Wednesday, November 27, 2013

On Guns

Many on the Right often kick and scream and cry about how the government is out to disarm the population.  For myself, I am not a gun-owner.  I believe that hunting should only be done when you're really hungry in the woods and that a free-for-all attitude about deadly weapons is inappropriate to a civilized society.  That doesn't mean I begrudge gun-owners their right to legally and responsibly own one, but I do take great issue with the childish arguments that are often flung my way by them to justify what seems to be infantile thinking and unjustified paranoid fear.  It is those usual arguments that I'm examining today.

 Leaving aside the logistical impossibility of doing so by force in a nation as huge and chaotic as ours, nobody from the President on down on any official level has advocated legally confiscating a damn thing. The whole thrust of the gun-control argument has been that guns, as deadly weapons, deserve at least as much regulation as we already accept on cars, which outnumber guns in terms of how many people die from cars.   We established legally-sanctioned rules for the road and for cars that people accept every day, and yet nobody's complaining that they can't buy a car because of these rules.  Why not for guns?  This is not an unreasonable argument -- calling it an "infringement of liberty" is unwarranted. Nobody's trying to disarm law-abiding citizens, we're just trying to make it harder for criminals to walk into a gun show or a Wal-Mart and walk out with enough firepower to take out an innocent family.   Gun advocates would rather make it easier for criminals and lunatics to do so -- because, after all, the profits of the Gun Manufacturers are far more important than the lives of human beings, to the Regressive mindset.   As for the BS "more guns = more safety" argument -- that argument is proven wrong by the facts.  More guns means more dead bystanders, as has been proven time and time again.  

Every pro-gun argument I've heard boils down to either "I have the right to have one and you can't stop me" (an argument that's laughable when you hear it from a two-year-old in a grocery store) or "I need my gun to keep me safe" (which is paranoia, at best, when the facts show that more people are killed by guns already in the home than by break-ins and, once again, is what one would expect of a toddler crying for its binky). Either way or together, these root arguments show their advocates to be emotional children raging because they want a shiny comfort-toy.  All the grown-ups in the proverbial room are saying is, "you can have your toy when you can use it responsibly."  And yet the Tea Party objects to such a statement.

A favored pro-gun argument in its purest form is that "Laws are no good, because criminals break them".  That's an Anarchist argument and entirely unrealistic in a civil society. It also doesn't answer the question of why anybody could think it's a good idea to make it easier on criminals rather than harder.  Sure, there will be many who find ways around the law...but then the law makes a concrete example of those who break it.  Having no laws results in these sorts of behavior becoming rampant and commonplace...making our nation look more like Somalia than the USA.  How anybody can think it's a good idea to turn our nation in Somalia, where there are no restrictions on guns, no real government and everyone stuck fending for themselves in a region of out-of-control violence is beyond me.   It’s that image -- an American Somalia -- above all that the Teabaggers are advocating when you get right down to it.

The assumption that a gun is the only means by which to protect one’s self and family is also complete nonsense. Never mind that people are statistically proven to do better in protecting their loved ones with a few self-defense courses and some prior planning, rather than giving into what's clearly paranoid fear on their part.  As these fear-filled souls hold onto their guns as if to a baby’s binky, let's go for a moment to the bigger fear that their posts express:  That of a Totalitarian Government coming to power.  

The 2nd Amendment reads: "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed."  Standard Regressive 2nd Amendment arguments completely ignore the entire first half of the amendment.  

The Militia was a part-time enlistment-service -- hardly "the entire citizenry" as so many Regressives like to claim, but rather closer in form and function to the modern day Army Reserve , where you had to sign on the dotted line in order to be counted as a militiaman -- and was arguably the backbone of Revolutionary Defense against foreign invasion.  It was never intended to be used against our own government. Every time that idea's been put to the test (Whiskey Rebellion, The Civil War), it's been proven both legally and practically to be untrue.  

If we, the citizens feel oppressed by our own government, we still have it within our power to reshape the government with our vote -- but then that requires the skill to think critically about what those with the microphones are actually saying.  If we keep parroting what the pundits say, we’ll never be able to use the weapon of first resort -- the Vote-- effectively. This is what the moneyed powers-that-be who sponsor the Tea Party want most.

Think for a moment like those who'd want such a Totalitarian Regime: it's far easier, far more effective and far cheaper to achieve the goal of a full totalitarian regime by (1) widening the economic disparity between rich and poor so that the majority of people are too busy putting food on the table to behave like citizens (2) undermining public education so that the majority of people don't have the skills to think critically in order to mount an actual, effective defense and (3) inundating the media -- including social media -- so much nonsense and propaganda that the majority of people can't tell truth from sound byte.  Military and police force won't even need to enter into it.  We'll already be enslaved, guns or no guns.

If you really want to protect your rights, your best weapon is a good lawyer, not a gun.  When a person is falsely or erroneously arrested, a lawyer is what will get you out of the jam.  A gun will ensure that you spend an even longer time in prison.  Guaranteed.

