I met him in Philadelphia, which is a city I rarely visited. However, my wife and I attended the first Midatlantic Green Party Conference in June of 1985. I had only been back in the states for less than a year. I just finished an 18 month gig as a ship’s cook. Having no job options during the Reagan years, I let the state pay my way through accounting school. My wife was always politically active and attending the conference was her idea of getting away for a weekend. Being newly married, I readily agreed. It was either that or spend the weekend alone with my stepson.
That conference began my love/hate relationship with the Green Party. I love the principles it was founded on, and I love the idea of belonging to the movement that caused real change in Europe. The hate part started after I discovered how deeply the black market had been involved in early Green politics, and how so many of today’s party members are bat shit crazy. Quite frankly, Cynthia McKinney scares the living crap out of me.
But I was talking about the first Green Conference in 1985. I was only 27 years old and incredibly naive. Politically I was would have to say I was a libertarian socialist. The libertarian part began at the age of 19. I was one of a handful of students to attend Karl Hess’ lecture at Lebanon Valley College. Hess was such a polished public speaker that he left me a true believer. The Socialist came in when I was 21 and attending Rutgers University. Dr. Stephen E. Bronner was beginning his career there. I credit Steve as being the man who taught me how to think, and he started me in my off and on association with the DSA.
At the time, the DSA was still catching up with the ecological crises, I thought the Greens might be a more profitable outlet for my energies. During that three day conference, I felt as if I had come home. Everybody seemed to hold the same contradictory view of politics I entertained. It never occurred to me that it was this very contradiction between libertarianism and socialism that invited the black market to settle in and make itself at home.
The irony is I fell into the black market crowd right out the gate. My wife, in all innocence, got in contact with this girl in Easton PA who was also going to the conference. That’s how we ended up traveling from Easton PA to the state capitol on the Rainbow Bus.
Being part of the New York punk scene, I heard rumors of the Rainbow Bus, and even knew some members of the Youth International Party. I went to a couple of parties at Number 9 Bleeker St. They were so frightening in their intensity, I would wake up determined to live a life of abstinence and holy charity. The resolution would last until the next Friday.
So imagine my delight when I got to introduce my new bride to Aron Kay, the man who hit Ronald Reagan with a banana cream pie. The banana was symbolic of Reagan’s banana republic politics. Then was Bruno, a person I lost track of and wish I hadn’t. He did a workshop on computers and networking that introduced me to a new idea called the internet. Then, of course, there was Dana Beal. Dana was the absolute commissar of YIP and controlled his minions through the pound of pot he always carried in a double ziplock. A year later, a big guy named Ozzy and I would be hunting Beal through the Lower East Side with the intent of beating the crap out of him. At the time, Beal was sizing me up for minionhood so he did his best to charm me.
Another character we met at the conference was Jack Herrer, the same guy they named a genetically modified pot plant after. At the time, it never occurred to me why a guy from Oregon would be at the Midatlantic Green conference. Today I know it was to promote his pot business. The truth about Herrer is the idea of legal marijuana scared the bejesus out of him. He was making too much money growing it and shipping it to Beal who sold it in Manhattan. They were involved with the Green Party to grow their network and to maintain a legal defense of police persecution in case of busts. At the time, I hated Herrer for hitting on my wife right in front of me. Yes, he was that damned low. It was a good thing he was doing time in South Carolina a year later, otherwise Ozzy and I would have been out looking for him, too.
But I digress, this was about Abbie Hoffman. Abbie was there, too. He was with the sincere Quakers, peace activists, ecologists, German Green Party representatives, The Committee of Correspondence and others who made the conference a success. Hoffman was our superstar. If I knew what I know now, I would have laughed my butt off at the way Beal and Herrer kissed Abbie’s ass. Beal was instrumental in having Abby and Jerry ejected from YIP, but that day they acted like Wayne and Garth with Alice Cooper.
Abbie was more than a gentleman, he was one of nature’s royalty. I don’t know if he held any ill will towards Beal, because he did not let it show. He took their adulation with quiet aplomb and mingled with the organizers. He joined us in the kitchen to help prepare dinner. That’s when I introduced myself and shook his hand. I mentioned that I was an accounting student and that seemed to amuse him.
It’s hard to believe that 27 years passed and the conference I swore I would never forget is so vague. Eric Sternglass was there, and I remember his lecture on acid rain. John Judge was there as well. Along with some rather painful conspiracy theories, he was also the man who outed the Eastern Service Workers as a cult. Abbie’s speech was the last event of the conference. He spoke on his best subject, organizing, and I wish I had a transcript. I would send it to every member of Occupy I could find. They need to read it, learn it, and live it.
His message was to never take on a fight you cannot win. It demoralizes the troops and robs the movement’s energy. Today I look at the pathetic state of the left, and realize how right he was. We haven’t had anything resembling a definitive win since Nixon was impeached. The false success of having Obama elected has faded into the ashes of being had.
A couple of years later, I was at an Abbie led protest and watched him get people arguing over who got to lie under the bulldozers. Hoffman was a natural leader who brought out the best in people. I heard that in his lecture, when he explained why he used sports analogies in his rallies. By using a language everybody could relate to, he got the message through and raised enthusiasm for the cause. Most importantly, he stressed the need to keep things simple. It is easier to win against a single issue than to clog things up with extraneous goals.
Now that I think of it, we owe the organizers of that conference a tremendous debt. They were the people who funded Abbie Hoffman so he could lead the fight against nuclear reactors. Were it not for them, the crises that is still happening in Japan could have happened here. Abby put an end to US nuclear reactor proliferation. His victories lasted until the election of the current moron-in-chief, who is trying to gear up the nuclear madness again.
I am proud to say that I was a part of Abbie’s fight, and I kept on fighting after the Greens and I parted ways. The New York leadership took the moderatorship away from Dana Beal a few years after that first conference, and my wife and I had the misfortune of being known as YIPsters,and we got caught in the purge. For years we were ignored by most of the party, but I didn’t care. I was one of Abbie’s people and didn’t need them.
The day after Abbie’s lecture, we all gathered to sign the Midatlantic Charter before going home. Abby stood next to me when it was my turn to sign. I wrote it big, so Ronald Reagan could see it without his glasses. That made Abbie laugh so hard we became friends and stayed in touch until he died. We met at several other conferences, and he helped my family get home after Beal and Herrer arranged to have my wife, son, and I stranded in Erie PA.
The last time I saw Abbie, We had just “dumped the pump” on the Fork’s river. At the time, I owned a book store in Allentown PA. Three days before he died, we had coffee in my back room, making plans for my shop to become a meeting and recruiting center. It was never to happen. He died when we needed him most. I have to argue with both the suicide and murder conspiracy people. It was an accidental overdose. There is no doubt in my mind.
When Abbie Hoffman died, the left died with him. We haven’t had a significant victory since The Pump got dumped. Just as religion took over the right, it took over the left in the form of the New Age movement. To my shame, I have to accept my own responsibility in promoting that bullshit. In retrospect, I have to wonder what it was I was thinking. The concept of consensus as opposed to democratic leadership has poleaxed the American left. Today the vocally mentally ill have driven out the sane people, and it all started with the foolish idea we didn’t need leaders.
The need for new leadership is made manifest by the OWS movement, which is becoming a clusterfuck before our eyes. That last demonstration in Oakland was pathetic. The cops provoked a reaction because less than ten percent of the demonstrators have non-violence training. Nobody protested with Abby without non-violence training. The police were never able to provoke us. That is an important reason why we won and OWS is getting its asses handed to them. We need to find the strength to start enforcing the limits and taking the mic away from the crazies. Somebody has to have the responsibility to prioritize and choose which of the many issues facing us needs to be addressed first, and keep addressing it until it stops being an issue. Then choose which issue we move on to next. So far, Democracy has proven to be the best way to choose and to replace leaders. I think it’s time to go back to what works.
When the Fascists rose to power in Europe, they did so by demonizing their opponents. In Spain, they were against intellectuals educating the peasants as it was anti-Catholic. In Germany, they worked on centuries of bigotry by promoting the International Jewish Conspiracy. Mussolini did things differently. His fascism welded bigotry and anti-intellectualism to progressive ideas like a minimum wage and women’s suffrage. While the Germans and the Spanish made fascists out of their right wings, the Italians made fascists out of their left wing.
The American government propaganda machine managed to take the anti-intellectualism of Franco, the bigotry of Hitler, and the pseudo-progressive chauvinism of Mussolini and apply them to both the left and the right wing. The anti-intellectualism is promoted by conspiracy theories. The bigotry is promoted by applying conspiracy theories to different ethnic and political groups. The chauvinism comes in with both sides convincing themselves that they are the only side with the answers.
Conspiracy theory is the idea that science is lying if it does not conform to preconceived notions. For instance, conservative Christians insist that evolution is a conspiracy as it denies special creation. The Truthers insist that relativity is a conspiracy as it disproves their notion that the government rigged the towers with bombs. We are seeing anti-intellectualism at its worst on the left as well as the right.
Both sides of the political spectrum are applying conspiracy theories to different ethnic and political groups. In the case of the conservatives, the targets of hatred are Gays. They will tell you they have nothing against homosexuals (hate the sin, love the sinner, and the rest of that rot.) They will tell you that they are against the “homosexual agenda”. Thanks to conspiracy reasoning, they see the LGBT community demanding equal rights and acceptance as a direct attack on their conservative values. Gays are then demonized along with others who supports gay rights.
On the other hand, the left is scapegoating Jews. Just like their counterparts on the right, people on the left will tell you they have nothing against Jews, they are just against Zionism. These stalwart champions of human rights have no more idea of what Zionism is than Michelle Bachman knows what it is to be a lesbian. All they know is that Noam Chomsky is against it, which is good enough for them. That statement sums up what Bachman’s followers know about homosexuality. The left is as delusional as the right now that the Truthers have jumped in with their mad accusation of the Mossad and bombs in the tower.
Chauvinism is the result of both sides so wrapped up in their different conspiracies that reason becomes impossible. Elements on the left are out to protect America from the International Jewish Conspiracy, blaming Israel for everything from September 11th to Obama’s adopting Bush’s idiot wars. The right is blaming the homosexual agenda for high taxes and unemployment. Neither side can be spoken to. The result is the descendents of the same people who took control of this country in 1790 are in control of it today, and continue to rob us blind as the right tries to save us from homosexuality and the left from creeping Zionism.
The Right had their Tea Party where they promoted their anti-intellectualism and bigotry. Now the Left has their Occupation Movement where there are as many signs promoting Jew hatred as there are signs demanding the demise of Wall St. In Oakland, I have seen so many signs calling for the end of the Jewish Banking Conspiracy, I just gave up on it.
Any real revolution in this country has to do two things. The first is The Occupation has to get it’s shit together. This means that the wing-nuts have to go. The Truthers/anti-Zionists are as aggressive as Born Again Christians. They will drive out anybody who does not believe in their paranoid fantasies. I watched them do this to the peace movement. They will do the same to the Occupation. The second thing is creating a reasonable agenda that people on the right can at least discuss. I have seen this on the Las Angeles Occupation website. They have adopted an agenda that include basic rights like food, shelter, education, and Medical care. So far, Los Angeles and Berkeley are the only two Occupations supporting basic human rights. Other Occupations are being too divisive in their antisemitism and determination that the Jewish bankers be punished. Unless the other Occupations catch up to Los Angeles and Berkeley, we are going to end up like Egypt and our fundamentalist religious military will take over.
And if you don’t think this can happen here in America, think again. The military is already dominated by Born Again Christians. The Air Force is the worst, and they have access to nukes. Rick Perry, in his latest round of idiocy, is calling for an end to civilian management of the military. This is the one thing separating us from a fascist dictatorship. It doesn’t matter if Perry becomes president or not, if Wall St. wants an end to civilian management, Wall St. is going to get it. After all, Wall St. actually runs this country and its propaganda mill. Besides, a military dictatorship is the usual way an imperialist nation ends.
After long and careful consideration, I will not be supporting the Occupation Movement unless those two criteria are met. My energy is going to keeping my family and me alive for the next ten years of military rule. Unless Americans abandon conspiracies for reason, this is all we have to look forward to.
The Truthers have one solid point. We are not being told the truth about the events that occurred on Sept 11th. Let’s take a look at the event and ask a few hard questions.
On Sept 11th 2001, 19 men hijacked four airliners for the purpose of destroying preselected targets. The First thing I would like to know is why they were not stopped by airport security? They were in the airports, praying loudly and carrying on like it was their last day on earth. Yet, Security did not investigate them. If the Truthers are to be believed, this is proof of some sort of high reaching conspiracy. Unfortunately, we are not going to know why security did not intervene until there is an actual investigation. I cannot believe the Truther contradictory claim that Security was ordered to leave them alone. Personally, I think it was the American taboo against disrespecting religion. The hijackers were praying, and security did not want to look like a bunch of bigots by disturbing them.
I would also like to know what were our government was doing while the 19 hijackers were bound for glory? According to the newspapers, the FBI and the CIA were trying to warn President Bush and Condileeza Rice that it was going to happen. According to one intern, Bush refused to hear an FBI report regarding the hijacking. Daniel Ellsberg reported that Rice had CIA director Tenent tossed out of her office. French Security, the KCIA, Britain, Switzerland, and even the Mossad tried to warn our government that something big and bad was heading for us. It all fell on deaf ears.
Any legitimate inquiry on Sept 11th needs to ask why did the Bush Administration ignored their own security services as well as the security services of other countries. It could be that Sept 11th was allowed to happen. Bush and his cronies wanted the war in Afghanistan. They knew about all the oil and mineral wealth there even if the rest of us forgot the reasons behind the Russian occupation. Allowing the attack to occur would be the perfect excuse to send in the troops to secure the oil. A government that allows outsourcing of jobs and homelessness is perfectly capable of allowing the murder of Afghan citizens.
On the other hand, The Bush administration and everybody connected to it is as dumb as a sack full of hammers. September 11th could have happened out of pure stupidity. Being themselves the ultimate ugly Americans, they were too arrogant to believe that a bunch of Arabs could actually hurt the United States. The Afghanistan war could be the result of a carefully orchestrated conspiracy or it could be the panicked reaction of an utter moron. Only a real commission will bring the truth to light. This commission will not happen as long as the public keeps asking stupid questions.
Ironically, I think that the 9/11 Truth Movement is the government conspiracy. I also think that the same Public Relations firms that orchestrate the Intelligent Design movement orchestrate the Truthers. The M.O is identical. Intelligent Design denies evolution by concentrating on specific branches of science while ignoring others. They will harp on the gaps in the fossil record and ignore the genetic evidence. The Truthers concentrate on Newtonian physics while ignoring Einstein. I think the government is hiding the reasons why the hijackers did it. Don’t try telling me it was because they were promised 72 virgins. That’s pure propaganda. The hijackers killed themselves for political reasons. If we are going to prevent more tragedies and loss of lives, we are going to have to find out why they did it and address it.
Any sane commission on Sept 11th is going to have to concentrate on US Middle Eastern policy. They are going to have to look at how American based oil companies treat oil field workers. What roles do mercenary companies like Xe play in the Saudi and Syrian regimes? If we learn why the hijackers did it, we will know everything we need to know about Sept 11th. The Truthers are the number one reason these important questions are not being asked.
In the next post we will take a look at the blatant ugly antisemitism in the Truth movement and how it got there. Then in the last part we will look at how the media and how the government uses it to encourage conspiracy theories.
The claims of 9/11 conspiracy theorists are too ridiculous to take seriously. They expect us to give crackpot ideas the same respect we give informed decisions. As it is politically incorrect to silence crackpots, they take over. The Sept 9/11 Truth Movement is the left wing Tea Party. The accusation that the Mossad planted bombs in the towers is as bigoted as the Tea Party accusing Obama for being a socialist because he is black. Both points of view are from Crazytown, but it is considered censorship to silence ideas that have neither proof nor logic. Worse still, by giving Truthers free reign to spread their delusions, there are important questions which are not being asked.
Truthers think the laws of physics are subject to debate. If they don’t like a fact they ignore it or rape it beyond recognition. As E=MC2 contradicts their preconceived notions, it is ignored in favor of the phantasmagorical, Photoshopped evidence on the World Wide Web. The simple, straightforward evidence of science is treated as a lie and unreliable. Since scientists are part of the conspiracy, the only scientists you can trust are the grifters who profit from conspiracy. We end up with Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth, which is led by an architect who made a career out of redesigning gas stations. Richard Gage has no high iron credentials, and his accusations that the Twin Towers were rigged to blow is idiotic. The Towers would not have blown so much debris over New Jersey if bombs were used.
It’s not rocket science, guys. OK it is rocket science, but it’s really not that hard to understand. Putting it in the simplest terms, a 310,000 pound Boeing 767 moving at a speed of approximately 300 miles per hour is going to hit a standing building with 1,395,000 tons of kinetic energy. That’s a hell of a kick. Of course most of that kinetic energy is going to transfer into debris. That’s why there were tiny pieces of airplane, building, and humans scattered all over New Jersey. Some of the energy was converted into thermal energy, which set the jet fuel and building’s dry wall on fire. A lot of it converted into mechanical energy which broke walls, tore off the fire protection, and compromised the support. The damage done was perfectly consistent with the kinetic force of the airplane.
Truthers are as aggressive about their delusions as the worst Creationists and are as persistently resistant to reality as Birthers. The Creationist non-debate taught them them faith is more important than reason. Nobody should be surprised that Truthers are as racist as Birthers. While Birthers are tied up in knots over a Black man as president, Truthers can’t get over the fact that Jews have their own nation. With all the possible countries to choose from, the Truthers have decided Israel is behind Sept 11th. They pulled their evidence from Nazi blood libel and Henry Ford’s paranoia. According to their delusions, the international Jewish Conspiracy rules the United States and Sept 11th was engineered to further their imperialist goals. There really isn’t that much difference between Truthers and Birthers.
If you are part of the peace movement, put yourself into the shoes of a novice. There you are at your first rally, and you see all these tents with signs saying 9/11 is an inside job. Let’s say you took physics in high school and you got a C. Chances are you know the damage a Boeing 767 can do when it hits a building at 300 MPH. In the light of the Truther’s impossible claims, why would you believe anything anybody says about anything else? Now let’s say the novice is Jewish and he gets a hand-out accusing the Mossad of sabotaging the Towers. That’s not just bad science, that’s Nazi style blood libel. The Peace Movement has lost that guy and his entire family.
I think that if we want a strong and effective peace movement, we need to step up and take responsibility for what is said in our name. It is not censorship to tell an unreasonable person to shut up. There is absolutely no state or federal law that says protest organizers must allow the Truthers space on their podiums. The peace movement should not be a platform for antisemitism or Creationist style science. I think this is the main reason we have seen a sharp decrease in attendance at peace rallies. If the peace movement wants to be effective, we have to recognize that some truths are unassailable. E=MC2 is an inarguable truth. It is not censorship to respect that. 76% of polled Americans are against war. If we want their support we have to stop insulting their intelligence.
Once we establish that science is science and not government conspiracies, we can start asking questions about the real conspiracies. I haven’t heard anybody ask about the motivations of the hijackers. Personally, I don’t believe they killed themselves for religious reasons. They may have had a legitimate grievance against us, and Sept. 11th was a desperate attempt to bring it to our attention. Why in the name of hell was Condi Rice National Security Adviser? She is an Eastern Europe and Russia expert. What does she know about the Middle East? For that matter, why did she have George Tenant thrown out of her office? He is a Middle Eastern expert. Any real investigation of Sept. 11th is not going to involve the Mossad or planned demolition, or any of that rot. What needs to be investigating is the head-pounding stupidity of the Bush and Obama administrations, but as long as we keep having to fight make believe science, we are never going to get the answers to the real questions.
In my next post we will examine the real questions that come out of the Sept 11th tragedy. The most important one is why so much time and effort is being wasted on bad science. Then we will take a closer look at the history of blood libel and how it has been used as a political smokescreen throughout the ages.
Once upon a time, I associated tea parties with little girls and teddy bears sitting on little chairs around a tiny table. That cute little image has been permanently ruined by a bunch of raging morons marching around with tea bags hanging off their hats. Tea Parties are now associated with bullies tossing dollar bills at a sick man. What’s worse is that now tea parties are associated with screaming racism.
Things became absolutely surreal when the left wing press started calling the Tea Party, populist. When I first saw this on an Alternet article, I could not believe what I was reading. The Tea Party is no more populist than Goldman Sachs or the Democratic Party. The Tea Party is an AstroTurf movement organized by the same Wall Street crooks who tanked the economy. The Tea Party is nothing but a smoke screen. Sean Hannity and our darling Sarah Palin are using time honored advertising techniques to whip the right wing true believers into a lynch mob. The stupid, the bigoted, the ignorant, and the arrogant are frightened. The economy has tanked, their retirements are in jeopardy, their mortgages are foreclosing. Their health care is inadequate. Credit card limits are dropping. Rather than organizing against the Wall Street criminals who caused it, they are organizing against their fellow victims. The poor, the minorities, the educated, and the progressive are all targets of Tea Bagger rage instead of the real cause of their problems.
Populism and populists movements have never been middle class. They have never had the support of Wall Street talking heads. Throughout American history they have been poor people’s movements. When the middle class gets involved it is for reasons of personal ethics, as illustrated by the Abolitionist and Civil Rights movements. The earliest recorded American populists were the Regulators. In the days before the Rapture was created, a large group of religious non-conformists got together to use government as a means of establishing the Millennium. Poor farmers, freed slaves, and wealthy plantation owners joined together to establish just laws that included abolition, progressive taxation, land ownership for tenant farmers, and free elections.
While the Regulators were finally wiped out in the Whiskey Rebellion, Populism lived on through the Abolition movement. Abolition was a movement that never died and still exists today. Despite attempts by the libertarians and John Birchers to rehabilitate the South, slavery was one of the main reasons the South tried to leave the Union. Abolitionists simply did not give a fiddler’s damn about state rights. Slavery was an abomination and the Abolitionists were out to end it. Like their Regulator grandfathers, the Abolitionists were using the power of the Federal Government to end a monstrous injustice.
Jump forward a few decades and look at the beginnings of the labor movement in the United States. I cannot think of a better example of a Populist Movement. The beginnings of the labor movement can be found in the churches. Free Methodists, Western Baptists, Congregationalists, and even Catholics were amongst the leaders of the early American unions. While there was a socialist labor movement going on in Europe, it had very little to do with the American movement until the beginning of the twentieth century. While the American press was yelling “anarchism” during the 19th Century, the unions were anything but. They were organized by their churches and they were not calling for the end of the American government. Rather they were demanding their voices in the American government. They were demanding that the government oversee safety standards, collective bargaining, and that the rich be taxed the same as the poor.
