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Category Archives: Broken Government

Reading James Through an American Lens

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A Reading of James 2: 14-17 with a 21st Century,

United States Gun Violence Hermeneutic:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t act on it? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is a victim in a mass shooting, or has had a child shot to death at school, and one of you says to them, “Our thoughts and prayers are with you,” and you do nothing to oppose the senseless madness of such horrific violence, allowing more madmen to easily acquire weapons of mass destruction, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it doesn’t lead to action, is dead.

NY Cops Pen, Then Mace Peaceful Female Protesters at Wall St. Sit-In

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At least we’re not at Haymarket Square levels of violence against the citizenry.  Yet.

Dylan Ratigan rages against ‘bought’ Congress on MSNBC | Raw Replay

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MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan angrily ranted Tuesday on MSNBC against economic proposals by both Democrats and Republicans, which he described as “reckless, irresponsible and stupid.”

He said he was tired of Republicans and Democrats, because Republicans “want to burn the place to the ground” and Democrats only care about their reelection, even if it means “screwing” Americans.

“Tens of trillions of dollars are being extracted from the United States of America. Democrats aren’t doing it, Republicans aren’t doing it. An entire integrated system, financial system, trading system taxing system, created by both parties over a period of two decades, is at work on our entire country right now.”

Ratigan said President Barack Obama should not work with Congress. Instead, he should tell Americans that “their Congress is bought” and incapable of making legislation because they fear losing political funding.

Dylan Ratigan rages against ‘bought’ Congress on MSNBC | Raw Replay.

Dear Mr. President,

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Remember this scene?  That was a really cool day wasn’t it?  Today it seems more like a scene from an event that occurred in a parallel universe.   It was an incredible scene; I can’t say that I’ve seen anything like it before.

Presidential Inauguration, January, 2009

We’re not likely to see anything like that again, especially now that you’ve become yet another Democratic presidential incarnation of Republican Lite.  It’s an amazing phenomenon that you’ve become part of, one we’ve witnessed since the late 1980’s, when someone, somewhere, decided that the only way to become a successful, two-term Democratic president was to broker deals with right wing Republicans from an acquiescent position.  Even as these policy deals have pushed the country farther and farther to the right, we receive the spin that such behavior comes from a “Centrist” position.  Bill Clinton was a master at this, and I can see how someone like you would see his two-term success and, desiring such success yourself, decide to hop aboard that train.  There is just one problem, sir.  The train track hasn’t been running down the middle, it’s been curving in a more and more extreme fashion toward the right wing, and toward the most rich and powerful in our society.  The notion of a political/cultural center has been pushed so far to the right, that we’re now beginning to consider folks in the Eisenhower Republican camp as modest liberals.  President Nixon looks like a Democrat when you match his domestic policies alongside those of George W. Bush.

Mr. President, let me get to the point.  That big crowd you looked out upon while you were being inaugurated our President, they didn’t come to see the man who just participated in this Grand Charade your handlers call the Great Compromise.  They, along with the many millions more who worked behind the scenes to get you elected, didn’t celebrate because they thought you would become so impotent in standing up to the extremists on the right.  They certainly didn’t celebrate the continuation of the Bush presidency torture practices, the continued sacrifice of blood and treasure in the unnecessary Iraq war, the capitulation to the hawks and war profiteers in Afghanistan, the continued renditions of people without accountability, or the continued moral bankruptcy of Guantanamo.   That huge crowd came to celebrate the inauguration of someone who promised to be a strong advocate of our very best principles of liberty and justice; they came to see someone they believed would offer the best possible response to the ruinous, devastating politics practiced under the previous administration.  You, Mr. President, here in the summer of 2011, bear little resemblance to that man standing on the inaugural platform.

I’m sure there are smart people, very smart people, who tell you you’re shrewdly navigating the tightrope of governing this roiling and dysfunctional system of ours.  I’ll bet they’re even telling you how well you’re positioning yourself for re-election in 2012.   I can see how tempting it is to buy what they’re selling.  But stop buying it, Mr. President, because in my own experience I know that it just isn’t true.

I know some of the people you’re counting on in the next election, folks who call themselves Independents, many of whom seem to be pleasantly surprised that you’re not the Marxist, Kenyan, Sleeper-Cell Terrorist that they kept hearing about.  You’re thinking you might pull a few from their numbers this time, adding to a prodigious base of people that runs the spectrum from semi-left, to center, to semi-right.

Guess what?  I know some of these people, Mr. President, and you can count on them to vote against you every time.  Oh, they might talk about how their minds aren’t made up until they enter the voting booth, but once they do, they always vote Republican.  Always.  Unless they’re really feeling that the Republican is too much of a tool, then they vote Libertarian.   Reach out to them all you want, sir; you’re wasting your time.

