Category Archives: Book Review

The Narrative of Things Unsaid

When the original version of Home Truths appeared in 2006, it was already an accomplished work of great technical sophistication and emotional insight. This expanded and extensively revised edition manages to substantially improve upon the earlier book, drawing on recently-discovered source materials to clarify and deepen the complex and emotionally charged narrative of the author’s parents’ courtship in Dayton in the 1950s—a story of often short-lived triumphs and sometimes lingering disappointments—centered around the formidable figure of the poet’s maternal grandmother, a matriarch who did whatever she had to, to ensure that the family business, a funeral home, would continue to prosper after her husband’s sudden and unexpected death. Mixing personal recollection with a wealth of reconstructed correspondence, Ryan Guth displays an enviable facility with both poetry and prose; while the majority of the verse pieces presented are scored as free verse, the sequence also contains one extraordinary sonnet.

In every poem, postcard, or letter herein, a wealth of specific detail gives substance and vivid life to the lost world of the poet’s childhood, as in this passage, near the beginning of the book, where the poet’s parents reluctantly pose for a photograph:

Back home, Phyllis and Hank
(still newly-weds, almost)
in the back yard. Un-
cooperative, he’s
kept his shades on,
jammed his right hand
so deep in the pocket of his blazer
the sleeve’s wrinkled
clear to the elbow.
What’s he after –
notebook? car-keys? cigarettes?
He’d crush the pack,
from the look of him.

This is a narrative built primarily on what is not said, subtly exposing the underlying tensions beneath everyday interactions. Elsewhere, we find a telling exchange between the poet—then a young child—and his grandmother:

“Daddy says you never paid him
when he worked here,”
I informed my grandmother
just before lunch. I was seven,
sitting at her feet
with a new yellow Tonka truck
and a cold that had kept me
out of school.

“Oh,
she sighed, “I paid him.” […]

“How much?”
I asked again.
This time
the dragon squirmed,
uncoiled a little.
Sighing through her nose,
she stared down at me for a moment,
searching my face –
I could see light from the window behind her
through her thinning hair –
then turned back to her program.

“That’s between your father and me.”

In one of my favorite passages, the underlying, and ongoing, tensions between relatives are leavened by a flash of unexpected levity, providing some welcome comic relief. The poem, entitled, “Elvis and My Father Fail to Reach an Artistic Agreement,” presents an almost surreal—but thoroughly believable—conversation set in a hearse, and occasioned by the music that happens to be playing on the vehicle’s radio:

A body pickup,
out to St. Elizabeth’s and back.
Tom, in the passenger seat,
turns on the radio
(not asking Hank if he’d mind, of course)
and of course it’s that Presley kid –
little more than half Hank’s age
and trying it all in the home stretch
of a two-minute single:
veering from eerie
delta-blues falsetto
to gospel shiver to burbling
Bing and Dean. Too deep,
too high, too
close to the mike….
For Christ’s sake,
he’s got no idea what he’s doing,
throwing it all together like that:
like a taxi-dancing booth
at a church fund-raiser. […]

And why, oh why,
would they ever
put a radio in a goddam hearse?

Here, and elsewhere, the delicate balance between the heartrending and the genuinely funny serves to heighten our sense of the elegiac, of a nostalgia for a time and place that remain compelling despite the overwhelming presence of loss. The poet clearly loves and honors his family—warts and all—without ever losing sight of the quiet tragedy that infuses everyday life. The result is both a tribute and a coming-to-terms; over the course of these 31 poems and prose pieces, long-silent voices request, and receive, a kind of absolution.

Throughout, the vernacular of 1950s Ohio is pitch-perfect, and his characters and situations are so deftly drawn that authenticity sings in every line. Whether the reader chooses to approach the work as a series of interdependent poems and prose poems, or as a single, sustained poetic memoir, Home Truths resonates with humanity, pathos, and occasional flashes of humor, made all the more poignant by its exceptional range. Here is a remarkable achievement, a book to reread and remember, and one of which the author’s novelist father would surely have been proud.

Money, Power, and Class in US Politics

Consumers of left-wing media are well aware that America is an oligarchy, not a democracy. Everyone with a functioning cerebrum, in fact, should be aware of it by now: even mainstream political scientists recognize it, as shown by a famous 2014 study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page. Nevertheless, it is important to continue to publicize the oligarchical character of the United States in order to delegitimize the institutions that have destroyed democracy (insofar as it ever existed) and inspire people to take action to restore it. Ron Formisano’s book American Oligarchy: The Permanent Political Class (2017) is a valuable contribution to this collective project.

“American Oligarchy has been written,” Formisano says, “not to propose a path out of the New Gilded Age, but to discredit the political class by raking its muck between covers in black and white.” Formisano certainly achieves his goal: the “political class” comes out stinking of, yes, a swamp, a putrid moral bog. This “networked layer of high-income people and those striving for wealth including many politicians in and out of office, lobbyists, consultants, appointed bureaucrats, pollsters, television celebrity journalists (but not investigative reporters), and the politically connected in the nation’s capital and in the states” calls to mind in its hedonism, corruption, money-worship, and giddy myopia the decadent Senate-attached aristocracy of the late Roman Republic, greedy beyond the dreams of avarice.

The term ‘aristocracy’ is apt, for Formisano argues convincingly that the U.S. is headed beyond oligarchy to an aristocracy of inherited wealth, complete with all the ideological and cultural trappings of aristocracy. Our exalted rentiers and their service-providers have the usual attitudes of aristocratic entitlement to all good things in this world (and exclusion of the non-rich), sputtering rage at the occasional prospect of losing a particle of their preferential tax treatment, and the valorization of nepotism as first among the virtues. “The rampant nepotism of the political class fuels the galloping socioeconomic inequality of the twenty-first century.” The main differences between the American aristocracy of today and, say, the French aristocracy of the eighteenth century seem to be that the former has incomparably lower cultural (and architectural) tastes than the latter and is incomparably more destructive of society and the natural environment.

The circles in which the nation’s political leaders and their thousands of well-heeled minions travel are indeed reminiscent of some enormous eighteenth-century court. Over half the members of Congress are millionaires, with a total worth in 2013 of $4.3 billion; but even the ones whose income is of a mere six figures are able to live like millionaires. The reason is that the gears of Washington are greased by a “gift economy,” which, to quote ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, amounts to “a system of legalized bribery. All of it is bribery, every bit of it.”

In 2007 Congress passed a law prohibiting lobbyists from giving gifts to representatives, but, as Abramoff says, in effect “they just reshuffled the deck… They’re still playing the same game.” Campaign committees and “Leadership PACs” pay for the many luxurious trips legislators take around the world, as do lobbyists and donors. Golf outings, lavish “conferences,” fishing in the Florida Keys, skiing in Colorado, trips to Paris or Vienna or Hawaii, innumerable expensive parties and receptions and breakfasts with lobbyists and donors—all are paid for by either tax dollars or various committees, lobbying firms, corporate interests, etc. Aside from the obviously corrupting influence of all this legalized bribery, it matters a great deal that “politicians have no experience of poverty.” In fact, from 1998 to 2008 only 13 members of Congress came from blue-collar backgrounds, and they had long ago left behind that experience. No wonder policy almost never favors the working class.

Meanwhile, in 1970 only 3 percent of members leaving Congress moved into lobbying. Now well over half do. As do thousands of congressional aides. In addition to reinforcing the insularity and chumminess of the Beltway culture, this “accelerating exodus of staffers to K Street…has had the effect of increasing the power of lobbyists by shortening the overall tenure of staffers.” As the latter group becomes younger and less experienced, lobbyists take on an ever-greater role in crafting legislation—increasingly byzantine legislation that is difficult even for staffers to understand, which further enhances the power of lobbyists.

Formisano documents with admirable thoroughness the fact that the foremost concern of politicians and the politically connected in both the nation’s capital and the states is to look out “for me and mine.” The most obvious and common means of doing so is to monetize one’s public service, but almost as common is the practice of nepotism. “[T]he political class practices nepotism routinely, brazenly, and shamelessly, giving their ‘nephews’ plum jobs, promotions, a place at the head of the line.” Donald Trump may (unsurprisingly) be even more shameless than most, with his political use of his daughter, his son-in-law, and his sons—one of whom has remarked candidly that nepotism “is a beautiful thing.” But the second Bush administration took nepotism to a high art, given, for example, the important roles of Liz Cheney, her husband, and her son-in-law; the Mehlman brothers, the McLellans, the Powells, and Ted Cruz and his wife; the Martins, the Ackerlys, and the Ullmans, etc. The Obama administration was hardly innocent either, though it didn’t go to quite the extremes of its predecessor. Children of governors and members of Congress fare well too, whether serving in politics, in law firms, in businesses that benefit from political connections, or as lobbyists.

