Saturday, September 17, 2005
America is off course - Time for a change.
Protect the rights of Americans - Elect another kind of animal for President
At the close of the First World War the Elks wrote a check for $1,000.000.00 so that America's Veterans could have a hospital for the first time. That is how it happened. Hardly anyone knows that today.
Beware of government, it takes credit for what it did not do - and it blames us when it fails.
Elections were on all of our minds when I went to Elks that Tuesday, but the questions that became the central focus of our discussion. lead us in unusual directions.
My friend Robert Crouch, a professor of economics who teaches at the University of California at Santa Barbara, asked me what I had been doing with myself over the summer. A long conversation ensued that included the happy announcement that I had finished writing my second book of the year, titled GREED: The NeoConning of America.
No discussion with an economist can begin without some defining of terms so amidst the discussions of football, Lodge politics, and the greetings and meetings of those assembling, we did a little of that.
Robert is not your normal academic. He likes playing poker and has in fact written a book on the subject. He is a former surfer, sidelined by his knees, who spends every summer scrolling through his memories in the first person while touring through the lush and lovely landscape of England, his native soil, in a sedan.
I like Robert. He is always jolly and very complimentary, filled with insights and interesting stories about his past. I would like him even if he were not a dedicated economist of the free market variety. But he is.
I asserted that there were serious problems with issues impinging on the 1st Amendment in that a relatively small cadre of powerful individuals in America today, namely the NeoCons, can make it impossible to publish for some people, in this case me. Robert asserted this was not true. Hence, this opinion piece that will take up three distinct issues melding them together to formulate a short study of why NeoConism worked and how they have impacted our essential institutions.
I begin at the beginning. How do the assumptions of the 2nd Amendment apply to the present understanding of secrecy, privacy and confidentiality, a right ‘discovered’ only in 1890?
That ‘right of privacy’ was derived from a corollary of the 4th Amendment in 1890. This ‘right’ was originally asserted as a protection from libelous coverage of the press in a case occurring in Boston that year. A family was suffering under the publishing of what we are assured were libelous assertions. While we can sympathize with the family in question they had at their disposal the means for protecting themselves, namely the existing laws on slander and libel. If the statements were untrue they could sue. Libel and slander remained specific to falsehoods. What was inadvertently created with this precedent was a right of privacy that was later used to protect falsehoods.
By creating this formulation of ‘privacy’ a tool was created that became a weapon wielded against freedom as envisioned by the Bill of Rights.
The ‘right of privacy,’ as the tool for deception it became, takes its present form when applied during the Twenties to the right of criminals to ‘privacy’ to continue their felonious careers. These related to the imposition of Prohibition on Americans, a limitation on freedom.
Clearly, this is not what the Founders had in mind. But neither could they have imagined the need that drove its application.
Each of the significant cases in which the principle is applied asserts the ‘right of privacy’ as a tool to protect freedom, not from other individuals, but from the government.
Along with ending the production, trade and consumption of alcohol statutes were being used by government to force sterilization of the genetically unfit, to prevent individuals from engaging in homosexual behavior, to keep people from killing themselves, and to limit their right to make reproductive choices for themselves. Instead of challenging the government’s use of statute to limit freedom civil libertarians retreated to this convenient but specious concept of privacy.
The government had ignored their most elemental right, namely freedom. The response of civil libertarians was to create a specious ‘right.’ The correct solution would have been to ensure that government not interfere in the personal or commercial lives of Americans by rescinding statutes.
To tie the issue of freedom to privacy is to use a hammer to file your nails. Why this happened is obvious. At that point in time civil libertarians were faced with the growing specter of the various forms of collectivism that were to blight the forward progress of the twentieth century, powered by the growing unrest caused, ironically, by having ignored the injustices flowing from the government’s original failure to make freedom available to all. The poor, women, blacks and minorities were inferior in constitutionally guaranteed rights.
Women were the muscle of the movement for social justice in the early years of the past century, moved by the failure of the Founders and subsequent generations to recognize their rights to self determination. Their cause was just. The tools they chose were unfortunately collectivist. Those who spoke the verities of individual rights had ignored their plight and the use of statute was adopted as a justifiable means for doing what freedom adherents had failed to do.
Failing to do the right thing has down stream consequences. Now, we should learn the lesson.
Therefore the present understanding of privacy should be rethought as follows. Confidentiality is a contractual relationship, mutually agreed to, such as exists between physician and patient, attorney and client. Within that covenant behavior and unpalatable truths are protected. The asserted ‘right to privacy,’ as a means of avoiding the truth regarding undeserved reputation does not exist. Facts are private when they are not known to others. No ‘right’ to privacy exists through the Bill of Rights. Privacy, as a means of evading the disclosure of unpalatable truths does not exist outside the contractual agreements limiting the actions of consenting parties.
