Thursday, February 26, 2015

The State of Policing

The U.S. needs to stop "liberating" other countries and try to bring democracy to the "homeland." We should start by eliminating the word "homeland" from our vocabulary. That word came into use during the debate on the USA Patriot Act and it serves to differentiate our "homeland" from our occupied lands. It also bears an unfortunate resemblance to the word "fatherland."

If you were paying attention to the machinations of people like Cheney, Wolfowitz, Feith, Bolton, Norquist, Kristol, and the rest of the neocon cabal in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, you knew these people were openly, proudly, members of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). Their stated goal was empire. Their unstated goals included access to oil fields and no-bid contracts to their defense contractor cronies. Remember the neocons saying the war would pay for itself? In pursuit of their goals, they devastated the Iraqi people and set the stage for the growth of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

While the public was watching the vulgar spectacle of "shock and awe" in Iraq, we were not paying attention to the increasing militarization of police at home. Now the "land of free and the home of the brave" is home to 5% of the world's population and 25% of the world's prisoners. We have the highest incarceration rate of any nation on Earth (including Russia, China, and North Korea) and the world's only for-profit prison system. Now we know that a Gitmo style interrogation center is being run by the Chicago Police Department and there are rumors of others at Pelican Bay, CA and elsewhere. It took a foreign newspaper to bring us this story.

When Dick Cheney and his minions decided to pursue torture as a routine tactic, they were stupid to think (if they thought about it at all) that torturers would not bring their know-how back to the "homeland." That is exactly what happened in Chicago with the lead perpetrator being FBI-trained interrogator and Gitmo veteran, Richard Zuley. There is much more to be said about the state policing in 2015 but those of us who grew up with "Adam-12" and "Mayberry RFD" need to understand just how far down the slippery slope our once democratic nation has gone. As one zerohedge.com commenter said:
This is expected and stunning all at the same time.
It's real.
It's real sad.
We are in so much trouble.
We need to stop "liberating" other countries and focus on ourselves.
One more comment from the zerohedge.com article:
This must be the 'freedom' that Chris Kyle was fighting for...

The Real State of the Union

The January 20, 2015 State of the Union address by President Obama was a public relations exercise. Like most of what you see on TV, it distracted from reality rather than reflecting it. The real state of the union can be seen in the Main Street economy not the Wall Street economy. Working people, the 99%, the labor/left/commoner end of the political spectrum is in a world of hurt. The 1%, the aristocrat/right/titan-of-finance end of the political spectrum is doing just fine, thank you. Their vast reserves of disposable "$peech" are flooding politics and drowning out the actual speech of voters who are not wealthy. You can read about the real state of the union in this comment from Yves Smith's nakedcapitalism.com:
I have studied demographics for 28 years, and first warning I had of the housing debacle of 2007 was in 1987. The research I did back in 1987 uncovered the fact that housing would be take a serious hit from the first wave of boomers starting to retire in 2006. The boomers who were starting to retire would cut their spending as they would have passed their peak earning years. I started focusing in on housing again in early 2002 and began to build a massive database to watch the housing market as MERS, and corrupt titles began to surface. I watched it unfold in real time as the propaganda by the real estate pimps pumped up the volume to shout out anyone who cast a shadow of a doubt on ever increasing home values. 
Fast froward to 2010 when built a massive economic and demographic database that looked at 400 aspects of the American economy, only to shut it down in 2012 because it pointed in only one direction, collapse. The parasitic nature of this economy is only hidden by the Federal Reserve’s pumping of money to the top 1%, and a hideous amount of propaganda on every form of consumer infotainment. The American public has absolutely no clue about how fragile the economy really is, denial is king in the land of the Koch brothers. 
I have multiple sources that download to me on a regular basis just how fragile, and harried families are that send their children to the best schools in the state. The lack of focus, follow thru, consistency, and preparation on the part of parents is something that conservatives can never acknowledge because they can not criticize the voting publics stupidity. The horror stories of teachers in average schools would be enough to wake the dead, if only the public was not completely blinded by the growing power of dark, and dirty money. 
One final note, the consumer sentiment charts were bought out by more connected entities about 6 or seven years ago and have connection to reality. I am constantly amazed how conservatives and liberals are bamboozled by graphs that are created by special interest groups to propagandize the public. You can never accept anything at face value, it takes work to find any semblance of the truth, and in the end no one will believe you.
You can watch a movie about the real state of the union here: Citizenfour: a film by Laura Poitros. Unless you watched the awards ceremony on February 22, 2015, you probably don't know it won an Academy Award for best documentary. The state of the union as depicted in Citizenfour is not strong. The film's message does not fit any of the simple categories of infotainment offered up by U.S. media in 2015. Citizenfour is disturbing and generates no profit for the seven media giants so it goes largely unnoticed.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Thom Hartmann Explains What Bush & Co. Did to the People of Iraq

Thom Hartmann lays it out point by point:
Lest you’ve forgotten, the main reason why the Bush Administration had no “Plan B” for Iraq, no planning whatsoever for anything beyond the first 3 months after the successful war to knock down Saddam’s government, is because they instead had an economic plan.
Bush’s old Andover Prep School roommate L. Paul Bremmer dissolved the 200 largest companies in Iraq, putting people out of work and putting the companies up for sale to transnational corporations. 
The nation’s progressive income tax was replaced by a 15% flat tax. State-subsidized food distribution was phased out, as was the Iraqi equivalent of Social Security for both retirees and the disabled, widowed, or orphaned. 
State-subsidized higher education was privatized. “Domestic content laws” that required Iraqi labor or components in Iraqi-sold products were done away with; the doors were thrown open to transnational corporations to take up to 100 percent of their profits out of Iraq, and to import into Iraq their cheap-labor-made products from outside the country.
Labor unions were banned, and transnationals could bring in cheap labor from outside the nation (no longer “illegal immigrants” because laws on immigration for labor were done away with), displacing Iraqi workers. 
The response of the Iraqi people was to fight back. And the response by the Republican True Believers in the mythical “Free Market” was to use the only tool they believe government should have - the military.
The criminal invasion of Iraq and the criminal mismanagement that followed led directly to the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Thom Hartmann has explained the how and why in a way that is concise and succinct. It puts the neocon's Iraq debacle in context. Please read his brief and clear analysis in its entirety.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Who Profits From the Existence of ISIL?

You might be tempted to answer quickly, "No one. They are evil personified and should be wiped from the face of the Earth." I would agree with the second part of that answer but not the first. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant serves the interests of many in the weapons and surveillance industries (on which the U.S. spends more than the rest of the world combined) as well as the end-times Christian extremist community. The very existence of ISIL serves the interests of those who want more war.

Who benefits? Raytheon, General Dynamics, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and list of other "defense" contractors that is far too long. Who else? High ranking special ops people soon to retire and become paid "terrorism experts" on TV or get fat-salaried jobs with Blackwater/Xe/Academi, KBR, or a weapons manufacturer whose systems they were instrumental in purchasing while on active duty. Some will move from a "defense" contractor job to a position in government where they can advocate for the purchase of weapons systems that greatly profit their former employers much like Vice President Dick Cheney steered billions of dollars in no-bid contracts to his former employer Halliburton.

During WWII, this sort of activity was labeled war profiteering and people were prosecuted for it. In the present age of unlimited and unaccountable "defense" spending, profiteers can leave government to work for the weapons and surveillance industries and collect their reward for work done on behalf of their new employer. This "revolving door" drains billions from the federal treasury every year to fill corporate coffers and it works for those elected to public office as well as those appointed. Here is a sterling example of the revolving door in action.

The U.S. created the misery and devastation necessary for ISIL to arise. We did this. Chris Kyle was ordered to do this. Clint Eastwood gets wealthy from "American Sniper," a film that never bothers to point out the dishonorable motives of the men who sent Chris Kyle to war against a country that never attacked us. If Iraq had not been bombed back to the stone age starting in 1991 with Operation Desert Storm, then devastated by years of sanctions, then bombed again and occupied for 12 years, ISIL would not exist. Intentionally or not, the existence of ISIL serves the interests of U.S. corporate elites and end-times Christian extremists. Even a war-porn writer like Tom Clancy, were he still alive, couldn't imagine a more perfect villain to serve as a foil for those who want more war.

I've been thinking along these lines for some time but never heard anyone say it out loud until yesterday when Background Briefing with Ian Matsers, on Concord radio station WNHN 94.7, broadcast an interview with author and UCLA Professor of Law Khlaed Abou El Fadl. More open discussion of the nature and purpose of ISIL occurred today over at dailykos.com prompting me to write this blog post. In an article titled "Irrational" Actors Worshiping the End of Days: ISIS, George W. Bush, and the Christian Right, the author says,
America is a country without a memory...except for empty nostalgia, lying platitudes about the "Founding Fathers", and worshipfulness towards lies such as American Exceptionalism, and psychopathic "heroes" such as the former Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. 
And because the corporate news media is an agent for this amnesia, few voices have a public platform to speak to the obvious: ISIS was the blowback of failed American militarism and interventions in the Near East.
This exchange of comments follows the article.

Kingsmeg:
I think ISIS is yet another CIA creation. The parallels with the US Christian right are too perfect, as the diarist points out. They miss their Bin Laden boogeyman, with videotapes released at strategic moments to shift public opinion, so they created a new one. A 21st century one that releases slick videos to Youtube, instead of pretending to sit in a cave with handheld cam. But the result is the same, some 'pure evil' that justifies re-occupying Iraq, in those same military bases that just happen to be adjacent to all the OIL infrastructure.
FrY10cK:
That's pure speculation but sadly, it's impossible to rule out CIA involvement. That's not anti-American sentiment. That's just the reality of our corrupt and crumbling "democracy."
Finally, here's another plug for WNHN 94.7. That's a link directly to the program schedule where you'll find several genuine journalists listed including Arnie Arnesen, Amy Goodman, Thom Harmann, Burt Cohen, and Ian Masters. Listen when you have the chance because in the U.S. of 2015, you rarely get good information from TV, radio, and newspaper.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Col. Andrew Bacevich, USA (Ret)

Anyone concerned with the direction of U.S. policy, foreign and domestic, should be familiar with that name. Look to people like Andrew Bacevich for information, not the TV. He is a Vietnam veteran and professor of International Relations. Tom Engelhardt introduces a piece by Bacevich from November 2014, Malarky On the Potomac:
The money should stagger you. Journalist James Risen, author of Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War, a revelatory new book about the scammers, counterterrorism grifters, careerist bureaucrats, torture con artists, and on-the-make privatizers of our post-9/11 national security state, suggests that the best figure for money spent on Washington’s war on terror, including the Iraq and Afghan wars, is four trillion dollars. If you add in the bills still to come for the care of American soldiers damaged in that global war, the figure is undoubtedly significantly higher. In the process, an array of warrior corporations were mobilized to go into battle alongside the Pentagon and the country’s intelligence and homeland security outfits. This, in turn, transformed the global struggle into a highly privatized affair and resulted, as Risen vividly documents, in “one of the largest transfers of wealth from public to private hands in American history.” Halliburton offshoot KBR, for instance, took remarkable advantage of the opportunity and became “the largest single Pentagon contractor of the entire war,” more or less monopolizing the Iraq war zone from 2003 to 2011 and “receiving a combined total of $39.5 billion in contracts.”
Here's Andrew Bacevich:
To paraphrase Chris Hedges, for a certain group of Americans, Iraq is the cause that gives life meaning. For the military-industrial complex, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.
I just noticed something about TomDispatch.com. Each of Tom Englehardt's blog posts carries a different title than the written piece he introduces. I find it confusing and you are forewarned.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

U.S. Residents Live in a Media-Induced Trance

Many are too busy or too disinterested to ask why we are at war with two nations that never attacked us, one war ongoing for 14 years and the other for 12. It would be my guess that many U.S. residents are unaware that none of the 9/11 hijackers were citizens of either Afghanistan or Iraq.

Some people are indoctrinated by simple propaganda like the movie "American Sniper" which depicts Iraqi civilians as somehow deserving of the devastation visited on their country since the U.S. launched Operation Desert Shield/Storm in 1991 followed by blockades of food and medicine throughout the 1990's and finally the spectacular TV coverage of "Shock and Awe" in 2003. Chris Hedges describes how the film depicts Iraqi civilians:
Mothers and sisters in Iraq don’t love their sons or their brothers. Iraqi women breed to make little suicide bombers. Children are miniature Osama bin Ladens. Not one of the Muslim evildoers can be trusted—man, woman or child. They are beasts. They are shown in the film identifying U.S. positions to insurgents on their cellphones, hiding weapons under trapdoors in their floors, planting improvised explosive devices in roads or strapping explosives onto themselves in order to be suicide bombers. They are devoid of human qualities.
Former Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan Administration, and associate editor of the Wall Street Journal, Paul Craig Roberts calls the phenomenon "Delusional America."
As I have written on a number of occasions, facts no longer play a role in American political life. Fact-based analysis is also disappearing from academic life and no longer plays a role in official economic reporting. A matrix has been created, an artificial reality that channels the energies and resources of the country into secret agendas that serve the interests of the ruling private interest groups and neoconservative ideology. 
The United States government and the American people cannot contend with reality, because they do not know what the reality is. 
In America’s make-believe world, neoconservative toadies such as New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, set the Group-Think tone, while knowledgeable experts such as Stephen Cohen are tuned out.
To the list of neoconservative toadies I would certainly add George Will, David Brooks, and Bill Kristol. To the list of knowledgeable experts that already includes Princeton Professor of Russian Studies Stephen Cohen, I would add former MN Congressman and Reagan-era OMB Director David Stockman and journalist Robert Parry, Here's the first paragraph from Parry's Wikipedia page in case you don't have time to click the link:
Robert Parry (born June 24, 1949) is an American investigative journalist best known for his role in covering the Iran-Contra affair for the Associated Press (AP) and Newsweek, including breaking the Psychological Operations in Guerrilla Warfare (CIA manual provided to the Nicaraguan contras) and the CIA and Contras cocaine trafficking in the US scandal in 1985. He was awarded the George Polk Award for National Reporting in 1984. He has been the editor of Consortium News since 1995.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Clint Eastwood Has Done a Terrible Disservice to His Country

His film "American Sniper" perpetuates the myth that the 12-year-long occupation of Iraq is somehow related to 9/11 and it never bothers to point out the dishonorable motives of the men who sent Chris Kyle to war against a country that never attacked us.

This is from Chris Hedges' piece Killing Ragheads for Jesus.
There is no shortage of simpletons whose minds are warped by this belief system. We elected one of them, George W. Bush, as president. They populate the armed forces and the Christian right. They watch Fox News and believe it. They have little understanding or curiosity about the world outside their insular communities. They are proud of their ignorance and anti-intellectualism. They prefer drinking beer and watching football to reading a book. And when they get into power—they already control the Congress, the corporate world, most of the media and the war machine—their binary vision of good and evil and their myopic self-adulation cause severe trouble for their country. “American Sniper,” like the big-budget feature films pumped out in Germany during the Nazi era to exalt deformed values of militarism, racial self-glorification and state violence, is a piece of propaganda, a tawdry commercial for the crimes of empire. That it made a record-breaking $105.3 million over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday long weekend is a symptom of the United States’ dark malaise. 
Here Hedges quotes former USAF officer Mikey Weinstein:
“The movie never asks the seminal question as to why the people of Iraq are fighting back against us in the very first place,” said Mikey Weinstein, whom I reached by phone in New Mexico. Weinstein, who worked in the Reagan White House and is a former Air Force officer, is the head of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, which challenges the growing Christian fundamentalism within the U.S. military. “It made me physically ill with its twisted, totally one-sided distortions of wartime combat ethics and justice woven into the fabric of Chris Kyle’s personal and primal justification mantra of ‘God-Country-Family.’ It is nothing less than an odious homage, indeed a literal horrific hagiography to wholesale slaughter.”

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Facts for the Internet Age, Part Deux

In an earlier post I described U.S. politics as a media spectacle of center-right blue team vs. far-right red team. Anyone wanting to enact real change is kept away from the levers of power like anti-HFT economist Josesph Stiglitz who has just been blocked from serving on an SEC panel.

It's as if the Washington Generals and the Harlem Globetrotters were in the NBA (and were the only two teams in the NBA) and both were owned by the same group of billionaires, Wall Street titans, and multi-national corporations. What a show ladies and gentlemen! Stay tuned for the latest exciting competition. Who could possibly know what the outcome will be! /sarc

The /sarc tag is one way to denote sarcasm because you can't hear tone of voice while reading a blog.




Monday, January 5, 2015

Reason No. 37 Not to Look to TV for News

Bill Moyers is retiring again. Unless you're lucky enough to catch a rare glimpse of Amy Goodman, you won't find many journalists left on TV.

Watch his last show and join the discussion here or at BillMoyers.com.


