Deregulated markets, “rational market” theories, eroded labor standards, the retreat of unions, regressive taxation, financial engineering, global arbitrage, low rates of job growth, growth that eluded the middle-class and the poor… all have contributed to almost unprecedented levels of wealth concentration.
Such dynamics are self-reinforcing. The narrow slice of winners, enriched beyond imagination by these forces, use their wealth to insulate themselves from new ideas that threaten their position by purchasing not just political power but even “ideas,” through bogus think tanks and media operations.
They and their representatives ensured that when history provided a unique, crystallized moment of clarity as to their fundamentally corrupt paradigm, too few would see it clearly and when those who did sounded the alarm, no one would listen.
And now we’re arguing about debt ceilings, budget cuts, and super-committees, not to mention whether evolution and climate change are real or conspiratorial notions of the left.
I know this is a dark vision of reality but before you get too deeply bummed out by it, let me say that I’m by no means alone in this analysis of the problem, and I’ve begun to see some hints that more and more of us are getting the picture. And that has the potential to create a welcoming climate for new ideas that challenge this paradigm, ideas that have been sorely missing for too long.
The Innocence Project obtained, through the Freedom of Information Act, all the records from the governor’s office and the board pertaining to Hurst’s report. “The documents show that they received the report, but neither office has any record of anyone acknowledging it, taking note of its significance, responding to it, or calling any attention to it within the government,” Barry Scheck said. “The only reasonable conclusion is that the governor’s office and the Board of Pardons and Paroles ignored scientific evidence.”
LaFayette Collins, who was a member of the board at the time, told me of the process, “You don’t vote guilt or innocence. You don’t retry the trial. You just make sure everything is in order and there are no glaring errors.” He noted that although the rules allowed for a hearing to consider important new evidence, “in my time there had never been one called.” When I asked him why Hurst’s report didn’t constitute evidence of “glaring errors,” he said, “We get all kinds of reports, but we don’t have the mechanisms to vet them.” Alvin Shaw, another board member at the time, said that the case didn’t “ring a bell,” adding, angrily, “Why would I want to talk about it?” Hurst calls the board’s actions “unconscionable.”
[...] In 2005, Texas established a government commission to investigate allegations of error and misconduct by forensic scientists. The first cases that are being reviewed by the commission are those of Willingham and Willis. In mid-August, the noted fire scientist Craig Beyler, who was hired by the commission, completed his investigation. In a scathing report, he concluded that investigators in the Willingham case had no scientific basis for claiming that the fire was arson, ignored evidence that contradicted their theory, had no comprehension of flashover and fire dynamics, relied on discredited folklore, and failed to eliminate potential accidental or alternative causes of the fire. He said that Vasquez’s approach seemed to deny “rational reasoning” and was more “characteristic of mystics or psychics.”
What’s more, Beyler determined that the investigation violated, as he put it to me, “not only the standards of today but even of the time period.” The commission is reviewing his findings, and plans to release its own report next year. Some legal scholars believe that the commission may narrowly assess the reliability of the scientific evidence. There is a chance, however, that Texas could become the first state to acknowledge officially that, since the advent of the modern judicial system, it had carried out the “execution of a legally and factually innocent person.”
Jack Straw, former foreign secretary in Tony Blair’s government, was quick to his feet, following David Cameron’s speech on the UK riots in Parliament on 11 August.
“We need more prisons,” Straw told Cameron and the House of Commons.
He may get his wish, looking at some of the sentences that have already been handed down in the hundreds of cases rushed through emergency courts — no doubt at the government’s bidding, to show that instant retribution will take precedence over justice.
A mother of two, who was asleep at home during the riots, has been given a five-month jail sentence for accepting running shorts stolen by someone else.
A 23-year-old student got six months for stealing a £3.50 case of water from a supermarket.
A 43-year-old man is in jail pending sentence for stealing items worth £1 from a newsagent.
But, if Jack Straw is right and we need more prisons, he should be one of the first inmates, alongside Tony Blair, who he served so loyally throughout the 13 years of New Labour government.
Straw knew that when George Bush and Tony Blair met at Bush’s Texas ranch in April 2002, they “signed in blood” a secret deal to invade Iraq, whatever the views of the United Nations or the people of the United States and Britain.
Just prior to that meeting, Straw told Blair in a secret memo that “legally there are two potential elephant traps“. Firstly, that “regime change per se is no justification for military action”. And secondly, that “the weight of legal advice here is that a fresh mandate [from the United Nations] may well be required”.
And it was Straw who was central in the attempt to bounce the United Nations into that second resolution to give a fig-leaf of legality to a war of unjustified aggression. He was rarely off our screens in 2002 telling us how Iraq was not giving access to the UN weapons inspectors, knowing that this simply was not true, as Hans Blix the chief UN inspector has pointed out, noting Straw’s “incorrect answers” — better known as lies — to the Iraq Inquiry.
The Corbett administration is de-emphasizing renewable energy and energy conservation, eliminating programs created by previous Democratic and Republican administrations as it focuses on natural gas energy from booming Marcellus Shale.
Quietly but systematically, the administration has all but shut down the state Department of Environmental Protection’s Office of Energy and Technology Deployment — the state’s primary energy office — and removed directors and reassigned staff in the Office of Energy Management in the Department of General Services and the Governor’s Green Government Council.
It has also forbidden state executive agencies from signing contracts that support clean energy supply.
This campaign strategy doesn’t many any sense at all to me. I don’t know what good appealing to the middle will do when so many Democratic voters are disgusted enough not to vote at all. We’re in the middle of economic devastation unknown in our lifetime, and we’d like to see our president show more concern about that than his own reelection:
Obama’s jobs agenda, which he plans to tout on his Midwestern tour, calls for $30 billion to rebuild roads, bridges and ports; improvements to the patent system to spur innovation; trade deals with a trio of countries to boost exports; a $40-billion extension of unemployment insurance benefits; and renewal of the current one-year reduction of the payroll tax at a cost of up $120 billion.
