Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Big Dick was right!

The justification for the Eternal War of the Empty Policy’s erosion of our civil liberties, for its gutting of habeas corpus, for its policy assassinating anyone designated as a terrorist without the benefit of a trial, for its Patriot Act and its Military Commissions Act, for its trashing of Iraq and Afghanistan is pure simplicity: Since 9/11 there has not been a terrorist attack on U.S. soil. Ergo, all of the above have been as successful as they were necessary.

And they are right. I know because I’ve used a similar approach in dealing with a threat to my personal wellbeing and security.

My home in suburban New Jersey is surrounded by a quarter acre of yard, and for years I lived in constant dread of the damage a herd of cattle could wreak if they wondered onto my property. My God! What grass they didn’t trash with their hooves they would be gobbled up by the greedy creatures. No shrub would be safe, flowers and perennials would be a thing of the past. By the time they were done, my yard would e reduced to a desert

The anxiety became unbearable. Many a night I would sit on the front stoop, flashlight in hand, waiting for the clatter of bovine hooves approaching my property. I lost weight and I lost sleep and regretted that my property wasn’t zoned for land minds.

Now some may ask what the chances of a herd of cattle descending on a lawn in suburban New Jersey are. And to those I say, “You fools! Aren’t you acquainted with the Big Dick’s one-percent doctrine that sates that if there is a one-percent chance an event will happen, then it must be treated as a certainty, and the facts be damned!

Salvation came when I visited my brother in Arizona. In a souvenir shop in Tombstone, among cowboy hats, Western costumes, leather goods, and Native American jewelry I found a solution to the threat I had been living under for so many years--a steer’s skull complete with horns and teeth. I snapped it up and had it shipped east. When it arrived, I placed in it a prominent spot in the garden that runs along the front of our house.

In doing so I was sending a powerful and credible message to the cattle of the world: If you step one hoof on my property, you get eaten, no exceptions and you can kiss your civil liberties goodbye.

And it has worked like a charm. Since setting the skull out not one damn steer has crossed my property line. Was the Big Dick right or was the Big Dick right?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Another Buzzword; Another Dust-Up

How’s this for an epiphany? There is no progressive party; there are no progressives; there is no progressive movement or structure of any type. There are neither progressive politicians nor progressive platforms. There are only fragmented websites viewed by atomized individuals glued to their computer screens that have reduced “progressives” to a shriveled label that rattles around cyberspace like a dead pea pod signifying nothing. And in this vast wasteland that is cyberspace a disparate gaggle of individuals hang this label round their necks, festoon their bumpers with the appropriate stickers and call for a “progressive position” on this, that and the other thing.

How else do we explain how the right is able to frame issues in the most absurd manner imaginable and get ways with it time after time? Repeatedly, the right spits out a buzz word, then bends over and spreads its cheeks before chuckling when it becomes apparent that nobody on the left is going to pick up this buzz word and shove it up the right’s collective ass.

The latest example of this is the dust-up over “The Mosque at Ground Zero,” a beautiful little catch phrase that displays the Goebbelian compression that makes these phrases so effective.

Sounds scary, doesn’t it? What a slap in our face! A mosque on the very spot where Islamofascist terrorists reduced the twin towers to rubble. (Yes, Islamofascist still works because the left lacks the moxie to drive home the truth that the word is little more than a meaningless puff of bulldust. That’s dried bullshit for those of you who are interested. This is what happens when a buzzword ages and bullshit becomes dust. This is bullshit in its most dangerous form because the stench has dissipated and people have become so accustom to its presence that it seems a natural part of the environment.)

The problem with the phrase “The Mosque at Ground Zero” is that it’s neither a mosque nor is it at Ground Zero. What is being built is a community center on New York City’s Park Row, across from City Hall, a long two and one-half blocks from Ground Zero. According to Stephan Salisbury, the center will include “an auditorium, spa, basketball court, swimming pool, classrooms, exhibition space, a community meeting space, a 9/11 memorial and, yes, a prayer space for Muslims.”

A prayer space or room is not a mosque. It is simply a place where Muslims can go to spread their prayer rugs and pray to Mecca. A similar prayer room is found is the Pentagon, in the same building in which 184 people died on 9/11.

But, in spite of its absurdity, “The Mosque at Ground Zero” continues to stir passions and fears. This is largely because the Left, once again, has allowed the right to frame the issue and seems unwilling to challenge its premises. You see, the left believes that reason is useless against passion and bigotry. This may be true, but truth fired by passion is very effective, as the Civil Rights movement discovered when it broke down the barriers erected by Jim Crow legislation. But then, the left is as ignorant of history as is the right. So, gosh, if you can’t reason with bigots you might as well fold your tents and crawl home with your tail between your legs. You don’t want to do anything that might make the right angry.

Bigotry is a paranoid’s playground. It is the one place where unreasonable fears gain traction and are taken seriously. In a sane society, a proposal such as the one put forth by Rep. Louis Gohmer (R.-Tex.) would have been laughed off the floor of the House of Representatives. The good congressman is worried that terrorists are gaming our open democratic society. According to Gohmer, terrorists plan to flood our shores with pregnant Muslim women who will stay long enough to give birth to their children on American soil thus insuring their U.S. citizenship before taken them back home where they would be trained as terrorists to return twenty to thirty years later with U.S. passports to “help destroy our way of life ‘cause they figured out how stupid we are being in this country to allow our enemies to game our system, hurt our economy, get set up in a position to destroy our way of life.” (In Gohmer’s world stupidity is defined as failure to buy into the fantasies of a paranoid mind.

His solution? Change the 14th Amendment that grants citizenship to anyone born in the United States. So just being born here would not be enough to guarantee an individual citizenship. The newborn must be of the right descent, the right heritage and the right culture in order to qualify for citizenship. Otherwise, the newborn’s incubator would be set afloat in the Atlantic or Pacific to ob its way back to its country of origin. ‘Tis a vision to warm the cockles of a patriot’s heart. Thus is America kept pure and safe as flotillas of incubators catch homeward bound currents where, of course, the young ‘urns would be much happier than in the land of the bigoted and the prejudiced.

You see, Rep. Gohmer simply wants to protect “our way of life,” which these militant neonates are out to destroy. “Our way of life” is another buzzword that draws its effectiveness from its total lack of meaning. The image it evokes from the TV set of “Father Knows Best” or “Ozzie and Harriet.” It is a life built around images of Mom and Apple Pie that conveniently overlook the fact that mom is working two or three jobs just to keep food on the table so the apple pie, if there is any, is purchased frozen from the local supermarket. For the lucky few, our way of life is an exercise in materialistic hedonism in which well being is judged by the number of useless toys one is able to amass.

Bigotry and fear are boons for those who seek power for power’s sake. Bile is excellent filler for an empty soul whose life is without vision or meaning. To stoke fear and to pump it into the corridors of power like an odorless but deadly gas gives a thin veneer of meaning to lives that are otherwise meaningless.

But, what the hell! Anti-Muslim and anti-brown skin bigotry is breaking out all over the northern hemisphere. France wants to ban full-face veils; anti-immigrant political parties are gaining popularity in Europe; and the U.S. is fencing off Mexico but not Canada (the right sort of people live up there).

Could this be the last hurrah of the white folks as they watch their oil-driven way of life sink beneath the surface of the water for the third time?

Fastidiousness has always been the midwife of oppression. Keep the corpse scrubbed and clean and people might think it is still alive. Wear facemasks and latex gloves and you create a bulwark against misfortune. If you surround yourself with people just like you, on a summer evening on your condo patio with the Tiki torches blazing, you can maintain the illusion that God is in his little heaven and all is well with the world. Ramp up the volume on the stereo and the sound of a crumbling lifestyle is soon drowned out.

It doesn’t get much better than that!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Back Again

I'm happy to say that I am adapting well to life with one lung. I've started weening off the oxygen, which is a relief since I am spending less time with a plastic tube hanging out of my nose. I plan to start posting tomorrow. However, I will no longer be posting daily, a decision I made before surgery, but hope to do one or two pieces a week.

Thanks to all of you for your support and encouragement.


Sunday, August 8, 2010

A Little Hiatus

I've been taking a little break while dealing with a nasty tumor on my left lung. Four courses of chemo have shrunk it from 4 cm to 1 cm, and I'm slated for surgery on Thursday, 8/12, to remove part or all of the lung. The prognosis is excellent and I hope to be posting again by the end of the month.

Many thanks to those of you who have offered words of encouragement and support.


Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Further Discussion

In my last post one of my readers. Ivan Hentschel, objected to my conflation of empathy and Christian love when I wrote:

The word empathy has the same problem as does “Christian love.” Both words have touchy feely quality that evoke images of a maiden clad in a diaphanous white gown skipping through La-La Land with a beatific smile on her face. In truth both require a decent into the deepest pit of Hell coupled with a willingness to love every low-life son-of-a-bitch one finds down there even though one’s knee-jerk reaction is to tear their freaking throats out. Both empathy and Christian love are mindsets, which is why people rarely understand their meaning, and that is what makes them problematic as rallying cries.

To which Ivan replied:

Empathy is a useful capacity of human beings. “Christian love” is not.

To which I responded:

Actually, they’re one in the same, which is why neither is rarely found in organized religion.

To which Ivan said:

I must disagree. To be in empathy (to “feel with”) demonstrates some human compassion and energy sharing. “Christian (or any other brand of religious) love” is self-serving [My God is better than your God] and gratuitous. And it usually requires monetary contributions, whereas empathy does not.

