CONTROL ISSUES

15 04 2018

There are a number of seemingly disparate issues affecting the country these days. When I examine their roots, and the way our society is attempting to deal with them, I see that they actually have a lot in common, and that the commonly accepted responses to them are failing to have their hoped-for effects, for a common reason. Likewise, the optimum solutions to all these very real concerns, while individualized according to the particular manifestation they treat, all spring from a common root. I am going to describe these problems, the conventional-wisdom solutions to them, look at the unintended consequences that these solutions engender, and, as best I can, suggest a Green,  radical–literally “to the root”– solution to them.

GUNS AND PUBLIC VIOLENCE

Gun violence has been a hot-button heart breaker for far too long. The natural, and obvious, response is to make it more difficult to obtain firearms, or at least, as comedian Chris Rock has suggested, to make the price of ammunition prohibitive. Five-thousand-dollar bullets would certainly rearrange a lot of people’s priorities. Hey, the Constitution guarantees the right to keep and bear arms–it doesn’t say anything about ammunition! I have no problem with making  high-tech rock throwers, or the rocks they throw,which have no other purpose than to harm or kill other beings, a lot more difficult to obtain.

But, in spite of the tremendous hue and cry about this devastating fact of American life, legislatures, especially Republican-dominated ones, remain deaf to the appeals of the growing clamor for gun control. Read the rest of this entry »

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A SMOKING GUN AT LAST, OR JUST MORE SMOKE AND MIRRORS?

13 08 2017

The latest round of accusations in the ongoing controversy over Russian interference in last year’s US election has produced what many in the media are calling “a smoking gun”: Donald Trump, Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort met with a woman described by the English national who set up the meeting as a “Russian government lawyer” who claimed to have “potentially compromising material on Ms. Clinton.”

There it is in plain black and white, we are told: the Trump campaign’s core members met with a Russian national and received “material aid” for the Trump campaign from her and her country. Ka-ching! Violations of US campaign finance laws!

Trial for Impeachment!

Trial for Treason!

Let’s step out of the roar of the crowd at this thrilling turn of events and consider what really happened, and what it means.

First of all, I think former US ambassador to the Soviet Union Jack Matlock has the most concise commentary on whether it is proper for representatives of a political campaign to speak with the diplomatic representatives of other countries:

Our press seems to be in a feeding frenzy regarding contacts that President Trump’s supporters had with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak and with other Russian diplomats. The assumption seems to be that there was something sinister about these contacts, just because they were with Russian diplomats. As one who spent a 35-year diplomatic career working to open up the Soviet Union and to make communication between our diplomats and ordinary citizens a normal practice, I find the attitude of much of our political establishment and of some of our once respected media outlets quite incomprehensible. What in the world is wrong with consulting a foreign embassy about ways to improve relations? Anyone who aspires to advise an American president should do just that.

In other words, the Democrats are attempting to sensationalize and criminalize just the kind of openness and communication, i.e., freedom, that the United States supposedly champions in the world, and that this country has pushed long and hard to establish in both the old Soviet Union and in the Russian Federation it has since become. What has turned the Democrats into such a bunch of soreheads? “Why do they hate us for our freedom?”

I think that the driving force behind that anger, and”Russiagate,” is  the Democratic National Committee’s frustration at having lost control of the narrative about Hillary Clinton, as not only Republican but left-wing non-mainstream news sources presented facts about her that disagreed sharply with the DNC’s presentation of her. “If only the Russians, and their allies and useful idiots in the American left, hadn’t publicized all that nasty stuff about her, some of which was totally made up, she would be President now instead of him. ” Read the rest of this entry »





MINIPAX BULLETIN: EMMANUEL GOLDSTEIN DEAD! MILLIONS CHEER!

7 05 2011

This just in from MiniPax:  Immanuel Goldstein is dead!  Goldstein was tracked to his lair in Pakistan, where he was living under the alias “Osama Bin Laden,” and died in a firefight with Oceania’s crack special forces troops, who had infiltrated Pakistan without its government’s permission to carry out the raid and assassination.

With Goldstein/Bin Laden gone, who will now be the focus of our “two minute hates”?  It’s a dirty job, as they say, but somebody will have to do it, even if we have to create them out whole cloth.

And now we will never know to what extent the “Osama Bin Laden” we have been encouraged to hate and fear was, like Emmanuel Goldstein, a creation of our own “Ministry of Peace.”  After all, Bin Laden did start out as a hero, even portrayed (in a manner of speaking) as an American in Idrees Shah’s thrilling 1986 novel Kara Kush, which describes how, with American help, the Taliban rallied the people of Afghanistan to push out the Soviet invaders and crush corrupt Afghan warlords.

Times change, don’t they?  Now the US is the invader in Afghanistan, and such corrupt warlords as remain there are our friends and allies in our attempt to crush the Taliban, who have been concealing Osama Bin Laden.  Remember?  The U.S. invaded Afghanistan to find Bin Laden?  Or has that gone down the Ministry of Truth’s memory hole along with so much of the rest of recent history?

So, now that we’ve found, and killed, bin Laden, will Obama wind down the war against Osama?  Or, in true 1984 fashion, will our “war on terror” prove to be an “endless war,” with new attacks and demons arising to replace the enemies we have killed and the acts we have avenged?

With Bin Laden conveniently dead, there are many questions that conveniently will never be answered, especially since U.S. troops had free run of his headquarters and were able to preserve–or destroy–what they found there, as they saw fit.  Likewise, what they found will be released at the discretion of the Ministry of Truth, and so we can only assume that there is much we will never know.

Here’s a few of the things we will probably never know:

Was the “Reichstag Fire” element of the attack on the World Trade Center really a coincidence?  The attacks came at a point when the Bush administration’s incompetence was about to make it the laughingstock of America, and the world.  Suddenly, it was all Americans’ patriotic duty to take the Cheney/Bush junta seriously.  The attack, if Bin Laden had anything to do with it, saved Cheneybush’s ass, ensured the passage of the Patriot Act, and gave us a sinister, dark-skinned, sneaky adversary to unite against.  Did the junta know of the plot and allow it to proceed?  Did they foment it?  Did they carry it out, with no help from the alleged perpetrators at all?  Bin Laden will never tell us.

After we spent all those years looking for him in Afghanistan, what was he doing in Pakistan, in a well-appointed villa, not a cave in the hills, and just a few miles from a major Pakistani military base?   Did they know he was there all along?  After all, “the search for Bin Laden” was a bit of a cash cow for the Pakis, and no doubt they, who know poverty far better than most Americans do so far, wanted to milk that (and their Uncle Sam) for all it was worth.

Was Bin Laden really “killed in a firefight” or was he executed?  (Since writing this, our government has admitted that he was unarmed when he was killed.)  Given the changes and uncertainties of his relationship with the U.S. government, Bin Laden’s side of the story might be quite different from our government’s version.  Making sure he’s dead is a good way to avoid embarrassment.  To bring up another example, the U.S.  invaded Iraq because, Cheneybush said, they had “weapons of mass destruction.”   After all, the U.S. had shipped them over there in the 80’s to help Iraq fight Iran–Saddam and Rumsfeld were buddies, remember?–how were we to know he’d actually used most of them against the Iranians as promised, and then dropped the rest on the Kurds?   Better to take the guy into custody and hang him than to exile or imprison him and give him the chance to write a tell-all memoir.  And since that trial and execution were kinda messy, just make sure Bin Laden is dead from the get-go, OK?

Finally,did this really happen?  There is no independent verification.  The body was “buried at sea.”  A government that has asked us to believe everything from Pat Tillman‘s heroic death at the hands of the Taliban to the guilt of everybody in Guantanamo (not to mention Bradley Manning) without the necessity of a trial, just to cite the most recent, glaring few incidents, going all the way back to the Gulf of Tonkin “attack,” and beyond, now wants us to believe they killed Osama Bin Laden and disposed of  his body, trust them.  Uh-huh.

Bin Laden has been widely reviled as a man with “the blood of thousands of innocents on his hands.”  Those who trumpet this viewpoint generally ignore the fact that the U.S. government, in avenging the deaths of thousands, has caused the deaths of millions of innocent Iraqi civilians and thousands of innocent Afghan citizens.  When will the Navy’s “Seals” drop in on Bush’s Texas compound and Chaney’s undisclosed location and exact frontier justice?  And why have we singled out Bin Laden and Muamar Qadhafi for rough treatment while we ignore the national tragedies taking place in North Korea, Burma, Saudi Arabia, and Central Asia, and encourage the repression of democracy advocates in Bahrain, for just one example?

Emmanuel Goldstein–I mean, Osama Bin Laden, is dead, we are told.  His was a dirty job, but somebody had to do it, and somebody will step–or be forced–into his shoes, one way or another.   How else can we continue to have our beloved two-minute hates?

music:  Bob Dylan, “Masters of War”





ON, WISCONSIN!

13 03 2011

Greece, Ireland, Iceland, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya….who could imagine they would freak out in Wisconsin?

Actually, Wisconsin is one of the more likely powder kegs in the US , a state with a traditionally progressive voter base (the birthplace of the Progressive Party, after all!) that woke up after the last election to discover it had been taken over by Tea Partiers.   Sure, there are states with a more radical tinge to them, like California and Vermont, but both of those states rejected the Republican invitation to self-immolation.

Tea Party governor Scott Walker’s budget proposals, likely to pass in the state’s now-Tea Party dominated legislature, represented a giant step backwards for many of the state’s residents.   As Hannah Arendt observed in her classic book On Revolution, revolutions tend to occur not when the poor are oppressed to the breaking point, but when the middle class, which had something, senses that it is losing its privileges.

Walker’s credibility was tarnished when he got “punked,” as they say these days, into believing that he was conversing with David Koch, when he was actually talking to Ian Murphy, a blogger from Buffalo, New York.  The “confidential” twenty-minute conversation revealed that Walker planned to use layoffs of state workers as a tool to push for getting his way, and also captured him agreeing to quid quo pro arrangements with “David Koch.” Both are illegal under Wisconsin ethics laws–but the state Attorney General is a Republican, so don’t hold your breath.

Since conservative pranksters had been responsible for at least two well-publicized media stunts–the “how do we start a whorehouse?” ACORN video and the spurious trashing of Shirley Sherrod, Republicans could hardly complain about it when one of their own got fooled.  Unlike Republican efforts, Murphy didn’t  have to edit their conversation in order for Walker to make a fool of himself. While Walker  claimed that the tape didn’t reveal anything he hadn’t said in public, it did.  Beyond the potential ethics violations, Walker fantasized about “taking a baseball bat” to his political opponents.  A Deputy Attorney General in Indiana who suggested using live ammunition against the protesters in Wisconsin was fired; why should it be any different for a governor who threatens violence against peaceful demonstrators?

This just in: the same so-called “conservative” who trashed ACORN recorded NPR exec Ron Schiller saying that

public opinion is driven by “this very large uneducated part of the population.”

and

“(Tea Partiers). believe in sort of white, middle-America, gun-toting.   I mean, it’s scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.”

All of that’s true enough, but apparently telling the truth is enough to get you in trouble these days.  People don’t want to hear the truth.  It’s too hard on their precious, threatened egos and lifestyles.  Republicans hope to use this to cut NPR and PBS out of the federal budget, which will save each of us $1.43 a year.  Don’t let the prospect of so much additional wealth go to your head!  Defense spending, meanwhile, is costing each of us  $3,000 a year, but that’s sacrosanct. As so often happens, I digress….there are a million stories on the Naked Planet.

The day-to-day drama of this struggle is fascinating, but let’s take a few steps back from the crowd and get a feel for the big picture.

Much has already been made in the media of the connection between organized labor’s support of the Democratic Party and Republican efforts to destroy union power as a way to undercut the Democrats.   Plenty of commentators have also pointed out that unions have shifted over the last several decades from a blue-collar to a more white-collar demographic.  I would like to take this one step further.  The Republican propaganda machine is whipping up public sentiment against teachers and state employees because they still enjoy the lifestyle and perks that many Americans have lost as the country has been  de-industrialized (and de-unionized) over the last several decades.  In other words, the party of “Christian values” is promoting anger, greed, and envy to bring down the last remaining bastion of middle-class America.  Nice work, guys.  I’m sure Jesus would be proud of you.

At the same time, right-wingers have been horrified by any suggestions, such as Michael Moore‘s, that there might be something wrong with the fact that the wealthiest 40 Americans have more resources at their disposal than the bottom fifty percent.  Yeah, that’s forty people (OK, plus their families) put together who are wealthier than a hundred and fifty-five million of us .  From the Tea Party perspective, it’s class warfare to point that out, but somehow it’s not class warfare when conservatives work to destroy public health care for those who can’t otherwise afford it, unions, community organizations like ACORN, or public service organizations like Planned Parenthood.

Can you say “doublethink,” boys and girls?  Ever wonder how a scenario like Orwell’s 1984 could possibly come to pass?  We may be living it, if things don’t fall apart first.

While I would be the first to admit that middle-class American expectations are, considered on a global scale, immoderately luxurious, it is simply not fair for the wealthy to insist that the middle class take a hit so that the upper class can continue its even more immoderately luxurious lifestyle.  All of us here in America need to come down a few pegs. As with climate change, the problem will not go away if the Tea Partiers succeed in muting the nation’s conscience.  It will return to haunt us again and again, more and more forcefully.

“You can have my money and my guns when you rip them from my cold, dead fingers.”  That’s the deal you want?  That’s the deal you’ll get.

And where has Obama been during all this?  If he were really a socialist firebrand, as the right-wing media love to assert, he would have been in Madison, addressing the rally and reclaiming the base that elected him in 2008.  But no, Obama was nowhere near Madison.  His staff instructed the Democratic National Committee to back off efforts to support the Madison demonstrators, wile he offered tepid words of encouragement, similar to his pronouncements on the revolution in Egypt and the ongoing revolt in Libya, similar to the way Bush I encouraged the Iraqis  to revolt against Saddam and then did nothing while Saddam slaughtered them.  No, Obama’s allegiance is not to the people, his allegiance is to them that bought him.

It’s not clear to me where this movement is going, but I see a couple of  possibilities.

If the protesters’ energy ebbs and the anti-populists, the Republican Tea Partiers, prevail, America will slip further into being a two-tier society.  We will be less organized, less flexible, less able to meet the challenges that will shake us harder and harder as time goes on.

If the protesters prevail, then they will, to a certain extent, be in the position of the dog that chased cars and actually caught one.  There will be plenty of difficult decisions to make, and no “other” to blame for poor outcomes and unintended consequences.   Reinstating the business taxes that Governor Walker abolished in order to create his “fiscal crisis” justification for ending collective bargaining, will, in all likelihood, discourage business, if only because Republican business owners will get mad and find ways to avoid paying taxes.  Freedom to keep all the money you make is, after all, at the head of the list of Tea Party freedoms, right up there with the freedom to ignore compassion, facts, and logic in the interests of having things your way.

So, I certainly stand with the Wisconsin protesters to the extent that I don’t want to see the wealthy win this battle in the class war.  But I can’t, in all honesty, join them in “defending the American dream.”  The American dream is built on the backs of millions of people in the third world who cannot have a decent life because we need their poverty to support our wealth.  We need to wake up from the American dream, but we need to all wake up from it.  The majority of Americans should not be made to suffer more so that the wealthiest one percent can keep on dreaming.  It’s time to share the pain.

Music:  James McMurtry, “We Can’t Make It Here Anymore





ADJUSTING THE TRUTH

12 01 2007

The Bush junta continues to show that they are undeterred by the results of the November elections. I have before me two examples of truly 1984-style manipulation. One is almost silly; the other has deep ramifications for the health and welfare of every American.

The silly one is also the better known of the two, because it was splashed across the editorial page of the New York Times in big, bold, black bars: an editorial about US-Iranian relations, with major chunks of it “redacted” (that’s a technical word for “blacked out”) not by the CIA review board, which acknowledged that everything in the article was part of the public record, but by the White House, which intervened to prevent open, fair discussion of its Iran policy. They want to act as if some things just never happened—mostly instances of US-Iranian co-operation to stabilize Afghanistan, and explorations of the possibility of resuming diplomatic relations.

Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia, y’know? Eurasia has always been our ally….oops, no, Oceania and Eurasia have always been implacable enemies, and Eastasia has always been our ally….Evidently, Rove and Cheney read 1984 and thought that Big Brother was cool and Winston Smith was a dumb sucker.

In a similar vein, the Bush junta has instituted a “cost-cutting move” and closed down the EPA library network, which is not just a repository of environmental information but a vital resource for researchers seeking to rein in polluters. Getting sued or legislated into cleaning up after themselves costs those industries a lot of money. Those must be the costs our pro-business junta is trying to cut, because the EPA’s own internal studies show that the libraries (and their all-important research librarians) save the federal government alone three times their total budget just in research costs. But hey, we can’t allow piddly little things like science and the public interest to get in the way of business’s freedom to make profits, can we?

The EPA is mumbling about how “rising demand for online services” is making brick-and-mortar libraries obsolete, and promising to put as much of its collection online as it can—someday, when they have the funds to do it. But they will not be digitizing books, scientific journals, or non-EPA studies, and will keep only one copy of each for inter-library loan. How generous. And of course, the thing about online documents is that they can be modified so easily.

The Democrats, including Tennessee’s own Bart Gordon, have had the sense to raise a fuss about this, but, being Democrats, they are all too likely to lose interest or compromise away their demand that the libraries be kept open. In any case, like the move to increase troop strength in Iraq, the junta is moving ahead on this without asking for Congressional input. Hey, the unitary executive crowd doesn’t have to answer to the electorate anymore, so screw us, they’re gonna trash the place.

“An informed citizenry is the cornerstone of democracy”—was it Thomas Jefferson who said that? With every means available—from these EPA library closings, to censorship of the New York Times, to further media consolidation, our current government is doing everything it can to dumb down America. An uninformed citizenry is the cornerstone of fascism, and that’s what they want. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to do everything I can to make sure they don’t get it.

music: Frank Zappa, “A Lie So Big








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