Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Corroborative Damage

On September 12, 2001 the United States stood at a turning point. On the previous day our people confronted one of the most dreadful disasters in our nation’s history. We were brutally attacked by Islamic Extremist terrorist; we lost 2,986 of our citizens in the merciless massacre, as well as a piece of our Nation’s soul. The World Trade Center, an American symbol of prosperity crumbled after two jet airplanes collided with each building. The Pentagon, our Nations military command center, was nearly destroyed and American Airlines flight 93, thanks to a handful of brave passengers, crashed in rural Pennsylvania before reaching its target.

The US was in a state of shock. Forlorn of hope, the repeated question became,
” how could this happen to us?” An inquiry which led to only more questions. As the answers began to surface our shock turned to anger and our anger developed a steady focus – Osama Bin Laden.
Bin Laden, a staunch enemy of American Democracy, was the master mind behind the 9/11 tragedy. The Bush Whitehouse, until then perceived as weak administration, found it's voice then comforted a troubled people. Soon after, the dust settled and our Nation moved in unison toward a reslove.
Our goal : to find and and destroy Al Qeada. Our target: Afghanistan.

The Afghani government, otherwise known as The Taliban, were gangsters in their own right. The Taliban was an oppressive regime whose goal it was to push their distorted view of Islam on the people of the world. They were hiding Osama Bin Laden and his like minded Militia. The Taliban were uncooperative; they would not answer our demands to turn over Al Qaeda or Bin Laden. Naturally we invaded their broken, collapsed country and hunted our mortal enemy.

I had some reservations about invading another country to catch Bin Laden, but it seemed as though we could do some good for Afghanistan and her people. It wasn’t a hard sell to the American public to invade Afghanastan. After all, the Taliban protected Bin Laden, they were brutal theocrats, they had a horrible human rights record, and they despised the USA. Additionally Afghanastan had once been a moderate country before decades of war crumbled its infrasturcture and her demoralized her citizens. There was hope for Democracy in all of that rubble. Not to mentions that the world would be a better place without the Taliban. Finally, we had an opportunity to further Democracy in a region of the world where Democracy is a foreign concept and dictators flourish. This was a well justified invasion.

The action seemed to go well, as well as can be expected. We were making headway with “bunker buster” bombs and our Special Forces teams were building successful coalitions with the tribal rulers. Predictably, the media had mixed reviews about our progress, but most of the soldiers were optimistic – news from the front is good enough for me.
Not long after the invasion however clarity struck with the potency of a clamore. The reality of our efforts settled in. Our mission was not going to be easy. Bin Laden had escaped.
The Afghani regions were quagmired in tribal feuds. The leader of the Northern alliance, Ahmad Shah Masood, our hope for a moderate government, was killed in action. Our forces had only managed to secure Kabul, the capital city, the rest of the region was wild and untamed.

At this point I thought that our government would begin utilizing all of our available resources to catch Al Qaeda and rebuild Afghanastan. Much like the Isralis hunted and captured the escaped Nazi's; the FBI, NSA and CIA should have formed a joint task force to catch the criminals responsible for the WTC tragedy, then kill them or bring them to justice. However, our government, specifically the Bush Administration, had an expanded agenda. The White House began to focus on toppling Sadam Husain’s government: destination Iraq.

The Bush Administration framed a convincing argument for a war against Iraq. The American people were told that the Iraqi government harbored and aided Al Qaeda, and that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction. We were also led the believe that an Iraqi sanctioned attack on U.S. soil was insuppressible. The argument was convincing, especially as Colin Powel address the U.N. Security Council and the world with these revelations. It wasn't until later that we learned the claims of eminent danger from Iraq were artificial and our consent was manufactured.

But the United States had been seriously wounded and she was ready to strike back with all of her might. There were plenty of assurances that we were doing the right thing by going after Iraq, the media was on board, millions of Americans were with the President. In fact many who spoke against the war faced harsh disapprovment , and were alienated. But there was some effective resistance. Scott Ridder, former UN weapons inspector insisted that Saddam did not have any Weapons of Mass Destruction. He turned out to be right. There is no significant evidence of WMD’s. Also there are no substantial Iraqi ties to al Qaeda. The evidence for this point is growing clearer each day. It's also fair to say that the UN Sanctions which were establihsed to eleminate the Iraqi threat and broadly criticized by the Bush Administration were working. Iraq posed no immediate threat to the United States and lacked the capability to build and facilitate Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Soon after we invaded Iraq, it became obvious to me that conventional warfare was not an efficient way to catch Al Qaeda, nor is it an efficient means of stopping terrorism. We have not met our objectives in Afghanistan (the other war), nor are we any closer to catching Osama Bin Ladin and Al Qaeda. In fact, terrorsim has been on the rise since we invaded Iraq. Perhaps this is why the Bush Administration is no longer publishing the the world terrorist activity reports. Perhaps our agenda for toppling Sadam Husain is enhanced by our need for crude oil or our need to expand our trade markets. The White House is unwilling to discuss these possible motives, so we are left to speculate. It is becoming increasingly difficult to deny that the case for war in Iraq was weak and that it has been a gross misallocation of our soldiers and resources. Whether or not the White House intentionally lied to the American people, which I think they did, is beyond the scope of this post, but it is a question worth asking - maybe a later post.

