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Neo-Nazis, Police and Prosecutors: Strange American Bedfellows

PaulRevere2

It’s a Revolutionary Morning

I feel like Paul Revere this morning and I haven’t even had my coffee yet. It’s not that the British are coming. It’s way worse. The Nazis are coming. I mean they’re here. That is, there. In California. Home-grown American Nazis have been on the march for some time in California and other places across the country, infiltrating police departments, but I just discovered it yesterday morning in an article in The Guardian and I urgently need to alert the citizens.

Not only that, when I went back in the afternoon to take a closer look at the article published in a distinguished British newspaper it had been taken down. Is it possible that some sinister long arm–tentacle?–has reached across the Atlantic and pulled that story of less-than-admirable institutional connivance between American law enforcement and far-right undesirables?

The collusion between “legitimate” authority and Nazi thugs, sounds all too familiar to anyone who has read William L. Shirer’s, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. (If you haven’t read it you might start now. It’s an essential book for understanding the Second World War and everything that’s happened since.)  This collusion is entirely too grave to be ignored. It seems that the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and state prosecutors made common cause with the Traditionalist Workers Party (TWP), the extreme right-wing group that organized a neo-Nazi rally in Sacramento, California, along with their affiliate, the Golden State Skinheads, and the National Socialist Movement, another neo-Nazi organization.  Members of these groups were the principal protagonists of the violence that took place outside of Sacramento in June of 2016. This Nazi/police department collaboration allegedly began long before the day of the rally, continued during the event–with the Nazis stabbing and brutally clubbing the counter-demonstrators with the police standing by inert–and, now that the case is in court, the police and the Nazis are colluding to convict the victims of the violence that occurred on that day. At least 14 participants suffered stab wounds, cuts and bruises, with two surviving critical stabbings. Police also recovered a loaded gun.

Upside-Down Justice

Only one of the neo-Nazis involved in the events of that day is even accused. That accusation was undeniable as it was backed by a video that was shown in court. According to a January 26, 2018, USNews.com account of the trial of neo-Nazi activist, William Scott Planer, 35, accused of assault with a deadly weapon on the day of the rally:

The Sacramento case against Planer rests on a social media video played in court Friday that shows counter-protester Alice Summers attempting to rise to her feet from the Capitol lawn. Planer runs up behind her and hits her in the head with a pole, using a full baseball bat-like swing. She drops unconscious before three other counter-protesters drag her away.

“I do not see an issue of self-defense,” the judge said. “He comes up behind her and strikes her in the head.”

 

Felarca1According to Yvette Felarca, a Berkeley teacher and anti-fascist organizer charged with assault and rioting after participating in the June 2016 Sacramento rally, she was stabbed and bludgeoned in the head. “It is shocking and really angering to see the level of collusion and the amount to which the police covered up for the Nazis,”  “The people who were victimized by the Nazis were then victimized by the police and the district attorneys.”

One officer’s write-up about an African American anti-fascist activist included a photo of him at the hospital after the rally and noted that he had been stabbed in the abdomen, chest and hand. The police, however, treated the protester as a suspect in the investigation. The police investigator recommended the man be charged with 11 offenses, including disturbing the peace, conspiracy, assault, unlawful assembly and wearing a mask to evade police.

Not-So-Strange Bedfellows

In a November 8, 2018, Counterpunch article entitled The Awful Reason Police Don’t Go After Right-Wing Extremists, the author says:

“Turning a blind eye to right-wing violence isn’t new. Law enforcement’s inability to reckon with the far right is a problem that goes back generations in this country,” Janet Reitman wrote in The New York Times, referencing the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people.

Why don’t the authorities infiltrate and eavesdrop upon the “alt-right” with as much vigor as they dedicate to disrupting peaceful left-leaning organizations like Occupy Wall Street and the anti-nuclear nuns? Why do cops spend more time monitoring political cartoonists than Klansmen and neo-Nazis? The answer is as obvious as it is terrifying. America’s state security apparatus, military and civilian police, alike, view the left as enemies. To the police, right-wingers are political allies.

With the American alt-right and liberal activists confronting one another ever more Sacramento5frequently in rallies and counter-protests, where violence often breaks out, police are calling for help from only one side: the far-right, The Intercept reported. The relationship works both ways: Police get help, and alt-right demonstrators are seemingly put above the law in return.  Violent right-wing extremists don’t just work with the police. Often they are the police.

“Police officers tend to be conservatives, many of them ultra-conservatives. So there are people in law enforcement agencies that are sympathetic to these groups,” says Daryl Johnson, lead researcher on an Obama-era DHS report. Other studies have confirmed that police unions overwhelmingly endorsed Trump. As one might guess, the military has a right-wing inclination, as well. Veterans voted 61%-to-34% for Trump over Clinton.

A staff writer from ItsGoingDown.org says:

But what is most clear from the last year (for 1916) is not a ‘smoking gun’ connection between Trump and white nationalists, but instead the reality that police and prosecutors are coming down hard on anarchists, water protectors, black lives matter protesters, and antifascists, as they are giving a free pass to the Alt-Right. Ironically, as the Right portrays grassroots social movements as simply the ‘puppets’ of the Democratic Party and billionaire financiers like George Soros, it is the racist and anti-Semitic movements on the Right which are being used as shock troops for Trump’s elitist and corporate agenda.

Birds of a Feather

Eleanor Clift, writing in The Daily Beast in 2014 sheds some necessary light on why, despite the traditional Republican allergy to unions, the right-wing politicians/extreme-right-wing activists’ romance extends even to police unions.

The police are the domestic version of national defense,” says Sam Popkin, a political science professor at the University of California, San Diego. “The reason that Republicans love them so much,” he explained, “is that Republicans identify very strongly in a time of change and turbulence with the troops that provide order. The police are very popular with Republicans and with the middle class in general.

When Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker cracked down on collective bargaining rights of public-sector unions, he exempted cops and fire fighters. He feared the police might go on strike and join the protestors. 

All of this information is quite straightforward. No surprises here. The question is, “What comes next?” Where does this cops-and-thugs coalition lead us? I said in a piece I wrote a couple of months ago about the possibility of a second Civil War in the US that the survival of American society as we knew it was dependent upon whose side the police and the military came down on when the excrement hit the ventilator. Now, given the information above, I don’t think there’s a lot of room for optimism.

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What I Remember from the States 2/2

This is Part 2 of Mike Booth’s rapid account of his own “short pants, romance” story.

Quiet Places for Reflection and Regrouping

New Aspen library
The new, enlarged Aspen library. The old one was more “Aspen.”

I always loved American libraries, first the one in my hometown, even though the 175-year-old spinster librarian prohibited high-school kids from reading Hemingway or Steinbeck or Faulkner. The ones she should have censored were Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken, America’s most surgical truth seers and tellers. In that same town I lent my girlfriend my prized collection of books by contemporary American authors and later found that her mother had burned them all because they were “paperbacks.”

I also loved the Aspen library, a wonderfully clean, well-lighted place where I would spend time on weekends after digging ditches all week. It was great to sit down midst a sea of books and people speaking in muffled tones. The conversation in a ditch is pretty limited. I didn’t discover the Kirtland Community College (named after the Kirtland warbler, unique to that area) library until my second trip back to the States to visit my mother. Set in a piney woods a few miles outside Roscommon, Michigan, my search for a quiet place took me there. It was spring break so there were just the two librarians and me in what seemed to be a new building, all on one floor and nicely carpeted throughout.

The librarians were soft-spoken and solicitous and the photocopy machine turned out flawless copies for a nickel apiece. I asked one of them if the library was open to the public and she said, yes, of course, local people, as well as students, could check out books. How many local folks took advantage of that luxury? Nobody, she said.

On another trip to visit my family, I spent a couple of mornings at the University of Michigan library at Ann Arbor. I explained to the receptionist that I was neither student nor faculty, that I just wanted to do some research. She seemed happy to attend me and said the whole library was at my disposal. The only thing I couldn’t do was take anything out. At that time they had an innovative searchable database based on CD’s. That must have been the late 80’s. What a privilege to live in those high-tech times and now these.

Hindsight, Though Not Cheap, Is Better

Kool_AidAt the age of 75 one spends a lot of time looking back. My distant past was in the USA,  where I was born and raised, went to college, was drafted into the army, and was discharged with a whole new outlook on life:”I’ve got to get out of here!” I’ve been “out” now for just over half a century. Looking back from this Andalusian village where I arrived in 1969 and have lived ever since, I can see my home country from a well-seasoned point of view, with all the patriotic Kool-Aid having been washed out of my system over the years by Spanish spring water and rich red wine. There was a lot to love about the United States in the 50’s and 60’s of the last century. Though we weren’t entirely aware of it then, looking back from the present it’s pretty transparent.

 

President Donald Trump
… daily tantrums and soiled diapers…

What strikes me first is the innocence, and what leaps out of that bucolic scene is the shock and awe of America’s utter loss of it. Try the test on yourself. Look at your world as far back as you can remember, then compare it with today. Everything has changed. The Spanish have a nice phrase for that. They say, “Ha llovido.” “It has rained,” with all that implies. A lot of streets have been cleaned, others muddied, and a lot of promontories have been washed away. They won’t be back.

It’s not that all was innocence. There’s always been vice but in those days it was mostly limited to intimate, personal, small-time vice, unlike today when evil pervades everything, big-time, big-bucks institutional, government and corporate vice. It’s a way of life, viciousness at home and abroad. Nowadays the authorities and their spokesfolks don’t even try to keep it secret. It’s simply the new reality, business as usual. One suspects they leak out just a bit of the worst of it, to keep our minds off the rest. Maybe that’s the quintessence of Trumpism: simply turn the President loose with his daily tantrums and soiled diapers. Midst all that brouhaha the distracted citizens aren’t inclined to look further.

And I see freedom in those days, not the freedom politicians peddle but garden-variety, homemade tree house plans Awesome Simple Tree House Plans For Kids Cool Treehouse Designs Amazingevery-day freedom. When we were kids and were rebuked by other kids, what did we reply? “It’s a free country!” Because it felt as though it was. You could jump in the river, build a tree house, take your dog walking cross country, ice-skate on the creek (which we called “the crick”), catch bluegills from the grassy slope behind the town library, go barefoot… That was, of course, before it occurred to any of us to grow our hair long or exercise our first amendment rights.

A Glimpse of A Better Life, Then More War

sixties2The Sixties were great, too, though I missed most of them. I was in college from ’61 to ’65, seriously academic for the first two years and derailed during the second half. (We rented a big farmhouse and rented the barn out on weekends for fraternity parties. It was a miracle it didn’t burn down.) Then from ’66 to ’68 I was in the U.S. Army. Ironically, that was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It got me so fed up with everything American, both military (Vietnam) and civil (Nixon) that I made up my mind to leave. Where would I be today if it weren’t for the U.S. Army? A retired advertising hack living in Flint, Michigan, taking antidepressants and drinking bottled water?

Though I was hardly present, there was a lot of moving and shaking going on in America Vietnam1in the sixties. The kids had their raucous say and for a while it seemed that someone was listening. But that was a mirage and the conservative backlash was fearsome: Elvis in the Army, Chuck Berry in jail, Martin Luther King and both Kennedys murdered, the Black Panthers “neutralized,” harmless, just-fun drugs criminalized (Go directly to jail.), the Vietnam War–which never should have started–interminable, Washington corruption on the march, the reign of what was to become the neo-con movement rearing its head (Rumsfeld was Nixon’s head of the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1969).

Getting out of the Army was a milestone in my life, “discharging you” they called it. Very apt that. But it meant freedom. Free at last, you could choose what you wanted to wear every morning, and what you wanted to do. You could choose your friends and colleagues from a pool of normal people. The army is largely populated by individuals you don’t want to know: semi-literate redneck kids, sadistic drill sergeants and gung-ho patriotic southern officers, who talk military jargon. They say things like “outstanding” and “listen up,” and call people “individuals.” If you’ve never been in the American military you can’t imagine how brutal and small-minded it is, how far their agenda varies from your own, just how alien you find both their style and their content. And to what extent they’ve got your very life in their hands, every day, every hour. I cherish the friends I made in the Army, though one of them suffocated his baby daughter with a pillow when his wife won custody.

Three Months in High Places

Rockies2

I loved the Rockies. I was 25 years old and they were the first mountains I had ever seen. I had graduated from college, worked in PR for a year and spent almost two years in the Army. It was overtime for me to meet a mountain. I only lived on the high side of Colorado a total of about three months but it was great. The first month and a half I spent sleeping in a wall tent and working as a laborer on an exploratory drilling crew in the San Juan Mountains at altitudes between 12,500 and 14,000 feet. There they were prospecting for gold, silver and lead. At least that’s what they told us. They could have been looking for uranium for all we knew. I got a lead on the job while I was hitch-hiking from Pueblo, Colorado to the Oregon coast. A guy in a pickup with a rifle in the rear window stopped for me and I asked him what he did. “I’m a miner and a driller,” he said and spent the next couple of hours describing to me the life and high times of a core driller. “Sounds interesting.” I said, “Do you think I could get a job there?” He gave me his boss’s phone number. “I’ll tell him about you. Call him after August 15 and see what he has to say.”

That left me time to get to Oregon and spend a couple of days with my friends Jad Asfeld and Sam Bush. On the way I stopped at the Rocky Mountain News office in Denver and left them on spec a little advance story and roll of film I had shot on the upcoming state fair in Pueblo. Months later my mother forwarded to me in Spain their ten-dollar check.

Oregon_coastI had never seen the Pacific before and as soon as I arrived at Sam’s parents’ summer house on the coast we smoked a joint and made our way down a magical path to a little beach in a cove. We wound up swimming in the midst of a pride of sea lions. No, they don’t bite. Sam said they would protect you from a shark attack.

I phoned the drilling company boss from Santa Monica, California. He said, “If you can be here in three days you’ve got a job.” I’d been staying for a couple of days with my friend, Bill Weiner, who was selling used cars while waiting for law school to start, and he drove me to the nearest expressway ramp. A huge truck with a tiny little driver stopped almost immediately and took me as far as Phoenix. As we passed through El Centro, California (which I just discovered is the cover girl for the Encyclopedia of Forlorn Places) he said, “Roll down your window and stick your arm out.” It was like putting my hand into an oven. It wasn’t till the following summer in Spain that I experienced that kind of heat again–and every summer since.

I had good luck hitching between Phoenix and Silverton, Colorado, and made the three-core_drilling_rigday deadline to get the job on the drilling crew. There were only two ways to get up to the camp, by helicopter or on horseback. I opted to fly. I had one of my Nikons with me and made some aerial shots of the mountain and the camp. My other camera was waiting for me to redeem it from a pawn shop in Portland, Oregon, which I did as soon as I collected my first paycheck. Probably the most worthwhile time I had on the mountain was staying up at the camp by myself. Someone had to stay there while the rest of the crew had a week off, so I offered. I had never spent a day by myself, let alone a week. I don’t recall doing any serious thinking about the future. I just read books and took the horses for rides down below the tree line.

The first snow at the beginning of October obliged us to pack up the camp and move out, so I found myself in a room in Silverton’s only hotel, above a real live swinging-door saloon, with a pocket full of money, some new boots, a red flannel shirt, and a determination to change my life. What more could a mannish boy wish for? Did that week alone up on the mountain help me decide to leave the country? Probably. A month later I was gone.

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What I Remember from the States 1/2

Mike Booth remembers the US after half a century of life abroad.

 

Silverton, Colorado
Silverton, Colorado

In a Spanish Polish Restaurant

Quite a few years ago my best friend, Mark Little, took me to a Polish restaurant near Fuengirola, just off the Mediterranean coast of Málaga. I was anxious to go because he had told me that the owner had grown up in Siberia when her parents were exiled there, and I wanted to meet her. Her appearance didn’t disappoint. She looked like a kindly grandmother with a ruffled apron, her grey hair in a bun. She wanted to know about me. I told her I wrote feature stories for a magazine down the road, nodding at Mark. Then I got to pop the question. “Mark says you were exiled to Siberia when you were young. Would I be intruding if I asked what it was like?” “Nooo,” she replied with a big smile, “not at all. It was wonderful. Anyplace is wonderful when you’re 15 years old.”

My experience with the States was a bit like that. It was wonderful.

Life Begins at Grandma’s House

Elaine_Lake_Superior
Lake Superior, photo by Elaine Klassen

I remember my grandmother’s house. I still recall the phone number: 44791. It was warmer than our house and my grandma would make a proper dessert for every suppertime. She was tiny, with a size four, triple-A shoe, but a woman to be reckoned with. She may be the reason I enjoy obeying women and my kids do, too. Matriarchies die hard. Whenever I arrived there as a little boy she would grasp my ear between her thumb and forefinger, take an embroidered hanky from between her breasts, wrap it round her other index finger, wet it with her tongue, stick it in my ear and start twisting it. “You could plant potatoes in there,” she would always say.

My grandfather had a vegetable garden out back and, 65 years later, I still can’t step into my own tomato patch and, smelling a broken tomato vine, be swept back to an afternoon when I was eight or nine years old, picking tomato worms off the plants with him and throwing them on a bonfire. I was raised by my grandparents until the age of three, as my mother was working in a defense plant. I was the first grandchild and a boy so I must have been doted on. Is this why I’m such an insufferable prick today? I’m guessing it is.

My grandad was a small-time electrical contractor. I remember him getting out of bed on bad stormy nights, climbing into his panel truck and driving out to help restore electricity to people in the blacked-out village. Whenever I read in the papers about “contractors” in Iraq, though it’s an odious comparison, I am reminded of my grandfather. Near the end of his working life he nearly went broke wiring the new Baptist church building for free.

Aged Eight, I’m a New Man

I was reborn at summer camp. My first experience came about in an unexpected, random way. When I was eight years old I threatened to kill my three-year-old brother and one-year-old sister. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t quite so cut and dried as that. You
see, both my father and mother worked and after work they liked to stop by the bar for a drink. So, at the age of eight I was largely responsible for my baby brother and sister. It became entirely too tiresome, and I spent some weeks trying to figure a way to get out of it. So one day I said to my mother, “I’m tired of taking care of Steve and SuzAnne. I’m going to kill them.”

My parents’ response to that brief declaration was beyond my fondest dreams. First came a series of visits to a nice lady who wanted to sit down and listen to me, to ask me questions and to watch me draw. Then she would sit down with my parents, apart, and talk about me. It was grand, but that wasn’t all. When school was out that year–it must have been 1951–my mom told me that I had been invited to attend a one-month summer camp, the University of Michigan Fresh Air Camp, at Pinckney, Michigan.

University of Michigan Fresh Air Camp
University of Michigan Fresh Air Camp, Pinckney, Michigan

Looking back on it over more than half a century I think my experience at Pinckney might have helped to determine significant aspects of my life. It was a summer camp for disturbed children but to me it was heaven. There was so much to be learned. I think it turned me into the project person I have been ever since. There were so many new people, things to do, challenges to be met. There were ghost stories and songs around campfires, handicrafts, swimming, hikes, communal dining, roughhouse in Cabin 11 when no supervision was around. It was perfect. I immediately fell in love with our cabin counselor, Doris. She was 18, blonde with a pixie haircut and, as I remember, spent the entire summer in a bathing suit. She taught me to swim and at the end of the second
month I earned my blue cap by swimming a mile across the lake. Funnily enough, I can’t remember if there were any girls at that camp. I must have been eight years old.

Second month? Yes, that was great, too. When my parents came to pick me up, the camp director whisked them into his office. When they came out my mother said, “Mikey (always ‘Mikey’ when she wanted to wheedle me), how would you like to stay at camp for another month?” The sky opened up and I was wafted back into heaven. So I stayed on for a second month, more of the same wonderful world where people listened to you and took notes. When I got home my mother explained to me what had happened in the camp director’s office. It seems there was a deeply-disturbed boy who was unable to communicate with anyone. That is, anyone except me. So they wanted me to stay on to act as a bridge between that lost boy and the rest of the world. The truth is, I have no memory of that boy. The Pinckney experience was one of the most important, most formative periods of my life and it came at a critical time. That must have been when I became a person, with my own self-awareness, tastes and prerogatives, a whole person . I felt so lucky.

I told this story to a good friend 20 years later. His reply came too fast: “You know why you didn’t remember that retarded kid?” “No, why?” “He wasn’t so retarded. As for the story they told your parents? Yeah, that’s what they told the other kid’s parents, too.”

Turn, Turn, Turn

Michigan Center Lake
I tried to find images of the Michigan Center Lake I knew as a boy. I couldn’t recognize anything. It seems it’s all been up-marketed.

