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Orlando: The Stucco Gravestone of American Democracy

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American democracy is dead. No not from socialist government, or from terrorist broadsides and the Bush administration. It has been beaten to death by corporations, right out in the open, and you didn’t even pay attention to it as it screamed and kicked and yelled out to you for help. No better an example of American democracy’s slow, tortured death is there than Orlando, the capital of apathetic America.

Recently Jack joined a small contingent of activists from UCF’s Student Labor Action Project and United Students Against Sweatshops in protesting the NBA’s recent deal with sweatshop overlord Russel corporation. We had our demonstration at Amway (*gag*) Stadium during the final game between the Lakers and the Magic. Both because the deal should be a concern of basketball fans, and because unfortunately its one of the only civic spaces left in Orlando that has not been staked out by strip malls and suburbs. Well, not really…

Even though the old arena was built by the city, and of the $480 million for the new one 85% is payed for in Orlando citizens’ tax dollars (upfront costs only, not including the inevitable cost overruns), apparently neither stadium is public property. So one of the last bastions of civic space in Orlando is essentially owned by the Amway corporation, a company whose business plan is essentially a pyramid scheme, and has been successfully sued because of it. Therefore, unlike a public park, you have no right to free speech on the premises. So those who came to protest a disturbing activity related to the NBA could not speak on what by all rights should be public land. Those who attempted to so much as silently hand out fliers were immediately forced off the premises by Orlando cops. This is obviously not conducive to a democratic society.

While students protesting sweatshops were pushed off the premises, Amway founder Rich DeVos has used the same stadium to advance his own bigoted political message. As this publication notes (see by David Zirin, on page for details), the DeVos family is using the funds from the stadium to advance their right-wing politics. Most recently their support for the anti-gay marriage ban, amendment 2, to which they donated $100,000. Why are we allowing a man worth 4.4 billion dollars to use a stadium we’re building for his political and financial gain? If he wants to build a new stadium, to replace one that is barely 20 years old, he shouldn’t rely on us to do so, and then turn around to use the money he should be spending on the arena to fund his bigoted invasion into our bedrooms. At the very least the stadium should be public property, not his.

This shows how uncommitted Orlando residents are to democracy. The very bad idea of spending $1.1 billion on the three venues were opposed by a tiny fragment of motivated residents and professional activists. The plan was predicated on the revenue gathered by tourism and housing taxes, which was understood even then as financially uncertain. With the tourism industry taking a massive hit, the housing industry imploded, and a city government facing a nationwide tend of metropolitan budget shortfalls, the plan reveals the massive mistake that our city government has forced through.

The town halls concerning the venues back in 2006 were lessons in the corporate take over of government. Proponents were almost always members of the developer class or people with occupational ties to the Magic. One of the few organized elements of democracy were the worker’s unions, divided between the proponents in the form of the building trades and the opponents in the form of the fire-fighter’s union. Both unions turned out to be screwed by the deal, with the firefighters who correctly guessed that the venues would ultimately cause budget problems harming them, and the builders who have been screwed by the city backing out on its deal to use unionized labor for building and maintaining the stadium. In the democratic ghetto outside the stadium the students were joined by the latter who handed out fliers decrying the city’s use of independent contractors, who used undocumented immigrants rather than American labor.

One can blame a lot of our ills on our city government, which has been shown to be incompetent and corrupt, many times by our sister (in spirit) publication the Orlando Weekly. From Dyer’s opposition to allowing people to share food with the homeless, to Daisy Lynum’s innumerable business ties favoring friends and relatives (and her tendency to cry racism every time this is pointed out), that conclusion is certainly apt. However the larger conclusion is inescapable, their continued occupation of their positions is our fault.

Granted it is no secret in the political world that Dyer and his cronies are swimming in developer money, the venues deal and the light rail giveaway to the CSX corporation merely very visible tributes to these connections. However, despite enormous political baggage which could sink politicians much far more skilled, Dyer and his compliant city council have barely been challenged. Why?

Unfortunately, Orlando has several major impediments to democratic activism that should have ousted our crooks and cronies in charge. First, about one third of orange county moves within a year, many who elect to stay will more than likely move to an apartment in a new community. This means that they will be less interested in the upkeep of their community and will not participate in even the bare minimum democratic responsibilities that one would expect, like voting for city officials. Unfortunately, their unwillingness to maintain a bare minimum of democratic scruples screws those of us who do live here.

Also, you may have noticed that Orlando is incredibly spread out, suburbanized nightmare. There are few places were Orlando residents will run into each other, outside of their cars, both figuratively and literally. Lack of civic spaces hampers activism, since without a public square , there are few locations were Orlando citizens are confronted with the cultural and political activity that is virtually required of the informed electorate envisioned by our founding fathers. Combine that with summers that turn our fair city into a sulfuric swamp in hell, you have even less likelihood that you can engage with someone outside of their air conditioned personal bastions.

Next throw in the impact of Disney, which unfortunately touches on everything in this city. While Disney employs much of Orlando, it also has a problematic and infectious ideology attached to it. It is consumer capitalism incarnate, encompassing the worst infantilizing characteristics outlined by Benjamin R. Barber in his testament to the subject Consumed: How Markets Corrupt Children, Infantilize Adults, and Swallow Citizens Whole, which Jack recommends. This ideology both directly and indirectly fuels the tenancy to eschew civic governance that is found in anti-tax fanatics on the right, complacent anarchists on the left, and the politically weary in-between.

All these factors are only some of the reason why Orlando is the veritable wet powder keg of activism. Unfortunately, we don’t have the answers as to how to get Orlando residents to stop seeing themselves as consumers and start acting as citizens. However, the only solution to Orlando’s incompetent city government corrupted by anti-democratic developers, is mass action. We at the Telepath hope that we (AND PARTICULARLY YOU) do something about this, and disprove our pessimistic belief that Orlando is the stucco gravestone of American democracy.

Visit us at populistpress.com. Join the Populist Press Partisans and take back our city through force of enlightened action!

Written by jackofspades83

June 25, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Observer Yort File 1: Initial Observations on Basic Leadership Structure of Hive [Orlando]

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“There is no better indicator of a species being ready for solar system exploration than the development of the toaster. The toaster demonstrates that a species has developed mechanization, the harnessing of electrical energy for constructive purposes, and the distribution of sliced bread.”
-Professor sqrt((10x2+5x+1)/pi), University of Central Cosine

Universal cycle 4, Subunit 301.405.1: Salutations Compilers, to whom all data is subject and to whom designate all sequential orderings. These are the collected recordings of constructed sentient Y-4514, designation Yort. It is this unit’s distinct pleasure to serve in the eternal struggle of ever recycling observation and analysis. As a servant of the enlightened inquivistivation there is no higher honor than to observe the more highly dynamic civilizations. As such few civilizations observed within this universal cycle are as charmingly schizophrenic and unstable as [humanity].

Pre-infiltration scans of media, and rectal scans of more “dynamic” drones of human society, reveal a fragmented consciousness typical of juvenile species. The most noticeable feature of [homo-sapiens] on a macro level is their tendency to further divide themselves into large, complex units defined as [nations]. [Nations] can be defined as units of societal grouping that are characterized by only a marginal collective hatred between its component units, which is overshadowed by their collective hatred of the component units of other [nations].

Another defining characteristic of nations is their geographical element, in which nations are confined to regions within invisible boundaries or “borders”. It becomes immediately apparent that [homo-spaiens] seem to have a level of hatred and distrust for other [homo-sapiens] that increases in a relative proportionally to the total distance from which they were spawned. [Nations] are thus an abstraction which show the approximate distance of inter-[homo-sapien] cooperation for a given voluntary collective of [homo-spaiens]. [Homo-sapiens] also have the tendency to hate other [homo-spaiens] as a collective group, rather than as individual units, permitting a degree of fluid travel across borders.

I have chosen to infiltrate the most influential of these [nations], in what is arguably the most well-known of their thoroughly average class of hives, that has chosen to refer to itself as [Orlando]. My initial survey of the hive reveals that it’s leadership class is selected by a ritual which involves displaying plumage in the form of placards placed outside dwellings, on transportation arteries, hydrocarbon land/air vehicles, garments, and media transmissions. The [homo-sapien] with the most intricate and distributed plumage is given nearly unrestrained access to the mechanisms of hive development, and are promptly forgotten by the majority of the hive. The process is repeated in a regular cycle, where the current leadership class reminds the hive that they are, to us the [homo-sapien] expression, “heated feces”.

