Tuesday, January 18, 2011
These Special Interest driven, Libertarian theories, are more Darwinian in nature and predatory in execution—a "survival of the fittest" mentality that preys on the weakest and most vulnerable. They exalt in their hubris and greed and protect themselves and their special interests by persuading congress with large campaign contributions, into privatizing and deregulating our government. The net result was banks could prey on the people with predatory lending, exorbitant interest rates and service fees as examples—forcing this nation into near bankruptcy. And then unabashedly, they're bought and paid for congress, stood firmly as a block against the Democratic efforts to re-establish financial reform regulations. They are the worst fear of the founding fathers coming true.
The founders saw the establishment of government as a matter of practicality—its establishment sprang from the belief that the (virtuous) people could and should govern themselves and the bedrock foundation of government, should be based on absolute moral and civic virtue. In other words the absolute necessity to do what is morally right for "promoting the general welfare." They were driven by the ideal that the government should be a neutral arbiter of what was just and morally right. Impartial to a fault.
However the founders were torn by the reality of the human nature at its absolute worst—and whether the ideal they envisioned—a government of the (virtuous) people, by the (virtuous) people, and for the (virtuous) people—was achievable.
Their careful inclusion of the intricate system of checks and balances, which we now take for granted was their best effort to ensure that those ideals would survive the onslaught of a minority or majority of corrupt, self serving men. That fear and apprehension was best expressed in The Federalist #10 by James Madison, writing under the pseudonym of Publius—he expressed his fear that "the greatest danger to a democratic republican form of government was the tyranny of a minority or of a majority faction." In today's terminology a faction would be a special interest group, who either as a majority or a minority would put their own interest above what is just and right for either another group of citizens or even the greater good of the nation.
What Madison said about the size of Government.
Madison recognized that a small democracy cannot avoid the dangers of majority faction because, "small size means that undesirable passions can very easily spread to a majority of the people, which can then enact its will through the democratic government without difficulty. He then makes an argument in favor of a large republic against a small republic for the choice of “fit characters” (representatives) to represent the public’s voice. In a large republic where the number of voters and candidates is greater, the probability to elect competent representatives is broader. The voters have a wider option. In a small republic it would also be easier for the candidates to fool the voters, while in a large one, harder."
Madison goes on in favor of a large republic, and explains that, "in a small republic there will be a lower variety of interests and parties, so more frequently a majority will be found. The number of participants of that majority, will be lower, and considering they live in a more limited territory, it would be easier for them to agree and work together for the accomplishment of their ideas. While in a large republic the variety of interests will be greater so to make it harder to find a majority. Even if there is a majority it would be harder for them to work together because of the large number of people and the fact they are spread out in a wider territory."
The fact that Madison's view was adopted as the majority view—that a large powerful robust government is the best protection against the corrupt self serving nature of man—is evident in the Constitution, as it was written, and flies in the face of the lie that our government is "too large."
Commentary: Our founding fathers did discuss the size and tone of the government, and knew that size does matter. The bigger and more robust the better. The Republican attempts to privatize and deregulate the government is nothing short of treachery. And makes a mockery of their so called, "love for the Constitution" and phony patriotism, when they are steadily trying to undermine our government at every turn.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
This is an article from CommonDreams.org—reprinted in its entirety here—echos many of the same conclusions I have come to after much thought about the political climate in this country.
Published on Friday, January 14, 2011 by CommonDreams.org
Is Fascism Lurking?
by Danny Schechter
Fascism is one of those words that sounds like it belongs in the past, conjuring up, as it does, marching jack boots in the streets, charismatic demagogues like Italy's Mussolini or Spain's Franco and armed crackdowns on dissent and freedom of expression.
It is a term we are used to reading in histories about World War II--not in news stories from present day America.
And yet the word, and the dark reality behind it, is creeping into popular contemporary usage.
Radical activists on the left have never been hesitant to label their opponents with this "F word" whenever governments support laws that limit opposition or overdo national security or abuse human rights. Government paranoia turns critics paranoid.
One example: writer Naomi Wolf forecast fascism creeping into America during the Bush years accelerated by the erosion of democracy, writing:
"It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable - as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here."
Wolf feared Americans couldn't see the warning signs:
"Because Americans like me were born in freedom, we have a hard time even considering that it is possible for us to become as unfree - domestically - as many other nations. Because we no longer learn much about our rights or our system of government - the task of being aware of the constitution has been outsourced from citizens' ownership to being the domain of professionals such as lawyers and professors - we scarcely recognize the checks and balances that the founders put in place, even as they are being systematically dismantled. Because we don't learn much about European history, the setting up of a department of "homeland" security - remember who else was keen on the word "homeland" - didn't raise the alarm bells it might have."
Now, those bells are now being rung by John Hall, an outgoing Democratic Congressman from upstate New York. His fear of fascism has less to do with repressive laws and militarism than the influx of corporate money into politics, swamping it with special interests that buy influence for right wing policies and politicians.
"I learned when I was in social studies class in school that corporate ownership or corporate control of government is called Fascism," he told the New York Observer. "So that's really the question-- is that the destination if this court decision goes unchecked?"
Reports New York's Observer, "The court decision he is referring to is Citizens United, the controversial Supreme Court ruling that led to greater corporate spending in the midterm elections, much of it anonymous. In the wake of the decision, Democrats tried to pass the DISCLOSE Act, which would have mandated that corporate donors identify themselves in their advertising, but the measure failed amid GOP opposition. Ads from groups with anonymous donors were particularly prone to misleading or false claims."
Hall said the influx of corporate money in the wake of Citizens United handed the House of Representatives to Republicans. "Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of State and corporate power."
Many in mainstream politics who understand that big money can dominate elections although not in every case share Hall's fears. In California, two well-known female candidates from the corporate world raised millions but still went down in defeat.
So money alone is not the be all and end all of a shift towards a red white and blue brand of fascism. Other ingredients are needed and some may be on the way-like an economic collapse, defeat in foreign wars, rise in domestic terrorism and the emergence of a right-wing populist movement that puts order before justice and wants to crush its opponents
Some argue we have just such a movement in the Tea Party although other critics focus on the rise of the Christian right that promotes fundamentalist politics in the name of God.
The Tea Party is not just after Democrats; it has started a campaign against the liberal Methodist Church. It is not internally democratic either with no elected officers or set of by by-laws. It seems to be managed and manipulated by shadowy political operatives and PR firms, financed by a few billionaires who support populism to defang it.
Already militias are forming because of fears of immigration, and there is also concern that if unemployment remains high there is likely to be more violence with police forces understaffed because of government cutbacks. Gun sales went up after the recent violent incidents in Arizona.
The erosion of economic stability with the rise of foreclosures and the shredding of social services is already turning a financial crisis into a social one.
We already have sharp partisan divide and inflation of hateful rhetoric with vicious putdowns of the President and condemnations by members of Congress calling him corrupt, even a traitor.
According to set of the characteristics of fascist nations, there is "a disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights - Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
"In place of human rights enemies are turned into scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists." This process is already far along in the USA.
Among the classical characteristics of fascism is a shutting down of debate and a focus on the state--which in our country is controlled by lobbyists and private interests. Wall Street and the military-industrial complex have far more clout than elected officials.
In the past, during the depression, there was a plot to overthrow Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It was exposed and neutered. Could something like that happen again?
Maybe it doesn't have to, what with hawks already in control of Congress, major media outlets, the military and poised to slash the power of unions and curb progressive social programs including public education.
Several writers believe that if and when fascism comes to America it will be packaged in a friendly form tied to beneficial advertising slogans and public interest messaging. It will be sold, 1984-style as being unavoidable, even cool, and in our best interest.
Louisiana Senator Huey Long, a mesmerizing agitator, once said, "Fascism will come to America in the name of anti-fascism."Mediachannel’s News Dissector Danny Schechter investigates the origins of the economic crisis in his new book Plunder: Investigating Our Economic Calamity and the Subprime Scandal (Cosimo Books via Amazon). Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Commentary: A reader of this article on CommonDreams.org, asked a question of another poster who had made this observation: "Wars and military expansion can go on for about 7 years before they start costing more than they contribute to the economy." The posters response in part was: Q. We've been at our wars for nearly 11yrs now, when do we stop? My response was: A. When they have bankrupted the country and panic sets in, after people realize how dependent they are on credit which is no longer flowing. We are the frogs in a slowly warming kettle. I believe that the massive tax cut for the rich, two wars, the part D corporate welfare bill, and the dubious last minute collapse of the financial system, was a deliberate way to skim trillions of dollars out of the economy and assured the Radical Right would get another crack at imposing an even more drastic authoritarian regime when the country devolves into open conflict. Its closer than you think. Fascism is not lurking in the shadows anymore—it has found it's scapegoats, the left and all things liberal—and it is rearing its ugly violent hate filled head here in America—and is about to devour this Democratic Republic.
Monday, January 3, 2011
As a teenager, I became best friends with Anne's son, Kevin. What stands out in my memory was how Anne's eyes lit up when anyone approached her, the warmth of her smile would embrace you even before she hugged you.
Her son, Kevin, became like a brother to me, and Anne my surrogate mom. In the years after graduation, over time and distance, our contacts became less frequent. But, Anne was faithful, and every year we received her Christmas Letter, with all the news that had happened in the previous year, it followed us like a thread, and remained a constant connection, that often brought back cherished memories I had shared with her family.
I remember one Christmas Letter in particular, she sent an article about my maternal grandfather Michael Fitzgerald, who I had been named after but had never met. That was Anne...thoughtful, kind, and generous with her time and affection. My wife Shellie became concerned when we didn't get her letter this year and felt in her heart that something must be wrong.
Smart, funny, bright: Anne won many contests with her skill as a writer. I don't remember what the prizes were, or how many, but some were esoteric to say the least, and she poked fun at her self if you made too much of her prowess. And she would regale you with the time she won a cow and 500 pounds of butter, or some such odd tidbit. And then she'd smile. She loved to ambush you with her humor. The butter is my invention, but, I think she did actually win a cow.
She was devoted to her husband, Clarence, who was the neighborhood fix-it man. He was from an era when a man's basement and garage were his absolute domain. Clarence could...and did... repair almost any item he came across. He is the epitome of a gentleman. Quite, unassuming, I know, that he was Anne's rock. Steady and patient he doted on Anne, and she on him. If Anne was my surrogate mom; Clarence is my surrogate dad; and Ed, my older brother. I love them all.
The last time I saw Anne and Clarence was the day before they moved to Reno to live with Ed and Irene. The first thing she said with a big smile was, "You were on my bucket list." It shocked me to hear that, but as it sunk in, I was honored to be among one of the last people she wanted to see before she passed.
I didn't say it then, but, Anne and Clarence, you were at the very top of my bucket list too.
An Irish Funeral Prayer
Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Everything remains as it was.
The old life that we lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged.
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by the old familiar name.
Speak of me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no sorrow in your tone.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effort
Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was.
There is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well. Nothing is hurt; nothing is lost.
One brief moment and all will be as it was before.
How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting, when we meet again.