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Welcome to the Sixteenth Century, Eureka

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I had to reprint this article from Firedoglake:


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Welcome to the Sixteenth Century

By: masaccio Sunday November 30, 2014 10:57 am

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113014_Damned-to-Hell-Demons Please don’t murder us in the streets. We work hard so we should be paid a living wage. Bankers should be treated as equal before the law. Please stop spying on us. We’ve lived here all our lives, don’t deport us to a foreign country. Please stop killing people everywhere in the world. We are entitled to be treated like other people. Please stop poisoning the dirt that grows our food and the water we drink and the air we breathe. The minimal nature of the demands of millions of protesters measures the decrepit state of our nation. It also tells us that the rich people who run this country loathe and despise us.

We killed your kids with impunity. Take that tiny paycheck, and supplement it with government benefits, and punch out before you clean up your work station. Bankers are the engines of prosperity and if they get a bit greedy, it can’t be prevented without destroying capitalism. We spy on you to protect you from immigrants with Ebola and sharp swords. Get back into that closet. You’ll eat and breathe oil and you’ll love it. OK, you noisy group can get married. Now aren’t you happy? Remember, we have the guns, the tanks, the tear gas, the pepper spray, the kettles, the rifles, the humvees, the assault rifles, the MRAPs, and the drones, and we have your data and your phones and your computers and your emails and your facebook pages and your tweets, and we know who you are. And just ignore those thugs on the roofs, those plain-clothes men with AR-15s, they’re either our regular troops or our irregulars, our vigilantes, just out to protect our private property.

As bad as this is, the worst part is that there are millions of people who aren’t elites, who aren’t rich enough to financially survive a lost job or a divorce or a sick kid, but who think this is just fine. Those people vote for the system not just in elections, but by their hatred for their neighbors. Who could have predicted so many citizens would enjoy watching their neighbors thrown out of their houses rather than figure out some way to help? Who would have thought so many citizens would be thrilled to see families broken up and deported? Who would have thought so many citizens would be happy to drink oil instead of water for any reason? Who would have thought that so many citizens would prefer not just to let corporations pay so little to their neighbors, but also to support cutting off all government benefits to those workers? Who would have thought so many citizens would be happy to have some government agent collecting their phones and email and internet search histories?

The optimists among us point to a bunch of liberal issues on which a plurality of citizens agree according to pollsters. That’s great, and it may even be true. But the fact is that our Constitution is set up to prevent government action against the will of a small minority. It gives tiny Red States plenty of 19th Century Senators who under Senate rules can block any action they don’t like. The House is thoroughly gerrymandered, so that the will of the majority isn’t even represented. Presidential candidates must win the money primary, insuring that they will support the interests of the richest and most retrograde among the top .01% who own 11% of the total wealth of the nation. The Supreme Court has always protected property at the expense of every other interest or value, so even if a decent piece of legislation passed, the five conservative hacks on the Court will strike it down.

It seems to me that this nation is infected by a nameless, faceless dread, a fear of something awful just beyond our ability to grasp. The media, right-wing politicians and demagogues, acting on behalf of their filthy rich patrons, actively exploit that fear to get what they want: a divided nation at war with itself. You don’t have to watch Fox News or listen to Rush Limbaugh or worse to get this; you can feel it in the air, and get all the examples you need from The Daily Show or Colbert or Oliver. Where does this come from? This is a country rich in resources, armed to the teeth, with a powerful technological infrastructure that should allow a lot of material progress and solutions to any real problems. And yet there’s this:

As of 2014, it’s estimated that nearly half of Americans — 49 percent — say natural disasters are a sign of “the end times,” as described in the Bible. That’s up from an estimated 44 percent in 2011.

How do you explain technological marvels sitting alongside this kind of pre-Enlightenment fright? One explanation comes from @Billmon1, a great Twitter follow. He says that a large part of the US missed the Enlightenment altogether. That part, largely the Red states, but all over the country, is embedded in the 16th/17th centuries:

To be more specific: rooted in 16th/17th century British isles — Scotland, English border lands & Ireland, to be precise. “Celtic fringe.”