Meanwhile, Mr. President, you’re losing precious energy and support among the true believers in Obama, v.2008.   Those folks expected a bold man who would act in ways that backed up his bold rhetoric.  I met so many of these people during your campaign, and they weren’t just formerly burned-out, re-energized relics from the closet where they keep all the Kennedy-era liberals.  Speaking of Kennedy, how do you think Teddy would apprise your presidency if he were still with us?  Just wondering.

Your campaign brought together this amazing amalgamated groundswell of support.  I met older folks who were once Republicans–Eisenhower Republicans and Reagan Republicans–who just couldn’t take it anymore.  I met young people who were not only first-time voters, they were first-time activists.  There were people from all walks of life who had come together in the awareness that we needed dramatic change and that you seemed to offer the boldness and courage that would pull us back from the precipice of economic and social ruin.  Now I wonder how many of those folks would recognize the man at the microphone in the White House Press room, the one who resigns himself to the notion that the Radical Republicans didn’t get everything they wanted and reasons that this is the  best possible outcome.  Never mind the cost to the people who saw you as their standard bearer, the one who could best stand up for them because you came from them.

I’m not sure what you expected at your inauguration, Mr. President.  Was it some tidal wave like we’ve seen roll through Wisconsin, one that would continue to lift you up and carry you along?  Did you think you could stand above the fray and through sheer force of decency and determination, convince your opposition to give in to you?  Clearly,  it’s not working.   The Mitch McConnell strategy IS working.  They’re winning, and the public perception is that they’re winning.  So guess what that makes you?

I doubt you can do this–it just doesn’t seem to be part of your nature–but now is the time to roll up your sleeves and hop down into the pit to do a little wrestling alongside the liberals and progressives that are doing all they can to prevent the roll back of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, programs that helped boost our overall standard of living the last few decades.  The union-busters are out in full force, clubbing away at teachers, firefighters, and any other group they decide to take down.  You might want to change the perception that you are watching all of this like you would a pay-per-view boxing match.

Speaking of boxing, you ducked and dodged that whole 14th amendment thing with skills I haven’t seen Muhammad Ali, and indeed you had pundits thinking you were engaged in some sort of masterful rope-a-dope strategy.   The bad news appears to be that the Dope is still landing good body shots, and even when the Dope shows signs of fatigue or weakness, you show little interest in getting off the ropes to land a few shots of your own.

Well, Mr. President, you’re a busy man and I’m sure you’ve got more important business requiring your attention, so I’ll cut this short.

Look at that inaugural picture, sir.  Look at it for the miracle it was.  Enjoy it and celebrate it.  It’s likely the last such crowd you and I will ever again see drawn to an inauguration ceremony.  What a time it was.

Oligarchy Deals Out A Massive, Crippling Blow

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Oligarchy

ol·i·gar·chy

Pronunciation: \ˈä-lə-ˌgär-kē, ˈō-\

1 : government by the few

2 : a government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes; also : a group exercising such control   (from Merriam Webster Online)

Not many folks are paying much attention to this latest “crisis”  of the BP rig explosion and month-long oil spillage of millions upon millions of gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.   It’s actually not so much a crisis as it is a cataclysmic event.  But we call it a crisis because,  you know how good we all are at crisis management.  So call it a crisis and most folks will connect the dots to the “crises” in their own lives, like, Missy just got busted for doing meth, so she’s not going to get into that illustrious private college we’d hoped she would attend. Gasp! We may be talking Community College!

Or, Bubba just got a call from the garage –his truck needs a new transmission!  We maxed out the card paying for Bubba Jr.’s summer football camp, so he can go to college on a football scholarship.

But, hey, this is America, where somehow, someway, we manage to get ourselves through all manner of crises.

This is different.   This isn’t going to go away any time soon and the damage this spill will eventually cause has world-wide implications.  Satellite images show a long arm of oil already drifting away from the Gulf and out toward the wider ocean currents.  Get ready, Eastern Seaboard.  Get ready, anybody in the world living on some beach.  It may take a while, but when you’re looking at up to 4 million gallons of oil and gas shooting out daily for over a month–with no end in sight–well, if I were living somewhere near the western beaches of Europe, I’d be getting a bit nervous, since it seems that ever so often a letter in a bottle will wash ashore with some message from someone in the good ol’ U.S. of A.  This ain’t no flotilla of bottles headed your way, ol’ chap in Brighton.  So sound the alarm now and get someone’s butt into gear to prepare for what is likely coming.

Then of course there’s the Gulf, and all the life dependent on the Gulf’s ecosystem; life that is in almost certain peril of being entombed in an oil sludge sarcophagus.   Fish, oysters, shrimp, birds, plants, insects, humans–nothing appears likely to find a habitable place on the Louisiana coast for untold years to come.  And let’s not get too smug, all y’all who live from Galveston on over to Gulfport and even on over to the Atlantic in Key Largo.   Sludge is headed your way.  Folks intent on taking a Miami Beach vacation should go this year, ’cause you really don’t know if next year will be much of an option.

Meanwhile, corporate shills at places like Fox News play down the catastrophe. Politicians are part of this group as well, since they well know from whence comes the butter for their bread, not to mention the mortgage payments on their summer beach homes (oh, the irony).

Even the White House and President react in ways that suggest the spill is no more a concern than say, Cousin Eddy pulling his oil-leaking RV into the Griswolds’ nice, clean driveway.

But it’s not Cousin Eddy that is the problem here.  To continue the movie analogy theme a bit, it’s as if Mr. Potter and his cronies have indeed taken over Bedford Falls, with no George Bailey around to stop them.

Mr. Potter would have agreed whole-heartedly with the BP decision not to replace the critical pressure gasket on the oil rig, the gasket that had failed and the pieces of which were coming up out of the pipe before the explosion.   Mr. Potter would love the notion of buying up all the media outlets he could, so that the message could be shaped to his benefit.  Mr. Potter would buy as many politicians as he could, so that he could turn beautiful Bedford Falls into a more profitable, yet dreary Potterville.  And for the moment, it doesn’t look like there’s anyone with the moral fiber and tenacity of George Bailey around to stop him.

The BP-induced ocean oil gusher catastrophe  shows us once again who is and has been calling the shots for a long, long time.  They have no sense of moral decency, only the dedication to their own obscene profit margin as somehow serving the common good.   They’re actually more dangerous than this guy.  The lyric from Woody Guthrie’s “Ballad of Pretty Boy Floyd” pretty well sums it up:

Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered

I’ve seen lots of funny men

Some will rob you with a six-gun

And some with a fountain pen.

They’ve been robbing most of us for some time.  This time they have dealt the U.S., and perhaps a larger part of the world, a crippling blow.  Yet no one seems to be paying much attention, other than to worry how this disaster might drive up shrimp and oyster prices in the local seafood emporium.

Bob Herbert, writing in the New York Times, captures our scene depressingly well:

The response of the Obama administration and the general public to this latest outrage at the hands of a giant, politically connected corporation has been embarrassingly tepid. We take our whippings in stride in this country. We behave as though there is nothing we can do about it.

This is the bitter reality of the American present, a period in which big business has cemented an unholy alliance with big government against the interests of ordinary Americans, who, of course, are the great majority of Americans. The great majority of Americans no longer matter.

No one knows how much of BP’s runaway oil will contaminate the gulf coast’s marshes and lakes and bayous and canals, destroying wildlife and fauna — and ruining the hopes and dreams of countless human families. What is known is that whatever oil gets in will be next to impossible to get out. It gets into the soil and the water and the plant life and can’t be scraped off the way you might be able to scrape the oil off of a beach.

It permeates and undermines the ecosystem in much the same way that big corporations have permeated and undermined our political system, with similarly devastating results.

It’s going to take a lot of George Baileys to get us out of this international Potterville.  It’s going to require that you and I become George Bailey.  And it’s going to require that Missy’s family and Bubba’s family join your family and my family in moving beyond the myopic Teabagger movement and the equally myopic howl from the nihilistic left, while taking as many Teabaggers and nihilists with us as we possibly can.  Because it’ll take all of us together to clean up the boundless toxicity the oligarchy continues to spill into every aspect of our lives.  Over 200 years ago we were given the tools to do all this cleanup work.  Will we have the will or the fortitude, or will we spend more energy clipping coupons for Red Lobster while bitching that the world is going to hell in a handbasket?

The temptation is to say that time will tell, but I don’t know that we really have all that much time.

Powers and Principalities Still Working to Crush the Poor and the Gospel

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God’s mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things,  and sent the rich away empty.  –Luke 1:50-53

And the rich are not happy about this at all.  In fact, they’re working very hard to make sure that it’s the poor who are sent away empty.  We’ll have to see who’s got more clout in this struggle; I’m siding  with the power whose best spokespersons never had to worry about on-camera makeup to go on cable tv.   I think they’re the ones who continue to speak with a more enduring authority.

Here’s a Brave New Films clip on how the high and mighty are conspiring to –as a starting point–crush ACORN and its public advocacy and empowerment of those in poverty .

When You Swap Sullenberger for Lieberman

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