Sunday, 28 August 2011

His True Legacy Comes From Right Action

The planned (and now, postponed) dedication of the Martin Luther King Jr monument in DC presents another opportunity to reflect on the continued deterioration of the American social fabric which, as I suggested in an earlier post, may soon become FUBAR, although it is perhaps more polite to say something like "ripped asunder".

In a recent commentary by Cornel West of Princeton, the prophetic words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel resonated with me: "The whole future of America depends on the impact and influence of Dr. King."  These words were spoken while Dr. King was alive.  In the 43 years since his assassination, the future of America has grown considerably darker, and its trajectory may very well be linked to a waning of Dr. King's impact and influence.  Professor West writes:
"King weeps from his grave.  He never confused substance with symbolism.  He never conflated a flesh and blood sacrifice with a stone and mortar edifice.  We rightly celebrate his substance and sacrifice because he loved us all so deeply.  Let us not remain satisfied with symbolism because we too often fear the challenge he embraced."
And, as I've written in previous posts, President Obama embraced the symbolism of Dr. King mainly because it was expedient and highly effective.  Others remain satisfied with mere symbolism because it is difficult to do otherwise, as it is also profitable and comfortable.  As I've also written recently, and affirmed by West in his piece, the age of Obama has fallen tragically short of fulfilling Dr. King's legacy,
"Instead of articulating a radical democratic vision and fighting for homeowners, workers and poor people in the form of mortgage relief, jobs and investment in education, infrastructure and housiing, the administration gave us bailouts for banks, record profits for Wall Street and giant budget cuts on the backs of the vulnerable."
Professor West goes on to say,
"The absence of a King-worthy narrative to reinvigorate poor and working people has enabled right-wing populists to seize the moment with credible claims about government corruption and ridiculous claims about tax cuts' stimulating growth.  This right-wing threat is a catastrophic response to King's catastrophes (militarism, racism and poverty); its agenda would lead to hellish conditions for most Americans."
The catastrophes enumerated by West are consistent with the "triple evils" that King himself identified -- poverty, injustice and war.  West suggests that King's response to this crisis would be found in one word -- revolution.  As I have said in my own earlier posts, Dr. King would take to the streets in opposition to the policies of Bush, and now, those of Obama.  West affirms this and says,
"A revolution in our priorities, a re-evaluation of our values, a reinvigoration of our public life and a fundamental transformation of our way of thinking and living that promotes a transfer of power from oligarchs and plutocrats to everyday people and ordinary citizens."
This is unlikely, of course, because it is so damned difficult, and because the right-wing has so thoroughly occupied the high ground on the battle field.  Unlikely, too, because the singular transformational figure of our time, Barack Obama, has shown himself to be a manchurian candidate for the monied class -- he has corrupted the language and oratory and symbolism of Dr. King in the service of his own political agenda.  Unlikely, too, because it appears the future of America is plummeting with the falling trajectory of Dr. King's impact and influence.  

The best legacy to Martin Luther King Jr is to be found in right action, and not in stone monuments.

This sentiment is affirmed in the comments of Michael Eric Dyson, in which he described how Dr. King employed what Dyson calls his "automortality" -- the narration of his own death.  Dyson says that King ingeniously used the inevitability of his own death to motivate and mobilize his community, to use that certain death to win converts into his army of moral opposition to America's failure to be truly democratic.  Dyson quotes from a King sermon, in which he says that he does not want to be remembered for his Nobel Peace Prize or the other numerous awards he received, but rather that he was on the right side of peace, on the right side of the war.  Dyson says that King anticipated his death in order that others would,
"look at its inevitability, transform its perception and alter and shape how people should view his life once he was there longer here."
So, even as King acknowledged that he "might not get to the promised land", he did nevertheless have a clear idea about how he should be remembered, based on the principles for which he stood.

And today, with the monument to him now unveiled, many people are finding it an appropriate time to consider him again.  And many people are writing about it.  Congressman John Lewis did so in the Washington Post on Saturday.  He said that if Dr. King were alive today he would be amazed that such a monument was erected for him, as he would be gratified that an african-American was elected as president.  Lewis also agreed that Dr. King would say that much more needs to be done, saying,
"His dream was about building a society based on simple justice that values the dignity and worth of every human being.  That effort is the true legacy of King's dream.  Were he alive today, it is telling that his message would still be essentially the same.  It is troubling that unemployment is so high -- indeed, far higher than it was in 1963 -- and that we are so caught up in details of deficits and debt ceilings that we question whether government has any moral duty to serve the poor, help feed the hungry and assist the sick.  Today, Dr. King would still be asking questions that reveal the moral meaning of our policies.  And he would still challenge our leaders to answer those questions -- and to act on their beliefs."
I take Congressman Lewis' comments as especially relevant, as he came up through the struggles of the civil rights movement with Dr. King.  His comments about what Martin Luther King might say today are therefore authoritative.  He went on to say that Dr. King would likely tell President Obama that a leader should inspire people to greatness, but that to do he must be daring, courageous and unafraid to demonstrate what he is made of.  To this point in his first term, President Obama has failed to live up to any of the congressman's prescriptions.  The congressman also said,
"Dr. King would tell this young leader that it is his moral obligation to use his power and influence to help those who have been left out and left behind.  He would encourage him to get out of Washington, to break away from his handlers and advisors and go visit the people where they live.  He would urge Obama to feel the hurt and pain of those without work, of mothers and their children who go to bed hungry at night, of families living in shelters after losing their homes, and of the elderly who chose between buying medicine and paying the rent.  Dr. King would say that a Nobel Peace Prize winner can and must find a way to demonstrate that he is a man of peace, a man of love and non-violence.  He would say it is time to bring an end to war and get our young men and women out of harm's way.  Dr. King would assert without hesitation that war is obsolete, that it destroys the very soul of a nation, that it wastes human lives and natural resources." 
In stark contrast to the views of Congressman Lewis, Obama has done none of this, and he will not do so unless and until it serves to burnish his presidential legacy, a presidency won as the very realization of Dr. King's "dream".  And, even then, it will be too little, too late.  While I do recognize the congressman's unique perspective in commenting on what Dr. King might say to President Obama, I feel that his touch is perhaps too light.  In this I will side with Cornel West, and my own previously stated sentiments, that Dr. King would be appalled at the damage done to the social fabric of America, and the disservice that President Obama has done to "the dream".