I loved the seasons, barefoot with a cane fishing pole in summer, and in winter ice skates and sleds and the crunch of the snow on the way to school in sub-zero weather. On one of those mornings Terrie Bristol dared me to put my tongue on the iron-pipe hand railing at the entrance to the school. That was a valuable lesson in chilled hand railings–and girls. The Boy Scouts were important in my life between the ages of 11 and 13. We would meet one night a week in the basement of the First Methodist Church. (Were they expecting a second one?) There we planned hikes and campouts, worked on merit-badge projects and plotted against one another. Our scoutmaster, Waldo, was a good guy and was not a pederast. After my first year of college I returned to the First Methodist Church to tell the pastor that I wanted to cancel my subscription with God and with Jesus and Mary. “Oh, that’s a very serious step to take,” said the Reverend Winnacker, “and besides, it can’t be done. Once you’ve joined the sacred fellowship you can’t back out. Once you’re in, it’s for good. So I didn’t back out. I walked out.

Great Teachers Are the Breath of Life

I loved everything to do with school, teachers, friends, books, sports. When I was six years old my first-grade teacher, Miss Wolfle, would take me out to her farm on weekends and give me advanced reading books. I had great teachers straight through school, and when I reached college (MSU) a group of hip young professors just pried my head open and dumped all the contents of Pandora’s box in there. The most important thing I learned was critical thinking: don’t believe everything you’re told; do your own research, consult people you respect, think for yourself. That has stayed with me. The other great thing about a university education is that you learn to learn. Once you’ve mastered that you can learn anything you like or need and the world is your oyster. I now see how lucky I was regarding education. I was born into that post-war window of opportunity when a college education was inexpensive and, with the help of scholarships and part-time jobs a working-class kid could graduate with no debt. But the times of guns and butter are over. Now it’s just guns and loan repayment.

Mexican_migrantsWhen I was a teenager, working part-time jobs and having my own money made me proud to be self-sufficient. I started when I was 13, spending that summer working, alongside a brigade of Mexican families and a few local farm hands on a muck farm where they raised mint and onions. Mainly we pulled weeds. You haven’t lived till you’ve pulled all the nettles out of a field the size of four football fields, parking lots included. The Mexicans, despite their hard, itinerant lives, were light-hearted, good company. I still remember them with respect. Occasionally the boss, himself, would come out to the fields and work alongside us. Wayne Gruesbeck told us jokes under the unforgiving midday sun. He was not only a good guy; he was smart. It was long hours and hard bend-over work, but I was earning $75 a week, a fortune for a 13-year-old. horno_lena2

I loved eating American food. Hamburgers in a basket with onion rings, eggs and hash browns, chili con carne, New England clam chowder, inch-thick steaks and roasted marshmallows. I almost forgot the roast turkeys. In the fifty-some years we’ve lived in Spain we’ve only celebrated Thanksgiving once. That was when my wife Maureen’s studio assistant, María José, wanted to learn how to do a stuffed turkey. Maureen prepared it and I drove it down to the bread oven in the village. Old-fashioned Spanish bread ovens–they hardly exist anymore– have a special heat and that turkey was historic. All it lacked was cranberry sauce. How do you imitate cranberry sauce?

I don’t eat junk food anymore. Nobody from my family will accompany me to McDonald’s. They’re all anti-junk-food fundamentalists. The fact is, American fast food in Spain is not as good as I remember it in the States. It’s not fast and they don’t heat the buns. European anti-hamburger snobbery, by the way, is based on ignorance. They have never tasted a proper hamburger.

kennedyI admired President Kennedy and I perceived him as a true American hero for facing down Premier Kruschev over the Soviet missiles in Cuba. It wasn’t till I read Seymour Hersh’s The Dark Side of Camelot that I became convinced that Kennedy was not only a cynical opportunist and a shameless satyr but probably a gangster, as well. As for the Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy did not stare down Kruschev eye to eye “until he blinked.” What really happened was that the Kennedys (John and Bobby) cut a secret back-channel deal to remove the American offensive missiles from Turkey. So there was no heroism, just simple horse-trading. ” Hersh makes a convincing case for all this and a lot more.

I loved the American writers of the time: Hemingway, dos Pasos, Steinbeck and especially Kurt Vonnegut, for whom I have a special devotion. Later, reading the Hemingway biographies, I learned that the grand old man (who wasn’t actually that old; he died at 61) was first and foremost a drunk and a blowhard. It just happened that he could write. As for his passion for the bullfight, you only have to see one corrida de toros to see how full of bullshit he was. Nor can I tolerate the idea of him roaming across Africa shooting everything that moved. Look how he left Africa. Though, maybe it wasn’t his fault. His mother made him wear dresses until he was five years old.

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There’s an Algorithm Going Round Taking Names

Mike Booth discusses the scarier implications of modern electronic surveillance in America.

Analysts prepare for the Cyber Storm III at the National Cybersecurity & Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) in Arlington Virginia

Meet Covert Big-Data Warrantless Surveillance of Americans

Don’t Say Johnny Cash Didn’t Warn You

Johnny_Cash_The_Man

There’s a man going around taking names
And he decides who to free and who to blame
Everybody won’t be treated all the same
There’ll be a golden ladder reaching down
When the Man comes around

Who’s Turning These Algorithms Loose on America, the Russians? No, It’s the US National Security Agency

Totalitarianism used to be when the Gestapo kicked down your door. Not any more. Now it’s when the United States government, in the person of the National Security Agency and under the pretext of anti-terrorism, kicks down your firewall and gathers up and analyzes your phone calls and emails, your Twitter and Facebook accounts, your browsing history, your credit card and bank transactions, your Skype conversations with your grandchildren and your communications metadata. With all this raw data in their swag bag they can identify you, sort you, categorize you, locate you, follow you and, when they think you’re ripe, take the necessary measures. What can you do about it? Keep an overnight bag prepared with your toothbrush and clean underwear.

This situation would be alarming enough under a sane and reasonable government but under the current atypical American administration, it’s a clear and present danger. This is not to suggest that there’s no opposition to these procedures. Since 2006, when Edward Snowdon released the secret NSA papers to the press, The American Civil Liberties Union began working on the case, as well as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the leading nonprofit defending digital privacy, free speech, and innovation.

Electronic Surveillance Is Not New

Wiretapping1Wiretapping in the United States goes back more than 150 years, long before the telephone. The earliest statute prohibiting wiretapping was passed in California in 1862, just after the Pacific Telegraph Company reached the West Coast. The first person convicted was a stockbroker named D.C. Williams two years later. He was listening in on corporate telegraph lines and selling the information to stock traders.

In the beginning, it was mainly detectives and corporations who resorted to electronic eavesdropping but when Prohibition came along wiretapping became a valuable law-enforcement tool. That is not to say it didn’t face opposition on moral grounds ever since. (Source: Smithsonianmag.com)

This_phoneFollowing the September 11th, 2001 attacks, American domestic and international surveillance capabilities escalated intensely. Today’s mass surveillance relies upon annual presidential executive orders declaring a continued State of National Emergency, first signed by George W. Bush on September 14, 2001 and then continued on an annual basis by Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, and upon several subsequent national security Acts including the USA PATRIOT Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act’s (FISA ) PRISM surveillance program. Critics and political dissenters currently describe the effects of these acts, orders, and resulting database network of Fusion centers as forming a veritable American police state that simply institutionalized the illegal COINTELPRO tactics used to assassinate dissenters and leaders from the 1950s onwards. The American Civil Liberties Union says on its website:

Our Constitution and democratic system demand that government be transparent and accountable to the people, not the other way around. History has shown that powerful, secret surveillance tools will almost certainly be abused for political ends.

Today’s advances in information technology allow the creation of huge national databases that facilitate mass surveillance in the United States by Department of Homeland Securitymanaged Fusion centers, the CIA’s Terrorist Threat Integration Center (TTIC) program, and the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Data Base (TSDB). (Source: Wikipedia)

What’s a Fusion Center and Why Do We Need It?

A fusion center is an intelligence gathering, analysis and dissemination state or major urban area center, which is owned by state, local, or territorial law enforcement and Department of Homeland Security entities, many of which were jointly created between 2003 and 2007.

The National Network of Fusion Centers was established after the September 11 attacks to provide a focal point for successful collaboration across jurisdictions and sectors to effectively and efficiently detect, prevent, investigate, and respond to criminal and terrorist activity. It is a decentralized, distributed, self-organizing national asset composed of state and major urban area fusion centers and their respective nodes within each center’s area of responsibility. This composition enables the National Network to meet local needs while providing valuable information to understand the national landscape of threats and criminal activity. (Source: Wikipedia)

What They Say They Do and What They Actually Do

When I read a line like, “This composition enables the National Network to meet local needs, while providing valuable information to understand the national landscape of threats and criminal activity,” it brings out the skeptic in me. What sordid realities lie behind that curtain of bland and comforting officialese? Identification and neutralization of political opposition? Following of wrong-thinking journalists and academics? Tracking down dissidents and whistleblowers? Total control of civil society? What controls are in place?

Natos_secretThere is a horrendous historical precedent for “what they actually do.” After the Second World War the British MI6 clandestine service had the wholly laudable idea to set up, staff and equip secret “stay-behind”  military units all over Europe, against the possibility of a Russian invasion. So far, so good. But in 1949 the stay-behind groups came under the authority of the recently-formed NATO, and that British defensive operation soon morphed into a Europe-wide terrorist network made up of Nazi collaborators, fascist fugitives and criminal gangs that indulged in false-flag bombings and shootings against random European citizens and blamed the actions on left-wing “terrorist groups.”

The purpose of these NATO-sponsored horrors? To instill massive doses of fear in European voters to prevent them once and for all from voting for Socialist or Communist candidates, who had gained a lot of credibility in Europe thanks to their role in the fight against the Nazis. This long-term terrorist operation is referred to as Operation Gladio, in Italian, as it was in Italy where it was first uncovered by government authorities. It was a typical, if particularly cynical, manifestation of standard, corn-fed anti-communism, and the cost to the Americans was bearable as all the victims were European civilians.

And it’s not over yet. Now it seems we have Gladio B. Here’s what Sibel Edmonds, ex-employee of the American clandestine services and whistleblower par excellence, has to say about NATO and the CIA creating ISIS:

How can in two years some ferocious terror group get to form and they have all these guns all these bombs, and they have range rovers and they have jeeps, and they have all this sophisticated training, military and paramilitary training. They have two billion dollars plus. They have IT networks and they are the worlds scariest terror organization. That is the hallmark of Operation Gladio B. That is what they have been doing since the 1950’s and now with people getting likely to buy they types of brands and subscribe to these types of brands to them, they are being marketed to the consumers in the west. They are gobbling it up with the mainstream media about this ISIS. They even have uniform like looks with the special bandanas. They look like ninja turtles.

