"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Politics’

World Of Work 2013 Report: U.S. Inequality Now Literally Off The Chart And Rising

In Uncategorized on June 9, 2013 at 7:30 pm

This new chart from the ILO's latest World of Work report doesn't have enough room to visually portray the full extent of inequality in the United States.

Oldspeak: “This new chart from the ILO’s latest World of Work report doesn’t have enough room to visually portray the full extent of inequality in the United States.”

Among the world’s major nations, documents the UN agency dedicated to labor matters, only one currently has a level of inequality both high and rising” -Salvatore Babones

The controllers seem to have done quite well for themselves in this alleged “recovery”. The People have fared significantly worse with less to come as the full effects of U.S. austerity measures are felt. The stealth depression will continue and it’s getting worse.. The People in Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy, and The U.K. have made their displeasure with the current state of affairs know loudly, repeatedly and en masse, where inequality is far less severe than in the U.S. Yet there’s a far smaller and more disjointed protest movement here in the “Greatest Nation On Earth”. Why? Why in a nation founded by protestors and civil disobeyers, are there so few to be found today? Was COINTELPRO, that effective? Perhaps it never really stopped?

By Salvatore Babones @ Inequality.org:

It is well known that the level of income inequality stretches much higher in the United States than in the other developed countries of Europe and North America. Now a report from the International Labour Organization shows that U.S. inequality has literally gone off the chart.

Income inequality in the United States is soaring so high, in fact, that the authors of the ILO’s new 2013 World of Work report couldn’t even place the United States on the same graph with the other 25 developed countries their new study examines.

Income inequality reflects the sum total of all the differences between the incomes enjoyed by different households in a country. Differences between rich and poor households, rich and middle-income households, middle-income and poor households all enter into total income inequality.

Researchers usually measure income inequality using a statistic called the Gini coefficient. The Gini coefficient runs from a minimum of 0 (perfect equality in incomes across all households) to 100 (one rich household gets all the income for an entire country).

The ILO report places the US Gini coefficient at 47.7, or almost half way toward the extreme where one rich household gets everything and everyone else gets nothing.

By comparison, the levels of inequality in the other 25 developed countries studied all fall in a band between 20 and 35.

The share of U.S. adults living in middle-income households dropped from 61 to 51 percent between 1970 and 2010.

Even worse, in America inequality is not only high but rising. The Unites States is one of only three developed countries where income inequality rose during the recession of 2008-2009, then continued rising through the lackluster recovery of 2010-2011.

The other two: Denmark and France. Both these countries had much lower levels of inequality to start with. By 2011, Denmark’s inequality had risen into the high 20s and France’s inequality into the low 30s.

In the United States inequality sat at 46.3 before the recession, moved to 47.0 in 2010, and rose further to 47.7 in 2011.

Rising inequality has hit the American middle class particularly hard. But America’s middle class decline began well before the recession hit in 2008. Every year fewer and fewer Americans qualify as middle class, and those who do have lower and lower incomes.

The share of U.S. adults living in middle-income households, the new ILO report notes,  dropped from 61 to 51 percent between 1970 and 2010, and the median incomes of these  households fell 5 percent.

Where has the middle class held its own in recent decades? Well, in Denmark and France, among other countries. The country with the largest middle class according to the ILO’s calculations is Norway, where about 70 percent of the population rate as middle class.

In Norway, about 70 percent of the nation rates as middle class. In the United States, only 52 percent.

In the United States today only about 52 percent of the population can claim middle class status.

The World of Work report concludes that the middle class in the United States and around the world is suffering from “long-term unemployment, weakening job quality, and workers dropping out of the labour market altogether.” Things have been bad for a long time, but the recession has made them far worse.

The ILO, founded in 1946, now operates a specialist agency of the United Nations. The world’s employers and workers are equally represented on its governing board, alongside the representatives of 28 governments, including the United States government.

Different international organizations use different data sources for comparing inequality levels across countries. The ILO World of Work report uses raw data from the Census Bureau for the United States and from Eurostat for European countries.

All these sources agree that income inequality has widened more in the United States than in other developed countries. The ILO report finds a much larger difference than other organizations, such as the OECD. One reason for the difference: As a UN organization, the ILO is committed to using data from official sources like the U.S. Bureau of the Census and published, peer-reviewed scientific journal articles.

Other organizations like the OECD and private think tanks make their own estimates of national inequality levels using data that may not be publicly available and methodologies that may not be transparent or audited.

Rising inequality is not inevitable. The rich are not winning everywhere.

According to the official data compiled by the ILO and documented in the World of Work report, only South Africa and about a dozen Latin American countries have higher levels of inequality than the United States.

In nearly all of these countries inequality appears to be either stable or falling. Out of a total of 57 countries studied by the ILO, 31 developing and 26 developed, only one — the United States — has a level of income inequality both high and rising.

This simple fact — that only one nation has inequality both “high and rising” — shows that high and rising inequality is not inevitable. The rich are not winning everywhere, just as the rich have not always won in the United States.

We can have sensible policies that reduce inequality and bolster the middle class. The ILO suggests that we prioritize employment growth over budget cuts, increase public investment to make up for a lack of private investment, and raise taxes on unearned income from financial transactions.

The folks at the ILO are smart enough to understand that the reasons our governments don’t give us good, pro-people policies are not technical or economic, but political and ideological.

“Against mounting evidence,” the ILO concludes, “a fundamental belief persists in some quarters that less regulation and limited government will boost business confidence, improve access to international financial markets, and increase investment, although these results have not been evident.”

The empirical evidence says that we can reduce inequality and bolster the middle class by putting people back to work. But that will take government action. And government action is the one thing we don’t seem to have.

 

Salvatore Babones is a senior lecturer in sociology and social policy at the University of Sydney and an associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies.

 

Another Government Is Necessary: The People Can Rule Better Than the Elites

In Uncategorized on May 7, 2013 at 7:46 pm

Oldspeak: “Transformation requires a combination of education about solutions, resistance to stop policies or projects that are causing harm, and working together to create solutions to our urgent crises.  One of the greatest obstacles to change in the United States is the Democratic Party. While it is true that the Wall Street agenda of the Republican Party is dangerous, the Democratic Party is even more dangerous because it can act on the same agenda without much more than a whimper by many of those who would protest if the Republicans did the same thing. Fortunately, more people are opening their eyes to the duopoly… This is the US managed democracy: a system that only allows the election of corporate duopoly candidates backed by great wealth. The current system is designed to exclude third-party candidates and low-income and minority voters. And the system is designed to hinder building the grassroots movement that is necessary for social transformation. The urgency of our current crises demands that we break from the current structure and create something new based on principles such as community, cooperation, participation and sustainability. Most people recognize what must be done, and many communities are already taking action.” -Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese.  Vesting power in corporate sponsored politicians will inexorably lead to government for the corporations, by the corporations.  One can see this in any number of obvious examples. Multi-trillion dollar bailouts for corporations who repeatedly engage in criminal business practices that crashed the global economy, while the people who need bailouts most are saddled with debt, austerity measures, & poverty-stricken existence. Unwavering commitment by corporocrats to continue investing resources in earth and life killing dirty energy sources. Unequal enforcement of the law, based on caste, where high caste citizens generally avoid punishment, for heinous offenses like laundering drug money for terrorists any falsely foreclosing on people’s homes while middle and low-caste citizens are incarcerated at historic rates for non-crimes like walking between subway cars, and bidding on land T Unprecedented prosecution of patriotic and law-abiding  Americans; government whistleblowers who’ve tried to expose fraud, waste and illegality.  Etc, etc, etc, ad infinitum. This state of affairs cannot continue. Government for the people and by the people needs to be restored. Democracy’s gone, oligarchical collectivism reigns.”

By Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese @ Truthout:
More people are taking action in their communities to meet their basic needs because of government corruption at all levels that protects the status quo when urgent change is needed. People are moving on many fronts to challenge the system and create the world they want to see.On Earth Day, another step was taken to challenge elite rule. A new alternative government was announced. It is an extension of the Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala Green Party campaign for president and vice president. The Green Shadow Cabinet currently consists of more than 80 activists, scientists, lawyers, advocates, economists, health professionals, labor leaders and artists who are independent of the corporate duopoly and are actively working on solutions to the crises we face. These top-level people in their fields have taken on this responsibility as volunteers. (Full disclosure: Margaret Flowers serves as secretary of health and Kevin Zeese as attorney general, and both serve on the administrative committee of the Shadow Cabinet.) The cabinet comes at a time when people are increasingly ready to leave the corrupt two-party system. With President Obama supporting cuts to Social Security and Medicare, drone-bombing countries with which we are not at war, and appointing Wall Street and other big business interests to his cabinet, many voters are searching for somewhere to go. Even the former head of the Democratic Party, Howard Dean, is talking about leaving the Democrats.

The cabinet will serve as an independent voice in US politics, putting the needs of people and protection of the planet ahead of profits for big corporations. Members of the cabinet will demonstrate what an alternative government could look like. However, creating an alternative form of governance will depend in large part on what people do at the local level.

Another World Is Possible; Another Government Is Necessary

Shadow cabinets have existed in other countries throughout history. They are usually created by opposition parties as a way to show what they stand for as they work toward regaining power. This Shadow Cabinet is different in a few aspects.

First, the Green Shadow Cabinet is a response to the corruption and dysfunction of the current economic and political systems. There are real solutions to the crises we face and majorities of the public support these solutions, but both parties in government are not considering them and are, in fact, doing the opposite.

The people could rule better than the elites, and that is why it is time for the people to take matters into our own hands. As cabinet member Christopher Cox explained on the day of the announcement, “There is no time for slow incremental change.” Cox also affirmed that “We have the possibility of addressing these issues at the level of humanity.” The Cabinet is not waiting, but is taking action now to encourage people to build a government that is really of, by and for the people.

And second, because political debate in the United States is limited to what the two corporate parties allow, the Cabinet will bring attention to real solutions to our crises that are not being discussed. At present, there is no discussion of full employment, even though that is a critical ingredient to creating an economy that works for everyone. There is no discussion of ending the carbon-nuclear–based energy economy, despite the crisis of climate change, the risks of carbon-nuclear energies to air, water, and life, and the obvious end of the cheap oil and gas era.

One of the goals of the Shadow Cabinet is to inject these issues into the US political dialogue. For example, here are excerpts of statements some cabinet members released on the day the Cabinet was announced:

  • Two members of the economic team wrote statements. Richard Wolff, who chairs the Council of Economic Advisers, calls for tax fairness with progressive taxation, more higher income tax brackets and increased corporate taxes consistent with the successful policies used when the United States built a powerful post-World War II-economy. Labor economist Jack Rasmus points to the failure of fiscal policy and will be urging a makeover of the Federal Reserve into a transparent and democratic agency that responds to the needs of the economy, not to the banks.
  • Leah Bolger, defense secretary, urges a truly defensive military and calls for an end to the Afghanistan War, a 50 percent cut in Pentagon spending, cessation of the drone program and operating within the rule of law. David Swanson, secretary of peace, highlights the militarization of US foreign policy, which sells record numbers of weapons and spends nearly as much as the whole world combined on war. Noting he has no counterpart in the current government, he urges the United States to work for peace every day and asserts that investing war dollars in job creation at home will do more for the economy than spending $1 trillion on war and war preparation.
  • David Cobb, chair of the commission on corporations and democracy, begins by acknowledging that corporations have become the most dominant institution in America who rule over us “as masters once ruled slaves and as Kings ruled their subjects.” The solution to corporate power? “We must educate, agitate and organize. In other words, we must change the culture of this country.”
  • Roshan Bliss, the assistant secretary for higher education, says “Education is a human right, a public good, and a critical infrastructure without which no society can prosper.” As a student, he sees how outdated, underfunded and increasingly controlled by unaccountable private interest groups higher education has become. His top two priorities: empower students to be all they can become and equip schools to uplift society and be integrated in their communities.
  • Steve Chrismer, secretary of transportation, notes that when he went to Texas to join the Tar Sands Blockade, he thought about how few jobs were created by the pipeline compared to how many jobs would be created by a new mass transit and rail system. He believes we need to recreate the transportation system and build infrastructure that will serve the nation for generations, rather than pipelines that hasten our destruction.
  • Mark Dunlea, secretary of agriculture, calls for a new food system that is sustainable, affordable and not based on pesticides or other chemicals, but produces healthy foods and fair profits for farmers. The current food czar is a former Monsanto executive whose policies favor corporatization of farming, subsidies that result in overuse of water, widespread use of chemicals and allowing genetically modified foods. Dunlea’s views are echoed by Maureen Cruise, assistant secretary of health for community wellbeing, who promotes urban farming to bring food to the people who live in food deserts.

We published statements, too. Margaret coordinates the health council and advocates for Medicare-for-all as part of the solution to the health crisis in the United States. Kris Alman and Patch Adams join her in calling for breaking free of corporate medicine, and Adams urges communities to act now to build community-based health centers, calling for “revolutionizing health care delivery by replacing greed and competition with generosity, compassion and interdependence.”

Kevin, who coordinates the justice council, emphasizes the need for rule of law, which includes holding corporations accountable for both environmental damage and for collapsing the economy; rule of law also means ending the torture of confinement without charges at Guantanamo. Cliff Thornton, administrator of drug policy, calls for the end of the war on drugs and highlights the problems of mass incarceration, crime, violence and urban neglect, all made worse by the drug war. Their immediate task is putting forward policies to respect the will of voters in Colorado and Washington who voted to legalize marijuana, as well as of those in the 16 states and Washington, DC that allow medical use of marijuana.

In addition to publishing statements, Cabinet members are involved in advocacy and activism. Last weekend, six members participated in the anti-drone protest at the Hancock Air Force base, and a few days earlier, three participated in the protests at the Bush Library. Cheri Honkala is preparing for the May 18-24 Operation Green Jobs March on Washington. And the cabinet includes activists like climate justice’s Tim DeChrisotpher, labor leader Richard Monje, economic democracy advocate Gar Alperovitz and others. Many Cabinet members are working to build the nonviolent, transformative mass movement that is needed to bring real change to the United States.

While the cabinet evolved out of the Stein-Honkala campaign, it is not a project of the Green Party and is not limited to the Green Party. It is open to anyone who is independent of the duopoly and supportive of the Stein-Honkala Green New Deal platform.

In some ways, the cabinet is structured similarly to the current system, with a president, vice president, secretary of state, and heads of various government agencies. This was felt to be important at this stage so that media and the public would recognize that whomever was speaking on a given issue was acting as an alternative to those who currently hold these positions. When someone in power makes a statement or puts forth a policy, the corresponding cabinet member will respond with an alternative view.

