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Excerpt from . . .
“Liberty and Justice for All”?
“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in the crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it NOW, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”
This is such a time. It is a watershed moment. We can save what is left of our democracy or lose it. If we lose it now, we may lose it forever, for there are those who are trying to enthrone themselves as permanent overlords. Today they are on the attack like sharks that smell blood in the water, prattling about democracy even as they dismantle it.
In recent years right wing extremists have exerted an influence on American politics far out of proportion to their numbers and far from the consensus of most Americans. They are right in about fifteen percent of their program and perspective. The rest is just plain wrong.
Yet like wolves in sheep’s clothing, they proclaim loudly that they are the ones who are trying to preserve the nation’s vital traditions even as they sabotage them from within. Bizarre as it may seem, this movement’s haywire honchos actually dare to assert that their rigid, dogmatic ideology reflects the ideas and intentions of the American republic’s visionary founding fathers.
In reality, they have just plain lost touch with most of the ideals of our nation’s founders. Ironically, anyone who examines their words and platforms with an unbiased eye will surely conclude that if today’s right wing radicals had been alive in 1776, many –perhaps even most-- would have been cheering loudly for the Redcoats, hoping for the continued rule of the British Crown, and opposing the American Revolution with all their might.
Although politics is no more the essence of life itself than a vase is the essence of the flowers it holds, it is a container for our lives and fortunes. For a few people it becomes the center of their universe. In recent decades our shared understandings about our government’s central tasks have broken down. These days that perennial question from the pollsters, “Do you think our country is moving in the right direction or the wrong direction,” gets more “wrong direction” than “right direction” answers regardless of which party holds power.
America is in trouble. It is in trouble because people cannot find jobs. It is in trouble because too many of the 1% who own 20% of the nation’s assets show no sign that they care about the well-being of anyone else, or the good health of our air, land and waters. Right wing fanatics have developed a bizarrely distorted belief system that causes them and others to sink ever deeper into ideological quicksands that are diametrically opposed to the thoughts and intentions of our founding fathers.
Lacking understanding of what Paine, Washington, Jefferson and their companions intended, today’s political celebrities of the far right have pasted together a self-serving ideology that directs them to impose their misguided agenda on all citizens of the Republic. . . .
I have no complaint about the rip-roaring right’s haywire honchos and their followers as people. In many ways they’re a lot like you and me. Some are among my friends and relatives. I say hello when I meet them on the sidewalk, and nod or wave when I pass them on the road. And if my radically right-wing neighbor and I are both pruning or grafting our fruit trees, we’ll probably do it pretty much the same way. For the most part it is not them as people, but their misguided political actions, beliefs, and attitudes that need to be confronted and transformed to avoid catastrophic domino effects of future problems.. . .
There was a time, after the Declaration of Independence, the Revolutionary War, and the writing of the Constitution, when the United States was an inspiration for the world. During World War II, from Europe to Asia and the Pacific it played a key role in defending liberty. Later, America played a key role in rebuilding countries that had been our enemies in that vast war. A friend of mine tells this story: “In 1968 I was in Czechoslovakia as the publicist for a United Artists film crew that was shooting the movie, The Bridge at Remagen. In those days Czechoslovakia was still under a Communist regime. Just as a gesture we converted some of our pay into Kennedy silver half dollars and spread them around among the local people we were working with. They treasured those coins! Just holding something from America, which they saw as the land of freedom, was like an amulet or talisman to them. We couldn't have given them a finer gift.” . . .
Recent decades and events have dimmed the glow of America’s lamp of liberty. Yet much as we might like to ignore the dark forces in our midst, they are real, and can grow even larger if they are not addressed. Many people are bewildered. Some feel like Michael Moore, who wrote, Dude, Where’s My Country? Many believe that no political party speaks for them because those who run big business are calling so many of the shots and are paying off so many of the politicians.
What a turn-about! In 1774 Thomas Paine, one of the great writers and patriots of the day, penned a pamphlet titled Common Sense. Although today’s right wing ideologues would have you believe that they follow in his footsteps, as you soon will see, most of their views are the very opposite of Paine’s and those of his distinguished colleagues. The time has come to put things right. . . .
Excerpt from. . .
