Frank Zappa: Fascist Theocracy

Advertisements
Posted in government, politics | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Sensible Gun Laws Needed

Letter to the Editor/ Monterey Herald/ October 12, 2017

The media is trying hard to figure out the motive for the Las Vegas shooter’s massacre of so many innocent people. Interesting for sure, but far less important than figuring out what laws are needed to prevent a monster like him from acquiring the dangerous weapons he used. That is where our attention should be focused. The gun lobby has gotten what they want for long enough. Sensible gun laws are long overdue.

Arlen Grossman

guns

Posted in crime, government, gun control, politics, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

TRUMP: WHAT CAN WE DO?

Our Democracy Could Be Sunk By a President Adrift

By Eugene Robinson/ Arcamax/ October 10, 2017

WASHINGTON — The truth can no longer be ignored: Donald Trump is dangerously unfit to be president and could lead the nation to unthinkable disaster. So what are we going to do about it?

The White House “has become an adult day care center,” where the president’s senior aides spend “every single day … trying to contain him.” That terrifying bit of information was disclosed Sunday by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., whose decision not to run for re-election has freed him to point out that the emperor is indeed naked.

“Look, except for a few people, the vast majority of our caucus understands what we’re dealing with here,” Corker told The New York Times. His colleagues in the GOP Senate majority “understand the volatility that we’re dealing with and the tremendous amount of work that it takes by people around [Trump] to keep him in the middle of the road.” Trump treats the presidency as if it were “a reality show” and is so erratic that he could put us “on the path to World War III.”

The shocking thing is that Corker is merely saying out loud what many others say in private. Trump is not qualified, by temperament or character, to exercise the awesome powers of the presidency. A man who acts like a bratty, vindictive child has been given the power to launch nuclear weapons.

He has three years and three months remaining in his presidential term. What are we going to do?

Trump

Corker counts on “those people who are closely working with him, what I would call the good guys” — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and chief of staff John Kelly — to keep the apocalypse at bay. But no one can prevent all potential damage. Trump petulantly sabotages the health care system because it bears his predecessor’s name. He cynically amplifies white racial grievance for political gain. He unnerves our longtime allies and recklessly goads our adversaries. He lies so shamelessly that he defiles the honor of the office held by Washington and Lincoln.

The alarming problem isn’t Trump’s policies, to the extent he has any coherent set of policy positions. This crisis isn’t about conservative governance versus progressive governance. It’s about soundness of mind and judgment.

The Constitution does not offer much of a playbook for the situation we find ourselves in. Impeachment is reserved for “high crimes and misdemeanors” — a phrase that means anything Congress wants it to mean. Assume special counsel Robert Mueller eventually concludes that Trump obstructed justice or even participated in a collusion scheme with the Russians. Would Speaker Paul Ryan and the Republican majority in the House actually move to impeach the president? Or would they be too fearful of the wrath of the GOP base? Unless the evidence were overwhelming, would there really be enough votes in the Senate to remove Trump from office?

I’m skeptical on all counts. Impeachment is, and will remain, a very long shot.

 

The 25th Amendment allows the vice president and a majority of the Cabinet to relieve Trump of his powers, with Congress the ultimate arbiter if Trump were to protest. But this procedure — intended for when a president suffers, for example, a debilitating stroke — looks plausible only as a fail-safe mechanism if the president literally starts howling at the moon and trying to launch nuclear missiles. Let’s pray it doesn’t come to that.

Our most likely course of action is containment. The generals who play nanny at the “adult day care center” are already acting as the first line of defense. Corker and his colleagues in Congress must begin acting as the second.

Congress has great powers of investigation and oversight. The House has primacy in exercising the power of the purse; the Senate has the responsibility to advise and grant — or withhold — consent. Back in January, Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell might have dreamed that Trump, whatever his failings, would at least allow them to implement an orthodox GOP agenda. By now they must realize how wrong they were.

Posted in Donald Trump, government, politics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

WARS: WHO KNEW?

How We Learned Not To Care About America’s Wars

 By Andrew Bacevich/ TomDispatch/ October 5, 2017

wars

Consider, if you will, these two indisputable facts.  First, the United States is today more or less permanently engaged in hostilities in not one faraway place, but at least seven.  Second, the vast majority of the American people could not care less.

