Tag Archives: Voting

The Only Thing We Have to Fear Is…


I have written before on the purpose that fairy tales served in our not too distant past before they were sanitized and Disneyfied.  In short, they were very useful for keeping children in line.  Fear.  Our first method of discipline as children is often fear.  It is typically the same method that many western religions use.  It is the reason that the phrase “god-fearing Christian” still exists in our lexicon.  (That, and it is baked into the Judeo-Christian religion at a fundamental level.)  As we grow and mature, we can develop into more complex and reasonable ways to discipline and learn.  Fear need not be the way we teach our children the difference between right and wrong, nor should it be the way we govern ourselves, or our society.

Decisions made on the basis of fear are almost always knee-jerk reactions, and more often than not, short of truly critical individually life threatening emergency situations, they are wrong.  Fight or flight responses are almost never appropriate for a society.

This is precisely what we do though.  We elect people more often than not based on fear.  Fear of “the other guy”.  Fear of what will happen if we act on the courage of our convictions.  Fear that “this election is too important to take a chance”.  Fear that we are “at war” with al Qaeda, on drugs, on poverty, on women, on ________ .

All too often, those we elect, and worse yet, those we do not elect, but that are in positions of extraordinary power, are more than happy to use this fear to manipulate and control the populace in the ways that they see fit.  In fairness, some of them are dong so because they sincerely believe that it is necessary.  They truly believe that “the world is a dangerous place” and that “the ends justifies the means”.  These are the people that I most feel sorry for.  They fail to understand that they are actually creating or exacerbating the problems that they are seeking to protect us against.

Yes, there are bad people in the world, and yes, we do have to take steps to protect ourselves against them.  We do not, however, have to go overboard with that.  We do not have to start sacrificing our liberties and our minds in that pursuit.  With complete honesty and not the least bit of hyperbole, it is these people, the ones that are supposed to be protecting us, that scare me far more than the al Qaedas, the M-13s, or the Somali pirates of the world.  I literally have no fear of walking through Chicago’s Auburn Gresham or Shanghai at 2:00 am (which I have done), but these people at the NSA, Homeland Security, the FBI, and the other nearly 1,300 other governmental organizations plus 2,000 private companies?  Yeah, they cause me a great deal of alarm.  Read those numbers again, and stop to think about that.  That is a security apparatus that is not transparent.  It is not even fully known how widely it stretches.  You will not find anyone, any where, who can eve tell you how much money is being spent on these operations.  You will find estimates, but no accurate totals.

And, it is, by its very nature based on fear.  What do animals that are fearful do?  Have you ever seen a cornered dog or cat?  One that is afraid?  That is a dangerous animal!

Then, there are the other types of people who are involved in this community.  Those are the people who should be removed from their positions, stripped of their wealth and prosecuted for a variety of crimes.  In many cases, crimes against humanity.  These are the people who have used fear to manipulate and control simply to enrich themselves and their friends.  They have used fear to maintain positions of power, wealth and prestige.  These people are rightfully called terrorists.  For they use terrorism, and the dictionary definition of terrorism is clear:

terrorism

1.   the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes.

2.   the state of fear and submission produced by terrorism or terrorization.

3.   a terroristic method of governing or of resisting a government.

Osama bin Laden was “on the run” for more than a decade after having been identified and claiming responsibility for the attacks on America on 9/11/2001.  During that time we launched three wars – The War on Terrorism, the War in Iraq, and the War in Afghanistan.  (Though the right has tried to revise history, the Bush cabal clearly made an effort to tie the War in Iraq to al Qaeda and sold it as part of the War on Terrorism.)  All three of these wars were to have two purposes.  First, to defeat al Qaeda, and by extension, any and all terrorists who would attack the US, and by extension, any Western interests anywhere around the world.  Second, to find and capture or kill Osama bin Laden.
CONTINUED on PAGE 2

