Tuesday, August 31, 2010

OT -- Minature Rooms in Aspic

The Thorne Minature Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago:

The Art Institute of Chicago - Thorne Miniature Rooms from Igor Guryanov on Vimeo.

I saw this exhibit in Chicago when I was eleven or twelve years old, and I remember being dumbfounded by the ingenuity, skill, artistry, and sheer persistence of those artisans who made these remarkable works of art in the 1930's and '40's under the auspices of and with funding from Mrs. James Ward Thorne.

So far as I know, there is nothing else quite like this exhibit in the world.

There is a lot I like about Chicago -- I've always had a great time when I've been there -- but this exhibit made more of an impression on me than just about anything else in the city.

And yet... looking at these miniature rooms now, I'm still struck by the sheer boldness and creativity of it all, but even more I'm struck how nothing seems to have changed except for the exhibit space itself. (Of course, close comparison shows that there have been some subtle changes over the years.) Nevertheless, the rooms are preserved as if in aspic or amber. But for some tarnish on the silver (watch for it), these rooms appear now essentially as they did when they were first installed.

It's eerie.

Monday, August 30, 2010


The main impression I got from the snippets of the Glenn Beckistan Rally at the Memorial to Some President on the Mall was that this man is incredibly soft and pasty-white.



Nothing he said made the least bit of sense, and from the commentary of the chatterati about it, it didn't matter. No one was paying attention anyway.


The attendees were having themselves a fine little get-together on a hot and humid summer's day, and no one -- but no one -- was going to interfere with their pleasure. Can't argue with that. Nor can you work up too much OUTRAGE!!!!!
over it.

Just another summer "news" filler.

But the warnings continue, as they should. This man is a prime, grade-A, number one demagogue who's been playing the road show circuit for quite some time. Most of the criticism of him that's appeared in the media, new and old, is of his truly appalling (what I've seen of it) television show -- a show that consists primarily of incoherent rants, nonsense and gibberish. With illustrations. But he has a radio show and a road show too, and he's been taking his show on the road for over a year. Hardly anyone talks about that part of his entertainment empire.

The personal appearances are where he makes the direct connection with the People, and that's apparently where his power lies. Beck does have power over his Masses, so they say, in that he is able to assemble sizable crowds wherever he goes, and he is able to manage them successfully to 1) give money; 2) believe what he says. Even if they don't understand a word of it.

His speechifying is literally incomprehensible to a radical secularist like me, and they say it is because he talks in a "code" that is only understandable by the Adept -- primarily those steeped in Christian Reconstructionism and general Authoritarianism. That may be, I don't know. What he sounds like is a drunk or drug addict (apparently he has been both) who is still high or on a bender. Cf: the gibberish out of George W. Bush's mouth. Only by comparison, Bush made sense, at least sometimes.

Beck? Never.

On a related note, when I was on the road a lot, I would listen to Limbaugh in the mornings. I was well aware of when he fell into the Oxycontin habit, for he became completely incoherent, his monologues making no sense at all, simply words strung together with Emphasis, as if they had any meaning, and as he got more and more into his drug of choice, not only was he making no sense at all, but he was losing his hearing, and so he was unable to hear either himself or anyone else, and it was almost like he was constantly whining or crying on the air. It was bizarre as hell, and it went on for a year or more.

No one noticed. That's not to say "no one at all." What it does say is that a very strict Code of Silence surrounded his on-air deterioration such that none of his media colleagues ever said a word about it, ever pointed out what complete nonsense he was spouting, ever publicly hinted there was something "wrong", not until the penultimate moment before he went into rehab. Apparently, too, his vaunted listeners -- all those millions, who are, by the way, far fewer than the number touted, not 20 million a week by a long shot, closer to 10 or 12 -- didn't notice. They just went along for the ride, and it wasn't his babbling nonsense that eventually clued them that maybe something was "wrong," it was his constant whining and crying because he couldn't hear.

Something like that episode is going on with this soft, pasty demagogue in his many appearances over the last couple of years. Beck's overt madness has made Bill O'Reilly look sane by comparison; that's scary enough all by itself.

But as Digby pointed out, he Speaks in Tongue, babbling in a language only certain Initiates and Those Chosen can "understand." And as he goes around the country doing this shtick, over and over and over, he seems to bring more and more lunacy out of his followers, while attracting more and more of the merely curious to check it out.

Crazy, perhaps. I wouldn't have any way of knowing what his true psychology is, because so much of what he does is show-biz hucksterism. It's an act. He's putting on a show for the Rubes, with the intention of picking their pockets. This is as obvious as sin.

And in that context, he is nothing more than yet another predator in our midst. Yet another religious predator as he is now propounding the theory that he is Chosen By God to Lead His Flock, yadda, yadda. Sure he was. Given that he is a convert to Mormonism, this is a very odd position for him to take. Yes, of course, Mormons "witness" to Gentiles, but they are typically modest about it, and they typically don't prattle on about being God's Chosen -- well, not unless they're Joseph Smith or Brigham Young, etc., in other words in charge of the Mormon Church itself. And I haven't seen any signs that the current Presidency thereof is yielding to the likes of Glenn Beck. Besides, his ecumenical "ministry" is not even remotely in line with Mormonism as Received From Above. It's little more than bastardized Social Darwinism dolled up in Moralism and Misquoted Scripture.

Not only is he Pillsbury soft and pasty white and he cries a lot -- which is appealing on an instinctive level, (white) babies, don'tchaknow -- he has been able to demonstrate significant levels of managing the masses, which the turn out in DC the other day amply showed. Crowd estimates fell short of the 100,000 - 300,000 that was being touted. Between 75,000 and 85,000 is said to be the most likely number based on pictures like this:

which shows a substantial but surprisingly sparse crowd in many areas. What time were the pictures taken? Time of day has some influence on attendance, and as there appear to be slight shadows from the east, I'd say it was before 11am. But I don't know.

And there was the CBS estimate of 87,000 based on those pictures. It's far less than the number "expected," but for those who watch for these kinds of things, getting a crowd of over 20,000 is considered adequate to demonstrate managing the masses sufficiently to be taken seriously. It was part of Obama's audition process for the Presidency as well.

The curious thing for me is where we go from here. Glenn Beck will be happy to pick the pockets of his followers until Doomsday, a destiny he -- and they -- appear to devoutly wish. OK, then. Have at it.

Healthy ecosystems require predators of a certain sort, and in some sense, the kind of predation Beck does is harmless enough. What's dangerous is letting him run wild, or what's even worse, form a pack of predators with others of his ilk, and doing that seemed to be a part of what he was doing the other day in DC. He had Sarah Palin, Arch She-Predator, and a whole passel of Ministers of the Lord (predators all). And plenty of yelping from would-be running dogs. This was the Display from the podium.

Go watch "Triumph of the Will" again; you will see something of the same thing. Or observe Stalin's rallies in Red Square.

Ultimately, it's a recipe for disaster.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The End of the Republic Is Not the End of Empire

There's an immodest tendency (especially in the Blogosphere) to equate the difficulties the United States is going through these days -- what with the various wars of aggression, the Endless Recession, a government of, by and for the plutocrats, and the tattered, pissed upon Constitution -- as some sort of modern day parallel with the end of the Roman Empire.

And this misses the mark badly.

What's happening is a somewhat murky parallel to the end of the Roman Republic and the inauguration of the Roman Empire, not its end at all.

The United States went through an earlier Imperial Era (we could argue "Empire" is at the root of The American Dream as promulgated by the Founders, but that's another topic for another day). The American overseas imperial ambition began with the overthrow of the Native Hawaiian monarchy in 1893 by American planters and adventurers. In 1898, the United States seized by force -- a war of aggression, gee -- an entire (rotting) Empire from Spain and so joined the tail end of the Imperial free-for-all that characterized the ambitions of (mostly) European powers during the 19th Century.

It didn't work out well.

Not for anyone. Not the Natives who were starved, brutalized, exploited and oppressed throughout the era, and not for their colonial masters, either, who found themselves embroiled in ever more catastrophic World Wars for global hegemony and domination.

The 19th and the first half of the 20th Centuries were disastrous for Natives and for Imperial ambitions in turn. There may have been progress in some other realms -- materially, certainly, for the imperialists -- but not so much progress in terms of humanity.

A bi-polar global political arrangement emerged out of the chaos and wreckage left in the wake of WWII (it's hard to believe just how awful conditions for the survivors were in the aftermath of World War II -- except in the United States, which had escaped the destruction wrought nearly everywhere else.) On the one hand were the Godless Communists led by the weakened but extraordinarily resilient Soviet Union, and on the other were the Free Peoples of the World, led by the United States.

Soon enough, the bi-polarism broke down to accommodate the growing nonaligned independence movements that liberated former imperial enterprises of various European and American powers from their colonial fetters. The Third World was born.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, however, this tripartite arrangement has broken down. Especially since the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, DC -- extraordinarily simple and effective when results are measured by "predictions," but again, that's another topic for another day -- the United States, in concert with much of the rest of the English speaking world, has set about reviving and reimposing aspects of the British Empire in certain sectors where its lessons were not learned back in the day.

While what's going on resembles the days of the British Raj, and certainly today's targets are the very ones the British didn't quite get right when the Sceptered Isle reigned supreme, it is a basically American Imperial enterprise under way, with a basically political rather than a more pointedly economic objective (ie: steal from the Natives to enhance the wealth and power of a handful of British aristocrats and the Crown). That's not to say there aren't such crass economic motives, for there certainly are. It is merely to point out that the primary objective of the Imperial Wars of Aggression currently under way is the establishment and perpetuation of a "peaceful" political order in these restive lands without serious resistance to US Power.

Boiled down, all this is about is crushing resistance. Permanently. Of course it is an impossible objective to achieve, and that's part of its beauty. By being desirable but impossible, it can be pursued forever. It becomes a mythological quest, pursued for its own sake, and conveniently enhancing the power and wealth of the Oligarchs and Plutocrats along the way while step-by-step ensuring the extinguishment of even the pretense of Constitutional self-government.


This is the introductory phase of the establishment of a New Empire at the end of the Republic; it is not the End of the Empire by any means. Instead, it is the opening phase of the establishment of an Enduring Anglo-American Empire.

Perhaps the confusion arises from the conflation of the American Republic with its earlier Imperial thrusts -- which were not enduring and which were conducted from the premises of a Republic. Rome was a Republic throughout its early Imperial expansion, don't forget. Consolidation of that Empire and stabilization on the domestic front required the extinguishment of the Republic -- in the guise of "saving it" of course -- in order to proceed successfully. Which the Romans did. For hundreds of years.

Remnants of the Roman Empire still survive and operate.

The establishment of an Enduring Anglo-American Empire is what I see going on now. It's very halting and imperfect to say the least, but it is proceeding bloodily and relentlessly. It is being financed by the exploitation -- and progressive impoverishment -- of the American masses who are simply and efficiently being relieved of their wealth with breathtaking speed -- and by the likeliest rival to Anglo-American hegemony, China.

This situation actually puts me in mind of what was going on in Ancient Greece, the Peloponnesian Wars and all that. The Persians -- the rivals of the Greeks, right? -- though actually defeated by the Greeks at Marathon, were according to Thucydides, very active players and financiers in both Greek imperial expansion (under an ostensible "Democracy") and in the Peloponnesian Wars that wracked Hellas and the colonial holdings of the Greeks for a generation. The Greeks couldn't have done what they did without Persian influence and especially without Persian finance. And of course the exploitation and impoverishment of the masses, but they were never well off to begin with.

So it is now, the Anglo-American quest for a New Imperial hegemony is being financed by China, which appears to have no additional imperial ambitions (they seem happy enough with what they've got, don't they?) so they're content to let the British and the Americans work over resistance groups wherever they find them.

Which is probably the underlying reason why the Chinese continue to finance this Imperial adventure. The Chinese don't want to have to deal with these resistance groups, either, do they? But they have more important things to deal with at the moment, let the Outer Barbarians serve as mercenaries to the Middle Kingdom and at least keep the fiercer Barbarians at bay.

Working out just fine... for the Chinese.

What a tangled web, eh?

But back to my point: this is the End of the Republic, not the End of Empire.

The Anglo-American Empire will endure for at least as long as its peoples can continue to be exploited and impoverished (another generation or more), and for as long as its Chinese financiers believe it is worthwhile to fund it (another several generations if the signs are to be believed.)

Americans will be little the wiser.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Last year we had 11 skunks taken out from under our house in New Mexico. This year, despite our best efforts, I know there are at least two who have moved in and a neighbor thinks there might be a whole family of them. This time, I got some traps of my own, as the cost of calling Critter Control to come back again and again was getting out of hand. Daniel, who did the job for us last year, was very friendly and efficient, but there were so many skunks, and he usually only set one trap at a time. Consequently, removing them all of them cost a pretty penny.

After they were gone, what I called a Guard Kitty -- a big bruising male tabby -- took up residence and chased away any skunk that tried to make its way under the house. He was very good at his job! One time I was there and a skunk got by him; he went after it under the house and there was a War. I could hear them fighting quite loudly under the floor, and then after a bit I could smell (OMG!) the struggle. I had never encountered such a strong and pungent skunk smell. It seemed to permeate everything, and I had an intense physical/emotional reaction to it. It was really very much a fight or flight reaction. The brain gets into a very strange and almost trance-like state. I was aware of how strongly I was responding, but at the same time I was able to function sufficiently to take steps to counter the stink. It's fairly easy.

Vinegar. Just place bowls of it or spray it wherever the skunks smell is, and within minutes, the smell is gone.

The War continued under the house for a while, so even though I was using vinegar to counteract the skunk's determined efforts to make the Guard Kitty leave it alone, the animal kept spraying for some time. I wound up using a whole bottle of vinegar. Ran out! Ultimately, the struggle stopped with the skunk being chased out by the cat never to return. And by that time all the vinegar -- and the smell -- was gone.

The Guard Kitty (a feral that just showed up one day) got plenty of praise, of course, and he was great at keeping all skunks out for the entire winter. Then he disappeared. I think he may have moved down the street, as I saw a cat that looked remarkably like him crossing the street a block and a half away from our house this spring, but I'm not sure.

I've repeatedly blocked up the likely entrance holes, and I set up a one-way door so that if there are animals under the house they can get out, but the creatures are strong and clever. They have found many ways to dig under and around all my efforts to close up the entrances they have created for themselves. This will be an ongoing project. And as soon as I get back to New Mexico, the traps will have to be employed.

Daniel would take his captives out to Otero Canyon outside of Tijeras to drop them off. It's 27-30 miles or so. A neighbor just sort of shrugged and said, "They'll come back." Sure enough. Daniel claimed that once trapped, the skunks were very docile, and he had never been sprayed by one in all the time he had been handling them. We'll see... I dunno about that docile thing, but the catch and release traps are mighty cool. The skunks, it is said, cannot resist Little Debbie snack bait. So. That's one of the projects for my next trip out to the High Desert.

Meanwhile, the menagerie around our house in California has been growing. Our longtime companion cat, Mao, had kept all other animals off his property. He was extraordinarily territorial; he would not allow any cat or any other large creature to come close. He would fight them off, sometimes the struggles were fatal for the other creature. When Mao died, though, the others started showing up around here after a few months, and one, The Girl Cat, just waltzed right in the house and took up a position on Gramma Betty's lap. She loved it. Betty passed away a year ago in July, and the menagerie keeps growing. There are now seven or eight neighborhood cats that love to hang around -- and get fed -- at our place, but only two are genuinely "ours," plus there are assorted squirrels and birds and occasional rodentia, and now raccoons and (we're told, though I haven't seen them) opossums. Whoo-hoo!

We have a statue of St. Francis in New Mexico. I've seen one -- life-size -- at one of the specialty/antique stores nearby that I'm thinking of getting for our house here in California.

One of the raccoons has been really appealing since his arrival, so much so, I wonder if he is someone's pet. He comes over from the neighbor's yard across the street. They used to have a yippie dog, but they don't have any pets now. I'm wondering if they know they have a 'coon?

Anyway, the creature waddles across the rather busy street just around sunset, waddles up our driveway, greets the assorted cats that are hanging around, and looks for some food to eat. Usually it can find something, and it will chow down for a while, as the cats look on. Typically, the 'coon will take a break in its munching, particularly if it is hot, and get something to drink or just go into the backyard to rest. It will turn over on its back and sprawl belly-up, with its face looking -- well, smiling -- right at you. It's done this numerous times. But the other day, it found a garden hose with a trigger sprayer on the end. I think it must have used the trigger to sprinkle part of the driveway, for I found it on its back, belly up, in a fresh puddle of water, the hose and the trigger beside it, the animal grinning from ear to ear. It was a very hot day. The 'coon was cooling off. I tried to get a picture, but the batteries in my camera died.

We have all kinds of birds at both houses, too, something that surprises most people when they know there are all sorts of outdoor cats around. The birds seem pretty capable of defending themselves, though, and some of them, like the blue-jays, love the catfood and they will harass any cat that dares to get in its way.

While this is an OT post, it does relate to the problem of predators that I brought up in an earlier post. Cats, of course, are predators. Yet their prey seems to be very happy and healthy and not particularly subject to predation, though one of the cats caught a mouse for me the other day.

I'll try to get into the topic more over the next week or so.

(I have some short movies of the raccoon's antics, and if I can get them edited and uploaded, I'll try to post them here as an Update. No guarantees...!)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Getting out in front of the issues

It's long mystified me why the remnant "left" in this country is constitutionally unable to get in front of issues small and large and lead into that new day dawning that used to be so important.

Instead, the "left" constantly reacts to rightist garbage, desperately trying to hang on to the shreds and tatters of a status quo the rightists are only too happy to yank out of their hands.

This has been going on for years and years, decades now, and it is really bewildering.

It's not for lack of ideas. Why just the other day, the New America Foundation came out with a neat little proposal to double Social Security payments to help get the economy "moving" again. Well, there's an idea. Gee. The only problem with it is that the deficit scolds have long since been banging the gong about cutting Social Security to the point where doing so is all but inevitable.

The idea of increasing Social Security payments should have been broached the instant the economy turned sour. I think I did at the time suggest that low-end Social Security payments be doubled or tripled for just that economic purpose. Not only that, but I thought the eligibility age should be reduced to 55 so as to free up jobs for younger workers. I also suggested that because households were drowning in debt, instead of paying off the banks' gambling debts (the Fed just held out the promise of another round of payouts to the banks), payments -- large payments ($80,000 was a figure I remember mentioning) -- should be made directly to households to clear debt or for the purchase of particularly important goods and services (like green-fitting homes and such) in order to goose the economy.

Robert Reich has been advocating a "payroll tax holiday" for quite a while, and the other day he added a nuance: cancel payroll taxes on the first $20,000 of income, and pay for it with an additional payroll tax on those making more than $250,000. This is good.

But we are years into this Endless Recession, and the policies out of Washington have been like Hoover's policies dealing with the Depression. They really haven't helped any but the banks and the upper one percent. They've been devastating for the middle and working class, by design.

Why the so-called "left" isn't out in front of economic issues is bewildering. In fact, Democratic Party economic policy is as Hooverite as that of the White House, and commentators on the so-called "left" are at best ambivalent about what to do -- typified by Paul Krugman's fretting about this and that.

Why aren't self-styled progressives out in front of the war issues? Not just saying "no" but saying what would be the better policy.

We could go on and on.

In the United States what passes for the "left" is reactionary, depending on the rightists for issues to respond to. The "left" is desperately clinging to shreds of the status quo for dear life, rather than coming up with a vibrant new vision for the future.

As I pointed out earlier regarding the mosque issue, the appropriate position on it is "No," not because it is Muslim, but because it is religious -- and we don't need more religion, there or anywhere else. Religion and religious fervor is part of the problem. But putting it that way is getting in front of the issue, and that would be... rude.

Let's be clear: our government is rightist through and through. One party is insane, the other is its enabler. Neither has any interest in serving the People. The People are passive in the face of these facts in part because they see no sign at all that anyone able to lead is interested in leading toward correct solutions. Many apparently thought Obama would be the one and have been sorely disappointed. But surely they know that putting the bloodthirsty plunderers back in charge for another round of looting and disaster is not a good idea.

But that's the political alternative to the disappointment so many feel. Madmen or their enablers.

If we on the "left" could actually get out in front of issues, present a coherent framework for positive change and follow through, what a wonderful world this would be. But no.

Can't do that.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Predators are running wild this summer, much as they were last summer when the TeaBaggers were All The Thing and you couldn't turn around in July or August without running into a screaming mob of gun-toting white folk out to Protect Their White Wimmen and Prevent The Colored From Getting Health Care.

This summer, the predatory screamers are out in force to Prevent The Ground Zero Mosque.

Subtle, eh?

Now as far as I'm concerned, we have plenty enough religious institutions cluttering up the land, and we could do with fewer of them. I am not a supporter of the Cordoba House Project, nor would I be if there were no controversy surrounding it. My own view is that all religious institutions should be taxed to a fare thee well, that there should be strict limits placed on their activities, and that their public presence should be reduced -- or in some cases eliminated. Churches, mosques, temples, synagogues, "meeting houses" and "prayer facilities" have proliferated like weeds in this country. There are more than enough of them.

I say call a moratorium on any new religious facilities. Of any kind. Anywhere.

But that's just me.

Obviously, I have no great love for religious institutions, though I like to think of myself as a man of strong and abiding faith. The two are not incompatible. In fact, I find most of the institutions of religion to be incompatible with maintaining faith. The problem with nearly all religious institutions is simple: they are filled with and run by opportunistic predators. The Catholic Church, of course, is the principle example thereof in the modern world. And of course my ancestors were all Catholics, some of them excessively devoted to the Church, bless their hearts.

But the Catholic Church is by no means the only predatory religious outfit trolling for souls. By no means. In fact, essentially all of them operate as predatory enterprises. They need to be curbed.

So no, no Ground Zero Mosque. No Ground Zero religious institution of any kind.

The site of the World Trade Center is not "Sacred Ground," not even close. The deaths there do not make it "hallowed" in any way. No religious institution is in competition with the World Trade Center site for sacredness. The whole idea is absurd.

Certain predatory interests have tried mightily to make the site into some kind of quasi-religious/nationalist symbol from the moment the buildings collapsed. If it is a symbol of anything, it is a symbol of materialist catastrophe. But that's the game of the predators. They thrive on the suffering and extinction of others. It is their whole reason for being. So rather than see the World Trade Center site for what it is and "moving on" as it were, they try like anything to keep their prey engaged in struggling with one another for attention and then fattening them up for the kill.

Any new Constitution for the People of the United States would need very strict limitations and controls on the predators among us, by no means limited to controls on religious institutions.

The predators have been running wild for a generation. It's time they sat a few rounds out.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Let's Add "Peace" to "Dignity" and "Justice"

To me, Dignity and Justice are encompassing principles that can be construed to cover most of what we desire in forming and implementing modern nation states. But in the current context of the United States as HyperPower pursuing global hegemony through war and Imperial rule, specifying "Peace" as an objective and a foundational principle is more and more desirable.

We may come to question the advisability of any nation-state in the modern world, but the default position -- absent nation-states -- would have to be either World Empire (which is the direction we're going), or tribal units, which is the direction I would prefer, though with many caveats.

Some random notes:

I am in favor of abolishing the states and substituting semi-autonomous regional governments, for the simple reason that states have become as rotten and corrupt as the Federal government, in fact, they probably started out that way. There are far too many statelets on the East Coast that could be more practically governed as a unit. There is a serious mismatch between the interests of various regions of the country and some of the states have internal mismatches between the interests, populations, and geography of one sector versus another. Break them up, reform them into affinity regions.

Autonomy is important. Direction from the Capital is only feasible with a unified polity, and the United States has never been that. Expansion merely disperses and institutionalizes inherent division. Instead, try for internal unification within the regional polities.

With regional autonomy, ironically, the national assembly can become an Imperial state, but one with strictly limited powers. In other words, the urge to empire, which appears to be deeply ingrained in the American psyche, can be expressed in a national government which ostensibly rules its autonomous regions (think parts of post Maoist China) with all the pomp and circumstance required, but which is purposely benign.

In fact, the national government does not "rule" so much as fulfill the mutual interests of the peoples of the regions.

With Peace as a foundational principle, the nation, much like China, does not engage in armed conflict abroad, and strictly limits armed domestic action. Yes, we have to think about domestic police action, potentials for armed rebellion and so on.

Dignity and Justice are principles that serve as brakes on the predatory interests and intentions of some, generally small, proportion of any population, and sometimes the predators among us become dangers to themselves and others. Their control becomes an interest of the People and the State, but that interest may have to be backed up with force. Predators do not generally yield willingly.

Dignity and Justice encompass more than Law; they are foundational principles of the social contract. They are fundamental principles of a desirable economic and social condition as well as legal principles. One should not separate Law from economic and social justice.

How they are expressed may be different from region to region, and the national expression may be different still.

To be continued...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Here in New Mexico

There's no teevee here, so when I'm in the house, I sometimes listen to the radio. The other day, I was idly spinning the dial on the 1942 Philco that sits by the french door out to the back yard, and hit on a "new and positive" AM station, KIVA in Albuquerque. It was actually pretty good more or less "liberal" talk radio, which is not uncommon in New Mexico, but it differed from the other stations (I can think of one in Santa Fe and another one in Albuquerque, and there must be others) in its local focus. All the talent was local, and the topics were New Mexico-centric. I thought that was pretty damn good, given that there are so many issues here that constantly need addressing.

One of the favorite targets of the talkers on this station was Governor Bill Richardson, a long time Democratic Party apparatchik, many of whose efforts seem to be perfectly tailored to soak the poor on behalf of the rich. Oh yes.

Finally, a program came on that dealt directly with the problem of the poor in New Mexico, which is an ongoing situation, never resolved, nor is it necessarily resolveable. There is Tradition, after all, and Tradition in New Mexico is very, very strong. There is Culture. There is Social Conditioning.

All these factors were recognized, and they were condemned by a flack from something called The Rio Grande Foundation, whose premise was that New Mexicans are poor because they are dependent on the one hand, and their culture doesn't allow them to innovate or become enterpreneurs except to the extent their padron permits.

They are dependent on Government, according to the flack, to an extent not seen anywhere else in the country, and so they are poor. Government is so bloated in New Mexico that it sucks up all the resources for itself leaving nothing for innovative enterpreneurs. Who are oppressed by the padron system that keeps everyone dependent on Government. Government is so bloated in New Mexico that there are eight campuses of four year state universities -- compared to only two in Arizona.

And so on and so forth. It was fascinating, and I didn't hear anyone call in to correct the record. What this flack was proposing was that New Mexico become more like Arizona, reduce or eliminate dependence on Government, get rid of the padron system, and everybody become independent enterpreneurs innovating all kinds of neat stuff that will make everybody rich.


Anybody been to Arizona lately? Oh. Not working out so well, all in all, and not so innovative nor so independent of "Government" as the flack believes. And New Mexico is not nearly so absent enterpreneurial spirit as the flack insists.

The notion that everyone should be "independent" is one of those deeply rooted Libertarian ideological premises that resonates strongly with a certain class of Americans, but it doesn't work in practice. If the issue is the poverty of New Mexicans, making them all "independent" simply worsens their situation, it doesn't improve it. But then it also makes exploitation even easier than it already is. Which is the point of advocating "independence." It's a predatory imperative.

And most people instinctively want to protect themselves -- through mutual assistance -- from predation.

New Mexicans have been doing that for quite a long time. It's worked out pretty well all in all for all kinds of people. Those who would prefer to predate may wish to do so in Arizona, where the Liberty for Predators is fundamental.

If I have more time, I'll cogitate on this dichotomy some more...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Redoing the Constitution on Principles of Dignity and Justice

Dignity and Justice

Recently, our friends on the right have taken direct aim at provision of the Constitution that they don’t like, mostly amendments like the 14th, but opening the notion that the Constitution itself is outdated and should probably be “revisited.”

This has meant that many of those on the so-called Left, by default, must defend the Constitutional status quo, even though, many, like me, believe that the Constitution is an anachronism, faulty, and has long been an impediment to progress.

So what will happen -- regardless of whether there are any substantive revisions to the Constitution -- is that discussion of revision will take place from the right, primarily on the premise of 1) strengthening the executive, 2) curtailing or eliminating individual rights, 3) institutionalizing economic rule by the wealthy.

We might see a revision of the concept of “Law” to provide a Constitutional foundation for the long time practice of one Law for the rich, another -- and much harsher -- Law for everyone else. We might see a reversion to “States’ Rights” by which the several states may override Federal Law.

Whatever the case, our friends on the Right are not shy at all about re-doing the Constitution (or substituting the Confederate Constitution) to suit themselves.

Those on the Left bleat pathetically that “Things Are Fine As They Are. Leave the Constitution alone!!!”

But they’re not fine.

They haven’t been for a long time, if they ever were. And rather than a defensive posture, why not take an aggressive stance and demand changes to the Constitution that actually serve the interests of the People rather than letting the Rabid Right prattle about changes that would only serve the Oligarchy?

Peoples Dignity and Justice should be the principles on which a New Constitution is formulated, and we should not be the least bit shy about it and what’s needed.

We can start with the premise that the way things are isn’t working, and they aren’t working because of institutional rot on the one hand and Constitutional imperfection on the other. The way things are -- basically a very corrupted Imperial-Security State run by and for the profit of a very few individuals and interests -- is a direct product of the nature of the Constitution adopted in 1789.

So how would I change it?

  • First, abolish the Senate.

  • Second, abolish lifetime judicial appointments.

  • Third, expand the House of Representatives, by at least double, triple would be better.

  • Fourth, abolish the states.

  • Fifth, develop and implement autonomous regions in place of states.

  • Sixth, develop and implement economic as well as political rights.

  • Seventh, restrict and limit war-making powers ; institutionalize a defensive military subject to civilian control.

  • Eighth, restrict and limit the national executive authority .
  • Ninth, abolish all courts, departments, agencies and bureaus of the current Federal government and replace them only as necessary and as authorized by the representatives of the People.

  • That’s a start.

    Just a start.

    If these Constitutional revisions (actually, re-writing the whole thing) were considered on the basis of common human rights, dignity and justice, we'd see a transformed American experiment in self-determination and self-government.

    The time has come...

    (Note, I'm traveling at least until next week. Posting here may therefore be limited.)

    Friday, August 6, 2010

    On Redoing the Constitution

    You may have noticed that the Rabid Right Wing Noise Machine is banging the drum for a "revisit" of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, the ostensible reason being that these foreigners, they come here only to "drop a baby," and thus secure an anchor for citizenship.

    But this isn't the only amendment they have issues with; by no means. They have objections to the first, fourth, fifth and sixth; they believe the tenth has long been violated in spirit and substance. Given their druthers, they'd do away with the 17th Amendment, and if you drill down far enough, you'd probably find plenty of TeaBagging ravers who want to overturn the 13th, 15th and 16th Amendments as well as the 19th. But why stop there?

    They have issues. You see. And if they had the opportunity, I don't doubt they'd love to start over from scratch, and a whole lot of them would simply prefer to substitute the Confederate Constitution -- with slight modifications.

    It's the 14th Amendment's provision of automatic citizenship to those born in the United States or under its jurisdiction that they've chosen as the wedge leading to redoing the whole damn thing.

    It's a pretty brilliant ploy. There is a lot of anti-immigrant feeling in the United States due in part to malingering racism (the immigrants are mostly from South of the Border, don't you know) and to the dreadful economic conditions for most Americans.

    Pitting one group against another is the time honored ploy of the Ruling Class to ensure their own top-doggedness through all the vicissitudes of popular sentiment.

    But in this case, given the general contempt for the Constitution that pervades the Ruling Class (cf: recent Palace regimes) and the contempt for particular provisions of the Constitution that offend the sensibilities of the vocal TeaBagging Brownshirts, it looks very much like this "Movement to Revisit" -- starting with the 14th Amendment -- which is actually the key to the whole Constitutional notion of extending the protections of the Constitution to all Americans, and defining who Americans are -- is the opening salvo in a campaign to openly overthrow the Constitution itself.

    And start over?

    Well, that's yet to be seen. The point is that the Government has essentially already divorced itself from The People, and over time, it has become the increasingly common practice of The Government to ignore the Constitution when it chooses to. This is a difficult concept to fathom, but it is more and more apparent that the Constitution is little more than a decoration when it comes to actual operations by the Government in all its branches and majesty. The Executive routinely pays it no mind -- with no consequences. The Congress is too corrupted to consider the Constitution, more concerned always with its own rules and perks. The Courts have a very spotty record of following the Constitution and the law, rather than creating out of whole cloth "law" and "Constitutional support" for their generally mindless political positions.

    In practice, the military and the bureaucracy do what they're told -- by corrupt and anti-constitutional officials.

    So why not start over?

    I've advocated no less myself. But isn't it interesting that those who would take up the challenge are fierce anti-constitutionalists operating on the Right Wing, whereas I would look to revise our Constitutional underpinnings from the Left? And isn't it further interesting that so-called Leftists are now in the position of having to defend the status quo Constitution from the depredations of the Right Wing barbarians, whereas many on the Left would be more inclined toward revision themselves if given their druthers?

    What's happening with the 14th Amendment may not go anywhere, but it is an example -- yet again -- of how the Right Wing in this country consistently takes the lead for real change toward a far more authoritarian, oppressive and exploitative future, while the Left sits passive or at best parenthetically defends the status quo.

    This is how the nation keeps moving rightward.

    To the point where it wouldn't be surprising to see the whole "equal protection" framework of the 14th Amendment and thus the Constitution itself overthrown -- in order to satisfy some deep need to protect and defend the nation from Brown Babies.

    Sunday, August 1, 2010

    "What the Fuck Are You Doing, McCord?"

    For all the attention Breitbart and Julian have garnered the last few weeks, it is people like Ethan McCord and Shirley Sherrod who are the ones really making the difference.

    They speak out and speak truth to power, they take action, they cause and are "change."

    They are the heroes if there are any real heroes any more.