Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My 1st Amendment Rights

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans, and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy? - Mohandas Gandhi

One of the more frightening aspects of what happened at the Rand Paul debate and the other events where the teabaggers have allowed their true colors to show through physical assaults and verbal harassment is their sincere belief that they are defending the Constitution and the First Amendment specifically. Unfortunately, the First Amendment rights they are defending are only their rights and those who agree with them. Where are these defenders of freedom on the issue of the Islamic Center in New York or on the separation of Church and State?

It appears that the only rights they are willing to defend are the rights of the rich and the corporate elite to circumvent democracy through unlimited money, pollute, and ship jobs overseas. What these incidents clearly display to anyone willing to acknowledge it is that the outrage is not about the deficits, the overreach of government, or the immigration issue. It is clearly about “us” versus “them” and just like during the Vietnam War and the turmoil of the 60’s these folks have no qualms about using intimidation and physical coercion to try and stop the movement of time. If these folks are willing to stomp on a white female imagine what they are willing to do to minorities, Muslims, and the rest of “them”.

My question is how can a group of middle-aged and older white people be new? According to the false meme there were millions of middle-aged white Americans who were not voting or participating in the political process until now. This silent majority was only roused by the budget deficits and the socialist agenda of the Obama administration. So are we to believe that these are not the same cultural warriors from the past? These are the same folks who have always believed that they are the only interpreters and the arbitrator of what is right for America. Much the same as all fanatical groups throughout history they falsely believe that they have received some divine or supernatural insight and only those like them are able to receive it or be part of the group. This is not so bad if you are one of the enlightened ones, but it can be dangerous for those who don’t quite measure up because of race, gender, or religion.

What should be frightening to all Americans is not that there were two thugs who were willing to assault this woman. What is more troubling is that the crowd surrounding them was willing to allow it to happen. While they may not have actually had their foot on her head they did not find a problem with it happening. The crowd included women who were willing to stand by and watch this being done to another woman without questioning it or trying to intervene. How does the saying go the only thing evil requires is for good people to do nothing.

I am not one given to hyperbole or yelling fire in a crowded theater but as one who has lived through the turbulence and violence of a nation struggling with change it seems as though we are entering a similar period of polarization. It is strange how the same themes continue to appear in America. Back then it was also about patriotism and tribalism. You were either with us or you were with them. The wing-nuts have for decades disguised their intolerance and bigotry behind the flag and the Constitution. They have continually recreated themselves under different names and behind different issues, but their core mission has not changed. Their mission back then and today continues to be trying to roll back the clocks and to try to halt the inevitably of change.

The hope for the future of this democracy does not lie with the older generations. Every generation has to decide what values they stand for and are willing to fight for. For many of those of recent generations there has not been much they have considered worth fighting for. My hope is that with this rise in corporations undermining democracy through propagandists and unlimited campaign spending, with the rise of intolerance and bigotry towards Latinos and Muslims, and with the selling of the American middle-class to nations overseas that this generation will rise up and once again reclaim democracy for all Americans. Hopefully their love affair with “Wall Street” and the Gordon Gekko wannabes will realize that greed and short-term gratification is hollow.

Maybe this economic situation will wake up the true patriots just as the war and racism did during the 60’s. You see during the 60’s the true patriots were not the ones that supported the war or supported racism and bigotry. The true patriots were the ones who stood up and said we will not accept the status quo and that we reject your vision of America. Many of us are too old for this fight and the truth is it is not our fight. The future belongs to the young, not the old. The time has come for our youth to put down the game controllers, smart phones, and other distractions that are reducing personage to an image or a message on a screen and become engaged. It is your future that is being stolen.

"Man is more disposed to domination than freedom; and a structure of dominion not only gladdens the eye of the master who rears and protects it, but even its servants are uplifted by the thought that they are members of a whole, which rises high above the life and strength of single generations." - Karl Wilhelm Von Humboldt

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

Work Your Way Out

On the back of this industrial output, rose America’s middle class. High-paying manufacturing jobs in turn helped spur a robust and growing economy that had little dependence on foreign nations for manufactured goods and armaments...However, manufacturing, as a share of the economy, has been plummeting. In 1965, manufacturing accounted for 53 percent of the economy. By 1988 it only accounted for 39 percent of the economy, and in 2004, it accounted for just 9 percent...The loss of the manufacturing industry manifests itself most clearly in job losses. - The Trumpet

The wing-nut shell game continues as they on the one hand decry the loss of jobs and the high unemployment figures and yet at the same time were the architects of the policies that gutted the manufacturing sector which drove the job creation. The unfortunate truth that the politicians, pundits, and CEO’s refuse to tell the American public is that unless we retool our manufacturing base we will continue to have high unemployment. The current and future high unemployment numbers are not solely based on the recession. Prior to the recession we were seeing unemployment rising as the economy was supposedly humming along.

The historic fact is that you get out of a deep recession or depression by working your way out. You don’t get out of it through austerity measures or attacking the unemployed. You didn’t get out of it by giving tax breaks to rich folks. You build or make things. This presents us with an impossible scenario. We no longer make things. The engine that would power our economy back to profitability and high employment is now driving the economies of China, India, and Singapore. What we are witnessing in America today are the results that were predicted but roundly denounced when the whole outsourcing process began. You don’t have to be a Harvard educated economist to figure out that if you ship your middle-class creation mechanism overseas that you will have fewer middle-class people. In fact it’s probably easier to understand if you’re not Harvard educated.

Remember, how we were going to replace all of those “dirty” manufacturing jobs with “clean” new technical jobs. While granted there were people who were able to make the transition from the manufacturing sector to the technical sector the majority of people were not so lucky. Many of those living wage manufacturing jobs were replaced with low wage service sector jobs which did not offer benefits that many people were accustomed to. What the economist’s neglected to tell us was that there was going to be a segment of the population who would not be able to transition into the new technical jobs. This magnitude in the numbers of people who can’t transition is the real cause of the term “jobless” recovery.

According to one study, every 100 jobs in durable manufacturing support 372 jobs in other industries, while every 100 jobs in business services supports 164 jobs elsewhere in the economy. We are losing good jobs which will stimulate the economy (and we are left with the shit jobs).Stephen Hanson

As the American labor force has become more efficient and with the advent of robotics and other technological advances this places more pressure on an already shrinking labor force. When you combine these with the changes in the attitudes of the corporate elite from thinking of what is best for America to what is best for their short-term profits you have the current situation we as a nation find ourselves in. Let’s be clear the early industrialists were no angels and they clearly made enormous profits on the backs of their workers but one thing many of them understood was that they were Americans and they were guardians of a dream (the American dream) and their long-term success was tied to their workers long-term success. At no point in American history has there been this large of a discrepancy between the corporate elite’s salaries and their workers. The really sad fact for most Americans is that the media and the politicians have been co-opted by the wealthy into this mind game that none of the policies they have instituted have led to this American trauma.

The current state of affairs with the American economy is not some accident of nature or some perfect storm of naturally happening occurrences it was orchestrated by a group of greedy and unscrupulous people who presided over one of the largest transfers of wealth in the history of the world. And yet despite all evidence to the contrary we have these shell groups who on the one hand claim to be against bail-outs and yet they are being funded by those who created the need for the bail-out. This could only be created in America. Where else would you have a group of peasants with pitch forks and torches at the gates of the wealthy but not to demand equality but to bring more riches to them? It would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.

Every person familiar with business knows that labor is always your biggest expense and whatever you save in labor goes directly into your pocket, it is this mentality that has caused this new class of corporate titans to join the race to the bottom searching the world for the lowest labor costs they can find. We have supported our own demise through allowing the politicians to give tax-breaks to those who have shipped our jobs overseas.

There are those who claim that the days of American manufacturing are gone and will never return. They claim we are better served as a country because of it. I disagree because if you look at the fastest growing economies in the world they all make things. The other thing that is not being discussed is that when you outsource your production you also outsource your ability to innovate. Innovation is primarily done through the production process by workers who through the process recognize ways to create a more efficient or even a better way to create a product. Those innovations are now being made overseas. It’s not surprising that all of the new green and innovative products are now being developed and manufactured overseas. We have not only lost our production capabilities we have also lost our ability to innovate.

If we are to regain our leadership in the world we have to become a producer again. We will have to do it better and cleaner than we did it in the past and how they are doing it overseas. As a country we have to make some tough decisions about our future. Are we going to continue to ignore the evidence and continue to listen to the greedy or will we demand a return to the principles and policies that created the largest middle-class in history? That is the choice that lies before America.

“I have come to a resolution myself as I hope every good citizen will, never again to purchase any article of foreign manufacture which can be had of American make be the difference of price what it may” – Thomas Jefferson

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

It’s Utterly Inhumane

A number of people have taken up the sisters’ cause, including Ben Jealous, the president of the N.A.A.C.P., who is trying to help secure a pardon from Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi. “It makes you sick to think that this sort of thing can happen,” he said. “That these women should be kept in prison until they die — well, that’s just so utterly inhumane.” Bob Herbert - New York Times

This quote is about a case in Mississippi were two young women were sentenced to life in prison for allegedly being involved in a robbery that involved $11.00 and no one was injured. Only in Mississippi could this happen according to the article and while I can sympathize with the plight of these two young women, one of whom has lost the function of her kidneys. There is an even greater inhumanity taking place in every state in this country.

The inhumanity that I am speaking of involves the systematic disenfranchising of young black and minority men. It takes place when these young men are arrested for oftentimes minor drug offenses and given felony convictions. These convictions then condemn these young men many of them before the age of 20 to a life of poverty. Think about that; for the next 40 to 50 years these young men will be discriminated against in employment, education, and housing. You see the only group in America that you can discriminate against with impunity is the convicted felon population.

You see we now have laws that prevent convicted felons regardless of the offense from receiving student loans and grants, housing assistance, and any other government assistance that they desperately need to change their lives and become reconnected to their community and our society. As if that were not enough most employers refuse to hire ex-offenders as a matter of policy except for menial low wage positions. No one challenges an employer for doing so, because we have the canard that most businesses have money and property on hand and the ex-offender cannot be trusted to be an honest person. After all, they are convicted felons. So we prevent them from receiving the support to change their lives and we won’t give them jobs to improve their lives, many of them for nothing more than having a bag of weed.

By condemning these young men to this fate of hardship we are also condemning the neighborhoods they live in to a future of violence and apathy. Once you remove the hope and the future of the young people in a community you suck the rejuvenating life blood out of that community. These young men now exist outside the system and the economy. They have been made invisible by a system designed to marginalize them and prevent them from competing successfully for their share of the American dream. These young men now have no reason to become involved in the improvement of their communities and often times their own lives. Many are not allowed or don’t vote. Many are unemployed. Many are not fathers to their own children and so the cycle continues.

What I think fails to get mentioned enough is that we are not only condemning these young men but entire communities to suffering. We set in motion the demolition of the underpinnings of these communities. Throughout history the fortunes of a culture or a community is driven by the fortunes of its young men and if you are able to somehow undermine those young men you in fact commence the destruction of that culture or community. You show me a vibrant community and I will show you one where the young men are intricately involved in the fabric of that community. Our community cannot afford to allow this destruction of our young men to go on unabated.

Just one galling statistic of many: in some states African Americans comprise 90 percent of the total drug prisoners and are 57 times more likely to be incarcerated for a drug offense than whites, even though whites use five times the amount of drugs as African Americans. - Michelle Alexander

The time has come for us to stand up and demand an end to this systematic destruction of our young men. We must begin to change a criminal justice system that routinely and selectively gives our young men felony convictions while at the same time giving whites diversion and other less punitive measures. We must begin to teach and train our young men to not participate in their own destruction. The training of our young men into responsible men is not being advocated and promoted as it should be in our community. There is this false assumption that boys just naturally grow into men, nothing could be further from the truth.

There will be racist elements who will seek to keep this pipeline in place. But in addition there will also be economic forces to contend with. Prisons now employ over 400,000 people throughout the country. Because many prisons are located in rural areas they have replaced other forms of employment such as manufacturing and farming. This source of jobs has kept many small towns afloat following the shrinking manufacturing and unskilled labor base. We now have a prison-industrial complex second only to the military in its size and scope. In order for prisons to be profitable they have to be filled. As a result of these policies we are pitting the employment and future of rural folks against the freedom and future of the urban folks.

As a society we cannot continue to operate on this level. The results of our inaction will be a permanent underclass in urban areas and a permanent siege mentality for those living there. It will also continue to foster and promote racial and geographical prejudice within our society. With two million of our fellow citizens incarcerated or on paper many for non-violent offences we must begin to seek and to promote alternative methods to incarceration and felony records. We should also support an atmosphere of support for second chances for these unfortunate people caught up in this “war” mentality. Businesses respond to customers and if customers were more receptive to second chances so would the business community. I ask you to begin speaking out in your communities for these young men. Become a part of the reentry movement where you live. You see condemning people before they are even 20 for a non-violent drug offense to a life of poverty is not just unfair or inhumane, it is immoral.

“Jails and prisons are designed to break human beings, to convert the population into specimens in a zoo-obedient to our keepers, but dangerous to each other.” - Angela Davis

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Just the Facts Maam

Mr. Johnson, on the other hand, proudly proclaimed recently that he doesn’t “think this election is about details.” That’s as good an explanation as any of why — in Wisconsin as in so many states — candidates like Mr. Johnson are ahead in the polls. Insurgent Republicans don’t need details when they can play on the furious emotions of voters who have been misled into believing that positive changes like the health care law are catastrophic failures...The misinformation and simplistic solutions propounded by talk radio and the Republican Party are having an effect even in a state that preferred Mr. Obama by 14 points two years ago. - The New York Times

One of the consequences of this election could possibly be the debunking of the long held myth of the inherent intelligence of the American voting public. This myth has been carefully orchestrated and promoted by the media, the wing-nuts, and any other group who has a stake in legitimizing the electoral process. In order for a democracy to be seen as legitimate by our standards it must be based on the premise of an informed electorate making choices in its own interest.

For a while now in America nothing could be further from the truth. The reason they don’t have elections at mental institutions is because the results would be subject to easy manipulation. Because the population would not be seen as having the mental skills to research and understand the breadth of the issues and are subject to varying forms of hallucinations and paranoia which could be manipulated by unscrupulous entities no one in their right mind would certify the results. The founders of this nation made the faulty assumption that the electorate would forever be this group of thoughtful and knowledgeable people who would weigh the issues and make informed choices.

Unfortunately, what we know today is this is often not the case. As we have evolved from a nation which read newspapers, books, and journals to a nation of sound bites, commercials, and bumper stickers we have become less informed concerning the crucial issues facing this nation. Because of this “cerebral laziness” the electorate is prone to accept the misinformation and propaganda of those who seek to promote their agenda over the interests of the country as a whole. The real tragedy is that if the teabaggers were really who they claim to be they would be a legitimate force for good in politics. But their selection of candidates and their adherence to the wing-nut rhetoric proves that they are merely another tool of the wealthy to create a smoke screen to hide behind.

I can understand someone having the misguided belief that giving billions of dollars to the wealthy in tax-cuts is a viable policy to stimulate the economy. What I cannot understand is how those who would directly be harmed by this policy continue to support it. The problem with recycling is that there is a history of what the product was and did before. We have a history of data concerning tax-cuts. It is not like this is some new concept that the wing-nuts just came up with. There is a track record for review. But this would require an electorate that was willing to do simple research instead of accepting on its face the propaganda being served.

The one thing that should be troubling to more and more Americans is that as we continue to progress down this shadowy world of anonymous donors and unlimited political spending we will be more and more at the mercy of those who use fear and tribalism to sway opinion instead of facts and research. You can elect whoever you want, I get that. But you can’t continue to send nut jobs to a place and then get mad when it turns into an asylum. I think what the Congressional dissatisfaction polls tell us about people is that each group is dissatisfied because they want the Congress to be more like them, which is fine if you have a clear majority and a clear direction. The problem now for this country is no such sense of clarity exists. The American people are being tossed in a storm that is being fed by the false meme that ignorance is bliss.

It is important to think about who benefits from a system that devalues education and knowledge and seeks to replace it with folksiness and stupidity. I guarantee you that the wealthy backers of this “know nothing” movement are not taking their kids out of their private schools and colleges and sending them through our public education system. So are we to assume that ignorance is only valuable to ordinary folks? Yes, because if education becomes reserved for only the wealthy, then only the wealthy will be educated and the easiest population to manipulate is an uneducated one.

"A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to Farce or Tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own Governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives." – James Madison

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