Tuesday, December 29, 2009

GDAE Podcast - Episode 24

US Senate Reform: Filibuster
  • People's History: Voice of Sojourner Truth & thoughts on Deep Social Change...
  • Media Criticism: Washington Post disconnect with public desires for real healthcare reform via Fair and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR).
  • Echo of American Exceptionalism: Congressman Alan Grayson and Chris Mathews via the WakeUp AM Podcast.
  • Prosecution of Bush: Jane Mayer's Book "The Dark Side".
  • Musical diversion: Jimi Hedrix "Little Wing".
  • Filibuster: Healthcare legislation is exposing US Senate as a barrier to majority-rule democracy.
  • Poetry: Night Before Christmas Debacle.
  • Bloopers.

Play Episode 24 from this page:

Click to Download Episode 24.

Previous Episodes & 60-Sec Promo:

GDAE Podcast 60-Second Promo

GDAE Podcast Episode 23 November 29, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 22 November 11, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 21 October 18, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 20 October 9, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 19 September 27, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 18 September 16, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 17 August 31, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 16 July 30, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 15 June 17, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 14 June 10, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 13 May 22, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 12May 5, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 11 April 24, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 10 April 9, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 9March 28, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 8 March 15, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 7 March 1, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 6 February 17, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 5 February 6, 2009
GDAE Podcast Episode 4 January 24, 2009


Monday, December 28, 2009

Where We Are Today

Russian prince Peter Kropotkin said that

Courage, devotion, the spirit of sacrifice, are as contagious as cowardice, submission, and panic.

This statement was made in his essay entitled "The Spirit of Revolt," which first appeared in Le Rèvoltè in Geneva in 1880. The following excerpt reads as if he were commenting on current events. The notes inserted in the text point to such contemporary examples listed at the end of this blog post.

The Spirit of Revolt

There are periods in the life of human society when revolution becomes an imperative necessity, when it proclaims itself as inevitable. New ideas germinate everywhere, seeking to force their way into the light, to find an application in life[1]; everywhere they are opposed by the inertia of those whose interest it is to maintain the old order[2]; they suffocate in the stifling atmosphere of prejudice and traditions [3]. The accepted ideas of the constitution of the State[4], of the laws of social equilibrium[5], of the political [6] and economic [7] interrelations of citizens, can hold out no longer against the implacable criticism which is daily undermining them whenever occasion arises,--in drawing room as in cabaret, in the writings of philosophers as in daily conversation. Political, economic, and social institutions are crumbling; the social structure, having become uninhabitable, is hindering, even preventing the development of the seeds which are being propagated within its damaged walls and being brought forth around them. [7]

The need for a new life becomes apparent. The code of established morality, that which governs the greater number of people in their daily life, no longer seems sufficient. What formerly seemed just is now felt to be a crying injustice. The morality of yesterday is today recognized as revolting immorality [8]. Daily, the popular conscience rises up against the scandals which breed amidst the privileged and the leisured [9], against the crimes committed in the name of the law of the stronger [10], or in order to maintain these privileges. Those who long for the triumph of justice, those who would put new ideas into practice, are soon forced to recognize that the realization of their generous, humanitarian and regenerating ideas cannot take place in a society thus constituted; they perceive the necessity of a revolutionary whirlwind which will sweep away all this rottenness, revive sluggish hearts with its breath, and bring to mankind that spirit of devotion, self-denial, and heroism, without which society sinks through degradation and vileness into complete disintegration.

In periods of frenzied haste toward wealth, of feverish speculation and of crisis, of the sudden downfall of great industries and the ephemeral expansion of other branches of production, of scandalous fortunes amassed in a few years and dissipated as quickly, it becomes evident that the economic institutions which control production and exchange are far from giving to society the prosperity which they are supposed to guarantee; they produce precisely the opposite result. Instead of order they bring forth chaos; instead of prosperity, poverty and insecurity; instead of reconciled interests, war; a perpetual war of the exploiter against the worker, of exploiters and of workers among themselves. Human society is seen to be splitting more and more into two hostile camps, and at the same time to be subdividing into thousands of small groups waging merciless war against each other. Weary of these wars, weary of the miseries which they cause, society rushes to seek a new organization; it clamors loudly for a complete remodeling of the system of property ownership, of production, of exchange and all economic relations which spring from it.

