Monday, December 03, 2007

From the People whp brought you weeekends

I nearly missed the story of President Chavez's referendum defeat in the paper this morning. Everytime I see the word "Chavez" in our local newspaper, my eyes glaze over. I assume that it is another story about the closing of a portion of Cesar Cahvez street here in Austin ,which will back up downtown traffic for a month or so. In my town that is a "dog bites man " story. So prevelant as to not even be newsworthy.



But in my second pass through the headlines I noticed that the story was about President Chavez of Venezuela. The newspapers should really always identify him with his first name, "Hugo". Hugo is a great sit-com name. Can't you just see a Fox comedy about the President of Venezuela and his zany antics. The ding bat First Lady would always be yelling up the stairs "Huuuugo, breakfast". It would be a scream.



At any rate, much to the surprise of the world community, Hugo managed to lose a referendum which would have allowed him to run for President forever, and not have to step down in 2012.This is a disappointment to Hugo who, I'm sure was looking forward to a life time of free rent and travel. All is not lost however, Putin's party over in Russia won a big majority in the Dumas this weekend and it looks like Putin, while he may have to step down as President of the country, can still maintain effective control of the country.His allies are talking about him becoming something called "leader of the state" which nobody has defined yet. I know what it means. Russia worked like this once before, in the early 60s ,when the country was theoretically run by its Premier, Nikita Khruschev, but, in fact, was controlled by the mysterious and charismatic "Fearless Leader", who was known in the United States only because he was the overall head of a spy agency which employed Boris and Natasha. These were two Soviet agents, whose objective in this country was the elimination of Rocky the Flying Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose. A task which was never successfuly completed.Look for both Putin and Hugo to assume "Fearless leader" roles in the near future.



The Russian election is fun because the Russian Communist Party is complaining of election irregularities (of which proof is legion) and calling on President Bush to denounce the process. This is the same Communist Party which rigged every election in Russia from the 20s to the 80s and screamed "capitalistic interference" every time the U.S. complained about it.



How Hugo lost his referendum is beyond me. He had packed the ballot with all kinds of goodies for the faithful, the best of which would have constitutionally cut down the work week from 40 to 30 weeks. How in the hell could he have lost that vote ? Who is against working less ?That's really my question for today, even though we have arrived at it in a rather circular fashion.



In the late 40s and early 50s the United States faced a choice. It had established the highest standard of living ever attained by any species on the planet earth. It could maintin that standard of living and cut back on the work needed to hold onto it, or it could elect to work the same amount (and more) and push onto to an ever higher standard of living. Unlike Venezuela, we never put the question to a vote.The reasons are legal as well as cultural. Under American law, the officers of any corporation owe a fiduciary duty to their stockholders. This is measured by profits and utlimately dividends and higher stock prices for shareholders. Thus under law, American coimpanies have no legal choice other than to push for more profits. They have no practical choice either, since many of the large shareholders are officers in the company who want those larger profits for very personal reasons.



Coinciding with this legal reason was the rise of mass media and its american cousin, advertiseing. You can have mass media without the ads, we just chose to do it this way. By doing it this way, we managed to use well understood scientific techniques to convince people that what they really wanted was a total consumer society. Labor Unions were able to take advantage of this booming economy by forcing up wages and benefits to a point where they would choke the companies involved if the economy ever slipped. Which,of course it did. This did not stop American Corporations or American Advertising who then came up with the revolving bank charge card which enabled people to continue to buy the items needed to sustain the economy, although they could no longer afford them. This changed the psyche of the American people to the point where actual income, either to the individual, or the state, means nothing compared to what is spent. This is why we are a trillion dollars in debt to China.



So now Venezuela has chosen to go down our path. Probably a good thing, this 30 day work week was bolstered by high oil prices which may not last forever. Now the Venzuelans can make more money and buy more goods and then borrow more money to buy more goods and then get thesmselves in just about the same situation we are in here. Once they see how neat high def TV is, they will laugh Hugo out of office. 10 extra hours of leisue is nothing compared to watching futbol on a 42 inch Sony. Viva la revolucion !

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