by: Rick Staggenborg on February 12th, 2013 | 3 Comments »
I swore I was not going to write about the gun debate that has followed the latest mass murder. It seemed an exercise in futility. Trying to convince people that they are wrong on gun control is like trying to influence their views on abortion. Attitudes and opinions are fixed on the issue. There is little chance that one more opinion will change them. Recently, the conversation took an interesting turn, one that is new to the ongoing debate on gun control. The idea that we have to have personal weapons to fight our own government went from being a fringe idea to a mainstream argument, defended by conservatives and many pro-second amendment liberals.
It has been obvious to every thinking American for some time that something is terribly wrong with our current government. If we could agree in what that was we might be able to fight it without resort to guns. The nation is nearly evenly divided between those who fear a socialist takeover and those who believe that the problem is growing corporate dominance of government to the extent that it is leading to fascism, if it has not already arrived. If we do not come to a common understanding of what has gone wrong with the US system of government, it is likely that the incidence of political violence will continue to increase until we are subject to a violent crackdown by the very police state that so many of us fear.
by: Rick Staggenborg on January 29th, 2013 | 7 Comments »
By March 1, Congress will have had to face the budget cuts mandated by the failure of the Simpson-Bowles commission to come up with a plan of deficit reduction that would satisfy both Republican and Democratic leaders. The failure to come up with such a plan pulled the “trigger” of a gun that is being held to the heads of poor and middle-class Americans. They will see draconian cuts in social services if the Democrats hold true to form and compromise with a Republican Party that puts defense spending and tax breaks for the rich over the interests of the majority of Americans. Predictably, Democrats undermined their own ability to pass legislation protecting the interests of the People over those of their corporate patrons. Having vowed to protect the social safety net, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid caved in to conservative Democrats who opposed serious filibuster reform and traded away the power to control the outcome of the latest round of the fight over how to avoid the fiscal cliff.
Now we have a situation where the majority of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle accept the fallacy that the only way out of the debt they created is to impose austerity measures that target Medicare and Social Security. These are the primary protections against the depredations of a system that puts the interests of the rich over those of ordinary citizens. Their proposed solution to the problem of their own making is to protect the wealthy individuals who fund their campaigns and neglect the needs of the people who actually elected them. While this strategy has provoked riots and international strikes in Europe, many Americans accept this as a sensible solution. They fail to understand some basic facts.
Eli Zaretsky is one of many Tikkun Daily bloggers, and the blog posts on Tikkun Daily and articles on www.tikkun.org are all perspectives we value but do not necessarily agree with. For example, in Zaretsky’s recent blog post, “The Obama Presidency: An Assessment,” we think Zaretsky a bit more negative about Obama than we feel. On the other hand, Zaretsky reads as a good counter-balance to the wild claims of the New York Times on Jan. 22, 2013, which stated that Obama’s second inaugural speech presented a progressive worldview. What Obama did was to list a set of liberal issues, including the need for government to play a role, supporting fair treatment for immigrants, and including gay rights — causes that did not get the support they needed through most of his first four years till he started running for reelection.
There was no unifying theme or progressive vision, no critique of the role of corporations in pursuing self-interest at the expense of societal well-being, no challenge to the distorting role of big money in elections and a reiteration of the basic foreign policy that both Democrats and Republicans (but not progressives) have pursued for the past decades in which we (the United States) try to get our way and serve our economic and political agenda around the world without much sensitivity to the need, much less the human rights of others (in fact, Obama may well be remembered for having initiated an extensive use of drones and for signing on to a policy of legitimating lifetime imprisonment without trial of those suspected of being terrorists).
I hope you’ll read both of my post-election reflections, though they do have slightly different foci. On the home page of Huffington Post this Monday morning you’ll find my article “In Praise of the American People“,while on the home page for Truth-Out.org you’ll find a report of what liberals and progressives have been sharing with me in regard to their concerns that Obama will only be a “lesser evil president” unless we ourselves organize to become as effective a pressure on him and Congressional Democrats as the Tea Party was on Congressional Republicans in the past four years. Please check it out here.
by: Rick Staggenborg on February 8th, 2012 | 2 Comments »
The people of the United States face threats to their safety, health, and economic well being that are not being addressed by Congress. Congress has a favorability rating in the single digits, yet we continue to re-elect the vast majority of its members every two years. The reason is that most Americans seem afraid to face the greatest threat: that the Democratic experiment may fail because of rabid partisanship, for which we are ultimately responsible. The dangers our government is failing to address pose a threat to the rest of the world given the economic and military dominance of the United States over other nations.
If we want a government of, by, and for the People, we must achieve consensus on where we want our leaders to take us. That requires forging a consensus on what kind of America we want to leave our children. This is the crux of the dilemma in which we find ourselves. If we cannot agree on what we want our elected officials to do, then they will continue to do as they please. That is generally to keep themselves in office by catering to the interests of the special interests that pay for their obscenely expensive election campaigns.
by: David E. McLean on November 10th, 2011 | 2 Comments »
Among other things, I teach business ethics at the university level. I have also been a consultant to Wall Street firms for some 20 years, and have worked in various capacities on the Street since I graduated from high school, in 1979. I know a few things about what ought to be; I know a few things about what is.
I visited the Wall Street protest site in New York City, at Zuccotti Park, on Saturday, October 1. Subsequently, I read Nicholas Kristof’s New York Times column on the subject of the protests, known as “Occupy Wall Street” or, alternatively, the “99 Percenters” (the protests have in recent days and weeks spread across the country, taking on other names). I agree with almost all of what Kristof wrote, which both applauded the protesters and puzzled about their actual objectives.
Like Kristof, I think that the protests and demonstrations are healthy and important, but the absence of visible leadership and “authorized” spokespersons, and the lack of a plan or list of demands, may very well lead to the protest’s (movement’s) demise, giving comfort to those who wish to continue the plutocracy that exists in this country. Kristof was right to suggest a few concrete proposals that the protesters might run with.
by: Rick Staggenborg on November 5th, 2011 | 2 Comments »
Activists rally in Washington, D.C. in January of 2011 for an amendment overturning Citizens United. / Flickr, Public Citizen
When Adbusters Magazine called for an occupation of Wall Street, it recommended that occupiers have a specific political goal in mind. Their short list of suggestions included calling for a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood, the Supreme Court doctrine that corporations are people with constitutional rights, among them the “right” to contribute unlimited sums to elect candidates of their choice.
The occupiers have been criticized from both the left and right for adopting an anarchical process that has led to no clear demands other than that all of the problems besetting 99 percent of Americans be addressed. The problem is that with members of Congress so beholden to corporate money to stay in office, none of the things that must be done to redress their grievances will occur when the interest of We the People conflict with those of the corporations that control the levers of power in the U.S. government.
by: Rick Staggenborg on October 27th, 2011 | 5 Comments »
Activists assemble outside the Supreme Court on January 21, 2011 to call for a constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens United decision. / Brendan Hoffman
Most discussions of how to pass a constitutional amendment to abolish corporate personhood dismiss what is likely to be the only possible solution. Instead of calling for a constitutional convention, we should be focusing our efforts on getting an amendment introduced into Congress. While a number of prominent amendment advocates regard this as impossible, the idea of calling for a constitutional convention is far less plausible and much more complicated. With the rapid expansion of corporate power in the politics of the United States, we simply do not have the time to spend focusing exclusively on the unlikely goal of getting a constitutional convention.
The assumption behind the skepticism of those who reject the idea of getting an amendment introduced into Congress is that it won’t pass because Congress as a body is too corrupt. This is clearly true, but what has not been widely recognized is that with Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul, and many other members of Congress publicly challenging the power of corporations over government, the stage is set for interested members of Congress to introduce the amendment itself. As more come out in favor of such an amendment, the amendment can become a prominent campaign issue that will enable the public to easily discern between candidates wishing to be elected to serve corporate interests and those who intend to work for the citizens who actually elect them.
Creative Commons / Adrian Kinloch
This past weekend, Occupy Wall Street demonstrations were held in over 951 cities in 82 countries as people around the globe joined in an international day of solidarity against the greed and corruption of the 1%.
The media, trying to discredit all the demonstrators, say we don’t know what we are for, only what we are against. So I believe there is much to be gained were we to embrace the following 20 second sound bite for “what we are for.”
- We want to replace a society based on selfishness and materialism with a society based on caring for each other and caring for the planet.
- We want a new bottom line so that institutions, corporations, government policies, and even personal behavior are judged rational or productive or efficient not only by how much money or power gets generated, but also by how much love and kindness, generosity and caring, environmental and ethical behavior, and how much we are able to respond to the universe with awe, wonder and radical amazement the grandeur and mystery of all Being.
- To take the first steps, we want to ban all money from elections except that supplied by government on an equal basis to all major candidates, require free and equal time for the candidates and prohibit buying other time or space, and require corporations to get a new corporate charter once every five years which they can only get if they can prove a satisfactory history of environmental and social responsibility to a jury of ordinary citizens. We call this the Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the US Constitution (ESRA).
- We want to replace the mistaken notion that homeland security can be achieve through a strategy of world domination by our corporations suppoted by the US military and intelligence services with a strategy of generosity and caring for others in the world that will start by launching a Global Marshall Plan that dedicates 1-2% of our GMP ever year for the next twenty to once and for all eliminate global poverty homelessnes, hunger, inadequate education and inadequate health care — knowing that this, not an expanded militarr, is what will give us security.
- And we want a NEW New Deal that provides a job for everyone who wants to work, jobs that rebuild our environment and our infrastructre, and jobs that allow us to take better care of educating our youth and caring for the aged. That’s what we are for! And you can read more about them at www.spiritualprogressives.org
Ok, it was two minutes instead of 20 seconds, but we deserve that amount of time.
Flickr / Mat DcDermott
The prophet Isaiah stood outside the ancient Israelite Temple and denounced those fasting on Yom Kippur who nevertheless were participating in an immoral society. Said Isaiah (in a statement that is now read in synagogues around the world on Yom Kippur morning though its message mostly ignored when it applies to some Jews’ participation in some of the most exploitative practices of Western capitalism or in support for the current right-wing government of Israel even as it engages in oppression of Palestinians):
Look! On the very day you fast you keep scrabbling for wealth; On the very day you fast you keep oppressing all your workers. Look! You fast in strife and contention. You strike with a wicked fist. You are not fasting today in such a way As to make your voices heard on high. Is that the kind of fast that I desire? Is that really a day for people to “press down their egos”? Am I commanding you to droop your heads like bulrushes And lie around in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast day, The kind of day that the God of the Burning Bush would wish? No! This is the kind of fast that I desire: Unlock the hand-cuffs put on by wicked power! Untie the ropes of the yoke! Let the oppressed go free, And break off every yoke! Share your bread with the hungry. Bring the poor, the outcasts, to your house.When you see them naked, clothe them; They are your flesh and blood; Don’t hide yourself from them! Then your light will burst through like the dawn; Then when you need healing it will spring up quickly; Then your own righteousness will march ahead to guard you. And a radiance from YHWH will reach out behind to guard you. Then, when you cry out, YHWH will answer; Then, when you call, God will say: “Here I am!” If you banish the yoke from your midst, If you rid yourself of scornful finger-pointing And words of contempt; If you open up your life-experience to the hungry