Saturday, January 7, 2017

Lies, Damn Lies and Intelligence   
    The NYTimes reported the other day on a newly discovered  big fat lie that Nixon told about Vietnam, a war that Lyndon Johnson lied us into.  In fact, our pols have been lying us into wars since 1812, which, if truth be told, amounted to an incompetent U.S. attempt to conquer Canada.
    Usually, we learn about the lies decades afterward. Since we live in a country where the word “history” is a synonym for boring, they make little impact on the public.  Who today knows or cares about the Tonkin Gulf incident or what the initials WMD stand for?
    It’s today’s lies that we closely guard because revealing them could be embarrassing, if not harmful, to those now in power. What a surprise then when a big lie is foisted on the citizenry along with an admission that it’s probably not to be believed, at least by anyone with half a brain.
    I refer to the much bruited U.S. intelligence report that Russian hackers, and Vladimir Putin personally, involved themselves in our
presidential election, to the detriment of Hillary and the benefit of Donald.  And we thought only the CIA pulled such stuff.
    Anyway, that report begins with the following:
   “Disclaimer: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not provide any warranties of any kind regarding any information contained within.”  

      Also of note is that the report make no reference to Wikileaks, which was supposedly at the heart of the hack attacks. What the report does spend seven pages on is a 2012 intel report that, hold onto to your hat, RT the public Russian media outlet, takes a consistent pro-Russian and anti-American line in its news coverage. Who’d have guessed?
    The thinking is that our intelligence people gave themselves a disclaimer this time should their report blow up in their face. Those who know what WMD stands for will recall that the Bush II regime demanded that the CIA and other such agencies fabricate intelligence showing that Iraq had Weapons of Mass Destruction and blaming it for 9/11.
    These two super whoppers led to 15years of war (so far) and the destruction and destabilization of vast parts of the Middle East and Central Asia.  Let’s hope this current self-disclaimed report doesn't end up with us going nuclear toe-to-toe with those disobedient Russkies.



Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Same Old Same Old 2000 Years Later 
     Joseph Schumpeter was a brilliant Harvard economist who claimed to have accomplished two of his three greatest goals in life: to be the world’s greatest economist, Austria’s greatest horseman and Vienna’s greatest lover. But he never said which ones.
    Writing a century ago about events of two thousand years ago. he left us a short description of the foreign policy of the Roman Empire that reads uncannily like the foreign policy of today's  American Empire. I published it on this blog four year ago (KarmanTurn, 9/5/12). It seems like a good time to revisit it. So here it is from Schumpeter’s The Sociology of Imperialism 1918:
    …A policy which pretends to aspire to peace but unerringly generates war, the policy of continual preparation for war, the policy of meddlesome interventionism. There was no corner of the known world where some interest was not alleged to be in danger or under actual attack. If the interests were not those of Rome, they were those of Rome's allies; and if Rome had no allies, then allies would be invented. When it was utterly impossible to contrive such an interest--why, then it was the national honor that had been insulted. The fight was always invested with an aura of legality. Rome was always being attacked by evil-minded neighbors, always fighting for a breathing space. The whole world was pervaded by a host of enemies and it was manifestly Rome's duty to guard against their indubitably aggressive designs. They were enemies who only waited to fall on the Roman people …
    Sound familiar?  

    Happy New Year!

Monday, December 19, 2016

What Goes Around...
      Hillary said the other day that Putin hacked the Democrats' email because he has a “personal beef” against her.
    You're damn right he does. Hillary’s been trying to overthrow him just as she and/or her successor John Kerry have lawlessly toppled the leaders of Honduras, Libya, Ukraine, Iraq and Afghanistan (the latter two repeatedly) and are now trying their damnedest to bring down Assad in Syria, not to mention various democratically elected Latin American leftists.

