The Tiny Pendulum

When we take a look at the new Republican Congress, we must remember how the Democrats were swept to power in 2006 and 2008.

Bush Jr and his red team had run up the score for the wealthiest few and by 2006 were within a few percentage points of having greater economic inequality in the United States than at any time since the eve of the Great Depression.  Most people were pissed. Because of our two party system, people lashed out against the team in control by either not voting for them, or voting for the other team.

It was a waste of energy, but effective in keeping the American people busy.  Now that things have continued to go poorly under Obama and a Democrat controlled Congress owned by the wealthiest few and serving corporate interests over those of the American people, the tiny pendulum has made it’s over-analyzed and oft dramatized move back to the other side of the tiny little coin which comprises, for many, the entirety of our political spectrum.

The Republicans will behave much as they did before, and as the Democrats have for the last several years.  They won’t regulate the banking industry, leaving our economy insecure and our people worse off than before.  They will give big tax breaks to billionaire corporations and the super-wealthy donors who bribe them through their campaign funds.  They will move to break the backs of regular Americans and American workers, just as the Democrats have for the last several years.  The only difference will be: The Republicans don’t lie about it as much.

It sounds kind of different, but it isn’t very different after all.

In four to six years, when the economy has collapsed again under the weight of trillions of dollars in student loan debt strong armed out of young college graduates who can’t get a job, or when the doctored unemployment numbers jump back up as more people who have given up on finding a job resume trying to reenter the workforce because of grotesque cuts to social welfare programs, the people will be angry again.  They will accuse the Republicans of giving away our tax dollars to the super wealthy and the billionaire corporations.

Voters who normally turn out for the Republicans will stay home, as pissed as the rest of us.  Voters who feel they are part of team Democrat will charge the voting booths.  The Democrats will ‘regain control.’

They will continue to pander to the wealthiest few while pretending that they care about regular, hard working Americans.  They will offer small consolation prizes to the American people to cover up the huge giveaways they bestow on the billionaire corporations and the super wealthy who have bribed them.

And all this time, both parties will be working relentlessly and together to expand the reach of the government, into the private home of every citizen, into the private life of every American.  They will have done hard work to crush any semblance of an independent spirit.

The tiny pendulum which moves only from one side of the coin to the other, will move back to Republican, then back to Democrat, then back to the Republican…

Before long our nation will have crumbled under the weight of what John Stewart calls “America’s most petty, most partisan, most argumentative assholes,” who are owned, outright, by a tiny corrupting minority of Americans.

We could change our fate, if only our people will stop cheering for the coin toss that has become our broken democracy.

Don’t be satisfied to call it in the air.

When You Voted In The Midterms You Were Too Late

My last post drew quite a few emails and tweets.  A moment of clarification is required.

My assessment of the recent mid-term election is this: It was much like a WWE match in which two very similar looking characters fight for the amusement of the crowd.  One of them dresses up like a bad guy, the other like a good guy but in the end they are in the same dressing room together and they get paid by the same people (not the American people, but those who bribe them with campaign money).

I warn that being drawn into this drama and rooting for one of these two corrupted characters or teams is dangerous.  I agree that rooting for teams can be fun and that we do it all the time in sports.  However, accessing this same pleasure in our political system has much larger implications and is helping to quicken the decay of our nation.

Most of the emails I received did not object to my logic.  People tend to agree with me that both the Republicans and the Democrats are bad.

Generally there was this question: If one of the teams is going to fight against teaching children science and has a racist bent and thinks all Americans are not equal and wants to use the government against women but not banks, why shouldn’t I vote for the Democrat in this November election?  What else am I supposed to do?

