American Democracy: The Art of Winning

0_0319_NWS_LDN-L-GERRYMANDER

By Hook or by Crook

In the mid-seventies, when they started building underground parking lots in Granada, whenever I would drive into town I would have to park on the outskirts and walk into the center. On the walk I would pass the old Pharmacy Faculty, which had been moved to a new building and replaced in the old one by Political Science. So I’m walking up that little-frequented street one day and I notice the sign over the door. It says “Facultad de Sociología y Ciencias Políticas.” That was when it hit me. The prevailing political model, which the United States has exported all over the world, calling it “democracy,” is not about noble ideas and the fight for human rights. It’s about sociology: opinion polls and pandering to lowbrow voters and powerful interests. It’s about opportunism, not idealism, as they would have us believe.

Where do the sociologists fit into this scheme of things? They design and run polls to determine scientifically what it is that voters want, no matter how insane or banal those desires may be. Election shifters have no need to introduce voters to any higher ideas or projects for their intellectual or moral advancement. Their mission is just to promise the marks the pre-digested kibble of advanced consumer society and win elections.

The Benefits of Dumbing Down

This scheme of things has another advantage. It guarantees the gradual stagnation of citizens’ thoughts and aspirations for a better society or for any suggestion of collective solutions. (The dreaded socialism! The only Americans who benefit from Socialist programs are members of Congress and the Armed Forces. They get the works, notably health and dental care, and living pensions paid for at the taxpayers’ expense.) The end result of this process of stagnation is–in case you hadn’t noticed–the dumbing down of the majority of the country’s unfortunate citizens. This is how the United States got presidents like Harry Truman, George W. Bush (and his expert and essential puppeteer, Dick Cheney), and Donald Trump.

Other positive aspects of the dumbing down of American citizens are the creation of thousands of inmates for the country’s for-profit prisons and a massive pool of recruits to feed the armed services.

The Unique Objective

The only objective of American politicians is winning elections, and at that they are masters. Winning is the be-all and end-all that justifies all means, however sordid. Candidates in federal elections adhere to agendas that have been designed for them by election experts, including the essential sociologists. Though these agendas are nowadays generally financed by corporate sponsors, and sold as programs to benefit the voters, the truth is that they are designed uniquely to win elections.

Where do ethics enter into the equation? They don’t. What enters into the equation is expediency and adherence to a pre-determined ideological agenda tailored to the needs of the big-bucks sponsors. That’s the desired end. Whether the means of achieving it are ethical or not is irrelevant.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that the United States government is no longer a democracy. A regime that was always predatory has morphed over the past couple of decades into a total corporatocracy with the classic corporate values. The irony of this chilling fact is that it was achieved through entirely legal means. What is meant by “legal,” anyway? It means “in accordance with the law.” Who makes the federal laws of the United States of America? Who legalizes all the clearly anti-democratic pieces of this puzzle? The United States Congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate. There, you see, it’s not that complicated, after all.

For the full list of election manipulation devices that have been legalized by the House and the Senate you would have to ask a member of Congress or a veteran lobbyist. But here are a few examples to initiate your list:

  • Superdelegates
    superdelegates600In American politics, a superdelegate is an unpledged delegate to the Democratic National Convention who is seated automatically and decides for themselves for whom they vote. These Democratic Party superdelegates include elected officials and party activists and officials. They are free to support any candidate for the presidential nomination. There were 437 DNC members who were superdelegates at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. With these numbers, they can usually sway the election of a Democratic Party preferred candidate, though in 2016 they missed.
  • Gerrymandering
    Gerrymandering, in its simplest form, is the re-drawing of Congressional
    Districts to include voters favorable to the candidate’s party and exclude
    those who would be more inclined to vote against them. Incumbent
    members of Congress can use this mechanism to virtually assure their
    re-election.
  • Bargaining for Industrial and Institutional Campaign Contributions
    The United States Supreme Court held (5–4) on January 21, 2010, that the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for communications by nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporations, labor unions, and other associations. This decision effectively equated corporations with private citizens when it came to campaign donations, thus opening the floodgates to the virtual purchasing of elected officials. 
  • Super Pacs
    What they don’t achieve through direct campaign financing, corporate and other institutional interests can manage through the use of super PACs, which can raise unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations and individuals, then spend those sums to overtly advocate for or against political candidates. In any case, it’s clear that the vias for buying election results are wide open.

Once Upon a Time

I once actually believed that there was a time when American politics was about brilliant and conscientious politicians who had ideas and ideals and wanted to promote them for the good of society. To find that time you had to go quite a ways back, maybe to Abraham Lincoln or maybe even George Washington. Or perhaps not even Washington, who was probably conditioned by being perhaps the richest man in the colonies, thanks to Martha’s extensive land–and slave–holdings.

However that may be, I am still so naive that I would like to believe that at one time or another there had been an element of decency in American politics, some remnant of consideration for the commonwealth. Maybe Franklin D. Roosevelt embodied some of that. But I’m still not sure. What I do know for certain is that modern American politics–and by extension, most of the rest of the world’s “democracies”–is bereft of any hint of ideas or idealism. Anybody who believes otherwise is a dupe and a sap, I fear

Today’s aspirant to public office doesn’t need ideals. All he needs are corporate sponsors, the ability to read a script and a team of sociologists and other “elections experts.” As for “the ability to read…” Donald Trump has shown us that even that is not absolutely essential. This atypical President is not alone. He’s accompanied on his belicose magical mystery tour by many cohorts of a similar ilk. It will be terrifying to see where they take their country–and the world.

People who write articles, if they want to maintain their readership, are advised to end their pieces on an upbeat note. I would love to be able to do that. But I can’t.

Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
Thanks for commenting and sharing

 

The Bizarre States of America–2/2

 

Korean_Peace_Talks2

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.)

Wacky Pastors and President Trump’s Middle East Policy

From The Independent May 15, 2018–The Rev David Swaggerty, leader of CharismaLife Ministries in Columbus, Ohio, told the Religion News Service, that the embassy relocation was not simply a geopolitical bonus. “We see the embassy as crucial to God’s timing to bring about the revelation of the Messiah,” he said.

In a stunning exercise of institutional irony, it was Robert Jeffress, the wacky pastor known for suggesting that the Jews and Muslims are headed for hell, who was commissioned by the Trump team–or President Trump himself–to pronounce the Jerusalem embassy’s opening prayer.

A sector of the evangelicals that experts in these matters refer to as “premillenialist dispensationalists” believe the transfer of the embassy and the recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital will help bring about the so-called Rapture, an event in which they believe all Christians, living and dead, will ascend into heaven and join with God. As news website Vox points out, these interpretations based on the books of Revelation and Daniel, suggest the return of Jesus will take place once the Jewish temple in Jerusalem is rebuilt and Israel is made an exclusively Jewish state.

Does anyone know why the United States is fertile ground for such grotesque fanaticisms on such a grand scale? If you do, would you please be kind enough to explain it to us here, at the end of this post, in a comment?

Some analysts have suggested that the embassy transfer from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was a cynical Trump move designed to win the votes of these evangelicals in the next presidential election. It is estimated that there are some 60,000,000 of them. Here is a statement by Trump that would seem to confirm that theory.

Did President Trump Realize What He Was Doing?

Was President Trump fully aware of the grave implications not only for the Palestinians but potentially for the entire world of his embassy transfer? It’s possible that he wasn’t. Either way it’s a moot question. Even if he had foreseen the Israeli Defense Force snipers joyously picking off unarmed Palestinian demonstrators on the other side of the Gaza border fence he wouldn’t have done things any differently. His decision was determined by two of his highest-priority agendas: a slavish devotion to Netanyahu and Israeli fascist objectives and the necessity of pandering to the evangelical vote in the U.S.

The world is driven by extravagant ideologies, each one with its relentless egomaniacal agenda and Trump and the Rapture loonies are typical examples. The latter will follow their preposterous agenda straight through the metaphorical gates of hell if they are told by some tent preacher they are the gates of heaven, whatever innocent bystanders must be sacrificed along the way.

The same rule of thumb applies to the American militarists with their full-spectrum-dominance ideology and their agenda of world conquest. Nothing will stand in their way—until something stands in their way. The NRA gun-worship phenomenon follows the same pattern.

The Americans’ latest cruel and unusual undiplomatic move, just a few days ago, was to launch joint American-South Korean military maneuvers immediately after an unprecedentedly cordial peace meeting between Kim Jong-un representing North Korea and Moon Jae-in the South. Observers are convinced that considerable American arm-twisting was necessary to move the South Koreans to take such a step at this time.

This morning’s Washington Post (17 May 2018) headlines their follow-up story about North Korea breaking off negotiations with the South, “Kim Jong-un Gets Cold Feet.” As so often happens in Washington, they got the story backward. It’s not about Kim’s feet; it’s about the Americans bullying the South Koreans into military maneuvers at a critical point in the negotiations.

Kim Jong-un’s response, according to the North Korean news service KCNA, was to suspend further high-level talks with Moon Jae-in of South Korea. In addition, North Korea has threatened to cancel the planned summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un scheduled for June 12 in Singapore, saying the US should carefully consider the fate of the upcoming meeting, in view of what it calls “provocative military disturbances with South Korea,”

The American move was not entirely unexpected, as it seemed clear to old Korea hands that no amount of hand-holding between North and South would induce the United States to loosen their controlling grip on South Korea, a grip that has remained implacable since the end of the Korean War in 1953.

I want to mention some more examples of what I perceive as American strangeness at home and abroad. But I think you get the picture and I’m loath to bore you, so let me just cite a few of the more egregious cases in a list:

  • The lynching of two black youths that took place outside Moore, Oklahoma in the month of April 2018, an act that was somehow overlooked by U.S. national media.
  • The American “defense” budget, variously cited as 16% of the discretionary and mandatory federal budget according to Politicfact.com, or 55% of discretionary spending according to other sources, equivalent to the military budgets of the next seven countries on the list, according to the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. But the U.S. is not a nation of war-mongers. What would their defense budget look like if they were?
  • The naming of American torture maven, Gina Haspel, to head the CIA. (But don’t worry, she promises to be a good girl from here on out.)
  • The kid-gloves treatment of the bands of neo-Nazis and White Supremacists at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August of 2017.
  • Members of the Trump team—It’s not yet clear at what level.—hiring an Israeli private-intelligence firm, Black Cube, to compile profiles on Colin Kahl and Ben Rhodes, Obama-era advisors who advocated the Iran nuclear agreement. Why investigate them? Why use Israeli investigators? As if the United States didn’t have competent detectives of its own. What other sensitive matters have these Israeli spooks gotten into? Is this really kosher?
  • Last but not least, given the wealth of the country and the astronomical amounts of money they spend on the military, isn’t it a criminal anomaly that they don’t have universal health care, as in the civilized world?

Full disclosure: I confess I’m running out of adjectives to characterize the reality twists and shape-shifts that are occurring over there. I’ve lived in Europe now for two-thirds of my life and it’s possible that my thinking is different–more critical–from that of normal Americans. I must admit that possibility. But so different?

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

The Bizarre States of America 1/2

Shooting_report

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.

It was glaringly evident, for example, in the instant, knee-jerk Congressional opposition to virtually all of President Obama’s legislative initiatives throughout his presidency. Even today it lives on in the person of President Donald Trump, whose reneging on the Iran nuclear treaty was clearly motivated, by his own admission, by his rabid anti-Obama sentiment. Let’s be frank; to a majority of the United States Congress and many other high-ranking Republicans, Obama, though the elected President of the United States, was considered an aberration, to them “just an uppity nigger.” They consistently did their best to thwart him in every possible way, regardless of the subsequent negative effects on the well-being of the American public.

You see and hear actions and declarations in the USA that don’t occur anyplace in the real world. What shall we call the American setting? A parallel reality? The Fourth Dimension? Surrealism? Lowbrow Propaganda? Lock’em-up insanity? Brave new neo-con world? Or is this just American exceptionalism taken to the nth degree? What exactly is “American Exceptionalism,” anyway? Is it something they decreed or is it just a phenomenon they consider axiomatic? Isn’t it relevant that practically no one else in the civilized world accepts the stranger American “axioms?”

Ironically, the term “American Exceptionalism,” of which today’s right-wing American politicians are so proud and rely upon so heavily, was a term invented by the Comintern in 1927-28. The Communists employed it as an insult to their own American members who insisted upon special treatment for American communism due to their “exceptional” circumstances. It was an easy matter for American patriots to flip the term to refer to their country’s presumed special status in the world.

The NRA’s New President Starts Off on a Weird Foot

American gun laws are certainly strange, as are the most recent developments in the National Rifle Association, which has just named as its president, convicted (and later un-convicted) felon and international terrorist, Lt. Colonel Oliver North. His opening remarks as president are a textbook exercise in the most cynical manipulation of language in the interest of turbid interests. As for the Second Amendment to the Constitution, it has been skewed so far to the right that today it’s little more than a smokescreen behind which the country’s most sinister ideological and economic interests can hide. These interests pretend not to notice that the United States is the only country in the world whose laws defend the absolute right to bear arms, something considered dangerously anti-social everywhere else in the world. This has to be the most heinous example of “American Exceptionalism.”

On February 14, 2018, Valentine’s Day, students at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida witnessed the random gun slaying of 17 of their classmates, teachers and staff. The very day of the victims’ funeral the Parkland high-school students started to mobilize a nationwide opposition-to-assault-rifles movement, an initiative that most Americans considered valiant and admirable. But in his first remarks on assuming the presidency of the NRA Lt. Colonel North took advantage of the opportunity to insult these teenage activists.

North’s reaction was strange in the extreme. According to Julia Conley, staff writer for Commondreams.org, “In an interview on Thursday, NRA President Oliver North compared the criticism that gun rights activists are facing as Americans call for gun safety legislation, to the attacks on civil rights advocates in the 1960s.”

North claimed in an interview with the Washington Times that the student-led #NeverAgain movement which has invigorated Americans since February’s school shooting in Parkland, Fla., amounts to “civil terrorism.” “This is the kind of thing that’s never been seen against a civil rights organization in America,” said North to the Washington Times. “You go back to the terrible days of Jim Crow and those kinds of things—even there you didn’t have this kind of thing.”

Such a disrespectful, bizarre-world reply from an individual like Oliver North calling protesting students “terrorists” just highlights the fact that, though he’s profoundly concerned about the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, the right to keep and bear arms, he has no regard whatsoever for the First, the right to free speech. The fact that the National Rifle Association should name a person like him its president speaks volumes about the values of that organization, which prioritizes its own deadly firearms-first agenda over all other considerations.

Rev. Sharon Risher, whose family members were killed in a mass shooting at a church in Charleston, S.C. in 2015, replied. “For the NRA to compare its treatment today to the atrocities that occurred during the Jim Crow era is beyond the pale, especially considering it’s the NRA’s extreme leaders who have harassed and intimidated survivors of gun violence with often vile rhetoric. Oliver North should apologize, to black Americans and to all who’ve been touched by racism or gun violence in this country.”

(For information on Oliver North’s role in the Iran-Contra affair, here’s a link to an excellent long article published on the Politicalgates blog. At the end of the article the author draws some compelling parallels between North’s case and that of Bradley/Chelsea Manning and notes that North got off virtually scot-free while Manning did seven years of a 35-year sentence in Ft. Leavenworth federal prison.

Libertarianism Is to “Liberty” as Friendly Fire Is to “Friendly”

When I first ran across the term “Libertarianism” for what seemed to be a new current of political opinion in the United States I thought, “Great, the American anarchists have finally formed a movement to promote freedom for the oppressed.” Then I looked it up. Libertarianism turns out to be the exact opposite, a movement that promotes freedom to oppress and to turn one’s back on the rest. It’s the ultimate I’m-all-right-Jack political philosophy, if you can call that “philosophy.” The gist of it seems to be no—or very little—government, leaving the country’s most capable citizens complete “liberty” to operate and exploit, as if that were liberty. What about the rest of the population? “Oh, them, they’ll have to shift for themselves.”

This thinking (Did it come from one of Washington’s septic “think” tanks?) is offensive for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it ignores the fact that human society is an organism that depends upon the health of all of its members to survive and prosper. The opposing every-man-for-himself doctrine–built into the American “rugged individualism” pietism is pernicious when it comes to building a healthy, sane society, but it’s something that American right-wing cant emphasizes more than ever of late. The Libertarians seem to believe that Americans in a free society should have the liberty to sleep on the street in cardboard boxes.

What is most offensive is the way the Libertarians have co-opted the very word “liberty” for their own perverted form of un-freedom. If this concept gains acceptance across American society they will have young people growing up thinking that “liberty” is the right to divorce oneself from humanity in the interest of the individual: selfishness and greed as holy scripture, the right to neglect the less fortunate and abandon all notions of commonwealth. It’s manipulative and disgusting as it cynically twists beyond all recognition one of the basic supports of all decent human relationships: our language.

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

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

SchooloftheAmericas

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:

The Special Inspector General for TARP summary of the bailout says that the total commitment of government is $16.8 trillion dollars with the $4.6 trillion already paid out. Yes, it was trillions not billions and the banks are now larger and still too big to fail.

The BBC quotes Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat who has built a reputation for challenging Wall Street, as saying, “If big financial institutions know they can get cheap cash from the Fed in a crisis, they have less incentive to manage their risks carefully.”

So, who owns the Federal Reserve banks? According to the stlouisfed.org website, the Federal Reserve Banks are not a part of the federal government, but they exist because of an act of Congress. Their purpose is to serve the public. So is the Fed private or public? The answer, according to the St. Louis Fed, is both:

While the Board of Governors is an independent government agency, the Federal Reserve Banks are set up like private corporations. Member banks hold stock in the Federal Reserve Banks and earn dividends.

Distinguished British-American economist and academic, Simon Johnson writes in 2012 on The Baseline  Scenario website:

Some qualified critics of the Fed feel that prominent financial sector executives and their close allies are much too involved in how the New York Fed operates. This is partly a holdover from the original Federal Reserve Act of 1913 – and reflects the political milieu of that time, in which bankers had to be persuaded to accept a central bank. But it is also an all-too-accurate reflection of where we stand today with regard to global mega-banks and the large, nontransparent and highly dangerous subsidies they extract from the rest of society by being too big to fail. The people who run global mega-banks get the upside when things go well – they are paid based on their return on equity unadjusted for risk, so they prefer a lot of debt piled on top of very little equity. When things go badly, the downside is someone else’s problem – in the first instance, typically, the Federal Reserve’s.

And the American public’s, I might add.

(The website of Provident Metals, a Dallas-based “precious metals” broker, features a brief-but-fascinating insiders’ history of The Fed.)

The Deficiencies Are Not Just Political or Economic

Beyond pure politics and economics, the United States continues to cultivate some shockingly anti-democratic derivatives which make the world wonder when seen from abroad. Racism and white supremacy movements have never been dealt with effectively in the United States, and are on the rise today, a fact which constitutes a grave flaw in the eyes of the world. (That said, the Americans in charge aren’t concerned about the “eyes of the world.”) People in advanced countries are also concerned about social and economic inequality in the United States, the unconcern for the poor and the lack of basic first-world rights and services. A country without universal health care is unthinkable for the people of the civilized world. Nor do they understand why the wealthiest, most-advanced country in the world has such an outlandish prison population. No other advanced country has that problem. What are the Americans doing wrong, they ask themselves.

Though they are admittedly dazzled by American technology, they are gravely concerned by the United States’ disrespectful, illegal and immoral policies regarding other countries, above all their aggressive wars on sovereign nations for specious or non-existent reasons. (E.g. Vietnam, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya…) “Regime change” is not a legitimate casus belli; nor is a socialist government in power. Perhaps the greatest American irony of all in the eyes of the world is the US’s ongoing efforts to export their model of democracy. The question arises immediately: who would want to import it?

What they do export successfully are arms, military assistance, subversive techniques and regime change at the point of a gun. Their School of the Americas (aka  La Escuela de las Americas) at Ft. Benning, Georgia set the benchmark worldwide for teaching torture techniques, principally but not exclusively, to Latin America’s present and future military officers and dictators (some 34,000 of them) for more than half a century. The School was officially closed in the year 2000.  ABC News had this to say on the day of its closing:

A U.S. army facility that critics have labeled a school for dictators, torturers and assassins is being closed today. The ‘School of the Americas,’ in Fort Benning, Ga., which has for 54 years operated as a training facility for Latin American military personnel, will shut its doors after facing criticism from human rights groups for years.

The list of graduates from the School of the Americas is a who’s who of Latin American despots. Students have included Manuel Noriega and Omar Torrijos of Panama, Leopoldo Galtieri of Argentina, and Hugo Banzer Suarez of Bolivia.

Other graduates cut a swath through El Salvador during its civil war, being involved in the 1980 assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero, the El Mozote massacre in which 900 peasants were killed, and the 1989 murders of six Jesuit priests.

We needn’t weep for the School of the Americas, though. In January of 2001 it reopened in the same location, run by the Defense Department rather than the Army, and with a new name. It is now known as the “Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.” Its motto is, “Libertad, Paz y Fraternidad” (Freedom, Peace, and Fraternity).

So, what’s the balance of the last 200 years for the world’s greatest democracy? Are recent United States governments living up to their high-minded Constitution? Sadly, not entirely. Since the United States was seen as the savior of the world immediately after World War II the power and prestige earned during the war went to the politicians’ heads and, always under the pretext of protecting the world from communism, the United States became more of a bully than a benefactor. As they increasingly assumed the role of policemen to the world and its ultimate ideological masters, the Americans’ star lost a lot of its shine. Where they had a reputation for decency and fair play they became renowned for cynicism and sharp dealings. It didn’t help that for decades they had been sponsoring ever-more-brutal and reliably “anti-communist” dictators from Latin America to the Middle East, and interfering in the political processes in other countries around the world.

Next on their immediate agenda of bellicosity, it seems, are Iran and North Korea. The Israelis have long had their eye on the former as potential Palestine-style lebensraum for their cramped little country and the help they get from the Americans to destabilize Iran will reveal to what extent the Israeli tail is wagging the American dog. United States leadership still feels the sting of Iran holding 52 American diplomats and other citizens hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979, to January 20, 1981, after a group of Iranian students took over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. It stands as the longest hostage crisis in recorded history. What the Americans have forgotten is the 1954 regime-change operation engineered by the CIA and British MI6 which deposed the democratically elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh “and restored the Shah to absolute power, initiating 25 years of repression and torture.” (Quote from William Blum’s Rogue State.) Mossadegh’s “crime” was to nationalize British petroleum interests in Iran.

As for North Korea, President Trump is about to find out that the game of geopolitics is not played in midnight Twitter sessions. Kim Jung-un has outsmarted the President by declaring a unilateral dismounting of North Korea’s nuclear offensive potential. When they sit down together at the negotiating table he will, I suspect, require at the same time that the United States remove their nuclear installations (along with their troops) from South Korea. Check mate.

On the American home front, perhaps the most egregious government initiative has been the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (the Trump Tax Cuts), a tremendous boon for big business which the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office sees as adding an estimated $1.455 trillion to the national debt over ten years. This tax cut for the rich entails, of course, a corresponding tax increase for Americans who are not rich. It’s a giant step in the progress of American lycanthropic democracy, a country run by werewolves.

Here is how the Americans for Tax Fairness see the results of the Trump tax cuts.

There’s a name for boasting about one thing and doing the opposite. It’s called hypocrisy. Most countries—excepting, perhaps, Iceland—feel obliged to be hypocritical from time to time, but we have never seen any other country so constantly and utterly devious as the United States of America. They would like to consider their seemingly magnanimous, disinterested policy declarations as “white lies,” “lies for your own good” or “creative use of euphemisms,” but it’s none of that. It’s pure unalloyed hypocrisy. How long can a nation go on living off myths and lies while portraying itself as the shining democracy on the hill? We shall see.

Go to Part 1
Go to Part 2

Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
Thanks for commenting and sharing.

Is American Democracy on the Critical List? 2/3

Lincoln fallen
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.

The upshot of the Citizens United initiative, the result of a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling, was that the government restriction on “independent” political spending by corporations and unions was declared unconstitutional. Some cynics might say that Citizens United opened the door to powerful interests “buying” legislators. However one would choose to express it, the foxes are definitely loose in the American election henhouse.

Lobbyists Take Over Washington

Legal lobbying has always been just another mechanism for funneling money to elected officials in exchange for fabulous favors, all at the expense of normal American citizens. But with the Citizens United decision in hand Washington lobbyists now have carte blanche in federal elections. Given the prime importance of big money in American democracy they simply support, by means of Super PACs, candidates who advanced their clients’ private agendas. To sum up, however indirectly, they buy elections wholesale.

The Electoral College: An institution to Confuse and Contain American Voters

Then there’s the Electoral College. What did the people of the United States do to deserve such a clunky, mysterious, unreliable way of distributing the votes in presidential elections, and what can be done about it? There have been many theories alleged for the creation and perpetuation of the Electoral College, but none as convincing as the real reasons, which are almost never cited.

The “official versions” have to do with the logistics of organizing an election in a vast wild country. In the 1780s early Americans were told that the sheer size of the country made it impossible for the voters to become acquainted with the candidates and their programs, so it was necessary to give the voters some help. Then, in 1804, political parties with national presence gave rise to the 12th amendment which, instead of doing the fair and logical thing and abolishing the Electoral College, modified it to its current form. It now enables presidential elections to be partisan affairs, featuring two competing tickets and separate votes for presidential and vice-presidential candidates.

Once the lack-of-voter-information objection was overcome, why wasn’t the Electoral College eliminated in favor of a direct vote count? This has to do with the principal (and unmentionable) reasons for creating and maintaining the Electoral College:

  1. The founding fathers didn’t trust the American rabble to make their own high-level political decisions. It was necessary to place a buffer between the voters and the final determination of the elections. Hence, the Electoral College.

  2. Even more important were the North-South regional issue and the question of slavery. As slaves were denied the vote, the Northern candidate was bound to win if the slave population (more than half a million) of the South was not counted. So the framers of the Constitution compromised, permitting the South to count three-fifths of the slave population as valid votes. Ironically, this then tipped the scales in favor of the southern states. For 32 of the first 36 years of constitutional government, a white slave-holding Virginian occupied the presidency.

Black people in the United States eventually got the vote, but the Electoral College continues to stumble forward to this day. This is why Donald Trump is President of the United States today even though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the 2016 presidential election by a narrow margin.

What can be done to remedy this cruel and unusual situation? Nothing, for the time being. Such a remedy would entail a constitutional amendment approved in both the House and in the Senate, the latter requiring a two-thirds majority. Given Washington’s political realities today, that is not about to happen.

Enter the Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex and the Clandestine Services

The Military-Industrial-Congressional Complex has associated itself with such a massive set of special interests and has assumed so much power in recent years that it prevails over all other powers in the country. Essential to this all-encompassing power are the clandestine services (FBI, NSA, CIA, etc.) where so much top-secret chicanery goes on that these services control top-level political and military decisions in half the world. (Those who are interested in these matters can follow a case in point in real time when President Trump sits down with the North Korean leader, Kim Jung-un in the near future.) But the American secret services, themselves, are out of control. Neither the American people nor, in many cases, their elected representatives are aware of what’s going on, so they have no way of controlling vital events in the life of the nation. The American spooks are essentially all-powerful both at home and abroad.

There are countless examples of this phenomenon in the country’s recent history. Perhaps the most egregious was the Iran-Contra affair, as the main player in the illegal dealings was the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan. According to a PBS article from their collection, The Presidents, Reagan’s dirty-tricks team (Does the name, Oliver North, ring a bell?), thwarted by explicit legal restrictions from selling arms to Iran, devised a scheme to operate behind the backs of the Congress and the people of the United States. Not only did they sell arms to Iran but they funneled part of the proceeds to the CIA’s army of Contras in Nicaragua.

Clandestine operations are able to negate the essence of democracy by their secret nature, their virtually unlimited financing and the fascination they hold for immature politicians. President Barak Obama, ostensibly an honest man committed to peace, was mesmerized by CIA operative John Brennan and the drone-assassination program to the point where the two personally selected assassination candidates in weekly meetings. Obama later named Brennan director of the CIA. (See Conor Friedersdorf’s excellent 2016 article in The Atlantic on the subject here.)

The other massive example of the reach of the American clandestine services is the secret anti-communist armies created by NATO (an all-purpose organization for infiltrating other people’s countries and advancing the American agenda) and the CIA–with help from the British MI6–in almost all European countries after the Second World War. Dubbed “Operation Gladio,” this was ostensibly a scheme to resist a theoretical Soviet occupation of Europe, but was actually used as a set of terrorist groups to instill fear of communism in European countries by carrying out random mass murders and blaming them on “the Reds.”

Other Fishy Fundamental Institutions

It’s not only the United States government and military that are out of control. There are other dodgy institutions, such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), whose website proclaims: “USAID’s work advances U.S. national security and economic prosperity, demonstrates American generosity, and promotes a path to recipient self-reliance and resilience.” This is not easy to decipher but William Blum in his book, Rogue State, says that it includes collaborating with the CIA in fixing elections in client countries.

Perhaps the most sinister of these respected institutions is the Federal Reserve System—made up of the 12 Federal Reserve banks dotted around the country, the most important one being the New York Fed. They respond to no elected power, not the President, not the Congress nor the Supreme Court. And the Fed is not even a government agency; it’s a private business with all Americans under its economic suzerainty.  How did this happen? It’s been a long, winding road, starting with the founding of the Federal Reserve System in 1913. According to the Fed’s own website, “it was created by the Congress to provide the nation with a safer, more flexible, and more stable monetary and financial system.”

Go to Part 1
Go to Part 3
Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
Thanks for commenting and sharing

Is American Democracy on the Critical List? 1/3

trump-flag

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?

But an Impartial Observer Might Conclude That It’s in Trouble

Let’s take a closer, longer look at the greatest democracy in history. What is the measure of a democracy, anyway? A proper democracy is a joy to behold, but it’s not limited to mouthing tired clichés and patriotic posturing. Isn’t it really about the extent to which a country’s free-and-fairly-elected government makes life livable for its entire population?  Anything short of that universal well-being is failure and leaves Democracy an empty shell. By that standard, the United States comes up sorely deficient. A huge swath of the American people is abandoned to their luck. I won’t bother counting the ways for you; the evidence is all-too-visible, all over the country and from all over the world.

The American founding fathers drafted a constitution for their time. Aside from its cavalier attitude toward the slaves, which we’ll discuss later, it espoused lofty ideals, universal application and some ingenious guarantees against the perversion of authority. The most important of these was the “separation of powers.” The theory was that the legislative branch would draft the laws, the executive would enforce them and the Supreme Court would rule on their constitutionality.

The first ten amendments to the Constitution, “The Bill of Rights,” enumerated specifically the constrictions on the power of their government to regulate the lives of American citizens. So far, so good. But the founders did not foresee the preponderance of power that would accrue to the executive branch over time. It was the executive that exercised immediate, hands-on control of the United States government. Any disagreement with executive decisions had to be submitted to the arbitration of the courts or the legislature, a complicated, time-consuming process. Meanwhile, the presidential administration went ahead with its projects.

It’s also relevant that the court of last resort in these matters was—and is–the United States Supreme Court. But it is the President of the United States who appoints the Supreme Court justices. This factor, a serious anomaly in the separation of powers, has at times been determinant on matters of great importance. This is why the liberal justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is clinging to her court seat today, despite her 85 springtimes, in an effort to hold out for the election of a Democratic president so he or she can name the next Supreme Court justice.

Feral Power Turned Loose on the World

The tendency to assume power on dubious grounds did not improve with time. Today the President of the United States has virtual carte blanche when it comes to such important matters as making war. The Constitution stipulates that it is the exclusive right of the U.S. Congress to declare war. But recent American presidents have been creative in excess. They don’t bother declaring war; that would be illegal. They simply go ahead and wage it, at any time in any place and for whatever reason, however specious. From such gossamer threads dangles the fate of the world.

Nor are they coy about it. The executive branch—in the voice of neo-con Assistant Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, announced it clearly in a document entitled “Defense Strategy for the 1990s,” the regional defense strategy report for the 1994-99 fiscal years. Later known as the Wolfowitz Doctrine, this “defense strategy” came out of right-wing Washington think tank, Project for the New American Century (PNAC), and had its presentation in society when Secretary of Defense, Dick Cheney, made it public in 1993. The release of the document, which detailed a policy of unilateral American power worldwide and pre-emptive strikes to thwart military threats from other nations and prevent any other country from attaining superpower status, engendered widespread controversy regarding U.S. defense policy. A “pre-emptive strike,” you see, is a euphemism for “unprovoked attack.” Here’s a sample quote from this seminal American foreign-policy document (See if you don’t detect a predisposition to consider the countries of Western Europe as potential “hostile powers.”):

Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power. These regions include Western Europe, East Asia, the territory of the former Soviet Union, and Southwest Asia.

Today, May 7, 2018, the declaration of world domination that is the Wolfowitz Doctrine trumps any other law, regulation, decision or precedent, on both the national and international scenes, when it comes to prioritizing American interests worldwide. This policy was hammered home in 1997 by co-founder of the Trilateral Commission and former U.S. National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, in a book called The Grand Chessboard:

The most immediate task is to make certain that no state or combination of states gains the capacity to expel the United States from Eurasia or even to diminish significantly its decisive arbitrating role.”

” … the expansion of NATO is essential. By the same token, a failure to widen NATO … would shatter the concept of an expanding Europe and de-moralize the Central Europeans. It could even reignite currently dormant or dying Russian geopolitical aspirations in Central Europe.

Federal Election Results are Skewed

Even if Congress had a more expedient way of exercising its power, both dubious internal practices and recent inroads into election financing have greatly diminished its legitimacy and moral authority. The bottom line is discernable in Congressional election results, where incumbent candidates have an unfair advantage due to their “brand recognition,” assured financing and astute use of election-meddling tools such as gerrymandering congressional districts to their own benefit.

With all of these advantages for the veteran legislators, and barring exceptional circumstances, it is practically impossible for a newcomer to win a congressional election. According to opensecrets.org, nothing in this world is as predictable as the probability of congressional incumbents being reelected. This trend is more exaggerated in the House but also pronounced in the Senate. The bar graphs below reflect the reelection rates for the House and Senate between 1964 and 2016. As you can see, the House results hover over 90% of incumbent victories and the Senate’s not far behind. Does this look like a statistical portrait of free and fair elections?

House reelection graph

Senate reelection graph

Go to Part 2
Go to Part 3

 

Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
Thanks for commenting and sharing

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

Gladio4

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”