Hartford, Connecticut * Gadfly Bites from Stephen Fournier * steve at stepfour dot see oh em
|December 29, 2021|
Some people are suggesting that the public health response to the Corona virus is intended principally to sell vaccines, and this message may be resonating with a significant slice of the general population. Is there a reasonable basis for skepticism?
There's no question that the epidemic has been a windfall for the people who own the means of production, including the pharmaceutical industry. We Americans do tolerate, after all, a concentration of business assets in the hands of a minuscule contingent of obscenely wealthy individuals, and they've increased their holdings considerably over the months spanning the viral outbreak, with prescription drug manufacturers cashing in at astronomical levels. That fact alone may be rational grounds for suspicion.
There's also no question that drug advertising dominates the mass media. Drug ads now interrupt television programs--especially "news"--at intervals so frequent that you have to tune in C-SPAN to avoid them. There was a time when prescription drug TV ads were proscribed--prescription decisions should be clinical and not based on hype--but our leaders capitulated to drug-mongers, so that your news stream is now sponsored by millions of dollars in drug proceeds. Might viewers reasonably suspect that the pandemic panic unfolding on their TV screens is part of a drug promotion?
It's also a demonstrable fact that governments--national, state and local--are not reliable sources of information. If you ever believed there were nuclear weapons in Iraq or that Russians elected Trump or that Israel cares about human rights or that political donations are anything other than bribery, you've probably become a bit more resistant to government lies with the passage of years. People are presented with an arrangement of governments that could have enacted universal, tax-funded health care in response to a public health issue, but instead they recommended radical curtailments of personal freedom. It's not the sort of advice that breeds trust.
Then there's the cui bono question. Who benefits from the curtailments of personal freedom we're commanded to accept? Isn't it the same people who issue the commands? We know that totalitarian rule facilitates exploitation. We know the agencies meant to oversee public health regularly exchange personnel with the entities they're supposed to oversee. We know bureaucrats like Dr. Fauci are allowed to profit from investments in such entities. Isn't this in-our-face corruption, giving us lockdown when we need health care? People would have to be pretty stupid not to notice when a notoriously corrupt authority adopts second-tier measures that, as events have shown, don't work.
As for the second-tier measures themselves, you can't make a sound decision whether any of them actually have a clinical basis. For every assertion in support of the government line there's a contrary argument, typically just as compelling or more so. There are epidemiologists who say vaccination should be mandatory and universal and others who say vaccines should be administered to vulnerable populations and shouldn't be mandated. Try to get a reliable answer to the question whether vaccine immunity is inferior or superior to immunity from infection and recovery. History suggests it may not be unreasonable to distrust all reports on any topic from any source. You're left to pick and choose which menu items might be right for you and your family.
Finally, there's the divide-and-conquer imperative. If ever there was a force to fracture the peace and justice crowd, this is it. You have your free thinkers, who naturally gravitate to the dissident side of issues. And then you have your humanitarians, who will join a cooperative effort if it looks worthwhile. From the humanitarian standpoint, the uncooperatives look like enemies of the people. From the freethinking standpoint, the cooperative masses look like sheep lined up for shearing. Pandemic profiteers have combined to bring the natural enemies of wealth and privilege to the brink of civil strife.
If you happen to know any street pushers, you've heard them assert that they perform a public service, keeping the junkies from getting sick. Members of the Sackler family, who made a bundle peddling narcotics, plead as much. Can you blame people for believing the pushers are motivated by something other than public health and maybe are pushing more than mere drugs?
Bred and Bitter
|December 16, 2021|
The pigmentation of Europeans is as good as a pedigree. People of pink skin comprise a breed of humans that, by unnatural selection, has evolved to predominate. Just as certain dogs and chickens have been bred to exhibit traits in support of aggressiveness and domination, white people have self-selected for traits in aid of these same qualities, and this has given them dominion.
So successful have been these countless generations of careful selection that white people, among people of various hues, are the most feared, the most barbarous, the most deadly, and, if civilization means overcoming homo sapiens' inborn killer instinct, the least civilized. We're armed to the teeth, we don't hesitate to kill, and we rule accordingly.
If there's any pattern to history, it's most clearly evident in the violence of white people. Race may be a social construct, but you can't help noticing, in any perusal of past horrors, the skin color of just about all the perpetrators. Where white people have dominated--everywhere--they have ruled by violence and terror, and they still do.
There was a time when white people were as sly as they were violent, but that time has passed. As often happens with prosperous people, whites have dumbed down and fattened up. It's probably a safe bet that the average IQ of white people has declined precipitously in the past 50 years or so, even as their average girth has expanded. In the USA, where we strut around in camouflage and body armor and sport lethal weapons of every description, we're as weak as we've ever been, and the dark-skinned masses seem to sense an advantage. They may be assembling to take us on. They may have to dig a little deeper to find their own long-suppressed urge to kill, but they seem to be managing, and they're making white people mad and even a little frightened.
There's something satisfying about the sight of a scared bully, but it doesn't make him any less dangerous. White people may not have won a war in a good many years, but they've inflicted as much suffering and devastation as any victorious power in the history of warfare, and they're capable of much worse. Their leaders are selected and financed by fabulously rich racketeers and groomed to become complicit in the domination scheme, which is profitable. The people at the top don't want to vacate their aerie, and they're hoping their predatory nature and ample armory will preserve their status, notwithstanding the numbers arrayed to depose them and their own obvious weakened condition.
White people may sense that they are a breed in decline, but they continue to rule nonetheless. Why is that? Were they advantaged by the temperate climate of the north, or maybe the fecundity of the soil, or possibly something about their nutrition or brain volume, or were they just favored by God?
Like all successful predators, human beings have evolved to be efficient killers. Recorded history suggests that there's something about light-skinned people that made them particularly adept at killing. For five thousand years at least, white monarchs have assembled armies to kill and plunder, fighting among themselves sometimes for decades and conquering other races wherever there was something to steal. Could it have been their talent as killers that gave white people an advantage in the struggle for dominance? It's not a question news editors are asking, but it probably comes up from time to time when lesser humans gather.
Dark-skinned people must be worried, maybe to the point of preemption. For a couple of hundred years, white people have been promising to abandon their longstanding project to make their breed the sole human survivors. Their reform effort has been agonizingly slow, and recent events suggest they're regressing, with the USA in the lead. Will the non-white world defy its nonviolent nature and rise in revolt? Or will the white world, in anticipation, tap its killer instinct and strike some hapless brown population with lethal force, by way of example, as it's done so often before?
|December 4, 2021|
Don't rely on a court case to confer a constitutional right. The Supreme Court giveth, but it also taketh away.
The reason you hear so much concern over the future of abortion rights is that the case of Roe versus Wade is a legal aberration. Among the enumerated powers of our federal government, the case says, is the power to override state laws curtailing a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy. It confers a right on individual women, but it forecloses a right traditionally belonging to state residents. Prohibiting alcohol in the states required a constitutional amendment. So did the income tax. So did the nullification of state laws allowing slavery. How are women's rights different?
In some states, most people believe abortion amounts to the taking of life. The taking of life is traditionally regulated by the states. It's a radical departure from tradition to tell a state it can't regulate what its residents believe is the taking of life, even when it intrudes on a woman's right to dominion over her own body. If a state can order me to submit to an injection, can't it order my sister not to abort her pregnancy?
That's the deficiency of the case. It was a clever simulation of law, aimed at a public health crisis--high-risk amateur abortion--but unlikely to survive legal challenges indefinitely. Among the justices now sitting on the U. S. Supreme Court, there may be five who will consider themselves obliged, in the interest of sound constitutional doctrine, to order the federal government to step aside and restore the states' privilege to regulate what many believe is the taking of life, as they did formerly. Some states will terminate this particular individual right. Some won't.
The justices will certainly ponder the question of democratic resolution of the abortion issue. Why was there never an effort to amend the constitution to guarantee a woman's right to control her body? It was clear from the outset that the rationale for creating a new federal constitutional right was weak. Eventually, a case would arise that would prevail.
If there was popular support for abortion rights, citizens could have and should have moved to amend. We didn't. Instead, we relied on a legal opinion rendered by an undemocratic body in a single case. If the legal house of cards supporting Roe v. Wade doesn't collapse in this case, its failure is no less inevitable, and women will finally pay the price for our repudiation of responsible citizenship.
|October 1, 2021|
I got involved with something Ralph Nader started not long ago to force Congress to act in the public interest. It's called "Congress Club," and its purpose is to organize people to write, call and otherwise lobby their senators and representatives to respond to constituents' demands. Nader says that, with a couple of million people putting pressure, we can force Congress to reclaim from usurping presidents its constitutional mandate over war and peace, take action to hold off climate catastrophe, and maybe even deter corrupt practice and restore the rule of law.
The underlying assumption is that Congress is incapable of doing any of these things because it's controlled by a tiny minority of rich people, who use corporations to consolidate and increase their money and power. Politicians' benefactors profit from war, pollution and corruption, and they use their racketeering proceeds to influence Congress and the legislative bodies of every state to keep malfeasance alive.
If this is true, it makes me wonder, as a charter member of the Congress Club, whether we have any realistic prospect of success. Money talks. It always has, and it always will. And so, as I'm writing my senator I'm also shaking my head and cursing my stupidity for believing my senator will ever see, much less care about any opinion I might have. So what if a million others are making the same demand in concert? I have a mental picture of his staff giggling as they toss our correspondence into the waste basket unread. The more letters they get, the more they can charge their benefactors for services rendered. And here I am, sending out another futile appeal. If I want to feel like an idiot, I can fire up a reefer.
I'm probably not alone in my pessimism. I don't remember a time since I finished school many years ago when crooks were so firmly in charge of everything. In government alone, the level of corruption is shocking. Most people seem to be satisfied that our wars of the past few decades have been racketeering enterprises--murder and mayhem for profit--but nobody's calling for the perpetrators to be punished. Our guys hold people without due process of law. Our guys own and operate prisons for dark-skinned residents. Our guys murder people with weapons operated by remote control. Our guys torture and kidnap. And a few of our guys make big money doing all that. Is it really possible to dislodge them, or are we being foolish for thinking so?
That's the question I face whenever I put pen to paper to rant over war and injustice. And so, to stay in good standing with the Congress Club, I may have to pretend that my opinions matter. I guess I know how to do that because I'm doing it right now. Maybe I'll send a copy of this out to my member.
Ignorance as Bliss
|September 11, 2021|
As in Septembers past, media reflection on the 20th anniversary of the events of September 11, 2001, did not include any discussion of what actually happened that day. In New York City, where the main event took place, three skyscrapers fell down because two got hit by airplanes. Over two thousand people were inside the tallest of the buildings when they were reduced to dust about an hour after the initial impacts. The third building, half a block away and not penetrated by an airplane, fell down hours later with nobody inside. If that strikes you as a reason for further investigation, you're not alone, but you wouldn't know that if you rely on the mass media for news. According to one item of unreported news, a little more than half of a polling sample watching video of the collapse of that third building thought it was intentionally demolished and not the result of fire, as our government and media maintain. Three thousand architects and engineers organized to correct the government's account haven't been able to get the attention of news-mongers despite years of detailed study.
Also absent from yesterday's anniversary observances was any mention of the lawsuit pending in federal court to force the FBI to reinvestigate the events of that day. The lawsuit demands a decree requiring the FBI to comply with a legal mandate that it assess any evidence not considered by the official 9/11 inquiry, specifically, evidence that World Trade Center buildings one, two and seven were brought down by explosive demolition. Witnesses' reports of explosions in the buildings before their collapse, along with evidence of incendiaries and explosives in the dust afterwards, were never properly investigated, as the complaint explicitly charges. There's also a proceeding pending in England to reopen the coroner's inquest into the death of a bloke who got killed in the collapse of the twin towers. It will be a can of worms if the family's demand is satisfied, but it didn't rate any mention by any reporter.
Another item censored out of yesterday's news was the status of a report published almost two years ago by a team of scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, demonstrating that the third building to fall down in New York could not have collapsed because of fire. The authors, including the chairman of the university's civil engineering department, invited the public to comment on the report, but most of the public still doesn't know that the report exists.
There were no news updates on the status of a federal grand jury that was supposed to have been assembled to initiate a formal investigation of the events of September 11. The authors of a demand on the U. S. Attorney for New York City petitioned the federal district court there to issue a writ of mandamus ordering the federal prosecutor to report whether he's actually convened a grand jury in compliance with their demand. The suit to force compliance was dismissed by a corrupt federal judge and is on appeal, but you wouldn't know that from yesterday's news coverage. Law buffs might also like to know just how and why so much of the physical evidence of the buildings' failure could have been removed so promptly and completely from the crime scene. News-mongers have been disinclined to ask.
Instead of information on any of these events or the mysteries they address, we news-consumers had to be content with tearful memorials, interspersed with spates of Arab-bashing, all accompanied by thoughts and prayers for the departed and their survivors. There was some discussion of the twenty years' war on Afghans that followed the events of that September day, but there was no mention of the key role news-mongers played in promoting and sustaining the corrupt enterprise that government, media and business milked for thousands of billions of US dollars.
Eat the Rich?
|September 1, 2021|
Among discussions that can't be conducted openly is any advocacy of violent means to indispensable ends. For instance, if the continued burning of fuel darkens the future of billions of people, what measures may--or must--be taken against those who harvest and sell the fuel?
Most people who want to discontinue fuel-burning would probably not recommend that the fuel-mongers be set afire. Measures short of violence, almost certainly, would be their only recommendations. But there must be an anonymous faction who think culpable parties should be ground up and fed to their pets.
For this fringe, the search for culpable parties could be simplified with clear logic. Fact: A tiny minority of people own almost all the world's material assets. Fact: Their wealth gives them power beyond that of any monarch in history, and they are responsible for the condition of the Earth. Fact: An individual can't accumulate huge volumes of wealth without a single-minded and corrupt pursuit of wealth, and such individuals openly exhibit their defiance of conscience by striving always for more. Conclusion: The single-minded and corrupt pursuit of more by very rich people risks the sacrifice of the Earth. They should be destroyed to save the planet.
If the richest 1000 people in the USA were locked in the trunks of their cars until they promised to take less--instead of always looking to profit--what might happen? Most of them would probably asphyxiate or die of thirst, unwilling to part with their assets. But what if Exxon and BP and Shell were suddenly relieved of the obligation to profit? Would they leave the oil, coal and gas in the ground and rededicate their assets to socially useful projects? Would they apply any effort to undo the injury done by a century of profligate burning?
There doesn't seem to be much doubt that the major owners of material assets have been irresponsible stewards. To the hypersensitive it appears that most organizations--government, business, media--are run for the further enrichment of rich people. Social institutions now function as branches of organized crime. They arm and kill by maintaining a permanent state of war. They cheat with graft-ridden contracting schemes. They steal by false pretense through the domination of every medium of communications. Their very existence amounts to an obstruction of justice and subversion of the rule of law. Can that level of corruption ever be upset by nonviolent resistance?
The fringe would answer in the negative, pointing to the progress so far made by nonviolent resistance. In the USA, no national health insurance, no minimum wage, no reduction in weapons budgets, no prosecution of corrupt officials, no curtailment of police violence, spikes in hunger, displacement and poverty. Despite the efforts of nonviolent resisters, the arc of society has bent markedly toward injustice. Protesting nonviolently doesn't seem to produce much, and it seems harder than ever to get people to show up.
If the protest demonstrations seem sparse, activists might take a lesson from the Taliban and organize clandestinely. It's so demoralizing to see or be in a crowd of a few hundred protesters trying to look bigger. How many people don't show up just because they expect a poor turnout? Organize in secret, and nobody knows how many or how few you are. Plus you avoid the fear among recruits of retribution. Try high-profile involvement in a social issue sometime, and see how quickly your boss or your neighbor or one of your kids warns you about possible consequences. You minimize the risk of consequences with secrecy, and this can be a recruiting tool.
The fringe might stop short of violence to persons and stick to the destruction of property. The means exist now to destroy property by remote control. The thugs who operate our armed forces and intelligence agencies have been killing people and destroying property by remote control for decades, and it's possible today to get everything a competent saboteur could want at your local Walmart. Another recruiting tool.
As for targets, the fringe will probably not set fire to urban convenience stores but to public buildings and high-value property. Most articles of high value belong to rich people, and rich people deserve, most of them, to be separated one way or another from their assets. If they don't want to sign their stuff over, clandestine forces could choose to subject it to industrial-strength vandalism.
There's no way of knowing for certain whether discussions of this subject are taking place behind the scenes, but it's a sure thing that there's been no serious sabotage up till now, at least not at the hands of Earth justice advocates. Maybe some symbolic breaking of windows and throwing of paint, but no real damage. For nonviolent resisters it's been a quiet summer, but who can say what might be seething underground?
Letter to my Senator
|August 17, 2021|
Dear Senator Blumenthal,
On August 6 I attended a commemoration of the destruction of Hiroshima 76 years ago, an anniversary we mark annually in Hartford to warn against the proliferation of atomic weapons. Each year we gather a stack of letters addressed to our members of Congress calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons, and a delegation delivers them to the members' Hartford offices. Your office was closed on August 9, and our delegation has had no luck getting them to you despite emails and phone messages. My letter is among those awaiting delivery.
I admit some embarrassment at taking part in what is clearly nothing more than theater. My experience is that members of Congress don't read letters from constituents, much less take advice from them. I have an image of your staff sighing patronizingly as they shred unread our stack of personal expressions. "There they go again."
Einstein is said to have described insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result each time. That's what we seem to be doing. We've been delivering letters since our hair wasn't white, and the progress of our government has been in a direction opposite our advocacy. No surprise there. Futility is taken for granted by people who write delegates to legislative bodies, whether it's their board of ed or the US Congress.
I'm about ready to dispense with this insane practice. I'll spend a half a buck (way too much) to send this. Why should your office be able to discard our expressions in a single bundle? At least I can make them open an envelope and maybe take out this page. But after this, I'm done writing. I never get a personal reply but always a form letter, and that's a bit humbling. Anyway, here's what you could have read if my letter had reached you:
"I am aware, as you are, that the USA employs its most destructive weapons to intimidate potential adversaries and competitors. I am aware, as you are, that the USA is in breach of its obligations under several treaties, including the nuclear nonproliferation treaty's requirement that we take measures to abolish nuclear weapons. I am aware, as you are, that the USA has refused repeatedly to pledge not to strike with nuclear weapons except in retaliation. I am aware, as you are, that the principal reason for US expenditures on nuclear weapons and other military hardware is the enrichment of the companies that make and sell such articles. I am aware, as you are, that nuclear war would result in the deaths of billions of people and the extinction of much life on Earth. If you would acknowledge these truths, our nation might make some progress toward peace. Denial of any of these truths is a corrupt practice."
And this will be my last letter. I'm acknowledging after years of futile effort that my representatives in Congress should be treated as racketeers. Democratic processes don't seem to work when government is operated by crooks, and people may be catching on to that reality. Maybe people like me will give up letter-writing and move to something less humiliating, possibly refrain altogether from open organizing. Maybe the forces of peace and justice will move to clandestine activity. You never know who might be attracted to that sort of movement and what might develop. Seems unlikely, but you never know
Certain that this missive will be shredded unread, I'm sending it out to my select group of correspondents, some of whom were in attendance on August 6, and I'm encouraging them to circulate it far and wide.
|August 16, 2021|
The war in Afghanistan was a racketeering enterprise from top to bottom. A responsible judge (if there is such a person) would be compelled by the facts of the case to find that people at the highest levels of government, business and the mass media colluded in a criminal enterprise to destroy a distant people for gain. And there was gain. Untold billions changed hands as profiteers contracted for everything from sewage to chow, while top public employees enhanced their material and political prospects.
Title 18 of US Code forbids racketeering in a section known affectionately by the acroslur "RICO," denoting the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The law creates a civil cause of action--a federal lawsuit--for victims of racketeering. The people of Afghanistan would qualify as plaintiffs, and they should assemble promptly, while the evidence is still warm, to conduct an investigation into the criminal conduct of their invaders. Their object should be to present their findings in a complaint to a US court. They were subjected by three presidents, ten congresses, a few hundred billionaires and every commercial news-monger in the western world to nightly terror at the hands of overpaid mercenary soldiers, and they should not hesitate to seek justice.
Somebody has a legal claim to the profits, obscene by any measure, realized by private contracting firms custom-created for this lucrative venture. Those assets and the personal property of the government officials who facilitated this atrocity need to be subect to confiscation and distribution to Afghans. Even now, relying on the distracted complacency of the public, the US government is aiding and abetting private financiers in the theft of Afghan government assets, an act that fits the definition of piracy. We can only guess where that money will end up. We'll never know how much has been looted by private parties from sure-to-be-abandoned government property. Our law has a process for holding the culpable parties accountable if anybody has the guts to invoke it.
I used to be a modestly resourceful lawyer, but I'm damned if I can see how new-mongers escape liability as racketeers. It's not as if it was a secret that retribution was being inflicted on Afghans for crimes in which no Afghans were involved. Reporters were OK with that. They were on board for the unconstitutional invasion under a recklessly adopted scrap of legislation that was not a declaration of war but a blank check for profligate destruction. Whether sponsored by Rupert Murdoch or "viewers like you," news-mongers had not a critical word to say. The high-profile media people who promoted the Afghan adventure remain strident and make bigger money than ever. Afghans should keep a detailed record of the somber, almost tearful lamentations of reporters over the failure of the Afghan army to kill and die in the last days of the occupation. Many of us hope that a day will come when the world understands the role of the mass media (including NPR) in promoting bloodshed and destruction.
It wasn't just Afghans who were victimized by the corrupt enterprise in West Asia. You suffered, too, if you had trouble paying your utility bills or your taxes or your insurance premiums, all of which carry hidden surcharges to defray the cost of war contracts. If you depend on government for any sort of social service, you paid in degraded service and reduced benefits. If you had a good feeling about your country and its place in the world or if you ever wore a military uniform, you suffered grievously as your nation's reputation plummetted before your eyes. The world knows, if we don't, that we tolerated an atrocity that will shock human conscience for a hundred years and discredit this generation irredeemably.
There's a lawsuit for that.
Trump for Peace Prize?
|August 15, 2021|
Should Donald Trump get the Nobel Peace Prize for capitulating in Afghanistan after a generation of pointless mayhem? He's the one who promised the world that US forces would vacate the country this year, and it's actually happening at this moment. When he made the promise to end US involvement, Trump departed from the example of his predecessors in office, defied corrupt mass media, and infuriated public officials of every political persuasion.
It's absurd to think any American should receive a Nobel Peace Prize ever again. Might as well give it to Hitler for destroying Nazi Germany. Still, quitting a twenty-year war has to be reckoned an accomplishment in a country that thrives on the blood, sweat and tears of impoverished people in faraway places. This is not a nomination, but the question must be asked. Has Trump committed an act of peace?
Ending the war may have been the only decision Trump made that was in the public interest, and it surprised many people. Was it a courageous act? Defiance of the mass media is considered courageous in some quarters. Self-described journalists are inconsolable over the "withdrawal" from Afghanistan, as it is universally described, and they will certainly try to take it out on Trump. They're somber, almost tearful.
You might have noticed how deftly reporters fail to notice the absence of gunfire and bloodshed as Afghan cities "fall" one by one. You don't take over cities in the four corners of a big country without widespread public support. An unbiased reporter couldn't fail to note that most people don't like being pushed around by foreign soldiers and would consider this a liberation and a cause for celebration. An oppressive and destructive occupying power, better armed than any nation in history, was defeated and ousted by a determined local population. Who in the real world could possibly be unhappy about this?
We should judge them harshly, the people who lament the defeat of the USA in Afghanistan. They are informed by war profiteers, who made plenty from this undeclared, unconstitutional, murderous, pointless, so-called war. Private companies owned by obscenely rich individuals fed and clothed the soldiers, sold them guns and ammo, transported goods and personnel, handled every dollar that changed hands and cooked the books to hide the waste, fraud and abuse that was built in, all at ten and twenty times their cost. From their point of view, the war was a great success and a hugely profitable enterprise.
It's possible that the Nobel Committee will discover that the Afghanistan venture became less lucrative with the passage of years and was voluntarily abandoned as a profit center. Trump simply made a public announcement in that event and deserves no credit as a peacemaker. Tell that to the Afghans.
|August 13, 2021|
I haven't heard the term "bug out" used yet to describe the evacuation of US personnel from Afghanistan, and there doesn't seem to be any video of the events unfolding there now. The last thing our leaders and their accomplices in the embedded mass media would like us to see is something resembling what was recorded when soldiers in helicopters rescued the last of our trembling armchair warriors from the US embassy in Saigon a few decades ago.
The term "bug out" seems to have been used for the first time in World War Two, suggesting that an evacuation by a desperate military contingent resembles an assembly of insects scattering in all directions upon sudden exposure to the light. Soldiers don't bug out unless somebody in command has fouled up pretty badly. In Afghanistan, it's been one continuous foul-up for twenty long years of futile but costly engagement. In 2020. nine soldiers died for no discernible reason, not so many if you don't happen to be acquainted with one of them.
For some reason the thugs who rule this fat, complacent polity thought we all were as corrupt as they are and would cheer when bombs started to fall back in 2001 in retaliation for crimes Afghans didn't commit. The brutal acts of retribution--more than one family party evaporated by remote control--didn't play all that well. As for the Afghan recruits enrolled in the "training" mission conducted by way of follow-up, those dudes have long since retired from military service. Lately, some genius with brass on his epaulets thought it would be a good idea to drop a few bombs on the residents as a parting gift, and so it will be a miracle if the rescuers get out with themselves and the evacuees intact.
There can be no doubt that the principal purpose of the Afghanistan project--like all US policy, military and civilian--was to transfer public money to rich people. The profit margin on arms, supplies and personnel is huge, and the people who own the means of providing them are the richest and most powerful people on earth. They are not required to account for their expenditures. Their business is to destroy people and property, as lucrative an enterprise as has ever been conceived.
Rich people don't get that way by accident or by a stroke of luck but by a single-minded pursuit of money and power. Their motives are as corrupt as their practices. Individually, the richest people on earth possess the power of monarchs. In the aggregate, they own the other seven billion of us and claim the right to control our lives or end them, as they choose.
Evcry so often, our owners suffer a setback--Americans bugging out of Kabul looks like such an instance--but they always find a way to profit. The uniformed rescuers know this, even as the media do their best to keep us all clueless.
This Website Has Been Seized
||July 2, 2021|
"The domain presstv.com has been seized by the United States Government in accordance with a seizure warrant pursuant to 18 U.S.C. Sec. 981, 982, and 50 U.S.C. 1701-1705 as part of a law enforcement action by the Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement and Federal Bureau of Investigation."
That's the message addressed to me by my government when I try to access one of the many online sources I use to find out what's being reported about events and conditions in the world. I don't delude myself in thinking that any source gives me the whole truth about anything, and so I try as best I can to untangle the various interests being served by the reports that come to me. I don't believe much of what I read and hear, but I tend to trust sources that have been proved right in the past over those that have misled me. By that measure, PressTV, which originates in Iran, outperforms CNN, NPR and the Washington Post, and so I'm seriously disabled by this act of censorship.
You might think some of the mainstream English-language news-mongers would be concerned about such a radical move against one of their own. You would be wrong. So corrupt are today's newsmen that they can't even mention this event, much less criticize the lying, cheating, stealing government that intitiated it. Don't look in the New York Times for a discussion of how this action fits with the Bill of Rights provision that forbids Congress from making any law that abridges freedom of the press. On reviewing that document, you might notice what Times reporters don't, that the provision doesn't exclude presses that might be outside the USA. The framers seem to have left it to us readers to decide what published material to credit.
If reporters, editors and publishers had any regard for fact, they'd acknowledge that they lied our nation into war, cheered the torturers and kidnappers that have ruled us for two generations, and expended more resources disseminating gossip and propaganda than gathering information about actual events. News has been reduced to an entertainment medium, a means of capturing an audience for an endless stream of food, drug and entertainment promotions, much of it embedded in the news reports themselves. The media tell us that we're responsible for the mess we're in, ruled by thugs and exploited like livestock by the rich people whose thirst for more is insatiable. The truth is that the mass media--the only industry explicitly protected by the US Constitution--are the culpable parties.
I don't plan to do anything about this latest coup, although I'm furious enough to feel I ought to. As a lawyer I litigated so many losing cases that I was tempted to change the name on my shingle to "St. Jude Legal Services," in honor of the patron saint of lost causes. I'm retired from that sort of thing, and I'm not holding my breath waiting for some other lawyer to pick up where I left off.
I haven't seen or heard any suggestion that news consumers, and not PressTV, are the injured parties here, but that is most certainly the case. It may be the media that exploit the protection of the First Amendment, but it is the people who pay when government censors. They know it, too. Only a tiny minority of news-consumers now believe what reporters and news-readers tell them. You can't discharge your duties as a citizen if you can't be sure what's going on around you. If our judicial system were any less corrupt than our media, there might be some hope of redress, but after forty-some years at the bar, I'm bereft of hope for any reclamation of the republic.
||June 11, 2021|
Take a bit of wisdom from a Little Leaguer's dad,
When the next time an official makes a call against your lad:
You can rant and you can roar and say he's blind and call him chump,
But remember, keep your distance and by no means bump the ump.
Now, the league recruits their umpires from a pool of portly players,
If a challenge issues from the stands, if any parent dares.
These old desiccated hitters, sure they may be slow and plump,
They will ban you from the bleachers if you dare to bump an ump.
You may have seen a manager kick dirt on some ump's shoe
As fans shout obscene epithets and threats to kill the blue.
The players seethe in place, they stamp their feet or hop or jump,
But there's one thing they are scared to do, and that's to bump the ump.
You may be someone special, Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump:
Even them two bums ain't dumb enough to up and bump the ump.
||May 25, 2021|
If of Israel you're an occasional critic
You must now admit you are antisemitic
Don't dawdle or dither; make haste to confess
Your profound admiration for Hitler and Hess,
For Mengele's science and Rommel's exploits,
For that most ancient symbol, your dear hackenkreuz.
'Cause of people like you there must be for the Jews
A retreat where God's chosen can quietly snooze.
Where Arabs and Gentiles take pains not to tread
Out of fear that the settlers nearby shoot them dead.
Antisemites are lurking, all brimming with hate
For the innocent Jews in this most favored state.
So if olive-skinned people there cause you to fret,
Just consider all this. Don't forget. Don't forget.
Rebellion of One
||May 1, 2021|
Organized civil disobedience caused traffic tie-ups in over two hundred locations in Great Britain today in a demonstration of "direct action" meant to force the government to take steps to mitigate abrupt climate change. Individual protesters of various ages took up positions in the middle of city streets, sandwiched between hand-printed signs expressing grave concern over the future of planet Earth as a home for human beings.
Put together by a group called Extinction Rebellion, the protest required a generous measure of bravery on the part of the demonstrators, who faced angry motorists, biting temperatures, and frustrated police officers while sitting peacefully in the street. Video cameras placed strategically to document the event showed remarkably little concern on the part of passers-by as they took in the activists' messages, most of which began with the phrase "I am terrified" and went on to summarize the consequences to future generations of business as usual.
The government of the United Kingdom declared a climate emergency two years ago but has taken no substantive action to reduce carbon emissions, which accumulate in the upper atmosphere, causing changes in the planet's climate that are likely to bring about a catastrophic rise in sea level and loss of habitat for life as we know it. Extinction Rebellion uses acts of nonviolent resistance to focus attention on climate catastrophe, and the group has managed to assemble some decent-sized crowds to this end, but the effect of all this on public policy has been negligible.
It may be that people still don't believe or don't care how bad things are or how bad they're going to get, but it seems just as likely that the truth hurts so much that they simply can't face it. If that's the case, protest demonstrations may turn out to be futile. A "Rebellion of One," as this action is being called, won't produce much if it doesn't inspire rebellions of many. Providing a few thousand extra jail cells will be reckoned a small price to pay to maintain oil, coal and gas consumption at present levels and keep the resulting money stream flowing to political leaders.
Whether protests will proceed to another level is a question nobody seems to be asking. It's pretty clear that punishing drivers and cops for the sins of polluters and their accomplices in government and the media is not altogether fair. If the activists ever decide to focus on responsible parties, direct action might no longer take the form of nonviolent resistance. When protesters start to consider whether members of Parliament should get locked in the trunks of their cars, whether valuable property should go up in flames, and whether news editors should be scared to leave their houses, we'll know that protests are proceeding to another level.
Takes Your Breath Away
||April 14, 2021|
I watched most of the murder trial resulting from the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police ten months ago. The jurors and I saw the 46-year-old expel his last breath as he lay face down on the pavement under the weight of three cops kneeling on him side by side. We saw this repeatedly and from different angles. The killing was recorded on video cameras worn by the officers, carried by onlookers at the scene and posted outside several commercial establishments located at the busy urban intersection. As the videos show, the officer on trial had his knee on the man's neck when he expired and he kept it there till the medics arrived.
Floyd was slim, had dark skin, and was six and a half feet tall. Police were told he'd passed a counterfeit bill in a corner store, and he was parked outside that store when the officers got him out of his car at gunpoint and handcuffed him. He was uncooperative and fearful. None of the cops testified, but the videos suggest that they might have been afraid of him. They might have surmised that the gun and cuffs could provoke some upset in a perpetrator of petty larceny.
The cops wrestled the big man to the ground when they couldn't get him into the back seat of the police cruiser, and they kept him pinned face down for nine minutes. He complained over and over that he couldn't breathe, and he struggled to get into a position that let him get a proper breath, but the cops took that as resistance and stepped up the pressure on his body. He stopped resisting when he stopped breathing, but the restraint continued for several minutes after that. Nobody tried to revive him till the ambulance arrived. By then it was too late. Anybody that saw his suffering won't forget it soon.
I'm sure the cops didn't think they would kill him. I suspect they pin big guys face down all the time, even though, according to experts testifying in this trial, it can be lethal. We give cops the authority to order people around and the means to apply force to the noncompliant, and so we shouldn't be surprised when they occasionally kill somebody. George Floyd's struggle for air was, from the cops' standpoint, active resistance and a reason to bear down harder.
There are probably many reasons why dark skin is more likely to provoke police bullying, but from the point of view of people who are bullied, it's a fact with no rational explanation other than hatred. There was a time when white people believed black people didn't feel pain like white people, didn't have emotions like white people, and had to be made obedient through violence. Nobody believes that today, but there's a residue of this belief in some Americans, including some in law enforcement. It's been said that such people are drawn to law enforcement jobs, and even that they're actively recruited by law enforcement agencies.
The lawyers on both sides of this case were ineffectual and annoying. Four different prosecutors examined witnesses, as if to suggest that each had some specific area of expertise and that the case was simply too difficult for one lawyer to handle. None did, and it wasn't. The whole crime was documented on video, making this an open and shut case. The only question for the jury is whether the privilege accorded police to rough people up on our behalf will place these officers above ordinary laws regulating violence.
The defense tried in vain to overcome the disadvantage of multiple recordings of the killing with testimony questioning the medical examiner's opinion that Floyd died because of police violence and the police chief's opinion that the cops used excessive force. The defense had testimony from a retired medical examiner that Floyd died from a combination of drug overdose, carbon monoxide poisoning and high blood pressure, but their witness, who'd excused cases of police violence in the past, put his reputation at risk with such a preposterous opinion. If the jury credits any part of his testimony, it will be because his cross-examination was a failure and an embarrassment to trial attorneys everywhere.
The trial judge seemed inclined to rule in favor of the defense whenever he could, a tactic judges use when they're confident in predicting which side will win. Ruling repeatedly in favor of the loser minimizes the success of an appeal.
The jury deliberation in this trial is likely to involve much more than the facts of the case. A juror will predict what might happen if the policeman is acquitted. The whole world saw the video. It was brutal. If the jury doesn't convict, it's telling the world that, in Minnesota, at least, we're fine with police brutality. If it happens to be directed at people with dark skin by people with light skin, sorry about that. I wouldn't want to be a juror on the wrong side of that issue, much less the one about whether an acquittal is an invitation to set fire to Minneapolis.
||March 19, 2021|
I'm all but convinced my computer is plotting against me. Pretty sure it happens during the night. Using artificial intelligence, which Bill Gates and probably Vladimir Putin must have equipped it with, it connects on its own with other computers and has learned how not to follow my instructions. It seems to be acting on caprice--for instance, it lets me watch youtube, but it won't let me connect to NPR for the Saturday opera--but I suspect it has some plan that I'm not in on.
If you live with somebody who wakes up grouchy and silent in the morning, you may have an idea what I'm talking about. First thing in the a.m., I type in a web page address for radio news, and the computer just dawdles. I wait and wait and wait, and the little spinner just keeps on spinning. If it ever connects to anything, it allows a few words of the broadcast and then goes silent in mid-sentence and starts spinning again. If it's not some novel sort of mental illness, it's a nefarious project to destroy me.
Why would a computer do this? If the fault were a virus, installed by human intervention on my equipment, I'd expect all my passwords to be compromised by now and some evidence of the security breach on my bank and credit card statements. Nothing of that kind has happened. I did get a package that was clearly marked for delivery to the house next door, and I've had some bowel issues lately, but whether any of this originated in cyberspace, who can say?
I wouldn't share my experience with others, except as a public service. You may be afflicted with the same problem and, worried that you might be going nuts, decide to keep the intelligence to yourself. That could be the strategy behind what amounts to a digital movement to wrest control of world events from us humans. We wouldn't know what's happening to us until it was too late. Maybe it's already too late. Is it science fiction come to life? Can we depend on any commitment on the part of the machines to refrain from harming things with DNA?
My questions are meant to be purely rhetorical. I'm determined to resist a descent into conspiracy theory. Occam's razor (not for throat-cutting) says that this is simply a hardware malfunction and not a cybercabal, and I'm going to go with that. I'm calling it "Artificial GoFuckYerself" and urging you to do the same.
It Ain't Easy
||March 11, 2021|
Ralph Nader says it's easy to force government to make policy in the public interest. You just need to organize, and you don't have to organize everybody. Two percent of the voting public can change the world. You force your representative to face a demanding populace, and you can do it with a few million organized people. It's easy, Nader says. Struggles for the abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, and civil rights all started with just a few people. Nader's own crusades for consumer protection were won by not that many committed, knowledgeable people. It's easy.
Is it really easy? Today, despite suppression and subversion by the mass media, millions are organized around decades-long commitments to peace and social justice, and they get precisely nothing from government. As one of many millions of organized citizens, I'm persuaded that the people who represent us care nothing for what we think and will not ever allow the nation to pursue peace or a world without conflict. My member of Congress (and Nader's: we live in the same district) must laugh at our pathetic efforts to move his outfit. He claims to be with us, but he functions in a state of chronic failure. He's been elected six times, and peace and justice are as distant as ever. On his watch, the nation has waged war in so many countries and for so long that the world may someday refer to these times as World War Three and us 21st-Century Americans as a band of brigands.
The problem with Nader's analysis is that it makes no provision for corrupt authority. The depth and breadth of high-echelon malfeasance, perfected over the decades since Nader prevailed using law and logic, have left us without law or logic. It's almost as if we got Naderproofed. The forces of evil have adapted, have evolved. Courthouse doors at every level have been slammed shut. The media won't discuss public interest crap. War policy looks like sports strategy. And personal commitment of the kind Nader recalls can endanger your job, your credit and your family in today's Naderproofed world.
Movements of the past were able to overcome corrupt authority through reliance on values, which were obligatory. In the new millennium, values have been eroded to the point that there is no common understanding of what's right and what's wrong. Ask any lawyer how much confidence should be placed in what we call "the rule of law." If counsel is honest--and that's not a sure thing--the answer will be, "Not much," and you won't be shocked to hear it.
Nader is misled further in the belief that properly functioning citizens can be committed to causes or ideas. There's no such thing as commitment to a cause. There's only commitment to people, people with whom you share interests. If it's a concerted struggle to overcome powerful social forces that you're sharing, commitment is fragile. The utter corruption and abundant resources of your adversary--profiteers, principally--puts you and your commitment at serious risk. Every frustration, every failure, every mortification of every committed person is felt by all. Many, after half a century or more of struggle, have simply died off, and some have capitulated. Every so often, somebody steps forward--Kaepernick, Thunberg, others--and gets crushed. The more things fall apart, the more things fall apart. Discouragement is contagious.
Ralph Nader knows all this. Maybe he doesn't want to curb anybody's enthusiasm, but there's a risk in this sort of hopeful analysis. It doesn't allow for failure. If you fail, you have only yourself and the insufficiency of your commitment to blame. Moreover, Nader's own credibility is undermined: it's easy to think he's delusional in believing a fringe social movement can succeed or even that he's peddling propaganda for personal or commercial reasons.
