Saturday, November 19, 2011

Our "Continental Divide"

"Eventually, one side or the other of that divide will get the kind of popular mandate it needs to resolve our long-run budget issues. Until then, attempts to strike a Grand Bargain are fundamentally destructive. If the supercommittee fails, as expected, it will be time to celebrate."

That mandate will come in the form of either a vote to "throw the bums out until we get ones in there who will truly represent the people's interests," or in a vote to for the same ones we have now... those who are not the least bit interested in what the people want... or what is good for the country long term... their only interest is in what benefits those 9 families and the corporations they represent because it will line their own pockets right now. "Legacy, what legacy; we don't need no stinkin' legacy!"

In 2012, we have the opportunity to toss out every one of the members of the House of Representatives and as many as 1/3 of our Senators who do not represent the people they were elected to serve. They have all committed the same crime against the people of the United States; selling out to the corporate interests that have put the American people in the worst economic disaster in 80 years. In 2014, we have the chance to toss out that new batch of representatives if they show themselves to be as recalcitrant as their predecessors, or prove to be minions of that corporate elite. We can boot out the next 1/3 of the Senate if they haven't gotten the message by then. In 2016, if the members of the House still don't get it, we do it again. If Senators also prove to be slow learners, we get rid of that last 1/3. In doing this, we send the following message to our elected officials, "Do not get comfortable there. You are replaceable. We will hold you accountable for any dichotomy between what you say and what you do. We will find out if you are accepting money from any NON-HUMAN entities.....  and we will make you pay for that by booting you out of office, even if we have to get a new set of guys in there every time." We have learned now that "the price of freedom is being ever vigilant. We will not let you get away with this stuff again."

The problem with the "supercommittee" isn't so much with its individual members... although it is always possible that those chosen may not "play well with others," and we are just now finding that out. The problem is that there is such an ideological divide between the two parties, and they have been dehumanizing each other for so long; they can no longer engage in productive discourse. Once you have crossed the line from believing that someone really is your colleague to saying it only because  it's "politically correct," to do so; once you stop viewing this person with different political views as an equal, you cannot, ever, in good faith, negotiate with them. This explains the current raft of Conservative Republican party members who will go through the process, only to renege on anything they said they were going to do. As long as this batch of Republicans believes that this batch of Democrats really aren't their true peers, there is no negotiating in good faith. You do not negotiate with people you do not feel are worthy of an agreement.  You do not negotiate with people you do not feel you'd have to honor an agreement with. This inability to see each other as equal partners in the business of governing is why we must give them all their eviction notices. If our leaders cannot get their "stuff" together enough to show us how to disagree with another's viewpoint without attacking their personhood, who will? Sometimes we learn, not from our leaders, but from those around us:

Even if this wasn't written by a "liberal," it is still well thought out and respectful of the other person's being as well as his right to have a differing opinion. We have changed the discourse over these last few years, changing it into something insidious, vitriolic, and evil. We call people "liberal," now and use it like it's the new "N" word, used to dismiss, disregard, denigrate, and demean in exactly the same way it has been used in the past. There is no acknowledging that Liberal is simply a differing political viewpoint. What's worse, of course, is to be called a socialist, or to believe that anything a socialistic government might do is a good thing, like provide access to health care.  That makes you Un-American, as if there aren't good ideas found in unlikely places.

Removing the mandate of the "fairness doctrine," from our media has made it virtually impossible to bring back civility to the discourse. How to handle differences of opinion cannot be taught when differing opinions are squelched by virtue of their absence from the public eye. They certainly cannot be taught when they are physically squelched by police officers use of pepper spray on peaceful protesters. First Amendment rights get trampled on, and no one learns about the humanness of differing opinions.

Occupy Wall Street: To join or not to join, that is the question.

The Occupy Wall Street movement is now two months old and main stream media is still largely ignoring the protests except to diminish, demean, and say, “I told you so,” every time the police intervene and there is some outbreak of violence, regardless of the video evidence that the protesters are not the aggressors in these confrontations: 

Now that the movement has spread across the US and to most of the rest of the world, it seems to be a good time to discuss the OWS “agenda.” There are still many out there who will say the occupiers have none, but nothing could be further from the truth. The occupiers have an agenda, both individually and collectively. Theirs might not be a written manifesto... but they know why they are out there in force every day...and why more people are joining them day after day.