Ultimately these men, Al Qaeda, are criminals and should be treated as criminals. Using our entire military to eleminate world terrorism is precisely the response that they, the ememy, expected. We played into their hands and now we've become the aggressors. Additionally, by declaring war on Iraq we have lost focus on the War On Terror and our efforts to rebuild Afghanastan. We have invaded a country, Iraq, which was number five on the list of most dangerous nations, our presence in Iraq has created a terrorist insurgence where there once was none, we still have not captured Osama Bin Laden, we have already spent over 230 billion dollars on the invasion and attempts to rebuild, we have lost over 2200 of our brightest and best citizen soldiers, and we have turned much of the Muslim world against us.
There are also hidden costs of this war, such as the effects of Depleted Uranium on soldiers and civilians, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from returning soldiers. The side effects of these elements can never be fully calculated, but are likely to emenate and linger with our society for decades. Using conventional warfare to win the War on Terror has put the American people in more danger than before the Iraq invasion and our methods are proving to be as efficient as hunting a group of misquotes with an elephant gun.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Yesterday during my drive time I heard a quote which nearly caused me to launch a five car pile up, wreck my newly waxed car, and completely reconsider using my IPOD while driving.

I was listening to Thom Hartman (God bless him!) rant about Senator Rick Santorum R-PA when he dropped the bomb on me.
This quote by the not so good Senator is probably the most self-serving made by a politician since President Nixon told Robert Frost that it's "ok" to spy on people "as long as are the President of the United States."

Santorum: "And yet we have brave men and women who are willing to step forward because they know what's at stake. They're willing to sacrifice their lives for this great country. What I'm asking all of you tonight is not to put on a uniform. Put on a bumper sticker. Is it that much to ask? Is it that much to ask to step up and serve your country?"
He's not speaking about a bumper sticker that reads, "Support Our Troops". He's suggesting a bumper sticker that reads, "Re-elect Rick Santorum".
What a stupid thing to say! What happened to eloquence and taste in public speaking?

For example, here’s a quote from John Fitzgerald Kennedy:
“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, the the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future”

Here is Teddy Roosevelt speaking about courage and conviction:
“In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” And: “It's not having been in the dark house, but having left it that counts.”

Rick, I hope that you are as desperate as you sound, and I hope that you lose in 2006. Our country can do better than you.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

False history gets made all day, any day,the truth of the new is never on the news - Adrienne Rich

Q: What can you tell us about…………….? (Fill in the blank)

A: "This issue has been addressed fully. That's the information that I understand is available. It's clear that some are not interested in the facts. I think we've been through some of these issues previously. I just answered this question."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A post for Recovering Conservatives:

Free Yourself from Conservative Talk Radio:
12 Steps to Recovery by Thom Hartmann (Source)

Step 1: Admit that you were under the sway of right-wing, anti-democracy radicals.This is the first step for every conservative or "ditto-head" listener on the way to recovery. It is important to understand that the people you were listening to are not "compassionate conservatives," "Republicans," or "pillars of morality." They're right-wing conservative radicals, more interested in strong corporations than strong democracy, and you must be honest with yourself about that fact.

Step 2: Realize that we can't have freedom & liberty without first building a civil society.And civil society has certain costs, such as education, infrastructure, health care, defense, transportation, communications, a viable social safety net, and the protection of the commons, which we all agree to pay for with something called taxes that we levy on ourselves and not on our children. Only on this basis can we have individual liberty.

Step 3: Love democracy's basis in debate and respectful disagreement.The processes of debate, dissent, and compromise are democracy's underlying strength. This may be the most difficult step for those of you who had completely surrendered to the dark side of conservatism and have labeled dissenters as unpatriotic. Admit that democracy actually requires dissent. You might want to read the words of our Founders to better understand what democracy is and what it isn't. Start with Jefferson.

Step 4: Understand that a living wage is vital to maintain a viable middle-class. A strong middle class is vital to democracy. To say that somebody who earns millions a year by sitting by the pool collecting dividend checks "works that much harder" than a middle-class wage earner is simple nonsense. Although morality tells us that people deserve a livable wage and fair taxes, reality tells us even more starkly that without everybody having access to a good job, and in a nation where dividend-earners pay only 15% in income tax, democracy is at risk.

Step 5: Support labor unions and stop chanting "cheap labor" as the tired old right-wing mantra."Cheap labor" is the core mantra of the conservatives, and ultimately harms democracy. If capital can organize in the form of a corporation, and corporations can organize as conglomerates, Chambers of Commerce, and trade and lobbying associations, then labor must have an equal and guaranteed-by-law right to organize. Strong unions are the only thing standing between you and serfdom at the hands of corporate masters, and without the unions of the past there would be no American middle class today. If you have difficulty with this step, spend a week with a family living below the poverty level because their manufacturing jobs were sent overseas for "cheap labor" and all that was left was a cashier's position at Wal-Mart. You'll be chanting "livable wage now!" in no time at all.

