Reform

"As the War on Terror lurches from decade to decade, it will distract attention from far greater threats. Nothing decisive can be done to combat global warming or curb nuclear proliferation without American leadership. These, not terrorism, are the dangers that threaten the survival of the human race." from Geoffrey Perret's book "Commander in Chief"
In our politics there are four neglected virtues that could light the path from where we are to where we ought to go: (1) respect for evidence, (2) tolerance of ambiguity, (3) caring about consequences, and (4) commitment to the common good. All are diminished by the ideology of radical individualism and neglected by much of the mainstream media. As our politics become more ideological, neglect of these four virtues in our political debates and media coverage exacerbates the polarization and gridlock in Congress. More attention to these temets by the press and public would be a helpful antidote to our poisonous political culture." Tom Allen's book Dangerous Convictions: What's Really Wrong with the U. S. Congress

The Continuing Crisis of Capitalism - How Bad Will It Get ? (9/3/2011)

Reform Corporations

Since the Supreme Court decided it: Corporations are legal persons with full rights, they have no particular obligation to be good citizens, and often they are not. By law, their only obligation is to maximize profit for shareholders. Unlike people they do not have to account for other stakeholders like the communities, workers, or consumers they are supposed to serve. Unlike actual people they can move to any country that they like to find the most favorable tax havens, cheapest labor, or most lax environmental laws.  Real people are not so free to move to other countries. Since American markets are not growing rapidly, they simply move operations to other countries some no longer legal in the US (for example: the tobacco industry.)

Unlike actual people, corporations never die, have children, get married, and they usually plan only for the short term. That makes them short-sighted and unable to deal with issues like climate change, overpopulation, income inequality, overfishing, species extinction, deteriorating infrastructure, dysfunctional health care, toxic politics. Our largest corporations are lobbying mightily to be sure that no action is taken on any of these issues. Profit as the only motive guarantees actions of a sociopath.

Since the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, Corporations have been able to spend as much money as they like to buy government at all levels. Corporations have used their weight to avoid taxes, to pollute, to concentrate,  crush competition, lobby for special privileges, reward CEOs exorbitantly,  expand their power at the expense of consumers,  pillage the environment,  for all practical purposes transnationals renounce their US citizenship. As Lawrence Lessig has written so well in his book, Republic Lost, the Congress is now dependent on the funders, not the people.Control of government by corporations is the very definition of fascism. There is ample evidence that the US is turning into a kleptocracy.

Now many are busting unions, and migrating off shore to low wage countries while lobbying to allow low wage immigrants to work here  Unions have been systematically weakened. Companies like Wal-Mart, while relying on the public for healthcare, do not allow unions. (It is in the UN declaration of Human Rights that everyone has a right to join a union, but you wouldn't know that from recent US policy.) Republican deregulation has caused broad lack of accountability, an alarming shrinking of public space, and a carnival of corruption. 

Reform of corporate governance is necessary because democracy is not a corporate value. Financial instability and environmental deterioration make this even more clear. Workers should always have representation on corporate boards. Shareholders should have voting rights over corporate policy and there should be limits on compensation. (There is in Switzerland.) The public and the various stakeholders should have a voice.

The free market is healthiest when there is competition among many entities. Since the US no longer enforces anti-trust laws, corporations have beeen free to consolidate by buying up competitors and becoming as large a possible.Corporate rollups often favor the oligarchy at the expense of consumers, employees, and others. The framers of the Constitution were wary of concentration of power, but they did not take into account private power. 

Diversity of ownership should be a policy goal. That is particularly important for media. (see below).

Corporate good citizenship should be a requirement for continuing the corporate charter. Government regulation of markets, including corporations, is a requirement for consumer protection, financial stability, environmental protection, a level playing field, and for democracy. The fewer the participants, the more need for vigorous oversight.

John Bogle has suggested sensible reforms.

As Robert Reich points out in his book "Supercapitalism", corporations are not people. Since the Supreme Court has ruled otherwise, to get back to basics we need a Constitutional Amendment. The Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United must be struck down. A number of States have passed resolutions to make it happen.

Damp Down Income Inequality

It is clear that the US has become corrupt. Lobbyists control Congress. Banks that engaged in fraudulent activity were found too big to fail, and too big to prosecute. Ratings agencies certified that toxic securities were AAA. Large accounting firms declared it all fine. Government regulators looked the other way. But then it all collapsed. See Lawrence Lessig's book: Republic, Lost.

Citizens United has exacerbated the vicious feedback loop in which large amounts of corporate money game the system and make income inequality even worse. It is devastating to democracy, and causes a wide array of social dysfunction. It has brought the US back to a condition of feudalism, loosely defined as rule by the extremely wealthy.

Income inequality and our fiscal problems can be mitigated best with a stiff, graduated tax like we had when Ike was in office.