From the early 1930s through 1980, our government was widely viewed as trying to improve the well-being of the people. That era’s presidents –Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy lived during that time and helped that outlook along. Beginning in 1980, the rhetoric from Washington shifted to exalting big business and demeaning government, bombarding the public day after day and year after year with messages that government was fundamentally bad and disreputable . . . poisoning the civic dialogue and leading to the antagonistic attitudes we hear today. Let’s listen to what those who founded our government said about its role and character.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
The Declaration of Independence . . . .
“Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men.” John Adams
“Among the natural rights of the Colonists are these: First, a right to life; Secondly, to liberty; Thirdly, to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can. . . . There should be one rule of justice for rich and poor, for the favorite at court, and the countryman at the plough.” Samuel Adams
Thomas Paine wrote, “When, in countries
that are called civilized, we see age going to the workhouse and youth to the
gallows, something must be wrong in its system of government. . .
Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, had much to say about the nature of government. “We acknowledge that our children are born free; that that freedom is a gift of nature, and not of him who begot them. . . . Every man, and every body of men on earth, possess the right of self government. They receive it with their being from the hand of nature. Individuals exercise it by their single will; collections of men by that of their majority. . . .”
Andrew Jackson, the seventh President, took office in 1829. He said, “As long as our government is administered for the good of the people, and is regulated by their will, as long as it secures to us the rights of persons and of property, liberty of conscience and of the press, it will be worth defending.”
Comment: Jesse Ventura’s remarkable book, 63 Documents The Government Doesn’t Want You to Read [contains] photocopies of actual government documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. These include the CIA assassination manual; a prescription for a faked terrorist attack to give the government an excuse to attack the alleged terrorists; and accounts of toppling democratic governments in other countries and replacing them with dictators. For years it has been whispered that these events took place. Now Ventura’s book confirms it. Those documents, and Ventura’s book, are clear statements of what our government has no business doing. The sequel, American Conspiracies is equally hard-hitting. These books are not the work of some far-out radical. Ventura was a Navy SEAL and later served as Governor of Minnesota. He ran and was elected as an independent because he did not trust either of the major parties. . . .
Comment: Ensuring our security is a central task of government. Police and firefighters are a first line of defense. Having a source of livelihood that provides shelter, enough to eat, and clothing is an aspect of security. Good health is part of security. Traffic lights are part of security. Many of the radical right’s policies are aimed at securing security for only the privileged few.
Thomas Paine also referred to the mutual assistance in which people form a government to do for each what we cannot do alone. Governments build roads and bridges. They inspect restaurant kitchens. They require labels on our food that tell us what is in it. If we cut the funding for all that, who will fight fires, help people who call 911, and fill potholes in the roads? But there is more:
“Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. Theodore Roosevelt . . .
The Radical Wrong’s agenda advocates shrinking government by cutting services to citizens. That overlooks the fact that nothing else requires more and bigger government than the war machine. Half of the entire world’s military spending is made by the U.S. government. Instead of beggaring our educational programs and laying off police and firefighters, downsizing the expansive role of the military is the most obvious place to cut the budget. . ., .,
Regarding states’ rights, critics decry the federal government’s takeover of powers that the Constitution does not delegate to it, and that might better be left to the states. In general I agree. . . . But here is the central problem: Very often those who cry “state’s rights” are defending a state’s desire to enshrine prejudices against certain groups into law (most often women or a racial group) or to impose narrow agendas favored by specific groups such as the “religious right” on everyone. At that point the national government has to step in and do its best to ensure that states make no law and no policy that abridges the principles of equality, liberty, and justice for all.”
Excerpt from . . .
“Politics would be a helluva good business if it weren't for the goddamn people.” Richard Nixon
“Instead of gazing at each other with suspicious or doubtful curiosity, let each of us hold out to his neighbor the hearty hand of friendship, and unite in drawing a line, which, like an act of oblivion, shall bury in forgetfulness every former dissension. Thomas Paine
“The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. . . . However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government . . . [This puts] in place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small, but artful and enterprising minority of the community. . . rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans, digested by common counsels, and modified by mutual interests.” George Washington
"I have no private purpose to accomplish, no party objectives to build up, no enemies to punish—nothing to serve but my country." Zachary Taylor, "Old Rough and Ready." . . ..
“Foolish fanatics . . . the men who form the lunatic fringe in all reform movements.” Theodore Roosevelt
“I remember when I first came to Washington. For the first six months you wonder how the hell you ever got here. For the next six months you wonder how the hell the rest of them ever got here.” Harry S. Truman. He also remarked, “My choice early in life was either to be a piano-player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there's hardly any difference.” . . .