The media are almost as riddled with nepotism as politics. When her mother was Secretary of State, Chelsea Clinton was hired by NBC as a television journalist, making $600,000 a year ($26,724 for every minute she was televised). CNN’s Andrea Koppel, Anderson Cooper, Jeffrey Toobin, and Chris Cuomo are beneficiaries of nepotism, as are (at other channels and publications) Douglas Kennedy, Chris Wallace, Mark Halperin, Mika Brzezinski, Bill Kristol, Ronan Farrow, Luke Russert, Meghan McCain, Jenna Bush, Jackie Kucinich, and others. Formisano concludes, “Whether the field is literature, television, entertainment, or politics, the hallmark of this New Gilded Age of Inequality is ‘naked, unabashed favoritism,’ and the shameless effrontery of those who give and receive it.”

American Oligarchy also contains long discussions of the nonprofit world, specifically of its contributions to rising income inequality. The nonprofit sector employs 10 percent of the U.S. workforce, and in 2010 corporations, government, and individuals donated $300 billion to charitable enterprises. At least $40 billion every year is lost to “fraud, theft, personal enrichment of executives, and misappropriation.” In general, the culture of large nonprofits is approximately that of the permanent political class in Washington.

University presidents and hospital CEOs, for instance, can make millions of dollars a year, and that doesn’t include such perks as bonuses, deferred compensation, auto allowances, and financial planning. In the same years as student debt has soared and state funding has declined, university foundations have been used as slush funds for big payouts and personal expenses for presidents and other administrators. Even more egregiously, nonprofit hospitals have initiated hundreds of lawsuits against patients who couldn’t pay and have routinely had arrest warrants issued and jailed debtors. Conversely, lawsuits have been filed against hundreds of hospitals in seventeen states for gouging the poor.

In other cases, nonprofits have in effect become allies of the forces they’re supposed to be challenging. A particularly outrageous instance is that of The Nature Conservancy, “by far the wealthiest green group with well over $6 billion in assets.” On its governing board and advisory committees sit executives of oil and chemical companies, mining and logging businesses, auto manufacturers, and coal-burning electric utilities, who have influence over the group’s policies. Even while preserving millions of acres, The Nature Conservancy has logged forests, drilled for natural gas under the last breeding ground of an endangered bird species, invested millions in energy companies, cultivated relationships with such polluters as ExxonMobil and BP, and sold its name and logo to companies that then claim undeserved credit for being green. Similarly, the World Wildlife Federation has close relationships with both Monsanto and the rainforest-destroying palm oil company Wilmer.

At any rate, the evidence Formisano amasses proves that the moral corruption of the American aristocracy has utterly polluted the ostensibly selfless and charitable world of nonprofits. From museums, public libraries, and human rights organizations to symphony orchestras, veterans’ groups, and environmental organizations, excessive executive compensation, corporate ties, and outright corruption have perverted the public mission of nonprofits.

American Oligarchy is not an uplifting read. Its chapter on Kentucky, a case-study of political corruption in a poor state, is, despite the detached analytical tone, at times wrenching, in particular when you reflect on all the human suffering that is the corollary of the aristocracy’s venality and greed. On the one hand are profits for Purdue Pharma in the billions of dollars, and power and money for a complicit political class; on the other hand are numberless opioid deaths and lives ruined by addiction.

But books such as this are indispensable in their bleakness, since we live in bleak times that call for unstinting exposés. Perhaps as the backlash against Donald Trump grows, American Oligarchy and books like it will acquire a wide readership and so contribute to the radicalization of a generation.

How Fascist Loot Funded US Anti-Communism

In Gold Warriors, by Sterling and Peggy Seagrave, the authors reveal one of the most shocking secrets of the 20th century. It is the story of the vast treasure Japan managed to loot across Asia, today worth billions or even trillions of dollars, the concealment of it in hundreds of sites, and the secret recovery of much of it by what would become America’s Central intelligence Agency. America helped Japan cover up this vast fortune, fooling the world into believing Japan was bankrupt after the war and was unable to pay reparations for their mass murder and material damage.

Most of Japan’s vast stolen fortune would remain in the hands of imperialist war criminals, and would for decades be used to prop up Japan’s corrupt one party democracy ruled by the Liberal Democratic Party, with the CIA and the Yakuza pulling the strings behind the scenes. It would be controlled by men like Allen Dulles and John J. McCloy through their Black Eagle Trust, which managed both Japanese and Nazi War loot. The Gold would be deposited in the Federal Reserve, the Bank of England, Union Banque Suisse (UBS) in Switzerland, Citibank, HSBC and other major banks who often stole it for themselves.  The gold was also used to manipulate the global economy, finance assassinations and covert ops, bribe politicians, and finance right wing political movements like the John Birch Society domestically.

Gold Warriors tells a compelling tale of secrecy, greed, treachery, murder and lies. The book offers a window into the vast and mysterious world of offshore banking and the Gold Cartel. The authors estimate that today, the ultra-rich are hoarding over 23 trillion dollars, mostly in offshore bank accounts. Meanwhile around the world, health and education are being cut, poverty and homelessness are on the rise, and the rest of us are constantly told to tighten our belts.

The Seagraves destroy the myth that America reformed Japan after the war, revealing the shocking story of the MacArthur occupation and its alliance with fascists along with Japan’s ruthless imperial family and their huge corporate backers like Mitsui, Mitsubishi, Kawasaki and Sumitomo. They used this loot to finance Japan’s postwar recovery and meteoric rise. Companies that have since become household names made their fortunes through looting Asia and employing slave labor, including that of American POWS. When the survivors tried to sue for reparations, State Department officials like Tom Foley with corrupt ties to these Japanese corporations compared these victims to terrorists.

The Seagraves begin their book with the brutal assassination of the Korean Queen Min on October 7 1895 by the imperialist Japanese. In Japan, like in America, big business, organized crime, and intelligence were strongly interrelated. The Japanese Empire, like all empires, were cynical liars and claimed that Queen Min had been murdered by Koreans. With the strong-willed Queen Min out of the way, her weak husband King Kojong quickly became a Japanese puppet and soon Korea was a Japanese colony, while China suffered a humiliating defeat at Japan’s hands when it tried to intervene.

Japan seized Taiwan and parts of Manchuria from China. Korea became Japanese property, and they began to loot the accumulated wealth of centuries, including gold silver and prized celadon porcelains. Japan employed an army of antiquarians to seize and catalog hundreds of ancient Korean manuscripts, sending them to Japan or burning them to destroy Korea’s cultural heritage.  The Japanese even resorted to grave robbery on a massive scale, targeting Korean Imperial tombs.

Japan targeted Taiwan, colonizing the island and setting up massive heroin laboratories. Taiwan would for decades become a center of the global drug trade. Japan launched a sneak attack on the Russian Empire in 1904 and Russia was forced to sign a humiliating peace deal giving Japan control of its possessions in Manchuria like the South Manchurian Railway it had built. To turn a quick profit, Japan set up a massive opium growing operation. They bribed warlords and began buying up Chinese industries and land. Manchuria became what the authors call the center of “carpetbaggers, spies, secret policemen, financial conspirators, fanatical gangsters, drug dealers and eccentric army officers.” The Mitsui and Mitsubishi Corporations ran everything, making a fortune from their cut of the illegal drug trade. Through a series of provocations involving the patriotic societies and Japanese intelligence, Japan was whipped into a war frenzy and more Chinese land was stolen. Japan unleashed an army of experts to steal as much art and priceless manuscripts as they could.

Around the same time Japan had been conquering Korea, America had conquered the Philippines while claiming they wanted to liberate it from Spain. With its usual cynical hypocrisy, once Spain surrendered, America crushed the Filipino independence movement with the brutal tactics it would later employ in Greece, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and a long list of other countries. Of course, it had been America itself which had forced Japan to end its long isolation setting into motion the chain of events that had led to Japan’s rapid modernization and imperialist adventures in the first place. When the Second World War began to go very badly by 1943, Japan was no longer able to ship its loot back to Japan, and so began to hide it all over the Philippines and Indonesia. Prisoners of war and the local Filipinos were forced to dig massive tunnels. These slave laborers were often massacred or buried alive to keep the tunnels secret. The Japanese often buried their loot near historical landmarks and hospitals because they were less likely to be bombed. They smuggled gold into the Philippines on phony hospital ships, since they would be less likely to be sunk by American submarines. They hid some of the gold by loading ships full of treasure and sinking them for later recovery, and huge underground chambers were filled with thousands of tons of gold.

