Monday, November 29, 2010

With Both Hands

It can be a shocking thing to learn that the world view constructed for children by family, school, church and media outlets is an illusion. Some people never go through that shock. Others react by burrowing their heads deeper into their childhood myths, or by maintaining a willful ignorance. Some people, however, react by wanting to know more about what is really going on.

One of my favorite literary passages is chapter 13 of Count Zero
by William Gibson. Bobby, a teenager from the bottom-of-the-pit New Jersey suburbs, is sitting talking with his new adult friend, Beauvoir. For reasons of his own, Beauvoir is gently enlightening Bobby about certain apsects of how the real world of cybercrime works.

After a brief discussion of how the Voodoo religion compares to Scientology, Beauvoir explains how Bobby was being used as a sacrificial pawn in a larger game. Bobby had been encouraged to try to steal valuable data, and had twice narrowly escaped being killed in the past 24 hours because this had pissed off powerful people. Bobby wanted out of the suburbs badly, he wanted adventure, and suddenly his life had become a pretty unpleasant action thriller.

Beauvoir explains how cybercrime syndicates work, in very general terms. The basic idea that the vast majority of the risk is dumped on grunts, with layers of middlemen acting to minimize risk for the money guys at the top. Just like the U.S. Marines, just like urban gangs that specialize in selling recreation drugs.

After describing how an expendable is recruited — by telling them they have what it takes to be part of something bigger, something important — Beauvoir asks Bobby, "Sound like anybody you know?"

Even as Bobby puts the picture together, he is seeing just one tiny facet of reality. My own introduction to big league predators was more gentle. I studied my way out of a Marine Corps family into a slot at an Ivy League University. At seventeen I thought nothing could stop me (that was in 1972). I had figured out that the Catholic Church was a pack of liars, that the U.S. was an aggressor nation, and that science, which I loved, was being used for bad ends (mass murder of Vietnamese and other non-Americans) by the U.S. government, which seemed to be owned by capitalists. I volunteered in the McGovern for President campaign in the fall of 1972, then veered off sharply to the left, with occasional forays into psychedelic spaces. The economic advantages a Brown University education usually bestows on working class comers like myself were lost on me. After graduation, I just wandered in the wilderness for years, observing people and thinking about how things could be set to right. Some how I survived.

Mohamed Osman Mohamud has not been so lucky. Teenage boys get angry a lot, and when you add that to their ignorance and their need to prove that they are men, you can get some sad outcomes. Doubtless Mr. Mohamud was a pretty smart teenager, as he studied engineering at Oregon State University. For some reason he did not come to reject Islam (a lot of science/engineering kids reject religions as stupid. Because they are). He must have read up on the history of U.S. attacks on Islamic states. He must have had a hothead side to him.

Instead of hooking up with a kindly Mr. Beauvoir, or with a kindly non-violence activist, Mohamed Mohamud was treated kindly by the FBI. They needed a Wilson, a loser to be part of their big plot to keep the Homeland Security and Pentagon budgets high. FBI agents pretended to be Islamic extremists, and they double dared Mohamed to become a terrorist. They encouraged him, they showed him real explosives, and they stroked his ego.

I don't know how many people the Obama Administration has going in these games at any one time; hopefully some of them have the sense to refuse to actively participate in violence against civilians.

I know that with the right mentor Mohamed Osman Mohamud could have become a constructive member of global society. Perhaps he could have figured out how to make Israel respect the private property rights of Palestinians. Perhaps he could have just been a good engineer, or family man. We will never know.

Because the organization that was originally founded to be the American Gestapo (the FBI was created to disorganize labor unions, particularly the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), got a hold of Mohamed Osman Mohamud. And they burned him but good. One wonders what kind of child-rearing these guys are up to when they aren't taking taxpayer money to create problems designed to take more taxpayer money.

I have no problem with the FBI fighting genuine organized crime. Someone has to do it. I might even applaud if they took down Goldman Sachs, or arrested war criminals like George W. Bush. But if we want to live in a safe and secure world, in a safe and secure America, we don't need the FBI creating phony terrorism scares. We need to do what is right in the greater world, and mainly that means doing nothing where for centuries we have done wrong. A just nation has no need to station its troops on foreign soil. A just nation has no need to install its puppets to rule over other nations like Somalia, Afghanistan, or Great Britain.

We know George W. Bush was mentored by his father, former President George H. W. Bush, and his CIA, oil, and Pentagon cadre of big fellows. We might ask, who mentored Barack Obama, and why did his policies on homeland security and international aggression turn out to be identical to Bush's? I know why. They taught me in my Political Science classes at Brown University. The short answer is that we live in an oligarchy, which has done a fine job of social engineering. What looks like democracy is really just a tuned set of safety valves that sings like a real organ but lets off just enough steam to keep the oligarchy in power. The organist has to keep on his toes. Because complacent oligarchies crumble. They would not want that.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

barely literate clerics from the countryside

The New York Times characterized the Taliban leadership as "barely literate clerics from the countryside" in an article published today, "Taliban Leader in Secret Talks Was an Impostor."

Thank God (the Christian God, not that Allah fellow) America this past decade has been led by President George W. Bush, a Yale graduate, and President Barack "Hawaii" Obama, a Harvard graduate.

Talking to my secret source at the NYT, I learned the Times has been saving this literay gem of a putdown for months. It was originally to be used to characterize the Tea Party, but then Sarah Palin assumed leadership and the Times editors thought "barely literate chicks from the countryside" might offend its largely feminist readership.

Boy, if I were Obama, all proud as a peacock about being the first Hawaiian elected President of the United States, I would hate getting my ass handed to me on a sling by a bunch of barely literate clerics from the countryside.

The NYT, known for its neutral journalism, especially for its unwavering criticism of the State of Israel's crimes against (Palestinian) humanity despite having a large Jewish readership, apparently secretly gave literacy tests to the Taliban leadership. Their English was very poor.

What do you call the leader of a nation that uses high tech fighter jets, bombers, cruise missiles, drones, body armor and satellite imaging against a people fighting for their nation with aging inaccurate rifles and recycled fertilizer?

President Theodore Roosevelt said it all: "Bully!"

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Puritans, Parables, and Paradoxes, A Thanksgiving Study

The history of the first Thanksgiving celebrated by the Pilgrims, a group of Puritans at Plymouth, Massachusetts, then a colony of Great Britain, in 1621, has become the stuff out of which parables are built. Lately conservative free-market fans, including Tea Party type Republicans, have promoted this parable:
The Puritans tried socialism in 1620 and were starving because there was no incentive for anyone to work if the food produced would be divided up. They came to their senses, probably through direct revelation from Free Market (God), and changed to a private property system in 1621. Like magic, the crops that year were abundant and so they gave thanks and even invited the local Indians.

We have a more recent Thanksgiving informing the parable told by liberals:
The false god Free Market failed in 1929, but his priests, the Republican Party, let Americans starve until the Democratic Party took power in 1933. The New Deal fed those Americans who had not already died of starvation. People really had something to give thanks for at Thanksgiving in 1933, and even more so in 1934. As a result, people learned that a giant, benevolent government, led by the Democratic Party, was needed to intervene in the free markets on occasion.

Both parables have a germ of factual truth in them, and both summarize complex circumstances by leaving out a lot of facts that don't fit into the parables.

To liberals and leftists it may seem strange that what was obviously a Free Market failure in 2007 and 2008 should have been turned by Republicans and the Tea Party into an assault on government. If the government made a mistake (and remember it was a mixed government after the election of 2006, with the Democratic Party controlling Congress under Republican President George Bush), it was that it did not intervene in the markets early enough.

Thanksgiving in Plymouth was no simple historical event either, although the number of people involved were few enough. The ideology of the free market had not been invented in 1620. The Pilgrim Puritans were mainly concerned with religious freedom. Their idea of freedom was simplistic: they did not want to be told by the British government how to worship their version of God. They had not advanced to the point of understanding that they should not try to force their version of religion on others.

The rise and fall of Puritanism in England is worth a good deal of study. Its rise led eventually to civil war, the beheading of King Charles I, and the eventual triumph of Parliamentary democracy and religious tolerance over a Monarchy heading a single national religion. This was a long complex process, however, that began before Martin Luther (with John Wycliffe) and never quite reached a full conclusion even in the 20th century. It is just one historical example of societies cycling between puritanism and tolerance in history.

The Pilgrims reached America a generation before the English Civil War broke out in 1642. The spread of Puritanism in Great Britain began in reaction to the widespread corruption of English society, which ranged from economic, religious and legal corruption to public drunkenness and an assortment of vices, notably gambling. Puritanism can be characterized as a cultural paradox, an overreaction to overindulgence and unethical behavior. Puritans were good (they believed Godly) neighbors who dressed plainly, dealt fairly in business, and got their Christianity directly from the Bible. They tended to prosper not because they had a more correct version of Christianity than Catholics or Anglicans, but because they worked more, saved, invested, and where trusted by their fellow men.

