Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Her Hillaryness Requests
    With Hillary back in the news on a daily basis until the gods of money either anoint or dismiss her, I thought it was as good a time as any to revive a piece I did last fall for my Dear Ideologist column in the print edition of In These Times, a national news magazine that I’ve been writing mostly satire for since 1977. Here it is:

Dear Ideologist, 

   I enjoyed meeting you at my recent book signing on Martha’s Vineyard. As I indicated at the time, I would be happy to address the Fogey Forum, your senior citizen discussion group. As I mentioned, my minimum speaking fee for non-profit organizations such as yours is $250,000, payable in advance to my numbered account at Banque de Lichtenstein. I will require air transportation to your venue by Gulfstream 450 or larger personal jet and ground travel by Rolls Royce Silver Shadow for myself and Escalade SUVs for my staff. For accommodations, I expect potentate penthouse or presidential suite facilities for myself and deluxe rooms for my personal staff, including make-up, hair, pants suit and flower arrangement personnel. My retainers will present you with a detailed contract listing cuisine, comfort details and ancillary requirements. The moderator of your forum should introduce me in glowing terms, a copy of which will be sent you.  My topic will be the challenge of inequality in America and one woman’s effort to rise above it.--Hillary Clinton, Chappaqua, NY

Dear Mrs Clinton,
    I’m sorry to say that we cannot go beyond our customary honorarium of $15.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Obama All Couped Out  

The United States appear to be destined by Providence to plague [Latin] America with misery in the name of liberty--Simon Bolivar, 1839


     There are lots of things foreigners know that we Americans don’t. For instance, Latin Americans now know that the Obama White House was mounting a military coup against the democratically-elected government of Venezuela set for February 12 that failed big time with the arrested plotters singing like tweetie birds about their marching orders from Washington.
    The coup was supposed to kick off with an air attack, just like JFK’s invasion of Cuba in 1961. Back then, military air bases were the key targets. This time, Obama was aiming at the Miraflores presidential palace with the aim of killing the lawfully and popularly elected President Maduro. I guess Obama didn’t use drones, his favorite assassination tool, because that was as good as announcing to the world that he was up to his usual tricks.
      In this era of commercialized subversion, private contractors from the U.S., Israel, Colombia, Britain, Germany and Canada were hired for different parts of the operation. Academi, a U.S based company that changed its name from Blackwater after that brand was associated with the massacre of innocent Iraqi civilians, was reputed in overall charge. Managing the coup on the White House end was Ricardo Zuñiga, Obama’s top guy on Latin America at the National Security Council. As noted above, even a few Venezuelans were allowed in on the plot. Some were disaffected air force officers and others the usual scrum of bought-and-paid-for local politicians.
    Americans don’t know about this new aggression because, according to a Google search, no U.S. major news outlet has yet mentioned Operation Jericho, as it was dubbed.  Neither has the media informed the citizenry that each and every one of the 33 countries south of the border has condemned U.S. efforts to destabilize and overthrow the legitimate government in Caracas.
    On April 10, all the presidents in the hemisphere will meet in Panama for a Summit of the Americas. If President Obama shows up as scheduled he’ll be walking into a political buzz saw.  Obama will not have even one ally for cover as President Maduro of Venezuela presents evidence of the thwarted assault on democracy.

    Few Americans will know about that either. At most, they’ll hear about yet another Latin American confab--you know, where Secret Service guys frolic with hookers while Latino politicos slag the U.S. in order to curry favor with their voters back home. Of course, it's never explained why dissing the yanquis wins political points. That would be giving away the game.
  (For good background on the U.S. war on Venezuela, I recommend this link to an important article by the highly distinguished expert on Latin America, James Petras.)

