Sunday, January 31, 2010

Reading List


The History of the Peloponnesian War c. 433-411 BC

It's a wonderful read, densely packed with too much information and strangely modern insights into the roots of war, the selfish motivations of all involved, the difficulty of maintaining honor under any circumstances and how much more difficult it is under the pressures and deceits of war. That's just to scratch the surface.

I'd been warned off of Thucydides back when I was a student, can only recall reading what seemed to be a totally opaque excerpt in a literature history class that convinced me at the time that the Ancient Greeks were simply too remote from our own Advanced Selves to bother with, and besides, they were terrible writers whose works were almost indecipherable. Feh.

Well. This 1954 translation by Rex Warner is nothing short of magical. The work strikes me much as reading the Ancient Greek playwrights did somewhat later in my education. It's like opening a window, breathing a fresh or noxious breeze, but whatever the case, facing something true about the universal human condition.

Two thumbs up, but be prepared to spend lots of time...


Jean H. Mariéjol

Philip II -- the First Modern King, 1933

I picked this one out of a used book bin a couple of years ago. It's a first edition that had belonged to a professor at UC Berkeley. His notes and marginalia, written in a tiny, beautiful hand, mostly in brown ink, some written in Arabic, add to the remarkable nature of the work itself.

What's remarkable about it, in part, is its perspective on the Philip and events in Europe during his reign. What we Anglo-Americans "know" about Philip and that entire period of history is almost entirely filtered through an English prism. Philip was married to Mary Tudor, aka "Bloody Mary", who tried to reimpose Papism on Britain after she ascended the throne following the deaths of her father Henry VIII and her half-brother Edward VI. She would die as Queen of England, etc., while married to Philip II, who was at the time styled King of both England and Spain. Though you wouldn't know that from most of the history books. Then Philip would send the Armada against Mary's successor Elizabeth and face utter defeat. Thus, Spain's power was broken, and Elizabeth Regina sat unchallenged atop the mountain, Shakespeare wrote some plays, and All's Well That Ends Well. Exeuent stage right.

Mariéjol looks at the picture from a distinctly Continental point of view, barely acknowledging the English episodes in Philip's reign, and explores in enormous and often bloody detail the situation on the Continent -- in Spain, Portugal, France, Austria, the Low Countries, the Papal States, and details endlessly complex dealings with the Ottomans and North Africa.

Looked at from perspective of the whole scope of Philip's duties, authority, and reign, the English episodes are for all intents and purposes a sideshow.

And the story of what was going on in Europe, much of it the consequence of dynastic interrelations between the Hapsburgs of Austria and everyone else, is a tale of almost inconceivable destruction and bloodshed, monstrous cruelty exercised on behalf of privilege, religion, and pride.

Bad as things were under Spanish rule in the Americas, it was no better, and arguably worse, in Europe.

And this was the "first modern king?" Oh my god.

Fascinating for the insight and perspective it brings to the history of the 16th Century, and for what insight that history can shed on our own struggles.

Two thumbs up but be prepared for the worst that humans can conceive of.


Mao Tse-Tung

Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung -- aka "The Little Red Book", Peking, 1967

In San Francisco back in those days, China Books and Periodicals over on 24th Street was a destination for all thinking radicals, and for some tourists, too, who wanted to "see for themselves" what the Great International Communist Conspiracy looked like. It was a remarkable place, bright and sunfilled, with extremely orderly displays of periodicals, shelves of books (not a lot of them, though, as I recall), in English, Chinese, Japanese, Russian and other languages, and a very... interesting... staff deeply committed to the Revolution (and at the time, the Cultural Revolution as well, also). I think you could even get "Mao Jackets" and caps at the store.

The shop was registered as a Foreign Agent, and I seem to recall a prominent notice to that effect greeting everyone who entered.

It is no doubt obvious that there isn't much Communist literature in my personal library. I have not studied Communist theory and I don't intend to. Oddly enough, The Little Red Book demonstrates why, as did some of the other things I picked up at China Books and Periodicals. I have some copies of "China Today", for example, the glossy magazine published by the People's Republic and distributed to English speaking lands and peoples, and like nearly all Communist propaganda at the time, it was ludicrous. On its face, it was utterly ludicrous, something that should have been obvious to anyone (much as, if the truth be known, "Life" and "Look" magazines were pretty ludicrous, too.) Communist theory had a certain appeal to those who were convinced a better collective future was possible, but the impact of the propaganda claiming it was "Here!" was just the opposite of the intent.

Mao's quotations, even in the context of the times, seem deeply naive on the one hand, and grossly anachronistic on the other. If they seemed that way then, just imagine how they seem now. It is little wonder China has all but abandoned Communism for a highly idiosyncratic nationalist version of Capitalism -- Usually With A Human Face, But Sometimes Not. Mao is revered as a Founder, but his thought, well, the less said about that the better, and China Books and Periodicals of (now South) San Francisco no longer sells "The Little Red Book" -- and the staff would probably feign ignorance if you asked after it.

Ché says read it anyway. You gots ta know.


Elsewhere I've posted about the seemingly limitless number of books I've collected and perversely hold on to. I haven't added any since Christmas when I used a Borders Gift Card to get me the one new book I was hankering after. I have never counted and have barely organized the books I have, but I estimate altogether around 12,000 volumes, some pretty old (the earliest are two volumes of the "Poetical Register" from 1801 and 1802), some said to be "valuable" (mostly illustrated children's volumes), some sets of encyclopedias from the 1920's, '30's and '40's, many books on art, some on the sciences, certain categories of literature and plays (Shakespeare, Hemingway, Williams and so forth), novels by selected contemporary writers, thousands of National Geographics dating back to around 1907, some religious tomes, including Holy Writ from Islam, Catholic and Protestant Xtianity, the Jooz, some Buddhist and Hindu stuff, the Dao, etc, etc, anthropology and archeology (primarily of the Americas -- though I've got a whole shelf of King Tut books), a smattering of sociology, history of all kinds, travel -- oh my god, the Travel Section! -- and cook books by the hundreds, lots of home improvement and how to books, and here and there a few political tracts and tomes. But not many of those. Too depressing.

Part of the reason for my bibliophilia is due to my sense that books -- as in physical volumes that you can hold and touch and read by flipping actual pages -- are disappearing. They are actual historical objects. And they contain the documentation of historical periods no matter what the ostensible topic is. This is why they are preserved, at least some of them, through all the ages since writing was first figured out. An electronic book is all well and good (and I have hundreds of those as well), but if we continue to revert as we seem to be doing, there will come a time when those electronic books are no longer accessible to the masses. Either the technology will fail (how many of us, for example, have documents on floppy disks that we can't access or read any more?) or restrictions on access will prevent more than a few Adepts from acquiring the Knowledge therein. So. I keep building my library. With the thought that one day, it will serve a greater purpose than my private interest and pleasure.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Profoundly Cruel and Wicked

I watched a few segments of the very gentle grilling given former British Prime Minister Tony Blair yesterday. His insouciance was matched by his bravado and ego, but what came across, even more than it did when he was Prime Minister, was his utter cruelty and wickedness enhanced by the complete lack of a conscience.

And he recently became a Catholic. Does the Church know what an Incubus they've got here? (Now wait. That was snark. Everyone's supposed to understand these things.)

The panel was calm, measured, informed and skeptical; their questions, though gently -- and genteelly -- put, were to the point and comprehensive. Blair did not perform as extravagantly as he used to do before Parliament, but he was certainly "on."

Everyone assumes there will be no criminal liability for the High and the Mighty who allowed, enabled, and conducted the Iraq invasion, but at least some of the Truth seems to have leaked out, and those of us who have been consistently opposed to this misadventure in restoring the fragmented British Empire continue to be right, not that it will do us any good.

Iran must be next.

The Guardian presents an 8½ minute highlight reel for your inspection:

Their story on the Blair Testimony is dry but useful.

Also read Chris Floyd on the Blair appearance, and because you should anyway.

"Less jibber jabber, more guillotines." -- something (really) stinks.

Friday, January 29, 2010

OT: Everybody Dance Now

I love this scene. It's from El Amor Brujo directed by Carlos Saura. I first posted the YouTube link on this site in December, 2007.

Here's another scene from the same movie:

Saura, Antonio Gades, and Cristina Hoyos are brilliant in everything I've seen them do.

