US Firearms Deaths, So Much Left to Do

Sandy_Hook

So Much Has Been Said; So Little Has Been Done

Perhaps Americans should be reminded that the regular-as-clockwork firearms deaths in their country are unnecessary. How do we know that? We know it because they don’t happen with such monotonous regularity in other advanced countries. Then why do they occur so often in the US? They happen for a lot of reasons but the principal one is that there is a criminal conspiracy under way in the US to perpetuate the so-called gun culture, regardless of the tens of thousands of firearms victims every year.

American citizens want stricter gun control. (See extensive Gallup poll results on “Guns” over the past 20 years and more.) But what Americans want, even in cases as egregious as this one, is irrelevant. Their hands are tied by a cabal of gun manufacturers, right-wing extremists, second-ammendment nuts. outdoorsmen, and terrified white male citizens who fear their homes will be invaded by long-haired guitarists.

The most meaningful anti-gun movements are not being organized by the usual suspects. They’re being created and worked by kids such as the young survivors from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School killings on Valentine’s Day, 2018, in Parkland, Florida. The Parkland shootings have been the catalyst for a lot of anti-gun-violence activism by young people. Here’s a link to a site that lists seven such groups.

On the other side of the fence is the pro-gun Second Amendment Check website that published the NRA-ILA’s lists on their site. If you follow the link and scroll down through the lists, especially the last one, which lists the names of “individuals and celebrities,” you might get the creepy feeling that they all look like hit lists. And BBC News contributes this chilling list of American gun-violence statistics compiled in 2018.

Gun Deaths Are Rooted in Bogus American “Philosophy”

Guns and gun killings in the US are the symptoms of an underlying systemic evil. That evil is philosophical, not ballistic. In the land of the quick buck, self-made men, rugged individualists, and thuggish authorities, guns are necessary fashion accessories. Nobody  has stopped to realize that the most rugged individualist of all is the shooter, who is prepared to die to affirm his sick agenda. And the rest of the gun lobby, though not pulling the trigger, are his partners.

They provide him with dubious psuedo-philosophical underpinnings. Their principal argument is based on the sacrosanct American Constitution, specifically the Second Amendment, which guarantees American citizens the right to “keep and bear arms.” In the view of the gun crowd the Second Amendment trumps an “unalienable right” enunciated in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence: the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happinesss.

This inverted pro-gun argument would be thrown out by an honest, unbiased judge, but in the wake of right-wing judicial appointments on all levels in recent years, that judge would be hard to find. The justices of the United States Supreme Court, are appointed to lifetime terms by the President. How’s that for separation of powers? As a consequence, in judicial matters, and barring a miracle, this generation of American citizens are essentially bereft of  justice in gun violence cases.

It is shocking that the anti-firearms activists in the US are so meek as to be campaigning only in favor of limited gun control, such as banning 30-round magazines. A shooter with six-round magazines can kill just as many people. It just takes him a few seconds longer. If they banned all firearms the United States would inevitably become a better country. But the American anti-gun lobby is so intimidated by the pro-death lobbies that they dare not demand more. They are well meaning and hard working but they simply don’t have the kind of clout the National Rifle Association has. The NRA can skip carefree through the carnage, dispensing condolences and glibly proposing more guns to solve gun violence. Would this criminal cynicism be permitted in any other country in the civilized world? Come to think of it, is this case of cynicism enough to exclude the United States from the civilized world?

There is ample justification for banning all guns. Killing animals for “sport” is not much nobler than killing people. We are all  warm-blooded mammals. A total ban would certainly have a dramatic effect on the killing of human beings. That is important if  you place a high value on the lives of human beings. But there are large sectors of the US electorate that place those lives far down their list of priorities. For them there are many desirable results that come before human life. There’s profit and property, racial superiority, patriotism, empire, and countless other specious justifications. Until the anti-gun people can counter all of these powerful–though-false factors, they have no hope of producing gun-violence change in the United States.

Mass Shootings and Suicides

A study carried out by Frederic Lemieux and reported in Scientific American on June 13, 2016, concludes:

Mass shootings also took place in 25 other wealthy nations between 1983 and 2013, but their number in the United States far surpasses that of any other country included in the study during the same period of time. The US had 78 mass shootings during that 30-year period.

The highest number of mass shootings experienced outside the United States was in Germany – where seven shootings occurred. In the other 24 industrialized countries taken together, 41 mass shootings took place. In other words, the US had nearly double the number of mass shootings than all other 24 countries combined in the same 30-year period.

As American mass shootings are frequent and sensational and naturally offer gory  stories and arresting images, they are regularly featured in the media.

A Congressional Research Service (CRS) report from 2013 identified 78 “public mass shootings” between 1983 and 2012, which claimed 547 lives. For context, 11,622 people (more than 20 times the mass shooting toll over three decades) died in gun homicides in 2012 alone…

Massive media coverage is particularly intense when the killings take place in schools and the victims are children. But as heart wrenching as these incidents are, they are not the principal problem. In fact, an article on Vox.com from November 14, 2018 reports that mass shootings (incidents in which four or more people are killed) represent only about one percent of American gun deaths. So what’s the other 99%?

According to the Vox article, most of US gun deaths are suicides, which are more frequent in places with more guns. As the United States has approximately as many guns as it has citizens, the suicide rate is high. Research, compiled by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, has found  that suicides in recent years were around 60 percent of US gun deaths.

Is There Hope for Change?

Considering the systemic origins of US gun deaths and their roots sunk into the deep substrate of American dystopia, it would be unreasonable to expect significant change in gun death numbers without similar significant change in all the rest of the American realities. That would entail some minimum prerequisites:

    • A government run by sensate, compassionate politicians along the lines of Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand.
    • A Supreme Court made up of similar-minded justices.
    • A majoritarian mass movement of convinced, progressive Americans.
    • Some serious financing.

Do you foresee the remotest possibility of all those conditions coming together? Your answer to that question is a reliable predictor of America’s hope for gun deaths change.

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USS Liberty–Crew Murdered by Israel, Betrayed by Their Commander in Chief 2/2

USS Liberty survivors
US sailors transport the wounded from the Israeli attack on the USS Liberty, 1967.

Is Help on the Way?

USS Liberty veteran and author, Jim Ennes, observes, “The attack on the USS Liberty remains the only major maritime incident in all US history that has not been publicly investigated by the United States Congress.”

There was a US aircraft carrier within ten minutes’ flight time of the scene of the attack. Why didn’t they intervene immediately? Planes actually did take off, but they were ordered back to the carrier on direct orders from the highest level in Washington . There is only one plausible explanation for such questionable orders. Someone in Washington wanted to give the Israeli attackers time to finish off the USS Liberty and its crew. It would not be untoward to suggest that it was that same highest-level authority who organized the subsequent coverup.

One thing is clear, if the Israeli attack was intentional and planned to sink the USS Liberty and kill every mother’s son on board, and if the US government engineered a conscientious coverup of the facts of the event, we are looking at the gravest American debacle and cloaking operation since the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in November of 1963. And there are aspects of the USS Liberty case that arguably make it even more outrageous. The Kennedy killing was–allegedly–the work of a single deranged gunman, followed by a proper Congressional investigation presided over by the Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court.

