22 March, 2011

Pledge of Allegiance and the Four Freedoms

Those rushing to slash programs at the federal and state levels on which millions depend to sustain freedom from want and fear should consider this. We make this pledge casually, but we should keep it carefully.

Are we or are we not, loyal to the ideals upon which this nation was founded?

20 March, 2011

Up to Us - Rise and Renew National Unity and Global Sanity

On March 19, 2011, Askcherlock wrote on BrooWaha these perceptive and thought provoking words - "The guilt belongs to you and me, the society of people lavished with riches. And what was built can be torn asunder by our own silence. It’s comin’ to our door, Baby. I know that. ‘Cause we only cared about our own appetites and fed ourselves plenty. Now the world has gone mad and I just need you to sing to me, Baby, while I try to pray for lost souls and scattered angels." The insights are hers, but the emphasis is mine. Roughly, two weeks previously, she had cited Professor Andrew J. Bacevich from Boston University as follows: "Transformation is not something that outsiders can induce or impose or control. The process is organic, spontaneous and self-sustaining.” She then observed, "What a profound theory and one I have supported since our war on terror began."

These splendid appeals to reason and benevolence merit prolonged attention. Let us never forget it is perfectly possible and eminently patriotic to fervently oppose war and ardently support those whom ill-conceived orders have placed in harm’s way.

In this context, I respectfully offer the following thoughts and observations.

It is easy to be hostile. It is risky to trust. In a world gone mad and a nation divided, free-floating hostility is a predictable response.

Hostility nourishes and supports the ego. Trust requires lowering one’s guard, risking disappointment, and testing one’s character.

Hostility can be very dramatic, complicated and sophisticated. It can make one appear quite impressive to others. It can camouflage cowardice and make it pass for courage. It drapes cravenness in the cloak of valor. It drowns out the whimpers of a quaking soul with the roar of rage.

Trust, on the other hand, is an expression of sincerity, humanity and composure. Others could be suspicious of our intentions, resentful of our efforts or envious of our fortitude.

Those who choose hostility, expend a great deal of energy and effort to maintain their state of rage. By contrast, those choose trust actually, gain vigor and resilience from the additional options and positive perspectives this choice brings to light.

The choice between hostility and trust is one we all must make in each moment, repeatedly, day after day. Choosing the former rips and rends the social fabric; choosing the latter strengthens its warp and woof.

The far, far better course for our children, our nation, and ourselves is to run the risk deception and disappointment and endure the errors and betrayals, which are humanity’s lot, after all, than to promote and practice aggression and suspicion. The first course offers the hope of revival and deliverance. The second course far too commonly precedes cruelty and conflict. Whether we choose hostility or trust is completely up to us.

We, the people, are the true sovereigns in the Republic. Despite the relentless efforts of those who would divide us in order to rule us, we can strum the mystic chords of memory and summon to our aid the better angels of our nature. In years to come, will we look into the eyes of children we love about and tell them “We had the opportunity to make a difference, but lacked the courage to try?”

For the sake of the Republic and the land we love, let us rise and restore Power to the People.

18 March, 2011

He's the One

In 2010, David Koch, spent $250,000 on attack ads in a single week, to defeat him. Mr. Koch, incidentally, inherited his $17 billion fortune from his father. This fortune was made by helping to industrialize and arm the Soviet Union when it was America’s mortal enemy. Along with his brother, Koch is the owner of the second largest private company in the United States. This company, Koch Industries, is one of the top 10 air polluters in the United States and they have caused more than 300 oil spills and paid more than $35 million in pollution fines. Furthermore, Koch Industries received more than $100 million in government contracts in the first decade of the twenty-first century. On a long-standing contract to extract oil from federal and Indian lands, Koch was found guilty of underpaying the government by $21 million.

In the 2010 mid-term elections the "60 Plus Association” poured over $600,000 into negative ads against him. The "60 Plus Association" has been characterized by AARP as a front for PhRMA – the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufactures of America.
The Executive Director for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) said that he was the Republicans’ Number One Target for 2010. The NRCC vowed they would do whatever it took to defeat him. To keep that vow, the NRCC spent $817,000 of its own money. That was in addition to all the other money spent by reactionary funding sources to defeat him.

Sarah Palin sent a Twitter message to her followers to “take him out.”

Glenn Beck described him as a despicable human being. This is precisely how Mr. Beck seems to feel about Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the evil genius, Woodrow Wilson. Glenn Beck said, “It’s okay if the Republicans lose every seat in the Senate and the House except for one as long as that one is him losing.” Beck then said he was more embarrassing than Al Franken and all his efforts to defend Net Neutrality, cut taxpayer subsidies to oil companies, and protect women working for government contractors from sexual assault.

Mike Huckabee, who falsely asserted President Obama, grew up in Kenya, declared our man to be the “neighborhood bully”. Mr. Huckabee took offense to the “outrageous remarks” attacking insurance companies for denying people both coverage and care due to “pre-existing conditions.”

Newt Gingrich who wrote a bad check to the IRS for nearly $10,000, who carried on an affair while his wife suffered from cancer, who visited his wife in a hospital while she recovered from surgery to discuss a divorce called him “fundamentally dishonorable” and a disgrace. This is the same Newt Gingrich the House of Representatives voted 395 to 28 to reprimand and fined $300,000 for ethics violations. Clearly, Mr. Gingrich knows first-hand about dishonor and disgrace.

Rush Limbaugh declared him “certifiably insane.” Mr. Limbaugh holds no degree at all let alone one in psychology or psychiatry. Mr. Limbaugh was drug addicted for years; Mr. Limbaugh was arrested for criminal fraud; Mr. Limbaugh made fun of Michael J. Fox for having Parkinson’s disease and he called Chelsea Clinton the “White House dog.” Nonetheless, Rush feels entitled to impugn another man’s sanity.

Conservative groups spent $1.7 million to defeat him in the 2010 mid-term campaign. This was just under 20% of their $9 million dollar total expenditures. Yet he represented less than 0.25% of America at the time. This was his first term in Congress. He had no seniority; he did not sit on the most powerful committees.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Democracy for America named him the Number One Hero in the U S House of Representatives. DFA began in 2001 through the leadership of Governor Howard Dean. It has over a million members and seeks to organize support for progressive candidates all over the country.

He routinely refuses to do as he is told. He insists on being candid and even blunt. He will not back down. Progressives cheered his legislative style for its unapologetic self-assurance. He gained prominence as a lawyer by successfully suing wayward military contractors who profited from the American invasion of Iraq in 2003.

He sought to be re-elected for the sake of the battered middle class, the jobless, the homeless, the sick, the poor, the hungry and the desperate. He fought for all those who longed once again to believe in America. He wanted to demonstrate that America could be as good as it should be. He championed the idea and ideals of America, not merely the territory and the populace. For him, America was a premise and a promise. The premise remains sound, but the promise remains unfulfilled. He sought to legislate effectively to move us all closer to where we might and ought to be. In his sole term in Congress, he sought to restore the American dream and end so many American nightmares. He sought to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.

He is the one who on Labor Day of 2010 declared:

“Today is Labor Day. All across America, millions of people are discovering that the best way to celebrate Labor Day is by not working.

“Do you live to work, or do you work to live?

“If you are married, look at your wedding album; are there any pictures in there of you at work?

“On your tombstone, do you want it to say, "I wish that I could have spent more time at work"?

“Here is what Robert Kennedy had to say about this, 42 years ago:
"Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product ... if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

"Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."

“I look forward to a Labor Day where every worker has a job, every worker has a pension, every worker has paid vacations, and every worker has the health care to enjoy life.

“My opponents call that France. I call it an America that is Number One in health, education, jobs, and happiness, but not number one in wasted military expenditures and the number of foreign lands occupied.

As Robert Kennedy famously said, “I dream things that never were and ask why not?” Why not? Let’s make it happen!