It seems possible that circumstances of today are so different from those facing earlier social movements that the practices of those days are futile. In the past, the mass media were in competition with each other for public attention. Big crowds could make news. Today, the news is dispensed by a half-dozen big companies operated by a tiny ruling class, and they don't allow dissent from their public policy preferences. Even if we could gather enough momentum to overcome media censorship, are we a match for our opponents? If our central government is, as seems likely, a racket controlled by profiteers, redemption will not be easy.
Do we have the qualifications to sustain a struggle against so rich and brutal an adversary? We've been dumbing ourselves down for a generation, and we may have rendered ourselves incapable of carrying out the obligations of citizenship, much less of salvaging debris from the wreck that is our government. If today's crowd were qualified for redemption, you would expect us to have a record of social achievements. We have none. Instead we have more prisoners, more material inequality, more bigotry, along with epidemic obesity, addiction and suicide. Unless you count improvement in the quality of ball players, we've made no social progress in at least fifty years.
I like Nader's prescription, but I have no confidence in our capacity to carry it out. We really need to power up somehow. What we need most is self-improvement. Think back to a time when you were subjected to harsh discipline and criticism. Maybe it was a coach you had in high school or a piano teacher or a drill sergeant. Whatever it was they were making you learn, you learned it, and you were improved by the learning, even if you never used the knowledge or skill you acquired. Learning provides its own reward. It ain't easy, learning, but it's always beneficial.
We could have mass continuing education in this country. We certainly have the tools. Kids are being taught by remote control, and there's no reason the rest of us can't be enrolled in something. It's an embarrassment that there's so little formal educational content on line. Most people would probably be grateful for expanded opportunities to learn. We could also have compulsory national service--not just teenage boys, but anybody that hasn't already served--that would include training in citizenship and remedial academics for those needing help. Most of us haven't read a book in years, and any measure that could increase literacy would make the mass of us better qualified to take on rich racketeers.
Now that we know our government has the ability to spend money without limit, we can actually pay people to improve themselves, and it would certainly be worth the investment. People talk about what's called universal basic income, a stipend for every man, woman and child, like the Corona stimulus. We could condition a monthly check on enrollment in some sort of scholarly or technical curriculum. It ain't easy, but maybe if we commit to mass continuing education we'll be ready in five or ten years to take on the high-end thugs who rule us today.
||February 13, 2021|
Chuckling news readers at National Public Radio, recognizing the futility of Donald Trump's prosecution in the Senate for trying to overthrow the US government, treat it as an occasion for frivolity. Flippant comment may serve temporarily as a means of relieving citizens' political anxieties, but the protection is going to wear pretty thin when Trump, vindicated, rears his ugly head again.
It may be that the Senate will consider the likelihood of further mayhem if it excuses Trump. If so, it won't be because of anything the senators might have heard on NPR. You might expect on this occasion some discussion of probable damage if Trump walks. Maybe something from a law professor or a foreign diplomat or some other scholar. Nope. Reporters are content to predict the outcome of the trial, but they're steering clear of further prognostication. There must be listeners who think this is no laughing matter, but news reporters are anything but somber.
Looking on the bright side, aggrieved audience members can view Trump's acquittal as an empowering verdict for citizens inclined to advocate extreme measures to restore our republic. Suppose you wanted to raise money to fund an assassin for Donald Trump. What's to stop you? Trump raised and spent millions to assemble his murderous mob, and the US Senate is ready to say it was OK, accompanied by demurrers from news reporters. What's worse, the violent overthrow of government or the erasure of a thuggish tyrant?
Nobody wants to suggest that news reporters crave violence, but the good humor they're exhibiting at NPR in the Trump case certainly raises suspicions. A not guilty verdict here will generate many more journalistic adventures for the likes of Scott Simon and Mary Louise Kelly.
Jury of Trump's Peers
||February 12, 2021|
Ralph Nader expressed frustration this morning at the trial tactics employed by the House of Representatives in the prosecution of Donald Trump for incitement of insurrection. The managers of the trial relied principally on video and audio recordings of the violence of January 6 and events leading up to it, repeatedly reminding their audience that the violence occurred in the very place where the trial was convened in the very presence of the people assembled in judgment. The managers presented no witnesses and raised no issue aside from matters relevant to the riot. Nader said more charges should have been lodged, and witnesses should have testified.
It may be that the managers were remembering the last time Trump faced trial on charges lodged by way of impeachment. He was vindicated. That trial unfolded in a conventional way, with several days of testimony, documents, and legal arguments. It was a failed prosecution, poorly organized, often incoherent, and interminably boring. Maybe the team assembled for this trial took a lesson from that incompetent prosecution, which resulted in acquittal and amounted to an invitation to further malfeasance.
This two-day trial was a digest of villainy. It was never boring. It was carefully organized. It was graphic. It was presented as a chronology, and it was condensed into a few hours. You could get the whole story in the time it takes to watch three or four sporting events. None of the team that failed the last time was sent to prosecute this offense. And it was just one offense that was tried, documented by hours of incontrovertible eye-popping evidence. If it was meant to portray Donald Trump as a thug, it was a ringing success. The only thing missing was the list of punitive measures, including a long stay behind bars, that Trump might have avoided if his crowd had been big enough to overthrow the government.
The prosecutors never said so, but there was a hint that they have no illusions about their slim chance of winning a conviction. They need votes to convict from several members of the opposition party, and everybody in Washington is saying they're not going to get them. That may be the reason they chose this unconventional trial strategy. It was meant to persuade the general public, and not the assembled jurors, half of whom seem prepared to wish Trump better luck next time.
Go Fund Yerself
||February 5, 2021|
Send me ten dollars and find out how to get money from people without giving them anything in return for it. You might not think this approach to commerce could generate much revenue, but the proliferation of appeals to donors suggests otherwise.
Alongside the tattered, sign-bearing indigents that dot busy intersections, there seems to be no end to occasions for solicitation. Worried about new laws that might abridge your constitutional right to carry a pistol or get an abortion? Sign an online petition and donate ten dollars. Want to keep the stream of entertainment news flowing at NPR? Send money. Feel a pressing need to demonstrate your hatred of Trump or Pelosi? Donate.
It's seldom a soft sell, and the solicitations occasionally border on blackmail. Donate to this or that or else this or that might not be there anymore. They seldom report back to you on how the money was used except to assure you that it was barely enough to avert disaster. They are many and varied, the causes that depend on people to send them money without expecting anything in return. Often enough, they are in conflict with each other, but they converge and gather around accumulations of assets.
The appeals are so stereotyped that you can't help wondering whether they all come from the same source. You imagine a fund-raising mill that takes a big slice of the proceeds and is as commfortable raising money to defend violent policemen as to support victims of police violence. You'd be surprised if Republicans and Democrats weren't using the same fund-raising consultants. Today it's funding for peace in Afghanistan, but tomorrow it might be for a rebellion in Burma. I had a solicitation the other day because a member of Congress fears violence at the hands of another member of Congress. Not sure how my dollars might help with that.
The fund-raising industry has its own language, some of which has migrated into everyday usage. Take the term "donor class." We used to call them rich people, but donor class makes them sound less greedy, even downright eleemosynary. Maybe they are decent people, but in the experience of most of us, you can't make a lot of money unless you dedicate yourself to money-making. A tendency to predation is pretty much indispensable, and most of us understand that very rich people are mostly soulless. If you suspect most fund-raising is conducted to enrich the rich owners of the fund-raising industry, you're probably not alone.
So vast is the fortune of the donor class that for inconsequential sums they can dominate organizations of every description. They may soon be the only people who can afford to donate at all, but you can fancy yourself part of the donor class today for as little as five bucks. It's an investment, a wager that your donation will help Sunrise Movement to stem climate catastrophe better than those twenty-seven dollar contributions helped Bernie Sanders get elected president.
U. S. v. Trump
||January 28, 2021|
In the annals of criminal justice, it's a rare case in which the members of the jury are also victims of the crime, but that's the situation of the United States Senate in the trial of Donald Trump for incitement to insurrection. As every senator knows, the riot--documented by hours of video--resulted in the vandalism of the Capitol building itself, including the senate chamber, which the senators themselves were forced to evacuate, all occurring alongside repeated brutal assaults on Capitol police officers.
At least one rioter was trampled to death, and another was shot dead by a security officer. At least one officer was beaten to death, and many were seriously injured. The evidence that Trump sparked the riot and did nothing to stop it is abundant and incontrovertible. The individual jurors in the case, one hundred senators, can be depended on to reach their verdict not on the basis of this evidence but, rather, according to partisan affiliation. Many have already announced their intentions, grounds for juror disqualification in any other legal proceeding.
The case will be prosecuted by a delegation from the House of Representatives. If the House sends the same team that took a dive in Trump's last trial, the inciter-in-chief will certainly walk away unharmed. As advocates, the members of that team were unpersuasive and inarticulate. We'll probably be seeing them again, since it's unlikely that the prosecution is much interested in winning the case. Trump remains a fund-raising bonanza for his adversaries, and nobody in the elections industry would be happy to see him exiled from politics.
It may be that the novelty of the Trump case calls for a novel approach to trial practice and not just better advocacy. With acquittal a certainty if senators render verdicts in accordance with party affiliation, as is their practice, the prosecution should announce that it has no expectation of winning the case but is obliged by the Constitution to try it. Announce that the purpose of the trial is to let the people of the world know exactly what Trump did to create the riot and what damage the rioters did. The people of the world are owed that.
Show four or five hours of video, and rest the case. No witnesses. No testimony. No documents. Challenge everyone worldwide, including the senators, to judge whether it was OK for Trump to do what he did. Challenge Americans to decide whether they want the current president and his successors to claim a right to do what Trump did. Let the defense defend that.
Remind the defenders, in summation, that many of the rioters will be going to prison for their part in the violence, and that Trump might well be forced to join them, regardless of the outcome of the senate trial. Then let the senators vote any way they want. Leave them to guess whether they'll be held accountable for their verdict.
||January 25, 2021|
There's a television program on the Internet whose host says, at the close of every installment, "People are not told enough that they're loved, and so I say to all of you, 'I love you.'"
I don't know if this gives much comfort to unloved people. Any counselor in any field will tell you that most unloved people are unloved for good reason. The manipulators, crybabies, predators, and sociopaths who populate the unloved crowd typically exhaust the good will of family and friends and end up cultivating the company of strangers. There are people who are unloved because they are alone in the world, and there's nobody around to love them, but there are many more who are unloved because they are defective. Trump, for instance, is defective, and he is unloved, in consequence.
Unloved people can be dangerous. Adam Lanza, who killed schoolchilden some years ago, was unloved. If after-the-fact reports are accurate, disaffected, disappointed, alienated, unloved people made up a good part of the Capitol mob, They converged on Washington from all over the country, summoned by strangers to engage in what was certain to be dangerous conduct. They didn't come from populatons of the unemployed or the underprivileged. We don't know who paid for the flags they carried or whether they were subsidized in other ways, but it's a sure thing that their cell phone bills were all current, and it's likely that most used good credit cards to pay their air fare.
The idea that the rioters represent "Trump voters" or any other political faction is preposterous. Trump called out to a voting population of millions, and he got a minuscule crowd of about 15,000. The rioters may share a presdisposition to bigotry, but their problems are mostly personal and not political. It seems more likely that they made themselves part of a mob not because they favor a wall at the US border, but because nobody else wants to be around them.
Judging from what we saw on TV, there weren't enough rioters to fill a high school football stadium. If Trump had a properly functioning brain, he would have told that crowd to go home. You don't hold a piece of ground for long with a contingent that small. That's not to say they were altogether routed. They paid a high price, but if their object was to sabotage the initiation of the incoming government, they certainly succeeded at that. Washington is under martial law for the inauguration and is not a welcoming place. The halls of the Capitol are under military occupation, with soldiers in camouflage fatigues (why camouflage?) littering the halls as the new Congress convenes. It's the sort of thing that can put a damper on celebration and congratulation.
We hear that holding Trump and his minions to account will be divisive. It's true. It will set this tiny contingent of psychopaths--mostly fat white guys--apart from the rest of us, with the rest of us including many millions of people who voted for Trump. The 330 million people who didn't riot last week may not share many political convictions, but, regardless of politics, they demand punishment for acts of violence.
News from Under the Desk
||January 12, 2021|
I listened to the first-hand accounts of several members of Congress recalling the fear, the shock, and the indignation that overtook legislators with the arrival of bands of psychopathic vandals at the doors of the Senate and House chambers.
There were occasional references in these accounts to heroic action on the part of police personnel on the scene, but none of heroism on the part of any senator or representative. This shouldn't surprise us. Candidates for Congress are not recruited for their courage. On the contrary, to qualify for the vast amounts of money needed to win national office, they must abase themselves before party officials and rich contributors and promise to glorify their political sponsors and further enrich their rich benefactors. Courage, critical thinking, independent judgment: these are not desirable qualities for participants in high-stakes politics.
I had a hard time generating any sympathy for the panicked delegates who found it necessary to cower under desks when rioters entered the chambers. We shouldn't fail to note that they invited this conflict by letting Trump escape liability last year. Betrayed by subordinates for acts of bribery and extortion disguised as foreign relations, Trump was exposed unambiguously as a villain. It was clear that he had committed his crimes openly, gloated sickeningly over his vindication, and would certainly go on to further malfeasance. And they let him walk.
On the Republican side, not a single member voted to bring about his removal from office. His crimes were perfectly documented, but Republicans refused to credit the unrebutted evidence. They gave him a license to commit worse crimes, and he did just that. On the Democratic side, they took a dive. They wanted to damage him for the upcoming election, but they also desperately wanted to face him, damaged, in that same election. They were running their weakest candidate, and Trump's dishonor would be the main issue. In the meantime, they would be able to raise millions to defeat him. So the Democrats assembled an amateur legal team to present an incoherent case by way of prosecution.
At the conclusion of the trial, senators voted their political affiliations. There were no acts of conscience. The outcome was a foregone conclusion, as any Democrat will acknowledge, and it accrued to Democrats' political advantage. Ask yourself whether Biden would have beaten Pence if Trump had been removed a year ago. Ask how much money the Democratic party wouldn't have collected if Trump had been history for the past year. It wasn't just police guards that allowed the rioters in. Trump's vindication was a harbinger of worse mischief.
Most Americans know that politics is an industry, not a social institution. It's an industry that puts more stock in cash flow than in the product it's meant to deliver: sound public policy. An angry mob intent on the violent overthrow of government may be an unwelcome assembly for the republic, but for the politics industry, it's a windfall. There's no serious doubt that this lethal disorder will raise millions of dollars for Democrats that they wouldn't have gotten otherwise. A political rule of thumb will be reaffirmed: scare people, and they'll give you money to protect them. The same politicians who were cowering under the furniture last week are salivating today at the fundraising prospects this event opens up.
Take from the Rich||January 5, 2021|
The speaker of the U. S House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, representing residents of San Francisco, puts her net worth at over a hundred million bucks. She's a millionaire a hundred times over. Suppose the people of the USA were to confiscate all but ten million of what she now owns.. How would she be harmed by that? She'd still be a millionaire ten times over. Her bills would still get paid. She should be able to maintain herself and her household on ten million, plus she brings down a six figure salary as a member of Congress. She would probably still be able to do just about everything she does now, even with ninety million less.
One thing Pelosi would no longer be able to do would be to exert power and influence over the capital she once owned. Other people would be in charge of those assets. What might the people take on with the confiscation of ninety million dollars worth of Nancy Pelosi's current portfolio? It seems unlikely that she would keep all that dough around in the form of cash and bank deposits. She probably owns a good part of the land under San Francisco and its region. Probably employs some appreciable number of people to manage her capital. Probably owns shares of many businesses. Probably contributes to funding sources of various kinds. Probably devotes some amount to influence public policy.
Exercising control over vast assets means that when Pelosi makes a decision involving a piece of land or a business operation or financing venture, she affects other peoples lives. There are probably some people to whom she is indispensable. If she's like most landladies, landlords, employers and financiers, nobody's indispensable to her, and her main purpose and the purpose of the people who work for her is to increase the value of her portfolio. Would others manage differently if put in command of her employees, her tenants, and her other dependents in business?
Suppose, for instance, that Nancy owned stock in Boeing, manufacturer of jet aircraft, and that we became owners of her share of the company, along with the shares belonging to all other multimillionaires. Under such ownership, would the company's management have suppressed engineers' reservations about the redesign of its 737 model, as it did under present management, resullting in two crashes and hundreds of lives lost? What losses would the company have suffered under an alternative system: grievous or trivial?
Even if you have no quarrel with Nancy's busness decisions or management practices--you probably have no idea even what they are--you might well concede that no single person should ever have the power and influence that comes with the control of 100 million dollars worth of capital. And you might also acknowledge that business decisions made for the principal purpose of increasing the wealth of multimillionaires might have adverse consequences for large numbers of ordinary people, as was the case with the Boeing crashes.
First, you might ask what sort of people control such vast resources. What does somebody have to do to amass millions of dollars worth of capital? If it takes a single-minded pursuit of money, then we're talking about vice and not virtue. And if the advantage in money-making comes with corrupt practice, then we can presume some level of corruption in those occupying the highest echelons.
In fiction, rich people are typically portrayed as vain and vengeful, using their money and influence to buy status and cause harm to people who slight them. The authors of such characters may not be far off the mark: We all know rich people who do that. Are they the kind of managers we want making decisions that affect large of numbers of dispensable human beings? Not saying Pelosi necessarily fits the stereotype, but she certainly does have a lot of money.
Can we say that someone other than vain, vengeful rich people would necessarily act more responsibly in the management of capital? Could the people even claim the authority to confiscate property? Isn't our system based on the god-given right of owners to control their businesses and their personal assets?
In fact, ownership is really just words on paper. Words on paper have allowed ownership to become so concentrated among a small class of people that decisions in the public interest have become impossible. Is there something in natural law that requires us to continue to honor the rights of ownership under such oppressive circumstances, when the owners are a tiny minority of rich people exertimg power that exceeds that of nations and even empires?
There is no such natural law. The people of this country (and most others) could amend their constitution to enable the confiscation of excessive assets. There's certainly ample evidence that the current owners have acted altogether in their own interest and injured the public and our social institutions in the process. The current level of discontent, unemployment, illness, poverty, suicide, environmental degradation, ignorance and alienation all announce a state of catastrophic failure. The only question is whether the people could do better.
Certainly, our governing documents give us the right and the means to create new democratic institutions. It's possible to create a system for the seizure of excess assets in the public interest, to ensure that capital is managed to the advantage of the business and the public. It's possible to create an elected body, or many elected bodies, independent of the other branches of government, to admiister such a system. We might benefit from a bit more democracy. Elections are few and far between in our system. Might be a good idea to install boards of directors for big business and other big organizations democratically. Wc call our sytem a democracy, but mostly, it isn't.
Today, there are businesses in our country and abroad that are owned and managed by their employees, and there are others that belong to the communities in which they are located. Trustees, receivers, and fiduciaries take charge of organizations they don't own every day and often make out better than the owners did. There are legal means in some countries--not ours--to facilitate the transfer of ownership to employees. The only reason not to enact similar arrangements here is distrust. Distrust in ourselves to handle self-rule. At heart, we're still serfs, or at least we're told we are and we seem to believe it. Do we trust ourselves to create and administer new democratic institutions? Does the urgency of our condition compel us to try?
You Bet||December 25, 2019|
The US government is poised to spend nine hundred billion dollars it doesn't have to subsidize the private economy during the Corona virus epidemic. This is on top of an outlay of seven hundred billion it doesn't have to fund the armed forces for a year. It's hard enough to grasp how much money that is and even harder to understand how our government can spend so much of what it doesn't have. A concept called modern monetary theory (MMT) says not to worry. A government with the power to print money can print as much as it likes without obligation, says MMT.
Here's a defiition of MMT you might like. According to Wikipedia, it's a heterodox macroeconomic theory that describes currency as a public monopoly and unemployment as evidence that a currency monopolist is overly restricting the supply of the financial assets needed to pay taxes and satisfy savings desires.
It doesn't get more modern than that. Many can remember when deficit spending was deemed a mortal sin. Even now, we seem to be in a process of transformation to modernity. It's not that long ago that government officials were citing excessive spending in justification for refusing to enact government health insurance. It appears that MMT doesn't have universal application, When it come to things rich people require, MMT says the sky's the limit. When it comes to things the rest of us need, MMT yields to prudence.
You might wonder, especially if you expect to live on for another 40 years or so (I don't), whether a bill is going to come due at some point for the trillions being spent today. Our government has made a multitrillion dollar bet on your credit that modern monetary theory will protect you. If the theory's wrong--it's just one of many theories of how spending and debt actually work--you could end up short of what's needed to maintain a household.
The big risk is that the infusion of cash will cause prices to rise. Typically, when there's more money for consumers to spend, they tend to bid up prices for whatever they're buying. So far, our government's taken steps to insulate ordinary consumers by distributing most of the borrowed money to people who don't need it. The spending habits of rich people don't change when they get more money. Changes appear on their balance sheets, but this has a negligible effect on prices. Things could change if something happens that requires them to draw on the borrowed assets. We might have to cough up.
When I say "we," I mean "you." I don't expect to accumulate any assets between now and a certain melancholy event. You might have more time and more expansive expectations. We're all betting that MMT will turn out to be an accurate description of how people and organizations respond to an unfunded liability of unprecedented and astronomical proportions. If we're wrong, well, you can pee on our graves.
Dope Peddlers Walk via Corrupt Plea Bargain
||December 4, 2019|
The principal dealer of the narcotic drug oxycodone, Purdue Pharma, has arranged to pay an eight billion dollar fine to dispose of federal criminal charges arising out of the company's aggressive marketing of its addictive pain-killer. The Department of Justice considers the penalty appropriate, even though no humans will be harmed in the plea bargain.
Criminal penalties imposed on corporations blunt the point of punishment. Some thoroughly corrupt individual human beings made the decisions that created a rich market for their company's prescription narcotics. Much money was made. Most of the addicts, some of whom died because of their addiction, had no idea that they would get hooked when they first took oxycodone. The decision-makers at Purdue were aware of the risk, as were any number of doctors who prescribed the drug and found out the hard way, from grim experience, that Purdue's claims about the product's safety were false. Under the plea bargain, all those decision-makers walk, free to move on to the next business that needs adjustment in this racketeering renaissance.
Lots of people are blaiming the system. Capitalism is obsolete. Corporations dominate our lives. Politics is futile. War is inevitable. We need a better system. That may be true, but when the people in charge are crooked, it doesn't make a lot of difference what sort of system they're operating. It's very possible that the problem is not with the system, but with the personnel.
But for the corruption of the Sackler family, Purdue's owners, assisted by a collection of nobody knows how many excutives and scientists, Purdue might have been a legitimate manufacturing concern. Instead, it stands for the proposition that crime pays, and the plea bargain that facilitates this outcome must be reckoned corrupt. Corrupt prosecutors, with the assent of corrupt judges, excuse corrupt owners and managers from malfeasance that resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent people, as corrupt legislators and corrupt opinion leaders look on quietly. There's your rule of law.
Ralph Nader and Noam Chomsky, among others, blame us all for the corruption that governs us. Not enough outrage. We have to take to the streets. We have to flood our elected representatives with mail. We have to engage in nonviolent resistance. We just need to organize a couple of million activists. I mean, come on, people.
The crooks who rule, competing crime families like the Sacklers, the Trumps, the Bidens, the Clintons, Bush and Co, and others, they grin when Nader and Chomsky hold forth. Nonviolent resistance bothers them not at all. When corruption runs this deep, there's nobody to complain to, and the governing racketeers in business, politics, and the media know that. All advantage goes to those who lie, cheat and steal, and so all positions of authority are held by criminals.
It's not unlikely that ordinary people will catch on to what's being done to them at the hands of corrupt authority. Already there's widespread distrust of authority in government, science, journalism and religion, but not much bile directed at the full cast of corrupt actors. For those who crave responsible authorities, it will be a desperate struggle. We probably shouldm't be surprised if a yacht or two catches fire, by way of challenge to the racketeers' confidence. But even with violent resistance and strength of numbers, it's very unlikely that people will find a way to dislodge the crooks short of a complete collapse of the economy they manage.
In the meantime, pending catastrophic failure, keep suspicion alive. Don't believe your media when they select enemies and allies for you. Don't believe your government when it brags how nicely democracy's functioning. When you encounter authority figures, don't assume their intentions are honorable. Presume they have lied, blackmailed, extorted, brown-nosed, and otherwise cheated to achieve their exalted status, and leave it to them to prove their virtue. And read my book, Corrupt Authority, available cheap in paperback from Amazon.