Irresponsiblity in Everything 2/6

You don’t have to be a legal eminence to conclude that Trump’s mismanagement of the pandemic–and yes, Obama did leave him a written contingency plan for just such an eventuality–constitutes the greatest instance of criminal negligence in American history.

Part 2 of the 6-part series, It’s Getting Late, America

Could He Have Done It Any Wronger?

Like everything else that Donald Trump did and undid during his administration, his inadequate response to the coronavirus emergency was determined by a lethal combination of his familiar ignorance and arrogance. What makes this case more serious than the others was the magnitude of the damage that was done.

This affirmation is not idle. Trump’s lack of leadership in the Covid crisis cries out to be compared to the responses of the leaders of more responsible countries such as South Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, New Zealand, and even China, all of which have managed to outsmart and outmaneuver the virus and put their countries back on the road to normal life and prosperity. At the same time, the United States, supposedly the world’s leading country in science, innovation, and everything else, was not only worse than those countries in containing the virus, but it was–and is–the absolute worst in the world. “The world” includes China, with a population four times that of the United States, but with far fewer Covid victims.

We’re looking at more than 581,516 (https://ourworldindata.org/, May 8, 2021) US deaths, and counting, thus far. President Joe Biden frequently compares the Covid loss of life in the US to statistics from American military combat deaths from World War I through Vietnam. The figure he cites is 395,370 dead. That is after we subtract the 2,977 victims of 9/11, which he included, perhaps, for political/patriotic reasons. If we adjust the numbers of the military deaths by adding the non-combatants the balance is 580,135, still slightly under the cumulative number of gratuitous Covid deaths.

It’s a Prima Facie Case

You don’t have to be a legal eminence to conclude that Trump’s mismanagement of the pandemic–and yes, Obama did leave him a written contingency plan for just such an eventuality–constitutes the greatest instance of criminal negligence in American history. It’s a prima facie case against the ex-president that any rookie prosecutor could win in a court of law in any proper country. So what happened in the United States? Is this the maximum expression of American exceptionalism? The voters elevate a grotesquely damaging figure to the head of the government and, when his willful malfeasance converts their country into a human abbatoir, from world leader into world laughing stock, he is not held responsible for the untimely deaths of more than half a million Americans.

Yet he continues to wave his demented flag and to accrue followers around the country, as if he had not just perpetrated the greatest crime in his country’s history. What’s going on here? How does he manage to continue to blunder glibly forward, even after being removed from office by a majority of American voters? What ever happened to justice? Why isn’t ex-president Trump in custody, awaiting trial? Could it have to do with the 234 judges he appointed and saw confirmed by a Republican-controlled Senate during his single term of office? Or is there a shortage of prosecutors?

(For a cordial rundown on the cutbacks to essential US government agencies and their hair-raising consequences, pick up Michael Lewis’s, The Fifth Risk, in which he explains with clarity and humanity how the United States government was “under attack by its own leaders.” This is what he had to say about Trump’s disdain for science:

Trump’s budget, like the social forces behind it, is powered by a perverse desire–to remain ignorant. Donald Trump didn’t invent this desire. He was just its ultimate expression.

Michael Lewis, The Fifth Risk

Smart Social Science vs. Right-Wing Thuggery

It is refreshing to see that the Capital assailants are going before judges. And now there’s an interesting twist in the case. They aren’t who we thought they were. New studies directed by Professor Robert Pape at the University of Chicago, reveal that 45% of the 420 (and counting) rioters who were prosecuted for the assault on the US Capital were not primarily wild kids, radicals nor down-and-outers. They were middle-aged solid citizens, company executives, business owners, doctors and lawyers between the ages of 34 and 46. Ironically, neither are they from from depressed areas, but from thriving, mainly Democratic, counties around the country. Pape also has well-founded notions regarding the principal motive that drives them. It’s one that few of us have heard of: replacement fear. That is, the fear that underprivileged minorities are being favored to the point that they will “replace” the traditional–white–holders of jobs and social standing. It sounds to me like just another of the 57 varieties of American racism. And it’s a distressing indicator of just how deeply right-wing thinking has penetrated in America. Here’s a link to the interview with Professor Pape.

What Else Could Possible Go Wrong?

Not much, really, with the possible exception of:

  • the country’s creaky infrastructure
  • the war provocations against Russia and China
  • the public schools, the non-profit charter schools, the for-profit charter schools
  • the privatization of everything
  • the infantiloid America-first foreign policy (We know you want to prioritize American interests, Antony. That’s a given. But a proper diplomat doesn’t just say it flat out to their faces on the nine-o-clock news.)
  • the off-the-rails clandestine so-called intelligence services (Military intelligence is to intelligence what military music is to music.)
  • the deranged illuminati billionaires
  • the United States Congress (with few exceptions and Liz Cheney isn’t one of them)
  • hypocrisy by the boat load (The world’s premier cyber criminal is the NSA.)
  • the traditional media, which Matt Taibbi says is about to disappear and they deserve it
  • Los Angeles, which gets everything wrong
  • New York, which thinks it’s the center of the world, and used to be
  • fracking, coal mining and Monsanto-Bayer (I thought Bayer was Aspirin.)
  • super carriers (which cost around $13 billion dollars each and have a foreseeable combat life span of about 17 minutes)
  • land mines (which are great for amputating Third World kids’ legs, but not much else)
  • the Republican Party
  • the Democratic National Committee, which is the brains behind Hillary and Joe
  • the culling of wolves (There are plenty of other predators who need culling first.)
  • the insane sanctions on Cuba, where they have shown the world how to turn poverty into dignity
  • Big Pharma lobbying and Covid vaccination speculating
  • mandatory sentences (What the hell do they have judges for?)
  • the ruthless persecution of some of the world’s finest people: the whistleblowers.
  • golf courses (Maybe the golfers will then wilt away.)
  • Mitch McConnell and Whatsherface, his Senate parliamentarian (How the hell did those two ghouls get a stranglehold on the country?)
  • Elliott Abrams (He’s decrepit and Latin America has suffered enough.)
  • There’s a lot more but it’s getting late, America…

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It’s Getting Late, America 1/6

That’s why this story is essentially about American predatory strategies, misdeeds, cynicism and opportunism, all topped off by a frosting of steely hypocrisy, expert lies and artful deception. With these ingredients you can imagine the cake.

by Mike Booth

Time to Think About the End

Today nobody knows how much time we have left. According to my best estimate, the game is over. We’re just waiting for the clock to run out. In that brief meantime I must tell the story of America’s–and by extension the world’s– demise in the clearest, sparest, most urgent way possible. I have to go on record on the off chance that my account might turn up in the time capsule that the next occupants of earth find when they arrive.

The most recent developments in these end times have been worldwide, but were mainly perpetrated or inspired by the American government, both overtly and covertly. They began on a mass scale at the end of the Second World War when the United States found itself holding all the cards necessary to take over the world. So they did. That’s why this story is essentially about American predatory strategies, misdeeds, cynicism and opportunism, all topped off by a frosting of steely hypocrisy, expert lies and artful deception. With these ingredients you can imagine the cake.

This introduction sounds like a pitch from the televangelists of the Apocalypse. We have too many of those already. But my cause, though it sounds similar, is the opposite. My apocalypse is not based on scripture nor other mythical and magical premises. It`s not making any promises nor profits. The objective is not to offer you a back door to heaven; it’s just to try to explain what happened when a band of greed-and-power-driven amoral rich people and institutions got a death grip on the United States–and the world–strangling them mercilessly over seven or eight decades. I think I can explain how it occurred. I don’t want you to pass through the gates of hell, still wondering what happened.

The Beginning of the End

The underpinnings of the American empire were laid down in international agreements forged at the Bretton Woods Conference in 1944 with the predictable end of the Second World War in sight. There, in the bucolic setting of a New Hampshire ski resort, 730 delegates of all 44 countries allied in the fight against the Nazis, gathered allegedly to hammer out agreements, but in reality to rubber stamp the proposals put forth by the American committee led by Harry Dexter White, a brilliant economist with the US Treasury Department. Ironically, White, the maximum exponent of American neo-colonial capitalism, was later accused, though not convicted, of being a Russian spy.

Key agreements signed at Bretton Woods regulated post-war policy on  international monetary and financial order, as well as the regulation of trade after the conclusion of World War II. Those agreements created the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD, later part of the World Bank group) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), two powerful entities that established the US dollar as the international reserve currency. Bretton Woods policies, with later refinements and the burgeoning national security state, provided a solid footing for American domination world wide. Or almost world wide. There were a couple of notable exceptions, both of them, curiously, communists.

In 1976, Marcus Raskin, American social critic, activist, philosopher, and co-founder of the progressive think tank, the Institute of Policy Studies, summed up the situation in an article entitled : Democracy vs. the National Security State, published in the Duke University Law Journal, Law and Contemporary Problems:

“It is not possible to understand the national security state and reasons which give rise to the need for dismantling it without mentioning the profound and wrenching events of the last fifty years. The national security state emerges from war, from fear of revolution and change, from the economic instability of capitalism, and from nuclear weapons and military technology. It has been the actualizing mechanism of ruling elites to implement their imperial schemes and misplaced ideals.”

https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/lcp/vol40/iss3/7/

Applied Democracy: Takeover for Everyone

There followed in orderly succession the creation in of the National Security Act of 1947, which established both the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which had been working clandestinely in Europe as the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) since 1942. Its first commander was the colorful Colonel William (Wild Bill) Donovan, whose statue stands today in the lobby of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Then came NATO in 1952, a brilliant piece of strategy that permitted the Americans to surveil and supervise their sorely debilitated European allies as a group, while portraying the operation as a mutual defense pact against possible Russian military incursions. These theoretical incursions were highly unlikely, due to the battered condition of Russia after bearing the brunt of the allied victory in World War II. With all of these measures in place the United States definitively had the world frying pan by the handle.

The only igualitarian element in this ruthless series of takeovers was the fact that its exploitation tactics were applied similarly at home and abroad. It wasn’t only the families of Southeast Asia and the Middle East that were submitted to the treatment. It was also applied to the working families of Flint and Pittsburg, by means of tax breaks for the rich, anti-union legislation, the off-shoring of everything, and the derogation of regulations on toxic big business, though admittedly without the cluster bombs and white phosphorous.

Mike Lofgren Will Make You Laugh and Cry

The most readable, and amusing, account of the process of American degeneration at the hands of the Republican Party was written by a Washington, lifetime insider, Mike Lofgren, who worked as a Republican Party operative for 28 years, until he could no longer stand it. Then he became Washington’s most knowledgeable whistle blower and told all in the brilliant 2012 book, The Party is Over, How Republicans Went CRAZY, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted. This sounds like the title of a skit from Saturday Night Live, but it’s a well-documented account of Republican Party malefeasance in the years that included the presidencies of Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, and Obama. “I wrote the book,” Lofgren said in one of his presentations in 2012, “because I am a concerned citizen.” His second book, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government, was published in 2016.

If you don’t already know Lucian Truscott, you might enjoy meeting him via his Newsletter. He put his finger in America’s mortal racism wound the other day:

If you wait long enough, they finally get around to telling you who they really are and what they really want.  Today, the Tennessee House of Representatives passed a bill that will ban the teaching of critical race theory in Tennessee schools.  The bill is similar to those Republicans are attempting to pass in many states where they control the governorship and legislature.  Before it left office, the Trump administration promoted the banning of teaching so-called “divisive concepts” such as the 1619 Project and critical race theory to public school students.  Among those concepts are the idea that the United States is fundamentally racist or sexist, and that slavery had a role in the founding of the country.

Lucian Truscott Newsletter

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This is the first installment of a six-part essay that will be posted weekly.

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Overprivilege is Bankrupting America 2/2

Uncle Sam is looking a bit down at heel these days.

Good Clean Fun Becomes a Crime

In order to commence mass incarceration, first you have to criminalize some behavior patterns. Harry J. Anslinger, longtime director of America’s Federal Bureau of Narcotics, took a giant step in that respect with his pioneering criminalization and persecution of marihuana in the early 1930s. A contemporary version of a similar phenomenon is the Patriot Act, which set civil liberties back centuries. Never have America’s proud citizens been so perfectly surveilled and bereft of essential civil liberties. What a serendipitous set of circumstances were conjoined on September 11, 2001, just when George W. Bush urgently needed an overseas war and a domestic crackdown on dissent, what a fortuitous coincidence.

What About the Better Class of People?

So much for the underprivileged; what about the overprivileged? Their maintenance incurs costs, too. Let’s look first at the most overprivileged sector of the entire US uber-capitalist zoo, the military-industrial-government complex. It starts with the incestuous relationships between government officials and the lobbyists for all the business behemoths: energy, big pharma, insurance, banking and financial services, the tech whiz kids and, of course, the arms business. The tools of the trade in these sectors are revolving doors, cost-plus contracts, scare propaganda, astronomically overpriced goods and services, a captive mass media and, perhaps the most egregious element, the utter impunity under which they operate.

The government writes its own laws, interprets them and enforces them. If Al Capone had worked under those conditions he would today dominate the bathtub gin market in the entire Milky Way Galaxy. Then there’s military spending. According to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections, if the plans described in the 2020 Future Years Defense Program (FYDP) were implemented, defense costs would increase from the $718 billion for 2020 to $776 billion (in 2020 dollars) by 2034, not that anyone–including the authors themselves–actually believes those modest figures.

The other sectors of big business aren’t too bad off, either. Their top executives are entitled to benefits unheard of in human history, approaching the Sultan of Brunei with his collection of 5,000 cars, including 600 Rolls-Royces. These benefits are the product of decades of rule under Republican ideology. (Yes, the Republicans continued to rule during the Obama years.) That impoverished ideology is straight out of the standard American right-wing (which would be the far right wing in any other place in the world) playbook: lower taxes, so-called “free-market” capitalism, severe immigration policies, virtually-unlimited military spending, insane gun rights, abortion restriction, deregulated business and strictly-regulated unions.

At this rate and with these rules of the game the United States will never again be able to lift its head as a world leader, nor will its citizens live decent lives. Its leadership is already being contested by honest competitors on all sides. It’s clear that the principal cause of American decline is the price Americans pay to maintain their advantaged classes. What to do with the rich? To do to them what they have done to the underprivileged might be considered too extreme. That is, to persecute them, to criminalize their country clubs and private jets, to surveil their extravagant habits and vices, to imprison them and, in extreme cases, shoot them down in the street with total impunity. The solution is much less dramatic that all that, and it’s perfectly obvious and do-able: tax them.

A Few Relevant Facts

Just a few scraps from a recent piece in TheBalance.com should suffice to illustrate how ex-President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) is affecting Americans:

  • The top individual tax rate dropped from 39.6% to 37%, and numerous itemized deductions were eliminated. (For comparison purposes, the top federal income tax rate in 1952 and 1953, was 92 percent.)
  • The TCJA also cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% effective in 2018. The corporate cuts are permanent. The individual changes expire at the end of 2025.
  • The Tax Foundation has indicated that those who earn more than 95% of the population will receive a 2.2% increase in after-tax income. Those in the 20% to 80% range would receive a 1.7% increase.
  • Rejoice if you have an important property portfolio. The TCJA doubled the estate tax exemption from $5.6 million in 2017 to $11.2 million in 2018.
  • The TCJA act will add $1 trillion to the debt over the 10 years it’s in effect.

That last item on the list poses an obligatory question: What would that $1,000,000.000000 have contributed to the wellbeing of Americans? How many schools and hospitals would it have built, how many bridges and highways? How much medical care would it have meant, and how many college educations? How much public housing, how many social programs? By extension, how many lives would have been uplifted? All of these lost benefits and much more are the cost of coddling the rich.

The cost of overprivilege to America is not only economic. It’s also costly in terms of credibility on the world stage. Comparisons are inevitable and the United States doesn’t fare well. No sane person in the real world can understand the justification of massive tax cuts for the rich in these times, nor in the prosecution of unending wars under false pretenses. The Iraqis and Afghans cry out to heaven for justice.

And this is not to mention the “defense” budgets cooked up in hell. Their principal purposes are two:

  • To enrich the American arms industry, its investors and running dogs.
  • To create myriad dangerous enemies for the US and divide the world into enemies and allies, thus assuring a thriving arms market.

The elimination of merely half of this obscene military spending and the application of that wealth to America’s real problems would relax tensions worldwide and further increment the Americans’ quality of life. Everybody wins at home and abroad except America’s army of war mongers. And they have won too much already.

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Overprivilege is Bankrupting America 1/2

It’s Not the Poor, It’s the Rich

We hear a lot about how the underprivileged are costing the American taxpayer too much. The poor and the handicapped, the aged, the homeless, the damaged veterans, the unemployed and the uninsured masses contribute nothing to the GDP and represent a considerable drain on the national treasure. The symptoms are evident: poverty, illiteracy, crime, drug abuse and trafficking, dystopian families, fatherless homes, prison populations soaring… A disproportionate number of these unfortunate citizens are from racial minorities, many of them with deprivation in their family trees, having grown up with their fathers and grandfathers in prison, raised by heroic mothers fighting a losing battle.

Richest Country or One of the Poorest?

The American way of dealing with the homeless as post-industrial refuse is symptomatic. Instead of help they get harassment, instead of understanding, scorn. The disingenuous question arises inevitably: “Why don’t those single mothers raising families in cars in Walmart parking lots get jobs?” Some of them manage to do just that but with a $7.25 minimum wage they will never lift their families out of that station wagon.

Why isn’t the richest country in the world among the leaders in questions of humanity? The answer is not as complicated as it might seem. The roots of the problem are sunk deeply into a misfit ideology so rancid that it passes for scripture and spawns injustice, inequality and grotesque national priorities. The system was skewed from the beginning, based as it was on Darwinian struggle, ruthless self interest and pie-in-the-sky religion. Over the past three or four decades things have only gotten worse, aggravated by the inequality generated by high-tech windfall wealth and increasingly right-wing, lower-taxes-remove-regulations governments. The Covid-19 pandemic was the frosting on the cake, baring all the deficiencies and their catastrophic results. How many billions more does Jeff Bezos need to be able to give his employees living wages and healthy working conditions at Amazon?

The Greatest Irony

The greatest irony is that, when the the country and its people are most in need of well-run, effective government programs and services, the country’s leaders busy themselves with classic DC schoolyard infighting. You only need to go over the past year of headlines to see the fruitlessness of it all. Those headlines also comprise a textbook on how not to manage America’s most serious domestic emergency in a century and, incidently, how to engineer gratuitously the deaths of more than half a million Americans. If we set aside the Democrats’ decades of bumbling, they can plead innocence, as the Republicans were holding the reins of power during the emergency. As for the Republicans, their almost unanimous rallying around a clearly-deficient president and his atypical collaborators places the responsibility squarely on their shoulders. We’re not sure if they are insane or merely incompetent, but it’s all the same.

Meanwhile, the emergency is far from over and most of ex-President Trump’s card-carrying Republican accomplices are still comfortably ensconced in the US Congress. Aren’t they aware that they are sitting on the wrong side of history? Nobody who can tie his or her shoes could be so stupid. Clearly their first priority has nothing to do with the wellbeing of the American people, who have never been so abandoned by their leaders. Could it be that those right-wing congressional leaders are concerned first and foremost with their own re-election? Is it possible that they’re neither that stupid nor that distracted, but merely cynical. Five-hundred-thousand American lives worth of cynicism?

They Write Their Own Ticket

It’s all too easy for members of the American government to tilt the playing field in their own favor. They are the ones who make the laws in the legislative branch, interpret them in the judicial and execute them in the executive. Add to that the revolving doors, gerrymandering and other election perversions, big-bucks lobbying, and the cascade of abuses legalized by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, and it’s no wonder the country is their oyster. Among the worst of their self-serving practices is the indecent collusion with the arms industry. Though they would have you believe otherwise, those permanent wars and that unnatural cozying up to Saudi Arabia are not due to bad people envying America’s freedom.

“Freedom,” for the I’m-all-right-Jack caste of Americans has more to do with free markets than free people. While underprivilege in other industrialized countries elicits compassionate responses in their governing classes, in the United States it generates disgust and disdain. Why doesn’t that old wino sleeping on the bench get a job? It might have to do with losing his resumé on a muddy hillside at Khe Sanh while your father was lying low at Princeton.

American Style Solutions

This is not to say that the American system doesn’t have solutions for the problems posed by homeless people camping out on the streets of otherwise pleasant neighborhoods. Police regularly upturn and carry off the tents of the street people and force them to “move on.” In some of the more progressive places the city council will buy them a ticket to get out of town. Where proper countries have social housing, the richest country in the world has police brutality and internal deportation handed out generously to its own citizens. These measures cost American cities some money, but not as much as they would have to spend to house the poor. The bottom line is that the privileged are envied and fawned upon, the underprivileged despised and jailed, considered too-expensive excess ballast in the hold of the ship of state.

The most common measure that Americans use for dealing with their “undesirables” is prison, in spite of the fact that it’s the costliest solution of all. Could it be plain racism, fringed with sadism? Are the American prison authorities enamoured of the punitive aspects of incarceration. Could white supremacy be a factor? Whatever the case, there they are building ever-more-sophisticated and costly lockups and honing the legal aspects. You can’t just throw people in jail willy nilly, at least in the numbers the Americans think they require.

See Part 2 next Monday, March 22, 2021
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The Butterfly and the Bastard

Dr. Edward Norton Lorenz, father of the Chaos Theory, the Butterfly Effect and tonight’s weather report.

Perhaps the Most Important Scientist Since Sir Isaac Newton

Edward Norton Lorenz was a chess player and mathematician with an avid curiosity and the intelligence and perseverance to put it to work. It is largely thanks to Dr. Lorenz that today’s weather forecasts are expressed in probability percentages, or numerical weather prediction. But that’s not all. After an impeccable intellectual formation, passing through Dartmouth and Harvard, he earned master’s and doctoral degrees in meteorolgy at MIT, where he was to spend his entire career as a research scientist.

Lorenz’s weather studies led him by a fascinating mathematical route to Chaos Theory and the Butterfly Effect, the gist of which is that minute changes in conditions of a process can randomly produce massive variations in the outcome. The best-known expression of this phenomenon is a short story by science-fiction writer, Ray Bradbury. In Bradbury’s story, “A Sound of Thunder,” a time traveler visiting the Late Cretaceous Period steps on a butterfly. When he returns to his own time he discovers that major historical shifts have resulted from that seemingly insignificant incident. The irony in this case is that Bradbury’s story was published in 1952, 11 years before Lorenz announced his Chaos Theory discovery in a scientific paper in 1963.

Did You Ever Ask Yourself Why the US Has the Largest Prison Population in the World?

America is a country largely dedicated to conspicuous consumption. But to consume you need money. And you do what you have to do to get it. Unable to make big money quickly in hedge fund operations, the American underclasses resort to drug peddling and petty–or not so petty–crime. From there it’s a short hop to jail. This superhighway to the penal system wasn’t always that way. There was a point in the country’s history when they had to choose whether to treat illegal drug usage as a health problem or a matter for the criminal courts. They opted for the hard line and planted the seeds of dramatic changes in American society that have borne strange fruit.

If a Butterfly Can Change History, What Can a Hard-Core Misanthrope Achieve?

Harry J. Anslinger, director of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (1930-1962)

This random historical decision fell to a particularly brutal, self-serving Washington bureaucrat, Harry J. Anslinger, who was appointed by President Herbert Hoover in 1930 to run the new Federal Bureau of Narcotics. He was to hold that post for 32 years, during the presidencies of Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, and Kennedy. He spent the last two years of his career as U.S. Representative to the United Nations Narcotics Commission, where he exported his retrograde racist doctrine around the world.

Anslinger is a prime example of how a single misanthrope can place his stamp on future generations. His anti-marihuana campaign was created in large part in order to criminalize musicians and people of color as well as to expand his own diminishing authority after the end of Prohibition. Whatever the motivation, that decision criminalized an innocuous substance and ruined countless lives.

If the United States today boasts the largest prison population in the world it’s thanks to Anslinger, who began his career in law enforcement as a humble railway cop. His legacy as a ruthless racist addicted to power, lives on today in the justice and penal systems. It was Harry J. Anslinger who advocated mandatory sentences for drug offenders and handcuffed Billy Holiday to her deathbed. There is no doubt that it cost the system a fortune over the years to build the world’s largest prison complex and maintain all those newly-coined felons, but it had to be done in order to keep Anslinger’s star on the rise. He is also on record for uttering these illuminating thoughts:

“Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.” “You smoke a joint and you’re likely to kill your brother.” And “There are 100,000 total marihuana smokers in the U.S., and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marihuana use. This marihuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others.”

CBS News

The Enemy is Music

In a revealing article on Timeline.com entitled How a racist hate-monger masterminded America’s War on Drugs, Laura Smith writes that, shortly after Billy Holiday’s death in 1939:

Anslinger went after musicians again by trying to block the union membership of those with drug convictions. The lives of jazzmen, he said, “reek of filth.” “Arrests involving a certain type of musician in marihuana cases are on the increase,” he wrote in a draft letter to the president of the American Federation of Musicians. In a hearing with the Ways and Means Committee, Anslinger repeated this refrain: “I am not talking about the good musicians, but the Jazz type.”

Timeline.com

Over the years, Anslinger became recognized as the country’s preeminent authority on drugs and had a hand in all of the country’s repressive drug legislation. Though he was retired from his position by President Kennedy in 1962, his retrograde racist policies were passed on to successive administrations. In 1971, President Richard Nixon picked up the ball, declaring his own “war on drugs.” His aide and Watergate co-conspirator John Ehrlichman later revealed that war’s motivations in Harpers:

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people … We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities.

The Butterfly Strikes Back

According to the National Institute of Corrections, of the 9.25 million people currently held in detention the world over, 50 percent are in the United States. Counting only the adult population, about one in 90 people are behind bars, a large proportion of them for drug offenses, many of them unjustly.

But times are changing. Here’s a map of current cannabis legalization progress in the US:

Marijuana Moment.net, affirms that eight more states are considering legalizing marihuana en 2021. US Senator Chuck Schumer (Dem. NY) says Federal Marihuana Legalization Is A Priority In Democrats’ ‘Big, Bold Agenda:’ “It’s past time to work to undo the harm done by misplaced priorities… It’s time to decriminalize marihuana nationally.”

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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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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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