THE POWER ELITE THAT CRIED “COVID!” –a fable

17 10 2021

Sam and his best buddy, Benjamin

Once upon a time there was a power elite named Sam. Sam lived in a place called America, and he was, indeed, very powerful.

And Sam was a greedy power elite, for that is the nature of power elites. They can never get enough. Even though they are long-lived, their years do not bring them wisdom, but only growing greed, and a growing skill at telling lies to feed their greed. I could, if I had the time, extend the history of Sam’s growing greed way back to his very birth, but I’m going to confine this account to the last eighty years or so, and only hit some of the high points–or should I say, low points?

Back in the 1930’s, Sam was having a hard time. There were lots of people around who didn’t care for his greed and wanted to take his ill-gotten gains from him and give them back to the people he had taken them from, so that they could live decent lives. Sam’s response to this was to attack these people for “being disloyal to America.” You see, he believed that he had a right to get whatever he wanted any way he could, and that the purpose of the government of America was to protect his wealth. The government seemed to think so, too, except that in 1932 it fell into the hands of a guy named Frank, and Frank seemed to think there was something to what the people who wanted to take Sam’s money had to say.

So Sam accused all these people of secretly supporting another power elite, named Joe, in another place, a place called Russia. Sam said that these supporters of Russia should not be able to hold government positions, or teach in our schools, publish books, sing on our stages, or be given any public attention whatsoever, because they would subvert “loyal Americans.” Even though this was not the truth–the accused merely wanted America to be a better place–enough Americans believed Sam so that the Americans who wanted to share Sam’s wealth among all the people were shamed into silence and in some cases killed, jailed, or banished.  Frank died, and Sam managed to replace him with a guy named Harry who saw things more Sam’s way. And so Sam’s lies caused his power to grow, and only a few people knew that he was lying about “the subversives.”

Sam wanted to control the whole world, and, indeed, he controlled much of it, and that enabled his wealth to grow to fabulous proportions, but he soon realized that the Russians were not going to just give in to him. Sam really wanted their wealth. So he used his power to spread many stories about how the Russians wanted to take over the world, and had many terrible weapons that they would not hesitate to use, and so America needed to give him more money so he could build more weapons than the Russians had and defend America. And so the people agreed to have their taxes raised, and the government paid Sam lots of money to build weapons, instead of on things that would benefit the people. But the money spent on weapons made Sam richer, so he was happy, at least for a little while.

Now, it just so happened that it was not true that the Russians wanted to take over the world, nor was it true that they had many terrible weapons. But nobody but Sam and a few of his trusted advisors knew that, and they made sure to keep it a secret for many, many years. Even when the truth finally came out, only a few people heard it.

These terrible weapons were nuclear bombs. And it just so happens that, when Sam “tested” some of these nuclear weapons to make sure they worked right, Sam exposed thousands of Americans to the toxic radioactive fallout from those weapons. Sometimes Sam deliberately exposed members of the US military to this radiation, to “study” its effect on them. In addition, the sites where the uranium was mined were also toxic, and poisoned the people who lived around them as well as the water those people drank. Sam denied that there was a problem. When people brought forward proof that there was a problem, Sam even got his courts to deny their claims anyway. Eventually, Sam did have to admit what he had done, but many people died horrible deaths without even the thin benefit of financial compensation as a result of his lies about this important public health issue. Read the rest of this entry »





THE REAL MIRACLE OF 9/11

17 10 2021

My remarks about the 9/11 attacks last month sparked a lively debate on my social media page, with some people defending the official story and attacking me for questioning it, and others voicing their reasonable doubts about the official story. The whole conversation lead me to realize that, while whether the neat way the buildings collapsed was a miracle or not, there was a greater miracle at work in the events of that day. I’ll disclose that miracle at the end of this post, but first, I want to offer some general comments that I initially wrote as responses to the discussion in the thread.

Those who defended the official story, of course, had plenty of links to articles supporting their position–I mean, who are you gonna believe, Popular Mechanics magazine or Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth? Wikipedia calls the 9/11 truth crowd “conspiracy theorists,” so that should be the end of the discussion, right?

Rather than getting hung up in the engineering details, let’s look at the big picture.

What happened on 9-11 had two major immediate results:  with public opinion solidly in favor of war after this “Pearl Harbor event,” he US invaded Afghanistan “to get Bin Laden,” and the US invaded Iraq, having insinuated so strongly that Saddam Hussein was in on the plot that 70% of the US public believed it at the time. The US further claimed Saddam had “weapons of mass destruction,” and that the US needed to stop him before he did something even more heinous.

In the ensuing twenty years, it has become clear that both of these claims were lies. The US didn’t have to invade Afghanistan to get Bin Laden. The Taliban offered to turn him over to the US if we showed them some kind of proof of his guilt. The US claimed to have such evidence, but refused to share it with the Taliban, and invaded Afghanistan. We all know how that has turned out.

Interestingly, as far as I can tell, the US has never made this evidence pubic, despite an initial promise to do so. While this is by no means conclusive proof that our government has no proof, it looks like a questionable statement in light of the lie about having to invade Afghanistan to get Bin Laden, as well as the other big lie: the US’s claims of Iraqi involvement in 9/11 and posession of WMD’s.  I don’t think I need to post a link to prove what huge lies those stories were.

So, with the two main results of the 9-11 event clearly being based on deceptions that our government and media co-operated in spreading, it’s entirely reasonable, I think, to suspect that the truth about 9-11 is also other than what the government and mainstream media try so hard to make sure we believe.

It’s further worth noting that none of those who promoted the lies that led us war, either in the government or the media, have lost any pay or status for being wrong about something that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives, turned millions of innocent civilians into refugees, and diverted billions of dollars from more constructive uses. On the other hand, many of those who questioned the war were fired or demoted. Phil Donahue, who had the most popular show on MSNBC, was out of there in a heartbeat for raising questions. US diplomat Joseph Wilson lost his job for calling foul on the administration’s WMD claims, and in a peculiarly short-sighted act of retribution, the government outed his secret agent wife, Valerie Plame, effectively destroying her usefulness and endangering all of her contacts. FBI agent Coleen Rowley suffered a similar fate. Although their warnings turned out to be correct, none of these people were reinstated or given restitution–but those who promoted the war, whether in the government, in the media, or in the punditocracy, have continued to promote America’s imperialist agenda as if they always got it right. Read the rest of this entry »





TWO ANNIVERSARIES

12 09 2021

Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of an engineering miracle of sorts—the day when two airplanes were flown into the upper floors of The World Trade Center, setting off a low-temperature jet fuel/kerosene fire (not hot enough to melt steel) that somehow caused the buildings to collapse as if they had been professionally demo’d, and that, even more miraculously, caused the building next door, where all the surveillance records were stored, to collapse as well.

Most of the steel recovered from the buildings was sold as scrap metal. As far as I can tell, it was not tested for traces of explosives. Another miracle! Yet another set of miracles occurred when a number of Saudi citizens, as well as some Israelis who had been observed cheering as they watched the WTC collapse from across the Hudson, all managed to get out of the US without being questioned, in spite of the general shutdown of air travel.

These miracles came as a result of the prayers of the Project for a New American Century, which had been asking for “a new Pearl Harbor” to motivate the US into major military intervention in the Middle East as a way to grab the oil and demonstrate our rightful position as World Hegemon.

Be careful what you pray for.

In another anniversary observation, Hurricane Ida came ashore in south Louisiana on the 16th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. The good news was, this time the rebuilt levees held. The bad news was, the electric grid did not, and dozens of oil, plastic, and other kinds of chemical processing facilities that are clustered in south Louisiana did not have any electrical power, which for some reason many of them had no plan for, and so a great many of them out-gassed, leaked, and/or oozed even more toxic gas/liquid/sludge than they usually do. In addition, numerous offshore oil rigs are reportedly leaking.

