Our country is no longer controlled by, and for, We the People, but instead by, and on behalf of, international banking and multinational corporate interests. While the gradual, almost imperceptible takeover of our government by this corporate fascism has been evolving by design for many decades, it is a coup d'etat nonetheless and has been disastrous for the vast majority of Americans. This blog is an exploration and discussion of how this occurred, and the damage it has done to our democratic processes.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Slippery Slope Turned to Black Ice

He did it! On the last day of the year, during a holiday weekend when most people aren't paying attention to the news, President Obama signed the egregious National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law. Congratulations sir! You just set us on course for complete dictatorial control! From Anonymous earlier this month:

"If you have not yet woken up to the reality of the police state we've been warning you about, I hope you realize we are fast running out of time. Once this becomes law, you have no rights whatsoever in America. — no due process, no First Amendment speech rights, no right to remain silent, nothing."

So we'll begin 2012 under a completely new legal authority; not the rule of law as based upon our constitutional protections, but rather the murky and ambiguous sense of justice that the president -- any president -- feels like asserting on any given day.  

We live in strange and dangerous times. May the new year's promise of peace, and increased awareness and raised consciousness, be with all of you and those you hold dear. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

OWS: Grow Awareness; Expose Corruption. Demand Later

Occupy D.C., Freedom Plaza, October 2011
As Charles Stewart Parnell called out during the Irish rent strike campaign in 1879 and 1880: It is no use relying on the Government . . . . You must only rely upon your own determination . . . . Help yourselves by standing together . . .strengthen those amongst yourselves who are weak . . .band yourselves together, organize yourselves . . . and you must win . . . When you have made this question ripe for settlement, then and not till then will it be settled.”  Gene Sharp (1928-present)

Much of the criticism of Occupy Wall Street, and the movement it has borne, is a perceived lack of focus and clarity, both from opponents on the Right and proponents on the Left. I've read comments from my own blog ("I do think OWS needs to do a better job of selling its message and connecting to the general population") and other's ("It is hard to negotiate for change without such demands set forth...[a]s much as I admire the demonstrators courage and spunk I think the whole idea was half baked and doomed to fail from the beginning"). "It’s not poll-tested or focus-grouped, but it expresses perfectly the outrage that is the appropriate response to the maddening political situation we find ourselves in today. It succeeds as symbolic politics: taking back the square is just what we need to do", argues Betsy Reed with The Nation. Even mainstream medium bulwark CNN concedes:

"Anyone who says he has no idea what these folks are protesting is not being truthful. Whether we agree with them or not, we all know what they are upset about, and we all know that there are investment bankers working on Wall Street getting richer while things for most of the rest of us are getting tougher. What upsets banking's defenders and politicians alike is the refusal of this movement to state its terms or set its goals in the traditional language of campaigns...there are a wide array of complaints, demands, and goals from the Wall Street protesters: the collapsing environment, labor standards, housing policy, government corruption, World Bank lending practices, unemployment, increasing wealth disparity and so on...they believe they are symptoms of the same core problem. Are they ready to articulate exactly what that problem is and how to address it? No, not yet. But neither are Congress or the president..."

Nonviolent protest is very successful in initiating change, something Gene Sharp, author of From Dictatorship to Democracy, knows more than anyone concerning the subject. Translated into over thirty languages, his work has inspired and created countless regime changes around the world. Examples of key nonviolent steps intrinsic to liberation: 

  • Develop a strategy for winning freedom and a vision of the society you want
  • Overcome fear by small acts of resistance
  • Use colors and symbols to demonstrate unity of resistance
  • Learn from historical examples of the successes of non-violent movements
  • Use non-violent "weapons"
  • Identify the dictatorship's pillars of support and develop a strategy for undermining each
  • Use oppressive or brutal acts by the regime as a recruiting tool for your movement
  • Isolate or remove from the movement people who use or advocate violence

Central to Dr. Sharp's treatise is the premise that "the power of dictatorships comes from the willing obedience of the people they govern - and that if the people can develop techniques of withholding their consent, a regime will crumble."

For now, the work is to build momentum through numbers. The work is to grow awareness. The work is to expose. It's their money versus our numbers, our awareness, our shedding light on their corruptness and lies. Demands will be formally articulated later. 

Here's the latest from Anonymous (Message to Occupy the World 11-18-11):

Greetings citizens of the world. We are Anonymous. Since the occupation of Wall Street began we have been watching closely as countless people in cities around the world have taken to the streets in peaceful support of the movement. A show of support for a humanity free from the benefit of the few at the expense of the many. Free from corruption in our political and financial institutions, and free from the injustices caused by corporate personhood and the oppression of others. This is not the Arab Spring, Egypt, Greece, Tunisia, nor The American Autumn.

