Sunday, February 25, 2024

A Solution for Gaza


Most people we know, personally or through their writing, live with apprehension over how the rest of 2024 will play out. They seem to harbor more fear of what a second Trump Presidency might bring than horror at what we are witnessing right now. President Biden has been anointed by establishment Democrats with the title of last best hope to save democracy but as the year moves along he keeps digging himself ever deeper into a hole. His bold plan to incite a proxy war war with Russia to weaken and overthrow that large country’s government has not worked out as intended and now, as Israel has taken control of US foreign policy, things are looking bad for American interests and for its good name. By being sucked in to aid the final solution to Israel’s Palestinian problem, the president has made us all collaborators in genocide. 

Many DNC establishment columnists have managed to write glowing reports on the economy while ignoring the death and destruction that are spreading the perception that rather than being the savior of the rules-based order, the US has become a rogue state and the world’s largest agent of state terrorism. The Democratic Party is more likely to promote some democratic concepts than its rival, the Republican Party, now completely dedicated to a selective libertarianism marching in the direction of a Neo-feudal society. The current situation will not be corrected without strong measures, a few of which I will propose. 

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed to provide collective defense against Soviet aggression. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, NATO had honorably completed its mission and should have been dissolved but, as with all well-financed organizations, it is easier to search for a new mission than to liquidate all the high-ranking directors in its employ. Thus, NATO was transformed into a large international agent of US imperialism. In the past three decades, to my knowledge, NATO has never intervened militarily to defend any of its member states. Who would they be defending them from? However, over that period, when the US has developed an antipathy toward another nation, after imposing illegal sanctions which often don’t produce the desired effect, it has invoked NATO to launch an attack on the offending country with the goal of overthrowing the government and replacing it with a new Neo-con compliant regime. Of course the CIA has been the silent partner in these operations. The military actions have been conducted under the concept of “shock and awe” and have typically been effective, if a bit extreme. The second phases of establishing dependable puppet regimes have usually been less successful. The pattern has been repeated in Serbia, Iraq, Libya and more of Latin America than we can keep track of. 

Now that Israel has turned itself into the world’s principal pariah nation, repeating the war crimes that we saw eighty years ago and thought that we would never see again, it is time to put our strengths to work. We could halt the genocide in Gaza immediately by simply cutting off all all financial and military aid to Israel, but that would provide no acceptable solution for the future. Therefore, while it may seem distasteful to some of the more successfully indoctrinated subjects of the US and its NATO colonies, should the American president simply declare Israel to be in violation of the US rules-based order and direct NATO to bring “shock and awe” to Tel Aviv, the overthrow of the government could be achieved in a few days, or possibly minutes. A Nurimberg-style war crimes tribunal could be set up to deal with the worst of the Netanyahu cabinet and a new and more humane government could be installed. Israel has made it clear, to all those not willfully deaf and blind, that it has no intention of accepting a two state solution for Palestine, so it will be up to NATO to expel the illegal settlers from the occupied territories and secure the borders as defined in 1948.

The NATO forces will then have to maintain security at those borders for decades to come. If NATO must continue its existence to keep the American economy rolling, it would be far better to have it engaged in a long-term peace keeping mission rather than preparing to act out Lindsey Graham’s nightmarish fantasies of wiping off the planet those nations he just knows are working in the service of the Devil. In addition, a two or three mile wide neutral buffer strip could be created outside the long Gaza border which would house both the NATO peacekeeping forces and a new airport serving both the Israeli and Palestinian communities. It would give them an opportunity to try working together. 

The US has proved successful at bending other small countries to its will, sometimes in clear conflict with their own interests. Israel is a very small country. President Biden has changed course many times in his long political career. He faces ignominious defeat at the hands of a self-admitted tyrant in November. With a few bold strokes as outlined above, he could emerge as the man who created lasting peace in the Middle East and initiated an era of good relations with all the countries of the area. Israel might be the greatest beneficiary of all since its very survival as a nation would be secured. There will be long and loud shrieks of protest coming from Zionists everywhere and in its death throes, AIPAC may lash out to derail the president’s initiatives, but with one more simple act, i.e., the dropping of all charges against Julian Assange, the President would become not only the man who brought peace to the Middle East but also the champion of a free press. At that point the president could glide into next summer’s Democratic Convention to ask the delegates to select his worthy successor and to announce that he will be leaving the White House at the end of year to spend his remaining years basking in the afterglow of his newly found place in history.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Emergency Media Reset

“The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”  George Orwell

Today, 7 Dec., is the two month anniversary of the Hamas uprising which killed something like 1500 people in Israel.  As of today the number of people killed in attacks of retribution has approached or surpassed the fifteen thousand mark and is rising, with predictions and Israeli government declarations suggesting that the kill rate will accelerate.  There were from 2,200,000 to 2,300,000 people living in Gaza, a strip of land about the size of the city limits of Philadelphia.  Gaza has been described as the “largest open air concentration camp in the world”.  

Virtually all the media, even those moderately sympathetic to the cause of the Palestinians, refer to the events of 7 October and its aftermath as the war between Israel and Hamas.  I tend to cling to the outmoded concept of wars being a way of nations resorting to conflict resolution through military means when diplomatic means have failed, or have never been tried.  Sometimes it’s a matter of big just rolling over small, but usually it involves two countries, nations or states. There have been any number of warring factions within larger political entities.  From 1948 Israel has existed as a nation, given that recognition by the UN with remarkable international unanimity, although the measure also accorded a Palestinian state, a solution which has never been implemented and one which the current Israeli Government will stop at nothing to prevent.

Gaza is an occupied territory.  Since 2006 it has been condoned off and fully controlled by Israel.  No ships could arrive; nobody could enter or leave without Israeli approval.  Food entering the territory was calculated to not exceed the cumulative minimum caloric levels to avoid starvation of the population.  Perhaps the Israelis hoped that the Palestinians would just become depressed and die off.  They’ve spared no effort to that end but have not succeeded so they appear to have moved on to the final solution, which meets all the international criteria for genocide. 

Our media talk about genocide often, but such talk is usually limited to the big one in Europe in the 1940’s while those in Africa don’t get much mention, just as the slaughter of the Armenians was largely forgotten by the world for a century.  This one is there for all to see, although the Israelis did shut down the internet for a while to stop live reports from getting out.  More journalists have already been killed in this two month old conflict than in all other recent US wars.  

In recent weeks, some hostages on both sides have been released.  Each has his or her own story but some Israeli women, upon release, have even expressed gratitude to their captors for their considerate treatment.  You might have missed that if your news comes from the major media, just as you may have missed the stories of Israeli troops simply blowing up buildings where Hamas was thought to be holding hostages, killing everyone inside, captors, hostages alike, in order to avoid negotiations with the enemy. Illegal settlers in the occupied West Bank have continued murdering Palestinians with impunity. 

In October Josh Paul, Director of the State Department’s Bureau of Military Affairs, resigned saying the Biden Administration’s “blind support for one side “ was leading to policy decisions that were “short-sighted, destructive, unjust and contradictory to the very values that we publicly espouse”.

Israel has been getting a lot of bad press, despite all its MSM and Congressional support, so a propaganda counteroffensive was due.  

On December 6th the New York Times published a story containing the following:

“ President Biden condemned the “unimaginable cruelty” of Hamas attackers who raped and mutilated women in Israel on Oct. 7, and he blamed the terrorist group’s refusal to release its remaining female hostages for the breakdown in cease-fire talks. Hamas has rejected the allegations. …

“Survivors and witnesses of the attacks have shared the horrific accounts of unimaginable cruelty,” Biden said. “Reports of women raped — repeatedly raped — and their bodies being mutilated while still alive — of women corpses being desecrated, Hamas terrorists inflicting as much pain and suffering on women and girls as possible and then murdering them.”

“Matt Miller, a State Department spokesman, said that “a number of people believe” that Hamas did not want to release female hostages because of the stories they would tell about how they were treated. But he said he was “not able to speak with a definitive assessment that that is the case.”

This came two months after the Hamas insurrection and as far as I know that brutal attack lasted a day or two, catching the Israelis, always known for their intelligence sophistication and expertise, unprepared.  A forty page report has emerged showing that an attack by Hamas was known a year before the attack happened, much as the 9-11 attacks in the US were known and reported by US intelligence services but ignored by President Bush.  Was Bibi following the same script?  Bush was hoping to have a war on Iraq.  He got his excuse, even if it was based on knowing lies.  Was this the Netanyahu’s chance to launch the final solution?  

I have no way to know whether or not Biden’s allegations hold any truth.  Perhaps, but we have heard lurid stories put out by the government of babies being beheaded for which there was no evidence.  There is no way to conduct a rage-driven massacre of 1500 people in a gentle humane way, any more than there is a way to humanely bomb a crowded concentration camp holding more than two million people into oblivion.

Meanwhile, the people in northern Gaza were ordered to evacuate to the southern part within 48 hours so that their homes, schools, hospitals and mosques could be destroyed and then, after many arrived, the bombing and artillery attacks started in the south.  A cease fire to exchange hostages was arranged for four days then the assault continued, despite Biden’s urging the Israelis to adhere to international law while getting on with their self-defense activities (i.e. slaughter of the Gazans).  Saturday Night Live couldn’t make this stuff up.  Well, they could, but it would never be aired.

The last time I checked, Biden’s approval rating was 27% and falling.  Economists, even some intelligent-seeming ones, are amazed by this, since while inflation has been way up, it is easing  and the stock market is making a nice recovery.  Unemployment is down as more people are taking second jobs to help with rising costs.  None of the experts even consider that the  the levels of distrust and disgust with the government are harder to quantify in their charts.  As an American who has spent very few of the past fifty years in my native country, it is hard for me to accept that the Americans I knew, who were were mostly decent people regardless of their political affiliation, have nearly all died or mutated into monsters supporting any means to world domination, even genocide if that’s what it takes, but if I look at our political representatives of both major parties, that’s more or less the way it appears.  There are occasional signs of hope such as this letter by White House staffers protesting administration policy.  May their numbers increase.




Thursday, November 2, 2023

Dream Scenarios


1.      1.    Neither Donald Trump nor Joe Biden are candidates for President in 2024.  As I write, this does appear to be a dream, but it is one shared by the majority of voters, 77% at last count, in the USA.  I’ve done a cartoon suggesting such an outcome. There are various ways this could come to pass.  One or two of the dozens of indictments of Trump might stick and Biden’s on-going imitation of Dr. Strangelove may tank his polling numbers so badly that nominally Democratic oligarchs will feel the need to pull the plug.  That would be the cue for Congressional Democrats to jump ship in a desperate effort to save their jobs.

2.      2.    Palestinians take control of Libya.  It is still too early to tell how the genocide in Gaza will work out.  It has been going on for a long time but in early October the people in the world’s largest concentration camp finally put together a major revolt.  Was the huge Israeli intelligence failure a sign of incompetence or were Bibi and company hoping for something bad enough to be an excuse for ridding themselves of the Palestinians for good? Earlier instances of Israeli military assaults on Gaza at three- or four-year intervals were flippantly referred to as “mowing the lawn”. Sometimes even lawn care specialists can get fed up and opt to nuke the whole yard with Roundup.  It is apparent that Bibi and his Defense Minister Yoev Gallant want the Gazans all dead.  They say as much, except when talking to Joe Biden or Antony Blinken, who both repeat that the Israelis are only out to get the Hamas terrorists.  It has been reported that 1500 Israelis were killed in the rebellion. The number of Palestinians killed in retaliation is by now three or four times that but given that the European role models for the genocide used a ratio of ten to one in killing people deemed collaborators in the killing of any Nazi soldier, we probably won’t see the slaughter slow down until the Palestinian death toll reaches 15,000.  There were 2,200,000 people living in Gaza.  Withholding food, water, medicines and fuel, as announced by the Minister of Defense, could kill all of them but there might be some grim regional repercussions which are hard to predict.  Suggestions come from both Israeli and American sources that the Palestinians could be relocated elsewhere, usually meaning somewhere in Egypt.  The Egyptians want no part of that.  I have a better idea.  Since NATO bombed it into the Stone Age in 2011, Libya has been a failed state, a haven for human traffickers, slave traders and warring gangs. Palestinians are a clever bunch.  If they can build in Gaza under severe sanctions, they can thrive anywhere, so the UN could relocate those of them who want to go to Libya.  It may not be their ancestral home but it does have a small population living over a sea of oil. They could probably restore the country to a functioning state and after generations of resisting Israeli attacks, they should have no trouble fighting off the French and English coming to steal the oil.

3.      3.    Donald Trump elected Speaker of the House.  This outcome may have already been derailed by the election of little-known Louisiana congressman Mike Johnson to the post after four or five previous candidates failed to garner the needed votes.  Will Johnson last?  We shall see.  He is seditious enough to gather the full support of the GOP, but such tendencies will assure a compact Democratic opposition when legislation needs to be passed. The Speaker does not have to be a member of congress if I recall correctly.  Trump has a long history of getting people to do things which are good for him while being against their own interests. That’s practically the job description of a Speaker of the House.  His respect for law, as a concept, may be even lower than that of Mitch McConnell, his respect for truth is in the range of ex-Speaker Paul Ryan, and his personal depravity no worse than that of another former speaker, Dennis Hastert. On a combination of the three traits mentioned above, Trump’s performance would seem better than those of Newt Gingrich.  While Trump is despised by a slim majority of Americans, and both feared and ridiculed by people all over the world, his political instincts have been undervalued.  He did, after all, perform two political miracles. First, he managed to outdo Hillary Clinton in her obsequious pandering to Israel, a feat unmatched in the annals of fairy tales. He followed that by winning an unwinnable election against the same Hillary Clinton, former first lady, Senator and Secretary of State, who had the support of legions of women thrilled at the prospect of seeing a woman president. Trump could probably control Republican congressmen enough to get them to vote to pass legislation, no matter how repugnant, but in troubled times it might not be worse than having no functioning legislature at all, relying on a corrupt and senile President and a Supreme Court, still unencumbered by any Code of Ethical Standards, to keep the wheels of government turning. There are some worrisome aspects to a Speaker of the House Trump, beyond the mundane political considerations of a radical GOP platform getting a boost. The Speaker of the House is third in line to the Presidency so if both the president and the Vice President were to die in office, the Speaker would become President. Only a few years ago Trump boasted that he could shoot a person in the middle of Fifth Avenue in broad daylight and his supporters would still support him. Biden already has other vulnerabilities, and the Secret Service agents may have lost their fervor to protect him after his dogs haven bitten eleven of them.  Kamala Harris would be well advised to stay away from Fifth Avenue for the next twelve months.  Trump’s felony indictments may keep him off the ballot in enough states to prevent him from being re-elected but he could have another path to the presidency.

Sweet dreams!

Thursday, September 28, 2023

A Tale of Two Nations

In late August of 2023 I celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of my emigration from the USA to Italy.  Most of my grandparents or great-grandparents had made the Atlantic crossing in the opposite direction in the mid-19th Century, also seeking a better life on the other side. 

By now my views and conclusions may be viewed by younger readers as the tedious laments of a grumpy old man but I have come to appreciate my extraordinary good luck in being born in the USA just as its unexpectedly brief golden age of middle class expansion was getting up to speed.  While the US suffered a significant number of casualties in WWII, the war had little material consequences in the country other than bringing more women into the workforce and lifting the economy out of the Great Depression. For most of us growing up in the suburbs it was a relatively carefree and unrestrained life.  Having no awareness of the transient nature of life, I may not have appreciated it at the time, but we had a serene and healthy environment.  We thought that was normal, sometimes even lamenting in adolescence that it was boring,

Our good fortune extended to being able to attend good colleges and graduate schools without having wealthy families or working mothers and without incurring student debt.  The US may have been bland at that time but despite occasional heated arguments between Republicans, who ran the banks and the car dealerships, and the Democrats, who were often union members or other undesirables, there was a shared pride in citizenship and belief in “the American Dream”, a concept rooted in political freedoms and economic opportunity.

Some of us who gravitated to the Democratic side were sarcastic about the Norman Rockwell imagery and the 4th of July parades but while our tastes and preferences varied, a degree of faith in the fundamental goodness of the country was widespread.

My own appreciation of the Homeland was always a bit restrained and when I got to travel abroad, first to Mexico and later to Europe, it was seriously compromised.  Traveling around Europe for a few months following graduation from college and active duty in the Army, I realized that no matter what blessings America had bestowed on me, the prospect of living the rest of my life there was a bad dream.  I was fascinated by all the European countries I visited, each with its own language, food, art, architecture and landscape.  Italy was not the most relaxing place in Europe, but I found the beauty of its cities, its countryside and its people to be magnetic.

Upon returning to the US to study architecture, I was able to audit classes in Italian.  I hardly excelled at it but it moved me along the path to becoming an Italophile. A further push came from an Italian-American roommate who taught me most of what little I knew about cooking.  His mother was born to a family from the Province of Parma.  At that time, New York was full of Italian movies which drew me in as no cinema had before or since.

I might have adapted to living in the US, and almost did while living in San Francisco for a year, but once again my nearly supernatural good fortune intervened.  By pure chance I met a young Italian while on vacation in Rome who had all the Italian traits that I had been so intrigued by: beauty, personality, taste, intelligence, and independence of mind.  Also, lots of character.    In short order she came to the US where we were married and fifty years ago we moved to Italy with our two very young daughters. It was a big cultural adjustment, most of it enjoyable.

Where the US had a shared patriotism and belief in its form of government, Italy had little of that.  Italy had remained largely a loose confederation of city states, each with its own history and traditions. The country had only been unified around the time of the US Civil War and unification did for much of the southern regions what the potato famine had done for Ireland, i.e., it brought poverty and mass emigration.  While Rome was a wonderful place to be in the 70’s, there was an uncomfortable amount of violence between the youth of the far left and the far right.  Terrorism emerged then, long before it was felt in the US.

I grew up in a rather anti-Catholic atmosphere.  It was never so in a violent way, just a veiled prejudice which showed itself in a sense of disdain and distrust.  Marrying a serious Catholic required some adjustment on my part and brought significant attitude modification to my family.  Regardless of my upbringing, I did come to recognize the Roman Catholic Church as the unifying element in Italian life, much as the allegiance to the flag was in the US.  Almost everybody in Italy was Catholic and even those who were not were bathed in the culture and rituals of the Church.  There were devout Catholics, ex-Catholics, priest-hating Catholics, going through the motions Catholics, good, bad, rich and poor ones but at least on major holidays and weddings, they showed up together in the same place and to some extent tried to conform to a modicum of decorum imparted to them by their priests in childhood.  For at least one hour they would put aside their personal postures and interests and join in a communal act of devotion.

While 1973 saw the birth of our second child and our move to Italy, in the public sphere the news was taken up by the hearings on the criminal activities of President Nixon.  His Vice President Spiro Agnew had been investigated for corruption and forced to resign in time for him not to accede to the presidency upon Nixon’s resignation.  The year also subsequently appeared in many economists’ graphs marking the downturn of median incomes and the start of the permanent growth of the wealth gap.   

The US has often been called the most religious of the western countries because it has more regular church goers.   While most of the people who (voluntarily) emigrated to the US before the mid-Twentieth Century came from Europe, once an almost exclusively a Judeo-Christian territory, the Founding Fathers were often deists, men of the Enlightenment whose speech often mentioned “the Will of God” or “Divine Providence”, but who showed little adherence to any specific religious denomination.  The vast number of religious sects tended to create social division and rivalry rather than creating a shared set of religion-based values.

In recent decades, people, often described as liberals, have made claims that religious teaching has had no place in American law or American government.  Yet for at least the first two hundred years few citizens of the US would openly challenge The Ten Commandments or the teachings of Jesus Christ.  They might not conform to them, but they would not deny their validity.  Indeed, my own public school days started with a short reading from the Book of Psalms and the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States.  

Perhaps the most definitive contribution to US culture from a religious movement came from the now despised and ridiculed Puritans, whose rather stern work ethic was a major factor in the nation’s development.   However, that mindset was detached from any particular religious denomination early on and often absorbed and internalized by immigrants from all over the world.   

Italy and the USA have changed a great deal over the past half century.  Both have had their difficulties as well as moments of glory.  In the ‘80’s Italy surpassed both France and the UK in terms of GNP to become Europe’s second largest economy, but its success was short lived, undermined by corruption which emerged in the Mani Pulite scandals of 1992.  It had been governed by what was unofficially known as the partitocracy, wherein a large collection of theoretically opposed political parties would agree to maintain the status quo and divide the spoils, doing little or nothing.  In the aftermath, most of the existing parties, including the Christian Democrats, who ruled Italy for most of the post-war era, went out of existence, while the Communist Party changed its name twice to carry on as today’s Democratic Party.

Over my fifty years mostly here, that seemed to be the low point, at least until now.  Many things in Italy have improved, mostly through advances in technology rather than by better government.  However, the country seems to have lost its soul, its direction, and mostly its independence.  The Covid pandemic, followed by the proxy war in Ukraine, have combined to form a new wave of authoritarianism, not seen in Italy since Mussolini came to power a century ago. In response to corporate and foreign domination, the most common response has been resignation and obsequious passivity to the predations of the foreign neo-cons and the domestic quislings.  Italy was the most enthusiastic participant in the foundation of the European Union but by now there is widespread though mostly silent frustration that the EU has become one large Vichy Government, faithfully towing the line of its North Atlantic master.

The US has experienced many ups and downs in the cyclical economy, with each downturn shifting more resources from the poor to the rich.  The epochal event of these past fifty years was the end of the Cold War, with the collapse of the Soviet Union.  It should have been a time for rejoicing and a peace dividend to improve life across the globe.  Instead, the old Cold Warriors could not face change when they could see how profitable endless war could be.  The US had plenty of war hawks throughout the Cold War, probably more and worse than even those of today.    However, at the beginning of the new century a group was formed by Bill Chrystal and Robert Kagan, calling itself the Project for the New American Century, advocating what both Stalin and Hitler had tried and spectacularly failed to do, namely conquer and control the entire world by exerting unmatched military and economic power. 

The PNAC has completely dominated US foreign policy for a quarter century through two Republican and two Democratic administrations.  Millions of people around the world have been killed or displaced by their policies, although it must be admitted that those millions are far fewer than the millions wiped out by the activities of Stalin, Hitler or Mao.  The new imperialists have been terribly successful, as three quarters of the countries of the world are now under US military occupation.  Of course, the US doesn’t use that language.  It is all about mutual defense agreements among allies and friends.  If you’re a country with a small population and a sizable territory, you may prefer to see it that way but just how much autonomy do you have?  And who are you being protected from?    When the US decides to attack and destroy a country it has taken a disliking toward and it uses its NATO bases to launch the attack, how much does the country hosting those bases have to say about it?  But why would the US do anything like that, you ask.  You will have to ask a member of PNAC.   If I were to be asked, I could only suggest that the State Department is run by psychopaths.  You might better ask a Libyan, an Iraqi or an Afghan.     

In the fifty years since I came to Italy as an American ex-patriot married into an Italian family, I’ve had an unusual vantage point to observe the changes in both countries. Italy is the most wonderful place to live that I know of, if you can make a living here, but the latter part is difficult, which explains how I came to live in Saudi Arabia for a year or two and later return to the US for a few years.  For all my love of Italy, I’ve continued to read, speak and work in English most of the time and despite living in a small Umbrian village, I socialize mostly with the foreign community whose shared language is English, regardless of their country of origin.

Eighty or ninety percent of our foreign community are conventionally secular in outlook, with most quietly so, but a vociferous minority aggressively hostile to the Church, past or present, while being remarkably tolerant of other failed institutions.  They may visit the many glorious churches in every Italian town or city as they would visit a museum or Disney World.  If there is a new faith to replace those that have faded, it would seem to be a belief in and dedication to good food.  Italy is a fine place to adhere to such a faith since it is so widely shared here.

The secularization of Italy was spearheaded by an unusually charismatic politician, Marco Pannella, the Secretary of the Partito Radicale.  He was an intense promoter of direct democracy, i.e., the making of major decisions by public referendums.  In this way, both divorce and abortion were legalized despite the protestations of the Church.  He may have even been behind making Roman Catholicism no longer the official state religion.  The effects of these three changes have been dramatic and not especially positive.  While many unhappy marriages were ended, a relief to most of the people involved, statistics have shown that widespread divorce increases the number of children raised in poverty, and that many of the divorced are devastated economically.   For a long time, the birthrate in Italy has been far below that needed to replace the existing population.  Only Spain has a lower birthrate in Europe at present.  In the period after the legalization of abortion, the population crisis has worsened.

As for the detachment of the Church from the State, most democratically inclined people would agree that this was a step forward.  Nonetheless, the most visible result of the change was the removal of nuns from the hospitals, which they ran rather well.  Their administration could be severe, but the hospitals were orderly and clean.  My recent experiences in Bologna and Umbria have found modern hospitals well run, especially in Bologna, but the same is not true in some of the other major cities.  One hears grim stories of chaos, neglect, and violence in the major hospitals of Rome.  Even in Bologna, doctors and nurses will tell you that they are seriously understaffed, and they fear for the future of the health system.

The Church has changed much more from other causes.  Church attendance is sharply down although there are still many devout Catholics and others continue to go out of habit.  There are many churches, but the lack of priests to run them is much more severe than the lack of parishioners.  Standards of comportment imposed by the priests have been relaxed out of fear that today’s people will no longer accept limitations on their conduct.  Italians have always been a bit anarchic and the discipline of the Church has been something of a corrective.  The cycle of sin, confession, and forgiveness has suited the Italian temperament very well for centuries.  That cycle has been broken and we now see brides arriving at the church as though they just stepped out of a sleazy discothèque, and pudgy little Lolitas parade around the churches as if dressed for sale to sex tourists in Bangkok. The men are often little better.  Some show up as if they just climbed off their tractor, even those who work in offices, with their drooping baggy pants exhibiting their ass cleavage  with the same lack of inhibition as the women showing off their more attractive assets.

Marco Pannella was a charming and energetic man, who got things done.  It’s a shame that he wasn’t born in the US rather than Italy.  His extreme devotion to a government responsive to the will of the people and to the Constitution could have done a lot more good there.

I mentioned the decline in the US starting in 1973 but Ronald Reagan’s devastation of the labor movement helped it along.  Bill Clinton kept the economy going but his incarceration of a high percentage of young black men on minor offenses did vast harm to the social fabric.   With the new century came the unrelenting horror of the Enron Generation and its devotion to making big money with no regard for neighbors, the country or the environment*.  We’ve had a string of four presidents* vying for the title of the worse US president ever.  It appears that next year we’ll see a presidential election between, in the red corner, a bloated narcissistic degenerate who believes in nothing other than the art of the deal, his deal, and maybe a good deal for others rich and powerful enough to be of use to him, up against, in the blue corner, from the PNAC wing of the party, an old mafia machine style pol, more or less out of the Spiro Agnew mould.  Unfortunately, he wasn’t removed when leading the remarkably corrupt Clarence Thomas though his Senate hearings, nor when he served as chief Democratic cheerleader for the barbaric and truly unprovoked war on Iraq.

The majority of American citizens want neither of these candidates, but the two parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, or the Bloods and the Crips, as I choose to call them, want no interference by the public in selecting their candidates.  There is a long tradition in America of voting for the lesser of two evils.  It’s a hard call this time.  Both the Bloods and the Crips are trying to take out the opposing candidate through criminal indictments, a cynical approach, but reasonable in both cases under the circumstances.  Can anyone envisage a way out of this dilemma? We can only suggest a mutual plea bargain where all criminal charges would be dropped against both candidates in return for their disqualification to seek public office.

The multifaceted oligarchy runs the United States and the Congress is a fully owned subsidiary of the oligarchy.  The spoils are divided among the financial sector, the health and pharmaceutical sector, and the Military Industrial Complex with its unlimited, unaccountable and unchallenged budget. The voting public has no real voice in anything of consequence and can effect no significant change. American military and cultural imperialism is changing the face of the earth, usually for the worse. Its health care system is both the most expensive and the least effective in the developed countries of the world.  People have grown frustrated and angry about these shortcomings, but they appear unable to articulate their complaints or find a way to fix them. Belief in democracy has become as rare as belief in God has in Italy.

 In 1882 Friedrich Nietzsche proclaimed that God is Dead. That was sad, since God was the most noble concept that mankind has come up with.  There have been other noble concepts: truth, beauty, justice, and in that list was democracy. Now democracy is dead!  Some of those others are on life support. What’s left to be believed in?  Well, we have pride, right off the top of Dante’s list of Seven Deadly Sins, and currently the most trendy of them.  There’s even a National Pride Month.  Next on his list was either lust or greed, so will we be having a Lust Month or a Greed Month?  Given the dropping birth rates, sperm counts and growing gender confusion, maybe a Lust Month could be useful, but since we are promoting our most rampant sins, why not follow up with a Greed Month?

Italy has long been addicted to style, “la moda”.  Unfortunately, in its insatiable quest to be at the forefront of what’s “In”, it has imitated every bad idea exported by the United States, among them drug addiction, slob culture, single motherhood, chemical castration, gratuitous profanity, obesity, self-mutilation, and a forced obsession with diversity, as well as privatization and dismemberment of public resources. It even emulates American efforts to suppress free speech, usually through groups formed to protect us from disinformation, and spy on its people with the help and guidance of large corporations. This entails total submission to the theories and tactics of US Neo-cons and Neo-libs. Will the country find a spine?  There’s not much to put one’s hopes on, although Italy does still have a number of good independent minded journalists, but they are seldom seen or heard in the mainstream media, just like in the USA.

I started this essay by stating how fortunate I have been. I have a wonderful wife and family and live in what I consider the most beautiful place in the world, and while I have enjoyed good health for most of my life, my doctors tell me that that is no longer true.  Again, my good luck puts me in the country with the best health care system I know of.  We all must face our mortality at some time. Just in case I haven’t, I am frequently asked the year of my birth.  Following my answer I often hear a  cheerful “complimenti”, as if they are surprised that I’m still alive and walking on my own.  I take it as a compliment but it does lead to thinking about the end getting closer.   That facing of reality is eased by the sense of continuity that comes with starting as a child and moving through the stages of marriage, parenthood and then seeing grandchildren start the same cycle.  Well into the fourth quarter on my game clock, I can’t help thinking of all the people whose lives were interrupted by the wars and political crimes of the earlier attempts at world domination.  They died without knowing if, how, or when the calamity would end.  By now, whether I die of natural causes or am taken away with everyone else in a nuclear holocaust, it won’t change the story of my life very much.  I thank God for what I’ve had.  I also thank my parents for giving me life and I thank all those who built the world in which I’ve lived.  They are all dead too. If my allotment of good fortune hasn't been exhausted by now, I hope to live long enough to see signs that the planet will survive and that the two countries that I’ve spent my life in will somehow rise from the depths of nihilism they’ve fallen into.






Saturday, June 24, 2023

The Biggest Leak

 Earlier this month (June 2023) the most important story in the history of humankind leaked out.  A self-proclaimed whistle-blower named David Grusch held a press conference to report that the Pentagon had a special secret department to investigate UFOs and to store the remains of Unknown Flying Objects and their occupants.  Grusch reported that while he had worked in the All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office of the US Military, he had not personally seen the preserved artifacts but various colleagues had separately reported to him the existence of such materiel.

Mankind has wondered, since we evolved sufficiently to consider such thoughts, if we were alone in the universe or if there were other forms of intelligent life out there somewhere.  Finally, after millenniums of speculation, we finally appear to have an answer.  It may be top secret but somewhere in a warehouse in a desert the Pentagon has an answer, or some answers.

To their credit, the New York Times reported the press conference, and its most reviled columnist, Ross Douthout, added some commentary about the revelations on June 16th.  Douthout is what passes for the office “conservative” at the NYT, writing about issues which raise more questions than answers, in contrast to the other NYT columnists whose role is to dispense the current positions of the establishment on economic policy, foreign policy and gender and identity politics.  Although some of them write about more than one of those areas of interest, they have remained notably silent on the story of the millennium, almost as quiet as they’ve been on the attack on the Nord Sea 2 pipelines.

The breaking of the story, and its subsequent disappearance, involved a number of bizarre coincidences.  The whistle-blowing press conference was reported on June 6th , almost the same day as the  death of Daniel Ellsberg, the man who turned “whistleblower” into a household word.  More mysteriously, in contrast to consistent US Government policy to persecute, prosecute, assassinate or incarcerate all whistle-blowers reporting on major government malfeasance, there has been no attempt to persecute or vilify Grusch for his revelations.  There have even been testimonials to his reliability and character from numerous government employees.

This is the first year that I can remember there being widespread concern over the dangers of Artificial Intelligence and now we’re hearing that there is evidence of alien creatures and their vehicles but all the evidence is secretly maintained by the Pentagon.  The Department of Defense, formerly the War Department, was rechristened with its current name in 1949, just after George Orwell published his most famous book “1984”.  Grusch stated that while the particular department he worked in was established in 2022, the military establishment has been collecting UFO information and related artifacts for something like ninety years.

Rep. James Comer, the current Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, says that while he doesn’t know much about the subject, there will be hearings.  I confess that I don’t recall hearing Rep. Comer’s name before, and I was also unaware of evidence that the House Oversight Committee still existed.  We do know that the DOD has never passed an audit and that the first attempt only came in 2017.  Despite the talk about polarization, the US Congress is always in near total harmony in authorizing increases to the “Defense” budget.

The silence that this story has generated is unprecedented, including its disappearance in the media. By now we would have expected to hear Mitch McConnell or Kevin McCarthy denouncing the breakdown in the national security institutions and Adam Schiff demanding more transparency but we do understand both the Bloods and the Crips, also known as the Republican and Democratic Party officials, being momentarily perplexed about how to turn this story to their partisan electoral advantage.  If Marjory Taylor Greene has been struck speechless, maybe there is a just God after all.  We’ve grown accustomed to our political representatives ignoring our basic concerns to speak out on things their advisors tell them will give more tangible electoral results but still, how come we’re not hearing Senator Lindsay Graham screaming into any available microphone “How many aliens have we killed and what did it take to kill them?”  “I want more money appropriated for the development of new weapons to kill aliens.”    Is the Senator not feeling well?  Why this silence?

The biggest story in human history may turn out to be a hoax, as many of us, including most of our journalists, appear to have concluded, but hoax, mind control experiment, or hidden truth, whatever it turns out to be, it remains one of the greatest scandals in the history of the USA.  

We have an unlimited military budget which dwarfs those of the rest of the world, allowing us to maintain a military occupation of ¾ of the countries of the world (I believe it is officially referred to in terms such as cooperation or alliances) and the ability to bomb into submission those who are not, or at least to subvert their governments, all in the name of spreading democracy, and yet this same military establishment is keeping secret from us and from our elected representatives, evidence of other forms of life.  That’s a curious type of democracy, even if the secrets they’re keeping just turn out to be another expensive hoax.

Sixty-three years ago, when leaving office, President Eisenhower warned against the growth of the Military Industrial Complex.  His warning was ignored.  While prescient, I doubt that even he could have imagined just how far out of control it could become.


Friday, October 21, 2022

Fall Elections


We’ve just had national elections in Italy on 25 September 2022, and now we await the mid-term elections of 2022 in the USA. 

The Italian elections were called as soon as the newly elected Parliamentarians had served enough time in office to be assured of a Parliamentary pension.  That was foreseeable but the speed with which these snap elections were scheduled was not.  There was little time for campaigning and little was done.  In half a century I have never seen so little campaign publicity here.  Almost no posters or ads anywhere.  The current Italian organization of elections is virtually indecipherable, certainly to foreigners, but my impression is that few Italians have much of a clue as to how the system works either.  One mostly just votes for a party, but there are also preferences and politicians seem to be able to represent whatever city or region their party agrees to let them run in, with residency having nothing to do with it.

There are a large number of political parties but they tend to band together as parties of the center-right or the center-left.  Italy has suffered a great deal from the Covid pandemic and now, just when people have expected a recovery, the war in Ukraine has come along to devastate the economy even more than Covid.  The Draghi Government was something akin to a unity government, i.e. a government of unelected “technocrats” appointed to see the country through the Covid crisis.  Virtually all the major parties supported that government, with the exception of Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia.  While in the past this essentially right-wing party trailed behind the other two parties in the center-right alliance, the Lega, headed by Matteo Salvini and Forza Italia, headed by Silvio Berlusconi, this time she outpolled them with 26% compared to 8% for the Lega and 8% for Forza Italia, with their combined center-right taking something like 44% of the vote.  She may not have been a part of the Draghi Government but she did support its unconditional allegiance to NATO and the US, just like all the other parties.

The big losers were the Partito Democratico and its partners in the center-left coalition.  Its partners mostly consist of vanity parties, i.e. splinter parties formed by former leaders of the PD who thought they were better than the current leadership.  The center-left wound up with 26% of the vote.

That left the Five Star Movement, which only a couple of election cycles back came out of nowhere to become the party with the highest number of elected parliamentarians, as the only other significant element.  While the 5SM officially supported the Draghi Government, it split over the continued supply of weapons to Ukraine, with several of its members, who were ministers in the government, forming their own party, in a show of support for Draghi and the US government.  When riding high, the 5SM had accomplished two significant goals.  It passed legislation to cut Italy’s oversized Parliament by 40%, a change which goes into effect following the recent elections. It also passed the Reddito di Citidinanza, a measure by which people with limited means who apply, receive an income of €500./month.  The party was expected to do very badly in the recent elections, at least in part because of the anger generated in the north among people who work hard and still struggle to make a living.  However, the 5SM did remarkably well in the South where many people have benefitted from the boost to their typically low income.  The party polled 15% with the remaining 15% split between a center coalition and the other small parties.

There was some discussion on why there had not been faster action to make Italy independent in terms of energy and why renewable energy had not been a high priority of the government but the fact that the US sanctions, acquiesced to by the EU, had cut the available supply of energy practically over night by 40%, was rarely mentioned except by a few non-establishment journalists and a several renegade politicians.  Thus, the Italian public, which apparently opposed sending more weapons to Ukraine by something like 44 to 38%, had no political party representing their views on one of the most pressing issues of the day.

Italians usually have a large turnout in national elections.  This year was an exception with a 64% turnout, down from 73% in 2018 and 80% in 2008.  Non-voters outnumbered both the winning center-right coalition and the defeated center-left coalition.  There has been more noise about the election after it than there was before it took place.  Conventional establishment leftists are pulling their hair out because the country has been taken over by a party whose origins derive from the remnants of Mussolini supporters, while nobody cares to point out that originally of the Partito Democratico was the Partito Comunista Italiano, which supported Stalin and toasted the crushing of Hungary, long after the death of Mussolini.  Can people change and do they change? Much evidence suggests that they can.  The PD became the most extreme right party in Italy, at least with regard to economic issues, when Matteo Renzi attempted to push through a new Italian Constitution drawn up by JP Morgan with the paid consultancy of Tony Blair, in an effort to reduce the input of the Italian public on policy decisions. 

The recent elections took place on September 25th.  While the PD had become the most vociferous supporter of Ukraine and NATO prior to the elections, by October 6th or 7th the newly resigned PD Secretary was calling for demonstrations demanding negotiations leading to peace, as people were already in the streets burning their electric bills and to refusing to pay what in essence were well beyond their ability to pay.  Unfortunately, ex-Secretary Letta called for the demonstrations to be outside the Russian Embassy, rather than at the US Embassy, a rather hollow gesture inasmuch as the Russians had been clamoring for negotiations for nearly a decade to halt the NATO expansion on their borders.  Indeed, there had been negotiations leading to the Minsk accords, ignored by signees France and Germany and violated by Ukraine.  Apparently, there were also negotiations to end the war shortly after the invasion, supported by Zelenskyy, but vetoed by Uncle Sam and the more militant elements within the Ukrainian regime.

The new government will not take office until early November, despite all the criticism it has received before even being officially appointed.  The country is showing signs of turmoil which are likely to grow.  The Italian economy may grind to a halt as retail and industrial businesses are forced to close but it will not be alone.  Much of the EU is likely to face something reminiscent of the Great Depression.  Misery loves company.  There should be enough to go around.

The 2022 US Mid-term Elections-

It is not uncommon in the US to describe up-coming elections as the most important in a lifetime.  Presidential elections of 2000, 2016 and 2020 had something of that aura.  They had the potential to alter the course of history, of conditions in the US and around the world, and they did.  Mid-term elections seldom have that importance.  This year they do.  The BLOODS and the CRIPS, as I choose to refer to the Republican and Democratic Parties, both deserve to lose, one for sedition, the other for failing to effectively deal with it.  While both parties appear to be functioning below a level of competency one would expect by picking government representatives at random out of a large phone book, there is a major difference. One party has effectively abandoned the concept of government elected by the voters.  It is a minority party, a difficulty it has dealt with effectively for decades by using many of the built-in peculiarities of the US Constitution to hold onto power despite rarely having majority votes.  Under the last president, the BLOODS have renounced all respect for the rule of law and any pretence of civility or decency, to pursue the quest for unlimited perpetual power, whether it be for personal gain or to inflict their will on the majority of their countrymen.  This is a clear attempt to seat a totalitarian regime.  If they prevail in the upcoming election by margins large enough for them to gain full control of the voting process, the USA, which we prefer to think of as an historic leader of the democratic experiment, is dead!  Unless the current war escalates into a nuclear holocaust, the physical terrain will still be there, inhabited by more than 300 million people, as will be rulers of the country, but the USA will be as extinct as the Roman Republic or the Soviet Union.

There should be two other major issues in the coming elections, starting with climate change making the world uninhabitable, and the threat of a nuclear holocaust doing the same thing more quickly.  However, it would seem, judging from the news as presented by the MSM, that the deciding issues are more likely to be the price of gasoline and the status of abortion rights. The CRIPS, who only a few months ago were in a funk over their prospects of being blown out in the mid-terms, have grown more optimistic since the striking down of Roe vs. Wade by the newly radical right-wing Supreme Court, which has created a sizable backlash.  CRIPS have also been encouraged by the reduction of gasoline prices, by full employment, and by the soaring stock market.  Unfortunately, the stock market has sagged lately, gas prices have turned up again and inflation has grown fast enough to make people edgy.  A poll taken in Georgia the other day said that abortion rights are a decisive issue for 11.7% of voters polled, “threats to democracy” are the central issue for 18%, while “the economy” is the decisive factor for 40%.  In a few weeks the continued existence of the world’s most powerful democracy may be decided by fluctuations in gasoline prices. 

For any of you with the opportunity to vote in the upcoming US elections, I urge you to vote for the CRIPS, no matter how obnoxious you may find their candidate on your ballot.  I have faced a similar challenge.  The CRIP candidate on my ballot is the son of one of my Senators, who is a Batista Cuban, among other issues.  I am unaware of any Batista Cuban who has ever voted against funding any CIA-installed Fascist government anywhere in the world, or for that matter opposing any military expenditure at all, whether they are BLOODS or CRIPS, or whether they represent FL, TX or NJ.  I have no anti-Cuban prejudice. I simply don’t want to vote for anyone with that kind of mind-set.  I have done it though, and you should too.  There are many issues to be fought over and some may be very important to you.  Speak out about them.  But right now, nothing is more important than assuring that there will be real elections in the future.

Saturday, September 3, 2022

What's the Next -ISM to be Called?

For about a hundred years we’ve been living with or under a barrage of isms. The turn of the century leading into the Twentieth Century, from what I know about it, seems to have been a rather good time. Perhaps that’s because my interests lie largely in the fields of art and architecture. It was the time of Gaudì. of Klimt, Art Nouveau, and the emergence of FLLW. There hadn’t been any major war in Europe for some time. Teddy Roosevelt, one of the greatest American presidents, was promoting National Parks and leading the charge against monopolies.

Then things fell apart, and the isms started to multiply.  Colonialism, socialism and nationalism were not new, but nationalism got out of hand in the second decade of the century, leading to the accidental start of WWI between neighboring countries, all armed to the teeth against possible aggression, and three decades of unprecedented worldwide death and destruction followed.  An estimated 150 million people were killed.  Communism got a jump start with the Russian Revolution of 1917, leaving misery in its wake for more than seven decades.  In 1923 Mussolini gave fascism its name and brought it to power in Italy.  He was followed by Hitler who invented Nazism a decade later and rode it to control Germany.   Following the loss of WWII by the Fascist Axis, the rest of the Twentieth Century was devoted to a Cold War between communism and capitalism, sometimes conflated with democracy.

“Ism” is an innocuous and even useful suffix for turning a noun or an adjective into a movement.  The art world is full of them: impressionism, expressionism, fauvism, futurism and more.  Our focus here is on political terms.  The old terms continue to be used, mostly out of context, sometimes in ways that have no rational connection with the original meaning.  

“Fascism” as a term has hung around for a long time although the original fascist regime in Italy ended with its defeat in WWII, and the term has been prohibited in Italy ever since as a name for a political party or movement. These days, with a widespread fear of its return, there are more and more books and articles discussing or defining it.   Fascism lingered on for a while in Spain with Franco and Salazar in Portugal but otherwise no regime has self-described as Fascist and the word has evolved into a term of derision for anyone who appears to be authoritarian, or sometimes, for anyone you just don’t agree with.  Communism has had a similar fate and with the demise of the Soviet Union three decades ago, it ceases to really function as a regime system but the American right continues to rail at it.  Some will argue that China, the world’s most populous nation is communist and indeed, its ruling entity is its Communist Party.  In practice however, it has embraced much of conventional western entrepreneurial capitalism and begins to show the disparities of income and wealth that are undermining the west.

The legacies of the two opposing factions, the communists and the fascists, lie in the tendency of people who have lived under one of those systems to embrace the other.  Thus, the people of much of Eastern Europe, from Poland to Hungary, who suffered for many years under communist regimes, seem relatively amenable to governments with authoritarian, i.e. fascist tendencies.  In Italy, birthplace of fascism, the Communist Party became the country’s largest political party after the regime was ousted.  It is still one of the largest despite changing its name to the Democratic Party (Partito Democratico).  The term “Nazism” has been banished from all polite discourse everywhere, other than a few outposts in Ukraine and Hells Angels reunions in South Dakota.  Germany has made a major effort to make amends for its history as the birthplace of Nazism and to assure that those roots never again sprout on its soil.  It has also remained productively and reassuringly demilitarized for nearly eighty years, other than for its on-going military occupation by the US.  That peaceful era appears to be coming to an end.

The terms “left” and “right” had understandable meaning for most of the world, based on seating divisions in the French Parliament long ago.  Since the recent turn of the century, most such meaning has been turned on its head.  In both the US and in Italy, parties that were understood as being of the left have splintered into factions which have little to do with what was understood to be leftist.  The same is true of the parties of the right.  This is not unprecedented, but it is certainly confusing.   Not long ago, Italy’s Partito Democratico of Italy tried to pass a new Constitution drafted by JP Morgan with the paid consultation of Tony Blair, the former leader of the British Labour Party, best known for his collusion with George W. Bush in the invasion of Iraq.  Its scope and intent were to remove more of public policy from the influence of the voting public, giving freer reign to the ruling class of experts.  There are too many instances of such maneuvers to document here but it would not be too much of a stretch to say that the Partito Democratico is now among the most right-wing and pro-war of the major parties in Italy.

With a two-party system in the US it should be easier to understand what those parties support.  As far as we can tell, they both appear to favor a dystopian regime as described in those famous books of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley, with the Republicans preferring the more traditional violence of the Orwell model while the Democrats work toward the mind control and drug-induced euphoria of the Huxley model.  What does “the right” mean these days?  We knew that the GOP was the party of the bankers, the Buick dealers, country club members and Rotary Club presidents for longer than we can remember.  It was conservative regarding social change and fiscal matters, typically opposing debt and favoring law and order over civil rights.  With the arrival and takeover of the Republican Party by the big orange narcissist, everything changed.  The old values of decency, morality, honesty, and respectability have been dumped in favor of using any means, legal, extra-legal or illegal to grab and hold power.  The recipients of the new augmented bounty remain the same, the top 1% of the population, but the loyal troops are no longer the middle class, replaced now by an angry proletariat, ever more crass, crude and violent.  

The party of the racial minorities, the workers, the immigrants, the poor and the weak, is no longer the Democratic Party, which has joined the money bandwagon and now draws its support largely from the educated, the independently wealthy and the upper levels of the service workers of the oligarchy.  Money nowadays wins or buys elections and supporting the rich is an easier path to victory than helping people who actually need help.  In essence, that puts both parties in much the same position, no matter how much their supporters seem to be at each other’s throats.

Recently I’ve been reminded of stories that I’ve heard of women who live together for a length of time seeing their menstrual cycles converge into perfect synchronization.  That’s not my topic for today but I wonder if something similar can happen to countries.   The US and the UK seem to be in total synch.  The conservative parties of both countries seized control of their government with an orange-haired narcissistic son of privilege who repeatedly violated all recognized standards of acceptable behaviour.  Both gained power through the subversion the campaigns of the leading candidate of the opposition party.  Methods varied slightly.  In the UK, Jeremy Corbin was accused of anti-Semitism for criticizing Israel for its treatment of Palestinians.  He never even used the word genocide, as I might have, but he was suspended from his own party by right-wing infiltrators within the party administration.  Bernie Sanders was also shunted aside twice by the leadership of the Democratic Party.  The first time was an inside job, not unlike the Corbin affair.  The second time, it took a greater effort, as the big guns of the major regime media were brought in, along with hundreds of millions of dollars of Michael Bloomberg’s fortune, to keep the oligarchy safe from a potentially democratic regime. Under the resulting leadership the UK shot itself in the foot by bailing out of the EU.  The US did much the same, withdrawing from the world community by unilaterally abrogating various treaties and agreements, such as the denuclearization agreement with Iran and the accords on measures to combat climate change.  Both of the orange/beige muppets have been removed after offending their countries’ sensibilities repeatedly, in the UK by the vote of his own disgusted party members and in the US by voters, who despite voting in what was essentially a Republican landslide, just couldn’t stomach more of the deranged antics of the boor.  Neither man went quietly and both countries must face the threat of a possible comeback in the midst of growing militarism and a dearth of political leadership.  

In my last blog post I erroneously claimed that the Italian government would stand until sometime next year. I apologize for my inadequate research.  I was wrong because I was misinformed about how long the government had to stay in place before the pensions of the new members of Parliament would be funded.  I said the government would remain because with new elections, the number of parliamentarians would be reduced by 40% and most would lose their jobs.  The day on which the pensions of the new class of parliamentarians of the last elections (about 60% of the total) were assured was on 24 September 2022, not sometime next year as I had understood. The government did fall and new elections were scheduled for 25 September.  The current parliamentarians remain until 24 September, the exact day on which their pensions will have been “earned”.    Sometimes Italians can be more efficient than people give them credit for.

But back to the original argument.  What do we call the mess we’re in?  “Oligarchy” is technically correct but it hasn’t gained wide acceptance.  We tend to think of oligarchs as rich young thugs, often Russian or Ukrainian, who get sweetheart deals in buying privatized assets, and then ostentatiously spend the loot on huge yachts or British soccer clubs.  While often true, this is a bit of a misconception.  You certainly know who Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos are but how many of you know the names of the CEOs of Exxon or Rockwell?  There are lots of others, some with a public face, more who are unknown to the public.  Michael Hudson described it well.  A study at Princeton a few years back determined that the expressed and recorded opinion of the American public had no influence whatsoever on the legislation passed by the Congress.

So while oligarchy would be objectively correct, the term fails to resonate with the American public, or with the populations of the growing numbers of American colonies and countries aspiring to colonial status around the world.  My own preferred term in recent years has been “neo-feudalism”.  I believe it is accurate enough but I have to face the reality that “neo”-anything has a built-in defect.  People always say that the neo thing is different from the original and for whatever reason should  not be confused with it.  Neo-con, neo-lib, neo-fascist?  What do they mean?  Is there any meaningful difference?  Sometimes yes: sometimes no, but mostly they sow confusion, often intentionally so.

Following the Watts riots in the late ‘60’s, gang warfare grew within the confines of South-Central Los Angeles.  In typical American fashion, the smaller entities were swallowed up into two monopolistic super gangs, first the Crips, then the Bloods.  They adopted the colors blue and red respectively, which to outsiders was the only distinction between them.  Both had the same goal, which came down to killing members of the rival gang.  They controlled zones within the large piece of the city in which they were confined and gang members who ventured into turf controlled by the other gang risked death.  Over a similar span of time, six times as many of them were killed as all the people killed in “the troubles” that afflicted Northern Ireland.  If you are curious about this phenomenon, watch this.

Color TV made its debut in the US in 1951 but it wasn’t until 1966 that all prime-time shows were transmitted in color.  The networks started assigning colors to the political parties early on but they all had their own color charts, which sometimes varied from one election to another.  In 1980 Ronald Reagan defeated Jimmy Carter in what was referred to as the blue wave.  It wasn’t until the election of 2000 when all the networks assigned red to the Republicans and blue to the Democrats.  Such assignment was both anti-historical and counter-intuitive since red had been the color associated with the left since the French Revolution and was later the color of the communist regimes of China and the Soviet Union.  Probably the networks, which in those days tended to be slightly more sympathetic to the Democrats, did not want to have anyone make such associations, since the Cold War was still raging on in America without regard to what had happened in the world.

Trying to write about US politics has become ever more confusing since if you are discussing Democrats you have to specify whether you refer to “corporate” democrats, “progressive” democrats or moderates, greens, etc.  With the Republicans it is increasingly the same.  All may be “corporate Republicans” but that was always understood.  Now we have traditionalists, Trump loyalists, populists, anti-Trump conservatives, libertarians and RINOs.

Gang Turf

Senate Turf

Given that US election maps have come to be indistinguishable from the territorial gang maps of central LA, and the function and goals of the parties have taken on similar aspects, from here on I’ll simply refer to the two controlling parties as the BLOODS and the CRIPS. No offense intended to the original gangs. They have their own problems.

If elections have nothing to do with government policy, as we noted above, are there any differences between the CRIPS and the BLOODS, and do they matter?  Possibly not in the short run, but if there is to be a continuation of human life on the planet beyond the life expectancy of the currently middle-aged, some of the differences might matter, first of all in determining speed of human extinction and secondly for the survival of the idea of democracy.  

Not so long ago, monarchy prevailed in the world.  Queen Elizabeth has occupied the British throne longer than all her predecessors but in all that time she hasn’t had a single subject beheaded.  Right now, there are probably more than a few of her subjects who would welcome a return to a true monarchy if it brought the prospect of a few heads of errant politicians being mounted high of the walls of Westminster Abbey.  That’s certainly true in the USA, among both BLOODS and CRIPS, and we’ve never even had a real Queen.  Was that what January 6th was all about, Queen envy?

Democracy has been around in a few places even longer than Queen Elizabeth but its hold on most places seems as tenuous as the monarchy’s continued existence in the UK.  Seen in a slightly different light, it continues its existence much as the monarchy continues in the UK.  Good for parades and the rhetoric of national pride but not much of a problem for the true rulers of the world.

I haven’t needed to set foot in the Homeland for eight years but from my daily interactions with US media, family and friends, I surmise that the US is obsessed with the following themes:  Authoritarianism and Libertarianism, Militarism, Diversity, Pride, Impunity, and Denial.

The BLOODS and the CRIPS have different and sometimes opposing takes on almost all of these with the obvious exception of militarism, on which there has been nearly total bipartisan accord for decades.  Barbara Lee was the lone vote against the invasion of Iraq twenty years ago.  Little has changed since.  Ukraine was armed to the teeth by the US despite its coup-installed government not yet being inserted into NATO as fast as the PNAC blueprint had called for.  Following the invasion, the vote to supply an unprecedented amount of additional weaponry to extend the proxy war with Russia was similarly uncontested.  The surviving Bloods and Crips in LA must be basking in the glory of being world trend setters.  Guns R Us!

Diverging attitudes about authoritarianism and libertarianism are more complex and contradictory, but then we all have contradictory elements in our personal makeup so why shouldn’t the rival gangs.  For my part, I’ve always been opposed to speed limits, except as helpful advisories, but despite this libertarian obsession, I have also favored the prosecution and conviction of at least one  ex-president of the US for war crimes, a stance far more authoritarian than most of my compatriots.  Ron Paul is about the only US politician who calls himself a libertarian but most of the BLOODS consider it a birthright to be free to carry whatever weapons they choose wherever they want to go.  Curiously, I have not yet heard of a civil suit being filed over the right to carry a hand grenade onto a train or plane.  The CRIPS reject any of this laissez faire approach to angry citizens running loose while heavily armed but recently have been even more aggressive than the BLOODS in shipping arms to all the troubled parts of the world, the ultimate in NIMBYism.

The CRIPS’ own streak of libertarianism is best expressed in the slogan “my body my choice” while the BLOODS, whose implied slogan is “my gun my choice”, usually pronounced as “my gun, my right”, do not extend that libertarian approach to the contentious issue of abortion.  I say contentious but there are many issues which the public has disagreed about, but until recently people agreed to disagree and the government just ignored the debate.  That was before the gangland takeover of public life and everything became a binary choice.

Enough has been said about the American aversion to healthcare except as a reward for a successful and profitable life, so I won’t bother with those larger issues here.  However, we have suffered through two or three years of Covid pandemic which has killed a lot of people and who would ever have imagined that facing such an emergency, our response would have been conditioned by the gang divide?  My own response was that in an emergency you do whatever you can to get through it and I said that I don’t envy anyone with the administrative responsibility to deal with such a problem.  Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.  That was the inevitable course of public opinion.  Doctors, nurses and others in the medical field worked in difficult conditions to get us through the crisis.  However, Big Orange, the chief of the BLOODs, decided to make the emergency into a partisan gangland issue.  The misinformation he disseminated has probably killed a lot of people.  Still, mistakes, mostly made in good faith, have also killed a lot of people.  Large percentages of people who were rushed into ventilators died as a result of such treatment, rather than in spite of it.   Vaccines were developed quickly and saved many people from death or other serious effects but the vaccines were described as a panacea, a foolproof protection from the virus.  As the response lapsed into political polarization, people who expressed doubts or even fears about the vaccines were told, usually by people who identified as CRIPS, that they should just follow the science and shut up.   Unfortunately, many governments stopped following the science themselves when scientists noted that vaccinated people could be infected, could get sick and could spread the disease, and they reverted into authoritarian, punitive behavior towards those who questioned some of their decrees.  

Being totally unqualified to do so, I wouldn’t presume to discuss the disagreements within the field of medical research, but the politicization of a medical crisis has left people of all political colors looking a little foolish.  We see party-loving BLOODS congregating as never before when infection rates are high, just as we see obedient CRIPS wearing masks while walking alone in the countryside, both types engaging in a perverse sort of virtue signaling.  I try to do what doctors tell me and except for the gland on my neck which swelled up to the size of a golf ball a few days after my third shot, I’ve suffered no new problems and feel happy and grateful to have survived the pandemic so far.  I would only hope that the posturing around it would subside as quickly as the disease.

BLOODS and CRIPS both favor an authoritarian approach to education these days.  It’s just that they prefer a different authority, reflecting contrasting views on diversity, the current obsession of the CRIPS.  CRIP diversity is a bit like the diversity of a shopping mall food court.  Different names, colors, spices and maybe ingredients but the packaging and overall effect is often much the same.  BLOODS typically despise diversity and try to stamp it out.  Diversity is a fact of nature and is the natural condition of life but with sustained effort it can be eliminated in some controlled situations.  Thus, the United Fruit Company was able to suppress many of the types of bananas found in nature in order to simplify logistical problems in shipping a tropical fruit to the far corners of the world.  In Germany about eighty years ago there was a similar effort toward standardization of people.  We know how that worked out.  

CRIPS want no part of that.  They welcome all colors, sizes, shapes and origins of people as long as they can be molded to think alike, i.e. in line with the latest fashion in ideology, thus there is a push to start indoctrination of children at a very young age.  Math and science can be sacrificed a little to make room for sex education for children who have no organic concept of what sex is, in order that they can be given, or can pick an elaborate sexual “identity”.  There is significant resistance on the part of parents, many of whom would be inclined to be CRIPS but have limits as to what they will put up with to be in the gang.

At the higher levels of education, the colleges and graduate schools, there are similar divergencies of approach.  For many decades the BLOODS have lamented the liberal ideas taught there.  Their remedy was to cut funding to state universities which promoted independent research on subjects they didn’t want anyone to know more about and to get rich donors, from oligarchs to corporations, to fund departments that promoted a vocational approach to education and exalted the merits of late-stage capitalism and the Military Industrial Complex.  Perhaps they worried too much.  Some highly rated universities in deep blue states started providing “safe places” where students could congregate protected from exposure to ideas that made them uncomfortable.  So much for the liberal arts curriculum.  That was an easy win as academia turned its attention from history and philosophy to the study of minority cultures, the smaller the minority, the better.

While students are being shielded from ideas by both the BLOODS and the CRIPS, the latter have taken to using loyalty oaths to promote the Q agenda.  Loyalty oaths were a tactic pioneered by the bloodiest BLOOD of all time, the late Senator Joseph McCarthy.  He damaged the careers of a lot of people but was eventually shamed and censured in the Senate, after which he slithered off to irrelevance and early death.  The Senate doesn’t censure its own anymore, no matter how deserving.  When and if the number of careers damaged by the new CRIP loyalty oaths reaches McCarthyite proportions is up to statisticians to measure, but they are proceeding uncensured.  

This is not the first or only time that the BLOODS and CRIPS have reversed positions.  The BLOODS or GOP as the Republican Party was also known, was started by anti-slavery abolitionists who agreed with the Whigs on all the other conservative pro-business issues of the day.  The CRIPS remained the party of white southerners throughout FDR’s reign until the one-two punch of LBJ and Richard Nixon flipped the party alignments to the solid BLOOD South, which is still mostly in effect.  LBJ knew that he had lost the South for the Democrats for a generation with his civil rights legislation but we’re now in the third generation post-LBJ and the South still appears to be almost solid red, thanks to BLOOD control of the voting apparatus.   Georgia was a breakthrough state in 2020 and the presence of some determined independent minded CRIPS, combined with the BLOODS running a candidate for the Senate with a relationship to the truth reminiscent of that of his sponsor, Big Orange, suggests that the BLOODS monopoly control of the former Confederacy may be fragmenting a little. 

The BLOODS have scored some huge victories lately.  Their long battle to take over the Supreme Court finally achieved success and the fruits of their victory are now being tasted.  The first feast was the overturning of Roe vs Wade, a decision which may prove a pyrrhic victory in that it may save the CRIPS from resounding defeat in the 2022 mid-term elections. It was the only one of the BLOOD Court’s three revolutionary rulings that had any conceivable justification.  Abortion was and is a highly devisive issue and it had been decided by a judicial ruling, not by law, nor by any very convincing parts of the US Constitution.  The earlier court ruling may have been pragmatically effective but it was judicial overreach in the face of a long-dormant Congress, enabling the views of one vocal segment of the public over the views of the another segment.  The BLOOD COURT flipped it in the cherished American tradition of activities being labeled crimes, then rights, then crimes again, etc. etc. etc.    

The other two radical decisions, which have received far less scrutiny, can be regarded as the acts of certifiably insane people.  The striking down of laws controlling the use or carrying of weapons in New York City is the wobbly fun house mirror image of the campaign in some CRIP circles to defund or disband the police.  That was a hard one to top but they did so in another landmark ruling saying that the Environmental Protection Agency, set up to protect the environment, could not take measures to combat global warming, which scientists have been warning us about for years.  Scientists are now saying it’s almost too late to do anything about it.  Some of us, especially those who don’t die soon, are destined to witness the earth growing uninhabitable.  Jim Jones perished with his flock at Jonestown in 1978 but it makes you wonder if he’s been resurrected, cloned and appointed to the Supreme Court.  Is a death wish the new litmus test for SC membership?

The two failed impeachments of Big Orange could be seen as a BLOOD victory, but they really constitute more of a CRIP defeat than a BLOOD win and a potential death blow to the concept of democracy is the US.  The CRIPS lick their wounds and cannot imagine how a man could get away with fraud, sedition, corruption and affronts to all known standards of decency, while not facing the fact that we live in an age of impunity, and they were complicit in establishing it.  Big Orange ran on an impunity ticket, inspiring millions of followers to partake of it. 

The road to impunity was long and too complicated to trace here.  Maybe it got started with Dr. Spock.  It’s probably good that children are no longer whipped when they spill spaghetti sauce on the tablecloth, or if they are, the unacceptable act is attributed by society to be that of the whipper, not the whippee.  That’s been the inexorable path of history for some time.  Bad boys in school used to be sent to detention hall where they had to stay in school late.  Some of us learned to modify our behavior.  Now they are diagnosed as having ADS and medicated.  Drug addicts were arrested and put in jail but lately are given substitute drugs and released.  Many forms of anti-social behavior are now regarded as an illness and chemically treated.

There have been a few notable exceptions.  In the years of the Giuliani mayoralty and the Clinton presidency, young black men were exempted from impunity and vast numbers of them ended up in prison on minor drug charges.  For young people from the upper echelons of society, impunity went on as never before.  When Enron imploded, taking with it the savings of hundreds of thousands of people, more perpetrators died by their own hand than by any punishments meted out.

The other major exception to impunity is for whistle blowers.  There is no impunity for whistle blowers!  Some people can get away with reporting on thievery by another employee if it’s another low-level employee and the violation is something the company wants to know about, but God help the straight arrow who reports criminal acts by the organization itself.  If that agency is the US Government, no mercy will be coming from either the BLOODS or the CRIPS.  

Just as the newly exalted status of impunity derailed two impeachment proceedings, it has also made a farce out of recent US foreign policy.  After years of slow but steady US aggression into countries of the former Soviet Union, when Russia finally responded militarily, the current CRIP president responded by calling the Russian president a war criminal.  There is nothing funny about the present tragedy but hearing such a statement from a man who was a cheerleader for the truly unprovoked invasion of Iraq made it hard to know whether to laugh or scream.  No American leader or leader of any participating NATO country has yet been prosecuted for the crimes committed there or in the invasions of Afghanistan, Libya or Syria.  Perhaps in another hundred and fifty years, assuming that humans still live on the planet, statues of these criminals will be torn down and destroyed by descendants of their victims but for now, impunity reigns unchallenged.  

We started by asking what term describes the mess we’re in at this moment in history.  Language is important and it has become a major weapon in the culture wars as well as in the military conflicts.  A man named George Lakoff, a professor of linguistics and philosophy, wrote a number of books and articles of the uses of language.  He said that “the act of stating that a lie is false reinforces the lie because it repeats the way the lie is framed”.  He urged the liberal side to catch up with the conservative side in framing issues on their own terms.  He was correct in that the BLOODS had a long lead in the field, such as in gaining acceptance of using terms such as “conservatives” to describe wild-eyed neo-fascists and “moderates” to describe right-wing corporate-funded CRIPS.  I haven’t seen new articles by Lakoff for some time.  Perhaps he felt he had had too much success.

They haven’t been in the news recently but there have been some poor Somalian immigrants in the US involved with genital mutilation, as was traditionally practiced back home.  They have been denounced for it but had they been able to afford a linguistic consultant or PR person, they might have seen a more sympathetic reception.  “Virtue affirming health care” has a nice ring to it, almost as innocuous as “gender affirming health care” for the sterilization and genital mutilation of confused children, today’s new fashion trend.  We all like soft fuzzy terms so if you are either for or against abortion, “pro-choice” and “pro-life” each give a positive lilt to a thorny issue.  

On the war front, the distortions of language have become even more weird than in the culture wars.  The media of the far right are mostly owned by Rupert Murdoch and a few other oligarch ideologues.  Over more than two decades FoxNews has become the house organ of the BLOODS.  The only mystery is which entity is in charge of the other.  Since Big Orange decreed that the Only Truth is what comes out of his mouth, there really hasn’t been any reason to pay attention to the entire  Fox media enterprise except to measure how bad things really are.

The status of the so-called liberal media is more confusing.  The largest elements are the NYT, the WaPO and the four traditional TV networks but their ownership is a mixture of traditionally wealthy liberals and oligarchs occasionally posing as CRIPS.  The New York Times is often called “the paper of record”.  Perhaps it should come as no surprise that during a proxy war between the US and Russia, it should be the mouthpiece of the US Government.  That’s what happens in wartime.  Still, the linguistic gyrations that it employs make it seem more like the Pravda of the 1970’s than the BBC of the days before Tony Blair.  It is hard to tell if the Times reporting on the war is influenced more by the suggestions of George Lakoff or of Josef Goebbels, or perhaps it’s simply all handouts from the Departments of State or Defense.  All text apparently passes through a word editing program which transforms “the Russian invasion of Ukraine” into the “unprovoked Russian invasion of Ukraine”.  The same program also sprinkles adjectives such as ruthless, authoritarian, or brutal into every sentence that also includes the name Putin.  “Independent liberal democracy” is another State Dept./NYT favorite, as applied to all right-wing authoritarian regimes established by the CIA from central America to eastern Europe.  We can’t tell if all the opinion writers have their articles run through the same word editor or if they have all been collectively hypnotized and subliminally instructed to do the same thing.

While the NYT describes the war as between authoritarianism and “liberal democracy”, its own language has not been unscathed by the radical authoritarianism of the ultra-libertarians who will accept no dictates of grammar but their own. There are growing numbers of articles mutilated by newly mandated linguistic perversions.    However, the Times did recently publish a rather cool and analytical article by Amy Harmon on some of the more controversial linguistic battles, which is worth reading, regardless of how you regard some of the proposals.

Paranoia is all around us in varying degrees and if you don’t have any, you live in a bubble or are just not paying attention.  Those most seriously afflicted often refer to “they” as in “they know” but the implication is that there is an evil cabal of monsters which must remained unnamed.  Is the Times unwittingly slipping into that sort of nonsense by way of politically correct pronouns?  We hope not.  There is enough nonsense out there already, without submitting to the latest fads in authoritarian libertarianism.  Victoria Nuland is not a they and the CIA is not just any they either, it’s the CIA.

My wife experienced fibrillation recently, a medical condition where the heart muscles start beating  out of rhythm, both very fast and very slowly.  I have come to believe that our brains, individually and collectively, can have a similar condition, undocumented as yet, where we go out of control, oscillating erratically between our authoritarian impulses and our libertarian excesses.  It manifests itself in a “rules-based society” where the rules are made by the country with the biggest guns, by a “free market” imposed by the entities which control the market, by a tolerant liberal society where adhesion to establishment commandments is rigorously enforced, and where “democracy” is imposed militarily on people deemed incapable of self-government.  The BLOODS do it.  The CRIPS do it.  I’ll call it fibrillationism.   We may be headed for feudalism again, or extinction, but this is how we’re fueling the voyage.

If you have a better term for today’s condition, please share it.  To cure a disease, it’s helpful to define it.