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It is really interesting how American commoners can support a political party that obviously serves interests of the top money earners and wealthy elites in this country. Perhaps they are waiting for some scraps to fall off the table? Or some of that lucre to dribble down their way in the form of a fabulous $9.00/hr retail job?   But, “commoners”?  What does that mean?

I figure that since the country seems bent on heading in the direction of a 19th Century-style society of stratified income classes, we may as well dust off the Victorian terminology and talk about how life is going to be. 

Power is the ability to allocate resources. As more and more resources come under the control of a wealthy minority, government seems to align itself increasingly to a small pool of influential and wealthy elite.  With the election of the upcoming congressional class, it is very clear that wealthy corporations and individuals are getting what they paid for-  statutory favors and influence in the deconstruction of the federal system of government. It is no coincidence that politicians from southern states, where an upswing in antebellum sentiment is afoot, are especially keen on the topic of states rights and other confederate sympathies.  Old antipathy is being dusted off and tried on for size.

Since SCOTUS has affirmed that money equals speech in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, and that corporate funding of broadcasts cannot be limited under the First Amendment, anonymous streams of cash from conservative donors have flooded the 2010 election.  Such is the power of persuasion made by big money that a class of deconstructionists has been elected to the next session of congress.

Americans commoners have a fetish about the ways of the megawealthy.  Dial up CNBC sometime when Warren Buffett and Bill Gates are interviewed at one of the Ivy League B-Schools. Watch all of the gaga-eyed MBA students as they hang on every utterance proffered by these two American Plutocrats. It is a form of rapture. The students and faculty are under a kind of enchantment. But this is no different from the country at large. Watch how commoners behave around Donald Trump, or Oprah for that matter.

One of the things that will have to change in the near future is a rewrite of the local zoning codes pertaining to shanty towns and squatting.  As the population grows, as raw material scarcity increases, and as wealth continues to shift toward the wealthy side of the bell curve, more and more people will find themselves unable to house themselves. Increasingly we see a housing system heavily relying on credit and background checks, high rents, and the need to commute in America’s now balky system of suburbs.  The suburb system places a great distance between work centers and living centers, making transportation problematic for our up-and-coming dirt poor class.

As the population of dirt poor and destitute rises due to deindustrialization and dissolution of social safety nets (say, by 2030), all flexibility in the system will begin to play out and people will find themselves living in shanties and refrigerator boxes. They’ll become squatters. The local constables will have to deal with them because municipalities will refuse to compromise property values and will shun the homeless.

Let’s see.  What will the growing class of homeless do with their time? Write poems about the joys of laissez faire orthodoxy? I think that somebody will put together an appealing manifesto on insurrection.

Maybe our own village idiot, Glenn Beck, is right. Maybe there is a revolution underway. But I don’t think it is the one he is expecting.

How can it be that people like CNN’s Glenn Beck and Fox brainwave Sean Hannity can land high paying spots on cable television? It obviously not because they are scholars. These professional 8th graders may have a grasp on something, but it’s sure not high level thinking. Aren’t they embarrassed? I’ll bet their mothers are. Obama a socialist? WTF?? Fascist?? WTF?? Have they bothered to look up the definition of these words?

Fascist: a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition2: a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control <early instances of army fascism and brutality (from Merriam Webster).

Socialism:  1: any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods2 a: a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b: a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state3: a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done (from Merriam Webster).

The very notion that Obama is a fascist or a socialist is barking mad. If anybody was a fascist, it was Dick Cheney and his band of goons. Nobody has the political power to convert this nation of unruly curs into a socialist country. The notion that anybody, even the most irate left wingers, could undo centuries of private property ownership in favor of socialist wetdreams is absurd on its face. The 20th century’s big socialism experiment failed. Who wants to try that again.  Obama is no socialist.

I’m sure these curs and mental halflings on cable clearly understand that they are spouting nonsense. It is all a put-on to get America’s legions of low information voters (LIV) out of the pews and into the community centers for some old fashioned swift-boating. Republicans know that if you hurl enough shit, some of it is bound to stick to something and the LIV’s will pick up on it.

What lit my fire this day? See the HuffPo article.