With climate change and sea level rise increasing exponentially, we have to recognize that, no matter how well things get patched together after this assault, there will be another, and another, and another, mounting in intensity, and not just in Louisiana, but all along the chemical-soaked Texas coast. If we, as a culture, were smart, we would start packing up these industries and doing our best to clean up the area before it goes underwater for good. No–if we, as a culture, were smart, we would never have invested so heavily in petrochemicals to begin with. But we weren’t that smart, and my guess is we will not be smart enough to get out while the getting is good. The companies that run these plants will build higher levees and provide backup power, and the government will probably give them tax breaks for doing so. Ain’t capitalism wunnerful? But it will all be for naught. As sea level rises and storms intensify, the expanding Gulf of Mexico will become a huge dead zone, where the reek of petrochemicals sours the salt sea air and oil coats the lifeless beaches.  What a wonderful thing to leave for our grand-children.

music: Dr. John, “Black Gold

David Rovics “Operation Iraqi Liberation” (live version with creative video)

 





AFGHANISTAN

12 09 2021

As a hippie in the late sixties and early seventies, I had one main association with Afghanistan: hashish. It seemed, at least from the distance I was viewing it from, to be a pleasant, if somewhat misogynistic, backwater that had not yet been penetrated by the money-grubbing, clock-watching, demonic forces of Western consumerism. And it was safe to go there: thousands of hippies traveled overland through Turkey, Iraq, and Iran to get there, or came in from India, which was just a hop, skip, and a jump away. Long before Osama Bin Laden disappeared into the countryside, Tim Leary came there with his wife Joanna, on the run from US law enforcement, hoping to do the same thing–but US authorities knew he was coming, busted him as soon as he arrived, and took him back to the States. The rumor at the time was that Joanna was a federal agent who snared him in a “honey trap.” She always denied the charge, and, among other things ran a lovely podcast called “Future Primitive”  until her recent passage out of her body. But I digress….

What made Afghanistan famous then….

…and what makes it famous now.

The next big thing I knew about Afghanistan came along when I took an interest in growing temperate zone fruits–apples, pears, peaches, and plums. I found out that the “center of genetic diversity” for most of them was Kyrgyzstan, just north of Afghanistan, and that Afghanistan, like Kyrgyzstan, was a place where forests of wild apple trees could be found–or once could be found, perhaps, as the insatiability of goats and human firewood needs, coupled with a climate that has been warming since the last glacial age, was steadily drying out Afghanistan–and that was before we knew about global warming.

I wasn’t terribly aware of Afghan history, except that I knew it was called “The Graveyard of Empires,” and that it was one of the few places that had any success in repulsing Britain’s attempt to incorporate it in “The Empire.” I read a thrilling novel by Idrees Shah, “Kara Kush,” little realizing that its heroes were the misogynistic Islamic fundamentalists the US funded in its successful effort to overturn a secular, non-misogynistic government that leaned towards Russia. The US succeeded; Afghan Communist leader Mohammad Najibullah, whose government held out for years after the Russians quit helping them, was lynched, Ku Klux Klan style, by the victorious Mujahideen.  I found that gory detail out when I read an excellent recent article by Vijay Prasad in which he recounts the history of the movement for women’s rights in Afghanistan, a movement that began in the teens of the last century, and first flowered in the 1920’s, when a reformist King and his Queen established Afghanistan’s first school and hospital for women, established a “women’s protective society, and forbade child marriage (the age of consent was raised to 13) and polygamy, allowed widows to remarry, removed the chador (veil), and regulated mahr (dowry).

This King had succeeded in throwing the British out of Afghanistan, and they wanted back in, so, when he and his wife toured Europe, Prasad tells us: Read the rest of this entry »





THE DEMOCRATS’ ABORTION EXTORTION RACKET

12 09 2021

You need protection from this bozo and his buddies, honey…..

Afghanistan isn’t the only place where repressive religious forces have triumphed recently. In Texas, Christian conservatives, the people who get their undies most in a wad over the possibility of “Shari’a law in the United States,” have imposed their own religious strictures, virtually banning abortion. To nobody’s surprise, the 6-3 Catholic Supreme Court has, at least temporarily, allowed the Texas law to go into effect by a 5-4 margin. Female Catholic justice Sonia Sotomayor voted to suspend enforcement of the law until it was litigated, and, to his credit, so did Catholic Chief Justice John Roberts, widely viewed as an abortion opponent. (Neal Gorsuch, who was brought up Catholic but now calls himself an Episcopalian, was the fifth vote to uphold the Texas Taliban’s decree.)

My Democrat friends were quick to jump on me over this. How could I not support the Democrats, given that they uphold abortion rights?