There are two parts to my answer:

  1. Don’t be fooled! Even though the Democrats make political hay by pretending to be for these causes, take a look at the economics.  As long as there are these emotional subjects hanging in the balance they can count on you to vote for them.  In addition, every time a Republican starts an anti-gay movement or claims that creationism should be taught in science class, wealthy liberals and powerful interest groups reach for their pocketbooks and increase their donations.  Should any of these important issues (abortion, gay rights, civil rights, immigration…) be decided clearly and permanently, the Democratic Corporation has lost a huge source of control and funding.  They want closure on gay rights and abortion about as much as the Republicans do – not at all.
  1. The real vote for this election wasn’t in November.  It took place during the primary. When you look at the California ballot and you see only Republicans and Democrats, that’s because back in June we had a vote in our open primary system and very few people voted.  Sure, CNN and MSNBC and FOX don’t cover the primary, and very few people were posting “I Voted!” on facebook.  But that was the important vote, that was the real vote.  In 2016: Vote in your primaries.  That’s your chance to vote for an independent progressive who doesn’t accept large campaign donations and will work on behalf of the American people.

Vote in your primaries people, especially in open primaries if you have them.  Vote in your primaries and then have real candidates in your races in 2016.

Vote independent.  Vote small money.  Vote campaign finance reform.

The Degradation Of The American

The United States seems to be falling from its golden era. During the revolution in physics in the 1920s, the largest and most prestigious and most revered universities were in Europe. American universities had almost no impact on the development of our new kind of physics.  After a few decades the U.S. produced several of its own education centers to compete on the global scale. However, as our attention turns away from the arts and the soul of man to a strict and formal consideration of humans as market players, man as merely an economic abstract to be commodified and compelled to buy and work, we lose our newly gained prestige.

The danger of market theory is that it may, by some chance, feed the stomach of man but it is incredibly unlikely to feed his soul. As our once civil nation falls further under the spell of the dangerous notion that man is a set of economic variables, and as this force of ignorance pushes for the increasingly unfettered ability of large market forces to control ever larger portions of our collective and cognitive arenas, we see the deterioration of man as homo sapien and the emergence of the disfigured and loathsome homo economicus. 

The rise of human as merely market player and the subsequent retaliation against her soul is a terrifying enslavement. While the nothingness of the hopes and striving which chase most people relentlessly through their professional careers can be offset by a flourishing family dynamic and taking soul refreshing solace in a rich personal life, the commodification of man as market player fuses our animal nature entirely to a set of abstract and absurd conditions and obliterates any chance for real happiness.

Until we, as Americans, can see ourselves as more than coordinates and dollar signs, until we can see even the poorest and the most downtrodden among us as pieces of the same soul, until we can see that we all have an equal share of our cognitive space regardless of handsomeness, fame, fortune, or breeding, we shall face the crippling isolation of narcissistic anxiety.

The Worst Thing About Obama and Bush Jr.

What all leaders must ask themselves when taking on new power is this: What will a person who has much worse intentions than I destroy with this power?

In the first case, it is important to ask this to understand the destructive nature of power, the tendency toward violence which occurs when you give one person domain over another.

In the second, we see what appears to be a natural trend downward in our leadership.  Each group of leaders in our nation, over the last four decades, seems to have worse intentions than the ones before them.

Thus a leader must understand the negative consequences of a power he or she would take and then assume that these negative consequences will become reality in the near future.

Any leader with good intentions will do more to limit his or her own power in all matters so as to save future generations from the abuse of scoundrels and psychopaths.

Unfortunately, when we examine the highest office of the United States we find our recent string of leaders to be lacking in this crucial element.  We have not seen an American President work to limit his own power in a very long time.  I would argue since Kennedy and Eisenhower.

Certainly Obama and Bush Jr are terrific examples of men who felt that their mandate to do work was more important than their mandate to keep the American people free from tyranny.

The greatest example of this muddleheaded thinking comes from Obama’s signing of NDAA 2012, a defense authorization bill that allows for indefinite detainment of US citizens on US soil, without trial or due process, if they are labeled terrorists by the government.  Obama claims to be doing this with best intentions.  Whether or not you believe him, he obviously does not concern himself with the intentions of those who come after him.

Whatever is said by his critics and supporters, in this most important matter, Obama has struck a mighty blow against the freedom of all Americans.