Utoya_massacre1Recent terrorist actions, including the July 22, 2011, massacre of Norwegian adolescents–sons and daughters of Norwegian socialists–on the tiny island of Utoya outside Oslo, might also be attributable to Gladio B. This is what Danish author and investigator, Ole Dammegard, claims in a two-and-a-half-hour talk called “When Terror Struck Norway,” which you can see on YouTube. Dammegard’s rambling presentation is thoroughly convincing and enhanced by his frankness regarding the limits of his investigation. When there are aspects that he has failed to clear up he admits as much with refreshing humility.

The Oslo mass murders have an interesting post-script.  The Norwegian politician, Jens Stoltenberg, was prime minister when the events took place in 2011. In 2014, just three years later, he was named NATO Secretary General. Then, last month, Norway hosted 50.000 NATO troops for “Trident Juncture,” their largest military exercises since the Cold War. Norway shares 198 kilometers of border with Russia. In all, this is a curious set of coincidences. One is inclined to wonder if it’s not too many coincidences.

What’s the PRISM Program? Is It Reassuring or Frankly Sinister?

PRISM is a code name for a program under which the United States National Security Agency (NSA) captures internet communications from various U.S. internet companies. PRISM collects stored Internet communications based on demands made to internet companies under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 to turn over any data that match court-approved search terms. According to an article published on Mic.com on June 7, 2013, the nine companies that knowingly participate in this data collection include (in order of entry into the PRISM program) Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple.

PRISM began in 2007 in the wake of the passage of the Protect America Act under the Bush Administration. The program is operated under the supervision of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court, or FISC) pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Its existence was leaked six years later by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who warned that the extent of mass data collection was far greater than the public knew and included what he characterized as “dangerous” and “criminal” activities. The disclosures were published by The Guardian and The Washington Post on June 6, 2013. Subsequent documents have demonstrated a financial arrangement between the NSA’s Special Source Operations division (SSO) and PRISM partners in the millions of dollars.

Documents indicate that PRISM is “the number one source of raw intelligence used for NSA analytic reports”, and it accounts for 91% of the NSA’s internet traffic acquired under FISA section 702 authority, as well as a making a substantial contribution to the President’s daily briefings.” The leaked information came to light fortuitously one day after the revelation that the FISA Court had been ordering a subsidiary of telecommunications company Verizon Communications to turn over to the NSA logs tracking all of its customers’ telephone calls. Had it not been for that accidental revelation we might still not know about at least some of the specific uses of the greatest citizen surveillance operation in history.

If the NSA Can Intercept German Chancellor, Angela Merkel’s Emails and Eavesdrop on Her telephone Conversations, What Can They Do with Yours?

Merkel

PRISM began under the Bush Administration in 2007 in the wake of the passage of the Protect America Act. The program is operated under the supervision of the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court, or FISC) pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Its existence was leaked six years later by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who warned that the extent of mass data collection was far greater than the public knew and included what he characterized as “dangerous” and “criminal” activities. The disclosures were published by The Guardian and The Washington Post on June 6, 2013.

Snowden’s subsequent disclosures included statements that government agencies such as the United Kingdom’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the principal British cryptography and intelligence agency, also undertook mass interception and tracking of internet and communications data – described by Germany as “nightmarish” if true – allegations that the NSA engaged in “dangerous” and “criminal” activity by “hacking” civilian infrastructure networks in other countries such as “universities, hospitals, and private businesses”, and alleged that regulatory compliance offered only very limited restrictive effect on mass data collection practices (including of Americans) since restrictions “are policy-based, not technically based, and can change at any time.” This German commentator notes that “Additionally, audits are cursory, incomplete, and easily fooled by fake justifications”, with numerous self-granted exceptions, and that NSA policies encourage staff to assume the benefit of the doubt in cases of uncertainty. (Source: Wikipedia)

We’re Living in a Dystopian Uber-Capitalist Science Fiction Comic Book and We Don’t Even Know It!

SJM-PALANTIR-09XX

Unfortunately, it’s more like science reality. Did you ever hear of Palantir? Not many people have, but its influence in American society, both civil and military, is gargantuan. Founded by billionaire, Peter Thiel, one of the original PayPal team, and a group of other rich tech entrepreneurs, Palantir writes and implements predictive software based on big data. Its operation is so secretive and militarized that its headquarters in Palo Alto, California is bunkerized both physically and electronically. They call it a “SCIF,”  a “sensitive compartmentalized information facility.” Palantir requires its building to be resistant to any and all sorts of intrusion.

According to The Guardian, which refers to Palantir as “the ‘special ops’ tech giant that wields as much real-world power as Google”

Palantir watches everything you do and predicts what you will do next in order to stop it. As of 2013, its client list included the CIA, the FBI, the NSA, the Centre for Disease Control, the Marine Corps, the Air Force, Special Operations Command, West Point and the IRS. Up to 50% of its business is with the public sector. In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture arm, was an early investor.

Palantir tracks everyone from potential terrorist suspects to corporate fraudsters (Bernie Madoff was imprisoned with the help of Palantir), child traffickers and what they refer to as “subversives”. But it is all done using prediction.

The Palantir program was first used successfully in the Iraq war to track patterns of roadside bomb deployment, but its applications, both military and civilian, are virtually universal. The features of this utopian/dystopian system are so uncanny that they inspired Steven Spielberg to make a science- fiction film (Or was it the other way around, the movie inspired the creators of Palantir?). Minority Report, released in 2002 and starring Tom Cruise as a cop who works in a “pre-crime” unit. This is an action-detective thriller set in Washington D.C. in 2054, where police utilize a psychic technology to arrest and convict murderers before they commit their crime. And courts convict them before they have a chance to commit any actual crime.

Surely Palantir is the dictator’s ultimate toy until something more terrifying comes along…

Counting2Ten

Wait, This Surveillance Is Illegal, Immoral and Unconstitutional!

Never mind, it comes under the authority of the Universal American Axiom: We Do Whatever the Fuck We Please.

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Trump and Disrespect, What Went Wrong?

President Donald Trump’s coarse manners and egotistical attitudes are rooted in traditional American values. This articles explains how.

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American Individuality Off the Rails

Fifteen months ago, in my first post for this blog, I wrote, “…what you will read here in the coming weeks and months won’t be mainly about Donald Trump.” Unfortunately, I have not been able to keep that promise. President Trump incessantly requires replies, now more than ever. His recent spate of boutades on both sides of the Atlantic obliges me to direct our attention to him once again. For the President of the United States of America to skip his planned visit on Saturday, November 11, to the Aisne-Marne Take_a_KneeAmerican Cemetery and Memorial in homage to the Americans killed in World War I–allegedly because it was going to rain–marked a new low-water mark in President Trump’s trajectory. To have repeated the same gesture on the following Monday, skipping the Veterans’ Day ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, for the same reason, was equally unseemly for America’s first patriot. He is, after all, an expert on disrespect.

Are you ready for the bitter-chocolate frosting on the cake? The HuffPost published this little news item on Tuesday, November 13:

american-valuesTwo days after skipping a visit to an American military cemetery near Paris because it was raining, President Donald Trump called for effectively disenfranchising overseas military members voting in Florida, raising further questions about the draft-evading president’s commitment to the armed services.

“The Florida Election should be called in favor of Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis in that large numbers of new ballots showed up out of nowhere, and many ballots are missing or forged,” Trump tweeted early on Monday, the observed Veterans Day holiday for the federal government. “An honest vote count is no longer possible-ballots massively infected. Must go with Election Night!”

Scott and DeSantis are the GOP’s candidates for U.S. senator and governor in Florida whose election-night margins of victory have resulted in legally mandated recounts. But skipping those recounts would not only violate state law, it would ignore the ballots of tens of thousands of Florida-based troops deployed overseas. Those ballots are supposed to be counted if they arrive by this coming Friday.

Common Decency, Anyone?

There’s more. This came out in The Guardian on Wednesday, November 14:

As France marked the anniversary of the November 2015 Bataclan theater attacks in Paris in which 130 people were killed, Trump launched a string of angry tweets on Tuesday, condemning the key US ally over its near defeat to Germany in two world wars, its wine industry and Emmanuel Macron’s approval ratings.

When asked on Wednesday about the US leader’s Twitter posts, the French government spokesman, Benjamin Griveaux, said: “Yesterday was November 13. We were marking the murder of 130 of our people, so I’ll reply in English: common decency’ would have been appropriate.”

What’s wrong with President Trump? The Spanish would attribute his malady to his mother’s milk and his father’s money, but I think it goes far beyond those factors. That said, we should not be fixing on Donald Trump’s personal psychopathology; what’s wrong with him is the least of our worries. The real question is, what’s wrong with America?

The Quintessential American Individuality

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Before we launch our fragile boat into the turbulent waters of America’s problems, let’s set the scene. The following is an introduction to American culture for foreign students published on the University of Missouri–St. Louis website. I found it quite apt:

How Americans See Themselves
Americans do not usually see themselves, when they are in the United States, as representatives of their country. They see themselves as individuals who are different from all other individuals, whether those others are Americans or foreigners… Individual Americans may think they chose their own values, rather than having had their values and the assumptions on which they are based imposed on them by the society in which they were born. If you ask them to tell you something about “American culture,” they may be unable to answer and they may even deny that there is an “American culture…”

The most important thing to understand about Americans is probably their devotion to “individualism.” They have been trained since very early in their lives to consider themselves as separate individuals who are responsible for their own situations in life and their own destinies. 

Individualism, the Down Side

individualism2

A case can be made for considering this axiomatic individualism the principal foundation flaw in the American moral code. It permits “me” to overshadow “us” and leads inevitably to a cascade of dubious values.  It virtually precludes, for example, moral assets that should be at the top of the country’s priorities: generosity, empathy, humanity, solidarity and equality, not just statutory egalitarianism but sincere equality based on respect and shared humanity. That would rule out, of course, any tolerance of Nazism, White Supremacy or male superiority, all of which are just convenient lies for maintaining the status quo.

Part of the answer to this problem of individualist exclusivism is, of course, education. But what education, what curriculum, what underlying philosophy? Permit me to suggest an alternative, a humanist and humanitarian curriculum that emphasizes critical thinking and democratic, egalitarian moral principles. Schools and universities should not be mere vocational institutions where young people are taught to calculate and speculate. Ideally, they should be places where students–at their most idealistic ages–might learn to think for themselves and learn to learn.