We could learn a few lessons from other countries, such as Denmark.

Oppose media consolidation

It is a fundamental assumption of the the Constitution that concentration of power is dangerous. Although the Post Office was written into the Constitution, media was not comparable in the 1700's, it is necessary now to beware concentration of media.  Not only has it become dangerously consolidated, because it is overwhelmingly corporate, it is almost exclusively hard right-wing. In addition, we know that US covert agencies routinely shape media.

We need to assure that adequate information necessary for responsible voting is reliable and widely available. When media lies, there should be consequences. How did Rupert Murdoch come to own the Republican party and its megaphone, the right-wing noise machine ?

When corporations concentrate or even become monopolies, there is the potential for abuse. The fewer participants in a market, the more there is a need for regulation. Media has become too concentrated and it is a clear and present danger for democracy. Corporate media should NOT be part of the election process. Prohibit political advertising. 

Concentrated corporate media does not serve the public interest. Since only corporations can afford to buy broadcast time, only their message is allowed. Right wing shock jocks rule radio. They were, and are, cheerleaders for war because they participate in the profits of war.  Keep them away from the debate stage. Even PBS was compromised by zealots.

The frequency of pharma ads is probably stifling useful discussion of healthcare reform. (I am politely not using the word extortion here.)   

Support free time for political campaigning even if only on public access facilities. It is media expense that is the cause of campaign finance problems. Broadcasters, all progeny of major corporations, are a major enabler of fascism. That is why we need not only many participants, but also balance in media: some private, some public, and some academic, and government.

There ought to be a diversity of media sources that balance public and private interests. Jeff Chester's book "Digital Destiny" has excellent suggestions for reform. Since video is now the major source of American's information and most can not create it, there is a kind of illiteracy that further empowers corporate interrests.

Oppose further media consolidation and insist on a balance of stakeholders and diversity of views in mainstream media.  

Assure election integrity

The way US elections are conducted, it is a stretch to claim that we live in a democracy. US decision-making has become dysfunctional, and we are on an obvious downward spiral. We should be voting for an agenda, not candidates.

Range Voting is the most important single change we could make to the election process. Privatized vote counting is inherently untrustworthy.  If we cannot have valid elections, there is no need to go further. (Please click on the word election for details.)

To have a real democracy, we need election changes. Voting reform could solve a number of problems with US elections, and it could be far more democratic than our current procedure. A third party would not be a spoiler. Public debate would be much more varied. Notice that it is not up for discussion though.

We need to rethink the silly race between states to be the first to hold elections.

Presidential primary voting has become a race between States for campaign money and an opportunity for special interests in each State to exercise a veto.

We need to breakl the two party system. Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) or Range voting is a minimum and necessary change if more than two parties are to be allowed. Right now, a third party is a spoiler so you may not be able to vote in good conscience for your first choice.

The two party system is not helpful, partly because it suppresses a broad exchange of views, and also because party loyalty (money) warps views of the real issues. Neither party wants the other to accomplish anything, so nothing can get done.

Although it is partly the fault of corporate media, major issues are usually not discussed leading up to elections. We discuss the Rev Wright or Rev Hagee, but real issues like health care, falling wages, shrinking benefits, or even the disastrous Bush foreign policy, are not on the table. Most Americans really don't agree with their government'spolicy, so elections have to be about wedge issues like immigration, gay marriage or flag burning.

What does the American public think ?

The influence of money should be reduced because plutocracy and democracy cannot co-exist. The market is not democratic. Free public media should be the platform for political activity.  Citizens United should be overturned.

 Corporate media  does not serve the public interest because it belongs to hard-right Republicans corporatists. The two major parties effectively exclude all competition. Excluding minor parties from debates has made our discussion extremely limited. Corporate media agents should be off the stage. Debates should be open to more candidates and run by independent NGO's...not corporate media.

Vote counting cannot be privatized to hard-right partisans if we are to have real elections. Partisans have installed machines that are blatantly hackable, and unauditable.  Lieberman was one of the leaders on the HAVA (Help America Vote Act which perpetuated the problem.

The Electoral College ought to be abolished and all elections should use secure, standardized, transparent, open source, techniques.  Privatized vote counting is not acceptable for trustworthy elections.  New voting protocols like range voting would make multiple parties possible, widen the dialog, and make the process more democratic.

Obviously prompted by recent events, Senator Feingold proposed a Constitutional amendment that Governors should not appoint Senators. He is right.

We should be voting for an agenda, not candidates.

Each candidate in the US system makes their own agenda and you only get to choose the least bad of them. Most likely, major campaign donors (oligarchs) get to shape the platform. Once elected, candidates frequently do not do what they promised.   We should not have to guess what the outcome of an election means. The candidates should swear to faithfully implement the people's agenda. Clearly they are NOT doing that. They are visibly working for the corporate elite...and that's the very definition of fascism. Most people no longer agree with the direction taken by the US, how is that democracy ?