Check out their Carmen.

[Note, this post has undergone a number of corrections, additions and adjustments since it was first put up. There may be more.]

Three Little Words

Cato-bots, Federalists, Corporatists of all stripes, Libertarians, Propertarians, and Randians almost universally praise the Citizens United decision in such identical terms it looks like a really pimply circle jerk. The celebrations over the Liberation of Corporations from the Oppression they have been under since the first Progressive campaign finance restriction laws were passed a century ago -- and well before that, given the frequency of prohibitions on Corporate participation in campaigns and elections that were commonplace in America from the Founding on -- all praise the Court for their adherence to the First Amendment and the Constitution...

In the process, they forget those those three little words that start the document they regard as Holy Writ:

We the People

I know, it's hard, really, really hard for these Sanctifiers to comprehend the simple truth in front of their faces: the document they revere (or say they do), flawed as it is, was written not as an abstract exercise in Nation Creation, but as a foundation and framework for The People to work out their common interest and welfare.

The Sanctifiers deny that. The People aren't even involved, in their view, in the process of "working out" their "common interest" and "welfare." Except for the Preamble, the Constitution is the completion of that "working out." Since the Preamble is not Sacred Text but merely Prologue, what it says about the function of the document under consideration is simply extraneous. The Text itself is the the Whole of the Law. Everything else is Commentary. And often is Deep in Error.

It is up to the Sacred Priesthood, annointed, to determine with absolute certainty and clarity what is and is not allowed by Holy Writ, and to declare bans and anathema on any who dissent.

That Priesthood is not, by the way, the Supreme Court. How could it be? There is nothing in the Constitution that establishes the Supreme Court as the arbiter and determiner of what the Law is. They took that role on themselves, but they are not the Sacred Priesthood. How could they be? They err.

Inerrancy is found only among the Annointed Ones of the Federalist Society, the Cato Institute and from time to time among the higher ranks of Libertarians, Propertarians and Randians. Everyone else is rabble to be dismissed, and who may consider themselves lucky in the process.

I have said that I find Glenn's stand on the Citizens United ruling to be "contemptible," even though I agree with him on many issues. The problem has been from the beginning that he -- like most Cato-bots, Federalist apparatchiks, and so forth -- approaches the issue in the abstract, and uses only what he regards as valid textural reading and interpretation of the First Amendment to declare campaign finance laws that restrict the "free speech rights" of corporations to be Unconstitutional.

In other words, the Black Letter of the Law -- as Glenn reads it -- is the only thing that matters; no consideration of consequences or the People's common interest can enter into the equation.

Given what the Court had to do to get to where they wanted to be, which is to say the Liberation of Corporations from their Oppression, I would call the whole thing a farce.

A Dumb Show designed to entertain, not enlighten.

On the other hand, unless the People for whom this Constitution was supposed to function take more active control of their mutual welfare and common interest, the only rational conclusion is "We're Doomed!"

We welcome our Generous Corporate Overlords and offer our apologies for ever doubting their Kind Intentions. We will be Good Servants, loyal, trustworthy and honest, pure in thought and compliant in deed.

That's what the Corporate Constitution specifies, isn't it?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Speech

I've never been much into State of the Union speeches for the simple reason that they tend to be ritualistic and formulistic and rarely provide more than the roughest outline of Events to Come. They exist in the realm of noise.

Last night, His Serenity presented his first State of the Union speech, and by all accounts in the media -- and so far in most of the blogosphere -- it met or even slightly exceeded expectations. There. That's done.

The "controversy" was over Justice Alito mouthing "not true" when Obama criticized the Court for overturning a century of campaign finance law and "opening the floodgates" of corporate financing of campaigns. It was an interesting visual, too. The Court was sitting there in its Majesty, looking stunned and bewildered, surrounded by standing, clapping Democrats who clearly despise what the Court has done.

On that note, I mentioned to somebody the other day who said that she thought the decision would strongly affect elections over time that it was my impression it was intended to have a strong effect on elections this year, and it will.

The Originalists, Federalists, and Constitutional Absolutists will tell us that if the unions and non-profits who are also liberated from campaign funding restrictions by this legislation from the bench cannot compete with corporate interest in the Marketplace of Ideas, then they've lost, too bad so sad, and it is not the role of the Constitution and the Law to pick losers and winners.

That would be Outcome Based, and that would be wrong.

The glaring hypocrisy of their stance would be unbelievable, except for the fact that we have seen so much of it over the long years of Radical Reactionary ascendancy, not simply on the Court, but everywhere.

And of course, these same Originalists, Federalists, and Constitutional Absolutists will opine that the Constitution does not prohibit rule by Private Corporations, and what is not specifically prohibited is allowed. Some, like Scalia and his butt-boy Thomas, will go further and say that Corporate Rule is better than Stupid Democracy because it is more efficient and it allows Government to be minimized in line with the Founders' Intent, as stated on the Golden Plates on which the Constitution is Graven, and translated and interpreted with the Urim and Thummim provided to each and every Originalist, Federalist, and Constitutional Absolutist upon passing the bar. Oyez, oyez, oyez.

On that note, I'd like to mention that as I've wandered through the really very gloomy post Citizens United ruling firmament, I've thought long and hard about why someone like Glenn, for example (but there are quite a few others), would be so rigidly supportive of this ruling on First Amendment grounds despite any other interest and specifically despite any untoward consequence or outcome at all. No matter what, in other words, the ruling reaffirms the First Amendment on prohibiting laws restricting Free Speech, and therefore the ruling is sound, Constitutional, and worthy.

Someone asked Glenn in comments if he would say the same thing if it could be demonstrated to his satisfaction that the ruling had an even chance of destroying representative democracy in this country, however flawed that representative democracy might be today, and his answer was "yes".

His justification:

We don't have a "representative democracy" if we empower the Government to violate the Constitution because we decide that doing so has a chance to avert really bad things from happening.
If you don't like the results or the potential results, change the Constitution, don't authorize the violation of the Constitution to prevent a bad outcome.

Which, from 30,000 feet seems rational, but on the ground it never has been. Constitutional amendments are froughtful things on the one hand, achieving them is very difficult on the other. And in the matter at question, the threat of subsuming representative Government entirely into Corporate Interest, due to, let's say, an inherent flaw in the Constitution itself, a flaw that can be dealt with or even corrected through statute rather than amendment, allowing that threat to play out is more important than correction because it is "Constitutional."

While the Constitution may not be a suicide pact like the Declaration of Independence, it is not graven on Golden Plates and no Urim and Thummim are distributed to Originalists and Federalists and their Absolutist companions to correctly interpret it.

If statute can correct a flaw or present danger that a Reactionary Court may reveal in their wisdom and reversals, then statute should be employed, as it has been routinely over the centuries. While Glenn and others acknowledge there may be statutory remedies to this danger that don't involve violations of the Sacred Constitution -- such as public funding of campaigns -- their actual position is that the danger isn't all that great in any case, since we've been under de facto Corporate rule for a long time as it is and the world hasn't ended, so why get all riled up when the Court says that it's OK? Maybe it is OK, hunh?

Sure, maybe it is. But I go back to Mario's impassioned speech from the steps of Sproul Hall, in which he declares the opposite, that it's not OK for corporate interest to supercede the public interest, and it's not OK for public institutions like the University to yield to corporate demands for product, in this case, students conditioned and trained to serve Corporate masters. We are human beings. We are not products.

It was electrifying 45 years ago because nobody had quite crystalized the issue in quite that way in connection with a public institution which was founded and ostensibly operated in the public interest on behalf of all the people.

And yet it was functionally operating as a conditioning and training academy to provide product (graduates) not to advance the human condition, but to advance the Corporate Interest above all. A case could be made it still operates that way; perhaps more so now than ever before. Even though the Free Speech Movement achieved most of its stated objectives by forcing the University to remove its restrictions on (unauthorized) political speech on and near the campus.

There was a huge irony during the 45th Anniversary commemoration of the Free Speech Movement last December when a parade of speakers on the steps of Sproul Hall was interrupted by shouting students claiming it was their campus and their speech and everyone else could STFU. It was especially ironic given that the speaker who was temporarily shouted down was pointing out that despite the success of the Free Speech Movement, speech on campus is even more restricted now than it was 45 years ago, in that there would be no way to host a Nazi on campus or Condoleezza Rice and hear them out and argue the errors of their ways because they would be shouted down, or not allowed to speak at all because their views aren't popular or politically correct. He said that 45 years ago, those people or people like them would have been allowed to speak, and well informed argument would have demonstrated their errors.

