30 January 2012

"Of all the enemies to public liberty war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors, and emoluments is multiplied : and all the means of seducing the minds, are added to those of subduing the force, of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes, and the opportunities of fraud, growing out of a state of war, and in the degeneracy of manners and of morals, engendered by both. No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare. Those truths are well established."

~James Madison, the 4th President of the United States, Bill of Rights author, Congressman, Cabinet Member, who was also called the "Father of the U.S. Constitution".

The above quote is from, "Political Observations," April 20, 1795, in Letters and Other Writings of James Madison, Volume IV, page 491-492.

Solidarity Forever

Solidarity! It's time for a good work stoppage...no buying or selling for a couple of days...no transport...that'll make the power elite sit up and take notice. Tough to shoot tear gas and rubber bullets at a work stoppage. Republicans and Democrats both supported the Solidarity Movement in Poland during Reagan's years...work stoppages against the Communist Party which looks a lot like the plutocrats and corporatists we have ruling this nation.

Monument Valley

22 January 2012


Before anyone brings up the politifact nonsense, let me rebut it.


Politifact takes the debt at the end of Bush's tenure, Jan 2009, as the ending point of his debt...however, the fiscal year budget runs until the next years budget begins on Oct 1. So, fy 2009 was Bush's budget. Tax revenues are significantly affected by the economy. For example, tax revenues declined from $2.5 trillion in 2008 to $2.1 trillion in 2009. During 2009, individual income taxes declined 20%, while corporate taxes declined 50%.

I might add that most of the appropriations for the 'wars' during Bush's tenure were off-budget. Figure juggling. Notice that 40% of revenues come from Social Security? And we're told that Social Security is the problem? No...the problem is that ever since the trust fund was created under Greenspan/Reagan...it has been rolled into the general revenue stream and used to mask deficit spending. Social Security 'trust fund' was meant to be set aside to pay for the boom in population not to be used as accounting gimmickry. Pull SS revenues and expenditures out of the budget and then look where the majority of our monies go...to the M/I complex.

21 January 2012

Strategies to rein in corporate power?

From Tom Atlee:


There are many emerging strategies to counter corporate control of our political life (quite in addition to efforts to counter their control of our economic lives). Seeing this as a necessity if we are to have effectively empowered public wisdom, I supported these initiatives in various ways.
At first I focused on campaign finance reform. But that whole realm was largely made irrelevant by recent Supreme Court decisions. So several years ago I started promoting the movement challenging corporate personhood as the gold standard of such resistance. But in the last week I've seen a broader strategic landscape that makes me wonder. I've particularly been exposed to strategists who see corporate personhood as just one tactic in a larger - and, in fact, historic - strategic effort through which corporations claim and obtain "rights" that are superior to the rights of democratic citizens, communities, and processes. Some of these strategists even suggest that "corporate personhood" is a red herring to drain energy from broader, more sophisticated counter-strategies. From this perspective, corporations continually create new legal and political realities to which we then instinctively react - when what is actually needed is for us to take the initiative and change the game completely.

In particular, these critics urge us to stop trying to thwart corporations using the machinery of the federal government - the courts, Congress, the administration. They say, with much justice, that corporate interests already thoroughly control these institutions. We should simply declare our fundamental and independent rights as citizens and communities and, if countered, proceed anyway as a collective act of civil disobedience and justified rebellion. If we can get enough communities to do this, we will win. So what strategy is best? It seems to me this is a judgment call. Below is a list of strategies I'm aware of; I'm sure there are more. None of them seems to me to be unambiguously the Right Choice. All of them have good arguments for and against. Most depend on one's sense of how urgent the matter is and how deep a transformation is necessary to meet our needs.

Can all anti-corporate domination activists gather around one strategy? Can they somehow synergize? Or are they, in their opposing views, doomed to drain attention and resources from each other?

My own preference, of course, would be to find a co-intelligent approach. I can imagine advocates of these various strategies coming together around one integral strategy - one that includes and/or effectively transcends most or all of the different strategies - a super strategy more powerful and wise than anything currently being proposed. If the diverse strategists cannot do this among themselves, perhaps someone could convene a deliberation in which the deliberators are dozens if not hundreds of the most influential activists and organizations whose work is impeded by corporate power. The advocates and opponents of the various strategies would then present their arguments to these powerful political players. With help - perhaps with Dynamic Facilitation - these leading activists and organizations would then discover or design a strategic vision they could all agree on, which embraced the values of all the approaches in a synergistic way.