The machinery of government, entrusted with the maintenance of the existing order, continues to function, but at every turn of its deteriorated gears it slips and stops. Its working becomes more and more difficult, and the dissatisfaction caused by its defects grows continuously. Every day gives rise to a new demand. "Reform this," "reform that," is heard from all sides. "War, finance, taxes, courts. police, everything must be remodeled, reorganized, established on a new basis," say the reformers. And vet all know that it is impossible to make things over, to remodel anything at all because everything is interrelated; everything would have to be remade at once; and how can society be remodeled when it is divided into two openly hostile camps? To satisfy the discontented would be only to create new malcontents.

Incapable of undertaking reforms, since this would mean paving the way for revolution, and at the same time too impotent to be frankly reactionary, the governing bodies apply themselves to halfmeasures which can satisfy nobody, and only cause new dissatisfaction. The mediocrities who, in such transition periods, undertake to steer the ship of State, think of but one thing: to enrich then.selves against the coming débâcle. Attacked from all sides they defend themselves awkwardly, they evade, they commit blunder upon blunder, and they soon succeed in cutting the last rope of salvation; they drown the prestige of the government in ridicule, caused by their own incapacity.

Such periods demand revolution. It becomes a social necessity; the situation itself is revolutionary.


1) People's access to inexpensive text, audio and visual production technology has allowed germinating ideas to be documented and shared rapidly worldwide. Experiments in alternative business economic models are being tested by necessity in countries, like Argentina, where the corporate globalization model failed catastrophically.

2) The "old order," harbored by corporate shields, is reflected by today's corporate mass media, a model that is itself failing to provide meaningful investigative reporting. News content generators and distribution owners have consolidated and continue to promote a failed world view of corporate-dominated economics. Since 1980, the number of major media content companies has gone from about fifty to about five. Radio ownership has consolidated radically since passage of the 1996 Telecom Act, from a maximum of 40 radio stations per owner to about 1,200 owned at it's peak by the right wing Clear Channel. For many people, TV and mass media represent reality. Now, that reality is in the hands of a few corporations that seek to maintain the status quo. However, the status quo is being challenged by a rapidly growing media reform movement, and alternative sources of information, that are free to explore real solutions because they are not constrained by commercial bondage.

3) The acceptance of corporate globalization as an "immutable, natural economic system" is the most egregious example of a prejudiced traditon. The corporate mass media repeats, "Government: Wasteful, Bad. Big Business: Efficient, Good," until the inherent socially damaging flaws of the corporate capitalist economic system are no longer examined, let alone questioned. Other "traditions," like excessive checks on popular sentiments by the US Senate, stifle solutions to a growing number of real crises.

4) More people are questioning the U.S. Constitution, recognizing it was created by a wealthy elite minority, with provisions for maintaining their economic dominance (Federalist No. 10 is transparent on this topic). The US Senate's service as a barrier to popular progress is one example. Historical elements of the Constitution prove that it isn't as exceptional as we are schooled to believe; the Constitution originally limited voting to land-owning males, did not recognize Native Americans and women, and legalized slavery. Other elements of the Constitution, created to protect the property of the elite minority, are being being questioned particularly as relates to the growing power of corporations.

5) Concerns about historically extreme wealth desparity are so great that they are being voiced in the mainstream media, by Senators on primetime TV, USA Today, MSNBC and stories of Wall Street Christmas bonuses that are so unseemly that corporate leaders send e-mails to caution staff against flaunting their bonuses in public. Social disequilibrium has become so out of balance, and the governing system so incompetent, that prospects for a gradual re-balancing are fading. The potential for rapid, chaotic social restructuring in increasing.

6) As noted in (5) above, political institutions, having become polarized and beholden to corporate interests, seem incapable of solving problems of the day. Rather than providing a real solution, the so-called healthcare reform process is poised to force citizens to give their money to private insurance corporations thereby boosting the profits, read political and economic power, of this disdained industry.