If written out,  the average person at an OWS site would have something like this to say: “I am here to have a chance at my life’s dreams, to revel in a life’s calling, to have a family in a world I believe has hope for more, and to feel that I had as good a chance at those things as the next guy.” These things are universal to all humankind, hardwired, so to speak, into the DNA of our collective souls. The people who have gathered at the OWS sites across the land are there every day because they believe that these things have been stolen from them by a system that was once good but is now corrupted by a very specific set of people and corporations. They believe that not only have their individual dreams and aspirations been stolen, but so have the dreams of 300 million other Americans, and our shared vision has been stolen as well.

They also believe that those people and corporations responsible for this grand thievery should be held accountable. It has been 3 years since this country sunk into the worst economic disaster in over 80 years, and not one of the people or business entities responsible for this grand thievery has been held accountable.  Not one person or corporation has been charged. Not one person or corporation has been arrested (and if “corporations are people too,” as Mitt Romney said, they can be arrested) Not one person or corporation has been fined or been sent to jail. Not one person or corporation has been made to pay back the 30 TRILLION dollars they stole. In fact these companies have been bailed out because they were deemed “too big to fail,” and apparently the officers of these companies have been deemed “too big to jail.”

It’s one thing to sink your money into a scam artist’s junk bonds and lose your money because you didn’t do your homework. It’s quite another for 2 generations to have their pension and retirement funds raided because the people doing the homework were lied to on all sides. When these people asked for the information necessary to make the informed decisions, they were provided with false information, cooked books, and recommendations from the representatives of the brokerages to buy things that they knew to be worthless. Their own internal memos and other correspondence show they deliberately provided false information! We all know there is risk involved in the investment world, but in order to truly evaluate risk, one has to be able to trust that the information they receive from the stockbroker regarding a particular investment is truthful and correct. When that information is not, especially when it can be shown that the broker involved or the firm he was employed by,deliberately provided false information; that’s not risk; that’s fraud and should be prosecuted as such!

(excuse the language, but this Irish guy has got the right of it)

We have many in government who have said that it isn’t in the country’s best interest to try to prosecute these people, saying that it won’t help get the money back, or get us back on the road to recovery, or whatever other nonsensical thing they might want to say.  The truth is, any government official who is not actively seeking to have those responsible for this sent to jail for a long time, does not represent the best interests of the constituents he was elected to serve. The information is available for all to see just what NON-HUMAN interests these government officials really do serve. At least it used to be. In the world before Citizens United. It used to be easy to “follow the money,” well, maybe not easy; but certainly not impossible, like it is now. The best we can do now is look back on the records for the 10 year period just prior to Citizens United and see which individuals, business groups, and corporations, reported contributions to political parties, candidates, or issues.

This guy is right about one thing: we should be BOYCOTTING: 1) the goods and services of any company or corporation that moved jobs overseas to take advantage of the slave labor market available to them in countries like China, Malaysia, the Philippines, or other countries where working conditions make the Shirtwaist Factory ( ) look like a child’s playground; 2) any corporation that paid ZERO taxes over the last several years; 3) any corporation that has ties to ALEC, The Heritage Foundation, Americans For Prosperity, C Street, The Chamber of Commerce (the national one that represents the large corporations, not your local one that has mostly small businesses/sole proprietors as members) or Citizens Untied; 4) the corporations that have paid the most in campaign contributions to either individual candidates or the major parties in the last 10 years they had to report those contributions,1999-2010, before the Supreme Court ruled in the Citizens United case and said corporations were people and money was free speech.

If you have been wondering if the folks at OWS represent you, whether they are looking out for your interests. If you need a reason to join a site near you or at least be supportive of those folks who are at a local site. If you need a reason to call upon your lawmakers to support OWS; here is a list of things that might help you make your decision.

1) The charts you will find at this website may help:  

2) The U.S. Census says the number of children living in poverty in the U.S. rose by 1 million last year. Nearly 1 in 3 children, 33% now live in households considered poor. At the same time the 400 richest people in America – our nation’s oligarchs – have never had it so good, they control more wealth than 150 million Americans. 400 people with more wealth than 150 million.

