Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Whose Side Are the Demons On Now?

Seldom have so few done so much to block progress for so many.

The forces allied to sabotage the P5+1 talks in Vienna about Iran’s nuclear program — Israel’s government, its political lobby in the United States (AIPAC), the bomb-bomb-bomb neocon crowd in Washington, virtually all of the U.S. mainstream media — don’t represent a majority of anything in the Middle East, but they’ve got money, they’ve got influence in the halls of Congress and the White House and they’ve got decades of mutual loathing to work with.

Ever since the post-Shah hostage crisis in 1979-81, Americans and Iranians have been demonizing one another. The American academic, William O. Beeman, dissects the process in his superb book, “The ‘Great Satan’ vs. the ‘Mad Mullahs.’” Beeman, who heads the department of anthropology at the University of Minnesota, speaks fluent Persian and has 40 years of expertise on the people and politics of the Middle East.  His book shows how leaders in both countries “used vilification of the other as a political stratagem for domestic political purposes.”

“Forces in both the United States and the Middle East,” Beeman writes, “constructed a mythological image that served to demonize the other parties in vivid terms, calculated to be immediately understood by the man on the street.”

In the United States, an electorate easily brainwashed by sound bytes and misinformation got the message. More recently,  journalists like David Sanger of the New York Times, our most prestigious newspaper, and George Jahn of the Associated Press, sole source of foreign news for most of our local papers, serve to propagate the idea that Iran has a nuclear weapons program, or is close to having one. There isn’t a scintilla of evidence to support this notion. But the evil “Mad Mullahs” image is firmly implanted in the United States.

Even The Guardian UK, now the most reliable English-language newspaper in the world, is susceptible to the influence of mutual demonization. As background to the Vienna talks, it published a timeline of Iran’s nuclear program, beginning in 1967 when the United States provided Iran under the Shah with a 5-megawatt light-water reactor for research. Some subsequent items on the timeline contained errors or misrepresentations that were caught by another US.academic with longstanding nuclear and Middle East expertise, Behrad Nakhai, Ph. D., former professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Tennessee.

The false or misleading items, with Dr. Nakhai’s comments in bold italics, follow:

 August 2002 - Iran's secret nuclear program is revealed by a rebel group, Mujahideen e-Khalq, which exposes the existence of the enrichment plant in Natanz and the heavy-water plant in Arak. Iran agrees to inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Natanz and Arak plant were under construction. According to the terms of NPT  (Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which Iran is a signatory), Iran was under no obligations to report these plants to IAEA. 

July 2005 US intelligence presents the IAEA with the contents of a stolen Iranian laptop that purported to show extensive experimentation with bomb design. The laptop's provenance is unclear.

A mysterious laptop claimed to be stolen from Iran, but does not contain a single document in Persian and its content “cannot be revealed.” Only allegations.

August 2006 Ahmadinejad defies UN ultimatum to halt uranium enrichment or face sanctions, and formally opens the Arak heavy-water plant. The international community, however, refuses to help build a heavy-water reactor.

Iran merely continued its lawful activities granted by NPT. "Defies" is Western press invention.

December 2006  First round of UN sanctions are approved.

 Amid heavy arm-twisting, bribes, and promises.

 September 2009 The leaders of US, UK and France announce the discovery of an underground enrichment plant at Fordow.

 An amusing "amateurish show" at UN -- except, Iran had already informed IAEA and IAEA had announced the existence of Fordow.

November 2011 In its quarterly report, the IAEA provides more detail supporting evidence that Iran may have had a nuclear weapons program before 2004, and may have continued some work after that.

"May" on part of IAEA shows a lack of sincerity in its evaluation. No proof has been provided by IAEA so far.

In addition to Dr. Nakhai’s pointed comments about it, the Guardian’s timeline raises the question of increased pressure from the United States and Israel after Yukiya Amano of Japan replaced Mohamed El Baradei of Egypt as director of the IAEA in December, 2009.  It was Dr. El Baradei who disproved the infamous U.S. claims about Niger, Iraq and yellow cake.  A skeptic of all the American arguments for invading Iraq, Dr. El Baradei was opposed by the United States when he sought a third term as director general —even though he and the IAEA had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005 "for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way.” 

With Mr.El Baradei out of the way and immersed in the politics of the Arab Spring, strange things began to happen to Iran’s nuclear research apparatus.  From the Guardian timeline:

August 2010 Iranian centrifuges are hit by a computer worm, Stuxnet, reportedly developed by Israel and the US.

November 2010 Assailants on motorbikes bomb two Iranian nuclear scientists in their cars on the way to work. One dies and one survives. They are part of a string of attacks on the country's nuclear researchers. 

(My aside: Of all the players in this game, whose spies would best be able to track Iranian scientists so accurately, and want most to intimidate them?)