The Children’s Climate Crusade from BillMoyers.com on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Jim Cramer

Here's Jim Cramer talking about 35 years of "trickle-down" economics. It's the same pap you've heard for years from people inside the beltway or inside the U.S. "news" media. It doesn't reflect the reality of most working people in the U.S.
LAUER: We talk about this a lot, we have in the past, will this be the year that Americans see a real raise in terms of their ability to have a good lifestyle? 
CRAMER: Yes. Because this is the year where the companies have so much profit that it would be embarrassing if they didn't return it to some of the workers.
CRAMER: There's going to be such great wealth, and such success for so many companies, that don't be surprised if you get a raise even if you didn't ask for it.
This is a good example of why you shouldn't look to the TV for news.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Facts For the Internet Age

  1. The U.S. has two viable political parties, one center-right and one far-right. Bernie Sanders, Raul Grijalva, Hakim Jeffries, Keith Ellison, Sherrod Brown, and Elizabeth Warren together don't weigh enough to correct the starboard list of the Democratic Party boat. 
  2. "Wingnut" is slang for right-wing extremist. These are the people you see on TV trying to justify wars of choice, torture, and execution (by drone, or by doctor as in the botched AZ, OH, and OK executions of 2014) while they talk out the other side of their mouths about being "pro-life."
  3. Normalizing relations with Cuba drives wingnuts insane even though communist China is the U.S.' largest trading partner. 
  4. Y'all oughta be readin' John Cole whose blog is linked on the right and excerpted below. Here he is at his satirical best:
History and modern civilization for wingnuts started with Hitler, reached its apex during the lily white and repressive fifties where the colored and the womenfolk knew their place and the jello salad and Leave it to Beaver were the height of culture, and ended when St. Ronnie personally took a pick axe to the East German wall while accompanied by his trusty blue ox. Since then, it’s been all queer eye for the straight guy, coloreds being all uppity, and women in the workplace. So it is not surprising to see them lash out like this as “CUBA BAD” was one of the last few things they could hold on to- that blanket and binky they could clutch while rocking themselves to sleep because it’s the end of the world as they know it, and the rest of us feel fine.
Many U.S. residents are unaware that political discourse has drifted so far to the right that the "center" is out of view and the "left" is not even a memory trace in our national consciousness. Without the left, workers in the U.S. are sliding back to the days of seven-day work weeks and child labor. Fast tracking of TPP, TTIP, and TiSA is likely to hurt working people as much as NAFTA did but most are unaware because they get their "news" from the TV, radio, and newspaper.

The Overton Window has shifted since the assault on labor by Reagan, Thatcher, Friedman, Laffer, and trickle-down/voodoo economics so that only the right side of the political spectrum is visible in our shallow, consumer/entertainment-oriented media. The labor/left/commoner end of the political spectrum does not realize that it's under attack by the aristocrat/right/titan-of-finance end of the political spectrum.

It's no longer  possible to be a well-informed citizen of a participatory democracy if you get your news from U.S.-based TV, radio, and newspaper. Trying to get useful information from Fox "News" is like watching professional wrestling to see who wins. In 2003, Fox (with the support of five other major media outlets) won their case in a FL appellate court freeing them from any restriction against distorting the truth. To this day, Fox "News" runs 24/7 swift boat-style smears and portrays outtright lies as mistakes, usually without issuing a retraction. MSNBC is not the liberal equivalent of Roger Ailes' and Rupert Murdoch's political mouthpiece. It's the cash cow of Republican businessman Phil Griffin who saw an under-served market (liberal TV viewers) and capitalized on it.

Print and broadcast journalism in the U.S. has lost the thread, taken its eye off the ball, gone off the reservation, has its head so far up ....  It consists largely of consumer, sports, and entertainment news, he-said/she-said conflict and scandal, false equivalency, red team vs. blue team, and Chuck Todd-like assertions that it's not the media's job to elicit facts. Web-based alternatives exist like Bill Keller (former Executive Editor of the NYT) at The Marshall Project but Pierre Omidyar's First Look Media seems to be faltering with the departure of Marcy Wheeler and Matt Taibbi who is back writing at Rolling Stone.

Below are four liberal writers, one conservative writer (Andrew Bacevich), and one unknown (Gary Brecher, The War Nerd) doing their best to elicit facts instead of selling products or propaganda.

Joan Walsh
Katrina vanden Heuvel
Gary Brecher
Andrew Bacevich. I think Bill Moyers has interviewed him several times with one example here.
Chris Hedges
Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power