Advertisements

More Failed Political Theatre


July 24, 2013 – The “Amash Amendment” was voted down.  What was this amendment, you might wonder?  It got very little coverage really, so you wouldn’t be so out of line to ask.  The Amash amendment, surprisingly, was offered by a Republican representative despite the opposition of the Speaker of the House, Boehner.  It would have limited the NSA’s ability to collect the so-called meta data on phone and internet data usage, and otherwise reduced the funding and scope of the NSA.  It drew, as politics sometimes is wont to do, a strange series of bedfellows.  Right wing “libertarians” and “left wing liberals” joined together to support this bill and still it failed by a vote of 205 to 217.   Here is the roll call so you can see how your own representatives voted.

On the one hand, it really didn’t matter how this vote turned out.  We should all understand that.  Should this have passed, and then succeeded in the Senate, which was far from likely to begin with, the POTUS had promised to veto it.  Of course, he has promised to veto numerous things in the past and then signed them any way.  However, this one, I find his threat much more credible as it is more in line with his right wing totalitarian regime approach to things.  “Trust me.  We’ve got your best interest at heart.  We’ll give you some pretense of good faith, such as lip service about believing in same-sex marriage, but in reality, we’re going to call out the militarized police to control you and beat you into submission, while half way around the world, we kill children in your name.”  {Some Afghan kids aren’t bystanders, indeed!!  You right wing, murderous bastard!}

–  Deep breaths  –  Deep breaths  –  Deep breaths  –

It is also very likely that he would not have vetoed it because he has come out so strongly in support of the program.  For example, on June 18, 2013:

Charlie Rose: So I hear you saying, I have no problem with what NSA has been doing.

Barack Obama: Well, let me — let me finish, because I don’t.

Or, on June 7, 2013:
“In the abstract, you can complain about ‘Big Brother’ and how this is a potential program run amok. But when you actually look at the details, then I think we’ve struck the right balance,” he said.

Except, we are not allowed to look at the details, so you are asking us to take your word, and since you have shown yourself to be a liar, we can’t trust that, Mr. President.

So, if you think that there was really any chance that this amendment would have succeeded, then I would like to discuss a lake I have for sale.  You might be interested.  It has a beautiful view, and several ships are included.  Details here.

Okay, so it didn’t really matter because president Napoleon the Pig, er, I mean Obama would have vetoed it.  However, it also didn’t matter, because if the POTUS is to be believed, and he has been backed on this by many in the congress, then:

“The programs are secret in the sense that they are classified. They are not secret, in that every member of Congress has been briefed,” he said during a speech in San Jose, Calif. “These are programs that have been authored by large bipartisan majorities repeatedly since 2006.”

Understand what that means is that each of those 205 members of congress that voted for the Amash amendment is one of two things.  Either they are so spineless that they couldn’t act without sufficient support around them.  They couldn’t stand on their own two feet to say, “This is wrong, and I must stand against it.”  Or, they are still conducting political theatre.  They saw that there were enough people in their constituencies that were at least a little upset that they would benefit from making it appear that they were trying to do something to end these programs, without actually trying to do something.  Then, they can return to what is much more important to the Republicans in the House of Representatives – a 40th attempt to repeal the ACA, other wise known as Obamacare.

CONTINUED on PAGE 2


Are You A Crab?


People are so easily confused.  Mathematically if a = b and b = c, then a = c, and we can say that a and c are the same.  In the real world though, being equal and being the same are not synonyms.  They are related, but that is all.

We should have settled that particular concept as a nation a long time ago, and yet, we still haven’t gotten it through our collective thick skull.  We got it wrong – very wrong – at first.  We had to have drawn out court battles in order to reach the Supreme Court and have it ruled, specifically, that “separate but equal” is not.