September 2012 The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, brandishes cartoon image of a bomb at the UN general assembly and says Iran will be close to weapons capability by the following spring or summer.

When Iran elected the reformist, Hassan Rouhani, as its new president last June, a dramatic change took place in the signals from the Muslim republic.  Demons aside, Dr. Rouhani visited New York, spoke on the telephone with Barack Obama . . . et voila! . . . an interim agreement was reached in the P5+1 talks last November that swapped curbs on Iran’s nuclear program for slight easing of the UN sanctions on Iran.

Now, the quest for a final agreement is taking place in Vienna, and Bibi and his friends are throwing everything they’ve got into the negotiating machinery in hopes of disabling it.

Demonization is still at work, and might even be succeeding.  Some recent reports out of Washington suggest that Dr. Kidglove, who was oh, so resolute about a diplomatic resolution in November, may be changing his stance and now want, like Bibi, to sabotage the Vienna talks.

And we thought Kidglove couldn't top his Ukraine blunder.



In a rare diplomatic move, the United States announced Friday that it will not issue a visa to Iran's choice as envoy to the United Nations.
“We have informed the United Nations and the government of Iran that we will not issue a visa to Mr. Aboutalebi,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said Friday. 
She was referring to Hamid Aboutalebi, who  is alleged to have participated in a Muslim student group that held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days during 1979-81.Denying visas to U.N. ambassadorial nominees or to foreign heads of state who want to attend United Nations events in the United States is virtually without precedent.
Can you spell "demonization?"

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Political Sickness of the Highest Order

The condition medical science calls Obsessive-Compulsive Behavior Disorder must be a prerequisite to running for office as a Republican.

Sufferers have far stronger and more frequent obsessions than normal folk, and their obsessions trigger uncontrollable actions that are aggressive, irrational and socially inappropriate. They can’t help themselves.

For example, House Republicans yesterday made their 52nd attempt to repeal or emasculate the Affordable Care Act, which they derisively call “Obamacare.”  Like their previous attempts it was doomed even before it was written.  Still, at the mere mention of Obamacare, a right-wing Republican is likely to melt down, compulsively shouting “death panels,” “socialism,” and other nonsense slogans.  Both the AMA and the APA reportedly are considering making Obamacare Obsession a separate and extreme subform of OCBD.

Another extreme form of the disorder that is rampant among Republicans is Benghazi Obsession. Whenever a Republican gets a whiff of a nearby progressive idea, he is likely to begin trembling and compulsively shouting “Benghazi! Benghazi!”  At our local Congressman’s office the other day, a constituent asked him about incentives for development of wind power, and he turned crimson, leaped atop his desk and yelled “Benghazi” so loud that his plastic Jesus shattered.

No amount of truth can wean an OCBD sufferer from his or her favorite obsessions.  No wonder the so-called “birthers” are being compared to the “flat-earth society.”  An acquaintance of mine developed a clean-house obsession that was so strong she ultimately stopped living in her house after it had been cleaned, so as not to muss it up. The political equivalent is the Republican governors who refuse to let their aged citizens reap the benefit of expanded Medicaid under . . . the O-word.

Some historians believe the Tax-and-Spend obsession was the earliest form  of OCBD among Republicans.  An archivist says “Tax-and-Spend Democrats” was scrawled on the walls of Lafayette Hall in Pittsburgh at the first Republican national convention in 1856. “Tax-and-Spend Democrats” ranks third behind Momma and Dada as the most frequent first words spoken by Republican infants.. To this day it ranks with “Cut the Deficit” as the most compulsive Republican response to the mere mention of Social Security.

Doctors say OCBD isn’t contagious, but as the disorder becomes more and more extreme among Republicans, it has spread across the aisles of Congress. One of the first manifestations of this was the WMD syndrome.  Under its influence, most Democrats in Congress supported the authorization to invade Iraq.  Democratic immunity to Republicans’ Endless War Obsession had been weakened by the national endemic of Terrorism Obsession, which began on Sept. 11, 2001, and still rages throughout the population.

OCBD Democrats have a Compromise Obsession that causes them to compulsively accept defeat before the battle has even begun.  That’s why President Obama capitulated to Big Pharma and Big Insurance even before the Affordable Care Act was drafted.  

Republican Sex Obsession began during the Clinton Impeachment fiasco with Special Prosecutor Ken Starr’s intense fascination with the most lurid physical details of the Lewinski-Clinton relationship. It, too, has spread across the aisle to Democrats who join Republicans’ compulsive intrusion into the most intimate and private aspects of women’s lives.