People should decide the agenda, not a single individual or even the President. We have seen what happens when the President is not particularly wise.

Although details might best be left to experts, we can all agree that we need to protect the environment, operate a sustainable economy, avoid war, and maintain humane social programs. Unrestrained markets clearly do not accomplish any of these things.

We need to see that elections are fair. Election rigging should be a high crime, including staging false flag events.

We need to be sure that we have, as the Constitution mandates, provided for the general welfare. Even major corporations, like GM, now concede that privatized healthcare is NOT an option. The US is the only advanced country without national health care. For globalization to be on a flat playing field, ours should be nationalized...like every other developed country. Single payer health is most efficient.

See agenda

Protect the environment

We should be careful of the planet so that future generations can be healthy and prosper. We should consider what our options would be if this planet becomes uninhabitable as inevitably will happen one day. CO2 will be in the atmosphere for millernia. Climate is changing rapidly.

Corporations fight to use the environment as their toxic waste dump. Now we are seeing the results of that as global warming (better termed climate degradation) has shown itself in many ways. Conservation is necessary to minimize CO2 emmissions and to mitigate the near-term possibility that oil production has peaked. The Bush record on the environment, as Robert Kennedy of the NRDC has written, was atrocious. The more we learn about near space, the more it becomes clear that there is no other accessible planet that will support life. Growing population means growing pressure on resources, and, of course, Republicans are on the wrong side of population mitigation. Take a look at the Earth Charter.

Rejoin the world's fight against climate change.

Conserve Energy

Oil is probably at or past peak production, and it makes sense to conserve energy for environmental, geopolitical, and economic reasons. Although it may be tempting to ravage wilderness areas, it is important to save unrenewable resources for future generations. It is an assault on the Constitution that Bush energy policy was made in secret and not subject to review. "Executive privilege" in a democracy is a dangerous myth. The Republican policy of maximum drilling is extremely misguided.

The debate on global warming, though still funded by some large conflicted corporations, is over. The US should take an active role in attempting to save the planet. Don't count on Republicans for leadership though.

Fix the Economy

David C. Korten's book, Agenda For A New Economy, has an excellent analysis and some solutions for our economic problems. Paul Krugman has accurately predicted economic events in his New York Times column for years, but there is no evidence that policy makers listen to him. Gar Alperovitz book: What Then Must We Do ? is the most impressive blueprint for change.

Wall Street rules. Congress is dependent on money and that is how, as Lawrence Lessig has written, we lost our republic.

We should redefine the statistics we use to measure the economy. When we add up all economic activity, we sum both goods and bads. Miltary hardware only results in destruction. Nuclear weapons, although a heavy investment, fortunately have never been used.  Such products ought not to be counted as part of our economic health. They are a waste. Endless war will certainly destroy US democracy.

'Growth' is not a suitable goal for a sustainable economy. Jared Diamond in his book, Collapse, warns of the consequences when the economy overtakes the environment. Population overshoot now threatens human habitability of the earth.

Republicans, market fundamentalists, unwisely deregulated the financial community and we are now seeing the results. It should be clear to everyone now that regulation should be adequate to assure that speculator's risk is not passed on to taxpayers. In fact, government has had to bail out the private sector every time there is a slip. At times the bailouts look like crony capitalism.

"The very first priority will be to restore financial oversight to the finance industry." FromThe Trillion Dollar Meltdown: Charles R. Morris.

There should be a well reasoned discussion of those things best done by the public and those that should be privatized. Where one or two companies control a market, the private sector needs oversight. A free market is at its best when there are many competitors, where information is available and reliable, and where everyone is allowed to participate. This condition is rare in the US. Corporations prefer monopoly.

The private sector is not always the best choice: healthcare and eldercare are examples that demonstrate where privatization is not efficient or functional. Privatization of the military is particularly grotesque and could lead to a praetorian guard. The simple-minded Republican mantra that flat, lower taxes and smaller government are always better is just silly. It is, however, effective in keeping income disparities at extreme levels, removing the tax burden from the already wealthy, and making government an ATM machine for the well connected. Republicans have not made government smaller, nor have they been fiscally responsible. They did not pay for the wars that they provoked, they borrowed massively from third world countries (passing this debt on to the next generation), and enriched their cronies with much of the proceeds.

Republican policy is always regressive. They are happiest when giving tax cuts to the already comfortable. They are not willing to accept that the Constitution provides also for the general welfare.

Capitalism is on a path to destroy the environment. It should be clear now that where there is a common public interest, capitalism does not work. (See Healthcare.)

