Smart people saying smart things

Smart people saying smart things December 10, 2011

Theodore Roosevelt, New Nationalism speech, Aug. 31, 1910

Our government, National and State, must be freed from the sinister influence or control of special interests. Exactly as the special interests of cotton and slavery threatened our political integrity before the Civil War, so now the great special business interests too often control and corrupt the men and methods of government for their own profit. We must drive the special interests out of politics. That is one of our tasks today. Every special interest is entitled to justice — full, fair, and complete — and, now, mind you, if there were any attempt by mob-violence to plunder and work harm to the special interest, whatever it may be, that I most dislike, and the wealthy man, whomsoever he may be, for whom I have the greatest contempt, I would fight for him, and you would if you were worth your salt. He should have justice. For every special interest is entitled to justice, but not one is entitled to a vote in Congress, to a voice on the bench, or to representation in any public office. The Constitution guarantees protection to property, and we must make that promise good. But it does not give the right of suffrage to any corporation.

The true friend of property, the true conservative, is he who insists that property shall be the servant and not the master of the commonwealth; who insists that the creature of man’s making shall be the servant and not the master of the man who made it. The citizens of the United States must effectively control the mighty commercial forces which they have called into being.

There can be no effective control of corporations while their political activity remains. To put an end to it will be neither a short nor an easy task, but it can be done.

Ta-Nehisi Coates: “Why Do So Few Blacks Study the Civil War?

For African Americans, war commenced not in 1861, but in 1661, when the Virginia Colony began passing America’s first black codes, the charter documents of a slave society that rendered blacks a permanent servile class and whites a mass aristocracy. They were also a declaration of war.

Over the next two centuries, the vast majority of the country’s blacks were robbed of their labor and subjected to constant and capricious violence. They were raped and whipped at the pleasure of their owners. Their families lived under the threat of existential violence — in just the four decades before the Civil War, more than 2 million African American slaves were bought and sold. Slavery did not mean merely coerced labor, sexual assault, and torture, but the constant threat of having a portion, or the whole, of your family consigned to oblivion. In all regards, slavery was war on the black family.

African Americans understood they were at war, and reacted accordingly: run­ning away, rebelling violently, fleeing to the British, murdering slave-catchers, and — less spectacularly, though more significantly — refusing to work, breaking tools, bending a Christian God to their own interpretation, stealing back the fruits of their labor, and, in covert corners of their world, committing themselves to the illegal act of learning to read. Southern whites also understood they were in a state of war, and subsequently turned the ante­bellum South into a police state.

Richard Beck: “Are Christians Hate-Filled Hypocrites?

“Christianity” has essentially become a mechanism for allowing millions of people to replace being a decent human being with something else, an endorsed “spiritual” substitute.

I stand by that statement. As would, I think, most of the Old Testament prophets. And Jesus.

Leonard Pierce: “The Skids And How To Hit Them

America has fallen into a depressingly cruel period of withholding aid from its unfortunate stumblers at a time that there are more of them than ever, but it is still a country of unprecedented wealth (though increasingly concentrated in only a small and grasping number of hands) and unparalleled opportunity.  It is quite possible to be down and out in a way that seems unconquerable, and to be back in the game within a month’s time.  It is even possible to go through this cycle of boom and bust over and over again — indeed, aside from the generationally wealthy, this is more or less the way we live now.  But the worst thing about poverty is that its edges are so sharp, they leave scars that never heal.  The desperation and paralysis that accompanies being at your wit’s end is so terrible that even when one is comfortable, one lives in fear of ever being in that position again.  And, as Hannah Arendt eloquently put it, the more society degrades its small men with poverty and humiliation, the more it trains them to accept any job rather than return to the bottom — even the job of an executioner. …

I have been here before, and I know how to live in this world.  Hopefully I won’t be here long, and hopefully, if I rise, I won’t fall again.  But every day I am here, I am striving to get out.  The voices that hiss and seethe from the comfort of newspapers, computer desks, and television studios that tell me I arrived here by my own faults, and that I stay here because it affords me a largesse of taxpayer fat:  these are the voices of class warfare.  Anyone who has been here is not eager to return, and not happy to stay:  those who tell you differently pour poison in your ears, and when you’re relying on your own sharpness to survive, you need to be able to hear clearly.

Devilstower: “Conservatives Want to Go Back to the Golden Age of the 1880s

The truth is, there are real Libertarians out there, people who place a very high value on individual rights and who believe this government — like most every government — too often interferes with those rights. Of course, actual Libertarians realize that for individual rights to have any meaning, they require the presence of a body that can ensure those rights.  They know that freedom can’t be maintained in an absence of information, and that there must be agencies that create the transparency needed for effective individual action and ensure there are consequences to dishonesty. Real advocates of the free market realize that term has no meaning unless the market is free from coercion and the law is not defined by “might makes right.” They know that individual freedoms are incompatible with a system where corporations are treated as super-citizens and that Libertarianism requires that workers be more valued that abstract entities that live only on paper.

The difference between actual Libertarians and Republicans hiding from their tarnished name is quite easy. Actual Libertarians are concerned about the freedom of individuals. Conservatives use Libertarian as a code word meaning “I want to continue to enjoy all the privileges I do now, but I don’t want to share them with you and most of all I don’t want to pay any taxes.” Push come to shove, they’re happy to abbreviate that to “Screw freedom. I just don’t want to pay taxes.”

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