Wednesday, November 25, 2015


“I got my finger on the trigger/but I don’t know who to trust.” Bruce Springsteen, Devils & Dust

Infantile, as usual.

Expect nothing less.

The reporter on Good Morning America says that President Obama’s message to the country is this: the government has our back and the homeland is secure this holiday season.

The news is chilling, but the holiday commercials are cheery and bright. Black Friday starts at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday!

How I hate that word, Homeland. It never fails to arouse in me mental images of the Third Reich, goose-stepping black-uniformed soldiers illuminated by torchlight. Like our leaders today, the top dogs of the Third Reich exhorted the German people to be vigilant and report suspicious activity.

Terror is real. Terror is a tactic. We are at war against Terror, have been for a decade and a half. Terror seems to be winning. Or maybe Terror has already won. Once a population trades its liberties and freedoms for a false sense of security, Terror lifts the trophy.

Obama says ISIS must be destroyed so that the group cannot carry out more terror attacks. Obama’s plan is to keep bombing, which will never work to rid the world of ISIS, but who’s keeping track? The US is doing something. Look how successful we’ve been in Afghanistan!

The good news today is that the homeland is secure, we can travel to grandma’s house for a Thanksgiving feast, gather with relations and friends, lift a glass of champagne, stuff ourselves with turkey and ham and stuffing and mashed potatoes, and then head off to the mall for Black Friday, confident that we will not be disturbed by an attack from ISIS. Shopping for bargains is the measure of our freedom. George W. Bush claimed this freedom was one reason the terrorists hate us.

Infantile, like I said.

The idea that Uncle Sam, represented by the troops of the FBI, CIA, DOD, DIA, NSA, JSOC and Naval Intelligence, has our back is ridiculous. Can we please set aside the blatant and absurd fear mongering and tell the fucking truth? The odds of being killed in the US by ISIS are infinitesimal. Don’t worry about ISIS – worry about your neighbor who just lost his job and can’t pay his mortgage or send his son to college, whose marriage is crumbling and whose health insurance is unaffordable – and who owns a dozen firearms, all purchased legally, and maybe has it in his head that immigrants or Affirmative Action is the cause of his troubles…watch that guy.

Why worry about ISIS when every single day in America 100 hundred people are killed with firearms?

Every. Single. Day. Sea to shining sea.

And when it happens, our leaders make pious statements, wring their hands, and bow to the money of the NRA. If you want something to worry about, worry about that.

Friday, November 20, 2015

The Warmonger's Chorus

“Collectively, the feedback from America is a disturbing mix of sheer madness, fathomless ignorance, and dangerously myopic aggression.” Jason Hirthler on the Paris terrorist attacks.

The terrorist attacks in Paris were diabolical, designed to inflict pain and suffering on innocent people in the heart of a major city, and show any nation involved in Syria that ISIS or ISIL (I’ll use ISIS from here on) can strike far from its base.

The response from France and the United States has been predictable, lots of aggressive rhetoric, stepped up bombing campaigns, heightened security, and near hysteria about Syrian refugees. In the US, the mainstream media does what it does best: strip the events in Paris of context and fan the flames of fear. Listening to the talking fools on Good Morning America, you would never know that a war has been going on in Syria for more than four years, that as many as ten different nations have been involved in aerial bombardment, or that ISIS was birthed in the aftermath of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq. To hear ABC News tell it, ISIS arose from the dust, without antecedent or reason, and the brutality it inflicts on innocents has no logical cause, other than the evil inherent in radical Islam.

The most shameful thing I’ve seen, heard or read since the Paris attacks, besides the US CIA Director trying to milk the tragedy to call for more intrusive surveillance, has to be Republican governors of American states vowing to block Syrian refugees from settling within their borders. I have seen many acts of cowardice in my lifetime, but nothing as blatant as refusing to deny desperate refugees a safe haven. Trace the cause of their exodus, you damn fools, back to 2003, the hyped rhetoric about Iraq coming from the Bush White House, the lies spilling from the lips of Uncle Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, William Kristol, and many others; remember the steady drumbeat calling for war against Iraq, and the New York Times and every superstar talking head repeating the Bush line as if any utterance from the White House was pure truth. Remember the disgraceful run-up to Shock & Awe? Syria was an intact country then, not in the American camp to be sure, ruled by a dictator as many Arab nations were then and are now, like our dear friend, Saudi Arabia, but still functioning. 

Look now, look closely, look long and hard.

There is no way France, Russia, Great Britain, Turkey, the United States or Saudi Arabia can defeat ISIS in Syria. There is no military solution. Peace can’t be gained through bombing. Thoughtful observers understand this, but as happened in 2003, the warmonger’s shrill chorus drowns reasonable and learned voices out.

Oh, the twisted tangle of interests vying in Syria: geopolitical, economic, military. Russia, Turkey, Iran, the US, France, Saudi Arabia, all trying to milk the Paris tragedy for their own advantage. The Syrian people hardly matter in this struggle, just as Iraqi civilians hardly mattered in 2003.

They matter so little that it’s not even necessary to accurately count the dead.  

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Kings of Carnage

All eyes on Paris. The reality of terrorism hits one of the world’s major cities again. How will the French government react? For now the borders are locked down and a curfew has been imposed in Paris. ISIS is reported to claim responsibility, retribution for France’s role in Syria and Iraq. The Middle East cauldron bubbles over.

Such carnage is sobering. It should be. Carnage is a fact of life in places like Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan and the Occupied Territories in Israel. The carnage of 9/11 instigated the global war on terror, and 14 years later the US reserves to itself the right to murder anyone, anywhere, it deems an actual or perceived threat. In many parts of the world, US drones are perceived the same way we perceive the people who killed scores in Paris.

US barbarism is always justified – we only hunt down the “bad” guys, never the innocent, and our tools of death are so sophisticated that we can kill a bad guy (just the bad guy, no one else) hiding in a crowd of women and children. Believing thus helps us – those relatively few Americans who give what our country does around the world a second thought – sleep better at night.

The untroubled sleep of the righteous.

Our inalienable “right” to kill people is never debated, it’s a given. We are not obligated to adhere to international laws or norms, though we insist that others, like Iran, for example, must or face the wrath of the international community.

For the most part, Americans have lost interest in Iraq and Afghanistan, despite having poured more taxpayer money into the latter country than we did to rebuild Europe after World War II. This fact should disturb our sleep and cause us to act, to question, and to demand answers from our rulers. How is it that the US is still involved in Afghanistan 14 years after we invaded, when almost everything we have done in that fractured country has failed? Why don’t we talk about this? Why do we talk more about Donald Trump’s hairstyle than about the 700 military installations we operate around the world, or the dozens of countries where our special operations forces are deployed?

It’s interesting to me – infuriating, too – when American politicians insist that social programs are simply too expensive, and yet they never hesitate to pour more money into the military machine. We can always afford bullets and bombs, never medical care or education or job training or a livable minimum wage. Poll after poll shows that the public wants these social programs, and in a democracy you would think that politicians would respond to the will of the people, but year after year the will of the people is completely ignored; the people may as well be mute.

But enough of this. All eyes on Paris, the innocent people murdered, the lives upended and forever altered, the grief and disbelief and anger and desire for revenge and retribution.

These are sad times.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Most Brazen Corporate Power Grab in American History (from @Truthdig)

This one is a must read. Take action. Do something because it's almost too late.

The Most Brazen Corporate Power Grab in American History (from @Truthdig)

Fund Drive

“It can be terrifying to know your own frailty.” Karen Connelly, The Lizard Cage

When I’m driving around town in my old Honda Civic I listen to KPFK, the leftist station based in Los Angeles that is part of the Pacifica radio network. I like Democracy Now, Thom Hartmann, Background Briefing with Ian Masters, and Margaret Prescod, but like most listeners, I tire very quickly of endless on-air fund drives, the frantic pleas for money to keep the station from death’s doorstep.

The problem is that KPFK is always at death’s doorstep. Various reasons for this penury are advanced, including the difficulty in our corporate media landscape of operating a station solely on listener donations, or because KPFK is managed by an unwieldy board that can’t locate its behind with both hands. Maybe the truth is that lefties can’t manage money. Anyway, it feels as if the current fund drive has been going on for three weeks. I made my tithe a few months ago and have no more to give, and I don’t like being made to feel guilty for not chipping in $150 for a book and a couple of DVD’s. I wish some left-leaning billionaire – if such a person even exists -- would send KPFK a check for a few million so they can knock off these fund drives and get back to programming.

Case in point: I’m in the Honda the other afternoon and this host is vigorously hawking downloads for a breakthrough, consciousness-raising, spiritual-cleansing program guaranteed to change a person’s life. Access Consciousness it’s called. Never heard of it or the host’s guest, a fellow named Dain Heer, who talked as if Access Consciousness had given him the key to the universe. Money woes? No problem. Trouble finding that special someone to share your life with? Easy peesey. Questions about why you are where you are and not someplace better? Access Consciousness will open doors for you that you never dreamed existed. I began to listen more carefully. Like all commercially savvy gurus, Heer talked a lot without divulging much -- about tools and joy and ease and vibrant health and financial freedom. When he mentioned “clearing statements” my inner skeptic stood up and said, “Whoa man, this is starting to sound like Scientology BS.”

I went back to my life, my routines and habitual patterns of being, early to bed, early to rise, a bottle of beer before dinner, and the pages of a book before switching off the light for the night. But what I’d heard on KPFK nagged at me so I did some research. What I learned from Google searches is that the founder of Access Consciousness is a guy named Gary Young, who at the time he conceived his answer to all of life’s doubts and difficulties just happened to live in Santa Barbara. Dain Heer, who to my chagrin also had a Santa Barbara connection, joined the team a bit later and immediately became the young, cool face of the enterprise. Heer’s talks are all over YouTube; the few I watched creeped me out.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Access Consciousness is total nonsense and a cult. What really bugs me is that KPFK is pushing this snake oil on unsuspecting listeners. Any time some smug white guy claims to have the answers to life’s perplexing questions, and offers to share them for a price, you can be assured you are about to be fleeced.

Saturday, October 31, 2015


This is a world that only values narrow, selfish interests; isolated, competitive individuals; finance capital; the reign of commodities; and the alleged ‘natural laws’ of free-market fundamentalism.”  Henry A. Giroux

I just watched my beloved Chelsea lose to Liverpool. My team is in free-fall, a consistent loser, even on home ground.

And Paul Ryan is Speaker of the House of Representatives. Talk about free-fall. It’s bad when it happens to a football club, even worse when it happens to a country. We’re there now, locked in that downward spiral. Like all the GOP candidates for president, Paul Ryan is a hypocrite who constantly yammers on about cutting the size of government, yet gives the Department of Defense and the entire national security apparatus a completely free pass from the budget axe, as if those entities are somehow separate from the “government.”

The mainstream press – nothing if not a reliable source of misinformation – anointed Ryan as a budget “expert,” an exceptional wonk with his head wrapped around the gargantuan federal budget, yet all Ryan does is what all Republicans of his stripe do: spin whopping lies about the looming fiscal danger of Social Security and Medicare, and insist, against all evidence, that lowering the tax burden for corporations and the wealthy will produce, as if by magic, prosperity for the rest of us. These tropes are old, false, and dangerous to the welfare of the majority of citizens, but we hear them again and again, like a mantra.

It amuses me when I hear politicians covered by taxpayer-provided platinum-plated medical insurance and generous retirement plans, demand deep cuts in Social Security and Medicare benefits. If men like Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio and Rand Paul abhor government so much, why do they accept the benefits that come with their offices? Insisting that average Americans, folks like you and me, work until we’re 70 before collecting Social Security gives them no pause whatsoever. And they never talk about where all the jobs for these codgers will come from.

According to the mainstream media shills, Marco Rubio “won” the last GOP debate and is now surging, while Trump and Bush are losing traction. How any single candidate can be named the winner of a ridiculous lie-fest is beyond me, but I’m not surprised that Rubio is the latest darling and the focus of renewed attention; I’m sure the big brains behind the GOP are thinking that Rubio, being younger and of Cuban heritage, has the best chance of attracting Latino voters in the general election. This is unlikely, but make no mistake about this: Rubio is simply a younger face on a failed ideology.

My football team lost to one of its most bitter rivals, but I can live with it because football is just a game. The fact that my country has lost its way and can’t locate its soul is far more troubling.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Sophistication of Our Corruption

“Or, to put it more dramatically, the richest 400 Americans own more assets than the bottom 150 million.” Mark Blyth, Austerity: The history of a dangerous idea.

Even Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist, can’t provide a coherent definition of what socialism means. Bill Maher tried to coax a concrete answer out of Sanders last week, but all Maher got for his effort was a monologue about free health care and free tuition at public colleges and universities. Maher’s audience approved of this answer, but the question deserves a fuller response.

I don’t have much hope for Bernie’s campaign, as I’ve written here before, because in the end Hillary Clinton has too much campaign cash and media love for Sanders to overcome. Plus, when you bill yourself as a socialist in America – even a democratic socialist – you will be demonized. Americans have been conditioned to fear socialists, communists, leftists and Marxists.

What I want to hear Sanders talk about, in the time left before he folds his tent and exits the field, is the need for a counterweight against corporate power. Without robust government regulation and monitoring, capitalism inevitably produces a relative few spectacular winners and a staggering number of losers, which is the sad pass we have arrived at today. Years of tax cuts and tax breaks and other legal means of tax avoidance for corporations and wealthy individuals has created conditions typical in what used to be called “banana republics”; a handful of wealthy people who own practically everything and segregate themselves from the unwashed masses, a professional class that lives comfortably, a tiny “middle-class” and the working poor and dirt poor.

The only way to have any semblance of economic fairness for the majority is to deliberately engineer it. That means government policy, rules, regulations, and laws that can’t be circumvented. I appreciate services that only government can deliver on a mass scale, like clean water, breathable air, decent public schools, single-payer health care, national parks, safe bridges and freeways, courts that give average citizens a legitimate means of redress, and a safety net robust enough to smooth the jagged edges of capitalism; I like knowing that the foods and medicines I consume are safe, free from chemicals and genetically-modified ingredients.

Of course we have to pay for all these social benefits. That entails taxing the super wealthy and corporations, it means revising the byzantine tax code and shrinking the national security apparatus and the military. What might have been done to help American citizens with all the money we have wasted fighting a losing war in Afghanistan, a war we started and cannot finish? Think of the opportunities lost and human lives ruined.

This feels to me like a dangerous time for the American Republic. The mechanisms of our government are rusted because the political system has been perverted by money -- money that buys lawyers, lobbyists, think tanks and PR flacks – and rendered completely incapable of addressing critical problems. Citizens barely matter any more, we are paid lip service by the powerful and our legitimate needs are ignored because the political and corporate elites know that the masses are unorganized and easily divided. We are fed a steady diet of horseshit about the majesty of the free market, freedom, and American exceptionalism.

News flash: America is exceptional only in terms of the sophistication of its corruption.