The Americans managed to discover gold was being hidden during the war, thanks to one of their spies. There were at least 176 treasure sites in the Philippines. By the time the war ended, the Americans had found so much gold that if it became publicly known it would have destroyed the Bretton woods system which relied on gold being valued at 35 dollars an ounce. The Bretton Woods system was itself backed with the huge sums in Nazi gold the US had managed to seize and hide, the authors of Gold Warriors suggest.

Back in Washington, there was already a group dedicated to stealing and hiding Nazi gold: the Black Eagle Trust. With their massive off-the-books money, they would bribe politicians and finance coups, covert operations and psychological warfare. Soon, the Golden Lily loot was being managed by the same people. It was being moved across the world, being used to prop up banks around the world. UBS in Switzerland, HSBC in Hong Kong, the Bank of England, Chase Manhattan. Hidden in 42 countries between 1945-47, the gold was used to make huge loans to Britain, Egypt, and the Kuomintang in China. Politicians around the world were bribed with gold certificates. The intersection between Wall Street and intelligence involved vast sums completely unknown to the public. The notion that the CIA could ever be held in check once it had control of this vast fortune was a joke, and it perhaps led to events like the Kennedy assassination. A nearly 60-year cover-up after that event would not be surprising when one remembers that the entire mainstream American media was controlled by former Office of Strategic Services men, as discussed in Science of Coercion by Christopher Simpson. The CIA and Office of Policy Coordination controlled much of the media worldwide as part of Frank Wisner’s infamous Operation Mockingbird, putting out nonstop Cold War propaganda.

In Japan, criminal Yoshio Kodama made a deal to turn over $100 million to the CIA for his immunity (worth 1 billion dollars today). During the war, Kodama had managed to save 13 billion in gold, platinum, diamonds and other loot. America had not bombed Japanese industries, instead targeting workers’ homes. This was likely because American corporations were heavily invested in Japan, just as they were in Nazi Germany, where American-owned factories supplying the German war machine were spared during the war. In occupied West Germany, Denazification was a scam, and so too was the removal of imperialism in Japan. Trials targeting Japanese war criminals were fixed to prevent the Emperor’s role being known. The US set up a special fund to bribe witnesses. Kodama was put on the CIA payroll, and behind the scenes he created the misnamed Liberal Democratic Party headed by corrupt politicians. The Yatsuya fund was used to  control the Japanese underworld. The Keenan fund named after Joseph Keenan, the chief war crimes prosecutor, was used to bribe witnesses to protect the Emperor and his cronies.

The M-Fund was named after General William Frederic Marquat, who was in charge of restructuring the Japanese economy. Marquat was also entrusted to disband Japan’s infamous Unit 731 that ran bio-warfare research using prisoners as guinea pigs during the war, but instead of disbanding, they were recruited by the Pentagon and used to develop germ warfare against China and North Korea. The M-Fund was used to bribe politicians, and evolved into one of the most scandalous financial scams in history. Soon, it would corrupt American politicians as well. Nixon turned the M-Fund, which had been run by MacArthur’s cronies like General Marquat along with the CIA and the corrupt Liberal Democratic Party, over to the full control of Japan in exchange for illegal kickbacks funneled into the 1960 presidential Campaign he lost to Kennedy. Part of the deal was for Nixon to return Okinawa to Japan, which he later did once he finally got elected.

Golden Lily loot was funneled back to far right movements in the US, and would help finance Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunts. Another source of such wealth was the global drug trade, as the CIA would manage it in cooperation with the Chinese Kuomintang and Japanese and Korean organized crime. Together, these sources of wealth would be used to fund the World Anti-Communist League or WACL the global network of fascist drug dealers and terrorists loved by Ronald Reagan. In the final chapter of their book, the authors provide a brilliant summary of the politics of heroin, relying heavily on Doug Valentine’s classic The Strength of the Wolf. In Japan, McCarthyism took a much bloodier course with a massive assassination program combined with a COINTELPRO-style war on anyone who dared to dissent. Even American and British officials could be targeted for assassination if they threatened to expose MacArthur’s alliance with war criminals and gangsters. For assassinations that were even more sensitive, KOTOH was employed – an acronym formed from the names of five Japanese army officers who performed assassinations.

Much of Gold Warriors describes the hunt for treasure in the Philippines. The Japanese were the masters of this, quietly returning for decades to recover their loot. Future Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos learned of the gold by befriending Santa Romana and making deals with the Japanese to recover gold, becoming one of the richest men in the world through his discoveries. It was Marcos gold that paved the way for Nixon’s visit to China, with Marcos agreeing to deposit 72 billion in Gold in China’s Bank accounts. Marcos had long been used by the CIA to bribe Asian governments into supporting American policy, and in return they allowed him to get rich by selling his gold to Saudi princes or trading it for drugs from Asian or Latin American cartels. The golden Lily loot that led to his rise also led to his downfall, when he bargained too forcefully with the Reagan White House and the CIA who wanted him to use his fortune to back Reagan’s scheme to create Rainbow dollars. Marcos then became one of the first victims of a CIA color revolution. As CIA-backed NGOs flooded the streets with angry protestors, his American sponsors kidnapped him and airlifted his fortune out of the country.

Gold Warriors reveals that from the underworld to the military and intelligence agencies, to the corrupt politicians to the titans of finance we are ruled at every level by gangsters. After reading it, one may even wonder how much of the CIA’s gold is involved today in financing charlatans like Alex Jones and the rest of the US “patriot” movement, since their radio stations are heavily involved in selling gold and silver. It is a fantastic book that anyone with an interest in the CIA, drugs, or fascism should read, because it offers a window into the shadowy world of offshore banking, where around a trillion dollars is transferred around the world every day. It names some of the most powerful families in the world: the Krupps, the Rothschilds, the Oppenheimers, the Warburgs and the Rockefellers. All are tied to banking and the gold cartel, where fortunes are incalculable. In fact, the gold and diamond cartels are still looting the world today with the same greed and brutality as imperial Japan. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone, ten million people have been killed in a brutal war to loot the country of gold, diamonds, uranium, and rare earth elements. Furthermore, most of the world’s gold is hoarded today in the Swiss Alps, in secret bunkers and underground tunnels designed to survive a nuclear war. The hunt for the gold stolen by imperial Japan even resumed as recently as 2001, when George W. Bush sent navy seals on a secret mission to recover it.

An Important Book the Mainstream Media Refuses to Review

When a book as fascinating, truthful, beautifully written, and politically significant as American Values: Lessons I Learned from My Family, written by a very well-known author by the name of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and published by a prominent publisher (HarperCollins), is boycotted by mainstream book reviewers, you know it is an important book and has touched a nerve that the corporate mainstream media wish to anesthetize by eschewal.

The Kennedy name attracts the mainstream media only when they can sensationalize something “scandalous” – preferably sexual or drug related – whether false or true, or something innocuous that can lend credence to the myth that the Kennedys are lightweight, wealthy celebrities descended from Irish mobsters.  This has been going on since the 1960s with the lies and cover-ups about the assassinations of President Kennedy and his brother Robert, propaganda that continues to the present day, always under the aegis of the CIA-created phrase “conspiracy theory.”  A thinking person might just get the idea that the media are in league with the CIA to bury the Kennedys.

Such disinformation has been promulgated by many sources, prominent among them from the start in the 1960s was the CIA’s Sam Halpern, a former Havana bureau chief for the New York Times, who was CIA Director Richard Helms’s deputy (the key source for Seymour Hersh’s Kennedy hatchet job, The Dark Side of Camelot), who began spreading lies about the Kennedys that have become ingrained in the minds of leftists, liberals, centrists, and conservatives to this very day.  Fifty years later, after decades of reiteration by the CIA’s Wurlitzer machine (the name given by the CIA’s Frank Wisner to the CIA’s penetration and control of the mass media, Operation Mockingbird), Halpern’s lies have taken on mythic proportions.  Among them: that Joseph. P. Kennedy, the patriarch, was a bootlegger and Nazi lover; that he was Mafia connected and fixed the 1960 election with Chicago mobster Sam Giancana; and that JFK and RFK knew of and approved the CIA plots to assassinate Fidel Castro.

