Thursday, March 29, 2007
Saturday, March 24, 2007
One day about 29 years ago my husband and I were driving to Nevada for a trip, and became riveted by a man talking on the radio about the economy, how the government was not living up to the standards set by our founding fathers, how Congressmen were not supposed to be lawyers but most of them are, about how Big Government is encroaching on our freedom. We lost the name of that man, but always wanted to remember who he was. It suddenly dawned on me after reading the Hodges website and subsequently some other memorials that he was Milton Friedman. Not only a great economist, but an eloquent and charismatic one, too.
One particular quote struck me as controversial: "Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other." - John Quincy Adams, 6th President of USA. These days, "religious people" are considered almost anti-Constitutional. What he must have meant, of course, was not extremist zealots, but people whose faith moderated their behavior, whose belief in a Higher Power coexisted with Higher values. Such people will not engage in petty interpretations and glossover Constitutional spins - hopefully. I don't consider Pat Robertson one of those "moral and religious people". Nor do I consider many of those who play with the word "evil" to be especially "good". But this quote does bring up the possibility of the Constitution needing contributions from the people living under it.
In other words, the Constitution cannot be used like a Ron Popeil oven: "Set it, and forget it."
Most people don't even know exactly what it is. But they know they like it. Because they set their opinions on it, and then they forgot it. EZ Democracy: The spin.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
The Truth Spin
Now the problem is, how to get them to actually read it...
Censorship by Aggression vs. Free Speech for Wimps: Don’t Throw Out the Scales with the Blindfold, Ms. Liberty
Imagine the drafters of the Constitution in cartoon heaven with cloud-like thoughts floating over their heads, collectively envisioning Blind Justice holding the Scales … pretty great vision for a Constitution, that …
Plunging suddenly to earth, we are hit with the most well-known and fervently beloved feature of the constitution, the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or
prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of
the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the
Government for a redress of grievances.
Since “freedom of speech” refers specifically to the Constitutional Amendment No. 1, it follows that we should examine it as defined by its usage in that document. Further looking at the interpretation of this protection, it is clear that it refers to the free expression of opinion on public issues. Having the freedom to express one’s views is of tantamount importance in a democracy, where sharing opinions should lead to a general consensus, and the ability to voice dissent is critical in making that democracy work and promote peace and prosperity, not totalitarian-based security.
It is not, however, about self-expression per se. That is important because often what gets bandied about as “free speech” is simply referring to the use of profanity, obscenity, extreme expressions, or such things as wearing revealing clothing, torn jeans, or tattoos. Self-expression tends to get confused with the expression of an opinion or view, and so someone who dresses provocatively or rides with a motorcycle gang is considered a proponent of the First Amendment, and using his “God-given right to freedom of speech.” To pass a law against these activities may be dead in the water from sheer unpopularity, but it shouldn’t be a Constitutional issue.
Of course, the Constitution only refers to government interference in the right to the free expression of ideas and opinions. There is no law enforcing a person’s right to free speech, but only an Amendment prohibiting the passing of laws that would infringe on that right. However, at times self-expression seems to supercede freedom of speech to the point where the latter is in fact abridged, not by government, but by the abuse of power by media players, strongmen (and women) in the field of communications and “the press”.
At the time the Constitution was drafted, “media” did not exist as a power-broker in the sense it does today. Yes, there were press outlets and controls, and yes, the press of the day did influence public opinion and did have control over what people heard or did not hear, and what opinions were promulgated. But even so, the press of that day was also constrained by its very nature - being restricted to print. There was a certain decorum to how news and opinions were presented that remained until the media “revolution” of the late 20th Century. Suddenly now time is compressed, and a minute has become an interminably long time interval as compared with the 15-second spot. There’s no time to contemplate, to go into historical background and detailed descriptions and analysis. There’s barely enough time to get in a few keywords. And you’d better choose them well, because the competition for space/time is stiff.
The ad campaign has become the Press Standard for speech. Each word is a sentence in itself. Grammar intrudes as an archaic artifice. Instead we read as we enter Wal-Mart: “Good. Works.” and “Always”. What do you mean, “always”? What’s so “good” about “works”, and what “works”? Why even ask? We were led down the path to understand it means “always cheaper” and “doing good for the community”, the two main Wal-Mart themes that drive their profit margins ever higher. So in this type of speech-world, we have the rise of the sharp-tongued sound-bite-delivery icons, personalities cultivated for their aura of free-speaking, opinionated style delivered on time, every time, in as few, but shocking, words as possible.
