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    Luxembourg (The Country)

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    RJHall

    Number of posts : 16
    Age : 50
    Location : Luxembourg
    Website : http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/204436-rjhall
    Registration date : 2010-02-10

    Luxembourg (The Country)

    Post  RJHall on Tue Sep 21, 2010 8:57 am



    PART ONE

    BY NAME BUT NOT BY NATURE

    The inspiring scene pictured above happened here in Luxembourg in May 2009. It was a demonstration of steel workers, outside the shareholders meeting of the Luxembourg headquarters of the world's largest steel concern, ArcelorMittal. The management of ArcelorMittal had formally announced the destruction of 9,000 jobs worldwide, including 6,000 in Europe. Germany was to lose 750 jobs, France 1,400, Belgium 800, and the United States nearly 1,000 jobs. To add insult to injury (but to nobody's surprise), the management had also decided to pay out a dividend of $1.1 billion to shareholders despite a fall-off in production and mass redundancies.*

    *One person was injured in the above scene: a policeman fired a "rubber bullet" at a cameraman. Now "rubber bullet" is what the bourgeois press called it; it was actually a plastic bullet filled with paint and lead of the same type that had just killed a student in the U.S. when the police fired it in a demonstration there. My favorite sentence from the bourgeois press on this story: "Luxembourg police have launched an investigation into the incident" (regarding the "rubber bullet"). Of course, when quoting the bourgeois press, you need lots of sarcastic emoticons, so here's one for that sentence about the police investigating itself: Smile

    Pretty cool for the “World's Safest City" (according to Mercer; Luxembourg City last year ranked 19 on their overall Quality of Living global city rankings and was number 1 in "personal safety", whatever that means)! But too bad none of the protestors were native Luxembourgers; instead, the around 1,500 steel workers had travelled by coach and train from Belgium and France to protest against the planned dismissals. No, Rosa Luxemburg would not be proud of the sleepy little country that bore a homophone of her name!* Luxembourg had to import 1500 workers from Belgium and France to ignite any action. Naturally, the Luxembourg trade unions "strongly condemn[ed] the violence" of that demonstration and didn't import any "frontaliers" (workers from across the border) to their own planned protest march the following weekend.

    *Rosa never once mentioned the country of Luxembourg in her writings, not even in her articles on The National Question, which would have been the perfect place to mention a tiny little breakaway nationalistic country.

    Luxembourg is the richest country in Europe per capita (though the capita is only half a million people) and probably one of the so-far least affected by the Great Financial Crisis (even though a large part of Luxembourg's economy is the financial sector, where I work, and my employer, Deutsche Börse,* has already announced very massive cost-cutting and layoffs of over 10% of us (though they haven’t yet announced which employees) in what it cynically calls “Project Excellence”, so we are all working under the hammer and nobody is popping champagne corks in the elevators or anything). Officially, Luxembourg City is the World's Safest City, according to world city livability statistics. (So by saying that, I've now gone commercial: Got milk?) Unofficially, it's also the World's Most Boring City, according to my wife, a native Luxembourger, and me, an American. The only exciting thing to happen here in the over 10 years I have lived here was the rowdy demonstration at the headquarters of ArcelorMittal, and they had to import steelworkers from France and Belgium for that.

    *I’m hardly a racist by any means, but I can’t think about my employers without thinking of these lines from the Tom Lehrer song** “MLF Lullaby”:

    “Once all the Germans were warlike and mean
    But that couldn’t happen again
    We taught them a lesson in 1918
    And they’ve hardly bothered us since then.”

    **Another Tom Lehrer song, “Who’s Next?”, actually mentions Luxembourg, and before I planned to move here it was about the only time I’d ever heard of it.

    So it's a great place to raise your kids, but it's also the kind of place where you hope that your kids have an ounce of spirit so that as soon as they're old enough they will run not walk to the nearest exit so they can see the rest of the world! It's also apparently a great place to retire, certainly judging from my mother-in-law. She was a schoolteacher, which unlike in the U.S. in Luxembourg actually pays pretty well and has substantial retirement benefits, and now she gets about as much per month as I get for working my job (which admittedly is less than when I was staff attorney for a U.S. state court of appeals). Retirees in Luxembourg, having nothing better to do, often go into hobbies or politics big time. In many European countries, the extreme right-wing is a bunch of skinhead neo-Nazis marching with their jackboots and so on. Here in Luxembourg, they are retirees who remind me of Grandpa Simpson from The Simpsons, and even in the middle of their firey anti-immigrant speeches on TV I keep expecting them to start snoring loudly in the middle of a sentence. The Prime Minister, Old Junkface (I use nicknames for him, too.* His real name is Jean-Claude Juncker), is the longest-serving head of government in Europe, because Luxembourgers are too bored to vote for anybody else, so they have kept voting for him since the mid-1990s. (I'm not a citizen, so I can't vote here.)

    *I can't help but give nicknames when I mention that Hope-Bomber, that Nobel Laureate Dalai Bama, and so I can hardly believe that even though I vented on him at great length in my previous posts, I used neither of those two nicknames, nor one of my favorite nicknames for him, which comes from a Michael Jackson song: "You've been hit by, you've been struck by, a Smooth Criminal." Peace activist Cindy Sheehan, who is my "friend" on Facebook** although of course I don't know her, says "If Bush is a war criminal, then so is Obama. If Obama isn't, then neither is Bush. We the people cannot have it both ways."

    **Facebook is a platform for big business to do marketing research on millions of people without paying them, but the language of author Michael Dawson (The Consumer Trap) is SO much better: “cynically planned, BBM [big business marketing]-sponsored, wildly popular, narcissism-promoting social control operation”, heh! My other beef with Facebook is that, for those who don’t have ten quinzillion “friends”, it’s like Valentine’s Day: it might be great if you’re included among the people it’s for, but if you’re not it’s a cruel reminder that you’re left out in the cold.

    Luxembourg politics can actually be surprisingly progressive sometimes though. Old Jerkoff, who is a member of the Christian Social People's Party (imagine a party being named that in the U.S.! Politicians there would stampede to join it so fast it would look like a Free Toupee sale was announced at the Republican and Democratic conventions), had announced that in this legislative year he would try to push through a gay marriage law! Since our best friends are a couple of lesbians who have been together for 20 years, we have been keeping on eye on this one. So far his party is actually doing it too, though of course it’s only a “civil partnership” law rather than actual marriage. It'll probably get vetoed by the Grand Duke again though anyway. A couple years ago a euthanasia law passed the Luxembourg legislature but was vetoed by the Grand Duke (who is relatively young only because his superannuated father finally stepped down a few years ago). It caused a "firestorm" (by Luxembourg standards) of controversy, with newspapers and magazines and the TV occasionally asking whether an unelected Grand Duke should be able to veto the people's laws. Nobody except my wife and I asked why Luxembourg even HAS a Grand Duke at all and pointed out that constitutional monarchy is a silly anachronism. Asking that sort of question probably sounds radical here. Of course, I really AM a radical, but my wife isn't. Anyway, Old Beef Jerky announced that they'll also try again with the euthanasia law this year. Maybe after the brouhaha last time the Grand Duke won't feel like vetoing anything next time. But then again, Pope Benedict did give our Grand Duke Henri a “human rights” award for that veto! So we shall see what happens.

    Luxembourg the country has had a long history but has never really been a significant player in world history,* in contrast to Rosa Luxemburg on both points. In the year 963 Count Seigfried founded a castle and established an estate in the triply misnamed Holy Roman Empire. I have a theory about why he founded it at that particular place: there was a hamburger stand there where Siegfried ate a “Deluxe Burger”; since he was enjoying this burger while he was talking, everybody thought he said “Luxembourg” and the name stuck. This story might also explain the motto of Luxembourg, a very loose translation of which is “Do you want fries with that?”

    *Though it does make the world news when its nationals, like Viviane Reding, hypocritically criticize the actions of others, like the French mass deportations of Roma (when many European countries have been mass-deporting the Roma for the past two years with the implicit approval of the European Commission on which Reding sits), to keep the Talk Theater going and to distract the audience from the bigger picture of what is really going on. As Don Marquis said in “what the ants are saying”: "while men talk they are making deserts all the time". Sarkozy’s initial response to Reding was to threaten to deport the Roma to Luxembourg; Reding subsequently disavowed her criticisms. Though the Talk Theater can be entertaining sometimes. French Senator Phillipe Marini said it would be better if Luxembourg didn’t exist, that he wished Napoleon III and Bismarck had moved to eliminate the Grand Duchy at its foundation in the 19th Century. Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn then accused Marini of sharing the same opinion as Hitler about Luxembourg, suggested he went to get lessons in tact from Iran’s president Ahmadinejad, and added for good measure that at least Luxembourg hadn’t voluntarily collaborated with the Nazis in World War II as France had done. Didn't their mothers ever tell them that if you don't have anything nice to say then don't say anything at all? (Then why all these long rambling posts? Good question.)

    A better translation of “Mir wëlle bleiwen wat mir sin” is “We wish to remain what we are,” and the actual story behind this is startlingly heroic and needs none of my bad jokes to liven it up. When the Nazi German armies started the campaign in the West in 1940, they poured through Luxembourg in their rush against France and overran it (Luxembourg, not France) in less than a day. They imposed martial law and started a vast campaign to indoctrinate and lure the Luxembourgers to come "Heim ins Reich" (home to the mother country) to make them believe that they were ethnic Germans. Expecting their propaganda campaign to be successful, the occupation authorities organized a census, which included seemingly innocuous questions about nationality, mother tongue and ethnicity. Resistance organisations were quick to recognise this as a thinly disguised attempt to incorporate Luxembourg into the Reich and mounted a massive underground awareness-raising campaign (“Dräimol Lëtzebuergesch” or “Three times Luxembourgish”), turning the census into a referendum, which was held on October 10, 1941. Early results were embarrassing to the Nazis: 97% declared their Luxembourgish identity, often writing “Mir wëlle bleiwen wat mir sin” on the census forms. Naturally, the regime immediately stopped counting all the votes in a decision that would make the U.S. Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore on 12/12* salivate with envy. I’d think October 10 should be a national holiday, instead of the actual National Day, June 23, which is supposed to be the Grand Duke’s birthday but isn’t really. Anyway, since the German military campaign in the West had ended in victory, the Nazis ignored the vote and nevertheless integrated Luxembourg into the Third Reich under the new and boring name of "Gau Moselland" or “Mosel country district” ruled by a high ranking Nazi official, the "Gauleiter," whose primary task was to “Germanize” the Luxembourg population. German law was imposed, the use of the Luxembourg native language forbidden, French-sounding names were converted, etc. (That last bit actually came up again in local news a few months ago: After the establishment of biometric passports, older Luxembourgers applying for passports got them with the Nazi-imposed German-sounding names even though they had been using their French-sounding names for decades! The new passports used the people’s official legal names as listed in the General Register of Residents. Today’s Luxembourg government sheepishly advised all affected applicants to register their French-sounding names in the civil status register.)

    *December 12, 2000, the date of the Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore, is my vote for which date future historians (assuming there will be any)** will point to for when the U.S. Republic had fallen. Interestingly, after the Roman Republic had fallen, most Romans and even the earlier emperors denied that it had done so, and even modern historians do not all agree on the date the Roman Republic had fallen. (Wikipedia: "The precise date in which the Roman Republic changed into the Roman Empire is a matter of interpretation, with the dates of Julius Caesar's appointment as perpetual dictator (44 BC), the Battle of Actium (September 2, 31 BC), and the date which the Roman Senate granted Octavian the title "Augustus" (January 16, 27 BC), being some of the common choices. This is a distinction chiefly made by modern historians and not by the Romans of the time, however. The early Julio-Claudian emperors maintained that the res publica still existed under the protection of their extraordinary powers and would eventually return to its republican form.")

    **As I posted a while back, I figure there are still around 30 years before the "suddenly silence, total and absolute" moment in the dream sequence from the last episode of Carl Sagan’s TV show "Cosmos". But we are getting inexorably closer, I think.