This is mass global awakening.

The lies and corruptions that have attached themselves to our system like a parasite have been exposed.

A way to rid our world of this parasite uncovered.

The cure lies in all of us.

This is only the first wave of our brothers and sisters to awaken to the lies and corruptions taking place around them. You, my brothers and sisters bear the weight of carrying this message to the masses. You must continue to hold your ground and stand up to help educate others to these injustices. The practice of active non participation in the things we deem evil, peaceful protests, and large scale community education efforts are things each one of us can continue and teach others to help aid in the fight. This will assure us victory against tyranny in our world.

We have already seen signs of this process beginning to take hold. With the successful transfer of 4.5 billion dollars on Bank Transfer Day, and 690,000 new accounts created at credit unions in the U.S. alone, we have taken the first strike against the banks.

This will not be the last.

Occupy protests continue to grow despite the puppet media, who is bought and controlled by politicians and corporations continuing to lie about numbers involved in the protests. They have said there is no clear message and otherwise down played and belittled the protests as a whole. Yet our message has still gotten out.

Political and corporate backed entities continue to try to adopt and corrupt the movement.

Trying to turn it into a tool for their own purposes, yet they fail.

Worse yet, incidents of police brutality and the revocation of the rights of our citizens are growing more common place. Corrupt elements hidden within police forces around the world have begun to inflict terror and beat the otherwise peaceful protestors into submission. Mayors, and governing officials in cities around the world have begun to send in their dogs in an effort to stamp out the growth of revolution. They have taken notice of our actions and they are scared!

These crimes against our citizens do not go unnoticed, and must not be allowed to quell our efforts in seeking freedom. We must maintain peaceful despite these atrocities and not feed into their efforts to bring us down to their lowly level of existence.

The instigators of these actions are unaware that they are defeating themselves, for we are already at the third act of the famous quote; “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you. then you win.”

There has never been a more exciting time to be alive in all our lives.
It is important that we not be bored or let idle time pass, for the seeds of revolution against worldwide injustice have been sewn. Yet without enough nourishment they will not survive and grow to full fruition.

Citizens of the world, the power for change is in our hands. We must continue to expose the truth to the masses.

Know your own power; inform others of the immediate threat of corporations, banking institutions and the growing takeover of world governments. Maintain true to the foundations of the Occupy movement. Fight greed, corruption and corporate control of our democracy.

Continue to denounce the involvement of entities with political and financial affiliations in the movement. Express your free right to assemble via global, large scale peaceful protests.

Our efforts must not simply continue.

Our efforts must grow.

Corrupt governments, police, corporations, banking institutions and those who oppress others.

You cannot kill, or buy an idea.

You are the parasite, not our citizens who gather in peaceful protest against injustice in our world.

You are outnumbered, and surrounded.

The revolution has begun, and the end of your reign is near.

We will not stand for your atrocities and injustices any longer.

We are Bradley Manning, we are Scott Olsen. We are your brother, mother, and best friend.

We are people.

We are free.

We are one.

We are Anonymous.

We are legion.

We do not forgive.

We do not forget.
You should have expected us!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Slipperiest of Slopes

UC Davis Student Civil Disobedience, 11/18/2011
"The two greatest visions of a future dystopia were George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” The debate, between those who watched our descent towards corporate totalitarianism, was who was right. Would we be, as Orwell wrote, dominated by a repressive surveillance and security state that used crude and violent forms of control? Or would we be, as Huxley envisioned, entranced by entertainment and spectacle, captivated by technology and seduced by profligate consumption to embrace our own oppression? It turns out Orwell and Huxley were both right. Huxley saw the first stage of our enslavement. Orwell saw the second."
------ Chris Hedges, from 2011: A Brave New Dystopia, Truthdig 12/27/10
Nazi Execution of Dissident

By now, you've probably seen the video of the obviously intentional and grotesque behavior by campus police at the University of California in Davis. (If not, you can see it here.) This video, originally only available through fringe progressive blogs and websites, has finally seen the light of day within the corporate-owned mainstream media -- mainly because it has gone viral on the Internet. As with anything accusatory or demeaning of the corporate-state, unless there's no further chance of ignoring or omitting the obvious (as in the case of the Occupy movement), the corporate media is forced to undraw the curtain and reveal the events -- although, not necessarily, and often not, the truth and reasons behind them.

