Dec 16, 2012
We live in a world of our own making. And we have no right to question that world when it goes wrong and 20 babies are massacred by a troubled young man with unlimited access to semi-automatic weapons. We have no right to mourn. Because we knew, before it happened, that it was going to happen. And we know that it is going to happen again. And again. And again. Such atrocities (where at least four people were slain by a lone gunman) have occurred 62 times, according to Mother Jones, since 1982 (did everything start to go wrong with Reagan?).
So don’t show me any pictures of grieving parents or choked-up presidents. Don’t bother telling me, aghast, that the only Republican recommendations following Newtown are to arm every adult in every school and don’t print the names of the shooters. We made this world, and we know how it works. And it will only get worse until we write ourselves a new social contract, one in which the people come first, and we begin to treat ourselves with proper respect and consideration, as well as begin to demand of ourselves that we live up to certain responsibilities and expectations.
Until then, we will continue to be mere grist for a grisly media.
Sep 24, 2012
The countdown begins. The beauty pageant shifts into high gear. The pundits, the pollsters, and the pols strut their stuff in a dumbshow to convince us there is some kind of contest going on.
But the contest is over, the prizes have been handed out, and the winners are safe in their gated communities, laughing up their silken shirtsleeves at the suckers who put them there. You. And me. And Joe the Plumber.
We have stood by as our democracy was co-opted by an oligarchy more greedy, more shameless, more effective—and more empowered by the establishment—than any nineteenth century robber baron could have dreamed. And we have watched our economic system ruined by a small cabal of the filthy rich. Even more than our lost democracy, posterity may well mourn the criminalization of capitalism, and the havoc it wrought on a civilization so in need of its strengths.
Because as democracy plays out a pitiful last act, pandering to the groundlings while its makeup fades under the unforgiving lights, capitalism has departed the stage, stepped into a waiting limo, and left democracy and its audience far behind.
So enjoy the next 40 days or so, the debates, the tweets, the contortions of the mainstream media to make a cliffhanger out of a no-brainer. The only issue to be resolved on November 6 is our angle of decline over the next four years: steep or steeper.
Mar 04, 2012
Is anyone not familiar with Rush Limbaugh’s comments following Rep. Darryl Issa’s refusal to allow a third-year, Georgetown law student to testify before his committee about insurance coverage for contraceptives? Limbaugh decided to conflate her testimony (which she presented, but not to the whole Congress) with “loose” sexual mores. Interesting that someone married four times feels he can play the “morality card.”
In any event, Limbaugh wasted no time in calling the law student, Sandra Fluke, a slut and a prostitute. Predictably, people on the left or in the center denounced his breath-taking misogyny, while those who hope to trounce Obama in November either seconded Limbaugh’s remarks (Pat O’Reilly, for instance) or made tiny bleating sounds they hoped would be interpreted as criticism by the angry women whose votes they want. The only Republican who used strong language was Scott Brown and he’s running against Elizabeth Warren. His handlers told him what to say.
Let’s shove aside the extraneous: the manufactured kerfuffle over contraception, the manufactured kerfuffle over religious rights (hard to be Catholic? Try establishing a voice as an atheist in this theocracy), and the warp speed employed by Republicans to attack the president for telephoning Fluke.
The situation (Rep. Issa’s turning Fluke away, saying her testimony wasn’t significant; who cares what women think about contraception?) elegantly reflects the way in which the powerful (men) cut the powerless (we know who we are) off at the knees, leaving us voiceless and ashamed. By refusing to allow Fluke to speak they did what men have done for centuries: marginalized us, shut us up, ignored our concerns, slammed the door in our faces and said, “Get outta here.”
And then, as though that weren’t enough, they trivialized Fluke (and, by extension, women in general) by equating her thoughtful analysis of why contraception should be covered by employers with the desire to have endless amounts of sex. That contraception is necessary even if you have sex one time, that the need for it is a public health issue, that the vast majority of women of child-bearing age use contraceptives, that abstaining women also take birth control pills was all thrown by the wayside. In essence, both men and their supporters were saying that women have no right to talk about sex in public, that the expression of a need for contraception by an unmarried woman is shameful and shouldn’t be allowed. Yea, even unto the 21st century doth this continue!
Every few years, civilized people who had begun to believe that things had gotten better are shocked when troglodytes trot out the same, tired sexist and racist beliefs. It’s depressing. Still, this time there was an uproar. And though we figure that Rush will never be thrown off the radio so long as he provokes and has listeners, we can’t but feel that he will be a trifle less careless, a bit more self-conscious about what he says. And for someone as reckless as he is, I imagine that’s a burden. In addition, it must have been inconvenient and time-consuming for his employer to have to deal with angry advertisers pulling their spots. In this mixed-up world, we have to draw consolation from small things.
Aug 14, 2009
The radical right owns the debates—all the debates—for two reasons: 1) by virtue of the outrageousness of their arguments (the Employee Free Choice Act’s card check provision will destroy democracy; health care reform will institute death panels; Obama’s presidency is illegitimate since he wasn’t born in the U.S.); and 2) by the complicity of the mainstream media in focusing its time and coverage entirely on that outrageousness. Oh, and a third reason: the Democrats’ unwillingness to come together in favor of any reform that might threaten their donor base, which is to say, any reform that favors the people’s interests over those of the corporatocracy.
No reform legislation that would satisfy the American people, let alone progressives, has been passed so far in the Obama administration, or will be passed in its remaining 40 months. This seems clear. As the stock market rises, making the fat cats happy, salaries languish and initial unemployment claims increased to over 550,000 for the week ending Aug 8.1 In July, our most important economic indicator, the growth in the gross domestic product, was minus 1 percent while China’s increased a whopping 14.9 percent.2 While the earth burns, an insufficient energy bill languishes in the Senate, awaiting further watering down on its way to passage.
The status quo is unsustainable. The golden goose—the physical, intellectual, and financial power of the people—lies wounded and gasping for breath. Two generations of a failed educational system has produced an inarticulate, angry populace that cannot reason or recognize their own self-interest, and are pawns in the hands of a cynical, grasping plutocracy.
There is one nonviolent solution to the cataclysms we face, and it is an unlikely one. Until the tanks begin rolling down Main Street, the power continues to be invested in the people and their elected representatives. We must join forces to find, fund, and elect representatives who are responsible to the people—all the people—and not to a tiny number of super-billionaires. If we cannot do that—and it is as long a shot as I can remember in a lengthy experience of the American political scene—we are finished, as a people, as a nation, and as a promise to the world.
1 Retails Sales and Unemployment Claims Disapppoint, by Phil Mintz, from Business Week, Aug 13, 2009, accessed Aug 14, 2009.
2 China Soothes Credit Tightening Fears, from Reuters, quoted in the New York Times, Aug 12, 2009, accessed Aug 14, 2009.
Jul 30, 2009
The Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C., Sec. 1385), passed in 1878, limits the powers of the federal government to use the military for law enforcement.1 The act has allegedly been violated to a significant and alarming degree, as reported on Democracy Now on July 28, 2009.2 The story goes well beyond the outing (via a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request) of a military informant, to describe scores of multi-jurisdictional intelligence fusion centers, where local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and national intelligence entities, including the military, pool knowledge and resources to combat terrorism. Pooling intelligence is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. In fact, greater cooperation among federal intelligence agencies just might have prevented 9/11. However, when those intelligence bodies are tasked with domestic spying and include military intelligence, we need to fear a great deal more than the breaking of a 130-year-old statute.
Back in February, in The Gathering Storm, I wrote, “An army unit has been stationed inside the U.S. to control ‘civil unrest.’3 Protestors at the Republican Convention are being tried as terrorists....4 A perfect storm of militarism, domestic unrest, and the criminalization of dissent is gathering. If the spectre of fascism hovered over the Bush presidency, it has come to walk the earth in the second month of an administration swept to power on what are increasingly coming to appear to be fraudulent promises of hope and change.”
We have a do-nothing Congress and a very busy Executive branch, continuing and expanding the atrocities of the Bush administration. Domestic terrorism in the form of an Oklahoma City bomber is bad enough. When our federal government gets into the business of watching, recording, harassing, and, yes, terrorizing its own people, the spectre of domestic terrorism takes on a different and altogether too horrible face.
Will we wake up when they come for the anarchists? Will we wake up when they come for the socialists? Will we wake up when they come for us?
1 Posse Comitatus Act, from Wikipedia, accessed Jul 30, 2009.
2 Declassified Docs Reveal Military Operative Spied on WA Peace Groups, Activist Friends Stunned, from Democracy Now, Jul 28, 2009, accessed Jul 30, 2009.
3 ACLU Seeks Answers on Reports of Domestic Army Deployment, from Democracy Now, Oct 22, 2008.
4 RNC Protestors Tried on Terrorism Charges Despite Acknowlegement They Didn’t Commit Alleged Acts, from Democracy Now, Feb 18, 2009.
Jul 25, 2009
The Henry Louis Gates encounter with the Cambridge police has been much in the news of late, even prompting the president to put in his two cents’ worth (and his foot in his mouth). I have read much on the issue, from various points of view, in an attempt to understand my own attitude toward the encounter, the significance of which, of course, goes well beyond the incident itself.
The legacy of race relations in the U.S. is the cross we all bear as Americans. Slavery was a crime against humanity as foul as any save genocide and was, indeed, a kind of genocide. The plight of the colored races in this country, since black Americans were freed in 1863, has been scarcely better than slavery and, in some locales and periods, arguably worse.
The fact that America today can elect a black president is cause for enormous pride and celebration. Without minimizing this, however, we must acknowledge that racism still smolders in our hearts, and its effects are still a plague upon a huge contingent of our people. No black person in America lives what any white person would recognize as a “normal life.” They never enter society unaccompanied by some level of fear and apprehension. They have not a moment’s waking peace, and their dreams are troubled by the residue of generations of intense cruelty and injustice.
Into this mix arrives a routine police response to an alleged breaking and entering, ending with the arrest in his own home of one of America's most respected intellectuals. An insufficient I.D., persistent outrage, an unfortunate “clash of egos”—whatever the putative cause of Gates’s short-lived arrest, a simple fact, I believe, remains indisputable: Gates’s anger provoked anger in the policeman, and a policeman in the course of his duties must not allow himself to become angry. Such a debilitating emotional response must be trained out of recruits, or they should not be allowed to serve. You may argue that a policeman’s day consists of scores of provocative encounters with angry and dangerous elements. All the more reason why an appropriate professional response must not include an emotion which interferes with an appropriate professional response.
1 Obama Expresses His Regrets on Gates Incident, by Jeff Zeleny, the New York Times, Jul 24, 2009, accessed Jul 25, 2009.
Mar 30, 2009
We live in two Americas now.
In the first, a few people take home in one year far, far more than you and all your neighbors put together will earn in your entire lifetime of work. These lucky few own many homes and, if asked just how many in an unguarded moment, may not even be able to recall the correct number. They jet between their homes in luxurious private or chartered aircraft, and their primary care physicians are affiliated with no HMO and you may be sure they still make house calls. These people have bought, paid for, and own the government and, when they screw up, their government does everything it can to prevent their suffering the consequence of their blunders.
The other America is in thrall to this First America. They (we should say “we”) live within a narrow and shrinking range of incomes, from those of us able to save something toward our children’s education and our own retirement, to those who live from payday loan to payday loan, and whose meagre minimum wage is under constant assault from First America's inducements to shop, gamble, drink, play, and borrow. Though both Americas have shared a recent decline in their net worth, ours is catastrophic and essentially uncushioned by government assistance; theirs affects their lifestyles not one whit, and their government is bankrupting itself, and us, to minimize their losses.
The First America is a parasitic America whose parasitism has been perfected over the past thirty years and is now so thoroughly interwoven in our society and our economy as to be virtually inextricable from the body politic. It has done a wonderful job of frightening those whom its educational system has rendered stupid, has co-opted many others, and ignores the rest of us since, for all our bluster, what, after all, can we do when the foxes own the henhouse?
Parasites, of course, eventually kill their hosts, and First America will be no different. If this crisis doesn’t do it—and none of the more dire indicators has improved in Obama’s first months in office—then the next one will.
As we asked in last Thursday’s entry, how could we have come to such a pass? There are scores, if not hundreds, of organizations opposed to the road down which our hapless nation is traveling. There are dozens of eloquent voices in opposition to the corporate takeover of America. However, like the blind men and the elephant, they are each involved in a separate piece of the problem and their efforts are uncoordinated.
Our nation’s salvation lies in finding, funding, and electing a new generation of untouchable politicians to represent all the people and our aspirations for a just and equitable society, for an end to militarism, for a return to the principals and ideals that will restore us to our place at the forefront of the struggle to bring freedom from oppression and want to all the peoples of the world. To that end, we must bring all those organizations and voices together as one. They all have their fervid constituents, and together we can take back America.
Divided, we haven’t a chance.
Feb 23, 2009
Seventeen thousand more soldiers are bound for Afghanistan, to join the 36,000 already there.1 Sixty-one people were killed by unmanned drone aircraft attacks over three days last week in Pakistan.2 Twenty-thousand California state workers have received notice they may be losing their paychecks this spring, while thousands more are out of work starting today after 270 state-funded transportation projects were abruptly cancelled.3 And our new top spook, Dennis Blair, a man with an odious past,4 has decided the global economic crisis is more dangerous than terrorism and, if allowed to deepen, “would contribute to unrest and imperil some governments.”5
It is apparent that Obama has chosen the Colin Powell doctrine of overwhelming force over the Rumsfeld slam-bam-thank-you-ma’am army, and that a reign of terror is about befall another long-suffering people led by a corrupt puppet regime. It will last for years, millions will die, and the very best the most Pollyanna-ish among us can hope for at the end of it all is a mangled sort of status quo ante.
Simultaneously, domestic challenges are testing our people as they have not been tested since the 1930s and possibly since the Civil War. As the middle class failed to take the draft to their bosom in the 60s, they are going to be equally unsympathetic toward the disappearance of their wealth, the new and unwelcome experience of hunger, and the knowledge that they have lost their country to a rapacious plutocracy. One day soon, they will hear the bell, they will know for whom it tolls, and they will rise.
Meanwhile, the forces of repression are moving into place. An Army unit has been stationed inside the U.S. to control “civil unrest.”6 Protesters at the Republican Convention are being tried as terrorists.7 And a man whose priorities have never included deference to the hierarchy of command or squeamishness about slaughtering unarmed innocents huddled in a church,8 a man whose most pressing concern today is “unrest,” is at the head of our national intelligence network.
A perfect storm of militarism, domestic unrest, and the criminalization of dissent is gathering. If the spectre of fascism hovered over the Bush presidency, it has come to walk the earth in the second month of an administration swept to power on what are increasingly coming to appear to be fraudulent promises of hope and change.
1 Putting Stamp on Afghan War, Obama Will Send 17,000 Troops, by Helene Cooper, from the New York Times, February 17, 2009, accessed, as were other notes in today’s entry, on February 18, 2009
2 US Drone Attacks Kill 61 in Pakistan, from Democracy Now, February 16, 2009
3 Schwartzenegger set to sack 20,000 workers in California, from The Australian, February 18, 2009
4 Blair Denies Backing Indonesian Atrocities in East Timor, from Democracy Now, January 23, 2009
5 Global Economy Top Threat to U.S., Spy Chief Says, by Mark Mazzetti, from the New York Times, February 12, 2009
6 ACLU Seeks Answers on Reports of Domestic Army Deployment, from Democracy Now, October 22, 2008
7 RNC Protesters Tried on Terrorism Charges Despite Acknowledgment They Didnít Commit Alleged Acts, from Democracy Now, February 18, 2009
8 Report: Intel Nominee Adm. Dennis Blair Knew of ’99 East Timor Church Killings Before Crucial Meeting, from Democracy Now, January 22, 2009
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