About as backwoods, parochial, & religiously bigoted part of W. Europe as you could have found in that era — an era of religious bigotry.

We have a great recent example of this culture in Northern Ireland. After a century of war with itself and its Catholic neighbors, Northern Ireland has turned from religious bigotry to racial bigotry. There are plenty of problems in Ireland, many of which are the result of unbridled capitalism like the short-sighted decisions of the leaders to pay off all depositor loses caused by Irish banks and the outrageous tax schemes that enable the likes of Apple to screw the US out of needed tax revenues. But really, a few immigrants are the problem?

It’s a mirror image of the US. The “Other” is the problem. It isn’t the unjust distribution of wealth, it isn’t the exploitation of the worker by the filthy rich, it isn’t unequal schools, it isn’t poverty or any other structural condition. It’s witches. It’s demons. It’s unholiness. It’s impurity. It’s smoke.

It isn’t fixable. The most you can hope for is bottling up that rage and fear in fewer and fewer people. Instead the media stokes those fires. Self-ordained ministers tell people that it’s sin that cause fires and floods and earthquakes and eclipses. Rage freaks like O’Reilly and Limbaugh and the incomparably stupid Hannity tell their listeners that the end times are coming. Politicians like Lindsey Graham shriek that terrorists are coming to kill them while they sleep. These pre-moderns are now in control of both the House and Senate, and the Supreme Court.

I’m thinking about being a bit fearful myself.

Photo by Georges Jansoone under Creative Commons license


–Joe

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Authoritarianism’s Pretty Face

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WikiLeak’s enlightening revelations are truly revealing within themselves. Perhaps we can all agree or conclude that absolutely nothing government says is true – everything is a lie. We should, therefore, proceed from that premise and then move on to the truth.

More than that, however, are the raw edges exposed by this light. It seems there’s been a confluence of disparate individuals that’s come together to achieve the same goals. This is what usually happens when there’s a major change taking place, but only obvious to few people. Here’s a good example of a raw edge illustrated by Glenn Greenwald in his latest column:

(5) Speaking of authoritarianism, the loathsome Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) — the National-Security-State-venerating Chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee who lives off her defense contractor-husband’s vast wealth — announced that she supports re-writing and expanding the Espionage Act of 1917 to make it easier to prosecute WikiLeaks and those like them; asalways, Feinstein abuses her role as Chair of the “oversight” Committee not to scrutinize and limit the abuses of the intelligence community but to protect them at all costs, as that’s where her source of wealth and power lie.  She was responding to yesterday’s announcement that Joe Lieberman — joined by GOP Senators Scott Brown and John Ensign — introduced a bill intended to make it easier to prosecute Assange.  Exactly as Dowd says, when it comes to authoritarian punishments for those who dare to expose what the U.S. Government does, the mindset is entirely bipartisan.

Glenn updates this column with: The lawless Wild West attacks WikiLeaks – It should be “attacks America.”

A review of Glenn’s recent articles lays out in fairly stark and graphic terms what’s happened to America and what it is doing to the world as a consequence. Everyone seems only to be concerned about how the WikiLeaks revelations affects America. The problem is how the rest of the world see America after the facts and what they are going to do about it. Glenn says:

All the oppressive, lawless policies of the last decade — lawless detention, Guantanamo, disappearing people to CIA black sites, rendition, the torture regime, denial of habeas corpus, drones, assassinations, private mercenary forces, etc. — were designed, first and foremost, to instill exactly this fear, to deter any challenge.   Many of these policies continue, and that climate of fear thus endures (see this comment from today as but one of many examples).  As the treatment just thus far of WikiLeaks and Assange demonstrates, that reaction — though paralyzing and counter-productive — is not irrational.  And one thing is for sure:  there is nothing the U.S. Government could do — no matter how lawless or heinous — which (with rare exception) would provoke the objections of the American establishment media.

UPDATE II:  Those wishing to donate to WikiLeaks can still do so here, via Options 2 (online credit card) or 3 (wire to bank in Iceland).

Latest Update: Dan Gilmore writes (click the title link for the article):

Defend WikiLeaks or lose free speech

Journalists should wake up and realize that the attacks on the whistle-blower are attacks on them, too

–Joe

Republicans – The Tea Party

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A sobering look at Republican issues and the Tea Party’s assault on their elitist aspirations to continue to fulfill their mandate as God’s Ordained People. Glenn Greenwald seems to think this movement has legs. If so, then there is ample evidence of what we can expect in American’s future. Maybe another French Revolution American style.

Glenn Greenwald

The misguided reaction to Tea Party candidates

By Glenn Greenwald

  • Thursday, Sep 16, 2010 08:17 ET

The “tea party” movement is, in my view, a mirror image of the Republican Party generally.  There are some diverse, heterodox factions which compose a small, inconsequential minority of it (various libertarian, independent, and Reagan Democrat types), but it is dominated — in terms of leadership, ideology, and the vast majority of adherents — by the same set of beliefs which have long shaped the American Right:  Reagan-era domestic policies, blinding American exceptionalism and natavism, fetishizing American wars, total disregard for civil liberties, social and religious conservatism, hatred of the minority-Enemy du Jour (currently: Muslims), allegiance to self-interested demagogic leaders, hidden exploitation by corporatist masters, and divisive cultural tribalism.  Other than the fact that (1) it is driven (at least in part) by genuine citizen passion and engagement, and (2) represents a justifiable rebellion against the Washington and GOP establishments, I see little good in it and much potential for bad.  To me, it’s little more than the extremely discredited faction which drove the country into the ground for the last decade, merely re-branded under a new name.

Read the rest of this entry »

Better Than A Bomb

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[UPDATE Below – “Pig in a Poke”]

From the moment the first plane hit the twin towers this country has self-destructed. Just look at what the latest blue-ribbon fiasco has produced. Let start with Charles Krauthammer’s slide into a black hole: How to modernize Miranda for the Age of Terror – Op-Ed column for the Washington Post newspaper.

Then you have the latest fiasco attempt to bomb New York Times Square and Joe Lieberman’s end around Constitutional Law with his Citizenship stripping bill reported in the Washington Post. Here’s some more on this: Lieberman’s Citizenship-Revoking Law Slammed As ‘Draconian’ in the Huffington Post.

Another similar situation after the Fort Hood shooting: Army: Fort Hood Gunman in Custody After 12 Killed, 31 Injured in Rampage by Fox News. He’s linked to an  Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Yemeni scholar, another “radical” and President Obama issues an order for his shoot on sight summary execution. Reuters reports:  U.S. targets Americanborn cleric in Yemen: officials as some sort of “America’s top terrorist threat.” 

This commentary is typical and growing: “Staggering Hypocrisy.”

Then you Arizona’s new laws assaulting and criminalizing ethnic minorities, non-whites and indigenous peoples. And the internal isolation that goes along with the growing boycott.  Now a new law: In Arizona, just say no to Latino heritage     -“It’s really about fear and denial.”

The world is fast learning that America, a country ruled by Law is a joke. The literal physical lives of American civilians killed by terrorist bombs, bad as that was, is totally insignificant to what these paranoid Dark Age government officials have done, continue to do and promise to do to America’s legitimate right to exist as a constitutional country. The bleeding of America’s Essence has already won them the War.

America’s enemies are not some “rag heads” holed up in a cave or some mud out in some barren desert hut with an AK47 or an equivalent stone-age club. America’s enemies our their corrupt elected leaders. The betrayers, the complicit, the enablers, the corrupt, the gutless, the arrogant, the morons and that list goes on.

If you want real proof from an outside source substantiating the above observations and conclusions, read (below) “The President of Cant.”

[UPDATE :: Thursday, May 20, 2010 — Even better when it’s a “Pig in a Poke.”]

Politicizing Miranda

Modifying who has the right to a Miranda warning is a political solution to a national security problem that doesn’t exist. | Adam Serwer | May 20, 2010 |
 

–Joe

HOPE – An Immoral Dead-End

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In my lifetime I was often told: “Talk is cheap.” It’s what you do that tells the truth. For whatever reasons, American’s bought into that cheap suit, “Hope.” Tariq Ali lays out a rather stark assessment of President Obama’s agenda.

If there was ever something to put on this blog worth reading, it is this:

PRESIDENT OF CANT by tariq ali

A year since the White House changed hands, how has the American empire altered? Under the Bush Administration it was widely believed, in both mainstream opinion and much of the amnesiac section of the left, that the United States had fallen under an aberrant regime, the product of a virtual coup d’état by a coterie of right-wing fanatics—alternatively, ultra-reactionary corporations—who had hijacked American democracy for policies of unprecedented aggression in the Middle East. In reaction, the election to the Presidency of a mixed-race Democrat, vowing to heal America’s wounds at home and restore its reputation abroad, was greeted with a wave of ideological euphoria not seen since the days of Kennedy. Once again, America could show its true face—purposeful but peaceful, firm but generous; humane, respectful, multi-cultural—to the world. Naturally, with the makings of a Lincoln or a Roosevelt for our time in him, the country’s new young ruler would have to make compromises, as any statesman must. But at least the shameful interlude of Republican swagger and criminality was over. Bush and Cheney had broken the continuity of a multilateral American leadership that had served the country well throughout the Cold War and after. Obama would now restore it.

Rarely has self-interested mythology—or well-meaning gullibility—been more quickly exposed. There was no fundamental break in foreign policy, as opposed to diplomatic mood music, between the Bush 1, Clinton and Bush 2 Administrations; there has been none between the Bush and Obama regimes. The strategic goals and imperatives of the us imperium remain the same, as do its principal theatres and means of operation. Since the collapse of the ussr, the Carter Doctrine—the construction of another democratic pillar of human rights—has defined the greater Middle East as the central battlefield for the imposition of American power around the world. It is enough to look at each of its sectors to see that Obama is the offspring of Bush, as Bush was of Clinton and Clinton of Bush the father, as so many appropriately biblical begettings. Read the rest of this entry »

Filibuster Unconstitutional?

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Ghost Filibuster

Is this a joke? Who says America is a country governed by law? The reality is something else!

America is ruled by the lawless. These guys, from President Obama all the way down to the most junior congressman or woman swore an oath before God and man to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.” Instead they gut it.

Is there any wonder why Americans are so totally disillusioned with the current state of governance?

1. Thomas Geoghegan on the Case for Busting the Filibuster – Democracy Now

2. The Unconstitutional Filibuster – Mother Jones

— By Kevin Drum | Mon Jan. 11, 2010 10:32 AM PST

3. Hertzberg on the Constitutionality of the Filibuster 

[Referenced article in The New Yorker magazine]

 Here’s the interview with Thomas Geoghegan on Democracy Now on “the Case for Busting the Filibuster.”

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“War Exception”-Assassination by Accusation

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[ADDENDUM below]

Below is a post titled : “Death by Accusation.” The title probably should have been: Assassination by Accusation. The following is an addendum to that article by the same author. I’ve attached an excerpt, but the whole article is worth reading and considering.

Anyone with a clear understanding of conflict and war knows that military might with the inherent threat to annihilate the earth is no guarantee of victory. Yet America is going broke morally, ethically, legally, and financially by continuing to fight a war based upon lies and no legal, might I say legitimate constitutional

basis. War is about will. Illegitimate corruption degrades or disempowers the will. The so-called terrorists at 9/11 attacked an illegitimate government with the intent to attack this country at its weakest point — WILL.

The fact is, America’s response was and is “by the numbers.” This issue defines our destruction – the sickness from within. Here’s what Mr. Greenwald says:

On the claimed “war exception” to the Constitution

BY GLENN GREENWALD

Far beyond the specific injustices of assassinating Americans without trials, the real significance, the real danger, is that we continue to be frightened into radically altering our system of government.  In Slateyesterday, Dahlia Lithwick encapsulated this problem perfectly; her whole article should be read, but this excerpt is superb:

America has slid back again into its own special brand of terrorism-derangement syndrome. Each time this condition recurs, it presents with more acute and puzzling symptoms. . . .

Moreover, each time Republicans go to their terrorism crazy-place, they go just a little bit farther than they did the last time, so that things that made us feel safe last year make us feel vulnerable today. . . . In short, what was once tough on terror is now soft on terror. And each time the Republicans move their own crazy-place goal posts, the Obama administration moves right along with them. . . .

We’re terrified when a terror attack happens, and we’re also terrified when it’s thwarted. We’re terrified when we give terrorists trials, and we’re terrified when we warehouse them at Guantanamo without trials. If a terrorist cooperates without being tortured we complain about how much more he would have cooperated if he hadn’t been read his rights. No matter how tough we’ve been on terror, we will never feel safe enough to ask for fewer safeguards. . . .

But here’s the paradox: It’s not a terrorist’s time bomb that’s ticking. It’s us. Since 9/11, we have become ever more willing to suspend basic protections and more contemptuous of American traditions and institutions. The failed Christmas bombing and its political aftermath have revealed that the terrorists have changed very little in the eight-plus years since the World Trade Center fell. What’s changing — what’s slowly ticking its way down to zero — is our own certainty that we can never be safe enough and our own confidence in the rule of law.

This descent has certainly not reversed itself — it has not really even slowed — with the election of a President who repeatedly vowed to reject this mentality.  Just consider what Al Gore said in his truly excellent 2006 speech decrying the “Constitutional crisis” under the Bush presidency:

Can it be true that any president really has such powers under our Constitution?

If the answer is yes, then under the theory by which these acts are committed, are there any acts that can on their face be prohibited?

If the president has the inherent authority to eavesdrop on American citizens without a warrant, imprison American citizens on his own declaration, kidnap and torture, then what can’t he do?

Here we are, almost four years later with a new party in power, and the President’s top intelligence official announces — without any real controversy — that the President claims the power to assassinate American citizens with no charges, no trials, no judicial oversight of any kind.  The claimed power isn’t “inherent” — it’s based on alleged Congressional approval — but it’s safeguard-free and due-process-free just the same.  As Gore asked of less severe policies in 2006, if the President can do that, “then what can’t he do?”  As long as we stay petrified of the Terrorists and wholly submissive whenever the word “war” is uttered, the answer will continue to be:  “nothing.”  We’ll have Presidents now and then who are marginally more restrained than others — as the current President is marginally more restrained than the prior one — but what Lithwick calls our “willingness to suspend basic protections and become more contemptuous of American traditions and institutions” will continue unabated.

In the real world, America has already lost the “war” by becoming what it is fighting.

ADDENDUM :: Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Democracy Now interviewed Rep. Dennis Kucinich and blogger and attorney Glenn Greenwald. Dennis Kucinich affirms the legal protections granted all American citizens and wants to know by what authority The President of the United States can murder an American citizen on his say-so alone. Dennis Kucinich’s most distressing comment regarding legal justification had to do with presidential declarations “declaring three states of national emergency,” “one relating to 9/11, another one relating to the war on terror, and a third one relating to Iran.”

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, Congress has the authority, under a joint resolution, to challenge any presidential directive. It’s not widely known, Amy, but there are at least three states of national emergency that we’re operating under right now by presidential declaration: one relating to 9/11, another one relating to the war on terror, and a third one relating to Iran. You know, this idea of being governed by an edict, of being locked into this war on terror, poses all kinds of challenges to our Constitution. I take an oath to defend the Constitution. And when I see in the Fifth Amendment where it says that no one should be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law, I want to know what’s the constitutional basis for suspending this provision for anyone, even for a moment, because if this is—if this, in any sense, can be set aside, then we are on a slippery slope to anti-democracy.

Kucinich points out why this should be important to all American citizens no matter where they live:

*****  And what’s happened is that the Constitution is being vitiated here. The idea that people are—have—if their life is in jeopardy, legally have due process of law, is thrown out the window.
And, Amy, when you consider that there are people who are claiming there are many terrorist cells in the United States, it doesn’t take too much of a stretch to imagine that this policy could easily be transferred to citizens in this country. That doesn’t—that only compounds what I think is a slow and steady detachment from core constitutional principles. And once that happens, we have a country then that loses its memory and its soul, with respect to being disconnected from those core constitutional principles which are the basis of freedom in our society.

If you consider the possibility that this, the destruction of America’s soul, was the real target on 9/11, then you would have admit they’ve rather successful.

–Joe

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