Thursday, July 30, 2009

Until Later

I'm off to Okemos, MI to for my tenth high school reunion. (Okay! So I repeated the twelfth grade forty times. Deal with it!)

Be back on Tuesday.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Songs from Aged Children Come*

It is a common mistake to assume that the right-wing noise machine is driven by ideology. True, they do espouse an ideology of sorts, but only if rants that come directly from the brain’s R-complex can be considered an ideology.

In truth the machine is the ultimate expression of America’s youth culture carried to the point of farce. It is little more than the world’s longest temper tantrum thrown by a gaggle of spoiled brats who are incapable of accepting that their “Father-Knows-Best” worldview was grounded in fantasy and delusion from the get-go.

And like all illusions, it was only a matter of time before it vanished in a puff of smoke, and since the poor darlings had believed in it with all their hearts and all their souls, its loss left a vacuum that could only be filled with spite and bile.

The world they think they lost was one dominated by white, male Protestants, men who wore suits to work while mother stayed home and cared for the children. It was a world in which the family marched off to church every Sunday, the females in hats and white gloves, and the males neck-tied in their polished shoes. It was cosmetic and scrubbed, while those whose skin was off-white barely existed.

Any doubts about the quality of this world were quickly cured by cocktails and Valium.

The young rebelled against this lifestyle in the sixties, but, with the exception of the Civil Rights movement, it was a self-centered movement addled by drugs and sex. Even the peace movement was driven by young people who had no desire to serve in a senseless and unnecessary war. Ultimately, the brightest in this movement cut their hair and found their way to Wall Street where the self-centeredness they’d nurtured during the rebellion made possible the economic rape of America.

But, the most tragic outcome of the sixties was that the left severed its ties with America’s working class, and, in doing so, left them naked and exposed, easy picking for the right-wing noise machine. The payback came in 1980 when the working class helped sweep Ronnie into office.

Now, in the midst of an economic meltdown, the left sits paralyzed, mumbling about peace and healthcare while the noise machine successfully pushes the buttons of the working class and fans the resentments and the anger that is the inevitable outcome of being unable to put enough food on the table.

It is a testimony to the machine’s talent, and the left’s lack of it, that one of the most discredited parties in American history, the Republicans, can still garner enough support to put Obama’s health reform in danger of failing.

And the left continues to mumble.

*With an apology to Joni Mitchell

Monday, July 27, 2009

When Life Begins

At the center of the abortion debate is the question of exactly when life begins. Since the anti-abortion forces get off pounding their Bibles, it might be well to see what the good book has to say bout all this.

We find our answer in Genesis 2.7:

…then the LORD God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being.

So, life begins when the infant draws its first breath. Prior to that, it is simply a cellular mass.

Which bible does Randall Terry read?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The "Fruits" of Empire

Those of us who grouse about the human cost of America’s hegemony should be ashamed of ourselves. Every time we raise our voices in protest, there are those who remind us that empire, i.e. corporate dominance, is America’s “destiny.” The destruction we rain on other countries is an altruistic destruction, a baptism of fire, and out of the smoldering rubble will arise an advanced civilization that will enjoy the fruits of democracy, capitalism and prosperity, though not necessarily right away.

David Bromwich has an excellent post on our serial wars in which he quotes Michael Ignatieff, a just war theorist, who threw his support behind the invasion of Iraq. In an article in the New York Times Magazine, Ignatieff argued that war is “a matter of American civic duty.”

In the article he tells us:

Regime change is an imperial task par excellence, since it assumes that the empire’s interest has a right to trump the sovereignty of a state. Regime change also raises the difficult question for Americans of whether their own freedom entails a duty to defend the freedom of others beyond their borders…Yet it remains a fact…that there are many people who owe their freedom to an exercise of military power.

He then goes on to cite Afghanistan and Iraq as recipients of American benevolence, a gift I’m sure the citizens of these countries celebrate daily.

Yes, in addition to the above, we have brought freedom the Philippines, in the years following the Spanish-American war, just as we brought freedom to the citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We tried our damndest to free the Vietnamese, but those ingrates just wouldn’t buy it. Then there were the British in the 1920s who taught Iraqis the meaning of freedom by bombing villages that didn’t pay their taxes.

Finally, there is that penultimate missionary of freedom, Kurtz in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

Yes, it’s the White Man’s burden all over again, that missionary zeal to convert the natives and to slaughter all those who refuse to listen to reason. So blinded by hubris is the White Man that he fails to see that empire is, and always has been, a gentle slide into self destruction. It’s an addiction, and like all addictions, the addict either bottoms out and seeks recovery, or he dies.

The jury’s still out.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Saving our Pentagon

It’s a mistake to call them imperial wars when they are little more than corporate wars fought for resources and market share.

And the way Secretary of Defense Robert Gates talks, we are going to be bouncing from war to war to war like a nine-year-old girl playing hopscotch. What else can you expect from a nation so addicted to military Keynesianism that unnecessary wars have become a way of life? If there is no enemy to fight, we will create one.

Gates is one of our tepid barbarians whose brilliance is refracted through the broken lens of adolescent groupthink. In other words, he’s your typical corporatist.

While he and his minions obsess over the corporate bottom line, they are blithely unaware of the existential bottom line that is slowly wrapping itself around the nation’s neck: we can no long afford the defense establishment so necessary for the execution of serial corporate wars.

We haven’t been able to afford them for some time, but the public tolerated them as long as it could maintain the illusion of indebted prosperity. Now that this is no longer possible, the public could well come to the conclusion that our corporate military establishment is no more than a bloated leech that is sucking our economy dry for the sake of keeping our oligarchs safe and secure in their Park Avenue penthouses.

There is, however, a way our corporatists can have their cake and eat it too.

Every time I look at the Pentagon, I see what could potentially be the world’s greatest indoor shopping mall. Hell, it’s got everything a mall needs—ample parking and loads of square footage. Its war room is the ultimate video game arcade.

Which brings me to our salvation: Instead of fighting real wars, let’s fight virtual ones. We’re halfway there already. I mean, how virtual can you get when some geek in an air conditioned room in Las Vegas, armed only with a laptop, can direct a drone over Afghanistan? The only difference between that and a video game is that a wedding party ends up getting wiped out.

It would be much more cost-effective to fight make believe wars than real ones. Lock our policy wonks in the war room and let them have at it with an elaborately plotted video game along the lines of SimCity. Call it Simnatinaldefense and they’d stay out of our hair for years.

The geek at his lap top would get the same euphoric high only state-sanctioned slaughter can bring even if the wedding party is virtual instead of real, and his elders could continue to play out their adolescent fantasies of domination and power.

Friday, July 24, 2009

How come?

How is it that the right is so focused and the left is so fragmented? Conspiracy theorists have a lot of fun with this, ascribing the right’s unity to a small cabal of powerful individuals who use their computers as puppet strings to send their minions their daily marching orders.

If only it were that simple.

The unity of the right comes from the unity of its purpose, and that unity is a power-driven greed. To embrace this greed is to put on a pair of existential blinders that block out all of creation. Life is reduced to a tiny pinprick of light that sees only the bottom line and not the dire consequences of pursuing it.

It is from this unity that the fragmentation of the left arises.

Power-driven greed causes a multiplicity of assorted damages, to the economy, to the environment, to nations and peoples, to agriculture, to small businesses and to communities. Consequently, there is a tendency, on the left, to attack these discrete problems individually. So it fragments as splintered groups attack individual symptoms in isolation from other groups.