    Anyway, for the following five centuries after 963, Luxembourg thrived as an independent feudal estate; for four centuries after that, Luxembourg was caught in a tug-of-war between all the neighboring countries. Finally with the defeat of Napoleon in 1815, Luxembourg became a Grand Duchy with formal autonomy, though its royal head was in "personal union" with the Netherlands (meaning the King of the Netherlands would always also be the Grand Duke of Luxembourg). In the process, Luxembourg's "vast" territory was getting whittled away bit by bit. When Belgium was created as a neutral zone between France and the Netherlands in 1830, Belgium got most of the remainder of Luxembourg as a province. The Treaty of London in 1839 confirmed both Luxembourg's status as a sovereign grand duchy in personal union to the king of the Netherlands and the cession of most of it to Belgium. The loss of most of its territory and markets caused economic problems and led to 20% of its people emigrating to the United States over the next half century, including the most famous guy Luxembourg ever produced, Hugo Gernsback, "The Father of Science Fiction" after whom the science fiction awards are named (the Hugo award is of course much more prestigious and meaningful than the Nobel Peace Prize), and born in my neighborhood of Luxembourg City, Bonnevoie. Luxembourg's "personal union" with the Netherlands ended in 1890 for an embarrassing reason: when the King and Grand Duke William III died leaving only a daughter, Wilhelmina, Luxembourg invoked "Salic Law", which states that you would rather slit your throat with a rusty razor blade than let a woman be on top, and so Wilhelmina became Queen of the Netherlands and her distant cousin Adolphe became Grand Duke of Luxembourg.

    RED FLAG

    Although Luxembourg’s “personal union” with the Netherlands may be no more, there does still seem some sort of “flag union” that is alive and well! Here is the Luxembourg flag:



    And here is the Netherlands flag:



    Now, you can probably tell the difference between these flags when you see them both side by side, but if you only saw one or the other, could you quickly and confidently tell which one it was? I probably couldn’t.

    Of course, European flags look confusingly alike anyway, because there are basically two flag plans: either 3 horizontal stripes or 3 vertical stripes. But at least different countries' flags are supposed to have different colors! So how to explain this “flag union”? Could it be some romantic, glorious explanation, that something like the following dialog occurred in the 19th century?

    "Comrades, this meeting of the Revolutionary Luxembourgist Liberation Front is now in session."

    "Hey, is that the Netherlands flag over there? Why are we flying that?"

    "No, but it's close enough to fool the authorities! Look at that bottom stripe there. See, slightly different shade of blue!"

    "If you say so."

    "So if the Nazi stormtroopers come to raid us --"

    "Isn't that a little bit anachronistic?"

    "Don't interrupt me, I'm on a roll! So, when they come to raid us, we will just innocently point to the flag and say, You must have the wrong house, see, we are loyal and patriotic citizens of the Netherlands! That way, we will be able to carry out our subversive revolutionary activities right under their noses!"

    "Very clever. Socialism or Barbarism!"

    "Who's being anachronistic now?"

    Unfortunately, I suspect that the real dialog was closer to the below:

    "Hey Joe, wake up! We need a new flag!"

    "Zzzzz. Hunh? What? New flag, eh? What was wrong with the old one?"

    "Nothing, but we're independent now, so we need a different one!"

    "Well, what is the country whose flag we used to have?"

    "The Netherlands. But they're also called Holland. And their language is called Dutch. Except when the Belgians speak it, then it's called Flemish. Isn't that a little bit schizophrenic?"

    "Never mind! Just take one of the stripes and make it a slightly different shade of the same color. Now I can land a fighter plane on an aircraft carrier and proclaim, wearing a giant codpiece, Mission Accomplished! But first, time for my nap. Zzzzz."

    A few years ago, a movement started to replace the Luxembourg flag with a new one. Not, alas, a red revolutionary one that Rosa might have liked, but it's still an improvement. Here is the proposed new Luxembourg flag:



    Well, you can't deny that it definitely looks cooler than the old one! Unfortunately, the only political party that supports it is the Alternative Democratic Reform Party, a right-wing demagogic pseudo-populist nationalist vaguely reminiscent of the “Tea Party” in the United States, which is responsible for disenfranchising me here!

    There is now a pending law in the Luxembourg legislature to resolve this flag issue, this incessant and burning question (though not the flag-burning question), but it is the kind of compromise guaranteed to please nobody, not even people who take the “Who gives two-fifths of a shit, of the ten quinzillion issues that humans should be worried about right now who thinks this is number one on the list?” position: Outside Luxembourg, the old flag would continue to be the only official one, but inside Luxembourg, both the old and new flags would have equal official status. Mission Accomplished!

    On the more important disenfranchisement issue, several years ago Luxembourg passed a new citizenship law that relaxed its citizenship requirements for resident foreigners, offering them dual citizenship and no longer requiring them to renounce their prior citizenship or, in initial draft, to even learn the Luxembourgish language that nobody else on Earth speaks anyway and even natives, all being multilingual, speak only to each other. That would have been a step in the right direction, I'd say, and would have let me vote in Luxembourg and European Union elections for the first time. The proposed law would make it easier for people who live here to become Luxembourg citizens without having to learn much of the Luxembourgish language and without having to give up their foreign citizenship. If that law had passed and if I had taken advantage of it, I'd no longer be a "LINO" (Luxembourger In Name Only) so I could vote in Luxembourgish and EU elections (why not, since I already live and pay taxes here!), I wouldn't have to renew my work permit and residence permit all the time, I could move freely within the EU and travel easily everywhere with our family waiting in the shorter “EU Citizen Only” lines at airports (a fresh point since we just got back from three summer vacations), etc. without always (in the Prexy Bush II years) having to explain to people that even though I'm American I didn't vote for The Farting Voltaire. (Actually, I always just said "him" and people knew who I meant; they probably didn’t follow American political news closely enough to get the Farting Voltaire joke....) But the ADR successfully insisted that the new citizenship law require knowledge of the Luxembourgish language after all, which, since I am notoriously terrible at learning non-English languages anyway and since even my native Luxembourger wife says that there is no reason to learn a language spoken nowhere else on the planet, dashed all my dreams of applying for Luxembourg citizenship.

    ROCK THE VOTE

    Meanwhile, although we have only even visited the U.S. twice in over 10 years, not because of never getting around to it but because of a deliberate political conviction on my part of reluctance to visit it until it cleans up its government, and in fact I follow its political news very closely (even more closely than when I lived there), nevertheless, I still feel very much like an American and still feel strong affinity for its people. As a line from “Anthem,” one of my favorite songs from CHESS: The Musical,* says, "I cross over borders but I'm still there now." And of course I would never want to give up my right as a U.S. citizen to vote in their elections by absentee ballot (not that it ever has an effect** worth the price of an intercontinental stamp, which in Luxembourg has just gone up again; “Stop Me Before I Vote Again!” “If Voting Could Change The System It Would Be Illegal!” etc.). So even the proposed Luxembourg legislation gave me pause when I heard that to benefit from that legislation, although you would not have to give up your current citizenship elsewhere, you WOULD have to give up the right to vote elsewhere! So in exchange for the right to vote against Bokassa (as a local newspaper refers to Luxembourg's prime minister, Juncker) and against the NAFTA-like EU constitution, I would have had to give up my right to vote against Prexy Bush and the Emperor Palpatine Brigade!

    *The song works on several levels: although it’s ostensibly about the singer’s native country (Russia and its Stalinist leaders, or in my case, the U.S. and Farting Voltaire), it can also be about the entire earth, the game of chess, and the heroine of the musical, the singer’s lady love, in an unhappy relationship with his insane-seeming chess opponent:

    “No man, no madness
    Though their sad power may prevail
    Can possess, conquer, my country's heart
    They rise to fail

    “She is eternal
    Long before nations' lines were drawn
    When no flags flew, when no armies stood
    My land was born

    “And you ask me why I love her
    Through wars, death and despair
    She is the constant, we who don't care
    And you wonder will I leave her - but how?
    I cross over borders but I'm still there now

    “How can I leave her?
    Where would I start?
    Let man's petty nations tear themselves apart
    My land's only borders lie around my heart”

    **I proudly voted for “third party” candidates for U.S. President in 1996, 2004, and 2008. But in 2000, I must offer to you a confession: after agonized thought, I finally decided to hold my nose and vote for Al Gore. I regretted it almost immediately and ever since. The next day after election day, the maps showed all the states either red or blue except for Oregon and Florida, which were gray pending the vote counts. But nobody cared about Oregon, since it had too few electoral votes to affect the national outcome no matter whether it eventually went red or blue. How humiliating (Oregon, as the last U.S. state in which I lived, is where I vote through absentee ballot now that I live in Europe), especially when you’ve spent months deciding whether to avoid “wasting” your vote by voting for the Democrat and possibly making a difference in the outcome, since it meant the vote was wasted anyway and so by not voting my conscience I REALLY wasted my vote! But no, instead, it was Florida that was the subject of a Simon and Garfunkel song (“Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you”). And even votes in the Joltin’ Joe state didn’t matter after 12/12, when the Supreme Court called off the recount of votes there. So, for the next 4 years, I was despondent that I had really wasted my vote after all and determined to never hold my nose and vote for the Democrat again! What a relief and a huge burden I could finally take off my shoulders in 2004 when I could finally vote for the Green, Cobb, instead of Kerry. Almost a religious cleansing of sin or something! Ralph Nader wasn’t the Green Party candidate that year, and anyway, the Oregon Supreme Court took him off the ballot. I still have his book Unsafe At Any Speed on my bookshelves, even here in Luxembourg, though it’s been a while since I’ve read it.*** But other books on my shelves that I’ve read more recently, while otherwise excellent, are marred by the same frustrating omission to embrace socialism, by Naomi Klein (isn’t “disaster capitalism” redundant?) and Morris Berman (who spends the last part of “Dark Ages America” wishing he could think of an alternative to U.S.-style capitalism: if only somebody could invent some round thing that rolls and makes things go!) Oh well, I guess if Nader, Klein, and Berman had been openly socialist and anti-capitalist, they might not have sold so many books. Still, that just makes the rest of us all the more eager for books that don’t pull their punches like that!

    ***And what about Nader’s novel “Only the Super Rich Can Save Us” that came out last year? I haven’t read it, but it sounds like a major turn for the even-worse to me. I doubt it has such yummy sentences as “This planet cannot for much longer sustain the daily use of hundreds of millions of 2-ton metal-and-plastic grocery fetchers, profitable monstrosities that spend 95 percent of their lives parked” (author Michael Dawson, whose forthcoming book, Courting Carmageddon: Capitalism, Transportation, and the Approaching Collapse of the United States, I have been eagerly awaiting for years).****

    ****Back in high school almost 30 years ago, we had a guest speaker one day, some right-wing military type who told the class all about how the Vietnam war was fought for a noble cause. Before his presentation, he wrote two numbers on the blackboard, both around 50,000, one higher than the other. Then, giving no explanation of what the numbers were, he launched into an inspirational speech that, if given today about Iraq, would surely have left Cindy Sheehan with a beatific look of joy as she breathed with satisfaction, “I understand now….” (NOT!) When he was done, he turned as if an afterthought to the two numbers he had been ignoring for almost an hour, and explained that the smaller of the two numbers was the number of Americans who died in the entire Vietnam war and the higher number was the number of Americans killed every year in automobile collisions. His clear implication was that, if the bigger number, the annual death toll from what I have ever since called “car-driving fascism”, is no big deal, then clearly and obviously the Vietnam war is no big deal either. However, I drew the contrapositive conclusion: if the Vietnam war is a big deal, then clearly and obviously car-driving fascism is an even BIGGER deal! So how come nobody else said so? Now, 30 years later, I think that car-driving fascism is an even bigger deal than I thought then and that its annual death toll is just the tip of the iceberg, as the entire car-driving mentality in particular and capitalism in general is like a cancer at the heart of modern human civilization and sooner or later will have the same effect on it that cancer has on an individual body. (Isn’t the cliché that people move to the right as they get older? Again, it’s the opposite with me: the more you know, the further left you go.) So how come nobody else says so? Incidentally, George W. Bush was a great president. (NOT!)

    Anyway, WHY SHOULDN’T foreigners be allowed to vote even for national themes as opposed to just world/international choices or local city subjects? As an expatriate who has been living in a foreign country for over 10 years, who is raising a family here, who is working here, who is paying taxes to the national government here, I am keenly interested in national themes both for my own sake and for my family's. So why shouldn't I be allowed to vote on them?

    Similarly, I don't think there should be ANY age limit at all (though maybe some kind of simple test) - anybody who wants to (and passes the test) should be able to vote. The 1984 Oregon primary election was literally a couple weeks before I turned 18, so I was unable to vote in it. At that point I could have been voting for years if I'd been allowed to. There are so many long-term issues that primarily affect children that it is a scandal that under no circumstances are they allowed to have a say in them. Climate change, global warming, oil peak, growing national debt, etc. - on all these issues it is only the people who get the short-term benefits who are allowed to vote and never the people who will suffer the long-term consequences of today's decisions.

    As for the argument that children are not competent enough to vote and that disasters would ensue if they voted, I think politicians like George W. Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger are the ultimate rejoinder that should silence that argument forever. There is NO way that children voting could have picked a worse President than Prexy Bush or a worse Governor than Arnold.* As with the same argument that was leveled against blacks and women and people without property voting, so again with the argument leveled against children: expanding the franchise will not, and could not, make the quality of the votes any worse than it already is.

    *Just think, if adolescents had been able to vote in the U.S. in 2000 or 2004, then maybe Gore or Kerry would have been in the White House instead of The Farting Voltaire! The world can heave a huge sigh of relief that that catastrophe was avoided. And Governor Schwarzenegger. Good thing the adults of California averted that outcome.

    Same for the risk that parents would bring their 5-year-olds to the polls and tell them what to vote for: it’s the same risk that husbands will bring their wives and tell them what to vote for. Who says that parents always have the right to tell their kids what to do, or to force their kids to vote for a particular person or party, or that the child's vote effectively belongs to his or her parents? A hundred years ago people were saying all that about husbands and wives; it's only relatively recently in the U.S. that married women were given certain legal rights and considered other than the effective property of their husbands. Along with allowing and encouraging children to think and vote for themselves there will of course need to be a re-thinking of such truisms and habits of thought regarding children. Would subtle changes in the law be needed to emancipate children from their parents? Bring 'em on!

    Actually, there's an even shorter and simpler response to this in addition to what I've said before: SO WHAT? How would it be so terrible if parents did in effect get extra votes through their children? In fact, let's make it even more extreme. Say a father has 20 children and he sternly instructs them, "Today we will all go into the voting booth with me and we will all press the button that says A." As a result, candidate A gets 20 more votes than otherwise. SO WHAT? How would that outcome be so much worse than the present system? Arguably, if a parent has 20 children, then maybe his or her vote SHOULD count 21 times as much as a single adult with no children. Would the world really descend into chaos (even more than it is now) if that system were in place?

    Setting any arbitrary age, 16, 17, 18, 14, or whatever, for anything, applicable to everybody, while ignoring the specifics and merits of each individual case and person, just in general seems like an arbitrary line drawn for no other reason than convenience's sake. It’s also another case of “quantity quashes quality”: the large number of, in this case, children makes it convenient or necessary to draw lines instead of individually assessing the quality of each one, in this case, the child’s capability of voting. Worse, this convenience or necessity then extends to your level of thinking, such that you simply accept line-drawing in all cases as the default way to categorize things and make decisions.

    Frankly, telling a child "You are not allowed to vote until you are age X, no matter what you think" sounds to me like telling a child "You are not allowed to think for yourself and decide for yourself your own religion, or to have no religion at all, until you are age X." Biologist Richard Dawkins (and author of “The God Delusion”) often says that we shouldn't automatically force a religious label on children as if assuming they have no minds of their own. So why should we automatically force a political label (or political silence) on children as if assuming they have no minds of their own? If some individual children have their own minds about politics, they should be able to express them. Sure, many or most children are not ready to vote (my own 9-year-old daughter is not), but maybe that fact is at least as much an EFFECT of the voting age limit as it is a REASON for it? If my daughter were growing up in a place that encouraged children to express themselves politically, then for all I know, maybe she WOULD now be ready to vote, having cultivated an interest and awareness along those lines that in the real world she hasn't?

    The argument that children should be banned from voting because there are already too many childish voters and to save the democratic model we need fewer of them sounds a little bit like, "If the scientific method is going to work at all, we need fewer ignorant, illogical, impulsive and totally self-interested scientists, not more. So let's ban all women from science."* I would say that maybe education and empowerment might be better tools to make the democratic model work than disenfranchisement.

    *It's interesting to realize that what is today considered a joke to be laughed at rather than taken seriously was 100 years ago considered a sober conservative position to be taken very seriously indeed whether you agreed with it or not. It makes you wonder what sober conservative positions of today will be considered jokes 100 years from now (assuming human civilization survives, a pretty big caveat). Certainly "Global warming is a hoax", probably "A man should only be allowed to marry a woman", and possibly "Children should not be allowed to vote".

    When I said “maybe some kind of simple test” above, I meant one that is very simple indeed, rather than difficult electoral competency exams or some minimum scholastic level. After all, what about people who don't know anything about the issues or politics or whatever would be on the exams and haven't attained the minimum degree either, but who feel strongly that they don't like the way things have been going under the current administration and that it's time for a change? Shouldn't such people be allowed to vote (presumably against the incumbents) too?

    STITUTION: PRO OR CON

    I was opposed to the proposed EU Constitution not because an early draft had cited Europe's "Christian heritage"* (which was watered down in the final version to something like "historical values" or something) but because it codified and enshrined the pro-corporation principles of "free trade". Remembering the beloved NAFTA ("North American Free Trade Agreement") and how it benefited corporations in both the U.S. and Mexico at the expense of workers in those countries, how could I support a European version? Not that I was allowed to vote in the Luxembourgish referendum on whether to adopt this Constitution or not. Luxembourg was I think the only country that insisted on having a referendum on this even after the Constitution had been shot down, so that Luxembourg could still symbolically show its support for the thing. In fact, the Luxembourgish legislature went ahead and passed Luxembourg's adoption of the Constitution even before the referendum! (But then they did it again after the referendum, so that makes the legislature's lack of concern for the voice of the people OK after all. For some reason, the Luxembourg legislature has to pass things twice, a "first reading" and a "second reading", which has always confused me. The American system of passing laws, where each house of Congress votes on something once and then the President signs it, would be simpler if it were followed, though a few years back a court held it doesn't have to be (something about a budget passed by the Senate and signed by Prexy Bush but not voted on by the House still being law).)

    *Don't you just hate it when Christians appropriate democracy as a "Christian value" and imply (or state explicitly) that democracy is a hallmark of Christianity and is incompatible with any alternative to Christianity? Well, that's kind of how I feel when capitalists do the same thing with trade. It's private property and markets that are the hallmark of capitalism, not trade, which is of course equally a mark of socialism, which keeps trading but allocates its products (and controls its production) with popular choice rather than "enlightened self-interest" choices in the market. In a way, it's even worse with capitalism and trade because the very word "trade" suggests capitalism to the typical reader, who of course reads a sentence like "Hunters and craftsmen then traded with one another" and thinks marketplace and selfish exchanges, forcing socialists to use a different word like "sharing" (like what most people do within their own family) to get across the same idea without the market. For example, it is the United States's blockades and influence, rather than any Soviet ideology, that has limited Cuba's trade with other nations for 50 years. Indeed, the Soviet Union was Cuba's main trading partner so that the decade or so after the end of the Soviet Union, when Cuba was almost completely unable to trade anymore, is called the "Special Period" there. (And right now is the “Fire the Population of Luxembourg Period” there.)

    One thing I'll add is that during the Luxembourg campaign our beloved Bokassa actually threatened to resign if Luxembourgers did not pass the referendum! He's so popular here that that was actually a powerful blackmail-type argument in support of voting yes on that EU Constitution referendum. Also I see now on Wikipedia that there is a photo of Bokassa meeting with Prexy Bush! Come on, I just ate lunch here!

    As an American citizen now living in the country of Luxembourg, it is interesting to see the differences in how religion plays out in the two countries. Before moving to Luxembourg, I read the Luxembourg constitution and compared it with the constitution of the United States: while the latter has the First Amendment forbidding the government to establish religion, the former has clauses explicitly stating that the government officially establishes the national religion as Catholicism and endows the Catholic churches. As an atheist or anti-theist, this concerned me at first. Yet, now that I live here, it is refreshing to see how LITTLE significance religion plays here. No religious mottos, pledges, oaths, or money. Not only can an atheist be elected to public office without anyone raising an eyebrow, but the electorate would actually consider a politician silly, petty, and unelectable if she or he DID mention religion or God in a political speech! No politicians ever say "God bless Luxembourg."

    When my Luxembourgish wife first saw my collection of books with such titles as "Why I Am Not A Christian," she did not react with the kind of (at least) mild shock that I would expect from many Americans, but with a "Who cares?" attitude that I would expect if my books had titles like "Why I Do Not Wear Black Socks": a wonder that anyone would spend time reading, let alone writing, books on such a trivial subject. Kind of refreshing, I think. Despite their constitutions, Luxembourg has less claim to being a theocracy than the United States does!

    My wife was actually quite surprised when I told her that the U.S. Constitution did not cite God or Christianity or religious values or anything, and in fact contained a couple of clauses prohibiting discrimination on the basis of religion and religious tests. It is the practice within a country that matters more than what that country's Constitution says.

    MONEY LAUNDERING

    Luxembourg uses for money the Euro (a currency that still exists, at the time of this writing; and the President of the Euro Group is none other than Old Junkfood himself), which is "clean" of religious affirmations. We just came back from a vacation in the United States, where I hadn't visited in years, and so I had to get used to using money that said “In God We Trust” on it.* Why not allow people to cross off religious mottos from their money? And if Prexy Bush were on the money, why not allow (or encourage) people to cross him out? In general, why not encourage people to cross out, or to write in, anything they want, or anything you want, if a point needs to be made to the public? It has happened in some communities, for example, in which the economy and employment are dominated by a particular factory or something, that all the money paid to employees have red or special marks put on by the company, in order to send the message to all the people in the community of how much of their money comes from that company and so how important that company is to their economy. Mind you, I think that's an evil use of that power, bordering on coercion (basically telling people "See how much money you'd lose from your community if we decided to shut down or move away? So kow-tow to our every demand!"), but still, the power is an effective one and shouldn't be banned - don't kill the messenger - especially since people have no real say in what their money looks like besides this.

    *We also recently returned from a vacation in London, where I saw that, rather than “In God We Trust,” the Brits actually have Charles Darwin on some of their money! I think that is so cool! That's actually the best reason I have yet heard for why Britain is not part of the "Euro Zone".

    In particular, only if there is an actual movement ("street heat") with people actually crossing out "In God We Trust" would courts and politicians take notice of the issue and maybe take some serious actions about whether it was legal to say that on the money in the first place. Without such an actual movement, it would just be an academic issue that courts and politicians would take as an abstract question, and it's not hard to guess what position they would (do) then take on it.

    I myself used to cross out "In God We Trust" from my currency for a time when I lived in the U.S. Though now that it is Euros that come out of the cash machine, I no longer have to worry about it. And the ironic thing is that before I moved to Luxembourg, I read the Luxembourg Constitution and was alarmed at its several provisions about how Luxembourg was officially a Catholic country that established and supported and paid money to Catholic churches and so on, while the U.S. federal (and Alaska and Oregon and probably every other state) Constitutions have provisions against that sort of thing. And yet, it's the U.S. and not Luxembourg that puts religious affirmations on its money. Just goes to show the difference between "law in books" and "law in action".

    The U.S. government putting "In God We Trust" on the money is over the line rather than a mere insult. Although changing the whole society to be more secular and less religious is not only more important than "In God We Trust" on the money but would also make removing it easier once it were accomplished, I think that the struggle to take it off the money, even if (maybe especially if) it is hard and pointless and meets much intractible resistance, could itself be a MEANS of making the society and the people in it be more conscious of such issues and become more secular and less religious. In other words, the struggle to remove that mere prop of the people and society could itself help the people and society bloom into one that wouldn't want, let alone need, that prop anymore. If that makes any sense....



    BACK TO NATURE

    Unlike the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and so on that called themselves socialist who were chief polluters and exploiters of the environment, Marx himself had a great deal to say about environmental problems and was actually ahead of his time in this department, as John Bellamy Foster's book "Marx's Ecology: Materialism and Nature" shows at great length and detail. And not just in theory of how capitalism must always expand and exploit the environment but sometimes in specific examples, such as soil depletion. In the 19th century, the major capitalist powers kept seizing guano from all over the world and shipping it to fertilize their growing fields the soil of which was being depleted; at the same time, the major cities like London were being polluted by too much human waste which was spreading disease and death. Marx linked these two trends, showing that capitalism was breaking the ecological cycles of nutrients like sodium and potassium by massively growing crops in the rural areas and (the more important bit) shipping their products to be consumed in the urban areas, so that the waste products which should have been returned to the soil were instead polluting the cities, causing both soil depletion and urban waste accumulation. In the century and a half since, this capitalism-caused disparity between producing and consuming areas has grown by orders of magnitude, but the system is being "propped up" by increasingly sophisticated technological bandaids, intensive artificial fertilizers on the one hand and sanitary sewage treatment systems on the other hand. How long will those props keep improving to hold up the increasing weight of this rickety system that increasingly threatens to topple?

    It's not James Lovelock's fault that New-Agers have taken his concept of "Gaia", that the entire planet Earth consists of systems that function to sustain each other and so in a sense can be considered "alive", and turned it into a trippy conscious Earth-mother diety. Of course, I don't think that Lovelock meant for a minute from the title of his book The Revenge of Gaia that Gaia is LITERALLY an entity that can be vengeful, and I don't mind that title for the book. After all, my number one all-time hero, Isaac Asimov, had a similar title for one of his last books (co-written by Frederik Pohl), Our Angry Earth, and they certainly didn't mean that literally even for a minute.

    I was also heartened to see that Lovelock openly said in the book that his Gaia hypothesis as originally stated was wrong. Being able to openly say that is maybe at the heart of science at its best! Lovelock used to believe that Gaia was so robust that it could withstand the worst humans could do to it, denying, in Carl Sagan's phrase, that nature is "exquisitely sensitive to the depredations of man". But Lovelock's January 2006 article entitled "The Earth is about to catch a morbid fever that may last as long as 100,000 years", which came out just before the book, was certainly a retreat from that position, and his subsequent books are even more explicit about Lovelock's realization that he was wrong before. However, he still supports nuclear energy as he did before, and he still doesn't explain how "Gaia" could have arisen, given evolution and natural selection of life. Maybe "she" had a mommy and a daddy who loved each other very much?

    Certainly systems on the earth do work together by physical natural laws to some extent (how much? To what end?), but the next question there is, “How did that happen?” How did it come about that a network of biological systems on the Earth happen to be self-regulating such that Gaia could be considered like a super-organism in its own right? (Did, say, Gaia descend from a long line of ancestor planets that had this property, while other potential ancestor planets lacked this property and so left fewer descendants?)

    The panspermia hypothesis says that maybe life itself was seeded on the Earth from some other planet via a comet or asteroid impact, and this panspermia event might have seeded the Earth not only with the matrix for biological life itself but also the matrix for "Gaia", that is, the tendency for life to eventually assume the properties of a self-regulating superentity. Of course, such a speculation has the two hurdles of (1) just how did the comet's contents, or even its results and the early life on Earth, also contain the "essence" of Gaia that would not manifest itself for a long time afterward, and (2) just how is it that planets with "Gaia"-like self-regulation were more likely to send out these panspermia seeds than planets without that property? But it's still a nice speculation, and it's kind of like the "fecund universes" (or "cosmological natural selection") speculation of Lee Smolin*.

    *Physicist, later author of The Trouble with Physics; I mentioned the latter in my last posts but not the former.

    I could seriously believe that Gaia-type planetary self-regulation is an eventual product of, rather than inconsistent with, Darwinian evolution of life on the Earth itself. Somehow, the primary "goal" of the selfish gene of having as many descendants as possible is eventually effectuated by having the totality of life engage in the secondary "goal" of regulating the planet-wide climate and life cycles at least a bit.

    Lee Smolin has speculated that the physical laws of the universe themselves evolved through "cosmological natural selection" among "fecund universes". The idea is that universes can produce "descendent" universes when black holes are formed, so that over many "generations" of universes, those universes with laws of physics that favor the formation of black holes become preponderant and those universes that do not form black holes become extinct. Those possible laws of physics that allow for the formation of black holes also happen to allow for the formation of galaxies, stars, planets, life, intelligence, and us. Smolin elaborates on this theory in his book The Life of the Cosmos. Philosopher Daniel Dennett's earlier book Darwin's Dangerous Idea noted this idea and cited Smolin's earlier article that set out that theory. Anyway, I actually quite like this theory (especially as an alternative to the "Because God designed it that way!" answer to the question of why this universe's physical laws are as they are rather than some other way), and so I am attracted to a similar theory of why Gaia works as it does. But theories (or hypotheses) these will have to remain as long as we only know of ONE universe and ONE planet with life (as Carl Sagan called it in the title of one of his Cosmos episodes: "One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue").

    RJHall

    Number of posts : 16
    Age : 50
    Location : Luxembourg
    Website : http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/204436-rjhall
    Registration date : 2010-02-10

    Re: Luxembourg (The Country)

    Post  RJHall on Tue Sep 21, 2010 8:59 am



    PART TWO

    FANTASY ISLAND

    Which character on The Simpsons best represents capitalism? The superrich Mr. Burns is the obvious one, and it does "excellent"ly capture many aspects of it, but I think a better answer is Cletus the Slackjawed Yokel, since that one perfectly captures capitalism's just plain idiotic incompetence. But the best answer of all is small-brained Homer himself. Unlike Cletus, Homer has been fully indoctrinated into the modern corporate capitalist system. Homer is a "factory farm human" who could not survive without all the rickety props of modern life, rather than a "free range human" like Cletus who could.

    The "creation myth" of capitalism is an economic fantasy about an island ("Welcome to Fantasy Island, where 'obey me or your family starves' is a free voluntary choice!"). But fantasies about two ideal individuals living on a desert island don't sound quite so good when applied to 7 billion real people on this real Earth. If you want to know what capitalism is capable of, the good, the bad, and the ugly, just look around you.

    But also around you is the class struggle, whether you see it or not, even in ideologically backward Luxembourg. At the very beginning of the Communist Manifesto, Marx and Engels described the class struggles as being “an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight”. In other words, it may be the “open fight” aspect of the class struggle that takes ideological stoking, but the “hidden” aspect of the class struggle is going on all the time without such coaxing, e.g. every time you groan and grumble at work or notice that you’re not getting a Christmas bonus this year.

    Actually, my favorite part of the sentence I just quoted from is what comes next: “a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.” So what Marx and Engels were saying is that if the class struggle DOESN’T eventually end in a successful revolution, it will eventually end in the “common ruin” of everybody. Doesn’t that look familiar today in the world of the early 21st century?

    It is therefore capitalism, not socialism, that requires armed revolution to function, violence to beat down that class struggle so that you don't see it and workers grumble, violence even to impose the rickety system on the workers in the first place. Those defenders of the status quo who deny this are defining the phrase "armed revolution" so narrowly that it excludes almost by definition anything that is done to establish capitalism. For example, I am pretty certain that they would not use that phrase to describe what Europeans did over hundreds of years (genocide, slavery, etc.) to bring capitalism to the Americas, or to describe the military overthrow and weeks of gleeful massacres when the French army (with the help of the Prussian army) overthrew the Paris Commune in 1871, or to describe what the military coup did in Venezuela in April 2002 for 2 days before the supporters of Hugo Chavez returned him to power, even though it is obvious for the second case, less obvious for the third case, and at least arguable for the first case, that the phrase "armed revolution" applies to them. In huge contrast, the October Revolution in Russia, over 90 years ago, was carried out with almost no violence at all. Strange but true.

    I'll grant that the "primitive communism" of the 99% of human history before class divisions doesn't count since we don't know enough about it and specifically don't know that every person is happy and loves it - which latter condition is probably impossible anyway, as the saying goes that no matter how good things get, there will always be some malcontent complaining about it. But then, granting that, it's a tall order to show that socialism is "happier" and less inclined to totalitarianism than capitalism because there has been no attempt to create a socialist paradise that wasn't immediately attacked and later isolated by all its neighbors and so never even given a chance to succeed. That was most certainly the case for the two examples I already mentioned, the Paris Commune and the October Revolution (the U.S. being among the European powers that fought in Russia's civil war for several years after the revolution, forcing the infant Soviet Union to go the route of "war communism"). And that was also the case for North Korea, since the Korean War was a "two-fer" for the neighbors, who could attack two new revolutionary powers at the same time, China as well as Korea. And is there anyone on the planet who thinks that Cuba would have been worse off if the U.S. had not done decades of invasions and blockades and isolation and assassination attempts and terrorism (like the bombing of the Cuban airliner for which the U.S. is now harboring the "Osama bin Laden of the Western Hemisphere," Luis Posada Carriles) - at least, anyone who, unlike Prexy Bush II's White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, knows what the Cuban Missile Crisis was?

    On the other hand, it is easy to show an example of a totaltarian capitalist republic - Chile under Pinochet in the 1970s and 1980s, which was consciously and explicitly set up as the first experiment of the economic plans of the "Chicago Boys" under Milton Friedman.

    Richard Dawkins often wonders (and does so again in his latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth) why it took so long for Darwin to come up with natural selection evolution when it's so simple, so much simpler than, for example, the law of universal gravitation and planetary dynamics that Newton had come up with centuries earlier. The answer is that the key idea in natural selection – “survival of the fittest”, the competition of individual organisms with each other for limited resources – is only obvious once your society is run under capitalism. Only under capitalism would it even make sense that the seeming order and planning and grand designs of the natural world really emerged as if by an “invisible hand” from individuals seeking to maximize their own interests.

    Now, where was I? Oh yes, being brutally crushed with much bloodshed. Karl Marx wrote that the Paris Commune of 1871 was his idea of a dictatorship of the proletariat, but it too was of course brutally crushed with much bloodshed. That's the REAL trouble with socialism, not that nobody's ever tried it, and of course not that it would never work, but that it is always brutally crushed with much bloodshed. Have to think of a way around that problem.... Though Hugo Chavez was lucky in that department in that he survived the attempt to brutally crush his administration with much bloodshed eight and a half years ago. Still waiting for him to actually try socialism (either shit or get off the pot, Hugo!).

    Not, of course, that socialists were unanimously embracing the USSR or blaming its inadequacies on "war communism". Even before and soon after the Bolsheviks took power in Russia, Rosa Luxemburg was criticizing the Bolsheviks as being too authoritarian and top-down and not participatory and bottom-up. At the time of the Hitler-Stalin pact of 1939, communists and socialists worldwide, who until then had been unanimously anti-fascist, started squabbling with each other about whether they or the Soviet Union were the "real" socialists. Such squabbles increased with time as more facts about what the Soviet Union was doing trickled out over the years.

    Whenever people refer to things like the Reverse Robin Hood Act of 2008 that Prexy Bush signed two years ago and Prexy Obama escalated as "socialism" (if those giveaways are socialism, then it's socialism only a robber baron could love!), it makes me think of a line in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, or rather a paraphrase of what Arthur Dent said: "This must be some strange usage of the word 'socialism' I hadn't previously been aware of!"

    VICTORIA’S SECRET

    Luxembourg is called the "Green Heart of Europe" (probably because there are still a few trees standing here), a theme it played up highly at the 2010 World Exhibition in Shanghai.* It’s kind of an arresting image, to picture one green spot in the middle of this vast gray machine.

    *You know how everything you see seems to have been "Made in China"? Luxembourg reversed that trend by sending to Shanghai for its pavilion at the Expo the "Gëlle Fra", the "Golden Lady", a statue of a woman that unaccountably bears no resemblance to Rosa Luxemburg. Sending this precious national icon abroad raised an even hotter uproar than the euthanasia veto. It got hot enough, so rumor has, that somebody actually stood up from his rocking chair.

    Maybe Luxembourg can also be the "Red Heart of Europe": the place where the revolution finally begins. Honestly, I doubt it, but it is possible. After all, its inhabitants are so used to privilege that as the consequences of the economic crisis pile up, you never know what little thing might finally spark off the revolution. The unemployment rate here has already shot up to 5.3% and the government is already implementing austerity measures (slowly at first) to cut its deficit, which is a staggeringly high 2% of GDP. For the last few decades Luxembourg's economy has been dependent on the financial sector, which is hurting from the economic crisis, and which in turn is dependent on Luxembourg's "banking secrecy" laws, which are being whittled away in response to the friendly persuasion of Luxembourg's neighbors.* Other countries like Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, and the aptly named Taxevasistan** have similar economies and are in a similar predicament.

    *For example, German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück threatened to use “the whip” to combat tax evasion and banking secrecy. The leader of the Social Democrats, Franz Müntefering, remarked that “in the old times one would have sent in troops” to combat tax havens. In the best spirit of Talk Theater, Junky responded: “We don’t find that funny. We suffered under German occupation. Thank God we no longer resolve our problems with soldiers.”