The Tea Party likes its rallying cry about guns being confiscated, but the truth is that the gun-control argument is really only about licensing and insuring:  There's nothing reasonably objectionable about that -- particularly since we already have it in regards to cars after years and years of reckless drivers proving that while a single person can be responsible, groups of people are statistically unable to do so.  Mandatory background checks, gun licensing, safety courses, registration and insurance makes it harder for criminals to get their hands on weapons while still preserving the right of law-abiding citizens to buy guns if they feel it necessary. Gun Control, rather than infringing on law-abiding citizens, forces illegal gun trade further into the black market, where prices invariably go up as the risk of arrest goes up. Criminals will then have to pay more for illegal guns, making it economically less viable to commit violent crimes. And frankly, if people really want to have a real assault weapon so badly, they’re free to join the military where they can play with deadly weapons to their hearts’ content.

In conclusion, the Regressive arguments on behalf of guns have boiled down to paranoia and parroted sound bytes lacking in factual basis.   The 2nd Amendment isn't going to help anyone in regard to defending our liberties – since shooting cops  and soldiers only provokes an escalation in oppressive police and military force .  Preventing the very real degradation of the 4th through 8th Amendments is far, FAR more important when it comes to defending American Liberty.   OWS --even with getting distracted and defeated -- did more to protect our rights than the NRA ever will -- because they accurately assessed the root of the problem and outlined the peaceful and proper means of dealing with it.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Marx vs Stalin -- a Difference Lost on Most Americans

It's a very common refrain on the Right that anything that attempts to address the economic and social disparities in our nation is "Communism".  

Especially the President and his hallmark legislative program, the Affordable Care Act.  Since the days of Joe McCarthy's infamous attempt at National Stature by hunting down supposed Communists in all the public industries of American life, the label of "Communist" has been the default attack by Regressives in hopes of undercutting the legitimacy of everything their opponents say.

But what, exactly are they using as a weapon?  Do they even understand what Communism is or was supposed to be?  It's clear they absolutely don't.

Communism,  as conceived by Marx & Engles, is defined in its purest form as the final stage of society in Marxist theory in which the state has withered away and economic goods are distributed equitably.   John Lennon's classic Imagine describes what they were going for accurately in spirit and substance.

But this isn't what Regressives mean when they say "Communist"-- though they're also terrified of freedom-loving hippies, but that's a topic for a different post.

What they have in mind is what years and years of propaganda told them the USSR was like.  They envision a Totalitarian State where people wait every day for hours on breadlines and get paid little or nothing.  They envision Siberia in the dead of winter and death squads of Russian shock-troopers executing children.  

What they've done is, in point of fact, confused Stalism with what Marx & Engles had in mind.  In a typical Commune, the rule is that everybody works and everybody reaps the benefit.  A common consensus is that part of the reason that the Russian attempt ultimately failed -- remember, because this is an important distinction, Marx & Engles had envisioned Communism for the Industrial Powers of their day, Germany, Britain and the USA, NOT a feudal agrarian society like Russia! -- is due to the psychological truth that people don't work as hard if they're getting paid the same for a good job or a bad one.  Stalin, however, added fear of brutal force into the mix.  A person will almost always work ten times harder than told to when the alternative is watching their family's murder.

Stalinist tactics were never intended to be a part of Communism, but managed to co-opt the title anyway.  The master propagandist did his work well.  Perhaps too well.  Regressive fear, be it during the 1950's or 2010's, is ultimately based on the mis-taking of Stalin's propaganda for Gospel Truth.  

So for all you other Progressives out there -- when you encounter a Regressive attempting to label you as a "Communist", first remember that the Regressives have no idea what they're talking about and that, were the President a Stalinist, as our Regressive opponents would have us believe, those Regressives who so love to shoot their mouths off would already have been rounded up and shot.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Citizen's Platform

So often, we hear people on all sides of the aisle complaining about what's wrong with our system of government.  We hear ad nauseum what the problems are, but little in the way of workable solutions.  

Ultimately, this is what I, as a self-styled Liberal Progressive would do to fix the issues facing the USA were I handed the power necessary to do so.  Justice is Balance -- therefore we must rebalance the scales of society if we're to achieve justice.




  • Ban all Federal Lobbying and remove all Lobbyists from Federal Buildings.  Lobbying shall be considered a form of Bribery, with the penalty for such being full seizure of all Lobbyist’s assets and the removal of the bribed official from Office.  SuperPACs to be completely disbanded and "Citizens United" to be overturned in law.  
  • All Incumbent members of both Congressional Houses to immediately resign.  Hold emergency national elections to replace them, allowing only Independent/Third-Party candidates on the ticket.
  • All funding for Elections for Public Office will be provided publicly and all private monetary donations to campaigns will be banned.  Campaign contributions will be in the form of personal time commitments only.  Full Voting rights to all unregistered citizens who can provide a Birth Certificate, Passport or two forms of State/Local ID.  All those already registered to vote will only have to sign on-record register at the polls.  

