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If I were to have just one wish to come true, it would be that people would take the time to think about the world they live in.  I realize that reflection and critical something is not always possible, but if we’re in the wish zone I think it could happen.  Noam Chomsky, prescient as usual, details exactly what is going on in the democratic West as we slide further down the slope into abject oligarchical rule.

“Functioning democracy erodes as a natural effect of the concentration of economic power, which translates at once to political power by familiar means, but also for deeper and more principled reasons. The doctrinal pretense is that the transfer of decision-making from the public sector to the “market” contributes to individual freedom, but the reality is different. The transfer is from public institutions, in which voters have some say, insofar as democracy is functioning, to private tyrannies — the corporations that dominate the economy — in which voters have no say at all. In Europe, there is an even more direct method of undermining the threat of democracy: placing crucial decisions in the hands of the unelected troika — the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank, and the European Commission — which heeds the northern banks and the creditor community, not the voting population.

These policies are dedicated to making sure that society no longer exists, Margaret Thatcher’s famous description of the world she perceived — or, more accurately, hoped to create: one where there is no society, only individuals. This was Thatcher’s unwitting paraphrase of Marx’s bitter condemnation of repression in France, which left society as a “sack of potatoes,” an amorphous mass that cannot function. In the contemporary case, the tyrant is not an autocratic ruler — in the West, at least — but concentrations of private power.”

The fight needs to come back to the people, to push back on so many levels.  It is a large bill to fill, yet it is a goal worth struggling for, as our future and our children’s futures depend on taking back society from the moneyed interests and elites who care for nothing except their own self-enrichment.

   Welcome to the particular mental hell that many women inhabit.  In an insightful article on Tom’s Dispatch by Mattea Kramer we see how the negativity toward women in society internalizes itself and become women’s own inner self-critical voice.

 

“Girls observe and absorb such double standards, as well as the criticism they receive for speaking up. Then they police themselves. As adults in professional settings, women talk a lot less than men when they’re outnumbered by the opposite sex — 75% less, according to a team of researchers from Princeton and Brigham Young universities. And if they do dare say something, they tend to hear an inner voice telling them that they sound dumb.

“God, I just said such a stupid thing,” a campaign director at a national advocacy organization thought to herself. “You don’t want to come off as an angry black woman, do you?” said the inner critic to an executive recruiter. To a nationally recognized artist: “You sound like a dumb girl.” To a Ph.D. with a successful career in higher education, “I shouldn’t have talked so much.” And to a thirty-something paralegal: “Your boss thinks you’re an idiot, and it’s because you are one.” You can imagine how much she speaks up.

In an attempt to outrun such criticism and those voices echoing in their heads, many women wear themselves out striving for perfection. As one researcher summarized the situation, ambitious women “exist by putting out maximum energy at all times, trying to do everything and do it well. It is not enough that they attempt to be outstanding in their work; their perfection complex also causes them to strive for a Jane Fonda body, a house that could be on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens, and perfect children.” They think they’re only okay if they’re flawless — and in the end often come to believe that they’re unlovable. (Depression, as it happens, is more common among women.)

“If other people really knew you, they wouldn’t love you,” said the inner critic to a newly married woman. “You should just accept that you’re going to be alone for the rest of your life,” it said to an Asian-American woman in her thirties. To a writer and teacher who volunteers her time helping the mentally distressed, the critic, speaking of her friends, said, “Why would they love you?”

Living in patriarchy is grand eh? ” :(

 

The conclusion of an essay written by William Astore featured on Tom’s Dispatch.  As a member of the minority left, one of the questions frequently asked of us is well then what is your solution to the problems – criticizing is one thing actually putting forward a plan is quite another.  What now you pinko-commie-leftard?   Well, Mr.Astore has the blueprints right here, let’s get to work.

 

What Is to Be Done?

Slowly, seemingly inexorably, the U.S. is becoming more like the former Soviet Union.  Just to begin the list of similarities: too many resources are being devoted to the military and the national security state; too many over-decorated generals are being given too much authority in government; bleeding-ulcer wars continue unstanched in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere; infrastructure (roads, bridges, pipelines, dams, and so on) continues to crumble; restless “republics” grumble about separating from the union (Calexit!); rampant drug abuse and declining life expectancy are now American facts of life. Meanwhile, the latest U.S. president is, in temperament, authoritarian, even as government “services” take on an increasingly nepotistic flavor at the top.

I’m worried, comrade!  Echoing the cry of the great Lenin, what is to be done?  Given the list of symptoms, here’s one obvious 10-step approach to the de-sovietization of America:

1. Decrease “defense” spending by 10% annually for the next five years.  In the Soviet spirit, think of it as a five-year plan to restore our revolution (as in the American Revolution), which was, after all, directed against imperial policies exercised by a “bigly” king.

2. Cut the number of generals and admirals in the military by half, and get rid of all the meaningless ribbons, badges, and medals they wear.  In other words, don’t just cut down on the high command but on their tendency to look (and increasingly to act) like Soviet generals of old.  And don’t allow them to serve in high governmental positions until they’ve been retired for at least 10 years.

3. Get our military out of Afghanistan, Iraq, and other war-torn countries in the Greater Middle East and Africa.  Reduce that imperial footprint overseas by closing costly military bases. 

4. Work to eliminate nuclear weapons globally by, as a first step, cutting the vast U.S. arsenal in half and forgetting about that trillion-dollar “modernization” program.  Eliminate land-based ICBMs first; they are no longer needed for any meaningful deterrent purposes.

5. Take the money saved on “modernizing” nukes and invest it in updating America’s infrastructure.

6. Curtail state surveillance.  Freedom needs privacy to flourish.  As a nation, we need to remember that security is not the bedrock of democracy — the U.S. Constitution is.    

7. Work to curb drug abuse by cutting back on criminalization.  Leave the war mentality behind, including the “war on drugs,” and focus instead on providing better treatment programs for addicts.  Set a goal of cutting America’s prison population in half over the next decade. 

8. Life expectancy will increase with better health care.  Provide health care coverage for all using a single-payer system.  Every American should have the same coverage as a member of Congress.  People shouldn’t be suffering and dying because they can’t afford to see a doctor or pay for their prescriptions.

9. Nothing is more fundamental to “national security” than clean air and water.  It’s folly to risk poisoning the environment in the name of either economic productivity or building up the military.  If you doubt this, ask citizens of Russia and the former Soviet Republics, who still struggle with the fallout from the poisonous environmental policies of Soviet days.

10. Congress needs to assert its constitutional authority over war and the budget, and begin to act like the “check and balance” it’s supposed to be when it comes to executive power.

There you have it.  These 10 steps should go some way toward solving America’s real Russian problem — the Soviet one.  Won’t you join me, comrade?

The Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision reverberates strongly in my consciousness when I read articles like this one from Tom’s Dispatch.  I am still at a loss as how to compute the base equation of $ = Free Speech, because, well… it doesn’t.

Certainly money grants access, but it begets the question:  Should it?     I mean, how could the Justices not see the folly in quantizing what was formerly a non-fungible good?

The dumpsterfire (dtrumpsterfire?) that is the current US polity illustrates that change (and not of the positive variety) is happening, that is not only destabilizing the US, but the world as well.

 

“In March of 2015, for instance, two months before The Donald tossed his hair into the presidential ring, in a post at TomDispatch I asked if “a new political system” was emerging in America and summed the situation up this way:

“Still, don’t for a second think that the American political system isn’t being rewritten on the run by interested parties in Congress, our present crop of billionaires, corporate interests, lobbyists, the Pentagon, and the officials of the national security state. Out of the chaos of this prolonged moment and inside the shell of the old system, a new culture, a new kind of politics, a new kind of governance is being born right before our eyes. Call it what you want. But call it something. Stop pretending it’s not happening.”

We’re now living in Donald Trump’s America (which I certainly didn’t either predict or imagine in March 2015); we’re living, that is, in an ever more chaotic and aberrant land run (to the extent it’s run at all) by billionaires and retired generals, and overseen by a distinctly aberrant president at war with aberrant parts of the national security state.  That, in a nutshell, is the America created in the post-9/11 years.  Put another way, the U.S. may have failed dismally in its efforts to invade, occupy, and remake Iraq in its own image, but it seems to have invaded, occupied, and remade itself with remarkable success.  And don’t blame this one on the Russians.”

-Tom Engelhardt writing at  Tom’s Dispatch

Insightful essays not your bag?  A window looking into current events as they happen, and not how the handlers say they happen a bit too much?  Then don’t subscribe to Tom’s Dispatch.

This excerpt from ‘Bombs Away’ by Tom Engelhardt

“1. Success and Failure: Without a hint of exaggeration, you could say that, at the cost of $400,000 to $500,000, al-Qaeda’s 9/11 air assault created Washington’s multi-trillion-dollar Global War on Terror.  With a microscopic hijacked air force and a single morning’s air campaign, that group provoked an administration already dreaming of global domination into launching a worldwide air war (with a significant ground component) that would turn the TOPSHOTS-SYRIA-CONFLICTGreater Middle East — then a relatively calm (if largely autocratic) region — into a morass of conflicts, failed or collapsed states, ruined cities, and refugees by the millions, in which extreme Islamic terror outfits now seem to sprout like so many mushrooms.  This, you might say, was the brilliance of Osama bin Laden.  Seldom has so little air power (or perhaps power of any sort) been leveraged quite so purposefully into such sweeping consequences.  It may represent the most successful use of strategic bombing — that is, air power aimed at the civilian population of, and morale in, an enemy country — in history.

On the other hand, with only a slight hint of exaggeration, you might also conclude that seldom has an air campaign without end (almost 15 years and still expanding at the cost of untold billions of dollars) proven quite so unsuccessful.  Put another way, you could perhaps conclude that, in these years, Washington has bombed and missiled a world of Islamist terror outfits into existence.

On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda was the most modest of forces with militant followers in perhaps the low thousands in Afghanistan and tiny numbers of scattered supporters elsewhere on the planet.  Now, there are al-Qaeda spin-offs and wannabe outfits, often thriving, from Pakistan to Yemen, Syria to North Africa, and of course the Islamic State (ISIS), that self-proclaimed “caliphate” of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, still holds a sizeable chunk of territory in Iraq and Syria while its “brand” has spread to groups from Afghanistan to Libya.

Minimally, the U.S. air campaign, which has certainly killed enough terror leaders, “lieutenants,” “militants,” and others over these years, has shown no ability to halt the process and arguably has ploughed remarkably fertile ground for it.  Yet in response to the next terror outrage (as in Libya recently), the bombs continue to fall.  It’s a curious record in the generally disappointing annals of air power and well worth considering in more detail.”

 

fascism

“It need not wear a brown shirt or a green shirt. It may even wear a dress shirt. Fascism begins the moment a ruling class, fearing the people may use their political democracy to gain economic democracy, begins to destroy political democracy in order to retains its power of exploitation and special privilege. – Tommy Douglas

Who doesn’t like to kick back and watch the US primary election campaign?  I just scan the highlights, but John Feffer is big picture prognosticating with his recent article on Tom’s Dispatch titled Donald Trump and America B.  The article examines the disaffected people who make up America B and who have bought into his faux-populist message.  I encourage you to follow the above link and read the entire article as it is well written and laden with trenchant political observations that stretch into the near future.

In the 1990s, the United States changed its political economy. It was not quite as dramatic a shift as the regime changes that took place across Eurasia, but it had profound consequences for the realignment of voting patterns in America.

During that decade, the U.S. economy accelerated its shift from manufacturing — along with the well-paying blue-collar jobs that sector had once generated — to an ever more dominant service economy. In terms of employment, manufacturing jobs dropped from 18 million in 1990 to 12 million in 2014, while wages for such jobs tumbled as well. Over that same period, the health-care and social assistance sector alone grew from 9.1 million to more than 18 million jobs. At one end of that service economy were the 1% in financial services making stratospheric sums, particularly as compensation packages soared from the mid-1990s on. On the other end were the people who had to add shifts at McDonald’s or Walmart to their full-time jobs or monetize their spare time by driving for Uber just to make what they or their parents once earned with one job at the local factory.

America was not alone in undergoing this shift. Thanks to technological innovations like computers and robotics, greater access to cheap labor in places like Mexico and China, the rise of the Internet, and the deregulation of the financial world, the global economy was being similarly transformed. Blue-collar workers no longer played as vital a role in any advanced economy.

In the U.S., put bluntly, the imagination of America A no longer needed the muscle of America B.

[…]

“Falling behind economically and feeling betrayed by politicians on both sides of the aisle, America B might have moved to the left if the United States had a strong socialist tradition. In the 2016 primary campaign, many of the economically anxious did, in fact, support Bernie Sanders, particularly the younger offspring of America A fearful of being deported to America B. Unlike Europe B, however, America B has always been more about rugged individualism than class solidarity. Its denizens would rather buy a lottery ticket and pray for a big payout than rely on a handout from Washington (Medicare and Social Security aside). Donald Trump, politically speaking, is their Powerball ticket.

Above all, the inhabitants of America B are angry. They’re disgusted with politics as usual in Washington and the hypocritical, sanctimonious political elite that goes with it. They’re incensed by how the wealthy have effectively seceded from American society with their gated estates and offshore accounts. And they’ve focused their resentment on those they see as having taken their jobs: immigrants, people of color, women. They’re so desperate for someone who “tells it like it is” that they’ll look the other way when it comes to Donald Trump’s inextricable links to the very elite who did so much to widen the gap between the two Americas in the first place.”

[…]

“America B has a fondness for Donald Trump and his almost childlike audacity. (Gosh, kids say the darndest things!) Right now, his fans are attached to an individual, rather than a platform or a party. Many of his supporters don’t even care whether Trump means what he says or not. If he loses, he will fade away and leave nothing behind, politically speaking.

The real change will come when a more sophisticated politician, with an authentic political machine, sets out to woo America B. Perhaps the Democratic Party will decide to return to its more populist, mid-century roots. Perhaps the Republican Party will abandon its commitment to entitlement programs for the 1%.

More likely, a much more ominous political force will emerge from the shadows. If and when that new, neo-fascist party fields its charismatic presidential candidate, that will be the most important election of our lives.

As long as America B is left in the lurch by what passes for modernity, it will inevitably try to pull the entire country back to some imagined golden age of the past before all those “others” hijacked the red, white, and blue. Donald Trump has hitched his presidential wagon to America B. The real nightmare, however, is likely to emerge in 2020 or thereafter, if a far more capable politician who embraces similar retrograde positions rides America B into Washington.

Then it will matter little how much both liberals and conservatives rail against “stupid” and “crazy” voters. Nor will they have Donald Trump to kick around any more. In the end, they will have no one to blame but themselves.”

 

End game summary here is this – actual politicians are watching to see how successful DT is.   The pull of false populism is strong and in the right(wrong) hands could be forged into a general election winning platform that will take America into a new darker age.  So if we see in 2020 the new charming face of proto-fascism rise in the US, remember Tom Dispatch and DWR called it first in 2016.

consumerism     Our society is being influenced negatively by the consumerist culture that we, collectively, have taken our hands off the tiller and have let the market decide what is best for us and our cultures.

The idea that we can consume our way to happiness, well-being, or even a more just society would not compute without people being constantly conditioned to believe that individuality is end-goal of life.  The power of community and people working together has been the dynamo that has pushed our societies forward for the benefit of everyone (well except for the status-quo) and it is this power that has been waning since corporate capitalism has kicked into high gear under the guise of neo-liberalism.  Neo-liberalism undermines community, collective action, and critical thought it is a stupefying tonic – that when served to the masses – creates a calm disquiet that grinds societies away, but in return keeps people isolated, fixated on themselves, and most importantly: manageable.

This piece by Nick Turse is a preface for a America’s disconnect between its citizenry and the army said citizenry supports.  The dissonance is palatable as one reads the article.  What should concern you is that the disconnect described has been carefully and intentionally cultivated.  A feature of our current system, and most certainly not a bug .

“I can’t tell you exactly why I clicked on the article, but it was probably the title: “The Double-Tap Couple.” To me, a “double tap” is the technique of firing two gunshots in quick succession or employing two strikes in a row, as when U.S. drones or Hamas carry out attacks and then follow-up strikes to kill first-responders arriving at the scene. But this piece was about something very different. The headline referred to the popular app Instagram where you double-tap to “like” a photo.

The article turned out to be a profile of two twenty-somethings, a married couple who go by the noms de social media, FuckJerry and Beige Cardigan. They are, says author David Yi, “micro-celebrities” of the modern age. He is “tall, with a chiseled face, handsome”; she “has big doe eyes with cherub-like cheeks.” They dropped out of college and — first he and then she — became Instagram meme curators; that is, they find photos with wry or funny captions elsewhere on the internet and post them for their millions of followers. “Though both are social media sensations, neither is quite content with what they’ve accomplished,” Yi tells us. She “wants to pursue her first love, fashion, but isn’t quite sure what she’d want to do.” He’s currently cashing in with FuckJerry merchandise — hats, t-shirts, even “Vape juice.”

I read the article to the point at which FuckJerry (née Elliot Tebele) told Yi about his long slog up the Instagram follower food-chain: “It took a shit ton of time to get to, and it took a long time with a lot of work.”  I stared at my phone in abject confusion.  Something wasn’t right, so I scrolled to the beginning of the article and started again.  But it was just the same.  Justin Bieber is a fan.  Followers include the “Kardashian-Jenner family.”  He wears “skinny jeans and vintage Nikes.”  She sports a “statement coat and a pair of sparkling Chloe boots.”  Then I hit that quote: “shit ton of time… a lot of work.” I still couldn’t make sense of it and began studying the article as if it were a riddle. I read it maybe five times and again and again when I hit those phrases about time and work my brain would buckle. 

At that moment, I was nearing the end of a month-long reporting stint in South Sudan and waiting to find out if I’d be able to talk to a teenage girl, a late millennial with more than memes on her mind.  She had rebuffed the 60-something man her family had arranged for her to marry and her relatives had displayed their displeasure by beating her to the point of unconsciousness.  That conversation never happened, but I’d already logged several weeks’ worth of interviews with shooting survivors, rape victims,  mothers of murdered sons, wives of dead husbands.  All this in a country where, for firewood and water — that is, the means of life — women walk desperately far distances in areas where they know that men with AK-47s may be lurking, where many are assaulted and violated by one, two, or even five men.  In other words, a land where few would consider meme curation to be “a lot of work.”

I’d obviously hit that unsettling juncture where voices from home become dulled and distorted, where you feel like you’re hearing them from deep underwater.  I’m talking about the vanishing point at which your first-world life collides with your crisis-zone reality — the point of disconnect.  Mark Wilkerson knows it well.  He found himself in just such a state, serving with the U.S. Army in civil-war-torn Somalia during the 1990s.  That’s where he begins his inaugural TomDispatch piece, a rumination on his journey from soldier to veteran to chronicler of the all-too-brief life of another veteran, in his recent and moving book, Tomas Young’s War.

I eventually gave up on Yi’s article, unsure why I couldn’t understand the life and times of FuckJerry.  After I got back to the U.S., however, I signed up for Instagram and took a look at his account and Yi’s story began to make more sense to me, if only in a tragi-comic way.  Later in the piece, he writes of his subjects being “caught in the maelstrom” when a competitor is criticized for “stealing” memes.  It’s a strange society that produces both meme maelstroms and, in distant lands, lethal ones that leave millions dead, maimed, desperate, or displaced.  So before you become FuckJerry’s 9,200,001st follower, let Wilkerson guide you through slivers of two American conflicts, their aftermaths, and the points of disconnect along the way.” 

Nick Turse’s Preface to Batman in a Hospital Bed by Mark Wilkerson @Tom’s Dispatch

     The disconnection that Turse illustrates resonates with me enough though to make it the focus of my article, however Wilkerson’s article is also very good, so I recommend following the link.

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