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Remembering Spain 2/2

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Time Flies

Then half a century slipped by. Maureen became a fine-art printmaker who gives master classes in her studio below the house and laments not having time to paint. I discovered you can’t really live from freelancing and wound up as European editor of a hotel guide. Ask me about any hotel in Europe. I can’t remember. Then I started up a couple of businesses. Don’t ask. Now I’m Maureen’s secretary, photographer, driver and publicist. Whether it’s artists coming for Maureen’s etching courses or friends, when visitors descend the stairs into our placeta we notice their blood pressure dropping as they are affected by the aroma of jazmine and the view across the valley.

We used to have two strapping lads–and a girl who was tougher than either of them–who helped with the garden and a lot of other things. Everybody loved the luxury of open fires and meals prepared on that woodstove–which we still have and still use in wintertime. But those helpful kids are long gone, stoking their own fires, so a couple of creaky grandparents now do it all. Maureen says it helps keep us young but my back hurts. That said, I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s a great excuse to go three times a week to the nearby spa with it’s high-pressure hot-water jets and boiling Turkish bath.

It’s Not About Sunny Spain

I didn’t come to Spain for the climate. Like most everything else in my life, I got here by accident. Nor is this the Caribbean. The weather here can get pretty stroppy if it wants to. If Andalusia is one of the hottest regions in Europe, how is it that thousands of people every year come skiing at a ski resort that is just 18 miles up the hill from our house, and why does the temperature in our bedroom drop as low as eight degrees centigrade (46ºF) in wintertime? (Don’t worry about us, we ordered a tog 14 duvet from England and they send us two by mistake. And on really cold nights we light the fireplace in the bedroom.) The climate here has to do with altitude. People from flatland places like Michigan–me for example–tend to think that climate is mainly determined by latitude: The farther north you go (at least in the northern hemisphere) the colder it gets. But in mountainous regions the climate is more-often determined by altitude. The higher you go the colder it gets and we’re in the mountains. Even so, even when the winter nights are below freezing, the days can be balmy.

Summer here is hot, with highs around 40ºC for several days each year, but with relatively cool nights (the altitude again). The secret of dealing with the heat is to go to bed late, get up early, and spend the hottest hours of the day in bed under a slow-rotating ceiling fan with a good book. This is the much maligned–by the barbarians–siesta. One of Maureen’s artists from Australia said, “It’s great, like an excuse for having a nap!”

(Click on photos to enlarge them.)

Another of her students, this one from Seattle, had actually gone to a sleep center to cure her insomnia. They had her spend a whole night there with her head wired up with sensors. But she still couldn’t sleep. She arrived here just past lunchtime after a long series of flights . Maureen settled her into the cabin we have for her students and suggested she lay down to rest a while before they went into the studio. “Oh no,” Michelle said, “I don’t take naps; I hardly sleep at night.”

“Well, you don’t have to sleep. Just lie down for a little rest.” Three hours later a sheepish American girl tapped on our door. “I don’t know what happened. I just lay down on the bed and went to sleep.” She slept that night, too, and all the rest of the two weeks she was here, siestas included. The day she left I said to her, “Michelle, you know what is the best medicine for sleeplessness? She wrinkled her brow inquisitively. “Happiness.”

“Ohhhhh yes,” she replied.

Michelle isn’t the only one to have had that sleep experience here. Maureen attributes it to the sound of the river rushing and the birdsong.

Kisses

We live at the upper edge of our village and we both work at home so we don’t really have that much daily contact with the outside world. Occasionally we get a bit of cabin fever. I get snappy; Maureen gets mysterious. When I notice that it’s starting to happen–usually one snap too late–I know exactly what to do. I say to her, “Fancy some dead fish?” She gives me that knowing smile and we get in the car and drive ten minutes to our favorite tapas bar, where the fish is plenty fresh the dry white Rueda wine plenty cold, and Monica, the welcoming Gypsy waitress, greets us with kisses on both cheeks as if we were her parents. That makes our day.

Andalusia, the region comprised of Spain’s eight southernmost provinces, is a huggy-kissy place. A kiss on both cheeks establishes an immediate relation, a recognition that we are two human beings trapped on the same planet. Starting from there good things can start to happen. You know who else I get kisses from whenever we meet? My son, Bill, who will be 47 in February. Occasionally, when a member of a Spanish soccer team scores a great goal, one of his teammates will give him a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. Imagine that in an NFL game.

The Pueblo Photographs

 

When we first arrived here I found everything fascinating and I photographed it all: the old timers and the kids, the plaza, the river, the olive and almond groves, the fiestas and romerías, the harvests and the conversions of pigs into sausages. I did that for a few years and then got distracted doing other stuff. But I always promised myself that when I got old I would go through all those black-and-white negatives and print up some of the best pictures. A few years ago I finally got around to dealing with those old negs. But in the years since I had resolved to print them, photography had gone digital and I hadn’t made a print in years. So I decided it would make more sense to digitize them.

I started looking at high-quality negative scanners. It turns out they were slow, with not-so-hot image quality and hellish expensive–a few thousand euros for a good one.
Just at that point Tariq Dajani, an excellent photographer and friend, turned up to talk with Maureen about rendering some of his photos as photogravure prints. I mentioned my project to him and commented on the scanner problems. His reply was a lifesaver, “You may not believe this, Mike, but you don’t need a scanner. All you need is a copy stand, a light source, your digital camera, a negative holder and a good macro lens. It’s much cheaper and faster than a scanner and actually gives better quality.

Tariq was right. The process was quick and easy and the resulting image quality was excellent. There were a lot of negatives to copy but what kept me going were the historic black and white images of life in our village 40 and 50 years ago. There were treasures in those pictures, people and scenes, many of which I didn’t even remember shooting, including many old folks who were no longer with us. How my neighbors would enjoy seeing them. Maybe I could organize an exhibit in the town hall. Then it struck me: They’re digital, I can publish them on Internet.

That’s how my SomosPineros.com (We’re from Pinos) photo blog came about. And my neighbors, all 1,300 of them, did love it. On its fourth day it received 18,000 hits. I had created a lot of websites but none of them had ever done so well on their fourth day online. I was bowled over. After a few months of daily posts I ran out of photos. What then? I was so enchanted with the unexpected success of my project that I started casting about for some way of keeping it going. That’s what got me back into photography. I started shooting life in the plaza and in the bars, the village fiestas, the grandparents, the children and all the rest all over again, this time in color. And the formula still works. My posts of a village event, whether it’s the Christmas parade (La Cabalgata de Reyes) or Book Day (El Día del Libro), receive up to 25,000 hits. Now they include visitors from all over the world. There’s no money in it, but I am a local hero, with my own parking place in the town square beside the local police car.

 

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Happy New Year

 

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Remembering Spain 1/2

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Two Spains, the Coast and the Rest

The Spanish real-estate brochures produced for unsuspecting foreigners like to sell “Gracious living in the South of Spain,” which conjures up visions of pseudo sophisticates drinking endless gin tonics on a bouganvilla-draped veranda.  Most of the Brits fleeing to Spain to escape immigrants who can’t speak the Queen’s English properly become migrants themselves, who can’t speak any Spanish and are hemmed in by golf courses on narrow strips of land along the Mediterranean Coast.

Our experience of inland Spain was different. It was about learning and working, about forming a family and staying alive in a society where practically nobody spoke English. There was so much to learn, even beyond the language. We had to learn what to eat and how to cook it. We were put off by the taste of olive oil, we didn’t know what to do with a persimmon, a quince, or a calamar. We also learned to make two great Spanish cold soups which alleviate the summer heat: ajo blanco with almonds and garlic, and the tomato-based gazpacho.  Continue reading “Remembering Spain 1/2”

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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?

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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”

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Neo-Nazis, Police and Prosecutors: Strange American Bedfellows

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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”

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What I Remember from the States 2/2

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

Quiet Places for Reflection and Regrouping

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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”

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What I Remember from the States 1/2

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

 

Silverton, Colorado
Silverton, Colorado

In a Spanish Polish Restaurant

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

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

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There’s an Algorithm Going Round Taking Names

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

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

Meet Covert Big-Data Warrantless Surveillance of Americans

Don’t Say Johnny Cash Didn’t Warn You

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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”

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Trump and Disrespect, What Went Wrong?

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

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American Individuality Off the Rails

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

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False Flags–Whodunnit?

What Are False-Flag Ops, and Why?

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

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

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Are Whistleblowers Good for the Country?

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

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

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

Continue reading “Are Whistleblowers Good for the Country?”

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Regime Change Thugs Loosed Again

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

Is Iran Looking for Trouble Again?

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

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American Inequality is the Whistleblower

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

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

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

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

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Women’s pay as a percentage of that of men

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

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

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

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

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

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Homelessness is as American as Apple Pie

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

Homelessness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greatness?

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

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

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Lorenz’s Goose Eggs

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

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Who Needs Conspiracy Theories?

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

It’s a Conspiracy Theory; Over and Out

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

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Criminalize-Prosecute-Incarcerate, the American Way

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Are Americans Just More Depraved?

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

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

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Democracy Ain’t What It Used to Be

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

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

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

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

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We Were Wondering…

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

How Do American Governments Justify Their Questionable Actions?

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

How Do Americans Live with Their Own Government?

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

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

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Schizophrenogenic America

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How the United States Drives Its Citizens Crazy

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

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The Economist from Hell

James Buchanan
James Buchanan (1919-2013)

The Mastermind Behind the Rising American Dystopia

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

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

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The Next American Civil War? 2/2

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Straight Up to Heaven

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

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

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

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The Next American Civil War? 1/2

White Supremacist Militia

Charlottesville, VA, white supremacist rally

It Couldn’t Happen in America

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

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Trump’s NATO Ploy in Brussels is Baseless

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Another Foundation Lie Exposed

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

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

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

 

The Case of the Half-Million-Dollar Hat

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

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

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International Partners Come and Go

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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Is America Headed Towards Fascism?

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

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

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American Chicken Hawk Militarists Boldly Lead the Charge–From Behind

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

The Chicken Hawk, the Most Ignominious Bird of All

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

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The Bizarre States of America–2/2

 

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

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

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The Bizarre States of America 1/2

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There’s Weirdness in the Air Over There

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

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

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Jefferson’s “Den of  Vipers and Thieves”

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

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

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Is American Democracy on the Critical List? 2/3

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If Lincoln Could Raise His Head Today…

Multi-Billionaire Brothers Change the Rules of the Election Game

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

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

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Is American Democracy on the Critical List? 1/3

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American Democracy, the Standard of the Industry

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

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

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Who Can Condone Such Actions?

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

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

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

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

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

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Woodrow Wilson Kept the Russophobe Ball Rolling

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

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

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

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A Note on Sources

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

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

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

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

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The US Brings Democracy to the Mediterranean/2

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

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

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It’s Them Pesky Russkies Again

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

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What Is It With the American Flag Fetish?

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Americans’ Extreme Devotion to Their Flag Arouses Curiosity

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

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

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Teach Your Children Well

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Give a Lift to the Future

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

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