Corporations Make Terrible Neighbors

What exactly is a corporation?  This is a great question.  If you read through the recent pro-corporation rulings by the Supreme Court you will find, as Jeffrey D. Clements shows, that the Supreme Court Justices don’t ever actually say exactly what a corporation is.  The defense of corporate personhood is instead masked in metaphor.  “It is not corporations attacking our laws; it is ‘speakers’ and ‘advocates of ideas,’ ‘voices’ and ‘persons,’ and variations on what Justice John Paul Stevens called in his Citizen’s United dissent, ‘glittering generalities.’”

Corporate personhood is a dangerous concept, one which threatens the very foundations of our democracy.  As Eric Holder resigns from his post, one can only consider the additional impact of his now infamous memo which initiated the reign of ‘too big to fail.’  As Taibbi describes Holder: For years he would flip-flop from public defender to corporate lawyer, but in the end he stopped the flip-flop and has remained, until this day, a man that the corporations can depend on.

The current conditions are savage and dangerous.  Corporations have been given the same rights to free speech and privacy that citizens of this nation enjoy and at the same time they have been given immunity from prosecution for crimes they commit which citizens in our nation do not enjoy (except, perhaps, for a few of the Clinton/Bush/Obama friends and NFL football players).

The BP oil spill?  Nobody went to jail for that.

The financial collapse caused by investment banking’s risky and fraudulent behavior?  Nobody went to jail for that.

The recall of millions of cars due to a series of deaths caused by a known fault in the design?  Nobody went to jail for that.

While corporations are important economic tools they do have a tendency to “aggregate immense power, corrupt government, drive down wages, trash public resources, concentrate markets to squeeze out competitors, and more.” (Clements)

The astonishing accumulation of power and wealth by large multi-national corporations, their ceaseless attempts to disfigure our democracy in order to generate more profit, the amazing steps these vehicles take to avoid paying taxes or hiring American workers or even coming clean about the destruction they’ve created in their pursuit of profit are all fostering economic despair in our nation.

As long as a corporation has free speech AND cannot be put in jail we will see the disintegration of our basic economic structure continue.

Let’s Save the United States: A List of Priorities

Our country is headed in the wrong direction.  Let’s work on these things before it’s too late:

#1 – Corruption.  Our congress is more corrupt than it’s ever been, our legislators are owned, outright, by wealthy interests and our government is not working on behalf of the American people.

#2 – A government FOR the people.  Our government is largely AGAINST the people. Whether we are talking about a militarized police force attacking regular Americans or seeing the federal government attack and persecute whistle blowers, whether we are talking about our government failing to protect our citizens from criminal behavior of large corporations or the ignorance of our representatives as to the needs of the American people, there must no longer be a government against the people.  This starts with fighting against the high levels of corruption.

#3 – Social Justice.  When we have a government that works for the people, instead of against them, we can make progress toward the ideal of equal rights and freedoms for all persons, regardless of wealth, race, nationality, religious creed, gender identity or sexual orientation

#4 – The economy.  Jobs are down, the average American is taking home smaller and smaller pieces of our financial growth, the federal government is focused on shuffling money up from working families to the wealthy and super-wealthy, the dollar is weakening and the largest corporations are winning ever-bigger pieces of the pie.  We’ve got to return the function of the government to working on behalf of the people, rather than against them, in order to utilize our collective strength to create a future which is both integrated and sustainable. When capital flows back to the middle and lower income households we will see a tremendous improvement in our economic outlook.

#5 – The environment.  By environment I don’t mean to say the grass and the trees and the meadows and the mountains, though these are included.  What I mean is this: We must look for ways to produce less waste and burn less fuel.  Unfortunately our systems of power have been overtaken by powerful, amoral leaders. These leaders wield power through profit making machines called corporations, and the model of profit is generally the same: Competition and growth.  With 3.6billion people on earth, we need desperately to move away from our outdated, unbalanced competition and growth cycles to cycles that value integration and sustainability.

