Hartford, Connecticut * Gadfly Bites from Stephen Fournier * steve at stepfour dot see oh em
|January 20, 2023|
Does anybody else wonder at the concentration of corrupt humanity that gathers in Switzerland every winter to plan the future of the planet and its inhabitants? It has to be a tempting target for would-be assassins, and yet the Davos invitees seem to walk away intact from the annual assembly every year. There must be any number of revolutionaries who believe the world would be a better place if a plenary session were vaporized.
Let's not forget who these people are. In the aggregate, they control a considerable share of the world's assets. Individually, each one shares the conviction that he should acquire more. It's a fact of life that people don't accidentally accumulate the sort of money that qualifies them for admission to Davos. On the contrary, rich people get that way in consequence of a single-minded and insatiable hunger for wealth. We used to consider that a character flaw, a symptom of corruption, but in today's world it's a key to power and authority, and it's celebrated every year at the World Economic Forum, as this nest of vipers calls itself.
Most of us would probably not want corrupt people to be making plans for the worldwide distribution of resources, but their status as owners entitles them to do just that. Defective people get to choose the world's leaders, mobilize the world's soldiers, consume the world's natural resources, run the world's industry, and gloat about it in unison every year. With the power to buy obedience from just about everyone, enhanced by the compulsion to acquire, they can be confident that they will be richer at next year's gathering than they are today.
Many of us believe the Davos crowd is scared. They're outnumbered in ratios of tens of thousands to one, and their ownership of the planet is based on nothing more than words on paper. If their subordinates ever decided to act in concert, the owners could be reduced to ruin in short order. On the other hand, there's a faction that's convinced of the futility of whatever class struggles are now unfolding. People in exalted positions of authority laugh at our pathetic efforts to resist. To them, the idea of a revolution without violence is a joke, and they may be right about that.
Maybe it's ordinary Americans who should worry. The news is going around that the USA is simply too dangerous to be allowed to survive and that the people here are so weak that we allow thugs to govern. Our political leaders--Biden, Trump, Pelosi, McConnell, Blinken, et al--are crooks who got rich in politics, as we readily acknowledge. It's not simple malfeasance that has made them pariahs. No crime is too grievous for them, and this puts all humanity at risk. The racketeers who rule here have powerful agents in western Europe, but most of the world is now seeing the USA--all of us--as enemies of life on earth and altogether culpable. If the world doesn't unite to destroy us it will mark a serious lapse of divine justice.
No Easy Path to Women's Rights
|October 18, 2022|
If you think, by voting for an abortion advocate, you're casting a vote for the "Codification of Roe v. Wade," think again. The fatal defect in the legal opinion that created a federally-protected right to abortion was the unconstitutional burden the case imposed on the states. That defect can't be cured by an act of Congress; any such codification would be just as unconstitutional as the case was.
In our system of enumerated powers, there are limits on the central government's authority to override state laws. The only way to create a right to abortion that is immune to state prohibitions is to amend the constitution, as was done with the abolition of slavery and women's suffrage, for example. Congress didn't have the power to abolish state slave laws or guarantee a woman's right to vote, and it doesn't have the power to guarantee a right to abortion.
It's probably the case that a majority of people nationwide believes a woman should have a right to control what goes on in her own body. It's also probably true that in several states, most people believe abortion amounts to the taking of life and should override a pregnant woman's dominion over her own body.
Under the constitution we all inherited, the people of every state have the right to legislate to prevent what the majority think is the taking of life, even if it intrudes on individual privacy. Roe v. Wade took away this right, applying reasoning that could never have created more than a temporary national response to the public health risk presented by amateur abortion practices. The case was doomed from the beginning, and all serious observers knew this.
Has anybody heard a candidate advocate a constitutional amendment to give pregnant women immunity from state laws ordering them to carry their embryos to term? You probably won't hear that opinion expressed much, partly because so many Americans believe abortion is infanticide. That's the challenge. Advocates of women's rights must be willing to confront adverse opinion head-on, even as they're accused of baby-killing. It's not possible to create a constitutional right without popular support. Candidates who sell the idea that there's some easier way to guarantee a woman's right to manage her pregnancy are either ignorant or dishonest.
Don't Say this at Home
|October 8, 2022|
I'll be remembered principally as somebody who was not widely quoted. No wonder. My latest rant suggests that we're more likely to find an honest man in a prison yard than in elective office. I suspect this sort of musing doesn't ingratiate me with your average opinion leader. People who suggest that humanity may be a cancer on the earth don't attract herds of readers.
I don't mean to say I'm satisfied that my unpopularity is attributable solely to my opinions. I could simply be a hack. I may think I'm making a point when I'm really just playing with words. And who cares what cranks and grouches think, anyway? It's easy to list deficiencies in everything, but it's also boring. If people don't want to read this crap, they're not going to be looking through it for pearls of wisdom.
If my views are offensive to large segments of my neighbors, I'm not alone in that. Our national mythology tells us we tolerate the expression of all shades of opinion, even defend contrarians' right to speak against us, but it's not true in real life. Mere rudeness can draw death threats. Even so, there are people who defy the would-be censors and say what they believe or even what they pretend to believe. Trump, for instance, is permanently denied access to an Internet audience for whining about the unfairness of the last election. If we can't do that, what are we entitled to whine about?
Depending, as we do, on mass media to tell us what we believe, we are reputed to believe that Putin is a villain, that billionaires are like us, but rich, that three skyscrapers fell down in New York because two got hit by airplanes, that we get the leaders we deserve, that hard work pays off, and that drug companies want us to be healthy. Among reporters and editors, these are universally accepted principles. Diverge from any of them, and you will be denied a platform, denounced as anti-American, and put at risk of losing your job.
That's unfortunate, because the obverse of each of these propositions is something we ought to be entitled to whine about. What if the USA is a bad guy--meddling in other nations' affairs, bombing social gatherings in faraway lands, arming thugs to destabilize unfriendly governments, populating government offices with self-dealing narcissists, transferring vast amounts of money directly to the richest people on earth--what if the leaders of the USA are doing all these things and Putin is standing in opposition to them? It could be argued (but not said aloud) that Putin is our republic's sole hope for redemption. Express that view in a gathering of three or more, and you'll spark conflict.
If you value social interaction with your friends and relatives, don't say you wonder what really happened to the World Trade Center. Don't believe your lying eyes if you happen to run across video of any of the three buildings as they're pulverized to dust in a few seconds. Don't mention any suspicion you might have about the apparent unanimity of opinion that a team of Arab fanatics definitely did it. Don't ask how they managed to outwit the Air Force, which exists to protect against incursions from the sky.
There's a consensus in the neointelligensia that vaccines are sacramental. When the decree goes out, we are meant to obey automatically, as Catholic children genuflect before the altar. Only sociopaths express doubt that vaccines actually do anything. It's something to be taken on faith. Vaccines confer immunity. Getting vaccinated is a social obligation because it protects other people from infection by you. Never mind that the vaccine for Corona virus doesn't do that. In fact, the public health authorities had to change the definition of the term "vaccine" to fit the formulation, which is said to make infections less dangerous but not reliably to confer immunity.
At thirty-some dollars a pop on the public tab, the Corona shots aren't cheap, and they've made drug dealing very lucrative. Many people think health authorities were mobilized by the pharmaceutical industry to promote vaccination because there was so much money to be made. Some people think the virus was invented in a lab for the specific purpose of selling curative drugs, and why shouldn't they think that? The most likely consequence of the chaotic response to this illness seems to be the almost complete collapse of confidence in the pronouncements of health authorities, from public health administrators to family practitioners. People are much less likely now to follow doctors' orders. Some have lost their jobs for pointing this out, and many more have been silenced.
Because I don't know what else to do about this, I now observe a rule of thumb: if opinion on some issue seems to be universal among reporters and commentators, I simply take the opposite view. If everyone's saying Trump's the worst ever, I'll be pointing an accusing finger at Biden and his entourage. When all the authorities agree that the Russian president is a monster, I'll be rootin' for Putin.
|October 7, 2022|
If you didn't get to hear Vladimir Putin's speech welcoming Russian residents of what used to be parts of Ukraine to the Russian Federation, you missed repeated references to "The West" and "the so-called West" as the principal culpable party in the world's current conflicts. "The West," as Putin seems to understand the term, is a collection of nation-states stretching from North America to Russia's western frontier, controlled by the US government and bent on the destruction of Russia. He should reconsider his terminology in favor of something more descriptive, with less emphasis on geopolitics and more on criminal misconduct.
We who reside in the West are coming to understand that our national leaders do not govern with our consent, as elected officers are obliged to do. On the contrary, the consensus among leaders in the West runs altogether in opposition to public opinion, with universal approval in the ruling class of war and war spending, privatization of public property, limitless acquisition of wealth, censorship, and personal enrichment of public officials, among other notoriously unpopular items of public policy.
In "The West," instead of government with the consent of the governed, we have government by decree accruing to the advantage of the richest people on earth. The people occupying positions of official authority are corrupt, paid to gurantee billionaires what all billionaires desire: more. The desire for more among people with enough is generally reckoned a corrupt motive, and yet it is indispensable to billionaires. You can't become one without it. Very rich people are as corrupt an assembly as you might find in the average prison yard.
And it's no mystery why their will is done. What we so generously refer to as democracy is actually an elections industry, and a very profitable one, too, that collects money from people without giving them anything in return for it. Vast sums are at this moment being collected to keep Trump from becoming president again and, at the same time and by the same paid touts, to get him back into office a couple of years from now. With its emphasis on money-raising, the elections industry favors narcissistic sociopaths and offers unlimited opportunities for advancement to good-looking, forked-tongued aspirants. If they're corrupt enough to assent to their rich benefactors' bargain, they might get a place on the ballot, where they'll face a corrupt opponent who's been subjected to the same vetting process. In just a few election seasons, it's possible to populate just about every elective office with crooks, and we seem to have done that.
And so what Putin thinks of as a geopolitical entity--the West--is actually not a collection of nations but a cabal of racketeers. They exploit ordinary people regardless of nationality. They have no ideology. They represent nobody. Like the Bidens and the Trumps who accommodate them, they are openly corrupt. They are violent. They have infiltrated every social institution, and they can stop payment on my income and yours at any time. They are not The West.
|August 26, 2022|
The subject is a 73-year-old woman who has been in gradual cognitive decline for ten years. Her 77-year-old husband fixes her meals and makes health decisions for her. Nine months ago she survived a pulmonary embolism of unknown origin. A big clot in her lung, disclosed on a scan in the emergency room, was promptly "blasted" with blood thinners, and she was discharged a few days later with a prescription for Eliquis, an expensive, risk-lowering oral blood thinner, which she continued to take for three months. A breathing test showed she was breathing normally by then.