      In any event, it’s Hillary not Putin who’s been toppled. Was her downfall God answering Putin’s prayers, or thanks to the talent of Wikileakers and Russian hackers, or was it from the most obvious of causes, the arrogant cluelessness of Hillary and the Democrats?  All of them, I would say, but mostly the hubris of the Dems.
    They ran a hapless campaign against Trump and already, with the Donald and a Rep Congress yet to take power, the Dems are promising their usual pusillanimous opposition to anything to the right of their business as usual politics.  It’s movements to their left that infuriate  them. Trump would have to disguise himself as Ralph Nader to stir up some real rage by the Dems.
    There are two battles looming. One is the resistance to Trump and the Trumpen element by everyone and anyone in this country who loathes and fears him.  The other is the gathering conflict within the Democratic Party between its corporatist, banker-loving right wing and its so-called progressives who range from wimpy centrists to Sanderista leftists. It’s anyone’s guess who will win.
    Back to the hack, the NY Times, as paper of record, will occasionally acknowledge our leaders’ sins of the past.  On Sunday, December 18, the Times put electoral shenanigans by us, the good guys, in perspective with the following:
     “…it is worth remembering that trying to manipulate elections is a well-honed American art form. The C.I.A. got its start trying to influence the outcome of Italy’s elections in 1948…in an effort to keep Communists from taking power. Five years later, the C.I.A. engineered a coup against Mohammad Mossadeq, Iran’s democratically elected leader, when the United States and Britain installed the Shah.
    ‘The military coup that overthrew Mossadeq and his National Front cabinet was carried out under CIA direction as an act of U.S. foreign policy, conceived and approved at the highest levels of government,’ the agency concluded in one of its own reports, declassified around the 60th anniversary of those events, which were engineered in large part by Kermit Roosevelt Jr., a grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt.
     'There were similar interferences over the years in Guatemala, Chile and even in Japan, hailed as a model of post-World War II democracy, where the Liberal Democratic Party owes its early grip on power in the 1950s and 1960s to millions of dollars in covert C.I.A. support."
       Of course. it's only wrong when they do it, not when we do it.

Monday, December 12, 2016

 Lemme Be Honest With You
        It’s not like we didn’t tell lies before D. Trump came along. Consider the following national fabulations:
    We live in the only country in which the candidate with most votes doesn’t necessarily win the election and one in which laws are enacted to prevent certain racial and ethnic groups from voting at all. Still we call ourselves a democracy.
    We live in a country that imprisons more people, by magnitudes, than any other in the world, including China a dictatorship with five times our population. And yet we call ourselves free.
    We live in a nation forever at war or preparing for war, typically with countries that have done us no harm, present no threat, and that most of us have never heard of. No matter, we call ourselves peaceful.
    We live in a country dominated by ever engorging monopolies and oligopolies but nevertheless call ours a free market economy.
    We live in a country with an astounding imbalance of wealth in which the fruits of our labor go to a tiny and select few (less than one percent) to whom we grant immunity from our laws and veto power over any public initiative that does not make them the main beneficiary. Despite that, we call ours a land of opportunity.
    And then there’s the most fabulous fabulation of all, that we live in the greatest country on earth. This we endlessly repeat even though it would only take a moment to ask ourselves the names and accomplishments of the second and third greatest nations and thus  reveal the fatuousness of our
braggadocio. 
    Maybe it’s time to select more accurate terms to replace democracy, freedom, peaceful, free market, opportunity and greatness to define our polity.  Instead of democracy, how’s about being honest about our cupidity and call our system a buckocracy?  With our millions of jailbirds we should be talking about a pen state.  Given our wars, it would be fair to change the name of the Pentagon to bellicocity. We should be calling our economy The Grab and our claims to opportunity Fat Chance. As for our greatestness, how about Hat Trick?

Monday, November 21, 2016

You Terrify Me and I Hate You
...Now Help Me

 The most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help—Ronald Reagan
 
     The sentiments expressed in the Reagan quote above have been around and ingrained for a long time. God only knows how many millions of Americans believe their government and the pols who run it are at best do-nothings and at worst corrupt and malefic. They stand in contrast to, say, the French, who instead of fearing the government have through their heads-up politics gotten the government to fear the people.
     Many, if not most, of these same millions of Americans voted for Trump because they felt abandoned and abused by the very Washington they abominated. It was like getting angry at your evil witch of a stepmother for leaving you out of her will as she always promised she would.
    The Trumpens were said to be furious at their loss of jobs, the influx of immigrants, and the shattering of their communities. Lots of them felt that being white no longer gave them them a goose up on the national pecking order. They conveniently forgot that for decades they had voted for the pols and policies they were now blaming for their miseries.
    So they cheered at Trump’s promise to build a wall to shut out undocumented immigrants, even though the fact was that the vast majority of them get into the U.S. by overstaying their legal visas.

     They believed that a realtor for the richy rich with a long reputation for ripoffs and his likeness in the dictionary under the definition of megalomaniac could make things like they used to be when the white man’s writ ruled and store signs were still in English.   
    So why were conservatives and their kith expecting help from the government they detested?  Why were they complaining about politicians and plutocrats lining their pockets when that’s exactly what popular modern day conservative-inspired capitalism is all about?
    The answer? It comes from the very conservative Henry Mencken a century ago: no one ever lost a dime by underestimating the intelligence of the American people.

    Imagine an Academy Awards presentation in which none of  the judges had seen any of the movies in contention but had voted merely on what they might or might not have heard about them.   That’s a ringer for our political system.  Millions who know and care little about events apart from those of their daily existence are called upon on election day to pick political leaders whose politics are a mystery to them. So they vote their feelings, their attitudes, their casteism, their hopes—anything that doesn’t require knowing how our system works.  And thus we end up with the likes of Trump. The only slight saving grace here is that half the populace, not knowing and/or not caring, never bother to vote.  Perhaps they have internalized the old Wobbly dictum that if voting could change things it would be against the law. Nah, they never heard of the Wobblies.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

After the Election
    Millions of Republicans are far to the right of their leaders.  Millions of Democrats are far to the left of their leaders. While tons of these Reps have joined the Trumpen element, the disaffected Dems remain a wild card. Will they hold their noses and vote for the Hillary they hate or will they stay home?  We’ll find that out on November 9.
    What we can already see is that our present political arrangement is on the verge of collapse. A  Trump victory will put us on the road to fascism while a Hillary win will tear apart both parties. In any event, big changes are coming.
     A president Hillary will, like Obama before her, quickly abandon her progressive agenda and instead seek to reconstitute the Dems as a center right party by recruiting the anti-Trump “moderates” among the Reps. She’ll be strongly opposed by the Dem base, which wants to move the party leftward.  It’s going to be a helluva donnybrook. Either the lefties will somehow gain control of the party or they will be beaten and leave the Dems to form a new party.    

    A Trump in the White House promises chaos. What Trump’s Breitbart-oriented cabal openly plump for is the destruction of the GOP and its replacement by a white nationalist party.  With whites already a declining plurality of Americans, the only way such a party can gain and hold power is  by violence and repression. In other words, turning the U.S. into what South Africa used to be.
    Along with giving racists a chance to use those assault rifles they’ve been stockpiling, a white nationalist America will mean another Civil War.  And that will mean that for once since the Civil War, Americans, at least those on the left, will be fighting for freedom in their own country rather than someone else’s.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Oceans Apart
                                                         West Tisbury, MA
    I’m sitting on an island in the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of one of the great sea lanes. The coastal waters of New England abound with every sort of craft from mini jet skis to gargantuan tankers and container ships.This being the U.S., most of that maritime traffic flies the American flag.
    Imagine, then, the Russian navy showing up in these waters.  Imagine Russian aircraft testing our defenses by flying straight at our shores. Imagine Russian warships tailing our naval vessels and their jets buzzing our planes. Imagine Russian war games off Cape Cod.
   Now imagine that Moscow declared that the reason for its military activity along the U.S. coast was to ensure freedom of the seas.  Or put another way, to protect American trade with the rest of the world.
    Once we stopped laughing, we’d be in a panic and likely on the verge of war with the Russkies.  Pols and pundits would be demanding the we forcefully counter such an obvious threat.
    At the moment, our navy is carrying out some of the same maneuvers off Russia in the Baltic and Black Seas that we just imagined that Moscow was up to on our coast.
    The Russkies are not panicking about us, though.  They’re used to it. From 1918, Russia, first under communism and for the last 25 years under capitalism, has had to deal with U.S. attempts to weaken and/or overthrow its government. 
    This began with the now unremembered outright U.S.military invasions in 1918-19 in Russia’s far north at Archangel and far east at Vladivostok.  Except for a short period of cooperation during  World War II, U.S. policy towards Russia has been relentlessly hostile. The ostensible reason was that our democratic country was somehow obliged to oppose Russia’s dictatorship.  But that argument didn’t hold water considering that Washington has spawned and succored countless tyrannies around the world.
      A truer explanation is that longtime U.S, policy calls for “full spectrum dominance” of the non-American 95 percent of the globe.  Big, independent-minded countries like Russia, China, Brazil and Iran stand in the way of that policy. Hence Washington treats them as disobedient.
    That means co-opting or overthrowing them politically, punishing them economically and intimidating them militarily. In other words, our navy is not provocatively maneuvering off the Russian, Chinese and Iranian coasts to ensure free and unhindered passage for Russian, Chinese and Iranian vessels or those of any other country. They’re there on an enduring mission: to expand and enforce the American empire, or what’s more politely known as our ‘global leadership.’

Friday, July 22, 2016

And Still We're Scared

This is the last stand on earth. There’s no place to escape to—Gen, Michael Flynn 

The sense of safety that many of us once took for granted has been shattered—Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke. 

 Both quotes from speakers at the Trump-GOP Convention where “Making America Safe Again” was an official theme.

                                                     West Tisbury, MA
      We maintain the world’s most powerful and expensive military arrayed in hundreds of bases throughout the world. We are currently using those bases to conduct seven overt and several covert wars from Africa to Asia. Our president has just ordered a trillion (yes, trillion) dollars worth of new model nuclear weapons to more reliably and efficiently destroy human existence should that become advisable.
    Since 9/11, Washington has used our taxes to create a top secret security bureaucracy “so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.” This bureaucracy apparently has the capability to surveill just about every American and God only knows how many of the other 95 percent of the world’s people.
      At home, we have over a million civilian police who are increasingly militarized and equipped with heavy weapons more useful to make war on the citizenry than to ‘serve and protect’ it. For their part, ordinary Americans are armed with over 300 million guns, adding more all the time  Millions of these gun owners  are present and former military with proficiency with weapons. To enhance our security, we imprison 2.2 million people, a total greater by magnitudes than any other country, including China, a dictatorship with five times the U.S. population   
    You would think that all of the above would make Americans feel secure.  No other country in history has been so profusely armed and organized not only for defense  but also to take the offense against those who would  challenge not merely its security but its dominance over others. Yet despite all this power,  Americans live in fear. Fear of Mexican rapists, Muslim terrorists, aggressive Russians, arrogant Chinese, fanatic Iranians, and anti-Americans of countless kinds. And that’s not to mention our fear of our fellow citizens—the ones we protect ourselves against with assault rifles for the gents and dainty pink automatics for the ladies.
    There’s not a moment where we can say we feel safe and secure. And even if we increased our power by ten or twenty or a hundred fold we would still live in fear. Politicians in and out of office would still be warning us that ever greater military spending, ever more foreign wars, and ever more draconian impositions of law and order at home were vitally necessary if we wanted to be safe.  No matter how bloated the budgets of our warfare state,  politicians would still be accusing each other of skimping on it. But those politicians who talk tough are really lying fools or weak-willed pussies.
       In fact, there is one man in America, a real estate promoter and brand name marketer, who can alone quickly vanquish all of these enemies and allay our fears because he’s smarter and tougher than any other candidate. He gets his intelligence from "watching tv shows” and is his own best consultant on complexities domestic or global.
     “America First,” his main political slogan is derived from a pre-World War II movement favorably disposed towards Hitler. “Law and Order,” or “legge ed ordine” in Italian, another of his slogans is, like the realtor’s jutting chin pose, associated with Benito Mussolini.     
    Both Hitler and Mussolini were better read than the realtor, who apparently didn’t even peruse the books about himself that he paid others to write.  In any event, instead of making Germany first and establishing law and order in Italy, they brought death and ruination.  
    It’s likely the same fate will befall us. Not from enemies but from ourselves. We seem to have a penchant for scaring ourselves to death.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Ever Closer to the Big One
    Let’s hope that Donald Trump’s regard  for Vladimir Putin is justified. That’s because Barack Obama has been busy testing Putin's sangfroid by making America's and the world's survival dependent on the good judgment of the Russian leader and the acuity of his radar operators.
    In the stupidest and most self-destructive strategic decision since Bush and Cheney declared endless war on the Middle East, Obama is marshaling missiles and troops on the borders of Russia in a reverse version of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis that brought the world as close to nuclear armegeddon as it has ever come.
    Back then, the world was literally saved by a Soviet submarine commander named Vasili Arkhipov. The top three officers on board had agreed to require unanimity when it came to firing their nukes.  Arkhipov voted no and stuck to it. He’s why we’re all here today.
    That was a half century ago. Back then, Washington had a first strike nuclear policy. It still does.  The big difference then was that the speed and distance of our nuclear-tipped missiles gave Moscow 20 minutes to half an hour to decide on their response. Obama has cut that down to a couple of minutes.  He has literally put the fate of the globe in the hands of the Kremlin masters and their warning systems.
    If that’s not scary enough, Obama has ordered up a trillion dollar program to modernize our old nuclear weapons and build new ones along with new delivery means. Featured will be smaller tactical bombs and missiles, meaning there will be a greater likelihood of their being used.  In short, when it comes to blowing up the world, our Nobel Peace Prize winning president--and no doubt his successors--will be bringing us closer to doomsday than at any time since the Cold War.
    And for what?  The same old ludicrous claim that Russia, though now a plain old capitalist rather than a fervent communist country, wants to take over the world starting with, say, its erstwhile Latvian satellite. Or maybe we'll end the world in a beef with China over  some rocks sticking out of the South China Sea.
    What’s really happening is the American empire is up to its usual tricks.  It looks at the disintegrated Soviet empire with the same avid eyes with which it looked upon the collapsing Spanish empire in 1898. Washington sees the Ukraine and Crimea as new Cubas and Puerto Ricos to exploit, only bigger and richer. It's using its nukes to extort Russian and China, not to mention other disobedient nations.
    In the Cold War, there was the illusion that if a nuclear conflict broke out it would pit the forces of freedom against those of tyranny. If it happens now, it will be nothing more than a foreseeable and avoidable world-killing miscalculation in the

age old battle for plunder and power.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

We're Too Rich To Afford Some Things
      Hillary and her horde are charging that Bernie has his numbers all wrong.They claim his promises for universal health care and free college tuition are just pie in the sky.
    Translated into straight English, they’re saying that the U.S., the self proclaimed richest nation on earth, can’t afford the civic and social benefits long common to just about every first world capitalist country. Or as Hillary puts it, "we're not Denmark." I could add that, when you come right down to it, we're not really first world any more either.
    Of course, Hillary's assertion is pure bullshit. Uncle Sam has unlimited trillions to make wars, prop up the stock market and otherwise indulge the already rich. It's only proposals to benefit ordinary Americans that, we're told, we cannot afford. Or so says Hillary, campaigning in New York in her spiffy $600 haircut from Bergdorf Goodman, 
     As the race tightens up, you can expect a lot more such sniping  at Sanders. But don’t expect a head-on attack on Bernie’s key point about the utter corruption of our political economy. For whenever Sanders rails on that subject, reporters in the room grow silent, hang their heads and nervously shift their feet. They know that he’s telling the God’s own truth about the big con game that pays their salaries.  Unable to defend chicanery, the most they can do is accuse Bernie of being a “one note” candidate.  But what a life-or-death note that is!
   By contrast, let one of the proven perpetrators of that corruption show up before the camera, say some Wall Street master of the universe who’s paid billions in fines and millions buying politicians to keep him out of jail, and new pages are written in the annals of lickspittling and brown-nosing by the very same reporters.
    Let’s be honest. Anyone who’s pays attention knows that the good old U.S.A. is not a democracy but a plutocracy fast turning into a kleptocracy. That means the more you steal, the richer, more invulnerable and more respectable you get.  It means that the government will generally ignore your depredations or, at worst, take part of your swag in the form of fines, before giving you a never go to jail card and letting you go to steal more.
    The Clintons then, like Obama now, used to smooth the way for the masters of the universe.  They have since become masters themselves. And if Hillary wins the White House, you can be sure that the Clinton millions will become billions. And what will Barack Obama be doing? He’s already busily working on his billion dollar “legacy”  by which people with the really big bucks will make him one of their own in thanks for all he has given them.