8 08 2015

In some ways, our government’s shift to the use of drones for a lot of the “dirty work” of the “War on Terror” has been a publicity godsend.  Sure, the U.S. is still committing war crimes, but look at the up side: because “our boys” (and girls, now, too) don’t have to go out on so many missions that put them in harm’s way, a lot few soldiers are coming back seriously traumatized, wounded or in body bags.  Because these robot war crimes are being committed by soldiers sitting in front of video game consoles in Nevada, who kill from thousands of miles away and never have to actually experience the live reality of the deaths they cause, and because they are not subject to suicide revenge attacks by the relatives of those they have killed, fewer American troops are getting their brains twisted up by PTSD.  Because the deaths from drone strikes happen far away from the protection of American troops, American photographers are not on hand to record the atrocities created by our drone strikes.  The graphic images and horrific experiences that helped turn the American public against the Vietnam war and our full-on invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan are being neatly avoided, leaving the corporatocracy a freer hand to pursue their plan, which seems to involve killing enough Muslims to intimidate the rest into doing things our way.

 bad p.r.!

bad p.r.!

worse  P.R.!

worse P.R.!

I often wonder how long it will be until somebody who doesn’t like what our government is doing to “Islamic extremists” gets some drones of their own and uses them against us, or figures out how to hack our drones and turn our own weapons against us.  I’m sure it’s only a question of time.


Really, really terrible p.r.!

And, speaking of time, this week we are observing the 70th anniversaries of those ultimate terrorist attacks, the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Unlike Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, they were part of a great military victory for the United States, but the public relations “fallout” was awful:  the brutality of those attacks inspired a worldwide peace movement that has helped restrain the U.S. or any other country from using a nuclear weapon in warfare ever since.  What a waste of money to spend billions of dollars on weapons that public opinion won’t let our military use!

This worldwide peace movement has, unfortunately, been at its weakest here in America, where we have not had a major conflict since the middle of the 19th century.  Here in America, we have long been insulated from direct experience of the horrors of war.  Is that photo of a corpse real, or CGI?

What if there were some way to bring the consequences of war back home, back into the lives, yards, and closets of every neighborhood in America?  With that thought in mind, here’s a macabrely comic monologue, written by Joanne Forman and delivered by Ruth Fahrbach.


12 03 2010

I learned a new word recently, but I kind of wish I hadn’t, because the more I consider its meaning, application, and implications, the sadder and angrier I feel.  It’s a word like “raghead”  “gook,”  “nappy-headed ho,” or the unspeakable n-word.  The word is “bugsplat,” which sounds like it’s just a way to refer to the unfortunate insects who end up pasted to your car’s windshield.  Not very appetizing, but what makes it really revolting for me is the fact that it is a word our government uses to refer to human beings.

Yes, our government refers to some human beings (dark-skinned ones, so far) as “bugsplat.”  How would you like it if the U.S. government’s official term for you was “bugsplat”?  I mean, would it piss you off, or what?  Wouldn’t you feel…dehumanized?

OK, you’re wondering, where did this designation come from,  what does it mean, and why should I care?

Here goes….”bugsplat” began as the name of a computer program the Pentagon has used since the Iraq invasion to calculate the effect bombs will have on their intended targets INC the number of “incidental” civilian deaths. aka “collateral damage,”  that will occur as a result.  For example,the Pentagon estimated that between six and seven hundred civilians would be killed on just the first day of the U.S. bombing campaign against Iraq–about a third of the number of Americans who died in the World Trade Center attack (or demolition). The name of the computer program has become a way to label these civilians–they are just “bugsplat.”  No big deal.

To answer my own question, you wouldn’t feel pissed off or dehumanized or anything if you were bugsplat, because you’d be dead.  But yes, you would have been dehumanized before you were killed, so your murderers wouldn’t need to get their undies in a bunch about offing you.  You were just bugsplat.  “Oops, sorry ’bout that.  Scrape it off the bottom of my shoe…”.

Our government and media have demonized the  “terrorists” who  flew airplanes into the Pentagon (maybe) and World Trade Center–but the government has had no hesitation, and the mainstream media have had no outrage, about U.S. air strikes that, through the years, have been responsible for the deaths of far more innocent civilians  than the September 11 attack.  Who’s the bigger terrorist?

Indeed, the complete illegitimacy of America’s war of aggression against Iraq and Afghanistan has been largely swept under the rug.  Hey, who wants to admit they’re a war criminal?  War crimes trials are for losers, right?  Besides, Obama and his legal crew know full well that any prosecution of John Yoo or any other high-ranking Bush juntoids will lead straight back to Dimocratic complicity in every criminal decision, and only underline the fact that, in essence, the Obama administration is following the same policies.  So, to” combat terrorism,”  the U.S. will to fight to the last angry Muslim, or the last dollar the Chinese will loan us,which ever comes first, in our attempt to prevail in this struggle against the enemy we have created for ourselves.

Yeah, just wade into a culture that’s big on family ties and avenging the wrongs done to members of your family, start killing people right and left, and wonder why they don’t like you.  Or maybe it’s “act like you wonder why they don’t like you.” Yeah, act innocent, but, not so very deep down, the corporate/military/government complex doesn’t care who or how many end up as “bugsplat.” It’s about the money.

I recently heard Medea Benjamin speak about her experiences in Afghanistan. (on Rose’s edition of this radio show, actually) Ms. Benjamin described meeting with Afghan women and asking them why they thought the U.S. was in their country.  “Because it’s making some people in the U.S. a lot of money” was their basic answer.  Smart enough, eh?

And, let’s face it, what enraged Muslims long before the U.S. invasion was the obvious lack of respect for their culture shown by the multinationals, to whom they were  just another market to be penetrated in the never-ending drive to concentrate the world’s wealth in a few corporate pockets.  When our government talks about “introducing freedom and democracy in the Middle East,” it’s just code for creating a market economy where Exxon, Monsanto,Walmart, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola and their ilk are free to operate, an environment in which  “freedom of choice” ain’t about your culture or economic system, it’s about  “Coke or Pepsi?”

To date, the U.S. has spent about $711 billion on the war in Iraq, and about 258 billion on the war in Afghanistan.   That’s about $8,000 for every man, woman, and child in Afghanistan, and about $24,000 for every Iraqi.  These people would have been much better off, and much more kindly disposed to us, if we had just given them the money, or at least spent it on projects that benefitted them directly, like reforestation, water conservation, sustainable agriculture, sanitation, and health and education projects (and this is the most important part) driven by local input.

But NOOO….we spent it all on military hardware and private contractors and all kinds of things that make Americans rich, and who cares if we rip off the dark-skinned people–hey, it doesn’t matter, they’re not us…..they’re just “bugsplat” if they get in our way, so get out of our way, ’cause it’s our way or the highway, and we own the highway, so get out of our way there, too….as long as the gasoline lasts.  And when the gas runs dry and the lights flicker out, the remaining relatives of all that “bugsplat” our leaders so arrogantly dismissed will take to the newly level playing field and visit their long-awaited vengeance on whatever Westerners they can get their hands on, and it won’t be pretty….not that it’s pretty now.

“Bugsplat.”  Have mercy on them, Mother, for they are proud, greedy, and willfully ignorant, and they know all too well what they do….and have mercy, too, on those of us who see this but lack wit and wisdom to show them the error of their ways.

Jackson Browne, Soldier of Plenty


10 01 2007

Ethicist Peter Singer read the UN’s Millenium Development Plan, which calls for an additional fifty to seventy-five billion dollars a year in order to halve world poverty and hunger and offer an education to every child in the world, among other things. This plan has been stalled out for lack of funding—the US finds it’s more important to take that kind of money and burn it in Iraq, just for openers. We could end world poverty, but we’re too busy fighting the poor. We could end our dependence on fossil fuels, but we’re too busy making sure we’ve got all the fossil fuels we can glom. But, I digress…. Dr. Singer did a little math, and found that raising the tax rates for the wealthiest Americans so that they paid the same ten to thirty-five percent of gross that the rest of us have to give up —leaving them ninety to sixty-five percent of their breathtakingly high annual income–would generate…over four hundred billion dollars a year. Enough to fund the UN anti-poverty program about seven times over. Noblesse oblige, anyone?

Such a change would do more to end terrorism in the world than burning money and bodies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it doesn’t even propose cutting off money to the military/industrial blackmail complex. We could pay those people to sit around and do nothing and we’d all be better off. My old friend and teacher Stephen Gaskin has been saying since the seventies that “there’s plenty to go around,” but nobody believed him. Kudos to Mr. Singer for actually doing the math. Now all it’s gonna take is some political will.

Somebody in the DOE did some math and figured out that there’s enough off-peak power going unused in the US electric grid to substitute plug-in electric vehicles for about eighty-five percent of the gas burners on our highways today. That’s a good news/bad news situation all by itself—it means that our current, disgusting level of urban sprawl just might be sustainable—but the air would be cleaner, especially as more electricity comes from the sun and the wind. Meanwhile, it would encourage the continued strip mine rape of the central Appalachians and encourage the ghouls who are pushing nuclear power. This old curmudgeon would like to see America radically restructured, not just staying the course in electric cars.

I think that one of the most peculiar assumptions of our society is the assumption that everyone who wants full economic citizenship must own a car. Think about that, especially as real wages continue to fall (raising the minimum wage is unlikely to do much for the rest of us) and the “American dream” becomes ever more unattainable for ever more of us, for ever more.

But, just in case you think we’ve got it bad over here, consider the Chinese occupation of Tibet, which continues its genocidal course. The railway into Lhasa is now open, bringing thousands of tourists (and potentially thousands of troops), although it will take much more than passenger fares for the line to show a profit; current projections are that the tracks will sink into Tibet’s melting permafrost before the line pays for itself. Meanwhile, the Chinese are forcing Tibetans to demolish their homesteads and move into Chinese-designed dwellings that do not incorporate room for the livestock that are a necessary component of Tibetan household economies, impoverishing the Tibetans and forcing them into the unsustainable, import-everything, Chinese mode of dwelling on the Tibetan plateau. These are the people we’re trusting with our manufacturing capacity, although they are devious and amoral enough to make all but the most hard-hearted US corporations seem like the very picture of benevolence. What does this bode for how they will treat us when it comes time to call in our massive, mounting debt to them?

The Chinese have adopted our western religion of economics and turned it on us. Cheap is everything, graceful is nothing, and they are better at being ruthless than we are.

I think that one of the things we can do about the macro-economic quicksand we are trapped in, i.e., our declining purchasing power, is to spend our money very carefully, and give as little of it as we can to the vampiric multinational corporations that have gotten so very good at sucking our blood. Buy gasoline, if you must, from Citgo and give your money to Hugo Chavez, not Exxon-Mobil. Buy “consumer goods” from friendly neighborhood yard sales (and get to know your neighbors) and from thrift stores—and if you can’t find it locally, there’s all those virtual yard sales on the internet: eBay, Craig’s list, free- and cheap-cycle. More and more of us taking these steps (hell, our financial circumstances are forcing us, so we might as well!) will begin to starve the Walmarts of the world and their Chinese vampire cohorts. Do you really need cable TV? Haven’t you got something better to do with your time? Tell Comcast to get lost! Learn to work in metal or wood or clay, learn to spin and weave and sew. Learn to garden and cook, for chrissake! Learn to play an instrument and sing and tell stories! Learn to listen to other peoples’ stories! Creating post-consumerist, post-oil, post-corporate, post-industrial culture is a collective enterprise that is being created by you and you and you and me and the network of people we see every day. Let’s get to work and enjoy ourselves!

music: Adrienne Young, “Plow to the End of the Row


11 08 2006

I’ve been saying for quite some time that the United States has as much right to be in Iraq as the Nazis had to be in Poland. I’d like to take this opportunity to look through the lens of World War II and reframe more of the tragedy now unfolding in what was once the fertile crescent.

Israel’s destruction of Lebanon is a blitzkreig, a “lightning war,” waged against people who do not have the technology to deflect Israel’s strength. And Gaza is the moral equivalent of the Warsaw Ghetto. Our proxy state, Israel, has just as surely become the new Nazis as America has.

Think of it this way: “Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto captured two German soldiers and have held them hostage, demanding that all Jewish women and children held by the Germans be released. In response, the Germans have unleashed an aerial bombardment of the ghetto, leveling not only Jewish homes and businesses but those of non-Jewish Poles whom they suspect of sympathizing with the Jews.”

Of course, the Israelis have learned a few lessons from their Nazi tormentors, most importantly—no concentration camps. No point giving bleeding heart types anything to concentrate on, eh? Just keep the ragheads where they are and build walls around them, destroy their communities, homes, gardens, farms, schools, hospitals, water sources, communications routes. Make sure there’s plenty of lebensraum for God’s chosen people—us Jews. It’s not a policy that will ever win Israel any Muslim hearts and minds. They must know this. If they’re obviously not committed to reconciliation, what is the long-term goal of Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians? What is Israel’s “final solution to the Palestinian question?”

The conflict is not new, nor is it simple. The Old Testament is, among other things, a record of struggles over the narrow band of wet, fertile ground between the Mediterranean sea and the Arabian desert. The Palestinian people have been protesting for over a hundred years, often violently, against the influx of European Jews into their fragile ecology. In many ways, the story of Israel is the same story of Europeans vs. native people that has been played out all over the globe. I got a lot of insight into this by reading Starhawk’s dispatches from Palestine. I strongly suggest you look them up at her website,, for an eye-opening, positive picture of the Palestinian people, written by a Jew–like me.

So, when George Bush fires off lines about “fighting Islamic Fascism,” he is, as usual, about 180 degrees from the truth. Fascism is, in the words of fascist founding father Benito Mussolini, the marriage of corporate and state interests for their mutual benefit. Mussolini said that a synonym for “fascism” could be “corporatism.”

Hmm. That makes George Bush the fascist, not Hezbollah. The new order in the Middle East that Bush and his junta envision is a Middle East dominated not just by Shell, Mobil, and Halliburton, but by Coca-Cola, Col. Sanders, Walmart, and their ilk. The Muslim people of the Middle East are fighting to stay free of fascism, not to establish it. They may be fanatical, authoritarian, repressed, violent misogynists, but they are very strongly committed to their native cultures, and opposed to the corporatist/fascist business state model Mr. Bush and his cronies would like to impose on them. No, no, no, Hezbollah and friends are not fascists. It is you, Mr. Bush, who is the fascist. Your words and actions have demonstrated that over and over again.

You wish to fight terrorism, Mr. Bush? What you call terrorism is warfare fought by those who are too poor to afford armies. The way to stop terrorism is to stop the kind of military and cultural arrogance that leaves people feeling that they have no other option than a violent attack on their oppressors, and then reroute the resources that have been used to enforce oppression into improving the lot of the oppressed.

From Palestine up through Lebanon and Syria, then down the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, stretches the cradle of our civilization, an area still occasionally referred to as “The Fertile Crescent,” though it is hardly that any more. Its hills have been denuded by the demands of goatherds and wood-cutters; its fields and pastures have blown away in the wind or been saturated with salt from too much irrigation and not enough rainfall; its rivers are running dry, squeezed between emptying aquifers and burgeoning populations, choked with sewage and agricultural runoff. All of it has been trampled by too many marching armies. This once-fertile crescent, between the deserts of Arabia and the steep, rocky mountains of the Caucasus, does not need more wars, more bombs, more destruction. The Israeli campaign against Lebanon, like the American campaign in Iraq, is breaking something it cannot fix. A complete change of direction is needed to bring peace to the Middle East.

I can call it a Green proposal, but it comes from the Old Testament, that testament of sorrows, from the Prophet Micah, who suggested that if everyone could sit beneath their own vine and fig tree, there would be peace and happiness. The Old Testament also famously references the cedars of Lebanon, but there are hardly any of them left. Evidence from such primeval sources as The Epic of Gilgamesh suggests that, when civilization first arose, there was extensive forest cover (and its corollaries, regular rainfall and year-round streams) throughout the area we now think of as borderline desert. Is it possible to reclaim this devastated land? Such a massive bioremediation project would employ thousands, possibly millions of people, in a project that would demonstrate fairly immediate benefits to them. It would include ecological education as well as hands-on projects, and would be structured to give local people control over projects in their vicinity. That is the way to create a democratic Middle East—not by holding staged elections for a powerless government, but by giving people control over their lives.

But—but—you ask—what about this terrible plot that was just uncovered—they were going to blow up a bunch of airplanes full of tourists!?

Here’s what I think about the latest so-called “terrorist threat”: a great many of the so-called “terrorist threats” that have been revealed have turned out to be more hot air than substance; the timing of such announcements, I believe, usually has more to do with political calculations than with protecting the public. The war party needed some kind of shibboleth to wave in the face of growing awareness of their short-sighted stupidity, and so now they are confiscating perfume and toothpaste instead of scissors and nail clippers. None of these alleged plotters had even bought an airline ticket yet. We need to pull our attention out of this kind of nonsense and put it back into positive actions to save the planet—like recreating the Mideast’s devasted ecosystem. Vines and fig trees for everyone! Olive trees, too! Pomegranates! Dates! Oranges! Kif! Yes!

This does not directly address tensions between Sunnis and Shi’ites, or between Muslims and Jews; but I think that a greener, wetter, softer, more bountiful environment (notice how feminine those adjectives are!) will enable everyone to relax, share some grapes, figs, olives, a puff of kif or two, and figure out their differences– which are, beneath all the ideological trappings, squabbles over scarce and diminishing resources. Let’s, as Mr. Bush said,” make the pie higher.”

Doesn’t that beat dropping bombs?

Music:  Steve Earle, “Jerusalem”

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