Ideology Means Little to Those Intent on Corporate Welfare

(photo: Beverly & Pack on Flickr)

Sadly, the actions of politicians in Washington are often more about ripping off the public to benefit a handful of well-connected and extremely wealthy donors while having little to do with any form of actual ideology or governing philosophy. In fact, nearly identical schemes to enrich large corporations at the expense of the public are used by both parties. The parties then take turns pretending this policy design is an outrage against conservatism or liberalism.

We saw this with health care reform. The basic scheme of directly providing people with insurance through the government was jettisoned and politicians created subsidized exchanges, forcing people to get coverage through unnecessary private insurance company middlemen, adding very large and wasteful additional costs.

Democrats shared near unanimous opposition to George W. Bush’s Medicare Part D because it lacked direct Medicare drug price negotiation, i.e., a government-run option on the Medicare Part D exchange. This was an unacceptable outrage to the “liberals” in Congress.

Of course the Democrats’ recent health care law uses the same scheme of subsidies to purely private exchanges without a government-run option. Instead of fixing the outrageous design of Medicare Part D, they went out of their way to promise PhRMA they would break the campaign promise to reform it. Despite the plan being nearly identical in design to Bush’s Medicare Part D, the Republicans declared the health bill an unacceptable outrage of unconstitutional socialism.

Two nearly identical policy designs both resulted in using terribly unnecessary Rube Goldberg contrivances of needless middlemen to ensure billions of the public’s money went to enrich several well-connected large corporations. These policy schemes were either hailed as victories for compassionate conservatives or liberals, or opposed as affronts to conservatism or liberalism.

While stated ideology doesn’t often serve as a proper indicator of policy, it does have a big impact on messaging when the true objective is huge corporate giveaways. In two upcoming one-act plays, I provide an example of corporatist Republicans and corporatist Democrats applying their supposed ideology to justify using the government to help well-connected companies make huge profits at the public’s expense.

UN Chief Fears Resumption of Civil War in Ivory Coast

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (photo: World Economic Forum via Wikimedia Commons)

I’m interested in the Ivory Coast story because of a) the past inability for a peaceful transition of power on the African continent, which is a serious foreign policy problem, and b) the potential for mass death. Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the UN, raises the threat of the second.

The United Nations has warned supporters of Ivory Coast’s incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo that they would reignite a civil war if they go ahead with a threatened attack on the hotel in Abidjan where his rival is based.

The UN’s Martin Nesirky said the secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, was alarmed by the comments and believed that an attack could reignite civil war.

Ban warned Gbagbo’s supporters to “refrain from such dangerous irresponsible action” at the Golf Hotel which is protected by 800 blue-helmeted UN peacekeepers and hundreds of rebels loyal to Ouattarato.

Charles Ble Goude, a fiery supporter of Gbagbo, reportedly said Ouattara and his supporters “have until 1 January 2011 to pack their bags and leave the Golf Hotel”.

I checked the calendar and that’s tomorrow. Ouattara isn’t planning on leaving.

One UN peacekeeper has already been wounded by a machete attack. And there are rumors of Gbagbo forces abducting Ouattara supporters and dumping them in mass graves. Gbagbo denies this.

The Brits stepped up yesterday, with foreign secretary William Hague giving his support to an ECOWAS (Economic Organization of West African States) military intervention, with the endorsement of the UN, to remove Gbagbo from power. ECOWAS has hinted at that but has so far declined to move forward. West African leaders will return to Ivory Coast on Monday.

CNN has a bit more. Things are getting tense.

UPDATE: Alassane Ouattara has given Gbagbo until midnight to step down, or he “will regretfully have to think about other measures.” As he’s holed up in a hotel under UN protection, I can’t imagine what those other measures will be, but this is a prelude to a declaration of civil war.

ECOWAS has reiterated its threat to remove Gbagbo by force, if negotiations fail.

What FDL Writers Foundation Means to Me, and to You

The November day after Proposition 8 passed in California, I lamented that on the very same day everyone was celebrating the election of a Democratic President, Barack Obama, my right to marry was snatched away by California voters. I’d never lost a civil right before. I was in shock.

There is really nothing quite like losing a civil right at the ballot box by a vote of your fellow citizens. Marriage is a fundamental right in America; the Supreme Court says so. Taking that right away from me, when I’d had it recognized for six months by the state where I lived, was wrenching. It broke my heart. I was stunned.

