Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Japan Capitulates, August - September 1945

The first ten days of August 1945 had been disastrous for Japan. Having seemingly ignored the 26 July Potsdam Declaration of Allied terms, the beaten and increasingly devastated nation's military clung to hope that the coming invasion of the home islands would be beaten back at great cost to the invaders, making possible a more favorable negotiated peace.
However, on 6 August, the Hiroshima atomic bombing demonstrated that the "prompt and utter distruction" promised by the Potsdam Declaration was now at hand. That message was reinforced by the Nagasaki bomb three days later. A fast-moving Soviet invasion of Manchuria on the same day shattered any expectation that Japan's large army could hold back her enemies' conventional forces. This triple shock prompted, after several difficult meetings of his chief officials, the Japanese Emperor's decision to end the War by accepting the Allies' terms, a decision announced on 14 August.
Eighteen days of celebrations, preparations, prisoner of war recovery and initial occupation activities by the Allies followed, initially with considerable wariness of possible Japanese treachery. Things went relatively smoothly, though, building to a dramatic climax on 2 September 1945 in Tokyo Bay, when representatives of Japan's government and her military signed the Instrument of Surrender on board USS Missouri (BB-63).
This page presents a special pictorial selection on reactions to Japan's capitulation and on the journey of a group of Japanese envoys to receive surrender instructions. It provides links to additional photographs on these subjects, and to selected views and broader coverage of other aspects of Japan's surrender.
The following pages offer more extensive visual coverage of reactions to Japan's capitulation and of the flight of Japanese envoys to Manila to receive surrender instructions:

Will the US Be the Next Israel?

Will the US Be the Next Israel?

September 9, 2011
Last Saturday, nearly half a million people took to the streets of Israel to protest the country’s increasing economic inequities. Over 5% of the small country’s population flooded Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other towns and cities to rally against low wages, the rising cost of food, housing, transportation and education.
Fueling the mass anger behind these protests is Israel’s ever-increasing social inequality that has handed huge profits to a handful of billionaire “tycoons,” even as millions face social deprivation. It is widely recognized that the policies of the right-wing regime of Benyamin Netanyahu are dictated by the interests and demands of a tiny plutocracy.
In what might be seen as a twist of irony, Jewish workers are struggling with the same issues that prompted this year’s Arab Spring. The Arab Spring protests were the driving force behind the toppling of US-backed regimes, such as Ben Ali in Tunisia, Mubarak in Egypt and now, Gaddafi in Libya.
Is an American Spring next? 
I know it’s unpopular among progressives to admit to an allegiance to the Israeli people. Without getting into the political minutia of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, I will be the first to admit that it is a wildly unjust and arguably inhumane society. In an unjust society, social inequities are rarely limited to a single demographic. Those in power will pretty much do anything to protect their power. In Israel, the powers-that-be don’t care if they stomp on the Palestinian people or fellow Jews. Their job is made all that much easier if they can turn the serfs against each other.
These tactics have been used throughout history. When the top is allowed to hoard a country’s wealth, the bottom is left to fight each other for the scraps. It’s called “divide and conquer.” In Israel, they turn their people against the Palestinians. In the US, they turn us against the Muslims/Mexicans/Gays/African Americans, etc. The faces change, but the game stays the same.

For 30 years, we’ve lived in a country where the rich are getting richer and the rest are getting poorer. We live in a country where the top 1% has more wealth than the bottom 90%. In a political climate where money equals speech, it means that the top 1% is able to control the political agenda, ensuring that their wealth is safe and that our financial security dwindles. 18.5 million American households spend more than half their income in housing, which leaves little for life’s other necessities, like food, transportation, clothing, child care and the ever controversial, health care. When people struggle to meet even life’s most basic needs, they get angry.
For now, the powered elite are enjoying the growing American anger. Through heavily corporate sponsored groups like the Tea Party, they are channeling our anger outward, toward our fellow struggling Americans. They divide us by race. They divide us by sexual orientation. They’ve even tried dividing us by our tastes in coffee. They don’t care why we are divided. They only care that we distract each other while they continue to take, take, take, while telling us that we need to sacrifice more…for the good of the economy. In the meantime, the rich are living large.
There are differences between the US and Israel, or are there? In Israel, the inflation rate is about 3.4%. In the US, it’s about 3.6%. The Israeli unemployment rate is only about 6%, while in the US, we hover at close to 10%. However…in Israel, nearly a quarter of the population lives in abject poverty. In the US, it’s about half that.
In theory, the Israeli minimum wage is about 22 sheqels an hour, or about $6, but many are earning far less. Palestinians often earn less than $20 per day!
In the US, the minimum wage is somewhat higher, at $7.25 an hour, yet employers are increasingly finding ways around the minimum wage laws. Many are forcing employees to become independent contractors. Many pay commission only.
One of the Republican platforms is to do away with minimum wage laws altogether, claiming it would increase employment. Conventional wisdom of supply and demand debunk that claim…companies aren’t going to hire unless they have orders to fill, regardless of minimum wage, however, the myth remains.
Decreasing or eliminating minimum wage will do one thing, though, it will increase poverty. As more Americans enter poverty, while watching our country’s Marie Antoinettes, we will become angrier. An American Spring (Summer, Autumn or Winter) may be inevitable.

Christina Aguilera At Etta James Funeral

corporate coup d'etat

"We've undergone a corporate coup d'etat in slow motion. And it's over. We've lost, and they've won."
                                                            -Chris Hedges

Occupy Oakland 400 Arrests

Occupy Oakland: Over 400 Arrested as Police Fire Tear Gas, Flash Grenades at Protesters