Since the economy has been militarized, it is unlikely that we will ever again have the peace or prosperity that we once enjoyed.

The Economic Policy Institute has produced an Agenda for Shared Prosperity. We are on a path to plutocracy, financial instability, social misery, and fascism. Unfortunately, appropriate changes are not visible now . Democracy or Plutocracy   

Robert Kuttner comments on the success of the Danish model. We can only wish. (What you should know about Finland.)

Reinforce the social safety net

Republicans seem to think that money is the only problem, complain about taxes, and vow to make government smaller, but they never acknowledge that most US taxes are regressive and go to the world's largest military. See here. They blame the victims...it used to be welfare mothers but currently illegal aliens. US government, unlike Europeans, seems unwilling to acknowledge the Constitutional duty to "promote the general welfare" and, although the U.S. signed on to the UN Declaration of Human Rights, there is only a very selective recognition of its details.

The government should, as the only institution that can, assure the well being of the people: this includes guarantees of a minimum standard of living, access to healthcare, appropriate education for everyone, and decent eldercare. This is a moral value and lack of money for these things is no excuse. It seems Republicans are only 'pro-life' for the unborn.

Even though our distribution of income has become progressively worse, red ink is everywhere, the Bush Republicans pushed for unconscionable tax cuts for the wealthiest, and didn't bother to pay for their wars. That is a symptom of a banana republic: running large deficits to benefit cronies. Financial crisis could occur any time our foreign debtors decide to pull the plug. It looks to be just a matter of time now.

We should have a social contract. The very young, very old, disabled and sick (all who are not in the workforce) should be provided for from the commons. There is no excuse for an advanced country NOT to take care of its people. Right now there is a Federal War on funding or providing Long Term Care, youth are being forced into heavy debt for  higher education, many are going without adequate health care, often their only job option is the military.

Corporations should not be burdened with the costs of social services because, it is now plain to see, they become uncompetitive. Anyway, they are backing out and people are losing what little security they had.

The US made a fundamental mistake in making social programs an employer burden because, on a global scale, it puts us at a competetive disadvantage. The welfare state should be paid for with general taxes.

There should be an assurance that Social Security will remain strong, that health care will be there for everyone. Robert Reich in his book "Supercapitalism" advocates decoupling healthcare from employment. Doing this would make for a better population and a more robust economy.

Scandinavians may pay high taxes, but they do a good job taking care of their people.  They pay ALL expenses for higher education. Elder care is a public responsibility. Their system is more democratic also, and their economy performs better. Here are a couple of examples.

What you should know about Finland.

Robert Kuttner writes about Denmark

Protect Civil Service

Homeland Security never was a goal of the Bush administration and we are not safer. They stripped away the National Guard, directed security funding to red states, and generally ignored real security risks. The logical result of Republican individualism is what happened after Katrina. Lieberman was on the committee that quickly endorsed Michael Brown as head of FEMA. The Civil Service should be strengthened so that party cronies do not replace competent, experienced professionals. Bush  habitually appointed ideologue incompetents, like himself, to high office. Everyday security has deteriorated substantially while Republicans used the government like an ATM machine.

Broaden Education

Charlie Savage writes (in his book Takeover) "In August 2004, Education Department researchers released a surprising study of test scores showing that students at charter schools were performing worse than comparable students at regular public schools. The findings were a disappointment for those in the Bush-Cheney administration who favored charter school funding. Less than two weeks later, Education Department decided to sharply cut back on the information collected about charter schools." (This pattern of suppression of ideologically unfavorable information was frequently seen in the Bush administration and Savage details some of it.) 

Republican religious zealots damaged US education with their war on science. Dr. Hansen's book, "Censoring Science", describes the techniques used by the Bush administration to muzzle scientists. It's not just bad for policy, for general knowledge, but also for education. The US could easily lose its scientific edge to countries that are now importing our jobs.

Recognize that Republicans have a stealth program to privatize education... for profit.

Free Software and Open textbooks could  improve  education at reduced cost.

Finland, which pays for ALL education, has the world's best education outcomes. 

Encourage the best professors at the best Universities to put their lectures on the internet. Some of our best Universities have done this already, but they need better incentives.  Higher education could be cheaper, better, and more democratic. Lectures from our best Universities could be publicly available. It might be an antidote for ignorant, exploitive, partisan,  corporate media.

Oppose theocracy

The Republican War on Science, a direct result of their unholy alliance with religion, degrades our science education, introduces hateful prejudice into the political process, makes Middle East war look like a new crusade, and has very little value in policy making. Kevin Philips, Mark Crispin Miller and others have written extensively about this.  Ralph Nader's comments on US support for Israeli bombing of Lebanon is instructive. Lieberman naturally has the interests of the Israelis at the heart of his agenda, but we need to be neutral so as not to be the recipients of (well deserved) blowback from the Middle East. Bush has made comments that make the War in Iraq look like another crusade. We need to examine religions for their role in fomenting war.

