Archive for the 'Democracy?' Category

POVERTY IN THE US

Saturday, June 2nd, 2018

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The passage below is from Common Dreams, article by Jake Johnson, Friday, June 1, 2018:

“While the U.S. is home to ‘over 25 percent of the world’s 2,208 billionaires’, such wealth stands in ‘shocking contrast with the conditions in which vast numbers of its citizens live,’ the report observes. ‘About 40 million live in poverty, 18.5 million in extreme poverty, and 5.3 million live in Third World conditions of absolute poverty. Its citizens live shorter and sicker lives compared to those living in all other rich democracies, eradicable tropical diseases are increasingly prevalent, and it has the world’s highest incarceration rate.’

“Acknowledging that inequality in the U.S. has been rising rapidly for around five decades, the report argues that the Trump administration’s policies—particularly its $1.5 trillion in tax cuts to the rich and large corporations—’seem deliberately designed to remove basic protections from the poorest, punish those who are not in employment, and make even basic healthcare into a privilege to be earned rather than a right of citizenship.’

“As for solutions to the soaring income and wealth inequality in the U.S. that have produced what Alston calls a ‘land of stark contrasts,’ the U.N. report spotlights several broad suggestions—from a job guarantee to criminal justice reform to universal healthcare—but concludes that inequality will continue to soar without sufficient ‘political will’ to reverse it.

“‘At the end of the day… particularly in a rich country like the United States, the persistence of extreme poverty is a political choice made by those in power,’ the report observes. ‘With political will, it could readily be eliminated.'”

THE COMING COLLAPSE

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018

CHRIS HEDGES

From:  Truthdig, 21 May, 2018

By: Chris Hedges

The Trump administration did not rise, prima facie, like Venus on a half shell from the sea. Donald Trump is the result of a long process of political, cultural and social decay. He is a product of our failed democracy. The longer we perpetuate the fiction that we live in a functioning democracy, that Trump and the political mutations around him are somehow an aberrant deviation that can be vanquished in the next election, the more we will hurtle toward tyranny. The problem is not Trump. It is a political system, dominated by corporate power and the mandarins of the two major political parties, in which we don’t count. We will wrest back political control by dismantling the corporate state, and this means massive and sustained civil disobedience, like that demonstrated by teachers around the country this year. If we do not stand up we will enter a new dark age.

The Democratic Party, which helped build our system of inverted totalitarianism, is once again held up by many on the left as the savior. Yet the party steadfastly refuses to address the social inequality that led to the election of Trump and the insurgency by Bernie Sanders. It is deaf, dumb and blind to the very real economic suffering that plagues over half the country. It will not fight to pay workers a living wage. It will not defy the pharmaceutical and insurance industries to provide Medicare for all. It will not curb the voracious appetite of the military that is disemboweling the country and promoting the prosecution of futile and costly foreign wars. It will not restore our lost civil liberties, including the right to privacy, freedom from government surveillance, and due process. It will not get corporate and dark money out of politics. It will not demilitarize our police and reform a prison system that has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners although the United States has only 5 percent of the world’s population. It plays to the margins, especially in election seasons, refusing to address substantive political and social problems and instead focusing on narrow cultural issues like gay rights, abortion and gun control in our peculiar species of anti-politics.

This is a doomed tactic, but one that is understandable. The leadership of the party, the Clintons, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Tom Perez, are creations of corporate America. In an open and democratic political process, one not dominated by party elites and corporate money, these people would not hold political power. They know this. They would rather implode the entire system than give up their positions of privilege. And that, I fear, is what will happen. The idea that the Democratic Party is in any way a bulwark against despotism defies the last three decades of its political activity. It is the guarantor of despotism.

Trump has tapped into the hatred that huge segments of the American public have for a political and economic system that has betrayed them. He may be inept, degenerate, dishonest and a narcissist, but he adeptly ridicules the system they despise. His cruel and demeaning taunts directed at government agencies, laws and the established elites resonate with people for whom these agencies, laws and elites have become hostile forces. And for many who see no shift in the political landscape to alleviate their suffering, Trump’s cruelty and invective are at least cathartic.

Trump, like all despots, has no ethical core. He chooses his allies and appointees based on their personal loyalty and fawning obsequiousness to him. He will sell anyone out. He is corrupt, amassing money for himself—he made $40 million from his Washington, D.C., hotel alone last year—and his corporate allies. He is dismantling government institutions that once provided some regulation and oversight. He is an enemy of the open society. This makes him dangerous. His turbocharged assault on the last vestiges of democratic institutions and norms means there will soon be nothing, even in name, to protect us from corporate totalitarianism.

But the warnings from the architects of our failed democracy against creeping fascism, Madeleine Albright among them, are risible. They show how disconnected the elites have become from the zeitgeist. None of these elites have credibility. They built the edifice of lies, deceit and corporate pillage that made Trump possible. And the more Trump demeans these elites, and the more they cry out like Cassandras, the more he salvages his disastrous presidency and enables the kleptocrats pillaging the country as it swiftly disintegrates.

