Thursday, May 31, 2012

Liberating Florida

Cartoon courtesy of Ole Olson, G+

When ALEC & the Oligarchs
 Control the Voter Registration List

Florida, just as 15 other states currently under the duress of Republican Governors and Republican State Legislatures, has taken the latest steps toward massive voter disenfranchisement.  Of course, other states with shaky gubernatorial election problems have been passing state law after state law to increase requirements both for registration and for voting.  

This CBS story estimates the number of voters who will be unable to vote due to a lack of suitable identification at 3.2 million -- more than enough to swing the Presidential election.  Republican controlled state legislatures have passed  these voter suppression laws in 39 states.  (Read the entire CBS News article here.)

The study points to GOP-driven voting reform efforts that Republicans say prevent fraud - but which some Democrats suggest are specifically designed to disenfranchise the young, minority and low-income voters who largely vote with their party. 

"Some states require voters to show government-issued photo identification, often of a type that as many as one in ten voters do not have," reads the Brennan Center for Justice report. "Other states have cut back on early voting, a hugely popular innovation used by millions of Americans. Two states reversed earlier reforms and once again disenfranchised millions who have past criminal convictions but who are now taxpaying members of the community. Still others made it much more difficult for citizens to register to vote, a prerequisite for voting."

Once state level anti-democracy forces have passed such laws, the citizens are basically stuck until they have an opportunity to change the legislators who did it.  The Federal Voting Rights Act provides a means for the Justice Department to intervene in some cases, but the Republicans have clearly decided that if enough such transgressions were to be completed at once, even the DOJ would lack the man power to counter the take over.

However, this posting is specifically about Florida where the Medicare fraud Governor, Rick Scott, has unleashed a "voter purge" proclamation which may ultimately include as many as 140,000 registered Florida voters.  The data base the Governor is employing to "sort out" the wheat from the chaff is an out dated Motor Vehicle file which gamed this much credibility from the old, Florida "Motor Voter" Act.  (Read the Tampa Bay Times article here.)

Shaking Hands With the Florida Oligarch Class

The exact way this scheme works may be brazenly adolescent, but it carries the full power of Florida law.  A registered voter receives a letter from the Florida Secretary of State informing him that he is not considered to be a legal voter in the state.  Upon receipt of the letter, the voter has 30 days to schedule a "hearing" with the local election supervisor to refute the claim that he is not a citizen.

If he fails to establish his legal voting status at such a hearing, his name is removed from the active voter registration lists.  This, of course, is little more than a slightly more mature version of the 2000/2004 Rove inspired voter "caging" which finally handed out a conviction to Ohio's then Secretary of State, Ken Blackwell.

At this point it would be easy to launch into a ranting and raving session about voter suppression in Florida, but here, MeanMesa has a slightly larger ambition.  Let's calm down a little and think about some possible means to turn this snake back into Governor Rick Scott's Reich Bunker.

The Tai Chi masters spoke of using one's opponent's weight and motion against him.

Governor Rick may have grossly over estimated both his weight and speed on this one.

If you are a legal Florida voter to whom Governor Rick's ethnic cleansing scheme has sent one of these letters, consider this following legal advice.  The more similar cases you can add to the effort the better.  Governor Rick clearly thought that this voter purge would be "roses, simply roses" once it began.  However, Mullah Nassr Edin would probably have called upon the following aphorism:

"If you want to swat the wasp nest with the broom, go ahead.  
Just remember, only the first swat is free."

Step one is to schedule the hearing.

However, don't just schedule the hearing, be totally prepared to seek remedy at trial in a court with jurisdiction.  During the discovery phase of that trial, you will be able to very reasonably demand an affidavit from the Florida Secretary of State containing all the specific evidence of your "non-citizenship" and  "non-eligibility" which resulted in the letter.

If the evidence deposed by the Secretary of State is not new -- in other words, if it includes the evidence of a similar crime the last time you voted in Florida -- immediately file a criminal complaint naming the Secretary of State and the State of Florida as defendants guilty of allowing illegal voters ( to cast unchallenged ballots in previous elections.