Here is another reason that the Tea party is not populist. Populist movements were never anti-tax. They knew that government did not happen by magic. All the populist movements from The Regulators to the Civil Rights movements of the 1960s knew full well that it was going to take tax money to make their dreams come true. The difference is that the populists were demanding that the rich be taxed the same as the poor. The income tax was a populist movement. The entire idea behind the income tax is that the corporations pay as well as the poor. “I’m a taxpayer and I have my rights” would mean the same to the poor as well as the rich.
Populism are movements that demand that special privileges become universal privileges. Nothing demonstrates this more than the Civil Rights Movement. Abolition neither died nor went to sleep after the civil war. Citizens of African descent continued to live in conditions little better than slavery. Jim Crow simply rubbed salt into the wounds. Separate can never be equal. Dr. King demanded that the vast resources of the US government be used to correct this injustice. Part of the correction that Dr. King demanded was that more tax money be placed into education and affirmative action.
That’s right, libertarians. Dr. King was behind affirmative action. I know this is not true in your fairy tale world of George Washington meets John Galt, but in the real world, Dr. King demanded affirmative action. The reaction of the bigots was to run around screaming “states rights” while turning the fire hoses on peaceful protesters. I mean really, what relevance do states rights have in the 21st Century? It was an idea that made sense in the 18th Century when it took weeks to travel from Philadelphia to New York by land. By the 19th Century such inventions as the telegraph and the railroads made states rights irrelevant. The civil war showed the practical limits of states rights.
The entire purpose of the Constitution was to establish a national tax base, place the armed forces under one command, and to establish a uniform code of law. Under the Constitution, the DEA has every right to come into California and close dispensaries. We may not agree with what they are doing, and I feel it is just wrong. However, it is constitutional and we are not going to accomplish anything by ignoring that unfortunate fact.
During the Whiskey Rebellion, George Washington sent tax collectors and marshals into Pennsylvania to enforce federal law over states rights. The president was made into the commander and chief of the armed forces. Under the Constitution, the state militias were called out to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. The militias of Pennsylvania were called up and those who did not support the Federal Government, were declared outlaw.
So there is nothing populist in the Tea Party movement. First of all, populist movements don’t really care about the Constitution. Quite often, like the income tax and women suffrage, populist movements demand changes in the Constitution. Populist movement are not anti-taxation but demand a fair tax burden and a fair distribution of tax money. But most telling of all, populist movements are all about justice and equality. The Tea Party exists to protect white middle class privilege.
It is fear of change more than anything else that inspires the Tea Party and other libertarian organizations. They live in a fantasy world where the western expansion is still happening and free market capitalism still works. Once again, Wall Street has proven the sham of the free market. Rather than accept this, the Tea Party has dived into a never ending pool of denial, and they have Fox News and Libertarian Radio to egg them on. If the Tea Party was reacting to reality, they would be preparing to dip Rush and Sean into a vat of tar and cover them with feathers.
Nothing exemplifies the American oppression of minorities more than the Tea Party. They cannot see beyond the color of the president’s skin. They ignore the fact that each of them pay more in taxes than Rush Limbaugh, and focus on the fact that minorities demand equality. Like the bigots in Alabama and like Barry Goldwater, they concentrate on non-existent states’ rights and ignore the basic racism of their arguments. They cry over being denied the special privileges enjoyed by Wall Street insiders. Rather than get angry with White Privilege Wall Street, they get angry at a non-existent “Gangsta Government”, demand a return to a Constitution that only exists in their imaginations, and they get ready to kill liberals.
The Tea Party Populist? It is to laugh.
I find myself looking at America’s founders much differently since I read William Hogeland’s book on the Whiskey Rebellion. Like most other Americans, I believed that thought and planning went into the Constitution. Having been educated in the American public schools, I was taught that there was nobility and self sacrifice amongst the founders of this once-great nation. Hogeland could not have busted those myths more thoroughly if he used C-4.
Sadly, the events between 1780 to 1789 looks more like the recent coup in Honduras than the establishment of a nation based on laws. France supported the new United States as a means of weakening their rivals in England. The British crown waited in the wings for a chance to take the colonies back. The Iroquois nations were still British allies, and they waited on America’s western borders for Britain’s order to attack. Other European nations saw the American Revolution as a chance to grab their own piece of the continent.
At the same time rivalry amongst the states created the very situation Europe was waiting for. Maryland and Virginia were at war over borders. While that madness was going on, New Jersey and New York were fighting over access to New York Harbor. The Confederate government was too weak to stop the fighting or to enforce trade agreements. The Continental Congress was funded by voluntary donations by the thirteen states, and nobody was sending money. All thirteen states were ignoring the authority of the Congress to enter and enforce trade agreements with Europe. The states also ignored Congress’s orders to stop fighting.
The only thing that could save America from becoming a colony again was a strong central government. The Constitutional Convention was called specifically to create a national government that could levy taxes, command the armed forces, establish trade regulations between the states, and enter into treaties with foreign governments. A handful of wealthy men exploited the situation to grab power for themselves. These Federalists were not interested in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They were out for themselves. John Adams and John Jay were both unabashed royalists out to create the same sort government the wealthy enjoyed in England. Alexander Hamilton was a financier whose influence gave Wall Street the power it enjoys today.
Regulators, abolitionists, farmers, and small artisans watched in horror as the United States turned into a monstrous caricature of England. The final straw was when Washington and Hamilton used the army to put down the Whiskey Rebellion. As the new American dictators were protected by an army of over 13,000, the angry populace turned to Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr as their saviors. After Burr shot Hamilton (to the delight of the Pennsylvania farmers) there was only Jefferson.
According to libertarian propagandists, the founders were a band of drinking buddies who slept with each others’ wives and were cool with it. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The Federalists and Democratic Republicans were at each others throats. Burr shot Hamilton over their political differences. Burr was lucky that Jefferson was president. Burr was a stone cold murderer and he finished his term as vice-president. If Hamilton won, I wonder if Jefferson would have been as lenient?
My questions about Jefferson began when I did my sophomore thesis on Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It was then that I discovered that most of the nastiest stereotypes of African-Americans came directly from Thomas Jefferson. As president he ended the practice of importing slaves from Africa. As president he owned 117 slaves, and the domestic slave markets still did a brisk trade. He fathered several children with a slave named Sally Hemmings. He owned those children like they were cattle. This is strange behavior for a man who has become “Liberty’s Poster Boy”.
All too many people are willing to rationalize bigotry. This is especially true when it comes to the American Founders. Hamilton, Washington, Adams, Burr, and Jefferson, all owned slaves. Many historians are all too willing to pass this off as the customs of the time, and ignore the growing abolitionist movement. At the same time, Jefferson also ignored all the other populist movements and demands, such as a progressive tax of wealth, the end of land speculation and absentee landlords, as well as full civil rights for people of African descent and First Nation People.
Jefferson is also the darling of the New Atheists for taking his oath of office on a law book. I wonder about the true significance of that. Could it be that he was sending a message to the religious populists of his day? Could he have been telling them that there would be civil rights for freed slaves and a progressive tax on wealth over his dead body? The Jefferson administration was not significantly different from the Adams administration. Many historians feel that Jefferson had more in common with Adams than he did with his friend Thomas Paine. Jefferson repealed the Whiskey Tax but did nothing to break the monopoly on whiskey production. While he opposed the Aliens and Sedition Act, he did nothing to remove it from common law, where it still exists as a valid precedent. John Yoo used it in his infamous torture memos.
In the end, Jefferson and John Adams ended their careers and lives as the closest of friends. This in itself makes me doubt that the Aliens and Sedition Act was specifically aimed against Jefferson. It was more likely to have been aimed at the populists, or as both Adams and Jefferson called them, the “White Savages”. I cannot see how Jefferson the slave owning plantation farmer and absentee landlord could have truly been a champion of freedom. Like Washington and Adams, he was a champion of his own class. He and Adams’ only real disagreement was how their class was to rule over the working classes. After all, slaves, white savages, and natives were not capable of running a nation. That was for men of wealth and culture.
Scott Adams wrote a few cartoons where his character Dogbert had a taser, and he used it on everybody who annoyed him. Sometimes I wish I lived in that world. That way the next time somebody quotes Benjamin Franklin out of context, I can zap him with the taser until smoke pours out his ears. Maybe then people will learn that they will never win a point by quoting somebody out of context. Ben Franklin was speaking of standing armies when he said, “he who would sacrifice a little bit of liberty for a little bit of security, will lose both and deserve neither.” Franklin was against standing armies while other delegates to the Constitutional Convention were very much in favor of them. Like all of Franklin’s other Constitutional ideas, it was ignored.
In the last few years I have seen that quote applied to such diverse matters as cameras at stop-lights, the enforcement of libel laws, September 11th conspiracies, breaking the media monopolies, health care, weapons of mass destruction, cell phones, and the income tax. Not once has anybody applied that quote to standing armies. It has become the all purpose response when there is no other argument. When shown proof that cameras at stop-lights reduce traffic fatalities, out comes the quote. When presented with an idea that journalistic standards and ethics be enforced again, there is always the quote. I have no idea what Franklin would say about national health, but I hardly think he would equate it with standing armies. Suggesting that September 11th conspiracists should take their medications becomes a threat to liberty. The quote has become an internet meme which has completely lost any meaning. It is another way of covering your ears and singing, “la la la, I can’t hear you.”
Nor has this become the sole example of quoting out of context. Recently Glenn Beck has been trotting out Thomas Paine in support of the tea baggers. Paine was part of a social movement called the Populists. He advocated a progressive tax on wealth, welfare, subsidized farm loans, and representative democracy. He even declared health to be a basic human right. It just goes to show you that any point can be won if the person being quoted is dead. Paine was an anti-federalist who strongly advocated for the original American Confederacy of 1780-1790. Upon his return to the United States in 1802, he lived in obscurity for seven years and his funeral was ignored. Once he was dead, he immediately became the darling of the nation. Great monuments were built in his honor, and Common Sense has been quoted out of context by public school teachers for over a century.
In a recent interview, former pro-wrestler turned politician, Jesse Ventura, criticized the Democrats and the Republicans for not working together. I will be the first to admit it when Ventura says something intelligent. It happens so rarely. Then Ventura had to ruin it by quoting the founding fathers out of context. He said that George Washington, John Adams and others warned us against the dangers of political parties. If I lived in Scott Adams’ world, I would zap Ventura with my taser until lightning came out of his nose. The founders liked the two party system just fine. It was the many political parties being formed in England they were scared of. Different factions were creating their own political parties and having them elected to Parliament. In order to get anything done, the different factions had to work together to create a compromise. This is the foundation of Parliamentary Democracy. The delegates, Ministers of Parliament, Congresspeople, whatever you want to call them, directly represent their constituents and get them the best deal possible. That was what our founding fathers were worried about. They wanted to make sure their people stayed on top.
The Constitution represents a naked power grab by a faction in government whom we now call the Federalists. Had the revolution not happened, George Washington would have been jailed by Britain for his shady land deals. Alexander Hamilton was very well connected to the American and British financial industry. He and his relative by marriage, Robert Morris, worked together on a bond scam that defrauded the Revolutionary enlisted soldiers of their back pay. Even the leader of the anti-federalist movement, Thomas Jefferson, was a wealthy landowner as well as a slave owner who held his own children as property. These were not people who particularly cared about the rights of other people. When Jefferson became president, he continued the Federalist system and liked it.
Our Federalist founders created a system which imitated the British court of the time. Our president has the exact same powers as the Constitutional Monarch. He is the head of the army, disperses funds, oversees the execution of the law, industry, diplomacy, etc, through his cabinet. Originally the Senate was appointed by the state governments. There are no term limits for the Supreme Court, and British common law gives any American judge the same power as a British duke. Alexander Hamilton created a taxation system where the wealthy were barely taxed and the poor and lower middle class maintained most of the tax burden. Washington selected his cabinet from industrialists and landowners. You did not find Patrick Henry or Herman Husband amongst his closest advisers. To this day the cabinet is selected from the wealthy to serve the interests of the wealthy, and the Supreme Court Justices are selected by their loyalty to the monied interests.
Due process in law has always been at the whim of our government. Four years after the Constitution was ratified, Washington’s Attorney General declared that the Constitution did not apply to anyone accused of rebelling against the United States. Suspects in the Whiskey Rebellion were arrested without warrant. They were paraded down Market Street in Philadelphia as traitors, and tossed into an unheated cell without food or light. This was a precedent John Yoo turned to in his torture memos. In a foreshadowing of Guantanamo, all twenty men were found not guilty, even though the judges gave instructions to enter a verdict of guilty. Over the years due process has also been denied to freed slaves, European immigrants, and anyone else without the funds to buy due process.
Those tea baggers, and anarchist libertarians who talk about freedom within the Constitution have no idea what they are talking about. The United States was never a representative democracy. Our president is chosen by the electoral college, so I don’t even know why we bother with the popular vote. It’s all show anyway. Our Congress and Senate are representatives of military industrial complex, just as our federalist founders wanted it. There has never been a time when the wealthy paid their share in taxes, and a poor man has rarely won against a rich man in court. That is how our legal system is set up. The Bill of Rights was a major concession won by the few populist delegates to the Constitutional Convention, but even the Bill of Rights is interpreted through the Supreme Court, which historically championed Jim Crow.
When Libertarians prattle on about a return to the Constitution, I wish I was Dogbert so I can tase them until they do the Monster Mash. The America they talk about never existed in the real world. Maybe if they walked through a wardrobe and traveled through Narnia, Aslan might direct them to it. We are living in the exact America the Federalists wanted. A return to the Constitution is only going to cement corporate control over this country. If we want to change the country, we need to look to the future. Trying to return to the past never works. The clock never ticks backwards, and trying to solve today’s problems with yesterday’s solutions only makes things worse. Look at what happened to Germany when they tried it.