U.S. Private Prisons Have Failed — 3/3

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Minorities are Cheaper

A 2014 study by a doctoral candidate at UC Berkeley shows that minorities make up a greater percentage of inmates in private prisons than in their public counterparts, largely because minorities are cheaper to incarcerate. (It doesn’t say why. Are they more docile?) According to the study, for-profit prison operators accumulate these low-cost inmates “through explicit and implicit exemptions written into contracts between these private prison management companies and state departments of correction.”

An example of private prisons’ inadequate staff training leading to jail violence was reported by two Bloomberg News journalists, Margaret Newkirk and William Selway in Mississippi at the now-closed Walnut Grove Correctional Facility (WGCF). According to the journalists, the ratio of staff to prisoners in this prison was at times as low as 1 to 120. In a bloody riot in this prison, six inmates were rushed to the hospital, including one with permanent brain damage. During the riot, the staff of the prison did not respond but waited until the melee ended, because prisoners outnumbered staff at the time by a ratio of 60-1.

 Why Does the United States Have Millions of Prisoners?

Why do so many Americans deserve prison? Are they genetically determined for crime and mayhem? Is it something in the water? Are they just the worst people on earth? I’m reluctant to believe that. Something is causing them to be the way they are and preventing them from being honest productive citizens instead of misfits and social pariahs.

Could it have to do with being born and raised in a dystopian (as opposed to utopian) society? The United States is, after all, number one in the world in school shootings (and all firearms deaths, for that matter). It worships get-rich-quick entrepreneurs, speculators and deal makers, people who would rather grab than create.  (And what faster way to get rich quick than dope peddling?) Some of its citizens actually feel threatened by collective solutions whether it be environmental protection or universal health care–or even public schools–solutions that have immensely elevated people’s wellbeing all over the rest of the known world.

The United States is the world leader in home repossessions, in homelessness and people who live–and try to raise their families–in their cars. It’s a country run by an unenlightened conservative majority that prefers castigation to education, self-interest to solidarity. It’s every man for himself. It’s no wonder it gets lonely out there. People get desperate and inevitably get into trouble. And, thanks to mandatory sentences and other inhuman judicial and business practices many of them find themselves incarcerated for a long time, if not forever. Especially if they’re black.

The “natural” habitat of young American black men–the majority of the inmates in all U.S. penal institutions–is mean streets, inequality, penury, unfairness, violence and hopelessness. Could it be any other way? If the current President of the United States is a sociopath, how are the impoverished, uncultured black kids in the neighborhoods supposed to be models of sanity and civility?

It’a not clear how many Americans are aware of the extent to which President Obama was disrespected and boycotted by the Washington good ol’ boys for the mere fact of being black, but from this side of the Atlantic the disdain looked blatantly evident. Considering the treatment accorded the President of the United States, one can only imagine that  dispensed to young black drug offenders in the prison system, whether public or private.

Jill Filopivic Writes in The Guardian

I’d like to cite here a couple of paragraphs from Jill Filopivic writing for The Guardian, examples of how the American private-prison situation is seen by many people in the rest of the world.

“The privatization of traditional government functions – and big government payments to private contractors – isn’t limited to international intelligence operations like the National Security Agency. It’s happening with little oversight in dozens of areas once the province of government, from schools to airports to the military. The shifting of government responsibilities to private actors isn’t without consequence, as privatization often comes with a lack of oversight and a series of abuses. One particularly stunning example is the American prison system, the realities of which should be a national disgrace.

Some of those realities are highlighted in a recent lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of prisoners at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility (EMCF). The ACLU contends the facility, which is operated by private contractors, is rife with horrific abuses.

The complaint lists a litany of such horrors: rampant rapes and placing prisoners in solitary confinement for weeks, months or even years at a time, where the only way to get a guard’s attention in an emergency is to set a fire. Rat infestations are so bad that vermin crawl over prisoners; sometimes, the rats are captured, put on leashes and sold as pets to the most severely mentally ill inmates.

There are many suicide attempts, some successful. The untreated mentally ill throw feces, scream, start fires, electrocute themselves and self-mutilate. The prison authorities deny or delay treatment for infections and even cancer. Stabbings, beatings and other acts of violence are common. Juveniles are housed with adults, including one 16-year-old who was sexually assaulted by his adult cell mate. Malnourishment and chronic hunger abound. Officers deal with prisoners by using physical violence…”

So don’t think that nobody’s looking.

Is There a Solution?

If there is a way out, it’s not in plain view. Because in order to solve the prison problem you have to start by solving everything else, as all of the United States’s critical issues are interrelated: health, education, militarization, white supremacy, social programs, corruption in business and government (including legal corruption like gerrymandering and hard-cash lobbying, that legislators have legalized in order to write their own tickets), unregulated killer capitalism, guns uncontrolled, inequality on all fronts… That is to say, virtually all of the sick values that underlie a terminally ill society.

Just imagine yourself sitting on the tip of a massive iceberg with a paddle, paddling like crazy trying to turn it around 180 degrees. Are you optimistic? Neither am I.

Back to Part 1

Read more rants in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

Thanks for sharing and commenting.

Permanent War Is Bad for You

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But It’s So Good for Business; What Can We Do?

I wonder if the American dedication to permanent war over the past quarter century worries you as much as it does me. And it’s looking more permanent every day, as if the country had developed a bellicose addiction. It comes in colors: black ops, pre-emptive strikes, war by false flags, war by proxies, mercenary wars. What to do about it? I’ll do what I normally do, write it up, in the vain hope that someone will at least notice the absurdity and injustice of the situation.

I’ve got some specific concerns regarding this “Permawar” business.  Permanent war means victims every day, victims of all flavors, young and old, saints and sinners, most every type of person in fact, except politicians and war profiteers. I do want to include soldiers in this list of victims. They are, after all, human beings, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, all with families, dreams and ambitions to lose in a war. And most of them don’t want to be there in the first place.

Then there are the elderly and children, the utterly helpless. Yours are safe at home for now, but theirs are daily exposed to the biblical wrath of American military might at the hands of GI’s, U.S. “contractors” or neighboring proxy killers on the ground. Or they are victims of the even-more-sinister remote death from the sky delivered by troglodyte mannish boys playing video games in Nevada.

The Effect on the United States is Devastating

I’m also worried about the kickback damage done to the Americans at home. War is expensive. The twelve-zero sums that finance the forever wars have to come from somewhere. They come from the domestic budget, and don’t leave much money for anything else. This is why any European country has better roads and bridges than the United States. Between the defense budget (“defense” being an Orwellian euphemism, of course) and the refinancing of the country’s biggest banks and finance companies, the American lower and middle classes were pauperized. Their poverty begat a deficient education system which begat inequality, which begat delinquency and the largest prison population in the world.

That’s another issue that is seldom mentioned by “responsible journalists,” the fact that most of these wars seem made to order for arms manufacture profiteering. Does the mass media live in another dimension that doesn’t permit them to see certain aspects of the permanent war game? Permawar is a hedge-fund manager’s dream: an unending stream of parasites to be parasited. The reconstituted banks, meanwhile, have ascended straight into heaven on the backs of their investments in the arms-of-mass-destruction business. (You’re not going to pretend that cruise missiles and nuclear bombs aren’t “arms of mass destruction,” are you?)

One is tempted to wonder if the Permawar Machine wasn’t created purposely by a group of demented plutocrats to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich–The Trickle Up Machine–which they, never to miss a chance to exercise their fine sense of irony,  dubbed benevolently the “Trickle Down Machine.” So it goes.

Self-Censorship on Auto-Pilot

It also strikes me as uncanny that scarcely anyone over there who writes or speaks on the subject in the mainline American media ever mentions the fact that most of these senseless wars are about “the enemies'” strategic natural resources, the main (but far from only) one being oil. “What about Afghanistan?” you ask. “They don’t have oil wells.”

That’s true but, according to surveys done by the United States Geological Survey  a decade ago, Afghanistan sits atop a trillion-dollar lode of gold, silver and platinum, as well as significant quantities of iron ore, uranium, zinc, chromium, tantalum, bauxite, coal, copper and natural gas. Some experts have suggested that this impoverished, war-torn Himalayan country might also be on it’s way to becoming “the Saudi Arabia of lithium”, thanks to vast deposits of the raw material used in phone and electric car batteries. In all it amounts to an Aladdin’s cave just waiting to be plundered. This article from The Independent (August, 2017) highlights President Donald Trump’s interest in the subject.

Small, Important Voices

The most compelling comment on this lamentable situation comes not from the all-powerful American mass media, but from the humble blogosphere. Here’s a moving paragraph from a 1915 blog post by Jase Short entitled The Permanent War on Afghanistan-A Personal Reflection:

“9/11 and the war on Afghanistan woke me up to the situation in the world and made me who I am today. But what is shocking is that … the people of Afghanistan have been subject to the same violence for 14 straight years. They do not have the privilege of shrugging their shoulders or enjoying the emotional distance of screens. They are there when the daisy cutter bombs hit, when the hunter killer teams collect their grotesque trophies of human body parts, when killer robots massacre wedding parties. Caught between the occupation, its local agents, and the Taliban itself, these are the people whose lives have been turned into instruments of global politics.”

I wish I had said that.

Read the full story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

Thanks for commenting and sharing.

What America Learned from the Germans — 2/2

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(Continued from Part 1)

More on the Propaganda Techniques Employed by the Nazis

  • Glittering Generalities, which Yourman characterizes as “the use of “virtue words” to appeal to emotions of love, generosity and brotherhood. This phenomenon extends to references to German traditions dating back to the Middle Ages, especially the word “volk,” pronounced “folk.” German farmers were seduced to back the Third Reich with constant associations with “Blut und Boden,” (Blood and Soil) and bound by oaths of “Bauer honor” to tie them to the land and prevent them from changing their occupation or residence. The Nazis needed every sector of their economy dominated and running smoothly  if they were going to win the upcoming war.
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Every country has its own benevolent myths regarding their own folks but the Nazis milked them dry. The Americans did something similar after the war. The myths of the “self-made man,” the “hardy frontiersman” and other old saws were elevated to such heights of nincompoopery that they gave rise to a full-blown axiomatic truth called “American Exeptionalism,” a truth just as true as “Manifest Destiny” and The Tooth Fairy.

Americans Are So Special They Have Carte Blanche

It maintains that Americans are qualitatively different from the rest of the people in the world and therefore can write their own rules and apply them to everybody. Written down in black and white, this is patently silly, but right-thinking Americans take it as holy writ. And one American administration after another interprets it as a license to wreak havoc anywhere they fancy.
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  • Transfer is a device by which the propagandist carries over the authority, sanction, and prestige of something we respect and revere to something he would have us accept. The pseudo-deification of Chancellor Hitler is an outstanding example of this device. Nazi propagandists seeked to establish him as a quasi divinity and to transfer to him the religious feelings of the German people; then to transfer from him the “divine” sanction to the policies, practices, beliefs, and hatreds which he espouses.
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    The concepts of patriotism  and terrorism work in similar ways. They become “trigger words” to be transfered to any cause the power elite want to promote. The former authorizes shipping young Americans to die in far-off places with funny names; the latter is a useful wild card for use at home (immigrant bans) and abroad (the invasion/subversion/devastation of any country possessing scarce natural resources.)
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  • The Testimonial makes us accept anything from a patent medicine or a cigarette to a program of national policy. From the fact that “the Fuehrer knows the goal and knows the direction,” it follows that his is the supreme testimonial. Hitler is the arbiter of everything. No specialist knows better than he does, no recommendation can be better than his. He can deny even the authority of science. Only the conclusions of “German science” as approved by the Fuehrer may be accepted. When the conclusions of science do not accord with his wishes, as in genetics, a new science has to be invented; its prestige then has to be established by his testimonial.’
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    It’s the same with the arts. Only that art which is approved by the Fuehrer and his subordinates as German art may be accepted by the German people.He also decrees how men and women shall live their lives. The kind of life which has the Fuehrer’s approval is that which is surrendered to the state. In this Hitler is the arbiter; his approval is the supreme testimonial.
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  • Plain Folks is used by politicians, labor leaders, business men, and even by ministers and educators to win our confidence by appearing to be people like ourselves, “just plain folks among the neighbors.” As for Hitler, at the same time he was canonized as a demigod an attempt was made to transform him into a “man of the people.” This plain-folks ploy has become increasingly popular since Hitler’s time. Who could be more man of the people than the current American President… “current” that is if he’s still in office by the time you read this.
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  • Card Stacking is a device in which the propagandist employs all the arts of deception to win our support for himself, his group, nation, race, policy, practice, belief, or ideal. He stacks the cards against the truth, using underemphasis and overemphasis to dodge or evade facts. Thus a regime has freedom to give publicity to falsehoods. Hitler approves such duplicity in Mein Kampf  when he writes: “Propaganda does not have to seek objectively for the truth so far as it favors an opponent . .. but exclusively has to serve our interests.” This sounds eerily familiar today. In a superb ideological double back flip its prime practitioner actually gave it a name: “fake news.”
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  • The Band Wagon makes us follow the crowd, to accept the propagandist’s program en masse. The technique can be used to further any agenda, no matter how vile. People in a well-ordered country love rallying behind a leader, just as they love a parade. One of the great unifying principles adopted by the National Socialists is that of hate. Among the passages deleted from the English version of Mein Kampf, Hitler has written: “Hate is more lasting than dislike, and the thrusting power for the  mightiest upheavals on this earth has at all times come less from scientific recognition than from a fanaticism that fills the souls of the masses and in a forward-driving hysteria” (vorwaertsiagenden hysterie).”
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    In accordance with this principle Jews, communists, liberals, and democrats became objects of hatred and scapegoats that could be made to suffer for the supposed distress the caused in German society. Unity is further encouraged by patriotic demonstrations. Typical in these are gigantic crowds of people, massed ranks of uniformed troops, bands playing patriotic and martial airs, voices declaiming from a hundred mechanical mouths, ecstatic marchers carrying flickering torches, their resinous smoke blending into the darkness, flags and swastikas everywhere.
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Excellent Propaganda Won’t Do It Alone

Yourman adds a caveat to his list of propaganda techniques that worked for the Nazis.

“We must guard against assuming that German Fascism or any other variety of fascism arises from propaganda alone. German Fascism came into being not primarily because of Hitler’s masterful skill as a propagandist but because conditions of unemployment, impoverishment, despair, anger, and resentment were such in Germany that any person or group offering salvation in terms sufficiently appealing could have influenced profoundly the political and economic decisions of the German people. Hitler was sufficiently appealing. With the financial support of certain individuals and the intrigues and incompetencies of men like von Papen and Hindenburg, fascism becomes a reality.

“The Germans, traditionally nationalistic and arrogantly proud, were defeated, humiliated, crippled, and degraded by World War I. Nazi ideology first made them racially superior, the Nazi politics and force proved their right as a world power and revealed again their interrupted “destiny.” It was a combination of economic breakdown, governmental weakness, frustrated morale, and propaganda which made pre-Nazi Germany ready for fascism. A similar combination could bring fascism elsewhere. Propaganda has no meaning and hence no effectiveness except in terms of life conditions of people-their needs, fears, hatreds, loves, aspirations, prejudices, and traditions. These affect propaganda as much as propaganda affects people.”

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How is your country doing lately for incompetent leaders and for attending the “needs, fears, hatreds, loves, aspirations, prejudices, and traditions of its citizens?”  Be prepared.

Go to: What America Learned from the Germans, Part 1

P.S. I just ran across this article in The Atlantic last night. I want to put a link to it here, as it’s germain to our ongoing discussion of American values. I always thought that white supremacy was an aberrance that was rejected by all mentally healthy Americans. The truth is quite different. It turns out that the Germans also learned something from the Americans.

Back to Part 1/2

Read the full story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

Thanks for commenting and sharing.

It’s Far Worse Than You Realize

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Trump, Trump, Trump…

It’s not only about Trump. He’s just the token tip of the American iceberg. Look beneath, that’s where all the serious–and seriously scary–stuff is to be found. Ironically, most of the players and issues that affect your lives in meaningful ways–both positive and negative–don’t make the papers much and, even if they did, Americans don’t read the papers as much as they used to.

So, what are the American people up against? They (you?) are facing a systematic undoing of laws and institutions, regulations and rights that have protected American citizens for many years. The following are just a few examples. Suddenly the Secretary of the Interior becomes the Secretary of Wrecking the Interior. How is this demolition operation going on? See this clip from the NY Times: 52 Environmental Rules on the Way Out Under Trump.

Trump’s Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, (born in Selma, Alabama, 1946) is taking similar backward steps in the Justice Department. Here’s what USA Today had to say on the subject. And the Secretary of Education, Betsy de Vos (sister of Eric Prince, founder of Blackwater USA, now known, ironically it seems, as Academi) wants to use America’s schools to build “God’s Kingdom.”

What Is to Be Done

Obviously, the first and most urgent step in the treatment of the American domestic and geopolitical malaise is to remove President Trump from office before he and his merry band of trolls dismantles the American government utterly. This removal would have to be carried out by legal means, of course. Here’s a brief summary of the impeachment process: Article Two of the United States Constitution states in Section 4 that:

“The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.” The House of Representatives has the sole power of impeaching, while the United States Senate has the sole power to try all impeachments. The removal of impeached officials is automatic upon conviction in the Senate.”

But who can guarantee that the Representatives would impeach President Trump or that the Senators who tried Trump would convict him? Far worse, supposing that he were convicted and ordered out of the White House are we sure that his rabidly loyal followers would obey the law and respect that eviction? They are, after all, the ones who own most of the unregulated guns in the United States and they appear to be prepared to use them. Yes, they probably could be overwhelmed by the Army but it would be one hell of a mess. Would it even come to a showdown between the Army and Trump’s unconditionals? Whose side would the police and the Army be on?

It’s Not Just Trump and His Trumpeteers

Now that we’ve got those sticky questions on hold, back to our premise: It’s not just Trump nor his atypical cabinet you’re up against. It’s the entire U.S. power structure. It’s the great lobbies, from the banks and arms manufacturers, big pharma and the NRA, to tobacco and the corporate media.  All of these interests are in the business of buying legislators in order to win them over to the lobbyists respective causes. How is this possible in the United States of America? It’s not only possible, it’s legal. This kind of government tampering in the form of lobbying was legalized by the legislators themselves.  This mercantile treatment of “democratic” power is, however, illegal in the rest of Western democracies.

Outside the U.S. everbody down to the last busboy in the cafeteria is acutely aware that when business interests start controlling their presidents, primer ministers, legislators and jurists, the essence is sucked out of their democracy, leaving it a “democracy” in name only. Is this to say that I am casting doubt here on the legitimacy of American democracy itself? Yes, that’s exactly what I’m suggesting.

Wait, there’s more. There are other powerful twisting factors that come from both home and abroad, the former principally from freelance amateur billionaire “activists,” wacky end-of-times religious groups and the Pentagon. Then there are the threats from from foreign countries. The first one that comes to mind is Israel. Their lobbying operation, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), represents the Likud-led Israeli government’s interests in the U.S.  One of several pro-Israel lobbying organizations in the United States, AIPAC claims more than 100,000 members, seventeen regional offices, and “a vast pool of donors.” The organization has been called one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the United States. Virtually all members of the United States Congress have sworn allegiance to the Israeli cause, with all of its ramifications.

Yet, what are the U.S. corporate media going berserk about? Russian meddling in U.S. elections. Naturally.

Strangleholds and Anti-Semites

Critics accuse AIPAC of being an agent of the Israeli government with a “stranglehold” on the United States Congress with its power and influence. Any attempt, no matter how tepid, to oppose the Netanyahu government’s policies is branded “anti-semitism” by AIPAC and the “offenders” are ostracised on all fronts. Consequently almost nobody opposes AIPAC. It’s too dangerous for anyone who hopes to have a political future in the U.S.

Everyone who has eyes to see–including the right-wing Israelis themselves–know that the main issue here is not racism against Jews. If there’s any racism involved it’s Israeli bias agains their neighbors, the Palestinians and Iranians. One suspects that, more than anything else, this has to do with Israel’s pressing need for lebensraum.

According to American Arms Manufacturers Not All Arabs are Bad Guys

This bias doesn’t extend to all Arabs, however, as the right-wing Likud Israeli government forms part of an unholy alliance with Saudi Arabia, to take over the Middle East, starting with Iran. The Saudis are the principal sponsors of radical Islamic proselitism and terrorism world wide. Where do the Americans stand on this issue? The American government has no objection. The Israelis are the Israelis, after all, and the Saudis are massively important buyers of U.S. arms.

Have you noticed that I haven’t told you anything here that you didn’t already know? It’s just the familiar litany of Trump & Company’s outrages and bloopers. Not quite; it’s more than that. To understand it requires at least rudimentary quantitive risk analysis. (What can go wrong? How likely is it to happen? If it does, what are the consequences?) Every one of President Trump’s oafish statements and egregious acts contributes to a ballooning cumulative effect. This constant stream of ignominy doesn’t add up in the form of an arithmetic progression (1+1+1+1+1…), rather an alarming geometric progression (1+10+100+1,000+10.000…) So the President’s next gaff, be it just another insult to a head of state (see Japan and North Korea) or support for an Israeli/Saudi attack on Iran, it just may be the straw that breaks the nuclear camel’s back.

Read the full story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

Thanks for commenting and sharing.

The Godzilla Flag Is Loosed on the U.S.A.–2/2

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The Pledge of Allegiance is a Socialist Invention

The Wikipedia has an excellent article on the Pledge of Allegiance and I want to cite a couple of  quotes from it. I’m sure they won’t mind:

“The Pledge of Allegiance, as it exists in its current form, was composed in August 1892 by Francis Bellamy (1855–1931), who was a Baptist minister, a Christian socialist, and the cousin of socialist utopian novelist Edward Bellamy (1850–1898).

“In 1892, Francis Bellamy created what was known as the Bellamy salute. It started with the hand outstretched toward the flag, palm down, and ended with the palm up. Because of the similarity between the Bellamy salute and the Nazi salute, which was adopted in Germany later, the US Congress stipulated that the hand-over-the-heart gesture as the salute to be rendered by civilians during the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem in the US would be the salute to replace the Bellamy salute. Removal of the Bellamy salute occurred on December 22, 1942, when Congress amended the Flag Code language first passed into law on June 22, 1942.”

On the same Wikipedia page as this second quote there is a Dorthea Lange photograph of Japanese-American first graders standing in line with their right hands over their hearts reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. It is 1942 and they are standing outside the concentration camp barracks where they are interned with their parents for the duration of World War II.

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Flag Waving is Good Business

This inspirational quote is posted on the webside of a flag manufacturer in the state of Washington: “Show your support of our country by proudly flying your flag in 2016. If you have an American flag at home or at your business, it should be should be flown every day—especially on the national holidays and state birthdays listed below.” They would say that, wouldn’t they.

To See Ourselves as Others See Us

People from other countries have trouble understanding the Americans’ devotion to their flag. Other countries have flags but—with few exceptions—they are not objects of worship. Let’s let this BBC correspondent speak for himself:

“What you still don’t see in the U.K. however, are flags flying outside houses, so it comes as something of a surprise when we first set foot in the U.S. Indeed, some Brits have confessed to feeling a “bit creeped out” at the sight. We can stretch to the odd bit of red, white and blue bunting, but only if there’s a BIG occasion like the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee or a Royal Wedding. Over here however, it’s not uncommon to see Old Glory in glorious six-foot dimensions hanging right outside the front door of regular houses. Obviously they are everywhere around 4th of July, (American Independence Day), but many homes have flags flying throughout the year.

“In most cases, Americans who choose to fly a flag outside their houses are your normal, common-or-garden folk. Whether or not other nations agree or think it’s odd, these people are proud to be Americans and heck, it’s not harming anyone. Flag-flying and general love of country isn’t quite the neo-Nazi, skinhead thing that it’s often perceived to be in the U.K.

“And flag-flying is very serious business in the U.S.; there are federal guidelines with “instruction and rules on such topics as the pledge of allegiance, display and use of the flag by civilians, time and occasions for display, position and manner of display, and how to show respect for the flag.” I’m betting that not many Americans are aware of how often they break the law either,

“The flag should never be used as wearing apparel, bedding, or drapery. “ Oops. And even worse, “The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever. (Imagine the revenue that could be generated if the government cracked down on this.)

There’s even Flag Day (June 14) which was made official by President Truman in 1949, and must be officially proclaimed by the sitting President each year.

And finally, did you know that the study of flags is “vexillology” and a flag expert is a “vexillologist”?

Other Pieces in the Puzzle

The National Anthem is up there with the flag for patriotic morbidity. If it weren’t we wouldn’t have had the recent brouhaha over the black football players “taking a knee” as protests against white police officers killing black people for no cogent reasons. In all fairness the matter was also driven by racism, which added fuel to the already considerable Godzilla issue.

Even the Boy Scouts contribute their part to the Godzilla cause. I loved the Boy Scouts with the marching and saluting, the fire-building contests (I still build a mean fire.) and winter toboganning outings. It wasn’t until many years later, after I was discharged from the U.S. Army, that I realized that the Boy Scouts were a Godzilla paramilitary organization. Religion also plays a part in the Godzilla game. The role of the clergy is to convince the populace that “God is on our side.” And that’s only one of their perversions.

The crowning experience of the Godzilla trip is military service. There you are under orders with a Godzilla obligation to kick down doors, detain all males, shoot family-filled taxis and bomb weddings. Either that or take out whole streets of villages with drone missiles launched video-game style from a bunker in the Nevada desert. There you truly become a star-spangled patriot. There’s only one higher step on the totem pole: to die in the line of duty. That makes you an American Hero. Your little brother gets your motorcycle and your mother gets a broche.

The most tragic result of the Godzilla phenomenon is that it’s virtually irreversible. Young people become old people and die without ever being able to shed the Godzilla mindset. It’s a life sentence. No amount of reasoning will change their minds, which are impervious to facts, logic and humanitarian considerations. Nothing can dent their empty, false and inhuman convictions. In the end the Godzilla society becomes a diabolical perpetual motion machine. We are all victims of the lies we were told as children. So teach your children well.

Now, when right-thinking Americans bewail the shape their country is in, and cast about for solutions, it’s possible that it’s already too late for solutions. This time Godzilla may not be stopped.

Back to Part 1

Read the full story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

Thanks for commenting and sharing.

Is the Trump Tail Wagging the American Dog?–2/2

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In the Meantime What Was Happening at Home?

On the home front a set of similar phenomena was set in motion that led to a sea change in American values—induced, not natural. Little by little, principally but not exclusively under Republican administrations, priceless American values have been eroded beyond recognition.  Where they once had a measure of solidarity—“…unity of a group or class that produces or is based on a community of interests, objectives and standards…” Merriam Webster dictionary—the Americans now subscribe to the “every man for himself,” or “dog eat dog” philosophy. Where they once respected the hard-earned dollar they now lust after easy money. A majority of Americans used to believe in equality. Their racial politics are now turning increasingly racist or white supremacist. As for economic equality, that is a thing of the past. They have exchanged generosity for greed.

