Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Bonus That Keeps On Giving!

It was a historian, speaking from China, practically on the other side of the world, that taught me a thing or two about my own country, and some of its unspoken, and untaught history.

Interviewed by an American, this Chinese historian was responding to a question that the interviewer had posed.

The American asked about the supposed Tiananmen Square Massacre, presumably to prove that there were certain subjects that Chinese citizens were forbidden to discuss (Although it's likely that the violence associated with the movement occurred outside of the Square in the city of Beijing.).

To recap that bit of Chinese history, let me cut and paste a portion of a Wikipedia article:

The movement [for the continuation of "economic reform and liberalization"] lasted seven weeks after Hu's death on 15 April. Premier Li Peng, a hardline conservative, declared martial law on 20 May, but no military action took place until 4 June, when the tanks and troops of the People's Liberation Army moved into the streets of Beijing, using live fire while proceeding to Tiananmen Square to clear the area of protesters. The exact number of civilian deaths is not known, and the majority of estimates range from several hundred to thousands.[10] There was widespread international condemnation of the government's use of force against the protesters.

The Chinese historian responded to the American's question without equivocation, saying essentially that he wasn't afraid to discuss this black chapter in Chinese history (1989), but that America had a similar dark chapter of its own, of which only a few Americans are aware.

It was called the Bonus Army Movement.

The what? I remember thinking. What a strange name for a movement. And who were the people in this "Bonus Army"? And how in the Hell did we, in this country, have a response from our government that was similar to what occurred in China, even if it was on a lesser scale? From that moment, I knew that I wouldn't rest until I had the whole of the story. Here's what I learned.

Before I go further, let me tell you what the Bonus Army Movement was a precursor for: The integration of whites and blacks in the military; The taking of organized, mass grievances to the very footsteps of our nation's government, Washington D.C., the Capitol and the White House; and the G.I. Bill.

There's a series of You Tube videos that I would like for you to watch. They give actual film footage of our own Tiananmen Square. If you haven't seen them, you'll want to see all three of them. The history that the three videos represent, should be taught in every school, to every student, rather than the sanitized version that we were all subjected to.

After the horrors of the Holocaust, the Jewish Defence League's (JDL) Motto became, "Never Again."

We can't say "Never Again," if we don't know what has gone before. Without that knowledge, we don't know what to be cognizant of, and how far governments are willing to go to suppress the actions of its citizenry.

To set up what you're about to see, here's a little historical background:

Six years after the end of World War I Congress enacted a bill that would reward veterans of the conflict a cash bonus for their service. However, the legislation stipulated that the veterans would not collect their bonus until 1945.

This delayed gratification was acceptable to the World War I veterans during the prosperous '20s but the onslaught of the Great Depression changed their attitude. Out of work, destitute, and with families to feed, the veterans organized a march on Washington in May of 1932 to force Congress to immediately pay their bonus. An estimated 15,000 made their way to the nation's capital and dubbed themselves the "Bonus Expeditionary Force."

Using scrap wood, iron and any other loose materials they could find, the veterans set up ramshackle camps throughout the city. The largest housed an estimated 10,000 people. They waited in vain for Congress to act. On June 17 the Senate voted against the House-passed bill that would have given the Bonus Marchers immediate payment of their benefit.

Having no other place to go, the majority of the Bonus Army remained encamped in the city, despite the fact that Congress had adjourned for the summer. Finally, President Hoover ordered the Army to forcibly remove the veterans. On July 28 a force of tanks and cavalry under the command of General Douglas MacArthur stormed the camps and drove the veterans out. Their makeshift houses were then set ablaze.
More here.

Many economist believe that we might suffer a double-dip recession. If we can't dig ourselves out of the economic hole that Bush dug, we may very well find ourselves falling deeper into the hole, but one without a bottom--a depression. Were that to happen, this nation's government may resort to the unthinkable, if people take their grievance, as did the Bonus Army, within the shadows of our nation's institutions, our Capitol, and White House.

