When we watch the evening news it’s easy to conclude that America is now a foreign country run by some unnamed corporation according to rules no one has ever heard of before. The America of our history books and all those Victory at Sea documentaries is long gone. It’s been replaced by the America of Ariana Huffington and FOX/MSNBC Sort-of News. A strange place indeed. In this inspiring TED Talk, Lawrence Lessig has a prescription to recover what we lost. The hard part is believing it’s actually possible…
We the People, and the Republic we must reclaim
Lawrence Lessig | TED | APR 13
________________________________________________________________________________ Lawyer and activist Lawrence Lessig spent a decade arguing for sensible intellectual property law, updated for the digital age. He was a founding board member of Creative Commons, an organization that builds better copyright practices through principles established first by the open-source software community.
In 2007, just after his last TED Talk, Lessig announced he was leaving the field of IP and Internet policy, and moving on to a more fundamental problem that blocks all types of sensible policy — the corrupting influence of money in American politics.
In 2011, Lessig founded Rootstrikers, an organization dedicated to changing the influence of money in Congress. In his latest book, Republic, Lost, he shows just how far the U.S. has spun off course — and how citizens can regain control. As The New York Times wrote about him, “Mr. Lessig’s vision is at once profoundly pessimistic — the integrity of the nation is collapsing under the best of intentions –and deeply optimistic. Simple legislative surgery, he says, can put the nation back on the path to greatness.”
For years now we have been listening to republican politicians and their eager media cheerleaders yak on about how we are robbing future generations with our profligate government spending. This canard is hammered into our conciousness whenever we see one of those deficit “doomsday clocks” ticking off how many trillions of dollars our kids will have to pay to get out of the debt hole we created. Paul Krugman takes on that argument today and he makes total sense. If we have a deficit problem in this country it’s a deficit of leadership and sound economic policy, not dollars…
Cheating Our Children
Paul Krugman | NYTimes | 29 Mar 13
So, about that fiscal crisis — the one that would, any day now, turn us into Greece. Greece, I tell you: Never mind.
Over the past few weeks, there has been a remarkable change of position among the deficit scolds who have dominated economic policy debate for more than three years. It’s as if someone sent out a memo saying that the Chicken Little act, with its repeated warnings of a U.S. debt crisis that keeps not happening, has outlived its usefulness. Suddenly, the argument has changed: It’s not about the crisis next month; it’s about the long run, about not cheating our children. The deficit, we’re told, is really a moral issue.
There’s just one problem: The new argument is as bad as the old one. Yes, we are cheating our children, but the deficit has nothing to do with it.
This brilliant article by Lewis Lapham discusses the period leading up to George Bush’s War on Iraq which cost a trillion dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives and accomplished absolutely nothing. It is well worth reading in light of recent statements by politicians and their TV cheerleaders advocating preemptive military action against Syria and Iran. When you hear a politician talk about the need for war you should always ask if they are planning to participate. Note — Don’t miss Mark Twain’s “The War Prayer” at the end…
The Road to Babylon
Lewis H. Lapham | Harpers | Oct 02
Misgovemment is of four kinds, often in combination. They are: 1) tyranny or oppression, of which history provides so many well-known examples that they do not need citing; 2) excessive ambition, such as Athens’ attempted conquest of Sicily in the Peloponnesian War, Philip II’s of England via the Armada, Germany’s twice-attempted rule of Europe by a self-conceived master race, Japan’s bid for an empire of Asia; 3) incompetence or decadence, as in the case of the late Roman empire, the last Romanovs and the last imperial dynasty of China; and finally 4) folly or perversity.
— Barbara W. Tuchman
When President George W. Bush in his January State of the Union address pronounced the sentence of doom on Saddam Hussein (“America will do what is necessary to ensure our nation’s security I will not wait on events, while dangers gather”), I assumed that he was striking at a target of rhetorical convenience. The war on terrorism was not going as well as planned (Osama bin Laden still at large, Afghanistan not yet transformed into a Connecticut suburb, bombs exploding every seven or eight days on a bus in Israel), and who better than the tyrant of Baghdad to stand surrogate for all the world’s evildoers? The man was undoubtedly a villain, a brutal psychopath who murdered children and poisoned village wells, stored biological weapons in hospitals, subjected his enemies to unspeakable torture, and imprisoned his friends in the cages of perpetual fear. Not a nice fellow. Who would not be glad to learn that he had retired from politics or died in a traffic accident? If Mr. Bush chose to express his disapproval in what he called “the language of right and wrong,” who was I to deny him his demagogue’s right to issue harebrained threats?
In another fascinating article Professor Bacevich explores the startling parallels in geopolitical strategy between Israel and its giant patron, the US. The major remaining difference is that so far the US has not surrounded itself with a wall. Yet…
How We Became Israel
Andrew Bacevich | The American Conservative | 10 Sep 12
Peace means different things to different governments and different countries. To some it suggests harmony based on tolerance and mutual respect. To others it serves as a euphemism for dominance, peace defining the relationship between the strong and the supine.
In the absence of actually existing peace, a nation’s reigning definition of peace shapes its proclivity to use force. A nation committed to peace-as-harmony will tend to employ force as a last resort. The United States once subscribed to this view. Or beyond the confines of the Western Hemisphere, it at least pretended to do so.
A nation seeking peace-as-dominion will use force more freely. This has long been an Israeli predilection. Since the end of the Cold War and especially since 9/11, however, it has become America’s as well. As a consequence, U.S. national-security policy increasingly conforms to patterns of behavior pioneered by the Jewish state. This “Israelification” of U.S. policy may prove beneficial for Israel. Based on the available evidence, it’s not likely to be good for the United States.
It is generally accepted that the reason why America launched the 2nd Gulf War was to eliminate Saddam’s non-existent WMDs. As this article points out, that may not have been the primary cause. In this letter to the architect of that conflict, Andrew Bacevich asks Paul Wolfowicz for an acknowledgement that the war and its underlying strategic premise was a mistake. I’m not holding my breath waiting for a reply…
A Letter to Paul Wolfowitz
Occasioned by the tenth anniversary of the Iraq war
Andrew J. Bacevich | Harpurs | 25 Mar 13
I have been meaning to write to you for some time, and the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war provides as good an occasion as any to do so. Distracted by other, more recent eruptions of violence, the country has all but forgotten the war. But I won’t and I expect you can’t, although our reasons for remembering may differ.
Twenty years ago, you became dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and hired me as a minor staff functionary. I never thanked you properly. I needed that job. Included in the benefits package was the chance to hobnob with luminaries who gathered at SAIS every few weeks to join Zbigniew Brzezinski for an off-the-record discussion of foreign policy. From five years of listening to these insiders pontificate, I drew one conclusion: people said to be smart — the ones with fancy résumés who get their op-eds published in the New York Times and appear on TV — really aren’t. They excel mostly in recycling bromides. When it came to sustenance, the sandwiches were superior to the chitchat.
This morning I was listening to Diane Rhem conduct a discussion on the economy. One of her guests worked for the American Interprise Institute (the organization that spawned the neocon ‘revolution’ of the Bush years) and Bain Capital, of Mitt Romney fame. During the discussion her conservative guest unleashed the standard right-wing diatribe about how deficits are ruining the country, how we’re mortgaging our kids future and guaranteeing them a life of penury trying to pay back all the trillions being spent by Barack Obama. What disturbed me about the discussion wasn’t this fellow’s distortions and outright lies. It was Rhem’s failure to nail him for perpetrating such nonsense. By acceding to her producers and their myth of ‘balanced reporting’ she allowed this man’s distortions to be broadcast as fact. This, of course, is the nature of propaganda. It always sounds plausible to the uninformed. For that reason I offer Paul Krugman’s article today to provide my own ‘balance’…
Dwindling Deficit Disorder
Paul Krugman | NYTimes | 11 Mar 13
For three years and more, policy debate in Washington has been dominated by warnings about the dangers of budget deficits. A few lonely economists have tried from the beginning to point out that this fixation is all wrong, that deficit spending is actually appropriate in a depressed economy. But even though the deficit scolds have been wrong about everything so far — where are the soaring interest rates we were promised? — protests that we are having the wrong conversation have consistently fallen on deaf ears.
What’s really remarkable at this point, however, is the persistence of the deficit fixation in the face of rapidly changing facts. People still talk as if the deficit were exploding, as if the United States budget were on an unsustainable path; in fact, the deficit is falling more rapidly than it has for generations, it is already down to sustainable levels, and it is too small given the state of the economy.
I think Robert Reich has hit the nail on the head here. The aim of republican party today is to dismantle the federal government, terminate all social programs and install a system where only the rich have access to power. They are America’s Taliban and the sooner we treat them as such the better off we’ll be…
(After posting this article I noticed and added an earlier article by Professor Reich spelling out how the republican strategy of deficit reduction is their political weapon of mass destruction and why the democrats should not allow them use it.
The Sequester and the Tea Party Plot
Robert Reich | RobertReich.org | 28 Feb 13
Imagine a plot to undermine the government of the United States, to destroy much of its capacity to do the public’s business, and to sow distrust among the population.
Imagine further that the plotters infiltrate Congress and state governments, reshape their districts to give them disproportionate influence in Washington, and use the media to spread big lies about the government.
Finally, imagine they not only paralyze the government but are on the verge of dismantling pieces of it.
Far-fetched? Perhaps. But take a look at what’s been happening in Washington and many state capitals since Tea Party fanatics gained effective control of the Republican Party, and you’d be forgiven if you see parallels.
There are a lot of people speaking on the issue of gun control these days but you will never hear a more powerful or compelling voice on that subject than Gabby Giffords…
“We Must Do Something!”
Gabby Giffords | US Senate | 30 Jan 13
“You must act. Be bold. Be courageous. Americans are counting on you.”
________________________________________________________________________________ Gabrielle Giffords was a member of Congress until January 8th, 2011 when she was shot in the head by Jared Lee Loughner, a crazed assasin.