The press is one of the principal pillars of Trump’s despotism. It chatters endlessly like 17th-century courtiers at the court of Versailles about the foibles of the monarch while the peasants lack bread. It drones on and on and on about empty topics such as Russian meddling and a payoff to a porn actress that have nothing to do with the daily hell that, for many, defines life in America. It refuses to critique or investigate the abuses by corporate power, which has destroyed our democracy and economy and orchestrated the largest transfer of wealth upward in American history. The corporate press is a decayed relic that, in exchange for money and access, committed cultural suicide. And when Trump attacks it over “fake news,” he expresses, once again, the deep hatred of all those the press ignores. The press worships the idol of Mammon as slavishly as Trump does. It loves the reality-show presidency. The press, especially the cable news shows, keeps the lights on and the cameras rolling so viewers will be glued to a 21st-century version of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” It is good for ratings. It is good for profits. But it accelerates the decline.

The press is one of the principal pillars of Trump’s despotism. It chatters endlessly like 17th-century courtiers at the court of Versailles about the foibles of the monarch while the peasants lack bread. It drones on and on and on about empty topics such as Russian meddling and a payoff to a porn actress that have nothing to do with the daily hell that, for many, defines life in America. It refuses to critique or investigate the abuses by corporate power, which has destroyed our democracy and economy and orchestrated the largest transfer of wealth upward in American history. The corporate press is a decayed relic that, in exchange for money and access, committed cultural suicide. And when Trump attacks it over “fake news,” he expresses, once again, the deep hatred of all those the press ignores. The press worships the idol of Mammon as slavishly as Trump does. It loves the reality-show presidency. The press, especially the cable news shows, keeps the lights on and the cameras rolling so viewers will be glued to a 21st-century version of “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.” It is good for ratings. It is good for profits. But it accelerates the decline.

And so, to quote Vladimir Lenin, what must be done?

We must invest our energy in building parallel, popular institutions to protect ourselves and to pit power against power. These parallel institutions, including unions, community development organizations, local currencies, alternative political parties and food cooperatives, will have to be constructed town by town. The elites in a time of distress will retreat to their gated compounds and leave us to fend for ourselves. Basic services, from garbage collection to public transportation, food distribution and health care, will collapse. Massive unemployment and underemployment, triggering social unrest, will be dealt with not through government job creation but the brutality of militarized police and a complete suspension of civil liberties. Critics of the system, already pushed to the margins, will be silenced and attacked as enemies of the state. The last vestiges of labor unions will be targeted for abolition, a process that will soon be accelerated given the expected ruling in a case before the Supreme Court that will cripple the ability of public-sector unions to represent workers. The dollar will stop being the world’s reserve currency, causing a steep devaluation. Banks will close. Global warming will extract heavier and heavier costs, especially on the coastal populations, farming and the infrastructure, costs that the depleted state will be unable to address. The corporate press, like the ruling elites, will go from burlesque to absurdism, its rhetoric so patently fictitious it will, as in all totalitarian states, be unmoored from reality. The media outlets will all sound as fatuous as Trump. And, to quote W.H. Auden, “the little children will die in the streets.”

As a foreign correspondent I covered collapsed societies, including the former Yugoslavia. It is impossible for any doomed population to grasp how fragile the decayed financial, social and political system is on the eve of implosion. All the harbingers of collapse are visible: crumbling infrastructure; chronic underemployment and unemployment; the indiscriminate use of lethal force by police; political paralysis and stagnation; an economy built on the scaffolding of debt; nihilistic mass shootings in schools, universities, workplaces, malls, concert venues and movie theaters; opioid overdoses that kill some 64,000 people a year; an epidemic of suicides; unsustainable military expansion; gambling as a desperate tool of economic development and government revenue; the capture of power by a tiny, corrupt clique; censorship; the physical diminishing of public institutions ranging from schools and libraries to courts and medical facilities; the incessant bombardment by electronic hallucinations to divert us from the depressing sight that has become America and keep us trapped in illusions. We suffer the usual pathologies of impending death. I would be happy to be wrong. But I have seen this before. I know the warning signs. All I can say is get ready.

POPE FRANCIS ON GREED

Friday, May 18th, 2018

According to Matthew Kent, regulatory policy associate at advocacy group Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, the document released by the Vatican “reflects the growing consensus that strong regulatory measures are the only way to ensure our financial system is guided by ethical principles aimed at advancing the common good.”

He continues: “Pope Francis is aware that rampant, unregulated greed in the markets lies at the heart of global economic inequity. His message is incredibly important and should resonate with all Americans, especially considering the abysmally low ethical standards in the current administration and the climate of hostility to strong public protections,” Kent added.

House Speaker Paul Ryan “dismissed Pope Francis’ understanding of capitalism because – in his words – “the guy is from Argentina”.

TRUMP FOLLOWS PATH OF TYRANTS

Sunday, April 8th, 2018

Timothy Snyder

Yale historian Timothy Snyder, who studies fascist and communist regime change and totalitarian rule, published a book titled “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century,” that warns about the threats the US faces and offers lessons for resistance and survival. In an interview with Steven Rosenfeld of Alternet, Snyder considered how close Donald Trump is to following the path of tyrants from the last century. He answered a question about how long the US has to defend its democracy and how rapidly it is evolving toward fascism. Snyder is reported to have said about how long some European countries took to become Nazi states:

“Nazi Germany took about a year. Hungary took about two and a half years. Poland got rid of the top-level judiciary within a year. It’s a rough historical guess, but the point is because there is an outside limit, you therefore have to act now. … It’s hard for people to act when they feel like they have to break the law to do so. So it is important to get out in front before people face those psychological and legal barriers.

“Am I more worried now? I realize that was your question. No, I’m exactly as worried as I was before, in November. I think that the people who inhabit the White House inhabit a different ideological world in which they would like for the United States not to be the constitutional system that it now is. I was concerned about that in November. I’m concerned about it now. Nothing that has happened since has changed the way I see things.”

NYC SCHOOL CHILDREN DEMAND PROTECTION FROM GUN VIOLENCE

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

NYC 'March For Our Lives' Takes To Manhattan's Streets March 24

New York City school children are protesting gun violence in schools.

I was just out walking up Central Park West and saw several groups of children with teachers on the street.  Many held signs and some groups were chanting.  Others were completely quiet.  All of the groups I saw were inspiring.

I join those children in demanding that there be no guns in New York City schools and that our children be protected from any and all kinds of violence.

MARCH WEATHER IN NYC

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

As I was walking down 10th Avenue a few minutes ago, it was raining and snowing at the same time.  I can’t remember seeing that before, though I may have and just don’t remember.

It is now snowing hard.  I tried to take a photograph with my cell phone, but was not, alas, able to capture the snow falling.

As I write this, it has now stopped snowing and is raining!  What crazy weather.

About an hour later, it is snowing hard!

 

NYC GETS SNOW

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

It is snowing heavily at 9:19 this morning in New York City.  I don’t think we have had a flake before this.  I well remember winters forty years ago when there was snow on the ground for months and all precipitation would be snow in the winter.

The city workers managed to get masses of it into trucks and then it was dumped out onto the frozen river.  There would be piles of snow higher than my head on the sidewalks with a cleared walkway for pedestrians.  Global warming has changed all that radically.

The forecast calls for high temperature today to be near 42 degrees. What snow we have will be gone shortly.  I am still glad to have a little snow; I miss those winters decades ago.

“US Not Like The Developed World”

Friday, February 2nd, 2018

Pyongyang

I just read a strikingly accurate assessment of ways in which the US is not like the developed world in an article that quotes Korean leader Pyongyang. He correctly notes that the US is behind other wealthy nations in many areas as well as being “the gross violator of human rights”. The link is below:

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2018/01/31/lack-paid-maternity-leave-hell-student-debt-north-korea-catalog-us-rights-violations

 

PROTESTING TRUMP AT EVENT WITH ANDY WORTHINGTON

Saturday, January 20th, 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was at Revolution Books up in Harlem.  You can’t see her, but Deborah is beside me with another of these signs.  We were there to hear Andy Worthington, British activist and authority on the US prisoners held at Guantanamo, give a talk about them.

A US HERO

Sunday, January 14th, 2018

   Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using the tactics of nonviolence and civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs and inspired by the nonviolent activism of Mahatma Gandhi.

He led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and helped found the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957, serving as its first president.

He helped organize the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech.

He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

King helped organize the Selma to Montgomery marches and took the movement north to Chicago where he worked on segregated housing.

In his last years Martin Luther King worked to oppose poverty and the Vietnam War, and, unfortunately, alienated many of his liberal allies with his “Beyond Vietnam” speech in 1967.

On April 4, 1967, accompanied by Amherst College professor Henry Commager, Union Theological Seminary President John Bennett, and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel at an event sponsored by Clergy and Laymen Concerned about Vietnam, King spoke to over 3,000 at New York’s Riverside Church. King’s address emphasized his responsibility to the American people and explained that conversations with young black men in the ghettos reinforced his own commitment to nonviolence.

He was planning a national occupation of Washington, D.C. when he was assassinated by James Earl Ray on the 4th of April 1968 in Memphis. There were riots in many US cities as a result.

James Earl Ray, his assassin, fled the country, only to be arrested two months later at London’s Heathrow Airport. He was sentenced to 99 years in prison and died in prison of hepatitis.

King was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. MLK, Jr. Day was established as a holiday in numerous cities and states and made a US federal holiday in 1986.