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small minority of voters who bothered to turn out for the allegedly democratic midterm elections,  you are two systems out of date.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.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Official Line   
    Check the news on the mass media and, with rare exceptions, you will be fed the official line. It will be served to you directly or as the presumption behind whatever story is being covered.  Media that do not spout the official line are considered “alternative” at best and “subversive” at worst.
   If you haven’t figured out the official line lately, it goes something like this: America is the greatest country on earth. This is a unique category: there’s no such thing as a second or third greatest country. Being the greatest means the following:
    Americans have and do things better that other countries. If that’s not always so, we don’t want to know about it.
    We are a peaceful country. We say this despite the fact that we lead the world in arms and in the number and size of foreign wars we have undertaken over our history.
    We are a democratic country. We claim this despite the reality that our political system is a thoroughly corporatized profit center designed to benefit the richest one percent of the population and bamboozle the other 99 percent.
    We are a free country. This we claim even though we have by far the world’s biggest prison population (2.3 million) and are all subject to surveillance and control in just about every aspect of our lives by an ever growing and increasingly militarized national security state.
    We grant ourselves the prerogative to “lead” the other 95 percent of the world, whether the rest of the world agrees or not. Disobedience of our global writ can draw penalties ranging from sanction and subversion to full scale invasion.  

    Our sovereignty is inviolable. The sovereignty of other countries depends on their ability to prevent us from violating it. For instance, we can force down the presidential jet of the small country of Bolivia, but not that of a big country like Russia.
    When countries we regard as adversaries do good things, it’s always for bad reasons. When we do bad things, it’s always for good reasons. For instance, when Venezuela provides free
eye surgery for millions of Latinos, it’s to gain propaganda points. When we destroy whole societies, it’s to fight terrorism.
    If you’re a young idealist who gets a jobwithin the machinery of capitalism and/or the empire, you will soon discover that the official line is pure bunkum and reality much more fraught. If you tell others about your discovery, some will label you “anti-American” for doubting the official line.  Others will mock you as a sucker for ever having bought it.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Megalobamia

    America must always lead on the world stage...The military is...and always will be the backbone of that leadership...The United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our core interests demand it.--Barack Obama at West Point. May 28, 2014
 
    In fiction, people who want to rule the world are depicted as megalomaniacal villains. In real life, though, Americans take it as normal when their politicians, pundits and militarists endlessly tout the necessity of U.S. “leadership” over the other 95 percent of humanity. Neither do they get alarmed when their president says that their military (meaning endless war) is their main means of global dominance. Quite the opposite: the nation’s conservative majority and a good part of its liberal minority remain unabashed jingoes no matter how many wars we lose.
    U.S. claims to be humanity’s honcho don’t have much resonance beyond our borders. The other 95 percent is moving, however fitfully, towards a multi-polar world. Big grown-up countries like China, Brazil, India, Russia and Germany see no reason to be led. Smaller countries are getting together in regional groupings and find little need for a godfather.
    Not only is the other 95 percent getting more independent, the U.S. is becoming actually and relatively weaker. We’ve done some incredibly self-destructive things in recent decades: starting pointless, losing and debilitating wars, shifting from making things to manipulating money, gutting public services, dumbing down education, and, weirdly and uniquely, hosting the growth of a popular movement denouncing science, the basis of modern civilization. 
    When your population leads the globe in prison inmates, obesity and debt, when you get trounced in wars by medieval tribes, and when your political and civic systems no longer function while avoidable disasters pile up, you’re not the kind of country other nations will obey, let alone emulate. Just ask the Taliban.
    Back in another era, a typical form of lunacy was pretending to be Napoleon, who also sought to rule the world. I don’t know but wouldn’t be surprised if those deluded with grandeur nowadays see Obama as their model.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Can You Keep A Secret?

For your information, the Israelis used Pollard to obtain our attack plan against the USSR, all of it. The coordinates, the firing locations, the sequences. And for guess who? The Soviets! ---William Casey, director of the CIA, 1981-87

    Everybody spies on everybody all the time. When allies get caught snooping on each other, the penalty is usually a slap on the wrist. At worse, the culprits get a couple of years in the jug.
    That was going to be the fate of Jonathan Pollard, an American caught spying back in 1985 for our good buddy Israel. But then Casper Weinberger, our then Secretary of Defense who was a Jew and a staunch supporter of Israel, stepped in. He wrote a letter to the sentencing judge detailing what Pollard had purloined and where some of it ended up.  The judge read it and threw away the key. Pollard got life in prison, where he still sits today. But maybe not tomorrow.
    The Israeli government and Pollard’s supporters have always claimed that the secrets he filched while serving as an intelligence analyst for the Navy were about stuff the Israelis needed to know to help defend themselves and be a better ally of the U.S. In other words, their intentions were benign.
    What we do know is that Pollard swiped everything in sight: documents occupying some 360 square feet of floor space. Worse, what a lot of knowledgeable people say is that, right in the middle of the Cold War, the Israelis were peddling parts of the Pollard trove to the Soviets in exchange not only for bucks but for Russian Jews, tens of thousands of whom settled in Israel in that period.  It was their double dealing with our communist enemies that that got Weinberger, the judge and our spooks so ticked at the Israelis.
    Ever since, the Israeli government and Pollard’s supporters in the states have been campaigning to spring him. For all these years, they have stuck to the line that Pollard’s spying was not as bad as it looked and that the stories about Israel peddling our secrets to the Russkies weren't worth a reply. What they were worth was a cover-up with the complicity of the American media that remains until today.  Thus we find ourselves in a situation where its okay to report that our spies are furious about the Pollard case, but bordering on treason to say why they're still so angry.        

