Thomas Paine:

“Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Obama’s PNAC: B.A.R.F.F.

“When you wake, you will remember nothing of this...”

      Sparrow, in the December issue of the Sun Magazine, suggests changing the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to the Federal Bureau of Introspection. He writes, “Imagine if, instead of collaring suspects, lingering in pizza parlors, and muttering into walkie-talkies, our agents simply sat in dark rooms with eyes closed, searching within?”
      I sense a kindred spirit there. But how lovely such a change would be. Not only would Americans be safer from the violations of their constitutional rights by government agents, those made all the more egregious during the Bush Administration —the Patriot Act, etc.— American citizens would be in a position reminiscent of Mother: “Go to your room right now and think about what you’ve done!”
      Instead of FBI agents —the not-so civil-libertarian kind— projecting their dastardly tendencies toward tyranny onto hapless, innocent citizens, they’d have to sit there and look inward. What a radical, new idea for them!

      As one of those lonely, still-disappointed-in-Obama progressives, I would like to suggest a foundation which will do for the Obama Administratin (BOA) what the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) did for the Bush Administration, that is, expose the philosophy and spirit behind the madness. This would be the “Barack Amnesiac Reflexive Forgetting Foundation, or, BARFF. After all, it is going to be important for all Obamniacs to pretend everything is changing for the better, that President Obama is fulfilling his promises, that there’s reason for hope, that they can maintain their perky positivity, without fear of being disturbed by us party-pooper, reality mongers who keep jumping up and down, waving our hands in their faces and trying to ruin their moods with facts and reminders about what Barack promised.
      With BARFF, the whole idea will be to forget and forgive all, no matter how difficult it becomes, no matter how the stomach churns.
      But it won’t be all that difficult, to wit: I noticed recently, in an NPR news report, how the “reporter” allowed Bush to get away with saying they’d had “bad intelligence” on Saddam’s supposed WMD’s, and that the war in Iraq, therefore, wasn’t his fault. No correction was made, no mention of the Downing Street Memo, which reported that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy,” or how contradictory intelligence from the CIA was suppressed and ignored, or about the outing of Valerie Plame, that whole scandal. This cooperation by the media, with reflexive forgetting and willful amnesia will make the job all the easier.
      It will be up to Obamniacs to continue to forget in this way, as they learned to do back when Barack appeared (“appeared,” because this reality is quickly dimming from consciousness) to betray his promise to filibuster any attempts to give the telecoms immunity from prosecution, when he flip-flopped, voted Yes on the FISA bill anyway, without even the mere peep of a filibuster, granting the telecoms immunity, in service to the notion of hopeful forgetting, I suppose—and change. After all, Obama promised change, so.... he changed! What’s the problem?
      BARFF will give excellent cover for Obama’s failures to fix Bush-era legislative atrocities. It will further the cause of ignoring the death of civil liberty in the United States.
      Take, for example, AETA, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, passed by Congress and signed by Bush in 2006 in a staggering moment of collective, ethical forgetting and feeble-mindedness. The Center for Constitutional Rights has this to say about the law: “The Act is part of a trend known as the ‘Green Scare,’ which refers to the recent crackdown on environmental and animal rights activists under the guise of the current administration’s so-called ‘war on terror.’ Passed at the behest of corporate interests [including the American Psychological Association] that profit from animal torture during the research process, but encompassing any business that uses animals or is related to such a business, the AETA penalizes and drastically criminalizes any activity that affects the physical or economic operation of an animal enterprise, even without any loss to the business.”
      This means that if you discover your kitten ended up at a research lab and is being...whatever horrible torture!....and you decide to hold up a sign outside the lab, you can be prosecuted as a “terrorist.” Disregard that “there have been no documented incidences of injury or death caused by and environmental or animal action in the U.S.” (CCR)
      See, in case you didn’t know it, humans —that is, humans making a profit— come before animals and their little feelings. End of story. Of course, WE FORGET that animal feelings are not less than, nor unlike, our own, and may be felt all the more intensely, given animal confusion, helplessness, and vulnerability (added suffering)— and it is basically immoral and unethical to cause the suffering of an other in order to further one’s own life, for whatever reason; but forgetting and unknowing is our business, and we do it well.
      What does this have to do with the Obama Administration? Well, surely the “change” we were hoping for was the end of such injustice, those Bush-era injustices where profits always come before people, animals, and the environment, where the real criminals, corporate and otherwise, triumph at the expense of decent people and decent values. The hope of such a restoration of justice, in support of ethical values, was implicit in the Obama victory. It was part of what we longed for. But, we have yet to see if Obama truly shares our values and will eliminate the excesses of the Bush Administration, excesses such as AETA. The impression we’re beginning to get from Obama track record so far is that he is big on PR, but small on delivery. We suspect two faces there, one that looks good to us, the other that looks good to the right-wing and corporate America, and it’s the latter that is the real Obama.
      I can see it now...
      BOA will, in the face of pressure by environmental activists and animal rights activists to overthrow AETA, suggest hearings, invite letters, and Obama himself will speak movingly about the need to protect animals from needless suffering. However, behind the scenes, BARFF will effectively render the protests impotent, through propaganda —ads, for example, showing clever cartoons of happy cats and dogs on their way to the research lab, a soft landscape of gentle brooks and meadows peopled by scientists dressed in cozy, PJ-like outfits— and by stigmatizing any and all stirrings of conscience with regard to animal suffering, by the infusion into the media of negative stereotyping and labeling: “Violent Old Ladies with Cats (VOLC);” “Animal Coddler-Terrorists;” “Anti-science Cult Killers,” etc., which would be the stick, aside from the prosecutions. The carrot would be the blessed sleep of forgetting and unknowing— “President Obama’s in charge...everything’s going to be okay....”

      Sweet dreams...enjoy your Obasms.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Don't Worry, Progressives: Obama Will Lead the Way (wink, wink...)

By Joel Mittlemann
San Diego, California

      Responding to criticism that he has failed so far to appoint even one progressive from the “Democratic wing” of the Democratic Party to his team, President-elect Obama insisted during his press conference yesterday that the change he envisions will come from his leadership, not from his staff or cabinet.
      “Don’t look at the people I surround myself with. Look to me. Ultimately, policy decisions will emanate from me, by the spirit of change I have promised and intend to honor.”
      He then repeated much of what he had said in ads and campaign speeches, with some important differences: “Instead of prosperity trickling down, pain has trickled up. Working family incomes have fallen by two thousand dollars a year. We're losing jobs. Deficits are exploding. Our economy's in turmoil. Simply put, laissez-faire capitalism is a failure. Let’s face it—it isn’t working. We cannot possibly drive down the very same path. Instead of giving hundreds of billions in new tax breaks to big corporations, the wealthy elite and oil companies, I plan on restoring a mixed economy, with serious regulations on big business. Then we need a repeal of the Taft-Hartley Act, to restore workers’ right to form unions. Instead of more tax breaks for corporations that outsource American jobs, I'll give them to companies who create jobs here. Instead of extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest -- I'll focus on the middle class and the poor. We’re going to end NAFTA, CAFTA, GATT, the IMF, HMO’s, as well as create a single-payer health care system.
      It doesn’t matter that the people I’ve got on my team have been hard-core, right-wingers and central players in the economic and moral crisis that faces America—they’ve seen the light, and it is held by me. I will lead the way, don’t you worry about that.”
      Asked why, if he intended on ending Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans immediately upon his inauguration, he appeared to be abandoning that idea to say he might simply allow them to expire in 2011, President-elect Obama said that given the economic crisis, he needed to focus on “more pressing issues.”


      President-elect Obama has reportedly charged his economic team to develop a plan for the future implementation of the Greater Regional Advantage Free Trade Agreement, or, GRAFTA. He assured reporters the plan would include safeguards for American jobs, the environment, and the human rights of the poor all over the world. This reporter thought President-elect Obama winked when he said that, but others thought it was just a twitch.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Eric “Chiquita Banana” Holder as Attorney General?

Excuse me—it’s been lovely, but I have to scream now...

      This morning I woke with a headache felt mostly in my left eye—a symbolic gesture, I suppose, referring to the pain of disillusionment I’m feeling, after my surrender to Obamaphoria in the moments just before and after the election. But don’t get me wrong—I’m not blaming Obama. I knew perfectly well his promise wasn’t real, and I chose to ignore my instincts.

      Let me exaggerate —after all, it’s so much more fun than tempering my reactions— to wit: the experience of waking to the realization that I’d compromised my integrity with my vote for Obama is the hyperbolic equivalent to the cultural joke where a guy wakes beside an ugly girl and realizes he was too drunk the night before to discern her true qualities; but in this case the characters have to be reversed, where it would be the girl who had too many margaritas and, seeing the guy though a tequila-induced blur, swooned, fell into his arms, then awoke to see the mistake she’d made—a snoring beast beside her in his beer-soaked, wife-beater T and reeking like a camel in rut. (“To court females and intimidate rivals, rutting males [camels] drool and spit and urinate like leaky fountains. They reek of an oily secretion that flows copiously from scent glands on their napes.”)

      I mean, I realize a mere two weeks after the election is not enough to make an absolute judgment; but the trend in Obama’s pre-presidency is not smelling right so far —in fact, it’s smelling a whole lot like the oily secretion off the nape of some sort of hairy beast’s neck—perhaps the hairy beast of betrayal comes to mind?

      First, Rahm Emanuel as his Chief of Staff—this stinks pretty bad; certainly it’s no change on U.S. support for Israel’s crimes of occupation and siege, for starters. Plus, he has close ties to the conservative, corporate-leaning DLC (Democratic Leadership Council), meaning no change on “free” trade and every other sort of corporate and hawkish policy, and representing no threat whatsoever to America’s right-wing powers-that-be.

      But this one really reeks: Eric Holder as Attorney General, who has represented Merck (Vioxx/Fosamax) and Chiquita Brands at the D.C. law firm, Covington & Burling.
      No exaggeration: Obama's choice of Eric Holder for attorney general is deeply disappointing, even disturbing, given that Holder was directly involved in negotiating for Chiquita Brands the slap-on-the-wrist it received for funding death squads in Columbia.
      Alberto Gonzalez was bad enough, but did he represent corporations that funded murderous terrorist organizations? (Not a rhetorical question.)

      More evidence of foul odors rising from team Obama can be found if you go to Democracy Now! online, where you can find this, first the heading, “Ex-CIA Officials Tied to Rendition Program and Faulty Iraq Intel Tapped to Head Obama’s Intelligence Transition Team;” then, “John Brennan and Jami Miscik, both former intelligence officials under George Tenet, are leading Barack Obama’s review of intelligence agencies and helping make recommendations to the new administration. Brennan has supported warrantless wiretapping and extraordinary rendition, and Miscik was involved with the politicized intelligence alleging weapons of mass destruction in the lead-up to the war on Iraq.”

      Not to mention how Obama sent Madeline Albright to the G20 summit, the same Madeline Albright who said the price —death— of half a million children in Iraq due to Clinton sanctions was worth it.
      Furthermore, when Henry Kissinger is happy about the prospect of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, no kidding, I smell a rat.
      And here comes Tom Daschle who, in 2006, endorsed the warrantless domestic surveillance program conducted by George W. Bush and the National Security Agency. Hello? You call this change?

      I am so tired of watching progressives swoon over Obama. How many times does he have to prove he is immune to pressure from the "grass roots," before progressives stop saying, "Well, we just have to organize and put pressure on him to do the right thing." It's clear: no matter his election mandate, no matter how big the marches get, and no matter how many times he responds by sweet-talking us about bringing change to America, change is not what we're going to see. Sure, he'll make a few good moves, but fundamentally, it's going to be the same ol' same ol' corporate empire, the same ol’ same ol’ military industrial complex, or, “America, the United States of Amnesia,” as Gore Vidal describes it.

      As for me, from now on, I refuse to go amnesiac for Barack, ever again. I want to see a few true progressives in his cabinet. When that happens, I might temper my disgust. Until then, I won’t be sipping the kool-aid, whether it’s laced with poison or the mere stuff of boozy dreams.


The great journalist, Jeremy Scahill, has posted an excellent piece on Obama's foreign policy probables, with the title, This is Change? 20 Hawks, Clintonites and Neocons to Watch for in Obama's White House. (At Alternet )

However, Glenn Greenwald defends the notion of Eric Holder as Attorney General, saying at Salon, “Anybody who believes in core liberties should want even the most culpable parties to have zealous representation before the Government can impose punishments or other sanctions. Lawyers who defend even the worst parties are performing a vital service for our justice system.” (At Salon's blog )

I normally agree with everything Greenwald says, but in this case, no. It’s one thing to defend a client; it’s another to negotiate a sweetheart deal that basically lets corporate criminals off the hook. You cannot tell me Holder’s heart wasn’t on the side of Chiquita Brands. Also, you cannot compare the defense of a powerless or poor defendant with that of a mega-powerful defendant, as Greenwald tries to do. Eric Holder was not forced to work for a corporate law firm that would require him to defend the likes of Merck and Chiquita Brands. That was his choice, a choice that represents his values and core allegiances.

Ralph Nader would agree with Greenwald’s point that all defendants deserve a vigorous defense, but would he put himself in a position where he had to be the one to defend corporate criminals? Impossible to imagine. It would never happen. And that’s the difference: Holder’s allegiance, revealed by his choice to represent corporations against the interests of victims of corporate crime, is with private, corporate power; Nader’s allegiance is with public —ordinary citizens, workers, victims of corporate crime— power, that is, government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Judging by Obama’s choices so far, and regardless of the sweet-talk, it’s clear Obama will ignore the notion of people-power. Too bad he didn’t consider the likes of Ralph Nader (but there's nobody quite like Ralph) for Attorney General. But he didn’t. And that tells us a great deal.


Timothy Geithner, Treasury Secy...worked for Kissinger & Associates, the IMF...need I say more? I rest my case. (For an enlightening discussion, one you'll never hear in mainstream news, of Obama's economic team, see Democracy Now! 11/25/08.)


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Dove Tale for Veteran's Day

      Yesterday, I spotted a dove resting in the middle of my garden. I nearly missed her, for she was perfectly still and camouflaged against the dry soil and grayed oak planter behind her. I thought, “What a smart dove you are to choose that spot to rest in—what predator would see you there, so quietly blending with your surroundings?” But why she was there at all, I couldn’t tell.
      It was such a rare event. Doves visit my place regularly, to eat from the feeder on the balcony, or to sit in the pine tree, but never do they stay ground-level for more than a minute or two. Cats are always present; coyotes, occasionally. The orange, polydactyl feral cat, my adoptee, was there yesterday too, napping on the patio bench, then later moving to her look-out tree to groom herself—without once noticing the dove.
      I kept an eye on her for two hours, while I read my book, until about 5:30 p.m. During that time, I worried over her, using my binoculars to get an up-close view. She hardly moved, except for blinking her perfect round eye and rotating her head this way and that; I could not see if she was wounded, or stunned, or just plain frozen with fear. I was tempted to approach her to get the answer, and rescue her if need be. But something held me back— “Let’s trust in nature’s wisdom and just wait and see...” I would go out, but only if a predator approached.
      Then, as day’s end and darkness approached, she began to relax, to test herself, moving to another position, extending her wings, flapping them briefly, tentatively; and that’s when, with a long stretch of her neck toward the near-by pine, she took off, up into the branches, where she disappeared.
      I don’t know exactly why this event made me as happy as it did. Most people wouldn’t be attached to a mere bird’s success, so very happy about a dove’s flight to safety, after a long, fearful wait. It’s one thing to be relieved and glad for the bird. But such dancing for joy...I don’t know.
      Perhaps the event reminded me of something. Perhaps it just felt right, coming after last week’s political revelations. After all, wasn’t it so true— spirit long suppressed; spirit finally released?

      Eighteen American veterans per day die by suicide. Let me not, in my happiness, forget them.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Leaks Unplugged on Obama Appointees

Picks for poetic justice, though improbable, are Nice Dreams for progressive Obama supporters

By Mistee Laurie, C.P.I

Despite all efforts to plug leaks as to who is to do what and where in the Obama Administration, a few surprising names have trickled out, to the astonishment of all.

But, why not?

Just as Bush had set off alarm bells for progressives with his appointments —for everything from the U.N. ambassador and the top state department post for Latin American affairs, to his appointment of a convicted Reagan administration official to head a National Security Council office, to Harriet Miers, Alberto Gonzalez, “Heckuva-job Brownie” Michael Brown, Monica Goodling, Swift Boat Veterans donor Sam Fox, where competence, experience and qualifications for the job were less important than crony status, donor status, or ideological conformity— Obama is setting off alarm bells for the far right.

Progressives still remember the wacky world of life during the G.W. Bush Administration—the surreal zealotry of Justice Department prosecutions, best exemplified by the conviction of Tommy Chong for the sale of bongs, Bushite contempt for accountability, felt most acutely by Cindy Sheehan when her request to meet with Bush was denied, and her question, “What was the noble cause my son died for?,” went unanswered; remember the frenzy of kitschy outrage over Natalie Marin’s mere exercise of her First Amendment rights, and the banning by Clear Channel of the Dixie Chicks from country western stations all across the nation; remember the faith-based initiative, how tax dollars were funneled to religious —read, Christian— organizations, where proselytizing to poor folks was the norm; remember the freak-out during the election campaign over Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers?

Well, if the leaks are true, perhaps Obama has decided to embrace the precedence Bush set with his appointments, to make a few not-so qualified —but well deserved— picks of his own:

Tommy Chong, Administrator of the D.E.A.

Dixie Chick Natalie Maines to head the F.C.C.

Michael Moore, Secretary of Health and Human Services

Cindy Sheehan, Secretary of Defense

Whether the leaks prove true is yet to be revealed. We can only hope.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

My Values Vote for...

...and why I'm so happy to have been wrong.

What could make a person, a Democrat who had been critical of Barack Obama, be so happy over his election, and so happy to be wrong about my fears the Republicans would steal the election again, and get away with it, again?

First, what happened in my polling booth... it was a rainy morning. I still hadn’t decided whether I would vote for Ralph or Barack. But, somehow, in that booth it occurred to me that I didn’t want to come to the end of my life and realize I hadn’t voted for the first Democratic African-American President of the United States. And so I found myself filling in the oval next to the name, Barack Obama. Was it racist, a kind of reverse Bradley effect, to vote for someone because of his race? Maybe. All I know is that the long-suffering of Blacks in America —and healing it— seemed more important to me in that booth than the recent suffering of the American people via Bush’s spy program, that Barack approved with his vote on FISA. (Which had been the last straw for me, where Obama was concerned, and what sent me running to Ralph.)

So, as to the fears: I am always happy when my fears turn out to be unfounded. In this case, because Republicans managed to cheat their way into the White House in the past two presidential elections, I had reason to believe they’d do it again. I wasn’t about to set myself up for another disappointment, where I believed the polls and simply went on faith.

Obama’s victory, while not restoring my faith in the Democratic Party, or in his intentions to make the right choices and policies —not quite yet— does restore my faith in election integrity. At least the thing works when so many people come out to vote that Rovian crimes fail. That’s something to cheer about— the restoration of least in so far as a two-party system can restore it.

Best of all, though, was the beautiful, beautiful sight of tears on faces —Jesse Jackson, Oprah, and everyday African Americans— and knowing what this moment in history means for them. Imagine the children, how being Black and being proud has come to life in a whole new way. For them, I am very, very happy, indeed.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008


More to come...


Monday, November 3, 2008

Election Eve Fear and Loathing

Republican election fraud—practice makes perfect:
Will this one be stolen too?

Watching Countdown tonight, it was so frustrating to listen to Keith and What’s-his-name talking about how McCain’s campaign offices are all lonesome and bleak, lacking the bustle and enthusiasm of Obama’s campaign offices. So I’m thinking, What does McCain and his staff care? They know they're going to "win"... by CHEATING!

I hope I'm wrong, but what has changed since 2000 and 2004 to prevent the Republicans from stealing yet another election? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Except that they're practice-perfect now. Get ready for a big, stinking upset. How do I know? Check this out, today’s interview with Mark Crispin Miller: DemocracyNow!

Tonight I received an email from John McCain. But when I went to unsubscribe from the mailing list, the unsubscribe feature was set up so that you couldn’t unsubscribe without checking a reason —that is, four or five choices offered. Every choice of reason began with, “I am a John McCain supporter, but...” Naturally, I wasn’t going to choose any of those, so I just hit “unsubscribe.” It wouldn’t go. I had to go back to the email and send a reply, requesting they remove my email address from their list. Bastards! A Republican prank?


Monday, October 20, 2008

Little Lies and Big Lies

Derrick Jensen is right:
our way of life requires a taboo against telling the truth.

      Let me tell you a little story, to start. It was during the weeks after the attacks of 9-11, when it seemed my entire city was waving the U.S. flag and wanting to bomb the hell out of somebody, anybody.
      I was skeptical about it all, from the start. I hated the flag-waving and the lack of any sort of historical self-awareness that would temper the blood-thirsty patriotism all around me. (I live near Camp Pendleton, after all.)
      A huge American flag was pinned to the wall in the lobby where I worked; tiny flags went up at our stations, and patriotic posters were put up on the walls. One poster in particular caught my eye. It was a photo of a Marine, saying good-bye to his little daughter. While I appreciated the sadness of the reality depicted there, I also recognized the poster as propaganda: left out of the picture, but present in my mind, was the horror about to be inflicted by that soldier and his army on innocent Iraqi children, mothers, and sons; left out of the picture was the uselessness of trying to fight cult criminals with an army.
      But my main problem was with the company’s response to 9-11, what I felt was the imposition of right-wing politics and jingoism on our environment, as if all the employees had to be gung-ho for the war or just shut up.
      My mistake was that I let slip my disapproval to a temporary supervisor. I didn’t say much, only that the picture was sad, but it was propaganda, and I thought such propaganda had no business being up on the walls in a work place.
      A week later, I happened to drop in to talk to our manager for a separate reason. I walked in rather meekly, as I remember, for this woman had demonstrated a capacity for ruthlessness on many occasions, and I didn’t want to rile the beast. She looked up when I spoke and gave me an amazing stern look. I remember she said, “That’s interesting...I’ve been mad at you for an entire week!” Cindy had told her what I’d said about the poster.
      So, still recovering from treatment for breast cancer and not wanting to lose my health insurance, I lied: “Oh no...not at all...” I said, and she took that to mean I was as gung-ho for the military as she, and the whole thing was a misunderstanding.
      Needless to say, Cindy got the cold shoulder from me for awhile. “But they told me I had to report everything!” she said.

      In A Language Older than Words, Derrick Jensen writes, “In order for us to maintain our way of living, we must, in a broad sense, tell lies to each other, and especially to ourselves.”
      There ya go, Cindy...
      While I was maintaining my way of life, that is, working, and telling my little lies to management, I noticed the lies told by management as well, and the internalization of those lies by employees, all of which then became a blueprint for conflict—gossip, cliques, power struggles, shouting matches, cold shoulders, reprimands, and various degrees of verbal and psychological abuse.
      The first big unspoken lie that seemed implicit in corporate life, among the many, is that profit-making is the highest virtue. Within that lie is another: “we are an aggressive, predatory, ruthless and competitive species.”
      Another lie is that people are motivated by “self-interest,” that such interest is without of concern for others, entirely selfish and focused on the base values of the first big lie.
      Then there’s the hierarchy lie—that we are pack animals and must, in service to our basic natures, organize according to our sacred texts: upper/middle/lower; top/bottom; winners/losers; leaders/followers; victors/the vanquished, stars/average Joes/flunkies. (It's not that I think the notion that some people are better endowed than others is a lie; it's that such "superiority" entitles those with higher rank to humiliate others and deprive them of human dignity—that's the lie.)
      The most obvious lie behind management rules is that employees are stupid, lazy and wicked, and management’s job is to manage them—control, teach, discipline, exploit.
      None of these are new insights. I realize that.
      But I think even those of us who claim to have better values, at work or at home, behave in ways that honor those lies. It is nearly impossible to be free of them. Thus a relationship that could have provided human comfort and peace in an otherwise nurturant culture not bent on “success,” or productivity, or victory over others, instead goes cold, or hostile, or violent, or hateful, or, at the very least, passive-aggressive.
      Prof. George Lakoff claims that 95% of thought and emotion is subconscious. If true, this would explain why it is impossible to confront indirect hostility, because people who do it are hardly ever aware they’re doing it; thus you might hear your friend say to you, “But they said I had to report everything!” but you don’t want to lecture her on what should have been her loyalty to her peers, rather than to management—after all, that would be patronizing.
      You felt the stab in your back, but you would not convince her it was a stab in the back; she didn’t mean it that way, not consciously. And, anyway, could you possibly expose the lie that she supported by betraying my confidential remark, the lie that tells her that thinking for herself is a no-no and will get her fired? You cannot. You must instead protect the taboo against recognizing cooperation with power as a lie, as a detriment to well-being.
      Derrick Jensen concludes the same paragraph by saying, “And so we avoid these truths, these self-evident truths, and continue the dance of world destruction.”
      This means to me that all the little lies are like cells in the body of the big lies of our monster system, all serving to support the life of denial, our way of life.
      The myth of self-responsibility serves such denial too, it seems to me, on behalf of the system at large. Take, for example, my attempt to include the competitiveness feature of our culture as blameworthy in family conflicts as well. In a conversation with a family member, this notion had to be immediately recognized as “not taking personal responsibility” for one’s choices, behavior, personality flaws and so forth. This to my mind is the lie of personal power and responsibility that we all buy into, while ignoring all the factors in life that have the power to crush personal power and personal will—the fear of getting fired, for example, or poverty, inequality of education, opportunity, encouragement; cruelty, unfairness, injustice, competition, and hierarchy itself—all creating low self-esteem, discouragement, depression, helplessness and hopelessness. In such a system, somebody always has to be the loser. This lie of self-responsibility is among the lies that block consciousness, collective or not, of the truth about a way of life that is destructive of authentic happiness.
      Thus, the system functions freely, without exposure of its lies, and at our expense. Then happiness becomes something you have to drug yourself to achieve, especially if you’re not “happy,” according to the definition of happiness in our culture: rich, successful, famous—but, it was your choice not to be “happy,” anyway. Which reminds me: that definition of happiness? Another lie. (a reminder not to take blogging too seriously as a means to happiness)
      What it comes down to is this: we simply must not think certain thoughts, among them the primacy and possibility of nurture—in families, between friends, in business and in government—as fundamental to our character and values; nurture, not as from parent to child, but between co-equals, with interest in the well-being of both ourselves and the other, with respect for each other’s human rights, and each other’s psychological, emotional, and physical needs.
      We must not have this thought: that above all else we are nurturant, altruistic, and equal by virtue of our basic humanity. To have it, to express it out loud, is to invite accusations of being “soft” on...whatever—communism, drugs, crime, and blah blah blah. Essentially, to have it is to threaten the god of masculinist capitalism, for want of better words, and all the lies that occupy that territory.
      Consider, more specifically, on the microcosm level, the wife-beater, how his definition of masculinity includes the lie that to be a man is to control and dominate —be above— a woman, or women. Nowhere listed in the sad, furious wife-beater’s definition of manhood will be the word nurture. This is why, to my mind, he is more pitiable than vile—think of the curse he has taken from his culture, a curse that condemns him to relentless evidence to the contrary of his “masculinity,” and perpetual slavery to having to disprove such evidence.
      It is no less true of our way of life, it seems to me. Corporations are not in the business of nurturing employees, or customers; policy-makers are not in the business of nurturing indigenous peoples in other countries, or sentient creatures, or the living world; war-makers are not in the business of nurturing the enemy—it’s kill, kill, kill, then drill, drill drill.
      Have you noticed McCain’s rapid and continual blinking? That’s beacuse he’s lying, constantly.
      I’m thinking it might be a good idea to start nurturing corporate CEO’s, to find a way to combat the lies embedded in our way of life. After all, they have grandchildren too. I have to believe it is not too late to raise the consciousness of even the most blind among us. It’s a bit patronizing, but can it be helped? Better to be patronized than bombed, right?

That’s all folks, for today...


Thursday, October 16, 2008

That Was the Final Debate? Were they Joking?

Here’s Ninja Granny’s WhoopAss Report:

      John McCain, eyelids a-flutter, lurched into a spry attack from the start. “Why would you want to put tacks on anybody right now?” he asked. “We need to encourage entrepreneurship, so that people can start reproducing by machine as soon as possible.”
      McCain also bore in on Obama’s support for the right to privacy and Roe v Wade, saying, “What a joke that is... or maybe it’s a, a, it’s a hysterectomy, and we know you’d be speaking in Islamic pentameter too!
      “Worse that that, nobody’s talking about how you voted for the Emasculation Proclamation,” McCain insisted, while continually slapping the tireless hamster in his cheek.
      Both Obama and McCain addressed their remarks directly to “Joe the Golfer,” who had lost his balls in gopher holes on his favorite golf course, all because of “those extremist, environmentalist gopher-lovers.”
      “It’s pretty surreal, man, losing my balls down gopher holes,” Joe had told both Obama and McCain. And each candidate commiserated with great and profound sympathy, acknowledging the horror of it all.
      But the candidate’s shared-compassion was short-lived. McCain, barely able to restrain his eye-roll reflex, responded to Obama’s reference to Nicaraguan deaths of labor organizers, by saying, “Damn, don’t you know anything? The Constitution of the United States was adopted to secure domestic hostility, both here and abroad!”
      Obama couldn’t resist: “Why John, you’re sounding more and more like George W. Bush every day!”
      “Hey you,” McCain retorted, “I am NOT President Bush—well, I do come from a long line of rapists and pillagers, proud servants of the Empire, but how dare you question my character—my mother died in infancy! Not too many people know that. And not too many people know I was born in a log cabin which I built with my own two hands!”

      That’s about it, Folks, except for that damn echo— “Where’s Ralph...where’s Cynthia...where’s Ralph...where’s Cynthia...?" the ghostly vibes of democracy long gone. Heck, can you imagine the difference, if Ralph Nader had been there? Can you imagine the joy of watching McCain’s face as Ralph exercised his unfailing ability to cut the crap and focus on the essential truths of the day, as he did today on Democracy Now? Can you imagine how he would shine next to Obama’s tongue-biting, pale congeniality? Can you imagine the bright moment, when he told the world who the real terrorists are —George W. Bush and Dick Cheney— and what they deserve, with a call for accountability for corporate and state terror?


Friday, October 10, 2008

The Progressive's Rorschach Test

What do you see in this picture,
and what does it make you
think about?

      In her most recent post at Toddlerspit (well worth reading), Jen wrote about an interview she heard on NPR: “...He was talking about how the new books were inspired by a drawing his five-year-old made on a restaurant napkin, of an elephant dropping flowers on the head of a pig. ‘Why is he dropping those flowers on the pig?’ Breathed asked. ‘Because the pig is sad, and doesn't know it,’ answered his daughter.”
      I mention this because, as most of us know, lacking an explanation from the artist, it is impossible to make sense of art, without projecting ourselves —our wishes, dreams, fears and personal meanings— onto it.
      So here comes my copy of The Progressive this month—McCain and Obama kissing. “Yay!” I said to myself. They got it so right! Perfect. Brilliant. And McCain is clearly enjoying it the most. I thought, “That’s The Progressive’s best, all-time cover,” and I could hardly wait to read the cover story.
      But, I couldn’t find a cover story. I looked and looked, searching for that one article to fulfill my expectations—about how McCain and Obama have merged in a big wet one over increasing the military budget, nuclear power, bailouts for Wall Street, war, increasing troops, continued occupation, tolerance of Blackwater, FISA/immunity, Israel, corporate allegiances, offshore drilling, “clean” coal, the Patriot Act, closed debates, industry-centered healthcare plans, the ignoring of police-state repressions during both conventions, and making various populist noises which always turn out to be lies.
      Other than a few mentions here and there of Obama’s move to the right, that one article wasn’t there.
      I searched for my other possibility— about the Obama-McCain clique, where all the other candidates are excluded from the debates, from the circle of love—media attention, how the election system itself is exclusive and anti-democratic.
      But no. Nothing focused on that, either. (though the article about the Cynthia McKinney campaign does touch on this issue and Obama as a “status quo” candidate.)

Later in the week, I got opinions on the cover from Jen and Nancy, both great people, both Phd.s.

Jen, who adores Obama: “Is that real? Or did you make that? Yeah, it looks like Obama’s sort of forcing himself to do it. McCain looks like he’s been waiting for it. For a long time.”
Nancy: “1. It’s hard for me to believe it doesn’t plan on a kind of homophobia-induced shock for effect, and I find that problematic. I’m sure it merits more reflection. 2. A lovers’ embrace seems like a pretty heavy handed overstatement of their similarities, especially right now. The image is not good especially if there is no clear cover story. 3. I nevertheless agree with the two things you would have liked to have seen.”

      See, we didn't know if there was an elephant in the room, or flowers, or if the pig was sad or happy. And we couldn't find out. All we could do was project, as I did, our wishes, our biases, our fears, and wonder.
      But, the beauty of it all, of putting the illustration out there without a cover story, was to discover just how many literal-minded liberals, Democrats, and progressives would be disturbed about the notion of a black man and a white man kissing. Perhaps —mixing my metaphors a bit here— it was a good time to shake that thing loose and see what fell out, that thing being the unconscious, or unspoken and denied, racism that surely will play a part in the election ....or?


Saturday, October 4, 2008

There’s Plenty of Good Reading Along the Way to Our Final Kaput

         I am in the middle of Derrick Jensen’s, The Culture of Make Believe. This is preliminary reading for me, before I get to Endgame, his most recent book.

         I love this guy.

      In his chapter Giving Back the Land, he writes of a conversation he had with television critic George Gerbner. He quotes Gerbner as saying, “Because most scripts are written by and for men, they project a world in which men rule, and in which men play most of the roles. Television and movies project the power structure of our society, and by projecting it, perpetuate it, make it seem normal...
         Let’s say you try to countercast, or change the typical casting in a typical story. A woman, now, is going to wield power. She is going to use violence. Suddenly, you can’t tell any story other than the one that describes why this is so. The story has to revolve around why a woman is doing things that seem scandalous for her, yet seem normal for a man.”
         This is so true. And it is true whether violence is a factor in the story or not. Take the fact, for example, that the majority of scripts where an older man is sexually involved with a younger woman: the story is never required to be about the discrepancy in their ages; their age difference is often not an issue, may not even be mentioned, and the story —some other issue— functions, regardless. That is because, as Jensen might explain, the predominant “power structure of the society” is not threatened there. In contrast, just try to find a script where the woman is in a sexual relationship with a younger man, but the story is NOT about their age discrepancy.
         Consider two movies, say, Last Tango in Paris (perhaps a loaded choice) and The Graduate. Consider the controversy surrounding Tango: butter. Not rape, not age difference. No. We all sat there, watched the movie, and absorbed —gave tacit agreement with— rape, brutality, and the reduction of a human psyche —the young woman— to that of an irrelevancy, but got upset over the mention of butter. It is clear: Brando’s character had entitlement, except where butter is concerned; his victim was serving in her proper role, and, if I remember correctly, complicit and not terribly damaged by it all.
         Consider, by contrast, Mrs. Robinson’s place in culture, her fate; how she was reviled— remember Simon and Garfunkle’s taunting melody, “Hey, hey, hey...every way you look at it you lose...” and poor graduate, seduced and manipulated by the vile bitch? The thing is, we cannot have this, a woman upsetting the “natural order of things;” how men may use their wiley ways —beguile, tempt, seduce— or mind rape, or even rape, as in Tango; but a woman must remain passive and receptive, or, if she is over the age of, say, thirty-five (and that’s being generous), she must simply fade away.
         There have been exceptions. Harold and Maude comes to mind. But...wait a minute: the issue of their age difference was central to the story! Yes, it was presented delightfully, and Maude is one of my favorite, all-time characters, but, just the same, there you are—how a young man recovers his equilibrium, in love with an old lady. And she had to die in the end. Suicide, no less. Of course!
         Harold and Maude was no exception to the rule; it proved the rule— you cannot tell a story about an older woman and a younger man, without explaining how this heretical thing happened and what the consequences of it must be.
         Further along in the same chapter, Derrick Jensen quotes Gerbner again: “ a demonstration of power, and the real issue, once again, is who is doing what to whom. If time and again you hear and see stories in which people like you—white males in the prime of life—are more likely to prevail in a conflict situation, you become more aggressive, and if you are in the same culture, and a member of a group or gender that is more likely to be victimized, you grow up more insecure, more dependent, more afraid of getting into conflict, because you feel your calculus of risk is higher. how we train minorities. People aren’t born a minority, they are trained to act like a minority through that kind of cultural conditioning. And women, who are a numerical majority of humankind, still are trained to act like a minority. The sense of potential victimization and vulnerability is the key.”
         I watched part of a movie today that illustrated this very point. I say “part,” because, after I got the gist of the horrible thing, I fast-forwarded through the rest of it, stopping now and then to pick up the plot, just in case it got interesting. It didn’t. The movie was Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, with Sting and a pack of actors whose unintelligible British accents required subtitles.
         Here’s what I noticed though: all the characters were men, save two— a pole dancer in the background of one scene and a woman who occupied a couch in a semi-conscious state throughout several scenes, also mostly just as background to the main action; that is, until, in one promising scene, she roused herself to consciousness, having heard a ruckus in the room, seized her opportunity to save the day by grabbing an AK-47, then stood up and battered the room with three or four minutes of automatic gun fire, shredding the room and sending the bad guys diving for cover. While this was happening, I was thinking, “Hey, you go girl...” but when it was all over, and she stood there in rapt silence over the destruction she had wrought, or, hath wrought, the main bad guy stood up, said something like, “Where’d SHE come from?” then knocked her out with one punch. In short, the message was, When women are violent, it’s all so ineffectual, so ineffective; women simply cannot do what men do; in the end, they fail.
         Yuk, yuk, yuk...and the guys watching this movie get to have a lovely moment of male bonding over the reinforcement of their mutual agreement about what it is to be male—which requires, first and foremost, that they are superior to females; and that they are leads, not only in the movie, but in life as well. (Think of that— “the lead” in a play or movie; it’s going to be a man, right?)

         I used to be able to predict the fate of female characters who dared to be freely sexual —death— or at least some other equally damning or degrading end. That’s social conditioning too.
      Or, think of women who dare to fight back or try to defend themselves, after years of humiliation, abuse, and rape: they must suffer similar ends, the ultimate punishment of death. I’m thinking in particular of Aileen Wuornos, the subject of the movie, Monster. The title says it all, doesn’t it? Those of us who felt sympathy for the woman —after learning how most of the men she killed had threatened to kill her first, had raped her, or tortured her— understood the irony of that title. However, it seems to me a more just title would have been, "Monsters," to make reference to the men she killed and the society that rendered those men devoid of conscience, or devoid of a consciousness of women —even prostitutes— as people. Certainly, without conscience, or consciousness, one must be a monster and ultimately do monstrous things.
         And Wuornos? A monster? I don’t think so. Her crimes were crimes of self-defense. But how dare she? So we killed her. Let that be a lesson to all you uppity bitches! Just sit there and take it, and then, shut up about it.
         Jensen offers insight to this injustice to say, in effect, you are not allowed to hit back, UP the hierarchy. The crimes against you by those above you in the hierarchy are sanctioned by society; yours against them are to be condemned.
         Even the sympathetic duo, Thelma and Louise, had to die. Imagine the outrage had they managed to survive, face justice and win, to live out their lives in dignity and respect. No, no, no...we can’t have that!
         The only place we find this paradigm consistently upended is on Lifetime TV, where the victims of abuse, usually women, do manage to have some measure of revenge. But, hey, these are “chick flicks.” The guys know better not to watch those, and they’re usually pretty bad movies with awful acting, anyway; so the powers-that-be are not likely to be threatened, especially since such movies, where women are victorious, are inferior in quality, to match the audience. Still, that’s where women learn a different lesson, behind the backs of their “superiors.”

         I am reminded of Susan Griffin’s, Pornography and Silence. She says, “Yet in order to see our lives more clearly within this culture, we must question the meaning we give to certain words and phrases, and to the images we accept as part of the life of our minds. We must, for example, look again at the idea of "human" liberation. For when we do, we will see two histories of the meaning of this word, one which includes the lives of women, and even embodies itself in a struggle for female emancipation, and another, which opposes itself to women, and to "the other" (men and women of other "races," "the Jew"), and imagines that liberation means the mastery of these others.”
         Sometimes I read this stuff for corroboration of guesses I’ve made as to the why of certain things, not that I don’t also read for the special insights of those authors. For example, I myself had thought about rape as a hate crime, but not as hatred directed at the victim, but as hatred the rapist feels for himself. That is, the femininity he sees in the “other” which he cannot obliterate in himself, which he cannot control or govern, is wished to be obliterated and mastered through rape—a case of projection. Given that no man exists who does not have vulnerabilities, who does not have weaknesses, cares, loves, and all those other human aspects we designate as “feminine;” and given that no man exists in this culture who has not been taught to disdain those qualities, it is no wonder that some men must split off from themselves to become ignorant of the truth about themselves, and, in the process, become less than whole beings; and, when confronted by a being who represents their own denied, humiliating aspects, some men cannot deal with it and become enraged.
         Perhaps as I read more, I will come to understand how we got to this point, how the yin and yang of things, the balance of male and female, got way out of whack in favor of the male side of things. How this happened, and how to correct it, is unknown to me; but I do think if we keep this up, nature, which always strives for the perfect balance, will one day just up and spit us out and be done with us. It’s going to be a huge hacking sound, a rumble in Earth’s chest, then it’ll be, “Spitt-oo-ee!!!” and we’ll all be goners.

         Derrick Jensen is the role model for the required change of mind and heart, it seems to me, the direction all men and women must go, if we are going to live in harmony with a healthy planet. I do love this book, except for one comment there, which I cannot find at the moment, where he quotes Thomas Paine to show him as an advocate of slavery. I would disagree, as one essay of Paine’s shows, where he says, “But to go to nations with whom there is no war, who have no way provoked, without farther design of conquest, purely to catch inoffensive people, like wild beasts, for slaves, is an height of outrage against humanity and justice, that seems left by heathen nations to be practiced by pretended Christian. How shameful are all attempts to colour and excuse it! As these people are not convicted of forfeiting freedom, they have still a natural, perfect right to it; and the governments whenever they come should, in justice set them free, and punish those who hold them in slavery.”
         Still, I am looking forward to Endgame.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Democratic Capitalism as an Oxymoron

Detecting a neocon crapshoot with our futures

      I am not an economist. I have never taken even one course in economics. I do, however, have a highly sensitive, built-in crap detector, and, after having lived through 40 years of laissez-fair, “free” market, trickle-down Reaganomics, and spending a great deal of my free time reading about politics, the antenna on my detector is quivering like mad.
      I wrote an email to the real deal recently, the Chair of the Economics department at a local university. His response was reassuring. He said, “I expect that the financial meltdown will be prevented from getting worse.”
      Okay...that sounded good. But then McCain bailed out of the debates; then the Republicans bailed out of the bailout...then Paul Krugman said, this morning on DemocracyNow!, it’s looking “scary.” So, I am beginning to wonder what’s next.
      This question arises: would a complete meltdown of our entire economy really be a bad thing in the screwy mind of the neo-con? Think about 9-11. Didn’t that disaster lead to the fulfillment of many of their wildest dreams?
      Consider how this historic tidbit, from Greg Palast about Chile, economic collapse, and Pinochet, rings familiar: Palast

      It was fascinating to hear G.W. Bush refer to “democratic capitalism,” as the “best system ever devised.” I mean, considering the reality of American life today, where union membership has reached an all-time low; where Congress, increasingly indebted to corporate support and influenced by lobbyists pushing corporate interests, chooses again and again to ignore the interests of ordinary citizens in favor of corporate America; where the will of the people —expressed on the streets during the Democratic and Republican conventions, with calls for impeachment, an end to torture and the war in Iraq and Afganistan, healthcare, a living wage and all manner of progressive changes— was ignored by the corporate media and denied constitutional rights —of speech, peaceable assembly to petition the “government for a redress of grievances”— by unidentified riot police who looked and acted like police-state goons; where, if you’re “the people,” ordinary citizens trying not to go bankrupt, well, you’re on your own, as Obama says about Bush’s “ownership” society; but, if you’re Wall Street —corporate America— well, hey, here’s 750 billion dollars for you! You know what I mean. So, isn’t the notion of “democratic” capitalism an oxymoron? Just how much influence do we demos have, anyway?
      No. Better terms would be totalitarian capitalism, given that our previous mixed economy is moving closer and closer to a condition of absolute intolerance of regulation and democratic controls on industry (thus, you have the Republicans bailing out of the bailout because they want more(!) de-regulation); or fascistic capitalism, given that corporations and government are nearly completely merged, i.e. gone fascist.

      Here’s what I wrote to the chairman of the economics department: “I don't share your confidence that the ‘financial meltdown won't get any worse,’ however. For a long time now I've been watching the de-regulation trend —laissez-faire, "trickle-down" Reaganomics— and those who have been doing their best to destroy the New Deal and everything good about it; and this current crisis seems totally consistent with their anti-democratic desires. The next thing, after they add this next hundreds of billions to the government's already huge debt, will be to say, Oh so sorry, we're going to have to privatize Social Security now, i.e., destroy it— the funds are gone...oops!" I mean, it's all so obvious. So, that's what I mean by ‘worse;’ and, it would be unbearably worse for me, since I am living off my Social Security benefits now.”

      I hope I am wrong and he is right. Let’s see if McCain suspends his campaign entirely, when the bailout completely fails. It wouldn’t surprise me, given his weird threat not to attend the debate tonight, if that’s not a hint of things to come. Will Bush’s sudden fear-mongering over the economy morph into an excuse to delay the election, when he can make a case that the economy is in collapse?
      Just connecting the dots...but remaining hopeful that these are merely the natural, though unfounded, fears that trickle down during times like these.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The One True Maverick

...which cannot be said of McCain or Palin

      Let’s get one thing straight: The only true maverick running for president this year is Ralph Nader.
      How do we know Nader is the maverick and not just another opportunistic politician (McCain and Palin) trying to con the American people and corrupting the language in the process, or some nut-case, waving his arms from the sidelines? Well, aside from his life-long record of system-bucking battles against entrenched wrongs on behalf of you and me, consider his exclusion from the debates; consider how he is reviled not only by conservatives —his natural enemies— but by Democrats as well, those who, in a better world, would cherish him as kin and as the most steadfast advocate and hero of their ideals, you know, democratic ideals and principles, those little things the Dems left behind, like wussies in accordance with power, corruption and corporate allegiance?
      See, that’s the thing about mavericks—they’re outside the mainstream. McCain and Palin? Hello, there’s nothing outside about them: McCain has voted to support Bush policy 90% of the time; has been a constant nurturer of the conservative “nanny state,” of “free” market, laissez-faire, totalitarian capitalism, i.e., those good ol’ powers that be; Palin fulfills both the authoritarian leader and follower mold, which, by definition makes her a blue blood of conformity and allowed her to fit in quite easily at her former church, the Wasilla Assembly of God Church, where they talk in “tongues,” that is, babble in bull doo-doo. No. To describe either McCain or Palin as a maverick is not only to put lipstick on that metaphorical pig; it is to give it a complete make-over and a nose job to boot.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Why Voters Should Not Trust John McCain’s Word on Anything

“Well, it’s quite simple,” said Condi Rice today in her testimony before the Senate Ethics Committee. “You see, he was forever telling us that this...

...was eight inches.”


Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fun Encounters at the Post Office

The satisfactions of not biting my tongue

      The woman in line ahead of me at the post office said to her two children, “Stop it. Stand still, or I’m going to pinch you hard.”
      I noticed the woman had some sort of Christian literature to send; I noticed the hard expression on her face; I noticed how her children’s faces went from happy innocence, as they giggled and jostled each other, to fear and foreboding after their mother’s threat.
      Then I heard her respond to something one of them had asked: “No...” she answered harshly, as she stepped away from the line to go up to the counter, “...that wouldn’t be Christian!”
      “...and neither is pinching your children,” I said. The timing was perfect. She heard me but didn’t have a chance to hit me over the head, like she probably does to her children behind closed doors.
      Many parents think they own their children and think nobody has a right interfere with their parenting. The are wrong; children belong to themselves first, but because abused children grow up either to be problems to themselves or to society, you and I have a right to correct parents, when parents abuse their children in our presence. In fact, not to speak up is a way of condoning abuse.

      After I reached the counter and my package was being processed, somewhere during the lively conversation I was having with the postal clerk, I heard myself say, “thank goodness for FDR and Social Security!” This seemed to strike a simpatico chord with the clerk, who then leaned forward to whisper a tidbit from his own political mind: “Can you believe women voters are so stupid they would vote for a woman, simply because she’s a woman?!” Well, I tried to tell him it was all media lies, that mainstream women aren’t going to vote for what I call the McCain/Palin-Comparison ticket, but he was on a roll— “What a pack of idiots, eh?”
      The fallacy here, the one the media tend to use, is the notion of the pack. The real idiots are the ones who say, “The American people...” this or that. Or, “Women want...” this or that. “White males...” vote this way or that. I don’t think you can generalize in that way. I think there is far less homogeneity out there, and people are way more complex and individual than that. Having said as much, I will now contradict myself by saying right-wing conservatives do tend to behave as a pack, whereas liberals do not. As Jim Hightower once said, “Trying to organize Democrats is like trying to load frogs into a wheelbarrow.”
      What do you think?


Sunday, September 7, 2008

St.Paul, The Little City that Could ....Be Fascist

If your police look and act like
militarized, American-style jackboots,
you just might be a police state

      Given the assaults the City of St. Paul perpetrated against the Bill of Rights and the Constitution during this week's Republican National Convention, I could complain at length, reminding city officials of their sworn duty to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, that is, America. However, they know these things, and, they don’t care. Clearly, they planned from the start to engage in political repression; they had every intention of violating the Constitution and continuing to do so, regardless of the consequences, which they knew would be minimal—the city had made a deal with the Republican Party prior to the convention, one that rendered the city immune from lawsuits, to the tune of $10,000,000, the amount the Republicans were willing to cover for whatever lawsuits were incurred over Republican-approved, civil-liberties violations by the police.
      Thus we saw the city attorneys, the mayor and the police chief employing a twisted logic in arresting, charging and detaining journalists, photographers, protesters and those who were on the streets of St. Paul to bear witness and hold the city to its responsibility to protect civil liberty in a free society; that is why we saw the law in St. Paul represented by American-style jackboots, bearing nunchucks, clubs, assault rifles, tasers; dropping concussion grenades(!), smoke bombs, and all manner and means of repressing speech and dissent; that is why we heard first-hand testimony by victims of police who engaged in torture behind closed prison doors and in public, where the police apparently thought they had permission to bully political activists. Clearly, the city was guilty, and they planned on denying their guilt and pretending to be concerned about "terrorism," when it is America's movement toward a Pinochet-style dictatorship they defended.

      I would be happy if anyone can prove me wrong. If the charges are dropped against Amy Goodman and any and all journalists or peaceful protesters, who did nothing but exercise their Constitutional rights, and we never again see such a brutal demonstration of militarized police in an American city, I will say, “Sorry, I was wrong.” I will be happy to say it. However, I see dark clouds forming— incrementally, the American people have been programmed to accept the militarization of our police and the normalization of attacks against and violations of our civil liberties, and so the authoritarians are secure in the assumption that the American people won’t make a stink. Just take a look at the program “Cops,” if you doubt it. House raids by SWAT teams, SWAT, which was originally intended for “high-risk operations that fall outside of the abilities of regular patrol officers,” have become the norm, as is seen regularly on TruTv, MSNBC and elsewhere. This should be stopped. The use of SWAT teams against civilian demonstrators should be stopped too, now that we see just how creepy and terrorizing it is; but it won’t be. I think the signs are clear: we are here, now—the fascist state has arrived, and there’s no turning back.
      Some say the behavior of the police in St. Paul and Denver seemed like practice for something worse to come—soon. I would not be at all surprised. The Bush administration and the Republicans, with Democratic help, have pulled off every criminal thing they could think of, without consequence. What’s to stop them now from postponing the election and installing their version of the Third Reich, that is, a third term for the Bush dictatorship?
      It doesn’t hurt to repeat myself, and these days it is even more important to remind people that the other side of the coin of paranoia is naiveté. Let’s not be naive—government of, by, and for corporations —fascism— is our reality, and that oppressive reality will stop at nothing to have its way.
      Bless their souls, the ACLU is busy with lawsuits over these things. That wonderful organization needs our help now, more than ever.


Sunday, August 31, 2008

Kvetching toward Bethlehem, or Slouching toward Extinction?

How the history of courage, rage, and change got lost during the Democratic National Convention

      Hillary Clinton had some nerve, harking back to the civil rights and women’s suffrage struggles in her speech before the Democratic National Convention—as if she and the Democratic Party were today’s party of the people, as if she were in a position to equate herself, her Party and the teachers, nurses and police officers she referred to in her speech with those activists of the past! Sorry, Hillary—it’s a specious comparison, and shame on you for your dishonest exploiting of history to propagandize your audience.

      “These women and men looked into their daughters' eyes, imagined a fairer and freer world, and found the strength to fight. To rally and picket. To endure ridicule and harassment. To brave violence and jail...This is the story of America. Of women and men who defy the odds and never give up.”

      This, while outside the convention Cindy Sheehan, Ward Churchill, Code Pink, Iraq Veterans Against the War, and thousands of true activists —today’s equivalents of those who struggled for equal rights and the vote in the past— faced the oppressive forces of Homeland Security, FBI, and nunchuck-carrying, CS gas-spraying, unidentified Denver police—and Hillary ignored it all, making nary a peep about Denver’s “free speech” zones, nor about harassment of dissenters, nor about protest cages...not to mention torture for detainees, secret rendition, illegal wiretapping, violations of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, or any of the other crimes of the Bush Administration.
      Regardless, you would think Barack Obama was the second coming! This, despite the fact that both he and Hillary Clinton have supported “free” trade, with its nasty effects on the human rights of indigenous people and the economic lives of millions of American workers. This, despite his rhetoric in support of “clean” coal, as if there is such a thing, as if the coal industry, “clean” or otherwise, does not damage the environment and the lives of hundreds of thousands Americans every day; this, despite his intention to send more troops into Afghanistan, kowtowing to the delusion that military force and occupation can ever bring peace there; this, despite his support for Israel, which has become what it —and we— despised during the Second World War, that is, a right-wing occupier and human rights abuser of people it doesn’t honor, whose land and property it wants to own.
      Sure, it was wonderful to see an American candidacy for president represented by a black man. This is great. It heals deep wounds. Still, it does not erase certain facts, and Obama’s skin color is less important than his allegiances. And we now know what those are, given his dishonorable and corrupt betrayal of the American people and the 4th Amendment to the Constitution with his Yes vote for the FISA bill, which gave immunity from prosecution to At&T and other telecom companies, for illegal wiretapping of American citizens; At&t, which was one of the corporate hosts of the Democratic Convention. (Funny how that works, isn’t it?)
      Millions of Americans are snagged on Obama’s gossamer threads of rhetoric about hope and change, and from there are taken on a heady ride, where all things become possible. The problem is, that’s not how change, the kind of change that will turn this empire back into a democratic republic, usually happens. It’s not happy, hopeful thoughts, or some supernaturally endowed, great leader, that will get the job done. The powers that be do not care about your hopes, your dreams, or what your charismatic leader thinks would be a damn fine thing to do; it is not by the goodness of their hearts that anti-democratic forces in culture change their ways. No. Change happens when ordinary people get damn angry enough to demand it, and demand it in loud, kvetching, furious, complaining tones.
      The women who fought for the vote did not wait for an Obama, nor did they worry about being labeled as extremists, or radicals, or commies, or socialists, or threats to the all-American, patriarchal family. Nor did they feel they needed to couch their demands in nice, lady-like, diplomatic terms, to avoid seeming like angry hussies, which I’m sure they were called. Instead, their Declaration of Sentiments has a list of seventeen complaints, each beginning with “He has”, and so forth, a list of human rights abuses done for so long by men against women that anger had to be the only proper tone of their declaration.
      We face equal and worse threats to human rights, democracy, economic security —the life of the planet!— today. You would think the people would wake up, as Dennis Kucinich’s clarion call at the Convention so eloquently urged us to do— and take to the streets, or at least support those who do put themselves at risk there. But no. To the average American, to conservative Democrats, which includes Hillary Clinton, and to Republicans in Congress, those activists are “extremists,” “radicals,” “persons of interest,” persons to put on a list of possible terrorists, persons to violate. And so we get the same ol’, same ol’, crap—politicians posing as sweet-talking progressives, likening themselves and their supporters to heroes of the past, who then make a sharp turn to the right, as soon as they’ve nailed the election. Thus, nothing changes, and here we go again, seduced and abandoned, slouching toward extinction.
      I am going to remember that anger over injustice is not a sign of depression or some sort of new psychological disorder needing the latest pill; remember what St. Augustine said: “Hope has two children, anger and courage; anger at the way things are and courage to make them better.”

—L.M. (and please feel VERY free to make a comment)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Waking Up Radical

Nightmares during the Bush Administration, a first person narrative

“An abnormal reaction to an abnormal situation is normal.” —Abraham Maslow via Viktor Frankl

      One morning last week, I broke out of a dream in a panic, breathing hard and fast, as if I’d been running, as if I couldn’t get enough air. Of course, I hadn’t been running; I was in bed asleep, stuck there motionless, like in the dream, where I tried to run for help but couldn’t, while a fish I loved (!) began to drown in the bowl of tap water I had put him in. Unable to get help, or to find the de-chlorinator that would enable him to breathe in tap water, I gathered him in my two hands, where he fit snugly, and began the dream-state option of artificial respiration, compressing and releasing his rib cage, and watching his gape and bulging eyes for signs of recovery. It was almost working. But then I began to internalize his struggle—I couldn’t breathe either, and my panic set in.
      This was not at all like my usual experience of waking, where the mixture of dream and reality is so lovely I want to prolong the event, finding powers there I never have when I am awake. Instead, it was a desperation to breathe, while realizing, gratefully, it was only a dream.
      Then, as I recovered my breath and woke up, I began to think about the part that was not a dream, the part about the tap water, the sad reality that we have so badly contaminated our environment, we need to put chlorine in the tap water to make it safe to drink; but, in the process, we have made this water unsafe for fish. You do not want to put your goldfish in a bowl of chlorinated tap water, not in Southern California. You either need to let the water sit for a day and let the chlorine evaporate, or you have to add de-chlorinator to it, which neutralizes the chlorine, so that delicate cells in fish gills do not die.
      I don’t want to start sounding like Grandma, but, back in the day —let’s say, in the 50’s— you could fill a fish bowl with tap water and plop your guppies in it, no problem. And the water tasted like water is supposed to taste—yummy. Now we have to filter it to get a tolerable taste, or we opt for bottled water, which isn’t any safer than tap water for drinking.
      This situation, our plight, is normal for us now, while the memory of what used to be our blessing —clean water brought to us from far away— fades from consciousness, and we accept this lesser life without question.

      Leaving aside the basic symbolism of my fish dream, where perhaps I expressed fears for myself after breast cancer, and considering the possibility that the dream arose during a sleep apnea incident, I wonder about this fish—how I loved it, how it was about to die, how I was losing it, how nobody could be found to help, how nobody cared, how it was terribly important, how I couldn’t save it, and how its life was slipping away. Isn’t that how I feel about so many things these days—the life of the planet, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, democracy, the balancing power of Congress, the Supreme Court and Justice Department, accountability, a free and independent press, the rule of law...peace...even a president I can believe in? (Now we see Bush exposed as a relapsed alcoholic, and Pelosi still makes no move to impeach!) Isn’t a dream like that the natural consequence of the frustration, helplessness and oppressive quality of life during the Bush Administration? That is, it’s not as though politics, and the public values I love, are external to my life. I don’t think so. They are central.
      Just before I woke up this morning, an old Asian woman in my dream, a shopkeeper, shook her fist at me and demanded, “What about Iraq—how do you like that? And Gaza, what is it? It is nothing but a concentration camp!” and on and on. It was as if she held me responsible, as if she took me for a Republican, someone she had a right to rail at. I felt embarrassed and offended to be taken for a conservative, and yelled back, “Hey! I’m not the enemy! I hate the war! I hate the occupation! I hate George W. Bush...”
      Even in my dreams...

      I also wonder about the panic and urgency expressed in these dreams. It reminds me of an old advertisement I used to see in the New Yorker. Each month, a stylized cartoon would depict a frantic character racing around a room, desperately trying to arouse the attention of the other characters in the cartoon as to a fire, or some other dire threat, while being totally ignored, because everybody is reading the paper. I believe the caption was, “Everybody Reads the Post,” but my memory is fuzzy on this. (and Google search fruitless) In any case, a lot of us feel like that frantic character. Amazing bad things are going on, but most Americans are too busy with their favorite diversion, or entertainment, to notice. Many of us are too somatized (remember Brave New World?) to have the energy and passion to stage a protest, let alone start a revolution—or, better yet, restore the meaning of the first revolution.
      I wish I could say the optimists, all the hard-working people out there who are trying to bring about progressive change, all agog for Obama, are helping. It amazes me how many Democrats prefer not to know what is going on, choose not to question reality or authority, do not search voting records, refuse to listen to outside voices and alternative news programming, prefer not to read about politics, fail to connect the dots, abandon the notion of ethics and accountability in favor of “forgiveness” and “looking forward,” and manage to float happily through life, being nearly as uninformed, conforming and brainwashed as the conservatives they feel superior to. Apparently, it is best to tip-toe around the doggy-doo of doubt, dissent, and dread, that is, the truth, so as to keep the tidy shoes of denial stink-free. One does not want the odor of negativity, which has come to translate as depression, even insanity, following oneself around. It’s just so off-putting, you know? You don’t ever want to smell like a “conspiracy theorist.” For example, so what if nothing makes sense about the official theory of the collapse of the World Trade Center and building #7, like NOTHING; better to scoff at the unbearable alternative, so as not to look like a nut. Well, you’re an American—gotta be chirpy; gotta be up-beat.
      I used to wonder how the German people allowed Hitler and the holocaust to happen. Were they also averse to thinking the unthinkable truth about their government? Did they also engage in a reflexive denial that said, “Oh, that’s impossible.” But now that I have watched Democrats veer farther and farther toward the right, working so hard to avoid being stigmatized —extremist, left-wing radical, commie, conspiracy nut, hippy, unpatriotic, anti-semitic, terrorist sympathizer— that they abandon true democratic values, liberal values, in favor of conservative values, I understand. The labeling is out there; they hear it, and they resist, not by exposing it as shaming, as a manipulation, but by being manipulated, by identifying themselves as “centrist,” to ensure they are not a member of that outside, “dishonorable” group, by moving to the “center,” which today is, in actuality, a right-wing position. I do believe this is self-inflicted social control. Rather than fighting back, by coming up with rhetorical jabs in response —conformist, sheep, fascist, naive sleep-walker, corporatist, unpatriotic, oppressor, torture lover— the timid among us say, “We are above such negativity. We are peace-loving, caring, people, and we will not stoop to their level.” Nonsense. Such talk is a rationalization, where fear, brainwashing, and powerlessness have taken hold. Nor do they defend democratic values in the George Lakoff manner, through better framing, to claim they are: Jeffersonian democrats, critical thinkers, free thinkers, patriotic, human rights advocates— and to stand up for liberal values, to educate others as to what those liberal values are.
      And so, America continues to inch toward a third-world reality with a dwindling middle class, a huge gulf between rich and poor, as, far away, polar bears are drowning, and war is waged forever on behalf of power, wealth and empire.
      All the clichés —outrage fatigue, learned helplessness, crisis of courage, failure of imagination— are true, and here we are, stuck, unable to do what needs to be done to rescue ourselves, from ourselves.

      In the meantime, the circus plays on at the Democratic National Convention, where there’s a lot of rhetoric about change, while nothing changes, except the gradual move toward a police state in the streets of Denver, where the real heroes of democracy are protesting. Unfortunately, we cannot find their point of view in the coverage of the mainstream media. We do, however, have alternative sources of information —clean, uncontaminated, pure, oxygenated good journalism! Dive in. I promise— the water’s fine.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Trekking through Disease Capitalism Where, "Oh Well, Everyone Dies."

“A foolish faith in authority is the worst enemy of truth.” —Albert Einstein

      Losing body parts to breast cancer was pretty much the opposite of fun. Nevertheless, in 2001 I had a partial mastectomy on my left breast, and in 2007 a full mastectomy of my right breast—two different kinds of breast cancer.

      My current oncologist suggested awhile ago that I go on the drug Aromasin, now that I am done with chemo and radiation for the second time in my life.

      In 2001 my first oncologist wanted me to take Tamoxifin and became incensed when I told him I didn’t like the idea and would be getting a second opinion. The second opinion agreed I should go on Tamoxifin. I said, “But the drug is a carcinogen.” She answered, “Oh don’t worry about that. We’ll keep an eye on it.” I thought to myself, “What does that mean? You’re going to know the day before I get endometrial cancer?”

      The next oncologist wanted me to take Arimidex; yet another suggested the drug Femara.

      I cannot help wondering why each doctor has a different plan for me—could it be they just don’t have any idea what they’re doing? Naw-w-w...

      Tamoxifen has a black box warning label now and is listed as a carcinogen. The other drugs are “aromatase inhibitors,” and whether or not they are carcinogens has yet to be determined. My understanding is that these new drugs are supposed to limit the body’s production of tumor-feeding estrogen by “deactivating the aromatase enzyme,” an enzyme that converts androgens into estrogens, a perfectly normal aspect of my body’s functioning, one that protects me from osteoporosis.

      Aromasin does something the other drugs do not do, that is, the deactivation it performs of a cell’s aromatase enzyme is irreversible—what is morbidly referred to as “suicide inhibition.” Add to that a myriad of bad to worse side-effects, which my oncologist didn’t mention but which I found in reports on the internet, such as hot flashes, severe joint pain, painful feet, sleeplessness, increased aggressiveness, and on and on, meaning that a strong percentage of patients decide the fear of a recurrence of breast cancer is worth enduring, if only to have a return of the quality of life, and freedom from the miseries caused by this pill.

      What ever happened to “first do no harm?” I already have hot flashes, joint pain, sore feet, and occasional insomnia—how would taking a pill that causes more of such misery be harmless? Also, it turns out Aromasin is used by body-builders. It’s a steroidal drug! So, besides the sweat, pain, sleeplessness, and hostility, I should go Arnold too?

      Doctors sometimes get frustrated with me. I am supposed to ignore facts and trust them. I am supposed to have a flat learning curve and just go along with the program. I am not supposed to connect the dots, not supposed to think critically about their treatment plans.

      I used to trust my doctors. Then began my journey through menopause. I wasn’t particularly bothered by this natural transition of womanhood, but apparently my primary care doctor, an internist, was hugely disturbed by it. It was as if not to go on Hormone Replacement Therapy, specifically estrogen, was to wither away from true womanhood toward something unspeakably hideous and diseased. He had just the thing to fix me. He even called me at home to advocate on behalf of Premarin, going so far as to argue with me about it.

      Eventually, I gave in, and once I was “addicted” to the pill, every subsequent doctor over a ten-year span gladly filled my prescriptions, and I unknowingly became a guinea pig in what one author referred to as The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women. No proper studies had been done on HRT at the time I first began taking it, no randomized trials, but, based on nothing more than anecdotal evidence, all the doctors went crazy for it. Only recently have we have had the proper studies, and the results were not good:

According to the Million Women’s Study, for one (The Lancet):
• Estrogen-progestin use increased breast cancer by 19 per 1,000 women.
• Estrogen-alone use increased breast cancer by 5 per 1,000 women.

      Regardless, in the year 2000, according to IMS Health, U.S. doctors wrote 23,454,000 prescriptions for Premarin.

      Okay, correct me if I'm wrong: 23,454,000 @ 5 per 1000 women = 117,270 extra cases, among the prescription holders who will get breast cancer, assuming the group stays on Premarin more than five years—this, from the use of Premarin alone.

      But physicians and gynecologists are still prescribing it, still advertising it in their offices, and still lamely defending its use, as if they don’t look like ethical morons to claim that stopping hot flashes is worth the risk of developing breast cancer. The FDA still has not banned this horrible drug, nor limited its use.

      So there I was: I had been using Premarin for ten years when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a shock I still have not recovered from fully. Certainly, it was something I never anticipated: no woman in my family had ever had breast cancer; I have two older sisters who are breast cancer free (they never took HRT); I was not a drinker nor a smoker; I didn’t eat red meat—heck, I was a vegetarian. Did any of my doctors apologize for this medical atrocity, which left me missing body parts and bereft of confidence in my future? Nope. Not one word of remorse. In fact, one charming oncologist, upon hearing my complaint about being robbed of my golden years by HRT, said, “Well, everyone dies.”

      Let’s face it: we live in a culture where greed is good and the profit motive is sacrosanct. As patients we like to think the pharmaceutical industry that instructs and assists our hapless doctors in treating us are good people who would love to rid us of our diseases. But the reality is that breast cancer is an industry, a cash cow for the entire medical industrial complex; and, whether those who profit from our sickness admit it or not, they don’t want to find a cure for cancer— think of the profit losses, were a cure to be found!

      Paranoia? Conspiracy theory?

      Consider this example: DCA, dichloroacetate, is a drug that shows real promise as a cure for many kinds of cancers, including breast cancer. Dr. Evangelos Michelakis, a professor at the University of Alberta Department of Medicine in Canada, is currently researching this “inexpensive, relatively harmless,” drug. Has the pharmaceutical industry rushed to fund this research, or to do the research itself? Gosh O golly, NO! Don’t you know DCA is not patented—there’s no profit to be made off the drug? Did you think the industry would be interested in finding a cure anyway, for the sake of humanity, for the sake of you and me? Are you dreaming? As reality has it, Dr. Michelakis will just have to scrape up the funds for his research from independent donors. The big guys just don’t care.

      Consider another example, as a clue to the moral character and motives of the corporate owners and managers who bring our world of chemicals and pharmaceuticals to us:

• In 2000, Novartis —insecticides, the herbicide, atrazine— and AstraZeneca —agro-chemicals and pharmaceuticals— formed Syngenta through the merger of their agricultural divisions.
• Syngenta makes and sells both aromatase promoters and inhibitors, both atrazine and Arimidex, for example.
• Atrazine, a widely used weed killer, is an aromatase promoter, an endocrine disrupter. Atrazine was denied regulatory approval in the European Union—it’s banned in Europe. It CAUSES breast cancer.
• The United States uses about 80 million pounds of atrazine every year. It is in the water, folks.

      How tidy is that vicious cycle? With one hand, they cause breast cancer, by contaminating the environment with atrazine; with the other hand, they treat the breast cancer they caused in the first place, with aromatase inhibitors, to the tune of billions: “Worldwide sales of aromatase inhibitors have increased from approximately $340 million in 2001 to more than $1.2 billion in 2004, representing an annual growth rate of 52%.”

      Of course, Syngenta denies that its product causes breast cancer and has bribed researchers and quashed the findings of honest researchers, using the full force of its power to attack the truth about atrazine. You would think, if the CEO’s and managers at Syngesta cared about the health and safety of people and the environment, they would listen to bad news about the dangers posed by their product and remove it from the market. You would think...but that would be in a world where people come before profits. This, clearly, is not that world.

      You would also like to hope that Syngenta, and companies like it, would not want be responsible for contributing to an epidemic of breast cancer. But that would be a world where corporations were peopled by folks with consciences, where corporations are not peopled by sociopaths. This is not that world. Instead, this is a world where killing people for profit isn’t personal— it’s business, so that, if people die, well, “everyone dies”. Why not make a profit, while the gettin’s good?

      Just between you and me, it seems to me that if corporations insist on being legal “persons,” with all the rights afforded to persons in the Constitution, then they ought to be judged as persons in the criminal justice system—that is, if they kill people for profit, then try to suppress the evidence, they should be prosecuted for murder. The CEO’s, managers and boards of directors of these criminal entities need to go to prison. Enough of this lawsuit crap; they just count those losses as part of the cost of doing business. (Although verdicts can serve to validate the common sense finding of damage done.) No. They need pay a real price for first contaminating the environment, then, when we get sick, profiting again from our sickness.

      I discussed a few of these facts and issues with my oncologist the other day. I asked him how oncologists decide which aromatase inhibitor to recommend. Quite honestly, he said there was no logic to it, no evidence of one drug being any better than any other; sometimes the decision is based on whether or not a drug company has charity programs for patients. He laughed: “We just don’t know!”

      He also listened to my complaints about drug companies and agreed with me. He took notes on my information about DCA and web sites devoted to patient experiences with aromatase inhibitors. Best of all he didn’t push Aromasin on me. Then he kissed me on the cheek, when we said good-bye.

      I do think he is one of the good guys. Some do care, some are as frustrated as their patients with the industry, the system. I want to think I am in good hands, but I hesitate.

      Ralph Nader said, “The profit motive corrupts all things." Sadly, trust is among the casualties, as in, collateral damage.