by: Amy Goodman, Democracy NOW! | Report
Police have arrested more than 400 Occupy Oakland protesters, as well as a number of journalists, in one of the largest mass arrests since the nationwide Occupy protests began last year. When protesters attempted to convert a vacant building into a community center on Saturday, witnesses say police used tear gas, bean bag projectiles and flash grenades. Several hours later, police said some of the protesters broke into City Hall. However, demonstrators claim they found the door to City Hall already ajar. We play a video report from Oakland filed by John Hamilton of KPFA. We get a response from Occupy Oakland member, Maria Lewis, to Oakland City Council Member Ignacio De La Fuente’s accusation that the Occupy movement is engaging in "domestic terrorism." "They are more interested in protecting abandoned private property than they are the people. And the idea that opening up a social center is terrorism is very telling of the narrative of the police state," Lewis says. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Oakland, California, where police have arrested more than 400 Occupy Oakland protesters as well as a number of journalists. One of the largest mass arrests since the Occupy protests began took place on Saturday and early Sunday when people attempted to convert a vacant building into a community center. On Saturday, after the crowd reportedly refused to follow police orders to disperse from the vacant Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, witnesses say police used tear gas, bean bag projectiles and flash grenades. Several hours later, police said some of the protesters broke into City Hall. However, demonstrators claimed they found the door to City Hall already ajar.
The Associated Press quoted Oakland Mayor Jean Quan as saying people who broke into City Hall burned a flag they found inside, broke an electrical box, and damaged art displays. Mayor Quan, later directly addressing Occupy Oakland and its supporters.
MAYOR JEAN QUAN: Occupy Oakland has got to stop using Oakland as its playground, and that people in the community and people in the Occupy movement have to stop making excuses for this behavior.
AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, the Occupy Oakland Media Committee group issued its statement, saying police officers had violated their department’s code of conduct for dealing with protesters, calling the mass arrests "illegal."
For more, we go now to a video report from Oakland filed by John Hamilton.
JOHN HAMILTON: Occupy Oakland billed Saturday as "Move-In Day," as their afternoon march set its sights on the sprawling Kaiser Convention Center near downtown.
POLICE OFFICER: I hereby declare this to be an unlawful assembly and, in the name of the people of the state of California, command all those assembled to immediately leave the area.
BOOTS RILEY: Occupy Oakland is marching to go occupy a building to have a home base. They’re kicking folks out of Oscar Grant Plaza, so we’re going to go take a building.
JOHN HAMILTON: A crowd of some 2,000 hoped to turn the vacant convention center into a community space, but Oakland’s police department had other ideas.
POLICE OFFICER: You may be arrested or subject to removal by force, if necessary, which may result in serious injury.
PROTESTER 1: This is not an unlawful assembly. This is a lawful assembly. We are not doing any vandalism.
JOHN HAMILTON: Thwarted in their attempt to claim a new space for Occupy Oakland, protesters soon found themselves face to face with scores of riot police. Stephanie Demos is an Occupy Oakland activist.
STEPHANIE DEMOS: Police began firebombing the crowd. They were shooting rubber bullets, they were shooting explosive devices, and they were shooting tear gas. And we were all gassed. I was gassed.
PROTESTER 2: I started tasting a little tear gas in the back of my mouth, and then I saw a shot, and it landed right where some people had these like corrugated metal sort of barricady things. And everybody started running. And then you could really kind of taste the tear gas.
JOHN HAMILTON: The extraordinary violence came as protesters sought to reestablish a permanent occupation, following police raids last November which cleared their encampment outside City Hall.
STEPHANIE DEMOS: For Move-In Day, the objective was to get a large building where we might be able to have our meetings indoors, especially during winters, and have a good kitchen where we could provide not only for ourselves as a movement, but provide for the homeless population in this town who do not have kitchens and do not have food half the time, have spaces for people, you know, to gather and have a library and every other kind of regular social function that a community space would have.
JOHN HAMILTON: Members of Occupy Oakland say their campaign to challenge corporate power was dealt a serious setback after city officials denied them a permanent public space. Marla Schmalle is an Oakland community activist.
MARLA SCHMALLE: When we had the encampment, people could come down every night. But people lived here all day, and they kept talking, and the consciousness began to build. So when the camp was taken away, and it was cold anyhow out here, I mean, we really need a place in order to develop our consciousness about what’s happening.
JOHN HAMILTON: In all, about 400 people were arrested throughout Saturday’s day of action, many of them kettled by police in an area outside a YMCA during a nighttime march through Oakland’s downtown. Again, Stephanie Demos.
STEPHANIE DEMOS: And as they were marching, they were waylaid by police again and kettled in to in front of the YMCA, where they were surrounded by police. And when they were given an order to disperse, they were not given a path to disperse.
PROTESTER 3: We want to go. We want to leave. Let us leave.
PROTESTER 4: We don’t want to be here. We want to go.
STEPHANIE DEMOS: They were completely surrounded and pushed into the building. So, there were people working inside the building who voluntarily opened the doors to the building to let people get in and escape out the back way.
JOHN HAMILTON: But the day’s actions and the arrests that would follow were not done. Pacifica Radio host Mitch Jeserich witnessed a further protest at Oakland City Hall.
MITCH JESERICH: I didn’t see anyone break into City Hall. The door was open. Some people went inside. A lot of people didn’t go inside. You could tell there was—a lot of people were hesitant to go inside. It seemed like a very major thing to do. The people who did go inside, they went into, I believe, the city council chamber, brought out the American flag that was in there, and then tried to burn it. They didn’t burn the whole thing, but they tried to burn it out here. Then the police showed up, fired some flash grenades, smoke bombs, and it dispersed.
JOHN HAMILTON: Though they endured the largest day of arrests in their young movement’s history, members of Occupy Oakland say they’re preparing to escalate their campaign.
PROTESTER 5: Occupy Oakland will join in enthusiastically with the call for a national and global general strike on May 1st, May Day, 2012. And we encourage all other Occupies, all other social movements in the world, in this country, to join on to that call, as well, and make May 1st a massive general strike across the world.
PROTESTER 6: With 200 exactly votes yes, a strike has passed. No stand-asides, zero no’s, to voted, 200.
JOHN HAMILTON: For Democracy Now!, I’m John Hamilton, with Brandon Jourdan, in Oakland, California.
AMY GOODMAN: And you are watching and listening to Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we turn now to Berkeley, California, to Maria Lewis. She’s a participant in the Occupy Oakland movement, an undergraduate at UC Berkeley, where she is broadcasting to us from.
Maria, explain what happened this weekend and what happened to you.
MARIA LEWIS: Hi. Yeah. So, this weekend, despite the brutal police repression that the people of Oakland faced, I think was a really beautiful weekend. What we saw was thousands of people taking to the streets to reclaim what this economic and political system in this country has systematically denied us, which is the right to basic food, basic shelter, basic medical care, the things that the Oakland Commune, Occupy Oakland, used to provide in its encampment and has been unable to since that encampment was brutally repressed by the Oakland police. There were thousands of people in the street who fought to reclaim a building, a vacant building, and one of the hundreds of vacant buildings in the city, and to open that space up for people as a social center, as a place where we can get basic—our basic needs met and meet them ourselves. And while we weren’t able to secure that building this weekend, I was really amazed at the spirit and the voracity of the Oakland residents who were fighting in the street this weekend.
I think one of the other things we saw this weekend was a brutal police repression that was really revealing about the priorities of the city. So, tear gas, flashbang grenades, rubber bullets, beanbag guns were all used against Oakland residents who were attempting to retake an abandoned building. All of this was used to protect abandoned private property, and I think that that’s really revealing about the city’s priorities, that it’s really more interested in protecting abandoned private property than it is in human beings.
AMY GOODMAN: Maria Lewis, what about some of the reports that said that the protesters were violent?
MARIA LEWIS: Absolutely. There was a lot of anger this weekend, and I think that the anger that the protesters showed in the streets this weekend and the fighting back that did take place was reflective of a larger anger in Oakland that is boiling over at the betrayal of the system. I think that people, day by day, are realizing, as the economy gets worse and worse, as unemployment gets worse and worse, as homelessness gets worse and worse, that the economic system, that capitalism in Oakland, is failing us. And people are really angry about that, and they’re beginning to fight back. And I think that that’s a really inspiring thing.
AMY GOODMAN: Maria, you were not personally arrested, but you have—I mean, this weekend, we saw one of the largest mass arrests in the last year. Seven hundred people were arrested on the Brooklyn Bridge at the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York. Talk about your own choices in not being arrested, also being a student and your involvement with this movement, and how the arrests were conducted.
MARIA LEWIS: Yeah. So, what happened—there were several arrests that happened during the day, when we attempted to occupy the Kaiser center, but the majority of the arrests happened later that evening when we attempted to march to a backup location and to occupy a backup location. The police kettled the protesters twice. The first time we were kettled at 19th and Telegraph, we were surrounded on all sides and given no option to disperse and then tear-gassed while in the kettle. And it was only really through the scrappiness and resourcefulness of the protesters that we were able to escape that kettle by tearing down a fence and escaping. The protest was then kettled about 20 minutes later at another intersection. Some people were able to escape over a fence, and a few people were able to escape through the YMCA, which opened its doors to us once they realized what was going on. But many people did not escape, and I’ve heard estimates of up to 400 people arrested.
AMY GOODMAN: Oakland City Council Member Ignacio De La Fuente accused the Occupy movement of engaging in domestic terror.
CITY COUNCIL MEMBER IGNACIO DE LA FUENTE: It’s an escalation with our—I think that basically what, in my opinion, amounts to kind of a domestic terrorism, when these people start taking buildings, and they start costing the city incredible amount of resources.
AMY GOODMAN: Maria Lewis, your response?
MARIA LEWIS: Yeah. I think that that was—the idea that reclaiming vacant abandoned buildings is terrorism is very retelling of the city’s priorities and of what the city—what the Oakland Police Department serves and protects. They are more interested in protecting abandoned private property than they are the people. And the idea that opening up a social center is terrorism is very telling of the narrative of the police state.

A Super Bowl of Struggle: Indiana's Union-Busting Bill Makes Sunday's Game a Shame

Dave Zirin, The Nation: "The Super Bowl is supposed to bring attention and even glory to its host city. But thanks to an anti-worker, anti-union assault by Indiana's Governor Mitch Daniels and the Republican-controlled legislature, the big game, to be held this year in Indianapolis, is bringing a different kind of attention altogether."
Read the Article

Richard D. Wolff | Who REALLY Pays Taxes

Richard D. Wolff, Truthout: "As US capitalism suffers from a crisis now in its fifth year with no end in sight, the Republican presidential candidates and Obama endlessly repeat cheerleading for the system as if it were, as usual, beyond question or criticism.... [A] minimal fact check on federal taxes in the US might help folks avoid being easily misled."
Read the Article

UK Panel: Executive Compensation Is a "Market Failure"

Salvatore Babones, Truthout: "'It is through looking at executive remuneration that we see the classic problems of corporate governance laid bare,' the commission said. In other words, the commission found that people - not deep historical forces - are responsible for rising income inequality."
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Bill Moyers and Michael Winship | The Party People of Wall Street

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, Truthout: "The last three decades have witnessed a carefully calculated heist worthy of Robert Redford and Paul Newman in 'The Sting' - but on a massive scale. It was an inside job, politically engineered by Wall Street and Washington working hand-in-hand, sticky fingers with sticky fingers, to turn the legend of Robin Hood on its head - giving to the rich and taking from everybody else. Don't take our word for it - it's all on the record."
Read the Article

South Bronx Community Rallies to End "Stop and Frisk"

South Bronx Community Rallies to End "Stop and Frisk"
J.A. Myerson, Truthout: "The feeling of alienation is pervasive. Halfway along the route, Kafahni Nkrumah from the Freedom Party takes the people's mike and addresses the crowd, saying Stop and Frisk 'makes residents feel like we're all criminals, and we're not. We want the police department to understand that we are people, too, and we want our rights respected.'"
Read the Article

Mexico: Oaxaca's "Occupier" Refugees Face Roadblocks on the Way Home

David Bacon, Truthout: "This weekend, the women and children who'd spent 17 months living on the sidewalk outside Oaxaca's governor's palace set off for home. In the spring of 2010, these refugees fled their town, San Juan Copala, the ceremonial center of the Triqui people, abandoning homes where their families had lived for generations. Many houses were burned after they left."
Read the Article

Canada: Chris Hedges | What Happened to Canada?

Chris Hedges, Truthdig: "What happened to Canada? It used to be the country we would flee to if life in the United States became unpalatable. No nuclear weapons. No huge military-industrial complex. Universal health care. Funding for the arts. A good record on the environment. But that was the old Canada. I was in Montreal on Friday and Saturday and saw the familiar and disturbing tentacles of the security and surveillance state."
Read the Article

Spiraling Inequality Is a Disease Afflicting Our Entire Society

 Inequality is a disease of society, a cancer growing out of control at one end of the body while the rest of it withers away.
It's not just about the money, although income and wealth inequality have never been worse in the United States. It's also the pathological adherence to free market principles that have not worked for most of the country. And a bizarre idolization of the "innovators" who have rigged the financial system in their favor.
High-priced schemers and swindlers and scoundrels roam free on Wall Street, while the downtrodden are condemned for trying to survive. "If you steal $10 from a man's wallet," observed former Secretary of the Interior Walter Hickel, "you're likely to get into a fight, but if you steal billions from the the commons, co-owned by him and his descendants, he may not even notice."    Read more

By Paul Buchheit | AlterNet

Ecuador: Most Radical and Exciting

Could Ecuador Be the Most Radical and Exciting Place on Earth?

A decade ago, Ecuador was a banana republic, an economic basket case. Today, it has much to teach the rest of the world.
Ecuador must be one of the most exciting places on Earth right now, in terms of working towards a new development paradigm. It shows how much can be achieved with political will, even in uncertain economic times.
Just 10 years ago, Ecuador was more or less a basket case, a quintessential "banana republic" (it happens to be the world's largest exporter of bananas), characterised by political instability, inequality, a poorly-performing economy, and the ever-looming impact of the US on its domestic politics.
In 2000, in response to hyperinflation and balance of payments problems, the government dollarised the economy, replacing the sucre with the US currency as legal tender. This subdued inflation, but it did nothing to address the core economic problems, and further constrained the domestic policy space.
A major turning point came with the election of the economist Rafael Correa as president. After taking over in January 2007, his government ushered in a series of changes, based on a new constitution (the country's 20th, approved in 2008) that was itself mandated by a popular referendum. A hallmark of the changes that have occurred since then is that major policies have first been put through the referendum process. This has given the government the political ability to take on major vested interests and powerful lobbies.
The government is now the most stable in recent times and will soon become the longest serving in Ecuador's tumultuous history. The president's approval ratings are well over 70%. All this is due to the reorientation of the government's approach, made possible by a constitution remarkable for its recognition of human rights and the rights of nature, and its acceptance of plurality and cultural diversity.
Consider just some economic changes brought about in the past four years, beginning with the renegotiation of oil contracts with multinational companies. Ecuador is an oil exporter, but had benefited relatively little from this because of the high shares of oil sales that went to foreign oil companies. A new law in July 2010 dramatically changed the terms, increasing the government's share from 13% to 87% of gross oil revenues.
Seven of the 16 foreign oil companies decided to pull out, and their fields were taken over by state-run companies. But the others stayed on and, as a result, state revenues increased by $870m (£563m) in 2011.
Second, and possibly even more impressively, the government managed a dramatic increase in direct tax receipts. In fact, this has been even more important in revenue terms than oil receipts. Direct taxes (mainly corporation taxes) increased from around 35% of total taxes in 2006 to more than 40% in 2011. This was largely because of better enforcement, since the nexus between big business and the public tax administration was broken.
Third, these increased government revenues were put to good use in infrastructure investment and social spending. Ecuador now has the highest proportion of public investment to GDP (10%) in Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition, social spending has doubled since 2006. This has enabled real progress towards the constitutional goals of free education at all levels, and access to free healthcare for all citizens. Significant increases in public housing have followed the constitution's affirmation of the right of all citizens to dignified housing with proper amenities.
There are numerous other measures: expanding direct public employment; increasing minimum wages and legally enforcing social security provision for all workers; diversifying the economy to reduce dependence on oil exports, and diversifying trading partners to reduce dependence on the US; enlarging public banking operations to reach more small and medium entrepreneurs; auditing external debt to reduce debt service payments; and abandoning unfair bilateral investment agreements. Other efforts include reform of the justice system.
One exciting recent initiative is the Yasuní-ITT biosphere reserve, perhaps the world's first attempt to avoid greenhouse emissions by leaving oil underground. This not only protects the extraordinary biodiversity of the area but also the habitats of its indigenous peoples. The scheme proposes to use ecotourism to make human activity compatible with nature.
All this may sound too good to be true, and certainly the process of transformation has only just begun. There are bound to be conflicts with those whose profits and power are threatened, as well as other hurdles along the way. But for those who believe that we are not condemned to the gloomy status quo, and that societies can do things differently, what is happening in Ecuador provides inspiration and even guidance. The rest of the world has much to learn from this ongoing radical experiment.
Jayati Ghosh is Professor of Economics and Chairperson at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India. AlterNet

Mitch McConnell Caving on Tax to Make Millionaires Pay Their Fair Share?

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell hinted this weekend that he, at least, isn't willing to go back to war with Democrats over how to pay for the payroll tax cut extension bill. That issue has been nearly as problematic for Congress to work out as the House Republicans' insistence on making dumb political points with totally unrelated riders. Keystone XL pipeline, anyone?
Democrats have pushed a surtax on millionaires to pay for the extension, while Republicans have wanted to slash spending elsewhere. The Senate Republicans tried to just to get on with the negotiations and keep the House from making all Republicans look bad by refusing to allow tax breaks for the middle class.Now there is just a hint of softening in that position. On CNN's State of the Union this weekend, host Candy Crowley asked McConnell whether it would be possible to pay, at least partially, for the tax holiday extension with tax increases on the wealthy. He didn't rule it out, but instead tried to change the subject to the deficit.    Read more

By Joan McCarter | Daily Kos

FOX is Destroying GOP

How Fox News Is Destroying The Republican Party

It's becoming increasingly clear that Fox's programming and the radical, fear-based agenda it's setting for Republicans is now doing lasting damage to the Grand Old Party.
 Wannabe kingmaker Roger Ailes is facing an open revolt.
More and more  despondent conservatives are expressing alarm over the unfolding Republican primary season and what they see as the party's dwindling chances of defeating President Obama in November. Spooked at the general elections prospects facing frontrunners Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich (especially Gingrich), members of the so-called Republican Establishment seem to want to reboot the election season and try their nominating luck again.
Sorry, it's too late.
If the current state of concern transforms into a larger, enveloping blame game, Fox News chairman Ailes ought be a looming target. True, conservatives in recent years have shown virtually no interest in critiquing, let alone trying to reign in, Ailes' empire. Still, it's becoming increasingly clear that Fox's programming and the radical, fear-based agenda it's setting for Republicans is now doing lasting damage to the Grand Old Party.
That's because Fox News isn't simply offering a rightward take on the day's events, or innocently providing Republican-friendly commentary, of course.  It's leading an exhausting, day-in, day-out attack campaign against Obama, Democrats and all their liberal allies. (Real or imagined.) Its relentless, paranoid crusade falls well outside the mainstream of American politics, which is why the Republican primary season, so proudly sponsored by Fox News, is shaping up to be such an  embarrassment.
Make no mistake, kingmaker Ailes has made sure his channel's profoundly un-serious stamp permeates this year's GOP contest. For more and more spooked Republicans though, it's a stamp of failure and looming defeat.
For Ailes and company, that slash-and-burn formula works wonders in terms of super-serving its hardcore, hard-right audience of three million viewers. But in terms of supporting a serious, national campaign and a serious, national conversation? It's not working. At all.
As Fox News has moved in and essentially replaced the RNC as the driving electoral force in Republican politics today, and with Ailes ensconced in his kingmaker role, candidates have had to bow down to Fox in search of votes and the channel's coveted free airtime. That means campaigns have been forced to become part of the channel's culture of personal destruction, as well as its signature self-pity.
The truth is, the Republican Establishment all but ceded control of the party, or at least the public face of the party, to Fox News (and Rush Limbaugh) in January, 2009. Party leaders, demoralized by John McCain's electoral landslide defeat, faded into the background and obediently followed Fox News' often-hysterical lead as Rupert Murdoch's cable channel unveiled an unprecedented effort to demonize and delegitimize the newly elected president.  (In the Fox-led world, it's conventional wisdom  that Obama's a foreign, race-baiting Marxist who undermines Israel and is determined to destroy the American way of life.)
With Fox News at the irresponsible helm, the conservative movement in America, including the emerging Tea Party, became first and foremost a media movement, and one that gleefully cut ties with common sense and decency.  (See: Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh.)
As blogger Andrew Sullivan noted this week:
The Republican Establishment is Rush Limbaugh, Roger Ailes, Karl Rove, and their mainfold products, from Hannity to Levin. They rule on the talk radio airwaves and on the GOP's own "news" channel, Fox.
With media outlets setting the conservative agenda, as well as raising campaign funds and boosting GOP candidates, it was Fox News that quickly transformed itself into the Opposition Party. It was Roger Ailes who, officially or unofficially, began to wear two hats: Program Director at Fox News, Chairman of the RNC.
In terms of whipping up bouts of anti-Obama hysteria, the crass Fox approach enjoyed some short-term success. However, that same media movement is now three long and rhetorically repetitive years into its Obama crusade and trying to nominate a presidential candidate via an extended national campaign.  According to more and more worried conservatives, the results on display are disastrous.
Of course, conservatives should have thought that through before handing over the reins to Ailes and his misinformation minions. Indeed, none of this is unexpected. It's all entirely predictable. It's what happens when a mainstream political movement embraces a radical media strategy like the one being promoted by Fox News; the movement marches itself off a cliff.
Conservative leaders themselves have freely adopted Fox News' profoundly un-unprofessional rhetoric about Obama, claiming just this week he's "pro-poverty" and his politics are "almost un-American." That's the Fox-ification of the GOP.
As Andrew Sullivan noted this week, the current GOP "purges dissidents, it vaunts total loyalty, it polices discourse for any deviation."  That sounds a lot like Fox News.
Two years ago, despondent conservative and former Bush speechwriter David Frum, noting the sweeping power that Ailes was accumulating, observed that, "Republicans originally thought that Fox worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for Fox."
As the Republican primary unfolds, I wonder if more and more poll-weary conservatives would like to fire their new boss.
Eric Boehlert is is a senior fellow at Media Matters for America. He's the author of Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush (Free Press, 2006) and Bloggers on the Bus: How the Internet Changed Politics and the Press (Free Press, 2009). He worked for five years as a senior writer for Salon.com, where he wrote extensively about media and politics.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Corporate Usurpation of the Internet Read the Article at Nile Bowie Blog

ACTA: The Corporate Usurpation of the Internet

Written by Nile Bowie

In the wake of a public outcry against internet regulation bills such as SOPA and PIPA, representatives of the EU have signed a new and far more threatening legislation yesterday in Tokyo. Spearheaded by the governments of the United States and Japan and constructed largely in the absence of public awareness, the measures of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) dramatically alter current international legal framework, while introducing the first substantial processes of global internet governance. With complete contempt towards the democratic process, the negotiations of the treaty were exclusively held between industry representatives and government officials, while excluding elected representatives and members of the press from their hearings.
Under the guise of protecting intellectual property rights, the treaty introduces measures that would allow the private sector to enforce sweeping central authority over internet content. The ACTA abolishes all legal oversight involving the removal of content and allows copyright holders to force ISPs to remove material from the internet, something that presently requires a court order. ISPs would then be faced with legal liabilities if they chose not to remove content. Theoretically, personal blogs can be removed for using company logos without permission or simply linking to copy written material; users could be criminalized, barred from accessing the internet and even imprisoned for sharing copyrighted material. Ultimately, these implications would be starkly detrimental toward the internet as a medium for free speech.
The Obama Administration subverted the legal necessity of allowing to US Senate to ratify the treaty by unconstitutionally declaring it an “executive agreement” before the President promptly signed it on October 1st, 2011. As a touted constitutional lawyer, Barack Obama is fully aware that Article 1, Section 8 of the US Constitution, mandates Congress in dealing with issues of intellectual property, thus voiding the capacity for the President to issue an executive agreement. The White House refused to even disclose details about the legislation to elected officials and civil libertarians over concern that doing so may incur "damage to the national security." While some may hang off every word of his sorely insincere speeches and still be fixated by the promises of hope offered by brand-Obama, his administration has trampled the constitution and introduced the most comprehensive authoritarian legislation in America’s history.
In addition to imposing loosely defined criminal sanctions to average web users, the ACTA treaty will also obligate ISPs to disclose personal user information to copyright holders. The measures introduce legislative processes that contradict the legal framework of participant countries and allows immigration authorities to search laptops, external hard drives and Internet-capable devices at airports and border checkpoints. The treaty is not limited solely to internet-related matters, ACTA would prohibit the production of generic pharmaceuticals and outlaw the use of certain seeds for crops through patents, furthering the corporate cartelization of the food and drug supply.

ACTA would allow companies from any participating country (which include EU member states, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Morocco) to shut down websites without any explanation. Hypothetically, nothing could prevent private Singaporean companies from promptly taking down American websites that oppose the Singapore Air Force conducting war games on US soil, such as those conducted in December 2011. By operating outside normal judicial framework, exporting US copyright law to the rest of the world and mandating private corporations to conduct surveillance on their users, all prerequisites of democracy, transparency and self-expression are an afterthought. 
The further monopolization of the existing resources of communication, exchange and expression is ever present in the form of deceptive new articles of legislation that unanimously call for the implementation of the same austere censorship measures. Even if the ACTA treaty is not implemented, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TTP) between Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Vietnam and the United States offers more extensive intellectual property regulations. Leaked documents prepared by the U.S. Business Coalition (which have been reportedly drafted by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufactures of America, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the Motion Picture Association of America) report that in addition to ACTA-style legislation, the TTP will impose fines on non-compliant entities and work to extend the general period of copy write terms on individual products.
Under the sweeping regulations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, individual infringers will be criminalized and sentenced with the same severity as large-scale offenders. Within the United States, the recently announced Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) H.R. 3782 regulation seeks to install policies largely identical to SOPA and PIPA. The Obama administration is also working towards an Internet ID program, which may be mandatory for American citizens and required when renewing passports, obtaining federal licenses, or applying for social security. Spreading these dangerous measures to other countries participating in these treaties would necessitate a binding obligation on the US to retain these policies, averting any chance of reform.
The ACTA will become law once it is formally ratified and cleared by the European Parliament in June. By petitioning members of the European parliament and educating others about the potential dangers imposed by this legislation, there is a chance of the treaty being rejected. Upon closer examination of the human condition with all of its inequalities, food insecurity and dire social issues, our governments have lost their legitimacy for giving such unwarranted priority to fighting copyright infringement on behalf of lobbyists from the pharmaceutical and entertainment industries. The existence of ACTA is a clear statement that surveillance, regulations and securing further corporate centralization dwarfs any constructive shift towards stimulating human innovation and self-sufficient technologies.  
When former US National Security Advisor and Trilateral Commission co-founder, Zbigniew Brzezinski spoke before the Council on Foreign Relations in 2010, he warned of a global political awakening beginning to take place. Technology such as file sharing, blogging, and open source software has the potential to undermine the oligarchical governing interests seeking to centrally control our society and enforce the population into being entirely dependent on their commodities. The following excerpt from Brzezinski’s book Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era, provides invaluable insight into the world being brought in; “The technetronic era involves the gradual appearance of a more controlled society. Such a society would be dominated by an elite, unrestrained by traditional values. Soon it will be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain up-to-date complete files containing even the most personal information about the citizen. These files will be subject to instantaneous retrieval by the authorities.”

Can't Buy Me Laws: Congress Must Give Back Chris Dodd's Dirty Money

Joel Kelsey, Save the Internet: "Rarely is the systemic corporate capture of Washington, D.C., on display in such a transparent and ugly way as it was last week. Former U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd, now the head of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), has been pushing the passage of Web-censorship bills in both the House and Senate.... We can't guarantee that top lobbyists like Dodd, who have gone through the revolving door in D.C., will become more ethical. But we can demand that our elected officials make it clear to K Street who they are supposed to be representing in Washington."
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Sri Lanka: General Admits War Crimes; US May Hold Crucial Supporting Evidence

Emanuel Stoakes, Truthout: "The extrajudicial killing of civilians, surrendering soldiers and dissident journalists under the direction of the Sri Lankan government has been alleged by a former general in the Army who was extremely well-placed to comment on military activity during the island nation's bloody civil war.... It is believed that representatives of the United States State Department have spoken to the source and hold a rich collection of testimonies and other evidence regarding alleged crimes committed during the civil war."
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Byron Dorgan on Making Banks Play by the Rules

Bill Moyers, Moyers & Co.: "Bill Moyers talks with former Senator Byron Dorgan about making sure big banks play by rules that protect consumers from financial calamity, and how those big banks continue to leverage power and influence to avoid responsibility while maximizing profits. Dorgan was a nearly-lone voice in Congress in 1999 when he predicted economic calamity.... But given the economic meltdown nearly 10 years later, it turned out to be one of the most prescient speeches in American political history."
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Iran: Avoiding a Catastrophic War with Iran

Nathaniel Batchelder, Common Dreams: "Pray cooler heads will guide America in the dialogue and decision-making over Iran's position in the world. Iran does not have nuclear weapons, and there is no certain evidence that such a program is under way. Certainly Iran has the right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and the interests of world peace demand that these issues be resolved without military action that could launch a catastrophic war."
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Fact-Checking Obama's State of the Union Speech, Part 1: Jobs

Jack Rasmus, Truthout: "On January 24, 2012, President Obama delivered his latest State of the Union (SOTU) speech to Congress. It heavily emphasized economic themes, among which were jobs, manufacturing, trade, the auto industry, teachers, taxes, Medicare, financial regulation and growing income inequality in the United States.... But many of the president's claims in his SOTU speech, especially with regard to jobs, were contrary to the facts."
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The Party of Our Discontent? An Interview With Green Party Candidate Jill Stein

Steve Horn, Truthout: "Discontent with the political system as a whole is rising, as seen clearly through the lens of struggles around the world and right here at home, via the ongoing Occupy movement.... This is the background to my conversation with Jill Stein, Green Party candidate for president of the United States.... Stein is hoping to ride the momentum of the Occupy movement and reach uncharted water for a third-party candidate for president, and has a central campaign platform called the 'Green New Deal.'"
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Four Psychologists at the Gates of Hell: A Fable for Our Time

Roy Eidelson, Truthout: "In 2005, despite evidence that psychologists were involved in abusive and torturous interrogations of national security detainees, [the] American Psychological Association (APA) ... concluded that psychologists play a critical role in keeping such interrogations 'safe, legal, ethical and effective'....With this stance, the APA, the largest association of psychologists worldwide, became the sole major professional health care organization to support practices contrary to the international human rights standards that ought to be the benchmark against which professional codes of ethics are judged."
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Occupy Protesters and Police Clash in Oakland

Sarah Maslin Nir, The New York Times News Service: "A march to take over a vacant building by members of the Occupy movement in Oakland, Calif., turned into a violent confrontation with the police on Saturday, leaving three officers injured and about 200 people arrested.... Most of the arrests occurred in the evening, when large groups of people were corralled in front of the Downtown Oakland Y.M.C.A. on Broadway. At one point, one group of protesters broke into the City Hall building."
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Occupying Hawaii: Paradise Lost and Found

Michelle Fawcett, Truthout: "Ever since the Garden of Eden headlined the Torah, savvy marketers have realized that we all deeply desire a slice of paradise.... The natural splendor of Hawaii draws about seven million tourists a year as well as thousands of transplants, many wealthy, who relocate to the Pacific island chain for the relentlessly balmy weather. At the same time, the tropical Shangri-La barely conceals teeming tent cities, droves of poverty-wage workers and the legacy of the conquest of native Hawaiians."
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Internet opinions or exploring new experiences

How Yelp Destroyed the Thrill of Exploring

Zero of five stars! The Internet is loaded with crowdsourced opinions, making authentic, new experiences impossible.
Photo Credit: Kyle Gradinger/BCGP on Flickr
What’s the best thing in your city?
Which mani-pedi place represents the pinnacle of nail care according to the aggregated opinions of hundreds of people ranking all the mani-pedi places on a scale of one to five?
Thanks to online tools like Yelp, you can now know the answer to questions like that. These crowdsourcing tools have transformed the way we experience cities, often for the better — they help us streamline our lives and avoid wasting time with subpar businesses. It’s now easier than ever to avoid bad meals and dingy hotel rooms. Jeff Howe, author of“Crowdsourcing,” sums it up nicely: “I’m a guy with three jobs and the parent of nettlesome little children,” he says. “I don’t really have time for a lot of bad experiences.”
But for all Yelp’s virtues, pre-screening every experience can inhibit us, too. These days, many of us wouldn’t think of trying a new hairstylist or hotel without first checking others’ impressions online. “There’s something about Yelp that creates hesitancy,” says Howe. “Before going to a trivia night at an East Village bar I check out the bar’s Yelp page to see what others have said about it, what it looks like, what types of people go there — what I’m essentially looking for is, does this look like me? Do people like me go here?”
I know exactly what he means. I pre-screen everything these days. Usually I’m trying to avoid feeling awkward — I’ve ended up at too many bars where I’m the only patron who remembers life before cable. Last year I decided not to attend the annual Time’s Up! “Fountain Ride” after a YouTube videoof one of the past rides convinced me I’d feel insufficiently artsy.
But am I dodging uncomfortable situations, or missing out on great ones? “The efficiency that the Web has brought has downsides,” says Edward Tenner, a historian of technology and culture. “On balance, it works against happy accidents.” Tenner calls this counter-serendipity: when preconceived notions prevent lucky flukes. For instance, a poorly rated restaurant on Yelp might have a few die-hard fans — outliers who, for whatever reason, love the place. Their reviews might even be posted. But many of us go with the general consensus, writing off anywhere with a three-star ranking or less. “Is it possible that a place you really would have liked doesn’t have many positive comments, but you would have been one of the few positive ones?” asks Tenner.
Even if the ranking doesn’t deter us, by the time we do go to the club or the restaurant, we’ve sometimes seen so much of the place online that we’ve basically pre-experienced it. Having online access to so many venues might make us more adventurous in one sense, prompting us to try things we never would have tried or even have known about. But in another sense, it becomes a less-adventurous adventure, certified for us by hundreds of others who’ve already checked it out, assured us we’ll like it, testified to its quality, cleanliness and safety.
This isn’t the same, by the way, as choosing a restaurant based on a review in the paper. Now everything is reviewed — every bar, every corner store — everywhere, all the time. And if Yelp’s popularity is any indication (the site posted its 20 millionth review last July) our need to check these reviews before doing anything is becoming a borderline addiction. When you can no longer have a drink at a bar that wasn’t first vetted by 83 strangers, spontaneity — which, in some ways, is one of the best things about life in the city — is lost.
An example: A trip to Ben’s Chili Bowl in D.C. is preceded by a scan of its 1,400 Yelp reviews, from which you’ll learn some useful information: be prepared for a wait, there are vegetarian options. But you’ll also learn that if you sit at the counter you can chat with the cooks if it’s slow, that the TVs play footage of Barack Obama’s visit, and that the crowd swells with concertgoers whenever a show at the nearby 9:30 Club ends. Supplementing these descriptions are 431 photos of the space, the food, the cooks, the servers. No unanticipated curve balls await you. The scene has been thoroughly canvassed in advance.
Ben’s is an institution that survived the riots of the ’60s to become a D.C. landmark. On Yelp, it’s just another a three-and-a-half-star chili-dog joint. And in some ways, this is one of Yelp’s greatest services: providing a reality check for legendary places hawking average products at insane prices. (Canter’s Deli and the Russian Tea Room also get this treatment.) In fact, in a lot of ways, Yelp is a godsend for good businesses — it’s a meritocratic rating system that rewards quality service with a relative lack of bias.
But quantifying every service and product with a one-through-five ranking can also discourage innovation. One study showed that an extra star on Yelp can boost a business’s revenues by 9 percent. When your cumulative score is worth that much, doing something unorthodox that some people won’t like isn’t necessarily in your best interest. Economists call this the high-level equilibrium trap. Innovating can sometimes mean a brief period of declining quality as you struggle to smooth out the kinks — not such a big deal when you’re only being written about by a professional critic every few years, but a very big risk when you’re being reviewed by your customers on an almost daily basis and those reviews will drastically affect your bottom line.
Even just getting a good score isn’t enough — you need lots of them. “I’m looking for volume,” says Howe, describing how he uses Yelp to find things in the city. “I need at least 35 or 40 reviews. If there are 40 reviews and 4.85 stars, I know that’s going to be good” — a tactic that ends any promise of finding an undiscovered gem.
“And to actually choose … and then to stop looking is to limit your experience of the Internet,” writes cultural critic Lee Siegel in his Internet-skeptical book, “Against the Machine.” Siegel’s talking about the experience of buying watches online in that excerpt. But you could replace the word “Internet” with the word “city,” and the theory would hold up. Today, even a word-of-mouth recommendation can feel insufficient. We want to cross-check it with others’ opinions online, and search for additional options that we might like better. Life in the city is (somewhat embarrassingly) often about consumer choices. Crowdsourcing is supposed to make those choices more manageable, but somehow it also makes them feel relentless.
Too many choices. That’s the first-world urban problem we face. Yelp was created to deal with this problem. And like so much technology, there’s nothing wrong with it. Until we become reliant on it. Then, like Google Maps, we feel lost without it. And suddenly, making the trip to the far-flung neighborhood to check out that Turkish bath or Congolese cafe, having only a vague sense of what it will look and feel like, knowing only what we heard from a friend or read in a blurb in the local alt-weekly — this type of experience becomes a little too unnerving, something we’d better first check out online, just to see.

7 Tools to shut down Corporatoracy

7 Signs the Corporatocracy is Losing its Legitimacy--and 7 Tools to Help Shut it Down

The legitimacy of rule by giant corporations and Wall Street banks is crumbling.
You may remember that there was a time when apartheid in South Africa seemed unstoppable.
Sure, there were international boycotts of South African businesses, banks, and tourist attractions. There were heroic activists in South Africa, who were going to prison and even dying for freedom. But the conventional wisdom remained that these were principled gestures with little chance of upending the entrenched system of white rule.
“Be patient,” activists were told. “Don’t expect too much against powerful interests with a lot of money invested in the status quo.”
With hindsight, though, apartheid’s fall appears inevitable: the legitimacy of the system had already crumbled. It was harming too many for the benefit of too few. South Africa’s freedom fighters would not be silenced, and the global movement supporting them was likewise tenacious and principled.
In the same way, the legitimacy of rule by giant corporations and Wall Street banks is crumbling. This system of corporate rule also benefits few and harms many, affecting nearly every major issue in public life. Some examples:
  • Powerful corporations socialize their risks and costs, but privatize profits. That means we, the 99 percent, pick up the tab for environmental clean ups, for helping workers who aren’t paid enough to afford food or health care, for bailouts when risky speculation goes wrong. Meanwhile, profits go straight into the pockets of top executives and others in the 1 percent.
  • The financial collapse threw millions of Americans into poverty. 25 million are unemployed, under-employed, or have given up looking for work; four million have been unemployed for more than 12 months. Poverty increased 27 percent between 2006 and 2010. And students who graduated with student loans in 2010  had borrowed 5 percent more than the previous year’s graduating class—owing more than $25,000. Meanwhile, those who caused the collapse continue the same practices. And the unwillingness of the 1 percent to pay their fair share of taxes means the the public services we rely on are fraying.
  • Scientists say that we are on the brink of runaway climate change; we only have a few years to make the needed investments in clean power and energy efficiency. This transition could be a huge job creator—on the order of the investments made during World War II, which got us out of the Depression. But fossil fuel industries don’t want to see their investment in dirty energy undermined by the switch to clean energy and conservation. So far, by paying millions to climate deniers, lobbyists, and political campaigns, they’ve succeeded in stymieing change.
  • Agribusiness get taxpayer subsidies for foods that make us sick; for farming practices that destroy rivers, soils, the climate, and the oceans; and for trade practices that cause hunger at home and abroad.
  • Through ALEC, the private prison industry crafts state laws that boost the numbers behind bars, lengthen sentences, and privatize prisons.
  • Big Pharma jacks up prices; insurance companies raise premiums and delivers fewer benefits; the burden of inflated care drags down the economy and bankrupts families. But only a very few politicians stand up to the health care industry's war chests and advocate for Canadian-style single-payer health care, which would go a long way toward solving the cost problem.
  • Corporations and wealthy executives fund an army of lobbyists and election campaigns, spreading untruths and self-serving policy prescriptions.
It’s not that we, the people, haven’t noticed all this.
In a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, 77 percent of Americans said too much power is concentrated in the hands of a few rich people and large corporations. In a poll by Time Magazine, 86 percent of Americans said Wall Street and its lobbyists have too much influence in Washington.
And 80 percent of Americans oppose Citizens United, the pro-corporate Supreme Court ruling that turns two years old today. Eighty percent—that’s among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.
Some say corporations have such a strong grip on politicians and big media that it is impossible to challenge them, no matter how many of us there are.
But I believe we can do it. In the past few months, YES! Magazine has been researching ways that ordinary people can challenge corporate power (look for strategies in our spring issue, out in February). And we found that there are actually a lot of tools at our disposal:
  • Corporations were created by public law to provide a public benefit. If we the people no longer feel that a corporation is providing a benefit—or if we feel that it is operating in a lawless and destructive manner—we can revoke their charter. That’s what Free Speech for People has asked the attorney general of Delaware to do to Massey Energy, which has been one of the worst culprits in mountaintop removal and which has operated its mines in a lawless and negligent manner, resulting in 29 deaths at the Upper Big Branch Mine.
  • We can insist that, in exchange for use of our public airwaves, broadcasters provide free airtime to candidates for public office. If they don’t need to raise millions for media buys, they don’t need to be as beholden to the 1 percent.
  • We can get our governments to quit banking with Bank of America and Chase, and start our own state banks—14 states, including California and Washington, are considering such a move. And while we're at it, we can localizefoodenergy, and other aspects of our economy so local, independent businesses and cooperatives can thrive.
  • We can stand up to specific parts of the corporate agenda by engaging in the sort of direct action that halted the KXL Pipeline.
  • We can call for a constitutional amendment overturning Citizens United, corporate personhood, and the ridiculous notion that money is the same thing as speech. So far, Los AngelesNew York City, and about 50 other towns and cities have done so far.
  • We can use mechanisms like clean elections, electoral transparency, citizen review of legislation, and recalls to keep corporate control of our democracy in check.
  • Finally, the reason I am most hopeful today: We can take a cue from Occupy Wall Street and continue to name the source of political corruption—something the political establishment and mainstream media have refused to do. We can occupy homes that are slated for foreclosure, as people have been doing all over the country. We can mic check places like Walmarts that intimidate and fire workers who want to unionize. We can set up tents in public places and in other ways join with the Occupy movement to take a stand for a world that works for the 100 percent—a world where we all benefit.
None of these actions will be easy. It will take time—potentially years of work—to make big change. But just as the legitimacy of apartheid crumbled well before the institutions of apartheid went down, the legitimacy of corporate rule is crumbling. So I’m convinced that, with you and me and all the others out there creating alternatives and taking a stand, we will see change.
Sarah van Gelder is Executive Editor of YES! Magazine where you can read her blog.

The Reactionary Mind: Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin

The Truth About the Conservative Mind: Why Reactionaries from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin Have Fought Real Liberty

Conservatism is a reaction to democratic movements, like OWS, that challenge the authority of elites.
The following is an adapted excerpt from Corey Robin's "The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin." Click here to buy a copy.
 It's been a rotten few months for the nation's wealthiest 1 percent. From the senatorial candidacy of Elizabeth Warren to Occupy Wall Street, economic elites have faced a concerted attack on their riches and power, their arrogant and unaccountable ways. And you can hear it in their voices, or at least the voices of their spokesmen. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor declared, "I, for one, am increasingly concerned about the growing mobs occupying Wall Street and the other cities across the country." Mitt Romney told an audience in Florida that "I think it's dangerous—this class warfare." So rattled is George Will that he's been forced to pull out a playbook from an older time. All but calling Warren a Communist, he accused the Oklahoma-born scholarship kid of believing that the government "is entitled to socialize—i.e., conscript—whatever portion" of an individual's property "it considers its share."
After decades of "compassionate conservatism," "a thousand points of light," and "Morning in America," dark talk of class warfare on the right can seem like a strange throwback. So accustomed are we to the sunny Reagan and the populist Tea Party that we've forgotten a basic truth about conservatism: It is a reaction to democratic movements from below, movements like Occupy Wall Street that threaten to reorder society from the bottom up, redistributing power and resources from those who have much to those who have not so much. With the roar against the ruling classes growing ever louder, the right seems to be reverting to type. It thus behooves us to take a second look at the conservative tradition, not just its current incarnation but also across time, for that tradition provides us with an understanding of why the conservative responds to Occupy Wall Street as he does.
Since the modern era began, men and women in subordinate positions have marched against their superiors. They have gathered under different banners—the labor movement, feminism, abolition, socialism—and shouted different slogans: freedom, equality, democracy, revolution. In virtually every instance, their superiors have resisted them. That march and démarche of democracy is one of the main stories of modern politics. And it is the second half of that story, the démarche, that drives the development of ideas we call conservative. For that is what conservatism is: a meditation on, and theoretical rendition of, the felt experience of having power, seeing it threatened, and trying to win it back.
Despite the very real differences among them, workers in a factory are like secretaries in an office, peasants on a manor, slaves on a plantation—even wives in a marriage—in that they live and labor in conditions of unequal power. They submit and obey, heeding the demands of their managers and masters, husbands and lords. Sometimes their lot is freely chosen—workers contract with their employers, wives with their husbands—but its entailments seldom are. What contract, after all, could ever itemize the ins and outs, the daily pains and continuing sufferance, of a job or a marriage? Throughout American history, in fact, the contract has served as a conduit to unforeseen coercion and constraint. Employment and marriage contracts have been interpreted by judges to contain all sorts of unwritten and unwanted provisions of servitude to which wives and workers tacitly consent, even when they have no knowledge of such provisions or wish to stipulate otherwise.
Until 1980, for example, it was legal in every state for a husband to rape his wife. The justification for this dates back to a 1736 treatise by the British jurist Matthew Hale. When a woman marries, he argued, she implicitly agrees to give "up herself in this kind [sexually] unto her husband." Hers is a tacit, if unknowing, consent, "which she cannot retract" for the duration of their union. Having once said yes, she can never say no. As recently as 1957, a standard legal treatise could state, "A man does not commit rape by having sexual intercourse with his lawful wife, even if he does so by force and against her will." If someone tried to write into the marriage contract a requirement that express consent had to be given in order for sex to proceed, judges were bound by common law to ignore or override it. Implicit consent was a structural feature of the contract that neither party could alter. Through that contract, women were doomed to be the sexual servants of their husbands.
Every once in a while, however, the subordinates of this world contest their fates. They protest their conditions, join movements, make demands. Their goals may be minimal and discrete, but in voicing them, they raise the specter of a more fundamental change in power. They cease to be servants or supplicants and become agents, speaking and acting on their own behalf. More than the reforms themselves, it is this assertion of agency that vexes their superiors.
American labor history is filled with complaints from employers and government officials that unionized workers are independent and self-organizing. Indeed, so potent is their self-organization that it threatens to render superfluous the employer and the state. During the Great Upheaval of 1877, striking railroad workers in St. Louis took to running the trains themselves. Fearful that the public might conclude the workers were capable of managing the railroad, the owners tried to stop them, starting a strike of their own in order to prove it was the owners, and only the owners, who could make the trains run on time. During the Seattle general strike of 1919, workers went to great lengths to provide basic government services, including law and order. So successful were they that the mayor concluded it was the workers' ability to limit violence and anarchy that posed the greatest threat to the established order:
The so-called sympathetic Seattle strike was an attempted revolution. ... True, there were no flashing guns, no bombs, no killings. Revolution, I repeat, doesn't need violence. The general strike, as practiced in Seattle, is of itself the weapon of revolution, all the more dangerous because quiet. ... That is to say, it puts the government out of operation.
Conservatism is the theoretical voice of this animus against the agency of the subordinate classes. It provides the most consistent and profound argument for why the lower orders should not be allowed to exercise their independent will, to govern themselves or the polity. Submission is their first duty; agency, the prerogative of elites. Such was the threat Edmund Burke saw in the French Revolution: not merely an expropriation of property or explosion of violence but an inversion of the obligations of deference and command. "The levelers," he claimed, "only change and pervert the natural order of things."
The occupation of an hair-dresser, or of a working tallowchandler, cannot be a matter of honour to any person—to say nothing of a number of other more servile employments. Such descriptions of men ought not to suffer oppression from the state; but the state suffers oppression, if such as they, either individually or collectively, are permitted to rule.
By virtue of membership in a polity, Burke allowed, men had certain rights—to the fruits of their labor, their inheritance, education, and more. But the one right he refused to concede to all men was a "share of power, authority, and direction" they might think they ought to have "in the management of the state."
One of the reasons the subordinate's exercise of agency agitates the conservative imagination is that it takes place in an intimate setting. Every great political blast—from the storming of the Bastille to the March on Washington—is set off by a private fuse: the contest for rights and standing in the family, the factory, and the field. Politicians and parties talk of constitution and amendment, natural rights and inherited privileges. But the real subject of their deliberations is the private life of power. "Here is the secret of the opposition to woman's equality in the state," Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote. "Men are not ready to recognize it in the home." Behind the riot in the street or debate in Parliament is the maid talking back to her mistress, the worker disobeying his boss. That is why our political arguments—not only about the family but also the welfare state, civil rights, and much else—can be so explosive: They touch upon the most personal relations of power.
When the conservative looks upon a democratic movement from below, this is what he sees: a terrible disturbance in the private life of power. "The real object" of the French Revolution, Burke told Parliament in 1790, is "to break all those connexions, natural and civil, that regulate and hold together the community by a chain of subordination; to raise soldiers against their officers; servants against their masters; tradesmen against their customers; artificers against their employers; tenants against their landlords; curates against their bishops; and children against their parents." Nothing to the Jacobins, he declared at the end of his life, was worthy "of the name of the publick virtue, unless it indicates violence on the private."
Historically, the conservative has sought to forestall the march of democracy in both the public and the private spheres, on the assumption that advances in the one necessarily spur advances in the other. Still, the more profound and prophetic stance on the right has been to cede the field of the public, if he must, but stand fast in the private. Allow men and women to become democratic citizens of the state; make sure they remain feudal subjects in the family, the factory, and the field.
No simple defense of one's own place and privileges, the conservative position stems from a genuine conviction that a world thus emancipated will be ugly, brutish, and dull. It will lack the excellence of a world where the better man commands the worse. This vision of the connection between excellence and rule is what brings together in postwar America that unlikely alliance of the capitalist, with his vision of the employer's untrammeled power in the workplace; the traditionalist, with his vision of the father's rule at home; and the statist, with his vision of a heroic leader pressing his hand upon the face of the earth. Each in his way subscribes to this statement, from the 19th century, of the conservative creed: "To obey a real superior ... is one of the most important of all virtues—a virtue absolutely essential to the attainment of anything great and lasting."
The notion that conservative ideas are a mode of reactionary practice is likely to raise some hackles. It has long been an axiom on the left that the defense of power and privilege is an enterprise devoid of ideas, that right-wing politics is an emotional swamp rather than a movement of considered opinion. Thomas Paine called counterrevolution "an obliteration of knowledge"; Lionel Trilling described American conservatism as a mélange of "irritable mental gestures which seek to resemble ideas."
Conservatives, for their part, have tended to agree. Playing the part of the dull-witted country squire, conservatives have embraced the position of the historian F.J.C. Hearnshaw that "it is commonly sufficient for practical purposes if conservatives, without saying anything, just sit and think, or even if they merely sit." While the aristocratic overtones of that discourse no longer resonate, the conservative still holds on to the label of the untutored and the unlettered; it's part of his populist charm and demotic appeal. Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Conservatism is an idea-driven praxis, and no amount of preening from the right or polemic from the left can reduce or efface the catalog of mind one finds there.
Others will be put off by this argument for a different reason: It threatens the purity and profundity of conservative ideas. For many, the word "reaction" connotes an unthinking, lowly grab for power. But reaction is not reflex. It begins from a position of principle—that some are fit, and thus ought, to rule others—and then recalibrates that principle in light of a challenge from below. This recalibration is no easy task, for such challenges tend by their very nature to disprove the principle. After all, if a ruling class is truly fit to rule, why and how has it allowed a challenge to its power to emerge? What does the emergence of the one say about the fitness of the other?
The conservative faces an additional hurdle: how to defend a principle of rule in a world where nothing is solid, all is in flux. From the moment conservatism came onto the scene as an intellectual movement, it has had to contend with the decline of ancient and medieval ideas of an orderly universe, in which permanent hierarchies of power reflected the eternal structure of the cosmos. The overthrow of the old regime reveals not only the weakness and incompetence of its leaders but also a larger truth about the lack of design in the world. Reconstructing the old regime in the face of a declining faith in permanent hierarchies has proven to be a difficult feat. Not surprisingly, it also has produced some of the most remarkable works of modern thought.
There is another reason to be wary of the effort to dismiss the reactionary thrust of conservatism, and that is the testimony of the tradition itself. From Burke's claim that he and his ilk had been "alarmed into reflexion" by the French Revolution to Russell Kirk's admission that conservatism is a "system of ideas" that "has sustained men ... in their resistance against radical theories and social transformation," the conservative has consistently affirmed that his is a knowledge produced in response to the left. Sometimes that affirmation has been explicit. Lord Salisbury, three times prime minister of Britain, wrote in 1859 that "hostility to Radicalism, incessant, implacable hostility, is the essential definition of Conservatism." In his classic The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945, George Nash defined conservatism as "resistance to certain forces perceived to be leftist, revolutionary, and profoundly subversive of what conservatives at the time deemed worth cherishing, defending, and perhaps dying for." More recently, the Harvard political theorist Harvey Mansfield has declared, "I understand conservatism as a reaction to liberalism. It isn't a position that one takes up from the beginning but only when one is threatened by people who want to take away or harm things that deserve to be conserved."
Those are the explicit professions of the counterrevolutionary creed. More interesting are the implicit statements, where antipathy to radicalism and reform is embedded in the very syntax of the argument. Take Michael Oakeshott's famous definition in his essay "On Being Conservative":
To be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss.
One cannot, it seems, enjoy fact and mystery, near and distant, laughter and bliss. One must choose. Far from affirming a simple hierarchy of preferences, Oakeshott's either/or signals that we are on existential ground, where the choice is between not something and its opposite but something and its negation. The conservative would enjoy familiar things in the absence of forces seeking their destruction, Oakeshott concedes, but his enjoyment "will be strongest when" it "is combined with evident risk of loss." And while Oakeshott suggests that such losses can be engineered by a variety of forces, the engineers invariably seem to work on the left. Marx and Engels are "the authors of the most stupendous of our political rationalisms," he writes elsewhere. "Nothing ... can compare with" their abstract utopianism.
There is more to this antagonistic structure of argument than the simple antinomies of partisan politics. As Karl Mannheim argued, what distinguishes conservatism from traditionalism—the universal "vegetative" tendency to remain attached to things as they are—is that conservatism is a deliberate, conscious effort to preserve or recall "those forms of experience which can no longer be had in an authentic way." Conservatism "becomes conscious and reflective when other ways of life and thought appear on the scene, against which it is compelled to take up arms in the ideological struggle."
Where the traditionalist takes the objects of his desire for granted, the conservative cannot. He seeks to enjoy them precisely as they are being—or have been—taken away. If he hopes to enjoy them again, he must fight for them in the public realm. He must speak of them in a language that is politically serviceable and intelligible. But as soon as those objects enter the medium of political speech, they cease to be items of lived experience and become incidents of an ideology. They get wrapped in a narrative of loss—in which the revolutionary or reformist plays a necessary part—and presented in a program of recovery. What was tacit becomes articulate, what was practice becomes polemic.
In defending hierarchical orders, the conservative invariably launches a counterrevolution, often requiring an overhaul of the very regime he is defending. "If we want things to stay as they are," in Lampedusa's classic formulation, "things will have to change." This program entails far more than clichés about preservation through renovation would suggest: Often it requires the most radical measures on the regime's behalf.
Indeed, some of the stuffiest partisans of order have been more than happy, when it has suited their purposes, to indulge in a bit of mayhem and madness. Kirk, the self-styled Burkean, wished to "espouse conservatism with the vehemence of a radical. The thinking conservative, in truth, must take on some of the outward characteristics of the radical, today: he must poke about the roots of society, in the hope of restoring vigor to an old tree half strangled in the rank undergrowth of modern passions." In God and Man at Yale, William F. Buckley declared conservatives "the new radicals."
There's a fairly simple reason for the embrace of radicalism on the right, and it has to do with the reactionary imperative that lies at the core of conservative doctrine. The conservative not only opposes the left; he also believes that the left has been in the driver's seat since, depending on who's counting, the French Revolution or the Reformation. If he is to preserve what he values, the conservative must declare war against the culture as it is. Though the spirit of militant opposition pervades the entirety of conservative discourse, Dinesh D'Souza has put the case most clearly:
Typically, the conservative attempts to conserve, to hold on to the values of the existing society. But ... what if the existing society is inherently hostile to conservative beliefs? It is foolish for a conservative to attempt to conserve that culture. Rather, he must seek to undermine it, to thwart it, to destroy it at the root level. This means that the conservative must ... be philosophically conservative but temperamentally radical.
By now it should be clear that it is not the style or pace of change that the conservative opposes. Burkean theorists like to draw a distinction between evolutionary reform and radical change. The first is slow, incremental, and adaptive; the second is fast, comprehensive, and by design. But that distinction, so dear to Burke and his followers, is often less clear in practice than the theorist allows. In the name of slow, organic, adaptive change, self-declared conservatives opposed the New Deal (Robert Nisbet, Kirk, and Whittaker Chambers) and endorsed the New Deal (Peter Viereck, Clinton Rossiter, and Whittaker Chambers). "Even Fabian Socialists," Nash tartly observes, "who believed in 'the inevitability of gradualness' might be labeled conservatives."
More often the blurriness of the distinction has allowed the conservative to oppose reform on the grounds that it either will lead to revolution or is revolution. Any demand from or on behalf of the lower orders, no matter how tepid or tardy, is too much, too soon, too fast. Reform is revolution, improvement is insurrection. "It may be good or bad," a gloomy Lord Carnarvon wrote of the Second Reform Act of 1867—a bill 20 years in the making that tripled the size of the British electorate—"but it is a revolution."
Today's conservative may have made his peace with some emancipations past. Others, like labor unions and reproductive freedom, he still contests. But that does not alter the fact that when those emancipations first arose as issues, his predecessor was in all likelihood against them. Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, is one of today's few conservatives who acknowledge the history of conservative opposition to emancipation. Where other conservatives like to lay claim to the abolitionist or civil-rights mantle, Gerson admits that "honesty requires the recognition that many conservatives, in other times, have been hostile to religiously motivated reform," and that "the conservative habit of mind once opposed most of these changes." Indeed, as Samuel Huntington suggested a half-century ago, saying no to such movements in real time may be what makes someone a conservative throughout time.
Given the reactionary thruST of conservatism, Occupy Wall Street may turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to the right. Thoughtful conservatives have long understood the symbiotic relationship between the right's intellectual—and ultimately political—vitality and insurgencies from the left. Friedrich Hayek accurately observed that the political theory of capitalism "became stationary when it was most influential" and "progressed" only when it was "on the defensive." Frank Meyer, intellectual architect of the fusion strategy that brought together the libertarian and traditionalist wings of the Republican Party, noted that it was "ironic, though not historically unprecedented," that bursts "of creative energy" on the right "should occur simultaneously with a continuing spread of the influence of liberalism in the practical political sphere."
Conversely, conservative writers like David Frum and Andrew Sullivan have worried of late about the intellectual flabbiness of the contemporary right: A movement that once seemed the emblem of heterodoxy has succumbed to stale thinking and rote incantations. But if Occupy Wall Street turns out to be a movement rather than a moment—if it has real staying power; if it moves from public squares to private institutions; if it starts to divest the elite of their privileges and powers, not just in their offshore accounts but in their backyards and board rooms—it could provide the kind of creative provocation that once produced a Burke or a Hayek. The metaphor of occupation is threatening enough; one can only imagine what might happen were it made real. And while the mavens of the right would probably prefer four more years to four good books, they might want to rethink that. They wouldn't be in the position they're in—when, even out of power, they still govern the country—had their predecessors made the same choice.

Click here to buy a copy of Corey Robin's "The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin." 

Corey Robin is an associate professor of political science at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York and CUNY's Graduate Center. He blogs at coreyrobin.com. This essay is adapted from his book The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism From Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin, published by Oxford University Press.
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