Nothing like that had ever happened to me. I was suddenly “less than.”

FDL Founder Jane Hamsher replied by email that very same Wednesday. She said that FireDogLake would not rest until that injustice was undone. It was a ray of hope, and it began my own extraordinary journey: one I shared with all of you with the support of the FireDogLake Writers Foundation.

Fourteen months later, I sat in a federal courtroom pounding on my MacBook keyboard, hooked up to a Sprint MyFi mobile card, variously accompanied by David Dayen, Marcy Wheeler and (later) Emptywheel’s bmaz. We documented the entire Perry v Schwarzenegger federal trial in Judge Vaughn Walker’s courtroom. We weren’t alone, but I was there every single day.

2010 will always be the Year of Courthouse Liveblogging, for me.

Here’s the result of that effort, made possible by very early support from the FDL Writers Foundation. It’s a comprehensive record of the trial — not a transcript, but a thorough and exacting record of what happened every single day. Not simply in the witness box and at the attorneys’ lectern, but throughout the courtroom, and even what we saw happen on the bench.

I’m very proud of that effort. I’d never done anything like it before, and I think it was a worthy successor to FDL’s superb coverage of the criminal trial of Scooter Libby years before. Because the Supreme Court of the United States would not allow video capture for rebroadcast, we at FDL provided your first draft of history. We were your eyes and ears in the courtroom — for FDL readers all over the world.

FDL Writers Foundation provided me with a small stipend that enabled me to get to the courthouse every day, on time, well-nourished, and ready to go. I obtained the most current mobile telecom data gear available from Sprint at the time, with the Foundation’s support. Without the FDL Writers Foundation, you wouldn’t have had your window into history in the making.

There were other people liveblogging the trial, and many of them did a superb job. Their records of the civil case will also stand the test of time. But if you “watched” the trial at FDL, you were able to do that because of the FDL Writers Foundation.

And now you can support the Foundation in a tax-deductible way. If you are among the lucky Americans who can donate some money to offset your 2010 tax liability, this new 501c(3) organization is exactly the place to start.

But hurry — the year ends very soon. As in hours from now.

Please support the FDL Writers Foundation with a tax-deductible gift today. You’ll thank yourself later. When our next project arrives, FDL writers will be there to give you a front-row seat. You’ll be present at the creation of a new media paradigm.

Thank you.

Manning And Assange Did Not Commit A Crime

Bradlee Manning and Julian Assange did not commit a crime and I present an argument in this diary to support my statement. I am a former criminal defense lawyer and law professor. These are my personal views based on my knowledge and experience. I will be delighted to answer any questions, as time permits.

Summary of Argument

Whistleblower sources and the journalists who publish the classified information that they receive from them form an inseparable and indivisible conjunction at the intersection of the Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press Clauses of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the selective prosecution rule. In other words, there is a sacrosanct relationship that must be protected between whistleblowers seeking to inform the public about government misconduct by revealing classified information to journalists and the journalists who acquire that classified information and publish it in service to the public’s right to know what its government is doing.

It’s reasonable to extend the protection of the Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press Clauses of the First Amendment to protect a journalist’s source from criminal prosecution as well as the journalist, given the importance of protecting the public’s right to know. At least since New York Times vs. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971), no statutes, including Section 793 of the Espionage Act of 1917, can be used to prosecute a journalist’s receipt, possession, and publication of classified information because such a statute would violate the Freedom of the Press Clause of the First Amendment. Since the purpose of that clause is to protect the public’s right to know, Congress should not be able to criminalize necessary antecedent behavior such as the transfer of classified information from whistleblower to journalist.

Equally important, however, the Department of Justice cannot selectively decide to discriminate against and prosecute whistleblowers who disclose the truth about government misconduct to journalists while at the same time ignoring all of the other copious leaking that goes on at the highest levels of government service to get journalists to disseminate propaganda designed to mislead and confuse the public with false and deceptive information. The government should not be permitted to discriminate by selectively prosecuting the whistleblower who discloses the truth to a journalist while ignoring leakers who pass classified information to journalists to disseminate as propaganda. That’s the side of the whistleblower-journalist relationship that is protected by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the selective prosecution rule.