3) There are corporations who have a vested interest in making sure a greater percentage of our population is permanently taken out of  mainstream society and placed in a pool for slave labor.

4) They are very worried about the long term effect that OWS will have. They will do everything they can to make OWS look bad. They will use every means possible, both fair and unfair to trip OWS up. The corporate aristocracy is fighting for its very life, and they will defend it to the death...

5) They even have influence over what our children eat. The more garbage they can get our children accustomed to, addicted to, the more profits they make when these children will only eat at their establishments.

6) Our middle class is suffering beyond belief. The internal security of this country rests on its strong middle class. Without it, we’re sunk.

7) They can’t even be honest with us about everyone they have bailed out. These private citizens can get bailed out, but our homeowners are told to “let the foreclosure process proceed.”

8) We have 9 families, a total of 400 people who want to be the aristocracy in this country... and long for a return to "the good old days," of serfdom and slavery.... The attack on the middle class, and the unions that made a middle class possible, makes perfect sense... OWS is just what the doctor ordered... It won't be easy, and it will take a while, but they will be successful. They are on the right side of history, and we know the road to justice is long. The 400 have been planning for a very long time, and have got some very effective systems in place....the Patriot Act and the  Citizens United decisions were a real coup for them... but, then again, they knew the make up of the Supreme Court was ripe for that decision... After all, they had bought those people a long time ago...

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Herman Cain: “Performance Art Project;” Serious Candidate for President; Author, gathering material for his next book; or Motivational Speaker Seeking to Increase his Value on the Lecture Circuit? You decide.

The concept of Herman Cain is an interesting one. If we accept the premise that he may earn the Republican nomination and run against President Obama next year, there are certainly some hard questions that we need to ask: Do we want an individual with absolutely no government experience in the highest office in the land? Really?  Even in our current state of disillusionment? Do we want someone who has the potential character issues that the revelations of the last few weeks have potentially uncovered?

I am not sure we want to turn the reins of the US over to someone so woefully unqualified for the job. I know we totally distrust the current set of folks in various elected offices, and they have the lowest approval ratings they have ever had. Whether we “throw all the bums out,” next November will remain to be seen. I have to remain hopeful that we do not turn that distrust into a collectively stupid decision to throw in a rookie when a seasoned quarterback is required. I have to think the American voting populace is smarter, that we realize that the person we place in that office will have to have at least some knowledge of how government works, and have some experience working with some of the players already in the game. Even the last president we elected who had not served in other elected office, Dwight D Eisenhower, had worked in some capacity with the people in Washington before, so we weren’t sending in a total rookie. He was new to that team, but he had played the game before. Herman Cain has not.  It is interesting to note that Eisenhower was courted by both the Democrats and the Republicans to be their candidate. He chose the Republicans because his experience had shown him that they were the party with stronger support of the military. By the end of his presidency, he had changed his mind, giving his famous address on the dangers of the "military industrial complex." In fact, we get that turn of phrase from that very address. President Eisenhower would barely recognize the Republican party today since it has very little resemblance to the Republican party he joined.

Questions of character plague Cain, even if his inexperience in government does not. There are questions regarding possible abuses of power in past positions. Statements he makes now show that some of those questions may be valid ones. The current statements from his campaign, “go ahead, come forward to accuse me of sexual harassment and make my day,” show that it is within Cain’s character to be heavy handed and threatening. His consistent use of disparaging terms to refer to women  in highly regarded positions, specifically using the term “Princess Pelosi,” on more than one occasion to refer to current House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi; exposes that it is well within his character to have a disrespectful view of women in general, and specifically of women in the workplace. This lends credibility to the sexual harassment allegations made in recent weeks. 

A person who claims that none of these things are true does not use these terms; that person uses the standard terms of respect, even if he does not like the current (or former) officeholder. Bob Schieffer in his recent interview with Newt Gingrich showed the appropriate decorum and addressed Mr Gingrich using, “Mr Speaker,” even though it has been more than 12 years since Mr Gingrich has held that position, and in fact, left the position due to scandal. Mr Cain should have done the same when referring to Rep Pelosi, and either addressed her as “former Speaker Pelosi,” or “Speaker Pelosi.” Regardless of how he feels about Ms Pelosi’s politics; she earned that position, and is deserving of the same respect for having earned it as any previous Speaker of the House.

Even if we decide that Mr Cain is acceptable, despite the previously discussed issues; we still have to address Mr Cain’s affiliations with the TEA Party, the Koch Brothers, The Heritage Foundation, Americans For Prosperity, and any other political organizations as we discover them.  Mr Cain’s employment with Americans For Prosperity is of greatest concern. If we are going to “throw the bums out,” we desperately need to replace them with people who are not beholden to the same lobby groups that current members of Congress are, including those who claim TEA party status.

Using this standard, Herman Cain does not qualify. He is cut from the same cloth as those we are dissatisfied with. He himself said that he “was a Koch brother from another mother and proud of it,” that statement didn't come from a political opponent. We need to take him at his word; that he will bring the Koch brothers’ agenda with him to the office of the president. We have seen that agenda: union busting, dismantling of any regulations that provide for the safety of workers, consumers, or the general public, total disregard for the health and well being of future generations; a set of political goals contrary to desires of the vast majority of Americans, and we do not agree with it. The results of the 2011 elections, recalling and repealing those actions taken by the elected officials who were bought and paid for by the Koch brothers or affiliated Political Action Committees proves that.

We have a moral and ethical standard as a people that calls for us to be thankful for those who sacrificed so that we may live so well, and a basic understanding that the only payment owed to them is to “pay it forward,” onto the next generation and beyond.  We fell asleep on that job, and let the Koch brothers and other like minded individuals steal the narrative. We allowed them: the Koch brothers, the Heritage Foundation, Americans for Prosperity, Focus on the Family, Tom Lycus, Rush Limbaugh, the whole of the Fox contributors ... unchecked and unchallenged.... to spew their venom of despair to such a degree that our young people believe what they have heard consistently for the last 30 years.  That they will be the first generation that will not have a life better than their parents', that we have let them down, abandoned them, made like “Billy Joe and Bobby Sue:” and left them out in the cold without a future. Let’s show the Koch brothers, others of their ilk and our young people that they are all wrong. That we see Herman Cain and others of his ilk for what they are: Koch brothers puppets, representatives of the top 400, and not the “anti-Washington answer,” that we are looking for.  There is hope and prosperity in our future.

All it takes for evil to flourish is for good men to do nothing.

As Buzz Bissinger said in his opinion piece, the child sexual abuse scandal at Penn State is a prime example of “Buck passing and unconscionable cowardice.”

Joe Paterno, coach there for 46 years has been fired. The president of the university has been fired, and the unfortunate witness to the sexual abuse, McQueary, may also ultimately be fired as well. The perpetrator, Sandusky, has long since retired, and sits comfortably in his home collecting his undeserved pension instead of serving out a prison sentence. The investigator of the 1998 incident that caused the university to ask him to retire in 1999, has “disappeared.” Even after Sandusky was asked to retire, university officials, well aware that the incident in question was not the only one he may have been involved in; continued to allow him to have access to the same facilities where the previous incidents had taken place. Only after it became apparent that he wasn’t going to stop using university facilities for such purposes did they take his keys away.

This is deeper than the all powerful football program at a major university. It is more evil than the aberrant sexual appetite of Sandusky. This is much more pervasive than just that “buck passing,” the university officials engaged in to absolve themselves of guilt and responsibility to that child. Rather than do right by the victim and report the abuse to the proper authorities, simply tell the person at the next level up and forget about it. Don’t ask questions later; don’t ask whatever came of it, don’t ask if anyone ever found out if the kid was ok. As they say in New York, “just forget about it.” It’s more insidious than the minimizing of the victim with each pass of the baton up the chain of command. Unlike the game of “telephone,” where with each retelling of the story, the details become worse than the reality; in this tale, the brutal rape of a child morphs into “maybe he touched the kid inappropriately.” The reality is, even if the “maybe he touched the kid,” had been the true depth of the story, it was still wrong. It was still sexual abuse of a child and needed to be investigated by the proper authorities.  That lack of reporting it is a symptom of something deeper, darker, and more sinister that not one of the officials in question had the courage to do anything about.