Of course, whenever a writer extols the Kennedy name and legacy, he is expected to add the caveat that the Kennedys, especially JFK and RFK, were no saints.  Lacking this special talent to determine sainthood or its lack, I will defer to those who feel compelled to temper their praise with a guilty commonplace.  Let me say at the outset that I greatly admire President John Kennedy and his brother, Robert, very courageous men who died in a war to steer this country away from the nefarious path of war-making and deep-state control that it has followed with a vengeance since their murders.

And I admire Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. for writing this compelling book that is a tour de force on many levels.

Part memoir, part family history, part astute political analysis, and part-confessional, it is in turns delightful, sad, funny, fierce, and frightening in its implications.  From its opening sentence – “From my youngest days I always had the feeling that we were all involved in some great crusade, that the world was a battleground for good and evil, and that our lives would be consumed in the conflict.” – to its last – “‘Kennedys never give up, ’ she [Ethel Kennedy] chided us.  ‘We have to die with our boots on!’” – the book is imbued with the spirit of the eloquent, romantic Irish-Catholic rebels whose fighting spirit and jaunty demeanor the Kennedy family has exemplified.  RFK, Jr. tells his tales in words that honor that literary and spiritual tradition.

So what is it about this book that has caused the mainstream press to avoid reviewing it?

Might it be the opening chapter devoted to his portrait of his grandfather, Joseph P. Kennedy, who comes across as a tender and doting grandpa, who created an idyllic world for his children and grandchildren at “The Big House” on Cape Cod?   We see Grandpa Joe taking the whole brood of Kennedys, including his three famous political sons, for a ride on his cabin cruiser, the Marlin, and JFK (Uncle Jack) singing “The Wearing of the Green” and, together with his good friend, Dave Powers, teaching the kids to whistle “The Boys of Wexford” (Wexford being the Kennedy’s ancestral home), an Irish rebel tune all of whose words John Kennedy knew by heart:

We are the boys of Wexford
Who fought with heart and hand
To burst in twain
The galling chain
And free our native land.

We see Joseph P. Kennedy sitting on the great white porch, holding hands with his wife Rose Kennedy, as the kids played touch football on the grass beyond.  We read that “Grandpa wanted his children’s minds unshackled by ideology” and that his “overarching purpose was to engender in his children a social conscience” and use their money and advantages to make America and the world a better place.  We learn, according to Joe’s son, Senator Robert Kennedy, that he loved all of them deeply, “not love as it is described with such facility in popular magazines, but the kind of love that is affection and respect, order, encouragement and support.”  We hear him staunchly defended from the political criticisms that he was a ruthless, uncaring, and political nut-case who would do anything to advance his political and business careers.  In short, he is presented very differently from the popular understanding of him as a malign force and a ruthless bastard.

Portraying his grandfather as a good and loving man may be one minor reason that Robert Jr.’s book is being ignored.

No doubt it is not because of the picture he paints of his paternal grandmother, Rose Kennedy, who comes across similarly to her husband as a powerful presence and as a devoted mother and grandmother who expected much from her children and grandchildren but gave much in return.  Robert Jr. writes that “Grandpa and Grandma were products of an alienated Irish generation that kept itself intact through rigid tribalism embodied in the rituals and mystical cosmologies of medieval Catholicism,” but that both believed the Church should be a champion of the poor as Christ taught. The glowing portrait of Grandmother Rose could not be the reason the book has not been reviewed.

Nor can the chapter on Ethel Kennedy’s family, the Skakels, be the reason.  It is a fascinating peek into certain aspects of Ethel’s character – the daring, outrageous, fun-loving, and wild side – from her upbringing in a wild and crazy family, together with the Kennedys one of the richest Catholic families in the U.S. in days past.  But there their similarities end.  The Skakels were conservative Republicans in the oil, coal, and extraction business, who “reveled in immodest consumption,” were huge into guns and “more primitive weaponry like bows, knives, throwing spears and harpoons,” and “pretty much captured shot, stabbed, hooked, or speared anything that moved, including each other.”  The Skakel men worked as informers for the CIA wherever their businesses took them around the world and they worked very hard to sabotage JFK’s run for the presidency. Ethel’s brother George was a creepy and crazy wild man. Once Ethel met RFK, she switched political sides for good, embracing the Kennedy’s liberal Democratic ethos.

A vignette of Lemoyne Billings, JFK’s dear friend, who after RFK’s assassination took Robert Jr. under his wing, can’t be the reason.  It too is a loving portrait of the man RFK Jr. says was “perhaps the most important influence in my life” and also the most fun.  In his turn Billings said that JFK was the most fun person he had ever met.  They referred to each other as Johnny and Billy and both were expelled from Choate for hi-jinks.  But stories about Lem, JFK, and RFK Jr. would attract, not repel, the mainstream press’s book reviewers.

Clearly the chapter about Robert Jr.’s early bad behavior, his drug use, and his conflicted relationship with his mother would be fuel for the Kennedy haters.  “I seem to have been at odds with my mother since birth,” he writes.  “My mere presence seemed to agitate her.”  Mother and son were at war for decades, and his father’s murder sent him on a long downward spiral into self-medicating that inflamed their relationship.  Moving from school to school and keeping away from home as much as possible, his “homecomings were like the arrival of a squall.  With me around to provoke her, my mother didn’t stay angry very long – she went straight to rage.”  His victory over drugs through Twelve Step meetings and his reconciliation with his mother are also the stuff that the mainstream press revels in, yet they ignore the book.

The parts about his relationship with his father, his father’s short but electrifying presidential campaign in 1968, his death, and funeral are deeply moving and evocative.  Deep sadness and lost hope accompanies the reader as one revisits RFK’s funeral and the tear-filled eulogy given by his brother Ted, then the long slow train ride bearing the body from New York to Washington, D.C. as massive crowds, lined the tracks, weeping and waving farewell.  And the writer, now a 64-year-old-man, but then a 14- year-old-boy, named after his look-alike father, the father who supported and encouraged him despite his difficulties in school, the father who took the son on all kinds of outdoor adventures – sailing, white water canoeing, mountain climbing – always reminding him to “always do what you are afraid to do” and which the son understood to be “boot camp for the ultimate virtue – moral courage.  Despite his high regard for physical bravery, my father told us that moral courage is the rarer and more valuable commodity.”  Such compelling, heartfelt writing, with not a word about who might have killed his father, would be another reason why the mainstream press would review this book.

It is the heart of this book that has the reviewers avoiding it like the plague, perhaps a plague introduced by a little mockingbird.

American Values revolves around the long war between the Kennedys and the CIA that resulted in the deaths of JFK and RFK.  All the other chapters, while very interesting personal and family history, pale in importance.

No member of the Kennedy family since JFK or RFK has dared to say what RFK, Jr. does in this book.  He indicts the CIA.

While some news outlets have mentioned the book in passing because of its assertion that what has been known for a long time to historically aware people – that RFK immediately suspected that the CIA was involved in the assassination of JFK – Robert Jr.’s writing on the war between the CIA and his Uncle Jack and father is so true and so carefully based on the best scholarship and family records that the picture he paints fiercely indicts the CIA in multiple ways while also indicting the mass media that have been its mouthpieces.   These sections of the book are masterful lessons in understanding the history and machinations of “The Agency” that the superb writer and researcher, Douglas Valentine, calls “organized crime” – the CIA.  A careful reading of RFK Jr.’s critical history leads to the conclusion that the CIA and the Mafia are not two separate murderer’s rows, but one organization that has corrupted the country at the deepest levels and is, as Kennedy quotes his father Robert – “a dark force infiltrating American politics and business, unseen by the public, and out of reach of democracy and the justice system” – posing “a greater threat to our country than any foreign enemy.”  The CIA’s covert operations branch has grown so powerful that it feels free to murder its opponents at home and abroad and make sure “splendid little wars” are continually waged around the globe for the interests of its patrons.  Robert Jr. says, “A permanent state of war abroad and a national security surveillance state at home are in the institutional self-interest of the CIA’s clandestine services.”

No Kennedy has dared speak like this since Senator Robert Kennedy last did so – but privately – and paid the price. His son tells us:

Days before his murder, as my father pulled ahead in the California polls, he began considering how he would govern the country.  According to his aide Fred Dutton, his concerns often revolved around the very question that his brother asked at the outset of his presidency, ‘What are we going to do about the CIA?’  Days before the California primary, seated next to journalist Pete Hamill on his campaign plane, my father mused aloud about his options. ‘I have to decide whether to eliminate the operations arm of the Agency or what the hell to do with it,’ he told Hamill.  ‘We can’t have those cowboys wandering around and shooting people and doing all those unauthorized things.’  Then he was shot dead.

