American Religion Went Hog Wild

We have made ourselves the New Jerusalem, the shining light on the hill, the hope for humanity, incapable of doing evil, our thoughtless cruelties irrelevant, our selfish immaturities unnoticed, our war dead cleansed of sin and escorted into the presence of the Almighty, our history written in whitewash, our God dressed in red, white and blue.

DA Fletcher, 2007

Haven’t Americans Noticed?

Haven’t Americans noticed that a revamped fundamentalist Christianity has run amok in their country, occupying parcels of power that have traditionally been vetoed to sectarian religion? Political America, with its underlying ideology and institutions, was conceived by the founders to be rigorously separate from religion. Their concept of religious freedom, expressed in the very first amendment to the US Constitution, guaranteed freedom for all religions, except for the freedom to govern. Both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison felt that state support for any religion was improper. They argued that compelling citizens to support through taxation a faith they did not follow violated their natural right to religious liberty.

Just as Jefferson and Madison, the principal authors of the Declaration of Inedpendence and the US Constitution, respectively, considered religion a personal matter, not one to be imposed upon the citizenry as a whole. Religion has no legitimate role in the executive nor the legislative, nor the judicial branches of government. Adding religious components to American democracy runs the risk of converting the country into an Iranian-style theocracy. In fact, the first steps in that direction have already been taken, both with President Obama’s Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnership and President Trump’s White House’s Faith and Opportunity Initiative.

You Have to See It to Believe It

The most extravagant writer of fiction could not have invented the grotesque metamorphosis that Americans have imposed on their religion. Not all of them, mind you, but enough of them to assure that the humble, humane Christian gospel will never be the same again in America. And the intrusion of this hyped-up-and-dumbed-down religious movement is having an equally damaging effect on the American government and the country as a whole. This intrusion of semi-literate televangelists into the government at its highest levels may or may not be in accordance with the Constitution, but it certainly merits some serious debate, and that debate isn’t happening.

We shouldn’t be surprised that the Americans have metamorphosed Christianity, to their own use, but the direction and extent of that Americanization is alarming. One of the immediate results should preoccupy Christian congregations. The behavior of a large segment of American Christians reflects the same dangerous characteristics they love to blame on fanatical versions of other religions around the world: integrist fundamentalism, homicidal bellicosity and God-is-on-our-side militancy, among other perversions. Meanwhile, traditional Christians from abroad look at the sideshow cavortings of their American co-religionaries and can’t believe what they see.

Dwight Eisenhower and Billy Graham Got Their Heads Together

President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s relationship with evangelist, Billy Graham, who went on to become “spirtual counsel” to a dozen presidents, probably should have been questioned on day one. But it was the 1950s, a decade of extraordinary religious revival, and both Eisenhower and Graham played important roles in encouraging this movement. Eisenhower was a war hero and popular president and his partnership with Graham set the stage for decades of mutually beneficial collaboration between politicians and religious leaders.

This cozy relationship that has prospered over the years represents one of history’s most successful symbiotic unions between religious influence peddling and political opportunism. It was the influence of the American Evangelical Christians that inspired President Trump to authorize the transfer of the Israeli capital from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, ostensibly in order to fulfill the biblical prophesies regarding the end times. The born-again folks are convinced that such maneuvers will help rapture them into heaven sooner. That’s not a wholly illegitimate aspiration, unless one of them happens to be responsible for American foreign policy. P.S. What empowers an American president to “authorize” the displacement of the capital of a sovereign country from one place within that country to another?

US sui generis Christians took Jesus Christ and pressed him into the American mold. They hyped him up, turning a simple shepherd of souls into an arch ally of semi-literate televangelists preaching the “prosperity gospel” to a gullible–and massive–American congregation. “Prosperity gospel”=”Send me money and I’ll tell God to make you rich.” They know the formula works, at least for them. Most of them live in millionaire’s mansions and fly around in private jets. Some of them have already graduated to a second, bigger one.

There Have Been Some Changes Made

The American remake of traditional Christianity made it more imminent: “The end times are upon us…” American religions hucksters resolve the problem of “closing the deal” quite elegantly: “The end of the world is coming.” The American remake is more ubiquitous: It takes advantage of the mass media to be constantly in America’s face. It’s clearly more profitable. And it’s more accessible. Anybody can play, especially if they’ve got money.

This variety of American Christianity reached the turning point when southern politicians discovered the polling power of hillbilly Christianity of the Southern Baptist Convention persuasion (with 47,530 [2019 data] congregations in its fold). It was a partnership made in heaven. Both enterprises benefitted. Fundamentalist Evangelical and Pentecostal religion (the difference between the two, in layman’s terms, seems to be that the latter are blessed with the ability to speak in tongues) started moving into north and western parts of the country and southern politicians began to acquire new-found power in the US Congress. Trump’s election was the cherry on top.

A New Element in the Mix–The Bug’s Ear

After simmering on a slow burner for a few decades this curious stew gave America, among other marvels, Paula White, another big-house, hot-jet televangelist and President Donald Trump’s personal spiritual advisor. White is undeniably coarse and intellectually limited but she connects with millions of like-minded American Christians–and voters–and brings a new quality to high-flying, low-brow American religious discourse: sex appeal. She’s as cute as a bug’s ear. This novelty further increments her gross.

DA Fletcher is gravely concerned about this kind of shenanigans in what he and many others feel should to be serious and solemn territory. He writes in his 2007 book, One Nation Over God, The Americanization of Christianity, this white-hot denunciation of the American way of religion:

Throughout American history, from the earliest moments until the present, American Christians have been more American than they have been Christian… Not only have the basic tenets of the Christian faith been compromised and violated, in the interest of protecting our right to practice our faith along with our basic American freedoms, we have been guilty of denying the rights and freedoms of any who is seen to oppose. The conceit that being American warps being Christian is at the center of American Exceptionalism, Manifest Destiny, the Revolutionary War, the Indian wars, the endless debate over immigration, racism and slavery, poverty and homelessness, consumerism and materialism, and ultimately the way Christianity gets defined and lived out.

DA Fletcher, One Nation Over God, The Americanization of Christianity
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Who Will Sanction the United States?

How would history have changed if it had occurred to President Kennedy to send a couple of boatloads of powdered milk and process cheese to Cuba in their time of need?

War by Other Means

According to the Council on Foreign Relations website (cfr.org) “economic sanctions” are the withdrawal of customary trade and financial relations for foreign- and security-policy purposes.” Sanctions may prohibit commercial activity with an entire country, like the U.S. embargo of Cuba, or they may be targeted, blocking transactions by and with particular businesses, groups, or individuals. They include travel bans, asset freezes, arms embargoes, capital restraints, foreign aid reductions, and trade restrictions. Economic sanctions are not necessarily imposed because of economic circumstances—they may also be imposed for a variety of political, military, and social issues. They can also be overused:

Economic sanctions are increasingly being used to promote the full range of American foreign policy objectives. Yet all too often sanctions turn out to be little more than expressions of U.S. preferences that hurt American economic interests without changing the target’s behavior for the better. As a rule, sanctions need to be less unilateral and more focused on the problem at hand. Congress and the executive branch need to institute far more rigorous oversight of sanctions, both prior to adopting them and regularly thereafter, to ensure that the expected benefits outweigh likely costs and that sanctions accomplish more than alternative foreign policy tools.

Brookings.edu

President Donald Trump Found Sanctions Handy

American use of punitive sanctions against other countries was relatively unusual until Trump ratcheted up their frequency. The Trump administration imposed sanctions at a record-shattering pace of about three times a day during the president’s time in office, a total of  more than 3,900 distinct sanctions actions, according to data collected by Los Angeles international law firm, Gibson Dunn. These measures targeted companies, individuals and even oil tankers tied to Iran, North Korea, China, Venezuela and Russia. The beauty of sanctions from the Trump government’s point of view was that they were easy to implement. All that was required for the president to set in motion their damaging–sometimes lethal–proceedings was to proclaim them. Many of these sanctions actions amount to war by other means, entailing the same damage to the society, the same victims, the same disorder, and the same suffering. Just less paperwork.