Remember open-mindedness? You might have noticed that it has largely given way to adherence to one orthodoxy or another. Simple kindness and good manners are yielding to bare-fisted rudeness and trumpulence. Truth telling, especially telling truth to power, is on the way out. It can actually be dangerous. As for the “official truths,” they are products of the most sophisticated systems of lying ever foisted upon the human race.

Critical Thinking, Anyone?

Where there once existed a healthy  current of critical thinking in the U.S.A., along with citizen activism and protest, that luxury is now relegated to admirable old timers like Noam Chomsky, Oliver Stone and a few others. The very word “think” has been debased with its use by the septic think tanks which abound around Washington. Now thinking has been replaced by blind faith. Common sense has become common nonsense, and knowledge belief. So much of the common currency in the U.S.A. is “faith based.” Too many people have forgotten—or never learned—that anything faith based is baseless. If you’ve been taught otherwise you’ve been duped.

Then there’s patriotism; what a tricky subject. Let’s try a Spanish approach to it. The Spanish have two words for two different varieties of patriotism. “Patriotismo” refers to the healthy love of country that exists around the world. They employ another word, “patrioterismo,” for patriotism wedded to aggressive nationalism, jingoism or chauvinism. This brand of patriotism is a favorite of demagogues who like to wrap themselves in the flag and appeal to voters’ prejudices and lowest instincts in order to advance the demagogue’s own political agenda. The American language doesn’t make this distinction but it should, as patrioterismo is rampant over there. Last but far from least is the most extreme—and dangerous—form of patriotism, that which implies full spectrum dominance, patriotism that kills. And there’s no shortage of that.

The Unasked Question

There is one last question that usually is left unasked. How did the powerful interests who dumbed down and vulgarized the American people get away with it? What was the secret that enabled them to steal, twist, degrade and substitute healthy, humane American values for cheap imitations based on consumerism, ignorance, greed and selfishness? It’s no secret really. It’s just good marketing, the same time-tested sales techniques that made the United States the greatest salesman in the world. Promise them dreams, promise them flash and pan, promise them fast online sex and easy money in financial services. Activate the powers of ego and envy. Pitch to the lowest common denominator. Who sells more, Walmart or Neiman Marcus? There you have it. That’s where America’s decency—and with it her greatness—went.

The United States Has Metamorphosized; Where’s the Butterfly?

So much for the metamorphosis of American values over the past half century and a bit. That’s what derailed the decent, “normal” America. Now to find a “decent, normal country” you have to go to places like Canada, or Europe, Australia or Japan. Japan is a country deeply steeped in centuries of pride and respect, a country where American President Donald Trump gave a speech the other day to their combined legislature, the National Diet. It was a solemn occasion. There the President of the United States admonished them in his own brand of diplomacy. He said, “Don’t underestimate me; don’t try me…”

With all due respect, Mr. President, you’re not on the streets of Detroit or Baltimore. You’re in a civilized country, addressing civilized people.

Needless to say, none of the respectful Japanese reminded him of that fact. Which is not to say they have forgotten what he said.

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Read the full story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

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Is the Trump Tail Wagging the American Dog?–1/2

Trumps_girls

No, Like Everything Else It’s More Complicated Than That

It’s a long story but the brief answer is no, the tail is not wagging the dog. Donald Trump did not give rise to sordid, amoral America. As much as right-thinking Americans would like to pretend otherwise, Donald Trump is not responsible for white-trash America. That happened much earlier. Trump was just a semi-literate opportunist, a billionaire’s proxy who grabbed the brass ring and rode his merry-go-round pony into the White House.

It was the wave of ignorance, greed and pitch-to-the-lowest-common-denominator opportunism that had been growing lustily since World War II that permitted a person like Trump to run for president and actually win. At the same time this grimy ideological mix provided those right-thinking-Americans with the scapegoat they needed to evade responsibility for the mess their country is in. “Just blame it on Trump and his barbarian horde.” Ladies and gentlemen, it’s not that simple.

A Little History

After World War II—and even before, at the 1944 Bretton Wood Conference–while other countries of the world were struggling to create decent lives for their people, including health care for their underclasses, the war-glutted American oligarchies were busy turning their backs on their own citizens and laying the groundwork for the Cold War and eventual unique superpower status. We’re talking about the creation of institutions like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, NATO, SEATO, the CIA, the NSA, the multinationals, the oil-and-gas cartel, the suffocating American worldwide information regime, and let’s not forget their favorite bugbear, their all-pervading anti-communism (…blame it on the Russkies…).

Though this preparation for world domination wasn’t quite so evident in the beginning, the Neocons appeared at the end of the nineties and jerked the blanket off the seamy bed where all the promiscuous American powers-that-be were cavorting. It was their Project for a New American Century which in 1997 described the United States as the “world’s pre-eminent power,” and affirmed that the nation faced a challenge to “shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests.” In order to achieve this goal, the statement’s signers prescribed the usual bromides: “significant increases in defense spending, and the promotion of the “political and economic freedom abroad.”

Calling for a Reaganite policy of “military strength and moral clarity,” they concluded that PNAC’s principles were necessary “if the United States is to build on the successes of this past century and to ensure our security and our greatness in the next.” This declaration of principles, adopted by succeeding Republican governments, clearly revealed their sinister medium-and-long-term geopolitical intentions for all who had eyes to see. (That said, how many of us have eyes to see, eyes that have not been occluded by the myths and lies about the United States as a hilltop beacon of democracy, illuminating the way for less-fortunate peoples around the world?)

That shopworn set of lies about the United States exporting democracy no longer washes anywhere except, ironically, inside their own country where it’s still being fed like toxic kibble to their ingenuous choir of methodically-dumbed-down true believers.

“We Will Nuke You”

Then, in a document released in 2000 as DOD Joint Vision 2020, came “full-spectrum dominance,” a term coined by the gaily-decorated uniforms at the Pentagon. It called for “full spectrum dominance” over all land, surface and sub-surface sea, air, space, electromagnetic spectrum and information systems with enough overwhelming power to fight and win global wars against any adversary, including with nuclear weapons preemptively. (Emphasis mine. Translation: We reserve the right to nuke anyone and everyone, anywhere in the world, at any time.)

Harold Pinter referred to the term in his 2005 Nobel Prize acceptance speech:

“I have said earlier that the United States is now totally frank about putting its cards on the table. That is the case. Its official declared policy is now defined as “full spectrum dominance”. That is not my term, it is theirs. “Full spectrum dominance” means control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources.”

Not since Hitler’s Germany has any country in the world arrogated to itself such an awesome prerogative: the right to kill everybody, everywhere, indiscriminately, this from a country that spends more on arms than the following 18 countries combined, a country that vociferously declares itself a bastion of democracy worldwide. Lincoln once said to an office seeker, “What you are speaks to me so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”

The Bizarre Billionaire Card

Another factor in the creation of American policy that doesn’t get discussed as much is the influence of right-wing billionaires on U.S. policy both at home and abroad. Here’s a link to an  enlightening half-hour documentary that discusses the billionaire card in American politics: The Bizarre Billionaire that Backed Bannon and Made Trump President.

 Nor is this American policy limited to rhetoric. Throughout the past century they have materialized it in the form of gratuitous, unprovoked war-making on a series of sovereign nations in total disregard for international law. These attacks formed part of a rich American tradition dating from Colonial times: the wars against Native Americans on their own lands, the failed attempt to annex Canada, the 1848 “Mexican Cession” land grab…

In our own time the Americans’ omnivorous taste for other people’s countries has manifested itself in Vietnam and Iraq, to name just the most egregious cases. Vietnam was doubly cursed, both by the history of French colonialism there and the facile Cold War perception of that little Southeast Asian country as a catalyst for a “domino effect” of Communist expansion. That gossamer theory was the “justification” for 20 years of total (including chemical) warfare against and utter destruction of that tiny storybook country.

The end of the Vietnam War took the Americans by surprise. They lost. A combination of General Giap’s military and President Ho Chi Minh’s political genius, and the incredible capacity of the Vietnamese people for sacrifice, coupled with the influence of American anti-war activists, forced the United States armed forces and their running-dog allies out of Vietnam on April 30, 1975.

Coming hard on the heels of the 9/11 terror attack, the Iraq invasion was somewhat different, though it shared the use of lies and false pretenses the Americans employ regularly. How could we ever forget the pot-calling-the-kettle-black “arms of mass destruction” claims? Those assertions aside, the Iraq War was a straight American attempt to grab the country’s natural resources. The Iraqui oil fields are some of the most important in the world. Combine that fact with their geostrategic position in the Middle East and Iraq was an irresistible candidate for a dose of American democracy delivered from the air.

“Mission Accomplished!” Really?

According to President George W. Bush, nattily dressed in a U.S. Air Force costume-party getup for his “Mission Accomplished” speech to the troops of the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, the Americans won that one. As it turned out, however, the issue was somewhat more complicated than President Bush could have conceived. Up there on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier, surrounded by unconditional admirers, he was either whistling irresponsibly in the dark or malevolently twisting the truth to his own truculent purposes. In any case today, 14 years later, the fate of Iraq is still up in the air and the Americans are no closer to grabbing the Iraqi oil than they were on day one.

Go to the second part of this post

Read the full story in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.

Thanks for commenting and sharing.