For whatever their reasons, for fifty plus years the Kennedy family has kept silent on these matters.  Now Senator Robert Kennedy’s namesake has picked up his father’s mantle and dared to tell truths that take courage to utter.  By excoriating the secret forces that seized power, first with the murder of his Uncle Jack when he was a child, and then his father, he has exhibited great moral courage and made great enemies who wish to ignore his words as if they were never uttered.  But they have.  They sit between the covers of this outstanding and important book, a book written with wit and eloquence, a book that should be read by any American who wants to know what has happened to their country.

There is a telling anecdote that took place in the years following JFK’s assassination when RFK was haunted by his death.  It says so much about Senator Kennedy and now his son, a son who in many ways for many wandering years became a prodigal son lost in grief and drugs only to return home to find his voice and tell the truth for his father and his family.  He writes:

One day he [RFK] came into my bedroom and handed me a hardcover copy of Camus’s The Plague. ‘I want you to read this,’ he said with particular urgency. It was the story of a doctor trapped in a quarantined North African city while a raging epidemic devastates its citizenry; the physician’s small acts of service, while ineffective against the larger tragedy, give meaning to his own life, and, somehow, to the larger universe.  I spent a lot of time thinking about that book over the years, and why my father gave it to me.  I believe it was the key to a door that he himself was then unlocking….It is neither our position nor our circumstances that define us… but our response to those circumstances; when destiny crushes us, small heroic gestures of courage and service can bring peace and fulfillment.  In applying our shoulder to the stone, we give order to a chaotic universe.  Of the many wonderful things my father left me, this philosophical truth was perhaps the most useful.  In many ways, it has defined my life.

By writing American Values: Lessons I Learned from My Family, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. has named the plague and entered the fight. His father would be very proud of him.  He has defined himself.

Jordan Peterson and the Threat of Working-class Intellectual and Attitudinal Liberation

Why the industry of glib and vehement mainstream character assassinations of clinical and research psychologist Jordan Peterson? My examination of Peterson’s “Rule 1: Stand Up Straight with Your Shoulders Back” suggests that it is a seminal work anchored in a prestigious body of scientific research that should form the theoretical basis of social science in the coming years. Peterson is simply presenting this nascent scientific paradigm of the primacy of dominance hierarchy directly to the people, without an institutional filter, and using it in a cognitive therapy approach to solve the self-image catastrophe that white males in particular are experiencing. There is no valid basis for the attacks against Peterson, which are motivated by establishment machinations.

I’m a world-class scientist. I’m a physicist with an h-index of 36 (i10-index 81). I was a university professor at 29 and a full and tenured professor at 40. I’ve made discoveries in physics and some of my most cited papers are in soil and environmental science. I’m not clever in navigating society’s dominance hierarchy but I am intellectually honest and I am damn smart when it comes to understanding concepts and recognizing new phenomena.

Only those of my enemies who are professional liars (lawyers) have ever dared to call me stupid: “Mr. Rancourt is an intelligent man Your Honour”, but not repeatedly.

That is why I have been surprised to observe the deluge of strident voices, opinion leaders of our time, who use the establishment’s highest media venues to launch character assassinations of clinical and research psychologist Jordan Peterson based on… nothing.

Peterson is a fascinating media and social phenomenon worth investigating. I looked at his outstanding research record on Google Scholar and read several of his most cited and recent scientific papers. I watched several of his debates against said opinion leaders and several of his pedagogical presentations.

The scientific papers are exemplary, with correct applications of sophisticated statistical, significance and factor analysis tools. I often find sloppy and incorrect applications to be the norm in the medical field,1 for example, but not here.

In the presentations, I find clear and intelligent statements on the questions related to his many areas of expertise, and ya, some exaggerations and incorrect statements in areas where his gaze has not been objective, it appears.

For example, I don’t understand how an authentic intellectual could read the landmark works of Karl Marx and the critiques of the said work by the great anarchist theorist Kropotkin and not be thoroughly impressed by the genius of Marx, and the elements of his theory that are seminal and fundamental even if incorrectly extrapolated by Marx. I conclude that Jordan has not actually read this stuff or he is being irrational in his evaluation, for whatever reasons related to his personal history.

In my evaluation, however, Peterson’s occasional stupid summaries are entirely a result of his boldness to put ideas out there, on the fly, in his broad and continuous interactions with the world; and they remove nothing from the depth and rigour of his other written and spoken words. Even Einstein wrote naïve and silly things without the prerequisite background study: “Why Socialism?”, 1949.

Next, I decided to get myself a copy of his record-breaking best seller 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. I’m a slow reader, and I read all the notes and most of the articles themselves that are cited. I have now finished up to the end of: “Rule 1: Stand Up Straight with Your Shoulders Back”.

I thought: “Holy crap. This guy is doing something unprecedented. He is taking a nascent scientific paradigm and bringing it directly to the people, with no institutional intermediaries. Brilliant.”

I’ll explain what Peterson is doing and its significance but before I do…

I next went back to the products of the character-assassination professionals to see what the service intellectuals had said about “Rule 1”, and I looked for “Rule 1” summaries and explanations on line.

I was shocked to find the degree to which the said service intellectuals had done their job. What a distasteful spectacle. Such vile dishonesty. Only an assigned mission and attempts at opinion mobbing could produce such trash, which actually hurts the brain unless your purpose is mindless subservience to establishment spin.

What is the “nascent scientific paradigm”, which threatens key tenets of the current social engineering complex if it is not sufficiently buried? Let me be blunt. In the last decade or more, biochemists, biologists, animal behaviourists and psychologists have established proof of what some astute observers have been saying for centuries: Dominance hierarchy rules, across the animal kingdom and over evolutionary time. It is rooted in a primordial physiology and metabolic biochemistry.

The metabolism of the monoamine neurotransmitter serotonin, and the associated evolutionary biology, is the first synthesis of the new tectonic plates theory of social science, whether social scientists are aware of it yet or not. Period.

The metabolic biochemistry of dominance locks us in. No socialism theory that presumes altruistic cooperation as its organizing principle can ever work. Non-hierarchical anarchism and its libertarian cousin are useful conceptual end-points that can never be sustainably achieved. The best we can do is to have a responsive and optimally (evolutionarily) beneficial dominance hierarchy that is actively prevented from exercising pathological excess.2

Jordan is spelling this out (p. 14-15):

This is because “nature” is “what selects,” and the longer a feature has existed the more time it has had to be selected-and to shape life. It does not matter whether that feature is physical and biological, or social and cultural. All that matters, from a Darwinian perspective, is permanence—and the dominance hierarchy, however social or cultural it might appear, has been around for some half a billion years. It’s permanent. It’s real. The dominance hierarchy is not capitalism. It’s not communism, either, for that matter. It’s not the military-industrial complex. It’s not the patriarchy—that disposable, malleable, arbitrary cultural artefact. It’s not even a human creation; not in the most profound sense. It is instead a near-eternal aspect of the environment, and much of what is blamed on these more ephemeral manifestations is a consequence of its unchanging existence. We (the sovereign we, the we that has been around since the beginning of life) have lived in a dominance hierarchy for a long, long time. We were struggling for position before we had skin, or hands, or lungs, or bones. There is little more natural than culture. Dominance hierarchies are older than trees.

The part of our brain that keeps track of our position in the dominance hierarchy is therefore exceptionally ancient and fundamental. [Footnote 17: “Serotonin and dominance”, by Ziomkiewicz-Wichary, 2016] It is a master control system, modulating our perceptions, values, emotions, thoughts and actions. It powerfully affects every aspect of our Being, conscious and unconscious alike. This is why, when we are defeated, we act very much like lobsters who have lost a fight. Our posture droops. We face the ground. We feel threatened, hurt, anxious and weak. If things do not improve, we become chronically depressed. Under such conditions, we can’t easily put up the kind of fight that life demands, and we become easy targets for harder-shelled bullies. And it is not only the behavioural and experiential similarities that are striking. Much of the basic neurochemistry is the same.

Consider serotonin, the chemical that governs posture and escape in the lobster. Low-ranking lobsters produce comparatively low levels of serotonin. This is also true of low-ranking human beings (and those low levels decrease more with each defeat). Low serotonin means decreased confidence. Low serotonin means more response to stress and costlier physical preparedness for emergency—as anything whatsoever may happen, at any time, at the bottom of the dominance hierarchy (and rarely something good). Low serotonin means less happiness, more pain and anxiety, more illness, and a shorter lifespan—among humans, just as among crustaceans. Higher spots in the dominance hierarchy, and the higher serotonin levels typical of those who inhabit them, are characterized by less illness, misery and death, even when factors such as absolute income—or number of decaying food scraps are held constant. The importance of this can hardly be overstated.

There is an unspeakably primordial calculator, deep within you, at the very foundation of your brain, far below your thoughts and feelings. It monitors exactly where you are positioned in society …

What the ignorant hit men against Peterson have failed to recognize is that Peterson has summarized the greatest scientific advances of the last few decades, which have immediate relevance to human anthropological consciousness—not to mention representing a direct threat to the medical establishment and pharmaceutical industry.2

Peterson is doing this as part of a state-of-the-art cognitive therapy guide or companion.

How can his glib critics be oblivious to this? Simple: Their place and the place of their bosses within the dominance hierarchy are threatened.

Jordan goes on (p. 23-24) to explain the fundamental roles of anger and of fighting back, both as necessary elements of personal liberation and as the fundamental agent to prevent societal spiralling into totalitarianism. His summary on this point is brilliant, and is as seminal as Ward Churchill’s Pacifism as Pathology in the geopolitical field.

The same point is also the main thrust of my 2013 book3 and was made in my 2011 blog extract from the book:

There is no denying the first reality about humans. We are social beings, first and foremost regarding the forces that determine our lives. Our societies are hierarchical and, when not constrained by geography or balancing natural forces, spontaneously grow in size towards more hierarchy and fascism.

A recent antidote against the runaway excesses of Western monarchical and religious hierarchies has been the development of an ethos of individual freedom, spawned in the Enlightenment and anchored in mid-layer economic independence from the top hierarchical predators. …4

Peterson is not waiting for the social and medical sciences to catch up to the paradigm elucidation that has recently occurred among dominance-hierarchy pioneers. He is taking those discoveries as his world view and as the foundation for his advice to the youth.

The dominance-hierarchy view of nature is powerful and compelling, now supported by a few decades of hard science. It is a predictive model with unlimited capacity to organize our perception of the world. It is a dangerous truth, as is any truth about ourselves, which is not dominance-hierarchy-given but which instead is anchored in objective reality.

In the words of Harold Pinter:

[T]he majority of politicians, on the evidence available to us, are interested not in truth but in power and in the maintenance of that power. To maintain that power it is essential that people remain in ignorance, that they live in ignorance of the truth, even the truth of their own lives. What surrounds us therefore is a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed.
– Nobel Lecture (Literature), 2005

Peterson is having an impact because his important words are true and because oppressive false words have gone too far.

Goodiness is helpful in stabilizing the domestic dominance hierarchy, but goodiness has been co-opted and used to excess by one side of the establishment forces, the so-called “Left”. In a classic positive feedback loop—not unlike Jordan’s explanation of alcoholism—goodiness (political correctness) has achieved pathological levels and its totalitarianism is spraying dead bodies all over the landscape.

Regular white males are very publicly being told to “check their privilege” (that is, to shut the fuck up), to cower and to apologize and make amends for a historical accumulation of “toxic masculinity”. Privileged (professional class) non-white and non-male service intellectuals are recruited into a deceitful industry of supposedly fixing society by engineering language and by mounting witch hunts against perceived attitudinal blasphemy.

Dominance hierarchy theory tells us that this is a recipe for backlash. Self-image catastrophe is the dominant determinant of ill-health and is accompanied by violent outbursts or self-destruction.5

Jordan Peterson is furiously working to prevent and alleviate a violent race and gender civil war, waged by competing hierarchical exploiters, and guided by a disgusting array of careerist social managers.

Jordan Peterson is also fighting for reason and objectivity and against ideological madness.

I mean, come on:

[T]he idea that there is no binary male/female sex divide in humans is simply a vast overstatement of the fact that many other things also occur in the genital and metabolic physiology of a minority of individuals. …

That environmental factors—including culture and the violence or authoritativeness of the local social dominance hierarchy—affect both natural reproduction and the said set of sex-differentiating physiological attributes does [not] invalidate the sex binary in human society.6

Jodan’s Rule-1 explanation about gender roles (pp. 15-16) is anchored in science. His Footnote 18 is “Darwinian sex roles confirmed across the animal kingdom”, which has:

Combining Bateman’s principles with Darwin’s conception of eager males and discriminating females, the Darwin-Bateman paradigm is now the most commonly invoked concept to explain conventional sex roles (…). Specifically, it provides the conceptual framework to understand two central manifestations of conventional sex roles—female-biased parental care and male-biased sexual dimorphism.7

What is next? Are we going to pretend that sexual dimorphism is not real? Or postulate that virtually all animal behavioural studies are cultural fantasies imagined by the field observers? Are we going to throw out evolutionary biology and all of Darwin’s ideas as “male science”? Why not discount Einstein’s theories as “Jew science” while we are at it?

Look, white males are assholes, fine. But the “Words that Wound” industry service intellectuals are going too far.8 Establishment “science” can be lethal, as is literally the case with medicine,1 but that does not negate what we actually know about cell biology and metabolic reactions. Likewise, fundamental empirical discoveries about dominance and sex are not negated because Freud was off and psychiatry is a horror. You cannot simply extrapolate cherry picked scientific reports of anomalies into broad self-serving ideological conclusions.

These are the things that Jordan Peterson is responsibly questioning. Thank god.

  1. Cancer arises from stress-induced breakdown of tissue homeostasis”, by Denis Rancourt, Research Gate, December 2015, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.1304.7129.
  2. Cause of USA Meltdown and Collapse of Civil Rights”, by Denis Rancourt, Dissident Voice, September 7, 2017.
  3. Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism, by Denis Rancourt, Stairway Press, 2013. ISBN 978-0-9859942-8-0.
  4. Individual freedom versus collective oppression as the determinative conflict in a hierarchical society”, by Denis Rancourt, Activist Teacher, August 16, 2011.
  5. Self-Image-Incongruence Theory of Individual Health”, by Denis Rancourt, Dissident Voice, October 26, 2014.
  6. Respecting ‘Rules of War’ in Societal Battles: Science, Sex and Hate Speech”, by Denis Rancourt, Dissident Voice, November 8, 2016.
  7. Darwinian sex roles confirmed across the animal kingdom”, by Janicke et al., Science Advances, 12 Feb 2016: Vol. 2, no. 2, e1500983 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500983
  8. “Critical Race Theory and Freedom of Speech” by Henry Louis Gates Jr. Chapter 5 in: The Future of Academic Freedom, edited by Louis Menard, University of Chicago Press, 1996. ISBN: 9780226520049; which is a critique of Words That Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, and the First Amendment, by legal scholars Mari Matsuda, Charles Lawrence III, Richard Delgado, and Kimberlè Crenshaw, Westview Press, 1993.

Spiritual Capitalism

Dana Zohar and Ian Marshall, who wrote the book, Spiritual Capital: Wealth We Can Live By,1 are a fascinating, couple married to each other. Zohar is broadly trained and thus taps into diverse resources such as classical literature, physics, religion, and psychology. Marshall is a Jungian-oriented psychiatrist and psychotherapist.

The authors recount the story of a neuroscientist who was probing his temporal lobes in the laboratory and claimed to “have seen God.” This neural mass, or “God Spot,” apparently is where “spiritual intelligence” is hardwired so that the more meaningful and deeper questions of life and organizations can be pondered, as long as all other parts of the brain, including rational intelligence and emotional intelligence, are functioning in harmony with each other at 40 Hz oscillations. If not, the God Spot can be a trouble spot triggering “borderline schizophrenia or manic episodes.” Well, readers, what can I say other than what else would we expect from a Jungian and a wife who dabbles in religion?

The authors argue that material capitalism, the kind that predominates in America’s corpocracy, is unsustainable, depleting our natural resources, creating political and social instability, eroding our moral standards, and degrading the very meaning of life in terms of its deepest values and aspirations. Rather than reject this conventional capitalism altogether, however, the authors advocate transforming it into a more positive, sustainable economic system that they call “spiritual capitalism” in the secular, non-religious sense.

It’s defined as the amount of knowledge and expertise available about “meaning, values, and fundamental purposes.” It produces not material wealth that ultimately consumes itself but a self-sustaining wealth “that enriches the deeper aspects of our lives.” The authors list 12 qualities that companies “high in spiritual capital” would possess. For example, they would be “self-aware,” “vision and value-led,” and “compassionate” and would “have a sense of vocation.”

Are there any companies high in spiritual capital? The authors don’t cite any companies that possess all 12 qualities or even most of them, which is an opportunity missed because they developed a set of descriptors that could have been built into a good survey instrument. They do give very short accounts of three American corporations that supposedly “accrue spiritual capital,” Merck Pharmaceutical, Coca Cola and Starbucks, but they are dubious choices at best in my opinion.

Maybe their examples unwittingly help to validate their assertion that material capitalism is in a state of crisis. They call it a “crisis of negative motivations” and claim that the four primary ones are self-assertion or competitiveness, anger, craving or greed, and fear. Most of the book, therefore, is devoted to explaining Marshall’s “Scale of Motivations” and in speculating on how it, along with emotional and spiritual intelligence, can be used to raise motivation to a sufficient level among a sufficient number of business leaders to produce a “great transformation” first in their own companies and then for capitalism as a whole.

In Closing

There is much about Zohar and Marshall’s views and ideas with which I agree, such as their view that the capitalism prevailing today is unsustainable and thus needs to be transformed, not totally dismantled. The authors are creative thinkers who forced me repeatedly to think outside my own relatively narrow paradigms.

At the same time, the authors’ analysis of the problem and their proposed remedy are too unbalanced and insufficient. Material capitalism is far more than a crisis of motivation. Many other factors contribute to the failings of traditional capitalism. Relying on a critical mass of business people to shift upwards their spiritual intelligence is naïve and simplistic.

What’s Coming Next?

Part 10. The Peoples’ Capitalism, the last of the 10-Part Series. In this last part the commonalities among the alternative forms of capitalism presented in the first nine parts will be highlighted, before launching into my ideas on “the peoples’ capitalism.”

  1. Zohar, D. & Marshall, I. Spiritual Capital: Wealth We Can Live By, 2004.

Shared Capitalism

Jeff Gates wrote a book jam packed with ideas about what he calls “shared capitalism for the twenty-first century.”1 His is a decidedly populist view, not surprising since he was counsel to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee (1980-87), working with Senator Russell Long of Louisiana, son of populist governor and U.S. Senator Huey P. Long. In this role, Gates crafted federal law on employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs) and pension plans.

Capitalism creates financial capital, not capitalists, he notes. Moreover, most financial capital is held by institutional investors, the absentee owners of public corporations. This, he says, creates a “detached and disconnected capitalism largely on automatic” with investment decisions devoid of longer-term concerns, including the costs of externalization.

Unshared capitalism, while made to order by the corpocracy, is totally unfit for a democracy. His solution is to make widespread ownership a specific goal of national economic policy. His opinion that people take responsibility for what they own resonates with me, having watched for two decades party-going renters misbehave and scar property in an ocean-side condominium where my wife and I owned and never rented a unit.

Achieving inclusive ownership on a national scale will take, he believes, a political era like the progressives and populists of the 1930s and a leader like FDR, or like President Obama possibly. Gates identifies six strategic initiatives: a public opinion poll that asks the right questions about inclusive ownership and informs politicians about the public will, which he believes would support populist capitalism; a government declaration of widespread ownership as a national economic goal; a bipartisan commission on economic empowerment, which he believes will conclude the desirability of widespread prosperity; a government office of asset ownership; a regular assessment of what the impact of inclusive ownership has been; and an annual ownership survey to determine who owns what.

In Closing

Who among advocates of more responsible forms of capitalism can disagree with Gate’s solution to make widespread ownership a specific goal of national economic policy?

  1. Gates, JR. The Ownership Solution: Toward A Shared Capitalism for the 21st Century, 1998.

The Uncommon Commons

Peter Barnes1 co-founder, president, or a director of various socially responsible businesses, wants “capitalism 3.0” to replace “capitalism 2.0,” the existing economic “operating system.” He complains that corporations, with no resistance from “our” government, are privatizing the commons, profiting from it and externalizing the costs.

He defines “the commons” as assets we all share by inheriting or creating them together and subdivides them into three sectors, nature, community, and culture. Together they represent our “common wealth” (a most insightful concept), in contrast to our “private wealth,” the latter representing all the property we inherit or accumulate individually. Private wealth collectively in the U.S. was estimated to be around $48.5 trillion in 2005. What do you think our total American common wealth is? Economists can’t begin to estimate it in its entirety, but what they can estimate, Barnes tells us, comes to about $70 trillion. Is it any wonder then why, as Barnes asks, corporations on the one hand take valuable stuff “worth trillions of dollars” from the commons for short-term profit and on the other hand dump bad stuff into nature’s commons and pay nothing?

His proposal relies heavily on the idea of property rights because our U.S. Constitution guarantees them, they shape economies, they produce value or wealth, and, most importantly, there’s no requirement that they be concentrated in profit-maximizing hands, thus opening up the possibility of “propertizing” the commons without privatizing it (another very insightful idea). He proposes that the government assign common property rights to institutions, distinct from government and corporations that would be set up as trusts to manage the common property. A few such trusts already exist in the U.S, such as a trust in Marin County, California where ranchers can sell easements to it. For natural assets with their limited sources, the institutions would need to be capable of limiting their use. For the other two sectors with their endless potential, public access would need to be maximized and public usage fees minimized.

He introduces the idea of “commons tax credits” as a means for funneling more money into trusts by raising taxes in the uppermost tax bracket and giving its wealthy taxpayers the choice either to pay the extra tax to the government or to one or more qualified trust funds.

Barnes adapts the economist’s concept of rent, or money paid because of scarcity, to his proposed trusts for nature. The trusts would sell pollution rights to polluters and get the rent in return. The trusts would limit the number of rights sold to increase the cost of their rent. For corporate polluters the cost would be high enough to create an incentive to pollute less. Some of the rent would be converted into per-capita dividends for consumer citizens. Consumers of pollution-laden products would get back smaller dividends. Moreover, rent would be recycled from over users, who tend to be the wealthier ones, to under users, who tend to be the poorer ones. This shifting of income would help alleviate what Barnes calls a pathological flaw of capitalism 2.0, the wide income gap between high and low-income groups.

Barnes also shows how there could be per-capita dividends from trusts created for the commons’ other two sectors. For example, treating the capital market as common property, a trust could charge a usage fee to publicly traded corporations for selling stocks and for having been given various rights such as limited liability, perpetual life, copyrights, patents, and the like.

Over time the “propertizing” of the commons would amass a portfolio worth trillions of dollars that could be used to fund three “universal birthrights;” a regular dividend to everyone, an opportunity endowment for each new child, and health insurance for everyone. Clearly, Barnes’ proposal is a very expansive one and, superficially at least, a seductive one. Barnes appeals to capitalists, wage earners, lawyers, economists, commons entrepreneurs, and others to help build the commons sector into a full-fledged capitalism 3.0 and shows how it can benefit each of these diverse groups.

In Closing

Barne’s proposals are among the most unique I’ve ever read on capitalism. His advocacy of pollution rights, though, really troubles me. Every human being has a sacred obligation to nature and a moral obligation to generations yet unborn to respect nature.

  1. Barnes, P. Capitalism 3.0: A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons, San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2006.

Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution

The authors of Natural Capitalism 1 argue that it is needed to “create the next industrial revolution.” They warn that if we continue to ignore the value of natural capital; i.e., nature’s life-support systems for humankind, there will come a time when there won’t be any more life support. Doomsday may be a century or two away, but the quality of life up to that point will have deteriorated at an increasing pace.

Pursuing four central strategies of natural capitalism, these authors say, will enable commercial enterprises and communities to operate as if all forms of capital were important. The core strategy is that of radically increasing resource productivity by being more efficient, less wasteful in how natural resources are extracted and used.

The second they call “biomimicry” that involves eliminating waste in the making of things by imitating biological processes in the manufacturing process. The third is to change the relationship between producer and consumer from one based on goods and purchases to one based on a “flow of economic services” that will in turn de-emphasize possession as a measure of affluence and emphasize that well-being depends on the “continuous receipt of quality, utility, and performance.” The fourth involves “reinvesting in sustaining, restoring, and expanding stocks of natural capital.”

In Closing

But America doesn’t need the next industrial revolution. America needs a new and better capitalism that enfolds industry without its corpocracy. That’s what America desperately needs!

  1. Hawkins, P., Lovins, A., & Lovins, LH. Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, 1999.

Six Economies

By the time we come to the end of this series we will have been swimming in the primordial soup of the seeds for alternative forms of traditional capitalism! As I have long said, there is bad capitalism, the kind we have, and good capitalism, the kind we need

Part 5 is an adaptation of my review of a book about six economies written by Riane Eisler.1 She titled the book “The Real Wealth of Nations,” which to me was a repartee to Adam Smith’s magnum opus. Because she is absolutely one of my favorite authors I must begin by telling you about her.