     Every time an American president looked like he would cave into to the Israelis and free Pollard, the CIA and the Pentagon would rise up in outrage. Caught between the military-intelligence complex and the Israeli lobby, the White House would yet again back burner the issue and change the subject.
    But it won’t stay down.  A page one story in the NY Times of April 1 says that Obama will soon release Pollard. In exchange, Israel will pretend to negotiate with the Palestinians into 2015 to make it appear that the  peace talks are moribund rather than in rigor mortis.  But even this last effort looks like a still birth
    There’s no serious purpose here. Anyone with half a frontal lobe knows that “Israel will never allow the emergence of a Palestinian state.” Still, there’s something in the heads of American pols that demands endless peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, no matter how phony and futile they are.  It’s probably a nervous disorder related to the one that has them nonsensically warning for decades that Iran is minutes away from getting the bomb.
    I wouldn’t mind seeing Pollard go free--so long as it activates truth telling about his case and the reasons for the prolonged punishment he earned.  It’s been obvious for years that while we Americans are all for Israel, so are the Israelis all for Israel. It’s time we grow up about a part of the world where we really have no friends, let alone trustworthy ones.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

More Empty Threats
 
 There is no corner of the earth so remote, no nation so insignificant, that it does not represent a vital interest of the United States--former Secretary of of Defense Caspar Weinberger
 
     Barack Obama and John Kerry just made the stupidest decision a leader can make: they picked on someone their own size.
    Russia is the world’s largest energy producer, supplying 30 percent of the fuels that keep Europeans warm and lit. It’s the biggest supplier of industrial metals. It’s a huge, largely self sufficient land.  In 1945, it emerged a winner in a war that killed 20 million of its people. because of its ruthlessness and ability to take punishment. And that’s not to mention that it possesses hundreds of nukes and with them the ability to instantly erase these United States.
     In short, there’s no feasible way for Washington to slap, sanction, bully, threaten or intimidate the Russkies.
    You would think the honchos of a country that regularly gets roughed up by medieval tribes might have taken that into account. But Obama, Kerry and the yahoos are apparently more in love with hearing their own empty threats than dealing with reality.
    Why are our leaders doing such a dumb thing?  It’s because they’re single-minded imperialists who can’t stop treating the world the way Bain Capital picks takeover targets.
    It was two decades ago that the decrepit USSR busted up into 15 or 16 countries, most of which Americans had never even heard of.  Within a few years, we had military bases in a half dozen of them and were pressing them to forget about their economic needs and replace their Soviet-era weapons with new American ones. And, of course, we wanted a Mickey D’s and a Sunglass Hut on every street corner from Latvia to Siberia. We had won the Cold War and the old Soviet Empire was going to be our new one
    Ukraine was at the top of our wish list. It was big, resource rich and an important part of NATO’s plan to project itself right up to Russia’s borders even though it had officially forsworn such an aggressive policy.
    The problem was that the Russkies had been the dominant power in that part of the world for 350 years and were not about to surrender it to Uncle Sam.  The Crimea is Russia’s only outlet to warm water, without which it could not be a world power. So the Ukraine and Crimea are life and death matters for Moscow.
    The notion that Putin might let Obama pull off a pro.-U.S. coup there a la Honduras was sheer madness. Unlike those drawn in sand by Obama, Putin’s red line will stand. Either that or we’ll have a new Cold War--this one centered in a hot spot that could blow at any moment. Europe wants to keep its lights on and homes warm.  Except rhetorically, it will not follow Obama down the road to confrontation with Moscow. As in Latin America, the U.S., the great isolator, will find itself yet again isolated.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Don't Mention It, Por Favor     
    Six hundred million people live in Latin America and the Caribbean.  That’s twice the population of the USA. At the end of January, the presidents of each and every one of those nations met in Havana to forge greater economic and political unity amongst themselves. Cuba was not only the host but the outgoing president of CELAC, Spanish for the Community of Latin American and Caribbean Countries. The U.S. and Canada, regarded as imperialists by one and all, were pointedly not invited.
    This major summit received not a mention in the NY Times. (The link here is from the UK press service, Reuters). However, the Feb. 5 Times did give coverage in its international section to the defection of one, just one, of the 5,378 Cuban doctors hired by Brazil over the last year to provide health services to the poor. This was a perfect example of the money media policy of either slagging or ignoring the independent nations south of the border.

    The collapse of the Soviet empire 25 years ago came as a big surprise to our pols and press. Likewise, the onrushing transformation of Latin America from Tio Gringo’s backyard into a free and independent community of nations is having a hard time sinking into the consciousness of such as the editors of the Times, who apparently believed that a story about a Cuban doctor who would rather live in Brazil was of more interest and import to their readers than the quakings of the vast continent next door to ours. How is it that we spend so much on intelligence to receive stupidity in return?