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LUV News Sat 16 Feb 2013

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  • scotpeden
    The last article by Zeese and Flowers is incredibly good, and fleshes out so much of the history I ve found out in my own researches, long, long after Public
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 16, 2013
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      The last article by Zeese and Flowers is incredibly good, and fleshes out
      so much of the history I've found out in my own researches, long, long
      after Public School taught me about the Mythical America we think we live
      in, yet never are able to participate in.


      *It's amazing how people claim they love brilliant, dystopian novels such
      as Orwell's 1984 and Huxley's Brave New World, and pretend that they've
      learned lessons from them. How they spit out words like "propaganda" and
      "police state" with the unshakable assumption that they apply only to
      "other" countries, never to our own. So when evidence of propaganda and
      police state actions and dystopian conditions are presented to them, they
      deny them all. "Impossible!" "Hyperbole!" "It can't happen here!" "We're
      *Oh, well. There's none so blind as those who will not see. And language is
      an important tool in making sure they do not see. Where once we had the
      word "assassination," now we have "targeted killing." Just listen to how
      often you hear that term these days. Do you use it? Have you fallen into
      the conformist language trap? Bill Blum takes on a tour of the legal
      history of
      with the latest propagandistic definition provided by the Obama


      [image: shoe fits wear If the shoe

      *The sin that dare not speak its name. Except some of us are willing to
      speak it. Cornel West is


      *BAAAAAA *


      *While you're getting a reach-around at the airport and telling yourself
      it's okay (because who gives a sh*t about pesky little things like the Bill
      of Rights), your baggage is going into the hold
      other people's property is being
      destroyed <http://tsanewsblog.com/9349/news/tsa-wrecks-20000-cello-bow/>(meh
      -- as long as it's not your property), yet other people are being
      they're too mouthy (again, who needs that stupid Bill of Rights
      anyway), and your slave-masters have no idea what they're
      *Meanwhile, other countries, with more sense and more brains than this
      actually make decisions based on -- gasp -- empirical evidence and logic.
      Perish the thought!*

      *What's democracy? Good question. Most Americans don't know. Kevin Zeese
      and Margaret Flowers posit an answer. -Lisa Simeone*


      Lifting the Veil of Mirage Democracy in the United
      *By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers
      Truthout | News Analysis*

      *"We live in a mirage democracy," Zeese and Flowers assert, as they trace
      the history and describe the institutions of a not-so-robust US democracy.*


      "Democracy" demokratia = demos+kratia; or democracy = people+power.

      The "greatest democracy on Earth" is how the United States is portrayed to
      its people and the world. The hallowed words "We the people" and "Of, by
      and for the people" echo in the minds of Americans to characterize the
      United States. But do they accurately describe the "democracy" we have?

      In reality, a constant conflict that has existed throughout US history,
      indeed throughout the history of democratic states, is present between the
      elites and the people.* Justice Louis Brandeis said it well when he stated,
      "We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of
      a few, but we can't have both."*

      Over the past 40 years, income inequality in the United States has exploded
      from its lowest level in 1978
      What kind of democracy exists under these circumstances? And is real
      democracy possible for a global empire? How does nation-state democracy
      exist within the new globalized economy that serves transnational

      *A New Vocabulary for "Democracy"*

      A new vocabulary is developing to describe the current state of democracy
      in the United States. We begin with some key words and phrases.

      *Managed Democracy:* A governmental system that includes widespread voter
      franchise and competitive elections, but the elections are managed so that
      no matter what candidate(s) are elected, the elites win. The role of
      citizens in government is to choose between two pre-selected candidates,
      neither of whom will represent the people's interests and both of whom will
      represent the elites' interests. Chris Hedges refers to this as "political

      *Polyarchy:* A term highlighted by Cliff DuRand, author of "Recreating
      Democracy in a Globalized State,"
      <http://www.claritypress.com/DuRand.html> that
      is very similar to managed democracy. He calls it a low-intensity democracy
      that veils the rule of elites and allows citizens to think they are
      participating in power through contested elections that do not change the
      elite power structure.

      *Inverted Totalitarianism:* Classical totalitarianism is the model of
      Hitler or Mussolini, an all-powerful government led by a charismatic leader
      that partners with business interests in a security state. Inverted
      totalitarianism is a similar marriage of government and business, but the
      measures employed to maintain this relationship are more subtle. It is the
      coming of age of corporate power, maintained through a security state
      working in tandem with corporate propaganda that permeates influential
      institutions such as the media, education, popular culture, and evangelical

      *Globalized State:* This is a government that serves the interests of
      transnational capital devoid of any real connection to the people of the
      nation. The globalized state rules through economic structures such as
      trade agreements, the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, World Trade
      Organization, and through international military actions.

      *Capitalism:* An economic system based on private ownership of capital,
      goods, and the means of production. Goods and services are produced for
      profit. It is an inherently unequal system. In feudalism, political power
      and the economy were united in the noble class. Under capitalism, there is
      a separation of political and economic power, which gives people the
      impression of participation.

      *Neoliberalism:* The dominant economic ideology of the last 30 years, which
      insists upon an extreme separation of government and capital so that the
      market can operate "freely." The market operates only in the interests of
      individuals without allegiance to the collective society. Government exists
      solely to provide basics such as standards for weights and measures, laws
      and courts to protect property and infrastructure for the market.
      Neoliberalism welcomes state intervention only when that intervention is to
      corporate advantage as in trade agreements, bailouts, or corporate welfare.
      Under neoliberalism, state resources and public programs are decreasingly
      funded and increasingly privatized. DuRand states that neoliberalism is the
      "default position of capitalism to which it reverts unless restrained by
      popular struggles."

      *Neofeudalism:* This is the reconfiguration of political and economic
      systems to create an empowered tiny oligarchic elite class. Chris Hedges
      points to the structure described by George Orwell in "1984" in which there
      is an inner party (2 to 4 percent) of corporate and political managers, an
      outer party (12 to 14 percent) that consists of managers, the security
      state, and the propaganda arm, and the rest of the population exists as

      *The Birth of US "Democracy"*

      The United States celebrates the founding of the country and the so-called
      "Founding Fathers" as the birth of democracy, but the real democracy
      movement occurred before the American Revolution. In fact, it was the
      founding fathers, a group of propertied elites, slave holders, noted
      lawyers, and wealthy merchants, who created a system *designed to prevent a
      truly democratic state*.

      In the pre-Revolutionary period, the American democracy movement involved
      small farmers, laborers, artisans, shopkeepers, seamen, women, African
      slaves, and native Indians who revolted against the grievances of the day.
      There existed abolitionists who opposed slavery and slaves who rebelled
      against plantation owners. Disputes over taxes, ordinances, and land titles
      and of being ruled over by a royal governor, who represented a distant
      British government or a corporate monopoly like the British East India
      Company, were sources of democratic revolt.

      Colonial governments were structured for the elites, and only those with
      substantial property ownership had any right to participate. Sheldon Wolin,
      in *Democracy
      the rise of a "fugitive democracy" in this period. There were spontaneous
      protests, assemblies, petitions, tarring and feathering of government
      officials, burning effigies of officials, surrounding of courthouses and
      removing government officials from office, and storming jails to free their
      own. Committees of correspondence were formed to coordinate actions with
      counterparts in other colonies. This democracy movement was born out of
      necessity, out of the struggle for survival against deep-seated grievances
      and was improvisational rather than institutionalized.

      Ray Raphael in *The First American Revolution:
      Lexington and Concord* describes colonists in Great Barrington,
      Massachusetts, filling the courthouse to prevent British judges from
      entering. And, in Worcester, 4,622 militiamen from 37 surrounding
      communities lined Main Street as crown-appointed officials walked the
      gauntlet, reciting their resignations 30 times each, "so all could hear."
      Raphael reports that these common people were intensely democratic,
      disavowing all leadership. In fact, "when they elected representatives,
      they did so on a day-to-day basis."

      Wolin writes that in the period from 1760 until the Constitutional
      Convention, there was intense political interest that formed an "American
      demos" that "began to establish a foothold and to find institutional
      expression, if not full realization. State constitutions were amended by
      provisions that broadened voting rights, abolished property qualifications
      for office, and in one case, instituted women's suffrage. There were also
      efforts to ease debtor laws, even to abolish slavery." It was these attacks
      on property that prompted several "outstanding politicians" (also known as
      the founding fathers) to "organize a counter-revolution aimed at
      institutionalizing a counterforce to challenge the prevailing decentralized
      system of 13 sovereign states in which some state legislatures were
      controlled by 'popular' forces."

      These outstanding politicians were some of the wealthiest property owners
      in the United States, slave holders, well-known lawyers and merchants.
      James Madison, credited as being the "father" of the Constitution, wrote
      in The
      Federalist Papers #10
      <http://www.constitution.org/fed/federa10.htm>:*"Democracies have ever
      been . . . incompatible with . . . the rights of
      property . . . [because it would threaten] the unequal distribution of
      property." The founders were concerned with "the excess of democracy" as
      one delegate to the convention said. The new Constitution put property
      rights ahead of human rights.*

      The "founders" proposed a new system of national power that discouraged the
      "American demos," removed people from the councils of government, and
      reduced the power of states. The Constitution favored elite rule and
      protection of property. It established a republic in which courts protected
      minority rights and property rights from majority sentiment, and government
      power was limited.

      Only the House of Representatives would be directly elected by the people,
      at least the limited group of six percent of the white, male
      property-owning population that was allowed to vote. Wolin writes, "The
      Constitution of the Founders compressed the political role of citizen into
      an act of 'choosing' and designed it to minimize the direct expression of a
      popular will." The president was not directly elected, but rather citizens
      voted for electors who chose the president in the Electoral College.
      Senators were selected by state legislators, and judges were appointed by
      the president. It created *a representative, not participatory or direct,
      democracy. The "right to vote" is not even mentioned in the Constitution.*

      *While people were declared "sovereign," they were, in fact, "precluded
      from governing." "From the beginning," Cliff Durand writes, the country
      "was designed to be undemocratic." *The role of the people was limited to
      choosing from among the political elite the representatives who would rule
      them. This managed democracy or polyarchy is far removed from the people
      power of real democracy. As Durand writes, "Democracy means people's power,
      not the legitimizing of elite rule."

      Throughout US history there have been democratic moments when the people
      sought to seize power. These included Jacksonian democrats, abolitionists,
      suffragists, populists, progressives, civil rights activists, and '60s
      radicals; and the Occupy movement of today. These political conflicts have
      "often been described as a war between 'the haves and the have-nots.' "

      *The Rise of the Corporate State*

      Beginning in the 19th century, wealth and power shifted from property
      owners and merchants to corporations. This shift was accelerated during the
      industrial revolution, when corporations gained great economic and
      political power. Wealth became more concentrated in the hands of a few
      robber barons, who used it as political leverage. *President Abraham
      Lincoln warned in a November 21, 1864, letter to Colonel William F. Elkins
      about the corruption that would follow this rise of corporate power:*

      *"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes
      me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been
      enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the
      money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working
      upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few
      hands and the Republic is destroyed."*

      Mass production and new forms of energy and transportation allowed
      industrialists to accumulate wealth rapidly. This wealth was used to amass
      more resources and control over the economy. Industrialists bought up their
      competitors and formed monopolies. They enriched themselves through cheap
      labor. Workers were housed in unsanitary factory towns and forced to work
      in unsafe conditions. They were paid low wages and charged high prices for
      basic goods in factory-owned stores.

      Many of the wealthiest people
      US history made their riches during the industrial revolution: oil magnate
      John D. Rockefeller; steamboat and railroad businessman Cornelius
      Vanderbilt; Andrew Carnegie with his empire of steel; financiers Jay Gould,
      Andrew Mellon, and J. P. Morgan; and mass producer of automobiles Henry

      The industrial revolution was also a time of gross political corruption.
      Bribery of politicians and bureaucrats and the gift of political positions
      and contracts in return for favors and loyalty ran rampant. The result was
      two political parties loyal to the elites with narrow agendas that were
      unwilling to challenge the status quo in any meaningful way.

      *The courts were no better. The Fourteenth
      passed in 1868 to provide due process of law to freed slaves, was used
      mostly to empower corporations. In 1886, the Supreme Court voided 230 state
      laws that regulated corporations, primarily freight rates charged to
      farmers, on the basis that the regulations deprived corporations of
      property without due process. *Of 307 Fourteenth Amendment cases considered
      by the Supreme Court between 1890 and 1910, 288 were about protecting
      corporate rights, only 19 about people. This is when the court established
      that corporations were "legal
      people"<http://www.poclad.org/BWA/2011/BWA_2011_MAY.html> while
      at the same time protecting corporate owners from criminal prosecution.

      The situation rose to a head under the presidency of Franklin Delano
      Roosevelt (FDR), who was elected after the Depression began. The Roosevelt
      family is one of the oldest banking families in the nation, as are the
      Delanos. His great-grandfather James Roosevelt founded the Bank of New York
      in 1784, and five generations of Roosevelts headed that bank. Before that
      the family helped fund the American Revolution. FDR's uncle, Fred Delano,
      was appointed to the first Federal Reserve Board in 1914. FDR's first job
      was with a JP Morgan law firm, and he lived in the home of JP Morgan
      partner Thomas Lamont when he went to Washington, DC, as assistant
      secretary of the Navy. During the '20s, before he became governor of New
      York, he was a Wall Street investor, banker, and lawyer.

      During FDR's presidency, when he broke from the gold standard and created
      mass government jobs, the financiers and big business interests who funded
      his campaigns were shocked. *A group of businessmen
      planned<http://www.wanttoknow.info/plottoseizethewhitehouse> a
      coup and contacted General Smedley Butler, the most decorated Marine in
      history, to become the American Mussolini and make FDR either a figurehead
      or remove him. Butler blew the whistle and although a congressional
      committee confirmed the
      there were no prosecutions. Many of the corporations bailed out in the
      recent financial collapse came from the same corporations allegedly
      involved in the coup attempt. Perhaps a more sophisticated coup has taken
      place now.*

      Following World War II, new institutions were created that propelled the
      rise of the global corporate state. In 1944, members of 44 nations gathered
      in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, to discuss how to rebuild the
      international economy. The United States was the dominant power at this
      meeting. Out of it came the Bretton Woods System, which tied official
      reserves to the US dollar instead of to gold.

      This conference also gave birth to the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
      and the precursor of the World Bank. Shortly after that, the General
      Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) was created, which reduced barriers
      to trade between nations. In 1995, it became the World Trade Organization
      (WTO). *This shift was significant because unlike the GATT, the WTO had the
      power to enforce rules, which meant that nations were required to change
      their laws to comply with rules put forth by the WTO. Today, the largest
      trade agreement in history, the Trans-Pacific
      which is being negotiated by the Obama administration in secret except for
      600 corporate advisors, will result in a global corporate coup.*

      Since the 1980s, the era of so-called "free trade," the world has seen the
      rise of transnational corporations. This has allowed the off-shoring of
      jobs that has hollowed out the US labor market and caused labor's share of
      the GDP to hit an all-time
      It has also allowed the free flow of finance overseas, the avoidance of
      more than $100 billion in corporate
      the growth of international tax havens housing tens of
      dollars off-shore. Neoliberalism, which had been unleashed upon the world,
      is now coming home to the

      *Of Monopolies and Sacrifice Zones*

      DuRand describes unfettered capitalism, or neoliberalism, as a game of
      Monopoly. In the Parker Brothers game, the players begin on equal ground.
      The goal of the game is to amass wealth and property to the point of
      collapse, bankrupting the other players who are no longer able to
      participate. He writes that, just as in Monopoly, inequality is an integral
      part of a capitalist economy.

      In the board game, when only one player is left, the game ends. Players may
      choose to start fresh with a new game. In the real world, there is no
      reset. Instead, there is the drive toward greater degrees of inequality as
      the rich become richer at the expense of people and the planet.
      Occasionally there is respite in the form of social programs that counter
      the effects of neoliberalism, but in the absence of popular struggle, the
      drive toward greater profits continues unabated.

      *In his most recent book, "Days of Destruction, Days of
      Hedges describes the real effects of neoliberal policies on US communities.
      His words are made even more powerful through the illustrations of Joe
      Sacco. Hedges and Sacco stayed in communities that have been destroyed
      economically and environmentally for the sake of corporate profits. They
      call these areas "Sacrifice Zones" and define them as "areas in the country
      that have been offered up for exploitation in the name of profit, progress,
      and technological advancement."* Their intention was to show *"what life
      looks like when the marketplace rules without constraints, where human
      beings and the natural world are used and then discarded to maximize

      Hedges and Sacco reported on *levels of poverty and poisoning of
      communities that most Americans don't recognize as existing in the United
      States.* They tell stories of drug use and violence that arise as people
      are trapped in losing situations that involve great suffering. And they
      describe efforts of those who try to provide some relief. Hedges states
      that their stories are "important windows into what is happening to the
      rest of us."

      In the final section of the book, they cover the Occupy protests, which
      arose in large part because of growing wealth inequality and fraud by the
      elites. At some point, people do rise up and fight back. Those in power
      know this and employ all sorts of tools to prevent it.

      *The Maintenance of the Corporate State*

      The actions of the robber barons of the 19th and early 20th centuries
      resulted in such abuse of workers and poor living conditions that labor and
      others joined in protest. The response of the elites was the New Deal,
      which brought some relief, calmed the masses, and allowed capitalism to

      Relative quiet ensued until the 1960s and early '70s, when multiple
      struggles manifested in movements for civil rights, opposition to war, the
      environment, and women's rights. DuRand writes that this uprising was
      described by elites as a "crisis of democracy," meaning that people were
      demanding too much democracy. Capitalists felt under attack once more.
      Following a blueprint developed by Lewis Powell in his
      the US Chamber of Commerce, they built institutions over the next 40 years,
      including think tanks, lobbying firms, and courts, to promote the market
      agenda and control the media and universities to prevent another outbreak
      of democracy.

      *We are living in a time of Inverted Totalitarianism*,* in which the tools
      used to maintain the status
      much more subtle and technologically advanced. *These include propaganda
      and control of the major media outlets that hide the real news about
      conditions at home and our activities around the world behind distractions
      such as high-profile citizen trials and celebrity gossip. *The major
      electronic media, owned by six corporations nationwide, also routinely
      misinforms the public about domestic and foreign policy. A recent example
      is the "Fiscal

      *Another tool is to create insecurity in the population so that people
      are unwilling
      to speak
      * and take risks for fear of losing their jobs and being unable to afford
      food, a home, and health care. Changes in the work environment, such as the
      attack on unions and the war on whistleblowers, have led to greater job
      insecurity. Changes in college
      silence dissent, including the trend toward adjunct rather than tenured
      professors. Adjunct professors, now composing 85 percent of faculty, are
      less willing to teach topics that are viewed as controversial. This,
      combined with massive student
      are tools to silence the student population, once the center of
      transformative action.

      Hedges describes the growing security state and is actively
      within *the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that allow the
      indefinite detention of US citizens without trial. *Legal experts fear the
      NDAA also weakened Posse Comitatus, passed in 1878 to limit federal
      military powers, so that the military can be used on domestic soil. There
      is obvious collaboration between military and local police departments
      through joint training exercises, paramilitary police forces, and new
      equipment such as tanks and drones. The Department of Homeland Security is
      building a 176-acre secure compound in the lowest-income area of
      Washington, DC.

      Laws such as the Patriot Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act
      allow warrantless wiretapping of US citizens. In fact, whistleblower
      William Binney, who served in the NSA for 40 years, estimates that the NSA
      is currently storing between 15 and 20 trillion communications, including
      domestic emails and billing transactions. And the Pentagon is set to
      increase its cyber-security program by five-fold.

      *Other, more subtle forms of public control come in the form of
      organizations that function to protect the interests of corporations and
      their servant political parties. *This may occur through direct creation of
      "astro-turf" groups or by co-optation of existing grassroots and other
      groups by granting them increased access to politicians and controlling
      their access to foundation grants and donations. A recent example
      involves Obama's
      "enforcer," Jim
      who met with liberal organizations during the health reform process to keep
      them in line with the Democratic agenda. DuRand writes that in polyarchy,
      is through its penetration and co-optation or even creation of the
      components of civil society that the elite garners the consent of the
      people to its rule and thereby achieves governability."*

      *Those groups that directly challenge the system and cannot be co-opted by
      money or access are routinely infiltrated
      the purpose of spying, dividing, and destroying. *More
      infiltration and spying on Occupy is coming to light.

      We live in a mirage democracy. Elections have become expensive spectacles
      with $2 billion presidential campaigns and a corporate media that reports
      on the political drama every day for months on end. Elections are tightly
      controlled, rigged for the two parties by restrictive ballot access laws, a
      corporate-run debate commission that blocks third parties, gerrymandered
      voting districts, unverifiable computer vote counts, and a mass media that
      does not cover alternatives to the corporate duopoly. *US voting systems
      are among the least democratic in the world.* They lack modern, more
      democratic approaches like universal voter registration, proportional
      representation, and ranked choice or instant run-off voting. Only half the
      US public is registered, and only half of registered voters vote, so these
      mirage elections provide a less than legitimate government.

      Our next article, Part II of this series on democracy, will focus on how
      participatory government and economic democracy are being put in place in
      Latin America and steps being taken in those directions in the United
      States. If we are to achieve the "We the People" government to which we
      aspire and end the mirage democracy we are in, these are the twin pillars
      on which real democracy will stand.

      *You can hear our interview with Chris Hedges and Cliff DuRand: What Kind
      of Democracy Exists in the US? on Clearing the FOG
      (podcast <http://clearingthefogradioshow.libsyn.com/>) or view it on
      UStream/ItsOurEconomy <http://www.ustream.tv/itsoureconomy>.*

      *This is Part I in a series on democracy in the United States. Next week we
      examine participatory democracy as an antidote to managed democracy.*

      *You can intervene in the nation's budget debate by watching a Roots Action
      video and writing your Congressional representatives and the president

      *This article was first published on Truthout.org. Reprinted with


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