A Puritan society, however, can be a grim society to live in. The rules tend to be set by zealots, who are not content to set a good example by their own behavior. The Puritans inflicted hard punishment on citizens for such perversions as card playing, dancing, pre-marital sex, and theft.

Sound familiar? It should be. The Taliban in Afghanistan are a Puritanical phenomena very similar to the Puritans who founded Massachusetts. The Taliban were mostly sons of men who had died in the Soviet-Afghan war, brought up in Islamic orphanages. In an Afghanistan filled with rapists and extortionists, the puritan goodness of the Taliban appealed to women especially. They seemed like they really were a gift from Allah. They punished men for raping women, and took no bribes themselves. But once in power they also stoned to death women who committed adultery, and stopped people from playing music.

When puritans are successful in restoring social order, people forget why they put the puritans in charge in the first place. They sneak out for a beer, some music, perhaps an illicit kiss. They begin to grumble. Often, when in power, the former puritans feel they have earned a bit of compensation for all their hard work for the general good. They losen up, perhaps even become corrupt. It is difficult to maintain a truly puritan society for more than a single generation.

The best societies avoid the extremes of the puritan vs. corruption cycle. They also avoid the extremes of the socialism vs. free markets debate. Both private businesses (including corporations) and government have a mixed record getting things done. Free markets can lead to local, national, and global catastrophes, but so can bad government. The secret sauce of success, presuming an organization has a good mission, is the attitude of the workers and managers, whether public or private. But in this complex world, anything can fail, including local coops, global corporations, and government programs.

Some times crops fail and famine ensues despite the best of human efforts. For Thanksgiving I would like to thank all the people who have kept records, including the Pilgrims, because I enjoy reading those records.

If there is food on your table give thanks, whether you won it through free markets endeavors or paid for it with socialist food stamps. It is all good to eat.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

2014 is the New 2011

The United States and NATO announced they would continue to occupy Afghanistan through at least 2014. The prior "we will have won the war and be ready to leave our puppet Afghan army to suppress the people" date was 2011.

It is very, very clear that the U.S.A. has not prevailed in Afghanistan.

There is a fundamental reason for that. Except for a few Afghans on the American payroll, no one in Afghanistan likes the American occupation. That does not mean they like the Taliban, the group most likely to rule Afghanistan when, or I should say if, America ever exits.

It is getting to be a rather long war. In 2002 the U.S. dropped in a load of weapons to the Taliban's enemies in Afghanistan, an assortment of tribes and warlords who did not fancy some other group giving them orders. With some air support and occasional support from U.S. troops, these allies were able to destroy the Taliban government. The puritanism of the Taliban had made it unpopular with many Afghans; puritans always do that.

That was under President George W. Bush. Except that it is important to keep in mind that important matters are not decided by U.S. Presidents, they are decided by a permanent military-industrial complex that supplies the very information even Presidents use in their decision making. Having "won" in Afghanistan, Bush then invaded Iraq.

Meanwhile, back in Afghanistan, it only took a couple of years for U.S. allies to make themselves unpopular. The Taliban were not some elected party that quickly fell apart when the campaign donations ceased to roll in. Afghans are a pretty astute people, on the whole. As bad as the local Taliban can be at government, they are mostly preferred to war lords. And even the war lords are to be preferred to rule by the United States, Russia, or NATO.

So the Taliban administered justice, and let up on some of the puritan stuff. U.S. allies administered corruption and injustice. The Taliban, by 2006, were the de facto real government of much of Afghanistan.

That year the Democratic Party ran many of its campaign for Congress on the idea that the U.S. should withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan. A few candidates were probably sincere about this, but most just wanted votes and knew quite well they were not willing to take on the military-industrial complex. Plus if they used their majority in Congress to cut off funds for the wars, they would not be able to recycle the campaign issue in the 2008 elections.

In 2008 many American voters thought that a vote for Barack Obama and for Democratic Party candidates in general was a vote for peace.

Instead, Barack Obama and the Democratic Congress expanded the war in Afghanistan.