    **Seriously, and for the record, Luxembourg is not involved in tax evasion or anything illegitimate. Its banking secrecy laws have always had a long-standing exception for cooperation with the tax and other officials of other countries. As an employee in the Compliance unit (for now, until the hammer falls), it is my day job to monitor our bank’s financial transactions to ensure that no illegitimate money laundering or terrorist financing is going on. Banking secrecy is a legitimate and necessary way for smaller financial centers to compete with larger financial centers, and for politicians in those larger financial centers to score political points by demagogically scapegoating banking secrecy is wrong. Off the record, and speaking as a Luxemburgist, aren’t ALL financial transactions illegitimate? Doing my day job, working to separate out illegitimate ones from the legitimate ones, I am reminded of the line from TV’s House: "Isn't it interesting... religious behavior is so close to being crazy that we can't tell them apart." There is a wonderful passage about the banking system in Ursula K. LeGuin's novel The Dispossessed, when the socialist character tries to read up about the banking system on the capitalist planet but soon gives up because it is so pointlessly intricate and complicated and stupid and boring: "He tried to read an elementary economics text; it bored him past endurance, it was like listening to somebody interminably recounting a long and stupid dream. He could not force himself to understand how banks functioned and so forth, because all the operations of capitalism were as meaningless to him as the rites of a primitive religion, as barbaric, as elaborate, and as unnecessary. In a human sacrifice to deity there might be at least a mistaken and terrible beauty; in the rites of the money-changers, where greed, laziness, and envy were assumed to move all men’s acts, even the terrible became banal." Maybe I am kind of like Kafka, working within the system to support myself and secretly preparing some art or something to expose it for what it is?

    So you never know when the jobs “near-shored” to Prague or the benefit cuts will drive Luxembourgers over the line. Sometimes when you've been pushed to the edge and are seriously pondering making a big change, it only takes a tiny little thing to finally change your mind. Bit by bit, then all at once.

    If Luxembourgers get too rowdy, then probably German armies will be sent to restore "order" (like in the title of Rosa's last article), which they did, not once, not twice, but three times last century.* It might even be a thing so little that contemporaries will barely notice it but future historians would focus on, like the end of the Roman Republic, or the end of the Roman Empire. The fall of the Roman Empire formally happened in 476 when no new Roman Emperor was officially declared after Romulus Augustus was deposed, but that was just a convenient date for later historians to point to, and nothing noticeable actually changed at the time, since the Roman Empire had been falling for a long time anyway.**

    *The first time was in 1914; German troops crossing the border into Luxembourg marked the official start to World War I. The second time was 1940, as described above. The American liberation from that occupation finally took place in 1944 (and one of Luxembourg’s major streets is named for the date: Avenue Dix Septembre), so the third time was just months afterward, as part of the Battle of the Bulge whose 65th anniversary was celebrated several months ago.

    **Incidentally, if Bush or Obama or ilk formally declares himself Emperor of the United States, that would be nothing more than an official date for something that has already been happening little by little anyway. There's nothing either/or mutually exclusive between the possibility of Bush or Obama or ilk declaring himself emperor in a "next coup" and the insidious loss of freedom. The former can't happen until after the latter has already happened enough anyway, and so would just be a formal timestamp on a fait accompli.

    HELLS BELLS

    "i suppose the human race
    is doing the best it can
    but hells bells thats
    only an explanation
    its not an excuse" - Don Marquis (as Archy the Cockroach)

    The Agricultural Revolution about ten thousand years ago that ended the hunter-gathering foraging period of existence that humans had lived for tens or hundreds of thousands of years and was the first step of humanity towards civilization has certainly led to the "hells bells" of today. Of course Humanity did not foresee what its decision would lead to, but sometimes I wonder, would Humanity have followed the advice of Mark Twain before making its decision: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” In other words, take a chance, take the risk. When considering action X, you are more likely to regret NOT having done X in the future than having done X.

    Of course, this is only SOMETIMES true, not always. Didn’t somebody else say that they’ve never seen a tattoo that still looked good 20 years later? Anyway, I would venture to say that the Mark Twain advice is USUALLY true, simply because most actions X will not have consequences that you will regret 20 years later; for most actions X it is only NOT doing them that would have consequences 20 years later, such that, for most X, if you do X then 20 years later you will either be glad you did X, or you will laugh about having done X, or you will have forgotten all about it. Getting a tattoo is a rare exception. Getting married used to be an exception too, but the saying "Marry in haste, repent at leisure" only applied back when getting married had life-long consequences. If a marriage is a mistake, it now usually leads to divorce rather than lifelong regret. My mother got married 5 times.

    Anyway, I would venture to say that class civilization is indeed such an X: "Civilize in haste, repent at leisure." I can imagine a hunter-gatherer human with a handful of seeds about to sow them when suddenly another human runs up, knocks the seeds out of her hand, and shouts, "No! If you start an Agricultural Revolution now, your descendents will suffer for ten thousand years!" I can imagine that humanity had a low "too much trouble" threshold (that is, only a small amount of trouble would be considered "too much trouble" to justify a future reward) and decided for that reason not to civilize. (A low "too much trouble" threshold is logically equivalent to, but psychologically distinct from, a high "worth it" threshold, that is a high amount of future reward is required to justify the trouble that had to be endured to earn the reward. They are psychologically distinct because one focuses on present grumbling while the other focuses on future expectations. Both concepts are logically distinct from things like "risk aversion", because you can have a high or low amount of "risk adversion" and still have either a high or low "too much trouble" threshold.) I can also imagine that humanity decided that "better late than never" did not justify the lateness of the good life such that it was not worth postponing it ten thousand years.

    Much has been written and said over the years about the origin of class society and the differentiation between order givers and order takers and how unfair it is and so on. But I would like to emphasize an aspect of that that I have not often read before: that it is inefficient, and ineffective, to have this split between the decision-makers and the decision-obeyers, because each of them has some information not had by the other, so the deciders do not have the complete information that is needed to make efficient decisions, and the doers do not have the complete information to understand what it is they are doing and why. An example of this I will never forget is from law school, where we read an old case about a real "bridge to nowhere". In the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign, a scandal about something called a "bridge to nowhere" came up about an unnecessary and expensive bridge that was built in Alaska that Governor Sarah Palin had approved, but this was a REAL "bridge to nowhere": it was built in the middle of the woods, not over anything and not leading to anything at the ends, a bridge that was OBVIOUSLY unnecessary and stupid and silly. I remember the photograph of it in the casebook. The case was about who would pay for it. But if there hadn't been any separation between order givers and order takers, the bridge obviously would never have been built in the first place because the builders could plainly see with their own eyes that the bridge wasn't spanning over anything and wasn't leading anywhere and was obviously silly. Duh!* Only with the separation between order givers and order takers could the bridge ever have been built: the order givers not being there to see that an obviously unnecessary bridge was being built, and the order takers not knowing why they had been told to build an obviously unnecessary bridge but assuming there was some reason since they knew the ones who had told them to build it were not telling them their reasons and that those reasons were not for the workers' interest anyway, so of course the workers were only interested in following the apparently silly orders and taking their measly pay.

    *For readers not familiar with slang in the U.S., "Duh!" means "Yes, of course, how obvious, your intelligence must be as low as Prexy Bush's not to have already known that by yourself, why did you even bother to mention it since the very act of opening your mouth to say it caused drool and slobber to come out of your mouth, your name must be Cletus the Slackjawed Yokel like on the Simpsons!"

    The list of "Hells Bells" that class society has led us to is too long to enumerate. In the past, people could sing “The hills are alive.” In the present, people say “The walls have ears.” Just as fish in dark caves eventually lose their eyes and pigmentation, people in class civilization eventually lose their sense, senses, and skills. They can no longer see when the edge of the cliff is approaching. Life in modern society is as in the Philip Glass song In Liquid Days: “Drive, Breath, Drive, Sleep”.

    There is an old Peanuts cartoon in which Violet, feeling guilty that Charlie Brown didn't get any Valentines on Valentines Day, later offers him a used one, but Schroeder steps in and protests that Violet is not acting sincerely but is only assuaging her guilt. Charlie Brown tells him: “Don’t interfere, I’ll take it!” In other words, he will settle for an insincere Valentine rather than none at all. Sometimes I think that humans enduring class society for the past ten thousand years have done this same thing: settled for insincere life under civilization rather than none at all.

    Marx (whose model incorporated the Victorian assumption of unending progress) and Rosa Luxemburg were, of course, defenders of civilization and proponents of progress: how each step forward in civilization/class society prepares the way to and leads to the next step: slavery, feudalism, capitalism, socialism. Defenders of civilization's energy use say something similar: muscle power, wood, coal, oil, etc. But if these progressions are like the fusion of elements in stars, then they cannot go on forever: stellar nucleosynthesis starts with fusion of hydrogen into helium, then helium into carbon, etc., but once the star is composed of iron, it can no longer gain energy by fusing that element. As they sang on comedy TV show Mystery Science Theater 3000: "Nothing lasts forever, only love pads the film." Instead, the star swells up into a red giant and, if it has enough mass, becomes a supernova and explodes.

    That’s as maybe; as Marx also wrote, “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.” In other words, Suck It Up; Deal With It. We must accept as given that humanity has chosen to “civilize in haste”. Must we now “repent at leisure”?

    Maybe world socialism is indeed just around the corner. But whenever I think that, a rejoinder from the Monty Python movie “The Life of Brian” answers that: "You sound awfully sure, have you checked?" Upon checking, signs of socialism are hard to see, bringing to mind another line from that movie: "There's a mess all right, but no messiah."

    I recently read that there is a Jesuit Credo: "It is more blessed to ask forgiveness than permission." (I had always heard that the former is “easier”, but this was the first I had heard that it is “more blessed”!) Socialism is an attempt to ask forgiveness for class civilization. Getting permission for civilization would have been impossible. (And whom could you have gotten permission from, anyway? The nonhuman creatures of the earth? The future generations of humans for the next 10,000 years? Gaia?)

    But then does this mean that one must mope, that one must sing another song from CHESS: The Musical, "Didn't I know / How it would go? / If I knew from the start / Why am I falling apart?" Or the Paul Simon song, "She said a good day / Ain’t got no rain / She said a bad day’s when I lie in bed / And think of things that might have been"?*

    *This reminds me one of my favorite Peanuts cartoon strips. Charlie Brown is lying in bed and saying something like, “Sometimes when I wake up I think it’s going to be a good day, but then it turns out to be a bad day. Sometimes I think it’s going to be a bad day, and then sure enough, it really is a bad day. How come I never think it’s going to be a bad day but then it turns out to be a good day? Or how come I never think it’s going to be a good day, and then it really is a good day? My stomach hurts.”

    Alternatively, does this mean you should advocate taking down civilization, as author Derrick Jensen does? (Now how’s that for yelling fire in a crowded theater!)* Jensen derides the alternative of socialist revolution as merely exchanging one set of leaders for another with “blood running in the streets” but no fundamental changes. He is obviously thinking of a Leninist**, Maoist, or Castroist style revolution. A Luxemburgist style revolution, in contrast, would result in no set of leaders (everyone would have power and rule together, so there would be no minority elite in charge), which would be a fundamental change right there, potentially the first of many.

    *An interesting point about that saying: it was misapplied even at the same time as it was being coined! Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., coined that saying about not being free to falsely (note: Holmes said "falsely", so you could TRUTHFULLY yell fire in a crowded theater!) yell fire in a crowded theater around 90 years ago in a Supreme Court case called Schenk v. U.S. This case involved a man passing out pamphlets during World War I arguing that the draft violated the Thirteenth Amendment against involuntary servitude and so should be peacefully resisted. That's it! If freedom of speech should protect anything, it should protect that, right? And yet, Holmes famously compared this to falsely shouting fire in a theater and upheld Schenk's conviction. (Somebody once wrote that a more fitting comparison for what Schenk did would have been passing out unfavorable movie reviews outside the theater.) So, if you can't even trust Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., to make the right call and invoke the phrase he coined appropriately, then who can you trust? Prexy Bush II? The phrase is obviously useless and unhelpful in practice.

    **Again, the October Revolution was relatively bloodless. More people were killed in the making of the propaganda film about it several years later.

    Or at least that’s the theory, anyway. And I love the theory; I’m proud to say I’m a Luxemburgist. Nevertheless, at what point do the facts justify no longer following the theory? That actually is an interesting question and more complicated than it might appear on the surface. Temperamentally, I too might feel "Fiat justitia ruat caelum" (a Latin legal phrase, meaning "May justice be done though the heavens fall"), though taking that extreme position literally does feel a bit silly, doesn't it? What if justice REALLY WOULD lead to the heavens falling? If sticking to revolutionary theory would mean allowing an imminent catastrophe to occur? If the choice is between forsaking civilization and Luxemburgist revolution or allowing imminent catastrophe, must a committed Luxemburgist necessarily pick the second one? Now, I'm certainly not an "ends always justifies the means" kind of guy, and I would need some convincing that those are really the ONLY two options on the table, but IF they are (I'd probably say "What, your imagination is so limited you aren't smart enough to think of any other options than those two?", but then, if the year is as late as 2040, then by that point there might really be no other options left), then I'd pick the first one over the second.

    In the old (almost 30 years ago) Doctor Who episode "Keeper of Traken", the Doctor wants to save the universe from annihilation by the Master and needs to see some secret plans but is being prevented from doing so by a petty official who took an oath to guard them and not to let anyone see them. After describing the details of the universal destruction by the Master and how the universe was destroyed and spun into chaos and the Master prevailed over all time and space, the Doctor concludes with the witheringly sarcastic line, "Well, when this thing has taken over the entire Source, you'll have the consolation of knowing you kept your honour intact". The point, of course, is that - at least in fiction! - sometimes particular but abstract principles might have to be violated when the alternative really is as terrible as world or universal destruction.

    The issue of “Peak Oil” (world civilization hitting its limit in oil production) is getting more acknowledgment in the mainstream lately than in previous years, which is about time considering that world peak production of conventional oil was in 2005 and peak production of all liquid fuels was in 2008. But the mainstream unanimously, and even a majority of longtime “Peak Oil” theorists, embraces what I call the doctrine of “Intelligent Decline”*, the notion that world civilization will rationally and gradually scale back in its energy use (and all the other ways it has overshot) and otherwise continue normally.

    *The term is reminiscent of “Intelligent Design”, what they call creationism these days. Whenever my back hurts, it reminds me of whether it was intelligently designed!

    I've only driven a car a few dozen times, but whenever I saw a red light or stop sign ahead, I would coast toward the stop I could see was coming: take my foot off the accelerator pedal and let the car coast to the place where it would stop, only tapping on the brake at the very end. But this of course is not how everyone else drives: they keep accelerating as long as they can and then slam on the brakes at the end to stop suddenly. And this is why I know that civilization will not undergo any "intelligent decline". "Intelligent Decline" would be like coasting to a stop, but the 7 billion will instead accelerate as long as they possibly can. I often see our neighbor with a Porsche rev up and accelerate to the stop sign at the end of the street and then at the last moment screech to a halt very loudly and ostentatiously. That times 7 billion is why I’m optimistic about humanity.

    So, would a successful Luxemburgist revolution adopt a propensity for “intelligent decline” as one of its fundamental changes? I don’t know; the jury is still out on that question.* Maybe being a Luxemburgist will help my deliberations. I agree with the saying (though of course, strictly speaking it should be prefaced with "sometimes"!) "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." Sometimes a detached observer will be more easily misled by falsehoods than a committed but undetached one. And, of course, sometimes being misled would be less likely. Again, no unconditional, categorical universal generalizations are possible, as there are always exceptions. Or rather, sometimes!

    *In English, the phrase "the jury is out" is commonly used to mean that new evidence is being awaited. For example, the jury is out on whether the Large Hadron Collider will discover the Higgs particle. I HATE that expression when it is used to mean that, since in real legal trials (in the U.S.) the jury is sent out after the presentation of the case is over to deliberate on only existing evidence; not only is no new evidence being awaited, no new evidence is even allowed! But I am here using it to mean that I am still deliberating on the existing evidence that I have already seen (though, unlike the deliberating jury, I am always open to and eager for new evidence!).

    Unlike mathematics, which since I was a young boy has always appealed to me because you always get the same answer in different ways, I always get different answers to the question when I try to tackle it in different ways. Oh well, life goes on. French Prime Minister François Fillon has formally apologised for French Senator Phillipe Marini saying that Luxembourg shouldn’t exist, and Junkmail has accepted the apology and said that he in no way believed M. Marini’s comments represented the French government’s official position. Life is what happens while you’re waiting for something to happen.

    mondialiste

    Number of posts : 120
    Registration date : 2008-06-01

    Re: Luxembourg (The Country)

    Post  mondialiste on Mon Sep 27, 2010 5:01 am

    Here's an article I wrote about a general strike in Luxemburg in 1982 when I was working there, which shows that Luxemburg (the place) can be linked to "General Strike" just as much as Luxemburg (the person).

    General Strike in Luxemburg

    On 5 April 80,000 workers in Luxemburg staged a one-day warning strike against government proposals aimed at preventing wages rising in 1982 as fast as the cost of living.

    A few months ago such a general strike seemed inconceivable. Even the Trotskyists who put forward demands they consider unrealisable only in order to appear militant, were taken unawares. On a mass trade union demonstration held on 27 March they were distributing a leaflet headed "For a 24-hour General Strike"; little did they imagine that four days later most of the trade unions would accept this demand! Luxemburg's last strike (apart from those by EEC civil servants) took place in the private sector in 1973 and in the public sector in 1949.

    Luxemburg, with a population of about 370,000 (of whom 30 per cent are non-citizens), is in close economic union with Belgium, both countries having the same currency and trading as a single unit. Its major industry — steel — is owned by Arbed, a private company with international connections. The other main source of employment is government service, including the railways, Post Office and, in recent years, banking and a Goodyear tyre factory. The rest of the workforce is employed in small and medium-sized enterprises. There are also some 5,000 EEC civil servants.

    The one-day general strike was called to protest against the government's proposal to end the automatic link between wages and the official "cost of living" which had been introduced in 1975. Under this arrangement each time the cost of living rose by 2.5 per cent, wages automatically rose by the same percentage. There is nothing particularly generous or extravagant about such an arrangement; as a matter of fact it is only a way of ensuring, in a period of rising prices, that the laws of the capitalist market are respected; that, in other words, sellers, in this case of labour power, continue to obtain a price more or less equal to the value of what they are selling. If wages do not rise as fast as the cost of living then in real terms - in terms of what wages will buy — they fall and workers are paid less than the value of their labour power.

    Since trade unions exist to try to defend workers' wages and conditions, it is only natural that the Luxemburg trade unions should have tried to resist the government's openly proclaimed intention to reduce real wages. The government proposed to achieve this by abolishing the automatic indexisation of wages and limiting wage increases in 1982 in most cases to 5 per cent, while at the same time announcing that it expected prices to rise by at least twice this amount. This proposal was not motivated by malice, but was imposed on that government by the way that capitalism operates. Capitalism is a system that can never work in the interest of the wage and salary earning majority. Certainly, in its periods of expansion, workers can expect rising wages (even if this is offset by having to work more and more intensively) but such periods of expansion are only one side of the coin. Capitalism does not, and cannot, expand in a smooth and continuous way; its growth pattern is one of fits and starts, of alternating periods of expansion and contraction (booms and slumps). The other side of a period of expansion and rising wages is the period of contraction and falling wages which inevitably follows it.

    The last period of expansion came to an end in 1975 when capitalism entered into its current world recession. Wages — real wages, that is, what they can buy — tend to fall in a slump because the increased unemployment turns labour market conditions more in favour of employers. Supply of labour power comes to exceed demand so, as always happens in such circumstances, its price (wages and salaries) tends to fall. Workers can, by trade union organisation and action, slow down this tendency but they can't reverse or even halt it. Thus in Britain over the past few years trade unions have been forced to settle for single-figure "increases" even though prices have been rising in double-figures. In Germany too unions have had to settle for rises smaller than that expected in the cost of living.

    Until now workers in Luxemburg, like those in Belgium, had been protected against such decreases in real wages by this automatic linking of wage increases to price increases. Indexisation should in theory work in both directions: if the cost of living falls then so should wages and by the same percentage. Before the present period of chronic currency inflation began in all countries after the last world war, indexisation, then known as "the sliding scale", was popular among employers because it meant that in a slump if prices fell then so automatically did wages. The sliding scale was unpopular with workers and their unions because, although they had no illusions about being able to maintain money wages at their old level in a period of falling prices, they felt with some justification that a less rigid system held out the hope of negotiating a fall in money wages less than that in the cost of living.

    The new element nowadays is that, because of government inflation of the currency through the excessive issue of inconvertible paper money, prices no longer fall in periods of slump. On the contrary, they continue to rise. Hence the phenomenon of "stagflation" which so baffles capitalist economists. But, with indexisation, such currency inflation means that money wages go on rising in line with prices even in a slump or, more precisely, that real wages do not fall.

    This is all very well while it lasts — but it can't last because maintaining wages artificially high by such a mechanism goes against the logic of capitalism which requires that real wages fall in a slump as one of the ways of creating the conditions for the next period of expansion. In the end any government of capitalism has to take the only action open to it in the circumstances, namely, the abolition of the mechanism — the automatic indexisation of wages — which prevents real wages falling. The Belgian government had already done this. Now it has been followed by the Luxemburg government.

    As we have already said workers, through their trade unions, should resist such a blatant, frontal attack on their living standards. However they should have no illusions about being able to prevent real wages from falling in a slump. Under capitalism, even in times of expansion and boom, the cards are stacked in favour of the employers who are in the dominant bargaining position because they own the means of wealth production. In times of slump and contraction the employers' hand is strengthened even further by the existence of an increased pool of unemployed. In these circumstances the most that unions can achieve is to slow down the fall in real wages, limiter les dégâts, to limit the damage, as the French say.

    One thing however is clear: if workers sit back and do nothing they may well lose more than if they stand up and strike. In fact on such occasions — as in Britain in 1926 — a general strike is often the only means of testing the situation, of finding out what the true bargaining strength of both sides is. In the case of Luxemburg it was undoubtedly because of the previous strike-free record of the workforce that the government felt so confident about going as far as it did, openly proposing measures to make living standards fall in 1982 by at least 5 per cent. EEC civil servants who were under similar pressure last year managed to come out relatively well in comparison in negotiating a fall of about the same amount but over five years.

    Even if the strike of 5 April was not successful in terms of getting the government to make concessions — the government's austerity measures were passed by Parliament the very day of the strike — this reaction by the workers will at least have shown governments that in the future they can no longer take the working class in Luxemburg for granted.

    But all this is purely defensive, purely concerned with trying to slow down things getting worse. But things will get worse as this is what happens under capitalism in a slump. Later on, as the capitalist economic cycle continues and the slump gives way to a new period of boom and expansion, there will be some improvements, some increases in real wages. But these improvements will be precarious and temporary and will be wiped out when the next slump comes round.

    We put to workers in Luxemburg the same question we put to workers in Britain and elsewhere: is this merry-go-round, this running fast just to stay still, all you want out of life? Because this is all that capitalism has to offer you.

    RJHall

    Number of posts : 16
    Age : 50
    Location : Luxembourg
    Website : http://www.goodreads.com/user/show/204436-rjhall
    Registration date : 2010-02-10

    Re: Luxembourg (The Country)

    Post  RJHall on Fri Oct 01, 2010 8:34 am



    IT'S NOT EASY BEING GREEN

    So, the country that was sitting on its heels on September 29 while other countries in Europe were at demonstrations or on strike,* the country that only by pure coincidence happens to have the same name as a great revolutionist, which is so ironic that it’s almost embarrassing, actually had a general strike as recently as 1982! Well, clap my mandibles!** Maybe it was memories of 1982 that were making Old Junkbonds look “determined” (or something!) in the above picture. The year 2010 in Luxembourg was already being compared to the year 1982.

    *To be sure, the "European day of action" called by ETUC (European Trade Union Confederation) to coincide with a meeting of EU finance ministers in Brussels was a cynical maneuver on the trade union bureaucracy's part to show that their services are needed by the European business and political elite, but the idea's the important thing. Let us hope that the workers' actions on that day will lead to more of a struggle than the ETUC leaders are hoping for, and that eventually, capitalism will be led away in handcuffs saying "And I would have gotten away with it, if it hadn't been for you meddling kids!"

    **I mean, that’s a good thing!

    Since 1977, Luxembourg's economy has been run by the "Tripartite“ ("Comité de coordination de la Conférence tripartite nationale“) in what is called the “Luxembourg model”, a consensus-oriented dialog among government, employers, and unions. Talks of the Tripartite have only ever broken down twice: in 1982 and in 2010. In 1982, as described in mondialiste's article, it was about the suspension of the automatic index-linking of salaries, which had been introduced in 1965 and extended to all employees in 1975. Although the 1982 general strike did not prevent the "modulation/suspension" of the indexation, perhaps it did in part contribute to the gradual reintroduction of this “sliding wage scale” mechanism in 1984 and 1986. In 1982, for the first time, the Tripartite did not deliver consensus; the trade unions walked out of the tripartite conference and the government had to push its austerity package through Parliament without their support.

    Well, to a point it was happening again this year! On April 29, 2010, the Tripartite again failed to secure an agreement, after endless meetings of the Tripartite since spring 2009. The government found itself in the same position as in 1982 and it would have to impose its planned austerity measures in Parliament. But the difference is that 1982 the conservative government (the Christians of the CSV and the Democrats of the DP) had no problem rallying its parliamentary majority behind its measures, but this time, the coalition in power (CSV and the Socialist Workers of the LSAP) was not certain that it would be able to do so. The LSAP is under the influence of the largest trade union, the social-democratic OGB-L, which has, perhaps amazingly considering the support that trade unions elsewhere in the world have given to their governments' austerity measures, clearly manifested its hostility to the planned measures. The OGB-L is even using the slogan “We don’t want to pay for your crisis”! So the Luxembourg government was not certain that the trade unions would support them and play the same role as ETUC and trade unions all over the world: as their accomplices to social dismantling. Naturally, the elite was crying that “The Luxembourg model has reached its limits".

