The 2014 Congressional races are starting to get under way, and my extremely gerrymandered district is no exception. This morning a link came across my dashboard announcing a Democratic hoping to challenge Congresswoman Renee Ellmers next year. I”d like to say that anyone would be a step up from the embarrassment that is Ms. Ellmers, but the truth is I’m sick of all of them. If there is any justice left in the universe, please give us another option. Continue reading
I don’t know about you, but I’m sick of hearing about the fiscal cliff and Obama’s grand bargain.
Almost before all the voting booths could be packed up early last month this made-up, bullshit story started making the rounds on all the corporate news media in an effort to scare people into taking whatever deal the psychopaths in banking and other powerful industries decide to foist upon us all.
There is bipartisan agreement between the two corporate-controlled parties to slash social programs upon which tens of millions of working people rely for health care and retirement income. The main issue under debate is how to package the cuts so as to best confuse public opinion and obscure what is really happening.
In this, President Obama is taking a leading role. His primary concern is to make the slashing of social programs that keep millions out of poverty seem necessary, while providing this reactionary attack with a fig leaf of “fairness.”
The bipartisan conspiracy against the American people was highlighted by the announcement from Republican House Speaker John Boehner that Republicans would be meeting with Erskine Bowles, the former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton and co-chair of the deficit commission set up by Obama in 2010. Bowles and his Republican counterpart, former senator Alan Simpson, proposed $4 trillion in deficit-reduction measures, mainly in the form of regressive changes to Medicare and Social Security and huge cuts in other social programs, together with a tax “reform” that would slash rates for corporations and the rich.
For his part, Obama has “balanced” his demand for drastic social cuts with a call for the “wealthiest Americans” to “pay a little more in taxes.” The Republicans have said they are willing to accept increases in revenues, but have balked at increasing tax rates.
Obama’s call for a token increase in taxes on the highest earners, whether in the form of an increase in the top tax rate or some lowering of deductions, is nothing but a smokescreen. Any slight tax increase that might initially be imposed on the rich would be more than offset by the “comprehensive tax reform” supported by both parties.
Meanwhile, the Republicans and some Democrats are calling for an increase in the eligibility age for both Social Security and Medicare as well as the introduction of “means testing” for these basic programs.
The latter proposal is particularly insidious. It would initially be justified as a way to save money by reducing benefits for wealthy seniors. But its real purpose would be to transform Medicare and Social Security from universal programs into anti-poverty programs, setting the stage for ever more onerous funding cuts and the eventual dismantling of the programs. Social Security and Medicare would likely go the way of welfare, a means-tested program that was eliminated under another Democratic administration—that of Bill Clinton. (WSWS)
I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it until they cart me away to the gulag that surely awaits those of us too committed to a better world to let the fascists have their way without a fight: the two majority parties are two sides of the same corrupt coin.
They don’t work for us – never have, never will – and it’s been that way since day one of this nation. The popular founding fathers were no better, despite all the lies and mythology you’ve been force fed at every turn for your entire life.
If you want some real truth, untainted by the rose colored lens of mainstream American mythology, then look no further than researchers like William Hogeland, interviewed recently in the Boston Globe for the release of his newest book, Founding Finance: How Debt, Speculation, Foreclosures, Protests, and Crackdowns Made Us a Nation.
“When Occupy and the Tea Party reference founding finance, they’re just doing what everyone else does, too: everybody wants to ground their ideas in the basic values of the country, even if those ideas are diametrically opposed to what they advocate. When the Tea Party began, protesters wore three-corner hats and dressed up in 18th century garb. In the Occupy literature I’ve read, there are a number of references to the founding, and “We the People,” and so forth. They, too, seem to be suggesting that if the founders were here today they would be out with Occupy in the street trying to change the relationship between high finance and government. And I think my research suggests precisely the reverse.
Now that doesn’t mean there was nobody out in the street during the founding period trying to correct the relationship between high finance and government. There were people like Herman Husband, and thousands of people he represented, and the regulators and the militia privates, and so forth that I talk about in the book. But the famous founders themselves would not be the friends of Occupy. The question is whether there is something for those movements to get out of the founding period.
What ultimately is the real lesson? Herman Husband makes a difficult hero, as does Thomas Paine. They were far from pragmatic; they were visionary. Paine was a hyper-rationalist but, in another way, he could be quite extreme in his fervency about really changing the fundamental bases of society. I think Occupy has roots in the earliest moments of the founding period and that’s one of the things I want to bring out—but, if they followed those strands back to their origins, they would not find George Washington supporting them. Rather, they would find George Washington there with a club, trying to lock them up; they would be on Herman Husband’s side. And then the question becomes: how much do you want to embrace Herman Husband? That’s a question for everybody today. We’ve ignored Herman Husband partly because he’s so difficult to embrace. But maybe if we could embrace some of that extreme, utopian vision in the most radically democratic elements of our founding—the very things George Washington was trying to shut down—we might have something to learn from them.” (source)
Many people discount researchers like Hogeland because he isn’t a trained historian, but I believe that’s all the more reason why his work deserves to be seen and heard.