    • Break up the Too-Big-To-Fail Financial Institutions into smaller, more manageable entities.  Also use Anti-Trust laws already on the books to break up the large scale corporations that control the majority of our media, food production and commercial economies.   Step up stricter enforcement of SEC law.  Off-shore tax havens will be seized entirely.  All corporations that made record profits after receiving TARP or Stimulus Funds will return those funds or have all assets summarily seized. 
    • Reinstate Glass-Steagall.
    • Raise Federal Minimum Wage to $10/hour and create a Federal Maximum Wage of $10M/year using the tax code to enforce the latter.  Redesign the tax code on a scale similar to what’s outlined below.   Increased revenue divided into thirds:  1/3 for Deficit Reduction, 1/3 for Domestic Infrastructure Improvements, 1/3 for Public Health Option and Education funding.  
    • All Senators, Congressmen, Supreme Court Justices and Executive Branch Department Heads (including President) to accept salaries at Federal Minimum Wage (travel benefits to remain intact).  Savings to be used for Deficit Reduction.
    • Welfare benefits to be redesigned to focus on job training, education and temporary relief, with benefit cutoffs to end after a recipient is above economic poverty line.  All beneficiaries of Federal Welfare must serve a mandatory 1 year with AmeriCorps if receiving benefits for longer than 6 months.
    • Unemployment trust fund which covers pre-65 wage insurance, including wage loss for unemployment from business shrinkage and personal injury while at work or due to other life events (eliminates double taxation, administration and fraud of workers compensation programs) and post-65 wage insurance, including retirement income protection and specifically excluding healthcare (making it clear that this is not a monetary retirement program which is funded separately by individuals and companies using after tax dollars which will not be taxed again if pulled after age 65 as part of a qualified retirement).
    • Creation of an infra-structure fund to be distributed to local government agencies directly based on proportion of citizen and businesses without regard to taxable contribution of the inclusive group in an effort to recognize businesses and employees need sustainable, safe and effective roads, bridges, etc. to ply their trade, etc. and balancing small community vs large community needs.

    • Simplify the entire tax code and its myriad of policies of social and economic engineering. Replace it with symbiotic personal/business taxes (income/profit, respectively) that go into  discreet secured trust funds with firewalls preventing moving funds or borrowing funds. No accounting tricks, just hard cash going in and out for designated purpose all accounted for on public website with 100% drill down and data download
    • Return to the tax brackets of the Eisenhower Era for corporations.
    • Double taxes on Businesses that outsource American Jobs or damage American Ecology.  
    • Tax rewards for business that do the following:
      • Bring jobs back to impoverished American areas.
      • Are Unionized, with programs to allow for new members to join the Union.
      • Use Green technology and go above-and-beyond EPA regulations in Environmental Safety
      • Give back to local communities and invest in local economies.
      • 1-year Tax Exemption for companies that develop new Green Technologies that allow the USA to be Energy Independent and Ecologically Responsible
      • Taxes would be designed as linear or curvilinear schedules which start at somewhere just north of the living wage and continuing through to the highest earning/profit levels with the individual and business "lines" being mathematically set based on these discreet populations.  All income/profits including foreign are factored in without distinction to eliminate, even encourage sighting the business on US soil. These lines eliminate the arbitrary mark up for making $.01 more and the regressive nature of flat taxes. The net effect will likely lower taxes to those at the bottom of the current "middle class" and properly raise it as individuals make more money and rising into the realm of mega-rich. The same logic applies to businesses with the requirement that all businesses are run as LLC or INC and no more individual, as business filings.   Capital Gains and Estate Tax rates increased with proceeds to fund Education Programs and Public Pensions.  Create Discreet funds which directly link to income sources and are backed by concrete sunset clauses, or at least formal assessments requiring something other than Continuing Resolutions
      • Transformation of the American public transportation grid: electromagnetic bullet trains, etc.
      • Transformation of the American energy grid: renewable energy investment, carbon tax, petroleum tax


      • 50% reduction of military spending,  reducing the Standing Army and Foreign Bases accordingly and using the remaining resources on augmenting and streamlining the Navy, Air Force, CyberDefense, Special Forces and AmeriCorps.   Take 1/3 of the savings to increase funding for NASA and Tech R&D.  Use 1/3 of the savings for Deficit Reduction and 1/3 for Domestic Infrastructure Improvements.   Low-ranking Army Personnel  still under contract to serve will serve the rest of their time with AmeriCorps and receive a 1-grade promotion in rank.  
      • Creation of a  Federal General Fund includes military, NASA, world-wide projects, Congressional member and staff compensation, etc. These are funded by a National Sales Tax with transparent posting on the web as outlined above with the possible exception of Congressionally certified and approved National Security projects which are reported as a summary number to provide reasoned protection from special operations deemed by Congress to be essential to defense of our Country.
      • Full disclosure to Congress of all Intelligence & Military Activities, Treaties (both secret and public), Deals, Slush Funds and Black Ops.  Failure to do so will result in prison sentences for all personnel who refuse to disclose.  All who willingly disclose this information can do so anonymously.
      SICK CARE 

      • Creation of a National Single-Payer Health Care Option to cover Basic Medical Care, Catastrophic Illness or Injury, Generic Prescriptions, including Generic Birth Control/Women’s Health Services  and Annual Physicals  
      • This would be as a Public Option alongside Private Insurance, comparable to the Public/Private School System.  Private Insurance would be subject to the same regulations as the Public Option.  Elective Procedures would not be covered under the Public Option, but could be covered by Private Options.  Abortions would be covered in cases of rape, incest, minors and medical emergency.  
      • Covers lifetime medical care (for all illnesses) and pharmaceuticals as directed by the patients' doctors who are each employees of a non-profit healthcare coop owned and managed by the member patients where the management board of coop is a 50/50 model of professionals and member patients without managerial or administrative interference from any government entity other than fiduciary audit oversight by qualified and certified Accountancy firms (wherein these Coops receive an annual flat rate as a straight pass thru from taxes paid by each member and respective member's employer covering all care including pre-existing conditions, end of life care, etc.)

      • Reinstitute the Assault Weapons Ban, with limited exceptions for Veterans and Law Enforcement, subject to strict regulation.  The sale of Ammunition would also be limited and subject to sales tax.  Sales tax on handguns and hunting rifles would be increased -- and split between the individual state in which they're sold and the Federal Gov't --  along with increased oversight and harsher penalties for unlicensed gun possession and trafficking. 
      • Federal Recognition of Marriage as defined as “a legal union of adult human beings” with all accordant benefits.
      • Federally Prohibit the Death Penalty, and change sentencing protocols for Non-Violent Offenders to focus more on Community Service and less on Incarceration.  Violent Offenders, Grand Theft, Fraud and White Collar criminals to face stiffer penalties.  Penal management to be returned to direct State control, with Private Prison Companies relegated to minor support with no control over policy.
      • Repeal “No Child Left Behind” and reinstate secular curriculum for all Public Schools.  Full immersion tri-lingual education in all public schools, K-12: English, Spanish, French.  Create an education fund which is used to reimburse new network of National Universities offering both academic and vocational degrees and where the institutions don't get paid until post graduation and receive a government set flat rate for 2, 4, 6, 8 year programs. Other college and vocational colleges would be paid the same rate as an offset to their standard rates provided these fall within reasonable limits and aren't used to artificially inflate college costs as seems evident from the huge increase in college fees when the government instituted previous assistance programs (with serious consideration to ending or phasing out current programs unless and until forensic analysis can prove up or discount the veracity of the latter concerns).
      • Repeal the Patriot Act and NDAA.  
      • Universal Voter Registration, with compulsory voting in all elections
      • Legalize, License  and Tax Marijuana, placing it under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of ATF and similarly regulated.  Tax revenue to be used to help fund the Public Health Option.  End of prohibition tax at 300-500%, depending on the drug (beginning with tobacco and sugar)
      • Institutional Reparations for American citizens of African and Native descent
      • Ban all religious trappings from Federal Buildings (including X-Mas decorations, Ten Commandment statuary, etc), while allowing Federal Employees time off for religious observance.

      Friday, November 22, 2013

      The Unseen Fourth Branch of Government

      Since the days of Harry Truman's rude awakening to the fact that the Military had been developing the A-Bomb for years without him having a clue, it's become a sorry fact of American life that most of our Executives have been largely kept in the dark about the goings-on of the departments supposedly under their jurisdiction as "Commander-in-Chief".  Arguably, Ike Eisenhower was the last President to have a full handle on the military under his command and it's pretty clear to me that his prophetic warning  has long since come to pass.
      After seeing the Jon Stewart clip, reposted above, I decided to look into things a bit.  A once-vital part of our national defense, the shadowy alphabet soup we call the Intelligence Community is not, in fact, legally accountable to any particular branch of government, but to a National Intelligence Priorities Framework, in which the Director of National Intelligence is the highest authority.
      Let me repeat that.  The Director of National Intelligence is the highest authority over the wing of the military that arguably does most of our geopolitical dirty work.  Not the President.  Not Congress.  Not the Citizenry.  None of us are legally entitled to a single byte of information from our Intelligence Community unless the DNI decides to tell us.  
      So who is the DNI?  The Honorable James R. Clapper -- a retired Lieutenant-General of the Air Force and former Marine who, before serving as Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence in the Bush II administration, "worked in industry for six years as an executive in three successive companies with his business focus being the Intelligence Community".  Which three companies?  Records of those are all-but-impossible to find.  The article on him on Wikipedia (I know, not the most reliable of sources!) links him to those who lied to Congress regarding WMDs in Iraq and as lists him as one of the brains behind the current NSA domestic spying scandals.  
      So, let's do a little logical reasoning here.  If the DNI, ostensibly an advisor to the President and Congress, isn't actually obliged to give real information to the President and Congress, and has sole command over a whole swath of our military, who's really in charge, here?  You'll notice that while Congress and the Executive Branches were recently shut down by the Regressive Party, the military and intelligence communities continued operating with full funding and no interruption of service.
      What I see here is that our Tri-branch government has largely been de facto replaced by a 4th Branch -- Ike's Military-Industrial Complex.  Our entire civilian government can go the way of the do-do and this 4th Branch will still operate with full impunity -- and full immunity from any redress to the citizenry.  
      If ever there was a person upon whom both Progressive and Regressive alike could -- and should -- agree to place the powerful microscopic glare of the media, it is upon former Gen. Clapper.  For it is he -- not Congress, not the President, and certainly not we, the People -- who commands the greatest power in our nation.
      As Douglas Adams famously asserted:  A President's job is not to wield power, but to distract us from those who truly wield it.  One can argue that these days Congress fills that role just as much.

      Thursday, November 21, 2013

      What Does a "Free" Market REALLY Look Like?

      Ah, the Free Market:  A haven for those who advocate that individualistic ideal of pulling one's self up by the bootstraps on wit.  The concept that lies at the very heart of the American Dream.  Many Regressives today feel that the concept is still the bedrock of our society and should not be interfered with at all by legal governance.  And while to a large extent on the local level it's still possible for entrepreneurship to thrive in our beaten-up economy, it takes far more than mere guts, grit and cleverness to succeed in today's world.  It also takes a great deal of lucky timing, opportunity and an environment that truly fosters the little guy's best hopes of success.