#6 – A new brand of politics.  While it is not certain that a third party will be the answer to our problems, it is certain that voting for Republicans and Democrats got us into this mess and continuing to vote for them is a vote for the status quo.  Regardless of where you stand, politically, vote independent.  Don’t waste your vote on more of the same.  Out with the Republicrats.

Without Campaign Finance Reform, Nothing Changes

Great article by Hamilton Nolan:

“Campaign finance reform is not a sexy issue. But the implications of campaign finance reform are fairness and opportunity themselves. We as a nation need to decide whether our political process will be for sale. Currently, politics is just another investment for businesses and moneyed interests. They give money to politicians to get elected. When those politicians get elected, they repay the loan with favorable legislation. Politics is one of the best investments that corporations can make. Even at a billion dollars per presidential election cycle, it’s a bargain”

Read it by clicking here. 

Happening This Week

First: Across the country the movement against corruption in politics is gaining steam.  In California, dozens of activists marched on the state capital to demand political leaders acknowledge that our system has been corrupted.  That same day the California Senate passed AJR-1, making California the second state to call for a constitutional convention to address the problem of money in politics. The group of marchers, who began their journey in Los Angeles, plans to stay in the capitol until their demands have been met.  So far the police have arrested more than a dozen members, mirroring state efforts in New York last month and North Carolina this week.  Meanwhile, more than 50,000 protesters gathered on Saturday in the middle of London only to be ignored by the BBC and other major press agencies.

Second: The World Cup.  When the United States isn’t playing I root for Uruguay.  Sure, they have a weird player who bites people (the Uruguay fans still love him) however Uruguay is the birthplace of one of my favorite writers, Eduardo Galeano, and boasts the so-called “World’s Poorest President,” Jose Mujica.  Though Mujica was a Marxist guerrilla at one time, I admire him as one of the very few who do not expect great wealth to come with increased power.  As president he refuses to live in the presidential mansion, gives most of his salary to charity and when called ‘the poorest president in the world,’ Mujica says he is not poor.  He says: “A poor person is not someone who has little but one who needs infinitely more, and more and more. I don’t live in poverty, I live in simplicity. There’s very little that I need to live.”  This sentiment echoes the anti-Fifa protests across Brazil which sometimes use the slogan “Your party in the stadiums aren’t worth the tears shed in the slums.”

Conclusion: It would be nice to live in a world where you can’t purchase democratically elected leaders because they see themselves as public servants and don’t want your money.  Short of this utopia: Join 99Rise and their efforts to reclaim our democracy here.

The Sneakiest Among Us

Reading The Divide by Matt Taibbi I’m reminded of a truth in this struggle that is often lost.  While our country succumbs to an oligarchy of the most sinister mediocrity we can remember, it is important to see that this isn’t a fight between poor people and rich people.  This is a fight between the vast majority of Americans, something like 99.95% of us, and a very small minority who work to corrupt and manipulate the government, the market, our future and our way of life for their own personal gain.

The folks who own the Republican and Democrat corporations, the individuals and groups that spend time buying up congresspeople and who have our presidents and judges in their pockets, these aren’t just wealthy people.  These are wealthy, corrupt, mean spirited people.

Whether you make $3,000 a year or $30,000 a year or $300,000 doesn’t tell the story.  The question is: How far do you go to subvert our democracy with whatever money you have?

Certainly it is the case that a person making very little money will have a hard time influencing politics with it (a low threshold for corruption is spending around $5,000/year) but that should not confuse us as to who is who in this battle for the future of our country.

Wealthy, poor, successful, defeated, whatever race or sex or orientation or religious background or belief system you come from there are only two questions: 1. Do you use large amounts of money to buy our politicians?  2. Are you a judge, congressperson or president who consistently favors that wealthy minority over the rest of our American people?

I can answer that I won’t sell our people down the river for power or profit.  I’m sure you aren’t looking to buy your way to sustained success or inordinate access to power (99.95% of the time anyway).  We are on the same team.  Time to throw off this fake democracy and build the functional governance we deserve.