We will now relate this line of argumentation to the 1st and 2nd Amendments.
The 2nd Amendment would appear to be about ‘the right to keep and bear arms.’ But in actual fact it has a broader application, that being the right to self defense, the expression of that being at the time it was written entirely bound up in the possession of weapons which were technologically adequate to the needs of the people to revolt against oppression in the year 1776.
This is incomplete. All tools for the protection of the individual should properly be included within our understanding of the 2nd Amendment. Truth is a tool, a weapon of appropriate defense in the hands of the innocent, and cannot and should not be limited by the use of ‘privacy.’ Further, its use should not be limited by the abuse of power by other individuals, the court system or by government.
We are not used to thinking of truth as a weapon, but it is.
The Founders thought they had taken care of the issue of free speech as a tool for self defense. The example of Zenger, the printer who ran afoul of the Royal Governor of New York in 1735, and so established the concept of the right of jurors to rule on the law as well as the facts, was clearly within the purview of their experience. This is the principle of jury nullification.
Zenger broke the law according to the statutes. He was found innocent because the law was unjust. His right to speak the truth was superior to all statutes. The truth was not to be abridged. Clearly, the Founders understood the potential for statutes to void the rights they protected within the Bill of Rights. Statute is always inferior to rights secured by the Bill of Rights and the natural rights of humankind.
This previous example refutes the creation of a ‘right of privacy’ from the 4th Amendment.
The truth was seen by the Founders as a weapon of social correction and self defense.
The NeoCon Cabal today continues the bad precedent created by civil libertarians who feared government, using the tool of ‘privacy’ and ‘executive privilege’ to protect deceit. Government has been lying to us for a good long time but the NeoCons have taken this to a new level. The use of lies is foundational to the philosophy of NeoConservativism as emoted by Irving Kristol and by Leo Strauss, the philosophical mentors to this administration.
First, make sure your ugly behavior does not become known. Then find the means to have your own deceits accepted as truth.
The NeoCons saw the potential to use the media for their own purposes. They had learned from watching others do the same on a smaller scale and brought with them the Trotskyite methods of their origin in the left.
The fourth estate, the media, with traditional newspapers, writers of subjects relating to politics and policy, and now radio and television, are no longer a reliable means for ascertaining the truth. Instead they have morphed into a form of entertainment at best and at their worst the public relations arm of political parties and the primary owners of political parties and corporations. Depending on who owns them they line up to produce and so be paid.
Corporations are the third part of the story.
The Founders lived in a world where wealth was held by individuals. The first such corporation was East India Company. Founded by Royal Charter in 1600 the first limited liability corporation, gradually assumed the form of a government, enabling and justifying the take over of India by the British Crown.
This early limited liability corporation was enormously profitable to its investors and the British Crown. But this wealth was not created but transferred from producers. Governmental heads of the various sultanates in India traded access to the markets and merchants residing therein in exchange for advantages accruing only to themselves. The East India Corporation was therefore a middle man, taking from the producers but supplying no value in exchange. In 1670, through five acts of Parliament, the East India Company was granted rights that made it, effectively, a nation in itself, exercising rights of dominion over millions of Indians who had no recourse or choice in the matter.
So the tendency for corporations to become quasi-governmental entities, reaching for and asserting rights reserved to governments and individuals is of long standing. Corporations are now invested with an artificial personhood that makes them potentially immortal. They are not vulnerable to the impact of strict liability or social ostracism as are individuals. While the majority of businesses engaging in commerce are owned by the individuals who run them there remains a class of corporation that has worked to enjoy the benefits of citizenship while evading the balancing accountability. That class of corporations ignores the issues of informed consent, benevolent outcome, and individual autonomy.
Discriminating between the uses of the form of incorporation is an essential element for ensuring humanity moves in positive directions. Incorporation is a tool of human devising; it is not natural. Corporations should not be protected under the Constitution.
In the world of the Founders, the corporation, as we understand it today, did not exist. Wealth brought power but the power of wealth was limited; individuals holding great wealth died. Their heirs usually dissipated the accumulation of wealth over a few generations. It was a small world and reputations were not subject to the spinning all too familiar to us today. The truth was not as much at risk because the tools of truth and the right to enforce those tools remained very much within the control of the people as a whole. It was a small world and reputation mattered.
The Founders did not imagine that entities like corporations as we know them today would ever exist and could not therefore defend against them.
It was only in the 1960s that corporations succeeded in assuming personhood. Since then the irresponsible and grasping subset of corporations have been working at supplanting government. They are succeeding. The dynamic thereby produced is both complex and simple. The means used to control and steal are many, the formula remains the same. Lie. Distract. Take. Do it again.