Step 6: Stop listening to TV and radio pundits who have "amnesia"
about the separation of church and state.Their intent is to convince everyone that church-state separation was never intended by our Founding Fathers and that the United States was started as a Christian nation. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robinson not only lie about our founding fathers, but also don't grasp the lessons of millennia of bloody battles between popes, mullahs, and kings. Look at the back of a dollar bill and see "novus ordo seclorum" - "a new secular order" - and realize that the US Government is a secular democracy, not a religious theocracy

Step 7: Stop pretending that you don't understand that government is "We, The People," and not some sort of "them.""Drowning government in a bathtub," as conservatives have recommended, may have been a good idea in the former Soviet Union, but the United States is a constitutional representative democratic republic where our government is, literally, us. It was designed to work for us, be owned by us, exists solely by virtue of our ongoing approval, and must answer to us. The shared commons of our nation - including our air, water, transportation routes, airwaves and cable networks, communication systems, military, police, prisons, fire services, health care infrastructure, and courts must, for democracy to work well, be held either by locally-controlled non-profit corporations or by a government responsive to its citizens, with corporations barred from the political process.

Step 8: Repent from your SUV and let's start taking care of the planet we all share.The natural world - including our water and air - is our most vital and essential commons, and therefore must be protected from those who would despoil it for short-term profit. When they poison the world, they degrade our quality of life and threaten our children's future. Begin now - by participating in our representative government - to take immediate steps to protect the commons we share with all other life on planet Earth.

Step 9: Stop listening to conservative talk radio.Understand that talk show hosts of the conservative ilk daily demonstrate that bullying, humiliation, and the "big lie" are at the core of conservative talk radio. Turn them off, and instead tune into one of the many liberal talk shows that are daily sprouting across America, and where democracy is still alive and well.

Step10: Help transform America back into an energy-independent nation.Building a civilization on liquefied fossils and then thinking it will last forever makes no sense. World oil reserves are enough to sustain us only into our children's lifetimes, and then will run out. Encourage your elected representatives to help create viable energy sources that are not dependent on fossil fuels, and, in the meantime, take immediate steps to reduce use of and preserve our precious stores before they're exhausted.

Step 11: Refrain from rewriting political history.Its now time to admit that George W. Bush and his administration have been lying to us about the war on terror, the invasion of Iraq, taking away our freedoms with The Patriot Act, and misleading the America people on issues from the environment to taxes to jobs. Know now that George W. Bush was selected not elected, and the election was stolen from Al Gore. You may now research beyond propaganda from right-wing think tanks and Faux News to understand things as they really exist in the world. Stay in touch with the many progressive news sites (like this one) and publications and encourage our mainstream media to stop being cowed by right-wing bullies and corporate paymasters.

Step 12: Be a visionary.Once you have completed the previous steps to freeing yourself from conservative talk radio, it's time for you to share this awakening with others who will benefit from your new enlightenment. Go out amongst the "ditto-head" sheep and spread the good word of your freedom from the chains of ignorance that once bound you. Congratulations, and welcome to reality! And keep tuning your radio to The Thom Hartmann Program.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Someone asked me recently, “How could you be a liberal”? As if Liberal is some sort of dirty word.

Aside from the obvious answer - I work for a living, I thought of a statement by JFK:

“If by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people - their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties - someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad; if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal."

But I think that it may be clearer to state why I am not a conservative. My beliefs can be summarized in four simple points.

1. I believe that the Economy is in place to serve the people– that people do not serve the economy. The pursuit of happiness requires a safe and secure populace. The economy is a collective which exists to lift up a people to a desired level of happiness. The economy provides the boot straps by which we the people pull ourselves up. Our current economy is designed to be served.

2. The Government’s relationship to the economy is one that facilitates a strong middle class. The government should do all that is in its power to protect the people from lasefair capitalism. The government should not be facilitating a free for all drop to the bottom (see NAFTA, GATT, WTO)

3. I believe that an employer does not simply give a person a job. It's not a one-sided relationship. An employer hires you to perform a function that makes money for the company or organization. The employer makes money from you! You are just as important to the employer as the employer is to you. A job is not a favor.

4. I believe that labor unions are a fundamental right of passage. Labor Unions bring Democracy to an otherwise feudal workplace .

These beliefs are NOT radical as some would say ; they are as American as apple pie.
So the real questions is: How can anyone who works for a living be a Conservative Republican?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Hugh Thompson, a vietnam war veteran and hero at My Lai, died this week. Trent Angers, Thompson's biographer and family friend, said Thompson died of cancer. Thompson is famous for his role in the My Lai Massacre.

Early in the morning of March 16, 1968, Thompson, door-gunner Lawrence Colburn and crew chief Glenn Andreotta came upon U.S. ground troops killing Vietnamese civilians in and around the village of My Lai. "These people were looking at me for help and there was no way I could turn my back on them," Thompson recalled in a 1998 Associated Press interview.
They landed the helicopter in the line of fire between American troops and fleeing Vietnamese civilians and pointed their own guns at the U.S. soldiers to prevent more killings. Colburn and Andreotta had provided cover for Thompson as he went forward to confront the leader of the U.S. forces. Thompson later coaxed civilians out of a bunker so they could be evacuated, and then landed his helicopter again to pick up a wounded child they transported to a hospital.

Their efforts led to the cease-fire order at My Lai. In 1998, the Army honored the three men with the prestigious Soldier's Medal, the highest award for bravery not involving conflict with an enemy. It was a posthumous award for Andreotta, who had been killed in battle three weeks after My Lai. It was the ability to do the right thing even at the risk of their personal safety that guided these soldiers to do what they did," Army Maj. Gen. Michael Ackerman said at the 1998 ceremony. The three "set the standard for all soldiers to follow."