Religions that urge violence are criminal. Their schools should be closed, their assets seized, and they ought to be illegal.

Defend civil liberties

Unauthorized telephone searches, internet surveillance, library monitoring, financial record data mining, all threaten our basic rights. The Patriot Act is an assault on our civil liberties and on the Constitution.

"Congress approved and President [sic] Bush signed into law the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which does away with habeas corpus, the right of suspected terrorists or anybody else to know why they have been imprisoned, provided the president does not think it should apply to you and declares you an enemy combatant... Does that not basically mean that if Mr. Bush or Mr. Rumsfeld say so, anybody in this country, citizen or not, innocent or not, can end up being an unlawful enemy combatant? Jonathan Turley, George Washington University Constitutional Law Professor: It certainly does. In fact, later on, it says that if you even give material support to an organization that the president deems connected to one of these groups, you too can be an enemy combatant. And the fact that he appoints this tribunal is meaningless. You know, standing behind him at the signing ceremony was his attorney general, who signed a memo that said that you could torture people, that you could do harm to them to the point of organ failure or death. So if he appoints someone like that to be attorney general, you can imagine who he’s going be putting on this board." (From 10/18/06 CLG news) Keith Olbermann: 

Call off the War on Drugs. It is a sham. Americans seem to have trouble learning lessons from other countries or from history. Compare results from prohibition or from the Netherlands.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes the right to form a union. Republicans, notably Reagan, made union-busting a goal. They have been successful in propelling much of the population downward through wage cuts, shrinking benefits, higher tuitions, niggardly welfare, out-of-sight healthcare costs, and other predatory activities. They also brought the economy to its knees in the process.

Insist on transparency in government

Secrecy in government is the enemy of democracy, and the Bush administration was reluctant to allow visibility into its dealings. That Bush is the son of a former President  created enormous conflicts of interest, not the least of which was the flaunting of the law which would have opened Bush Sr's records to the public. Charlie Savage's Book "Takeover: The Return of the Imperial Presidency and the Subversion of American Democracy describes in some detail the process by which secrecy has all but kept the Congress from exercising its oversight role.

We need to have the Freedom of Information Act reaffirmed so that it cannot be pushed aside as the Bush administration did.

When government is secret, there must be vigorous, responsible oversight.

Make intelligence agencies accountable and independent of politics

Secrecy corrupts democracy

Bush's father was head of the CIA, an agency skilled in rigging elections. Recently, covert agencies have become more powerful, the Freedom of Information Act has been seriously weakened. The US government now has little transparency. It is no wonder that it is so dysfunctional.

Evidence is abundant that Neocons intimidated intelligence agencies until they got the answers to justify war in Iraq. (Overriding professional 'intelligence' should be criminal.)

"Intelligence" agencies may be the president's Praetorian guard, enabling his grab for power. In fairness to CIA agents who were disgusted by Bush's torture and rendition orders, Ray McGovern points out that torture and renditions have been privatized to companies like Blackwater.

It appears that when the Bush administration did not get the results they wanted from 'intelligence agencies', they intimidated them until they got it their way.

 Twisting 'intelligence' for political gain is treason. Especially if it causes a war.

It is clear that covert agencies are a threat to our democracy. Vigorous oversight and suspicion is warrented for government activities that cannot be made public.

Defend the Constitution

"The American people are going to have to say, 'Enough of this business of justifying everything as necessary for the war on terror.' Either the Constitution and the laws of this country mean something or they don't. It is truly frightening what is going on in this country." Bob Barr, former GOP Congressman from Georgia.

Bush Republicans attacked the Constitution. It's not just that the "Patriot Act" was a frontal assault on the Bill of Rights, or that the Military Commissions Act negated Habeas Corpus, rolled back FISA, allowed torture, or dismissed the Geneva Conventions, they blazed a path to an imperial Presidency. These are the same people sworn to defend the Constitution and propagandizing for its strict interpretation. See Conyer's report on the Constitution in crisis.

During Bush's first six years, Republicans controlled of all three branches of government, had effective control of the press, and we had one-party government. Party loyalty among Republicans assured that the Bush agenda, which turned out to be extremely misguided, was US policy. There was no Congressional oversight of major issues. In short, Bush Republicans obliterated Constitutional checks and balances by misusing their party.

Real conservatives would want to protect the best features of the Constitution at the very least. Instead the Bush administration undermined the bill of rights, neglected important assumptions such as the avoidance of foreign adventures, the revulsion against concentration of power (whether it be the media, corporations, or the Presidency.), or the continued functioning of those 'checks and balances'.  Long standing international treaties, like the Geneva Convention,  negotiated over decades, were scrapped.

Andrew Bacevich pointed out: There is nothing in the Constitution that justifies an agenda of remaking the middle east. The framers knew to avoid foreign entanglements. We should participate in international problem solving instead of committing the US to endless war. Congress has thrust power on the imperial President.  

Staying Bush's course means the end of our republic, and it confirms our path to empire. History has shown the likely fate of empires is destruction. It should now be obvious that we are a lot less safe now. War has become increasingly more destructive and our fate worse than those which have gone before. We are, as Noam Chomsky points out, on a path to an "Armageddon of our own making". See Chalmers Johnson's "Republic or Empire" in the January, 2007 issue of Harpers Magazine as well as his three important books.

Repair the Constitution

So far, the US Constitution has not failed completely, but it is over two hundred years old and needs alteration. There is a serious threat from the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision.

There should be unmistakable Constitutional clarity that the President is not above the law and, given his penchant for 'signing statements',  that he is on no account a legislator. 'Signing statements' by the President should have NO effect in law.  If the Courts do not agree, (remember the Supreme Court selected Bush for office), we need a Constitutional amendment to make that clear. Establishing an imperial President will signal an outright revocation of the Constitution.

Limit the Imperial Presidency

A President out of control has shredded the Constitution, broken the social contract, thumbed his nose at international law, and committed war crimes. He and his administration, even after leaving office, need to be held accountable.

The divine right royals in Europe no longer rule. They have been reduced to attending ceremonial events and most of their power has been reallocated to representatives of the people subject to recall. It is clear that we do not need a strong-man Presidency. It is dangerous. When the President is not too wise, as is sometimes the case, our national direction may be very misguided. When his advisors are sycophants, there are no limits to the damage he can do.

When the President is above the law, then the office has become too strong for the Constitution to survive. The Congress needs to be aggressive in its oversight and to do that it cannot allow the high levels of secrecy that now prevail. The President is unaccountable in his use of 'intelligence' agencies and they have been engaged in activities that Americans would not accept. There are obvious conflicts of interest when successive Presidents come from the same family. The Bush family has been particularly self-serving.

Bush has used signing statements, 'executive privilege', secrecy, and war to enhance the power of his presidency and the Congress has been only too willing to let him. It should be clear that 'executive privilege' does not have a place in a democracy. Records need to be as open as is reasonably possible, with the presumption that most documents should be open to public scrutiny. Secrecy allowed the war in Iraq to occur without real provocation, without good reason, with extremely poor judgment, and without public discussion. Jane Mayer reports that the "key piece of evidence buttressing congressional support for going to war against Iraq - was in fact fabricated to make the torture stop." (from the jacket of Jane Mayer's book 'The Dark Side'.

Congress made a grave error when authorizing Bush to go to war.  As Chris Hedges put it: "A country that exists in a state of permanent war cannot exist as a democracy." (The Nation: Dec 10, 2007. pg 6.)

Atrocities committed by the CIA and rogue military agents can only be carried out in secret. Although their actions are mostly secret, it is public knowledge that the CIA engaged in torture, renditions, illegal wars, assassinations, regime changes, and that its 'intelligence opinions' can be twisted by senior administration. They trained very undemocratic strong-man states, military at the School of the Americas to practice atrocities. (See Naomi Klein's book Shock Doctrine.) Americans, like Germans of the 1930's, are complacent even though the atrocities are widely known. What should the good American do ?

In history, a strong-man head of state arises in the process of building an empire, civil liberties are curtailed, the military becomes the primary resource consumer, and people find that their needs are not attended. Corporations win. A powerful elite benefit, but the middle class disappears and most of the people are in extreme poverty. As the gap between rich and poor becomes wider, walled communities with high security become more common.   

The President should not be able to set the agenda, he should have the responsibility of executing one democratically agreed on. He should be removed when his actions are at odds with the public good. Unfortunately in our rigged election process, we don't vote for an agenda, we vote for an individual and the agenda is often a surprise. Over time, unreported by corporate media,  the agenda has become  disaster capitalism. (See Noami Klein's book The Shock Doctrine: (also the video and  this.)

Since we have a partisan Supreme Court, to save our republic it may be necessary to amend the Constitution to prevent a strong President from acting above the law or imposing a military dictatorship.

Constitutional checks and balances need to be maintained and in good repair. A President who can make war on his own word is too powerful and needs to be constrained. A President who is above the law is clearly not acceptable by any American values.

  • The Presidency has become too powerful and is a threat to the Constitution. Bush claimed to be a unitary President in a direct slap at the Constitution and in violation of his oath of office,  His policy of privatizing everything including Social Security, healthcare, public schools thus removing them too from public accountability, was misguided, unpopular, and reflected not only Republicans trademark incompetence,  but their insatiable grab for political power. As the unitary President, he made the agenda. That's wrong.

    The concept of a unitary President is a betrayal of the Constitution and should be cause for impeachment.  Bush Republican's character, supposedly Christian, includes willingness to torture, to ignore the law (in signing statements), to blithely override the will of the people (re-read the Declaration of Independence for an appreciation of this.) and certainly has no intention of protecting the checks and balances intended in the Constitution.

    "Executive Privilege" and secrecy of vital information can render Congressional oversight impossible, thus destroying Constitutional checks and balances. Ignoring the Constitution, Bush in hundreds of signing statements, made it clear that he believed he is above the law. (When or if this is validated by his Supreme Court, we will officially live under a dictatorship.)

    The President should be prohibited from going to war unless the US is directly attacked by another state. The Constitution is clear: the "Congress shall have power to declare war,...and make rules concerning captures on land and water."

    Going to war, as Ronald Reagan did, in secret should be an impeachable offense.

  • Lying to make a case for war is treason. Politicians can, and do, override the judgments of 'intelligence' professionals...even though information has been gathered at staggering cost under conditions of secrecy.  Twisting intelligence should be a high crime.  However it is another tool to enable massive military budgets, war profiteering, pre-emptive war, and a 'unitary' Presidency.

    Checks and balances need to be restored. Congress, even though facing a corrupt executive branch, did no oversight. Even though Bush policies were failures, the Congress ceded him even more power. Party loyalty can trump the Constitution, and it has.

    The Constitution should be amended to restrain Presidential power. He should not be permitted to pardon himself for crimes he authorized.

  • Secrecy

    Reaffirm the Freedom of Information so that it cannot be pushed aside. (as the Bush administration did.)  

    The law should require that high-level officials keep complete, open records. Only with strong judicial oversight should they be closed. A revised Constitution should reject the 'executive privilege' claimed by Nixon, Bush, and Cheney. They are public servants, not dictators. Refusing to deliver needed information to the Congress should be a crime and an impeachable offense.

    Covert agencies are not accountable. They not only have budgets that are large and hidden, they have been responsible for all US wars since WWII and many illegal activities. We know that the CIA has run drugs into Los Angeles, that Afghanistan under the Taliban produced almost no narcotics but now it produces a large part of the worlds drugs, the agency has engaged in renditions, torture, assassinations, regime changes...and it has supported dictatorships in many parts of the world. If good US citizens were fully informed, there would be an even more massive change of politicians.

    There must be some restraint, judicial oversight, of the governments decisions of what secrets to keep. The Bush administration's volume of 'classified' documents was unprecedented, and extremely anti-democratic. Without a doubt, the Bush administration's worst abuses occurred because they could keep their activities secret.

    They succeeded in neutralizing the FISA court. They were able to do this, in addition to other crimes, because it was secret.

    Information that caused us to go to war in Iraq was extracted using torture....in secret.

    Having failed to learn lessons from history, we went to war in Iraq based on twisted information. The same people, some felons, who justified the massive and dysfunctional arms buildup in the Reagan administration also were responsible for twisting 'intelligence' to justify the war in Iraq. Although media is complicit in keeping Americans ignorant about these facts, Congress, unwilling or unable to access classified information, has failed in its oversight of the executive branch. Secrecy will likely be a fatal poison for the US Constitution.

    We know that the Bush administration used secrecy to hide corruption, activities of covert agencies, black budgets, unsavory political activities, lawbreaking, ideological falsehoods, and an assortment of other lies. All of this is unconstitutional. 

The Congress failed to exercise its Constitutional duty to determine, with due diligence, when it is necessary to go to war.

(It dramatically failed in providing oversight in the recent past.) Keep in mind that the UN Charter forbids war without Security Council approval. (The US has signed the UN Charter and made it the law of the land, but it doesn't bother to pay its dues either.)

To exercise oversight Congress should open proper investigations of war profiteering, and 9/11. It also needs to assert that signing statements are in violation of the Constitution.

Because there is so much information that is secret and kept from the Congress as well as the people, it is possible that Constitutional checks can no longer operate. Clearly, the people oppose the war in Iraq, while the President did not. Remember what it says in the Declaration of Independence: "governments...derive their power from the consent of the governed.

The evidence strongly suggests that the legislative and judicial branches, having become so servile in the presence of the imperial presidency, have largely lost the ability to respond in a principled and independent manner. Could the people themselves restore constitutional government? A grassroots movement to abolish the CIA, break the hold of the military-industrial complex, and establish public financing of elections may be theoretically conceivable but is unlikely given the conglomerate control of the mass media and the difficulties of mobilizing our large and diffuse population." Chalmers Johnson: Nemesis pg 269

Do Not build an empire.

Since media does not acknowledge it, most Americans are in denial that their government is maintaining an empire. They tend to believe what the media tells them. (Putin's comments.)

The Neocons plan to remake the world is in writing for anyone that cares to look. See Chalmers Johnson's book "The Sorrows of Empire", Noam Chomsky's "Hegemony or Survival", or John Tirman's "100 Ways...". Morris Berman's thoughtful outlook on the fate of the US is probably right. See his book Dark Ages America, the Final Phase of Empire. Berman thinks the outlook for the US is bleak. He is most likely correct.

The Republican agenda is globalization for the benefit of transnational corporations, and everyone else will be a loser. We will also lose the Constitution, our democracy (what's left of it), our civil liberties, and our standard of living. (R's pretty much don't care about the environment either.) They are willing to sacrifice the future of their children and the well-being of the American people for empire. What should be obvious to everyone now is that worlwide empire cannot be supported by a weakening economy.

For a positive agenda, see Network of Spiritual Progressives.

See the Bibliography for books elaborating this. More comments at Editorial

Control military expense

Ike warned about the growing power of the military industrial complex, but most people seem unconcerned for the arms industry is widely scattered across the country. It is a very misguided jobs program. We spend more on the military than all other countries of the world COMBINED. As a result, weaponry is now our largest manufacturing sector,  other industries have bled away to low-wage countries. An all-consuming military will inevitably lead to a national security state. (We are already well on the way.)  War profiteering should be regarded as criminal, but its benefits seem to go to the very highest level of the administration. It is the world's most powerful military that is causing a tsunami of red ink. The arms race is accelerating. Diplomacy should be our response to problems, not military action.

About Oreo Cookies 

Get out of Iraq

Respect international law.

The Declaration of Independence reads "a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.", but Republicans have shown only contempt for international law.

Because we have already signed these laws, it should be unnecessary to say this: The US should demonstrate an unwavering commitment to the Geneva Convention, human rights, the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty, the judgments of the World Court, the International Criminal Court, and the Millennium Goals for the UN. (It is wrong for an unwise, out-of-control President to nullify treaties made over decades. You know its right when John Bolton opposes it.) 

The rest of the civilized world has rejected the death penalty, so should we.  Take a stand against torture in any form. See this video of Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh: On Human Rights at the University Of Connecticut Sakler Lecture.

Make diplomacy a priority, not war. Bush foreign policy has been a disaster. If the US did its fair share in foreign aid, which is clearly does not, there might be a little good will and a decline in terrorism. You don't make a lot of friends with bombs. See Jeffrey Sachs book The End of Poverty

We should make the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights national policy. After all we did sign it. The reason it is universal is that it applies to everybody. Something the Bushies overlook.

Assure the UN a reliable revenue stream

The US should pay its UN dues.

The UN should take the lead in international crisis, not the US. Most Americans agree with UN goals.

Like the US early experiments in government (the Articles of Confederation), the UN has been given responsibility but no tax base. A Tobin tax would do the job of dampening speculative international currency flow, raise large amounts of revenue, and support the UN.

In the US a majority support the UN. The US does not have to be the policeman for the world, nor should it be.

The Millenium Development Goals should be at the centerpiece of US policy.

Sustainability should be a primary goal. That's why agenda 21 is importanrt.

Support the UN's Millennium Development Goals. Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vddX4n30sXY From http://www.betterworldcampaign.org/issues/millennium_development_goals.asp

Investigate 9/11

The 9/11 Commission was a whitewash. Reopen the 9/11 investigation.

Stop the War on Drugs

See Mike Gravel's comments here.

Actively work for Peace

Traditionally the US maintained an illusion that it was interested in peace, but with the Bush administration the reality is evident. Both official political parties cannot wait to throw more money to the military. Even if the spending is wildly dysfunctional (like the BMD). What we have is a complete takeover of the US government by the military/industrial complex. Chalmers Johnson has described the consequences in his book Nemesis. It is unlikely that we will have an opportunity to vote for a candidate that is committed to peace. War is too profitable for that.

A Department of Peace would be a good idea. We should rely on diplomatic and economic solutions instead of military ones.

See the Road map for Peace.  

The True Patriot

Look to other countries to see if we can learn from their success

Conclusion

We need a Constitutional Convention.


"Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of the smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights."  Einstein on Politics, Rowe and Schulmann. Monthly Review, May 1949.

Barack Obama's comments on the State of the union

 

Bibliography

Agenda For A New Economy, David Korten

The Price of Civilization: Jeffrey Sachs

The Seventeen Solutions: Ralph Nader

Better World Clubs (download free book)

Links

Prosperity Agenda

A Capital Budget For Public Investment

Vision for America

Our Future.org

PDA priorities

World Future Society

Progressive Agenda 2008

Economic Justice Agenda

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