Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Fib(?) of "Free Speech" in America

Well, Occupy Wall Street has exposed many lies our society clings to. Of them, "Free Speech"

"We totally support the First Amendment rights of these individuals," police spokesman Randy Jackson told the station. "We just want them to do it in a law-abiding manner. The right-of-way enforcement is going to definitely be taken seriously. We can't afford for people to be injured, tripped, hurt, as they walk through the area."

So you have Free Speech, just make it between the hours of 8:00 a.m and 5:00 p.m. With a permit (2 weeks in advance, please), in the pre-approved area. Also, don't camp overnight. Take public transit to/from each day instead. And don't crowd public transportation mind you, or we'll start "keeping that safe" as well. Please limit your "free speech" to Public Areas, which consit of: the middle of the street (which you can't block, that would be a nuisance), sidewalks (ditto) and that small public park where no one can see you... if it hasn't been sold off to redevelopers already.

Oh, also: if you're demonstrating between the hours of 8 and 5: why aren't you at work? If you don't have a job, we don't have to listen to your concerns as you really no longer exist. Get a job.

As long as we're talking about the lazy, good-for-nothing losers... er the "unemployed: Please only exist where we can't see you. Please don't use a tent -- they're dirty and fetid. Please use a city homeless shelter (now closed due to budget cuts).

Thank you for exercising your "Free Speech(TM)"

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Bill Moyers on (what passes for) the News (these days)

Bill Moyers on The Daily Show:

"The news is about what people want to keep hidden. Everything else is publicity. And people don't want to keep their opinions hidden but they want to keep the facts hidden. And it takes a lot of money and a lot of time and a lot of effort to go and explore the facts and bring them out."

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Current US Political System, Explained

kievite, at June 7, 2011 at 10:50 am in response to this posting at Naked Capitalism gives a wonderful synopsys of our current political system:

...Political parties are organizations composed of blocs of major investors who come together to advance favored candidates in order to control the state. They do this through direct cash contributions and by providing organizational support through the contacts, fundraisers and think tanks. Candidates are invested in like stocks. For them electoral success is dependent on establishing the broadest base of elite support. Candidates whom best internalized investor values see their political “portfolios” grow exponentially at the expense of candidates who have poor level of internalization.

So what you have is a filtering system in which only the most indoctrinated and business friendly advance to state power. Representatives of the major business groups are also often chosen to fill political appointments after a favored candidate is elected (GS is a nice example).

This is a poliarchy, a political-economic model in which the state by-and-large functions to advance elite business interests on the domestic and international fronts.

And that is what is meant in promoting “democracy abroad”. Like Mark Curtis said “Polyarchy is generally what British leaders mean when they speak of promoting ‘democracy’ abroad. This is a system in which a small group actually rules and mass participation is confined to choosing leaders in elections managed by competing elites.”

Sunday, June 05, 2011

The Republican Ideal Nation

Gahh! This is what I've been trying to put into words so many years! It's not just Pakistan. All of Central and South America, much of Africa, much of Central Europe. *They* are the result of "low taxes" and centralized wealth.

Kudos Nicholas D. Kristof!

Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times

With Tea Party conservatives and many Republicans balking at raising the debt ceiling, let me offer them an example of a nation that lives up to their ideals.

It has among the lowest tax burdens of any major country: fewer than 2 percent of the people pay any taxes. Government is limited, so that burdensome regulations never kill jobs.

This society embraces traditional religious values and a conservative sensibility. Nobody minds school prayer, same-sex marriage isn’t imaginable, and criminals are never coddled.

The budget priority is a strong military, the nation’s most respected institution. When generals decide on a policy for, say, Afghanistan, politicians defer to them. Citizens are deeply patriotic, and nobody burns flags.

So what is this Republican Eden, this Utopia? Why, it’s Pakistan.

Now obviously Sarah Palin and John Boehner don’t intend to turn Washington into Islamabad-on-the-Potomac. And they are right that long-term budget issues do need to be addressed. But when many Republicans insist on “starving the beast” of government, cutting taxes, regulations and social services — slashing everything but the military — well, those are steps toward Pakistan.

The United States is, of course, in no danger of actually becoming Pakistan, any more than we’re going to become Sweden at the other extreme. But as America has become more unequal, as we cut off government lifelines to the neediest Americans, as half of states plan to cut spending on higher education this year, let’s be clear about our direction — and about the turnaround that a Republican budget victory would represent.

The long trajectory of history has been for governments to take on more responsibilities, and for citizens to pay more taxes. Now we’re at a turning point, with Republicans arguing that we need to reverse course.

I spend a fair amount of time reporting in developing countries, from Congo to Colombia. They’re typically characterized by minimal taxes, high levels of inequality, free-wheeling businesses and high military expenditures. Any of that ring a bell?

In Latin American, African or Asian countries, I sometimes see shiny tanks and fighter aircraft — but schools that have trouble paying teachers. Sound familiar? And the upshot is societies that are quasi-feudal, stratified by social class, held back by a limited sense of common purpose.

Maybe that’s why the growing inequality in America pains me so. The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans already have a greater net worth than the bottom 90 percent, based on Federal Reserve data. Yet two-thirds of the proposed Republican budget cuts would harm low- and moderate-income families, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

For a country that prides itself on social mobility, where higher education has been a traditional escalator to a better life, cutbacks in access to college are a scandal. G. Jeremiah Ryan, the president of Bergen Community College in New Jersey, tells me that when the college was set up in 1965, two-thirds of the cost of running it was supposed to be covered by state and local governments, and one-third by students. The reality today, Dr. Ryan says, is that students bear 78 percent of the cost.

In fairness to Pakistan and Congo, wealthy people in such countries manage to live surprisingly comfortably. Instead of financing education with taxes, these feudal elites send their children to elite private schools. Instead of financing a reliable police force, they hire bodyguards. Instead of supporting a modern health care system for their nation, they fly to hospitals in London.

You can tell the extreme cases by the hum of diesel generators at night. Instead of paying taxes for a reliable electrical grid, each wealthy family installs its own powerful generator to run the lights and air-conditioning. It’s noisy and stinks, but at least you don’t have to pay for the poor.

I’ve always made fun of these countries, but now I see echoes of that pattern of privatization of public services in America. Police budgets are being cut, but the wealthy take refuge in gated communities with private security guards. Their children are spared the impact of budget cuts at public schools and state universities because they attend private institutions.

Mass transit is underfinanced; after all, Mercedes-Benzes and private jets are much more practical, no? And maybe the most striking push for reversal of historical trends is the Republican plan to dismantle Medicare as a universal health care program for the elderly.

There’s even an echo of the electrical generator problem. More and more affluent homes in the suburbs are buying electrical generators to use when the power fails.

So in this season’s political debates, let’s remember that we’re arguing not only over debt ceilings and budgets, but about larger questions of our vision for our country. Do we really aspire to take a step in the direction of a low-tax laissez-faire Eden Pakistan?

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Current US Depression vs Egypt's Revolution

Our woes are caused by an overconcentration of wealth. The
fundamental concept of Democracy is the theory that power is better
distributed amongst the many than concentrated in the few.

As we continue to concentrate all economic, political and social power
into fewer and fewer people, we fundamentally reject the very notion
of Democracy we claim to hold dear. Our continued concentration of
power is leading us into becoming what Egypt *was*, not into what
Egypt hopes to be.