19 March, 2015

Counterfeit Patriots


https://twitter.com/volkantopalli



The originator of the scurrilous letter signed by 47 faithless Neoconfederate senators is Tom Cotton. He is a war-monger of long standing, but unlike so many of his ilk, he has faced hostile fire.  Combat experience does not make his incendiary letter correct or proper. It merely reflects how little he learned from even the crucible of combat.

Mr. Cotton is not as woefully uneducated as this egregious letter makes him appear. He went to Harvard and graduated from its law school. Whatever he learned, however, he did not learn of the separation of powers, the history of the Senate, or the more than two centuries of U S foreign policy.  The problem with Cotton and his ilk, however, goes far deeper than a simple lack of knowledge or understanding. What he and his collaborators do not know pales in comparison to what they know that is fundamentally untrue.  The infamous letter is a toxic brew of ignorance, arrogance, and treachery that has been steeping in the feverish depths of Republican brains for almost 50 years.

Republicans’ claims of patriotism are not the sheer fabrications it is easy to conclude they are. Republicans are patriotic; in fact, Republicans are chauvinistic. Their patriotism is fatally flawed nonetheless because it pertains to the Confederate States of America.   When one considers, the frequent chants and demands regarding the drive to Take our country back" the misdirection of the patriotism is obvious.  The unspoken truth is that they want to take America back to the nineteenth century, circa 1857, or perhaps, prior to 1787.  Those who call themselves conservatives today are the latest in a long line of pseudo-patriots who would more accurately labeled: Confederates.

In the origins of the country, thirteen independent states – nations – formed an alliance to fight a war against the British Empire. They were separate and not united and beyond this military alliance they fundamentally remained independent.  “The purpose of the Articles of Confederation was to create a confederation of states whereby each state retained "its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right . . . not expressly delegated to the United States in Congress assembled." In effect, what passed as the “national government” was more similar to the United Nations Security Council of our time than any recognizable national government. The main difference was the each of the thirteen states could veto any amendment to the Articles and nine out of thirteen states had to agree to pass any law whatsoever.

The advantage of this arrangement is hard to discern if one is seeking to implement effective governance. When one recognizes that the intent of the Articles was to preserve the rule of the dominant factions in the respective states, however, the utility of the Articles become apparent. The authors of the Federalist Papers warned us all about the dangers of faction as did President Washington.

In Federalist #10, James Madison argues that faction forming is natural behavior for people. Whether the faction is a majority or minority, however, the goals they pursue may be detrimental to the good of other factions or society as a whole. Differences in political ideology and religious views can break people into factions, but for Madison suggests the most common cause of faction formation is, the uneven accumulation of property. The Father of the Constitution seems especially prescient when one considers the uneven distribution of wealth in 21st century America.

As Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont relates: “At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, the Republicans apparently believe that the richest people in America need to be made even richer. It is apparently not good enough that 99 percent of all new income today is going to the top 1 percent. That’s apparently not enough. It is not good enough that the top one-tenth of one percent today owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.” If as Madison truly said, “uneven accumulation of property” stimulates the formation of factions, this utter derangement of the United States economy turbo-charges the factionalization of American politics in the 21st century.  Lest any contends that Senator Sanders description of the House budget is inaccurate. Consider the New York Times: “Overall, at least two-thirds of the $5 trillion in cuts over 10 years would come from programs that focus on low- and modest-income Americans, even though such programs account for less than one-fourth of all federal program costs.” The explicit intent of this budget is to deprive ordinary Americans of any beneficial government programs in order to enrich those few who are already exorbitantly wealthy. Plundering the many to enrich the few is the essence of factional depredations in oligarchic form.

We do not need to rely solely on Madison to conclude that factions are dangerous because the Father of our Country also warned all Americans.  “The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.” The frightful despotism Washington decries is the desideratum for Neoconfederates who believe the true freedom requires the oppression of others they deem unworthy.

Furthermore, both Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln denounced the lust to rule and the corrupting power of inequality. Jefferson believed differences of political sentiment give rise to different political parties. These parties resolve themselves into two basic types: an authoritarian (or monarchist, tory, etc.) party that favors ruling and seeks to dominate and control the people. And a representative (or republican, liberal, etc.) party that favors governance controlled by and for the people. The electorate of any nation ultimately chooses a path that carved out by one or the other of these parties. In a letter to John Dickenson, Jefferson declared: "The greatest good we can do our country is to heal its party divisions and make them one people.” Thus, Jefferson too recognized the detrimental effect of factionalism and the efforts of some to rule rather than govern.

Lincoln rejected what he called the mudsill theory and proposed: “that labor is prior to and independent of, capital; that, in fact, capital is the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed–that labor can exist without capital, but that capital could never have existed without labor. Hence, they hold that labor is the superior–greatly the superior of capital.” On this basis, he was an opponent of ingrained and rigid inequality. As to those who believe their freedom is only real if they can oppress others, Lincoln was succinct:  “Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves.”

The demonstrated factional nature of American politics extends beyond budgetary matters. It is this spillover that propelled the treachery led by Senator Cotton and forty-six other Neoconfederate Senators. From the Neoconfederate perspective, ordinary citizens exist to fight wars for resources and labor at subsistence wages in the enterprises of the Robber Barons. Thus, diplomacy and the possible peaceful resolution of international issues is anathema to Neoconfederates. They need looming threats to incite fear and smooth the way for wasteful spending on weaponry. They want enemies to present as bogeymen to stifle dissent and inflame jingoistic hostility toward the threat du jour.

The fact that the Neoconfederate treachery ignored two centuries of precedent and threatened the ability of every future American President to negotiate with other nations, just confirms their complete factionalism. They recklessly placed the interests of their faction above the good of the general citizenry and the Constitutional Republic they are sworn to defend, serve, and advance.
Decades ago partisan politics i. e. factionalism was said to “stop at the water’s edge.” In theory, the United States had a unified foreign policy that was American and neither Republican nor Democratic. This precept like all others which stitched the social fabric together has been rent asunder by Neoconfederate factional fanaticism.

The treachery also exposed the deceptive nature of the talismanic reference to the Constitution by these false patriots. Under the Constitution, which all Congress Members swear an oath of “true faith and allegiance. The president or his designated representative, such as the Secretary of State has the exclusive authority to communicate with other nations, recognize foreign governments, receive ambassadors, and make executive agreements. Over the two and one-quarter centuries of the American Republic, the other branches of the national government have routinely deferred to the Executive branch and the President in the conduct of foreign relations. The purpose of this difference is largely to enable a single person to represent and speak for the nation in dealings with other nations on the world stage.

Vice-President Biden characterized the treacherous action of the forty-seven Neoconfederates best when he said: "I cannot recall another instance in which Senators wrote directly to advise another country -- much less a longtime foreign adversary -- that the President does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them. This letter sends a highly misleading signal to friend and foe alike that our Commander-in-Chief cannot deliver on America’s commitments -- a message that is as false as it is dangerous."

The CAP Action War Room continued in a similar vein by observing: “Senate Republicans’ letter attempting to sabotage the Obama administration’s sensitive negotiations with Iran is a triumph of partisanship over patriotism. America’s influence depends on America’s ability to honor its commitments. Attempting to derail these commitments for political ends is not only an embarrassment, it is a strategy to weaken America’s leading role in the international community.”

While largely accurate, this statement misses the truly seditious nature of the 21st century Republican Party. They are faux patriots at best as far as the American constitution goes. They are the latest rendition of the internal enemy that has haunted American politics since its inception. In the earliest days, these enemies of the state were called anti-federalists, but they are as mentioned earlier actually Confederates. They are as old as the country they have relentlessly sought to undermine. The only variation has been in the blatancy of their efforts. Now, they are feeling increasing confidence, and they are becoming increasingly brazen. For the sake of all true patriots hold dear, these treacherous scoundrels must be painted with indelible hues and hounded from positions of authority at the national, state, and local levels of governance.

30 January, 2015

Frenzy, Females and Free Expression


This is number one of a three part series: Frenzy.

    The ferocious attack on Charlie Hebdo was symptomatic of much more than it is commonly recognized. The ongoing depredations of Boko Haram in Nigeria are even more indicative of a raging global derangement.  These brutal and dreadful actions are conspicuous examples of a ferocious reactionary war waged against the true foundations of the modern world order. While too many do not know it, all citizens of top tier nations live in a global culture that is rooted in the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason in Europe.

    Before the Enlightenment made its profound impact superstition and sophistry ran rampant. There was little thought to governing, but a veritable fixation on ruling. The cunning exploited the credulous to open their path to dominion. Monarchs and Theocrats variously colluded and competed for supremacy and most people were subjects rather than citizens. Gradually and imperfectly the champions of reason and naturalism pushed the clouds of ignorance away and drove the minions of might from power. 

    In the interval known as the Enlightenment, rationality became the predominant practice and liberty, equality, and unity became primary aspirational ideals. People became citizens and progress became the normal expectation. Constitutional governance spread first in the United States, then in France and finally in England and much of the world-spanning British Empire. This did not create a world free of problems, injustices, or threats by any means, but it allowed for a significantly different approach in response to many of longstanding flaws and failures. 

     While the political and economic systems in much of the world diverged farther from their traditional predecessors, the institutions, ideologies, and roles which flourished in the traditional settings did not vanish. They had been deprived of hegemony, not eradicated. The Enlightenment began in the middle of the 17th century and extended through the 18th. The scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries progressively undermined the ancient geocentric conception of the cosmos, and, along with it, the entire set of traditional perspectives that had constrained and guided philosophical thinking, social mores and personal conduct. The dramatic successes of the scientific approach in explaining the natural world and devising and deploying “a relatively small number of elegant mathematical formulae” promoted philosophy, including the natural sciences, from the handmaiden of theology, to an independent and rival power able to challenge the old and conceive and commend the new. In both theory and practice, on the basis of its own principles and processes, philosophy often called natural philosophy in regard to what we now usually call science, illuminated a world hitherto cloaked in shadows and drowning incredulity. “D'Alembert, a leading figure of the French Enlightenment, characterizes his eighteenth century, in the midst of it, as “the century of philosophy par excellence”, because of the tremendous intellectual progress of the age, the advance of the sciences, and the enthusiasm for that progress.”  Furthermore, the characteristic expectation of the Enlightenment is that philosophy (in this broad sense) would dramatically improve human life and substantially resolve almost any problem. Rationalism, empiricism, and skepticism were the prevailing perspectives and processes of the Enlightenment for studying and understanding reality.

The principal accomplishments of the Enlightenment, however, were in the political realm. The period featured three revolutions: the English, the American, and the French from 1688 to 1799. “We owe to this period the basic model of government founded upon the consent of the governed; the articulation of the political ideals of freedom and equality and the theory of their institutional realization; the articulation of a list of basic individual human rights to be respected and realized by any legitimate political system; the articulation and promotion of toleration of religious diversity as a virtue to be respected in a well ordered society; the conception of the basic political powers as organized in a system of checks and balances; and other now-familiar features of western democracies.” Despite the success of Enlightenment political philosophy, however, it did not utterly vanquish the traditional institutions, creeds, and interests it so tellingly critiqued and so largely deposed. Therein lays the source of the threat rising in the 21st century.

Enlightenment political writings, built on rationalist naturalism, opposed superstition, argued for toleration and advocated the subordination of religion to the state, and favored qualified democracy. What we today call liberalism is perhaps the most characteristic political philosophy of the Enlightenment, and philosophers beginning with Spinoza are its originators. To the extent that the Enlightenment ideals succeeded civil society and civil authorities became the more powerful than ecclesiastical authorities – politics became more influential than religion.

Philosophers of the Enlightenment confronted the problem of ethics “on a secular, broadly naturalistic basis for the first time since the rise of Christianity eclipsed the great classical ethical systems.” Whatever good and evil were, Enlightenment theorists sought to discern and describe them in regard to this life and this world, not an afterlife and a supernatural realm. This effort also took root among the general populace to greater and lesser extents in different places. The prevailing attitude was that human reason could figure out what ethical behavior required and establish workable guidelines for all people. The combination of political and ethical theories developed during the Enlightenment pushed religious creeds and religiously based conflict off the center stage of human society.

 During the time since the Enlightenment ended, its legacy has slowly but unevenly advanced the ideals throughout the developed world. For much of the globe, however, there is at best a veneer of Enlightenment idealism. What we are seeing now is regression in the strongholds of the Enlightenment that concurrently opens the gates for attacks from the more benighted areas of the world. Thus, our civilization is imperiled from both without and within.  

The shortfalls and failings of the original Enlightenment movement provided both means and opportunities for the proponents of sophistry and superstition to launch counterattacks. In the parts of the globe conquered by the West, local populations were left to their own devices and virtual theocracies pulsated just under the surface waiting for the waning of Western dominance. Inside nations such as France, England, and America, other purveyors of sophistry and superstition waged a struggle for power against the champions of skepticism, empiricism and rationalism. In both situations, the quest of the counterattacking forces was neither knowledge, nor truth, nor understanding, but power. As political theorist, Corey Robin observes, conservatism from the 17th century to today is based on the principle, "that some are fit, and thus ought, to rule others." Robin argues that rather than being about liberty, limited government, resistance to change, or public virtue, conservatism is a "mode of counterrevolutionary practice" to preserve hierarchy and power.” While those who wage this “counterrevolutionary practice” style themselves as conservative, they are actually reactionary.

From their perspective, evidence, learning, knowledge, logic, and truth are all incidental and unnecessary. They believe some people should be saddled and bridled while others are booted and spurred. Their only concerns are gaining, wielding, expanding, and retaining power. They do not see all people as free and equal human beings. They see some as elect, in variously defined ways, and all others as nothing other than serfs and cannon fodder.

The struggle that never ends, but merely ebbs and flows is between those who lust to rule and those who strive to govern. While both often use the term government, they mean diametrically opposed things and wish to put the state to dramatically different ends. The reactionaries seek to use government as a weapon to protect the privileges, status, and dominance of those they believe deserve to rule. The revolutionaries seek to use government as a means to redress the injustices and inequalities in society and afford to every citizen civil rights, civil liberties, and equal protection through due process of law. The reactionaries believe might makes right and the revolutionaries believe in government through the consent of the governed.

In the second decade of the 21st century neither the revolutionaries nor the reactionaries are in unchallenged control. All human beings now live in a world shaped by the ideals of the revolutionaries although these ideals have been only imperfectly realized. A substantial proportion of humankind, however, either believes in or is compelled by those who believe in a starkly different set of ideals. The reactionary proportion of humanity now wages overt and covert battle against our contemporary civilization.

         The violent attacks unsurprisingly attract the overwhelming bulk of media attention. But these attacks have forced their way back into humanity’s experience because of steady erosion in the rationalism and civility that formed the foundation of our technological and scientific society. As Timothy Ferris states in The Science of Liberty, “Democratic governance and individual rights did not emerge from some amorphous “brew of humanistic and scientific thinking,” he argues, but were “sparked” by science itself — the crucial “innovative ingredient” that “continues to foster political freedom today.” It was this mindset so characteristic of the Enlightenment that enabled people to improve their material situations and their political institutions.

       Now, however, in the nations where the Enlightenment arose and flourished, sophistry, superstition, and reaction are virulent. Anything near a complete victory has not been achieved and the purveyors of irrationality, credulity, fanaticism and authoritarianism are openly hawking their wares and plying their trade. These harbingers of a New Dark Age are the political officials and candidates who treat their feelings as the best guide to public policy and who pit citizens against one another based on ethnic, religious, or other distinctions.

       As cases in point, consider three contentious topics in American politics today. Climate change, trickle-down economics, and health reform are all major policy disputes where facts actually do not seem to matter for one side of the controversy; for the self-styled conservative pundits, preachers, and politicians unshakable dogma reigns, across the board. In Kansas, supply-side economics was heavily implemented and it failed spectacularly. Nonetheless, the magical belief in the efficacy of tax cuts as a form of economic stimulus persists. Good news on health reform keeps coming in. It remains even more favorable than its supporters expected. The number of Americans without insurance is dropping fast, even as the growth in health care costs moderates and reactionaries continue to be as relentlessly opposed to it as they ever were. The particular issues are not as significant as the fundamentally flawed approach this sizable faction of politically Americans uses to assess them.

      Joseph Heath, in Enlightenment 2.0, says “conservatives have become enamored of the idea that politics is ultimately not about plans and policies, it’s about gut feelings and values. Elections are decided by appealing to people’s hearts, not their heads.” This approach is often described as “common sense conservatism.”  It elevated intuition over rational thinking, gut feeling over deliberation, and belief over knowledge. The profound problem, however, when reason and evidence are abandoned in favor cleverness and sentiment is  that there is no way to actually discern which side of a controversy is correct, which claim is true, what program is sound. This means issues are resolved through trickery or skullduggery rather than agreement based on good faith discussion and authentic understanding.  

       The proponents, protectors, and friends of Enlightenment ideals became complacent. They stopped striving to achieve their ideals more and more fully. Consequently, they inadvertently put millions of people at risk of disaffection, and left these same millions vulnerable to inducements from the champions of a new Dark Age. The people who attacked Charlie Hebdo and the miscreants of Boko Haram along with the fanatics of ISIS exemplify the blatantly violent Dark Agers! Neoconfederates in America and crypto-fascist parties and politicians elsewhere exemplify the genteel specimens of this horde. This creates a genuine danger to us all. If we continue to ignore these corrosive practices, civilization may deteriorate beyond our power to sustain it. For as Joseph Heath observes,  “Just as it is easier to get the toothpaste out of the tube than it is to get it back in again, it is much easier to undermine the rationality of public discourse than it is to restore it.”

      Despite the dramatic difference in their behaviors both the brutal and the beguiling variants of the Dark Agers are treacherous. For either variety, the defenders of Enlightenment ideals are seen as infidels, subversives, and adversaries. What must be understood is the beguiling Dark Agers pave the way for the rise and rampage of the brutal Dark Agers by muting the alarms and reducing the sentinels all along the watch tower. We must sound the alarm and mount the barricades far more than our own well-being and futures are at stake. 
 The ferocious attack on Charlie Hebdo was symptomatic of much more than it is commonly recognized. The ongoing depredations of Boko Haram in Nigeria are even more indicative of a raging global derangement.  These brutal and dreadful actions are conspicuous examples of a ferocious reactionary war waged against the true foundations of the modern world order. While too many do not know it, all citizens of top tier nations live in a global culture that is rooted in the Enlightenment and the Age of Reason in Europe.

    Before the Enlightenment made its profound impact superstition and sophistry ran rampant. There was little thought to governing, but a veritable fixation on ruling. The cunning exploited the credulous to open their path to dominion. Monarchs and Theocrats variously colluded and competed for supremacy and most people were subjects rather than citizens. Gradually and imperfectly the champions of reason and naturalism pushed the clouds of ignorance away and drove the minions of might from power. 


    In the interval known as the Enlightenment, rationality became the predominant practice and liberty, equality, and unity became primary aspirational ideals. People became citizens and progress became the normal expectation. Constitutional governance spread first in the United States, then in France and finally in England and much of the world-spanning British Empire. This did not create a world free of problems, injustices, or threats by any means, but it allowed for a significantly different approach in response to many of longstanding flaws and failures. 

     While the political and economic systems in much of the world diverged farther from their traditional predecessors, the institutions, ideologies, and roles which flourished in the traditional settings did not vanish. They had been deprived of hegemony, not eradicated. The Enlightenment began in the middle of the 17th century and extended through the 18th. The scientific revolution of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries progressively undermined the ancient geocentric conception of the cosmos, and, along with it, the entire set of traditional perspectives that had constrained and guided philosophical thinking, social mores and personal conduct. The dramatic successes of the scientific approach in explaining the natural world and devising and deploying “a relatively small number of elegant mathematical formulae” promoted philosophy, including the natural sciences, from the handmaiden of theology, to an independent and rival power able to challenge the old and conceive and commend the new. In both theory and practice, on the basis of its own principles and processes, philosophy often called natural philosophy in regard to what we now usually call science, illuminated a world hitherto cloaked in shadows and drowning incredulity. “D'Alembert, a leading figure of the French Enlightenment, characterizes his eighteenth century, in the midst of it, as “the century of philosophy par excellence”, because of the tremendous intellectual progress of the age, the advance of the sciences, and the enthusiasm for that progress.”  Furthermore, the characteristic expectation of the Enlightenment is that philosophy (in this broad sense) would dramatically improve human life and substantially resolve almost any problem. Rationalism, empiricism, and skepticism were the prevailing perspectives and processes of the Enlightenment for studying and understanding reality.

The principal accomplishments of the Enlightenment, however, were in the political realm. The period featured three revolutions: the English, the American, and the French from 1688 to 1799. “We owe to this period the basic model of government founded upon the consent of the governed; the articulation of the political ideals of freedom and equality and the theory of their institutional realization; the articulation of a list of basic individual human rights to be respected and realized by any legitimate political system; the articulation and promotion of toleration of religious diversity as a virtue to be respected in a well ordered society; the conception of the basic political powers as organized in a system of checks and balances; and other now-familiar features of western democracies.” Despite the success of Enlightenment political philosophy, however, it did not utterly vanquish the traditional institutions, creeds, and interests it so tellingly critiqued and so largely deposed. Therein lays the source of the threat rising in the 21st century.

Enlightenment political writings, built on rationalist naturalism, opposed superstition, argued for toleration and advocated the subordination of religion to the state, and favored qualified democracy. What we today call liberalism is perhaps the most characteristic political philosophy of the Enlightenment, and philosophers beginning with Spinoza are its originators. To the extent that the Enlightenment ideals succeeded civil society and civil authorities became the more powerful than ecclesiastical authorities – politics became more influential than religion.

Philosophers of the Enlightenment confronted the problem of ethics “on a secular, broadly naturalistic basis for the first time since the rise of Christianity eclipsed the great classical ethical systems.” Whatever good and evil were, Enlightenment theorists sought to discern and describe them in regard to this life and this world, not an afterlife and a supernatural realm. This effort also took root among the general populace to greater and lesser extents in different places. The prevailing attitude was that human reason could figure out what ethical behavior required and establish workable guidelines for all people. The combination of political and ethical theories developed during the Enlightenment pushed religious creeds and religiously based conflict off the center stage of human society.

 During the time since the Enlightenment ended, its legacy has slowly but unevenly advanced the ideals throughout the developed world. For much of the globe, however, there is at best a veneer of Enlightenment idealism. What we are seeing now is regression in the strongholds of the Enlightenment that concurrently opens the gates for attacks from the more benighted areas of the world. Thus, our civilization is imperiled from both without and within.  

The shortfalls and failings of the original Enlightenment movement provided both means and opportunities for the proponents of sophistry and superstition to launch counterattacks. In the parts of the globe conquered by the West, local populations were left to their own devices and virtual theocracies pulsated just under the surface waiting for the waning of Western dominance. Inside nations such as France, England, and America, other purveyors of sophistry and superstition waged a struggle for power against the champions of skepticism, empiricism and rationalism. In both situations, the quest of the counterattacking forces was neither knowledge, nor truth, nor understanding, but power. As political theorist, Corey Robin observes, conservatism from the 17th century to today is based on the principle, "that some are fit, and thus ought, to rule others." Robin argues that rather than being about liberty, limited government, resistance to change, or public virtue, conservatism is a "mode of counterrevolutionary practice" to preserve hierarchy and power.” While those who wage this “counterrevolutionary practice” style themselves as conservative, they are actually reactionary.

From their perspective, evidence, learning, knowledge, logic, truth are all incidental and unnecessary. They believe some people should be saddled and bridled while others are booted and spurred. Their only concerns are gaining, wielding, expanding, and retaining power. They do not see all people as free and equal human beings. They see some as elect, in variously defined ways, and all others as nothing other than serfs and cannon fodder.

The struggle that never ends, but merely ebbs and flows is between those who lust to rule and those who strive to govern. While both often use the term government, they mean diametrically opposed things and wish to put the state to dramatically different ends. The reactionaries seek to use government as a weapon to protect the privileges, status, and dominance of those they believe deserve to rule. The revolutionaries seek to use government as a means to redress the injustices and inequalities in society and afford to every citizen civil rights, civil liberties, and equal protection through due process of law. The reactionaries believe might makes right and the revolutionaries believe in government through the consent of the governed.

In the second decade of the 21st century neither the revolutionaries nor the reactionaries are in unchallenged control. All human beings now live in a world shaped by the ideals of the revolutionaries although these ideals have been only imperfectly realized. A substantial proportion of humankind, however, either believes in or is compelled by those who believe in a starkly different set of ideals. The reactionary proportion of humanity now wages overt and covert battle against our contemporary civilization.

         The violent attacks unsurprisingly attract the overwhelming bulk of media attention. But these attacks have forced their way back into humanity’s experience because of steady erosion in the rationalism and civility that formed the foundation of our technological and scientific society. As Timothy Ferris states in The Science of Liberty, “Democratic governance and individual rights did not emerge from some amorphous “brew of humanistic and scientific thinking,” he argues, but were “sparked” by science itself — the crucial “innovative ingredient” that “continues to foster political freedom today.” It was this mindset so characteristic of the Enlightenment that enabled people to improve their material situations and their political institutions.

       Now, however, in the nations where the Enlightenment arose and flourished, sophistry, superstition, and reaction are virulent. Anything near a complete victory has not been achieved and the purveyors of irrationality, credulity, fanaticism and authoritarianism are openly hawking their wares and plying their trade. These harbingers of a New Dark Age are the political officials and candidates who treat their feelings as the best guide to public policy and who pit citizens against one another based on ethnic, religious, or other distinctions.

       As cases in point, consider three contentious topics in American politics today. Climate change, trickle-down economics, and health reform are all major policy disputes where facts actually do not seem to matter for one side of the controversy; for the self-styled conservative pundits, preachers, and politicians unshakable dogma reigns, across the board. In Kansas, supply-side economics was heavily implemented and it failed spectacularly. Nonetheless, the magical belief in the efficacy of tax cuts as a form of economic stimulus persists. Good news on health reform keeps coming in. It remains even more favorable than its supporters expected. The number of Americans without insurance is dropping fast, even as the growth in health care costs moderates and reactionaries continue to be as relentlessly opposed to it as they ever were. The particular issues are not as significant as the fundamentally flawed approach this sizable faction of politically Americans uses to assess them.

      Joseph Heath, in Enlightenment 2.0, says “conservatives have become enamored of the idea that politics is ultimately not about plans and policies, it’s about gut feelings and values. Elections are decided by appealing to people’s hearts, not their heads.” This approach is often described as “common sense conservatism.”  It elevated intuition over rational thinking, gut feeling over deliberation, and belief over knowledge. The profound problem, however, when reason and evidence are abandoned in favor cleverness and sentiment is  that there is no way to actually discern which side of a controversy is correct, which claim is true, what program is sound. This means issues are resolved through trickery or skulduggery rather than agreement based on good faith discussion and authentic understanding.  

       The proponents, protectors, and friends of Enlightenment ideals became complacent. They stopped striving to achieve their ideals more and more fully. Consequently, they inadvertently put millions of people at risk of disaffection, and left these same millions vulnerable to inducements from the champions of a new Dark Age. The people who attacked Charlie Hebdo and the miscreants of Boko Haram along with the fanatics of ISIS exemplify the blatantly violent Dark Agers! Neoconfederates in America and crypto-fascist parties and politicians elsewhere exemplify the genteel specimens of this horde. This creates a genuine danger to us all. If we continue to ignore these corrosive practices, civilization may deteriorate beyond our power to sustain it. For as Joseph Heath observes,  “Just as it is easier to get the toothpaste out of the tube than it is to get it back in again, it is much easier to undermine the rationality of public discourse than it is to restore it.”

      Despite the dramatic difference in their behaviors both the brutal and the beguiling variants of the Dark Agers are treacherous. For either variety, the defenders of Enlightenment ideals are seen as infidels, subversives, and adversaries. What must be understood is the beguiling Dark Agers pave the way for the rise and rampage of the brutal Dark Agers by muting the alarms and reducing the sentinels all along the watch tower. We must sound the alarm and mount the barricades far more than our own well-being and futures are at stake. 



23 January, 2015



The whole world is struggling tonight
From the disease of deceit.
Lots of people are suffering tonight
From the disease of deceit.

It comes right through the airwaves, straight into the home
Smashes through all defenses and leaves nobody alone.
No part of this plague is easy to beat.
The disease of deceit

There are a whole lot of hopes dying tonight
From the disease of deceit.
Lots of confidence has been shaken tonight
By the disease of deceit.

Steps onto the stage, seeps into the soul
Overpowers our senses and we lose control.
Nothing is sacred and it is not discreet
All that’s precious is threatened by the disease of deceit.

There are a thousand plans failing tonight
From the disease of deceit.
Millions of people are flailing
tonight
From the disease of deceit.

Comes at us from everywhere and knocks us down for the count
From the inside and outside the pressure will mount
Puts us into an all-out retreat
The disease of deceit

Deceit is a disease
But there is no medical treatment or magical cure
There has been much research about it
But what it really is nobody’s quite sure

In the whole world over there is trouble tonight
From the disease of deceit.
Lots of heads are spinning tonight
From the disease of deceit.

If delusions of grandeur and an aversion to clues
Give us the feeling we are too smart to lose.
Then our next experience surely will not be sweet
From the disease of deceit.

There is only one way we can turn this around.
Take our heads from the clouds and put our feet on the ground.
This is the only way we can combat and hope to defeat
The threat to us all of the disease of deceit.


It is up to each of us whether we’re high or we’re low.
The treasure of truth is something we all instinctively know.
We must make a commitment and it must be complete.
To the candor that cures the disease of deceit.

08 January, 2015

Admission of Impotence

www.cotemaison.fr

Once again fanatical followers of Islam have murdered while shouting: Allahu Akbar, literally God is great. This time the atrocity happened in Paris, France, and the attack was directed at editors and cartoonists for the satirical French weekly Charlie Hebdo. By perpetrating this viciousness, the people involved and the movement in which they swarm, showed the weakness and utter futility cloaked within their fury. Although weaponry can make the weak appear mighty and allow malice to murder the peaceful, resorting to violence is an admission of intellectual impotence. The following paragraph makes this point well.

“More than anything, masked gunmen—hiding their faces and shouting "God is great”—show the appalling lack of confidence in their ideas, their ability to participate in public debates, to stand by their arguments, and return to the political process day after day if they suffer setbacks. This is why they are cowards, bullies, killers and yes, evil. This is one version of what evil looks like today.”

When twelve people are killed and eleven are injured in a brutal, premeditated attack, the shock this produces can make it seem as though the attackers or the movement they adhere to are powerful because they are obviously dangerous. In reality, these incidents are admissions of weakness and absolute loss of confidence on the part of the fanatics. They are killing people who dispute their beliefs and refuse to honor their conceptions of the sacred. No matter how fervently they believe what they profess, they have been largely unable to win people to their side.

 Since September 2001many of the fanatics who have restored to outlandish violence have been characterized as Muslim or Islamic. Consequently discussion has often tried to distinguish these brutal actors from Islam itself by talking about a religion of peace. This is intellectually slipshod if it is not intellectually dishonest. Islam does not mean peace; it means submission. In particular, submission to the commands of Allah as revealed by the Prophet Mohammed. True believing Muslims neither support nor recognize the concept of freedom of expression, because their speech and actions are determined by the will of Allah as divinely revealed and not derived from their choices or desires. In other words, true believers deny all others the right to challenge their interpretation of the will of Allah [God, Adonai] and they insist that all others accept their right to dictate proper behavior. While this imparts immense arrogance to the zealots, it does nothing to win the assent of any among the uninitiated.

Consequently, while fanatics feverishly demand that the world submits to their chosen creed, everyone else ignores them, disputes their claim, or even makes fun of their doctrines and dogmas. Because all varieties of fanaticism are so thoroughly unsupported by evidence and logical argument based on evidence, attempts to convince unbelievers are frustrating to put it mildly. Therefore, there is an almost unbearable tension in the minds of fanatics who think they have the one true faith that every human being should accept and follow but are perpetually unable to win over masses outside their circle of belief.

The Prophet Muhammad had little if any humility in regard to the honor he was due saying: "Whoever insults a Prophet kill him." Muhammad convinced many that he was channeling the will of Allah. Thus, all who ignored what he said should be believed or done were thwarting the will of the Almighty. This seemed not a mere difference of opinion, but a potential cosmic calamity. If the Almighty says think this and do this, refusing to comply is stunning and probably dangerous insubordination.

It is this realization that shows what is sought by all zealots whatever creed they claim justifies their fanaticism: they want obedience and they want it now and forever. Because they are the champions of the divine will, this means that others must obey them in all aspects of their earthly lives. People must profess the creed the zealots dictate; behave in the way the zealots demand; dress as the zealots command, and generally never suggest that the zealots are full of bilge water and swamp gas. 

Whether fanatics claim to serve Allah, God or Adonai, the Master Race, the Proletariat, or the Knights of the White Camelia, they are deluded, malicious, and deserve only opposition and defeat. In France, America, England and many other nations we have true and benign ideals that require none to comply unwillingly. Our civic ideals justify the abuse and execution of no one simply for what they think and express. While these ideals are peaceful at times we may have to bear arms in their defense against the comparatively few fanatics who mistake tolerance and openness for vacuity and cowardice.

The newspaper, Charlie Hebdo, and those who worked there, dared to speak uncomfortable truths about people, parties, beliefs and institutions that were intolerant, driven by fanaticism and completely unhesitating in imposing their views on those who did not share them. This malicious and lethal attack was not one on a periodical or journalism but on inquiry, ideas, competing perspectives and beliefs, and on the principle that enlightened societies can allow differences to exist and sustain discourse, debate and a quest for what truly unites people rather than imposing a forced conformity on all citizens.

This ideal of a society of citizens rather than subjects with all rightfully pursuing the truth in the way they choose rather than a realm of indoctrinated and subjugated people submitting to the divine revelation of one or another prophet is worth working for, worth living for, worth fighting for and if need be worth dying for. 


02 January, 2015

Let Americans be Americans Again


The problems plaguing America are caused by and can be cured by Americans becoming Americans again in the truest and best sense to the word. Americans have either abandoned or forgotten five foundational ideals that at times made them listen to the better angels of their nature and strive to make their country what it was meant and ought to be. This poem is inspired by the classic by Langston Hughes and it shares that poems view that many people have come to America with hopes and dreams and they and many others are being let down. This stems from the great economic disparity between people which is built into the system. Essentially the rich get ever richer, and the poor get ever  poorer. This is allowed because too many of us lack real, sustained commitment to equality, democracy. inherent rights, shared opportunity and authentic liberty for all.

If America is to fulfill its promise and be true to its premise, Americans must rediscover and revive their devotion to these ideals.


Let Americans be Americans again.
Let them dream once more the dream that made us see.
Let true patriots arise and renew America’s claim
To being the home of the brave and the land of the free

Let Americans recall the Framers’ aims—
Let them build that bountiful land we swear to love
Where neither tyrants ploys nor traitors games
Force anyone to bow to those above.

Let Americans stand for a true land of Liberty
One unscarred by false pride or jealous greed,
Where the air is redolent of the scent of true Equality,
And Opportunity proliferates to answer every need.

Let us reclaim the poorer Whites, incited, fooled and driven wild,
And welcome the Reds from whom far too much has been seized.
And embrace the Blacks still scarred from being slavery’s child
And accept the Yellows once into interment wrongly squeezed.

Welcome the immigrants clutching fast to hope in desperate need—
Fighting bravely against the same callous, vicious plan
Of hate, fear, spite and power crushing all with rapacious greed.
While seeking to make this country their new and promised land.

Let Americans look to the youth, all full of courage, hope, and daring-do
And keep them safe from that vast, far reaching web of vile shams
Of propaganda, plots and profiteering gain, of malice through and through!
Of broken promises and devious tales promoting nefarious scams

Let Americans demand an end to drive the workers and steal their pay!
Of everything for one’s own lust and none for any other’s need
Let them rally the farmer so dependent on the soil and weather's whim each day.
And enlist the worker enthralled in the corporation’s strangling greed.

Let all Americans dream again the storied dreams.
That hard work, skill and ingenuity can lift them to new heights
That today’s struggle presages the dawn more abundant means.
Let us, though embattled even now, secure to all their Rights.

O, Patriots! You are they who never bowed in the face of woe and fears,
You are they who bravely raised the banner of the hallowed ideals
And battled on while battered and disrespected all these many years.
You alone  never forgot how devotion to the best within us feels.

While dreaming a dream so bright, so right, so true,
It shown through all the stone, concrete and steel,
So forever more its mighty clarion rings forth anew
To make Americans strive to be what they must now become for real.

Americans are children of those who crossed the storm tossed sea
All descendants of travelers from obscure and ominous climes,
Who searched for what might and ought to be
Braving the waves in different ships at different times,

Americans no matter the strand from which their families came
Hope against hope to make themselves and their posterity free.
Can rightly claim American as their honored name
And make America everything to everyone that it might and ought to be.

Let Americans once again recall all the evils we have fought and felled
And sing again all the songs we so long have sung
And hope again all the soaring hopes we have so well and truly held
And lift again all the brave banners that we decades ago had hung,

Though millions now have lost so much almost nothing is left to lose—
Though many are yet striving the cherished name to win
We vow the dream has never died and will not die while we dare to rightly choose!
O’ let Americans be Americans again

We, the people, who have as yet almost never been
Must now see, the land we have is the land we make
And despite the odds, rise and insist Americans be Americans again.
Through the truths we tell and the risks we take

We must recall the meaning of ideals we once so cherished
And as Americans boldly and solemnly true Democracy reclaim
Our principles, purposes, and promises before they have perished
We must again lift our national vision and focus on the highest plain.

Americans: Female, Male, Brown, Red, Yellow, Black and White
All need to focus on the who, what, where, why and when
And, come together to awaken and renew the glorious fight
That as Americans we resolutely unite and truly are Americans once again!

06 September, 2014

Carry it On!



rt.com
New American Standard Bible                       Micah 6:8
 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

In the eulogy for Michael Brown, Reverend Sharpton, began with the above Biblical reference. For believers this should be a compelling guide to proper conduct, but like other wise words it seems to get lost in the transmission. How complicated is the good?  Not very it seems: do justice, love kindness, and show humility.  These three things are possible for us all, but they are not common practice. Not only can we do better, we must do better.

Those who must do better, in this case includes all Americans. It does not pertain only to Black Americans, White Americans, Hispanic Americans or any subgroup of Americans. Every one of us who has ever been proud to be an American and who has ever claimed to love America must put the words into action and once and for all become the people we have always boasted of being.

One hundred and fifty years have passed since the Emancipation Proclamation and America is still a house divided. Now, however, it is more divided than ever. The political process is infested with internal subversion from a group of Neoconfederates who want to roll back the elapsed century and a half. Religious fundamentalists and seditious proponents of Posse Comitatus are driving fissures throughout the culture. One faction rejects science and the other one denies the legitimacy of the federal government.  Despite all these centrifugal forces, Americans of goodwill must remember and defend the principles and purposes that form the basis of the Republic and our birthright as citizens.
As Reverend Sharpton said, “We must turn our chants into change and turn our demonstration into legislation.” It is time to turn the tragic moment into a dynamic movement. We must, once again, “Carry it on”.

“There's a man by my side walking
There's a voice within me talking,
There's a voice, within me saying,
Carry on, carry it on.”

Literally or figuratively, each of us must see the person beside us walking; we must hear the voice within us talking, and the word within us saying: Carry on, Carry it on! Over the course of nearly two and one half centuries, Americans have basked in the glow of noble ideals. Many acts of heroism have been committed on behalf of these uplifting premises and enduring purposes. Nonetheless, we, as a people, have been nowhere near as good as our words. In a nation founded on the premises of human equality and unalienable rights, a large proportion of the population was enslaved.

This moral contradiction persisted until the internecine blood bath known as the Civil War drowned it out. After nearly four years of war committing families against families and section against section, the Slave Power was defeated and actual, legalized slavery was destroyed. It was only a short time, however, that the bigotry nurtured in the Slave Power reasserted itself and ushered in nearly a century of unabashed White Supremacy and rampant race-based injustice under the general caption – Jim Crow.

Almost as soon as the guns fell silent in the Civil War, Southern states instituted a practice known as “convict leasing.”  This scheme essentially restored slavery and provided "one of the harshest and most exploitative labor systems known in American history." Due to zealous and selective law enforcement and biased sentencing, African Americans, mostly adult males, made up the vast majority—but not all—of the convicts leased. Douglas A. Blackmon describes convict leasing as follows: “a system in which armies of free men, guilty of no crimes and entitled by law to freedom, were compelled to labor without compensation, were repeatedly bought and sold, and were forced to do the bidding of white masters through the regular application of extraordinary physical coercion.” It is vital to note that this practice peaked in 1880 through 1928, but actually persisted until 1944 when Mississippi finally abandoned it.

They will tell their empty stories,
Send their dogs to bite our bodies,
They will lock us up in prison,
Carry on, carry it on.


Perpetrators of oppression and racial injustice will lie and propagandize. They will provide disinformation rather than information; they will impugn the character of the victims of injustice and extol the virtue of the purveyors of injustice. They will use dogs, fire hoses, rubber bullets, tear gas and laser sighting to harm or threaten those who protest. They will arbitrarily imprison and unfairly intimidate protesters and those covering the protests.

“The people of Ferguson and those in solidarity with them took to the streets within a context of racial repression broader than just one horrific shooting. Between 2005 and 2012, African-Americans have been killed by white police officers at the rate of nearly twice a week. In the month preceding Brown’s slaying, police in this country killed at least four unarmed black men. And in a state like Missouri, African-American drivers are the targets of 92 percent of vehicle searches conducted by police, even though illegal items are found in less than 25 percent of these searches.” This zealous and selective law enforcement persists until this day. Black men are imprisoned at wildly disproportionate rates. For White males, roughly 1 in 106 are incarcerated versus 1 in 15 for African American males and 1 in 36 for Hispanic males. Although Black and Brown people are roughly 30 percent of the general population, they are 60 percent of the prison population. “African Americans were twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police.” 

Furthermore, African American women are imprisoned three times more often than white women although women are generally imprisoned at low rates overall.

These disparities in the criminal justice system also deprive Black Americans of their civil rights in many insidious ways. 5.3 million Americans are denied the right to vote based on a past felony conviction. Racial disparities in felony conviction in the criminal-justice system, ultimately denies 13 percent of African American men the right to vote. Such policies have resulted in 11 states denying the right to vote to over 10 percent of their African American population.

This zealous and selective law enforcement, mass imprisonment and consequent over-representation of minorities within the criminal justice and prison system; have imposed an adverse impact on people of color and on their communities. American citizens have met barriers to reintegration into society and to engagement in the democratic process. “Eliminating the racial disparities inherent to our nation’s criminal-justice policies and practices must be at the heart of a renewed, refocused, and re-energized movement for racial justice in America.”

When you can't go on any longer,
Take the hand, hand of your brother,
Every victory brings another,
Carry it on, carry it on.
Carry on, carry it on.

At the heart of racial profiling lurks a presumption of guilt and danger that is unjustly applied to every black person living in America. This changes the relationships among the citizenry and of a portion of the citizenry with authorities.  Black Americans must be on guard against challenges, confrontations, and charges, in a way utterly unfamiliar to White Americans. “Racial profiling does long-term damage to the self-image, self-esteem and ego of the African American,” and it does pervasive damage to the unity and vitality of the body politic. While we White Americans have not directly experienced this toxic suspicion and simmering hostility, we know it exists unless we are willfully ignorant or consumed with prejudice.  Brief reflection would make it clear this situation is neither just nor beneficial. If we do not unite with our fellow Americans to seek and destroy this persistent malady, it will mortally sicken the nation we claim to love.

As you read these words, consider for a moment, actions each of us can take to help expunge the affliction of racial bigotry from our society. March in solidarity, write to our state and national representatives, speak out at city council and school board meetings, blog or write to editors of periodicals, the options are as diverse as each of us. The only thing we must not do is to sit silently by, and to let the death of Michael Brown become just another statistic in a depressing list of them. 
         

The picture below shows twenty-four people either killed by police or who died in police custody under dubious circumstances over a period of twenty-four years. 


In addition, many other citizens have been subjected to harassment, false imprisonment, and various indignities mainly because they were Black. Selective, overzealous, law enforcement affects Black women as well as Black males.  Alberta Spruill, a 57-year-old New York City employee who was just about to leave for her job, died shortly after a battering ram broke down her apartment door and a flash grenade was heaved into the apartment at 6:00 a. m. The cops handcuffed the quiet church-going Black woman, who tells them she has a heart condition. An ambulance was finally dispatched at 6:32 a. m. Upon arrival at the hospital at 8 a.m., an hour and a half later, Alberta was pronounced dead. What did police find in her apartment? Nothing – no guns, no drugs, and no vicious dogs – they were in the wrong place if there even was a right place. This raid was wrong from the start and the way it was conducted displayed no concern for the human beings inside the targeted apartment.

Kametra Barbour, a mother of three children ages 6, 8, and 9, was pulled over by police in Forney, Texas, following up on a 911 call. The caller described a tan or brown Toyota with four Black males waving a gun. Ms. Barbour drives a burgundy Nissan, is a woman, and had three children and no guns in the car. Despite this, police claimed she and her children “fit the description.”  The only thing Ms. Barbour and her children had in common with the caller’s description was that they were Black. http://www.msnbc.com/politicsnation/watch/mother-mistakenly-handcuffed-by-police-323448899852?cid=eml_mpn_20140902

To paraphrase President Kennedy's Civil Rights Address from June, 1963, “We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is the land of the free except for Blacks; that we have no second-class citizens except Blacks; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettos, no master race except with respect to Blacks?” Of course in 1963, President Kennedy said Negroes, but his words still apply today, as do these:

“One hundred years of delay [151 years] have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.”

Our country, our compatriots, our children and we deserve better than this. This is not a problem that concerns only our Black sisters and brothers. It is a problem that concerns us all and one that should engage and enrage us all. It is time for us to be as good as the magnificent words to which every American has fallen heir. We must now join together, work together, and stick together until this nation is finally as good and as great as it was meant and ought to be. 

A quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin, says, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” Regardless of who said it, the observation is true. All White Americans of goodwill and authentic patriotism must become outraged by the flagrant and widespread injustice of overzealous policing inflicted on Black Americans [and to a lesser extent, Latino Americans]. It is time for every American to look past the hue to the human. The time for indifference is long since passed because when one American’s rights are violated all Americans’ rights are violated.

As you read these words, consider for a moment, actions each of us can take to help expunge the affliction of racial bigotry from our society. March in solidarity, write to our state and national representatives, speak out at city council and school board meetings, blog or write to editors of periodicals, the options are as diverse as each of us. The only thing we must not do is to sit silently by, and to let the death of Michael Brown become just another statistic in a depressing list of them.

14 August, 2014

We Need a Revolution!


rt.com

I say we need a revolution.
I say it’s time to change the world.
I say we can’t wait on evolution.
Right now - let our banner be unfurled.

Don’t talk to me about destruction.
You know the police brought all this about
We know they won’t do right.
I say it’s time we rise and fight.

We know there is a real solution
We know we have faced these goons before
Now is the time for revolution
So peaceful lads will be shot dead no more

I say we cannot timidly stand by. 
I say we must do all we can.
Now is the time for revolution. 
Now is the time to do or die. 

People with small minds just have to hate
I’m telling you now it's not too late
We will act to set this right.
We won’t be cowed by shows of might.

You know it is in the Constitution.
We truly have the right on our side.
You know bigotry is an institution.
I say, it’s time that institution died.

We will fight alongside our brothers.
And with our sisters make a stand.
This time we ain't going to let them fool us
Freedom must ring throughout the land.

Don’t you know we’re going to fight!
We are fighting for the right!
We will keep going day and night.
Until justice is done and things set right!