Wednesday, May 27, 2015
John Chuckman is former chief economist for a large Canadian oil company. He has many interests and is a lifelong student of history. He writes with a passionate desire for honesty, the rule of reason, and concern for human decency. John regards it as a badge of honor to have left the United States as a poor young man from the South Side of Chicago when the country embarked on the pointless murder of something like 3 million Vietnamese in their own land because they embraced the wrong economic loyalties. He lives in Canada, which he is fond of calling “the peaceable kingdom.”
John’s writing appears regularly on many Internet sites. He has been translated into at least ten languages and has been regularly translated into Italian and Spanish. Several of his essays have been published in book collections, including two college texts. He has published a book, The Decline of the American Empire and the Rise of China as a Global Power, published by Constable and Robinson, London. John also writes book reviews.
Apart from his writing since retiring from the oil industry, John has taught university courses in economics, done a good deal of private tutoring, served as a professional newspaper restaurant reviewer (he likes cooking), followed his favorite hobby of photography, and created a popular family of image blogs on the Internet.
John may be reached directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org
SOME INTERNET SITES FROM JOHN CHUCKMAN:
CHUCKMAN'S PORT STANLEY
CHUCKMAN'S ILES DE LA MADELEINE (MAGDALEN ISLANDS)
CHUCKMAN'S PORT STANLEY
CHUCKMAN'S ILES DE LA MADELEINE (MAGDALEN ISLANDS)
CHUCKMAN PHOTOS ON WORDPRESS: CHICAGO NOSTALGIA AND MEMORABLIA (SELECTED POSTCARDS AND RESTAURANT ITEMS)
CHUCKMAN’S PLACES ON WORDPRESS
CHUCKMAN’S PHOTOS ON WORDPRESS: TORONTO NOSTALGIA AND MEMORABLIA
CHUCKMAN' S NON-SPORTS TRADING CARDS OF THE 1950s VOL.1/4
CHUCKMAN’S GALLERY OF GROTESQUES
CHUCKMAN’S CARTOON COMMENTS
CHUCKMAN'S MISCELLANEA OF WORDS
CHUCKMAN'S COMMENTS FROM THE WORLD PRESS
CHUCKMAN'S POLITICAL ESSAYS
COMMENT POSTED IN THE GUARDIAN
Chelsea Manning is one of the few genuine heroes of our time.
She risked everything and did so out of a profound sense of human decency.
The truly brave always in history are abused by authorities.
The ones who get medals are not so much the brave but the compliant.
Most of the vast stores of secrets the United States has hidden away are not in any way threats to national security.
They are mostly threats to the security of authorities who are afraid of public reaction to their lying, incompetence, and poor judgment.
We cannot have democracy unless the people understand better what their government is doing and why.
And today I think it fair to say America is no democracy but a collection of elites using the immense powers of that government to do as they wish.
Killing, destroying, and overthrowing on a vast scale - all while supporting brutal and tyrannical governments such as Saudia Arabia or Israel who serve its purposes abroad.
NEWS COVERAGE OF THE PLIGHT OF ROHINGYA MUSLIMS IN BURMA - A GROUP IN EVERY WAY COMPARABLE TO THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIANS WHO RECEIVE NO SUCH COVERAGE
LETTER TO CBC RADIO'S THE CURRENT
The Rohingya Muslims of Burma by all accounts are treated badly.
But in not one particular cited by your guests does the situation of these oppressed people differ from the situation of the millions of Palestinians under Israeli occupation.
Inability to freely travel limiting opportunities to earn a living; unfair treatment by officials and police; hate speech - all of these and more are the everyday experience of Palestinians.
The Rohingya, concentrated on the west coast of Burma in Rakhine State, sometimes leave their oppression because of the seas, yet the people of Gaza, stretched along the sea in much the same fashion, are not even free to use the sea: fishermen who go outside their tiny permitted zone are shot at regularly by Israeli naval forces; ships of needed supplies from other places are subject to attack by Israel on the high seas; and even natural gas fields discovered in the Mediterranean in areas which under international law should belong to Palestine are seized by Israel.
The comparisons are even closer because if you ask Burmese officials, they would tell you the Rohingya want their own state, something Burma will not grant, and are regarded as rebellious, something none of your guests discussed.
Yet CBC Radio, and The Current in particular, would not dream of treating the Palestinians’ plight, which after all is in every sense closer to home. You have not done so once in any meaningful way.
To add insult to injury in the piece you did, you interviewed a representative of the American Holocaust Museum whose investigations are said to have established that all the “early signs of genocide” were now present in Burma. I wasn’t aware that there was an official handbook of diagnosis for genocide, but these people appear to have one.
It does seem to me in view of the appalling conditions in Israel/Palestine, people from the Holocaust Museum are simply not qualified to comment on Burma.
AFTERWORD: In a follow-up interview the next day with Burma's ambassador to Canada, he said something along the lines of "There's no such thing as the Rohingya people."
These were exactly the same words uttered by Golda Meir about the Palestinians decades ago, and her chilling words have been echoed many times since, including a few years ago by Newt Gingrich on the campaign trail after receiving the best part of $20 million in campaign contributions from billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a devoted supporter of Netanyahu's vision of Israel.
Friday, May 08, 2015
DANGEROUS FLAILING AND BELLOWING OF THE BEAST
When I think of America’s place in the world today, the image that comes to mind is of a very large animal, perhaps a huge bull elephant or even prehistoric mammoth, which long roamed as the unchallenged king of its domain but has become trapped by its own missteps, as caught in a tar pit or some quicksand, and it is violently flailing about, making a terrifying noises in its effort to free itself and re-establish its authority. Any observer immediately knows the animal ultimately cannot succeed but certainly is frightened by the noise and crashing that it can sustain for a considerable time.
I think that is the pretty accurate metaphor for the situation of the United States today, still a terribly large and powerful society but one finding itself trapped after a long series of its own blunders and errors, a society certain ultimately to become diminished in its prestige and relative power with all the difficulties which that will entail for an arrogant people having a blind faith in their own rightness. America simply cannot accept its mistakes or that it was ever wrong, for Americanism much resembles a fundamentalist religion whose members are incapable of recognizing or admitting they ever followed anything but the divine plan.
America has made a costly series of errors over the last half century, demonstrating to others that the America they may have been in awe of in, say, 1950, and may have considered almost godlike and incapable of mistakes, has now proved itself indisputably, in field after field, as often not even capable of governing itself. The irony of a people who are seen as often unable to govern themselves advising others how to govern themselves brings a distinct note of absurdity to American foreign policy.
America’s establishment, feeling their old easy superiority in the world beginning to slip away in a hundred different ways, seems determined to show everyone it still has what it takes, determined to make others feel its strength, determined to weaken others abroad who do not accept its natural superiority, determined to seize by brute force and dirty tricks advantages which no longer come to it by simply superior performance.
Rather than learn from its errors and adjust its delusional assumptions, America is determined to push and bend people all over the world to its will and acceptance of its leadership. But you cannot reclaim genuine leadership once you have been exposed enough times in your bad judgment, and it is clear you are on the decline, just as you cannot once others realize that they can do many things as well or better than you.
In the end, policies which do not recognize scientific facts are doomed. Policies based on wishes and ideology do not succeed over the long run, unless, of course, you are willing to suppress everyone who disagrees with you and demand their compliance under threat. The requirement for an imperial state in such a situation is international behavior which resembles the internal behavior of an autocratic leader such as Stalin, and right now that is precisely where the United States is headed. Stalin’s personality had a fair degree of paranoia and no patience for the views of others. He felt constantly threatened by potential competitors and he used systematic terror to keep everyone intimidated and unified under him.
Stalin’s sincerely belief in a faulty economic system that was doomed from its birth put him in a position similar to that of America’s oligarchs today. They have a world imperial system that is coming under increasing strain and challenge because others are growing and have their own needs and America simply does not have the flexibility to accommodate them. America’s oligarchs are not used to listening to the views of others. Stalin’s belief in a system that was more an ideology than a coherent economic system is paralleled by the quasi-religious tenets of Americanism, a set of beliefs which holds that America is especially blessed by the Creator and all things good and great are simply its due. Americanism blurrily assumes that God’s promise in the Old Testament that man should have dominion over the earth’s creatures applies now uniquely to them. Such thinking arose during many years of easy superiority, a superiority that was less owing to intrinsic merits of American society than to a set of fortuitous circumstances, many of which are now gone.
In Vietnam, America squandered countless resources chasing after a chimera its ideologues insisted was deadly important, never once acknowledging the fatal weaknesses built right into communism from its birth. Communism was certain eventually to fail because of economic falsehoods which were part of its conception, much as a child born with certain genetic flaws is destined for eventual death. America’s mad rush to fight communism on all fronts was in keeping with the zealotry of America’s Civic Religion, but it was a huge and foolish practical judgment which wasted colossal resources. In Vietnam, America ended in something close to total shame – literally defeated on the battlefield by what seemed an inconsequential opponent, having also cast aside traditional ethical values in murdering great masses of people who never threatened the United States, murder on a scale (3 million) comparable to the Holocaust. It used weapons and techniques of a savage character: napalm, cluster bombs, and secret mass terror programs. The savagery ripped into the fabric of America’s own society, dividing the nation almost as badly as its Civil War once had. America ended reduced and depleted in many respects and paid its huge bills with devalued currency.
Following Vietnam, it has just been one calamity after another revealing the same destructive inability to govern, the same thought governed by zealotry, right down to the 2008 financial collapse which was caused by ignoring sound financial management and basically instituting a system of unlimited greed. The entire world was jolted and hurt by this stupidity whose full consequences are not nearly played out.
The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were completely unnecessary, cost vast sums, caused immense misery, and achieved nothing worth achieving. We now know what was kept hidden that more than million Iraqis died in an invasion based entirely on lies. These wars also set in motion changes whose long term effects have yet to be felt. Iraq, for example, has just about had its Kurdish, oil-producing region hived off as a separate state.
America’s primitive approach to the Soviet Union’s collapse, its sheer triumphalism and failure to regard Russia as important enough to help or with which to cooperate, ignored America’s own long-term interests. After all, the Russians are a great people with many gifts, and it was inevitable that they would come back from a post-collapse depression to claim their place in the world.
So how do the people running the United States now deal with a prosperous and growing Russia, a Russia which reaches out in the soundest traditional economic fashion for cooperation and partnership in trade and projects? Russia has embraced free trade, a concept Americans trumpeted for years whenever it was to their advantage, but now for Russia is treated as dark and sinister. Here America fights the inevitable power of economic forces, something akin to fighting the tide or the wind, and only for the sake of its continued dominance of another continent. Americans desperately try to stop what can only be called natural economic arrangements between Russia and Europe, natural because both sides have many services, goods, and commodities to trade for the benefit of all. America’s establishment wants to cut off healthy new growth and permanently to establish its primacy in Europe even though it has nothing new to offer.
America’s deliberately dishonest interpretation of Russia’s measured response to an induced coup in Ukraine is used to generate an artificial sense of crisis, but despite the pressures America is capable of exerting on Europe, we sense Europe only goes along to avoid a public squabble and only for so long as the costs are not too high. The most intelligent leaders in Europe recognize what the United States is doing but do not want to clash openly, although the creation of the Minsk Agreement came pretty close to a polite rejection of America’s demand for hardline tactics.
The coup in Ukraine was intended to put a hostile government in control of a long stretch of Russian border, a government which might cooperate in American military matters and which would serve as an irritant to Russia. But you don’t get good results with malicious policy. So far the coup has served only to hurt Ukraine’s economy, security, and long-term interests. It has a government which is seen widely as incompetent, a government which fomented unnecessary civil war, a government which shot down a civilian airliner, and a government in which no one, including in the West, has much faith. Its finances are in turmoil, many important former economic connections are severed, and there is no great willingness by Europe, especially an economically-troubled Europe, to assist it. It is not an advanced or stable enough place to join the EU because that would just mean gigantic subsidies being directed to it from an already troubled Europe. And the idea of its joining NATO is absolutely a non-starter both because it can’t carry its own weight in such an organization and because that act would cross a dangerous red line for Russia.
Kiev is having immense problems even holding the country together as it fights autonomous right-wing outfits like the Azov Battalion in the southeast who threaten the Minsk Agreement, as it tries to implement military recruiting in Western Ukraine with more people running away than joining up, as it finds it must protect its own President with a Praetorian Guard of Americans from some serious threats by right-wing militias unhappy with Kiev’s failures, as it must reckon with the de facto secession of Donetsk and the permanent loss of Crimea – all this as it struggles with huge debts and an economy in a nosedive.
America is in no position to give serious assistance to Ukraine, just plenty of shop-worn slogans about freedom and democracy. These events provide a perfect example of the damage America inflicts on a people with malicious policy intended only to use them to hurt others. There is such a record of this kind of thing by America that I am always surprised when there are any takers out there for the newest scheme. One remembers Kissinger encouraging the Iraqi Kurds to revolt against Saddam Hussein and then leaving them in the lurch when the dictator launched a merciless suppression. I also think of the scenes at the end of the Vietnam War as American helicopters took off in cowardly fashion from the roof of the embassy leaving their Vietnamese co-workers, tears streaming down their faces, vainly grasping for the undercarriages of helicopters, a fitting and shameful end to a truly brainless crusade.
I don’t know but I very much doubt that the present government of Ukraine can endure, and it is always possible that it will slip into an even more serious civil war with factions fighting on all sides, something resembling the murderous mess America created in Libya. Of course, such a war on Russia’s borders would come with tremendous risks. The American aristocracy doesn’t become concerned about disasters into which they themselves are not thrust, but a war in Ukraine could easily do just that. In ironic fashion, heightened conflict could mark the beginning of the end of the era of European subservience to America. Chaos in Ukraine could provide exactly the shock Europe needs to stop supporting American schemes before the entire continent or even the world is threatened.
I remind readers that while Russia’s economy is not as large as America’s, it is a country with a strong history in engineering and science, and no one on the planet shares its terrifying experiences with foreign invasion. So it has developed and maintains a number of weapons systems that are second to none. Each one of its new class of ballistic missile submarines, and Russia is building a number of them, is capable of hitting 96 separate targets with thermo-nuclear warheads, and that capability is apart from rail-mounted ICBMs, hard-site ICBMs, truck-mounted missiles, air-launched cruise missiles, sea-launched cruise missiles, and a variety of other fearsome weapons. Modern Russia does not make threats with this awesome power, and you might say Putin follows the advice of Theodore Roosevelt as he walks softly but carries a big stick, but I do think it wise for all of us to keep these things in mind as America taunts Russia and literally play a game of chicken with Armageddon. I don’t believe America has a legitimate mandate from anyone to behave in this dangerous way. Europe’s smartest leaders, having lived at the very center of the Cold War and survived two world wars, do understand this and are trying very carefully not to allow things to go too far, but America has some highly irresponsible and dangerous people working hard on the Ukraine file, and accidents do happen when you push things too hard.
In another sphere of now constant engagement, instead of sponsoring and promoting fair arrangements in the Middle East, America has carried on a bizarre relationship with Israel, a relationship which is certainly against the America’s own long term interests, although individual American politicians benefit with streams of special interests payments - America’s self-imposed, utterly corrupt campaign financing system being ultimately responsible - in exchange for blindly insisting Israel is always right, which it most certainly is not. An important segment of Israel’s population is American, and they just carried over to Israel the same short-sightedness, arrogance, and belligerence which characterize America, so much so, Israel may legitimately be viewed as an American colony in the Middle East rather than a genuinely independent state. Its lack of genuine independence is reflected also in its constant dependence on huge subsidies, on its need for heavily-biased American diplomacy to protect it in many forums including the UN, and on its dependence upon American arm-twisting and bribes in any number of places, Egypt’s generous annual American pension requiring certain behaviors being one of the largest examples.
Here, too, inevitability has been foolishly ignored. The Palestinians are not going anywhere, and they have demonstrated the most remarkable endurance, yet almost every act of Israel since its inception, each supported by America, has been an effort to make them go away through extreme hardship and abuse and violence, looking towards the creation of Greater Israel, a dangerous fantasy idea which cannot succeed but it will fail only after it has taken an immense toll. Despite America’s constant diplomatic and financial pressure on other states to support its one-sided policy here, there are finally a number of signs that views are turning away from the preposterous notion that Israel is always right and that it can continue indefinitely with its savage behavior.
Recently, we have had a great last effort by America and covert partners to secure Israel’s absolute pre-eminence in the Middle East through a whole series of destructive intrusions in the region – the “Arab Spring,” the reverse-revolution in Egypt, the smashing and now dismemberment of Iraq, the smashing and effective dismemberment of Libya, and the horrible, artificially-induced civil war in Syria which employs some of the most violent and lunatic people on earth from outside and gives them weapons, money, and refuge in an effort to destroy a stable and relatively peaceful state.
I could go on, but I think the picture is clear: in almost every sphere of American governance, internally and abroad, America’s poor political institutions have yielded the poorest decisions. America has over-extended itself on every front, has served myths rather than facts, has let greed run its governing of almost everything, and has squandered resources on achieving nothing of worth.
I view America’s present posture in the world – supporting dirty wars and coups in many places at the same time and treating others as game pieces to be moved rather than partners – as a desperate attempt to shake the world to gain advantages it couldn’t secure through accepted means of governance and policy. America is that great beast, bellowing and shaking the ground, and for that reason, it is extremely dangerous.
Sunday, May 03, 2015
JIMMY CARTER'S BRAVE COMMENTS ON THE TERRIBLE SITUATION IN GAZA - ISRAEL'S INEXCUSABLE BRUTALITY - CITING WHAT HAPPENED IN THE HOLOCAUST CANNOT EXCUSE WHAT WE SEE - A SOCIETY OF LAWS OUR ONLY DEFENCE
COMMENT POSTED TO AN ARTICLE IN THE GUARDIAN
Bless you, Jimmy Carter, a man who genuinely deserved a Nobel Peace Prize.
Carter, a man of immense integrity and great understanding, is one of the only prominent people in the Western world to speak truth about Israel's unending brutality.
Our press goes on and on about natural disasters like Nepal's earthquake, yet almost never gives notice to the very unnatural disaster Israel has created before our eyes.
And Mr. Carter’s reward? To be called an anti-Semite by many Israelis.
Using what happened three-quarters of a century ago in another country in another continent in extraordinary circumstances of war and hate to justify such atrocities makes no sense to any honest, impartial, and informed person.
Injustice is injustice no matter what history you may cite.
If you want a society of laws, then you must abide by laws.
You cannot stand outside the law, as Israel has done for its entire existence, and create anything worth creating.
The logic of Israel’s excuses is the logic shared by every tyrant and conqueror and criminal through history, all of them having their own important reasons for doing what they did, and it goes nowhere towards establishing the rule of law that is the only true refuge we have against the powerful and hateful and mad.
CANADA'S LEONA AGLUKKAQ'S BIZARRE COMMENTS ON EASTERN UKRAINE DURING A MEETING OF THE ARCTIC COUNCIL GROUP OF NATIONS WHOSE IMPORTANT PURPOSE IS NOT POLITICS BUT THE EMERGING PROBLEMS OF THE ARCTIC
COMMENT POSTED TO AN ARTICLE IN RUSSIA INSIDER
Please don't take Leona Aglukkaq’s words too seriously. They do not represent mainstream thinking in Canada.
Leona Aglukkaq has had a record of mishandling the ministerial portfolios she has been handed by Stephen Harper. Her time as Minister of Health is a genuinely embarrassing memory.
Stephen Harper's 39%-government (his share of vote totals split several ways) is mighty light on talent. It is team, as they say in hockey, whose bench is pretty thin. So he must use virtual incompetents like Ms Aglukkaq to fill posts.
Mr. Harper has been appropriately nick-named a party of one. He has a personality, and this is not an exaggeration, sharing some characteristics with Stalin. No one in his government says one word that was not put into their mouths by him. The various comments coming from Ministers like Ms Aglukkaq these days not only do not reflect the views of most Canadians, they often may not even reflect the timid minister’s own views.
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MORE MONEY WON’T FIX CBC
I’ve heard leaders of both the Liberal Party and the NDP promise more money for CBC should either of them be elected later this year. We know CBC has suffered fairly severe cuts in funding from Stephen Harper’s bleak government. But at the same time, something else has been happening for years at CBC, and much of it has little to do with money. CBC relentlessly has dumbed itself down, hiring hosts with little interesting knowledge or even effective intelligence, muting and censoring the content of shows, and demonstrating, again and again, its implicit rejection of what should be its mandate.
A national broadcaster can never compete directly with commercial broadcasters. You don’t have to be an expert to understand that. A national broadcaster only makes sense if it focuses on quality, as a showcase for the nation’s talent, as an educator for children and the nation’s immigrants about the political and cultural nature of a country, as a forum for new ideas, and as a contributor to general understanding by others about what Canada is.
CBC is failing miserably today on all fronts. I address radio broadcasting since I am not someone who watches television, and besides it is the radio service which long has enjoyed the superior reputation, but that now has ceased to be the case. Much of what now is broadcast day-in, day-out, both on Radio One and Radio Two, is simply a waste of airtime. Blubbering about pop music for hours of every day, as CBC Radio has done now for years, is about as far as you can run away from the responsibilities of a national broadcaster.
Some once-excellent shows are decaying even as we listen. “The Current,” for example, with Anna Maria Tremonti, one of most capable interviewers Canada has ever produced, has her doing few incisive interviews, avoiding topics, and substituting Oprah Winfrey-style fluff, as for example, a half hour about plus-size women recently. I’m eagerly anticipating the “complete make-over” show. Apart from the noticeable decline in political or cultural interviews, which to my mind were the show’s raisons d'être, the now-usual Friday host and temporary fill-in is a person (aka, future possible replacement in training) who has neither the skill nor sharp intelligence to conduct an enjoyable, hard-hitting interview.
Moreover, that fill-in host just happens to be the wife of a senior newsman on the same station, raising once again the problem of nepotism and favoritism which has long plagued the radio network.
The “Sunday Edition” with Michael Enright is a mere shadow of itself, not only cut from three to two hours but filled with boring crap like precious personal essays and documentaries from wannabe producers and there is a noticeable limit on the worthiness of the people being interviewed. There is a rather viciously quiet, persistent strain of bias on some topics, one being the Middle East, injected regularly and without the least effort to balance other views. Such news and current event shows have been drained of most of their meaningful content.
The show, “As It Happens,” has been literally run into the ground, its original premise of telephone interviews with an assortment of the day’s newsmakers or eccentrics having become outdated by the timeliness of events on the Internet. Anyone who spends a bit of time on a computer knows those things before this show gets around to them today, yet the show desperately tries to hold on and find a purpose with not-very-good interviews and even boring little panel groups.
The National News and the regional news, coming out of Toronto, border on embarrassing at times. Apart from the now-often poor grammar of newsreaders, the content is just thin and uninformative. There is no digging, there is no follow-up, and there is no judgment or concern demonstrated over clearly unanswered questions. It comments on events in other parts of the world today with no understanding and often considerable bias, often sounding as though as though press releases from Washington were being read. A truly Canadian viewpoint has just about disappeared. Reportage on other stories throughout the country is often by very young women correspondents who sound as though they just graduated from Ryerson, using the obviously-learned gimmicks of journalism courses, always attempting to end with little punch-lines, which are more often than not predictable and desperately contrived.
The parade of not even second-rate musical talent jammed into every available opening - everything from junky rap to knock-offs of soul or 1960s stuff and a lot of silly girlie-sounding elevator music - has increased steadily everywhere so that barely a few minutes pass before it starts up again. I doubt one out of ten of these is worth broadcasting, making CBC sound like what I imagine the old, fabled Ted Mack Radio Amateur Hour must have sounded like. And besides, the main content of Radio One should be intelligent talk, not music, much less starving-artist style pop music.
All of the classy, knowledgeable people on specialty shows – from Bernard St Laurent to Bob McDonald or Eleanor Wachtel or Ed Lawrence – are getting old, and one can only imagine with what teeny-bopper horrors they will be replaced.
The show, “Ideas,” originally of some interest, now is pretty much a tired, deflated balloon. There rarely is anything worthy of the name idea making an appearance. The show buys documentaries of remarkably little worth and broadcasts them with a vapid voice-over by the host.
A complete lack of imagination and meaningful direction at CBC has been running things into the ground for years. The management has only one theme, come up with some pop stuff so that we’ll be popular, and of course that’s questionable assumption as well as a dereliction of its duty as a national broadcaster.
I think the hideous Jian Gomeshi saga nicely illustrates what has happened, serving almost as an allegory, his dreary career closely corresponding with the descent of CBC into meaninglessness. Apart from his grotesque personal life, the man always was a walking mediocrity with almost nothing he said worth hearing but with a lot of bad judgment and bad taste thrown in as flavoring, yet because the show achieved some popularity – after all, if you throw enough crap on a wall, there will always be people entertained by the act - the man was allowed to run his show for years as a sadistic bully, supposed CBC principles of humanity and fairness cast to the wind by all involved. No, there’s far more in that dreary story than a man charged with rape and abuse of women, there’s the mask of the CBC ripped off to reveal a whining, inadequate, and timid management.
I simply do not see how handing over hundreds of millions of additional public funds can change CBC for the better, given the people who are entrenched there now and have made nothing but poor decisions for years.
Friday, May 01, 2015
NO WESTERN COUNTRY HAS ANYTHING CLOSE TO DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT TODAY - THREE REFORMS ESSENTIALTO PROVIDING IT - COMMENT TO AN ARTICLE ON ENDING FIRST-PAST-THE-POST BALLOTS AND USING ORDERED PREFERENCE BALLOTS
COMMENT POSTED TO AN ARTICLE IN THE GUARDIAN BY OWEN JONES
A mostly accurate assessment, but we need more than the ballot change to gain something which can meaningfully be called democratic government.
Today, in Canada, Stephen Harper’s government, elected with just 39% of the vote, has busied itself with dismantling a good deal of what the world knew as Canada. It has a technical majority, and Mr. Harper is an effective parliamentary dictator whose policies stand against 60% of the electorate’s wishes. That isn’t democracy, by any measure, and I believe the situation in Britain with the unpleasant David Cameron is similar.
We have a terrible democratic deficit all over the so-called democratic world, and it is more than a little ridiculous that our (effectively unelected) leaders take us to bloody, meaningless wars, always blubbering about democracy, or they support the policies of a state in which half the people under its rule have no votes and absolutely no rights, again with blubbering about democracy, this time in the Middle East.
There are two essential reforms to claiming some genuine democratic government in the West. And there is a third which would largely complete the job.
First, as the writer suggests, get rid of "first past the post" voting. It is antiquated and genuinely undemocratic. A ballot listing ordered preferences would result always in a government in which a true majority of voters felt they had some investment. The common feeling of non-voters that "what difference does it make?" would be attenuated, and today in many Western countries half the people do not vote.
Second, and equally important, get the private and lobby money out of elections, entirely, and put severe penalties upon donors and receivers who break the rules in secret.
Create an agency to oversee elections with strict powers for accounting of campaign expenditures and legal powers to investigate.
American elections today, for example and with no exaggeration, are quite literally bought-and-paid-for. The Clintons, for example, have a history of grotesque fund-raising and spending. An American Senator, on average, spends two-thirds of his or her time in office raising funds. It results in government by and for elites. It also results in grotesque distortions of policy in favor of groups able to donate heavily, a major explanation for America's go-nowhere policies in the Middle East.
In France we had stories of Sarkozy getting millions from an aged heiress and a huge secret donation from Qaddafi.
Mr. Blair was also a good buddy of Qaddafi and never saw a wealthy person he didn't mark with obsequious treatment.
The last necessary reform for a semblance of democracy is the implementation of a quick-referendum system by computer to over-ride the legislature for all acts or policies involving life and death and especially war. The people who must sacrifice and live with the grim results should always make these decisions, not even an elected body or individual. I guarantee we would have fewer wars, and since overwhelmingly our wars only serve special interests, that would be a very good thing indeed.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
ON THE INFORMATION THAT SOME AMERICAN HIGHWAY PATROL POLICE ARE BEING USED TO TRAIN UKRAINIAN POLICE - THE VIOLENCE OF AMERICAN POLICE AND AMERICAN SOCIETY - A POOR TEACHER
COMMENT POSTED TO RUSSIA INSIDER
Ukrainians should be very careful about any training from American police.
American police forces have a well-earned reputation for violence and abuse.
They kill a large number of innocent Americans every year - estimated at 1,000 to 1,500 - far more than any terrorist dreams of. The statistics are not kept, almost certainly to suppress the shameful reality.
Few if any of them ever are dismissed or charged which means implicitly that American authorities accept the behavior.
But as few abroad, happily watching re-runs of American television situation comedies, will know America is a very brutal society in which to live.
Murder and violent crime rates are high. Police are often brutal. Prisons are extremely brutal. America maintains the world’s largest population of its own citizens behind bars. Some of its “super-max” prisons are an affront to human rights and decency. It embraces the death penalty too.
American police are militarized in their equipment, training, and attitudes, and the trend in militarization has only increased greatly in recent years. With all the meaningless colonial wars America has been fighting, there is a huge pool every year of ex-servicemen of course, all trained to kill, who need to be absorbed back into the civilian population, and police work is one of the typical destinations for them.
On top of those horrors, in recent years many American police forces have undergone training from Israeli forces, and surely there is no nation on earth whose record of killing and brutality on a per capita basis exceeds that of Israel.
It is a rather bleak picture in total, and I think any society which uses training or ideas from American police is desperate or lacks basic understanding.
COMMENT POSTED TO AN ARTICLE IN THE GUARDIAN
Of course some of the ads are tasteless, but the human race does have a lot of tasteless and even grotesque people, and advertising's whole point is to sell stuff to as many of us as possible.
Perhaps the truly tasteless ads - "Come out of the bone age" or "House rules" - tell us something about the tribe of apes to which we belong.
I do think the title here, "Selling White Women," itself a bit trivial and overstated. The "white women" business too completely ignores the army of Asian and African and mixed-background women who have been mainstays for advertising for years.
We enjoy looking at beautiful women, just as we enjoy looking at beautiful birds, and the advertising industry takes full advantage of that.
It would be equally possible to find many examples of truly beautiful photographs of women used to sell stuff.
Indeed, the "will not go dull and lifeless", while a screaming, embarrassingly Freudian fantasy, nevertheless is a stunning profile portrait of a beautiful woman.
Monday, April 27, 2015
ANGELINE JOLIE AT THE U.N. PLEADING FOR MORE WAR AGAINST SYRIA - WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT SUCH INCONSISTENCY FROM SOMEONE WHO WAS ONLY JUST SIPPING COCKTAILS TO END RAPE IN WAR - I GUESS JUST PLAIN KILLING THOUGH IS OKAY
COMMENT POSTED TO A YOU-TUBE VIDEO
Jolie is a truly absurd figure.
Blubbering preciously in the past about rape in war - something which always and everywhere has been part of the complete destruction of society and its norms and laws that is the very definition of war – here she is now advocating more war.
There’s no need to go over all the sad facts of Syria, a nation which already is the victim of covert brutality by outsiders, but anyone who advocates more killing there has to be considered stunningly ignorant.
I wish people who clearly understand so very little of what goes on in the world would just stick to buying designer shoes and attending dress-up fundraisers for fantasy causes like ending rape in war.
But one only has to remember that she is the daughter of actor Jon Voight, and things become considerably clearer. Voight has always perfectly fit the description of actors offered by the late Truman Capote, “The better the actor the more stupid he is.”
As for Jolie, she would appear to have missed out on both talent and brains.
CANADA'S OMAR KHADR - FORMER CHILD SOLDIER SHOT AND TORTURED BY AMERICANS FINALLY GETS BAIL - A FORMER AMERICAN SOLDIER IS USED BY THE NATIONAL POST TO STIR UP HATE
COMMENT POSTED TO AN ARTICLE IN THE NATIONAL POST AND PROMPTLY REMOVED
This man’s words are pathetically ignorant special pleading and, in publishing them, the National Post shows how far it will go to stir up the right-wing against the proper working of justice. The comments generated by the article, the ones left posted, resemble an orgy of right-wing hate-masturbation.
You go to war, sometimes you get wounded. You don't whine and snivel about it long afterward, even more so when you were a paid professional killer in America’s special services, as this man was.
The man was a Green Beret, the guys who made their wonderful reputation crawling around at night in the jungles of Vietnam to sneak into villages and cut civilian officials’ throats. They were part of the CIA’s Project Phoenix which included perhaps 40,000 such brave and honorable acts.
But here he is, whining about a 15-year old who was caught up in the bloody mess of war, as though he were a criminal.
Omar Khadr is not a criminal, full stop.
Otherwise every soldier and volunteer who ever went to a foreign war is a criminal, and there are hundreds of thousands of them, including many who ran off to Israel’s various wars to help the IDF kill Arabs.
But they are not treated as criminals by the law.
It has never been the practice, after a war is over, for the winners to try the losers as criminals, unless flagrant war crimes were involved, and even then, it generally has not been the practice.
The United States has itself behaved as a massive war criminal in Western Asia. War after war. Threat after threat. Killing after killing. Massacres. Assassinations. And plenty of torture. The "laws" of war were broken countless times by the United States, and then it had the arrogance to try others for war crimes after torturing them for confessions, including a child, no less.
Only recently, it has been confirmed that a million souls perished in America’s totally illegal invasion of Iraq. Criminal acts do not come a great deal larger than that, but no one received years of confinement and torture for being part of them, much less planning and authorizing them.
This young man was fifteen when American soldiers shot him - twice in the back, a little detail often left out in the telling of the story.
Then they shipped him off for years of torture and isolation in Guantanamo, denying him for a long time all Red Cross-guaranteed rights. His interrogator was a Nazi-like American who made this kid sit up - pulling at his serious and unhealed wounds each time he brutally questioned him, and that after sleep-deprivation.
After years of abuse and without a hope of improving his situation, Khadr finally gave his torturers what they wanted and confessed to killing an American. I am virtually certain he did not kill anyone, but even if he did, he was a mere child and in a war the United States launched. The U.S. in its abuse of him has violated countless laws, including violating the UN Treaty on Child Soldiers, the Geneva Conventions on Prisoners of War, and Red Cross International Conventions on the Rights of Prisoners.
If you want a world governed by law, then you yourself must live by the law. Otherwise, we have international anarchy where might makes right and where America feels free to tell everyone, everywhere what they can and can’t do and even decide who may live and who may die.
And this man who is whining about Khadr’s finally receiving bail was himself nothing less than part of America’s bloody enforcement mechanism.
Thank God for a Canadian judge with some courage and proper legal values. A lot of the most beloved qualities of our Canada have suffered under the hateful government of Stephen Harper, but every once in a while it’s nice to see the old values shine through the gloom.
Saturday, April 25, 2015
GALLIPOLI: CELEBRATING A POINTLESS DISASTER - WWI - CHURCHILL, BLAIR, CLINTON, AND OBAMA AS PSYCHOPATHIC PERSONALITIES - GERMANY AND EUROPE - OUR TERRIBLE POLITICAL SYSTEM AND THE LEADERS IT GIVES US
COMMENT POSTED TO THE GUARDIAN ON AN ARTICLE SUGGESTING WHAT GALLIPOLI TEACHES US ABOUT THE IRAQ WAR
Gallipoli was a terrible blunder, a pet project of the same Winston Churchill who gave the world more than his fair share of arrogant ideas and barbarities, including, later, the first mass bombings of German cities, well before Hitler's bombings.
Churchill was always an advocate of imperialism and plenty of "backbone in war" stuff, and he was fond of referring to Germans as “Huns.”
Yet his is a seemingly benign and heroic figure in history. You can't help emotionally responding to some of his eloquent speeches and old news photos even now.
Chamberlain, a genuinely decent man in many respects who wanted to avoid a repeat of the Western Front’s unbelievable horror just 20 years later, comes down to us as a somewhat disreputable figure, in no small measure because of the contempt heaped upon him by Churchill.
The word appeasement was used and has since become a favorite insult from the ignorant Right Wing which virtually always wants war and more war.
Of course the entire set of horrors and issues around the Second World War wouldn’t exist had not Britain entered the completely pointless First World War, one its chief cheerleaders for doing so being Churchill. The only outcome of a German victory in 1914 would have been a European Continent dominated by Germany, which is exactly what we have anyway today. But Churchill’s love of British imperialism could not stand the thought of that.
I shouldn’t say “the only outcome” because the other result, an even larger one, of Germany’s success in 1914 would have been no Hitler, no World War II, no invasion of Russia with 27 million killed, and no Holocaust.
People are so easily swayed by emotional words and appealing faces, and they lose the rational aspect of their minds to the rhetoric and backstage lever-pulling of men like Churchill. Democratic politics frequently yields to the superficial charm and secret deadliness of psychopathic personalities. Witness the recent examples of Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and Tony Blair – all with their smiles and murders and plots possessing varying degrees of psychopathy, to a certainty.
The smarmy Tony Blair years later dedicated all his talents to making an illegal and unnecessary invasion, which we now know killed a million people, seem reasonable and morally right.
He was rewarded afterwards by immense wealth, having served the interests of immensely wealthy people, while the poor people of Iraq were left a disgusting mess of broken infrastructure, no reliable water and power, poisons and explosives everywhere, millions of refugees, no jobs, no hopes, and constant ripples of violence.
Large parts of our people still respond like murderous chimps thumping their chests at the right words put in their ears by the establishment through figures like Churchill and Blair.
I don't see the author’s suggestions as helpful, and I don’t see any corrective for the foreseeable future. The ugly system we have works for those with power and influence, and it will keep right on working. Only the most fundamental changes in our political institutions offer any hope, and that only far into the future, if ever.
POSTED RESPONSE TO AN ARTICLE IN RUSSIA INSIDER
"Many illogical wars followed Obama's Nobel Peace Prize."
This is a remarkably subtle and profoundly true observation.
Sergey Lavrov isn't just Russia's top diplomat. He pretty much reigns supreme in today's world.
OBAMA KILLS TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE
Hints of the dark place he is taking us
Obama has been quoted saying he "takes full responsibility" for the two hostages, one American and one Italian, killed recently in a drone attack. At the same time, Obama praised the United States for its transparency in such matters.
What in God's name does he mean? How can you have responsibility with no consequences? Isn’t that a bit like patting yourself on the back for high principles, having just committed murder? And transparency? That also is a word without meaning when applied to a country which runs a string of secret wars and coups, a country which spies on virtually the entire planet, and a country whose warehouses bulge with so many classified documents it would take a thousand years to review them.
Obama’s use of words has no meaning, much like the lack of meaning inherent in the kind of world into which he is eagerly helping to pitch us.
He has killed two innocent people in the course of an extrajudicial killing of others who were themselves, as is usual in these attacks, mere suspects.
And it is not the first time he has done this, only the first time where we know the names and faces of his victims. We only know the names and faces here because they were an American and an Italian. Our feeble and utterly corrupt press never lifts a finger to investigate who the thousands of others have been.
Estimates vary, but something on the order of 2,500 people have been murdered this way by the United States, almost all of them innocent, ordinary people, and even America’s intended targets, supposed terrorists, are guilty of nothing in law.
If a leader uses the word terror today, he can pretty much do anything he or his sadistic military/ security/ intelligence creeps want to do. I do not see any difference in these acts from those of the former military juntas in South America who made thousands of “undesirable” people simply disappear.
There's an old saying about democratic governments that you pretty much deserve the government you get, but the glib saying is, of course, considerably less than true. Besides, it is not a great stretch to say of America today that it is about as much a democracy as was the former Soviet Union, with the key difference being voters in America get two choices instead of one on their ballots, each of them however ready to do exactly the same things, with only minor stylistic variations. You might say the choices represent two fashion statements in one official party.
However, if Western people in general just quietly accept the institutional barbarism Obama represents, they will indeed deserve the governments they get.
And what's hurtling towards us, far more quickly than many realize, is government entirely by and for elites - wealthy, wealthy people with their paid mouthpiece political leaders and the vast military/ security apparatus they employ - the rest of humanity being reduced to unimportant mobs to be kept under control at the smallest sign of their becoming difficult, not so very much different from prisoners and perhaps even livestock.
We actually have an early prototype of the kind of society our leaders are working towards. We see it in Israel. The word “terror” there plays the same ugly role, almost like an air raid siren, justifying literally any response.
Has the world said one word of 2,200 people slaughtered in Gaza recently and left to rot in its rubble? How about Israel’s treatment of refugees of color? I see no protest over their being horribly abused and even being turned away against international laws and conventions.
And now Israel uses dirty tricks like shipping refugees off to questionable African states whose leaders have been paid bribes to take them. Can you imagine a bright future for any of them under such circumstances? They too are more than a little likely to disappear.
Of course, assassination in many forms and in many places has played a large role in Israel’s brief history. Anyone Israel does not like is expendable, and America’s whole response to “terror” is right out of an official Israeli manual.
Israel loves to sing tired songs about democracy, but half the people under its control have no rights, no vote, no future, and are frequently openly told they are undesirable and should get out. Thousands are kept in prisons, and brutal acts like spraying farm land with filthy wastewater or with potent herbicides or cutting off power supplies are fairly regular events. When those on the receiving end get too uppity, they will be either assassinated or bombed or have their homes stolen through some of the most unjust laws on the planet.
Apart from the ghastly lives enforced upon millions of non-Jews by the “Jewish state,” Israel’s Jewish population demonstrates another part of the social model. Ordinary Israelis have quite unpleasant lives by Western standards, with home ownership out of reach, the price of everything exorbitant, being subject to oppressive army service, and living in a place which in many ways resembles a high security prison with guards, spies, and restrictions everywhere. The elites of Israel do very handsomely, thank you, just as oligarchs anywhere do, all the groaning mass of other residents’ problems and limits providing them with boundless opportunities, and most of the oligarchs freely move back and forth between continents with their dual passports to cut deals or avoid troubles.
That set of conditions and practices has become a model now for the United States, and where the United States goes, so go its weak-kneed allies like Britain, France, Germany, and even our once fair-minded Canada.
Monday, April 20, 2015
DISCUSSION OF THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE WHICH WENT NOWHERE - THE POPE'S INITIATIVE AND SOME FASCINATING QUESTIONS ABOUT WHY THE SUBJECT HAS LONG BEEN SUPPRESSED
COMMENT TO MICHAEL ENRIGHT ABOUT AN EPISODE OF CBC RADIO’S SUNDAY EDITION
What a shame you had a long segment about a very important and fascinating topic, the Armenian Genocide, and your effort was just plain dreary and uninteresting, all of it the personal reflections of three not-particularly-interesting people, like an hour’s worth of low-key chatter at a cocktail party.
You missed a great opportunity to do something worthwhile.
Why has this subject been so repressed, not just in Turkey but in many countries? What were Turkey’s motives? Why have the United States and others deliberately avoided offending Turkey for decades over this subject?
Perhaps most interesting, why has the Vatican at this time made this statement? Nothing the Vatican does is without politics, and there is, to a certainty, something which has occurred behind the scenes causing this statement. Concern over Turkey’s dealings with Russia?
Last, I have in the past heard spokespeople for Israel, one being Elie Wiesel, expressing sputtering fury over the very mention of an “Armenian Genocide.” According to these folks, there can be only one event in history worthy of the term genocide. Why? There’s an interesting sidelight on the subject.
FOOTNOTE: Only shortly after this event, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a stunning public statement that it would be incorrect to call the mass killing of 1.5 million Armenians a genocide! He said it was an “atrocity crime,” a silly minted-to-the purpose term which reminds me a bit of the time when Israel pressured everyone to stop saying “suicide-bombers” and use the silly expression “homicide bombers,” something the insipid George Bush quickly did in a speech, making himself sound more tongue-twisted than ever. Clearly, new back-scene political pressure is being applied by someone.
DAVID CAMERON'S ASININE DESCRIPTION OF A POSSIBLE LABOUR-SNP COALITION IN BRITAIN'S ELECTION AND HOW SUCH A COALITION MIGHT END CAMERON'S CRINGING OBSEQUIOUSNESS TO AMERICA
COMMENT POSTED TO AN ARTICLE IN THE GUARDIAN
Is there a sillier leader on the planet than David Cameron?
“Calamitous”? What an utterly inappropriate and inflated word to describe his own fears of losing office.
I won't comment on Mr. Cameron's handling of Britain's domestic affairs, although my reading is that a great many people in the country are considerably less than charmed.
But Mr. Cameron's record in running Britain's foreign affairs is just a dreary and embarrassing series of daily salutes to Washington, each time asking, "Yes, Sir, what do you want me to say or do today?"
I didn't think it possible that Tony Blair could ever be outshone in pure obsequiousness, but Cameron seems to be making a great and mighty effort to do so.
God, what a relief if a Labour-SNP coalition could put an end to that.
ON THE RE-BURIAL OF RICHARD III's RECENTLY DISCOVERED BONES AND SHAKESPEARE AND HISTORICAL FACTS AND PEOPLES' ALMOST LIMITLESS ABILITY TO BE HORRIBLE
COMMENT POSTED TO A STORY BY DAVID PRIESTLAND IN THE GUARDIAN
Well, the reference to "hunchbacked" shows something important of the writer's understanding.
We now know definitively from his bones that Richard was not a hunchback, that legend undoubtedly having been created by apologists for the Tudors, apologists like the brilliant but biased Shakespeare.
I love Shakespeare’s Richard III, one of his greatest histories, but it is riddled with exaggeration and inaccurate information.
The historical Richard actually appears to have been a rather brave and admirable king, at least according to some serious recent biographers.
As far as his re-burial's negative effect on the city owing to his bad reputation, I am sure it will in fact prove the opposite, to be beneficial in economic terms. Like it or not, tourists do go to see the places associated with villains. We actually had people going to the place O. J. Simpson’s wife and another person were literally butchered like livestock to take smiling snapshots of themselves.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
JOY OH JOY, HILLARY IS RUNNING
Yes, there is still bias "out there," as some have written, about an American woman running for President, but I do not believe the bias is decisive: after all, America has broken what surely was its fiercest taboo with the election of a black man, twice. There is, however, another bias “out there,” and a decisive one: a bias against the Clintons, a ghastly pair in almost every respect, America's contemporary version of the Borgias - both of them grasping, vicious, ruthless, two-faced, and lacking only the Borgias' good taste in art and literature.
Among the distinguished achievements of Hillary’s husband are the bombing of Serbia's capital, including the offices of journalists, and the bombing of a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan claimed to be a chemical weapons plant. President Clinton bragged of "ending welfare in our time," quite the claim for a self-styled liberal. It was his blundering, belligerent FBI and ATF that committed the atrocities at Waco. He embarrassed everyone with his grotesque personal behavior, and he pardoned some ghastly criminals in return for huge contributions to his "foundation." He is good friends with people like Jeffrey Epstein, a registered sex offender who solicited and kept underage girls to “service” guests on his private island or on the “Lolita Express,” nick-name for his private jet - both jet and island having Clinton recorded as a guest.
Bill Clinton failed every major undertaking of worth, including healthcare reform, Hillary playing a large role in that failure. Sometimes forgotten, he also frequently played the public coward, not standing behind appointments he made when they were attacked viciously in the Senate, allowing honorable people to be pilloried, then finally withdrawing their nominations. Perhaps his greatest act of cowardice involved the genocidal horrors of Rwanda. He was aware of them quite early, but his government was instructed not to use inflammatory language in public, and he made virtually no effort to save a million lives.
His contemptible behavior should, in theory, have nothing to do with Hillary, but in fact it very much does. They were the ones going around talking up the idea of getting “two for one” during his term of office. She still treats him as a confidant and advisor, having been photographed a number of times engaged in serious tête-à-têtes, and he has had several sessions with Obama, and big money sources, concerning Hillary’s ambitions.
Both Clintons have long records of chasing, indeed grovelling in much the same fashion as the smarmy Tony Blair, after big money - money for the foundation, money for elections, she having set an unenviable record for cancerous spending when running for the Senate in New York, and they have both been involved in at least as many questionable deals on the side as several former Israeli Prime Ministers combined.
I wish a woman could run for President, but must the candidate be someone who resembles Richard Nixon in drag and shares views the late ogre, J. Edgar Hoover? Everyone who doubts what a colossally unpleasant character Hillary has in private should read the memoirs of former secret service agents. Her behavior was appalling, tasking agents with things like holding her purse in public, and shouting a stream of "f--k off" invective at them if they declined.
She has always voted for war in the Senate, including the horrible war crime of invading Iraq. She goes around making speeches – at $300,000 a pop plus a whole printed list of demanded perquisites – about America’s need for a strong defense. Strong defense? America? How does one manage to spend more than America already spends on death and destruction? Park a nuclear-loaded B-52 at every civilian airport? Supply every Boy Scout troop with heavy machine guns and plenty of ammo? The woman borders on deranged here.
She has lied countless times in office and while running for office. The bloody mess at Benghazi was her baby, and she has done nothing but lie about its embarrassing and deadly failure. The last time she ran for President, in order to bolster her image for toughness, she bragged of coming under gunfire when she landed on a visit to Bosnia as First Lady, but a news video promptly appeared which showed nothing but a sweet little girl presenting flowers to her at the airport. Of course, she had to lie again when the video turned up, saying she hadn’t remembered events clearly, but no one ever forgets coming under gun fire. It is not possible unless your faculties are in such a jumbled state you should be disqualified from office.
Of course, in the end, Hillary’s mass of deceptions and terrible associations and rotten personality really do not matter because America's real government, its ongoing unelected one, allows no President to depart much from the established script. The last one who made a serious try had half his head blasted into the streets of Dallas.
Anticipation and excitement about the first woman candidate reminds me of America’s electing and celebrating its first black - a seemingly charming and intelligent man at the time - and he has proved just another George Bush, giving ordinary Americans nothing, and especially his own people. He weekly approves extrajudicial killings in a half dozen places, behavior completely in keeping with former South American juntas who made thousands of people just disappear, and he happily does business with tyrants and absolute monarchs and madmen like Netanyahu. Hillary would do precisely the same.
In the end, the person America elects as President makes no appreciable difference to what America does in the world or how its wealthy rulers treat their own people, a presidential election being little more than the most costly theater performance in the world, “a tale / Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, / Signifying nothing.”
Thursday, April 02, 2015
THE ENDURING REALITY OF GOVERNMENT BY WEALTH AND SOME OF ITS CONSEQUENCES
If you really want to understand the world in which we live – its endless wars, coups, interventions, and brutality towards great masses of people – you need to start with a correct understanding of the political machinery at work. Talk of liberal interventions or fighting for rights, Western values, and democracy are hopelessly naïve and mostly deliberately deceptive. America’s record in such matters is one of securing everything from bananas, copper, and crude oil concessions to, at the very least, foreign governments obedient to its mandates after removing a disliked leader, whether elected or not. There is no concern for principles outside of their being featured in blowhard, insincere political speeches. The interests of America’s government do not match the interests of ordinary people, those in America or anywhere else, and, were the informed consent of the governed genuinely involved in launching bloody adventures, they likely never would happen.
The underlying reality of how people in the West are governed now compared to hundreds of years ago is surprisingly unchanged, much the way the rules governing how chemical bonds form have not changed despite a long and great parade of events and discoveries in the visible world. Despite all the revolts, revolutions, congresses, constitutions, and great movements over the centuries, we are in fact governed in the same essential way people people were governed in 1600 or even earlier.
Of course to see this, you have to strip away the forms and rituals we have constructed over the centuries, forms and rituals which create impressive effects much like the green smoke and thunderous voice of the Wizard of Oz, a wizened old man who worked from his curtained control room, pulling levers and hitting buttons to create intimidating effects. Most Americans remain impressed with the smoke and thunder and cheap magic tricks, it requiring some dedicated effort to shake off well-done illusions, and, as I’ve written before, Americans work extremely hard in their jobs or live a kind of marginal life trying to scrape by on low wages or part-time work, either of which situations leaves little time or inclination to question what government is really doing and for whose benefit.
And so long as America remains under the rule of wealth, it is unlikely other states, as in Western Europe, will emerge from it because America’s establishment has such decisive influence – economic, financial, military, and political - over many of them.
What is considered as wealth changes over time and with economic development, and with those changes so do its interests as well as the practices of its power. Great deposits of copper ore or crude oil In the Middle Ages were virtually worthless. Wealth then was land for agriculture, forestry, and hunting, with the family names of owners determined by their estates. The revenue from that natural wealth was converted to great houses and jewels and the implements of war. War, too, was a source of wealth with most wars being little more than adventures for dominance and looting on a grand scale. Again, as in our own day, they were dressed up with slogans about principles or causes which had almost no meaning. The case of the “Christian” Crusades, which continued their pillaging and orgy of killing, on and off, for centuries, springs to mind. Soldiers and sailors, up until modern times, were not motivated by their paltry pay and poor supplies, it being understood as a condition of employment that they would enjoy a share of the bounty looted in any campaign.
Today, the forms wealth are as diverse and complex as is our society, and many of them are not apparent to ordinary people in the way great estates and hunting rights and obligations in war and peace to great lords were apparent in 800. Even as late as, say, 1850, wealth in the form of belching factories employing armies of people was often still quite apparent, but today’s complex banking and securities and financial institutions are not well understood by most people, although they represent immense wealth just as real in its demands and power as estates and obligations of the 9th century. Wealth today also comes from huge global manufacturing concerns of every description often with operations scattered out of sight, great shipping and transportation fleets, or electronic and communications empires. Land itself remains an important form of wealth where it can produce industrial-scale crops or contains deposits of valuable minerals or can generate flows of electricity or has been developed into great cities or resorts. War remains a source of wealth, only on a scale which could not have been imagined a few hundred years ago, but the spoils no longer go to soldiers in professional armies, they go to those responsible for the war, often in forms not easily recognized, as with special rights and concessions and secret arrangements.
As the nature of wealth evolved from the Middle Ages to the Modern Era, outward forms and rituals of government also changed. We have moved from the near-absolute power of kings and autocrats through aristocracies and republics with senates to a great variety of forms, parliaments and congresses, which appear designed to yield, to one degree or another, the consent of the governed.
But appearances, as in the case of the Wizard of Oz, can be deceiving.
Today, a single wealthy individual cannot make the kind of demands upon ordinary people that marked arrangements in the Middle Ages - although that must be qualified as I’m sure anyone who has become involved in a dispute with a wealthy neighbor or a great corporation will be happy to explain - but the class of wealthy people can indeed make just such demands, and they do so all the time. You will be taxed to pay for the schemes that their lobbying establishes, your water and air will contain the pollution of their manufacturing and mining, your children will be sent to kill and die in their wars, the ethics or morals you were taught as a child will be trampled upon, and virtually all important legislation will deal with the rights and interests of wealth, and not those of the broad mass of people.
In America, once in four years you will be asked to choose between two names, both of which have been closely vetted by the powers that be, to elect as head of government. Not only have they been vetted, but the immense costs of their campaigns in reaching you on television, at rallies, and with opinion polls to regularly fine tune their words will be paid almost exclusively by those whose real interests are at stake in every major election, the wealthy and their important serving institutions of government. The end effect is not really all that different than the old single-candidate Soviet elections at which the press trained Americans to sneer.
Many of America’s founding fathers had dark suspicions about the existence of wealth being secure in the presence of democratic government, and that is why they created forms – mostly adapted from Britain, a place no one regarded as a democracy then – to keep wealth safe. Over a couple of centuries, the original arrangements were modified, the country moving from a tiny one percent or so privileged voters – for perspective, that’s roughly the same as the percent of voters in China’s Communist Party deciding who rules the country – to something approaching universal suffrage, but always arrangements were made to safeguard wealth against the assumed predations of democracy.
In elections for the American Senate, the legislative body with real power, authority, and privilege, you again will be asked to choose between two well-vetted and well-connected candidates. Others may run, but they will be rendered helpless by the vetted candidates’ flood of money and resources, you will never hear their voices, and America’s press – itself an empire of wealth serving wealth – will waste no time on their views. In the case of the Senate, you will be asked once in six years to vote, with the elections staggered so that only one-third of that body faces election at any time – a perfectly-conceived formula for keeping the old bunch in charge despite issues which might have generated election discontent. In fact, you can never “throw the bums out” in America. Anyway, there really isn’t much risk for Senators running for re-election, with incumbents winning about 95% of the time. Senate seats are so secure they sometimes become family sinecures, handed down from father to son. After the election, unless you live in a small-population, insignificant state, you will never see or meet your Senator, and you will certainly have no opportunity to lobby. Virtually all seeing, meeting, and lobbying will be done by the wealthy sponsors of the successful candidates or by their hired help.
The average American Senator is said to spend two-thirds of his or her time securing funds for the next election, and such elections have now been bid-up to unbelievable amounts of money. The huge costs serve as what economists call “a barrier to entry,” a kind of high financial wall which keeps others from entering the political market, or, if somehow they do manage to enter, keeps them from effectively competing. Only the other wealth-vetted and connected candidate will have any hope of collecting a big enough pot of money to threaten an incumbent. The belief that people giving millions of dollars to candidates expect nothing in return is not even worth discussing. What they get – apart from goodies like important and prestigious appointments or valuable government contracts – is access, and access is exactly what most people never enjoy. Intimate access to politicians in high office, people always mindful of the necessity for another overflowing campaign war chest, is genuine power.
It is not impossible to have compatibility between democracy and wealth, but it requires a set of laws and regulations concerned with campaign financing, lobbying, and dis-establishing a political duopoly of two privileged parties, laws which simply cannot happen in America over our lifetimes. In America, law makes corporations persons, and the highest court, packed by judges appointed to serve wealth’s interests, has ruled that campaign money is free speech. These are not things easily turned around.
The American system of campaign financing not only assures the secure power of domestic wealth, it assures also the influence of wealthy lobbies serving the interests of foreign states, Israel being the most outstanding example. Other foreign states also exploit this system to varying degrees, but no other state has more than five million American citizens in great part keen to serve its interests. And many of them are successful, affluent, and well-placed people enjoying a connected set of organizations and well-funded lobbies. Other foreign states also do not enjoy having many of their lobbyists in America being dual-citizens, free to move back and forth between the country being lobbied and the country being lobbied for, surely an ethical issue for politics and foreign affairs of the first magnitude. It is a unique situation in many respects, and it has helped create a unique set of problems in the world.
The wealthy interests of America happen to share some important interests with lobbyists for Israel, including securing the Western world’s supply of energy and not permitting the rise of states of any power in the Middle East who disagree with America’s essential views. It is important to keep in mind that “America’s essential views” are not necessarily the views of most of the American people and that many of those “essential views” have never received genuine informed consent. Elections conducted the way America’s high-level elections are conducted are incapable of bestowing meaningful consent, especially in vitally important matters.
The Israeli-American alliance is something of an unholy one because in binding America so closely to Israel, some huge and unresolvable conflicts have been created. Israel is associated with a long series of wars and abuses in the region, and, ipso facto, so is America. Israel, given the nature of its founding, expansion, and practices, is not liked by any neighboring states, although many now cooperate secretly, and sometimes even openly, in areas of mutual interest and have learned to tolerate its existence, the way generally eased by large American bribes or equally large American threats.
Traditionally, states in the Middle East are not democracies. Their often short histories have given limited opportunity for wide-spread development and prosperity creating a strong middle-class, the sine qua non for democracy. With the United States always (insincerely) praising democracy – including Israel’s grotesque contradiction of “democracy for some but not others” – it has been caught in a bind between supporting what it says it opposes and opposing what it says it supports.
Its proposed solution was a huge CIA project, nick-named “the Arab Spring” by America’s wealth-serving and often dishonest press, a set of manufactured uprisings intended to bring a semblance of democracy to the region. It has been largely a failure, ending with some countries trapped in chaos or civil war and others, notably Egypt, briefly gaining a government Israel hated intensely, the truth being that genuine democracy in virtually any of these countries will not be friendly to Israel’s geopolitical ambitions in the region nor to those of its American promoter and protector. While the “Arab Spring” was allowed to proceed in some states, in others, where it was neither intended nor desired, such as Saudi Arabia or Bahrain, spill-over effects were deliberately and violently suppressed with American assistance. So the American-Israeli relationship now still locks the United States effectively in fighting against democracy in some countries and in supporting absolute monarchs and oligarchs in others, while in still others, such as Syria and Iraq, it is involved literally in smashing them as states, in violation of all international law and long-term good sense.
The entire situation is an ongoing disaster and is almost certainly not sustainable over the long term. How do you insist a huge country like Egypt remain a backwater without democratic rights indefinitely? How can you justify the destruction of an ancient and beautiful country like Syria? How can you justify supporting absolute monarchs and keeping their people in total political darkness? How do you continue supporting Israel in its abuse of millions, depriving them of every human right, or in its constant aggression to secure its hegemony? The drive for regional hegemony is all that is behind Israel’s constant hectoring of Iran, and how is that behavior different to the aggressive wars condemned by the Nuremberg Tribunal? It’s not, of course. Further, destructive, deliberately-induced conflicts like that in Syria, by degrading its economic advance, only slow the day for democracy’s having a real chance to emerge.
So here is America, self-proclaimed land of the free, mired in a vast situation where it works to suppress democracy, supports tyrants, and supports aggressive war because its leaders, with no genuine consent of the governed, have put it there, and this is just one of many unhealthy and destructive consequences of wealth’s rule in the United States. Wealth has no inherent interest in democracy, and it is entirely up to a people anywhere to demand respect for democracy through laws.