    Something did happen here in Luxembourg on September 29: the government and the unions again started talks. Before the talks, the unions again voiced strong opposition to many of the proposed austerity measures. But the government said it was resolute in its plans, and the CSV and LSAP coalition partners were reportedly moving closer together on the issue: The CSV was thought to want to end the indexation once and for all, while the LSAP was not keen on the idea, so reportedly they would agree to a compromise: there can be no more than one index adjustment increase in wages in any given year. Should inflation rise to levels where a second would normally fall due, this will be delayed. After the talks, sure enough, the government and the unions had come to a similar compromise over the future indexation of salaries to inflation. They agreed that the next cost-of-living pay raise won’t be until October 2011 at the earliest (the last increase was in August 2010); should another rise come due too soon afterwards, then government and unions will again meet to decide whether to delay it. Also (and despite the above picture of Junkie “determined” to push through the austerity package), the government even agreed to soften some of its proposals. In response to union demands, the tax allowance for travel to work remains unchanged next year. The government had wanted to halve it. Both unions and government said they were happy with the outcome of the talks.

    Why, since unions in the rest of the world consistently sell out the workers,* did the unions in Luxembourg hold back the government’s austerity plans for over a year?*** Maybe it’s because powerlessness corrupts, and absolute powerlessness corrupts absolutely. In countries without this “Luxembourg model” that gives labor unions some power over economic policy, the union leaders observe that they are powerless and conclude that being pro-boss and selling out workers is the only way to further their covetousness for power.

    *In a previous post, I mentioned that in Indianapolis, Indiana, automobile workers shouted down and expelled United Auto Workers union leaders from their local meeting in August. In September, workers at the plant formed the Indianapolis GM Stamping Rank-and-File Committee to organize a struggle independently of the UAW. In late September, defying threats and intimidation by the UAW, the workers voted by a 457 to 96 margin against** a deal that would have reduced wages from $29 an hour to as low as $14. Now General Motors will close their plant; GM and the UAW are planning to use the shutdown of the Indianapolis plant as an object lesson to other workers who dare to resist concessions. It now appears that the UAW and GM are even planning to carry out collective punishment against the workers by making it more difficult for them to transfer to other GM plants. I have high interest in the Indianapolis GM Stamping Rank-and-File Committee and its members. Organizing independently of the trade union leaders is a welcome step.

    **The Indianapolis workers videotaped their votes and their ballots before mailing them in (yes, it was a rare “mail-in” vote, as the UAW knew the workers would reject the contract if allowed to meet and discuss the vote); otherwise, the UAW could have just gotten Karl Rove to rig the vote. Karl Rove was a political adviser to Prexy Bush II and fixer of the presidential election in 2004. Apparently, in an alternate universe, the mirror-mirror Karl Rove is actually a good guy:

    SUMMER 2004. KARL ROVE’S OFFICE, COMMITTEE TO RE-ELECT THE PRESIDENT CAMPAIGN HEADQUARTERS.

    Karl Rove was sitting at his desk glancing at the newspaper. Somebody had gotten himself drunk and then went hunting with his friend, shooting the friend in the face. It was disgusting; Rove would never associate with such a hunter in any capacity! He looked up as one of his staffers ran into the room, beaming excitedly.

    “Boss!” said the staffer. “I just found out how easy it is to hack into those voting machines and change the vote counts!”

    “So?” grunted Rove, disinterestedly. He was annoyed at being distracted for no reason. “Send a memo to the elections departments of the states warning them against the security flaw. Why bother me with this?”

    “Because we can use this to help CREEP be a success!” said the staffer.

    “I hate that acronym, never use it again!” interrupted Rove.

    The staffer continued, “We can subtly, and even not-so-subtly, alter the official vote tallies in key election districts all over the country. Heck, we can even have more votes for Bush than there are voters in the precinct. Even if some of those are discovered, we’ll just say it wouldn’t have made a difference in the outcome, and the media will pick it up almost unanimously and call everyone who doubts that assessment a conspiracy theorist!”

    “But that would be … cheating,” gasped Rove. He couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “I want to win this fair and square!”

    “It gets better,” enthused the staffer. “We can put most of the voting booths and machines in white precincts that are going to vote for Bush. That way they can breeze through, no problem, while the black voters for Kerry will have to wait in line two, three, four, ten hours, and maybe it will even be raining or snowing that day!”

    “That doesn’t sound fair and square to me!” exclaimed Rove.

    “But wait, there’s more! After the voting, we’ll just declare a terrorist threat and clear the building of reporters and Democrats before the vote counting. Nobody will ever know the real result of the counting that we can then do in private!”

    “But what about exit polls?” sputtered Rove finally. “No matter what we do to the official counts, they will always show how the people really voted. That’s how we can tell when elections in eastern Europe are rigged, after all! If the exit polls say Kerry won but our official vote count says Bush won, that’ll look pretty bad, won’t it?!”

    “Not at all,” smirked the staffer. “We’ll just say that the exit polls were wrong because Bush voters refused to talk to the pollsters, skewing the results. The media will pick it up, and again, any skeptics must be wearing tinfoil hats!”

    “Even so,” insisted Rove, “Kerry himself and the Democrats would insist on getting to the bottom of the fraudulent election. We’d never get away with it.”

    “No way, this isn’t Mexico, where presidential candidates lead huge mass rallies with thousands of people chanting to count every vote. This is America, where Democrats are weak and spineless. Kerry will probably just quietly concede the next day.”

    “Kerry’s not spineless! He’s a war hero! He’s got three Purple Hearts!”

    “We can run commercials saying those war wounds were exaggerated or even self-inflicted –“

    “Enough!” shouted Rove, outraged. “I want your letter of resignation on my desk first thing in the morning!”

    The staffer slinked out of the office, dismayed. Rove sighed and looked out his window. He could hear the sounds of “oink, oink” coming from the distant flying shapes in the green sky.


    ***That’s on a national level, of course. At the level of this company, the Deutsche Börse-owned Clearstream, the same unions (OGB-L, LCGB, and ALEBA, who of course are not united and often bicker against each other, certainly at this company!), holding meetings with the employers, are still unable to make a dent in “Project Excellence”. Although the company proposed a “Plan de Maintien dans l’Emploi” that, despite its name, does not protect against loss of positions but instead is only an agreement on terms and conditions of a controlled “voluntary” departure scheme for the people the company agrees to release, the company refuses to discuss alternatives on cutting positions and insists on transferring both intellectual capital and headcount to other locations. The unions say they are “very, very disappointed” but that they will stay at the bargaining table and try to keep as many high quality jobs here in Luxembourg as possible.

    The other reason everybody in the country can breathe a huge sigh of relief is that an issue it has worried about for months, the “Guantanamo Bay detainee” that was accepted by Luxembourg, has finally been resolved. Luxembourg had agreed to take on one person that the United States government would release from its prison at Gitmo, and many Luxembourgers of course opposed this and raised the alarm and made a big stink about this. Fortunately, it turns out the detainee, who originally comes from Yemen, will not be released after all, since the United States reversed its decision to release Gitmo detainees from Yemen. Party on!

    Meanwhile, we see this headline in the news: “Public transport use dwindling in Luxembourg”. We are told: “A report exploring modes of transport in Luxembourg by CEPS/INSTEAD showed that only 12% of the country’s population uses public transport, compared with 60% in 1960. Car and road improvements* and the construction of motorways have enabled motorists to get around more quickly, with average speeds rising from 30.7km/hr in 1960 to 48.1km/hr today. Meanwhile car ownership has mushroomed during the last 50 years. Luxembourg now counts 650 cars for every 1000 residents, compared with just one car for every five people in 1960. The number of cars per thousand of the population has grown from less than 200 in 1960 to 650 today. According to the report Luxembourg’s car ownership rate is higher rate than in France which counts a car for every two people.” And a few months ago an article called “Luxembourg new car sales on increase” proudly announced: “New cars are selling better in Luxembourg than the rest of Europe, a report claims. Between May 2009 and May 2010, sales in the rest of Europe dropped by 9.3% whereas in Luxembourg they rose by 15.2%.” Unlike the bad figure in the rest of Europe, by contrast, all is well here: “Luxembourg remains one of the strongest countries for new car sales. It sold 15.2% more cars, or 5158 compared with 4479 sold the previous year.” Those numbers at the end look tiny, but then Luxembourg’s total population is only half a million. So car-driving fascism, a main vehicle of corporate capitalism and market totalitarianism, “Automobiles Über Alles”, is going full speed ahead here in Luxembourg! Apparently “Green Heart” Luxembourg still has too many trees, the number’s not zeroic** enough, so we need some more deforestation and road-building right now!

    *So the saying that Luxembourg is “2 streets and 200 banks” is an exaggeration. (The streets part, not the banks part.)

    **Invented adjective meaning so close to zero as makes no nevermind; that’s just peanuts to space. Rhymes with “heroic”.



    BLAME CANADA

    So whose fault is it that the system is turning the “Green Heart of Europe” into another desert? Whom should we blame for the ravages of the system: blame the victim, or blame the guys on top and the system? Maybe both are right?

    On the one hand, when the many people are going about their lives wishing to remain ignorant and left in peace, closing their eyes to what is more painfully obvious by the day, that their culture and civilization is engaged in ecocide and suicide, then the role of the few elites in enforcing the direction of the culture and civilization, and in oppressing and dominating the many, is not the only factor in our lethal civilization's self-destruction. Despite high education and the Internet and concerned friends and all the sources of information that could be desired, most people simply are not interested in learning the truth about the big picture, or about anything else. TRUth is inTRUsive in social situations. The truth is such an intrusion that it might as well be punctuated with a "wah-wah" sound made by a muted trombone, like in the "Debbie Downer" sketches on Saturday Night Live. When a "party pooper" points out the falsehoods in an entertaining tall tale or makes nitpicking criticisms of a good novel*, or when skeptics debunk faith healing or the "hundredth monkey" phenomenon or whatever, then most people get angry at them for spoiling the social situation. "Shoot the messenger" is a normal human response to the truth, which is why people need to be told often not to do it. Far from being "open-minded" to things like “Cosmic Consciousness”**, for some people their minds are so open that their brains have fallen out. Not only is seeing believing, but believing is seeing: “What you believe is what you see.” Successful and satisfying divinations by palmists, astrologers, Tarot card readers, I Ching consulters, etc. are like the saying about a woman getting a man in Alaska: “The odds are good, but the goods are odd.”

    *I found The Flanders Panel by Arturo Perez-Reverte playable and entertaining, an extremely pleasurable read. Naturally, as a chess fanatic, it was the chess problem that is the key to the murder mystery that most caught my attention, as well as the book review blurb stating that as chess fiction, The Flanders Panel might rank even higher than Stefan Zweig's The Royal Game (a claim that I agree with as far as length and therefore entertainment duration go, but disagree with as far as writing quality, but never mind). I quite enjoyed this novel's characterizations, and not simply of the chessplayer Munoz (whom I found more convincing and less extreme as the chessplayer-stereotype than Zweig's Czentovic or Vladimir Nabokov's Luzhin). The author, Perez-Reverte, is clearly well-read, in books of logic and philosophy as well as chess, and features quotations from many of them at the beginnings of chapters, including from both of Raymond Smullyan's retrograde analysis chess books. All the standard chess philosophy and psychology was discussed (though the notion that the Bishop's diagonal move indicates femininity or homosexuality was a new one on me). All in all, this was a very satisfying book. Except for the chess problem itself! It turns out that the problem is taken from Smullyan's The Chess Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes, with some changes. The chief difference in the diagram positions is that Perez-Reverte has replaced Smullyan's Black King on the key square with a Black Queen. Perhaps these changes, in part, at least, work for plot reasons, but it is these very changes that have turned a chess problem that works into a chess problem that doesn't. First, while the Smullyan problem specifically tells us as givens which side of the chessboard is White's side, that it is White's move, and that no pawn has promoted to another piece in the game, Perez-Reverte has his chessplayer character Munoz simply peremptorily tell us the first two are somehow obvious from the position and just plain overlook the third one without telling us, simply assuming it in his reasoning and so appearing to have overlooked the possibility of past pawn promotions, which wrecks the validity of his chess deductions (for just one example, Black's last move could instead have been a pawn promoting into the Black Rook or Knight in the diagram) and is inconsistent with the Holmesian maxim that Munoz repeatedly cites about proving the improbable by eliminating the impossible. (It would have been easy enough for Perez-Reverte to make his version of the problem work too. For example, if he wanted to establish the absence of pawn promotions without distracting the readers of the novel by discussing it, he could have simply ensured that all 16 pawns were still on the board.) Second, because the position has a Queen instead of a King in the key square, Munoz commits a completely unforgivable howler in his chess reasoning: his assumption that, if Black just moved his Queen, White must have just moved to attack the Queen (and not previously been attacking it). Says who? Is there some rule of chess stating that you're not allowed to move your Queen unless the opponent attacks it that I somehow had previously been unaware of? Now, this assumption worked for Smullyan's King, since there is a rule that you have to move your King immediately as soon as your opponent attacks or checks it. But it does not work for the Queen. As far as my (admittedly limited) analysis can tell, there is no way to know, even assuming that Black has just moved his Queen, what move White made before that. He could have done almost anything. Assuming that White hadn't been attacking the Black Queen before and so must have just moved to attack it makes the rest of the author's analysis possible, but it shows Munoz up to be a complete incompetent and fraud. For the next several pages after I read this explanation, I was waiting for Munoz to go back and say "Of course, White could have done something else," and then cleverly disprove that possibility, but he didn't. When this glaringly blatant leap in illogic wasn't taken care of, the next several chapters I was expecting Munoz to be the murderer who deliberately misled the other characters about the correct chess analysis in order to cover his tracks. Without revealing whether or not Munoz was in fact the murderer, I can say that I have concluded that Munoz is a fool and that either the author, Perez-Reverte, is too, or else he knew what he was doing but figured nobody would notice as long as it was an entertaining book, which is a fine approach to writing fiction, but it doesn't work for me, either in law fiction, science fiction, or chess fiction. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. It was still quite an interesting piece of chess retrograde analysis, and of course it was delightful to see a novel of popular literature seriously discussing such a subject. Though the erroneous reasoning was a little too bad and did detract a little from my assessment of the book's quality, it didn't ruin the book for me. I still believe that The Flanders Panel is well worth reading, especially for any chess enthusiast. The very fact that the chess problem was disappointing to me attests to the interest and enjoyment I got out of this otherwise fine book. I hope that in the next book Perez-Reverte gets it right! The chess was only fair, and Munoz is no Sherlock Holmes. "Wah-wah"!

    **It turns out that the wonderful philosopher, mathematician, and puzzle-master Raymond Smullyan, of whom I have been a fan for over 30 years, since his What is the Name of This Book?, is in turn a fan of “Cosmic Consciousness”! I was glad to find that his book Some Interesting Memories is more than a simple compendium of Smullyan's previous books (though, honestly, not all THAT much more than that). My first pleasant surprise was seeing that this book was published by Thinkers' Press, a noted chess book publisher (I am very partial to chess). Sadly, though, there were none of Smullyan's excellent retrograde analysis chess problems in this book (except for the ones on the pictured covers of his earlier books Chess Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes and Chess Mysteries of the Arabian Knights), and this book implied that Smullyan hadn't created any such problems since the 1950s. (Smullyan's puzzle book The Riddle of Scheherazade was rather a let-down on this score too since it had a chess diagram on its cover but no chess problems inside!) I was also disappointed to read in this autobiographical work simply that he was born "in 1919" without a birthdate. Ever since WitNoTB?, when Smullyan joked that he did not believe in astrology because he was a Gemini, I've been wondering when his birthday was since I too am a Gemini and I would be proud if our birthdays coincided! And I was disappointed that Smullyan repeated a lack of rigor that he had made in WitNoTB? on the problem of what happens if an irresistible cannonball hits an immovable post. His answer, then and now, is that it is logically impossible for the two to exist in the same universe (the former is defined as a cannonball that knocks over everything it hits and the latter is defined as a post that is not knocked over by anything that hits it). Well, it's true that it is logically impossible for the former to hit the latter, but it hardly follows that it is logically impossible for both to exist in the same universe! It is perfectly possible for both to exist side-by-side in the same universe, just as long as the former never actually hits the latter. Indeed, in our very own real-life universe, there are plenty of both irresistible cannonballs (every cannonball that never hits anything at all, or knocks down what it does hit) and immovable posts (every post that is never hit by anything, or is not knocked down by what does hit it). And finally, I was bothered by Smullyan's characterization of atheism as blind and static while religions have vision (albeit very distorted) and are dynamically growing toward the truth. Then, in the very next paragraph, Smullyan states that his favorite philosophical view along these lines is “Cosmic Consciousness” (that certain humans have evolved or developed great spiritual harmony and ability to directly see the truth and beauty in the cosmos), an atheistic philosophy (or at least one not inconsistent with atheism)! (The only example Smullyan gives in this book of someone who actually had Cosmic Consciousness (he elaborates on this in his later book Who Knows?) is Walt Whitman. It is interesting to contrast Smullyan's praise of Whitman's Cosmic Consciousness with Isaac Asimov's essay "Science and Beauty", reprinted in Smullyan's friend Martin Gardner's book The Sacred Beetle and other Great Essays in Science, which chides Whitman for his disdain for the science of the "learn'd astronomer" that discovered vastly more truth and beauty in the Cosmos than Whitman was ever Conscious of.) So, would Smullyan state that an atheist who believes in Cosmic Consciousness is blind? What about an atheist who actually HAS Cosmic Consciousness? Actually, my characterization would be the exact opposite of Smullyan's: it is the religions that are static dead-ends, while it is atheism and science that have vision and are dynamically growing toward the truth! But I can live with that discrepancy, since I guess it all depends on what kind of "truth" you are interested in (spiritual serenity and awareness or factual knowledge and awareness). Don't get me wrong -- overall my impression of this book was quite positive (I hope Smullyan was at least a little bit embarrassed by the cheesy cover, though!), and Smullyan is a towering intellect who could poke a lot more holes in my logical thinking than I could ever quibble in his! The encomiums by other authors didn't add all that much to the book (though I quite liked Douglas R. Hofstadter's, as I am a fan of his as well). If you like Smullyan, or like thinking about mathemetical logic, I would definitely recommend this book.

    On the other hand, though, blaming the common citizens for the problems of civilization, and calling them “consumers”, not only lets the elite and the system off the hook, but also does irreparable damage to any chance at understanding and overthrowing the elite and the system. For example, after the Gusher in the Gulf* came a gusher of conventional “everybody’s to blame” dogma passing itself off as serious social criticism but actually being an excuse and a denial. Instead of realistic descriptions of and remedies for the institutionalized, class-based decisions that continue to impose petro-intensive living on human societies, what gushed was the familiar trope that the main problem resides “with the man in the mirror”, that “we have met the enemy and he is us”, that “If BP Is Evil Then So Are We All”, that “we demand the oil they are forced to take these sorts of risks to get”. The difference between that sort of blame-the-victim thinking and the line of the bad guys from The Magnificent Seven, “If God did not want them sheared, he would not have made them sheep”, seems a mere difference of degree rather than one of kind. Maybe in current movies that kind of line is given by the “good guy” instead!

    *We recently visited Florida on vacation (there was no public transport and we had to rent a car to go anywhere and were always paying high tolls and parking fees left, right, and center – the most efficient transportation system in the world, how nice!), and the “Energy Adventure” at Epcot Center definitely needs falling-down-laughing emoticons. The sequence with Bill Nye the Science Guy showing Ellen DeGeneris how wonderful undersea oil drilling is was in very bad taste just a few months into the Gusher in the Gulf, but the worst part that made me really want to make “wah-wah” comments was the conclusion, the “Final Jeopardy” question to which DeGeneris “correctly” answered that the human mind would last forever and human ingenuity was an eternal resource that would always solve all humanity’s energy problems and so “Don’t worry your pretty little head about it”. (Alex Trebec was of course the Jeopardy host, and Jamie Lee Curtis was the smart-aleck know-it-all who stupidly was unable to “correctly” answer the Final Jeopardy question.) But my 9-year-old daughter liked the part with the dinosaur animatronics, and frankly, so did I, so I said nothing to spoil the occasion.

    This, of course, is the same excuse you get from elite war criminals and drug dealers. Thinking of elite war criminals using this “pusher’s excuse” (“the people demand X, I merely give them what they want”) makes me think of Nazi doctors doing “medical experiments” on people and writing in their notes, e.g., “Subject screams when immersed into acid.” The concerned doctors then theorize that people must have an innate, inborn “human nature” to scream and conclude that, regrettably, they (the doctors) have no choice but to immerse people into acid in order to allow their (the subjects’) “human nature” to express itself. Immersing people into acid, then, has nothing to do with the monthly paychecks for the service to the Nazi masters but instead is due only to humanitarian concern to liberate people’s “human nature” and give them what they need.

    So, our own stupidity and “consumerism” has unleashed a runaway cultural rot, which in turn “allows” things to unfold as they are? Torquel!* Never mind capitalism or even class civilization; talking about “culture” is somehow deeper than talking about corporate capitalism, and haranguing us “consumers” about our culture is more effective than creating a new model by creating new economic institutions and opening new avenues for popular sovereignty. But if you care about what’s going on, falling for rote, sponsored verbal gestures of self-blame is actually worse than not thinking at all. And if we don’t make replacing capitalism the core of the effort, we might as well all just close the book. "Wah-wah"!

    *Another invented word, an exclamation like Homer Simpson’s “D’oh!” The adjective is “torquellian” (rhymes with “Orwellian”).

    Ignoring and giving a free pass to capitalism also makes some criticism by “skeptics” of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry variety miss the point. For example, one of the main criticisms of alternative medicine is that it diverts and distracts people from consulting a mainstream doctor - ignoring the fact that the health care system under capitalism sucks, that many people simply do not have the option of consulting doctors and even when they do it can be hugely inconvenient and ineffective. Saying that paranormal beliefs (religion, astrology, faith healing &c) will always be with us is like saying that poverty will always be with us. Changing society (instead of ridiculing the props that religion &c give people, a friendly and helpful ego boost when this is not available elsewhere) is the way to change the former as well as the latter.

    Why do people doggedly tolerate the unpleasant status quo instead of fighting to change it? I think part of the reason is our upbringing as children. Parents must often strongly push their children to disregard the impulse for immediate pleasure, to defer pleasure now in order to gain pleasure later: for example, telling kids to study tonight for the test tomorrow instead of partying tonight, or that food that tastes good now will make them feel bad later, or that medicine that tastes bad now will make them feel better later. So kids grow up thinking that denying the pleasure impulse and deferring it until later is smart and mature and grown-up: so they work and suffer under the status quo for the sake of eventual rewards later.

    Joke-Barfa* is blaming the people for the expected losses of his party, the Democratic Party, in the United States Congressional elections in November, telling them that their “hope” for “change” led to unrealistic expectations:
    “We passed historic health care legislation, historic financial regulatory reform and a huge number of legislative victories that people don’t even notice.”; “The idea that we’ve got a lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic base, that people are sitting on their hands complaining, is just irresponsible.” Of course, thanks to low turnout at the elections, the most popular support will go to the "Don't Give Two-Fifths of a Shit Party” or "Apathetic Party".

    *I recently read that to change the mind of an opponent, you should ask questions that are even more extreme in the opponent’s direction. For example, “Why are Obama’s policies always so perfect?” “Because we resist change, we think up reasons against this extreme view – and unwittingly change our belief in the opposite direction! Interestingly, the authors show that our change is a true shift in position, not just a recognition that more extreme views exist.” What do you mean “we”, paleface? Wouldn’t that just entrench moderates in their position? Besides, from me, extreme pro-Oilbama questions would (rightly) sound like sarcasm.

    We cannot be blamed for the system that history has given us. As Marx wrote, "The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living." But we can be blamed for not understanding and overthrowing it. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease” – or, as the raids carried out by the FBI against antiwar activists last week in the U.S. tried to show, “The whining dog gets the whip”. We cannot let that “wah-wah” be the last word!

    alberto a.

    Number of posts : 330
    Location : Buenos Aires
    Website : www.signosdeltopo.com.ar
    Registration date : 2010-02-24

    Re: Luxembourg (The Country)

    Post  alberto a. on Fri Oct 01, 2010 11:26 am

    It is unfortunate that the automatic translator can not be used for a long text.
    Thanks
    Alberto a.
    www.signosdeltopo.com.ar
    www.notisignos.blogspot.com.ar

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    Re: Luxembourg (The Country)

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