While there are many obsessions that cause compulsive and bizarre behavior by our elected leaders, the most dangerous at this moment is the Iran Obsession.  An offshoot of the larger Arab Obsession, the Iran Obsession is a cousin of the WMD madness that put us into the disastrous Iraq war.  Its most seriously afflicted sufferers, like Dick Cheney and John McCain, compulsively attach “nuclear weapons program” to any mention of Iran. Even though that Muslim republic has no nuclear weapons program and doesn’t want to have one, the OCBD crowd wants to bomb-bomb-bomb it to smithereens.

Many OCBD sufferers fly into rages when their compulsive behavior is thwarted.  If that happens to one of the many rulers around the world who do have nuclear triggers, it doesn’t really matter which side they’re on.  The world’s toast either way.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Get to Know Your Real Rulers

I have this regret: that I won’t be around to read the judgement of future historians as to when, exactly, democracy died in the United States.

This week’s 5-4 Supreme Court decision in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission wasn’t the death knell; it was simply a reminder of how relatively easily Americans forfeited their democratic tradition.  Scarcely a whimper.

What was the actual fatal blow?  Was it a single stroke, death by guillotine or lightning bolt? Was it a long slow death from many causes — unhealthy lifestyle, ingestion of small bits of countless poisons, bad air, bad water, bad food, bad government?

Forced to opine, I would probably choose the second proposition, although a strong case can be made that the Supreme Court dropped the blade with its handover of the 2000 election to George W. Bush.  We’d had terrible presidencies before but we’d never had one imposed on us by the highest court in the land. Having thus established the principle of non-democratic governance, what followed was  predictable: the series of rulings for the corporate oligarchy and against the common man of which McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission now becomes one more part in an abominable whole.

The New Yorker humorist Andy Borowitz wrote more truth than comedy in summing it up:

By a five-to-four decision, the United States Supreme Court today defended the right of the wealthiest Americans to own the United States government.”

For the record, the majority was the usual gang of five: Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Kennedy and Thomas. Their earlier Citizens United ruling had opened the door for all of our “free, democratic” elections to be bought by the rich and powerful.  The few fragile restraints remaining were erased this week. A single donor can now give more than $5 million in individual contributions to every House candidate, every Senate candidate, every state party committee, every national party committee and every leadership PAC connected to one political party.

And so, my fellow citizens, understand that the rulers of your country are not Obama, Biden, Boehner, McConnell et al.  They are mere chattels, owned lock, stock and bribe by your real rulers: Walton, Koch, Scaife, Adelsen, Simmons, Schwab, Groff, Nau, Perry, Marriott, Bommer, Hubbard, Ackerman, Gramm, Thiel, Perenchio, Penske, Singer . . . .and more.  They are the billionaires who are now endowed with the inalienable right to buy as much of, or any part of, government that they choose.

With these oligarchs calling all the shots, we are destroying our economy with the costs of endless war, destroying our environment by lack of controls on polluters and land abusers, destroying our health by letting agribusiness and giant food profiteers infuse our foods with god-only-knows what kind of poisons, making basic health care and medicine unaffordable, striking every last individual right and liberty out of our Constitution, making the electoral process a laughing stock, imposing a state religion and driving increasing numbers of us into the ranks of the poor.

With democracy dead and nuclear capabilities proliferating, Noam Chomsky wondered, in a recent speech, if the United States isn’t leading all of human civilization toward doom:

“In 1995,  the U.S. Strategic Command, or Stratcom, which is in charge of nuclear weapons, published a study, 'Essentials of Post-Cold War Deterrence.' A central conclusion is that the U.S. must maintain the right of a nuclear first strike, even against non-nuclear states. Furthermore, nuclear weapons must always be available, because they ‘cast a shadow over any crisis or conflict.’

“Thus nuclear weapons are always used, just as you use a gun if you aim it but don't fire when robbing a store.

“Another dire peril casts its shadow over any contemplation of the future - environmental disaster. It's not clear that there even is an escape, though the longer we delay, the more severe the threat becomes - and not in the distant future. The commitment of governments to the security of their populations is therefore clearly exhibited by how they address this issue.

“To put it bluntly, in the moral calculus of today's capitalism, a bigger bonus tomorrow outweighs the fate of one's grandchildren.

“What are the prospects for survival then? They are not bright. But the achievements of those who have struggled for centuries for greater freedom and justice leave a legacy that can be taken up and carried forward - and must be, and soon, if hopes for decent survival are to be sustained. And nothing can tell us more eloquently what kind of creatures we are.”

Today, we are the kind of creatures who meekly submit to outrages like McCutcheon v. FCC.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Experts in Greed Dispute Climate Science

When the world’s largest group of climate scientists put forth another dire report about the state of our planet, Forbes magazine immediately rounded up the usual suspects to attempt to rebut it.

You’d think even a corporate mouthpiece like Forbes would have tired by now of the same old bullshit from climate change deniers like the Infamous Idsos, Joseph Bast, Siegfried F. (“Fred”) Singer,   Freeman Dyson, Pat Michaels, Steve Milloy, and James Taylor — deniers whose blatant falsehoods about climate science prompted a Rochester Institute of Technology professor to write that they “ought to be jailed.”

