Thursday, March 24, 2016

Pot Calls Kettle Black

I’d like to think that in the old days of responsible journalism, more of a point would have been made of the hypocrisy of Barack Obama lecturing Raul Castro of Cuba about human rights.

Even as the American president blathered his false pieties in Havana, just 500 miles away, at the other end of the same island, an abject community of United States political prisoners was enduring torture and incarceration without trial at the Guantanamo military base prison Obama had promised eight years ago he would close.

Castro’s protestation that his government has no political prisoners may ring hollow in our ears, but however unjustly Cuba may treat its dissidents, the magnitude of its human rights violations is minuscule compared to the United States.  America’s human rights record is among the poorest in the civilized world.

Consider China, another country our government has criticized for alleged human rights violations.  China’s population is almost five times greater than that of the U.S. Yet the number of prisoners in U.S. jails is far greater than the number incarcerated in all of China.  

Our prison population of 2.2 million is by far the world’s largest, nearly equaling the number in Soviet prisons at the height of the Gulag terror.  An enormously disproportionate percentage of the U.S. prison population is African-American or Hispanic — a clear reflection of American racism.

Rape, torture, hunger and endless years of solitary confinement are commonplace in United States prisons.

It is also commonplace to jail Americans for telling the truth to their fellow citizens.  Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning is but one case in point.  People of color have almost no chance of overturning unjust convictions in the United States.  Seven presidents have refused to pardon Leonard Peltier, a native American whose supporters have produced reams of evidence that he is not guilty of the murders for which he was sent to prison in 1974.

Most Americans are unfamiliar with the names and case histories of the dozens of political prisoners unjustly imprisoned in their country — some for 40 or more years.  

Mumia Abu Jamal, Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez, Antonio Guerrero, Ramon Labanino, Fernando Gonzalez), Ricardo Palmera, Russell Maroon Shoats,Veronza Bowers, Ed Poindexter , Mondo we Langa, Mekou Kambul, Robert King, Albert Woodfox, Herman Wallace, Mohammad El-Mezain, Abdulrahman Odeh, Mufid Abdulqade, Jeremy Hammond, Brent Betterly, Jared Chase,  Brian Church, Eric McDavid, Marie Mason, Herman Bell, Romaine (Chip) Fitzgerald,  Ed Poindexter — these are not names you often see in your newspapers and magazines, or hear broadcast on what passes for “news” on TV.

But they have been jailed for being active in radical social movements, for exercising what courts have deemed to be “free speech.”  They are victims of corrupt evidence, coerced testimony, incompetent defense lawyers, prosecutorial misconduct.  Their appeals go unheard, their human stories obscured. Their human rights have been trampled and probably never will be restored.

And yet our president dares to question the record of another country’s head of state on human rights. Have we no shame at all?

The Nevermore Nation

Since being taken over b\y its most extreme right wing elements, the Republican party has undertaken to remake the democratic republic the founders gave us into something Dr. Franklin and his peers would not recognize: a people-hating oligarchy of corporate monsters.

They love to cite the Constitution even while smashing it to smithereens.  (Remember the smarmy Illinois congressman, during the attempt to impeach President Clinton?  “We may be an itch, but we are a constiTOOshunal itch.” A singular addition to the congressional hall of shame.)

Now the Senate Republicans — including most of the 47 who committed treason with their seditious letter to Iran on the nuclear negotiations — have decided that the Constitution really doesn’t say that Presidents nominate federal judges and the Senate votes either to confirm or not to confirm them.  It might seem to say that but what it really means, according to the new Republican orthodoxy, is that presidents in the last year or two of their terms aren’t really presidents, cannot legally conduct any of the affairs of the presidency, and are mandated to just twiddle their thumbs until the next president is elected. And if the next president is not a Republican, these idiots will find some new “constiTOOshunal” grounds for obstructing everything the elected leader of the country proposes.

This came to pass in part because the current president chose to be Dr. Kidglove and attempt to negotiate the rules of the asylum with the inmates. And because his partisans in the congress lacked the courage and the wit to fight the obstructionists with all of the real constitutional tools in their shop.  The more they got away with, the more depredations the right wingnuts of congress committed in the name of the “constiTOOshun.”  The game’s over now.  The government doesn’t function.

Things will only get worse, unless what now seems extremely unlikely happens.  That is, if Sen. Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, and then wins the general election, and his party regains control of at least the Senate, if not also the House of Representatives.

A more likely outcome is a November contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, which is really no choice at all.  Ms. Clinton has more blood on her hands than any presidential aspirant in our history.  Trump is the most dangerous kind of imbecile, one who thinks he is intelligent.  Either would be an unmitigated disaster in the White House, for different reasons, perhaps, but does it really matter which iceberg sinks the ship?  

Whomever we elect in November, that person will place a hand on a Holy Bible and solemnly swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

As if it still existed.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Leave the Clocks Alone!

It's over a week now since we fiddled with the friggin' clocks but my aging, aching body still has not adjusted.  Why the hell do we go through this nonsense twice a year?

Y'all want the kiddybucks to have more daylight when the school day ends? Start classes an hour earlier the last month or two of the school year.

Y'all think it helps the farmers? They hate it as much as I do.

The big canard is that it saves energy.  No serious research supports that notion.  Most studies have found about one per cent less energy use after the clocks have been messed with.  In many places energy use actually goes up.

Daylight Saving (no s) Time they call it.  How the hell do you "save" daylight? The sun provides what it provides, no more, no less, and no amount of tinkering with the damned clocks can change it.  So why have the stinkin' politicians foisted this idiocy upon us?

My body doesn't care what the  clocks say.  It wants breakfast at breakfast time.  It wants lunch when the sun declares high noon.  It wants dinner at the normal, civilized hour. It does not want to be rushed into indigestion just because a batch of slack-jawed troglodytes in some state legislature decided to shove the clock hands ahead an extra turn.

Proper sleep is precious to geezers like me.  We forgo the extra cup of coffee we crave, we control our sugar intake, we walk an extra block a day, we avoid "bad" fats even if they taste good, we consume horrid potions from the druggist -- all in pursuit of a good night's sleep.  And for a few months of the year it works and we rise with the sun and feel good about starting the day.

Then the "spring forward" insanity arrives and we can't get a decent night's rest and we wake up knowing that it's seven o'clock but the damned clock says it's eight and for the rest of the day everything is out of whack. DST increases arthritis pain, causes acid reflux and destroys the taste buds.

No wonder the world is full of terrorists.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Mein Trumpf

Our Little Blond Hitler is his own Joseph Goebbels.  He will be the first to tell you (as Goebbels told Germany in 1933) that he alone among the country’s politicians understands the situation and draws the necessary hard and firm conclusions. “I’m the worst thing that ever happened to ISIS,” the neo-fuhrer told Barbara Walters.

He is hard and firm on such matters as:

—We must torture, using methods far more cruel than mere waterboarding, because torture will keep us safe.  Never mind the international laws against torture; we will make new laws; we will BE the law.

—We must build walls to keep our people secure and pure.  Those who would cross our borders are rapists, pillagers and thieves.  They must be kept out and those who have come here illegally must be deported.

—Muslims, like Jews in Hitler’s Germany, are evil and must be disposed of.  Remember, it is OK — even desirable — to kill the families of our enemies.

—Making America great again, as Hitler made Germany great again.

Our Little Blond Hitler has said: “I think apologizing’s a great thing, but you have to be wrong. I will absolutely apologize, sometime in the hopefully distant future, if I’m ever wrong.” Also: "My IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure; it's not your fault."

The neo-fuhrer demonstrated his IQ by telling us, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.”

When some in the media actually questioned this wisdom, he assured us,“You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass.” 

Others have even suggested that the thuggery of some of his adherents at political assemblies is remindful of Hitler’s infamous brownshirts.

Our Little Blond Fuhrer will have none of it.  “My rallies are love fests,” he said.

Who needs a Goebbels?

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Where the Sound of Silence Comforts

There’s nothing quite like politics to make one appreciate the silence of our desert.  Its creatures slither and creep, flit noiselessly across rock and sand, hunt by stealth and by night.  Survival dictates that they not waste  energy being active during the heat of the day.  A great place for quiet contemplation.

When Bush 43 was re-elected, we hastily packed up the RV and retreated to a deep desert outpost miles away from even the smallest hamlet.  Virtually total isolation, there to lick our wounds and seek solace in the friendly silence.

Now, with the lumpen image of Trump everywhere, I take Brandi every morning into a favorite nearby desert hideaway and wonder how any civilized country could possibly have sunk to the depths where presidential candidates actually debate in public about penis size.

Political insults about body parts aren’t new in America — Lincoln’s long arms, for example,  prompted a chorus of lewd remarks from his opponents. But the overall tone of the Republican campaigns has become so churlish, so childish that no precedent comes to mind.  It is a bottomless pit of slime.

The two Democrats, by comparison, have behaved in far more seemly fashion,  even though one of them has a disdain for truth that rivals the Republicans’.  Clinton’s smarmy proclamations of being “progressive” don’t help one’s digestion, either.

Better to bask in the sunshine and silence of el desierto. Here, a solitary roadrunner pauses arrogantly beside a mesquite bush before dashing across the dirt jeep track.  There a rare burrowing owl chatters defiant protection of her nest.  Blue desert beetles scamper across pebbly terrain where mule deer deposited scat a few hours earlier.  Bits of coyote fur still cling to a cholla.  

Today, clouds are skittering across a sky that’s usually all blue, but there’s no rain in them.  Maybe in a day or two, if the el nino  winds keep up.  Their whisper is the loudest sound around us, unless an aircraft intrudes on its way to or from the local airport.

By accident I glimpse a jackrabbit stark still in the shade of a desert shrub.  If I move it will bolt, but we just stare at one another.  Finally Brandi catches a whiff of it and forces the action.  The jack speeds away, Brandi gives chase for four or five steps, then gives up, knowing he can’t catch those things. At five he’s an old desert hand and he, too appreciates the silence.

He finds a sunny, sandy spot and stretches out for a nap.

Prattle away, you preening, puerile jackasses and your coterie of talking heads.  We can’t hear you.  You can’t touch us out here in our desert.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Chris Hedges and Gas-Pump Reality

It has become clear, as the important American journalist and polemicist Chris Hedges has long argued, that elections can’t fix what’s wrong with this country.  

Elections are the milksop for deluded Americans of the middle and lower classes.  They’re shows, orchestrated fictions designed to make us feel like we”re participating in a democratic process.  

Hedges quotes Sheldon Wolin in “Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.”

“One cannot point to any national institution[s] that can accurately be described as democratic, surely not in the highly managed, money-saturated elections, the lobby-infested Congress, the imperial presidency, the class-based judicial and penal system, or, least of all, the media.

In the United States today, Hedges writes,Corporate power is unassailable, and it rolls forward like a stream of lava.” It is in his view a system that ultimately must implode.

Even as he excoriates the American left for its vacuous cowardice, Hedges has repeatedly called for a new American revolution.  Now he fears that “the revolt may be right-wing. It may have heavy overtones of fascism. It may cement into place a frightening police state. But that a revolt is coming is incontrovertible. The absurdity of the election proves it.”

As I pumped gas the other day, a guy at the next pump remarked on the upcoming “Super Tuesday” primaries.  He was a non-union worker driving a battered pick-up. (He had to be non-union, because union workers are as rare as penguins here in southern New Mexico.)  “I’m for Bernie,” he said.  “Hillary’s a f——-g bitch.” He and all his fellow workers are lifelong Democrats, he said, but if the party nominated Clinton “we’ll all go over to Trump.” 

He reminded me of what Hedges had written that very day:

“There are tens of millions of Americans, especially lower-class whites, rightfully enraged at what has been done to them, their families and their communities. They have risen up to reject the neoliberal policies and political correctness imposed on them by college-educated elites from both political parties: Lower-class whites are embracing an American fascism.

“These Americans want a kind of freedom—a freedom to hate. They want the freedom to use words like “nigger,” “kike,” “spic,” “chink,” “raghead” and “fag.” They want the freedom to idealize violence and the gun culture. They want the freedom to have enemies, to physically assault Muslims, undocumented workers, African-Americans, homosexuals and anyone who dares criticize their cryptofascism. They want the freedom to celebrate historical movements and figures that the college-educated elites condemn, including the Ku Klux Klan and the Confederacy. They want the freedom to ridicule and dismiss intellectuals, ideas, science and culture. They want the freedom to silence those who have been telling them how to behave. And they want the freedom to revel in hypermasculinity, racism, sexism and white patriarchy. These are the core sentiments of fascism.

I suggested to my gas-pump neighbor that instead of switching over to Trump, he and his friends might want to consider the Green Party candidacy of Jill Stein. He didn’t know who Jill Stein was and didn’t care.

“We got rights,” he said.  “But people like Hillary don’t give a shit about us.  We’re gonna go with somebody who cares about us.”

I finished filling my tank and moved to drive off.  “Have a nice day,” he said, waving to me.