Don't think they, and their Republican Party allies, are stupid. All of them know that no imperial power has ultimately won a war of occupation in this last century. They know they cannot win in Afghanistan. They don't want to win in Afghanistan. They want to serve the military-industrial complex. And the military-industrial complex wants to serve itself. It does not want to admit that it no longer is backed by sufficient economic muscle to tell everyone in the world what's what. But it does want to test its old weapons, buy new ones, and give the troops combat experience. The industrial part of the complex never saw a taxpayer dollar it didn't like.

In 2009 Barack Obama said he would send more troops, and that would allow the U.S. to withdraw most troops in 2011. He was buying time for his masters, the military establishment.

The people of Afghanistan are still going to be in Afghanistan in 2014. Some will be willing puppets, but not enough to keep themselves in power if the U.S. withdraws its support.

Just figure the 2014 date is meaningless. Except that it is 2 years after the 2012 election. Expect both military-industrial complex owned parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, to pledge to get out of Afghanistan by 2014 during the 2012 elections.

How can you tell when a politician is lying?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pius XII, Hitler, and the Role of Catholicism in Fascism

Yesterday I finished taking notes on John Cornell's Hitler's Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII. Today I published the notes to the web. You can see them at Notes on Hitler's Pope.

While I appreciate the amount of work Mr. Cornell did researching and writing his book, I think he missed some major points because he was too focused on Eugenio Pacelli (aka Pope Pius XII), Germany and Adolf Hitler.

Fascism was a particular combination of political, social, and economic attitudes. Specific attitudes were shared with other ideologies and types of government. Most notably, fascist governments are headed by men who are, for practical purposes, dictators; but not all dictators are fascists.

One dimension that is seldom talked about by mainstream historians is the religious underpinnings of fascism. In fact, there are often deliberate distortions of the record induced by focusing on minor facts while ignoring the preponderance of evidence. Mussolini is said to have been an atheist, Hitler a promoter of the German pagan revival.

The fundamental truth is that all the major fascist rulers of European nations during the fascist crest were communicants in the Roman Catholic Church. Adolf Hitler was born Catholic and died Catholic. Mussolini, dictator of Italy, was raised an atheist, but converted to Catholicism shortly after he seized power. Antonio Salazar, Portugal's dictator, was Catholic. So was Spain's, General Franco. Marshal Petain, France's dictator, was Catholic. Before Hitler took over Austria, its fascist leader was Catholic. When Croatia was set up as an independent, fascist nation, its leader was Catholic.

That is not to say that all Catholics were fascists, or supported fascism. Nor were all fascists Catholics. But there was a very strong correspondence between Catholicism and fascism.

I don't think it is correct to simply attribute this to the kind of mindset that the Catholic Church creates in its communicants: ignorant, intolerant and obedient. The evidence is that the Catholic Church created and promoted fascism. Cornell does a good job showing how Pacelli used his influence to bring Hitler to absolute power in Germany. True, Hitler might have come to power without Pacelli's help, but then again he might not have.

Would Pacelli have liked someone other than Hitler to be dictator of Germany? Sure. Because the Vatican's plan (I say that because a series of Popes worked on the plan, in particular Pius XI, who was Pope when Hitler came to power; Pacelli became his successor, as Pius XII) was to establish a Catholic dictatorship over the entire globe. Take overs in Catholic-majority nations could only go so far: the Popes wanted a war on the Soviet Union. Hitler was picked as the most likely German leader to rearm Germany and fight the U.S.S.R.

Hitler was less than ideal because he was a German supremacist. That meant he believed the Pope should be subservient to the German emperor. If you know European history, you know the so-called Holy Roman Emperors not only had this view over a period of about a millennium, but that they indeed often saw that their puppets were appointed Pope.

Those who try to defend Pius XII, casting him as an opponent of Hitler, fail to add that perspective. Sure, Pacelli and Hitler had heated disagreements. But they were disagreements over who would be top dog, not about the importance of the dog being both fascist and Catholic.

That is more obvious when you look at the Pope's relations with other fascist dictators, and at what Adolf and Eugenio fought about. Franco, Petain, and Salazar were happy to let the Catholic Church run their nation's schools. Hence, the Pope loved them. He had nothing bad to say about them, even when Franco murdered over a million non-Catholics (before World War II even began). But Hitler and Mussolini wanted the government to control education, because they wanted to create a certain type of citizen, and knew the schools were key. They wanted citizens loyal to themselves, or to their respective national governments. The Pope wanted young citizens loyal to him.