The man who so assiduously wrapped himself in the mantle of Dr. King has since his election ignored the poor, the mothers and children, the families living in shelters, the elderly choosing between medication and rent.  He is a Nobel Laureate that champions war as an extension of foreign policy -- no man of peace is he.  To this point in his presidency, Obama has exacerbated King's triple evils, beyond even (as impossible as this sounds) the damage done by George W. Bush.

To be sure, there is blame enough for President Obama.  He is culpable for campaigning so shamelessly as the very embodiment of MLK, and for then walking back from Dr. King's principles once in office.  Obama abandoned his core constituency in the early days of his presidency but now, as the election looms, seeks to lure them back with bold words and new promises of action.  He does this knowing that 90% of the black vote will remain true to him, knowing that progressives will view with horror the Republican alternative, and knowing that the expanded application of social media and the increased flow of dark money give him a reasonable shot at independents, and a reasonable shot at a second term.  Beyond the intricacies of the campaign, however, Obama has shown that he is not the heir to Martin Luther King Jr -- the rhetoric of Candidate Obama is far removed from the actions of President Obama.

So, yes, Obama merits well-earned condemnation because of his profile, and because of the failed expectations he himself invited.  But others are well and truly deserving.  Dr. King might ask the leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus how it is they have consistently failed to speak against the triple evils, and only now have begun to ratchet-up dissent on the issue of employment.  So, too, would he ask his own family to explain their vested interest in edifices and naming rights and corporate donors that seem to overshadow the actual work of delivering social change.  And he might ask each and every person who would file past this new monument what -- in the words of Congressman Lewis -- they have done to advance the dignity and worth of every human being, or what they have done to challenge their leaders on the moral meaning of their policies.

Dr. King would do this because, sadly, Congressman Lewis is correct, that after 43 years "his message would still be essentially the same".  He would be dismayed that so much attention could be lavished on a monument (its place of origin, the project's financing, the choice of inscriptions) while the struggle it is meant symbolize seems to have achieved so little.  He would quickly recognize that, given the power of the right-wing's rhetoric and the pervasive nature of today's corporate culture, the only remedy is, still, right action -- right action of the kind taken by Cornel West and Travis Smiley in their national tour against poverty.  This is, of course, but one example of what can to be done and is now being done, through the dedicated efforts of many, each and every day.  

But much more must be done to counter the forces that perpetuate poverty, injustice and war.  While it is impossible to state with any certainty what Martin Luther King would say and do if he were alive today, the informed comments of Congressman Lewis and Professors Dyson and West offer some plausible suggestions.  What is certain, though, is that Dr. King would not remain silent, and he would not abandon the principles for which he stood and for which he wished to be remembered.

Dr. King would view his true legacy as reflected in the right actions of all who would wish to honor him.

Postscript.  For those of us who don't live in the US, the discussion about the MLK memorial might seem a bit remote.  However, if you think of Dr. King in the context of such figures as Ghandi and Mandela it might take on more relevance.  There are far too few iconic figures as these in the world, and too many men who are described as "men of peace" are decidedly not.  We need to celebrate the agents of social change like King (and Jack Layton, who passed last week), as we emulate their principles and actions, because the forces that would perpetuate poverty, injustice and war are the same ones that would silence or co-opt their message.

Read David Garrow's book about Dr. King; go to The King Center and read or listen to his speeches; and press your own politicians to justify policies that are increasingly at odds with moral outcomes.  Right action and social change are not just American issues.

Update.  I found today (August 29) a commentary by Jesse Jackson that I had missed when writing the original post.  Had I seen it, I would have referred to it, and I'll recommend it as one of the writings you might wish to seek out.

His theme is, I'm happy to say, not inconsistent with my own -- that Dr. King's true legacy comes from "right action".  Jackson doesn't put it quite that way, but not so far off, either.
"Dr. King taught nonviolence, but nonviolence was not surrender.  We used our bodies as living sacrifices.  He took the sting out of jail cells and death.  No sacrifice is too great to achieve a higher moral purpose.
Perfect love casts our fear.  Dr. King was fearless.  He insisted that we see the humanity in our oppressors -- but that we not accept the oppression.  We must protest, in disciplined, nonviolent but forceful demonstrations, and boycott, litigate, lobby and legislate, tying up the legislatures, filling up the jails.  We had to demand respect for our humanity, even as we appealed to the humanity of those who would beat and jail us."
I'm thinking of the protests now taking place in front of the White House by opponents of the Oil Sands Pipeline as an example of the kind of right action that would gain Dr. King's approval, and perhaps his participation.

Still, I can't help but imagine that if, as Congressman John Lewis says, his message would still be the same today (a sadly demoralizing thought, that), Dr. King would take to the streets to rail against those same triple evils that plague us still -- poverty, injustice and war. He'd likely also find new evils to inveigh against, such as the pervasive corporate culture that dominates everyday life in our world.

He might also pointedly ask why we would wait for him to take action.

By David.


Your musical accompaniment for the day: Court and Spark, featuring Nora Jones; Herbie Hancock, River: The Joni Letters.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Jack Layton - The Quintessential Canadian

In light of my recent commentaries on the politicians that trawl the American scene -- from the merely self-serving to the downright dangerous -- it is highly poignant to write now about Jack Layton.

There is a certain set of attributes that people generally ascribe to Canadians -- we are a peaceful, polite, generous and tolerant lot.  We value justice, equality, human rights and personal dignity.  We live in a vast, oversized and sparsely populated land of prairie, forests, mountains, lakes and widely scattered cities.  We are a polity of diversity and multi-culturism.  We are proud of our system of universal health care, and prouder still of our national hockey teams.

Mike Meyers is a famous Canadian export, and in that typically self-depracting Canadian fashion, Meyers characterized us this way,
"Canada is the essence of not being.  Not English, not American, it is the mathematical of not being.  And a subtle flavour.  We're more like celery as a flavour."
Jack Layton was not subtle as celery, but he was most definitely the embodiment of the attributes, values, polity and pride that typified Canada and Canadians.  Smiling Jack was upbeat and positive, driven and committed, consistent and constant.  He was a politician that loved politics, in the very best sense.  He connected with people and he cared deeply about people, and that's why they called him, Jack.

In his early political life, serving on Toronto's city council, Jack was a champion of urban issues such as homelessness and green buildings; he was among the first to recognize the issue of climate change; he was an early fighter for gay and lesbian rights, and he spearheaded Toronto's battle against AIDS.  As leader of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Jack helped put the needs of Canada's cities on the national agenda, pushing for more help to fix crumbling infrastructure and address social problems.  (See Marcus Gee's commentary in the Globe and Mail for more.)

As the national leader of the New Democratic Party, Jack remained true to the principles at his core.  His election miracle this past May is attributable, in part, to this constancy, and in part to his skillful organizing -- as Jeffrey Simpson wrote in today's Globe and Mail,
"Mr. Layton grew into the job.  He was comfortable in his own skin, and comfortable with the job.  He loved politics, day and night, and threw his considerable passion and energy into it, for which he was much admired by colleagues."
In his farewell to Canada, written just days before he passed, Jack urged us to be better,
"Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one -- a country of greater equality, justice and opportunity.  We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors.  We can offer better futures to our children.  We can do our part to save the world's environment.  We can restore our good name in the world."
These words are the real deal, from a politician who was immune to the affliction of ego.  At the moment of his greatest triumph, Jack Layton is gone.  And, sadly, we are left with what's left.

So my lament is for the loss of Jack Layton, and the terrible loss it is for Canada.  It will be difficult to be better without him.

Update:  The main post on Jack Layton was dedicated to the man.  This update will speak to the state of Canadian politics in the wake of his sad demise.

Let's start with a quote from Stephen Harper, as he crowed at this year's Calgary Stampede -- it annoyed me at the time, but the irritation has resurfaced with a vengeance now that Jack is gone,
"Conservative values are Canadian values.  Canadian values are conservative values.  They always were.  And Canadians are going back to the part that most closely reflects who they really are: The Conservative Party, which is Canada's party."
Well, this is a fabrication, charitably classified as full-of-himself rhetoric from a man known to be the consummate political ideologue.  The Conservative party has never been the party that reflects who Canadians really are; and Harper has yet to win even a simple majority of votes in three trips to the polls.  And then, today, as if by magic, in his column in the Globe and Mail, John Ibbitson says,
"A majority of Canadians did not, never do, vote Conservative."
This brings us back to Jack's farewell letter to Canadians.  It was an unprecedented political message, from a man who had achieved so much only to have it snatched away from him at the moment of success -- from him, but not the party and the movement for social change he and the NDP represent.  And this is the essence of his letter.  It asks Canadians to work with the NDP to do better than the narrow and self-centered view offered by the Conservatives.  This is why Jack said Canada can be better, a country of greater equality, justice and opportunity, one that shares its benefits more fairly, one that restores our good name in the world.  He said this because under the Conservative agenda of Stephen Harper, Canada is rushing headlong in the opposite direction.  The values that Stephen Harper espouse for Canada are not shared by the majority of Canadians, and this is why Jack wrote "working for change can actually bring about change".

The trouble is, as Ibbitson wrote yesterday, "now, no one stands in Harper's way".  As he also wrote,
"Jack Layton would have been the first person to calculated the political consequences of his passing, and those consequences are profound.  The most powerful voice championing a socially democratic future for Canada is stilled.  The one person to meld, or at least paper over, the implacable contradictions within the NDP caucus is no longer there to listen, cajole and, when needed, knock heads.  Every party opposing Stephen Harper's Conservative in the House of Commons is leaderless, affording him the kind of political space for action that few prime ministers, if any have enjoyed.  Someday, from somewhere, a voice will rise to challenge the Conservative hegemony.  It could have been Jack Layton, but now it must be someone else."
With all due care and deliberation, it needs to be someone and it needs to be soon.  Canada desperately needs a counterbalance to Stephen Harper, who has been referred to as "George Bush lite".  Harper's agenda, hidden or not, seems to be to get out of everything except the banks, prisons, the military, foreign affairs and inter-provincial commerce.

By David


Your musical accompaniment for the day:  Canadiana Suite, Oscar Peterson. Thank you Jack.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Hoisted By His Own Petard

My two previous posts about Obama have generated some discussion, for which I am grateful.  It took a while, but OpEdNews published "What Might Martin Luther King Say Now?" on Thursday, and it generated a few interesting comments from OEN readers.  On that same day the editor of the site posted a survey asking if Obama should "pull an LBJ" and step aside from the 2012 race.  Well, of course he won't, but the poll attracted a lot of response and commentary, some of it actually bordering on the rational and intelligent (go to the link to read them).

So, yes, despite my kvechting (look it up) Obama will certainly run again.  But, as I suggested in my posts at this site, and in my numerous comments at OEN, he cannot possibly return to the soaring rhetoric that has crashed to earth so miserably in his first two and a half years of office.  And he cannot trot out the ghost of Martin Luther King as a backdrop.  He has to run on his record (problematic, I fear), or he can bash everyone else for his failure to lead -- bet the ranch on option two.

And then I read Michael Gerson's opinion piece in the Washington Post today.  He suggests, in a piece titled "Why Obama faces an uphill run for reelection", that Obama's team is building a three part strategy for reelection based on (1) a job creation programme (2) creating a separation between Obama and a dysfunctional Congress and (3) a campaign of personal attacks against the Republican candidate, whoever that might be.

Gerson says that, on the jobs issue, the Obama camp has begun floating trial balloons for this announcement -- planned for unveiling in September (!) -- and he characterizes them as "late and weak".  On the dysfunction of Congress, Gerson says "A president cannot distance himself form a process he is supposed to lead and failed to lead effectively."  And finally, with regard to the personal attacks, Gerson says "As president, Obama has been comfortable practicing the Chicago way of politics."  Readers will recall my view from previous posts that all Obama's rhetoric leading to the 2008 election is now engulfing him -- that he has undone himself (hoisted by his own petard, to put it plainly).  He has little room to maneuver heading into 2012, his best hope for reelection being the wingnuts that the Republicans have put forward (more on that later).

Gerson closes his piece with a paragraph that mirrors the tone of my last two posts,
"And this strategy must be a comedown for at least some of the idealists who elected Obama in the first place. Following expectations few presidents have raised as high, Obama has transformed into the most typical of politicians. There is little distinctive, elevated or inspirational about his message or his tactics.  And this adds an unwanted accomplishment: the further political disillusionment of a nation."
In his private moments, Obama must realize that borrowed rhetoric now defines his failure.  


In doing some follow-up to my commentary at OEN for my post there, I came across an article written by Joshua Holland of AlterNet.  This piece offers another view of the Obama "controversy".  Its not one I share, but it is well written and well argued, so I reference it in the hope you'll give it a tumble.  In it, the role of Obama's rhetoric is minimized as a cause of the current mess, which for me is a major point of disagreement. 