Thompson was tormented by his role in the massacre - not only by the sheer brutality, but by the way that he was treated by his own countrymen. He was once told by a member of Congress that he should be the only one tried for the MY Lai Massacre.
Lt. William L. Calley, a platoon leader, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the killings, but served just three years under house arrest when then-President Nixon reduced his sentence. Calley was the only soldier convicted.
The My Lai Massacre represents an ugly chapter in American and US Army history. Lt. Calley is often considered a scapegoat and there has never been a serious investigation into the chain of command on that bloody day.
The caviat in this tragedy is that many were rescued from certain death. Thanks to Hugh Thompson and his colleagues there are hundreds of innocent people who survived the massacre. This makes Thompson is a hero on many levels. He was not afraid to strike against convention and follow his conscience as a result he is indirectly responsible for the survival of two generations - those at the massacre and the children who were born later. His actions serve as an example to all soldiers and citizens.

You can hear Hugh Thomson tell this story in his own words at the Democracy Now website.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

US Senator Gets Tongue Tied in India Over Offshoring

Seattle - Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) is the latest politician embroiled in controversy on the hot-button topic of outsourcing and offshoring of U.S. jobs and the impacts of corporate globalization.

Baucus’s office strongly disputed the AP story by saying that the Senator was misquoted. “The whole point of my trip is to try to get at the problem of outsourcing and keep and create jobs at home,” said the Senator in a written statement. It went on to say that, “Any job lost to outsourcing is too many, but we can’t kid ourselves or stick our heads in the sand.
Some jobs are going move around in the global marketplace. That’s a reality.”

The original article also reported that Baucus said, "But the world is flat and we must work harder to better retrain our people," rather than resist offshoring, he said. "Offshoring is a fact of globalization.
Opportunities for U.S. companies come from everywhere including India."

The “world is flat” comment could be a reference to the best-selling book “The World Is Flat” by Thomas Friedman, who is a New York Times columnist. The thrust of the book is similar to the pro-globalization view shared by many politicians in both parties.

Senator Baucus is one of the nation’s most powerful Democratic Senators. In his position as the ranking minority member on the Senate Finance Committee, he can influence U.S. tax and trade policy. His pro-labor activities have included voting against CAFTA and supporting the expansion of the Trade Act Adjustment Assistance for Service Sector Workers. He is a key Democratic swing voter on trade issues.

The problem with Senator Baucus’ beliefs about globalization is that it facilitates a fast paced race to the bottom. There are essentially two types of Globalization. One which allows people to enjoy aspects of cultures from around the world. I can’t think of anyone who would be opposed to Indian food or Russian Vodka. The other type of Globalization is a scheme which puts the American worker in direct competition with workers who make about one fifth of we make. This is also known as Neo-liberalism. Our governments have lifted the protections of its citizens in favor of protecting the Trans-National Corporations.

This type of Globalization is not competition on an equal basis; but is a slaughter of the American middle class.

What I don’t understand is why do politicians like Baucus want to push Americans out the door? Doesn’t he realize that the middle class carries the brunt of the tax burden? If we cannot pay our taxes, who will? Certainly not corporations. We, the Rabble, are completely unprotected – our livelihoods are in jeopardy while multinational corporations are sheilded by The World Trade Organization.

The solution to Neo-liberal Globalization is simple – we abandon the WTO and go back to the Tariff System that Adam Smith wrote of in The Wealth of Nations.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Published on Wednesday, June 4, 2003 by CommonDreams.org
Midnight Ride of the Rabble by Thom Hartmann

To every Middlesex village and farm, A cry of defiance, and not of fear, A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door, And a word that shall echo for evermore! For, borne on the night-wind of the Past, Through all our history, to the last, In the hour of darkness and peril and need, The people will waken and listen to hear.-- From Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1863

Emerson told us, in his lecture Angloam, that in America "the old contest of feudalism and democracy renews itself here on a new battlefield." Perhaps seeing our day through a crack between the skeins of time and space, Emerson concluded, "It is wonderful, with how much rancor and premeditation at this moment the fight is prepared." Feudalism?

Let's be blunt. The real agenda of the new conservatives is nothing less than the destruction of democracy in the United States of America. And feudalism is one of their weapons. Their rallying cry is that government is the enemy, and thus must be "drowned in a bathtub." In that, they've mistaken our government for the former Soviet Union, or confused Ayn Rand's fictional and disintegrating America with the real thing. The government of the United States is us. It was designed to be a government of, by, and for We, the People. It's not an enemy to be destroyed; it's a means by which we administer and preserve the commons that we collectively own. Nonetheless, the new conservatives see our democratic government as the enemy. And if they plan to destroy democracy, they must have something in mind to replace it with. (Yes, I know that "democracy" and "democratic" sound too much like "Democrat," and so the Republicans want us to say that we don't live in a democracy, but, rather, a republic, which sounds more like "Republican."