For some reason, the left seems unable to realize that it, too, has a unifying principle—social justice. There is a plus and a minus to this principle. The plus is that it does not require the donning of blinders; the minus is that this means the left will never be as focused as the right.

It’s a discouraging business. It’s not like tilting at windmills; it’s more like confronting a rancid blob that moves inexorably along, driven by the momentum of its bloat. Hit is with a club and it sucks the club out of your hand; shoot it and its mass absorbs the bullet; set it on fire, and the flame refuses to catch.

Ward Morehouse tells a story about ancient Jerusalem where, every day, “a reformer stands in the temple denouncing the practices of the moneychangers. An observer asks, ‘Why do you carry on day after day? It’s so obvious the moneychangers are paying no attention.’

The reformer replies, ‘I do it so they will not corrupt me.’”

Perhaps, some day, the many little rivulets that make up the left will merge to form a mighty torrent that will flush society clean of the corruption that is clogging its pores.

Who knows when that day will be?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Tall tales are true! Really!

One of the fun things about being a Republican is that reality never gets in your way. Life is so much easier when you can make it up. Besides, America has always had a weakness for tall tales since the days of Rip Van Winkle. Of course, the Republicans make Washington Irving look like an investigative reporter.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait, public opinion was sharply divided over whether or not we should kick Iraq out of the country. That is, it was divided until October 10. 1990. That was when a tearful 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl appeared before what appeared to be a congressional committee and told a horrific story of Iraqi soldiers breaking into a neonatal clinic, dumping babies from their incubators and leaving them to die as they shipped the incubators off to Iraq.

It moved and outraged the public. Opinion swung sharply in favor of military action. It was truly a terrifying tale.

There was only one problem: it never happened.

The 15-year-old girl hadn’t stepped foot in Kuwait for years because she was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States. She didn’t testify before a congressional committee but before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, a front group that was the creation of Kuwait’s public relations firm, Hills and Knowlton, who also coached the girl prior to her testimony, which, strictly speaking wasn’t testimony since one of the advantages of speaking before a caucus is that one isn’t troubled by little inconveniences such as taking an oath to tell the truth.

Now that health care reform is on the congressional plate, the Republicans are back in the tall tale business.

Now we are being treated to the sad, tragic tale of Shona Holmes, an Ontario woman who, because it took so long for her to get an appointment with a specialist in Canada, was forced to journey to the Mayo Clinic and pay $97,000 to have a brain tumor removed.

It’s shocking! It’s enough to make any red-blooded American swear off socialized medicine even if it means he has no coverage.

The only difference between Holmes and the incubators is that the Holmes story contains a microscopic grain of truth. Holmes was operated on in the United States, but it wasn’t for a brain tumor. She had a Rathke’s Cleft Cyst on her pituitary gland. The cyst is benign and is not life threatening. The Canadian system would have taken care of it, but Holmes chose not to wait.

Life is beautiful when you can make things up. And making things up is so much easier when you have a media that’s forgotten how to ask questions.

For a Republican, reality sucks.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

An old truth surfaces.

The idea of mass consumption, or at least an ideology of mass consumption, as a commercially viable answer to “class thinking,” also found its way into the ads themselves. Goods, as presented in the ads, would provide a bond between groups of people who traditionally were at antagonistic ends of the political structure.
Stuart Ewen
Captains of Consciousness

A fascinating book, it traces the rise of the advertising industry and its role in the creation of a consumer culture.

As the assembly line raised its ugly head in the early twentieth century, mass production of cheap, standardized goods grew. This presented a problem to our plutocrats. Mass production required mass consumption. This led to a marriage-from-hell between advertising and behavioral psychology that changed the nature of advertising from the simple describing of a product’s virtues to the creation of a self-conscious, anxious consumer who sought a meaningful life through the purchase of stuff.

Do your armpits stink? Does your breath turn the air green? Are you “popular,” “normal?” Is your life one of unending boredom and drudgery? We have the product that will put everything right.

Even better, the captains of industry figured that if they could load the working class down with middle class products, the workers might stop thinking of themselves as workers and identify with the middle class, thus neutralizing any radical thoughts of socialism or communism they may have.

Of course, now that the consumption bubble has popped, things could become interesting again. The descent down the economic ladder could reawaken the dormant truth that we are, and always have been, a class-based society.

As the dream of a middle class life of toys and noise vaporizes in the toxic fire of indebtedness, workers may, once again, realize that they are workers being exploited by a corporatist class.

But, who will tell them; who will lead them?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Another Damn Hornets' Nest

Several days ago I posted a piece, here, titled “Saving Karl’s Soul” in which I argued that the Left would do well to embrace the evangelical movement since many of its believers are members of the working poor.

I reposted the article at under the title “Karl Marx, Evangelical?” It stirred up a bit of a hornets' nest, and the comments underscore some of the problems that are hamstringing the Left. I’ll lift some of the quotes and then comment on them.

On commentator wants to restrict the “real left” to ideologically pure Marxissm in an attempt to do for it what Pope Benedict is trying to do for the Roman Catholic Church. The only difference is that this Marxist wants to keep the movement mired in the nineteenth century while Benedict wants to return the church to the fourteenth century. Bigotry is not the sole province of the Right.

The comments about the religious right and the weird concept of Marx “going evangelical” are ridiculous.

Not so! They aren’t ridiculous, they’re downright stupid.

However, we have to ask what has “smart” done for us lately.

Every smart idea we’ve had for the last three decades has yielded stupid results. Trickle-down economics was a smart idea. Deregulation, derivatives, sub-prime mortgages, credit-default swaps, Iraq and Afghanistan were all smart ideas, products of the best and brightest minds in America.

If there’s one constant at work, here, it’s that smart ideas produce stupid results.. Perhaps it’s time to try a stupid idea and see if we get a smart result. We know what “smart" will get us.

Speaking of the Lerner article, the commentator says:

It smacks of a return to a form of religious idealism that flies in the face of materialism and rationality. In fact, it seems to advocate abandoning rationality. This is a return to barbarism.

Ideology is rationality run amuck. More slaughter and misery has been perpetrated by a slavish adherence to a "rational" ideal that is as rigid as it is linear than by “religious idealism.” A barbarity driven by passion soon spends itself, while one driven by rationality goes on and on and on as we discovered in Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany.

Do you really believe this horseshit? The only movement these people [the religious right] could be the vanguard of is a reactionary movement of fascism.

This will be true if the Left considers itself too good to embrace the working poor. Ideological prissiness renders the Left incapable of the strategic thinking that must be a part and parcel of a revolutionary movement. It must go down into the marketplace and accept the working poor as they are. Dismissing them as “fascists” is the surest way to insure they will become fascists.

Another commentator laments:

These people ARE the religious right BECAUSE they are intellectually and emotionally flawed. They are born/raised with these flaw first and cleave to the Christian nazi dogma second.


Of course the poor and working poor are intellectually and emotionally flawed, because they are poor. This is the problem with poverty and the reason we seek to alleviate it. The comment that these “people” would never embrace Marx ignores the Latin American experience where the combination of Christianity and Marxism is effecting a revolutionary change. But then, the “people” down there aren’t as fastidious as we are.

The bottom line is that this country is badly in need of a systemic revolution. Unfortunately it will never happen as long as the Left remains mired in its ideological purity.

Incidentally, Marx said of religion, “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of a heartless world.”

Barbarism, my ass!

Monday, July 20, 2009


It’s time to blow the lid off the Disneyfied world of children’s fairy tales and reveal their sordid origins. These were not saccharin tales of pastoral beauty in which everyone lived happily ever after. They were passion-filled narratives seeped in gore and violence.

Take “Sleeping Beauty” for example. It first appeared as “Sun, Moon, and Talia,” published by Giambattista Basile in 1634. No Prince Charming awakens the sleeping beauty with a kiss. Rather, a married king rapes her. Nine months later she gives birth to twins. Unable to expose her breasts so they could suckle, one of the twins sucks on her finger, and in doing so, withdraws the splinter of flax that had rendered her comatose, and she awakens.

When the king’s wife learns of his dalliance, she sends for the children intending to cook them into a meal she will serve the king. Only a compassionate cooks saves them.

Carlo Collodi wrote Pinocchio in 1881. The book bears little resemblance to the Disney movie of the same name. In the book, the puppet is a subversive rebel who refused to life by nineteenth century mores. Among other things, he gets Geppetto thrown in jail and manages to burn his wooden legs off in a fire. (Geppetto carves replacements.)

And the cricket? He’s squashed on page 15.

In the Grimm brothers “Cinderella” the step sisters are so hot to have the glass slipper fit that one cuts off her heel while the other cuts off her toes. When the slipper fits Cinderella’s foot without surgery, she invites her step-mother and sisters to their wedding. On the way there, a flock of pigeons descend and pluck out their eyes.

Here, now, is the unvarnished story of “Little Red Riding Hood,” an eighteenth century French peasant’s tale as recorded by Robert Darnton in his book, The Great Cat Massacre. (Spoiler alert: There is no hood, red or otherwise.)

Once a little girl was told by her mother to bring some bread and milk to her grandmother. As the girl was walking through the forest, a wolf came up to her and asked where she was going.

“To grandmother’s house,” she replied.

“Which path are you taking, the path of the pins or the path of the needles?”

“The path of the needles.”

So the wolf took the path of the pins and arrived first at the house. He killed grandmother, poured her blood into a bottle, and sliced her flesh onto a platter. Then he got into her night clothes and waited in bed.

“Knock, knock.”

“Come in, my dear.”

“Hello, grandmother. I’ve brought you some bread and milk.”

“Have something yourself, my dear. There is meat and wine in the pantry.”

So the little girl ate what was offered; and as she did, a little cat said, “Slut! To eat the flesh and drink the blood of your grandmother!”

Then the wolf said, “Undress and get into bed with me.”

“Where shall I put my apron?”

“Throw it on the fire; you won’t need it any more.”

For each garment—bodice, skirt, petticoat, and stockings—the girl asked the same question; and each time the wolf answered, “Throw it on the fire; you won’t need it any more.”

When the girl was in bed, she said, “Oh, grandmother! How hairy you are!

“It’s to keep me warm, my dear.”

“Oh, grandmother! What big shoulders you have!”

“It’s for better carrying firewood.”

“Oh, grandmother! what long nails you have!”

“It’s for scratching myself better.”

“Oh, grandmother! What big teeth you have!

“It’s for eating you better, my dear.

And he ate her.

I mention this in passing because we have an administration that has Disneyfied war and torture, turning them into sanitized abstractions. Perhaps we can learn from children’s fairy tales that reality is much grimmer than the fairy tales that come out of the Beltway. The green sprouts of economic recovery bear thorns, and those of us who haven’t yet been bloodied, soon will be.

And, there’s no Prince Charming coming to rescue us. At best, we might look for a married king. Some might say he's already arrived and is raping us as we sleep.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Silly Me!

Sometimes a single phrase buried in a news story speaks volumes. Page one of yesterday’s Times carried a story that tells us that “Democrats Grow Wary as Health Bill Advances.” (There’s a surprise.)

Deep into paragraph three of the story, we are told that, “…some in their (Democrat) ranks, nervous about…proceeding without any Republican support, were pleading to slow down (emphasis mine).”

Earth to Democrats!

In a two-party system, the idea is to make the opposition party look bad. You want to embarrass and humiliate them. The more egg they get on their face, the better it looks for you. Force them into a corner; make them take an unpopular position in direct opposition to the will of the people.

What we need is a Senate majority leader with the cojones to force the Republican to filibuster against the Health Bill. Make them speak 24/7 against a bill that seventy percent of Americans favor. Force them to sputter and rail against extending health coverage to the 45 million Americans without it.

I mean, come on, people! We’re talking about the Republicans, here, that discredited party that sent the economy down the tubes and has us mired in two imperial wars. This is a party reduced to the ravings of Rush Limbaugh…


Silly me.

I keep thinking we’re a political system in which two or more parties go at it in a political arena where issues are vigorously debated. Politics are indigenous to a democracy, which is why the establishment looks down its nose at them. “Playing politics” has become a slur because it implies smoke-filled rooms in which hacks pander to the mob.

The truth is, politics have no place in an oligarchy where “consensus” is all, and consensus is determined by the fattest checkbook.

So, rather than get upset over the Democrat’s lack of a backbone, it’s better to pop a Prozac and kick back in the recliner for another episode of “Dancing with the Stars.”

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Empty Shells, Empty Dreams

We can always count on a label to short circuit the brain. A person might hear a thought that begins to stimulate the mind and gives the listener pause to think, Whena third person says, “That’s leftist/pinko/neocon/whatever garbage,” and the brain goes into standby mode as both adjective and noun work overtime to preserve the status quo.

Labels are effective because they dehumanize. An “illegal” is not human, nor is a “neurotic,” nor a “communist,” nor a “fundamentalist,” nor a “terrorist.” They are all caricatures, empty shells devoid of meaning and nuance.

Labels demonize. You couldn’t have a decent war without them. Only war legitimizes the wholesale slaughter of nonhumans designated as “the enemy,” or “the threat.”

Labels direct our attention away from reality. America is the “land of the free” run by Goldman Sachs.

Labels are the warp and woof of pop psychology. In its hands, labels are the rocks that stone creativity and diversity to death. The largest rock in its arsenal is the one labeled “normal.” In a close second place is the rock labeled “appropriate behavior.”

Then there is that meaningless label, “adolescent” that has given birth to an multiple industries and enterprises. In ancient times, it was called adulthood.

Labels suit a society that wants its collective brain to remain in standby mode. It’s so much easier to blame a problem on a label than trying to confront it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Suction is all.

The sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) is a mean mother of an eel. With its tooth-studded oral disk it attaches itself to the flank of a fish, bores through its flesh with its raspy tongue and sucks the fish’s blood until it dies.

In the early twentieth century, the sea lamprey made its way into the great lakes as canals were built to bypass Niagara Falls. But the real devastation began when the St. Lawrence Seaway opened in 1959. There was an explosion of sea lamprey that destroyed Michigan’s fishing industry.

Now a new species of lamprey is creating devastation throughout the country and the world. This new species (Petromyzon via vallum) is as old as America, but, with the exception of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, was relatively dormant. Then, beginning in 1980, the species exploded both in number and ferocity. Since then, it has left piles of anemic corpses in its wake.

Unlike the sea lamprey, the Wall Street lamprey attaches itself to industries and companies, and, boring into their flesh, sucks them dry. Instead of blood, it sucks assets. Like the sea lamprey, it has brought economic destruction to Michigan.

Both species of lamprey care little for their victims. Instead, both are driven by a primal need for sustenance.

It matters not that plants close as long as the eel is sated.

It matters not that more and more people are sinking into poverty as long as the eel is sated.

It matter not that people die because their health insurance is cancelled when they file a claim because they left a single detail off their application. The eel must be sated no mater the cost.

Then there’s the papa lamprey, Goldman Sachs, that has accomplished the historic feat of attaching itself to the flank of the United States. It is a great and bloated lamprey that swims languidly and slowly through the murky waters of economic policy. Other lampreys feed on the droplets that fall from its overflowing mouth as they, too, thrive.

The irony of both species is that their voracious appetites destroy their hosts. When this happens, the sea lamprey dies while the Wall Street lamprey attaches its oral disk to itself and starts down the path of self destruction as it continually recycles assets that are drained of their value with each pass through its system.

Even in its madness the Wall Street lamprey believes itself sane. That’s why it’s at the top of the food chain.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Deciding to be Poor

Beginning with the bodily ascension of Ronald Reagan into the halls of the White House, the new mantra that spread across the land like the Black Death was “personal responsibility.” Individuals were now atomized agents of their fate. It was Social Darwinism on steroids. It was quite a transformation for Darwin, as if Jack the Ripper had mutated into a born-again Christian, the only difference being that he prayed over his whores as he gutted them.

According to the doctrine of personal responsibility , a person was the product of the “decisions” he or she made.

If you were poor, it was because you made a “bad decision” to be born into an impoverished ghetto and attend substandard schools where greater emphasis was placed on behavior management than on learning. If you were a latchkey kid because your single mom had to work three jobs just to feed you, and your homework consisted of watching reruns of The Jerry Springer Show, it was because you made the bad decision to be born into the wrong family.

“Personal responsibility” was a product of corporate greed and served corporatism in two ways. First, community is anathema to corporatism because the lifeblood of corporatism is rampant consumerism. The mass production of products requires their mass consumption. Fractured communities make for fractured families. Isolated individuals are more likely to buy unnecessary junk, because consumerism is grounded on impulse buying and the last thing corporatism needs is family members telling an individual that the $250 he or she is about to spend on an anti-wrinkle cream is really stupid. Another problem with community is that there’s entirely too much face-to-face communication between its members and this might lead to questions, which might led to thinking, which might lead to political activism.

The second plus of the doctrine is that it removes the blame for poverty away from an unjust system and places it on the poor. The poor are poor because they chose to be and not because the system is gamed against them. This means the social safety net is unnecessary because welfare and food stamps only encourage people to continue making bad decisions.

No wonder Ronald is canonized. He was the salvation of the nation who returned the traditional American values of greed and exploitation to Main Street and made America whole by completing the destruction of its community.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

How could he know?

The question will arise and arise in your day, though perhaps not fully in mine…who shall fill public stations—educated and patriotic freemen, or feudal serfs of corporate capital?
Edward G. Ryan
Chief Justice, Wisconsin Supreme Court

The man was a prophet. One-hundred and thirty-six years ago he described today’s Congress.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Saving Karl's Soul

Ennui is gripping the left. It sits paralyzed, holding its breath, as it waits for its Messiah, Barack Obama, to step into a phone booth, shed his suit and leap out as Super Progressive who flies the country into the elysian fields of progressive glory.

It’s not going to happen for two reasons: Obama’s a centrist and phone booths have gone the way of the dinosaur.

But, the left still waits, hoping, discussing, analyzing, lamenting, and grousing while the shadow of economic misery spreads across the land.

It is time Karl Marx went evangelical. That’s where the action is. In other words, the Left has to climb down from its ivory tower and not only join the sweating throngs in their basement and storefront churches; it’s got to lead the goddamn revivals.

Murray Dobbin did piece on America’s radical rabbi, Michael Lerner, who believes the left is cursed by the dead albatross of secular fundamentalism, and advocates a more spiritual approach. However, as Dobbin points out, “Spiritualism seems to fly in the face of the kind of rationalism that has been at the core of socialist and social democratic theory for nearly two centuries.”

Yet, for all his talk of spiritualism, Dobbin and Learner still seems mired in a rationalist tar pit. Dobbin speaks of “engaging” people when the talk should be of inspiring and inflaming them. Lerner advocates a “politics of meaning” that “fosters ethically, spiritually, ecologically, and psychologically sensitive and caring human beings who can maintain long-term, living personal and social relationships.”

It’s a nice thought, but it lacks passion and poetry. Why not speak of the Workers Paradise as the Kingdom of God on Earth where they beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, and where:

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid, and the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall feed; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The sucking child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder's den. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of The Lord as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:6-9 RSV)

Dobbin asks, “Why do further millions identify with right-wing evangelical religion rather than the call for secular social justice?”

The “Religious Right” is a media invention, and Progressives, me included, have fallen into to this trap by heaping scorn on the very group that could well be the vanguard of a revolutionary movement. This has allowed a cynical rightwing media machine to redirect fundamentalism’s away from the Kingdom of God on Earth into meaningless culture wars over gay marriage and evolution.

These are people looking for meaning and community in their lives. They have rejected our fantasyland of go-go consumerism and are looking for more. All they need be shown is that their meaning lies not in the Book of Revelation but in Marx. Latin America is light years ahead of us with their Liberation Theology that blends Christ and Marx.

There is another reason to send Karl to the nearest bible college. A long-standing ruse of our oligarchs has been to split the dispossessed classes along racial and ethnic lines. They well understand that the poor will suffer in silence as long as there is another group they can look down on. This is why southern oligarchs maintained a rift between poor blacks and poor whites with their Jim Crow laws.

In spite of this, there is one common thread that unites poor Euromericans, Afromericans and Hispanomericans, and that is their fundamentalist faith. If the left could tap into that, we would be a power to be reckoned with. Sure, we’d have to lose our ideological prissiness, but that could be a plus.

Dobbin nails it when he reams Canada’s socialist party for failing to develop a radical vision for the future. Instead of addressing people’s need for a broader meaning, it “reduces that vision to a package of disconnected, minor reforms that doesn’t offend the media power brokers. Of course, it doesn’t’ inspire anyone either….”

Who remembers Martin Luther King’s “I have a plan” speech?

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Hollowed Out Power

Sometimes it looks hopeless. The corruption is so ingrained that it is institutionalized. We have a Congress operated by K Street lobbyists and a White House that is a subsidiary of Goldman Sachs. The beltway sits in a vacuum-sealed bell jar that mutes the cries of the poor and the suffering.

Corporate America had a lock on our republic and it’s not about to let the fetid fumes of democracy seep in and corrupt the heady air of pure power that is its aphrodisiac.

It is at times like this that we must remember that change, truly revolutionary change, the change that is deep and systemic, first forms in a tiny crack or seam buried so deeply in the shadows of a damp basement that neither the oppressed nor the oppressor are aware of its existence.

The sixteenth-century Roman Catholic Church was convinced it had a lock on power until, in 1517, an obscure monk by the name of Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

We have our own example here in America.

As World War II ended, MGM appeared to be untouchable. It was the biggest studio with the biggest stars, churning our movie after movie. Movie attendance was booming and MGM was riding the crest of the wave. Its momentum seemed unstoppable.

But even as its hits flooded the nation’s theaters, a flickering grey light in a darkened living room, probably somewhere on the east coast, was about to change all that. The light was coming from a large box topped by a tiny screen. It was one of the first televisions, and it was only a matter of time before the tube bumped the movie theater from its pedestal and MGM would never be the same.

It is when power is at its peak and seems invincible that is ready to crumble Power corrupts and rots from within until what appears to be a solid fortress is little more than a hollowed-out shell ready to collapse. We are discovering that Wall Street is not the impregnable castle we once thought it was. Its well-polished wingtips are feet of clay.

We have no way of knowing just what the catalyst of this change will be. Perhaps our empire will collapse because is bankrupt. It might be an obscure idea that gives rise to an insurrection. It might be something we can’t even comprehend at this point in time.

No matter how tight the corporate grip on power is, no matter how corrupt the system has become, it is important to remember one thing—nothing is forever. With power comes hubris and with hubris comes blindness. It is because of this blindness that power eventually stumbles off the edge of a cliff. The fall may take decades or generations, but it is inevitable.

Friday, July 10, 2009

What happens now?

I do not subscribe to the Manichean philosophy that life is a constant struggle between the forces of evil and the forces of good. Too often this doctrine is used as a rationale for wholesale slaughter. This is not to deny the existence of evil in the world. To deny it is to slip into the error of believing that evil doesn’t exist; that there are only social and material conditions that cause people to behave in unacceptable ways.

For that matter, in our therapeutic age, evil is now defined as inappropriate behavior, as if all we need do with evildoers is send them to the principal’s office. One of the reasons for this change is that the face of evil has changed. Evil no longer wears a ferocious face, with drools of viscera hanging from its fanged grimace.

The face of evil is smooth and clean shaven; it is moisturized and Botoxed. Evil speaks softly and in measured tones. Instead of rack and stake it uses flawed premises from which it constructs strings of linear reasoning that trap and ensnare.

Evil is no longer a sneering devil; it is a smiling sociopath.

The evil of old dispatched with broad sword and halberd; today’s evil dispatches with a raised eyebrow that can send hundreds of thousands to their death.

Yesterday’s evil sought power and land; today’s evil wants only to maximize profits.

Yesterday’s evil destroyed villages and cities; today’s evil is destroying the earth.

The tragic truth is that this evil is facilitated by a sodden, passive grey mass that has been taught to behave and considers both protest and dissent as “unacceptable” behavior. Virtue is now equated as collaborating with evil through our silence.

The Indian writer Arundhati Roy describes this evil when she asks, “What happens now that democracy and the Free Market have fused into a single predatory organism with a thin, constricted imagination that revolves almost entirely around the idea of maximizing profits?”

A good question. What does happen now?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The laundromat is open for business!

It’s an interesting commentary on America’s moral turpitude when the United States Treasury announces that it is going to launder tainted money. An individual can go to jail for laundering drug money; Treasury gets a free pass for laundering Wall Street’s toxic assets. The difference between the two types of assets is negligible.

Yes, taxpayer money is on the cusp of taking $30 billion in “distressed” assets off the banks books. These are the “soured mortgage-related assets” scammed from an unsuspecting public through subprime mortgages, interest only loans, and teaser ARMs. (This assumes they can squeeze an additional $10 billion from private investors.)

The AP article dutifully repeats the official line that these toxic assets “have made banks reluctant to lend freely to businesses and consumers.” The truth is that when people lose their jobs and when the businesses they no longer frequent are in danger of going under, nobody is crowding bank lobbies looking for loans. The problem isn’t with the supply, it’s with the demand, and even scouring the banks’ books of all their toxic assets will do nothing to increase this demand.

The original plan had been to buy $1 trillion in toxic assets. However, according to the AP, “The program has been scaled back partly because many banks’ financial situations have improved in recent weeks, reducing their need to sell the troubled assets.”

What the article fails to mention is that this “improvement” is the result of an accounting gimmick and not an actual improvement in the banks’ financial picture. Instead of marking these assets to their market value—what people would actually pay for them—the banks are now marking them to “model”—what the banks think their worth regardless of what the market is willing to offer.

The market is offering 10 to 20 cents on the dollar, while the banks want 60 cents on the dollar.

Experts doubt Treasury's laundromat will make any real difference in the banks’ overall financial health. It seems $40 billion could be compared to the amount of cotton it would take to Kotex a gnat’s ass in relation to the world's total cotton production. “The real hit lies in the trillions of dollars in residential home loans and commercial loans banks hold in whole-loan form on their balance sheets,” said Daniel Alpert, managing director of the investment bank Westwood Capital LLC.

So even after Geithner hands them more of our tax dollars, the banks will remain as insolvent as ever, though they will manage to maintain the illusion of a Never-Never Land solvency until the public finally realizes that the cupboard is bare.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Neofeudalism and the Middle Class

Addendum, 7/9: I read this morning that the Obama administration is suspending military aid to Honduras because of the military coup that outsed President Manuel Zelaya. The administration didn't have much choice since Latin America has put up a united front agianst the coup that bridges the area's left/right divide. We seem to have a watershed here in which Latin America has declared zero tolerance for coups. While that may put a crimp in our foreign policy, it will do a great deal for international stability.

Now the question is how vigorously Obama will oppose the military rulers. Will his opposition be real, or will it be mere lipservice?

In the past, the Beltway’s inbred fear of Communism and the Soviet Union was used as an excuse to topple democratically elected governments in Latin America and the Middle East. With the fall of the Soviet Union, it appeared that they’d run out of excuses. However, this interpretation is based on the assumption that their meddling was driven by anticommunism.

Such was not the case.

We put into power military dictators at a time when America was becoming increasingly militarized. In other words, our leaders were creating governments in other countries that mirrored what they wanted ours to become. We taught oppression because we were in the process of oppressing our citizens and doing so abroad desensitized our oligarch to doing the same here. Neither the legitimization of torture nor the Patriot Act would have been possible had our leaders not encouraged the same in our client countries.

It wasn’t a grand conspiracy; it was simply the collective deadness of habit and momentum. Scratch a ruler and you find a control freak.

Just as governments evolve, so do motives. The recent military coup in Honduras that deposed the country’s elected president, Manuel Zelaya, illustrates this shift.

Writing about the coup, Ken Silverstein says, “The intensity of the reaction against him (Zelaya) by the Honduran elite—as seen in the coup—reflects the feudal mentality of the traditional economic and political leadership, not Zelaya’s politics.” (Emphasis mine)

The middle class destroyed feudalism in Europe. For that matter, the middle class has always been meddlesome to those in power. It is a hotbed of reform movements as our leaders discovered in the late nineteenth century with the rise of Progressivism. It’s been said that no reform movement or insurrection of any kind can succeed unless the middle class in on board.

Our oligarch thought they had come up with a way to neutralize the middle class by offering it secure jobs that paid well. The civil rights movement proved them wrong. To add insult to injury, the cushy salaries were cutting into their profits.

All of a sudden, feudalism starting looking pretty good to them.

How do you bring back feudalism? You gut the middle class. And we did just that with our invasion of Iraq. Its middle class is either dead or exiled and we are left with a neofeudal society that is much easier to control.

The same process is at work in our country as an economic meltdown takes the middle class with it and America increasingly becomes a country made up of two classes—a rich nobility and impoverished serfs.

This is all a bit of a stretch, but what the hell! Stretchies can be fun.

The authors of The Coming Insurrection (the book that has Glenn Beck’s knickers in a knot) point out that dying institutions gut their content in order to preserve their form. In other words, our leaders are in the process of destroying our democratic content so we can maintain the illusion of democracy.

You can always tell an oligarch—he’s the one who calls democracy “mob rule.”

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Simple Idea

This blog is a work in progress, and this post gathers several themes that have appeared in previous posts and weaves them into a whole. My apologies for its length, but a lot of stuff has come together. A revised version of this post appeared last year on several sites. At that time, it didn’t have much traction. This year, the world has changed, so who knows…?

In an age when it’s not only necessary to think outside the box but to reduce the box to kindling, a paralysis has gripped the Beltway as our leaders try to figure out if we’re in a box, to begin with, and, if so, how big the box is, what color is it, and is it really necessary to think outside the box when we could easily build an addition, provided we could get the financing necessary to begin construction.

Meanwhile, the Left loudly proclaims that, “Something must be done! Systemic change is needed; reform is called for!” And, there it ends as the Left fragments into a spray of mini issues--gay rights, women’s rights, peace, the environment, animal liberation, universal health care—each droplet suspended in space independent of the others. Each of these issues is important, but each is made all the more difficult because we are confronting a system that is decayed and corrupt, and until this tottering superstructure is addressed, the above issues will simply limp along without any satisfactory resolutions.

The counterrevolution began by Ronald Reagan has run out of steam. Now, we must regain the ground we lost. It’s time for something totally off the wall, something bazaar, a wild cockamamie idea so screwed up it just might work.

My suggestion is a 28th Amendment to the Constitution that strips our corporations of their personhood. Such an amendment would not be a solution; it would be a point of departure. The net effect would be that our corporations would have no rights; they would only have privileges granted them by the state.

Today, such an amendment stands a snowball’s chance in Hell of passing. However, as our economy continues to tank, and as Wall Street bankers continue to get trillions in bailouts while the disempowered class in America, which increasingly includes the Middle Class, continues to slip down the economic ladder, the temperature in Hell is starting to fall.

Besides, think of the fun we could have with such a movement!

The drive for a 28th Amendment would serve two immediate purposes.

Dissatisfaction in America is badly fragmented. We are so isolated in our discontent, which is why we seek escape in Sanford’s infidelity and Michael Jackson’s canonization. The drive for a 28th “Amendment could well be the lightening rod that would unify this discontent into a viable movement.

The radical left has a millstone hanging around its, neck: a vocabulary straight out of the nineteenth century that, in today’s world, is devoid of both meaning and relevance.

The struggle is no longer between capital and labor.

Capitalism is dead; it’s been dead for decades. A CEO is not a capitalist; he is an employee. A capitalist grew capital by the sweat of his brow and the blackness of his soul. A CEO plays without other people’s capital while absorbing as much of it as he can through executive salaries, bonuses and stock options. A CEO's soul is a bland beige.

We no longer have a working class; we have a dispossessed class that grows larger every day. It is an inclusive class claiming as it members not only workers but the poor, the working poor, undocumented immigrants, the unemployed, the employed who are squeezed for three hours of productivity for one hour’s pay and, increasingly, the middle class. It is just waiting to be mobilized by the right issue.

If there is to be any systemic change in the country, the corporation must be demonized, and the movement for a 28th Amendment would present the perfect platform from which to do just that. Let’s face it, the corporation is an anachronism, a dinosaur that has outlived its usefulness and is in the process of devouring itself as it takes the country down with it. That is the box that must be reduced to kindling! The corporation served its purpose; it gave us all sorts of nice toys and technological advances, many of which are destroying the earth, but it’s time it was put out to pasture before it ruins us completely.

The amendment would raise the possibility of doing something about our corrupt Congress. Cynics tell us Washington D.C. is an open septic tank overflowing with the raw sewage of corruption. In truth, it is a bit more sophisticated than that.
Granted, raw sewage is pumped into the beltway via open trenches that run from the nation’s power centers. But, instead of pouring into the Capitol, it is first pumped into the K Street Sewage Treatment Plant. There it is sanitized and deodorized before being piped into the Halls of Congress disguised as campaign contributions. It is still sewage, but, it smells sweeter.

The short answer to this mess is public funding of election campaigns. On the surface it seems to offer much. By freeing the congress from the multiple snares of corporate purse strings, Congress might start representing the public interest. As it stands now, every time an elected official speaks of our national interests or national security, “national” is simply a code word for “corporate”. The system is gamed to minimize public influence on policy.

Let us assume that Congress was struck blind on the road to Damascus and was seized with such an intense desire to serve to the public interest that a campaign reform bill was actually passed and was signed into law.

Before the ink was even dry on the bill, our corporatist oligarchy would go weeping to the nearest federal court claiming that the bill violated its First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Money talks, and if our corporate patrons aren’t allowed to speak through their wallets, they are being unconstitutionally silenced.

The argument would win the day, because under our current system, a corporation is a person.

People assume that corporate personhood was the result of a Supreme Court decision. In truth, the court made no such decision. The question of personhood arose when the court considered an appeal[1] of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. The focus of the case was the taxation of railroad properties. As the case worked its way through the lower courts, the question of whether corporations were persons protected by the 14th Amendment was argued.

However, before oral arguments began before the Supreme Court, Chief Justice Morrison Remick Waite stated, “The court does not wish to hear argument on the question of whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are of the opinion that it does.”

Because formal arguments had not begun, Waite’s remark was a non-binding obiter dictum that had no bearing on the outcome of the case. The question of corporate personhood was never mentioned in the court’s written decision. The court limited its decision to the question of taxing corporate property.

However, the court clerk, when writing the header, or summary, of the case stated that, “defendant corporations are persons…”

Thus, was corporate personhood born.

The principle is so engrained in legal precedence that a judicial reversal is virtually impossible. That is why only a constitutional amendment could solve the problem.

But, why stop at stripping corporations of their personhood. It is not enough to pump out the sewage. We have to disinfect the place as well.

For twenty-three years, Robert Hinkley[2] was a corporate attorney. He left corporate practice because he’d become convinced that corporate law makes it impossible for corporations to behave responsibility. The law says that a corporation has but one obligation, and that is to make money for its shareholders. Consequently, shareholders could sue the corporation were it to behave responsibly by paying its workers a living wage if this ate into shareholder dividends. Hinkley’s proposal is to change corporate law to read:

The duty of directors henceforth shall be to make money for the shareholders, but not at the expense of the environment, human rights, public health and safety, dignity of employees and the welfare of the community in which the company operates.

Let's add this wording to our 28th Amendment!

That our amendment would raise some corporate hackles is an understatement. Already, I hear lamentations about the sanctity of private property, etc. However, a very compelling argument could be made that the ownership of corporate property is so diffused amongst shareholders that it is a misnomer to call it private property. Since corporate property exists at the pleasure of the State through the granting of a corporate charter, it is more akin to quasi-public property than private property.

I admit this is heresy, but given rate at which corporations are eating us alive, I think some healthy heresy is called for.

This brings us back, in a full circle, to our corrupted Congress. If corporations were stripped of their personhood, a campaign finance reform bill that eliminated corporate money from the electoral process would be better protected from a court challenge. There is no guarantee this would clean up the system. All it would do is increase the probability that it would be cleaner than it currently is.

Granted, the idea of a 28th Amendment sits way out there in the foggy fringe, but if our Neocon colleagues taught us anything, it is that today’s fringe is tomorrow’s mainstream.

I see the makings of wonderful guerilla campaign as young people spray paint the number “28” of walls and signs; I see pin and bumper stickers sporting the number “28” along with a line of T-shirts and hoodies displaying the same. This is a movement that could cut across class, gender and ethnic divisions because if there is one thing unifying America, it is our economic misery. And if nothing else, the drive for a 28th Amendment would make our oligarchs and plutocrats sweat. That, alone, would make the effort worthwhile.

Sure, it looks hopeless, but as I.F. Stone wrote:

The only fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. In order for somebody to win an important major fight 100 years hence, a lot of other people have got to be willing—for the sheer fun of it—to go right ahead and fight, knowing you’re going to lose. You mustn’t feel like a martyr. You’ve got to enjoy it.

It’s time to bring back the Merry Pranksters, but instead of promoting psychedelic drugs, they will promote the decorporatization of America.



Monday, July 6, 2009

The Theology of Gravity

There is no “law of gravity; there is only a Theology of Gravity as those of us who are followers of the true Creator of the Universe, the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM), know.

This “law of gravity” nonsense is a Vatican plot designed to undercut the one true faith, Pastafarianism. Evolution and Intelligent Design serve the same purpose. Christianity sweats as Pastafarianism swells in the heat of its slightly salted cooking water.

The truth is that the universe was created by FSM’s Noodly Appendages. "Gravity" is nothing more than these same Appendages that keep us from flying into orbit by maintaining a gentle pressure on the tops of our heads.

Tragically, this explains why we’re seeing more and more madness in the world.

After he created man out of two tomatoes and a tablespoon of basil, the FSM has no trouble keeping everyone in place with his Noodly Appendages, with plenty to spare for future generations.

Unfortunately, the population explosion that began in the nineteenth century outstripped his Appendages. He simply didn’t have enough to keep everyone in place 24/7.

He has solved this problem by flipping his Appendages from head to head. He’s so fast that his Appendage only vacates a given head for a nanosecond, which is why the Earth isn't circled by a belt of orbiting human beings.

However, that nanosecond is just enough time to allow the brain to slam against the top of the cranium. Repeated collisions between brain and cranium mean that everybody on earth is crazy.

Except for the elect.

Like all organized religions, Pastafarianism has its elite, those of us who are Knights in the Order of Al Dente. This is an honor reserved for pirates who are the only ones to whom the FSM speaks. While I never sailed under the Jolly Roger, I did work in insurance, which is close enough.

Many people believe that the device I wear in my left ear is a hearing aid. They are wrong; it is a radio receiver that keeps me in contact with the Martians. You see, just before his Appendage leaves a head, it gives an orgasmic throb. The Martians have the angle to see this throb, so as soon as our receivers beep, we Al Dentians cry “Arghhh!” and slap the tops of our heads as hard as we can. The force of the blow keeps the brain in place until the Appendage can return.

Now, one would think that everyone who worked on Wall Street and the Beltway would be Knights of the Order of Al Dente. But, it’s not enough to be a pirate; one has to be a believer, as well. Wall Street believes in Mammon and the Beltway believes in the God of Eternal Strife and Slaughter. This really pisses FSM off, so their collective brains spend a lot more time smashing into their collective craniums, which goes a long way towards explaining the state of the world and the economy.

There is hope! If you ever see an elderly gentleman with a “hearing aid” in his ear slapping his head and crying “Arghhh!” do the same. If you’re quick enough, it might keep you relatively sane.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Speaking Carefully

I have to be careful how I pick my words when speaking of that brilliant political philosopher Sarah Palin. Her intellect is exceeded only by her beauty, though one must admire her leadership skills as well.

This is because CBS News tells us, “Palin attorney Thomas Van Flein on Saturday warned legal action may be taken against bloggers and publications that reprint what he calls fraudulent claims.”

Normally, anyone in the public spotlight has difficulty suing for libel simply because of their prominence. People can pretty much say what they want, no matter how critical or scurrilous.

Sarah is an exception to that rule because she is a goddess. Her presence lights up the heavens and sends the birds atwittering. To speak ill of her isn’t just libel, its downright heresy.

Let not a word of criticism slip past my lips; let not a single negative thought cross my mind. She is our Mosesette who will lead us out of the wilderness to the Promise Land.

I love you Sarah. Please pass this on to Van Flein.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Fourth!

Agitators created America, and it’s their feisty spirit and outright rebelliousness that we celebrate on our national holiday.
Jim Hightower

Our Founding Fathers weren’t afraid to roil the waters, to rock the boat, to make waves. They are in sharp contrast to the contemporary Left which bends over backwards to keep the waters calm. They are afraid that the slightest ripple will ramp up the rightwing noise machine who will yell at them.

They fear being accused of fomenting class warfare at a time when class warfare is most needed. As long as the Right can convince us that America is “classless” our oligarchs can continue to exploit and oppress the lower classes, which don’t exist even though they do, but it’s never spoken of in polite society.

They fear being accused of being irresponsible at a time when “responsible” behavior has given us Iraq, Afghanistan and Wall Street.

They fear being accused of creating divisiveness when divisiveness is the very life blood of democracy.

They fear being called socialists at a time when capitalism has sunk into incompetence and ineptitude.

Our nation cries for deep, systemic change. The Left demands it and then colludes in the creation of a therapeutic society that encourages the anxiety so essential to the efficient social control. They ban second-hand smoke and transfats, but vote for a Patriot Act and refuse to prosecute torturers. They bail out crooked bankers, yet let the Rust Belt crumble into decay.

The Left is too sanitary and polite to realize that the only way we can achieve freedom is to grab our oligarchs by the balls and squeeze ‘til they holler “Uncle!”

The Left’s only saving grace is that it wasn’t around in 1776.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone.

Friday, July 3, 2009


Better hurry up and get in line. Michael Jackson’s memorial service is Tuesday, and they’re giving away 11,000 free tickets.

The service is to be held in the 20,000 seat Staples Center set smack-dab in the center of downtown Los Angeles. Upwards of 100,000 people are expected to show up.

The LAPD is too broke to afford the overtime necessary for crowd control. This is an interesting juxtaposition that speaks volumes about the sorry of our media. The coverage of Jackson’s untimely death has been layered on thick and fast, conveniently shoving the latest news of our economic meltdown to the inside pages, assuming it makes the cut in the first place.

Now they converge briefly over Jackson’s memorial service. The city can’t afford to provide security.

Will anybody notice?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Confessions of a Renegade Christian

Two points must be understood before we begin. First, as the title states, I am a renegade Christian who is a member of the United Church of Christ (UCC), a delightfully non-creedal church that is quite tolerant of my heresies.

The second point is that, with a few exceptions, Christianity and organized religion are as oil is to water. Historically, organized religion has so much blood on its hands, it is impossible to tell where the fingers ends and the nails begin. All of this violence surfaces as soon as the church gains political power. When Church and State wed, Hell pays for the reception because the child of the union is Death.

The truth is that organized religion chokes on the teachings of Jesus. Early Christians referred to their faith at The Way. For them, the essence of this faith was internalizing Jesus’ teachings and actually living them. The Way included little annoyances like loving your enemies and turning the other cheek. (The Religious Right would have us believe that what Jesus actually said was turn the other’s cheek, with a fistful of knuckles.)

Living the Beatitudes is a pain in the ass, so it is easier for organized religion to get its knickers in a knot over evolution and same-sex marriage.

The separation of church and state was not the brainchild of eighteenth century secular humanists. It was the creation of a clergyman, Roger Smith. The Puritans booted Smith out of Massachusetts because of his heretical beliefs. Based on his experience there and in England, Smith came to realize that nothing corrupted a religion faster than being made a state religion. Constantine destroyed The Way when he made it Rome’s official religion. So, in Smith’s view, the separation of the two was necessary to keep religion healthy and uncorrupted by the quest for political power.

The corrupted faith of the religious right becomes understandable when we remember that from the 1820s to the 1960s, a White, male-dominated Protestantism was the de facto state religion of America, and they want it back!

The Way, once it frees itself from the corrupting influence of the state, is grounded in one of the world’s most misunderstood concepts: Christian love.

At the mention of Christian love, many people envision a white-robed maiden skipping through La-La Land with a beatific smile on her face.

It is anything but!

Christian love demands a descent into the deepest pit of Hell and a willingness to love every low-life son of a bitch one finds there, even though one’s knee-jerk reaction is to tear their freaking throats out. In Greek, Christian love is called agape and is defined as a mind-set and not an emotion.

I am always amused by the religious right’s efforts to place the Ten Commandments in public buildings. Progressives missed a golden opportunity when Judge Roy Moore want blocks of granite with the Commandments engraved on them placed in the country’s courthouses.
What Progressives should have done was help him move the damn blocks. And when they were in place, a good Progressive would have mopped his brow, stepped back and said, “Damn, judge. Have you read these things? They’re little more than anti-capitalist tripe. Look at what they are telling us: don’t kill; don’t steal: don’t lie; don’t exploit. How in the hell can you run a multinational with this albatross around your neck? The Bible even inveighs against a return of investment!”

Being a renegade Christian means living the Tao of Christ. For the renegade, dogma is an irritant that is either shaken off or ignored. It is also means understanding the Bible is a repository of spiritual, not literal truth. As one contemporary theologian put it, “Everything in the Bible is true; some of it actually happened.” Such an approach is difficult for Americans because most of us are raised to be technicians. (I define technician to include everyone from a neurosurgeon to the front-end specialist at your local Buick dealer.)

The mantras we are brought up with are:

· Say what you mean.
· Get to the point!
· Don’t beat around the bush!

One word, one meaning, that was the doctrine we absorbed. Consequently, we choke on metaphors. So, when confronted with the Bible, it is an either/or choice: either it is all literally true, or it is all hokum. For the technician who believes, the Bible is a technical manual, and like all such manuals, it must be followed to the letter.

To the renegade Christian, God is the ground of Being whose qualities we will never know. Metaphorically, we might speak of Her as a person, but we run into trouble when we literalize that metaphor. God is too busy creating to “bless” anything, especially America (though such a belief is helpful if there are some natives to be slaughtered).

And, no! I am not one of those Christians who believe God is going to bail us out of the mess we’ve created simply because She gave us dominion over nature. According to the Bible, humanity’s dominion was brief. It lasted until Eve went apple picking. If you read God’s curse on Adam and Even (Genesis, 3:14-19), it is obvious that humanity is stripped of its dominion and becomes just another derivative species.

God only promised Noah no more floods because the flood punished the earth and the earth was innocent (Genesis, 8:21). She said nothing about protecting us from self annihilation. The next Messiah could very well be a cockroach.

Nor was dominion restored to humanity after the flood. All God said was, “The fear and dread of you shall rest on every animal of the earth…” (Genesis, 9:2)

Granted, God has entered into numerous covenants with humanity. But the covenants were only in force as long as humanity loved God, didn’t kill, didn’t steal, didn’t lie and didn’t exploit.
The life span of the average Covenant can be measured in nanoseconds.

We are knee deep in an era of bile. These days, Christian love is too often extruded on a spittle spay of rage. There is anger, uncertainty and hard times. And yes, there is a lot of bitterness, despite the facile boosterism of our leaders. These same leaders, aided and abetted by a compliant media, would have us project this anger on those with skins darker than ours, be they immigrants or terrorists.

For the past sixty-plus years, fear and paranoia have driven America’s policies, both foreign and domestic. According to our leaders and their media lapdogs, danger lurks everywhere: in the food we eat, the air we breathe and the second-hand smoke we inhale, not to mention a multitude of germs, bacteria and exotic diseases. America, they tell us, is constantly under siege, first by commies and now by Islamofascist terrorists.

The first order of business for Progressives must be to challenge this atmosphere of fear and trembling. Those of us who dissent from our national paranoia must find the spiritual strength to stand up and proclaim that there is nothing to fear. For myself, I draw my strength from The Way of the Christ, and from the Liberation Theology of Latin America. It could well be that at some future date it will be missionaries from Latin America who will teach us how to live a life in harmony with creation.

Tragically, there is no guarantee we will listen.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Piss and Vinegar

And because progressives have lost the gift of rhetoric, which was once a staple of a university education, because they naively believe in the Enlightenment ideal that facts alone can move people towards justice, they are largely helpless.
Chris Hedges

Psychologist Drew Weston once opened a seminar by asking his audience, “How many here remember Martin Luther King’s “I have a plan” speech?

Weston is the Author of The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation that criticized both Kerry and Gore for allowing the Republican smear machine to blow them out of the water by remaining aloof from their attacks.

King didn’t have a plan, he had a dream, and he articulated that dream with language that soared and inspired. Yet his example has been lost on a left that has been reduced to mumbling facts and statistics with the expectation that these alone will be enough to stir the masses to rise up in revolt.

The Left has torn a page from the free market manual that clings to the delusion that markets are self regulating because of rational individuals making rational decisions based on the best data available.

The Left must stop educating and start inspiring. The Right is light years ahead of them. Because of the success of the Right’s rhetoric, an incorrect assumption is made that all rhetoric is bullshit, and in the hands of the Right, it is. But there is an important difference between the two. The Right’s rhetoric conceals reality; the Left’s, illuminates it.

Here is an example of what the rhetoric of the Left has done in the past. Karl Marx’s statement that religion is the opium of the people has been repeated ad nauseam until it has been drained of its fire. Here is his full statement:

Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.

There’s not a single number to be found.

Numbers and facts have their place, but unless they are carried along on a torrent of rhetoric, they sit unnoticed in a dark corner where they gather dust.

Words, to inspire, must speak to contemporary conditions. This is why socialism’s constant reference to the “working class” falls on deaf ears. No longer can we speak of a working class, that nineteenth century term born of the Industrial Revolution. Now we must speak of the disempowered class, those robbed of their dreams and aspiration, for whom life has become a blind alley from which there is no escape except to crawl through a basement window into a dank cellar of oblivion and despair, while stories above, in a glittering penthouse, ice tinkles against crystal as the plutocrats celebrate their victory over the masses. Trickle-down economics has triumphed, though the only thing to trickle down is the urine of the rich.

The left needs piss and vinegar in its gut and fire in its breath. Without either, it will remain a beggar crouched in a doorway hoping to be tossed an occasional stale crust from the masters of rhetorical bullshit.