Monday, January 26, 2015

Upstairs Downstairs: The new American class-system economy

     This has been a busy month for me, including helping my daughter prepare for the birth of my next granddaughter, getting a bunch of surgical procedures out of the way so I can be bionic by the time I become our new arrival's caregiver after her new mum goes back to work, worrying about the role of the CIA in creating radical "Islam," and still struggling through Thomas Piketty's 600-page book on modern economics.  And the more that I read in "Capital for the 21st Century," the angrier I get. 

     According to Piketty, Europe and America have traditionally been divided into two basic classes for a long long long time:  The "haves" and the "have-nots".  Traditionally, the "haves" have owned the capital (most of it inherited) and the "have-nots" have provided the labor.  For many past centuries, it had been pretty much upstairs and downstairs in Western economies, just like on TV.

     But then two world wars came along and totally shook up these two formerly set-in-stone class lines, creating a unique glitch in time wherein a new large middle class was suddenly born -- in both Europe and America. 

      According to Piketty, this was an almost-unique experience in Western economic history -- where the wealthy were taken down a notch and the poor were elevated up.  However, this "accidental equality" was too good to be true for long, and the wealthy classes fought back and the dream died -- and so here we are, back again, deja vu, once more playing at "Upstairs Downstairs" like our ancestors have all done since even before the fall of Rome.  Sigh. 

     Dontcha just wish that Piketty is wrong about the recent disappearance of the new middle class?  But unfortunately he's not.

     And here in America, those of us who grew up being middle-class and who liked being relatively free of money worries are now suddenly appalled at this sudden change in our status from "Almost Upstairs" to "Definitely "Downstairs" because, silly us, we hadn't realized that our relative economic freedom was only just a temporary economic glitch. 

      I myself can remember when I used to only have to work weekends and summers in the post office in order to make enough money to put myself through graduate school at Cal -- and with no student loans.  And before that, back in the early 1960s, I lived in New York City for two whole years with only an occasional part-time job for income.  Those days are totally long gone!

     But, even more important, what is the average American today doing in response to this tragic new economic turn of events as he or she watches his or her financial status erode from home ownership to unemployment or worse?  Do we protest?  Demand justice?  Seek redress?  Try to end corporate corruption?  React logically to this dreadful new "Upstairs Downstairs" situation? 

      Hell no.

      Most Americans today do the unthinkable instead.  He or she sides with the wealthy, sides with the bankers, sides with the weapons manufacturers, sides with Wall Street and War Street and sides with the top 1%.

      Almost no one in America today (except for me of course) has started pointing his or her finger at the wealthy who have just stolen all of our stuff.  No, he or she is too busy pointing his or her finger at his or her neighbors instead -- or at those poor unfortunate souls who are lower down on the economic and social totem pole than him (or her).  It's like the butler getting yelled at by his greedy-bastard master and then the butler taking it out on the scullery maid and kicking her backside good -- instead to telling the greedy-bastard master where to shove it instead.

     Excuse me for having to state the obvious here, but it is the backsides of the inappropriately wealthy that we all should be kicking right now; the insanely wealthy billionaires who are stealing our jobs -- and our souls.

     So what can we do about it now, in order to get back to the economic Eden that was just stolen from us by a handful of greedy rich dudes?  This is what all patriotic Americans should be asking ourselves right now.  First, we could raise tax rates on the wealthy to match ours -- so that they can give at least a little back to the country that has given them so much in the first place.  That would be a good start.

    Then we could refuse to vote for anyone who represents banksters, weapons manufacturers, feudal-lord wannabees, billionaires or jerks.  We could actually do that.  All it would involve would be doing a little research on electoral candidates' funding and priorities, plus using a little anger finally being directed appropriately.  And making sure that every American votes.  How hard could that be?

PS:   And speaking of childbirth, according to Women's Weekly E-News, "
The United States ranks 60th in the world when it comes to maternal mortality, according to a 2014 report by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, below almost every other developed nation.  And the U.S. infant mortality rate is higher than most other developed nations, according to the CDC."

    This means that being preggers here in America is much more risky than in sixty other developed countries.  In America today, it really sucks eggs to be a woman of childbearing age.  How "Upstairs Downstairs" is that!  So if you want to become pregnant (or not become preggers at all for that matter), it would be best to move to Iceland or Singapore or Estonia immediately.

PPS:  Europe is also having an "Upstairs Downstairs" moment right now for a different reason; because unemployed refugees from the Middle East are swarming into the EU by the millions and lowering wage prices there a lot -- as a clear result of having allowed the US, the UN, the UK and NATO (an alphabet soup that always spells trouble wherever it is served) to kick that particular Middle Eastern hornets' nest again and again and again.

      And now, Europe, you need to get ready for a whole new swarm of unemployed "Downstairs" immigrants about to descend on you from Ukraine too, because the US, UN, UK and NATO alphabet soup has also been kicking the hell out of Kiev and Donbass this whole past year as well -- and Ukraine's borders are a hecka lot closer to Europe than Iraq's.  Don't say you haven't been warned.

     In terms of nurturing and protecting the nascent middle classes that Piketty described, the US, UN, UK and NATO have clearly screwed up.

     To quote Syrian president Bashar Assad on the subject, "[America,] you are the greatest power in the world now; you have too many things to disseminate around the world: knowledge, innovation, IT, with its positive repercussions.  How can you be the best in these fields yet the worst in the political field?  This is a contradiction.  That is what I think the American people should analyze and question.  Why do you fail in every war?  You can create war, you can create problems, but you cannot solve any problem.  Twenty years of the peace process in Palestine and Israel, and you cannot do anything with this, in spite of the fact that you are a great country."

     Our "alphabet soup" has clearly screwed up.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The compassion of Vichy France: Why doesn't war-torn Europe understand war?

    With yet another World War II commemorative anniversary fast approaching, let us once again reflect on the extreme horrors of that particular war -- and how it ravished Europe and left that entire continent literally screaming in pain.  Whole cities in flames, corpses of dead babies lying in the streets, grim torture chambers, starving orphans, concentration camps -- the entire nightmare of every war that has ever gone before it and then some.

    And yet it appears that almost no one in Europe these days can even remember those horrifying times that are just mere decades past -- what it was like to see your child tortured, your family being dragged off in box cars or your sister begging Yankee soldiers for candy bars or offering her body to strangers so as not to starve before nightfall.   Almost no one in Europe seems to have any compassion at all any more for what it was like to suffer the indescribable horrors of war.

    Is there anyone at all in France today who can even remember the Vichy traitors, the brave underground Resistance or fascists goose-stepping down the Champs-Elyse?  Or even remember reading about it in textbooks at school?

     Does no one in Britain even remember the Blitz of London or the heroic rescue of British soldiers stranded at Dunkirk?  Or hearing stories about it from their grandparents or watching reenactments of it on the BBC?

     Does no one in Germany even remember the all-pervasive media propaganda, torchlight Nuremberg parades, "Heil Hitler," gas chambers that Good Germans knew nothing about, the extreme hatred of non-Aryans, the cruel cartoonish stereotyping of people based solely on their religion -- or what it was like to be living in Dresden at the time of the Slaughterhouse Five? 

     Apparently not.

     Because if they did, they would never have recreated Dresden in Baghdad, Auschwitz in Gaza or the Slaughterhouse Five in Aleppo and Homs.  There never would have been all those vicious attacks on Iraq or the clandestine sponsoring of ISIS in Syria or the brutal neo-Nazi takeover of the government of Ukraine or the arming of mujahedin war lords in Afghanistan or the nightmare of the "no-fly zone" in Libya.

     Europeans, of all people, should have known better than to muck about with the fates of "war".  Europeans should have known better than to bomb women and children in the Middle East and support Vichy-like dictators in Israel and Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

     Europeans should have done everything that they humanly could to follow the teachings of Jesus, Hillel and Muhammad (PBUH) -- to "Do unto others...."

    How did Europeans forget so quickly?  How could they possibly have forgotten the deep and bloody lessons of World War II so very soon? 

    And as for the Untied States, apparently Americans never learned compassion from all those Civil War reenactments and Ken Burns PBS specials either.  22,730 killed or wounded at Antietam alone.  51,112 casualties at Gettysburg.  620,000 soldiers dead, 50,000 civilians dead, 1,030,000 casualties.  And all we have to show for all this slaughter is the compassion of Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and Pappy Bush's infamous Highway of Death.

     Wounded Knee, the Trail of Tears, Shiloh, Chancellorsville, Bull Run, Dallas and 9-11 have apparently only taught us Americans the kind of compassion we showed unto others at Hiroshima, Manzanar, Pyongyang, Chile, Cambodia, Gaza and "Je Suis CIA".

Monday, January 12, 2015

Who benefits from being Charlie: "I am NOT Bibi Netanyahu!"

      Clearly this subject has already been covered in the media news cycle ad nauseam but I still can't stop thinking about the "I am Charlie" concept.  Was the idea behind all those people who held up "I am Charlie" posters supposed to be about protecting free speech?  Really?  Then why isn't everyone carrying "I am Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden" posters too?  Or demanding that the police stop arresting guys who falsely yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater or deliberately start barroom brawls?

     Or if those "I am Charlie" posters are in protest of armed thugs in Paris gunning down civilians in cold blood, then why isn't everyone in Paris also carrying posters proclaiming "I am Iraq" or "I am Syria" or "I am Palestine" or "I am Ukraine" or Libya or Mali or....  You get the picture.

      All those people holding up signs protesting the slaughter on Rue Nicolas-Appert might actually think that they too are "Charlie" -- and that's fine.  Terrible things happened to the employees of Charlie Hebdo.  No one should ever have to suffer the fate of being shot down in cold blood, and thus the victims deserve to be mourned.  However I myself chose NOT to be Charlie Hebdo, a vicious slimy obscene rag clearly designed to stir up religious tensions in France.
     And I also choose not to be any other bigots or terrorist troublemakers who clearly delight in trying to stir up religious tensions in France, crassly using others' religious differences to pave their own way to riches and power -- and yet who have the ultimate and offensive hypocrisy and nerve to show up for the French "I am Charlie" marches with innocent smiles on their faces.  "Who us?" they innocently proclaim -- after doing everything they possibly can to stir up bigotry against Muslims.

     I am NOT Avigdor Liberman

     I am NOT Naftali Bennet

    And I am definitely NOT Bibi Netanyahu.

    These three guys and their cohorts seem to be always at the center of any religious tension or terrorist attack almost anywhere in the world -- starting in 1948 when the Stern Gang blew up the King David Hotel and Moshe Dayan's "army" slaughtered Christian and Muslim Palestinians left and right in order to steal their land.  “Every time anyone says that Israel is our only friend in the Middle East, I can’t help but think that before Israel, we had no enemies in the Middle East,” a Jesuit priest stated back then.  And that's still true today.

     Israel's sleazy military-industrial complex then went on to be an uber-cheerleader for America when our own sleazy military-industrial complex bombed Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yugoslavia, Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia and I forget what all else.  And Israeli neo-cons themselves have bombed Palestine, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon and I forget what all else too -- not to mention their documented ongoing support for ISIS and Al Qaeda.

      If bombs, missiles, white phosphorus, tanks, false-flag operations, F-16s, tear gas or even bottle-rockets are involved, Bibi and these guys are so there! 

     Millions dead in the Middle East?  I call that terrorism.  And yet Bibi and his minions actually had the chutzpah to march in Paris "against terrorism," according to Paris Match.  Yeah, right. 

     Yet who benefited from the Charlie Hebdo incident?  Let's see.  According to Paul Craig Roberts, it's the American military-industrial complex that benefited. 
"Not France, not Muslims, but US world hegemony.  US hegemony over the world is what the CIA supports.  US world hegemony is the neoconservative-imposed foreign policy of the US."

     But as they say in poker, "I'll see Roberts and raise him."  Netanyahu benefited.  Apparently, right before the Charlie Dodo incident was staged, France had just announced that it might be backing off supporting sanctions on Russia.  What?  No immediate prospect of World War III?  No big Israeli weapons sales?  Bibi must have been tres disappointed!

     France had also just announced that it was gonna recognize the Palestinian state.  OMG!  That must have totally pissed Netanyahu off.

    Also, our Bibi is having trouble finding settlers to occupy his many illegal condos in Palestine's West Bank.  But he just loves French Jews -- and hopes to scare them enough to force them to flee to Israel and live rent-free on Palestinian land.  Heck, I like Israel well enough.  Wouldn't mind living there myself.  It's a nice place.  Heck, even the Palestinians used to like living there too.  But it's the Israeli neo-cons' blood-thirsty hypocritical scheming military-industrial-complex-flaunting neo-con national-socialist leaders that I do not respect or cannot like.

     And I'm not being anti-Semitic here.  Let's leave all that religious bigotry to Charlie Hebdo.  I am only being a student of American-Israeli neo-con "Realpolitik" (Rāˈälpōliˌtēk/:  A system of politics or principles based on practical rather than moral or ideological considerations).  And Realpolitik has nothing to do with religion.

     Good grief, I'm so glad that I'm NOT Netanyahu.

     And I also feel nothing but compassion for all the billions of Muslims, Christians and Jews who are being subjected to his vile manipulations. 
I also feel nothing but compassion for the hostages in the kosher supermarket who were also victims of Bibi's lust for money and power and to create chaos throughout the world -- even if it means putting the all world's Jews in danger again.
PS:  What is going to happen next in France?  Or in Israel and the United States too, for that matter.  As my friend R.J. suggests, let's follow Norway's heroic example after the dreadful 2011 massacre there and stop spending our patrimony on guns, bombs, war and alienation and start spending that money on integrating our nations' diversity into our national bank of excellent human resources instead.
      We've already wasted a hundred trillion dollars on "war" so far, only to discover again and again that violence doesn't ever work.  Not in the Middle East, not in Ukraine, not in Paris, not at the World Trade Center and not in Ferguson either.  Just imagine if we had spent all that money on education, jobs, and integrating our society into a smooth-running democratic machine instead. 

      To paraphrase Thomas Piketty, "You can't have a political democracy unless you have an economic democracy too."  And "war" has ruined -- absolutely ruined -- the economic democracy of both Israel and the USA.  And probably France too.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Freedom of Speech isn't just for Charlie Dodo any more!

Friday, January 09, 2015

Charlie Dodo: A deal is struck in France...

     Author's note:  This is a satire.  Sort of.

     Don't you just hate it when people get killed?  Murdered?  Decapitated?  Have their bodies blown up?  Why would anybody in their right mind even consider killing another fellow human being?  Have you yourself killed anybody lately?  Not me.  I've never killed nothing.  Cockroaches, maybe -- back when I was living rough on the Lower East Side in 1965.  But cockroaches don't count.  Or do they?  Can you get PTSD from killing bugs?  Probably not.

     Yet last week 12 people were shot dead in the streets of Paris by unknown gunmen dressed in black and carrying AK-47s -- and apparently even a rocket launcher.  And yet nobody twigged to these odd Halloween costumes before it was too late?  How did this happen?  Apparently a deal had been struck.

     Over the past decade or so, the American military-industrial complex in all its glory has moved into the Middle East and killed a million or so people.  And it has handled, trained and armed Al Qaeda and ISIS, a pretty much documented fact.  However.  What goes on in the Middle East stays in the Middle East, right?  Theoretically, yes.

      But Pappy Bush said, "Let's go invade Kuwait and kill us some Iraqis."  So he did.  And then Baby Bush said, "I can do you one even better than that!"  And he killed even more Iraqis -- and, being in a generous mood, threw in some dead Afghans, Palestinians and Persians as well.

     Then Obama came along and started bragging, "I went to Harvard.  I can top that!"  And by God he did.  Libya, Syria, Palestine (again) and Ukraine (technically not the Middle East but it did include slaughtering a whole bunch of people -- so that should count for something, right?) 

     And then apparently some Al Qaeda wannabes sent word to their handlers or whatever at the CIA, saying, "We've been your grunts since forever and, don't get us wrong, we really do appreciate all the training and weapons you've given us and the chance to behead women and children left and right.  Don't get us wrong, Consigliere.  We are not ungrateful.  But could you kinda maybe send a bit of a tidbit or bone or reward our way too?  We too want more of the action.  War in the Middle East just isn't enough.  We're bored of shelling Mosul and Damascus.  Can we PLEEZE go shoot up Paris as well?  Just a little bit?  Please?"

    Well, the CIA understood.  Who can even think of resisting an all-expense-paid trip to Paris?  Certainly not our homeys in ISIS.  Paris being the City of Light and all that.  "Sure, go on ahead with your bad selves," the ISIS handlers replied.  And a deal was struck.

     "What do you got in mind?" asked the handlers.  "A little R&R on the Champs-Élysées?"

     "Nah.  We just want to shoot up Charlie Dodo.  Those guys said really really obscene things about the Prophet.  Not, of course, the same really really obscene things we say about the Prophet -- but definitely in the ballpark. Charlie Dodo has made a mockery of the Prophet.  Not as much of a mockery as we have -- but a mockery just the same." 

     "Done!" cried the handlers -- and then the paperwork began.  And why not?  This could definitely be in War Street's best interests and get everyone in France hating Muslims (even more than they do already).  Just look how well 9-11 turned out for Islamophobics!  "Plus it's always fun to stage a false-flag operation -- and you know how we love to kill journalists."  It's a twofer.  This could work!

    So their CIA handlers quickly dug up the requisite fake passports and the requisite phony ID cards to leave miraculously lying around at the scene  And they even tried to get their new Qaeda-trash protégé thugs some free passes to Euro-Disney as well, but didn't quite have the clout to pull that one off.  But the stage was set.  Journalists and police and French citizens were gonna be slaughtered and the whole world was gonna be shocked and go around saying "I am Charlie".  And it would be "Mission Accomplished" all over again, right?  And, even more important, now France also has a carte blanche excuse to bomb Palestine or Russia or Vietnam or Walmart or whatever they please -- just like Baby Bush had his excuse to bomb Afghanistan.

     But I still really hate it when people get killed.

PS:  I wrote this because I'm really and totally dubious about what actually happened at Charlie Hebdo the other day.

    I've been to Iraq, North Korea, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Africa, Palestine, Dallas, etc. and I've seen with my own eyes what is actually going on in these places.  But then I go back home to the States and read the MSM newspapers and watch the TV news -- and it's a whole different world they are describing, one filled with fantasies, wistful thinking, propaganda and lies.  

     I never believe anything I read in the MSM any more.  So why should I suddenly start believing what they say about the bad guys who shot up the Charlie Hebdo offices in France?

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Why white Southerners have no right to be racist

     I am so sick and tired of listening to a sleazy ill-mannered collection of white Southerners, Tea Party members and Red-State Republicans constantly making horrible racist slurs.  And I am sick of this abomination for two reasons. 

     First, no real Christian would ever say anything as mean, hurtful and ugly as some of the things that are being said about African-Americans today.

    Second, and even more important, is the simple fact that there would be no African-Americans in the United States today to even make racial slurs about -- if these same Southern racists' great-great-grandfathers hadn't brought hundreds of thousands of slaves over from Africa in the first place.  That's like spilling the milk and then complaining that we are now stuck with spilled milk.  Not cool.  Not cool at all.

    And to add insult to injury, these same bespoke Southern racists also complain about gun violence in the African-American community.  That's hypocritical too.  All they have to do is pass some decent gun-control laws and then -- poof! -- that problem will pretty much disappear. 

     I swear sometimes I think that Southern racists just like to whine.

     "If you can't be part of the solution, at least stop being part of the problem."

    Originally, 450,000 slaves were forcibly kidnapped from Africa and dragged off to colonial and post-colonial America, mainly to the antebellum South, in the most cruel and inhumane ways imaginable.  And, as a result, the number of Americans of African descent living in America by 1860 had grown to 3,638,808.  So, clearly, if there hadn't been all that vicious, mean and cruel slavery in the antebellum South, there would definitely be very few African-Americans around for today's white Southerners to hound, bully, degrade, insult, abuse and kill.

       However, given the basic surley nature of today's white Southern racists, they would more-than-likely have found some other reason to be bullies and bigots if they didn't have African-Americans to kick around.  "Hey, you!  Your eyes aren't blue enough!  Step to the back of the bus!"

    "Deflecting the anger..." as Howard Zinn used to call it.

     This week I'm going to have cataract surgery performed on my right eye -- and after the surgery is over and the gauze is removed, my ophthalmologist assures me that "You will have 20-20 vision in that eye again."

     Imagine if every human being on this weary planet was also suddenly granted 20-20 vision again too -- including a clear and perfect inner vision so that we could always see what our real, long-term, enlightened self-interests actually are.

     If everyone in the world was suddenly granted 20-20 moral vision, the first thing we would get rid of would be war.  And the internal combustion engine.  And tax havens for the uber-rich.  And GMO foods and corporatism.  And injustice, bigotry and racism of course.

     "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you," would become the new ultimate 20-20 inner vision for all human beings.

     Fat chance of that ever happening.

PS:  After just this short length of days into the year 2015, we already have a choice to make for this particular New Year.  We can, as Rep. Dennis Kucinich reminds us, do the right thing in 2015 and change the course of our nation's current downward spiral

     Or, as journalist William Blum reminds us, we can continue on the sleazy course that we are now on -- and suffer the disastrous results

     This choice is ours to make.

PPS:  Why do Americans seems so willing to believe even the most ugly KKK-like racial-profiling versions of what happened in Ferguson, Staten Island, Los Angeles, Cleveland, etc? 
Because they saw some slanted, misguided or even outright untrue version of it on TV, of course.

       According to Dutch journalist Raul Ilargi Meijer, "If anything defines 2014 for me, it’s the advent of incessant claims for which no proof – apparently – needs to be provided.  Everything related to Ukraine over the past year carries that trait.  The year of ‘beautiful blue eyes’, in other words.  Never any proof, you just have to believe what your government [and media] says."
     For instance, just take a look at that recent "60 Minutes" segment regarding the destruction of the ancient and historic Syrian city of Homs.  Bob Simon made it appear as if President Assad himself had destroyed Homs, instead of the real culprits:  ISIS and their American, Saudi, Israeli and Turkish handlers, trainers and suppliers.  But then, why would Wall Street and War Street ever want us to know that the lethal weapons that ISIS thugs hold in their hands have come from us?

    And as for the American media's reports on racism in the USA?  "Doesn't exist," cries America's mainstream news.  Good to know.  Unless of course you are an African-American who can't find a job, has kids going to run-down schools and is being shot at in Walmart.