In the meantime, here are the strategies I see:

1. Community declarations of independence from corporate domination. This strategy addresses not only corporate personhood and the alleged Constitutional "rights" associated with persons, but also how corporations legally wield the Constitution’s Commerce Clause to override efforts at sustainability at the municipal and state levels; how corporations are legally empowered to violate the constitutional rights of citizens and communities at will through their immunity to rights enforcement, and how state and federal preemption are used by corporations to override community self-government. Theoretically, this approach totally handles the problem. But to succeed, it requires hundreds or thousands of communities do it - and it requires their citizens and public officials to be prepared to fight back against resistance, so that the non-cooperation with corporate rule cannot be successfully countered by government suppression or corporate PR and economic pressure. This is a nonviolent revolutionary approach based on the non-cooperation strategies practiced by Gandhi and King, and codified by Harvard's Gene Sharp: "They can't put us ALL in prison. Our protests will make it increasingly difficult for them to function, especially as others - including progressive corporations, corporate managers, staff, stockholders, and political elites - come see the justice of our cause." While extreme, this approach is seen not only as valid but necessary by those who feel that all due process avenues of redress are blocked by corporate domination. For more on this approach, see
http://www.celdf.org.

2. A Constitutional amendment to declare corporations are not natural persons and therefore don't have the civil rights of persons. This would handle some legal issues, but not others. In particular, it would not override the logic of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. That decision was not based on corporate personhood (as has been mistakenly and broadly promoted) but on the rights of the broad citizenry to hear corporate-sponsored political arguments. Also, Constitutional amendments are notoriously hard to pass - although some have passed rather quickly - and thus this strategy requires a truly massive organizing effort. However, its success would remove a major pillar of corporate political power in one blow. For more on this approach, see
http://movetoamend.org.

3. A Constitutional amendment to require that all campaigns for federal office be financed exclusively with public funds and prohibit any expenditures from any other source, including the candidate, and prohibit independent support or opposition ads. This seems to remove a lot of the problem, but undoubtedly has loopholes, including (a) the use of so-called independent "issue ads" that *implicitly* (but powerfully) support or oppose a candidate without mentioning them and can readily be defended as free speech and (b) violations (especially borderline cases) that impact the election but aren't finally punished or declared invalid until long after the election is over. Furthermore, this strategy faces the above-mentioned challenges of passing a Constitutional amendment. For one version of this approach see
http://kucinich.house.gov/News/DocumentSingle.aspx?DocumentID=275443.

4. Congress declares that the federal courts, including the Supreme Court, do not have jurisdiction over political matters (as per the Constitution) and simply reassert Congress' Constitutional right to manage elections. This "Constitutional Crisis" approach theoretically handles the problem except that corporate interests which currently control Congress might succeed in preventing it. Furthermore, showdowns between branches of government are kind of unpredictable, raising questions of legitimacy and where the ultimate enforcers - the police and army - stand on the conflict. As with the three options above, chances are this would only succeed with truly massive popular support. For more on this approach see
http://bit.ly/AgGcsn.

5. Pass federal laws that reduce the range of corporate political power without directly tackling the underlying challenge. Below are three approaches I've seen. The advantage is that these are probably more doable in the short run than the previous options. The disadvantage is that the creative corporate types (legal, PR, strategic planners, etc.) will probably STILL expand corporate political power, regardless. Here are some of the ideas that have been fielded (and, in most cases, dropped, but they could be picked up again...):
• Amend the laws on corporate governance to assure that shareholders explicitly approve political expenditures by the companies they hold shares in.
• Restrict campaign contributions by federal contractors (and sometimes other organizations who have recently received money from the federal government, such as corporate subsidy recipients). Alternatively, when a contractor applies for a contract, require them to disclose their contributions to politicians and advocacy groups involved in elections.
• Prevent campaign contributions from any U.S. cosrporation controlled by foreign governments.

6. Promote the capacity for citizens, communities and states to generate empowered public wisdom which, to the extent it is developed, can create a wise We the People capable of resisting any attempt to control them unjustly or unwisely. A major downside of this is the difficulty most people have in understanding it or believing it is possible, so it will likely be a long process during which corporate domination could become further entrenched. For more on this approach, see
http://co-intelligence.org/CIdemocracypolitics_theory.html.

