So Bernie Sanders wants a "kinder, gentler" program of extrajudicial drone killings. Well, isn't that nice? Isn't that "progressive"? He'll "try" to "limit" the number of children blown into pieces by joystick commandos 10,000 miles away watching a computer screen. What hope, what change! Oh well, he's just doing what anybody has to do to climb that big ole greasy pole of power. As long as he sticks with the Terror War program, the elite will be glad to let him pursue domestic "reforms" that they can easily block, dilute or co-opt -- just as they've done with the eagerly complicit Obama (who is now off to Alaska on a "bold" push to combat climate change ... just after giving Shell Oil the OK to drill in pristine waters there). In the immortal words of Elvis Costello: "Clowntime is over/Time to take cover...."Add a comment
As the old joke goes, “the Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz.” Or another variant: “America will never forgive blacks for slavery.” Oppressors and abusers (and the beneficiaries of past abuses) often project their own guilt, self-loathing and dehumanization onto their victims, then hate them for being evidence – the living (or dead) proof – of the abusers’ moral rot. So it is with the rich and the poor, as a new story at Alternet demonstrates.
Tana Ganeva’s story focuses mainly on a Facebook page, “Third and 33rd (and Beyond),” put up by “residents of Murray Hill and Kips Bay, predominantly wealthy neighborhoods on the east side of midtown Manhattan, where buildings have doormen and British-sounding names like the Wilshire, the Sycamore and Windsor Court.” These wealthy denizens seem to spend an inordinate amount of their incalculably valuable time prowling their neighborhoods looking for homeless people upon which to pour their digital vitriol. And, of course, bashing Mayor Bill de Blasio for actively encouraging such “dangerous scum” to pollute their classy surroundings and drive the city as a whole straight into the gutter.
I won’t excerpt the story here, but do give it a read. Especially the part where Ganeva goes in search of the “scum” being shamed not only by UCTs (Upper Class Twits) on social media but also by big-time blunderbusses like Fox News and the NY Post, and, shockingly, finds a collection of actual human beings instead.
The story is good, but unfortunately there is nothing new about the theme. Every time a Democrat is elected mayor of NYC, the city suddenly becomes a hellhole of crime and filth where the lower orders are turned loose by hateful liberals, who shackle the noble NYPD whenever it tries to impose order and protect the propertied. And every time a Republican is elected, NY is suddenly transformed into a sleek, clean, efficient city where people know their place and cheerful cops keep the “bad people” in line. It doesn’t matter what the actual statistics are, what the actual realities might be: the same perceptual dynamic plays out over and over.
Then again, it’s ALWAYS been this way in NYC, pre-dating today’s Dem-Rep split. The wealthy NY elite and their servitors in the press and the business world have always railed about the “degeneration” of the city at the hands of one grubby, grasping minority or another. The Irish, the Italians, the Jews, the Hispanics – and of course, the African-Americans, who have been the eternal scapegoat of NYC’s ruling class since the days when those elites were buying and selling black people in the slave market on Wall Street – all have had their turn in the pillory.
But this story is a nice encapsulation of what our modern elites are thinking, and how much so many of them utterly despise all those who have been damaged, lost, hobbled or destroyed by our unjust and inhumane system – or by personal tragedy, psychic demons and the “thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to.” Their pitilessness is breathtaking; and sick-making.Add a comment
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 have actually had occasion to meet one of these ponderous grandees — a one-time Murdoch minion who also served faithfully as a mouthpiece for Moloch at several other ritzy rightwing rags before finding himself translated into the upper reaches of Davosian Valhalla at a global financial firm. It was a work assignment; I was interviewing him about his munificent philanthropy — but upon learning that I was an American, he spent almost the entire session complaining of what a raw deal poor Dick Nixon got: a leader whose greatness Americans were too stupid to see. (In a similar vein, I also interviewed the husband of one of the titled CPS members; he spent most of the interview talking about how much he had loved San Francisco — “before the gays got hold of it.”)
This gives you some flavor and measure of the “minds” behind the most top leading independent tank of leading top thinkers that there ever was in Blighty.
