Featured

Doesn’t the US Notice They’re Nurturing Jihadi Terrorism

Islamic_militants2

Or Are They Doing It On Purpose?

Who is the greatest recruiter for anti-American terrorists around the world? If you think about it a bit it’s an easy question to answer. Who treats the entire world as a free-fire zone? Who bombs weddings and ambulances? Who flies attack drones over people’s heads, killing and threatening, obliging them to live in constant fear? Who fills their towns and fields with delayed-action cluster bombs? Who treats these same people’s valuable natural resources as their own? Who surrounds their countries with military bases and missiles? Who changes their sovereign governments on a whim?  Who creates false-flag operations and proxy wars against any country they fancy destabilizing? Who has the greatest military budget in the world (more than at least the next seven countries’ defense spending) to enforce this multi-pronged injustice? The evidence for all this wretchedness is in the public domain. They can’t deny it. 

What does the United States expect to gain with all this death and destruction? How do they try to cover it up? How do they try to justify it?

We are privy to very little of the US government thinking, Nor can we trust the news. Insofar as the government and the media form part of the same military-industrial-congressional team, the power elite doesn’t even have to persuade them to play ball. They’re already on board. But we are obliged to form our opinions based on what we see, what we can learn from whistleblowers, what we can read in books by dissenters and the alternative media. The Internet is an incredible asset in this endeavor, though it does require some navigation skills and solid criteria for separating the wheat from the chaff, and there is a lot of both.

What we can see clearly is that the United States has been functioning in permanent-war mode since at least as far back as the Korean War. Some 40,000 American soldiers died in that pointless war, which ended in the same place it started, the 38th parallel. The rationale behind that empty adventure? There were two, actually, anti-communism and, more importantly, world domination. In the beginning, the American authorities pussyfooted around this self-evident fact, using euphemisms, red herrings, and flashy distractions. Why has anti-communism been used so often to put patches on the worst transgressions of American imperialism? Could it be that it’s a message that Americans are predisposed to believe, thanks to decades of having their brains laundered?

The Greatest Irony in the “War on Terror”

Not only has the United States fomented terrorism indirectly by their aggressive lack of respect for other people and countries around the world, but they have also played important roles in the creation of the forerunners of some of the most deadly Islamic terrorist groups. It was a CIA program called Operation Cyclone that channeled funds through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency to the Afghan mujahideen. (Does “Osama bin Laden” sound familiar?)  After the fall of the Soviet Union the mujahideen, also known in the US as “Afghan freedom fighters,” morphed–with some strategic and ideological twists–into the Taliban.

The CIA was not the only friend of the mujahideen. An alleged meeting took place in the summer of 1988 among bin Laden; the leaders of Egyptian Islamic Jihad; and Abdullah Yusuf Azzam, the father of global jihad. They agreed to use bin Laden’s money with the expertise of the Islamic Jihad organization and take up the jihadist cause elsewhere after the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan. The result was al-Qaeda. (Source: Wikipedia)

Then There Was ISIS

ISIS is another offshoot of the American interventions in Iraq and Syria. On 8 April 2013, al-Baghdadi, the present leader of ISIS,  released an audio statement in which he announced that the al-Nusra Front had been established, financed, and supported by ISIL and that the two groups were merging under the name Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (referring to Syria).

According to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), as of January, 2018, 59 districts, approximately 14.5 percent of that charming Himalayan country where people weave rugs and chase kites, remained under the Taliban control. (Source: al-Jazeera.com) ISIL holds another piece of the country. As soon as the Americans have consummated President Trump’s recently-announced withdrawal from Afghanistan, ISIS and the Taliban will fight over the scraps. Even more blood on the streets of Kabul. Never has the United States taken so long to lose a war.

According to an article posted by The Intercept on January 29, 2018:

Had it not been for Bush’s catastrophic decision to invade and occupy Iraq in 2003, in defiance of international law, the world’s most feared terrorist group would not exist today. ISIS is blowback.

In December, 2018, in one of his many victory pronouncements, President Donald Trump declared the Islamic State to have been destroyed and announced that U.S. troops would immediately leave Syria. But even after Trump declared victory, the war against ISIS/ISIL continued. Today their cells remain scattered throughout Syria and Iraq waging a deadly insurgency. And thousands of American and European troops remain in parts of Syria controlled by the SDF hunting down those cells… (Source: The Daily Beast.com)

American Follies in Syria, Iraq and Libya

The American interventions in Syria consisted of two stages with two different objectives. The first, at the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in 2011, the Obama Administration considered various options for unseating Syrian President Bashar al- Assad. By 2013, at the direction of U.S. President Barack Obama, the CIA was put in charge of Timber Sycamore, a $1 billion covert program to arm and train anti-Assad rebels (whom they refer to as “the Syrian opposition”) which was decimated by Russian bombing and canceled in mid-2017 by the Trump administration. Meanwhile, the US had managed to put together an international coalition whose mission was to combat ISIL in Syria. In 2015, US officials said that Timber Sycamore had become one the agency’s largest covert operations, with a budget approaching $1 billion a year.  As of August 2017, the coalition had flown 168,000 sorties in both Syria and Iraq, with a roughly 45/55 split between the two, respectively. (Source: Wikipedia)

In an article published in the Washington Post on February 6, 2019, Vali Nasr, the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, wrote:

On Tuesday night, President Trump told the American people that the Islamic State has been defeated — that the only thing left is “remnants,” which our allies will destroy. That is less a statement of fact than an expression of his eagerness to go down in history as the president who ended America’s military involvement in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

What continues to drive the progress of Islamic insurgent movements across the Middle East? For one thing, the overthrow of secular Arab governments in Syria and Libya led to the rise of fundamentalist militias. And huge numbers of civilian deaths at the hands of aerial drone assaults have made ordinary citizens vengeful towards the west and caused them to embrace jihadi martyrdom.

Isolationist sanctions throughout the 1990s and 2000s led to the segregation of many Muslim countries from the rest of the world. Combining that segregation with regional poverty and strong ideological propaganda from Islamist organizations, it’s not hard to understand why groups like ISIS, Boko Haram, and the Taliban have spread so rapidly across the region. (Source: FEE.org)

What’s to Be Done?

One can make a convincing case that there is nothing to be done as long as a large part of the Muslim world, including both Sunnis and Shiites, feels it is being brutally accosted and exploited by the United States, its allies and client states. This stalemate is immensely complicated by oil and pipeline considerations.–“What’s our oil doing under their sand?”–There are other “business” issues in play, as well, such as the American need to feed their voracious permanent-war machine and to support their sinister allies in the region, e.g. Israel and Saudi Arabia. In all, it’s amply clear that the War on Terror is not the answer. The issues are far too complicated and intertwined for martial solutions. It seems that a viable end to the problem of Muslim terrorism in the Middle East and around the world may ultimately have to wait for global developments. That said, be careful what you wish for.

###

Thanks for following, commenting and sharing.

 

Featured

Why Waste Time on Trump?

Counting2Ten

One, Two, Three, Four, Five?

My friend Danny writes from Greece the other day, “Why do you waste your time on Donald Trump? He’s just a moron.”

Yes, I suspect he’s a moron but I’m not sure that time spent on him is wasted. I don’t regard him so much for himself as for what he represents–the United States of America, with all that implies. Not so long ago, just the mention of that hallowed name would elicit respect verging on reverence. The United States had tipped the balance toward victory in both world wars and had gone on to set the benchmarks for science, technology, education, and democracy. Today, tragically, “the United States of America,” has lost most of its gloss. It sounds almost as ironic as “Great Britain.” If anything characterizes both of these once-great nations today, it’s the velocity of their race to the bottom.

There’s also a matter of reality vs. mythology. The “English gentleman” was never a  gentleman, and he’s even farther from that ideal today. Boris Johnson, for example, has all the right credentials. The so-called English gentleman was responsible for enslaving and plundering the sovereign wealth of millions of people around the world in order to dot the Home Counties with those gracious palatial mansions, if anything gained by thuggery can be deemed “gracious.” The British Empire, established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries, originated with overseas possessions and trading posts. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for more than a century, the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire illegally and immorally held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), almost a quarter of the Earth’s total land area. (Numbers from: Wikipedia)

US History Is Equally Grim

As for the United States, it was founded largely on genocide, cynicism, and lies. With their mouths full of “democracy,” their fists were full of native lands and natural resources, their hearts full of greed. Between 1830 and 1850 members of the Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations were forced by President Andrew Jackson to traverse the Trail of Tears to the badlands on the other side of the Mississippi, renamed the “Indian Territories.” In the process, these Native Americans, who had acceded to US government demands to abandon their traditional way of life in favor of agriculture and commerce, were obliged to forfeit their farms and businesses in the Southeast. Even that atrocity was not enough. Later the Indian Territories were grabbed for white exploitation.

With the same ruthless expedience, dubbed Manifest Destiny, and overlapping with the Trail of Tears on the timeline, the Americans extended their southern border down to the Río Grande. It was in 1848 after the Mexican-American War–actually an out-and-out American land grab–when, in accordance with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico “ceded” to the United States more than a third of its territory (the current American states of California, Nevada, and Utah, along with portions of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Wyoming. Considering these seizures, as well as all of Texas, Mexico lost 54% of its pre-1836 territory in the harmless-sounding “Mexican Cession.” What the 11th-grade American-history books don’t tell you is that, while the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was being negotiated, US General Winfield Scott’s troops were occupying the Mexican Capital.

The Wanton Dismantling of America Is Not Even Illegal

These smash-and-grab policies extend down to our own day. The motives are the same and so is the American modus operandi. I’ll spare you the list of victims. You read the papers. Ironically, it’s not the rest of the world that receives the principal brunt of Donald Trumpism. It’s his own countrymen and women. President Trump, anointed by his country’s big-money interests is delegated to impose their retrograde ideology, which can be summed up as “dismantle the American government so business can take over.” He and his ghoulish cohorts are progressing apace, and it’s not even illegal.

Donald Trump didn’t become President just by accident or Russian intervention. Thanks to the confluence of an ignorant electorate that had been betrayed by generations of American politicians and the economic clout of big business, Donald Trump was well and truly elected. He enjoyed the backing at the polls of major segments of the US voting population, including not just semi-literate hillbillies and white supremacist thugs–though there were plenty of them. His voters also included cast-offs from America’s once-great industrial workforce as well as former solidly-middle-class citizens reduced to working McJobs and wondering how they’re going to send their kids to college. The former, after decades of America-the-Beautiful and Support-Our-Troops brainwashing, lacked all political criteria, and the latter were striking back at the system for betraying and impoverishing them. (Author’s note: Yes, America is undeniably beautiful, but so is almost every other country, something most Americans don’t realize. As for the troops, they definitely need supporting but the best way to do that is to bring them home, not send them into another hell hole.)

U.S. manufacturing jobs have declined steadily, from around 28% in 1960 to 8% in March 2017. Manufacturing employment has fallen from 17.2 million persons in December 2000 to 12.4 million in March 2017, a decline of about 5.7 million or about one-third. (Source: Wikipedia) This is what the American working class is up against, watching the jobs-and-benefits capital of the world become the Rust Belt. An article published by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis (minneapolisfed.org) has this to say on the subject:

The fall of the Rust Belt extends back to the 1950s when firms such as General Motors and U.S. Steel dominated their industries and were among the biggest, most profitable businesses in the world. The Rust Belt was an economic giant at that time, accounting for more than half of all U.S. manufacturing jobs in 1950 and about 43 percent of all U.S. jobs. But after 1950, the Rust Belt began a long downturn.

Moreover, the fact that its share of U.S. manufacturing jobs fell so much demonstrates that the Rust Belt’s fate was not simply part of the general decline in U.S. manufacturing. The Belt’s downturn was uniquely deep and long-lived. Indeed, since 1950, no region of the United States fared worse economically than the Rust Belt.

When we refer to “big- money interests” we’re talking about the great energy companies, of course, but also banks, hedge funds and insurance companies, big pharma and tobacco, and the military/industrial complex, each with its own destructive agenda. And let’s not forget America’s deranged billionaires, who are striding out across the country–and the globe–like exquisitely-coifed Godzillas (e.g. Robert Mercer whose SCL Group provided financing and essential technical support to the Brexit campaign in the UK, or the Koch Brothers‘ self-interested meddling in Venezuela.) Against such formidable enemies–Yes, enemies. We’re talking about an adversarial system here.–“We the people,” don’t stand a chance.

New Legality, New Reality

How is it possible that such malfeasance on the part of the American government was actually legal? The principal factor in the process had to do with fixing elections through new campaign financing regulations. This was the result of the US Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310 (2010), which opened the doors for corporations to spend money on electioneering communications and to directly advocate for the election or defeat of candidates. This decision breathed new life into an already vigorous lobbying business in Washington. It was the task of the lobbyists to channel corporate money into the election coffers of “sympathetic” politicians. As it turned out, there was no shortage of candidates whose sympathy could be purchased, and lobbyists were soon calling the tune in the nation’s capital. Though it wasn’t their own tune they were calling, rather that of their “sponsors.” That serve-the-sponsors procedure soon passed down to practically all the members of the House and Senate and goes a long way towards explaining the mediocrity and unscrupulousness on both sides of the aisle in Congress. Are there exceptions to this phenomenon? Yes, but far too few.

It is not an exaggeration to affirm that an American member of Congress’s first priority is neither the wellbeing of their constituents nor the security of their country. It’s purely and simply to get elected–or more frequently re-elected. The magic bullet for getting elected is money. To what extremes will Congressional candidates will go to grasp that money? They will go far. They will give a virtual blank check to oil and coal interests to despoil the earth, the water, and the air. They will savage the country’s budget in order to entitle the military/industrial/congressional complex to wage perpetual war, though they know that war does not make America safer, rather more insecure. Perhaps gravest of all, the power of moneyed interests to dictate policy for their own nefarious ends negates utterly any notion of ethics or humanity in government. They are prepared to see the whole country reduced to the condition of Flint, Michigan. (The latest news from Flint, September 9, 2019: Amid Water Crisis, Michigan’s Top Health Official Said Flint Residents “Have to Die of Something,” Scientists Say)

Decency and Hope, Plowed Under

If an ounce of decency remained after the Nixon, Reagan, Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump presidencies, it has long since been plowed under, and the whole world is aware of that fact. All world leaders, with the possible exception of the poor, shipwrecked Brits, distrust the United States explicitly. That condition of alone and distrusted is not an enviable position, friends. Ah, but they have many friends and allies around the world, you say. Not exactly. Those “friends” are mainly purchased or coerced and the “allies” are either bribed with cold cash and armaments or cajoled with promises and threats. What does the United States have to do to turn an independent country into an ally? It’s not necessary to “win the hearts and minds” of the whole citizenry. Usually, it’s enough just to bend the wills of a few high officials. How many of these well-placed running dogs does it take to deliver a country into the hands of the US? Not that many, actually. Usually, it’s a bargain. In the final analysis, the common interests the United States shares with their ill-gained “allies” are the uncertain promises of profit and plunder.

Who’s at the head of all these sinister shenanigans at home and abroad? President Donald J. Trump. If you’re going to try to stop him you had better start now.

###

Thanks for following, commenting and sharing.

 

 

 

Featured

The World Owes a Debt of Gratitude to President Trump

Really_Smart

Without Donald Trump as President, the United States Would Have Gone On Hoodwinking Half the World for a Few Decades More

Now, thanks to the most ignorant and arrogant American President in history the bare truth is out front for all the world to see. The United States today is a dangerously misguided missile. Virtually everything President Trump says and does is, first and foremost, in his own personal interest, either electorally or in business. He’s constantly preaching to his choir of unlettered, white supremacist, machista thugs, and fanatical religious leaders who “speak in tongues” and promise “rapture” experiences. The bitter irony is that there may well be enough of them to get him re-elected. But that does not compensate the litany of outrages that is making him persona non grata not only in half of his own country but in the rest of the world.

Former British ambassador to the United States, Kim Darroch’s recently leaked remarks in memos to the British Foreign Office about the President–“dysfunctional… incompetent… inept… insecure…”–are just the first pieces of evidence that come to mind but they are indicative of the tenor world opinion. The President gives himself away in the above quote when he affirms that he’s “…like, really smart.” Can anyone even halfway normal imagine a “really smart” person saying that? Unfortunately, declarations and actions that discredit the President also discredit his country.

Trump Unveils America in All Its Toxic Glory

The United States has dedicated two centuries to cultivating the myth of a beneficent, democratic, egalitarian, humane country. Though it has only occasionally lived up to those labels it has, until recently, been able to wave them as justification for its actions at home and abroad. They haven’t fooled anybody who is serious about discovering the truth, but that’s a small percentage of the world’s population. The rest have always been happy to accept the portrait that Hollywood and Madison Avenue have painted of America–and “the American dream.” This we-export-democracy ruse has worked well for many decades. What makes an upstart shoddy real-estate speculator think he can stumble in and start revealing the most scandalous truths about his country’s “full spectrum dominance” in world affairs, effectively “jerking the blanket off” their most sordid secrets, without encountering some blowback.

The world’s response to the new US President evolved quickly. At first, the citizens of other countries couldn’t quite believe what they were seeing on the news. But they quickly got the message: President Donald Trump is a person with limited intellectual capacity; infantile, narcissistic; and crude, who embraces oversimplified notions of governance and geopolitics, in consonance with his impoverished mentality. These elementary observations are backed up by his reckless and cynical actions at home and around the world. One of President Trump’s first big policy gaffes, on June 1, 2017, was withdrawing the US from the Paris Climate Agreement. Then he announced last October that he plans to “terminate” the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, despite universal concerns about the return of Cold War-style tensions over U.S. and Russian deployments of intermediate-range missiles in Europe and elsewhere.

The alleged principal motive for rescinding the Iran nuclear agreement came to light just recently when former British ambassador to the United States, Kim Darroch, affirmed that President Trump had annulled the agreement “for personal reasons.” According to the seasoned British diplomat, the President broke the nuclear pact with Iran due to “diplomatic vandalism,” in order to negate the legacy of his predecessor, Barak Obama. Many people inside and outside the United States think that this mixture of infantilism and racism is improper in a President of the United States and ill represents the decent people of his country.

The Trump Tsunami Rolls On Toward Receding Beaches

The frosting on this macabre cake was the President’s decision to approve concentration camps where illegal immigrant toddlers are locked in cages in deplorable conditions. There is some esoteric discussion as to whether those camps should be referred to as “concentration camps” or “internment camps.” As far as I’m concerned, “internment” is just a wimpy euphemism for “concentration.” Whatever you choose to call it, there are the children, separated from their parents and locked in cages like laboratory animals, a stunning poster image for the United States of America, 2019.

Once this clear vision of the American President was assimilated by the citizens of the world, it was a short hop to the inevitable conclusion: This man and his country are to be feared, not trusted, shunned, not embraced. This palpable truth has been obvious to people who do their homework from the early stages of the 2016 election campaign, but now it has become a viral truism that is sweeping the world like a tsunami. In response, countries around the world, notably Russia, China and most European nations, are busy seeking workarounds to the Trump administration’s spider web of tariffs, sanctions and bans. This realignment could have important repercussions, to say the least.

Is President Trump Up to the Job?

Not many relevant people around the world think so, excepting of course those with their snouts in the American trough, and there are more than a few of those. In fact, in today’s United States, “doing the job” seems almost irrelevant. I’ll refer you to Michael Lewis’s book, The Fifth Risk, which details the deliberate and systematic dismounting of a whole series of vital federal government agencies by President Trump and his motley crew of fanatics and mediocrities. If you google “federal agencies gutted by Trump,” you will find an article on thehill.com entitled The 22 agencies and programs Trump’s budget would eliminate. And this list does not include the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) nor the Department of Energy (DOE), in charge, incidentally, of the nuclear waste program.

What Has Uncle Sam Been Up To for the Past Three-Quarters of a Century?

Instead of reciting a list of America’s outrageous–and generally homicidal–global interventions, I’ll recommend William Blum’s book, Rogue State, A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower. Blum was working for the State Department with the goal of becoming a foreign service officer when his disillusion with the Viet Nam war persuaded him to resign in 1967. Since then, for half a century until his death in 2018, Blum was a political journalist, author, U.S. foreign policy critic, and historian. The list in his book, published in 2000, in a chapter entitled A Concise History of United States Global Interventions, 1945 to the Present; was too early to include Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, or Libya, but it will give you a clear idea of what we’re talking about.

Let’s let Umair Haque, today’s most cogent critic of US society, sum up the current situation:

American institutions have come to work backwards. They reward the worst qualities in people now — and punish the best. What economists call “adverse selection” results — things work backwards. Instead of institutions selecting the best — think of someone like Elizabeth Warren, smart, principled, tough, determined, fierce, gentle, wise — they select precisely and exactly the opposite.

Corporations don’t reward people for being wise, compassionate, just, and kind. They reward cunning, ruthlessness, flamboyant greed, absolute selfishness. Display all the former — you’ll be fired in days. Display all the latter — you’ll skyrocket up the corporate ladder. America’s public sphere doesn’t reward truth, honesty, fairness, wisdom — it panders to the lowest, dumbest, common denominator.

Umair concludes:

How did the worst person in America end up becoming its President? Because America let itself turn into a place where the worst ended up the most powerful, rich, and admired. But that means we ourselves have been made, forced, rewarded, punished, coerced, cajoled to be increasingly terrible people for a long time now, my friends. To one another, to the world, to our planet, to our future, to our country.

President Trump Has Made a Gift of Truth to the World

By dispelling the long-hovering mist of lies and myths surrounding recent United States administrations and their predatory dealings with their own citizens and those of the rest of the world, President Trump has illuminated the playing field. It is now clear to everyone with eyes to see that neither the President nor his country is motivated by healthy, decent intentions. President Trump and his dubious cohorts are openly and whole-heartedly dedicated to plundering the world–and their own country–for their own benefit and that of their corporate overseers. Although the President’s self-revelation is rooted in the basest arrogance and self-aggrandizement, it is a service for which we cannot thank him enough.

###

Thanks for commenting and sharing.
Featured

You’re Overlooking a Critical Issue: It’s Not Just Trump

Trump & Cabinet

This graphic is not up to date. Since these appointments, a lot of people have been fired, eased out, or quit and new ones have been incorporated.

Is Getting Rid of Trump the Answer?

Approximately half of the voting population of the United States is in agreement on one thing: the urgent necessity to unseat President Donald Trump. The other half is determined to maintain him in office and advance his curious agenda, which essentially amounts to dismantling and destroying the government and the country. His recent, “I have second thoughts on everything…”  comment confirms his arbitrariness. It’s almost as if he didn’t have ideas of his own, but was in the business of adopting other people’s programs for a price–notably re-election but also the advancement of his personal business interests and those of his family.

President Trump’s government is not run on ideas, it’s run on personal self-interest and simple-minded ideology, the notion that less government and fewer taxes are better, and that the affairs of the nation are better left to the private sector, to business. His selection of personnel for his cabinet and staff to dis-govern the country is based on a wonderfully-simple idea which is fatally-flawed at its base. The authentic purpose of government is to assure the health and wellbeing of the whole nation, the principal objective of all the countries of the developed world–except one. The purpose of business is to make a profit. It should be clear even to a person of limited intellect that the two concepts are diametrically opposed and that favoring profit over wellbeing, though it’s great for a few rich men and powerful industries, is a ruinous policy for the vast majority of the American people.

Which brings us to the point. The ongoing trashing of the United States for the benefit of sinister powerful interests is not actually Trump’s program. He lacks both the wit and the attention span even to outline such a vast program, let alone execute it. That’s why the powers behind the President have decided he needs a crew that can be trusted to do the trashing, firstly on behalf of the select tribe of business gangsters who put him in power and in second place, in order to benefit his personal interests and those of his family. So, if the people of the American opposition should succeed in ousting  President Trump, either through impeachment or the ballot box, they would still be far from solving the problem. The rest of the Trump team, with the most reactionary powers of the country behind them, would remain intact and active.

A Sea Change in Campaign Financing Changed Everything

73%

Just who are the aforementioned “capitalist gangsters” and how did they manage to concentrate so much political power in the United States? The answers are not hard to find. The gangsters are people, companies, and institutions that have accumulated so much money that they can purchase the power of the US government. This was formerly unthinkable. Democratic institutions were not for sale. Then, in 2010, that reality changed, with the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. 310, Supreme Court decision concerning campaign finance. The ruling effectively freed labor unions and corporations to spend money on electioneering communications and to directly advocate for the election or defeat of candidates. Do not be tempted to think that the unions and corporations were therefore on equal terms. American unions were pretty well defenestrated by 2010. That left American corporations an open field for essentially purchasing the US Congress. That wholly-legal power grab started a brief 19 years ago and explains the situation the country finds itself in today.

In my first year in college, there was a required course called American Thought and Language 101. In it, my first left-wing professor introduced 30 or 40 naive 18-year-olds to “Conservatism,” a political philosophy that put property rights before human rights, profit before people. I was stunned. How was it possible that citizens of my own country could adhere to such a monstrous philosophy? Seven years later I changed countries and never looked back, but Conservatism went on to reign in the United States in an ever-more-monstrous version.

Let’s Take a Look at the Cream of President Trump’s Governing Team

Sycophant_in_ChiefAs the President’s cabinet stands today–there has been a lot of to-ing and fro-ing since 2016–the top man is Vice President, Mike Pence, the one who would ascend to the presidency if Donald Trump should die, become disabled, or step down. Michael Richard Pence (born June 7, 1959), a former US Representative and Governor of Indiana, characterizes himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order,” and as “a born-again, evangelical Catholic,” who, since 1995,  attends the Grace Evangelical megachurch.

When queried about his “military experience,” Pence, a lifetime member of the NRA who never wore a uniform, brings up his family’s military tradition, referring apparently to his father’s service in the Korean War. He emphatically believes in armed solutions, having stated his support of Israel and its right to attack facilities in Iran to prevent the Iranians from developing nuclear weapons, defended the actions of Israel in its use of deadly force in enforcing the blockade of Gaza, and referred to Israel as “America’s most cherished ally.” He apparently hasn’t noticed that Iran is internationally certified as having no nuclear weapons and Israel, the only Middle East country with nuclear capabilities has an estimated 75 to 400 nuclear warheads, complete with a submarine-based second-strike capability. He visited Israel in 2014 to express his support, and in 2016 signed into law a bill which would ban Indiana from having any commercial dealings with a company that boycotts Israel.

According to a FiveThirtyEight rating of candidates’ ideology, Pence was the most conservative vice-presidential candidate in the last forty years. During the campaign Pence stated that his role model as vice president would be Dick Cheney. (Source: Wikipedia)

Vice President Pence visited the McAllen Border Patrol Station in Texas in July of this year, where 382 immigrant men were packed behind chain-linked fences under “sweltering hot” conditions. Many of the men told reporters they had been there for 40 days or longer, saying that they were hungry and wanted to brush their teeth. The cages were so overcrowded that it would have been impossible for the men to lie down all at once, and no mats or pillows were provided so the men slept on bare concrete.

“I was not surprised by what I saw,” Pence said at a news conference. “I knew we’d see a system that was overwhelmed. This is tough stuff. He added later, “While we hear some Democrats in Washington, D.C., referring to U.S. Customs and Border facilities as ‘concentration camps,’ what we saw today was a facility that is providing care that every American would be proud of.” (Source: People.com)

Orange California, West Point, the House, the CIA, Head of US Diplomacy

Mike PompeoPresident Trump’s Secretary of State since April  2018, is Mike Pompeo, born and raised in Orange, California, who graduated first in his class from the United States Military Academy at West Point, majoring in engineering management. After his military service in Germany, Pompeo was president of Sentry International, an oilfield equipment manufacturer that was also a partner of Koch Industries. He was subsequently a member of the House of Representatives (2011–2017) and the Director of the CIA (January 2017 until April 2018).

In March 2019, when questioned regarding Israel’s conflicts with Iran and following a visit to the Western Wall with Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, Pompeo spoke of “the work that our administration’s done to make sure that this democracy in the Middle East, that this Jewish state, remains…I am confident that the Lord is at work here.”

In March 2014, he denounced the inclusion in a telecast of the whistleblower, Edward Snowden, at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, and asked that it be canceled, predicting that it would encourage “lawless behavior” among attendees. In February 2016, Pompeo said Snowden “should be brought back from Russia and given due process, and I think the proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence”

Speaking about climate change in 2013, Pompeo said: “There are scientists who think lots of different things about climate change. There’s some who think we’re warming, there’s some who think we’re cooling, there’s some who think that the last 16 years have shown a pretty stable climate environment.” He also stated that “climate change is actually good for the Arctic, since melting ice caps are ‘opening up new shipping routes’ and thus making it more economically viable to expand oil drilling in the region.” Now we know where he stands.

Pompeo is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association and has been endorsed by them. He is a member of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church where he served as a local church deacon from 2007-2009 and taught Sunday school. In 2014, Pompeo told a church group that Christians needed to “know that Jesus Christ as our savior is truly the only solution for our world”. In 2015 in a talk at a church, Pompeo said that “politics is a never-ending struggle … until the Rapture.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Investment Banker, Asset Stripper, Home Forecloser, Secretary of the Treasury

Louise_Linton_M_wifeSteve Mnuchin, Trump’s Secretary of the Treasury was born in New York City in 1962, the son of a Goldman Sachs partner. After graduating from Yale University in 1985, he worked for Goldman Sachs for 17 years, eventually becoming its chief information officer. After he left Goldman in 2002, he worked for and founded several hedge funds. Mnuchin was a member of Sears Holdings’s board of directors from 2005 until December 2016, and before that was on Kmart’s board of directors. After Sears went bankrupt, the company that formerly owned it sued Mnuchin and ex-CEO Edward Lampert for “asset stripping” during their tenure. As secretary of the treasury, Mnuchin has been a vocal supporter of reducing corporate tax rates.

Betsy de Vos Has Oodles of Money

Trump_DeVosElisabeth Dee DeVos, born January 8, 1958, was President Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education. DeVos’s claim to fame is primarily that she is rich, having fallen into a vat of family money when she was born, and then again when she was married. Suffice it to say that members of her immediate family own ten yachts. What concerns us here is the fact that every aspect of her education activism was designed to undermine public education. That means she favors school choice, school voucher programs, and charter schools. All of these are thinly-disguised mechanisms for subverting and supplanting public schools by diverting parts of the education budget to religious models. Vouchers are popular with conservative Christians, and Vice President Mike Pence had expanded taxpayer-funded vouchers, as well as charter schools when he was governor of Indiana. According to the NY Times, DeVos has announced that she will no longer enforce a provision in federal law that bars religious organizations from providing federally-funded education services to private schools.

See What You’re Up Against?

Are these the best people President Donald Trump can find to lead the country? They all seem limited to just a couple of priorities: making (or inheriting) money and introducing religion systematically into the American government. I can detect no hint of dedication to public service in any of them, starting with the President, himself. Are these are the people who will take over the country when the President is no longer around? One wonders if there is an opposition think-tank committee somewhere trying to figure out how to get rid of them when the time comes. But, given the number of layers of Trump appointees and Congressional big-money lackeys that the opposition committee would have to sift through, the job would be like attacking a haystack full of needles.

You Have a Choice Between Two Solutions

From here, I can foresee only two possible solutions, one miraculous, the other military.

  1. The miraculous theological solution: Pray.
  2. The military solution: In the Army they prepared us for extreme situations such as this or seeing a blinding flash followed by a mushroom cloud. In these cases, the instructions were: “Bend over, put your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye.”

###

 

Thanks for commenting, following, and sharing

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Let’s Give Julian Assange What He Deserves, Treatment as an American Hero

27c8aecf0a4b3e469c8fc599971c4dcf

US “Justice” Wants to Crucify Australian Journalist for Revealing the Truth

The cruel and unusual treatment accorded Julian Assange over the past seven years is not an isolated incident. It forms part of a worldwide revenge operation by the usual American hands-on-hips, we-are-very-very-miffed crowd. So, what is Assange accused of? Is he guilty of anything? Let’s start at the beginning.

Julian Assange Has Been on the Lam Since Childhood

Julian Assange, today’s journalist, computer genius, activist and wanted man, is the product of an atypical boyhood. Until the age of 16, he lived an enforced nomadic life all around Australia with his divorced mother, Christine, who was fleeing from an abusive relationship. During that time he attended 37 schools. His mother gave him a computer when he was 16 and he quickly became an accomplished hacker. He first got in trouble breaking into the systems of the Nortel communications company. Accused of more than 30 counts of hacking, he got off with a fine. He went on to study mathematics at the University of Melbourne but dropped out before graduating.

Time_cover_Dec_2010Despite his unusual background, Assange became a world-renowned success. In 2006, he began work on his revolutionary internet project, an effort that would put his face on the cover of Time magazine four years later in December of 2010. The project was WikiLeaks, a website for collecting and sharing confidential information on an international scale. The site, which featured carefully encrypted communications with sources, launched in 2007 and released later that year a U.S. military manual that provided detailed information on the Guantanamo detention center. (Source: Biography.com)

WikiLeaks Blows the Lid Off the Putrid Pot

 What followed subsequently was a series of millions of journalistic scoops based on leaked documents, not only from the United States government but from other countries around the world. Perhaps the one with the greatest impact was a video from Iraq that showed an American Apache helicopter gunship wipe out a group of civilians, including two Reuters reporters, on a street in Baghdad, complete with live audio of its crew gleefully celebrating their kills. The gruesome spectacle included a second pass in which the gunship attacked and killed the Iraqis who rushed to help the wounded.
None of the Apache helicopter crew has been brought to even military justice for murdering those civilians, yet Julian Assange continues to deteriorate in a London prison cell for disseminating their story.

Sexual Assault Controversy, Political Asylum at London’s Ecuadorean Embassy, Forced Removal and Incarceration in Belmarsh Prison

Featured

Infantile Auschwitz Anyone?

Click to enlarge

What Can We Do About American Concentration Camps for Children?

I feel helpless. With the creation of prison camps for children including toddlers, the United States has taken us to a new low, a sordidness that humanity has seldom seen before. We have to do something, but what can we–you, I, and the rest of us–do? My usual resort is to sit down and denounce these abuses writing them up, which is about the best I can do from here, thousands of miles away from the action. I should be sitting on the White House lawn, dousing myself with gasoline and touching it off with a match. But I’m too cowardly for that. Besides, it would serve only to give President Trump something to snark at. So I’ll write it up. Continue reading “Infantile Auschwitz Anyone?”

Featured

The American Metastasis

Trump_with_Troops

Who’s in Charge of the World and How?

Just who are the most retrograde elements in the United States government to dictate policy to sovereign countries in the rest of the world? Where does their authority–and it appears to be absolute–come from? Who are they to lay down unilateral trade bans and tariffs, promote “regime change,” grab sovereign funds in American banks, or sponsor false-flag operations, proxy wars, torture venues, and far-right regimes worldwide? Or to propagate their climate-change criminal negligence?

Are they duly empowered to decide who can buy Venezuelan or Iranian oil, or to impose their grim version of “democracy” all over the world by means of armed drones? Of course, they’re not. All of this supposed authority they have simply arrogated to themselves, like greedy children grabbing all the toys in the nursery. They’re having us on, running rampant across the world while at the same time denouncing the very policies they regularly practice themselves. They deplore Russian signals intelligence at the same time the NSA is tapping the telephone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, an important European ally. Continue reading “The American Metastasis”

Featured

A Better Mousetrap

Mousetrap1

Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.

Americans believe in better mousetraps. That’s because they used to build the best ones in the world. Nowadays things are changing and they build mainly military products, which are great for killing people and enriching arms peddlers but not so great for making friends. Nor are all their military projects successful. Take the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter project, for example, the fattest military procurement operation in history. That atypical multi-purpose fighter plane, known among insiders as “the plane that sunk the Pentagon,” is a lemon in all of its unwieldy versions. According to one qualified critic, Pierre Sprey, “Its only purpose is to channel billions of dollars to Lockheed Martin.”  Continue reading “A Better Mousetrap”

Featured

What Went Wrong, America? 2/2

maga

The West Virginia Coal Wars 

The West Virginia Mine Wars are a dramatic and often overlooked chapter of American history. In the early 1900s in the coalfields of Southern WV, miners faced desperate circumstances. Below ground they withstood some of the worst working conditions in America. Above ground they dealt with brutal mine guards and a mine guard system that controlled the politics and economy of the region.

In 1921 mountaineer families from the nearby hollows, African Americans from the Deep South, and immigrants from places like Hungary and Italy all came together to fight for the right to unionize and basic constitutional rights. From August 20 of that year, miners began rallying at Lens Creek , approximately ten miles south of West Virginia state capital of Charleston. Estimates of total numbers vary, but on August 24, between 5,000 and 20,000 miners began marching from Lens Creek into Logan County. Many of the miners were armed. Continue reading “What Went Wrong, America? 2/2”

Featured

What Went Wrong, America? 1/2

Wizard_America

Most Everything, Actually

Why is the United States, allegedly the richest, most-advanced country on earth, so out of step with the rest of the first world? Why does a significant part of its citizens live on the streets in cars, tents or cardboard hovels? Why are prisons occupied by an unnatural preponderance of people of color? Why are its gun homicides off the chart? Why are its elections so dubious and its religions so militant and mercantile? Why is such a wide swath of the population without health care? Why is the economic inequality so grotesquely pronounced there? What gives the American behemoth the right to impose–or try to impose–its will on any sovereign nation it pleases? Why does the United States need 800-1,000 military bases around the world? Why is the country controlled by a fiendish cohort of industrialists and financiers, headed up by a lowbrow President who was actually elected? Why doesn’t somebody do something about all of these glaring anomalies? They’ve done it in the rest of the First World. What went wrong with you, America? Continue reading “What Went Wrong, America? 1/2”

Featured

USA: Surveillance, Denial and the Apocalypse

pentacostals

There’s a Man Going Round Taking Names

(This subhead is a link to a commentary by Johnny Cash.)

The list of people and agencies who are scrutinizing your personal data and Internet habits is a long one. There’s the FBI, ICE, the CIA, the NSA, the GCHQ, the KGB, Cambridge Analytica, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and a whole raft of politically rabid American billionaires. And me. I’m studying your comportment on Facebook to see if there’s anything I can learn about you and your fellow Americans. Sure enough, there is.

I’ve had a Facebook account for more than a decade. Mostly I’ve used it to look up old schoolmates, post curiosities, share human interest stories and music videos, relate to other dog-and-cat people, and generally waste time. When I started writing my geopolitical blog (Trump and All the Rest) a few years ago I began publishing my political posts simultaneously on Facebook. I also shared articles that I considered valuable on the subjects of American domestic and foreign policy, stories by excellent critical thinkers like John Pilger, Robert Fisk, Noam Chomsky, Seymour Hersh, William Blum, and lately, Umair Haque.

What’s Important, Puppy Dogs or Total War?

It seemed to me that my fellow Facebookers were ignoring the posts that I considered important. Fair enough, most of what I write is critical of the United States government’s wickedness at home and abroad. So I wasn’t surprised to find that responses to the dog-and-cat videos generated more feedback than the political articles. What did surprise me, however, was to what extent my Facebook friends ignored any content critical of the United States. There are exceptions, of course. But the vast majority of the English-speaking Facebook universe, which I consider a fairly representative cross-section of American society, flatly doesn’t want to know.  It’s as if they were in amnesia mode, anesthetized, indifferent to every day’s vitally-urgent realities, or worse, in denial, at the top of a slippery slope.

What’s behind this amnesia/denial phenomenon? Have most Americans simply given up? Has the dramatic right-wing shift in their country taken all the wind out of their sails? Are they convinced that their future is limited to permanent war, caged children, miraculous end-times religion, and the dismantling of the American government as we know it? It would seem so.

Blame It on “Southernization?”

Or maybe not. There’s another possibility. Maybe the American majority has switched its loyalty to what Kevin Phillips refers to in his 2006 book, American Theocracy, as the “southernization” of American politics, the adoption by a desperate, undereducated electorate of simple good-ol-boy southern values, magical fundamentalist-religious solutions, and silly logic like advocating all-out war in the Middle East in order to bring about the Apocalypse. This is where leading American politicians like Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell and Mike Pompeo originate, the Rapture crowd, and there’s a lot more where they came from.

It’s not quite clear where President Donald Trump fits into this scheme of things but he’s at least opportunistic enough to hitch his wagon to a movement that includes many millions of true-believing voters. According to a piece published on Vox.com on November 2018, 81% of white, born-again evangelical Christians voted for Trump in the 2016 presidential elections. That same article affirms, “White evangelicals continue to be one of the most reliable voting groups in the country. Even as their numbers are shrinking in the general population, their affinity with and enthusiasm for President Trump has so far allowed them to hold their numbers steady at the ballot box.”

This End Game Is Not a Game

A 2014 Pew study categorized 25.4% of the American population, which stood then at 318.6 million people, as white evangelical protestants. So do the math. These numbers are not to be taken lightly. This link between fundamentalist religión and presidential politics goes a long way to explain President Trump’s fawning allegiance to Bibi Netanyahu’s ruthless right-wing Israeli party which millions of American evangelical and pentecostal voters are counting on to initiate the long-awaited end-times war. This massive swamp of ultra-religious voters is too important to President Trump’s political future to be ignored.

So here we are, all of us, kneeling on the biblical brink.

Thanks for liking, sharing and following.
Featured

Jimmy Carter on American Militarism and China’s Incredible Progress

“For old men to be taken seriously they must resort to telling the truth.” Bart Sedgebear

Carter4

Trump’s Phonecall Prompts Jimmy Carter to Reply Candidly

When President Donald Trump phoned Jimmy Carter earlier this month to talk about China he didn’t expect the result to be a damning declaration of American militarism. But that’s what he got, pronounced the following Sunday by the former President during his regular Sunday School lesson at Maranatha Baptist Church in his hometown of Plains, Georgia.

President Carter’s remarks were recorded and transcribed by Emma Hurt, a reporter for National Public Radio affiliate WABE and published on NPR.com. The President said, among other things, that the United States is “the most warlike nation in the history of the world…” This is not a jihadi terrorist speaking, nor a hot-headed young anti-war demonstrator. This is America’s most-respected and best-loved elder statesman, a Nobel Peace Prize laurate and veteran campaigner for free and fair elections and human rights worldwide.

Is it possible that President Carter’s compass is failing him as he reaches 94 years of age?Is he off the mark with this perception of the United States as history’s prime killer? He certainly doesn’t seem addled. Let’s see what he had to say and how he expressed himself in an interview last year when he was 93 years old:

The implications of President Carter’s most-warlike-nation evaluation are massive, perhaps even biblical. It was no coincidence that these thoughts should have been presented in a Sunday school class. “The history of the world…” is a long time, and there have been many warlike nations, extending down to our own lifetimes. It is true, however, that only one of those nations saw fit to drop two atomic bombs on  innocent, unsuspecting civilian populations; men, women and children.

Atom bombs Japan
Little Boy and Fat Man

Why two bombs? Wouldn’t one have been enough? Yes, probably, but America’s nuclear scientists had two models prepared, Little Boy (Blast yield‎: ‎15 kilotons of TNT) and Fat Man (Blast yield: 21 kilotons), and President Truman and his advisors wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to test the destructive results of both. Hence Hiroshima and Nagasaki marked a lugubrious before and after in world history.

President Carter’s remarks extended to the domestic implications of American militarism. Aptly comparing the progress of China and the United States since relations between the two countries were  normalized during his administration in 1979, the President Emeritus pointed out, “Since 1979, do you know how many times China has been at war with anybody? None. And we have stayed at war.”  What Carter was too modest to say was that the only five-year period that America was free from war during the 20th century was the last year of the Ford presidency and all four years of his own.

Defense_spending_2017According to President Carter, China has made giant strides forward in every aspect of their society while the United States has stagnated gravely due to its outlandish spending on “national defense.” What possible justification can there be for the US maintaining nearly 1,000 military bases abroad (compared to Russia’s 21 which include mainly former Soviet republics), or military spending that is the equivalent of the sum of the next seven countries combined? Economic experts predict that China will overtake the U.S. as the world’s strongest economy by  2030.

“How many miles of high-speed railway do we have in this country?” Carter asked the congregation.

“Zero,” they answered unanimously. According to Wikipedia China has the largest network of high-speed passenger trains in the world extending over 18,000 miles.

“We have wasted, I think, $3 trillion,” Carter said, referring to American military spending. “China has not wasted a single penny on war, and that’s why they’re ahead of us. In almost every way.”

President Carter’s summary was devastating:

And I think the difference is if you take $3 trillion and put it in American infrastructure, you’d probably have $2 trillion left over. We’d have high-speed railroad. We’d have bridges that aren’t collapsing. We’d have roads that are maintained properly. Our education system would be as good as that of, say, South Korea or Hong Kong.

Many Americans might be shocked to read that the United States can only aspire to education standards as high as those of South Korea. They might also be envious of South Korea’s automobile production of 4 million vehicles, compared to US’s 2.8 million–not to mention China’s 23.5 million. If these figures shock you it’s because you’re still living in the glossy past of the United States. In more recent times America has made mainly war while the rest of the world has made progress.

It’s an apt time to thank President Carter for this frank and valiant reminder and for his years of service, both during and after his time in office. If the American people had enjoyed half a dozen presidents of Carter’s stature at critical junctures in the history of their country today’s United States would be a far, far better place.

most warlike country
Just in case you were doubting the magnitude of the problem.
Thanks for commenting and sharing.
Featured

US-UK Empires, Parallel Decline

Trump_May_Queen_600

“The mightiest adversary that snaps great empires like twigs isn’t chimerical
“globalization” — it’s glittering hubris, bedecked in the finery of denial.”
Umair Haque, Harvard Business Review (HBR.org)

by Mike Booth

The Biology of Empires

No empire is eternal. The lives of empires correspond to biological models. They are born, grow old and die. That process has not varied from the times of Cyrus the Great, founder of the Persian Empire around 550 B.C. It took the Byzantine Empire more than eight centuries to wind down to zero, and the Holy Roman Empire lasted roughly the same amount of time. In terms of longevity the British Empire doesn’t even make the list of the top 15. It survived for less than 400 years, though it was the largest. In 1922 the “empire on which the sun never set” ruled 458 million people spread over almost a quarter of the earth’s surface. As for the American Empire, it’s a mere upstart. If we look at it from the end of the Spanish American war, the United States already controlled part of Mexico thanks to the “Mexican Cession” land grab at the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848, including today’s states of California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of New Mexico and Arizona. In 1898 they added Puerto Rico, the Philippines and the Island of Guam. These latter two aquisitions were the jumping off points for American establishment in the Pacific.

What has varied in these imperial processes is the speed at which they deteriorate. Far back in history everything was slower, including decline. Today, with everything functioning at electromagnetic speed, the duration of empires tends towards zero. That’s why United States imperialism which, if we include the undeniably imperialistic treatment of native Americans, has only been around since the 17th century, doesn’t look terribly promising. After all, the Ottomans conquered and held Mesopotamia (Iraq) from the 16th century till the end of World War I. Afghanistan was conquered and ruled successfully by the Persian Empire (Iran) from 539 until 331 BC. These primitive successes don’t say much for recent American efforts in those places. “But we’ve got the greatest military power the world has ever seen!” you say. That ‘s true, but it’s not winning many wars, and the the expenditure it requires is impoverishing your country unduly.

How Are Today’s Empires Faring?

Today’s patent reality is that Great Britain’s empire terminated in 1997 witht the return of Hong Kong to China and is now submerged in a disastrous post-imperial Brexit process. The headline on today’s (April 6, 2019) Brexit story in The Guardian:

“A shambles on which the sun never sets: how the world sees Brexit”

Here’s their lead to that story:

A New York Times columnist believes the UK “has gone mad”. How, asks a Russian TV host, can Britain fail so spectacularly “to correlate its capabilities with reality”? For Australia, it’s like “watching a loved grandparent in physical and mental decline”.

From China to Israel and Russia to Brazil, a world well beyond Europe is watching Britain’s Brexit bedlam with sorrow, bafflement and amusement – and, in those parts of the globe once told that Rule Britannia meant order, stability and shared long-term prosperity, not a little schadenfreude.

Washington Post columnist Fareed Zakaria says in an article entitled: “Brexit will mark the end of Britain’s role as a great power” that:

The UK, famous for its prudence, propriety and punctuality, is suddenly looking like a banana republic” – and its implosion might even be the beginning of the end of “the west, as a political and strategic entity.

On the Other Side of the Atlantic

Race_to_Bottom

At the same time the United States is beset by a know-nothing regime, dangerous to its own country and to the rest of of the world. We must never lose sight of the fact that, given today’s rates of change in everything, the last chapter of the American decline could be rapid, not to mention cataclysmic, and its scope would not be limited to the United States. I won’t bother citing examples to substantiate the danger that President Donald Trump and his team represent. Just pick up any newspaper, any day, and look at the front page.

In both cases these uncomfortable post-imperial situations were brought on by the cynical manipulation of the myths of their histories. Both countries are paying the price today for centuries of government-induced mass delusion regarding their glorious pasts.  We’re talking about the great tradition of American political folklore: nationalism and jingoism, exceptionalism, my-country-right-or-wrong patriotism, racism,  militarism, and, of course, heroism in the defense of freedom for markets.

History sees George Washington indifferently, from a mediocre to merely competent military commander whose primary mission was to buy time for the French to intervene to turn the tide in the Revolutionary War. The truth is that Washington’s ragtag army incurred some brutal losses on the battlefield. Yet Americans have been taught to revere him as an exemplary lad who fessed up to chopping down a cherry tree and went on to become a war hero and “the father of our country.” Washington had no children. 

All the rest of American history, as told to high-school students, is similarly rose tinted/tainted, a fact which is well documented in Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, a 1995 book by James W. Loewen, a sociologigy professor. The Goodreads.com blob says:

After surveying eighteen leading high school American history texts, he has concluded that not one does a decent job of making history interesting or memorable. Marred by an embarrassing combination of blind patriotism, mindless optimism, sheer misinformation, and outright lies, these books omit almost all the ambiguity, passion, conflict, and drama from our past.

Britannia Rules the Waves

May_736The British are similarly addicted to their Rule Britannia traditions, and their neurosis has had more time to simmer. Their very name, “Great Britain,” is pretentious and overbearing. After all, we don’t refer to Great United States, Great Germany or Great China. Fair enough, Britain could have been construed as great until quite recently, but today it’s just a damp little island abandoned in the North Atlantic. But the Great British are having none of that. The last vestige of imperial Britain was Hong Kong, returned to China in 1977, in the living memory of older Brits–and the older they are the more they cling to their country’s imperial greatness. The area in square miles of Great Britain (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) is roughly the same size as the state of Indiana. Only 12 of the 50 states are smaller than the whole of Great Britain.

British greatness today, in the light of the current Brexit debacle, is based almost exclusively on imperial hauteur, the main ingredients of which are ignorance and arrogance. Prime Minister Theresa May’s leadership has been shown by methodical European negotiators to be intellectually, politically and morally deficient, incapable of navigating the complicated waters of a European divorce between sovereign nations. EU insiders affirm that May and her inexperienced negotiating team are driving them around the bend. The mediocrity of the Brits shines even brighter in the light of May’s arrogance on her way into the negotiations in 2016, declaring herself, “a bloody difficult woman.”

That might qualify her for a pub brawl, but certainly not for negotiating one of the most complex and delicate deals in British history against the best that 26 EU countries could set against her. Her now-resigned chief negotiator, David Davis, the self-styled “charming bastard” of Brexit, was seen entering into negotiating sessions without a single piece of paper. It’s not clear whether or not he was carrying a pencil or a pen. Whatever the case, European negotiators were amazed, and not in a good way. (The complete list of British Brexit negotiators’ boutades would fill a volume you wouldn’t want to carrry in your briefcase.)

Today, Saturday, April 6, 2019, with Great Britain teetering on the very brink of EU auto-exclusion, BBC News quotes British Chancellor Philip Hammond, affirming that he’s “optimistic” that Brexit discussions between the government and Labour can reach “some form of agreement”.

But, according to the same BBC.com story, Labour’s Diane Abbott says the government has made “no movement” in the talks on the political declaration, which outlines future UK-EU relations. Three days of talks ended on Friday without agreement and Labour said no more talks were planned this weekend.

In the interest of fairness, I’ll share with you a couple of pithy quotes from a recent article (Dec. 14, 2018) in the Washington Post:

“She was given a mandate beyond her control and did not have any leverage on her side.”

“In the last two decades, Britain has left much of that work to Brussels, which meant it didn’t have a team of seasoned experts ready to swoop in.”

It seems that the Great British, long accustomed to rule, are going to have to get used to occupying a humbler place in the world, either that or sinking into deep denial, which seems to be their current state.

Trump_May4

Meanwhile Back in the USSA

Let’s include in our definition of “imperialism” not just countries taken over and ruled by viceroys, but also soverign nations that are “corrected” from time to time by means of invasions by imperial powers. This has been the modus operandi of the United States in Central and South America for more than a century in places like Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Grenada… Nor are they above organizing local reactionary elements to do the dirty work form them as in Chile and Argentina.

If you’re interested in seeing more details regarding the yanqui’s high-handedness south of the border here’s  a link to a recently-updated Associated Press article: Before Venezuela, US Had Long involvement in Latin America

Since Imperial America was humiliated in Vietnam 44 years ago they have limped forward at a surprisingly slow pace despite their impressive high-tech military-industrial complex and their 1,000 military bases around the world, surrounding almost everybody. Though they had little trouble subjecting tiny countries like Panama and Grenada, they had a harder time digesting more substantial places like Afghanistan, Irak and Cuba.

The imperial mindset inevitably extends into domestic affairs. Great Britain’s own Lord Acton reminded us: “Power corrupts…” A prima facie case for this is evident today throughout the American government. The US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decisión was clearly corrupt, cynically tailored to the advantage of big industrial and financial institutions. Today’s American government has been virtually bought and paid for by special interests, a fact which logically disauthorizes any of its initiatives whether at home or abroad.

The handling of the firearms situation in the US is so egregious that is without paragon anywhere else in the world. That a thuggish interest group like the National Rifle Association should call the shots on such a vital question is seen as beyond the pale in all minimally civilized countries. As for the authority of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, it’s as irrelevant today as phrenology and the Supreme Court of any advanced country would interpret it as such.

If the máximum corruption is government power beyond democratic control, then the United States, with the Pentagon’s unaccounted-for $2-trillion, takes the prize. It’s not that the sinister dwarves at the Pentagon don’t know where that money went. They’re just not telling. It’s too, well, sinister. As for illegitimate power how’s about President Donald Trump boasting aloud that, if push comes to shove, he has the police and the military on his side?

Who Will Win the Trans-Atlantic Race to the Bottom?

Keeping in mind that it’s an unfair race, since the Great British had a head start, and is currently undergoing a serious setback with Brexit, it would seem that the UK is most likely to hit bottom first. However, considering the wild and anti-natural swings of the American pendulum, one could make a case for a probable American victory. They need a victory. But we can’t relax. Their imperial downfall would most likely affect us all, and not in a good way.

###

Thanks for commenting, following and sharing.

 

Featured

Sunday Morning, Old Book, Sheet of Contacts, Nostalgia

The_Crucible

A Book in Bed, Ahhh…

“Let’s have a lie-in tomorrow morning. It’s Sunday,” says Maureen. But I’m an incorrigible early riser so yesterday morning I was up at 5:30, lighting a fire in the bedroom fireplace and looking for a book. The first one to come to hand was Richard Hugo’s Selected Poems. I read it quite a few years ago but I was ready to give it another go. Books don’t change, but we do. The best example of that phenomenon that I can recall is my experience with Arthur Miller’s 1952 play, The Crucible, set in the 17th-century Salem witch trials, but universal in scope. The Crucible was required reading when I was in college but it  made no impression on me. Then, when I was 30, I had to spend a month in bed with hepatitis. Toward the end of that time The Crucible was the only book left in the house that I hadn’t read. I was poleaxed by it. It’s one of the most intelligent and moving books, theater or otherwise, that I have ever read and my discovery that it was a commentary on McCarthyism only enhanced its value. It contains this line, for me, and in context, one of the most moving in literature:

Elizabeth, gently: “They press himJohn.

 

Richard_Hugo

Richard Hugo, the Personification of Bleakness

Maureen became friends with Richard Hugo in the mid-sixties when she was running a little hotel and restaurant in Nerja, a fishing village on the Mediterranean coast of Málaga province. The town was bucolic then and an eight-liter carafe of passable red wine cost less than a dollar. Barefoot children ruled the cobblestone streets. The village was ideally placed between the coastal mountains and the sea, with kilometers of beaches and 300 days of sunshine a year. Since then it has been devoured by industrial tourism. So it goes.

The poet was in his early 40’s during his three-month stay in Nerja. It was time enough for him to fall in love with a much-younger English girl. He bought her a ring. Her parents obliged her to return it. That was a typical Hugo ending. He was already a well-known American poet at the time and later went on to edit the Yale Younger Poets series, to have two of his books nominated for the National Book awards and to direct the creative writing program at the University of Montana.

A good poet can rearrange your chromosomes and Hugo is undeniably a good poet. But he’s a poet of constant sadness and unfulfilled lives. According to Maureen’s account Hugo fought in the Italian campaign during the Second World War. Several times while she was waiting to close the bar he recounted for her his grueling experiences in the 123-day siege of Monte Cassino where the Allies lost 55,000 troops. “He never looked up from his beer while he was telling the story,” she said. Could the origins of Hugo’s world view include a case of PTSD? Who knows. In any case, there’s very little glamorous Big Sky Country in his writings. What he perceives in Montana are its numbing cold and damp, its mining-town poverty and an irretrievable love affair. And he notes that there were people in Butte named “Grubski.”

Though Hugo grew up in Seattle and studied at the University of Washington he is more associated with Montana, perhaps the place he should have been born due to its unforgiving bleakness. You can’t grow many cash crops up there, but Hugo makes it look like a perfect place to cultivate despair.

Saved by the Contacts

Contacts18

I was on the verge of despair myself when a 4×6-inch sheet of glossy paper fell out of Hugo’s book. It was a sheet of what we used to call “contact proofs.” These were digital copies of black and white negatives and quite a bit smaller than standard 35mm contacts. So they were harder to read and for that perhaps more intriguing. So I got out the great magnifying glass that came with my condensed versión of the Oxford English Dictionary, 16 volumes shrunken down to two, still hard to read, even with that  magnifying glass. Judging from the age of our dog, Pachi, in the pictures they must have been taken in the mid-80’s, about 35 years ago. It was a different world then and we and our friends, though still the same people, were younger. In the meantime everything has changed. The Spanish have a phrase for this: “Ha llovido.” “It has rained.”

The first three frames at the top left are images of the Gentle Young Poet (GYP), sitting at the base of the fig tree with Pachi lying placidly in the background. GYP had already won a national poetry prize by then and would go on to write many more books of poetry and to teach literatura at university level. One of his first collections of poems was entirely about his girlfriend’s anatomy, which he considered unique, as all young men do. Today he’s the director of one of Spain’s principal international cultural projects.

Next on this glossy little sheet of nostalgia come a few shots of my best friend (MBF) and his wife in bed with their newborn baby girl. She’s precious in the pictures, as all babies are, but as she grew up she began to show symptoms of instability such as screaming her way around the house, “Leave me alone!” Today she’s a perfectly normal Canadian engineer, married and with a family of her own. You never know.

I first met MBF when he was 17. Someone told me there was an American teenager living in Málaga who was writing articles for an English-language magazine there. I went down to do a story on him for a General Motors magazine called American Youth. He was a delightful, precocious kid and we hit it off immediately. Written on the front of his guitar was a quote from a Spanish poet (Antonio Machado?). It said (my translation):  “Don’t identify yourself with the ‘you’ of my song, friend. That ‘you’ is me.”’American Youth paid $500 for the story, a small fortune in those days.

How Can I Be a Godfather?

When their second child, a boy, was born MBF asked me to be the godfather. I replied, “How can I be a godfather? I’m an atheist.” “That’s why we want you to be the godfather,” he said. So Maureen and I drove the 130 kilometers down to the ceremony on a 250cc Ducati 24 Hours. It was a great little bike but it was also the month of February and the thing I remember best from the whole experience of that day was stopping at the side of the road every 20 or 30 kilometers and flapping our arms to restore our circulation. MBF was a saint of a father and a friend. He died of lung cáncer at the age of 45. A lot of people miss him. Many of them will tell you he was their best friend.

The next three frames are photos of the Young Painter Who Wanted to Be Famous (YPWWTBF). He was the youngest of a talented and idealistic group of people, most of whom belonged to the Cultural Cell of the Granada Communist Party. A lot of them were well on their way to fame, GYP among them, as writers or musicians and he, not a bad painter, half expected to be joining them soon. It never really happened but his consolation prize is a lot of famous friends, all of whom esteem him.

DSC_1683

Then come eight frames of our Great Dane, Pachi, the best dog we ever had. Why does he have more pictures than anybody else? Because he deserves them. He was big and beautiful, noble and as gentle as a lamb—except for one occasion when a rough English couple came down our entrance stairs shouting demands. Pachi accompanied Maureen out to see what the ruckus was, his right shoulder pressed against her left leg. The ingleses never made it to the bottom of the stairs because Pachi emitted a deep-throated growl that inspired them to turn around and scramble up the way they came. We never saw them again.

Tragic Poet, Girlfriend Two, Petite Bavarian Painter

Then three frames of Granada’s most talented poet since Federico García Lorca. Unfortunately he, the son of a prominent Granada doctor, drank and led a disorderly life and committed suicide at 35. Maureen had painted a near-life-size double portrait of him and his girlfriend at the time and given it to him as a gift. It was one of her best. One of his subsequent girlfriends—he had a few—shredded it with a knife in a fit of jealousy.

Next  comes a single headshot of Maureen, wearing her painter’s squint, and then three shots of the suicidal poet’s former girlfriend, the subject of the ill-fated portrait. She wasn’t beautiful in a conventional way but she had a head of pitch-black hair like a stork’s nest, and beautiful breasts. She was nude in the double portrait. Perhaps that’s what motivated Girlfriend Two’s destructive rage.

The next three frames are identical bracketed (one on, one over, one under) photos of the bronze monument to Mariana Pineda—Granada’s Betsy Ross—in the plaza named after her in a quiet corner of the city. Bracketing is what photographers do when the light is tricky or when they’re insecure or just too lazy to expose carefully.

The last three photos are of the Petite Bavarian Painter (PBP) sitting in the extravagant wicker chair that figures in the aforementioned portrait, looking like a miniature Polynesian princess. The PBP has lived in Granada for some years now, running a bed and breakfast in the Sacromonte Gypsy caves, and is one of our favorite people. Before that she lived in a Bavarian town south of Munich surrounded by delightful gasthauses in the countryside where they served sausages with wonderful potatoes simmered ever-so-slowly in farmhouse-fresh butter. At one of them we could see deer bounding around the meadow below. And of course there was the beer, brewed according to the 1516 Reinheitsgebot rules, which permit only three ingredients: water, hops and malt.

We used to visit PBP and her Japanese mate almost annually during the 70’s and 80’s. PBP’s cooking—always the finest ingredients—was so good and occasionally her husband would prepare a Japanese meal. One time we stayed with them for two weeks. When they arrived in Granada to stay Maureen taught her etching.  Those were the years when I covered most of Europe and North Africa for an American hotel guide. People always ask if that was an interesting job. Yes and no. The first time you see Belgrade and Skopje they’re interesting, but by the fifth visit you start to get the feeling that you’ve been there before. Yugoslavia had its charms, though. There were no advertising signs along the road, and people were so refreshingly naive. I asked the manager of a lovely little 40-room hotel on a lake if it was private or publicly owned. He looked at me pityingly and replied, “Public, of course. Nobody has enough money to own a hotel like this.” Also, I loved Ćevapčići and Yugoslave speeding tickets which, in those days, were like a dollar and a half. The war in Bosnia-Herzogovina changed everything there for me. Sarajevo used to be one of my favorite places. But I can never go back.

###

Thanks for commenting and sharing.
Featured

The End or a Fresh Start?

Utopia, Dystopia
Utopia / Dystopia?

Where Do We Go from Here?

Let’s suppose–and it’s supposing a lot–that humankind manages to come up with a solution for its climate issues, what comes next? Apocalyptic overpopulation solutions? Ballooning prison populations? The collapse of public education? Civil war? Global war? The end of civilized society as we know it? All of the above?

Who is going to run the world, and how? That doesn’t depend upon us directly. We’ll be gone, some of us to Heaven, others to garden mulch. Only one thing is certain, the future will depend upon our children and grandchildren. Will they be as greedy, selfish and inept as we have been, with results just as grotesque as those we have attained? Yes, of course they will. Unless–and this is a big unless–we change the ways we educate them.

We are all victims of the lies we were told as children, lies about racial differences, lies about magical religions, about national superiority and exceptionalism, about patriotism, about “success” and the meaning of life. What’s more important in the long run, a limousine or the wrens nesting in your fruit trees? Your portfolio of investments or health care for all? Are our grandchildren going to be able to answer–or even  ask–these questions and others like them? This is the critical junction where our teaching comes in, because most of those children will believe–and act on those beliefs–throughout the rest of their lives what we are teaching them today and tomorrow.

Does It Sound Terribly Complicated?

Montessori classroom

Don’t despair. We can count on the valuable help of an expert. Her name is Maria Montessori and, though she died in 1952, her legacy still vibrates and provides us with a roadmap for raising competent, compassionate and creative children, the sort of people who just might be capable of putting the world right. Will we have the wisdom and conviction to follow her lessons and act on them? That’s up to each and every one of us. History is indifferent. Its choice between utopia and dystopia is as random as the flip of a coin.

What Do Katherine Graham and Beyonce Have in Common with George Clooney and Gabriel García Márquez?

What they all have in common is that they had life-changing experiences when they were small children. Their personal development was profoundly affected by the influence of a remarkable woman of historic importance both as a teacher of teachers and a tireless activist in the cause of helping children to evolve positively in their earliest stages of development.  Thanks to María Montessori’s legacy many of these children will become better adults who will go on to create a better world. Many of them have done so already.

All of the outstanding people mentioned above, and many more, attended Montessori schools. Doctor Montessori, it seems, was a century ahead of her time. Her extraordinary person and her discoveries in the field of nurturing and teaching children from early ages were remarkable during her active life in the first half of the 20th century and remain critically relevant today, nearly 70 years after her death.

With the passage of time Dr. Montessori’s teachings and her example of dedication and perseverence have become increasingly important to the world. Today’s children face complicated scenarios in which to grow up, settings that are becoming more complicated over time in a geometric progression. Do you doubt doubt this? Compare your own childhood with that of your children or grandchildren. Try to gauge the importance of Internet and the smart phone on young people today, the confusion sown by self-seeking dishonest politicians or the effects of astronomic consumerism. Our world is a frightening place grow up in today. Does anybody know how to help children deal with this  sensory armageddon? Yes, Maria Montessori does. Thanks to her influence that goes far beyond her own schools into institutions of public and private education around the world, we have a formula for forming capable, compassionate and committed young people who will make the world a better place.

 

maria_montessori_work

How Did the Maria Montessori Phenomenon Come About?

Maria Montessori was born in 1870 the little town of Chiaravalle, in the Province of Ancona in the Italian region of Marche. It was a sleepy town whose inhabitants, shoemakers, olive farmers and herders, lived tranquil rural lives, an unlikely place for the principal educational innovator of the 20th century to have been born. Not satisfied with the lot of women in her society, Maria studied science and engineering at a boys’ school in Rome and went on, against her father’s will, to study medicine, becoming the first woman to obtain a medical degree from the University of Rome.

In 1896, at the age of 26, Doctor Montessori was chosen to represent Italy at the International Women’s Congress in Berlin where she delivered an address on rights of working women, including equal pay for equal work.  Until that time her world view had been that of a young medical doctor, but her trajectory began to change. For the following three years she audited courses in pedagogy at the University of Rome and read all major works in educational philosophy from the previous 200 years. In 1899 she attended the women’s congress in London and was received by Queen Victoria. The bright young woman from Chiaravalle was beginning to make her mark in the world.

In the preface to Dr. Montessori’s Own Handbook, she elaborates on the inspiration behind Helen Keller and her revolutionary teacher:

It’s not words, but human figures to illustrate this little book intended to enter families where children are growing up. I therefore recall here, as an eloquent symbol, Helen Keller and Mrs. Anne Sullivan Macy, who are, by their example, both teachers to myself – and, before the world, living adornments of the miracle in education.

The admiration was mutual. Helen Keller referred to herself more than once as, “a product of Montessori.”

Montessori Blazed Her Own Trajectory

She dedicated the first decade of the 20th century to research and preparation for what would be her life’s work, from lecturing at Rome’s teacher training college for women, working at the Rome psychiatric clinic, and experimenting at their model school with materials for stimulating the senses of children with developmental disabilities. She took a second degree in education and experimental psychology, eventually lecturing at the University of Rome school of education. These lectures were to become the basis of her book, Pedagogical Anthropology.

Between 1907 and 1908 she opened two first “Montessori schools,” the Casa dei Bambini San Lorenzo ITChildren’s House (Casa dei Bambini) in Rome and then the Children’s House in Milan, run by Anna Maria Maccheroni. In 1909 she gave her first training course in her methods to some 100 students in Rome. There she wrote her first book, Il Metodo della Pedagogia Scientifica applicato all’educazione infantile nelle Case dei Bambini. This book, written in one month, has been translated into more than 20 languages. The English version is called, The Montessori Method. After the publication of this landmark book she resigned her teaching post in Rome and closed her medical practice in order to dedicate herself entirely to education. By the end of 1911 the Montessori method was being used in schools in England and Argentina, and quickly extended to Italy, Switzerland, Paris, New York and Boston. The worldwide Montessori revolution had begun.

A Life of International Travels, Training Courses and Contacts

Montessori love

Maria Montessori contributed to her education project not only the concepts and  the creation of the courses, but also their worldwide dissemination, thanks to her incessant travel and training courses all around the globe. In 1916 she moved to Barcelona at the invitation of the city government and was based there for 20 years until Generalísimo Francisco Franco’s 1936 fascist coup d’etat, when she went to England, then later Holland. During and after the Spanish Civil War Montessori extended her curriculum to include peace, as well as education campaigning. She lived in Holland until the Nazi invasion.

In 1940, after Italy entered the war on the side of the Nazis, Montessori went to India to impart some courses. She was accompanied by her son, Mario. He was 42 years old at the time and was promptly confined in India as an enemy alien. But he was soon released by Viscount Wavellthe British viceroy, as a present for his mother’s 70th birthday. (The little-known story of Maria Montessori’s son is fascinating.) Nevertheless, they were not permitted to leave India until the end of the Second World War, a twist of fate that permitted her to do extensive education work in that country. She returned to Holland after the war and lived there for the rest of her life, dying there in 1952 at the age of 82. Today there are more than 200 Montessori schools in the Netherlands. One wonders what their contribution must have been to that remarkable society.

What Was Maria Montessori’s Pedagogical Secret?

Maria Montessori had many secrets for dealing with little people but they seem to revolve around a single premise: permit children to develop their own innate talents and inclinations at their own paces, respect them, in short, as people. This approach is reflected in many of her quotes that have come down to us:

“Children’s greatest instinct is precisely that of liberating themselves from adults.”

“Any unnecesary help is an obstacle to development.”

“Help me to do it myself.”

“If salvation and help are to come, it is through the child ; for the child is the constructor of man.”

“Our care of the child should be governed, not by the desire to make him learn things, but by the endeavor always to keep burning within him that light which is called intelligence.”

“The greatest development is achieved during the first years of life, and therefore it is then that the greatest care should be taken. If this is done, then the child does not become a burden; he will reveal himself as the greatest marvel of nature.

“Personal health is related to self-control and to the worship of life in all its natural beauty — self-control bringing with it happiness, renewed youth, and long life.”

“We discovered that education is not something which the teacher does, but that it is a natural process which develops spontaneously in the human being.”

“The child is not an empty being who owes whatever he knows to us who have filled him up with it. No, the child is the builder of man. There is no man existing who has not been formed by the child he once was.”

“Now, what really makes a teacher is love for the human child; for it is love that transforms the social duty of the educator into the higher consciousness of a mission.”

“Only through freedom and environmental experience is it practically possible for human development to occur.”

Thank you, Maria.

Do you consider this a world view worth fighting for? What are you waiting for?

###

 

 

Featured

The US Is Not a Democracy, Never Was

US_Constitution

Nor Is It a Secret, Never Has Been

Consider this, from the March, 2018 issue of The Atlantic:

The United States was founded as a republic, not a democracy. As Alexander Hamilton and James Madison made clear in the Federalist Papers, the essence of this republic would consist—their emphasis—“IN THE TOTAL EXCLUSION OF THE PEOPLE, IN THEIR COLLECTIVE CAPACITY, from any share” in the government. Instead, popular views would be translated into public policy through the election of representatives “whose wisdom may,” in Madison’s words, “best discern the true interest of their country.” That this radically curtailed the degree to which the people could directly influence the government was no accident.

This denial of democracy carries awesome weight, considering that it was published in The Federalist Papers by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay in the period 1787-88 and formed part of 85 essays encouraging the ratification of the United States Constitution, of which Madison was the principal author. One would be hard pressed to find an opinion with a finer American pedigree.

How is it, then, that the United States sells itself today as the model democracy, a model to be revered, emulated and exported?

A statue of the Goddess of Democracy is seen before the start of candlelight vigil to mark the 28th anniversary of the crackdown of pro-democracy movement at Beijing's Tiananmen Square in 1989, at Victoria Park in Hong Kong

First things first. The word “democracy” does not appear in the Constitution. How then  did the US calling card flip from “republic” (a state which is governed by an elected head of state) to “democracy” (a system of government by the people, exercised either directly or through directly-elected representatives)? This distinction, like all the rest of political philosophy is open to discussion. Some people withold that, in a direct democracy, authority pertains to the people; while in a republic it lies with the government, rendering the government the master, and the people its servant. On that seemingly-clear but distinctly-murky field the battle rages. After more than two centuries of ideological struggle not much has been clarified but the aftermath has left the field strewn with ideological scraps that can be recovered, polished up and marketed.

As the social and political realities of the country evolved, so did it’s professed political philosophy. With the arrival of masses of immigrants, the conquest of the American west, industrialization, and Andrew Jackson’s pitch to the “common man,” all of which culminated in the 1860s with the Civil War, the country’s politicians found it expedient to veer towards the more-egalitarian-sounding “democracy.” Nothing had actually changed very much except for the sales presentation.

Some Advances and Impediments

It was not until after the Civil War that some significant Democratic advances were achieved. In 1913, the 17th Amendment stipulated that senators had to be elected directly by the people, not by state legislatures. In 1920, the 19th Amendment gave women the vote. Perhaps most importantly in 1965, the Voting Rights Act set out to assure the voting rights of black Americans.

Gore_Vidal on Democracy

Those advances notwithstanding, the United States was still burdened with the heavy ballast of the distinctly anti-democratic Electoral College, a “safety barrier” between citizens’ choices as expressed in elections and the candidates ultimately elected by others. American citizens still do not vote directly for presidential candidates in national elections. They vote for 538 “electors,” who then decide who will be President. A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President. A state’s allotment of electors equals the number of members in its Congressional delegation: one for each member in the House of Representatives plus two for its Senators. Occasionally the results in the Electoral College are at variance with the “popular” vote. In those cases the votes of the 538 electors trump those of the entire voting population of the United States. One wonders how many American voters are aware of this situation and its far-reaching implications.

Thom Hartmann sums it up soccinctly on CommonDreams.org:

“The Electoral College has brought us two presidents (George W. Bush, who lost the popular vote by 500,000 and Trump, who lost by 3,000,000) who were rejected by a majority of Americans. This is fundamentally undemocratic.”

How Did the American People Become Victims of Such a Roccoco Voting System?

Electoral College distortion

They shouldn’t be suprised. Voting systems that instert buffers between voters and the candidates who are ultimately elected have a long history and are still the preferred option in some advanced countries such as Holland. The undeclared philosophy that underlies all of them is the conviction that the untutored and unwashed mob should not be trusted to elect its own governors. The different variations on electoral colleges guaranteed–and continue to guarantee–just that. Even the Pope is elected by the College of Cardinals.

The Electoral College inserted into the American constitution by the founding fathers is a special case. It was  included there to solve the spiny problem of a slave population that was not entitled to vote. After careful consideration, the framers of the Constitution decided that the votes of all free citizens would be counted plus three fifths of the number of the unfree–black slave–population. The mechanism for implementing this system was the Electoral College. Voting rights, by the way, were limited to white male property owners.

A Few Flaws in American “Democracy”

The much-touted “separation of powers,” supposedly a mechanism built into the Constitution to assure that no single branch of government (Legislative, Executive and Judicial) could assume unfettered control of the country, is perfect in theory, but less so in practice. Theoretically, only Congress can declare war. In practice, the last time the US declared war was in 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Since then the country has been virtually continuously at war without declaring anything. A series of US Presidents simply attacked and/or invaded countries around the world capriciously, a grave lapse of democratic procedure, not to mention international law.

A series of “emergencies”–most notably 911, but there are others–have been instrumentalized in order to erode democracy by providing pretexts for the executive branch to decree constrictions on civil rights at home and human rights abroad. The Congress was actually complicit in this exercise in curtailing its own Constitutional powers.

The separation-of-powers provision of the Constitution was flawed from the outset, as the President was given a medium and long-term stranglehold on the judiciary. According to the Constitution it is he/she who appoints Supreme Court justices to lifetime terms. This can be construed as a too-generous privilege for Presidents with twisted ideological convictions or limited understanding of the historic reach of their appointments.

This is the Court That Ruined the Country

Citizens United Court
The justices who decided the Citizens United Supreme Court case.

The most garish recent example of this was the Court’s 2010 decision to uphold the Citizens United contention that corporations and other organizations were persons for the purposes of election campaign donations. Enough time has passed since then for us to discern that, thanks to Citizens United, members of the US Congress can effectively be bought by uber-powerful economic interests, precisely at a time when congressional oversight and regulation in many areas is increasingly important. This Supreme-Court-declared cesion of sovereignty to big-money private interests may prove to loom as large in American history as the Civil War or Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Thanks in part to the Electoral College but also to regular misuse of election procedures and voter qualifications the American pseudo-democracy has been further damaged. President Donald Trump tried to put a patch on this state of affairs with his post-2016 Presidential Commission for Election Integrity. To head this high-sounding investigating body he chose a well-known election meddler, rendering the whole project a farce (Flawedfromthestart.org.)

One wonders how American elections would fare under the scrutiny of the Carter Center. Since its foundation in 1982 President Jimmy Carter’s foundation has undertaken the impartial expert monitoring of 107 elections in 39 countries. The objective of this monitoring process, according to their website, is “to help establish and strengthen democracies.” (CarterCenter.org). Unfortunately the United States does not figure on this list of countries scrupulously monitored for free and fair elections.

And They Export This Half-Baked Democracy?

Amazingly, yes. But then, the Americans can export anything. Their biggest success is sugar water. After that comes jet fighters that do everything badly and regime change that will set your country back three generations. The export version of American democracy is so versatile that it can be delivered by drone.

To expect the world to accept their moth-eaten version of democracy is a bridge too far. Perhaps that’s why they’re having trouble peddling it around the world. Seen from the point of view of an impartial observer,  it looks more like a smokescreen more useful for concealing their regime-change program. We have seen the democracies they have achieved in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Libia… There’s a term for a person–or a country–that preaches one thing and practices another: hypocrite.

Is There a Way Out?

There may be. Have a look at this: https://youtu.be/TfQij4aQq1k.

###

Thanks for commenting, sharing and following.

 

 

Featured

How the Israeli Tail Wags the American Dog 2/2

Israel Lobby 1

AIPAC, the Motor of the Israel Lobby

The driving force within the Israel Lobby is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), founded in 1951 by Isaiah L. Kenen, a former employee of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs who headed the organization until his retirement in 1974. AIPAC declares that it has more than 100,000 members, seventeen regional offices, and “a vast pool of donors.” Congressman Brad Sherman of California has called AIPAC “the single most important organization in promoting the U.S.-Israel alliance.” It has also been called one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the United States.

The group does not raise funds for political candidates itself, but its members and sympathizers raise money for candidates through political action committees and other means. Though AIPAC declared more than $77 million in revenues (2014), the amount of money it funnels indirectly through like-minded informal organizations into its lobbying efforts in the US Congress and executive branch is much greater. A popular accusation against AIPAC is that it virtually buys American legislators. Otherwise, how could it have gained such powerful clout in Congress? In 2005, Lawrence Franklin, a Pentagon analyst pleaded guilty to espionage charges of passing US government secrets to AIPAC policy director Steven Rosen and AIPAC senior Iran analyst Keith Weissman, in what is known as the “AIPAC espionage scandal.” Rosen and Weissman were later fired by AIPAC but in 2009 the charges against the former AIPAC employees were dropped. (Source: Wikipedia).

For more detailed information on AIPAC’s influence on the US Congress, have a look at this excellent interview on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal with John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, the authors of the Israel Lobby article that blew the lid off the issue in 2006.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Paladin of the US Israel Lobby

Benjamin Netanyahu (“Bibi” to his friends) was a bright, personable lad who enjoyed a stroke of extraordinary luck early in life.  So lucky was Bibi in his childhood that, if you wanted to create the ideal interlocutor between Israel and the United States, you could not come up with a better model  with a better preparation than Bibi Netanyahu.

His parents were secular Jewish immigrants to Israel, his father a historian and promoter of the Jewish homeland in Palestine. The Balfour Declaration, which opened the door to Jewish settlement in Palestine, took the form of a letter, dated Nov. 2, 1917, from Arthur Balfour, foreign secretary of the British government, to Lord Walter Rothschild, head of the organization of British Zionists. This letter promised that the British government would work to bring about “a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.”

Bibi Absorbs America

Between 1956 and 1958, and again from 1963 to 1967, Netanyahu’s family lived in the United States in Cheltenham Township, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia, where his father held an academic post and Bibi graduated from Cheltenham High School. His participation in a debate club there has stood him in good stead. That and the rest of his high-school and university experience gave him both a solid understanding of Americans and the capacity to communicate with them in their own idiom.

After returning to Israel to participate in an elite unit in the Six Day War in 1967 he returned to the States to take bachelors and masters degrees in science at MIT. He then worked for as an economic advisor at the Boston Consulting Group before returning to Israel in 1978 to found the Yonatan Netanyahu Anti-Terror Institute, named after his older brother Yonatan, who died leading the Entebbe hostage-rescue operation in Uganda in 1976. Bibi served as the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations from 1984 to 1988. (Source: Wikipedia)

Elected Israeli prime minister in 2009 (after serving earlier as PM from 1996-99), Bibi never looked back. Despite his promising beginnings, Benjamin Netanyahu, has devoted himself to hatching and executing hard-line policies that are seen around the world as human-rights abominations. The scenario is aggravated by the absolute acquiesence of a series of American administrations and under the umbrella of Israel’s own nuclear arsenal. Bibi bombs and slaughters wherever he pleases, either with his own Israeli Defense Force (IDF) or by means of proxy armies, a strategy used by the Israelis at least as far back as the massacre of Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon in September, 1982.

More Partners, More Motives

The ideological congruence between the Israeli right and the American neo-cons and Trumpeteers facilitates their mutual collaboration. All have a vivid interest in disrupting Arab Middle East cohesion by smashing it into smaller, weaker units unable to pose a threat either to Israel or to US pretensions to the region’s oil resources. And both are determined to neutralize if not annex Iran. The US is motivated, at least in part, to take revenge for the Muslim clerics’ overthrowing the Shah and taking the American embassy hostages in 1979. Israel’s interest forms part of their traditional  Lebensraum ambitions. The supposed Iranian nuclear threat is just a cruel joke. The only country in the Middle East with nuclear arms is Israel, and they are formidable, though the Israelis don’t acknowledge them and the Americans pretend not to notice.

UNITED CHRISTIANS FOR ISRAEL

The power of American Evangelical and Christian Zionist sects is also a  factor in the Middle East mix. There are several sects of varying stripes that consider themselves “dispensationalists,”  ranging from those who believe that the establishment of the modern state of Israel in the Holy Land is the fulfillment of biblical prophecy, to all-out loonies working to bring about the Apocalypse by promoting a war in the Holy Land. Most of them are tacit or explicit allies of the Israel Lobby and their influence on all aspects of American Israel policy is massive, due both to their numbers and their fanaticism, hence their ability to decide American presidential elections with their votes. More information on dispensationalism here, if you’re interested.

The Netanyahu Endgame

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s murky past has finally caught up with him. The headline of Nehemia Shtrasler’s article in yesterday’s (March 5, 2019) Israeli newspaper Haaretz reads, “The Die Is Cast. Netanyahu Is History.” The article goes on:

The prime minister’s political career of nothing but himself is over and it doesn’t matter whether it happens in the coming election or immediately afterwards. The Israeli Attorney General, Avichai Mendelblit, executed him the moment he presented the three harsh indictments. True, there is still a hearing to be held – but it will be impossible after the 57 difficult pages that contain a very detailed and exceptional description of the crimes of fraud, breach of trust and bribery – for all this to be overturned in a hearing. Mendelblit has been working on this for years, and he knows each and every detail.

Does the expected end of Netanyahu’s political career mean that the Israel Lobby in the United States will be hindered in any way? Not at all. AIPAC never pretended to represent Netanyahu nor his Likud Party. It will be easy for them to simply brush his dust off their shoulders and continue to march. Have no fear. The United States government will be marching with them in lockstep.

###

Back to Part 1
Thanks for following, commenting and sharing.
Featured

Veteran Truth Teller John Pilger Takes a Critical Look at the Venezuelan Crisis

.
I thought I had said what I had to say about the situation in Venezuela but yesterday I received an email from an old friend with an article by John Pilger attached.

Australian journalist and documentary film maker, John Pilger, is one of the world’s essential old-pro, big-C communicators, along with the likes of Sy Hersh, Noam Chomsky, Robert Fisk, Patrick Cockburn and very few others. Based in the UK for most of his life he worked all over the world for the Daily Mirror from 1963 until shortly after the Murdoch takeover in 1985. He never looked back, writing for quality publications worldwide and making 60 documentary films for ITV, always from the point of view of a professional and compassionate observer, always prepared to speak truth to power. He said this on Twitter yesterday:

Like a page from Alice’s tea party, the Trump administration has presented Guaido, a pop-up creation of the CIA-front National Endowment for Democracy, as “legitimate President of Venezuela”. Unheard of by 81% of the people (source: ), Guaido has been elected by no one.

Martha Gellhorn, the American novelist, journalist and war correspondent, has said:

John Pilger has taken on the great theme of justice and injustice… He documents and proclaims the official lies that we are told and that most people accept or don’t bother to think about. He belongs to an old and unending worldwide company, the men and women of conscience. Some are as famous as Tom Paine and William Wilberforce, some as unknown as a tiny group calling itself Grandmothers Against The Bomb…. If they win, it is slowly; but they never entirely lose. To my mind, they are the blessed proof of the dignity of man. John has an assured place among them. I’d say he is a charter member for his generation. (Source: Wikipedia)

Given the rapidly-evolving crisis in Venezuela I feel obliged to pass his article on to you:

The War on Venezuela Is Built on Lies

Thanks, Tariq

Thank you for liking, following, commenting and sharing.
Featured

Consider Disregarding Everything You’ve Been Told about Venezuela–2/2

This Feb. 15 report from The Real News affirms that recognition of  Guidó’s “government” violates international law.

American Diplomatic and Military Firepower Has Brought About Regime Change in Several Latin American Countries and Venezuela Is Next on Their List

Admittedly, the Americans did achieve regime change in Chile, El Salvador, Argentina, Guatemala and other smaller places, though they failed notably in Cuba despite decades of furibund efforts. The case of Guatemala is fascinating. After financing, training and arming an army of thugs to wipe out tens of thousands of indigenous Guatemalans they found that their most effective weapon was old-time religion in the form of American fundamentalist Pentecostal and Evangelical missionaries. Today the latest in a series of born-again Guatemalan presidents, Jimmy Morales, seems to be cut from Trumpian cloth with a checkered history of economic, political and sexual irregularities.

So, according to the usual Washington wisdom, the government of twice-elected President Nicolas Madero–with one of those elections certified free and fair by America’s own Jimmy Carter–is on its last legs. If events follow the script he will soon be replaced, in a curious excercise of auto-appointment, by a young man who recently stepped into the Venezuelan political limelite out of nowhere. Where do these right-wing nowhere men come from, anyway?  Contrary to what the mainline media would have us believe, he did not show up by accident or coincidence.

The National Security Council’s most-recent pop-up nowhere man is Juan Guaidó and the following account of his overnight rise to notoriety is based on a long article by investigative journalists, Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal, published on the latter’s Grayzone Project website. It’s entitled: The Making of Juan Guaidó: How the US Regime Change Laboratory Created Venezuela’s Coup Leader. (I heartily recommend reading the full article. Here’s the link.)

Here’s Where “President” Guaidó Comes From

Juan_Guaido

According to Cohen and Blumenthal, “Juan Guaidó is the product of a decade-long project overseen by Washington’s elite regime change trainers. While posing as a champion of democracy, he has spent years at the forefront of a violent campaign of destabilization.”

Here are just a few of the points that Blumenthal and Cohen make in their article, details that the sanitized media has not seen fit to publish:

  • Only a few months ago, the 35-year-old was an obscure character in a politically marginal far-right group closely associated with gruesome acts of street violence. But after a single phone call from from US Vice President Mike Pence, Guaidó proclaimed himself president of Venezuela. Anointed as the leader of his country by Washington, a previously unknown political bottom-dweller was vaulted onto the international stage as the US-selected leader of the nation with the world’s largest oil reserves.
  • While Guaidó seemed to have materialized out of nowhere, he was, in fact, the product of more than a decade of assiduous grooming by the US government’s elite regime change factories. Alongside a cadre of right-wing student activists, Guaidó was cultivated to undermine Venezuela’s socialist-oriented government, destabilize the country, and one day seize power.
  • In 2002, Venezuela’s right-wing opposition briefly ousted Chávez with US support and recognition, before the military restored his presidency following a mass popular mobilization. Throughout the administrations of US Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Chávez survived numerous assassination plots, before succumbing to cancer in 2013. His successor, Nicolas Maduro, has survived three attempts on his life.
  • On October 5, 2005, with Chávez’s popularity at its peak and his government planning sweeping socialist programs, five Venezuelan “student leaders” arrived in Belgrade, Serbia to begin training for an insurrection. The students had arrived from Venezuela courtesy of the Center for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies, or CANVAS. This group is funded largely through the National Endowment for Democracy, a CIA cut-out that functions as the US government’s main arm of promoting regime change; and offshoots like the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.
  • And there are 32 richly-illustrated pages more, here..

Trump_Venezuela_Team

The Economic Route to Regime Change

In an article by Marjorie Cohn published in Truthout.com on February 2, 2019, she says:

From engineering coups in Chile and Guatemala, to choreographing a troop landing at the Bay of Pigs intended to establish an exile government in Cuba, to training Latin American strongmen at the School of the Americas in torture techniques to control their people, the United States has meddled, interfered, intervened and undermined the democracies it claims to protect. Now, Vice President Mike Pence, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, National Security Adviser John Bolton, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and the infamous Elliott Abrams are working with opposition groups in Venezuela to carry out a coup d’état.

She adds:

In addition to the oil sanctions, the US State Department turned over control of Venezuela’s property and bank accounts in the United States to Guaidó, in what The New York Times called “one of Washington’s most overt attempts in decades to carry out regime change in Latin America.”

According to Cohn, the former UN Special Rapporteur, Alfred-Maurice de Zayas, says the United States is waging “economic warfare” against Venezuela. In his report to the Human Rights Council, de Zayas recommends that the International Criminal Court investigate whether “economic war, embargoes, financial blockades and sanctions regimes amount to geopolitical crimes and crimes against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute.”

The Not-So-Inevitable Endgame

Venezuela has the world’s largest oil reserves, and the United States, lying just 2,799  miles across the Caribbean to the north, is its biggest customer. Wouldn’t it be convenient if American petroleum interests could somehow “annex” all that Venezuelan oil by installing a “cooperative” government in its southern neighbor?

The legal and moral implications of such a move are irrelevant as far as the Trump administration is concerned. But, “somehow,” remains the question.

Go back to Part 1
Thanks for following, commenting and sharing.
Featured

Consider Disregarding Everything You’ve Been Told about Venezuela–1/2

Let’s Look Beyond the Sterilized Media for the Truth about US Efforts to Destabilize Venezuela

After more than 20 years of overt and covert hostile actions in Venezuela the US and its allies are finally ready to close the deal on another vanquished Latin American country. It looks to them like a slam-dunk, but it might not be so simple, despite the national-security dream team appointed by President Donald Trump to run the show. Before we go any further, let’s take a brief look at their rap sheets:

  • Retired State Department veteran, Eliot Abrams–Abrams, President Trump’s recently-appointed “Special Envoy to Venezuela” and chief of the team, has a history that dates back to the Reagan presidency when, according to Eric Alterman writing in The Nation on 2 February, 2017, he spent his time “abetting genocide” and was actually convicted in court of lying to Congress regarding his role in the Iran-Contra affair. (He was later pardoned by George H.W. Bush.) In a world-class show of irony Abrams, just before he was named Ronald Reagan’s “assistant secretary of state for human rights,” aided  Guatemala’s dictator–and mass murderer–General Efraín Ríos Montt in planning and executing “acts of genocide” against the indigenous people in the Ixil region of the department of Quiché.
    .
    Abrams_testifying
    But Abram’s most egregious performance as a State Department agent during the Reagan administration was his skillful coverup of the El Mozote massacre that occured in El Salvador in December of 1981, a barbarous incident he was reminded of just the other day by Rep. Ilhan Omar in questioning  during  the House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on Venezuela. In that little Salvadorean town members of the U.S.-backed Salvadoran army, allegedly during a hunt for leftist guerrillas, slaughtered at least 800 civilians as part of its brutal counterinsurgency.

    This graphic witness account of the atrocity appears in the Washington Post: “We could hear the women being raped on the hills,” one witness told journalist Mark Danner, author of The Massacre at El Mozote: A Parable of the Cold War. “And then, you know, the soldiers would pass by, coming from there, and they’d talk about it. You know, they were talking and joking, saying how much they liked the 12-year-olds.”

    On Wednesday, Abrams balked at Omar’s line of questioning, deeming it “ridiculous,” and ultimately refused to answer her questions.Nearly four decades after the El Mozote massacre, as a member of George W. Bush’s National Security Council staff, Abrams aided and abetted a military coup against the democratically-elected government of Venezuela. Though that 2002 golpe de estado was only briefly successful before being reversed by the Venezuelan military, it did succeed in souring the US relationship with Venezuela to this day. As Eric Alterman concludes in his article in The Nation, “If Abrams had abetted genocide against Jews instead of Guatemalans, it might not have disqualified him from a top diplomatic position in the Trump administration, but he would at least have been treated as a pariah in the media, the establishment, and, one certainly hopes, the world of professional Jews. These days, however, it’s hard to be certain of anything.”
    .

  • Secretary of State and ex-CIA Director Mike Pompeo–Pompeo is a member of the Republican Party and the Tea Party movement. After six years as a US Representative from Kansas, President Trump named him Secretary of State. In 2014 Pompeo, commenting on the inclusion of a telecast by  Edward Snowden at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas, requested that it be cancelled, predicting that it would encourage “lawless behavior” among attendees. (Andrea Drusch in Politico,  9 March, 2014). Two years later Pompeo was quoted as saying that Snowden “should be brought back from Russia and given due process, and I think the proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence” (Pete Kasperowicz, Washington Examiner, 11 February, 2016).
    .Pompeo
    Pompeo is a member of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church since 2000 and serves as a church deacon as well as teaching Sunday school (Katherine Burgess in the Wichita Eagle, 19 April, 2018). In 2015 in a talk at a church, Pompeo said that “politics is a never-ending struggle … until the Rapture.” One wonders if Pompeo’s Evangelical religious convictions extend to advocating all-out war in the Holy Land in order to precipitate the Apocalypse and propel his people–and himself–directly into Heaven. His posturing on the Iran issue would seem to suggest that.
  • National Security Advisor, John Bolton–According to Wikipedia, Bolton has a formidable far-right pedigree. He is a former senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, senior advisor for Freedom Capital Investment Management, and a Fox News Channel commentator. He is also involved with a number of right-wing  think tanks, policy institutes and special interest groups, including the Institute of East-West Dynamics, the National Rifle Association, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the Project for the New American Century, the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf, the Council for National Policy, and the Gatestone Institute. Google any one of these groups to see how it fits neatly into one of the most retrograde slots in the American political jigsaw puzzle.
    .Bolton_Troops_Threat
    Moreover, Bolton’s consistent personal policy of advocating war around the world makes him a dangerous person to be sitting in the seat of President Trump’s National Security Advisor. It is an ironic position for a person who kept his head down during the Vietnam War, first in the Maryland Army National Guard and later in the U.S. Army Reserve. From 2013 until March 2018, this warmongering terrier was chairman of the Gatestone Institute, a nonprofit organization that has been criticized for disseminating false anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim information, where Bolton published articles on Iran and other topics.
  • Senator Marco Rubio (R. Florida)–Marco Rubio’s claim to fame appears to be based on his rating of 98.67 by the American Conservative Union, based on his lifetime voting record in the Senate. If that’s not recommendation enough, according to the National Journal, in 2013 Rubio was the 17th most conservative senator.
    .Marco_Rubio

Why the Persecution of Venezuela?

What motivates the Trump government to take such a truculent stance on Venezuela, anyway? First and foremost there are Venezuela’s oil reserves–the richest confirmed deposits in the world. Though they’re seldom mentioned in the polite company of the American media, they are certainly objectives of public and private American avarice. The Venezuelans are also blessed–or cursed–with fabulous veins of gold and diamonds. Another factor in the American badgering of Venezuela is its left-wing government, something no American politician of whatever stripe can countenance. Nevertheless, no member of President Trump’s Venezuela-regime-change team will ever mention these prima facie factors. They all maintain that their objective is to “defend the Venezuelan constitution.” Do you believe in the Tooth Fairy?

What are their chances of success in toppling the Maduro government? In the words of William Arkin, author of Top Secret America and a cogent critique of the American policy of perpetual war, “Whenever the US bumbles into those countries, it fuels and galvanizes the opposition.” That’s what they discovered in Afghanistan and Iraq and what might well happen in Venezuela if push comes to shove. The ironic thing about the Americans’ armed visits to resource-rich countries is that, after decades of working off the same playbook, they still can’t get it right. In Iraq, for example, after winning the war by massive use of superior air power and bribing the commanding officers of Saddam’s elite Republican Guard, they ineptly paved the way for an elected Shiite government. They apparently forgot that Iran, adjacent to Iraq and the Americans’ principal enemy in the Middle East by their own estimation, was a solidly Shiite country with just a smattering of Sunni Moslems and Jews. Thus, by virtually delivering the Iraqi government to the Shiites, the American strategists succeeded in spectacularly strengthing the Iranians in the region. (Yes, thousands of Jews–the largest community in the Middle East outside of Israel– live peacefully in Iran.)

Go to Part 2
Thanks for following, commenting and sharing.

 

 

 

Featured

Toxic American Billionaires

Mike Booth looks at the political role of American billionaires’ money, both at home and abroad.

Are They Entitled to Determine Who Governs?

billionaires2

As Things Stand Right Now It Seems They Are

The power of money in the United States is nothing new. There have always been powerful monied interests and they have always wanted to feather their nests. But in recent times–coinciding roughly with the rise of the Internet–the number of the super-rich and their companies and their level of wealth has grown so dramatically that it’s no longer a question of quantitative change. We’re looking at qualitative issues. It’s a whole new world. Continue reading “Toxic American Billionaires”

Featured

Neo-Nazis, Police and Prosecutors: Strange American Bedfellows

PaulRevere2

It’s a Revolutionary Morning

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

Featured

What I Remember from the States 2/2

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

Quiet Places for Reflection and Regrouping

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

I always loved American libraries, first the one in my hometown, even though the 175-year-old spinster librarian prohibited high-school kids from reading Hemingway or Steinbeck or Faulkner. The ones she should have censored were Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken, America’s most surgical truth seers and tellers. In that same town I lent my girlfriend my prized collection of books by contemporary American authors and later found that her mother had burned them all because they were “paperbacks.” Continue reading “What I Remember from the States 2/2”

Featured

What I Remember from the States 1/2

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

 

Silverton, Colorado
Silverton, Colorado

In a Spanish Polish Restaurant

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

My experience with the States was a bit like that. It was wonderful. Continue reading “What I Remember from the States 1/2”

Featured

There’s an Algorithm Going Round Taking Names

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

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

Meet Covert Big-Data Warrantless Surveillance of Americans

Don’t Say Johnny Cash Didn’t Warn You

Johnny_Cash_The_Man

There’s a man going around taking names
And he decides who to free and who to blame
Everybody won’t be treated all the same
There’ll be a golden ladder reaching down
When the Man comes around Continue reading “There’s an Algorithm Going Round Taking Names”

Featured

Trump and Disrespect, What Went Wrong?

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

American_Military_Cemetery4

American Individuality Off the Rails

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

Featured

False Flags–Whodunnit?

What Are False-Flag Ops, and Why?

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

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

Featured

Are Whistleblowers Good for the Country?

Ellsberg_cover

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

The Prometheus of American Truth Tellers

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

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

Continue reading “Are Whistleblowers Good for the Country?”

Featured

Regime Change Thugs Loosed Again

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

Is Iran Looking for Trouble Again?

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

Featured

Un-Brainwashing America

Lorenz2

Lorenz’s Goose Eggs

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

Featured

Who Needs Conspiracy Theories?

conspiracy2

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

It’s a Conspiracy Theory; Over and Out

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

Featured

Criminalize-Prosecute-Incarcerate, the American Way

how

Are Americans Just More Depraved?

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

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

Featured

Democracy Ain’t What It Used to Be

shell-game_narrow

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

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

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

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

USA, the Entropocracy

entropy_degrade

entropy

ˈɛntrəpi/
noun

PHYSICS

“A thermodynamic quantity representing the unavailability of a system’s thermal energy for conversion into mechanical work often interpreted as the degree of disorder or randomness in the system.
“The second law of thermodynamics says that entropy always increases with time.
Lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder.”

 

Time Flies

Nearly three decades ago, when our son was an undergraduate geology student, he came home one day bubbling over with enthusiasm. “Did you know that everything can be explained by thermodynamics?” he said. “Everything?” I squinted. “Everything!” he repeated. So it’s ironic that today, a generation later, I should start this piece with a definition of entropy, in an effort to explain the “decline and disorder” in the country where I was born and raised, baptized, deflowered, drafted, and discharged, the United States of America.

One possible definition of a “country” is a group of people with an abiding sense of shared destiny, a conviction that they’re all in it together. That goes for all of the countries of Europe and a lot of others around the world, most of them actually, except for the United States. They’re almost all in it for themselves. Seen from here, the state that comes closest to the world norm in this respect is Massachusetts. They actually had the audacity to call themselves a “commonwealth.”
Nor is toxic American individualism a recent phenomenon. This is from Alexis de Tocqueville’s book, Democracy in America (1840):

…a new expression to which a new idea has given birth … a deliberate and peaceful sentiment which disposes each citizen to isolate himself from his fellows and to draw apart with his family and friends … [abandoning] the wider society to itself … [sapping] the virtues of public life … [and finally being] absorbed into pure egoism.


Ruthless Competition, Maximum Profit, Powered by Patriotism

How did the Americans manage to miss the common-good boat? Early on they adopted individualism as a national philosophy. That, of course, precluded any form of collectivism or joint solutions to the challenges of their society. As time went by the American people assimilated that gravely flawed–in terms of uniting, consolidating and advancing a country–idea. Not only that, they elevated it to a virtually religious belief, one that cannot be questioned. Any deviation from the gospel of American individualism is seen as sinful. It didn’t take long for powerful special interests to adopt the self-made-man mantra and adapt it to their own needs, starting with no-holds-barred competition. Profit became king and commonwealth was replaced “patriotism,” a much more flexible, less specific concept that could be easily converted into a tool of manipulation. This phenomenon is most evident in the process of arming and training young American men and women for war and sending them to far-off foreign lands, then bringing them back in black, heavy-duty-plastic body bags.
Without patriotism, it would be much more difficult to embark them on such a fool’s errand. Patriotism soon morphs into a variety of nationalism capable of justifying everything, from the extinction of most of Guatemala’s indigenous people to reducing Iraq to rubble and anarchy. What to say about their penchant for starting wars and then losing them? Considering their military wherewithal, is losing even a possibility? More recently the Americans were driven out of Syria. And just a few days ago we are informed that President Trump has decided to “withdraw” from America’s longest war, in Afghanistan. Justin King, “Beau,” the genial southern journalist who presents his lucid take on the news daily on YouTube, admonished recently., “Don’t believe that ‘withdrawal.’ What has happened to the Americans in Afghanistan is that they have been defeated.”

A Recipe for Ruin

The very notion of a country based on laissez-faire, every-man-for-himself principles inevitably brings with it the loss of national consensus, coherence, identity, and general wellbeing. Absent these factors that give meaning and direction to national policy–to the commonwealth–what happens next responds to pure thermodynamics. Remember the second law? “Entropy always increases with time,” which aptly explains what’s going on politically in the United States today. Seen in terms of plain everyday logic nothing seems to make any sense. Voters vote against their own interests. Initiatives to thwart voter turnout are rampant. Congress passes tax cuts for the rich. Bare-faced lies pass for truth. Trickle-down economics is alive and well. Issues that affect all citizens equally–the environment, climate change, racial equality, universal education… have either been abandoned utterly or are in the process of being mutilated beyond recognition. Candidates arise from seemingly random, highly unqualified sectors of the society, and obey criteria that don’t make any sense. Highly-placed-but-culturally-limited figures in the American administration under President Donald Trump speak in terms of “sound theological principles” in government and in private rely on “The Rapture” to solve all the country’s problems. This is not just a violation of the separation of church and state, it’s rule by nonsense. Good government shouldn’t depend upon miracles or biblical prophecy, and to pretend that it should is to drive the country even further down the road to ruin.

What the Americans Are Best At

Not surprisingly, the things that Americans are best at have to do with mind control: advertising, persuasion, brainwashing and, above all, fabricating and selling their quintessential lies. If they decide to implement a long-term regime-change project in an oil-rich country–say Venezuela–they must have, of course, a good reason. They do have one, and it’s always the same. It’s a lie but they can skip lightly over that hardly-relevant detail. They’re going into those countries (or sending their proxies in)  to oust repressive dictatorial regimes and replace them with democracy. It’s not about oil. It’s about freedom.

That weary old saw–or some variation on it–has been used time and again over many decades to justify American conceived and financed wars, proxy wars, takeovers, subversions, false-flag operations, genocides and other violations of international law. Legality is irrelevant to them. They have absolute veto power in the United Nations since its creation in 1945, and they refuse to recognize the authority of the International Criminal Court. Does this sound like the very definition of a rogue country? Well, yes, but the formula continues to work for them. Is that because they are big, have paved the world with military bases, and are armed to the teeth? That’s a possibility, too.

The other flimsy pretext for American meddling in other countries’ affairs is “anti-communism,” the eternal constant in the American muddle. Communists are not necessarily the devil, though they have been demonized in the US as if they were. In fact, the world’s most civilized countries–those of Western Europe–have drawn many principles that have contributed to their highly-successful social-democracy model of society straight from Marx and Engels. European workers have a month’s vacation from day one. Is this why the United States is out to break the back of the European Community, starting with the British Brexit?

What Happened to the American Dream?

The American Dream is the Americans’ most wonderful lie, the magical gossamer strand that sustains their whole house of cards. “You, too, can be rich! If you’re not rich it’s because you don’t work hard enough, or you’re somehow defective.” And that bit of cheap doggerel is what powers a presumably-well-educated, first-world country of more than 300 million people. At this stage in the first quarter of the 21st century, the American Dream has succumbed to entropy. It was inevitable, due to the very nature of American society from the beginning.

Do you have trouble relating to physics? This same message can also be expressed–perhaps even better–in poetry:

The Second Coming

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
William Butler Yeats, 1920
Thank you for following, commenting and sharing.