7. Reduce the power of giant corporations by building alternative (mostly local and green) economies. Separate livelihood, production, consumption, and all other forms of meeting human needs from the corporate-controlled global economy. This approach will likely gather steam as global economies falter and peak oil and other resource limits bite into the ability of mass economies to satisfy workers and consumers - e.g., when Walmart can no longer offer low prices because of high transportation costs and unrest in China. To a certain extent, this is inevitable; the transition will be bumpy and/or catastrophic to the extent communities delay and don't proceed with conscious intention and responsive planning. And while communities try to withdraw from the global economy, corporate control will put obstacles in their way and continue degrade the larger environment within which those communities function. For one of the many sites on this approach, see
http://www.geo.coop/about

8. See if corporate domination will die from a million cuts or mosquito bites. This strategy depends on things like the Occupy movement, YouTube creativity, critiques on blogs, popular movies with an anti-corporate theme (think Michael Moore and "Wall Street"), anti-corporate art, music, and performances, boycotts, stockholder activism, violence and property destruction, thousands of groups and communities taking this or that political or economic protest action, etc., etc., all of which would grow into an overwhelming cacophony of populist upheaval as living conditions deteriorate and people have less and less to lose and more desperately want to bring down the bad guys. This strategy includes the idea that certain corporations and (especially local) businesses will do good things and will then use that for market advantage, increasing the dynamic tension against the "bad guys". All this creates an energized context for radical change, including voluntary change from within corporations. A major risk of this extremely likely and nonlinear strategy is that as things get worse, fascist and totalitarian tendencies also increase, often on a populist wave.

The Ocala Demands of 1890

The Ocala Demands of December 1890

1: We demand the abolition of national banks.

2: We demand that the government shall establish sub-treasuries or depositories in the several states, which shall loan money direct to the people at a low rate of interest, not to exceed two per cent per annum, on non-perishable farm products, and also upon real estate, with proper limitations upon the quantity of land and amount of money.

3: We demand that the amount of the circulating medium be speedily increased to not less than $50 per capita.

4: We demand that Congress shall pass such laws as will effectually prevent the dealing in futures of all agricultural and mechanical productions; providing a stringent system of procedure in trials that will secure the prompt conviction, and imposing such penalties as shall secure the most perfect compliance with the law.

5: We condemn the silver bill recently passed by Congress, and demand in lieu thereof the free and unlimited coinage of silver.

6: We demand the passage of laws prohibiting alien ownership of land, and that Congress take prompt action to devise some plan to obtain all lands now owned by aliens and foreign syndicates; and that all lands now held by railroads and other corporations in excess of such as is actually used and needed by them be reclaimed by the government and held for actual settlers only.

7: Believing in the doctrine of equal rights to all and special privileges to none, we demand --

a: That our national legislation shall be so framed in the future as not to build up one industry at the expense of another.

b: We further demand a removal of the existing heavy tariff tax from the necessities of life, that the poor of our land must

c: We further demand a just and equitable system of graduated tax on incomes.

d: We believe that the money of the county should be kept as much as possible in the hands of the people, and hence we demand that all national and state revenues shall be limited to the necessary expenses of the government economically and honestly administered.

e: We demand the most rigid, honest and just state and national government control and supervision of the means of public communication and transportation, and if this control and supervision does not remove the abuse now existing, we demand the government ownership of such means of communication and transportation.

f: We demand that the Congress of the United States submit an amendment to the Constitution providing for the election of United States Senators by direct vote of the people of each state.
***
The basic message here is the warning against speculation. Speculation is the basic disease behind collateralized debt obligations and derivatives that resulted in the great 2008 meltdown. You can see that the sense of government that the farmers envisioned were the total opposite of what Wall Street and Reagan have forced upon us.

20 January 2012

A gem from Andrew Weil

...hormesis may help explain why people who lead strenuous lives with plenty of moderate physical challenges may be healthier and live longer than those in more comfortable circumstances. A 2008 paper titled "Hormesis in Aging" by researchers from the Laboratory of Cellular Aging, Department of Molecular Biology, University of Aarhus in Denmark concluded that "single or multiple exposure to low doses of otherwise harmful agents, such as irradiation, food limitation, heat stress, hypergravity, reactive oxygen species and other free radicals have a variety of anti-aging and longevity-extending hormetic effects."

All of which suggests that one of the best routes to health is to make yourself a little uncomfortable now and then. The most profitable discomforts are likely those with which human beings have a long evolutionary history such as physical exertion, getting hungry, regularly tipping back a modest measure of alcohol, short-term exposure to cold or heat, and so on. Conversely, novel stressors -- such as the stew of noxious synthetic chemicals in the modern environment with which we have no evolutionary history -- are best regarded as guilty until proven innocent.

Which brings up a word of caution: Throughout history, irresponsible politicians and commentators have cited the hormetic effect to justify reducing restrictions on pollution -- claiming that a little poison or radiation in the water, air or food supply is good for us. This is dangerous nonsense. Hormesis appears to be of value only when dosages are very carefully controlled, which does not describe releasing random mixtures of toxins, especially synthetic ones, into general circulation. There's still a great deal we don't understand about hormesis. Until we do, the smartest policy for governments and industry is to keep the public's exposure to environmental toxins as low as possible.
In the 60s people did psychedelics to make the world weird and freaky...Now that the world is weird and freaky, people take Prozac to try and make it 'normal'.
Give a person a fish and you feed them for a day.

Teach a person to use the internet and they won't bother you for weeks, months, maybe years.
Jews do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah.

Protestants do not recognize the Pope as the leader of the Christian faith.

Baptists do not recognize each other in the liquor store.

13 January 2012

Mitt Romney touts his job creation, but it's rarely mentioned that the high paying jobs with benefits that were lost by his 'creativity' were replaced by low paying jobs with few, if any, benefits. It's much like loggers clear cutting an old growth forest and replanting seedlings...perhaps they replant half again as many seedings as the trees they logged...but the old growth forest is gone forever, along with all its diversity, and what we are left with is a plantation mentality.

03 January 2012

Two years ago I was walking in the woods on our trails when I spied an animal ahead...I thought maybe it was a feral dog at first, a golden lab or something...as I got closer, pacing the animal, perhaps 20 paces behind with the wind in my face...I noticed the black tip on the extremely long tail. I knew in that instant that it was a mountain lion. Continuing to follow it for another 100 paces, it veered to the right around some alder brush...as I came around the bend there it was, broad side to me with a beaver kill it had on the trail...obviously from earlier. Now 10 paces from me, it's eyes caught mine. The hair bristled on my neck and in a flash (seriously) of three bounds it was far out of sight. Powerful animals. And this one was an adolescent, beyond it's spot phase...but not yet an adult.
This past summer some neighbors (a half mile to the north) were out on their deck watching a doe and her fawn who had just come out of the woods...in a flash a mountain lion (perhaps the same one?) appeared, snatched the fawn like a housecat would a mouse, snapped its neck and walked away. The doe snorted and pawed to no avail. They called me and asked me what they should do. I suggested to be quietly amazed and careful, for that's why we live where we do.

02 January 2012

Life After The End of Economic Growth

From Heinberg's article:

"...over the longer term there will undoubtedly be life after growth, and it doesn't have to play out under miserable conditions. With less energy to fuel globalisation and mechanisation there should be increasing requirement for local production and manual labour. We could meet everyone's basic needs by prioritising jobs in manufacturing and agriculture while downsizing the financial industry and the military. We will also have to reduce economic inequality and corruption (as the rapidly spreading Occupy movement rightly insists).

As we do these things, we must reform economics to reflect ecological reality: nature is not, after all, just a pile of raw materials waiting to be transformed into products and then waste; rather, ecosystem integrity is a precondition for society's survival. Adaptive responses cannot only be left up to government officials and economists; for their part, households must rein in debt and overconsumption while contributing more to community resilience.

There's light at the end of the tunnel. If we focus on improving quality of life rather than boosting quantity of consumption, we could be happier even as our economy downsizes to fit nature's limits.

But a benign future is unlikely to transpire if we all continue living in a dream world where growth knows no bounds, where debt can be repaid with more debt, and where natural resources are assumed to be endless.

Alarm bells are ringing. Wake up to the post-growth economy."

We got too big for the world

Kohr’s claim was that society’s problems were not caused by particular forms of social or economic organization, but by their size. Sociali...