A range of economists and Democratic critics call those ideas inadequate.
Asked about Obama’s support for free-trade deals with South Korea, Colombia and Panama, Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a center-left think tank, said, “I would think they would be embarrassed to mention it.”
“These are small countries, and we already have a lot of trade with them,” he added.
Obama’s policies “are just not big enough to make much of a difference,” said Robert Reich, who was Labor secretary under President Clinton.
Alternative ideas have been floating up from Democratic think tanks, elected officials and strategists: Peter R. Orszag, Obama’s former budget director, advocates tripling the size of the payroll tax break — essentially wiping out the payroll tax entirely — and keeping the rate low as long as unemployment remains high.
This is one of the stupider ideas I’ve seen. In addition to robbing Social Security by cutting those taxes, people aren’t going to spend that money on anything more than the increased price of food and gas. There won’t be any left over to stimulate the economy in any meaningful way.
Others are pressing Obama to take advantage of low interest rates and borrow money to underwrite a far larger public works program. Such a plan would spur enough long-term economic growth to pay off the extra debt, supporters argue.
Mark Zandi, an economist who has advised the Obama administration, suggests making it easier for homeowners to refinance mortgages at today’s extremely low rates. The idea would be to eliminate charges that currently make it too costly for some people to refinance. He also advises changing immigration policies so that foreign students with advanced degrees find it easier to stay in the U.S.
Still, “There’s no magic bullet here,” Zandi said.
White House aides counter that large-scale, costly ideas stand little chance of getting through the Republican-controlled House.
But it’s no sure bet that Congress will go along with smaller-scale ideas either. Republican leadership aides said the GOP was supportive of the trade deals and a patent overhaul, although both have stalled several times this year. Obama’s call for renewing the payroll tax cut has drawn fire from some Republicans, who argue it would worsen the deficit, and the GOP has also opposed his plan to extend unemployment insurance.
Pollster Stanley B. Greenberg, who polled for Clinton’s White House, said voters had little patience for political leaders who limited policy proposals to what the opposition would support. White House officials can “get trapped in ‘what can get through Congress’ and the constraints of that debate,” Greenberg said, recalling similar arguments in the Clinton years. “Voters want you to break out of that” and answer the question, “What are you battling for?” he said.
The complaints about Obama come not only from long-standing critics, but from some who have been supportive in the past.
One Democratic congressman who has defended Obama to fellow liberals said he told White House officials at a recent meeting that they seemed to have Stockholm syndrome — embracing the Republican view that deficit reduction should be a major national priority, in the manner of hostages who come to sympathize with their captors.
Obama “sat in the room with Republicans so long talking about deficit reduction that he seems to be parroting the same lines,” said the congressman, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss private meetings.
I’ve been reading about the Dominionists (in this case, Seven Mountains Dominionists and Christian Reconstruction) for more than ten years, and the more I learn, the scarier it gets. The most important thing you should learn is that they believe in lying and cheating their way into power because it’s to do “God’s will.” The second is that there is no room for non-believers in their vision of America:
With Tim Pawlenty out of the presidential race, it is now fairly clear that the GOP candidate will either be Mitt Romney or someone who makes George W. Bush look like Tom Paine. Of the three most plausible candidates for the Republican nomination, two are deeply associated with a theocratic strain of Christian fundamentalism known as Dominionism. If you want to understand Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, understanding Dominionism isn’t optional.
Put simply, Dominionism means that Christians have a God-given right to rule all earthly institutions. Originating among some of America’s most radical theocrats, it’s long had an influence on religious-right education and political organizing. But because it seems so outré, getting ordinary people to take it seriously can be difficult. Most writers, myself included, who explore it have been called paranoid. In a contemptuous 2006 First Things review of several books, including Kevin Phillips’ American Theocracy, and my own Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism, conservative columnist Ross Douthat wrote, “the fear of theocracy has become a defining panic of the Bush era.”
Now, however, we have the most theocratic Republican field in American history, and suddenly, the concept of Dominionism is reaching mainstream audiences. Writing about Bachmann in The New Yorker this month, Ryan Lizza spent several paragraphs explaining how the premise fit into the Minnesota congresswoman’s intellectual and theological development. And a recent Texas Observer cover story on Rick Perry examined his relationship with the New Apostolic Reformation, a Dominionist variant of Pentecostalism that coalesced about a decade ago. “[W]hat makes the New Apostolic Reformation movement so potent is its growing fascination with infiltrating politics and government,” wrote Forrest Wilder. Its members “believe Christians—certain Christians—are destined to not just take ‘dominion’ over government, but stealthily climb to the commanding heights of what they term the ‘Seven Mountains’ of society, including the media and the arts and entertainment world.”
In many ways, Dominionism is more a political phenomenon than a theological one. It cuts across Christian denominations, from stern, austere sects to the signs-and-wonders culture of modern megachurches. Think of it like political Islamism, which shapes the activism of a number of antagonistic fundamentalist movements, from Sunni Wahabis in the Arab world to Shiite fundamentalists in Iran.
Yep, and what they have in mind is the Christian fundamentalist version of sharia law. It’s important that we learn about this, but even more important that members of the media education themselves.
I’ve seen that footage of the stage going down at the Indiana State Fair a couple of times now. Aside from the fact that it contributes mightily to my fear of crowds, the thing I notice (and I don’t think it’s just because I look for it) is that the people on the ground ran to help the people who were hurt.