Progressmo Founders Series: Reclaiming the Founders from the Right..#1 Thomas Jefferson

 

The first founder I will discuss is Thomas Jefferson. I feel that Thomas Jefferson, who many times has been hijacked by Conservatives and Tea Partyers, in my opinion spoke to the essence that is the Occupy movement. While, the right holds Jefferson as their anti-tax, anti-Federal government hero that Glenn Beck has claimed to be his favorite founding father. However, through a wanton misrepresentation of certain quotes, writings and beliefs of this founder, I fear that the right has misconstrued Thomas Jefferson, who in my opinion would have championed the Occupy Movement.

Where would Thomas Jefferson stand on the issue of economic inequality that our nation is currently dealing with? The economy that Thomas Jefferson envisioned would have been a more agrarian based one, and little could have prepared him to envision the massive industrialization and change in the American landscape that we have today. Yet, I feel that as the individual farmer was paramount to Thomas Jefferson, the workers of our nation would have been just as important to him.

The economic inequalities that could arise in the United States was something of great concern to Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to James Madison stated:

 “I am conscious that an equal division of property is impracticable, but the consequences of this enormous inequality producing so much misery to the bulk of mankind, legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property…Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions or property in geometrical progression as they rise.” (http://observationalepidemiology.blogspot.com/2010/12/thomas-jefferson-on-income-inequality.html)

 Glenn Beck’s favorite founder can clearer be seen favoring a progressive tax rate to help ease inequality in property. Inequality cannot be removed from an economy. With 43% of the national wealth being controlled by 1% of the population we are seeing an inequality that border lines on tyranny of the 1%. Economic inequality at times is an unavoidable outcome of reality, however, how much inequality because a greater burden on the next subject that we face; civil liberties.

Thomas Jefferson views on civil rights, even though he was a slave owner, would match the Occupiers more closely than the tea party and conservatives. In his legal argument of 1770, Thomas Jefferson stated:

“Under the law of nature, all men are born free, every one comes into the world with a right to his own person”

 In these twenty-three words we can sum up nearly any response Thomas Jefferson would have as far as civil rights were concerned. If everyone comes into this world with the right to be his own person, how can we limit the rights of persons? How can we dictate who can, or can’t marry; How can we justify who can, or can’t have health care; How can we justify holding certain rights from certain populations of society that are afforded to others. Now I know that the fact that Thomas Jefferson owned human property, he is not the greatest choice to use to explain civil liberties. However, in his original draft of the Declaration of Independence he attempted to distance the newly forming American from slavery. Unfortunately, for the sake of compromise and creating this great nation that distancing would have to be pushed off for young American men who came of military age in the 1860’s. Insofar as religion would come into the context of Civil Rights, Thomas Jefferson in his A bill for Establishing Religious Freedom of 1777, which would be adopted by Congress in 1786 stated:

 “Our civil rights have no dependance on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.”

Thomas Jefferson and his close compatriot, author of the United States Constitution James Madison who would  bring this bill for religious freedom to the floor of Congress in late 1785 saw the separation of Church and State to be paramount to the existence of a Republic, such as ours.

Now we reach the topic, which I believe is one of the major grievances of the Occupiers, which are the existence of special interest and corporate money pervading our election process. Jefferson stated:

“I hope we crush in its birth the aristocracies of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country” Furthermore referred to the merchants of his day as “the least virtuous of citizens (who) possess the least of the amore patriae.”

 These merchants and corporations are the greatest threat to our democracy that we have. Seeking only profits, with little concern for the American people they have purchased our legislature and ignore the regulations placed on them to protect the people and the market. While, I agree that Thomas Jefferson mistrusted government just as much as corporations, I cannot picture Jefferson being in favor of the crony capitalism, legalized bribery that lobbying has become would not have been tolerated by Jefferson. In his notes on Virginia, Jefferson stated:

 “The time to guard against corruption and tyranny is before they shall have gotten hold of us”

Unfortunately we have failed to respond in a timely manner and the corruption and tyranny has appeared in the sense of corporate personhood.

In all my readings of Thomas Jefferson, I find it hard to believe that he would have found a corporation as being a person. He so guarded, and demanded the respect for individual liberty, that the tyranny that corporate personhood has forced on the individuals is not a tyranny that Jefferson would protect. Whether or not the answer is from through government, I speculate that Jefferson would feel that doing nothing to protect the individual from the corporation would be a greater evil than intervening for the good of the people.

