What Is It With the American Flag Fetish?


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.

The American flag is the textile equivalent of the National Anthem and Mom’s Apple Pie. It is dragged out whenever the demagogue of the day wants you to fall into line. It never fails them. You’ve been exquisitely prepared for their call during your whole life. It’s the logo of Patriotism/Ultra-Nationalism/ Fascism, the chip that is planted in school children’s minds that later turns them into Manchurian patriots. For generations the flag has been preparing the yellow brick road to the Trumpish fascism that we see on the rise in the United States today.

Christopher Patella, lecturer in American cultural studies at Bates College, comments in the Washington Post on Nov. 3, 2017 on the intentions of the author of the Pledge of Allegiance, Francis Bellamy:


Through the pledge, Bellamy sought to define “true Americanism” against the rising tide of southern and eastern European immigrants “pouring over our country” in the early 20th century from “races which we cannot assimilate without a lowering of our racial standard.” Although Bellamy conceded that “the United States has always been a nation of immigrants,” he argued that “incoming waves of immigrants … are coming from countries whose institutions are entirely at variance with our own.”

Decrying the character and “quality” of these recent newcomers, Bellamy lamented that “we cannot be the dumping ground of Europe and bloom like a flower garden.” To him, “every dull-witted and fanatical immigrant” granted citizenship threatened the American republic.

The Constitutional Right to Disrespect the Flag

For years the disrespect of the American flag was penalized under various state laws. But on June 21, 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Texas v. Johnson case, the Rehnquist Court ruled that no laws could prohibit political protesters from burning or otherwise desecrating the American flag. That 5-4 decision gave new life to the First Amendment which, from then on, has protected the rights of political protesters to use the flag as they see fit in exercising their right to free speech.

According to the New York Times at the time, “In his majority opinion today, Justice William J. Brennan Jr. said, ‘We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so we dilute the freedom that this cherished emblem represents.'” William M. Kunstler, the attorney who argued the case for Mr. Johnson, said today that the decision ”forbids the state from making the American flag a religious icon.””

The repercussions were immediate. Not only was the quasi-sacred nature of the flag discredited, but the extensive regulations and customs surrounding the flag were either derogated or cast into question.  The language of the sanctimonious United States Flag Code has undergone substantial changes. Instead of affirming that its regulations “must” or “will” be observed, it now states that they “should.”

Time magazine’s Walter Isaacson expressed the reverent ritual point of view in the weeks that followed the decision:

Reverence for the flag is ingrained in every schoolchild who has quailed at the thought of letting it touch the ground, in every citizen moved by pictures of it being raised at Iwo Jima or planted on the moon, in every veteran who has ever heard taps played at the end of a Memorial Day parade, in every gold-star mother who treasures a neatly folded emblem of her family’s supreme sacrifice.

So, the mothers of the fallen children get a “gold star” and a “neatly folded emblem.” But, even after investing their children’s lives, they do not get to participate in the benefits of the fabulous arms business.

Some of the Standards of Respect from the United States Code Regarding the Flag:

The Flag Code, which formalizes and unifies the traditional ways in which we give respect to the flag, also contains specific instructions on how the flag is not to be used. They are:

  • The flag should never be dipped to any person or thing. It is flown upside down only as a distress signal.
  • The flag should not be used as a drapery, or for covering a speakers desk, draping a platform, or for any decoration in general. Bunting of blue, white and red stripes is available for these purposes. The blue stripe of the bunting should be on the top.
  • The flag should never be used for any advertising purpose. It should not be embroidered, printed or otherwise impressed on such articles as cushions, handkerchiefs, napkins, boxes, or anything intended to be discarded after temporary use. Advertising signs should not be attached to the staff or halyard
  • The flag should not be used as part of a costume or athletic uniform, except that a flag patch may be used on the uniform of military personnel, fireman, policeman and members of patriotic organizations.
  • The flag should never have placed on it, or attached to it, any mark, insignia, letter, word, number, figure, or drawing of any kind.
  • The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying, or delivering anything.

When the flag is lowered, no part of it should touch the ground or any other object; it should be received by waiting hands and arms. To store the flag it should be folded neatly and ceremoniously.

Quite a lot of ostentation for a simple piece of cloth, if I’m not mistaken.

The Flag as Blunt Instrument

The American flag has long been a valuable tool in the uber-nationalist bag of tricks. Since the Court’s decision to de-sacralize it, the American flag has largely been relegated along with the other trappings of right-wing nationalism: the right to carry arms to church, the superiority of the white race and the legality of purchasing politicians and elections.

For some inexplicable reason, Americans have generally considered it a privilege to die for the flag. At least that idea has been promoted by the patriotism industry. The truth is altogether different. Young American men and women don’t “die for the flag.” Increasingly, since World War II, they die in pointless military adventures organized by the American military/industrial/congressional complex for its own ends: profit and the accumulation of power worldwide. It is, however, true that the flag is excellent window dressing for ceremoniously draping the caskets of the war dead when they roll off the cargo jets at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, en route to glamorous military funerals in their hometowns.

One night in early 1968, while sitting at the bar of the NCO club at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky, after two tours of infantry duty in Vietnam, First Sergeant George G. Govan said:

Over there, on the ground, soldiers don’t die for the flag. They die attempting to stay alive and to keep their buddies alive. That’s the reality. The rest is patriotic claptrap.

Mr. and Mrs. America, your children are dying miserable deaths in far-off places in order to advance opportunistic politicians’ colonialist agendas.  The young people are fighting for the opportunity to get a job or a college education. Some of them actually achieve that. Many of them don’t. They come back in black body bags. No amount of flag voodoo is going to bring them back to life. Many others return home physically and/or mentally destroyed, their dreams dried up in the sands of some insignificant little oil-rich country. The flag won’t help them, either.

These remarks by Noam Chomsky were published in the Spanish newspaper, El País, on 10 March 2018 (my translation):

The United States is the only country where, for criticizing the government, they call you “anti-American.” And that means an ideological control, lighting patriotic bonfires all over the place. Nothing is comparable to what happens here, there’s no other country where we see so many flags.”

Do I fear nationalism? It depends, if it means being interested in your local culture, it’s good. But if it’s a weapon against others, we know what that can lead to; we have seen it and experienced it.


The President of the United States on respect for the flag:


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Teach Your Children Well


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.

So, the least we can do is to arm them with the knowledge and values to affront that awesome challenge. I think it’s clear that we have to start when they’re little shavers. Conventional wisdom holds that the most formative period of a person’s life is the first five years. Finnish education experts have recently extended this phenomenon to the age of eight, and the schools they have based on this realization are the most successful in the world. What do they teach in those first eight years? Mainly they teach creative play and the art of living together harmoniously.

Reading, writing, and arithmetic come later. First, they master kindness, patience, generosity, good manners, honesty and the sanctity of life, and not just human life. Honesty is critically important. Lies are such powerful tools in the hands of the unscrupulous. It is not a coincidence that Finland has the most honest government in the world.

Please don’t be tempted to think that this create-honest-citizens approach is anywhere near the default setting in the world’s schools. They reflect the often-questionable values of their own societies, values that can be retrograde and inhumane and tend to create citizens in that mold. The Finnish model, today, can only be considered utopian.

Teachers Mold the Clay of Childhood

Insofar as excellent teachers are the key to nurturing skeptical children, they are one of the most important professional sectors in any society and should be considered–and paid–as such. Finnish standards for teachers are extremely high and their salaries are on the level with those of doctors. Most of us have had both great teachers and mediocre ones, so I won’t bore you explaining the difference. Suffice it to say that the knowledge and values that teachers plant is immortal, transferred down through generations of children destined to become adults and have children of their own. Of course, teachers, especially the great ones, need the freedom to teach, a freedom that is being curtailed regularly in the most “democratic” countries in the world. Not only that but as teachers usually don’t determine their schools’ curricula, often they don’t have the opportunity to exercise their freedom. This happens most often in schools with religious agendas. Dogma always trumps truth in these settings.

Then there’s the problem of skewed textbooks. James W. Loewen dedicates his 1995 book, Lies My Teacher Told Me, a critical review of 12 American history textbooks, with this: “Dedicated to all American history teachers who teach against their textbooks.” Loewen’s 383-page book includes an impressive 56 pages of notes and bibliography and makes a detailed, ironclad case for the fact that none of these texts for American 11th graders provides a clear and complete picture of the reality of American history. Instead, they all cherry-pick the facts necessary to portray the United States as a near Utopia while leaving out all the less savory details, and there are not a few. For example, they omit the fact that Christopher Columbus, that quintessential hero for Americans, was guilty of genocide in Haiti, enslaving and killing between a million and eight million Arawak Indians. Ten of the 12 textbooks also skim over the most scabrous events of the 1960s and 70s. Loewen quotes Vietnam war veteran, George Swiers:

If we do not speak of it, others will surely rewrite the script. Each of the body bags, all of the mass graves, will be reopened and their contents abracadabraed into a noble cause.

Give Them a Clear Head

I am fond of saying that we are all victims of the lies we were told when we were children. It’s not only what we were told–essentially old wives’ tales and false magical thinking–but, perhaps more importantly, how we were taught to think. Instead of being taught to observe, question, doubt and investigate, we were gently coerced into just believing authority, without questioning “authority’s” agenda. Once that mode of thought is inculcated in a child’s thinking it’s unlikely that he or she will ever escape from it. This directed thinking, I maintain, is the root of most of the ills of societies around the world. Although thinking directed by authority annuls the child’s intellectual freedom it does make them future “productive members of society,” always under the watchful eyes of one authority or another. This imposed priority is the basis for untold repression, lost creativity and unfulfilled lives around the world.

As I see it the two most dangerous sets of beliefs foisted on children are revealed religion and lockstep nationalism, each with its own authorities, some of which children are induced to consider God-given and therefore “infallible.” Both of these belief systems, one religious, the other political, have something in common. They’re both “faith-based.” If you have never seen God, and he has never spoken to you or touched you, the only access you have to him is the faith that has been instilled in you by kindly clergymen with terrifying agendas.

Political indoctrination follows hard on the heels of religious guidance. To believe you are superior to someone else because you were born here and they were born there is objective insanity. But if you’re taught that by figures of authority it becomes just harmless, natural nationalism. You love your country, don’t you? But that harmless nationalism soon mutates into patriotism which will give your authority figures a moral license to send you abroad to kill those “other” people whenever they deem it “necessary.” Children who have developed a critical sense and the courage of their own convictions are less vulnerable to the nationalism/patriotism ploy and less likely to be manipulated into the inhuman acts that abound around the world today.

Wellbeing Does Wonders

Besides knowledge, young people need stable, loving home relationships. That is virtually impossible in societies afflicted with unfairness and inequality. First-world countries–not only Finland–assure all their citizens a living wage, health care and free education. Any country that doesn’t do so is necessarily degrading its youth and its future. A country that converts young people into fodder for the permanent war machine and profit-making prisons is on the fast track for the dungheap of history.

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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 maybe 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.

What about the American Dream?

The American Dream, rags to riches through personal effort, is a lie. In reality, gaining fabulous wealth is more of a game of chance than a meritocracy. You’re more likely to win a lottery than to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Elizabeth Warren has an interesting take on “self-made men.” She withholds that, without the resources the society provides them–free roads, education, police and fire departments, national defense, etc.–they never could have “made themselves.”

The failure of most American young people to achieve that essentially-unachievable
American Dream is a source of frustration and bitterness–and the cause of no little anti-social behavior. The great irony in most of these cases is that a significant part of what these young people are striving for doesn’t go beyond facile low-level, consumer-society objectives. If they’re rich they devote themselves to acquiring pointless bling. If they’re poor they risk their lives trafficking dope or assaulting liquor stores in order to be able to buy happiness, when happiness can’t be bought. Why don’t most American young people strive for something more worthwhile, both for themselves and their society? That’s not easy in a country that lacks both noble ideologies and valid role models for its youth. The reigning objective there is to get rich ASAP and their role models are limited largely to rappers, hedge fund managers and people who are famous for being famous.

Religion and Other Factors in Solving the Problem

The failure of popular religious solutions is also disturbing. The consensus after the Parkland shootings is that “They’re in our hearts and prayers…” is more cynicism than solution. The question is further complicated by racism, hypocrisy at high levels and inequality on all fronts. Add to all this the insecurity brought about by poverty, non-functional families and the lack of a universal health-care program. This pressure cooker of unfairness gives rise to a vast menu of ills in American society, a list that goes far beyond school killings. Mass gun killings account for just a tiny percentage of U.S. gun deaths. Many more people are lost to gun suicides or gang killings. According to British Guardian reporter Gary Younge, toddlers with guns kill more people in the United States than terrorists. Until the root causes are dealt with there will be no hope for combatting these and other manifestations of brutality and insanity in the country. Americans will always be treating the symptoms, not the illness. The gun deaths, like fetid groundwater, will always find their way to the top.

The current gun-control proposals are pathetically inadequate. Even the most stringent regulations proposed today are not enough. Reducing the size of assault rifle magazines from 30 or 40 rounds to six or eight is not serious. Six dead schoolchildren instead of 26 is not a solution. It’s a parody. Even the elimination of assault rifles, which the Parkland students are advocating, falls short of the mark. Are we to overlook the number of school kids that can be killed by an assassin armed with a pair of semi-automatic pistols with standard 17-round magazines? Just for the record, President Barack Obama included a ban on gun magazines with capacities of more than 10 rounds in a list of gun-control laws he asked Congress to enact in January 2013, but the Republican Congress passed on his proposal.

What’s the Latest?

The NRA countered with a whinging Twitter tweet affirming that “bans do nothing but infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens.”
Hats off to the kids!
The Empathy Biz
President Trump takes the Sick, Sick, Sick prize.

In closing we must thank CNN for this priceless vignette of presidential empathy/opportunism:

President Donald Trump’s re-election campaign used a photo of a survivor of the Parkland, Florida, shooting in an email Saturday that asks its recipients to donate money to the campaign. The email contains a photo of 17-year-old Madeleine Wilford in a hospital bed surrounded by her family, Trump and the first lady. The President visited Wilford on February 16, two days after the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 17 dead. Near the end of the message, there’s a link to the campaign’s donations page.

Note: The donations are for Trump’s election campaign, not the anti-gun campaign.

The latest, from Slate.comHow the student activists of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High demonstrate the power of a comprehensive education.

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The Children’s Crusade–2/3


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.

Pro-Gun Activists Respond with Fatuous Fire

The responses of the gun crowd were rapid and particularly ill-advised and seemed to delate their fear that the young people might put them up against the wall and win the day, or at least make it extremely complicated for the National Rifle Association and their Washington cohorts. The Washington Post commented:

As students were making their way to Florida’s Capitol in Tallahassee on Wednesday morning to demand gun law overhauls, a Republican lawmaker a few states away wrote a Facebook post that appeared to question whether the teenage protesters were, in fact, students. Pennsylvania state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe’s comments came as right-wing media figures have attacked the credibility of a handful of students who have become the most vocal advocates for gun control since a lone gunman killed 17 people at their high school in Parkland, Fla.

Representative Metcalfe committed a grave tactical error. His comments, besides being singularly tasteless in the circumstances in which he pronounced them, left him open to easy rebuttal. It was a simple matter for the students to establish that they were, in fact, students and that they were serious about pursuing the gun-control issue to its logical end. The injured parties in this matter are, after all, the kids themselves. Theirs is the most cogent right to redress. They are the underdogs against one of the best-financed and most powerful lobbies in the United States. Nevertheless, they know they’re fighting the good fight and they’re determined to see it through. Over the past century nobody has managed it yet, but who is prepared to bet against these kids?

Metcalf was not alone in his below-the-belt attack on the student activists. The entire right-wing media machine had ground into action. The Guardian was following them:

The sleaziest and most direct attacks on individual students have come from the right’s more conspiratorial fringe. On Jim Hoft’s pro-Trump, conspiracy-minded website, Gateway Pundit, Lucian Wintrich performed a hatchet job on David Hogg, suggesting that he was “heavily coached on lines and is merely reciting a script”.

The survivors are not elementary school students, or public employees, either shielded from media intrusion or disbarred from speaking out. They are confident young adults, many of them media savvy, and more than capable of matching the president when it comes to online snark. Several made it clear that “thoughts and prayers” in the wake of slaughter isn’t welcome.

The reactionary media’s ignoble insinuations that the spokes-people for the students are actors are both naive and counterproductive. I suspect this behavior won’t take long to come back on them. In this CNN clip, recorded on 23 Feb. 2018, in a textbook case of the cynical inversion of reality, NRA chief, Wayne LaPierre, discusses the reactions to the Parkland shootings. There should be a law against this brand of cynicism. You have to see it to believe it.

President Trump’s own observations on the events were typically Trumpish. Elaborating on his proposal to arm schoolteachers he said, “This would be a major deterrent because these people are inherently cowards.” In fact, he doesn’t know whether they’re cowards or not. Some mass gun killers might not be. He’s just talking through his hat again. Then he assured us that he would have faced the killer himself, unarmed. This is what the Spanish refer to as. “…valor a toro pasado,” “bravery after the bull has passed.”

P.S. There’s a Gaping Hole in Trump’s Proposal to Arm Teachers

President Trump’s pretense not to notice the failure to intervene of four law officers on the scene is an eloquent indicator that his armed-teachers solution could never work. If four well-armed-and-trained deputy sheriffs are incapable of preventing a deranged 19-year-old from killing 17 people with an assault rifle, what can we expect an English teacher to do, no matter how big her gun? Trump’s “solution” is a sick parody of a remedial measure. It’s just black propaganda based on wishful thinking.

The President’s thinking on preventive measures is representative of most of the right-wing thinking on the subject of gun control. Instead of seeking valid solutions to the school shootings–and all shootings–President Trump and the gun lobby decide on the measures that benefit them–and the NRA–most and then seek arguments to justify them. Even they should admit that this is the shabbiest form of false problem-solving. But they can’t because solving the problem is not on their agenda. What’s on their agenda is preserving at all costs the grotesque, NRA-engineered status quo.

What’s at the Bottom of All This?

The underlying cause of America’s most serious problems is common to all of the society’s ills: poverty and racism, guns and knives, greed and corruption, militarism, inequality and entitlement. Those are all effects. The cause that underlies them is inhumanity, the coldness toward others which has been nurtured in the United States throughout virtually their entire history. And the election of President Donald Trump and the personalities he has selected for his cabinet have multiplied this inhumanity factor many times.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This lofty declaration is from the preamble to the U.S. Declaration of Independence. Today in America it sounds like black comedy.

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The Children’s Crusade–1/3

etaking back schools

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.

William Rivers Pitt, writing for Truthout.org, sums up the current school-shooting situation in the U.S. succinctly, and with admiration for the students who are taking a meaningful stand on gun control:

It has been 19 years since Columbine, six years since Sandy Hook, five months since Las Vegas and four months since Sutherland Springs. There have been 438 people shot in 239 school shootings since 20 kids my daughter’s age were cut down in Newtown by the same weapon that took 17 more lives in Parkland last week.

In all that time and after all that blood, the script has not wavered an inch: There is outrage, the National Rifle Association (NRA) digs in and reminds Congress of the fragility of their re-election prospects, and it all goes away until the bodies drop again.

Not this time. This time, there are these youth, who have lived their entire lives deep in the shadow of unchecked gun violence in schools, who have lived their entire lives in a country fighting permanent wars all over the globe, and with the threat of terrorism thrown in their faces on a daily basis. They do not appear to scare easily, and they have mastered the art of social media in a way their chosen adversaries will never know.

They survived a horror in their own school and are taking action to keep it from happening again. They have stout hearts, and will need them, because they have squared off against some of the vilest people this country is capable of producing.

An NBC crew recorded this declaration from one of the student survivors of the Stoneman Douglas high school shooting on Feb. 18, addressed to President Donald Trump: “You are in that exact position right now, and you want to look back on our history and blame the Democrats? That’s disgusting,” David Hogg told NBC. “You’re the president. You’re supposed to bring this nation together, not divide us. How dare you? Children are dying, and their blood is on your hands because of that. Please take action. Stop going on vacation in Mar-a-Lago. Take action. Work with Congress.”

Solidarity with the Stoneman Students Quickly Materialized

Students from West Boca Raton High School were the first to react. They gathered in the courtyard of their school for a peaceful protest — 17 minutes of silence for the 17 victims — but then someone opened a door and walked out, and others followed. “Everybody started walking,” one student told the local news channel. “It felt like half the school was walking.” As the students walked south on U.S. Highway 441 towards Parkland, 10 miles away, sheriff’s deputies lined the road to control traffic and protect them but did not interfere.

Students from around the country joined forces and forged ahead, convening two marches on Washington to demand congressional action on gun violence, the “National School Walkout” scheduled for March 14 and the “March for Our Lives” on March 24. According to the Huffington Post, two 16-year-old students from the Washington, D.C. area, Whitney Bowen and Eleanor Nuechterlein, founded Teens For Gun Reform just two days after the Parkland shooting.

NRA Financing for Legislators–and the President–Stickies the Wicket

Survivors of the Parkland school shooting have also expressed their disgust with President Trump and the legislators who receive campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association. This fact proves to be an extremely tricky one for the politicians to refute. The Washington Post reports that Emma Gonzalez, a senior at Stoneman Douglas High School and one of the shooting survivors, boldly challenged the politicians accepting NRA financing:

“If the president wants to come up to me and tell me to my face that it was a terrible tragedy and how it should have never happened and maintain telling us that nothing is going to be done about it, I’m going to happily ask him how much money he received from the National Rifle Association,” declared Gonzalez, a senior at Douglas. “To every politician who is taking donations from the NRA, shame on you! If you actively do nothing, people will continue to end up dead.”

Florida representative’s aide, Benjamin Kelly, claimed students interviewed by the news, including Emma Gonzalez, were actually actors.

The Solution to Gun Control Seems to Be a Different Kind of War

The American solution for the most varied and unlikely problems is war. They’ve got the war on crime, the war on drugs, on terrorism, on poor nations rich in resources, on their own poor… Now they’ve got a new war, with a new twist, new protagonists and new adversaries. It’s the war on legislators who are on the take–politicians at both state and national levels whose election campaigns are financed in greater or lesser degree by the National Rifle Association, and this war’s protagonists are American high-school students.

“But those campaign contributions are legal,” you protest. Yes, they are legal, because the members of Congress and the state legislatures legalized them themselves, for their own benefit and that of the NRA. But that doesn’t make them decent. As soon as the United States has a decent government that law will be repealed. (But then, as long as the law is in force, how are honest men and women supposed to get elected to office? That’s another problem to be overcome.)

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Iceland on Child Circumcision: They’re Against It


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”


What’s Gone Wrong with America? 2/2


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”


What’s Gone Wrong with America? 1/2



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”


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


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”


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


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”


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


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”


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”


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


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.


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.

Go to part 2/2
Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
Thanks for commenting and sharing



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


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.


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.

Back to page 1/2
Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
Thanks for commenting and sharing.

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


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”


Just Say Goodbye — 3/3

by Mike Booth

Making a Living Abroad

cover-turncoat-final1_187Let’s consider your possibilities for making a living. Obviously, if you’re a writer or a visual artist, you’re in business.  You can do your work (almost) anywhere.  Or, if you have money to invest you might get into rental property or a business. This is trickier and, having failed in a couple of businesses myself, I wouldn’t recommend it. The European bureaucratic obstacles can be formidable, and doing business here requires a lengthy, expensive learning process. Can your work be done over Internet?  A lot of jobs can these days.  If that’s your case, then you’re home free.

We recently met a couple from Oxford, U.K. They are both IT consultants who worked in London. They said they used to spend five hours a day on the train getting to work and back.  I couldn’t believe it.  “It must be one of those great trains with desks for working, Internet connections, a great bar and all that, no?” Continue reading “Just Say Goodbye — 3/3”


Just Say Goodbye — 2/3


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”


Just Say Goodbye — 1/3


Are You Fed Up?

So, you’re finally fed up with the seemingly endless string of cynical,  self-serving, and ruthless magnates, politicians, and generals, and the infirm society they have created for you and your fellow Americans.  You’re frustrated, ashamed and depressed. You really want out.  You’re convinced, ready to make your move.

Would you like to hear a few suggestions from someone who’s been through it, and who has met a lot of people over the years who have achieved the goal that you aspire to? Maybe I can help you out. Expatriating one’s self is like any other worthwhile project; it requires some planning. You don’t just pack your bags. First you think the whole thing through, consider your alternatives, make preparations, and cultivate contacts, both in your home and destination countries—you’re going to need all the friends and business contacts you can get.

Heady Stuff

This is one of the most exciting and rewarding times in the process of leaving. You’re actually beginning to act, to make choices, to savor the taste of change. This is the stage of active dreaming, and it’s heady stuff. Everything is possible. You get to choose your destination, make work plans, marshall your resources and do endless research on the Web. During this stage you can permit yourself the luxury of taking it easy and making careful plans.  Now that your mind is made up, there’s no urgency. More-careful preparation will save you surprises down the road. And you’re lucky, because leaving your country is not a cataclysmic, all-or-nothing act.  You get to test the water before diving in.

Be Discreet

First of all, be discreet. Do your best not to publicize your move as a protest or flight from an insufferable situation.  That will only complicate matters.  The fewer explanations you have to give, the better. And don’t worry about the legal aspects; they will sort themselves out in time.  This is, after all, a long-term project.  I arrived in Spain to stay at the end of 1968, but I didn’t renounce my American citizenship and take Spanish nationality till the early 1980’s. It was a 15-year process.  If they had asked me in the beginning if I wanted to become Spanish, I would have said no. I wasn’t ready yet. But, little by little, the country and I began to understand and appreciate one another, and over time—a matter of years—a bond was created which I wouldn’t trade for anything. So don’t be impetuous.  Don’t try to renounce your citizenship.  Under current American policy they won’t let you do that, anyway.  Don’t burn your passport. Don’t burn your bridges. You’re an idealist, but you’re not stupid.

Shall I give it to you straight in two words?  Just leave. Come up with a project which will take you abroad. Do your homework. Make a plan. Then do your best to carry it out. It doesn’t even have to be long-term or definitive. Make your first goal something feasible: “I’d like to spend a year teaching English in Italy.”  Why not? Go for it! As my old boss, Charlie Craig, used to say, “What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll have to go back home and get a job.” When I came to Spain I had no idea that I would spend the rest of my life here.  My initial goal was to stay out of the U.S. for five years, an objective which seemed to me wildly extravagant at the time. That was 50 years ago. One thing led to another and the next thing I knew I had a wife and family, a house and garden, dozens of Spanish friends, then a whole clan in Spain, and enough animals to fill the Ark.

The “Business Plan”

A candidate for expatriation needs something very like a business plan, and if you’ve ever written one, you’ll recognize the similarities immediately.  Though you’re not primarily interested in profit, you’ve got a project and you’ve got a product.  Your project is expatriation and your product is you. You’ve got some resources and a timetable. You may be surprised to hear that your most important resource probably isn’t economic. It’s probably moral; call it conviction, desire, or aspiration. Mere money won’t get you where you want to go. You need vision, heart and a sound value system.

Though it’s a spiritual endeavor you’re embarking on, your expatriation project lends itself perfectly to a businesslike SWOT analysis. You’ve got Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and

cover-turncoat-final1_187Threats, and they can be written down and analyzed on a four-square matrix. This simple exercise is not only fun, but it will permit you to get a clearer idea of what you’re about to do, what your chances are of success, and maybe even how to head off disaster. How to go about it? Look it up in Google.

Next, in Part II, How to Get Started
Read the full story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
Thanks for commenting and sharing.

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”


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

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


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.

Thanks for sharing and commenting.

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


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

Read more ranting in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

Thanks for sharing and commenting.

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


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.

Thanks for commenting and sharing.




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


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.

Thanks for sharing and commenting.

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”


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


Three-Day-Old Fish

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

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

“I’m not surprised,” I said, “I always suspected the Ford Foundation was a CIA front organization. It seems logical to me that he should go from there to a ‘Washington think tank’. Doesn’t that smell to you a bit like three-day-old fish?” Continue reading “Ford Foundation/CIA: Two-Headed Philanthropy – 2/3”


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


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.

Thanks for commenting and sharing.

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


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


The Sin, Not the Sinner

A few years ago I received an email from a South American gentleman I had never met. He said that he and his wife were coming to Spain on vacation and that an old friend of mine had recommended that they stop by Granada to visit us. I was bemused because more than 30 years ago we decided that this “old friend,” admittedly a guy I had grown up and gone to college with, was probably a CIA agent, and we haven’t had any contact with him since. I won’t tell you the names of the South American gentleman (SAG) nor the old friend (OF), as I’m not so much interested in discrediting them personally as describing the intricately devious world they operate in. The Spanish say, “You name the sin, not the sinner…” (“Se dice el pecado, no el pecador…”) Continue reading “Ford Foundation/CIA: Two-Headed Philanthropy – 1/3”


Permanent War Is Bad for You


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”


What America Learned from the Germans — 2/2


(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”


What America Learned from the Germans — 1/2


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”


It’s Far Worse Than You Realize


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”


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



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”


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


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”


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


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”


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


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.


Whom Can We Trust?–3/3

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



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”


Whom Can We Trust?–2/3

More Honest Journalists Whose Word We Can Trust



Patrick Cockburn

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

Read more on Patrick Cockburn Continue reading “Whom Can We Trust?–2/3”


Whom Can We Trust?–1/3


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”


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



Puestos a acaparar…

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

Gracias por comentar y compartir.



Old Man Takes on the World

Lifelong Friend Asks Hard Questions

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

an interview by Bart Sedgebear


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

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


“…a nice group of people…”


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

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

Inside the CIA’s Black Site Torture Room

Thanks for commenting and sharing

Here’s Benjamin Franklin on the American Eagle


Why a Bald Eagle? How about a Bold Turkey?

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

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

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

Source: Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife


Thanks for commenting and sharing.

How to Produce a Disoriented Citizen

Oriented or Disoriented?

by Mike Booth

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

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

That should do it.

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


Thanks for commenting and sharing.


What Can We Know?


The Bottom Line

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

A Disclaimer

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


NATO is Scraping the Bottom of the Tank

Septic think tank diagram.

Can We Properly Call This “Thinking?”

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

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


Yo, United Statesians, Listen Up!

by Mike Booth.

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

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