I have of late been much pestered with electronic message from an outfit called the “Centre for Policy Studies.” It styles itself the “leading independent think tank in Britain” — and it probably is as rigorously independent and open-minded as any gaggle of titled lords, Big Money poobahs, reactionary academics, epic tax-dodgers, Murdoch moochers and imperialist cheerleaders gathered in an institution co-founded by Margaret Thatcher can be.
I read this book a few years back: Worse Than Slavery, by David Oshinsky. An eye-opening read for anyone interested in the genuine history of these deliberately divided United States. After I read it, I sat down and wrote the piece below, which is, of course, still relevant today -- as it has been all-too-relevant these past 150 years.
*This is an edited version of my latest Counterpunch Magazine column.* We are living in a world gone through the looking glass when the most strident, unequivocal -- even scatological! -- denunciations of capitalism and its discontents are coming from … the Bishop of Rome. While Bernie Sanders pushes centrist notions as "radical" reforms and Britain's so-called Labour Party tries to recover from the defeat of Michael Dukakis -- sorry, Ed Milliband -- by kowtowing even more abjectly to corporate power (and demonizing the only leadership candidate not bending the knee to Big Money), Pope Francis is out there literally likening the capitalist system to shit.
"You love your freedom; we love it too. That's why we took it, so we can guard it for you. We'll keep it safe, locked in the vault; every Fourth of July you can take it for a walk...."
(Another recent column for the print version of CounterPunch.) It was a run-down house in a bad neighborhood. In the front yard, a gray Chevette with a smashed grill. The porch sagged and creaked as I walked across it. The front door was unlocked. I went in. It was not dark yet, but late in the day. The wide front room was shadowy; no furniture except a folding card table, a couple of folding chairs and a clapped-out recliner. The table was heaped with a jumble of loose papers, unopened mail, empty beer cans, a dead computer. A slight whiff of spoiled food coming from the back of the house.
A clutch of headlines over a span of two days in April: US dispatches elite troops to Ukraine. US sends warships to Yemen to join naval blockade. BP taking more oil from Iraq in payments as government coffers dwindle. Saudi bombs boost al Qaeda. Sale of US arms fuels wars in Arab states. Michelle Bachmann says all signs point to the Rapture. For the first time in my life, I agree with Michelle Bachmann.
“Come on now, George, admit it: I killed more Iraqi civilians than you ever did, with my sanctions. Don’t you remember my Madeline Albright admitting that 500,000 children had died from those sanctions? And that’s not even counting the old and the sick and the weak and the poor. We’ve got to be talking a million, maybe even 1.5 mill in total. And all of ‘em civilians. What did you bag? About a million, wasn’t it? But hell, at least some of those were soldiers – and it was a war, for god’s sake. We got our crop of corpses in peacetime, quietly, not making a big show about it. And now look: I’m one of the most popular men in the whole world, while you’re just a punch-line on late-night TV. I’ve even got more money than you now!”
And now, an important message from the Hon. Ambrose Calhoun Merriweather, former governor of South Carolina: “My fellow Americans, as we gather to celebrate the birth of our nation, I am saddened to see how some people are trying to sow dissension and division among us, stirring up needless controversy over the Confederate battle flag that flies at the capital of our great state of South Carolina, and at some of our sister states across the South. How it pains me to see that flag cast down in the dirt as an emblem of dishonor.
The people of Greece are being driven to their knees by a gang of brutal religious extremists, willing to destroy whole nations for the sake of something that doesn't even exist. Yet the 'civilized' world cheers these barbarians on as they despoil the cradle of Western democracy.
Very sorry for the dearth of posts in recent weeks. This is due to personal reasons, which I'll not bore you with. I hope to be writing more here in the near future. I do manage to twit a tweet every now and then, which you can check out at @empireburlesque. More later, I hope. In the meantime, many thanks to those who still read and support the blog. I hope to be worthy of that support again soon.
I was going to write about the bizarre and rather sad celebrations across the progressosphere about the great paradigm-shifting “victory” in the passage of the “U.S.A. Freedom Act” — but I find that Tarzie has got there the fustest with the mostest with a fine piece that nails this momentous event as the tremulous sham that it is. He was notes that Rand Paul — new hero of freedom-lovers everywhere — is now calling for 1,000 more FBI agents to monitor the thoughts, beliefs and actions of Americans to make sure they don’t get up to none of them terroristic-like activities … just as AP reveals that the FBI is conducting a vast, secret airborne surveillance across the country. So what’s the takeaway of this historic event? Just this: “We should privatize a few of the NSA’s Stasi operations, while letting the myriad other ‘security’ agencies run wild.” Smell the liberty!
As all the world knows, the United States government is fervently dedicated to advancing the cause of peace throughout the world. Tirelessly, selflessly — and thanklessly — America pursues this noble mission in every corner of the globe: standing shoulder to shoulder with Saudi extremists in slaughtering civilians in Yemen, with al Qaeda and ISIS beheading their way across Syria, with fascist militias in Ukraine. But recently, America’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning president went far beyond these localized acts of lovingkindness and made a beneficent decision that potentially could effect every single person drawing breath on our blue planet.