Thursday, December 30, 2010

American Espionage Act of 1917 and Julian Assange

UPDATE on March 10, Julian Assange is concerned about getting "extradited to the United States" under the unconstitutional Espionage Act of 1917-1918.  The American Rosenbergs were executed under the enforcement of this act on falsified charges. I guess the government executed the Rosenbergs to give people one more reason to fear the Russians as well as give the country a vivid lesson in how to avoid becoming a scapegoat by having ideas contrary to those in power. Not that the Russian officials weren't as crazy as the American officials. Just different approaches to enforcements against the freedom and rights of individuals. Not that the Rosenbergs gave anything to anyone or wanted America to become Russia. In the newsclip from Democracy Now!, Joe Biden accuses Julian Assange of being "closer to a high-tech terrorist" than was Daniel Ellsberg, who exposed the Pentagon Papers. What an odd statement to make. Daniel Ellsberg became a hero of the American people for his expose. I think we have to stand behind Julian Assange's expose in order to support the free speech of journalists.

We have to ask ourselves the questions that get evoked by Biden's accusations? What does the accusation mean in context of democracy? Free speech?  Modern governance?  Should a vice president use the word terrorism with such confidence? Should anyone in or out of government? What effects do his words have on the general population? On those who want transparency in government? In those who promote democracy? Promote free speech? Peace? We have to ask the hard questions, the ones that make us uncomfortable.

I'm not so sure the government can ethically demand secrecy under the name of national security or wars each time it gets embarrassed or angry or feels threatened by an act of free speech. But those are its buzz words during our lifetime. War. Terrorism. War. Terrorism. War. Terrorism. In engaging in a constant war on terror, the government has assumed the right to be right on any subject in the name of national security.  Voicing such accusations against acts of free speech journalism is poor global leadership. It shows a lack of political wisdom. We have to move on from the habit of bullying one another into submission or obedience.

The monarchies in the past stated there existed a natural order that must never be questioned or disrupted. Of course, the kings and queens and nobles were at the top of the ruling order and determined their own privileges that included most of the money and land. What was in it for them? I mean psychologically as well as socially? We have to begin looking at all the facets of the questions and our own answers.

Colbert has the right idea in making fun of the international manhunt against Assange.

Here's the Democracy Now! video again on the latest on this situation.

Here's a series of videos again on Daniel Ellsberg's website.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Austerity of Spirit--Question of the Day 12-21-2010

In the spirit of freedom and peace, and in a desire to live in a world without wars and out of control surveillance, how can we as a global humanity--if we insist on money buys all for now-- give the wealthy and powerful elite enough of their own money to live on in luxury, forfeiting only their excesses,  so that the rest of us can take the excessive amounts of money and use it toward improving humanity: to end poverty, oppression, and exploitation world wide; to upgrade infrastructures, improve schools,  protect animals, advance medicine and science, aid the outcasts, protect women and children,  replace the prisons with centers or even hospitals and promote the arts and crafts?  When are we going to find that greed and myopic terrorism on the many by the few is a dying rope of the past we have to disentangle from everyday lives, once and for all, and lay to rest?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Paul Krugman: When Zombies Win

Paul Krugman says, "When historians look back at 2008-10, what will puzzle them most, I believe, is the strange triumph of failed ideas. Free-market fundamentalists have been wrong about everything — yet they now dominate the political scene more thoroughly than ever."

Musing On The Obamaesque Compromise--Obama's Tax Cut for the Rich

It's true, I don't find us as a very advanced civilization. I'm talking about the contemporary world. Not just because of the never-ending wars, the cheating and slander, the cruelty, the exploitation, the greed and the body scanners at the airports. But for two even worse conditions. First, because of the irrationality that force-feeds our collective imagination. It comes in ads and in sound bites. Every time I check to see what's going on outside, I hear the same narrative: can't get a car, can't get a house, can't get groceries, can't have kids, can't fly a plane, can't go to school, can't go to the doctor, can't go on vacation, can't explore space, can't  do adequate research to cure our current diseases, can't create art, can't do an archaeological dig, can't clean up the pollution, can't run for office, can't fix the economy. The repetition is driving me crazy. So is the rationale behind the can'ts. It's always the same: can't do it, not enough money. 

I can't help but suspect something inherently absurd, comic and tragic, at the base for this kind of thinking.

Reductio ad Absurdum

 It makes so little sense to me, I hope I'm in some other dimension looking in on a me (yes, a me)  in this dimension, one doing research on the irrationality of a civilization that stubbornly forfeits benefits to itself by clinging to an arbitrarily created stop and go sign, money. I hope I never see the benefits of this kind of stop sign. It will surely mean I have gone mad.  Why would any social group not want all of its members maximum security and health, education and freedom in order to explore and excel without fences or prisons? Surely doing so could only improve the society, don't you think?

Why is it we believe that without money some of us can't get cured, can't get a house, can't own a library of books? Why is it we can't conduct medical research to the edge of what is possible, we can't individually set ourselves on a life long program of study without unwanted interruptions even though the materials to do so exist, we can't devote our lives to individual creative pursuits even though the materials to do so exist?

Why is it we can't travel the world easily even though the means of transportation exist?  How frustrating for us as a modern civilization to invent a system in which all but a few must hold back from pursuits because they do not have the money to go forward. It seems to take no time to put up opportunity toll booths, It seems to take no time to maintain a wide network of intersecting toll booths that require everything one owns now and in the future. We are jammed packed at the toll booths, an invention of our own making. Worse, we are crowded into hundreds of them at a time. What kind of narrative to live out is that?

I'm trying to understand the benefit to maintaining a system of toll booth just inches apart. At this stop and go rate, I'll never get out of my neighborhood.

Maybe it's me. Maybe I'm the odd one out here.Maybe I should figure out a way to get everyone else's money and make it mine and mine alone.

My Dream

It goes back to my frequent recurring dream as a child, perhaps. It started very early, probably around nine or ten years old. Maybe even younger. The dream continued through my late teen years. Sometimes it still returns. I find myself in the middle of a highly structured environment in which  everyone in some sense, which is unclear in the dream, is the same. I think in clothes. Everyone must wear the same clothes. Or live by some code that is imprinted in their lives in some way. Meanwhile, anyone  not in uniform, so to speak, is on the list of people to find and redress.  I'm one of the people on the list. Soldiers are scouring the city for people on the list. I don't think the soldiers are ordered to kill us. But to clothe us in some uniform, which then makes you passive. My first instinct is to get away, to find safety in the familiar families I know. I must get away from my parents, whom the soldiers have already clothed. I run to a friend's house for safety. But no matter whose home I run to for safety. It's always the same. The soldiers have already been there. The household is clothed in the uniform. What follows is also always the same. The families tell me the soldiers are coming for me, but I still have time to get away. So, I take provisions and leave. I go to the next place and find the same situation. My journey from family to family repeats itself until I awake. A few times I believe I was caught. But in those dreams I hesitated either out of sentimentality or out of uncertainty. Luckily, in the dream, I always manage to find a route out from captivity.

The dream now strikes me as my struggle to keep my imagination intact.

Obama's Compromise

So what does this musing have to do with Obama's latest signing, his tax cut for the rich? I'll get there by the end of this.

Like a lot of people I watched Obama's joy at being able to say he compromised in a bi-partisan manner as if the act of getting his signature on anything--a ghost pen of the health care reform--remained the goal without too much consideration for the content as long as it didn't backfire. He got his picture taken shaking hands with the republicans. The Washington Times called it a "a giant end-of-year victory."  I guess when he said, during the campaign, he wasn't going to work on "Maggie's Farm no more," that he meant him personally. I thought he was talking about the country. I thought he meant the country wasn't going to work on Maggie's Farm anymore.--at least it seemed he wanted to try to swing the country in that direction.

So, now I wonder will Obama leave behind a legacy as the Compromist who Redefined Compromise?

I don't even know if we can really call the Obama compromise-like compromise Obamaesque. But I think it has something to do with the The Washington Times calling it a "giant end-of-year victory."  If I recall, the Healthcare-like healthcare bill was billed as a giant victory, too. Maybe it's the "like" part that makes it Obamaseque. With all due respect, Obama seems like a decent persona who wants to  please, wants to make history as the president that got the two major parties in Washington to shake hands. It's not a very noble goal but it's a goal to give meaning to his presidency.But is that what we need right now? Aren't there more urgent matters?  That said, how can we say this tax bill is tax reform? How can we agree it's more helpful than harmful outside the chambers in Washington? Maybe the best headline we can give it goes something like Obama the Compromist Signs into Law a Very Obamaesque Compromise-like Compromise. Another Republican Victory.

I'm all for lower taxes. I'm all for less government in people's lives. I don't care about bi-partisanship. That sounds like more of a goal of a corporate board. What about balance? Movement that loosens the traffic jams at the toll booths? Most of these jams last a lifetime. It's insane. Here is another analogy. If there's too much water in one pail and not enough in the other pail, then use the water in the full pail to pour water into the near empty pail. I guess that makes me a rather simple thinker. But the truth is billionaires did not accumulate their billions alone. Moreover, most of it sits in pails being useless. Ironically, workers and consumers, jammed at the toll booths, made it possible for those fortunes. That alone should give a hint as to the best way to proceed. If the government is too timid to tax the very wealthy, then the workers and consumers should make the needed adjustment. And now I'm getting to the point about money.

The Con Job--Terms, Words, and the Quick Shift

How we define money and its value may be the greatest con job civilization has done on itself. Sometimes I wonder, is the con job abstract, out of our control, done by the vortex of history itself on the present? Or is it a con job by the few on the many? In either case, it's a disservice to the dignity of civilization. And the tax bill signed into effect sadly enables the con job. It keeps the money in the already full pail in the pail. It keeps millions of Americans unable to get through the toll booths to better their lives. Jammed at the toll booths.

Let me put this yet another way: What's the pathology of creating two pools of money in a single society in which one pool, the greater of the two, cannot be used for the betterment of the society that everyone shares--even though the money derived from the people who can't use it?

I'm talking about the massive pool (hoarded by 2% of our people). What genius came up with the notion that the money to better the society can only come from the tiny pool (held by the other 98%)? I'm trying to understand the deeply embedded irrational that governs the norm.

I thought everyone helped advance American society. I mean that in the strictest sense.

But there's something else. And here I seem to wander off again but I'll tie it in later. The passage of this particular tax bill seems very Presidentesque. It's in the word Compromise. Presidents get to redefine terms or words.  George W. Bush got to redefine safety and national security because he was the president who ruled in the name of national security once he got into office. During his campaign he got to define the term or slogan compassionate conservatism because that's what his campaign promised.  Kind of an oxymoron once we start looking for compassion in the decisions made by George W. Bush. But never mind, the slogan was only meant to propel him into the White House, where he would quickly get to redefine more crucial terms such as freedom, torture, war, privacy, patriotism, terrorist, etc. Like George W. Bush, Obama gets to carry on the tradition of redefining terms on his own terms to make his agenda work in his favor. Like candidate George W. Bush, candidate Obama had a campaign slogan he got to define : "change we can believe in." Most people know the connotations associated with Obama's slogan.

Bush is gone. And the term compassionate conservatism is buried in his campaign material. I don't remember if he ever used the term once he got into office. I think not. I think it rose from the ashes of the campaign and transformed into "you're either with us or against us." That slogan allowed for the redefinition of the terms national security, freedom, war, etc. Obama is our present presidentesque figure. He too had a campaign slogan. What happened to his campaign slogan, "change you can believe in?" Has it transformed into the slogan, "this is what compromise looks like"?  That slogan allows for the redefinition of tax reform.

 What is the Meaning of Compromise?

I think we can safely assume that the word compromise is undergoing  a Quick Shift in connotative meaning. It's very presidentesque right now. If compromise means, "a middle way between two extremes," as it is generally thought of in negotiations, then the President and Congress did not engaged in a true compromise.  Instead, they engaged in a compromise-like compromise. Clearly, there is no balance in the figures themselves if you create two columns and head one the Wealthy Ones and the other the Other Ones. The Other Ones get just enough to keep them from feeling discontent to rise up and take action against the imbalance. The Wealthy Ones get what they asked for. I guess these parcels represent the value of the two groups.  And that gets back to this money problem we have.

Maybe it's me. Maybe I just can't see the sanity in the division of America into two economic classes in which one class, the smaller one, has the majority of wealth and power, and the other one, the one with the majority of people in it, has the leftovers in wealth. I just can't see the benefit in that kind of system.

Under the current ill system, I don't mind political compromising if higher principles are not compromised and if it doesn't cause hardship among the general population. I don't consider financial loss among the wealthy a hardship. I once gave private lessons to someone very, very wealthy. After she was robbed for over several million dollars worth of things that she kept in an uninsured bank vault, I felt alarmed at her violation. But when  I noticed nothing in her personal world or even business world had changed let alone collapsed, I learned a lesson about money. She was emotionally distraught but not thrown into financial hardship by any definition. You could even call the things stolen spare change.

If  the rulers of America want these two classes (the Wealthy and the Other) to remain fixed, then they should come out and say so. You have to say, America is made up of two classes, the Wealthy (who get privileges and an open arena to excel) and the Other (everyone else who get to sink or swim). While you can't call that democracy, you can make up some other term for it and revise the Constitution to include this fixed stratification of classes. You might then redefine the pursuit of happiness or equality as the right to move from one class to the other through economic status, and leave it at that. Once out in the open, maybe we can divide up the country, so those who want to live under this two-class system can do so under their own free will. Those who don't can gather together and invent some other way of living.

On the other hand, if you want a democratic system for all, you have to get rid of the two-class system. Why not  start by redefining the value and use of money.  If taxes won't do it. then maybe unions can help out. Cut the work week in half while increasing salaries 500% for all workers, which will help create jobs and security for all. Think of the robberies, suicides, scandals,and murders that single act could prevent. Use a lottery system, to give bank confiscated homes to people who don't have homes or who have lost theirs. That would get the stress pockets off the books of the banks. Think of all the flags that would wave. Trust me, the banks won't notice the loss in profits.

Another good start is to practice ethical behavior, as a country, according to  the UN Declaration of Universal Human Rights of 1948. The United States agreed to follow the articles set forth, so I'll assume each administration knows the commitment America made.

We all know the narrative. We all know the conundrums chasing their own tails in Washington. We all know things can only get worse if we continue in the direction we are going, have been going for a very, very long time.

The Concession Compromise

But back to Obama. I regret his hope and his weakness. I regret the way he has missed the sinister motivations of the powerful group of Republicans, the ones who rule no matter which party is in office. I regret the wall he faces and can't free himself from. I keep thinking about that compromise Obama said he made. Obama made a point of saying "this is what compromise looks like."  It was a very telling statement. Very presidentesque, for sure. The Republicans called it a victory, the Democrats didn't know what to call it. But for the rest of us, things aren't much different with its passage. It's true the unemployed get an extension. But the probability is high that they would have gotten it anyway--in some kind of emergency bill. If a president can send billions overnight to a war zone, it can send a few million to people who are stuck unemployed. No ruling group that wants to stay in office would allow millions of people to be thrown into the street for--yes--not having enough money.

ADDED MARCH 10: Things are getting very different since Obama decided to work with the Rupublicans. Wisconsin, for example, is now stripped, until further notice, of its union rights. In Michigan, things are worse. What does it mean to be a worker in the 21st century? Workers are the ones who should decide for themselves, and they should have the right to strike and negotiate on equal footing at the table.

The Redefiner

To say "this is what compromise looks like" is to define or redefine the term compromise to mean what you say it means and want it to mean.  And to suggest that the act of compromise, even in this limitedly defined way, is good just because it exists on your terms, seems to bespeak Change without Change. Everyone must take the responsibility seriously for whatever position he or she is in at any given time. So, in presidentesque fashion, is Obama redefining the word compromise so that his change is change we can believe in? Either way, the people should be thinking about how to really restructure the money system so that we allow for, which we can today, abundance for all Americans.


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Austerity of Spirit: Question of the Day (12-15-2010) on Anti-War Protest Arrests

Bi-Part Question: Why is it that when anti-war demonstrators lead a peaceful protest in front of the White House or anywhere else, for that matter, people get arrested? Why is it that when anti-taxes on the rich Tea Partiers protest, even with guns at their side, they get invited a seat at the political table? 

See article of latest arrest at anti-war protest that included Daniel Ellsberg.

See article in which a Tea Party protest was temporarily shut down after a package was thrown over the White House fence, but allowed to continue after a robot opened the innocuous package.

And see this article in which Tea Partiers carried guns at a protest rally.

How many Tea Partiers crying out for no taxes on the rich got seated at the political table in November, 2010?  According to the Liberaland Web site,
Of nine candidates for Senate, five won their races, giving the Tea Party Senate candidates a win rate of 55.6%. Of 129 House candidates, 42 won, giving the Tea Party House candidates a win rate of just 32.5%.

How many anti-war demonstrators got seated at the political table?


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Date Rape in Sweden and Julian Assange-- Illusion or Real Charges?

Naomi Wolf gives an interesting argument on how governments can manipulate the crime of date rape in order to shape global perception of Julian Assange's character as someone of questionable social behavior. She gives the background on the case ( a follow-up of a previous article) as well as the background on Sweden's date rape laws and legal attitudes. In particular, she exposes the mostly inept or shoddy date rape conditions most women are subject to in Sweden. She writes,
The same Swedish prosecutors who are now claiming custody of Julian Assange are, indeed, so shamefully negligent in prosecuting Swedish rapists who did not happen to embarrass the United States government that a woman who has been raped in Sweden is ten times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than she is of getting any kind of legal proceeding on her behalf undertaken by Swedish prosecutors.

In the case of Assange, she argues "the State rather than the women themselves [are] bringing the charges."

Beyond the Fact of the Article

 What would happen if all documents in every government were transparent?  How would that change the dynamics of international relations? The need for billions spent on surveillance? The need for such extensive spy departments? The sudden disappearance or illness of those speaking or acting out against a government? How would such transparency change the nature of war?

Read Wolf's entire article.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Question for the Day: The Austerity of Spirit

What is the austerity of spirit eroding the national political imagination at this time?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Kieth Olbermann's Rant on Obama's Tax Cuts

Here's a rant  by Kieth Olbermann that appears to encapsulate the general anger toward Obama for making what looks like a senseless deal to extend the Bush tax cuts. What I like about Obama's actions is that each time he gives away the house with our money in it to the handful of rich, in the name of some hellish possibility, the country undergoes a bit of consciousness raising. This transparency is slowly revealing how Washington operates on a system in need of repair, how most politicians are hired voices and votes of the rich whether they like it or not, how the rich feel entitled to all of our money except just enough for us to get by on, how the rich still see themselves as they did in the 17th and 18th centuries, and how the disbalance in wealth in the US is human-made and manufactured in the US.  I don't know if the overwhelming disbalance in wealth and power will eventually awake a sleeping public to change the situation. I don't know if we will  accept the narrative of the wealthy class, which  argues anyone not rich should feel lucky enough to have a job. I don't know if we will work ourselves to death because that appears our only option. I don't know what it will take for the majority to walk through the doors of  Washington with dignity and present the majority voice at the table. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Wrong Transparency? More on WikiLeaks Cablegate

I try to keep track of how regimes redefine terms or blur contrary terms together in order to neutralize, change or demonize the connotations of the terms, in order to control public perception. [UPDATE] So when I say that America may be inadvertently putting into place the rails of totalitarism for the society to ride on, I don't do so based on the sound of a fury caused by a political whirlwind. I don't do so without having gone for long walks or without having wept at the Great Restructuring that is dawning. Noam Chomsky warns, "fascism may be coming to the United States." I've been watching the rails being laid for a time. I've been riding them and trying to keep myself intact.

To partly digress, I admit, I thought, along with others, that the Obama presidency would get us into the streets to make the great changes we needed to re-establish democracy in this country. I thought we were going to ride the train together out of Bush Cheney Rove and banks, Inc., and that Obama would not try to stop us. I thought we would rally together to push or kick in the door Obama said he was leaving open for us. I really thought we'd rush though the door and grab our rightful seat at the table. I'm talking about those of us who want social justice and economic stability for all. Those of us who want to see the end of gender and racial discrimination. Those of us want to make sure the disabled and those prone to bad luck aren't left to die in some ditch but are given the needed tools to lead lives of dignity.  I have to say I'm stunned at how wrong I was. Being neither a democrat nor republican, I'm stunned all the more. The only people who got through the open door were the Tea Party crowd, with their misguided but highly crafted rants. In many case, rants against their own interests in the guise of rants against Obama. In many cases, just a bunch of disgruntled but ignorant Americans used as foils and cardboard ads to unintentionally derail humanism and democracy and rally around corporate survival. The only others getting through Obama's ajar door easily can be found on Wall Street, in private planes or giant yachts, in the beds of monarchs and dictators, and walking in from the industrial complex, which doesn't surprise me, since these particular groups either set or have memorized the passwords.  While President-elect Obama promised Wall Street and Main Street must be equal partners in getting America out of the ditch, President Obama has left Main Street at the podium now stored away until the next election cycle.  By the way, no excuses for Obama. I no longer consider him a friendly voice for we the people, we the crowd.  [UPDATE] He's either ignorant blackmailed, scared, or a liar. Regardless, we are the losers. And there isn't much time to tear up the old or new tracks or stop the train already running at full speed.

As soon as the WikiLeaks and Julian Assange gave us Cablegate, my ears perked up. Is this for real? Or us this just another scheme to rationalize even more direct and open repression against US citizens?

Let's say the secret is out now--not in the WikiLeak documents themselves, but in the  public response of government rulers to them. On the one hand, it seems to dismiss them  as innocuous (Russia, Israel, Iran, Afghanistan, and Turkey) while on the other hand, it finds them less than innocuous (US, Great Britain, France). Germany regretted the publication of the documents. Even with mixed responses, the  latest official  response was to quickly  ban the material and further curtail our civil rights. Servers are one by one disconnecting WikiLeaks from public access. Amazon leads the list. Furthermore, Today, after hearing the state department's warning, demanding students not discuss WikiLeaks, I'm convinced the global leaders are delighted the political gossip has surfaced. For all we know, they let it happen or even leaked the material themselves. Is this even legal? That's my point. Under democracy, no.

Just because you call yourself a democracy doesn't make you a democracy. A country has to abide by certain structures and make decisions according to certain underlying principles to be categorized as a democracy. A democratic government is not a corporation. It cannot be run like a corporation. It's counterproductive.

In defining America's failure at democracy I mean two things: 1. an authoritarian government in which rulers  leave citizens alone, for the most part, as long as they do not really threaten the power or ideology of the rulers. 2. government subordinate to corporate rule and perceptions.

So let's say the world governments are creating distractions by keeping us in fear for our lives and pocketbooks while they meet together to  reconstruct the global mindset of what it means to be human under contemporary globalism. And let's say they need us distracted because they need to do it quickly and efficiently. And let's say the image of what it means to be human in today's terms is in the corporate image of what it means to be human. [UPDATE] Let's say we are watching the remaining rails of America's failing democracy being laid for us to ride all day long, from sunrise to sunset and into our dreams.Why are we accepting it? Why don't we mind living under this kind of thumbprint in the guise of American democracy?

This is a key question for our era.

Of course, it gets very complex. No one answer exists. And no whole answer exists. Even in multiple answers we can't get to the whole truth and nothing but the truth. No one can. There will always be gaps. Even totalitarianism can't plug all of the holes or light up all the unseen. But we can start simple. We can begin by looking at the terms we use since regimes tend to redefine terms to fit their agenda and attempt to control perceptions and emotions. We have to look at how words are being redefined for us by headlines, ads, and speeches. By bosses and rulers. And we have to wake up every morning and ask why we help maintain the everyday life the regime wishes us to maintain at the cost of our own pursuit of freedom and happiness, our own security and stability, our children's futures, and humanity's past, present and future.