If it's going to be illegal this time, it was illegal last time.

This may sound a little over dramatic, but remember what the Secretary of State did to you to start this process. The goal here is to force the State of Florida to file a criminal complaint against you!  When the complaint is filed, you have a chance to demand a show cause hearing.

Show-cause hearings occur when the alleged victim of a crime or the police file an Application for a Criminal Complaint with the court. After an application has been filed, the court will send the defendant a notice in the mail requesting him or her to appear before a clerk-magistrate in a criminal show-cause hearing.  ... At a show-cause hearing, the complaining party must produce evidence demonstrating "probable cause" that the defendant committed the crime.

(Read about a show cause hearing as explained by the Harvard Law School here.)

The really fun part of this -- aside from tying the State of Florida's judicial system into knots -- is the part which requires the complaining party to produce evidence demonstrating a "probable cause" to believe that the defendant ( committed the crime.  The state's already heavily soiled "judicial system" would just be ramming more kangaroo court decisions -- Trayvon Martin shoot to kill cases, etc. -- through the court's calendar otherwise.

If you need to refresh your idea about the duties of an election supervisor, review the material at this link.  It's from Sarasota, Florida, but the responsibilities of the election supervisor in most other places in Florida will be similar.

Steel yourself, citizen.  Strike back.  Understand that the servants of the oligarchs will try to intimidate you.  Just be prepared to keep going.  They intend to take everything.  Everything.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

When "Placing the Blame" Only Makes It Worse

A Quiet Cycle of Greed, Corruption and Destruction

There is no shortage of opposing theories which squarely place the "blame" for the European austerity on a suspiciously convenient series of "causes."  In our typical head long rush to over simplicity, our skeptical minds have probably dabbled with one after another -- each encounter reinforcing some ideological vagary, some cynical axiom or, perhaps, just the latest perverse inclination to say "I told you so."

Yet, the "debt crisis" in both Europe and the United States reveals a quite discernible, unsettlingly similar set of events, victims, participants and consequences.  The media has been dutifully segregating the perpetrators to each EuroZone member as the wheel turns, but the distinctions are synthetic.  Not surprisingly, the same ugly foundations can be found in all the cases -- including the "debt crisis" in this country.

And, not only are the "foundations" similar.  The "players" are also similar.

The main player in each instance, no matter its geographical location,  turns out to be exactly the same "player."  In every country currently "hosting a debt problem" convenient villains are becoming visible -- bankers, stock brokers, corrupt politicians and avarice soaked oligarchs.  However all these "black kettles" don't fall far from the biggest "black pot" of them all: the electorates who either sat idly by or were even complicit in contradiction to their common sense.

In every one of these countries we find an entirely similar political system -- democracy.  At every juncture where the local "debt crisis" could have been curtailed but wasn't, we have to focus on the "could have" part.

Yes, all the greedy ones exploited opportunities right and left, one after another, relentlessly painting the grave scene we see now.  But, on the other hand, fully empowered citizens of these same democracies, for a variety of unsavory reasons, happily abrogated their responsibilities to successfully operate their respective democracies, governments and economies.

The reckless behavior of United States citizens is no exception.  Inebriated by what seemed to be times of national prosperity, we happily looked away from Congressional and Presidential policies which were persistently parasitic to the nation's normal economy,  and -- for those even slightly more interested -- clearly antagonistic to long term economic stability.  Both the schemes and their perpetrators were not only adolescent in their presentation to the public, they were intrinsically dangerous.

This was no mystery.  At least, it should not have been a mystery.

One particularly damaging scheme was the short term "manufacture" of synthetic economic strength coupled with simultaneous immense borrowing.  Other, opportunistic economic values seemed to be stable, but this was a stability founded on an ever increasing Ponzi game.  The borrowing supplanted failures in economic management, and the dismal voter apathy effectively undercut the "checks and balances" fundamental of democratic discipline.

The Final Round of "The Blame Game"

We are presently facing the monumental debt because the citizens -- voters -- failed to demand any more durable, more constructive alternatives.  The same can be said for Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Italy.

Even more interesting, the "more constructive alternatives" include absolutely no rehabilitative austerity.  "More constructive alternatives" do, however, include a troublesome concept which evokes stark terror in Republicans.

Good governance.

Although there might be some bits of attractive ideology further along in the discussion, no ideology is required to post the first maxim of good governance -- spending the tax payers money on things which advance the country.  The responsibility of managing the debt only surfaces after the debt has been created, and, somewhere in the process of creating debt, taxpayers will, at least theoretically, be interested in the argument about why that debt was necessary, unavoidable or desirable..  No common ideology subscribes to the concept of perpetually borrowing more and more money for routine government expenditures.

This is what we did.  This is what Greece did.  This is what all the "debt crisis" hosts did.

Additionally, although there might be some bits of economic policies for democracies counter to this general rule, no stable economic policy for democracies subscribes to the concept of enfranchised voters perpetually acquiescing to government policies which cannot -- under even the most dynamic imaginary model -- possibly be sustained.

This is what we did.  This is what Greece did.  This is what all the "debt crisis" hosts did.

We all simply stood there, transfixed on an hypnotic indulgence in "busyness," while our economies were being looted.  Our selective memory may have very comfortably set this aside while we wail about the opportunists who wound up with all the money, but the ultimate responsibility rests with us.  We had the power to prevent this, and we didn't.

We've also had plenty of past history from which we could have learned this, and we didn't.

The salient cry would not have been "Stop stealing from us!  Stop looting the Treasury!"  Instead, we were supposed to be yelling "Govern!  Do things with our tax money that we need and can afford."

Of course there were villains, but there weren't any more or any less villains this time than there have been before.  Not a day has passed in the history of laissez faire economies when opportunists and criminals were not salivating in the wings, waiting for the insistent gaze of tax payers to falter for only a moment.

The latest "new ingredient" to really bad gruel.  (image source)

The "new ingredient" to this distasteful recipe is not a clutch of sociopathic billionaires or even their propaganda pundit servants.  They have been consistent in their ambitions and constantly  present since Lagdash.  The "new ingredient" is a working block of voters in the electorate who have now become so lax in their oversight of their own money that these outrages can not only exist at all, but flourish.

Our first inclination might be to blame those with the bulging pockets, but when we face facts, their avarice is nothing new.  This leaves us to our second inclination where we blame those who have manipulated an illiterate electorate to allow their schemes.

"Oh dear.  They have filled our heads with falsehoods and half-truths.  The have deceived us, tricked us, frightened us and convinced us -- even the presence of available and compelling evidence to the contrary -- that we are no more than untended waifs, victims of intractable economic forces of nature beyond comprehension or management."


"All these chickens have come home to roost." Johnny Depp (image source)

The American electorate didn't "arrive on the turnip truck," and, if they did, "they didn't arrive on the turnip truck that came last night."

Why are we acting as if we did?

The explanation of all this would be far simpler if, like the Romans, we had been drinking our wine from lead coated flasks.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Democracy by Superstition and Acquiescence

It's Not the First Time

Will Durant in his "The Story of Civilization,"  described life during the times of the Dark Ages in Europe.  As sunset progressed the massive doors were shut and bolted to protect those inside the huts and shabby cabins.  A candle might be lit for a few minutes, but even that was an expensive luxury.  By the time the sun had set and darkness prevailed outside, the residents were ready for sleep.  Work would begin the next day before dawn -- every day.

The night, absolutely devoid of any man made light whatsoever, was simply too dangerous for any but the most compelling, necessary venture beyond the relative safety of the locked and sealed house.  No one could read, and there were no books beyond the monastery, the castle or the cathedral, so there were no reasons to burn an expensive candle.

The days of back breaking work were filled with the rapacious violence of the genetic nobility, the terror of a superstitious religious mythology designed to crush any impulse beyond pious suffering and the constant, nagging prospect of starving to death, freezing to death, being killed by marauders or simply getting sick.  The nights were inhabited by the hideous characters of old wives' tales, demons, damnation, devils, the eternal torment of hell and hungry wild animals.

It was a torturous Juggernaut of illiteracy, deception and imperious control.  It went on like this from the fall of the Empire in 515 AD or so until the Renaissance 800 or 1,000 years later.  Life expectancy was dismal -- 30 years average growing to 45 during the Renaissance.

So, what's the point?

The point is in the similarity with modern times.  The Dark Ages, considered as a "career opportunity" for the Church and the noblemen, could only extend as long as the dreadful mythological superstition and illiteracy permitted.  When Middle Ages style learning began again with the Italian Renaissance, the surviving victims of Dark Ages Europe abandoned their relentless oppression as immediately as possible.

This means that they were on their way out of Durant's "Deathly Silent Medieval Darkness."  This MeanMesa posting is about us -- on our way back into it.

Paying the Full Price of Decades of Uninspired Failure

Although the American public education system seems to have functioned much better in even the recent past, it's clear that it was never designed to produce immense numbers of intellectual giants.  A few such cases, it was always assumed, would be enough.  The remainder of the system's human products would be educated enough to "look after themselves," work productively and indulge in the patient joys of the Third Planetary Imperative to one extent or another.

Even the modestly educated could, should they desire, engage their curiosity, temp their energetic imaginations and even be fairly well informed.  In fact, often these qualities even became something of a competition.  Each citizen was expected to be interested in something, and, occasionally, startling innovations and inventions would crystallize in academically unanticipated quarters.

This was a necessary thing, too.  The social culture we were tempted to build and compelled to operate required this kind of wide spread literacy and curiosity.  The people of the United States had to be educated to be able to operate the United States.  Of course there were errors and deceptions, but when viewed over the centuries, we became more and more "savvy" every year.

However, now we find ourselves in the midst of a massive cultural process which simply can not be sustained without this large, majority population of literate citizens.  And further, by "literate," MeanMesa means much more than the bare necessities of being able to read and write.  Please consider the full implication of such "literacy" far more robust than just these two criteria.

The design, construction and operation of factories and farms requires this kind of literacy.  The maintenance of and participation in a national economy requires this kind of literacy.  In fact, membership in an "informed electorate" requires this kind of literacy.

Yes, we can start with the reading and writing, but sooner or later we will have to add curiosity and imagination.  All the memories of ideas and revelations of a lifetime must be present for the next step.  When those memories and revelations are, shall we say, mortally limited, the "next step" is a short one indeed.  If this intellectual and emotional "background" has been stupefied by an education and exploration which simply don't work, the "next step" looks like it must be a "step backwards."

Canterbury - Botticelli (image source)

So, let's define "literacy" -- at least in the sense of this posting.

Literacy means access the amount of knowledge required for an individual to be able to perform the presumed functions of the modern social culture.  Literacy doesn't mean simply that this knowledge is available in one's memory because of the educational process.  Instead, it means that this individual can either discover what he needs to know or understand or simply figure it out from what he already has at hand.  Both of these traits remain comfortably within the general boundary of mechanical academics.

Right here, however, we have to "drill down" a little deeper into the process. Even when the "mechanical academics" have been put in place -- that is, even when an individual citizen has learned all sorts of information, placed it in his memory, mastered the process of adding specific additional information to his working assets when needed and even drawing some kind of conclusion from what's then available -- there are other, still more fundamental, traits necessary for a good result.

This posting could be yet another MeanMesa ranting and railing session about education, but it's not.  This posting is about stupidity.  That harsh word is selected not as a clever condescension, a terse description of a village idiot, but, instead, as a metric to compare a European peasant farmer in the South of France in 1,000 AD to a modern "20's something" high school graduate dry wall installer.

Democracy-wise, this is us.  (image source)

A Citizen's Quality of Being

If more or less strictly educational results are the metric by which a citizen's literacy might be measured, the endeavor becomes conveniently finite.  The details can be placed on paper.  There are degrees, grade point averages and maybe even letters from notable teachers.  After school there is the record of this education in action, although MeanMesa begins to draw the line between an automatic expectation of success after schooling and a student's successes during the process.

There remain some other, more basic variables to be considered.

What is the quality of the being of this individual?  Education, no matter how exquisite, becomes mere training without corresponding advances in the quality of being.

Once we cease our examination and judgment of the track of an individual's more obvious accomplishments, we are left with the challenge of evaluating his personal nature -- the quality of his being.

Is he consistently and spontaneously inquisitive -- that is, is he curious even in cases where the knowledge to be garnered is not directly or immediately relevant to any immediate challenges in his life?

Is he demanding?  When confronted with paradoxical information, is he passive or does he demand a resolution to the contradiction?  Does he place a high value on resolving contradictions he encounters in his reality?

With this unusual kind of definition of "literacy," even a little more explanation may be needed.  We, traditionally, think of "literacy" as an accomplishment, the end result of a series of educational efforts.  In the broader sense in this posting, we might reasonably add the efforts which lead to an aggregate of knowledge, information or even conjecture some of which might accumulate based on the "literate" ability but also which might accumulate from, simply put, the experiences of the general passage of time.  [Gurdjieff refers to this broader, curiosity centered type of activity as a product of a magnetic center.]

Quickly moving beyond this admittedly theoretical model, it's time to look over some modern examples of this "literacy" in action.  Let's consider three important areas where this nature of a voter might be observed.  Remember -- we are examining the ability of citizens to successfully operate all aspects of the nation's social culture.  In each case we will also note the mechanism by means of which each phenomenon is exploited.

In the sense of this posting, that exploitation reveals the quality of being.

1. Politics

In the current election campaign, especially on the Republican right, the nature of the base of the party's voters is being revealed.   In this election season, we are -- really for perhaps the first time to such a degree -- seeing contradictory information being presented as settled fact. 

The audiences receiving these "facts" may or may not know that what they are hearing is fundamentally contradictory to other "facts."  The reactionary side is willing to simply prevaricate a bit, biasing otherwise noncontroversial assertions or out rightly lie.  The GOP's are willing to do this exactly because their base -- largely illiterate -- will not "demand" the information to resolve the paradox.

MeanMesa suspects that many of the under educated Republican base voters are actually aware of the contradictions, but are still not only willing to adopt the suspicious side, but blindly run with it, most likely lubricating the otherwise abrasive logic problems with a soothing racism.

Previously in the history of the "informed electorate," when a voter heard a lie or even something merely suspicious  -- even from his own candidate -- he would demand the information to resolve the conflict or he would lower the over all credibility of the candidate he used to support.  In such times, paradoxes were recognized as the dangerously destructive things they were.  The acceptance of the credibility of such "bent facts" represents a serious national security issue.  The country has a great capacity to solve the challenges and problems confronting us, but voters have been led to believe that challenges other than the reality based variety are confronting us and they have ceased demanding that these differences be resolved.

The mechanism:  cynicism

Cynicism:  The presumption of deception.

The US electorate has been carefully groomed to cynicism with respect to all politicians.  The mechanism is more deeply saturating to voters without sufficient knowledge, intention or curiosity to detect or resolve contradictions.  The hatred of government and the cynical presumption that government cannot constructively function is evidence of the prevalence of this mechanism.

Considered more broadly, the cynicism has transformed the electorate into a strange amalgam of involuntary, yet grotesquely willing, detachment from the decisions which will define our future.

2. Economy

The admitted complexity of a modern economy explains only a little of the electorate's willingness to embrace contradictory or paradoxical propaganda concerning economic issues.  Two quite injurious factors have been relentlessly promoted to pursue the exploitative possibilities of touting economic plans which are essentially nonsensical.

The first is the idea that comprehending the economy is quite difficult and risky.  "Risky?"  Yes, incorrect conclusions about economic principles can be materially devastating, but also, quite embarrassing, a grave possibility in such a rapaciously codependent culture. 

The second is that an effort to develop a comprehensible model of economic matters requires far too much work.  In fact, a basic, workable understanding of the economy has been slowly redefined as an unattainable goal for any but those specifically educated in the discipline.  The electorate has slowly migrated to the position that the "incomprehensible" nuances of this science must be delegated exclusively to those educated to "comprehend" it.

Manipulative fear mongering, false revelations of economic "adversaries," savage over simplification of economic issues into incendiary "talking points" and an intentionally confusing application of broadly misconceived ideology have all served to disguise pressing economic realities among the electorate.

Now, almost any economic argument can be presented with whatever "factual" economic data might be required -- all quite safe from refutation as any threats to such schemes hide behind the intellectual malaise of a passive audience, already exhausted and cynical, with no particular interest or ability to further research such claims.

Unhappily, that passive electorate retains the Constitutional power to give such schemes "legs."  Happily, that electorate also has the Constitutional power to do otherwise if it is interested enough to find the candidates required and elect them.

The mechanism: tacit acceptance

Once the proposition that our economy can only be understood by certain members of our society becomes credible, what follows is a bizarre style of lethally self-destructive, stoic detachment.

3. National Policy

The United States, for better or for worse, finds itself in the unenviable position of being powerful and complex and yet less and less capable of coherently directing its wealth to the needs of its -- still powerful -- electorate.  National policy, in the sense of this posting, includes foreign relations, military policy and all sorts of domestic policy.  All these areas are, at least, ostensibly, directed to the "general welfare" of the people and the country.

The continuing validity of that "direction" is guaranteed by the representative structure of the Constitution.

This posting has already discussed the poor influence of cynicism and tacit acceptances as these have legitimatized departures from this representative discipline.  The "third shoe to fall" can be illuminated by this third example.

Although press freedom is one of the pillars of Constitutional freedom, the document finds its modern application almost perfectly backwards.  It's not an over reaching government which has disabled the free press, it is the languishing demands of its subscribers.

If trust in politicians is subverted by cynicism, and if management of the economy is placed "out of reach" by the relentless argument that it is incomprehensible, national policy has come to be protected by its elite secrecies.  Behind every national policy decision are justifying secrets to which the electorate has no access.

Foreign policy decisions which don't seem to make sense are lubricated into more acceptability by the induced presumption that those in power are privy to facts unavailable to the rest of us.  Worse, even after the tragedy and mayhem of utterly nonsensical wars, the electorate has been persuaded to continue to believe this.  The electorate has been groomed to validate all sorts of things based on this strange credulity -- valid secrets, valid authority, valid decisions, validated inevitability.

The mechanism:  inaccessible reality

Once established as "the way things are done," the descent begins.  Worse, any suspicions about these "secrets" as the determining parameters of policy decisions grows more and more lax the longer this prevails.

MeanMesa's Conclusions

This entire argument is both incited by Mitt Romney's Presidential campaign and vindicated by it.  Day after day, very clearly refutable "factual" propositions quite a few even brazen enough to be accompanied by actual numbers -- are made to a very suspiciously eager media.  There are almost no challenges to even the most outlandish statements.  The portrait of this candidate presented by his campaign should not be palatable to even the most conservative supporter, yet, it all seems to be quite easily consumed by a very unusual, also strangely eager, base in the electorate.

The absurdity of our demise is screaming at us.

We have chosen politics -- inevitably complete with all its warts and bruises -- to be the mode of managing our democracy.  We have degraded ourselves -- our being -- to a place which makes political problem solving impossible.  We have ceased to either strive for the competency to run the politics or recreate what we have into a politics which can be run.

We blindly depend on our economy for food, protection and satisfaction, yet we have allowed ourselves to sink to a point where we cannot comprehend it -- to where we fear to even attempt to comprehend it.  We patiently and perpetually acquiesce to one outrage after another.  We respond to the outrages with cynicism and hopeless stoicism. We don't strive to comprehend the economy we have, and we don't act to make our incomprehensible economy comprehensible.

We abandon the prospect of being served by national policy, and we justify our desolate detachment with complaints about access to the information and understanding which purportedly drives its decisions.  We strive neither to increase our access and participation nor remake policy so that we can participate.

This glimpse of the state of our democracy's electorate paints a picture of psychopathological madmen scuttling about in a suicidal frenzy but still, at least for the moment, cowering from the fear of that final brief pain.  Yes, there are villains, but we are all willing parties to the madness.