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U.S. Private Prisons Have Failed — 3/3

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Minorities are Cheaper

A 2014 study by a doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley shows that minorities make up a greater percentage of inmates in private prisons than in their public counterparts, largely because minorities are cheaper to incarcerate. (It doesn’t say why. Are they more docile?) According to the study, for-profit prison operators accumulate these low-cost inmates “through explicit and implicit exemptions written into contracts between these private prison management companies and state departments of correction.”

An example of private prisons’ inadequate staff training leading to jail violence was reported by two Bloomberg News journalists, Margaret Newkirk and William Selway in Mississippi at the now-closed Walnut Grove Correctional Facility (WGCF). According to the journalists, the ratio of staff to prisoners in this prison was at times as low as 1 to 120. In a bloody riot in this prison, six inmates were rushed to the hospital, including one with permanent brain damage. During the riot, the staff of the prison did not respond but waited until the melee ended, because prisoners outnumbered staff at the time by a ratio of 60-1.

 Why Does the United States Have Millions of Prisoners?

Why do so many Americans deserve prison? Are they genetically determined for crime and mayhem? Is it something in the water? Are they just the worst people on earth? I’m reluctant to believe that. Something is causing them to be the way they are and preventing them from being honest productive citizens instead of misfits and social pariahs.

Could it have to do with being born and raised in a dystopian (as opposed to utopian) society? The United States is, after all, number one in the world in school shootings (and all firearms deaths, for that matter). It worships get-rich-quick entrepreneurs, speculators and deal makers, people who would rather grab than create.  (And what faster way to get rich quick than dope peddling?) Some of its citizens actually feel threatened by collective solutions whether it be environmental protection or universal health care–or even public schools–solutions that have immensely elevated people’s wellbeing all over the rest of the known world.

The United States is the world leader in home repossessions, in homelessness and people who live–and try to raise their families–in their cars. It’s a country run by an unenlightened conservative majority that prefers castigation to education, self-interest to solidarity. It’s every man for himself. It’s no wonder it gets lonely out there. People get desperate and inevitably get into trouble. And, thanks to mandatory sentences and other inhuman judicial and business practices many of them find themselves incarcerated for a long time, if not forever. Especially if they’re black.

The “natural” habitat of young American black men–the majority of the inmates in all U.S. penal institutions–is mean streets, inequality, penury, unfairness, violence and hopelessness. Could it be any other way? If the current President of the United States is a sociopath, how are the impoverished, uncultured black kids in the neighborhoods supposed to be models of sanity and civility?

It’a not clear how many Americans are aware of the extent to which President Obama was disrespected and boycotted by the Washington good ol’ boys for the mere fact of being black, but from this side of the Atlantic the disdain looked blatantly evident. Considering the treatment accorded the President of the United States, one can only imagine that  dispensed to young black drug offenders in the prison system, whether public or private.

Jill Filopivic Writes in The Guardian

I’d like to cite here a couple of paragraphs from Jill Filopivic writing for The Guardian, examples of how the American private-prison situation is seen by many people in the rest of the world.

“The privatization of traditional government functions – and big government payments to private contractors – isn’t limited to international intelligence operations like the National Security Agency. It’s happening with little oversight in dozens of areas once the province of government, from schools to airports to the military. The shifting of government responsibilities to private actors isn’t without consequence, as privatization often comes with a lack of oversight and a series of abuses. One particularly stunning example is the American prison system, the realities of which should be a national disgrace.

Some of those realities are highlighted in a recent lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of prisoners at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility (EMCF). The ACLU contends the facility, which is operated by private contractors, is rife with horrific abuses.

The complaint lists a litany of such horrors: rampant rapes and placing prisoners in solitary confinement for weeks, months or even years at a time, where the only way to get a guard’s attention in an emergency is to set a fire. Rat infestations are so bad that vermin crawl over prisoners; sometimes, the rats are captured, put on leashes and sold as pets to the most severely mentally ill inmates.

There are many suicide attempts, some successful. The untreated mentally ill throw feces, scream, start fires, electrocute themselves and self-mutilate. The prison authorities deny or delay treatment for infections and even cancer. Stabbings, beatings and other acts of violence are common. Juveniles are housed with adults, including one 16-year-old who was sexually assaulted by his adult cell mate. Malnourishment and chronic hunger abound. Officers deal with prisoners by using physical violence…”

So don’t think that nobody’s looking.

Is There a Solution?

If there is a way out, it’s not in plain view. Because in order to solve the prison problem you have to start by solving everything else, as all of the United States’s critical issues are interrelated: health, education, militarization, white supremacy, social programs, corruption in business and government (including legal corruption like gerrymandering and hard-cash lobbying, that legislators have legalized in order to write their own tickets), unregulated killer capitalism, guns uncontrolled, inequality on all fronts… That is to say, virtually all of the sick values that underlie a terminally ill society.

Just imagine yourself sitting on the tip of a massive iceberg with a paddle, paddling like crazy trying to turn it around 180 degrees. Are you optimistic? Neither am I.

Back to Part 1

Read more rants in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

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U.S. Private Prisons Have Failed — 2/3

 

Kids for Cash

U.S. Drug Issues Were Perverted for Many Decades by One Man

Please note: “Richard Nixon simply presented his stance in terms that appealed specifically to his conservative base.” Therein lies an eternal problem with right-wing politics. In order to appeal specifically to a conservative collective you have to simplify your message so that it can be understood by simple citizens, simple legislators and simple Presidents. This inevitably leads to simple solutions to complex problems. And it doesn’t always work.

If we follow the historical record back to the 1930s we find a man called Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics, given carte blanche by fanatical F.B.I. director, J. Edgar Hoover, to criminalize drugs that, until then, had been considered medical and social issues. Anslinger remained in office for 32 years and perverted drug issues in the United States until the very end. It was Anslinger who turned cannabis into a crime–and big business–and helped to export the Americans’ puritan conception of drug problems and retrograde solutions around the world. This was the moment to regulate drugs, to help addicts (though marijuana is not clinically addictive) and to clean up American society, not to criminalize drug users and give rise to the illicit drug trade behemoth and the largest prison population in the world,

Coincidentally, It’s Also about Profit

The most recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Justice cite 133,000 state and federal prisoners in private facilities, 8.4% of the total U.S. prison population. Over the past 20 years the Correction Corporation of America, the largest private-prison company in the country has seen its profits rise by more than 500% with the overall prison industry’s revenue topping five billion dollars in revenue in 2011.

Such handsome sums attracted the attention of big investors like investment banks and vulture funds. The appearence of big money also gave rise to large-scale corruption and morally repugnant practices. The most egregious of these was the Pennsylvania “Kids for Cash” scandal, in which two judges accepted million-dollar cash commissions from a private reformatory for sending juveniles to their facility, often on trivial charges. Many of these children, some as young as 13, were  subjected to successively extended sentences  under “indefinite probation” laws, winding up spending six or seven years in prison for schoolyard shenanigans. The heinousness of this practice merits more extensive treatment in another post which I will get to as soon as I can.

Market Forces Create Sleazy Prison Industry Interest Groups

Less theatrical but also outrageous is the lobbying carried out by the prison business. The influence of the private prison industry on the government has been described as the “prison–industrial complex.” The term reflects the rapid expansion of the US inmate population due to the political influence of private prison companies and prison supply businesses. The most common agents of the prison-industrial complex are corporations that contract cheap prison labor, such as construction companies, surveillance technology vendors, companies that operate prison food services and medical facilities, private probation companies, lawyers, and the lobby groups that represent them.

Before these programs, prison labor for the private sector had been outlawed for decades in order to avoid competition with conventional businesses. The introduction of prison labor in the private sector contributed to the cultivation of  the prison-industrial complex. Between the years 1980 and 1994, prison industry profits jumped from $392 million to $1.31 billion.

Private prison companies have been members of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a public policy organization that develops model legislation that advances free-market principles such as privatization. Under their Criminal Justice Task Force, ALEC has developed model (just fill in the blanks) bills which State legislators can then use when proposing “tough on crime” initiatives. By funding and participating in ALEC’s Criminal Justice Task Forces, critics argue, private prison companies influence legislation for tougher, longer sentences. Writing in Governing magazine in 2003, Alan Greenblatt states:

“ALEC has been a major force behind both privatizing state prison space and keeping prisons filled. It puts forward bills providing for mandatory minimum sentences and three-strikes sentencing requirements. About 40 states passed versions of ALEC’s Truth in Sentencing model bill, which requires prisoners convicted of violent crimes to serve most of their sentences without chance of parole.”

In 2016 the U.S. Department of Justice pronounced privately-operated federal detention facilities less safe, less secure and more punitive than other federal prisons and announced the department’s intention to stop using them. Then Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election and on February 25, 2017 the Justice Department, under the new Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, overturned the ban on using private prisons. It was another of the Trump administration’s grotesque steps backwards.

Private Prisons Are Not a Bargain

A 2001 study concluded that a pattern of sending less-expensive-to-keep inmates to privately run facilities artificially inflated their cost savings. A 2005 study found that Arizona’s public facilities were seven times more likely than private prisons to house violent offenders and three times more likely to house those convicted of more serious offenses. A 2011 report by the American Civil Liberties Union point out that private prisons are more costly, more violent and less accountable than public prisons, and are actually a major contributor to increased mass incarceration.

This is most apparent in Louisiana, which is finally number one in something. It has the highest incarceration rate in the world. And it houses the majority of its inmates in for-profit facilities. Marie Gottschalk, professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, argues that the prison industry “engages in a lot of cherry-picking and cost-shifting to maintain the illusion that the private sector does it better for less.” She notes that studies generally show that private facilities are more dangerous for both correctional officers and inmates than their public counterparts as a result of cost-cutting measures, such as spending less on training for correctional officers (and paying them lower wages) and providing only the most basic medical care for inmates.

Go to: U.S. Private Prisons Have Failed, Part 3

Read more rant in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

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U.S. Private Prisons Have Failed — 1/3

.And That’s Not the Worst News

From the very beginning of the rise of private prisons  in the United States in the 1980s it seemed to me that something was inherently wrong with mixing prisons and profit.  It reeked of exploitation of the most defenseless members of society, people who are imprisoned, especially when those people are children. It seems only natural to me that the degree of success of the prison business is a function of how much profit can be increased by shaving important factors like staff numbers and training, medical and food services, education programs, job training, etc.

My suspicions proved to be right. Despite the legal requirement to match the standards of public prisons, private facilities have failed to maintain the same level of safety and security, according to declarations by Deputy U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates on August 18, 2016. This statement provided fuel for an ongoing effort to have private prisons banned, or at least discontinued. Yates was later named Acting Attorney General of the United States by President Donald Trump and subsequently dismissed by him on January 30, 2017 after his team had decided to give priority to investors in the lucrative incarceration business.

