Thursday, June 9, 2011

Three Short Takes

War And Peace

The NY Times has revealed yet another war being conducted by Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama. “The extent of America’s war in Yemen has been among the Obama administration’s most closely guarded secrets...” said the paper of record. The Times also reported that “as things get more and more chaotic in Yemen, the space for the Americans to operate in gets bigger.” The Nobel medalist in the White House is currently overseeing four public wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya and a number of clandestine ones from Latin America to Asia. Peru is likely to be added to the list now that its people have elected a leftist president by a narrow margin. The Guinness Book of Records has yet to list the most number of wars fought by a peace prize recipient.

Wimpy Europeans

At Srebrenica in Bosnia in 1995, the Serb general Ratko Mladic reportedly committed the worst war crime in Europe since World War II by ordering the massacre of nearly three times the number of innocent civilians who died on 9/11. He was finally arrested in recent days and will stand trial at the Hague. Apparently, there is no sentiment in Europe to shoot him in the face, dump him in the ocean, and then joke about it on late night tv.

Funny What Doesn't Get Played Up
Which one of these current sex stories have you heard little or nothing about?
1. Congressman Anthony Weiner admits to cyber flashing women he didn’t know after first engaging them in political palaver.
2. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, head of the International Monetary Fund and a leading candidate for the presidency of France, accused of sexual assault on a hotel housekeeper.
3. Silvio Berlusconi, prime minister of Italy, now on trial for committing “bunga-bunga” with an under-age prostitute.
4. Arnold Schwartzenegger, former Governor of California, admits to fathering a child by a woman working in his family home.
5. Moshe Katsav, president of Israel, sentenced in March to seven years in prison for serial rape.

Monday, May 30, 2011

On Memorial Day
My city of New Haven doesn’t feel a need to guard our municipal security by keeping police precincts in Atlanta, Los Angeles or Omaha. My state of Connecticut doesn’t maintain statal security by assigning troopers to Alaska, Montana or Arkansas. Neither do the mayor of New Haven nor the governor of Connecticut project themselves as national leaders
By contrast, my country’s leaders assert that our national security requires military bases just about everywhere on earth--plus weapons pointing down from the Heavens as well. And our president never stops proclaiming our “global leadership” despite the fact that no world-wide election has ever given cause for such a claim.
These declarations about national security and cosmic captaincy are preposterous. Except for the local compradors, barkeeps and whore masters, few foreigners want an American base in their backyard. By the same token, few are willing to accept "leadership" by the pols, spooks and generals of a different and distant land. Their reaction runs from resentment to resistance. The inevitable result is endless crisis and war.
When Americans die in those wars, it is in service to our empire of power and pelf such as those of the Romans, the Ottomans, Brits, etc. Because our national myth will not admit to that, we dissemble about their deaths. We dare not say they fell to procure oil contracts or even to ensure our “national interests.” It’s more comforting, even though corrupting, to pretend they died for their country or for the freedom of others.
The profits of empire enrich only a chosen few, while the costs of empire in blood and taxes are paid for by the many. Nevertheless, even in this era of austerity, Americans remain willing to buy the myth and pay its price, no matter the amplitude of deaths or deficits. The conventional wisdom holds that we no longer pay attention to our constant wars because they are fought by a professional military rather than draftees. But that doesn’t explain the indulgence that we, and particularly proponents of small government, grant to the Pentagon despite its ginormous record of corruption and incompetence. Americans have long since grown cynical about Wall Street, but still excuse and even adore an equally rapacious “defense” establishment. Maybe if we put our bankers and brokers in uniform, they’d be more lovable as they rob us blind.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Human Rights, Ha Ha
Imagine that in his more sober moments between binges and bimbos Charlie Sheen was wont to lecture us on probity and decorum. Wouldn’t that be a fun thing? At least as chucklesome is the irony of Washington’s mendacious moralizing on human rights. In recent days, the Obama administration has been slagging the Chinese on that score. Beijing is, to be sure, guilty as charged. But China’s leaders have the right to their cynicism about the provenance of the accusations. Indeed, if I were the Chinese foreign minister and Hillary Clinton started hectoring me about human rights, I would simply read the following list by way of reply:
Batista in Cuba, Duvalier in Haiti, Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Somoza in Nicaragua, Rios Montt in Guatemala, Lopez Arellano in Honduras, Pinochet in Chile, Stroessner in Paraguay, Noriega in Panama, Perez Jimenez in Venezuela Galteri and Videla in Argentina, Mendez in Uruguay, Rojas Pinilla in Columbia, Franco in Spain, Salazar in Portugal, the Greek colonels, Mobuto in Congo, Savimbi in Angola, the apartheid regime of South Africa, Idriss in Libya, Mubarak in Egypt, Ben Ali in Tunisia, the Saud family in Saudi, Hussein and Abdullah in Jordan, Saleh in Yemen, Al Khalifa in Bahrain, Saddam in Iraq, the Shah of Iran, Suharto in Indonesia, Diem and a succession of generals in Vietnam, Chiang in China, Marcos in the Philippines, Rhee and Park in South Korea. And that’s without mentioning the Bush family’s profitable dealings over the years with A. Hitler and the bin Laden clan.
Those are just a sampling of the long list of murderous monarchs and martinets that Washington has installed, armed, advised and otherwise underwritten in recent times. I haven’t checked Tacitus in a while, nor have I recently read an account of the British Empire. But just off the top of my my head, I would venture that no nation in history has sponsored more dictators in more places than we freedom-loving Americans.
You can add to that the facts that the U.S. has by far the biggest prison population on the globe, and that, uniquely among first world countries, it treats torture as a debatable public policy option rather than a criminal evil. Indeed, we are the first country to globally franchise pain parlors.
One reason China is finding so much success in the world economy is that it trades with everyone, good and bad, and dispenses with the cynical and sanctimonious lectures that our empire inflicts on an increasingly hostile and mocking world. How about our leaders either put up by cleaning up their own act or simply shut up?

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Two bin Ladens
As far as I know Osama bin Laden was killed only once. Nevertheless, revises of his demise are still issuing daily from Washington. He was armed, he wasn’t armed. He either did or didn’t use one of his wives as a shield. There were continuous fire fights at the compound or only one. Only one woman was wounded or one woman was killed. And what about the children?
Every sentient American should be aware that their leaders lie about everything all the time. Information for them is not meant to inform, but to placate or provoke. The offing of Osama was organized as much as a theatrical offering as it was a commando raid. The changing versions we get daily thus may be seen as the revisions of a play during tryouts. With the Osama drama, we’re still in New Haven. That doesn’t mean we will ever get a final script. The JKF assassination produced three contradictory official versions. All have lived comfortably side by side for all these years. Go see the excellent film “The Conspirator” and learn that the circumstances around Lincoln’s killing remain vexed.
What we do know is that there were two Osama bin Ladens. One is a stock super terrorist out of Fox Channel’s “24” series. He’s the mastermind who slips away till next week while Jack Bauer tortures his henchmen--always at the very last minute--in order to save West LA from damage worse than that wrought by Charlie Sheen.
Then there’s the real Osama, the one who’s rarely revealed in the popular culture. He’s the scion of a wealthy family fascinatingly on friendly terms with the Bush clan--but apparently not fascinating enough for the media to take a look at that relationship.
And what of his religion? If you substituted Jesus and God for Mohammed and Allah, his pietical preference wouldn’t be much different from any hardscrabble holy roller down in dear old Dixie, But here again the media is hardly interested in examining why Christian, Jewish and Islamic fundamentalisms actually have more in common than in conflict.
Consider his military doctrine. Little has been said about the fact that it mirrors ours. The Pentagon, attacked on 9/11, was obviously a military target, while the World Trade Center, home to the largest domestic CIA base and enormous corporate economic power, was a command and control center. Had we attacked such locations in Iraq, Iran or wherever, the civilians killed in whatever number would have been written off as “collateral damage.” Likewise the hijacking and destruction of civilian airliners with all their passengers becomes terrorism depending on the nationalities involved. One of the anti-Castroites who bombed a Cubana airliner, killing 73, just died a peaceful death after a long life while his leading co-conspirator is enjoying his dotage in Miami, feted as an heroic old soldier by his erstwhile CIA buddies. Repeated calls for their extradition to face terrorism charges were simply ignored by our nominally anti-terrorist government.
First world nations like Spain and Britain have much experience battling serious and persistent forms of terrorism. Their tools were primarily civilian: intelligence gathering and police work. London never bombed Dublin or invaded the Irish Republic. Madrid didn’t burn Biarritz with white phosphorus or torture and disappear thousands of Spanish and French Basques. Neither nation vastly increased its military budget to meet its particular threat.
It’s plain by now that first the Bush and now the Obama administrations cynically used 9/11 and terrorism to further militarize and dominate the Middle East while turning the U.S. into a quasi police state. The first goal has failed miserably. The unanticipated Arab spring has shattered U.S./Israeli plans for the region. Washington favored the local dictatorships, so that any turn towards popular rule and democracy can only be to its detriment. A new battle for the Middle East is just beginning. This one will not pit the empire against a few thousand feudal fanatics of the Al Qaeda stripe. Unless America realizes that the odds have dramatically turned against its corporate crusaders and pulls back its desert legionaries, we will find ourselves saying, yes, bin Laden is deservedly dead, but that's just one down and a billion to go!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Slavery and Treason, Really?
I’m happy to see on this sesquicentennial that some of us are finally admitting that the Civil War had something to do with slavery. Back when I was a kid in the 50’s, the conflict starred Scarlett O’Hara and Uncle Remus and was all about tradition, chivalry, romantic rebels and devilish Yankees. Millions, mostly in lower America, still buy that nonsense. Thanks to the civil rights movement, Roots and some good and popular scholarship, lots of us came to understand that the war was fought, in Lincoln’s simple but perfect truth, because the nation could no longer exist half slave and half free.
We never liked to talk about slavery because it revealed the hypocrisy of our central freedom myth. So we pretended that the chains and whips in our historical attic could be forever ignored. Meanwhile, the more shameless of us actually held that slavery was not so bad. After all, they smirked, it Christianized heathen.
That reluctance is still there. All across the south this spring, fat white men are donning gray and clumsily pretending to be young and lean Johnny Rebs--only with fire crackers for minie balls and no blood and blacks to remind them of the horror of this country’s greatest killing fest. But to their annoyance, there are now lots of voices ruining their fantasies by bringing up slavery and sedition.
The latter is another skeleton in our attic that we are only beginning to acknowledge. Forget about terrorism or communism. The greatest treason and existential threat we ever faced came from fellow Americans determined to destroy these United States and supplant it with a slave empire stretching west to the Pacific and south to Latin America. Such was the founding ambition of those who created the Confederacy. To realize it, they trampled our flag and and made war on the United States. It took 600,000 dead to end that imperious impetus.
Americans at the time detested that betrayal. Jefferson Davis, Alexander Stephens, Judah Benjamin and their confederates were condemned as treacherous and anti-American.They fled or were jailed when their cause got lost in gore. For decades afterward, Yankee politicians made hay by waving “the bloody shirt,” which meant denouncing the sedition of the south and the rise of the KKK after the war.
But over the years something odd happened. Northerners gradually forgot about the conflict while southerners rewrote its history to make themselves the victims of what they dubbed The War of Northern Aggression. They claimed to be merely affirming “states rights” when the Yankees viciously set upon them. Never mentioned was that the particular state right they had in mind was owning, buying, selling, working, whipping, raping and killing other human beings.
Dang if the upholders of bondage didn’t win their propaganda war, mostly thanks to indifference and racism in the rest of the country. For Americans, the Civil War became summed up in the romanticism of Gone With The Wind. More outrageously, the south began to hold itself up as the most patriotic corner of the country. Its politicians became vital, if not dominant, in Washington (five of our last ten presidents hailed from formerly Confederate states). It supplied officer cadre and endless bases to the U.S. military which it had formerly so murderously despised. When reactionary, imperial, racist and yahoo opinions flooded our media, they were often delivered in the dulcet drawls of Dixie.
So here we are today perfectly indulgent of those who still sympathize with ancestors who would have destroyed the United States. And though all stripes of progressive reformers continue to be labeled “un-American or, more commonly nowadays, ‘European’ or ‘soft on Canada,’ no one dreams of questioning the Americanism of those unashamedly harboring warm spots for secession, segregation and, yes, even slavery.
One of the great frauds in this land is that right wingers are considered super patriots. Quite the contrary. When they’re not whistling Dixie, they’re championing an economic system that has long since shed any pretense of patriotism and now calls itself multinational. That sounds right furren to me.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Cells Effort
Though we call ours a free country, the truth is that we Americans keep more people unfree than any other nation. Roughly 2.3 million of us are, in the immortal lyric of Hank Snow, in the jailhouse now. That’s far more in total and per capita than China, a no-nonsense dictatorship with five times our population. As far as democracies go, we Americans are five to ten times more likely to call a cell home than Europeans.
There are a couple of ways you can look at this grotesque statistic. If all these folks belong in the clink, that makes America the most criminal country that ever was. Since we are also among the most pious of people, that number doesn’t say much for the supposedly benign effects of religion. On the other hand, if all those people don’t belong in the jug, we have the most energetic police state in existence.
There is, in fact, a third reason. The basic direction of these United States is to transform human activity, in so far as possible, into commercial transactions. Whereas communists believed in a utopia of happy workers dancing around the May Pole, the American dream is to get rich lending people money to buy tickets to the May Pole event. Thus it’s not surprising that our entrepreneurs came up with the insight that prisons were little more than cheap hotels with bad food whose doors only locked from the outside. Why they asked, in free market funk, should the socialistic state have a monopoly on these hostelries? Thus the private prison industry was launched.
Lobbying and loose money soon persuaded local pols that corporations could run jails more cheaply than could governments. Of course, that was pure bait and switch. The corporate outfits ran up their prices as soon as they got in. And, of course, what every business needs is customers. With jails, you can’t advertise weekend packages or letting the kids stay for free. You can only keep prodding the government to lock up ever more human beings.
Arizona is a case in point. It passed a law making it easier for cops to jam up likely illegals. In practice, this meant anyone who looked Mexican. This created a firestorm of protest by those being singled out--as well as anyone else still subscribing to justice, decency and the American way. Soon, it was reported by NPR and others that the law was less about preserving jobs or appeasing anti-immigrant yahoos than profiting Arizona’s private prison companies. In fact, it was literally drafted by those companies and handed to the governor to read to the legislature.
Things went hunky dory for a while, with the unlucky being given 20 years for jay walking and mopery. There was even a judge in Pennsylvania (now himself heading for the cooler) who was getting kickbacks for sentencing junior high kids to hard time in a private reformatory for not doing their homework. The correctional con artists were swimming in spondulicks. Then the recession hit and the states ran shy of revenues. Police were laid off, arrests dropped, and, horror of horrors, the states started freeing inmates to save money. The prison profiteers, who had planned on ever-rising incarceration rates till presumably half the country was being paid minimum wages to guard the imprisoned other half, took it on the lamb. Towns that had invested in now empty for-profit jails found themselves straining to pay off their bonds. Just like the housing bubble, the big house bubble had burst. No doubt it will bounce back, given the degree of our greed and the fact that we have hundreds of millions of potential prisoners.
For the first half of this country’s history, business profited from keeping people in chains. It was called slavery. Now they profit from keeping them in cells. It looks very much like the same thing here in the self-proclaimed land of the free.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Good times on the Vineyard. Yours truly, Suze, Jill and Enzo

Suze Rotolo Bartoccioli
We were friends forever, if you can say that about fifty five or so years. Platonic but passionate, personal but political. Occasionally hitting clinkers but always in tune. Laughter was our bread and wine. If you didn't know her, read this remembrance by someone who knew her well, or better still her book, A Freewheelin' Time.
Suze not only gave me her lifelong friendship, but brought me that of Enzo and Luca as well. Next to my own Jill and Alex, I’ve received no greater gift. She was a golden girl at sixteen and grew wiser but never older. As another old friend of hers once wrote, she was forever young.
Ciao, bella.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Obama, Obama, Pants On Fire
You know that politicians have contempt for the citizenry when they shamelessly tell big fat lies that can be easily checked. And you know that the media are naught but whores when they fail to check them.
Which brings us to the case of Raymond Davis. What all sides agree is that Davis, a veteran special forces operative, shot and killed two Pakistani motorcyclists in Lahore on January 27. After that, disagreement begins. Though Davis packed two handguns, intelligence gear, a civilian U.S. passport, a variety of business cards, and described himself as a “consultant” employed by a private firm, the U.S. Government declared him to be a consular officer entitled to immunity under the Vienna Treaty governing diplomatic relations among countries and demanded his immediate release. But the Pakistani authorities have so far demurred and kept him in the clink, looking forward to a trial. Basically, the U.S. claims that Davis was defending himself from an assault by the two bikers, who were also armed with hand guns, while the Pakistanis hold that Davis committed “cold blooded murder.”
The plot is right out of “24.” The question is whether Davis is Jack Bauer? Pakistan is among the most anti-American places in the universe. Its media is currently awash in spy speculation about what Davis was actually up to and why Washington is so antsy to spring him. It should be noted that there’s little need for spy fiction here, since the real thing in the form of our our massive “covert” intervention, not to mention Indian intrigues, have made Pakistan the world’s sneaky business Mecca of the moment.
If you want to delve into the dirty details, Dave Lindorff at Counterpunch is doing some of the most thorough-going reporting on the story. See his Feb 8 and Feb 10 pieces. For a Pakistani take, peruse this.
aving given you some background about a yarn you may not have known about, let’s get to the reason for the headline on this blog. Commenting on the Raymond Davis contretemps at his Feb 15 news conference, President Obama said: “If our diplomats are in another country they are not subject to that country’s local prosecution.” What a whopper!
What the 1963 Vienna treaty on consular relations (which we signed) actually says on this subject is: “Consular officers shall not be liable to arrest or detention pending trial, except in the case of a grave crime and pursuant to a decision by the competent judicial authority.” (Section 2, Article 41)
If you consider alleged double murder a grave crime, either our president has been misinformed or is deliberately misinforming us about a treaty any school kid can check out. What Pakistanis are saying is that the U.S., is arrogating to itself the right kill anyone anywhere under the cover of diplomatic immunity. The failure of our money media (and that includes NPR) to do basic reporting on this story is yet another indication of their corruption. As I.F. Stone, one of our greatest investigative reporters, used to warn us, the pols and the press lie about everything all the time.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Awful Specter of Multi-polarism

As with Christianity, the only thing worse than hearing democracy questioned is having it practiced--source unknow

The ire in Tahrir Square is full of ironies, not the least of which is the American president who inspired such hope in the Middle East with his Cairo speech calling around this week to leaders in the region to stanch the uncontrolled surge of democracy in the Arab world. --Maureen Dowd, NY Times, Feb. 2, 2011

It’s enough to warm an old lefty’s winter-chilled heart. We are being treated to a rare outbreak of revolution. Or what the Chinese call ‘interesting times.’
The Arab world has finally had its fill of suffering and seething and is exploding into rebellion from the Mahgreb to Suez. Thus it joins Latin America, where, to varying degrees in recent years, countries from the Caribbean to Cape Horn have broken free of the imperio yanqui and begun the useful task of unifying their continent.
Revolution, of course, is like marriage: you never know how it’s going to pan out. But since most of us would still be serfs without them, I’m willing to welcome their occurrence. Unfortunately, living in a country where counter-insurgency (i.e., opposition to revolution) is considered as sacred a duty as hedge fund management, this is hardly the place to celebrate the uprisings that Washington spends billions on suppressing. You would have to go to France for that.
So far, one big lesson from Tunisia and Egypt is that that our idiot pols and media have gotten history dead wrong again. For the last decade they’ve been demonizing Arabs and other Muslims as medieval maniacs plotting fresh 9/11s in their caves and casbahs. And we bought it, hookah, laffi and scimitar. The reality is that the majority young of the Arab world actually want to move into the modern world. To the extent that that they hate America it’s not because we’re free, as the fool Bush constantly claimed, but because the U.S. is propping up the dictatorships that keep them from being free.
We can assume that at the moment the Obamists are laboring as hard as they can to shore up Mubarak and his gang or, failing that, to make sure that its replacements are the most reactionary and compliant of available compradors. The only juice Washington has is in its billion bucks a year aid program (mostly military and some food) and its buddy-buddy contacts with Egypt’s officer corps and the killers and fingernail pullers of the security apparat. That may not be enough, especially since the young draftees in the army are the same people as the youthful demonstrators. The two groups are already fraternizing and the troops are not likely to mow down their contemporaries to keep Mubarak in power.
I don’t have the foggiest about how the Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions will play out. But I don’t think the Islamists will take charge: their limited influence in the region has been insanely magnified by our empire to serve its purpose. But whether democracy or Bonapartism will prevail is another story.
Whatever happens, the regional awakenings from Caracas to Cairo and Beirut to Burma, along with the rise of China, India and Brazil, are rearranging the world. Communism, then terrorism used to be the wash-your-mouth-out with-soap words in Washington. They are being replaced by an even more frightening pejorative: multi-polarism. It raises the specter of a world where the U.S. is no longer global top dog but just another big country with “interests” that are getting less interesting by the day.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Diplomatese and Dictatorese

Because of the greatness of the Shah, Iran is an island of stability in one of the more troubled areas of the world.--Jimmy Carter toasting the Shah in Tehran, December 31, 1977, a year before the Shah's bloody dictatorship was overthrown in a popular revolution.

This proposed sale [of $281 million in weapons] will contribute to the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that has been and continues to be an important force for economic and military progress in North Africa. --The Obama Administration’s 2010 request to Congress for military sales to the now fallen murderous Tunisian kleptocracy.

Political talk and diplomatese bear only a vague relationship to everyday English. Consider this object lesson I served up a couple of years back:
Jeffrey Dahmer rules over an anthropaphagusian autocracy with Charlie Manson as his secretary of defense. He accepts Wall Street investments and hosts a U.S. military base. He buys lots of pots and pans and knives from American firms. The administration characterizes him as “moderate” and a “valuable ally” in the war against terror.
Jesus Christ returns, bringing Heaven to a small corner of earth. The Empyrean economy is share and share alike. Jesus declines both U.S. investment and military alliance. The administration brands him an “extremist,” a “dictator,” and a “dangerous obstacle” to the war on terror.
Now, if you can get into that sort of Oz head where words mean only what your superiors want them to mean, there’s a job for you in Washington. In particular, you would have to keep from laughing your ass off when you heard Barack Obama lecturing the president of China on human rights. You would have to put out of mind that the only use for the billions in weapons we supply to thugs like Tunisia’s Ben Ali is to protect their dictatorships from their own people. You would have to forget that the U.S. is to torture as FedEx is to packages
Citizens informed by the money media know that Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is a dictator. Didn’t he lift the broadcast license of a tv station (that's still in business on cable, satellite and internet) just for taking part in a coup against the elected government? Doesn’t he arrest people simply for trying to assassinate him? Doesn’t he keep running for office as if he were Teddy Kennedy? Sure, we’ve all been coached on calling Chavez an autocrat, even though he keeps winning honest elections and even though the political opposition in Venezuela is louder, nastier and freer than anything we would permit here.
But how much did we know about our former comprador, Zine Al-Abadine Ben Ali, now enjoying refuge from justice in our medieval satrapy of Saudi? Did you know, for instance, that he’s a graduate of U.S. Army schools at Fort Bliss, Texas, and Fort Holabird, Maryland, where his major was intelligence and military security?
Did we know that “in 1999 Fulvio Martini, former head of Italian military secret service SISMI, declared to a parliamentary committee that ‘In 1985-1987, we (in NATO) organized a kind of golpe (i.e. coup d'etat) in Tunisia, putting President Ben Ali as head of state, replacing President Habib Bourguiba.’"
Did we know that during his confirmation hearing in July 2009 as U.S. Ambassador to Tunisia, Gordon Gray reiterated the West's support for the Ben Ali regime, telling the Senate Foreign Relations committee, "We've had a long-standing military relationship with the government and with the military. It's very positive. Tunisian military equipment is of U.S. origin, so we have a long-standing assistance program there."
There’s nothing special about Ben Ali, except perhaps that his wife and in-laws apparently qualify for the Imelda Marcos award for over the top venality. He’s just one of countless tinpot tyrants who have sullied Washington’s payroll over the decades. For all of our ado about democracy, there’s no doubt that future historians will remember our nation as the the world’s non pareil dispenser of dictatorships. I could begin to list them here, but you would get bored and my fingers would tire.
Meanwhile, we've got to assume that nail-biting is growing to epidemic proportions at the Pentagon and in Langley and Foggy Bottom. If Washington got so worked up by a couple of thousand of atavistic Islamists, imagine the worry about the Tunisian revolt going viral with millions in the Middle East demanding real democracy, meaning the overthrow of the despots whose torture chambers we franchise as if they were fitness centers.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

See No Simians
It looks like no one in charge made a New Year’s resolution to clear those 800 pound gorillas out of the White House. There they lie amid the overpowering stench that we refuse to even wrinkle a nose at.
We’ll call one of these beasts our expiring economy. Our national consensus holds that we should depend upon the free market rather than the government to restore prosperity. Just let corporations do their thing without having to fret taxes and regulations, we’re told, and we’ll soon be farting through silk again. Really? The ape on the ottoman poses a question we dare not ask ourselves because we don’t want to know the answer. To wit: What if the free market believes that there are more profitable places on earth to make money than in the these United States? What if they've decided to create more jobs overseas than here? What if we just become one big Michigan or upstate New York?
Side stepping that reality as if it were a simian stool on his new presidential seal carpet, President Obama instead offers platitudes about becoming more “innovative” and "out-competing other countries around the world."
Become more innovative? Out-compete? Who or what is he talking about?” asks former labor secretary Robert Reich. “Big American corporations are innovating like mad all over the world, with research and development centers in China and India And their profits are soaring. They're sitting on almost $1 trillion of cash. But they won't create jobs in America because there's not enough demand here to justify them.”
Demand, meaning people with the inclination and money to buy stuff, is the product of steady jobs and decent salaries. Both of those notions have been cast into disrepute by our current politics. We are told instead that austerity, meaning the shedding of jobs and cutting of pay packets, are the solution to our ills. And lots of us are stupid enough to believe it. Meanwhile, for our businesses, like say IBM, the action has moved on to Bahia and Bangalore.
The other primate in the parlor that we refuse to acknowledge is our failure at arms. It’s now a decade since the world’s most expensive and deadly military launched what used to be called a punitive expedition against the feudal Pashtun tribe in Afghanistan. At best, hedges our commander in chief, it will be another four years before we can think about getting ready to retire from what has become an exercise in self-punishment.
The pundits have already declared Iraq the worst foreign policy decision in U.S. history. With that slot filled, Afghanistan will have to settle for being the stupidest. But those superlatives aren’t actually so. We have merely repeated the Brit disaster in the same part of the world a century ago that prompted Kipling to pen, Now it is not good for the Christian's health to hustle the Aryan brown. For the Christian riles and the Aryan smiles and weareth the Christian down.
Amazingly, there’s still minimal outcry against this futile fight with the feudals. So long as their kids are not drafted, Americans have apparently become as willing to abide endless multi-trillion dollar wars as they are for being constantly in hock. So if you take the White House tour don’t forget your hip boots, nose plugs and a couple of bananas.