7) Saved only by accounting slight-of-hand, the American financial system is bankrupt both literally and morally. Given the off-shoring of jobs, the aging populace and the off-shoring of corporate profits to shield them from tax responsibilities, the United States itself is incapable of raising sufficient revenues to cover its ballooning debts.

8) For example, people are now taking notice of outrageous bonuses being paid out in financial services corporations. More people are realizing that highly paid media celebrities are part of the establishment and thus incapable of rendering an unbiased critique of the status quo of which they are a part.

9) Scandals of the privileged and the leisured have faces like that of disgraced South Carolina governor Mark Sanford, Wall Street titan Bernard Madoff, hypocritical Senator John Ensign, very connected Jack Abramoff, Paris Hilton, and even the vaunted Tiger Woods to scratch the surface.

10) The war of aggression by the US in Iraq, US use of torture and US backing of blatant war crimes by Israel have made a mockery of principles of civilized behavior of nations. These kinds of grotesque actions, combined with the dismissal of global institutions, like the United Nations, designed to provide a moral compass, provide proof that the law of the jungle is the new normal.


a. "Backlash grows against free tradeæ, Mark Trumbull, The Christian Science Monitor February 16, 2007.

b. "The Future is Now," William Greider, The Nation June 8, 2006.

c. Paris Hilton's Tax Relief, Ellen Goodman, June 15, 2006.


Saturday, December 26, 2009

Establishment Tool: Filibuster

'Twas the day after Christmas and all through the House, people were thinking "the Senate is a barrier to democracy!"

I'm not going to try to rhyme here in saying that the US Senate was set up by our dear founding fathers as a barrier between the unwashed masses and the wealthy establishment elite (AKA our founding fathers).

Yes, as the US Constitution was written in 1789, US Senators were elected by state legislatures, not by the unwashed masses (AKA The People). Then in 1913 the 17th Amendment was ratified to replace the phrase "chosen by the Legislature thereof" with "elected by the people thereof." My grandmother was alive when this little bit of democracy was gained by the unwashed masses.

Today it is becoming painfully apparent that the Senate rule allowing for a minority filibuster now functions as a requirement for a 60-vote super-majority on all legislation. This state of affairs, in a Senate captured by corporate power, is undemocratic and threatens to undermine popular support for Congress. This, in turn, undermines democracy.

It's true that we need checks on excessive power, or "tyranny," of the majority; however, today nearly unsurmountable power, or "tyranny," is being wielded by a corporate-sponsored minority. The situation is a corruption of American ideals and demands attention.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Night Before Christmas Debacle

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the Senate
Evidence was mounting of democracy's limit.

The People dismayed by what they were seeing
Sixty votes it takes to do just about anything.

The Constitution took care to protect the minority
A wealthy elite exploiting the majority.

Obama a prisoner of establishment power
Claims "victory" with words that surely taste sour.

As the healthcare battle appears to be done
the people are told, "Go to sleep now, you've won!"

The dejected masses comply and act tame
While Obama unabashedly calls out some names

Now Geithner, Now Orszag, Emanual, and Baucus
On DePearle, On Lieberman, Nelson and Sebelius

A man with a smile audaciously says, "hope"
surrounded by insiders who think I'm a dope.

"We stood up to special interests," he says as he winks
But his words are cheap, this deal really stinks.

The man with a smile says "The struggle is on"
More people look askance as they detect a con.

And when the dust settles the people will see
No healthcare reform from the powers that be.

Though believers continue to heap on their praise
Their numbers dwindle with the passing of days.

The media, corporate owned, just plays along
while the people say, "something's terribly wrong."

The Empire teeters, the establishment takes fright
But with happy faces say, 'To all a good night."




Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Obama's Healthcare Shadow

Remember the old Mad Magazine piece showing a series of cartoon frames in which people are doing one thing, but their shadow is doing something socially unacceptable that they really want to do? Like the example below:

I can't remove the image of Obama, with Rahm Emanuel standing there, saying

By standing up to the special interests who have prevented reform for decades and who are furiously lobbying against it now, the Senate has moved us closer to reform that makes a tremendous difference for families, for seniors, for businesses and for the country as a whole.

Meanwhile Obama's and Emanuel's shadows are high-fiving the health industry executives on sealing the deal. 30 million people forced to buy corporate health insurance, some subsidized by tax payer money, thereby strengthening the corporate power of an industry that is already controlling our governing system. WTF?


Monday, December 14, 2009

Kyoto & the Articles of Confederation

A forgotten bit of United States history provides an analogy to what could happen to the Keyoto Protocols in Copenhagen.

The United States had a constitution before the U.S. Constitution. It was called the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, or simply the Articles of Confederation. Article 13 stated that only the Congress of the states could amend the Articles of Confederation.

However, rather than amend the Articles, a series of conferences and conventions were held, which resulted in the Articles being discarded and replaced by the U.S. Constitution. A similar thing appears to be happening to the Kyoto Protocols to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Powerful nations are trying to discard the Kyoto treaty and replace it with something else more favorable to corporate interests.

It's instructive to reflect back on what motivated the dismantling of the Articles of Confederation. Following a meeting in Mount Vernon to address navigation issues between Maryland and Virginia, the conveners recommended a convention of all the States for the following purpose:

"to take into consideration the trade and commerce" of the Confederation. [1]

Ah, yes. Commercial interests at work again. According to political scientist David Hendrickson:

When the war ended in 1783, certain special interests had incentives to create a new "merchant state," much like the British state people had rebelled against. In particular, holders of war scrip and land speculators wanted a central government to pay off scrip at face value and to legalize western land holdings with disputed claims. Also, manufacturers wanted a high tariff as a barrier to foreign goods, but competition among states made this impossible without a central government.[2]

So, out with the Articles of Confederation and in with the U.S. Constitution and a central government. The same interests seem to be at work centuries later trying to say out with Kyoto and in with a corporate-directed approach to global climate change. This establishment approach must be challenged.


1. C. Tansill (ed.), Documents Illustrative of the Formation of the Union of the American States, H. Doc. No. 358, 69th Congress, 1st sess. (1927)

2. Hendrickson, David C., Peace Pact: The Lost World of the American Founding. (2003)


Friday, December 4, 2009

Obama's Exceptional View of America in Afghanistan

In his Afghanistan war escalation speech, President Obama drew on American Exceptionalism to claim US intentions are pure in Afghanistan. It's as if the US dirty wars in Central America, in support of United Fruit and other corporate interests, never happened.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama also praised the United States as a country that has not sought world domination or occupation.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: More than any other nation, the United States of America has underwritten global security for over six decades, a time that for all its problems has seen walls come down and markets opened, and billions lifted from poverty, unparalleled scientific progress in advancing frontiers of human liberty. For unlike the great powers of old, we have not sought world domination. Our union was founded in resistance to oppression. We do not seek to occupy other nations. We will not claim another nation’s resources or target other peoples because their faith or ethnicity is different from ours. What we have fought for, what we continue to fight for, is a better future for our children and grandchildren and we believe that their lives will be better if other people’s children and grandchildren can live in freedom and access opportunity.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Bacevich, your book is called “The Limits of Power, The End of American Exceptionalism”, responding to... President Obama’s last point about why we are in Afghanistan.

ANDREW BACEVICH*: ... This is the preferred narrative of American history, the way we prefer to see ourselves and, therefore, the narrative that we use to justify all that we do in the world. It is really telling and extraordinary that this president, whose background is quite different from all those other presidents... and who came to office promising to bring about change, it is extraordinary that he himself would embrace that narrative so uncritically. I think that is indicative of the extent to which whether there is going to be any change in Washington, it is simply going to be changes on the margins and that the Washington consensus, the status quo, is firmly in place.

*Andrew Bacevich is a retired colonel and a Vietnam war veteran who spent twenty-three years in the US Army. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University and the author of “The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism.”


DemocracyNow! December 2, 2009.