And “organized religion” is probably no longer religion, but probably a financial, real estate and political movement. Just like corporations and political organizations, they have no capacity for empathy.

In short, empathizers, unlike sympathizers, do not manipulate for personal gain. Or at least they shouldn’t. If they do, they are merely charlatans.

I found Ivan’s comments so interesting I decided to kick them out of the comments section and devote a separate post to them.

In his last comment, Ivan has sunk his teeth into a half-truth…well, maybe a five/eighths truth or more. Yes, it is true that Christianity, like too many other organized religions “is probably no longer a religion, but rather a “financial and political movement.” He forgot to mention that Christianity’s overemphasis on “personal salvation” contributes much to its loss of empathy because all too often this” personal salvation becomes something to be fearfully protected by shutting out the outside world less it corrupt the purity of one’s faith. This is where you find too many Christians who only read Christian newspapers or listen only to Christian radio stations. Though, in truth, the majority of Christians pop into church at most once-a –week and doze through the sermon before rushing out for a week’s worth of secular activities.

However, there are a handful of us--a slim majority, a splinter group—for whom the emphasis of our faith in on the Tao of Jesus. In other words, we could care less about Jesus’ divinity, or whether he really rose from the dead on the third day, or whether God sent him forth to be a sacrificial lamb to atone for Adam’s original sin, or any of the other theological claptrap that surrounds his being.

The message he gave us was to develop a love (a mindset, not an emotion) for all of God’s creation, regardless of how it relates to us. This, and this alone, must be the essence of our faith. Anything less than that reduces the faith to a “corporate and political organization.”

For those who want to return America to her Christian roots, I am tempted to say let us do so. As Kurt Vonnegut has suggested, instead of posting the Ten Commandments in our public buildings, let us post the Beatitudes form the Sermon on the Mount. In his teachings Jesus reduced the Ten Commandments to two: Love God and love you neighbor. Then he proceeded to expand the definition of neighbor to include our enemies and those who hate us. This included the injunction to turn the other cheek, though the Religious Right is convinced that passage was translated incorrectly and that it should read, “Turn the other’s cheek with a fistful of knuckles.”

Were we truly a Christian nation, the first thing we would do is sell the Pentagon to a private developer who would turn it into the world’s greatest indoor shopping mall. (It has everything—name recognition, parking…) Because for a Christian, all acts of violence against another are evil. True, there are times, in rare circumstances, when this evil becomes a necessity as in the case of self-defense. These are exceptions that should neither be glorified nor honored. There is no such thing as a just war or a good war. Both are oxymorons that serve as thin rationalizations to justify our occasional and collective need to slaughter large number of our fellow beings in an orgy of self destruction.

Admittedly, Christian love is a tricky and difficult proposition fraught with potential danger. In the wrong hands it can become downright toxic as in, “Such is my love for your soul that I am burning you at the stake so your soul may rise heavenward on a column of greasy smoke to be embraced by our Heavenly Father.”

Practicing Christian love is a lot like pissing into a hurricane. Most of our output ends up in our laps. But occasionally a drop hits ground, and that makes is all worthwhile.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Numbing Narratives

“Narrative” is one of those buzz words that bounces around the Progressive blogosphere. It is usually uttered wishfully as in, “Progressives need to develop a coherent narrative on (fill in the blank).” Tragically, the wish for a narrative rarely produces one as Progressives continue to play fallback in the face of a strong and powerful narrative from the Right, which is why you rarely hear the Right speaking of the need for a narrative.

“Narrative” is word that signifies nothing. Rather, it is the product of a causal fallacy, i.e. the assumption that a “narrative” can shape or change reality. Ira Chernus in a thought-provoking article on Progressive Patriotism argues that, “[I]t is entirely possible to transform the meaning of patriotism in just about any way we like.” Here, Chernus bumps into the flaw that has hobbled Progressives since they turned their backs on the working class in the sixties: that all we need do to change a narrative is to change its language and the world will fall into step behind it. This line of thought assumes that culture is a machine, a static noun, and all we need do is change a battery or tighten a screw and it will dance to our tune. The truth is that culture is an ever changing verb that is constantly shifting beneath our feet even as we dot the “i’s” and cross the “t’s” in our carefully crafted narratives. It is this very fetish with top-down narratives that gave rise to the politically correct language that is anathema to the working class.

Chernus argues for a patriotic Progressive narrative grounded in empathy. Empathy is an empty abstraction whose soft vowels and consonants dull the senses while its meaning remains vague. What we should be striving for is a “decent” society. Here is a word that has a bite to it. The word implies not only the building of a decent society, but the treating of all segments of society with decency, regardless of our feelings towards them. Don’t forget that five simple words, “Have you no decency, sir?” brought down Senator Joseph McCarthy.

The word empathy has the same problem as does “Christian love.” Both words have a touchy-feely quality that evokes images of a maiden clad in a diaphanous white gown skipping through La-Lad Land with a beatific smile on her face. In truth, both require a descent into the deepest pit of Hell coupled with a willingness to love every low-life son of a bitch one finds down there even though one’s knee-jerk reaction is to tear their freaking throats out. Both empathy and Christian love are mindsets, which is why people rarely understand their meaning, and that is what makes them problematic as rallying cries.

Also, to create this Progressive patriotic narrative would be to impose another top-down ideology that would be likely to fall on deaf ears. The success of the Left in Latin America is due to their ability to tap into an indigenous populism. Progressives could learn much from the Tea Party when it comes to welding an indigenous populism to an ideology instead of attacking it, which only increases its appeal. The success of the Right is that instead of obsessing on top-down narratives, it has tapped into the fears and frustrations of the working class to create a bottom-up narrative that is highly effective. Speaking of the Left, Jean Baudrillard argues that, “[B]y investing in the moral order, it [the Left] can only watch the repressed political energy crystallize elsewhere and against it. And the Left can only feed evil by embodying the reign of virtue, which is also the greatest hypocrisy.”

What is repressed in Progressive narratives is political passion, and the bottom line is that politics demands passion. Without this passion politics becomes so much political pablum that induces apathy instead of action. Progressives will never mount a successful movement until their every utterance sends the Rightwing noise machine into spasms of apoplectic rage.

There is a rallying cry that would resonate with the electorate, and that would be a loud and passionate argument that three running sores are befouling Liberty’s face—Wall Street, the Beltway and the Pentagon, and that by the Pentagon we don’t mean the troops who are doing the heavy lifting, but the policy wonks and generals who have put them in harm’s way by sending them out to fight unnecessary wars. And we must fight to staunch those sores and to return to the one value all Americans both share and strive for, an unblemished liberty.

The Right has been able to conflate liberty and security in the mistaken belief that liberty is only possible in an atmosphere completely devoid of danger and risk. The truth is that security is only achieved when liberty is sacrificed on security’s altar. Liberty requires courage, the willingness to accept that life involves an element of risk and that security is only possible within the precincts of a police state that would turn America into a gated community. Anyone willing to surrender their liberty to be protected from the “terrorists” would do well to don a flame retardant suit and a crash helmet before getting behind the wheel because the probability of being wacked in an automobile accident is far greater than being wacked in a terrorist attack.

A decent society is grounded on four moral absolutes; do not kill; do not steal; do not lie and do not exploit. Obviously, corporatism and decency are mutually exclusive. For what is fouling democracy’s waters in the twenty-first century is not capitalism but corporatism. Capitalism was a product of owners who exploited their workers. Capitalism has morphed into a corporatism in which employees who think they are owners exploit the workers. Capitalist owners walked the factory floor; corporatist employees are sequestered in glass towers which makes it easier for them to ramp up their exploitation of their workers.

Our wars are corporate wars, waged to expand markets and secure natural resources. Corporatism’s attempt to equate itself with freedom is bogus. It offers freedom only to those at the apex of the pyramid, a freedom that is bought at the expense of the pyramid’s base. This is the peg upon which Progressives could hang liberty’s lantern. We must be willing to demonize corporatism , especially the finance corporatism that has raped pension funds, turned people out of their homes and shipped jobs overseas.

Such demonizing requires passion. We’ve got to be pissed off and we’ve got to be willing to piss the public off. We must be willing to listen to the impassioned member of the Tea Party and to respond to their fears and frustrations and to construct not a platform out of them but a raging bond fire. This does not mean we join forces with the Tea Party. Rather, this means we steal their thunder with an even louder rallying cry that would tap into the indigenous populism that is part of the American tradition. And we won’t do this by trying to create bland, reasonable narrative. It’s time to start handing out pitchforks and torches.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Keynes and Consumption

All of a sudden, John Maynard Keynes has returned to the A-list. Exiled at the beginning of the Reagan administration, he is once again in vogue as the policies of Reagan and his successors have ended in an economic meltdown.

Keynes made his name during the Great Depression when he knocked Says law off its pedestal. Says law stated that supply and demand would always balance out in the long run. 1929 put the lie to that.

Instead, Keynes put forth a theory of aggregate demand in which he argued that demand evolves from the interaction of consumption, investment and government spending. In short, he believed that if consumption drops because of an economic downturn, then it was necessary to increase government spending, which would put money in the consumer’s pocket, which, in turn, would be used to buy goods, and this would stimulate the economy. (Of course, this implied that government spending be reduced in good times, something out leaders ignored during the Cold War.)

The only problem I have with Keynes theory is that it was developed when mass consumption was in its adolescence.

