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American Democracy: The Art of Winning

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By Hook or by Crook

In the mid-seventies, when they started building underground parking lots in Granada, whenever I would drive into town I would have to park on the outskirts and walk into the center. On the walk I would pass the old Pharmacy Faculty, which had been moved to a new building and replaced in the old one by Political Science. So I’m walking up that little-frequented street one day and I notice the sign over the door. It says “Facultad de Sociología y Ciencias Políticas.” That was when it hit me. The prevailing political model, which the United States has exported all over the world, calling it “democracy,” is not about noble ideas and the fight for human rights. It’s about sociology: opinion polls and pandering to lowbrow voters and powerful interests. It’s about opportunism, not idealism, as they would have us believe.

Where do the sociologists fit into this scheme of things? They design and run polls to determine scientifically what it is that voters want, no matter how insane or banal those desires may be. Election shifters have no need to introduce voters to any higher ideas or projects for their intellectual or moral advancement. Their mission is just to promise the marks the pre-digested kibble of advanced consumer society and win elections.

The Benefits of Dumbing Down

This scheme of things has another advantage. It guarantees the gradual stagnation of citizens’ thoughts and aspirations for a better society or for any suggestion of collective solutions. (The dreaded socialism! The only Americans who benefit from Socialist programs are members of Congress and the Armed Forces. They get the works, notably health and dental care, and living pensions paid for at the taxpayers’ expense.) The end result of this process of stagnation is–in case you hadn’t noticed–the dumbing down of the majority of the country’s unfortunate citizens. This is how the United States got presidents like Harry Truman, George W. Bush (and his expert and essential puppeteer, Dick Cheney), and Donald Trump.

Other positive aspects of the dumbing down of American citizens are the creation of thousands of inmates for the country’s for-profit prisons and a massive pool of recruits to feed the armed services.

The Unique Objective

The only objective of American politicians is winning elections, and at that they are masters. Winning is the be-all and end-all that justifies all means, however sordid. Candidates in federal elections adhere to agendas that have been designed for them by election experts, including the essential sociologists. Though these agendas are nowadays generally financed by corporate sponsors, and sold as programs to benefit the voters, the truth is that they are designed uniquely to win elections.

Where do ethics enter into the equation? They don’t. What enters into the equation is expediency and adherence to a pre-determined ideological agenda tailored to the needs of the big-bucks sponsors. That’s the desired end. Whether the means of achieving it are ethical or not is irrelevant.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that the United States government is no longer a democracy. A regime that was always predatory has morphed over the past couple of decades into a total corporatocracy with the classic corporate values. The irony of this chilling fact is that it was achieved through entirely legal means. What is meant by “legal,” anyway? It means “in accordance with the law.” Who makes the federal laws of the United States of America? Who legalizes all the clearly anti-democratic pieces of this puzzle? The United States Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate. There, you see, it’s not that complicated, after all.

For the full list of election manipulation devices that have been legalized by the House and the Senate you would have to ask a member of Congress or a veteran lobbyist. But here are a few examples to initiate your list:

  • Superdelegates
    superdelegates600In American politics, a superdelegate is an unpledged delegate to the Democratic National Convention who is seated automatically and decides for themselves for whom they vote. These Democratic Party superdelegates include elected officials and party activists and officials. They are free to support any candidate for the presidential nomination. There were 437 DNC members who were superdelegates at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. With these numbers, they can usually sway the election of a Democratic Party preferred candidate, though in 2016 they missed.
  • Gerrymandering
    Gerrymandering, in its simplest form, is the re-drawing of Congressional
    Districts to include voters favorable to the candidate’s party and exclude
    those who would be more inclined to vote against them. Incumbent
    members of Congress can use this mechanism to virtually assure their
    re-election.
  • Bargaining for Industrial and Institutional Campaign Contributions
    The United States Supreme Court held (5–4) on January 21, 2010, that the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for communications by nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporations, labor unions, and other associations. This decision effectively equated corporations with private citizens when it came to campaign donations, thus opening the floodgates to the virtual purchasing of elected officials. 
  • Super Pacs
    What they don’t achieve through direct campaign financing, corporate and other institutional interests can manage through the use of super PACs, which can raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend those sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates. In any case, it’s clear that the vias for buying election results are wide open.

Once Upon a Time

I once actually believed that there was a time when American politics was about brilliant and conscientious politicians who had ideas and ideals and wanted to promote them for the good of society. To find that time you had to go quite a ways back, maybe to Abraham Lincoln or maybe even George Washington. Or perhaps not even Washington, who was probably conditioned by being perhaps the richest man in the colonies, thanks to Martha’s extensive land–and slave–holdings.

However that may be, I am still so naive that I would like to believe that at one time or another there had been an element of decency in American politics, some remnant of consideration for the commonwealth. Maybe Franklin D. Roosevelt embodied some of that. But I’m still not sure. What I do know for certain is that modern American politics–and by extension, most of the rest of the world’s “democracies”–is bereft of any hint of ideas or idealism. Anybody who believes otherwise is a dupe and a sap, I fear

Today’s aspirant to public office doesn’t need ideals. All he needs are corporate sponsors, the ability to read a script and a team of sociologists and other “elections experts.” As for “the ability to read…” Donald Trump has shown us that even that is not absolutely essential. This atypical President is not alone. He’s accompanied on his belicose magical mystery tour by many cohorts of a similar ilk. It will be terrifying to see where they take their country–and the world.

People who write articles, if they want to maintain their readership, are advised to end their pieces on an upbeat note. I would love to be able to do that. But I can’t.

Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
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The Bizarre States of America–2/2

 

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

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

Wacky Pastors and President Trump’s Middle East Policy

From The Independent May 15, 2018–The Rev David Swaggerty, leader of CharismaLife Ministries in Columbus, Ohio, told the Religion News Service, that the embassy relocation was not simply a geopolitical bonus. “We see the embassy as crucial to God’s timing to bring about the revelation of the Messiah,” he said.

In a stunning exercise of institutional irony, it was Robert Jeffress, the wacky pastor known for suggesting that the Jews and Muslims are headed for hell, who was commissioned by the Trump team–or President Trump himself–to pronounce the Jerusalem embassy’s opening prayer.

A sector of the evangelicals that experts in these matters refer to as “premillenialist dispensationalists” believe the transfer of the embassy and the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will help bring about the so-called Rapture, an event in which they believe all Christians, living and dead, will ascend into heaven and join with God. As news website Vox points out, these interpretations based on the books of Revelation and Daniel, suggest the return of Jesus will take place once the Jewish temple in Jerusalem is rebuilt and Israel is made an exclusively Jewish state.

Does anyone know why the United States is fertile ground for such grotesque fanaticisms on such a grand scale? If you do, would you please be kind enough to explain it to us here, at the end of this post, in a comment?

Some analysts have suggested that the embassy transfer from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was a cynical Trump move designed to win the votes of these evangelicals in the next presidential election. It is estimated that there are some 60,000,000 of them. Here is a statement by Trump that would seem to confirm that theory.

Did President Trump Realize What He Was Doing?

Was President Trump fully aware of the grave implications not only for the Palestinians but potentially for the entire world of his embassy transfer? It’s possible that he wasn’t. Either way it’s a moot question. Even if he had foreseen the Israeli Defense Force snipers joyously picking off unarmed Palestinian demonstrators on the other side of the Gaza border fence he wouldn’t have done things any differently. His decision was determined by two of his highest-priority agendas: a slavish devotion to Netanyahu and Israeli fascist objectives and the necessity of pandering to the evangelical vote in the U.S.

The world is driven by extravagant ideologies, each one with its relentless egomaniacal agenda and Trump and the Rapture loonies are typical examples. The latter will follow their preposterous agenda straight through the metaphorical gates of hell if they are told by some tent preacher they are the gates of heaven, whatever innocent bystanders must be sacrificed along the way.

The same rule of thumb applies to the American militarists with their full-spectrum-dominance ideology and their agenda of world conquest. Nothing will stand in their way—until something stands in their way. The NRA gun-worship phenomenon follows the same pattern.

The Americans’ latest cruel and unusual undiplomatic move, just a few days ago, was to launch joint American-South Korean military maneuvers immediately after an unprecedentedly cordial peace meeting between Kim Jong-un representing North Korea and Moon Jae-in the South. Observers are convinced that considerable American arm-twisting was necessary to move the South Koreans to take such a step at this time.

This morning’s Washington Post (17 May 2018) headlines their follow-up story about North Korea breaking off negotiations with the South, “Kim Jong-un Gets Cold Feet.” As so often happens in Washington, they got the story backward. It’s not about Kim’s feet; it’s about the Americans bullying the South Koreans into military maneuvers at a critical point in the negotiations.

Kim Jong-un’s response, according to the North Korean news service KCNA, was to suspend further high-level talks with Moon Jae-in of South Korea. In addition, North Korea has threatened to cancel the planned summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, saying the US should carefully consider the fate of the upcoming meeting, in view of what it calls “provocative military disturbances with South Korea,”

The American move was not entirely unexpected, as it seemed clear to old Korea hands that no amount of hand-holding between North and South would induce the United States to loosen their controlling grip on South Korea, a grip that has remained implacable since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

I want to mention some more examples of what I perceive as American strangeness at home and abroad. But I think you get the picture and I’m loath to bore you, so let me just cite a few of the more egregious cases in a list:

  • The lynching of two black youths that took place outside Moore, Oklahoma in the month of April 2018, an act that was somehow overlooked by U.S. national media.
  • The American “defense” budget, variously cited as 16% of the discretionary and mandatory federal budget according to Politicfact.com, or 55% of discretionary spending according to other sources, equivalent to the military budgets of the next seven countries on the list, according to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. But the U.S. is not a nation of war-mongers. What would their defense budget look like if they were?
  • The naming of American torture maven, Gina Haspel, to head the CIA. (But don’t worry, she promises to be a good girl from here on out.)
  • The kid-gloves treatment of the bands of neo-Nazis and White Supremacists at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August of 2017.
  • Members of the Trump team—It’s not yet clear at what level.—hiring an Israeli private-intelligence firm, Black Cube, to compile profiles on Colin Kahl and Ben Rhodes, Obama-era advisors who advocated the Iran nuclear agreement. Why investigate them? Why use Israeli investigators? As if the United States didn’t have competent detectives of its own. What other sensitive matters have these Israeli spooks gotten into? Is this really kosher?
  • Last but not least, given the wealth of the country and the astronomical amounts of money they spend on the military, isn’t it a criminal anomaly that they don’t have universal health care, as in the civilized world?