But the events surrounding the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967 and their subsequent top-level coverup implicate both the Israeli and United States governments. This is a sole case in the annals of US Naval history and a blatant injustice to the American dead, wounded and the rest of the survivors. USS Liberty veteran and author, Jim Ennes, observes, “The attack on the USS Liberty remains the only major maritime incident in all US history that has not been publicly investigated by the United States Congress.”

“It Helps to Show That We’re Peaceful”

This scene, recorded by Jim Ennes in his book, shows just how innocently the Liberty entered the Israeli abattoir on the day of the attack:

At about 10:30 we received another visit from the flying boxcar,
now more curious and coming closer. Watching the airplane through
binoculars, I told the quartermaster to call the captain by telephone
to inform him of the visit. The airplane paralleled our course to
starboard, turning left in front of the ship in a pattern that was now
becoming routine. Another left turn and he appeared on our port
side. Again I checked our flag, found it flying freely as usual, and
noted that the relative wind was still from dead ahead and of sufficient
speed to display the colors clearly.

“Well, they certainly know who we are by now, don’t they?” said
Captain McGonagle, who had come to the bridge
quickly in response
to the telephone call. “It’s good that they are checking
us out this
carefully. This way there won’t be any mistakes. Early this

afternoon they’ll probably come out by boat to give us a closer look. “It’s
good that we have sunbathers on deck,” added McGonagle. “It helps to
show that we’re peaceful.”

The Israeli Navy and Air Force Could Not Sink the Liberty

This betrayal, I submit, set the all-time low mark in American military, diplomatic, and presidential history.

Ironically, the combined efforts of Israeli air force jets employing rockets, fragmentation bombs, and napalm; and navy torpedo boats were unable to sink the old repurposed Worldl War II Victory ship. The torpedo boats launched five torpedoes, four of which missed their target, though the fifth blasted a 40-foot breach in the Liberty’s hull and converted 25 of her crew members into a mass of bloody collateral damage. But they did not succeed in sinking the ageing, repurposed World War II Victory ship, the crew of which managed to maintain it afloat as palpable evidence of Israel’s cynical betrayal of their American ally.

After the attack and the removal of the dead and wounded, the Liberty limped under its own power to a drydock in Malta where the ship was given a cosmetic going over so that, from the outside, it looked as if nothing had happened to it. When it arrived back at it’s home port, observers had no reason to suspect that it had come under any attack. Shortly afterwards the Liberty was decomissioned and junked.

If the Israeli assault was an exercise in unalloyed evil, the United States’ response might be considered even worse. The US government’s coverup, spearheaded by President Lyndon Johnson personally, turned the country’s back on 294 Americans who had been strafed, napalmed, machine gunned, and torpedoed in the line of duty, with 34 of them killed and 174 wounded.  His priority was to excuse and cloak the worst offense in American maritime history, with complete indifference to the crew members of the Liberty, who had lost limbs and lives in a gratuitous attack by a trusted ally. Is there any cogent explanation for the President’s ghoulish procedure?

Beware the Help from the Lobby

Research since the events has distilled a credible explanation: The Israeli government threatened President Johnson with turning loose the powerful US Israel lobby–the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC)–and their affilliates across the country. Their power, even in those days, was such that their campaign donations could profoundly influence US elections. And Johnson was coming up to the 1968 re-election campaign. The prima facie evidence indicates that the president felt his re-election hinged on the support of the Israel lobby in the US. He opted, of course, for re-election. His choice to stay in office entailed betraying the honor of 294 hard suffering Americans and of the United States itself, though setbacks in the Vietnam War later convinced him to abandon his campaign for re-election. This betrayal, I submit, set the all-time low mark in American military, diplomatic, and presidential history.

Only one ship approached the Liberty to offer help. Here’s Ennes’ account:

On the bridge, men continued to scan the sky and to search the
horizon for American ships or airplanes. No American forces were
sighted. The first sighting was not American, but Russian. Soviet
guided missile destroyer 626/4 arrived after midnight-hours ahead
of Martin’s forces-to send a flashing-light message in English.
DO YOU NEED HELP? asked the Russian.
NO, THANK YOU, the conning officer replied.
I WILL STAND BY IN CASE YOU NEED ME, the Russian answered.
Thus the Soviet skipper remained near Liberty to wait with her
for the arrival of American ships.

While the Liberty survivors were gathering the body parts of their mates and stowing them in plastic bags for shipment home, the US-Israeli partnership went sailing blithely on as if nothing had happened. In fact, in the public perception, thanks to a near-perfect coverup, nothing had happened. Bad things can occur by accident in war. Everybody knows that except the Liberty’s surviving crew members. They lived that apocalyptic day, perceived its intentionality first hand, and endured the horror of the attack–and will continue to endure it–till their dying days. Their survivors’ association (www.usslibertysurvivors.org) continues to struggle to keep the Liberty’s story alive and to insist upon a proper congressional investigation but, after half a century, there’s not much hope left.

“Friendly Betrayal” Is Like “Friendly Fire”

We have learned what was lost on that clear, sunny day in 1967. Besides an ageing Victory ship and 34 members of its crew, America lost its international reputation for honesty, trust, and simple decency, though it gained fame for the lowest form of state cynicism. More recent history has shown that the gruesome mechanisms that carried the day in 1967 have been substantially reinforced since 1967. The US Israeli lobby is all powerful in the US Congress and the White House today. This is from the NY Times, July 23, 2019:

WASHINGTON — The House…on Tuesday overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan resolution condemning the boycott-Israel movement as one that “promotes principles of collective guilt, mass punishment and group isolation, which are destructive of prospects for progress towards peace.” The 398-to-17 vote, with five members voting present, came after a debate that was equally lopsided; no one in either party spoke against the measure. 

In an ironic reflection of the “USS Liberty Incident,” President Donald Trump still depends upon AIPAC & Co. to secure his re-election in 2020.

As for the state of Israel, it enjoys its far-right Likud government and its perennial president Netanyahu. It remains the darling of American subsidies, mainly for military materiel.  The Israelis are still freely grabbing Palestinian land and casting a lustful eye on Iran. According to MiddleEastMonitor.com, they have made common cause with the Saudis in the devastation of Yemen. In short, it’s bloody business as usual, and the remaining survivors of the Liberty will soon be gone and forgotten, buried under a heavy load of “friendly” betrayal.

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USS Liberty–Crew Murdered by Israel, Betrayed by Their Commander in Chief 1/2

Never forget

Friend or Foe?

It’s been five decades and a bit since the “US Liberty Incident” and I’ve been living in the dark all this time. I suspect you may have, too. When the Israeli air force and navy launched a devastating unprovoked attack on an American technical research  (electronic spy) ship in international waters just thirteen miles off the Gaza Strip during the 1967 Six Day War, I naturally accepted the US government’s explanation: that it was due to a tragic case of misidentification on the part of the Israelis.

That they should knowingly attack a United States ship for no cogent reason seemed unlikely to me. The Israelis were, after all, friends, allies and massive American aid recipients. It couldn’t happen. Besides, President Lyndon Johnson, himself, declared that it was a tragic accident, putting the whole matter to rest. Johnson was lying, as we shall see.

Liberty_cover
The other night I’m wandering around YouTube when I run across a 2014 documentary called The Day Israel Attacked America, Al Jazerra investigates the shocking truth behind a deadly Israeli attack on a US naval vessel. Al Jazeera is the Qatari online news channel. I’ll listen to anybody if they’ve got reasons. This time they had reasons in spades. What I found most convincing–and most horrifying–was the live testimony of the surviving crew members. One of them, Lt. James Ennes, then age 24, wrote it down in a book 13 years later: Assault on the Liberty–USS Liberty Memorial. Ennes was one of many crew members who continued to work to keep the ship afloat and help the wounded throughout the attack, though wounded himself.

His notes on the dust cover set the scene vividly:

In June, 1967, jet aircraft and motor torpedo boats of Israel brutally assaulted an American naval vessel, USS Liberty, in international waters off the Sinai Peninsula in the Mediterranean Sea. The attack was preceded by more than six hours of intense low-level surveillance by Israeli photo-reconnaissance aircraft, which buzzed the intelligence ship thirteen times, sometimes flying as low as 200 feet directly overhead. The reconnaissance pilots were heard by intercept operators in Germany and by American airborne intercept operators reporting to their headquarters that they could see an American flag and men sunbathing on deck.

The carefully orchestrated assault that followed was initiated by high-performance jet aircraft, was followed up by slower and more maneuverable jets carrying napalm, and was finally turned over to lethal torpedo boats which fired five torpedoes. Four missed. The one torpedo that hit the ship blasted a forty-foot hole in the ship’s side.

The attack lasted more than two hours — killing 34 Americans and wounding 174 others — and inflicted 821 rocket and machine-gun holes. And when the Liberty stubbornly remained afloat despite her damage, Israeli forces machine-gunned her life rafts and sent troop-carrying helicopters in to finish the job. US Air Force intercept operators heard Israeli jets being vectored to “the American ship” which they were ordered to sink quickly. Those who have seen these transcripts insist that they leave no doubt that the Israelis knew they were attacking an American ship.

Before USS Liberty arrived in the area, U.S. Sixth Fleet Commander Admiral William Martin promised to provide air support within ten minutes if an emergency arose. Yet when the ship did come under attack, the White House blocked any air rescue for more than 90 minutes. Officers on the bridge of the aircraft carrier Saratoga heard Liberty’s radio operators calling for help while bombs burst in the background, but were forbidden to help. When Navy jet aircraft were finally authorized to come to the ship’s aid, the Israeli government suddenly ended the attack and withdrew, claiming that they had mistaken the ship for an Egyptian horse transport named El Quseir. Only then did the identity of the assailants become known.

Details of the attack were hushed up in both countries. Israel claimed that her forces mistook USS Liberty for an Egyptian ship, and our government publicly accepted that excuse despite evidence to the contrary. Meanwhile, in top secret diplomatic mail, US Secretary of State Dean Rusk accused the Israelis of demonstrating “blatant disregard for human life” and said that the attack was no accident. Then our government downplayed the intensity of the surveillance and the severity of the attack and imposed a news blackout to keep the official story under control. The official version is that the Liberty was reconnoitered only three times and then only from great distance. The American people were told that the air attack lasted only five minutes and that it was followed by a single torpedo and an immediate apology and offer of assistance.

Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time of the Liberty incident, said that he, “cannot accept the claim by the Israelis that this was a case of mistaken identity.”

 

Questions Left Pending

No Congressional investigation regarding the USS Liberty Incident was ever carried out, though the surviving crew members have been clamoring for one since the events occurred. (See the USS Liberty Veterans Association website: https://www.usslibertyveterans.org/)

Nevertheless, a 1967 US Naval Court of Inquiry investigation concluded that the testimony record revealed “a shallow investigation, plagued by myriad disagreements between the captain and his crew.” (Although severely wounded. Comdr. W. L. McGonagle, the commanding officer, remained at the conn to guide the ship out of shallow water. He was later awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for valor. There was no suggestion of a quid pro quo.)

According to the record of proceedings, four days were spent hearing testimony: two days for fourteen survivors of the attack and several U.S. Navy expert witnesses, and two partial days for two expert U.S. Navy witnesses. No testimony was heard from Israeli personnel involved. The conclusion of this somewhat haphazard inquiry, according to Wikipedia, was that:

The official U.S. records of the Liberty incident were designated top-secret and closed to the general public. The U.S. government and Israel jointly stated: “That the Israeli attack upon the USS Liberty had been the result of error, and nothing more.” However, Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the time of the Liberty incident, said that he, “cannot accept the claim by the Israelis that this was a case of mistaken identity.”

President Johnson Himself Led the Hasty Coverup

Pentagon officials waited nearly forty minutes to inform Johnson, who was in an important meeting. Then National Security Advisor Walt Rostow telephoned the President to tell him that a U.S. Navy ship was in trouble.

Jim Ennes describes the President’s reaction:

The immediate White House reaction to the attack, I am told
by a former staff member, was to accept Israel’s apology at face
value even though there was considerable skepticism that the 
attack was entirely accidental. The President could ill afford a 
confrontation with Israel.His major concern was to bring about 
an end to the war before the Soviet Union stepped in; a 
confrontation with Israel would likely destroy the leverage he 
needed.

After some discussion, Johnson detailed Clark Clifford to head an 
investigation into the circumstances of the attack, and the White
House resolved to bite its collective tongue until the Clifford report 
came in. By this time, the Israeli government had hastily summoned 
the US naval attache to report that an unidentified “maybe Navy” 
ship had been erroneously attacked. 

When the Clifford report eventually came in, it contained no
evidence that the attack was deliberate, and White House tolerance
of the affair as a “feasible” error of war thus became permanent.

As soon as President Johnson learned of the attack and spoke with the Israelis on the subject, he launched an immediate all-points coverup which included swearing the surviving crew to silence and threatening them with prosecution if they should leak any information regarding the events they lived aboard the Liberty on June 8, 1967.

Three Questions

Three questions immediately arise: Why did the Israelis do it?  Why did the American forces in the area stand off. And why such an urgent coverup on the part of the US President? The vital issues posed by the USS Liberty case are moral questions of the first rank. The Israeli military command knowingly designed and executed an operation the object of which was to sink the Liberty and assure that its crew members were all killed. It was not just to neutralize the Liberty’s offensive capabilities–which were nil insofar as its armament was limited to four merely testimonial 50-caliber machine guns, useless against the array of armament the Israelis turned loose on them. The Israelis knew what they were doing and they were aware of just how irregular it was. What possible justification could they have for the proposed cold-blooded murder of the entire crew of a harmless American ship. Subsequent research suggests two possibilities:

  1. The object of the operation was to sink the ship, eliminate the crew to the last man and blame the outrage on the Egyptians, a classic false-flag operation. In order for it to succeed they had to assure that the ship was at the bottom of the sea and not a single witness was left alive. This is the least convincing explanation.
  2. Aware that the Liberty was monitoring radio messages in the area, the Israeli command feared that, as one of the United States’ most sophisticated National Security Agency’s (NSA) listening operations, it would pick up the chatter regarding the Israeli’s planned land grab in the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights programmed for the following day. This was an illegal operation under international law, one that they had previously renounced, but it was nevertheless carried out and remains in force until today, more than half a century later. This version makes more sense.

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Darwinian Auto Genocide in America 2/2

US_Virus_Map_29062020

Seen from abroad today, as the deadly statistics surge–2.5 million cases and 125,000 deaths to date–it looks as if the Americans are orchestrating their own genocide.

They’ve Got Schisms in their Isms

“But a solution that covers all Americans indistinctly is socialism!” you say. That’s correct. But, call it what you will, some form of socialism is the only possible solution to the Americans’ current crisis. A virus on the rampage doesn’t distinguish between the struggling poor folks and the “better class of people.” It rips through all their houses and schools, their churches and country clubs. That said, the consequences for racial and ethnic minorities are vastly more serious, due to their already tenuous living conditions. (Source: cdc.gov) If the American government were capable of organizing and implementing a country-wide set of measures–testing, contact tracing, social distancing, masks and universal medical care–they certainly wouldn’t call it socialism. But if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck…

Such an optimistic eventuality as effective government intervention is far from assured in today’s Washington, because the Trump administration is the least enlightend since Atilla the Hun. Then too, Americans have been inculcated for generations with the notion that collective solutions are un-American and it probably wouldn’t occur to them to demand any. (We might make an exception of Massachusetts which, not for no reason, is called not a “state,” but a “Commonwealth.” Even Mitt Romney was infused with that spirit when he was governor there and instituted the most advanced public health system in the US.) Continue reading “Darwinian Auto Genocide in America 2/2”

Darwinian Auto Genocide in America 1/2

genocide_definition

The Americans Are Eliminating Themselves

The United States, which has been leading the world in coronavirus cases and deaths for the past few weeks, has turned a corner. While countries around the world have taken effective public health measures to attenuate the effects of the virus on their societies, Americans are doing the opposite. The resurgence of the virus in their country has been the most virulent in the world and their numbers are now significantly above previous levels from the height of the pandemic, and still rising. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently stated, “Forget worrying about the second wave; we’re still in the first wave and we haven’t seen the worst of it.” Observing them from a safe distance–the other side of the Atlantic–people are asking themselves, “How on earth can this be happening? What inconceivable series of events might have caused the greatest country on earth to deteriorate into the leader of the Third World?

There Are Various Reasons

1/ A gravely deficient existing infracture in place when the virus struck. The United States is unique among industrialized countries for its lack of a universal health care system. A significant sector of their population is without health coverage of any sort. Data from the US Census Bureau indicates that a total of 27.5 million Americans had no health insurance during 2018. Faced with a life-threatening accident or illness and lacking the money to pay the hospital they’re obliged to go home and die.

But now Americans are faced with a novel twist in the script. The fate of rich and poor alike is linked like Siamese twins. If one catches it, the other one does, too. In order to save themselves the rich must help save their less-fortunate others. Will the American power elite be capable of perceiving that fact? If they do, will they be able to take the appropriate–and inevitably expensive–measures necessary to give everybody in their country an equal chance of survival? Or will they just slip deeper into denial mode to the detriment of all?

“But a solution that covers all Americans indistinctly is socialism!”

2/ A lack of contingency planning. When Senate Majority leader, Mitch McConnell’s boldly asserts when discussing pandemic preparedness and COVID-19, that clearly, the Obama administration did not leave any kind of game plan for something like this…” he is either confused or lying. According to Kaiser Health News (khn.org),  this document entitled “Playbook for Early Response to High-Consequence Emerging Infectious Disease Threats and Biological Incidents” was produced in 2016 under President Obama’s leadership. Unfortunately, President Trump scrapped the plan in one of his eliminate-the-Obama-legacy tantrums. In 2018, he gave the order to shut down the White House pandemic response initiative left in place by the Obama administration.

So when the virus struck there were no contingency plans nor preparations at hand. Could Trump be charged with criminal malfeasance for this action, or at least committed to a mental institution? In any case, the Trump administration entered the fray too late and gravely lacking plans and expertise. The American people continue to pay the penalty in human lives.

The other recent Trump initiative to discredit Obama is his dragging the Affordable Care Act before the Supreme Court in an effort to get it rescinded, an act so grotesque during a pandemic that it makes him look like an evil Don Quixote.

3/ No unified leadership nor coordinated response country wide. A pandemic does not respect state lines. It was clear from the outset of the coronavirus that a unified all-across-the-country plan and careful implementation would be necessary to deal with it. Instead of taking that elementary step the Trump admnistration entered into a fruitless, time-wasting period of negotiations in competition with the individual states over the procurement of face masks, protective clothing for health workers, etc. In this process the putative author of The Art of the Deal lost more precious time and the penalty was exacted again in American lives. In terms of leadership, Trump’s refusal to wear a mask during his  public appearences, takes us into surrealism. It has been clear for a long time that President Trump and his curious governing team were more interested in making political hay than in protecting American citizens. Trump’s only priority has always been and remains reelection.

4/ An ideology that has predisposed the US to inadequate answers to a threat that begs for a collective response. It is not enough to assure the lives of a select group of citizens and leave the rest to their own devices. This, though atypical in the rest of the world, is the standard American response. In this case, however, it won’t work. As long as there’s a single family living in third-world conditions in the remotest corner of the country, all Americans are at risk. In order to defeat–or even retard–the virus the entire population must be included in the plan of reaccion to the virus, regardless of race, religion, social class, gender or sexual orientation.

This isn’t always easy in the US where the backlash of American individualism frequently rears its head. What is local administration supposed to do when hysterical citizens rally together, sometimes violently, in crowded venues, to denounce the infringement of their first-amendment freedom of assembly? Just telling them that it’s for their own good doesn’t seem to work. Eventually, Darwinism will take care of them, but what about their family, friends and neighbors? Coronavirus is highly contagious.

5/ A confused and ill-prepared population. Wallowing in a hodgepodge of distractions and false values, a significant minority of Americans are largely incapable of confronting any serious threat to their society. Their reactions don’t go much beyond thuggish armed street disorders, the classic magical religious responses, and the sword rattling of semi-illiterate white supremacists, to fuck-it-let’s-have-a-beer frivolity. Taken altogether we might refer to all these “strategies” as Lemmingism.

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Teaching Your Children Solid Lies–2/2

American_Exceptionalism

The American Foundation Lie

One lie rules all the others. It’s the lie of American exceptionalism. American children are nursed on it along with their mothers’ milk. It comes in various guises but they all have to do with the “fact” that Americans are different from the rest of humanity: somehow better, more idealistic, more generous, more industrious,  more advanced, more democratic, cleaner, more godly. And these qualities, of course, entitle Americans to certain inalienable privileges.

Soldiers are trained to kill for their country. The unsuspecting recruits usually don’t discover that it’s a scam until it’s too late.

Branding Patriotism

American_Flag_mfg

Patriotism as big business thrives on the lies that teachers tell American schoolchildren. Americans purchase some 150 million US flags every year, 10-20 million of which are imported from China (and are not subject to President Trumps import tariffs). No other country in the world reveres its flag as the US does. The caskets of their soldiers returning from foreign wars are wrapped in it, making the package look more like a Christmas present than a dead boy. People from other countries consider it an American fetish. It does, however, advance the American ultra-nationalist agenda. Flag enthusiasm is the abracadabra that permits them to justify the unjustifiable on countless occasions and in countless contexts.

American patriotism has also been reduced to selling cars and credit cards. The Brandkeys.com site lists America’s most-patriotic brands. A national sample of 5,862 consumers, 18 to 68 years of age, balanced for gender and political party affiliation, drawn from the nine U.S. Census Regions, evaluated brand resonance for “patriotism.” Here are the top 10:

1 Jeep
2 Disney
3 Ford
4 Coca-Cola
5 Levi Strauss
6 American Express / MSNBC
7 Hershey’s
8 AT&T / The New York Times
9 Walmart
10 FOX News

According to Statista.com 72% of Americans are “Extremely” or “Very” Proud to be American

The Kardashianization of America could turn out to be a prime cause of the country’s ongoing decline.

Not Just Textbooks

It’s not just textbooks that keep the beloved American myths alive. Lots of other factors help to condition the intellectual atmosphere under the American bell jar.

The Military–With all its heroism, terrorism, expensive toys and glorious history of victories declared, the military is the lie personified. Soldiers are educated by semi-literate drill sergeants to kill “for their country” to defend the Constitution. The unsuspecting recruits usually don’t discover it’s a scam until it’s too late. The price they pay is exhorbitant.

The Scouts–The Scouting movement, with its uniforms, marching, saluting, survival skills, and patriotic cant, has been since its inception in 1910 a para-military organization, virtually a children’s army that has had a massive influence on American boys. Until recently it was statutorially bound to churches, another quintessential Americanizing factor for young people to get their heads around. Things are about to changing radically, however, as the scouts and the church are now legally separated and, as this NY Times headline from Feb. 18, 2020 points out: Boy Scouts Seek Bankruptcy to Survive a Deluge of Sex-Abuse Claims. Pederasty has a long history in scouting, starting with its founder, British Lt. General Baden Powell, who revealed his “affection for boys” in his diaries. It’s possible that today’s mix of scandal and economic disaster will mean the end of scouting.

The Media–Television, Hollywood movies, right-wing radio, and the mainstream press don’t require much government control to put out the “correct” ideological messages. Virtually all of these media are owned by conglomerates that benefit from the promotion of tendentious American mythology.  Nine-eleven, of course, opened the floodgates for jingoist content of all sorts.

Who is acknowledged by the American people as the most patriotic American of our time, in answer to the question: “Name anyone – alive or dead – you feel best personifies the value of “patriotism” in the United States'” Originally posted on Brandkeys, as part of a study of consumer values in America, the answer to this question is not hard to guess.  John Wayne’s character and unwavering patriotism still stand the test of time, as consumers answered, unaided, that John Wayne is the most patriotic person in 21st-century America, quite a feat as he died from lung cancer in 1979. 

Pop Culture and Consumerism–The roles of pop culture and consumerism in the nurturing of American lies is indirect but essential. Both of these all-encompassing phenomena occupy and infantilize the nation’s thinking and lifestyle so thoroughly that there remains little room in the collective mind for anything else. The Kardashianization of America could turn out to be a prime cause of the country’s ongoing decline.

The Trouble with Lies Is That They Come Unraveled with Time

The American exceptionalist lies, which were never taken seriously abroad, started to be doubted even by some enlightened Americans themselves in the light of their government’s gratuitously savage foreign wars and economic imperialism. That tide began to turn with the anti-Vietnam-war demonstrations organized by “radical” American students in the sixties. Bearing banners and yelling slogans on the streets of American cities was considered “radical” while indiscriminate mass murder by grid bombing carried out by American B-52 Stratofortress bombers was mere business as usual. Not much has changed in the intervening half century, considering right-wing America’s truculent response to today’s Black Lives Matter marches, which President Donald Trump, the law-and-order candidate, is astutely using as a creepy springboard for his 2020 presidential campaign.

Isn’t It Time to Heal America?

It shouldn’t be too hard to heal America. All they would have to do is face the facts–not the myths–honestly, renounce the lies publicly, repent openly, repeal the noxious textbooks, correct the mendacious institutions and take significant measures to address inequality. Working hard with broad cooperation, dedication, and perseverance that healing shouldn’t take more than three generations. The Germans and the Japanese achieved it in two.

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Back to Part 1

Teaching Your Children Solid Lies –1/2

Lies_My_Teacher_Told_Me_
This book, published almost 25 years ago and republished twice since, drew the curtain back on how young Americans were–and are–systematically lied to about their country’s history and its role in the world.

American High School History Classes Teach Mythology

In 1995 American sociologist James W. Loewen published Lies My Teacher Told Me, an essential book that illuminates the indoctrination that passes for education in American high school history classes. The book was so important that updated versions have been published twice since then.

Loewen’s methodology was simple enough: buy a dozen of the most popular textbooks of American history for 11th-grade high-school students, meticulously analyse each one of the books, compare them, evaluate them, and place them on the history-mythology continuum.

The results of this analysis reveal that mythology wins. The first priority of all these seminal books in the formation of young American minds is to foment “traditional American values,” not to teach the unvarnished facts of history.

Goodreads.com has this to say:

Marred by an embarrassing combination of blind patriotism, mindless optimism, sheer misinformation, and outright lies, these books omit almost all the ambiguity, passion, conflict, and drama from our past.

Racism, for example, is not mentioned in any of them. Slavery, in particular, was the driving force behind major events like the Louisiana Purchase and the Civil War. Loewen points out that, “as long as history textbooks make white racism invisible, neither they nor their students who use them will be able to analyze race relations intelligently.”

No Warts on America

Why do textbooks promote wartless stereotypes?” asks Loewen. “The authors’ omissions and errors can hardly be accidental.” He then chooses two paradigmatic figures from American history to illustrate his point: President  Woodrow Wilson, the 28th US commander in chief, and the remarkable blind and deaf humanitarian, Helen Keller. Wilson is known, and enters into high-school history books, as the altruistic promotor of the post World War I League of Nations and for his 14-points declaration which included  proposals to ensure world peace in the future, open agreements, arms reductions, freedom of the seas, free trade, and self-determination for oppressed minorities. Wilson even suggested that there would be another world war within a generation should the U.S. fail to join the League. Woodrow was quite the statesman and diplomat.

President Wilson’s Sinister Side

What few US high school history books mention is that Wilson was authoritarian and racist at home, having promoted the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition act of 1918, which Loewen refers to as “probably the most serious attacks on the civil liberties of Americans since the short-lived Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.” Wilson, with his persecution of progressive causes–he promoted the notorious Palmer Raids against left-wing unions–and foreign interventions, paved the way for McCarthyism, the Patriot Acts,  and the disastrous invasions of Iraq. Under Wilson the US intervened in Latin America more often than at any other time in American history. Loewen cites an article published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1919, “After World War I, the Wilson administration’s attacks on civil liberties increased, now with anti-communism as the excuse. Neither before nor since these campaigns has the United States come closer to being a police state.” That was in 1919. Much “progress” has been made in the advancement of the American police state since then and we’re seeing the results of that progress on American streets today.

Helen Keller Was Much More

Helen Keller, Loewen’s other example, is portrayed in the history books as an admirable case of individual victory against tremendous odds, an American success story. Her activities recorded for American high-school students are limited to her remarkable educational achievements and her charitable work. But Keller’s life was much more remarkable than that. Loewen recounts:

She was a radical socialist. She joined the Socialist Party of Massachusetts in 1909. She had become a social radical even before she graduated from Radcliffe and not, she emphasized, because of any teachings available there. After the Russian Revolution she sang the praises of the new communist nation. ‘In the East a new star is risen!’ Gradually she moved to the left of the Socialist party and became a Wobbly, a member of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), the syndicalist union persecuted by Woodrow Wilson.

Inexplicably, none of this information made it into any history texts for American students.

The Shining City on the Hill,Champions of Self Deception

“The land of the free and the home of the brave…” begins to sound a little shopworn after watching children, forcefully separated from their families, imprisoned in wire cages on the evening news. As for “bravery,” that’s hard to detect in killer operations conceived in the White House, launched from underground bunkers in the Nevada desert by expert computer gamers and destined to take out terrorists, along with their mothers and children, their cousins, neighbors and the milk man on dusty streets of impoverished Middle Eastern countries. Emma Lazarus’ poetic fragment from the Statue of Liberty, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” sounds like empty claptrap in a country that is more concerned with “free” markets than free people. But those distinctions elude most Americans today. To them “fraydom is fraydom,” whether delivered by lies or by drones.

The United States Armed Forces are there to safeguard those fraydoms. But there are some anomalies in that, too. Recently there was some talk inside the Trump administration of renting out American military units to the Saudis. Seen from a shrewd businessman’s point of view the deal would permit the US to recover some of their investments in “national security,” but they might have trouble explaining it to the mothers of American military personnel killed and maimed over there. In former times those deaths could be explained away as “in defense of American democracy” or “protecting the American homeland” but what American mother would sell her son’s or daughter’s life in defense of Saudi oil wells, war on Yemen, and bone saws?

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Go to Part 2

Which Shithole Country?

Trump_Shithole2

The Day “Shithole Entered the Presidential Lexicon

On January 11, 2018, during an Oval Office meeting with several U.S. senators about a new immigration package for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries, President Donald Trump inadvertanly opened a fresh controversy regarding just what constituted a “shithole country.” He didn’t elaborate on it. In fact, he later denied having said, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” (The Atlantic, Jan. 12, 2019)

Someone should ask President Trump what his criteria are for assigning countries to his “shithole” category. They may have to explain what “criteria” means… and that it’s plural because it’s Latin… Oh, never mind.

I think it’s safe to assume that a “shithole country” is a place where people live in a deep, dank hole that they’re not about to escape from any time soon. How did a series of unfortunate little countries get into that ugly situation? Was it just assigned to them by “history?” Not exactly, it’s about imperialism–first Spanish, then American. Those little countries were fine until the white man began to exploit them. And that exploitation–some of the cruelest in history–goes a long way to explain their ending up in dark holes. President Trump mentions specifically the cases of Haiti and El Salvador.

Columbus ravages Haiti
Christopher Columbus takes Christian values to the New World.

They hacked them to pieces, slicing open their bellies with their swords as though they were so many sheep herded into a pen.

The Western Hemisphere’s First White Supremacy

Haiti was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1493 and named by him, “La Isla Espanola.” It was the venue for the Europeans’ first genocide of Native Americans. Because, contrary to American legend, Columbus was not a nice man and neither were his colonists. Within twenty-five years of Columbus’ arrival in Haiti, most of the island’s Taíno people had died from enslavement, massacre, or disease. En route to enslaving the entire population of the island–and exporting some of them to other islands–the Spanish regularly hunted down escaping islanders, murdered them and fed their carcasses to the dogs they had thoughtfully brought along with them from Spain. Today not a chromosome remains of  the DNA of the original inhabitants of what was to become Haiti.

Washington Post writer, Gillian Brockell, elaborates:

Bartolomé de las Casas arrived in Hispaniola in 1502, when he was 18. For decades, he participated in the mistreatment of the Taíno and the introduction of enslaved Africans, before renouncing it all, becoming a Dominican friar and confessing what he had witnessed in “A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies.”

“It is worth quoting him at length,” says Brockell, “this excerpt is very graphic:”
They [Spanish explorers] forced their way into native settlements, slaughtering everyone they found there, including small children, old men, pregnant women, and even women who had just given birth. They hacked them to pieces, slicing open their bellies with their swords as though they were so many sheep herded into a pen. They grabbed suckling infants by the feet and, ripping them from their mothers’ breasts, dashed them headlong against the rocks. (The Washington Post, Oct. 14, 2019)

Flash forward 500 years, and the Haitians are again experiencing problems of white supremacy. In 2004 the US State Department was not happy with Haiti’s newly elected–for the second time–president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide. So they shipped him out–escorted by American diplomats to an American airplane–in a coup d’etat that cleared the atmosphere for American business as usual.

El Salvador Similarly Razed

More than 75,000 Salvadorans were killed in the fighting, most of them victims of the military and its death squads.

El Salvador is another classic case of brutal imperialism, and its perpetrators are still slithering around Washington. The prime example is the elderly neocon apparatchik, Elliott Abrams, recently recycled as the American envoy to Venezuela.  Abrams will always be remembered for trying to cover up before the American Congress the El Mozote massacre where, in March 1993, the Salvadoran Truth Commission reported that more than 500 civilians were “deliberately and systematically” executed in that village in December 1981 by forces affiliated with the Salvadoran government.

Time magazine says of Abrams:

Abrams, a longstanding neoconservative diplomat, served in the State Department during the Reagan Administration and played a key role in U.S. interventions in El Salvador, Nicaragua and Guatemala in the 1980s. He later joined the New York-based think tank, the Council on Foreign Relations, as a senior fellow. His appointment to oversee the U.S.’s response to the situation in Venezuela, where Trump has refused to rule out “a military option,” led many to raise concerns over his past dealings in the region, including his entanglement in the notorious Iran-Contra scandal. (Time, Feb. 14, 2019)

In the early 1980s the American clandestine services joined the illegitimate Salvadoran military junta in its struggle against the Farabundo Martí National Liberation front (FMLN)–a coalition of left-wing groups. The Americans financed, trained, equipped and transported the government troops. 

Raymond Bonner writes in The Atlantic, Jan. 20, 2018,

It was a civil war of the 1980s, one that pitted leftist revolutionaries against the alliance of countries, oligarchs, and generals that had ruled the country for decades—with U.S. support—keeping peasants illiterate and impoverished. It was a bloody, brutal, and dirty war. More than 75,000 Salvadorans were killed in the fighting, most of them victims of the military and its death squads. Peasants were shot en masse, often while trying to flee. Student and union leaders had their thumbs tied behind their backs before being shot in the head, their bodies left on roadsides as a warning to others.

This gratuitous “civil war” lasted for more than 12 years. An unknown number of people who were “disappeared” are included in the UN estimates of 75,000 victims between 1979 and 1992. The war ended with the Chapultepec Peace Accords, but in 2016 the El Salvador Supreme Court ruled that the 1993 amnesty law was unconstitutional and that the El Salvador government could prosecute war criminals. (Wikipedia)

Trump’s Dangerous Militarization of US Politics by Ishaan Tharoor 

The world’s sole superpower is starting to look like more fragile countries elsewhere. Trump and his loyalists are only the second camp in the Western Hemisphere this past month to entertain notions of domestic military crackdowns: Supporters of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro have urged a full-fledged takeover of the administrative state as the president faces a storm of controversies amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Tharoor compares American racist horrror with the events of Tiannanmen Square in 1989. “Only under a dictatorship could such things happen, we say, forgetting OcoeeOpelousasTulsa, or Kent State.”

(The Washington Post, June 5, 2020)

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that the twisted conception of Latin American–and American–history held by American presidents since the promulgation of the Monroe Doctrine in 1823 is a series of “errors” and abuses that need clearing up. There may be a “shithole country” involved in the tragic stories cited by President Trump, but it’s neither Haiti nor El Salvador. Their roles were relegated, throughout their history, to those of simple victims of colonial savagery .

January 12, 2019 on The Daily Show

Trevor Noah sums it up in one minute, seven seconds:

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Where Will Renewed Hope for America Come From?

Hope_for_America

If You Believe This You and the Country Are in  Trouble

Where Hope Is Not Coming From:

Not from Nazis, white supremacists, nor semi-literate rednecks. They are the very elements that have been stifling hope for generations.

Not from the alt-right. They have gone beyond activism to corruption and from there to absurdity.

Not from televangelists, prosperity preachers, born-again hucksters, nor the power of prayer. You’ve tried all that for centuries and look where it’s taken you.

Not from a Civil War or uncivil uprising. Luckily, those dudes strutting their assault rifles up and down the streets of Charlottesville would not stand a chance against a company of Marines. This supposes the Marines would be on the side of the freely elected government. Is that too much to suppose? (Note: This was written before Marine General Jim Mattis made his reassuring watershed statement the other day on the military and domestic politics.)

Not from fast-buck billionaires. Having a lot of money does not necessarily make you a better person or a model for young people. You can be dead smart for making money and mortally ignorant for everything else.

Not from war profiteers, their lobbyists and on-the-take Congressional and judicial types who, by the way, are currently running the country. You have to get them out of government first. In theory that’s easy. Just  expose and discredit them. Then get out the vote against them. (This presupposes a free and fair election. Is that too much to suppose?)

Predators are replacing peace makers, preachers are replacing professors, demagogues are replacing thinkers.

Not from ignorance. Great countries require experts to manage them for the greater good of all. They must be guided by cool-headed rational thinking. “Faith-based” thought is not thinking and it has no place in government.

And certainly not from a morally-challenged, know-nothing president who, midst multiple crises, can only concentrate on his ruinous reelection strategy.

Where Hope Can Be Sourced

From more civilized countries: Scandinavia and the rest of Europe, Japan, Australia, Canada, Iceland…

From interior opposition to the lowbrow-led, American wrecking-ball government…

From honest, new, unconventional politicians with the welfare of all Americans–and all the rest–at heart…

From independent, courageous, investigative media…

From progressive pre-school education initiatives, starting with every Montessori school in the USA. From schoolteachers from grades K through 12. Fine teachers engender fine young people. In the most advanced countries teachers are highly educated, valued and well paid. How did resource-poor Finland become a world leader? By investing in the education of its young people.

From humanitarian thought leaders in progresssive American universities…

And, last but not lease, from concerned activist citizens…

The omission of “political parties” on this list is not an oversight. If serious progress in the United States is to be achieved it will be in spite of Republicans and Democrats, not because of them.

Authenticity Is Being Replaced

Predators are replacing peace makers, preachers are replacing professors, demagogues are replacing thinkers. Americans are buying into dubious futures: future wealth, the kingdom of heaven, world conquest, the promise of benign climate change, the belief that money can solve everything… No, the billionaires who buy land in New Zealand are not “secure.” Nuclear winter reaches every nook and cranny of the planet.

False-Hope Scams Abound

Freedom of markets is not freedom, any more than libertarianism implies liberty.

The Promise of Technology–Technology is morally neutral. It’s all the same to a Hellfire missile to take out a terrorist as to carbonize a saint. Artificial intelligence promises just as much danger as progress. Medical technology must be used to cure humankind, not to design advanced torture techniques or methods of mind control. Technology is like every other form of power. It’s great in the right hands. And those hands should belong to people who read.

Miracle Religions–A person’s religion–however far-fetched it may seem to non-believers–is an intmate, private, matter to which no one can object, and it is rightly protected by the US Constitution. What is not legitimate is that citizens of certain religious stripes should band together to influence the election of legislators and the appointment of judges on religious grounds in attempts to flip the country’s principles to those of their own religion. That’s an offense to other people’s religious freedom. The “freedom of religion” guaranteed by the Constitution also implies freedom from religion.

When religious groups are called out for meddling in politics they have no right to take refuge in “freedom of religion” pretensions. That “freedom” that coopts other people’s  freedom is toxic. It’s hypocrisy and repression. And governments that adopt religious groups as political allies also lack legitimacy. Any religious cult that functions in an advisory capacity to the US government is an offense to American democracy, an offense that is all too frequent. Countries do not achieve greatness through prayer nor miracles. They achieve it through good hearts and expert project management. The other pending issue on the government agenda is the rescission of tax exempt status for “prosperity gospel” religious scams. American televangelists have too many private jets already. Government has the power to end those frauds. The only imaginable factor holding it back is the votes their followers represent, votes that are conceivably capable of getting President Donald Trump reelected.

Military predominance–America’s awesome military power has so many downsides that it cannot be credibly considered a safeguard for the country. Its use has been abused so many times, both overtly and covertly, with such disastrous results for the people of so many innocent, unsuspecting countries that it discredits the US around the world. It’s that discredit that causes the extensive and unnecessary bad blood between the government of the United States and major international  institutions: the United Nations, the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the International Criminal Court (ICC) and any other international organization that tries to limit or sanction American abuse of power. What is the principal product of American military dominance (the Pentagon refers to it as “full spectrum dominance” and it extends to outer space and the electromagnetic spectrum)? Principally they make, enemies. Most of them are helpless victims, others less so. But after decades of America’s amassing enemies unjustly, what happens when they reach critical mass? Then there’s the nuclear threat, enhanced recently by President Trump’s boosting of the budget for advanced nuclear technology. That’s clearly a dangerous step backwards. Is this “enhanced” nuclear policy just another bone for the dogs of war, a mere cog in his insatiable re-election machine?

Quick money schemes like crypto-currencies, junk bonds, ponzi schemes and mortgage scams. And if someone invites you to become a “trader,” hold onto your hat.

“Free-market” capitalism. Freedom of markets is not freedom, any more than libertarianism implies liberty. Capitalism, like other great ideas–Christianity, Communism–has been coopted and perverted by turbid interests that invariably work against the common good. Unregulated freedom of markets empowers monopoly and is the enemy of the commonwealth. And technology only multiplies its negative effects on society. Meanwhile, far-right ideologues extol the free market as if it were supernatural truth, and their semi-literate followers lap it up.

Mere Hoping Is Not Enough

Hope doesn’t arrive by coincidence, nor by divine decree. And it doesn’t arrive prefabricated. Hope has to be planted thoughtfully in well-prepared soil, then cultivated and nurtured throughout a long season. That preparation has been conspicuously lacking in the United States, at least since President Kennedy’s untimely death in 1963. It’s not that Kennedy was a Messiah. He had grave flaws (see Seymour Hersh’s 1997 book, The Dark Side of Camelot), but he wasn’t a monster.

Having wasted five or six decades of preparation, Americans today are seriously behind on all counts, a fact that has become sorely evident during today’s dual crises of coronavirus and Trumpism. If America and the Americans are going to come out on upside of this catastrophe they’re going to have to recover that lost time. This will require conviction, perseverence, hard work and, yes, hope. Hope such as they haven’t known since the Second World War. And if they don’t get started immediately the consequences could be terminal.

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Deep State Blues

Mike_Lofgren

Note: This article is mainly based on a 2014 interview with Bill Moyers (The Deep State Hiding in Plain Sight) on his Moyers and Company online program and the essay (Anatomy of the Deep State) that Mike Lofgren wrote for Moyers’ website at the same time. Also worthy of note is the mindset of Moyers, the interviewer. When he retired the first time in December 2004, the AP News Service quoted Moyers as saying, “I’m going out telling the story that I think is the biggest story of our time: how the right-wing media has become a partisan propaganda arm of the Republican National Committee. We have an ideological press that’s interested in the election of Republicans, and a mainstream press that’s interested in the bottom line. Therefore, we don’t have a vigilant, independent press whose interest is the American people.”

In the Beginning Was Mike Lofgren

Mike Lofgren has the benign face and mild demeanor of a high-school Latin teacher, but his message is anything but mild. Instead of prying Latin declensions into the heads of reluctant sixteen year olds, Lofgren spent his 28-year working life as a Republican Congressional staffer. So he has a privileged take on what goes on inside Congress, particularly the Republican Party. And he’s smart. Lofgren’s books and articles since retirement make clear that he is not cowed by people in high places. Just the title of his first  book (2013) gives us a hint: The Party Is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless and the Middle Class Got Shafted. The Washington Post characterized the book as “forceful, hard-hitting and seductive.” Lofgren said at the time, “I wrote the book because I am a concerned citizen.”

If you read the papers, both mainstream and alternative, though you may have long suspected something along the lines of the Deep State thesis, you could never substantiate it. This interview and Lofgren’s books will permit you do do just that. Even before his books he limbered up with a series of telling essays on Truthout.com. The first one, in September, 2011, was Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult. In it he explains why he retired, affirming that he was “appalled at the headlong rush of Republicans to embrace policies that are deeply damaging to this country’s future; and contemptuous of the feckless, craven incompetence of Democrats in their half-hearted attempts to stop them.” Mike Lofgren first used the term “Deep State” in his Goodby to All That essay, referring to a “web of entrenched interests in the US government and beyond (most notably Wall Street and Silicon Valley, which controls access to our every click and swipe) that dictate America’s defense decisions, trade policies and priorities with little regard for the actual interests or desires of the American people.”

“… rotton captives to corporate loot…”

He charged there that both major American political parties are “rotten captives to corporate loot,” but that while Democrats are merely weak and out of touch, the Republican Party “is becoming more like an apocalyptic cult.” That was in 2011, nine years ago. In the meantime his “…is becoming…” has evolved. It now would read “has become a fully-fledged apocalyptic cult.” Lofgren describes highly-placed Republicans as caring only about their rich donors; being predisposed toward war; and pandering to the anti-intellectual, science-hostile, religious fundamentalist fringe.

This essay published on BillMoyers.com is so cogent, so knowledgeable and so impervious to the passage of time, that it is still required reading. As usual, I printed it out and started highlighting the most salient paragraphs with a green felt-tipped marker. When I was finished I found page after page of solid green. Want to try it yourself? Here’s the link.

The Whole Point

With Lofgren’s second book, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government (2016), he takes us even deeper into the Potomac swamp which, he affirms, now extends from New York to California. An observant reviewer on Amazon.com puts his finger on one of Lofgren’s most important revelations regarding the Deep State:

The whole point of the Deep State is that it is NON PARTISAN. It transcends democrats and republicans and you simply have to follow the money. Anyone who thinks that Donald Trump is not part of this – after appointing a cabinet of billionaires and generals, de-regulating Wall Street even further, and driving up the military budget while threatening to curtail what little social services we have left, have clearly drunk the Kool-Aid. You don’t get to be President unless you have the tacit support of the Deep State.

Trump’s Two-Headed Deep State

The best explanation of the Deep State is Mike Lofgren’s own in his 2014 Anatomy of the Deep State essay:

“There is the visible government situated around the Mall in Washington, and then there is another, more shadowy, more indefinable government that is not explained in Civics 101 or observable to tourists at the White House or the Capitol… Yes, there is another government concealed behind the one that is visible at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a hybrid entity of public and private institutions ruling the country according to consistent patterns in season and out, connected to, but only intermittently controlled by, the visible state whose leaders we choose.”

Everything that President Trump says or writes, awakens the same questions: Is he confused or is he trying to confuse me? Or both? The subject of the Deep State is no exception. He frequently sees it–and uses it–as a whipping boy but sometimes, usually when he’s in trouble, he turns to it as an ally. Here’s Business Insider (on the subject:

Rather than referring to a “shadow or parallel system of government” operating outside official channels, for Trump the deep state is the government —
or at least those parts of it that frustrate him in any way.

The HuffPost (Jan. 27, 2020) has compiled some examples:

  • In November 2017, he blamed “deep state authorities” for a failure to continue investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails, calling those authorities “Rigged and corrupt.”
  • That same month, he tweeted that the FBI and the Justice Department were withholding information about “surveillance of associates of Donald Trump.” This was, he said, “Big stuff. Deep State,” and he demanded that someone “Give this information NOW!”
  • In September 2018, he suggested that the deep state does have its extra-governmental allies, “the Left” and “the Fake News Media”: “The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy — & they don’t know what to do. The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices…”

Just a Conspiracy Theory?

Some people withhold that the Deep State is just a fantasy of conspiracy theorists. Who believes that? Like everything else in politics what people believe depends upon what they are presupposed–or paid–to believe. If you google Mike Lofgren’s books and essays and look at the readers’ reviews, you’ll find that the big half of them award him four or five stars and the rest, just one.  My guess is that most of those one-star readers are Republicans who haven’t actually read the book but are embittered by the fact that he let their cat out of the bag.

The Best Alternative Would Look Something Like This

This video might seem out of place here, but look again.  This, I submit, is the exact opposite of the President that the US currently enjoys, and the quintessence of what non-Trumpish Americans are seeking today for the leadership of their country.

J.F. Kennedy’s American University Commencement Speech 1963

Five months later President Kennedy was murdered in Dallas. Not five years later Martin Luther King was murdered in Memphis.

Good luck, America.

 

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