Category Archives: America

About American politics, our spirit, and our soul

Threats come & go, leaving us in perpetual fear & forgetful of the past

Summary: Fearful and forgetful make us an easily ruled people. Easily aroused to panic, yet amnesic about it once the news media move to a new threat — so that we never learn. While a pitiful state for a once-great people, we can regain our former sense and skepticism.

“Maybe it will all work out ok, but if you catch Ebola just remember your nice article calling anyone concerned chicken little as your lungs fill with fluid, and you’re shitting and vomiting blood.”
By Sam, October 14. One of the many terrified commenters, fruit of conservatives’ fear-mongering about Ebola — immediately forgotten after the election.

Missouri: the "Show me" State

What happened to these people? We need them now.

A few months ago we quaked in fear about Ebola (see John B. Judis’ in The New Republic: “Ebola and ISIS Are Making American Voters Go Crazy. Here’s How Irrational Fears Shape Elections.“), about the horde of immigrants flooding in from Latin America, and about the campus rape epidemic (1 in 5 coeds raped!). America was a nation of wet pants. Suddenly these threats are gone, replaced by new ones about which we’re just as irrationally frightened (Yemen!).

Best of all, from our leaders’ perspective, we forget the stories about the previous threats and so eagerly believe the new ones. I watch these transitions with astonishment.

All peoples have manias, of different kinds. Today in America it’s their magnitude and frequency which makes our politics so dysfunctional. While we run screaming in terror at each new phantom, our elites quietly build a New America on the ruins of the old.

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Can Constitutional amendments save the Republic?

Summary: We’re losing to the 1%, and articles like this show why. Reformers dream of changes to the system (like the amendments proposed here) while the 1% builds the machinery to make changes happen. They’ve invested the time, effort and money; now they reap their reward. It need not be this way.  {1st of  2 posts today.}

“The throne is never vacant.”
— Russian aphorism. If we choose not to govern, then others will.

Amendments to the Constitution

It’s Not Too Late: Save Democracy By Amending the Constitution

By John Nichols, The Nation, 6 April 2015
“Corporations are not people, money is not speech,
and votes must matter more than billionaires’ dollars.”

Nothing locks in inequality and dysfunction like a constitution so imprecise that it allows right-wing judicial activists to make buying elections easy and voting in them hard. But don’t just blame “constitutional conservatives” for turning our founding document into an outline for oligarchy. Fret about liberal constitutionalists who imagine we’re just one thrilling presidential appointment away from making our democratic vistas real. Like Democrats dreaming of another FDR, liberals waiting for another Earl Warren miss the point. Our democratic destiny is not something to wait for — it’s something we have to make happen. Dissident Americans have been bending the arc of history by rewriting the US Constitution since amendments were added with quill pens. Today’s dissenters should be about the business of doing so once more.

… The real friends of the Constitution today champion a “move to amend” that would declare that corporations are not people, that money is not speech, and that votes must matter more than billionaires’ dollars. Sixteen states and some 600 communities have recently demanded that Congress initiate a constitutional response to the judicial activism that has allowed elites to commodify our politics and corporatize our governance. At the same time, activists are taking up a proposal by Congressmen Mark Pocan and Keith Ellison to end the crude assault on voting rights with an amendment that establishes, finally and unequivocally, a right to vote and to have every vote counted. These are good starting points, but they are not an end to anything.

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The GOP budget shows us the New America that lies ahead

Summary: The first budget by the new Republican majority in Congress shows what lies ahead for America. It’s another tale of the New America rising on the ruins of the old, as the 1% begins the pursuit phase of the battle against us. These tales are entertainment for the outer party, just exhilaration as they boo the other tribe unless they motivate people to political action. {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“There’s class warfare, all right. But it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
— Warren Buffet, quoted in the New York Times Magazine, 26 November 2006.Was Marx right?

 

Brick by brick the New America slowly rises on the ruins of the Second Republic. As we see in this week’s headline “Senate passes Republican budget with deep safety net cuts“. It’s a full-court press to reconfigure the US government to benefit the 1%. Excerpt:

The Senate passed a Republican-authored budget plan early on Friday that seeks $5.1 trillion in domestic spending cuts over 10 years while boosting military funding. … which is similar to one passed by House Republicans on Wednesday. … They also showcase the fiscal vision for Republicans, who now control both Houses of Congress for the first time since 2006 and are eager to demonstrate their ability to govern.

… The Senate budget seeks to eliminate U.S. deficits by 2025 without raising taxes through deep cuts to social safety net programs, investments in transportation and education and other domestic programs. At the same time, it proposes to boost defense spending by adding about $38 billion to an off-budget war funding account, and offers core Pentagon budget increases in subsequent years.

This is just the first step. We can expect more drastic measures in the future, shifting taxes from the 1% to us and cutting government benefits. The Hill explains (Note: block grants are a means to shift spending to the States, for easier slashing):

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A Tale of New America: a judge burns the Constitution

Summary: Today we have another Tale of New America, as the government exempts from legal challenge the shadowy neocon group United Against Nuclear Iran. The tale is told here not as information (clickbait), but to spark your anger and action at what’s happening to the Republic and what we have become.   {1st of 2 posts today.}

“United Against Nuclear Iran”

Let’s make it a dawn, not a sunset.

For a decade I and many others have documented the decline of the Republic and its replacement by a plutocracy. We’re now far along in this, as the 1% begins the “pursuit” phase (the endgame) in which they exploit their victory to crush their foes (preventing subsequent conflict), and begin the post-bellum restructuring of law and society to accommodate their values and appetites. The changes to date were on the gentle downward slope of an “S Curve”. Now we enter the steep section as the 1% makes large obvious changes, without fear of effective opposition. This is our daily news.

The police become both militarized and bolder in their brutality (as in yesterday’s vignette, and the other posts about police brutality). The government becomes more open about their mass domestic surveillance; Obama boasts about ordering assassination of America citizens. Public excitement about these things produces no substantial change, just a delay in their advance.

Today we have another outrageous tale, as the government displays its power over the now-impotent institutions created by the Constitution. Accounts of these provide clickbait for the news media, excitement for the outer party (We’re informed!), and boost the reputation of the Deep State. Win-win-win.

So let’s turn to Glen Greenwald at The Intercept for today’s sad story: “Court Accepts DOJ’s ‘State Secrets’ Claim to Protect Shadowy Neocons: a New Low” —

A truly stunning debasement of the U.S. justice system just occurred through the joint efforts of the Obama Justice Department and a meek and frightened Obama-appointed federal judge, Edgardo Ramos, all in order to protect an extremist neocon front group from scrutiny and accountability. The details are crucial for understanding the magnitude of the abuse here.

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A Tale of police brutality New America: it’s just entertainment unless we act.

Summary: Today we have another story of bold police brutality, with racial overtones. Like the revelations of massive NSA surveillance, these stories produce excitement before we relapse into apathy. They show the construction of a New America rising on the ruins of the old regime.  What will it take to spur us to action? {1st of 2 posts today}

Are these proud words from an era now ending?

Police: To Protect and to Serve

This is New America, where the police act boldly to establish their dominance over the proles and outer party (they’re deferential to the inner party). As Floyd Dent found: pulled over, beaten up, and then charged with resisting arrest and drug possession (dropping one of their handy dime bags of dope). The charges provide deflectors to the police against the inevitable brutality charge. Here’s his story (there will be another next week, or tomorrow): “Detroit-Area Cops Shown Beating Black Man During Traffic Stop“, NBC, 25 March 2015 — Excerpt:

“Why you beating on me like this?” the driver, Floyd Dent, 57, asks after police pull him to the hood of a cruiser.  Accounts of the incident from Dent and from Inkster police — all of whom in the video appear to be white — are wildly different:

  • Police said Dent attempted to flee the police car, but the video appears to show Dent maintaining a consistent speed and then pulling over safely across the street from a police station.
  • Police say Dent threatened to kill the officers. Dent says he didn’t — and none of the 6 officers’ microphones were turned on at the beginning of the incident to substantiate their claim.
  • One officer said Dent bit him on the arm. Dent said he didn’t, and the officer didn’t seek medical attention or photograph his injury to support the allegation.
  • Police said they found a bag of crack cocaine under the passenger seat of Dent’s car. Dent, who has worked for Ford Motor Co. for 37 years and has no criminal record, said officers planted the cocaine. A post-arrest blood test showed no drugs in his system. Inkster Police Chief Vicky Yost said that “appropriate action” would be taken if the investigations found the cocaine possession charge to have been manufactured.

A judge dismissed all charges involved in the physical confrontation with police after watching the video obtained by WDIV. Dent’s lawyer said he was offered a plea deal resulting only in probation on the cocaine possession charge, but Dent turned it down, telling the station he wouldn’t plead guilty to a crime he didn’t commit.

See the dashcam video

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Step back and see The New American Order

Summary:  This is the second half of Tom Engelhardt’s essay about the New America the 1% erects on the remains of the America-that-once-was. This is the vital fact necessary to understand our situation, the red pill that allows one to see the common factor behind so many of our problems.

Reform is not possible until people realize what’s happening — and care about it. Both are necessary. The second will be much more difficult to achieve. What we do with this information will determine the outcome.  If it’s just entertaining reading for the outer party then Tom’s effort was wasted (the inner party know these things; the proles don’t care).    This is the second half to Step back and see The New American Order.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

The New Regime

Second Half of “The New American Order

1% Elections, The Privatization of the State, a Fourth Branch of Government, and the Demobilization of “We the People”

By Tom Engelhardt
Posted at TomDispatch, 19 March 2015.
Re-posted here with his generous permission.

4. Rise of the National Security State as the 4th Branch of Government

One “branch” of government is, however, visibly on the rise and rapidly gaining independence from just about any kind of oversight.  Its ability to enact its wishes with almost no opposition in Washington is a striking feature of our moment.  But while the symptoms of this process are regularly reported, the overall phenomenon — the creation of a de facto fourth branch of government — gets remarkably little attention.  In the war on terror era, the national security state has come into its own.  Its growth has been phenomenal.  Though it’s seldom pointed out, it should be considered remarkable that in this period we gained a second full-scale “defense department,” the Department of Homeland Security, and that it and the Pentagon have become even more entrenched, each surrounded by its own growing “complex” of private corporations, lobbyists, and allied politicians.  The militarization of the country has, in these years, proceeded apace.

Meanwhile, the duplication to be found in the U.S. Intelligence Community with its 17 major agencies and outfits is staggering.  Its growing ability to surveil and spy on a global scale, including on its own citizens, puts the totalitarian states of the twentieth century to shame.  That the various parts of the national security state can act in just about any fashion without fear of accountability in a court of law is by now too obvious to belabor.  As wealth has traveled upwards in American society in ways not seen since the first Gilded Age, so taxpayer dollars have migrated into the national security state in an almost plutocratic fashion.

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The 1% build a New America on the ruins of the old.

Summary: Today’s article by Tom Engelhardt discusses what might be the greatest issue of our age, the fall of the Second American Republic (built on the Constitution) as the 1% builds a new political regime on its ruins. As with Rome’s evolution from Republic to the Empire, the outward forms remain roughly the same while its essence and dynamics change.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

Death of the republic

First Half of “The New American Order

1% Elections, The Privatization of the State, a Fourth Branch of Government, and the Demobilization of “We the People”

By Tom Engelhardt
Posted at TomDispatch, 19 March 2015.
Re-posted here with his generous permission.

Have you ever undertaken some task you felt less than qualified for, but knew that someone needed to do? Consider this piece my version of that, and let me put what I do understand about it in a nutshell: based on developments in our post-9/11 world, we could be watching the birth of a new American political system and way of governing for which, as yet, we have no name.

And here’s what I find strange: the evidence of this, however inchoate, is all around us and yet it’s as if we can’t bear to take it in or make sense of it or even say that it might be so.

Let me make my case, however minimally, based on five areas in which at least the faint outlines of that new system seem to be emerging: political campaigns and elections; the privatization of Washington through the marriage of the corporation and the state; the de-legitimization of our traditional system of governance; the empowerment of the national security state as an untouchable fourth branch of government; and the demobilization of “we the people.”

Whatever this may add up to, it seems to be based, at least in part, on the increasing concentration of wealth and power in a new plutocratic class and in that ever-expanding national security state. Certainly, something out of the ordinary is underway, and yet its birth pangs, while widely reported, are generally categorized as aspects of an exceedingly familiar American system somewhat in disarray.

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