Trumpish Education Advances

This education model is, of course, exactly what the Trump White House–in the person of Education Secretary, Betsy de Vos–is militating against, in favor of revealed-truth religious academies. She presumably completed eighth grade so she must be aware that education in the United States today, both public and private, rests on a foundation of sacrosanct American values that are considered grave aberrations in the advanced countries of the world. The Americans have technology, rugged individualism, and the self-made man, but they lack solidarity with the good people and causes in the world, just as they lack the sincerity and courage to recognize the gratuitous death and destruction their government is sowing so frivolously around the world.

guns_god_BibleThe upshot of these brutal “values” is a country dedicated to permanent aggression at home and abroad. No other country with valuable natural resources or a strategic location is exempt. This belligerent policy promotes arms manufacture, international trafficking and strange bedfellows like Saudi Arabia. This bellicose agenda is accompanied by radical measures to keep the working classes in their place. There are the massive tax cuts for the rich and it looks as if more may be on the way. No sentient person in the real world can understand how these priorities can override issues such as essential infrastructures, education, health care, environmental protection, and infant mortality, which in the United States is 6.2 per thousand births (source InfoPlease.com). Here is a list of 43 places in the world (same source) that take better care of their newborn babies than the United States. (Need I add that most–if not all–of these places offer their citizens universal health care?)blackinfantmortality

  1. Cuba 5.8
  2. Italy 5.5
  3. Isle of Man 5.3
  4. Taiwan 5.3
  5. San Marino 5.3
  6. Greece 5.1
  7. Ireland 5.0
  8. Canada 5.0
  9. Wallis and Futuna 5.0
  10. Monaco 5.0
  11. New Zealand 4.9
  12. United Kingdom 4.8
  13. Gibraltar 4.8
  14. Portugal 4.7
  15. Australia 4.7
  16. Jersey 4.7
  17. Netherlands 4.7
  18. Luxemborg 4.5
  19. Guernsey 4.4
  20. Belgium 4.4
  21. Austria 4.4
  22. Denmark 4.3
  23. Korea, South 4.2
  24. Liechtenstein 4.2
  25. Slovenia 4.2
  26. Israel 4.2
  27. Spain 4.2
  28. Switzerland 4.2
  29. Germany 3.9
  30. Czech Republic 3.8
  31. Adorra 3.7
  32. Malta 3.7
  33. Norway 3.5
  34. Anguilla 3.5
  35. Finland 3.4
  36. France 3.3
  37. Iceland 3.2
  38. Macau 3.2
  39. Hong Kong 2.9
  40. Japan 2.8
  41. Sweden 2.7
  42. Bermuda 2.4
  43. Singapore 2.3

I’m sure any self-respecting American politician could offer a cogent “explanation” for these raw statistics but, in the meantime, they give me cold chills.

Remember “Checks and Balances?”

Fundamental_documentsIf you remember 11th-grade civics class the checks and balances cleverly placed in the Constitution by the founding fathers were supposed to guarantee American democracy.  But of what use are restraints on the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government if all of them are gravely corrupted? The corruption used to be disguised behind varied subterfuges, but no more, not since the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission case and the Supreme Court decision of 2010. According to a 2012 Mother Jones piece, this masterwork of judicial wisdom:

… wiped out 100 years of precedent in campaign-finance law. Building on a key 1976 decision that campaign spending was a form of speech and therefore protected by the First Amendment, the justices in Citizens United v. FEC extended that protection to corporations. They ruled that corporations (which already are considered “persons” for many constitutional purposes) have First Amendment rights similar to those of average voters, and keeping them from spending money to support or defeat specific candidates is unconstitutional.

The Citizens United decision opened the floodgates for millions of dollars of mainly corporate money to flow into federal elections. The upshot was the virtual purchase of the United States government by seedy ultra-conservative economic interests. This is essentially where President Donald Trump came from. It’s not clear how many Americans understand this phenomenon. What is clear is that Citizens United is arguably the greatest fraud foisted on humanity since the Resurrection.

The Undeniable American Values They Often Forget to Mention

Korean_War2

  • American racial, economic, military superiority
  • The Sacrosanct American Gun rights
  • American Exceptionalism (There are varieties and degrees of exceptionalism, but taken to the nth degree it’s a whole new pseudo-reality. It’s not clear if it’s something they decreed or if it’s just something they consider axiomatic. Isn’t it relevant that no one else in the civilized world accepts the American “axioms.”)
  • American Entitlement (There’s not enough space here to enumerate the things the Americans have entitled themselves to. See below.)
  • The Right to Intervene Abroad
  • The Right to Kill Randomly
  • The Right to Do at Any Time, in Any Place, Exactly What the Fuck They Please

Maybe They Should Leave Metamorphosis to the Butterflies

The United States has thus metamorphosed over the past half-century or so from a country with qualitative concerns–life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness–to one ruled by quantitative criteria. Nearly everything can be reduced to market values, converted into a commodity. More is better: more conspicuous cribs, more limos, more bling, all of which is hammered home relentlessly by the seemingly mindless mass media. I say “seemingly” because the media magnates know exactly what they’re dishing out to the American people, and why. A dumbed-down populace is so much easier to herd than a population of citizens who actually think.

The fast buck rules, along with all the opportunism and dishonesty that entails. We all like profit, but to like it with religious fervor to the exclusion of everything else, come hell or high water, is perversion and will eventually bring any country down, even the richest most super-powerful country in the world. There are sales techniques (and psywar is just applied salesmanship) capable of pandering to humanity’s lowest instincts and American marketing geniuses know how to use them. We’re talking about selling greatness in the form of instant gratification, easy money, exclusiveness (whatever that means), everlasting life, Beemers and Mercs, great suits, a perfect ass, the deaths of your enemies…

President Trump’s Code of Conduct

 

Republican presidential candidate Trump gestures and declares "You're fired!" at a rally in Manchester

Donald Trump is not only the extreme representative of America’s atypical set of rules of conduct. Insofar as he was born and raised under the American bell jar, he is also a victim. What are the moral principles that guide the majority of Americans in their life-forming decisions? You can start by googling “American values” and, in a matter of 0,42 seconds, you will be presented with 743 million results. As that number is not easy to get a grip on, Google offers us a modest pre-selection:

  • Independence. One of the main values in the United States is independence. (The other face of the independence coin is the disregard for people who, through no fault of their own, are incapable of being independent. That fact seldom comes out.)
  • Privacy. Americans value privacy and their own space. (This started out as a white picket fence and ended up as gated communities with armed guards.)
  • Equality. Tradition holds that Americans uphold the concept that everyone “is created equal” and has the same rights. (That’s the theory. The reality can be wildly divergent. Ask women, ask black, brown and yellow folks.)
  • Competition. (Competitiveness is often taken to infirm extremes.)
  • Time and Efficiency. (A preoccupation with the clock too often precludes quality time and meaningful relations with fellow human beings.)

As for President Trump’s pre-history, I recently discovered that he is distinguished by his own word in the dictionary. It dates from more than 500 years ago. According to Dictionary.com, Trumpery: n. mid-15c., “deceit, trickery,” from Middle French tromperie (14c.), from tromper “to deceive,” of uncertain origin. Spelling influenced by trump (v.). Meaning “showy but worthless finery” is first recorded c.1600.

A quote from The Atlantic

“We risk being the first people in history to have been able to make their
illusions so vivid, so persuasive, so ‘realistic’ that they can live in them.”

— Daniel J. Boorstin, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (1961)

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False Flags–Whodunnit?

What Are False-Flag Ops, and Why?

False flag operations are covert operations conducted by governments, corporations, or other organizations, which are designed to deceive the public in such a way that the operations appear as if they are being carried out by someone else. The name is derived from the military concept of flying false colors; that is, flying the flag of a country other than one’s own.

The term comes from the days of wooden ships, when a ship would fly the flag of its enemy before attacking one of its own navy’s vessels, with the aim of creating a provocation to justify a false counterattack. Because the enemy’s flag was displayed it was called a “false flag” attack. Continue reading “False Flags–Whodunnit?”

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Are Whistleblowers Good for the Country?

Ellsberg_cover

A whistleblower is a person who exposes any kind of information or activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or not correct within a private or public organization.
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The Prometheus of American Truth Tellers

Note: Most of the biographical information in this article is from Biography.com

Daniel Ellsberg was born on April 7, 1931, in Chicago, Illinois, and grew up in Highland Park, Michigan the son of a civil engineer and a homemaker. His parents were Jewish who had converted to Christian Science. When he was 15 years old his mother and sister were killed in an automobile accident on a family outing. Given these antecedents it is no surprise that his classmates remember Danny Ellsberg as an introverted and unusual child. He was an excellent student, however, and won a scholarship to the prestigious Cranbrook School in Bloomfield Hills, outside of Detroit. He graduated first in his class in 1948 and was awarded another full scholarship to attend Harvard. There he majored in economics and wrote a senior honors thesis entitled “Theories of Decision-making Under Uncertainty: The Contributions of von Neumann and Morgenstern.”

Continue reading “Are Whistleblowers Good for the Country?”

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Regime Change Thugs Loosed Again

Rudy Giuliani crys havoc.
Rudy Giuliani giving his Regime-Change-In-Iran Pitch

Is Iran Looking for Trouble Again?

Some “defense” experts in the White House have decided that it would be a good idea to produce regime change in Iran, for the usual specious reasons. This is the second time that the Americans have decided to sabotage Iran’s government. The first was a classic example of US American regime-change thuggery, one that was “successful” but has left a bitter legacy and unclosed wounds on both sides. In 1954 Iran’s democratically-elected president, Mohammed Mossadegh, came under siege by the usual suspects largely because of his government’s nationalization of British oil interests in his country. The British-engineered international boycott of Iran failed and in 1952 they turned to the Americans for help. Using a predictable “Soviet threat” as a pretext, President Truman encouraged Iran’s ousted monarch, Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, to issue decrees dismissing Mossadegh and replacing him with a general who had been imprisoned by the British during World War II for his collaboration with the Nazis. Continue reading “Regime Change Thugs Loosed Again”

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American Inequality is the Whistleblower

The United States has always been a country marred by the inequality of its citizens but never to the degree that exists today when the poles are more concentrated and farther apart. There are more rich Americans and they are richer than ever before. The poor are not only poorer but more numerous. What is more alarming is that people from the middle classes are slipping into poverty. Having a job is not always a solution. Many families in which the breadwinners are employed full time still can’t afford to have a home or a decent life.
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At the other end of the scale of inequality are the American rich, whose wealth and flashy lifestyles are unprecedented. The classic millionaire has slipped into the middle class; now it’s the billionaires who make the news. And it’s not just the Internet whizkids. Now even garden-variety bankers, accountants and company CEO’s–virtually anyone who can adjudicate his or her own salary–can also aspire to the vacuous elite.
According to a 2017 report on CEO pay from the Economic Policy Institute, chief executives at 350 top companies made $15.6 million on average in 2016—271 times what the typical worker earns. The CEO of Marathon Petroleum, Gary Heminger, took home an astonishing 935 times more pay than his typical employee in 2017.
Even Americans with “good jobs” are overworked and lack first-world working conditions. Any European worker is entitled to a month’s paid vacation in his or her first year of work. How long does it take the average American worker to merit a month’s vacation? Maternity leave in Spain has just been extended by their socialist government to 16 weeks, with an additional five weeks of paternity leave for the father.

Most of these statistics are from the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality:
Wage Inequality
Over the last 30 years, wage inequality in the United States has increased substantially, with the overall level of inequality now approaching the extreme level that prevailed prior to the Great Depression.

Education Wage Premium
Only college graduates have experienced growth in median weekly earnings since 1979 (in real terms). High school dropouts have, by contrast, seen their real median weekly earnings decline by about 22 percent.

Gender Pay Gaps
Throughout much of the 20th century, the average woman earned about 60% of what the average man earned. Starting in the late 1970s, there was a substantial increase in women’s relative earnings, with women coming to earn about 80% of what men earned.
This historic rise plateaued in 2005 and, since then, the pay gap has remained roughly unchanged.

Woman_pay

Women’s pay as a percentage of that of men

Child Poverty
The United States boasts fifth position in the world ranking of the percentage of poor children with 21 percent of its children in poverty,

Poverty_ranking
Health Insurance
In 2007, 8.1 million American children under 18 years old were without health insurance. Children in poverty and Hispanic children were more likely to be uninsured.

Bad Jobs
“Bad jobs” are typically considered those that pay low wages and do not include access to health insurance and pension benefits. As shown here, about 10% of full-time workers are in low-wage jobs, about 30% don’t have health insurance, and about 40% don’t have
pensions. The graph also shows that the likelihood of being in a bad job is much worse for part-time workers, for on-call and day laborers, and for those working for temporary help agencies.

bad_jpbs

Incarceration
The incarceration rate in the United States has grown so dramatically since the 1970s that the U.S. now has one of the highest rates in the world. The rise in incarceration has been especially prominent among young Black males and high school dropouts. As shown in this graph, a full 37% of those who are both young black males and high school dropouts are now in prison or jail, a rate that’s more than three times higher than what prevailed in 1980.

incarceration
Percent of 20-34-year-old men in prison or jail, by race, ethnicity,
and educational attainment, 1980 and 2008

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Homelessness is as American as Apple Pie

Scenes of homelessness such as are seen on the streets of the United States today are unthinkable in any other country in the first world.

Homelessness

According to The Week, March 11, 2018, about 554,000 people in the U.S. were homeless on any given night in 2017 — including nearly 58,000 families with children — meaning they didn’t have a safe, permanent place to sleep. That figure represents a 1 percent rise since 2016 — the first time the nation’s homeless population has increased in seven years. But the country’s biggest cities, especially those on the West Coast, have seen a far bigger rise in homelessness. New York City, which has the nation’s largest homeless population, reported a 4 percent increase since 2016 to about 76,500 people, San Diego a 5 percent increase to 9,160, and Los Angeles a 26 percent increase to nearly 55,200.

Consider This Testimony Posted on Quora.com by an Open-eyed American Retiree

I am American. I am married to a French woman. I have worked for years in the United States and for years in Europe. Americans, including myself (as a working-class boy who became a university professor and Dean), are culturally molded (brainwashed) into believing that work is everything. Our lives revolve around the work we do.

I’m retired now, but in my final years as a top-level administrator I was working so hard— 10 hours a day, 6 days a week—that I did not take the vacations due me. At the end, my employer owed me more than 6 months vacation time. And, oh yes, a former employer fired me because at 55 years of age I was being paid too much in their view and they could hire a 30-year-old for much less. That is normal in America. There is no such thing as loyalty to a long time and valued worker. Workers are “inputs” into the process, not people. Americans have been raised to think this is the way it is and the way it should be.

I think it likely that the United States has been controlled by the elites at the economic top for a very long time—probably since the time of the famous “Robber Barons” of the late 19th century. Today the United States is one of the most economically unequal countries in the world. The “wealth gap” is enormous. The top 1% are billionaires. There is literally nothing they cannot buy: law, tax codes, regulations, media outlets, controlling interests in big corporations, the entire healthcare and medical industry, the infamous “military industrial complex,” political campaigns, etc. In short, the government in the USA exists to serve the super wealthy.

In much of Europe governments (incredibly) seem to be truly inclined to see themselves as serving the people and their welfare. So, the government provides high quality and free (or very inexpensive) education—including at university level, as well as high-quality universal healthcare for everyone. And workers are given protections and rights that are unheard of in the USA, including at least 4 weeks vacation a year. Of course, the people pay higher taxes for these services, but it seems well worth it. And, Chief Officers of companies are not paid ludicrously high salaries and bonuses. In fact few companies in Europe are public corporations, and so the chief executives do not have the power to raise their own salaries and bonuses as do the American chief executives of the infamous public corporations (run by “agents” not by the owners).

In short: The American workplace is brutal and the European workplace is much more humane. Americans are trained to respond to this by saying “But American companies are more successful, they generate more wealth.” Not only is this untrue (the GDP of the EU is very close to that of the USA), but so much of the wealth created in the USA just goes straight up to the billionaires at the top. That’s why one out of seven families in the USA lives in poverty, and why the American working class has not progressed economically since the late 70s.

As long as Americans are willing to be brutalized in the workplace and accept a government dedicated to the oligarchs, nothing will change for them.

Greatness?

President Donald Trump says that his goal is to “make America great again,” and there’s nothing to keep him from doing just that. But he should be mindful that true greatness is not about invading Iran, nor bigger limousines, nor tax breaks for fat cats. It’s about taking care of your people–all of them.

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Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
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Un-Brainwashing America

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Lorenz’s Goose Eggs

Konrad Lorenz (1903-1989), the Austrian physician and zoologist who shared the Nobel prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1973, hatched a clutch of greylag goose eggs as a young man and found that the newly-hatched goslings “imprinted” on him and would follow him wherever he went as if he were their mother. He later found that they would imprint on whatever they saw moving during a “critical period” after they emerged from the eggs. In goslings that period is from 13 to 16 hours after hatching. That’s how Lorenz became “mother” to a series of baby geese and ducks in subsequent years. He also found that this surrogate motherhood was indelible. Once the little birds had “learned” that the naturalist was their mother there was no “un-learning” it. That might explain why Lorenz often appears in photographs followed by a gaggle of geese. Continue reading “Un-Brainwashing America”

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Who Needs Conspiracy Theories?

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“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. ”
The Sagan Standard, Carl Sagan

It’s a Conspiracy Theory; Over and Out

“Conspiracy theory” has become a term for virtually a single use: to label an uncomfortable proposition or an argument as silly, specious or untenable, wholly unworthy of further consideration. A conspiracy theory in current usage is something to be reflexively discredited, dismissed, discarded… Nowadays it is enough to label a proposition a “conspiracy theory” to short-circuit any further conversation on the subject. Continue reading “Who Needs Conspiracy Theories?”

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Criminalize-Prosecute-Incarcerate, the American Way

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Are Americans Just More Depraved?

In reality, they probably aren’t but it would seem so. According to Drug Policy.org, with less than five percent of the world’s population, the United States houses almost 25% of the world’s prison inhabitants. In relation to their populations the US is the country with the most prisoners in the world. That’s more than Russia, more than China, more than Iran…

But if Americans are not five times as evil as the rest of humanity, why are so many of them in jail? It’s a long story, a veritable trail of tears, with its roots in some of the country’s most hallowed traditions: ultra-conservatism, racism, religion and the lust for power and profit. The MacGuffin has always been drugs. Continue reading “Criminalize-Prosecute-Incarcerate, the American Way”

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Democracy Ain’t What It Used to Be

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Wikipedia: The shell game (also known as thimblerig, three shells and a pea, the old army game) is portrayed as a gambling game, but in reality, when a wager for money is made, it is almost always a confidence trick used to perpetrate fraud.

A Burning Bush on the Way to the Dentist’s Office

One day I’m walking to the dentist’s office  and I notice the bold bronze letters glowing over the door of a Granada University building: “Facultad de Sociología y Ciencias Políticas.” That was when it finally hit me. The traditional base elements of democratic politics–idealism, honesty, goodwill, life, liberty and the pursuit of the happiness of the citizenry–have been substituted for sociologized “political science.” The essence of western democracy has been downgraded to pandering to the lowest common voter, by means of numbers, statistics and opinion polls. The modern political model, which the United States has exported all over the world, calling it “democracy,” is no longer about noble ideas and the struggle for human rights, equality and citizen well-being.  It’s about opportunism, not idealism, as the leaders of the Free World would have you believe.

Abraham Lincoln would not recognize his country’s governors today. Continue reading “Democracy Ain’t What It Used to Be”

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We Were Wondering…

President Trump's Cabinet
These are the hollow men. They are the stuffed men. Leaning together. Headpieces filled with straw.

How Do American Governments Justify Their Questionable Actions?

Although the Americans in charge regularly resort to “American exceptionalism” and other familiar formulas to justify their belligerent solutions both at home and abroad, Europeans and other people from the world outside the United States have a lot of questions for the government and the people of the world’s only superpower regarding those “solutions.” Thanks largely to that exemplary American hero, Superman, we all agree that superpowers should be used for good, and that evil should be left to the likes of super-villain, Lex Luthor, and other characters of his ilk. At least that’s the theory. As usual, the reality is somewhat different… Let’s take a look together.

How Do Americans Live with Their Own Government?

How does one of the world’s greatest countries–historically, economically, technologically and militarily–the home of some of the world’s most prestigious seats of higher learning, manage to elect a government made up of its worst elements semi-literate accountants, speculators and rednecks, ultra Christian zealots, racists, militarists, hypocrites and other assorted sociopaths, headed by an uncouth, unlettered and unprincipled President and backed by packs of extreme right-wing billionaires and industrialists promoting their own sinister agendas?

Virtually none of these eminent American leaders have any consideration for the wellbeing of the people who elected them, preferring to favor with all their government initiatives a cynical, opportunistic and affluent sector of American society–the notorious “one per-cent,” not to be confused with the 1% sector of unruly motor-cycle club members who might actually be considered a better class of people insofar as they only rough up their fellow citizens individually or in small groups. And they have yet
to provoke a mortgage crisis or major bank bailout. Continue reading “We Were Wondering…”

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Schizophrenogenic America

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How the United States Drives Its Citizens Crazy

“Schizophrenogenic”=”Schizophreno” from “schizophrenia” and “genic” from “genesis.” Meaning: Tending to produce schizophrenia. When applied to a country it refers to a place that is so unfair and destructive for vast sectors of its population that it will drive them crazy, with all the logical consequences. There are many countries like that around the world, but the most egregious is the United States of America, due to the disparity between the image of affluence and wellbeing it attempts to project and its sordid reality. Powerful interests and popular traditions in the US like to portray it as a model Democracy but in reality it’s a model Schizophrenogenocracy. Continue reading “Schizophrenogenic America”

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The Economist from Hell

James Buchanan
James Buchanan (1919-2013)

The Mastermind Behind the Rising American Dystopia

Normal Americans who watch the news and read the paper could easily get the impression that today’s radical political and economic changes in their country are determined by arbitrary–almost random–ideas and events promoted in large part by crazies of different stripes: American Nazis, white supremacists and other assorted hate groups on one hand, and anarchists, socialists and radical feminists on the other. It looks to Mr. and Mrs. America like a lunatic fringe that amuses itself on weekends carrying banners and bashing heads. When all is said and done it’s nothing that can’t be handled by well-trained riot police and a few justices of the peace.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. What Mr. and Mrs. America are unwittingly looking at is, in reality, a sinister, well-organized-and-financed extreme-right-wing campaign to undermine plural American democracy as we have always conceived it. You remember, separation of powers, free and fair elections, majority rule, respect for minorities, the rule of law, due process… Continue reading “The Economist from Hell”

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The Next American Civil War? 2/2

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Straight Up to Heaven

For readers who are fascinated or horrified by this virulent interpretation of the Book of Revelations, here’s more information from the glossary provided by RaptureReady.com:

Rapture:
At an unknown hour and day the Lord Jesus will descend from heaven, while remaining in the air, he will snatch his Bride, the Church, out from among this sinful world. Christ then takes the Church to heaven for the 7 year wedding feast. The earthly reason for the removal of the Church is to make way for the rise of Antichrist and to fulfill Daniel’s final 70th week.

President Trump has many of these radical Christians participating in his White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative which, according to the Religious News Service, “will ensure that the faith-based and community organizations that form the bedrock of our society have strong advocates in the White House and throughout the Federal Government.” Continue reading “The Next American Civil War? 2/2”

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The Next American Civil War? 1/2

White Supremacist Militia

Charlottesville, VA, white supremacist rally

It Couldn’t Happen in America

Americans are living turbulent times, times when the last things you need are half the citizenry armed to the teeth and an unstable, egomaniacal, possibly psychotic at the helm. Is there the possibility of a 21st-century civil war breaking out in the USA? We have always confidently assumed that it couldn’t happen in the world’s greatest democracy. Or could it? The mighty Mississippi doesn’t start out as a great river. It begins as tiny rivulets struggling towards Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota, from whose headwaters it flows 2,340 miles southwards, entering the Gulf of Mexico as a triumphant giant. It’s the same with social movements, both benign and malevolent. They start with just a few people concerned enough to do something. Formerly they would die out or grow vegetatively into mass movements. Today, with the Internet, they can propagate like flash fires. This fact, coupled with the hundreds of rivulets of intolerance, racial hatred, inequality, individualistic greed, and armed militants, rife in the country, does not bode well. Could they all join together in a very short time to form a mighty river of civil disobedience and martial solutions? That is to say, a civil war. Continue reading “The Next American Civil War? 1/2”

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Trump’s NATO Ploy in Brussels is Baseless

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Another Foundation Lie Exposed

At the same time the world’s media are expressing outrage at President Donald Trump’s gangster-style presentation at the NATO annual summit meeting in Brussels last Wednesday, they are also missing the point. As usual, Trump’s headline-grabbing antics smoked screened the most important issue. Everything the American President said at the meeting was grounded in a single great lie, that the principal objective of NATO is to “protect Europe.”

In fact, the principal purpose of NATO is first to control Europe and secondly to embroil the European countries in all of the United States’s nefarious military adventures. This involvement also lends a veneer of international legitimacy to any American aggression, no matter how heinous it may be. A third result for NATO members, one that is seldom mentioned, is the fact that NATO’s mutual defense obligations make them nuclear targets for any enemy of the United States. Continue reading “Trump’s NATO Ploy in Brussels is Baseless”

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The Great F-35 Lightning II Boondoggle–3/3

 

The Case of the Half-Million-Dollar Hat

One example of such a revolutionary system is the F-35 pilot’s helmet, for which different sources allege a price tag of between $400 and $600 thousand. It’s a marvel of technology that was created specifically for the F-35. It integrates information from the plane’s many sensors, and even receives, analyzes and creates a visual summary of input from the other planes in the flight, projected on the helmet’s visor. All the information is right in front of the pilot at all times. It even has a rear-view-mirror feature that permits him actually to see to the rear, something that was previously impossible due to the plane’s massive headrest. Continue reading “The Great F-35 Lightning II Boondoggle–3/3”

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The Great F-35 Lightning II Boondoggle–2/3

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International Partners Come and Go

Canada, which has had a checkered relationship with the F-35 program, looked towards Holland, who were ahead of them in the process. This clip from the August 29, 2017 issue of the Ottowa Citizen gives an insight into the incentives the F-35 program offers its partners.

Every F-35 contains components manufactured by Dutch companies, Lockheed Martin has noted. On Aug. 16, the U.S. Department of Defense announced the overseas warehouse and distribution centre for parts for F-35s in Europe would be located in the Netherlands.

Luyt said one of the other main attractions of the F-35 is that it will be constantly upgraded. “It will be state of the art for decades,” he added.

“Constantly upgraded…” does that mean they’ll constantly be tinkering with it in an effort to get it right? That’s the situation currently. Continue reading “The Great F-35 Lightning II Boondoggle–2/3”

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The Great F-35 Lightning II Boondoggle–1/3

 

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This was the F-35 rollout ceremony in Japan. No shortage of razzamatazz.

The Process of Military Purchasing in the Free World–Who Wins, Who Loses?

You may not be a big fan of military procurement scandals, nor even of supersonic fighter jets. But the case of  F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter is massive–the largest government defense contract ever signed anywhere by anybody–and massively convoluted. It would be wonderfully amusing if it weren’t so utterly bizarre. By studying its ins and outs we can discover a lot about American government priorities and how their dubious values come into play. You will discover here just how smart they are–and how dumb they think we are. Continue reading “The Great F-35 Lightning II Boondoggle–1/3”

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Is America Headed Towards Fascism?

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Fascism Is Not Just About Flag Waving and Making the Trains Run on Time

No, America is not “headed towards fascism.” It has been an essentially fascist country since August 6, 1945, when it dropped the atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. According to the Wikipedia, between Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which the United States nuked three days later, the death toll in the two cities totaled at least 127,000 people. Historians are in agreement that the war in the Pacific was already won when the atomic bombs were unleashed and that the real purpose for the attacks was to stun the Soviet Union into halting their advance on China and Japan and to lay the cornerstone in the edifice of American world domination. Continue reading “Is America Headed Towards Fascism?”

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American Chicken Hawk Militarists Boldly Lead the Charge–From Behind

President Donald Trump arrives at Newark International airport
Washington’s illustrious company of Chicken Hawk Militarists, war-mongering politicians who didn’t actually do any military service, has a new Chicken Hawk in Chief, President Donald J. Trump. It’s a dubious honor.

The Chicken Hawk, the Most Ignominious Bird of All

The military service records–or lack thereof–of American war-mongering politicians are an excellent place to scrutinize their particular kinds of patriotism. The patriotic sentiments of those lacking in military experience are usually not of the Nathan Hale “I-only-regret-that-I-have-but-one-life-to-give- for-my-country” variety. The most common type of patriotism to be found among your non-combatant militarist politicians is of the vocal variety. Their mouths are admirably patriotic, the rest of their makeup not so much. These reluctant warriors who strongly support military action everywhere, all the time, yet went out of their way to avoid military service when of age are aptly referred to as “Chicken Hawks.” The term has a nice ring to it and an interesting set of connotations. Continue reading “American Chicken Hawk Militarists Boldly Lead the Charge–From Behind”

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The Bizarre States of America–2/2

 

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Seen from Abroad “Bizarre” Seems to Be the Operative Word

To Europeans the American political milieu seems riddled with semantic manipulation. US politicians love the Pavlovian use of trigger words and phrases to elicit nationalistic citizen responses. If you want to promote a dubious war or a convenient regime change just use the term “our boys” repeatedly, or the word “patriotism” and any of its derivatives. Any reference to “our flag” or the “national anthem” will also work. It’s easy for them to undermine American citizens’ civil rights by citing “national security” or “terrorism.” Never mind that it’s American state terrorism that leads the world in false-flag atrocities and devastating economic deception perpetrated by their clandestine services abroad. (Need examples? See any book by John Perkins or William Blum.) Continue reading “The Bizarre States of America–2/2”

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The Bizarre States of America 1/2

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There’s Weirdness in the Air Over There

Seen from Europe the United States looks pretty strange. In all fairness, different countries have a right to their individual differences, but the direction and degree of American differences are so exaggerated, so unusual that they shock sensibilities in Europe and farther afield, the way a snuff film leaves normal people horrified and unbelieving. We’re not referring to all Americans here, rather about half of them, the abnormal half, those who subscribe to extreme anti-any-sort-of-government political thinking, magical religions, Nazism, white supremacy and other forms of racism present from the cop on the beat to the highest echelons of the American government. Continue reading “The Bizarre States of America 1/2”

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Is the US Democracy on the Critical List?–3/3

SchooloftheAmericas

Jefferson’s “Den of  Vipers and Thieves”

Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the US, saw the central bank as an unnecessary consolidation of power. He argued that it benefited investors, banks and businesses above the wider population. President Andrew Jackson, who opposed renewing the charter of the second US central bank, famously referred to it as “a den of vipers and thieves.”

Flash forward almost a century from the Fed’s founding. According to Allan Meltzer, author of The History of the Federal Reserve, “… the Fed’s decision to bail out the banks in 2008 has shaped many Americans’ current distrust of the central banking system more than the prolonged period of low interest rates. ” The public doesn’t think the government should be in the business of bailing out banks,” he says. Mike Collins, writing in Forbes.com in 2015, says: Continue reading “Is the US Democracy on the Critical List?–3/3”

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Is American Democracy on the Critical List? 2/3

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If Lincoln Could Raise His Head Today…

Multi-Billionaire Brothers Change the Rules of the Election Game

The twisting of U.S. elections is enough to make a grown man cry unless that man is a lobbyist or an incumbent candidate in a national election. Election finance rules were radically changed with the 2009 Citizens United Supreme Court decision. This case was complicated and controversial, partly because it was brought before the court by an ad hoc Political Action Committee (PAC) financed by the extreme-right-wing Koch Brothers, multi-billionaires with a penchant for dabbling in politics.