The Americans Learned It from the Brits

American private prison traditions go back a long way, actually originating in Britain. After the Revolutionary War (1775-1783), deprived of the possibility of transporting convicts to the American colonies the British began housing them in prison ships moored in British ports. In the modern era, the U.K again leads the way. Wolds Prison opened as the first privately managed prison in the UK (and in Europe) in 1992. Today all UK prisons are privately run and all of them are legally required to turn a profit. But after a critical report regarding a privately-operated jail, the Labour party’s shadow justice secretary said they would be inclined to take control of for-profit prisons if the industry competitors had not met deadlines and rules imposed upon them. The chief inspector of prisons Nick Hardwick, recommended the creation of a government takeover contingency plan.

“It’s not delivering what the public should expect of the millions being paid  to run it.” said Sadiq Khan, a Member of Parliament later to become the mayor of London, “I see no difference whether the underperformance is in the public, private or voluntary sector… We shouldn’t tolerate mediocrity in the running of our prisons.” Khan continued: “We can’t go on with scandal after scandal, where the public’s money is being squandered and the quality of what’s delivered isn’t up to scratch. The government is too reliant on a cosy group of big companies. The public are rightly getting fed up to the back teeth of big companies making huge profits out of the taxpayer, which smacks to them of rewards for failure.”

The abuses in private facilities on the American side of the Atlantic are also historic, beginning in the post-Civil War South. Labor was scarce after the slaves were freed so “convict leases” were issued to plantations and businesses to supplement their work forces, a system that smells of slavery, and survived till the early 20th century. Coincidentally, today the majority of private prisons in the U.S. are in the South, coinciding roughly with states associated with the rich American tradition of lynching.

The War on Drugs and Creeping Privatization

The privatization of certain non-custodial prison services–medical and food services, vocational training, transportation, etc. has been standard procedure in the U.S. for a long time but it wasn’t until 1981 when President Nixon’s War on Drugs, with its more frequent and longer prison terms, gave rise to the necessity for additional lockup facilities. It didn’t take the private sector long to identify the business opportunities. Their foot in the door was the takeover of the management of the prison in Hamilton, Tennessee by the Correction Corporation of America. Prisons soon became big business and private companies were building their own prisons and filling them with drug offenders and other convicts.

Nixon’s War on Drugs has been intimately linked to the exponential growth of the American prison system, both public and private, into the largest prison population in the industrialized world with 698 people incarcerated per 100,000 population. (The U.S. is topped only by miniscule island country of the Seychelles out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, with a population of 94,700 and an incarceration rate of 798. In all fairness they have to deal with pirates from all over the world, for whom they have built a special prison.)  But how does a modern, industrialized, technological, educated, democratic, Christian country like the U.S.A. become the world’s biggest jailer in absolute terms: 2.2 million prisoners?

It’s about Original Sin

An article by Emily Dufton in The Atlantic in 2012,  The War on Drugs: How President Nixon Tied Addiction to Crime, traces the recent history of the criminalization of drugs. She says,

“The issue of drug addiction has long straddled the line between being framed as a medical, political, or moral issue. Richard Nixon simply presented his stance in terms that appealed specifically to his conservative base. Andrew Hacker, in his 1973 article On Original Sin and Conservatives,’ summed up the ‘personal-culpability’ argument succinctly when he claimed that conservatives believe that ‘man is infected by the virus of Original Sin…’

“This is precisely the ideology that underscored all of Nixon’s drug war policies and allowed him to present himself as the moral solution to failed liberal initiatives. It was a delusion to assume that we could cure social problems that are, at root, lapses in moral judgment and the mark of original sin. The addict doesn’t need to be cured. Rather, he needs to be contained before he can do any additional harm. Launching a war that emphasizes forfeiture and “no-knock” drug busts over rehabilitation or treatment is the most logical outcome of this reasoning, one that we’ve endured since 1971.”

Go to: U.S. Private Prisons Have Failed, Part 2

Read the whole story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

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Ford Foundation/CIA: Two-Headed Philanthropy – 2/3

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Three-Day-Old Fish

So when my conversation with the South American Gentleman turned to my old classmate, I asked him, “What’s Old Friend up to these days? Is he still at the Ford Foundation?”

“No,” said SAG, “he reached a very high position in the Ford Foundation, but then left them and went to work for a Washington think tank.” He seemed impressed with OF’s near miraculous ascent.

“I’m not surprised,” I said, “I always suspected the Ford Foundation was a CIA front organization. It seems logical to me that he should go from there to a ‘Washington think tank’. Doesn’t that smell to you a bit like three-day-old fish?”

“Oh no,” protested SAG, “the Ford Foundation does very valuable work around the world, nothing to do with the CIA.”

The Poor Man’s Think Tank is Google

The following day SAG and his charming wife came out to our house for lunch and a visit to Maureen’s etching studio. We drove them back to their hotel and dropped them off with effusive goodbyes. The Ford Foundation/CIA question continued to gnaw at the back of my mind, however. Back to Google, where I pop in: “Ford Foundation, CIA,” and come up with 809,000 results, which seemed to me rather a lot for a relationship that didn’t exist. I didn’t read them all. I didn’t need to. Just the first half dozen told me what I needed to know.

One of the principal whistle blowers is James Petras, retired Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of sociology at Binghamton University, SUNY, NY, who wrote in a 2001 article:

The Ford Foundation’s history of collaboration and interlock with the CIA in pursuit of U.S. world hegemony is now a well-documented fact… The Ford Foundation has in some ways refined their style of collaboration with Washington’s attempt to produce world cultural domination, but retained the substance of that policy… The ties between the top officials of the Ford Foundation and the U.S. government are explicit and continuing. —James Petras in “The Ford Foundation and the CIA: A documented case of philanthropic collaboration with the Secret Police.”

According to Petras:

The CIA considers foundations such as Ford ‘The best and most plausible kind of funding cover.’ The collaboration of respectable and prestigious foundations, according to one former CIA operative allowed the Agency to fund ‘a seemingly limitless range of covert action programs affecting youth groups, labor unions, universities, publishing houses and other private institutions.’ The latter included ‘human rights’ groups beginning in the 1950s to the present. One of the most important‘private foundations’ collaborating with the CIA over a significant span of time in major projects in the cultural Cold War is the Ford Foundation.

Ford Foundation/CIA, Like a Horse and Carriage

As it turns out, for more than half a century the Ford Foundation has been up to its neck in sinister CIA oobleck. From their big donations to the CIA-front Congress for Cultural Freedom and former Foundation president Richard Bissell’s relationship with DCI Allen Dulles in the 1950’s to their funding of anti-leftist human rights groups which focus on attacking human rights violations of U.S. adversaries, the Ford Foundation has worked as an extraordinarily effective CIA meta-front in the business of financing other CIA front organizations.

Coming soon, Ford Foundation/CIA: Two-Headed Philanthropy – 3/3

Read the whole story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

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Ford Foundation/CIA: Two-Headed Philanthropy – 3/3

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American academic, Joan Roelofs, in Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism (State University of New York Press, 2003) argues that Ford and similar foundations play a key role in co-opting opposition movements:

While dissent from ruling class ideas is labeled ‘extremism’ and is isolated, individual dissenters may be welcomed and transformed. Indeed, ruling class hegemony is more durable if it is not rigid and narrow, but is able dynamically to incorporate emergent trends. Roelofs reports that John J. McCloy, while chairman of the Foundation’s board of trustees, ‘…thought of the Foundation as a quasi-extension of the U.S. government. It was his habit, for instance, to drop by the National Security Council (NSC) in Washington every couple of months and casually ask whether there were any overseas projects the NSC would like to see funded.’ Roelofs also charges that the Ford Foundation financed counter-insurgency programs in Indonesia and other countries.

Bob Feldman’s long article, Alternative Media Censorship: Sponsored by CIA’s Ford Foundation? offers more spine-chilling details of how these two “philanthropic institutions” work together to advance the gringo agenda in the alternative news media. Feldman’s article explains in part why haven’t we read about this FF-CIA collusion before, even in the freak press. He writes on the Questions Questions website:

The multi-billion dollar Ford Foundation’s historic relationship to the Central Intelligence Agency is rarely mentioned on Pacifica’s Democracy Now / Deep Dish TV show, on Fair’s Counterspin show, on the Working Assets radio show, on The Nation Institute’s Radio Nation show, on David Barsamian’s Alternative Radio show or in the pages of Progressive, Mother Jones and Z Magazine. One reason may be because the Ford Foundation and other establishment philanthropic organizations subsidize the Establishment Left’s alternative media gatekeepers/censors.

See a fascinating diagram of this insidious “gatekeepers” phenomenon at the bottom of this page.

It’s a Pleasure and a Privilege to See Through You, Ford Foundation/CIA

Back to OF and SAG: Is it even remotely possible that SAG, an ongoing recipient of Ford Foundation funds for his human-rights work around the world, is unaware of the half-century-long carnal relationship between FF and CIA? If he is aware of it, why does he deny it so emphatically? If he isn’t, what’s wrong with him? Is he one of the individual dissenters who were welcomed and transformed, in Roelofs’ words, by the Ford Foundation and the CIA?

In any case, it has been a privilege to observe even marginally the machinations of the formidable Ford Foundation-CIA two-headed Orthrus, the philanthropic dog, and to confirm my suspicions regarding OF’s true colors, which explain, at least in part, his rapturous ascension to a high position in a septic think tank, to sit at the right hand of Power.

.Read the whole story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

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Ford Foundation/CIA: Two-Headed Philanthropy – 1/3

orthrus

The Sin, Not the Sinner

A few years ago I received an email from a South American gentleman I had never met. He said that he and his wife were coming to Spain on vacation and that an old friend of mine had recommended that they stop by Granada to visit us. I was bemused because more than 30 years ago we decided that this “old friend,” admittedly a guy I had grown up and gone to college with, was probably a CIA agent, and we haven’t had any contact with him since. I won’t tell you the names of the South American gentleman (SAG) nor the old friend (OF), as I’m not so much interested in discrediting them personally as describing the intricately devious world they operate in. The Spanish say, “You name the sin, not the sinner…” (“Se dice el pecado, no el pecador…”)

SAG Loves to Travel

Before SAG and his wife arrived I did a Google search on him and discovered that he had been since the early 1970’s an eminence in the South American human rights movement, was even imprisoned there, and that he remains active promoting the cause around the world. This work took him on a dozen trips to different world capitals last year. When they arrived we picked them up at their hotel in Granada and drove them to our favorite village restaurant, where SAG insisted upon inviting us. We were both struck by his cosmopolitan air, his charm and erudition, his excellent spoken English, and the tasteful gift of flowers his wife presented to Maureen. SAG was surprisingly up on everything from the primary elections in the United States to contemporary art and the films of Stanley Kubrick, from which he could quote whole paragraphs of dialogue. In all he seemed quite a formidable person.