World War II (excepting the war in East Asia, which was mainly anti-colonial in character) was about many things, including economics and the egos of political leaders. It was also a war of Catholics against everyone else. This has been forgotten mostly because the truth did not serve the political purposes of the powerful after World War II. In particular, the Catholic Church was influential enough in the U.S. to protect the Pope (and General Franco and Salazar).

Does this matter? Today a former Nazi is Pope Benedict XVI. His program does not seem to be to re-create the Nazis. But he has taken Catholic dogma back to the Dark Ages and expelled most progressive Catholics from the religious hierarchy. His attitude towards women is akin the Taliban's. He has sought to influence U.S. politics by urging his bishops to attack nominally Catholic, pro-choice politicians. In Italy and other Catholic majority nations the Church is actively trying to turn back the clock on religious tolerance and cultural diversity.

If allowed, there will be political repercussions if the Catholic Church continues to promote its social agenda. At some point the Church will try again to suppress other religions and philosophies; to do that it will need dictators.

Currently the Church is losing members to the modern, secular culture. It is not as powerful an influence as it was before World War II. It seems that, right now, a lot of the Catholic rank-and-file does not want to return to the Dark Ages. But the Church still has a vast organization that can act in a unified manner on a global scale. If people are distressed by economic or cultural turmoil, some could turn to the Church for leadership again just as they did in the 1930s. Just as some people have turned to fundamentalist Islam in this past decade.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Somali Puppet Government Shrinking

The American-created "government of Somalia," today announced that it is shrinking the cabinet from 39 to just 18 ministers. That is about right, because this group headed by Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has has very few Somali supporters. It takes money from the United States and uses it to pay soldiers, at least in theory. In reality reports are that the money is ripped off by the upper ranks, so the soldiers, many of whom are children, desert at the first opportunity.

This government is sanctioned by the United Nations and African Union as well. It controls, in the vast territory of Somalia, a few square blocks of the city of Mogadishu, in concert with Ugandan troops. By some standards, it is not a bad lot of people. But almost no one in Somalia wants to support a puppet government set up by the United States and other foreigners. Most of the nation's territory is now controlled by fundamentalist militant Islamic groups, notably Al-Shabaab.

There is no better example on earth on why the United States, or any other nation for that matter, should not try to interfere in the internal affairs of other nations. Both under President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, American interference has consistently made the situation in Somalia worse (if by worse you mean more radically Islamic. If you like fundamentalist Islam, I guess you could say the U.S. has really helped the people of Somalia).

The United States has assassinated politicians, dropped in bundles of money for bribes, and paid Ethiopia and Uganda to invade Somalia. U.S. policy has only served to discredit moderates, like the old Islamic Courts Union that restored some semblance of order to Somalia in 2006. The U.S. has made Somalia an Al Qaeda poster child. The U.S. comes off as brutal and stupid ideological thugs. Which is about right, if you look at our history.

I have to wonder if this is really just an extremely stupid CIA and "Defense" cadre, or if it was done on purpose. By destabilizing Somalia the CIA has created a permanent threat to the U.S. that did not exist in 2006. That guarantees nice fat budgets for the CIA, Pentagon, and Homeland Security apparatcniks.

One could argue, I guess I am starting to argue, that Somalia is a textbook case of creating an enemy where none previously existed. A reasonable conclusion is that someone was following a textbook in this operation. So it was done on purpose. I can't prove it, but I sure would like to get my hands on the archives.

Here's a sound policy: seal the borders of Somalia, withdraw all foreign troops and operatives including aid groups, and let the Somalis work things out among themselves. Recognize any government that seems to have the support or control over, say 50% of the population. Then restore normal trade and diplomatic ties. My guess is that culturally Somalis are moderate people and won't support puritan versions of Islam for long.

Meanwhile, hold tribunals to try George W. Bush and Barack Obama for war crimes and crimes against humanity in Somalia. With those two guys in jail, the rest of the people of the world might feel safer and act friendlier towards Americans.

More Somalia articles by William P. Meyers

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Sarah Palin to Introduce National Health Prayer Plan

As part of her bid to win the Republican Party nomination for President of the United States, Sarah Palin is preparing to announce a National Health Prayer Plan, according to sources close to Mrs. Palin.

An early draft of her speech on the subject says National Health Prayer will not "interfere with doctors or private health insurance companies." Instead it will eliminate Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal subsidies to "false, science-based health schemes."