History

Although Daniel Ellsberg was indicted and prosecuted for theft, conspiracy, and violating the Espionage Act of 1917, for releasing the Pentagon Papers to 18 newspapers, including the New York Times, the trial judge dismissed the case against him in mid-trial on May 11, 1973, for governmental misconduct after the government claimed it had “lost” records of unauthorized and unlawful FBI wiretapping of Ellsberg’s conversations with a colleague named Morton Halperin. According to Wikipedia, the trial judge also revealed that he met twice during the trial with John Ehrlichman, who offered him the directorship of the FBI. Ehrlichman was Assistant to the President for Domestic Affairs.

Prior to Ellsberg’s trial, the SCOTUS upheld the right of the New York Times to publish the Pentagon Papers that Ellsberg had given them. New York Times vs. United States, 403 U.S. 713 (1971). By a 6-3 majority, the Court rejected the Government’s argument that it had met its “heavy burden” of proving that the publication of the Pentagon Papers would likely cause a “grave and irreparable” danger to the United States and the American public such that it was entitled to an order prohibiting the New York Times from publishing the documents, notwithstanding that such an order would ordinarily be prohibited by the First Amendment as a prior restraint on the freedom of the press to publish information that the public had a right to know.

The Government’s argument was based on Section 793 of the Espionage Act of 1917, which provides:

“Whoever having unauthorized possession of, access to, or control over any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, or note relating to the national defense, or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted, or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it.”

I believe Manning is charged with violating this statute.

Concurring and Dissenting opinions in New York Times vs. United States

Wikipedia summarizes the concurring and dissenting opinions of the Justices of the Supreme Court as follows:

Concurring Opinions

Justice Hugo Black wrote an opinion that elaborated on his view of the absolute superiority of the First Amendment. He was against any interference with freedom of expression and largely found the content and source of the documents to be immaterial. Justice William O. Douglas largely concurred with Black, arguing that the need for a free press as a check on government prevents any governmental restraint on the press.

Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. wrote separately to explain that the publication of the documents did not qualify as one of the three exceptions to the freedom of expression established in Near v. Minnesota 283 U.S. 697 (1931).

Justice Potter Stewart and Justice Byron R. White agreed that it is the responsibility of the Executive to ensure national security through the protection of its information. However, in areas of national defense and international affairs, the President of United States possesses great constitutional independence that is virtually unchecked by the Legislative and Judicial branch. “In absence of governmental checks and balances”, per Justice Stewart, “the only effective restraint upon executive policy and power in [these two areas] may lie in an enlightened citizenry – in an informed and critical public opinion which alone can here protect the values of democratic government.”

Justice Thurgood Marshall argued that the term “national security” was too broad to legitimize prior restraint, and also argued that it is not the Court’s job to create laws where the Congress had not spoken.

Dissenting opinions

Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, dissenting, argued that “the imperative of a free and unfettered press comes into collision with another imperative, the effective functioning of a complex modern government”, that there should be a detailed study on the effects of these actions. He argued that in the haste of the proceedings, and given the size of the documents, the Court was unable to gather enough information to make a decision. He also argued that the Times should have discussed the possible societal repercussions with the Government prior to publication of the material. The Chief Justice did not argue that the Government had met the aforementioned standard, but rather that the decision should not have been made so hastily.

Justice John M. Harlan and Justice Harry A. Blackmun joined the Chief Justice in arguing the faults in the proceedings, and the lack of attention towards national security and the rights of the Executive.”

Manning and Assange

Since the Pentagon Papers were classified as “Top Secret,” a higher security classification than “Secret,” which is the security classification for all of the materials that Manning is alleged to have transferred to Wikileaks and because many people in the Obama Administration, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, have admitted that there isn’t anything new in the materials and no one has been harmed by their release, New York Times vs. United States strongly supports the right of Wikileaks to publish the materials.

Whistleblower sources, and the journalists who publish the classified information that they receive from them, form an inseparable and indivisible conjunction at the intersection of the Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press Clauses of the First Amendment and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the selective prosecution rule. In other words, there is a sacrosanct relationship that must be protected between whistleblowers seeking to inform the public about government misconduct by revealing classified information to journalists and the journalists who acquire that classified information and publish it in service to the public’s right to know what its government is doing.

