Happy Repeal Day.
Happy Repeal Day.
Let’s say that you have tickets to see a new production of Shakespeare’s Othello. You’re thrilled at the prospects for the evening, and after weeks of anticipation, opening night has finally arrived. There you sit, a first-nighter at last, among thousands of others. The curtain goes up…
…and it turns out that it’s a Punch and Judy style puppet show.
There is a vague resemblance to Othello. Some of the plot lines and characters are familiar, but it’s far from what you expected. At first, you consider that maybe this is some sort of high concept theatre and you just don’t get it. As the evening wears on though, you become more and more outraged. It’s not Othello. It’s not even artful. It’s just plain old Punch and Judy batting each other in the head.
Would you blame the puppets?
Of course not.
Yet, over the past few decades, and in particular over the past few years, there has been an ever more boisterous chorus of outraged citizens in the United States blaming our government and our elected officials for all manner of evil, both real and imagined. If we could only get rid of those bastards in Washington, or make them ever less relevant to our lives, everything would be just peachy.
That, my friends, is blaming the puppets.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not defending the Congress, past or present, for their failures to lead, to solve problems, to respond with any coherence or common sense to any number of critical issues and dangers facing The Republic. I’m not defending the ham-handed dimwittedness of the Bush Administration, nor the calculating cynical ineffectualness of the Obama Administration. I’m just saying “don’t blame the puppets.” Blame the folks pulling the strings.
There’s no kind way to put this. The government of the United States has by now been so corrupted by our system of electoral financing that the Sons of St. Tammany would blush. It is, in effect and in the truest sense of the word, owned by the funders.
Some might suggest that I have fallen prey to cynicism myself, having made that statement. To them, I would ask a simple question. Do you believe that the United States Congress is responsive to the will of the people? If so, your opinion is at odds with 90% of the voting public. If not, the question becomes “to whom is Congress responsive, then?” The answer to that one should be obvious.
Over the past decade the financial services industry alone spent more than $2 billion on federal campaign contributions, according to the authoritative source on such things, Opensecrets.org. That amount was more than the health care, energy, defense, agriculture and transportation industries combined. Is it any wonder that one Senator recently admitted “frankly, they own the place?”
Immediately upon being appointed to the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (the so-called “Super Committee”), members began to see huge sums of money flowing into their re-election coffers from the political action committees of Lockheed, Pfizer, Goldman Sachs, the National Association of Realtors and others. Is it any wonder that they failed to reach an agreement that would impose a single penny of higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy, or to even consider any cuts to our bloated defense budget?
Is it surprising that the health care bill that passed in the last Congress is little more than a vehicle for subsidies to the big pharmaceutical and insurance companies? These ills, and scores more, can all be traced back to that single question. To whom are our elected officials most accountable? Who is pulling their strings?
Perhaps it’s fair to aim at least some of our ire at the government. After all, our elected officials aren’t made of wood. They are (presumably) human beings with the power of reason and conscience – but I submit that they are puppets nonetheless. Voting for new puppets, or downsizing the puppets, or placing term limits on the puppets, or getting rid of the puppets altogether won’t solve the problem.
We need to focus our attention toward the folks with their hands on the marionette bars, and we need to do our damnedest to cut the strings.
Resources For Change:
…some account executives earned a commission seven times higher from subprime loans, rather than prime mortgages. So they looked for less savvy borrowers — those with less education, without previous mortgage experience, or without fluent English — and nudged them toward subprime loans.
Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times recently spoke with James Theckston, who was a Regional VP for Chase during the housing boom. Theckston now speaks with regret about his culpability in the financial meltdown, as well as that of his bosses.
…they figured we’re going to make billions out of it, so who cares? The government is going to bail us out. And the problem loans will be out of here, maybe even overseas.
McCain says American Citizens Can Be Sent to Guantanamo. [The Progressive]
In this exchange between Senator Rand Paul and Senator John McCain while discussing provisions of the Defense Authorization Act, Senator McCain indicates that even U.S. Citizens could be arrested and held without trial indefinitely if they were considered a security threat.
Sen. Paul: “My question would be under the provisions would it be possible that an American citizen then could be declared an enemy combatant and sent to Guantanamo Bay and detained indefinitely?”
Sen. McCain: “I think that as long as that individual, no matter who they are, if they pose a threat to the security of the United States of America, should not be allowed to continue that threat.”
Read the full article at The Progressive.
Here’s more coverage from The Huffington Post.
Britons Strike as Government Extends Austerity Measures – NYTimes.com. Public sector workers on Wednesday began Britain’s biggest strike in a generation to protest austerity measures, a day after the British government said that it was falling behind with its deficit-reduction plan and that the measures would drag on for two more years.
Any issue that has these two in agreement ought to make us think twice.
Senator Rand Paul:
“It’s not enough just to be alleged to be a terrorist. That’s part of what due process is – deciding, are you a terrorist? I think it’s important that we not allow U.S. citizens to be taken.”
Senator Dianne Feinstein:
“Congress is essentially authorizing the indefinite imprisonment of American citizens, without charge. We are not a nation that locks up its citizens without charge.”
What are they talking about? There are provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act that will require that the U.S. military dispose with anyone who is suspected of terrorism, without regard to where they are, or who they are.
Let’s be clear about this. Under this law, if it passes, United States citizens, arrested within our own borders, could be imprisoned indefinitely without trial for the mere suspicion of having terrorist sympathies.
“The first thing I do in the morning is brush my teeth and sharpen my tongue.”
– Dorothy Parker
This brings you best wishes on Thanksgiving with a couple of favorite old radio segments from The Internet Archive.
From a 1951 CBS Radio Broadcast of Life With Luigi, it’s Luigi’s Thanksgiving Dinner for America. Also, from Armed Forces Radio Service, it’s the 1944 Thanksgiving special on Command Performance.
Life With Luigi starred J. Carrol Naish as “the little immigrant” Luigi Basco. Each episode was framed as a letter from his new home in Chicago back to his mama in Italy. The program aired on CBS Radio in the late 40s and early 50s until the move to television in 1952. In this episode, Luigi makes plans to invite all of America to his house for the Thanksgiving celebration. Originally broadcast on November 22, 1949, click here for the MP3.
The episode of Command Performance was broadcast to U.S. troops serving in WW II during Thanksgiving of 1944. Lionel Barrymore hosts, Dinah Shore sings and there’s a Baby Snooks sketch with Fanny Brice. The program also features the orchestra of Percy Faith. Click here for that MP3 download.
Also, as we enjoy the comfort of our homes, the company of our families and a festive meal this holiday, let’s not forget those who are unable to do so. I would encourage donations to the USO and to Catholic Charities.
God bless you and your family this Thanksgiving!
From the 2008 Magic Tour, Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band are joined by Tom Morello for a song in the tradition of Woody Guthrie.
I believe it’s fitting to contemplate as we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday.
“The highway is alive tonight….”
History is a relentless master. It has no present, only the past rushing into the future. To try to hold fast is to be swept aside.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Remembering JFK on the 48th Anniversary of his Passing
Rest In Peace