Mr. Holland takes a more practical position, advancing the view that liberals and progressives must focus less on what Obama has not accomplished and more on what he has.  Holland's piece is called "The Obama Wars" and in its sub-heading he advises "the debate over Obama's role in the mess we're in is distracting progressives from the real fight."  According to the author, its the Obamabots pitted against the professional left, one side blindly incapable of any criticism of "Our Dear Leader" and the other refusing to give the president any props for his accomplishments.

Mr. Holland is not an Obamabot, and decidedly takes up solid opposition to the second view; he suggests that history will render a judgement that "Obama, faced with a devastated economy and an obstinate opposition, has arguably achieved more than one could reasonably expect given the political context".  He does allow that the public's discontent may be linked in some small way to Obama's campaign rhetoric, but then dismisses this view by saying that the public should have have known better -- it should have realized that reality always trumps rhetoric.  In this, Mr. Holland may be factually correct, but I return to the rhetoric of the campaign and Obama's own definitive statement,
"I know that in every campaign, politicians make promises about cleaning up Washington. So  its easy to become cynical. I know that for me, reform isn't just the rhetoric of a campaign; it been a cause of my career."
Based on this and virtually every other statement he made (including his books, senate and campaign speeches, and addresses), it is fitting that the public ask, WTF?  If all campaign rhetoric is functionally and factually useless -- if it is acknowledged from the outset that every utterance is a lie (I know, big surprise) -- by what means do voters measure the candidates?  And this brings me back to Obama's intent -- at what point did he know in his own mind that everything he said was bullshit?

In closing his article Mr. Holland provides evidence that Obama's numbers remain high with the base, and suggests this is as good a starting point as any.  The Gallup numbers for the broader public offer less encouragement, showing his approval now in the low 40's.  What no one seems to have adequately measured is the degree of disaffection with Obama, and this brings us round to the feeling of betrayal that has been building -- it is a credibility gap that Obama has created.  I likened it to the disconnect between President Obama and Martin Luther King Jr. which is is almost as great as the disconnect between President Obama and Candidate Obama.

A broader piece on campaign rhetoric may be in order, but that's much too deep for a Friday afternoon. 


So, to keep it light (more like black humor), let's have some fun with the wingnuts the Republicans are putting forward to challenge Obama.  There are many pieces on both the leading and the marginal candidates, and I'll highlight just a couple for your weekend pleasure.

The first comes from William Rivers Pitt at Truthout.  Here's some of what he has to say about the top tier contenders -- Romney, Perry and Bachmann:
"Not one of these individuals should ever be allowed anywhere near the kind of power one is given upon assuming the office of President of the United States...and yet the "mainstream" news media has been propping these three up as legitimate, thoroughly normal candidates for the highest office in the land. It is a testament to how utterly deranged our political culture has become that any of these people would even be considered an appropriate candidate for dog-catcher, and yet we will spend the next fifteen months being spoon-fed the idea that these three are perfectly appropriate potential nominees, and not a pack of deranged fanatics who couldn't govern their way out of a wet paper sack."
And then from Stanley Kutler at Truthdig; he is equally disgusted by the top tier, and by the political/media complex that spawns them:
"Something is drastically wrong with our presidential nominating system when a handful of religious zealots in Iowa and the home of Strom Thurmond's Dixiecrat/Republican Party are to have such a decisive role. The underlying truth here is that the media, with their great editor in the sky, dictates the low of events."
The positions and statements of Perry and Bachmann are beyond comprehension by the rational mind, but have a look at ProPublica's guide to Perry.  As for Mitt Romney, he's not gettin much luv inside the Republican Party.  Go here for a recent article on his plight.

Wishing you an excellent weekend -- Party on Garth, Party on Wayne.


Update: A lazy, almost disinterested, viewing of the major news outlets on this warm Saturday afternoon revealed more on the trio of wingnuts that Republicans have anointed as their best.  From the Washington Post a front-page article on Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas who claims credit for job creation that doesn't belong to him. According to the Post,
"Perry says the Texas miracle rests on conservative pillars that he would bring to the White House: minimal regulation and government, low taxes and a determination to limit the reach of Uncle Sam.  What he does not say is that much of that job growth has come because of government, not in spite of it."
And then there is a real fan-favorite of mine, Paul Krugman, who never shrinks from calling "bullshit" when its warranted.  He recently commented on Perry's proclaimed ability to create jobs,
"So when Mr. Perry presents himself as the candidate who know how to create jobs, don't believe him.  His prescriptions for job creation would work about as well in practice as his prayer-based attempt to end Texas's crippling drought."
The last article, for now, on wanna-be president Perry comes from Bill Boyarsky at Truthdig,
"Gov. Rick Perry is a happy executioner, having presided over 230 executions in Texas.  That's more, reported The Texas Tribune, 'than any other modern governor of any state.'  Perry's energetic support of capital punishment and his blind refusal to consider any mitigating evidence in the cases of death row inmates, not matter how scientific, show what a danger he would be if placed in charge of the federal government's huge law enforcement system." 
And then there's the lovely Michelle Bachmann, who is truly batshit crazy.  She should scare the bejeezus out of everyone in the mainstream but, given recent events in American politics, that polity seems to have vanished.  Here's some of what Matt Taibbi said recently, but I would strongly urge you read the entire article from Rolling Stone,
"Bachmann is a religious zealot whose brain is a raging electrical storm of divine visions and paranoid delusions. She believes that the Chinese are plotting to replace the dollar bill, that light bulbs are killing our dogs and cats, and that God personally chose here to become both an IRS attorney would spend years hounding taxpayers and a raging anti-tax Tea Party crusader against big government. She kicked off her unofficial presidential campaign in New Hampshire, by mistakenly declaring it the birthplace of the American Revolution."
And another beauty passage from the Taibbi article,
"Bachmann's entire political career has followed [a] pattern of God-speaks-directly-to-me fundamentalism mixed with pathological, relentless, conscienceless lying. She's not a liar in the traditional way of politicians, who tend to lie dully, usefully and (they hope) believably, often with the aim of courting competing demographics at the same time. That's not what Bachmann's thing is. Bachmann lies because she can't help it, because it's a built-in component of both her genetics and her ideology. She is at once the most entertaining and the most dangerous kind of liar, a turbocharged cross between a born bullshit artist and a religious fanatic, for whom lying to the infidel is a kind of holy duty."
Joshua Holland at AlterNet posted a recent article that demonstrates the disdain so-called "constitutional conservatives" have for the founding document they claim so fervently to uphold.  His piece is aimed squarely at Perry and Bachmann, and it begins with this commentary,
"A great irony of our political discourse is that those who describe themselves as 'constitutional conservatives' display not only habitual ignorance of what our founding documents proscribe, but also show blatant scorn for the most important principle they enshrine: the separation of powers." 
Another post from AlterNet rates Bachmann and Perry to determine which is the bigger wingnut, and is an eye-opening read.  All this material is readily available elsewhere, but this post nicely captures the comparison.

And last, but certainly not least, is former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.  Mitt is hanging around the top tier of the Republican candidate group even though no one seems to want him.  He's the guy who said recently "Corporations are people, my friend."  As you might expect, dear reader, at Corporate Constraint, a site dedicated to the premise that corporations are decidedly not people, Mitt's steadfast support for CEOs earns for him exalted wingnut status.

And here's a few final words on Mr. Romney from a blog entry at The Nation site,
"Most politicians adhere to a broad political orientation, such as liberal democrat or conservative Republican, and shift positions over time as the nature of what is means to hold that place on the spectrum changes...Romney, on the other hand, has no such identity.  In Massachusetts he ran to the left; now he runs far to the right.  There is no overarching purpose -- whether is be fighting for social justice or defending traditional family values -- to his political career."
How is it that American politics continues to serve up such vile candidates for high elected office?  And remember, these wingnuts have already been elected to Governorships and Congress.  It fairly boggles the mind.

Second Update:  Madness in American politics has reached epidemic proportions!  Think the new movie Contagion.  The wingnuts in the Republican camp will no doubt point to the source as proof for their counter-argument, but true is true -- in Tuesday's (23rd) Washington Post I read two commentaries on the Governor "Haircut" Rick Perry. It seems his every utterance cries out for an NFL-style "C'mon Man!".

The first, from Richard Cohen, is titled "Rick Perry should stop and think".  Cohen began his piece by saying:
"Whatever global warming might or might not have done to polar bears, it has put Rick Perry's presidential candidacy at risk.  The Republican Texas governor clings to an ice floe of diminishing credibility, emerging in just about a week's time as intellectually unqualified to be president.  He engaged in a brief dialogue with a child about evolution and came out the loser.  Perry said there are some gaps in the theory.  If so, he is one." 
Cohen's commentary states that when Perry's ideology collides with reality, ideology wins, as it does in his rejection of climate change. Cohen ends his piece with this:
"I take Perry seriously.  He is no Michele Bachmann, unaccountably elected from a single congressional district, but a three-term leader of the vast nation of Texas.  The achievement warrants deep respect and, after last week, considerable worry.  It's not his thinking I fear.  It's the lack of any at all."
In another, this time by Eugene Robinson, it seems that the GOP is increasingly anxious about Perry's candidacy.
"In theory, Democrats should be nervous about Texas Gov. Rick Perry's decision to enter the presidential race.  In practice, though, it's Republicans who have zoomed up the anxiety ladder into freak-out mode.  To clarify, not all Republicans are reaching for the Xanax, just those who believe the party has to appeal to centrist independents if it hopes to defeat President Obama next year.  Also, those who believe calling Social Security "an illegal Ponzi scheme" and suggesting that Medicare is unconstitutional might not be the best way to win the votes of senior citizens." 
And then Robinson points out that these and other loonie Perry views are catalogued in his 2010 book "Fed Up!".  Even as his campaign people are trying to distance the candidate from his own words published less than a year ago, the candidate himself is pointing voters to it in his personal appearances.  Robinson writes,
"But Perry doesn't give us time to plow through his tome, what with his frequent newsmaking forays into the rhetorical fringe.  He had barely been in the race for 48 hours when he announced it would be 'treasonous' for Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke to increase the money supply before the 2012 election."
And so, dear readers, I'm wondering just what is it about politicians (and this includes Obama) who write books and make speeches, but somehow believe that they'll be allowed to skate on their past utterances.  It comes down to a blind and unwavering belief that they are destined for power, and that their lies are justified in service of the greater good.

Or, maybe I'm misapplying the concept of greater good.  Perhaps these people, and the thousands more inside government, and the many millions more in the general public, are driven by their (to my mind) fanatical religious views that government should serve the will of god.  These people -- Bachmann and Perry in particular -- are applying to their political campaigns the teachings and concepts generally known as Dominionism.

And, finally, for the broader damage that the loonie, wingnut conservative right is doing to America, go here.

By David.


Your musical accompaniment for the day: Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen.  Enjoy.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Farewell to The Fierce Urgency of Now

My previous post asked what Martin Luther King Jr might say to President Obama were the two men to meet today.  Were he fully up to speed, MLK would know that Obama coyly portrayed himself as the fulfillment of Dr. King's dream.  He would know that Obama's rhetoric, patterned so closely after his own message, has in fact not been fulfilled.  In all likelihood, Dr. King would be dismayed with the way Obama has tainted his legacy and the imagery of "the dream", and he would be deeply saddened by the historic opportunity that Obama has squandered.

And then we read in the Sunday NYTimes that Obama's White House is considering its next move on economic issues in advance of the coming election campaign.  The report, based on comments from White House operatives, indicates that the general tone is one of caution.  The favored options shy away from the more combative approaches such as highlighting on the campaign trail the substantive differences with Republicans in Congress.  Instead, the report states, Obama's political advisors are prepared to wait, "aware that their prospects may rest on persuading voters that the results of the first term matter less than the contrast between their vision for the next four years and the alternative ideas offered by Republicans."  I say again, Obama's advisors are,
"aware that their prospects may rest on persuading voters that the results of the first term matter less than the contrast between their vision for the next four years and the alternative ideas offered by Republicans."
This must be deeply troubling (if not sadly familiar) to the 25 million Americans unable to find work, the millions more underemployed, and the millions facing financial ruin through foreclosure -- wait for the next election, and then we'll fix it.  First, the idea that Obama could persuade enough people a second time with his threadbare rhetoric is, itself, unpersuasive.  There is no magic left in "Yes, We Can", or "Change We Can Believe In", or any new catch-phrase he might conjure.  Second, I find it shocking that his advisors -- and, by extension, Obama himself -- would have the audacity to suggest that the failure of his first term could be expunged with the promise of a second term that is so much superior to the Republican alternative.  Many would argue that Obama has governed as a Republican in all but name anyway, so the difference is negligible.  This political calculation portrays the kind of criminal indifference that Martin Luther King could not at all have tolerated, and against which he would have surely spoken out.

The Times article captured a warning from a former official of the Obama administration.  Christina Romer was until recently the chairwoman of the president's Council of Economic Advisers.  The article reported her as saying:
"Playing it safe is not going to cut it.  Not proposing anything bold and not trying to do something to definitely deal with our problems would mean that we're going to have another year and a half like the last year and a half -- and then it's awfully hard to get re-elected."
As much as I agree that "playing it safe is not going to cut it", I must dissent from Ms Romer with respect to her rationale.  She's correct that waiting another year and a half, till after the election, before taking any substantive action represents an unacceptable burden to those millions in need.  But that it serves the political calculations of a first term president seeking a second is truly reprehensible.  These discussions currently taking place in the White House simply can't be reduced to getting re-elected.  And to amplify this point, let's return for a moment to the central theme of my last post.  

Barack Obama employed the language, oratory and symbolism of Martin Luther King, and in this he was so successful as to propel an unknown and unseasoned one-term US Senator to the presidency.  He wove the whisperings of MLK together with a skillfully crafted personal narrative that resonated across a nation, and around a world, that had been traumatized by his predecessor.  Words matter.  And so does symbolism.  And Obama used these like few others in recent memory, recalling the image and the dream of Martin Luther King Jr.  He even went so far as to acknowledge in his campaign rhetoric that most campaign rhetoric is often vacuous.  But not his!  He said,
"I know that in every campaign, politicians make promises about cleaning up Washington.  So it's easy to become cynical.  I know that for me, reform isn't just the rhetoric of a campaign; it's been a cause of my career."
Obama also recognized (at least in his rhetoric) the imperative to link action with words.  And when he spoke of this, he invoked Dr. King,
"This is how Dr. King led this country through the wilderness.  He did it with words. He led with words, but he also led with deeds.  He also led by example. Dr. King understood that unity cannot be won on the cheap; that we would have to earn it through great effort and determination."
Obama, too, has led with words -- words that Martin Luther King Jr would have greeted warmly.  And he said those words repeatedly, in his books, in his Senate speeches, in his announcement for the presidency, in the primaries and in every stump speech, in the presidential debates and in his inauguration.  He used language and oratory and symbolism to project a very specific message, for which words like "hope" and "change" became its shorthand.  But it was an empty message, one that he has yet to even begin to fulfill -- in far too many instances Obama's actions have actually veered to the right in support of monied interests.  And now, with the need so great, we learn that he'll likely defer any further action until after the election is won (which is the real objective, is it not?).

So much for the fierce urgency of now.

It can't simply be about a second term for Obama.  It must be about more.  And with the millions unemployed and underemployed, millions facing foreclosure and financial ruin, it is rapidly becoming about the social fabric of the United States.  As wealth becomes more heavily concentrated, as Republican candidates openly defend the idiotic notion that corporations are people, as a Democratic administration initiates a drive to austerity (!) in the face of economic collapse, the social fabric of America may soon become FUBAR.

There is much speculation in the press that the riots in Britain and Israel and in the Middle East may presage similar events in the US.  And well they may.  The policies of Barack Obama, the man elected to deliver hope and change, may now ignite this very conflagration.  The man who wrapped himself in the mantle of Martin Luther King would be confronted on the streets by the Reverend, fighting against the injustices and inequalities that Obama had promised to eradicate, injustices he now seems prepared to perpetuate.


Update: My inbox pinged this morning (the 16th) with an update from Dean Baker and the Center for Economic and Policy Research. His article said this, in part:

"A front page story in Sunday's New York Times gave the country the bad news.  President Obama is no longer paying attention to economists and economics in designing economic policy.  Instead, he will do what his campaign people tell him will get him re-elected, presumably by getting lots of money from Wall Street.

The article said that President Obama intends to focus on reducing government spending and cutting programs like Social Security and Medicare.  This is in spite of the fact that:
"a wide range of economists say the administration should call for a new round of stimulus spending, as prescribed by mainstream economic theory, to create jobs and promote growth."
In other words, President Obama intends to ignore the path for getting the economy back to full employment that most economists advocate.  Instead he is going to cut government spending because his chief of staff and former J.P. Morgan vice-president Bill Daley, and his top campaign advisor David Plouffe, both say this is a good idea.

While people are justified in having little respect for economists -- almost the entire profession missed the $8 trillion housing bubble that crashed the US economy -- it is still scary to see that policy will be determined by people with no knowledge of economics whatsoever.  After all, do Daley and Plouffe even have a theory as to how cutting government spending could help the economy?"

The answer to Baker's question is, of course, no.  Obama's advisors have no theory on which to base the economic outcomes of their actions.  But they do know that winning a second term is Obama's primary goal as a first term president.

By David.


Your musical accompaniment for the day:  Vivaldi, The Four Seasons (Le Quattro Stagioni); L'inverno (Winter), Concerto No. 4 in F Minor; Boston Baroque, Martin Pearlman.  Enjoy.    

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

What Might Martin Luther King Say Now?

Much else has been forgiven, or blithely ignored, but for many this was the last straw.

Obama's failure to mount even a mild defense of the social contract during the fake debt ceiling crisis has caused many to ask if the man ever really wanted to be president, or was he simply delivering exactly what was expected.

Before we get to the matter of his intent, let's state the obvious, that, of course, Obama wanted it.  He bent all his will toward the presidency.  His rise to prominence could not have been better scripted -- early years as a community activist, time in the Illinois state senate, and a term as a US Senator set the stage for his presidential bid.  Along the way, he crafted a compelling narrative which culminated in his keynote address to the 2004 Democratic Convention.   He became the rising star of the Democratic Party for his style, oratory and message of hope.

More interesting than whether he wanted the presidency, is what he wanted to do with it when he got it.  And Candidate Obama was quite clear about what he would do:

 - "We need a President who sees government not as a tool to enrich well-connected friends and high-priced lobbyists, but as the defender of fairness and opportunity for every American; 
 - We cannot settle for a second Gilded Age in America.  And yet we find ourselves once more in the midst of a new economy where more wealth is in danger of falling into fewer hands; where the average CEO now earns more in one day than an average worker earns in an entire year; 
 - It's time we had a President who tells the drug companies and the oil companies and the insurance industry that while they get a seat at the table in Washington, they don't get to buy every chair;
 - I know that in every campaign, politicians make promises about cleaning up Washington.  So it's easy to become cynical.  I know that for me, reform isn't just the rhetoric of a campaign; it's been a cause of my career;
 - As a candidate for President, I've tried to lead by example, turning down all contributions from federal lobbyists and the political action committees that the special interests use to pass out campaign money;
 - We will return government to the people by bringing government to the people -- by making it open and transparent so that anyone can see that our business is the people's business;
 - It's time to renew a people's politics in this country -- to ensure that the hopes and concerns of average Americans speak louder in Washington than the hallway whispers of high-priced lobbyists;
 - Early in his presidency, Teddy Roosevelt gave a famous speech before farmers and factory workers that laid out his vision of what government at its best should be. He said, "The welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us, and therefore in public life, that man is the best representative...whose endeavor it is not to represent any special class or interest, but to represent working for our common country."  It's time to get to work once more for our common country.  It's time we had a politics that reflected that commitment."

These remarks, from a 2007 campaign speech called Taking our Government Back, are consistent with his repeated themes of hope and change; they are also completely at odds with the present-day reality of his administration.  Of all the statements above -- and all should now make Obama wince in shame -- the last is particularly disheartening.  At no point since his election has Obama "laid out his vision of what government at its best should be", much less has he defended it.  The "audacity of hope", the "fierce urgency of now", "Yes, We Can" and "Change We Can Believe In" -- these phrases have long-since been sacrificed on the alter of expediency.  Worse still, they have become gag lines, joining other fan-favorites like "read my lips".  Or, perhaps Matt Taibbi got it right when he asked, following the debt ceiling capitulation,
"Is it possible that by 'surrendering' at the 11th hour and signing off on a deal that presages deep cuts in spending for the middle class, but avoids tax increases for the rich, Obama was doing exactly what was expected of him?" 
And this brings us to the intriguing question, What would Martin Luther King say to President Barack Obama?  The question is very much a relevant one -- in light of the disconnect between the 2008 campaign and today's reality; given the degree to which Obama's narrative was written in the language of Dr. King; and in anticipation of the coming presidential contest, and Obama's defense of the facts of his administration.   

As a black man seeking the Democratic Party's presidential nomination in 2008, Barack Obama could not have invoked a more iconic figure than Martin Luther King Jr.  This he did, relentlessly, wrapping himself in the warm mantle of Dr. King.  It was much more than Obama's evocative use of language and his gift of oratory that linked him so directly to King, although this was critical.  He also tapped into the same symbolism that King employed, none more important than Abraham Lincoln.

The clear and calculated linkage by Barack Obama to the legacy of Martin Luther King (and all that MLK represented) served to energize the core of the Democratic base; it brought new voters to the party that would otherwise have never participated; it offered a reassuring message to independents; and it provided a stark contrast to the continuation of the Bush policies in the form of John McCain.  In short, the effective use of Martin Luther King was central to Obama's victory.

The number and nature of the references to Dr. King (and to Lincoln, as well) during the campaign are a study unto themselves but, on election night, Obama came to represent nothing less than the glorious manifestation of Dr. King's dream.  Perhaps you remember.  As the results rolled in King was hailed as "the man who made Barack Obama happen".  Martin Luther King III, who had campaigned on Obama's behalf, said "Our father and mother are smiling down on us right now.  We are on our way.  We have taken a monumental step."  For his own part, Obama referenced Dr. King in his victory speech and declared, "But tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America".

And on that night the world marveled at the apparent transformation of America in the aftermath of George W. Bush.  Not only were the 2008 results the most widely viewed in American history, they were followed with unprecedented enthusiasm worldwide.  From virtually all nations, there was an outpouring of relief and a hope for real change.  Obama's message had resonated beyond America -- the reputation repaired, the dream now fully realized.  And this makes the failures of his administration all the more catastrophic.

And among Obama's failures are these.  His health bill, the signature accomplishment in his first term, is a boon to Big Pharma, Insurance, and the health operators.  He is a Nobel Peace Prize winner who has doubled-down on Afghanistan, continued the war in Iraq, and started new actions in Yemen, Pakistan, Libya and perhaps (soon) Iran.  He has not closed Guantanimo as promised; he has extended the Patriot Act and he continues the surveillance of American citizens on an industrial scale; his administration has pursued whistleblowers with an uncommon zeal; and his use of drone attacks is unprecedented, and in countries with which the US is not at war.  He has chosen austerity over employment, as he delivers to the monied elite on virtually every domestic issue.  And from the 2008 campaign, again in his own words, this is some of what he promised

 - "You said that the time has come to tell the lobbyists who think their money and their influence speak louder than our voices that they don't own this government -- we do.  And we are here to take it back.
 - Change is building an economy that rewards not just wealth, but the work and workers who created it.  It's understanding that the struggles facing working families can't be solved by spending billions of dollars on more tax breaks for big corporations and wealthy CEOs, but by giving the middle-class a tax break, and investing in our crumbling infrastructure, and transforming how we use energy, and improving our schools, and renewing our commitment to science and innovation.  Its understanding that fiscal responsibility and shared prosperity can go hand-in-hand.
 - And if people tell you that we cannot afford to invest in education or health care or fighting poverty, you just remind them that we are spending $10 billion a month in Iraq.  And if we can spend that much money in Iraq, we can spend some of that money right here in Cincinnati, and in big cities and small towns in every corner of this country."

The disconnect between President Obama and Martin Luther King Jr. is enormous, almost as great as the disconnect between President Obama and Candidate Obama.  More than just his failure to deliver on anything that remotely resembled his campaign rhetoric, Obama's betrayal has disenfranchised and disheartened millions, both at home and around the world.  Afterall, if Barack Obama turned out to be such a monumental failure, and a calculating one at that, what possible redemption is there for electoral politics anywhere?  Obama told us that "reform isn't just the rhetoric of a campaign; it's been a cause of my career".  And by skillfully mimicking the tone, language and symbolism of the most distinguished black man in history -- one of the most singularly distinguished men of any color in history -- people believed him.  Turns out he was actually the Manchurian Candidate for the monied class.    

So, what would Martin Luther King say to Barack Obama?  We'll never know, but the Reverend might remain tactfully silent about endorsing him for a second term.

By David.


Your musical accompaniment for the day: Birdland by WeatherReport, from Heavy Weather.  Enjoy.

