Wednesday, November 30, 2005

It Paines Me

Ah, good morning you patriots!

That's right. You coffee sippin, WiFi'n, mass transit usin', liberally educated folk are patriots. So are the farmers. So are some Republicans, but they seem far and between these days. Which sounds quite partisan. The reason it does is because today, under the administration of Bush, our Constitution is being threatened like never before. Foundational freedoms are being attacked. I've posted before about the growing fascist trend. Even Mussolini said corporatism and fascism are synonymous. But as well the oxymoronic Partriot Act attacks many of the Bill of Rights, as does the monopolization of the media and the rise of the Christian Reich. So remember, it's not just liberals that are patriots. There are some conservatives that are, and they need to emerge from the woodwork.
But, I digress. I want to focus on a statement at the end of Tom Paine's Common Sense. He stated, "Commerce diminishes the spirit, both of patriotism and military defence."
Now, I would tend to believe that most Americans would think that our primary reason for the Revolution was non-commercial. The lofty ideas of independence and freedom would probably take the fore front. Remember the phrase, "No taxation without representation!" Or the Boston Tea Party? What were those? Those were reactions to the current commercial environment in which America existed at the time of the Revolution. So yes, there was the need to be independent. It wasn't working to be ruled by an authority that was across the Ocean. Not when it took weeks to get a message one way. But apart from that, within the rulership of the Crown, was the subordinating of American business to that of England. And well does a government protect its own sources of revenue. Ours is no different. But it isn't what I want to focus on. I want to focus on the idea that commerce diminishes the spirit. And in what aspects, and how I see that happening.
Just to be clear, let's see what "commerce" means. It essentially means the buying and selling of goods, usually on a large scale, as a city or a nation. It means big money.
How does this apply to us? Well, on the larger scale it means what it did when Paine wrote the words while reflecting on what had happened to England. The seat then of English power was London, where Paine states they had "lost it's spirit," and "...submits to continued insults with the patience of a coward." And what are those insults? Degrading living conditions for the poor, which grow in numbers. Homeless people. Poor education. A growing jail population. The needs of the elderly left unmet, and their subsistance under attack. A growing oppressive debt which will result in unfair and burdensome taxes. A country that likes to claim to be Christian, and practices such things as torture and imperialistic war. All of these things occurred in England because it's attention was on capital markets, and nothing else. Those were the insults of this supposedly civilized nation city, that it could ignore it's own citizenry so grossly.
That's commerce on the macro scale. Let's look at the micro scale now, the one you and I live in. Commerce to you and I is defined as the selling of our goods, our skills and time, with the purchase price of we turn around and purchase the goods of others to supply the house we live in, the food we eat, and the utilities we use, the vehicles we drive and so forth. So how does this scale of commerce diminish the spirit?
First, as workers we tend to look at what we make as a combination of wage and benefits. Against that we balance how many hours we worked to earn that income of wages and benefits. So how has that changed in the last 5 years? According to the LA Times, which reported labor Department figure, wages have dropped for two years running, and are just above where they were in 1995. Look at it this way. How much has the cost of gas changed in that time, and the cost of your health insurance. My health insurance premium will make a double digit jump again this year. My wages on the other hand have not been close to the rise in the cost of gas, health insurance, or food for the last 5 years. So what is the reaction to that?
More work of course! Less time to spend at home, less time to stimulate the brain, or get involved with hobies, clubs, or politics. After a weeks work, the big issues are the household needs, and if lucky we squeeze in a couple hours to read a novel that's been sitting on the nightstand for the better part of a half year. A mystery usually. They sell because they disconnect us from our reality, which we intuitively know is shrinking. That's becoming the reality for a lot of folk. Or, for some, that reaction requires taking a second job. Oh joy! And our dufus President stated to the woman working three jobs and still raising kids, "only in America!" He just thought it was wonderful that she could work almost 3/4 of a day, and spend better than half on her kids in glorified baby sitting. Meanwhile she had no health insurance. He just thought the freedom to have three jobs was great! That's the version of the American "dream" that others want you to have. Not a living wage, not single payer health insurance that covers everyone, no more vacation time, not free education, not ownership, but a fancy version of slavery. In short, a tyranny. Which is leaving millions out of the political scene that grossly affects their bottom line.
