected his contention that the absence of (venting) holes in the roof of the morgue at Auschwitz's crematorium 2 meant that no mass gassing operation could have taken place there. ". . . the apparent absence of evidence of holes in the roof at crematorium 2 falls short of being a good reason for rejecting the cumulative effect of the evidence on which the Defendants rely." (emphasis added.) Defense witness Robert Jan van Pelt suggested that the holes were cemented in in the fall of 1944. Irving responded scathingly: "So what you are saying is with the Red Army just over the River Vistula ever since November 1944 and about to invade and the personnel of Auschwitz concentration camp in a blue funk and destroying their records and doing what they can, some SS Rottenfuhrer has been given the rotten job of getting up there with a bucket and spade and cementing in those four holes - in case after we have blown up the building they show?"

On the issue of intentionality, the judge disagreed with Irving about Hitler allegedly not knowing about the "extermination" of the Jews. He claimed that Irving's ideological convictions distorted his historical findings, allegedly on purpose.

If indeed Irving was guilty of this, that makes him very much like historians in general, who regularly falsify the historical record to protect the reputation of their favored states, often quite deliberately. Consider the fact that American historians - for 200 years! - didn't even mention that Washington deliberately destroyed North American Indian nations.

That's deliberate falsification.

There are plenty of other examples.

What about the six million? Holocaust death tolls were calculated in the aggregate, based on estimated population sizes. Wrote Judge Gray: “(Christopher) Browning advanced what is in effect a demographic argument in support of the Defendants’ contention that Jews were exterminated in the gas chambers at the death camps in vast numbers. He calculated the approximate number who were deported from western European countries and removed from the ghettos of Poland; he asserted that contemporaneous evidence proves that many of them were transported to Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka . . ." Those unaccounted for were presumed dead in the Holocaust. ". . . since they were never heard of again, Browning considers it reasonable to infer that they were put to death in the camps” (emphasis added).

But how accurate were the "estimated" population sizes and the "approximate" number of deportees? Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem claims it has the names of three million European Jews who died during WWII - including those who died from natural causes - which constitutes only half of the deaths routinely attributed to the Holocaust. What about the other half? Irving claimed that the Jewish death toll at the hands of the Nazis was between one and four million. Since the upper end of his range exceeds the numbers from Yad Vashem, why is his view considered scandalous? Furthermore, presumed dead is not the same as proven murdered, much less "exterminated" in gas chambers. There are many ways to die, especially in a war zone.

The defense attempted to prove that Irving not only distorted and falsified history, but that he did so from a motive to rehabilitate and resuscitate Nazism. (The hysteria that "it" is about to happen again is routinely used to deflect serious questions about what exactly "it" refers to in the first place.) But Judge Gray stated that, though racist, Irving was not guilty of inciting racist violence. “I accept that Irving is not obsessed with race. He has certainly not condoned or excused racist violence or thuggery. But he has on many occasions spoken in terms which are plainly racist.”

If true, this makes him much like Lipstadt, who opposes intermarriage and condones the founding of a Jewish apartheid state on Palestinian land. Unlike democratic states, Israel is not the state of its citizens, but the state of the Jewish people wherever they happen to be. The Palestinian Arabs are just in the way. Hence the genocidal attempt to eradicate their culture, which is a means of getting them to "voluntarily" leave, so they can be replaced by Jewish immigrants from around the world. In short, Lipstadt's racism supports the infliction of a massive injustice, while Irving's does not.

Furthermore, nothing could have been more ironic than the defense's attempt to smear Irving as an unreconstructed Nazi, dedicated to resurrecting the Hitler regime. For while Irving did nothing more serious than give talks, Germany led a successful campaign in the Balkans throughout the 1990s to promote ethnic homogeneity by force, a bedrock Nazi principle, ultimately dismembering Yugoslavia into ethnic statelets under foreign control, a policy which was (1) illegal (2) based on a demonized caricature of the Serbs that showed a striking resemblance to Nazi propaganda in the 1940s (3) carried out in alliance with the descendants of Hitler's Muslim and Croatian allies, justly famous for drug trafficking, kidnapping, rape, and murder.

In 1999, just months before the Lipstadt-Irving trial began the Luftwaffe bombed Yugoslavia on the pretext that Germany was overcoming its evil past and becoming a "normal nation" (i.e., an aggressive one) by attacking a Serbian Hitler (Slobodan Milosevic) who was allegedly committing genocide, though the fact of the matter was that there were no refugees during the last five months of peace and the internally displaced persons fleeing the three-way ethnic conflict numbered only a few thousand. But in the cartoon-like morality play shown on Western T.V., the Serbs were cast as Oriental barbarians, while the Croats and Muslims starred as their perpetually innocent victims.

German leaders announced that precisely because of the German role in the Holocaust, they had to abandon Berlin's pledge to forever renounce the use of military intervention abroad. This so-called humanitarian imperialism, noted author Diana Johnstone, expressed "perfect continuity with the most aggressive traditions of German policy toward the Balkans as practiced by Berlin in two world wars." In particular, the round condemnation of an entire ethnic group (Serbs) was "reminiscent of the pre-war propaganda against the Jews," she wrote.