Singer, the editor of the so-called study that Forbes cites, first gained wealth and notoriety as the paid science shill for the tobacco industry in its long campaign to persuade the public there were no health risks in smoking. Now he gets $11,600 a month from energy-industry-funded Heartland Institute to challenge the findings of a legion of climate science experts. Singer is affiliated with 11 foundations and associations that receive funding from the likes of Exxon-Mobil, Koch brothers, the Scaife family, Shell, Uniroyal and ARCO.  How “objective” can his work on behalf these corporate interests be?

Singer’s Ph.D. is in physics. He has no formal training in climate science, nor did he have any expertise in pulmonary medicine, heart disease  or any other of the recognized health hazards associated with smoking. His B.A. was in electrical engineering.Would you trust even so eminent a physicist as Einstein to treat your heart problem? Would you allow an electrical engineer to treat your lung cancer? What gives Singer standing to dispute the most massive accumulation of climate science ever put together?

Joseph Bast, president of Heartland,  wrote the Forbes piece, which appeared under the audacious headline, “The IPCC’s Latest Report Deliberately Excludes and Misrepresents Important Climate Science.”  “Important climate science”?  By whom? Singer and Pat Michaels of the Cato Institute are among the few climate deniers with solid science credentials, although neither is a climate specialist.  Bast, himself, studied economics at the University of Chicago, but never received a degree.

The Idsos — Sherman and his sons Keith and Craig — have academic credentials in geography, soil science, botany, agronomy and physics.  No climate science.  Their work is funded by the likes of the Western Fuels Association and Exxon-Mobil.  James Taylor studied law at Syracuse University, where he was president of the student chapter of the far-right Federalist Society.  

Steve Milloy of Fox rails against climate science, just as he did (for pay from Phillip Morris) against the medical research that condemned cigarette smoking. Now he’s got an anti-climate change organization that takes money from Exxon-Mobil. Like so many of his peers in the science skepticism industry, his real expertise is in greed.

The “IPCC” in the Forbes headline, of course, is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations group that periodically summarizes peer-reviewed climate science from around the world.  Its latest summary, the second of three and the work of hundreds of scientists, was released yesterday. It concluded that ice caps are melting, sea ice in the Arctic is collapsing, water supplies are coming under stress, heat waves and heavy rains are intensifying, coral reefs are dying, fish and many other creatures are migrating toward the poles or in some cases going extinct, and the Earth is warming so rapidly that unless humans can arrest the trend, we risk becoming ''extinct'' as a species.

Helen Berry of the University of Canberra in Australia, a contributor to the report’s chapter on health risks of  global warming, told an interviewer that humans “cannot possibly evolve to match the earth’s rate of warming since the 1970s, when we started burning fossil fuels in a massive way.” The  greatest challenges will come from undernutrition and impaired child development from reduced food yields; hospitalizations and deaths due to intense heat waves, fires and other weather-related disasters; and the spread of infectious diseases. “People won't be able to cope, let alone work productively, in the hottest parts of the year,” Dr. Berry said.

The oceans are rising at a pace that threatens coastal communities and are becoming more acidic as they absorb some of the carbon dioxide given off by cars and power plants, which is killing some creatures or stunting their growth, the report said. Organic matter frozen in Arctic soils since before civilization began is now melting, allowing it to decay into greenhouse gases that will cause further warming, the scientists said. And the worst is yet to come, the scientists said. 
If emissions are allowed to continue at a runaway pace, the report said, the result will be death or injury on a wide scale,  damage to public health, displacement of people and potential mass migrations. “Throughout the 21st century,” the scientists wrote, “climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty reduction more difficult, further erode food security,  prolong existing and create new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hot spots of hunger.” There is a risk of violent conflict over land, water or other resources, to which climate change might contribute indirectly “by exacerbating well-established drivers of these conflicts such as poverty and economic shocks.”
Rajendra K. Pachauri, chairman of the intergovernmental panel, said, “Nobody on this planet is going to be untouched by the impacts of climate change.”
Forbes’s spinners-in-residence like to call the ICPP scientists “alarmists” and “extremists.” But they are mankind’s last, best hope.  We ignore them at our peril.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Phantom Army and the Real Hypocrites

From where I stand, the tens of thousands of Russian troops “amassed” on the Ukraine border smell exactly like the late Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

Here’s Agence France-Presse: “ . . .Russia seized the Black Sea region of Crimea and massed tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s eastern border.”

NBC: “the number (or Russian troops) is estimated at 150,000 . . .”

CNN: “Russia may have 40,000 troops near its border with eastern Ukraine and another 25,000 on alert and prepared to go in. . .”