Escaping with her parents from the Nazis in Germany led her eventually to ponder how there could be a world so cruel, insensitive, and destructive when humans, she believed, have a great capacity for caring, consciousness, and creativity (we should highlight “capacity” for she could not say “habit”). She ultimately concluded that “we have to change present economic systems” for the sake of ourselves, our children, and future generations. Being trained not in economics but in sociology, anthropology, and law was, I’m convinced, an asset for her, not a liability, in doing the research and writing for this book. And I certainly agree with her when she quotes Einstein as having said that solving problems can’t be done with the same thinking that created them, even though I hardly think it takes a genius to know that. In any case, Eisler has done some very creative and constructive thinking.

She was selected as the only woman among twenty great thinkers including Hegel, Adam Smith, Marx, and Toynbee in recognition of the lasting importance of her work.2 Her book, The Chalice and the Blade recounting the transition from earliest egalitarian to later patriarchal societies, was an international best seller and acclaimed by Princeton anthropologist Ashley Montagu as “the most important book since Darwin’s Origin of the Species.”3,4

Karl Marx once said about capitalists, “give them enough rope and they’ll hang themselves” If only that would happen! Eisler isn’t sympathetic to either Marx or Adam Smith. She contends that their theories and their application call for the control of natural resources and the means of production by a male dominated culture and as a consequence neither communism nor capitalism as we know it is capable of solving the chronic problems confronting society. Well, if you remember what I wrote about Marx in the previous part of this series, I would give him some slack here.5

Her focus in her book is on explaining dysfunctional economic structures, rules, and practices, offering an alternative perspective for a new economics along with providing convincing evidence of its superiority, and proposing necessary reforms to change the present system. Whereas Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations focused on the market, she goes beyond it to reexamine economics from a larger perspective that includes the life-supporting activities of households, communities, and nature. “Ultimately,” she says, “the real wealth of a nation lies in the quality of its human and natural capital” and the basic purpose of an economic system should thus be to “promote human welfare and human happiness,” characteristics that are missing from our present economic system. She is obviously more in tune with Aristotle’s thinking about economics than with Smith or Marx.6

A central theme of her book is that since any economic system emerges out of a larger social, cultural, and technological context, a viable system can’t be constructed without taking that broader context into account, and especially not without giving visibility and value to the socially and economically essential work of caring for people and nature. She defines care giving as “actions based on empathy, responsibility, and concern for human welfare and optimal human development.”

Our economic system is dysfunctional she contends because it, like its larger context, depends on what she calls the domination model. It has four core components; a rigid top-down social structure, much abuse and violence, a male superiority premise, and beliefs that perpetuate domination and violence. This system, where people are either dominating or being dominated rests on several erroneous assumptions such as people being inherently untrustworthy, that fear of pain (as a psychologist, I disagree with this as a source of motivation) and scarcity are the main motivators for work, and that caring and care giving are impediments to productivity or at best irrelevant to economics. For example, with regard to the last misassumption, she points out that care giving isn’t, but should be, included as a positive value in economic indicators such as the GNP, which, manifesting a domination system as it does, misleadingly includes war-related expenditures as positive values. She cites a Swiss survey and a UN report, the first, showing that the value of unpaid, care giving work accounts for 70 percent of the reported Swiss GDP, and the second, estimating in 1985 that the value of women’s unpaid work amount worldwide and annually to 11 trillion dollars. Those are amazing findings!

A functional economic system along with its larger context would be one she posits that depends on what she calls the partnership model of mutually respectful and caring relations. She leaves no stone unturned, no relevant field of inquiry unexplored in showing in various ways how this model is far superior to the other one. For example, she documents studies demonstrating that in business “it pays to care-in dollars and cents.” Organizational psychologists like me would be familiar with the evidence presented that caring and empowering corporations do indeed give a positive return on investment in their human capital. She shows how the Nordic countries, the only ones coming close to her partnership model, are faring well economically and socially.

Having a national capacity and resources for providing optimal human development is clearly necessary for having a healthy economy, and she persuasively links the domination form of child rearing (and thus suboptimal human development) to adverse consequences later in life that show up in the kinds of leaders and followers our society has, in our belligerent relationships with other countries, and in our diminished capacity for a functional and healthy economy. She presents neuroscientific evidence of how care giving rather than selfishness produces the most powerful reactions in the brain circuitry associated with pleasurable sensations. Finally, she shows how disastrous it could be if the domination model is played out with new and risky technological developments on the horizon.

Her perspective and understanding are so broad that she conceptualizes not one but six economic sectors. The first sector, the core one, is the household economy from which the rest of the sectors spring because productivity depends so much on human activity, which starts at birth and is markedly shaped by what kinds of experiences there are throughout human upbringing. Her core economy is clearly reminiscent of Aristotle’s thinking.7 The second is the unpaid economy made up mostly of volunteers. The third is the conventional market economy. The fourth is the illegal economy like illegal arms trade (and I suppose she would include Karger’s fringe economy summarized earlier in this series).8 The fifth is the government economy that includes not just the large population of government workers but also the laws, rules, and policies that (should) govern the market economy. The sixth, the natural economy, is as basic as the first in that our environment produces natural resources used and misused by the market economy.

The sectors are inextricably intertwined, and all must be taken into account in order to transform our economic system, our institutions, and our culture from the domination into the partnership model. The greatest challenge, she contends, is to develop economic models, measures, and rules where the first, second, and sixth sectors are recognized and highly valued. Our beliefs about what we value are largely unconscious, she continues, having been inherited from earlier times when anything associated with the female half of humanity, such as caring and care giving was devalued. If you scoff at this, you should read her book because I can’t do it real justice here other than to say I know of no other living scholar that has evolved a new theory of economics after having spent 30 years of research combing the data from over 20 thousand or more years of history collected by herself and others from myriad fields of inquiry.

Her book is much more than just theoretically significant, as would be expected from a social activist. She proceeds smoothly and logically from her theorizing to advocacy and conclusion. She makes a number of practical suggestions about what needs to be done on Wall Street (e.g. stiff tax on short-term speculations), in government (e.g., massive investment in child care and human development), by business leaders (e.g., changing from top-down to empowering corporations), and among social activist citizens (e.g., mounting a global movement to change laws and customs-she describes how she wrote an amicus brief that helped women legally gain equal rights). She summarizes the progress being made that she believes represents a “caring revolution.”

The only quibble I have with her summary is her assessment that “hundreds of thousands of nongovernmental organizations” are all working she says toward the “common goal of shifting to a more caring economic and social system.” I seriously doubt that claim. I’ve studied about 150 prominent NGOs in the U.S. My conclusion is that they are first and foremost compromised by the corpocracy, and secondly, represent a very fragmented activity, where even NGOs with similar missions and initiatives don’t communicate with each other let alone coordinate or collaborate in their work. Moreover, I once contacted the leadership of 176 NGOs proposing a super coalition of NGOs under the auspices of, let’s say, a U.S. Chamber of Democracy that is a counterpoint to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the advocate and lobbyist for big business that typifies the domination model. That proposal fell flat. Only five endorsed it; 32 said no; and 139 didn’t even respond.9

Conclusion

Eisler’s conclusion is my conclusion, “we have to change present economic systems” for the sake of ourselves, our children, and future generations.

I had originally intended to pair this Part 5 with Part 6 to shorten an otherwise lengthy chain of articles. But her book is so seminal, so profound, so unique that it absolutely deserves to stand alone! Furthermore, I am revising my “pantheon of brilliant, radical and humane thinkers.”10 I am telling Aristotle he must share the top spot with Eisler!

• Read Part 1 here; Part 2 here; Part 3 here; Part 4 here;

  1. Brumback, GB. Review in the Book Review Section of Personnel Psychology (2009, Vol 62, #1, 179-183) of The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics, 2007, by Riane Eisler.
  2. Galtung, J.& Inayatullah S. Macrohistory and Macrohistorians: Perspectives on Individual, Social, and Civilizational Change, 1997.
  3. Eisler, R. The Chalice & the Blade: Our history, our Future, 1987.
  4. Eisler, R. Wikipedia. wikipedia.org/wiki/Riane Eisler.
  5. Brumback, GB. “Notes on Some Classical Thinking” (Part 3 of 10 Part Series) “Economic Sanity and Alternative Economic Systems”, Dissident Voice, May 20; OpEdNews, May 21, 2018.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid. Part 3
  8. Ibid. Part 4.
  9. Brumback, GB. Tyranny’s Hush Money, OpEdNews 9/28/2013, The Greanville Post, September 29, 2013.
  10. Op. Cit. Footnote 5.