The legality of sanctions as means of enforcement traditionally provided incentives for obedience with the law. A judge may sanction a party during a legal proceeding, thus imposing penalties. The key concepts here are “the law,” “a judge” and “legal proceeding,” factors conspicuously lacking in many of Trump’s sanctions, which often seem more like simple gratuitous harrassment. The new President Biden has hinted that he will review the Trump sanctions, but it remains to be seen what that review will amount to.

What’s with America’s Iran Mania?

The countries that have suffered most in recent years from American sanctions are Iran, Venezuela and Cuba. As for Iran, why do successive American governments harbor so much rancour vis a vis Iran when, in reality, the shoe should be on the other foot. And for cogent reasons:

  1. In 1953 the US orchestrated a gratuitous regime-change operation of a popular, democratically-elected Iranian government.
  2. Then they ushered in a 25-year-long dictatorial regime under the Shah, whose SAVAK secret police, created with the help of the CIA, were legendary for their creative interrogation, torture and execution techniques. This regime ruled from 1957 until it was disolved by the Iranian Revolution in 1979.
  3. Still not satisfied, the CIA enouraged Iraq’s dictator, Sadam Hussein, and his army of Sunni Muslim troops to start a war with Iran. The Americans supported them with materiel, targetting information, in-air refueling and other intelligence work for the duration of that war which ended in a UN-brokered stalemate in 1988.
  4. That war had a fascinating aftermath, one which cast a shadow of doubt on American strategy. When they handed the government of Iraq to the Iraqi Shiite Muslims they seemingly forgot that Iran was also a Shiite country . The Iraqi leaders and their Iranian brothers in the faith took less than the blink of an eye to make common cause against the Americans, who are still in the process of backing out of Iraq–where they wrought so much destruction and human tragedy. There is a lesson in this tragic series of events: You probably shouldn’t go into the business of hearts and minds if you’re heartless and mindless
  5. The frosting on this strange cake didn’t appear until January, 2020, with the Trump-ordered drone assassination of Iran’s preeminent old soldier, Qasem Soleimani, while enroute to a meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. Other forms of American sanctions, while damaging and reprehensible, can be responded to through diplomatic or legal channels. But the murder of Soleimani while on a diplomatic mission amounts to an authentic casus belli. The equivalent in the United States would be to assassinate General Colin Powell and his collaborators while they are being driven to work.

Very Unstable, Very Erratic

It’s common knowledge that Donald Trump has an unstable, erratic character and that he was advised at the time of Soleimani’s assassination by some of America’s most bloodthirsty neo-con strategtists. After the 2020 election citizens of good faith around the world were looking forward to a fresh approach from the White House, occupied by a person who would have the courage and magnanimity to reset US/Iranian relations on a less bellicose basis. keeping in mind actions like the US sequestering of an Iranian petroleum tanker en route to Venezuela and selling its cargo. What was that about? To an impartial observer it makes no sense, enjoys no legtitimacy. In no way can it be considered diplomacy. It was just baseless Trumpish bullying and this distinction is not lost on the world.

At last a new “normal” president was elected and began to make long-overdue corrections. But President Biden’s decisions on Iran were anything but correct. Instead of a rapid rectification of the American naval blockade of Venezuela (another act of war), and an apology for the killing of Soleimani, as well as a mutual reconsideration of the Iran nuclear agreement that Trump had senselessly breached, America’s new president lurches forward with the same old unreasonable demands and crass threats. Considering the context of American abuses and boutades, not only was that dubious diplomacy; but bad manners. Has the new American president been Zooming too much with Prime Minister Netanyahu?

From Iran to Cuba Is a Short Hop

The case of Iran is reminiscent of that of Cuba. After Fidel Castro’s ragtag revolutionary forces deposed American-backed dictator, Fulgencio Batista, in 1959, President John F. Kennedy and his pack of best and brightest foreign-policy advisors (the ones who brought you Vietnam) took particular pleasure in turning their backs on the Cuban people during the times of scarcity that followed Batista’s downfall. They also launched the clumsy and unsuccessful CIA-organized Bay of Pigs invasion by counter-revolutionary Cubans based in 1961. The humiliation that accompanied that resounding failure reverberated for decades. Miami still has a Bay of Pigs Memorial in Little Havana.

Fidel Castro, meanwhile, turned to the Russians to sell Cuba’s sugar, and before long they were partners. How would history have changed if it had occurred to President Kennedy to send a couple of boatloads of powdered milk and process cheese to Cuba in their time of need? But no, the Kennedy brothers, John and Bobby, not only doubled down on their Cuban sanctions, but initiated a decades-long CIA campaign (dubbed The Cuban Project or Operation Mongoose) to try to assassinate El Comandante. Castro died in his bed in 2016 at the age of 90.

Today the Cuban people remain victims of the American punitive embargo, the longest in modern history. For everything they have endured during 60 years of iron-clad resistance to American punishment the Cuban people have earned the civilized world’s admiration. Under the circumstances Cuba’s achievements have been monumental. The impoverished little Caribbean country today has a 100% literacy rate and one of the finest public health systems in the world. Their medical scientists have just announced their own Covid 19 vaccine. Will 11 million Cubans ever be liberated from the curse that befell them essentially because the Kennedys got miffed in 1961?

Venezuela’s experience of American sanctions has been and remains particularly heinous, based on petroleum lust and knee-jerk anti-socialism. It’s summed up nicely on this Timeline of of Half a Decade of US Economic War Against Venezuela published by Telesur English on 22 May 2019.

Keeping the US Safe from Socialism

American schoolchildren are taught that one of the gravest dangers their country faces is socialism, particularly in its most virulent variety, communism. These collectivist ideologies are not only dangerous for their subversive content but also for their tendency to spread from one country to another, domino fashion. Most of America’s wars over the past century have been to contain communism, with the exception of the Second World War in which the Soviet Union was America’s most valuable ally. Nevertheless, America’s implacable wars against communism have taken a terrible toll in lives and property both among foreign citizens categorized as socialists, and American patriots themselves.

Young Americans are also taught that there are two key institutions that maintain a constant vigil against communist and socialist encroachment, thus keeping America safe. These are the US Congress and Armed Forces, which are on constant alert worldwide to detect, engage and defeat socialist regimes wherever they arise, or even threaten to arise. Their concerns extend to the home front, where communist and socialist sympathizers are surveilled and controlled by ever-vigilant authorities, the FBI in particular. They are aware that socialism is insidious and can take root anywhere.

That’s why the US Congress and the military maintain a constant anti-socialist and anti-communist awareness. They are trained to identify and eliminate leftist trends in American society. That said, some cynics have pointed out that these conscientious controllers have overlooked two semi-clandestine socialist groups in their own country. Ironically, these are precisely the US Congress and the Armed Services, the only collectives in America who enjoy socialist-style health services. Fortunately, this minor anomaly doesn’t prevent them from crushing socialism in other people’s countries.

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Trumpism Is Just Republicanism with a Shot of Poisonous Kool-Aid

Kool_Aid_map

First Things First

President Donald J. Trump may have been impeached twice and defeated at the polls after his first term, but that doesn’t mean that Trumpism is over. Far from it. Look no further than January 6, 2021, a day that shall live in Trumpish infamy. The outgoing president wanted to make history and he did, but not in a nice way. Add to this the rest of his legacy: the demolishing of essential federal agencies, the children imprisoned in cages without their parents, the rape of the land, the insanely expensive and illegally financed border wall, and all the rest. Nor should we forget the fact that the 45th President of the United States of America is only marginally literate. But he’s gone now, you say. Yes, he’s practically gone, but that is now a moot point. He has lit the fire in the forest and America the beautiful will never be the same again.

That fire didn’t take long to become a conflagration of white supremacism, neo-nazism, lynchmob values, unjust justice, and dangerous levels of hyper-patriotism. The Trumpists gamed the system to maintain lifetime power, securing three Supreme Court justices, hundreds of federal judgeships and massive tax cuts for the rich. Exceptionalism and lowbrow sacralization became common currency in American government. Trump’s personal pandering to extravagant, born-again rapture sects has converted them into a formidable electoral bloc.

His use of this religious phenomenon to advance his personal agenda is a historically ugly example of political opportunism, cynicism and hypocrisy. All of this reflects ill on the already tarnished image of the United States worldwide. Serious leaders of important countrys around the world–both allies and adversaries– don’t know whether to laugh or cry. This perception of the United States as a laughing stock, a dangerously unstable enemy and a less-than-reliable partner did not go away altogether when a new, “normal,” president was elected.

Trump’s Malfeasance Presidency

The United States government has had mediocre presidents before, misguided legislatures, fanatical figures, and serious spates of corruption. Not many of those anomalies, however, went far beyond passing aberrations. But never has an American regime been so self-consciously aware as that of Donald Trump that its mission was to demolish government and all its agencies, to shatter the very foundations of the country’s normality in order to transfer political power to business interests. These captains of industry have already bought up much of the government piece by piece through lobbyists and the financing of legislators. This corporate money is easy to turn into votes, and those votes into re-election, something that no congressperson can resist. So the United States Congress is severely compromised.

This deference to big business has long been the objective of the American right. President Calvin Coolidge set the benchmark in an address to the American Society of Newspaper Editors in Washington, D.C. on January 17, 1925: “The business of Americans is business.” Though the library of Congress dresses it up as: “After all, the chief business of the American people is business. They are profoundly concerned with producing, buying, selling, investing and prospering in the world.

Almost three decades later, in 1953, General Motors president, Charles E. Wilson, followed up with “What’s good for General Motors is good for America, and vice versa.” Again, the Library of Congress offers a more cosmetic version. In the context of a Senate confirmation hearing in which Wilson’s appointment as Secretary of Defense was being considered, Republican Senator Robert C. Hendrickson of New Jersey asked Wilson if he thought he would be capable of taking a decision that would be beneficial to the interests of the United States government, if detrimental to those of General Motors. Wilson replied:

Yes, sir; I could. I cannot conceive of one because for years I thought what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa. The difference did not exist. Our company is too big. It goes with the welfare of the country. Our contribution to the Nation is quite considerable.

Bog-Standard Republican Values

The values of Trump’s America were and largely remain standard Republican conservatism characterized by support for lower taxes, free-market capitalism, a strong national defense, gun rights, deregulation, capital punishment, restrictions on labor unions, and thinly-disguised racism. They oppose abortion and feel comfortable in bed with televangelists speaking in tongues. Today’s republicans don’t talk much about education, environmental protection, social services, equality in all of its aspects, nor good faith in international dealings. Did they forget these concepts? No, they simply omit them as irrelevant.

America’s “strong national defense” sounds dandy in theory but, when the gloves are off, can be clearly seen as simple bare-knuckled militarism and good-for-business imperialism. If it weren’t for their blind trust in the dubious ethos of America first, permanent war and snatch-and-grab economics, they might be able to get away with their bulwark-of-democracy pretensions. But that America-first bias, coupled with the astuteness and cynicism of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), seldom fails when it comes to bribing and threatening the greed-driven governing minorities of resource-rich countries into ceding their natural resources to Uncle Sam.

If diplomacy should stumble the CIA has its own specialist army, the Special Activities Division, a covert paramilitary operations unit founded in 1995 and rebaptized “Special Activities Center” in 2016. It is made up of a selection of crack troops from across the American special forces galaxy. They are not only particularly persuasive but also totally unaccountable, a hermetic cylinder of plausible denial. When politicians affirm that all American troops area being withdrawn from a given country which they haven’t been able to defeat in combat, these are the dudes who stay behind. Being covert and unaccountable they’re ideal for that role.

Here’s a link to a quick overall view of SAD from the Operation Military Kids website. This is essentially a recruiting site for military offspring but it covers the basics in language you can use in Sunday school.

You must never forget, darling, that the World Bank is a bank.

World Bank mandarin to his daughter

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are renowned for cleverly tipping the natural resources of underdeveloped countries into the American funnel. Their maneuverings provide the underpinnings for maintaining US economic dominance, as well as indirectly helping to fuel Chinese expansion around the world. The World Bank is an American bank with headquarters at 1818 H Street, N.W. Washington, DC. Its pretext of giving while taking has a lot in common with another charitable American Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

One Overriding Question Remains

Trumpism has set the benchmark for greed, mendacity, onanistic narcissism, nepotism, and the worship of the rich. In order for the United States to return to the real world someone has to reverse all those pernicious values. America has a new president. Joe Biden is a product of the normal Democratic party infrastructure. He doesn’t seem to be insane or severely mentally and morally handicapped. His appointments thus far indicate that he wants to be all things to all people. Good luck to him. The concern of Americans–and the rest of the world–is: Will President Biden be capable of burying the perverse values of Donald Trump and his Trumpish hordes and bringing the United States back to normal? Not necessarily great; we’ll settle for just normal.

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The Great American Democracy Scam

Just Dropping the Magic Word “Democracy” Justifies Murder and Mayhem

When the American B-52 Stratofortress bombers fly over a little country, whether it’s to loose their fearsome load of indiscriminate megadeath or just to intimidate, they’re always doing it for a good cause: Democracy. Don’t be tempted to think that dropping those cluster bombs, napalm or agent orange is murder. For one specious reason or another–petroleum; rare earth deposits; land grabs or their favorite, anti-communism, these actions can always be justified. They say they’re spreading Democracy. But what democracy is this?

It’s a strange denatured ideology that the Americans have been distilling for generations both at home and abroad. Little by little they have gone undermining democracy, their country’s supposedly most sacred legacy, leaving just the label . For their purposes the label is enough. The substance behind it is just an encumbrance. Once they had planted “American democracy” in the popular imagination as something sacrosanct with all its mythological trappings–George Washington crossing the Delaware, the constitutional convention gathered in Philadelphia, Lincoln at Gettysburg–then they could get on with the real business at hand: smashing and grabbing, first across North America, then the world. In the end American democracy was virtually reduced to just an all-purpose smokescreen trotted out whenever they wanted to subvert or invade, in person or by proxy, someone else’s country. They have done this so many times just since World War II that most Americans can’t recall them all. But, rest assured, the victims remember.

Iran Hasn’t Forgotten

One of the prime examples of this American modus operandi is the case of Iran, 1953. Mohammad Mossadeq was the the popular democratically-elected president of the country, actually named Man of the Year by Time magazine in 1951. Under Mossadeq’s leadership the Iranian parliament voted to nationalize Britain’s Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, the forerunner of British Petroleum (BP), operating under privileged conditons during decades in the rich Iranian oil fields. The British were taking 84% of the oil revenues, leaving a scant 16% to the Iranians. Oil field workers earned less than 50 cents a day. The company paid no taxes in Iran but those they paid in Britain were double the amount of the Iranian share of the revenues from their own oil.

Winston Churchill, wrote to President Truman referring to Mossadeq as “Mussy Duck,” and accusing him of being “an elderly lunatic bent on wrecking his country and turning it over to communism.” The truth was nothing of the sort. Nevertheless, the CIA went promptly to work. It bought Iranian journalists, clergymen, army and police officers and members of parliament, as well as a gang of Muslim thugs, the Warriors of Islam, to sow discontent on the street. They even hired thugs to attack a mosque. The result was a foregone conclusion. Democracy prevailed, during a quarter of a century of brutal rule under the CIA-reinstated Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.

Anti-Communism Never Fails

This was not the first American use of accusations of “communism” to justify regime change in other people’s countries. From the beginning of the Cold War till our own days, that has always been Uncle Sam’s favorite justification for any and all foreign interventions. Lately, with the American governments’ persistent slipping to the right, the victims need not even be communists. It’s enough for them to show signs of just a whif of socialism in order to be corrected from land, sea, air and outer space.

I said this in a piece entitled Gold Star America just a couple of months ago:

In our living memory anti-communism has been the gossamer pretext that provided ideological cover for non-stop wars, regime-changes, unsavory allies and false-flag operations around the world. They included the Korean War, the Vietnam War, coups d’etat in Greece, Iran, Guatemala, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Iraq, South Yemen, and many more. They’re going on still in Cuba, Afghanistan, Syria, and Venezuela, to mention just a few.

Where does this visceral, knee-jerk anti-communism come from? Russian communism was never the United States’ cup of tea, from as far back as the 1917 Russian revolution. In the summer of 1918 the American Expeditionary Force, North Russia (the Polar Bear Expedition, with some 5,000 US Army troops, mostly from Michigan), entered the newborn Soviet Russia from Siberia and harrassed the Red Army between September 1918 and July 1919, before being booted out. By the early 1930s, with the US in the depths of the Great Depression while Russian industry was booming, it became clear to American capitalists that Russia might, one day, present a serious threat to their dominance. This fact, greatly amplified by the astute use of anti-Soviet propaganda, laid the foundations for a century–and counting–of anti-communist hysteria.

The phenomenon was launched in 1945 after President Franlin D. Roosevelt died unexpectedly leaving a sorely underqualified Vice President Harry Truman as President. Winston Churchill’s 1946 speech in Fulton, Missouri, with Truman accompanying him on the platform, further complicated American-Soviet relations. Churchill, ever the British aristocrat and staunch anti-Russian who had actually suggested that the Allies invade Russia after the Second World War, poisoned Ruso-American relations for the rest of recent history, declaring dramatically and maliciously:

From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent… Police governments are prevailing… in a great number of countries… the Communist parties or fifth columns constitute a growing challenge and peril to Christian civilization… I do not believe that Soviet Russia desires war. What they desire is the fruits of war and the indefinite expansion of their power and doctrines.

Death and Destruction Can Always Be Justified

Some question remains as to whether America´s traditional neurotic anti-communalism is a genuine mental illness instilled systematically over decades of brainwashing, or is it simply an enabling ploy that permits them to eliminate any left-wing government they don’t fancy, with all the death and destruction that elimination entails? Such dire results are regrettable but they are seen as justified in order to install an American-style Democracy.

Similar circumstances are treated differently in other parts of the world. In most advanced countries the communists are not seen as diabolical anti-Christs, rather as one of the legitimate choices in fair elections. The citizens decide freely if they want communists to partipate in their governments and to what extent. Isn’t the very essence of true democracy the freedom of citizens to decide what kind of government they prefer? The Americans could never resort to that seeminly straightforward electoral solution. If they did, and the people of the world saw the whole anti-communist drama was just a grotesque theater and that the emperor wasn’t wearing any clothes, their giant edifice of global domination would come crashing down.

The United States has been getting away with this anti-communist charade for so long that they have convinced their adversaries that America’s utter insanity makes them capable of any barbarity. They are geared up for so many varieties of violence and have used them so frequently that they sincerely consider their communicidal procedures–The only good Indian is a dead Indian.–to be merely business as usual. It never occurs to them simply to play fair. Dirty tricks carry the day. American practices in every war, regime change, black op, false-flag operation and drone assassination serve to substantiate the utter lack of consideration for human wellbeing. We don’t expect ethics, or even morals, but a little bit of sportsmanship would be appreciated.

Propaganda Is Wearing Thin

Absolute ruthlessness applies on every occasion, not just in My Lai and Abu Ghraib. The Americans are not to be believed ever, as they are not obliged to tell the truth. They are, after all, combatting the communist forces of Satan and replacing them with American Democracy. They have been able to distribute this story with excellent propaganda campaigns for many decades. But in view of their recent outrageous and wholly unjustified procedures in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and, most recently, in the heinous use of killer drones on behalf of Saudi Arabia in Yemen, one of the poorest, hungriest countries in the world, no self-respecting government–i.e. one that doesn’t have its snout in the American trough–can have any doubt as to their intentions.

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America–The Bad Guys Won

What is the most lucrative business of all? War, of course, the only industry in which the products are systematically blown up creating, ipso fact, more demand.

Anyone Who Tells You Otherwise Is a Snake Oil Salesman

America has been from the very beginning a country of marks, swindled by sidewinders and claim jumpers. What were the Puritan priests of the Plymouth Colony if not a caste of sanctimonious, mind-stifling con men whose divinely-inspired, witch-burning mentality has perdured down to our own times? They were–and remain–America’s Spanish Inquisition and their strangle hold on a vast swath of the country’s population remains intact and is not about to be thwarted in our lifetime.

What Happened Then?

Flash forward 400 years. Sure, the country is bigger and has more labor-saving devices but a priestly caste remains in the business of cultivating voodoo and inequality. Now it has new practitioners, the asset managers, a powerful branch of the accounting sect, which rose to prominence in the mid-20th century. The asset managers are just another iteration of America’s time-honored inequality creators, this time on a galactic scale. They are the other pandemic of the industrial age. Every time a well-meaning American government thinks it has defeated these economic imbalances, whether it be with the enactment of the Wagner Act or the Glass Stegall Act, the epidemic morphs into another guise and marches boldly on. Ironically it’s this uber-capitalistic virus that always discovers more creative ways to protect itself from democratic control, whether it’s lobbyists pushing trade liberalization, a Citizens United Supreme Court decision, the rest of the country’s high courts stuffed with Neanderthal judges appointed for life or legislators bought, sold and rented under the table.

What happened in the period between New England theocracy and the New York-Washington-West Coast influence corridor? How could four centuries of struggle leave Americans in the same unfortunate situation in which they found themselves shortly after landing at Plymouth Rock? The answer to this question is the key to America’s past–and future. At no time or place in history has there existed such a population of hapless suckers at the disposal of an elite of clever bad guys–ruthless, self-serving, power-grabbing, manipulating flimflammers and bamboozlers. Does that too-long list of adjectives sound like an inventory of requirements for candidates to the United States Congress?

Did any member of that august body ever come out poorer than when they went in? If their first priority was ever that of managing the country to the benefit of its citizens, that anomaly didn’t last long. It was soon usurped by the compelling necessity to be re-elected. From that flip of priorities sprang a whole Pandora’s Box of governmental ills, from gerrymandering and voter suppression to today’s big-league game of crony capitalistic footsy between corporate movers and shakers and elected Washington officials. And let’s not delve into what happens when a psychopath is elected President.

Scamming in the Free World

The country took a great leap backward when its politicians started hobnobbing with its con men. After a couple of centuries of pseudo-democratic maneuvering by America’s ruling classes–legislators-on-the-make, the clans of the railroad and oil barons, farmaceutical magnates, insurance scammers, armament killers, big-data bandits, private-airliner preachers, internet bright boys and the rest of the whole granfalloon–they now have the playing field pretty well groomed to their liking. Not only that, they dictate the rules of the game. This falls to Congress members, who write ever-more misdirected laws, or even better, have those laws written for them by lobbying agencies. There are more lobbyists than legislators in Washington. Indirectly, of course, they’re written by rich corporate sponsors who subsidize worthy congress members. How many of American members of Congress consider themselves worthy of re-election? That number approaches 100%. By the time all these “special interest” thugs take their share of the pork there’s not much left in the barrel for incidental details like schools and public health.

Unlike presidents, members of congress are subject to no term limits. They can be re-elected to unlimited six-year terms of office and the permutations of this rule can yield bizarre results. With more than 59 years in the House of Representatives, John Dingell, Jr., of Michigan, who finally died in 2019 at the age of 92, holds the record for longest consecutive service. Dingell, Jr. is a special case. Not only was he a nearly-six-decade incumbent, but he was elected in a special election to take his deceased father, John Dingell, Sr.’s place in the House. Dingell, Sr. had occupied that office for 22 years before his son took over. The saga continues. Dingell’s wife, Debbie, ran for her husband’s seat and won it in 2014, becoming the first U.S. non-widowed woman in Congress to succeed her husband. The dynasty might not be over yet. Dingell, Jr. is survived by three of his four children from his first marriage, all of them well prepared to take a seat in the House of Representatives. Some observers think that this extravagant quasi royal line might have been obviated with a simple two-term limit to House membership.

The American Way of Life: Greed, Hypocrisy and Lynch Mob Values

America has always been a rich breeding ground for extravagant entrepreneurism, a fabulously well-endowed place to cultivate greed in all its grotesque guises. What is the most lucrative business of all? War, of course, the only industry in which the products are systematically blown up creating, ipso fact, more demand. America has developed the biggest and most-profitable form of war of all: perpetual war. In the 76 years since the end of World War II, the war that permitted America to put the pieces in place to dominate the world, the country has been been at war during all but just under 20 years.

Arthur Charpentier writes in freakonometrics.hypotheses.org/

“America Has Been At War 93% of the Time – 222 out of 239 years since 1776. The U.S. has only been at peace for less than 20 years total since its birth.  Since 1945, the United States has very rarely achieved meaningful victory. The United States has fought five major wars — Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan — and only the Gulf War in 1991 can really be classified as a clear success.”

Freakonometrics

Charpentier is perhaps being a bit naive in his analysis. In order to acertain the “success” of America’s wars one must define success. If by success we mean “victory over an enemy on the battlefield,” then he’s correct. But if we measure success by the profits generated for America’s massive arms manufacturers, the Americas victories in all these wars have been overwhelming. And this is the yardstick employed by the American oligarchy. The military victories, strictly speaking, and the loss of lives are largely irrelevant.

Like any other vigorous American growth enterprise, the war business lends itself to diversification. They have wars both cold and hot. When the activities of pulverizing other people’s countries slow down, they have other outlets for their belicose trade. There’s the War on Terror, the War on Drugs, the War on Literacy, the War on Domestic Liberalism, the War on the Environment… There’s even the War on Poverty but that one has the lowest priority.  

Is There a Cure?

There is a cure for America’s maladies and it’s close at hand, but nobody has any time for it. Americans are so distracted by ever-more-ingenious geegaws that they are coasting bovinely through the gates of hell. Just out of curiosity, what is that cure? Is it still available? It is and it’s so obvious you shouldn’t have to ask. Books are America’s last hope. The last promising author, perhaps capable of lifting America out of it’s hell-bent confusion and complacence, was a young man called David Foster Wallace. Born in Ithica, NY in 1962, he had heart and wit perhaps sufficient to awaken America’s dazed and doped-up populace and set it on the road to recovery. But it was not to be. Wallace looked into the heart of the beast and hanged himself from a rafter in his house at the age of 46. He had a lovely singing voice. Was he crazy? Probably, but some observers think that, if he had moved to Europe, he would still be alive today.

As for “Making America Great Again,” was there ever a time when Americans were endowed with greatness? There was, actually, but it was a long time ago. Luckily for us, that greatness was brilliantly portrayed in Cheyenne Warrior, a movie released in 1994. You can see it on YouTube for free. You’ll like it. It’s a western. Kelly Preston is very pretty and you will meet a great American, one of many. The film comes recommended by David Foster Wallace.

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How and Why the US Foments Dictatorships Abroad

Hypocrisy is the practice of engaging in the same behavior or activity for which one criticizes another or the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform. In moral psychology, it is the failure to follow one’s own expressed moral rules and principles. 

Putting Intense Pressure on Honest Men

Once an honest leader with healthy aspirations for his country and its people starts to make Washington nervous, either for supposed leftist tendencies or for control of his country’s natural resources, the American regime-change Godzilla is set in motion. Godzilla’s first step is to paint the leader as an autocrat through an intense disinformation campaign, both in the media and on the ground. Once the critical mass of public opinion at home and abroad is convinced that he’s the Bad Guy–and this can take 20 years or more–the CIA can remove him in order to protect the oppressed citizens of his country. There are other methods in the CIA playbook, but this is the most insidious way of twisting our perception of other countries’ leaders, thus “justifying” their elimination and that of their governments.

The most egregious example of this sinister takeover ploy is the long-festering case of Cuba. (Not to worry. They somehow managed not to succeed.) Fulgencio Batista, the brutal dictator of Cuba for decades, ran the country directly or indirectly from the Revolt of the Sergeants in 1933, in which he named himself a colonel, appointed himself chief of the armed forces, and directed the five-man junta that ruled the country. After losing an election in 1952 he annulled the vote, assumed the presidency and ruled the country personally until he was unseated by force in 1959. During the Batista regime a series of American governments at first turned a blind eye and then actively supported the dictator. They had no objection to his turning Cuba into America’s casino and brothel. He was their man.

A Young Cuban Changed the Game

The young Cuban who led the revolutionary movement that deposed Batista was the son of a wealthy Spanish farmer of Cuba´s Oriente Province. He studied at a Jesuit high school and adopted its moral teachings, if not its theology. In 1945, he began studying law at the University of Havana and, though “politically illiterate” in the beginning, was soon a student activist, then a revolutionary. Fidel Castro’s first attempt to overthrow the Batista regime, mounting an attack by 135 revolutionaries on the Moncada Barracks on July 26, 1953, was a failure. After the debacle Castro presented himself in the Batista court voluntarily, was convicted of insurrection and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He served less than two, thanks to an amnesty. Though the Moncada battle was lost, it was the first step in a revolution that was to triumph just six years later in 1959.

When John F. Kennedy became president in January of 1961, he took umbrage at what he considered the grave impertinence of the young Cuban revolutionary–Castro was 35 years old in 1961–and soon turned loose the old CIA spymaster, Allen Dulles, with orders to eliminate him. This was the first US plot against Castro’s life and more would follow. A member of his security team estimated that 634 attempts had been made on el comandante’s life. Many of them were amateurish but many of them were not.

In an article in the June 26, 2015 issue of Politico.com, Philip Shenon, a former Washington and foreign correspondent for the New York Times, affirms:

The most important information that McCone withheld from the [Warren] commission in its 1964 investigation, the report found, was the existence, for years, of CIA plots to assassinate Castro, some of which put the CIA in cahoots with the Mafia. Without this information, the commission never even knew to ask the question of whether Oswald had accomplices in Cuba or elsewhere who wanted Kennedy dead in retaliation for the Castro plots.

Politico.com

The Bay of Pigs and Other Kerfuffles

Midst the unending flurry of assassination attempts came the July, 1961, Bay of Pigs Invasion, in which the CIA armed, trained and transported a group of Cuban exiles and American mercenaries to invade the southwest coast of Cuba and, with the help of local dissidents, overthrow the Castro government. American cooperation went so far as the bombing of Cuban airports a couple of days previously with B26 bombers.

Unfortunately for the invaders and American prestige around the world the “local dissidents” never materialized and the operation was a fiasco. Castro later offered to exchange all the prisoners for 500 tractors, but the Americans did not appreciate his sense of humor.

Cuba has lived under the shadow of an American trade embargo since 1960 making it the longest embargo of its kind in modern history. Its terms were reinforced in 1992 with the Cuban Democracy Act. The United States has gone so far as threatening to stop financial aid to other countries if they trade non-food items with Cuba. Another even-more-grotesque factor in the embargo drama is the perceived necessity by members of the US Congress to pander to pro-embargo Cuban-American exiles, whose votes are crucial in Florida.

The Americans’ insistence on their 60-year embargo is doubly remarkable, considering Cuba’s offenses, which are limited to deposing a US-supported dictator, thwarting a series of American assassination attempts and repelling an American-engineered invasion. That is to say, by outsmarting and outplaying Uncle Sam for six decades, something Sam resents intensely. Along the way the Cubans, under Castro’s autocratic leadership, have set world standards both in education and health care. Cuba exports doctors around the world.

Beyond Cuba

In that extreme context of constant harassment and under the Americans’ eternal embargo, how was Castro, incesssantly slandered and driven into corners, supposed to adhere to democratic purity and not resort to authoritarian measures? Like any other living organism on the planet, his first obligation was to survive.

Nor is the case of Cuba unique. There’s Venezuela, submitted for at least the last 20 years to a gratuitous barrage of cruel and unusual threats and “sanctions” that Uncle Sam has pulled out of his sleeve. Hugo Chavez was a savior for his pueblo and his elections were considered models of freedom and fairness for all of Latin America. Those of the 1998 and 2000 elections were certified by by President Jimmy Carter’s election monitoring foundation. Just what is Venezuela guilty of, anyway? It has been a soverign nation since Simon Bolivar led it to independence from Spain in 1821 after a war which killed half its white population. Its crimes since the 1920s are limited to discovering what its all-powerful northern neighbor covets lasciviously: vast oil deposits, perhaps the world’s largest.

One only needs to read the lead of The Making of Juan Guaidó: US Regime-Change Laboratory, Dan Cohen and Max Blumenthal’s article on TheGrayzone.com (January 29, 2019), to come to grips with Juan Guaidó, selected and groomed by the National Endowment for Democracy, a CIA front organization that functions as the US government’s main arm for promoting regime change, as a surrogate for Venezuela’s duly elected president, Nicolas Maduro:

Before the fateful date of Jan. 22, fewer than one in five Venezuelans had heard of Juan Guaidó… Even in his own party, Guaidó had been a mid-level figure in the opposition-dominated National Assembly, which is now held under contempt according to Venezuela’s constitution. But after a single phone call from from U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Guaidó proclaimed himself as president of Venezuela. Anointed as the leader of his country by Washington, a previously unknown political bottom dweller was vaulted onto the international stage as the U.S.-selected leader of the nation with the world’s largest oil reserves.

TheGrayzone.com

How Many More?

Bill Blum lists in his 2000 book, Rogue State, A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, 65 countries that have been victims of US meddling of one sort or another between 1945 and 2000 when the book came out. Cuba figures high on his list. Venezuela just misses the cut. Even so, there is no shortage of beneficiaries of American pretended largesse. Some cases are more devastating than others. The cases of the CIA’s Iran regime change (1953), Chile’s coup d’etat 1973 and the Guatemalan genocide of its native people  (1960–1996) come immediately to mind. And there are many more. Today’s question is, how many more are there to come?

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Trump Took America into the Dark Ages

Let’s Look at the Record

As Trump leaves office we can begin to place his presidency in historical perspective. What made the conditions propitious for Trumpism’s appearance and rapid growth? How do we account for its precipitous decline? What are the historical parallels? Is there anything that can be done to soften the landing?

The fall of the Roman empire culminated in 476 CE after centuries of growing decadence. It finally fell to the germanic king, Odoacer, to defeat and depose the Emperor Romulus. This coincided with the Early Middle Ages, known also as the “Dark Ages,” when tribes from the north, whom the Romans considered barbarians, were taking over the Western Empire. It was a time, roughly from 500 to 1000 CE, of lawlessness and struggle marked by unending wars and the disruption of normal Roman life.

This sounds remotely familiar. A super power that dominates the known world falls into decadence at home and permanent wars abroad and finds itself taken over by primitive tribes that the ruling elite considers barbarians. In the current case the adversaries don’t come from the north, they come from within. The lords of today’s manor are not products of feudalism, but capitalism. In essence the situation is the same.

The Fall of the Roman Empire

What caused the ancient world’s greatest empire to wilt and disappear? Where did the Greek and Roman civilizations go? According to historians they were victims of an abrupt inversion of societal values. What had been the most advanced civilization in the known world reverted to a primitive agrarian society populated by peasant serfs and feudal lords whose rule was absolute, excepting the intrusions of the medieval church. Science and learning were derrogated, women were demonized and Christian orthodoxy became the imposed norm.

With Rome gone, a chain of unstoppable events was unleashed. Libraries fell into disrepair. With Rome no longer producing a safe environment for learning, philosophy, and science… The architecture and learning and thoughts of the Empire were completely forgotten in the wake of its fall from greatness, plunging the world into darkness.

historythings.com

There were other factors that further complicated life in the early medieval world. Some modern climate researchers are convinced that the gigantic eruption of the Indonesian volcano, Krakatoa, in 535 CE, cast a veil of airborne ash that covered the world and partially veiled the sun for as much as a decade, bringing temperatures down significantly. This theory is supported by findings of dendochronology, the scientific method of dating ancient tree rings to the exact year they were formed.

Our Old Friends, Plague and Climate Change

Then there was the strain and disorder caused by the Justinian Plague (541–549 CE), the first Old World plague pandemic. This is not the Black Death which occurred 800 years later and killed a third to one half of Europe’s population, though both were likely due to the bacteria Yersinia pestis, bubonic plague.

Besides their existing woes, the Europeans of the early Middle Ages were suddenly afflicted by climate change and a virulent epidemic, with no clear ideas regarding what to do about either problem. This is the inflection point. If medieval Europeans could have devised ways of dealing with grave climate and health issues they might have slowed the deterioration of world civilization. But it was not to be. They lacked the necessary knowledge and the tools and the world descended into half a millenium of Dark Ages.

Modern science does have viable hypotheses and credible proposals for dealing with today’s pandemic, but it’s as if they didn’t, insofar as the world’s leading country has turned its back on the scientific method, in favor of the dark arts of crude capitalism and magical religion. They are paying a frightful price in human lives for this recalcitrance, but they insist. Meanwhile, countries with more scientific approaches, effectively a control group, are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic with rational methods and dramatically different results. According to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Research Center, the comparative statistics for Covid impact in the United States and China (as of Jan. 15, 2021) are eloquent:

COUNTRYCONFIRMEDDEATHSCASE-FATALITYDEATHS/100K POP.
United States23,307,232388,5331.7%118.76
China97,4484,7964.9%0.34

These numbers tell an impartial observer that the US, with one quarter of the population of China, has more than 80 times de number of Covid deaths at a rate of 118.76 deaths per 100,000 population while China has 0.34. The factors contributing to this mega-disparity seem clear: China’s scientific approach is based on masks and social distancing, implemented in a society with notable civic awareness, as opposed to public-health anarchy in the United States, a country that, in its current political guise, shuns utterly science, order and the common good.

What possible explanation can there be for such an unenlightened response to a real existential crisis in a supposed first-world country? Are Americans accustomed to living midst such unconscionable levels of violence that they don’t notice that something is catastrophically wrong with their society? Are they victims of a gravely defective cultural and moral upbringing? Don’t they fervently desire normal human lives for their children and grandchildren? What is going on over there? Can’t they see it’s getting dark?

Another Historical Coincidence

At the same time that the world of the Western Empire was succumbing to the ills of the Dark Ages, on the other side of the world, China, reunified under the Sui and Tang dynasties was entering into the light, initiating a period of prosperity, trade relations, and far-reaching influence. Chang’an, the capital, was one of the largest and richest cities in the world. Art and literature were flourishing, reflecting influences from the different cultures with which China maintained diplomatic and trade relations. Ironically, it was a great American, Mark Twain who said, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.”

Just as the rejection of reason was the principal cause of the Dark Ages, with barbarians destroying written knowledge and the church outlawing reason in favor of revelation, it was the return to principles of reason that ended the Dark Ages: Aquinas’s rediscovery of Aristotle in the 13th century, the spread of books after Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in the 15th and Luther’s disrupting the Church in the 16th. If history is a reliable predictor and great men can put a derailed world back on track, there is hope for America’s future. If they’re lucky their wait won’t last longer than five or six-hundred years.

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Trump’s Legacy: Lowering the Bar

Trump & Co. Have Set Pernicious Precedents for Everything

Donald Trump Cabinet meeting 2017-03-13 02
There’s a unique requirement for appearing in this family photo: blind loyalty to Donald Trump.

As President Donald Trump fades, kicking and screaming, into history Americans are wondering what to expect of a post-Trump world. Today the United States looks nothing like the country he took over in 2017. It’s more cynical and more dumber than ever before. It lags behind its most important world adversaries in education, infrastructures, manufacturing, and morals. In fact, it’s behind in virtually everything but its war contraptions and predatory mindset, it’s steel circle of military bases around the world and it’s penchant for interfering in the affairs of other people’s countries. The United States has even slipped behind in leading-edge technology, its traditional strong suit.

Yes, those who follow Trump can undo some of the damage he and his cohorts have done over the past four years, but much of it is irrecoverable. We must not forget his campaign promise–to dismantle the backbone of the United States government, placing all its competencies and vital decisions in the hands of private enterprise and faith-based organizations. Otherwise, how does one explain the choice of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education? Or his naming of the colorful prosperity-gospel televangelist, his personal spirtual advisor, Paula White, as chair of his “evangelical advisory board.”

Trump Goes, Trumpism Stays

The seriousness of Trump’s privatize-and-degrade dynamic is such that, once installed in governmental protocols, it’s hard to get rid of. What starts out seeming scandalous and disproportionate to normal citizens , with time becomes traditional, accepted by large swaths of the population. For coming generations much of Trump & Co.’s tawdry ideology will assume the guise of precedents with the apparent legitimacy that entails.

It’s important to distinguish between Trump and Trumpism. Trump may go (though it’s not clear when) but the sordid seeds he has planted in the American body politic have put vigorous roots down into a substrate of dishonesty, ignorance and arrogance, unlimited opportunism, inhumane values, and government in league with voodoo religion. They will not be easy to uproot, especially if another right-wing populist president comes along who’s even smarter than Donald Trump.

By that time the Trump way of doing things will be considered business as usual in Washington, just as targeted drone assassinations, once considered too horrendous even to consider, have become commonplace today. Americans–excepting the most persnickety of them–will not be shocked by holders of high office who murder, lie, contract unqualified family members, embrace America’s seediest adversaries, cheerlead assaults on the nation’s Capitol and take advantage of high office to feather their nests. Future generations of Americans may come to consider those aberrations simply innovative governance or genial shortcuts to hillbilly heaven.

It Depends on Where You Stand

There are widely-varying standpoints on the subject of Donald Trump’s atypical presidency; the indulgent, ultra-patriotic view from his simple-minded followers; the rage of the rest of Americans, who let him get away with it all; and the cooler, more objective approach when seen from abroad. The unconditional loyalty of Trump’s hardcore followers is hard to explain to non-initiates. It hits the same buttons as miracle religion and the serial-killer’s mother’s love. It’s faith based, a valuable asset in a country where faith works wierd wonders.

Not all members of the Trump tribe are morons. Then how do you explain the Trumpeteers who are practically normal? It might have to do with their profound dissatisfaction with the unfair, tilted field that most Americans are obliged to play on. They’ve been told for their whole lives that this is the exceptional, individualist “American way of life,” the envy of the world. But not many of them have ever been anyplace else so as to be able to compare. In any case, though the quasi-normal Trump followers may not know how to explain their malaise, they’re sure they’re tired of it.

The Trump Follies Seen from Abroad

Foreigners are not emotionally involved in America’s problems. Most of them live in countries where everyone’s children attend good public schools and receive quality free or inexpensive education through university. They’re relatively certain their kids are not going to be caught in a crossfire at school or while coming and going. Virtually all of these foreigners work and receive fair pay in humane conditions and are supported by labor unions. If they have illness or accidents they just go to the hospital, knowing they won’t have to mortgage their houses to pay the bills. In fact, there are no bills.

If they are afflicted with serious chronic illness or disability they know they will be taken care of. They trust their elected representatives to do their best to keep their campaign promises. All countries of the European Union, and many others, enjoy a minimum month’s annual vacation. Americans get 10 days.

These citizens are not directly affected by the goings on in the United States, but they could be–at the press of a button. For now, more than anything else they are profoundly perplexed. America is nothing like their own countries and they have trouble relating to its brash facade and cruel and unusual customs. They lack the advantage of lifelong conditioning and Kool-Aid consumption. They will probably never understand America’s seemingly alien society.

The Recuperation of the Republican Party

At the beginning of the Trump presidency the vast majority of Republican Party members rallied round him, even if a few of them had to hold their noses. There were some exceptions, such as Mike Pence who at first shunned the crass New York real-estate operator as the Republican presidential candidate but later figured out which side his bread was buttered on and slipped back into the fold. He was to become one of President Trump’s most loyal followers till the bitter end on January 6, 2021, when he again thought about his future in politics.

Now that Trump’s ship is on the rocks, particularly after his enthusiastic horde assaulted the US Capitol, many Republicans are abandoning ship. After Trump’s invaders had left the Capitol or been carted off, his deceitful backout speech dripped with hypocritical slime, lacking any hint of regret or decency, just more self-serving, sociopathic cant. His capture-the-Congress gambit had failed and he needed to cover his retreat with counterfeit sincerity.

The Only Way Out of the Swamp

Though the idea is much bandied about, Washington DC is no longer a swamp. A swamp has a harmony about it. There’s a natural cycle of birth and death, beauty and balance. The location of the new nation’s capital in the Washington swamp was chosen by the United States’s first President in 1790. Little by little that natural habitat was perverted by politicians ruling for themselves. Today opportunism and bad faith rule. Hypocrisy has replaced beauty in the swamp and privilege has trumped balance. The only way out of that degenerate ecosystem is through an educated electorate but, given Americas’s ever-declining education system, that will probably not happen.

President Donald Trump’s great luck was that the mediocrity of his own mind and values meshed nicely with that of enough of his countrymen to get him elected President. Once in office he limited himself to promoting a retrograde agenda that pandered to a simple-minded electorate. His legislative henchmen razed the American government like devilish wrecking balls while he thrived on junk food and golf. It’s remarkable how far back the Trump government took the country in four short years. Nor are his critics free of responsibility. They never should have lost sight of the fact that Donald Trump didn’t create America. America created Donald Trump, and just getting rid of him doesn’t cure the rest.

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The Secret Elephant in the Paris Climate Accord Room

There’s an elephant in the room. It’s a war elephant. We can see him but they can’t.

The Paris Climate Accord Was Born Crippled

After decades of quibbling, the vast majority of the countries of the world finally acknowledged the seriousness of global warming and sat down in Paris on December 12, 2015, to sign a legally binding climate accord, the Paris Agreement. Not only did they sign it but the majority took it home and got it ratified by their governments. The agreement entered into effect on November 4, 2016.

Everybody agreed it was a significant advance for humankind. People toasted with champagne. But the celebrations were premature, as the United States had included a pre-existing condition–a threat, if you will–in the agreement, and they swore their colleagues to secrecy. They advised the delegates gathered together in Paris that they would not sign the document unless the air pollution generated by their military forces around the world was exempted from the tabulation of the American carbon footprint.

The sensible delegates of the rest of the world acceded, acutely aware that the American military forces not only generate air pollution, but they could also create death and destruction on a massive scale. Just how much pollution were they looking at, anyway? As it turned out the US armed forces are the world’s single greatest polluter, to the tune of more than 25,000 kilotonnes of carbon dioxide, created by burning fossile fuels at a rate of 269,230 barrels a day, according to theconversation.com.

In a revealing article originally published by the International Action Center in 2014, Sara Flounders wrote : 

There is an elephant in the climate debate that by US demand cannot be discussed or even seen. This agreement to ignore the elephant is now the accepted basis of all international negotiations on climate change.

It is well understood by every possible measurement that the Pentagon, the US military machine, is the world’s biggest institutional consumer of petroleum products and the world’s worst polluter of greenhouse gas emissions and many other toxic pollutants. Yet the Pentagon has a blanket exemption in all international climate agreements.

ResearchGate.org is a British research and database organization headed by the Universities of Lancaster and Durham. They have applied their minds and resources to following the petroleum–which, when burned, turns into air pollution. They uncovered a little known but massively important agency tucked into a corner of the US Defense Department. It’s the US Defense Logistics Agency – Energy (DLA‐E) and it’s the primary purchase point for hydrocarbon‐based fuels for the US military, as well as a powerful actor in the global oil market.

The Researech Gate investigaters followed the DLA‐E’s oil trail, its supply chain, bureaucratic practices, and the infrastructure that facilitates the US military’s consumption of hydro‐based carbons on a global scale. Using Freedom of Information Act requests they were able to trace much of the US military’s oil use and consequent generation of pollution. They concluded that the US military is a “major climate actor,” if not THE major climate actor. (Source: researchgate.org)

The Single Largest User of Petroleum in the World

The results of an extensive 2019 study by theconversation.com affirm that:

… the US military is one of the largest polluters in history, consuming more liquid fuels and emitting more climate-changing gases than most medium-sized countries. If the US military were a country, its fuel usage alone would make it the 47th largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.

theconversation.com

The Washington D.C.-based Transnational Institute has been active for more than 30 years documenting social movements around the world, and fighting for economic, social and environmental justice. According to these American researchers there is one word conspicuously missing from the draft of the Paris Agreement: “military.” They think that’s strange, insofar as “the US military alone is the single largest user of petroleum in the world and has been the main enforcer of the global oil economy for decades.”

Since the US military is such a major player, obscuring their role in the game makes a mockery of the whole accord. As it turned out, the Americans had a second card to play, President Donald Trump’s announced withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Agreement a scarce seven months after its ratification. Though Trump announced the move in June 2017, UN regulations delayed the execution of his decision until November 4, 2020. It remains to be seen what new President Joe Biden will do with this warm potato with the world’s largest carbon polluter hidden inside.

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Very Very Awesome in DC

These dudes will definitely make America great again.

Yesterday’s Follies at the US Capitol Confirm Everything We Suspected

Like a deranged Pentecostal preacher foretelling the Rapture, I’ve predicted the American End Times in writing for years. But when I saw it happening yesterday, January 6, the day of the Epiphany, in real time and living color, I had to rub my eyes. Is this it? Yes, it seems it was and, screened by the familiar It-can’t-happen-here myth, nobody in America’s high-tech, high-security government had thought to provide a proper security detail for the United States Senate. But why should they have thought of it? What happened at the Capitol yesterday was unthinkable.

January 6, 2020, is a day that will live in infamy, the day that marked the before and after of the inviolability of the universally-revered American democracy. It can happen there, and did. In all fairness, a few people on the ragged edges of American journalism saw it coming and warned the country repeatedly, but they were preaching to the choir. The rest of the distracted, largely-unlettered, exceptionally-patriotic country considered them cranks at best, socialists at worst. These thinkers on the margins are thoughtful, concerned, well-educated citizens of conscience who have been rowing upstream in the American river of hypocrisy and re-engineered truth for decades. Today–the day after–people like Noam Chomsky, Chris Hedges, Paul Jay, Amy Goodman, and a few others, can hold their heads high. They did their best to prevent America’s ongoing democratic debacle.

DC police and congressional security team didn’t have their best day.

Who’s to Blame?

There will be a problem of assigning responsibility. Some people will try to pin it on the small army of decerebrated rednecks that assaulted the Capitol building–and not only the building; the United States Senate was in session. But they have neither the wit nor the comprehension to orchestrate the genial sucker punch that connected with the heart of American democracy. That required a shrewder, more experienced Redneck in Chief, lurking like Lazarus at the threshold of his sepulchre waiting to be brought back from the dead. Will he make it back. It’s the USA. Anything can happen.

This is not to say that we did not see any miracles yesterday. We saw Mitch McConnell metamorphose from a corporate lackey and consummate legislative manipulator into a paladin of modern democracy. All is forgotten, including his decades-long personal blockade of any form of progressive legislation, down to an emergency survival fund that would have permitted desperate Americans to feed their families and pay last month’s rent. He no longer recalls the four years he spent as Donald Trump’s slavering sycophant, enthusiastically girding the President’s loins against all forms of reason or decency. He is now suddenly the one who saved America from perishing at the hands of a sociopathic President. The rancid old pol saw an opportunity in the siege of the Capitol and hitched his wagon to that star. The Senate Majority Leader is back. Thank God.

What Can We Expect of What’s Left of America

Now is when it gets interesting. The colorful tribe of American überpatriots has had its first taste of live action and it didn’t work out too badly. A few of the duller ones were arrested and four people were killed but, aside from that, it was quite a successful operation. The front doors of the Capitol were breached, the security guards were intimidated into inaction, the attackers took over the Senate chamber and held it while the senators fled. When the bold boys had made their point they left at leisure. The majority of them didn’t even have their names taken down. President Trump told them he loved them. Yes, quite a successful operation. It should embolden them to come back soon.

Their greatest achievement was to dismantle any semblance of American credibility across the world. Absolutely everybody was watching, from the humblest rickshaw driver to every head of government. Few of those who saw the show will ever be tempted to take the US seriously again. The bubble has burst in a dramatic manner. After more than 200 years of cultivating the myth of heroic America, winner two world wars, savior of the world from communism, mother of moon walkers and creator of the Big Mac, the whole edifice was taken down by an unarmed group of mentally-disadvantaged role players. That motley crew achieved in a couple of hours what the Iroquois, the Sioux, the British, the Russians and the Guatemaltecos had not managed in two centuries: to take a once-great country from world dominatrix to laughing stock in the time it takes Kim Kardashian to apply her makeup.

As for America’s adversaries around the world, all they have to do for now is to stand back and let it happen. “But in a couple of weeks everything will be different,” you say. “There will be a new President.” No doubt things will be different, but will they be different enough to make a difference? Is Joe Biden the dynamic, charismatic leader the Americans need to snap them out of the denial mode that is their default setting whenever they fail?

President Trump and his comical minions are America’s first deniers, having convinced themselves that the fearless leader did not lose the election. Though it’s now amply clear that he did, he may have won something equally important. Like a magician who has mastered misdirection Trump has distracted the country’s attention from what is undeniably his gravest offense, the mismanagement of the coronavirus pandemic to the tune of some 330,000 American dead. This alone is enough–in a country of equal justice for all its citizens–to convict him of criminal negligence and sentence him to a hefty prison term. Will that happen? It would in a proper country.

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