The question I want to ask is this: When this kind of despicable behavior is conducted by those entrusted to serve and protect us from criminal activities, and equally important, is condoned and approved by their superiors and those we supposedly elect, when and where is the line drawn that separates us from the inhumane and state-sanctioned slippery slope toward totalitarianism and demagoguery?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wall Street Occupies Our Government

Jefferson's Guardian at Freedom Plaza, October 8th
"If in the opinion of the People, the distribution or modification of the Constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed." .......GEORGE WASHINGTON, farewell address, Sept. 19, 1796
Attending and being a part of the Occupy DC movement the first four days, and also last weekend, it has become obvious to me that a true grassroots movement is taking hold and sprouting. Despite the mainstream media's (ABC) interviewing and airing of some fool's claim that "it's fabricated; it's not an authentic movement" during last weekend's Occupy Wall Street's (OWS) Times Square rally, it's obvious this is the real deal. The whole world is watching, and joining in against the corporatism that has invaded and infiltrated governments globally.
But protesting needs to be backed up with more than statements. Moving beyond why we're occupying, the next step is defining and redefining the demands that normally evolve from mass social movements. OWS recently published a list of user-suggested demands, that was not an official demand list, nor discussed or agreed upon by a collective NYC General Assembly, but reflects many of the concerns that are on the minds of Americans, and people of all western societies, right now. But the primary grievance, that's all-encompassing and in its totality, sums up what's happened to our country over the last few decades: Wall Street occupies our government. 
Matt Taibbi has contributed his own list of demands; items he'd like to see formally proposed and implemented. Right now, he sees the "movement's basic strategy – to build numbers and stay in the fight, rather than tying itself to any particular set of principles", to be in its best interest right now. But he also agrees, before too long, it'll be necessary to document its demands and offer sound solutions to the problems it has already listed.
Jim Hightower, in his October "Lowdown", although not specifically citing OWS, calls for grassroots action beginning with a National Week of Action starting today, October 23rd, to stem the flow of corporate money in politics, and to reel in and abolish corporate personhood. 
Others have proposed various demands, again none agreed upon by OWS, but certainly under a true democratic structure, welcomed and tabled and will be given due consideration. But all the thoughtfulness and careful deliberations will probably not go to the extent as proposed by Richard Grossman, "the father of the 'no to corporate personhood' movement", who has called for an across-the-board criminalization of the entity we call a corporation. Read what Mr. Grossman proposes from the Corporate Crime Reporter.
Richard Grossman on Usurpation and the Corporation as Crime
25 Corporate Crime Reporter 39, October 6, 2011

Richard Grossman says that Occupy Wall Street activists need to go beyond greed and corruption and focus on usurpation.

As in – illegal seizure of power.

As in – the corporation has usurped – illegally seized – power from the people.

He quotes Thomas Hobbes as saying that a corporation is merely a “chip off the old block of sovereignty.”

Grossman, the father of the “no to corporate personhood” movement, says the first step in taking back the power is to criminalize the corporation.

To that end, he has drafted a four page law – “An Act to Criminalize Chartered Incorporated Business Enterprises.”

“As of 12:01 a.m. on July 4, 2012, no incorporated business shall exist or operate within the United States and its territories, or with any State or municipality,” the draft law reads.

“As of 12:01 a.m. on July 4, 2012, all existing business corporation charters granted by the United States, and by all States, shall be null and void.”

“If people want to go into business, fine,” Grossman said. “But this law would strip away 500 years of Constitutional protections and privileges. No more limited liability for shareholders. No more perpetual life. No more Constitutional protections.”

Those local, state or federal officials “who fail to implement and sustain the prohibition – and criminalization – of chartered, incorporated business entities after 12:01 a.m. July 4, 2012, shall promptly be indicted and speedily tried for the crime of villainous usurpation – perfidious, felonious, illegitimate rule exceeding their proper authority – as well as for the crime of dereliction of duty.”

In a footnote to the draft law, Grossman writes that “in a corporate state, law, culture, contrived celebration and tradition illegitimately clothe directors and executive officers of chartered incorporated businesses in governing authority.”

“This is usurpation,” he writes. “A corporate state nurtures, enables and expedites such illegitimate governing authority by violence enforced by courts, jails, police and military force and by historians. Less-overtly ferocious institutions – for profit and non profit – routinely reinforce that reality.”

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Statement of Democratic Values

The Wall Street occupation is entering its third week. What began as a loosely organized, scattered, and lowly attended protest, has swelled into a movement decrying the corporate hijacking of this country's democratic traditions and underpinnings. Days ago, organized labor was represented by airline pilots from United Airlines, but Thursday's addition of major unions in and around New York City, added breadth and solidarity to a growing and unyielding cause. Also yesterday, student groups also showed their support of Occupy Wall Street by joining the occupiers and current residents of southern Manhattan's Liberty Square and Zuccotti Park with a march on City Hall.  As the field grows larger, and as the corporate media are forced to stop ignoring its growing strength, many new and previously unaware observers question the group's motives.

