SMOKE, MIRRORS, AND ENOUGH ROPE

8 04 2017

Have you noticed that American politics has slipped into Alice and Wonderland territory? That the Tea Party is now hosted by the Mad Hatter’s cousin, the Mad Hairpiecer? And that the Red Queen has morphed into the Blue Queen, with her king and all her courtiers  shouting “Consider your verdict!” when the trial hasn’t even begun, and ordering “Off with their heads!” as the fate of anyone who dares disagree with them? How many people have noticed this, and how many people are simply too swept up in the emotions of the moment to reflect on the absurdity, and danger, of  the things they are being manipulated into believing?

billy-butcher-trump-clinton-pop-characters-5

Thanks to Butcher Billy for the artwork!

The Wonderland metaphor breaks down somewhere around this point, because in our current situation, the Blue Queen and her court have been almost wholly disempowered by the Mad Hairpiecer, so that all they can do is howl. Given the size of their echo chamber, the howl sounds pretty fearsome, but, just like the trial Alice attended, the evidence in the question of  who stole the tarts–or, in this case, the election–remains shaky at best.

For instance, here’s a conversation with our former Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, that the off-with their heads/the Russians are coming crowd has had to conveniently ignore since it popped up smack dab in the middle of the mainstream, on NBC’s “Meet the Press“:

CHUCK TODD:
Does intelligence exist that can definitively answer the following question, whether there were improper contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian officials?

JAMES CLAPPER:
We did not include any evidence in our report, and I say, “our,” that’s N.S.A., F.B.I. and C.I.A., with my office, the Director of National Intelligence, that had anything, that had any reflection of collusion between members of the Trump campaign and the Russians. There was no evidence of that included in our report.

CHUCK TODD:
I understand that. But does it exist?

JAMES CLAPPER:
Not to my knowledge.

Read the rest of this entry »





THE RUSSIAN CONNECTION

12 03 2017

It’s the Cold War all over again. Americans left and right are being accused of taking orders and money from, being the tools of, or at least harboring sympathy for, a miraculously resurrected Evil Empire headquartered in Moscow. If the accusers actually controlled the government, no doubt the political show trials would begin. The accusers–elements of our security apparatus, neo-conservatives associated with the infamous “Project for a New American Century,” virtually the entire Democratic Party, and their allies in the mainstream media–are  using the highly manipulable court of public opinion to find anyone who dissents from their doctrine of Russophobia guilty of the treasonous crime of Russophilia, as if it were some even worse perversion of pedophilia. Their aim appears to be to regain control of the government. They consider this a legitimate counter-revolution. Others call it a coup, American style.

“It’s simple,” the Democrats and their allies say. “If we take over again, everything will be fine.”

It’s not simple, and things wouldn’t be fine if the Democrats were running things, but let’s leave “if the Democrats were running things” alone for now. It’s mind-bendingly complicated, because to truly understand what’s going on in America now requires that we be free of the conditioning most Americans accept unquestioningly–and I’m not talking air conditioning, although that is a luxury that most Americans take far too for granted. I’m talking about mind conditioning–the way we subliminally learn to perceive reality by taking cues from our parents and our culture as we grow up.

As we grow up, and all through our lives, we spend a lot of time absorbing stories from movies, television, and books, and all those stories share certain common elements. There’s a hero, who is clearly a hero, at least in the end, and the hero is not you, although of course you identify with her or him. There’s a villain, and the villain’s identity is usually clear from the beginning. The hero and the villain clash, and, although the villain seems to be winning at first, the hero ultimately triumphs, and all the most pivotal moments in that struggle can be captured in an hour, or two, or maybe longer if it’s a TV series. These are the expectations we then project on real-world events.

But real-world events are not the movies, or even a long-running TV series. In real life, it is extremely rare for anyone to be a complete hero or a complete villain. I’m not, and you probably understand that you’re not 100% hero–or villain–either. Even sociopaths and psychopaths occasionally do the right thing. Well-intentioned people do terrible things. Think about it–doesn’t everybody believe their intentions are good? You betcha. What political figures do as a result of their good intentions may look good to millions of people, and simply awful to millions of others, and it can be difficult to determine in the short run just what “the greater good” really is. It can also be glaringly obvious what does or does not constitute “the greater good,” whether there are millions of people who understand what’s really going on, or just a few. Reality is not determined by popular vote. And, of course, political figures also do things for concealed, strategic reasons, and lie to the public about their motivation. As I said, it’s complicated.