Sunday, March 1, 2015

"Treason" Once Removed         
    Back in simpler times, treason meant betraying one’s own country. Things are much more complicated today when treason can also mean less than total obedience to the leader and lobby of a distant foreign country.
    We Americans have reached that state with the arrival in Washington of Israel’s Prime Minister who has the super chutzpah to make a speech before our  Congress attacking our foreign policy. 
    Supporters of the state of Israel (or “51” as some call it) are warning that they will “punish” members of Congress who don’t show up to applaud Netanyahu. I assume that absentees will need a note from their doctor or another suitable excuse if they don’t want to end up on the Israeli lobby’s hit list of traitors to Israel.    
    “Punishment” here in the States for suspected lèse–majesté against anything Israeli hasn’t yet reached the level of water boarding or droning. Mostly it consists of accusations of “anti-Semitism” and ruination of the reputations and careers of the accused.
    That, along with tons of money from pro-Israel fat cats like Sheldon Adelson, has brought (or is it bought?) Israel to its uniquely powerful status among the satrapies of the American empire.  Only Saudi Arabia, which maintains a discreet alliance with Israel, has as much clout with the American polity.
   The unabashed hypocrisy in the Republicans’ sponsorship of Netanyahu is that while they pretend to super-patriotism and are forever slagging Obama and the Dems for not being tough enough on the other 95 percent of the world, they are tripping over themselves in kow-towing to the leader of a country where distaste for America and Christians is open and commonplace. 

   I get the feeling that Netanyahu and his GOP subjects have gone too far this time.  Even Americans, not the most worldly of imperialists, can eventually figure out that there’s something wrong with taking rather giving orders to one of their vassals.  When they finally do, it will be a blow to their pride.  They may even do something about it, like treating Israel not as a princeling to be indulged but as a nation with a population the size of Tajikistan or Honduras that ought to be treated accordingly.

Friday, January 2, 2015

And Seldom Is Heard
A Discouraging Word        

The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but has a remarkable capacity for never even hearing about them--George Orwell

    Whenever Washington and its media stenographers start prating about America’s championing of freedom and democracy, billions of people around the world are faced with a minor vexation. They don’t know whether to chortle or retch.
    I was thus vexed the other morning by an NPR update on our kissy-face buddy Saudi Arabia,  a country named for the family that owns and runs it. (If our concentration of wealth continues apace, we may soon join the Saudis in that distinction.)   The report
said that except for “uncertainty” about their future (a condition that effects us all), the Saudis were feeling mostly hunky dory in their medieval monarchy.
    A couple of days earlier I happened to come upon two lightly covered news items about our intimate ally. The first said that the Saudis boosted their beheading totals for the year. (Someone once told me that in addition to cutting off your hand for thievery, the Saudis will snip your pinkie for overtime parking. I’ve never managed to confirm that.)
    The other story said that two Saudi women were to be tried by an anti-terrorism court not only for daring to drive automobiles
themselves, but for encouraging other women to do so as well.   (Isn't terrorism such a ubiquitous and useful rubric?) 
    Neither NPR anchor Steve Inskeep nor his guest, author Thomas Lippman, mentioned those nor any other such bits of information that might hint that Saudi was a bizarre feudal throwback bested only by North Korea for the title of most repressive state on Earth.
   Speaking of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, its doofus dictator with the ten cent tonsorial, could become as beloved by Washington and the media as is the king of Saudi if he made the effort.  Perhaps he will now that the Sony hack has made him a national brand over here.
    He wouldn’t have to stop starving, torturing and killing his people or running a society in which anything not allowed is forbidden. All he would have to do was to turn his country’s economy over to Wall Street. U.S. multinationals would delight in super profiting from a regime that paid its people less and treated them more horribly than hellholes like Bangladesh.
   Kim would soon find himself a mascot of the NBA, hosting SNL and a regular on Meet The Press. Dick Cheney and Hillary Clinton would befriend him. And, as we do with our other absolutist friends, no one would ever use disconcerting words like freedom and democracy in his presence.  As our endless deference to the antediluvian Saudi princes shows, we Americans are polite that way. When it pays. 
 

 

Thursday, December 18, 2014

 When Will They Ever Learn?

...one of the big problems that the U.S. has in Latin America is that every country down there has ganged up on us--Former UN Ambassador Bill Richardson,CNN, Dec. 18, 2014

    It was only minutes, if not seconds, after the startling news of renewed diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S. that the pols and pundits started jabbering about bringing “democracy” to the “enslaved” island.
    In other words, after 54 years they hadn’t learned a damned thing, let alone changed their imperial ways. Don’t they know that Washington and Wall Street's (WWS) long and nasty record of spawning dictatorships makes their prattle about “democracy” a sick joke? Do they think that Cuba and the rest of the continent forgot the Bay of Pigs invasion, the 1962 missile crisis and the decades of bombings, open assaults and covert ops targeting the “enslaved” Cubans? Or the countless efforts to kill Cuba’s leaders, sabotage its industries, poison its crops and scare away foreign tourists with bloody terrorist attacks on hotels and airliners?  And what about the continuing vicious economic blockade openly aimed at starving Cuba into surrender?

                                                                              Cuban cartoon circa 1963
     At first, most of  Latin America, with the honorable exception of Mexico, went along with the relentless WWS anti-Castro crusade. But as decades passed, the U.S.-favored dictatorships in the region collapsed, replaced by democratic and increasingly leftist governments that established friendly diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba. This seriously undermined the WWS economic blockade.  Washington was further vexed by the overwhelming opposition to the blockade by the whole world (The last UN resolution condemning Washington passed 188 to 2, with just Israel and its U.S. client accounting for the two).     
      Meanwhile, Cuba, by its example of dogged independence and heroic opposition to imperialism, had become a leader in Latin America. In 2012, it was unanimously voted president for a two-year term of CELAC, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Nations, which includes every country in the western hemisphere with the deliberate exception of the U.S. and Canada.  That’s what ambassador Richardson meant about their “ganging up on us.”
     In the end, the strategy to isolate Cuba was turned on its head with Washington isolated instead. Hence, the effort to try to regain a measure of influence by finally recognizing the reality of Cuba.
    What those jabbering pols and pundits haven’t learned is that Cuba’s form of government is Cuba’s business. On that, all of Latin America agrees. Even rightwing Columbia, supposedly the last, best ally of  WWS in the region, supports the gathering drive for continental independence and unity.  There is no longer any reason, if there ever was, for Latin America to accept servile status in the Yanqui “backyard.” Spain and Portugal once ruled the continent. Today, they are just a memory.  The same fate awaits the colossus to the north.


                                                                                                                                    
   

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Welcome to the Robber Barrens
     If you are among the small minority of voters who bothered to turn out for the allegedly democratic midterm elections,  you are two systems out of date.
    Democracy was always more of an ideal than a reality in America.  George Washington and the founding fathers were rich men, ever worried that the rabble would rise. So they gave us a  plutocracy--one with democratic and civilized elements, but a plutocracy nevertheless.
    More recently, we have moved on to kleptocracy. What else would you call our polity given that the authors of the Wall Street and Iraq/Afghan/ISIS war ripoffs, the greatest financial and military frauds in history, have not been brought to justice but rather to greater wealth and power? Or that elections, the public expression of a free society, have become an increasingly private,  secret and highly profitable business?
  So the voting was about which bunch of kleptocrats we wanted to rule over us. There were the Reps, who won big time this time.  They’re divided into two factions, one that wants to make the government a more generous and efficient servant of the rich and corporate, and another that wants to burn down Washington.
    There are the Dems, also bifurcated. The leaders of the party likewise aim to indulge the
larcenous wealthy. The rank and file, however, would also do something to help the middle and poorer classes--so long as it could be done without disturbing business as usual. The issue on which both Dem factions agree is that their first duty is to exterminate any and all political expressions to their left. To this end they are readying to declare the truth-telling Senator Elizabeth Warren, one of their own, as, at best, a tad extreme and, at worst, the new Nader of evil. This to clear the way to the White House for Hillary Clinton, who never met a stockjobber or jingo she didn’t like.
    Though I’m sure they would have preferred to remain in power, if only for the perks, the Dems are not so forlorn in their shameful defeat. They now have a ready excuse for their do-nothingism and they can hope that the Reps will mess up enough so that the voters will bring back the Dems in 2016.    
    There is one huge fly in the ointment. If theAfghan/Iraq/ISIS War is one of the all-time military screw-ups, an even bigger and potentially cataclysmical one is the stupidly self-destructive decision by this nation’s warhawks to again challenge Russia and China, two countries, unlike our other targets, perfectly capable of evaporating us.
    Who will rein in these murderous fools?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Electoral Elegy
     It’s not just that our elections have become an utterly corrupt billion dollar business dominated by secret money. It’s not just that countless American citizens are being denied the vote because they are black, Latino or poor.  It’s not just that our senses are being bombarded by literally hundreds of thousands of inane and insulting commercials for candidates. It’s not just that the game is so rigged that 90 percent of Congressional seats never change hands. It’s not just that our elections produce dim-witted, do-nothing legislators who spend their time cadging money and sucking up and kicking down. It’s not just that these dim-wits insist on communicating with us in their own phony weasel vernacular rather than plain English.
    No, it’s not just that the whole damn system is rotten and pathetic. And it’s not just that it’s exemplary of the wise old Wobbly adage that if elections could change anything they would be against the law.
    What it is is that those who run our empire put our putrid politics up as a model for the rest of the world. We allow Washington to spend billions, if not trillions, on “nation building," much of it in nations that are thousands of years old. We, “the greatest,” are working like eager little voles to bring the American version of democracy to benighted not-so-great countries from Afghanistan to Ukraine.
     We pay taxes for outfits like USAID, The National Democratic Institute for International Affairs and the the International Republican Institute, all created by the government, to “channel grants for furthering democracy in developing nations.” In plain talk, that means everything from buying foreign elections to overthrowing disobedient regimes. And that’s not to mention the countless private contractors doing the same dirty work.
    Just like our wars, our gold-plated political expeditions around the globe aren’t going so well. Again in the huge nation of Brazil, the incumbent leftist president beat the U.S.-approved pro-business candidate.  And at the UN, 183 countries out of 192, including every nation south of the border left or right, voted to make socialist Venezuela a member of the Security Council despite the bitter opposition of Congress and the Obama administration. 
    That sounds like 183 countries that will need a dose of  "nation building" by Washington--whether they want it or not.
    Happy election day.  This message has been brought to you by Pete Karman.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

 A Rare Example of Reason 
    They call it “burying the lede.”  In the news biz it means hiding the most vital or revealing information deep inside a story so as not to upset the powerful or challenge conventional wisdom. That’s why the great investigative reporter Izzie Stone urged inquiring minds to read the papers from the bottom up
    Blessed are we then when we can read an important news story from the top down. The NY Times gave us one today, September 11, the 13th anniversary of our wars on assorted confessions and clans from the Mahgreb to the Hindu Kush. Right there at the top of a story headlined “Struggling to Gauge ISIS Threat,” it read:
     “American intelligence agencies have concluded that it [ISIS] poses no immediate threat to the United States. Some officials and terrorism experts believe that the actual danger posed by ISIS has been distorted in hours of television punditry and alarmist statements by politicians, and that there has been little substantive public debate about the unintended consequences of expanding American military action in the Middle East.
    “'It’s hard to imagine a better indication of the ability of elected officials and TV talking heads to spin the public into a panic, with claims that the nation is honeycombed with sleeper cells, that operatives are streaming across the border into Texas, or that the group will soon be spraying Ebola virus on mass transit systems — all on the basis of no corroborated information,” said [Daniel] Benjamin, who is now a scholar at Dartmouth College.’
    Let’s hope there will be more such sensible reporting in the war-spectered days to come. Otherwise, we will yet again be living out the familiar scenario described below:

    "Naturally the common people don't want war.  It is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy...or a dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."--Herman Goering at the Nuremberg Trials

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Whine from the Vineyard
  
STICKY SITUATION
    Lawn signs and bumper stickers are a common form of communication here on the ur liberal island of Martha's Vineyard, where Barack Obama plays golf with banksters he should have put in jail.
    My favorite among the posters adorns a home in Edgartown. It calls upon our president to please save the world, with the word world represented by a globe graphic. I guess the thought is that if asked politely, Obama might just get around to doing that.
    My favorite bumper stickers come in anomalous pairs. One calls for peace and the other endorses Obama--both on the same bumper.  That’s like sporting both vegan and Eat More Beef stickers on your Subaru. The other supports both Elizabeth Warren, nemesis of the banksters, and Hillary Clinton, their ardent agent. But, hey, who's looking for logic?   
    Like liberals elsewhere, those on Marthas Vineyard don’t let such contradictions bother them. They don’t have to parse policy differences among Dem candidates because they don’t much care about such things.  Libs and Dems gave up on issues a long time ago.  Their only concern is voting against the Reps who scare the hell out of them.


EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE
    I call it the fogey forum.  It’s a once a week morning discussion group at the local senior center. In other places, duffers play bingo or engage in crafts. But since the Vineyard has so many smart seniors--retired execs, professionals, teachers and such--they like to keep their brains tuned up by chewing on the issues of the day. Topics can run from gardening and island history to global events. What surprises me at these confabs are the number of otherwise alert attendees who have never heard of the American empire.  Whenever I mention it, the reaction runs from dubiety to denial. The presentment of evidence of empire, no matter how compelling, doesn’t seem to have any effect--apart from choleric, that is.  It’s just another example of important stuff that many Americans can’t just bring themselves to acknowledge let alone talk about.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

 Run, Run, Run, Runaway
    When the Cubans won their revolution in 1959, the American officer in charge of advising the army of dictator Batista called on Fidel Castro. He offered to set up a U.S. training mission for the new rebel army just as he had done for the departed tyrant. Why, Castro asked, would I hire those who trained the losers?
    In the last stages of that revolution, the U.S.-armed and advised Batista forces threw away their weapons and faded into the wood work. Ten years earlier, Chinese Nationalists sponsored by Washington skedaddled before the Red Chinese. In 1975, the South Vietnamese army created by the Pentagon at the cost of billions likewise collapsed.  In recent days, the Iraqi army, designed down to the last detail by the American military, took flight, top brass running fastest, when attacked by a far smaller force of Sunni fanatics known as ISIS. Left in their dust were the ruins of the decade-long, trillion dollar effort to remake Iraq as the centerpiece of the American empire’s dominance of the Middle East.
    All of these failures at arms--like the ones to come--have a common history: a dictatorship set up or succored by Washington finds its people in revolt. The U.S. moves in to crush the revolt by rebuilding the dictatorship’s military. But no matter how much training or how many shiny new weapons the Pentagon hands out, the recruits for the puppet army balk. They don’t want to kill their own people at the behest of  the foreigners propping up the dictatorship they hate. So they run away.
    It’s perfectly understandable.  How many Americans would willingly kill other Americans under orders of a foreign military?
    Washington can't deal with that reality. It believes its own propaganda that the other 95 percent of the world, with the exception of a few troublemakers, should be willing to fight and die for the American way of life in preference to their own. 
    Will our leaders ever accept that people everywhere, and not just in America, want to be ruled by their own kind? No!  If they did, the justification for U.S. “global leadership” would  collapse and a lot of rich and powerful people bent on global domination would become less rich and powerful.