      Unfortunately, our society is not one that does any of that.  In fact, it's quite the opposite.  

      Our history with economic regulation is, of course, a convoluted one.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, from 1880-about 1929, we had a system of economics that was exactly what modern Regressives are calling for -- largely unregulated by the Federal Government and accountable only to those at the top -- known as the Gilded Age.  It was during this time that child labor was common, limits on working hours were unheard of, getting sick on the job was a precursor to immediate termination from said job and unsafe working conditions were to be expected in any factory, as were wages at pennies a day.  

      The wide economic disparity between those on top and those on bottom, coupled with a complete lack of public infrastructural support for the bottom made the perfect breeding ground for crime, disease and social unravelling.  The Free Market ruled largely unchecked and society suffered greatly for it.  And as your average person couldn't afford to be unemployed for any length of time, the ability of the average person to choose their occupation or to find any opportunity for personal advancement beyond the whims of their employer was little more than gossamer.  The Free Market -- to the vast majority of people in this country -- was anything but free.

      It wasn't until the Unions -- after long-awaited aid from the Federal Government -- finally started winning their bitter and often deadly fights with Big Business that society started realizing that Business was an exploitive force that required the power of society itself -- using the mechanism of government -- to check and balance.  Even with successful attempts to do so such as Teddy Roosevelt's Square Deal, it took the Great Depression to show that the Market was far too dangerous to be left to its own devices.  With the implementation of the New Deal under FDR, a regulatory framework was established that allowed the economy to stabilize and, by forcing Corporations to pay their workers a living wage -- with benefits and a future -- and by legally preventing the sorts of under-handed tactics that created the old monopolistic Trusts in the first place, we as a society provided for ourselves an leveled playing field where a rigorous Middle Class would assume its rightful place as the backbone of American Society for the next 40 years.  

      Because they were legally kept in check from abusing their position of power, corporate profits were kept at a lower level, with the trade-off being a great increase in the standard of living for the average person.  Ultimately, while the Top 1% weren't making money hand-over-fist to the degree they are today, they still enjoyed a lifestyle luxurious even by King Solomon's standards.  And the average person stood a fighting chance at passing onto their children an even better life

      Fast forward to the 1970's.  A new generation of anti-regulators began taking control of Congress, using flowery talking points and misleading rhetoric to hoodwink the public into supporting the gradual dismantling of the very framework that had held the nation together for so long.   Little by little, the corporate masters on top gained more freedom to behave as they pleased.  And like any sore winner in a game of "Asshole", they took more and more for themselves at the cost of everybody else.   This had several results:  (1) Profit margins went up (2) Wages for the average worker either dropped or stagnated (3) Benefits were cut (4) More and more people had to go into debt in order to keep their share of the American Dream and, ultimately, Corporate power became increasingly solidified as fewer and fewer checks were put in their way.  And the corporations, drunk on their newfound power, once again drove our economy into the ground.

      Fast forward to today.  Some of the most profitable companies, free from the requirement to pay their workers anything approaching a living wage, famously disparaged their own workers for needing to go on the dole in addition to working full time.   Most products that people buy are owned and distributed by a small handful of power corporate cabals who exercise an undisputed nigh-totalitarian control over the world's economy.  We're rapidly returning to where we were 100 years ago.  

      Within a Wild West society of unregulated self-interest, Social Darwinism begins to apply.  The advantaged ruthlessly weed out everybody else with no incentive to provide for the health of the society that raised them up in the first place.  When a corporation controls more money and resources than your average nation, what else can it be to a Republic like ours but an invasive threat?  Adding into the mix Citizens United, which essentially legitimized the outright buying and selling of our representative governmental policy by those with money, what chance do those without stand?

      Without a level playing field, where those who profit most are required a certain enforced handicap to give everybody else a fair and fighting chance, one has to ask who's really free in such a market?  Certainly not the majority of Americans to any real degree.  And when faced with an invading force of a nation, what else can check it but the legal force of a nation?  

      Without that legal force, the invasion of ruthless corporatism will only continue to grind the average person into the ground.  Regulation alone can do that.  And such regulation cannot come about when representatives are bought and sold at the whims of the rich.  I fear we must do as our ancestors did -- organize ourselves enough to regain control over the one force capable of leveling the economic playing field:  The Federal Government.

      Before my Regressive friends start whining about a mistaken concept of Socialism, That's not to mean that I endorse imposing Russian-style Sovietism.  Government doesn't need to own the means of production in order to check & balance corporate power.  Individual enterprise flourished as never before when Eisenhower restrained corporate profits with high taxes.  As our Constitutional government is designed to work on the basis of Separate Powers to prevent Monarchs from solidifying political power in a single entity, so too must our society relate to economic powers.  There must be checks and balances between Big Government and Big Business if the average person is to stand a chance at bettering his or her lot.

      Until the average person regains their greatest advocate in a governmental power accountable to them, I'm afraid that this is the fate that awaits us all.

      Wednesday, November 20, 2013

      On American Theocracy

      I don't generally consider myself to be anti-religion per se.  I wholeheartedly support and champion the Right of each person to live by their own conscience and belief in the privacy of the heart and home, no matter what tradition that person subscribes to.  I consider myself an advocate of the most forward-thinking facet of our national heritage:  The Separation of Church & State.

      I think we all have seen this painting at one point or another.  It depicts perhaps the greatest perverse nightmare ever conceived for a Secular Republic founded on the cornerstone of Separation of Church & State.  The attempt by Religious Regressives to claim exclusive ownership of a document and nation founded on Secular Reason.

      Many Regressives have been calling for "a return to God" or for "the Bible in law".  Initiatives are popping up in many States forcing the teaching of Bibilcal myth in Science Classes and Biblical dogma is cited again and again in issues ranging from Marriage Equality to a Woman's Right to Choose.   These arguments end up far over the line into the ridiculous.

      Ultimately, the common theme in such Regressive arguments is a call for religious law to replace secular as the foundational law of the land.  Otherwise known as Theocracy.

      Theocracy was actually applied in the early days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  There, the Puritans founded what they hoped would be a Utopian society based on their strict interpretation of the Bible.  It resulted in the disastrous and shameful period in our history noted for the Salem Witch Trials, in which over 200 hundred people -- mostly innocent women -- were burned at the stake or executed in other horrific ways for the crime of "witchcraft" -- a catch-all term which conveniently applied to pretty much any woman who dared act or think of her own accord, rather than submit to Biblical authority to the degree determined by the male leaders of the community.  This was why the Founding Fathers expressly said in the Constitution "Congress shall make no law establishing religion".  Because it's used so often to justify the worst bigotry and abuses of human nature and costs innocent people their lives.  

      It is that submission to their own privilege that these Regressives are really looking for from the rest of us.  And history shows again and again that Religious authority is always willing to resort to violence to ensure its privileges.  Just look at Saudi Arabia and Iran -- which Regressives are always willing to condemn for their "backward" ways and are always screaming at us to fear.  How ironic when you consider that Regressives are calling for the same thing here in the enlightened USA.

      They don't always come right out and say it.  Usually, Regressive theocratic arguments are put in terms of "religious freedom", usually calling for exemption from a secular law they don't agree with.  Like allowing people to marry whom they choose, especially when afforded that right in their state.  Or allowing women access to birth control -- ironically the best choice for preventing an abortion (but that's another post).  Strange, is it not, that those who most often scream about "personal choice" when it comes to religion are always the first to interfere with other people when it comes to their own bodies?  A statement beginning with "Well, I'm a Christian and..." has become code for "I'm about to say something that's going to offend reasonable people" -- and rightly so!

      Usually, religious Regressive arguments are cherry-picked to fit their own desires, rather than Biblical doctrine.  The Bible expressly forbids the eating of pork, yet I'll bet each and every Regressive who uses the Bible as an authority will be having Ham this X-Mas.  The usual claim is "Jesus freed us from the old law", and yet they're more than happy to force "the old law" on those who don't believe in it when it suits their purposes.

      What we're really seeing is not a defense of religious freedom, but of religious privilege and prerogative over our laws --an attempt to force private belief on the public sphere.  

      Again, religion in and of itself is not all bad.  There have been as many cases of amazing human beings, inspired by the divine, contributing wonderfully to the betterment of humanity.  But ultimately, the question of religion is one best decided in the privacy of the heart and home, not in Congress or the Court.  The minute one particular religious tradition gains control of our public national laws, all other religions lose the freedom to practice freely in private.  Whether it's Sharia, the Westboro Baptist Church, the Vatican or the Church of Scientology dictating our laws, it's still one religion forcing all others to bow to its particular and often inherently limited point of view.  The minute that happens, all of us are in serious danger.

      Tuesday, November 19, 2013

      The Obama Presidency Model -- Roosevelt vs Coolidge

      I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

      With those words, Barack H. Obama reaffirmed his commitment to the Constitution.  As a Constitutional Lawyer & Professor, the President must've very carefully understood the words of his oath, taking the utmost care and precision in their interpretation.

      Pretty much from the moment he announced his candidacy before 2008, we've heard again and again the various reasons Regressives use for hating him -- most of them either completely unfounded in fact or a thin smokescreen for a lynch mob impulse.   

      With signs like this, did we really need more proof as to why Regressives hate him?  FOX's broadcasts alone are enough to prove that point.

      But we on the Progressive side of the aisle also have been expressing disappointment and even rage against our 44th President.  I've often wondered why, considering he did more in a term and a half to benefit the nation than his predecessor ever did.  

      And it boils down to interpretation of the Presidential Oath.

      In our short national history, we've had Presidents good and bad, but ultimately, they can be broken down into two groups:  The Proactive and the Inactive.  "Protect the Citzenry when they can't protect themselves" or "Protect the Status Quo".  For the purposes of this article, let's use two Presidents as examples.  

        On the Proactive side, we hold up as a shining example Teddy Roosevelt, who, presiding over an era of deregulation, wide economic disparity and deep governmental corruption, took the interpretation that as President, his job was to be the champion for those too poor or too weak to defend themselves against the Captains of Industry who economically exploited them at every turn.  His Square Deal  was the first of its kind, empowering the average citizen and worker to forge the Middle Class that eventually became the backbone of our society.  

       On the Inactive side, there's Calvin Coolidge (most Americans will say, "who?", which is ultimately my point), a pro-business, anti-regulation President who, more than any other man of his time, set the stage for the financial abuses that caused the Great Depression.   If ever there was a President who took his Oath to mean, "Protect the Status Quo", it was Coolidge.

      When it comes to our own time, mirroring that era so very closely in so many ways, many of us on the Left were hoping -- praying, even -- for a President who would take the active, Roosevelt idea of the champion-President and undo the damage that Bush left behind.  Despite very clearly running as a Centrist, many Progressives hoped that Obama's personal feelings on the matter would play out in his policies.  Sadly, due partially to his unsuccessful attempts to cooperate with the Regressive Lynch Mob and the various deals he clearly made to get the job in the first place, they haven't.

       Even though Obama's inner circle is not nearly as rife with Wall Street Insiders as it may appear, the fact remains that Governmental Policy, instead of being a necessary check and balance on the unaccountable power of the market, is still in fact an enabler of corporate abuse.  And those few Statesmen we have left, such as Elizabeth Warren, who do what they can to champion the average person are still met with rabid opposition from Regressives.

      The failure of the Obama Administration to be proactive in a way that made a real difference in people's lives, when it was in a position to do so, is what's ultimately fueling the disappointment on the Left.  We wanted a Roosevelt, but got a Coolidge.

      Monday, November 18, 2013

      On the Tea Party

      Putting aside the usual nonsensical ravings that we usually hear from the mainstream media regarding that national embarrassment we call the Tea Party, I want to take a moment to examine what it is that they're really standing for.  The tenets of the Tea Party Platform are as follows:

      Eliminate Excessive Taxes, Eliminate the National Debt, Eliminate Deficit Spending, Protect Free Markets, Abide by the Constitution of the United States,Promote Civic Responsibility, Reduce the Overall Size of Government,  Believe in the People, Avoid the Pitfalls of Politics, Maintain Local Independence.

      On the surface, these headings look good and beneficial, but if we actually look at what these headings mean in real terms, they very quickly fall apart.  I’ll go through them one by one.  Ultimately, they will show that the Tea Party is an Anarchist Party of Corporate dupes, dedicated to the destruction of the Federal Government and the American Way.

      ELIMINATE EXCESSIVE TAXES – The question is on WHOM?  Corporate tax rates are the lowest they’ve been since Eisenhower, so I ask again – on WHOM are we trying to lower taxes?  The Government needs income in order to function and provide for the services we all agree are necessary (National Defense, the Postal Service, Maintaining interstate highways, Aid to the various States, etc), so if we keep lowering taxes on those with the most disposable income, the balance of the burden falls on the average person, who’s least able to bear it.  If anybody in the Tea Party supported raising the Corporate Tax rate to take the burden off of the small business owners, the way the President tried to do in his first 100 days in office, I’d believe that this heading is genuine. However, that was not the case.  The GOP, under pressure from the Tea Party blocked that particular initiative.  And when we consider that the Tea Party’s champion, Romney’s tax plan was based in mathematical falsehoods, one has to wonder can a Political movement really be so daft?  I don’t think this is the case –  what this really means, when examined is “Defund the Government by the most direct means possible”.  EXHIBIT ‘A’ in my case.

      ELIMINATE THE NATIONAL DEBT – again, a very nice sound byte, but if our chief means of national income – taxes -- is eliminated, how does the Tea Party propose to do that aside from cutting essential and Constitutionally-mandated Government functions?  It doesn’t.  In fact, when we consider the Tea Party’s later tenant, REDUCE THE OVERALL SIZE OF GOVERNMENT, it’s pretty obvious that the goal is to weaken and eventually dismantle the Federal Government entirely.  EXHIBIT ‘B’. 

      ELIMINATE DEFICIT SPENDING – again, very hard to do when, by eliminating taxes, we’ve eliminated our government’s chief source of income.  Clearly the goal here is once again to force the cutting of essential governmental functions.  A functionless government is a non-existent one.  EXHIBIT ‘C’.

      PROTECT FREE MARKETS – A statement that implies what many Regressives have explicitly stated, that the Government should absolutely NEVER interfere with the Market.  We actually had that system in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  The divide between rich and poor was greater than it is today and the abuses of the Captain of Industry/Capitalist Class were so terrible that Unions were created among workers to combat life-threatening working conditions and work-weeks without sick leave, weekends, protection for children in factories or even 8-hour work days. When we look at what happened with OWS and compare it to the early Union Riots with the Pinkertons, the parallels are...well, striking.  It wasn’t until Teddy Roosevelt’s Square Deal and later FDR’s New Deal that the Social Problems of the time were effectively dealt with – but the Right loves to disparage such measures that DEMONSTRABLY RAISED THE AVERAGE PERSON’S STANDARD OF LIVING WITHOUT UNDULY HARMING THE WEALTHY as “Communism”,thus showing a poor understanding of the term. The Roosevelts demonstrated a central fact about Free Markets that is too often ignored  by the Right – that without the power of a Government to Check & Balance it, the Free Market becomes a Social Darwinist  playground, a perpetual game of “Asshole” where exploitation of everyone too poor to compete becomes the rule.  It’s a common misconception that the rules of a small mom-and-pop business are the same as for a multinational corporation with Billions in yearly profit.  Such corporations wield power and resources equal to or greater than most nations – and you expect the Government by, of and for the People to stand by and do nothing while such power is used to exploit the average person with impunity, as it has done in our own national history?  EXHIBIT ‘D’ 

      ABIDE BY THE CONSTITUTION – A lovely sentiment and one all sides could actually agree on…provided we are on the same page.  I’ve heard many people argue that the Constitution is a document which should not be changed, despite case after case of the Founders themselves stating their belief that it should be adapted to the times, and despite the very provision within the Constitution itself giving Congress the Right and Responsibility to do so (Article One of the United States Constitution, section 8, clause 18: “The Congress shall have Power - To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.”), so which version of the Constitution should we abide by?  The one the Founders wrote which counts black people as slaves, equal only to 3/5 of a person?  The one that we’ve Amended over time?  Which Amendments, put in through due process of law count as “valid”?  I’ve never gotten a direct answer to that question, but I’ve gathered that the Tea Party in general prefers a Government similar in scope and shape to the Articles of Confederation – a system so woefully inadequate to our national needs that it was replaced by the Constitution.  There’s a conceptual disconnect here.  If the Tea Party wants to abide by the Constitution, why does it object to everything the Constitution provides for?  I submit that it’s because the Tea Party doesn’t want a Federal Government at all. EXHIBIT ‘E’.

      PROMOTE CIVIC RESPONSIBILITY – Another lovely statement with absolutely nothing stating how the Tea Party proposes to do so, or in whom it proposes to promote such values.  If we’re to promote civic responsibility in our elected officials, how are we to do so when Citizens United  allows Moneyed Interests to outright BUY our political process, cutting the average person’s influence in their own government to meaninglessness?  If we’re to promote civic responsibility in our fellow citizens, how does the Tea Party propose to do so when Tea-Party-backed State Governments cut Civics classes in our public education?  I submit that the Tea Party’s backers want nothing of the sort.  As I often argue during gun debates, the easiest and most cost-effective means of enslaving a population of the size and scope of the US is to (1) Make the economic situation for the vast majority of the citizenry so desperate that they spend all their time and effort trying to survive rather than pay attention to their government -- or, the Banana Republic Syndrome (2) Undermine the quality and access to public education so that the vast majority of the citizenry no longer are equipped to think critically about their situation and correctly assess a solution and (3) Inundate the media with so much misinformation that nobody can sort out the facts or how the facts fit together.  Sound familiar?  EXHIBIT ‘F’

      BELIEVE IN THE PEOPLE – Another empty slogan, when you see Tea Party members not only demonstrating, but glorifying in the most vile and bigoted parts of human nature.  A person might do the right thing, but PEOPLE in large groups are only as smart or responsible as the loudest, dumbest and most assertive member of that particular group. Judging by the actions of the most high profile Tea Party members and representatives, I have to wonder in which people the Tea Party wants us to believe,because it’s clearly not in anybody that’s anything other than White, Christian or Male.  I submit that – judging entirely by the rhetoric sponsored and promoted by the Tea Party and the Right in General -- Aaron Sorkin was entirely right in his assessment of the Tea Party as an American Taliban.  Our Government is designed to limit the ability of fundamentalist thinking to determine national policy by relying on facts and evidence, not mere religious opinion.  That’s why it was set up with two houses of Congress – to slow down passionate belief-based action, so that it could be soberly and rationally examined.  Yet sober and rational thought seem to be an anathema to the Right – as evidenced by all the “Jesus is Lord” comments that get thrown at me when I suggest that the Government shouldn’t be unduly influenced by religion.  EXHIBIT ‘G’

      AVOID THE PITFALLS OF POLITICS – Is that why Tea Party representatives have filibustered in Congress 121 times since Obama was elected and then shut down 3 branches of the Federal Government over a website?  When taking into account Grover Norquist’s famous quip about drowning the Government in the bathtub, it’s far more likely that the goal here is to stall all Governmental action until it’s once again a non-functional entity.  Again, a non-functional government is a non-existent one. Anarchists are the ones who want non-existent government and Totalitarians are ones who want a democratic republican government to fail, not true Conservatives.  EXHIBIT ‘H’.

      MAINTAIN LOCAL INDEPENDENCE –  Yet another lovely statement that we all could get behind, but the actions of the Tea Party belie saying one thing and doing another.  As I stated under the FREE MARKET heading, local independence cannot be preserved when a multinational corporation has no barrier to moving in, driving out all the smaller businesses in the area, exploiting the area until it’s dry and leaving it destitute.  If each State were, as the Confederates of old contended, a separation country, rather than part of a larger whole, the Free Market  with an ineffectual Federal Governmental framework might be sufficient to achieve this goal, but a nation as large as ours requires some degree of centralized authority to function effectively.  The failure of the Articles of Confederation after the Revolution (see previous citation) demonstrated this profoundly, but that demonstration seems lost on the Right.  If our nation is to survive, the balance of power between local and federal is always one that has to be rigorously maintained.  It cannot be skewed in either direction or the nation will fail – but if the Tea Party wants it completely skewed in the direction of local over national, then I can only assume that the Tea Party really wants the United States to fail. 

      It is often implied by the Regressive blogosphere that one group is using another as dupes to achieve a totalitarian goal on the Left. I assert that the Right is subject to a classic case of Freudian Projection – and to a far more obvious degree that too many people are either unable or unwilling to see because they’re satisfied with sweet-sounding slogans as a replacement for critical thought.  

      It is a long-established truth that the best way to understand a person or a group in politics is to examine who's sponsoring them and what those sponsors stand to gain by doing so.  When enough of us stop critically thinking, the Anarchists think they win and the Totalitarians actually win.  It is my assertion that such is exactly the Tea Party's goal.