Monday, November 23, 2009

Framers Wanted

During our last visit, I suggested you and as many of your family, friends and like-minded acquaintances as you can muster, should seek out and confront the virulence that is Republicanism/Conservatism. I suggested an "in your face" style unwilling to meek out with typical Liberal "let's agree to disagree" posturing. What better time to do this than the upcoming holidays when families and friends and new acquaintances congregate. I'm sure every one of you have at least one relative who always manages to shut you up with his/her narrow-minded views. Time to change all that!

In other words, Time to kick out da mofo jams, People!

What follows is a very condensed, excerpted speech given by Cognitive Scientist/Semantic Linguist George Lakoff, Berkley professor. You should make his book, "The Political Mind" an absolute must-read. He and his colleagues have done extensive research into the role of metaphor on brain function and how concepts like "patriotic" can mean such diverse things to different people. Example: Patriotic to some, means having a responsibility to expose governmental malfeasance while, to another, patriotic means never questioning your government (unless, I guess, it's Democrat and/or presided over by a black man, in which case such questioning is patriotic.)

Boiled down, the theory holds that metaphors are energized by certain frames of reference. Once energized, the brain is reluctant to rewire. Every time thereafter a frame is triggered (e.g. see: stem cell, tax relief and war on terror, examples below) the brain reinforces the attachment to the metaphor used as trigger. To argue against such irrationality with facts is to go completely unheard.

Republicans/Conservatives use a bible of word usage created by wordsmith Frank Luntz that primarily engages the worst of Orwellian semantic manipulation to create whatever reality is most propitious to further the elite agenda of mo' money, mo' money, mo' money (and power, too). Witness a sampling of such lingual duplicity:

A frame is a conceptual structure, a way in which we think. Some of it has to do with language. Every word carries with it a conceptual structure and images to go with it. A simple example from the press: Tom Delay arguing against the bill to allow stem cell research. Notice the word before—embryonic stem cell research. What is the image of an embryo? Like a little baby. So who told the conservatives always to use the word? Frank Luntz, in the manual. Now The New York Times uses it, NPR uses it. Embryonic stem cell research. It has that image. What Delay said is that we are dismembering the embryos—tearing them apart. Actual stem cell research, if you check out the science, is done on what is called a blastocyst. It is 3 to 5 days old, a hollow sphere containing only stem cells, no blood cells, nerve cells, eye cells—nothing else, just undifferentiated stem cells in a hollow sphere. There's no dismemberment. That suggests there is something with limbs that you can tear off. You will not hear that on TV. They're not going to ask biologists to go on TV and say exactly what a blastocyst is. You're not going to see pictures of it. Instead you're going to hear about embryonic stem cell research and dismembering.

Framing carries with it an image. My favorite example is "tax relief." The first day Bush was in office he started talking about tax relief, and every day, tax relief, tax relief—it's repeated. And the word "relief" has a little frame. It says that taxes are an affliction; somebody's harmed by it. Then there's a hero who takes away this affliction, and anybody who tries to stop him is a bad guy. You add tax to that and you get taxation as an affliction and if anybody's against tax relief, they're bad guys. That's what tax relief says every time you hear the word, over and over. And what happens in your brain? One of the things we study in cognitive science—the synapses change. Every time that frame is activated, the synapses get stronger and stronger, until it becomes a permanent part of many people's brains.

Another example: something like 70% of the people who voted for Bush believed that Saddam Hussein was in cahoots with the big 9/11 guy. Why? Frank Luntz put out a memo before the election saying, "Do not talk about the Iraq war. Don't mention the word Iraq. Say 'War on Terror'." Every time you see coverage of the war on Fox News, it says "War on Terror," until the two phrases form the same category. We think about them in the same frame. And vast numbers of Americans are assuming that what we're doing in Iraq is responding to 9/11. What do we learn from this? When your brain changes, when a frame enters your brain, it becomes a new common sense. And the facts hitting your common sense will be ignored. The facts will be trumped by the frames, explained away, not heard—once your brain changes. Now progressives believe in arguing with the facts. Why? It's important to understand this. The progressive movement had its start in the sixteen hundreds with the Enlightenment. The idea was that every single one of us, according to rationalist theory, has universal reason. No matter how rich or poor you are, you think the same way. And if you have universal reason, you don't have to listen to the king or the church. You can govern yourselves. An important idea for all progressives throughout history. Moreover, governments should be rational, and it's irrational to be against your material self-interest. Therefore, governments should govern to maximize the material self-interest of everybody. And facts matter. They are important for the realities of the world, and you should pay attention to science, look at the facts, look at prior reasons for the consequences. Governments should act in that way to help everybody. That is the birth of the liberal tradition. The pieces that are important. We can govern ourselves. We can think for ourselves. Material interests matter. We should work for the material interests of everybody. Facts matter; science matters. But there was a problem with the Enlightenment. It was a false theory of mind. It did not take framing into account. It did not notice that we think in terms of conceptual frames and we think metaphorically.

As is already clear, Republican/Conservatives have understood this phenomena and used it to propagandize the public into believing what's good for monied elites is good for the hoi polloi. The following focus on the "family" metaphor is extremely important in today's political discourse/understanding of issues:

There's also something called deep framing, having to do with the whole structure of the system of concepts we have. Concepts don't just come one by one, one word at a time. They fit together as a whole. And how they do is not obvious…If people have a number of views and they fit together, you can predict that there has to be something holding them together—some generalization. So I took it as a cognitive science problem. I made a list of what people were saying. I noticed that liberals and conservatives had different moral views and different language for morality. I made long lists of expressions. I would go out and interview liberals, and they would consistently tell me that conservatives were irrational. How is it possible for anybody to be "pro life" and for the death penalty? Then I talked to a few conservatives, and they said, "You liberals are immoral. You're irrational. How can you possibly not want to put a murderer to death and sanction abortion?" They saw it as an utter contradiction. And going down the list of issues, each side would see the other as irrational. When you see this as a cognitive scientist, you know what that means. Here are two different worldviews, and people are reasoning inside the worldviews, not in terms of universal logic or universal reason. This is not a matter of standard logic. It's a matter of reasoning a hermetically sealed worldview, which gives different inferences, these two worldviews.

I wondered why conservatives were talking about family values. What did they mean by that term? Out popped two notions: the nurturant parent family [Liberal/Democrat] and the strict father family [Conservative/Republican].

You need a strict father in this model, because there's evil in this world, and he has to protect you from evil. You need a strict father because of the competition in this world. There are going to be winners, and there will always be losers, always. If you want to be a winner, you need a strict father. It's important to the family. And—children are born bad and need a strict father to teach them right from wrong. There's an absolute right and an absolute wrong, and there's only one way to teach them. As James Dobson says: painful punishment. Punishment painful enough so they will have an incentive to discipline themselves, to take physical discipline and make it internal. He says that's the only way you create moral beings. And a lot of other right-wing child rearing books, in effect, said the same thing— children are born bad, they have to be disciplined. And discipline has a secondary effect: If they're disciplined and they pursue their self-interest, they can become prosperous, in this land of opportunity. And pursuing their self-interest, as Dobson points out, is good. It is part of free market capitalism. As Adam Smith said, If everybody pursues their own profit, the profit of all will be maximized, as a law of nature, by the invisible hand. Dobson writes that: this is what our country is about—the free market. Now what if you don't become prosperous? You obviously weren't disciplined enough. Or somebody was interfering with the free market. And there's a name for this in conservative thought. Anybody interfering is like government regulation. The idea of a free market is that you have to have an incentive (profit) and if you take away the incentive, you take away the reason to be disciplined enough to pursue the free market. Taking away the profit is called taxation. The good people, the moral people are those who are disciplined enough to pursue their self-interest and become wealthy.

Taxation is the punishment—taking away the just rewards. So it follows that if you are not disciplined enough to pursue your self-interests and become prosperous, then you're not disciplined enough to be moral, and you deserve your poverty. That's the logic. So what does this say politically about social programs? They are all immoral—every one of them. Immoral in 2 ways: they give people things they haven't earned and therefore take away the incentive to be disciplined enough to pursue their self-interest. And because they take away discipline, they make people immoral, unable to do right. Immoral in two ways. From the strict father point of view, all social programs can be eliminated, on moral grounds. That is what this administration has in mind. That's what our Congress and all of those think tanks have in mind, and that's what they write about. It's immoral.

From the notion of nurturance, every progressive value immediately follows. If you care about your children, then you identify and empathize with them and you want them to be protected. Fiercely. Who from? Crime, drugs, pollution, unscrupulous companies. All the things you need to protect children from. What does that mean in politics? First, it's the progressive idea of protective security: environmental protection, consumer protection, worker protection, all part of what we call total security. Second, if you care about your kids, you want them to be treated fairly and equally. Very important—fairness and equality are important values. If you care about your kids, you want them to be fulfilled in life, and they can't be fulfilled unless they're free—so freedom is a value. They can't be free if there's no opportunity, and there's no opportunity if there isn't general prosperity. So opportunity and prosperity become values. But you live in a community—what kind? The strict father model where a community leader tells you what to do? Or a nurturing community where you care about one another, do community service, are responsible to one another. And to serve the community, you have to cooperate. To cooperate you need trust. To trust you need honesty and openness. Those are progressive values. They all come from nurturance. It makes sense: from the larger social groups, states and nations, to the smaller—community and family

The way forward then, is to understand the battle (ergo my repeated harping on America's Stupid Factor). The battle isn't about facts, or rather, facts aren't what convinces the masses. "Common sense" and "morality" wins the day. The object is to first question the morality of the Conservative/Republican position by using metaphor (analogy) that is a common sense-type "story" that people can digest. Once swallowed, the frame is created and every subsequent use of the metaphor reinforces the frame.

The Democratic Party is stuck in the following way: it uses polls differently from Republicans. Republicans frame an issue their way, so people have to agree with it in terms of their framing, i.e., "Do you think the middle class should get more tax relief?" –yes or no? And a lot of people will say yes, and they release the poll and announce, "Americans are in favor of tax relief." That's the way to advance an agenda. Democrats will take the same poll, with Republican framing, and they'll say, "Gee, maybe we should be in favor of cutting taxes, too. Maybe we should move to where they are." But the point is not to go where they are, but to change them. So why are they missing the boat here? Remember rationalism? It's irrational to be against your own self-interest. So if voters think rationally, what we should do is ask them what their interest are, take the top six and run on that program. And they lose. Because voters are really voting their identity. They're going for someone who shares their values, whom they can trust, not necessarily in their self-interest. Thomas Frank, author of What's the Matter with Kansas points out over and over again that people are voting against their self-interest. And they are. They're voting on their identity and their morality, and that's why Democrats are losing. They've got the wrong theory of the electorate.

Frank Luntz, their language man, put out a section on the environment. In it he discussed global warming, and this was leaked on the internet. In it, Luntz said, "The other side is winning, because they've got science on their side. But…we can turn it around. We can win through language. We can use words like 'healthy', 'clean', 'safe', when we talk about coal plants, nuclear power." You've heard the president (G.W. Bush) at his press conferences: "We need a nuclear power plant that is healthy, clean and safe." They name their environmental initiatives after those words—like "The Clear Skies Act," that increases pollution; "The Healthy Forest Act" that allows clear-cutting. Notice that they could not call it "The Dirty Skies Act." They could not call it "No Tree Left Behind." But we can. And should. They're using Orwellian language here, and they only do this when they're weak, when they do not have public approval. They know they're in the minority, and have to use substitute language to cover up their weakness. They have to use "The Death Tax" to make it look like it applies to everybody instead of just millionaires. They have to use "Partial Birth Abortion," giving a horrible image for an operation that doesn't exist. They have to use "Compassionate Conservative." And if they really were compassionate, they wouldn't need the adjective. When they use language to manipulate the people, they know they do not have public support. And in those cases we need to go right after them and say what you really believe from your own moral position. Powerfully, strongly. There is nothing stronger than nurturing, nothing more protective than a fierce nurturing parent. You have moral outrage and you should express it strongly, straightforwardly.

By way of example, say Uncle Fucker, fat from years of overconsumption, having done alright for himself in his business (via paying his workers minimum wage without benefits) starts off his typical anti-Democrat spewing as the giblet gravy drips off his double chins, "God damned Obama! Socialist! No doubt about it…" Family history has been for everyone to sit silent even as various members roll their eyes in hackneyed disgust (although carefully so as not to draw attention and, thus, Uncle's ire). Oh, there have been outbursts in the past from the younger members, being optimistic and great believers in fairness. But these disagreements have quickly escalated with Mother saying "Enough!" and displaying the evil eye so as to defuse the situation by quieting the effrontery. Even though Mother and Father may actually believe Uncle Fucker to be a pompous ass and totally self-serving, custom dictates that maintaining a sense of holiday decorum is more important. This blog is to move you to question that assumption. It is NOT better to remain quiet. It is NOT better to allow Uncle Fucker's frame of reference rule the dinner table discourse.

So, how does one go about challenging Uncle Fucker's frame? How about something like this: "Uncle, are you saying you approve of the massive trillion dollar Financial bailout? Giving all that taxpayer money to an elite few?" [CAUTION: First you better make sure someone knows how to apply the Heimlich Maneuver 'cause sure as shit Unc is gonna sputter and choke on it a bit.] He'll no doubt feel a trap and stutter something like, "Uh, hmmm…Th-There was no choice! Had to be done!"

You respond, "Well then, Uncle…That was and is a purely socialistic methodology applied. It socialized the cost of failure while doing absolutely nothing about the continued privatization of profits. It took the People's money and gave it to those who made obscene profits before they then gambled and lost. And, by the way, Uncle...that socialist give-away was perpetrated by a Conservative/Republican Administration."

As Conservatives/Republicans are wont to do, Uncle Fucker will no doubt jump directly [Do not pass GO but he'll still take the $200] into the Health Care controversy so as to spew his "facts" that are fabrications developed by the Insurance Industry and peddled as concern for the insured. First thing out of his mouth will be "Obama Health Care Bill." INTERRUPT him by stating there is no such thing and if Uncle Fucker thinks there is let him name it NOW! HR 3200, the bill that has cleared the hurdles in the House of Representatives and made its way to the Senate floor is the bill in question and Team Obama didn't write a single word of it!

Uncle will sputter, he'll huff and puff, and no doubt he'll jump right back into his litany of falsities, like, the "death panels" that'll decide if Grandma should live or die, or the "40 percent cut to heart and cancer specialists" which will decimate the field thereby putting Americans at greater risk of dying, or how you'll not be able to choose a doctor, etc etc.

You'll have to issue the "WHOA-WHOA-WHOA" to break the train of lies and distortions spewing forth. Hit Uncle Fucker with the facts (contained in prior blog re debunking health care lies/fabrications, the Conservatives for Patient Rights— CPR —fallacy, the Kaiser health news rebuttal to the 40 percent cut mythology, the tort reform benefit exaggeration, etc.) I mean, by the time you ratta-tat-tat that shit, ol' Uncle Fucker is gonna be chokin' on his bird!! And when Mama gives you the arch-browed, head wagging "ENOUGH!" you should calmly reply, "No, mother…It's about time people know the truth and not remain stupid to the reality of what's going on. It's the moral thing to do!" Remember to stress the Conservative/Republican misuse of information and not facts, their lying and not facts, their chicanery used, not the facts, per se. And, if all else fails, at least tell Uncle Fucker to go fuck himself for being such an immoral bastard!

Then, enjoy your pumpkin pie! You'll have earned it. Also, you might want to give thanks for having such a fine meal; remembering how many in the world are suffering to provide this meal to us, we, the empire's beneficiaries (as these scraps from the Capitalists' tables is a meal fit for kings and queens of the third world; the masses would be thankful for just a whiff of same.)

Whatever you do, keep on confronting the idiocy rampant in America where ever and whenever you come across it.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Equal and Opposite

The physics-based Newtonian Third Law of Motion states: "For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction." For our intent and purpose, the action in question started during the waning months of the George W. Bush Administration; that constant reiteration by the American "Left" that only twenty-some percent of Americans identified themselves as Republican. The equal and opposite reaction has finally rebounded via recent Gallop Poll data that is sure to be used again and again during the run-up to 2010 elections. The numbers are bleak. 40 percent of Americans describe their political views as conservative, 36 percent as moderate and only 20 percent as liberal. Stated another way, 76 percent of Americans occupy the middle of the road to right shoulder (viz., in the fuckin' ditch) of same when it comes to political views. When one considers that only 24.4 percent of Americans earn a college Bachelor's degree or higher advanced degree, one should begin to see a disturbing correlation: "Tea Party" performances and GOP-issued defamations and fabrications regarding every issue of concern in America are premised upon the fundamental reality of a serious intelligence gap among our citizenry.

Remember when the Kennedy Administration first conjured the "missile gap" which prodded American taxpayers along a $6 Trillion trajectory to fund nuclear overkill capability, a bloated military industrial complex, a hawkish anti-Communism that has devastated Cuba, Central America, South America, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa, not to mention rendering any mention, let alone discussion, of Capitalism's less desirable consequences passé at best or traitorous at worst (e.g. Adam Smith's "invisible hand" stroking the cock of commerce to produce lugubrious payoff of benefit to all parties-- as in when da Massa o' da Manor is happy, so his slaves. Of course, such post-WWII use of unfounded fear-based claims were for the sole purpose of propagandizing Americans to believe, without question, that Capitalism/Democracy is God's tool and must be rescued from the horror of Totalitarian Communism.

What a crock o' shit!

So, how are American politicians now dealing with such a dangerous gap? By exploiting it, of course! The difference between Republicans and Democrats is this: Democrats know the People are intellectually challenged and seek to educate them with facts. Republicans know the People are fuckin' stupid as a brick and use that fact to further their personal grab of power and profits via fear-mongering. Not that Dems are saints. They are not. However, THEY are the ones we hear talking about helping the People while Republicans are scaring the People into believing preposterous stories that, should they become true (which they won't), would hurt the People and most likely destroy America. Democrats are steeped in tradition of supporting unions and workers rights while Republicans are steeped in corporate extortion of labor. Democrats have a history of promoting Constitutional rights to all Americans while Republicans have worked to bring Constitutional rights to corporations to the detriment of Americans. Democrats have a history of spreading the wealth while Republicans seek to concentrate wealth and then use such absurdities as "Trickle Down Theory" to pabulumize the populace (as in GooGoo, GaaGaa…Eat IT! It's good for you.)

I apologize to regular readers for harping on America's Stupid Factor in my blogs. But, Jesus H. Christ…Unless we continually hector the public with the fact that Americans are stupid and either oblivious to, or completely and unequivocally uncaring of, the fact that they are woefully uninformed, we are doomed to total collapse of America – as an awe-inspiring experimental concept and real-world haven for the truly oppressed –as stupidity threatens to win out over intelligence especially when we're talking about ultimate evolution of the Human species. I should clarify, one does not require a higher academic degree to be considered "smart." But, having gone through the process of higher education, hopefully (if educators have done even a minimally good job of educating), one will have learned, first, to think is a good thing, and to think well, is even better; being "smart" more about how to go about thinking in a logical manner than whatever may be thought. Too much of the American debate is now premised upon fear, loathing, ill-repressed racism, paranoia, xenophobic stereotyping, demagoguery and fabricated "facts." Even so-called leaders do not attempt to approach each issue with a good thought process, as evidenced by House and Senate Republicans who steadfastly issue forth outrageous claims based upon mis- and/or dis-information conjured to inject a sense of righteousness into their positions. Of course, the case could be (and regularly is) made that such a lack of logic and honesty does, in fact, represent the American People.

However, Republicans must be held accountable for their treachery. Opinion is being formed largely based upon nightmarish scenarios concocted by a self-serving, Conservative elite. Such inappropriate fear-mongering is having dire impacts on opinions here and abroad. Witness just a few:

  • After governments of the world finally accede to the reality of man-made global warming confirmation, the Gallop Poll shows Americans' belief that global warming is "exaggerated" in the news rose from 35% in March 2008 to 41% in March 2009.
  • At the APEC (Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit held in Indonesia this past weekend, it's reported that, "The agreement on Sunday codifies what negotiators had already accepted as all but inevitable: that representatives of the 192 nations in the talks would not resolve the outstanding issues (Global Warming Limits) in time. The gulf between rich and poor countries, and even among the wealthiest nations, was just too wide."
  • Perceptions that there is too much government regulation of business and industry" jumped from 38% in September 2008 to 45% in September 2009 this in the context of the stupendous financial meltdown caused by lack of oversight from which the world is still reeling.
  • The percentage of Americans saying they would like to see labor unions have less influence in the country rose from 32% in August 2008 to a record-high 42% in August 2009 again, in the context of off-shoring of jobs by the millions and the massive givebacks on benefits, hours, and job security by American labor.
  • The desire for government to "promote traditional values" as opposed to "not favor any particular set of values" rose from 48% in 2008 to 53% in 2009 with Republicans agreeing at a 67 percent rate, Independents at 54 percent and Democrats at 42 percent.

We must mention the fact that a Republican Administration unilaterally decided (via the PNAC) that pre-emptive wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were necessary. As a result, even when Democratic Administrations want out of such lunacy, there isn't any easy way to do so. Now the Republicans get their wars fought even when they're not in power. Funny how that works, huh? Frame the "debate" in such a way as to disallow any change to the frame. In this case, any attempt to end the wars begets charges that Dems are gutless and don't understand geo-politics so they "cut-and-run" or Repubs charge the Dems with "not supporting our troops" or "cowardice" on and on. And, why is this the operative dynamic? Because the American voters are too ignorant to understand how they are being used and abused by unconscionable Republicans.

A rather graphic display of cowardly, non-thinking posturing by the US Congress (Republicans and Democrats alike) is evidenced by House Resolution 867 condemning the Goldstone Report as being "irredeemably biased and unworthy of further consideration or legitimacy," passed by a vote of 344 to 36 with 22 abstentions; this, after the Obama Administration stated that the Goldstone Report was seriously flawed. World-renowned jurist Goldstone actually wrote the Obama Administration inquiring as to what flaws they were specifically referring only to get no response. The Goldstone Report conducted at the behest of the United Nations documented Israeli atrocities, human rights violations and war crimes during last December's Gaza invasion. The report also documents Hamas violations. I guess we can at least take comfort in that the US Congress is finally on record that charges of Hamas' acts of terror are merely the result of irredeemable bias.

Of course, the worst displays of all the above is the Health Care "debate" as engaged by Republicans. So many claims made by Republicans are taken from a single email by some ass-wipe with a grudge against Democrats. Story is that a North Carolina state representative sent out the fallacy-laden email points as a fund raising tool only to have it go viral in the blogosphere, appearing on thousands and thousands of blogs. Soon thereafter, Republican Congressmen and Senators began routinely interjecting the plethora of false accusations into their propaganda. Republicans have charged that the 40 percent reductions in Medicare payments to heart and cancer specialists as contained in HR 3200 (passed House health bill) would decimate the profession and likely lead to many more American deaths. The actual figure is a 10 percent reduction over four years! The non-ending cry for "Tort Reform" championed by House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch, each claiming that such reform would result in a $100 billion savings, has been proved to be bullshit by the Congressional Budget Office as being only one-tenth of that figure. And then we have the cynically named, Conservatives for Patients' Rights, a group thoroughly operating at the behest of the Insurance Industry and likely personal investments to the distinct disadvantage of the American public. CPR routinely fudges the data in order to obscure the reality of America's troubled Health Care system thereby working for a few industries' interests while working against millions of American citizens.

America does not operate in leadership position based on the moral high-ground. We operate in lowest-common denominator position based on fear and stupidity of a poorly educated populace. To add to this mix, the overbearing emphasis on "self-esteem" in our schools produces a population that is stupid as stones but think they're geniuses. Should anyone dispute that claim, name-calling ensues in such loud saturation that any kind of intellectual pursuit of truth is drowned out or bludgeoned into silence. With the ever present "looking out for #1" syndrome fully developed, Americans will believe anything as long as the tellers of tall tales keep insisting they are looking out for #1; facts be damned.

We radicals/progressives need to drag the current strain of Republicanism into the bathroom, drown it in the tub, drive a stake through its heartless heart, shoot it with a silver bullet and burn the fuckin' corpse to ashes. To allow this virulence to live is to allow it to spread throughout humankind which will surely spell disaster. Stop with the niceties of discourse. Call these motherfuckers what they are in blatant terms. Stop selling out for bipartisanship. Start taking these liars and self-serving fuckers to task. And perhaps the best place to start is at home. Confront your parents, grandparents, relatives, neighbors. Stop placating them with the "let's agree to disagree" wimp-out. In their face! Don't relent. Make them absolutely aware that their beliefs are bullshit, based on garbage, worthy of no respect whatsoever. Fuck that right to one's opinion crap as a end point. There can be no end points. Continue to challenge such ludicrous opinion where ever you find it and do not relent.

The entire world and all its peoples depend on it!

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Goldstone Report

So, here it is. The United Nations' commissioned investigative report regarding the savage Israeli invasion of Gaza back in December 2008. Called the "Goldstone Report" it is a thorough look at what any reasonable person knew to be war crimes and/or crimes against humanity. Immediately the Israeli propaganda machine went to work denouncing the report as a scurrilous bit of biased drivel concocted by a hopelessly biased self-hating Jew. Apparently, the fourteen hundred dead Palestinians, half of which were non-combatant women and children, are mere figments of imagination conjured by Israeli-hating Arabs; their phosphorus-burned bodies just more anti-Semitic accusations by democracy-hating Arabs; the billions of dollars of destroyed infrastructure just more irrational babble from the freedom-hating Arabs. Israel's defense is clear: label all victims bloodthirsty Islamofascists and be done with it.

The much more important issue to Israel is Iran. As a result, Iran is the central character in much of the news today. Iran is reviled because they are nuclear renegades; liars and cheaters for building a civilian nuclear facility without first getting permission from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); holocaust deniers on a mission to "wipe Israel off the map" as has been repeated again and again; just plain crazy Arabs.

Americans, secure in their propagandized world view would nod in agreement. Did you catch it? Iranians as Arabs? Even though Iranians are Persian, they've been cast in the same mold as al Qaeda/Taliban extremists so often that they are now—if not officially then, for all intents and purposes –Islamofascists hell-bent on destroying the West. Poor little Israel is simply trying to warn the world of this impending peril.

With the Goldstone Report out, President Obama spoke at the UN. Read his words carefully (especially the parts w/bold italics added):

"Today, let me put forward four pillars that I believe are fundamental to the future that we want for our children: non-proliferation and disarmament; the promotion of peace and security; the preservation of our planet; and a global economy that advances opportunity for all people.

"First, we must stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and seek the goal of a world without them.

"This institution was founded at the dawn of the atomic age, in part because man's capacity to kill had to be contained. For decades, we averted disaster, even under the shadow of a superpower stand-off. But today, the threat of proliferation is growing in scope and complexity. If we fail to act, we will invite nuclear arms races in every region, and the prospect of wars and acts of terror on a scale that we can hardly imagine.

"A fragile consensus stands in the way of this frightening outcome, and that is the basic bargain that shapes the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It says that all nations have the right to peaceful nuclear energy; that nations with nuclear weapons have a responsibility to move toward disarmament; and those without them have the responsibility to forsake them. The next 12 months could be pivotal in determining whether this compact will be strengthened or will slowly dissolve.

"America intends to keep our end of the bargain. We will pursue a new agreement with Russia to substantially reduce our strategic warheads and launchers. We will move forward with ratification of the Test Ban Treaty, and work with others to bring the treaty into force so that nuclear testing is permanently prohibited. We will complete a Nuclear Posture Review that opens the door to deeper cuts and reduces the role of nuclear weapons. And we will call upon countries to begin negotiations in January on a treaty to end the production of fissile material for weapons.

"I will also host a summit next April that reaffirms each nation's responsibility to secure nuclear material on its territory, and to help those who can't -- because we must never allow a single nuclear device to fall into the hands of a violent extremist. And we will work to strengthen the institutions and initiatives that combat nuclear smuggling and theft.

"All of this must support efforts to strengthen the NPT. Those nations that refuse to live up to their obligations must face consequences. Let me be clear, this is not about singling out individual nations -- it is about standing up for the rights of all nations that do live up to their responsibilities. Because a world in which IAEA inspections are avoided and the United Nation's demands are ignored will leave all people less safe, and all nations less secure.

"In their actions to date, the governments of North Korea and Iran threaten to take us down this dangerous slope. We respect their rights as members of the community of nations. I've said before and I will repeat, I am committed to diplomacy that opens a path to greater prosperity and more secure peace for both nations if they live up to their obligations.

"But if the governments of Iran and North Korea choose to ignore international standards; if they put the pursuit of nuclear weapons ahead of regional stability and the security and opportunity of their own people; if they are oblivious to the dangers of escalating nuclear arms races in both East Asia and the Middle East -- then they must be held accountable. The world must stand together to demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise, and that treaties will be enforced. We must insist that the future does not belong to fear.

"That brings me to the second pillar for our future: the pursuit of peace.

"The United Nations was born of the belief that the people of the world can live their lives, raise their families, and resolve their differences peacefully. And yet we know that in too many parts of the world, this ideal remains an abstraction -- a distant dream. We can either accept that outcome as inevitable, and tolerate constant and crippling conflict, or we can recognize that the yearning for peace is universal, and reassert our resolve to end conflicts around the world.

"That effort must begin with an unshakeable determination that the murder of innocent men, women and children will never be tolerated. On this, no one can be -- there can be no dispute. The violent extremists who promote conflict by distorting faith have discredited and isolated themselves. They offer nothing but hatred and destruction. In confronting them, America will forge lasting partnerships to target terrorists, share intelligence, and coordinate law enforcement and protect our people. We will permit no safe haven for al Qaeda to launch attacks from Afghanistan or any other nation. We will stand by our friends on the front lines, as we and many nations will do in pledging support for the Pakistani people tomorrow. And we will pursue positive engagement that builds bridges among faiths, and new partnerships for opportunity.

"Our efforts to promote peace, however, cannot be limited to defeating violent extremists. For the most powerful weapon in our arsenal is the hope of human beings -- the belief that the future belongs to those who would build and not destroy; the confidence that conflicts can end and a new day can begin.

"This Assembly's Charter commits each of us -- and I quote – 'to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women.' Among those rights is the freedom to speak your mind and worship as you please; the promise of equality of the races, and the opportunity for women and girls to pursue their own potential; the ability of citizens to have a say in how you are governed, and to have confidence in the administration of justice. For just as no nation should be forced to accept the tyranny of another nation, no individual should be forced to accept the tyranny of their own people." (Applause.)

In so many words Obama portrayed Iran and North Korea as rogue nations escalating the proliferation of nuclear weapons. After all, even as delegates attended the UN meeting, Iran tested military rockets; rockets that a compliant media unanimously maintained could deliver nukes to Israel and Europe. Only problem is that military experts agree, Iran is still far from having even a single nuclear warhead, those particular rockets in no way are warhead capable, are rather erratic, not to mention it's every sovereign nation's right to protect itself and testing rocketry is a routine worldwide practice. But, the further reality that this writer is alluding to is obvious. Let's look at the above highlighted phrases in the single context of Israel's nuclear warhead production as non-signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and non-member of the IAEA. Israel has, by best educated estimates, over 200 nuclear warheads ready to detonate. Israel has rockets already developed and tested to deliver those nuclear payloads which are certainly able to reach Iran and every Arab nation. Israel, during the first Iraq war (1990 Gulf War) had nuclear tipped missiles ready to launch (The Samson Option; Seymour M. Hersh; Random House, 1991; pg 318) before being "persuaded" by the US to stand down.

In summary, the fear mongering regarding North Korea and Iran is a projection, a possible future scenario. Israel on the other hand is and has been the single most violent extremist in the Middle East. Israel has thieved nuclear material (NUMEC), illegally secured heavy water for nuclear warhead production, has refused to live up to their obligations, avoided IAEA inspections, has repeatedly ignored UN demands/resolutions, has repeatedly ignored international standards, has put the pursuit of nuclear weapons ahead of regional stability and security and, as documented by the Goldstone Report, Israel has murdered innocent men, women and children.

So, what comes of it? The United States of America has pressured the Palestinians to bend to the will of Israelis (to accept the tyranny of another nation and the tyranny of their own people) even as the following was reported, "…The Washington Times quoted three unnamed sources as saying Obama had confirmed to Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel's prime minister, that he would maintain the 'don't ask, don't tell' policy…In an interview last week with Israel's Channel 2 media company, Netanyahu spoke of his confidence that Obama's recent remarks on a world free of nuclear weapons would not apply to Israel. 'It was utterly clear from the context of the speech that he was speaking about North Korea and Iran,' the Israeli leader said."

How pathetic. How sick. How Obama thinks he'll get anywhere with such disingenuousness, such hypocrisy, such unfair duality is really mysterious. That last word carefully chosen because to expound upon the real reasons would only lead to charges of anti-Semitism, of Jew-hating, of failing to accept Israel's right to exist; a line of argument used far, far too long by an illegitimate state hell-bent on genocide of the Palestinian people.

The world is watching, President Obama. You've talked the talk on a global stage. Now it's time to walk the walk.

The whole world is waiting, Mr. President, waiting for Israel to be finally brought kicking and screaming into the world of nations as an equal member. If that offends God's Chosen People, fuck 'em! Or they will be the death of us all!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bits 'n' Pieces

So many things have been happening I thought I'd bring readers up to date as well as tie up some loose ends and also answer some questions/comments that have arisen in regards to some of what I've written in previous blogs.

First, this writer's been heavily involved in creating music for the past 18 months. I finally have some worthy music to share with the world and y'all can get a taste of Steven Lance's music by visiting my MySpace page. I was just featured on WVKR's [91.3 FM] "Secret Music" show hosted by Scott Raymond. Scott interviewed me and played my music for a whole hour this past Sunday (23 August 2009). My CDs will be available here after September 7, 2009; just type Steven Lance into the search box. The first CD that will be available is titled, "4 Never and Ever." By mid-September, I'll be releasing my second CD titled, "Green Hole." By November I hope to have two remastered CDs of older work available titled, "Outward Bound" and "No Boundaries." So, to say I've been busy is a gross understatement! I had to arrange for sales and credit card access, do the cover artwork, finalize song order for each CD, etc. etc. etc.

Thrown into the mix I had a construction gig and computer work to attend to. So, the last eight weeks have passed in a swirl. But some things did manage to stand out and maintain a grab-hold of my consciousness: Like the "grassroots" anti-health care reform crowd showing up at Town Halls across America all riled up and denouncing with red faces and spittle foaming from their mouths the socialist "ObamaHealthCareBill" (no such thing in existence). Especially that woman crying and carrying on, lamenting in sob-choked voice: "Where's my America?! I want my America back." She haunts like acid-sour puke stuck in the throat after a 48/7 weekend liquor binge.

And, to which America might she have been referring? Let this writer take at crack at that: The America that allowed troglodytic white people to lynch "niggers" without fear of prosecution? Where dumbfuck redneck hillbillies were/are held up as the epitome of what patriots are all about? Where drunk, stupid, loaded gun rack in the truck, never read a book and proud of it, flag-wrapped with hand o'er heart proclaiming, "My country right or wrong," serve as badges of honor? You mean, That America, Lady?

That these spectacles were orchestrated by demagogic insurance lobbyists hoping to whip up the "idiot mob" yet again to feverish proportions, there can be no mistake. Disagree? Do you actually believe these folks arrived at local Town Halls sputtering and chest-puffing and heaving and pushing and disrupting for the sake of disruption because of policy issues? The policy as detailed in some 1100 pages contained in the three bills floating around the halls of Congress? Guaranteed none had even read the documents in question. Those that claim to have read those bills are likely quoting "facts" from propaganda pamphlets put out by the Insurance lobbyists that spin the actual facts until they're dizzy then claim said facts are actually derived from those bills. Kinda like how a mosquito is derived from a 747 (yeah, as in scraped off the windshield). Not close. No cigar? Oh, no. The cigar was gotten anyway as now the "public option" seems destined to the dust bin of history. And, of course, that is what the motive was all along; not better, more affordable health care for the people and making sure that all Americans are insured. Any public option will be direct competition for insurance companies and people will flock to the cheaper alternative thereby decimating insurance profit margins. After all, grassroots sounds so democratic as opposed to the reality of, " well-heeled interest groups are helping to organize the town hall mobs. Key organizers include two Astroturf (fake grass-roots) organizations: FreedomWorks, run by the former House majority leader Dick Armey, and a new organization called Conservatives for Patients' Rights. The latter group, by the way, is run by Rick Scott, the former head of Columbia/HCA, a for-profit hospital chain. Mr. Scott was forced out of that job amid a fraud investigation; the company eventually pleaded guilty to charges of overbilling state and federal health plans, paying $1.7 billion — yes, that's "billion" — in fines. You can't make this stuff up."

I've attended hundreds of Town Hall meetings and never saw such antics until just last election when the party having lost power (for the first time in fifty years) went on a binge of lying, fabricating myth whole-cloth as regarded the zoning code the new administration was doing. Hundreds of people showed up spewing smoke from their ears. They disrupted and shouted down those in disagreement. One after another these irate residents spewed venom against the "these people" [their code words for the gay, radical, socialists that had won a majority the prior election; a.k.a., Democrats]. As these obviously ill-informed, mentally challenged individuals poured out their anger, nothing would appease them. They were positive the "zoning code" was going to limit how many children they would be allowed to have. I shit you not! Where did they get such profoundly skewed misinformation? Anonymous "newsletters" made available around town; the fact that the perpetrators wouldn't even put their names on them should have been enough warning that the contents were suspect. But, nooooooooo…speaker after speaker repeated the alleged atrocities contained in those anonymous shit-rags. And I'm talking about people that sit on major governmental boards; Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board members actually fanning the flames of discontent by spewing rhetoric fit for octagon cage fights denouncing what the code contained even though the code contained no such things!

Of course the DemParty leadership thought the charges leveled by the "idiot mob" were so preposterous and absurd that no sensible person(s) could actually believe them. Wrong. The election saw Dems lose by the biggest margin in the history of this town that was founded some 300 years ago!!! Smell the whiff of similarity? Obama team is behind the curve big-time. They let this get too out of hand. Even a number of Dems in the Senate (with 60, count 'em, 60 votes!!! Oops…Ted's dead. Make that 59,) have pulled back support for the "public option" because they're up for re-election and such a Town Hall turn-out has scared the be-jesus out of them; countless references to the Republican takeover in 1994 as response to Hillary's healthcare proposals. Imagine…those in the clear majority in both houses, having just won the Presidency, after decades of Republican outrages that have us enmeshed in two wars, brought us to the brink of financial collapse, indebted us to historical degree, grown government to unprecedented size, shredded the US Constitution vis-à-vis torture and civil rights, now become "fraidy cats" because of a bunch of nitwits spewing their ignorance and bad manners? The Republicans who are completely out of the power loop simply fold their arms across their chests, repeat "NO" for every proposal while serving up none of their own and now, organize ersatz "grassroots" movements, foment incivility by scaring dumb folk with lies, half-truths, innuendo, outright fabrications, and this stops progress? This same cowardice applied to charging Cheney and others for breaking the law as regards torturing prisoners and shredding the Constitution; let us look forward rather than the past?!?


Where is Rahm Emanuel? You remember him, Chief of Staff? Renowned far and wide for being a real hard-ass, burn-and-slash type politician, completely unafraid to crack heads for policy advancement? Why hasn't President Obama sent this assassin to visit the wavering jelly-spined Dems and threaten them with ball-crushing clarity of political retribution should they not fall in line and fall in line fast, right NOW? Very simply, FUCK the REPUBLICAN obstructionists! In fact, team Obama should ramp up the ante with bills that ONLY allow for public option; a complete take-over by government, then ask how the Repubs like those choices and when they get the same arm-folded terrible-two-year old antic of "NO" pass one of those "socialist" bills into law! I think the Dems would be hugely surprised to see Americans actually applauding such action. It is completely surreal the way Republicans are controlling this process.

What is brewing is another backlash by "real Americans," you know, those that believe Sarah Palin is Einsteinishly intelligent. They'll flock to the polls and bring us back Republican rule in that the clear majority in both houses will be lost. Which should serve as a elemental lesson to be finally learned: Educate the People or democracy becomes a moronic miasma of mindlessness; ergo spokespersons Rush Limbaugh and Jonah Goldberg stirring the shit (which serves as intellectual debate for the Conservative Right)!

Okay, on to some explanation and clarification. First, it has come to my attention that people may be wondering (in regard to my True Hero blog below), if Fidel Castro was such a social democrat, why were Cuban presidential elections suspended? This writer thought the background info was clear enough as to suggest a logical substrate for such a move, namely, with crucial facilities being bombed, with the country being attacked by counter revolutionary forces aided and abetted by the US, with an entire governmental rework required, with people hungry and suffering, can anyone actually believe elections should have been the primary focus? Think of the enormous amount of work that had to be accomplished, essentially building a new nation. The first priority of the Castro government had to be stability in order to be successful in bringing a better life to el gente, the people. Okay, so why after all these years are there still no elections? Economic blockade by the biggest market in the world makes for continued hardship. Repeated assassination attempts by the CIA coupled with continuing (to this day) attempts to undermine the revolution being made by exiles based in Miami as well as a massive campaign of agitprop for counter revolution being delivered daily by radio and, of course, television, not to mention leaflets dropped from planes urging Cuban citizens to resist the revolution, forces Castro to continue the suspension of presidential elections. Until such time when the United States normalizes relations with the Cuban government, ending its demand for elections as precondition, Cuba must make stability of leadership priority numero uno. And, for those now shaking their heads in disbelief at the hypocrisy, consider this: Revolution is a proven in Cuba. Castro did it with the aid of el gente. If el gente were as bad off and desirous of regime change as the exiles and US Administration try to make us believe they are, Castro would be long gone!

Finally, I've been taken to task for repeatedly dropping the F-bomb in my blogs. Now, to demonstrate precisely the mental process involved: What did you just hear referenced in your mind? The word "Fuck" correct? Not, F-bomb. And if I'd used F*** the mind would likewise hear Fuck. Besides, fuck is an exquisitely agile word with many meanings beyond the act of sexual intercourse (which, by the way, as proved by context, is precisely the usage I never refer to in my blogs). My response to this call for less "colorful" language is, Fuck NO! If people object to a word (regardless of the word) to such an extent that they cast judgment on the piece—deciding not to read it –then those people are simply using the word usage as an excuse to not read and think about what they do not want to think about. It isn't the word, Fuck, at all but rather, the animosity to their Point Of View (POV) which rankles them especially because they cannot counter the arguments made. By their objection they can escape claiming moral superiority. Fuck 'em…They're the problem, not the solution.

So, dear readers, until next time. In the interim, please check out the music of Steven Lance…

Fuck you very much.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Red, White and P-U: Eau de Empire

What that stank odor be? Foul stench of Liberty, Freedom, Democracy, rotting from unprincipled use, abuse; dead at the hands of "patriots" (a.k.a. Conservatives sans conscience). Just living fictions, spouting same, "Of, by and for the People!" Be real. Be sane. "Those whom own the country shall reign," sayeth Founding Father John Jay and his class, governing peasants like the farm-yarders they are. Hee Haw. Oink Oink. Cock-A-Doodle-Doo. Work. Eat. Procreate. No life at all, having lived to grow the wealth of elites, before dying for sake of sick tortures in our name, high-handed hypocrisies slapping the faces of every human being on Earth with "Do as we tells ya, not as we does, what we pleases. And to hell with y' all…" attitude of Empire-bred arrogance.

Happy fuckin' Fourth of July! Three hundred years of world abuse, pillaging its treasures, anal-raping Mother Nature until she screams from her searing bowels, "NO MORE!"

As if eight years of Reagan wasn't enough, we got the two-terms of Cheney/Bush with a doctrine of anything goes. Speaking of which, at top of the list, the Bill of Rights. As if Terrorism/terrorists could ever be worse than the murderous motives of Dick Cheney who believes, a priori, since he's doing God's work whatever pops into his demented mind can only be the Word of the Lord to do what needs be done in His name (God's, not Dick's). Shocking testicles in God's name. Water boarding in God's name. Sexual perversions in God's name. Destroying hundreds of thousands of Iraqis in God's name. None of the foregoing creating any contradiction whatsoever in the Conservative mind.

So, when the newest U.S.-minted Satan [replete with false reports of his vow to exterminate Israel] Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wins re-election, Buttafuocco…it must be rigged. And, who should know better than we of the hanging chads and popular vote loser, huh?

Therefore, we are graced with one Conservative after another posturing for the cameras, drooling their idiocy, "[Obama's] been timid and passive…" "We could be more forceful…" "I would like to see the President be stronger…" All of that in context of the Iranian Presidential election and claims of voting fraud which brought out a hundred thousand into the streets — or times that by x amount, being unable to determine the multiplicative limitations of tweets to real time protestors — representing fifteen-one-hundredths of one percent of 65,875,224 Iranian citizens. Compared to America that would be the equivalent of approximately 450,000 people demanding change — DOH!! — "And by the time we got to Woodstock, we were half-a-million strong…" [CSNY] How many of you fuckin' Republicans were/are/will ever be ready to back up the 70s One World Generation with those changes we demanded? Like ending America's violent public means to profitable private ends philosophy? [*plink* the sound of pin dropping] Riiiiiiiiight…Your types fought and some still fight against such economic equality not to mention racial equality, employment equality, gender equality, drug use equality. Well, equality in general, actually, because y'all think you're special. One of God's angels. Which completes the circle jerk. Splatt…Or, was that Rush Limbaugh's intelligential offering? No? How about Jonah Goldberg? Ahhhhhh…

And, just what would Republicans have President Obama do, exactly? For it is soooooo easy to demand action without actually articulating what action should be taken [besides such rhetoric being the "moral" groundwork for Israel's inevitable, illegal pre-emptive strike on Iranian nuclear facilities]; such is the "game plan" from the idea-bereft Far Right Huddlers; those over there, in their caves, dragging wives around by the hair when not "walking the Appalachian Trail" (viz., fucking some Argentinean non-wife friend after having vociferously called for Bill Clinton's impeachment over the Lewinsky affair), or sniffing after "jail bait" interns, or "snooping for sausage" in public restrooms, that is.

You might think such truths exposed to Conservative Republicans would give them moment for pause, to contemplate the great contradictions inherent in their Weltanschauung thereby mending their grotesquely distorted view that all of Universe is centered on them.

Well, you'd be dead wrong, Bro. According to John W. Dean, [in "Conservatives Without Conscience"] Republicans like Cheney, Bush!!, Rove, Gingrich, Delay, Scooter Libby, Richard Perle, Elliot Abrams and the rest of those Right Wing Authoritarian roaches, display the following traits "…dominating, opposed to equality, desirous of personal power, amoral, intimidating, and bullying; some are hedonistic, most are vengeful, pitiless, exploitive, manipulative, dishonest, cheaters, prejudiced, mean-spirited, militant, nationalistic, and two-faced." Dean, citing social psychologist and researcher Bob Altemeyer of the University of Manitoba, goes on to characterize Authoritarian Conservatives as being incapable of seeing their own faults: "Right-wing authoritarians, as we have seen, are motivated by their fear of a dangerous world, whereas social dominators have an ever-present desire to dominate. The factor that makes right-wingers faster than most people to attack others, and that seems to keep them living in an 'attack mode,' is their remarkable self-righteousness. They are so sure they are not only right, but holy and pure, that they are bursting with indignation and a desire to smite down their enemies…"

The best and brightest Big Business — our God — has to offer, seeing as these same species of leeches swim seamlessly between private and public ponds leaving their slimy residue on both as they suck the lifeblood from each even as they preach the Good Word. Let me hasten to add here: When I'm talking about the elites I'm talking about the top fraction of one-percenters, those whom know nothing at all of want, disease, hopelessness. There are plenty of people making "good money" that are compassionate and actively involved in change, in actual on the ground work to help common folk, those still educating themselves to American brutal over-reach and so, work to get an Obama elected (just to serve as an example).

I'm talking about those with royal sense of entitlement, should they want they should have. After all, being royalty has its benefits. All is as wanted. If not. Make it so. For them. Because they want it. And they call us "The Me Generation." Once again, riiiiiiiiiiiiiight…

So, happy birthday, America. You with your smiling Black Socialist President smiting flies without conscience…You, no doubt, now laughing having caught the reference; Obama killing that fly during an interview and getting a tongue-in-cheek rebuke from P.E.T.A.? But, seriously, how many of you feel that Iranian leaders calling for brutality against their people, actually killing them because they had become unwanted nuisance [and, so…BUT OF COURSE…they must be exterminated] without so much as a hint of remorse were/are morally bankrupt? Killing humans as if insects. How many of you had that feeling? Certainly the impression as conveyed by the Conservative Republicans spewing their agitprop was of just such a calloused response by the Iranian leadership. Human life of no more significance than a fly. Which leads to a profound depth to P.E.T.A.'s central meaning, does it not, that of holding all creatures in reverence and against which we should do no harm.

But, we're Americans. We kill flies and mock P.E.T.A. and say "Fuck our contradictions!" for that is how we treat the rest of the world: "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out." Oh, I know, "Not me!" you indignantly cry. But, when was the last time you resisted the go along to get along zeitgeist so prevalent now? When did you last buck the system? Stand up to the "man?" Sacrifice? Agitate for progressive change? Or, when was the last time you went without a meal or two to feel the hunger untold millions suffer every day of their existence with the full, attendant understanding that many if not most of the hungry are made so by America's Capitalistocracy? Hmmm?

This writer didn't see anyone busting through barricades when Conservative Right-wing Authoritarians stole an election, maybe two, right here in 'merica during the last decade. This writer didn't see the Limbaughs and Grahams and Cheneys facing off against riot squads when students were clubbed in Chicago or shot at Kent State, nor when Black Panther leader Fred Hampton was murdered by FBI agents, nor when Nixon illegally bombed Cambodia, or during the Iran-Contra atrocity perpetrated by/…

Oh, that's right. Conservative Republicans weren't manning the barricades then or now on behalf of the People because they were/continue to be, the murderers and thieves, the charlatans and two-faced politicians, the dominators and their legion, authoritarian followers that did/will do the dirty work or did/will do nothing to stop it. Like good sheep.

Happy Bahhhh….day, America.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

True Hero

America craves heroes. Super hero comic books have been popular for decades. TV shows are predicated upon heroes in order to provide Americans their weekly fix. Inevitably such heroes are comprised of "good, caring" people that cannot stand the abuse and unfairness so prevalent in their society so they strive to "save the day" like Mighty Mouse of old. They defy all odds by going up against an evil bully in a fight of "David and Goliath" proportions and come out the winner which translates as the Peoples' victory. So, when such a real flesh-and-blood person engages in heroic battle and comes out victorious, Americans should embrace him/her and hail them as a hero. Correct?


You see, real heroes are a messy business. Real heroes walk among us. People we routinely put down as arrogant (mistaking confidence), or as complainers (never mind the US Constitutional guarantee of the right to petition the government for redress of grievances), or troublemakers (those unhip, discomforting agitators unwelcome in our universe). Most Americans, interfacing with truly ethical, empathic beings on a mission of altruism in the furtherance of Human evolution, are forced to change in order to accommodate such heroes. For, unlike the comic books, TV and movies, heroes in the real world aren't milk-bread fictions conjured by American propagandists. They're people that become the nub of our rub against them. They're different from us. They do more than bitch and moan. They actually do something about the problems faced. They come from all stripes, not just the white, Christian, middle-class men of our fictional dreams, men born of democracy and American Exceptionalism fighting un-American evil doers (most ironically) bent on criminal activities almost wholly premised upon theft of wealth from rich folk (THINK: Socialists. Or, worse. Communists. Or, even worse than the worst: Democrats!) No, these heroes of reality are fighters for the People. They want to do their part to advance the species one more forward step. They believe in Human Beings; as Creator and Savior even as these are but fictive fixatives, survival boosters for the down-hearted. But, that means walkin' the walk.

We need no comic book heroes. There actually is such a fighter for the People. Altruistic. Egalitarian. Visionary. A true, real life and still living hero. Living not 100 miles away. In a country that had been under American domination since 1898 when the United States of America essentially, unilaterally annexed Cuba for its own purposes: To exploit cheap labor in order to secure sugar at a criminally low price. US troops were hastened into Cuba in order to put down the natives' fight for Independence from Spain. In the aftermath, the Platt Amendment was passed by Congress which essentially, unilaterally decided what Cuba could and could not do. During the next six decades, the Cuban people were exploited and their lands taken by monied American elite interests; "By the 1920s, U.S. companies owned two-thirds of Cuba's farmland and most of its mines. The sugar industry was booming." These American owners of sugarcane plantations and sugar mills became the dominant force in Cuba. Once America's Prohibition took effect (1919 – 1933) "organized crime moved in, taking over the casinos, booze, drug running and prostitution." While IMF figures assert per capita Cuban income was quite high prior to the revolution they do not account for the distribution of income which was decidedly skewed to a few holding a lot and the many hardly any income at all. You see, the Cuban elites were— as are all elites, solely concerned with their own needs, desires, wealth and accumulated assets —totally unconcerned about the impoverished, exploited masses. Until, that is, those masses had the audacity to demand a stop to their exploitation.

In 1933, the United States assisted army sergeant Fulgencio Batista in a take-over of government via coup (displacing dictator Geraldo Muchado y Morales). Ruling by way of puppet Presidents at Batista's beck and call, the brutal sergeant maintained dictatorial power until winning the Presidency himself. He served his term and left office only to return in yet another coup in 1952.

Tired of governmental corruption, the brutality of the dictatorial Batista, the ruinous economic conditions, the continued exploitation of the Cuban people, on July 26, 1953 Fidel Castro initiated his revolution when he, his brother Raúl and about 90 rebel fighters attempted to take the Moncada army post (Cuba's second largest at the time). The attempt was a failure. Eight rebels were killed and 53 captured and executed. Fidel and the rest of his men managed to escape only to later surrender and be sentenced to 15 years. Pressed by the American government to show some leniency in the face of a building popular dissatisfaction, Fidel Castro and his brother Raúl were released from prison in a general amnesty for political prisoners. Not long thereafter, Fidel traveled to Mexico and met Ché Guevara.

On 2 December 1956 the Castro brothers and 82 men traveled from Mexico on a dilapidated yacht called The Granma and were soon set upon by Batista's army. Only the Castro brothers, Guevara, Camilo Cienfuegos and eight other rebels were able to escape to the Sierra Maestra mountains where they began to build the rebel forces that would eventually liberate Cuba from the brutal American sponsored Batista dictatorship. Over the next two years, Fidel Castro created a revolutionary movement that caught the imagination of 75 – 80 percent of the Cuban people. The small bands of guerillos began to build victories upon victories, not merely holding off an army of approximately 10,000 but beating the military regularly. And then came the battle of Santa Clara which sent Batista packing on January 1, 1959.

Such courage of their convictions. Such sacrifice. Such dangerous undertaking. All in the name of the People (el gente), of a better tomorrow where one and all are provided for so that the nation would be strengthened by its people's successes.

Even as Fidel Castro rode victorious into Havana [8 January 1959] on the wings of his wildly popular revolution the Eisenhower Administration started thinking of ways to destroy it. Working fist-in-gauntlet with the soon to be expropriated companies, the US Government began a massive propaganda campaign meant to portray Fidel Castro as Communist and thus a threat to American national security. On another front, CIA orchestrated propaganda made Fidel's supposed "betrayal" to the Revolution its leitmotif. Castro even responded to it by stating, "As prime minister I have been faithful to the revolution. Cuba is going through a profound and genuine revolution and that is the main reason for the misunderstanding which is due to many interests which will never be in agreement with a genuine and just social revolution." [Politics & Social Structure In Latin America; James Petras; Monthly Review Press, 1970; p 115]. Quoted two years prior in a New York Times article that portrayed him to be pro-democracy and strongly committed to liberty and social justice, Fidel Castro proclaimed, "Above all we are fighting for a democratic Cuba and an end to the dictatorship." When queried about his 26 July Movement's stances against colonialism and imperialism and how that would impact US-Cuba relations, Fidel said, "You can be sure we have no animosity towards the United States and the American people." Further, early in 1959 "in an address before the Venezuelan Congress, Castro criticized the Organization of American States (OAS) and called for the formation of a democratic bloc to function within it, to expel dictatorial governments. In April 1959, in a speech in New York's Central Park, Castro suggested a Marshall Plan for all of Latin America, 'in order to avoid the danger of communism'." [ibid; p113]

True to his promises to the people, Fidel Castro immediately set about putting an agrarian reform program into law, giving land to el gente, to 22,500 families. The land was expropriated from the large sugar plantations. By the end of 1959, 2.2 million acres worth approximately $300 million were confiscated to fulfill the agrarian reform program. Castro offered to repay the US companies full value for their holdings, but could only do so via 20 year bonds "bearing 4.5 percent interest with prices to be based on assessed value as reflected in tax rolls." [Latin America in the Era of the Cuban Revolution; Thomas C. Wright; Greenwood Publishing Group; p27] The US response came swiftly. "The State Department sent a note to the Cuban government reminding Cuba that 'this right [to expropriate] is coupled with the corresponding obligation for prompt, adequate, and effective compensation'." [Petras; p111] In other words, after years of subjugation and exploitation and theft of public funds by prior governmental officials amounting to several billion dollars, US companies could not/would not wait for payback and the US government took up their cause; mustn't harm the stockholders seems to be the American Government's response to every financial setback in the private sector regardless of fault or model of risk undertaken (this continues even and especially today).

As with all true revolutions, before the heat of victory turns into the warmth of accomplishment, counter-revolutionaries attempt to regain what they've lost. As these counter-revolutionaries attempted to usurp Fidel Castro's power/popularity, a half-million workers poured into the streets of Havana protesting the attempted power grab thereby securing the revolution and establishing Castro as the Caudillo, or supreme leader. The counter-revolutionaries joined the elite upper classes in leaving Cuba. It is estimated that in the first 15 years of the revolution, nearly 600,000 Cubans (mostly upper class and upper middle class) or perhaps one-tenth of the population, left the island; many immediately began to plan a military retaking of Cuba and were aided and abetted by the United States Government. "Castro created the Ministry for the Recovery of Stolen Property (Ministerio de Recuperación de Bienes Malversados) with sweeping powers to seize the assets of Batista and his collaborators, 'counter revolutionaries,' and, after 1960, of all exiles." [Wright; p28]

"U.S. policy-makers mounted a multiple offensive against the Cuban Revolution, violating Cuban sea and air space, cutting the sugar quota (July 6, 1960), holding Congressional hearings in which former Batista officials were given the national spotlight, etc." [ibid; p 114] President Eisenhower responded by stating America would not "permit" the establishment of a Communist regime in the Western Hemisphere; a reiteration of the Monroe Doctrine. In that effort, the US "moved to extend its embargo against the Cuban Revolution by pressuring client states throughout the hemisphere and the rest of the world. The U.S. Senate approved an amendment to the mutual security appropriations bill which would cut off foreign aid to any nation supplying military or economic assistance to Cuba." [ibid; 114] Cuban exiles based in the United States conducted repeated raids on Cuba's sugar fields. "By early 1960, almost 13 percent of Cuba's cane fields had been bombed." [ibid; p114]

"On January 3, 1961, the U.S. government broke relations with Cuba…Newly elected President John F. Kennedy (who during his election campaign had called for stepped-up U.S. assistance to the armed exile groups) reaffirmed the Monroe Doctrine and gave no indication of wanting to negotiate U.S.-Cuban differences…Cuba offered to negotiate its differences with the United States and accepted Argentina as a mediator. The Kennedy Administration refused mediation. In his State of the Union message Kennedy set forth in the blunt language of the true believers in private enterprise the intransigent hostility which was to characterize U.S. policy toward Cuba: 'Questions of economic and trade policy can always be negotiated. But Communist domination in the hemisphere can never be negotiated'." [ibid; p116-117]. CIA-financed forces stepped up their terroristic destruction by burning the Hershey sugar mill ($5 million damage) and El Encanto department store ($7 - $8 million damage) even as B-26 bombers out of Miami attacked Cuban air bases. And, then, the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion [April 17 - 19, 1961] in which 1,500 Cuban terrorist exiles were ferried to the island on two U. S. Navy destroyers. The terrorist invaders were promised the quid pro quo of having their assets returned to them for overthrowing Castro. Just like Rumsfeld telling Americans that Iraqis would welcome us with open arms, the U.S. CIA anticipated popular support. Funny how reality always slaps self-serving fictions in their faces! In beautiful irony, the terrorist exile army was defeated by the People's militias.

Of course, the lesson to be learned would have been: Cuba is an independent nation operating on behalf of its people and it is both, rabidly so. Not Communist. But a struggling Social democracy.

But, Cuba became a "bad example" by initiating other reforms like education and health care so that every Cuban would have a chance to succeed and, by doing so, help the Revolution succeed. As other Latin American nations became aware of the Cuban success story, they too wanted independence and social democracy. Thus, the Alliance For Progress initiated by the Kennedy Administration that promised all things good for the people but served up instead, 17 more dictatorships that conducted themselves in typical brutal fashion in order to deny Latin America its independence and its people social democracy. Not enough to cut a nascent nation completely out of the dominant global economic/financial paradigm, not enough to send terrorists against it, not enough to construct a totally fictitious scenario of Communistic threat just off our shores, not enough to attempt repeated assassination against Cuba's beloved Caudillo.

To consider that Cuba and its Revolution is still in existence, still attempting to bring a better way to its people, having been completely cut off (blockade) from normal trade with the world's largest economies, that the Cuban people enjoy a high rate of literacy and are entitled to free health care, that millions of el gente still believe in the Revolutionary ideals espoused by Fidel Castro, a true hero, is a testament to the purity of Castro's vision as stated March 13, 1968:

"But, of course, with its standard of living arising from a developed economy whose income is incomparably higher than that of any underdeveloped country, imperialism can offer material incentives of many types, and, in the face of this, what are we to do? What is the duty of the Revolution if not to strengthen its determination, to exalt all types of moral values among the people? Feelings of internationalist solidarity, justice, equality, love of country, love for the people, for the struggle; the satisfaction of having a giant task, a historic task, to carry out, and accomplishing it, facing up to it, overcoming obstacles. That is the kind of people we have to create…We will continue along our road; we will build our Revolution, and we will do so fundamentally through our own efforts. Great is the task that faces us! A people that is not willing to make the effort has no right even to utter the word 'independence,' no right even to utter the word 'sovereignty!' Let us struggle bravely, among other reasons, to minimize our dependence on everything from abroad. Let us fight as hard as possible, because we have known the bitterness of having to depend to a considerable extent on what we can get from abroad and have seen how this can be turned into a weapon, how at the very least, there is a temptation to use it against our country. Let us fight for the greatest independence possible, whatever the price! Of course, that offended the "principles" of the microfaction (exiles/the few); that was a crime: dignity was a crime, honor was a crime, the Revolution was a crime!"

Let us hope that President Obama will not continue to see the Cuban Revolution as a crime but, rather, a heroic undertaking worthy of praise! End the Cuban embargo now and normalize relations, Mr. President!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Melting Steele

Just over 100 days into the Obama Administration and America's right-wing Republican/Conservative legion is being fed a massive dose of propaganda. The line goes like this: "Americans have learned what the Democrats' promise of 'change' really means -- an assault on capitalism, free enterprise and fiscal responsibility," not to mention "individual liberties sacrificed at the altar of collectivism." That great heaving hulk of ignorance and arrogance that passes as "the silent majority" is being fed huge portions of historical revisionism and washing it down with a heady brew of distilled delusion.

Stupid America, at about 50 percent of the population– most affiliated with Republicans/Conservatives reeking of religiosity –are being told to vote Republican next election because the $787 billion stimulus package contained "pork" and allowed bonuses for AIG officers via loophole. That the stimulus package was made necessary due to nearly thirty years of Republican fiscal mismanagement, of unchecked greed and avarice of the financial class, of Republicans getting all they wanted and more since Reagan, matters not at all. Nor does the fact that the so-called "pork" accounts for less than a percent of total. Nor does the fact that the faulty "loophole" was made possible by the malfeasance of the Bush Administration by way of one of the greatest transference of wealth mechanisms (from the many to the few) ever devised viz., TARP.

Nope. Obama and his ilk are at fault. Ilk? Yes… that other half of the country receptive of "Obama Democrats' dangerous liberal agenda" hell-bent on "fleecing (Americans') freedom and values." According to the propagandists, the Democrats are responsible for the huge debt, the budget deficit and a "destructive tax, spend and borrow agenda." [All above quotations from Michael Steele, RNC chairman, in a letter requesting contributions to help win back both houses come next election cycle.]

The fact that "supply side" economics (lowering income tax and capital gains tax rates for the wealthy as well as reducing regulation even as federal deficit spending increases thereby spurring supply side investment) has been a Republican/Conservative mainstay for thirty years seems irrelevant. The fact that both size of government and spending has increased exponentially under Republican Administrations apparently is irrelevant. The fact that debt has soared under Republican rule isn't relevant.

As one Republican/Conservative pundit opines, "I would love it if the GOP dedicated itself to cutting government by two-thirds, leaving only a minimal social safety net, a big honking military and a few other bells and whistles for promoting the general welfare. My ideal ticket in 2008 would have been Cheney-Gramm. That's right, Dick Cheney and Phil Gramm: two old white guys who would crush our enemies and liberate our economy while shouting, 'You kids get off my lawn!' at the filthy hippies who would inevitably accumulate outside the White House like so much bathroom fungus."

That was Jonah Goldberg, a member of the Conservative Ignorami that passes itself off as the right-wing's intellectual brain trust. Just 100 days into Obama's Administration and the above is what you get from those who have been in power and fucking up royally for three decades.

The putative, reigning king of the Republican party, Rush Limbaugh, claims what is needed isn't the current GOP "listening tour" (The National Council for A New America) but rather a teaching tour where Americans will be taught to recite the above distortions and outright lies as profound truths. Can't happen? Think again, dear hearts, for it happened in the small town I live in; GOP fabrications of such ludicrous proportion that the Dems refused to believe anyone could believe such outrageous claims so did nothing to counter the distortions and were promptly voted out in a sweep of historical proportions; that, after nearly two decades of building the case of GOP atrocities against town residents that ultimately resulted in a Democrat majority for the first time in fifty years. The moral of the story? Don't underestimate the GOP's willingness to lie and the stupidity of the "average" American.

No, this writer didn't forget that Clinton, a Dem, presided for two terms. But, as written in this space prior, Clinton did more to undermine middleclass Americans than any Republican would've been able to accomplish; well, any Republican other than Ronald Reagan, that colossus of mental acuity that prompted his supporters to chant, "Let Reagan be Reagan" until the addle pated headcheese spoke off the cuff and it became glaringly clear that his faculties (never honed anywhere near sharp) were atrociously atrophied from lack of use. Hence, why he is Sarah Palin's patron saint; she soooooooooo gets him! As does the "working class," Joe-the-Plumber's crowd, their greatest complaints centering on paying too much taxes (transfer of wealth) for bloated government that hinders job development; jobs they so desperately need. Hmm…One of Reagan's first acts was to fire all air traffic controllers for striking thereby crushing a union to serve as warning to all other union members (Reaganism: Fuck the working class). One of Reagan's other acts was to pledge and carry through on Federal tax reductions which directly led to the increased need for localities to substantially raise school taxes (Reaganism: Thieve from the poor give to the rich). Granted, the Gipper did make Americans feel good about themselves. Well, at least those scrubbed clean, crew-cutted, flag-waving patriots felt better after enduring a decade-and-a-half of having their self-centered shortcomings and provincial views (anti-feminist, anti-black, anti-gay, anti-third world) taken to task by "filthy hippies" who had taken to heart all the bullshit the American public was spewing and, upon attempting to implement those grand sentiments via application in the real world, found the "Greatest Generation" were frauds; their parents liars for talking the talk but then wanting to break the legs of those whom would walk the walk. Don't forget one of the biggest marketing coups in American history was the transformation of the 70s one-world generation to the "me" generation; that generation, fixated as it was on global considerations as a restraint against American adventurism abroad, classified as narcissistic miscreants unworthy of all but scorn from the "silent majority."

Another point well worth noting: Nothing in American politics is actually about Republican v Democrat ideals. It's about the few aiding the fewer at the expense of the many; Capitalism the coin of the realm. Both sides of the aisle are to blame for the failed conditions of education, housing, employment, taxation, health care, etc etc as applied to the "average" American. Yet, "average" Americans continue to rally behind their favorite ideological façade as if either side truly were working on the average Americans' behalf.

Doltism is alive and well here in the United States of America, for sure. Warning: Don't ever, ever underestimate the power of stupid people to band together and thwart the best intelligence a species has to offer.

It's happening right now.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Ashes to Ashes

Four small bags of ashes contained in two canisters, the remains of my father. Notice I did not write, total remains. The reason being, my Dad touched so many lives that every remembrance in the minds of those he impacted will keep him alive for a good long measure. I'm sure his name will be mentioned often and heads will bow come this fall, this football season (my dad's other three seasons being "round ball" "round ball" and "round ball" or basketball, baseball, golf). Moments of silence may ensue. The measure of a man is how well he is remembered. And he will most definitely be remembered well.

But, the stark reality of small bags of dust being thrust (per his request) about the 50 yard line, where he "lived" the life he loved, was at once surreal/lucid. Such a man reduced to this? But even as that thought occurred so did the inner-vision arise before my mind-eye almost able to see my father on the sidelines. For there was no place he'd rather be than in the thick of battle, employing all his wits and knowledge of the game he loved, calling offensive plays and defensive schemes (yeah, he did it all in those days) pacing up and down, chewing out the referees (Oh, woe unto the poor shtupp who blew a call) and always, always teaching life lessons to his "men" as the game progressed. And, believe me, having heard more than my fair share of emotional speeches, there was no better half-time motivator than my father. His team would roar out of the locker room nearly busting the doors off their hinges.

The above remarks refer to my lucid thoughts. As for the surreal? That any of the above means anything at all. Such rituals beget nothing, save for peace of mind if one believes hard enough. Of course, to us, to human beings, such loss is traumatic. We go through our grief period before numbing out to a new reality, one with a gaping hole in our heart; never again able to feel full. Or, rather full enough. Psychoanalysts might say of such a relationship that boundaries have been breached, torn asunder even, given such connectedness; maybe even going so far as to suggest such "love" isn't healthy to the individual.

Be that as it may, if you're lucky enough to have had or now be in a relationship with a person you love and respect, one who has experienced life's ups and downs alongside of you for a good number of years and you can still honestly say this person is your best friend, consider yourself blessed and forewarned: Love them now. Love them with all your heart. And, live your life together well. Because at the end of it, even a "long life" ends too soon. When you lose a loved one you lose something that cannot be replaced. Your life becomes changed; more empty. Fantasies of everything working out become less believable. In fact, you will need to work harder than ever to maintain the will to go on as so much of you has been irretrievably lost. Regardless of what "shrinks" might think, losing a father, mother, child, wife, leaves a void that will never heal over; a sinkhole of lost love that sucks the energy from your soul.

HINT: Not a bad rationale for creating G/god(s) to help alleviate the misery, to fill that hole in your heart with versions of an afterlife where there will be jubilant reunions and everything will be wonderful again.

HINT: Knock! Knock! No one home… Not gonna happen!

Or so go the endless existentialist thoughts. This writer is hardly the first to anguish over such considerations and won't be the last. Well, not until the last human breathes his/her last breath on this dying planet. Although, for each of us, the essence of who we are, breathes its final breath upon death. The body follows all too quickly (as this writer can attest to having worked his way through college as a grave digger). What is left behind is sorrow, loss, and that's if you're lucky. If you're unlucky, add in remorse, guilt, shame or the ol' woulda-coulda-shoulda trifecta.

So, if you love your mother and/or father, if they were a big part of your life, if what they have given you extends well beyond the obligatory material support of food on the table and a roof over your head, be thankful and give her or him a call and maybe say "thanks" for all they did and for the values instilled in you that make you who you are. We like to think "things" will stay the way they've "always" been. Not so. The tomorrow of change is right around the next corner. Go ahead, phone home.

But, whatever you do or don't do, remember we come into this world the way we exit: Alone. Regardless of how many people may be bedside for the death watch, once the curtain drops, the individual spirit leaves the body. And whether your custom requires the body to rot in the ground or cremation ashes to be sprinkled about, one fact is for certain: No one leaves here alive. A single lifetime isn't ever enough.

So, live and love well. This too-short life is the only one we have.

As for my father, today, and every day from here on, he is nowhere and everywhere.