That lack of courage is symptomatic of a much deeper issue which has infected every area of our social structure, every aspect of our society: men are simply not required to be responsible for their sexual behaviour; and other men will do everything in their power to keep it that way. From not reporting incidents such as these, to moving priests from parish to parish, irrespective of whether that behaviour falls within the accepted bounds of our cultural norms; men do not face the full weight of the consequences for the things they do sexually. From Joe Walsh, the Congressman, who doesn’t pay his child support, yet receives awards for his supposed preservation of family values to Mr Sandusky who was allowed to prey on young boys for what may turn out to have been his entire career at Penn State, and all manner of men in between; we refuse to force men to “step up.”

Until we do, women and children will continue to suffer. Any society that fails in its protection of women and children is doomed to fail.

Let's all go to Philadelphia for a Constitutional Convention!

The Citizens United vs Federal Election Commission decision by the Supreme Court will forever change our election process in such a way as to take any vestige of democracy out of it. When corporations or the mega-wealthy can buy up the narrative, and the media outlets are no longer bound by a “fairness doctrine,” any opposition voices will be very effectively drowned out. When an electorate cannot get full information on candidates or issues because all the air time is sucked up by the monied side, the term “informed voters” is an oxymoron. A Constitutional Convention, called to address this and other issues that Congress won’t deal with is necessary to save our democratic process.

We need to call for a Constitutional Convention, following the provision in Article 5 of the Constitution: 2/3 of the state legislatures call for one, and it meets in Philadelphia, where the original Constitutional Convention was held. In Article 5, the framers of the Constitution provided for the contingency of a recalcitrant, unresponsive Congress,  and left a door open for direct action on the part of the people. So, the energy from the "Occupy" movement can be turned toward state legislatures, demanding that they call for a Constitutional convention. Each "Occupy" can start the call in that state. In states "Occupy" hasn't yet reached, any number of political organizations can be contacted to take up the cause.

Here is a possible list of amendments to start with. Some of these ideas have been talked about before, and some are new ideas, with the issue of Citizens United being on the top of the list. Someone with Constitutional legal expertise will probably have to do the wordsmithing. There are 27 amendments now, so I started this list with #28:

28) Corporations are not people, and money is not Free Speech; therefore, corporations are not granted any of the rights specified in the Constitution itself, or any amendments thereto, including, but not limited to Freedom of Speech. Corporations can never be citizens.

29) Electoral College shall be eliminated, and election of the president shall be based on a simple majority of the votes cast.

30) Future amendments to the Constitution can be ratified by a direct vote of the people in each state via statewide special election with no other issues or candidates on the ballot, not the state legislatures. A simple majority of the voters would be all that is necessary. Number of states to ratify stays the same.

31) Separation of the Federal Reserve from the US Treasury, and the US Treasury becomes the only entity that can issue money, credit, or bank charters. No banks with foreign ownership will be chartered. No one who is not a US citizen can be a president, vice president, or a member of the BOD of a bank.

32) No one who is not a citizen can own land in the US, nor can corporations that are not headed by American citizens, and have a majority of American citizens on the BOD.

33) The lifetime appointment of Federal Court judges, including Supreme Court justices was intended to make them "immune" to the zeitgeist and be able to take the long view and vote in the long term best interest of the country. In practice, this has been spotty, but there has to be a way to make impeachment easier and to force any justice with conflicts of interest recuse himself from a particular vote. This is especially true when we have a Congress that will not start impeachment proceedings because they are owned by the same people who own the Supreme Court. There has to be a way to get a second process to get around such a Congress.

34) Revive the ERA.

35) No non citizen can contribute money to any candidate for elective office in any state, local, or federal election. US citizens will be limited to contributions not to exceed $100 per candidate or per issue, per election. (If the other amendment that addresses the issue of corporate personhood is enacted, this would apply to them as non citizens) This amendment would also prohibit foreign interests of any kind (businesses, corporations, governments, or people) from contributing to candidates for office in the US.

36) The Fairness Doctrine in media must be reinstated. Each media outlet must provide  balanced and fair reporting of all the candidates and issues in the area served by that media outlet.

The people of the state of Wisconsin had a law on their books in 1919 that said no corporation doing business in that state could by direct or indirect means contribute to a candidate, political party or organization for any reason, and if they did, the officers of that corporation went to jail, and the corporation was dissolved.... We should enact something similar on a nationwide scale.