News and Opinion Based on Facts

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Horrors of an Ayn Rand World: Why We Must Fight for America's Soul

An Objectivist America would be a dark age of unhindered free enterprise, far more primitive and Darwinian than anything seen before.
Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from Ayn Rand Nation: the Hidden Struggle for America's Soul, by Gary Weiss. Click here for a copy of the book. 
The whole damned history of the world is a story of the struggle between the selfish and the unselfish! . . . All the bad around us is bred by selfishness. Sometimes selfishness even gets to be a cause, an organized force, even a government. Then it’s called Fascism.
—Garson Kanin, Born Yesterday

There is no real doubt what an Objectivist America would mean. We may not be around to see it, but it’s likely we’ll be here for its earliest manifestations. They may have already arrived.
The shape of a future Objectivist world has been a matter of public record for the past half century, since Ayn Rand, the Brandens, Alan Greenspan, and other Objectivist theoreticians began to set down their views in Objectivist newsletters. When he casually defended repeal of child labor laws in the debate with Miles Rapoport, Yaron Brook [President of the Ayn Rand Institute] was merely repeating long- established Objectivist doctrine, summarized by Leonard Peikoff as “Government is inherently negative.” It is a worldview that has been static through the decades, its tenets reiterated endlessly by Rand and her apostles:
No government except the police, courts of law, and the armed services.
No regulation of anything by any government.
No Medicare or Medicaid.
No Social Security.
No public schools.
No public hospitals.
No public anything, in fact. Just individuals, each looking out for himself, not asking for help or giving help to anyone.
An Objectivist America would be a dark age of unhindered free enterprise, far more primitive and Darwinian than anything seen before. Objectivists know this. What perhaps they do not always appreciate, given their less than fanatical approach to reality, is what turning back the clock would mean. Or perhaps they do not care.
When Alan Greenspan spoke out against building codes, he knew perfectly well what a lack of adequate building and fire codes would mean. Fifteen years before his birth, 146 people, mostly young women, were burned alive or leaped to their death from the fire at the Triangle Waist Factory just east of Washington Square Park in New York City. There was no requirement for employers to provide a safe workplace, so none was provided. Triangle’s owners crammed their employees into crowded workspaces without proper exits, and inadequate fire codes meant that the fire stairways were insufficient. The result was that dozens of workers’ corpses piled on the sidewalk on March 25, 1911. Anywhere in the world where building codes are inadequate or absent, the result is always the same: Dead people.
In an Objectivist world, the reset button would be pushed on government services that we take for granted. They would not be cut back, not reduced -- they would vanish. In an Objectivist world, roads would go unplowed in the snows of winter, and bridges would fall as the government withdrew from the business of maintaining them -- unless some private citizen would find it in his rational self-interest to voluntarily take up the slack by scraping off the rust and replacing frayed cables. Public parks and land, from the tiniest vest-pocket patch of green to vast expanses of the West, would be sold off to the newly liberated megacorporations. Airplane traffic would be grounded unless a profit-making capitalist found it in his own selfish interests to fund the air traffic control system. If it could be made profitable, fine. If not, tough luck. The market had spoken. The Coast Guard would stay in port while storm- tossed mariners drown lustily as they did in days of yore. Fires would rage in the remnants of silent forests, vegetation and wildlife no longer protected by rangers and coercive environmental laws, swept clean of timber, their streams polluted in a rational, self-interested manner by bold, imaginative entrepreneurs.
With industry no longer restrained by carbon-emission standards, the earth would bake in self-generated heat, ice cap melting would accelerate, extreme weather would become even more commonplace, and seacoasts would sink beneath the waves. Communities ravaged by hurricanes, floods and tornadoes would be left to fend for themselves, no longer burdening the conscience of a selfish, guilt-free world.
The poor and elderly, freed from dependence on character-destroying, government-subsidized medical care, would die as bravely and in as generous quantities as in the romantic novels of a bygone era.
Minimum wage laws would come to an end, providing factory owners and high- tech startups alike with a pool of cheap labor competitive with any fourth-world kleptocracy.
All laws protecting consumers would be erased from the statute books.
Mass transit would grind to a halt in the big cities as municipal subsidies come to an end.
Corporations would no longer be enslaved by antitrust laws, so monopolies and globe-spanning, price-fixing cartels would flourish. The number of publicly held corporations would be reduced to a manageable, noncompetitive few. Big Pharma would manufacture drugs without adequate testing for safety and efficacy—deterred only by concern for their reputation, as described by Greenspan in 1963. Except that with competition reduced by mergers and legal price-fixing, the market would be a feeble substitute for even the FDA.
Securities laws and stock market regulations would be eliminated.
Corporations would operate in secret if they so desired, or with only selective, cursory disclosures to their investors and customers. Only outright fraud would be prosecuted; otherwise the public— a concept no longer recognized as valid— would be on its own.
Insider trading, now legal, would become the norm. Wall Street now would truly be a sucker’s game. “Let the buyer beware” would replace the fifty state regulators and the SEC.
Income taxes would end, so the lowest-paid, ten-cent-an-hour, non-OSHA-supervised factory workers would enjoy wages taxed at the same rate—zero—as their billionaire bosses in distant cities and foreign lands. Dynasties of American royalty would arise, as fortunes pass from generation to generation, untaxed.
Nonprofit organizations, apart from those serving the egos and social calendars of the self-indulging rich, would see their funding dry up as government support vanished. The super-wealthy, having repudiated their “giving pledge,” would now enjoy their riches without guilt, no longer motivated to share their billions with the poor. Philanthropy would be an obsolete relic of discarded moral codes and forgotten history.
Such is the Ayn Rand vision of paradise: an America that would resemble the lands from which our ancestors emigrated, altruism confined to ignored, fringe texts, grinding poverty and starvation coexisting alongside the opulence of the wealthy. Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York would become like Cairo and Calcutta, with walled enclaves protecting the wealthy from the malnourished, uneducated masses outside.
Yaron Brook was right. What’s at stake is not a political issue, but a moral, philosophical issue. In large numbers, Americans have, sometimes unwittingly, abandoned the moral code upon which they were raised. They have done so because of a master storyteller.
Ayn Rand’s stories of noble steel barons, fierce railroad magnates and sniveling government bureaucrats formed the basis of her ideology. It is a compelling narrative, and Oliver Stone’s abortive approach to The Fountainhead suggests a remedy to the Rand narrative: a counternarrative—one that celebrates a creator with a conscience; government not as a Soviet gun but as a builder, a benefactor. It is an optimistic vision, born in an America of hope and not a Russia of despair and privation. This counter-narrative can recognize the merit of individuality and self- interest, while rejecting her celebration of the darker impulses— greed and selfishness.
That kind of thinking is required to meet the challenge presented by Rand and her ideas, as they spread from libertarian and Objectivist think tanks to the Tea Party to Congress and, perhaps, the White House.
Those of us who oppose Rand’s vision of radical capitalism need to read Rand and understand the flaws in her assumptions and illogic of her vision, just as people during the Cold War studied Communism so as to more effectively oppose it. Having read and understood her books and essays, one is in a better position to identify and then to respond to the right’s extremist agenda, and to recognize her ideology when it becomes manifest in society.
We need to understand the basis of her morality, not just its origins but where it doesn’t originate—the three great monotheistic religions, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the other writings and actions of the Founding Fathers. The words “capitalism,” “markets,” and “free enterprise” appear in none of the founding documents of America. The natural enemies of Ayn Rand are not only Lenin and Roosevelt but Jefferson, Rousseau, and Paine. The Founders were not defenders of oligarchy and selfishness. They sacrificed. They were altruists, and proud of it.
My Objectivist friends are right that morality needs to become part of the national dialogue. However we feel about Rand, we need to ponder her views and think more philosophically. We need to evaluate our own core values, and understand the moral foundations of the social programs and government agencies that are targeted by the right. Why do we pay for medical care of the poor and elderly? Why do we regulate business? Why do we pave roads and maintain parks and build public schools? Why do we subsidize public radio, mass transit, family planning clinics, and a host of other programs that don’t always benefit ourselves?We may conclude that we shouldn’t do any of those things. Or we may conclude that we cherish those institutions and will sustain them, not because of the clout of special interest groups and the senior vote, not because we can do it if the Democrats control both houses of Congress, but because it’s the right thing to do. It’s right if we hold a different concept of right and wrong than Objectivists and their allies on the right. It’s a question of fundamental moral values, as defined by our national and religious traditions—or by Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, The Virtue of Selfishness, and Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.
We need to choose—our heritage or Ayn Rand.
Click here for a copy of Ayn Rand Nation: The Hidden Struggle for America's Soul