I replied: Defense of abortion rights is a blackmail issue the Democratic Party uses to get voters to go along with its neoliberal, corporate-friendly, oligarchic policies. I will not support the fascists who happen to support abortion rights merely because they support abortion rights.

Besides, if it weren’t for Biden’s complicity, reactionary Catholic Clarence Thomas wouldn’t be on the court. If the Democrats had been willing to play the kind of hardball the Republicans played with the Merrick Garland nomination, Bill Clinton would have been the one to name the esteemed Thurgood Marshall’s replacement instead of George Bush Sr. If the Democrats had focused on the perjuries Brett Kavanaugh committed as an adult, rather than playing to the galleries about the stupid things he did when he was too young to know any better, they could have kept him off the court. For that matter, if the Democrats had run a more popular candidate than Hillary Clinton–you know, like maybe …Bernie Sanders? Trump wouldn’t have been elected and gotten to nominate three Supreme Court Justices. Ruth Bader Ginsberg could have followed Sandra Day O’Connor’s lead and retired in her late 70’s, while Obama was President and the Senate was Democratic, allowing Obama to appoint another judge who, whatever their other failings, understood that women have the right to end a pregnancy and it ain’t nobody’s business if they do. Read the rest of this entry »





WHO IS BLU?

8 08 2021

This is the second of a two-part series on “delusion in American politics.” Last month I focused on the Republicans, and this month I’m going to look at Democratic Party delusions, as well as tell you about a shadowy cabal of oligarchs that some of us on the left have begun to refer to as “BluAnon.”

The first step in doing that is to mention some rather important Republican delusions that I somehow neglected to work in last month. As I said at the time, it’s a big topic. and exploring it is kind of a “choose your own adventure” book, in which certain themes may be left out because of the path we take as we venture into the morass. So I’m going to start with those, as well as with comparing them to the Democrats’ version of them.

Let’s start with climate change. Republicans are big on denying its reality, even going so far as to pass laws forbidding state or even national government agencies from mentioning it or taking it into account in their planning. This hasn’t prevented individual Republicans, such as former Pres. Trump, from taking steps to secure their own seaside properties from rising waters.)

Covid falls into a similar category–many top Republicans have quietly gotten themselves and their families vaccinated, even as they fan the flames of vaccine/pandemic denial in public–Rupert Murdoch is a prime example. Recently, they’ve changed their tune, though, as the virus has surged back and is killing mostly unvaccinated people–who are mostly Republicans. Can’t afford to lose those precious Republican voters!  By contrast, the Democrats want to see everybody in the US vaccinated. Third world countries, not so much. The Republican delusion is that covid is a delusion. The Democrats’ delusion is that it can rage around the world but we here in the US can vaccinate ourselves and not have to worry.  This recalls Edgar Allen Poe’s classic story, “The Masque of the Red Death.” But I digress……let’s get back to the Democrats’ delusions around climate change. Read the rest of this entry »





QANON IS NOT ALONE

11 07 2021

DELUSION IN AMERICAN POLITICS, PART ONE: THE REPUBLICANS

 

 

The QAnon/4chan movement does have a certain level of humor and sophistication….but..

This has turned into a two-part series. It didn’t start out that way. I intended to write about the Democratic Party’s ruling set of delusions, thinking I would give a quick summary of the state of Republican delusion as an intro, but that is not what my muse had in mind, and She directed me to go more deeply into Republican delusions than I have previously ventured. (“Republican delusion” is such a vast. easy target!) So, this month, we will be examining the state of Republican delusion, and next month go on to the Democrats.

Before that, I want to give a short update on the “Citizens for Good Government” show/blog I did a few months ago. First of all, I did not understand the full implications of one of the group’s proposals, and opined that making it easier to recall public officials was probably a good thing. But the devil was in the details.  As I later understood, C4GG’s proposal would have allowed ten percent of the voters in a district to recall a council member, who would then be prohibited from running in the resulting election except as a write-in candidate. I think it’s extremely un-(small-d) democratic to rig the system that way. Meanwhile, there’s a lot of legal wrangling around C4GG’s petition, which at this point may be the subject of a special election in late July. This actually relates quite well to the “Republican delusions” theme of the show–Republicans like to claim they’re “strict Constitutionalists,” but in this case, as well as many others, such as a couple of recent Supreme Court decisions, they’re quite willing to bend the Constitution or even tie it in a knot if that’s what it takes to get their way. And Democrats? Tune in next month.

