June 29, 2015

The President showed up today in Charleston. He was so touched by what he said he touched himself. Finally.

His own personal state of “grace” as leader of this nation is precisely what’s needed if we are to catalyze the country’s mounting impatience and dialogue on racism and other human tragedies and fairness issues – into change and to sustain the commitment to prevail.


At the end, after he had spoken (and sung) he returned to his folding chair on the main floor immediately in front of the stage…and leaned forward, forearms on his knees – lost in his thoughts and in the enormity of the moment…and became utterly and completely human. And I liked him as a leader more than I ever had. His genuineness belied hope.

I’m thinking that maybe his trip to Charleston surprised him. Got to him more than he thought it would. Things like that can be life changing. Hope so.

He’s still got the better part of two years to catalyze change. And a hell of a lot of impatient and eager citizens who would follow him off a cliff – if going over a cliff held any promise of restoring this country’s integrity and honor and fair play.


JMB – June 2015


A Burke with no name…

June 17, 2015

He’s pretty big for a little guy. My brand new Grandson. Big as he needs to be for now.

Still a Burke with no name…but that should be solved shortly.

But frankly I kind of like him undefined and unqualified by a name.  All potential. What ever and where ever and who ever he wants to be.

Formed by mom’s and dad’s metes and bounds and love and hopes for him.  And blowing winds that will push and buffet.  Forming things inside that see and feel and sort – and keep things ordered long enough to create self and purpose.

He’s just a little muncher. But after just a day he seems to know.  He seems calm beyond his first day. Level. Not at all afraid.  Like he knows the drill he’s facing. What’s required of him.  What’s preordained. Who he needs to be.

I haven’t even held him yet.  But that’s what I sense and see in his face – and in his Mom’s face. And in his Dad’s. It’s what he already evokes in others.  On his very first day he has found his space in the universe. His uniqueness.  What a wonderful gift.

I think he’s just fine with no name. Why would one want to clip his wings on his second or third day of marveling…with a context or a meaning – or a conveyed image not his alone, or of his own making. Why filter what he sees and feels and forms thoughts about, through a name selected for the imagery it conveys…or that sets expectations that anchor him to a legacy only accidentally his.

But, because it is our way to brand and limit and to set expectations…it will be done, shortly. But I know, in this case, with this little boy – it will be his life that defines him.

I’d name him “America” if the choice were mine to make. He’s got a lot of work to do. He’s pretty big for a little guy.


JMB – June 16, 2015

It’s more than clear to everyone…our economy is a disaster. What the hell do we do now?

June 4, 2015

Certainly not Capitalism as currently played.

Not so sure that socialism is a bad idea. It’s kind of what’s needed when people don’t have enough money to live. And after the accelerated collapse of Capitalism in this country that has marginalized most of the middle class for the past 25 years and reduced 45 to 60% of the population to a point where they are a paycheck away from economic failure – it’s re-distribution of money that is precisely what is needed to keep the wheels on this country until we can solve the fundamental issues that are killing us.

You don’t want a lot of people who are failing because they don’t have a job…or who are frustrated to the point of utter exasperation because they have one that doesn’t generate enough income to sustain their families (or themselves individually)…and you don’t want to have old people getting thrown out on the street because inflation of food and rent and energy and medical expenses aren’t met by increases in income (social security or taxed pension funds). Sure don’t want them on the street.

Sure don’t want to shut down hope and opportunity by shutting out middle class and poor kids from college…or by crushing them with debt that kills off any possibly of “getting in the game”. Or precluding them from ever getting a decent job, ever. Nope, you don’t want kids with crushed hope and despair out there on the streets feeling angry/rageful and disrespected and pissed at a system that has been broken on purpose – by people who don’t give a shit about them and never will. No way. You definitely don’t want that.

If the problem is people not having enough income to cover their bills…who are increasingly losing viability – and are faced with nothing but low paying jobs that don’t improve their lot in life – the only answer…the only solution to the problem (assuming we are a compassionate race of people) – is to get them money any way you can.

And that means socialism. That means doing everything that can be done to get money into the hands of people who are failing. That means doing socialistic kinds of things: like lessening/eliminating tax burdens…providing debt relief or forgiveness (college and otherwise)…creating affordable housing they can afford to live in, and giving people help with rent expenses and food expenses…and creating socialized medical replacements to Obamacare…and rebuilding social service infrastructures to assist people in trouble and the elderly.

And you keep doing that until we figure out how to structure an economy that doesn’t have anywhere near enough decent paying jobs to go anywhere near around…and then we figure out how to either reduce the population to fit the size of the world we live in and the amount of jobs available…or, how to generate enough meaningful jobs to fit the number of people we have living in this world.

First, we need to get the people the money they need to keep the place from exploding…which is coming at us pretty quickly, unless I miss my bet. Then we need to deal with the pressure cooker fueled by the mounting need for clean and available water, and the omnipresent impact of Global Warming…and the continuing lack of meaningful jobs that pay enough to keep lives going and sustainable…and the incessant “death by pinpricks” price rises in gas and food and rent…and the accumulation of crushing frustration of living in a world where everyone’s lying about help being on the way – but where nothing ever gets better. The accumulation of all this leads to a really nasty place.

Where does the money come from you ask? From the people and the corporations and financial players who have it…and from the huge budget line items that insanely squander this nations wealth: military adventurism, internal security, subsidized energy and agricultural industries…a massively unfair tax system…ludicrous policy exemptions for massive drug companies and medical services. There are no other options that I can see.

So, we need to buy some time to figure out how to separate the rich from their wealth and give it to the poor, I’m thinking. They’ve had it long enough, and they are well aware they took it unfairly. And they are also fully aware the days of redistribution are here. They just don’t want the country’s largess to them to end.

This is probably not going to be much fun – for anybody.

I’m sure Bernie’s got it covered.


JMB – June 4, 2015


March 13, 2015

I’ve been thinking about what we are really looking at with all the barely quasi racist open assaults on Obama these past few months, and all the back room maneuvering to define an acceptably atrocious  conservative agenda to guide the GOP march to the 2016 elections…and Bibi’s blatant pitch for war before the joint houses of congress and the blatancy of the gang of 47 GOP leadership – and have pretty much concluded that we may well be witnessing the first rounds of a “coup” attempt by the extreme right to depose Obama’s authority and to force this country into a war in the Middle East, starting with Iran.

We have Iraq as an example of just how far the neocons, AIPAC, the military and their war machine lobbies, and the extreme right are willing to go to foment and propagate and cause war.

To interpret what has just occurred with the Bibi move and by the gang of 47 – as some spontaneous hollow and meaningless mis-judgement by a newbie kid Senator and the riled up conservative right wing of this country, is completely naive. It is a deliberately planned, carefully considered and committed action taken by men who don’t screw around pumping there fists in the air.

Contrarily, I’m thinking these definitely connected moves by the extreme militarist leadership of the GOP as having all the markings of a real deal takeover of the US government.

Which leads to the question, where are all the creepy Blackwater guys these days.


JMB – March 2015

Profound and Extreme Gratitude for our Moses…

February 11, 2015

Jon Stewart held the water open for truth to be spoken in the incredibly dark years of the Bush Administration.  While the Press cowered, he did not. 

So. Let me say it out loud and with extreme and profound gratitude — Jon Stewart, as host of “The Daily Show” was, for the entire Bush/Chaney era – the “ONLY” consistent voice of defiance and honesty against the immorality and corruption and perversion and evil intent of that administration’s wholesale destruction of American values and integrity…and economy and…international self-respect.

Thank you Jon. You are my highest order of hero. As a comedian with a conscience and a strong sense of integrity and justice, you found the voice of national court jester, and spoke truth to power clearly and boldly and courageously and without hesitation – and with great measure and intelligence, while the entire US and World Press Corp completely abdicated and said nothing – for years!

For those years you carried the whole weight Jon Stewart. The whole goddamn weight of the truth, that was blocked by an administration who did not want anyone to know what they were doing – and who intimidated an entire press corp to keep truth of what they were doing hidden from us…a truth screaming to be heard…but found no voice to speak but yours.

You found traction by making the endless stream of national obscenities flowing from Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Bolton, Powell and George Tenant, and their gangs of deciptful mad men…ironically and satirically funny enough to unequivocally establish the points made, and to nail them on the wall, without diminishing the importance of the messages.

You were brilliant. You walked the line where the size of the laugh depends on the dimension of hideousness of the stories told – and the inherent obscenity and ludicrousness of them to make the reveal most outrageously funny. You went for the big laughs. And for that instinct for the jugular, I again thank you. The big truth got out.

Mostly dear Jon, in whom I will be forever grateful…I thank you for your bravery in stuffing truth up the asses of power. They never laid a hand on you. You never blinked. And they never figured out how to shut you down without bringing the wrath of at least half a country on top of their heads.

You were, and have been, the one bright spot in a duplicitous media sewer. You were our only voice of reason against a constant barrage of Fox spew, and the mindless clamor of all the rest of the national media representing the 50 shades of shade – trying to pawn themselves off as degrees of liberal righteousness, with their only claim being that they were at least more liberal than the shit tank than fed the insane right. We knew they were all pandering right wing bullshitters. We had you and your Daily Show as a reference point for what real and honest was.  You made us more aware, more reality based, angrier…and braver.

Needless to say, the press still panders and lies and misrepresents and colludes…and still shades the shade they call the truth. And while we…at least those of us who comprise the lion’s share of the nation’s “truth seekers” will miss you horribly dear friend…we fear the truth may well suffer with your departure.

Not too sure what happens after Moses stops holding the water open.

Thank you sir, for all you have done for this country…

JMBurke – Feb 9, 2015


January 29, 2015

No question Clint is ever true to his brand. No question it was a hell of a compelling film.

But there is also no question that it is one hell of a piece of skillfully contrived propaganda motivated to stimulate hatred towards Muslims by extreme right wing bible thumping Christian zealots.

Have to admit I was surprised by the film – it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. I figured the Muslim hatred and non stop killing would be there and I certainly wasn’t let down. I wasn’t at all prepared, however, for the blatant and extreme Christian Right propaganda message it was all wrapped in.

The attached Hedges article (link below) pretty much captures my thinking on the film.

Regardless of how I might feel personally about the film, I definitely
think it’s a must see. As scary as the thought might be, it’s a portrayal of reality. And it actually happened. The senior ranks of our military are filled with these guys. Our dogs of war…

Which when you get right down to it look quite a bit like the portrayed “Muslim” dogs of war…with the exception that Christians wear high tech uniforms have cooler weapons.

So I found myself wondering what was the film’s point. Pumped up assassins can kill a whole lot of people no matter who their Higher Power might be (the film portrays ‘ours’ versus ‘theirs’). And tribes can and do “deify” these special killers who can do so without remorse.

Seems to me the moral of the whole “Sniper” story is that all this racial, cultural warfare to keep people compliant and crushingly subjugated just keeps pissing more and more people off. If I thought that was Clint’s point, I’d feel a whole lot better about the movie. Judging from the overwhelming preponderance viewer’s comments here-to-fore, this point seems lost entirely. We’re stuck way back in blood lust…

Not so good for a quick resolution of anything…


JMB – 1/29/15

The payback legacy years…

January 16, 2015

Mais, mais…Je sus, Charlie.

Il est tres difficile n’est pas? There’s so much to think about. Everywhere: scary cops and guns – and threatening blacks and guns – and rights to be alive, and black…and foreboding and grossly overweight – and rights to ‘protect and serve’ and to be scared…and the right to survive doing your job. And for us on the outside, the rights to be defiant and to speak truth to power – and to be a white privileged protester. And for people less defined, the rights to say anything you want because freedom of expression is the most important thing – except when things that are said are bad – or when people are lying. Or are telling the truth, whatever that is. Because they can. Because it’s the law for gods sake. Even if you shit on the god of someone’s last resort, and on their hope – and on their last straw. It’s hard when you really want to help but are afraid – and feel like you are falling into deep dark hole in the ground and are falling toward a huge black fast talking toad with a law degree and a gun. Who’s laughing at you for being so stupid. And for sputtering about how you wish to galvanize the world to be righteous and good. And find your mouth saying that “cartoons are good” because the vicious satire they spew help people see the futility in taking themselves (and their Gods) too seriously…and help them deal with their feelings of being desperate and rage full toward those who have killed them and left them alive. And how those who are laughing, need those cartoons to get a good laugh over the pain and destruction of hope they have inflicted. And then thinking what a blessing it was for two years of HS French so we all could translate Je suis Charlie correctly – and still have the capacity to misinterpret the meaning of all that into believing that what just happened was actually the way we wanted to believe it was…only to find it was entirely wrong. It’s so hard being righteous and clueless and scared shitless all at the same time – when you’re wanting and needing good sweet and human and caring cops more than ever. It’s so hard living in the payback legacy years.

 JMB – Jan 16, 2015

The future of Facebook…

January 15, 2015

There are physical limits as to how far you can fly up your own ass…

So. Facebook messages and posts are metastasizing geometrically. I went looking for a Facebook post sent to me by a friend a couple of days ago and was staggered at the sheer volume of stuff I was scrolling past in my quest to find the post I was looking for. I never did find it. I quit after what seemed like an hour-long search past the digital wasteland of yesterday’s detritus. It was a post made 3 days ago…and yes I know there are a number of ways to shortcut the searches. I just didn’t feel like shortcutting…and as I got into it (the scrolling and the search) I couldn’t help but be astounded at the volume and scope of things people felt compelled to “paste up” on the Facebook community bulletin board. Including the stuff I felt compelled to post.

A couple of thoughts occurred to me:

One, FB requires a lot of time…just to “keep up”.  I mean like “hours” of time. Daily. Because if you miss a couple of days of FB time, the tidal wave of postings just is overwhelming. You’ll never recover. You just have to let go of the ‘missed yesterdays’ completely, and start all over again.

Two, so much is posted, by so many people…most of whom, in truth, I only peripherally know. But my daily Facebook postings are also peppered with a modest number of people I do know pretty well… whose lives and opinions and points of view and adventures and celebrations, and family drama, and expansions and contractions and ups and downs I really do care about staying up with. Now that it’s possible to do so.

But I have to be honest here; I don’t think I ever felt compelled to “shadow” the lives of people I cared about ever before FB happened. Nor did I ever feel compelled to “like” or to “withhold liking” on such arcane things as kittens and puppies loving each other…or 4 year olds playing percussion instruments…who write, manage, direct and assume the lead roles in actual replica of a Passion Play…while beguiling a savage lion met once while on safari at the Bronx Zoo.

Three. A lot of “playing Facebook” involves being sensitive and nice. Frankly, I never before Facebook, felt compelled to affirm someone for searching for a “meaningful” poster quote – from what ever place these things come from…which they post on FB as a proxy for personal reflective thought…and to suggest the “implicit” intent that the post-or will someday actually act out of the belief expressed. But WTF, I’ve become easy these days. And I’ve acculturated. I know from experience, if you don’t “like” other people’s stuff, they won’t “like’ yours. (LinkedIn’s “endorsements” are the most blatant example of institutionalized lying for reciprocity).

Four, and this is hard to admit…my initial interest in pursuing Facebook as a social media flowed primarily out of a desire to seek an audience composed of others who shared my points-of-view and world views and/or who I felt might be receptive to opinions and thoughts and reflections that I felt compelled to write about.  And FB (and a puny audience reach – blog) offered the promise of both “reach” (the possibility of reaching potentially interested people)…and a likelihood of finding a like-minded community where sharing and discussion on points and observations was possible and immediate – albeit generally confined to “like” or not response. But I didn’t know that yet.

And guess what?

The Facebook audience for thoughts and opinions and points-of-views, after initially being composed of a fairly broad spectrum of people who I knew, and who were as intrigued with social media as I was – rapidly degenerated into a pretty calcified audience of similar and like-minded people who were looking for sounding boards for their material, just like I was…and also by people from my past lives who genuinely wanted to reconnect after a whole bunch of years – to find out what happened since the year books were printed and everyone went off on their own journeys. Go figure. FB – red and blued…right down to the HS graduating class connections. Just like it happens everywhere else… people opted to stay in, or to opt out largely dependent on how comfortable they felt with the community members they found there.  Cliques all over again.

So I’m still on Facebook…and I’m still drawn in by the community-ness of  it all – and I’m still clicking away, “liking” kittens and puppies and kids being sweet and precocious – and posters that speak meaningfully and compelling enough to me to click off a reflexive “like” — mostly because I like the person who sent the message more than the message content itself.  And, of course I’m still blabbing away in my little self selected “very blue” personalized self culling Facebook space when the spirit moves me.  But mostly I find my FB world is shrinking in ways I never imagined would be the legacy of social media.

Nothing changes it appears. We still tend to gravitate to people much like ourselves. It’s just done electronically now. The algorithm knows before we do…and it seems at the end of the day, we are mostly alone with the people we mostly knew before – who were mostly like us then and are still now…plus or minus. A few more or less. Connected and blithering to the few of us who still like and/or will tolerate people like ourselves. Surrounded by the illusion of community and social involvement and deliberate purpose and right reason…when it’s really all comprised by well intended words and images and  expressions of how we wish it would all be, if only…people would do what they’re supposed to do (what we would like them to do) and make the world a fairer, safer, less unstable, more predictable, more unified and saner and benevolent, less explosive world to live in. There’s just so damn much to sort through. Overwhelming.

I suspect we can expect Facebook to get more cluttered and confusing and paralyzing and overwhelming for a while longer, before it gets less so…and more essential. One can fly up one’s butt just so far. There’s just so much time one is willing to spend on FB until the thought occurs to you that you’re really just talking to yourself…and that the others who habituate and fill your FB space are doing pretty much the same thing you are doing. Wasting time. In the ill placed hope that maybe you’re not…and that maybe this really is real and makes a difference.

And as for “too much?” Well, we will, if we haven’t done so already, find ways to be more selective. To get what we are looking for – in the amounts we are looking for. We will chop down the content by limiting what we see – and as submitted by whom.

We will start searching more by specific “friend” to see what’s going on in their lives specifically – and will spend way less time searching across the whole spectrum of postings made by the entire list of people who populate our friends lists.

We will block submissions from people we don’t want to hear from. We’ll start to categorize content by type and block stuff we don’t want cluttering our lives. We will be way more selective in who is allowed to post articles from various authors and opinion writers. We will tighten down on the FB universe the same way we tighten down our media selection and newspaper readership and opinion and editorial materials elsewhere in our lives.

We will limit our exposure to what we want to hear – and we will continue to vote people we don’t like “off the island” – when we’ve had enough. And so will everyone else who currently are our friends. And because we are all fearful of what this end game will look like for us personally…we will go slow and will be very careful about what we say and how we say it – and how we disconnect or reduce the levels of connection.  We really don’t want to be alone again. And we will continue to believe that we are alive and are vitally functioning and are influencing change and are making a difference…when we really are not.

But it is nice to be able to touch a few old bases every once in a while. And it’s good to reconnect with people who slipped out of our lives and grasps over the years – and to let each other know how important their presence in your life was when they were. We need to hear that from each other.


JMB – Jan ’15

Obama became easy to dislike…that’s why.

November 7, 2014

He never fought the good fight. He never was credibly righteous even when his was the moral high ground to assume by default. He never did what we wanted him to do – to take strong and unassailably correct positions – even when we all knew he’d be crushed by the extreme right. We didn’t care. We wanted him to be on record. We wanted him to tell the truth no matter what. And he blew it. He never even tried to stop corruption in the governmental process. He never even tried to nail the bastards who destroyed our economy. He never said a word about how Clinton opened the floodgates of financial opportunism that corrupted the American political system from top to bottom. He never once did a thing to prosecute Bush and his senior administrators for the trumped up and fabricated invasion of Iraq…for deliberately ignoring the information that the Saudi’s were going to crash planes into the Twin Towers…for selling out to huge oil…for fraud, illegal search and seizure of rendition, for suspension of habeas corpus law, for violation of all privacy rights and for an endless series of human rights violations – and for torturing of prisoners. But, where I gave up on Obama was when he crossed the line, and became our country’s “Assassin in Chief”, complete with a punch list and an assault team charged with doing the dirty work. I was appalled when I watched him sitting attentively at the White House TV with his closest cabinet members – watching a tightly choreographed assassination team of SEALs do their deal. Like he thought we’d think it was a good thing. Then the drones. Remote High Definition digital assassination. And thinking we might think that was cool as well.  Watching our country murdering people under the watchful and approving eye of our “Assassin in Chief” and his direct reports.

Obama blew it, and we of proper mind and good hearts who put him in office twice – allowed him to “creep out” without saying a word. We are all grown ups here. We all were completely aware that Obama had not only not responded as the fair and righteous champion of right reason and just cause as we wanted him to be – but that he actually bought into all those things we wanted him to rail about and to fix.

He gave the Bushies a pass, for god’s sake – then became an extension of the corrupt policies we hated by extending the war into Afghanistan and now again in the pursuit of ISIS throughout the Middle East. Guantanamo is still in operation…the Patriot Act powers are still in place and the surveillance and personal data collection have been ramped up beyond imagination – at the same time it has been made very clear the people this systems were designed to control are us, the citizens of the United States, and not a handful of terrorist groups we are already fully aware of.

Obama, as President, has done nothing to prosecute the banking leadership who destroyed the economy for the past ten years. He has not said a word about the disgraceful businessman positions the US has taken on global warming. Or fracking. Or the total corruption of the political process created by Citizens United and unlimited campaign financing…or destruction of key voter rights rules and legislation…or the horrendous impact of states gerrymandering on state level voting integrity.

Bottom line the Democrats lost the whole game because of our President’s lack of integrity where it really counts. Everyone knew that the extreme right controlled Congress and that he would not be able to get anything done that would require Congressional approval. We accepted that as a given of his presidency. But what we wanted him to do…that he could do…he didn’t do.  He didn’t call it the way it was. He postured and bullshitted and ultimately played footsie with the enemy when the American people wanted him desperately to tell the truth. He gave away the one card he had to play. He gave away  “moral authority.

Barack blew it pretty much all by himself. He “creeped out” when all we wanted was a stand up guy who cared enough about us, to tell us the truth. Sort of like Bernie Sanders does. Bottom line…we just flat out stopped liking him anymore when it was pretty clear he stopped caring about his own integrity.

JMBurke – November 14

Capitalism — not your friend, anymore…

October 16, 2014

What we have now out there in the marketplace is decidedly not capitalism.  It’s yet another hustle to maximize corporate profitability by setting up and gouging an unsuspecting buying public. It smells badly of Milton Friedman’s obscene “crisis finance” strategies, and Harvard Business School’s sociopathic rape of the world economy.

In a perfect world – in a world where there are three or more direct and viable competitors in every business sector – present in every marketplace – where there is enough law on the books and enough regulatory oversight enforcement to disallow unfair business practices, predatory marketing, unfair and dishonest labor practices, the sale of shoddy/unsafe and misrepresented products and services to unsuspecting consumers/ customers/clients – capitalism can be pretty much self regulating…and can be a winner for all the stakeholders.

It actually was pretty decent and good for America, and indeed Americans, in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Competition and sensible rules and laws prevailed and kept everyone honest and kept the industry reasonably stable and predictable…at least until the laws regarding monopolies, unfair and predatory marketing practices were changed and ignored – and oversight was largely dismantled — and were then obviated entirely in the mid and late 80s by merger and acquisition sharks — and slash and burn company destroying asset peddlers (like Romney’s Bain Capital).

The mostly good, fair, play-by-the-rules…and legally compliant socially aware corporate leadership of the 50s, 60s and 70s quickly collapsed in the 80s — and were replaced by a sea of Finance type CEOs who were hell bent on controlling costs – and ‘rolling up’ industries around themselves by eliminating competition. At the same time there was huge (largely self-imposed) pressure to reduce all manufacturing, production,  marketing and selling expenses that could possibly be done — and the savings gained were moved directly into net operating profits…and immediately thereafter into shareholder distributions.

During this period, Capitalism moved from being a financially sound controlled business practice that was essentially healthy, vital, fair and comprised of good neighbor and a good citizen role models…until it morphed into the single purpose obscenity “to maximize return on share hold equity”…that didn’t give a damn about anything else.

The game changed from sweet and good and playing by the rules…to a snake pit that churned confusion that abandoned both the consumer and their own employees. Capitalism became a money machine lead by sharks who eliminated all the protective legislation intended to keep corporations from playing fast and loose…and who had written the new rules and had the money (and the gall) to play and take advantage of the pandamoneium that continued unabated through the great collapse of the 2008 all the way up to today. Friedman would be proud of his boys. They all got fabulously rich, and not a one went to jail.

A couple of serious points here: (because they’re important to understand how much everything was changed in the way business was done…and how completely capitalism became the parody of what it had through the 70s).  Very important to know the difference here.

Back in the day (not very long ago) when there was still some serious (non colluding) competition between companies for customer attention and market share — the dynamics of the competitive market place caused some “healthy things to occur pretty much naturally: for one, prices were more competitive (because they had to be). Two, products were competitively differentiated on the basis of the relative product quality being offered. Buyers understood relative value differences and paid for the differentiating values when they were important to them. Three, labor and community relationships and establishing and maintaining a favorable reputation were held as beacons of corporate responsibly signaling civic intent, social and ecological commitment, commitment to quality, commitment to community, and so on. Lastly, an there was an implicit ‘covenant of trust’ between manufacturers and marketers and the people who bought what they sold. All have been pretty much trashed in the new iteration of what capitalism stands for.

Another point. Where there is significant competitive pressure, corporations are highly incented to spend R&D and new product development dollars to achieve and maintain/sustain product quality superiority – to meet or beat direct competitors efforts to gain product preference superiority.  Where there is relatively little difference between competitive alternatives — competitors are forced to compete on imagery, promotion strategies and price – which forces direct competitors to maintain price parity, which in turn forces prices to stay reasonable and as low as feasible. Competition keeps competitors honest.

Periodic ‘price promotion’ is done by competitors seeking to achieve a short term price advantage for their products to influence customer purchase and to attract multiple purchases of product in attempts to shift product loyalty and competitive conversion to there products versus competitive offerings. The customer wins. And because one competitor shifted the game towards themselves, it always comes to pass that the other direct competitors will attempt to influence the market back in their direction by doing the same type of promotion themselves. And again the customer wins, because through competitive back and forth activity, prices are reduced to something just above sustainability in the business category.

Punch lines:

When there is little or no competition in a given business category, this means that over time (and not a very long time) prices cease being based on competitive pricing activity (because there is none) and becomes based on “what the traffic will bear” (what the manufacturer can get away with). When there is no competition to keep competitors honest – prices rise to the level where the purchasing customer decides that it’s just to high and isn’t worth it anymore…or to the point where lost usage (lost sales) accruing from too high price starts to erode the market sale base…and remaining competitors make adjustments to regain lost positions.

This is also where we kind are right now.

The wholesale roll up consolidation of almost every competitive business sector in the United States (through business defaults, mergers and acquisitions…) where a larger corporation buys or merges with an under leveraged competitor – and takes their customer base – and at the same time, eliminates them as both a competitor – and as a pricing and marketing force to be reckoned with – has dramatically altered the fundamental nature of how business is done today.

The consolidation of industries in this country over the past 30 years – has reached the point where significant competition has either been entirely eliminated, or neutered to the point where there is little justification to compete anymore. Fact is, that tacit agreements have been made between remaining competitors “not to compete” anymore – because it just wastes money that can otherwise be added to a company’s gross margins and net operating profits.

Good old capitalism has essentially gone forever. When you get down to it, anything good that ever accrued from capitalism – where there were strong active competitors present in the market place – totally disappears when competitors are eliminated from the business equation. What we get with the elimination of competitors in the business process is the mirror opposite of what was once good.  What’s left dynamically is a recipe for precisely the disaster that is currently playing out in this country. Very deliberately, by huge corporate roll up king pins who understand exactly what they are doing.

Elimination of competitors from the market place has huge consequence:

No competition translates into corporations no longer pricing to be equitable with competitive product/service pricing for like and similar and identical products. With no competitors to deal with, corporations price to what they feel they can now get away with.

No competition means no periodic price reduction “deals” being launched by a competitor to attract users of competitive products and services…which translates into no reciprocal promotion efforts to try to win the brand switching users back. No periodic price breaks that allow consumers to stock up on cheaper priced products. No reason to. Without competition The remaining company has all the share of market that’s worth holding on to.

No competition means that all marketing dollars (advertising, promotions, offers, product improvements, new products and line extensions) once spent to keep a company viable in a competitive  marketplace (including periodic deal prices discussed above) can now be directly transferred to gross profits – and shareholder wealth.

No competition means there is little to no incentive to maintain product quality above minimally acceptable quality levels necessary to preserve an acceptable price value relationship where the customer doesn’t drop out or quit buying. Gross margin improvements by subtle changes to less expensive ingredients, net weight reductions, cheaper packaging, and so on.

No competition means that the primary purpose for a company’s R&D group is to find ways to make products cheaper…not better.  No need  to justify a product superiority claim.

No competition means that technical and marketing and key operations and procurement people – displaced by defaults, mergers and acquisitions, are looking for jobs and are willing to work for way less. Which changes the whole bases of job and salary ratings and associated pay scales.  Labor and wage savings that accrue to gross margins – and, as always, to enhance shareholder wealth.

No competition translates into less jobs and more people who want/need them…which means a larger “in need” labor pool who are willing to work for less because there are no competitive options left anymore. Lower wages translates into lower ‘manufacturing costs’ which means the cost savings are added to the gross margins.  No reason for corporations to pay fair wages…or benefits. Starving people will always work for less.

No competition means that there are no competitive buyers for key ingredients that these products are made of…which means the roll up winner has a grossly improved bargaining position with the ingredient supplier…who is forced to sell for less. And increasingly the manufacturer of products is hedging bets on the commodity exchange on key ingredients anyway.

And that’s also where things are right now.

And if that’s not enough – these end game players in the corporate roll up of American industries are moving the whole game ‘off shore’ where they can reduce costs of manufacturing (labor/cost of goods) to the absolute least cost business environments – which are cheap enough to produce stuff off shore and then ship it back to be sold in the American marketplace…and still save enough money to be worth the embarrassment of manufacturing off shore.

So, if you haven’t already figured it out…the game being played by large corporations operating in this country today is not “capitalism” by any stretch of the imagination. At best it’s “opportunism” – and in no small degree a skillfully choreographed and tightly orchestrated form of thievery. All shells and mirrors designed by Harvard business school sociopaths to create opportunities for wealth accumulation (by the wealthy) – at the expense of the poor stupid consumer who has been duped into believing that capitalism is still in place, and still is a good thing…while their pockets have been picked by people who have once again rigged the game.

Get it?

Capitalism requires the presence of viable competitors to make it work and to keep it honest. When there are no competitors on the field (or where a market sector is dominated by colluding competitors moving in lock set with one another – ex big oil, big banks, big agriculture) all bets are off — except dishonesty…and horrendous manipulation by those rigging the game by employing legions of legislation writing lobbyists (ALEX) and PR firms to gild their deceit…and to payoff of our elected representatives to pass their legislation and to hold the water open for them while they plunder.

These people are not working in our behalf today. Own the thought.

What is being sold as Capitalism in this country for the past 30 years is not anything close to your father’s understanding of capitalism.  What we have today are “capitalists” (people who hold vast amounts of capital) using their power and wealth to create extraordinary and exclusive advantage to pillage the citizens of this country and the world. It has destroyed the marketplace and the economic engines we have come to depend on completely because there’s no option.  These determined and slippery opportunists are killing the country.

A close look at the Friedman school and Harvard Business School’s teaching and practices over the past 25 years, wouldn’t be a bad start on identifying what needs to be cleaned up. I suspect a fair viewing might find a fair bit of societally destabilizing and  treasonous manipulation of long established best practice legislation to put more than a few asses in jail.  We need to get this snake pit cleaned up.