“Evil”, “hot”, “apocalyptic”, “secret”, “sex”, “killer”, “clout”, “power”, “terror”, etc. We need magnetic words to attract large numbers of iron filings, aka ratings, aka “people”, to our profit-driven presentations of “speech”, presented as “what people really think” and “you decide”, as if all of this was actually encouraging some kind of elevated free speech right-in-the-sky. This First Amendment has been raised to the height of Icon, even though until we got into the 20th Century, it was actually never invoked to strike down a single law. National security, protection against libel, and “clear and present danger” to the public or the State (be it federal or local), or the people in it, all superceded any First Amendment right - in days of yore.
Had this view been prevalent, it would have been likely that cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad would not have been protected on Constitutional grounds, since they could incite such volatile emotions as to present a danger to social stability, and hence, threaten national security. Today, however, there exists an argument that the Muslims were wrong to be offended to the point that they reacted violently, and we should not be held responsible for inciting their rage. This argument is typical of those favoring personal self-expression over decency-mitigated public opinion-expression. My personal view is that this argument is irrelevant since one cannot predict the response of another, and that the view expressed could be done in such a way as to not blatantly inflame already fanned fires and emotions in a time when so little is being done to put out fires and so much done to set many more. In other words, I believe in the more old-fashioned or traditional view wherein decorum and general decency is an appropriate mitigator of raw inflammatory self-expression. You can get the idea across a better way.
My basis for this view is that the issue of self-expression should not supercede the issue of freedom of speech as the expression of ideas and opinions. When it becomes overly focused on personal self-expression, you get a situation where one man’s right to offend another becomes constitutionally protected, while more mild-mannered types must face the firing squad of media aggression, from which they can find no relief. In fact, the media “darlings”, those rapid-fire attack dogs of opinion, leave little or no room for dissent, dominating the world of opinion with fangs and sabers, those sale-grabbing, ratings-raising shock-value words, and so the mild-mannered anti-war vegan weenie goes to bed silent. Who hears what thinking, contemplative people have to say? Do they even exist? In a world where conformity confirms existence, is there really a silent majority? Or just so much dark matter that we really aren’t sure is even there, or if it’s there, what it is…?
Ann Coulter v. Freedom of Speech.
It’s an obvious choice: Ms. Free Speech herself, acid-tongued Ann is the Poster Girl for Censorship by Aggression. Being vociferous or pointedly aggressive is a popular commodity in the media, but it is not protected by the First Amendment. It protects the expression of opinion, yes, but not when the manner of expression itself practically inhibits or abridges others' ability to express their dissenting views. Thus, the shouting matches that pass for "free speech" on Fox News are actually orgies of censorship - of views different than the shows' power-brokers or venom-spewers. Profanity per se then is not protected by the Constitution, but the expression of an opposite opinion is. Similarly, Ann Coulter's vicious tirades against those whose opinions she hates in a sense censors their free expression of opinion. Her attacks on the 9-11 widows who happen not to revel in George W's warslime were not merely libelous, but almost extortionary - a threat to anyone who could similarly express their views. The net effect: chill, Amendment #1...
Natalie Maines, the Dixie Chick who famously expressed her "shame" at being from the same state as Prez Bush, was made a pariah, the Chicks' music shunned, and a general backlash against her sent a chill down First Amendment-lovers' spines - those few still among us, that is. They weren't offended at a song expressing a desire to murder a husband in revenge for mistreatment, a criminal act, but rather by a political opinion freely expressed. Hmmmmm...
Of course, there's no law against limiting another's freedom of speech by aggressive tactics. The Constitution only protects us from government enacting laws or regulations that limit such freedom. And the media is not a law, nor are any people, taken as individuals, "government". But there are laws that limit freedom of speech, notably in the Patriot Act, where suspicion of terrorism can be based on statements people make, and that suspicion is grounds for prosecution. Once branded a terrorist, a person loses all his rights as a human being and becomes, for all intents and purposes, a cartoon villain in some video game from hell. The War on Terror has opened up a black hole in the Bill of Rights in which everything we know and believe to be right and true no longer exists, and even light cannot escape, let alone democracy or that archaic idea, "freedom."
In this world where saying something critical of Administration policies can mean TV death by rabies, there's also a substantial tide of human rebellion against the stifling atmosphere and vicious attacks dominating the right. The way some such as Bill O'Reilly smear dissenters from their hallowed views puts them directly at odds with the goals of the Constitution - to allow the free exchange of ideas in order to further democracy, not promote My Way.
It is this very threat to our Constitutional rights and human liberty that caused the American public to lose their stomach for things as they are, and for which Democrats have regained a measure of power. But Dems beware - it's not a liberal/conservative issue. It's the "liberal"
aggression against "conservative" views that brought Republicans to power in the first place. Power tends to corrupt - when maintaining and increasing it begins to encroach on the more fundamental values, such as freedom of speech - in the traditional sense.
We have to keep remembering that dissent is not unpatriotic - trying to suppress it is. Sometimes what we think of as "freedom of speech" - virulent, power-laden, heavy-handed Talk - can actually undermine the Real freedom of speech: saying what you think.
Take that, Acid Ann - and don't tread on me.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
This logic seems to have escaped the Bush administration. If you think the Republicans are "fiscal conservatives", think again.
John F. Ince's article on the national debt shows dramatically how the U.S. has become a debtor nation.
With Bush and cronies having added over $3 trillion dollars to the national
debt, the country's credit card tab now stands at $8.8 trillion. This represents
an astounding increase of over 45 percent since Bush came into office in January
of 2001. And all this fiscal profligacy took place during the years when the CBO
originally forecasted record surpluses of approximately $2.5 trillion. And there
is no end in sight to the deficits.
More alarmingly we now rely on foreigners
to finance over 40 percent of this debt with the lion's share coming from the
Asian central banks. In FY 2006 the current account trade deficit is on track to
set yet another record, on the order of $700 billion. To put this in
perspective, billionaire investor Warren Buffet points out that, "15 years ago,
the U.S. had no trade deficit with China. Now, it's 200 billion dollars." He
says if the country does not change course, the rest of the world could end up
owning 15 trillion-dollars worth of the United States. That's equal to the value
of all American stock.
Note that as a "superpower", we are in debt to some of the world's poorest countries where people have a significantly lower standard of living. Note that at any moment some of these countries may be so turned off by our wild and profligate military adventurism that they actually decide to think twice about financing it. Oops! Now where are we going to get the money? From executives at Northrop? No! From John Q. Citizen, that's who! From people who don't control multinational corporations, who don't have influence in PACs, who are not part of the Good ol' Boy System. People who can't say "no" - or "yes", for that matter. People who can vote, but can't put their fingers on the strings that pull the economy together, or apart. People like ... "we the people" kind of people...
In other words, we're going to wake up poor one day. At least, some of us are. And God only knows who. Unless we can do something to convince the string-pullers to act responsibly. Stop spending on Armageddon projects and multi-billion-dollar wars that only further destabilize the world, and start spending more time teaching people the lost art of Diplomacy and communication. Think agriculture, not hunter-gatherer. Stop building bigger sticks, and start planting better crops. Start with a new crop of investment strategies for starters.
Picture a future with children, not corpses.
Graveyards don't make a living. If that's your Gross National Product, you're in trouble. Try investing at home, instead of in foreign wars. Make life more boring for Al-Qaeda - plant wheat.
Monday, March 19, 2007
In the past few months, as the situation in Iraq has deteriorated, the Bush Administration, in both its public diplomacy and its covert operations, has
significantly shifted its Middle East strategy. The “redirection,” as some
inside the White House have called the new strategy, has brought the United
States closer to an open confrontation with Iran and, in parts of the
region,propelled it into a widening sectarian conflict between Shiite and Sunni
He goes on to explain that the U.S. has a "strategic bombing plan" for Iran and has built up to the point where they can strike inside Iran on a 24-hour notice. Aircraft carrier groups are already moving into position, and military sources say a spring strike would be ready to ... spring. And that one of the influences in the Administration's foreign policy decision-making for the region is Saudi Arabia's Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a close friend of the Bush family. Seems he's the guy who sees the "rise of the Shias" as a greater threat than Sunni insurgents or al-Qaeda, and now plays the role of self-proclaimed expert on Islamic and Middle East affairs. Therefore, we must "re-direct" our entire nation and all that comes with it, military might, corporate power, and last - we hope not least, but "hope" ain't good enough, people. Thousands of people going over to be killed, and to kill - no, calling it a "war" doesn't make it any less gutwrenching - with no doubt innocents and good folks on both sides - for the "vision" of a guy who hasn't exactly been right, and whose motives aren't exactly on the same page we claim to be opening here... and with the side effect of money going to terrorist groups in the name of - what? democracy? patriotism? national security?
The key players behind the redirection are Vice-President Dick Cheney, the deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams, the departing Ambassador to Iraq (and nominee for United Nations Ambassador), Zalmay Khalilzad, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national-security adviser. While Rice has been deeply involved in shaping the public policy, former and current officials said that the clandestine side has been guided by Cheney.
Or, as Tom Englehardt said, "Seymour Hersh's recent report that Iran-Contra veterans working out of Dick Cheney's office are using stolen funds from Iraq to arm al Qaeda-tied groups and foment a larger Sunni-Shia war is a very big deal. "
Doesn't sound good to me - Dick Cheney, of Haliburton fame, Elliot Abrams, Mr. Iran-Contra Enabler, and Prince Bandar, whose government isn't exactly a model democracy, with a human rights record of shame. But to an American public that has been described as "blase about torture" and seems far more interested in pointless yelling matches called "political shows" or better yet, celebrity gossip, than whether or not they will wake up tomorrow in a democracy, a police state, or a state of siege, all this news falls on deaf ears.
He who has ears, let him hear. We need more air. More O2.
When the Whitanic House sinks, I'm afraid more will sink with it than some incompetent policy-makers. Where are the "we the People" kind of people? Like Seymour Hirsh?
Unsinkable. That's what they said. It's that hubris thing again. Mixed with rank incompetence.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
If you think there's something wrong with politics as usual, the Bush budget, the media, the way government is being run, and the way the news is being reported, you might be surprised at how easy it is to take your breath here - this site has plenty of O2, and is shockingly lacking in sulfur ... that popular gas given off by Mass Hypocrisy.
Here you can actually find out some statistics on the Bush Budget, such as these reported in the article by Mike Taibbi:
Not only does it make many of Bush's tax cuts permanent, but it envisions a
complete repeal of the Estate Tax, which mainly affects only those who are
in the top two-tenths of the top one percent of the richest people in this
country. The proposed savings from the cuts over the next decade are about
$442 billion, or just slightly less than the amount of the annual defense
budget (minus Iraq war expenses). But what's interesting about these cuts
are how Bush plans to pay for them.
Sanders's office came up with some interesting numbers here. If the
Estate Tax were to be repealed completely, the estimated savings to just one
family -- the Walton family, the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune -- would be about
$32.7 billion dollars over the next ten years.The proposed reductions to
Medicaid over the same time frame? $28 billion.
Or how about this: if the Estate Tax goes, the heirs to the Mars candy corporation -- some of the world's evilest scumbags, incidentally, routinely ripped by human rights organizations for trafficking in child labor to work cocoa farms in places like Cote D'Ivoire -- if the estate tax goes, those assholes will receive about $11.7 billion in
tax breaks. That's more than three times the amount Bush wants to cut from the
VA budget ($3.4 billion) over the same time period.
Some other notable estimate estate tax breaks, versus corresponding cuts:
Cox family (Cox cable TV) receives $9.7 billion tax break while education would get $1.5 billion in cuts
Nordstrom family (Nordstrom dept. stores) receives $826.5 million tax break while Community Service Block Grants would be eliminated, a $630 million cut.
Ernest Gallo family (shitty wines) receives a $468.4 million cut while LIHEAP (heating oil to poor) would get a $420 million cut.
And so on and so on. Sanders additionally pointed out that the family of former Exxon/Mobil CEO Lee Raymond, who received a $400 million retirement package, would receive about $164 million in tax breaks.
Compare that to the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which Bush proposes be completely eliminated, at a savings of $108 million over ten years. The program sent one bag of groceries per month to 480,000 seniors, mothers and newborn children.
Somehow, to me, that's the worst one on the list. Here you have the former CEO of a company that scored record profits even as it gouged consumers, with gas prices rising more than 70 percent since January of 2001. There is a direct correlation between the avarice of oil company executives and the increased demand for federal aid for heating oil programs like LIHEAP, and yet the federal government wants to reward these same executives for raising prices on the backs of consumers.
Even if you're a traditional, Barry Goldwater conservative, the kinds of budgets that Bush has sent to the hill not only this year but this whole century are the worst-case scenario; they increase spending generally while cutting taxes and social programming. They commit taxpayers to giant subsidies of already Croseus-rich energy corporations, pharmaceutical companies and defense manufacturers while simultaneously cutting taxes on those who most directly benefit from those subsidies. Thus you're not cutting spending -- you're just cutting spending on people who actually need the money. ...
...This is something different from traditional conservatism and something different from big-government liberalism; this is a new kind of politics that transforms the state into a huge, ever-expanding instrument for converting private savings into corporate profit. ...