OK–goggles, air tank, wet suit, compass–it’s time for a deep dive into the murky world of Republican delusion. Read the rest of this entry »





WHY I DON’T HAVE A “SMART PHONE”

9 05 2021

I’m going to be looking at the numerous down sides of so-called “smart phones,” but I want to start by acknowledging that there have been benefits from them, as well. It’s not just the spectacular results of billions of people having a video camera and a way to share their recording with the world. We would be in sorry shape  without all those cute cat videos.  But, seriously–from the horror shows of murders by police to strange statements and behavior by authorities that would be comic if imagined in a satirical sketch, but that, as reality, expose their incompetence and venality, and sometimes cause them to lose elections, get fired, or at least be overruled. There’s also the millions of people who have been able to reach out for needed assistance, whether for their broken-down car or their broken-down self-esteem, just by reaching in their pocket and texting or making a phone call. Not having to search for a pay phone in the middle of the night or the middle of nowhere is a wonderful convenience. However, that convenience, and the ability to catch fools and felons in the act, comes with a higher price than most people recognize, and that’s what I’m going to be exploring in this piece.

Let’s start with the fact that the pay phones we no longer have to search for are now more or less extinct, which means that, when leaving home, in order not to be cut off from the long distance communication network we have come to take for granted, one needs to have a cell phone.

That last statement raises three of the themes I’m going to be examining: a more complex technology (cell phones) replacing a simpler one (pay phones and, for that matter, communication via sending each other pieces of paper through the United States Postal Service).  The second theme is our tendency to take easy, fast long-distance communication for granted, and the third is the way cell phones have become a must-have item if one is going to fully participate in our culture and economy.

I’ll return to those issues a little later, but let’s begin this exploration with some other concerns:

Read the rest of this entry »





A DEEP GREEN LOOK AT “THE NASHVILLE TAXPAYER PROTECTION ACT”

11 04 2021

updated May 7, 2021

Last month I wrote/talked about the similarities, and differences, that can be found in a broad spectrum of social movements, from Antifa and Black Lives Matter to working-class Trump supporters and Boogaloo Boiz. This month, to illustrate what I mean, I’m going to examine the Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act, an initiative supported by  a civic group here in town that calls itself..well, it doesn’t seem to call itself anything other than “The Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act,” or maybe its web addy, which is  https://4goodgovernment.com/ .  This somewhat anonymous group–not only does it apparently not have a formal name, but there is nobody named anywhere on the website, although Nashville attorney  James Roberts, who has, shall we say, a checkered ethics record, seems to be its primary spokesperson. Roberts and his supporters, including, he alleges, 40 individuals he identifies only as “downtown business interests,” want to limit Metro’s ability to raise property taxes more than 3% per year without a referendum. This was sparked by Metro’s recent 37% property tax hike, which, understandably, upset a lot of people in the year of The Great Covid Economic Collapse.

Small-d democratizing approval for tax hikes is certainly an idea that a left-wing populist would support just as much as a right-wing one would. Another measure “4goodgovernment” is advancing would make it easier to recall elected officials. (Note: I have learned since writing this that I didn’t fully understand this proposal. Apparently, while it makes it easier to successfully petition for a recall election, also forbids the recalled official from running in that election–in other words, 10% of the voters could, merely by signing a petition, effectively remove an officeholder. That strikes me as, to use a technical political science term, “dirty pool.” I emphatically do not support such a measure.) Other broad-spectrum populist proposals would forbid the city from amending referendum-approved charter amendments, except by another referendum. Others call for referenda on the sale or lease of Metro properties valued at over five million dollars, and for Metro to be able to take back any land that was given to a sports team that is no longer functioning. The one measure that a left populist would not support is the one that mandates that “No elected official shall receive any benefits at taxpayer expense without a voter referendum.” Although its wording is vague enough to be legally questionable, it is aimed at denying Metro Council members one of the perks of the job–Metro-covered health insurance for them and their families for the rest of their lives. Perhaps in response to this, Metro recently voted to shift much more of the expense onto the former council members. While those who win Metro Council elections tend to come from the portion of the population that can best afford to pay for their own health insurance, this stricture seems rather gratuitous, since paying for the health insurance of current and former council members takes up 0.034% of Metro’s budget. Yeah, that’s right. Thirty-four thousandths of Metro’s budget.

So these proposals, to be voted on separately, are what this referendum drive is about. We will be examining how, and why, we finance local government , as well as looking at what makes this proposal right-wing populism rather than left-wing populism, and, to take things into the “deep green” realm, considering the how and why of the “value” of the land and buildings that are the basis of that financing. But I am going to start at “the surface,” by looking at what The Nashville Taxpayer Protection Act proposes, the political and economic philosophy of those who are proposing it, and, of course, why Metro Nashville’s government is utterly horrified by it. Read the rest of this entry »





DIVIDED, WE FAIL

14 03 2021

I promised in January to take a “deep green look” at the Capitol riot. In February, the weather intervened, and so now we’re looking at the Capitol riot from two months out. I’m glad to have had that time to put it in perspective, because the more I examine the riot, and its roots, the more I understand the devious ways our ruling class works to keep us divided and at each other’s throats, rather than united and going after theirs. That may seem like an odd conclusion to reach about a bunch of right-wing Republicans making a clearly hopeless attempt to prevent the formal recognition of right-wing Democrat Joe Biden as our duly elected President. Understanding the connections I am going to make involves nuanced thinking, at a time when we are being heavily propagandized to see events, people, and beliefs as either good or bad–not that that propaganda campaign is new. The only way to keep from being taken over is is to take active control of our own minds.  Widespread ignorance of our ability to do this is the main reason why so many Americans are so easily hoodwinked by lying politicians and media–and I’m not just talking about Republicans and Fox News. Adam Schiff, MSNBC, and a whole lot of other “liberal”  people and news outlets, I’m lookin’ at you.

I’m not going to pay much attention to the second Trump impeachment and all the questions around that, because I think that focusing on Trump misses the point that what happened is not some weird anomaly that can be prevented from ever happening again if only we disqualify Trump from ever running for office again. I’ve pointed out plenty of times that he’s a symptom, not the source of the problem, and that, absent Trump, our diseased system will just present us with somebody a lot like him, but who has learned from his mistakes, and who will be that much harder to stop.

So, why do we have a society in which the Capitol riot was the logical next step for so many people? I think the proper place to start is with some statistics about income that I ran across on Charles Hugh Smith’s Of Two Minds blog, summarized in this chart, which, for the benefit of my radio audience shows “a relentless 50-year decline in wages’ share of the economy’s total income” from a high of nearly 52% in the early 1970’s to its current low of 43%.

Here’s what Smith has to say about the meaning of the decline:

1. Wages’ share of the national income has continued a five-decade downtrend. …. National income since 1973 has shifted from labor (wages) to capital and more specifically, to debt and speculative gaming of the system, a.k.a. financialization.

Total household income in the U.S. in 2018 was $17.6 trillion. The decline in wages’ share of the national income from 1973 to 2018 is about 8.5%, which equals $1.5 trillion, the sum shifted from labor to capital every year.…..

No, this is not a typo….. $50 trillion has been siphoned from labor (the lower 90% of the workforce) to the Financial Aristocracy and their technocrat lackeys (the top 10%) who own the vast majority of the capital (i.e., stocks)….


2. Within the workforce, wages have shifted to the top 10% who now earn 50% of all taxable income. ….. Financialization and globalization have decapitalized the skills of entire sectors of the workforce as automation and offshoring reduced the human capital of workers’ skills and experience and the value of their social capital. When the entire industry is offshored, skills and professional relationships lose their market value.

In a fully globalized economy, every worker producing tradable goods/services is competing with the entire global workforce, a reality that reduces wages in high-cost developed nations such as the U.S.

Financialization has heavily rewarded workers with specialized gaming the financial system skills and devalued every other skill as only the skills of financialization are highly profitable in a globalized, financialized economy.

He then explains more of what this means for the average American in flyover country: Read the rest of this entry »








%d bloggers like this: