Monday, March 22, 2010

The Honor Roll

Here's the list of Democratic Representatives who had the courage to vote against this atrocious Health'care' bill:

Every other Democrat should be voted out of office this November.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Smoke signals...

"Where there's smoke, there's fire." is a cliche but it's true nonetheless... I'm smelling smoke - haven't seen it yet but it's out there.

Charleston International Longshore Association Local 1422 leader Ken Riley:

"You can say “Don’t buy Wal-Mart” all you want, preach it till the cows come home; Wal-Mart’s gonna be boomin’. I can’t say to my neighbor, “Man, don’t shop at Wal-Mart.” He’ll say, “Well, that’s easy for you, Kenny; how much money do you make an hour? I’m only making $7.25.” So how you gonna tell all these poor people, “Don’t shop at Wal-Mart?” You want to get Wal-Mart’s attention? Stop the goods.

We have to get bold. We’re dying, and when you’re dying you explore radical medication because you’ve got noother choice. Maybe the medication will kill you, but the disease will definitely kill you. You have to get to the point where Martin Luther King was on that final night, when he said, “Like any man I would like to live a long life, but it really don’t matter to me now.” He had a vision. We are going to die anyway, so it really don’t matter; we have got to fight now. "

From "When You're Dying You Explore Radical Medication"

By JoAnn Wypijewski

Sounds like Harry Bridges and the IWW, doesn't it?

...smells like wood burning...

Norman Solomon writes in "Zero Public Option + One Mandate = Disaster"

"On a political level, the mandate provision is a massive gift to the Republican Party, all set to keep on giving to the right wing for many years. With a highly intrusive requirement that personal funds and government subsidies be paid to private corporations, the law would further empower right-wing populists who want to pose as foes of government "elites" bent on enriching Wall Street.

With this turn of the "healthcare reform" screw, the Democratic Party will be cast -- with strong evidence -- as a powerful tool of corporate America. But the Democrats on Capitol Hill and the organizations eagerly whipping for passage are determined to celebrate the enactment of something called "healthcare reform."

...throw another log on the fire...

The brilliant Chris Cooper writes in "Everybody Knows The Deal Is Rotten"

"It is not the job of Dennis Kucinich to prop up this disappointing president or the rotten, useless Democratic party. It is not the job of progressive voters to support lame candidates who lie to them and use them because "the other party is worse." It is not the job of the American public to "make a space for the president", to support "incremental improvements" in our wretched situation or to "force the president" to use his alleged giant brain and forceful oratory in pursuit of real and useful and meaningful governance by sending him letters or contributions or by "supporting him" just because he's not George Bush or John McCain.

This country is falling apart. People are dying. Despair is settled upon the land. These clowns are frigging around for no purpose better than the enrichment of Wall Street bankers and Connecticut insurance tycoons.

There has been no change. There is no hope."

...that's definitely smoke...

I'm still working on Part 4 of "Reflections..." which is starting to look like it wants to be a lot bigger and have a different form. But it's beginning to look like the springtime of our discontent around the web.

We're re-playing "Network" (1976)

Max Schumacher's parting rant:

"It's too late, Diana. There's nothing left in you that I can live with. You're one of Howard's humanoids. If I stay with you, I'll be destroyed. Like Howard Beale was destroyed. Like Laureen Hobbs was destroyed. Like everything you and the institution of television touch is destroyed. You're television incarnate, Diana: Indifferent to suffering; insensitive to joy. All of life is reduced to the common rubble of banality. War, murder, death are all the same to you as bottles of beer. And the daily business of life is a corrupt comedy. You even shatter the sensations of time and space into split seconds and instant replays. You're madness, Diana. Virulent madness. And everything you touch dies with you. But not me. Not as long as I can feel pleasure, and pain... and love."

Damn! I miss Paddy Chayevsky... I'm feeling that way about our political 'system'.

Many things that have been dormant through the winter begin to wake in the spring. It may be a rough time but if the rising tide of anger I'm sensing grows...

Stephen Hawking said "In the vicinity of a Black Hole, anything can happen." I think we're close to a Black Hole in politics right now.

...wait, besides the smoke, is that brimstone?

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Once again the US ahows its leadership on human rights...

...oh, wait

India Wants to Give Women 1 / 3 of Legislative Seats

Filed at 1:15 p.m. ET

NEW DELHI (AP) -- India's upper house of parliament voted overwhelmingly Tuesday for a historic bill that would reserve one-third of legislative seats for women, despite a boycott by socialist lawmakers.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the 186-1 vote a ''historic step forward toward emancipation of Indian womanhood.'' The bill now goes to the lower house, where it is likely to pass.

Members greeted the announcement of the voting result by thumping their desks.

The vote came after socialist lawmakers blocked the parliamentary debate on Monday and forced the upper house to adjourn twice on Tuesday. The protesters later boycotted the voting.

The bill to reserve one-third of legislative seats for women -- in national and state parliaments -- has faced strong opposition since it was first proposed more than a decade ago, with many political leaders worried that their male-dominated parties would lose seats.

But socialist lawmakers' objection is that the bill does not go far enough: They would like to see seats reserved for ethnic minorities and people from low castes.

The Bahujan Samaj Party lawmakers, who mainly represent lower castes, participated in the debate but abstained from voting. They were protesting the government's rejection of their demand to reserve seats for women belonging to their community within the government proposal.

On Monday, angry legislators in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament, rushed to the chairman's seat as he presided over the session, tore up copies of the bill and tried to grab his microphone.

The bill is expected to be taken up the powerful lower house of parliament for voting next week. It will have to be approved by 15 of India's 28 states before it becomes law.

It is expected to pass since the main opposition parties, including right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party and communist groups, already have announced their support for the legislation proposed by the ruling Congress Party.

Arun Jaitley, a top leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, said even 63 years after India's independence from British colonialists, women had only 10 percent representation in the powerful lower house of parliament. They make up nearly 50 percent of India's more than 1 billion people.

The proposal is an attempt to correct some of the historical gender disparities in India, where women receive less education than men and are weighed down by illiteracy, poverty and low social status.

The bill would raise the number of female lawmakers in the 545-seat lower house to 181 from the current 59. It would nearly quadruple the number of women in the 250-seat upper house.

What the hell is going on in this country? Why isn't this long settled law? How f***ing far backwards do we have to go before we wake up?

Whoops! I forgot... we're here:


Friday, March 05, 2010

Reflections in a Dark Room – Part 3

Obama is not the problem – we are.

I’ve been re-reading the “Anti-Federalist Papers” trying to get a feel for what the FFs were thinking as they gathered in the spring and summer of 1787 to hammer out a constitution. One pleasant surprise is that James Madison, acting as scribe and reporter of the various players, was possessed of a very trenchant wit. His sly observations on the speakers and their opining liven up what might easily have been a lugubrious exercise.

Three things come across, very clearly:

These were men who had thought long and hard about the issues being raised. Many of them warned against exactly the condition of corruption of the body politic we find ourselves in today.

They were men in and of their time. That is, they were aware of history and were glad to take example or make example of historical solutions to the problems besetting them.
By the same token, they were not able to see themselves clearly, in situ, nor were they aware of what was to come. (Rumsfeld’s “unknown unknowns”)

..and fourth, Jefferson was in Paris. A tragedy in my opinion, we would never have had to make the first ten amendments had he been present, for one thing, and I can’t help but think that the Constitution would be a much better document than it already is.

Two things should be taken into account when thinking about this time, these men and the work they wrought.

First, the context of the time. That context comes in several flavors depending on what we’re looking at.

Politics: the French Revolution hadn’t happened yet. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were still blithely coasting along with le Ancien Regime, unaware of the gathering storm. Marat, Danton and Robespierre were just dots on the political horizon, Napoleon was undreamt of.

Economics: The Industrial Revolution in England was just picking up steam [heh, heh!] and the textile mills were beginning Great Britain’s voracious appetite for raw materials which would lead them to found the greatest empire ever known (southern American cotton fields were part of the mix that fueled the American Civil War in the next century).

Legal: American jurisprudence was still based, in large part, on English Common Law. This ancestry was the story of a seesaw class battle (in Marxist terms) between the peasants (now the proletariat) and the Upper classes (in the person of the King). Nowhere in this mix was any consideration of, or thought given to, the corporation.

All of which leads us to my next point:

It was not possible for the framers, given their milieu, to comprehend, much less anticipate, the mind-numbing reach and power that would be amassed by deathless, faceless, amoral, avaricious, irresponsible corporations.

Neither could they have anticipated the nigh-logarithmic advances in science and technology that have occurred over the last 221 years. James Watt had received a patent on his steam engine only 8 years earlier, Morse’s telegraph (the first global internet) was 50 years in the future.

The point is that we have gone into legal/political/moral territory that constitute another dimension insofar as an 18th century viewpoint is concerned, enlightened as they may have been. We may not be their equals but I think we’re at a point where we have no choice but to try.

We need to take this system apart and glue it back together again, with a few improvements. Until recently I thought that a third party (and a 4th and a 5th party) would be enough to upset the duopoly that now exists but the corruption has spread too far and too deep. With the system as it now stands no individual can remain uncorrupted, no new party can be effective against the power now entrenched. Good luck to the Tea Party, btw, I’d love to be proved wrong on this.

What we need now is a reset - a full stop, down tools, wildcat strike, to hell with the bosses and the union reps too kinda reset. The US has run for 221 years on a pretty good set of rules but times change and so does circumstance. The visionaries who created the US Constitution were, frankly, a lot smarter and wiser than anyone I see around today but even they couldn’t anticipate the kinds of changes that have taken place in the intervening two centuries. We face a lot of the same threats they faced then but we also face some they could not have dreamt of. Corporate structures vaster and more powerful than nation-states: accountable to no one. Weapons that threaten life over the entire planet. Forget the weapons: deliberate actions by individuals and groups that threaten life over the entire planet. Crazed religious fanatics, within and without, who would kill every last person on earth who refuses to accept their creed… hmmm, well I guess they were familiar with that one.

Obama is not the problem – we are.

There is a well-trodden path for the kind of political train wreck we’re experiencing: a nation-state with a claim to some kind of democracy representing all or most citizens begins to experience broad-based stress. This can take the form of attack from without by other nation-states, economic difficulties deriving from any of a number of circumstances, internal strife created by opposing ideologies, deliberate sabotage by interested parties, general or specific corruption of internal control agencies by bribery or blackmail. Usually it is a combination of several or all of these ills that eventually breaks the system down. Inevitably, as frustration levels skyrocket, violence breaks out – which is what the saboteurs have been waiting for: some sort of insurrection begins to form and whoever is in control of the military moves in and declares martial law, massacres their enemies, sets up a tinpot dictatorship and goes merrily along their way. Alternately, there is a civil war and the victor declares martial law, massacres their enemies, sets up a tinpot dictatorship and goes merrily along their way. Or there is a general breakdown of society from, say, a biological attack and the nearest military force declares marital law… well, you get the idea.

Think of it, aside from the American revolution, just about every political revolution in the last 200 years has worked out this way: the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution (the second one), several of the so-called ‘communist’ revolutions – they all devolved into savage dictatorships unrecognizable even by their most devoted followers. There’s no compelling reason why we won’t head in that direction as well.

How do we avoid this trap of history?

We need to start seriously thinking about convening a constitutional convention.

Article V of the US Constitution:

“The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.” [my emphasis]

I know that ‘constitutional conventions’ (CC) sounds almost funny, like we should dress up in periwigs and frock coats, but it’s a legitimate process that we have the right to use. There are, however, some very serious questions to be asked first:

Why propose this path?

Because it’s the only thing left that will forestall the slide into insurrection/dictatorship.

Can we do it?

Maybe, the first option provided by Article V is closed to us, I don’t see any way that Congress would agree to opening a Constitutional Convention when it’s obvious that we mean to deprive them of their money and their power. On the other hand, once you convene an Article V CC, all bets are off. I notice that there several proposals in Congress purporting to deal with the ‘Dred Roberts’ decision – all of them strictly adhering to that single issue. I think they’re (justly) terrified of what would happen if the ‘people’ ever got their hands on this process.

How would we do it?

Go through the state legislatures, there may still be enough uncorrupted folks at that level to see the value and necessity of a CC. Try to do it as a simultaneous effort in all the states so as to vitiate the tons of money that will be thrown against the idea.

How do we keep out the wingnuts – from both wings?

We can’t, they’ll be there in force and will try to co-opt the process for their own ends. This means ‘we’ must be organized to prevent this kind of takeover, especially from the corporate fascists, this is just the kind of opportunity they think they can take advantage of.

How do we keep out the money?

Ah, there’s the rub: the transnats will see this as an opportunity to twist the laws to their own ends and will release a tsunami of money in order to do so.

What’s the real danger here?

Once you open up a CC, it can pretty much do whatever it wants. We could end up with President-for-Life Obama – for real, or a true corporatist/fascist state like the Randites and other nutjobs want. If it gets too wacko some MacArthur wannabe could declare martial law…[see above]. We might actually start the civil war we’re trying to prevent.

So, this could be dangerous, couldn’t it?

Yup. But I think it’s become abundantly clear that we’re going to have to take some kind of risk. If we stick our heads in the sand now, it’s quite likely that we’ll end up with a true corporate/fascist state run by Hank Paulson, Bernie Ebbers, Jeffery Skilling or one of their clones.

What do we want out of a CC?

We want to update the Constitution to deal with 21st century problems.

Howinhell do we do that?

See Part 4