Gary Weiss is an investigative journalist and the author of "Ayn Rand Nation: The Hidden Struggle for America's Soul," to be published by St. Martin's Press in February 2012. More More Gary Weiss.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Trayvon Martin: The 5 Key Unanswered Questions

This case is not over yet. Amid conflicting reports, we are not yet certain, did Trayvon defend himself against an unknown stalker .i.e., Zimmerman, who didn't identify himself, or was it cold blood blooded racist murder?                                                                                                           Here are some questions that need to be answered. MFBSR

Thanks to Alternet for their excellent Report which is posted below:

Trayvon Martin: The 5 Key Unanswered Questions

It’s been more than a month since Trayvon Martin was shot dead by George Zimmerman. (Get a full rundown of the facts of the case here.) 
Last night, ABC News released video footage of Zimmerman arriving at the police station. The video depicts a cleanly-shaven man who “shows no blood or bruises” on his body.
While media coverage of the case has been intense, there are several key questions that have yet to be answered about the case. Here are five of the most important:

1. What was the purported “conflict” that required the initial prosecutor to step down? On March 22 — after several weeks on the job — state attorney Norm Wolfinger stepped down from his role as prosecutor in the Trayvon Martin case. Wolfinger relinquished his post after meeting with Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi. He said it was necessary for him to step aside to preserve “the integrity of this investigation,” adding he wanted to avoid “the appearance of a conflict of interest.” He did not explain why his continued involvement would damage the integrity of the case or explain the potential conflict he was seeking to avoid. Did anyone at the prosecutor’s office know Zimmerman or his family? [Orlando Sentinel]
2. Why did the prosecutor ignore the recommendations of the lead homicide investigator? ABC News reported that Chris Serino, the lead homicide investigator on the Trayvon Martin case, recommended that Zimmerman be charged with manslaughter on the night of the shooting. Serino filed an affidavit that night stating “he was unconvinced Zimmerman’s version of events.” As the lead homicide investigator, Serino was: 1. In the best position to evaluate Zimmerman’s credibility, and 2. Intimately familiar with Florida law. Why was he ignored? [ABC News]
3. Why did then-Police Chief Bill Lee make public statements directly contradicting the official recommendations of the police department? On the day the Sanford Police concluded their investigation and handed over the case to the prosecutor, then-Police Chief Bill Lee stated publicly that there was no “probable cause” to arrest or charge Zimmerman. (Lee has subsequently “temporarily” stepped down from his post.) But the Miami Herald reports that on the same day the Sanford Police formally requested that the prosecutor charge Zimmerman, something known as a “capias” request. [ThinkProgress]
4. Who leaked Trayvon Martin’s school records? As public outrage increased, Zimmerman’s sympathizers launched a smear campaign against Trayvon Martin. This included details of several occasions where Martin was suspended for minor infractions (defacing a locker, possessing an empty “marijuana baggie.”) None of the information seemed to have any particular relevance to the night Trayvon Martin was shot to death. Was this a ham-handed attempt by the police or the prosecutor to defend their lack of action against Zimmerman? The Sanford City Manager announced he would launch an independent investigation into the source of the leak. [Miami HeraldNBC12]
5. Why was Trayvon Martin’s body tagged as a John Doe? The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart notes a police report “that was completed at 3:07 a.m. on Feb. 27 lists Trayvon’s full name, city of birth, address and phone number.” But yet, Trayvon’s body was reportedly “tagged as a John Doe” and his father wasn’t informed of his death until after he filed a missing person report later on the 27th. Why weren’t Trayvon Martin’s parents contacted immediately after the police confirmed his identity? [Washington Post]

Special prosecutor Angela Corey has promised to release additional information about the case once she makes a decision about whether to charge Zimmerman, something that could happen at any time.
By Judd Legum | Sourced from Think Progress

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Voice analysis should prove who was calling for help

As state and federal authorities join the probe into the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, his mother, Sabrina Fulton, said that the investigation won't matter unless the result is the arrest and prosecution of George Zimmerman, who police said confessed to shooting Martin.

“I think it’s progress that so much is being done and I think they are starting to open their eyes,” Fulton told Huffington Post BlackVoices this afternoon, in reference to the Justice Department and the FBI. “I truly believe they are going to arrest him.”

“Until they do, I can not eat, I can not sleep and I can not relax. Not until he’s arrested,” she said.

Police said Zimmerman, 28, a self-appointed neighborhood watchman, shot and killed Martin Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla., an Orlando suburb where Martin’s father lives. Martin, a native of Miami, was visiting his father, returning from a nearby store when Zimmerman saw him and thought he looked suspicious. At some point, Zimmerman followed Martin, confronted him and then shot him in the chest, according the Sanford police.

When Zimmerman was questioned by police, he said he acted in self-defense and was later released by Sanford Police Department, police said.

Late Monday night, the Justice Department announced that it would “conduct a thorough and independent review of all of the evidence” in the case and that it would be cooperating with state officials, including the Seminole County State Attorney’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which announced its participation in the probe last week.

Earlier Tuesday, Norm Wolfinger, the state prosecutor, announced that he would be convening a grand jury to help determine whether Zimmerman would face charges in Martin’s shooting death.
"I share in the desire of the family and the community to accurately collect and evaluate all the facts surrounding the tragic death of Trayvon Martin," Wolfinger said in a statement. “The public is entitled to no less than a thorough, deliberate, and just review of the facts. We intend to honor that commitment."
He said the grand jury will be called to session April 10.

But Benjamin Crump, an attorney for Martin’s family, said using the grand jury is little more than passing the buck; grand juries in Florida are closed.
”They can make a weak case, and the grand jury can come back and say, 'we don’t have enough to indict' and nobody will know what happened,” Crump said. “Then the [state attorney] can come back and say, 'it’s not us who didn’t indict, it was the community'.”

Crump said shifting the responsibility of a controversial case to the grand jury is part of “the playbook that they always use.”

The Justice Department’s role in the case, beyond supplementing local and state resources, also will be to determine if Martin’s shooting violated federal civil rights statutes. The Justice Department said that its Civil Rights Division, along with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the region will be leading the federal investigation.

“With all federal civil rights crimes, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person acted intentionally and with the specific intent to do something which the law forbids -– the highest level of intent in criminal law,” said Xochitl Hinojosa, a spokesperson for the department. “Negligence, recklessness, mistakes and accidents are not prosecutable under the federal criminal civil rights laws.”
She added that the Community Relations Service will be in Sanford this week to meet with civil rights and community leaders as well as local law enforcement “to address tension in the community.” Martin is black; Zimmerman is white.
But Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), who represents Sanford, said that the gated community where Martin was shot did not have an official neighborhood watch program, and called the killing a hate crime.

"He appointed himself as neighborhood watch," she told NPR's Michel Martin. "Obviously, he didn't go through the training, because the training indicates (that) you follow the directions of the police department. The police department asked him to stand down."
Brown was one of the Congressional Black Caucus members who urged the federal government to get involved in the case. "The point of the matter is that it needs to be investigated by someone independent of the Sanford Police Department, and for me, my confidence level is definitely with the Justice Department."

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Is America on the Verge of Theocracy? 4 Fundamentalist Ideologies Threatening U.S. Liberty

Extremists shape American politics to unabashedly pursue legislative policies that favor the rich and punish the poor.
Photo Credit: A.M. Stan
 Americans seem confident in the mythical notion that the United States is a free nation dedicated to reproducing the principles of equality, justice and democracy. What has been ignored in this delusional view is the growing rise of an expanded national security state since 2001 and an attack on individual rights that suggests that the United States has more in common with authoritarian regimes like China and Iran "than anyone may like to admit." I want to address this seemingly untenable notion that the United States has become a breeding ground for authoritarianism by focusing on four fundamentalisms: market fundamentalism, religious fundamentalism, educational fundamentalism and military fundamentalism. This is far from a exhaustive list, but it does raise serious questions about how the claim to democracy in the United States has been severely damaged, if not made impossible.
The broader contours of the attack on democratic freedoms have become obvious in recent years. While the Bush administration engaged in torture, shamelessly violated civil liberties and put a host of Christian extremists in high-ranking governmental positions, the Obama administration has not only continued many of these policies, but has further institutionalized them. As Glenn Greenwald has reminded us, Obama has continued the Bush-Cheney terrorism and civil liberties policies, further undermining constitutional rights by promoting indefinite detention, weakening the rights of habeas corpus for prisoners in Afghanistan, extending government power through the state secrets privilege, asserting the right to target American citizens for assassination and waging war on whistle blowers. More specifically, there are the ongoing revelations about the Obama administration's decision under the National Defense Authorization Act to allow American citizens to be held indefinitely without charge or trial; the government's increased role in using special operations forces and drones in targeted assassinations; the emergence and use of sophisticated surveillance technologies to spy on protesters; the invocation of the state secrecy practices; the suspension of civil liberties that allow various government agencies to spy on Americans without first obtaining warrants; and the stories about widespread abuse and torture by the US military in Afghanistan, not to mention the popular support for torture among the American public. It gets worse. As the war on terror degenerated in a war on democracy, a host of legal illegalities have been established that put the rule of law if not the very principle of Western jurisprudence into a chokehold. How such assaults on the rule of law, justice and democracy could take place without massive resistance represents one of the most reprehensible moments in American history. Most Americans caught in the grip of simply trying to survive or paralyzed in a relentless culture of fear ignored the assaults on democracy unleashed by a burgeoning national security state. The assaults loom large and are evident in the passage of the Use of Military Force Act, the passage of the Patriot Act, the 2002 Homeland Security Act, the Military Commission Act of 2006 and the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act. Jim Garrison rightly raises the question about whether these acts inspired by 9/11 and the war on terror are worth sacrificing the Republic. He writes:
The question screaming at us through [these bills] is whether the war on terror is a better model around which to shape our destiny than our constitutional liberties. It compels the question of whether we remain an ongoing experiment in democracy, pioneering new frontiers in the name of liberty and justice for all, or have we become a national security state, having financially corrupted and militarized our democracy to such an extent that we define ourselves, as Sparta did, only through the exigencies of war?
The rise of the national security state is no longer an abstraction and can also be seen in the collapse of the traditional distinction between the military and the police, as weapons move freely from the military to local police forces and contribute to the rise of pervasive police abuse against students, African-Americans and immigrants. We also have to include in this list a growing culture of manufactured indifference and cruelty, intensified through a commercially driven spectacle of violence that saturates every element of American society. The latter intensified daily by a language of hate aimed indiscriminately by the right-wing media, many conservative politicians and an army of anti-public pundits against those who suffer from a number of misfortunes including unemployment, inadequate health care, poverty and homelessness. Think of Rush Limbaugh's cruel and hateful attack on Sandra Fluke, insisting that she was a prostitute because she believed that contraception was a women's right and should be covered by insurance companies as part of her health coverage. Or for that matter, think about the ongoing attempts on the part of Republican politicians to cut food stamp programs that benefit over 45 million people. Another would be the call to eliminate child labor laws. Jonathan Schell highlights how this culture of cruelty manifests itself in "a steadily growing faith in force as the solution to almost any problem, whether at home or abroad." The governing-through-crime model that now imposes violence on school children all across the country is a particularly egregious example. How else to explain that in 2010 "the police gave close to 300,000 'Class C misdemeanor' tickets to children as young as six in Texas for offences in and out of school, which result in fines, community service and even prison time"? Behavior as trivial as a dress violation or being late for class now translates into a criminal act and is symptomatic of what attorney Kady Simpkins insists is a growing trend in which "we have taken childhood behaviour and made it criminal." All of these violations point to the ongoing and growing fundamentalisms and "rule of exceptions" in the American polity that bear witness to the growing authoritarianism in American life.
Those governing the United States no longer have a moral compass or a democratic vision, nor do they have a hold on the social values that would engage modes of governance beneficial to the broader public. Governance is now in the hands of corporate power and the United States increasingly exhibits all the characteristics of a failed state. As many notable and courageous critics ranging from Sheldon Wolin to Chris Hedges have pointed out, American politics is being shaped by extremists who have shredded civil liberties, lied to the public to legitimate sending young American troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, alienated most of the international community with a blatant exercise of arrogant power and investment in a permanent warfare state, tarnished the highest offices of government with unsavory corporate alliances, used political power to unabashedly pursue legislative policies that favor the rich and punish the poor and perhaps irreparably damaged any remaining public spheres not governed by the logic of the market. They have waged a covert war against poor young people and people of color who are being either warehoused in substandard schools or incarcerated at alarming rates. Academic freedom is increasingly under attack by extremists such as Rick Santorum; homophobia and racism have become the poster ideologies of the Republican Party; war and warriors have become the most endearing models of national greatness; and a full-fledged assault on women's reproductive rights is being championed by the current crop of Republican presidential hopefuls and a not insignificant number of Republican governors. While people of color, the poor, youth, the middle class, the elderly, LGBT communities and women are being attacked, the Republican Party is supporting a campaign to collapse the boundaries between the church and state, and even liberal critics such as Frank Rich believe that the United States is on the verge of becoming a fundamentalist theocracy. Let me develop this further by examining four of the most serious fundamentalisms that now constitute the new authoritarianism in the United States.
Market Fundamentalism
A number of powerful anti-democratic tendencies now threaten American democracy and at least four of these are guaranteed to entail grave social and economic consequences. The first is a market fundamentalism that not only trivializes democratic values and public concerns, but also enshrines a rabid individualism, an all-embracing quest for profits and a social Darwinism in which misfortune is seen as a weakness, and a Hobbesian "war of all against all" replaces any vestige of shared responsibilities or compassion for others. Free-market fundamentalists now wage a full-fledged attack on the social contract, the welfare state, any notion of the common good and those public spheres not yet defined by commercial interests. Within neoliberal ideology, the market becomes the template for organizing the rest of society. Everybody is now a customer or client, and every relationship is ultimately judged in bottom-line, cost-effective terms. Freedom is no longer about equality, social justice or the public welfare, but about the trade in goods, financial capital and commodities.
As market fundamentalism ensures that the logic of capital trumps democratic sovereignty, low-intensity warfare at home chips away at democratic freedoms, while high-intensity warfare abroad delivers democracy with bombs, tanks and chemical warfare. The cost abroad is massive human suffering and death. At home, as Paul Krugman points out, "The hijacking of public policy by private interests" parallels "the downward spiral in governance." With the rise of market fundamentalism, economics is accorded more respect than politics and the citizen is reduced to being only a consumer - the buying and selling of goods is all that seems to matter. Even children are now targeted as a constituency from which to make money, reduced to commodities, sexualized in endless advertisements and shamelessly treated as a market for huge profits. Market fundamentalism not only makes time a burden for those without health insurance, child care, a decent job and adequate social services, but it also commercializes and privatizes public space, undermining both the idea of citizenship and those very spaces (schools, media etc.) needed to produce a formative culture that offers vigorous and engaged opportunities for dialogue, debate, reasoned exchange and discriminating judgments. Under such circumstances, hope is foreclosed and it becomes difficult either to imagine a life beyond capitalism or to believe in a politics that takes democracy seriously.
When the market becomes the template for all social relations, the obligations of citizenship are reduced merely to consumption, while production is valued only insofar as it contributes to obscene levels of inequality. Not only the government but all the commanding institutions of society are now placed in the hands of powerful corporate interests, as market fundamentalism works hard to eliminate government regulation of big business and celebrates a ruthless competitive individualism. This type of strangulating control renders politics corrupt and cynical. Robert Kuttner gets it right when he observes:
One of our major parties has turned nihilist, giddily toying with default on the nation's debt, revelling in the dark pleasures of fiscal Walpurginsnacht. Government itself is the devil.... Whether the tart is the Environment Protection Agency, the Dodd-Frank law or the Affordable Care Act, Republicans are out to destroy government's ability to govern ... the administration trapped in the radical right's surreal logic plays by Tea Party rules rather than changing the game ... the right's reckless assault on our public institutions is not just an attack on government. It is a war on America.
In the land of the isolated individual, everything is privatized and public issues collapse into individual concerns so there is no way of linking private woes to social problems - the result is a dog-eat-dog world. Moreover, when all things formerly linked to the public good are so aggressively individualized and commercialized, it leaves few places in which a critical language and democratic values can be developed to defend institutions as vital public spheres.
Religious Fundamentalism
The second fundamentalism is seen in a religious fervor embraced by a Republican Party that not only serves up creationism instead of science, but substitutes unthinking faith for critical reason and intolerance for a concern with and openness toward others. This is a deeply disturbing trend in which the line between the state and religion is being erased as radical Christians and evangelicals embrace and impose a moralism on Americans that is largely bigoted, patriarchal, uncritical and insensitive to real social problems such as poverty, racism, the crisis in health care and the increasing impoverishment of America's children. Instead of addressing these problems, a flock of dangerous and powerful religious fanatics, who have enormous political clout, are waging a campaign to ban same-sex marriages, undermine scientific knowledge, eliminate important research initiatives such as those involving embryonic stem cells, deny the human destruction of the ecological system, overturn Roe v. Wade and ban contraceptives for women. This Taliban-like moralism now boldly translates into everyday cultural practices and political policies as right-wing evangelicals live out their messianic view of the world. For instance, in the last decade, conservative pharmacists have refused to fill prescriptions for religious reasons. Mixing medicine, politics and religion means that some women are being denied birth control pills or any other product designed to prevent conception; sex education in some cases has been limited to "abstinence only" programs inspired by faith-based institutions; and scientific research challenging these approaches has disappeared from government web sites. But the much-exalted religious fundamentalism touted by fanatics such as Santorum and many of his Tea Party followers does more than promote a disdain for critical thought and reinforce retrograde forms of homophobia and patriarchy. It also inspires a wave of criticism and censorship against all but the most sanitized facets of popular culture. Remember the moral outrage of the religious right over the allegedly homoerotic representations attributed to the animated cartoon character SpongeBob SquarePants. There was also the conservative Texas lawmaker who jumped onto the moral bandwagon by introducing a bill that would put an end to "sexually suggestive" performances by cheerleaders at sports events and other extracurricular competitions.
Educational Fundamentalism
The third, related anti-democratic dogma is a virulent form of anti-intellectualism visible in the relentless attempt on the part of the Obama administration and his Republican Party allies to destroy critical education as a foundation for an engaged citizenry and a vibrant democracy. The attack on all levels of education is evident in the attempts to corporatize education, standardize curricula, privatize public schooling and use the language of business as a model for governance. It is equally evident in the ongoing effort to weaken the autonomy of higher education, undercut the power of faculty and turn full-time academic jobs into contractual labor. Public schools are increasingly reduced to training grounds and modeled after prisons - with an emphasis on criminalizing student behavior and prioritizing security over critical learning. Across the board, educators are now viewed largely as deskilled technicians, depoliticized professionals, paramilitary forces, hawkers for corporate goods or money and grant chasers.
At the same time as democracy is removed from the purpose and meaning of schooling, those larger educational forces in the culture are handed over to a small group of corporate interests. The dominant media engage in a form of public pedagogy that appears to legitimate dominant power rather than hold it accountable to any ethical or political standard. Operating in tandem with market fundamentalism, the dominant media deteriorate into a combination of commercialism, propaganda, crude entertainment and an obsession with celebrity culture. Giant media conglomerates such as Fox News have largely become advertising appendages for dominant political and corporate interests. Under the sway of such interests, the media neither operate in the interests of the public good nor provide the pedagogical conditions necessary for producing critical citizens or defending a vibrant democracy. Instead, as Robert McChesney and John Nichols have pointed out, concentrated media depoliticize the culture of politics, commercially carpet bomb citizens and denigrate public life. Such media restrict the range of views to which people have access and, as a result, do a disservice to democracy by stripping it of the possibility for debate, critical exchange and civic engagement. Rather than perform an essential public service, they become the primary pedagogical tool for promoting a culture of consent and conformity in which citizens are misinformed and public discourse is debased. As the critical power of education within various public spheres is reduced to the official discourse of compliance, conformity and reverence, it becomes more difficult for the American public to engage in critical debates, translate private considerations into public concerns and recognize the distortions and lies that underlie much of current government policy. Really, how else is one to explain the popularity of certified liars such as Michelle Bachmann, Sarah Palin, the entire Fox network and Rush Limbaugh?
Military Fundamentalism
The fourth anti-democratic dogma that is shaping American life and one of the most disturbing, is the ongoing militarization of public life. Americans are not only obsessed with military power, "it has become central to our national identity." What other explanation can there be for the fact that the United States has over 725 official military bases outside the country and 969 at home? Or that it spends more on "defense" than all the rest of the world put together? As Tony Judt states emphatically, "this country is obsessed with war: rumors of war, images of war, 'preemptive' war, 'preventive' war, 'surgical' war, 'prophylactic' war, 'permanent' war." War is no longer a state of exception, but a permanent driving force in American domestic and foreign policy. Cornel West points out that such aggressive militarism is fashioned out of an ideology that supports a foreign policy based on "the cowboy mythology of the American frontier fantasy," while also producing domestic policy that expands "police power, augments the prison-industrial complex and legitimates unchecked male power (and violence) at home and in the workplace. It views crime as a monstrous enemy to crush (targeting poor people) rather than as an ugly behavior to change (by addressing the conditions that often encourage such behavior)."
The influence of militaristic values, social relations and ideology now permeates American culture. For example, major universities aggressively court the military establishment for Defense Department grants and, in doing so, become less open to either academic subjects or programs that encourage rigorous debate, dialogue and critical thinking. In fact, as higher education is pressured by both the Obama administration and its jingoistic supporters to serve the needs of the military-industrial complex, universities increasingly deepen their connections to the national security state in ways that are boldly celebrated. As David Price has brilliantly illustrated, the university is emerging as a central pillar of the national security state. Unfortunately, public schools are faring no better. Public schools not only have more military recruiters creeping their halls, they also have more military personnel teaching in the classrooms. Schools now adopt the logic of "tough love" by implementing zero-tolerance policies that effectively model urban public schools after prisons, just as students' rights increasingly diminish under the onslaught of a military-style discipline. Students in many schools, especially those in poor urban areas, are routinely searched, frisked, subjected to involuntary drug tests, maced and carted off to jail. The not-so-hidden curriculum here is that kids can't be trusted; their actions need to be regulated pre-emptively; and their rights are not worth protecting.
Children and schools are not the only victims of a growing militarization of American society. The civil rights of people of color and immigrants, especially Arabs and Muslims, are being violated, often resulting in either imprisonment and deportment or government harassment. Similarly, black and brown youth and adults are being incarcerated at record levels as prison construction outstrips the construction of schools, hospitals, and other life-preserving institutions. As Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri point out in "Multitude," war along with savage market forces have become the organizing principles of society and the foundation for politics and other social relations. The consequences of their power as modes of public pedagogy shaping all aspects of social life is a growing authoritarianism that encourages profit-hungry monopolies; the ideology of faith-based certainty; and the undermining of any vestige of critical education, dissent and dialogue. Abstracted from the ideal of public commitment, the new authoritarianism represents political and economic practices and a form of militarism that loosens any connections among substantive democracy, critical agency and critical education.
Education becomes severely narrowed and trivialized in the media, or is converted into training and character reform in the schools. Within higher education, democracy appears as an excess, if not a pathology, as right-wing ideologues and corporate wannabe administrators increasingly police what faculty say, teach and do in their courses. And it is going to get worse.
In opposition to the rising tide of authoritarianism, there is a need for a vast social movement capable of challenging the basic premises of an ever-expanding, systematic attack on democracy. The elements of authoritarianism must be made visible not simply as concepts, but as practices. The Occupy movement and others arising in its wake need to build a network of new institutions that can offer a different language, history and set of values, knowledge and ideas. There is a need for free schools, universities, public spheres, and other spaces where learning can be connected to social change and understanding translated into the building of social movements. As I have written many times, young people, parents, community workers, educators, artists, and others must make a case for linking learning to social change. They must critically engage with and construct anew those diverse sites where critical pedagogy takes place. Educators need to develop a new discourse whose aim is to foster a democratic politics and pedagogy that embody the legacy and principles of social justice, equality, freedom and rights associated with the democratic concerns of history, space, plurality, power, discourse, identities, morality and the future. They must make clear that every sphere of social life is open to political contestation and comprises a crucial site of political, social and cultural struggle in the attempt to forge the knowledge, identifications, affective investments and social relations capable of constituting political subjects and social agents who will energize and spread the call for a global radical democracy.
Under such circumstances, pedagogy must be embraced as a moral and political practice, one that is both directive and the outgrowth of struggles designed to resist the increasing depoliticization of political culture that is one hallmark of contemporary American life. Education is the terrain where consciousness is shaped; needs are constructed; and the capacity for self-reflection and social change is nurtured and produced. Education across a variety of spheres has assumed an unparalleled significance in shaping the language, values and ideologies that legitimate the structures and organizations supporting the imperatives of global capitalism. Rather than being simply a technique or methodology, education has become a crucial site for the production and struggle over those pedagogical and political conditions that offer up the possibilities for people to believe they can develop critical agency - a form of agency that will enable them individually and collectively to intervene effectively in the processes through which the material relations of power shape the meaning and practices of their everyday lives.
Within the current historical moment, struggles over power take on a symbolic and discursive as well as material and institutional form. The struggle over education, as most people will acknowledge, involves the struggle over meaning and identity; but it also involves struggling over how meaning, knowledge and values are produced, legitimated and operationalized within economic and structural relations of power. Education is not at odds with politics; it is an important and crucial element in any definition of the political and offers not only the theoretical tools for a systemic critique of authoritarianism, but also a language of possibility for creating actual movements for democratic social change. At stake here is combining an interest in symbolic forms and processes conducive to democratization with broader social contexts and the institutional formations of power itself. The key point here is to understand and engage educational and pedagogical practices from the point of view of how they are bound up with larger relations of power. Educators, students and parents need to be clearer about how power works through and in texts, representations and discourses, while at the same time recognizing that power cannot be limited to the study of representation and discourse.
Changing consciousness is not the same as altering the institutional basis of oppression, but at the same time, institutional reform cannot take place without a change in consciousness that recognizes the very need for such reform and the need to reinvent the conditions and practices that would make it possible. In addition, it is crucial to raise questions about the relationship between pedagogy and civic culture. What would it take for individuals and social groups to believe they have a responsibility to address the realities of class, race and gender oppression, and other specific forms of domination? For too long, those on the left have ignored that the issue of politics as a strategy is inextricably connected to the issue of political education and entangled with power, ideologies, values, the acquisition of agency and visions of the future. Fortunately, power is never completely on the side of domination, religious fanaticism or political corruption. Nor is it entirely in the hands of those who view democracy as an excess or burden. Increasingly, more and more individuals and groups at home and around the globe - including students, workers, feminists, educators, writers, environmentalists, senior citizens, artists, and a host of other individuals and movements - are organizing to challenge the dangerous slide on the part of the United States into the morass of an authoritarianism that threatens not just the promise, but the very idea of democracy in the 21st century.
Editor's Note: For a list of sources, click here.
Henry A. Giroux currently holds the Global TV Network Chair Professorship at McMaster University in the English and Cultural Studies Department. His newest books: Education and the Crisis of Public Values (Peter Lang) and Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Publics in the Age of Disposability (Paradigm Publishers) will be published in 2012. Giroux is also a member of Truthout's Board of Directors. His website is

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Something About My Friend, Rasta (Jahmaica), OBM, and The Rasta Movement

I want to point out that many Rastas, and my Brother Jahmaica, in particular, incorporated the following of Jesus, the Christian Messiah, into thier belief system.

The following article gives some background to the Rastsa movement, and I present it here as a sign of remembrance and love to my fallen brother, who always fought for, and cared for, the poor, of all races.


Rastafari Religion.
Rasta Spirituality and Religious Beliefs

Rastafari: The Rasta movement emerged in Jamaica among working-class and peasant black people in the early 1930s, arising from an interpretation of Biblical prophecy. Rastas see themselves as conforming to a vision of how Africans should live, reclaiming what they see as a culture stolen from them when they were brought on slave ships to Jamaica, birthplace of the movement. The Rasta movement accepts Haile Selassie I, the former emperor of Ethiopia, as Jah. This is the Rastafari name for God incarnate, taken from a shortened form of Jehovah found in Psalms, and part of the Holy Trinity as the messiah promised to return in the Bible.
Rasta, or the Rastafari movement, is a new-religious movement that accepts Haile Selassie I, the former emperor of Ethiopia, as Jah (the Rastafari name for God incarnate, from a shortened form of Jehovah found in Psalms 68:4 in the King James Version of the Bible), and part of the Holy Trinity as the messiah promised to return in the Bible. The name Rastafari comes from Ras (Duke) Tafari Makonnen, the pre-coronation name of Haile Selassie I.

Haile Selassie I, the former emperor of Ethiopia.
The movement emerged in Jamaica among working-class and peasant black people in the early 1930s, arising from an interpretation of Biblical prophecy based on Ras Tafari Makonnen having been the only African king in the world, and his titles of King of Kings, Lord of Lords and Conquering Lion of Judah. Other factors leading to its rise included black social and political aspirations, and the teachings of their prophet, Jamaican black publicist and organiser Marcus Garvey, whose political and cultural vision helped inspire a new world view. The movement is sometimes called Rastafarianism however, this may be considered an improper reference.
The Rastafari movement has spread throughout much of the world, largely through immigration and interest generated by Nyahbinghi and reggae music—most notably, that of Bob Marley, who was baptised Berhane Selassie (Light of the Trinity) by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church before his death, a step also taken later by his widow Rita. By 2000, there were more than one million Rastafari worldwide. About five to ten percent of Jamaicans identify themselves as Rastafari. Most Rastafarians are vegetarian, or only eat limited types of meat, living by the dietary Laws of Leviticus and Deuteronomy in the Old Testament.

Jahmaica, One Love

Writing about my Friend Jahmaica is one of the hardest things I have had to do, in a life filled with challenges and hardships.
It's hard because the friend that was always there, that has been an integral part of my life for the last five years, is gone.
He spoke Jamaican patois, which I could easily understand, at least after the first few months.
When he and I were together, which was virtually all the time at work, and others were around, they would often say to me, “What did he say?”

He almost always wore camouflaged military style long sleeve shirt and pants, and a Rastafarian knit cap which contained his  long dreadlocks, which he called a crown.

He was born in trenchtown, Jamaica, the toughest part of Jamaica, the home of Bob Marley, who Jahmaica revered as a saint.
Jahmaica was a “Christian Rasta”.
A follower of “Jessus” Christ.
He didn't eat red meat or pork, just vegetables, chicken and fish.

He was full of life, he loved life, everyday, at some point, he would look up to the heavens and shout “What a beautiful day! Thank you Jah!”, even when it was snowing and the wind was blowing and we were close to freezing.
Jahmaica loved his mother and his brothers and his children, and women.
He always had a beautiful girlfriend, he loved deeply, even when it seemed apparent that the love wasn't reciprocated, at least, not in the way he offered love.
His love was unconditional, and, because of his openness, and trusting beliefs, there were times that he was taken advantage of by women who didn't have the same interests in a relationship that he did.
And although he was hurt, he moved on with optimism towards the next challenge.

Jahmaica landed in NYC when he was 20, he made his way across the country, through the south, where he experienced racism at its worst, spent a couple of years in Texas, and finally moved to Albuquerque, which is where we met.
We soon became fast friends.
At some point I built a computer for him, although initially he was reluctant to get into it,
“I will never have a computer!” he'd said.
Once he learned how to operate it, it became his most prized possession.
“I love my computer.” he would say.
“I thank you for it, I will never forget that you gave me my first computer.”
Sadly, it was his last computer, as well.

To be continued

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Limbaugh: "I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke "

Let’s not forget: The man complaining about women taking control of their health and their bodies is the same creep who was busted at the border a couple of years ago carrying a bottle of Viagra prescribed in someone else’s name. 

We might also add that Rush has been married four times and has no children. So either someone is using birth control or he’s sterile or, more likely, impotent,… that would explain his hatred towards women.

Rush Limbaugh’s attacks are pathetic .
He makes misogynist, comments on his radio show all the time.  

Today on his website the Drugster made an abject apology:
“I chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation. I did not mean a personal attack on Ms. Fluke
My choice of words was not the best, and in the attempt to be humorous, I created a national stir. 
I sincerely apologize to Ms. Fluke for the insulting word choices.”

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Governor Scott Walker trailing Democratic candidates

MILWAUKEE- A new poll shows Governor Scott Walker trailing Democratic candidates in a potential recall.

When this same poll was taken last October, Walker only lost to Russ Feingold, but in the new poll, Walker is behind three potential Democratic challengers.
On the heels of the Governor Walker's decision not to challenge any recall signatures -- it's more good news for Democrats.

Three potential challengers would beat Governor Walker according to the latest Public Policy Polling survey.

"I'll leave it to the pundits to interpret what polling shows.  Polling changes from one day to another," Governor Walker responded.

"It's why people are ready to have elections.  Walker's ways haven't worked," said Democratic challenger Kathleen Falk.

In head to head match-ups, Governor Walker would lose to Russ Feingold, who has said he will not run.

Walker would also lose to Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, which is a change from just October.  In that poll Barrett would have lost to Walker by two points.

Mayor Tom Barrett hasn't announced a decision, but says he's still considering a run against Walker.  Barrett's campaign adviser sent this statement about the poll, "Tom is grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support from people in Milwaukee and across Wisconsin."

In the poll, Falk would beat Walker by one point.

"I'm running hard. This election is coming up in just a couple of months.  Governor Walker is going to have more money than he could possibly have.  I'm on the side of a million people," Falk said.

Falk and Barrett's numbers are within a margin of error, which could make the race a dead heat.

When asked about challengers leading him in the poll, Walker argues he's not worried.

"The number one opponent I'm worried about is neither of those two.  I'm worried about the out of state money coming from Washington," Walker said.

Neither the state Democratic Party or Republican Party would comment about the polls. The other interesting finding was that Wisconsinites are split evenly on whether they think the recall election is a good idea.