I think he was missing the point just as Glenn and those like him are missing the point in the current context. Indeed, unpopular and political speech was allowed on the Berkeley campus 45 years ago under strictly controlled conditions. In a controlled forum or a classroom, there was ordinarily no problem (well, that's a stretch; communists were in a limbo and probably would not have been invited, though if they were, they would probably have been allowed to speak, though there would have been an outcry, especially among polititicans.) Prohibited was political speech and advocacy in uncontrolled and public areas like Sproul Plaza and Bancroft Avenue. The rationale, say what you will about it, being that a public institution could not sponsor -- by permitting -- public advocacy of partisan political positions on its property. In the classroom or a forum, fine, but not publicly. The public institution had to remain strictly nonpartisan in public. The students said, no. That political speech and advocacy in public on and near the campus was not sponsorship by the University in and of itself, it was an exercise of Free Speech as guaranteed by the Constitution which the University should not be prohibiting.

Yet interestingly 45 years later some of those who participated in the Free Speech Movement believe -- sincerely -- that political speech was actually more free on campus before the Free Speech Movement than afterwards, that in point of fact the prohibitions of public advocacy of political positions on campus helped enable and encourage a fuller debate on the issues "behind the gates."

It's a fair opinion, and in fact, that was the position of the University in 1964 in opposing the student demands for Liberation. They were already free. According to the University. Within bounds.

And this gets us back to what the Court was doing in "Liberating" corporations from a century of "oppression" of their political speech. Of course there hasn't really been any such thing -- Corporations are perfectly free to "speak" as they choose and when they choose. The restrictions were on what they could spend on speech and advocacy and when, ostensibly to level the playing field so as not to completely drown out others who might wish to speak on issues of importance to them.

The effect of "liberating" corporations (and unions and nonprofits) from the "oppression" they've been so horribly suffering under all these years, will be to enable those with the most money and access to the megaphone of the media to shout down and drown out any and all counter speech. So it was a hundred years ago when the first campaign finance reform legislation was enacted, so it will be again.

I learned a long time ago that he or she with the loudest voice in ordinary situations tends to rule. It was axiomatic in situations like board meetings and task forces and so forth that he or she who made the most ruckus in the loudest voice got their way.

The obvious intent of the Court in "liberating" Corporate speech was to give them their way. Again.

The speaker at the 45th Anniversary commemoration of the Free Speech Movement decried what had happened with the liberation of student political speech and advocacy -- it meant that unpopular views were not being heard or debated any more like they used to be. And to prove the point, he was shouted down. At least for a while. In fact, he was able to complete his thought eventually.

Liberating the students from prohibitions on their free speech on campus does not have the same effect as liberating corporations from their "oppression", however, despite what may appear to be superficial similarities. While it is rude to shout down unpopular speakers/points of view in a campus setting (and many, many have made the point about how rude it is), those speakers and views have numerous alternative means to get their message out; students are by no means hermetically sealed off from hearing "unpopular" or "politically incorrect" views -- they are culturally speaking immersed in them -- and they will always face challenges for being rude to other speakers when they are rude.

Corporate liberation has the almost opposite effect. They operate in the context of national political debate, and their liberation means that they can fully control that debate. What they do not want said or heard they can effectively prohibit. It's not a matter of being rude or of people having alternatives if they don't like the Corporate Message. The only practical alternative for a public that doesn't want to hear the Corporate Message is to turn it off. By their control of access to the Podium if you will, they determine what will be said and heard and what won't.

This is even worse than the situation on campus before the Free Speech Movement, because at least the University had a public interest in providing opportunities for a wide ranging debate to occur; Corporate interest has no public interest, and has no interest in a wide ranging debate. They want their view presented and none other. Corporate "liberation" means -- almost by definition -- that everyone else's liberty to speak and be heard is restricted or absent altogether. In other words, Corporate "liberation" means "suppression" for everyone else.

That seems to be the Court's desired outcome. The abstract adherence to the First Amendment results in its practical cancellation. Well, how about that! How nice!

And I would go farther and suggest that is not just the Court's desired outcome, it is also Glenn's and the Absolutists he gravitates toward.

We can speculate about why that might be the case. What is it about Corporate domination and rule that is ultimately so attractive? Why is a broken down and halting representative democracy so... unattractive?

We can see ideological reasons for the Radical 5 to want this outcome. They are corporatists, and as far as they are concerned, Corporate Rule is best. Corporate Rule enables "government" (as in representative democracy) to shrink, because it is no longer needed, except, perhaps for its defense and adjudication functions. It becomes an accessory, the way the Founders (supposedly) meant it to be. And the masses no longer have any governmental outlet or mechanism for their interests to be realized. Government serves the Corporations just like the masses are meant to do. I get that ideological point.

On the other hand, why would someone like Glenn support essentially the same thing?

Could it be because he doesn't trust the masses to do the right thing if they have the power, he doesn't respect the broken down representative democracy that is being trampled under the Corporate boot anyway, and he sees in the potential simplicity and efficiency of Corporate Rule a way to achieve desirable personal and political objectives? In other words, depending on what you want and who you are, Corporate Rule may be just the ticket, whereas a rough and crumbling representative democracy may be just the opposite? It's the Future™ brought to you by our Corporate Sponsors, and it's better than anything Stupid Democracy can come up with.

I don't know that that's the case among those who celebrate the ruling, including Glenn, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Free Speech Movement

As far as I can tell, I have never done a post here on the Free Speech Movement and Mario Savio at UC Berkeley, though I know I have posted extensively on the topic elsewhere, including at Glenn's Place.

William Timberman, who used to hang out frequently over at Glenn's, took his leave from there some time back after a particularly ugly and unfortunate series of insults from some of the other posters that were both uncalled for and offensive on their face. WT was at Berkeley when the Free Speech Movement was roiling and shutting down the campus, and he had many insights about what was going on to share, and while not there, I wasn't that far away when it was happening and I could not simply ignore the student uprising.

The events of the fall and winter of 1964 in and around Sproul Hall and elsewhere on campus were electrifying, and they were, I believe, the trigger for the student revolts all through the remainder of the 1960's.

The Free Speech Movement was a Liberationist movement, modeled in some ways on the Civil Rights Movement, and it would become the nucleus of the Anti-Vietnam War Movement. At issue was the University's prohibition of (unauthorized) 'political activity' on or near campus. It was a patent infringement of First Amendment rights, one of many that were commonplace at the time (to put it mildly), and the spontaneous student uprising caused by the University Administration's decision to enforce its ban on (unauthorized) 'political activity' on Bancroft Avenue outside Sather Gate (students marching through pictured above) led to nationwide student protest and turmoil climaxing -- but not ending -- with the Kent State (Ohio) shootings in 1970.

The First Amendment and Free Speech was of course central to the protests at Berkeley, but the firebrand speeches of Mario Savio caught the attention of the crowds at the campus and the media and were a sensation then as they still are. The First Amendment dispute was merely one of many Liberationist issues that would eventually be raised during the Berkeley protests. Mario's most famous speech, the one given to the crowd on the steps of Sproul Hall just before they occupied the building on December 2, 1964, is a masterpiece of Liberationist polemic.

"There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious—makes you so sick at heart—that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part.

"And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop.

"And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all."

It's still an inspiration for many who fight for Liberation.

After much tumult, many arrests, and the periodic shut down of the University, the University yielded to many of the demands of the students, though not all. Not that, by that point, the Genie of student protest could be put back in the bottle.

Liberationist protest became a central focus of the 1960's times of troubles. The Free Speech Movement was a model of how to do it.

Communitarianism, characterized and characatured by the Hippies, soon became another thread in the protest movements of the era. But while the Liberationists tended to be confrontational with Authority, the Communitarians tended to withdraw from confrontation or to try to mediate confrontation with Peace, Love, and Flowers.

Not to forget substances. As the old song goes:

APC, Alcohol
Cigarettes, shoe polish, cough syrup, peyote
Equinol, dexamil, camposine, Chemadrine,
Thorazine, trilophon, dexadrine, benzedrine, methedrine
S-E-X and Y-O-U, Wow!

From the American Tribal Love Rock Musical, HAIR, 1967.

An iconic event that combined Liberationist and Communitarian approaches to protest was the "Levitate the Pentagon" March on October 21, 1967.

But it was all a very long time ago.

Nevertheless, the twin currents of liberation activism and communal withdrawal continue to move through American society and politics. The current effort to expand marriage rights to same sex couples is a Liberationist case in point.

Communitarian efforts are by no means absent, but they are far lower key than current Liberationist activism. And there is, I believe, a reason for it, quite apart from the inherent modesty of Communitarianism itself.

It goes back to the Free Speech Movement and the campus upheavals it inspired. Liberationism was deeply threatening to the entire power structure of the mid- and later-1960's, and that power structure fought back hard. Ultimately, however, success in curbing Liberationism would be found in controlling it through co-option, which was the genius of early and later Reaganism. Ronald Reagan was inaugurated governor of California in January 1967, something that is largely forgotten. He came into office on a vow to bring the student rebellion to a halt, and to ensure it never happened again. His initial approach to the rebellion was to release the hounds in a manner of speaking, but soon enough, he was adopting a lot of Liberationist rhetoric, but using it to press for liberation from nasty government regulation of economic interests, and freedom for his particular brand of Conservative politics. It was brilliant. Americans are still under the spell of that kind of Liberation.

On the other hand, Communitarianism largely vanished from widespread public view with the commercialization and subsequent fading away of the Hippies and after some really terrible incidents that seemed to come out of the communes and the community movements that once were proliferating. The Tate-La Bianca murders, for example. Yet the spirit of Communitarianism is strongly bonded with much of what passes for Liberal and Progressive politics -- in the Environmental movement especially, but by no means limited to it.

There is a very strong irony in that the Free Speech Movement originated as a protest of the suppression of students' political speech by the University; last week, the Supreme Court passed a law by essentially declaring that Corporate political speech had been suppressed for lo, these many years (over a century), and their Liberation from this unconscionable suppression was the highest good the court could conceive. It required no Movement, no masses protesting. All it required was a simple majority of Radical ideologues on the Supreme Court, five Men In Black. And the Liberation was done.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Now for something completely different

I'm pretty sure I've posted this before. If I haven't I should have. This is a video Clint Maedgen made in New Orleans just a few weeks or months before Katrina hit. Anybody who's ever been to New Orleans or ever lived there will instantly click with it. And as so many of the commenters say on the YouTube site, they watch this video any time they need a pick-me-up or (if they're from NOLA) a reminder of home.

It's said to have been made in one take after Clint leaves Fiorella's, but I think there are a few cuts. Even so, it's a magical trip. Get ready. Life is sooooo complicated:

The Unraveling Ain't Gonna Be Pretty

So far, the White House has floated or proposed a Domestic Spending Freeze, which ought to be popular with TeaBaggers; an increase in Security spending, including the bloated Pentagon; cramming the worst aspects of HCR down the throats of the unwilling public right away and "considering something better" later on... eventually... well, maybe not, since we can't afford it; setting up a commission to recommend cuts to Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid; and -- oh yes -- a handful of minor programs to ease the burden of childcare expenses and student loan repayments for those who are still employed and can remain employed. Good Luck. Suckers!!!!!

Willakers. This is getting worse by the minute.

It's all a sham? A shell game? A con?

Take that for granted. Please.

The point is that for whatever reason, the White House is bound and determined to carry out the Corporate "Destroy America" Agenda they were -- apparently -- put in office to accomplish, since Bush and Cheney couldn't, and they are using the same mindless bull tactics to do it.

With a slightly better message. Sometimes. When there is any message at all.

It's the New Normal. Conditioning the masses to accept their further downgrading; currying favor with the Powers That Be.

But as they go after their Corporatist Prize, they're coming apart, and as they come apart, so do the rest of us.

It is the Unraveling.

History doesn't quite know what happened to Akenaton and his Revolution, only that... it failed and the Amarna Experiment was destroyed and plowed into the sands of Egypt. Tutankhamen was a near relative and successor; all that survived was his tomb. Exquisite remains with neither past nor future, just frozen in the moment.

And Obama isn't even a Rebel.


[Note to add: this is what was under all that gold and jewels and wrapped in fine linen]

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Domestic Spending Freeze! That's the Ticket!


It just gets worse. Now the Bright Eyes at the White House have come up with this really, really neat plan to defuse "populist anger" and win the upcoming elections. You betcha, also.

The spending freeze would apply to a relatively small portion of the federal budget, affecting a $477 billion pot of money available for domestic agencies whose budgets are approved by Congress each year. Some of those agencies could get increases, others would have to face cuts; such programs got an almost 10 percent increase this year. The federal budget total was $3.5 trillion.

Even better, in the State of the Union speech coming up, His Serenity will propose doubled tax credits for child care, making college loan payments "more affordable," more federal money for child care, some tweaks to make retirement savings easier, some additional money for elder care at home.

So that's good.

No jobs programs. No debt relief for households.

Oh, and what about that Grand Plan for congress to pass the worst aspects of the HCR bill and get those crammed down the throats of the long-suffering masses? Apparently it's been scrapped, and I won't detail it here, but the very idea that it would be floated shows how tin our Rulers' ears continue to be.

Just a reminder: Obama's grandmother who raised him was the vice president of a bank, his father was a Kenyan economist who abandoned his family in America when Obama was very young, and his mother was an anthropologist often absent herself. He himself is a millionaire many times over.

Absent History

[Note: Yes, still roiled up over the Citizens United Thing]

One of the more striking aspects of the Corporate Liberation Act passed and enacted by the majority of the Supreme Court last week is the nearly complete absence of any historical context for Campaign Finance Reform measures in the first place, nor even the briefest acknowledgement of the pre-1886 Santa Clara County v Southern Pacific Railroad corporate status vis a vis the 14th Amendment and elections.

How is it that the history is simply not there?

From the actions of the Court in modifying the matter before them and their pretzel logic in rendering their decision, it's plain to see that the Court majority manipulated the situation and the law in order to produce the outcome they wanted, consistent with their ideology.

However, how we got to this point is unknown, at least from the evidence and argument in the decision itself (and notably in the dissent as well).

It's as if this is all sui generis unrelated to anything else, out of Zeus's Brow as it were.

Of course there is a history, and it goes much farther back than the Nixon administration -- which is as far back as any of the justices and appellants chose to go.

On this note, I'd just point out that the ACLU's amicus brief in the matter is strictly concerned with First Amendment issues; it is not in any way concerned with the underlying issues of corporate personhood and it does not directly touch on the sensitive issue of "money=speech" (although that has long been an ACLU touchstone.) Indeed, the ACLU brief does not seriously contemplate what the Court actually did in its reversal of over a century of Campaign Finance law and precedent. While celebrating their First Amendment victory in the case, you would think the ACLU would recognize not only the destabilizing factors in the ruling itself, but the radical and reactionary nature of what the Court has done and the danger it intrinsically represents to the issue of the First Amendment and freedom of political speech the ACLU was ostensibly so deeply concerned about.

To a significant degree, the case the Supreme Court created for itself was not legitimately a First Amendment case at all, it was a Radical Corporate Liberationist case. What the ACLU was arguing for on First Amendment grounds was actually not what the Court had before it after they massaged the matter to their liking.

But they decided it on First Amendment grounds, so the ACLU is popping champagne corks and its acolytes and functionaries wonder, stupefied, why everyone else isn't cheering along.

We all love the First Amendment, don't we?

Huh. At times, lawyers can be idiots. And the law, as Dickens noted, can be "a ass."

To return to the history here. The premise of Corporate Personhood which is at the core of the dispute and the central factor in the Court's ruling came about through an almost casual indifference. Or rather apparent indifference.

The matter of whether Corporations were protected by the 14th Amendment and entitled to all the benefits of the "equal protection clause" as "persons" has never actually been before the Court. Rather, in a ruling on a different matter altogether, the infamous Santa Clara County v Southern Pacific Railroad Company (118 U.S. 394), 1886, the Chief Justice announced prior to argument and the court reporter (who apparently was a former employee of the Southern Pacific) inserted into the obiter dictum the statement that:

"The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does."

And it was done.


Rights and privileges guaranteed to natural persons were thereby extended to legal entities/fictional persons, ie: corporations.

And ever since, the courts have behaved as if the matter is settled law.

Of course, that legal premise -- and many would say, that legal fiction that judicial "accident", as it were -- lies at the root of the present ruling. If corporations are "persons" under the meaning of the 14th Amendment then their First Amendment rights to free speech cannot be abridged by acts of Congress to any different degree than those of natural persons. It is the Black Letter of the Law and the Constitution; bow down.

Well, except...

The Santa Clara County v Southern Pacific Railroad Company is instructive on its own merits, regardless of the judicial "accident" that gave currency to the notion of absolute Corporate Personhood. For it is an example of hundreds of suits that demonstrated the unequal position of Corporations vis a vis The People and The Government at the time. That is to say, Corporations, by virtue of their market power and their gross corruption of democratic institutions, had a dominant position vis a vis The People and The Government. In essence, they owned it. All of it.

Against which the interests of The People through their democratic institutions and representatives were feeble at best. At issue in the Santa Clara County case was the refusal of the Southern Pacific Railroad to pay taxes on the assessed value of their properties as determined by the California State Constitution of 1879 and the Assessors of Santa Clara and Fresno Counties. Got that? The Corporation refused to pay property taxes as determined by the Constitution of the state and the County Assessor. Their refusal wound up in the Supreme Court, which ruled very narrowly on the issue of fences, not the constitutional issue of corporate taxation. The Railroad argued that they should be exempt from property taxation to the extent that their mortgages reduced the monetary value of their properties, as was the case under California law at the time for individuals and other entities, but not for railroads. Oh, and their fences were improperly included in assessments and should be excluded.

Lower courts had ruled that fences were improperly included in assessments, but did not rule on the issue of corporate taxation; the Supreme Court upheld lower court rulings on fences. And the Court Reporter included a passing statement by the Chief Justice that as far as the members of the court were concerned, the 14th Amendment applied to corporations as well as individuals. But the matter was not under litigation.

Later on, during Teddy Roosevelt's Trust Busting era, the issue of reforming campaign financing came to the fore. The problem was obvious: that corporations -- such as the Southern Pacific Railroad -- were quite openly buying and selling candidates and elections, and there was little or nothing standing in the way of their doing so. It was corrupt on its face, and that corruption ensured that The People and the Public Interest could not be heard or acted upon unless the "owners" of the Government and its officials deemed it to be in their interests.

That was the situation that led to the first federal and many state campaign finance reform acts. And that is essentially the situation the Supreme Court has reverted the nation and states to.

By the Court's sweeping ruling, much of campaign finance regulation since 1907 when the first federal regulations were put in place, and an undetermined number of state campaign finance regulations have been thrown in the Dumpster. To a significant degree, CFR is back where it was prior to 1907.

That is not to say that the campaign finance reform legislation that was in force prior to the ruling last week was all that effective or even that it was Constitutional. But the Court had many options besides reversing pretty much all of campaign finance regulation. The dissent (starting on page 88) goes through some of those options. Rather than acting "conservatively", the Court acted radically.

This should be a red flag to everyone who supposedly favors judicial restraint, but of course it is not. Instead, they celebrate.

Something's not right here...

There is much more history involved, but my posts have become tiresome. I shall retreat to my chamber anon...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Withdrawing Trust, Changing Hope

[The party's overrrrr / It's time to call it a day / They've burst your pretty balloon / And taken the mooooooonn away ....]

We knew it was bound to happen. Sooner... or later. The bloom would be off the rose, as it were, and the ugly failed truth would be revealed.

Digby says the Palace chatterati will be calling for Obama's resignation by July, in part because of this Cute New Boy from the Commonwealth (oh, that sounds sooo good, the "wealth" part) of Massachusetts, the CosmoCutie, who Queen Sally Quinn and her Princeling Tweety Matthews have both got the hots for.

Obama's failure? He wouldn't put out.

And that's the truth. In so many ways and on so many levels.

I say they'll call for Obama's resignation by April; impeachment by July if he doesn't go on his own.

That'll leave that Delaware clown, Joe Biden, Senator MBNA, on the Throne...

Oh. Wait...

That couldn't be what the Powers That Be really have in mind. Or could it?

We haven't quite got there yet, but the signs are pointing to the Withdrawal of the Mandate of Heaven from the current reigning Emperor.

[T]ian 'Heaven' was a supernatural, ethical force seen as controlling the natural and human worlds. By the Zhou dynasty, the Emperor was called Tianzi 'Son of Heaven' and was seen as the conduit through which Earth was connected to Heaven. The morality of the Emperor was of great importance: a vicious ruler would cause Heaven to show its displeasure through earthquakes, floods and famines. Heaven gave its Mandate ming to just rulers, but withdrew it from those who proved lacking in virtue. The withdrawal of the Mandate would lead to a political upheaval ( geming , removal of the Mandate') which then resulted in the enthronement of a new, virtuous sovereign who would follow the Way of Heaven. The term geming is still used in China for 'revolution'. Link

[Note to add: Of course it happened to Kennedy, but not by Popular Will, instead through an outside agency... It happened to Johnson, too. Our luck with Presidents is not very good, come to think of it.] It happened to Nixon. Ford never had a Mandate, so it was all good for him. It happened to Carter. It almost happened to Reagan during the Iran-Contra Thing, but his doddering incompetence on the stand ultimately evoked some kind of sympathy from his subjects and he was allowed to creak through the remainder of his reign on the arm of his #1, former CIA head, George H. W. Bush. But then it would happen to Bush, as well, when his Grand War Plan came to nothing. Clinton, of course, faced the Withrawal of his Mandate to rule repeatedly, and like the Magic Dragon, he always came back. But after the Impeachment, it was essentially all over but the shouting.

Bush II? He held on as long as he could, but by the last year of his reign, most everyone thought he had already gone away; his éminence grise Deadman Cheney, ruled from his bunkers, sourly, viciously, with malice aforethought, until the end, when His Serenity, Barack Hussein Obama ascended the Throne and a New Day Dawned. Scowling and snarling from his wheelchair, Cheney looked on with unveiled contempt. He could only hold his tongue a month or so.

Once Cheney commenced sniping from the sidelines, and his venom-spewing daughter from Hades joined in from her own Hellmouth, the Handwriting on the Wall began.

It was only a matter of time.

Digression: Speaking of The Bunker, this little item popped up on dated May 18, 2009; I had no idea[r]:

Biden Reveals Location of Secret VP Bunker

Of course he was accused of Gaffing for his revelation of Classified Information by disclosing that The Undisclosed Location where Cheney was always hiding was under the Naval Observatory. Which FOX News was blaring all over creation.

But everybody knew it already, the reports of blasting at the Vice President's House at the Naval Observatory reported by the AP and even at FreeRepublic as they happened and the neighbors complained in 2002.

Good to know that Biden found out. But could it be one of the triggers for the Nasty Pair to go ballistic all over the teevee again? Who knows?


Of course, I was never sure that Obama would serve out his term in any case; there were signs early on that he was not all that intent on being President-Emperor anyway, and if the whole thing fell apart, he'd just retire to Hawaii, a very rich man, to smile and wile away the hours on the beach, working on his tan and another chapter of his continuing memoirs, enjoying the occasional shave ice.

Well, we can hope. I wish Obama no ill at all, but only that he had adopted the other path that was before him at the outset, the path that would have used the crisis of the financial catastrophe to reorder the domestic scene on behalf of the People rather than the failed Interests; the path that would have led us out of the failed Imperial adventures and assured strengthened liberation to more of the world's peoples; the path that could have kept his supporters energized and building a positive future.

Say. What happened to the Future, anyway?

Instead, he pulled the plug. It all went dark. And we got Hoover and "Sausage-making." Ew.

And now the Palace is scrambling for a "Message" that will turn the lights back on, keep hope alive, and recreate ObamaNation 2.0. It's all about the "Message". Bernays still rules... Sigh.

Too late, eh?

Losing My Religion

Well. The last couple of days have been quite the eye-opener as I spent too much time commenting and reading comments over at Glenn's Place on this Citizens United Thing that the Supremes botched royally.

I hardly even went out at all, except to get a new monitor when the old one died in the middle of a heated argument.

The first day, Glenn proposed What the Supreme Court Got Right, based largely on his understanding of the First Amendment and how the ruling upheld the First Amendment, which was the right thing to do in any case, regardless of outcome. And apparently regardless of the process to get there. According to Glenn the Court decided correctly that the campaign finance laws that were overturned were unconstitutional infringements on the First Amendment by interfering with Corporate rights to poltical speech. Rights which were, according to the majority, guaranteed to Corporate "persons" just as they were to natural persons. Rights which were, as far as Glenn was concerned, essentially "absolute."

To say that Glenn was taken to task is putting it mildly. His defense of the ruling and of his philosophy took a beating from many of his regulars as well as from a wide range of legal commentators who apparently just popped over for the day. There were some truly exquisite take-aparts of both the majority's opinion and Glenn's defense thereof. It did keep me engaged to say the least. And I tend not to be fond of legal persnicketyness on the Internet. Scotusblog and Balkinization (to name just a couple) give me a migraine on a good day. And even some of the legal nitpickery that turns up on Glenn's blog from time to time is aggravating. And he tries to keep it down.

But these were really strongly argued rejoinders to Glenn's and the Court's position, clear, plain, and devastating. By the time the day was done, his argument was basically destroyed and in tatters. Those who continued to defend him and the Court majority on this matter tended to be confined to a small (and shrinking) circle of "Libertarians, Propertarians, and Randians of all stripes" as I put it, a fringe of a fringe in political terms, which to me was very enlightening about Glenn's actual political leanings. It wasn't pretty. But I never expected anything else.

It's the kind of politics of Individualism that got going, ironically, during the upheavals of the 1960's, the Politics of Liberation and led directly to Reaganism. Which in turn opened the floodgates to Libertarian, Propertarian and Randian nonsense of all stripes, which is still "fringe" politics, but which has a strong influence in the halls of Power, though perhaps not as strong as it once had.

There were two strong political threads in the 1960's revolts and upheavals, one of Liberation, one of Community.

Liberationists were more inclined to make trouble, shall we say, for the authorities and everyone else and to call for major reordering of society and government based on principles Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness found in the Declaration, as well as on the fulfillment of the promises of the Constitution that had been long, long delayed for vast numbers of Americans. Liberationists were about Rights and Freedom more than anything else. Which, at the time, was the primary energy behind the Anti-War Movement which became huge and almost mainstream.

The other side of the '60's revolt was far less Individualist and much more Communitarian. Those so inclined tended more to withdraw from society than to try to remake it through demand and revolt. Communes of various kinds cropped up all over the country, attracting apparently like-minded people who wanted to work and live together on behalf of mutual interest and establish a viable social alternative to the American Way of Life.

Both of these threads seem to originate in the Progressive Era.

The Genius of the Reaganite Revolution was to find ways to both harness and suppress the energy of the revolts that were roiling the nation, and to preside over the dismantling of Progressivism as the commonly employed operating system for government, first in California, later in the whole country. Many of the Liberationists ultimately became Reaganites; the Communitarians mostly faded away after some truly horrible commune-experimental societies that went grossly awry. We needn't detail them here.

Glenn was born late in the 1960's and never experienced any of the ferment of the era directly. At one time, he enjoyed expressing his contempt for the Failures of the 1960's Movements, much as many of the punks his age tend to do, but he seemed to moderate his stance as the Decade of Insanity under the Busheviks wore on. My position was always that the Busheviks were Revolutionaries (or Counter-Revolutionaries as the case may be) who were engaged in one of the most radical efforts to subvert and transform the American Government as had ever been attempted. And they were succeeding. This is something Glenn and many others didn't seem to understand at all. They saw what the Busheviks were doing as of a piece with the past, and as incremental change, to be met with incremental mitigation and progress, not open revolt and principled but modest opposition. Sometimes, even principles could be abandoned. It wasn't all that different from the Democratic Party opposition to the Busheviks -- which was essentially accommodationist most of the time, punctuated by episodes of OUTRAGE!!!!™

When I noticed that this attitude was common on the Internet, it became clear to me that many of the so-called Progressives online were actually not that opposed to Bushevism. Most of them certainly didn't and don't see it as a mortal danger to what's left of the Republic as I do. If anything, they are more OUTRAGED!!!!™ at the cautious mitigationism of the Obama Regime. They attack the Democrats much more lustily than they do the Republicans.

Some of the specific things the Busheviks did were wrong (like the Iraq invasion) but there is really not that much online Progressive opposition to the overarching ideology of the Busheviks: Corporatism and Imperialism ruled through Autocracy. At least until recently, there wasn't even a recognition that that's what the Busheviks were up to -- or if there was, it wasn't considered all that important compared to the specific errors needing opposition. "Unnecessary war" in particular. Focus on more Rights and Freedom issues, less on ideological "purity."

In essence, this is Liberationism. And it's not that far from Libertarianism, Propertarianism, and Randian bullshit of all stripes.

Which is a very round about way of getting to the Second Day of the Supreme Court dervish at Glenn's Place.

It became something of a dirgy spectacle. So to counter my funk, I post another video of R.E.M.'s really outstanding show in Toronto all those years ago. By the time I'm done, I'll have ransacked all my R.E.M. shit and all of it on YouTube too. Post-Adolescent angst rules! [sings: "That's me in the spot. Light. Losing my religion..."] How old is Michael Stipe now? Oh, who cares.

On the Second Day, Glenn acknowledged that he'd been run through the wringer by his commenters, but rather than acknowledge the stupendous merits of his opponents' case, he decided on a course of insult and contempt on the one hand and showy tautology and logical fallacies on the other, over and over again.

Well, this had the interesting effect of dragging some of his defenders off the sidelines to comment that his superb argument in favor of the Supreme Court decision was so tightly and comprehensively put together and presented that though they were initially opposed to the Court majority opinion, he had by wit and strategy, convinced them they were all wrong and Glenn and the Court majority were right. "Thank you, Glenn, for opening my eyes!!"

Yeah. Sure. Quite the contrast from the day before, that's for sure.

They all said the said the same thing in essentially the same way. Hm. Fascinating. How does that work on the Intertubes?

Every now and again, another hot-shot legal mind would turn up to demolish Glenn's and the Court's arguments again, and do so beautifully, but I noticed that Glenn did not respond to any of these outstanding rebuttals, on either day. What he would do, instead, is offer up some occasional snark to this or that commenter who questioned the ruling and his defense of it, or who went off on what he thought were tangents about potential "outcomes," which in his view were not germane. He lit in to me angrily when I brought up the fact that he is an expat and doesn't have to live with the consequences of this or any other SCOTUS ruling if he doesn't want to, which might be coloring his overall dismissiveness toward those who thought the consequences of the ruling could be devastating to what's left of American democracy. He accused me of using right wing attacks, ad hominem and worse, scraping the bottom of the barrel for whatever filth I could find. Oh! My! Our Glenn is a little bit pissy, isn't he? But the point stands. When you have the option not to live and you don't live with the consequences of a rule you are defending, your approach to and attitude toward what you are observing, let alone defending, is different. He can deny it all he wants. From Rio de Janeiro. But I analogize it in my own mind to how I regarded events in California when I lived, say, in Florida or Alaska. I was interested, of course, but since what was happening didn't directly affect me, nor could it, my point of view was different by definition than those who were in the midst of what was going on.

That's as may be in any case. The upshot of the Second Day's examination of Glenn's position and the Court's ruling was that it's getting pretty grim, night is falling, it's nearly over, the American experiment in Self-Rule has self-destructed, the Corporations have won and Glenn, for all his posturing otherwise, is just as happy it is so. He's not playing on Our Team. He's on Scalia's team, the Destroyers and Punishers. Yeeks!

This seems to be a dawning but not yet confirmed revelation. He will say it's the Constitution, but we know...

Yes. Well.

Ultimately, we Americans who don't have the option to emigrate outside the country face some real, and I think fundamental, questions. Yes, the Corporations have won. We are outside the gates of the Palace, and it doesn't matter if we get "inside" or not, Rule doesn't depend on The People, or even need acknowledge The People anymore.

So what to do?

Most people, I am convinced, just as our Rulers are convinced, will simply submit and comply with whatever Our Rulers command. That's the ground that was laid under Bush and Cheney, and we aren't going back to some Halcyon way things used to be. It won't happen.

So what to do?

For most, the answer is a given, "Yield." For others, the answer is, "Accept internal exile. Try to start anew." For still others, the answer is, "Fight..."

I'm of a mind of what happened when Native Americans came to realize that they had lost their struggle with the invaders, and fighting any longer was simply going to destroy what little remnant was left of the First Peoples... and they stopped. Submitted. It was taken for granted at the time that Natives would soon be extinct and would disappear altogether, never to be seen or heard from again; their time was done.

And I look around now, and the descendants of the survivors who yielded to the invaders are probably more numerous than Indigenous peoples ever were in the land, more and more are hopeful, industrious, thriving, some are wealthy beyond imagining thanks to casino gambling among other things, their culture is by no means dead or dying, in fact it is reviving in many ways and many places, and their place in American society is still not secure, but it is far more so than ever before.

I'm of a mind of what happened when African Americans were faced with the awful truth of Jim Crow, and too many their leading voices were saying "Don't fight. It'll be OK. Or if you fight, do it through established channels. Don't make a ruckus. You'll survive." Of course many didn't survive. But when the Civil Rights struggle was resumed in earnest generations later, African Americans won, largely through appeal to the better angels that were still so much a part of American consciousness and conscience.

I look around now and a Black man is President, working hard on the Corporate Agenda, and though the position of African Americans in society is still not secure by any means, it is far more so than ever before. So long as ...

Is it now the turn of ourselves, that pseudo majority of Americans who believe in Community as well as Liberty to yield, submit to Our Generous Corporate Overlords, since now, all the institutions and avenues of Democracy have been overwhelmed by Corporate Interests?

I can't answer that question right now.

[sings: "I thought that I heard you laughing
I thought that I heard you sing
I think I thought I saw you try

But that was just a dream
That was just a dream

But that was just a dream
Try, cry, why try?
That was just a dream
Just a dream, just a dream

Fade to black.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

It's the End of the World As We Know It -- los dos

Look upon my work... ye mighty, and despair...

The keening and rending of garments over the Supreme Court's rendering the entire electoral system over to the Corporatist owners of the Government is almost more stunning than the ruling itself.

This Court has gone clear over the edge. Into realms not seen for at least a hundred years, and maybe not since the pre-Civil War court. It's shameful, deeply reactionary, and utterly contrary to the main thrust of American and Human History.

It's easy to reject it.

It's not so easy to know what to do about it.

A modest proposal: start by legislating free political advertising on major mass media. No purchased ads allowed. Then declare unlimited free and equal access to some sort of public access political station in every media market.

The key to to forbid the purchase of political advertising.

And then, impeach these rotten sons-of-financiers and stockbrokers.

On Which Party Should Expire


Got into an interesting series of conflicts last night over the implication that one or the other political party should disappear -- and which one it should be.

The CW that's trying to gel in the Lefty Blogosphere is that the Dems are so fundamentally corrupted and incompetent (viz: the Coakley-Brown Thing) that they should have their ticket punched for the last time and be sent packing, never to return. And Goat for Azazel-like, they will be our Sin Eaters and sent into the desert, there to... disappear.

Or the Dems should be shunned and ostracized and a Third Party formed by all the hot-headed Internet Progressives. Yeah. That'll work. G'head. Try it. How about putting Ezra in charge, since everybody loves him.

Oddly, the psycho party -- the Republican Party -- is left immune from all this puerile "one of the parties has got to go or I'm gonna form a Third Party" harrumphing.

When I point out that our electoral system only allows for two parties at a time, and third parties cannot, to a mathematical certainty, ever reach the point of significant power, it's generally understood that is the case, but there is much fussing over it. "Why can't a third party succeed?" It's the Math. The two established parties have priority of place (and more money than God, thanks to their Corporate sponsors -- the same corporations sponsoring both parties, how convenient) and an upstart third party, except under very extraordinary conditions, cannot reach a plurality sufficient to take the election before one of the established parties does. It's a built in feature of our winner-take-all electoral system.

Ok, runs the thinking, then one of the parties has to go away: "I know!" chimes the chorus: "The Democrats! Let's make the Democrats go away! I don't like them! They make me sick!"

How... intriguing.

So I point out that we have two wings or branches of a single Corporate Party to choose from right now, and the only viable choice a voter has when one of the Parties is unsatisfactory is the other party. One of the Parties, the Republican Party, is psychotic, demonstrably dangerous, bloodthirsty, rapacious, etc, etc. The other one, the Democrats, is their enabler. So you want the Democrats to go away?

Why not have the psychotic Republicans go away instead?

It's like a new and impossible thought for many people. The idea of disposing of the Dems once and for all is easy to grasp, it seems. They are so disappointing they deserve to expire. "At least with Republicans, you know what you're getting." OK... but they are psycho, certifiable, deeply dangerous.

Why keep them around?

"Well, you just can't 'exterminate' the Republicans! Anyway, there will always be bloodthirsty psychos in politics! It's the way things are!"


In most civilized societies, bloodthirsty psycho political parties aren't even allowed to begin with. This has to do with something that happened a while back, which fewer and fewer are remembering, when some bloodthirsty psycho parties rose to power in Europe and Asia, primarily, but they have also done their dirty work elsewhere, and commenced to... erm... "misbehave" as is their nature. Leading to, oh I don't know, genocide, mayhem and World War among other things. Psycho parties are dangerous not just on the micro scale of countries, but globally.

We've had experience.

Thus, most civilized societies today ban psycho parties outright.

Yet our psycho Republican Party is constantly indulged, not just by Democrats but by practically everyone. Why?

Why would anyone think that if our current political conundrum calls for the creation of a New Party, in a two party system, the one party that should expire is the "enabling" party, not the "psychotic" party?

This makes no sense, none at all.

It's self evident (at least to me) that if the psychos were locked up and their party was eliminated, the enablers wouldn't have to... enable that psychosis any more and might be free (yay! freedom!) to be and do what they want to be, which is apparently to become the Good-Burgher Moderate/Conservative Technocrat/Manager Party. Of the Republic.

In other words, pretty much what Republicans were in the 1950s.

So my proposal is that we work to get rid of Republican-psychotics, let the Democrats be the Moderate/Conservative Party they really, really, really want to be, in other words, let them become the Right Wing of our political spectrum, the sole (and perhaps appropriate) Corporate Party, and let us build a New Party by coalescing the many leftish "third parties" (Greens, Progressive Labor, Socialists, etc.) into a single People's Party (of the Republic) and go from there.

Makes perfect sense to me. It's OUTRAGEOUS!!!!™ to some others, who insist that it's the Democrats who need to go away or be transformed, infiltrated, turned Left.

I say no. Let the Dems be the Corporate Party they really want to be, and get rid of the Rs. Legally. Build a new People's Party from the kernels already extant, that will operate well to the Left of the Democrats.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

It's POLICY!!!

The teeth gnashing and garment rending spectacle on the so-called "left" over the Coakley-Brown Thing in Massachusetts is mostly focused either on scapegoating political personalities in the White House (Emanuel, of course, and Axelrod) and/or Massachusetts (the Dem candidate herself comes to mind, hmmm?), or on dissecting and blaming the poor "messaging" -- ie: advertising and presentation of The Message on the TeeVee -- of Dems in general and Coakley in particular.

When people point out that, "No, the problem is really the POLICIES coming out of the White House and the Dem Party apparat. People HATE them," the wall of blank stares goes up among the Important Dems or the would-be Important Dems, and accusations of being a Republican plant, or for God's sake, a Palinite arise.

In other words, you can't say anything about the Policies of this regime without getting lynched for being a Republican, because the only criticisms of the Policies of this regime are apparently Republican criticisms.

Dems either ignore the policies and wonder where the message is, or they love the policies and wonder, bewildered, what happened to the message?

Bernays, you see. With the right message, apparently, people will buy anything.

The only thing that really matters is the message.

The POLICIES of this White House have been straightforward Neo-Liberal economic prescriptions, and straightforward Neo-Conservative foreign policy prescriptions, with a somewhat more human face.

PEOPLE HATE THESE POLICIES. It's the policies. It's not the "message." What's so hard to understand?

The domestic economy is in tatters, has been for some time now, and all the prescriptions coming out of the White House so far have been straightforward Neo-Liberal policies, providing essentially unlimited backstopping to the top of the private sector (ie: the Banksters and the Financial Sector in general) and forcing all the costs onto the vanishing middle and the expanding lower classes.

The POLICY of the White House is to do nothing to directly increase employment, for example. That has the desired effect of keeping unemployment rates high. Which has the multiple desired effect of driving down wages, benefits, and living standards for the vast majority of Americans. Their costs stay the same -- or even increase -- and they get no debt relief (except the extremely costly option of bankruptcy, which in many cases will leave them still in debt for even more than when they filed!); their incomes are cut significantly, their debt and tax load increases, and it's all a matter of POLICY. Is it any wonder people are pissed? Of course it isn't, and the White House knows it. Still they do nothing to change their policies.

They do nothing to provide a backstop to the deterioration of conditions in lower down in the private sector, either. Small business is vanishing from this country because small business people and independent operators don't have the money and they can't get the money to sustain "business." It's all going to the top of the financial pyramid and to the proliferating Imperial wars of aggression. It's POLICY that it be so. This is White House policy, eagerly enabled and abetted by the Congress, which is as thoroughly in thrall to the Corporatists as the White House is.


And it ain't doing jackshit for most people, that's a fact.

The HCR debacle is just icing on the cake.

This is cryingly obvious, even to the White House. They know that the People are upset, and they even seem to know why. But they won't do anything to change their policies from the Neo-Liberal/Neo-Con path they're on.

And I submit that they won't change their policies because simply don't believe the People will do anything to force them to change those policies. I'd go so far as to say they don't believe the People can do anything. "Hah hah, suckers!"

I grieve for Haiti, for example. It tears me up; I become extremely emotional over what I see happening there -- as a matter of POLICY -- but this is standard operating procedure now for disasters, and there is every indication it's going to get worse.

The POLICIES are fairly clear: aid to be delayed and denied as long as necessary to compel "voluntary" evacuation of the disaster zone. Any excuse at all is acceptable, just keep the aid from reaching most of the survivors as long as it takes to get them to leave. Let the vast majority of the injured die; let most of the trapped stay where they are and die. Do good works for public consumption, the rescues, the airlifts, the stockpiling of supplies, the scatter-shot heroism, but do not provide services or supplies in anything like sufficient quantities or more than randomly for most people -- so as to get them to leave. Blame the "debris," the "danger," the "looters," the "anarchy."

Be prepared to force evacuation at the point of a gun if necessary if they won't go voluntarily.

Once the disaster region is cleared, commence partial rebuilding a la New Orleans and parts of Indonesia (among other places) to ensure the comfort and convenience of the Neo-Liberal elites. Period.

Get the picture?

It's not about the message. It's about the failure of Policies to address the catastrophe among the People.

I mean it. We're all Haitians now. Their fate is ours. And if we don't awake and arise -- soon -- it will be too late (it may already be) to "bend" the course of history.

The End of the World As We Know It


Well, the Coakley/Brown Thing has put something of a cherry on the top of all the horrors lately.

Imagine it. After fifty years -- no, more than fifty years, well more -- of A Kennedy representing Massachusetts in the Senate, some middle-aged still-hunky wingnut dude, beloved by the Teabaggers, will be declaming from the Well of The Senate on his opposition to everything the Kennedys were (supposedly) for.

The World Turned Upside Down.

And there was another big earthquake, though not quite as big as the big one the other day, in Haiti, putting the survivors there into another well-justified panic.

Of course the Teabaggers and their sponsors will take this ball and run with it for all it's worth, it's what they do.

The rest of us get to watch; that's what we do.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

"Camp No;" Dr. Evil

Everybody is whispering in hushed and frightened tones about Scott Horton's investigative piece in the March, 2010, online edition of Harper's, a tale which could be of mayhem and the murder of three apparently innocent Guantanamo captives, all of whom were set for release, apparently tortured to death on the night of June 9, 2006, at a mysterious facility just off the GWOT concentration camp perimeter, dubbed "Camp No", where -- again, apparently -- the odd captive was now and again taken for "special treatment." Apparently. Or maybe not.

Well. One doesn't know. One has no way of knowing. The Offical Story is that the three dead captives that night committed suicide by tying their arms and feet, stuffing rags down their throats and hanging themselves in their cells from ropes made of shreds from their clothing and bedding. All three. At the same time. This was, claimed a shrieking, hysterical, Queeg-like caricature of a PrizonKamp Kommandant named "Admiral" Harry Harris (sure, whatever, Dude) a perfidious act of "asymmetrical warfare!!!™" designed to thwart the Pure Aims And Goals of American Goodness, an act that will live in Infamy, and on and on and on, spit flying out of his foam-flecked mouth, fire from his coal-black eyes.

Anyone who remembers the incident, and it was in all the press and media at the time, surely remembers Harris's over-the-top description of what happened and some of us remember the aftermath, a mad scramble to lock down the captives even more than they already were, take all their stuff, particularly their papers, and monitor and dog them 24/7. We may also remember their hunger strikes over and over, protesting their brutal treatment among other things (oh, like their innocence or their languishing without charges in a concentration camp in Cuba for years-and-years, that sort of thing.) We may remember there were occasional suicides among the captives. And there were persistent reports of torture.

From Horton's investigation, it is not possible to know what really happened. He says that witnesses came forth after Obama was elected, went to the Justice Department, spoke with highly placed lawyers thereat, and were promised a thorough investigation of what could have been a very terrible crime.

And nothing happened.

The investigation, if it was done at all, was closed with nothing more than a hint as to why: the "gist" of witness statements could not be confirmed. kthxbai.

Very strange, even suspicious.

Of course, that's Horton's point. And part of the problem here is that there have been so many lies, so much deception, so much perfidy and so much lawlessness, murder and mayhem surrounding practically every aspect of the So-Called Global War on Terror and its numerous extensions and side actions that it's really not possible for a mere mortal to know or understand what the hell is going on in any given case, let alone get a handle on the whole picture.

From appearances, the implications of the Horton piece in Harpers (and I really do suggest any reader subscribe to Harper's if only for Horton's periodic reporting and opining, there's always plenty more to get into, and the archives are a stupendous resource, but I digress)... the implications are that the three dead captives delivered to the camp clinic the night of June 9, 2006, were tortured to death en masse at the off-campus facility dubbed "Camp No," a purported Black Site, used for "special purposes" by... whomever.

And then a frantic effort was ordered and made to plant a cover story that the three had suicided themselves, perfidiously, and anyone who breathed a word about the truth was to be hounded until they desisted. The camp was the scoured for any potential "evidence" that could be used against prisoners and/or their attorneys, and -- apparently most importantly -- the "asymmetrical warfare" tactic of hunger strikes by the prisoners was to be ended once and for all.

Which may be ultimately what this is all about. I don't know.

The flaw in Horton's piece, so to speak, is that the story he tells lacks sufficient context to clearly understand what was happening in the concentration camp, the long-time resistance of the captives, and their persistent hunger strikes that were gaining a good deal of attention world-wide and bringing the whole operation of the Guantanamo prison camp facilities under increasing scrutiny and criticism. The three dead captives were, it is my understanding -- though I can't say I "know" anything about it -- were resisting their captivity, had been targeted (and at least one of them was scheduled) for release, and they had all participated in hunger strikes, may have actually been on a hunger strike when their deaths occurred.

Another prisoner is mentioned in the piece who claims in his attorney's affidavit that he was severely abused -- tortured -- that night as well, beaten and tormented for hours, but he survived. Apparently, he, too was on a hunger strike.

The upshot of the actions at the camp afterwards was to prevent the captives from communicating with one another and from communicating in confidence with their attorneys so as to prevent them from organizing further acts of resistance of any kind.

But resistance and a simple hunger strike (plus the occasional suicide) is hard to square with the kind of brutality and mayhem toward the captives that is still being reported out of Guantanamo.

There is still a lot we don't know.

But one thing that comes out of Horton's report is that the Department of Justice may be so corrupted it is now irredeemable. I doubt he would go that far, but given the backturning of the Department on this case, one of many egregious incidents, the prognosis for "Justice" ever being achieved through the agency of this Department is becoming vanishingly small.