The Freedom of the Press Clause of the First Amendment exists to protect the public’s right to know what’s going on. While the Freedom of Speech Clause typically is applied to protect an individual’s right to express opinions, the SCOTUS also has interpreted it to protect the public’s right to know in the context of libel laws in New York Times vs. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 25 (1964). The court held that to protect the public’s right to know, public officials and public figures cannot recover damages from journalists who publish false stories about them unless they can prove that the journalists knew or recklessly failed to know that the statements were false when they published them. Put another way, public officials and public figures injured by false statements published by journalists have no remedy against the journalists, if they negligently published the false statements. To support the public’s right to know, the Court acknowledged a journalist’s need to be the first to break a story and supported it by raising the burden of proof for injured plaintiff public officials and public figures. In other words, in practice the press can publish a story without conducting a lengthy investigation to verify everything in the story out of fear of being sued.

I believe it’s reasonable to extend the protection of the Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press Clauses of the First Amendment to protect the journalist’s source from criminal prosecution as well as the journalist, given the importance of protecting the public’s right to know. At least since New York Times vs. United States, no statutes, including Section 793 of the Espionage Act of 1917, can be used to prosecute a journalist’s receipt, possession, and publication of classified information because such a statute would violate the Freedom of the Press Clause of the First Amendment. Since the purpose of that clause is to protect the public’s right to know, Congress should not be able to criminalize necessary antecedent behavior such as the transfer of classified information from whistleblower to journalist.

Equally important, however, the Department of Justice cannot selectively decide to discriminate against and prosecute whistleblowers who disclose the truth about government misconduct to journalists while at the same time ignoring all of the other copious leaking that goes on at the highest levels of government service to get journalists to disseminate propaganda designed to mislead and confuse the public with false and deceptive information. The government should not be permitted to discriminate by selectively prosecuting the whistleblower who discloses the truth to a journalist while ignoring leakers who pass classified information to journalists to disseminate as propaganda. That’s the side of the whistleblower-journalist relationship that is protected by the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the selective prosecution rule.

Note that the selective prosecution rule is not limited to the inherently suspect categories of race, gender, and religion. The rule provides,

“police and prosecutors may not base the decision to arrest a person for, or charge a person with, a criminal offense based on “an unjustifiable standard such as race, religion, or other arbitrary classification” (United States v. Armstrong, quoting Oyler v. Boles, 368 U.S. 448, 82 S. Ct. 501, 7 L. Ed. 2d 446 [1962]).”

The critical language is “other arbitrary classification.” I contend that whistleblowers constitute an arbitrary classification within the much larger category of people who leak classified information and that selectively prosecuting whistleblowers like Ellsberg or Manning while ignoring all of the other people in government like, for example, the people in the White House who leaked top secret information to Woodward who included it in his most recent book about the Obama presidency, constitutes an “arbitrary classification” and form of discrimination (i.e., selective prosecution) that is an indefensible and impermissible violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Therefore, I conclude that the United States Military and the Department of Justice should decide not to prosecute Manning, despite the fact that he may have technically violated Section 793 of the Espionage Act of 1917, because that statute is unconstitutional as applied to him and, of course, Assange should not be prosecuted because he hasn’t violated any law. If we assume for the sake of argument that he did, however, he still shouldn’t be prosecuted because his actions are clearly protected by the First Amendment.

Finally, just as the protection of the Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press Clauses of the First Amendment necessarily must protect both journalist and whistleblower to protect the public’s right to know, the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the related prohibition against selective prosecution also must protect both whistleblower and journalist from arbitrary and unreasonable discrimination.

I’ll leave y’all with this statement by Daniel Ellsberg to consider.

“The public is lied to every day by the President, by his spokespeople, by his officers. If you can’t handle the thought that the President lies to the public for all kinds of reasons, you couldn’t stay in the government at that level, or you’re made aware of it, a week. … The fact is Presidents rarely say the whole truth—essentially, never say the whole truth—of what they expect and what they’re doing and what they believe and why they’re doing it and rarely refrain from lying, actually, about these matters.”
See: “Presidential Decisions and Public Dissent”, Conversations with History, July 29, 1998

EDIT: I corrected my misspelling of Hillary.

Ideology Means Little to Those Intent on Corporate Welfare

Sadly, the actions of politicians in Washington are often more about ripping off the public to benefit a handful of well-connected and extremely wealthy donors while having little to do with any form of actual ideology or governing philosophy. In fact, nearly identical schemes to enrich large corporations at the expense of the public are used by both parties. The parties then take turns pretending this policy design is an outrage against conservatism or liberalism.

We saw this with health care reform. The basic scheme of directly providing people with insurance through the government was jettisoned and politicians created subsidized exchanges, forcing people to get coverage through unnecessary private insurance company middlemen, adding very large and wasteful additional costs.

Democrats shared near unanimous opposition to George W. Bush’s Medicare Part D because it lacked direct Medicare drug price negotiation, i.e., a government-run option on the Medicare Part D exchange. This was an unacceptable outrage to the “liberals” in Congress.

Of course the Democrats’ recent health care law uses the same scheme of subsidies to purely private exchanges without a government-run option. Instead of fixing the outrageous design of Medicare Part D, they went out of their way to promise PhRMA they would break the campaign promise to reform it. Despite the plan being nearly identical in design to Bush’s Medicare Part D, the Republicans declared the health bill an unacceptable outrage of unconstitutional socialism.

Two nearly identical policy designs both resulted in using terribly unnecessary Rube Goldberg contrivances of needless middlemen to ensure billions of the public’s money went to enrich several well-connected large corporations. These policy schemes were either hailed as victories for compassionate conservatives or liberals, or opposed as affronts to conservatism or liberalism.

While stated ideology doesn’t often serve as a proper indicator of policy, it does have a big impact on messaging when the true objective is huge corporate giveaways. In two upcoming one-act plays, I provide an example of corporatist Republicans and corporatist Democrats applying their supposed ideology to justify using the government to help well-connected companies make huge profits at the public’s expense.

Some End of the Year Cluelessness

photo: Leo Reynolds via Flickr

So here we are on the last day of 2010. Because New Years Day is on Saturday this year, a lot of people have the day off, joining all of us who are members of the long term un/underemployed in watching the world go by. I have the Kentucky-Louisville game on in the background and all I will say about that is “Go Hilltoppers!

But I can’t let the day go without highlighting a couple of end of the year news dump articles in today’s NY Times. First up is this article on discussions on creating an Ethics Code for Academic Economists. After opening the article with a short list of some fairly well known political economists who also are in the university world and their undisclosed conflicts of interest the article goes on:

Academic economists, particularly those active in policy debates in Washington and Wall Street, are facing greater scrutiny of their outside activities these days. Faced with a run of criticism, including a popular movie, leaders of the American Economic Association, the world’s largest professional society for economists, founded in 1885, are considering a step that most other professions took a long time ago — adopting a code of ethical standards.

Now from my vantage as a professional in the field of Software Quality Assurance, the types of disclosure that are being discussed are an absolute bare minimum of an ethical code. I always go back to my first meeting with my new supervisor when I was just starting in the QA program at the Defense Contract Administration Services Plant Rep Office (DCASPRO) who said straight out “If it appears to be a conflict of interest, then by definition it IS a conflict of interest.”

It is not always easy to do the ethical thing however as we see everyday. Somewhere in my garage, I have a book titled Ethics In Quality which offered some interesting case studies on real life ethical situations where neither answer was particularly satisfying. Even though I am no longer a member of ASQ, I still subscribe to the Code of Ethics. It just seems easier to identify up front to folks any possible areas that may cloud your judgement. When we would have big client meetings at the DCASPRO where the folks from whichever military office were in town for meetings, our local commander instructed us to make sure that we took a cup and turned it over for folks to put in the money for coffee and donuts during the meetings. He knew that we were not going to be “bought” because of “free” donuts or coffee; he just felt that as the In-plant government representatives, we had to be like Caesar’s Wife.

I do applaud the effort to establish a Code of Ethics for the economists of the US but it was this from the article that triggered my recognition of the cluelessness:

“It’s good to get this stuff out in the open, but I don’t like the idea of the A.E.A. watching over this,” said Mr. Lucas, a Nobel laureate at the University of Chicago.

Mr. Lucas added: “What disciplines economics, like any science, is whether your work can be replicated. It either stands up or it doesn’t. Your motivations and whatnot are secondary.”

BWAHAHAHAHA! . . . (more…)

Eleven for ’11: Ten Big Things to Watch in 2011 (and One You’ll Be Compelled to Watch Like a Car Wreck)

(photo: fr1zz on Flickr)

OK, I admit it. I’m all out of news, and I’ve succumbed to writing a dreaded listicle, the link-bait piece that tallies up X amount of things and sends people rushing to their browsers. They’re cheap to produce and ready as brain candy, and if applied properly would get people reading a lot more classic literature.

