Truth-making and the Lie-making Machine

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Special Counsel Robert Mueller

Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s appearance before Congress brings a sliver of hope that truth will prevail. Living in a surreal era where absurdity is the rule rather than the exception led me back to words from an earlier time and another country, the description offered by French novelist and absurdist philosopher Albert Camus (1913-1960).

Never before has the individual stood so alone before the lie-making machine. We used to wonder where war lived, what it was that made it so vile. And now we realize that we know where it lives, that is inside ourselves.

Albert Camus, Notebooks

If you see a turtle on top of a fencepost, you can be sure it didn’t get there by itself.

Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, July 24, 2019

Call it regressive, call it progressive…

….or call it conservative. Call today’s message what you will….:

citizens-united“President Obama is ‘strongly considering’ signing an executive order against secret money in elections – and could announce this action as early as this week!

“This executive order is the single biggest thing the President can do on his own to fight back against Citizens United. With the stroke of a pen, he could require companies that have contracts with the federal government — which include a huge number, if not most, of America’s largest corporations — to disclose their political spending.” -People for the American Way (PFAW).

Taking elections back from big money – PACs that allow dark money to hide in secret contributions that sway voters with costly television, internet and print media campaigns – is a conservative or even a regressive (as in, returning to a former state) agenda that restores the electoral process to the people  themselves. It’s a progressive idea that restores and conserves the integrity of the Constitution.

I signed on the PFAW petition to President Obama. Constitutionally speaking, I may be right or I may be wrong to support the proposed executive order. But it seems like a no-brainer for anyone who cherishes the idea of a real democratic republic of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Thanks for coming by for two cents worth one.

-Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, Feb. 8, 2016

 

The Politics of Vision

Voter turnout in the November election was the lowest since 1942. Many folks have given up on the political establishment. The know that Citizens United baptized the privilege and power of the billionaire class.

Very few candidates stood up against the pejorative, demagogic ad campaigns that painted progressive candidates with a red brush. Most campaign ads focused on what the candidate opposed. Very few put forward what they stood for, as well as against.

But what if…. What if a candidate answered the question “What do you stand for?” very clearly? Something like this:

YES to raising the minimum wage.

YES to a massive jobs program rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure.

YES to transforming our energy system away from fossil fuels.

YES to pay equity for women workers. YES to overturning Citizens United.

NO to cuts in Social Security.

NO to cuts in Medicaid.

NO to converting Medicare into a voucher program.

NO to new trade legislation that sends our jobs overseas and hammers our middle-class workers.

NO to cuts to nutrition programs, education, or environmental protection.”

Someone did say this. Senator Bernie Sanders, (I), Vermont. How does America’s only socialist Senator from the small state of Vermont manage to get elected? How does it happen that conservative Vermont farmers and small business owners support him?

His “Yes” means “YES” and his “No” means “NO”. He is honest. He has a message. He doesn’t fudge the way Mitch McConnell’s Democratic opponent did in Kentucky when she re-made herself to sound tougher than Sen. McConnell on immigration enforcement.

Clarity of message is everything. So is honesty. Boldness. “Where there is no vision the people perish” [Proverbs 29:18]. Where there is (a good) vision, the people follow and thrive.

Traditional American values were not up for debate in 2014. Disgust was the issue. Anger was the issue. Distrust was the issue. Cynicism took over. Between now and 2016 we can expect more of the same. But there is also a national debate brewing about the vision.

“Write the vision and make it plain, so he may run who reads it.” [Habakkuk 2:2]

Thanks you, Bernie Sanders, for writing yours so clearly. I look forward to hearing others’ plain Yeses and No’s, such that might inspire us to run to the polls next time.

 

Glaring Omissions and “Something Else”

The Washington Post-ABC News Poll published September 9, 2014 is as interesting for what it ignores as for what it reveals.

Question #13 asks registered voters which of the following will be “the single most important issue in your vote for Congress” – the economy and jobs, international conflicts, health care, the way things are working in Washington, immigration or something else? Eleven percent said “Something Else”.

The omissions of climate change, wealth disparity, and Citizens United (campaign finance reform) are curious and glaring. The poll assumes what the public cares about. By ignoring these matters that reach beyond partisan divides the poll demonstrates one of two things, Either the Washington Post-ABC New Poll is out of touch with those who live on Main Street or their bread is buttered by the Wall Street and the one percent.

Polling and news institutions not only measure public opinion; they shape public discussion by the choices they make about which questions to ask.

The American public is often smarter than given credit for. But its intelligence and its opinions on public policy issues are informed and shaped by the information we receive from the “Fourth Estate” which – in theory, if not always in practice – is independent from the three government branches of the U.S. Constitution. The “free press” is the people’s watchdog, monitoring the actions and decisions of the three constitutional estates and their complex bureaucracies and institutions. We look to the free press to do for its readers what the individual cannot do: investigate the way things are – who’s making the deals and why, who’s stacking the deck, and who’s dealing from the bottom of the deck.

As the ownership of newspapers, radio stations and television cable and satellite dish companies has shrunk to the size of the one percent who live on Wall Street, the press, like the the three constitutional estates, is not so free. While Republicans and Democrats argue about whether climate change is real and while congress fails to act, it falls to the Fourth Estate to exercise whatever freedom it may still have to raise the flag of the single most important issue facing not only the planet itself. The same is true with the moral issue of the wealth disparity and the Supreme Court’s decision that turns the American electoral system over to the highest bidder

The detail of those who answered “Something Else” shows t 14 percent of “white non-evangelical protestants” in response to Question 13. Among this subset – the “traditional” protestant churches (Episcopalian, Presbyterian, United Methodist, Congregationalist United Church of Christ, Unitarian-Universalist) – much attention has been paid from pulpits and from church position statements to the alarming growth in wealth disparity and the environmental degradation that has led us to the brink of “climate departure” when there will be no way back.

Nothing on the list of “single most important” issues is as long-lasting as climate change. It is the darkening global cloud under which all other issues exist. Framing the public discussion as a choice between the economy and jobs, international conflicts, health care, the way things are working in Washington, or immigration continues the myopic gridlock that keeps our eyes too low to the ground. It makes little difference whether one proclaims or denies that the changes in weather patterns are evidence of global climate change that call for action now to reduce carbon and methane emissions. We all know that something is happening here on the North American continent and around the “pale blue dot” (Carl Sagan) that is changing the planet as we have known it.

Enter Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders (I) who answered “something else!” on “Meet the Press.” Congratulations to Meet the Press host Chuck Todd for widening the discussion.

American Democracy – Trevor Potter, Bill Moyers, and Stephen Colbert

Exercise Your Franchise

….

Voting  is our duty,

One person-one vote.

Together we matter,

Each voter take note!

– Steve Shoemaker, acrostic verse written in early morning hours, Sept. 25, 2012.

It’s all about citizenship. Trevor Potter said it last week on Bill Moyers & Company (PBS). He had said it earlier in interviews with Stephen Colbert on The Colbert Report.

Go back and click his name to see Mr. Potter’s full professional biography on the Bill Moyers and Company website. Here’s the beginning of his bio and why the Moyers interview with Mr. Potter is important to us.

A former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, Trevor Potter has been fighting for campaign finance reform through the Campaign Legal Center, a non-profit organization he founded to track and pursue legal cases related to campaign finance, political communication and government ethics at the federal, state and local level.

Mr. Potter is a Republican who believes that the Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision threatens democracy itself. In the interview with Bill Moyers, he states as clearly that a democratic republic’s integrity depends on the nation’s voters seeing themselves as citizens. For Potter, citizenship – which means putting the larger good above one’s own narrow self-interest – is seriously at risk. Campaign financial reform is not the whole answer, but it is essential to democracy itself.

Click on Bill Moyers & Company to watch the conversation in part or in whole.

The Copper Collar

Its my 70th birthday. I get to say whatever I want…flat out. I’m too old a dog to worry. 🙂

America is on the leash…in the collar of Big Money.

Free speech is a basic right in America. But some of us are freer than others. Because the Supreme Court has ruled that money is speech. Some of us have lots of it. Most of us have a buck or two to support candidates for public office.

Montanans once referred to “the copper collar” worn by elected officials (federal, state and local), policy-makers, newspaper publishers and editors, journalists, business people, asnd relgious leaders. The copper collar kept them on the leash of the state’s largest employer and wealthiest campaign contributor, Anaconda Copper Mining Company. Montana was one big company town.

Photo of book “Forging the Copper Collar”

Step in a direction Anaconda didn’t like, and you’d feel a quick tug on the leash – a phone call, a note,  a pink slip, or worse. Want to run for office? Here’s the money. Money for things the average Montanan cannot buy, money for the “free” speech few can afford. Money for professional pollsters to learn voter attitudes and what scares them. Money for advertizing agencies that turn the polling data into ads that flood the airwaves, the internet, roadside billboards, and the print media.Money puts candidates and political parties in the collar. On the leash. Candidates who start to sniff to the side of the path on their morning walks feel a yank on the collar, a reminder that the dog isn’t walking on its own. It’s walking on a leash.  The “free” speech of candidates who stray or bite the hand that feeds them soon disappear. It was paid for by the owner.

The American colonies revolted against the ideas of a king and colonial rule. The political idea of royalty appalls us. We think of ourselves as the home of the brave and the land of the free. But aversion to kings and queens doesn’t mean we can’t be fooled into hoping that any one of us can climb to the top. We gripe about the wealth yet we aspire to it, and we think in personal terms we can understand more easily than the complicated matters of economics and arrangements between private and public institutions. The royalty and colonial privilege we love to hate find a way to disguise themselves as just another citizen with freedom of speech.

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling that corporations are “persons” with the same rights as a voter with “free speech” campaign contributions has put the collar on every candidate for public office. When candidates wear a collar, freedom of speech is a fiction, and the country we love becomes one big corporate town, the colonial town of the new kings and queens.

America is fast becoming a corporate town. We can bark. We can whine. We can vote. But the speech that matters isn’t free. It’s paid for. Democracy and freedom are on the leash…wearing the copper collar.

For a closer work at how it works, click “Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult,” an insider’s look at what’s happening to America. Or click  “Confronting Ethical Emptiness of Wall Street” for a powerful piece, including the picture below of the raging bull.

The Wall Street Bull – symbol of ethical emptiness on Wall Street

Every day four or five emails arrive asking for a campaign contribution to fight Big Money. Just a $3 or $5 contribution will make a hug difference, say the appeals. But I know that once I give $3, the next one will be for $50 and then $100, and then…. Makes me feel real small…facing the bull.

But…if I don’t give….

The next time I watch a campaign ad, I’m going to read the small print to see who’s holding the leash to the collar.

You’ll make an old dog happy on his birthday by leaving a comment to promote some discussion.

“…That side was made for you and me”

This morning my friend Steve asked if I remembered the last line of Woody Guthrie’s folk song “This Land Is Your Land”? Here’s the last stanza. Scroll down to hear it.

There was a great high wall there

That tried to stop me;

A great big sign there

Said private property;

But on the other side

It didn’t say nothin’.

That side was made for you and me!

Behind the high wall of the U.S. Supreme Court’s “Citizens United” decision, join Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen singing Woody Guthrie’s song on the way to “the other side.” And remember to celebrate hope Organize. Organize. And keep on singing.

“Love your neighbor” NOT unconstitutional

Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia sent this email regarding the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act.

The Supremes have decided:

“Love your neighbor as your self”

is NOT unconstitutional. 

Mazeltov to them and to all of us that, when push came to shove, the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court mostly reaffirmed the notion that fellow-human beings and fellow-citizens owe loving-kindness to each other.

That we owe each other food when we are hungry, a place to live when some bank takes our home away,  money to tide us over when some boss or some bank  takes away our job.  And health care when we are sick.

That notion is rooted, thanks be to God, in our ancient religious traditions.  But over and over, it’s up for grabs.

And I do mean “grabs” –-  grabs of the merely wealthy to be super-wealthy, grabs of the super-wealthy to invest hundreds of millions in campaign ads and lobbying,  to grab still more power…

Even this decision treated some neighbors as not quite worthy of the same respect and loving care as others. This one gave the states a way out of their Medicaid obligations  — to the very very poor. No surprise. If somebody’s gonna be left out, who else?

It’s also true that this Supreme Court has done some terrible damage — that ironically misnamed decision “Citizens United,” worst of all.  And yet I’m tickled that this time Chief Justice Roberts did what his appointer, President “W,”  would not have wanted. The history of Justices whose lives turn out to have a tiny taste of freedom tucked away —  it’s delicious.

So there is still more work to do.  In the New Declaration of Independence from Corporate Domination we sent yesterday in honor of July 4, we mention Medicare for All.  That’s still the fully decent answer.

But for now, take a deep breath, grab your sweethearts and dance a dance of joy.

In the Passover Seder, there is a really strange song. It says, “If we had reached the Red Sea but it had not split, Dayenu! – good enough! If we had reached Sinai but there had been no Revelation, Dayenu! – good enough!”

At one level, this makes no sense. At another, it makes EVERY sense. If we want to transform the world, then we must celebrate each step on the journey, even if it’s only half a step. We know there must be another step; the song has many verses. But if we refuse to celebrate, we will burn out before we can take another step.

Today, right now, rejoice. Tonight, tomorrow, on the FOURTH itself, begin to plan the steps we still must take.

Enjoy the fireworks. They are celebrating one small step of Independence from the Corporate King George.

And — fly the Flag of Freedom. It’s right here.

Blessings of justice and joy —  Arthur