The political-media-blogospherical establishment is currently working itself into a lather over the elevation of a "nutty" Tea Party woman to the Republican nomination for a Senate seat in Delaware. The selection of Christine O'Donnell by a tiny sliver of voters in a closed primary in a tiny state whose main claim to fame is its decades of whorish service as a protective front for rapacious corporations is, we are told, an event of world-shaking proportions fit for endless analysis and scary headlines all over the world.
It's true that O'Donnell has taken the politically risky step of denouncing America's national pastime -- masturbation -- and has, over the years, supported any number of positions that put her on the far side of common sense. But one struggles in vain to find that she has advanced anything remotely as radical -- or lunatic -- as the idea that the President of the United States is some kind of intergalactic emperor who holds the power of life and death over every living being on earth in his autocratic hands. Yet this is precisely the position proclaimed -- openly, before Congress, God and everybody -- by the highly educated, intellectually sophisticated, super-savvy Laureate of Peace currently residing in the White House.
This same president has also fought tooth and nail -- often in open court -- to shield torturers, escalate pointless wars of aggression, relentlessly expand a liberty-stripping Stasi-style security apparatus, give trillions of tax dollars to rapacious financiers, health-care corporations, insurance companies and bloodstained war profiteers, while launching cowardly drone missile attacks on the sovereign territory of close ally, killing hundreds of civilians in the process - and has just signed off on the biggest arms deal in history with one of the most viciously repressive tyrannies on earth.
So I'm sorry, but I just don't see how a putzy, klutzy, wilfully ignorant Tea Partier from perhaps the most corrupt state in the Union is somehow more dangerous than the people we have in power now -- including a Vice-President who for decades was the senator (and corporate bagman) from this very same most corrupt state in the Union, and used his power to advance a "Bankruptcy Bill" that was one of the most savage class-war attacks on working people -- and the poor, and the sick, and the vulnerable -- that we have seen in many a year. Then again, as far as I know, Joe "Bankruptcy Bill" Biden has never publicly condemned the practice of masturbation.
Do I want to see Christine O'Donnell in the Senate? No, of course not. Not only because in her freely chosen ignorance she has embraced the most primitive, bleakly reductive understandings of religion, politics, power, sexuality and human reality in general, but also -- and mainly -- because she will support all of the policies delineated above: the imperial wars for loot and domination, the presidential power to kill and incarcerate at will, the slavish support for Big Money in all of its destructive manifestations, the perversion of every single public program into an engine of private profit for the elite, and so on down the line. But as her Democratic opponent will do the same thing if he is elected, I don't see why we should be all het up about O'Donnell's corporate-funded victory in the teeny-tiny Republican primary in little bitty Delaware.
But hey, it's all good fun, right? The tribal partisans get to jerk their knees in orgiastic spasms, drawing oceans of newsprint and TV airtime, while the real business of empire -- slaughtering, torturing and repressing human beings -- goes on unnoticed and unabated.
But a hardy few out there are still trying to draw attention to the actual crimes and moral atrocities being committed by the actual holders of actual power. One of these is Andy Worthington, who is beginning an eight-part series on the remaining prisoners still being held in the still-unclosed American concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay. As Worthington says, the series will
help explain how few of the remaining prisoners have any connection to terrorism, how some are civilians, and how others were foot soldiers for the Taliban, in an inter-Muslim civil war in Afghanistan that had nothing to do with 9/11, and very little to do with al-Qaeda. I also hope that it may contribute to the almost non-existent debate regarding the Authorization for Use of Military Force, and the administration's misplaced use of it to hold foot soldiers in Guantanamo, as well as highlighting other aspects of the habeas litigation, the military commissions, the moratorium on releasing Yemenis, and the decision to hold 48 of the prisoners indefinitely without charge or trial.
Hey, but you know what's more important than that, Andy? The fact that someone who won the votes of a sliver of the electorate in a tiny state doesn't think people should masturbate! Let's get our priorities straight here.
Another campaign now underway is a major effort to free Bradley Manning, the young soldier who committed the cardinal sin of trying to unearth a few nuggets of truth about the murderous reality of the American Terror War, now being prosecuted and expanded so assiduously by the Continuer-in-Chief. On Thursday, filmmaker Michael Moore and Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg launched "The Campaign to Free Manning" in Oakland. The Guardian reports:
Demonstrations are planned in the US, Canada and Australia over the next three days in support of Manning, an army intelligence analyst who is being held at a military prison in Virginia ...Manning, 23, is also accused of involvement in WikiLeaks' exposure of a video of a US helicopter attack on apparently unarmed Iraqis in a Baghdad street. Two Reuters employees were among those killed.
Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon papers to the New York Times that laid bare the extent of US government duplicity in its claims to be winning the Vietnam War, said Manning was defending the constitution in revealing the truth about the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Soldiers' sworn oath is to defend and support the constitution. Bradley Manning has been defending and supporting our constitution," he said.
Moore ... said the US military was being hypocritical in its attempts to discredit Manning and accuse WikiLeaks by asserting that making the secret documents public endangered the lives of Afghans collaborating with coalition forces.
"To suggest that lives were put in danger by the release of the WikiLeaks documents is the most cynical of statements," Moore said. "Lives were put in danger the night we invaded the sovereign nation of Iraq, an act that had nothing to do with what the Bradley Mannings of this country signed up for: to defend our people from attack. It was a war based on a complete lie and lives were not only put in danger, hundreds of thousands of them were exterminated. For those who organised this massacre to point a finger at Bradley Manning is the ultimate example of Orwellian hypocrisy."
Below is a quick roundup of a few other recent stories that aren't nearly as important as the selection by a minority party of a candidate who doesn't approve of masturbation.
1. Seven Civilians Killed in US-Iraqi Raid
That was the original headline for the New York Times story about the raid in Fallujah; within a few hours, however, the Pentagon PR units had rolled into action, and the seven civilians killed at the site of perhaps the most savage American campaign of the war had suddenly morphed into figures of vague menace. The story did note that of the dead, four were brothers "between the ages of 10 and 18." So America's non-combat soldiers killed a 10-year-old boy in a non-combat raid in the brave new era of non-combat service that has opened for the 50,000 U.S. troops still in Iraq.
But what is the life of that boy compared to the sliver of voters in a tiny state who voted in a closed, partisan primary for some gushing goober who doesn't like masturbation?
2. US Drone Strikes Kill 15 in N. Waziristan
Juan Cole reports:
The Associated Press does an important story about an intensive drone strike campaign by the US military since September 2 in southern Afghanistan and in Pakistan’s North Waziristan that has left 60 persons dead, among them innocent civilians.
On Tuesday alone, US drone attacks targeted suspected militants killed some 15 persons in the village of Dargah Mandi village on the outskirts of Miranshah, N. Waziristan’s main city.
The drone strikes have targeted fighters of the Haqqani network, one of five or so major insurgent groups fighting against the US & NATO presence in Afghanistan and against the Karzai government. Jalaluddin Haqqani is one of Ronald Reagan’s “Freedom Fighters,” who battled the Soviet occupiers of Afghanistan in the 1980s with American aid. He could not accept the US invasion and occupation of his country, either, and organized an insurgency now mainly led by his son Siraj. The Haqqani group is not Taliban but rather Mujahidin and has only a vague tactical alliance with Mulla Omar’s Taliban and similar groups.
Cole also notes that protests against these continuing deadly incursions into Pakistan have been muted -- because the Pakistanis are still dying in floodwaters, and in the water's pestiferous wake. Millions are living in deadly deprivation. But look over there -- somebody's masturbating, or not masturbating, or something! Who cares about the drowned and drone-bombed dead?
3. Obama's Thatcherite Gift to the Banks
OK, the Terror War goes on -- but at least Obama's finally waking up to the need for more FDR-like stimulus for the economy -- and more FDR-style war on the fat cats who are strangling us, right? What about that big $50 billion infrastructure plan he announced on Labor Day?
Well, as Michael Hudson explains, the plan is yet another giveaway of billions of tax dollars to rapacious financial interests:
The Obama transport plan is like a Fannie Mae for bankers, based on the President’s guiding mantra: “Let’s help Wall Street put Americans back to work.” The theory is that giving public guarantees and bailouts will enable financial managers to use some of the money to fund some projects that employ people – with newly created, non-unionized companies, presumably.
Here’s the problem. Transportation projects will make real estate speculators, the construction industry and their bankers very rich unless the government recovers its public spending through windfall site-value gains on property along the right-of-way ... But Obama’s infrastructure plan is for Wall Street investors to get the windfall – as property owners or as mortgage lenders making much larger loans against the enhanced site value.
The plan would not add to the government deficit, Obama promised. Unfortunately, in place of government taking more revenue, it will be the finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sector that does the taking. The banking system will now do what government was supposed to do back in the Progressive Era: finance infrastructure. The difference today is that instead of funding transportation out of tax proceeds (levied progressively on the wealthy) or by the central bank monetizing public debt, the Obama plan calls for borrowing $50 billion at interest from banks.
The problem is that this will build in high interest charges, high private management charges, underwriting fees – and government guarantees. User fees will need to cover these financial and other privatization costs “freed” from the government budget. This will build about $2 billion a year into the cost of providing the transport services.
This threatens to be the kind of tollbooth program that the World Bank and IMF have been foisting on hapless Third World populations for the past half-century. ... It looks like President Obama sat down with Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and his other Rubinomics holdovers from the Clinton/Goldman-Sachs Administration and asked what policies can be funded without taxing the wealthy, but by borrowing via a separate entity – with a government guarantee like the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac gravy train for Wall Street.
Well, yeah, but at least you don't hear him talking trash about masturbation, do you? That's why we must support him. If we don't, a bunch of kooks who just want serve corporate interests will get into power! Then what will happen?
4. State Secrecy and Official Criminality
Scott Horton at Harper's tells us how Barack Obama -- whom we have every reason to believe is a modern, rational man who has no problem with masturbation -- is diligently, doggedly working to protect not only the torturers of the Bush Administration (and his own) from the legal process, but also any and every kind of state criminality.
Obama has just won a great court victory for state torturers, state murderers, state terrorists -- and good old-fashioned grafters pigging out in the public trough -- when an appeals court voted narrowly to uphold Obama's contention that the government can shield any criminality from justice by crying "state secrets."
Horton quotes the LA Times' description of just what Obama wanted to cover up by killing a civil suit filed by an innocent victim of America's gulag. The victim was suing the CIA agent who had "rendered" him over to America's terror war allies, knowing he would be tortured:
The decision to short-circuit the trial process is more than a misreading of the law; it’s an egregious miscarriage of justice. That’s obvious from a perusal of the plaintiffs’ complaint. One said that while he was imprisoned in Egypt, electrodes were attached to his earlobes, nipples and genitals. A second, held in Morocco, said he was beaten, denied food and threatened with sexual torture and castration. A third claimed that his Moroccan captors broke his bones and cut him with a scalpel all over his body, and poured hot, stinging liquid into his open wounds.
There were no "state secrets," real or otherwise, involved in the case. The details were already known, around the world, from legal proceeding in the UK and elsewhere. But for Obama -- imperial militarist to the core -- there was a matter of principle at stake; i.e., the principle that the imperial court can shield the minions who carry out its ordered atrocities behind the unpassable gates of "state secrets."
Truth? No. Justice? Out. Compassion? Nix. Peace? Never. But masturbation -- sure, why not? We're not kooks like that Christine O'Donnell!
Now that's "progressivism."