Full disclosure: I confess I’m running out of adjectives to characterize the reality twists and shape-shifts that are occurring over there. I’ve lived in Europe now for two-thirds of my life and it’s possible that my thinking is different–more critical–from that of normal Americans. I must admit that possibility. But so different?

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The Bizarre States of America 1/2

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There’s Weirdness in the Air Over There

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

It was glaringly evident, for example, in the instant, knee-jerk Congressional opposition to virtually all of President Obama’s legislative initiatives throughout his presidency. Even today it lives on in the person of President Donald Trump, whose reneging on the Iran nuclear treaty was clearly motivated, by his own admission, by his rabid anti-Obama sentiment. Let’s be frank; to a majority of the United States Congress and many other high-ranking Republicans, Obama, though the elected President of the United States, was considered an aberration, to them “just an uppity nigger.” They consistently did their best to thwart him in every possible way, regardless of the subsequent negative effects on the well-being of the American public.

You see and hear actions and declarations in the USA that don’t occur anyplace in the real world. What shall we call the American setting? A parallel reality? The Fourth Dimension? Surrealism? Lowbrow Propaganda? Lock’em-up insanity? Brave new neo-con world? Or is this just American exceptionalism taken to the nth degree? What exactly is “American Exceptionalism,” anyway? Is it something they decreed or is it just a phenomenon they consider axiomatic? Isn’t it relevant that practically no one else in the civilized world accepts the stranger American “axioms?”

Ironically, the term “American Exceptionalism,” of which today’s right-wing American politicians are so proud and rely upon so heavily, was a term invented by the Comintern in 1927-28. The Communists employed it as an insult to their own American members who insisted upon special treatment for American communism due to their “exceptional” circumstances. It was an easy matter for American patriots to flip the term to refer to their country’s presumed special status in the world.

The NRA’s New President Starts Off on a Weird Foot

American gun laws are certainly strange, as are the most recent developments in the National Rifle Association, which has just named as its president, convicted (and later un-convicted) felon and international terrorist, Lt. Colonel Oliver North. His opening remarks as president are a textbook exercise in the most cynical manipulation of language in the interest of turbid interests. As for the Second Amendment to the Constitution, it has been skewed so far to the right that today it’s little more than a smokescreen behind which the country’s most sinister ideological and economic interests can hide. These interests pretend not to notice that the United States is the only country in the world whose laws defend the absolute right to bear arms, something considered dangerously anti-social everywhere else in the world. This has to be the most heinous example of “American Exceptionalism.”

On February 14, 2018, Valentine’s Day, students at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida witnessed the random gun slaying of 17 of their classmates, teachers and staff. The very day of the victims’ funeral the Parkland high-school students started to mobilize a nationwide opposition-to-assault-rifles movement, an initiative that most Americans considered valiant and admirable. But in his first remarks on assuming the presidency of the NRA Lt. Colonel North took advantage of the opportunity to insult these teenage activists.

North’s reaction was strange in the extreme. According to Julia Conley, staff writer for Commondreams.org, “In an interview on Thursday, NRA President Oliver North compared the criticism that gun rights activists are facing as Americans call for gun safety legislation, to the attacks on civil rights advocates in the 1960s.”

North claimed in an interview with the Washington Times that the student-led #NeverAgain movement which has invigorated Americans since February’s school shooting in Parkland, Fla., amounts to “civil terrorism.” “This is the kind of thing that’s never been seen against a civil rights organization in America,” said North to the Washington Times. “You go back to the terrible days of Jim Crow and those kinds of things—even there you didn’t have this kind of thing.”

Such a disrespectful, bizarre-world reply from an individual like Oliver North calling protesting students “terrorists” just highlights the fact that, though he’s profoundly concerned about the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, the right to keep and bear arms, he has no regard whatsoever for the First, the right to free speech. The fact that the National Rifle Association should name a person like him its president speaks volumes about the values of that organization, which prioritizes its own deadly firearms-first agenda over all other considerations.

Rev. Sharon Risher, whose family members were killed in a mass shooting at a church in Charleston, S.C. in 2015, replied. “For the NRA to compare its treatment today to the atrocities that occurred during the Jim Crow era is beyond the pale, especially considering it’s the NRA’s extreme leaders who have harassed and intimidated survivors of gun violence with often vile rhetoric. Oliver North should apologize, to black Americans and to all who’ve been touched by racism or gun violence in this country.”

(For information on Oliver North’s role in the Iran-Contra affair, here’s a link to an excellent long article published on the Politicalgates blog. At the end of the article the author draws some compelling parallels between North’s case and that of Bradley/Chelsea Manning and notes that North got off virtually scot-free while Manning did seven years of a 35-year sentence in Ft. Leavenworth federal prison.

Libertarianism Is to “Liberty” as Friendly Fire Is to “Friendly”

When I first ran across the term “Libertarianism” for what seemed to be a new current of political opinion in the United States I thought, “Great, the American anarchists have finally formed a movement to promote freedom for the oppressed.” Then I looked it up. Libertarianism turns out to be the exact opposite, a movement that promotes freedom to oppress and to turn one’s back on the rest. It’s the ultimate I’m-all-right-Jack political philosophy, if you can call that “philosophy.” The gist of it seems to be no—or very little—government, leaving the country’s most capable citizens complete “liberty” to operate and exploit, as if that were liberty. What about the rest of the population? “Oh, them, they’ll have to shift for themselves.”

This thinking (Did it come from one of Washington’s septic “think” tanks?) is offensive for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it ignores the fact that human society is an organism that depends upon the health of all of its members to survive and prosper. The opposing every-man-for-himself doctrine–built into the American “rugged individualism” pietism is pernicious when it comes to building a healthy, sane society, but it’s something that American right-wing cant emphasizes more than ever of late. The Libertarians seem to believe that Americans in a free society should have the liberty to sleep on the street in cardboard boxes.

What is most offensive is the way the Libertarians have co-opted the very word “liberty” for their own perverted form of un-freedom. If this concept gains acceptance across American society they will have young people growing up thinking that “liberty” is the right to divorce oneself from humanity in the interest of the individual: selfishness and greed as holy scripture, the right to neglect the less fortunate and abandon all notions of commonwealth. It’s manipulative and disgusting as it cynically twists beyond all recognition one of the basic supports of all decent human relationships: our language.

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

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Jefferson’s “Den of  Vipers and Thieves”

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

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

The Special Inspector General for TARP summary of the bailout says that the total commitment of government is $16.8 trillion dollars with the $4.6 trillion already paid out. Yes, it was trillions not billions and the banks are now larger and still too big to fail.

The BBC quotes Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat who has built a reputation for challenging Wall Street, as saying, “If big financial institutions know they can get cheap cash from the Fed in a crisis, they have less incentive to manage their risks carefully.”

So, who owns the Federal Reserve banks? According to the stlouisfed.org website, the Federal Reserve Banks are not a part of the federal government, but they exist because of an act of Congress. Their purpose is to serve the public. So is the Fed private or public? The answer, according to the St. Louis Fed, is both:

While the Board of Governors is an independent government agency, the Federal Reserve Banks are set up like private corporations. Member banks hold stock in the Federal Reserve Banks and earn dividends.

Distinguished British-American economist and academic, Simon Johnson writes in 2012 on The Baseline  Scenario website:

Some qualified critics of the Fed feel that prominent financial sector executives and their close allies are much too involved in how the New York Fed operates. This is partly a holdover from the original Federal Reserve Act of 1913 – and reflects the political milieu of that time, in which bankers had to be persuaded to accept a central bank. But it is also an all-too-accurate reflection of where we stand today with regard to global mega-banks and the large, nontransparent and highly dangerous subsidies they extract from the rest of society by being too big to fail. The people who run global mega-banks get the upside when things go well – they are paid based on their return on equity unadjusted for risk, so they prefer a lot of debt piled on top of very little equity. When things go badly, the downside is someone else’s problem – in the first instance, typically, the Federal Reserve’s.

And the American public’s, I might add.

(The website of Provident Metals, a Dallas-based “precious metals” broker, features a brief-but-fascinating insiders’ history of The Fed.)

The Deficiencies Are Not Just Political or Economic

Beyond pure politics and economics, the United States continues to cultivate some shockingly anti-democratic derivatives which make the world wonder when seen from abroad. Racism and white supremacy movements have never been dealt with effectively in the United States, and are on the rise today, a fact which constitutes a grave flaw in the eyes of the world. (That said, the Americans in charge aren’t concerned about the “eyes of the world.”) People in advanced countries are also concerned about social and economic inequality in the United States, the unconcern for the poor and the lack of basic first-world rights and services. A country without universal health care is unthinkable for the people of the civilized world. Nor do they understand why the wealthiest, most-advanced country in the world has such an outlandish prison population. No other advanced country has that problem. What are the Americans doing wrong, they ask themselves.

Though they are admittedly dazzled by American technology, they are gravely concerned by the United States’ disrespectful, illegal and immoral policies regarding other countries, above all their aggressive wars on sovereign nations for specious or non-existent reasons. (E.g. Vietnam, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya…) “Regime change” is not a legitimate casus belli; nor is a socialist government in power. Perhaps the greatest American irony of all in the eyes of the world is the US’s ongoing efforts to export their model of democracy. The question arises immediately: who would want to import it?

What they do export successfully are arms, military assistance, subversive techniques and regime change at the point of a gun. Their School of the Americas (aka  La Escuela de las Americas) at Ft. Benning, Georgia set the benchmark worldwide for teaching torture techniques, principally but not exclusively, to Latin America’s present and future military officers and dictators (some 34,000 of them) for more than half a century. The School was officially closed in the year 2000.  ABC News had this to say on the day of its closing:

A U.S. army facility that critics have labeled a school for dictators, torturers and assassins is being closed today. The ‘School of the Americas,’ in Fort Benning, Ga., which has for 54 years operated as a training facility for Latin American military personnel, will shut its doors after facing criticism from human rights groups for years.

The list of graduates from the School of the Americas is a who’s who of Latin American despots. Students have included Manuel Noriega and Omar Torrijos of Panama, Leopoldo Galtieri of Argentina, and Hugo Banzer Suarez of Bolivia.

Other graduates cut a swath through El Salvador during its civil war, being involved in the 1980 assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the El Mozote massacre in which 900 peasants were killed, and the 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests.

We needn’t weep for the School of the Americas, though. In January of 2001 it reopened in the same location, run by the Defense Department rather than the Army, and with a new name. It is now known as the “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.” Its motto is, “Libertad, Paz y Fraternidad” (Freedom, Peace, and Fraternity).

So, what’s the balance of the last 200 years for the world’s greatest democracy? Are recent United States governments living up to their high-minded Constitution? Sadly, not entirely. Since the United States was seen as the savior of the world immediately after World War II the power and prestige earned during the war went to the politicians’ heads and, always under the pretext of protecting the world from communism, the United States became more of a bully than a benefactor. As they increasingly assumed the role of policemen to the world and its ultimate ideological masters, the Americans’ star lost a lot of its shine. Where they had a reputation for decency and fair play they became renowned for cynicism and sharp dealings. It didn’t help that for decades they had been sponsoring ever-more-brutal and reliably “anti-communist” dictators from Latin America to the Middle East, and interfering in the political processes in other countries around the world.

Next on their immediate agenda of bellicosity, it seems, are Iran and North Korea. The Israelis have long had their eye on the former as potential Palestine-style lebensraum for their cramped little country and the help they get from the Americans to destabilize Iran will reveal to what extent the Israeli tail is wagging the American dog. United States leadership still feels the sting of Iran holding 52 American diplomats and other citizens hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981, after a group of Iranian students took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. It stands as the longest hostage crisis in recorded history. What the Americans have forgotten is the 1954 regime-change operation engineered by the CIA and British MI6 which deposed the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh “and restored the Shah to absolute power, initiating 25 years of repression and torture.” (Quote from William Blum’s Rogue State.) Mossadegh’s “crime” was to nationalize British petroleum interests in Iran.

As for North Korea, President Trump is about to find out that the game of geopolitics is not played in midnight Twitter sessions. Kim Jung-un has outsmarted the President by declaring a unilateral dismounting of North Korea’s nuclear offensive potential. When they sit down together at the negotiating table he will, I suspect, require at the same time that the United States remove their nuclear installations (along with their troops) from South Korea. Check mate.

On the American home front, perhaps the most egregious government initiative has been the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (the Trump Tax Cuts), a tremendous boon for big business which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office sees as adding an estimated $1.455 trillion to the national debt over ten years. This tax cut for the rich entails, of course, a corresponding tax increase for Americans who are not rich. It’s a giant step in the progress of American lycanthropic democracy, a country run by werewolves.

Here is how the Americans for Tax Fairness see the results of the Trump tax cuts.

There’s a name for boasting about one thing and doing the opposite. It’s called hypocrisy. Most countries—excepting, perhaps, Iceland—feel obliged to be hypocritical from time to time, but we have never seen any other country so constantly and utterly devious as the United States of America. They would like to consider their seemingly magnanimous, disinterested policy declarations as “white lies,” “lies for your own good” or “creative use of euphemisms,” but it’s none of that. It’s pure unalloyed hypocrisy. How long can a nation go on living off myths and lies while portraying itself as the shining democracy on the hill? We shall see.

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Is American Democracy on the Critical List? 2/3

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If Lincoln Could Raise His Head Today…

Multi-Billionaire Brothers Change the Rules of the Election Game

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

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

The upshot of the Citizens United initiative, the result of a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling, was that the government restriction on “independent” political spending by corporations and unions was declared unconstitutional. Some cynics might say that Citizens United opened the door to powerful interests “buying” legislators. However one would choose to express it, the foxes are definitely loose in the American election henhouse.

Lobbyists Take Over Washington

Legal lobbying has always been just another mechanism for funneling money to elected officials in exchange for fabulous favors, all at the expense of normal American citizens. But with the Citizens United decision in hand Washington lobbyists now have carte blanche in federal elections. Given the prime importance of big money in American democracy they simply support, by means of Super PACs, candidates who advanced their clients’ private agendas. To sum up, however indirectly, they buy elections wholesale.

The Electoral College: An institution to Confuse and Contain American Voters

Then there’s the Electoral College. What did the people of the United States do to deserve such a clunky, mysterious, unreliable way of distributing the votes in presidential elections, and what can be done about it? There have been many theories alleged for the creation and perpetuation of the Electoral College, but none as convincing as the real reasons, which are almost never cited.

The “official versions” have to do with the logistics of organizing an election in a vast wild country. In the 1780s early Americans were told that the sheer size of the country made it impossible for the voters to become acquainted with the candidates and their programs, so it was necessary to give the voters some help. Then, in 1804, political parties with national presence gave rise to the 12th amendment which, instead of doing the fair and logical thing and abolishing the Electoral College, modified it to its current form. It now enables presidential elections to be partisan affairs, featuring two competing tickets and separate votes for presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

Once the lack-of-voter-information objection was overcome, why wasn’t the Electoral College eliminated in favor of a direct vote count? This has to do with the principal (and unmentionable) reasons for creating and maintaining the Electoral College:

  1. The founding fathers didn’t trust the American rabble to make their own high-level political decisions. It was necessary to place a buffer between the voters and the final determination of the elections. Hence, the Electoral College.

  2. Even more important were the North-South regional issue and the question of slavery. As slaves were denied the vote, the Northern candidate was bound to win if the slave population (more than half a million) of the South was not counted. So the framers of the Constitution compromised, permitting the South to count three-fifths of the slave population as valid votes. Ironically, this then tipped the scales in favor of the southern states. For 32 of the first 36 years of constitutional government, a white slave-holding Virginian occupied the presidency.

Black people in the United States eventually got the vote, but the Electoral College continues to stumble forward to this day. This is why Donald Trump is President of the United States today even though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election by a narrow margin.

What can be done to remedy this cruel and unusual situation? Nothing, for the time being. Such a remedy would entail a constitutional amendment approved in both the House and in the Senate, the latter requiring a two-thirds majority. Given Washington’s political realities today, that is not about to happen.

Enter the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex and the Clandestine Services

The Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex has associated itself with such a massive set of special interests and has assumed so much power in recent years that it prevails over all other powers in the country. Essential to this all-encompassing power are the clandestine services (FBI, NSA, CIA, etc.) where so much top-secret chicanery goes on that these services control top-level political and military decisions in half the world. (Those who are interested in these matters can follow a case in point in real time when President Trump sits down with the North Korean leader, Kim Jung-un in the near future.) But the American secret services, themselves, are out of control. Neither the American people nor, in many cases, their elected representatives are aware of what’s going on, so they have no way of controlling vital events in the life of the nation. The American spooks are essentially all-powerful both at home and abroad.

There are countless examples of this phenomenon in the country’s recent history. Perhaps the most egregious was the Iran-Contra affair, as the main player in the illegal dealings was the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan. According to a PBS article from their collection, The Presidents, Reagan’s dirty-tricks team (Does the name, Oliver North, ring a bell?), thwarted by explicit legal restrictions from selling arms to Iran, devised a scheme to operate behind the backs of the Congress and the people of the United States. Not only did they sell arms to Iran but they funneled part of the proceeds to the CIA’s army of Contras in Nicaragua.

Clandestine operations are able to negate the essence of democracy by their secret nature, their virtually unlimited financing and the fascination they hold for immature politicians. President Barak Obama, ostensibly an honest man committed to peace, was mesmerized by CIA operative John Brennan and the drone-assassination program to the point where the two personally selected assassination candidates in weekly meetings. Obama later named Brennan director of the CIA. (See Conor Friedersdorf’s excellent 2016 article in The Atlantic on the subject here.)

The other massive example of the reach of the American clandestine services is the secret anti-communist armies created by NATO (an all-purpose organization for infiltrating other people’s countries and advancing the American agenda) and the CIA–with help from the British MI6–in almost all European countries after the Second World War. Dubbed “Operation Gladio,” this was ostensibly a scheme to resist a theoretical Soviet occupation of Europe, but was actually used as a set of terrorist groups to instill fear of communism in European countries by carrying out random mass murders and blaming them on “the Reds.”

Other Fishy Fundamental Institutions

It’s not only the United States government and military that are out of control. There are other dodgy institutions, such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), whose website proclaims: “USAID’s work advances U.S. national security and economic prosperity, demonstrates American generosity, and promotes a path to recipient self-reliance and resilience.” This is not easy to decipher but William Blum in his book, Rogue State, says that it includes collaborating with the CIA in fixing elections in client countries.

Perhaps the most sinister of these respected institutions is the Federal Reserve System—made up of the 12 Federal Reserve banks dotted around the country, the most important one being the New York Fed. They respond to no elected power, not the President, not the Congress nor the Supreme Court. And the Fed is not even a government agency; it’s a private business with all Americans under its economic suzerainty.  How did this happen? It’s been a long, winding road, starting with the founding of the Federal Reserve System in 1913. According to the Fed’s own website, “it was created by the Congress to provide the nation with a safer, more flexible, and more stable monetary and financial system.”

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Is American Democracy on the Critical List? 1/3

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American Democracy, the Standard of the Industry

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

But an Impartial Observer Might Conclude That It’s in Trouble

Let’s take a closer, longer look at the greatest democracy in history. What is the measure of a democracy, anyway? A proper democracy is a joy to behold, but it’s not limited to mouthing tired clichés and patriotic posturing. Isn’t it really about the extent to which a country’s free-and-fairly-elected government makes life livable for its entire population?  Anything short of that universal well-being is failure and leaves Democracy an empty shell. By that standard, the United States comes up sorely deficient. A huge swath of the American people is abandoned to their luck. I won’t bother counting the ways for you; the evidence is all-too-visible, all over the country and from all over the world.

The American founding fathers drafted a constitution for their time. Aside from its cavalier attitude toward the slaves, which we’ll discuss later, it espoused lofty ideals, universal application and some ingenious guarantees against the perversion of authority. The most important of these was the “separation of powers.” The theory was that the legislative branch would draft the laws, the executive would enforce them and the Supreme Court would rule on their constitutionality.

The first ten amendments to the Constitution, “The Bill of Rights,” enumerated specifically the constrictions on the power of their government to regulate the lives of American citizens. So far, so good. But the founders did not foresee the preponderance of power that would accrue to the executive branch over time. It was the executive that exercised immediate, hands-on control of the United States government. Any disagreement with executive decisions had to be submitted to the arbitration of the courts or the legislature, a complicated, time-consuming process. Meanwhile, the presidential administration went ahead with its projects.

It’s also relevant that the court of last resort in these matters was—and is–the United States Supreme Court. But it is the President of the United States who appoints the Supreme Court justices. This factor, a serious anomaly in the separation of powers, has at times been determinant on matters of great importance. This is why the liberal justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is clinging to her court seat today, despite her 85 springtimes, in an effort to hold out for the election of a Democratic president so he or she can name the next Supreme Court justice.

Feral Power Turned Loose on the World

The tendency to assume power on dubious grounds did not improve with time. Today the President of the United States has virtual carte blanche when it comes to such important matters as making war. The Constitution stipulates that it is the exclusive right of the U.S. Congress to declare war. But recent American presidents have been creative in excess. They don’t bother declaring war; that would be illegal. They simply go ahead and wage it, at any time in any place and for whatever reason, however specious. From such gossamer threads dangles the fate of the world.

Nor are they coy about it. The executive branch—in the voice of neo-con Assistant Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, announced it clearly in a document entitled “Defense Strategy for the 1990s,” the regional defense strategy report for the 1994-99 fiscal years. Later known as the Wolfowitz Doctrine, this “defense strategy” came out of right-wing Washington think tank, Project for the New American Century (PNAC), and had its presentation in society when Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, made it public in 1993. The release of the document, which detailed a policy of unilateral American power worldwide and pre-emptive strikes to thwart military threats from other nations and prevent any other country from attaining superpower status, engendered widespread controversy regarding U.S. defense policy. A “pre-emptive strike,” you see, is a euphemism for “unprovoked attack.” Here’s a sample quote from this seminal American foreign-policy document (See if you don’t detect a predisposition to consider the countries of Western Europe as potential “hostile powers.”):

Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power. These regions include Western Europe, East Asia, the territory of the former Soviet Union, and Southwest Asia.

Today, May 7, 2018, the declaration of world domination that is the Wolfowitz Doctrine trumps any other law, regulation, decision or precedent, on both the national and international scenes, when it comes to prioritizing American interests worldwide. This policy was hammered home in 1997 by co-founder of the Trilateral Commission and former U.S. National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, in a book called The Grand Chessboard:

The most immediate task is to make certain that no state or combination of states gains the capacity to expel the United States from Eurasia or even to diminish significantly its decisive arbitrating role.”

” … the expansion of NATO is essential. By the same token, a failure to widen NATO … would shatter the concept of an expanding Europe and de-moralize the Central Europeans. It could even reignite currently dormant or dying Russian geopolitical aspirations in Central Europe.

Federal Election Results are Skewed

Even if Congress had a more expedient way of exercising its power, both dubious internal practices and recent inroads into election financing have greatly diminished its legitimacy and moral authority. The bottom line is discernable in Congressional election results, where incumbent candidates have an unfair advantage due to their “brand recognition,” assured financing and astute use of election-meddling tools such as gerrymandering congressional districts to their own benefit.

With all of these advantages for the veteran legislators, and barring exceptional circumstances, it is practically impossible for a newcomer to win a congressional election. According to opensecrets.org, nothing in this world is as predictable as the probability of congressional incumbents being reelected. This trend is more exaggerated in the House but also pronounced in the Senate. The bar graphs below reflect the reelection rates for the House and Senate between 1964 and 2016. As you can see, the House results hover over 90% of incumbent victories and the Senate’s not far behind. Does this look like a statistical portrait of free and fair elections?

House reelection graph

Senate reelection graph

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

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Who Can Condone Such Actions?

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

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

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

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

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

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Woodrow Wilson Kept the Russophobe Ball Rolling

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

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

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

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A Note on Sources

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

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

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

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

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The US Brings Democracy to the Mediterranean/2

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

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

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It’s Them Pesky Russkies Again

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

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What Is It With the American Flag Fetish?

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Americans’ Extreme Devotion to Their Flag Arouses Curiosity

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

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

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Teach Your Children Well

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Give a Lift to the Future

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

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

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The Children’s Crusade–3/3

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

Recipe for a Well-Balanced Country

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

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

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The Children’s Crusade–2/3

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

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

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

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

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

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The Children’s Crusade–1/3

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Parkland Students Take the Gun-Control Bull by the Horns

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

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

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Iceland on Child Circumcision: They’re Against It

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After Locking Up 26 Crooked Bankers and Refusing to “Rescue” the Debts They Incurred, The Icelanders Are Now Considering Banning Child Circumcision

This “row over religious freedom” article in last Sunday’s Guardian was an eye opener:

Iceland law to outlaw male circumcision sparks row over religious freedom

Iceland is poised to become the first European country to outlaw male circumcision amid signs that the ritual common to both Judaism and Islam may be a new battleground over religious freedom.

A bill currently before the Icelandic parliament proposes a penalty of up to six years in prison for anyone carrying out a circumcision other than for medical reasons. Critics say the move, which has sparked alarm among religious leaders across Europe, would make life for Jews and Muslims in Iceland unsustainable.

Continue reading “Iceland on Child Circumcision: They’re Against It”

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What’s Gone Wrong with America? 2/2

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Pandering to the Locked-In Electorate

What part of his locked-in electorate would he lose? He’d no doubt lose the men and women who give more importance to their guns than to their children. Among the hundreds of victims of school shootings in recent years there must have been some sons and daughters of hard-core gun activists? How did they feel about losing their children? Has anybody interviewed them? What did they say? Did they notice there were guns involved in the shootings of their children? What do they propose to do about it? If President Trump did a U-turn on his gun policies he would probably lose the Nazis and the white supremacists, the sociopaths and psychotics, the bombers of pre-school toddlers, the military maniacs, and a lot of desperate, ignorant people who have been drafted into the ranks of the alt-right in recent years.

President Trump expresses concern about the country’s mental health, a concern that seems to support his contention that the gun-death problems are due to crazies, not guns. He’s half right. The United States has a mental health problem that is so vast that the authorities there dare not even acknowledge it in its entirety: the country is half crazy–or half the country is crazy, my estimate. Either way, a huge proportion of the population is mentally deranged. Some of them are medicated, others run loose, untreated. Still others are treated with drugs that make them dangerous. What’s wrong with them? It’s simple: they have been born and raised in a dangerous, schizophrenogenic society (a society that fosters insanity) and they’re doing their best to swim in those fetid waters. They live in a world in which one must adopt some degree of insanity in order merely to survive. If not, how do you explain to a citizen that the carrying of lethal firearms is essential in a well-ordered society and that the remedy for the tragic abuse of those firearms is more firearms? In order for a citizen to believe that, he has to be totally detached from reality. I believe that’s an excellent definition of insanity. Continue reading “What’s Gone Wrong with America? 2/2”

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What’s Gone Wrong with America? 1/2

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The recent school shootings (in Parkland, Florida; by the time you read this there may have been another one) reminded me once again that there’s something gravely amiss in the U.S.A. So many abnormal actions and reactions are taking place over there that it can no longer be considered an even remotely normal country. What went wrong? I think it’s clear what went wrong: the nation’s values got grotesquely twisted. The real question is, “Why?”

The Problems Originated With the Authoritarian Revealed Religion That Perpetuated Itself in the U.S.A. Down to Our Own Times

In the modern world where religion is losing traction dramatically in most industrial countries, why does revealed miracle religion still prevail in the United States? We can only guess, but let’s take a stab at it. I think the answer is principally historical. I think it’s relevant that the country was colonized by religious fanatics. The Pilgrims landed in the New World in 1620 and founded the Plymouth Colony. These Puritans (The name says it all.) felt persecuted in Britain and fled to North America where they could practice their reactionary, authoritarian, intolerant religion. They adopted a theocratical form of government that burned “witches,” ruled minds and left an indelible stamp on the subsequent development of the United States. Freshmen American university students still study their writings. You may remember Jonathan Edwards and his memorable sermon, Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God. Continue reading “What’s Gone Wrong with America? 1/2”

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How Drones Have Made War Fun and Easy–3/3

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The Abuse of Power Is a Downward Spiral

What we have seen in the transition from the Obama to the Trump administrations is that the abuse of power under one administration leads to the abuse of power under another. Trump may be driving it more recklessly, but he’s still operating a machine the Obama administration built.

During his last year in office, responding to increasing criticism, Obama gave a speech attempting to clarify the boundaries of his drone target selection and his “signature killings,” based exclusively on behaviors observed on the ground considered indicative of possible terrorist activity, whatever that means.

“America’s actions are legal,” the president asserted of the drone war, which he claimed was being “waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense.” Self-defense? Obama might be able to claim the self-defense justification if he were killing enemies in the heat of battle in Ohio or Utah, but Iraq or Somalia? Not quite. This is just another case of clear and present bullshit. Continue reading “How Drones Have Made War Fun and Easy–3/3”

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How Drones Have Made War Fun and Easy–2/3

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A History of Targets and Toys

Ironically some of the first drones were target vehicles used in the training of anti-aircraft crews. One of the earliest of these was the British DH.82 Queen Bee, a variant of the Tiger Moth trainer aircraft operational from 1935. Its apicultural name led to the present term “drone.” In the 1940s, the mass production of the American actor and inventor, Reginald Denny, and the engineer Walter Righter’s “Radioplane” target drone led to the widespread adoption of radio controlled aircraft by the military for not only training AAA gunners but also combat roles from the Pacific Theatre in WW2 through to the present day. The “Dennyplane”, a mid-1930s pre-cursor to the “Radioplane,” brought model airplanes to the masses in a post-depression, pre-war U.S. and was an important forerunner to modern drone technology.

The Drone’s Presence in Vietnam

During the Vietnam War (1964- 75) the U.S. Army flew the little-known BQM-34A drone, which racked up some 3,500 missions, at a cost of more than 550 drones lost. The BQM-34A launched AGM-65 Maverick missiles and GBU-8 Stubby Hobo glide bomb. The drone was flown by a ground operator in a remote control van using a nose TV camera: since the weapons were electro-optically guided the operator could switch screen from the “drone view” to the “weapon view” to guide it to the target.

In the 1980’s the world’s armies began to consider further updating of unmanned aircraft in a serious light. The Israeli victory over the Syrian Air Force in 1982 was thanks, in part, to the use of armed drones in destroying a dozen Syrian aircraft on the ground. Then, in 1986 the U.S. and Israel collaborated on the creation of the RQ2 Pioneer, a medium-sized reconnaissance unmanned aircraft.

Fifteen years later, near the end of the first year of the George W. Bush presidency, a small, remote-control airplane called a Predator left a base in Uzbekistan, crossed the border into Afghanistan and started tracking a convoy of vehicles believed to be carrying jihadi leaders along a road in Kabul. A group of officers and spies, monitoring the streamed images from inside a trailer in a parking lot at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, watched the convoy stop outside a building. With the push of a button in Langley, the Predator fired a Hellfire missile at the building, the back half of which exploded. Seven survivors of the blast were seen fleeing to another nearby structure. A second Hellfire destroyed that shelter, too. Among the dead was Mohammed Atef, al-Qaida’s military chief and Osama Bin Laden’s son-in-law. Now, after the Atef killing, the modern era of the armed drone had begun. Continue reading “How Drones Have Made War Fun and Easy–2/3”

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How Armed Drones Have Made War Fun and Easy–1/3

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Sky Death Has Never Been So Effective, So Economical, So Safe Nor So Sinister

My first experience of death from the sky (admittedly second hand) was when I saw the video leaked by Bradley Manning and Wikileaks of the massacre of a dozen innocents, including a two-man Reuters news team, on the streets of Baghdad in 2007 by U.S. army Apache helicopters armed with 50-caliber machine guns. It was heart shrinking. And the most dramatic part was when the choppers did another pass to kill the people in a van that arrived to try to rescue the survivors.

Two children wounded in the van were evacuated by U.S. ground forces arriving at the scene as the helicopters continued to circle overhead. “Well it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle,” one of the U.S. fliers was heard to remark over the audio track of the helicopter gun-sight video.

Yes, as you can understand, clearly it was their fault. Continue reading “How Armed Drones Have Made War Fun and Easy–1/3”

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Washington’s Hollow Men Write Their Own Ticket–and Yours 2/2

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks to media mogul Rupert Murdoch as they walk out of Trump International Golf Links in Aberdeen

Where the money is, billionaire media mogul, Rupert Murdoch with Donald Trump.

Does President Donald Trump Even Exist?

Does he even exist? Or is he just an empty shell, selected for his flashiness and impropriety, traits guaranteed to take our eye off the ball while his handlers re-stack all the decks. There’s an exact word in the dictionary for this kind of cheap distraction with worthless nonsense. It’s called “trumpery.” Samuel Johnson, in his  dictionary of 1755, assigned three meanings to trumpery:

(1) Something fallaciously splendid; something of less value than it seems
(2) Falsehood, empty talk
(3) Something of no value; trifles

(See the Merriam-Webster definition here.)

If we look behind the advisors at the President’s backers and influencers, the panorama is even more depressing. What are President Trump’s principal influencers are made of? I’ll give you a hint. It’s mainly money. One of the earliest of these wise men is Rupert Murdoch, a superannuated nationalized American media mogul born in Australia who has always been associated with yellow journalism and right-wing causes in all places where he has substantial media holdings: among others Australia (Leader Newspaper Group, Quest Community Newspapers), the U.K. (Sky  UK) and the United States (Fox News, News Corporation. 21st Century Fox). Continue reading “Washington’s Hollow Men Write Their Own Ticket–and Yours 2/2”

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Washington’s Hollow Men Write Their Own Ticket–and Yours 1/2

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The “experts” in President Donald Trump’s first cabinet.

We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats’ feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

T.S. Eliot
(Full text here.)

Beware the Lycanthropic Superpower

There’s a prima facie case for believing that President Donald Trump’s dubious curriculum and limited intellectual and moral capacities are sufficient justification for asserting that he exercises very little power in the White House. What, after all, can a man who doesn’t read contribute to decision making at the world’s highest level?  That leaves us to believe he’s just a straw man, a placeholder for the oligarchs that really run the United States in every significant respect. The obligatory next question is: Do the oligarchs themselves embody the necessary intellectual and moral capacities?

Since the only values recognized by the USA’s neo-con ruling class are economic in nature they are the only values the Trump administration proposes and promotes. They give no credit to human, nor historical, nor esthetic nor ethical considerations. The mythical “market” rules: just the bucks and the bling, and the faster the better. They know this scenario is essentially based on lies but they will continue to employ it as long as it works.

In matters of international politics the values of the American strategists of permanent war are equally bleak, just brutal smash-and-grab tactics, applied around the world, their aim to consolidate the United States as the world’s pre-eminent lycanthropic superpower.

What Ever Happened to the Free and Fair Election?

Just over two centuries ago the United States of America was cast in the Constitution as a democracy, albeit limited and imperfect. Women and slaves couldn’t vote, for example, and the election of the President was indirect, via an “electoral college” created by the Twelfth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Founding Fathers didn’t trust the unwashed masses; neither has any US American administration since. Even so, it was a step forward over Europe’s absolute monarchies.

Then, as now, the authenticity of a democracy depended upon free and fair elections. Without elections free of fraud and outside influence a “democracy” is a democracy in name only. Flash forward 231 years. How is the United States doing today in matters of preserving democracy? Not terribly well, it seems. Today the great election influencer is money. According to the Wikipedia, in 2009 the Washington Post estimated that there were 13,700 registered lobbyists and described the nation’s Capitol as “teeming with lobbyists.” The ratio of lobbyists employed by the healthcare industry, compared with every elected politician, was six to one, according to one account. (Could this be why the United States doesn’t have proper universal health care, like nearly every other country in the industrialized world?) This is just healthcare lobbyists; the ratio of the total is more like 16 to one. Someone has to pay all these lobbyists. Who pays and what do they get in return?

According to Tom Murse, writing on the ThoughtCo.com website,

Lobbyists are hired and paid by special interest groups, companies, nonprofits and even school districts to exert influence over elected officials at all levels of government. Lobbyists work at the federal level by meeting with members of Congress to introduce legislation and encourage them to vote certain ways that benefit their clients. But they also work at the local and state levels as well.

What does a lobbyist do, then, that makes him so unpopular? It comes down to money. Most Americans don’t have the money to spend on trying to influence their members of Congress, so they view special interests and their lobbyists as having an unfair advantage in creating policy that benefits them rather than the good of the people. 

Lobbyists, however, say they simply want to make sure your elected officials “hear and understand both sides of an issue before making a decision,” as one lobbying firm puts it. Together they spend more than $3 billion trying to influence members of Congress every year, according to the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington, D.C.

PACs and Super PACs Thicken the Plot

The “political action committee” (PAC) dates from a 1943 CIO union initiative, but it has come a long way since then. Its latest iteration, from, 2010, is the Super PAC, thanks to two judicial decisions that revolutionized campaign financing in the United States. A Super PAC may not make contributions directly to candidate campaigns or parties but may engage in unlimited political spending independently of the campaigns. Unlike traditional PACs, they can raise funds from individuals, corporations, unions, and other groups without any legal limit on donation size. (Emphasis mine.)

That is to say, they can exert massive influence the outcome of elections. The bottom line is that big money, whether individual billionaires, companies, trade associations or unions, can now virtually buy legislators. The process is admittedly indirect but mortally effective. The United States government has become a commodity in their much-vaunted free-market economy. It has passed from democracy to “democracy.” There is only one limit on the power of the Super PAC: how much money are they willing to spend?

Add to the lobbyists and the Super PACs, the legislators’ self-arrogated right to redesign their congressional districts to assure their own re-election (gerrymandering), a grotesque and anti-democratic practice that is also legal.

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The Spanish philosopher and essayist, José Ortega y Gasset, wrote in his Meditaciones del Quijote, “Yo soy yo y mi circunstancia y si no la salvo a ella no me salvo yo.” (I am myself and my circumstances and if I don’t save them I don’t save myself.) President Donald Trump is himself and his advisors, and he doesn’t seem capable of saving either them nor himself. Without personal resources, without civilized criteria, nor advisors who are more than neophytes, party hacks and generals, the President is a hollow man.

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Playing the U.S. American Game of Rogue States/Regime Change–2/2

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Sowing Chaos for Fun and Profit

It doesn’t take a lot of resources or imagination to wreak massive social and political chaos in someone else’s country. Washington operatives just have to pay off a few crooked local politicians—there’s no shortage of those–and call upon the CIA to put its coup techniques to work. After more than half a century of running these operations the CIA has got it down to a sinister routine. Just organize and finance a right-wing “opposition,” put pressure on the media, and encourage (organize and finance) anti-government demonstrations. Bingo! Another impertinent little country (with a democratically elected government or not; that’s irrelevant) privatizes its sovereign wealth and joins NATO.

“Privatize?” That means selling off their mines and oil fields, farms and forests, industries and even housing to US American banks and vulture funds at market prices. You can imagine how the “market” looks after a couple of decades of CIA black ops. The first stages of this process are currently underway in Venezuela and Iran. If all goes well they will soon join the long list of U.S. “client states.”

They Don’t Always Win

It’s only fair to point out that these US American regime-change programs don’t always work out as planned. When they fail it’s usually thanks to the sheer bloody-mindedness of local populations that resent being invaded and—above all—humiliated by invaders from “advanced countries.” The history of these failed regime-change attempts goes back at least to the Russian revolution. According to William Blum, “By the summer of 1918 some 13,000 American troops could be found active in the newly-born Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Two years and thousands of casualties later, the American troops left, having failed in their mission to ‘strangle at its birth’ the Bolshevik state, as Winston Churchill put it. Aside from the strangler’s fantasies, was the British-American invasion of Russia in any way justifiable? Not really.

Flash forward to 1954. Iran was another egregious example of US American regime-change treachery, one that has left a bitter legacy and wounds that are still not closed. Iran’s democratically-elected president, Mohammed Mossadegh, came under siege in part because of his nationalization of British oil interests. The British-engineered international boycott of Iran failed and in 1952 they turned to the Americans for help. Using a possible but highly-improbable “Soviet threat” as a pretext, President Truman encouraged Iran’s former monarch, Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, to issue decrees dismissing Mossadegh and replacing him with a general who had been imprisoned by the British during World War II for his collaboration with the Nazis.

It was a simple matter for the American ambassador, Henderson, the CIA, and the American military mission in Iran to cobble together an anti-Mossadegh mob marching in the streets of Tehran, while at the same time a Long-Live-the-Shah demonstration was pouring out of the city’s ancient bazaar. The clash between the two precipitated a nine-hour street battle that caused some 300 dead and many more wounded before Mossadegh’s defenders were finally defeated. The coup d’etat was a fait accompli. Was there any objective reason for the American overthrow of Mossadegh? We’re talking about toppling the elected government of a sovereign nation with which the United States was not at war. Of course, there wasn’t, beyond high-handed US American delusions of grandeur.

The Iranian Dragon’s Egg Hatches

It was only 25 years later, in 1979, when a group of Iranian students, who had apparently not forgotten the U.S. role in overthrowing Mossadegh nor its longstanding support of the (recently ousted) Shah, took 52 American hostages in the American embassy and held them for 444 days. The incident was complicated by a botched rescue attempt, known as Operation Eagle Claw, which resulted in the accidental deaths of eight American servicemen and one Iranian civilian, as well as the destruction of two helicopters.

Given these antecedents, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to understand the profoundly resentful and belligerent attitude of the United States today vis a vis Iran, the outcome of which remains to be seen.

To whom do you turn when your backward little banana republic comes under bombardment from CIA planes? Guatemala tried everybody—the U.N., the Organization of American States, neighboring countries, the world press…” but no help was forthcoming. Dwight Eisenhower, John Foster Dulles, and Alan Dulles had decided that Jacobo Arbenz, the only democratically-elected president of Central America, was “communist” and had to be neutralized. He was ousted in June of 1954. What does it take to brand a country’s leader “communist.” Nothing much, really, just stick a label on him.

Do You Remember Vietnam?

Then there’s Vietnam, whose victory after 14 years of war against the most powerful military machine in the world, should have been a once-and-for-all lesson for ambitious US American policymakers but, unfortunately, they never learned. I can still see the television images of sailors tipping Huey helicopters off the deck of an aircraft carrier to make room for the choppers evacuating American personnel and Vietnamese collaborators from Saigon in 1975.

Here’s Newsweek reminiscing about the event 40 years later:

Just over 40 years ago, on April 23, 1975, President Gerald Ford announced the Vietnam War was “finished as far as America is concerned.” Military involvement had come to an end, but the U.S. still faced a crucial task: the safe evacuation of Americans who remained in Saigon, including the then-U.S. ambassador, Graham Martin.

After Tan Son Nhut Airport was bombed heavily on April 29, and the last two Americans were killed in action, the evacuation had to continue with helicopters. “It was an absolute mess,” Colin Broussard, a marine assigned to Martin’s personal security detail, told the Chicago Tribune in 2005. “We knew immediately when we saw the airfield that the fixed-wing operation was done.”

Over the course of April 29 and into the following morning, Operation Frequent Wind transported more than 1,000 Americans and more than 5,000 Vietnamese out of the city. The 19-hour operation involved 81 helicopters and is often called the largest helicopter evacuation on record.

helicopter_tip

U.S. Navy personnel aboard the U.S.S. Blue Ridge push a helicopter into the sea off the coast of Vietnam in order to make room for more evacuation flights from Saigon on April 29, 1975. The helicopter had carried Vietnamese fleeing Saigon as North Vietnamese forces closed in on the capital.

What about Iraq and Afghanistan?

Then there are the Iraq and Afghanistan experiences. The gratuitous Iraq adventure was only “successful” in terms of massive destruction and human suffering including wholesale infant mortality. The Afghan mission was justified by an American-sponsored Muslim guerilla fighter hiding in a cave. Imagine that. Uncle Sam certainly never expected still to be fighting in Afghanistan 17 years on. The jauntily-named “Operation Enduring Freedom” may be enduring but it’s surely not freedom; who writes this dreck, anyway?

We don’t have time or space here to discuss the cases of Cuba (Cuba, a rogue state?!) nor Chile, perhaps the most egregious of all. So I won’t bore you with more regime-change operations fathered (or mothered, if you prefer) by the world’s premier rogue state. I trust you get the picture. The question that remains is: How will it end? I can answer that. It will end with eventual world domination. Unless someone comes up with a better idea.

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Playing the U.S. American Game of Rogue States/Regime Change–1/2

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What’s a “Rogue State?”

“Rogue state” is a term applied by some theorists to states they consider threatening to world peace. That is, countries ruled by authoritarian governments that severely restrict human rights, sponsor terrorism and seek to extend weapons of mass destruction. The term is used primarily by the United States (though the US State Department officially stopped using it in 2000). In a speech to the UN in 2017, President Donald Trump reiterated the phrase.

The US Americans have established themselves as the world authority on “rogue states.” They decide which are the countries that function outside of the constrictions of international order and reject the rule of law. In fact, it was President Clinton’s National Security Advisor, Anthony Lake, who coined the term “rogue state” in a 1994 issue of Foreign Affairs. He categorized five countries as rogue states: North Korea, Cuba, Iraq, Iran and Libya. One nation was conspicuously missing from this list but it would have been unseemly for Mr. Lake to name his own country.

In was in June of 2000 when U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, swapped the term for “States of Concern.” Other euphemisms have been employed since then–“Axis of Evil,” “Outposts of Tyranny,” and “State Sponsors of Terrorism.” I recently discovered that two excellent books were published on the subject of rogue states some time ago, by Noam Chomsky and William Blum. Both included the term “rogue state” in the title, and the United States was the protagonist of both of them. Interestingly, both of these prestigious commentator/activists also included Israel in the category of rogue state, principally for their treatment of the Palestinians since 1948. Continue reading “Playing the U.S. American Game of Rogue States/Regime Change–1/2”

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Just Say Goodbye — 2/3

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by Mike Booth

How to Begin

You need to start out with a mission statement. That’s your North Star; it has to do with the essence of your project and your objectives. That is to say, what are your priorities and where do you want to go, not only geographically, but philosophically? Think hard about it and get it right. Again, you’re not in a hurry. This is the genetic code of your expatriation project, and if you get it wrong at the outset when the cells of the embryo are just beginning to divide, you may run into trouble down the line.

If you’ll forgive me stretching the metaphor a bit, you’ll also need some market research. You’ll need to investigate what is possible, and where.  You’ll need to look into the economic situations and the labor laws in your possible destinations. Don’t be put off by seemingly stifling regulations, though.  Rules are made to be broken. You’re a creative person; if you weren’t you wouldn’t be reading this.  Don’t be afraid to trust your luck.  So many good things happen by serendipity if you’ll let them. Continue reading “Just Say Goodbye — 2/3”

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The U.S. American White Trash Values Are Mutating and Migrating

America, Your Deodorant Is Letting You Down

“Poor White Trash,” was originally a despective term for impoverished,  landless sharecroppers who differed from black slaves only in their skin color. They were white, and that whiteness spared them from being considered–and considering themselves–the lowest scum on the earth.

They were unwashed, undernourished and unlettered. But, by God, they were white. That gave them an ascendency over black people: they could kill them with impunity. The name for that time-honored southern tradition is lynching, and its legacy lives on in various forms, in police forces, in the penal system, in education and employment… Continue reading “The U.S. American White Trash Values Are Mutating and Migrating”

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USA Driven by a Familiar Fear: The Russians Are Coming!–2/2

It’s a 100-Year-and-Counting Fear Campaign

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It was during the troubled times of the early 1920s that the sinister tendrils of the fear of Red Peril were planted. They were to put down deep roots over the following hundred years, which brings us up to our own time. This century-long fear campaign has been tremendously successful and the results are rich and varied and spread over many fronts, starting with the largest military budget in the world, 824.6 billion dollars for fiscal year 2018, and allegedly between 800 and 1,000 military installations abroad.

David Vine writes in a 2015 article in The Nation:

“To the extent that Americans think about these bases at all, we generally assume they’re essential to national security and global peace. Our leaders have claimed as much since most of them were established during World War II and the early days of the Cold War. As a result, we consider the situation normal and accept that US military installations exist in staggering numbers in other countries, on other peoples’ land. On the other hand, the idea that there would be foreign bases on US soil is unthinkable.

“While there are no freestanding foreign bases permanently located in the United States, there are now around 800 US bases in foreign countries. Seventy years after World War II and 62 years after the Korean War, there are still 174 US “base sites” in Germany, 113 in Japan, and 83 in South Korea, according to the Pentagon. Hundreds more dot the planet in around 80 countries, including Aruba and Australia, Bahrain and Bulgaria, Colombia, Kenya, and Qatar, among many other places. Although few Americans realize it, the United States likely has more bases in foreign lands than any other people, nation, or empire in history.”

For more information on this subject see Global Research’s extensive dossier on American Military Bases and/or Military Installations abroad.

The Bases Are Indicators

All of that spending and all of those American bases abroad are the underlying indicators of the level of fear that reigns in the United States power elite. What other possible motivation (aside from the profit motive) can there be for mounting such a grotesque—and expensive–network of death and destruction around the world?

The other face of the military spending/bases coin is the backing it gives the Americans for their commitment to permanent war. To quote a great American, “…they got a lot of forks ‘n knives. And they got to cut something.” (Bob Dylan, Talkin’ New York 1962).

 Another result of the great American fear campaign is the number of American citizens programmed to hate and fear not only the Russians but any sort of collective social or political solutions anywhere in the world. This includes anything that smacks of socialism or even “liberalism,”e.g. Canadian and European universal health care. Canada poses a particularly dangerous threat, sitting as it does right up against the United States’s northern border. American refugees are already starting to filter across that porous border. Is another great wall in the offing? Or perhaps a pre-emptive strike?

Do You Remember “Manifest Destiny?”

Add to these nefarious results a vicious jingoism and a predisposition to intervene militarily in any country in the world in order to co-opt its natural resources, notably but not exclusively oil. (Afghanistan allegedly sits on top of a trillion dollars’ worth of strategic mineral deposits. See U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan in the New York Times, June 13, 2010. This was followed last summer in the same newspaper by Trump Finds Reason for the U.S. to Remain in Afghanistan: Minerals.)

All of this fear on the heights, unlike the wealth of the rich, trickles down to every nook and cranny of underling America, forming the base of the ideological pyramid. For some unknown reason this toxic Kool Aid seems to get stronger as it penetrates into the unlettered heads of the central and southern United States, fueling waves of nationalistic fanaticism. I won’t bother you with examples. You know what I’m talking about.

What’s to Be Done?

So, with all these fears generating 57 varieties of imminent danger in the United States and all over the world, what’s to be done? There are a lot of solutions flying around Facebook. One of my favorites is the solution propounded by a wacky Evangelical group, a branch of dispensationalism, a belief system embraced by Christian fundamentalists as a defense of the literal Bible against liberalism.

They are a group with some 15,000,000 members whose well-funded Rapturist plan is to provoke a war between Israel and the Muslims in the Middle East. The inevitable victory of the God’s chosen people will then precipitate the Apocalypse which will propel all of us infidels (including the Jews who don’t convert to Christianity; take note Bibi) directly into hell. At the same time certain highly-qualified Christians will be ascended  into Heaven where they will sit at the right hand of God from where they will watch the Apocalypse as if it were the Super Bowl.

Good night and good luck, America.

Read more rant in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

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USA Driven by a Familiar Fear: The Russians Are Coming!–1/2

100  Years of Using Fear of Russians to Keep American Citizens in Line

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My opinion—and I think I can sustain it with evidence–is that fear is the principal factor that has given rise to the United States’s world view since the early 20th century, and that fear still underlies much of what official America thinks and does both at home and—especially–abroad.

First a word about linguistcs. It’s neither fair nor correct to use the term “Americans” carelessly and all inclusively, as if the United States were made up of a homogenized, monolithic population. No, there are many flavors of Americans, each with its own political philosophy, from semi-literate, gun-toting  white supremacists and Nazis to dedicated radical leftists and, in the middle, a great grey mass of well-meaning, faith-driven folks who just believe what they’re told to believe. And that’s the problem—what they’re told to believe.

It’s a Pyramid

At the top of this tutti-frutti pyramid are the Americans in Charge (AiC): big businessmen (including a surprising number of psychotic billionaires with extravagant political agendas), a truculent, predatory military-industrial complex bent on world domination (euphemistically, in their own words, “full spectrum dominance”) and a political class the likes of which we have never seen before in terms of cynicism, opportunism and utter lack of human values. At the top of the pyramid reigns a louche, narcissistic and infantiloid maniac, the paradigm of ignorance and arrogance in a world endowed today with a surfeit of maniacs.

So, what exactly do the Americans fear? The answer to this question comes in pyramid form, too. Let’s start from the top down. The Americans in Charge (AiC, see above) since the early 20th century all fear the power of a better idea. (Americans used to be fond of saying, “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.” That was when they built better mousetraps. Now that Slovakia builds better mousetraps that old saying has fallen somewhat into disuse.)

The Better Idea Looked Dangerous

That better idea reared its head in 1917, after centuries of tyrannical Tsarist rule in Russia, with the socialist October Revolution led by Vladimir Lenin. There followed a civil war between Lenin’s Bolsheviks and a coalition of monarchists, capitalists and Menchevik socialists. Eight foreign countries, including Britain, France and half a dozen other countries belonging to the World War I Allied armies, also intervened against Lenin’s forces, but to no avail. The war was resolved in 1923 in favor of the Bolsheviks after six years and a toll of between seven and twelve million casualties, mostly civilians.

At that crucial point in the early 20th century the world was weary of rule by European royal autocrats and American robber barons. It was ripe for more egalitarian governments. In those days, before Soviet communism had revealed its dark side, many world citizens aspired to imitate the solutions of the recently-created Soviet Union for a fairer distribution of the wealth of nations.

Institutional Fear Triggers Overwhelming Responses

In America there was a short history of labor activism before the 1920s. The ultimate response to these inconveniences to business as usual was the Haymarket Square Massacre at a rally of leftist demonstrators in Chicago who were demanding an eight-hour day. Someone threw a bomb that killed seven police officers and at least four civilians and, though it was never made clear who was responsible for the bomb, of the eight defendants one committed suicide and four were hanged. Six years later in 1893 Illinois’s new governor, John Peter Altgeld, pardoned the remaining defendants and criticized the trial.

It was events like this and the deadly stalking of the International Workers of the World (IWW, the Wobblies) that set the scene for the enhanced persecution of the left, then in the context of the post-World-War-I nationalist hysteria and the Russian Revolution. These events were referred to subsequently as “the first Red Scare” (1917-1920). The IWW, founded as an industrial union in 1905 in Chicago, grew to 150,000 members by 1917. Its founders included some of the great names in the history of progressive America: William D. (“Big Bill”) HaywoodJames ConnollyDaniel De LeonEugene V. DebsThomas HagertyLucy ParsonsMary Harris “Mother” JonesFrank BohnWilliam TrautmannVincent Saint JohnRalph Chaplin, and many others. (Thank you, Wikipedia.)

More Gratuitous Repression: The Palmer Raids

American big business, which had enjoyed a free hand (and wielded it) against workers and unions before 1917, was quick to perceive the threat of losing control and responded in panic mode. The Attorney General, A. Mitchell Palmer (with the inestimable help of his promising protégé, 24-year-old J. Edgar Hoover), carried out in November of 1919 and January of 1920 the so-called Palmer Raids to capture, arrest and deport suspected radical leftists and anarchists. Palmer’s attempt to suppress left-wing organizations was characterized by inflammatory rhetoric, illegal searches and seizures, unwarranted arrests and detentions, and the deportation of some 500 “alleged” radicals and anarchists.  There would have been many more deportations if the U.S. Secretary of Labor, William B. Wilson, had not intervened on behalf of workers, who had neither been tried nor convicted of anything.

Coming soon Chapter 2/2

Read more rants in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

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The United States of America Is the Only Country in the World That Sentences Children to Die in Prison

 

Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

Goddamn, boys and girls live precarious lives in the U.S.A today. If they don’t fall victims to regularly scheduled school shootings or pederast clergymen, they are processed into commercially valuable commododities by corrupt juvenile judges and sold to private prisons. The shooting deaths at school might be attributed to crazies with constitutionally-sanctioned access to guns, and perverted priests are old hat, but the sale of children to private prisons is uniquely sinister. This cynical practice is perpetrated by subjects–we’re talking about judges–who are bound by public trust to guarantee the safety and wellbeing of their country’s young people.

The betrayal of that obligation in order to ruin young lives is, I submit, a crime as serious as homicide. Violation of public trust, like election tampering, is an issue that touches the very DNA of a democratic society. A country without honest and trustworthy judicial authorities and free and fair elections has no right to call itself a democracy.

Kids for Cash

I refer to the 2008 Kids for Cash case in which two Pennsylvania juvenile court judges were convicted of accepting kickbacks from a “prominent” real estate developer for unfairly sentencing children to imprisonment in his two for-profit juvenile prisons. The  judges, Mark Ciavarella and Michael Conahan, not only provided the new prisons with some 2,400 children for profit, but were instrumental in using their influence to have the existing juvenile facility discredited and the new ones constructed.

The “crimes” for which children as young as 13, first offenders, were accused of by the corrupt judges were as trivial as making fun of a school principal on Myspace.com, entering a vacant building or shoplifting DVDs from Wal-Mart. And thanks to a judicial twist called “indefinite probation” the young inmates were subject to periodic behavior reviews which could extend their sentences up to seven years. Probation officers actually had their own offices in the district’s schools to monitor students.

In the end, after a class-action suit filed by the Philadelfia-based Juvenile Law Center, it was established that the two judges received some $2.6 million in “finders’ fees” for providing children for the private prisons. When the trial was over all the children had their convictions overturned and expunged from their records, which is not to say they got off easy. After their years of harrowing incarceration 66% of them never went back to school. As for the crooked judges, they are currently in prison themselves. Ciavarella was additionally indicted for racketeering, a crime in which prosecutors said the former judge used children “as pawns to enrich himself.” Ciavarella was imprisoned for 28 years. Conahan got 17 and a half.

Corrupt Judge as Civic Hero

Ironically, before the scandal broke, “President Judge Ciavarella” was lionized in the community both by school authorities and parents whose children were not imprisoned  for his “zero tolerance” policy and dispensation of virtually automatic prison sentences for petty crimes committed by children. (Everybody wants zero tolerance for other people’s children.) Ciavarella was a popular speaker every year for two decades at school assemblies all over the district, where he promised unabashedly that the students would be subject to rough justice.

Even without the payment-for-children aspect of the Kids for Cash case, the popularity of “zero-tolerance” is still responsible for exaggeratedly severe prison sentences for young people all over the country. Zero tolerance is the name for a policy that sprang from the rich compost of authoritarianism prevalent in post-911 America. It holds no regard for human rights nor extenuating circumstances such as poverty or childhood abuse. In most cases it prohibits judges from exercising discretion. The sentences are blindly mandated by law.

The Damage Done

The damage done to children, families, schools and the society at large is incalculable. The permanent presence of parole officers, with offices inside schools, is an ominous
precedent in the schools of a democratic society, just one more Orwellian oppressive measure that Americans are learning to accept as normal. What’s next, political
commisars to prevent deviant thinking in schools? Mercenary army recruiters? Gun shows?

For more than a century the United States was the world leader in lynchings. It’s not a coincidence that the majority of these kids who receive life no-parole sentences are African Americans. The well-oiled school-to-prison pipeline affects young black men with an overall incarceration risk that is six to eight times higher than young whites.

Kids for Cash is Just the Tip of the America’s Injustice Iceberg

The Kids for Cash case is just one example of  the ill treatment of young people under United States law. The U.S. is, in fact, the only country in the world whose legislation forsees the possibility of defendants under the age of 18 being incarcerated on a life-no-parole basis. They will stay in prison until they die. Today there approximately 2,500 of them in this situation in American prisons. How is this abuse of power possible in “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” unless that moniker is just a publicity slogan not subject to the laws of truth in advertising.

We shouldn’t be surprised though. Of the 193 United Nations member countries there are only two that have not ratified the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child: Somalia and the United States of America.

More information:

The Kids for Cash case gave rise to some excellent documentaries. The first of these cited here is a fascinating 50-minute interview with the documentary film maker, Robert May: https://youtu.be/mVzSe2TQ3d0

 

And this one is his Kids for Cash documentary: https://youtu.be/vxpNynnYwC0

Kids Serve LIFE in Prison, the story of Kenneth Young. This one will shake you: https://youtu.be/4_RSz_Rq3cg
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Read more ranting in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

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We’re All Victims of the Lies They Told us as Children

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Lying to Children Is to Do Them–and the World–a Terrible Disservice

Lying to children has been a universal phenomenon since time immemorial. Parents, consciously or unconsciously, raise their offspring dishonestly, perpetuating the same lies they were told by their own parents. Children are innocent blank slates. Anything imprinted on them during infancy is virtually indelible. If you teach your children that a fat bearded man in a red suit and a funny hat flies around the globe in a reindeer-drawn sleigh and  slips down chimneys to deliver gifts to all the children in the world, you’re planting the seed of a venemous creeping vine. Any child who will believe that preposterous story because a trusted loved one told it, will grow up to believe that a Jewish carpenter’s son who died 2,000 years ago will raise that child into heaven.

Lies have been and remain fundamental pieces in the strategy of all repressive regimes, whether political or religious, at all times. Power hungry rulers around the world need to form—and deform—their populaces as virtual masses of livestock that serve mainly to be herded and milked–and bled–and the best place to start is with children.

Where Are You From? That Explains It

We are who we are because of where we come from. You can’t blame an Indian for being Hindu. His mother’s milk was Hindu along with all the rest of the world in which he grew up. Nor can you blame an American from the bible belt for being a Christian. Or a New Yorker for loving asphalt and having trouble understanding Texans. Or Texans for being Texans.

What I would like to blame young Americans for here is taking on bovinely all that self-aggrandizing nationalistic and religious claptrap that their country’s con men thrive on. But, in all fairness, I’m not sure I can do that either. American young people are just as conditioned from birth as the Hindus, though they may not realize it. And those who get rich are convinced they’re another of those fraudulent American inventions, the “self-made (wo)man.”

To children—and their parents who were raised on the same kibble—the early lies seem innocuous, even charming: Santa Claus, the baby Jesus, the tooth fairy… But this soon becomes seriously sinister. It opens the floodgates to all the rest: racism, patriotism, entitlement, militarism… Since virtually everybody in that sponge child’s universe is on the same wavelength, he’s trapped in an ideological dead end. In the case of the United States that explains the fearful homogenization of thought in which there’s no room for anything but hard-core Americanism and old-time religion. There’s no room for solidarity with people who are different, no empathy, no mercy for children with the ill luck to be born outside the boundaries of the 50 states, and very little for those inside. “We’re all white, Christian, free-market believers in American-style democracy,  and those who ain’t is in deep trouble.”

Does this sound familiar?

  • You’re the best.
  • Your country is the most beautiful from sea to shining sea.
  • Your religion is also the best. All others are heresy, possibly diabolical.
  • You can get rich. Just work hard.
  • Your government is blessed by God. It is wise and beneficent.
  • Your way of life is heavenly ordained. Be true to your school.
  • We are unique, special, people of God, entitled to take other people’s countries, natural resources—oil, gold, arable land, fishing rights… If they resist we are entitled to kill them.

Even though all the world’s great religions have been twisted to fit the sick agendas of priests, generals, emperors and dictators, they still expect us to revere them. Have you taken a look at the 10 commandments lately? How many of them are observed religiously by any modern government today? Don’t make me laugh trying to figure that one out. Does the Koran sanction suicide bombings and the wholesale slaughter of innocents? Or the extreme repression of women, for that matter? Does the Bible sanction the precision bombing of civilians, or the capricious invasion of soverign nations? No they don’t.  But never mind, all religions have their inconvenient technicalities, but they can be ignored in special cases.

How Do You Create a Killer?

How do you get a healthy, well-educated young person to strap an explosive vest on his body and detonate it in the midst of a crowd of innocent bus passengers? It’s not complicated. You appeal to his sense of patriotism, righteousness and the promise of eternal life. That’s the best bait, eternal life. Nobody who promises it knows how to deliver it but there are lots of ingenuous marks who don’t seem to mind.

By the same token, how do you get a bright young computer-games whizbang to sit in an underground bunker in the desert and kill remotely at distances of thousands of miles not only his country’s presumed enemies, who are unknown to him, but everyone else on the bus or at the wedding. The bride and groom, the best man and the maid of honor, the altar boys, parents and grandparents…

That’s not too complicated, either.  You just double his pay and tell him he’s a patriot. That—patriotism—is the great killer, not only of “the enemy’s” young people but of your own. What is more heroic, nay glamorous, than dying for your country? Would someone please explain to me exactly what that means: “dying for one’s country.” Who benefits from the death of an American soldier abroad these days? His parents, his friends, his wife and children? Yes, I’m being ridiculous. Who benefits are arms manufacturers and dealers, bankers, politicians, media magnates, speculators, right-wing radio talk-show geniuses… all patriots, to be sure. I find this game cheap and nasty, absolutely abhorrent. Why can’t American mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers understand that? It’s beyond me. As for the old “Support our troops” trope, it’s patently sick and sordid, another massive lie that still prevails. The best way to support the troops is to bring them home.

The Road to Hell Is Paved with False Promises

As far as I can see 100% of the wars the US engages in are motivated by crass short-term self interest, to export arms, not democracy, to humiliate the weak, to twist their minds and grab their resources. That’s government policy, not coincidence. We must never forget that in all first-world countries it’s the citizens (us!) who elect the decision makers and pay their bills. If this doesn’t constitute a sacred trust on their part—and ours–I don’t know what does. Yet, as you know, seldom is this trust honored by politicians who, once elected, dedicate themselves heart and soul to feathering their own nests and those of their corporate “sponsors.” Do you doubt it? OK then, name two or three rigorously scrupulous politicians of your own. Having trouble? You’re not alone.

There May Be an Escape Route

There is one possible escape route through which perhaps 1% of children could obviate the inevitability of inherited brain death. It is, of course, education. Little people who are taught to think for themselves from an early age, to question everything, to leave no basic belief unverified in the light of science and simple common sense, just might have a chance of escaping the inevitable. But those fortunate children better hurry, because the few remaining teachers who are prepared to teach those values are fast disappearing. And there aren’t many more like them in the pipeline, not when the very Secretary of Education of the United States is a self-proclaimed proponent of privatized religious education.

Is it already too late? Probably.

Read more rants in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

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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. Continue reading “U.S. Private Prisons Have Failed — 1/3”

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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 was 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 more rant in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

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Continue reading “Ford Foundation/CIA: Two-Headed Philanthropy – 3/3”

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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, almost 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. Continue reading “Permanent War Is Bad for You”

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What America Learned from the Germans — 2/2

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(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.
    .

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. Continue reading “What America Learned from the Germans — 2/2”

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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. Continue reading “What America Learned from the Germans — 1/2”

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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. Continue reading “It’s Far Worse Than You Realize”

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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.”

Continue reading “The Godzilla Flag Is Loosed on the U.S.A.–2/2”

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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 are Russia and China, too. Continue reading “The Godzilla Flag Is Loosed on the U.S.A.–1/2”

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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. Continue reading “Is the Trump Tail Wagging the American Dog?–2/2”

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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 belligerent 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 more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

Thanks for commenting and sharing.

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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 Continue reading “Whom Can We Trust?–3/3”

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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 currents 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. Continue reading “Whom Can We Trust?–1/3”

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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.