Comparable to the leadership class is what I have decided to refer to as the Edification Erection Arrangers (EEA). They have a symbiotic relationship with the leadership class in which it provides plumage in exchange for nearly exclusive access to communal resources. As mentioned by the initial report fashioned by the the Office of Interstellar Observers, [homo-sapiens] have a unique concept of [private ownership]. In such a relationship, a [homo-sapien] claims exclusive access to a material object which becomes [theirs]. Any unauthorized attempt to access the claimed object is responded to with a varying degree of hostility, in some cases resulting in termination of either the expropriator or the expropriate.

[Homo-sapiens] will reluctantly part with [personal property] to the leadership class for the development of the hive. These resources are then transferred directly to members of the EEA who will develop plans to add on to the hive, and direct drones to do the actual physical work. It seems that what is ultimately constructed under the direction of the EEA is relatively unimportant as long as it is big, costly, and the EEA is allowed to claim ownership of it. Other than the transfer of resources to the EEA the leadership class itself seems largely irrelevant, and seems to be a symbolic position when compared to the power welded by members of the EEA. Further complicating the relationship is the tendency of members of the EEA to also be members of the leadership class as well.

Theoretically members of the leadership class are directly responsible to drones of the hive, which despite widespread disapproval of the leadership class is oddly still the general sentiment of the majority of hive drones. In practice, hive drones are given the opportunity to voice disapproval at minority of the meetings of the leadership class. These sentiments are then acknowledged and openly ignored. From what I can tell, the operation of the management of the hive is very similar to the operation of what [homo-sapiens] refer to as a [business] (a subject which will require much elaboration), in all but the opportunity to be personally ignored by the leadership class.

The general populace of the [Orlando] hive is rather sedentary in most aspects, most notably in its interactions with its leadership class. It is quite a feat that the hive operates at all, as the drones fracture themselves into a myriad of social fragments, with many eschewing social interaction to a degree unfathomable in our [???] society. I am worried that the degree of interaction required to accurately document this one hive may be more than I can spare. The publishing date for the -1st edition of the Omni-pedia of Sentient Species is rapidly approaching, and I dare not face the wrath of the Compilers or miss the next universal cycle. I also fear that infiltration will be delicate and will require transformations between multiple subjects to be able to travel between social fragments without drawing unwanted attention.

To return from that semi-personal tangent (all necessary apologies) back to the subject at hand. Hatred for the leadership class is nearly universal among the drones, although oddly fewer drones despise the members of the EEA and a good number actually revere them. Of the latter, they place undue emphasis on the powers of the hive leaders, and decry something called [socialism], which according to them, is the redistribution of resources by hive leaders to those drones that have a lot of resources to those with relatively few resources. I am uncertain as to how they have come to this seemingly paradoxical conclusion, as the leadership class obviously does the exact opposite. It will require a much higher degree of observation, outside the scope of initial reconnaissance.

As it is not currently a leadership selection cycle, I have taken the precautionary measure of deleting any and all information on the current leadership class from my internal drives. I have also initiated contact with a drone that has been forwarded to me via the Office of Interstellar Observers. It refers to itself as “Branson Fasricci”, and has provided us with subjects that can be used for infiltration. The deal with this particular drone is outside of my Field of Non-Terminal Information which will most certainly result in my undergoing VOLT (Violent Organic Liquification Transformation) if observed. As such, no attempts to observe such information has been attempted.

The first drone that I have been provided with is 3 x 0.15 [non-translatable unit of measurement], 600 [non-translatable unit of measurement], and a somewhat spongy midsection. It is male with a white skin pigment, relative lack of fur, and has an anal cavity of 309 [non-translatable unit of measurement]. Subject is not rated for atmospheric entry, as has been demonstrated with previous models.

As such, per protocol 42 subsection 1.943*1023, I will be performing atmospheric entry intercourse via quantithermoplastic cylinder. Intercourse will be disguised by standard “Nothing to See Here” protocols. Sperm whales coated in bacon grease are ready for atmospheric deployment at forwarded points alpha, beta, and gamma. In addition to atmospheric nasal overload, we will be deploying big rocks to drop in forward point zeta to distract the drones with pretty streaks of light. Yort out.

Written by jackofspades83

June 22, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Spotlight on the Mainstream Maniac Machine

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-Comrade Jack

Today’s enlightened rant is sponsored by Paul Krguman of the New York Times, as seen here. This observer has noticed this trend of madness that has become more and more acceptable in the ever more homogenized American infotainment/media/news(?)/crap sector. However, what this observer missed was how the recent right-wing lunatic murderers of abortion doctor George Tiller and the white supremacist shooting up the holocaust museum, show how right the Department of Homeland security was in a recent report. Jack did notice the report, and at the time and without much attention, believed it to be an over-exaggeration made by a department Jack never liked in the first place (mostly because of its connections with America’s dumbest president). It seems that all the critics of this report have some explaining to do. Jack feel a little humbled, and I’m sure the offended teabaggers and RNC flaks would if they weren’t so deluded by our media’s maniac machine.

Jack doesn’t blame the right wing for being upset by Obama winning the election, he would feel more than a little peeved if old man McCain had won. What he is bothered by is how more than a few folks on the right end of the American political spectrum have given in to what appears to be a media feed madness/temper tantrum. Obama is not the Antichrist, and no one should have to argue against that. A 3% tax hike is not “oppression”, and makes anyone who would claim it look like a douche (as in, try explaining to a Chinese factory worker that you’re being oppressed by a minor tax increase).

Perhaps most disturbing to Jack, is the idea that Obama is a Marxist. To anyone who will, (and they will) claim that Obama is a Marxist, please be prepared to defend your point based on Marxist principle (site actual Marxist theorists or you will be ignored). If you don’t think you can do that, it explains why you are not qualified to offer an opinion on who is or is not a Marxist. Let me clue you in on a basic fact ignored by almost every single person in North America. Government control is not socialism, per se. Socialism is direct democratic control of the economy. As the decisions of the Fed are not democratic, it is not a socialist body. Obama is a social democrat, a capitalist who believes in a social safety net and Keynesian economic theory. End point.

To return from Jack’s ideological rant tangent, what Krugman has shown us is that there is a serious problem in the lunatic right today. Unlike the American lunatic left, which today is mostly pacifistic and narcissistic (see Jack’s last rant), there is a tiny fragment of the right that is not only fanatically crazy, but homicidal at that. It is receiving serious ideological support from a large segment of the media that seems to have completely lost its mind. Jack would like to take this moment to speak to all Americans and ask for people to calm the f*ck down.

Bush nor Obama is the END OF THE WORLD. Put your guns back in their lockers, and try not to treat your fellow Americans like something you just scraped of your shoe.

Jack Fears that American Democracy is Eating Itself

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It is posts like this one that have me worried about the state of American democracy. Over thirty years of anti-government hysteria seems to have made Americans forget the point of us rebelling from the crown. What started out as a somewhat justified argument against a government too reliant on Keynesian economic tactics, has become an argument against democratic governance itself.

What was developed as a means to combat tyranny by affording a measure of control to citizens is now seen as the enemy of the citizenry. Cynical Americans rightly angry by abuses of power have reacted not by attempting to right American democratic institutions, but by eliminating them at every turn. Becoming less active in government and actively supporting measures and candidates who designs place more of the responsibility for the common welfare to business interests, who without evidence, are sighted as being more efficient in the tasks of the people. Never mind that businesses are, by the very nature, not in any way beholden to the public good. In practice, it has been shown again and again, that businesses pursue business interests, not public ones.

This belief is not necessarily partisan, and is shared by political gradations between the left and right. The major difference between the two sides lies in where they will accept some government control. Anarchists on the left are tolerant of government intervention in the form of a social safety net and domestic concerns such as labor and the environment, where the rightward libertarians will eschew government involvement except in defense, and imperial military escapades. However, this is not so much a support of democratic governance, but rather a placid support for government policies that they appreciate. When it comes to civic participation both sides are too often focused on their own narrow interests and personal politics.

The last point is of vital importance. Despite their often political leanings, both groups are more involved in a narcissistic individualism that is hostile to the idea of democratic governance. Anarchists abandon society and form walled off collectives, and libertarians only involve themselves in politics to advance policies that limit and de-legitimize the very idea of democracy. The former, although often compassionate at least in theory, do not realize that they do a disservice to their democratic principles by isolating themselves (even when they believe they are being inclusive). The latter, although they have an almost religious interest in the founding fathers, are openly hostile to the civic element of democracy, that they savage whenever possible.

Libertarians, who are viciously capitalist to a point of compassion-less zeal, seem to look past the many, of what they would decry today as needless government interventions, that their beloved forefathers pioneered. America did not just pioneer the modern democratic state, but “big government” interventions such as the police, firefighters, libraries, schools, hospitals, roads, prisons, etc. They also are unable to understand that the modern world is very different than the one the founders lived in. What other political movement would chose Ron Paul as their public face, a man who has not put forward a single political policy that hasn’t already been implemented before the 1830’s.

It is important to understand that the America of the founding fathers was one that was only beginning to experience the birth of capitalism and the industrial revolution. The model of society that existed 200 years ago is hardly an exact model for the present. The industrial revolution has dramatically changed the family unit, and increased specialization to the point where individuals are not able to exist in modern society without relying on others to a much greater degree. The idea of the self-dependent family may have been possible when industry was nearly non-existent, but in the era of hi-tech information systems, and complex manufacturing processes it is no longer possible for families to exist as such autarkic units. Unless anarchists and libertarians wish to return to a pre-industrial society (and some do), then they will have to accept the fact that we are all reliant on each other, and democratic governance is the only instrument that is capable of sustaining such a society without economic ruin and drastic inequality.

It is still surprising to this observer how the arguments in defense of elite’s interests have become the arguments of the vox popli. Mass participation in democratic governance is the only weapon the people have against elite interests. By abandoning civic instruments for privatized control the overwhelming majority of Americans unintentionally surrender power to the very elements of government they claim to despise. Whether it is the corporations despised by anarchists or the political elites despised by libertarians.

In terms of healthcare there is no greater example of what happens when democratic governance is forsaken. Corporations make money hand over fist and secure their dominance by paying off the political elites who keep the system private. In a business of life and death, leaving such affairs to the private sector has shown that they neither care about the public interest or that they have even necessarily secured efficiency. America stands alone as one of the most inefficient and least pluralistic healthcare systems in the developed world. Americans may have the choices between healthcare providers, but this turns out to be anything but freedom, for ultimately their care is dictated by the bottom line of their provider, not in anyway by their health.

The other developed nations have realized that a public good such as health is something that must be handled collectively. The interconnected nature of modern society does not afford us the possibility to ignore our neighbors, no longer is the argument strictly moral. True, issues arising through bad personal choices such as obesity, drug use, and promiscuous sexual activity should not be born by the public, but these are precisely the issues that should be decided by the public, not the oligarchy of private wealth. The other democracies have done this, and while deciding between what should be treated and what shouldn’t has proven difficult, it has been a decision made by their respective populations. They have proven that democratic governance can not only be fair, but efficient as well. It truly is a sad day when Americans have to be instructed in why democratic governance is a good thing.

Written by jackofspades83

June 12, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Intelligent Design Does Not Belong In Science Class – PERIOD

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by Jack O’Spades

Regardless of whether you believe in intelligent design or creationism, neither belong in a science class. Simply put: these theories are not in any possible way scientific. To qualify as a scientific theory an argument must be able to be tested empirically. If you cannot use the scientific method to judge an argument, it cannot be considered science.

 

Intelligent Design rests on the idea of “specified complexity”, which is really just stating that something that has a specific purpose and complex must be made by something intelligent. This sort of incredibly generalized statement cannot be tested empirically, and is on the same level of absurdity as attempting to scientifically prove or disprove the existence of God. The theory of evolution on the other hand, can and has been tested empirically, and is therefore worthy of being considered in a class of science.

 

Intelligent design and creationism are theological theories, religious philosophy. As such they can, and should, be taught either in a class of theology or philosophy. To not do so would be to deny view points that color the beliefs of many individuals. Seeing as the point of teaching philosophy, as well as its more specific branches such as political theory (secular philosophy) and theology (religious philosophy), is to understand the motivations of sentient beings, to not teach these ideas in such classes would be to deny important motivations in western society.

 

However, the converse of attempting to color these theories as scientific is even more dangerous as it begins to separate the scientific method from science. One of the key reasons we refer to the dark ages as “dark”, is because empirical testing was simply non-existent. Emotional judgment and theology were used in its stead, creating a society based upon myth. Do we really want to emulate such a society?

Written by jackofspades83

March 2, 2008 at 2:12 pm

Fair Trade V. Free Trade

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by Scott TessFree Trade and Fair trade are both market based economic system

Free Trade and Fair trade are both market based economic systems. Both rely on a market place where producers may bring products for sale and consumers may choose just what they want when they want provided they can pay for it. The similarities end there though. Examining who organizes and benefits from each rubric goes a long way to explain the modes of each system.

Free Trade is organized at trade conferences and negotiations, many of which are conducted in secret. That fact is suggestive for reasons that should be obvious. Where these proceedings are more or less open, they are attended by the political elite. Presidents and ambassadors who have varying degrees of accountability to the publics they represent. These proceedings are heavily influenced by the play of power, regardless of the intentions of the participants therein. States with great militaries or strategic resources have great influence over others. One might say diplomacy is practiced, but not democracy. Other loci of Free Trade organization and planning are the secret meetings and judicial proceedings of global organizations such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Bank. While these organizations have had a great degree of secrecy from their inception, secrecy has become even more important since their meetings attract protest crowds numbering in the thousands. The “Battle in Seattle” is the most significant US example. In these secret meetings corporate and political elites decide how to dismantle tariffs, price supports, social spending, subsidies, and other “barriers to trade.” What is usually unstated is how they decide NOT to dismantle these modes. While all preach the “neoliberal free trade” gospel, the most radical free trade ideology, those that sing the loudest are often the most hypocritical. For instance, the US and to a lesser degree Europe, still maintain many tariffs and subsidies on steel and agricultural products. This fact exposes these proceedings as little more than the imposition of power, not principles.

The organization of the Fair Trade rubric is derived from completely different sources serving different interests. Fair Trade is organized by consumers and producers working through non-profit organizations. Non-profit and stakeholder organizations such as Transfair and Fair Trade Labeling Organizations International (FLO) establish environmental, labor, and democracy standards which producers may choose to meet to receive the Fair Trade Certified label. The certification provides the producers with minimum price guarantees and help with global marketing. It also allows consumers to choose products made under the conditions just stated and avoid supporting slave labor, child labor, sweatshop labor, and environmental harm. While consumers have a role in the labeling organizations, their most crucial role lye in the decentralized, networked advocacy groups who promote Fair Trade as a consumer option and work to establish Fair Trade purchasing policies in their popular institutions like governments, schools, churches, and social clubs. The multiplicity of networked voluntary associations working to organize Fair Trade demonstrates a far more democratic mode of economic activity.

The resulting values of the Free Trade and Fair Trade rubrics are determined by the organization modes previously noted. Free Trade, organized by the Corporate and Political elite, values ever increasing profits. The profit seeking compulsion will suffer no borders and so must expand world wide, often with the assistance of state violence threatened or realized. Free Trade also values oligarchic political-economic decision-making. Recall that you don’t get a vote, a delegate, or even a representative at secret meetings. Free Trade values investor and corporate rights. NAFTA is mostly an investor’s rights agreement. Unless you are willing to consider GM moving a car from a GM factory in Mexico to a GM factory in the US trade, NAFTA has not and was not designed to increase trade. It simply allowed the previously mentioned action to be conducted with more ease to the detriment of workers in both the US and Mexico since, under the new rules, high paying union jobs in Michigan could be outsourced to union busting countries such as Mexico. Finally, Free Trade values commodification. Commodification is the process of turning something not previously considered in economic terms into another product to be bought and sold under free market conditions. Nothing is sacred. Everything from genes to workers are commodified and therefore subject to the demands of the most powerful players in the market. Traditions and rights have no place here unless they can be put on a t-shirt and sold.

From Fair Trade flows a wholly different set of values. Traditional knowledge and creativity are given an opportunity to flourish in the world market. Human rights such as the right to organize labor unions are part of the Fair Trade rubric. While solidarity at the loci of production is valued, a new kind of solidarity is developed by Fair Trade. Solidarity between the producers and the consumers. Producers and Consumers in the global market under conditions of Free Trade are narrowly concerned only in one’s profit and the other’s price. The Fair Trade rubric develops mutual concern for the interests of both producer and consumer. While the international union movements have encouraged concern between union producers in one country and union consumers in another, the expansion of this global solidarity outside of union circles maybe a novel development in human affairs. Environmental protection and sustainable development as well as democratically organized workplaces are values specific required by Fair Trade Certification. Many Fair Trade producers also contribute to community development. Producers are encouraged to set aside some income for education, transportation, housing, and health care.

The different values realized under Fair Trade conditions and the democratic organizational forms that give rise to these values and are desiderata themselves are the reason Fair Trade sales, like certified organic sales, continue to rise rapidly. The embrace of these values and the global solidarity built outside of the working class labor movments signifies a new era of civilizing tendencies that is both product and accelerant, a positive feedback loop.

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Mr. Tess is an organizer with Fair Trade for a Greater Orlando Coalition and the Orlando Area Green Party.

Written by jackofspades83

February 27, 2008 at 5:02 pm

Signing Statements – The Key Implement of the Soft Dictatorship

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Newsletter Newsletter

-Jack O’Spades

Do you remember civics class? Do you recall the notion of the three branches of the American government, and the importance of checks and balances? Let me review for those of you who have forgotten. The legislature (ie. the senate and the congress) draft laws, the judiciary challenges laws that are believed to be unconstitutional, and the executive (ie. the president, vice president, and their cabinet) signs laws into action and enforces them. This is the way our democracy is supposed to work.

Unfortunately, a little known change in the use of an obscure executive practice is threatening the balance of power in the US government. That practice is that of the signing statement, a practice originating with the fifth US president, James Monroe. The signing statement was originally used by the executive as a means of explaining their outlook on a particular law, and how they planned to enforce it. The statement was not recognized as an amendment or addendum to the law it referred to it was merely a statement of opinion.

As such, the signing statement was used infrequently by US presidents with only 75 made until Reagan became president, an average of about 2 per president. At that point the number of signing statements sky rocketed to 247 in the next three administrations, an increase of 325%. Our current president would increase this number to a whopping 107, just in his first term.

The increase coincided with an attempt to change the very nature of the signing statement. The practice has evolved into an attempt to alter laws as passed by the legislature. Although the last four presidents have all abused the signing statement, our current president is on a completely different level. Without a hint of shame, he has turned the signing statement into an unchallengeable line item veto. This has been done without any attempt at concealment at all.

In applying a line item veto in such a manner, the president has in effect captured the other two branches of government. He has claimed the judicial power to declare either part of, or an entire law to be unconstitutional. He also has claimed the ability to add statements onto bills, effectively giving himself the ability to declare powers or establish rules without congressional consent.

The president’s defense has been that the executive has the power to refuse to enforce measures that curtail the constitutional power of the executive branch. This is blatantly absurd, only the judiciary has the ability to declare constitutionality of laws. Otherwise, the executive would be (and currently is) able to override the powers of other branches with impunity by modifying or simply ignoring laws.

So far our president has drafted 157 signing statements, challenging over 1,100 provisions of federal law (see the full list here: http://www.coherentbabble.com/signingstatements/fullist.htm). He has used the signing statement to nullify a ban against torture, to allow warrantless wiretapping of US citizens, and the ability to hold prisoners without differing to domestic or international law. This is absolutely unacceptable, and such a gross violation of constitutional cannot go unchallenged. Unfortunately, our new democratic congress seems to have adopted the motto, “lie back and take it”. They are unwilling to make the strong statement that needs to be made about this, and this sends a very dangerous precedent.

Future presidents should not have the ability to justify similar behavior on the grounds that it was accepted in this administration. Even if the next president avoids the use of the signing statement , the lack of corrective action could be fatal to our democracy. What is particularly frightening is that the democratic candidates have stated that they will use signing statements if elected (!– @page { size: 8.5in 11in; margin: 0.79in } P { margin-bottom: 0.08in } —http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2008/01/30/bush_asserts_authority_to_bypass_defense_act). Whether they will attempt to use them in the same manner as the last four presidents remains to be seen, but their refusal to abandon the practice outright is disturbing to say the least.

The current president obviously will not back down, and he must be punished for this. This is yet another reason that the congress should seriously consider initiating impeachment proceedings. It is important to note that this is not a partisan issue, regardless of party affiliation or political alignment (except for fascists, monarchists, and other dictatorial admirers) this issue is seriously important to every American who even vaguely believes in democracy.

Written by jackofspades83

February 24, 2008 at 6:43 pm