Monday, 8 August 2011

My Own Small Act of Refusal

It has been a month since Corporate Constraint was launched and, even now, I feel it necessary to restate my purpose -- if by doing so it serves only to keep me grounded.  But fear not dear reader, this is not mere self-indulgent navel-gazing; as always, there is much wisdom here to nourish you (grin).

Let me begin with a stark admonishment from Martin Luther King Jr, a man I greatly admire:
"Passively to accept an unjust system is to cooperate with that system, and thereby to become a participant in its evil."
This, my friends, is why I now write, why this blog exists -- it is my own small, defiant, act of refusal.

King's profound warning should serve as a clarion call to anyone who feels even the slightest notion that something's not right.  And, to be clear, it is a clarion call to anyone, anywhere -- even here in Canada, where we too seem to be rushing headlong over the cliff. 

My own journey to rejecting an unjust system began with 9/11.  At the time, I found myself seeking in the alternative press explanations for seemingly incomprehensible events, for the many incongruous circumstances that had collided so fortuitously.  Such inquiries have become grist for all manner of conspiracy theories.  But not all can be dismissed as mere ravings of the off-kilter.  

The drive to war with Iraq was Dubya's goal long before 9/11 -- it was incubated with Leo Strauss and the noble lie, the rise of the neocons, and the Project for the New American Century.  It was a policy focus in the first days of the administration, and was initiated within hours of the attacks.  All the administration's assertions to support it were lies. Cheney's group marketed the sentiment for war; it fed information to The New York Times' Judith Miller, then pointed to it in her columns as proof of its veracity.  Raw intelligence data was stove-piped directly to the administration, by-passing the professional wisdom of the intelligence community.  The administration contorted itself over Sadam's supposed Weapons of Mass Destruction -- the smoking gun that never was a mushroom cloud.  There were fabrications over Niger Yellow Cake, aluminum tubes, and the connections between Iraq and al Queda.  There was the fixing of facts around the policy by the Bush administration and there was Ahmed Chalabi and Curveball.  And the Patriot Act, already written and waiting on the shelf (lucky break, that), breezed through Congress without review.  

In the end, 9/11 "justified" a blatant crime of aggression -- the ultimate war crime that became Afghanistan and Iraq -- a crime that grinds on there still, as it expands into Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and soon, perhaps, Iran.  It also spawned the largest internal security apparatus the world has ever seen.  The State made the most of a crisis to further its own ends, both at home and abroad -- a tactic employed by Bush then, and by Obama today.

Even this brief recap would bring Dr. King to tears, but if it all seems a bit removed from the function and focus of Corporate Constraint, consider the following.  The winners in all this creative destruction are, as always, the monied interests that drive the political decision-making -- directly, in the windfall profits claimed by business, and in the pervasive corporate culture that now dominates most every public institution.  It is a condition emphatically described by Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former Chief of Staff:
"What we have today is a corpratocracy.  We have the President and Congress in the hands of Big Food, Big Pharmacy, Big Oil, Finance, Insurance and Real Estate...the President doesn't run this country; the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State don't run these people, and God help us (!) the American people don't run this country!  Big Money runs this country."
And while America has become overtly corporatized, it has become less equal, less secure and less free.  So too, in Britain, and here, in the true north strong and free, my own Canada.   

Perhaps you can hear the faintest whisperings of MLK, "you are becoming a participant in its evil".  

And this does bring us back to the creation of Corporate Constraint.  It is Big Money, the multi-national corporations, that so completely control the key issues affecting the human condition.  The multi-national corporation is the vehicle by which money and power serves money and power, the mechanism through which the elite influence (read: buy) policy makers for their exclusive benefit.  Money and power also has the nasty habit of coalescing into extra-governmental bodies, unelected and unaccountable, that exert more profound and unseen influence -- both nationally and internationally -- than is possible by even the largest single corporate entity.  As a group, multi-national corporations have become the most dominant economic and political force the world has known, and they have become perhaps the greatest threat to mankind in its history.   

Corporatism represents an ideology, a set of values and a particular orientation to the world that is out of balance with the norms of human civilization.  It has set in motion the trends that have come to reflect the human condition: 
 - Staggering wealth is amassed by the few, at an alarming and accelerating rate, while the permanent and growing underclass becomes increasingly irrelevant to those in power. 
 - A state of perpetual war now exists, both at home and abroad. 
 - The health of the planet is increasingly at risk and, with it, our survival. 
 - Representative democracy has long-since ceased to reflect citizens' will, as politicians openly cater to the demands of a tiny elite.  

We are responsible for our calamity.  We have set these trends in motion by creating an entity that we then failed to control.  This most successful form of human organization exists and endures only through human effort, created entirely of the human imagination. And, by endowing it with the legal mandate to maximize shareholder wealth, we have baked into the corporation's DNA the potential for corrupt and criminal action.  If there exists even the faintest hope of redress it is precisely because the corporation is an invention of the human mind.  It follows, then, that we need not be held hostage by a creature of our own imagination.  We can rethink the corporation! 

Were we courageous enough to do so, we would take the following actions:
 - Eliminate the farcical status of "personhood" for corporations;
 - Break the hold of money over politicians and the political process;
 - Check the power of unelected and unaccountable groups and individuals;
 - Return to public discourse the notion of the commonweal
 - Reinforce the concept that corporations are servants of society, not its masters.
You have by now fallen off your chair in uncontrolled laughter.  I'll give you a minute...

It is true that the present realities are solidly aligned against the kind of change described above, the infrastructure firmly ingrained.  Money and power, in the service of money and power, is an insurmountable force.  The status quo relies upon our ingrained sense of learned helplessness, based on a strategy calculated to suppress any concerted response.  This idea that we can redress our errors is a fantasy -- to imagine that corporations could be subordinated, that elected representatives would actually reflect the will and serve the needs of the many, that our looming catastrophes could be averted.  As Chris Hedges has said,
"The war is over, and they won."
Still, for now I'm gonna hold to this crazy notion that since we made-up this thing called the corporation, we can just change it.  And, from far away, I hear Dr. King whispering...
"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

And so dear reader, should you ever find yourself with that sinking feeling that something's not right, if you cease to accept this unjust system, what small act of refusal will distinguish you?

By David.


Your musical accompaniment for the day: Johann Sebastian Bach, Goldberg Variations BWV 988; Glenn Gould, Goldberg Variations (1981 Recording).  Take the time, put on the headphones, close your eyes. Enjoy.