He only made one remark that struck a dissonant chord in me. When I asked him about his views of the 1973 Pinochet military coup in Chile, he replied that it was a result of “the excesses of idealism.” I was too embarrassed to ask him to elaborate on that cryptic remark, though it seemed quite clear to me that he was blaming on the victims the Chilean army’s bloody coup against a democratically elected government and the subsequent repression that took many lives and ruined many others.

OF Has a History

A bit of background on OF: When we graduated from MSU in 1965 he went into the Peace Corps and was sent to Latin America. I worked in PR for a year before being drafted into the army. When OF left the Peace Corps he went to the University of Chicago to take a PhD in education. Did this make him one of the notorious “Chicago boys?” I suspected as much. (I am reminded of Alden Pyle, the character played by Brendan Frazer opposite Michael Caine’s Thomas Fowler in the 2003 film of Graham Greene’s The Quiet American.) Shortly afterwards OF surfaced in the Ford Foundation, working in Latin America on “educational and human rights issues.” When he came to visit us in Granada around 1974 he had recently left Chile in the wake of the coup. He was later to go back.

Coming soon, Ford Foundation/CIA: Two-Headed Philanthropy – 2/3

Read the whole story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

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Permanent War Is Bad for You

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But It’s So Good for Business; What Can We Do?

I wonder if the American dedication to permanent war over the past quarter century worries you as much as it does me. And it’s looking more permanent every day, as if the country had developed a bellicose addiction. It comes in colors: black ops, pre-emptive strikes, war by false flags, war by proxies, mercenary wars. What to do about it? I’ll do what I normally do, write it up, in the vain hope that someone will at least notice the absurdity and injustice of the situation.

I’ve got some specific concerns regarding this “Permawar” business.  Permanent war means victims every day, victims of all flavors, young and old, saints and sinners, most every type of person in fact, except politicians and war profiteers. I do want to include soldiers in this list of victims. They are, after all, human beings, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, all with families, dreams and ambitions to lose in a war. And most of them don’t want to be there in the first place.

Then there are the elderly and children, the utterly helpless. Yours are safe at home for now, but theirs are daily exposed to the biblical wrath of American military might at the hands of GI’s, U.S. “contractors” or neighboring proxy killers on the ground. Or they are victims of the even-more-sinister remote death from the sky delivered by troglodyte mannish boys playing video games in Nevada.

The Effect on the United States is Devastating

I’m also worried about the kickback damage done to the Americans at home. War is expensive. The twelve-zero sums that finance the forever wars have to come from somewhere. They come from the domestic budget, and don’t leave much money for anything else. This is why any European country has better roads and bridges than the United States. Between the defense budget (“defense” being an Orwellian euphemism, of course) and the refinancing of the country’s biggest banks and finance companies, the American lower and middle classes were pauperized. Their poverty begat a deficient education system which begat inequality, which begat delinquency and the largest prison population in the world.

That’s another issue that is seldom mentioned by “responsible journalists,” the fact that most of these wars seem made to order for arms manufacture profiteering. Does the mass media live in another dimension that doesn’t permit them to see certain aspects of the permanent war game? Permawar is a hedge-fund manager’s dream: an unending stream of parasites to be parasited. The reconstituted banks, meanwhile, have ascended straight into heaven on the backs of their investments in the arms-of-mass-destruction business. (You’re not going to pretend that cruise missiles and nuclear bombs aren’t “arms of mass destruction,” are you?)

One is tempted to wonder if the Permawar Machine wasn’t created purposely by a group of demented plutocrats to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich–The Trickle Up Machine–which they, never to miss a chance to exercise their fine sense of irony,  dubbed benevolently the “Trickle Down Machine.” So it goes.

Self-Censorship on Auto-Pilot

It also strikes me as uncanny that scarcely anyone over there who writes or speaks on the subject in the mainline American media ever mentions the fact that most of these senseless wars are about “the enemies'” strategic natural resources, the main (but far from only) one being oil. “What about Afghanistan?” you ask. “They don’t have oil wells.”

That’s true but, according to surveys done by the United States Geological Survey  a decade ago, Afghanistan sits atop a trillion-dollar lode of gold, silver and platinum, as well as significant quantities of iron ore, uranium, zinc, chromium, tantalum, bauxite, coal, copper and natural gas. Some experts have suggested that this impoverished, war-torn Himalayan country might also be on it’s way to becoming “the Saudi Arabia of lithium”, thanks to vast deposits of the raw material used in phone and electric car batteries. In all it amounts to an Aladdin’s cave just waiting to be plundered. This article from The Independent (August, 2017) highlights President Donald Trump’s interest in the subject.

Small, Important Voices

The most compelling comment on this lamentable situation comes not from the all-powerful American mass media, but from the humble blogosphere. Here’s a moving paragraph from a 1915 blog post by Jase Short entitled The Permanent War on Afghanistan-A Personal Reflection:

“9/11 and the war on Afghanistan woke me up to the situation in the world and made me who I am today. But what is shocking is that … the people of Afghanistan have been subject to the same violence for 14 straight years. They do not have the privilege of shrugging their shoulders or enjoying the emotional distance of screens. They are there when the daisy cutter bombs hit, when the hunter killer teams collect their grotesque trophies of human body parts, when killer robots massacre wedding parties. Caught between the occupation, its local agents, and the Taliban itself, these are the people whose lives have been turned into instruments of global politics.”

I wish I had said that.

Read the full story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

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What America Learned from the Germans — 2/2

Mind_Bending3

(Continued from Part 1)

More on the Propaganda Techniques Employed by the Nazis

  • Glittering Generalities, which Yourman characterizes as “the use of “virtue words” to appeal to emotions of love, generosity and brotherhood. This phenomenon extends to references to German traditions dating back to the Middle Ages, especially the word “volk,” pronounced “folk.” German farmers were seduced to back the Third Reich with constant associations with “Blut und Boden,” (Blood and Soil) and bound by oaths of “Bauer honor” to tie them to the land and prevent them from changing their occupation or residence. The Nazis needed every sector of their economy dominated and running smoothly  if they were going to win the upcoming war.
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Every country has its own benevolent myths regarding their own folks but the Nazis milked them dry. The Americans did something similar after the war. The myths of the “self-made man,” the “hardy frontiersman” and other old saws were elevated to such heights of nincompoopery that they gave rise to a full-blown axiomatic truth called “American Exeptionalism,” a truth just as true as “Manifest Destiny” and The Tooth Fairy.

Americans Are So Special They Have Carte Blanche

It maintains that Americans are qualitatively different from the rest of the people in the world and therefore can write their own rules and apply them to everybody. Written down in black and white, this is patently silly, but right-thinking Americans take it as holy writ. And one American administration after another interprets it as a license to wreak havoc anywhere they fancy.
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  • Transfer is a device by which the propagandist carries over the authority, sanction, and prestige of something we respect and revere to something he would have us accept. The pseudo-deification of Chancellor Hitler is an outstanding example of this device. Nazi propagandists seeked to establish him as a quasi divinity and to transfer to him the religious feelings of the German people; then to transfer from him the “divine” sanction to the policies, practices, beliefs, and hatreds which he espouses.
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    The concepts of patriotism  and terrorism work in similar ways. They become “trigger words” to be transfered to any cause the power elite want to promote. The former authorizes shipping young Americans to die in far-off places with funny names; the latter is a useful wild card for use at home (immigrant bans) and abroad (the invasion/subversion/devastation of any country possessing scarce natural resources.)
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  • The Testimonial makes us accept anything from a patent medicine or a cigarette to a program of national policy. From the fact that “the Fuehrer knows the goal and knows the direction,” it follows that his is the supreme testimonial. Hitler is the arbiter of everything. No specialist knows better than he does, no recommendation can be better than his. He can deny even the authority of science. Only the conclusions of “German science” as approved by the Fuehrer may be accepted. When the conclusions of science do not accord with his wishes, as in genetics, a new science has to be invented; its prestige then has to be established by his testimonial.’
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    It’s the same with the arts. Only that art which is approved by the Fuehrer and his subordinates as German art may be accepted by the German people.He also decrees how men and women shall live their lives. The kind of life which has the Fuehrer’s approval is that which is surrendered to the state. In this Hitler is the arbiter; his approval is the supreme testimonial.
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  • Plain Folks is used by politicians, labor leaders, business men, and even by ministers and educators to win our confidence by appearing to be people like ourselves, “just plain folks among the neighbors.” As for Hitler, at the same time he was canonized as a demigod an attempt was made to transform him into a “man of the people.” This plain-folks ploy has become increasingly popular since Hitler’s time. Who could be more man of the people than the current American President… “current” that is if he’s still in office by the time you read this.
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  • Card Stacking is a device in which the propagandist employs all the arts of deception to win our support for himself, his group, nation, race, policy, practice, belief, or ideal. He stacks the cards against the truth, using underemphasis and overemphasis to dodge or evade facts. Thus a regime has freedom to give publicity to falsehoods. Hitler approves such duplicity in Mein Kampf  when he writes: “Propaganda does not have to seek objectively for the truth so far as it favors an opponent . .. but exclusively has to serve our interests.” This sounds eerily familiar today. In a superb ideological double back flip its prime practitioner actually gave it a name: “fake news.”
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  • The Band Wagon makes us follow the crowd, to accept the propagandist’s program en masse. The technique can be used to further any agenda, no matter how vile. People in a well-ordered country love rallying behind a leader, just as they love a parade. One of the great unifying principles adopted by the National Socialists is that of hate. Among the passages deleted from the English version of Mein Kampf, Hitler has written: “Hate is more lasting than dislike, and the thrusting power for the  mightiest upheavals on this earth has at all times come less from scientific recognition than from a fanaticism that fills the souls of the masses and in a forward-driving hysteria” (vorwaertsiagenden hysterie).”
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    In accordance with this principle Jews, communists, liberals, and democrats became objects of hatred and scapegoats that could be made to suffer for the supposed distress the caused in German society. Unity is further encouraged by patriotic demonstrations. Typical in these are gigantic crowds of people, massed ranks of uniformed troops, bands playing patriotic and martial airs, voices declaiming from a hundred mechanical mouths, ecstatic marchers carrying flickering torches, their resinous smoke blending into the darkness, flags and swastikas everywhere.
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Excellent Propaganda Won’t Do It Alone

Yourman adds a caveat to his list of propaganda techniques that worked for the Nazis.

“We must guard against assuming that German Fascism or any other variety of fascism arises from propaganda alone. German Fascism came into being not primarily because of Hitler’s masterful skill as a propagandist but because conditions of unemployment, impoverishment, despair, anger, and resentment were such in Germany that any person or group offering salvation in terms sufficiently appealing could have influenced profoundly the political and economic decisions of the German people. Hitler was sufficiently appealing. With the financial support of certain individuals and the intrigues and incompetencies of men like von Papen and Hindenburg, fascism becomes a reality.