AP: “Russian troops continue to mass along the Ukrainian border.”

John Kerry, after his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov:  Russia must pull back “thousands of troops massed along the Ukraine border” because  those forces are creating a "climate of fear" inside Ukraine that does not support diplomatic dialogue.

Exactly where on the border is this mass of troops? “We went to look for ourselves,” writes Jim Maceda, a correspondent for United States television networks for 40 years.  He and two colleagues drove an unmarked grey minivan the length of the 1,200-mile border.

They went to Sudzha, Kursk, five miles from the border, where a “Russian tank column” had been reported several days earlier.  “As we drove around the quaint town, we saw no tanks or armored personnel carriers.  We did see ATM machines on almost every block.  All was quiet. There was no tension in the air.  Outside of town farmers were planting winter wheat.”

They had traveled 500 miles along the border before they saw any sign of military activity — at the Belgorod army base near the civilian airport. Two MI-24 military helicopters took off, circled the perimeter of the base, and landed.  Even on the base, they spotted no armored vehicles. They drove right up to the border gate to ask people about the reports of Russian troops preparing to invade.  A taxi driver told them he was losing fares because the Ukrainian border guards lo longer allowed him to take passengers to the Ukrainian city of Karkov. But the Ukrainians did have tanks parked just inside the border.  Referring to the neo-Nazi faction that was instrumental in overturning the elected government of Ukraine, a Russian said to Maceda, “Can you imagine if a trained Right Sector commandeered those tanks and fired on us?”  

Maceda asked if he thought Kiev would give such an order.  “No, I don’t,” he replied.  “But also we have no faith that Kiev could prevent such an incident.”

After Belgorod, Maceda and his companions spent two days “traversing seemingly endless farmland on pot-holed roads, passing chicken coups and old ladies selling buckets of apples -- but no signs of brewing war.”  At two army bases along the way — in Kamensk-Shakhtinsky and Rostov, both near Ukraine’s southeastern border —“the only activity we saw was some serious latrine duty and a band of conscripts enjoying a friendly wrestling match,” Maceda wrote.

Lavrov acknowledged that units from the army bases near the border have conducted training exercises, but insisted, both to Kerry and on Russian television, "We have absolutely no intention of, or interest in, crossing Ukraine's borders.” 

In the interview with Russian television, Lavrov called the western  sanctions against Russia a "dead-end" strategy that would not achieve results and accused the west of hypocrisy. He said it was inconsistent for the west to refuse to recognize Crimea's annexation, which followed a referendum on joining Russia that was overwhelmingly approved, while at the same time accepting the new government in Kiev, which was formed after the democratically-elected president president fled the country.
"If they are willing to accept the first event as legitimate, then surely they are obliged to acknowledge the second," Lavrov said.
The non-profit  Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG),  an independent research and media organization based in Montreal, echoes the charge of hypocrisy:
“In excluding Russia from the G8 group of the industrialized nations, the United States and its partners are behaving in an intolerant, duplicitous and hypocritical manner.
“For those who willfully ignore the historical facts, it’s noteworthy that the Partition Treaty on the Status and Conditions of the Black Sea Fleet signed between Russia and Ukraine on May 28, 1997, permits Russia to lawfully maintain up to 25,000 troops, 24 artillery systems, 132 armored vehicles and 22 military planes on the Crimean peninsula. This agreement will be effective until 2017, and is the most convincing logical justification for Russia’s military action in Crimea.
“What has happened is not an ‘occupation’ as the U.S. leaders claim, but that Russia has exercised its legal right for employing troops  in a geographical area where the majority of inhabitants are ethnic Russians and don’t want to remain under the Ukraine autonomy and are overwhelmingly inclined to join Russia.
“What every neutral and unbiased observer of the international political developments can easily note is that it’s the United States which is renowned for its hegemonic policies and its imperialistic modus operandi, not Russia. Russia’s intervention in Crimea took place after it felt that its national interests are being seriously endangered on its borders, where 58% of the population is consisted of indigenous Russians who prefer to be reunited with Russia, rather than being seen as an asset and prize for the United States under the leadership of a new government in Ukraine which has neo-fascist backgrounds.”
Neo-fascists.  Ruthless dictators.  We’ll go palsy-walsy with anyone to further our hegemonic interests.  It’s the American way.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Comic Masquerade We Swear By

One of the charms of Walt Kelly’s classic comic strip “Pogo” was the ease with which its characters assumed new identities that received instant acceptance from all the other creatures of the swamp. Howland Owl donned a headband, stuck a feather in it, and instantly became “the Injun” to one and all.  Albert put a mop on his head and “blunked out his eyeballs” to become “Nonnie” of  “Li’l Arf an’ Nonnie.”  And so it went.