However, the cabinet is structured differently from the current system in that it is composed of six branches: Democracy, Ecology, Economy, Foreign Affairs, General Welfare and Justice. Within these branches, in addition to traditional positions, are councils and new positions, so it is larger and less hierarchical than a traditional cabinet. Over time, we anticipate that more new positions will be added, the councils will grow and the structure will evolve.

If the people of the United States put another government in place, the mistakes of the past should not be repeated. It is time to truly create a participatory democratic structure where people have greater control over and benefit from the policies that affect them. An alternative system must be protected from becoming another top-down structure that ignores the voices and desires of the people.

The United States: A Managed Democracy That Protects Plutocrats

It was necessary to create the cabinet to break out of the mirage democracy of managed elections. Although citizens have the right to vote, the choice is restricted to candidates who are selected by large corporations and the wealthy elite. They represent political parties that are dominated by Wall Street, the military-industrial complex and other big business interests. Third-party candidates are at an extreme disadvantage, and our most vulnerable populations are losing the right to vote.

Efforts to build parties and run independent candidates outside of the duopoly encounter major obstacles, especially at the national level. Ballot access laws vary from state to state, and it is not unusual for third parties who have done the work of collecting signatures and registering voters to see the legitimacy of their work challenged by boards of elections, state legislatures and judges from the duopoly. Third-party candidates find themselves spending so much time and energy to gain ballot access that there is little left for campaigning.

Since the United States does not have public funding of public elections, another obstacle is finances. The cost of running a campaign in the United States, especially at the federal level, is prohibitive. The Center for Responsive Politics reports that in 2012, the corporate duopoly presidential candidates spent $2 billion. And that doesn’t count the money spent on their behalf by super PACs, nonprofit political organizations, issue advocacy organizations and “shadow money.” Incumbent senators raised $11 million, nearly ten times what their challengers raised. And in the House, incumbents raised $1.5 million, more than six times what their challengers raised.

A third major obstacle is media and debate access. Media access depends on how much a candidate can spend or whether the media chooses to provide coverage. In general, there is a media blackout of third-party candidates, including in media polls on presidential preference

Third-party candidates are largely excluded from public debates and entirely excluded from the presidential debates. The League of Women Voters officially withdrew from the debates in 1988 because of excessive control of the debate format and lack of transparency by the corporate duopoly. In a strong statement, the LWV president said, “The League has no intention of becoming an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American public.”

In 1987, the corporate duopoly and their big business funders created a private corporation to sponsor the debates. They gave this debate an official sounding name, the Commission on Presidential Debates, so most people think it is a government commission. Each election, the duopoly negotiates a contract that determines who can participate, who will moderate, who can attend and what questions will be asked. The rules are set up to keep non-duopoly candidates out. And the corporate debate commission ensures that discussion remains within a narrow confine of what corporate interests allow.

In 2012, the Occupy movement and others exposed and protested the sham presidential debates. The Naked Emperor created this animated video to illustrate the political charade that is the presidential debates. People held rallies at each of the debate sites and Green candidates Stein and Honkala were arrested for trying to attend the debate in New York. As a result of these actions, three corporations withdrew from sponsoring the CPD, and independent media outlets and organizations held debates for third-party candidates.

While these were positive steps, the reality is that current restrictions to third party candidates completely prevent the election of a candidate that represents the will of people rather than large corporations. The ability of people to express their will through elections is further impeded by barriers to voting.

In many countries, registration to vote is universal. When citizens reach the legal age, they are automatically registered. In the United States, there are barriers to registration resulting in 70 million eligible voters who are not registered to vote. It is also becoming more common for voters to be erased from registration lists. And voter suppression through disenfranchisement and Election Day shenanigans is common.

The Sentencing Project estimates that 5.85 million Americans have lost the right to vote because of felony convictions. An astonishing number of African-Americans, 1 out of 13, no longer has the right to vote. As we wrote in” A Forest of Poisonous Trees: The US Criminal Injustice System,” the current economic and criminal justice systems result in the incarceration of massive numbers of people, which creates a vicious cycle such that those who are oppressed lose their ability to affect the system.

Over the past three years, more than 250 laws have been passed at the state level to suppress voting. These laws primarily target the elderly, young and minority voters, as documented in this March report by Project Vote. In addition to legal challenges to voting, tactics are used in minority communities to prevent people from voting. These include underequipped polling stations, moving polling stations without notice, and leafleting neighborhoods with misinformation about voting days and voting requirements.

This is the US managed democracy: a system that only allows the election of corporate duopoly candidates backed by great wealth. The current system is designed to exclude third-party candidates and low-income and minority voters. And the system is designed to hinder building the grassroots movement that is necessary for social transformation.

A System That Favors Corporate Profits Over People and the Planet

If there is any question about whether the current political system favors the wealthy, one need only turn to recent events. Last week, in an awesome display of bipartisanship, Congress repealed the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge, Act, known as the STOCK Act. This was a bill signed into law last year with great fanfare by President Obama. The law required that members of Congress and certain executive staffers publish their financial investments online in a searchable format. It was touted as an important step towards transparency and the rule of law. Remember that last year was an election year.

This year, it took all of ten seconds for the repeal to pass in the Senate and 14 seconds in the House. The unrecorded unanimous consent vote meant not a single member of Congress expressed dissent. The president quickly and quietly signed the repeal into law.

Now it will be more difficult for the public to know when elected officials are supporting policies that benefit them financially. For instance, when former senator John Kerry was appointed Secretary of State, it was revealed that he had investments in TransCanada, the company that is building the Keystone XL Pipeline. The State Department has authority to approve the pipeline, which is being protested by people in the United States and Canada because of its environmental impact. Indeed, Kerry had to divest nearly 100 stocks in order to avoid the conflicts of interest between his investments and his duties. Of course, the same conflicts of interest existed when he chaired the Foreign Relations Committee.

Another example is the deficit and austerity charade that was exposed last week. A doctoral student, Thomas Herndon, at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst analyzed an economic study published by Reinhart and Rogoff. The results of the Reinhart-Rogoff study were cited widely by politicians and pundits to justify cuts to social and other government programs. Herndon found significant errors in the study that make the findings inaccurate.

Reinhart and Rogoff are linked to the Peter G. Peterson Foundatio,n which has a mission to promote policies that end our legacy social insurances – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The Peterson Foundation has been heavily involved in the federal budget process for most of Obama’s presidency. It provided staff support and funding to the deficit commission appointed by Obama in early 2010 and funded national “town halls” called “America Speaks.”

The chairs of the deficit commission, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, have also played an important role in the ongoing effort to cut social insurances, including leading the new Fix the Debt campaign composed of more than 80 tax-dodging CEOs who are starting with a budget of $60 million to lobby and build public support for their austerity proposals.

Solutions Exist; Transformation Depends on You

The Shadow Cabinet will not change the world; that task is up to all of us. Transformation requires a combination of education about solutions, resistance to stop policies or projects that are causing harm, and working together to create solutions to our urgent crises.

One of the greatest obstacles to change in the United States is the Democratic Party. While it is true that the Wall Street agenda of the Republican Party is dangerous, the Democratic Party is even more dangerous because it can act on the same agenda without much more than a whimper by many of those who would protest if the Republicans did the same thing. Fortunately, more people are opening their eyes to the duopoly.

The urgency of our current crises demands that we break from the current structure and create something new based on principles such as community, cooperation, participation and sustainability. Most people recognize what must be done, and many communities are already taking action.

The Shadow Cabinet seeks to join and amplify those efforts and encourage more people to come together in their communities to form structures that solve problems through community-led initiatives and pressure on local governments. This can happen at the level of neighborhoods or through coalitions of organizations, or some communities may choose to form local shadow governments.

The people of the United States have the wisdom to do what needs to be done. The answers are part of our DNA. It is time to recognize and manifest our power.

You can listen to our interview about the Announcement of Green Shadow Cabinet with Cheri Honkala, Christopher Cox and Sean Sweeney on Clearing the FOG.

The Politics of Disimagination and the Pathologies of Power

In Uncategorized on February 28, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Eye reflecitng TVOldspeak: ” A popular governemt without popular information of the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives” – James Madison (1798)The politics and machinery of disimagination and its production of ever-deepening ignorance dominates American society because it produces, to a large degree, uninformed customers, hapless clients, depoliticized subjects and illiterate citizens incapable of holding corporate and political power accountable. At stake here is more than the dangerous concentration of economic, political and cultural power in the hands of the ultrarich, megacorporations and elite financial services industries. Also at issue is the widespread perversion of the social, critical education, the public good, and democracy itself. -Henry A. Giroux (2013)The founding fathers knew all too well the indispensable importance of an informed citizenry to a vibrant democracy. My how things have changed in the ensuing 215 years. Learned ignorance is ubiquitous. As more and more actions of government, business &  industry are executed in secret (no pun intended), the further democracy recedes from view. The press which had the task of providing a check for the people against government and oligarchical overreach has been co-opted by the omnipresent corptalitarian state, becoming its formidable and highly effective propaganda arm. More information about the workings of government and business is conducted behind closed doors than ever before. Industry friendly lobbyists write entirely too much of the legislation our so-called elected officials pass in to law, that the people who know nothing about said laws must live under. Elected officials don’t have time to educate themselves sufficiently about the laws they pass because they spend most of their time collecting money from corprocrats who direct them what laws to pass and what laws to do away with. At some point the status quo will become untenable to the people. It’s probably why voting rights are being done away with. It’s probably why rights to free speech, free assembly and petitioning the government for grievances are being restricted. It’s probably why freedom from warrantless surveillance, search and seizure has been removed. It’s probably why protest has been designated as “low-level terrorism” and it’s frightfully easy to be labeled a “terrorist”. It’s probably why the Obama Administration refuses to definitively state that it’s claimed the right to assassinate Americans on American soil, that it has conveniently designated as a “battlefield“. The pieces have been put in to lock down this “turnkey totalitarian state“. As conditions deteriorate, it will begin to take a more tangible shape.” “Ignorance Is Strength”.

By Henry A. Giroux @ Truthout:

You write in order to change the world knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that [writing] is indispensable to the world. The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter even by a millimeter the way people look at reality, then you can change it.” – James Baldwin

The Violence of Neoliberalism

We live in a time of deep foreboding, one that haunts any discourse about justice, democracy and the future. Not only have the points of reference that provided a sense of certainty and collective hope in the past largely evaporated, but the only referents available are increasingly supplied by a hyper-market-driven society, megacorporations and a corrupt financial service industry. The commanding economic and cultural institutions of American society have taken on what David Theo Goldberg calls a “militarizing social logic.”[1] Market discipline now regulates all aspects of social life, and the regressive economic rationality that drives it sacrifices the public good, public values and social responsibility to a tawdry consumerist dream while simultaneously creating a throwaway society of goods, resources and individuals now considered disposable.[2] This militarizing logic is also creeping into public schools and colleges with the former increasingly resembling the culture of prison and the latter opening their classrooms to the national intelligence agencies.[3] In one glaring instance of universities endorsing the basic institutions of the punishing state, Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, concluded a deal to rename its football stadium after the GEO Group, a private prison corporation “whose record is marred by human rights abuses, by lawsuits, by unnecessary deaths of people in their custody and a whole series of incidents.” [3A] Armed guards are now joined by armed knowledge.  Corruption, commodification and repressive state apparatuses have become the central features of a predatory society in which it is presumed irrationally “that market should dominate and determine all choices and outcomes to the occlusion of any other considerations.”[4]

Truthout needs your support to produce grassroots journalism and disseminate conscientious visions for a brighter future. Contribute now by clicking here.

To read more articles by Henry Giroux and other authors in the Public Intellectual Project, click here.

The political, economic, and social consequences have done more than destroy any viable vision of a good society. They undermine the modern public’s capacity to think critically, celebrate a narcissistic hyperindividualism that borders on the pathological, destroy social protections and promote a massive shift towards a punitive state that criminalizes the behavior of those bearing the hardships imposed by a survival-of-the-fittest society that takes delight in the suffering of others. How else to account for a criminal justice stacked overwhelmingly against poor minorities, a prison system in which “prisoners can be held in solitary confinement for years in small, windowless cells in which they are kept for twenty-three hours of every day,”[5] or a police state that puts handcuffs on a 5-year old and puts him in jail because he violated a dress code by wearing sneakers that were the wrong color.[6] Why does the American public put up with a society in which “the top 1 percent of households owned 35.6 percent of net wealth (net worth) and a whopping 42.4 percent of net financial assets” in 2009, while many young people today represent the “new face of a national homeless population?”[7] American society is awash in a culture of civic illiteracy, cruelty and corruption. For example, major banks such as Barclays and HSBC swindle billions from clients and increase their profit margins by laundering money for terrorist organizations, and no one goes to jail. At the same time, we have the return of debtor prisons for the poor who cannot pay something as trivial as a parking fine. President Obama arbitrarily decides that he can ignore due process and kill American citizens through drone strikes and the American public barely blinks. Civic life collapses into a war zone and yet the dominant media is upset only because it was not invited to witness the golf match between Obama and Tiger Woods.

The celebration of violence in both virtual culture and real life now feed each other. The spectacle of carnage celebrated in movies such as A Good Day to Die Hard is now matched by the deadly violence now playing out in cities such as Chicago and New Orleans. Young people are particularly vulnerable to such violence, with 561 children age 12 and under killed by firearms between 2006 and 2010.[8] Corporate power, along with its shameless lobbyists and intellectual pundits, unabashedly argue for more guns in order to feed the bottom line, even as the senseless carnage continues tragically in places like Newtown, Connecticut, Tustin, California, and other American cities. In the meantime, the mainstream media treats the insane rambling of National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre as a legitimate point of view among many voices. This is the same guy who, after the killing of 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, claimed the only way to stop more tragedies was to flood the market with more guns and provide schools with more armed guards. The American public was largely silent on the issue in spite of the fact that an increase of police in schools does nothing to prevent such massacres but does increase the number of children, particularly poor black youth, who are pulled out of class, booked and arrested for trivial behavioral infractions.

At the same time, America’s obsession with violence is reinforced by a market society that is Darwinian in its pursuit of profit and personal gain at almost any cost. Within this scenario, a social and economic order has emerged that combines the attributes and values of films such as the classics Mad Max and American Psycho. Material deprivation, galloping inequality, the weakening of public supports, the elimination of viable jobs, the mindless embrace of rabid competition and consumption, and the willful destruction of the environment speak to a society in which militarized violence finds its counterpart, if not legitimating credo, in a set of atomizing and selfish values that disdain shared social bonds and any notion of the public good. In this case, American society now mimics a market-driven culture that celebrates a narcissistic hyperindividualism that radiates with a new sociopathic lack of interest in others and a strong tendency towards violence and criminal behavior. As John le Carré once stated, “America has entered into one of its periods of historical madness.”[9] While le Carré wrote this acerbic attack on American politics in 2003, I think it is fair to say that things have gotten worse, and that the United States is further plunging into madness because of a deadening form of historical and social amnesia that has taken over the country, further reproducing a mass flight from memory and social responsibility. The politics of disimagination includes, in this instance, what Mumia Abu-Jamal labeled “mentacide,” a form of historical amnesia “inflicted on Black youth by the system’s systematic campaign to eradicate and deny them their people’s revolutionary history.”[10]

America’s Plunge Into Militarized Madness

How does one account for the lack of public outcry over millions of Americans losing their homes because of corrupt banking practices and millions more becoming unemployed because of the lack of an adequate jobs program in the United States, while at the same time stories abound of colossal greed and corruption on Wall Street? [11] For example, in 2009 alone, hedge fund manager David Tepper made approximately 4 billion dollars.[12] As Michael Yates points out: “This income, spent at a rate of $10,000 a day and exclusive of any interest, would last him and his heirs 1,096 years! If we were to suppose that Mr. Tepper worked 2,000 hours in 2009 (fifty weeks at forty hours per week), he took in $2,000,000 per hour and $30,000 a minute.”[13] This juxtaposition of robber-baron power and greed is rarely mentioned in the mainstream media in conjunction with the deep suffering and misery now experienced by millions of families, workers, children, jobless public servants and young people. This is especially true of a generation of youth who have become the new precariat[14] – a zero generation relegated to zones of social and economic abandonment and marked by zero jobs, zero future, zero hope and what Zygmunt Bauman has defined as a societal condition which is more “liquid,”less defined, punitive, and, in the end, more death dealing.[15]

Narcissism and unchecked greed have morphed into more than a psychological category that points to a character flaw among a marginal few. Such registers are now symptomatic of a market-driven society in which extremes of violence, militarization, cruelty and inequality are hardly noticed and have become normalized. Avarice and narcissism are not new. What is new is the unprecedented social sanction of the ethos of greed that has emerged since the 1980s.[16] What is also new is that military force and values have become a source of pride rather than alarm in American society. Not only has the war on terror violated a host of civil liberties, it has further sanctioned a military that has assumed a central role in American society, influencing everything from markets and education to popular culture and fashion. President Dwight D. Eisenhower left office warning about the rise of the military-industrial complex, with its pernicious alignment of the defense industry, the military and political power.[17] What he underestimated was the transition from a militarized economy to a militarized society in which the culture itself was shaped by military power, values and interests. What has become clear in contemporary America is that the organization of civil society for the production of violence is about more than producing militarized technologies and weapons; it is also about producing militarized subjects and a permanent war economy. As Aaron B. O’Connell points outs:

Our culture has militarized considerably since Eisenhower’s era, and civilians, not the armed services, have been the principal cause. From lawmakers’ constant use of “support our troops” to justify defense spending, to TV programs and video games like “NCIS,” “Homeland”and “Call of Duty,” to NBC’s shameful and unreal reality show “Stars Earn Stripes,” Americans are subjected to a daily diet of stories that valorize the military while the storytellers pursue their own opportunistic political and commercial agendas.[18]

The imaginary of war and violence informs every aspect of American society and extends from the celebration of a warrior culture in mainstream media to the use of universities to educate students in the logic of the national security state. Military deployments now protect “free trade” arrangements, provide job programs and drain revenue from public coffers. For instance, Lockheed Martin stands to gain billions of dollars in profits as Washington prepares to buy 2,443 F-35 fighter planes at a cost of $90 million each from the company. The overall cost of the project for a plane that has been called a “one trillion dollar boondoggle” is expected to cost more “than Australia’s entire GDP ($924 billion).”[19] Yet, the American government has no qualms about cutting food programs for the poor, early childhood programs for low-income students and food stamps for those who exist below the poverty line. Such misplaced priorities represent more than a military-industrial complex that is out of control. They also suggest the plunge of American society into the dark abyss of a state that is increasingly punitive, organized around the production of violence and unethical in its policies, priorities and values.

John Hinkson argues that such institutionalized violence is far from a short-lived and aberrant historical moment. In fact, he rightfully asserts that: “we have a new world economy, one crucially that lacks all substantial points of reference and is by implication nihilistic. The point is that this is not a temporary situation because of the imperatives, say, of war: it is a structural break with the past.”[20] Evidence of such a shift is obvious in the massive transfer upward in wealth and income that have not only resulted in the concentration of power in relatively few hands, but have promoted both unprecedented degrees of human suffering and hardship along with what can be called a politics of disimagination.

The Rise of the “Disimagination Machine”

Borrowing from Georges Didi-Huberman’s use of the term, “disimagination machine,” I argue that the politics of disimagination refers to images, and I would argue institutions, discourses, and other modes of representation, that undermine the capacity of individuals to bear witness to a different and critical sense of remembering, agency, ethics and collective resistance.[21] The “disimagination machine” is both a set of cultural apparatuses extending from schools and mainstream media to the new sites of screen culture, and a public pedagogy that functions primarily to undermine the ability of individuals to think critically, imagine the unimaginable, and engage in thoughtful and critical dialogue: put simply, to become critically informed citizens of the world.

Examples of the “disimagination machine” abound. A few will suffice. For instance, the Texas State Board of Education and other conservative boards of education throughout the United States are rewriting American textbooks to promote and impose on America’s public school students what Katherine Stewart calls “a Christian nationalist version of US history” in which Jesus is implored to “invade” public schools.[22] In this version of history, the term “slavery” is removed from textbooks and replaced with “Atlantic triangular trade,” the earth is 6,000 years old, and the Enlightenment is the enemy of education. Historical figures such as Jefferson, Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin, considered to have suspect religious views, “are ruthlessly demoted or purged altogether from the study program.”[23] Currently, 46 percent of the American population believes in the creationist view of evolution and increasingly rejects scientific evidence, research and rationality as either ‘academic’ or irreligious.[24]

The rise of the Tea Party and the renewal of the culture wars have resulted in a Republican Party which is now considered the party of anti-science. Similarly, right-wing politicians, media, talk show hosts and other conservative pundits loudly and widely spread the message that a culture of questioning is antithetical to the American way of life. Moreover, this message is also promoted by conservative groups such as The American Legislative Exchange Council, (ALEC) which has “hit the ground running in 2013, pushing ‘model bills’ mandating the teaching of climate change denial in public school systems.”[25] The climate-change-denial machine is also promoted by powerful conservative groups such as the Heartland Institute. Ignorance is never too far from repression, as was recently demonstrated in Arizona, where State Rep. Bob Thorpe, a Republican freshman Tea Party member, introduced a new bill requiring students to take a loyalty oath in order to receive a graduation diploma.[26]

The “disimagination machine” is more powerful than ever as conservative think tanks provide ample funds for training and promoting anti-public pseudo-intellectuals and religious fundamentalists while simultaneously offering policy statements and talking points to conservative media such as FOX News, Christian news networks, right-wing talk radio, and partisan social media and blogs. This ever growing information/illiteracy bubble has become a powerful force of public pedagogy in the larger culture and is responsible for not only the war on science, reason and critical thought, but also the war on women’s reproductive rights, poor minority youth, immigrants, public schooling, and any other marginalized group or institution that challenges the anti-intellectual, anti-democratic worldviews of the new extremists and the narrative supporting Christian nationalism. Liberal Democrats, of course, contribute to this “disimagination machine” through educational policies that substitute critical thinking and critical pedagogy for paralyzing pedagogies of memorization and rote learning tied to high-stakes testing in the service of creating a neoliberal, dumbed-down workforce.

As John Atcheson has pointed out, we are “witnessing an epochal shift in our socio-political world. We are de-evolving, hurtling headlong into a past that was defined by serfs and lords; by necromancy and superstition; by policies based on fiat, not facts.”[27] We are also plunging into a dark world of anti-intellectualism, civic illiteracy and a formative culture supportive of an authoritarian state. The embrace of ignorance is at the center of political life today, and a reactionary form of public pedagogy has become the most powerful element of the politics of authoritarianism. Civic illiteracy is the modus operandi for creating depoliticized subjects who believe that consumerism is the only obligation of citizenship, who privilege opinions over reasoned arguments, and who are led to believe that ignorance is a virtue rather than a political and civic liability. In any educated democracy, much of the debate that occupies political life today, extending from creationism and climate change denial to “birther” arguments, would be speedily dismissed as magical thinking, superstition and an obvious form of ignorance. Mark Slouka is right in arguing that, “Ignorance gives us a sense of community; it confers citizenship; our representatives either share it or bow down to it or risk our wrath…. Communicate intelligently in America and you’re immediately suspect.”[28] The politics and machinery of disimagination and its production of ever-deepening ignorance dominates American society because it produces, to a large degree, uninformed customers, hapless clients, depoliticized subjects and illiterate citizens incapable of holding corporate and political power accountable. At stake here is more than the dangerous concentration of economic, political and cultural power in the hands of the ultrarich, megacorporations and elite financial services industries. Also at issue is the widespread perversion of the social, critical education, the public good, and democracy itself.

Toward a Radical Imagination

Against the politics of disimagination, progressives, workers, educators, young people and others need to develop a a new language of radical reform and create new public spheres that provide the pedagogical conditions for critical thought, dialogue and thoughtful deliberation. At stake here is a notion of pedagogy that both informs the mind and creates the conditions for modes of agency that are critical, informed, engaged and socially responsible. The radical imagination can be nurtured around the merging of critique and hope, the capacity to connect private troubles with broader social considerations, and the production of alternative formative cultures that provide the precondition for political engagement and for energizing democratic movements for social change – movements willing to think beyond isolated struggles and the limits of a savage global capitalism. Stanley Aronowitz and Peter Bratsis point to such a project in their manifesto on the radical imagination. They write:

This Manifesto looks forward to the creation of a new political Left formation that can overcome fragmentation, and provide a solid basis for many-side interventions in the current economic, political and social crises that afflict people in all walks of life. The Left must once again offer to young people, people of color, women, workers, activists, intellectuals and newly-arrived immigrants places to learn how the capitalist system works in all of its forms of exploitation whether personal, political, or economic. We need to reconstruct a platform to oppose Capital. It must ask in this moment of US global hegemony what are the alternatives to its cruel power over our lives, and those of large portions of the world’s peoples. And the Left formation is needed to offer proposals on how to rebuild a militant, democratic labor movement, strengthen and transform the social movements; and, more generally, provide the opportunity to obtain a broad education that is denied to them by official institutions. We need a political formation dedicated to the proposition that radical theory and practice are inextricably linked, that knowledge without action is impotent, but action without knowledge is blind.[29]

Matters of justice, equality, and political participation are foundational to any functioning democracy, but it is important to recognize that they have to be rooted in a vibrant formative culture in which democracy is understood not just as a political and economic structure but also as a civic force enabling justice, equality and freedom to flourish. While the institutions and practices of a civil society and an aspiring democracy are essential in this project, what must also be present are the principles and modes of civic education and critical engagement that support the very foundations of democratic culture. Central to such a project is the development of a new radical imagination both through the pedagogies and projects of public intellectuals in the academy and through work that can be done in other educational sites, such as the new media. Utilizing the Internet, social media, and other elements of the digital and screen culture, public intellectuals, cultural workers, young people and others can address larger audiences and present the task of challenging diverse forms of oppression, exploitation and exclusion as part of a broader effort to create a radical democracy.

There is a need to invent modes of pedagogy that release the imagination, connect learning to social change and create social relations in which people assume responsibility for each other. Such a pedagogy is not about methods or prepping students to learn how to take tests. Nor is such an education about imposing harsh disciplinary behaviors in the service of a pedagogy of oppression. On the contrary, it is about a moral and political practice capable of enabling students and others to become more knowledgeable while creating the conditions for generating a new vision of the future in which people can recognize themselves, a vision that connects with and speaks to the desires, dreams and hopes of those who are willing to fight for a radical democracy. Americans need to develop a new understanding of civic literacy, education and engagement, one capable of developing a new conversation and a new political project about democracy, inequality, and the redistribution of wealth and power, and how such a discourse can offer the conditions for democratically inspired visions, modes of governance and policymaking. Americans need to embrace and develop modes of civic literacy, critical education and democratic social movements that view the public good as a utopian imaginary, one that harbors a trace and vision of what it means to defend old and new public spheres that offer spaces where dissent can be produced, public values asserted, dialogue made meaningful and critical thought embraced as a noble ideal.

Elements of such a utopian imaginary can be found in James Baldwin’s “Open Letter to My Sister, Angela Davis,” in which he points out that “we live in an age in which silence is not only criminal but suicidal.”[30] The utopian imaginary is also on full display in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham City Jail,” where King states under the weight and harshness of incarceration that an “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere … [and asks whether we will] be extremists for the preservation of injustice – or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?”[31] According to King, “we must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy.”[32] We hear it in the words of former Harvard University President James B. Conant, who makes an impassioned call for “the need for the American radical – the missing political link between the past and future of this great democratic land.” [33] We hear it in the voices of young people all across the United States – the new American radicals – who are fighting for a society in which justice matters, social protections are guaranteed, equality is insured, and education becomes a right and not an entitlement. The radical imagination waits to be unleashed through social movements in which injustice is put on the run and civic literacy, economic justice, and collective struggle once again become the precondition for agency, hope and the struggle over democracy.

Endnotes

1.
David Theo Goldberg, “Mission Accomplished: Militarizing Social Logic,”in Enrique Jezik: Obstruct, destroy, conceal, ed. Cuauhtémoc Medina (Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2011), 183-198.

2.
See, for example, Colin Leys, Market Driven Politics (London: Verso, 2001); Randy Martin, Financialization of Daily Life (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002); Pierre Bourdieu, Firing Back: Against the Tyranny of the Market 2. Trans. Loic Wacquant (New York: The New Press, 2003); Alfredo Saad-Filho and Deborah Johnston, Neoliberalism: A Critical Reader (London: Pluto Press, 2005); Henry A. Giroux, Against the Terror of Neoliberalism (Boulder: Paradigm, 2008); David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007); Manfred B. Steger and Ravi K. Roy, Neoliberalism: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010); Gerad Dumenil and Dominique Levy, The Crisis of Neoliberalism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011). Henry A. Giroux, Twilight of the Social (Boulder: Paradigm, 2013); Stuart Hall, “The March of the Neoliberals,” The Guardian, (September 12, 2011). online at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/sep/12/march-of-the-neoliberals

3.
See most recently  Kelly V. Vlahos, “Boots on Campus,” Anti War.com (February 26, 2013). On line: http://original.antiwar.com/vlahos/2013/02/25/boots-on-campus/ and David H. Price, Weaponizing Anthropology (Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2011).

3A. Greg Bishop, “A Company that Runs Prisons Will Have its Name on a Stadium,” New York Times (February 19, 2013). Online: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/sports/ncaafootball/a-company-that-runs-prisons-will-have-its-name-on-a-stadium.html?_r=0

4.
Ibid. Goldberg, pp. 197-198.

5.
Jonathan Schell, “Cruel America”, The Nation, (September 28, 2011) online: http://www.thenation.com/article/163690/cruel-america

6.
Suzi Parker, “Cops Nab 5-Year-Old for Wearing Wrong Color Shoes to School,” Take Part, (January 18, 2013). Online: http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/01/18/cops-nab-five-year-old-wearing-wrong-color-shoes-school

7.
Susan Saulny, “After Recession, More Young Adults Are Living on Street,” The New York Times, (December 18, 2012). Online: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/us/since-recession-more-young-americans-are-homeless.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

8.
Suzanne Gamboa and Monika Mathur, “Guns Kill Young Children Daily In The U.S.,” Huffington Post (December 24, 2012). Online: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/24/guns-children_n_2359661.html

9.
John le Carre, “The United States of America Has Gone Mad,” CommonDreams (January 15, 2003). Online: http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0115-01.htm

10.
Eric Mann Interviews Mumbia Abu Jamal, “Mumia Abu Jamal: On his biggest political influences and the political ‘mentacide’ of today’s youth.” Voices from the Frontlines Radio (April 9, 2012).

11.
See, for example, Charles Ferguson, Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America (New York: Random House, 2012).

12.
Michael Yates, “The Great Inequality,” Monthly Review, (March 1, 2012).

13.
Ibid.

14.
Guy Standing, The New Precariat: The New Dangerous Class (New York: Bloomsbury, 2011).

15.
Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007).

16.
This issue is taken up brilliantly in Irving Howe, “Reaganism: The Spirit of the Times,” Selected Writings 1950-1990 (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990), pp. 410-423.

17.
I take up this issue in detail in Henry A. Giroux, The University in Chains: Challenging the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex (Boulder: Paradigm, 2007).

18.
Aaron B. O’Connell, “The Permanent Militarization of America,” The New York Times, (November 4, 2012). Online: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/05/opinion/the-permanent-militarization-of-america.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

19.
Dominic Tierney, “The F-35: A Weapon that Costs More Than Australia,” The Atlantic (February 13, 2013). Online: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/03/the-f-35-a-weapon-that-costs-more-than-australia/72454/

20.
John Hinkson, “The GFC Has Just Begun,”Arena Magazine 122 (March 2013), p. 51.

21.
Georges Didi-Huberman, Images in Spite of All: Four Photographs from Auschwitz, trans. Shane B. Lillis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), pp. 1-2.

22.
Katherine Stewart, “Is Texas Waging War on History?”AlterNet (May 21, 2012). Online: http://www.alternet.org/story/155515/is_texas_waging_war_on_history

23.
Ibid.

24.
See, for instance, Chris Mooney, The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science – and Reality (New York: Wiley, 2012).

25.
Steve Horn, “Three States Pushing ALEC Bill to Require Teachng Climate Change Denial in Schools,”Desmogblog.com (January 31, 2013). Online: www.desmogblog.com/2013/01/31/three-states-pushing-alec-bill-climate-change-denial-schools

26.
Igor Volsky, “Arizona Bill to Force Students to Take a Loyalty Oath,” AlterNet (January 26, 2013).

27.
John Atcheson, “Dark ages Redux: American Politics and the End of the Enlightenment,” CommonDreams (June 18, 2012). Online: https://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/06/18-2

28.
Mark Slouka, “A Quibble,” Harper’s Magazine (February 2009).

29.
Manifesto, Left Turn: An Open Letter to U.S. Radicals, (N.Y.: The Fifteenth Street Manifesto Group, March 2008), pp. 4-5.

30.
James Baldwin, “An Open Letter to My Sister, Miss Angela Davis,” The New York Review of Books, (January 7, 1971). Online: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1971/jan/07/an-open-letter-to-my-sister-miss-angela-davis/?pagination=false

31.
Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” (1963), in James M. Washington, The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Harper Collins, 1991), pp.290, 298.

32.
Ibid, 296.

33.
James B. Conant, “Wanted: American Radicals”, The Atlantic, May 1943.

Henry A Giroux

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the Global TV Network Chair Professorship at McMaster University in the English and Cultural Studies Department. His most recent books include: Youth in a Suspect Society (Palgrave, 2009); Politics After Hope: Obama and the Crisis of Youth, Race, and Democracy (Paradigm, 2010); Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror (Paradigm, 2010); The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence (co-authored with Grace Pollock, Rowman and Littlefield, 2010); Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism (Peter Lang, 2011); Henry Giroux on Critical Pedagogy (Continuum, 2011). His newest books:   Education and the Crisis of Public Values (Peter Lang) and Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Publics in the Age of Disposability (Paradigm Publishers) will be published in 2012). Giroux is also a member of Truthout’s Board of Directors. His web site is http://www.henryagiroux.com.

 

As Obama, Romney Hold First Debate, Behind The Secret GOP-Dem Effort To Shut Out Third Parties

In Uncategorized on October 3, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Oldspeak: “The Obama and Romney campaigns have secretly negotiated a detailed contract that dictates many of the terms of the 2012 presidential debates. This includes who gets to participate, as well as the topics raised during the debates.” This pact ensures that no difficult questions will be asked, and candidates will be able to recite their talking points with no fear of having to talk about issues they don’t want to talk about.  “The Commission on Presidential Debates gets the vast majority of its money from major businesses that support it. Anheuser-Busch is far and away the biggest contributor to the commission. So, by and large, our presidential debates are brought to you by Bud Light. And if you actually go to some of these debate sites — I don’t know how it is this year, but in the past there have been Anheuser-Busch tents where scantily clad women are passing out pamphlets denouncing beer taxes. The CEOs of these companies get access to the debates, they sit in the audience, they’re invited to receptions to meet with campaign staff. They get a wonderful benefit because they are able to simultaneously demonstrate their support for both major parties, hit two birds with one stone and get a tax deduction to boot. -George Farah The U.S. Presidential Debates, brought to you by the Transnational Corporate Network. “Ignorance Is Strength”

By Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

Guest:

George Farah, Founder and Executive Director of Open Debates. He is also author of the book, “No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates.”

AMY GOODMAN: We are broadcasting in Denver, Colorado. We are on the road, here, just miles from the University of Denver, the site of tonight’s presidential debate between Mitt Romney and President Obama. It is the first of three presidential debates before the November 6th election. Tonight’s debate will focus on domestic policy, but one issue that will not be covered is the actual structure of the debate itself. The Obama and Romney campaigns have secretly negotiated a detailed contract that dictates many of the terms of the 2012 presidential debates. This includes who gets to participate, as well as the topics raised during the debates. Now 18 pro-democracy groups are calling on the commission of presidential debates, a private corporation that runs the debates, to review the details of the negotiated agreement. Meanwhile, Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, has filed an antitrust lawsuit for entry into the debates against the Commission on Presidential debates. In addition, supporters of Green Party nominee Jill Stein plan to protest outside of the debate under the banner of Occupy the CPD. While Obama and Romney debate in Denver, Stein and Justice Party Candidate Rocky Anderson will appear on Democracy Now!‘s expanding the debate exclusive tonight. We will air the Obama-Romney debate, pausing after questions to include equal time responses from Dr. Stein and Rocky Anderson. We invited Gary Johnson, but his campaign said he had other plans for the night. Our special begins at 8:30 p.m. Eastern time. If it’s not being broadcast on your station as it’s being broadcast throughout the country, you can also go to our website at Democracynow.org. To talk more about the debates, we are joined now, in New York, by the George Farah. He’s the founder and Executive Director of Open Debates, the author of “No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates.” George, welcome to Democracy Now!. You are there in our studios in New York, and we are here just outside Denver where the debates are taking place tonight, so we can bring folks and expanded version of the debates. George, how did it come to be that the commission of presidential debates came in to being? What is this commission?

GEORGE FARAH: The Commission on Presidential debates sounds like a government agency, it sounds like a nonpartisan entity, which is by design, is intended to deceive the American people. But, in reality, it is a private corporation financed by Anheuser-Busch and other major companies, that was created by the Republican and Democratic parties to seize control of the presidential debates from The League of Women Voters in 1987. Precisely as you said, Amy, every four years, this commission allows the major party campaigns to meet behind closed doors and draft a secret contract, a memorandum of understanding that dictates many of the terms. The reason for the commission’s creation is that the previous sponsor, The League of Women voters, was a genuine non-partisan entity, our voice, the voice of the American people in the negotiation room, and time and time again, The League had the courage to stand up to the Republican and Democratic campaigns to insist on challenging creative formats, to insist on the inclusion of independent candidates that the vast majority of American people wanted to see, and most importantly, to insist on transparency, so that any attempts by the Republican and Democratic parties to manipulate the presidential debates would result in and of enormous political price. And it’s precisely because the League…

AMY GOODMAN: George, you have a lot of time here, so I really want you to lay out how this happened. Explain the moment when this was taken out of the hands of The League of Women Voters and this commission was formed. How was this justified?

GEORGE FARAH: The best part of the history starts in 1980. In 1980, John B. Anderson, an independent candidate for president, runs against Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. President Jimmy Carter absolutely opposed independent candidate John Anderson’s participation in the presidential debates, and The League had a choice; do they support the independent candidate’s participation and defy the wishes of the President of the United States or do they capitulate to the demands of President Jimmy Carter? The league did the right thing, it stood to the President of the United States, invited John B. Anderson. The President refused to show up. The League went forward anyway and had a presidential debate that was watched by 55 million Americans. You fast forward four years later, Amy, and the Walter Mondale and Ronald Reagan campaigns vetoed 80 of the moderators that The League of Women Voters had proposed for the debates. The were simply trying to get rid of…

AMY GOODMAN: Eighty?

GEORGE FARAH: Eighty. They were trying to get rid of difficult questions.

AMY GOODMAN: Eight-zero?

GEORGE FARAH: Eight-zero. Eighty. And The League didn’t just say, OK that’s fine we’ll allow you to select a moderator that’s going to ask softball questions, The League held a press conference and lambasted the campaigns for trying to get rid of the difficult questions. Of course there was a public outcry. So The League marshaled public support to criticize when they attempted to defy our democratic process and the result was fantastic. For the next debate, the campaigns were required to accept The League’s proposed moderators for fear of an additional public outcry. And you fast forward four more years later and you have the Michael Dukakis and the George Bush campaign’s drafting the first ever 12-page secret debate contract. They gave it to The League of Women Voters and said please implement this. The League said, are you kidding me? We are not going to implement a secret contract that dictates the terms of the format. Instead, they release the contract to the public and they held a press conference accusing the candidates of “perpetrating a fraud on the American people” and refusing to be “an accessory to the hoodwinking of the American people.”

Well, Amy, conveniently, just a year earlier, the Republican and Democratic parties had ratified an agreement “to take over the presidential debates, and they created this artifice, this commission, and the commission was waiting in the wings and stepped right in and implemented the very same 12-page contract that The League had so effectively denounced, and ever since we’ve had a contract.

AMY GOODMAN: Since The League did release it — The League of Women Voters at the time — what was in this 12-page contract, at least then?

GEORGE FARAH: The 12-page contract then said very specific provisions that the candidates cannot actually ask each other any questions during the debates, that no third party candidates would be permitted to participate in those events, that there would be a certain number of audience members that would be supportive of the various candidates. Actually, it is quite tame compared to the contracts we have seen in recent years. That contract was 12 pages. The 2004 contract that we’ve managed to obtain a a copy of, was 32 pages. So, over time, the candidates have made even greater efforts to control various components of the debates to eliminate both third party candidates, unpredictable questions, and any threat to their dominance in our political process.

AMY GOODMAN: So, this Commission, talk about the heads of the commission and who they are, who they were when it started, Frank Fahrenkopf and Paul Kirk, and who they are today, and who they represent?

GEORGE FARAH: Frank Fahrenkopf and Paul Kirk were the original co-chairs on the Commission on Presidential Debates. Frank Fahrenkopf is the former hair of the Republican party, and Paul Kirk is the former chair of the Democratic party. When they created the commission, for 15 months, they simultaneously served as co-chairs of their respective parties and the commission, so, it was of course by definition an entity that was absolutely loyal to the two parties. Well, guess what, Frank Fahrenkopf still is co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, decades later. And he has one other job, his day job; he is the director of the American Gaming Association. In other words, he is the nation’s leading gambling lobbyist. When I asked Frank, do you feel comfortable having a beer and tobacco companies paying for our most important election events, our presidential debates? He said, boy, you’re talking to the wrong guy, I represent the gambling industry. The other co-chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates now is Mike McCurry, former Press Secretary to Bill Clinton and also a lobbyist. He’s lobbied aggressively on behalf of the telecommunications industry. So, you have two people in charge of these presidential debates that, number one, are loyal to their parties, they’re political operatives, and number two, have demonstrated time and time again a willingness to sacrifice the interests of the American people for private, political, and financial interests. These are not exactly people who hesitate to subjugate the democratic process to the private interests that benefit from these actual debates.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about what happened this past week, George Farah? The advertising agency BBH, the YWCA, Phillips North America, terminating their sponsorship of the debates. First of all, what are corporations doing sponsoring these presidential debates and why have these organizations pulled out?

GEORGE FARAH: Well, the Commission on Presidential Debates gets the vast majority of its money from major businesses that support it. Anheuser-Busch is far and away the biggest contributor to the commission. So, by and large, our presidential debates are brought to you by Bud Light. And if you actually go to some of these debate sites — I don’t know how it is this year, but in the past there have been Anheuser-Busch tents where scantily clad women are passing out pamphlets denouncing beer taxes. The CEOs of these companies get access to the debates, they sit in the audience, they’re invited to receptions to meet with campaign staff. They get a wonderful benefit because they are able to simultaneously demonstrate their support for both major parties, hit two birds with one stone and get a tax deduction to boot. Back when the League of Women voters used to sponsor these events, they struggled to raise $5,000 contributions from companies, it was very difficult. But, because they are now perceived as a sort of soft money donation, this is yet another avenue for businesses with regulatory interests before Congress to influence our political process.

We have launched a campaign since the inception of my organization in 2004 to pushing our supporters, which number in the tens of thousands, to write letters and e-mails to the very sponsors demanding that they withdraw their support of the commission. This year, with the support of other organizations, one called Help the Commission, an infusion of enthusiasm from third parties, including the Libertarian party and the Green party, for the first time ever we actually have succeeded in achieving some tangible goals. Not just one sponsor, but three of the ten sponsors have withdrawn support. BBH, a British advertising agency, YWCA, a nonprofit, and most importantly, Philips Electronics, a tech giant. Due to the extraordinary public pressure that we have exerted on them, they have said they will no longer be affiliated with an entity that is perceived, correctly, as being partisan and fundamentally anti-democratic. This is a triumph for the debate reform movement and I hope the beginning of unveiling the commission for what it truly is, and displacing it.

