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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.

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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.

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How the Israel Tail Wags the American Dog–1/2

The Israel Lobby’s Sway Over the US Agenda Is About Expert Lobbying, Politicking, and Tricky Payoffs to Members of Congress

Israel Trump

How Much Power Does the Israel Lobby Wield in Washington?

Lots. They can count on the unconditional backing of the US Congress economically–to the tune of some $3 billion annually, making them the US’s most-favored aid recipients both militarily and diplomatically. The State of Israel’s excesses in the Middle East have been protected by US vetoes in the United Nations Security Council 43 times (a UN veto record) since 1972, most recently  a draft UN Security Council resolution on June 1, 2018, that rejected President Donald Trump’s move to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. (Source: middleeasteye.net) Here’s a link to the full list of vetoes compiled by Jewish Virtual Library.org.

A flagrant example of the Israeli government’s clout in Washington was the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s 2015 speech before a joint meeting of Congress. The speech, essentially a harangue against the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear deal, lasted 43 and a half minutes. It would have been shorter had it not been repeatedly interrupted–by standing ovations. That meeting was convened between House Speaker at the time, John Boehner, and Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Ron Dermer, to arrange a speech before Congress for Netanyahu, in defiance of President Obama and without his knowledge. Obama only found out about Netanyahu’s scheduled speech to Congress after it was accorded.

See the Washington Post‘s transcript of the full speech, along w ith a video version.

Support for Israel in the United States Congress is overwhelming. Only 50 members of both houses of Congress boycotted Netanyahu’s 2015 speech. The US and Israel clearly have shared interests–in their pretensions to co-dominance in the Middle East, their virulent allergy to Iran, and their decades-long efforts to conceal Israel’s nuclear arsenal, for example, but are those common interests so powerful as to justify slavish American adherence to all the Israeli extreme-right-wing Likud party’s policy and junkyard-dog defense of all Israeli human-rights abuses?

Outside of Congress there are grave doubts on these questions, including within the American Jewish community. The subject, which had been simmering for a long time, gained notoriety in 2006 when university professors, John Mearsheimer (University of Chicago) and Stephen Walt (Harvard University), wrote an article entitled The Israel Lobby that was finally published on the other side of the Atlantic in The London Review of Books (Vol. 28, No. 6, March 23, 2006) after being rejected by all the relevant American media. Why was it so universally shunned in the US? The most convincing answer to this question reinforces the main theme of the article: the Israel Lobby’s power was so great that nobody in the US dared to publish an article that criticized Israel.

The Most Powerful Card in the Israeli Deck?

The most powerful card in the deck where US-Israeli relations are concerned, the one that trumps all the others, is and has been for many years the “anti-semitism” card. It’s the Israel Lobby’s ace in the hole. Whenever any American, whether journalist, academic,  notable private citizen or politician objects to any of the policies or actions of Israel’s far-right Likud Party government, the Israel Lobby in the United States whips out the anti-semitism card, whingeing vociferously, “This is anti-semitism!” Actually it usually isn’t. Usually it has to do with clear and present issues of human rights or international law, subjects like the massive building of illegal settlements on Palestinian land–what little is left of it–or deploying snipers to maim and kill unarmed Palestinian demonstrators–men, women and children–on the other side of the Israeli fence/wall.

Ironically, the very word “semitic” doesn’t even belong exclusively to the Israelis, though they have appropriated it for their own use, much in the way the Americans have appropriated “America” and “American,” terms that rightly refer to all the lands and peoples of two entire continents. According to Britannica.com “semitic” refers to:

Semite, person speaking one of a group of related languages, presumably derived from a common language, Semitic (see Semitic languages). The term came to include Arabs, Akkadians, Canaanites, some Ethiopians, and Aramaean tribes including Hebrews.

US Representative Ilhan Omar, the Most Recent “Offender”

The citizens of Minnesota have recently seen fit to elect Ilhan Omar, a young Somali-American woman, to the United States House of Representatives. She’s outspoken, and had the impertinence the other day to suggest that the Israel Lobby was able to use “Benjamins” to get their chosen candidates for the United States Congress elected. (“Benjamin” is slang for a hundred-dollar bill.) A summary look at successful congressional election results, collating them with candidates’ stands on issues that the Israeli Likud Party considers sensitive, would seem to corroborate Omar’s veiled allegation that sympathizers of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and other members of the Israel Lobby were buying elections. But truth is scarcely an issue here, any more than it is in so many other questions on the current American agenda. Besides, who isn’t buying elections in the United States these days?

The immediate pro-Israel backlash was led by President Donald Trump himself who said he thought Omar should resign. Both the newly-elected representative from Minnesota and the House’s other new Muslim representative, Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian- American, have criticized the Israeli government for its grotesque treatment of the Palestinian people.  The mere mention of the Israeli apartheid system is politically dangerous for American elected officials. In 2016, when presidential candidate Bernie Sanders dared to say that “We are going to have to treat the Palestinian people with respect and dignity,” it became a major media event.

Ben Ehrenreich, writing for The New Republic on Feb. 15, 2019, sums up the back story of Ilhan Omar’s alleged faux pas in a single eloquent paragraph:

By the time Ilhan Omar walked onto the national stage, a lot had changed, and not much at all. Since 2006, we’ve seen three devastating and overwhelmingly one-sided Israeli assaults on Gaza, the massive expansion of settlements in a brutal and seemingly endless occupation, the collapse of U.S.-sponsored peace negotiations and anything that could be called an Israeli “left,” a widening gulf between Israeli and American Jews, and an Israeli prime minister who went out of his way to embarrass a popular Democratic president and to embrace the neo-fascist right. Ever-larger cracks are appearing in the defensive wall the U.S. media has for years erected around Israel: Critical voices—even Palestinian ones—are increasingly making it into the op-ed pages. Space for debate is finally opening up. And the controversy that blew up around Omar is a foretaste of how bitterly that space will be contested.

Money Talks

According to Alex Kotch, writing in The Guardian on Feb. 13, 2019:

Aipac played a role in forming separate pro-Israel Pacs and has encouraged its members to donate to its favorite candidates for decades; it spends more money than any other pro-Israel group every year to lobby the federal government; it holds annual conventions featuring sympathetic members of Congress; and it’s spent nearly $16m since 2000 to send groups of congresspeople to Israel to learn about the two countries’ relationship through the Aipac lens.

In part because of AIPAC’s political efforts, the US has remained Israel’s strongest ally, funding its military and selling it weapons, siding with Israel on UN resolutions, and hardly slapping Israel on the wrist when it expands its illegal West Bank settlements or its soldiers kill hundreds of unarmed Palestinians, Including children, medics and journalists.

Kotch adds in his Guardian article:

The furor over the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement has led more than half of US states to pass laws attacking BDS. These laws clearly trample on the constitutional right to free speech and expression, but that didn’t stop the US Senate from passing the very first piece of legislation this session, which forbids Congress from pre-empting such state laws.

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

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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

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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.

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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.
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    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.”
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  • 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).
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    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.
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    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.
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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.)

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Regrets? Well, Yes and No–2/2

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The Road to Barcelona

We did actually make a couple of sales, one to the Spanish stock market (by inviting their tech director down from Madrid and getting him drunk) and the other to the Catalan health service, which took an excruciating year to pay. That was the high point of what turned out to be a long slippery slope. From there I resorted to a strategy that the Spanish refer to as la huida hacía adelante, fleeing forward. Since my team understood computers, sound cards and telephone lines I decided to try selling audiotext, a system that permited users in those days to phone a number and, for a fee, hear the latest news straight from the source. It was a natural ap for a bigtime football (soccer) team and I contacted the Barcelona Fútbol Club. They expressed interest and we spent the next year pursuing that terrific lead, nearly wearing out my car zooming back and forth over the thousand-kilometer distance between Granada and Barcelona. I got it down to six hours and three quarters.
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In one meeting with the club’s communications director we actually closed a deal. But the agreement had a hook in it. We had to pay them a million pesetas up front for the privilege of mounting and running the system for them. That was the log that broke the elephant’s back. It was a shame because the Barcelona team had (and still has) tremendous draw and the deal would have been a life saver for us. Then, of course, along came Internet and changed the whole ball game. Today they’ve got an online TV channel.
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There were more projects on that slope, including a telephone-wine-sales business in which 13 young women offered fine wines to Spanish gentlemen who liked wine and talking to girls. Nor were my shrewd girls about to miss a lucrative business opportunity themselves. Towards the end of the fiasco I discovered that few of them were also selling their own services. Now when I see a beautiful girl walking her dog I look at the dog. Then there was the communications agency, which was a modest success. In that business I learned to make websites.

Sometimes The Pearl Is Right Under Your Nose

Meanwhile, during all the years that I was losing money hand over fist careening around Spain in a suit, my sweet wife–who had told me when we met that she wanted to be a painter–continued unobtrusively to paint and sell her work. At the end of the 70´s she was admittted to study printmaking in the the Rodríguez-Acosta Foundation under  José García Lomas, a wonderful maestro who was formed in print studios in Rome and Paris. The foundation studio closed in 1980 and Maureen bought one of the big etching presses, the tables, the tools and the inks and installed everything her own studio on the hillside below our house. From then on she was on her own and with time and hard work she became one of Spain’s best fine-art printmakers and and graphic art educators.

Spain dedicates itself intensely to all of its fiestas and Christmas celebrations are extravagant. They last for 14 days, from December 24 (Christmas dinner) till January 6, the Epiphany, the Day of the Three Kings, when children receive their Christmas presents. During these joyous holidays normal business slows to a halt, so there’s some free time available. On one of those occasiones at the end of the 90’s I asked Maureen if she would like me to make her a website. “Me, a website? What do I want a website for? I’m an artist!” So I made her five, one for her, another for her artists’ apartment, and three more on printmaking themes where she was featured heavily.
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So my sweet wife, who had only modest business ambitions, started to lift off as an international fine-art printmaker with exhibits in Spain, the US and various European countries. Besides that she began to receive commissions to do editions for companies in Europe and the US. When she got her first big commission she hired an assistant. When he returned to Argentina she found a friend from a nearby village, trained her, and has worked with her ever since. Everyone who works with Maureen remains devoted to her for life.

When Crisis Hits

When the economic crisis hit the whole world in 2008 art sales suffered mucho, and she asked me one day how much trouble it would be to convert our renovated henhouse into an apartment. “What for?” was my naive reply. She had a plan. We revamped the chicken coop/tech lab again and called it El Gallinero (“The Henhouse” in Spanish). Since then it’s been a creative refuge for artists from around the world who come to Granada to study printmaking techniques with Maureen. I’m her dog’s body. And her first admirer. I’m so proud of her. We celebrated our 50th anniversary last year. Now our grandchildren are having children. Time flies.

Another Look at the Scoreboard

Remember the scoreboard? Let’s have another look at it. Yes, my failings were great and my regrets are sincere. But on balance my mistakes and missteps took me to a far, far better  place. Ironically, my time spent in the military was one of the best things that ever happened to me. That sounds insane but the army for me was both bitter and enlightening. I discovered that life in the USA was turning into a nightmare. When I was discharged from the army after almost two years I left convinced that I had to leave the country. And I did in November of 1968. All of the misery and frustration I thus evaded during the Nixon, Clinton, Bush/Cheney, Obama and Trump years; as well as all of the richness and wonder that I experienced in Spain, I owe ultimately to Uncle Sam because he was the one who convinced me I had to leave. I owe him for a wonderful new country with enchanting people and gentle customs. I owe him for a perfect English wife whom I found on a Mediterranean beach, for an old stone house on a sunny hillside and a flock of kids and animals. I owe him for encouraging me to find an unexpected space where we could create our own homemade lifestyle. So thank you, Sam, I wish you well and I’m trying to help you out, though it may not always seem so.

A Little Bit of Satisfaction

My most recent contribtion to human life on this planet is a modest one but it makes me feel good every day. For the past few years I’ve been publishing a photo blog site of events in our pueblo. (This morning it was the hatching of eight goslings on the river’s edge beneath the village square.) It began with black and white pictures of our early days in the village at the end of the 60’s and continues with color photos of current events here. The site has been a surprising success. In its fourth day online it received 18,000 hits and has been going strong ever since, this in a village of 1,200 people. So our neighbors get to see how their pueblo has evolved over the past half century. There’s a bundle of nostalgia in those pictures.
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As for me, I would love to continue documenting our village for a few more years before I’m relegated to that great darkroom in the ground.
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Regrets? Well, Yes and No–1/2

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Don’t Sign Off on Your Regrets Yet

It helps to get old before you start thinking about regrets because something you regretted a long time ago may turn out to have been a blessing in disguise. You have to see the scoreboard at the end of play before you can judge the game. And never lose sight of the Spanish proverb: “No hay mal que por bien no venga”. “Nothing bad ever happens that doesn’t bring something good along with it.”
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I’ve been regretful more than a few times in my life but I didn’t realize at the time that those were the twists and turns that made life interesting and, ultimately, worthwhile. I think too many people try to control all the variables in their lives. If they don’t succeed–and they can never do so completely–they wind up distressed or, in the unlikely event that they do succeed bigtime they’re more often than not disappointed with their trip.
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Surprises, both pleasant and not so much, are like all the other changes in our lives. They help to keep us on our toes, to keep coping. Embracing change also helps us to stay young and is increasingly important as we grow older. I’m fond of saying that a rewarding old age is not about drinking mint juleps on the veranda. It’s about starting a project you probably won’t be around to finish. Start some bonsais from cuttings, write a book about the family for your great, great grandchildren, train your chihuahua to be a better person.

Does it Move?

I’m often reminded of something my 10th-grade biology teacher said regarding the definition of “life.” One of the requisites was motion. Does it move? I have forgotten the other two but today, umpteen years later, I’m convinced that if you’re not moving, both mentally and physically, you’re not wholly alive.
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So, what do I regret. I regret losing my first girlfriend who was a gentle, sensitive girl. I regret being jealous and possessive. She was also smarter than I was and went through high school scooping up all the academic honors ahead of me. That might have been the underlying cause for our unhappy ending. The end was like almost every other big setback in life–casually random and utterly devastating. The summer after graduating from high school I was working as a dishwasher at a Lake Michigan summer resort. In a surprise visit she walked into the ramshackle cabin that was the abode of the dishwasher and the handyman, and found a long-legged Norwegian-American chambermaid folding my clean underwear and stacking it in a neat pile on my bed. That was the end of life as I knew it when I was 18 years old.
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I regret letting myself be drafted into the Army. It was 1966, the year after I graduated from college. It was also the depths of the Vietnam war. My deferrment scheme had failed, and I received orders with three weeks notice to report to the Detroit induction center. I should have defected to Canada, which was just across the bridge on the other side of the Detroit River, but I was too stunned to react.
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In the end I wasn’t sent to Vietnam. I spent my military service working days on an Army newspaper at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky and nights as a bartender at the big non-commissioned officers’ club there. In all it was pretty cushy as military service goes but, even so, I was subjected for the first time in my life to sordid, brutal, mindless America. I was also acutely aware of the gratuitous horror we were loosing on an innocent fairy-tale country in southeast Asia. I should have deserted and not allowed myself to become an accomplice in that macabre business enterprise that was the prototype of the Americans’ permanent-war project . But I didn’t, and I bitterly regret it.
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I regret having been so self centered, when time has shown I didn’t have a foot to stand on in that respect. My father was always saying to me, “Mike, you only think of yourself.” I thought he was crazy. Who was I going to think of if not myself? Much later I was reading Mark Twain (Letters from the Earth, I think) and something he said hit home hard: “The older I get the smarter my father gets.”

Study More, Read More

I regret not having studied longer. We live in our heads and it pays rich dividends to have them well furnished. Throughout life I was aware that I was insufficiently prepared for every project I undertook, and I am a project person. I constantly found myself relying on guesswork and improvization. And I wish I had read more. A shockingly simple axiom maintains, “In order to write you have to read.” One of the consolations of my life is that my son did study enough. He got a  PhD in geology at the University of Granada, did his post-doctoral work at Geomar, the principal European oceanographic center in Kiel, Germany, and works as a geology professor at the University here. He was also lucky enough to inherit his mother’s sweet character. My cup runneth over.
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The cast-your-fate-to-the-wind attitude that I subscribe to presuposes a bit of risk, though not that much. My advice to young people is always the same: Imagine your wildest dream and go for it. What’s the worst that can happen? You have to go home and get a job. What playing fast and loose does require is lots of optimism. One of my favorite people, Harold Evans, the great crusading British newspaper editor (The Sunday Times, The Times) made the reverse of my own journey. He moved from the UK to the US, eventually taking American nationality. He coined a great phrase: “the Americans’ reckless optimism.” I always knew I was optimistic but I never suspected that was a particularly American trait, though I have noticed that my Spanish paisanos have a decided aversion to risk. Maybe I should have paid closer attention to them.

First Steps on the Slippery Slope

In the early 1990’s, after years of watching semi-literate construction magnates driving around Granada in 800-series BMW’s, I decided to leave my job as a hotel inspector and start a business of my own. I was, after all, a bright boy. The last time I had reviewed the Paris hotels I attended a technology fair there and discovered an ingenious computerized fax system that was as yet unknown in the Spanish marketplace. This seemed a formidable business opportunity. I was mesmerized and decided to bet the farm on it. (Advice for young entrepreneurs: Don’t step into the swamp when you’re mesmerized.)
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When I got home I hired a couple of IT guys and a graphic designer, bought some expensive computer fax hardware and installed them in a renovated henhouse. My team of bright kids was great and they soon had a working prototype which was capable of attending a helpline 24 hours a day by automatically sending out documents requested interactively from a menu. (Remember, this was before Internet.)
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I soon found myself travelling around Spain presenting our revolutionary system to Spanish businesses with special communications needs: banks, travel companies, ski resorts, tourism promotion entities… I might as well have been selling snake oil. With few exceptions my prospective customers didn’t understand the usefulness of the system for their busineses. Or they pretended not to understand. They were wary. They had never heard of anything like interactive fax and didn’t want to risk spending any actual money on it. The rough equivalent in the US would have been a Mississippi-based Eskimo offering your company high-tech solutions.
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Later (always later) I learned  that Spaniards and Americans occupied opposite poles on the technology-acceptance continuum, the Spanish being extreme late adopters and the Americans just the opposite, rabidly eager to be the first on their block to boast the latest technology. I was the latter trying to sell gimcrackery to the former. We were all alone in the marketplace with no competitors for more than a year. Then a single competitor appeared. It was only one but it was Telefonica, the Spanish telephone company. You can imagine.
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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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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.
Thanks for liking, commenting and sharing.
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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”