But life today isn’t a comic strip, and there’s nothing charming about the way the American voter accepts the false identities the willing propagandists of the media assign to public figures. Paul Craig Roberts, a former Reagan administration official who is unsparing in his criticism of politicians of every stripe, calls the  media sycophants “presstitutes.”  They have persuaded the American voter that there is a “left” and a “right” in U.S. politics.  In their fairy tale world, President Obama heads the “left” — but that’s really just a feather in a headband.  The Republicans of the House and Senate, back pocket employees of the Koch Brothers, Wall Street and Karl Rove, represent the “right” — but they’re just wearing mops on their heads and blunking out their eyeballs.

All of them are traitors to the country the United States once aspired to be. A list of their treasons would fill a very large book.  In service to the neon gods of profit, they have un-democratized the U.S.economy, establishing a two-class nation of oligarchs and serfs.  They have fueled an enormous portion of this economy with a succession  of endless wars, sacrificing American blood and treasure and foreign innocents for nothing but the enrichment of those who control the military-industrial-intelligence complex. Already manipulating one of the most ignorant electorates in the First World, they are insuring their future dominance by privatizing education, providing profits for one-percenters and power for the religious right, a core sector of their blindest political supporters. They have callously and deliberately disassembled the most critical parts of the United States Constitution, those that guarantee individual liberties and a “voice of the people.”  They have established a military police state, arming local law enforcement with the fearsome tools of war, the to better enforce their draconian laws, their political and racial persecutions.  They have permitted presidents to assume the divine right of ancient kings, able to condemn any citizen to death or life imprisonment on what amounts to nothing more than personal whim.  They condone the president’s acts of murder by remote control.  They demean and oppress women by shameful laws that invade their bedrooms, their personal health affairs and their dignity. With bribes in their pockets and fear in their bosoms they genuflect before the gun lobby and pass legislation that encourages the mass slaughter of innocent people. They sanction their massive spy apparatus to collect mountains of data on not just ourselves but people the world over — data to use in inciting uprisings against leaders we disagree with, wars on behalf of our lackeys, and the assassination of “dangerous” (by Washington’s definition”) people anywhere on earth.  Abetted by a ruthless, rogue Supreme Court, they have  established a de facto state religion, utterly scorning the anti-establishment clause of the Constitution.  They are systematically depriving masses of citizens of the right to vote, disappearing from the roles blocs of voters likely to vote against the interests of the ruling minority.  They are creating shadow agencies to draft laws, codes and ordinances at every level of government, laws that oppress minorities, repeal rights and degrade citizens. They have emasculated the labor unions, silenced the populists, and created a vast fog of fear over our land. Their official conduct is based on lies, and when someone speaks truth to their power, that someone is declared a criminal. thrown into prison, executed, or forced into exile.  They have no shame: they blame the victims for the crime of rape.  Fairness is an utterly foreign word to them: they can spare billions to overthrow the elected government of Ukraine, and billions more to shore up the pretenders they installed in its place — but they cannot spare a thin dime to feed the starving, house the impoverished or feed their children here in the United States.  The brainwashed wretches of the great, blind underclass continue to believe their lies and submit.  With each election, our rulers rig the outcomes so that more of the rare and precious holders of office who actually try to represent the people are voted or gerrymandered out of office. They have made our democracy sick and are presiding over its death.

Flitting about in their Nonnie mops and Injun feathers, they carry abroad an endless supply of black toothbrush mustaches, labeling as Hitlers all of those in other countries who don’t knuckle under to their hegemony.  Confronted with a foreign financed coup d’etat on his very border, Vladimir Putin of Russia heeded the calls of the Russian-speaking people of the Crimea.  Russian troops already in Crimea oversaw the free and fair vote of the people to annex themselves to Mother Russia and we called it an “invasion.”  The presstitutes pasted a Hitler mustache on Putin and the lemmings of our media led the electorate in mandatory hours of hate to denigrate him.

In an act of hypocrisy seldom exceeded in history, the Nonnie mops and Injun feathers decried Putin’s “violation of international law,” holding that their own real violations of international law in Iraq and Afghanistan and Yemen and elsewhere around the globe were acts of democratization.  Ask the starving and dying Iraqis about “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

Meanwhile, in Venezuela and El Salvador, in Central Africa and Somalia, in Honduras and Ecuador, the United States, its lackeys or its CIA thugs and mercenaries are fomenting war, regime change, death and destruction.  It has halos for those who will profit from our lawless interventions and meddling.

Halos and Hitler mustaches.  Nonnie mops and Injun feathers.

For Americans, it seems, that’s all it takes to masquerade as government leaders.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Corporate America Doesn't Give a Damn About Us

Capitalism in these United States has always been contemptuous of the labor whose sweat and toil create profits.

Thanks to Ronnie Reagan and his successful  crushing of the Air Traffic Controllers, we are now back at, or very close to, the point where Robber Barons of industry treated workers like chattel.