That said, it’s worth mapping out what will be the biggest stories to chronicle in 2011, what I’ll be looking toward. I’m not at all surprised that this list includes only one actual set of legislation from Congress; the action will occur elsewhere next year.

So here’s the list of 10 (plus one), in a sort-of descending order of importance.

1) Jobs. Will the economy expand enough to produce enough jobs to bring down the unemployment rate significantly? In other words, will the stronger economy mean actual jobs for workers? I’ve been looking at this periodically over the past week. Leading indicators, including the most recent one today on first time jobless claims, can show a positive outlook. They can also show a negative one if you factor in other pieces. Will the “stimulus” from the tax cut deal hold and not get offset? Will the housing market continue to bottom out? Will state and local government shortfalls continue to drag on employment? Will external factors from Europe or elsewhere play a role?

One thing is clear; any conditions putting upward pressure on jobs are done, from a fiscal standpoint. The Administration must hope that the blueprint now in place will be enough, and that businesses will begin to seek loans, find customers, and hire US workers. It’s a big bet.

2) The Budget Showdown: This obviously plays to the first bit. We know that the Republicans were able to stop an omnibus spending bill, setting the new Republican House up for the ability to demand major spending cuts when the continuing resolution runs out on March 4. In addition, the debt limit will need to be increased sometime in the early spring, allowing for another hostage-taking situation, with the full faith and credit of the US government on the line. And, key laws from the last Congress, like health care, financial reform and food safety, have not yet been funded, setting up another roadblock that Republicans can use to their advantage.

Republicans want discretionary, non-defense, non-entitlement spending to go back to 2008 levels, which would require a cut of around 20%, or $100 billion dollars. This would cancel out any stimulus from the tax cut deal in 2011. Most of these cuts will be targeted at safety net programs and normal government operations; the effect would be to cripple government’s ability to function. Republicans could also ask for concessions on future Social Security spending.

Democrats aren’t exactly helping matters, with a bipartisan gang in the Senate planning to submit the Bowles-Simpson catfood commission recommendations as legislation in the new year. This becomes a bipartisan baseline that could be a launching pad for a bad compromise.

The President could come out today and say he won’t sign any bill that hurts the economy, which is precisely what cuts like this would do. So far, he’s both rejected 20% across-the-board cuts, but said that he would like to deal with the budget deficit and cut programs “that don’t work.” There are further rumblings of a grand bargain, with the President offering his own deficit reduction plan in the State of the Union. Stay tuned.

3) The State Attorneys General Investigation Into Foreclosure Fraud. . . . (more…)

We’ll Take a Cup of Kindness Yet

photo: pjguyton2002 via Flickr

Too many New Year’s Eves will come and go before humanity drinks from that Cup of Kindness Robert Burns spoke of in his classic poem, Auld Lang Syne. When that day comes, it will be because people in this degraded world finally listened to writers, poets, singers and songwriters, who’ve been the conscience of humanity ever since the lies of the first kings ignited the first wars and four thousand years of killing for gold and power began on the ancient battlegrounds of the Middle East.

In Artists of Resistance, Howard Zinn emphasizes the critical importance of artists who communicate universal truths through poetry, music, and literature. They have always spoken truth to power, their voices are needed now more than ever, as shock doctrine capitalism intensifies and humanity itself is targeted for destruction. If we keep retreating, if we keep surrendering without a fight because fighting back might offend the criminals who are beating the hell out of us, all that is human within us will die, it will be gone forever, and the nightmare world of 1984 will become reality.

George Orwell . . .

Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling. Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves.

A corporate final solution on a global scale. The ultimate holocaust.

Chris Hedges . . .

We have been gradually disempowered by a corporate state that, as Huxley foresaw, seduced and manipulated us through sensual gratification, cheap mass-produced goods, boundless credit, political theater and amusement. While we were entertained, the regulations that once kept predatory corporate power in check were dismantled, the laws that once protected us were rewritten, and we were impoverished. Now that credit is drying up, good jobs for the working class are gone forever and mass-produced goods are unaffordable, we find ourselves transported from Brave New World to 1984. The state, crippled by massive deficits, endless war, and corporate malfeasance, is sliding towards bankruptcy. We are moving from a society where we are skillfully manipulated by lies and illusions to one where we are overtly controlled.

Too many people still believe the lies, too many are afraid to speak out, too many are still clinging to the illusion that what’s happened so many times before can’t happen here. Well it is happening here, and as it escalates, too many people will just accept it, they won’t resist and will turn their backs on those who do.

Resistance is a long, hard road to travel, but many men and women have traveled it before. Every mile of it. We won’t be on our own, we won’t have to find our way through the darkness alone, they’ve shown us the way . . . (more…)

Stop the D.C. attack on the $2.2 trillion Social Security Old Age, Disability and Survivors INSURANCE Trust Fund

The following paragraph is the excerpt of my lengthy post below:

The public needs to be educated as to the FACTS about the $2.2 trillion Social Security Old Age, Disability and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund.  This Insurance Trust Fund has always been separate from the federal budget, administered and deducted from your check separately; and it has absolutely nothing to do with the federal deficit. Therefore, the 4% premium reduction in the Obama-GOP tax package should be repealed and removed as it is not a tax.

I received an email from “Bold” Progressives Wednesday soliciting sad stories for a “campaign.”  The following is my response:

“I feel that this is the wrong approach re the DC attack on Social Security; more sad stories are not going to sway the DC lords & ladies.

The public needs to be educated as to the FACTS about the $2.2 trillion Social Security Old Age, Disability and Survivors Insurance Trust Fund. This Insurance Trust Fund has always been separate from the federal budget,  administered separately,  and has absolutely nothing to do with the federal deficit.  All Americans are entitled to the benefits of this INSURANCE that they have fully paid for during their working lives.

One-third of the Social Security beneficiaries are children,  disabled, handicapped, and widows;  i.e.  the disability and survivors part of this national insurance program. Social Security benefits are fully funded through 2020+ right now “as is.”  Even going to 2045 benefits would be funded at 75% without any changes in the coming years.

TAKE ACTION

Stop the D.C. attack on the $2.2 trillion Social Security Old Age, Disability and Survivors INSURANCE Trust Fund.

Reject and repeal the December 2010 Social Security premium reduction.

Keep the Social Security Insurance Trust Fund separate from the Federal Budget as it has always been separate.

Retain the WALL on the $2.2 trillion Social Security Insurance Trust Fund.

The first action that individuals who are employed can take is to insist that their employer continue deducting their full share of their Social Security Insurance premium.  Reject the 4% reduction of their premium as they will be underpaid when they reach retirement,  become disabled or their survivors make a claim.

Action that all citizens can take is to send 5 postcards demanding repeal of the Social Security premium reduction enacted by the Obama-GOP tax package:  send one postcard each to their representative, 2 senators, U.S. Secretary of Health and the White House.

Action retired and unemployed citizens can take is to get this information to every citizen in their community,  and offering to purchase 5 postcards for $2 that they will address,  fill out the demand for repeal of the Social Security INSURANCE premium reduction and return the postcards to their neighbors to sign and mail.

Action that congressional staff can take is to obtain the Obama-GOP Senate and H.R. bill numbers with the section that citizens can specifically refer to for repeal and provide the information to progressive groups and interested citizens.

Actions that progressive organizations and groups that support Social Security INSURANCE “as is” can take include: informing their membership of this D.C. attack on Social Security INSURANCE, organizing the distribution of informative fliers locally, organizing volunteer door-to-door campaigns for repeal of the Social Security premium reduction,  printing and distributing bumper stickers:

STOP THE D.C. ATTACK ON SOCIAL SECURITY INSURANCE
REPEAL THE SOCIAL SECURITY PREMIUM REDUCTION

KEEP THE $2.2 TRILLION SOCIAL SECURITY INSURANCE
FUND SOLVENT–REPEAL THE PREMIUM REDUCTION

RETAIN THE SOCIAL SECURITY INSURANCE WALL
REPEAL THE OBAMA-GOP PREMIUM REDUCTION

Finally,  further action that can be taken by groups that are fed up with the D.C. attacks on all of us is to initiate recall petitions on representatives and senators that have enriched themselves by representing corps over the citizens that elected them.

my signature

Reflecting on the above in light of the excerpt I’ve just written, I wonder if there is a way to address this improper insertion of a reduction in the premiums collected for the Social Security Insurance Trust Fund in the Obama-GOP tax package.  Since the Social Security Insurance Trust Fund is administered separately from the Federal Budget, wouldn’t Congress have to make premium “adjustments” separately by a legislative process?

I recall that there was separate Social Security Insurance legislation in the 80’s that addressed the “boomers” generation so that the  Social Security Insurance Trust Fund would be fully funded for them — as it now is.