Senator Judd Gregg has seen the light. He has had a moment of pure, crystalline insight and has witnessed truth and clarity unfold before his eyes.

Yeah, right.

You have to wonder what kind of pressures were put to bear on him to reject the nomination for commerce secretary. A personal call from Rush Limbaugh? A whisper campaign from conservative cells? Perhaps criticism from the official organ of GOP doctrine, Fox News, was just too much for him. Then again, he might be fickle.

This resignation reduces to one more soldier lining up in the GOP phalanx, preparing for extended battle with the Democrats. It is striking how uniformly GOP soldiers have rejected what many thought was axiomatic– that bipartisanship was, if not necessary, at least highly desirable for the good of the whole.

During the 2008 campaign, the concept of cooperation between parties was pulled frequently from its carrying case by candidate McCain and displayed like sacred icon of civics.

But McCain’s claim of bipartisanship was evidence of the true nature of his bohemian political composition. Bipartisanship and whatever civic merit it might represent is certainly not a plank in the GOP platform. Sen. McCain has shut his maverick hole and is now playing ball with his team.

Sen. Gregg will be rubbed with GOP annointing oil and when the delerium has cleared, he’ll sheepinshly fall into line with the rest.

An article in the Alantic Monthly by Garrett Epps entitled “The Founders Great Mistake” offers some observations on weaknesses in the US constitution regarding the Presidency.  In particular –

The most dangerous presidential malfunction might be called the “runaway presidency.” The Framers were fearful of making the president too dependent on Congress; short of impeachment—the atomic bomb of domestic politics—there are no means by which a president can be reined in politically during his term. Taking advantage of this deficiency, runaway presidents have at times committed the country to courses of action that the voters never approved—or ones they even rejected.

Epps offers several examples of runaway presidency. The example of Andrew Johnson is particularly good-

Andrew Johnson was the next unelected runaway. Politically, he had been an afterthought. But after Lincoln’s assassination, Johnson adopted a pro-Southern Reconstruction policy. He treated the party that had nominated him with such scorn that many contemporaries came to believe he was preparing to use the Army to break up Congress by force. After Johnson rebuffed any attempt at compromise, the Republican House impeached him, but the Senate, by one vote, refused to remove him from office. His obduracy crippled Reconstruction; in fact, we still haven’t fully recovered from that crisis.

Epps, a law professor at the University of Baltimore, points out the origin of the mysterious electoral college-

The system that the Framers developed for electing the president was, unfortunately, as flawed as their design of the office itself. When Madison opened discussion on presidential election in Philadelphia, he opined that “the people at large” were the “fittest” electorate. But he immediately conceded that popular election would hurt the South, which had many slaves and few voters relative to the North. To get around this “difficulty,” he proposed using state electors. Electoral-vote strength was based on a state’s total population, not on its number of voters—and the South received representation for three-fifths of its slaves both in the House of Representatives and in the Electoral College.

The electoral college was merely a scheme to manipulate the weighting of ballots in states with a low fraction of voters among the population. In other words, it was a “duct tape and baling wire fix” to accomodate the slave states embarrassingly low fraction of voting adults. This antebellum artifact should be abandoned in favor of simple vote counting.

The citizens of the USA need to have a better mechanism with which to fire a President who is crooked or incompetent. The provision for impeachment carries a high threshold for activation. A president must engage in some kind of serious malfeasance to provoke the congress to vote for impeachment. But the application of this provision has been very nonlinear. Clinton was impeached for lying about consensual sex. Bush arguably lied or at least tolerated falsehoods leading to the invasion of Iraq and the resulting civil war with tens of thousands of deaths. Depending on the congress for an even application of its powers is a sketchy proposition.

The framers of the constitution did not anticipate the situation where an incompetent president might be elected by “low-information voters”.  A government that has usurped the consensus of the electorate and is allowed to remain in play because of a fixed period of tenure is a government that serves only itself.  This is wrong and we should not stand for it.

Good lord. The erosion of liberty continues to accelerate. Consider the case of Chambers v. United States.  SCOTUS is weighing in on the case of a defendant who failed to appear for confinement and was subsequently charged with committing a “violent” crime under the Armed Career Criminal Act.  The justices listened to arguments as to whether the act of failure to appear for confinement is an aggressive or a passive act and whether it should contribute to a felony escape charge.

“Deondery Chambers, who pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm, had prior convictions for drug distribution and for robbery and battery. He challenged whether his conviction under an Illinois escape law for failure to report for confinement was a violent felony that supplied the third predicate conviction for enhancement of his sentence under the ACCA.” [Laurel Newby, Law.com]

The attorney for the defendant asserted that failure to appear does not constitute a violent crime. However-

“Assistant to the Solicitor General Matthew D. Roberts argued, however, that failure to report carries the risk of violent confrontation between the defendant and police officers who may come to bring the defendant into custody. He compared it to burglary — an enumerated offense under the ACCA — calling it ‘purposeful, violent, and aggressive in the same way as burglary.'” [Laurel Newby, Law.com]

To his credit, Justice Scalia commented in a very reasonable manner-

“Justice Antonin Scalia pointed out that Chambers was serving his sentence only on the weekends. “[I]t’s not common sense that the person who has been guilty of a crime so gentlemanly that they only made him report to prison on the weekends would confront the policeman with violence when he comes.”

“This guy doesn’t sound to me like Jack the Ripper. He really doesn’t,” Scalia said. [Laurel Newby, Law.com]

Obviously the defendant is not a choir boy. He must serve his sentence and suffer some consequence for failure to appear. 

“Statistics show that the number of robberies increases during the holiday season,” Chief Justice Roberts pointed out. The audience in the courtroom laughed.

“There is no indication, Mr. Chief Justice, that any further robberies were committed [by Chambers] during that period,” Hochman said.

“Well, there is no indication he meant to spend time with his family over the holidays,” the chief justice retorted.” [Laurel Newby, Law.com]

What makes the situation so disturbing is the glee with which an aggressive organ of the state exhibits in asserting that a passive violation can be equated to a jail escape and can thus carry the threat of a felony conviction. Most disturbing is the comment by the Assistant to the Solicitor- “failure to report carries the risk of violent confrontation between the defendant and police officers who may come to bring the defendant into custody“.

What!!?? Because there may be future risk to a police officer, the defendant should be charged with a felony? Excuse me?? This sounds like the movie Minority Report.

There should be a consequence for Chambers inaction, but the assertion that it was a type of violent act is wildly out of line and sets a terrible precedent for civil liberties.

Note: The following has been determined to be a diatribe and not a screed. A screed would be several times longer.

This period in US history contains enough meat on the bone to keep both scholars and crackpots gnawing for decades. Collectively, we are in the overlap space of a sociological Venn diagram. The overlapping domains of economic calamity, political paranoia, shrinking international stature, and withering military expense combine like cyan, magenta, and yellow to form a white hot zone of malcontent.

It is no overstatement to say that many if not most Americans have chosen a part of the political pool they want to swim in. Listen to the voices at McCain/Palin rallys. Listen to people being interviewed upon leaving a McCain/Palin rally. They’re invariably angry and fearful. They distrust the “Liberal Media”. Do they mean to include Rupert Murdoch’s media empire? Do they also include most of the AM band talk radio programs? Is this the deep end of the pool or the shallow end?

I cannot help but conclude that conservatives are a fearful bunch. Study the McCain/Palin campaign advertising. Go back to any recent presidential campaign and recall Willie Horton or the Swift Boat attack on the democrats. Fear is the unifying ingredient in conservatism and the people who run the GOP machine know how to swing this stick.  Democrats do the Fear theme poorly and as a result, cannot summon the same kind of existential panic that the GOP can pull from their bag of tricks.

McCain is starting to see some of the visceral response to the possibility of Obama as president from underneath all of the rocks and behind all of the tarpaper shacks in the political back-40 acres. He has been openly challenged by angry citizens about the viability of his campaign.

That cartoon figurehead of the GOP, Rush Limbaugh, was practically apoplectic in his frustration with McCain. Strangely, this political freakshow impressario is now towing the line on McCain and has focused his leagions of ditto-zombies on bringing down the reputation of Obama with a mezmerising whisper campaign of slander.