Now you would think these well-tanked thinkers would be feeling pretty chill nowadays, as their eager dogsbodies in the new Tory government proceed fiercely and furiously to impose the CPS vision of despoliation and repression — sorry, “freedom and responsibility” — on the worthless rabble whose bestial needs must be contained and exploited — for their own good, of course! — by their betters. Hayek's in his heaven, all’s right with the world.
But no; like the rest of the bipartisan British Establishment, the Thatcher-Tankers have been thrown into a towering tizzy by the distinct and increasing possibility that someone outside the cozy club of crony capitalism might actually ascend to the leadership of the Labour Party. Jeremy Corbyn – a long-serving MP who has been frequently, and at times vociferously, at odds with the sad sacks of warmongering, corporate-coddling shinola that have constituted the party’s leadership for many years — now holds a huge lead in polls for the top post. Although he is a man of “radical” views — radical, that is, to the pro-biz, pro-war, austerity-embracing centre-right technocrats who run Labour — Corbyn has surged ahead by using a sneaky, sinister tactic virtually unheard of in our day: democracy.
To a Labour Party left moribund by Blair’s war crimes, Brown’s floundering and the boundless ineptitude of Miliband, Corbyn has brought thousands of enthusiastic new members. More than 400,000 people have joined Labour since Corbyn’s campaign began. This is in marked contrast to the tenure of Tony Blair at the top of the party — a period that saw 200,000 members exit Labour, most of them stage left.
Here too you might think Labour would be pretty chuffed by this remarkable turn of events. A party more invigorated than it has been in almost 20 years, bringing a wider circle of people into the ranks, including the young and the long disaffected; what’s not to like? But the Clinton-style “triangulation” technocrats who dominate the party structure — and have turned “New Labour’s” pro-business tilt into a lucrative revolving door for themselves as they leave political life for cushy corporate jobs — have thrown a hissy fit of historic proportions at Corbyn's unexpected rise. Not to mention the ghastly thought that the party’s ordinary members might actually elect a leader who actually advocates policies they actually support. For as we well know, such things are not supposed to happen in the “managed democracies” of our modern era.
That’s why Labour and its media mouthpieces have been in a full-blown, five-alarm freak-out for the entire summer. The lip service they long paid to Labour ideas have been canker’d o’er with the pustular panic they’ve displayed so brazenly. Instead of genuinely debating Corbyn’s policies and principles— and lacking any of their own, beyond the promise of maybe hopefully perhaps being two percent less evil than the Tories (the supine stance so beloved by America’s savvy “progressives,” bless their hearts) — the Establishment candidates and party leaders have denounced Corbyn with red-baiting rhetoric taken straight from Tory tabloids, while also wailing about his “unelectability”.
One by one, the “big beasts” of Labour have lumbered out of hibernation to denounce the Corbyn “threat.” Even Tony Blair emerged from his intimate embraces with dictators and other assorted sleazebags to declare that Corbyn’s election would “annihilate” the party. (Er, see membership figures above.) Blair’s plea was so panicky that it was actually headlined: “Even if you hate me, please don’t take Labour over the cliff edge.” Well, a man who bears a deep, direct moral and legal responsibility for the deaths of upwards of a million innocent people (according to the measurement techniques used by his own government) in a war of pure aggression that has led to even more murderous chaos, ruin and extremism, surely knows a thing or two about going over the edge and “annihilating” support for his own party.
Blair’s intervention has been accompanied by similar squeaking of pips from such luminaries as Gordon Brown, the former PM who could not defeat two sad sacks of shinola like David Cameron and Nick Clegg, and by the whole range of party bigwigs who recently presided over an even bigger loss to the Tories’ upper-class twits. The general line goes like this:
“Sure Corbyn’s policies are popular, even among many non-Labourites; sure, he is galvanising the third of the electorate who have stopped voting in the kabuki contests between Tory Tweedledees and Labour Tweedledums; sure, he is bringing back tens of thousands of people who’d stopped voting for us — the very people whose support would have given us victory in the last two elections; sure, he is now one of the most popular and respected politicians in the country. But he can’t get elected!”
Again, this is from party leaders who have lost two straight elections by adopting Tory policies and providing no genuine alternative to a deeply corrupt and dysfunctional status quo. (Sound familiar?) Whatever other skills the current Labour establishment might possess, “electability” is definitely not one of them.
At first, the Tories were happy about the Corbyn surge, glad to see discord in the Labour ranks. (Or rather, in the Labour hierarchy. The “ranks” themselves are the ones who have propelled Corbyn to prominence.) But as the once-distant possibility of his winning the leadership turned more and more into a likelihood, the Conservative elites unlimbered their big guns in the press and political forums, and began frantically firing whatever mud and mendacity they could lay their hands on. (Much of which has since been recycled by “savvy” Labourites in their own attacks. Remarkably, Corbyn has not returned fire, but simply keeps stressing that the campaign is about policies, not personalities. This is, perhaps, his most radical and disruptive notion, and seems to have thrown the entire media-political class into a tailspin.)
So while the Tory tabloids handle the gutter work, the glittery poobahs and pundits of CPS take the high road of “policy,” producing “reports” like they one they had the temerity to send over my electronic transom last evening. Ordinarily such items are relegated swiftly to the trash (if they somehow snake their way through various blocks and filters), but, laid low with an ailment at the time, I – in an idle, perhaps addled moment – opened the message.
There I found a long, larded piece of handwringing and breast-beating entitled, “Corbynomics: The Road to Penury.” Here was rich and bitter comedy right off the bat. We have indeed been on the “road to penury” for lo these many decades: a road built by the ravaging financial bulldozers of the elite, with the aid of their diligent servants in the political class: two groups well-represented in the CPS ranks. The report goes on to —
No, I won’t do it. Life is too short to go through this kind of excreta at any length. It is not a political or economic argument, but a religious tract, put out by self-deluded moral morons who believe they are shining saints of goodness and reason — even while the rivers of shit and oceans of blood unleashed by their own extremist beliefs rise all around them. These are people who, like that pitiful plutocratic propagandist in Chicago, long for a universal “Katrina” to sweep away the lesser breeds — and all vestiges of genuine community, all efforts at seeking the greater common good — so they can impose their vision of a “clean,” corporatized, strictly managed, data-crunched and digitally controlled system of enrichment for the “right” people, and endless helotry for the rest.
So, from my sick couch, I roused myself long enough to send off this brief reply.
Sad, sad, sad, how very sad you neoliberal cargo cultists are. Waiting for the God of the "market" (i.e., a rigged system of crony capitalism) to create universal prosperity by enriching an ever smaller circle of wealth devourers and war profiteers, while nations, communities, and individual lives continue to deteriorate. We have been on a "path to penury" -- your path, the jihad of greed and corruption-- for decades. Now we are trying desperately to get off your noxious road and find a different way. Please keep your money-grubbing, extremist bilge out of my inbox. I don't need, don't want, don't believe and cannot endure any more of your witless, cud-dripping spatterings of spam.
Have a nice day.
I’m not saying that Corbyn is a shining knight or saviour, who will magically transform the system and make all things right again. (Although at least his message of “hope and change” is not bankrolled by Wall Street world-wreckers and war profiteers, like that of a former hopey-changey guy who ran for office in America awhile back.) But he is offering a resonant alternative to the cargo cult of austerity and money-worship pushed by the Labour-Tory ruling cliques: an approach clearly supported by a substantial portion, perhaps a majority, of party members. And it’s fascinating to watch the panicked bipartisan ruling clique pull off their masks of concern for good of the country, and show their one true and abiding concern: power for their own sweet selves.Add a comment
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.
As I said, this was written about nine years ago, but I just musicked it upduring our most recent days of rage and grief:
Add a comment
*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.
Speaking in Ecuador at the World Meeting of Popular Movements, a gathering of groups representing the poor, the dispossessed and others pushed to the wall -- or off the cliff -- by the Davos Dominionists who now hold sway over so much of the world, Francis said that behind the neoliberal economic order, "there is the stench of what Basil of Caesarea called 'the dung of the devil.'"
I don't suppose we'll be hearing anything like from Hillary at her next Wall Street fundraiser. Francis went on to give a perfect description of the system that our bipartisan transatlantic elites have done so much to impose on the world -- by force or, as in Greece, by blackmail. Thus saith Mr Bergoglio:
"An unfettered pursuit of money rules. The service of the common good is left behind. Once capital becomes an idol and guides people’s decisions, once greed for money presides over the entire socioeconomic system, it ruins society, it condemns and enslaves men and women, it destroys human fraternity, it sets people against one another and, as we clearly see, it even puts at risk our common home."
The pope, introduced by Ecuadorean President Evo Morales (who was sporting a Che jacket), kept hammering at a slogan that he said must undergird a new economic order: "Land, Lodging and Labor," guaranteed for all. Lenin would be spinning in his grave (if Stalin hadn't mummified him) to hear the distinct echoes of the slogan he coined just about 100 years ago: "Land, Peace, Bread."
In September, Francis is heading to Washington, where John Boehner may now be re-thinking his plans for a gala "inauguration-like setting" for the Pope's speech to the joint houses of Congress. Barack Obama too might find it awkward when he recalls the pope's words in Ecuador about the kind of liberty-stripping, corporate-coddling trade pacts he and Boehner have been pushing so relentlessly. Francis called these treaties by their true name: “the new colonialism," which, like Old Cloot himself, takes many forms:
"At times [the new colonialism] appears as the anonymous influence of mammon: corporations, loan agencies, certain 'free trade' treaties, and the imposition of measures of 'austerity' which always tighten the belt of workers and the poor." (Francis also apologized for the old colonialism in the “so-called conquest of Americas,” and for the Church’s part in the many evils committed against the indigenous peoples by the European invaders and their successors.)
To escape the capitalist dung we’re now mired in, Francis called for a "truly communitarian economy" where "human beings, in harmony with nature, structure the entire system of production and distribution in such a way that the abilities and needs of each individual find suitable expression in social life." All this, plus guaranteed "access to education, health care, new technologies, artistic and cultural manifestations, communications, sports and recreation."
Ordinary people controlling, er, the means of production and distribution? Guaranteed access to all available social goods? Perhaps the pope should have borrowed Morales’ jacket for the speech. But despite the rhetorical resonances, Francis is no Leninist. For one thing, Lenin would never have accepted the idea that the kind of wholesale transformation of society the pope is seeking could be accomplished without a revolutionary vanguard laying down the party line. Yet Francis concluded his call to action with a remarkable statement from someone who supposedly has a direct line from God on how the world should be ordered:
“Neither the Pope nor the Church have a monopoly on the interpretation of social reality or the proposal of solutions to contemporary issues. I dare say that no recipe exists. History is made by each generation as it follows in the footsteps of those preceding it, as it seeks its own path.”
This actually might be the most radical thing that Francis said in the speech, although it’s unlikely that he grasped the deeper implications of the remark. For, taken seriously and literally, it not only undermines the doctrine of papal infallibility but the authority of any ideology or belief system, religious or secular. It looks not to divine truth or the putative laws of history or economics, but to the creative — and always provisional, ever-changing — attempts of imperfect human beings to make something better of the turbulence of existence they are thrown into. (This creativity would include, of course, proposed solutions to such “contemporary issues” as contraception, abortion, gay marriage and several other “social realities” on which Francis still holds hurtful, hidebound doctrine-shackled views.)
Francis called the workers and peasants in his audience “social poets,” creating new structures, new realities, in the ruins that “the world market” has made of their lives and their societies. They cheered, then gave him a miner’s helmet, which he promptly put on.
It was perhaps the most noble — and hopeful — headgear any pope has ever worn.Add a comment
(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.
I found my brother on the floor, crawling slowly across the bare wood. Although I hadn’t seen him for a year, maybe two, he showed no surprise at my sudden appearance. “Do you see them?” he said, looking up briefly then returning to his intense scrutiny of the card-thin space between two floorboards. “The little red things. A line of them.”
I didn’t see anything. “Ants?”
“No, the little creatures, the things. They come out, then go down into the other place. I’ve got … I’ve got to … I can’t tell what they’re saying.”
“They must be gone,” I said.
He got up. “No, but forget it. How ya doin’, boy?” He padded over in his bare feet and gave me a hug. He was a shambling mess, in baggy, stained tracksuit bottoms, baggy t-shirt over his bloated belly, his thinning hair long and greasy, his beard unkempt. But in his eyes, I could see, for a moment, a gleam of his old self.
We sat down and talked. He was as lucid as you please, catching me up on the latest disasters of his life. Fired from his third job in a year. Banned from Wal-Mart after some kind of unspecified altercation. The car wreck. The tense encounters with our father, who was paying his rent and buying his groceries while hiding his true state from our mother. The guitars he had to sell. The meds.
The meds. Thirty years of them by now. It began in the service. His luck had already started turning sour in the aimless years after his ultra-hip, high-school hero days, but it took a sudden, deep plunge when his draft lottery number came up. He rushed to join the Air Force before he was drafted and fed into meat grinder in Nam. He never saw combat; somehow he ended up working in the psych ward of a military hospital in Biloxi, Mississippi, dealing with those driven out of their minds by the war. Day after day of bad craziness, doling out pills — and scarfing them down himself, trying to stay just this side of sane amidst the howling pain of the maimed and mad.
Never got off the pills. Never made it all the way back. He lived a dazed and stunted half-life, burying himself in conventional tropes, strangling his bohemian spirit, letting the music in his mind wither away. His sporadic attempts to break out always ended in disaster and defeat. Then his son got killed by a drunk driver, and the brittle conventional facade fell to pieces. The unhappy marriage collapsed from dry rot. The sinecure at the post office was lost. Always the meds, legal and otherwise. He sought help at a VA hospital; they put jumper cables to his head and volted his brain. He came out more confused, flailing in a downward spiral.
Now here he was. Here we were. When he went to the kitchen for more beer, I looked at the open page of a spiral notebook on the table. Among cryptic scribbles — “She’s the daughter, not the wife She will be the wife Or both Closing song Allmans? New set?” — I saw this:
“Today is Thursday. It’s May 24. I live in Lebanon, Tennessee. Bill Clinton is the president.”
The whole set-up was depressing, but it was this that broke my heart — his struggle to hold on to reality, clinging by his fingernails to the rock, trying to keep from being swept away by the waves and lost in the thrashing depths of “the other place,” where little red creatures spoke in unknown tongues and a ghost tour filled with music and romantic intrigue rolled through an alternate universe. (A universe that I soon learned could be entered — when certain conditions coalesced — through a damp spot on the bedroom wall.)
Even this was not rock bottom. That came later, with him living stranded in a seedy motel room, with a broken TV and an air-conditioner that couldn’t be turned off, broken glasses, teeth falling out, shivering, crying, menaced by the dealers and gang-bangers who’d set up camp in the surrounding rooms. Through tears, he said: “I’ve become them. Back then.” The ones he’d treated in the psych ward; the maimed and mad. The ones who lost the music.
Then came a rescue of sorts. My mortally ailing father and my aunt finally got him into decent housing back in our hometown. A new doctor — a Muslim who had somehow fetched up in the rural depths of Tennessee — flushed the mind-bending meds from his brain. He and the doctor had long talks, about Islam, Christianity, war, old movies. His drug-swollen body slimmed down. He was still fragile, still shell-shocked, but starting to wake up, bit by bit.
One day my father got a call from my aunt: she hadn’t heard from my brother for two days. My father dragged his frail frame to the nearby apartment block. He had a key; he opened the door. My brother’s body was on the couch; he had died, peacefully, in his sleep.
They buried him in a military grave.Add a comment
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.
(Note: This was my column in the May edition of CounterPunch magazine.)
You remember Bachmann, don't you? She was once considered a serious candidate for the presidency. On the campaign trail, she would describe the road-to-Damascus moment that led her to become a Republican: reading Gore Vidal's "snotty novel," Burr. "If that's what Democrats believe," she said of Vidal's mordant look at the corruption and conniving of our Founding Dads, "then I must be a Republican." (Thank god she didn't read Myra Breckinridge, eh? Who knows what she would have become?)
Anyway, during those busy April days, Bachmann was interviewed on a Christian radio station and declared that the disastrous results of America’s foreign policy were clear harbingers of the coming Rapture: that blessed time when the Lord, like a celestial Mr. Scott, will beam up the saved to the heavenly Enterprise — then destroy the earth and kill billions of people with ravaging fire and photon torpedoes.
(You can see why Bachmann and her literalist ilk don’t worry too much about climate change; why bother to save a planet that’s going up in smoke any day now? And why bother to tend the sick and feed the hungry and all that other jazzmo Jesus talked about, when most of them are going to have their flesh fried and their souls shipped to hell? But oddly enough, the prospect of imminent departure doesn’t seem to stop these pious paragons from padding their portfolios with long-term investments. Well, faith is a mystery, as they say.)
Of course, the apocalyptic foreign policy Bachmann talked about was not Obama’s insane dance along the nuclear tripwire in Ukraine. Nor his brutality in helping impose a naval blockade of Yemen — a nation that imports 90 percent of its food, mostly by sea. The fact that Yemenis were starving and dying and running for their lives under the bludgeoning of American bombs dropped by Saudi aggressors did not trouble Bachmann at all.
Nor was it the fact that the Saudi assault has been a tremendous boon to al Qaeda, who had been stymied by their enemies, the Houthis, but were now free to capture airports and take chunks of territory with the help of their frequent allies, the Americans. (See Syria, Libya, etc.) Nor did she care about Obama’s record-breaking arms sales to some of the most repressive regimes on earth. Her only quibble with any of this would be that it did not go far enough — that there weren’t more troops in Ukraine bellying up to the Russkis, that there weren’t more bombs and starvation in Yemen, doing God’s work in killing heathen Muslims, that there weren’t more arms going to the Islamic extremists in Saudi Arabia so they too could kill more heathen Muslims.
This is not what set Bachmann off. On all these things there is remarkable comity and unity across the breadth and depth of the American political establishment, from the far right wing that Bachmann represents to the, er, not-quite-as-far-right wing that Obama and Hillary Clinton and other system-supporting “progressives” represent. The only “debate” in our militaristic empire is how fast we kill, how many we kill, and with whom we kill at any given time.
No, the great sign of the impending end of the world that Bachmann saw was … a prospective agreement to keep Iran from making nuclear weapons. (Which they have not done, are not doing, and have repeatedly declared they will never do — even though Israel has a vast arsenal of illegal, uninspected nuclear weapons aimed at them.) The slightest chance of a temporary pause in Iran’s eternal punishment for its demonic lèse-majesté — kicking America’s imperial stooge out of their country 36 years ago — is, for Bachmann (and for many others in the political establishment) an abomination unto the Lord, for which He will soon implement the mother of all final solutions.
Now here we come to a splitting of theological hairs. I do agree with Bachmann that there is decidedly something mephitic and end-timesy in the air these days, a blind, reckless — even willful — rush toward catastrophes beyond imagining. And I agree that American policies — foreign and domestic — are, like the Gadarene swine, the main receptacles of the deathly spirit driving us toward the cliff. However, I don’t think the proposed agreement with Iran is a divine blazon of the end. Nor do I think that God’s little sunbeams like Michelle will be plucked away to escape the consequences of our maniacal folly.
But in her own ignorant, horse’s-ass way, I think Bachmann has, as through a glass darkly, touched on the pulse of our times. For this is indeed the Age of Rapture — a word taken from the Latin, meaning “seizure, rape, a snatching away.” The sense of what is best in us — most human, most real and connected — is being brutally violated and snatched away. But there will be no transporter to save us; we are all, right now, in hell.Add a comment
“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!”
“Dagnab it! Got me again, Bill!”
George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, Dallas, Texas, July 8, 2015.Add a comment
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.
This is wrong, my friends. For that flag represents heritage, not hatred. It has flown proudly at our capital since, uh, 1961, when it was first raised during the great Negro tribulation that was stirred up by that King fellow and his outside agitators. It was raised at state capitols by our brethren in Alabama in 1963 and in Georgia in 1965, in response to that same tribulation.
But in truth, the flying of our noble flag is more ancient than that. I remember as a boy in the 1940s, you could hardly see that beautiful banner anywhere. People didn’t even think about it. Why, it was almost as if the Civil War had ended generations before, and that the South had contributed many, many of its sons to fight in two World Wars on behalf of the nation their grandfathers had fought against. It was as if the same Federal government once led by Abraham Lincoln had spent decades building up the South, with roads, bridges, dams, levees, military bases and a never-ending stream of government contracts and other pork flowing to the states and districts of powerful Southern congressmen. Back then, you’d see a thousand American flags before you’d run across a Confederate flag anywhere.
But then came that first Tribulation, in the late Forties, when our Negroes were stirred up by Harry Truman and his so-called “anti-discrimination” laws. He even wanted to outlaw lynching. That’s when this little Southern boy began to see Confederate flags springing up everywhere — raised as a banner of defiance in defense of our non-hateful heritage of segregation, and our steadfast religious belief in the eternal wisdom of God in separating the races, and giving one of them the burden of leadership and dominion over all the others. This was the heritage the Federal government was trying to overthrow, and it was at this time that the battle flag used by the Army of Tennessee in the last 16 months of the war, and then by the Confederate navy, somehow became the emblem of all Southern heritage, although it never represented the Confederate nation nor was given any official recognition, nor did it ever fly at any Southern capital during the Civil War.
But after the Federal assault on segregation — and its godless attempt to destroy the benevolent white stewardship of the less fortunate races — this flag began to spread like kudzu, after rarely being seen for the best part of a century.
My friends, that was nearly 70 years ago. That's how ancient the heritage of this flag is. What it stands for is the valiant and violent attempt to defend the divinely appointed principles of segregation and supremacy. That’s what this flag represents.
It does not and cannot represent the entirety of Southern heritage, unless that heritage is reduced to nothing but four years of a war for slavery. It cannot and does not represent the Southerners who fought in the Revolutionary War. It cannot and does not represent the 400,000 white Southerners who fought for the Union in the Civil War. It cannot and does not represent all the Southerners who died fighting for the United States in WWI and WWII. And it most assuredly cannot and does not represent the millions upon millions of black Southerners who helped build this nation and have contributed beyond measure to the development of our economy, our culture and our values.
No sir, it doesn’t represent any of that. It was not raised across the South in the past few decades in order to honor the bravery and sacrifice of the Confederate dead. Most Confederate soldiers didn’t even fight under that particular flag. No, it was raised to honor the bravery and sacrifice of politicians and power-brokers in the 20th century who fought to deny their fellow citizens equal rights under the law. It was raised to honor those in the 20th century who fought to preserve the notion of white superiority. It was raised in the 20th century to say to meddling Yankees — and to the myriad of white Southern ‘race traitors’ who worked for equality — that nobody can tell our Southern elites what to do with our Negroes.
This is the heritage being supported by all those who today defend the flying of a flag used by the Army of Tennessee for 16 months some 150 years ago. This is what they are saying: remember those who fought for segregation and supremacy in the middle decades of the 20th century. That is what we are honoring when we fly that flag today. Long may it wave!”Add a comment
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.
Greece is facing total collapse unless it knuckles under to the draconian demands of the bizarre cultists known as the Troika, a sinister union of three extremist groups (the I.M.F., the European Central Bank and the European Commission) who seek to impose their harsh and rigid way of life across the world. They insist that control of a nation's wealth be given over to a few powerful emirs and the Troika's favored moneylenders in its richer satrapies.
All measures designed to aid the common good and build a decent life for ordinary citizens are ruthlessly suppressed by the Troikaists. Public resources are forcibly sold off -- at knock-down prices -- to foreign interests or local lordlings. The fact that millions of people are left destitute, living diminished lives in crumbling infrastructure, growing sicker, weaker, more hopeless, even dying from want and neglect -- none of this matters to the ruthless fanatics. All that matters is obedience to their will, and adherence to the Troika's bleak and joyless system for the regulation of life, which its learned theologians call austerity.
The supremely comfortable, self-satisfied burghers and bankers who control the Troika's factions, along with their dutiful servants in government, are watching, impassively, as the Greeks twist and turn in the poisonous shirt of Nessus that the cult has forced upon them. Already brought low by years of austerity adopted by their leaders in a vain attempt to placate the Troikaist hordes at the border, this week the Greek people face the final reckoning: complete submission, which guarantees more ruin, or a terrifying leap into the unknown, refusing the demands and suffering whatever acts of revenge the Troika will wreak upon such heretics.
It's a remarkable situation. Millions of human beings are suffering, and for what? To repay a few powerful financial institutions for the loans they gave to the Greek government -- loans which, by odd coincidence, were actually spent almost entirely on servicing previous debt to those same financial institutions. Very little of it went into the Greek economy, as the NY Times notes. It was a case of taking on new debt to pay off old debt (a situation not unknown to many of us, I'm sure), as the country slipped further into decay.
Yet it was not enough for the cultists to loan money for Greece to give right back to them; they also required that Greece restructure its society, government and economy to fit the Troika's neoliberal straitjacket. Taxes had to be raised. (For ordinary folk, of course; rich Greeks -- like the rich everywhere -- can still use complex tax-dodging schemes to stash their cash offshore.) Government spending -- especially on such useless trash as pensions, welfare, education, healthcare -- had to be ruthlessly slashed. The labor market had to become more "flexible" -- that is, stripped of job protections and workers rights, making it easier to fire people or pay them less. Deregulation and privatization were also commanded.
But why? The ostensible reason was that these austerity measures would make the Greek economy roar like a lion in his prime. But even an economist is smart enough to see that making a bankrupt country even poorer and more desperate while preventing it from injecting bailout funds into its economy is a recipe for ruination, not a blueprint for growth. And the past four years have proved that Troika’s austerity sharia has not and cannot produce “growth” in a broken economy with 25 percent unemployment. (The same percentage as in the US during the depths of the Great Depression.)
And why this time limit on the repayment? Even on the relatively small downpayment (around $1.5 billion) being demanded immediately -- a payment that the bankrupt nation simply can't pay at the moment. Why not stretch the payments out -- way, way out, if necessary? After all, Britain only paid off its post-World War II rebuilding loan from the United States in 2006 -- exactly 50 years after it was given. Why couldn't Greece be given the time to work out its economic problems -- in its own way, without mutilating its society -- and pay back its debts over the long haul?
But of course it’s not about the money. As many have already pointed out, the Troika knows that Greece is bankrupt and can’t pay back the money. (Unless, as with the UK, they are given generations to do so, on easy terms that don’t require them to bleed their people dry and gut their own society.) No, the current squeeze on Greece is about the system, the imposition of austerity sharia that is the lodestar of the Troika’s blinkered religious beliefs. If Greece will not accept the system, then it must be punished, it must be made an example. In short, it’s an act of terroristic PR, like the ISIS beheading videos: a warning that this is the fate of all those who refuse to submit.
What, in the end, is at stake? Literally nothing. Numbers on a computer screen. It’s not as if Greece has a hoard of German gold hidden in the Acropolis and won’t give it back. It’s not even as if the Greeks have warehouses full of banknotes that they can send back to the Troika. All of it — the debts, the loans — are abstract notions. The debt could be written off with the press of a delete key, or reduced by the subtraction of a zero or two on a digital spreadsheet. So could the losses of the lenders. (Although why shouldn’t the lenders lose their money? You put up your money, you take a risk, and if the venture fails, you lose. Isn’t that the ‘free market’ way? But of course there is no free market; there are only systems of exchange that powerful entities seek to control and manipulate to their advantage. There is no free market in any system where some enterprises are ‘too big to fail’ and must be bailed out by the sustenance of ordinary citizens.)
Money is a myth, sustained by the faith of those who accept whatever is the arbitrary measurement of value in any given time or society. (Beads, shells, axes, coins, ingots, strips of paper, liquid crystals dancing on a screen.) Yet throughout history, these myths have led to the deaths and despoliation of millions of innocent people. It is a myth that perpetuates inequality, servitude, suffering, and the dominion of a powerful few. The latest instalment of this ancient tragedy is being played out right now in Greece, where tragedy was born. And the extremism being displayed by the Troika is just as mindless, destructive and merciless as that of the violent Islamists that the ‘defenders of Western civilization’ have done so much to foment in their global power games.Add a comment
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.Add a comment