“Professional” historians often tend, like our news media, to try too hard to be neutral or objective, but as Howard Zinn most famously said, one cannot be neutral on a moving train. Both sides of every argument or news story are not always equally valid or deserving of respect. Sometimes wrong is simply wrong and needs to be called that, in public, repeatedly. The same principle ought to also be applied to our interpretation of history; the accepted, popular view isn’t always complete or correct and should therefore be challenged and if necessary debunked.
Such is the case with the fiscal cliff fiasco. Leaders in both parties are
spending wasting inordinate amounts of time and money, and the corporate media, owned by the same billionaires that own our government plays right along with the charade, muddying the waters and attempting to further confuse everyone. Meanwhile the grand bargain, scripted months ago by the powerful few who own almost everything and want even more, is played out behind the curtain as we the people keep right on watching the puppet show.
“To me, this is the fundamental issue at stake when considering the impending collapse of this global empire. None of us in the homo consumptus species have even the absolute most basic skills of survival. We don’t know how to grow food – and I don’t mean non-native tomatoes in pots, that we use to decorate the arugula we buy from Whole Foods, I mean real food, calorically- and nutrient-dense, enough to keep us from starving. We don’t know how to walk into the hills and find medicine we need to stop infection or dry up diarrhea or prevent a postpartum bleed. We don’t know how to shoot a rabbit, or skin it, how to make something warm from that skin. We don’t know shit.
And it’s fine for us to not know shit, and to do nothing about it, as long as cheap energy is providing for these needs. But only the most ardent head-up-his-ass cornucopian can refuse to see that we are headed for a future of very expensive energy. Very expensive energy will probably make it cost-prohibitive to stock a grocery store twice a week with food from a globalized economy. Probably, we won’t be importing beef from the former Amazon. Definitely, we will not be feeding corn to cattle – or to people, for that matter, in the thousands of different configurations in which we currently consume it. Agriculture as we know it could not be even remotely possible without cheap petroleum. So if you only consider one aspect of what I’m saying, consider agriculture. Consider pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers, all of which are based on petroleum. Consider the relative high cost of organic food, much of which is imported or delivered across state lines, and then consider that cost being applied to everything we eat, and then inflated. Consider the impending food shortages eagerly awaited by speculators. This is serious.”
I was digging around the archive at the online Anarchist Library today and found an interesting conversation between Derrick Jensen and anarchist theorist John Zerzan, who suggests that modern society has subjugated the populace to the point that it no longer even sees the bars of its cage. The entire interview, especially a discussion of time and the “subtle coercion of the clock,” is quite interesting and I encourage readers to click through and take in the entire piece.
Anarchism, along with its cousin, socialism, suffers from a bad case of misinformation and negative propaganda that has been going on now for well over a hundred years. Right now, in this supposedly free country, at least three people are imprisoned for refusing to testify before a grand jury about their anarchist beliefs and those of their associates. This stems from an FBI witch hunt, as reported at Green is the New Red:
The three were subpoenaed to this grand jury following FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force raids in multiple cities in the Northwest. The search warrants identified “anti-government or anarchist literature.” At the time, because of statements from police and because the warrants listed that the items were connected to “conspiracy to destroy government property” and “interstate travel with intent to riot,” it appeared that the raids and grand jury were connected to broken windows and other vandalism at a Seattle May Day protest.
Grand jury proceedings are secret, but Lauren Regan, an attorney with the Civil Liberties Defense Center, learned that the grand jury was empaneled March 2, 2012 — before the May Day protests even took place. It’s possible that prosecutors spent months anticipating and investigating May Day protests, but a more likely explanation is that this grand jury is not about broken windows.
We live in a country where thoughts and beliefs alone are enough to get you arrested and even killed if members of our government and its “law enforcement” apparatus decide your ideas are dangerous. Joseph Stalin would be mighty proud I think.
If all you know about anarchism and socialism is what you were taught in school or picked up from the capitalist controlled media in this country, I hope you will take the time to read the following, and then do a little digging on your own. I can assure you that almost everything you were ever taught about these ideas was not only wrong, but intentionally misleading.
Do your own thinking. It’s part of the price of admission to a free society. You do want to live in a free society don’t you?
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Jensen: Now that the mainstream media have discovered anarchism, there seems to be more and more confusion about what it means. How do you define it?
Zerzan: I would say anarchism is the attempt to eradicate all forms of domination. This includes not only such obvious forms as the nation-state, with its routine use of violence and the force of law, and the corporation, with its institutionalized irresponsibility, but also such internalized forms as patriarchy, racism, homophobia. Beyond that, anarchism is the attempt to look even into those parts of our everyday lives we accept as givens, as parts of the universe, to see how they, too, dominate us or facilitate our domination of others.
But has a condition ever existed in which relations have not been based on domination?
That was the human condition for at least 99 percent of our existence as a species, from before the emergence of Homo sapiens, at least a couple of million years ago, until perhaps only 10,000 years ago, with the emergence of first agriculture and then civilization. Since that time we have worked very hard to convince ourselves that no such condition ever existed, because if no such condition ever existed, it’s futile to work toward it now. We may as well then accept the repression and subjugation that define our way of living as necessary antidotes to “evil human nature.” After all, according to this line of thought, our pre-civilized existence of deprivation, brutality, and ignorance made authority a benevolent gift that rescued us from savagery.
Think about the images that come to mind when you mention the labels “cave man” or “Neanderthal.” Those images are implanted and then invoked to remind us where we would be without religion, government, and toil, and are probably the biggest ideological justifications for the whole van of civilization, armies, religion, law, the state. The problem with those images, of course, is that they are entirely wrong. There has been a potent revolution in the fields of anthropology and archaeology over the past 20 years, and increasingly people are coming to understand that life before agriculture and domestication, in which by domesticating others we domesticated ourselves, was in fact largely one of leisure, intimacy with nature, sensual wisdom, sexual equality, and health.
How do we know this?
In part through observing modern foraging peoples, what few we’ve not yet eliminated, and watching their egalitarian ways disappear under the pressures of habitat destruction and oftentimes direct coercion or murder. Also, at the other end of the time scale, through interpreting archaeological digs. An example of this has to do with the sharing that is now understood to be a keynote trait of non-domesticated people. If you were to study hearth sites of ancient peoples, and to find that one fire site has the remains of all the goodies, while other sites have very few, then that site would probably be the chief’s. But if time after time you see that all the sites have about the same amount of stuff, what begins to emerge is a picture of a people whose way of life is based on sharing. And that’s what is consistently found in preneolithic sites. A third way of knowing is based on the accounts of early European explorers, who again and again spoke of the generosity and gentleness of the peoples they encountered. This is true all across the globe.
How do you respond to people who say this is all just nutty Rousseauvian noble savage nonsense?
I respectfully suggest they read more within the field. This isn’t anarchist theory. It’s mainstream anthropology and archaeology. There are disagreements about some of the details, but not about the general structure.
If things were so great before, why did agriculture begin?
That’s a very difficult question, because for so many hundreds of thousands of years there was very little change. That’s long been a source of frustration to scholars in anthropology and archaeology: How could there have been almost zero change for hundreds of thousands of years, the whole lower and middle Paleolithic Era and then suddenly at a certain point in the upper Paleolithic there’s this explosion, seemingly out of nowhere? You suddenly have art, and on the heels of that, agriculture.
I think it was stable because it worked, and I think it changed finally because for many millennia there was a kind of slow slippage into division of labor. This happened so slowly, almost imperceptibly, that people didn’t see what was happening, or what they were in danger of losing. The alienation brought about by division of labor, alienation from each other, from the natural world, from their bodies, then reached some sort of critical mass, giving rise to its apotheosis in what we’ve come to know as civilization. As to how civilization itself took hold, I think Freud nailed that one when he said that “civilization is something which was imposed on a resisting majority by a minority which understood how to obtain possession of the means of power and coercion.” That’s what we see happening today, and there’s no reason to believe it was any different in the first place.
What’s wrong with division of labor?
If your primary goal is mass production, nothing at all. It’s central to our way of life. Each person performs as a tiny cog in this big machine. If, on the other hand, your primary goal is relative wholeness, egalitarianism, autonomy, or an intact world, there’s quite a lot wrong with it. I think that at base a person is not complete or free insofar as that person’s life and the whole surrounding setup depend on his or her being just some aspect of a process, some fraction of it. A divided life mirrors the basic divisions in society and it all starts there. Hierarchy and alienation start there, for example. I don’t think anyone would deny the effective control that specialists and experts have in the contemporary world. And I don’t think anyone would argue that control isn’t increasing with ever-greater acceleration.
But humans are social animals. Isn’t it necessary for us to rely on each other?
It’s important to understand the difference between the interdependence of a functioning community and a form of dependence that comes from relying on others who have specialized skills you don’t have. They now have power over you. Whether they are “benevolent” in using it is really beside the point.
In addition to direct control by those who have specialized skills, there is a lot of mystification of those skills. Part of the ideology of modern society is that without it, you’d be completely lost, you wouldn’t know how to do the simplest thing. Well, humans have been feeding themselves for the past couple of million years, and doing it a lot more successfully and efficiently than we do now. The global food system is insane. It’s amazingly inhumane and inefficient. We waste the world with pesticides, herbicides, the effects of fossil fuels to transport and store foods, and so on, and literally millions of people go their entire lives without ever having enough to eat. But few things are simpler than growing or gathering your own food.
We must do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest. The youth of today are absolutely right in recognizing this nonsense of earning a living. We keep inventing jobs because of this false idea that everybody has to be employed at some kind of drudgery because, according to Malthusian-Darwinian theory, he must justify his right to exist. So we have inspectors of inspectors and people making instruments for inspectors to inspect inspectors. The true business of people should be to go back to school and think about whatever it was they were thinking about before somebody came along and told them they had to earn a living.
~ Buckminster Fuller