Monday, March 31, 2014

The Phantom Army and the Real Hypocrites

From where I stand, the tens of thousands of Russian troops “amassed” on the Ukraine border smell exactly like the late Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.

Here’s Agence France-Presse: “ . . .Russia seized the Black Sea region of Crimea and massed tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s eastern border.”

NBC: “the number (or Russian troops) is estimated at 150,000 . . .”

CNN: “Russia may have 40,000 troops near its border with eastern Ukraine and another 25,000 on alert and prepared to go in. . .”

AP: “Russian troops continue to mass along the Ukrainian border.”

John Kerry, after his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov:  Russia must pull back “thousands of troops massed along the Ukraine border” because  those forces are creating a "climate of fear" inside Ukraine that does not support diplomatic dialogue.

Exactly where on the border is this mass of troops? “We went to look for ourselves,” writes Jim Maceda, a correspondent for United States television networks for 40 years.  He and two colleagues drove an unmarked grey minivan the length of the 1,200-mile border.

They went to Sudzha, Kursk, five miles from the border, where a “Russian tank column” had been reported several days earlier.  “As we drove around the quaint town, we saw no tanks or armored personnel carriers.  We did see ATM machines on almost every block.  All was quiet. There was no tension in the air.  Outside of town farmers were planting winter wheat.”

They had traveled 500 miles along the border before they saw any sign of military activity — at the Belgorod army base near the civilian airport. Two MI-24 military helicopters took off, circled the perimeter of the base, and landed.  Even on the base, they spotted no armored vehicles. They drove right up to the border gate to ask people about the reports of Russian troops preparing to invade.  A taxi driver told them he was losing fares because the Ukrainian border guards lo longer allowed him to take passengers to the Ukrainian city of Karkov. But the Ukrainians did have tanks parked just inside the border.  Referring to the neo-Nazi faction that was instrumental in overturning the elected government of Ukraine, a Russian said to Maceda, “Can you imagine if a trained Right Sector commandeered those tanks and fired on us?”  

Maceda asked if he thought Kiev would give such an order.  “No, I don’t,” he replied.  “But also we have no faith that Kiev could prevent such an incident.”

After Belgorod, Maceda and his companions spent two days “traversing seemingly endless farmland on pot-holed roads, passing chicken coups and old ladies selling buckets of apples -- but no signs of brewing war.”  At two army bases along the way — in Kamensk-Shakhtinsky and Rostov, both near Ukraine’s southeastern border —“the only activity we saw was some serious latrine duty and a band of conscripts enjoying a friendly wrestling match,” Maceda wrote.

Lavrov acknowledged that units from the army bases near the border have conducted training exercises, but insisted, both to Kerry and on Russian television, "We have absolutely no intention of, or interest in, crossing Ukraine's borders.” 

In the interview with Russian television, Lavrov called the western  sanctions against Russia a "dead-end" strategy that would not achieve results and accused the west of hypocrisy. He said it was inconsistent for the west to refuse to recognize Crimea's annexation, which followed a referendum on joining Russia that was overwhelmingly approved, while at the same time accepting the new government in Kiev, which was formed after the democratically-elected president president fled the country.
"If they are willing to accept the first event as legitimate, then surely they are obliged to acknowledge the second," Lavrov said.
The non-profit  Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG),  an independent research and media organization based in Montreal, echoes the charge of hypocrisy:
“In excluding Russia from the G8 group of the industrialized nations, the United States and its partners are behaving in an intolerant, duplicitous and hypocritical manner.
“For those who willfully ignore the historical facts, it’s noteworthy that the Partition Treaty on the Status and Conditions of the Black Sea Fleet signed between Russia and Ukraine on May 28, 1997, permits Russia to lawfully maintain up to 25,000 troops, 24 artillery systems, 132 armored vehicles and 22 military planes on the Crimean peninsula. This agreement will be effective until 2017, and is the most convincing logical justification for Russia’s military action in Crimea.
“What has happened is not an ‘occupation’ as the U.S. leaders claim, but that Russia has exercised its legal right for employing troops  in a geographical area where the majority of inhabitants are ethnic Russians and don’t want to remain under the Ukraine autonomy and are overwhelmingly inclined to join Russia.
“What every neutral and unbiased observer of the international political developments can easily note is that it’s the United States which is renowned for its hegemonic policies and its imperialistic modus operandi, not Russia. Russia’s intervention in Crimea took place after it felt that its national interests are being seriously endangered on its borders, where 58% of the population is consisted of indigenous Russians who prefer to be reunited with Russia, rather than being seen as an asset and prize for the United States under the leadership of a new government in Ukraine which has neo-fascist backgrounds.”
Neo-fascists.  Ruthless dictators.  We’ll go palsy-walsy with anyone to further our hegemonic interests.  It’s the American way.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Comic Masquerade We Swear By

One of the charms of Walt Kelly’s classic comic strip “Pogo” was the ease with which its characters assumed new identities that received instant acceptance from all the other creatures of the swamp. Howland Owl donned a headband, stuck a feather in it, and instantly became “the Injun” to one and all.  Albert put a mop on his head and “blunked out his eyeballs” to become “Nonnie” of  “Li’l Arf an’ Nonnie.”  And so it went.

But life today isn’t a comic strip, and there’s nothing charming about the way the American voter accepts the false identities the willing propagandists of the media assign to public figures. Paul Craig Roberts, a former Reagan administration official who is unsparing in his criticism of politicians of every stripe, calls the  media sycophants “presstitutes.”  They have persuaded the American voter that there is a “left” and a “right” in U.S. politics.  In their fairy tale world, President Obama heads the “left” — but that’s really just a feather in a headband.  The Republicans of the House and Senate, back pocket employees of the Koch Brothers, Wall Street and Karl Rove, represent the “right” — but they’re just wearing mops on their heads and blunking out their eyeballs.

All of them are traitors to the country the United States once aspired to be. A list of their treasons would fill a very large book.  In service to the neon gods of profit, they have un-democratized the U.S.economy, establishing a two-class nation of oligarchs and serfs.  They have fueled an enormous portion of this economy with a succession  of endless wars, sacrificing American blood and treasure and foreign innocents for nothing but the enrichment of those who control the military-industrial-intelligence complex. Already manipulating one of the most ignorant electorates in the First World, they are insuring their future dominance by privatizing education, providing profits for one-percenters and power for the religious right, a core sector of their blindest political supporters. They have callously and deliberately disassembled the most critical parts of the United States Constitution, those that guarantee individual liberties and a “voice of the people.”  They have established a military police state, arming local law enforcement with the fearsome tools of war, the to better enforce their draconian laws, their political and racial persecutions.  They have permitted presidents to assume the divine right of ancient kings, able to condemn any citizen to death or life imprisonment on what amounts to nothing more than personal whim.  They condone the president’s acts of murder by remote control.  They demean and oppress women by shameful laws that invade their bedrooms, their personal health affairs and their dignity. With bribes in their pockets and fear in their bosoms they genuflect before the gun lobby and pass legislation that encourages the mass slaughter of innocent people. They sanction their massive spy apparatus to collect mountains of data on not just ourselves but people the world over — data to use in inciting uprisings against leaders we disagree with, wars on behalf of our lackeys, and the assassination of “dangerous” (by Washington’s definition”) people anywhere on earth.  Abetted by a ruthless, rogue Supreme Court, they have  established a de facto state religion, utterly scorning the anti-establishment clause of the Constitution.  They are systematically depriving masses of citizens of the right to vote, disappearing from the roles blocs of voters likely to vote against the interests of the ruling minority.  They are creating shadow agencies to draft laws, codes and ordinances at every level of government, laws that oppress minorities, repeal rights and degrade citizens. They have emasculated the labor unions, silenced the populists, and created a vast fog of fear over our land. Their official conduct is based on lies, and when someone speaks truth to their power, that someone is declared a criminal. thrown into prison, executed, or forced into exile.  They have no shame: they blame the victims for the crime of rape.  Fairness is an utterly foreign word to them: they can spare billions to overthrow the elected government of Ukraine, and billions more to shore up the pretenders they installed in its place — but they cannot spare a thin dime to feed the starving, house the impoverished or feed their children here in the United States.  The brainwashed wretches of the great, blind underclass continue to believe their lies and submit.  With each election, our rulers rig the outcomes so that more of the rare and precious holders of office who actually try to represent the people are voted or gerrymandered out of office. They have made our democracy sick and are presiding over its death.

Flitting about in their Nonnie mops and Injun feathers, they carry abroad an endless supply of black toothbrush mustaches, labeling as Hitlers all of those in other countries who don’t knuckle under to their hegemony.  Confronted with a foreign financed coup d’etat on his very border, Vladimir Putin of Russia heeded the calls of the Russian-speaking people of the Crimea.  Russian troops already in Crimea oversaw the free and fair vote of the people to annex themselves to Mother Russia and we called it an “invasion.”  The presstitutes pasted a Hitler mustache on Putin and the lemmings of our media led the electorate in mandatory hours of hate to denigrate him.

In an act of hypocrisy seldom exceeded in history, the Nonnie mops and Injun feathers decried Putin’s “violation of international law,” holding that their own real violations of international law in Iraq and Afghanistan and Yemen and elsewhere around the globe were acts of democratization.  Ask the starving and dying Iraqis about “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”

Meanwhile, in Venezuela and El Salvador, in Central Africa and Somalia, in Honduras and Ecuador, the United States, its lackeys or its CIA thugs and mercenaries are fomenting war, regime change, death and destruction.  It has halos for those who will profit from our lawless interventions and meddling.

Halos and Hitler mustaches.  Nonnie mops and Injun feathers.

For Americans, it seems, that’s all it takes to masquerade as government leaders.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Corporate America Doesn't Give a Damn About Us

Capitalism in these United States has always been contemptuous of the labor whose sweat and toil create profits.

Thanks to Ronnie Reagan and his successful  crushing of the Air Traffic Controllers, we are now back at, or very close to, the point where Robber Barons of industry treated workers like chattel.

In the double-speak that passes for political dialogue these days, those Barons are “job creators” who would put everyone back to work if only Big Government would stop levying taxes and imposing regulations. These so-called “job creators” are the very same corporations that shipped millions of well-paying American jobs overseas to be filled by slave-wage foreign workers. They are the same corporations that Reagan enabled to bust unions willy and nilly, opening the way to obscene profits for such as Walmart and the fast food industry.

Abuses of the workforce, from child labor to overlong workweeks to low wages to unsafe working conditions led to the labor laws that capitalists now find so onerous. After much suffering and bloodshed. American workers won the right to organize unions, bargain collectively and work in safe, healthy conditions. Thanks to the Citizens United decision, corporations have taken over the government and are rewriting the law to their satisfaction.  Once they opposed the 40-hour work week as a socialist crime against free enterprise.  Now they embrace it as a means to oppress workers by limiting everyone to less than 40 hours, making them part-time workers unprotected by the laws that were devised for the benefit of full-time workers.

No nation in the industrialized world has weaker laws affecting “temporary” workers.  What corporations in the United States get by with would be illegal in countries like Sweden, Germany, South Korea and Chile.
Meanwhile, right-to-work laws and other legal fictions make it virtually impossible for these workers to organize.  Walmart tactics alone could form the text book for how to keep workers in virtual enslavement.

Current Bureau of Labor Statistic data show that the number of Americans belonging to a labor union is at an all-time low — barely 14 million vs., for example, nearly 18 million in 1983.  Last year, the rate of
union membership in the public sector fell by more than a full percentage point, from 37 to 35.9 percent of workers, while in the private sector it dropped from 6.9 to 6.6 percent. The combined rate of American workers now belonging to a union stands at 11.3 percent, down from 11.8 the previous year and the lowest figure ever since the bureau started collecting the data in 1983, when the rate was 20.1 percent.
The relatively brief period of ascendant labor unionism in the United States coincided with the emergence of a growing middle class, swollen by hourly-wage workers. Now, most economists are wringing their hands over the decline of that middle class.  Virtually all of the real income growth in this country has gone to the richest one per cent of the population. Workers no longer aspire to becoming middle class.  Millions of them aspire merely to work, to find a job, any job. The relative handful of jobs our mythical “job creators” are offering each month are virtually all minimum-wage jobs or below.  Yet our corporate rulers propagate the myth that American business can’t afford to raise the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour — even though it would now be over $15 an hour if it had merely kept pace with inflation.
While their whores in elected office prattle about further weakening of the labor laws, and further tax concessions to the ultra-rich, to encourage ”job creators,” even a cursory study of our own history reveals that, left to their own devices, American business  still has nothing but contempt for workers.
The TV performer Stephen Colbert was largely correct when he said in a recent speech that we have only ourselves to blame for the fix we’re in.  We elected the people who did this to us, and re-elected them, and re-elected them again. He was referring to our forfeiture of civil liberties under the so-called USA Patriot Act.  But it applies as well to the plummeting economic status of John Henry Citizen.