September 11, 2010

One Way It’s Been Done Before


We face the tyrannical attack of organized crime having hijacked the government, which now allows the syndicates and gangs to rampage and loot across the land. The worst examples among corporatized government power assaults are the health racket bailout and the looming food tyranny bill. These are two affirmatively aggressive policies. There’s also the passively aggressive intent to allow net neutrality and the vision of democratic broadband access to be destroyed, thus dooming the Internet as a space for economic innovation and as the last consistently democratic space in this corporate enclosure zone we call a “country”. The assault on civil liberties is a hybrid of the active and passive. All of this takes place under the blackened skies of the bank tyranny and the Permanent War.
“If taxes are laid on us in any shape without our having a legal representation where they are laid, are we not reduced from the character of free subjects to the miserable state of tributary slaves?”
That’s Samuel Adams in Boston’s 1764 official Instructions to the Representatives to the Massachusetts Legislature, as the attempted British power grab was gathering force. The basic argument and tactic was the same throughout: Parliament could not represent the colonists, and therefore had no constitutional authority over them, and therefore they must refuse to cooperate even the slightest bit, lest this concede the principle.
Today the matter is clouded because “our” legislature isn’t geographically removed over the ocean, and we have modern communications. So it might seem that we don’t have as strong an argument of lack of representation and sovereignty. And yet the fact is every bit at true as in 1764. This government, having been corrupted by the purchase of stateless, alien interests, including the corporations which are literally unnatural and therefore monsters which can have no legitimate role in the human experience, has been abstracted from us every bit as surely as if it had been removed to another planet and was cut off from all communication. As Citizens United symbolically cinched, we the people are not represented*, and therefore cannot legitimately be taxed or subjected in any other way.
[*Nor does “representative” pseudo-democracy itself any longer have any legitimacy, having been empirically proven not to work. But that’s a matter for later posts. For today it’s sufficient to say this set-up can’t tax the citizens. The criminals and parasites, on the other hand, would be a different story.]
We must be clear that the health racket bailout is a severe tax. The government itself says so. It’s an arduous poll tax to be imposed on the citizen as the penalty for his very existence. This tax is intended to pay for no public service whatsoever. It’s intended to bring zero benefits to the victim. Instead, its practice and intent is to extort huge payments for a worthless piece of paper, which we can metaphorically call a Stamp. This protection money is earmarked for the personal luxury of insurance racket gangsters and the politicians they bought in order to have this hideous crime enacted in the first place. In every way this is our Stamp Act.
Speaking more broadly, the Stamp Act is everywhere a rent is extracted or police state “papers” are demanded. The health racket bailout is the poster child of it, but it all ramifies from the big banks, whose goal is to force each and every economic transaction down to the most miniscule through their toll booths. That’s why they cherish the goal of abolishing cash, and are working assiduously toward it.
So we have the broad stamp ideology and assault, as well as the proximate Stamp Act, which is the health racket bailout and perhaps the food tyranny bill. Whether it’s best to just reserve the term for the insurance mandate, I’m not sure. For a general audience, probably yes.
What can be done? How was it done the first time around?
In 1765 the proposed Stamp Act galvanized long-festering colonial resentment and grievance into systematic resistance. In Grenville’s plan to spread the burden of taxation as widely as possible he only succeeded in rendering resistance coherent among diverse interests who had previously often been at odds. Amid the spring agitation the patriots took the name “Sons of Liberty” from a fiery Isaac Barre speech in Parliament which was widely reprinted in the colonies. Over the next few months the agitators organized under this name. In June James Otis called for an intercolony Stamp Act Congress to convene in October, one month prior to the Act’s taking force, to coordinate message and resistance action. They agreed upon a broad campaign of passive resistance. They agreed to refuse to import British manufactures. They called this “Non-Importation”. Samuel Adams opined that no amount of British might could force the colonists to use the stamps or to buy British goods, and that the British wouldn’t try. (He also called for building an indigenous manufacturing economy to permanently replace the imports, but this didn’t get much response.)
The Bostonians frequently rallied under a big elm they christened the Liberty Tree, and the park under and around it they called Liberty Hall. All over the colonies activists named their own Liberty Trees. On August 14 they hanged an effigy of putative stampmaster Andrew Oliver, who was persuaded to pre-emptively resign that post. Other aspiring thugs were similarly persuaded throughout the colonies until by the time the Act took force there was no one to enforce it. Stamps were delivered but warehoused. Publication and business continued as before, stampless, in open flouting of the law. After a period of hesitation the courts reopened, without using stamps. That the colonial courts of law would now function in an openly (but just technically) illegal manner was an eloquent symbol of the Act’s own illegitimacy.
The British were powerless to enforce what had become a quixotic symbolic assertion even before it went into action. They had to capitulate, and the Act was repealed in March 1766. But the simultaneously passed Declaratory Act, while widely derided in the colonies as a pathetic face-saving squeak, portended further trouble. Within a few years the British would try again with the Townsend duties and suffer the same defeat.
Then, in a misguided attempt to succor a financially troubled corporation (sound familiar?), the British East India Company, the UK agreed to a tea-dumping monopoly scheme. They thought they could bail out a rich interest while finally getting their long-sought precedent, that the colonists had to pay duties on British demand.
Samuel Adams had already convinced Boston to take the lead in organizing Committees of Correspondence with neighboring towns at a vote on November 2, 1772. (He first had this idea back in 1764.) The idea was first to coordinate proclamations of principle and political messaging, to present a united front, and eventually to coordinate strategy and tactics. Although Adams’ fellow Bostonians were dubious at first (what if they got a poor response? it would be a big PR setback), the response was emphatic beyond even his expectations. Many towns demanded stronger language than even Boston had proposed.
The Committee idea spread through the colonies. In March 1773 the Virginia Legislature publicly read and approved the Boston resolution. The rebellious ideal became general. From here the fuse was lit, and it was only a matter of time.
The colonials had many advantages. They had a basically homogeneous and socially compact population; their legislature was their own (vs. the alien overseas Parliament); the interests of freedom and their commerce were clearly concurrent.
Today we have a fragmented and atomized populace. And while it remains equally true that our freedom and our economic prosperity are complements, it’s far more difficult to make that clear amid the propaganda smoke machines spewing lies about “growth”, the “free market”, “capitalism”, “libertarianism”, and all the other slogans perverted from any real meaning to the criminal interest of the elites.
As I’ve mentioned before, we also lack a geographical center of economic and political gravity comparable to Boston in 1765 or 73 or Paris in 1789.
So what must we do? It seems right that we must propagate the right ideas. It seems simple enough:
1. Understand and declare our principles.
2. Identify the enemy and analyze his attack.
3. Settle on the strategy and tactics of defense and counterattack.
4. Do it.
If anyone criticizes: “Who are you to speak for the people?”, the answer is, who else is going to? Who are we waiting for? Paul Volcker? Alan Grayson? Elizabeth Warren?
I think, whatever we are, we’re it. That means we in the blogosphere. So maybe that means we must coordinate and systematize our agitation. We’re still just “writing”, as some scoff, but trying to break out to a broader audience.
That’s the big question – how do we expand our activity beyond the Internet democracy? How do we get the truth to the masses? How do we break out of the blogosphere and either force ourselves on the MSM or find an alternative megaphone? This question is especially critical given the precarious fingerhold of net neutrality. As Samuel Adams wrote under the name “Populus”, one of his many pseudonyms:
“There is nothing so fretting and vexatious, nothing so justly TERRIBLE to tyrants, and their tools and abettors, as a FREE PRESS.”
Since the corporate media has abdicated, gone to treason, and become just a vile pack of abettors, here too the full responsibility is upon the citizen journalists of the blogosphere. We’re the torch bearers of truth, and we must find a way to bring this fire to illuminate the darkness the criminals have cast upon us all.
In the light, all will become clear, and we’ll find the path to our redemption.

April 5, 2010

Today’s Stamp Act


The Stamp Act of 1765 was the flame which brought a long-gathering stew of ideas and suspicions to boil. From there proceeded an intensifying controversy and a dialectical chain of events which led straight to 1776. In retrospect it looks preordained, and perhaps starting with the Stamp Act controversy, and given British premises, it was. But the pre-existing discontent didn’t have to flare into conscious alarm and rage, and it didn’t have to develop an organized political movement. The Stamp Act was the occasion for that. It was a catalyst as well as a radical accelerant.
So what could be today’s equivalent of the Stamp Act? It seems very strange to ask such a question when $14 trillion has already been directly stolen in a year and a half, with the potential further looting in principle infinite (self-granted Fed and Treasury authority to buy MBS, as well as potential Fannie and Freddie guarantees, are proclaimed have no legal, constitutional, democratic limit; in other words, the government has overtly declared that where it comes to the Bailout it recognizes no legal, constitutional, or democratic restraints to kleptocracy). That’s beyond the unfathomable trillions already destroyed in the financial crash, and what has been, is being, and will be destroyed going forward as the general economy slowly sinks into the Second Great Depression.
And that’s just the wealth aspect, to be entered on the ledger along with the complete corruption of all institutions of the country, the substitution of gluttony for government, larceny for law, prostitution for politics, mendacity for media, atrophy for academia, enervation for economy, sickness for salubriousness, jeremiads for joy, fetters for freedom, despair for democracy, desolation for democracy, destruction for democracy.
When we read down the indictment it seems crazy to wonder what more America could need to rouse it to action. And indeed the people are furious and restless. But so far it’s an inchoate bestirral. The problem is the sheer magnitude of the crime itself. Experts from Sade to Hitler advised that the bigger the crime you commit, the better a chance you have of getting away with it because people will simply be unable to experience it as a discrete crime. They’ll be flummoxed by its complexity, the hazy enormity of its outlines. Or they’ll be intimidated by its monumentality, and despair of the possibility of reprisal. They may even take psychological and moral refuge in admiring and siding with the criminals themselves.
Maybe the fuse really has been lit, and it’s just not so easy to see it clearly right now the way men will be able a from a hundred years’ perspective, since we’re living it day to day. The original patriots often despaired of the temper of their times, the lassitude of the populace, the slow circulation of ideas and calls to action, the temporary doldrums where it looked like everything was normalizing, like in 1771-1773.
I was going to say, “but aren’t things like communications greatly accelerated today?” But then I wondered, is today’s doldrum, the phony government-goosed “recovery” and the absurd political glare of the health racket bill (they call it a glow), our doldrum of the early 70s? Maybe the TARP will turn out to have been the Stamp Act after all.
Or maybe in retrospect there won’t have been one event history will call the clear spark. Who knows, those are just some musings.
Just for the fun of it let’s ask, what kind of law today would be most similar to the Stamp Act? The Stamp Act required a payment on every transfer of printed material, business and legal documents, licenses, ship’s papers, even playing cards. It was thus pervasive, intended to extend its clutches into every nook and cranny of commerce and media.
If we ask, where does a policy today seek to extract at the point of paper transfers (or their electronic equivalent), we can see how the health racket mandate intends to use the IRS as its enforcer. In filing your tax return, you’ll be required to provide the “stamp”, certifying that you paid the protection money.
This is of course just a radical extension of existing practice whereby everything requires that one produce the proper “papers”. For decades it’s already been bad enough to engender rueful recollections of the lies they taught back in school, about how America’s better than the Soviet Union because, among other things, there you have to carry around your papers everywhere. Having to carry such papers is indeed horrid. Those lessons did indeed fill me as a child with a horror of the Soviet Union.
Well guess what: As an adult I still feel the same revulsion. But it’s not for any legendary Russian bogeyman anymore. It’s all too real right here at “home”.
What’s changed especially in more recent times is how the need to “show your papers” is less and less in order to receive some goodie, but in order to be allowed to function as a so-called “citizen” at all. And now with the insurance mandate they’ve taken a quantum leap. Now you’ll have to show your papers to prove you paid what is nothing more than extortion. With this the government has officially gotten into “protection”. And not even as its own boss, but simply as the hired goon of corporatism.
We should ponder that. As stupid as tax policy has long been, it’s still quite a leap from having to itemize to get stuff like a mortgage deduction, to having to show the stamp to prove you paid an extortionist, and otherwise you owe more, upon penalty of arrest and imprisonment. Is this a Stamp Act?
Another way of looking at it is the Stamp Act as choke point for communication. In the colonies every newspaper, every pamphlet, had to display the stamp. The regressive tax could therefore impose de facto censorship by the cost of communication route. What issue conjures a similar specter today? Net neutrality.
Where it comes to the internet, we’re in a position similar to that of the colonies entering the 1760s. We currently have a decent level of freedom, thanks to the ad hoc way the system developed, and to how many of the developers originally believed in some of their libertarian propaganda.
But the sector has matured, and that always means rent-seeking and neo-feudalism to whatever extent the sector can achieve it. Sure enough, some years ago various barons who have castles overlooking the rivers started making noise about wanting to construct toll booths. In this case the rivers are the “pipes” through which the electronic bits flow. Just like with a river, the pipes are already constructed (and not by the guy who happens to be living on the riverbank) and cost little to maintain. When a boat goes by, it’s the current and the oarsmen who are doing the work. Anyone who pulls a chain across the river and demands you pay a toll is simply a thug demanding protection money. And today’s little telecom fiefholder who whines, “why should they get to use my pipes for free?”, is that same worthless thug.
It’s easy to see how, if these feudalists get their way, the internet, which for the time being is the final, the one and only, public medium of communication, as all other media have been fully corporatized, will also be subject to enclosure. As with the Stamp Act, it will be stamped with the censorship of a regressive tax. (And then, once the precedent has been set that messages can be segregated according to whether or not the tax was sufficiently paid, they’ll go further to censor based on political content as well. Just as how the British intended, among other things, to use their newly imposed tax policies not only to extract revenue but eventually to impose social and political control.)
With net neutrality, the future of American politics for the duration of the high-technology age is at stake. Here if anywhere we have a Stamp Act issue, since what looms is the very doppleganger of the Stamp Tax. The same feudal theft, the same economic strangulation, the same intended political censorship, the same incipient tyranny. 
There’s no tax more profoundly worthless than a feudal toll. But that’s what those lobbying against the official enshrinement of net neutrality have in mind. And the imposition of this kind of tax is the one and only activity of the finance racket and the health insurance racket.
In the end, the idea of “today’s Stamp Act” may be a very direct parallel, or more figurative. By now any issue may serve as a tipping point. For me, while the health racket debacle didn’t teach me anything new intellectually, it has been a kind of spiritual milestone.
Similarly, the people’s perceptions may become clarified and their spirit reinvigorated by any of the battlefronts of our clamorous, chaotic war zone. There can be a tipping point at any time. And as I said, maybe the new Stamp Act fuse has already been lit. The TARP, the AIG bonuses, health racketeering last summer, the permanent war escalation in December, now health racketeering’s political climax (and, I really hope, some clarity for the public interest activists America’s going to need), net neutrality going forward. (If we can make that a public flash point as well; so far people in general don’t seem all that concerned about it. Horribly, on its face they might even stupidly side with the chainpuller simply because he loudly claims to own the river. The initial polls right after the Citizens United decision showed small majorities in support of corporate “free speech”. It’s easy to see why – most people are basically ignorant and lazy and evince a stimulus-response mechanism where it comes to a term like “free speech”, while understanding corporatism would take considerable effort. But I was heartened to see that within a few weeks the polls were less favorable. Maybe people really are wising up. It’ll have to be the same kind of struggle with the internet.)
So here we are, getting clobbered by stamps. Will we respond as did our forefathers?