In the interest of revealing "actionable intelligence" to guide future behavior and actions, if the people of this nation are faced once again with similar actions from our government, let me offer the following three, timely videos for your illumination:

Thursday, August 11, 2011

"Win One For the Gipper."

In a nail-biting finish that saw Democrats fail to recapture the state senate in Wisconsin, winning only two of the six Republican seats that were up for recall, I'm reminded more of a basketball game, a baseball game, or even a football game between bitter rivals, than an actual political contest.

Democrats failed late Tuesday in their effort to gain control of the Wisconsin state senate as Republican incumbents won four of six recall elections.

The outcome was a big setback for Democrats, organized labor, and progressive groups who'd sought retribution against six GOP allies of Gov. Scott Walker, who earlier this year enacted a labor law overhaul that ended collective bargaining rights for many public sector workers.

The recall elections attracted millions of dollars of investment from both liberals and conservatives across the nation.

Most at risk as voting started Tuesday appeared to be three Republicans, Alberta Darling, Randy Hopper and Dan Kapanke, all of whom had barely won their races in 2008.

Kapanke and Hopper lost, but Darling won with 54 percent with most of the precincts counted, partly due to her outperforming her 2008 majority in heavily Republican Waukesha County.

In 2008, Darling had won her district by a mere 1,007 out of more than 99,000 votes cast. Her district went narrowly for Barack Obama in 2008.

Three other Republican lawmakers also survived the Democratic recall effort: Sen. Robert Cowles, Sen. Sheila Harsdorf and Sen. Luther Olsen.

With the split in Wisconsin’s Senate at 19 Republicans and 14 Democrats as the day began, a turnover of three would have changed party control.

Ronald Reagan, himself no friend of unions,[0] immortalized the saying, "Win one for the Gipper," a line he delivered in the movie, Knute Rockney, All American. [1]

Rather than take inventory of the direction in which coach Walker was taking the state at the behest of the front office (the Koch Brothers), it appears that Republicans, by the legion, turned out to support the Home Team, incumbent Republican candidates. Clearly, not all Republicans resorted to boosterism, but a sufficient number did to assure that the Wisconsin State senate would continue to fly the colors of the Home Team--Red instead of Blue.

In one hotly contested district, some believe that the win for the Republican incumbent was staged. That district's results, which should have been one of the first, was the last. To raise suspicions further, and a few eyebrows, the delay in tallying votes in that district came from one Kathy Nickolaus.

Kathy Nickolaus, the county clerk in question, has a "history of secretive and erratic handling" of results, says John Nichols at The Nation. She was responsible for skewed results in a 2006 Assembly race, and tallies votes on her home computer. What's more, she "apparently knew of this 'mistake' for 29 hours before reporting it." Who needs a conspiracy theory? "The facts raise the questions."[2]

Both Teams, Right and Left, will, from their trunk of expediency, unpack their smiley faces, and attach them to the Wisconsin results. For all the hurrahs of victory, the real losers, as usual, are the American people--those mired deeply in a morass of ideological quicksand, more vested in winning, regardless of the personal cost, and those with no ideological ax to grind, and with no demons to destroy, whose only goal is to pursue what's best for the American people, despite the canons of party politics.

Republicans--in Wisconsin and elsewhere--don't seem to understand: They're working against their self-interest, even as they struggle to reconcile the self-inflicted blows to their self-interest with a conservative philosophy that asks for nothing less than total commitment, even if that commitment kills them, and the nation in which they live.

The Wisconsin elections were seen as an early indicator (weather vane) of the direction political winds favored in the upcoming 2012 national elections. In that case, I say the Democratic Party will need its own "Gipper" to inspire and galvanize its base.

Despite the drive, to begin in November of this year, to collect more than half a million signatures of Wisconsin registered voters to recall Scott Walker, it will be pretty near impossible for Democrats to unseat Walker in a recall election, given the almost unanimous support for Republicans, and Republican ideological solutions (which have failed time and again), rather than what works, evidenced by the recent elections there, in a state known for it historical support of union ideals and collective bargaining.

Nevertheless, I'll do my part, and hope for the best, because I believe that the Scott Walkers of this nation (and we have several in our state and federal governments), would do whatever is in their power to crush the democratic process, and govern more from fiat, and threats, than consensus.

Primed to believe that the economy's descent into an economic Hades was caused by satanic union demands, onerous, and evil government regulations, and diabolically liberal, but misguided legislation to extend unemployment insurance for indolent, work-evasive, unemployed workers, Republicans, themselves, have crossed over to the "dark side" along with those they believe are possessed by the demons of liberalism.

This country is sliding into an economic Hell of its own making. Our wounds have been self-inflicted (consider the eleventh-hour raising of the debt ceiling to avoid defaulting, the resulting S&P AA+ downgraded rating, and the Dow's reaction to it, as well as to world-wide economic upheavals that we had a hand in creating). These wounds were inflicted so that one team (the Republican party) would be crowned the winner in a game where everyone loses, if the Home Team wins.

The nation's demon isn't liberalism, but a Republican ideology which is fiercely
fought for and defended by Right-leaning Fans, and the Home Team, one which has enshrined a dogma of small government, free trade, and laissez faire economics, although it's clear that these failed principles serve the special interests of major corporations more than people, some of which have shown by their actions, that they don't give a damn about anything but their profit margins, and the size of their executive bonuses.

When the chips were down, and their back was against the wall, and the momentum was felt to be on the side of their opponents, Wisconsin Republicans were told to go out and "Win one for the Gipper!"

Which they did. The score was 4 out of 6.

And the outcome: Those Fans who cheered and boosted the Home Team, actually lost the game. They lost by winning.




Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A "Special Comment" that'll K.O. You!

Keith Olbermann, now on Current, in one of his signature special comments, gives his impassioned analysis of the debt-ceiling deal recently struck by President Obama and Speaker Boehner.

The outcome of this deal was never in doubt: The president would capitulate, Boehner would get 98% of his demands (according to his assessment), and the Tea Party faction within the Republican party--actually operating as a third party aligned with the Republican party--get to keep all their marbles with which to play another day (as the deal didn't include any revenue increases, a "balanced approach" upon which the president insisted).

I'm convinced that had Speaker Boehner been able to move the Tea Party Caucus in the House, the president would have negotiated the "really big deal" with which he teased the Tea Party, and upon which they refused to bite. The deal presumably would have increased the age recipients could first begin to draw down their Social Security, and would have shaved a bit off the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) rate, in return for new revenues.

The Super Congress (a twelve member panel) that emerged from this deal, which the law gives the authority to recommend cuts, with triggers that could force cuts to the defense budget, and social programs, if other cuts aren't agreed to before the triggers take effect, is congress once again abdicating its duty to do the hard work of governance. No where in our constitution is there a provision for such a Super Congress, but that didn't stop one from being formed.

With cuts to the budget's non-defense, discretionary fund, it's very unlikely that congress will have the funds or the will to enact another stimulus program that went to states for shovel-ready infrastructure projects, shoring up bridges, repairing roads, and levees--to name a few.

Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network (NAN) are, once again, organizing a March on Washington on Aug. 27th, with Co-host of the March Tom Joyner. The focus of the March will be on jobs, and the need for congress, now that the debt-ceiling isn't using up all the oxygen in our nation, to turn its collective attention to this pressing national emergency. Learn more here.

However, no jobs will be forthcoming from this congress. I've said this repeatedly. Reducing unemployment works for the president and against the Republicans who're staking out the White House in 2012. An improved economy and job outlook will assuredly give President Obama a clear path to reelection. To thwart this outcome, and to keep their promise to "take back the country," and to make President Obama a one-term president, Republicans have taken to doing some rather shady things (i.e. Koch brothers' financed absentee voter applications with erroneous return dates.).

Across the nation, Republicans are gearing up for the 2012 election with a vengeance, with strict voter I.D. requirements in place. Republican-controlled state houses are doing whatever else they can legally to suppress voter turnout, as a large turnout generally favors Democrats and incumbents.

Keith Olbermann's Special Comment can be watched by clicking on this link or, if you choose, you can read the full transcript below. Of course, you can do both, listen while you read. Regardless of how you tackle it, please take the time to absorb and measure his words. It's rare that we hear pundits from the Left speak with such candor, and with such insight.

I close, as promised, with a Special Comment on the debt deal.

Our government has now given up the concept of right and wrong.

We have, in this deal, declared that we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all political incumbents are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Re-nomination, re-election, and the pursuit of hypocrisy.

We have, in this deal, gone from the Four Freedoms to the Four Great Hypocrisies.

We have superceded Congress to facilitate 750 billion dollars in domestic cuts including Medicare in order to end an artificially-induced political hostage crisis over debt, originating from the bills run up by a Republican president who funneled billions of taxpayer dollars to the military-industrial complex by unfunded, unnecessary, and unproductive wars, enabled in doing so by the very same Republican leaders who now cry for balanced budgets - and we have called it compromise. And those who defend it have called it a credit to a pragmatic president who wins some sort of political "points" because, having stood for almost nothing here, he gave away almost nothing for which he stood.

It would be comical if it were not tragic.

Either way, it is a signal moment in our history, in which both parties have agreed and codified that the political structure of this nation shall now based entirely on hypocrisy and political self-perpetuation.

Let us start with the first of the Great Hypocrisies: The Committee. The Republican dogs can run back to their corporate masters and say they have forced one-and-one-half trillion dollars in cuts and palmed off the responsibility for them on this nonsensical "Super Congress" committee.

For two-and-a-half brutal years we have listened to these Tea Party mountebanks screech about the Constitution of the United States as if it were the revealed word and not the product of other - albeit far better - politicians. They demand the repeal of Amendments they don't like, and the strict interpretation of the ones they do, and the specific citation of authorization within the Constitution for every proposed act or expenditure or legislation.

Except this one.

Where does it say in the Constitution that the two houses of Congress can, in effect, create a third house to do its dirty work for it; to sacrifice a few Congressmen and Senators so the vast majority of incumbents can tell the voters they had nothing to do with this?

This leads to the second of the Great Hypocrisies: how, in the same breath, the Republicans can create an extra-Constitutional "Super Congress" and yet also demand a Constitutional Amendment to force the economic stupidity that would be a mandated balanced budget. Firstly: pick a side! Ignore the Constitution or adhere to it.

Firstly, pick a side, ignore the constitution or adhere to it. And of what value would this Mandated Balanced Budget be? Our own history proves that at a time of economic crisis, if the businesses aren't spending, and the consumers aren't spending, the government must. Our ancestors were the lab rats in the horrible experiments of the Hoover Administration that brought on the Great Depression, in which the government curled up into a ball while it simultaneously insisted the economy should heal itself, when, in times of crisis - then and now - the economy turns out to be comprised entirely of a bunch of rich people who will sit on their money no matter if the country starves.

Forgotten in the Republican Voodoo dance, dressed in the skins of the mythical Balanced Budget, triumphant over the severed head of short-term retrenchment that they can hold up to their moronic followers, are the long-term implications of the mandated Balanced Budget.

What happens if there's ever another… war?

Or another… terrorist attack?

Or another… naturaldisaster?

Or any other emergency that requires A government to spend a dollar morethan it has? A Constitutional Amendment denying us the right to run a deficit, is madness, and it will be tested by catastrophe sooner than any of its authors with their under-developed imaginations that can count only contributions and votes, can contemplate.

And the third of the Great Hypocrisies is hidden inside the shell game that is the Super Congress. TheSuper Congress is supposed to cut evenly from domestic and defense spending, but if it cannot agree on those cuts, or Congress will not endorse them, there will be a "trigger" that automatically cuts a trillion-two or more - but those cuts will not necessarily come evenly from the Pentagon. We are presented with an agreement that seems to guarantee the gutting of every local sacred cow from the Defense Department. Except if the Congressmen and Senators to whom the cows are sacred, disagree, and overrule, or sabotage the Super Congress, or, except if for some reason a 12-member Committee split evenly along party lines can't manage to avoid finishing every damned vote 6-to-6.

We're cutting Defense. Unless we're not.

The fourth of the Great Hypocrisies is the evident agreement to not add any revenues to the process of cutting. Not only is the impetus to make human budget sacrifices out of thepoor and dependent formalized… but the rich and the corporations are thus indemnified, again, and given more money not merely to spend on themselves and their own luxuries, but more vitally, they are given more money to spend on buying politicians, and legislatures, and courts, buying entire states, all of which can be directed like so many weapons, in the service of one cause and one cause alone: making bystatute and ruling, the further protection of the wealthy at the expense ofeverybody else, untouchable, inviolable - permanent.

The White House today boasted of loopholes to be closed and tax breaks to be rescinded -- later.
By a committee.

A committee that has yet to be formed.

There are no new taxes. Except the stealth ones, enacted on 99 out of 100 Americans by this evil transaction. Every dollar cut from the Safety Net is another dollar added to the citizen's cost for education, for security, for health, for life itself. It is another dollar he can't spend on making a better life for himself, or atleast his children. It is another dollar he must spend instead on simply keeping himself alive.

Where is the outrage over these Great Hypocrisies? Do you expect it to come from a corrupt and corrupted media, for whom access is of greater importance than criticizing the failure of a political party or defending those who don't buy newspapers or can't leapwebsite paywalls or could not afford cable tv?

Do you expect it to comefrom a cynical and manipulative political structure? Do you expect it from those elected officials who no longer know anything of government or governance, but only perceive how to get elected, or how to pose in front of a camera and pretend to be leaders? Do you expect it from politicians themselves, who will merely calculate whether or not it's right based on whether or not it will get them more contributions?

Do you expect it will come from the great middle ground of this country, with a population obsessed with entertainment, video games, socialmedia, sports, and trivia?

Where is the outrage to come from?

From you!

It will do no good to wait for the politicians to suddenly atone for their sins. They are too busy trying to keep their jobs, to do their jobs.

It will do no good to wait for the media to suddenly remember its origins as the 'free press,' the watchdog of democracy envisioned by Jefferson. They are too busy trying to get exclusive DETAILS about exactly how the bankrobbers emptied the public's pockets, to give a damn about telling anybody what they looked like, or which way they went.

It will do no good to wait for the apolitical public to get a clue. They can't hear the clue through all the chatter and scandal and diversion and delusion and illusion.

The betrayal of what this nation is supposed to be about did not begin with this deal and it surely will not end with this deal. There is a tide pushing back the rights of each of us, and it has been artificially induced by union-bashing and the sowing ofhatreds and fears, and now this ever-more-institutionalized economic battering of the average American. It will continue, and it will crush us, because those who created it are organized and unified and hell-bent.

And the only response is to be organized and unified and hell-bent in return. We must find again the energy and the purpose of the 1960's and early 1970's and we must protest this deal and all the God damn deals to come, in the streets. We must arise, non-violently but insistently. General strikes, boycotts, protests, sit-ins, non-cooperation take-overs - but modern versions of that resistance, facilitated and amplified, by a weapon our predecessors did not have: the glory that is instantaneous communication.

It is from an old and almost clich├ęd motion picture that the wisdom comes: First, you've got to get mad.

I cannot say to you, meethere or there at this hour or that one, and we will peacefully break the back of government that now exists merely to get its functionaries re-elected. But I can say that the time is coming when the window for us to restore the control of our government to our selves will close, and we had damn well better act before then.

Because this deal is more than a tipping point in which the government goes from defending the safety net to gutting it. This is wrong, and while our government has now declared that it has given up the concept of right-and-wrong, you and I… have not, and will not, do so.

Good night, and good luck.