I’m beginning to think that McCain wouldn’t be the worst kind of GOP president to have, especially if the conservatives of the land are this uncertain of him. But Palin as runner-up to the Whitehouse leaves me speechless. A country so brain-addled as to put Palin in national office is perhaps a country that needs to have its nose rubbed in it for a taste of its own collective stupidity. McCain/Palin in Washington may be what it takes for the complete implosion of the GOP.

Having watched the rise of Bush II and the conduct of the 2008 campaign, I have begun to understand what it might have been like to have lived in the period leading up to the American Civil War. This was a period intense division between citizens regarding deeply held beliefs. Civil and religous laws were invoked by both sides to justify their actions. Both Lee and Sherman believed that they marched in righteousness. It was brother fighting brother with a kind of hostility that is startling to people even today.

I sense a widespread and internal hostility along with a rigid adherence to doctrine that marks a divided country. I believe that America is in a type of cold civil war. There is a fulmination of anger and frustration out there that is beginning to partition the meaning of America into distinct translations that suit the adherents. 

Countries that experience economic and political upset are prone to the surfacing of latent fascism. Fascism is a kind of fever that spreads through the vectors of blame and jingoism. Anti-intellectualism and ethnic hatred are common manifestations of a country having a bout of fascism fever.

Witness the accusations of “elitism”  and the whisper campaign questioning the citizenship and religious affiliation of Obama. We have elite military forces, elite police forces, and elite athletes- why not elite chief executives? Why would we demand that politicians be just like the down-home folks like you see, say, running the Tilt-O-Whirl at the carnival? Don’t we want the chief executive to be someone who has honed his skills for public life? The Army has its War College. Why can’t the executive branch have its Administration school?

I think we have a civil cold war brewing in the USA right now and if 20-25 % of the workforce loses its paycheck because of the banking fiasco, I think there’ll be trouble. But no doubt, the DHS has thought of this and has soldiers and Darkwater contractors ready to deal with the sh**storm.

A commentor recently pointed out that Th’ Gaussling was sounding off in a nationalist/socialist way. While I’m pretty sure I’m not a socialist, I must admit that I’m on a nationalistic bender at the moment. And by nationalistic, don’t think for minute that I get weepy and sentimental over Kenny Rogers flag waving ballads. I don’t.

But I do believe that, in the short and bloody history of humanity, this North American culture of ours has produced or advanced some truly amazing things. Like space exploration and antibiotics. Airplanes, transistors, synthetic chemistry, and cinema. We’ve had some low points as well. But in spite of our war-like behavior, much good has come from our industriousness. 

And, I am anxious to keep it much of it running. There is no return to a pastoral life in the Shire. We are electric hominids whether we like it or not. The very existence of life itself leads to disorder. Highly ordered organisms that we are, we create vast amounts of disorder to energize life and hold our molecules together in cellular membranes.  Practically by definition, we cannot help but leave a carbon footprint. The trick is to avoid adding carbon faster than the cycle can accomodate.

It is plain as day that the USA is trending in a bad economic direction. I’m not talking about economic indicators or some political movement. I’m talking about our business culture. I believe that our manner of doing business has gone astray.  We have come to value the wrong people and unhealthy organizational behavior. We have come to admire those who appear to generate wealth by the manipulation of financial contrivances and accounting machinations. Strangely, the notion of manufacturing as a desirable activity has become nearly obsolete.

We don’t need Grand Theft Auto IV or Microsoft Vista or better cell phone gimmicks. We don’t need more gadgets to give neurotic, hyperactive, workaholics 2X better web connectivity.  Somehow, we have become intoxicated with computer technology to the point where we feel we need to fill terabytes of disk space with junk data rather than going outside and planting a garden or talking to the neighbor.

The greedheads in banking, finance, and real estate have helped to construct a business finance machine that few understand. Greed as a virtue is the norm. The right to petition congress has come to mean a docking port for electronic funds transfer to the military-industrial complex. If gaming the system is possible, then it is manditory.

We don’t have to abandon the basic principles of laissez faire markets. Markets work. Even the Chinese communists realize this. But we don’t have to shut our brains off either.

We do need a comprehensive mass transit network covering most of the continent. We need better ways to generate and transfer electric power. We need to find ways to make sure that people in Honduras have clean drinking water.

We don’t need a better version of Excel or SAP. We need Spacely Sprockets. We need people to continue to go into the trades and build things. We need welders and electricians and machinists, millwrights and longshoremen.  This country needs to get back to the fundamentals of manufacturing tangible products.

 

 

Russia celebrated a holiday recently with a large scale military parade on Red Square. Just like the bad old days. Putins sock puppet, President Dmitri Medvedev, smiled while Putin stood stern-faced at his side at the annual Parade of Hardware.  Insiders claim that Russia’s effort to modernize its military forces is anemic and plagued with corruption. Putin and followers are plainly appealing to that voice in the Russian soul that longs for strongman leadership.

China, on the other hand, is quietly constructing a secret underground nuclear submarine base on Hainan. Hmmm. A secret underground lair. Sounds like Dr. No.  I doubt there are miniskirted nubiles with machine guns. Bummer.

Whereas Russia is fighting infrastructural inertia in its return to the platform, China is methodically ramping up its military with an economy flush with cash. With funding from its exports of Wal-Mart inventory and other Cheap Plastic Crap (CPC) marketed through its many outlets in the USA, China is moving closer to a blue water Navy and an SSBN fleet.

In the next 20 years, we are likely to see China flexing its muscle by positioning naval (carrier ?) groups and hints of Chinese submarine fleets prowling the continental shelves of the world.  Just like us.

While the USA shadow boxes with multiple terrorist threats around the world, China plods forward minding its own business and funding its own growth.

Four US presidential terms were squandered following the fall of the Soviet Union- 2 x Clinton and 2 x Bush.  US efforts to engage Russia in economic cooperation were weak at best. The highlight was perhaps the downgrading of Soviet era nuclear materials.  Instead of building friendships and trade cooperation, US presidents were distracted by faulty nation building exercises and dubious foreign adventures. Mikhail Gorbachev himself recently lamented that “… every US president has to have a war…”. 

US government needs to spend a 4 year term focused inwards. We must address US infrastructure as eagerly and aggressively as we land troops on the sandy reaches of the earth. The US needs an upgrade in electrical power distribution, bridges, its rail “system”, and its ports.

Collectively, we must find ways to keep factories and businesses in the USA. We need to reconsider the structure of the Code of Federal Regulations. Our regulatory structure is now so complex and extensive that we face the real risk of killing innovation. Our tax code is too complex and too burdensome on citizens and businesses. The government is funding far too many activities.

In short, the USA must get back to basics. The country is in a existential crisis and we need to get grounded again. We need fewer rules in our lives, not more. We need fewer people telling us how to live an authentic life. More of us need to spend a bit more time in the pursuit of happiness.

So what is Karl Rove up to during this run up to the ’08 election? I was reading an article on fascism in America and my minds eye naturally turned to this character. I hear he is writing a column for Newsweek.  But what else is he doing? What is he up to?  Hmmm.  

The “Architect” should be hounded mercilessly by reporters for pictures and interviews a` la Britney Spears. This nocturnal creature should be in plain view during election season.

According to the AP, emloyees of Stanley, Inc., have beed fired for reportedly viewing the passport records of Sen. Obama.  The New York Times reports that the passport files of Senators Obama, Clinton, and McCain have been accessed inappropriately. Whether they revealed more than name, place and date of birth, and social security number remains to be seen.

No doubt this will result in a flood of rule making and billable hours for consultants. It seems to me that there is an alternative to devising higher security for government records.  If the government collected a lower volume of sensitive information, then there is less information that can be inappropriately viewed. 

The gov’t collects a good deal of information from people who fill out forms for some service or consideration. The question is, just how many different data fields are really necessary for a given service? In other words, how much excess information is being collected to satisfy the just-in-case doubts suffered by the gov’t form designer?

Passport information may be a bad example on which to raise this question owing to the gravity of passport issuance.  But the larger questions still exists- Just how much information about citizens is truly necessary to run the government?  Are there any checks and balances here?

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