“The Germans, traditionally nationalistic and arrogantly proud, were defeated, humiliated, crippled, and degraded by World War I. Nazi ideology first made them racially superior, the Nazi politics and force proved their right as a world power and revealed again their interrupted “destiny.” It was a combination of economic breakdown, governmental weakness, frustrated morale, and propaganda which made pre-Nazi Germany ready for fascism. A similar combination could bring fascism elsewhere. Propaganda has no meaning and hence no effectiveness except in terms of life conditions of people-their needs, fears, hatreds, loves, aspirations, prejudices, and traditions. These affect propaganda as much as propaganda affects people.”

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How is your country doing lately for incompetent leaders and for attending the “needs, fears, hatreds, loves, aspirations, prejudices, and traditions of its citizens?”  Be prepared.

Go to: What America Learned from the Germans, Part 1

P.S. I just ran across this article in The Atlantic last night. I want to put a link to it here, as it’s germain to our ongoing discussion of American values. I always thought that white supremacy was an aberrance that was rejected by all mentally healthy Americans. The truth is quite different. It turns out that the Germans also learned something from the Americans.

Back to Part 1/2

Read the full story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

Thanks for commenting and sharing.

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What America Learned from the Germans — 1/2

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Mind Bending in the U.S.A

Do you find yourself asking lately, “What’s happened to America?” How did their society get from there to here without anybody shouting out, “Whoa, what’s going on here?!” What happened to neighborliness, to altruism and humanism? Where’s the kind of activism that brought an end to the Vietnam War? What happened to academic freedom, free of classrooms monitored by right-wing informers? It’s as if a toxic fog of egoism, cynicism and arrogant ignorance had descended on the country.

People’s minds have been changed radically on most important issues and that mind changing has led to a long series of regrettable reverses in American government policy at home and abroad. Lets boil these changes down for the sake of brevity: 1/ Egregious inequality and racism at home and 2/ Colonial wars overseas.

I think we can agree on what has happened. Great swaths of the American people have changed their minds regarding the kind of world they want to live in. And their choices are largely driven by greed, white supremacy and mindless nationalism, not generosity and concern for the common good. The mystery is: How and why did these changes come about?

Massive shifts in values, lifestyles and aspirations don’t just happen by spontaneous combustion. Those changes were somehow provoked. Powerful (i.e. rich) people, or groups of powerful people, took it upon themselves to change American society’s values and modes of living. They ditched Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “soft-hearted and soft-headed” New Deal model of society and supplanted it with something more “businesslike,” something less expensive and more profitable. More profitable for whom? Guess.

How to Turn a Great Country from Idealism to Bare-Fisted Profit

However powerful they may be, the rich in the United States are a minority. They have little possibility of changing the direction of the country with their own votes. To change the mindset of an advanced country of a few hundred million fairly-well-educated people is a large order. How did they go about it? They used a two-pronged approach: 1/ Buy influence at the top, in the Congress, and 2/ Influence the voting choices of ingenuous voters. To achieve the latter they had to first make the voters more ingenuous. This is usually referred to as “dumbing down,” and through retrograde educational policies and the use of the mainstream media, which they own, the affluent minority did a magnificent job.

In fact, they didn’t have to do too much inventing. All they had to do was find a model that had already proven effective and adapt it to their own needs. That model was the highly-successful, full-court-press propaganda campaign used by the German Nazis to turn their country around in the 1930’s. It was frighteningly effective, and we’re lucky enough to have a detailed description of it from which we might learn something, if it’s not too late.

Our Legacy from a Young American Sociologist

In 1939 Julius Yourman, a 34-year-old sociologist at N.Y.U., wrote an article entitled “Propaganda Techniques within Nazi Germany” for the Journal of Educational Sociology. He begins his article with this premise:

The extent to which the propaganda machinery of a country has been brought under the control of one organization or of a group of related organizations is a useful measure of the degree to which absolutism dominates it, and of the extent to which democracy has been eliminated.

Yourman continues (and please remember that this was written in early 1939, six years after the Nazis took power in Germany and almost three years before the United States entered the war on December 8, 1941, the day after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor):

Since the advent of the National Socialists the power of the agencies of propaganda has been intensified and coordinated so that all avenues of communication-press, school, radio, motion picture, and even the church-must carry but one propaganda to the public mind, must express one will, one voice, one opinion. Hence the Hitler regime has, in common with other fascist countries, established a system wherein authority flows from the top down; and from the people comes blind, instant, unquestioning obedience.

Yourman divides the National Socialist propaganda effort into “seven common propaganda devices,” and analyzes each one.  Note the word “common.” The Nazis didn’t have to invent much, either, rather just trace a plan using time-tested publicity techniques and implement them systematically and implacably.

I confess that, as I read Yourman’s comments on the measures the Nazis took to twist their country’s values so grotesquely, I started seeing parallels with our own times, perhaps not so extreme yet, but definitely along the same lines. See if you don’t agree.

It’s as Easy as Selling Coca Cola, Using the Same Techniques

Let’s take them from the top:

  • Name Calling. Yourman deems this “a device to make us form a judgment without examining the evidence on which it should be based.” After a few years of relentless bombarding their countrymen with anti-trade-union, anti-bolshevik, anti-Jewish and anti-democratic name calling, the Nazis had convinced them that “these devilish inventions were cleverly designed by malicious persons to ruin the German people.”Once German citizens were convinced that communism was being foisted on them by a vicious and degenerate cabal of alien enemies, then the Nazis could rally all good Germans around the Fuehrer, who promised to protect his people by waging endless war on these “enemies of the state.”  Where did they find most of these subversives, victims of their endless war? In Checoslovakia and Poland at first, then ultimately in most of the countries of Europe. The didn’t make it to Iraq and Afghanistan because the Allies (principally  UK, the Soviet Union, the US and France)  didn’t give them enough time.
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    The German liberals were also lumped in with the enemies of the state. To be a “liberal” or to believe in the “stupid doctrine of equality” was to be a lilly-livered “red.” (Sound familiar?) The same talent the Nazis had for invective they had for praising the German people’s homespun virtues of “honesty, decency, workmanship, good will and rich emotionalism,” most of which would go out the window by the end of the war.

    Read the full story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

    Thanks for commenting and sharing.

    Go to Part 2

Coming.

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It’s Far Worse Than You Realize

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Trump, Trump, Trump…

It’s not only about Trump. He’s just the token tip of the American iceberg. Look beneath, that’s where all the serious–and seriously scary–stuff is to be found. Ironically, most of the players and issues that affect your lives in meaningful ways–both positive and negative–don’t make the papers much and, even if they did, Americans don’t read the papers as much as they used to.

So, what are the American people up against? They (you?) are facing a systematic undoing of laws and institutions, regulations and rights that have protected American citizens for many years. The following are just a few examples. Suddenly the Secretary of the Interior becomes the Secretary of Wrecking the Interior. How is this demolition operation going on? See this clip from the NY Times: 52 Environmental Rules on the Way Out Under Trump.

Trump’s Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, (born in Selma, Alabama, 1946) is taking similar backward steps in the Justice Department. Here’s what USA Today had to say on the subject. And the Secretary of Education, Betsy de Vos (sister of Eric Prince, founder of Blackwater USA, now known, ironically it seems, as Academi) wants to use America’s schools to build “God’s Kingdom.”

What Is to Be Done

Obviously, the first and most urgent step in the treatment of the American domestic and geopolitical malaise is to remove President Trump from office before he and his merry band of trolls dismantles the American government utterly. This removal would have to be carried out by legal means, of course. Here’s a brief summary of the impeachment process: Article Two of the United States Constitution states in Section 4 that:

“The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The House of Representatives has the sole power of impeaching, while the United States Senate has the sole power to try all impeachments. The removal of impeached officials is automatic upon conviction in the Senate.”

But who can guarantee that the Representatives would impeach President Trump or that the Senators who tried Trump would convict him? Far worse, supposing that he were convicted and ordered out of the White House are we sure that his rabidly loyal followers would obey the law and respect that eviction? They are, after all, the ones who own most of the unregulated guns in the United States and they appear to be prepared to use them. Yes, they probably could be overwhelmed by the Army but it would be one hell of a mess. Would it even come to a showdown between the Army and Trump’s unconditionals? Whose side would the police and the Army be on?

It’s Not Just Trump and His Trumpeteers

Now that we’ve got those sticky questions on hold, back to our premise: It’s not just Trump nor his atypical cabinet you’re up against. It’s the entire U.S. power structure. It’s the great lobbies, from the banks and arms manufacturers, big pharma and the NRA, to tobacco and the corporate media.  All of these interests are in the business of buying legislators in order to win them over to the lobbyists respective causes. How is this possible in the United States of America? It’s not only possible, it’s legal. This kind of government tampering in the form of lobbying was legalized by the legislators themselves.  This mercantile treatment of “democratic” power is, however, illegal in the rest of Western democracies.

Outside the U.S. everbody down to the last busboy in the cafeteria is acutely aware that when business interests start controlling their presidents, primer ministers, legislators and jurists, the essence is sucked out of their democracy, leaving it a “democracy” in name only. Is this to say that I am casting doubt here on the legitimacy of American democracy itself? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m suggesting.

Wait, there’s more. There are other powerful twisting factors that come from both home and abroad, the former principally from freelance amateur billionaire “activists,” wacky end-of-times religious groups and the Pentagon. Then there are the threats from from foreign countries. The first one that comes to mind is Israel. Their lobbying operation, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), represents the Likud-led Israeli government’s interests in the U.S.  One of several pro-Israel lobbying organizations in the United States, AIPAC claims more than 100,000 members, seventeen regional offices, and “a vast pool of donors.” The organization has been called one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the United States. Virtually all members of the United States Congress have sworn allegiance to the Israeli cause, with all of its ramifications.

Yet, what are the U.S. corporate media going berserk about? Russian meddling in U.S. elections. Naturally.

Strangleholds and Anti-Semites

Critics accuse AIPAC of being an agent of the Israeli government with a “stranglehold” on the United States Congress with its power and influence. Any attempt, no matter how tepid, to oppose the Netanyahu government’s policies is branded “anti-semitism” by AIPAC and the “offenders” are ostracised on all fronts. Consequently almost nobody opposes AIPAC. It’s too dangerous for anyone who hopes to have a political future in the U.S.

Everyone who has eyes to see–including the right-wing Israelis themselves–know that the main issue here is not racism against Jews. If there’s any racism involved it’s Israeli bias agains their neighbors, the Palestinians and Iranians. One suspects that, more than anything else, this has to do with Israel’s pressing need for lebensraum.

According to American Arms Manufacturers Not All Arabs are Bad Guys

This bias doesn’t extend to all Arabs, however, as the right-wing Likud Israeli government forms part of an unholy alliance with Saudi Arabia, to take over the Middle East, starting with Iran. The Saudis are the principal sponsors of radical Islamic proselitism and terrorism world wide. Where do the Americans stand on this issue? The American government has no objection. The Israelis are the Israelis, after all, and the Saudis are massively important buyers of U.S. arms.

Have you noticed that I haven’t told you anything here that you didn’t already know? It’s just the familiar litany of Trump & Company’s outrages and bloopers. Not quite; it’s more than that. To understand it requires at least rudimentary quantitive risk analysis. (What can go wrong? How likely is it to happen? If it does, what are the consequences?) Every one of President Trump’s oafish statements and egregious acts contributes to a ballooning cumulative effect. This constant stream of ignominy doesn’t add up in the form of an arithmetic progression (1+1+1+1+1…), rather an alarming geometric progression (1+10+100+1,000+10.000…) So the President’s next gaff, be it just another insult to a head of state (see Japan and North Korea) or support for an Israeli/Saudi attack on Iran, it just may be the straw that breaks the nuclear camel’s back.

Read the full story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

Thanks for commenting and sharing.

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The Godzilla Flag Is Loosed on the U.S.A.–2/2

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The Pledge of Allegiance is a Socialist Invention

The Wikipedia has an excellent article on the Pledge of Allegiance and I want to cite a couple of  quotes from it. I’m sure they won’t mind:

“The Pledge of Allegiance, as it exists in its current form, was composed in August 1892 by Francis Bellamy (1855–1931), who was a Baptist minister, a Christian socialist, and the cousin of socialist utopian novelist Edward Bellamy (1850–1898).

“In 1892, Francis Bellamy created what was known as the Bellamy salute. It started with the hand outstretched toward the flag, palm down, and ended with the palm up. Because of the similarity between the Bellamy salute and the Nazi salute, which was adopted in Germany later, the US Congress stipulated that the hand-over-the-heart gesture as the salute to be rendered by civilians during the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem in the US would be the salute to replace the Bellamy salute. Removal of the Bellamy salute occurred on December 22, 1942, when Congress amended the Flag Code language first passed into law on June 22, 1942.”

On the same Wikipedia page as this second quote there is a Dorthea Lange photograph of Japanese-American first graders standing in line with their right hands over their hearts reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. It is 1942 and they are standing outside the concentration camp barracks where they are interned with their parents for the duration of World War II.

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Flag Waving is Good Business

This inspirational quote is posted on the webside of a flag manufacturer in the state of Washington: “Show your support of our country by proudly flying your flag in 2016. If you have an American flag at home or at your business, it should be should be flown every day—especially on the national holidays and state birthdays listed below.” They would say that, wouldn’t they.

To See Ourselves as Others See Us

People from other countries have trouble understanding the Americans’ devotion to their flag. Other countries have flags but—with few exceptions—they are not objects of worship. Let’s let this BBC correspondent speak for himself:

“What you still don’t see in the U.K. however, are flags flying outside houses, so it comes as something of a surprise when we first set foot in the U.S. Indeed, some Brits have confessed to feeling a “bit creeped out” at the sight. We can stretch to the odd bit of red, white and blue bunting, but only if there’s a BIG occasion like the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee or a Royal Wedding. Over here however, it’s not uncommon to see Old Glory in glorious six-foot dimensions hanging right outside the front door of regular houses. Obviously they are everywhere around 4th of July, (American Independence Day), but many homes have flags flying throughout the year.

“In most cases, Americans who choose to fly a flag outside their houses are your normal, common-or-garden folk. Whether or not other nations agree or think it’s odd, these people are proud to be Americans and heck, it’s not harming anyone. Flag-flying and general love of country isn’t quite the neo-Nazi, skinhead thing that it’s often perceived to be in the U.K.

“And flag-flying is very serious business in the U.S.; there are federal guidelines with “instruction and rules on such topics as the pledge of allegiance, display and use of the flag by civilians, time and occasions for display, position and manner of display, and how to show respect for the flag.” I’m betting that not many Americans are aware of how often they break the law either,

“The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. “ Oops. And even worse, “The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. (Imagine the revenue that could be generated if the government cracked down on this.)

There’s even Flag Day (June 14) which was made official by President Truman in 1949, and must be officially proclaimed by the sitting President each year.

And finally, did you know that the study of flags is “vexillology” and a flag expert is a “vexillologist”?

Other Pieces in the Puzzle

The National Anthem is up there with the flag for patriotic morbidity. If it weren’t we wouldn’t have had the recent brouhaha over the black football players “taking a knee” as protests against white police officers killing black people for no cogent reasons. In all fairness the matter was also driven by racism, which added fuel to the already considerable Godzilla issue.

Even the Boy Scouts contribute their part to the Godzilla cause. I loved the Boy Scouts with the marching and saluting, the fire-building contests (I still build a mean fire.) and winter toboganning outings. It wasn’t until many years later, after I was discharged from the U.S. Army, that I realized that the Boy Scouts were a Godzilla paramilitary organization. Religion also plays a part in the Godzilla game. The role of the clergy is to convince the populace that “God is on our side.” And that’s only one of their perversions.

The crowning experience of the Godzilla trip is military service. There you are under orders with a Godzilla obligation to kick down doors, detain all males, shoot family-filled taxis and bomb weddings. Either that or take out whole streets of villages with drone missiles launched video-game style from a bunker in the Nevada desert. There you truly become a star-spangled patriot. There’s only one higher step on the totem pole: to die in the line of duty. That makes you an American Hero. Your little brother gets your motorcycle and your mother gets a broche.

The most tragic result of the Godzilla phenomenon is that it’s virtually irreversible. Young people become old people and die without ever being able to shed the Godzilla mindset. It’s a life sentence. No amount of reasoning will change their minds, which are impervious to facts, logic and humanitarian considerations. Nothing can dent their empty, false and inhuman convictions. In the end the Godzilla society becomes a diabolical perpetual motion machine. We are all victims of the lies we were told as children. So teach your children well.

Now, when right-thinking Americans bewail the shape their country is in, and cast about for solutions, it’s possible that it’s already too late for solutions. This time Godzilla may not be stopped.

Back to Part 1

Read the full story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

Thanks for commenting and sharing.

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The Godzilla Flag Is Loosed on the U.S.A.–1/2

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Uncle Sam Wants You

A flag is just a rag but throughout history flags have been used to encourage and justify mankind’s most heinous crimes. And in the U.S.A nothing has changed in this respect. Whenever an American government—of any stripe—wants to recruit cannon fodder for any of their foreign adventures the first thing they haul out is the flag, “Old Glory.” Time after time young Americans respond in true Pavlovian style. And it’s not just any old bone they’re drooling after. It’s a death lottery.

What possible explanation can there be for young people to put so little value on their very lives? The answer is simpler than you might think. Just as collies are bred for herding sheep, Americans are bred to go to war. But why? That’s not too complicated, either. Because if the United States runs out of soldiers their policy of permanent war falls apart. And they can’t have that. Without war what’s left of the American economy—technology and arms sales—falters, along with the myth of American invincibility and their militarists’ dream of “full spectrum dominance.” They’re almost there. They have already conquered Grenada and Panama, though they found some unexpected resistance in Irak and Afghanistan. Now all they have left to dominate are North Korea and Iran. Oh, I almost forgot. There’s Russia and China, too.

Inside the Godzilla Contraption

Underlying all this bellicose folderol is a drive train of tricks and lies that I shall refer to here as “Nationalism/Patriotism,” codename “Godzilla.” In theory those two concepts are closely related but different. But in current American practice, as patriotism is invariably linked to militarism, heroism, conquest and glory, nationalism and patriotism are Siamese twins, linked at the hip. In order for the Godzilla contraption to work young Americans have to be brought up in an immersion tank of perfectly-coordinated mechanisms all pulling together. All are designed to make these young people believe that they are, in some magical way, exceptional, uniquely different, actually superior to people of other societies around the world. This is pure poppycock, of course, but it’s common currency to them and most Americans believe it implicitly or explicitly. Concomitant with this exceptionalism is the tendency to underestimate their enemies, a tradition that dates back to General George Armstrong Custer.

George Orwell’s Observations from 70 Years Ago

I ran across some notes on nationalism written by Orwell in 1945 and found some of them eerily applicable to our own times. He starts with a definition:

“By ‘nationalism’ I mean first of all the habit of assuming that human beings can be classified like insects and that whole blocks of millions or tens of millions of people can be confidently labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ But secondly — and this is much more important — I mean the habit of identifying oneself with a single nation or other unit, placing it beyond good and evil and recognizing no other duty than that of advancing its interests.”

More Vintage Wisdom from Orwell

“Nationalism is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality.”

The Author of Animal Farm and 1984 Goes On:

“Nationalism is power-hunger tempered by self-deception. Every nationalist is capable of the most flagrant dishonesty, but he is also — since he is conscious of serving something bigger than himself — unshakably certain of being in the right. As nearly as possible no nationalist ever thinks, talks or writes about anything except the superiority of his own power unit. It is difficult if not impossible for any nationalist to conceal his allegiance.”

This observation seems to me particularly apt considering the outrages being perpetrated on the world today by American militarism:

“Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits, but according to who does them, and there is almost no kind of outrage — torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonment without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians — which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by ‘our’ side.

“Indifference to objective truth is encouraged by the sealing-off of one part of the world from another, which makes it harder to discover what is actually happening. “Some nationalists are not far from schizophrenia, living quite happily amid dreams of power and conquest which have no connection with the physical world.”

Orwell’s prescience is remarkable. What is even more remarkable is how little this state of affairs has changed over the past seven decades.

How Do They Build Their Godzillas?

Let’s look at the factors involved in converting an innocent child into a full-fledged American Nationalist/Patriot. First (and I say “first”because it hits most American children in the first grade) is the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag. I was one of those little shavers in 1949 and I clearly recall standing up beside my desk, putting my hand over my heart and reciting a magical incantation. “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands…” I had no idea what these words were about but I knew they were magic because you had to stand up and put your hand over your heart to invoke it.

Go to Part 2

Read the full story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

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Is the Trump Tail Wagging the American Dog?–2/2

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In the Meantime What Was Happening at Home?

On the home front a set of similar phenomena was set in motion that led to a sea change in American values—induced, not natural. Little by little, principally but not exclusively under Republican administrations, priceless American values have been eroded beyond recognition.  Where they once had a measure of solidarity—“…unity of a group or class that produces or is based on a community of interests, objectives and standards…” Merriam Webster dictionary—the Americans now subscribe to the “every man for himself,” or “dog eat dog” philosophy. Where they once respected the hard-earned dollar they now lust after easy money. A majority of Americans used to believe in equality. Their racial politics are now turning increasingly racist or white supremacist. As for economic equality, that is a thing of the past. They have exchanged generosity for greed.

Remember open-mindedness? You might have noticed that it has largely given way to adherence to one orthodoxy or another. Simple kindness and good manners are yielding to bare-fisted rudeness and trumpulence. Truth telling, especially telling truth to power, is on the way out. It can actually be dangerous. As for the “official truths,” they are products of the most sophisticated systems of lying ever foisted upon the human race.

Critical Thinking, Anyone?

Where there once existed a healthy  current of critical thinking in the U.S.A., along with citizen activism and protest, that luxury is now relegated to admirable old timers like Noam Chomsky, Oliver Stone and a few others. The very word “think” has been debased with its use by the septic think tanks which abound around Washington. Now thinking has been replaced by blind faith. Common sense has become common nonsense, and knowledge belief. So much of the common currency in the U.S.A. is “faith based.” Too many people have forgotten—or never learned—that anything faith based is baseless. If you’ve been taught otherwise you’ve been duped.

Then there’s patriotism; what a tricky subject. Let’s try a Spanish approach to it. The Spanish have two words for two different varieties of patriotism. “Patriotismo” refers to the healthy love of country that exists around the world. They employ another word, “patrioterismo,” for patriotism wedded to aggressive nationalism, jingoism or chauvinism. This brand of patriotism is a favorite of demagogues who like to wrap themselves in the flag and appeal to voters’ prejudices and lowest instincts in order to advance the demagogue’s own political agenda. The American language doesn’t make this distinction but it should, as patrioterismo is rampant over there. Last but far from least is the most extreme—and dangerous—form of patriotism, that which implies full spectrum dominance, patriotism that kills. And there’s no shortage of that.

The Unasked Question

There is one last question that usually is left unasked. How did the powerful interests who dumbed down and vulgarized the American people get away with it? What was the secret that enabled them to steal, twist, degrade and substitute healthy, humane American values for cheap imitations based on consumerism, ignorance, greed and selfishness? It’s no secret really. It’s just good marketing, the same time-tested sales techniques that made the United States the greatest salesman in the world. Promise them dreams, promise them flash and pan, promise them fast online sex and easy money in financial services. Activate the powers of ego and envy. Pitch to the lowest common denominator. Who sells more, Walmart or Neiman Marcus? There you have it. That’s where America’s decency—and with it her greatness—went.

The United States Has Metamorphosized; Where’s the Butterfly?

So much for the metamorphosis of American values over the past half century and a bit. That’s what derailed the decent, “normal” America. Now to find a “decent, normal country” you have to go to places like Canada, or Europe, Australia or Japan. Japan is a country deeply steeped in centuries of pride and respect, a country where American President Donald Trump gave a speech the other day to their combined legislature, the National Diet. It was a solemn occasion. There the President of the United States admonished them in his own brand of diplomacy. He said, “Don’t underestimate me; don’t try me…”

With all due respect, Mr. President, you’re not on the streets of Detroit or Baltimore. You’re in a civilized country, addressing civilized people.

Needless to say, none of the respectful Japanese reminded him of that fact. Which is not to say they have forgotten what he said.

Go to the first part of this post

Read the full story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

Thanks for commenting and sharing.

Featured

Is the Trump Tail Wagging the American Dog?–1/2

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No, Like Everything Else It’s More Complicated Than That

It’s a long story but the brief answer is no, the tail is not wagging the dog. Donald Trump did not give rise to sordid, amoral America. As much as right-thinking Americans would like to pretend otherwise, Donald Trump is not responsible for white-trash America. That happened much earlier. Trump was just a semi-literate opportunist, a billionaire’s proxy who grabbed the brass ring and rode his merry-go-round pony into the White House.

It was the wave of ignorance, greed and pitch-to-the-lowest-common-denominator opportunism that had been growing lustily since World War II that permitted a person like Trump to run for president and actually win. At the same time this grimy ideological mix provided those right-thinking-Americans with the scapegoat they needed to evade responsibility for the mess their country is in. “Just blame it on Trump and his barbarian horde.” Ladies and gentlemen, it’s not that simple.

A Little History

After World War II—and even before, at the 1944 Bretton Wood Conference–while other countries of the world were struggling to create decent lives for their people, including health care for their underclasses, the war-glutted American oligarchies were busy turning their backs on their own citizens and laying the groundwork for the Cold War and eventual unique superpower status. We’re talking about the creation of institutions like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, NATO, SEATO, the CIA, the NSA, the multinationals, the oil-and-gas cartel, the suffocating American worldwide information regime, and let’s not forget their favorite bugbear, their all-pervading anti-communism (…blame it on the Russkies…).

Though this preparation for world domination wasn’t quite so evident in the beginning, the Neocons appeared at the end of the nineties and jerked the blanket off the seamy bed where all the promiscuous American powers-that-be were cavorting. It was their Project for a New American Century which in 1997 described the United States as the “world’s pre-eminent power,” and affirmed that the nation faced a challenge to “shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests.” In order to achieve this goal, the statement’s signers prescribed the usual bromides: “significant increases in defense spending, and the promotion of the “political and economic freedom abroad.”

Calling for a Reaganite policy of “military strength and moral clarity,” they concluded that PNAC’s principles were necessary “if the United States is to build on the successes of this past century and to ensure our security and our greatness in the next.” This declaration of principles, adopted by succeeding Republican governments, clearly revealed their sinister medium-and-long-term geopolitical intentions for all who had eyes to see. (That said, how many of us have eyes to see, eyes that have not been occluded by the myths and lies about the United States as a hilltop beacon of democracy, illuminating the way for less-fortunate peoples around the world?)

That shopworn set of lies about the United States exporting democracy no longer washes anywhere except, ironically, inside their own country where it’s still being fed like toxic kibble to their ingenuous choir of methodically-dumbed-down true believers.

“We Will Nuke You”

Then, in a document released in 2000 as DOD Joint Vision 2020, came “full-spectrum dominance,” a term coined by the gaily-decorated uniforms at the Pentagon. It called for “full spectrum dominance” over all land, surface and sub-surface sea, air, space, electromagnetic spectrum and information systems with enough overwhelming power to fight and win global wars against any adversary, including with nuclear weapons preemptively. (Emphasis mine. Translation: We reserve the right to nuke anyone and everyone, anywhere in the world, at any time.)

Harold Pinter referred to the term in his 2005 Nobel Prize acceptance speech:

“I have said earlier that the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. That is the case. Its official declared policy is now defined as “full spectrum dominance”. That is not my term, it is theirs. “Full spectrum dominance” means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources.”

Not since Hitler’s Germany has any country in the world arrogated to itself such an awesome prerogative: the right to kill everybody, everywhere, indiscriminately, this from a country that spends more on arms than the following 18 countries combined, a country that vociferously declares itself a bastion of democracy worldwide. Lincoln once said to an office seeker, “What you are speaks to me so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”

The Bizarre Billionaire Card

Another factor in the creation of American policy that doesn’t get discussed as much is the influence of right-wing billionaires on U.S. policy both at home and abroad. Here’s a link to an  enlightening half-hour documentary that discusses the billionaire card in American politics: The Bizarre Billionaire that Backed Bannon and Made Trump President.

 Nor is this American policy limited to rhetoric. Throughout the past century they have materialized it in the form of gratuitous, unprovoked war-making on a series of sovereign nations in total disregard for international law. These attacks formed part of a rich American tradition dating from Colonial times: the wars against Native Americans on their own lands, the failed attempt to annex Canada, the 1848 “Mexican Cession” land grab…

In our own time the Americans’ omnivorous taste for other people’s countries has manifested itself in Vietnam and Iraq, to name just the most egregious cases. Vietnam was doubly cursed, both by the history of French colonialism there and the facile Cold War perception of that little Southeast Asian country as a catalyst for a “domino effect” of Communist expansion. That gossamer theory was the “justification” for 20 years of total (including chemical) warfare against and utter destruction of that tiny storybook country.

The end of the Vietnam War took the Americans by surprise. They lost. A combination of General Giap’s military and President Ho Chi Minh’s political genius, and the incredible capacity of the Vietnamese people for sacrifice, coupled with the influence of American anti-war activists, forced the United States armed forces and their running-dog allies out of Vietnam on April 30, 1975.

Coming hard on the heels of the 9/11 terror attack, the Iraq invasion was somewhat different, though it shared the use of lies and false pretenses the Americans employ regularly. How could we ever forget the pot-calling-the-kettle-black “arms of mass destruction” claims? Those assertions aside, the Iraq War was a straight American attempt to grab the country’s natural resources. The Iraqui oil fields are some of the most important in the world. Combine that fact with their geostrategic position in the Middle East and Iraq was an irresistible candidate for a dose of American democracy delivered from the air.

“Mission Accomplished!” Really?

According to President George W. Bush, nattily dressed in a U.S. Air Force costume-party getup for his “Mission Accomplished” speech to the troops of the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, the Americans won that one. As it turned out, however, the issue was somewhat more complicated than President Bush could have conceived. Up there on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, surrounded by unconditional admirers, he was either whistling irresponsibly in the dark or malevolently twisting the truth to his own truculent purposes. In any case today, 14 years later, the fate of Iraq is still up in the air and the Americans are no closer to grabbing the Iraqi oil than they were on day one.

Go to the second part of this post

Read the full story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

Thanks for commenting and sharing.

Featured

Whom Can We Trust?–3/3

Here’s some more honest reporters that I think we can trust. See what you think.

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Tom Engelhardt

Tom Engelhardt created and runs the Tomdispatch.com website, a project of The Nation Institute where he is a Fellow. He is the author of a highly praised history of American triumphalism in the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture, and of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing, as well as a collection of his Tomdispatch interviews, Mission Unaccomplished. Each spring he is a Teaching Fellow at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

Tomdispatch.com is the sideline that ate his life. Before that he worked as an editor at Pacific News Service in the early 1970s, and, these last three decades, as an editor in book publishing. For 15 years, he was Senior Editor at Pantheon Books where he edited and published award-winning works ranging from Art Spiegelman’s Maus and John Dower’s War Without Mercy to Eduardo Galeano’s Memory of Fire trilogy. He is now Consulting Editor at Metropolitan Books, as well as co-founder and co-editor of Metropolitan’s The American Empire Project. Many of the authors whose books he has edited and published over the years now write for Tomdispatch.com. He is married to Nancy J. Garrity, a therapist, and has two children, Maggie and Will.

To find out more about Engelhardt check out:

Harry Kreisler’s interview, “Taking Back the Word”, on the Conversations with History website.

More on Tom Englehardt: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Engelhardt

 

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Paul Jay

Paul Jay, is CEO and Senior Editor of The Real News Network. TRNN is independent of political parties, is viewer supported and not-for-profit. TRNN does not accept advertising, government or corporate funding. This funding model allows for uncompromising broadcast journalism. Now in start up phase, its mission is to be a daily video news service for a mass audience online and on television.

Prior to TRNN, Jay was for ten seasons the creator and executive producer of CBC Newsworld’s flagship debate programs, CounterSpin and FaceOff.

Jay has produced and directed more than 20 major documentary films including “Return to Kandahar”, Lost in Las Vegas and Hitman Hart: wrestling with shadows, a feature length documentary, that was screened in 25 major festivals and won more than a dozen awards. It’s been called “one of the most acclaimed Canadian films in years”(eye magazine), “A tale as bizarre as Kafka and as tragic as Shakespeare” (Ottawa Citizen) and “one of the best films of 1998″(Peter Plagens, art critic for Newsweek).

A past chair of the Documentary Organization of Canada, Jay is the founding chair of Hot Docs!, the Canadian international documentary film festival.

Video: On corporate media, Trump, climate, 9/11, Real News Network

 

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Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein is a Canadian author, social activist, and filmmaker known for her political analyses and criticism of corporate globalization and of capitalism. She first became known internationally for her book No Logo (1999); The Take (2004), a documentary film about Argentina’s occupied factories, written by Klein and directed by her husband Avi Lewis; and significantly for The Shock Doctrine (2007), a critical analysis of the history of neoliberal economics that was adapted into a six-minute companion film by Alfonso and Jonás Cuarón, as well as a feature-length documentary by Michael Winterbottom.

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate (2014) was a New York Times non-fiction bestseller and the winner of the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction in its year. In 2016 Klein was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize for her activism on climate justice. Klein frequently appears on global and national lists of top influential thinkers, including the 2014 Thought Leaders ranking compiled by the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute, Prospect magazine’s world thinkers 2014 poll, and Maclean’s 2014 Power List. She is a member of the board of directors of the climate activist group 350.org.

Video:  The Worst is Yet to Come

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Amy Goodman

Amy Goodman is an American broadcast journalist, syndicated columnist, investigative reporter, and author. Goodman’s investigative journalism career includes coverage of the East Timor independence movement and Chevron Corporation’s role in Nigeria. Since 1996, Goodman has hosted Democracy Now!, an independent global news program broadcast daily on radio, television and the Internet. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Thomas Merton Award in 2004, a Right Livelihood Award in 2008, and an Izzy Award in 2009 for “special achievement in independent media”.

In 2012, Goodman received the Gandhi Peace Award for a “significant contribution to the promotion of an enduring international peace”. Goodman is the author of six books, including the 2012 The Silenced Majority: Stories of Uprisings, Occupations, Resistance, and Hope, and the 2016 Democracy Now!: Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America. In 2016, she was criminally charged in connection with her coverage of protests of the Dakota Access pipeline. The charges, which were condemned by the Committee to Protect Journalists, were dismissed on October 17, 2016.

Video: Covering the Movements Changing America

Thanks for commenting and sharing.

 

 

Featured

Whom Can We Trust?–2/3

More Honest Journalists Whose Word We Can Trust

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Patrick Cockburn

From The Independent--Patrick Cockburn is an award-winning writer on The Cockburn3Independent who specialises in analysis of Iraq, Syria and wars in the Middle East. In 2014 he forecast the rise of Isis before it was well known, and has written extensively about it and other players in the region. He was born in Cork in 1950, went to school there and in Scotland, took his first degree at Trinity College, Oxford and did graduate work at the Institute of Irish Studies, Queens University Belfast before shifting to journalism in 1978. He joined the Financial Times, covering the Middle East, and was later Moscow correspondent. He joined The Independent in 1990, reporting on the First Gulf War from Baghdad, and has written largely on the Middle East ever since.

Read more on Patrick Cockburn

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Pepe Escobar

Pepe Escobar is the atypical ace, refreshingly straight talking and erudite on current international affairs. He is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia. Born in Brazil, he’s been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong.

Learn more about Pepe Escobar.

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Matt Taibbi

Matt Taibbi used to be merely the enfant terrible of The Rolling Stone. He still writes for Taibbi4them but now when he speaks people sit up and listen. His irreverence and straightforwardness makes him appeal to some and repell others. Taibbi’s history makes him different from most young American journalists.

He grew up in the Boston, Massachusetts, suburbs and graduated in 1992 from Bard College. After spending a year abroad studying at Saint Petersburg Polytechnical University in Russia Taibbi then worked there for six years. In 2000, he published his first book, The Exile: Sex, Drugs, and Libel in the New Russia

Here’s a video interview with Taibbi talking about his Donald Trump book.

 

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Seymour Hersh

American investigative journalist and political writer, Sy Hersh is so respected that, instead of phoning his sources for information, they phone him whenever they detect something amiss in the government. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his scoop on the My Lai Massacre in 1970 and was also the reporter who uncovered the abuses in the Abu Ghraib prison in an article for the NY Times 34 years later. Over his long career, Hersh received numerous honours including a Pulitzer Prize, and five George Polk Awards.

A protegé of the legendary I.F. Stone in his youth, Hersh rocked the Washington boat again with his 2015 article in the London Review of Books that cited Pakistani and anonymous U.S. sources —that U.S. officials and Pakistani governments, including U.S. Pres. Barack Obama, had disseminated a false version of the 2011 raid on the compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan in which Osama bin Laden was killed. Among the allegations made by Hersh was that the Pakistani intelligence service had been holding bin Laden prisoner since 2006 and that Pakistani officials knew about the raid before it happened. The Central Intelligence Agency and the Obama administration denied the allegations.

Video: The World According to Seymour Hersh, Part 1–Interview with Tarik Ali

Thanks for commenting and sharing.

Coming soon: Whom Can We Trust?–3/3

Featured

Whom Can We Trust?–1/3

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How to Find the Trustworthy Sources

You find them the way you find everything else, by doing your homework thoroughly and unhurriedly. There are a lot of sources out there who want to convince you to sign on to their agenda. How do you distinguish them from dispassionate, objective reporters?

A word of warning: The brief paragraph above is filled with quicksand and rip currrents and the odd toothy beastie. It gives the impression of neutrality, but nothing could be farther from the truth. The first source who wants to convert you to his progressive, socialist agenda is me. As for “dispassionate, objective reporters,” being on the front lines of international war and political reporting, seeing death, destruction and injustice day after day does not tend to make a person “dispassionate.”  If they’re proper human beings it makes them passionate.

That said, I don’t really hope to change many minds. Most minds are already made up. Still there’s hope in the long run. Max Planck, one of the world’s great physicists, is reported to have said:

“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up familiar with it.”

While we’re on the subject of truth seeking, I recently ran across this from James Clear, dropped this jewel on the path in a blog post on Elon Musk, :

“Be wary of the ideas you inherit. Old conventions and previous forms are often accepted without question and, once accepted, they set a boundary around creativity.”

The reporting of reliable, balanced professionals, though scrupulously objective, is still only “objective” from their own point of view, from the subjects they cover to their editorial treatment of them. What is the best we can hope for, then? For me it’s important that they be honest men and women of good will. Then I will listen to them, and ultimately believe them. This is not a rapid process. I have to follow their work over a period of time, and weigh up everything they say, every value judgment they make, every stand they take. Only then do I accord them my trust.

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My List of Trustworthies

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Robert Fisk

fisk2Robert Fisk, for me, is the ultimate Middle East source, but not only that. He has an acute sense of history, on which he has written books. From  1971-75 he covered Belfast for The Times.

Fisk, born in Kent, UK in 1946 and with a PhD in politics from Trinity College, Dublin, has lived and worked as a correspondent in the Arab world for 40 years and covered Lebanon, five Israeli invasions, the Iran-Iraq war, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the Algerian civil war, Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, the Bosnian and Kosovo wars, the American invasion and occupation of Iraq and the 2011 Arab revolutions.  He has impeccable connections all over the Middle East and further afield. He currently is based in Beirut and reports for The Independent since 1989. He has written best-selling books on the Middle East, including Pity the Nation and The Great War for Civilisation.

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Noam Chomsky

by Christian Garland in the International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest

Noam Chomsky is a US political theorist and activist, and institute professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Besides his work in linguistics, Chomsky is internationally recognized as one of the most critically engaged public intellectuals alive today. Chomsky continues to be an unapologetic critic of both American foreign policy and its ambitions for geopolitical hegemony and the neoliberal turn of global capitalism, which he identifies in terms of class warfare waged from above against the needs and interests of the great majority.

Chomsky is also an incisive critic of the ideological role of the mainstream corporate mass media, which, he maintains, “manufactures consent” toward the desirability of capitalism and the political powers supportive of it.

Website: http//chomsky.info

Thanks for commenting and sharing.

Coming soon: Whom Can We Trust?–2/3

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Así se quedaron los estadounidenses con el gentilicio “americano”.

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Puestos a acaparar…

¿Por qué los estadounidenses se auto-denominan “americanos como si fueran los únicos”?

Gracias por comentar y compartir.

 

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Old Man Takes on the World

Lifelong Friend Asks Hard Questions

Bart Sedgebear, an old friend of ours, dropped by recently and, after the greetings, asked the question he always asks: “What are you up to?” I told him I was launching a new blog on the state of the world and explained a little bit about it. His first response was, “Wait a minute, let me find a pencil.” Bart knows what questions to ask and he quickly turned an informal chat into an interview. He called it, “Old man takes on the world.” Here it is.

an interview by Bart Sedgebear

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Mike, you’re primarily known as a creator of fine-art-print sites. But in your current blogs there’s not a print to be seen. What happened?

I started publishing printmaking sites because my wife, Maureen, was–and is–a printmaker. She’s now well established so I have less work to do there, so a couple of years ago I started casting about for something else to do. Continue reading “Old Man Takes on the World”

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“…a nice group of people…”

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“Hey, Jim: I really enjoyed the conference,” begins an email to Mitchell after a gathering of “a nice group of people” that included interrogators, psychologists, and psychiatrists from Guantánamo.

September 9, 2017–I ran across this blood-chilling article on The Guardian website this morning. I think it deserves to be disseminated. My guess is that it’s just the tip of a very large pyramid populated by the cream of CIA ghouls. See what you think.

Inside the CIA’s Black Site Torture Room

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Featured

Here’s Benjamin Franklin on the American Eagle

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Why a Bald Eagle? How about a Bold Turkey?

Here are Benjamin Franklin’s remarks to his daughter, Sarah Bache, in 1784, in which he criticizes a veterans’ organization (the American Order of the Cincinnati) for choosing the bald eagle as their emblem.

Turkey“For my own part, I wish the bald eagle had not been chosen as the representative of our country; he is a bird of bad moral character; he does not get his living honestly like those among men who live by sharping and robbing… He is generally poor, and often very lousy. Besides, he is a rank coward; the little king-bird, not bigger than a sparrow, attacks him boldly and drives him out of the district… I am, on this account, not displeased that the figure [i.e., the Cincinnati’s drawing] is not known as a bald eagle, but looks more like a turkey. For in truth, the turkey is in comparison a much more respectable bird, and withal a true original native of America.

Eagles have been found in all countries, but the turkey was peculiar to ours… He is, besides, (though a little vain and silly, it is true, but not the worse emblem for that), a bird of courage, and would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards, who should presume to invade his farmyard with a red coat on.”

Source: Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife

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How to Produce a Disoriented Citizen

Oriented or Disoriented?

by Mike Booth

In case you were wondering, here’s how to produce a thoroughly disoriented citizen:

  • Tell him he’s superior to people from other countries, colors, religions, ideas.
  • Put a gun in his hand.
  • Flag-wave him to death.
  • Repeat more, louder lies.
  • Distract him with hard-core consumption.
  • Make money his measure of all things.
  • Make false promises.
  • Bribe him.
  • Frighten him.
  • Stuff him full of nationalism and patriotism.
  • Jail him.
  • Shoot him.
  • Isolate him.
  • Sanctify his greed.
  • Banalize him.
  • Send his children to war.
  • Re-engineer the electoral process so as to install low men in high places.
  • Tell him torture is necessary.
  • Feed him false philosophy, white-trash values.
  • Offer him venal role models.
  • Convince him that speculation is “business.”
  • Convince him that if he’s not rich there’s something wrong with him.
  • Fill him up with that old-time religion.
  • Imprison him.
  • Under educate him.
  • Steal his constitutional rights.

That should do it.

Read the whole story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

 

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Who Are the Bad Guys?

bad-guysby Mike Booth

What If We Got It All Backwards?

The most illustrious, most powerful men and women of the U.S. political classes have always been fond of telling us who the Bad Guys were. According to them we’re surrounded by them, have been for a long time. In the 50’s and 60’s it was the Russians. Remember them? They had recently contributed 20 million dead to help us win the Second World War, but we immediately felt we had to be their enemies. Churchill, who was miffed for being sidelined by Roosevelt and Stalin at Yalta, actually advocated “neutralizing” the Russians as soon as the war was over.

The Russian Communists were our pretext for a lot of vile and truculent shenanigans in the name of national security: the cold war, the McCarthy witch hunt, the nuclear arms race, and the tragic destruction of a miniscule South Asian country which was about to push over the first piece in a series of deadly “dominoes” which would take the Red Menace to the American heartland via the port of San Francisco. Continue reading “Who Are the Bad Guys?”

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What Can We Know?

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The Bottom Line

With all the news, counter news, fake news and post-truth flying around out there, what can we know for sure? For sure? Very little, we have to rely on educated guesses. But what do you base your guesses on? Where do you start? One thing is certainly true. You have to figure it out for yourself.

A Disclaimer

I realize that it’s practically impossible to change people’s minds. Our basic values and criteria are etched, if not on our DNA, at least on our brains. We’re all victims of the lies we were told when we were children. Almost nobody escapes, perhaps a few who are lucky enough to be influenced by a great teacher when their minds are still malleable. Continue reading “What Can We Know?”

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NATO is Scraping the Bottom of the Tank

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Septic think tank diagram.

Can We Properly Call This “Thinking?”

Scraping the bottom of the think tank, that is. According to an article published in The Guardian on January 22, 2008, five of the West’s most senior military officers and strategists got together to affirm that “the west must be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt the ‘imminent’ spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction.”They recommend this extreme measure in order to “tackle the challenges of an increasingly brutal world.”

One doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Continue reading “NATO is Scraping the Bottom of the Tank”

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Yo, United Statesians, Listen Up!

by Mike Booth.

A Lesson in Linguistic Geography for the People of the United States

Map of North and South AmericaThe land mass properly called “America” extends from the northern tip of Greenland to Cape Horn (properly Cabo de Hornos) at the southern tip of Chile and covers two continents. Besides the United States and its territories, Greenland, and Chile, it includes Anguilla, Antigua and BarbudaAruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Cayman Islands, Clipperton Island, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Greenland, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Martinique, Mexico, The Netherlands Antilles, Nicaragua, Panama, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Falkland Islands, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

None of these countries or territories arrogates to itself the right to call itself “America,” though all have the same credentials as the United States to do so. To pretend that “America” or “American” refers exclusively or even principally to the United States, is gravely erroneous, and when the people of the United States do it it’s impolite. This is the most elementary geography and most everybody in the world is aware of it except the people of the United States themselves, who have seen fit to co-opt the common name for the peoples of two entire continents for their own private use. This belies a cocktail of ignorance and arrogance which is considered inappropriate in advanced democratic societies. Continue reading “Yo, United Statesians, Listen Up!”

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With All Due Respect–2/2

by Mike Booth
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Petroleum Money Changes Everything

Petroleum was discovered on the Arabian peninsula by the California Arabian Standard Oil Company in early 1938 and the Mideast plot thickened considerably. The 1938 strike turned out to be the first in what were to become the richest oil fields in the world. Oil meant money, both for oil companies and for Ibn Saud, the warlord who had proclaimed himself king of Arabia just six years earlier.

It is that Saudi windfall that has permitted us to see just how abject is the Western World’s slavish reverence for money. The Saudi regime, clearly the most retrograde in the Muslim world, has carte blanche in any Western capital, thanks exclusively to its gargantuan economic presence. Their egregious domestic human rights abuses are the least of it. What is more serious is how they sponsor Islamic terrorism so universally and so blatantly with every Western government looking bovinely the other way while giving top priority to their “defense” contracts. Continue reading “With All Due Respect–2/2”

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With All Due Respect—1/2

by Mike Booth

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There Was a Time…

There was a time—though nobody’s quite sure of when that was—when the culture clash between Christians and Muslims might have been avoided through mutually respectful conversations and compromises. But that time has passed and no amount of talking now will yield a quick solution. The issues are too encysted, the offenses too damaging, the retributions too exaggerated, the players too polarized. That said, something has to be done at least to try to begin some sort of détente with the Muslim world. The only alternative—an upward spiraling permanent war—would be infinitely worse.

Could some concessions to the Muslims, starting with an acknowledgement of and apology for the high-handed treatment the Christian West has always dispensed to the them, serve to improve relations, if only marginally? President Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo looked like a tentative step in that direction but was soon buried under the pressure of military expediency. Continue reading “With All Due Respect—1/2”

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Sex, Money, Power, Nonsense and Killer Euphemisms

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It doesn’t have to make sense, unleash the dogs of war!

Many things in this world, some of them of great consequence, don’t make sense. That’s because the world doesn’t run on sense. It runs on greed and lust. It runs on envy and revenge. It runs on ambition. And let’s not forget cynicism and falsehood.  That said, a miniscule part of the world is actually driven by love and loyalty, truth and sincerity, altruism and generosity. Say Iceland…

For most of the rest it’s half-truths and false appearances, vested interests, bribery and chicanery. (Want to know how it works? Read John Perkins’s book in PDF here.) Cravings for fame abound, along with hidden agendas and false-flag operations. Pride and obstinance coexist at the highest levels. Good God, I can’t believe I almost forgot sex, money and power, the aristocrats in this senseless world. I was tempted to include examples of all these sins, but I decided not to. It’s not necessary. Examples abound. Choose your own. Continue reading “Sex, Money, Power, Nonsense and Killer Euphemisms”

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I Was Surprised by Visions of the “Old”

Study the Art of Ageing

I wanted to write a piece on ageing and the first thing I did was go to Google to check out images of old age. I was dazzled by what I found. More of the old people in the photgraphs looked more vital, interesting, engaging and actually beautiful than miserable for being old.

See if you don’t agree.
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Read the full story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

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It’s High Noon for the United States

Charlottesville Has Upset the Applecart

By Mike Booth

Confederate Monuments Protest

How Much of a Threat Is the Right to Bear Arms?

I’ve been following for most of my life, as I suppose most of us have, the debate/controversy/conflict over Americans’ second amendment right “to bear arms.” In the end I decided to shelve the issue along with cholesterol, transgenders in the military and monosodium glutamate in everything. It seemed to me, frankly, something of a tempest in a teapot. Sure, the odd teenager raised on Prozac would shoot his entire family and liquor stores would have to reinforce their security measures, but I couldn’t conceive of gun-toting Americans posing a life-or-death threat to their own country. Continue reading “It’s High Noon for the United States”

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The Myth of “Permanent War” Pervades American Democratization Efforts

.I Think I Can Explain Why

Can anybody remember a time when the United States was not at war, in some form or another, somewhere, with someone? I can’t, and I’m 74 years old. They seem to be in a permanent state of military conflict. Is this eternal war due to mistakes, coincidences or deliberate policy decisions? I’ll opt for the latter. It’s unlikely for any person or country to be so wrong so consecutively over more than three quarters of a century. The trend looks even worse if it’s the same “mistake” over and over again. As for coincidences, the statistical unlikelihood of these events occurring coincidentally is utterly off the graph. There aren’t enough nines to express it.

So, we’re left with policy. Where can such a demented policy come from and how does it come about? I think I can explain it. Essentially it’s due to a misunderstanding regarding “democracy.”  The Americans’ think it can be promulgated by the sword and harbor a missionary zeal for spreading it around the world and into outer space. Curiously this missionary fervor grows in geometric proportions when the Americans are dealing with countries that are strategically located (eg. Vietnam) or rich in natural resources (eg. Iraq and Venezuela) or both (eg. Iran). It’s the 21st century equivalent of “civilizing and christianizing our little brown brothers.” Continue reading “The Myth of “Permanent War” Pervades American Democratization Efforts”

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President Donald Trump Redefines the Bottom

President Trump’s Speech to the Boy Scouts at Their 2017 Jamboree in West Virginia Sounded Like a Hitler Youth Rally

His rambling, disconnected, lowbrow 38-minute talk, though wholly irrelevant and inappropriate for an audience of Boy Scouts, ages 6-14, did manage to establish some outstanding new negative moral and political benchmarks. This is a limbo contest in bad taste. How low can you go? President Trump has just reminded us that it’s time to lower the bar… again. Continue reading “President Donald Trump Redefines the Bottom”

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El “impuesto al sol” clama al cielo

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España es el único país de Europa que penaliza con un impuesto específico las instalaciones de placas fotovoltaicas, incluidas las instalaciones domésticas

Esto fue un escándalo cuando se impuso en 2013 y se amplió en 2015 con una nueva tasa que se aplica sobre la energía autoconsumida, ya el gobierno entiende el autoconsumidor se beneficia del respaldo del sistema aun cuando no consuma energía del mismo. Y sigue escandalizándonos desde marzo de este año cuando el gobierno–con los únicos votos del PP y Foro Asturias–ha vetado la eliminación del impuesto porque dejaría de recaudar 162 millones. Con lo cual el gran negocio del futuro–la energía renovable–sigue en manos de los grandes grupos de interés liderados–¿cómo no?–por las eléctricas. Pepito Pérez, si no tiene espacio ni dinero para montar una granja de gigantescos molinos de viento en su huerto, no puede subir al tren del futuro energético. Ese privilegio está reservada a los grandes. Continue reading “El “impuesto al sol” clama al cielo”