Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Lame Duck Nation

America is staggering on the ropes . Alienated from the world
as never before and retaining support only from governments so
dependent on the empire they are as useless to their people as the
American regime is to ours . We’ve lost any pretense of moral leadership, if we ever had any, and only retain military power to coerce the world. And that is diminishing as imperial overreach adds to the problems of a bloodied warrior in the global ring, assaulted by spectators as well as opponents. Analogies to wrestling or boxing actually offend those violent sports, one of which is mostly theater, and the other dedicated to beating, rather than murdering the opposition.

Still, the broken down brawler has the power to cause far more chaos
before falling down for the count, taking tens of thousands more to the
grave with him. While our hapless half-wit and his slightly less malevolent adversaries continue offering supernatural explanations for reality, even intervention by the corporate warlords who truly rule may be too
late to avoid more pain .

Continued ranting about the alleged menace from Iran , and saturation of consciousness with presidential primaries and other corporate commercials, cannot fully distract from an economy that grows worse every day. The public suffers information denial syndrome, inflicted by corporate mind management. But its experience is far more practical than the theories of economic fundamentalists, who might better pray for a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow than create policy that might get us out of our fix.

We are under a domain of capitalism that has created a multi-trillion
dollar debt that can never be repaid, and should be canceled . The credit organs of our commercially diseased anatomy won’t respond to the puny stimulus proposed by Wall Street clergy. It will take massive infusions of financial Viagra to keep them from becoming permanently flaccid. The masturbatory focus on the economy's private parts has created the widest gap between the rich and the rest of us since the Great Depression. Complete contempt for a public sector has almost totally destroyed what was once at least a primitive welfare state , replacing it with a private credit financed shopping mall where everyone buys with plastic, because nobody has any cash .

Social programs have been equated with communist terrorism, and
government expenditures only deemed acceptable for waging imperial wars and increasing wealth for those who already have far too much . With
individual consumers urged to find self esteem by shopping themselves into social despair, a perverse market system sells collective immorality and labels it individual liberation. We are mesmerized into personal consumption , while our social order erodes under savage competition that finds the rich and their affluent servants gaining all the benefits, while everyone else absorbs all the costs.

Acting more and more like a cornered rat, our leadership threatens increased violence in the rest of the world, some of which is likely to come back home in ways worse than 911. Seeking discussion about this from participants in the political status quo protection racket is like seeking charity at a Vegas casino . Their short term crackpot schemes, like putting a few billion dollars into individual hands so we can buy more stuff for ourselves , is the problem, not the solution . We need hundreds of billions of dollars put into the collective hands of a government controlled by a real democratic majority, so that our problems might begin to be dealt with. And those problems are not only economic.

After Bush’s miserable failure to rally former lackeys into becoming enemies of Iran, and after the imbecilic provocation in the Persian Gulf, Israel continued its slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza with a renewed vigor. Clearly, one nation responded to the ravings of an irrational leader from the USA. Echoing the party line of corporate Democratic candidates - or perhaps they pre-quoted him? - the CEO of the Jewish Apartheid state proclaimed that all options were on the table when it came to the menace of Iranian nuclear weapons, which do not exist. Unlike Israel’s, which all the world knows about, with only the American government remaining mute despite having clear evidence of their existence since 1974. A near majority of citizens call for impeachment of the increasingly hallucinatory president, but the loyal opposition leader says that option is off the table. Got it kids? When it comes to the public’s wishes to get rid of the malignant moron, everything’s off the table, but everything’s on the table when supporting Israel’s wishes to get rid of Iran. Who’s in charge here?

A hopeful minority expects change with the next regime , but it may take a massive overdose of ecstasy, heroin and cocaine to offer that illusion . There will be what pundits call nuanced differences in many areas, but none at all in the horror that continues in Palestine, where the continuously savaged population, in hopeless despair at the treacherous complicity of American leadership, may yet take a retaliatory toll of their oppressors that could bring an explosion of violence beyond the present carnage . And we should not forget the suicidal warriors of Al Quaida, who are committed to get the West out of their world, with a high priority of ending American partnership with Israel in the destruction of Palestine.

Under these rapidly disintegrating conditions, the staggering empire must be stopped before its collapse destroys us all. Will the American people gain control of their renegade system, as the result of an aroused democratic struggle from within? Or will the global menace ultimately be contained , from the outside? We’d better hope it’s the first, which may not be pretty, because if it’s the second, it could be very, very ugly.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Frank Scott. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Alas, Dear Martin

“Yours is by no means a great nation, but you could be a great people. History is giving you the chance. Seize the time.”

-----Arundhati Roy, Riverside Memorial Church, May 13, 2003

In the four decades since Dr. King was killed the custodians of official history have administered a second assassination, converting King from an impassioned rebel to an alabaster saint. In school books Dr. King is now memorialized as a dull but important "African-American preacher" who went to college to "better himself," believed in God and his "fellow man," and won a Nobel Prize for Peace along with the admiration of "both whites and blacks" for his respectable beliefs and non-violent reminders of the U.S.A.'s essential goodness. Down Orwell's memory hole has gone his feverish intensity, tactical genius, and anguished incomprehension of a society permeated by racism, exploitation, and deceit.

The whitewashing of his public image is bad enough, but the return of apartheid schooling, the vast gulag of the U.S. prison system (with its hugely disproportionate black population), and the perpetuation of widespread poverty through neo-liberal austerity, all openly mock what Dr. King stood for. If he could return to see what his legacy has become, he would no doubt shake his head sadly and urge us to embrace whatever sacrifices are necessary to end the appalling suffering imposed by Washington's steadily declining empire. But paying one's dues has never been popular, so we continue to celebrate Dr. King's "dream" as though it were compatible with huge segregated populations mired in poverty and despair.

What has become of integration? It has been abandoned, and the early victories of the Civil Rights era have been reversed. And we should note that it died not from Klan violence but from years of what Daniel Patrick Moynihan approved as "benign neglect." Public schools that today bear the name of Dr. King are bastions of de facto segregation. Informal apartheid prevails even in racially-mixed areas where it would not require long-distance busing to achieve integrated schooling. In such areas it takes a considerable effort to maintain the unnatural practice of segregation and this effort is continually made. It appears that Dr. King took us to the mountaintop so we could beat a hasty retreat from the breathtaking view of the Promised Land and return to the suffocating isolation of the wilderness.

In his book, "Shame of the Nation," educator Jonathan Kozol reports that in a Seattle neighborhood in which half the families are Caucasian, 95% of the students at Thurgood Marshall Elementary School are black, Hispanic, Indian, or Asian. The Caucasian families have their children bussed to predominantly white schools. As in elementary schools all across the country, a wall poster at Thurgood Marshall celebrates the fact that “the dream is alive,” in spite of the racial dynamic that prevails there and elsewhere. A student Kozol spoke with who actually knew who Thurgood Marshall was and what he had tried to accomplish averred that he was “pretty sure” Thurgood Marshall Elementary was not a segregated school because there were two white children attending classes on the same floor where his classroom was. That child has learned his lesson well. Just as a drop of black blood makes a person black, so a speck of white in an ocean of black and brown makes the sea "integrated."

Here's more of what Kozol found visiting U.S. public schools four decades after passage of the Civil Rights Act. In San Diego a school named after Rosa Parks had a student body 86% black and Latino, but less than 2% white. In Los Angeles, there was a school named in honor of Dr. King which was 99% black and Latino. In Milwaukee there was a Dr. King school where black children composed 99% of the student body. Another school named after King, in Cleveland, had a 99% black student population. The graduation rate was 38%. In Philadelphia, 98% of children at a high school named after King were black. At a Boston middle school named after Dr. King, 98% of the students were black or Latino.

In New York City, a primary school named for Langston Hughes was 99% black and Latino, while a middle school named after Jackie Robinson was 96% black and Latino. A high school named after Fannie Lou Hamer had a student body 98% black or Latino. In Harlem there was a Thurgood Marshall School that was also 98% black or Latino. In the South Bronx a middle school named for Paul Robeson had a white enrollment that was less than one-half of one percent. Free at last?

Whenever poverty and racial tensions explode in violence, as they inevitably must in a segregated social order, the corporate media prove themselves ever ready to lecture public schools on Dr. King’s legacy of non-violence. But the Media Czars have inordinate difficulty in even seeing the apartheid conditions that Dr. King strove to eliminate, and never even mention his call for integrating all of society's institutions. Predictably, any reference to racial oppression, concentrated poverty, and informal segregation is dismissed as “victim thinking." Bootstrapism is the order of the day.

A junior high school student Kozol spoke with nearly a generation ago in East St. Louis, commented aptly on our habit of celebrating Dr. King's dream while steadfastly ignoring the enveloping racial nightmare we have yet to overcome. “Every year in February we are told to read the same old speech of Martin Luther King. We read it every year. ‘I have a dream . . . ‘ It does begin to seem - what is the word? Perfunctory.” Asked to explain what she meant, she added: “We have a school in East St. Louis named for Dr. King. The school is full of sewer water and the doors are locked with chains. Every student in that school is black. It’s like a terrible joke on history.”

This will not change with a black president, or indeed, with any form of symbolic representation. Only an engaged citizenry determined to overcome the crippling legacy of slavery, segregation, and the hollow rhetoric of bootstrapism, can win the day. Calling this forth from within ourselves is a lot more important than canonizing Dr. King, who never cared about the accolades anyway.

In short, the only fitting way to honor Dr. King is to create a just society.

Let's get on with it.


Jonathan Kozol, "Shame of the Nation - The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America", pp. 22-4, 27-8

Kozol, "Savage Inequalities - Children in America's Schools," pp. 34-5

--------Michael K. Smith is the author of "The Madness of King George" (Illustrations by Matt Wuerker), and "Portraits of Empire," both with Common Courage Press. He can be reached at

Friday, January 11, 2008

Duck, Cover, Upchuck

Duck, Cover, Upchuck

So the evil Iranians menaced our warships, and all just because those ships were sailing in their waters, thousands of miles from our own shores. Isn't it shocking? And the fact that our media repeated every word of the absolutely ridiculous and hilarious if it weren’t so dangerous story as though it was all true? Why that’s just our democratic freedom in action.

While AIPAC and the evangelical zionists in Washington were all pressing the panic button, millions of Americans had to be laughing if not crying at this patently absurd scare story, but our leadership either rattled word sabers or remained in stunned silence waiting for its orders. Was this a Comedy Central production, with idiotic dialog that might be expected during the writers strike?

Luckily, once again the fissures in our ruling class revealed themselves, as only one day after this science fiction story broke, another revelation was made even though millions knew it years ago: the famed Tonkin Gulf incident which got us into the Viet Nam war was a contrived nonevent. The president and congress, with only one outspoken dissent, rushed into a war that killed millions of Southeast Asians, more than fifty thousand Americans and tore the nation apart for years , for a fiendish lie foisted on the people by a disgraceful government and a willing and compliant media .

Could it happen again? Of course, given the gullibility of so many under the thought control of so few, but sectors of the ruling class who fear the current regime will destroy their system, rose to the occasion once again. That's the good news, the bad being that among our alleged representatives there was either collective silence or the usual rumblings of anti-Iranian bigotry and war talk. What’s a democratic nation to do?

Of course, the resounding laughter and snorts of disbelief from so many helped to bring more rational stories to the surface. Like, the whole thing was a fabrication, due to nervousness on the part of young sailors, or a production of the Iranian version of The Daily Show. And the timing, to coincide with our Doofus leader’s visit to our fifty first state, Israel? Just a coincidence, having nothing to do with Israel’s endless war against Islam, and especially Iran, seen as the center of threats to the Jewish apartheid settler state, now that Saddam’s Iraq is no more. But though the temptation to laugh hysterically is always there, these idiots in power cannot be dismissed easily, especially with the sorry lot of alleged opponents running for Corporate America’s top government service position: the presidency .

Listening to the pundit putzocrats shaping our consciousness on the next election won’t help much at all, given the paparazzi nature of their coverage and analysis. A public seemingly polled every fifteen minutes and with an attention span changing faster than their numbers can be dialed has already confused the witch doctors of media into beginning the ending of the beginning of one or another campaign deemed the hot pick of the week, then glorifying inane comments and pointless statements by any candidate who seems photogenic enough for page one highlights on the non news hour. After polls totally miscalculated one vote, a richly financed establishment favorite was said to have become the “comeback” candidate, and this after a grand total of two small turnouts of voters in two very small states totaling a tiny fractional percentile of the national population , and as tiny a fraction of their respective eligible voter populations. Wowee!

In this environment, an honest poll taken of everyone in the country would probably show that more than seventy percent weren’t even remotely concerned about the elections to come later this year, while a small group would be passionately involved, though not nearly as well informed about the candidates as they were about some celebrity's bout with divorce, drugs or sex. The best financed presidential wannabes said to be against the war all vote to fund it, and make weasel statements about ending the war in the right way, responsibly redeploying troops, or only leaving enough there to protect our bases. And these oily word meisters receive screaming support from a supporter base as desperate for hope as starving children for a crust of bread, thus reduced to accepting the intellectual garbage stuffed into their heads and even praying that they can mentally digest it and that all will turn out well when it is recycled at the toilet. Which seems to be where things are at the moment.

Ready to flush? Not all at once, please.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Venezuelan president confesses to supermodel Naomi Campbell

January 6, 2008, (Translation by Michael K. Smith)

The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, has conceded an interview to the supermodel Naomi Campbell in which he characterizes the government of the United States as "genocidal" and praises Cuban leader Fidel Castro as "the world leader with the most style."

In the interview, which will be published in the next issue of the British magazine GQ, Chavez brands the president of the United States as "completely insane," and insists that Bush and his cabinet tried to kill him.

The Venezuelan president labels Condoleezza Rice "Secretary of State of a genocidal government," and is delighted that her boss, Bush, is now close to leaving the White House.

"We are witnessing the fall of the Empire. When the world is frightened, it is one step before the fall. Just like in the story, the Emperor has no clothes, and we have seen his ass."

Venezuela is a country rich in oil, which causes the president to state in the interview that: "Oil will run out in half of the globe, but here we have crude for another hundred years."

"Fidel always tells me not to say that, and exclaims that each time I do, I place myself in Bush's (gun) sight," declares the Venezuelan leader.

Chavez says of his country that it is a model of respect for human rights.

"We are beginning a peaceful revolution. We don't have a single political prisoner. We haven't killed anyone. We have prohibited arresting people for political reasons," he stated.

"The presumption of innocence applies to everyone, and here human rights are respected. I don't believe there is any other country in the world with greater freedom of expression than Venezuela," he insists.

On the elegance of the president of Cuba, Chavez pointed out that "his uniform is impeccable. His boots are well shined and his beard is elegant."

Asked by the supermodel if he knows the British pop music group "The Spice Girls," Chavez says he remembers them, although he adds that he knows England's Queen Elizabeth II personally.

When Naomi Campbell asks if he knows the heir to the British throne, Chavez responds: "I like the Prince. Now he has Camilla, his new girl friend. She isn't as attractive (as Diana of Wales), isn't that right?"

Continuing in a frivolous mood, the model wants to know if Chavez would allow himself to be seen with his chest undressed like Russian president Vladimir Putin, to which Chavez responds, "Why not?", inviting Campbell to feel his muscles.

Chavez showed the interviewer his library and its paintings, and confessed to her that he likes to sing.

"If he weren't president, he would be a very successful Latino singer," comments Campbell, who states that she didn't go to Venezuela to judge Chavez the politician, but rather to interview "Chavez the man."

In her final comments, the model reflects that "Chavez says what he thinks," and confesses that he seemed to her a person "without fear, but not threatening or irrational."

"I hope that the relations between Venezuela and the United States improve in the immediate future. Apart from whatever the future may have in store, for me (Chavez) will always be a rebellious angel."