Late last week, an ad hoc people's congress formed a General Assembly and released their first official statement of who they are, why they're there, and exactly what their concerns are. Here's their statement in its entirety.
This was unanimously voted on by all members of Occupy Wall Street last night, around 8pm, Sept 29. It is our first official document for release. We have three more underway, that will likely be released in the upcoming days: 1) A declaration of demands. 2) Principles of Solidarity 3) Documentation on how to form your own Direct Democracy Occupation Group. This is a living document. you can receive an official press copy of the latest version by emailing c2anycgaATgmailDOTcom  
Declaration of the Occupation of New York City

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.

They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.

They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.

They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.

They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices.

They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.

They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.

They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.

They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.

They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.

They have sold our privacy as a commodity.

They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.

They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.

They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.

They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them.

They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.

They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit.

They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.

They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.

They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.

They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.

They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.

They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.*

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

*These grievances are not all-inclusive.

(End of Statement)

Today, Thursday, these same grievances will be the reason thousands of us will begin occupying Washington D.C. to help plant the grassroots of a new democracy; one that allows all Americans -- the remaining 99% -- to participate. If you're in the area, please come join us at Freedom Plaza. Go to Stop the Machine! to find out more.   

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Our Crisis of Democracy

There is a crisis in America. One that didn't start in January, two years ago, or in January, ten years ago. It has been in the making for many decades, although the "official" start of the escalation can be traced to Ronald Reagan's inauguration in January -- thirty years in the past. At that time, the gloves came off and the full scale assault by the corporatocracy, or as Chris Hedges has coined the accused, the Corporate-State, began. Each administration since, including the "Democratic" presidencies of Clinton and Obama, have been led and ruled by corporatists -- those who favor, and cater to, those groups comprised of political-economic power elites. In other words, multinational corporations and transcontinental banking institutions. Our elected leaders over the past thirty years have been dominant over a political culture, in which members believe the basic unit of society and the primary concern of the state is the corporate group rather than the individual, and that the interests of the corporate group are the same as the interest of the nation. 

We've been seduced into believing the dual party system is alive and well...okay, not so well, but alive nonetheless. Nothing could be more wrong. The traditional political parties you and I grew up with, and at one time or another identified with, no longer exist. They're gone, both of them, and the pieces have morphed into one singular, monolithic, non-democratic entity that serves only moneyed interests; the wealthy, the elite, and the culture of corporatism.   

Ralph Nader warned us of this -- many times. We didn't listen. We still don't. He says Obama needs to have competition with true progressive values. He's proposed, along with Cornel West, author and professor at Princeton University, that several candidates challenge Obama, where "each represent[s] a field in which Obama has never clearly staked a progressive claim or where he has drifted toward the corporatist right."

Both Nader and West have been Obama-bashers from almost the onset of his administration, and for good reason. Back in early December, after Obama extended the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy during a lame-duck congress, Mr. Nader said of Mr. Obama,  "He has no fixed principles," and "He's opportunistic -- he goes for expedience, like Clinton. Some call him temperamentally conflict-averse. If you want to be harsher, you say he has no principles and he's opportunistic." Nader continued, "He's a con man, I have no use for him." There are those on the Left who agree, and others who adamantly disagree, thinking his words are harsh and fear-provoking, believing a split in the Democratic ranks will certainly put a Republican in the White House. In other words, claiming the unhallowed ground of "the least worst".

Following is Ralph Nader's speech announcing his candidacy for the Green Party's nomination for president in the 2000 campaign. Read and see how many times he references the tilted table of our weakened democracy, and the systemic corruption which has created so many imbalances of justice and fairness in our society. Notice how what he says could have been written or said today, despite his words being almost eleven years old. The same problems persist, and as a matter of fact are even worse now. Much worse. Corporatism has gained an even stronger foothold since 2000, evidenced by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision last year and the TARP bank bailout of three years ago. Since 2000, the stakes have become higher, and the casualties to our citizenry have been mounting. Eleven years ago, most people would have claimed Mr. Nader was crying wolf. I bet they don't today.

SOURCE: Ralph Nader, Crashing the Party: How to tell the Truth and Still Run for President. New York: St. Martin's Press, 2002

Today I wish to explain why, after working for years as a citizen advocate for consumers, workers, taxpayers and the environment, I am seeking the Green Party's nomination for President. A crisis of democracy in our country convinces me to take this action. Over the past twenty years, big business has increasingly dominated our political economy. This control by the corporate government over our political government is creating a widening "democracy gap." Active citizens are left shouting their concerns over a deep chasm between them and their government. This state of affairs is a world away from the legislative milestones in civil rights, the environment, and health and safety of workers and consumers seen in the sixties and seventies. At that time, informed and dedicated citizens powered their concerns through the channels of government to produce laws that bettered the lives of millions of Americans.

Today we face grave and growing societal problems in health care, education, labor, energy and the environment. These are problems for which active citizens have solutions, yet their voices are not carrying across the democracy gap. Citizen groups and individual thinkers have generated a tremendous capital of ideas, information, and solutions to the point of surplus, while our government has been drawn away from us by a corporate government. Our political leadership has been hijacked.

Citizen advocates have no other choice but to close the democracy gap by direct political means. Only effective national political leadership will restore the responsiveness of government to its citizenry. Truly progressive political movements do not just produce more good results; they enable a flowering of progressive citizen movements to effectively advance the quality of our neighborhoods and communities outside of politics.

I have a personal distaste for the trappings of modern politics, in which incumbents and candidates daily extol their own inflated virtues, paint complex issues with trivial brush strokes, and propose plans quickly generated by campaign consultants. But I can no longer stomach the systemic political decay that has weakened our democracy. I can no longer watch people dedicate themselves to improving their country while their government leaders turn their backs, or worse, actively block fair treatment for citizens. It is necessary to launch a sustained effort to wrest control of our democracy from the corporate government and restore it to the political government under the control of citizens.

This campaign will challenge all Americans who are concerned with systemic imbalances of power and the undermining of our democracy, whether they consider themselves progressives, liberals, conservatives, or others. Presidential elections should be a time for deep discussions among the citizenry regarding the down-to-earth problems and injustices that are not addressed because of the gross power mismatch between the narrow vested interests and the public or common good.

The unconstrained behavior of big business is subordinating our democracy to the control of a corporate plutocracy that knows few self-imposed limits to the spread of its power to all sectors of our society. Moving on all fronts to advance narrow profit motives at the expense of civic values, large corporate lobbies and their law firms have produced a commanding, multi-faceted and powerful juggernaut. They flood public elections with cash, and they use their media conglomerates to exclude, divert, or propagandize. They brandish their willingness to close factories here and open them abroad if workers do not bend to their demands. By their control in Congress, they keep the federal cops off the corporate crime, fraud, and abuse beats. They imperiously demand and get a wide array of privileges and immunities: tax escapes, enormous corporate welfare subsidies, federal giveaways, and bailouts. They weaken the common law of torts in order to avoid their responsibility for injurious wrongdoing to innocent children, women and men.

Abuses of economic power are nothing new. Every major religion in the world has warned about societies allowing excessive influences of mercantile or commercial values. The profiteering motive is driven and single-minded. When unconstrained, it can override or erode community, health, safety, parental nurturing, due process, clean politics, and many other basic social values that hold together a society. Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, Supreme Court Justices Louis Brandeis and William Douglas, among others, eloquently warned about what Thomas Jefferson called " the excesses of the monied interests" dominating people and their governments. The struggle between the forces of democracy and plutocracy has ebbed and flowed throughout our history. Each time the cycle of power has favored more democracy, our country has prospered ("a rising tide lifts all boats"). Each time the cycle of corporate plutocracy has lengthened, injustices and shortcomings proliferate.

In the sixties and seventies, for example, when the civil rights, consumer, environmental, and women's rights movements were in their ascendancy, there finally was a constructive responsiveness by government. Corporations, such as auto manufacturers, had to share more decision making with affected constituencies, both directly and through their public representatives and civil servants. Overall, our country has come out better, more tolerant, safer, and with greater opportunities. The earlier nineteenth century democratic struggles by abolitionists against slavery, by farmers against large oppressive railroads and banks, and later by new trade unionists against the brutal workplace conditions of the early industrial and mining era helped mightily to make America and its middle class what it is today. They demanded that economic power subside or be shared.

Democracy works, and a stronger democracy works better for reputable, competitive markets, equal opportunity and higher standards of living and justice. Generally, it brings out the best performances from people and from businesses.

A plutocracy-rule by the rich and powerful-on the other hand, obscures our historical quests for justice. Harnessing political power to corporate greed leaves us with a country that has far more problems than it deserves, while blocking ready solutions or improvements from being applied.
It is truly remarkable that for almost every widespread need or injustice in our country, there are citizens, civic groups, small and medium-sized businesses and farms that have shown how to meet these needs or end these injustices. However, all the innovative solutions in the world will accomplish little if the injustices they address or the problems they solve have been shoved aside because plutocracy reigns and democracy wanes. For all optimistic Americans, when their issues are thus swept from the table, it becomes civic mobilization time.

Consider the economy, which business commentators say could scarcely be better. If, instead of corporate yardsticks, we use human yardsticks to measure the performance of the economy and go beyond the quantitative indices of annual economic growth, structural deficiencies become readily evident. The complete dominion of traditional yardsticks for measuring economic prosperity masks not only these failures but also the inability of a weakened democracy to address how and why a majority of Americans are not benefiting from this prosperity in their daily lives. Despite record economic growth, corporate profits, and stock market highs year after year, a stunning array of deplorable conditions still prevails year after year. For example:
  • A majority of workers are making less now, inflation adjusted, than in 1979
  • Over 20% of children were growing up in poverty during the past decade, by far the highest among comparable western countries
  • The minimum wage is lower today, inflation-adjusted, than in 1979
  • American workers are working longer and longer hours-on average an additional 163 hours per year, compared to 20 years ago-with less time for family and community
  • Many full-time family farms cannot make a living in a market of giant buyer concentration and industrial agriculture
  • The public works (infrastructure) are crumbling, with decrepit schools and clinics, library closings, antiquated mass transit and more
  • Corporate welfare programs, paid for largely by middle-class taxpayers and amounting to hundreds of billions of dollars per year, continue to rise along with government giveaways of taxpayer assets such as public forests, minerals and new medicines
  • Affordable housing needs are at record levels while secondary mortgage market companies show record profits
  • The number of Americans without health insurance grows every year
  • There have been twenty-five straight years of growing foreign trade deficits ($270 billion in 1999)
  • Consumer debt is at an all time high, totaling over $ 6 trillion
  • Personal bankruptcies are at a record level
  • Personal savings are dropping to record lows and personal assets are so low that Bill Gates' net worth is equal to that of the net assets of the poorest 120 million Americans combined
  • The tiny federal budgets for the public's health and safety continue to be grossly inadequate
  • Motor vehicle fuel efficiency averages are actually declining and, overall, energy conservation efforts have slowed, while renewable energy takes a back seat to fossil fuel and atomic power subsidies
  • Wealth inequality is greater than at any time since WWII. The top one percent of the wealthiest people have more financial wealth than the bottom 90% of Americans combined, the worst inequality among large western nation
  • Despite annual declines in total business liability costs, business lobbyists drive for more privileges and immunities for their wrongdoing.
It is permissible to ask, in the light of these astonishing shortcomings during a period of touted prosperity, what the state of our country would be should a recession or depression occur? One import of these contrasts is clear: economic growth has been decoupled from economic progress for many Americans. In the early 1970s, our economy split into two tiers. Whereas once economic growth broadly benefited the majority, now the economy has become one wherein "a rising tide lifts all yachts," in the words of Jeff Gates, author of The Ownership Solution. Returns on capital outpaced returns on labor, and job insecurity increased for millions of seasoned workers. In the seventies, the top 300 CEOs paid themselves 40 times the entry-level wage in their companies. Now the average is over 400 times. This in an economy where impoverished assembly line workers suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome frantically process chickens which pass them in a continuous flow, where downsized white and blue collar employees are hired at lesser compensation, if they are lucky, where the focus of top business executives is no longer to provide a service that attracts customers, but rather to acquire customers through mergers and acquisitions. How long can the paper economy of speculation ignore its effects on the real economy of working families? Pluralistic democracy has enlarged markets and created the middle class. Yet the short-term monetized minds of the corporatists are bent on weakening, defeating, diluting, diminishing, circumventing, co-opting, or corrupting all traditional countervailing forces that have saved American corporate capitalism from itself.

Regulation of food, automobiles, banks and securities, for example, strengthened these markets along with protecting consumers and investors. Antitrust enforcement helped protect our country from monopoly capitalism and stimulated competition. Trade unions enfranchised workers and helped mightily to build the middle class for themselves, benefiting also non-union laborers. Producer and consumer cooperatives helped save the family farm, electrified rural areas, and offered another model of economic activity. Civil litigation-the right to have your day in court-helped deter producers of harmful products and brought them to some measure of justice. At the same time, the public learned about these hazards.

Public investment-from naval shipyards to Pentagon drug discoveries against infectious disease to public power authorities-provided yardsticks to measure the unwillingness of big business to change and respond to needs. Even under a rigged system, shareholder pressures on management sometimes have shaken complacency, wrongdoing, and mismanagement. Direct consumer remedies, including class actions, have given pause to crooked businesses and have stopped much of this unfair competition against honest businesses. Big business lobbies opposed all of this progress strenuously, but they lost and America gained. Ultimately, so did a chastened but myopic business community.

Now, these checkpoints face a relentless barrage from rampaging corporate titans assuming more control over elected officials, the workplace, the marketplace, technology, capital pools (including workers' pension trusts) and educational institutions. One clear sign of the reign of corporations over our government is that the key laws passed in the 60s and 70s that we use to curb corporate misbehavior would not even pass through Congressional committees today. Planning ahead, multinational corporations shaped the World Trade Organization's autocratic and secretive governing procedures so as to undermine non-trade health, safety, and other living standard laws and proposals in member countries.

Up against the corporate government, voters find themselves asked to choose between look-a-like candidates from two parties vying to see who takes the marching orders from their campaign paymasters and their future employers. The money of vested interests nullifies genuine voter choice and trust. Our elections have been put out for auction to the highest bidder. Public elections must be publicly financed and it can be done with well-promoted voluntary checkoffs and free TV and Radio time for ballot-qualified candidates.

Workers are disenfranchised more than any time since the 1920s. Many unions stagger under stagnant leadership and discouraged rank and file. Furthermore, weak labor laws actually obstruct new trade union organization and leave the economy with the lowest percentage of workers unionized in more than 60 years. Giant multinationals are pitting countries against one another and escaping national jurisdictions more and more. Under these circumstances, workers are entitled to stronger labor organizing laws and rights for their own protection in order to deal with highly organized corporations.

At a very low cost, government can help democratic solution building for a host of problems that citizens face, from consumer abuses, to environmental degradation. Government research and development generated whole new industries and company startups and created the Internet. At the least, our government can facilitate the voluntary banding together of interested citizens into democratic civic institutions. Such civic organizations can create more level playing fields in the banking, insurance, real estate, transportation, energy, health care, cable TV, educational, public services, and other sectors. Let's call this the flowering of a deep-rooted democratic society. A government that funnels your tax dollars to corporate welfare kings in the form of subsidies, bailouts, guarantees, and giveaways of valuable public assets can at least invest in promoting healthy democracy.

Taxpayers have very little legal standing in the federal courts and little indirect voice in the assembling and disposition of taxpayer revenues. Closer scrutiny of these matters between elections is necessary. Facilities can be established to accomplish a closer oversight of taxpayer assets and how tax dollars (apart from social insurance) are allocated. This is an arena which is, at present, shaped heavily by corporations that, despite record profits, pay far less in taxes as a percent of the federal budget than in the 1950s and 60s.

The "democracy gap" in our politics and elections spells a deep sense of powerlessness by people who drop out, do not vote or listlessly vote for the "least-worst" every four years and then wonder why after another cycle the "least-worst" gets worse. It is time to redress fundamentally these imbalances of power. We need a deep initiatory democracy in the embrace of its citizens, a usable brace of democratic tools that brings the best out of people, highlights the humane ideas and practical ways to raise and meet our expectations and resolve our society's deficiencies and injustices.
A few illustrative questions can begin to raise our expectations and suggest what can be lost when the few and powerful hijack our democracy:
  • Why can't the wealthiest nation in the world abolish the chronic poverty of millions of working and non-working Americans, including our children?
  • Are we reversing the disinvestment in our distressed inner cities and rural areas and using creatively some of the huge capital pools in the economy to make these areas more livable, productive and safe?
  • Are we able to end homelessness and wretched housing conditions with modern materials, designs, and financing mechanisms, without bank and insurance company redlining, to meet the affordable housing needs of millions of Americans?
  • Are we getting the best out of known ways to spread renewable, efficient energy throughout the land to save consumers money and to head off global warming and other land-based environmental damage from fossil fuels and atomic energy?
  • Are we getting the best out of the many bright and public-spirited civil servants who know how to improve governments but are rarely asked by their politically-appointed superiors or members of Congress?
  • Are we able to provide wide access to justice for all aggrieved people so that we apply rigorously the admonition of Judge Learned Hand, "If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: Thou Shall Not Ration Justice"?
  • Can we extend overseas the best examples of our country's democratic processes and achievements instead of annually using billions in tax dollars to subsidize corporate munitions exports, as Republican Senator Mark Hatfield always used to decry?
  • Can we stop the giveaways of our vast commonwealth assets and become better stewards of the public lands, better investors of trillions of dollars in worker pension monies, and allow broader access to the public airwaves and other assets now owned by the people but controlled by corporations?
  • Can we counter the coarse and brazen commercial culture, including television which daily highlights depravity and ignores the quiet civic heroisms in its communities, a commercialism that insidiously exploits childhood and plasters its logos everywhere?
  • Can we plan ahead as a society so we know our priorities and where we wish to go? Or do we continue to let global corporations remain astride the planet, corporatizing everything, from genes to education to the Internet to public institutions, in short planning our futures in their image? If a robust civic culture does not shape the future, corporatism surely will.
To address these and other compelling challenges, we must build a powerful, self-renewing civil society that focuses on ample justice so we do not have to desperately bestow limited charity. Such a culture strengthens existing civic associations and facilitates the creation of others to watch the complexities and technologies of a new century. Building the future also means providing the youngest of citizens with citizen skills that they can use to improve their communities.

This is the foundation of our campaign, to focus on active citizenship, to create fresh political movements that will displace the control of the Democratic and Republican Parties, two apparently distinct political entities that feed at the same corporate trough. They are in fact simply the two heads of one political duopoly, the DemRep Party. This duopoly does everything it can to obstruct the beginnings of new parties including raising ballot access barriers, entrenching winner-take-all voting systems, and thwarting participation in debates at election times

As befits its name, the Green Party, whose nomination I seek, stands for the regeneration of American politics. The new populism which the Green Party represents, involves motivated, informed voters who comprehend that "freedom is participation in power," to quote the ancient Roman orator, Cicero. When citizen participation flourishes, as this campaign will encourage it to do, human values can tame runaway commercial imperatives. The myopia of the short-term bottom line so often debases our democratic processes and our public and private domains. Putting human values first helps to make business responsible and to put government on the right track.

It is easy and true to say that this deep democracy campaign will be an uphill one. However, it is also true that widespread reform will not flourish without a fairer distribution of power for the key roles of voter, citizen, worker, taxpayer, and consumer. Comprehensive reform proposals from the corporate suites to the nation's streets, from the schools to the hospitals, from the preservation of small farm economies to the protection of privacies, from livable wages to sustainable environments, from more time for children to less time for commercialism, from waging peace and health to averting war and violence, from foreseeing and forestalling future troubles to journeying toward brighter horizons, will wither while power inequalities loom over us.

Our political campaign will highlight active and productive citizens who practice democracy often in the most difficult of situations. I intend to do this in the District of Columbia whose citizens have no full-voting representation in Congress or other rights accorded to states. The scope of this campaign is also to engage as many volunteers as possible to help overcome ballot barriers and to get the vote out. In addition it is designed to leave a momentum after election day for the various causes that committed people have worked so hard to further. For the Greens know that political parties need also to work between elections to make elections meaningful. The focus on fundamentals of broader distribution of power is the touchstone of this campaign. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis declared for the ages, "We can have a democratic society or we can have great concentrated wealth in the hands of a few. We cannot have both."

Thank you.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Around the Monopoly Board

It was reported last week, but not by any major news outlets that I know of, that Bloomberg News took the Federal Reserve to court and won. A Freedom of Information Act request put together by Bloomberg had allowed the hard numbers to finally be made available to the public about the loans the Fed gave out to keep financial firms afloat in the middle of the last economic near-collapse. The aristocracy of wealth was unofficially bailed out, at the tune of $1.2 trillion, while about 6 million homeowners currently owe about the same amount on delinquent and foreclosed properties. (See who made out, and with how much, by clicking here.)    

Obviously, despite the back-door bailout, it hasn't made getting a loan at your local bank, or refinancing with your mortgage lender, easier if even possible. So, what's the deal? If these banks are flush with our cash, which by the way include foreign banks and other non-U.S. lenders, why is liquidity stalled and our economy slipping toward a replay of a couple of years ago? Maybe financial intermediaries, i.e., banks, don't want to be the grease that keeps the economic engine of our commerce going any longer. Maybe it's just not profitable enough to loan to Main Street any more. Maybe the banks are lending it, but they're lending it to their elite clients, i.e., their hedge funds, who in turn leverage it from 10 to 100 times the value of the near zero interest loans that the Fed bequeathed them. And, maybe this is what's been artificially driving up stocks and bonds and commodities (gasoline and foodstuffs), and at the same time shorting the U.S. dollar. And, is this why the banks are signaling for a continuation of the recently dissolved quantitative easing ("QE2") and are hungry for QE3, then QE4, and so on and so on, because they know these unregulated and under-supervised funds are bleeding their reserves away as quickly as the Fed replenishes them? Or, are they just sitting on a mountain of money -- our money?     

Whatever is happening, one thing's for sure. The lending institutions are making out like bandits. While they're drawing interest on public funds given to them to stay alive, they're capitalizing into derivatives, commodities, precious metals, and god knows what else, while we're feeling the double-whammy of increased food prices, increased energy costs, and increased everything. It's like when we played Monopoly as kids, and one person had everything. Their stack of money just sat and didn't help anyone. All we could do was go around the board and hope to land on Community Chest (i.e., public assistance) or Free Parking (i.e., the lottery), but eventually we knew it was just a matter of time before we were sucked down the drain with the little money we had left. Our only other hope was going to jail. In our current real life scenario, that's not a pleasant thought. 

Maybe, starting on October 6th, that's what we should all do. H.D. Thoreau would be proud. Think about it, then join us.

Here's a report from RT, interviewing an economic analyst named Max Fraad Wolff, about this disclosure last week. There's really nothing extraordinarily revealing about what he says, but I have to admit, the guy's extremely smooth in his delivery and his demeanor. The discussion about the Fed loans begins at about 2:50 into the video.