Nor can it be said that we don’t care because we don’t know.  True, government authorities withhold certain aspects of ongoing military operations or release only details that they find convenient.  Yet information describing what U.S. forces are doing (and where) is readily available, even if buried in recent months by barrages of presidential tweets.  Here, for anyone interested, are press releases issued by United States Central Command for just one recent week:

September 19: Military airstrikes continue against ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq

September 20: Military airstrikes continue against ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq

Iraqi Security Forces begin Hawijah offensive

September 21: Military airstrikes continue against ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq

September 22: Military airstrikes continue against ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq

September 23: Military airstrikes continue against ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq

Operation Inherent Resolve Casualty

September 25: Military airstrikes continue against ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq

September 26: Military airstrikes continue against ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq

Ever since the United States launched its war on terror, oceans of military press releases have poured forth.  And those are just for starters.  To provide updates on the U.S. military’s various ongoing campaigns, generals, admirals, and high-ranking defense officials regularly testify before congressional committees or brief members of the press.  From the field, journalists offer updates that fill in at least some of the details — on civilian casualties, for example — that government authorities prefer not to disclose.  Contributors to newspaper op-ed pages and “experts” booked by network and cable TV news shows, including passels of retired military officers, provide analysis.  Trailing behind come books and documentaries that put things in a broader perspective.

But here’s the truth of it.  None of it matters.

Like traffic jams or robocalls, war has fallen into the category of things that Americans may not welcome, but have learned to live with.  In twenty-first-century America, war is not that big a deal.

While serving as defense secretary in the 1960s, Robert McNamara once mused that the “greatest contribution” of the Vietnam War might have been to make it possible for the United States “to go to war without the necessity of arousing the public ire.” With regard to the conflict once widely referred to as McNamara’s War, his claim proved grotesquely premature.  Yet a half-century later, his wish has become reality.

Why do Americans today show so little interest in the wars waged in their name and at least nominally on their behalf?  Why, as our wars drag on and on, doesn’t the disparity between effort expended and benefits accrued arouse more than passing curiosity or mild expressions of dismay? Why, in short, don’t we give a [expletive deleted]? 

Perhaps just posing such a question propels us instantly into the realm of the unanswerable, like trying to figure out why people idolize Justin Bieber, shoot birds, or watch golf on television. 

Without any expectation of actually piercing our collective ennui, let me take a stab at explaining why we don’t give a @#$%&!  Here are eight distinctive but mutually reinforcing explanations, offered in a sequence that begins with the blindingly obvious and ends with the more speculative.  

Americans don’t attend all that much to ongoing American wars because:

1. U.S. casualty rates are low. By using proxies and contractors, and relying heavily on airpower, America’s war managers have been able to keep a tight lid on the number of U.S. troops being killed and wounded.  In all of 2017, for example, a grand total of 11 Americansoldiers have been lost in Afghanistan — about equal to the number of shooting deaths in Chicago over the course of a typical week. True, in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries where the U.S. is engaged in hostilities, whether directly or indirectly, plenty of people who are not Americans are being killed and maimed.  (The estimated number of Iraqi civilians killed this year alone exceeds 12,000.) But those casualties have next to no political salience as far as the United States is concerned.  As long as they don’t impede U.S. militaryoperations, they literally don’t count (and generally aren’t counted).

2. The true costs of Washington’s wars go untabulated.  In a famous speech, dating from early in his presidency, Dwight D. Eisenhower said that “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”  Dollars spent on weaponry, Ike insisted, translated directly into schools, hospitals, homes, highways, and power plants that would go unbuilt.  “This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense,” he continued.  “[I]t is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.” More than six decades later, Americans have long since accommodated themselves to that cross of iron.  Many actually see it as a boon, a source of corporate profits, jobs, and, of course, campaign contributions.  As such, they avert their eyes from the opportunity costs of our never-ending wars.  The dollars expended pursuant to our post-9/11 conflicts will ultimately number in the multi-trillions.  Imagine the benefits of investing such sumsin upgrading the nation’s aging infrastructure.  Yet don’t count on Congressional leaders, other politicians, or just about anyone else to pursue that connection.

3. On matters related to war, American citizens have opted out.  Others have made the point so frequently that it’s the equivalent of hearing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” at Christmastime.  Even so, it bears repeating: the American people have defined their obligation to “support the troops” in the narrowest imaginable terms, ensuring above all that such support requires absolutely no sacrifice on their part.  Members of Congress abet this civic apathy, while also taking steps to insulate themselves from responsibility.  In effect, citizens and their elected representatives in Washington agree: supporting the troops means deferring to the commander in chief, without inquiring about whether what he has the troops doing makes the slightest sense.  Yes, we set down our beers long enough to applaud those in uniform and boo those who decline to participate in mandatory rituals of patriotism.  What we don’t do is demand anything remotely approximating actual accountability.

4. Terrorism gets hyped and hyped and hyped some more. While international terrorism isn’t a trivial problem (and wasn’t for decades before 9/11), it comes nowhere close to posing an existential threat to the United States.  Indeed, other threats, notably the impact of climate change, constitute a far greater danger to the wellbeing of Americans.  Worried about the safety of your children or grandchildren?  The opioid epidemic constitutes an infinitely greater danger than “Islamic radicalism.”  Yet having been sold a bill of goods about a “war on terror” that is essential for “keeping America safe,” mere citizens are easily persuaded that scattering U.S. troops throughout the Islamic world while dropping bombs on designated evildoers is helping win the former while guaranteeing the latter.  To question that proposition becomes tantamount to suggesting that God might not have given Moses two stone tablets after all.

5. Blather crowds out substance. When it comes to foreign policy, American public discourse is — not to put too fine a point on it — vacuous, insipid, and mindlessly repetitive.  William Safire of the New York Times once characterized American political rhetoric as BOMFOG, with those running for high office relentlessly touting the Brotherhood of Man and the Fatherhood of God.  Ask a politician, Republican or Democrat, to expound on this country’s role in the world, and then brace yourself for some variant of WOSFAD, as the speaker insists that it is incumbent upon the World’s Only Superpower to spread Freedom and Democracy.  Terms like leadership and indispensable are introduced, along with warnings about the dangers of isolationism and appeasement, embellished with ominous references to Munich.  Such grandiose posturing makes it unnecessary to probe too deeply into the actual origins and purposes of American wars, past or present, or assess the likelihood of ongoing wars ending in some approximation of actual success. Cheerleading displaces serious thought.

6. Besides, we’re too busy.  Think of this as a corollary to point five.  Even if the present-day American political scene included figures like Senators Robert La Follette or J. William Fulbright, who long ago warned against the dangers of militarizing U.S. policy, Americans may not retain a capacity to attend to such critiques.  Responding to the demands of the Information Age is not, it turns out, conducive to deep reflection.  We live in an era (so we are told) when frantic multitasking has become a sort of duty and when being overscheduled is almost obligatory.  Our attention span shrinks and with it our time horizon.  The matters we attend to are those that happened just hours or minutes ago.  Yet like the great solar eclipse of 2017 — hugely significant and instantly forgotten — those matters will, within another few minutes or hours, be superseded by some other development that briefly captures our attention.  As a result, a dwindling number of Americans — those not compulsively checking Facebook pages and Twitter accounts — have the time or inclination to ponder questions like: When will the Afghanistan War end?  Why has it lasted almost 16 years?  Why doesn’t the finest fighting force in history actually win?  Can’t package an answer in 140 characters or a 30-second made-for-TV sound bite?  Well, then, slowpoke, don’t expect anyone to attend to what you have to say.

7. Anyway, the next president will save us.  At regular intervals, Americans indulge in the fantasy that, if we just install the right person in the White House, all will be well.  Ambitious politicians are quick to exploit this expectation.  Presidential candidates struggle to differentiate themselves from their competitors, but all of them promise in one way or another to wipe the slate clean and Make America Great Again.  Ignoring the historical record of promises broken or unfulfilled, and presidents who turn out not to be deities but flawed human beings, Americans — members of the media above all — pretend to take all this seriously.  Campaigns become longer, more expensive, more circus-like, and ever less substantial.  One might think that the election of Donald Trump would prompt a downward revision in the exalted expectations of presidents putting things right.  Instead, especially in the anti-Trump camp, getting rid of Trump himself (Collusion!  Corruption!  Obstruction!  Impeachment!) has become the overriding imperative, with little attention given to restoring the balance intended by the framers of the Constitution.  The irony of Trump perpetuating wars that he once roundly criticized and then handing the conduct of those wars to generals devoid of ideas for ending them almost entirely escapes notice.

8. Our culturally progressive military has largely immunized itself from criticism.  As recently as the 1990s, the U.S. military establishment aligned itself with the retrograde side of the culture wars.  Who can forget the gays-in-the-military controversy that rocked Bill Clinton’s administration during his first weeks in office, as senior military leaders publicly denounced their commander-in-chief?  Those days are long gone.  Culturally, the armed forces have moved left.  Today, the services go out of their way to project an image of tolerance and a commitment to equality on all matters related to race, gender, and sexuality.  So when President Trump announced his opposition to transgendered persons serving in the armed forces, tweeting that the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,” senior officers politely but firmly disagreed and pushed back.  Given the ascendency of cultural issues near the top of the U.S. political agenda, the military’s embrace of diversity helps to insulate it from criticism and from being called to account for a less than sterling performance in waging wars.  Put simply, critics who in an earlier day might have blasted military leaders for their inability to bring wars to a successful conclusion hold their fire.  Having women graduate from Ranger School or command Marines in combat more than compensates for not winning.

A collective indifference to war has become an emblem of contemporary America.  But don’t expect your neighbors down the street or the editors of the New York Times to lose any sleep over that fact.  Even to notice it would require them — and us — to care.

Nor can it be said that we don’t care because we don’t know.  True, government authorities withhold certain aspects of ongoing military operations or release only details that they find convenient.  Yet information describing what U.S. forces are doing (and where) is readily available, even if buried in recent months by barrages of presidential tweets.  Here, for anyone interested, are press releases issued by United States Central Command for just one recent week:

September 19: Military airstrikes continue against ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq

September 20: Military airstrikes continue against ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq

Iraqi Security Forces begin Hawijah offensive

September 21: Military airstrikes continue against ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq

September 22: Military airstrikes continue against ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq

September 23: Military airstrikes continue against ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq

Operation Inherent Resolve Casualty

September 25: Military airstrikes continue against ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq

September 26: Military airstrikes continue against ISIS terrorists in Syria and Iraq

Ever since the United States launched its war on terror, oceans of military press releases have poured forth.  And those are just for starters.  To provide updates on the U.S. military’s various ongoing campaigns, generals, admirals, and high-ranking defense officials regularly testify before congressional committees or brief members of the press.  From the field, journalists offer updates that fill in at least some of the details — on civilian casualties, for example — that government authorities prefer not to disclose.  Contributors to newspaper op-ed pages and “experts” booked by network and cable TV news shows, including passels of retired military officers, provide analysis.  Trailing behind come books and documentaries that put things in a broader perspective.

But here’s the truth of it.  None of it matters.

Like traffic jams or robocalls, war has fallen into the category of things that Americans may not welcome, but have learned to live with.  In twenty-first-century America, war is not that big a deal.

While serving as defense secretary in the 1960s, Robert McNamara once mused that the “greatest contribution” of the Vietnam War might have been to make it possible for the United States “to go to war without the necessity of arousing the public ire.” With regard to the conflict once widely referred to as McNamara’s War, his claim proved grotesquely premature.  Yet a half-century later, his wish has become reality.

Why do Americans today show so little interest in the wars waged in their name and at least nominally on their behalf?  Why, as our wars drag on and on, doesn’t the disparity between effort expended and benefits accrued arouse more than passing curiosity or mild expressions of dismay? Why, in short, don’t we give a [expletive deleted]? 

Perhaps just posing such a question propels us instantly into the realm of the unanswerable, like trying to figure out why people idolize Justin Bieber, shoot birds, or watch golf on television. 

Without any expectation of actually piercing our collective ennui, let me take a stab at explaining why we don’t give a @#$%&!  Here are eight distinctive but mutually reinforcing explanations, offered in a sequence that begins with the blindingly obvious and ends with the more speculative.  

Americans don’t attend all that much to ongoing American wars because:

1. U.S. casualty rates are low. By using proxies and contractors, and relying heavily on airpower, America’s war managers have been able to keep a tight lid on the number of U.S. troops being killed and wounded.  In all of 2017, for example, a grand total of 11 Americansoldiers have been lost in Afghanistan — about equal to the number of shooting deaths in Chicago over the course of a typical week. True, in Afghanistan, Iraq, and other countries where the U.S. is engaged in hostilities, whether directly or indirectly, plenty of people who are not Americans are being killed and maimed.  (The estimated number of Iraqi civilians killed this year alone exceeds 12,000.) But those casualties have next to no political salience as far as the United States is concerned.  As long as they don’t impede U.S. militaryoperations, they literally don’t count (and generally aren’t counted).

2. The true costs of Washington’s wars go untabulated.  In a famous speech, dating from early in his presidency, Dwight D. Eisenhower said that “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.”  Dollars spent on weaponry, Ike insisted, translated directly into schools, hospitals, homes, highways, and power plants that would go unbuilt.  “This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense,” he continued.  “[I]t is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.” More than six decades later, Americans have long since accommodated themselves to that cross of iron.  Many actually see it as a boon, a source of corporate profits, jobs, and, of course, campaign contributions.  As such, they avert their eyes from the opportunity costs of our never-ending wars.  The dollars expended pursuant to our post-9/11 conflicts will ultimately number in the multi-trillions.  Imagine the benefits of investing such sumsin upgrading the nation’s aging infrastructure.  Yet don’t count on Congressional leaders, other politicians, or just about anyone else to pursue that connection.

3. On matters related to war, American citizens have opted out.  Others have made the point so frequently that it’s the equivalent of hearing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” at Christmastime.  Even so, it bears repeating: the American people have defined their obligation to “support the troops” in the narrowest imaginable terms, ensuring above all that such support requires absolutely no sacrifice on their part.  Members of Congress abet this civic apathy, while also taking steps to insulate themselves from responsibility.  In effect, citizens and their elected representatives in Washington agree: supporting the troops means deferring to the commander in chief, without inquiring about whether what he has the troops doing makes the slightest sense.  Yes, we set down our beers long enough to applaud those in uniform and boo those who decline to participate in mandatory rituals of patriotism.  What we don’t do is demand anything remotely approximating actual accountability.

4. Terrorism gets hyped and hyped and hyped some more. While international terrorism isn’t a trivial problem (and wasn’t for decades before 9/11), it comes nowhere close to posing an existential threat to the United States.  Indeed, other threats, notably the impact of climate change, constitute a far greater danger to the wellbeing of Americans.  Worried about the safety of your children or grandchildren?  The opioid epidemic constitutes an infinitely greater danger than “Islamic radicalism.”  Yet having been sold a bill of goods about a “war on terror” that is essential for “keeping America safe,” mere citizens are easily persuaded that scattering U.S. troops throughout the Islamic world while dropping bombs on designated evildoers is helping win the former while guaranteeing the latter.  To question that proposition becomes tantamount to suggesting that God might not have given Moses two stone tablets after all.

5. Blather crowds out substance. When it comes to foreign policy, American public discourse is — not to put too fine a point on it — vacuous, insipid, and mindlessly repetitive.  William Safire of the New York Times once characterized American political rhetoric as BOMFOG, with those running for high office relentlessly touting the Brotherhood of Man and the Fatherhood of God.  Ask a politician, Republican or Democrat, to expound on this country’s role in the world, and then brace yourself for some variant of WOSFAD, as the speaker insists that it is incumbent upon the World’s Only Superpower to spread Freedom and Democracy.  Terms like leadership and indispensable are introduced, along with warnings about the dangers of isolationism and appeasement, embellished with ominous references to Munich.  Such grandiose posturing makes it unnecessary to probe too deeply into the actual origins and purposes of American wars, past or present, or assess the likelihood of ongoing wars ending in some approximation of actual success. Cheerleading displaces serious thought.

6. Besides, we’re too busy.  Think of this as a corollary to point five.  Even if the present-day American political scene included figures like Senators Robert La Follette or J. William Fulbright, who long ago warned against the dangers of militarizing U.S. policy, Americans may not retain a capacity to attend to such critiques.  Responding to the demands of the Information Age is not, it turns out, conducive to deep reflection.  We live in an era (so we are told) when frantic multitasking has become a sort of duty and when being overscheduled is almost obligatory.  Our attention span shrinks and with it our time horizon.  The matters we attend to are those that happened just hours or minutes ago.  Yet like the great solar eclipse of 2017 — hugely significant and instantly forgotten — those matters will, within another few minutes or hours, be superseded by some other development that briefly captures our attention.  As a result, a dwindling number of Americans — those not compulsively checking Facebook pages and Twitter accounts — have the time or inclination to ponder questions like: When will the Afghanistan War end?  Why has it lasted almost 16 years?  Why doesn’t the finest fighting force in history actually win?  Can’t package an answer in 140 characters or a 30-second made-for-TV sound bite?  Well, then, slowpoke, don’t expect anyone to attend to what you have to say.

7. Anyway, the next president will save us.  At regular intervals, Americans indulge in the fantasy that, if we just install the right person in the White House, all will be well.  Ambitious politicians are quick to exploit this expectation.  Presidential candidates struggle to differentiate themselves from their competitors, but all of them promise in one way or another to wipe the slate clean and Make America Great Again.  Ignoring the historical record of promises broken or unfulfilled, and presidents who turn out not to be deities but flawed human beings, Americans — members of the media above all — pretend to take all this seriously.  Campaigns become longer, more expensive, more circus-like, and ever less substantial.  One might think that the election of Donald Trump would prompt a downward revision in the exalted expectations of presidents putting things right.  Instead, especially in the anti-Trump camp, getting rid of Trump himself (Collusion!  Corruption!  Obstruction!  Impeachment!) has become the overriding imperative, with little attention given to restoring the balance intended by the framers of the Constitution.  The irony of Trump perpetuating wars that he once roundly criticized and then handing the conduct of those wars to generals devoid of ideas for ending them almost entirely escapes notice.

8. Our culturally progressive military has largely immunized itself from criticism.  As recently as the 1990s, the U.S. military establishment aligned itself with the retrograde side of the culture wars.  Who can forget the gays-in-the-military controversy that rocked Bill Clinton’s administration during his first weeks in office, as senior military leaders publicly denounced their commander-in-chief?  Those days are long gone.  Culturally, the armed forces have moved left.  Today, the services go out of their way to project an image of tolerance and a commitment to equality on all matters related to race, gender, and sexuality.  So when President Trump announced his opposition to transgendered persons serving in the armed forces, tweeting that the military “cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail,” senior officers politely but firmly disagreed and pushed back.  Given the ascendency of cultural issues near the top of the U.S. political agenda, the military’s embrace of diversity helps to insulate it from criticism and from being called to account for a less than sterling performance in waging wars.  Put simply, critics who in an earlier day might have blasted military leaders for their inability to bring wars to a successful conclusion hold their fire.  Having women graduate from Ranger School or command Marines in combat more than compensates for not winning.

A collective indifference to war has become an emblem of contemporary America.  But don’t expect your neighbors down the street or the editors of the New York Times to lose any sleep over that fact.  Even to notice it would require them — and us — to care.

Posted in foreign policy, government, military, Terrorism, war | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Random Musings

When we don’t get health care, tax reform, gun control or any of the myriad things that the majority of American citizens want, many people are puzzled and ask, “Why is that?” The answer should be obvious. Billionaires and Big Corporations own this country. It’s that simple. Somewhere in the 1970’s (see Powell Memo), we lost our democracy and became an oligarchy (or if you prefer, a plutocracy). We can do our best to hold back the tide, but ultimately, in the near term, it will probably be futile. I hate to say it and sound so pessimistic, but it is the truth as I see it. They won. We lost. It’s going to get worse for at least a while.

**                                         **

When did they take the words “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” out of the 2nd Amendment? I must have missed that.

**                                          **

President Trump plays with fire when threatening to scrap the Iran nuclear accord. If Congress were to reject the agreement, trouble would follow. Iran would surely start rebuilding their nuclear weapons program. President Trump would never stand for that and would likely bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities. Iran would respond in some way militarily and a new war might erupt. North Korea is not the only country to worry about.

 **                                          **

How important is it that we find out the motive of the Las Vegas shooter? Whatever the reason, it wouldn’t justify what he did.  More importantl: that he was able to accumulate such an arsenal of weapons that allowed him to do it. That is where our country needs to turn its attention.

 **                                              **

Recommended reading: Project Censored’s Top 25 Censored Stories 2016-2017. If you have the time check the stories from previous years.

shooter

Posted in America, cartoon, corporations, Donald Trump, government, gun control, Iran, media, politics | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

WHY THE SUPREME COURT IS WRONG ABOUT THE 2ND AMENDMENT

So Few Americans Understand What the Second Amendment Is Really About—or Its Dark History

By Thom Hartmann/ AlterNet/ October 2, 2017

 

second-amendment-on-parchment

With the crazed assault in Las Vegas that killed over 50 and wounded hundreds as only the most recent example, America’s gun violence problem has reached a breaking point. While we can talk all we want about assault weapons bans, universal background checks and terror watch lists, there’s only one real solution to this problem: We need to repeal the Second Amendment.

This, of course, is completely unacceptable to Republicans, but that’s because they don’t know the real history of the Second Amendment, and the real history of the Second Amendment is as ugly as it gets.

Thanks to corporate media’s unquestioning regurgitation of right-wing talking points, most Americans think that Second Amendment is in the Constitution to protect the rights of individual gun owners from the government.

But that’s not even remotely true.

The “Second Amendment” as we know it today is a legal fiction invented by the gun industry and their buddies on the Supreme Court [3] and sold to Americans by an expensive multi-decade-long PR campaign. 

Despite what you might hear on Fox So-Called news, there actually was no “individual right to own a gun” until 2008, when the Supreme Court said there was in its decision in the case of District of Columbia v. Heller.

That decision, which struck down Washington, D.C.’s handgun ban, was the culmination of a decades-long push by the gun industry to twist the Second Amendment into something that would help it sell more weapons, and it had zero basis in real Constitutional history.

It’s what former Chief Justice Warren Burger called a “fraud on the American public,” and it’s a fraud that now makes it very, very hard to put in place sensible gun control laws.

So, if the Second Amendment wasn’t originally about protecting gun rights, why is it in the U.S. Constitution? What were the Founders thinking?

Well, the first and most obvious answer, and the one accepted by most historians, is that they were trying to prevent the existence of a standing army during times of peace.

The Founders were scholars of classical history, and they knew that history teaches that when given too much power, armies, repeatedly and throughout history, would overthrow democracy and put in place a military dictatorship. There’s even a phrase to describe it: a military coup.

As James Madison told the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention in 1787,

“A standing military force… will not long be safe companions to liberty. The means of defense against foreign danger have been always the instruments of tyranny at home. Among the Romans it was a standing maxim to excite a war, whenever a revolt was apprehended. Throughout all Europe, the armies kept up under the pretext of defending, have enslaved the people.”

With this situation in mind, the Founders wrote the Second Amendment, which says that, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The key word here is “Militia.”

At the time the Bill of Rights was written, America had no real professional army, and what military it did have was in the form of 13 separate state militias.

The Founders saw these militias as the best check against the rise of the standing army, and so they wrote the Second Amendment to make sure that they were always protected. But that’s only part of the story.

By protecting the militias, the Founders weren’t just preventing or trying to prevent the rise of mischief by a standing army; they were also protecting the institution of slavery that was the key to the southern economy. In states like Georgia, Virginia and the Carolinas, militias were also known as slave patrols.

And after the Constitution was written, southern slave-owners, led by Patrick Henry (Virginia’s biggest slave owner) started freaking out [4] that their slaves could be constitutionally freed and then drafted by the federal government, which was given the power under Article 1, Section 8 to raise a national militia.

The slave-owners worried that this national militia would eventually be used by Northern anti-slavery types to destroy the slave patrols and maybe even the institution of slavery itself. So what did those slave-owners do?

They had the Founders write into the Second Amendment specific protections for slave patrols.

These protections aren’t obvious, but they’re there, and we know this because of the difference between James Madison’s original draft of the Second Amendment and the final version included in the Bill of Rights. Madison’s original version of the Second Amendment reads as follows:

“The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; a well armed, and well regulated militia being the best security of a free country: but no person religiously scrupulous of bearing arms, shall be compelled to render military service in person.”

This version of the Second Amendment didn’t fit well with slave-owners because it included words like “country,” words they felt could be used to justify the creation of a national militia that would include freed slaves—a backdoor way for a Northern president to free Southern slaves. And so Patrick Henry lobbied James Madison to rewrite the Second Amendment into the version we know today.

He spoke passionately at the Virginia Ratifying Convention:

“If the country be invaded, a state may go to war,” Henry said, “but cannot suppress [slave] insurrections [under this new Constitution]. If there should happen an insurrection of slaves, the country cannot be said to be invaded. They cannot, therefore, suppress it without the interposition of Congress … Congress, and Congress only [under this new Constitution], can call forth the militia.”

He added:

“In this state [of Virginia], there are two hundred and thirty-six thousand blacks, and there are many in several other states. But there are few or none in the Northern States … May Congress not say, that every black man must fight? Did we not see a little of this last war? We were not so hard pushed as to make emancipation general; but acts of Assembly passed that every slave who would go to the army should be free.”

As Michael R. Burch wrote [5], “Henry was obviously convinced that the power granted the federal government in the new Constitution could be used to strip the slave states of their slave control militias. He anticipated exactly what Abraham Lincoln would end up doing:

“‘They will search that paper [the Constitution],’ Henry said, ‘and see if they have power of manumission. And have they not, sir? Have they not power to provide for the general defence and welfare? May they not think that these call for the abolition of slavery?

“May they not pronounce all slaves free, and will they not be warranted by that power? This is no ambiguous implication or logical deduction. The paper speaks to the point: they have the power in clear, unequivocal terms, and will clearly and certainly exercise it. This [slavery] is a local matter, and I can see no propriety in subjecting it to Congress.'”

To satisfy Henry, James Madison changed the word “country” to the word “state,” a change Patrick Henry demanded to make it explicitly clear that the Constitution protected the state militia (aka slave patrol) in Virginia.

The big picture here isn’t a pretty one: The Second Amendment, which is now used by the weapons industry to justify selling weapons of war to civilians, was originally created, at least in part, to help preserve slavery in the South. You really couldn’t ask for a better metaphor for everything that’s challenging about America and its history.

But here’s the thing: we don’t need to be trapped by that history.

Ever since it was ratified, Americans have repeatedly changed parts of the Constitution that don’t match up with the times. We’ve changed electoral rules so that the person who comes in second place in a presidential race no longer becomes vice president, we’ve given women the right to vote; we’ve given black people full citizenship; we made alcohol illegal, and then re-amended the Constitution to make it legal. These are just a few examples of ways in which we’ve broken with our past and moved toward a better future.

It’s time we did the same with the Second Amendment.

At its best, the Second Amendment is an anachronism that’s no longer relevant in an era in which the United States has a standing army but remains a democracy. At its worst, it’s a tool for slave-owners that’s now being used by the weapons industry to prevent any and all sensible gun laws.

There’s only one way out of this mess: it’s time to repeal the Second Amendment.

Thom Hartmann is a talk-show host and author of over 25 books in print [6]

Posted in government, gun control, politics, Supreme Court | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

ILLEGITIMATE ELECTION

Clapper: Intelligence community ‘cast doubt on the legitimacy’ of Trump’s victory

By Josh Delk/ The Hill/ September 23, 2017

The former director of National Intelligence said that the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russians sought to influence the 2016 election “cast doubt on the legitimacy” of President Trump’s victory. 

“Our intelligence community assessment did, I think, serve to cast doubt on the legitimacy of his victory in the election,” James Clapper said in a CNN interview on Friday night.

Clapper oversaw the January report that concluded, in a consensus between the CIA, NSA and FBI, that Russia carried out a deliberate and multifaceted attempt to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The report found convincing evidence that Russia had specifically worked to aid Donald Trump in winning the presidency. 

While the report did not find evidence that Russians had actually influenced the results of the election, Clapper said that he thinks that implication concerns Trump more than anything else.

“And I think that above all else is what concerned him, and I think that transcends, unfortunately, the real concern here, which is Russian interference in the political process, which by the way is going to continue,” Clapper said. 

Trump has repeatedly dismissed reports of Russian attempts to influence the election, referring to the investigations into Russian meddling on Friday as a “hoax,” and accusing the media of biased coverage.

Posted in Donald Trump, elections, government, intelligence, politics | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Lewis Black on GOP Health Care Bill

Posted in government, health care, politics, Republican Party | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

POLICEMEN OF THE WORLD

 More Thoughts on Trump’s UN Declaration of War Against Iran and North Korea

By Paul Craig Roberts/ paulcraigroberts.org/ September 19, 2017

Trump’s UN speech makes it clear that Trump’s presidency, in terms of his campaign promise to remove Washington from the “policeman of the world” role, exit the Middle East, and repair the damaged relations with Russia, is over. The CIA and the military/security complex are in full control of the US government. Trump has accepted his captivity and his assigned role as the enforcer of Washington’s hegemony over every other country. Washington uber alles is the only foreign policy that Washington pursues.

At the UN Trump actually threatened to wipe North Korea off of the face of the earth. He added to this threat threats against Venezuela (http://stephenlendman.org/2017/09/trump-threatens-venezuela/ [1]) and Iran. He demonized these countries as “rogue states,” but it is Washington that is playing that role. Washington has destroyed in whole or part eight countries in the young 21st century and has 3 to 5 more in its crosshairs.

One question is: why did not the UN audience shout Trump down, a man standing before them telling obvious lies? The answer, of course, is money. The US taxpayers pay roughly one-quarter of the UN’s annual budget, leaving the other 130+ countries a light load. Washington is succeeding in driving the world to Armageddon, because the world’s leaders prefer money to truth, to justice, to survival. The UN diplomats see in their cooperation with Washington the opportunity to make money by sharing in the West’s exploitation of their own countries.

sam-osama-world-spread

Washington, absorbed in its effort to destroy Syria, left it to its Saudi Arabian puppet to destroy Yemen. The Saudi autocracy, a major sponsor with the US of terrorism, has done a good job, thanks to US supplying the weapons and to the US refueling the Saudi attack airplanes. This totally gratuitous war has helped to maximize the profits of the American military/security complex, a collection of evil never before present on the face of the earth. UNICEF reports that one million Yemeni children will be the victims of “American compassion” of which Trump bragged in the CIA’s UN speech.

One wonders if the Russians and Chinese are so absorbed in getting rich like America’s One Percent that they are unaware that they are on the list of countries to be eliminated for not accepting Washington’s hegemony. Really, where was the Russian government when Washington overthrew the Ukranian government? It was at a sports event. And I call Americans insouciant. Where was the Russian government? How could it have not known?

To be frank. The point is this. Unless Russia and China can take out the US, the US will take out Russia and China. The only question is who strikes first. The only way to avoid this is for Russia and China to surrender and accept Washington’s hegemony. This is the firm undeviating path on which the neoconservatives, the CIA, and the military/security complex have set the United States. The entire point of North Korea is US nuclear missiles on China’s border. The entire point of Iran is US nuclear missiles on Russia’s border.

As far as I can ascertain, hardly anyone is aware that Armageddon is just around the corner. There is no protest from the Western presstitutes, a collection of whores. In the US the only protests are against ancient “civil war” statues, which the ignorant rabble say are symbols of black slavery. There is no peace movement and no peace marches. In London the transgendered and the radical feminists are protesting one another, engaging in fist fights in Hyde Park. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4891484/Fists-fly-politically-correct-rally.html [2] No one seems to have any awareness.

In US online propaganda websites such as Americans for Limited Government—funded by who? serving who?—endorse Trump’s destabilizing UN speech as a non-threat to world peace:

“President Trump has provided a cogent and inspiring defense of America and the American constitutional system of governance to the world not as imposition but an example to be followed, while at the same time respecting the sovereignty of other nations. However, the President also made it clear to those nations that threaten humanity with nuclear destruction [which Washington has done to N. Korea and Iran] that the United States will not be held hostage, and continuing down their current paths guarantees their annihilation. While many will focus on Trump’s threat to North Korea and Iran, the real focus of his speech is that it is a call to all nations to embrace their own sovereignty without threatening world peace.”

I have never in my long life read such a misrepresentation of a speech. The United States has become the complete propaganda state. No truth ever emerges.

It is only the US government, which is not a government of the people, that has ever threatened another country with total destruction as Trump did to North Korea in the CIA’s UN speech.

This is a first. It trumps Adolf Hitler. The US has become the 4th Reich. It is doubtful that the world will survive the foreign policy of the United States of America.

 
 
Posted in Donald Trump, foreign policy, Iran, military, North Korea, politics, war | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

How the Labor Movement Was Destroyed

Posted in Economics, economy, inequality, labor, politics, taxes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment