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The brontosaurian Fred Thompson delivered it as his opinion that people should be able to fly

the Confederate flag privately but not publicly for fear of giving offence. Everyone paid

homage to Ronald Reagan, that intellectual giant of the Republican Party.



Book by John Maxwell

How to Make Our Own News: A Primer for Environmentalist and Journalists

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Too Good to be True?

The Profound Fall of American Politics

By John Maxwell 


My late great friend and neighbour, Mavis Virtue was fond of saying that most people's heads existed merely as  decorative accents at the ends of their spinal columns, rather like  finials on gateposts. We were discussing the reasons most people seemed to lack bullshit detectors and persisted in falling for baubles, bangles, beads and similarly meretricious inducements.

If something seems too good to be true, like Anansi's generosity or a perpetual motion machines, it probably was. We were at the time discussing the South Sea Bubble [1720] and other manic events when reason went absent without leave (AWOL) and people threw good money after lunatic schemes.

When I first heard about our brand new investment schemes which returned money like a one armed bandit with its innards in an endless loop I told my wife simply that anything that seemed too good to be true almost certainly was too good to be true. The willing suspension of disbelief helps when we're watching Othello or listening to a DJ boast about his 'conquests' but one knows that reality will soon supervene and that the whole thing was imaginary.

The South Sea Bubble was a gigantic stock market speculation that began when the South Sea Company bought the British government's outstanding short-term war debts, not funded by a specific tax, be converted into equity in a new joint-stock company. Briefly, the South Sea Company bought the British national debt, expecting two thingsa return of 6 percent and a monopoly on trade with the South Seas, i.e., Latin America. There, the company expected to deliver English wool and other manufactures, to be repaid in gold by the benighted inhabitants for whom Axminster carpets and woollen blankets were obviously worth more than gold. 

The company it was said, could not fail 

The problem with this expected monopoly was that it did not exist. The King of Spain hadn't been consulted and made it known that there would be no monopoly of trade for anyone and, in fact, instead of the fleets of ships carrying gold back to Britain he would allow only three or four British ships a year into his colonies.

That didn't stop the speculation. The South Sea Company's shares rose and kept on rising and their success stimulated other speculators  and fraudists who set up thousands of companies for a variety of purposes including such esoteric enterprises as one to distill sunshine from vegetables and  the classic "an enterprise whose purpose shall in due time be revealed".  It made no sense but people threw their money into the bubbling pot, borrowing money to make fools of themselves.

Sir Isaac Newton, one of its victims had realised early on that the bubble was just that and took his money out making a profit of £7,000. Unfortunately the bubble continued for so long that against his better judgment, he put in another £20,000 and lost all of it. He was led to muse "“I can calculate the motions of heavenly bodies, but not the madness of people”.

Nobody noticed when Spain and England went to war again and reality clocked in only when the promoters of the South Sea Company realised that their company would never have assets matching their investment and sold out. This of course, precipitated a crash heard round the world. During the mania the government even passed a law (the Bubble Act) making it an offence for a company to do anything that was not in its original charter.

The bursting of the Bubble meant ruin for masses of people and for several generations its reverberations continued to be felt. Britain's blossoming into the financial centre of the known universe was postponed.

I was reminded of all this by a curious text message I received on my cellphone on Wednesday. It read in its entirety


It would seem that Cash Plus needs more people, investors, to generate cash flow. If I manage to bring in five people I will get a reward of the downpaymewnt on a car and 40 people will produce a downpayment on a house. Just what these down-payments are valued is not noted. I have decided after mature consideration that this offer is too good to be true.

None of the Above

Watching this week's televised debate between the US Republican Party's presidential aspirants made me realise to what profound depths tdisbelief, contempt and probably, rotten eggs and tomatoes.  Apart from Ron Paul, the Great Unknown, it seemed almost impossible to get a straight answer out of anyone. John McCain, as expected, was righteous and right on the question of torture, magisterially rebuking Mitt Romney for his reptilian evasion of the question of whether 'waterboarding' is torture.

Mr Romney, whose father was I believe an honest man, was unable to say what he thought about waterboarding preferring to defer his conscience until he had had a chance to talk to military advisers if he ever became President.  As a 'presidential candidate" he thought it impolitic to declare that a practice condemned by all civilised people, prohibited by the Geneva Convention, was torture. I believe that torture is just as much an offence to human dignity as Mr Romney himself.

Mr Mike Huckaby, rapidly gaining strength at the expense of his mealy-mouthed opponents, scared the daylights out of me when he said he would abolish the Internal Revenue Service in favour of a so-called "Fair Tax" in reality a super sales tax which would impoverish the poor and fatten the wealthy.

Someone needs to remind Americans that they are supposedly disciples of Adam Smith who, fifty years after the South Sea Bubble, gave it as his opinion that the wealthy should pay a sort of ground rent for the opportunities they have in becoming rich.   I quoted him two weeks ago in my column "Self-Inflicted Wounds" :

The subjects of every state ought to contribute toward the support of the government, as nearly as possible, in proportion to their respective abilities; that is, in proportion to the revenue which they respectively enjoy under the protection of the stateAdam Smith, An Inquiry Into The Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 1776.

The Republican Presidential candidates were falling over each other to declare how anti-human they were, anti-immigrant (Mexican) anti-welfare (blacks) anti-education (everybody) and apparently anti-anything on the agenda of the civilised world since 1776. In any European country and in a majority of developing countries their opinions would be greeted by disbelief, contempt and probably, rotten eggs and tomatoes.

The brontosaurian Fred Thompson delivered it as his opinion that people should be able to fly the Confederate flag privately but not publicly for fear of giving offence. Everyone paid homage to Ronald Reagan, that intellectual giant of the Republican Party.

I am old enough to remember the Barry Goldwater campaign of 1964 when the world looked on with astonishment at the Neanderthal politics of the Senator from Arizona. This was worse.

The Press, of course, is a prime culprit in these developments. I know that television is basically aimed at people well below the age of consent, but this debate really brought home to me how much American civilisation has been devalued in a relatively short time. It was instructive to hear one Republican voter in a Florida focus group assembled by CNN, a middle aged woman who had come expecting to make up her mind on a Republican candidate. When she was asked after the debate who she favoured she answered that she was thinking about voting for John Edwards. My sentiments exactly.

The Press or the Media as it is now fashionably called, has dumbed down the politics of the American people by mischief-making, trivialising important matters and distorting the views of anyone left of Winston Churchill. In fact, Winston Churchill's welfare reforms of a hundred years ago would probably not pass muster in the corridors of TIME Inc or the Washington Post. Richard Nixon is rightly reviled for his dishonesty, but I feel that some of the obloquy heaped on him is because he was actually, a relatively civilised human being compared to some of his successors.

Adam Smith redux

While American markets, financial, commodity and other, are braced for weeks and months of turmoil consequent of the meltdown in the sub-prime mortgage market, some people are as happy as pigs in a wallow. It has been announced that the bankers and traders of Goldman Sachs the investment bankers, are to share a bonus pot of US$18 billion this Christmas. They will get bonuses equivalent to nearly twice the national income of Bolivia.

Obviously these guys have worked really hard.

Copyright ©2007 John Maxwell

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



#1 - Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark
#2 - Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree
#3 - Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane
#4 - Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper
#5 - Stackin' Paper 2 Genesis' Payback by Joy King
#6 - Thug Lovin' (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark
#7 - When I Get Where I'm Going by Cheryl Robinson
#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

#14 - For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree

#15 - Homemade Loves  by J. California Cooper

#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

#17 - Player Haters by Carl Weber

#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

#21 - The Upper Room by Mary Monroe

#22 – Thug Matrimony  by Wahida Clark

#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

#24 - Married Men by Carl Weber

#25 - I Dreamt I Was in Heaven - The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter


#1 - Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable
#2 - Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans
#3 - Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane
#4 - Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper
#5 - Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant
#6 - Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey
#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

#10 - John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History  by Ahati N. N. Toure

#11 - Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley

#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
#24 - 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields

#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered

the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It

By H. W. Brands

In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar's astonishing rise to become the world's principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar's changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America's economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan's bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt's handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar's dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power--and the enormous risks--of the dollar's worldwide reign.  The Economy

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 2 December 2007




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