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Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Saint Scam

Torturer Thiessen is trying to help the Republican party "rehabilitate" itself by raising it's level of mendacity by aping the theatrics of the new Pope Francis.[See the War against Vatican II] He's not advocating that they care more about the poor or minorities, just that they act like they care -- like the pope does. This is a pope whose first claim to fame was turning two of his fellows over to the torturers (rendering them I guess) for the crime of being too enthusiastic about the poor. But who is famous for going and washing the feet of poor people. Not feeding them, or clothing them, or actually doing anything for them; just coming in and doing theater. And Thiessen says:

"If Republicans want to change that impression, there is a simple solution: Be more like Pope Francis — defender of the family, the unborn and the poor."

Now, if you ask the rest of us the best way to change the impression that they are anti poor is to stop pursuing projects to persecute, oppress and dispossess the poor. But he goes on:

"One lesson from the Holy Father is that saying the right things about poverty is not enough. You have to show up."

Doesn't mean your policies have to actually help people, they merely have to be seen as caring, as "helping". It can all be theater if one merely puts in the appearance. Like Bush's "Kinder, Gentler" or Bush Junior's "compassionate conservativism." If people can be convinced it's not a PR Tactic they might actually buy it. All it takes are little things like:

[The Future Pope]“would arrive on a bus to their little chapel; how he sponsored marathons and carpentry classes, consoled single mothers and washed the feet of recovering drug addicts; how he became one of them.”

To be fair Thiessen also says:

It's not enough for Republicans to simply vote for school choice; they need to spend time with students struggling in failing schools. It's not enough to rail against dependency; they need to spend time helping those trapped in dependency to get the skills they need to get off public assistance. It's not enough to complain about Obama’s class-warfare rhetoric; they need to spend time fighting for the vulnerable.

Butif they do that, they can avoid real change. All they need is the appearance of doing these things. You need to give lip service to the "right to life:"

They don't have to abandon their principles to do it. As a cardinal, Bergoglio urged the faithful to “defend the unborn against abortion even if they persecute you, calumniate you, set traps for you, take you to court or kill you.” But also he insisted that “No child should be deprived of the right to be born, the right to be fed, the right to go to school.” Notice that he did not stop at the right to be born. Neither should Republicans. The GOP needs to put as much emphasis on ensuring that children are fed and educated as it does on their fundamental right to life.

And of course one doesn't have to give priority to edcuation or training. Just talk about it, and show up at the right events.

Spending on social-welfare programs for the poor has grown by 50 percent since 2007, yet under Barack Obama, more than 2.6 million Americans have slipped out of the middle class and below the poverty line. The left fought a war on poverty, and poverty won.

Thiessen misses the fact that we've had another Republican Great Depression, that while gross spending may have increased by 50% the numbers of the poor have increased 10x that number due to unemployment, foreclosures and budgetary squeezes. But that never phases the "free market" types -- even though we don't have free markets.


Let the Democrats be the party of dependence and downward mobility. The GOP needs to become the party of independence, upward mobility and opportunity for all. During the fall campaign, Mitt Romney declared, “We will hear from the Democrat party about the plight of the poor . . . but my campaign is focused on middle-class Americans.” This was disastrously misguided. If Republicans want to be seen as a more welcoming party, the best way to prove it is by welcoming the poor and championing the vulnerable.

And this Rovian Strategy might work if we are stupid enough to buy the arguments. The playing field has never been less level. All of the improvements in productivity and opportunity have gone to the one percent who have inherited wealth over the past 30 years, and the kind of opportunity the Republicans offer is the opportunity to win a lottery where the odds are stacked against them unless they come from wealth and privilege or luck.

He's not advocating a new strategy. The Catholic Church has pursued this policy for thousands of years with a lot of success.

Article referenced:

Friday, March 29, 2013

The One Percent

The One Percent

Yesterday, I watched a documentary called "The One percent" by Jamie Jonson", it opened my eyes on the reality of the one percent. I knew about the .01%, but I had no idea how many super wealthy individuals there were in the USA until I listened to that documentary, released in 2006, but evidently filmed over a period of time starting sometime in the 1990's.

Around the same time I found this study:
"Democracy and the Policy Preferences of wealthy Americans":

I was struck by the dissonance between national politics and the desires of ordinary Americans until I saw these both in tandem. I'd always figured when they were talking about the "One Percent" they were talking in code and really talking about the .1% or maybe the .001%, but the study and the documentary together made me realize there is really a "one percent" as a class of people, who have legacy wealth from having had wealthy parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents (or further back) and who have inherited wealth. These people won't show up on income tax as wealthy because much of their wealth is hidden, in trusts, and in the form of capital investments. I knew the wealthy paid capital gains, and I knew there were a lot of them. I didn't realize there were so many. One percent may not be a lot of people, but when one considers income distribution and the fact that So Much! wealth is concentrated with them, a lot of things become clearer once one understands that they exist. The intro notes on page 5:

"Data from our recently completed SESA pilot study indicate that the top 1% or so of U.S. wealth - holders differ rather sharply from the American public over a number of important policies concerning taxation, economic regulation, and especially social welfare programs. The more rarified, top 1/10th of 1% or so of wealth-holders (people with $40 million or more in net worth) appear on the average to hold still more conservative views – views that are even more distinct from those of the general public."

But it gets more interesting as one examines those views.

The author notes:

"It is extremely difficult to interview a representative sample of wealthy Americans. (For more detail on the inherent difficulties and on our efforts to solve them, see Page, Bartels and Seawright 2011.) The hardest problem involves identifying the wealthy....

This directly parrallels the experience of Jamie Jonson, who regularly faced opposition just in getting his family members and fellow wealthy friends to even talk to him. It is pretty obvious that the wealthy in the USA lay low and don't want to be identified as a class, or for people to know what they are up to or that they have so much unearned wealth.

Thus we don't even see their imprint on our politics, and I certainly missed it. But then reading this document a lot became clear. On page 4 the author notes:

"Gilens (2012) has found that relatively affluent Americans tend to be more liberal than others on religious and moral issues, including abortion, gay rights, and prayer in school, but much more conservative than the non-affluent on issues of taxes, economic regulation, and social welfare."

And since we find the one percent in politics donating on both sides of the aisle, we can see why we seem to make more progress in subjects such as gay rights and such, but make less progress on bread and butter issues such as workplace democracy, minimum wage, getting unemployment down, etc.... Considering the massive clout of the wealthy, it becomes pretty obvious why "liberals" nowadays aren't reliable for labor. But the wealthy are one thing, the super wealthy tend to be more conservative than the wealthy; on all issues. And they are very wealthy:

"Most of our respondents fall into or near the top 1% of U.S. wealth-holders.11 Their average (mean) wealth is $14,006,338; the median is $7,500,000. (For the distribution of respondents by wealth category, see Table A.) To give a further idea of their economic standing: respondents’ average income is $1,040,140. About one third of them (32.4%) report incomes of $1,000,000 or more."[page 7]

But it is obvious from the study that their agenda drives the Tea Party, and is also why the Democrats go along with it:

"As Table 1 indicates, fully 87% of our wealthy respondents said that budget deficits are a “very important” problem facing the United States. Only 10% said “somewhat important,” and a bare 4% said “not very important at all.”

So while workers and the unemployed may see unemployment and poverty as an issue, these mokes see "deficits." And while the more liberal ones might agree with the general public on their importance to the country, their relative importance is graded much differently from the rest of us:

"Nearly as many of our respondents (84% and 79%, respectively) called unemployment and education “very important” problems. However, each of these problems was mentioned as the most important by only 11%, making them a distant second to budget deficits among the concerns of wealthy Americans."[Page 9]

So they sound like the Democrats, who claim to care about unemployment or infrastructure improvements, but seem to always cave to Republicans on the subject. Once one understands that many democrats are either part of the one percent themselves (Nancy Pelosi is a nice lady, but she's a member of a wealthy family), or they are under the influence of their donors, who often control Democrats using the same kind of financial dog leashes that control the Republicans.

"Our wealthy respondents’ focus on deficits, then, is not widely shared by the general American public. As we will see, there are also major disagreements between the wealthy and other Americans about how to address this and other problems. To deal with deficits, the wealthy tend to favor spending cuts rather than tax increases, to a greater extent than the public does. To deal with unemployment and economic stagnation, the wealthy – much more than the public – tend to rely on private enterprise and oppose governmental jobs or income maintenance programs. To deal with education problems, the wealthy are somewhat more favorable toward market-based reforms and less supportive of spending on public schools."

And so, we can see the tremendous influence that even "liberal" rich from the one percent exercise on our politics, and how it is at variance with the needs and priorities of 99% of us. Recently even Ralph Nader seemed to give up on fighting entrenched powers and instead appealed to them for succor. We seem to be losing the war against poverty while following the other road to Serfdom that Hayek outlined as economic policy [While posing as arguing that government would make people serfs through central planning].

Next Blog on this subject: talks about recent revelations of it's scale and depravity

Earlier article on same subject more than 50 years ago by Ferdinand Lundberg:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Analyzing Dick Cheney's impact

I was working for the Navy as a contractor in the 1990's when Saddam Hussein invaded. It felt nice working for them during that war because part of me felt guilty for not having joined the service, and the job was connected to improving military pay and payroll services and I thought I was contributing to the betterment of the soldiers and sailors of the military; not just the "war-fighters." Anyway I developed an interest in IT, Acquisitions, and process improvement while working there as I saw the antiquated, ad-hoc, and not always best software the military uses; and the poor procurement processes behind those acquisitions. I left that position but i continued to learn about and study acquisitions and the issues around them even on my next job -- which was on the News Release (Website) team for the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Anyway, the result was that I read articles by folks associated with efforts to improve military acquisitions, including the large book from the "Project for a New Century." Thus when 9/11 happened, initially I resisted the notion that the neo-cons involved were out to corrupt the military. Rumsfeld came into office talking about acquisitions reform. I thought he was talking about the very real improvements the military needed. He was, but he also was working these other angles. I'm not defending him, but sometimes we have to understand what we are looking at.

2.3 trillion

The origin of the allegation that the Pentagon mis-placed 2.3 trillion dollars is in a speech given by Dick Cheney the day before 9/11 at the Pentagon:

Cheney was attacking the Government Bureaucracy:

"The topic today is an adversary that poses a threat, a serious threat, to the security of the United States of America. This adversary is one of the world's last bastions of central planning. It governs by dictating five-year plans. From a single capital, it attempts to impose its demands across time zones, continents, oceans and beyond. With brutal consistency, it stifles free thought and crushes new ideas. It disrupts the defense of the United States and places the lives of men and women in uniform at risk."

And of course like any Rightie, he was attacking the Government, but not just the government, but the processes by which we accomplish acquisitions:

...."The adversary's closer to home. It's the Pentagon bureaucracy. Not the people, but the processes. Not the civilians, but the systems. Not the men and women in uniform, but the uniformity of thought and action that we too often impose on them."

I found the speech here:

He got a standing ovation for this, and truth to tell, I cheered him too. The enemy he described was bad process, bad accounting, failures in communication, duplicate programs, etc...

The technology revolution has transformed organizations across the private sector, but not ours, not fully, not yet. We are, as they say, tangled in our anchor chain. Our financial systems are decades old. According to some estimates, we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions. We cannot share information from floor to floor in this building because it's stored on dozens of technological systems that are inaccessible or incompatible.

Cheney wasn't saying that 2.3 trillion had been stolen, merely that he wasn't able to track that information or control it from his office.

Folks have played doctor with this quote, but duplicate and wasteful processes, projects and programs still siphon off money from necessary projects and functionality. American's have the best project managers in the world, but when it comes to running a sustained program we fall flat. This is what Cheney was talking about. And to his credit he tried to do something about it even as his friends and colleagues indulged in massive corruption. The war on Terrorism sabotaged this long over due project, because in wartime duplication, overlap, and waste are okay. Bombs aren't designed to be used over a period of months, they are designed to blow things up.

The real numbers of waste were in the millions and billions, not the trillions, and he saw it in terms of waste and duplication. I agree with him when he says:

We maintain 20 to 25 percent more base infrastructure than we need to support our forces, at an annual waste to taxpayers of some $3 billion to $4 billion. Fully half of our resources go to infrastructure and overhead, and in addition to draining resources from warfighting, these costly and outdated systems, procedures and programs stifle innovation as well. A new idea must often survive the gauntlet of some 17 levels of bureaucracy to make it from a line officer's to my desk. I have too much respect for a line officer to believe that we need 17 layers between us.

To his credit Cheney was outlying truth. And to his credit some of the money spent on these wars also went to process improvement and better acquisitions processes.

Our business processes and regulations seems to be engineered to prevent any mistake, and by so doing, they discourage any risk. But ours is a nation born of ideas and raised on improbability, and risk aversion is not America's ethic, and more important, it must not be ours.

On the one hand, Cheney was making an important point, one can't accomplish anything by staying in one's comfort zone. On the other hand what he saw as risk avoidance is counterbalanced by what happens when one disregards risks. The effort to cut waste by consolidating and centralizing only scaled that waste up in some cases. The F35 Joint Strike fighter has proved emblematic of that. His criticism of risk avoidance led to his embrasure of risks that wound up killing thousands of people. One can't eliminate risk, but Murphy's law will tell you that if you leave identified risks in a project they will turn into issues. He'd make a tautological statement on risk, but it's the "unknown risks" one tries to avoid by mitigating the known risks. His calculation on risks with regard to Iraq led him to risk the entire countries future on faulty assumptions and outright frauds.

Those who fear danger do not volunteer to storm beaches and take hills, sail the seas, and conquer the skies. Now we must free you to take some of the same thoughtful, reasoned risks in the bureaucracy that the men and women in uniform do in battle.

Not that Cheney ever stormed any beach, unless it was in a swimming suit; but his audience included men who had. And they cheered him for this speech because it only was too true.

On the other hand I read that old speech and I see a lot of ideas that reflect the triumph of arrogance and ideology over practicality. He wanted to modernize the PPBES, combine programming and budgeting, and he called it the last vestiges of the Cold war. Which might have been true, but the Military invented central planning for a reason, and the result of ignoring institutional lessons about risk planning and contingency planning led him to think that rehashed strategies like Blitzkrieg and firebombing (shock and awe) were something new and brilliant. He would go on to invade Iraq on assumptions that were disproved in Vietnam. He identified real problems, but then he let his arrogance, prejudices and delusions goad him into "solutions" that made things worse.

And of course the irony is that we did waste about 2.2 trillion on the Iraq war, counting casualties and ongoing costs from the waste of lives and wealth.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

More Rewriting History

The Washington Post today has a review of "‘Coolidge’ by Amity Shlaes."

I was immediately struck by two things. One is that it is no surprise to see her writing a hagiography of Calvin Coolidge. Anyone familiar with the current state of the USA economy, and indeed the world economy, will notice that our current times are similar both to the roaring 20's and the Great Depression. The other thing I immediately noticed is that the author of the review is "Jeff Shesol, a former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton [who] is the author of “Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. the Supreme Court” and a partner at West Wing Writers." So Amity Shlaes and Jeff both are partners at the same place, I almost didn't read the review because it seems to me the author has a conflict of interest. But fortunately the author's review was accurate enough. Indeed his own book contains refutations of some of the nonsense that Amity Shlaes writes.

Jeff writes:

"Shlaes’s contention is that the Great Crash would have come and gone had it not been for Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, their addiction to spending and their mania for government action. If Coolidge “fell short,” Shlaes allows, it was by failing to foresee “the extent to which succeeding presidents and Congresses would diverge from precedent when it came to economic policy.” In other words, Coolidge’s only mistake was in trusting his successors not to screw everything up."

And of course it is Bull. Amity is making a living by telling the world what her handlers want us to hear and trying to rewrite and turn on it's head history. He also writes:

"Here and elsewhere, Shlaes ignores or obscures the rot at the base of the Coolidge prosperity: the overheating of sectors such as autos and housing, the irresponsibility of the banking system, the persistence of poverty, and the tolerance of vast disparities in wealth and income. One need not have been a radical redistributionist to be concerned that during a decade in which corporate profits rose by 63 percent, factory workers saw only a 9 percent increase in wages. Their purchasing power, especially that of farmers, was far too weak to lift the economy when the bottom fell out. Indeed, the surge of speculation on Wall Street toward the end of the 1920s was not so much a cause but a symptom of deeper, structural dysfunctions in the U.S. economy. These were exposed, but were not created, by the stock market collapse of 1929."

She writes this stuff, because the Republicans would lionize the robber barons and their hucksters, like Coolidge, and confuse people into thinking that their repeated swindles aren't the cause of our repeated depressions, but the loans and foibles of common folks or "gubbornment."

Thom Hartmann used to periodically have her as a guest on his show. It was touching that she'd be working for home while having children, and was treated so well by her handlers. He would try to talk sense with her, but whenever he said something she didn't acknowledge she'd fall back into talking points, or simply into silence. She knows where the butter on her bread coming from.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The War against Vatican II continues.

The other day I posted about the Vatican's and the US involvement in the dirty wars in Central and South America. And I've posted on this before. Now the Cardinals have elevated one of the Cardinals whose past was in the dirty war to Pope. All the song and dance about his theatrics in Argentina can't remove the stain of that war against "liberation priests" and also against anyone who was remotely associated with them or actually in fact working to help the people in that country. Yet they've done it again. The last pope was a Hitler Youth, and this one was once accused of complicity in the kidnapping and torture of two of his priests by the Torturers of the Regime in those years.

All I know is that I love Argentina, but despise the folks who pursued that war. My friend Raquel Parnoy has a story of this:

He "served as provincial for Argentina from 1973 to 1979. He was transferred in 1980 to become the rector of the seminary in San Miguel where had had studied. He served in that capacity until 1986." And he left the country when the military was overthrown. Why? I don't know. The TV spins his transfer to San Miguel as a punishment for not being radical enough. We'll see.

"On 15 April 2005, a human rights lawyer filed a criminal complaint against Jorge Cardinal Bergoglio, accusing him of conspiring with the junta in 1976 to kidnap two Jesuit priests."

Huffington Post reports:

The most damning accusation against Bergoglio is that as the military junta took over in 1976, he withdrew his support for two slum priests whose activist colleagues in the liberation theology movement were disappearing. The priests were then kidnapped and tortured at the Navy Mechanics School, which the junta used as a clandestine prison.

Bergoglio clarified this himself:

Bergoglio said he had told the priests – Orlando Yorio and Francisco Jalics – to give up their slum work for their own safety, and they refused.

He doesn't realize how damaging that is. He says:

"I warned them to be very careful," Bergoglio told Rubin. "They were too exposed to the paranoia of the witch hunt. Because they stayed in the barrio, Yorio and Jalics were kidnapped."

Bergoglio also claims he intervened with the Junta to prevent their being killed and dumped into an unmarked grave. They were later dumped naked, but alive, in a field.

The fact is that Bergoglio could have prevented their kidnapping in the first place:

Yorio later accused Bergoglio of effectively delivering them to the death squads by declining to publicly endorse their work. Yorio is now dead, and Jalics has refused to discuss those events since moving into a German monastery.

And this confirms what the earlier articles said:

So far, no hard evidence has been presented linking the cardinal to this crime. It is known that the cardinal headed the Society of Jesus of Argentina in 1976 and had asked the two priests to leave their pastoral work following conflict within the Society over how to respond to the new military dictatorship, with some priests advocating a violent overthrow. The cardinal's spokesman flatly denied the allegations."

Even if I give this man the benefit of the doubt that he didn't actually turn over those two Jesuit Priests (we'll never know the direct evidence was destroyed), the fact remains he was hip deep in the dirty wars from their beginning to their end. More importantly, there is nothing in his current record that shows him disavowing them, or breaking with the Vatican over their prosecution.

He has a lot to answer for. Not to me, but to his God and the souls of the disappeared.


Note: Since I posted this stories have surfaced that clarify details of what I alluded to here.

Huffington Post reports:

Bergoglio's own statements proved church officials knew from early on that the junta was torturing and killing its citizens even as the church publicly endorsed the dictators, she said. "The dictatorship could not have operated this way without this key support," she said.

Some investigators try to apologize for the church. The Reporter Horacio Verbitsky documented them in his book "The Silence". And the Pope has tried to claim that he looked out for priests (other than those first two) who were under suspicion. But that itself is damning, because it indicates just how much the church worked with the Junta. There are also reports of women being raped, forced to give birth and then the babies put up for adoption. A famous movie documents the child of such an atrocity who found out when she grew up that her father had murdered her mother after such an adoption; and maybe was her father.

Verbitsky quotes:

"History condemns him. It shows him to be opposed to all innovation in the Church and above all, during the dictatorship, it shows he was very cozy with the military," Fortunato Mallimacci, the former dean of social sciences at the Universidad de Buenos Aires, once said.

Now we've had Pope Ratzinger the ex Hitler Youth, and now a man who participated in official torture, kidnapping and murder. I don't know what kind of signal the Catholic Church thinks it's sending, but to me they are sending a signal that their intentions are to keep the tyranny of the inquisition alive and well.

Knock Knock!

Post Script 6/1/2016

The good news is that Pope Francis has revealed, that though as indicated in my original post, he knew what the Torturers were up to. It evidently affected him enough so that he hasn't continued in the pattern established by his predecessors. I couldn't be happier with his near saintly behavior since assuming office. I hope all the people who were hurt by the Junta, the complicity of the Catholic Church can find it in their hearts to forgive them. He seems to be seeking Redemption.

Further Reading and Sources:

This post was related to these posts:
Murdering Pregnant Women in Argentina's Dirty War []
More evidence of US - And Vatican! - involvement in Dirty Wars []
Note all links taken in March 2013. If any are now broken I apologize for not taking screenshots.
This will give you a 404 error as the censors prepare the new Pope for future canonization:
But you can read this article that still has the information and more by Horatio Verbitzky:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Butterflies on a wall

It was a calm warm day past the end of the summer but before the cold fall.
When the bleezes were blowing and the sun was stilll shining,
and the darkening gloom on her eyes was advancing,
and the numbifying pain had come, triumphed and moved on.
Monsters ravishing her body, monsters too small to seem real.

And she lay in the mists, in the sunlight in gloom.
Too far gone to care about her doom.
and she stared at the wall paper on the wall of the room.
and she imagined bright fields where she could roam as a child.
And her mind wandered over the edge to the place I can't follow.
and the butterflies came alive from the walllpaper and flew.
That is when I cried, because she died, and I finally knew.
Part of me flies like a butterfly too.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

GOP Corruption = Bait and Switch Principles

Ezra Klein writes in his article "Derek Khanna wants you to be able to unlock your cellphone" about how a fellow named Derek Khanna got fired for delving too deeply in current GOP stated principles. He wrote a paper on how “current U.S. copyright law is based on three myths,” which are:

  1. 'that “the purpose of copyright is to compensate the creator of the content,”
  2. that “copyright is the free market at work,” and
  3. that “the current copyright legal regime leads to the greatest innovation and productivity.
  4. Source: and

And he proceeded to demolish these myths. Which at first got him enthusiastic report, until the lobbyists started reading carefully. He got fired for his paper. He was actually showing the corruption and poor constitution of the implementation of copyright law, which is based on a constitutional requirement that the law encourage at least two of those myths to be realities.

Now he's leading a fight within the Republican party to regain the Soul of the Conservative movement. And his enemy? The Republican party. Ezra Klein summarizes the quandary well:

Khanna had unwittingly stumbled into a deep fissure in today’s Republican Party. The party sees itself as the champion of private enterprise. But which private enterprises? The ones that exist today? Or the ones that might exist tomorrow?

If Republicans were really about "laissez faire" as sold to most of us, they would not be for monopolies and grants of title of any kind; and they'd agree with Democrats about the importance of a level playing field. But if they are about supporting the current government of business and it's establishments and power; then shutting up and marginalizing Derek Khanna is important. I have little respect for Republicans because I like and agree with free market principles, when scoped to the areas where they are supposed to apply, and when those principles are articulated clearly, as Khanna does, and not corruptly. The problem is not simply ideological, it is about corruption and power. As Ezra says:

There’s a difference between being the party of free markets and the party of existing businesses. Excessively tough copyright law is good for big businesses with large legal departments but bad for new businesses that can’t afford a lawyer. And while Khanna, like many young conservative thinkers, believes in free markets, the Republican Party is heavily funded by big businesses.

And the fact is, that the Republican party, and most of it's tea-bagging insurgents, are about the party, not only of existing businesses, but about a hierarchy of businesses with tyrannical and oppressive power. Hence, Khanna is no longer working for them. He took the bait too seriously and got trapped by the switch.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

More evidence of US - And Vatican! - involvement in Dirty Wars

A New article in Counterpunchdetails the involvement f the USA and Vatican in the dirty wars of the 1970s and that the underlying policy is still dynamic, specifically in Brazil, but also throughout the USA. The article details efforts to fight Liberation Theology, persons who were “SYMPATHETIC BUT NOT WEDDED TO LIBERATION THEOLOGY," "linked with Liberation Theology," and which in practice meant anyone who was even remotely associated with persons involved in liberation theology, including a good percentage of Jews in those countries, liberals, and folks who took Pope John's Vatican II seriously. Ultimately a hit list including half the Catholics in the Americas and most of the Jews, as born out by the terror of the dirty wars that tried to implement those policies, in Argentina between 1978 and 1984 and longer in other countries. The article also demonstrates that, while they no longer kidnap, disappear, torture, murder, and then hide the bodies, there is still an active campaign against "liberation theology" which apparently involves the Catholic Church's effort to role back Vatican II using the radicals of "Liberation Theology" -- which was radical, as an excuse.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Fear Itself

I was thinking about the moral quandary of "Dancing with the Devil" while reading a review of a book titled "Fear Itself; The New Deal and the Dark Origins of our Time" by Ira Katznelson and reviewed by Robert G. Kaiser. That book delves into the uneasy relationship that the people pursuing the new Deal had with Southern Racists, Fascists, and the Communist Joseph Stalin. I'm not suspicious about the book because it is well researched, but it also is part of an effort to rewrite history, and is funded by people whose purpose is to defame and degrade the memory of the New Deal. It chronicles just how much liberal efforts were distorted by and clouded by racism, and the need to accommodate Southern racists such as Senator Theadore Bilbo of Mississippi, who was a particularly virulent racist. It also highlights the USA flirtation with Mussolini, and the flight of Italo Balbo across the USA in 1933. All interesting and worth reading to fill in gaps in one's general knowledge; if one also reads other sources.

The book is worth reading, but it is important to note that the alliance between liberals and populists who included deeply socially conservative Southerners, dates to Woodrow Wilson, who came to office by adopting the plank of the progressives, but also when he came to office fired black postal workers and instituted Jim Crow in the Government. The fear also dates back to before 1933, way back, and is why anti-immigration laws were enacted in 1922.

For example, our involvement in World War I didn't play on our fears of Europeans, but of Mexicans; British spies and the Anglo-American press played up hamm handed efforts by the Prussians to instigate the Mexicans to wage a third Front in the American Southwest. Our involvement in Europe was directly related to our response to Pancho Villa and his terrorist raids on the USA side of the border. And that in turn reflected "Missionary Diplomacy" and the US effort to turn the rest of the Americas into a neo-colonial zone of influence dating back to McKinley [a republican]. And probably back to our first war with Mexico in 1848. Fear has always been a bi-partisan and profitable enterprise.

Interestingly the relatively progressive reviewer thinks that Katznelson is a liberal because of some comments he made about the Taft Hartley act. This doesn't really show that Katznelson is a liberal, but it does show how dominating the debate can shift the argument. Katznelson seems liberal because we don't know our history. So this book should be read critically, but it should also be read.

Dancing with the Devil under the pale moonlight

In the earlier version of the batman movie, the one where Jack Nicholson plays a convincing psycho "Joker"; Before he kills his victims the Joker would recite sometimes "have you ever danced with the Devil under the pale blue moon." This became a theme of the movie that was illustrated later in the movie when he forces Batman's love interest to dance with him while he is going postal on a Galla type party. I still see that metaphor as the moral quandary we all face. Whether we want to or not we are all dancing with the devil in our moral lives.

Morality is wrestling with choices. It is easy to pick morality out of a book, but even there the choices are stark. Is it really ethical to skewer a couple having sex for "worshipping Ba'al?" Did God really say to the Mormons that they were justified in attacking settlers passing through their territory on the way to California, because those settlers were "Amalek?" We can throw metaphysical Ink Pots at the devil, but that doesn't defeat evil. Evil manifests as delusion, illusion, and moral blinders on even great people. Those who give into their evil natures are often less evil in effect than the vegetarian new age Hitlers of the world, but are still evil. We all have to dance with the devil, at least until we see through our partners and recognize what we are dancing with -- and then we have choices that aren't always easy.