All of these insults infect this country. According to the Census Bureau, poverty has gone up for five years, bot in numbers of people and percentage. At the same time, bankruptcies and foreclosures are hitting record highs, according to the mortgage industry and American Bankruptcy Institute. It is also common knowledge that the number of people with health insurance has declined about one million a year since Bush took office. That numbers stands around 45 million people right now. And this is the richest, most powerful nation on the planet?
Thankfully, I see an upsurge in the number of people getting active in politics. Judging by last November, it is against the policies of the GOP. It is definitely grassrooots activities, which is a very good thing.
Let us look though at the other side of this coin, that of military defense. How is it that commerce diminishs the spirit of military defense?
First and foremost, by turning military defense into commerce. War profiteering is what we call it today. Contractors on the battlefield. Contractors with legal immunity of repsonsibility. Contractors that are paid by our tax dollars.
Blackwater, Vinnell Corporation, Halliburton, KBR (a subsidiary of Halliburton) and Dyncorp are companies that deal partially or entirely in construction, military policing, and other military support services. These contractors get paid upwards of $200,000 a head, compared to the roughly $25,000 a soldier makes. Anyone with math skills can figure that for the price of one contractor, I can have 9 soldiers. Yet only one company is making armored Humvees. One. No one has requested any other company to make them. And supply is nowhere near demand. One company that makes body armor, DHB Industries, has done quite well by the war. Well, the CEO did. he earned $525 big ones in 2001. In 2004, his salary was $70 MILLION! I believe that's a jump of what, over 10,000%. Not bad. And so of course, he sold off a bunch of the company stock for another $180 million, which drove the price from $22 a share to a little over $4 a share as of last month. And what worthy cause benefited this largesse, which by the way is paid for by our tax dollars? That's right, a bat mtizvah with a price tag of $10 million. Figure, the live entertainment included Aerosmith, 50 Cent, and Don Henly to name a few. The really great part? The Marines had to recall 5000 of the vests which DHB made because they couldn't withstand a 9mm round. Apparently none of the $250 million went into quality control. How about aHalliburton? It's stock price was in the mid 40's in the year 2000, wheen it got it's first Iraq contract. Yea, that's right. 2000. Today it trades at just under $69 a share. Shall we go on?
I don't think we need to. General Smedley Butler said these same things just after WW1. His greta little book, War is a Racket says it quite well. So a first step would be to stop the Pentagon from contracting it services outside the military.
What arises out of making money by having war, is the necessity to make war. Which automatically means, we go on the offensive. The spirit of military defense is a live and let live spirit, but if you try to hurt me or mine, you'll find out why the flag said "Don't Tread on Me." According to History News network,
According to the Defense Department's annual "Base Structure Report" for fiscal year 2003, which itemizes foreign and domestic U.S. military real estate, the Pentagon currently owns or rents 702 overseas bases in about 130 countries and has another 6,000 bases in the United States and its territories. The number of people involved is somewhere near a half a million. Is this what it means to "provide for the common defense," or have we gone a few steps beyond that? And what do we consider then the request of the Air Force to put weapons in space? It might seem that it's been this way so long that we couldn't possibly go back. But we can. We must.
Consider the money it takes to keep all those bases functioning. And the weapons systems needed to make 13 carrier task forces operational. What would happen if we pared back, and began closing those foreign bases? Troops would be safer, and better used on our own soil to deal with domestic crisis' as well as fight terrorism better. Secondly, as I already mentioned, consider the savings. We could actually fund schools, and research into cures for diseases. I think hand in hand with this should be the need of every person who turns 18 to spend a year in the military, and then a year in the Peace Corp. Then in the event of a need to mobilize large numbers, we'd have them. But I see that need diminishing more and more every day.
But this is how the spirit of defense is weakened, because it in practice hardly exists.
Another step in the right direction would be a Department of Peace, as Representative Kucinich from Ohio has not only suggested, he has many co-sponsors to that resolution.
In short, squeezing the citizens through their employment, and devoting energy to maintaining an industrial military establishment is how the spirit of patriotism and military defense is diminished. President Eisenhower warned us about this. As citizens we need to demand of our elected officials that they co-sponsor with Mr. Kucinich a Department of Peace. We need to tell them that we want butter, not guns. That we want the military to be the military, not the industrial military complex it is. And we expect them to provide for our common defense, and no more.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Changing the system

So Duke Cunningham was all boo-hoo the other day when he was convicted of corruption charges. It appears to me that Mr. Cunningham was acting in typical GOP values. Maybe he's really upset because he got caught. He disgraced his country after all, and for that he should be permanently barred from holding any office ever again. And this is the same guy that Tom Delay said was an honest man of integrity. Takes one to know one?

Which actually leads to a bigger issue. What about the defense contractors? Remember, the prosecutor can either go after the company, or individuals within the company. And in America, a corporation is supposedly treated as an individual before the courts.


Enron, despite almost dissolving from corruption, can still be politically active. But if you and I were to commit a felony, that would not be true. We lose our privilege to vote. Mind you, voting by a corporation is usually done by means of contributions. Since an individual loses the most important means of political participation, so should a corporation.

For example, take the tobacco companies. They got walloped with a huge fine that was to be paid from their profits, for having covered the dangers they knew nicotine presented. Yet when the case went before the Supreme Court, with new Chief Justice Roberts presiding, suddenly the fines are absolved. It had been challenged in appellate Court, and gee what a shock, the Court sided with the corporations. So, essentially, no penalty. Do you suppose you and I would get such treatment? And do you suppose we would have free reign to play the political game?

Any corporation can easily get by. They hire lobbyists, they contribute, and based on the convictions and indictments all over the Bush GOP administration, commit a lot of crimes in doing so.

What I am proposing is that the debate begin to alter the laws in regards to corporations. If they are considered as individuals, they must be so in the fullest extent of the law. Or we challenge the court ruling. But the discussion needs to start with regard to how we allow business to be conducted in this country.

Capitalism is ripe for a change. One that gives ownership to the majority of the citizens of this country. A change that brings about a just and equal economy, where a man or woman can work less and still enjoy the fruits of their labor, and have leisure time as well.

Pie in the sky you say? Hardly. Changes are occurring now. The Soul of Capitalism, and America Beyond Capitalism are but two books dealing with the subject. It begins though by us not accepting the status quo any more. And by beginning to discuss it.

Monday, November 21, 2005

The Christian Reich

Gary North wrote in 1982, in an effort to reach Baptists,“We must use the doctrine of religious liberty…until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy constructing a Bible-based social, political, and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.”

Ah, but you say, these words are over 20 years old. Consider this though. Roy Moore, the famous southern judge who lost his post for refusing to take down the 10 Commandments, stands a good chance in the race to be Alabam's next governor. According to Nation Magazine, look who surrounds Mr. Moore, as well as others. "Moore has never declared himself a Reconstructionist. But he is a frequent orator at gatherings whose organizers are part of the movement. The primary theologians, activists, and websites of Reconstruction laud him as a hero. Moore’s lawyer in the Ten Commandments fight, Herb Titus, is a Reconstructionist, as are many of his most vocal supporters, including Gary DeMar, the organizer of the Restore America rally and the head of American Vision, one of the most prolific publishers of the movement."

"George W. Bush has called Reconstruction-influenced theoretician Marvin Olasky 'compassionate conservatism’s leading thinker,' and Olasky served as one of the president’s key advisers on the creation of the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Bush also invited Reconstructionist Jack Hayford, a key figure in the Promise Keepers men’s group, to give the benediction at his first inaugural. Deposed House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, though his office won’t comment on his religious views, governs with what he calls a “biblical worldview”—one of Reconstruction’s signature phrases. And, for conspiracy buffs, two heavy contributors to the Chalcedon Foundation—Reconstruction’s main think tank—are Howard Ahmanson and Nelson Bunker Hunt, both of whose families played key roles in financing electronic voting machine manufacturer Election Systems & Software. Ahmanson is also a major sponsor of ultraconservative politicians, including California state legislator and 2003 gubernatorial candidate Tom McClintock. "

Reconstructionists aren’t shy about what exactly it is they are pursuing: “The long-term goal of Christians in politics should be to gain exclusive control over the franchise,” Gary North, a top Reconstruction theorist, wrote in his 1989 book, Political Polytheism: The Myth of Pluralism. “Those who refuse to submit publicly…must be denied citizenship.”

"Reconstruction’s major impact has been through helping to found and guide cross-denominational and secular political organizations. The Council for National Policy—a group that holds meetings for right-wing leaders, once dubbed “the most powerful conservative group you’ve never heard of”—was founded in 1981 as a project of top John Birch Society figures (see “The Fountainhead”). Its members included Rushdoony, Gary North, Tim LaHaye, former Reagan aide Gary Bauer, and activist Paul Weyrich, who famously aimed to 'overturn the present power structure of this country.'”

"Another group, the Coalition on Revival, brings together influential evangelicals to produce joint statements and theological white papers. North and DeMar are among the coalition’s most influential members; one of its founding documents is signed by 116 Christian right activists, including Rushdoony, mega-evangelist D. James Kennedy, and Roy Jones, a top staffer at the Republican Senatorial Committee."

So how willing are they to allow for the free expression of religion? I think it is obvious. These people, who have married themselves to the Republican Party, don't care a whit for the Constitution, despite what they say. Submission by force is acceptable, so why not lying? They aren't interested in debate, they want to overthrow. The only opinion that matters is theirs.

Now you know why I call them the Christian Reich. Now you know why I state unequivocally that they must be exposed and stopped. And now you know why I don't believe in their god anymore.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Eight Intelligences

Howard Gardner, a professor of education at Harvard, has proposed eight different types of intelligence, based on his theory of multiple intelligences he forwarded in 1983. Those 8 are:

1. Linguistic intelligence(word smart)
2. Logical/mathematical intelligence(number/reasoning smart)
3. Spatial intelligence(picture smart)
4. Bodily-kinisthetic intelligence(body smart)
5. Musical intelligence(music smart)
6. Interpersonal intelligence(people smart)
7. Interpersonal intelligence(self smart)
8. Naturalist intelligence(nature smart)

I find these interesting in light of some comments I read long ago in Will Durant's 10 volume set The Story of Civilization. In that set he described some of the necessary conditions for man to move beyond fear and insecurity to the place of social order which promotes cultural creation. The stage of fear and insecurity is that hunter gather stage where man is at the whims of the season in being able to provide food. When men began to come together, and provide commonly, then they began the process of laying up food for seasons non-conducive to farming.

But even in these early stages there were some of these intelligences present, to some extent depending on the individual. There would likely be some nature smart, some body smart, some picture smart, and to some extents, people and self smart. And as men came together to form communities, the common providing allowed for free time, the other intelligences began to flourish.

Hence we have the flourishing of society. The arts of the Renaissance seem to be a peak. Yet I see that as man has progressed, we have not really progressed. Today there is a dearth of nature smart. In many there is a lack of people smart, and even more so a self smart. In our world today the word smart and math smart have come to reign at the cost of the others. Today we have a culture that is quite proficient at killing each other, but still can't find the cure for cancer, or won't allow for it, as the stem cell issue shows us. We produce a lot of books and music, and so much of it is dreck. It is really an expression of what intelligences we do nurture. And that's a scary thought indeed.

It would follow then, that for us to really say we have progressed as humans, to be able as a people to say that we excel in all these intelligences. I would think that such a curriculum would be worthy of any school. We would be a society that is in touch with themselves, one another, able to reason out their problems rationally and intelligently, and able to create a beautiful culture that, like the Renaissance, would stand the test of time.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

He has the Right Words!

Greetings America!

Yes, I am referring to Bush. And the word in particular is ownership. That is truly what America needs. More ownership. But that doesn't mean just a house and car, like Bush is meaning. What is really needed is for Americans to own their communities, and the businesses, and the pensions, and the companies they work for. And in many ways, this is happening. There are thousands of employee owned companies. There are thousands of Community Development Corporations that are community owned and are reinvigoration depressed areas. Smart growth is on the move. There is grass roots stuff moving along the line of what Gar Alperovitz would call, a pluralist commonwealth.

I decided a while back that capitalism as it is played out today is fundamentally bad. It needs to be changed. But I am not so certain that I want government owning everything either. I think it should be as Bush says: ownership. That there at least be an equal opportunity to own. Because in the wake of the stagnant wage, declining benefits, the need for more productivity in the same hours, shrinking vacation time, and the need for more household members to work to stay afloat, there is a huge loss of liberty, the freedom to choose. We are driven by need, and in essence, we are slaves to corporations that are paying exorbitant CEO salaries regardless of performance, and ever increasing profits which go to shareholders. Shareholders that make up the top 5% of the population and own more than 50% of all the stock in this country. Those same shareholders who are looking at a reduction in capital gains taxes and a complete elimination of dividend tax while the average homeowner will lose 15% of their mortgage interest write off. That is if the new tax package before Congress passes.

Now you can see why I think capitalism is bad. The above picture is our current state of affairs. In it there is no room to move up for better than 70% of the population. Not with the daily needs costs eating into the money available for higher education, which itself has increased in costs in double digits for several years. Lost opportunity, lost liberty. Lost democracy. When David Crosby said to Dick Cavett back in those days, that the corporations were the problem, this is what he meant.

So lets look at a current issue, community internet access. This action is just one of the many in this country where communities are taking it upon themselves to be a community. They wire themselves together. They provide public access, community development, and universal affordabilty for starters. From the local hub of the city then, rural broadband can reach out to include the country folk, and include them in the community. Towns like Cedar Falls, Iowa, Provo, Utah, and Kutztown, Pennsylvania are establishing mesh networks, hot-spot wireless, and fiber-optic networks. There are many more across the country. They are supported by Senatorial legislation, S.1294, and by Intel Corporation. This is one of the ways that communities are practicing ownership. The local taxes pay for the network, and the benefits are universal connectivity and cheaper prices.

Guess who doesn't like it though. Yes indeed the large telecoms don't like it. The telecoms like SBC, where Texas Republican Pete Sessions used to work, and where his wife still works. So Sessions introduced HR.2726, which would prevent any community in the country from offering internet access if a major provider, like SBC, offers it "nearby." The Senate version of this same malarky is S.1504. Now you will notice in the names of these bills that they sound perfectly fabulous. But go to the Library of Congress, and actually look them up and read them, and you will quickly see that they remove the choice from the community, and give all the power to the corporation that can grant or deny permission. Is that equal opportunity? Is that liberty for all? Is that democracy?

In Gar Alperovitz's book, American Beyond Capitalism, he has a chapter about the regional restructuring of the American continent. He begins that chapter with a review of what the Supreme Court has done in the last few decades prior to Bush to decentralize power. While I was reading this it suddenly became aware to me just what the issue is in the Supreme Court nominees. Since "tort reform" has now made class action suits a Supreme Court issue, and the SC rarely hears them, it has protected businesses. Look at Justice Roberts first ruling: Letting stand the elimination of tobacco company fines for their crimes. It is apparent that the issue is the protection of corporatism. Which is synonymous with fascism according to Mussolini. That's where this court is headed.

Bush had the words right. But his meaning is that the top 5% will own 90% of everything. You and I will struggle to own anything. And that's the way they want it.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Story Continues

How do Americans!

Well, the title says it all. As it was in the days of the founders, so it is today. As some of you know, newspapers were born to be partisan. That was how they existed. The concept of journalism being unbiased is an evolution of the news business. So in all actuality, groups like FOX are just imitating the early editions of the news delivery system. To them those are the good ole' days, when you can lie and make false accusations under private ownership that encourages it.

News on the other hand, evolved. It realized it needed to to serve the common good, which is lost on any group that is partisan. Or controlled by ownership, which is close to the same thing. Today though, we can get the partisan stuff on the web. It shouldn't be in the news. Yet it seems in the evolution of the delivery of truth in journalism, that the truth sayers are moving TO the web as the main stream media becomes a voiceless noise of no impact.

And so it is that I received from a friend the e-mail he got from It is a right wing web site. And it of course, true to the original intent of "news", full of lies. Claims it "has been fighting for free markets, limited government, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. "

Oh really? Shall we dissect? Lets look at the effect big box retailing has had, and ask just how free market that is. Wal-Mart has junk made in China, which undermines the US economy, sells it here at exorbitant profit while keeping their wages down and benefits non-existent. Wal-Mart employees are a major portion of welfare recipients in many large markets because they cannot exist on the wages and lack of health care. Is that free? No. It costs the American taxpayer a lot of money. So we are all subsidizing some of the richest people on the planet, whether we shop at Wal-Mart or not. And Wal-Mart is just one example.

Limited government. Who wants to decide who can marry who? The right or the left? Who wants to decide whether a woman has the final say over her own body? The right or the left? What President scripts his teleconference calls and has the answers coached? Who wants to limit what you have available to read in a library, or a school? The right or the left? Who wants to be able to enter your house with a secret warrant and be able to snoop through all your records without notifying you? The right or the left? Who wrote an education bill that exposes your child to military recruiters without the parents knowledge or consent? The right or the left? Who wants to reduce your mortgage deduction by 85% while eliminating dividend taxes and reducing capital gains taxes to 25%? The right or the left? I think I said enough.

Hmmm. Traditional American values. Lets see. Tom Delay has been indicted on corruption charges. The President is an untreted alcoholic. Dick Cheney unapologetically told a fellow politician to fuck himself on the Senate floor. Cheney's former chief of staff has been indicted in the revealing of a CIA officers identity during "wartime." The Senate passes a resolution against torture, and the White House wanted to let the CIA continue to be able to torture. John Bolton: 'nuff said. William Bennett makes racist comments on TV, and the right jumps to his defense. Pat Robertson, the well known pastor/evangelist, calls for assassination. Look at the budget: spend on the military, cut the taxes on the rich, and cut services to every one else. To quote their supposed God, "You shall know them by their fruit."

And strong American defense. Defense. That means defend from attack. It does not mean attack. Or invade. That would mean that soldiers are or our soil, defending us. On the sea, keeping guard. That means we don't spend money developing systems and weapons for attacking other countries. Like the new stealth boats. They aren't for defense. They are singularly offensive. We can fight terrorism better from our own shores than anywhere else, and considerably cheaper to boot. And besides, what is actually being done to protect the rail systems and ports in this country? Precious little actually. And our borders are as porous as ever. So even defense is being ignored. And in the face of a possible pandemic, the president wants to spend fighting a possible flu outbreak about what he spends in Iraq in 3 days. That's how much America means to him. And, one the so called vaccines, which merely mitigate the symptoms, is made by a company which has Rumsfeld as a major stock owner. Imagine that! The one thing they are defending is their own wealth.

Yet, in all this the left "... want(s) a larger government and higher taxes and they want to impose their values on our families."

Yes, we want women to decide for themselves what happens to their bodies. The conservatives don't want women to have that right. Who is imposing a value? And with all the laws that the right wants, and the amendments they seek to the Constitution, and the size military they want, and the new Homeland Security Department, and the relative amount of GDP the government consumes, the largest governments since the '80s have all been conservative. Higher taxes? The taxes on everyone except the top 5% will go up to pay for tall the deficit. Already we subsidze large corporations, and the new energy bill continues that policy. I already mentioned the decrease for the average American in the mortgage deduction. And who pays for the tax cuts to the rich? That's right, every one else. Which means higher taxes. They don't call them Cons for nothin' you know!

So despite how much things have changed, a lot remains the same. Or gets worse. But take heart. Things are changing, and the American people are waking up. We won't long live under any tyranny. Changes are indeed, blowin' in the wind!