Having formulated a powerful set of tools, the ‘right to privacy,’ the means for broadcasting disinformation, and then the means for displacing the original vision of American government through a collation of corporate entities, the pieces were in place for turning the representative republic originally visioned by the founders into a federal empire.
Thomas Jefferson said that we should have another revolution every twenty years, that being the maximum time that a government could remain free of corruption.
“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
Americans should listen to the words of their founders and consider carefully what actions seem best.
Corporations have come to exercise rights superior to those of individuals. Each of these is a conversion of an existing institution of American life; paid for by the people, but used by those who are building the federal empire we now see taking shape. It could not have happened without generations who ignored the essential issues of freedom.
Using the military, Social Security, the department of Social Services, education, disasters, the court system and the wistful hopes of a Nation those in change continue to steal. For most of them it is the only job they have ever held. While this is going on the series of mistakes made by wishful civil libertarians, hoping that band-aids will fix the problems, continue to accumulate.
It is time for real answers and we can only hope it is not too late.
Elect an elk as president. They are quick of eye, keen of perception, swift of foot - and tasty when roasted over a slow fire; a much better deal than the bunch in office today.
Sunday, September 04, 2005
How the NeoCons murdered New Orleans:
Another in the continuing series.
Mr. Bush said on "Good Morning America" that the United States could fend for itself. "I do expect a lot of sympathy and perhaps some will send cash dollars," the president was quoted as saying of foreign governments. "But this country's going to rise up and take care of it."
As indeed we should. Americans are courageous and they will do what must be done. But that is a different set of actions than envisioned by George W. Bush and his cohort.
Fourteen billion dollars sounded like a lot of money in 1998, too much money for the Feds to commit to Coast 2050, the plan agreed on by the governor's office, the state's Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service and all 20 of the state's coastal parishes for restoring coastal Louisiana.
Relief for New Orleans is costing you and me a half billion each day now; that does not count the costs of rebuilding.
New Orleans had a wake up call in the form of Hurricane Georges in September of 1998. Faced with a wall of water 17 feet in height that threatened to surge into Lake Pontchartrain and flood their city they came together.
New Orleans saw what was inevitable. So did most of literate America. In an article published in Scientific American in October of 2001 titled, Drowning New Orleans by Mark Fischetti,
the dangers were spelled out. In less than six pages it laid out what was going to happen, why it was inevitable, how New Orleans found itself a storm away from death and destruction, and what was proposed to stop it.
In October of 2001 all Americans understood well that disasters can happen here. You would have thought that the present administration would have listened. The NeoCon Administration did have a response. It cut funding to FEMA for the maintenance of the system of levees. Perhaps most Americans do not read Scientific American. But more of them read National Geographic, which last year again laid out the same grim prognosis.
People often lie when they talk. What they do is always true.
If you dig into the article in Scientific American and understand the human choices that left New Orleans vulnerable you see that those responsible, for the most part, were not in the line of fire. They did not lose homes, property, lives. They are not now living in fear of lawlessness and curling up hungry and parched with thirst, smelling death all around them. We have all seen the pictures.
Those who set up the Big Easy to die actually put money in their pockets and will continue to benefit. Those two parties are this NeoCon Administration and their core constituency, certain purveyors of products of the petroleum kind.
The NeoCons lied, the Big Easy died.
New Orleans had been buffered from disaster by the deposit of silt and sand built up from the deposits made by the Mississippi River. These were the source of the bayous, a fertile extension of delta land extending into the ocean, creating a wetlands where life teemed and many ordinary people make their livings. That started to change when the levee system began at the behest of Congress in 1879. Quick fixes that ignore the nature driven dynamics of systems too complex to be entirely understood have long term consequences. The people who originally made those choices didn't know better. They are now all dead of old age. At least that generation of Congress had less costly public funded perks.
When this happens due to ignorance we are forgiving. When it is due to deceit and greed action must be taken to ensure that the behavior is extinguished absolutely. This missing component in America's societal tool chest, retribution for those who abuse the most potent trusts, must be rebooted. Since we are human all such rules exist exclusively in human custom. We can change it if we decide to do so.
New Orleans was buffered by wetlands. Wetlands can absorb enough water to knock down the height of water surges as high as 20 feet – at a rate of one foot of water for every four miles of wetlands. You can do the math yourself. If you can't do the math and you went to a public school you know who is responsible for that, too.
New Orleans was left vulnerable by the congruent action of government and oil companies.