It was one of Newt's efforts, along with replacing phrases like "Democratic Senator" with "Democrat Senator." But Republican political correctness can take a leap: we're talking here about the survival of democracy in our constitutional republic.) What conservatives are really arguing for is a return to the three historic forms of tyranny that the Founders and Framers identified, declared war against, and fought and died to keep out of our land. Those tyrants were kings, theocrats, and noble feudal lords. Kings would never again be allowed to govern America, the Founders said, so they stripped the president of the power to declare war. As Lincoln noted in an 1848 letter to William Herndon: "Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars, pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object. This, our [1787] Convention understood to be the most oppressive of all Kingly oppressions; and they resolved to so frame the Constitution that no one man should hold the power of bringing this oppression upon us." Theocrats would never again be allowed to govern America, as they had tried in the early Puritan communities. In 1784, when Patrick Henry proposed that the Virginia legislature use a sort of faith-based voucher system to pay for "Christian education," James Madison responded with ferocity, saying government support of church teachings "will be a dangerous abuse of power." He added, "The Rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment exceed the commission from which they derive their authority, and are Tyrants. The People who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves nor by an authority derived from them, and are slaves." And America was not conceived of as a feudal state, feudalism being broadly defined as "rule by the super-rich." Rather, our nation was created in large part in reaction against centuries of European feudalism.

As Ralph Waldo Emerson said in his lecture titled The Fortune of the Republic, delivered on December 1, 1863, "We began with freedom. America was opened after the feudal mischief was spent. No inquisitions here, no kings, no nobles, no dominant church." The great and revolutionary ideal of America is that a government can exist while drawing its authority, power, and ongoing legitimacy from a single source: "The consent of the governed." Conservatives, however, would change all that. In their brave new world, corporations are more suited to governance than are the unpredictable rabble called citizens. Corporations should control politics, control the commons, control health care, control our airwaves, control the "free" market, and even control our schools. Although corporations can't vote, these new conservatives claim they should have human rights, like privacy from government inspections of their political activity and the free speech right to lie to politicians and citizens in PR and advertising. Although corporations don't need to breathe fresh air or drink pure water, these new conservatives would hand over to them the power to self-regulate poisonous emissions into our air and water. While these new conservatives claim corporations should have the rights of persons, they don't mind if corporations use hostile financial force to take over other, smaller corporations in a bizarre form of corporate slavery called monopoly.

Corporations can't die, so aren't subject to inheritance taxes or probate. They can't be put in prison, so even when they cause death they are only subject to fines. Corporations and their CEOs are America's new feudal lords, and the new conservatives are their obliging servants and mouthpieces. The conservative mantra is: "Less government!" But the dirty little secret of the new conservatives is that just as nature abhors a vacuum, so also do politics and power. Every time government of, by, and for We, the People is pushed out of administering some part of this nation's vast commons, corporations step in. And by swamping the United States of America in debt with so-called "tax cuts," they seek to force an increasingly desperate government to cede more and more of our commons to their corporate rule. Conservatives confuse efficiency and cost: They suggest that big corporations can perform public services at a lower total cost than government, while ignoring the corporate need to pad the bill with dividends to stockholders, rich CEO salaries, corporate jets and headquarters, advertising, millions in "campaign contributions," and cash set-asides for growth and expansion. They want to frame this as the solution of the "free market," and talk about entrepreneurs and small businesses filling up the holes left when government lets go of public property.

But these are straw man arguments: What they are really advocating is corporate rule, and ultimately a feudal state controlled exclusively by the largest of the corporations. Smaller corporations, like individual humans and the governments they once hoped would protect them from powerful feudal forces, can watch but they can't play. The modern-day conservative movement began with Federalists Alexander Hamilton and John Adams, who argued that for a society to be stable it must have a governing elite, and this elite must be separate both in power and privilege from what Adams referred to as "the rabble." Their Federalist party imploded in the early 19th Century, in large part because of public revulsion over Federalist elitism, a symptom of which was Adams' signing the Alien and Sedition Acts. (If you've only read the Republican biographies of John Adams, you probably don't remember these laws, even though they were the biggest thing to have happened in Adams' entire four years in office, and the reason why the citizens of America voted him out of office, and voted Jefferson - who loudly and publicly opposed the Acts - in. They were a 1797 version of the Patriot Act and Patriot II, with startlingly similar language.) Destroyed by their embrace of this early form of despotism, the Federalists were replaced first in the early 1800s by the short-lived Whigs and then, starting with Lincoln, by the modern-day Republicans, who, after Lincoln's death, firmly staked out their ancestral Federalist position as the party of wealthy corporate and private interests. And now, under the disguise of the word "conservative" (classical conservatives like Teddy Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower are rolling in their graves), these old-time feudalists have nearly completed their takeover of our great nation. It became obvious with the transformation of healthcare into a for-profit industry, leading to spiraling costs (and millions of dollars for Bill Frist and his ilk). Insurance became necessary for survival, and people were worried. Bill Clinton was prepared to answer the concern of the majority of Americans who supported national health care. But that would harm corporate profits. "Do you want government bureaucrats deciding which doctor you can see?" asked the conservatives, over and over again. As a yes/no question, the answer was pretty simple for most Americans: no. But, as is so often the case when conservatives try to influence public opinion, the true issue wasn't honestly stated.

The real question was: "Do you want government bureaucrats - who are answerable to elected officials and thus subject to the will of 'We, The People' - making decisions about your healthcare, or would you rather have corporate bureaucrats - who are answerable only to their CEOs and work in a profit-driven environment - making decisions about your healthcare?" For every $100 that passes through the hands of the government-administered Medicare programs, between $2 and $3 is spent on administration, leaving $97 to $98 to pay for medical services and drugs. But of every $100 that flows through corporate insurance programs and HMOs, $10 to $24 sticks to corporate fingers along the way. After all, Medicare doesn't have lavish corporate headquarters, corporate jets, or pay expensive lobbying firms in Washington to work on its behalf. It doesn't "donate" millions to politicians and their parties. It doesn't pay profits in the form of dividends to its shareholders. And it doesn't compensate its top executive with over a million dollars a year, as do each of the largest of the American insurance companies. Medicare has one primary mandate: serve the public. Private corporations also have one primary mandate: generate profit. When Jeb Bush cut a deal with Enron to privatize the Everglades, it diminished the power of the Florida government to protect a natural resource and enhanced the power and profitability of Enron. Similarly, when politicians argue for harsher sentencing guidelines and also advocate more corporate-owned prisons, they're enhancing the power and profits of one of America's fastest-growing and most profitable remaining domestic industries: incarceration. But having government protect the quality of the nation's air and water by mandating pollution controls doesn't enhance corporate profits. Neither does single-payer health-care, which threatens insurance companies with redundancy, or requirements for local control of broadcast media. In these and other regards, however, the government still holds the keys to the riches of the commons held in trust for us all. Riches the corporations want to convert into profits. For example, an NPR Morning Edition report by Rick Carr on 28 May 2003 said, "Current FCC Chair Michael Powell says he has faith the market will provide. What's more, he says, he'd rather have the market decide than government." In this, Powell was reciting the conservative mantra.

Misconstruing Adam Smith, who warned about the dangers of the invisible hand of the marketplace trampling the rights and needs of the people, Powell suggests that business always knows best. The market will decide. Bigger isn't badder. But experience shows that the very competition that conservatives claim to embrace is destroyed by the unrestrained growth of corporate interests. It's called monopoly: Big fish eat little fish, over and over, until there are no little fish left. Look at the thoroughfares of any American city and ask yourself how many of the businesses there are locally owned. Instead of cash circulating within a local and competitive economy, at midnight every night a button is pushed and the local money is vacuumed away to Little Rock or Chicago or New York. This is feudalism in its most raw and naked form, just as the kings and nobles of old sucked dry the resources of the people they claimed to own. It is in these arguments for unrestrained corporatism that we see the naked face of Hamilton's Federalists in the modern conservative movement. It's the face of wealth and privilege, of what Jefferson called a "pseudo-aristocracy," that works to its own enrichment and gain regardless of the harm done to the nation, the commons, or the "We, the People" rabble. It is, in its most complete form, the face that would "drown government in a bathtub"; that sneers at the First Amendment by putting up "free speech zones" for protesters; that openly and harshly suggests that those who are poor, unemployed, or underemployed are suffering from character defects. That works hard to protect the corporate interest, but is happy to ignore the public interest. That says it doesn't matter what happens to the humans living in what a national conservative talk show host laughingly calls "turd world nations."

These new conservatives would have us trade in our democracy for a corporatocracy, a form of feudal government most recently reinvented by Benito Mussolini when he recommended a "merger of business and state interests" as a way of creating a government that would be invincibly strong. Mussolini called it fascism. In a previous Common Dreams op-ed, I pointed out how media and other corporations will suck up to government when they think they can get regulations that will enhance their profits. We see this daily in the halls of Congress and in the lobbying efforts directed at our regulatory agencies. We see it in the millions of dollars in trips and gifts given to FCC commissioners, that in another era would have been called bribes. These corporate-embracing conservatives are not working for what's best for democracy, for America, or for the interests of "We, The People." They are explicitly interested in a singular goal: Profits and the power to maintain them. Under control, the desire for profit can be a useful thing, as 200 years of American free enterprise have shown. But unrestrained, as George Soros warns us so eloquently, it will create monopoly and destroy democracy. The new conservatives are systematically dismantling our governmental systems of checks and balances; of considering the public good when regulating private corporate behavior; of protecting those individuals, small businesses, and local communities who are unable to protect themselves from giant corporate predators.

They want to replace government of, by, and for We, the People, with a corporate feudal state, turning America's citizens into their vassals and serfs. Only a public revolt in disgust over this unconscionable behavior will stop these new conservatives from turning America into a corporate-based clone of Mussolini's feudal vision. As Longfellow reminds us, "In the hour of darkness and peril and need/The people will waken and listen to hear.."

Here is a book that every American should read:

Unequal Protection: The rise of corporate dominance and theft of human rights
a new book by Thom Hartmann

In Unequal Protection, author Thom Hartmann tells a compelling, can't-put-it-down story that tracks the history of the loss of democracy in America.
It starts with the birth of the modern corporation with the founding of the East India Company in 1600, through the Boston Tea Party revolt against transnational corporate domination of the early American economy, the rise of corporations during the Civil War, the ultimate theft of human rights before the Supreme Court in 1886, and into the modern-day theft of human rights in the US and worldwide by corporate interests and the politicians they own.
Because of a mistaken interpretation of a Supreme Court reporter's notes in an 1886 railroad tax case, corporations are now legally considered "persons," equal to humans and entitled to many of the same protections guaranteed only to humans by the Bill of Rights - a clear contradiction of the intent of the Founders of the United States. The results of this "corporate personhood" have been:

Unequal taxes
Unequal privacy
Unequal wealth
Unequal trade
Unequal media
Unequal regulation
Unequal responsibility for crime
Unequal protection from risk
Unequal citizenship and access to the commons

Friday, January 06, 2006

$55 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest 1% this year could be spent on the people of Florida instead. If that money were used to support state and local programs, the residents of Florida could have $2.5 billion, which could provide:

1. 534,389 People Receiving Health Care or

45,797 Elementary School Teachers or

3. 332,642 Head Start Places for Children or

1,982,218 Children Receiving Health Care or

5. 26,905 Affordable Housing Units or

6. 408 New Elementary Schools or

890,786 Scholarships for University Students or

43,060 Music and Arts Teachers or

59,194 Public Safety Officers or

3,170,584 Homes with Renewable Electricity or

11. 44,536 Port Container Inspectors

$89 billion in tax cuts for the wealthiest 5% this year could be spent on the people of Florida instead. If that money were used to support state and local programs, the residents of Florida could have $4.0 billion, which could provide:

1. 855,891 - People Receiving Health Care or

2. 73,350 - Elementary School Teachers or

3. 3,174,772 - Children Receiving Health Care or

4. 43,092 - Affordable Housing Units or

5. 1,426,706 - Scholarships for University Students or

6. 5,078,090 - Homes With Renewable Electricity or

7. 654 - New Elementary Schools

Thursday, January 05, 2006

What’s wrong with Judge Samuel Alito?

There are many ways to answer this question. Judge Alito, the man they call "Scalito", has a political likeness to Antonin Scalia. He is a corporatist who some say is more concerned with conservative ideology rather than truth. He has consistently ruled against the individual in favor of the corporation and seems to be against a woman’s right to choose. US News and World Report has called him “"an activist conservatist judge” . He’s an ideologue who favors corporations over individuals.

Corporations are essentially feudal systems that stifle democracy and dominate the political arena.

The question beckons: Do we really want a conservative supreme court?

We’ve already been down that road.

In 1916 Congress made its first effort to control child labor by passing the Keating-Owen Act. Prior to Keating-Owen there were coutless abuses towards children in the work place.
In 1918 the Supreme Court ruled that the Keating-Owen Act was unconstitutional. The 1918 court was a conservative court.

The Recovery Act provided for the establishment of maximum hours, minimum wages, and the right to collective bargaining. It was struck down by the Supreme Court in May 1935; the Recovery Act was soon replaced by the Wagner Act which assured workers the right to unionize. The Wagner Act had to be passed by an overwhelming congressional majority. The 1935 court was a conservative court.

The judge's reputation over the last 15 years was such that corporate lawyers relished the prospect of his participation in cases, while plaintiff's lawyers hoped to avoid him.

"We're always happy to see Judge Alito on the panel," said Robert C. Heim, the head of the litigation department at Dechert, a large law firm based in Philadelphia that represents some of the nation's largest corporations, typically facing accusations of antitrust, securities or corporate law violations. "He's generally a good judge for the cases we argue because we generally argue that the state of law does not favor the case that the plaintiffs are making and he's generally very receptive to that. He doesn't give an expansive reading to antitrust laws or securities laws."

Officials at the National Association of Manufacturers and the United States Chamber of Commerce said that as they combed through his record, they had been favorably impressed with what they had learned.

"He has come down on a host of issues in a way that the business community would prefer," said Robin Conrad, senior vice president of the National Chamber Litigation Center, the legal arm of the United States Chamber of Commerce, who has been researching Judge Alito's opinions. "This is not a guy who is going to go off the reservation."

Judge Samuel Alito has consistantly shown favortism toward the corporate ruling class. He is not a "man of the people". Thanks to activists like Mary Harris “Mother”Jones we have laws that protect us in the work place, including protections for women and children. But these accomplishments did not come with out a heafty price. In my opinion Judge Alito would overturn many of these laws if agued before him. His presense on the court would throw off the fragile balance and potentially reverse the clock to a more draconian time.

It is important to remember that "we the Rabble" can lose the rights that we have in a moment. Democracy is not handed down to each generation; it is earned by each generation. We must step up and reclaim our democracy now, or lose it forever.

Act Now

Amusing Quote:

"President Bush was asked how he came up with a conservative like Alito, and he said he got the idea over the weekend while turning the clocks back." --Jay Leno

Is Jack Gonna Sing?

The K Street Hustler has fallen and many think that he's gonna sing.

Jack Abramoff, aka "Casino Jack" has pleaded guilty to three felony counts of conspiracy, mail fraud and tax evasion. And as expected, many in Washington are distancing themselves from the former Bush "Pioneer" (raised more than $100,000 for G Bush in 2000).

"I wish it hadn't happened because it's not going to help us keep our majority," said Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Ohio.

Our representatives in DC have been caught with their greedy fingers in the cookie jar - brace for impact!
So far three dozen lawmakers, mostly Republicans, plan to return campaign contributions that came from Abramoff's web of deception. And deep is the web indeed, the politicians announcing a return of Abramoff funds range from the White House to Senator Hillary Clinton.

Some are saying that this could be the biggest scandal to hit Washington in 50 years. Some are also saying that this potential quagmire will harm our Democracy.
Personally, I think that “we the Rabble” need to see just how corrupt our representatives in DC have become.
Left unchecked for decades, our so called "leaders" have run amuck and hopefully have run the money ship aground.

This scandal will show that we need true campaign finance reform, not just a prima-facie bill (McCain/Feingold) which doesn't get to the root of the problem. The underlying issue here is that Corporations and their lobbying shills have far too much power and influence.

If corporations are people too, and I argue that they are not, than they should not be allowed to give any more to a campaign than any single person. I believe that the current individual limit is $10,000.00 per campaign.

I will take this further and say that no entity should be allowed to contribute more than $1,000.00 to any Federal Campaign - Period!

It's time for strict reform! It's time to take our country back from the greed and corruption that currently fetors in Washington.

"Abramoff and other defendants also must repay over $25 million to defrauded clients and $1.7 million to the IRS" (Source) – This is just the beginning!

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Here are a couple of headlines for those who haven't had the time to study both economics and history:

1. There is no such thing as a "free market."
2. The "middle class" is the creation of government intervention in the marketplace, and won't exist without it (as millions of Americans and Europeans are discovering).
The conservative belief in "free markets" is a bit like the Catholic Church's insistence that the Earth was at the center of the Solar System in the Twelfth Century. It's widely believed by those in power, those who challenge it are branded heretics and ridiculed, and it is wrong

In actual fact, there is no such thing as a "free market." Markets are the creation of government.

Governments provide a stable currency to make markets possible. They provide a legal infrastructure and court systems to enforce the contracts that make markets possible. They provide educated workforces through public education, and those workers show up at their places of business after traveling on public roads, rails, or airways provided by government. Businesses that use the "free market" are protected by police and fire departments provided by government, and send their communications - from phone to fax to internet - over lines that follow public rights-of-way maintained and protected by government

The conservative mantra is "let the market decide." But there is no market independent of government, so what they're really saying is, "Stop corporations from defending workers and building a middle class, and let the corporations decide how much to pay for labor and how to trade." This is, at best, destructive to national and international economies, and, at worst, destructive to democracy itself

Markets are a creation of government, just as corporations exist only by authorization of government.

The middle class is a new invention of liberal democracies, the direct result of governments defining the rules of the game of business. It is, quite simply, an artifact of government regulation of markets and tax laws.

But, conservatives say, government is the problem, not the solution.

Most of the Founders advocated - and all ultimately passed - tariffs to protect domestic industries and workers. Seventy years later, Abraham Lincoln actively stood up for the right for labor to organize, intervening in several strikes to stop corporations and local governments from using hired goon squads to beat and murder strikers

But conservative economics - the return of ancient feudalism - rose up after Lincoln's death and reigned through the Gilded Age, creating both great wealth and a huge population of what today we call the "working poor."

But now the conservatives are back in the driver's seat, and heading us back toward feudalism and serfdom (and possibly another Great Depression).

Only a return to liberal economic policies - a return to We The People again setting and enforcing the rules of the game of business - will reverse this dangerous trend. We've done it before, with tariffs, anti-trust legislation, and worker protections ranging from enforcing the rights of organized labor to restricting American companies' access to cheap foreign labor through visas and tariffs.
The result was the production of something never before seen in history: a strong and vibrant middle class.

Monday, January 02, 2006

As if life in West Virginia is not difficult enough:

Thirteen coal miners are trapped following an explosion in a mine shaft in the US state of West Virginia.

The blast happened about one mile (1.6km) underground at the Sago Mine in Buckhannon shortly after 0800 (1300 GMT), local officials said.
Rescuers who moved in to try to pull the miners to safety were forced to abandon their effort after finding no way to reach the group.
Six other men were reported to have escaped from the mine unharmed.
A senior emergency management official in Upshur County, West Virginia, said that immediate rescue efforts had "hit a wall".
Specialist mine rescue workers were being scrambled and sent to the scene of the blast.
Terry Farley, of the state Office of Miners' Health Safety and Training, told the Associated Press news agency that there was no immediate explanation for the blast.
The Sago Mine is located in north-western Virginia, some about 100 miles (160km) away from the state capital, Charleston.

Father Time


I suppose that I should post something with regard to a New Year's Resolution, so here goes.

1. I resolve to live my life to the fullest each day

Sounds trite, I know, but it really works.

I don’t really believe in making a resolution on one day durring the year.
I find that in order to make a real effectual change in my life it be must acheived one day at a time, each day of the year.
The FISA Court (Foreign Intelegendce Servaliance Act) establishes the authority for a president to spy on anyone suspected of, well, anything deemed harmful to national security.

The point of the court is to provide a paper trail for Congress to examine in the event of possible abuses of power. The court rarely turns down a request from the executive office.

The natural question beckons: What is the president hiding? Why wouldn’t he make his requests through the very secret, very accommodating FISA court?

Bush calls domestic spy program 'limited'
By DEB RIECHMANN Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- President Bush is standing firmly behind his domestic spying program, saying his decision to let the intelligence community listen in on phone calls Americans have with suspected terrorists is lawful and does not result in widespread domestic eavesdropping.
Bush, whose decision is facing congressional hearings on the surveillance, said Sunday that the program, run by the ultra-secret National Security Agency, is limited. He left little doubt that he intends to vigorously argue that he acted within the law.
"The NSA program is one that listens to a few numbers," the president told reporters after visiting with 51 wounded troops and their families at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas.
"In other words, the enemy is calling somebody and we want to know who they're calling and why," he said before returning to Washington.

We the Rabble must call on Congress to investigate this apparent abuse of power, otherwise, why have a constitution?