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American Terrorism: Paramilitary Police Targeting Occupiers

The rise of police brutality and the use of excessive force against peaceful protesters exercising their constitutionally protected rights is frightening.  Worse is the rise of paramilitary tactics against Occupy camps nationwide.  We now know these attacks were coordinated through conference calls and, perhaps the Department of Homeland Security.

The involvement of DHS raises serious questions about Barack Obama’s culpability.  He cannot condemn the likes of Assad, Mubarak and Ghaddafi then turn around and engage in American terrorism against domestic protesters.  The powers created under Bush and Cheney creating a “Unitary Executive” are all encompassing.  We have already witnessed a situation where President Obama, acting on those extraordinary powers, has decided when, where and how he can kill Americans without due process.

This video from Cal-Davis is shocking.  In it a policeman calmly walks up and down a line of sitting, non violent, non threatening protesters protected, supposedly, by our Bill of Rights and criminally empties a canister of pepper spray onto them:

The effect of all this paramilitary force is bringing new outrage from the 99%.  More and more citizens will begin joining the Occupy movement as government repression against them escalates.  It is impossible to shield all of the brutality from cameras as Mayor Bloomberg attempted earlier in the week but he will now face a recall effort for his brazen violation of people’s rights.  All of these cities, universities and municipalities will face civil rights lawsuits as Pittsburgh has following the brutal crackdown there during the G20 summit.  There are consequences for this extreme action.

The people aren’t going away.  This simply strengthens the movement.  Occupy Wall Street took over the Brooklyn Bridge after being evicted from Zuccotti Park and sent a Batman-like projection onto the Verizon building:

This New Yorker set his video documentation to the tune of “New York, New York.”  I’ll never again listen to that song without remembering these images.  New York, this isn’t good for your image.  If you’re a tourist, go elsewhere.

News & Notes November 15, 2011

Following Rick Perry’s big gaffe last week Herman Cain couldn’t recall why Libya was important in an interview with the Milwaukee Sentinel.  This isn’t one of those gotcha questions about the leader of Uzbekistan-stan-stan.  Libya has been quite in the headlines all year.  Maybe Cain needs to get important stuff twirling around in his head instead of in his pants.

Anonymous continues doing important work by taking down over 40 child pornography websites.

Elizabeth Warren has her first introductory ad out.  Karl Rove is targeting her for supporting OWS.  This is a clear race between the 99% and the 1%.

Congressman Allen West has fessed up and admitted he was in a white supremacist motorcycle gang.  West denied this repeatedly in the past.

The coordinated efforts against the Occupy movement continued as protesters were raided by police in both New York and Philadelphia last night.  Mayor Bloomberg was ignoring a court order allowing them to return. College Humor is satarizing the 1% in a comical video here.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear a legal challenge to ObamaCare.  The White House said it welcomed the review:

Earlier this year, the Obama Administration asked the Supreme Court to consider legal challenges to the health reform law and we are pleased the Court has agreed to hear this case. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, one million more young Americans have health insurance, women are getting mammograms and preventive services without paying an extra penny out of their own pocket and insurance companies have to spend more of your premiums on health care instead of advertising and bonuses. We know the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and are confident the Supreme Court will agree.

Eric Cantor got mic checked at Rice University:

The state legislature is debating about extending hunting to Sundays.  Aren’t six days enough to disrupt our peace?  The Sunday escape from gun nuts trampling all over our open lands firing at anything which shoots is quite sufficient.  If we want to paddle during hunting season Sunday is the only safe time to be out on the water.

Bill O’Reilly is in a tither because his new book about Lincoln has been cited for numerous factual errors.  The Christian Science Monitor called it “a sensationalized, suggestive, and overly simplistic tale of Lincoln’s life.”  That pretty much sums up the totality of O’Reilly’s life’s work.

Police Using Force Against Occupy Movements

The next step for American police is to begin using live ammunition against peaceful, non violent Occupy protesters and then how will America be different from Syria?  The abusive and forceful police tactics being unleashed across the country in what is obviously a coordinated effort to destroy the movement is alarming.

Mayor Michael Nutter is now threatening the very peaceful protest at Occupy Philadelphia and has stepped up the police presence there.  It might help greatly if Nutter actually went outside City Hall and listened to these people for a few hours.

Police in Portland, Oregon violently threw the Occupy protesters out of their park yesterday.  This was all over Twitter and facebook but vividly absent from TV news.

The police brutality in Berkeley is evident in this video from last week:

Let us remind ourselves that these are peaceful, non-violent protests which are completely within the legal rights expounded in the constitution.   The Bill of Rights guarantees the right of peaceful assembly and for the redress of grievances.  Ocupiers don’t need permits, their permit is the Bill of Rights.  The use of force by police is unconstitutional and a frightening example of the police state tactics we witnessed in other lands this year.  How can Obama condemn them and allow this?

New book brings the Occupy Wall Street Movement to life

Too often I hear that the Occupy Wall Street Movement lacks a clear message. This misconception that has pervaded through the mainstream media, finally has a challenge. For those who want to get down to the crux of the movement, to the living, breathing struggle taking place at many occupy sites throughout America, a good place to start would be: “Voices From the 99 Percent: An Oral History of the Occupy Wall Street Movement” edited by Larry Flank.

When I first started reading the accounts and press releases from those who have been breathing the dirt and gravel at these sites, I felt privileged to be a part of it. When I was contacted last month to submit two of my blogs from Occupy Columbus, OH and Occupy Madison, WI, I didn’t know what to expect. The two articles that I wrote on my way to the Progressive Media conference in Madison, contained just one persons perspective of a movement of millions. Yet, when they are all put together in this oral history the voice of the 99% comes alive. Not through mainstream publications, but, the unbiased, uncorrupted cry of the rank and file of this epic undertaking.

As I delve into the narrative of real life stories from those at the heart of the occupation, I feel the message come alive.  Conservatives attack this movement as being lazy, unemployed student activists, marxist and anarchist trying to destroy freedom and steal the wealth of the 1%. The Occupy Movement is not asking the government to guarantee equal results for the 99%, we want equal opportunity to have a chance to achieve those results. Occupy Wall Street attacks the banks that exploited us, the market that forgot us and the corporations that stole the We the People that Jefferson guaranteed us.

We are not lazy, many of us have jobs, yet, we take time from them to fight for those who have none, or are underemployed. We are not marxist, many of us want the competition and opportunity that a capitalist system offers, but, we want the regulations that prevent a unregulated market from steam rolling us. We want corporate personhood to end and we want to be acknowledged as We the People. The people that Thomas Jefferson wrote about in the Declaration of Independence.

We, the people of the United States in order to reclaim our union have occupied the streets and financial districts of our country. The We, exists in the pages of this narration. The next chapter of the occupation is being written every day. This history is becoming our future. Help us write the next chapter that “Voices From the 99 Percent: An Oral History of the Occupy Wall Street Movement” starts.

Yet again, occupy wall street is misunderstood from the right

Ed Feulner, president of the Heritage Foundation, in his editorial of Nov 9, 2011 “Tea Party vs. the Occupiers” has sadly, but with no surprise misunderstood the Occupy movement. Trying to claim the Occupy movement would “deviate America from its historic course” and would “make our county less free and more dependent on an ever growing Government” just goes to show that those on the right, still are not listening.

Mr. Feulner’s claims that the occupy movement wants to limit free speech due to opposition with decision of Citizens United vs. FEC. The Supreme Court decision did not reject that notion of who can, or cannot speak freely. The court placed a monetary value on speech, creating a system where money is equivalent to speech. Corporations have used their coffers to push a agenda that leaves the “We the People” that the founders envisioned in jeopardy. Thomas Paine stated: “A Government of our own is our natural right”, How can the voice of the people be free, and Government be ours when money pervades our elected officials.

Mr. Feulner attacks the Occupy Movement for opposing bailouts to wall street, which to the credit of the tea party they also oppose, yet, apparently favoring special exemptions for companies that claim to be “green”. The United States should be at the forefront  embracing of the green industrial revolution that has created millions of jobs worldwide, while protecting our environment. Green initiatives create jobs, something we Americans sorely need. According to BioFina, a creator of bio-renewable plastics: A greener economy could create upwards of four million jobs, reduce greenhouse emissions, cut energy prices and create a more stable economy, while protecting the environment.

Furthermore, Mr. Feulners attacks on the EPA, stating that the Occupy movement wants the EPA to have “authoritarian powers to…shut down corporations, businesses or any entities that intentionally or recklessly damage the environment” is a bad thing. Is this really a issue that should divides us, whether or not we should stop corporations from damaging our environment.

Mr. Feulner is half right when he claims the Occupy Movement wants to help “deviate America from its historic course” The current course that we have been on for the past thirty or so years is one we must deviate from. Growing inequality, rampant greed, assault on civil liberties, fighting wars we can’t pay for, unregulated markets are causing a race to the bottom for a vast majority of the American people. President. Andrew Jackson in a letter to John Quincy Adams stated: “In general, the great can protect themselves, but the poor and humble require the arm and shield of the law” Occupy Wall Street intends to remind the government of this responsibility. They have looked out for the top at our expense for far to long. We don’t want equal results, we want equal opportunity and protection from those who assault our standard of living for nothing more then higher profits.

OWS Beginning to Instill Fear in the 1%

The right wing is scared.  We see it in the way they’re demonizing Occupy Wall Street.  Thousands of people are in the streets everywhere across the country, and now internationally, against Wall Street greed, the growing income inequality and corporate power.  Bankers on the Street are worried, what if these people come at them with pitchforks next?  They’ve bought off the NYPD but all that has done is make things worse.  Every incident of police brutality goes viral and brings yet more protesters.

Young people who cannot find jobs because there aren’t any are fueling the revolt just as in Africa and the Middle East.  Fat cat bankers who committed massive fraud are responsible and Barack Obama gave them a free pass.  These aren’t Democrats in the streets, they’re democrats.  They see America turning into a plutocracy ruled by the richest 1% and their corporate sponsors.  Congress is a wholly owned subsidiary of Wall Street and voters are being disenfranchised, unions under the gun and a war begun against poor people.

The people are fed up.  Now we have an effort to instill an austerity program spun off from a Politburo called the Super Committee.  If you think things are bad now wait until Pat Toomey and his corporate cronies say they’re ending Social Security and Medicare.  Toomey, interestingly, keeps saying he’s been tasked to cut federal spending by $1.5 trillion.  The real number is $1.2 million.  Three GOP members of the Politburo from the House each raised over $400,000 in the last quarter.  They’re cashing in from their new influence and lobbyists are filling the trough in DC.

When this recommendation emerges next month millions more Americans will be in the streets, maybe in Washington.  We’ve gotten their attention and they’re scared.  Now we have make them terrified.  A million people surrounding the Capitol and shutting downtown DC off from everything might get them to finally restore democracy.

What will come of all this?  If history is our guide the powers that be will concede just enough to placate the masses without changing the fundamentals.  The people will get some token reforms which will convince them real change is possible and once they get home nothing much will actually change.

This isn’t the first time Americans have taken to the streets.  Workers fighting for their rights, African-Americans fighting for freedom, women demanding the right to vote, people have demanded concessions before and some progress was accomplished but nothing revolutionary.  Is it time for a Second Republic where we write a new constitution and form a new government?  This one may have grown too corrupt to save according to many.  Eliminating the corruptive force of money in politics, banning corporate personhood and specifying a right to privacy to keep the government out of our lives, our homes, our communications, our internet activity and our financial records is necessary.  When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for the people to throw off the ties which bind them, to attain equality with corporate powers, to end tyranny and restore freedoms, they are bound to form a new government.  This need not be violent, need not overthrow the current regime, need not turn Americans against one another.  The 1% who control the other 99% deserve to be overthrown if they refuse to abdicate their power.

It can be possible to do this without establishing a Second Republic is the 1% consent to having the inheritance tax restored, income taxes to recapture the monies they stole from the people, the rights of workers to organize freely and equally, the dismantlement of the industrial/military complex and a financial tax on stock and bond transactions we can then establish once and for all that corporations are NOT people.  Then we can restore democracy peacefully and the people can return home.

Meanwhile the American Autumn continues and the actions of Sen. Toomey and the Super Committee loom over the horizon.

News & Notes October 14, 2011

The US House passed a bill yesterday allowing federally funded hospitals the right to refuse to perform abortions.  Of course our law says it is a woman’s right to have an abortion and this law would actually kill women.  When severe complications from problem pregnancies threaten a woman’s life hospitals would be able to deny her life saving treatment.  Republicans in Washington just became a death panel.

Herman Cain is topping the GOP presidential polls.  I sure hope he becomes their nominee because we’d have a field day with his flat tax proposal.  Flat taxes mean even more income redistribution to the richest Americans while shifting the tax burden to the poor.  Here’s a news flash:  trying to close the deficit by taxing the poor won’t work for one simple reason:  they don’t have any money.  This man is a total idiot and his 9-9-9 plan reduces taxes for the rich from 35% to 9% and would not fund Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

The eviction of Occupy Wall Street was called off by the corporation which owns the park.  Regardless NYPD paratroops marched to the protest scenes outfitted in anti-riot gear to engage in yet more police brutality of behalf of bankers who stole their pensions.  

The ComputerGate trial continues in Harrisburg where former State Rep Brett Feese authorized work for Republican House campaigns as head of the HRCC according to testimony.  

State Senator Bob Mensch was found not guilty by Judge Thomas Eshelman in Berks County on charges he showed a gun to a passing motorist on I-78.  I sat through the first trial in Bernville and there’s no way a person could hear and see the testimony and find him not guilty.

The National Respurces Defense Council is targeting Congressmen Tim Holden and Lou Barletta for votes supporting polluters:

There was a state dinner at the White House last night and, again, I wasn’t invited.  Was it something I said???

Congress passed yet another job killing free trade deal this week.  Jim Gerlach spoke in support of this new measure which will cost yet more American jobs.

A pesky government regulation requires airlines to do periodic maintenance on all of their planes.  This keeps them from falling from the skies.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court candidates will be debating on PCN today.  The event is at Widener University.

Morning Notes

I’m headed to Philly this morning to cover Occupy Philadelphia and interview some of those protesting.  Meanwhile NYPD brutality against those at Occupy Wall Street is getting ugly:

Again, stupid cops forget that anyone with a cell phone also has a camera now.  All that goodwill generated towards the NYPD after 9/11 is dissipating with every swing of a baton, every spray of mace.

I heard about the death of Steve Jobs via a news notification on my iPhone.  The Apple visionary changed our lives but let’s remember they make these products using Asian sweatshop labor.

The morons like Herman Cain who don’t get it and say Occupy protesters are losers without jobs criticizing those who succeeded are so out of touch as to be scary.  No rich person in America made it without the nanny state helping them.  They employ workers educated in our public schools, use our electricity grid system to power their homes and offices, use our transportation system to move and ship their goods, our internet, our communications airwaves and a host of other public assets.  Our criminal justice system keeps them safe, our courts protect their rights and property, our Congress makes them rich beyond their wildest dreams.  No one makes it on their own in this world.  It’s time the other 99% got our fair share of the pie.

Occupy Wall Street Becoming a Movement

Occupy Wall Street is now in its third week and more and more of the “other 99%” are descending on Lower Manhattan to protest corporate greed, excess and control of our government.  Every time I hear some moron decry “big government” I know they’re in the hands of people like the Koch Brothers.  Our Founding Fathers were terribly afraid that corporations would seize control of the country and destroy personal freedoms.  We are now witnessing that destruction of democracy and it is up to us, the people, to take it back.  This is what Occupy Wall Street is all about.

1% of Americans now control 40% of our wealth and the gap between them and the other 99% is widening.  We are seeing them get bolder and bolder to the point they are advocating the elimination of minimum wages, child labor laws, all government regulation, programs for the poor and the making of unionism illegal.  Personal rights have now been subjugated to corporate rights, rights supposedly granted by the U.S. Supreme Court under the Fourteenth Amendment but never actually done.  There actually is no Supreme Court decision granting corporate personhood.

They have seized those rights however and made them supreme over actual human rights.  The words of the Declaration of Independence are now relevant to 21st century America.  Where our forefathers (and mothers) rebelled against the corporate tyranny of the East India Company and the might of the British Empire embarked on our shores to enforce the tyranny of the corporate state (that’s what colonialism is all about) a band of patriots in Boston descended on the harbor and dumped tons of tea into the harbor.  The real Boston Tea Party was an act against corporate tyranny and Occupy Wall Street is following in their footsteps.

It is now spreading throughout the country and coming tonight to Philadelphia.  It is already in Boston and Los Angeles.  The top 1% now get 24% of our national income, own half of our market securities (stocks, bonds and mutual funds), have but 1% of our personal debt (with assets like those who needs credit?) and are getting  a higher share of our national income than any time since the 1920’s (and we know how that decade turned out).

Things are so bad even average Joe’s on the street in Manhattan can talk down Fox News interviewers:

The group Anonymous is now aiding the protesters as police abusing them are exposed:

The stupid cops forget that everyone has a video camera now.

Democracy Now! has been great covering the protests but most of lamestream media is ignoring what is fast becoming the American Autumn.  Speaking of Democracy Now! Amy Goodman has received a $100,000 settlement for the police brutality against her during the 2008 Republican convention where she was arrested while covering protests.

Freedom is on the march right here in America.