But at the Irving-Lipstadt trial the judge and the general public were led to believe that David Irving was the real Nazi, because he gave a speech that inspired a group of skinheads to shout "Sieg Heil." Ask Yugoslavians if they think this is worse than the bombing campaign that destroyed their houses, old-age homes, hospitals, outdoor markets, buses, trains, columns of fleeing refugees, and the Chinese Embassy.

The fact of the matter is, there is no reason to accept the demonized image of Irving handed on to us by his political enemies. Moreover, even they concede that his efforts have contributed to the development of fresh historical research. Defense witness Christopher Browning, for example, admitted to Irving that his book, Hitler's War, "was the impetus for research . . . on decision-making process and Hitler's role." Meanwhile, Judge Gray had considerable praise to offer Irving the military historian:

“My assessment is that as a military historian, Irving has much to commend him. For his works of military history Irving has undertaken thorough and painstaking research into the archives. He has discovered and disclosed to historians and others many documents which, but for his efforts, might have remained unnoticed for years. It was plain from the way in which he conducted his case and dealt with a sustained and penetrating cross-examination that his knowledge of World War 2 is unparalleled. His mastery of the detail of the historical documents is remarkable. He is beyond question able and intelligent. He was invariably quick to spot the significance of documents which he had not previously seen. Moreover he writes his military history in a clear and vivid style. I accept the favourable assessment by Professor Watt and Sir John Keegan of the calibre of Irving’s military history and reject as too sweeping the negative assessment of [defense witness Richard] Evans.”

Furthermore, the idea that an ideologically committed historian is intrinsically more susceptible to historical falsification is unfounded. As Michael Parenti, a firmly committed anti-capitalist and an outstanding scholar puts it:
"Many mainstream academics manifest a remarkable detachment from the urgent realities of the world. What is unsettling is how this is treated as a scholarly virtue. Supposedly such detachment helps them to retain their objectivity. In fact, much of the best scholarship comes from ideologically committed scholars. Thus, it is female and African American researchers who respectively have produced the best work on the oppressions of sexism and racism, areas that their white male colleagues never imagined were fit subjects for study. It is they, in their partisan urgency, who have revealed the unexamined sexist and racist presumptions of conventional scholarship in the sciences and social sciences."

And it is David Irving and the Holocaust revisionists who have in their partisan urgency revealed a Holocaust dogma masquerading as history. We needn't loathe them. In fact, we ought to help them, for who fails to benefit when the layers of legend and myth encrusting our history are peeled away?


Justice Charles Gray, David Irving Vs. Penguin Books Ltd. and Deborah Lipstadt, April 11, 2000

D. D. Guttenplan, The Holocaust On Trial, (Granta Books, 2001)

Diana Johnstone, Fool's Crusade - Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions, (Monthly Review, 2002)

Michael Parenti, To Kill A Nation - The Attack on Yugoslavia, (Verso, 2000)

Michael Parenti, Against Empire (City Lights, 1995)

Daniel McGowan, "What Does Holocaust Denial Really Mean?" Dissident Voice, February 17, 2009

Mark Weber, "After the Irving-Lipstadt Trial: New Dangers and Challenges," Institute for Historical Review

Mark Weber, "Opportunity and Challenge in a New Era," Institute For Historical Review

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

An Epidemic of Capitalism

by Michael K. Smith

As capitalism's "happy talk" about recovery saturates the public airwaves, keep in mind that food banks throughout the country are seeing a sharp spike in demand for their services.

According to the Regional Food Bank of Los Angeles a university or technical degree is no protection against hunger. Nearly one million residents of Los Angeles county, including the relatively well-educated, now must resort to food charity to stay alive. (One in four people seeking food in food banks have a university or technical degree). Nearly half - 48% - of people who go to food banks have to choose between buying food or paying for basic services like water and electricity. Forty-six percent have to choose between eating and paying the rent.

Even those who have food often eat poorly. Dr. Jonathan Fielding, Director of the Department of Public Health for Los Angeles county, explains that poor people often choose low quality food - like soft drinks or fast food - for economic reasons, that is, because balanced, nutritional foods cost more and are often unavailable in poor neighborhoods. Also, poor people frequently lack adequate kitchens, which makes pre-packaged and fast foods the only realistic option, though these foods cause long-term health problems like obesity and heart attacks.

Such dismal social welfare outcomes are not merely incidental results of the latest market crash, though financial deregulation has certainly exacerbated the problem of hunger in the U.S., but rather, are characteristic features of capitalism, where the profit hunger of banks and corporations is always fed more than empty bellies. Ownership has its priorities, and they are not pretty.

In the 1930s capitalism produced a situation in which farmers were pauperized by the very abundance of their crops. It proved cheaper for them to destroy food amidst widespread hunger than it was to bring their crops to market, where prices had fallen far below production costs. While hungry masses starved, desperate farmers plowed "surplus" food into the ground hoping to reverse the decline in prices.

The problem, of course, is that the poor lack money with which to make the market respond to their unmet needs, and the wealthy cannot eat for the entire country. Even the greediest diner won't eat 100 meals a day.

Today, financial deregulation has once again rewarded the rich for plundering the poor and middle class, leaving increased millions in misery and the country on the brink of financial ruin. The inventors of nearly worthless paper assets refuse to allow the "free market" to determine their (now collapsed) value, forcing the public to underwrite inflated values, at the cost of our homes, jobs, and pensions. In short, the real economy has been displaced by the paper economy, forcing the general public into the worst economic misery since the Great Depression.

But this is a re-run of an old story.

By the beginning of Ronald Reagan's second term, Reaganomics had created a large surge in homelessness and hunger. In Chicago, Dr. Howard B. Levy, Chairman of Pediatrics at Mount Sinai Hospital, publicly declared that his caseload of advanced malnutrition diseases like kwashiorkor and marasmas was increasing. "Malnutrition has clearly gone up in the last few years. We have more low-birth-weight babies. We are seeing so much TB (tuberculosis) that my house staff is no longer excited by it." With the federal government abandoning its commitment to the poor, hospitals and clinics were besieged by scavengers sifting through medical garbage and newly admitted patients requesting food in advance of treatment.

In the breadbasket of the world, the cities were starving. Mother Theresa's Missionaries of Charity arrived from Calcutta to help feed them.

President Reagan never ceased explaining poverty away as the product of personal choice. When he withdrew the government from the public housing market, hundreds of thousands of Americans expressed a sudden "preference" for living in the great outdoors. Reagan appeared on Good Morning America refuting charges of callousness: "One problem that we've had, even in the best of times," said the president, "is the people who are sleeping on the grates, the homeless who are homeless, you might say, by choice."

A study put out by the Economic Policy Institute on Labor Day 1992 painted a bleak picture of the results of 12 years of Reaganomics. "Most Americans are working longer hours for lower wages and considerably less security," the report said, and "the vast majority" are "in many ways worse off" than in the late 1970s. Post-1987 real wages had declined even for the college educated. "Poverty rates were high by historic standards," and "those in poverty in 1989 were significantly poorer than the poor in 1979."

A congressional report released several days later estimated that hunger had grown by 50% since the mid 1980s to include some 30 million people. Other studies showed that one in eight children suffered hunger, a problem that had been eliminated by government programs from the 1960s, but reappeared in 1982. Two researchers reported that nationwide "the number of hungry American children grew by 26 percent" as aid to the poor declined during the 1980s boom. At Boston City Hospital researchers found that the number of malnourished, underweight babies increased sharply following the coldest winter months, when families had to choose between paying for heat and paying for food. At the hospital's clinic for malnourished children, the waiting time to receive care reached two months, forcing hospital staff to resort to triage. Some suffered Third World levels of malnutrition.

But hunger hardly tells the whole story.

In 1973, Harvey Brenner published data on 750,000 New York state mental patients going back 127 years. He demonstrated that the only meaningful variable influencing mental hospital admissions was the rate of employment. When unemployment went up, vacancies at mental hospitals went down. Compared to unemployment, factors like biochemistry, genetics, and childhood trauma were simply irrelevant. Only joblessness allowed one to forecast mental breakdown with complete consistency. The same year Richard Light in the Harvard Educational Review published a report on child abuse indicating that the "variable that shows up most frequently as somehow related to child abuse is father's unemployment."

Job loss practically programmed middle-aged men for strokes and heart attacks, and the suicide rate for working men of all ages peaked with each peak in unemployment.

The unemployment rate also has an obvious connection to crime. In 1994, John Irwin and James Austin published a book documenting the fact that the typical inmate in the vast Gulag that was (and is) the U.S. prison system was a young, nonwhite male who initially became involved in petty crime because no avenues to a legal life of conventional satisfactions existed. He had typically not finished high school, had no job skills, had never enjoyed steady employment, and was not working at the time of his arrest. The top five predictors of his crime referred to capitalist economic conditions: business failure rate, number of unemployment claims, number of workers on strike, number of personal bankruptcies, and the incidence of mortgage foreclosure.

When will the Surgeon General appear on T.V. denouncing an inter-generational epidemic of capitalism?


"In L.A. Hunger Reaches Everyone," La Opinion, February 3, 2010

John Irwin and James Austin, It's About Time: America's Imprisonment Binge, (Wadsworth, 1994)

Hugh Drummond, Doctor Drummond's Spirited Guide To Health Care in a Dying Empire, (Grove, 1980)

Noam Chomsky, Year 501 - The Conquest Continues, (South End, 1993)

Jonathan Kozol, Rachel and Her Children - Homeless Families in America, (Fawcett-Colombine, 1988)

Paul Slansky, The Clothes Have No Emperor - A Chronicle of the American 80s, (Simon and Schuster, 1989)

-----Michael K. Smith is the author of "Portraits of Empire" and "The Madness of King George," (illustrations by Matt Wuerker) from Common Courage Press. He can be reached at