Archive for October, 2009

White Guys in Suits

By Gordon Solberg
I’ve been on a nostalgia kick lately. I’ve never been one to live in the past, which is why I always have my projects to carry me forward. But lately there’s been this NMSU grad student who’s doing his master’s thesis on the 60s “unrest” at NMSU, of which I was a key player. So he’s been asking me questions, and my brain has been stimulated to think about that era and its aftermath.

You know me: I like to immediately jump to whatever conclusion I’m capable of jumping to. In this case, the conclusion is this: the white guys in suits won. The 60s were just an asterisk, if that. We’re about to enter a time in which the 60s will be forgotten. I’m sorry if I’m disabusing anybody from their final shred of hope here, but facts are facts. There was never any doubt all along about who would win.

Americans have always been so easy, thinking they’re free and all. They are so easy to control. All one has to do is muddy the waters, keep the fear level up, divide and conquer, and Americans (for the most part) will believe whatever they’re told by their authority figures. Who just happen to be – surprise! – white guys in suits. As for the ones who see through the lies? So what? Exactly what are they going to do about it? Rise up or something? Don’t make me laugh.

Or, make me laugh! Why not? Ha ha!

As you may have noticed, the white guys in suits have been consolidating their power during the past 30 years. It began with Reagan, who cut taxes on the wealthy (who happen to be white guys in suits), and got rid of those pesky regulations on corporations (which are run by white guys in suits). As you also may have noticed, that really was a coup d’etat in 2000. The aftermath from that one will probably last forever. The Bush Administration’s parting gift was the “financial crisis of 2008” which allowed them to use the shock doctrine to start draining the remaining loot from the Treasury. (This will take awhile because the Federal Reserve (which runs the Treasury Dept.) can always create an unlimited supply of new money, as if by magic!) I use ironic quotes around “financial crisis” because, seriously, who told us that the economy was only microseconds from collapse unless heroic measures were taken? Oh, that’s right: white guys in suits!

Now, we have definitive information that the global climate is mere decades away from an irreversible tipping point. (Actually, we are already beyond the tipping point, but we’re still within the final days of the “era of stability” in which our species evolved.) What are now trends will soon become the new reality, and we will find that our species programming is even more pitifully inadequate than it already is. And who was it who sowed doubt and confusion about global warming during the critical 70s and 80s and 90s, and who are still doing it today? You know who!

What if we had won, and not the white guys in suits? What if? It never hurts to fantasize, does it? What if we had actually created a counterculture strong enough to withstand the insane mainstream culture? For one thing, “sustainability” would now be more than a punchline. Energy use would be much less. Pollution would be much less. Recycling would be the rule. Landfills would be much smaller. People would sing and dance a lot more. Let me dig into the archives and find just the right quote from myself:

“This country needs a radically new commitment to the concept of wise government. Our corrupt, winner-take-all, lowest-common-denominator political system is simply not working, and needs to be replaced. We desperately need some wisdom from our “leaders,” not more sleaze. A few starter programs for a wise government would include a new emphasis on alternative energy production, energy conservation, population control, and holistic health care. These programs would save billions of dollars every year in the long run, and in the short run they could be subsidized by diverting funds from the more ridiculous military weapons programs and other forms of corporate welfare.

“On an individual level, we need more gardens and orchards, a more natural diet (that’s what gardens and orchards are for!), more exercise, less television, more fresh air, less toxic exhaust fumes, more bird songs, less traffic, more bicycle paths, more solar energy, more stars, more silence, more time to recollect ourselves, and more interpersonal sharing that goes beyond the bright superficial chatter typical of today’s shallow mega-culture. We need less manufactured soul-shriveling “entertainment” and more of the primal community-building boogie that is our sacred God-given birthright — making music, singing, dancing, drumming. Making a joyful noise. Shelling peas together. Digging dirt. Smelling roses. Walking in the forest or the desert. Picking apples. Pulling weeds. Fulfilling our true needs.”

I wrote that in 1997. How did it turn out? Is 12 years enough to tell? Do we need more time to make a final determination? As you can see, this country – as always – has been running at full speed in exactly the wrong direction all these years. Why? Because the white guys in suits determine the trajectory, not idealistic bloggers sitting at their keyboards in the predawn hours.

Dawn! There’s that word again! The word that triggers what’s now known as “the final paragraph” when I slowly insert myself back into the workaday world!

I find it useful to face up to reality and dispense with false hope. There’s something to be learned from all this. Something about death, and acceptance. Something that ties in to Matthew 6:19-21: “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” “Heaven” is right here, right now, not in some imagined “place” you “go to” after you die.

Yes, I want to write my opus, which will probably be 100 words long, and sum it all up: birth, death, meaning, chaos, whatever. Till then, I’ll just meander along here, like a slug in a garden, leaving a slime trail for you to follow.

Read all of Gordon Solberg’s blogs at www.newearthtimes.blogspot.com

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Our Nobelist President

Friday, October 9, 2009

By Thomas Wark

Today I wonder what The Great American Center, whoever and wherever it is, thinks about President Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize.

The instant it became known, the Left and the Right predictably denounced it, continuing their Odd Couple dans macabre to criticize this president for utterly opposing reasons.

Rob Kall, a progressive blogger with whom I agree on most things, was among the front runners on the left.  What has the President done to deserve it?  He’s still conducting two ugly wars, killing civilians with drones and bombs, sending storm troopers into Pittsbiurgh for the G2, refusing to act against torturers, achieving nothing with his Iran policy, being defied by North Korea. . . .

A voice of the other half of the Odd Coupling, Republican National Chairman Michael Steele, said: ‘What has President Obama actually accomplished? It is unfortunate that the president’s star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights. One thing is certain — President Obama won’t be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility, or backing up rhetoric with concrete action.”

One might ask if even Mr. Steele, a master of Beckian vitriol and garbage, counts any living Republicans among those who have “made real achievements working toward peace and human rights.”  Mr. Kall, at least, speaks from the high ground of advocacy for not just human rights and peace, but also health care for all, improved public education, ending the illegal wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, curbing the influence of military hawks on foreign policy and  the antioxidant values of chocolate.

Well, maybe I’m wrong about the chocolate.

In its announcement, the Nobel committee said: it “has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

“Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama’s initiative, the United States is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.”

Fair enough.  I hope “the center,” whoever and wherever it is, appreciates the significance of the “new climate.”

I sometimes chide myself in my own criticism of Obama for forgetting where we were during the preceding eight years.  I think of the Ship of State, under full steam, careering in the wrong direction for those eight years.  Is there any force in the ocean strong enough to turn it around 180 degrees in nine short months?

I don’t think so.

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Slouching towards corporatocracy

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

–W.B Yeats

By Steve Klinger

The summer was all about what happens when a country is run by a greed-driven oligarchy that is able to tap into populist fear, anger and racism to advance its agenda – and block reform. Although polls have shown up to 75 percent of Americans support universal health care, it’s the other 25 percent, largely funded by moneyed special interests, who grab all the headlines with their hysterical obstructionism and wild accusations.

Instead of a discourse on corporate healthcare rationing and the impending bankruptcy of the middle class, teabaggers and rabble-rousers scream incendiary rhetoric: socialism, Hitler, Maobama. The debate is deflected from the merits of fixing our broken healthcare system to a vitriolic assault on all things Democrat that leaves progressives and moderates alike in helpless confusion at this unexpected lack of civility from the right. Gosh, could there be violence?

Congress as usual is gridlocked, with all the power residing in the corporate puppetmasters who pull the strings backstage while Max Baucus does his little tapdance. The Democrats, having already compromised with themselves, are poignantly begging for one Republican vote to get the most diluted of bills moving in the Senate. Also stalled are meaningful climate-change and financial-industry reform. The economy may be inching out of recession, but home foreclosures and unemployment rage on. The ice shelf keeps crumbling into the sea. Everybody knows what the problems are, but no one can accomplish a solution.

It’s a good thing Americans are optimistic people because things are about to get a whole lot worse. Our glaring socioeconomic inequities and ongoing national paralysis are perhaps a few months away from taking a mortal body blow from the third branch of government – the Supreme Court. While the mainstream media have frothed over healthcare legislation, a SCOTUS case, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, was reheard by the Roberts court in September, and the smart money says the conservative majority will overturn more provisions of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance act, allowing special interests to pour money more freely into campaign advertising, just in time for the 2010 elections and the 2012 presidential campaign (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0909/26843.html).

To put it succinctly, the Court is leaning heavily toward a ruling that puts the First Amendment protection of corporations on the same footing as that of individuals, rolling back some tight restraints on political spending by special interests. Instead of having to channel money through PACs to “soft-issue” advertising, corporations (and labor unions, among others) would be able to spend money on ads directly backing or opposing candidates. If the Court doesn’t just further loosen restraints but opens the floodgates, the millions now filtering into the healthcare debate from Big Pharma and Big Insurance would be a trickle compared to the frontal assault unleashed to help Republicans regain Congress and oust Obama.

Forget public campaign financing, the sensible alternative practiced in most other advanced western nations, along with universal health care. (Do we see a pattern here?). Like single payer, that’s off the table in this country. Instead, we seem to be in a losing fight to hold onto what’s left of McCain-Feingold. If you think it’s frustrating right now that our leaders won’t do the people’s bidding on financial or healthcare reform, just wait and see what kind of “elected” government we have in a few years.

Isn’t it ironic that so many humanoids who pass for citizens of American Dreamland are getting their panties in a knot calling Obama and the Democrats totalitarians? They will have a rude awakening when the fecal waste of their populist rhetoric hits the blades of the approaching corporate propeller.

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The stranglehold of the status quo: The breakdown begins


By Gordon Solberg

I haven’t said anything about Barack Obama in these pages [GP print edition] since the January-February issue, when I said: “Obama is an agent of the Empire; otherwise he would never have gotten this far. He’ll be bold, but only up to a point… His ‘bipartisan’ strategy is guaranteed to limit meaningful change; the Dems seem to have spinelessness embedded into their DNA; and the Republicans are always master obstructionists. It will be a fascinating spectacle to watch, that’s for sure.”

Speaking of fascinating spectacles, this past summer was really something, wasn’t it? The sour smell of revolution is in the air; you can almost taste the madness. Sales of guns and ammo are at an all-time high. The lunatic fringe gets all the TV time it wants, while progressives and other members of the sober-minded demographic are routinely ignored by the corporate media. Unruly mobs shout down the “libruls” at town hall meetings. Assault rifles are flaunted outside presidential gatherings. Ridiculous lies, spread by hate radio and TV, go unanswered. Liberal socialist fascist communist Obama, manifestation of all things black and evil, receives 30 death threats every day. Our country has always featured a healthy helping of craziness, but this past summer the mentally and morally deficient, with the amplification of the corporate media, have managed to set the tone for the entire country. Such a delicious, sick-to-the-stomach irony this all is – the entire planet is literally dying as we speak, yet the only response seems to be idiocy compounded upon idiocy. And we can rest assured that this is only the beginning.

In response, Obama and the Dems have been playing to lose. (The technical term for their behavior is “lame-ass.”) Is this intentional? Or even worse, are they really so clueless that they don’t know how to respond to the bullshit being pumped down on us from on high? They remind me of a basketball team that’s been bribed to blow the big game. When they should be going in for the kill, they inexplicably hold back. They miss the critical free throws. They flub the easy layups. They make stupid turnovers. The crowd grows silent as time expires. How could a team that was leading by 30 points at the half end up losing the game?

But that’s what happens when we’re reduced to always voting for the lesser of two evils. And make no mistake: if there was ever a lesser of two evils, it’s Barack Obama. He’s cautious, conciliatory, and utterly conventional – which is to say, uncreative. Our dire situation cries out for creative solutions, but all Obama provides are the same tired old tricks that only make things worse. Under Obama, we’ve got Wall Street running the Treasury Department, deficits even more astronomical than those Bush created, a quagmire in Afghanistan, and no meaningful action on the energy shortages and climate catastrophes that will be destroying our civilization before long. And this is just the short list. Obama simply isn’t up to the task. He’s just a standard-brand politician, whose only selling point was his electability. I do like his family, their garden and beehives. They’re way cool people, but so what? At the end of the day, Obama is just a figurehead, like any other President, and the Congress he has to work with has already been bought and paid for. Once again, we’ve been sold a dog and pony show instead of the change we thought we could believe in.

It all goes to show you: when we vote for the lesser of two evils, we still get screwed. Maybe not screwed quite as bad, but we’re still screwed. And on the national level, voting for the lesser of two evils is all that’s allowed by the powers-that-be. They win either way. Isn’t American-style “democracy” wonderful? I can hardly wait to make my next campaign contribution!

The important thing to remember about the health care “debate” is that our most important bargaining chip – single payer – was never allowed on the table. Single payer is an elegant solution because it would remove the parasitical insurance industry from the equation, resulting in enormous cost savings and liberation from one of the most oppressive institutions in our country. (The private insurance industry is far more oppressive than the government.) But doing away with the insurance industry would be a revolutionary act – far more revolutionary than the attack of any wingnut assault rifle brigade – and as such is simply not allowed by our oligarchy. “Too bad about single payer, kids,” they say, patting us condescendingly on the head, “but we have this bright shiny new public option that maybe… just maybe… we can bestow upon you if you work hard enough.”

The trouble is, the “public option” we’ve been working for all these months is just a shadow of what we think it is. It’s too small and feeble to be any kind of replacement for single payer. We’ve been baited and switched yet again. The only sure thing is the mandate, which will at long last force healthy young Americans to buy health insurance they don’t really need. What a financial bonanza for the insurance companies! Our politicians are nothing if not slick. They advise us to accept “half a loaf,” but we’ll end up with just a slice, or maybe a crust. But the situation is still in flux, Obama can give a great speech, and it remains to be seen how all this turns out.

Americans are such a credulous lot for the most part. So many Americans will believe anything that’s marketed slickly enough. I need to write a column outlining the origins of American credulity: Christianity, American exceptionalism, Hollywood fantasy, the commodification of information, corporate-based “news” as entertainment… there are many factors which contribute to America’s la-la orientation.

There’s the old saying, “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it’s probably a duck.” Evidently, a critical mass of Americans aren’t capable of making the deduction that a duck is really a duck. To give a real-world example: an emergency (pick any from the long list available) is really an emergency, not an “opportunity” that we can ignore until a more politically expedient time.

For the most part, Americans insist that a duck is really a golden unicorn, or maybe a bag of tater tots. They insist on viewing reality through a set of pre-programmed fantasy filters. For example, a majority of Americans believe that global warming is no big deal. They also believe that the economy is going to recover! Imagine that! No doubt pigs will be flying soon.

With such a deluded population, it’s no wonder that representative government is failing us. The entire 18th Century paradigm of making intelligent decisions based on Reason is breaking down. In earlier, simpler times representative government worked well enough (though just barely), but now it’s proving unable to even address our problems, much less attempt to actually solve them. Papering things over in a politically realistic way simply doesn’t cut it on a planet whose life-support system is rapidly failing. Barack Obama will be known as the last president of the post-World War II era of prosperity, stability and Earth murder. As for what is to come, we can only see through a glass darkly. The details are murky, but the overall trend is obvious: Big Shit a-coming.

The breakdown has now begun in earnest. The fraying around the edges is cutting closer to the heart. The Republicans are like children playing with hand grenades. The Democrats are fatally compromised by their corporate connections and their inherent conventionality and timidity. The Green Party, which at one time might have provided a measure of intelligence to the proceedings, barely exists anymore. The corporate media –  the de facto propaganda organ for the Empire – successfully keeps the populace pitifully ill-informed. Only 39 percent of Americans believe in evolution, and at least 30 percent have lost their grip on reality altogether. The coming crisis will involve far more than the contradictions of the funny-money economy. It will be a perfect storm of overpopulation, resource depletion, economic chaos, pollution, energy scarcity, and climate catastrophe.

I’m inclined to take everything at face value at this point. To paraphrase Gertrude Stein: “A duck is a duck is a duck.” I’m inclined to believe that there’s no particular solution to the “human situation.” The status quo has us all in a death grip. We’re trapped on the same planet together – rich and poor, ants and grasshoppers alike. There are far too many of us, and we’ve created far too much damage to expect to escape lightly. Karma bites. What goes around comes around, and boy howdy will it ever.

(Have a nice day! My blog is still low-key for the most part, with pretty pictures, whimsical captions, homestead happenings, and signs of the seasons. http://newearthtimes.blogspot.com )

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