Nov 30, 2015

November 30, 2015: Slave Trade Agreements, Instruments of Exploitation, Controlling the Debate

"The British and Americans, as all nations, have always been adept at covering the basest crimes with a coat of righteousness"
                                 ---from "The Quotations of Chairman Joe"
There were two postings on my Facebook page this morning on different but highly relevant and connected issues.  Both by Senator Bernie Sanders. The first questioned why, under the pending trade deals, we are moving to further the importation of all kinds of cheap goods into this country but we cannot bring ourselves to do the same thing when it comes to importing cheaper pharmaceuticals from abroad.  I commented that I agree with the Senator, but that we should remind ourselves that the entire ‘principle’ of “Free Trade” was largely the invention of the British and to a lesser extent the other western European powers, later followed by the United States, to enforce first the British Mercantile System and slave trade, and later to impose and maintain the drug trade, principally the production of opium in India for sale in China. This, by degrees led to the use of military force to suppress insurrections as, famously, in the case of the Boxer Rebellion and the Opium wars, conflicts in which the United States, not yet a world power, played a secondary, albeit supporting role. 

I raised this point to demonstrate that the lofty ‘principle’ of “Free” trade was, at its origin, nothing less than a ruse for exploitation leading speedily to the oppression and colonization of the rest of the world.  A “noble” principle assuaging the consciences of expanding wealth; a veneer of righteous ‘principle’ covering, however transparently, the base instincts of human avarice, gluttony and greed.
The British and Americans, as all nations, have always been adept at covering the basest crimes with a coat of righteousness. 

 The proclamation of “Free Trade” is, perhaps for us, the most mendacious of the use of Orwellian language.  More accurately, one would presume, what we are truly witnessing is the emergence, or rather re-emergence, of a modern form of the ‘slave’ trade; and, accordingly we might better refer to the pending group of agreements as slave trade agreements inasmuch as the effect, if not the outright intent, of these instruments is to drive down the standard of living around the globe and make more universal the misery of the human race. 

The second posting by the Senator asked why the media is not covering the issue.  As seen in a previous column the White House had promised a full-fledged public discussion and debate. (1)

Given the secrecy surrounding the negotiations and the reluctance—indeed the refusal—of this administration to be forthcoming concerning the contents of these trade agreements, I had my doubts.  Granting the president ‘fast-track’ authority in which the treaties would not be subject to committee hearings, or any hearing, and their would be no amendments allowed to these agreements, but rather a simple up and down vote, it was clear that we—the people—were about to be railroaded.

 Accordingly, I submitted this comment to the Senator’s post:

“The conspiracy of silence. The last thing the national and multinational corporations want is a full-fledged discussion of this travesty against the peoples of the world. It follows, then, that the media will do the bidding of their corporate paymasters and remain silent. MSNBC's dismissal of Ed Schultz was the shot across the bow and the rest of the so-called 'journalists' wet themselves to their socks.”
And so it goes.  He that has the gold makes the rules; he that controls the forum and the language controls the debate. 

(1).  See blog posting:

May 22, 2015: Response from the White House, Shroud of Secrecy, Deep Suspicions

Nov 29, 2015

November 28, 2015: The Hammer Speaks

Without the valley there can be no mountain
Without darkness there can be no light
Without an end there can be no beginning
Without injustice there can be no virtue
Without evil there can be no good.
Without death, life is meaningless.

And so it is, this temporal existence
This union of opposites, joined at the hip.
Two sides of the same coin
The rhythm, the yin and yang
Each justifying; each compelling, the other. 

Some are born posthumously
Some speak epigrammatically
Some philosophize with a hammer.

The hammer speaks.

Nov 10, 2015

November 10, 2015: Weeper of the House, True Believers, The Price of Power.

There is something dangerous about orthodoxy in the hands of a true believer”

                        ----From “The Quotations of Chairman Joe”

John Boehner has resigned from the House of Representatives and in so doing relinquishing his post as ‘Weeper of the House”.  In his place the scum have elevated Congressman Paul Ryan, otherwise known as little Eddie Munster, to the position of presiding officer of the United States House of Representatives and 3rd in line to the Presidency. 

Boehner (pronounced boner) by all accounts had a miserable time of it, trying as he did to weave a line between the forces of responsible governance and the newly-minted base of the Rescumlican party for which political responsibility and good governance are anathema.  It proved a treacherous path indeed, a Faustian bargain, reducing a once promising leader to a mere weeping caricature. 

The crazies, it would appear, are emerging from the woodwork. This is not, however, a recent phenomenon, nor should we understand it as a product of purely Republican malignancy.  The movement that has masticated into what we now refer to as the ‘teabagger’ movement began a long time ago, traceable originally to the disciples of Ayn Rand and the followers of Barry Goldwater.  But they, alas, were few and full of labor.  What gave the movement real impetus was the Supreme Court Decision in Roe v Wade

In which the court for the first time declared a zone of personal privacy extending to reproductive rights.  This mobilized the religious fundamentalists who, seeing abortion as an abomination, mobilized in large enough numbers to become the foot soldiers of an emerging political movement.

The principle culprit, the man who led them unto the national stage, was none other than Jimmy Carter.  It was Carter who, through the albeit temporary alliance of the Black and White southern Baptist conventions, found in these ‘foot soldiers’ a ready army of campaign workers ready to do the tedious and mundane tasks necessary to launch and win a national political campaign.  Winning the presidential election of 1976 with their support, Carter gave legitimacy to what was heretofore a largely marginalized and silent segment of the electorate. 

But, alas, what was to become known as the ‘Religious Right’ could find no home in the party of Ted Kennedy, Bela Abzug, and Eleanor Smeal. (1)  By 1980 American religious ‘fundamentalism’ had transformed itself from a mere adjunct in support of a single issue, and of a particular presidential candidate, into a ‘movement’.  In the hands of Jerry Falwell, and dubbing itself the ‘Moral Majority’, Christian Fundamentalism emerged as a national political ‘movement’, moving as it did beyond not only single-issue politics but to the conservative political ‘right’, embracing Ronald Reagan and the politics of unfettered capitalist exploitation.  In the hands of these practitioners it was held, with a straight face, that it was the will of the Lord that not only should the social safety net be shredded but that personal and capital gains taxes be cut in half.

Over the ensuing decades it only got worse.  As the Republican party of our forefathers transformed itself into the Rescumlican party of today it opened its doors and embraced with wholesale enthusiasm the likes of the heretofore banned John Birch Society, crypto-fascists, not a few remnants of the Ku Klux Klan and Southern racists, but more recently the corporate-sponsored Teabaggers, libertarians, and other eternal malcontents.  It has become, by degrees, a reincarnation of the old 19th century ‘Know-Nothing’ Party, denying science and climate change, evolution, and universally observable fact.  

The problem is that, given the religious veneer over which this caldron of intolerance and ignorance is presently covered, the “Political Right” or, as I prefer, the “
Idiot Wrong” has not only gone over to the ‘dark side’, but in so doing has exhibited such a marked degree of belligerence and intolerance as to threaten the very concept of republican governance.

There is something about conducting oneself in the public square with the firm conviction that one has god on one’s side.  If one is convinced that through political action one is working god’s will then compromise becomes damn near impossible.  If one assumes that good, however ill-defined must rest in one’s own hands and must, in the end, prevail then all other centers of political power are either suspect, evil, or illegitimate.  A certain self-righteousness emerged on the political wrong manifesting itself as a continuous stream of righteous proclamations, political obstructions and, when the electorate had the temerity to turn them out of office, temper tantrums.  Consider the record in recent years of conservative behavior:

* April 2011: House Republicans threaten a government shutdown unless Democrats accept GOP demands on spending cuts.

* July 2011: Republicans create the first-ever debt-ceiling crisis, threatening to default on the nation’s debts unless Democrats accept GOP demands on spending cuts.

* September 2011: Republicans threaten another shutdown.

* April 2012: Republicans threaten another shutdown.

* December 2012: Republicans spend months refusing to negotiate in the lead up to the so-called “fiscal cliff.”

* January 2013: Republicans raise the specter of another debt-ceiling crisis.

* September 2013: Republicans threaten another shutdown.

* October 2013: Republicans actually shut down the government.

* February 2014: Republicans raise the specter of another debt-ceiling crisis.

* December 2014: Republicans threaten another shutdown.

* February 2015: Republicans threaten a Department of Homeland Security shutdown.

* September 2015: Republicans threaten another shutdown [over Planned Parenthood]. (2)

 There is something dangerous about orthodoxy, be it religious, political or economic, in the hands of a “True Believer” (3).  When they are not wreaking havoc upon the national political consensus, undoing the work of centuries, and shredding the social safety net, they are, when voted out of power, about the business of obstruction and nullification. 

Make no mistake about it.  When one is guided by the ‘light’; when one sees ones actions in the political arena to be a manifestation of the ‘will of god’, then there is small room for political debate and no tolerance for political opposition.  Accordingly, one sets about the business of restricting the franchise (voter ID, Gerrymandering, restricting access to polling places), overturning elections (Bush v. Gore, the mess in Ohio in 2004), and vilifying the political opposition (Faux News, Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter et. al.)  By these means the ‘light of the world’ has been, by degrees, transformed into a political abyss, a cauldron of darkness.  Christ, it is now earnestly held, was a confirmed Capitalist, nearly two millennium before the advent of Capitalism.  Facts?  What are mere facts in the hands of a ‘true believer’?

The Faustian bargain that Boehner forged with the forces of darkness has, at last come undone.  It remains to be seen, now that he is free of the constraints of power, what his commentaries will be on the state of our union but others, former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke among them, have vented their frustration at the intolerance and ignorance boiling on the political surface of the political cauldron.  A veritable witch’s brew, balking at the elevation of little Eddie Munster, protesting that even he was not ‘conservative enough’ to lead this rabble.  Ideological purity has its limitations, and its price.


1.  Ted Kennedy is well known.  Bella Abzug was a renowned liberal congresswoman from New York City and avid supporter of reproductive rights.  Eleanor Smeal was chair of the National Organization of Women, also a strong supporter of Roe V. Wade.

3. See Hoffer, Eric. “The True Believer” Perennial Library, Harper and Row Publishers, New York. 1951. 160 pages.