The Bizarre States of America–2/2

 

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Seen from Abroad “Bizarre” Seems to Be the Operative Word

To Europeans the American political milieu seems riddled with semantic manipulation. US politicians love the Pavlovian use of trigger words and phrases to elicit nationalistic citizen responses. If you want to promote a dubious war or a convenient regime change just use the term “our boys” repeatedly, or the word “patriotism” and any of its derivatives. Any reference to “our flag” or the “national anthem” will also work. It’s easy for them to undermine American citizens’ civil rights by citing “national security” or “terrorism.” Never mind that it’s American state terrorism that leads the world in false-flag atrocities and devastating economic deception perpetrated by their clandestine services abroad. (Need examples? See any book by John Perkins or William Blum.)

Wacky Pastors and President Trump’s Middle East Policy

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

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

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

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

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

Did President Trump Realize What He Was Doing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
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Is American Democracy on the Critical List? 2/3

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If Lincoln Could Raise His Head Today…

Multi-Billionaire Brothers Change the Rules of the Election Game

The twisting of U.S. elections is enough to make a grown man cry unless that man is a lobbyist or an incumbent candidate in a national election. Election finance rules were radically changed with the 2009 Citizens United Supreme Court decision. This case was complicated and controversial, partly because it was brought before the court by an ad hoc Political Action Committee (PAC) financed by the extreme-right-wing Koch Brothers, multi-billionaires with a penchant for dabbling in politics.

The Brookings Institution’s Darrell West devised a ranking to sort out which of the larger-than-life politicized American billionaires are the most powerful, factoring in “campaign expenditures, activism through nonprofit organizations and foundations, holding public office, media ownership, policy thought leadership and behind-the-scenes influence.” At the top of his list were the Koch Brothers.

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

Lobbyists Take Over Washington

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Fishy Fundamental Institutions

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

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

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Read more rantings in my ebook, The Turncoat Chronicles.
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NATO Has Harbored Active Domestic Terrorist Groups Since at Least 1969—2/4

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Woodrow Wilson Kept the Russophobe Ball Rolling

President Wilson’s relative sympathy for the Russian revolution turned to visceral anti-Bolshevism after labor strikes, race riots, and anarchist attacks broke out across the United States in 1919. Wilson’s iron suppression of these disturbances left “a legacy of repression that lasted for decades;” and his administration’s violation of civil liberties would provide a precedent for McCarthyism in the 1950s.

The enmity between US interests and Russia stiffened in April of 1920 when the Bolsheviks retook Baku and promptly nationalized Standard Oil of New Jersey’s oil fields there. Subsequently the Cold War, the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis and Vietnam all contributed to the Americans’ Russophobe brew. Underlying all of this anti-Russian sentiment, I think, is a deep-seated fear of Marxism and any other form of collectivism. Continue reading “NATO Has Harbored Active Domestic Terrorist Groups Since at Least 1969—2/4”

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. Continue reading “It’s Far Worse Than You Realize”

What Can We Know?

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The Bottom Line

With all the news, counter news, fake news and post-truth flying around out there, what can we know for sure? For sure? Very little, we have to rely on educated guesses. But what do you base your guesses on? Where do you start? One thing is certainly true. You have to figure it out for yourself.

A Disclaimer

I realize that it’s practically impossible to change people’s minds. Our basic values and criteria are etched, if not on our DNA, at least on our brains. We’re all victims of the lies we were told when we were children. Almost nobody escapes, perhaps a few who are lucky enough to be influenced by a great teacher when their minds are still malleable. Continue reading “What Can We Know?”