Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Charleston

What, really, has to be said about the cold-blooded murders at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina by a screwed-up white kid (I say “kid” because 21 years is not always enough to be called a ”man”).

http://www.charismanews.com/us/50183-this-pastor-pulling-no-punches-about-demonic-south-carolina-massacre
Why does it still happen here?  Were not 250 years of slavery enough?  Were not 150 years of Jim Crow enough?  Were not 100 years of lynching enough?  Were not 100 years of segregation enough?  If the history of race relations in this country prove nothing else, it is that whites are surely NOT the superiors of blacks.  By any measure.  Especially morally.

Beautiful -- but Provocative and Shameful
Three governors (and counting) have decided to outlaw the Confederate flag from license plates.  The governor of South Carolina has ordered the removal of Confederate flags from state grounds.  This is proper and long overdue.  Indeed, the flag of the Confederacy should be removed from any and all official Southern displays.  Imagine the Nazi flag being displayed in modern Germany, it would provoke a riot (and if it did not, that would be worse).  The Confederate flag is not merely the flag of the Confederate South, it is the flag of the slave-holding South.  We fought that war, the Union won that war, and while mercy and forgiveness were routinely granted to officers and soldiers who fought for the Confederacy, neither mercy nor forgiveness were offered to the institution of slavery or to white supremacy.

On the other hand, YOU may love the Confederate flag, you may own the Confederate flag, it is probably legal for YOU to display that flag on your own property as surely as it is legal for you display the Nazi flag (this being America and not Germany).  The 1st amendment protects your right to free thought and free speech and free expression.  But it does NOT allow a governing body the same "freedoms."  This is not splitting hairs, as it is legal for you to pray in a public school, but it is not legal for the school authorities to conduct a prayer.  You may discriminate, no governmental body may do the same.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Irony of Democracy

One of the great ironies of contemporary American life is that the greatest democracy the world has ever known (that would be us, the United States of America) and the land that spends half of its annual tax receipts exporting democracy around the world, is not a democracy itself.  A democracy is a nation-state where the people rule.  All we are is a nation-state where the people VOTE, but the people do not rule.  You don’t need me telling you this, you know it.

This sorry state of affairs is the single reason why I wrote my book and why I write my blog, that we are not a democratic land where the people rule and what we must do to become a true democracy once again (well, that and I like to write and I like seeing my ideas and words in print).

What ARE we then, if not a democracy?  Lawrence Lessig thinks we are Lesterland, a nation-state where the Lesters rule.  Greg Palast thinks we are "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy."  Maybe we are an oligarchy, where a few rule the nation-state.  Or a corporatocracy, where corporations rule.  Or a plutocracy, where the rich rule.  Or a kleptocracy, where the thieves rule.  Or fascism where big businesses have taken the reins of democratic power for their own purposes.  All these apply, all except democracy, because the people clearly do NOT rule.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Freedom

What is freedom?  Who is free and who not?

I think that when we think of freedom we must first think of what it means to be without it.  We must think first of freedom from foreign domination: Nazi domination, Soviet domination, pre-Revolutionary British domination.  After that, we must think of forms of physical incarceration: prison, official governmental coercion (house arrest, parole), or even non-governmental confinement (kidnapping).

When you think of freedom or the lack thereof, today’s doctrinaire Republicans would like you to think of taxation and regulations.  As if the WalMart worker with a $20,000 gross income and an effective tax rate of just 5% (take-home = $19,000) is somehow more free than the CEO with a $50,000,000 pay check and a “punishing” effective tax rate of 90% (take-home = $5,000,000).  Or as though it is an offense against your right to make an honest living to be responsible for cleaning up the river that your corporation used as a waste dump, or to have to pay the extra buck to keep from fouling it in the first place.

Anyone who has ever had to endure the ravages of a major disease knows that freedom means free to think other thoughts than “I am going to die.”  Anyone who has escaped a bad marriage and has had a final judgment from the Divorce Court as to the division of the marital property knows what freedom means.  And anyone burdened with impossible debt knows what freedom is not.  I could go on, couldn’t I?  But I think you get the point.

But in the meantime, doctrinaire Republicans want you to think of punishing tax rates on millionaires and costly regulations on business practices whenever you fear for the loss of “freedom.”  And they want you to make things easier on this oppressed class of Americans, the oh-so oppressed top 1%.  And the awful thing is: many Americans are swayed by their logic and hold them up as exemplary leaders.

Note: Readers of my book and readers of my blog may be forgiven for thinking that I really favor Democrats, as I spend much less time savaging them than I do savaging Republicans.  Here are my reasons for that (accurate observation).  If I knew what Democrats stood for, I’d have more to write about, but I think that they have forgotten what they stand for for nearly 40 years.  Often they act like Republican Lite, so when I preach against the Republicans I preach against the Democrats at the same time.  When they have seemed to stand for something, I have weighed in against them often enough.  My book savages Obamacare and you can read a blog on the subject right here.  But the Republicans have become very accomplished at selling utterly unreasonable ideas* (a higher tax rate on millionaires is “punishing success”) to the American public, and that is why you will see me attack them much more often than Democrats.

*  The fact is that there IS a philosophical principle at the core of Republican ideology, but they dare not call it what it is for fear of their very lives.  It is what is called “social Darwinism,” "survival of the fittest," "the law of the jungle," "every man for himself," if you can’t make it in this economy you starve to death and good riddance.  Over time, in theory, it makes for a stronger and a better species at the cost of immense suffering by the masses who are not fit to survive in this dog-eat-dog world.  Are we willing to pay the price?  I think not.  Are YOU willing to pay the price?  Are you so sure that YOU would be among the survivors in a world such as that?  But is the only alternative to this cruel but efficient world for the strong to support the weak until the weak so outnumber the strong that it is no longer sustainable?  No.  A middle way must be found as both extremes are deadly.