"God invented the free market to scourge the lazy and reward the diligent. He invented disease to punish people for their sins. Tax payers should not be penalized for other people's sins."

While the details of the National Health Prayer system remain to be worked out, Palin's vision involves a computerized system of matching sick people to the local church of their choice. "It is a rewards based system for faith healers. Those who are cured will be required to give 10% of their incomes for the rest of their life to the church that cured them."

"God created free markets; the devil created safety nets and socialism," according to Palin. "When you interfere with free markets, you interfere with God's plan for us."

The savings to taxpayers would be substantial. The Medicare tax, currently 2.9% of wages would be eliminated.

"Employees will have the equivalent of a 2.9% wage increase. What better gift could the Republican Party give to the voters of the United States of America? However, we do plan to lower the minimum wage to a new global fair wage scale of $1.88 per hour. At that wage level we believe the United States will hit full employment within 2 years of my taking office."

A number of groups are already planning responses to the Palin plan, soon to be known as the Prayer Deal. Commented Roberta Hell of the Flaming Atheist Alliance: "Sarah Palin knows prayer is ineffective, otherwise she would be Vice-President right now. Seniors who rely on Medicare will have their medical care rationed by their limited ability to buy private insurance or at soak-the-patient private doctor prices. That is what this is all about: rationing. Under Palin, America will become one big forced labor camp with monopoly corporations rationing out food, shelter and medical care."

An anonymous source close to Barack Obama said, "The President is aware of the Palin Health Prayer Plan and wishes he had thought of it first. If the Republican Congress presents such a bill to him, the President will look at the specific provisions of the bill before deciding whether or not to sign it."

I asked a local senior about the Palin National Health Prayer Plan. "But I've been paying Medicare tax all my life! It's not fair to cut me off now," she commented. "I'm going to pray that Sarah Palin beats me to the grave, [the rest of her comment was unprintable]"

Sadly, life is not about fairness. It is about free markets and politicians who worship money and power. Not even prayer can change that.

See also Sarah Palin Blasts Health Care [, November 11, 2010]

Category: Satire

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Barack Obama's Nonviolence

President of the United States Barack Obama was in India the other day, a pack of corporate CEO's in tow, trying to sell American goods, including military hardware, to the people and government of India. He took some face time with Indian students who asked questions about his attitude towards Islam and Pakistan. Barack Obama said good things about Mohandas Karamchand (aka Mahatma) Gandhi and his American "follower," Dr. Martin Luther King. Praising Gandhi in India is like praising corn in Kansas. Politicians do it.

Just in case you haven't heard about two of the greatest events of the 20th century, the expulsion of Great Britain from India, which Gandhi helped with, and the end of racial discrimination in the United States, which King helped with, let me just say that both Gandhi and King advocated nonviolent direct action as a strategy to achieve their goals. Nonviolence meant just that: no violence should be used to achieve political or social goals. Elsewhere I and many others have critiqued this idea, and have pointed out that success in these two cased hinged largely on a great deal of violence taking place in parallel with nonviolent protest.

Here I want to remind you of Barack Obama's interpretation of Gandhi and King.

Obama's interpretation of Gandhi's teachings involves escalating a war against the people of Afghanistan. Sure Obama inherited the war, but the vast majority of those who voted for him for President thought he would quickly withdraw American troops from Afghanistan.

The people of Afghanistan did not attack the United States. The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was a war crime, and every wounding or killing of any Afghan citizen is a war crime. Barack must be smarter than me because he can square trying to control the Afghan state with hyperviolence with Gandhi's nonviolence. I can't.

President Obama has also used missiles to attack people in Pakistan. The missiles are pretty indiscriminate: they kill women, civilian men, and children as well as their intended targets. But more important, the local militias that the U.S. attacks have never attacked the United States. So this is also a war crime. If you hang pictures of Gandhi and King on the wall, then kill people, do you get a war crime exemption?

I believe Obama does believe in nonviolence, for his enemies. He wants the oppressed people of Kashmir to practice nonviolence. He wants the Palestinians to practice nonviolence. He wants newly impoverished Americans to practice nonviolence. He wants Iran and North Korea to practice nonviolence. He wants the Taliban to practice non-violence. But his military allies like France, Great Britain, and Israel get a pass.

As to the American state he runs, he is bankrupting it with military hardware purchases, a bloated Homeland Security bureaucracy, and his wars against Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I believe Barack Obama's version of nonviolence came around and bit the Democratic Party on the ass on election day. Just two years ago America was filled with hopeful Obama fanatics. They hoped for peace, a universal national healthcare plan, and a jobs program that would quickly bring America out of the great recession. Instead they got war, a health care bill that made no one happy except the insurance companies, and bailouts for billionaires and bureaucrats, but no jobs for ordinary people.

So Obama's base, which is the Democratic Party progressive base, mostly just sat out the 2010 elections. In my county, Mendocino County, the Democratic Party vote [the number of people who voted mostly for the Dem slate] dropped by over 50% from 2008 to 2010. The Republicans did not rally actually many more voters with their idiotic economic and social ideas. They rallied their base, which rallied ordinary Republican voters. Obama and the Democrats alienated their base.

But they don't care! Because basically the same class of rich people finance both parties. Are you a former congressman? You can get 10 times your old salary working as a lobbyist.

The only party in the U.S. that actually advocates nonviolence is the Green Party. When you register Democratic Party (or Republican), you are indicating you believe war crimes and crimes against humanity are okay, as long as an American flag is being waved while the crimes are being committed.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Obama's Luck Runs Out

Fishtailing is a good way to describe the American body politic these days. The Democrats only got in back in 1996, and here it is in 2010 and they are on the outs again, at least in the House of Representatives. Our grand Constitution ensures that clean sweeps are nearly impossible by having only one-third of Senators elected every 2 years, and of course Barack Obama has two more years guaranteed.

Unfortunately we can't toss out lobbyists every two years. The same lot of bloodsuckers is there in Washington (and in State capitals) no matter who is President or which party controls Congress.

Obama is beginning to remind me of Herbert Hoover, and certainly reminds me of the ancient Greek adage that you don't know whether a man has had a lucky or unlucky life until he is buried. Herbert Hoover was a great guy and swept the nation in his Presidential bid in 1928. He had served less than a year in office when the stock market crashed. The Democrats won the House of Representatives in 1930 after roughly the first year of the Great Depression, except that no one knew in 1930 that anything was much wrong beyond a rather sharp drop off in the business cycle. Everyone thought the economy would start back up in 1931.

By the time Franklin Delano Roosevelt took office in 1933, blame for the Great Depression had firmly stuck to Hoover and the Republican Party. As far as I can tell, nothing they did caused the Depression and nothing they could have done could have prevented it. Even though the economy did not get much better under Roosevelt during his first term in office, most people failed to shift blame from Hoover to Roosevelt. World War II ended the Great Depression, not Roosevelt or the New Deal. I like some of the provisions of the New Deal, and some were helpful to people at the time, but it is false to give it credit for ending the depression.

Obama's timing, like Hoovers, was just bad. By the time Obama was elected in late 2008 the economy was falling apart. George W. Bush was not to blame; he did not create the housing bubble. Keep in mind that most American's don't follow politics or economics closely. It takes time for reality to sink in. Reality was real clear for all but the most obtuse by mid-2009, but by then Obama was President. Also, he made big promises to get elected, and some fools believed him.

Federal money that could have been used to create temporary jobs for people had to be used for banking and auto-industry bailouts. Those bailouts probably did save us from a depression-style crash, but the average voter doesn't worry about what might of happened. They know what happened: if they did not lose their job, people they know did. And almost everyone had their hours of work cut back in 2009, and so felt poorer. Small businesses in particular were driven to the wall.

Another difference between Roosevelt and the 1934 Democratic Party and Obama and the 2010 Democratic Party is that there was no safety net to speak of in 1932. So between '32 and '34, people were just happy to be fed and sheltered. The safety nets were in place in 2008, so people wanted more. They wanted their jobs back.

The Republican Party has no solutions available. They want to cut the Federal budget, but they won't cut where the fat is: defense and homeland security spending. Cutting the federal budget means cutting jobs. Their idea of creating jobs is giving rich people tax breaks; job creation does not work that way, and tax breaks for anyone will just add to the federal deficit. The Tea Party and Republican ideology advocates do-nothing government. That may be a fine thing in some ways, but it does not create jobs.

But it probably does not matter. We are in an upswing of a business cycle, helped by robust demand from better-managed nations like China, India, and Brazil (all socialist, more or less). I doubt the Republicans in Congress will be able to do anything that would help or hurt the economy in a major way. But that won't keep them from taking credit for the improving economy. Of course, with Obama in the White House, he'll be working hard to take credit for the improving economy too. So maybe his luck will change again.