That's not only bad government, it's bad capitalism. It makes legalized bribery and political connections more important factors than performance and competition in the corporate marketplace."
The Resurrection of Conscience. Read the fine print.
And while you're at it, read the articles about Barak Obama - whom I tend to support as a candidate, but the celebrity thing is worth looking at - and the best advice the Bush administration could possibly receive in one letter. It's not so much saying to someone to tell the truth, it's how you say it.
Next: when to say it, and how to actually get the people you're saying it to, to listen.
Suggestion for both: The Day of Resurrection.
Friday, March 16, 2007
Is Scooter just playing dead? Or could he be really ... the sacrificial scapgoat? ...
Thursday, March 15, 2007
"Libby Faces Jail
By JoAnne Allen
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - No one is likely to face criminal charges for actually leaking CIA secrets even after a U.S. jury found a former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney guilty of lying and obstructing a probe into the affair.
Just after the conviction on Tuesday of former White House aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby, prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald told reporters the leak investigation was over and would not extend to other administration officials.
"I would not expect to see any further charges filed," he said.
The trial stemmed from a probe into the unmasking of Valerie Plame as a CIA operative in 2003 after her husband, Joseph Wilson, accused the Bush administration of manipulating intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to build its case for war.
Libby faces a maximum 25 years in prison for obstructing the Plame leak probe, perjury before a grand jury and making false statements to the FBI.
No charges were brought for actually leaking Plame's name. Federal law makes it a crime to knowingly reveal the identity of a covert agent. Some suggested Libby was merely a scapegoat for higher-ups.
Juror Denis Collins said many jurors felt that other officials who leaked Plame's name to reporters, such as senior White House aide Karl Rove, should have been on trial. "
- manipulating intelligence on weapons of mass destruction
- lying to the American people
- revealing the identity of a covert agent (working for the United States government)
- using false evidence to start a war
- taking revenge against a whistleblower by hurting his family
- conspiring to cover up evidence of all of the above
- participating in the cover up by perjury, withholding evidence
Of all of the above crimes, the only one pursued was the latter, for Scooter Libby. And what does he get for his love and sincerity? A 25-year rap? And what do the other perps get? The same perks associated with self-proclaimed Leader of the Planet: nole mi tangere.
Look a little closer on the book Karl Rove swears on, and you'll find it under Dick Cheney's hand and even, yes even old George W's hand...
OK, so they swear on the audio tape ... reading is so HARD ... but love is easy, at least love Machiavelli-style ... when you're on the receiving end. It's the giving that's the hard part. Giving and reading, these are two things the Administration does NOT LIKE AT ALL. Just ask Scoot. Hey, Scoot. It's for the family. It's for the man. It's a loyalty thing, you know? What's 25 years when you know you did the right thing? We'll take care of your wife and kids. You're our number one man, Scoot. So what's the big deal about obstruction? All our best guys get obstruction. Everybody's gotta do a little obstruction. How do you think we got where we are?
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Check out this article and compare the "Christian" with the Muslim side in this exchange. Even though the former burns bridges with unmitigated hate, the latter rebuilds them with reason and patience, and of course, strength. All bridges need to stand on solid ground, right? You can't build a bridge by attacking and by destruction and emotional outbursts. Does a war qualify as an "emotional outburst"? For sure, it doesn't qualify as a bridge. Bring back diplomacy. And while you're at it, add some human decency. (Foxnews, take note.)
Then look back and recall the Qur'an-swearing-in flap. Who was trying to build bridges by connecting the Qur'an with a US founding father, Thomas Jefferson? And who was trying to burn them by making use of the Qur'an seem somehow "un-American"?
Are we trying to create relations with the Middle East by kidnapping suspects and sending them to Guantanamo? I understand the need for security - it affects me even more - but does burning bridges ultimately create security, or more instability and unrest and insecurity? Are we really attacking the problem of terrorism, or just burning some bridges to show off our firepower and appease the immediate need for revenge, stick-waving, and hunter-gatherer-style justice? Since when is democracy by force? And if democracy is the issue, why do we tolerate Hosny Mubarak of Egypt, a brutal tyrant if there ever was one? For one thing, "freedom of religion" is definitely something he's trying to eradicate - one mosque at a time. Is it because he makes Islam a forbidden faith that we never speak out against him? Is it OK to burn bridges with Muslims, but a crime to build them?
He who has eyes, let him see. Unless, of course, he's using a light-extinguisher.