So, with that in mind, I want to examine the history of what some are already referring to as “the new Cold War,” and see how the mainstream American story of what’s going on holds up under scrutiny. Read the rest of this entry »





THERE MUST BE SOME KINDA WAY OUT OF HERE…..

12 02 2017

I promised that, this month, I would devote my attention to the question of how to get out of the Republican quicksand our nation has fallen into, and how to set our steps on a saner path that will not lead us back into the swamp of corporate-dominated politics, Republican or Democratic. I  want to start by looking at what happened in another country–Argentina.

I recently had the pleasure of a long, informative conversation with a man who grew up there, during “The Dirty War.” “The Dirty War,” in case you aren’t familiar with it, is the term that is used to describe what happened in Argentina after the military took over the government in 1976. There were guerrilla forces operating in the country, but the military didn’t just move against them. They decided to get rid of everybody who kinda sympathized with the guerrillas’ ideals of a more just and economically equitable society. That included the brother of the man I spoke with. His twenty-year old brother was in the military, but somebody thought he might be a threat, so away he went. Thrown from a helicopter into the ocean? Roasted alive? Or simply shot? His family has never learned his fate.

His disappearance was profoundly unnerving for them. Sometimes the military just “disappeared” someone, and that was it. Sometimes, after one member of a family had been abducted, they would come back for the rest of the family, one at a time, or all at once. There was no way to know. dirtywar03My friend was a teenager at the time, “a long-haired hippie kid,” as he described himself–though you’d never know it to look at him now. So there he was, sixteen years old, growing up in a country where the middle class he was part of was not that different from the US middle class. He was going through all the things an American boy his age would have been going through–girls, grades, and, I suspect, ganja–but he also had to think about whether he was going to be kidnapped and tortured, and how he might respond to that. Fortunately, he never had to find out.”But since then,” he told me, “the kind of things that most people feel scared or worried about just don’t bother me that much.” Read the rest of this entry »





CORPORATISM WITH THE GLOVES OFF

15 01 2017

Last month, I went on so long on the question of “how did we get here?” that I didn’t have time to address my next two questions,“What is the nature of this “here?” we now find ourselves in?” and  “Can we/How do we change this “here” into a different, happier ‘here’?” I’m going to address that second question–the nature of our new environment–this month. I’m also going to examine just how much choice we really had about this change.

Trigger warning: I’m going to talk about “the big O” a lot in this post–no, not the anime series, not Oscar Robertson, not that “big O.” I’m going to talk about oligarchy.

Trump has made it abundantly clear that his show of sensitivity to the needs of disgruntled, formerly or still barely middle class white Americans, was a huckster’s trick to draw in the marks. His promise to “drain the swamp” was nothing more than campaign rhetoric, like Ms. Clinton’s claim to be against the Trans-Pacific Partnership she had spent so much time promoting as Secretary of State, or her alleged concern for the welfare of that same sorta-middle class that Mr. Trump was wooing. More on that later. Trump not only isn’t draining the swamp, he’s bringing in bigger, hungrier alligators. His initial cabinet selections, if they are confirmed, constitute the wealthiest Presidential cabinet ever assembled, most have clearly made their fortunes by squeezing the common people, and none show any signs of remorse for their ruthlessness.

For example, Wilbur Ross, who may be our next Secretary of Commerce, made a good bit of his 2.5 billion dollar fortune through corporate raiding–buying companies that were in trouble and putting them through bankruptcy, which involves shedding workers, lowering wages, and reneging on pension plans. He iced his money cake by making millions in the mortgage bubble that prefaced the financial crash of 2008, and was further enriched by the policies Wall Street’s friend, Barack Obama, put into practice, which bailed out the banks and left homeowners hung out to dry. In The Nation magazine, David Dayan comments on this Read the rest of this entry »





OUT OF THE FRYING PAN, INTO THE FIRE

18 12 2016

music: Leonard Cohen, “Everybody Knows

I confess, I didn’t really expect it to happen. I’m kind of in shock that it did, and I still wonder if some strong wind will suddenly rise up and blow this strange, new, apparent reality away, but for now, the fact remains: On November 8, a strategically located minority of America’s voters–barely a quarter of those eligible–rose up against being slowly roasted in the frying pan of the Democratic Party’s kinder, gentler neoliberalism and…jumped directly into the fire of an undisguised corporate/reactionary/climate denialist takeover of the United States Government. That strategic minority of voters didn’t jump alone, however. They took the rest of the country, and the rest of the world, with them. That’s the bad news. The good news is, millions of people who might have thought everything was OK because Hillary Clinton was in charge now feel extremely insecure, and with good reason. That may not sound like good news, but it’s actually an improvement on what their state of mind with Clinton as President would have been, namely, “feeling secure, but without good reason.” More on that later. It’s one of the several facets of this complex question that we are going to be examining.  We’ll call that “Bad news/Good news.” The others are “how did we get here,” “What is the nature of this “here?” we now find ourselves in?” and  “Can we/How do we change this “here” into a different, happier ‘here’?”

So…how did we get here? Let’s start by looking at a couple of intertwined longer-term phenomena: our overall national sense of well-being, which, I think, is the force that’s been driving the second phenomenon, the waxing and waning of political party ascendancies since the late sixties and early seventies. The Kennedy-Johnson years and early Nixon years were the point in our country’s history when American workers were at the peak of their earnings. A guy with a blue-collar job could buy a house, support his stay-at-home wife, have a family, and send his kids to college if they wanted to go, or into a high-wage blue-collar job of their own. Note use of pronoun “his.”

Psychological sophistication was, not, and still is not, a hallmark of this culture, however, and white, working-class America’s response to change has been to perceive it as stress, and to respond to change/stress by rejecting the change/source of stress. Thus, some people perceived the Civil Rights movement and the Democratic Party’s efforts on its behalf, the hippies, and the anti-war movement as emotional threats, and reacted viscerally to them, rejecting Johnson’s heir apparent, Hubert Humphrey, and voting instead for Richard Nixon, who promised “law and order,” but proved to be pretty disorderly and unlawful himself. Too much stress. Jimmy Carter is a very unstressful Democrat, a Southerner that Northerners feel comfortable with. He’s the Pres.

But another, far more visceral, source of stress had started to kick in in the late 70’s. Workers’s wages quit rising, but the rest of the economy didn’t. In other words, everything cost more, but workers didn’t have more money at their disposal. Source of stress. Throw in a small Middle-Eastern country grabbing America by the crotch, aka the Iranian Hostage Crisis, and a botched rescue attempt, too much stress–Jimmy Carter is outta there after just one term, replaced by an entertainer, who had received hundreds of hours of television exposure as an easy-going, but principled, actor and show host. Much less stress! “It’s morning in America!” Ronald Reagan actually managed to hand the show off to George Bush, Sr., for one term, but the economic stress was continuing, even intensifying, and here’s two nice young Baby Boomers with a fresh approach. Hey, we all know he really did inhale, and so did his VP…they’ll chill us out way better than that crusty ol’ WWII vet. Read the rest of this entry »





“GRAB ‘EM BY THE (CROTCH)–YOU CAN DO ANYTHING”

6 11 2016

In family therapy, we often find that one family member in a dysfunctional family is “the designated patient,” the one who acts out all the family’s secret dramas and traumas, the one that everybody agrees is the “one who needs help,” and the rest of the family uses the distraction of the one family member who is willing to publicly misbehave to mask all the ways that they themselves are neurotic, dysfunctional, or perhaps stark raving bonkers.

Donald Trump has taken the position of “designated patient” in our national dysfunctional family.

if he were a poor man....

Our designated patient-in-chief

He has, um, trumpeted to the world all the petty nastiness that Republicans used to keep on the down-low about how they despised anyone who is not a right-thinking, right-voting, right-sexing white American, and at this level, at least, he is honest and truthful, in the sense of being willing to voice sentiments that other people think but won’t say.

In no instance has this been more the case than in his notorious “grab ’em by the (crotch)–you can do anything” video. He was certainly thinking of it in individual terms, but it has been one of the guiding postulates of American politics at least since Roe vs. Wade, when our national discourse first had to confront what goes on below the belt. Republicans seized the crotches of those who are horrified by the notion that it’s a woman’s choice whether she should have a child or not, while Democrats grabbed the pro-choice faction’s collective private parts. As more “sexual freedom” issues have arisen, from single mothers’ rights through gay rights to transgender rights, the division–and the  parties’ firm hold on the reproductive organs of their respective demographics–has only grown firmer, enabling them to engage in a wide variety of reprehensible behavior as long as they were willing to protect “the rights of the unborn,” or “a woman’s right to choose.”

On the Republican side, we have fundamentalist Christians supporting Trump, a notorious libertine, because he has pledged to re-criminalize abortion and appoint Supreme Court justices who will repeal Roe vs. Wade. These justices would doubtless also come down against gay marriage and other freedoms that those whose sexual expression is somewhat unconventional claim. Much of the argument for supporting Ms. Clinton, likewise, rests on fear of reactionary judges and Ms. Clinton’s pledge to appoint judges who will uphold Roe. “Sure, she’s terrible on lots of issues,” many of her supporters say, “but it’s about the Supreme Court.” OK, let’s look at who’s on her short list for the Supreme Court. Read the rest of this entry »





THE DEMOCRATS ARE THE NEW REPUBLICANS…CAN THE GREENS BECOME “THE NEW DEMOCRATS”?

11 09 2016

Today’s date, September 11th, is, to borrow President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s words, “a day that will live in infamy.” On this date in 1973, Salvador Allende, the Bernie Sanders of Chile, salvadorallende_251who, unlike Bernie, had succeeded in become his country’s President, was killed in a military coup that had the full backing of the United States and especially our then-Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger. The Chilean military, with the assistance of the United States, didn’t just take out Allende. They jailed, tortured, and murdered thousands of Chileans, and forced tens of thousands more into exile. The US then used Chile as a base for “Operation Condor,” which orchestrated the murder of thousands of mostly non-violent left-wing activists all over South America, most notoriously in Argentina, where “the dirty war” killed at least thirty thousand people. That’s a US government program, directly approved by Henry Kissinger, that targeted people like me and, probably, people like you. So, when I think about Hillary Clinton, who has repeatedly declared her admiration for Henry Kissinger, being President, when I notice the approbation with which her followers greet any mention of her faults or approval of the Green Party, when I read that a Clinton-supporting PAC has budgeted a million dollars to pay Clinton supporters to harass Sanders supporters and Greens on the internet, I start feeling a little nervous, and since today is the anniversary of the Chilean Bernie Sanders being murdered by Hillary Clinton’s inspiration, this becomes a more emotionally charged anniversary than it would be if a protegée of Henry Kissinger were not so likely to be our next President. Donald Trump is dangerous because he doesn’t really seem to have a plan.

readyforoligarchy

Do not think about a Green Party!

Ms. Clinton, on the other hand, is dangerous because she does seem to have a plan–and it’s not one she’s sharing with the general public. With a horde of pundits and bloggers ready and willing to bend the truth to discredit any criticism of her, not to mention discrediting the critics themselves, I start wondering if we have a “Ministry of Truth” in our future.

 

Oh yeah, it’s also the fifteenth anniversary of the day a bunch of Saudis apparently hijacked several US airliners and flew them into the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, killing a mere three thousand people. OK, it was three thousand all at once, not one by one, but…. Anyway, because the Saudis did that, the US invaded Afghanistan and Iraq. If that makes sense to you, then you can accept the World Trade Center story exactly as the mainstream media portray it. It doesn’t make sense to me and I don’t accept the story, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about today. The Allende-Kissinger story is much more apropos. Read the rest of this entry »








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