It is difficult to date exactly when the age of mass consumption began since several factors contributed to it. There was the sudden flooding of the consumer market with large quantities of mass produced goods that were affordable. Some argue that mass consumption really took off in the 1890s with the growth of corporate bureaucracies and the increased pay for white collar workers.

If we accept 1890 as an arbitrary start date, then Keynes formulated his theory when mass consumption was a little over forty years old. At this time, there was still room for growth in the consumer market. Many homes were without indoor plumbing or electricity. Coal or wood still heated houses and cooked the food. Clothes were washed by hand; fields were plowed by a team of mules; hot water had to be heated on the stove.

Now we fast forward to today when consumption is seventy percent of our GDP, and one could argue that much of this consumption has been superfluous since most of our basic needs were met in the go-go days of the fifties and sixties. In addition to that, this superfluous consumption has been floated on a sea of consumer debt.

How do you stimulate spending in a saturated consumer market? Whatever money is funneled into the consumer’s pocket will most likely go to pay down consumer debt. We have been floating on a consumer bubble, and it has popped. It is unlikely it will be re-inflated.

Like Icarus, our economy flew too close to the sun and has come crashing back to earth. There are no more wings to be had.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


What a wonderful age we live in. Never have the fields been so fertile for nurturing the forces of folly. Madness is the norm, idiocy is genius. And the reason can be summed up in two words: global nihilism.

In a world where life is no longer worth living, only the 30-second spot has meaning. Beauty, truth and justice no longer reside with the Gods, but with the roll-on deodorant. In a world without norms, deviance rules. Policy becomes a homicidal maniac turned loose to terrorize the village. Life is reduced to a cipher, numbers in the debit column crossed out to enhance the bottom line. Meaning is reduced to a shallow theological formula leaving only the grand farce of power for power’s sake.

So the policy wonks sing their songs, shrill motets broken and off-key, toxic notes like a heavy fog blinding and choking. And within the crippled cadence of the melody runs the grim denial that the first sign of a civilization’s decay appears when it touches the apogee. It is as it slides over the apogee and begins its descent that it becomes dangerously murderous.

Nihilism and decay are the twin goddesses that are lifting our leaders on high. The dankness of nihilism and the stridency of decay feed their power, for both tolerate all idiocy. They bath our leaders in a holy light whose glare blinds the masses and turn their danse macabre into a gay gavotte. They dance and duck and turn, twist and evade to the smooth song of press releases and denial. They dump a turd here and a turd there, slowly building a bulwark that hides and protects them from the forces of meaning.

They are the Zen masters of bullshit and the gods salute them. .

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

History Repeats

They say Gen. David Petraeus is a consummate politician, which is another way of saying he knows what to kiss and what not to kiss. There is nothing new in this. Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace gives us an early prototype of Petraeus in the character of Prince Boris Drubetskoy, the son of an impoverished noblewoman, Princess Anna Mihalovna Drubetskoy who schemes to wangle her son an appointment to the Guards of Smenovsky. There, as a sub-lieutenant, he makes a discovery and one wonders if Petraeus, as a green second-lieutenant didn’t make the same one:

He {Boris} had completely assimilated that unwritten code which had so pleased him at Olmutz, that code in virtue of which a lieutenant may stand infinitely higher than a general, and all that is needed for success in the service is not effort, not work, not gallantry, not perseverance, but simply the art of getting on with those who have the bestowal of promotion, and he often marveled at the rapidity of his own progress, and that others failed to grasp the secret of it. His whole manner of life, all his relations with his old friends, all his plans for the future were completely transformed in consequence of this discovery.

As Marx once said, history repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Dead Cow Policy

Barack Obama has lifted to the highest aesthetic level a tradition that has made our country what it is today: Our talent for mistaking a contingent and transitory reality for an eternal truth. We’re like the farmer who keeps milking the cow long after its dead. When a decayed teat slimes off in his hand, he calls it progress.

Take, for example, the Cold War. When World War II ended, the Soviet Union and we were the only two military powers still standing. Our military and industrial leaders looked across the ocean and instead of seeing Josef Stalin they saw a cash cow. I mean, why waste all that military equipment, why send all those scientists back to academia where they would only make trouble, why force prosperous defense industries to cut back? Let the good times roll!

During the war, we had made an exciting discovery. Paranoia is great for crowd control. That great statesman, Arthur Vandenberg nailed it when he told Truman the key to governance in the new world order was to, “scare the hell out of the American people.” Thus, paranoia became part and parcel of the American character. If we weren’t scared of Commies, we were scared of germs and body odor. It was great: everybody conformed; everybody kept their mouths shut.

Obama is clinging to that Cold War mentality even though it’s as irrelevant as a dead cow’s teat. He continues to make it sing; only now the song is in Pashtun instead of Russian. He’s outdoing the Cold Warriors of old. Every time they tried to mess with our civil liberties, the public raised hell. Look at how he continues to trample on them with nary a peep out of the people. The reason is simple: The people who raised the most hell back then were the people who remembered what life was like in a democratic republic. They are dying out. The only thing the Boomers have ever known is the presence of a constant threat. Their greatest fear is a freedom that tolerates diversity. This is the source of their silence.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Blobular Momentum

With the passage of time, the dynamic of a newly ascendant power congeals into a bureaucratic blob that is as opaque as it is impersonal, with a momentum unrelated to either reality or the world outside its viscous mass. Within this mass, leaders morph into supervisors sucked along by its unstoppable momentum. In the blind eyes of the blob, the citizen is dead, replaced by the disinterested bystander.

Cut off one part of the blob and it reappears elsewhere on the blob. Cancel one program, and another slides in to replace it. The blob neither thinks nor feels, but moves with a nihilistic impetus powered by ego, greed and stupidity. The complexity of its rules and regulations increase in direct portion to the number of people available for their implementation and the speed with which printing presses can spit out pages for its multiple manuals.

Its growth has been exponential since the firewall separating private and public bureaucracies fell. There is no longer any distinction between a private bureaucrat and a public one because the blob has absorbed both.

Those who would reform ithe blob are helpless before it, for it responds only to infusions of liquidity. What was once corruptions is now funding; what was once freedom is now policies of control and stability; what was once democracy is now statutes; debate became marketing; the stimulations of reading is replced by the numbing down of dancing images on multiple screens.

Those who rise to the top of this blob are the socially maladjusted who mistake their crippled egos for the public will, or, even worst, the blob’s destiny.

Brutality and oppression come easily to the blob. In its eyes, nothing is living because numbers and labels have sucked the life out of existence. If nothing lives, nothing can die, and the corpses that pile up become so much clutter to dispose of so the land their blood soaked can be developed. They are names to be crossed off a register or a list, numbers to be placed in a dead file.

Those who stand atop the blob cling to the delusive belief that they control it. Ahead of them, they see a lighthouse firmly grounded on an immovable rock, guiding them towards the utopian world that is their birthright. What they fail to understand is that the lighthouse is a chimera that moves as the blob shifts directions under its own momentum giving them the illusion that utopia is still within their reach.

Life in the land of the blob is one of ennui and diversion, feeble attempts to find passing stimuli is the grey twilight that is neither darkness nor light. Bright lights, toys and noise divert and direct attention away from the world that is dying around them.

The blob makes possible our leaders’ madness because it does not car how insane they are, for they are but a passing speck on its surface, a mild irritant that will soon shrivel and fall off, only to be replaced by another irritant.

But while our leaders ride the blob, they are convinced of their exceptionalism as they keep their eyes firmly fixed on the lighthouse before them and continue to believe that it is fixed and unmovable.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Beckett the Prophet

In 1946, Samuel Beckett began work on his novel, Malloy, the first in a trilogy that was to include Malone Dies, and the Unnamable. All three were ground-breaking works that redefined the novel. Interpretations of the works fill volumes. One interpretation is that the works represent an extended critique of a Cartesian rationalism that is crippled because it can only express itself in language, and language, as Beckett is quick to remind us, is limited in its ability to capture define reality, let alone express it.

But there is one passage in Malloy that gives us an insight into another side of Beckett that is never mentioned: that of prophet. In an age of Patriot Acts, surveillance camera on every corner, Military Commissions, legalized torture, drone attacks on civilians and the targeting of American citizens for assassination, see if this passage, written in 1946, doesn’t sound frighteningly familiar:

Morning is the time to hide. They wake up, hale and hearty, their tongues hanging out for order, beauty and justice, baying for their due. Yes, from eight or nine till noon is the dangerous time. But towards noon things quiet down, the most implacable are sated, they go home, it might have been better but they’ve done a good job, there have been a few survivors but they’ll give no more trouble, each man counts his rats. It may begin again in the early afternoon, after the banquet, the celebrations, the congratulations, the orations, but it’s nothing compared to the morning, mere fun. Coming up to four or five of course there is the night-shift, the watchmen beginning to bestir themselves. But already the day is over, the shadows lengthen, the walls multiply, you hug the walls, bowed down like a good old boy, oozing with obsequiousness, having nothing to hide, hiding from mere terror, looking neither right nor left, hiding but not provocatively, ready to come out, to smile, to listen, to crawl, nauseating but not pestilent, less rat than toad. Then the true night, perilous too but sweet to him who knows it, who can open to it like the flower to the sun, who himself is night, day and night. No there is not much to be said for the night either, but compared to the day there is much to be said for it, and notably compared to the morning there is everything to be said for it. For the night purge is in the hands of technicians, for the most part. They do nothing else, the bulk of the population have no part in it, preferring their warm beds, all things considered. Day is the time for lynching, for sleep is sacred, and especially the morning between breakfast and lunch.

Does it remind you of anything?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Good, The Bad and The Wimpy

We are slowly learning that all deficits are not created equal. There are good deficits and there are bad deficits; there are deficits that wear white hats and those that wear black hats.

Last week Senate Republicans shot down a bill that surely would have fed ammo to a black-hatted deficit when they killed legislation that would have extended unemployment benefits for the estimated 1.2 million Americans whose jobless benefits will be exhausted by the end of the month, according to The New York Times.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada did what Senate Democrats do best—he wimped out and announced he would move on to new business since he didn’t have the votes to stop a Republican filibuster against the bill.

Of course a fool might ask: Why not let the Republicans hold their filibuster. Let every Republican senator who stands up to speak against the bill be duly recorded by C-Span. Then when the 2012 elections roll around play clips of their dulcet rhetoric over and over again to let the nation see exactly what the GOP stands for.

According to the Times,”The Obama administration has not fought aggressively for the legislation.” But this is to be expected. Obama continues to float in Never-Never Land as the Pentagon leads him to and fro by his nose, and the Democrats wimp out.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said, “The only thing Republicans opposed in this debate are (sic) job-killing taxes and adding to the national debt.

Which brings us back to the distinction between good deficits and bad deficits: In Republican eyes, bad deficits are those that help alleviate domestic economic suffering. It all gets down to the Right’s doctrine of personal responsibility. The unemployed would not be unemployed had they not forced their manufacturing plants to relocate overseas because the once-employed demanded a living wage.

Good deficits, on the other hand, are those that help America maintain her military erection. Deficits are to the Pentagon as Viagra is to the fifty-something male. Here are a few examples of good deficits:

1. B-52 bombers consume 47,000 gallons of jet fuel per mission per plane, leaving a contrail of red ink in their wake.
2. When an F-16’s afterburner kicks in it burns through $300 worth of jet fuel per minute as red ink pours out of its exhaust.
3. The Afghan War is costing us $57,077.60 per minute to lose. I’d say we’re up to our keisters in red ink on that one.
4. A contributing factor to that cost is that the “fully-burdened cost” of pumping a gallon of gasoline in Afghanistan is $400. All those tanks, Humvees and other vehicles are blowing red ink out their exhaust pipes.

However, according to both Republicans and Democrats, these are good deficits because they are “feel-good” expenditures. Being a military superpower is such an ego trip that our leaders are loathe to give it up so the funds being burnt up on a useless war could be diverted to relieve the ever growing suffering on the home front.

Meanwhile, Obama continues to float in Never-Never Land while the Pentagon leads him around by the nose, and Sen. Reid comes up with even more creative ways to wimp out less he incur the wrath of America’s Rabid Right.

Our children may go hungry; more and more tent cities will spring up as more homes are lost, but, by God, both the Pentagon and its military contractors will continue to prosper. And nobody, but nobody seems willing to make the connection between domestic suffering and the money being wasted on an useless and unnecessary war.

Go figure.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Dress Rebellion

One of the more thoughtful writers on the peak oil scene is John Michael Greer. His blog, The Archdruid Report is as perceptive and intelligent as it is well written. In one of his recent posts he made the following observation which concisely sums up one of the problems that plagues progressives in America:

Striking a rebellious pose and claiming originality is very fashionable these days; actually rejecting the conventional wisdom of our time, and thinking thoughts that conflict with those of one’s contemporaries, is less common now that it was in the supposedly conformist Fifties.

The truth is that when America's young people revolt they head for the mall where they are clothed, tattooed and pierced. Having established their bona fides as well-appointed revolutionaries, they return to their rooms or thier clubs to lose themselves in the ramped-up music of rebellion and despair.

Nothing insures social stability like a fashionable revolution. In a consumer society, revolution is all about style. Once properly costumed, the revolution goes mainstream and nothing changes. For the Corporatist State, revolution is not about liberte, egalite and fraternite, but about market share, retail shares and brand recognition.

But our corporatist should beware of the revolutionary who shows up in Dockers, penny loafers and a button-down shirt. That sonofabitch will hurt them. Where fashionable rebels hope to bring a pier down by slam dancing on its surface, the guy in Dockers is the one who puts on his scuba gear, drops beneath the surface of the water and starts chipping away at the pilings.

Unfortunately in an age when it is not only necessary to think outside the box, but to reduce the box to kindling, too many would-be rebels think that all the box needs is a fresh coat of paint or a new addition.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

It's a Freaking Miracle!

Talk about a miracle, out of nowhere over a trillion dollars worth of minerals and raw materials are popping up all over Afghanistan. And if we believe government spokesfolk, the Pentagon has just now stumbled onto them.

There’s iron, copper, niobium, cobalt, gold, molybdenum, silver, potash, lapis lazuli and rare earth elements such as lithium without which laptops and Blackberries would be so much scrap metal.

According to Tuesday’s New York Times, these deposits could “transform Afghanistan into one of the important mining centers in the world.” And most tellingly, “…it could alter the Afghan war itself.” Of course there is one caveat to these statements. Both express the earnest faith of Pentagon officials, who “believe” this could be so, somewhere, over the rainbow.

As with any article that appears in the Times, the real story is buried 20,000 paragraphs under the lead. The Soviets figured this out in the 1980s when they conducted their own geological surveys. The surveys were discarded when the Afghans drove them out of the country. A Pentagon team looking for some sort of economic justification for our eternal war of the empty policy came across the survey and put together a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists to expand on the study. This was in 2006.

The story does point out that, “American and Afghan officials agreed to discuss the mineral discoveries at a difficult moment in the war in Afghanistan,” as in they need all the good news they can get no matter how chimerical it is.

James Joyner deconstructs the hype surrounding this “breakthrough discovery.” He quotes Foreign Policy managing editor Blake Hounshell who suggests that the $1 trillion estimate was pulled out of thin air. Let’s face it, the Pentagon has a vested interest in inflating the estimate in an effort to provide a commercial rationale for the Afghan enterprise.

One commentator calls it a “massive information operation,” though it might be more accurate to call it a “disinformation” operation.

Political scientists refer to the “Resource Curse” to describe the fate of third-world countries in which large deposits of minerals are discovered. The bottom line is that the poor remain poor while the corrupt and the connected prosper. Already, there’s talk of brining in multinational mining companies to exploit these mineral deposits at pennies on the dollar.

What we have here is a feeble attempt by the Pentagon to justify its existence. A trillion dollars, that’s the new buzz word that officials hope will garner support for a dying policy. How can we leave Afghanistan with all those minerals that will lift the Afghan people out of their stone-age poverty and bring them into the modern world? It won’t happen, but that makes little differences. Justifications for war rarely have any relationship to reality.

Then, of course, there’s the threat of China muscling in and exploiting the minerals for their own selfish commercial ends. God knows they’ve been inking contracts all over Africa and the Middle East. They’ve already tied up the copper franchise in Afghanistan.

However, the Chinese have one advantage over the United States—drones and hellfire missiles are not a component of their foreign policy.

But, hey! The Pentagon says all those minerals are just begging to be developed and when has our Pentagon ever lied to us? Nothing brings democracy to a country like raw materials waiting to be exploited. We can’t leave now and leave all those minerals to a bunch of foreigners. If we found them we own them. It doesn’t make a damn bit of difference who they actually belong to.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Gated State

There are many who worry that as money and capital continue to flow upward towards the apex of the pyramid that passes for our democratic republic America could turn into an impoverished wasteland pocked by secure, thick-walled gated communities behind which the very wealthy would hide from the ravages of torch and pitchfork bearing mobs.

An article in this month’s Harper’s suggests that Arizona may be on the cutting edge of becoming America’s first gated state. In “Tea Party In The Sonora,” Ken Silverstein walks us through the madness that passes for politics in Arizona.

The state is facing a financial crisis that makes California look wealthy by comparison. Silverstein cites as an example of the political “wisdom” that is driving the state a decision by the legislature to slash the budget for the Department of Revenue, which is responsible for tax collection. Sure, they saved $25 million, but one official estimates that by doing so the state will lose out on $174 million in revenue.

Howver, there is one quote from an Arizona resident that jumps out at the reader because it underscores the gated-community mentality that seems to dominate Euromerican thinking on the far-right fringe of our political spectrum. To this individual’s credit, her statement was so perceptive that I doubt she shares its sentiment. Commenting on the right’s aversion to big government, she said:

People who have swimming pools don’t need state parks. If you buy your books at Borders you don’t need libraries. If your kids are in private school, you don’t need K-12. The people here, or at least those who vote, don’t see the need for government. Since a lot of the population are not citizens, the message is that government exists to help the undeserving, so we shouldn’t have it at all.

Now, there’s gate-building with a vengeance. It personifies the attitude of many Euromericans: I’ve got mine; screw you! Unfortunately, I’m not sure it’s an attitude that is strictly confined to our wingnuts. On sometimes wonders if the democratic liberals are cowed by the right or if they’re somewhat in agreement with them. It’s the old “Yes-they’re-fine-as-long-as-they’re-like-us,” syndrome.

One of the things that is sending the right into its spasms of bigotry is the sense that the age of Euromerican supremacy is drawing to a close. This could explain our collective obsession with military spending and wars. If your economy is hollowed out, if, instead of a community, peoples’ lives have been reduced to one of fragmented isolation, if the good life has been reduced to a question of how much junk you own, then the only feel-good experience left in to go to war and kill somebody. It’s a great high, especially if you’re not the one doing the killing.

America’s strength has been her ability to absorb wave after wave of immigrants. It has not been easy; it’s been traumatic and violent at times. Yet, as each wave was assimilated, America was re-energized. One of problems facing Europe has been its inability to absorb its immigrants.

Each wave of immigrants has arrived in this country poor and, over several generations, has prospered, and, in doing so, has made its contribution to our greatness. My grandfather arrived in America in 1892 with just the shirt on his back. The third generation of his offspring included doctors, nurses, teachers and business people, all of them on the make.

Then there’s the right’s lament that the latest wave of Hispanic immigrants are overburdening what’s left of our social welfare system. This is as it must be because the America into which the Hispanic immigrates differs from the world into which my Grandfather immigrated.

When my grandfather immigrated to America, it took a team of men armed with picks and shovels to dig a ditch. Now the same ditch is dug by a single back-hoe operator with a union card in his wallet, which he probably inherited from his father. The social services provided to new immigrants are not money down a rathole; they are an investment in the contributions their children and their children’s children will make to our country, if we allow them to.

Fear corrodes a people. A frightened people can never be a free people, and the great irony of the right is that the very fear that powers it is eating away at the freedoms they claim to value. Once fear takes over there is neither a wall thick enough nor a gate strong enough to make it go away. The point is reached when fear ceases to be an emotion and becomes a way of life. The right, particularly in Arizona, appears to be in the vanguard leading us into that putrid swamp of fear and paranoia where dreams die.

But then, if you can still afford to buy books at Borders…

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Nasty Little Sacrament

What a nasty little sacrament the flag lapel pin has become. The church defines a sacrament as an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace. The difference between sacrament and a sign is that a sacrament participates in the reality it represents.

Imperial sacraments take this one step further. As one sage pointed out, as imperial overlords we create a reality that is not real but appears to be real simply because we are imperial overlords and thus are able to create the reality of which any given sacrament is a part. One of the privileges of being an imperial overlord is the privilege of living in a fantasy world.

Nowhere is this demonic creation of reality more manifest than in the flag lapel pin. The pins our leaders wear is not the flag of social justice but of military prowess. It is not the flag of democracy but the flag of corporate management techniques. It is not the flag of freedom for the people but freedom of the few to exploit the many.

It is also rapidly becoming the flag of cultural purity as ICE agents continue to arrest and deport “illegal” aliens. Our leaders are determined to prove to the world that we are not a salsa culture and Arizona is in the front ranks of the war to keep it that way.

It is this obsession with cultural purity that is the real bond between the United States and Israel. Each of us, in our own way, represents the pinnacle of Western Civilization, and each of us is determined to prevent its corruption by brown-skinned aliens. The only difference is that Israel’s aliens shoot rockets while ours clean offices. Therefore, Israel needs a different methodology in dealing with its alien problem.

Call it what you may, but it’s not racism. Any alien willing to get with the program, internalize our Western values and claw his way to a CEO position is welcome with open arms. That’s why we have an alien in the White House. Those who won’t get with the program are deported, jailed or bombed out of existence. It’s a question of behavior and attitude, not race.

It’s only a matter of time before the values that gave us World Wars I and II are the norm and the world enters a golden age of carnage and fat defense contracts.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Thank you GM for doing something right for a change.

Thank God General Motors has let me off the hook. Yesterday, one of their marketing mavens in a sudden attack of retartive genius issued a memo in which he directed employees and sales personnel that when referring the Chevrolet to stop calling them “Chevys.” The goal, he said, was “brand consistency.” Perhaps he thought Chevrolet had more of cachet to it than the more plebian Chevy.

I was crushed. This meant I could no longer drive my Chevy to the levy but the levy was dry. Granted, I have neither Chevy nor levy, but that makes no difference. That damn memo deprived me of my freedom to someday have both a Chevy and a levy, whether wet or dry.

And let’s face it, singing:

Drove my Chevrolet
To the roundelay
But the dancers were dead…

doesn’t have the same punch to it.

This morning I learn redemption is mine! GM issued a “Boy-did-we-screw-that-one-up” memo in which they said, “Hell, yes. Go ahead and use Chevy ‘till your teeth fall out.

Could it be that the company is starting to realize that there’s a public out there it has to be responsive to? That could be a breakthrough.

In the meantime, does anyone know where I could pick up a used levy?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Lung Cancer and Life

In April I was diagnosed with lung cancer when the doctors discovered a 4 cm adenocarcinoma on my left lung. The good news is that I caught it early and that it originated and is confined to the lung.

Monday, I completed the second of four courses of chemotherapy designed to shrink the tumor and keep it in its place. After the chemo is completed I will go into surgery. Because the tumor is located in the fissure that separates the upper and lower lobe of the lung it looks as if the entire lung will have to be removed.

Many patients talk of fighting cancer, of battling and struggling against it, and these are valid approaches that reflect the individual temperaments of these patients.

My approach is different. I embrace my cancer as an integral part of God’s creation, for all of creation is grounded in death and the truth we all face is that the leading cause of death is birth.

On this surface, this could easily be misconstrued as surrender. It is anything but.

Life is one big non-linear paradox. So my embrace, rather than being surrender, is a challenge to embrace my cancer and pass through it, and in passing through it to realize and accept that not only will it change me but it will always be with me. It will forever be in my soul, but by embracing and passing through I increase the probability that it will strengthen my soul instead of curdling it.

It will remain is my body, as well, in remission, but the truth is that cancer will probably be my ticket out of this world, hopefully some years from now. In one respect, we are all children playing in the sand, and with our plastic shovels and buckets we build sand castles, forts and other intricate structures. And, yet, the time comes for all of us when we must pick up our toys, take our father’s hand and go home. And after we have left the beach, the tide comes in and washes away all we have built. However, by the time that happens we are safely home and sound asleep.

This is actually my second bout of cancer. Ten years ago I was diagnosed with an indolent lymphoma. Happily, for the last six years, it’s been behaving itself. On that occasion I wrote the following poem:

Bury me, if you would, in a shroud
That my brothers and sisters
The worms and microbes may enfold me back into the earth,
That one day,
Years from now or generations from now,
A young girl may squat before a gaily-colored flower
And in leaning forward to inhale its scent
She will inhale my Spirit.

One of the upsides of cancer is that it gives you time to compose your epitaph. After much thought and meditation I wish the following to be carved into my tombstone below my name and the dates of my birth and my death:


After all, it does piss you off a bit.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

It all goes back to the size of the crime.

This happened in waters outside of Israeli territory, but we have the right to defend ourselves.
Avital Leibovich, Israeli Military Spokeswoman
Commenting on the Israeli attack
a Gaza-bound humanitarian ship that resulted
in nine deaths.

Of course they had to attack the ships because Israel’s definition of “’the right to defend ourselves” includes the right to attack a fleet of humanitarian relief ships in international waters as well as the right to turn Gaza into the world's largest concentration camp. And what concentration camp worth its salt is going to allow an incursion of humanitarian aid?

Ah! But wait! Things are not as they appear according to the Israeli government. These were ships manned by "terrorists" and “terrorist dupes” carrying a cargo that included weapons. Case closed, maybe...

I.F. Stone once said that all a journalist has to do is remember two words: governments lie. A corollary to Stone’s rule is that the bigger the crime, the bigger the lie. (Both rule and its corollary have been completely lost on the American media.)

According to Paul Craig Roberts, “America will never hear from the US media that Turkey’s prime minister Erdogan declared that the aid ships were carefully inspected before departure from Turkey and that there were no terrorists or arms aboard.

Roberts quoted Erdogan who declared, “I want to say to the world, to the heads of state and the governments, that these boats that left from Turkey and other countries were checked in a strict way under the framework of the rules of the rules of international navigation and were only loaded with humanitarian aid.”

Granted, Erdogan’s statement could fall under Stone’s rule, but then we must turn to the corollary and ask, whose crime was bigger? And why did Israel deport all the members of the ships’ crew if they included terrorists? Then of course, we’ve yet to see the Great Israeli Photo Op that displays all the weapons seized from the humanitarian flotilla, though if the Israeli’s did stage such a display one would have to wonder where, exactly, these weapons came from. It all gets back to the size of the crime.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Labels protect us from thinking.

My loathing of labels is a product of the eighteen years I spent as a special ed. teacher in Brooklyn. It was in that setting that I saw how thoroughly labels dehumanize. I taught autistic children and was forced to spend hours listening to administrators drone on about strategies for teaching “the autistic child,” as opposed to teaching the human child. The children I taught were a diverse lot, yet the autistic label reduced them to a single, homogenous category.

In truth, the autistic label was a death warrant for a child. Reading evaluation reports for incoming students it was not at all uncommon to read about a pediatrician telling parents of a newly-diagnoses child that their child would have the mind of a two-year-old for the rest of its life, a gross misstatement of fact.

It’s easy to spin a label. If I told someone I taught autistic children, they would react as if I were a candidate for sainthood. If, on the other hand, I said I taught children with pervasive developmental delays (a more accurate description of what I did) the reaction was, “Oh! That’s nice.”

The advantage of the label is that it saves people the trouble of thinking, and in our age of collective brain rot this is a desirable quality to have. Labels also save us the pain-in-the-ass effort of trying to see others as human beings in all of their nuanced complexity. It is far better to hang a label on them so we can slip into our comfortable for-or-against-us mode of binary thinking.

Without labels power would be crippled. To thrive power needs both labels and numbers. What it can’t quantify it labels and in doing so it dehumanizes both its subjects and its enemies. Both numbers and labels are key ingredients in the firewall that protects power from the fecund maelstrom that is life.

Labels are so much easier to kill or oppress. It’s easier to bomb a terrorist than to bomb a human being, and the vaguer and more ill defined a label is, the easier it is to drop the bombs. Without labels there could be no Pentagon, no Israel, no military-industrial complex and no War on Terror. Without labels there could be no violence. Perhaps this is why the spinning of labels appears to be hardwired our collective brain.

The upside of labels is that they bankrupt empires since an empire can only conquer and oppress a label. One could argue that that is their sole contributions to a decent world.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

An Exciting New Threat

Happy News! We have a new threat to our wellbeing, something else to flame our anxiety and keep it at a simmer so we can await with baited breath the next words of wisdom that tinkle down from the “experts” who would sanitize and scrub clean our existences until nothing is left of us except compliant and obedient shells whose surfaces are brightly polished.

According to a front-page story in Saturday’s Times, this new threat is the very substance that kept our ancestors alive: salt. In the forefront of this new War against Something is none other than New York City Mayor Mike “The-People-Don’t-Know-What’s-Good-For-Them-But-I-Do” Bloomberg who wants to do what any politician wants to do when faced with an imaginary threat, and that is legislate.

Experts tell us that if we could cut down on our salt intake, we could “save” 150,000 American lives annually (That comes to .0005 of the population if I counted the zeroes correctly).

Now, the idea of saving lives by banning this or that substance raises a question. The simple fact of the matter is that the leading cause of death is birth. It’s true for all of us. So cutting down on salt doesn’t save anything. It simply puts off the inevitable. Granted this delay has its merits, but looking at it in this way robs the issue of its urgency. If I pull a drowning man from a river I’ve saved a life. If by taking away his salt and adding a couple of years to his life saves nothing.

But what the hell, a politician isn’t a politician unless he has a threat to hype, and for a politician a threat doesn’t have to be real as long as it plays well in Astoria.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Drill! Drill! Drill!

Ah, the things we learn from a disaster. Estimates vary as to exactly how much oil BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig is pumping into the Gulf of Mexico. Initially, BP said none, then a thousand barrels a day, which the federal government then bumped up to 5,000 a day.

BP won’t allow any scientists to actually inspect the site, the Gulf having become BP’s proprietary body of water. However, scientists did get hold of a film clip of the spewing oil and estimated that at one time upwards of 70,000 barrels of oil a day was pouring into the Gulf.

Michael Klare has written extensively on oil, and he brings up a little noticed point about the Gulf disaster. The assumption has been that BP was sending its drill 13,500 feet beneath the surface of the Gulf in a frantic effort to decrease our dependence on foreign oil. After all, why be dependent on all those Mideast countries when we’ve got good old American crude just waiting for us below the Gulf. “Drill, drill, drill,” as Sarah is fond of saying and get that oil to the nearest gas station so America can keep driving as she always has.

This was not the case, according to Klare. He tells us, “There, is, however, some indication that the company was in an unseemly rush to complete the cementing of the Mississippi Canyon 252 well—a procedure that would cap it until the company was ready to undertake commercial extraction of the oil stored below. It could then have moved the rig rented from Transocean Ltd., at $500,000 per day, to another prospective drill site in search of yet more oil.” (Emphasis mine.)

As always, it gets down to the bottom line. Klare goes on to explain:

The major energy firms have their own compelling reasons for a growing involvement in the exploitation of extreme energy options. Each year, to prevent the value of their share from falling, these companies must replace the oil extracted from their existing reservoirs with new reserves.

The easy stuff is pretty much tied up by state-owned oil, which means that domestic companies like BP must go into for some high-risk drilling if they are to keep their balance sheet intact.

Though, speaking of a “domestic” oil company is a bit of a misnomer. The oil market is an international market, and any oil company, domestic or foreign, will sell oil to whoever offers the best price. So that oil pouring into the Gulf could have very well been used to power industrial plants in China or automobiles in India.

As it stands now, that oil’s not going anyplace except the Gulf Coast.

Friday, May 21, 2010

When is a lie a lie?

One of my readers who tries to keep me on the straight and narrow, though not always with success, is Robert Becker, an excellent writer himself. Robert called me on yesterday’s post when I argued that four moral absolutes are necessary for a decent society: do not kill; do not steal; do not lie; do not exploit.

Robert jumped on lying when he wrote:

By the way, “lying,” in its nearly infinite dimensions is quite different from killing, stealing, and exploiting (thought that’s not a simple one either). Art, for example is a kind of lying, and something one must deceive to get to a higher truth. Now, giving false testimony, in a court where facts and life matter, that’s rather different than sweeping away all “lying.” We satirists lie all the time, and sometimes, to play the devil’s advocate, we must take on some of his attributes.

He makes a good point. Lying is a tough nut to crack. Not only are there times when it is necessary, but on the flip side brutal honesty can often be wielded as a weapon that is used to hurt and demean.

One possible solution would be to condemn lying when it is a vehicle for exploitation. This can be done on a personal level as in, “Of course I’ll still respect you if you sleep with me, baby,” to “Sadddam Hussein has stockpiled weapons of mass destruction.”

Such lies are born of a desire to wield power over another, and this is the source of the lie’s indecency. Otherwise, if there’s a boring party you’d rather duck, a slight touch of diplomatic flu is not a ticket to Hell.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What if we tried this?

“Freedom” is one of those words that get tossed about like a pod full of dried peas, and often the only sound that emanates from it is a death rattle. The whole political spectrum wants to claim the word as its very own, and it is used as a rationale for everything from dropping Hellfire missiles on innocent civilians in the AfPak Theater to raucous West Coast orgies.

Frances Moore Lappe believes Progressives should make freedom their number one issue. She defines freedom as, “[O]ur power to make real choices, about not only our personal lives but about the forces determining the quality of life in our communities.” She then points out that, “In very real ways, basic economic security established through social rules we create together isn’t a threat to freedom; it’s essential to freedom.”

Then she skins her shins on the one rock Progressives seem to stumble into, no matter how high or bright the sun, when she says, “Progressives should challenge all Americans to a useful debate about what really restricts our choices and what actually does make us free.”

You can’t debate a sound bite. The problem is not to educate, it is to inspire. I once heard Drew Weston, author of The Political Brain speak, and he opened his talk by asking how many people in the audience remembered Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Plan” speech. King didn’t have a plan, he had a dream and he took the country with him.

One problem with those who talk about freedom is that they fail to take a good hard look at the type of soil freedom needs to sprout. Like Lappe, many writers put a great deal of emphasis on economic security. Yet, many of the marchers in the Civil Rights movement were dirt poor and hadn’t known economic security for generations.

What is freedom if not a demand for a decent society? As I have pointed out in previous posts, four moral imperatives are the foundation upon which such a society is built; do not kill; do not steal; do not lie; do not exploit. These, in turn, require courage. This explains why history has seen so few decent civilizations. Decency embraces and affirms all of God’s creation. When confronted with evil its response is measured and adequate to deal with the problem rather than one of fearful overreaction.

From the above, it is patently obvious that we will never achieve a decent society. And the results would be rather deadly if we tried to. Because to achieve a fully decent society, we would have to turn decency into an ideology, and ideologies have a nasty habit of turning to social engineering to achieve their goals. This raises a problem of what to do with those individuals who don’t want to buy into it. The traditional response has been prison camps and death squads. In the end decent people end up saying to the indecent, “You will either live a life of empathy and compassion or we will kill you.”

Rather, the push for a decent society should act as a counterweight to the unholy copulation between feral capitalism and a toxic beltway that are the twin albatrosses around Liberty’s neck.

The desire for decency is one that cuts across class and ethnic lines. Without this foundation of decency, freedom spins off and fragments into an atomized void of self centeredness and self interest. This is why so many individuals equate freedom with the freedom to buy. This is why the hedge fund manager defines freedom as the right to make obscene profits even if doing so threatens to bring the economy down.

Decency resonates with a public that is strung out, uncertain and frightened. The courage that the drive for decency would demand, along with its attendant empathy and compassion, would be an effective antidote to the fear-mongering that spews forth from the demagogues who dominate our airwaves.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What do you do with a low-life, mother-fucking son of a bitch?

Most of us have had the experience, at one time or another in our lives, of hating someone with a passion that borders on the homicidal. This passion runs especially deep if the object or our hatred had hurt us or a person dear to us. The hatred comes in waves every time he or she is mentioned. Sometimes it washes over us in the wee hours of the morning and we find ourselves wide awake playing and replaying old grievances.

The problem is that while this passion consumes us and borders on the self-destructive, it doesn’t touch the object of our loathing. He or she continues along their merry way untouched by our hatred.

Here is a rather bizarre suggestion that might help neutralize this passion and allow us to move from day to day with a little more serenity.

When you wake up in the morning, conjure up the object of your hatred. Review in your mind every undesirable characteristic, every wrong he or she committed. Meditate on every mannerism you despise and every physical characteristic you find loathsome. And when your rage is all consuming drop to your knees, clasp your hands and pray the following prayer.

“God, please bless this low-life, mother-fucking son of a bitch!” Hell, don’t pray it scream it at the top of your lungs. Add a few more adjectives if it suits you.

The next morning, do the same thing. And keep doing it morning after morning.

In time, you will drop the “low-life” and the prayer will become, “God, please bless this mother-fucking son of a bitch!”

As more time passes, and if you are faithful, you will drop the “mother-fucking.”

Then, one day, you will drop the “son of a bitch.”

And on that day, you will be free.

It’s bizarre, but it works.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Work in Progress

In a recent article, Chris Hedges excruciated organized religion for its impotence in the face of a rising tide of anger and amorality. He opened his article by saying:

It is hard to muster much sympathy over the implosion of the Catholic Church, traditional Protestant denominations, and Jewish synagogues. These institutions were passive as the Christian right, which peddles magical thinking and a Jesus-as-warrior philosophy, hijacked the language and iconography of traditional Christianity…The obsession with personal piety and “How-is-it-with-me?” spirituality that permeates most congregations is undiluted narcissism.

With 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 end 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 for the child of the union is Death.

The message of early church missionaries to indigenous people was, “Jesus died for your sins, and so can you!”

The truth is that organized religion chokes on the teachings of Jesus. Early Christians referred to their faith as 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 creation of eighteenth century secular humanists, but of a clergy man, Roger Smith. The Puritans booted Smith out of Massachusetts because of his heretical beliefs, so Smith founded Rhode Island. Based on his experience in the Bay State and England, Smith realized that nothing corrupted a religion faster than being made a state’s sanctioned 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. The poor boys want their power back.)

The Way, once it frees itself from the corrupting influences 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 an attitude and not an emotion.

I am always amused by the Christian right’s efforts to place the Ten Commandments in public buildings. Progressives missed a golden opportunity when Judge Roy Moore wanted to place blocks of granite, engraved with the Commandments, in the country’s courthouses.

What Progressives should have done was help him move the goddamn 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-capitalists tripe. Look at what they’re telling us: don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie and don’t exploit. How in the hell can you run a multinational with an albatross like this around your neck.

As for myself, I am a renegade Christian. Being one means living the Tao of Christ. For the renegade, dogma is an irritant that is either shaken off or ignored. It means understanding the Bible as a repository of spiritual, not literal, truth. As one contemporary theologian has put it, “Everything in the Bible is true. Some of it actually happened.”

Such an approach is difficult for Americans because most of us were raised to be technicians. (I define “technician” to include everything from neurosurgeons to the front-end specialist and your local Ford dealer.) The mantras we were brought up with were: say what you mean; get to the point; don’t beat around the bush. It was a world in which every word had but one meaning with little room for metaphor. Consequently, we bark our shins every time we stumble into one. So when confronted with the Bible, we treat it as an either/or proposition. Either it is all literally true or it is all hokum. For technicians who believe, the Bible is a technical manual that must be followed to the letter. But, as Hedges puts it, “The Bible works only as metaphor,” which is why most Americans don’t get it.

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 this metaphor.

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 Eve (Genesis, 3:14-19) it is obvious that humanity is stripped of its dominion and becomes just another derivative species.

God promised Noah no more floods because the flood punished the Earth and the Earth was innocent (Genesis, 8:21). She said nothing as protecting us from self annihilation. Hell, the next Messiah could 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 on the earth…” (Genesis, 9:2)

Hedges is correct when he says:

We are not going to be saved by faith in reason, science and technology, which the dead zone of oil forming in the Gulf of Mexico and our production of costly and redundant weapons systems illustrate….The essential teachings of the monotheistic traditions are now lost in the muck of church dogma, hollow creeds and the banal bureaucracy of institutional religion.

The sad truth is we are probably screwed.

Granted, God has entered into numerous covenants with humanity. But the covenants were in force only as long as humanity loved God and didn’t kill, steal, lie or exploit. The average lifespan of a covenant was measured in nanoseconds.

So here we are, knee deep in a sea of bile, which the Religious Right equates with Christianity. There is anger, uncertainty and hard times. Our leaders, aided and abetted by a subservient media, would have us project our anger on those with skins darker than ours, be they immigrants of Muslims.

For the past sixty-plus years, fear and paranoia have driven America’s politics, both here and abroad. According to our leaders, 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 terrorist.

The first order of business for the still sane is to challenge this atmosphere of fear and trembling. Some of us who dissent from our national paranoia will find the spiritual strength to stand up and proclaim that there is nothing to fear. For myself, I draw this strength from the Tao of Christ and from the Liberation Theology of Latin America. This is not for everybody, nor should it be. But, it could well be that at some future date it may be missionaries from Latin America who will teach us how to live life in harmony with creation.

Tragically, there is no guarantee we will listen.

But as Hedges reminds us, “Those who championed this radical individualism, from Confucius to Socrates to Jesus, fostered not obedience and conformity, but dissent and self-criticism…Freedom and indeed the religious and moral life required us to oppose and challenge those in authority.”

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A state does not a nation make.

Any given country is made up of two components: the nation and the state, state meaning the center of governance and power.

“Nation” is an umbrella term that refers to the groups and subgroups that make up a country’s culture. The diverse values of its citizens are embedded in the nation. The nation is chaotic, disorderly and lacks efficiency, for it requires constant bickering to achieve the compromise and conciliation that are needed for effective action. All too often, the outcome of this bickering is an obsession with the common welfare.

The “state,” on the other hand, seeks power and authority so it may bring order and stability to the nation and impose upon it its own values of conquest and exploitation. Its power tends to puddle in one or more centers. In the case of America, it has puddled in the Beltway, Wall Street and the Pentagon, America’s own feral trifecta.

Traditionally, constitutions and common law are in place to protect the nation from the state.

The state achieves power by co-opting the nation’s values, corrupting them, and using them not as instruments of welfare and peace but as justifications for repression and home and conquest abroad. It recasts these values as absolutes that are propagandized to produce compliance and obedience.

The nation thrives on diversity; the state thrives on conformity.

If the nation represents the chaos of a life force that maintains itself in a constant state of tense equilibrium, then the state ultimately expresses itself as death, through incarceration, execution, and the sacrificing of the flower of its youth to advance its interests. The end is always the same: the enhancement of the state’s power. There is no other rational for its existence.

To thrive, the state must twist Christianity, with its message of love and universal brotherhood, into a message of God’s wrath and retribution, making of the state a wagon train drawn into a circle and surrounded by a dark, alien force. Church and state work hand in hand to undercut freedom so they might protect “people of faith” from the “evil” forces that would destroy its civilization by strapping a nuke to a camel and sending it for a stroll down Wall Street.

The state achieves its ends with a rhetorical arsenal that includes “inversion of language, verbal inflation, libel, rumor, euphemism and coded phrases, rhetorical wantonness, redundancy, hyperbole, such profusion in speech and sound that comprehension is impaired, nonsense, sophistry, jargon, noise, incoherence, a chaos of voices and tongues, falsehood, blasphemy.”[1]

To succeed, there must be a disconnect between the state and its citizens. These citizens must be reduced to a passive horde so wrapped up in themselves that they could care less about the antics of the state.

A good citizen is one who mistakes the fiery sword of conquest for the shepherds crook.

[1] William Stringfellow

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Manufactured Identity

Look at all we have accomplished the last sixty years. Our finest achievement has been the fragmentation of the community though a succession of electronic gadgets that encourage isolation. Technology is the jack hammer that has turned the foundation of rock upon which democracy once rested into a bed of sand. This same gadgetry has fragmented the family as well. With computers and televisions in every room, a home becomes an empty house with atomized individuals drifting from room to room.

Where people once identified politically through community and family, they now find themselves without any sort of grounded identity. So they pursue an identity through brand association, defining themselves to the world with the logos sewn on shirts, jackets and pants. They search for a manufactured identity grounded in a manufactured reality, which they try to pass off as authenticity.

A Japanese philosopher has pointed out that if a society deconstructs everything except the ego it is left with a crypto nihilism that can only be filled with noise and toys. It is this crypto nihilism that sucks the life out of a democracy and spurs our economic growth.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Destiny's Song

Destiny is an old crone whose cackle sings a descant over and above the screams of those slaughtered in her name. She howls hysterically as we beat our Scriptures into the shrapnel with which we shred flesh in the name of an unseen deity. She fills her barren womb with the Blood of the Lamb and gives birth to lunatics who cut bloody swaths through the living in pursuit of her love. To her lovers, she is youth, beauty and eternal life; to her victims, she wears death’s black cloak, and swing her scythe with abandon as her lovers nurse at her shriveled teats.

Monday, May 10, 2010


If the attempted car bombing in Times Square is any indication of al Qaeda’s competence and expertise, then we can cancel the War on Terror, dissolve the Department of Homeland Defense and issue visas to every member of al Qaeda we can lay our hands on. Between shoe bombs , exploding underwear and plastic bottle of exploding shampoo, it looks like your garden variety terrorist couldn’t even put a Chinese firecracker in a mail box without screwing up the operation.


It could be that what we are witnessing is planned incompetence. Think about it: al Qaeda knows full well that were it to kill scores of people in Times Square the full wrath of the United States military establishment would come crashing down on the Middle East. If, however, they staged a series of botched attempt with the sole goal of getting the Pentagon’s knickers in a knot, then they would get what they wanted, an increase in military activity that would lead to more civilian deaths that would give al Qaeda and the Taliban a increased pool of potential recruits.

Already we can hear the sound of knotting knickers emanating from the Beltway. The New York Times tells us there is a move within the administration to use the Times Square bombing as an excuse to ramp up our military activity in Pakistan. This means more contracts to be let and an additional justification for the Pentagon’s existence.

As Iraq winds down the Pentagon is badly in need of another war to replace it. According to Jack A. Smith, “Evidently the Pentagon is planning to engage in numerous future wars interrupted by brief period of peace while preparing for the next war.”

And Pakistan appears to be Act III in our Eternal War of the Empty Policy.

The article quotes an official whospeaks of the need for “boots on the ground.” That phrase is an example of what I call Geekspeak. Geekspeak is a word or phrase that inflates itself into a linguistic bubble that breaks free of reality and floats into space like a sterile dust mote. Geekspeak’s forte is covering the stench and gore of war with soothing euphemisms that give a false impression of linear sanity and intellectual rigor. Geekspeak is the bastard child of the value-free language so worshiped by the social sciences.

Other examples of Geekspeak are “full-spectrum dominance,” which is the doctrine of the playground bully. Then there’s “power projection capabilities” that include digging bullets out of civilian corpses so their murder can be blamed on the “enemy.” “Dominant global hegemon” is another way of saying, “Mine is bigger than yours!” Then there’s the ever popular “metrics,” which is a polite way of saying we can now quantify why we’re getting our asses kicked.

However, my favorite is “robust.” Robust is bureaucratese for machismo. It’s used by men who want to touch their feminine side, but not too much. People are ambivalent about aggression, but everyone loves robustness. It reeks of glowing health and evokes images of Tom Terrific manning the battlements against hordes of attacking brownskins intent on raping our daughters and marrying our sisters. It’s patriotic to be robust. Aggressiveness is what our enemies are.

This is only a partial list. Readers are invited to submit their own entries. Geekspeak rolls out of the Beltway like a fetor wafting across the Potomac River. But then what can we expect from a Beltway that is world’s largest sheltered workshop for arrested adolescents.

Friday, May 7, 2010

When is a conspiracy not?

Where does a policy end and a conspiracy begin? Mike Whitney raises this question in a perceptive analysis of the run up to the 2008 financial meltdown. His thesis is that there was no conspiracy, per se, but a consistent policy of maximizing profits in the financial sector of the economy through the deliberate creation of asset bubbles, be they or housing.

Whitney sees this as a sign of decay in a mature capitalist system. He argues that “it’s far more damaging than any conspiracy, because it insures that the economy will continue to stagnate, that inequality will continue to grow, and that the gigantic upward transfer of wealth will continue without a pause.”

Now, if a policy produces negative consequences for the many while benefiting a few, is it still a policy or does it fall into the sphere of the illegal? A conspiracy is defined as “a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.” By that criterion, both the Iraq and Afghanistan enterprises could be considered conspiracies because both are eminently harmful and both, under international law, are illegal.

Of course, when dealing with the American empire we must remember that the benchmark for action is not legality but “reality creation.” As Karl Rove is reputed to have said, “We’re an empire, now, and when we act we create our own reality.” The problem is that an empire doesn’t create reality, it creates a fantasy world that it mistakes for reality because, being powerful, an empire believes its fantasies to be real when they rarely are.

The bigger question is when you move beyond the execution of a bank robbery or any other specific crime, is a conspiracy possible? When it comes to grand conspiracies, I confess to being a skeptic. I simply don’t believe Homo sapiens has the intellectual capacity to carry one out on a large scale. Human nature doesn’t lend itself to mega plots. Somewhere, someone would have one drink too many or would want to impress his mistress and the cat would be out of the bag.

Rather than conspiracies I see passing convergences of interest grounded in life’s contingencies, contingencies that are constantly in motion. These convergences are reactions to events and not their creators. This is why terrorist activity tends to be made up of isolated incidents rather than parts of some sort of overall strategy. Experts tell us that al-Qaeda isn’t so much a formal organization as an ideology.

A good analogy for these convergences can be found in chaos theory. If you sit by a fountain for a period of time, a pattern emerges. Most of the time the droplets of water fall in a random and chaotic pattern, but occasionally the drops fall in unison, a unity that is quickly dispersed as the droplets resume their random pattern. It’s the same with convergences. A disparate group of individuals come together to take advantage of a specific situation and then disperse.

Was 9/11 an inside job plotted and executed by the Bush administration? Absolutely not! Was the administration aware that such a plot was in the works and choose to let it happen? Possibly. Did every neocon and wingnut rejoice when the planes slammed into the twin towers because this breathed new life into our militarized security state? Absolutely! It was a passing convergence of interests.

Grand conspiracies have their appeal because of our need to impose some sort of order event that are, by nature, chaotic and unpredictable. We want to believe a single mastermind is behind them and that once this mastermind is neutralized the threat will vanish. Such a belief is the mindset of a technician who believes that there isn’t a problem that can’t be solved by changing a battery or tightening a bolt. The trouble is that life isn’t a machine and it rarely behaves like one.

The real problem arises when a criminal activity morphs into a hardened policy because of an ongoing convergence of interests between government and the private sector that takes on a life of its own. Then the problem is not one of conspiracy but one of a nocent policy supported by a de jure government, and the only solution to that is revolution.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Bush-League Sins

Since being diagnosed with lung cancer I’ve stumbled across an interesting anomaly. Lung cancer is the most common form of cancer in America, yet we rarely hear about it and certainly not to the extent we are made aware of breast cancer. (This is not to disparage the publicity breast cancer receives. Research on one type of cancer benefits all types.)

I suspect that the reason for this anomaly is that in the public’s mind lung cancer is associated with a “sin:” smoking. There is still a corner of our psyche that associates smoking with “loose” women and men who hang around pool halls and saloons. Therefore, there is a subconscious tendency to see lung cancer as God’s punishment for a sinful life. (Up until seventeen years ago I burned between two and three packs of cigarettes a day. However, we just had a member of our church die from lung cancer and he’d never smoked a single cigarette. The simple fact is that if you live long enough the chances are that you are going to come down with some form of cancer.)

Along the same lines, there was an article in today’s Times about a new “problem” of women who are addicted to porn. The religious right has been carrying on about men addicted to porn for some time. (“Have you lost your husband to porn?” reads one banner on a religious website.) Of course, no mention is ever made of men who are addicted to televised sports, especially profession football whose violence produces injuries that could well last a lifetime. But then, our prudish psyches still look askance at “s-e-x” as if it’s still as sinful as it was during the Victorian Era.

The point is that by focusing the public’s attention on bush-league sins that probably aren’t even sins, attention is diverted from the big sins such as wars of aggression, torture, the felons running Wall Street, a totally corrupted Congress, poverty and unemployment, the healthcare reform scam and the three running sores on liberty’s face: the Beltway, Wall Street and the Pentagon.

There are four moral absolutes that are necessary for a decent society: do not kill; do not steal; do not lie; do not exploit.

By those criteria, we are indeed an indecent society, and it’s not because some chick flashes her pussy.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Making Things Up

I confess, I am repeating myself because what I am repeating bears repeating. A major factor in our two wars of aggression in Afghanistan and Iraq, in our war on terror, in our peppering the world with military bases, in our actions towards Iran and our droning of Pakistan has nothing to do with oil or the spreading of democracy or the advancing of our global corporate interests.

True, all of these do play a part in our actions, but the overriding factor is the attempt to create an ongoing justification for a bloated and unnecessary military establishment that lost its raison d’ĂȘtre with the fall of the Soviet Union.

As Tom Hayden explains, “It is no accident that the Pentagon is shaping the ‘information battlespace’ by welcoming friendly reporters and think tank hacks to beam back commentaries…to the American people.” It is doing so through the use of “message force multipliers,” which often involves the floating of false or inflated information.

It all boils down to this: because the Military-Industrial Complex no longer has any justification for its existence it must create one by manipulating the public’s “perception.” If no real threat exists, then it creates one. Terrorism is a crime best handled by police and intelligence agencies, unless you are a military complex looking for a reason to live by elevating terrorism into a war, which has the advantage of creating even more terrorists thus increasing the need not only for the existence of the military but for its expansion.

Part of the perception management is the Pentagon belief that “America’s wars best be fought ‘off camera, so to speak.’” Democracy depends upon transparence for its survival. In such a democracy, wars cannot be fought “off camera.” The only rationale for doing so is that our military leaders know damn well that if they were fought on camera, if the public saw real people being murdered and maimed, its support for the wars would dry up.

It is normal for big countries to want to dominate and control smaller countries. The stupid ones try to do it militarily. The smart ones, like China, do so by inking contracts, something China is doing in the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa and Latin America. Countries that attempt military domination end up bankrupting themselves. Countries that don’t, prosper.

According to Shamus Cooke, China is building up its military to protect its economic expansion. However, the Chinese have one advantage our oligarchs don’t have. They are starting from scratch so they will expand only as much as they need to. They are fortunate that they are not burdened with a gargantuan military establishment.

But thank God, China’s buildup presents another potential threat that will be used to justify our military’s existence. Cook quotes a New York Times article that admits, “…there are few indications that China has aggressive intentions towards the United States or other countries.”

That simply won’t do. So the article goes on to quote a Navy admiral who says, “Of particular concern is that elements of China’s military modernization appear designed to challenge our [U.S. Navy’s] freedom of action in the region.”

Cue Congress to increase the Pentagon’s budget to meet this new “threat.”

Isn’t it wonderful how, when you are packing a gun how threats just keep on multiplying and multiplying? Gotta keep that baby loaded and ready. It’s only a matter of time before our leaders manufacture another one.