AMY GOODMAN: George Farah, say again the companies that continue to support the Commission on Presidential Debates?

GEORGE FARAH: There are seven remaining sponsors. There are three companies; Anheuser-Busch, again the poster child for contributing to the commission, you have Southwest Airlines, you have the International Bottled Water Association, then you have two foundations, The Howard Buffett Foundation, Howard Buffett happens to be a board member of the commission, something called the Marjorie Kovler Fund that’s affiliated with the Kennedy Library. And then you have two law firms, Korman, a specific law firm that focuses on specific issues in Washington, and Sheldon Cohen, a national security lawyer. These are the seven entities that are backing our Commission on Presidential Debates. This is not the way these ought to be run. These should be supported by civic groups, non-partisan organizations with a real focus on the democratic process, and instead they’re subcontracting out our presidential debate process to Anheuser-Busch.

AMY GOODMAN: It will be interesting to see if there is bottled water on their podiums, or if there is Bud Light. I wanted to go to one of the third party candidates shut out of tonight’s debate, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson the former governor of New Mexico. He appeared recently on Neil Cavuto’s show on Fox Business.

NEIL CAVUTO: Governor, half the battle is getting on those ballots and polling well to get in those debates. So, it’s sort of like a tough…

GARY JOHNSON: Very catch-22. Right now I’m 5% nationally. Fact is I’m not being recognized though at 5% nationally and if people recognized that I was at 5% nationally, Neil, the overwhelming reaction would be well who the hell is Gary Johnson.

NEIL CAVUTO: What does it take to get into the debates?

GARY JOHNSON: Well, you got to get in the polls first to determine who’s in the debates.

AMY GOODMAN: And earlier this summer the Green Party wrapped up its convention with the nomination of its presidential candidate the physician Dr. Jill Stein and her running mate the anti-poverty activist Cheri Honkala. Stein called her ticket a viable third-party challenge too corporate-beholden Republicans and Democrats.

CHERI HONKALA: I strongly agree that grass-roots democracy grows from the local community up, but at the same time, we have a state of emergency, I think, at the national level. And to silence the only hope of an opposition voice in this election when so much is at stake, I think, would be just a terrible loss for the American people. There is no reason why Americans should have to walk into the voting booth in November and only effectively two Wall Street-sponsored choices.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein. Democracy Now! spoke to Justice Party nominee Rocky Anderson during the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida last month.

ROCKY ANDERSON: These two parties, Republicans and Democrats, have a stranglehold on our democracy. They are depriving people around this country of not only being able to get on the ballot. They are denying all us of our freedom of choice. We are seeing it in the most aggressive ways.

AMY GOODMAN: Again, we are going to have this presidential debate, including Rocky Anderson, the presidential candidate from the Justice Party, Dr. Jill Stein, the presidential candidate from the Green Party, we will be doing that tonight, expanding the debates. Just having them, not comments afterwards, but actually they will participate in the debate. We’ll just hit pause on the presidential debate, they will be given the same amount of time in the same format as the main presidential candidates, so that TV and radio and Internet audiences at Democracynow.org can hear what democracy sounds like. George Farah, there was a third-party candidate outside of Anderson, of course, Ross Perot. So, George, how did he get into the debates? Why was it agreed to then?

GEORGE FARAH: Amy, the Ross Perot story is absolutely fascinating, and I’d love to talk briefly. About 1992 and 1996, Ross Perot managed to get into the 1992 presidential debates. One of the great public misconceptions is that the Commission invited him. The commission loves to take credit as well. They say we are not as bi-partisan or as partisan as people accuse us of being. We included Ross Perot in 1992. That is not what happened. President George H.W. Bush believed strategically that Ross Perot was taking votes from then challenger Bill Clinton. So Bush’s campaign insisted on Ross Perot’s inclusion. The commission actually opposed Perot’s inclusion, first pushing to keep out of all three debates, then lobbying for allowing him to participate in just a single debate. It was only because President George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton pushed for Perot’s inclusion that he was included. If you fast forward four years later, Ross Perot ran for president again. He had $29 million in taxpayer funds. Seventy-six percent of the American people wanted to see him in the debates. He was widely deemed the winner of two of the three debates in 1992, yet, he was excluded. Why, because this time, the candidates wanted to keep him out.

Bob Dole was desperate to keep Perot out of the presidential debates because he thought Perot would take more votes away from him. Bill Clinton did not want anyone to watch the debates. He wanted what George Stephanopoulos told me was a non event because he was comfortably leading in the polls. So they reached an outrageous agreement; Bill Clinton agreed to exclude Perot on the condition that one of three debates was canceled, and the remaining two debates were scheduled opposite the World Series of baseball, and no follow-up questions were asked. So, this is what viewers at home got. They got not Perot, they got two debates at the same time as baseball and they had no follow up questions, and that’s exactly what President Bill Clinton wanted, by design, the lowest debate audience in the history of presidential debates. Who took the heat? Not the candidates. The candidates never paid a political price. The polls after the debate showed 50% of the public blamed the commission. Only 13% blamed President Clinton, and only 5% blamed the Bob Dole. In other words, the critical role that the commission plays is allowing the candidates to engage in anti-democratic manipulations behind closed doors without having to pay a political price. If Bob Dole and Bill Clinton had to look in the camera and tell the American people, we’re going to keep out a candidate out you’re paying for, that you’re supporting and that you want to see, they would have never have had the courage to do so. It would have been perceived as cowardly and they would have been forced to allow Ross Perot up on that stage.

AMY GOODMAN: What about this comment, that Gary Johnson made, the former governor of New Mexico who’s running for president on the Libertarian line, this point about what you poll and this catch-22 of how you increase your standing in the polls if you are not in the debates?

GEORGE FARAH: Due to explicit criticism of the commission in 1992 and 1996 and an investigation by the Federal Election Commission, the commission was forced to adopting a numerical figure as a kind of decision making, at what point third-party candidates could participate in the presidential debates. So, they have announced that if a third party candidate, or any candidate gets 15% of the polls, that they will invite them to a presidential debate. Fifteen percent of the polls? Amy, that is crazy. There has not been a third-party candidate in the last 100 years that’s gotten close to 15% in the polls prior to any sort of presidential debate, it’s ridiculously high. Congress gives candidates millions of dollars of taxpayer funds if they win 5% of the popular vote. How is it that we actually can we subsidize a candidate, yet they need three times that level of support just to get into these presidential debates? Third-party candidates faced extraordinary structural barriers, discriminatory ballot access, scant media coverage, loyalties of the political class in the voting public, enormous campaign finance disparities. So, if they managed to convince a majority of Americans that they ought to be included in the presidential debates, it is outrageous that a private corporation backed by Anheuser-Busch, controlled by the two parties is telling them no. It absolutely is a catch-22. The presidential debates are the gatekeepers to credibility. If third party candidate gets in, he is instantly deemed credible, viable worthy of voter attention and worth of media attention, but if he is excluded, he is dismissed as marginal unworthy of voter attention of media attention, and his campaign is relegated in many ways to the dustbins of history. These is outrageous that the gatekeepers to our election process are not non-partisan entities like The League [of Women Voters], but partisan individuals with loyalties to the Republican and Democratic parties. It stifles debate, by design.

AMY GOODMAN: How do you see this changing right now, George Farah? You are the founder and executive director of Open Debates. You have been watching this over the years. The League of Women Voters, are they organizing? How are groups actually organizing? How do you see this playing out?

GEORGE FARAH: We created something in 2004 called The Citizen’s Debate Commission in. It was comprised of 17 civic leaders from across the political spectrum, from Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council on the right, to Randall Robertson, founder of Transafrica on the left. It was backed by 60 civic groups on its advisory board, 23 newspapers around country from The L.A. Times to The Seattle Times editorialized in support of the Citizen’s Debate Commission. And its specific purpose was clear; we were going to break the monopoly that the commission exerts over our presidential debate process. Unfortunately, Amy, we failed for the simple reason that there wasn’t sufficient public pressure. But, this is not reason to throw up your arms in defeat and say, oh my gosh, we can’t break this, that was just planting the seeds. This was the beginning of a broad based movement. The only way to truly break the monopoly of The Commission on Presidential Debates is to create a viable alternative that has so much grass roots support that it becomes politically costly for the major party nominees to avoid those debates. Once upon a time, the major party candidates could avoid debates altogether. There were no presidential debates in 1964, ’68 and ’72 because it wasn’t expected. Now any major party candidate seen avoiding the debates looks cowardly. It’s impossible, they must debate, whether they like it or not. We just want to take that expectation the public has and elevate it, so that not only will a candidate pay a price if they avoid the debates, but they will pay a political price if they avoid real debates that they aren’t controlling. So this is a matter of evolving and pushing the public expectation and step by step, I think we’re going to succeed. It is just a matter of time. The fact that three of the ten sponsors this election cycle withdrew their support is testimony to the fact that it is now becoming expensive to be too politically associated with the commission. If we can broaden that attack to not just include corporations but actually the individual candidates, we’re going to start to see some headway, we’re going to start to break the commission’s monopoly.

AMY GOODMAN: George Farah, I want to thank you for being with us. Founder and Executive Director of Open Debates, also author of “No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates.” He’ll be joining us tonight. We will be starting a half hour before the actual presidential debate at 8:30 Eastern Standard time. Vincent Harding will also be with us, close ally of Dr. Martin Luther King. He is based here in Denver. He helped to write the speech that Dr. King gave in Riverside Church in New York, why he opposed the war in Vietnam a year to the day before Dr. King was assassinated. Then we start the debate exactly at 9:00 Eastern time, just as the debate begins here in Denver. We will broadcast the debate, it is moderated by Jim Lehrer of the PBS News Hour. He will put the questions to the major party candidates, Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, and then we will hit pause, we will expand the debate. The candidates will be here with us in the studio also in Denver; Dr. Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson, both presidential candidates, third parties. Gary Johnson was invited but he won’t be in the city. We will expand the debate just as if they were standing right there at the University of Denver.

Party Down: The 2012 Presidential Election & The Politics Of Fantasy

In Uncategorized on August 24, 2012 at 3:38 pm

Oldspeak:”The illusion of choice is seductively powerful.  It makes it seem as though there are 2 choices, and a myriad of differences between them, when in reality there is only one choice. 2 sides of one coin.  Emblazoned on both sides of that coin: “neoliberalism at home, imperialism abroad.” The presidential campaign necessarily must devolve into little more than a national marketing campaign—replete with the assorted gimmicks, tricks, and deceptions inherent to that vile craft deemed “public relations.” Thus, the “decision” to be made in 2012 is limited to that between Brand Obama and Brand Romney. No different in approach, really, than choosing between Pepsi and Coke—Nike and Adidas. For just as with all branding, the 2012 decision is not about deciphering between two differing products or candidates—as they both promise to deliver the same agenda of neoliberalism at home, imperialism abroad—but rather choosing between two sets of experiential promises (fictitious as they are). In terms of 2012, it’s the dim hope and vague slogan of “Forward” proffered from camp Obama, versus team Romney’s promise of comfort to be found in a restoration of America power.  In other words then, the man best able to peddle the most convincing fantasy to the American consumer this fall shall be the one to ultimately prevail in November.  All befitting of an empire of illusion.” -Ben Schreiner Kick back & enjoy the most horrifying reality show on Earth. ELECTION 2012.

By Ben Schreiner @ Dissident Voice:

Those who succeed in politics, as in most of the culture, are those who create the most convincing fantasies.

— Chris Hedges, Empire of Illusion

With both tickets now set, the democratic farce that is the U.S. presidential election lumbers into its final act. And for a campaign already rife with all the petty trivialities and celebrity intrigues more suiting of a reality TV show, it is no surprise that both political parties intend on using their upcoming political conventions to furnish choreographed spectacles designed for little more than prime time viewing.

According to the New York Times, a “$2.5 million Frank Lloyd Wright inspired theatrical stage,” complete with 13 different video screens, will welcome the television viewer of the Republican national convention in Tampa. All part of an effort, the Times notes, to cloak that cold, vulture capitalist Romney in a veil of “warmth, approachability and openness.” As a senior Romney advisor boasted to the paper, “Even the [wooden video screen] frames are designed to give it a sense that you’re not looking at a stage, you’re looking into someone’s living room.” (Presumably a direct mock-up of one Romney’s living rooms.)

Protecting Mitt’s newly crafted aura of “approachability and openness” from the potential wayward vagabond, the city of Tampa will spend $24.85 million alone on law enforcement personnel during the four day convention. This will include a massive deployment of 3,500-4,000 “contingency officers” from up to 63 outside police departments. Hospitality clearly has its limits.

It is all much the same for the Democratic convention set for early September in Charlotte. The award-winning Brand Obama is also much too valuable to be tarnished by the taint of social unrest.

The looming crackdown on dissent Charlotte-style, though, will be eased by nothing short of an Orwellian city law allowing any large public gathering to be declared “an extraordinary event.” Arbitrary search and arrest of any individual the police fancy will then be ipso facto legal. (Like such police practices are in any way “extraordinary.”)

Of course, all those hapless souls set to be greeted with the swing of the police truncheon in the streets of Tampa and Charlotte will garner nary a mention from the herd of corporate media planning to embed safely within the bunkered convention halls. Instead, the legions of dimwitted media pundits and talking heads will busy themselves filling air time as they wax-poetic on the true splendor of American democracy manifested in the sheets of convention confetti raining from the rafters.

The media’s neat packaging of the entire spectacle as all part of the must-see docudrama titled “Decision 2012” will undoubtedly do little to hide the true nature of the charade from the perceptive observer. Nonetheless, the politics as entertainment orgy will precede forth, with the media present to celebrate and partake in it all. Which can only give added credence to the Neil Postman quip that, “In America, the least amusing people are its professional entertainers.”

The fundamental matter of whether there is truly decision at all to be made in 2012, needless to say, is rather dubious.

As the New York Times writes of the international outlooks of Obama and Romney: “The actual foreign policy differences between the two seem more a matter of degree and tone than the articulation of a profound debate about the course of America in the world.” Put differently, threats to bomb Iran, “contain” China, and bow to Israel are simply beyond debate.

Indeed, even leftist supporters of Obama admit there is no discernible difference between the two candidates. As Obama backers Bill Fletcher and Carl Davidson instead argue, “November 2012 becomes not a statement about the Obama presidency, but a defensive move by progressive forces to hold back the ‘Caligulas’ on the political right.” Such bankrupt arguments inevitably rear their ugly head every four years in the now tired attempt to send the fractured American Left scurrying straight into death vise of the “Party of the people.”

Given this altogether pitiful state of affairs, the presidential campaign necessarily must devolve into little more than a national marketing campaign—replete with the assorted gimmicks, tricks, and deceptions inherent to that vile craft deemed “public relations.” Thus, the “decision” to be made in 2012 is limited to that between Brand Obama and Brand Romney. No different in approach, really, than choosing between Pepsi and Coke—Nike and Adidas. For just as with all branding, the 2012 decision is not about deciphering between two differing products or candidates—as they both promise to deliver the same agenda of neoliberalism at home, imperialism abroad—but rather choosing between two sets of experiential promises (fictitious as they are). In terms of 2012, it’s the dim hope and vague slogan of “Forward” proffered from camp Obama, versus team Romney’s promise of comfort to be found in a restoration of America power.

In other words then, the man best able to peddle the most convincing fantasy to the American consumer this fall shall be the one to ultimately prevail in November.

All befitting of an empire of illusion.

Ben Schreiner is a freelance writer living in Salem, Oregon. He may be reached at: bnschreiner@gmail.com. Read other articles by Ben.

 

Plutonomy & The Precariat: On The History Of The U.S. Economy In Decline

In Uncategorized on May 11, 2012 at 5:22 pm

Oldspeak:”We’re really regressing back to the dark ages. It’s not a joke.  And if that’s happening in the most powerful, richest country in history, then this catastrophe isn’t going to be averted — and in a generation or two, everything else we’re talking about won’t matter. Something has to be done about it very soon in a dedicated, sustained way.” -Dr. Noam Chomsky
Empires in decline follow the same general pattern. High debt, unsound economic policies, intransigent political corruption, perpetual war and increases in war funding to the detriment of all else , privatized military, environmental degradation, looting of resources from throughout the empire rather than producing  things, systems deplete their resource base beyond levels that are ultimately sustainable. All these conditions exist in the American Empire. Something has to be done about fundamentally changing these conditions before it’s too late.

By Tom Engelhardt & Noam Chomsky @ TomsDispatch:

By Tom Engelhardt:

If you had followed May Day protests in New York City in the mainstream media, you might hardly have noticed that they happened at all.  The stories were generally tucked away, minimalist, focused on a few arrests, and spoke of “hundreds” of protesters in the streets, or maybe, if a reporter was feeling especially generous, a vague “thousands.”  I did my own rough count on the largest of the Occupy protests that day. It left Union Square in the evening heading for the Wall Street area.  I walked through the march front to back, figuring a couple of thousand loosely packed protesters to a block, and came up with a conservative estimate of 15,000 people.  Maybe it wasn’t the biggest protest of all time, but sizeable enough given that Occupy, an organization without strong structures but once strongly located, had been (quite literally) pushed or even beaten out of its camps in Zuccotti Park and elsewhere across the country and toward oblivion.

It’s true that if you were checking out the Nation or Mother Jones, you would have gotten a more accurate sense of what was going on.  Still, didn’t the great protest movement of our American moment (on a planet still in upheaval) deserve better that day? And no matter what you read in the mainstream, here’s what you would have known nothing about: this country is increasingly an armed camp and those marchers, remarkably relaxed and peaceable, were heading out into a concentration of police that was staggering and should have been startling.

Cops on motor scooters patroled the edges of the march, which was hemmed in by the usual moveable metal barricades.  Police helicopters buzzed us at rooftop level.  The police managed to alter the actual path of the marchers partway along and the police turnout — I estimated up to 75 cops, three deep on some street corners doing nothing but collecting overtime — was little short of incomprehensible.

Though Occupy marchers used to chant, “Whose streets, our streets!” it was never so.  The streets belong to the police.  If this is the democracy and freedom to dissent that American officials constantly proclaim to the world as one of our core values, then pinch me.  If most of it is even legal, I’d be surprised.  But when it comes to legality, we’re past all that.  So any march on a sunny day is instantly imprisoned, and the protesters turned into a captive audience.  When young people break out of the barricades and the serried ranks of cops and head in unexpected directions, it has the unmistakable feel of a jailbreak.

The fact is that, in a country whose security forces are up-armored to the teeth from the Mexican border to Union Square, just behind any set of marchers, you can feel the unease of those in power, edging up to fear.  And no wonder.  We remain in a “recovery” that’s spinning on a dime.  Let the Eurozone falter and begin to fall, the Chinese housing bubble pop, or the Persian Gulf go up in flames, and hold onto your signs.  Like Bloomberg in the Big Apple, many mayors sent in their paramilitaries (with a helping hand from the Department of Homeland Security) to get rid of the “troublemakers.”  Only problem: their real problems run so much deeper and when the next “moment” comes, Occupy could look like a march in the park (which, in many inspirational ways, it largely was).  In the meantime, the streets increasingly belong to the weaponized.  Americans who protest blur into the “terrorists” who, since 9/11, have been the obsession of what passes for law enforcement.

If you want some sense of just what’s lurking under the surface of all the police drones and helicopters and tanks and even mini-drone submarines, what underpins our fragile, edgy moment, then check out this talk TomDispatch regular Noam Chomsky gave.  It’s excerpted from his new book Occupy, with special thanks to its publisher Zuccotti Park Press. Tom

By Noam Chomsky:

The Occupy movement has been an extremely exciting development. Unprecedented, in fact. There’s never been anything like it that I can think of.  If the bonds and associations it has established can be sustained through a long, dark period ahead — because victory won’t come quickly — it could prove a significant moment in American history.

The fact that the Occupy movement is unprecedented is quite appropriate. After all, it’s an unprecedented era and has been so since the 1970s, which marked a major turning point in American history. For centuries, since the country began, it had been a developing society, and not always in very pretty ways. That’s another story, but the general progress was toward wealth, industrialization, development, and hope. There was a pretty constant expectation that it was going to go on like this. That was true even in very dark times.

I’m just old enough to remember the Great Depression. After the first few years, by the mid-1930s — although the situation was objectively much harsher than it is today — nevertheless, the spirit was quite different. There was a sense that “we’re gonna get out of it,” even among unemployed people, including a lot of my relatives, a sense that “it will get better.”

There was militant labor union organizing going on, especially from the CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations). It was getting to the point of sit-down strikes, which are frightening to the business world — you could see it in the business press at the time — because a sit-down strike is just a step before taking over the factory and running it yourself. The idea of worker takeovers is something which is, incidentally, very much on the agenda today, and we should keep it in mind. Also New Deal legislation was beginning to come in as a result of popular pressure. Despite the hard times, there was a sense that, somehow, “we’re gonna get out of it.”

It’s quite different now. For many people in the United States, there’s a pervasive sense of hopelessness, sometimes despair. I think it’s quite new in American history. And it has an objective basis.

On the Working Class

In the 1930s, unemployed working people could anticipate that their jobs would come back. If you’re a worker in manufacturing today — the current level of unemployment there is approximately like the Depression — and current tendencies persist, those jobs aren’t going to come back.

The change took place in the 1970s. There are a lot of reasons for it. One of the underlying factors, discussed mainly by economic historian Robert Brenner, was the falling rate of profit in manufacturing. There were other factors. It led to major changes in the economy — a reversal of several hundred years of progress towards industrialization and development that turned into a process of de-industrialization and de-development. Of course, manufacturing production continued overseas very profitably, but it’s no good for the work force.

Along with that came a significant shift of the economy from productive enterprise — producing things people need or could use — to financial manipulation. The financialization of the economy really took off at that time.

On Banks

Before the 1970s, banks were banks. They did what banks were supposed to do in a state capitalist economy: they took unused funds from your bank account, for example, and transferred them to some potentially useful purpose like helping a family buy a home or send a kid to college. That changed dramatically in the 1970s. Until then, there had been no financial crises since the Great Depression. The 1950s and 1960s had been a period of enormous growth, the highest in American history, maybe in economic history.

And it was egalitarian.  The lowest quintile did about as well as the highest quintile. Lots of people moved into reasonable lifestyles — what’s called the “middle class” here, the “working class” in other countries — but it was real.  And the 1960s accelerated it. The activism of those years, after a pretty dismal decade, really civilized the country in lots of ways that are permanent.

When the 1970s came along, there were sudden and sharp changes: de-industrialization, the off-shoring of production, and the shift to financial institutions, which grew enormously. I should say that, in the 1950s and 1960s, there was also the development of what several decades later became the high-tech economy: computers, the Internet, the IT Revolution developed substantially in the state sector.

The developments that took place during the 1970s set off a vicious cycle. It led to the concentration of wealth increasingly in the hands of the financial sector. This doesn’t benefit the economy — it probably harms it and society — but it did lead to a tremendous concentration of wealth.

On Politics and Money

Concentration of wealth yields concentration of political power. And concentration of political power gives rise to legislation that increases and accelerates the cycle. The legislation, essentially bipartisan, drives new fiscal policies and tax changes, as well as the rules of corporate governance and deregulation. Alongside this began a sharp rise in the costs of elections, which drove the political parties even deeper into the pockets of the corporate sector.

The parties dissolved in many ways. It used to be that if a person in Congress hoped for a position such as a committee chair, he or she got it mainly through seniority and service. Within a couple of years, they started having to put money into the party coffers in order to get ahead, a topic studied mainly by Tom Ferguson. That just drove the whole system even deeper into the pockets of the corporate sector (increasingly the financial sector).

This cycle resulted in a tremendous concentration of wealth, mainly in the top tenth of one percent of the population. Meanwhile, it opened a period of stagnation or even decline for the majority of the population. People got by, but by artificial means such as longer working hours, high rates of borrowing and debt, and reliance on asset inflation like the recent housing bubble. Pretty soon those working hours were much higher in the United States than in other industrial countries like Japan and various places in Europe. So there was a period of stagnation and decline for the majority alongside a period of sharp concentration of wealth. The political system began to dissolve.

There has always been a gap between public policy and public will, but it just grew astronomically. You can see it right now, in fact.  Take a look at the big topic in Washington that everyone concentrates on: the deficit. For the public, correctly, the deficit is not regarded as much of an issue. And it isn’t really much of an issue. The issue is joblessness. There’s a deficit commission but no joblessness commission. As far as the deficit is concerned, the public has opinions. Take a look at the polls. The public overwhelmingly supports higher taxes on the wealthy, which have declined sharply in this period of stagnation and decline, and the preservation of limited social benefits.

The outcome of the deficit commission is probably going to be the opposite. The Occupy movements could provide a mass base for trying to avert what amounts to a dagger pointed at the heart of the country.

Plutonomy and the Precariat

For the general population, the 99% in the imagery of the Occupy movement, it’s been pretty harsh — and it could get worse. This could be a period of irreversible decline. For the 1% and even less — the .1% — it’s just fine. They are richer than ever, more powerful than ever, controlling the political system, disregarding the public. And if it can continue, as far as they’re concerned, sure, why not?

Take, for example, Citigroup. For decades, Citigroup has been one of the most corrupt of the major investment banking corporations, repeatedly bailed out by the taxpayer, starting in the early Reagan years and now once again. I won’t run through the corruption, but it’s pretty astonishing.

In 2005, Citigroup came out with a brochure for investors called “Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances.” It urged investors to put money into a “plutonomy index.” The brochure says, “The World is dividing into two blocs — the Plutonomy and the rest.”

Plutonomy refers to the rich, those who buy luxury goods and so on, and that’s where the action is. They claimed that their plutonomy index was way outperforming the stock market. As for the rest, we set them adrift. We don’t really care about them. We don’t really need them. They have to be around to provide a powerful state, which will protect us and bail us out when we get into trouble, but other than that they essentially have no function. These days they’re sometimes called the “precariat” — people who live a precarious existence at the periphery of society. Only it’s not the periphery anymore. It’s becoming a very substantial part of society in the United States and indeed elsewhere. And this is considered a good thing.

So, for example, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan, at the time when he was still “Saint Alan” — hailed by the economics profession as one of the greatest economists of all time (this was before the crash for which he was substantially responsible) — was testifying to Congress in the Clinton years, and he explained the wonders of the great economy that he was supervising. He said a lot of its success was based substantially on what he called “growing worker insecurity.” If working people are insecure, if they’re part of the precariat, living precarious existences, they’re not going to make demands, they’re not going to try to get better wages, they won’t get improved benefits. We can kick ’em out, if we don’t need ’em. And that’s what’s called a “healthy” economy, technically speaking. And he was highly praised for this, greatly admired.

So the world is now indeed splitting into a plutonomy and a precariat — in the imagery of the Occupy movement, the 1% and the 99%. Not literal numbers, but the right picture. Now, the plutonomy is where the action is and it could continue like this.

If it does, the historic reversal that began in the 1970s could become irreversible. That’s where we’re heading. And the Occupy movement is the first real, major, popular reaction that could avert this. But it’s going to be necessary to face the fact that it’s a long, hard struggle. You don’t win victories tomorrow. You have to form the structures that will be sustained, that will go on through hard times and can win major victories. And there are a lot of things that can be done.

Toward Worker Takeover

I mentioned before that, in the 1930s, one of the most effective actions was the sit-down strike. And the reason is simple: that’s just a step before the takeover of an industry.

Through the 1970s, as the decline was setting in, there were some important events that took place.  In 1977, U.S. Steel decided to close one of its major facilities in Youngstown, Ohio. Instead of just walking away, the workforce and the community decided to get together and buy it from the company, hand it over to the work force, and turn it into a worker-run, worker-managed facility. They didn’t win. But with enough popular support, they could have won.  It’s a topic that Gar Alperovitz and Staughton Lynd, the lawyer for the workers and community, have discussed in detail.

It was a partial victory because, even though they lost, it set off other efforts. And now, throughout Ohio, and in other places, there’s a scattering of hundreds, maybe thousands, of sometimes not-so-small worker/community-owned industries that could become worker-managed. And that’s the basis for a real revolution. That’s how it takes place.

In one of the suburbs of Boston, about a year ago, something similar happened. A multinational decided to close down a profitable, functioning facility carrying out some high-tech manufacturing. Evidently, it just wasn’t profitable enough for them. The workforce and the union offered to buy it, take it over, and run it themselves. The multinational decided to close it down instead, probably for reasons of class-consciousness. I don’t think they want things like this to happen. If there had been enough popular support, if there had been something like the Occupy movement that could have gotten involved, they might have succeeded.

And there are other things going on like that. In fact, some of them are major. Not long ago, President Barack Obama took over the auto industry, which was basically owned by the public. And there were a number of things that could have been done. One was what was done: reconstitute it so that it could be handed back to the ownership, or very similar ownership, and continue on its traditional path.

The other possibility was to hand it over to the workforce — which owned it anyway — turn it into a worker-owned, worker-managed major industrial system that’s a big part of the economy, and have it produce things that people need. And there’s a lot that we need.

We all know or should know that the United States is extremely backward globally in high-speed transportation, and it’s very serious. It not only affects people’s lives, but the economy.  In that regard, here’s a personal story. I happened to be giving talks in France a couple of months ago and had to take a train from Avignon in southern France to Charles De Gaulle Airport in Paris, the same distance as from Washington, DC, to Boston. It took two hours.  I don’t know if you’ve ever taken the train from Washington to Boston, but it’s operating at about the same speed it was 60 years ago when my wife and I first took it. It’s a scandal.

It could be done here as it’s been done in Europe. They had the capacity to do it, the skilled work force. It would have taken a little popular support, but it could have made a major change in the economy.

Just to make it more surreal, while this option was being avoided, the Obama administration was sending its transportation secretary to Spain to get contracts for developing high-speed rail for the United States, which could have been done right in the rust belt, which is being closed down. There are no economic reasons why this can’t happen. These are class reasons, and reflect the lack of popular political mobilization. Things like this continue.

Climate Change and Nuclear Weapons

I’ve kept to domestic issues, but there are two dangerous developments in the international arena, which are a kind of shadow that hangs over everything we’ve discussed. There are, for the first time in human history, real threats to the decent survival of the species.

One has been hanging around since 1945. It’s kind of a miracle that we’ve escaped it. That’s the threat of nuclear war and nuclear weapons. Though it isn’t being much discussed, that threat is, in fact, being escalated by the policies of this administration and its allies. And something has to be done about that or we’re in real trouble.

The other, of course, is environmental catastrophe. Practically every country in the world is taking at least halting steps towards trying to do something about it. The United States is also taking steps, mainly to accelerate the threat.  It is the only major country that is not only not doing something constructive to protect the environment, it’s not even climbing on the train. In some ways, it’s pulling it backwards.

And this is connected to a huge propaganda system, proudly and openly declared by the business world, to try to convince people that climate change is just a liberal hoax. “Why pay attention to these scientists?”

We’re really regressing back to the dark ages. It’s not a joke.  And if that’s happening in the most powerful, richest country in history, then this catastrophe isn’t going to be averted — and in a generation or two, everything else we’re talking about won’t matter. Something has to be done about it very soon in a dedicated, sustained way.

It’s not going to be easy to proceed. There are going to be barriers, difficulties, hardships, failures.  It’s inevitable. But unless the spirit of the last year, here and elsewhere in the country and around the globe, continues to grow and becomes a major force in the social and political world, the chances for a decent future are not very high.

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor Emeritus in the MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy.  A TomDispatch regular, he is the author of numerous best-selling political works, most recently, Hopes and Prospects, Making the Future, and Occupy, published by Zuccotti Park Press, from which this speech, given last October, is excerpted and adapted. His web site is www.chomsky.info.

Repulsive Progressive Hypocrisy

In Uncategorized on February 9, 2012 at 3:49 pm

Oldspeak:” A core plank in the Democratic critique of the Bush/Cheney civil liberties assault was the notion that the President could do whatever he wants, in secret and with no checks, to anyone he accuses without trial of being a Terrorist – even including eavesdropping on their communications or detaining them without due process. But President Obama has not only done the same thing, but has gone much farther than mere eavesdropping or detention: he has asserted the power even to kill citizens without due process. As Bush’s own CIA and NSA chief Michael Hayden said this week about the Awlaki assassination: “We needed a court order to eavesdrop on him but we didn’t need a court order to kill him. Isn’t that something?” That is indeed “something,” as is the fact that Bush’s mere due-process-free eavesdropping on and detention of American citizens caused such liberal outrage, while Obama’s due-process-free execution of them has not. Beyond that, Obama has used drones to kill Muslim children and innocent adults by the hundreds. He has refused to disclose his legal arguments for why he can do this or to justify the attacks in any way. He has even had rescuers and funeral mourners deliberately targeted. As Hayden said: ”Right now, there isn’t a government on the planet that agrees with our legal rationale for these operations, except for Afghanistan and maybe Israel.” But that is all perfectly fine with most American liberals now that their Party’s Leader is doing it… it’s so remarkable to see these authoritarian follower traits manifest so vibrantly in the very same political movement — sophisticated, independent-minded, reality-based progressives — that believes it is above that, and that only primitive conservatives are plagued by such follower-mindlessness.” -Glenn Grunwald  Blue sheep are more like Red Sheep than they like to think. The “Left” vs “Right” dialectic narrows the range of ‘acceptable’ thought and sets the stage for a perpetual and fruitless blame game that distracts most sheep from the men behind the barn preparing to shear them all. Many Blue sheep don’t seem to grasp that Obama is nothing more than a smarter, glitzier, more articulate, but no less  amenable salesman for a corprocratic agenda than his predecessor Bush. The Hegelian Principle in effect. And it’s brutally effective.

Related Video:

By Glenn Grunwald @ Salon:

During the Bush years, Guantanamo was the core symbol of right-wing radicalism and what was back then referred to as the “assault on American values and the shredding of our Constitution”: so much so then when Barack Obama ran for President, he featured these issues not as a secondary but as a central plank in his campaign. But now that there is a Democrat in office presiding over Guantanamo and these other polices — rather than a big, bad, scary Republican — all of that has changed, as a new Washington Post/ABC News poll today demonstrates:

The sharpest edges of President Obama’s counterterrorism policy, including the use of drone aircraft to kill suspected terrorists abroad and keeping open the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have broad public support, including from the left wing of the Democratic Party.

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that Obama, who campaigned on a pledge to close the brig at Guantanamo Bay and to change national security policies he criticized as inconsistent with U.S. law and values, has little to fear politically for failing to live up to all of those promises.

The survey shows that 70 percent of respondents approve of Obama’s decision to keep open the prison at Guantanamo Bay. . . . The poll shows that 53 percent of self-identified liberal Democrats — and 67 percent of moderate or conservative Democrats — support keeping Guantanamo Bay open, even though it emerged as a symbol of the post-Sept. 11 national security policies of George W. Bush, which many liberals bitterly opposed.

Repulsive liberal hypocrisy extends far beyond the issue of Guantanamo. A core plank in the Democratic critique of the Bush/Cheney civil liberties assault was the notion that the President could do whatever he wants, in secret and with no checks, to anyone he accuses without trial of being a Terrorist – even including eavesdropping on their communications or detaining them without due process. But President Obama has not only done the same thing, but has gone much farther than mere eavesdropping or detention: he has asserted the power even to kill citizens without due process. As Bush’s own CIA and NSA chief Michael Hayden said this week about the Awlaki assassination: “We needed a court order to eavesdrop on him but we didn’t need a court order to kill him. Isn’t that something?” That is indeed “something,” as is the fact that Bush’s mere due-process-free eavesdropping on and detention of American citizens caused such liberal outrage, while Obama’s due-process-free execution of them has not.

Beyond that, Obama has used drones to kill Muslim children and innocent adults by the hundreds. He has refused to disclose his legal arguments for why he can do this or to justify the attacks in any way. He has even had rescuers and funeral mourners deliberately targeted. As Hayden said: ”Right now, there isn’t a government on the planet that agrees with our legal rationale for these operations, except for Afghanistan and maybe Israel.” But that is all perfectly fine with most American liberals now that their Party’s Leader is doing it:

Fully 77 percent of liberal Democrats endorse the use of drones, meaning that Obama is unlikely to suffer any political consequences as a result of his policy in this election year. Support for drone strikes against suspected terrorists stays high, dropping only somewhat when respondents are asked specifically about targeting American citizens living overseas, as was the case with Anwar al-Awlaki, the Yemeni American killed in September in a drone strike in northern Yemen.

The Post‘s Greg Sargent obtained the breakdown on these questions and wrote today:

The number of those who approve of the drone strikes drops nearly 20 percent when respondents are told that the targets are American citizens. But that 65 percent is still a very big number, given that these policies really should be controversial.

And get this: Depressingly, Democrats approve of the drone strikes on American citizens by 58-33, and even liberals approve of them, 55-35. Those numbers were provided to me by the Post polling team.

It’s hard to imagine that Dems and liberals would approve of such policies in quite these numbers if they had been authored by George W. Bush.

Indeed: is there even a single liberal pundit, blogger or commentator who would have defended George Bush and Dick Cheney if they (rather than Obama) had been secretly targeting American citizens for execution without due process, or slaughtering children, rescuers and funeral attendees with drones, or continuing indefinite detention even a full decade after 9/11? Please. How any of these people can even look in the mirror, behold the oozing, limitless intellectual dishonesty, and not want to smash what they see is truly mystifying to me.

One of the very first non-FISA posts I ever wrote that received substantial attention was this one from January, 2006, entitled “Do Bush Followers have an Ideology”? It examined the way in which the Bush-supporting Right was more like an “authoritarian cult” rather than a political movement because its adherents had no real, fixed political beliefs; instead, I argued, their only animating “principle” was loyalty to their leader, and they would support anything he did no matter how at odds it was with their prior ostensible beliefs. That post was linked to and praised by dozens and dozens of liberal blogs: can you believe what authoritarian followers these conservatives are?, they scoffed in unison. Here was the crux of my argument:

Whether one is a “liberal” — or, for that matter, a “conservative” — is now no longer a function of one’s actual political views, but is a function purely of one’s personal loyalty to George Bush. . . .

People who self-identify as “conservatives” and have always been considered to be conservatives become liberal heathens the moment they dissent, even on the most non-ideological grounds, from a Bush decree. That’s because “conservatism” is now a term used to describe personal loyalty to the leader (just as “liberal” is used to describe disloyalty to that leader), and no longer refers to a set of beliefs about government.

That “conservatism” has come to mean “loyalty to George Bush” is particularly ironic given how truly un-conservative the Administration is. . . . And in that regard, people like Michelle Malkin, John Hinderaker, Jonah Goldberg and Hugh Hewitt are not conservatives. They are authoritarian cultists. Their allegiance is not to any principles of government but to strong authority through a single leader.

As this post demonstrates, long before Barack Obama achieved any significance on the political scene, I considered blind leader loyalty one of the worst toxins in our political culture: it’s the very antithesis of what a healthy political system requires (and what a healthy mind would produce). One of the reasons I’ve written so much about the complete reversal of progressives on these issues (from pretending to be horrified by them when done under Bush to tolerating them or even supporting them when done by Obama) is precisely because it’s so remarkable to see these authoritarian follower traits manifest so vibrantly in the very same political movement — sophisticated, independent-minded, reality-based progressives — that believes it is above that, and that only primitive conservatives are plagued by such follower-mindlessness.

The Democratic Party owes a sincere apology to George Bush, Dick Cheney and company for enthusiastically embracing many of the very Terrorism policies which caused them to hurl such vehement invective at the GOP for all those years. And progressives who support the views of the majority as expressed by this poll should never be listened to again the next time they want to pretend to oppose civilian slaughter and civil liberties assaults when perpetrated by the next Republican President (it should be noted that roughly 35% of liberals, a non-trivial amount, say they oppose these Obama policies).

One final point: I’ve often made the case that one of the most consequential aspects of the Obama legacy is that he has transformed what was once known as “right-wing shredding of the Constitution” into bipartisan consensus, and this is exactly what I mean. When one of the two major parties supports a certain policy and the other party pretends to oppose it — as happened with these radical War on Terror policies during the Bush years — then public opinion is divisive on the question, sharply split. But once the policy becomes the hallmark of both political parties, then public opinion becomes robust in support of it. That’s because people assume that if both political parties support a certain policy that it must be wise, and because policies that enjoy the status of bipartisan consensus are removed from the realm of mainstream challenge. That’s what Barack Obama has done to these Bush/Cheney policies: he has, as Jack Goldsmith predicted he would back in 2009, shielded and entrenched them as standard U.S. policy for at least a generation, and (by leading his supporters to embrace these policies as their own) has done so with far more success than any GOP President ever could have dreamed of achieving.

 

UPDATE: The Advocacy Center for Equality and Democracy documents how much public opinion has changed on these issues under (and as a result of) the Obama presidency: “under the leadership of a President who campaigned with the promise to close the facility, . . . support for the detention center may be at its highest level ever.”

 

UPDATE II [Thurs.]: Here is what Thomas Paine, in The Age of Reason, had to say about all of this:

[I]t is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.

It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime.

As is true for so many things, Paine grasped the crux of the matter and expressed it as well as it can be expressed.

Facebook Forms PAC For Political Donations Ahead Of 2012 Elections

In Uncategorized on October 3, 2011 at 3:36 pm

Oldspeak:”Not content with dominating social networking, Facebook has gotten into the law making/law enforcement business. Facebook is lobbying politicians & running candidates for elected office. This news comes weeks after Facebook warned  a reporter about expressing his political viewpoint on its site.  Facebook’s PAC “will give our employees a way to make their voice heard in the political process by supporting candidates who share our goals of promoting the value of innovation to our economy while giving people the power to share and make the world more open and connected,” spokesman Andrew Noyes Said. Federal records show the company has more than tripled its federal lobbying spending since 2009, from about $200,000 to more than $730,000 this year. Much of Facebook’s recent lobbying activity has focused on net neutrality and privacy issues. The move is the latest in a series of maneuvers boosting the Palo Alto company’s political profile in recent years, joining a steady rise in lobbying spending, several high-profile fundraisers and the failed statewide candidacy of one of its key officers for attorney general last year” -Chase Davis  Why does a corporation that claims to be “about building relationships not a platform for your political viewpoint.”(Nevermind the countless politicians and political organizations with pages on its site) need a political action committee?

Related Story:

Facebook Forms PAC For Political Donations

By Chase Davis @ The San Francisco Chronicle:

Social networking giant Facebook is expanding its political footprint, confirming that it has filed the necessary paperwork to open a political action committee in advance of the 2012 elections.

The move is the latest in a series of maneuvers boosting the Palo Alto company’s political profile in recent years, joining a steady rise in lobbying spending, several high-profile fundraisers and the failed statewide candidacy of one of its key officers for attorney general last year.

News of the Facebook PAC was confirmed earlier this week by congressional newspaper the Hill, which noted that the company registered two domain names – FBPAC.org and FBPAC.us – that were intended for the committee’s use.

Much like Microsoft and Google before it, Facebook’s meteoric rise has been followed by a boost in political activity across the board.

Federal records show the company has more than tripled its federal lobbying spending since 2009, from about $200,000 to more than $730,000 this year. Much of Facebook’s recent lobbying activity has focused on net neutrality and privacy issues.

The company also has added a number of key political players to its bench in recent months. Sheryl Sandberg, who served as chief of staff for the Treasury Department under President Bill Clinton, joined Facebook as chief operating officer in 2008. She held a fundraiser for President Obama this week at her home in Atherton, where Lady Gaga was among the attendees.

Other key political hires have included former George W. Bush administration official Joel Kaplan, who was hired to lead the company’s Washington, D.C., offices, and Tucker Bounds, who ran communications for former eBay CEO Meg Whitman’s failed gubernatorial bid last year.

The company has expanded its footprint in Sacramento, too, spending more than $50,000 on lobbying through the first two quarters of this year and nearly $80,000 last year, when it hired its first state-level lobbyist.

Among the bills it lobbied were a measure that would have required stringent reporting for sex offenders on social networking sites and bills related to privacy and carpooling benefits.

The sex offender issue has come up for Facebook before, notably when the company’s former chief privacy officer, Chris Kelly, ran for California attorney general last year. Kelly, who resigned his post at Facebook in order to run, placed third in the Democratic primary.

The company also plans to co-sponsor a debate between Republican presidential candidates early next year in New Hampshire.

California Watch is a project of the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting. Contact the author at cdavis@californiawatch.org. For more, visit californiawatch.org

Obama’s “American Jobs Act”: Why Less Is More Of The Same

In Uncategorized on September 15, 2011 at 11:51 am

President Barack Obama holds a copy of the American Jobs Act while announcing he is sending the $447 billion jobs package, his plan to create job growth, to Congress. (Photo: Philip Scott Andrews/The New York Times)

Oldspeak: “Look beyond the rhetorical wizardry.  What we got from Obama was a 2009 “Stimulus Light” proposal. This so-called “American Jobs Act” is 60% tax cuts (which don’t create jobs), half the size of the 2009 stimulus (that already wasn’t big enough to create jobs and had the NET EFFECT OF CUTTING JOBS), is too light on shovel-ready jobs (Construction and infrastructure jobs are long term. What is needed today is IMMEDIATE job creation.) Is too heavily weighted in favor of subsidies to the states (Local government laid off hundreds of thousands of workers since June 2009 despite the $263 billion in subsidies received) and does not go far enough in taxing the rich. Why is this man touring the country passionately selling a proposal that won’t work for the vast majority of the American people, and is basically another massive giveaway to the rich? Nevermind the fact that it doesn’t compel the banking cartels to lend the trillions they’re hoarding to small business owners which would create the conditions for job creation. Nor does it compel large multinational corporations to stop hoarding the trillions in tax savings they have stashed offshore to create jobs in the U.S. Obama has already bestowed the Corporatocracy with 1 TRILLION in tax cuts the past 2 years, why is he trying to give them more? Look no further than his list of campaign contributors. While the fact that legions of ordinary americans have contributed to him has been played up in corporate media, his biggest and most influential donors are wall street banks, hedge fund managers, media conglomerates, dirty energy conglomerates, big business interests, all denziens of the Corporatocracy. And what have the American people received in return? Toothless financial reform, expanded support for dirty energy policy, Business friendly health care reform, media and communications consolidation, weaker regulation, utterly ignored poor and working poor. Oh and 6 wars. Quid pro quo par excellence. More change I can’t believe in.”

By Jack Rasmus @ Truthout

On Thursday, September 8, President Obama proposed a $474 billion “Jobs Act.” What we got from Obama was a 2009 “Stimulus Light” proposal, with all the problems of the prior 2009 stimulus package in the form of inadequate magnitude of spending, wrong composition and targets and bad timing.

First, on the matter of the magnitude of spending in the proposal, some think it was bold. But put it in context; $447 billion just won’t achieve the job creation it claims. It’s once again too little for an economy the size of the US, for an economy in as deep an economic hole as it is and in an economy facing growing downward momentum at home in the context of a global economy also rapidly slipping.

In February 2009, President Obama proposed $787 billion in economic stimulus. Unemployment was about 25 million. More than two years later, after the $787 billion has been spent, unemployment (measured by the Labor Department’s U-6 rate) is still around 25 million. Why, therefore, should Obama’s latest proposals to create jobs, consisting about half the size of the 2009 stimulus, expect to create jobs when the larger stimulus did not?

Even more important than Obama’s Jobs Act’s insufficient magnitude, the composition is also seriously deficient – just as was the 2009 stimulus. Like the stimulus in 2009, it is once again overloaded in tax cuts. In fact, a greater percentage (60 percent) of the total Jobs Act is composed of tax cuts than was the 2009 stimulus (38 percent). Then and now, tax cuts simply cannot and will not create jobs, given the kind of “epic” recession in which the US economy now finds itself entrapped.

The 38 percent tax cut mix in 2009 amounted to about $300 billion in total tax reduction. That $300 billion followed a $90 billion tax cut less than nine months before in spring 2008. Another $50 billion in tax cuts was further added later in 2009-2010 in various bills and administrative actions. That’s a total of $440 billion in tax cuts. There’s more. Add to that $440 billion another $270 billion in Bush tax cut extensions in late 2010 for 2011, plus another $100 billion in this year’s payroll tax cut. Now, add the Job Act’s tax-heavy $270 additional billion. Now, we’re well over $1 trillion in tax cuts in just the past two years. And what’s been the result in jobs? Still 25 million unemployed today as in June 2009.

If someone needs still further evidence that tax cuts don’t create jobs in today’s environment, just step back a decade. In 2001-2004 George W. Bush passed another $3 trillion in tax cuts, overwhelmingly biased again toward the rich and their corporations in the form of capital gains, dividends, inheritance, business depreciation, and other corporate largesse. Over 80 percent of the $3 trillion went to the wealthiest 20 percent households and most of that to the wealthiest 5 percent and 1 percent. And what kind of job creation resulted? We had the longest jobless recession in US history up to that point. It took 46 months just to recover to the level of jobs we had before the first Bush recession in 2001.

Furthermore, most of the jobs that were created under Bush were in the finance and housing sectors of the economy at the time, which were both undergoing a boom due to speculative excesses before an eventual bust. The jobs mostly created in finance and housing had little to do with Bush’s tax cuts of 2001-2004, however. Instead, millions of jobs were being lost in manufacturing while the tax cuts were taking effect last decade.

In 2004, Bush also pushed through a bill to allow multinational corporations to repatriate their then $700 billion hoard of cash they were keeping offshore in their subsidiaries in order to avoid paying the US 35 percent corporate tax rate. The multinationals blackmailed Congress to let them pay only 5.25 percent instead of 35 percent. In exchange, they said they’d bring back the money (saving 29.75 percent for themselves) and use it to create jobs. Did they? No. They money brought back was used to buy back their stock, payout more dividends and to use for mergers and acquisitions that, in fact, resulted in fewer jobs. Now the same “game” is being proposed in Congress, except this time their offshore cash hoard is $1.2 trillion.

The historical record of the past decade is clear: tax cuts simply don’t create jobs, especially tax cuts for the rich and corporations. So, why has Obama given them $1 trillion in tax cuts the past two years and now proposes more?

But Obama’s once again tax-heavy proposal is not the only problem with his “Jobs Act.” The Jobs Act shares another deficiency with the president’s prior 2009 stimulus. It’s too heavily weighted in favor of subsidies to the states as well. The 2009 stimulus provided $264 billion in subsidies to the states. It was supposed to create jobs. It didn’t. Local government laid off hundreds of thousands of workers since June 2009 despite the $263 billion. What guarantees are there that this won’t be repeated when they’re given the added subsidies? Will they get the subsidy only if they first prove they’ve added the jobs? Don’t count on it.

Another problem with the “composition” of the Jobs Act announcement by the president is it once again repeats the promise of the 2009 stimulus that infrastructure spending will quickly create jobs. In 2009, about $100 billion was allocated to infrastructure-related spending that was supposed to create four million jobs. That didn’t happen. There were 6.4 million construction workers employed in June 2009. There are 5.5 million today. Nearly a million fewer construction jobs was the result. There just weren’t as many “shovel-ready” jobs as was claimed. Construction and infrastructure jobs are long term. What is needed today is immediate job creation. Infrastructure programs just won’t cut it, especially when they are of the minimal magnitude in Obama’s recent proposal.

Obama promised his proposals would focus on small business by subsidizing their hiring of workers for each job they create. But for small businesses to create jobs, it needs more than a partial hiring subsidy. It needs funds in addition to cover all the other costs of production. For that, small businesses need bank loans. And for two years now, they just can’t get the loans from the big banks. Bank lending to small businesses declined for 15 consecutive months after June 2009, and it’s not much better today. Obama and the Federal Reserve bailed out the big banks to the tune of $9 trillion in recent years, in the expectation they would start lending. They didn’t. They still aren’t. Like the big corporations hoarding their $2 trillion and not creating jobs, the big banks are hoarding their cash reserves as well and not lending to small businesses that might create jobs if they could get the loans. Obama would have done better to propose the federal government bypass the banks and directly loan to small businesses at 0.25 percent. After all, that’s the interest rate at which the Fed today “loans” to the big banks. No, I take that back. Actually it’s only 0.1 percent and then the Fed pays the banks 3 percent to temporarily park the free money with the Fed in the interim. What a deal: the Fed pays the big banks to take its free money.

In summary, what we got from Obama’s “Jobs Act” was more of the same in terms of poor composition (i.e. excessively tax cut heavy), poor timing (long-term infrastructure projects) and too little magnitude of spending in any event.

There’s no reason to believe that the Obama jobs package that repeats the problems of poor composition and bad timing of the 2009 stimulus – which didn’t create, although it may have saved some jobs – is going to do any better when it’s also half the size of the stimulus.

Of course, the proposed Jobs Act won’t pass anyway because the Teapublicans will oppose it. At best, they might try to cherry-pick out the business tax cuts proposed by Obama and then add even more tax cuts to the “Jobs Act” – a proposal which anyway should be appropriately renamed “The Business Tax Cut Expansion Act of 2011.”

Just a day before the president’s address, the Teapublican candidates gathered to hold their latest debate. They stumbled all over each other to see who could promise corporate America even greater tax cuts. Rick Perry even promised to end all corporate taxes. Rick Santorum promised to lower capital gains and dividends taxes to zero. Others proposed no income taxes whatsoever for earners of $200,000 income a year. Grovel for those campaign contributions, fellas. These same candidates, after proposing cutting hundreds of billions a year in tax cuts for the rich and corporations, will turn around and cry about the budget deficits and demand equivalent cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to make up for their ever generous handouts to the wealthy.

But this kind of mercenary, Robin-Hood-in-reverse policy of “No taxes whatsoever” for the rich and their corporations is expected from the radical right. Yet, it seems Obama is being drawn into their tax-cut-for-the-rich frenzy with his proposal for yet another $270 billion in cuts. He just agreed, less than nine months ago, to give them $270 billion by extending the Bush tax cuts last December. Now, he proposes hundreds of billions of dollars more. This past year witnessed the president’s adopting their central agenda demand to cut deficits. Could he now be tailing the Teapublicans once again down the “Cut more taxes for Corporate America” road as well?

A real jobs program today would be proposals and programs to recreate, in 21st century form, a Works Progress Administration – paid for not by giving the rich and their corporations still more tax cuts, but by taxing their $2 trillion cash hoard, their $1 trillion in excess free Fed money bank reserves, their $1.2 trillion held in offshore subsidiaries and by taxing the more than $6 trillion they’ve all stashed away in their tax havens around the globe from the Cayman islands to the Seychelles to Vanuatu and, of course, Switzerland.

Politics in America today, sadly, is not about what will ensure true economic recovery and give the 25 million Americans a job. It’s about how to extend tax cuts for corporate America and its shareholder beneficiaries; it’s about how to ensure the Great American Tax Shift of recent decades is never rescinded and instead further extended; and it’s about how to make everyone else in American pay for their bailouts so that the corporations and wealthiest themselves do not have to.

Corporate Media Admits They Censor Candidates Who Challenge The Status Quo

In Uncategorized on August 17, 2011 at 11:20 am

Oldspeak:We are in the business of kicking candidates out of the race.’- Howard Kurtz, CNNLiberals shouldn’t ignore the corporate media’s censoring of Ron Paul’s popularity in the Iowa straw polls because he’s “on the right”. Many progressive candidates have been shut out of political races by corporate media.” (i.e. Dennis Kucinich, Cynthia McKinney, Ralph Nader) The Corporatocracy is so secure in its iron grip on U.S. Government and news media that it’s talking heads now openly talk about ignoring candidates, as though that’s just the way is it. If you’re not bought and paid for, call for the end of wars, call for meaningful regulation/legislation, or challenge oligarchs, you’re “unelectable”. Corporate ‘Media promotes those who sound emphatic…but will serve the status quo’. With these facts concretely articulated, how do We The People regain control of a government so completely beholden to its “rich” and “powerful” corporate overseers? The time will come when all of us will have to seriously consider that question.

By Washington’s Blog:

Corporate Media Admit They Censor Ron Paul

CNN and Politico admit that the mainstream media is in the business of picking candidates:

The big media simply delete Ron Paul from their polls, even though Paul scored very highly in the Ames Iowa straw poll – and virtually every poll taken recently.

Indeed, CNN noted in May that Paul had the best chance of any Republican of beating Obama.

“Not Electable” Is Code for “Challenges the Powers-That-Be”

The pundits claim they are only censoring candidates who are “not electable”. But just as “not politically feasible” is code for “the powers-that-be don’t want it”, “not electable” simply means that the candidate would champion the interests of the little guy, and challenge the powers-that-be: the large defense contractors, the giant banks, big pharma or the mega-energy producers.

As Kara Miller notes, the media won’t cover Ron Paul:

because he doesn’t fit the media narrative. He’s anti-war and pro-small government …. Heavily influenced by each other, media outlets have sidelined Paul and embraced Bachmann ….

Corporate Media Always Serves the Rich and Powerful, And Acts As A Booster for War

In fact, the corporate media have long been presstitutes for the rich and powerful, and knee-jerk in supporters of all wars.

They have always shut out candidates from either the left or right who challenge America’s imperial wars, America’s imbalanced policy towards Israel, the perpetual bailouts of the giant banks, Federal Reserve policy, or the inherent right of big corporations to do get all of the benefits of corporate personhood, without any of the responsibilities of being a person.

The corporate media is owned by a handful of giant defense contractors. As I’ve previouslynoted:

The government has allowed tremendous consolidation in ownership of the airwaves during the past decade.

Dan Rather has slammed media consolidation:

Likening media consolidation to that of the banking industry, Rather claimed that “roughly 80 percent” of the media is controlled by no more than six, and possibly as few as four, corporations.

This is documented by the following must-see charts prepared by:

And check out this list of interlocking directorates of big media companies from Fairness and Accuracy in Media, and this resource from the Columbia Journalism Review to research a particular company.

This image gives a sense of the decline in diversity in media ownership over the last couple of decades:

Big Media Promotes Those Who Sound Empathic … But Will Serve the Status Quo

These handful of giant corporations wield enormous power. Just think Rupert Murdoch.
The last thing they want is a candidate who will shake things up.

The people’s wishes? They are wholly irrelevant to these media behemoths. Indeed, these big companies have a vested interest in picking candidates who are good at acting like they care about the little guy, but who actually couldn’t care less about the average American, and have no problem picking his pocket at the first opportunity.

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