The Brookings Institution’s Darrell West devised a ranking to sort out which of the larger-than-life politicized American billionaires are the most powerful, factoring in “campaign expenditures, activism through nonprofit organizations and foundations, holding public office, media ownership, policy thought leadership and behind-the-scenes influence.” At the top of his list were the Koch Brothers. Continue reading “Is American Democracy on the Critical List? 2/3”

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Is American Democracy on the Critical List? 1/3

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American Democracy, the Standard of the Industry

The United States has been touting its particular brand of democracy for a couple of centuries now. As time goes by they have convinced us that there is no other valid formula, that their unique corn-fed variety is the default for good government. Myth has morphed into axiom; American democracy has become the only way to go. The world’s greatest marketing department has decreed it. After all, American democracy has two centuries of successful history behind it, it has the sacrosanct “checks and balances,” it invented the “self-made man” and the greatest propaganda machine the world has ever known. It has won every war it ever undertook (by their own reckoning) and has underwritten the creation of the greatest economy in history. It must be good; they’re rich, aren’t they? Continue reading “Is American Democracy on the Critical List? 1/3”

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NATO Has Harbored Active Domestic Terrorist Groups Since at Least 1969—4/4

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Who Can Condone Such Actions?

Can any sane human being on the planet condone the random slaying of an innocent and unsuspecting family of five at the supermarket? Who can even conceive of such villainy? Beyond that, there’s the issue of blaming the crime on innocent citizens participating in legitimate democratic processes. This practice was not only not condemned by the government of the land of the free and the home of the brave; it was actually perpetuated in the CIA playbook, as now-almost-daily “false flag” operations continue. Continue reading “NATO Has Harbored Active Domestic Terrorist Groups Since at Least 1969—4/4”

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NATO Has Harbored Active Domestic Terrorist Groups Since at Least 1969—3/4

Gladio7

Can a Case Be Made That NATO Was Sponsoring an Active Terrorist Organization from the Outset?

We have seen how a subject of sufficient specific gravity to unseat governments in other times was quietly shelved until an American documentary filmmaker unveiled the mystery in 1992. Then, seven years later a curious Swiss student decided to dedicate his doctoral thesis to it. Who put Daniele Genser onto NATO’s Secret Armies (the title of his later book)? It was William Blum, our much-admired ex-State Department employee, author of Rogue State and The Secret History of the CIA, who resigned his position at State in 1967 as a protest against the Vietnam War and went on to write a series of important books divulging American foreign-policy boutades around the world. Continue reading “NATO Has Harbored Active Domestic Terrorist Groups Since at Least 1969—3/4”

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NATO Has Harbored Active Domestic Terrorist Groups Since at Least 1969—2/4

Gladio2

Woodrow Wilson Kept the Russophobe Ball Rolling

President Wilson’s relative sympathy for the Russian revolution turned to visceral anti-Bolshevism after labor strikes, race riots, and anarchist attacks broke out across the United States in 1919. Wilson’s iron suppression of these disturbances left “a legacy of repression that lasted for decades;” and his administration’s violation of civil liberties would provide a precedent for McCarthyism in the 1950s.

The enmity between US interests and Russia stiffened in April of 1920 when the Bolsheviks retook Baku and promptly nationalized Standard Oil of New Jersey’s oil fields there. Subsequently the Cold War, the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam all contributed to the Americans’ Russophobe brew. Underlying all of this anti-Russian sentiment, I think, is a deep-seated fear of Marxism and any other form of collectivism. Continue reading “NATO Has Harbored Active Domestic Terrorist Groups Since at Least 1969—2/4”

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NATO Has Harbored Active Domestic Terrorist Groups Since at Least 1969—1/4

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A Note on Sources

This four-part article is based largely on two sources, a documentary film by Allan Francovich that was broadcast by BBC2 in 1992, and a book written by Daniele Ganser, a young Swiss doctoral candidate, and published on both sides of the Atlantic in 2005.

Allan Francovich’s documentary, “Gladio,” which convincingly tells the story of Europe’s secret armies and their domestic terrorist activities, is not only long (2:25 hours) and detailed but substantiated by interviews with many primary sources. It is not an easy documentary to refute.

Would this fact be relevant to Francovich’s grotesquely atypical death at the age of 56? According to Wikispooks.com, “Allan Francovich’s death occurred while going through US customs at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas on April 17, 1997. It was ruled as occurring due to “natural causes” (i.e. heart attack) though its remarkable timing raises the clear possibility that it was not so simple. Continue reading “NATO Has Harbored Active Domestic Terrorist Groups Since at Least 1969—1/4”

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The Dastardly Russians Are Tampering with Our Democratic Elections! 2/2

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The US Brings Democracy to the Mediterranean/2

During the Italian election campaign of 1948 the US extended and refined their menu of dirty tricks. They covertly financed the right-wing Christian Democrats and mounted elaborate media campaigns to discredit the left. American corporations spent millions of dollars to keep the Communists and Socialists out of power. This subversion of democratic elections was justified in the name of “saving democracy” in Italy. Eventually the communists made a modest comeback in Italian politics, thanks only to massive popular support. Continue reading “The Dastardly Russians Are Tampering with Our Democratic Elections! 2/2”

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The Dastardly Russians Are Tampering with Our Democratic Elections! 1/2

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It’s Them Pesky Russkies Again

The United States is up in arms against Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. The Council on Foreign Relations affirmed shortly afterward that “foreign power interference” in the election had grave national security implications that touched off multiple federal inquiries questioning the security of the U.S. electoral process. The Council expressed fears that a rival power could influence an election’s results. That “rival power,” they maintained, was Russia. Continue reading “The Dastardly Russians Are Tampering with Our Democratic Elections! 1/2”

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What Is It With the American Flag Fetish?

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Americans’ Extreme Devotion to Their Flag Arouses Curiosity

One of the first thing visitors from other countries notice when they arrive in the United States is the abundance of American flags. They’re hanging all over the place, down to the facades of most houses. They figure in fashion and bric-a-brac, in sporting and cultural events, on bumper stickers, in products and the movies. The Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag is recited in American classrooms every day, as well as by all the legislators in the U.S. Congress. The United States is the only country in the world that celebrates a “flag day.”

In fact, the American flag fetish is just one aspect of an ultra-conservative, rabidly nationalistic mindset that has been nurtured in the United States over at least the past century. It goes hand in hand with racism, militarism, and predatory capitalism. The objective of this movement, planted and cultivated by right-wing politicians and fertilized by the usual suspects, is to stifle progressive government and forestall anything that even remotely smacks of  America’s biggest bugbear: “socialism.” Ironically, socialism is considered in the most civilized countries of the world to be a valued element in the democratic mix. It is thanks to socialism, in its different flavors, that Europe has set the world standards for the wellbeing of its citizens. Continue reading “What Is It With the American Flag Fetish?”

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Teach Your Children Well

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Give a Lift to the Future

What’s our greatest resource for the future–a future that you and I will not see and cannot possibly preconceive? Nuclear technology? Solar power? Rich farmland? The abundance of the sea? Low interest rates? No, none of the above, our greatest resource is our children and grandchildren because the future of human society would not be possible without them.

They are our treasure and the legacy that we bequeath to the world. They are the ones obliged to undo all of the damage we have done to the planet and all the living things on it. To some of our descendants will fall the monumental task of dealing with and–within the realm of the possible–undoing the wrongheadedness that 2,000 years of human folly have planted in the heads and hearts of people around the world. Continue reading “Teach Your Children Well”

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The Children’s Crusade–3/3

Parkland School Shooting
Victims from the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida

Recipe for a Well-Balanced Country

High levels of humanity, characterized by empathy, generosity, neighborliness, cooperation and collective solutions to the problems of their society, are essential to all well-balanced countries. These all-encompassing solutions in first-world countries include controls on political corruption, universal health care, restrictions on predatory capitalism, reasonable judicial procedures, humane prisons, etc. As a result, their indexes of violence are lower than those of the United States and they have fewer serious problems in their societies than the Americans. This wellbeing in countries that look after their citizens isn’t due to coincidence. It’s thanks to longstanding, constant and well-thought-out execution of programs for the common good of all their citizens. That is to say: healthy politics.

Are there remedies for this inhumanity plague in the United States? There may be but, given the well-dug-in opposition there to humane collective solutions, they would be neither quick nor easy to implement. Embedded inhumanity has become a jealously-preserved American tradition. Continue reading “The Children’s Crusade–3/3”

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The Children’s Crusade–2/3

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Nothing New Under the Sun; U.S. Tried to Curb Gun Deaths in the 60s

Attempts at gun-control regulation have quite a long history in the United States. According to an article by Seth Cline, in U.S. News.com on Jan. 16, 2013, there was a major initiative in 1969. A commission formed by President Lyndon Johnson issued its own–admittedly timid–policy recommendations to address gun violence, which was rising amidst the social turmoil of the time. U.S. News and World Report said at the time:

Millions of Americans will be compelled to give up their pistols if Congress passes a law proposed by the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence. But Congress, it appears, is not at all likely to pass such a law—in this session, at least.

“Not a chance, none at all,” said Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield (Dem.), of Montana, when asked about the prospects of Congress accepting the Commission’s plan this year. Representatives of the Nixon Administration recently told a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee they saw no need for tighter gun laws now.

Continue reading “The Children’s Crusade–2/3”

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The Children’s Crusade–1/3

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Parkland Students Take the Gun-Control Bull by the Horns

After another horrendous mass school shooting followed by the usual limp thoughts-and-prayers condolences from right-wing politicians around the country, students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 people were killed on Wednesday, 14 February, decided to address the matter themselves.

On  Feb. 17, three days after the mass shooting, they traveled to Tallahassee, Florida’s state capital, to call for a statewide assault weapons ban. This direct appeal to the state legislature followed protests outside schools, social media activity, and national television appearances. The legislators’ response was short and sweet. The motion to introduce a law to ban assault rifles was defeated, 36 to 71, in a vote along party lines. The procedure lasted 2 minutes and 38 seconds. Most of the 71 state representatives who voted against the ban enjoyed an A rating from the National Rifle Association. Continue reading “The Children’s Crusade–1/3”