Monday, January 23, 2006

Back in the saddle . . . maybe.

My vacation from Bushworld has been pleasant. For five years, I've been examining and writing about the new form of old evil roaming the planet.

Having, for the most part, avoided the news since December 19, it's clear why the majority of Americans are clueless about how bad things are. To be informed, one needs to spend one to two hours of daily, dedicated digging to keep abreast of neofascism. In Lewis Lapham's "Notebook" in the February Harper's, he writes about his experience with the International Documentary Festival in Amsterdam this past November. "What was remarkable about the festival was its multiple discoveries of a world largely unknown to the American print and broadcast press, also apparently unseen, if we can take our war in Iraq as proof of the point, by our generals and statesmen in Washington. The irony was not lost on the company in the bar of the American Hotel -- the de facto American empire presuming to teach, rule, enlighten, and administer a world that it knows almost nothing about."

I guess one could expand, both nationally and globally, the Socratic dictum, "The unexamined life is not worth living." If all one knows is what is reported in the mainstream media, is that a life well lived? That would be living a life based upon lies. The truth always comes out, and when it does in this country, it will hurt. The longer the truth is buried, the more painful will be its unveiling . . . sending sons and daughters off to wars for profit, being imprisoned and tortured for criticizing a public official. History repeated for the uninformed.

In the "Harper's Index" of the same February issue, another item caught my eye, "Estimated amount the US would save each year on paperwork if it adopted single-payer health care: $161,000,000,000". Some years ago, I heard, or read, that the universal healthcare system in Canada spends about 5 cents of every dollar on administrative costs. In the US, 46 cents went to such costs. Now, under the bureaucratic quagmire created by BushCo, I would guess that most of the healthcare money is either wasted or enhances the coffers of big pharma, HMOs, political hacks, and the like.

American capitalism, like Soviet communism and Afghani Talibanism, has evolved into another form of totalitarianism ("Having or exercising complete political control"). It is a pendulum swung too far. While it's good to ask the question, "Who would Jesus bomb?", We should also be asking, "How would Jesus govern?" Or Buddha, Lao Tzu, etc. They wouldn't be suits in the US Congress or White House, and they wouldn't suckle at the bankrolls of corporate constituents.

I venture fully evolved leaders would be communitarian socialists, believing, according to Erich Fromm in The Sane Society:

"'Communitarian Socialsim,' was an industrial organization in which every working person would be an active and responsible participant, where work would be attractive and meaningful, where capital would not employ labor, but labor would employ capital."

Quoting a G.D.H. Cole, Fromm continues:

"'Political liberty, by itself is, in fact, always illusory. A man who lives in economic subjugation six days, if not seven, a week, does not become free merely by making a cross on a ballot-paper once in five years [especially, when the process is rigged]. If freedom is to mean anything to the average man it must include industrial freedom. Until men at their work can know themselves members of a self-governing community of workers, they will remain essentially servile, whatever the political system under which they live. It is not enough to sweep away the degrading relation in which the wage-slave stands to the individual employer. State Socialism, too, leaves the worker in bondage to a tyranny that is no less galling because it is impersonal. Self-government in industry is not merely the supplement, but the precursor of political liberty."

Freedom is not on the march; corporate hegemony is on the march. Having tracked down and laid claim to the planet's resources, corporations are laying claim to the planet's workforces. Having plundered labor in industrial nations, they have moved on to place cheap labor in bondage once again. The sweatshops of 19th century England and the US have been renewed in China, Malaysia, Mexico, Guatemala at the behest of capital. The pants and t-shirt I'm now wearing attest to that.

Lapham speaks to this when he writes,

"So also the captains of our own multinational overseas empire, as pleased with themselves as President George W. Bush, comforted by publicists and ad salesmen who assure them that the American future is safe with Jesus, that we have nothing to learn from foreigners except for the prices they charge for the toys and luxuries that we no longer choose or know how to make."

Going back to Fromm motivated me to revisit Thoreau's Civil Disobedience. There are many passages applicable to our current crisis; this is one I came across this morning:

"Can there not be a government in which the majority rule in all cases cannot be based on justice, even as far as men understand it. Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience? -- in which majorities decide only those questions to which the rule of expediency is applicable? Must the citizen, even for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think is right. It is truly enough said that a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience. Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice."

A little later, he says something that gave me pause,

"All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to, and to resist, the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable. But almost all say that such is not the case now. But such was the case, they think, in the revolution of '75. If one were to tell me that this was a bad government because it taxed certain foreign commodities brought to its ports, it is more probable that I should not make an ado about it, for I can do without them."

Now, under the neofascism of BushCo, I wonder if Thoreau would think it appropriate to revolt against this tyranny? I suspect that he would.

Picks of the week:

US Constitution is in grave danger by Al Gore

"Congressman Barr and I have disagreed many times over the years, but we have joined together today with thousands of our fellow citizens - Democrats and Republicans alike - to express our shared concern that America's Constitution is in grave danger.

"In spite of our differences over ideology and politics, we are in strong agreement that the American values we hold most dear have been placed at serious risk by the unprecedented claims of the Administration to a truly breathtaking expansion of executive power."

Rightwing group offers students $100 to spy on students

"It is the sort of invitation any poverty-stricken student would find hard to resist. 'Do you have a professor who just can't stop talking about President Bush, about the war in Iraq, about the Republican party, or any other ideological issue that has nothing to do with the class subject matter? If you help ... expose the professor, we'll pay you for your work.'"

Definitely a brownshirt moment.

Congressional agency questions legality of wiretaps

"The Bush administration appears to have violated the National Security Act by limiting its briefings about a warrantless domestic eavesdropping program to congressional leaders, according to a memo from Congress's research arm released yesterday."

It's so KGB, so CIA.

Bush administration domestic spying provokes lawsuits, call for impeachment

"The day the suits were filed, the New York Times followed up its initial report on NSA spying with a front-page article revealing that the surveillance had involved far more than monitoring a relative handful of telephone numbers of suspected terrorists, as the Bush administration has claimed. The list of phone numbers, email addresses and names sent by the NSA to the FBI 'soon became a flood, requiring hundreds of agents to check out thousands of tips a month.' The surveillance effort was so massive and indiscriminate that even FBI Director Robert Mueller questioned its legality, the Times said."

US obtains Internet users' search records

"Federal investigators have obtained potentially billions of Internet search requests made by users of major websites run by Yahoo Inc., Microsoft Corp. and America Online Inc., raising concerns about how the massive data trove will be used.

"The information turned over to Justice Department lawyers reveals a week's worth of online queries from millions of Americans — the Internet Age equivalent of eavesdropping on their inner monologues. The subpoenaed data could, for example, include how many times people searched online for 'apple pie recipes,' 'movie tickets 90012' or even 'bomb instructions.'"

Are you ready to be bugged and tortured by George W. Bush?

"It's not really terrorists George W. Bush wants to bug and torture. It's YOU.

"It's not really terrorism he wants to fight. It's opposition from people he can't control.

"It's not really US security he wants to protect. It's the power of his regime."

Ethics reform" gestures and suddenly hazy memories can't hide the truth: Abramoff is an integral part of the GOP machine that revved up with the '94 "revolution."

"Abramoff has been an integral part of the Republican political machine that has flourished since the 1994 takeover. He has created vast slush funds at the disposal of DeLay (for example, the U.S. Family Network, financed by Russian oil tycoons), worked hand in glove with DeLay's political operatives, and supported the Republican congressional leadership with funds and favors. Abramoff's lobbying and politics are inextricable, one and the same, allowing him to simultaneously serve as a valuable member of the Republican machine and be out for himself. He was not the most significant player; nor was his tens of millions more money than bigger figures made. (Haley Barbour, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and former senior partner of a major Washington law firm, and currently governor of Mississippi, comes to mind.) But Abramoff, more than those with more influence or wealth, has the distinction of being the culmination of the recent history of the Republican Congress."

Abramoff was the made man for Gingrich's Contract on America.

No remorse

"We smoked 18 people at a dinner that al-Zawahri was allegedly going to attend, but apparently skipped out on. The provincial government claims that four or five foreign militants were killed, but local witnesses said women and children were among the rest.

"This is of small concern to the White House. President Bush has never apologized to the Iraqi people for the three years of carnage done in the name of weapons of mass destruction, weapons that were never found. Bush always dodges the need to show remorse on the premise that 'we are up against people who show no shame, no remorse, no hint of humanity.'"

Doing wrong to stop wrongdoing. I get it.

The latest Bush mega-catastrophe is now pharmaceuticals

"With his Hand of Hell in Iraq already yielding countless dead, $200 billion wasted and a global war against Islam well on its way to Armageddon, Bush has definitively established his ability to wreak unparalleled disaster on a global scale with zero positive outcome."

But VP Darth Vader was on C-Span Thursday saying how well things were going.

Iraq, the mother of all budget busters

"It turns out the eventual cost of the war in Iraq will not be several hundred billion, but according to a new study at least a thousand billion dollars - US$1 trillion, in other words. This figure dwarfs any previous estimate by orders of magnitude.

"Given the projected cost of $1 trillion to $2 trillion, one might imagine that American taxpayers are now rolling on the floor in hysterical laughter while gasping for air."

Canada divided: Harper will cater to whims of wealthy

"Their main policy for dealing with the poor seems to be tougher crime laws, and a cut in the GST [General Sales Tax], which would allow those earning under $12,500 a year to save $64 — enough to start a new life.

"If the Conservatives don't show much interest in poverty before the election, are they likely to afterwards?

"Stephen Harper's Conservatives have run a slick, tightly controlled campaign. With the Liberal sponsorship scandal providing a great punching bag, they've been largely able to keep the focus off their own agenda, which, among other things, is about expanding the rights of the well-to-do." . . . .

"All this right-wing stuff seems far from mind these days, as Harper manages to present himself — with the media's help — as a moderate, even a unifier, who's mostly interested in cleaning up corruption and improving the lives of ordinary Canadians."

Sound like anyone we know? Corporations are on the march north of the border as well.

From a reader:


A guy walks into a cafe with a shotgun in one hand and pulling a male cow with the other. He says to the waiter, "Coffee, please."

The waiter says, "Sure, coming right up."

He gets the guy a tall mug of coffee. He drinks the coffee down in one gulp, turns and blasts the cow with the shotgun, causing parts of the animal to splatter every where, then just walks out.

The next morning the same guy returns. He has his shotgun in one hand and pulling another male cow with the other. He walks up to the counter and says to the waiter, "Coffee, please."

The waiter says, "Whoa! We're still cleaning up your mess from yesterday. What was all that about, anyway?"

The guy smiles and proudly says..."I'm training for an upper management position in the White House: I come in, drink coffee, shoot the bull, leave mess for others to clean up, and disappear for rest of day."


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