Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Pale Imitation

My title comes from Eleanor Holmes Norton, DC's Democratic delegate to Congress and refers to Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor rally. Whether she meant the double entendre I don't know, but, given the overwhelming whiteness of the participants at Beck's PR stunt rally, Norton's words certainly made me laugh out loud when I read them.

Everything about the Beck rally is an imitation, a rip-off of better people's ideas and better people's dreams used only as a backdrop for the real agenda, which is to advance an unholy alliance between a twisted version of Christianity and a twisted vision of what America could be if only those pesky "libruls" could all be taken out and shot -- all powered by lots of money, gotten via the mechanism of the always-holy free market and Beck's convenient position with a major TV/radio network

The organizers claimed that the rally is apolitical. But, when interviewed about the upcoming rally 2 days before, Beck said "This is a moment, quite honestly, that I think we reclaim the civil rights movement." Hmmm, that's not political? And whom does he think they are reclaiming it from? He's probably hoping to capitalize on the fact that the Republican party was the party of Lincoln. Unfortunately, Beck -- who is no Lincoln -- will need to ignore a lot of his own behavior to make any claim to the civil rights movement.

For example, his war of vitriol against Barak Obama certainly seems to be motivated by more than idealogical differences. I submit that Beck and other white people of his persuasion are terrified that the country is going to become majority non-white (it is) and that they will lose the collective power that they have held for centuries.

But Beck and his buddies really needn't worry -- power and money will trump race every time. Our country is already run by oligarchs, thanks in equal parts to a national belief that taxing the rich is bad, that allowing corporations to donate to political campaigns is good, that spending on wars is good but spending on the domestic economy is a waste, that regulating so-called "free" markets is a communist plot, while allowing unfettered cowboy capitalism benefits everyone, despite ample proof to the contrary. Not to mention that allowing the rich to bribe members of Congress is the grease that's needed to keep government running smoothly.

And people like Beck want to keep it this way. The "progressives" that he claims are out "to destroy America as it was originally conceived" are his enemies, because they are the people who are trying to break the stranglehold of the oligarchy, which, among other things, would entail breaking up large media conglomerates and thereby diluting the political power of networks like FOX.

One of the things that Beck doesn't get (or doesn't want to admit) is that MLK's dreams went far beyond simple race equality and embraced the ideas of social and economic justice for all. His ideas would be anathema to Beck's beliefs in the rights of the "free" market. Can one imagine Martin Luther King as a huckster for Gold?

Beck is no MLK (any more than he is a Lincoln) and, frankly, isn't fit to clean MLK's shoes, though, if we were still living in the America that Beck and his fellow travelers really want, MLK might be cleaning Beck's.

Of course, all this is beside the point -- as HL Mencken said, "no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public." -- and Beck, Palin, and their propaganda consultants know it. That's why their invocation of religion reached such a level of intensity in this rally: history shows that big-tent religion pays handsomely, both in influence and in Mammon, the Gods I think that Beck and Palin both really worship.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Endangering our troops

The intervals between iterations of this fatuous phrase in the press are getting shorter and shorter, thanks to the recent WikiLeaks release of documents concerning the Afghan war. The idea, apparently, is that, when someone tries to break the cycle of imperialist adventurism by telling even a fraction of the truth about what's actually going on, they are "endangering our troops."

By definition, the original decision to start two wars after 9/11 -- which have so far killed more than 5,000 Americans and countless people in at least 3 Middle East countries (Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan) -- did NOT endanger our troops. This, despite the fact that the wars were unjustified, ineptly planned, under staffed, and totally mis-managed by the Bush administration. And despite the fact that the last several months -- since the Obama surge -- have seen the highest number of troop casualties, with still no apparent epiphany about freedom and democracy from either the Afghans or the Pakistanis.

Now, thanks to WikiLeaks, everyone, from the President to the press are expending more hot air on whether Julian Assange of WikiLeaks is endangering the troops than on the sordid reality of what he has uncovered about America's perpetual war in Afghanistan.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

And another great thing.......

There's another great thing about the recent Supreme Court decision(s) on gun rights: until now, our inner city neighborhoods have been shooting themselves to death in an annoyingly slow war of attrition. By arming absolutely everybody (as the Court's decisions will allow) we can elevate this tedious process to the status of a full-blown war (as in Mexico) and really accomplish some serious killing.

I thank the Supremes for affirming this enhanced access to weapons so that the fun isn't limited just to drug dealers, mercenaries, the police, and the military. Now, we can all join in!

But seriously, folks, I recognize that the God-given right to own high-tech weaponry is written clearly into our Constitution. The second amendment says, A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. For some reason, though, Constitutional scholars have argued about the exact meaning since the amendment was passed, with the word "militia" muddying up the debate by suggesting that the amendment doesn't refer to individual, private gun ownership, but rather to some sort of right to organize into...well.. militias.

And you might think that strict constructionists would have a hard time stretching the word "arms" to include automatic weapons (which hadn't been invented yet), but you'd be mistaken.

Apparently the second amendment gives us the right to own virtually anything that can be used to kill someone else. And, upon reflection, I think this is a good thing, because the avoidance of tyranny -- which gun rights advocates usually quote as a reason for the amendment -- is pretty much impossible using plain old muskets and flintlocks in this day and age when the government (the tyranny we're supposed to be fighting) has tanks, tear gas, tasers, and automatic weapons. Not to mention that they are tapping your phone and email and know what you are planning months before you do. So, being able to own an Uzzi -- and knowing that your neighbor (who disagrees 100% with your politics) has one, too -- definitely helps to level the playing field.

Monday, June 28, 2010

This just in: Sarah Palin is the Devil!

Folks, this is amazing -- it is almost as if an invisible hand were guiding my thoughts: Today I had a sudden, inexplicable urge to look into the numerological possibilities in the name Sarah Palin and look what I found out:

1. SARAH PALIN has the same number of letters as ANTICHRIST. Wow! Check it out!

2. Both SARAH and PALIN have the same number of letters as SATAN. This is really scary!!!!!

3. Every letter in her first name is the beginning of a word for the Devil. 'S' is for snake or serpent, or Satan, 'A' is for Asmodius*, the King of demons. 'R' is for Rahab*, female sea-monster or a dragon of the waters. 'H' is for harlot, which is just another word for whore, which obviously refers to the whore of Babylon, which is one of the names for, you guessed it, the Devil.

4. And, in Greek, 'palin'* means again as in "I'll be back again!"

Now I'll admit that I've never been religious before, but this is really spooky!! Please send a link to this page to everyone you know, especially the Christians, and let's hope it's not too late to save the world from this Devil in lipstick and off-the-rack clothing.

* Thanks to Joseph H. Morgan for scholarly additions from Greek and Hebrew texts

Supreme Court rules that gun rights apply locally

Who says the Supreme Court is filled with right-wing ideologues? They've just issued a ruling which trumps states' rights in favor of federal authority. I love this because it means we'll be able to count on the court -- when states start to fight the federal government over the national healthcare system -- to side with the federal government.

After all, we're talking a court that wants our government's policies to be vetted against a strict reading of the founding documents and what could be more basic and more founding than the Declaration of Independance, which claims as our inalienable rights, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? And what is more necessary to sustain "life" than healthcare for all? QED.

I'm so relieved!!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

G20 pledges to slash debt in 3 years

Yes, folks, believe it or not, according to a just-filed ABC (that's Australian Broadcasting Corporation)story, the G20 (that's the people who actually work for the people who actually run the world) has resolved for the G20 nations to cut their budget deficits in half in 3 years. The report also says that "The leaders want to tackle deficits without stunting growth, while also clamping down on risky bank behaviour without choking off lending."

Yeah, and I want to make a billion dollars without leaving my home or getting up before noon each day. (Guess I should have been an investment banker.)

In one of those lovely coincidences that makes reading the news such fun, I also just read that the CIA has signed a $100 million contract with Xe Services to provide security services in Afghanistan. As you may recall, Xe Services is the new name for Blackwater, the mercenaries -- er paramiliary professionals -- who, no doubt among other things, were involved in a firefight in Iraq that ended up with 17 dead civilians. But, what the heck, that's collateral damage: if you can't stand the heat, get out of the war zone. I guess that changing their name worked - we the taxpayer have hired them again.

Meanwhile, back at the G20 -- and at plenty of other meetings leading up to the G20 pronouncement on deficits -- the main theme has been on how profligate governments have been in providing their citizens luxury services like healthcare, retirement pensions, and so on, big social "giveaways," which, if governments weren't saddled with providing, would free up that much more money to feed the endless-war machine and to provide much-deserved taxcuts for the rich.

The worst oil spill in US history

I keep seeing the Gulf oil spill referred to in those terms. But, since the oceans are all interconnected and, since the clean-up effort itself is causing additional pollution -- both in the water and in the air -- which itself is likely to spread far and wide, shouldn't we be calling it the worst oil spill in the history of the world?

Or are we afraid that, if we acknowledge the broader effects of the disaster, we might get sued by Mexico, Europe, and God-knows who else when our oil washes up on their shores, when our plume of smoke from burning off the oil reaches their air space?

Friday, May 21, 2010

N. Korea - the convenient bad guy

I am not defending what appears to have been another pointless and destructive action by N. Korea, but, as usual, the discussions in the popular press, and the pronouncements by politicians underscore the hypocrisy with which American foreign policy is riddled. Thus, it is worth pointing out a few things:

First, there is the treatment of the sinking of the So. Korean warship by a No. Korean torpedo as though it were some sort of crime against humanity. I'm not minimizing the deaths of the sailors on board the So. Korean ship, but it was a military vessel, not a cruise-ship. It's crew were military men and therefore had an understanding of the possibility of military engagement. Contrast this with the death we the USA regularly rain down upon Afghanistan using unmanned aircraft (so we don't have to look at the people we're killing). How many civilians have we killed thus far in our attempt to bring "peace and freedom" to Afghanistan? Not to mention the virtual destruction of Iraq?

Second, the Korean War is technically not even over, thus any hostile act between the belligerants comes under the rubric of that war. And, of course, the So. Korean ship was right at the disputed boundary between the territorial waters of the two countries.

It is also worth noting that there are additional strategic factors in the US' predictably sanctimonious response to the event. First, we'd like to continue to keep a base on Okinawa, despite the fact that WW II has been over for 65 years, despite the fact that the base has been the source of several ugly crimes committed by US military personnel against the local population and despite the fact that the Japanese consider the base to be an affront to Japanese sovereignty. Coincidentally, the Korean affair comes at a time when the USA is re-negotiating the terms of the Okinawa base agreement and Sec. of State Clinton has lost no time reminding the Japanese of our alliance and the importance for their security of having us remain in the area in light of the Korean affair.

Not unrelated to this is our generally waning influence and the general ascendancy of Chinese influence, both in Asia and in the world. We don't like it in general and we don't like it in Asia, which, after all, belongs to us (just as the Middle East does). Thus, every event in Asia requires our intervention, just to remind everyone of who is still in charge.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Devil is in the GOP

So the healthcare bill has finally passed, after a year of wrangling, public lies by the GOP and their fellow travelers, and every effort - parliamentary or otherwise -- to derail it. Any feelings of victory at its passage will be short-lived, because the Rethuglicans and their minions have already declared their intention to challenge it any way they can and to use it in the midterm congressional elections as something with which to beat the Democrats up.

Funny how trying to do something to help ordinary Americans would engender anger and hatred against the Democrats. (Not that I love the Democrats, but that's another story.) Funny how the healthcare bill is considered a budget buster, while the two wars Bush started -- and which continue to this day -- are apparently not viewed as having made any contribution to our deficits, despite the $1 Trillion+ we have spent on them so far. Not to mention his budget-busting tax cuts for the wealthy.

Odd that gun ownership is viewed as some sort of sacred right, but access to affordable healthcare is not.

Odd that abortion is an abomination, but allowing -- nay, encouraging -- people to bring up children in poverty and ignorance and with little access to healthcare is a good thing.

Odd that spending massive amounts of money to kill people in the Middle East is "good for America," but improvements to the healthcare system here at home constitutes the worst thing that has ever happened to America, as some Rethuglicans have pronounced it.

Odd that private control of healthcare decision-making and costs by big insurance is a priori a good thing, but public control by government is a bad thing. What would be the rationale for this view? Is there information to back up the superiority of the private sector over the public sector in managing anything? No, but there is a simple perception, reinforced by the right, that big business is your friend and government is your enemy. It is based on nothing defensible, but is a widely-held notion, nonetheless.

This belief flies in the face of the fact that Medicaid, for instance, has lower administrative costs than private insurance. It also runs counter to the underlying facts of our current financial crisis, which are the result of conniving by the financial sector to defraud the American people. (Is government to blame? Yes, but only to the extent that its regulators were convinced by the same connivers that regulation was unnecessary or actually bad.) And what about the poor performance of GM and Chrysler? What does that say about the competence of big biz?

I could go on, but why bother? The atmosphere for intelligent argument in this country is so ruined -- so poisoned by lies and manipulation -- that no amount of reasonableness can penetrate the cloud of inanity.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

More US Hypocrisy on Israel

In a March 9 AP story on MSNBC entitled "Biden Slams Jerusalem Housing Plan", one might have expected to read that Biden was criticizing the Israelis for their obstinate expansionism and for the racist content of their Jerusalem housing quotas, which seem designed to ensure that Israelis outnumber Arabs in the city.

One would be wrong; the whole flap was actually over some Israeli functionary's announcement of further housing development, not over the actual fact of that development. The VP was angry because (a) the announcement, coming as it did during his visit to Israel, was a personal embarrassment for him and (b) because it threatens to derail his efforts at salesmanship of the never-ending peace process circus.

If there's one thing we know about the new world order it is that it's the triumph of form over substance. Biden is trying with his visit to undo the perception that our president doesn't think much of Netanyahu nor of Israeli expansionism and to assure the Israelis that they are our friends and allies no matter what vile things they get up to.

After all, some 50% of the Jews in the world live in the USA and, of those that voted for Obama, many did so only because of a large propaganda ploy during the campaign to convince them that he would continue America's role as a "friend to Israel." Thus, we are told we must hold our noses and let Israel do whatever it wants. And, what our politicians don't need is for the Israelis to do something blatant during a state visit by our VP, thus revealing, once again, the actual substance of Israel's commitment to peace, which is nil.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Yes, we ARE due for a revolution

Thank you Sarah Palin for saying what many of us have been thinking for some time: the good ole USA needs a revolution (or "another" revolution, if you believe the war of independance qualifies as a revolution). Unfortunately for SP, she would not be likely to come out on top of such an upheaval -- at least not if I were in charge.

It's easy to throw around words like "revolution," especially when you are someone who doesn't have much respect for either deep thought or the meaning of words, but I suspect that, if SP were to really contemplate what a revolution might entail -- especially if I were running it -- she might be less sanguine in calling for one.

No, in my revolution, she, along with a great deal of her fellow travellers in the anti-worker-but-pro-big-biz, anti-deficit-but-pro-taxcuts-for-the-rich, anti-civil-liberties-but-pro-big-war, anti-science-but-pro-big-religion, anti-intellectual-but-pro-demagogue part of the population would be signed up for a mandatory visit to a citizenship retraining camp, AKA the guillotine.

In an ideal world, I'd like to remain on cordial terms with them all and share the country with them. In an ideal world, I could utter the usual platitudes about how all voices should be heard in a democracy. Unfortunately, in this world, where 1% of the population control 50% of the wealth -- and, along with it, the Congress and the media, to mention just two -- we have a situation that more closely resembles pre-revolutionary France than pre-revolutionary America, and which, therefore, more properly calls for the remedy employed by the former.