In the double-speak that passes for political dialogue these days, those Barons are “job creators” who would put everyone back to work if only Big Government would stop levying taxes and imposing regulations. These so-called “job creators” are the very same corporations that shipped millions of well-paying American jobs overseas to be filled by slave-wage foreign workers. They are the same corporations that Reagan enabled to bust unions willy and nilly, opening the way to obscene profits for such as Walmart and the fast food industry.

Abuses of the workforce, from child labor to overlong workweeks to low wages to unsafe working conditions led to the labor laws that capitalists now find so onerous. After much suffering and bloodshed. American workers won the right to organize unions, bargain collectively and work in safe, healthy conditions. Thanks to the Citizens United decision, corporations have taken over the government and are rewriting the law to their satisfaction.  Once they opposed the 40-hour work week as a socialist crime against free enterprise.  Now they embrace it as a means to oppress workers by limiting everyone to less than 40 hours, making them part-time workers unprotected by the laws that were devised for the benefit of full-time workers.

No nation in the industrialized world has weaker laws affecting “temporary” workers.  What corporations in the United States get by with would be illegal in countries like Sweden, Germany, South Korea and Chile.
Meanwhile, right-to-work laws and other legal fictions make it virtually impossible for these workers to organize.  Walmart tactics alone could form the text book for how to keep workers in virtual enslavement.

Current Bureau of Labor Statistic data show that the number of Americans belonging to a labor union is at an all-time low — barely 14 million vs., for example, nearly 18 million in 1983.  Last year, the rate of
union membership in the public sector fell by more than a full percentage point, from 37 to 35.9 percent of workers, while in the private sector it dropped from 6.9 to 6.6 percent. The combined rate of American workers now belonging to a union stands at 11.3 percent, down from 11.8 the previous year and the lowest figure ever since the bureau started collecting the data in 1983, when the rate was 20.1 percent.
The relatively brief period of ascendant labor unionism in the United States coincided with the emergence of a growing middle class, swollen by hourly-wage workers. Now, most economists are wringing their hands over the decline of that middle class.  Virtually all of the real income growth in this country has gone to the richest one per cent of the population. Workers no longer aspire to becoming middle class.  Millions of them aspire merely to work, to find a job, any job. The relative handful of jobs our mythical “job creators” are offering each month are virtually all minimum-wage jobs or below.  Yet our corporate rulers propagate the myth that American business can’t afford to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour — even though it would now be over $15 an hour if it had merely kept pace with inflation.
While their whores in elected office prattle about further weakening of the labor laws, and further tax concessions to the ultra-rich, to encourage ”job creators,” even a cursory study of our own history reveals that, left to their own devices, American business  still has nothing but contempt for workers.
The TV performer Stephen Colbert was largely correct when he said in a recent speech that we have only ourselves to blame for the fix we’re in.  We elected the people who did this to us, and re-elected them, and re-elected them again. He was referring to our forfeiture of civil liberties under the so-called USA Patriot Act.  But it applies as well to the plummeting economic status of John Henry Citizen.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Dirty Hand Whitewashes Black Coups

Somebody needs to put hats — white for good guys, black for bad guys — on all those demonstrators in foreign countries.  

It would help the United States foreign policy makers.  Right now our unclean hands are leaving fingerprints all over the protests, and things are getting sticky. With diplomats who get caught saying things like “Fuck the EU,” it’s no wonder things are getting sticky. We don’t choose sides very well.

The diplomat who dropped the F-bomb — Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland — and  the person on the other end of the line —U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt — are up to their ears in fomenting the coup that drove a democratically-elected president out of office in the Ukraine.   Now they are openly cheerleading for the interim opposition government, and boasting of this country’s $5 billlion “investment” in the regime change.

But the side we chose to back in this smelly affair turns out to be run largely by neo-Nazis.  The side we drove out, it’s true, is pro-Russian.  But President Viktor Yanukovych had agreed with the opposition on an orderly transition toward early elections. Then right-wing armed patrols shattered the agreement and took strategic positions around Kiev, forcing Yanukovych to flee. 

Yanukovych left unguarded the plush digs that were the fruits of the graft and corruption in his government, but in our haste to blacken Vladimir Putin’s Russian eye during his showcase Winter Olympics, we didn’t bother to inquire deeply enough into what now looks like a from-the-frying-pan-into-the-fire strategy. What’s worse? A corrupt democrat or a Nazi regime on the very borders of the EU?

Putin, who bailed President Barack Obama out of a leaky boat on Syria, doesn’t suffer black eyes kindly.  A two-state Ukraine, ostensibly a “compromise,” would leave Russia with the prosperous half of the country, and the U.S. and its E.U. puppets with the economically troubled half, but even that wouldn’t pacify Putin.  So what we’ve created by meddling into a regional problem is to make it a bigger, global one.  Do we really want another Cold War, simmering with the threat of becoming a hot one?

The same policy makers who conned Obama into his Ukraine quagmire were bullying him toward military intervention in the civil war in Syria, on the side of the opposition, because of specious allegations that the Syrian government poison-gassed civilians.  You can’t have enough wars for these guys, who were infuriated when Putin brokered a deal that would remove Syria’s illegal chemical weapons under international supervision. This rendered moot, for a moment,  the question of U.S.military involvement in Syria.

The neocon warhawks who want to at least bomb, if not invade Syria have really mucked up the situation regarding Iran. Just when a new and more moderate head of state took office there, and made overtures to the west, and Obama agreed to a new round negotiations toward a peaceful resolution of what U. S. media satraps termed the Iran nuclear “threat,” the neocons began to rattle their swords for tougher economic sanctions against Iran. Awash in bribes from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), congressional whores of both parties seized upon an Israeli agenda item demanding that the Iran talks be broadened to include curbs on Iranian military missile capability.  It’s all a not-very-veiled attempt to sabotage the talks and force Obama to agree to the Israeli government’s insistence upon bombing Iran into subservience.

Our foreign policy fruitcakes are messing around all over the globe, from shadow wars and drone attacks not only on foreign governments we don’t like and U.S.citizens who support them, to the fomenting of “popular uprisings” against disfavored foreign leaders as stage-setters for possible CIA assassination attempts.

American neocons’ open contempt for Hugo Chavez’s socialist revolution in Venezuela knew no bounds.  Chavez was elected and re-elected in large part thanks to support from the country's poor, who were downtrodden by previous governments.  He addressed  their needs and frustrations, by establishing “social missions” across the country, aimed at eradicating illiteracy, distributing staple foods and providing health care. Chavez’s hand-picked successor, President Nicolas Maduro, has pursued the same policies, but lacks Chavez’s political skills in dealing with the nation’s irate elite, who, like their U.S. counterparts in the GOP, oppose aid to the impoverished with a hateful determination.

America’s Black Ops army sensed Maduro’s vulnerability and stirred up the student protests that launched the current wave of violence. 

The dirty fingerprints are everywhere. As Casey Stengel might have put it, “Don’t nobody here know how to play the game right?”

Thursday, January 16, 2014

School Shootings. Supermarket Shootings. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Kid smuggles a shotgun into a junior high school gym in Roswell, NM, gets off three rounds, leaves two classmates badly wounded.

New Mexico is one of the more gun-friendly states.  Allows "concealed carry." In almost any town in New Mexico you can take four or five steps, turn around, and be looking at a gun show.  At New Mexico gun shows if you can walk, talk and carry cash, you can buy a piece -- no background check.  Pay and play.

Guy totes a semi-automatic handgun into a supermarket in Indiana. (Well, maybe that steak isn't really dead.  Can't be too careful these days.)  Shoots and kills two customers -- 12 aisles apart -- before the cops arrive and off him.

In Detroit, a 4-year-old girl kills her 4-year-old cousin with a rifle she found under a bed at her home.

At the end of 2013, more than 12,000 people had been killed by gunshot in this country since the massacre of the innocents at the elementary school in Newtown, Conn., stirred outrage among the hand-wringers and milquetoasts. Fortunately, the NRA stood firm and there are 12,000 fewer potential free-riders, dole-takers and welfare queens in the country.  

Painful though it may be, you gotta be realistic about this stuff.  Congress is too busy placing more sanctions on Iran for daring to suggest negotiating peace; can't be bothered considering legislation to, maybe, put a few restrictions on who can buy, carry and use lethal weapons. Besides, they've got a government to shut down periodically, just  because they can.

Government is too big, anyhow, so we can't let it be poking its fat nose into our gun cabinets, holsters and pick-up truck gun racks.  Then again, it's pefectly welcome to poke its fat nose into our bedrooms to prevent same-gender s-e-x and into our clinics to prevent women from making their own health care decisions.

It's perfectly OK for kids too young to drive to have access to weapons that can take out five people with a single pull of the triggger.  After all, isn't this the country that thinks it's OK for the president to assume the power to kill citizens, or imprison them forever without charge or trial, just because he thinks they might be friendly to terrorists?

And why the hell shouldn't we expect to be at risk while shopping or going to school? Frackers and coal processors are poisoning the water we drink.  Corporate polluters are poisoning the air we breathe.  Crooked bankers and financiers are stealing the pittances we earn.  Risk is everywhere!  Get used to it and stop whining!

Put more cops in our shops and our schools.  Even if we can't afford to pay them a living wage. Give 'em tanks and drones and maybe even tactical nukes.  So what if they take out more friendlies than bad guys?  Collateral damage.

It's the American way.