We see many people who want to refer to the Constitution as the authority of the land, and in many ways, that is good and true.  It should never be forgotten though that it is a horribly flawed document and subject to revision and improvement.  Even the “founding fathers” knew this and that is why they had a built in mechanism for that change.  The very first thing they did after ratifying the Constitution was to change it.  Not only was that necessary to satisfy treaty commitments (because remember that, at the time, that is precisely what the document was), but it also demonstrated clearly that the document could, and should be changed as and when necessary.

We started with a clearly defined right to own people as property and no suffrage right for women (not until August 18, 1920) or non-land owning men.  In fact, a careful reading of the US Constitution shows that we have no constitutional right to vote at all.  It is inferred, much like the right to privacy, but it is not explicitly stated.  What we do find are a series of requirements that must be met if one is to be allowed to vote, and another set of requirements on which it is impermissible to base disenfranchisement of a citizen.  No, really.  Check it for yourself.  Here is the entire constitution right here.  You will find that you are required to own land (a constitutional requirement that has never been revoked), that you must be at least 18, that you may not be prohibited from voting “on account of sex,” nor “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude”, but no where will you find that it specifically grants that you have the right to vote in the first place.

Understand that it is this very important distinction which allows states to do things like revoke the rights of felons to vote, and establish voting requirements such as length of residency.  In some states, the voting rights of convicted felons are automatically restored, and in some states they require an act of the governor, which requires a petition on the behalf of the convicted felon.  It is this which allowed the states to institute the Jim Crow laws that included ridiculous and impossible “literacy tests” like this one.  (Go ahead.  Try it.  You’ve got 10 minutes.  Remember, as it says in the article, if you miss 1 question then you don’t get to vote.)

-> As an aside, understand also that the lack of a right to privacy will also be used, in court, and may already have been used in the FISA court, to justify programs like PRISM as the security apparatus violates the 4th amendment to track your metadata.  It has already been encroached on to say that there is “no legitimate expectation of privacy” in a public place (thus allowing the wide spread use of surveillance cameras “for your safety”), nor even when owning a cell phone. <-

Which brings us back to where we started today.  The notion of equivalency versus sameness.  We absolutely should strive for equality in society and under the law.  However, that does not mean that we are all the same.  Nor does it mean that we are all experiencing the same things.

Men and women are not the same.  Biologically we are different.  Society drives us into different directions and cross purposes all too often.  It does not mean that individuals may not cross these gender boundaries, or that they shouldn’t feel completely free to do so, but we are different.  Regardless of those differences though, we are still equal.  Right?  We ought to be able to agree on that.  Yet, we still find many sexists, and we still have major inequalities in our society in terms of pay, for example, not to mention in protections of the law for violence.

The Zimmerman verdict last weekend has sparked much outrage this week, and rightfully so.  It was a situation and trial that has been mishandled from the very beginning and ended with a verdict which was tragic.  As I wrote last week though, we have to accept it, because that is the foundation of our justice system.  If we have an issue with the verdict, then we have to address the system, not this specific case.  We have to, as I have seen some do, call for changes to the laws, and then we have to act on those calls.

CONTINUED on PAGE 2


Same as The Old Boss


You thought you were getting something different?

“Hollywood” hasn’t been giving you anything different for years, and you bought it.  While the critics have analyzed it all and told you how great and new it all is.  Yet, it has all been done before, to the point where many of the movies have literally been recycled (Here’s a bonus 20 more).  Fashion hasn’t been giving you anything new for decades, and you bought it, while the fashionistas raved about how the beautiful people were decked out in daring new styles never seen before.  Music on the radio (terrestrial and satellite) have become more and more homogeneous with every passing year as they have become more and more consolidated, while you bought it.

And, your political parties have become more and more impossible to distinguish from one another, while the pundits have screamed louder and louder about how different they are, while you bought it.  When the reality is that if you removed the party labels, and the names; if you simply listed their “accomplishments”, you would be hard pressed to distinguish any of the last 5 presidents from each other.  In fact, with two exceptions, you would be very hard pressed to distinguish any of the last 9 from each other simply by their accomplishments or policies.  Those two exceptions are Carter and Nixon.  One being simply too nice to have accomplished anything in such a tarnished and cut throat office, and the other being so criminal that he made the others look almost decent.

For an excellent, though brief, analysis of those policies and achievements pop over here.  I’ll wait.

I disagree with the conclusions that the author has reached, because I see that history has taught us one very important truth.  The power is always with the people.  The people always have the ability to change the government at their will.  The only questions are whether it will be done peacefully and what form will come after.  Other than that, it is matters of details – how, when, and at what cost.

It is not too late for “we the people” to change the course of America.  It is not too late to reclaim it from the “corporations are people” group.  It doesn’t have to even be done in a violent manner.  We can do it through grassroots efforts and through the ballot box, but to do so, we have to actually wake up and pay attention.  We have to get our noses out of the boob tube, and care more about this:

NSA Rejecting Every FOIA Request Made by U.S. Citizens

than we do about this:

Here Comes Honey Boo Boo

I talk to people and they tell me we need to change the way we vote.  Some one suggested the other day that we should change to the Instant Runoff Voting system.  There are several problems with this, but the largest is that it doesn’t actually address the problem.  People are still funding and voting for Democrats and Republicans because they believe they have no real alternatives.  This plurality voting system isn’t really going to change that.  People are still going to place the R or D at the top because they’re still going to believe that those are the only two viable alternatives.  It is that belief that has to be broken through.  Until that is done, people will continue to hold their noses and vote for one or the other, and then continue to bitch and moan about it for the next two or four years, whining the whole time about how “we have no control” and “they only give us these choices.”

CONTINUED on PAGE 2


Apathetic After Shock


There has been a lot of talk recently, of course, about Edward Snowden and traitors.  There has been a great deal of public gnashing of teeth and wailing by our elected leaders over his release of the snazzy Micro$oft PowerPoint slideshow that was not meant for public consumption.  There was a really well done piece explaining how, under the definitions given in the US Constitution, Snowden has not committed treason.  Not going to talk about that today.  Not directly.

Instead, what I find bothersome is just how much acceptance there is about this from the vast majority of people.  I really shouldn’t be surprised, and I suppose I’m not really.  Still, I am disappointed.  When it broke, I had hoped that perhaps this would be sufficient to bring about a ground swell of anger and activity.  There was certainly an initial outburst of shock.  And, yet, very quickly since then …

There has been some small amount of noise at the fringes.  Reddit has been one place where a little activity has taken place.  The Daily Kos, EFF, and a lot of other organizations have quietly come out in opposition.  Note the key word being quietly.  These organizations sent out emails to their members.  I know.  I got some of them.  I certainly didn’t get all of them.  I’m not on all of their mailing lists.  There was some activity on the right.  Again, I know.  I saw some of it.  I heard about other, and I went looking to see if there was any in other places.  At the fringes, yes.  In the heart, in the mainstream?  No.  Not really.

stopwatching.us was set up to collect signatures.  I want to share with you a screen shot taken from that site on the morning of June 16, 2013.  It is a compilation that shows their “Selected Signatories.”  I’ve compiled the 4 categories that they have on four separate tabs – Organizations, Individuals, Businesses, and Members of US Congress – together for you to take in all at once.

Combined Selected Signatories

As of this morning, they have collected 178,350 signatures.  Please read that again.  That’s a sad number.

No one cares.  The majority of the country is so used to the intrusions of the PATRIOT Act, warrantless searches, surrendering our civil liberties in the name of security, and the concept that “If you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear,”  that this kind of “revelation” is blasé.  No worries, mate.

According to one poll (as reliable as that may be), 54% of Americans think that Snowden did the right thing in exposing PRISM, but 53% still think he should be prosecuted.  A vast majority of people say they’re following the story closely.  My theory as to why?  Because to most people this is just the next episode in the Bourne Chronicles.  Most people are likely watching to see which scenario happens next.  Will he be subjected to “extraordinary rendition”?  Will he be found dead “by his own hand”?  Will he be mundanely arrested and extradited back to the US?  Will he become an “asset” of the Chinese or some other foreign government that would like access to the information he may still have not released yet?

They are not paying attention because they are interested in or concerned about the actual issues.  I see in both left of center and right of center blogs, as well as the main stream media the over-whelming theme of “Who cares?” about the program itself.  I actually read the words, “I am not sure I care if the government is reading my email or listening in on my phone calls as long as it keeps me safe.”  The majority of the coverage of this case is about who is Edward Snowden?  (My Google search for the term, “Who is edward snowden” returned 1,180,000,000 results)  What is Booz Allen Hamilton?  (A firm most of us had never heard of before.)  Should we be privatizing “national security”?  (A question that probably should have been asked 40 years ago, but which was answered as an inevitable part of the supply-side, conservative domination of the government over that time period.  What did y’all really expect?)  And, so on.  Very little about the intrusiveness of this program which in all likelihood has accomplished nothing in terms of actual security, despite claims to the contrary.
CONTINUED on PAGE 2


Surprised? No. Outraged? Yes!


Let me begin with a question.  It is a simple question.  We’ll come back to the context in a moment.  In all seriousness.

Why are you surprised?  Or, perhaps, better, why would anyone be surprised?

The Guardian newspaper this week, using leaked documents, “revealed” the existence of “PRISM” – a broad program to collect “so-called meta data on your telephone calls.”  The article goes further to claim that the NSA also has direct backdoor access to the servers of major tech companies (Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, YouTube, Skype, AOL, and Apple) which between them own the vast majority of all online communications between e-mail, video, and chat.

Again, why would anyone be surprised?  This is really not news.  The specifics of it might be new, but we have known about the existence of this program for years.  I don’t think the public knew the name of the program, or had seen that nifty logo.  The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court was set up in the mid-1970s.  The PATRIOT Act was approved by near unanimous consent (357 to 66 in the House and 98 to 1 in the Senate) and signed into law by George W Bush on 10/25/2001.  It was introduced on 10/23.  So, in less than 48 hours it went from concept to law.  It was then renewed in 2006, and again in 2011 by the current POTUS.  It is these two laws which provide the broad foundations for the program, however, there are many, many other laws which have been passed that have aided and abetted the development of these programs.

Again, why are you surprised?  In 1979, the Supreme Court upheld this kind of invasion of privacy.  They found in the Smith v Maryland case, that collecting, what was called at the time the “pen register” (that is the time equivalent of the meta data), was legal.  This is the modern, technologically equivalent program.  When it goes further into the courts, they will uphold it.

The NSA has been involved in this kind of snooping and has been caught at it before.  We know this.  It isn’t new.  In 2005, the EFF filed a lawsuit against AT&T for illegally cooperating with the NSA to facilitate these actions.  If you read this article, or remember from the time period, you will note that the defense from the administration is almost precisely the same.

In 2006, one of the sitting FISA judges quit the appointment and others urged congress to give the FISA court a direct role in overseeing the wiretapping program.

“The administration defends the eavesdropping program, saying it is only targeting communications to and from suspected terrorists, that government lawyers review the program every 45 days and that Congress authorized the president to track down 9/11 co-conspirators, thereby giving the president the ability to bypass wiretapping laws.”

In 2009, the director of the National Cybersecurity Center resigned, and blamed the NSA’s “pwer grab” as a threat to “our democratic process.

In 2001, William Binney resigned from the NSA  after more than 30 years, including time as director of the World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group, and started blowing the whistle, warning about the size and scope of the NSA’s surveillance program.

This is not tin foil hat conspiracy theory territory.  This is you can only be surprised if you weren’t paying attention.  This is, “If you aren’t angry, you aren’t paying attention” territory.

For most of the last 60 years there has been talk of Project ECHELON.  Not just in tin foil hat, conspiracist circles where we can laugh at it, but also in the halls of government, with official investigations.  There have been actual investigations and acknowledgements of its existence with accompanying refusals to discuss its full expanse.  Sound familiar?

Many in our governments, around the world, took Orwell’s 1984 not as a warning, but as a guidebook, just as many right wingers took Ayn Rand’s work not as a poorly written morality play, but as the writings of a prophetess.

Now, as I said, there is no reason that anyone should be surprised.  However, that does not mean that we should not be outraged, nor does it suggest that we should accept it.  I hope that this will be the moment that people will awake and arise.  I do not expect it, but I do hope for it.  Perhaps we will remember and live up to the words of at least one of the “Founding Fatherstm

CONTINUED on PAGE 2


Land of the free and home of the brave?


Land of the free and home of the brave?  No.  Actually, we have turned mostly into the land of the whiners and the home of the cowards.

Oh, my.  Not a good way to start off if I want people to read, is it?  No, probably not, but I am angry.  Very, very angry.  I am angry that I watch people complain and whine about how bad off our country has become, and yet, how little anyone from any political stripe is willing to actually do about it.  I understand that we all have our lives that we have to deal with, our mundane issues that must be addressed on a daily basis, but we must each realize that if we do not face up to the challenges that we face and take responsibility for making the changes that we want and need, then we will only have ourselves to blame when things not only do not improve, but continue to get worse.

I am not talking about the type of courage exhibited by children and adults in desperate situations.  That type of bravery, which is one and the same, is in plentiful supply.  This is the type of courage that leads people to want, or need, to solve arguments with violence, because they know no other solution.  That’s the 4 year-old who hits his or her playmate because he or she wants the toy the other child has.  We have that aplenty.  We have that in so many adults that it’s pathetic.

It is the type of “bravery” that leads to our elected officials invading countries that we previously supported, and then cries of “My president, right or wrong” from segments of the populace.  (Of course, for that same segment, it only applies when it is their guy in office, because they are hypocrites.)  It is the type of courage that leads young men and women to join the military less because that is the path that they believe in, and more because they see no other way to escape the desperate economic poverty that they are in.  Or, from the large segment of the populace that is too busy with bread and circuses to notice the strings just off stage.

There are times in this world when violence is the appropriate answer and solution to a situation.  Yes, I do, in fact, acknowledge that.  I am not saying that it isn’t.  I do not like it.  As I have said for years, I wish I lived in a world where a military was not necessary.  Sadly, I do not live in that world.  However, I also do not live in a world where it is necessary for the military that we do have needs to be running the School of the Americas now Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (the best training ground for Latin American and Caribbean dictators, thank you right wing America!)  I do not live in a world where it is necessary or appropriate for that military to take action in a country on the pretext that it is committing human rights violations (such as Iraq, Serbia, even Germany in World War II was largely justified on the basis of the final solution though our immediate entry was obviously prompted by the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor), while simultaneously ignoring other countries committing human rights abuses of equal or larger degree (Saudi Arabia, Israel, Syria, China, Mali, and others listed by Freedom House as the Worst of the Worst in 2012).  This simply shows that our military is being used as a tool of policy and business, not as a tool of either necessity or of principle.

However, the cowardice that I am talking about that has taken over is the fear of taking actual responsibility for our actions in our country.  If we actually acknowledge that our government is us then we have to acknowledge that we are responsible, as a group, for all those horrible things that we have done.  We also get to take credit for the wonderful, positive things that we have done, and everyone wants to do that part!  Most people are in favor of taking their rights, but most people are also deft at avoiding their responsibilities.  There are reasons why we have the stereotypes of the “deadbeat dad” and the “welfare mom”, for example.
CONTINUED on PAGE 2


%d bloggers like this: