F-BOMBING AMERICAN POLITICS

8 01 2012

Please note:  I’m going to drop a lot of f-bombs in this segment and the next.  In politics, however, the f-word that is not spoken in polite society has nothing to do with plowing or the union of male and female.  In politics, the f-word that should never be uttered is “fascism.”  I’m going to utter it frequently over the next couple of segments, so don’t say I didn’t warn you.

For the first time in a while, I’ve got a “truth in strange places” award to mention,  but first, I want to give a “truth tellers in strange places” award–to Bradley Manning, for showing the world the dirty linen of the American Empire, sowing the seeds of Arab Spring, and spawning the “Occupy” movement here in America, a movement that has only begun to come into its stride.  The mills of the gods grind slow, but exceeding fine, and have only just barely caught the shirt-tails of the elite in their inexorable grasp.  As William Kunstler likes to say, “it’s going to be a great show from the cheap seats.” And here we are, and no wonder the gummint is so mad at the man.

So yes, Bradley Manning gets the “Truth-Tellers in Strange Places” award.  Corporal Manning should be up for a Nobel Peace Prize, but instead, he has spent nearly a year and a half in prison before even having any charges brought against him.  During this time, he has been repeatedly humiliated, kept in solitary confinement, and probably drugged .  Two thoughts come to mind:  one is that if this is what our government will do without the recent detention provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act, what will it feel emboldened to do with that permission?

The other thought is that the government wants to make damn sure nobody else gets any noble ideas about following the path blazed by Daniel Ellsburg, who became a folk hero for leaking “The Pentagon Papers,” which, like Mr. Manning’s alleged gifts to Wikileaks, gave the lie to America’s loudly proclaimed noble intentions. Sibel Edmonds is another great American whistle blower, but, unlike Ellsberg and Manning’s cases, her revelations were largely ignored by the complacent mass media of the early aughts.  Since then, the internet’s ability to spread a story widely without benefit of the so-called mainstream media has grown exponentially, so that, even though the U.S. can hobble Wikileaks financially, it has been unable to shut it down or stop the truth from being told. For all his campaign promises about hope, change, and openness, Obama has been even harsher than his predecessors when it comes to prosecuting whistle blowers instead of listening to them.

Here’s hoping 2012 is the year when Bradley Manning soon receives the hero’s welcome he deserves.

Our “Truth in Strange Places” award goes to Dr. Ron Paul, who should need no introduction.  No matter what you think of the full spectrum of his politics, no matter whether or not you trust that he has moved beyond the simple-minded racism published in his name twenty years ago, he is the only Presidential candidate who actually challenges the status quo in any way.  His ad asking people to imagine the American response to a Chinese or Russian military base in Texas puts the shoe on the other foot in a way that nobody else in the race had the vision, brains, or nerve to do, and it’s too bad that it, and the warning it carries about blowback from American imperialism, will likely not be appreciated until foreign drones cruise American skies and Americans are “specially rendered” for crimes against the Chinese or Russian state. Paul’s willingness to admit that the “War on Drugs” is an extremely costly failure is another breath of fresh air, but, beyond that, Paul actually turns out to be cut from the same cloth as the rest of the Republican pack, whom he joins in calling for the radical downsizing of the U.S. government and the unleashing of corporate power.

Downsizing and muzzling the U.S. government is not actually an issue between the Dems and Repubs, although both like to pretend it is.  The Democratic leadership, just as much as the Republicans, is committed to serving corporate interests first, and the public second.  That is why nobody central has been prosecuted for the Wall Street meltdown, why banks have gotten trillions in relief while foreclosed homeowners and the unemployed have received only table scraps, why, instead of a genuine overhaul of our so-called health care system, we got a law mandating that we buy health insurance from the companies who have helped make the U.S. health care system the most expensive and dysfunctional in the world, not to mention one of the chief conduits for channeling the wealth of the American middle class into corporate coffers.  Corporatism is the latest evolution of the political “F-word”: fascism.  In a corporatist/ fascist political system, the government exists to serve the needs of corporations, to encourage the people to be submissive, because, “What is good for General Motors” (or any other “too-big-to-fail” corporation) is good for America.”  You know, “the trickle-down theory.”

So, what is the likely choice the Democrats and Republicans will give American voters this year?  In the words of Glenn Greenwald, an Obama supporter will have to think:

Yes, I’m willing to continue to have Muslim children slaughtered by covert drones and cluster bombs, and America’s minorities imprisoned by the hundreds of thousands for no good reason, and the CIA able to run rampant with no checks or transparency, and privacy eroded further by the unchecked Surveillance State, and American citizens targeted by the President for assassination with no due process, and whistleblowers threatened with life imprisonment for “espionage,” and the Fed able to dole out trillions to bankers in secret, and a substantially higher risk of war with Iran (fought by the U.S. or by Israel with U.S. support) in exchange for less severe cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs, the preservation of the Education and Energy Departments, more stringent environmental regulations, broader health care coverage, defense of reproductive rights for women, stronger enforcement of civil rights for America’s minorities, a President with no associations with racist views in a newsletter, and a more progressive Supreme Court.

We can choose the lesser of two evils–or refuse to choose evil at all.  That’s why the Green Party runs Presidential candidates, at this point–not because we have any hope of winning, but to give people of conscience a real choice.  I have many friends who tell me it is pragmatic, even principled, to vote for the lesser of two evils.  Maybe it’s right for them.  I just know that I couldn’t look myself in the mirror if I knew I had voluntarily supported evil, lesser or not.

The Clash, “Spanish Bombs

Let’s have an “Alice in Wonderland” moment:

When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master      that’s all.”

Now, let’s jump about a hundred and thirty years closer to the present with this quote from political writer Ron Suskind.  Formerly a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, he is certainly no flaming radical, and unlikely to have made this up:

The aide(probably Karl Rove) said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” … “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” 

Am I alone in seeing a parallel between the words of Humpty Dumpty and the words of Karl Rove?

Let’s talk for a while about this business of shrinking the government and letting private industry grow, to which the Dems and Repubs both seem committed. It ties in with the Republican assault on labor unions.  The purpose of unions and the purpose of democratic government are the same—a way for people to join together to deal with something bigger than an individual human, whether the bigger thing is an invasion, a natural disaster, a need to maintain the commons—or a large, possibly multi-national, corporation. Those who call for the shrinking of the state and the destruction of labor unions, but do not at the same time call for diminishing the power of the corporate sector, are not populists, as they like to style themselves. They are fascists.  Fascism always seeks, in the name of the people, to shrink the power of the people and grow the power of the elite.

In the words of FDR,

“The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism — ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.”

As I understand Roosevelt’s words, and as I understand what’s going on in America today, we have slid far down the road to fascism.

Another front on which the GOP has pushed inequality has been their sometimes successful attempts to disempower women by limiting their access to health care, contraception, and abortion, even in the context of rape and incest.  I don’t have enough time tonight to give you the nasty details of this, but you can read the whole rap sheet at this link.  This is a rich subject, and I may do a whole story on in next month.

Here’s my take on the contest for the Republican nomination:  The GOP’s kingmakers will never, ever let Ron Paul anywhere near the Presidency, and, indeed, most Republicans are far too hypnotized to ever accept him.  Mitt Romney will likely be the nominee.  Because Romney’s Mormon faith is so distasteful to the party’s evangelical wing, who largely consider Mormonism a pagan religion, Rick Santorum or someone like him will get the VP slot, so as to bring in the faithful, just as Sarah Palin served John McCain in the last round.

This ticket is still extremely problematic.  First of all, Romney carries the baggage of having designed the program Republicans now revile as “Obamacare,” and it will be funny to watch him try and shake that one off.  Second, for all the GOP’s touting of the uber-wealthy as “job creators,” Romney made a whole lot of his uber-wealth in the 80’s running a firm, Bain Capital,  that bought American companies and slimmed or shut them down, or moved them overseas, reaping enormous benefits for CEO’s and investors, and disaster for working Americans.

And Santorum?  Back in the 1930’s, Sinclair Lewis said, ” “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”  Rick Santorum is the guy wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.  In his own words:

We have laws in states, like the one at the Supreme Court right now, that has sodomy laws and they were there for a purpose. Because, again, I would argue, they undermine the basic tenets of our society and the family. And if the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything. Does that undermine the fabric of our society? I would argue yes, it does. It all comes from, I would argue, this right to privacy that doesn’t exist in my opinion in the United States Constitution, this right that was created, it was created in Griswold—Griswold was the contraceptive case—and abortion. And now we’re just extending it out. And the further you extend it out, the more you—this freedom actually intervenes and affects the family. You say, well, it’s my individual freedom. Yes, but it destroys the basic unit of our society because it condones behavior that’s antithetical to strong healthy families. Whether it’s polygamy, whether it’s adultery, where it’s sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family….. society is based on the future of the society. And that’s what? Children. Monogamous relationships. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be.

Another example of Rick’s rhetoric:

“One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is, I think, the dangers of contraception in this country.  Many of the Christian faith have said, ‘Well, that’s okay. Contraception is okay.’ It’s not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

Folks, this kind of talk is straight out of the Nazi playbook.  He wants to put the government in your bedroom to make sure you don’t use birth control or do anything he thinks is kinky, because sex is for reproductive purposes only, dammit.  Why is it so much fun, then?  That’s the Devil tempting you to self -indulgence!

bUT….while Santorum makes pronouncements that warm the hearts of conservative evangelical Christians, he himself is actually a Catholic.  Will evangelicals give it up for a pagan and a papist?  Or dredge up the just-as-batshit-crazy/sexually repressed. but thoroughly Protestant, Michelle Bachman?  Or find some other Stepford wife/husband?

So that’s the choice America faces in 2012–between Obama, a whore for the corporatists, and Romney/Santorum or his equivalent, a corporatist pimp and a narrow-minded, repressed bigot.  Or, there’s kicking over the table, which may become more and more likely as more and more Americans realize, with Tim DeChristopher,

Once I realized that there was no hope in any sort of normal future, there’s no hope for me to have anything my parents or grandparents would have considered a normal future—of a career and a retirement and all that stuff—I realized that I have absolutely nothing to lose by fighting back. Because it was all going to be lost anyway.

But he worked through his despair:

“How the hell could people accept this? This is outrageous.” And I think that’s one of the things that the wilderness does for us, you know, it allows us to live the way we actually want to live for a while. It puts things in the perspective of, “Wait, this isn’t inevitable. It doesn’t actually have to be this way. And this isn’t the way I want to live. It’s not okay.” I think activism at its best is refusing to accept things. Saying that this is unacceptable.

With or without access to the wilderness that healed and nurtured Tim DeChristopher, he is far from the only person coming to the twin realizations that the current situation is totally unacceptable, and he has nothing to lose in opposing the corporatocracy–or creating something different that meets genuine human–and planetary–needs.

You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.





WHAT IS TO BE DONE?

10 09 2011

Here’s my response to that “Mid-Tennessee Progressive Strategy” group’s response to the Obama indictment.  I’ve added links, and changed it a little for greater clarity and because, when I took a little more time for fact-checking, I didn’t have all my details right–but this is substantially the same post.

As I was considering how to respond to the many comments my post elicited, I read the following quote from Susan Sontag in Yes!:

Acting on principle is, we’re told, a good in itself. But it is still a political act, in the sense that you’re not doing it for yourself. You don’t do it just to be in the right, or to appease your own conscience; much less because you are confident your action will achieve its aim. You resist as an act of solidarity. With communities of the principled and the disobedient: here, elsewhere. In the present. In the future…..

The likelihood that your acts of resistance cannot stop the injustice does not exempt you from acting.”

So, with that to set the tone, here is my response to the different objections that were raised to my bill of particulars against the strategy of aligning with Obama and the Democratic Party.

I cannot support him or the Democrat Party because they are war criminals. Obama has not only declined to prosecute any Cheney administration officials for war crimes, he has continued and actually expanded Cheney’s criminal policies. It should be obvious, at this point, that he went into the Presidential race knowing full well that he would be doing that, throwaway lines like “close Guantanamo” (which never happened) not withstanding. To vote for him, or anyone who, like Jim Cooper, continues to support war crimes and war criminals is to be complicit in those crimes, just like the “good Germans” of the last century. And, like Germany and Italy, America has become a fascist state, defined as one in which the government is run in collusion with, and for the benefit of, big business.

Of course, 21st century American fascism has learned a thing or two about how to be “kinder and gentler”–nobody’s getting sent to the gas chamber–but Gaza and Palestine, and the now-60-year old Palestinian refugee camps are the 21st century equivalent of concentration camps—and they are maintained with U.S. aid. And, likewise, this fascism is sure enough of its hold on power that it won’t send us to the camps just for making accusations like this. It’s much cheaper (and better PR) to simply ignore us, dismiss tax protests as “frivolous filings” to be dealt with administratively, and save the legal big guns for those who actually do things that throw a monkey wrench in the gears of power, like Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, or Tim DeChristopher.

As for the charge that I am not “dealing with the realities of America politics,” those “realities” are insanely out of touch with real-deal reality. The real-deal reality is that our government’s willful ignor-ance of the seriousness of climate change is a serious threat to the ability of this planet to continue to support higher life forms such as ourselves. The grim difference between the late 20th century’s bane, “Mutual Assured Destruction,” and our current situation is that, while Mutual Assured Destruction turned out to be a threat that never materialized (except to the extent that military expenditures stole from our ability to make the planet a better place for everyone), every day that we continue to extract and burn fossil fuels sinks us deeper into the tar pit of runaway climate change, while our “leaders” babble about “growth” and “job creation.” This kind of unconscious commitment to the idea that the way it’s been is the way it’s going to be is a planetary suicide pact, and, weak old man that I am, it makes me want to kick and scream and raise hell to wake people from the sleepwalk of politics as usual in America.

“I” can’t do a whole lot about this, but “we” can. Vaclav Havel started out as a lonely dissident, and was ground under the heel of the Soviet empire—but he persisted, and eventually enough people came around to his point of view that the whole sorry reality of “Communist” totalitarianism crumbled–not through confrontation, but by decay from within, as an overwhelming majority withdrew their consent from the system. You can bet that he got plenty of well-intentioned advice along the way about how he needed to be more realistic and accept “Communist” domination! Something similar has to happen here. There are two ways the two-party duopoly could come undone: either an East-bloc-style revolution of belief, or the total collapse of America as we’ve known it. As a guy who would like to die peacefully of old age, I would much prefer the former, but, as it stands, I’m deeply concerned that we’re heading for the latter.

As it stands, “progressives” (a term whose definition is a whole other subject) in the Democratic Party are in the position of a woman who stays with her abusive husband, hoping she can change him. As with individual cases, that’s unlikely to happen, especially as long as he (the corporate-oriented Democratic Party, in this case) thinks he can take your support for granted, no matter what he does, because you view him as your only option. Here’s the reality: he’s too addicted to corporate money to ever listen to “progressives” again, and it’s been that way for at least 30 years. There have been some truly noble “progressive Democrats” like Dennis Kucinich, Barbara Lee, and Cynthia McKinney, but they have been seriously mistreated by the mainstream of the Democratic Party.  Well, OK, Barbara Lee has not been harassed by her own party–she pulls 85% of the vote without even trying.  It’s pretty hard to harass somebody who’s that popular at home.

Cynthia McKinney had the good sense to jump to the Green Party, which could really take off if all the people who “hold their nose and vote for Democrats” screwed up their courage instead of holding their noses, and walked out on the Democrats instead of voting for the stinkers. One commenter said he thought the American electorate was trending rightward. I disagree. My understanding of the results of the 2010 election is not that a whole lot more people voted Republican, but that a whole lot fewer people voted Democrat, due to feeling burned by the party’s failure to deliver on their expectations of it. I am also aware of repeated polling that shows that Americans overall are much more “progressive” than the choices that are allowed in our corporate-run political system, and that the” Tea Party” is, when all is said and done, a minority voice. The fact that 50-60% of potential voters don’t vote in most of our elections means that the “Republican majority” is really only about 20-25% of the electorate, and tells me that there is enormous potential for a new political movement in this country that will actually listen to–and speak for–the real concerns of real people. The Green Party was created to do just that.  We do not take corporate money. Those of us who have been keeping it going in this state for the last ten years would love to be supplanted by “progressives” who got disgruntled with the major parties and came on over. In Canada, the New Democrats, who were a “third party” for years, have now supplanted the Liberals as the country’s main opposition party. Change can happen, but only if enough people are willing to do whatever it takes to make it happen.

Oh, and “scary Perry”? The blustering bully from Texas and the smooth-talking con-man from Chicago are working for the same masters. Choosing between them amounts to, do you want to be railroaded by the good cop (Obama) or by the bad cop (Perry, Bachman, etc.)? My response is, I haven’t done anything wrong. They have, and I’m not giving them my power. Obama’s a war criminal, Perry’s a murderer who aspires to be a war criminal. The proper response to people like them is to step away, not to try and reform them or work with their political supporters in hopes of creating substantive social change. It ain’t gonna happen, any more than the Mafia is going to become a model civic organization if we reach out to it and try to work to change it.

There are those who say that it’s too late for politics, that the only thing left to do is duck and cover and create our own community survival networks.  To me, that’s a worst-case scenario–not so far out as to be ignored, but not yet inevitable.  I believe it is still possible for the people of this country to wake up, shake off the whores who pass for politicians, and take this country back, and that’s what keeps me, as Susan Sontag put it, “acting on principle.”  Whether it has wider results or not, it’s the only way I can live with myself.

Music:  Richard Thompson, “Borrowed Time








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