“And then, all of us who are Americans, including the ones today who are jobless, homeless, sick, suffering and almost hopeless, all of us can say, I am proud to be an American.”

On March 12, 2011, he is the one who said,

“Here and around the world, many people have fought and died, so that you and I would have the right to organize. They fought so that 250,000 public workers in Wisconsin would have that right too.”

“This is not exactly a new idea. Six months after the 1914 Ludlow Massacre, President Wilson signed the Clayton Act, prohibiting the prosecution of union members under Antitrust Law. That was almost a century ago.

“Two decades later, during Franklin Roosevelt’s first term as President, he signed the National Labor Relations Act into law. It protects the right to organize. That was over 75 years ago.

The right to organize is also a fundamental principle of international law. Over 150 countries have ratified the “Right to Organize” Convention, an international treaty. It was adopted in 1949, over 60 years ago.

“So why are we even talking about this, 11 years into the 21st Century?
“Because the teabaggers want to "take back America." They want to take it back, all right – take it all the way back to the 19th century. When there was no right to organize. When people worked for a dollar a day. When grown men competed against children for jobs. When women were barred from most jobs entirely. When you worked until you died.

“Not to mention slavery.

“I want to see an America that is healthy and wealthy.

“They want an America that provides cheap labor to our corporate overlords. An America where the middle class is chained by debt.

“We didn't ask for this fight. However, we have no choice except to fight back. For the survival of the middle class in America. For us, for our children, and for our grandchildren. And so that the victims in Haymarket, in Homestead and in Ludlow did not die in vain.”He is Alan Grayson. Until recently, he was a U. S. Congressman from Florida.

But again as Bobby Kennedy said –

"The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of bold projects and new ideas. Rather, it will belong to those who can blend passion, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals of American society."

If the Democratic Party has a genuine, worthwhile future in American politics, Alan Grayson is the one pointing most clearly toward it.

Let us stand up for America as it might and ought to be. Let us stand with Alan Grayson


Monster Redux

“What it’s really all about is despite the things that are wrong with our country there are too many good things worth saving to let the whole thing go down the drain. So I think we should get together as much as we can and bring about change.” John Kay - Steppenwolf Live

“Once the religious, the hunted and weary
Chasing the promise of freedom and hope
Came to this country to build a new vision
Far from the reaches of Kingdom and pope

Like good Christians some would burn the witches
Later some got slaves to gather riches”

In its origins, America began as a quest by some for freedom from the dominant powers of European civilization. This was not an all-embracing freedom, but a more limited self-regarding freedom. The Puritans wanted the freedom to impose their brand of Christianity on anyone they could bring within their sphere. Some like the Quakers in Pennsylvania and Roger Williams in Rhode Island wanted a more expansive freedom for all Christians. None of the English colonizers cared much about freedom for people with darker skin or the different physical features typical of Native Americans. Nonetheless, they were building a new vision despite the blind spots of superstition and racial bigotry.

“But still from near and far to seek America
They came by thousands, to court the wild
But she just patiently smiled and bore a child
To be their spirit and guiding light”

For much of Western Europe, America was the secular version of the Promised Land. It was still the new world. Immigration was constant and massive. Whatever risks and hardships were entailed did not discourage Europe’s tired, poor, tempest tossed, huddled masses, from taking the chance and making the journey to what would shortly become the United States of America.

“And once the ties with the crown had been broken
Westward in saddle and wagon it went
And till the railroad linked ocean to ocean
Many the lives which had come to an end

While we bullied, stole and bought a homeland
We began the slaughter of the red man”

From the Crisis of Valley Forge in 1776 to the “World Turned Upside Down” of Yorktown in 1781. America, as we know it, emerged from the mind, not from the mist. Within the splendid prose of the Declaration of Independence lay the promise of a new kind of nation and a new kind of nationality. Americans were not all from a common homeland; they did not all have the same ancestral customs and traditions. They often spoke differing first languages. A shared set of ideas and ideals about what it meant to be a human being and how to govern human beings properly bound them together. After winning the Revolutionary War, the Framers quickly realized the political arrangements needed strengthening and rationalization. Despite the squabble that ensued, the American mind triumphed again and produced the Republic and its hallowed Constitution.

Then, growth rapidly took off. Despite the brilliant ideas and shining ideals, bigotry, avarice, and ambition still prompted and excused a near genocide of others who stood in the way of our so-called “Manifest Destiny.” True, blue Americans bought, bullied, and stole the continent from the western slope of the Appalachian Mountains to the Pacific shore. While slaughtering the red men, women, and children, these same idealistic, high-minded Americans continued the crime of slavery and through trickery, treachery, and truly unprovoked aggression conquered the northern provinces of Mexico. As some Hispanics say today, “We did not cross the border the border crossed us.”

The actions of Americans, therefore, often fell far short of the aspirations expressed in the Republic’s founding documents. Nonetheless, those ideals were still there for all to see. Like an inextinguishable beacon, the radiance of these ideals penetrated the gloom of hubris pervading the mid-nineteenth century. Relentlessly, a furious storm approached that would “test whether this nation or any other nation so conceived and so dedicated would long endure.”

“The Blue and Grey they stomped it
They kicked it just like a dog
And when the war was over
They stuffed it just like a hog

And though the past has its share of injustice
Kind was the spirit in many a way
But its protectors and friends have been sleeping
Now it's a monster and will not obey”

When the storm broke, the Republic was one of five that existed on the planet. Virtually all other lands were governed as kingdoms or empires. If the Union split asunder, government of, by and for the people well may have perished from the earth. As the titanic struggle raged on to its high tide on Cemetery Ridge in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, its nature changed from a war for Union to a war for Union and Liberty. From the brave men who struggled on that hallowed ground, we the living inherited a solemn obligation and an enduring debt. It is for us, even 148 years later, to ensure by our actions that they shall not have died in vain. We must wake the protectors of the Republic and join their ranks ourselves. There is a monster abroad in the land, but it does not as some would have us believe, reside in Washington, D. C. It is not a Leviathan. It is a Hydra. There are many heads to this monster and they sit on necks that stretch back to a body lurking well beyond the bounds of government.

“The spirit was freedom and justice
And its keepers seemed generous and kind
Its leaders were supposed to serve the country
But now they won't pay it no mind
Cause the people grew fat and got lazy
Now their vote is a meaningless joke
They babble about law and order
But it's all just an echo of what they've been told”

The Republic’s spirit was and still is freedom and justice. The leaders most assuredly were to function by the consent of the governed, and regular, free, fair elections were intended to ensure that the individuals who gained our consent to lead us did not endeavor to rule us. As Jefferson warned, however, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance and the more successful the nation became, the less vigilant the citizenry remained. Furthermore, powerful parties with enormous reach and resources, from the Liberty League and the DuPont brothers of the 1930’s to American Crossroads and the Koch brothers of today, diligently worked to manipulate information and influence votes among both the electorate and the legislators. This is not something the government did, but something that was done to and through the government. Several distinct, but compatible, individuals and groups have pursued the objective of capturing the hearts and minds of the populace so that the government would thoroughly serve the interests of the wealthy and the corporations. This is not and never was a conspiracy, but a common cause unifying the uncommonly affluent. Money fights hard and money fights dirty. Over the last eighty years of American political life, this has been repeatedly demonstrated.

The actions of this symbolic beast contradict the expressed hopes of many of the Republic’s Founders. As Jefferson expressed them, “I may err in my measures, but never shall deflect from the intention to fortify the public liberty by every possible measure and put it out of the power of the few to riot on the labor of others.” It is odd that a slaveholder should think this the proper role of government, but the sentiment is no less instructive because it originated with one whose life seemed partly to contradict it. Incidentally, Jefferson used the term riot to mean, “Unrestrained indulgence”.

Yeah, there's a monster on the loose
It's got our heads into the noose
And it just sits there watchin'

The Hydra keeps trying to advance toward its goal of transforming the Republic into a predator state that uses legislation and the police power to make cannon fodder and twenty-first century serfs out of the great mass of the populace. The distorted conception of the proper configuration of society that the Hydra has been spreading in books, speeches, and broadcasts has placed unrestrained economic activity at the center of the social desideratum. Usually this is expressed as reverence for and homage to the Market. To the extent this arrangement is implemented, some individuals and corporations approach complete freedom from the boundaries of nations, the burdens of taxation and regulation, and the bonds of patriotism. They are unrestrained in the pursuit of ever-increasing profits and fortunes. Everyone else is simply a resource for the voracious engine of unbridled, globalized capitalism.

The cities have turned into jungles
And corruption is stranglin' the land
The police force is watching the people
And the people just can't understand
We don't know how to mind our own business
'Cause the whole world's got to be just like us
Now we are fighting a war over there
No matter who's the winner we can't pay the cost"

The supplanting of the Republic by the Market in the hearts and minds of the people and in the procedures and preferences of our society yields a deterioration of the cities and a debasement of civic life, most especially in political discourse, decisions, and policymaking. Surveillance becomes a priority and Constitutional limitations are regarded as quaint and impractical in the panic induced by the poisonous influence of reactionary prejudices and grudges against people who are alien. This panic is not simply a heightened variant of the reasonable concern about properly identified and authenticated adversaries. It is much broader and impervious to rational argument. The purpose of the panic is not to promote security, but to induce submission. The consistent theme pushed by the Hydra with all its multiple heads and pervasive fuming is “be afraid, be very afraid.” Do not stop to think. Do not ask questions. Do what you are told. Whether the topic is war against some purportedly hostile power or cuts in government programs there is no time to think. Action must be taken! Liberties must be foregone; rights must be surrendered. The nation is in mortal danger!

Despite the clanging alarms and the frantic appeals to give up rights and share sacrifice, all patriotic citizens must pause and reflect. Rash action will almost surely prove to be wrong action. The Republic was not set up to facilitate rushing to judgment. It was set up to cultivate and effectuate considered action by an informed and unified people. Therefore, we must send forth the call --

“America, where are you now
Don't you care about your sons and daughters
Don't you know we need you now
We can't fight alone against the monster”

This call goes forth not to Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, but simply to citizens. Now, party labels only deepen divisions. For far too long and far too much, those who would lead the nation have operated based on positions they think popular rather than principles they hold true and purposes they deem vital. The denigration of politics, the degradation of public discourse, and the distortion of the Republic into a caricature called “government” has allowed the Hydra to rant and rampage across the land almost twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. This clarion call needs to pierce the din and traverse the chasms. It needs to remind every man, woman, and child that “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature."

The Hydra has tried to set us against one another. It has played on our petty fears, our private suspicions, and our personal jealousies. It has tried to make us see ourselves as atomized consumers struggling in the war of each against all for the drops that trickle down from lavish banquet table of the elite. In the process, Americans lost the meaning and vision of America as the last, best hope of humankind.

Now is the time to reclaim and reassert this meaning and vision. To do so we must heed the appeal of Thomas Paine in the February 1776, Third Edition of Common Sense [slightly paraphrased], “instead of gazing at each other with suspicious or doubtful curiosity, let each of us hold out to his neighbor the hearty hand of friendship, and unite in drawing a line, which, like an act of oblivion, shall bury in forgetfulness every former dissension. Let the names of Whig [Liberal} and Tory [Conservative] be extinct; and let none other be heard among us, than those of a good citizen, an open and resolute friend, and a virtuous supporter of the RIGHTS of HUMANKIND, and of the FREE AND INDEPENDENT Constitutional Republic of the United STATES OF AMERICA”.

America, where are you now
Don't you care about your sons and daughters
Don't you know we need you now
We can't fight alone against the monster

The only honorable response is we are right here! You need not fight alone. Then, “With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it. And the glow from that fire can truly light the world.”