In his article in Scientific American Fischetti comments that the wetlands just outside of New Orleans is still lush. But the landscape changes as he journeys down to Port Fourchon, closer to the tides and turmoil of the ocean. There, the intrusions of saltwater are killing the grasses that maintain the wetlands, aided by the miles of corridors cut into that buffer by petroleum companies. Fischetti reports seeing abandoned trailers and buildings, lost to the encroaching ocean. Port Fourchon loses 40 to 50 feet of beach a year, the highest rate in the country and perhaps the world.
One third of the buffer that protected New Orleans was stolen by the same companies that immediately raised the cost of gasoline at the pump to over $5.00 a gallon although the gas then being pumped had cost them nothing more. If a store owner raised the price of water to double we would recognize it as price gouging enforced by the desperation of the consumers.
The cheapest means for putting in drilling is to float a barge out to the location, digging a canal that is then abandoned; this is what such companies and Exxon-Mobile have done and continue to do despite knowing the potential costs.
All of those who profited knew the risks.
At this moment you can rest assured the Karl Rove and Brain Central in the White House are working feverishly on how to turn their own profit by spinning these events to their benefit.
Their concern is more than just money. It is how to continue to control Congress in the '06 election if, as may well happen, Americans manage to retake control of the electoral system and ensure the first honest election in ten years. I can almost see the light bulb glow over Rove's head. “That's it! We will bring the troops home from Iraq because we have to make New Orleans relief a priority. We will also have to institute the draft to continue that work. Then after the '06 election we can invade Iran. That gives us two more years before we need to think about finding a stand in for BushBoy. '06 will be a breeze. We will actually be popular again!”
Rove is such a clever guy.
But I have a different proposal.
What is missing in this morass is that essential American value of accountability. You may know that while they were dredging those oil companies were also busy buying Congressmen to ensure that their potential liability was nil. So we need to inject some good old fashioned cause and effect. Who was bought, how much did the Petro Elite pay for them? Indict them all.
Here is the plan for enforcing accountability on those who are used to evading it.
Those petroleum companies who cut into the buffer will be held accountable for the damage done, both for restoring the impacted wetlands and to the thousands and thousands of individuals their calloused acts impacted. The National Association of Trial Attorneys can offer pro bono services to bring them to justice on behalf of those who lost property, life, and hope in New Orleans. It is in the interests of the law profession to prove to Americans that at least some of they can be trusted. And the payments will not be configured just in cash but in the transfer of property as well.
Those petroleum companies own facilities now dedicated to the production of oil based products. They will pay for these to convert to hydrogen and the stations they own now selling hydrocarbon based fuel will be converted to hydrogen. Ownership will be transferred to a trust that will see that restitution is made. I would nominate the Yosemite Fund and other like nonprofits who have struggled to maintain America's environment in the face of government's rapacious takings to oversee this trust.
In the interim the US government will encourage the production of gasohol and other alternative fuels that can be utilized by simply adjusting the timing on those automobiles now in use. No American will be forced to change; regular fuel will continue to be available – as long as it lasts.
Those impacted, now destitute, without jobs or hope, will have the money to restart their lives – some of them may end up owning their own pumping station for clean fuel.
Congress will lose its perks. If they want a dining room let them buy a MacDonald's franchise. Liability against those who made these choices, cutting funding for the levees, will be exacted personally. Those who act under color of authority can and should be denied the protections of authority. The law allows us to take this action. Those responsible should lose their private islands, their lavish life style and be destitute. But I am sure they will be able to get a job at WalMart or McDonald's.
For the NeoCons the charges for malfeasance for New Orleans will be added to those pending in Chicago against those indicted from the administration already. Perhaps instead of preparing to celebrate Mardi Gras by profiting from death those now occupying those dishonored positions of trust can be fitted for very different kinds of costumes.
America will also get something it desperately needs, clean fuel and a cleaner environment. The bayous were once places of fragile beauty; most Americans have only glimpsed this world from a boat in the Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland.
We need a tangible, visceral message the greedy cannot ignore. Americans can take care of the problem once they correctly identify what the problem really is.
Those harmed will have been made whole; the wetlands will no longer be endangered. That is what justice should be about.
America needs to take stock, reflect, and act to save our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor. We had to do it once before. We can do it again.
Melinda Pillsbury-Foster is presently working on a book titled, Revoking the License to Steal: How Americans can govern themselves. The book calls for accountability in every facet of life and the true establishment of individual rights for all Americans through the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. She uses the original philosophical tools of America's Founders, the market, justice, and individualism. She is a registered Republican, a member of the National Federation of Republican Women, a committed Libertarian, and a life-long environmentalist.
She runs an organization to preserve the legacy of her grandfather, Arthur C. Pillsbury. The website is at: acpillsburyfoundation.com