HAGELIAN LOGIC

23 02 2013

If you want an example of both the short, selective memory of the mainstream media in the U.S., and a mark of how far to the right corporatism has pulled this country, there is no better example than the controversy surrounding Obama’s nomination of former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense.

Hagel was an enlisted man in Vietnam, who rose through the ranks to become a squad leader, making him one of the few upper-level members of our government who has actually been under fire.  I think that is a vital experience for anybody who is going to send others into harm’s way, just as spending at least a week in jail should be required of anybody who is going to pass laws that will put others behind bars.  Hagel hasn’t been there and done that, but pretty much nobody in the law-making business in this country has, so I can’t really hold that lack against him.

I think it’s worth noting that he was well enough regarded by the soldiers under his command that he did not get “fragged,” i.e., killed by his own troops for being an a-hole, which was the fate of at least six hundred and possibly as many as a two thousand U.S. officers in Vietnam.  His mere survival is thus another mark in his favor.  On the other hand, the military’s job is to intimidate or murder people they don’t know personally, and, divorced from the military context, that is a sign of psychopathy.  Mark against. Read the rest of this entry »





OF CLIFFS AND CEILINGS: A NATIONAL DENIALOGUE

13 01 2013

There’s lots of talk in the Hot Air Media and the Hot Air Congress about “entitlement reform,” which is a code word for “cutting Social Security and Medicare benefits, as well as everything else that’s not defense related” (except veteran’s benefits, which are considered an “entitlement” and are on the table.)

The Evil Republicans are pushing hard to cut spending on these things.  The Brave Democrats are promising to negotiate and find a compromise solution. “But where I live the game they play is compromise solution”–thank you Mick Jagger, that’s one of your best lines. Hey, the Dumbocrats are such great enablers!  Barack O’bumbler!  If he can’t find a way to lose it, nobody can!

The mainstream media seem to have unquestioningly accepted that the best place to prune the U.S. budget is in cutting benefits to the poor and middle class.  This is a complete hoax and flim-flam, and anybody who swallows it should have their stomach pumped.   Read the rest of this entry »





SOLSTICE MUSINGS

22 12 2012

music:  Terry Allen, “Xmas on the Isthmus

Here it is, almost Christmas, that day when so many of us celebrate the birth and teaching of a man who said “You cannot serve both God and Mammon”  )Matthew 6:24).  For some reason, this has become a time of year to give people lots of things, although Jesus, the ostensible centerpiece of the occasion, also is reputed to have instructed his disciples to “sell all you have and give the money to the poor” if they wanted to follow him.  And sure, the story tells us that “the three wise men” gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but these are traditional offerings to a venerated being or deity, unlike, say, an Xbox or a Victoria’s Secret gift card.

But the American economy is dependent on xBoxes and Victoria’s Secret, not on incense or even gold, for all its potent symbolism.  The Christmas season is when money changers in the temple, excuse me, I meant to say  merchants, count on earning a substantial chunk of their annual income.  Christmas has become a peculiar crossbreed of a holiday, with Jesus on the outside and Mammon on the inside.  That is because, for all our culture’s protestations about Jesus and Christianity, when you come right down to it, it really is money that we worship.

Let me quote to you, verbatim, one of the dictionary definitions of “worship”:

extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem <worship of the dollar>

There is no question that money, and the accumulation of more of it, is what far too many Americans esteem, admire, and are devoted to. Read the rest of this entry »





FEELING LIKE CASSANDRA

10 11 2012

One of the most popular archetypes depicted in The Iliad is that of Cassandra, daughter of Priam, the King of Troy, who was gifted by Apollo with the ability to see the future clearly.  She accepted his gift but rejected his advances, and so he added a little something to that gift:  she could forecast the future accurately, but nobody would believe her.  And that, my friends, seems to be the fate of the Green Party.

I said two weeks ago that I would be here tonight, “either crowing or eating crow,” and I’m sad to report that I have a well-baked crow on my plate tonight–and I’m a vegetarian!  Yeow!  Despite the best-financed and organized national Green Party campaign since Ralph Nader ran in 2000, Dr. Stein received only about 400,000 votes nationwide–by far the best Green Party showing since Nader’s 2.8 million total, but far short of our hopes and expectations. Her showing in Tennessee–6500 votes, about 0.26% of the total–was typical of her nationwide showing, which was about 0.3% of the national total.  Well, at least we weren’t  way behind the curve here.  But there are other peculiarities about that total, which I’ll explain a little later.

Martin Pleasant’s Senate campaign was our other statewide race.  We had hoped that the fact that the Democrat Party had renounced their elected candidate would result in a big bounce for Marty, but it was not to be.   Either there are a lot of Tennesseans who think Bob Corker is way too tame, or there are a lot of people who just aren’t paying enough attention to know anything more about who they’re voting for than whether there’s a “D” or an “R” after the person’s name.  “G”?  Does not compute!  Putative Democrat Mark Clayton pulled in 700,000 votes, a hundred thousand of them right here in Davidson County, where he nearly beat Bob Corker, while our man Martin Pleasant only got the attention of about 8,000 voters. Clayton actually won Shelby County. Maybe his strong anti-gay stance resonates with socially conservative African-Americans?  According to the Washington Post, Clayton raised less than $300 for his campaign.  A twentieth of a penny per vote.  I’m jealous.  Bob Tuke, the last “real” Democrat to run a serious Senate campaign in Tennessee, raised around a hundred thousand dollars and only got a few more votes than Clayton.

But hey, the Green Party seems to be everybody’s unwanted stepchild.  The Tennessean left Martin Pleasant out of their voters’ guide.  The Nashville Scene left him out, too, just as, nationally, Dr. Stein got nowhere near the level of attention the mainstream media paid to Ralph Nader.  Can’t let that happen again!

Here in Tennessee, we did a little better on our local races.  Read the rest of this entry »





MILLION DOLLAR BLOCKS

28 10 2012

One of the dirty open secrets about “the land of the free” is that, here in America, we have more people in our prison system than any other country in the world.  Here’s the numbers:  as of 2010, there were 2,267,000 people behind bars in America, with 4,934,000 additional Americans on probation and parole.  Fourteen million Americans are “former felons,” who will be handicapped for the rest of their lives with difficulties in being hired or receiving government assistance such as grants or loans for schooling, not to mention the shackles on their minds that all too often  from a stint in prison.

The good ol’ USA is way out in front of the number two imprisoner of human beings–Russia.  The US incarceration rate in 2009 was 743 per hundred thousand, fifty percent ahead of the Russians and Rwandans, both of which clock in at around 560 per hundred thou.  By contrast, only 71 out of every hundred thousand Norwegians is imprisoned.  In Holland, where legal marijuana sales should , according to the DEA, have precipitated a massive crime wave, the incarceration rate is 94 per thousand…hey, maybe they’re just too stoned to bother arresting people….or too high to go out and commit crimes?  And, when Republicans say they don’t want America to be like Europe, is this what they’re talking about?  Is this really a field in which we want America to be “number one”?

Ooh, but aren’t we keeping hordes of violent criminals off the streets?

No, not really.  About eight percent of the roughly two hundred thousand people in federal prison are there for violent crimes.  That’s about sixteen thousand people.  About half the roughly 1.3 million people in state prisons are in for violent crimes–that’s about 650,000 people.  And approximately a fifth of the three-quarter million individuals in local jails are there for violent crimes–that’s about a hundred and fifty thousand people.  When you add it all up, that’s slightly over a third of all prisoners locked up for violent crimes, about 816,000 out of roughly 2.25 million, with two-thirds of those in jail, about one and a half million people, locked up for non-violent, frequently “victimless,” crimes, at a cost to taxpayers–that’s you and  me–of around thirty-six billion dollars a year.

What’s a “victimless” crime?  About half of all federal prisoners are jailed for drug convictions of one kind or another–that’s a hundred thousand people.  A fifth of state prisoners have committed drug crimes–that’s about a quarter million people.  Statistics aren’t available for local jails, but that leaves us with a third of a million of the million and a half people in state and federal penitentiaries locked up for “drugs.” Read the rest of this entry »





ROMBOMACARE INDUCES EPIDEMIC OF LONG-TERM MEMORY LOSS!!

7 07 2012

i was much less surprised than most people, it seems, when the Supreme Court, in one of its notorious 5-4 decisions, upheld the so-called “national health care plan” that has become known, among both its revilers and defenders, as “Obomacare.”  My lack of surprise came from two considerations:  what this law mandates, and where it originated.  What is surprising to me is the seemingly complete lack of public awareness of the broader context of this struggle.  But hey, this blog is called “Deep Green Perspective,”  not “Shallow Green Snap Judgement,” so if you’ve been following me for a while, it’s because you expect the long view.  Here goes.

Obamacare was upheld by the widely unexpected swing vote of Chief Justice John Roberts.  It makes perfect sense to me that Roberts would vote to uphold this godsend for the private insurance industry.  The Bush-Cheney stacked Supreme Court has never turned down an expansion of corporate power, has it?  So, in a sense, this decision was an extension of “Citizens’ United.”  Not only do “corporate citizens” have the “right” to spend freely in order to influence elections and legislation, those of us who are mere flesh-and-blood citizens  must give them our money so they have plenty of funds to expand their prerogatives.

But the really bizarre part of all this political drama is that everybody seems to have forgotten where the basis of “Obamacare” originated.  Republicans denounce it as “socialism,” Republican governors vow to do what they can to block its implementation in their states–which they can do, since part of the Supremes’ decision struck down the part of the law that mandated expansion of Medicare, and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney vows to repeal the law if he is elected.  On the other side, Democrats cheer the Supremes’ decision, viewing it as a somewhat unexpected “liberal” victory.

All this sturm-und-drang conveniently ignores, or forgets, the actual origins of Obama’s health plan.  May I remind you that Obama got the basics of it from the plan Mitt Romney passed when he was governor of Massachusetts?  It should be called “Romboma Care”–credit where credit is due! And may I remind you that Romney received the plan from the Angel Moroni–oo;s, no, that’s the Joseph Smith story–but, by the way, what does it mean that the Founding Angel of the Mormon faith has a name so dangerously close to a derogatory term for a person with a dull intellect?  But I digress….The plan Romney passed in Massachusetts originated with the deeply reactionary Heritage Foundation, spiritual home of Newt Gingrich, founded by Joe Coors, Paul Weyrich, and Richard Mellon Scaife.  The Heritage Foundation, whose patron saint is Margaret Freaking Thatcher.  Moloch!

thanks to the Platzner Post for this!

And so, all America’s Democrat Party “liberals” are celebrating a Democrat President’s implementation of a reactionary, corporatist “health care plan,” as if it were a great victory.  And somewhere, Spiro Agnew, who is reputed to have predicted, “This country is going to swing so far to the right that you won’t believe it,” somewhere Spiro Agnew smiled. Read the rest of this entry »





OBAMONSANTO AND OTHER INCONVENIENT TRUTHS

7 07 2012

A few months back, President Obama announced a three billion dollar  U.S. initiative “to help Africa feed itself, “which is a noble goal, but the devil was all over his details.  The first detail to note is that three billion dollars is a third of one percent of our country’s military budget.  About one day of our military spending to help the starving Africans.  Whoopee!

There were two major prongs to this plan. Two-thirds of the money,  (That’s about sixteen hours worth of military spending.)will be given to a European chemical company to build a fertilizer factory in Africa, which would use natural gas to create massive quantities of ammonium nitrate, which is a powerful explosive as well as a fertilizer.  (Remember the Oklahoma City Federal Building?  The first attempt on the World Trade Center?).  The second prong will introduce Monsatan’s GMO seeds to African farmers, “to increase their yields.”     This from the guy whose wife scored big publicity points by putting an organic vegetable garden at the White House.

Both these prongs are going to do a lot more harm than good.  The manufacture of ammonium nitrate fertilizer is an energy-intensive, CO2-producing process whose result is a bag of white crystals that, not unlike cocaine, provide a short-term boost, but, in the long-term, have a deleterious effect–in the case of ammonium nitrate, the impoverishment of the soil to which it is applied.  The high levels of ammonia in ammonium nitrate burn out soil micro-organisms, leading to depletion of organic matter and a decrease in the soil’s fertility and ability to hold water.  The short-term solution, as with cocaine, is to apply a bigger dose of white crystals.  Sooner or later, the excess nitrogen starts leaching into the water supply, which exacerbates the problem by polluting the water and making people sick.

.  Then, too, the fertilizer must be purchased, a financial demand that can have disastrous consequences for small farmers in the third world.  We’ll look more deeply at that soon.  For now, let’s just point out that placing  increased financial pressure on cash-strapped, subsistence farmers in the name of “improving their lives” is either cynical or naive.  Time and time again, there have been demonstration projects and studies showing that the best way to improve the lives of subsistence farmers and the communities they feed is to help them find ways to increase the “circularity” of their farming, by increasing their use of local, organic inputs such as plant, animal, and human waste, and by returning to non-mechanized farming methods that require more labor and less machinery and fossil fuels.  Neither the fact that we are running out of inexpensive ways to create those white crystals, nor the fact that producing the white crystals is destroying the soil and the atmosphere, seems to enter into the calculations of those who proclaim the superiority of white-crystal style farming–f’rinstance, President Obama, or Presidential wanna-be Romney.

The second prong of the fork with which our corporatocracy wishes to stick the people of Africa is the introduction of GMO seeds.  There’s two really bad things about GMO seeds.  The first is their toll on the humans who use them, and the second is the way their use destroys the land in which they are planted.  We have only to look to India to see what the President and his cronies are promising to deliver to Africa.  What we see in India is over 200,000 small farmers driven to suicide, often by the debts they incurred to buy GMO seeds and the chemical inputs necessary to grow them–not just the aforementioned fertilizer, but herbicides and pesticides that they lack the technology to apply “safely,” even in the manufacturer’s loose terms.   Third-world farmers have traditionally saved their own seed, but it is illegal to save the patented GMO seeds, and frequently impractical as well, for, if the seed is a hybrid, it will either fail to produce fertile seed,  or fail to produce a uniform variety–but you’re not supposed to even try planting them, because they’re patented.  Intellectual property rights must be respected, y’know!   So, when Obama talks about “helping” African farmers with chemical inputs, he’s talking about inducing a rash of debt-driven suicides.  Hey, that’ll clear the playing field and help solve the overpopulation problem, right?!  More on that perverse idea later.  Back to GMO crops.

Herbicide use itself is highly problematic.  Roundup, the go-to herbicide for GMO crops, is very nonspecific in its effects.  It kills soil microflora just as readily as it kills broadleaf weeds and grasses, and thus is highly detrimental to soil.  And, just as with ammonium nitrate, its production is energy-intensive and carbon-expensive.

So, to sum up, when we strip the facade from the President’s feel-good call to help foster agriculture in Africa, we find a plan that is likely to further impoverish the continent’s vast majority of smallholders, drive them from their land, and wreak havoc with the land’s ability to support plant life.  So, who does benefit from this kind of “help”?

One group that is helped by alienating traditional people from their land base is foreign investors, both private and national, who are increasingly looking to Africa as a place to grow food to export, rather than to feed the hungry close at hand.  China and other countries are making deals with debt-pressed, cash-starved governments, deals that involve the displacement of thousands of people from millions of acres in order to grow crops that will not feed Africans.

The other big beneficiary of Obama’s policy is the Monsanto Corporation.  It is relevant to note, at this point, the “revolving door” nature of Monsanto’s relationship with the government. At least 35 individuals, representing both of the US’s major political parties, have been both on Monsanto’s payroll and the government’s, albeit not at the same time, as far as we know.  We’re talking about some big fish here–Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Hillary Clinton both worked for Monsanto when they were private practice lawyers.  Searle Chemical Company-CEO Donald Rumsfeld  (remember him?) was paid a twelve million dollar bonus by Monsanto when it acquired Searle, giving Monsanto the right to produce the carcinogenic artificial sweetener aspartame  (“Nutrasweet”). after Rummy pulled strings to get it approved for human use, but that’s another story.

The Africa deal is not the only example of  Obama’s–and our whole government’s– apparent willingness to go to bat for Monsanto.    Attempts to pass laws allowing labeling of GMO foods, dairy products containing bovine growth hormones, and limiting the spread of GMO seeds have been shot down, and research suggesting that their widespread use might have serious negative effects has been suppressed., both in the current administration and the last several governments, no matter who was supposedly in charge.

Monsanto’s willingness to play with both major US political parties leads to another question.  Should we really blame Barack Obama for all this?  Or is he a genuinely well-intentioned guy, who thought he could make change happen by being elected President, but found, when he arrived, that his real role was to play spokesman for an unelected shadow government?  As Robert Anton Wilson put it, “was the new President shown a video of the Kennedy assassination from an angle he’d never seen it from before, and told ‘you’ve got a nice family.  Play along with us and nobody gets hurt.'”?  Perhaps.  A friend of mine who is an old smoking buddy of Al Gore’s tells me that Al told him in 1992 that Al and Bill knew the office they were running for was more ceremonial than executive, but they hoped to be able to make a slight difference in the direction of things.  We all know how that turned out.   (And remember, Gore had already written and become somewhat famous for  Earth in the Balance, which, along with Albert Bates’ Climate in Crisis was one of the first books to call popular attention to the mess we are tangled in now.)  Perhaps frustration with his figurehead status accounts for Gore’s lackluster run for President in 2000 and his subsequent flowering, at a convenient distance from politics.

So, maybe Barack Obama regrets his decision to become a kinder, gentler  face for the corporatocracy than Dick Cheney and that guy he was with, but we may never know, because, like Clinton and Gore before him, he fears for his safety and his family’s safety far too much to ever spill those beans.

But, whatever the unspeakable truth may be about Barack Obama’s motivations and intentions, the inconvenient truth is that the African policy for which he is at the very least serving as a charming mouthpiece is not a policy that will benefit Africa.  It is just another corporate iron hand in another velvet glove, grabbing for what’s left of the wealth of the continent that gave birth to us all, a corporate iron hand that doesn’t care who or what it crushes as long as it ends up with a fistful of dollars.  And that’s the inconvenient truth about the Obama administration’s “African initiative.”

music:  Terry Allen, “Big Ol’ White Boys








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