“My esteem in this country has gone up substantially. It is very nice now when people wave at me; they use all their fingers.” Jimmy Carter. . . .
“I was dangerous because I was a threat to their good-old-boy network. . . . I began to realize how crooked party politics are. They’re at each other’s throats all the time, unless someone on the outside is threatening their turf. Then they join forces and tear the newcomer to pieces.” Jesse Ventura . . .
“Our politics are being hijacked by a comparatively small number of people who seek to dominate the debate by screaming the loudest. . . They attempt to impose strict litmus tests and insist on conformity. They demonize dissent and consider all political opponents their enemies. Fear is their favorite tactic as they try to divide and conquer. . . We should know the dangers of demagogues, politicized religion and ideological absolutists by now.” John Avlon
Comment: . . .
One major political divide is between those commonly labeled “liberals” and conservatives.”. . .
In recent decades those labels have become so misleading that I use them only with quotation marks. The quotation marks mean, “Don’t believe almost anything you think this label means.” My dictionary defines conservative as “holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation.” It defines liberal as “Open to new behavior or opinions and favoring maximum individual liberty in political and social reform.” But these days all that often gets turned upside down. In my region, the “liberals” tend to want to keep the towns and countryside pretty much as they have been, while the “conservatives” bulldoze every living thing to bare earth and build huge new suburbs and business and shopping developments—in other words, they make radical changes. The “liberals” are more likely to be content with modest lifestyles, while the “conservatives” are more likely to build palatial homes and multiple very pricey vacation retreats and spend lavishly on upscale cars. It’s just plain crazy to speak of those who are maiming ecosystems as "conservative," and those who are trying to stop that damage as "liberal" or "radical," because the very opposite is true: Those who are trying to protect the good health of an ecosystem are acting conservatively, and those wanting to change it quickly and in large-scale ways are acting radically. The explanation, of course, is that by “conservative,” people often mean conserving their privileges, wealth, and status –or their knee jerk ideologies-- rather than conserving real things in the world.” . . .
“The enemy isn’t conservatism. The enemy isn’t liberalism. The enemy is bullshit." Lars-Erik Nelson
“Conservative” may mean conserving old beliefs, attitudes, and habits. It is less often applied to conserving practices that protect and enhance people’s freedom, equality, and opportunity. Too bad.
With “liberal” we need to ask, “liberate what, or whom?” “Liberalize what restrictive rules, laws, or procedures? (That’s often important to business, and is a first-rate idea when the restrictions are not really protecting anything or anybody.) With “progressive,” the questions are “progress toward what? In what ways?” The term might be used for progressing in directions that neither you nor I would like at all. In that context it is as meaningless as “reform.” . .
For the most part I find all these terms to be conceptual toxic waste that oftener than not leaves people confused and befuddled about the realities that underlie them. My view is to let them rest in peace, and be more specific and precise in our thinking, discussion, and action.
Excerpt from . . .
Some people think they know exactly what the Constitution really means, and furthermore, they think it means exactly what they want it to mean. Since some hold one view and some another, that leads to some major disagreements. For example, there is widespread reference to an alleged Supreme Court decision declaring a corporation to be a “person” that never occurred, as you will see below. Fortunately, there is one indisputable authority on the Constitution’s overall intentions. It is that document’s introduction, the Preamble. Here it is:
We the People of the United States,
in Order to form a more perfect Union,
for the United States of America
Comment: The Preamble states the central principles of the Constitution, which the body of the document spells out in detail. When it was written, “the People” meant property-owning white male citizens. As amended since, the “We the People” to whom the provisions of the Constitution apply now includes all women, all Native Americans, all African Americans, and all other citizens regardless of ethnicity or property ownership.
Given that reality, obviously the provisions of all lines that follow the word “Union” apply to “We the People” that clearly means All of We the People – not just Some of Us People. In subsequent lines,
“establish justice” implies equal
justice for all – not greater justice for those who can afford pricey
lawyers or buy the favors of legislators or regulators.
“promote the general welfare” gives clear
approval to such programs as bank deposit insurance, Social Security, Medicare,
building and maintaining highways, preventing disasters, providing disaster
[The first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court made a major statement in the 1819 case of Dartmouth v. Woodward:
“A corporation is an artificial being, invisible, intangible, and existing only in contemplation of law. . . Being the mere creature of law, it posses only those properties which the charter of creation confers upon it. . . It might reasonably be concluded that those properties, so beneficial in the economic sphere, pose special dangers in the political sphere. Furthermore, it might be argued that liberties of political expression are not at all necessary to effectuate the purposes for which states permit commercial corporations to exist. So long as the Judicial Branches of the State and Federal Governments remain open to protect the corporation’s interest in its property, it has no need, though it may have the desire, to petition the political branches for similar protection. (My italics.) Indeed, the States might reasonably fear that the corporation would use its economic power to obtain further benefits beyond those already bestowed.” John Marshall
Comment: In 1978 when the First National Bank of Boston claimed that because it was a corporate “person” it had First Amendment rights to political speech and that money was the same as speech, the Court found for the bank on a 5-4 vote. But in a dissenting opinion, Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who was better known for militantly right-wing positions, quoted from Marshall’s passage above. . . .
The assertion that so-called “conservatives” want “strict constructionists” on the Court is a classic Big Lie. [They] want justices who will rule in their favor. While hypocritically claiming to practice “judicial restraint,” the present Court has actually been one of the most activist Supreme Courts in history.
Comment. . . .Many such partisan decisions have been on 5-4 party-line votes that give giant corporate and other big money interests ever more influence over our politics. Recently two major decisions, most especially the “Citizens United” case (more accurately read “Plutocrats United Against the Citizens”) also on 5-4 party line votes, have opened the floodgates for corporations and wealthy individuals to buy elections with enormous rivers of cash.
Whose interests do these ultra-activist judges who have no accountability to the people further? Almost always they serve the interests and welfare of the oligarchs. They increase their power over national policy and decision-making.
Where did all this start? Not in the Constitution. The word “corporation” does not appear anywhere in it. Absolutely nothing in the Constitution implies that any organization of any kind is a “person” with the rights that persons possess. And in John Marshall’s Dartmouth v. Woodward decision. Marshall’s statement that a corporation is not a person is clear, unequivocal, and obviously correct in the eyes of any impartial observer. Political commentator Thom Hartmann finally tracked the origins of the “corporate personhood” myth down. In the year of 1886. . . a so-called “mistake” by a Supreme Court clerk did so much to swing the political balance of power toward giant corporations. In “Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad,” the railroad’s lawyers argued that corporations were “persons” with the same rights as a real human being. The Court did not rule on that issue, deciding the case on far narrower grounds. But the Court clerk, attorney C. Bancroft Davis who was himself a former railroad company president, wrote the statement that a corporation “is a person” into the head-notes that summarized the case. Chief Justice Morrison Waite, who was in poor health, apparently never noticed. The Court’s discussion did not debate the Railroad’s allegation of corporate “personhood,” wrote no opinion mentioning it, and rendered no judgment on it. Rather, it decided the case on the basis of the county’s desire to tax some of the railroad’s fence posts, depending on their location. But ever since then, the backdoor reinterpretation of the Constitution found in the erroneous headnote written by Davis, which was not a Court ruling of any kind, has been assumed to be a legitimate court decision. . . . “[Headnotes are] just a comment by somebody who doesn’t have the power to make or determine or decide law.” . . .
The railroad’s lawyers argued that corporations were “persons” with the same rights as a real human being. The Court did not rule on that issue. But the Court clerk. . . wrote the conclusion that a corporation “is a person” into the head-notes that summarized the case. . . . A headnote has no legal standing.” . . .
This silent coup against democracy was a factor in the present major confusion of “individual libertarian” and “big business libertarian” (in other words, “corporate dominance”) ideologies. Anyone but a moron or a hopeless ideologue who is deaf and blind to reality can see that a corporation is not a person. It does not have a human body, can be in many places at once, under present laws is immortal, and in most cases has no heart—not even figurative. Sixty years after Davis wrote his headnote, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas said, “There was no history, logic, or reason given to support that view. [offered in Davis’ headnote]. See more about this confusion in the use of the term “libertarian” below. . . .
One letter to the New York Times asked, “If corporations are people, can I marry one? Is General Electric single?” Another quipped, “A corporation is not a person until Texas executes one.” That’s all just plain baloney. Let’s get real.
To say that corporate money buying elections is “just free speech” is like saying that a candidate who appears on 500 TV stations and a candidate who has just a soapbox and a voice are equal in their exercise of free speech.
Excerpt from . . .
How Can We Fix It?
Even a cursory glance at recent history suggests that what the Radical Wrong really wants is to make the rules by which others must live – which is not what democracy is about at all. What is it about?
“If liberty and equality, as is thought by some are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will best be attained when all persons alike share in government to the utmost.” Aristotle
“The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite.” Thomas Jefferson . . .
“Experience hath shewn,” Jefferson continued, “that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny. . . .
“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.
This expresses my idea of democracy.”
Abraham Lincoln . . .
“You won the elections, but I won the count.” Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza . . ,
"People who have lost their hunger for justice are not ultimately powerful. They are like sick people who have lost their appetite for what is truly nourishing. Such sick people should not frighten or discourage us. They should be prayed for along with the sick people who are in the hospital.” Caesar Chavez
“When the U.S. launched the second Iraq War, David Letterman remarked, “President [George W.] Bush has said that he does not need approval from the UN to wage war, and I'm thinking, well, hell, he didn't need the approval of the American voters to become president, either.” . . .
“Why is it, when 638 people voted at a precinct in Franklin County, a voting machine awarded 4,258 extra votes to George Bush? Thankfully, they fixed it, but how many other votes did the computers get wrong? . . . This is my opening shot to be able to focus the light of truth on these terrible problems in the electoral system.” Senator Barbara Boxer. . .
“If you don’t vote, you vote by default.” Jesse Ventura
Comment. . . . Fascist dictatorships also hold elections, in which mysteriously the same despot or party is elected time after time. Who is allowed to vote, who is encouraged to vote and can vote easily, who counts the votes and observes the vote count, and who tallies the results—these are crucial elements of representative democracy.
In the U.S. today we have a semi-democracy. . . . The most blatant recent example is when one party successfully carried out a tightly organized multistate conspiracy to keep hundreds of thousands of eligible voters from voting and apparently also rigged voting machines in Texas and Ohio. Then the Supreme Court, on a 5-4 party line vote, appointed George W. Bush to the presidency even though he had half a million votes fewer than his opponent. Vice President Al Gore would surely have gained a majority even in the anachronistic, anti-democratic Electoral College if the Court had not stopped the vote count. But the Court’s Republican majority . . . said it was more important to have a president, any president, quickly than to have the candidate who actually won the election take office. With that action, America lost its legitimacy as an example of democratic government. I watched a courtroom hearing on TV about an incident in which before the votes were counted, two Republican operatives spent two weeks alone in a room containing absentee ballots from service personnel overseas. The Republican Party paid them half a million dollars for their two weeks in that room. What do you think they were doing there? What happened to them in the courtroom? Nothing. They walked free. . . .
It is less widely known that a large body of data suggests that the 2004 presidential election was also stolen. (This is not something most Americans want to hear. We like to think that our elections are honest. For the most part, they used to be.)
In every previous U.S. election and every country around the world, exit polls have proven so reliable that they are widely used as a check on the honesty of elections. In 2004 in district after district and state after state –most notoriously Ohio— the exit polls showed John Kerry as the clear winner. In many districts the exit poll vote was not even close.
What happened? There was massive, systematic voting machine fraud, with no paper trail to detect it. Three of the four principal voting machine manufacturers were owned by strongly pro-Republican companies. The worst of them, Diebold, had been contributing to Republican candidates since 1998 and its CEO had even sent out a fund-raising e-mail that promised to make sure Bush would win in Ohio in 2004. Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman report that Kerry was far ahead at 12:20 A.M. and then information about the vote tally suddenly stopped. When the information flow resumed around 2 A.M, the totals had mysteriously shifted so dramatically that Bush was ahead by 118,000 votes. . . .
In almost all locations where there were discrepancies between exit polls and “official” vote totals, the chips that contained the instructions that told the machines how to count mysteriously disappeared. In some precincts voters reported with horror that they pushed the button for Kerry and then watched their vote show up as a vote for Bush. Before the vote, Republican officials who controlled the voting deleted thousands of eligible voters from the registration roles, supplied far too few voting machines to heavily Democratic areas, did not process cards from Democratic voter drives, and illegally stopped a recount in districts where there was a paper trail that could have given Kerry the election. Lou Harris of the famous Harris Polls declared, “Ohio was as dirty an election as America has ever seen.” . . .
Š Clean up your state and local electoral policies and regulations to provide complete multi-partisan supervision of the electoral process, regardless of which party holds the governorship and legislature. Make sure that no party or interest controls the voting rolls and rules, that no eligible citizen is denied the right and opportunity to vote or faces undue difficulty doing so.
Š Use a voting method that ensures that every vote is fairly counted in a way that has an indelible physical trail and leaves no possibility of fraud. For more than 40 years my county has without incident used optical scanning ballots marked with indelible ink that makes recounts easy. Old fashioned local hand-counting of foolproof ballots with observers from various parties is the most conservative (no quotation marks here) and reliable of all methods. Any voting method that precludes a recount should be strictly forbidden.
Š Voting machines, when used, should be physically and electronically isolated from computers used to tally results. When voting machines or computer tallies are used, a foolproof method should be used to obtain and store all chips that were used to direct the vote counting, under nonpartisan supervision (such as state equivalents of the U.S. General Services Administration, or the latter itself if a state cannot guarantee the integrity of its voting and tallying process.) Just as with provisions for storing paper ballots for a specified time, any machine or computer used in voting should be protected against tampering by a partisan of any party until all counting and possibility of recounting is completed. . . .
Š Any tampering with voting or voting results should be a crime that results in: Prohibition against future use of the equipment of any company found to be involved; forfeiture of the election by the candidate connected with the party that engaged in the tampering; and . . . prohibitively effective criminal penalties for such tampering. . . .
Š Change the procedure for choosing Congressional committee chairs from automatically elevating the longest-serving member of the House or Senate majority party to secret-ballot election of the chair, regardless of party, by all members of the committee, at least every two years, without restriction on re-election. This would immediately raise the level of competence in congressional committee work . . .
Š Better yet, nationally or state by state, move to public funding of elections (such as in Maine) throughout the country so that our government again becomes more a servant of “We the People” and less one of “We the Corporations” . . .
Excerpt from . . .
“It will be found an unjust and unwise jealousy to deprive a man of his natural liberty upon the supposition he may abuse it.” George Washington . . .
“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants. It is the creed of slaves.” William Pitt
‘Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power.” And, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” James Madison. He also wrote, “It is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad. . . . If Tyranny and Oppression come to this land, it will be in the guise of fighting a foreign enemy.” . . .
Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas
“Our mistreatment was just not right, and I was tired of it. . . . I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free . . . so other people would also be free.” Rosa Parks (She was sitting in the “colored” section of the bus when more white passengers got on and the driver came back and moved the “colored” sign farther back behind her. She refused to give up her seat, and was arrested for it.)
“We’re losing our constitutional rights because of the so-called “war on terror”. . . America is no longer what it has stood for since 1776. We’ve gone backwards. When you look at how religious fanatics and corporate America are teaming up, we today are on the brink of fascism. . . What we do in our private lives is none of government’s business.” Jesse Ventura . . .
“Now, tragically, folks, we are illuminating more and more of the Dark Side every day. Now that indefinite detention, enhanced interrogation, and domestic spying are acceptable, it is getting harder and harder to find those things that we as Americans theoretically cannot bring ourselves to do. . . . Every time the President comes up with a new secret tactic to take down Al Qaeda, the media blows its cover. Torture, monitoring our phone calls, monitoring our e-mails, secret prisons, all perfectly reasonable temporary concessions of freedom that will only be in effect as long as our never-ending war on terror.” Humorist Stephen Colbert
Comment: Colbert was talking about George W. Bush, but too many “enhanced” modes of surveillance remain in place. . . .
Some people quite reasonably hold an “individual libertarian” view – that, as Jesse Ventura states, government has no place telling us what to do in our private lives. But some on the far right confuse things badly by mixing that up with a “big business libertarian” (i.e. corporate dominance) view. The two are entirely different.
Individual libertarians hold that we should each be free to do as we wish as long as we do not harm others. This perspective follows from Benjamin Franklin’s statement that “Every natural right not expressly given up, or, from the nature of a compact, necessarily ceded, remains. All positive and civil laws should conform, as far as possible, to the law of natural reason and equity.” This applies to where you live, how you make your living, whether or not you wish to remain pregnant if you accidentally find yourself so, and for many libertarians, prostitution, drug use, and suicide.
“Individual libertarian” [and] “big business libertarian” views are entirely different. ‘Individual libertarians’ say, “keep the state out of our private lives.” “Big business libertarians” say, “A corporation that may be more powerful than a small nation ought to be free to do as it pleases without any guidelines, oversight or social responsibility.”
But many who hold “big business libertarian/corporate dominance” views also lobby constantly for government contracts, subsidies, tax incentives, land grants, anti-labor and anti-union laws—even subsidies for herbicide and pesticide farming that poisons farmers and consumers. The corporate dominance outlook holds that Wall Street, the big banks, other great corporations, and “the invisible hand of the market” will look out for ordinary people’s interests and put people to work. A true fairy tale! Yet many in this camp also seek government regulations that will give them a competitive advantage or wedge of entry into some market. That’s a long way from “free markets.” On the other hand, even small mom and pop businesses are often hobbled by an excess of rules and regulations and forms to fill out that don’t help anybody anywhere. . . .
Excerpt from . . .
Tell It and Fake Education Apart
Our nation’s founders shared a belief that the success of democracy and of our nation depends on an educated citizenry. . . . But today access to quality education is shrinking fast rather than growing. . . . And many people do not yet comprehend that indoctrination with their pet beliefs is fake education. True education requires teaching our children to question, to examine critically, to think creatively, and to develop the ability to go beyond what their teachers think and know. The story unfolds below. . . .
“In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.” George Washington
“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. . . They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty. Thomas Jefferson
“It should be your care, therefore, and mine, to elevate the minds of our children and . . . excite in them an habitual contempt of meanness, abhorrence of injustice and inhumanity, and an ambition to excel in every capacity, faculty, and virtue. If we suffer their minds to grovel and creep in infancy, they will grovel all their lives.” John Adams
“A well-instructed people alone can be permanently a free people. . . . A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce, or a tragedy, or perhaps both. . . . Learned Institutions throw that light over the public mind which is the best security against crafty and dangerous encroachments on the public liberty.” James Madison . . .
“Upon the subject of education, not presuming to dictate any plan or system respecting it, I can only say that I view it as the most important subject which we as a people can be engaged in.” Abraham Lincoln
And there is this sage observation, “Don't let schooling interfere with your education.” Also, “Education consists mainly of what we have unlearned.” Mark Twain . . .
Comment: . . . We learn by stories. . . about how the world is. . . . Such stories often include the mental pictures we call metaphors, and also “mind movie” action clip. . . .You may have borrowed some parts of your own stories from listening to others tell their stories, without even knowing you were doing so. It’s all right to question perceptions and feelings associated with them. Are you sure they’re accurate? Do they truly reflect your values?
The wrong kind of schooling can train people NOT to think. In a “monologue” or “one-sided narrative,” the authorities constantly broadcast their story about the way things are, while everyone else listens mutely.
A story can include the implicit or explicit statement: “I am the authority. Do not question this.” Or by contrast, it can include the statement, “Please ask questions and say how you feel about this. Any story can be wrong, or partial, or mistaken, including this one.” It’s especially important to pay attention to which stories are being told to children regarding matters they’ve never heard about.
Stories are also called narratives. Somebody describes what’s happening like a TV narrator’s voice–over. Such narrations may closely describe real events and be fairly accurate (like an unbiased, competent sports announcer) or may wildly distort what’s occurring. Brazilian educator Paolo Freire, who worked among peasants who had been serfs on haciendas, spoke of a “monologue” or “one-sided narrative” in which the rulers continually repeat their story about the way things are. He called this the “dominant narrative.” Everyone else is “submerged in a “culture of silence” in which they listen mutely. In a classroom, for example, when the educational system or the school emphasizes unquestioning consumption of the dominant narrative, students are treated like piggy banks with little slots in their heads. The teacher moves up and down the rows, depositing coins of knowledge that embody their “knowledge” (whether it is correct or not) into the slots. Freire calls this the “banking model of education.” When you can regurgitate the dominant narrative to others, you are considered educated. Fantasy? After the so-called “No child left behind” program went into effect, teachers complained that its intense emphasis on standardized tests was turning them and the students into robots devoted to memorization. It decreased genuine thinking and creativity. (Teachers I know referred to it as “No child left standing.”) In a monologue, freedom dies.
In today’s politics, monologues are pervasive. Each candidate has “talking points” that are repeated ad nauseum. In education that liberates, everyone is both teacher and student—forever. They learn from each other, challenge each other, and engage in true dialogue, constructively rethinking the dominant narrative or even rejecting it, in contrast to a monologue’s relationship of dominance and submission.
in America the widening gulf between those at the top and bottom of the income
ladder is at the center of political firestorms. The Big Lie in this situation
is that “the best way to ensure prosperity for everyone is for government
policy to help the very rich get even richer, so their surplus cash will ‘trickle
down’ to everyone else. Let’s look at some insights that are relevant to our
“Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime. . . The most perfect political community is one in which the middle class is in control, and outnumbers both of the other classes.” Aristotle
“Content makes poor men rich; discontent makes rich men poor. . . “Money has never made man happy, nor will it, there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. . . .The more of it one has the more one wants. . . . Who is rich? He that rejoices in his portion.” And yet again: “Buy what thou hast no need of and ere long thou shalt sell thy necessities. . . . It is the eye of other people that ruin us. If I were blind I would want neither fine clothes, fine houses or fine furniture.” Benjamin Franklin
“Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder.” George Washington.
“Merchants have no country. The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gains.”
On the other hand, Lincoln also said, “All American citizens are brothers of a common country, and should dwell together in bonds of fraternal feeling.” Abraham Lincoln
“He mocks the people who proposes that the government shall protect the rich and that they in turn will care for the laboring poor.” Grover Cleveland
“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” Anatole France
On behalf of materialism, Mark Twain noted that: “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.”
“If you legislate to make the masses prosperous, their prosperity will find its way up and through every class that rests upon it.” William Jennings Bryan, on a “trickle up” rather than “trickle down” theory of prosperity.
Theodore Roosevelt wrote to his son, "This country will not be a permanently good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a reasonably good place for all of us to live in."
“A people that values its privileges above its principles
soon loses both.” Dwight D. Eisenhower
Comment: In the U.S. armed forces the highest ranking general or admiral with greatest seniority receives about 14 times the base pay of the lowest ranking enlisted person with least seniority – not millions of dollars more (although the general or admiral has a number of other nice perks). And there is an ample supply of able men and women who are glad to accept those generals’ and admirals’ jobs. Money is just one of many incentives that appeal to a spectrum of different human motives.
Today, the oligarchy’s think tanks that shaped the gap between the relentless rich and the restless rest are still at work. Their agenda has conveniently overlooked the Constitution’s goal, “to promote the general welfare.”
“It’s all right to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is a cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.” Martin Luther King
"When the man who feeds the world by toiling in the fields is himself deprived of the basic rights of feeding, sheltering and caring for his own family, the whole community of man is sick. . . . . Our sweat and our blood have fallen on this land to make other men rich. We have suffered unnumbered ills and crimes in the name of the Law of the Land. Our men, women and children have . . . suffered the desperation of knowing that the system caters to the greed of callous men and not to our needs. Now we will suffer for the purpose of ending the poverty, the misery, and the injustice, with the hope that our children will not be exploited as we have been.” Caesar Chavez . . .
Daniel Gilbert’s research found that on the whole, richer people are happier than poor people. At lower levels, happiness increases rapidly as income rises, but after about seventy thousand dollars it levels off and increases only very gradually with additional wealth. . . .
Gilbert’s . . . parallel a major change in economic thinking. In old economic reckonings, the food needed by a starving child and a Cadillac coveted by a driver who wants to trade up are equally valid aspirations. But growing minorities of economists say, “That's garbage.” They speak of the utility of consumption. We can make this distinction:
Primary goods and services are needs for food, water, warmth, shelter, health care, and the opportunity to explore and discover.
Secondary goods and services are things we think we need that bring us reasonable comfort and pleasure. Most of these are not true needs, but wants, like a classier car. Due to our social comparisons, however, they may function psychologically like needs.
Tertiary goods and services are (1) items we think we "should want," but don't truly care about, and (2) items we know are sheer froth and indulgence, but we want them anyway. (When the going gets tough, the tough go shopping!)
“No amount of compensation to one person can
Comment: A widespread error is "averaging out"—the notion that we can gauge a country's overall economic welfare by average income. That is, if the rich get richer, it makes up for the poor not having enough. . . . When the Gross Domestic Product rises because some get even richer (while many others get even poorer, as has been happening in the United States since that fateful turning point in 1980), it is not progress. If Len gets a Limo while Hannah remains hungry, Hannah is still hungry. . . .
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