At a follow up appointment a few days ago with a hematologist, the doc recommended that she resume Eliquis at half the previous dose for life. Seems that people her age who get a blood clot with no apparent precipitating factor run a 10 percent risk of recurrence during the year following the event, plus a gradually increasing risk with the passage of years. Eliquis reduces that risk by 95 percent and rarely causes adverse effects. It's extremely expensive, but the couple qualifies for a state subsidy that covers almost all of the cost. Is there any reason for him to resist the doctor's advice?
In fact, he didn't immediately assent but said he'd be consulting with his kids before deciding what to do. He said he wasn't satisfied that the risk necessarily justifies lifelong exposure to a chemical that has the capacity to thin blood. The doctor explained that the drug was considered safe and effective by the appropriate authorities. He didn't rebut her point with reference to the lethal decisions of those same authorities in connection with oxycodone, Vioxx, and other banned-too-late medications, but he did mention the altogether irresponsible measures taken to deal with Corona virus.
He said he was concerned that a majority of doctors seemed to bind themselves to a thoroughly unscientific doctrine that forced a change in the definition of "vaccination" to include injections that don't confer immunity or prevent transmission, that appeared to justify radical abridgements of basic individual rights, and that curtailed all discussion of divergent views. He questioned whether people might be justified in believing that the risks of Corona virus were exaggerated to sell drugs that might not be safe and that didn't seem to work as advertised. Maybe the Eliquis recommendation springs from similar logic.
The doc was sympathetic to this line, though obviously shaken by it. She's probably heard this before. People aren't idiots. They understand that it was possible during the two years of manufactured panic to put together a modern health policy for the USA, but that this was not done. They understand that it was possible to limit quarantines and similar restrictions to vulnerable populations without interrupting school and work for millions of people, but this was not done. People understand that measures could have been taken to moderate the opportunity to cash in by rapacious health care profiteers, but this was not done. In fact, what people saw was the catastrophic failure of a corrupt US medical establishment. Why would any patient credit any opinion that comes from people associated with it?
What's happened is that the medical establishment, like every other social institution in this misbegotten country, has been taken over by racketeers and no longer enjoys the slightest credibility among the people. And so this damaged couple--he's had two cancer operations at the VA hospital over the past 8 years--is considering letting nature take its course, because he doesn't trust the advice he's getting. They're probably not alone in this.
Fishing in Troubled Waters: Row or Wade?
|July 7, 2022|
I'm probably not the only lawyer in the USA who thinks a woman should have sole dominion over her uterus and its contents, but who considers the case of Roe versus Wade a legal aberration. The central government of the United States is legally permitted to wield only the powers enumerated in the union's constitution, and the power to override state laws regulating maternity isn't among them. The case that claimed such power must be seen as an emergency measure directed at a public health menace, as abortion--a safe medical procedure if performed properly--continued to claim the lives of young women, mainly because of draconian laws in most of the states. The Roe justices managed to come up with a rationale consisting of an implied right to privacy, inferred from various parts of the Bill of Rights. It was a weak bit of legal reasoning, and the jurists couldn't have been very confident that the federal guarantees they'd created would last as long as they have.
The men who founded the USA worried about the risks of a renegade central government, and the current Supreme Court seems to have shared their concerns. Given the corruption of the British monarchy that ruled the colonies, the founders understood that the opportunities for exploitation increase in proportion to the breadth and depth of the entity being governed. They were careful to form a union of sovereign states, and they placed restraints on every power they created for the central government.
Their system of checks and balances worked pretty well till recently. For instance, it wasn't that long ago when a president was obliged to wait for an enemy attack and a congressional declaration of war before daring to exercise the power to drop bombs on foreign soil. Today's US government claims unfettered authority to drop bombs, maintaining an armed force in over 100 countries. The central government also holds prisoners without legal process, assassinates foreigners and US citizens, violates treaties, enforces ex post facto laws and bills of attainder, kidnaps and tortures people, spies on Americans, and engages in any number of clandestine violations of its charter. Enforcement of a woman's right to control her own body was probably the least malignant of its many usurpations, but the curtailment of this right has to be seen, from a legal standpoint, as a move in defense of the rule of law and a check on central authority.
It might be nice if the court's rationale in connection with abortion could be exported to deal with abuses of federal authority in the form of decrees to confiscate, blacklist, kidnap, and kill. You might think we could depend on Congress and the press to restrain the central government from such abuses, but those institutions have been corrupted by a minuscule assembly of obscenely rich people. Beneficiaries of the "donor class"--as billionairs like to be called--elected officials and journalists are obliged to advance the interests of the rich or forego their financial support.
What kind of people make up the donor class? It's probably true that you don't get to be a billionaire without a single-minded dedication to the pursuit of more. People who can't ever get enough are widely regarded as occupying a broad band of the corruption spectrum. Billionaires are, almost without exception, as the embedded mass media will never tell you, among the most corrupt individuals in the history of mankind, and they profit from abuses of authority routinely and without hesitation. Be certain that a substantial portion of the grieving over the demise of Roe comes directly from superrich abortion investors. If the courts ever decide to curb other profitable abuses of power, these same people will be hollering. It's been suggested that more money is made from the exploitation of corrupt government than from productive enterprise.
The end of Roe came as a surprise to nobody. There's no logical rebuttal to the argument against it, that the majority in a democracy have a right, acting through state government, to prohibit abortion, just as they can order people to get vaccinated, insitutionalize vagrants, and curtail individual rights in any number of other ways. A single court decision was never a firm foundation on which to construct a novel human right.
Despite the weakness of the doctrine, there was no serious preparation for this long anticipated outcome. Abortion advocates could have organized to counter initiatives in states with restrictive laws. They could have challenged Congress to start a process to amend the constitution, as was done with slavery, alcohol, and women's suffrage, all matters for state regulation before an amendment to pre-empt state law. Advocates could have lobbied for Congressional action to condition particular items of federal aid on states' compliance with federal abortion mandates or established on-line networks to broaden the availability of various birth control measures. Instead of preparation for the inevitable, all efforts went toward raising money for Democrats. This approach suggests that most people, even abortion advocates, really are ambivalent about the termination of pregnancy, Abortion opponents say that abortion is not so much a human right as a political fund-raising mechanism.
The media have been misrepresenting the situation for women. It's certainly true that many women will not be able to get an abortion, but that's true now. Yes, some states will ban abortions, but many won't. What the media can't seem to acknowledge is that the rationale for overturning the national right to abortion also applies to any move to ban abortion nationwide. The Constitution doesn't allow either. Headlines that say women no longer have a right to abortion are not merely misleading, they're irresponsible and amount to journalistic malpractice.
The abortion industry seems to expect social justice advocates to take to the streets in protest. How the organized left came to endorse abortion rights is not altogether clear, but it somehow got placed on the menu of causes for social justice advocacy. Before Roe, there was war. There was pollution. There was discrimination. There was police brutality. There was poverty. There was male supremacy and wife-beating. There was the atom bomb. There was the draft. And there were brutal abortion laws in most states. Each cause had a constituency, with numbers sufficient to drive public policy if the consituencies ever joined forces, One thing that happened when women got abortion rights was that they left the left in large numbers. With the military draft ending about the same time, multitudes of young people were drained from the pool of dissidents. Whether the disintegration of the left was part of the Supreme Court's decision in Roe can never be known, but the case certainly had an adverse effect on peace and justice movements.
Don't mourn for this band-aid of a court decision. Yes, it gave generations of women the legal right to end their pregnancies safely and on their own initiative, but it could never be more than a temporary solution, given the checks our constitution places on the powers of the central government. We've known this for a long time, and we should be embarrassd by our failure to act before the problem became urgent.
Why We Vote
|May 23, 2022|
Voters love to hear people rail about threats to our democracy. It helps them maintain the illusion of government of the people, by the people and so forth. Deep down, voters understand that the purpose of state-of-the-art democracy is not to carry out the will of the people but to maintain a well-functioning, profitable election industry.
There aren't many ventures that manage to get money from people without giving them anything tangible in return for it. For ordinary people with five dollars to spare, there are candidates to install and candidates to block, character assassination campaigns to support, unpopular projects to fund, reproductive rights to restore, endangered species to save, wilderness to protect, futile causes of every description, and you can help. Of course, only rarely are any of the objectives ever achieved, and most of the money collected goes into private pockets, but it's still a win-win proposition: the donor feels good about doing something virtuous, and the political operators have something to deposit in the bank. It's the small change of the election industry, but it amounts to billions in the aggregate..
The election industry gets its big money from those who have it, and their motives are altogether commercial. They hedge their bets, committing resources to candidates of either faction, as long as they keep as their first priority the further enrichment of their richest benefactors. What voters get is a right to make trivial decisions about which factions to empower. The policy differences between the various factions are mainly rhetorical, since all of them are supported principally by people with obscene wealth and so must implement policies that allow the rich to acquire more. No expense is spared in important contests, and the money flow is shocking, with very little flowing to people who don't already have plenty.
War must be a focus of the election industry. We always seem to be in one in the months preceding an election. All factions agree on the identitity of the enemy, but they usually express subtle differences about the road to victory. It's a lot easier to raise money when there's an enemy to be defeated. War, of course, is a big winner for political professionals, not necessarily because it enjoys broad public support, but because talented office-holders can often convince frightened citizens that they should be scared to vote for anybody else. The voters gain security, and so do the pols' rich sponsors, profiteers who supply the armies with guns and ammo.
When democracy is working properly, voters get to choose between political athletes. These guys can advocate any side of any issue and lie with facility. They look good against any background, and they accommodate their asset-heavy sponsors without blinking. They can act in concert when necessary and have no need to conspire to reach the desired result: they just look down the money-trail.
What kind of people can do all that? Sociopaths do it best, and they enjoy a clear advantage in most contests in the USA, as our current cast of political characters illustrates. If you're looking for an assembly of conscienceless people, visit the US Capitol or your state legislative body and see what they do. Mainly, they talk, and they raise money. If they were disposed to act in the public interest, they might move to house people without shelter or find a way to fund universal health care, but that sort of thing won't ingratiate them with rich people, who can make or break them. If you analyze what it takes to get rich, you realize that lying, cheating and stealing confer an advantage in the pursuit of money, just as they do in the pursuit of high office. It's only natural that sociopathic rich people should select sociopaths to share their bounty and carry out their plans.
In a functioning election industry, a candidate doesn't necessarily have to win to cash in. I knew a guy, elected to a board of education after a few terms in the state legislature, who never spent his own money but lived almost exclusively on his political action committee, funded by people he got jobs for when he was in office and even when he wasn't. We might well ask how our political leaders acquire so much money while in office, but we don't, or at least our media don't. There's a reason for that. The media are huge beneficiaries of the election industry. If you're a candidate, they judge you on a single criterion: the dollar value of your campaign treasury. If they don't believe they're going to make a buck on your political advertising, they stiff you. With Trump, they cashed in big-time: he spent plenty on his own advertising, but his enemies spent even more, and the flow of dollars from Trump-detesters continues even now, despite his ouster.
People are starting to catch on that democracy is not a system of government but a profit center. Hard to believe we tolerated generations of corrupt authority without noticing any malfunction. Even now, most critics say it's the system that's to blame. Nader says it's corporations that have messed the nation up. He may be right, but with crooks running business, media, government, and every other social institution, even a Utopia would run to ruin. Maybe it's not the system but the personnel. Maybe a deep decline in economic and social conditions is a natural outcome when corrupt individuals wield authority over almost all the world's asssets and so hold the reins of power. Your average billionaire today has power unmatched by any monarch in history: if his principal object is more money, he's probably not a benign influence.
It may not be unfair to say "complicit" about any legislator who can't acknowledge that he and his colleagues, all of them, are running a racketeering outfit. If they're all participating in a corrupt enterprise, mustn't they be removed from office at the next opportunity? Couldn't voters organize to defeat incumbents? Could happen, but won't. Criminals don't readily yield to responsible authority, especially not when they're in ascendence, as they seem to be in the present millennium. There would be irresistible pressure to maintain the status quo. Many voters might decline to show up, but election industry money would likely guarantee the future of most incumbents.
Some people think we'd be better off replacing our members of Congress with citizens chosen at random, the way we empanel juries. Simply by skirting the elections industry, we'd remove most of the bias that favors crooks and be more likely to get decent, responsible office-holders, guided by collegial pressure to do what's best for the country. That would be a departure from the tacit agreement political professionals now honor: I'll let you cheat, if you let me cheat.
In a system corrupted by the elevation of sociopaths to positions of power, elections seldom bring good government, but they always provide a copious flow of money to people who already have enough of it. Maybe the election industry is what passes for government when pirates steer the ship of state. All the dollars--and all of us--must go down with the election profiteers when they finally run the whole rig onto the rocks.
|May 18, 2022|
With the Russians preparing to wrap things up in Ukraine, and with Afghanistan receding quickly into history, it was beginning to look as if the USA would be without an enemy. If that sounds like a good thing to you, you're probably not a war profiteer. That crowd senses a possible interruption in the flow of dollars from the Pentagon into their already overstuffed pockets. So they had Biden spin the wheel to select a new enemy, and they got lucky. The arrow pointed to an old favorite: the Clintons' African nemesis: Somalian terrorists.
Somalia's a winning choice because the enemies go around in dark skin, presenting a familiar image on the computer monitor that our comfortably-seated warriors can usually erase with some enthusiasm. The natives seem to be restless over there on the dark continent, and there's nothing like Americans in body armor and their automated airborne bodyguards to calm third-world nerves.
Whether, in the wake of one losing engagement after another, the US Army can actually do anything about terrorism in Somalia seems not to be an issue. To judge from coverage in our embedded mass media, this engagement, like the ones before it, is simply not debatable. Nor is there any concern about the legality of the "deployment," a name our media gives it to make it sound like something presidents have some authority to undertake single-handedly. They don't. The US consitution unambigously limits government authority to what's enumerated there in so many words. Congress has sole authority to wage war. The president gets to command the soldiers and sailors, but he can't initiate warfare--or deploy soldiers under arms--without Congress.
Don't say this isn't war. If you think the soldiers are going there to do something other than kill people and destroy property, you might want to take a close look at the equipment they're bringing with them. It's lethal, and these kids are carefully trained to kill with it. Which black people get killed is pretty much arbitrary. It's not like they're going to be holding trials to decide who's a terrorist and who isn't. The officers will make that decision, and they'll tell the kids where to point and shoot. This is called "bringing these people democracy." It's their human right to have Americans nearby telling them at gunpoint where they can and can't go.
Don't hold your breath waiting for dark-skinned people here to get upset over this. Or over anything else, for that matter. Just a few days ago, a pleasant-looking dude from upstate New York, inspired by the support Nazis in Europe now enjoy among Democrats in Washington and empowered by the example of our last seven presidents, emptied his assault rifle into eleven dark-skinned people in a Buffalo grocery store. Instead of barbs aimed at the community's political beneficiaries, what we're hearing from Buffalo are prayers. No expressions of buyers' remorse over the leadership we keep tolerating. No serious threats of noncompliance.
Maybe we just have to take murder for granted. Whatever violence we do in Somalia is almost certainly going to produce violence here, just as our Ukrainian adventure seems to be doing. If it's OK for Biden and Trump and Obama and Bush to kill on behalf of a particular political point of view, what, after all, should restrain activists like Buffalo from violent expressions of their political beliefs?
Thirty Years' War
|March 26, 2022|
War buffs must be getting a little tired of hearing that Russians started a war in 2022. If Americans were honest (or maybe informed) they'd have to acknowledge that Russians have merely joined a war that's been in progress for a generation. Young Americans have never known a time when their nation was not waging war in some faraway land.
For at least five thousand years, war has been an expression of dominance, and it still is. Americans may pretend that we apply armed force only in defense, but the world knows that our motives are corrupt. There must be no greater glory than to have men kill and die for you, and this may explain why every president since Reagan has used armed force against some poorly-armed opponent. The political capital earned by war came with a cost in the days when national debt was a matter of concern and soldiers sometimes came home dead. At the dawn of the new millenium, when there is no longer any fiscal restraint on warfare, and the killing is mostly done by remote control, it's a blank check for the commander-in-chief and his minions.
And so we had bullets for Grenada and Panama, bombs for Iraq, Serbia, and Somalia, and miscellaneous atrocities in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, and, by proxy, in Ukraine, Yemen, Iran, Palestine and who-knows-where-else. The world can't help noticing that the people under our bombs tend to be of a dark complexion and weaker in every way than the people killing them in self-defense. Also obvious is the obscene profitability of our bloody adventures. It's not profitable for everyone, but we seem to be happy to see rich people and a select population of acolytes enriched by them.
You may remember the first time you ran across a reference to The Thirty Years' War, which was killing soldiers on the other side of the Atlantic as English "pilgrims" were just settling in on this side. If you wondered how a war could possibly be waged for so many years, now you know. Like now, back in 1630 the world was ruled by crooks. England, France, Spain, Holland and the rest of the civilized world shared a population of inbred monarchs who contended with one another constantly for control of land and people. Like now, except that modern imperial monarchs, a rapacious gang with unlimited access to resources, govern by proxy.
You might think the object of all this conflict was to win something--territory or plunder or slave labor--but that's what distinguishes this thirty years' war from the one that was waged 400 years ago. The guys carrying the rifles for our side may have believed they were meant to win something, but they soon discovered that their war had no definite purpose or path to victory. That's why armed adventures in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and elsewhere ended in retreat and were promptly replaced with new enmities and new armed engagements. It's a no-win strategy, pursued to this day, that ensures an interrupted flow of dollars for a tiny cohort of creditworthy criminals.
The world knows that this is where empires end up. The opportunities for psychopathic predation are so great, and the advantages of corrupt practice so numerous that crooks eventually come to control everything. In an enterprise of racketeers, every player acts in his personal interest, and this practice eventually runs the organization into the ground. That seems to be the course we're on.
No Flies on US!
|March 12, 2022|
Do you have to remind yourself from time to time that, in spite of the implausibility of current events, we are not all characters in a work of fiction? Isn't it more likely that a wolf could eat your grandmother and dress up in her pajamas than that people in the USA could be in favor of war with Russia? Are we supposed to believe real-life American news-reporters would ever seriously suggest such a thing?
Imagine phoning somebody at random and asking whether he or she supports or opposes a no-fly zone over Ukraine. First, if the person you phoned was educated in the USA, there's a better than fifty percent chance that your respondent doesn't know where Ukraine is. And if you used the phrase "no-fly zone" without a detailed explanation of what that is, you were almost certainly misunderstood. After all, a no-fly zone could be a place where there aren't any flies or maybe a spot on a baseball field or even a place where we're all pretty hip, and there's no flies on us. The pollsters don't tell us whether they're asking people whether they know what a no-fly zone is before they ask whether they're in favor of it or not.
News reporters rarely define their terms and indulge freely and frequently in metaphor, abbreviation and acronym. If they were striving for meaninglessness they couldn't be more ambiguous and empty in their expression. As your favorite anchorman probably didn't tell you last time she dropped the no-fly-zone abbreviation, Ukraine is a big country, bigger than Germany, bigger than France, so big that policing its airspace would require most of the US Air Force. People who claim to advocate such a measure must know that it could never happen. Do Americans really want to send their air crews and warplanes to a place most of them couldn't find on a map? Could they simply be giving the poll-taker what seems the more acceptable answer, in line with what's likely to be the consensus of opinion? Maybe they're hearing the question as "Are you in favor of a no-fly zone over Ukraine or are you a traitor?"
When you're told by news-mongers that seventy percent of Americans are in favor of a no-fly zone over Ukraine, it's probably advisable to be skeptical. Some people simply decline to believe any report on any subject from any source, and that may be taking skepticism a bit too far, but the idea that polls tell us much about what people really think is certainly open to challenge. We're in an age of deception and distraction, unprecedented in the contagion of lies, fads and fictions. Polling statistics don't say much about public opinion in the resulting atmosphere of ignorance and bigotry.
"This guy hates your guts!" That's what the US media and government are telling each side in the conflict between Ukraine and Russia. It's not true, but, eight years of US goading have finally produced results. The conflict, involving tanks, missiles, artillery and bloodshed, is billed as a sporting event here, with all Americans ostensibly supporting the same team, and the promoters in media, business and government taking in a bundle. It may be that there is widespread consent for this atrocity among Americans, but we should not worry that it is any sort of informed consent. If Americans ever caught on to what's really happening to their country and the world, public opinion could shift very suddenly.
|March 11, 2022|
For 50-some years, I've believed I was a pacifist. I was still wearing a military uniform when I discovered I was opposed to what my country was doing in Viet Nam, and I never changed my opinion of that war. What was happening 7000 miles away from the USA was simply none of our business. Applying that logic as a civilian, I marched with the pacifists, boycotted with the pacifists, embraced non-violent resistance with the pacifists and came to believe I was a pacifist.
The boycotts, the marches, the resistance all proved futile. The mass media turned their backs on our arguments, our logic, our incontrovertible facts, our accounts of atrocities. Reporters spurned and mocked us, even as they turned out in force for minuscule gatherings of fascists and other phony extremists.
With every passing year it became clearer and clearer that the pro-war crowd was well financed. widely endorsed by the mass media, and seemingly justified in its expensive and expansive demands by unstable conditions on every continent. It's equally clear now that the individuals behind US war policy were and are sociopathic billionaires, accompanied by a mob of generously-paid acolytes. They systematically stir up instability to keep the rest of us off balance while they steal from us. They tell us we love war, but only one in a thousand of us actually wears a uniform. It's pretty easy to wave a flag and pretend to be brave. War policy is almost certainly supported by only a sliver of the general public. It's super-rich crooks who are waging our wars. They do it for profit, and their profits are astronomical, giving them power beyond that of history's greatest despots. They're not readily dislodged by protest demonstrations and letters to congressmen.
There are populations all over the world who are ruled by thugs, and it may even be a majority of all of us. as mankind approaches an acme of malfeasance. If there ever was a time for assassination, we're in it. Our leaders in business, media and politics have transformed our system into a racketeering outfit and turned the American people into self-harming war criminals. So many in authority deserve death, and so few of the deserving ever get it, and we know this is a chronic affliction of our system. Today may not be a time for pacifism. Thugs of the type that rule us probably can't be separated from their wealth and power except by force.
Is the corruption really so deep, that it can't be eliminated without violence? It's at least deep enough to make us tacitly acknowledge, for instance, that our elected representatives, almost without exception, enrich themselves and their friends and relatives for as long as they hold office, and even for some period after they leave. The resources that enrich them don't come from poor or middle-class people. The resources come from those who have resources. That's why so many of us don't find it surprising that public officials so enriched act habitually to the advantage of their benefactors and never to their disadvantage, even when sound public policy requires some sacrifice on the part of rich people. I have yet to hear a member of Congress complain that they're operating a racketeering outfit under the Capitol dome and demand that his colleagues clean up their act. They're complicit, all 535 of them. The corruption runs that deep.
Where it will all end up is probably in a crash along the lines we see in Ukraine. Nazis are running the majority in that country, financed by American and European thugs in business, goverment and media. Using nightly artillery attacks on a scapegoated population of Russians, they managed, after years of mayhem and bloodshed, to attract Russian armed force, prolonging, profitably, a senseless engagement. War comes at a time when average Ukrainians have trouble paying for groceries, and young people are fleeing the country as if it were a sinking ship. The bombs, bullets and blankets governments are sending to the war zone won't improve the situation, and the crooks who rule Ukraine won't be dislodged by nonviolent resistance. That's what the Russians seem to be saying. Confessing some satisfaction that white people are killing other white people again for a change, I have to agree, notwithstanding any pacifistic pretensions I might once have had.
Unprovoked and Unjustified, but not Unwelcome
|February 24, 2022|
Investors are breathing a sigh of relief, secure now in the knowledge that the lull in open hostilities between the USA and its enemies was only temporary. With the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan, it was beginning to look as if a period of peaceful coexistence might threaten the value of their assets. Not to worry: Russians are coming!
Let's remind ourselves just who benefits from armed conflict along the lines we're seeing now in Eastern Europe. It's not the people of the nations involved in the warfare, but the people who supply the bullets and the fuel, along with the food, clothing and shelter needed to support the fighters. When US and European soldiers are deployed to Poland, for instance, there's transportation and upkeep to arrange, and no price is too high to pay for the requisite goods and services. Keep the deployment going indefinitely, and you ensure a permanent cash flow.
Where does all that money come from? Luckily, there's a whole category of war profiteers who specialize in financing this most lucrative enterprise. Bankers, who, with the approval of corrupt government officials, have the privilege of creating as many dollars as can be spent, simply record figures in electronic ledgers alongside the names of privileged private parties, allowing the bombs and bullets to fly in all directions. This debases the currency, so that you might have to pay a dollar for an apple and five bucks for a gallon of gas, and it may even put the banks at risk, but this seems not to worry the bankers.
Where does all that money go? In the USA we farm out the arms and upkeep functions to private enterprise. A tiny minority of people--thousands of individuals, and not millions--control the right to receive the entire war bounty, with some portion of the rest of us receiving income from them. You might think a tiny minority of rich businessmen couldn't possibly keep the world in a permanent state of warfare, but their wealth is so vast that they control most of the information resources the rest of us depend on, giving them the power to manipulate us to just about any purpose, including the acceptance of organized mass murder.
Don't mistake the rich for ordinary people. Billionaires know that to become one of their number, you must be prepared to pursue money to the exclusion of all else. Billionaires aren't always looking for more because they're billionaires, but, rather, they're billionaires because they're always looking for more. Their motives are altogether corrupt, and their approach is conscienceless and openly sociopathic. Rich people become rich by cashing in on the advantages of lying, cheating and stealing. To you and me, war is bloodshed, death and destruction. To them, war is an opportunity to make some money.
The armed conflict in Eastern Europe is exemplary, almost beautiful in its symmetry. War profiteers have been systematically exploiting a longstanding rift between the progeny of Ukrainian Nazis and the grandchildren of their Red Army opponents. Among ordinary Ukrainians and Russians, there's been little ill will and much interaction, despite the Ukrainians' unfortunate alliance in the last world war, but this hasn't deterred the war-mongers, mostly rich Americans and Europeans, who have been arming Ukrainian thugs without interruption for at least a decade.
Trump may have tried to interrupt this process--at least he promised to do that--but he never tried very hard, and he succeeded only in angering his detractors in the military-industrial-congressional complex. They substituted Biden, whose operations in Ukraine have been notoriously profitable for his family and certain criminal elements in the Eastern European oil and gas trade. The current situation is win/win for Biden and his foreign sponsors. A gas pipeline from Russia to Germany is on hold, a windfall for competitors in the Biden gallery.
Don't look for any party to emerge victorious from this debacle. The object of the conflict is to keep war alive. Ongoing combat is always preferable, but even if it's just a risk of hostilities, war profiteers should be able to keep the money stream flowing, with long term deployments, rich shipments of expensive weapons, destruction and rebuilding of all kinds, and a steady stream of disinformation to keep the general public in the dark. So far, so good.
|February 8, 2022|
If you rely on the embedded mass media for news, you may not have heard that Amnesty International, a highly regarded and influential human rights organization, has just published a report and video documenting Israel's history of apartheid. It's a compelling indictment--fourteen minutes of youTube video and 280 pages of text--and it's without precedent. Israeli government officials repudiate it as a reflection of bias.
The word apartheid comes from Afrikaans, the language of most light-skinned South Africans, and describes a system of laws and customs that is intended to oppress a disfavored minority group. In Israel, as formerly in South Africa, laws and customs systematically discrimate against an indigenous population--Palestinians--to their extreme detriment. Amnesty explicitly refers to Israel's system as a crime against humanity.
We can only speculate on the motive behind the censorship of this report by the media. Are journalists terrorized by the prospect of accusation and denunciation by Jewish mobs? Amid the universal corruption of authority in the 21st Century, maybe Israeli intelligence agancies have dirt on people with the power to keep news-consumers in the dark. To challenge the censors, I wrote a poem on the subject, and here it is, entitled "Don't Forget."
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.
|February 1, 2022|
The mass media seem to speak with one voice on issues involving Russia: "Putin is Russia," they holler, "and he must be destroyed or he will conquer Europe and the USA. An invasion is imminent." Invasion has been imminent for months, months in which Russians have said over and over that there would be no invasion. You might think the media would acknowledge at some point that invasion is and has been at all times unlikely and definitely not imminent. Instead, they effectively altered the meaning of imminence.
Do the mass media crave war? There's no question that they and their sponsors make huge amounts of money on conflict and fear. Nervous consumers are easier to shake down than confident citizens, and war, from the US standpoint is certainly a shakedown. We send men and equipment seven thousand miles from home to terrorize foreign populations with expensive bombs and bullets. They don't win battles. They don't capture territory. They don't liberate oppressed populations. They destroy people and property and, eventually, they declare victory and bug out for new places. The point seems to be not to win anything, but to consume material resources that we purchase, at inflated prices, from rich people. The bloodshed seems to be incidental. It's not clear that we Americans actually support this, even as the mass media endorse it.
Not Particularly Reliable "News" is a good example of media endorsement of our permanent state of war. NPR gives General McMasters the microphone to lecture us for several minutes on why we ought to kill Russians on behalf of Ukrainians. Most of his arguments are based on lies and opinions, but there is no rebuttal, no challenge, no reminder that his troops have been chased out of Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya and other distant lands by ill-equipped peasants and are currently surrounded by hostile forces in remote outposts around the world. It seems obvious that he and his sponsors and endorsers have neither hope nor prospect of victory but, rather, a fundamental need to be engaged in continuous warfare. Their obvious bias is never discussed, nor is any dissenting voice ever given a mike. You won't hear Medea Benjamin or Scott Ritter or Vladimir Putin on NPR. Somebody might ask in what cause US soldiers were sacrificed in Aghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Libya. Somebody might suggest that the proponents of war also profit from it.
One impression you get from NPR's acceptance of war as a legitimate tool of politics is that there is no social force in opposition to war. The millions who follow Code Pink, Veterans for Peace, and a hundred other dissenting organizations might shake your impression if only there were a way for them to be heard. There isn't. The mass media are now populated with a useless residue of disc jockeys and beauty contest winners, all that's left after the purge of reporters who refused to interview hip-hop stars. These neojournalists are told which people to talk to and what to say about them, and they're paid to do just that. People like that aren't noted for critical thinking.
You can choose to believe NPR when you're told that Russian troops are amassed at the Ukrainian border, or you can demand evidence to support this assertion. You may be referred to some aerial photographs of Russian installations a hundred miles away or to reports from Ukrainian authorities, and you might recall, as you decide whether to credit NPR, that these are the same reporters who told you that Iraq had nuclear weapons and that three skyscrapers fell down in New York because two got hit by airplanes. If we do end up exchanging hydrogen bombs with Russia, you'll have a fair idea, if you survive long enough, who's to blame.
|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.