Thursday, July 18, 2019

The Ballot or the Bullet

The Ballot or the Bullet
Peter Schultz

            A long time ago, Malcolm X gave a speech entitled “The Ballot or the Bullet,” arguing that if blacks weren’t given the right to vote – the ballot – then they would resort to violence – the bullet. As Malcolm X put it, there’s a choice to be made and it has to be made. If black people didn’t have a meaningful right to vote, then there would be no peace.

            That Malcolm was correct is evident today in the United States. For some time now, the right to vote has been denied or compromised for a lot of people. Some are denied outright, e.g., as felons. Others are denied covertly, e.g., by actions that are allegedly needed to keep the voting rolls “clean.” Still others have their votes compromised by gerrymandering schemes. And then of course there is the fact that the votes of non-wealthy are compromised by the ways the wealthy are given a privileged position in determining the outcome of elections, ala’ Citizens United.

            And guess what? Our political process has become increasingly violent, with violent rhetoric and even threats of violence commonplace. “Lock her up!” “Send her home!” are cries that reverberate throughout our political debates, along with increasing appeals to violent-laced politics at home, abroad, and in the borderlands. Guns exist in very large numbers throughout the society and are seen by many as indispensable to their safety and wellbeing.

            Malcolm X was correct: We have a choice, politics by ballots or politics by bullets; a relatively peaceful politics or a politics characterized by violence. One key to a peaceful politics is the ballot; that is, the widespread and generally equal access to voting. Give people ballots and they won’t need bullets. Why? Because when people have ballots, have meaningful votes, votes that can actually create political change, they have power. They are empowered even though they might be unarmed. Peaceful change is possible.

            Take away meaningful ballots and people feel and are disempowered. And when human beings are disempowered, they will try to acquire power any way they can, “by any means necessary,” including by turning to violence. This has been true throughout recorded history and is still true today, as illustrated by the politics in the United States. People of every political stripe feel and are disempowered, primarily because they are being denied a meaningful ballot, a meaningful or realistic way to create change. And they have turned to violence, to “the bullet” to get what they want, to be powerful.

            Malcolm X wasn’t simply making a threat. He was stating a political truth.  Human beings have a choice: Empower the people, give them the right to vote, or create a violent politics and a violent society. Take your pick. But you have to choose And your choice will matter. Voting or bloodshed: that’s the choice. And if you choose the latter, don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Humpty Dumpty and American Politics

Humpty Dumpty and American Politics
Peter Schultz

“Trump is the direct and predictable product of the progressive failure to have forged an effective opposition to corrupt plutocracy by the time of that strategic moment when popular trust has been lost in the plutocratic “center.” Lack of a unifying progressive strategy meant that volatile and highly manipulable proto-totalitarian element would look elsewhere. As Slavoj Zizek, Trouble in Paradise (2014) 115, posits: “The rise of Fascism is not only the Left’s failure, but also proof that there was a revolutionary potential, a dissatisfaction, which the Left was not able to mobilize.” Proto-totalitarian Trumpism is what arises when progressives are unable to unite strategically.

“The Plutocracy and its propagandists take a keen and well-financed interest in prolonging this division among progressives. They now back Biden, or Trump. Recent reliable polling shows Biden 30% – Sanders 19% – Warren 15%. This current data shows that supporters of the two progressives, if united, would defeat the plutocracy‘s status quo candidate. As the progressive choice between Sanders and Warren lingers through the summer of 2019 in a mere contest of subjective tastes it will aggravate yet another in a series of historical failures by progressives to unite strategically and competently at a time when the stakes are now the highest. Continued progressive failure to act strategically for decisively wresting control of the Democratic Party from its corrupt plutocratic establishment will only move the country further in the direction of totalitarianism. Sanders failed at this task in 2016 though progressives provided him resources and support to do the job. Yet another progressive failure to organize strategically behind a competent progressive in the 2020 primaries could be terminal. The likes of WaPo will not do it for them. The necessary exercise of their own strategic judgment in this choice needed to prevail in 2020 will be a useful exercise of an unexercised muscle by progressives. To elect a strategist progressives must master the strategy.”

There is something bothersome about this analysis, which is taken from the article whose link is above that argues for Elizabeth Warren in preference to Bernie Sanders. I am not so much concerned with this issue as I am with other issues the article raises. To get on with it. 

It is said that Trump’s success is the result of “the progressive failure to forge an effective opposition to corrupt plutocracy….” There was a “lack of a unifying progressive strategy” and this despite that there was “proof that there was a revolutionary potential, a dissatisfaction, which the Left was not able to mobilize.” So “Trumpism …. arises when progressives are unable to unite strategically.” 

Let me focus on this idea of there being a “corrupt plutocracy,” which is a phrase Warren uses repeatedly in her rhetoric and campaign materials and which goes unchallenged here. There is something about this phrase that is, I submit, quite misleading because that phrase, “corrupt plutocracy,” makes it seem that these people are merely self-serving types who have been bought off by Wall St. et. al. They are not defined by, they do not embrace any political/economic principles like corporate capitalism or American interventionism. Once exposed then they should and would be defeated, if only the progressives would stick together. There is no legitimacy to their politics. Hence, progressive unity is or should be enough to defeat them.

But insofar as what is called a corrupt plutocracy is something other, is in fact a political movement that embraces corporate capitalism and American imperialism, and then progressive unity is not enough to defeat them. Rather, what is needed to defeat them is an alternative political movement, one that rejects corporate capitalism and American interventionism/imperialism. 

So when Warren speaks repeatedly of this “corrupt plutocracy” she is not doing what is most important, that is, offering an alternative politics to the politics of this “plutocracy.” And if in fact she does not reject corporate capitalism and American interventionism, whatever she proposes, no matter how “systemic” she claims the proposals to be, will not undermine, subvert the politics of the reigning plutocracy. It is necessary to start by rejecting the prevailing political principles in order to subvert them. So when Warren labels herself as, proudly, a “capitalist,” she is denying her commitment to a genuine political alternative. 

The results of such a politics is evident from the Obama presidency, which is described accurately as follows:

“For Warren this issue of the corrupt plutocracy is not just a majoritarian favorite adopted to boost a political campaign. Obama campaigned as one “tired of business as usual in Washington” who would “overcome all the big money and influence” there and get the “lobbyists … [who] dominate our government … system in Washington” and their “undue influence” out of ”our way.” But he woke up president not so “tired of business as usual in Washington” after all. Refreshed by record-setting campaign cash from the Wall Street plutocracy he did the opposite of what many thought to be his central campaign promise. Roger D. Hodge, Mendacity of Hope: Barack Obama and the Betrayal of American Liberalism (2010) (Obama “the best friend Wall Street could hope for”).”

The problem here is that Obama, like Warren now, attributed “business as usual in D.C.” to the influence of “all the big money….[and] lobbyists [who] dominate our government…system in Washington.” But the problem was not just big money and lobbyists. Rather, the problem was – and is - the well-established commitment to corporate capitalism and American imperialism. Obama did not end up serving “the Wall Street plutocracy” because of “record-setting cash” but rather because he was in favor of corporate capitalism and American imperialism. As his record as president illustrates, he was a corporate capitalist and American imperialist. So when push came to shove, he went with his politics, as all human beings do. Insofar as Warren is a corporate capitalist and imperialist/interventionist, she too will end up like Obama, supporting the status quo because that is what she believes in. 

“Draining the swamp” or confronting “a corrupt plutocracy” are nice sounding phrases, but misleading. The “swamp” and the “corrupt plutocracy” are the results our corporate capitalism and our imperialism. To do away with them, we need an alternative kind of politics, say a politics of justice, human rights, and popular government. So long as the reigning political order goes unchallenged just so long will it continue. As was noticed a very long time ago in a nursery rhyme: 

“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again.”

Friday, July 12, 2019

The "Deep State" Isn't....Deep

The “Deep State” Isn’t Deep
Peter Schultz

            Here are portions of an exchange I had on Facebook with one friend of mine from high school and Metuchen, N.J., where we both were raised. It helped me clarify the character of our political, social, and economic order. My contributions are in red, and his are in green. It starts on the subject of “civilization” and its character.

Oh to the contrary. “Civilization” is inseparable from war-making, from racism, and other forms of madness, like religious fanaticism. “Civilized” people are deadlier than those called “primitive”people. No primitive people developed weapons of mass destruction. Only “civilized” people do that! Only the “civilized” have ideologies that justify the annihilation of the “others.”

Larger populations create weapons that kill larger groups. Smaller populations don’t need to because clubs, machetes and small arms will do the job adequately. So it may be just a matter of scale rather than civility.

Only in what we call “civilization “ is making war a “job.” For primitives war was/is horrific and therefore they ritualized it.

Again, a matter of scale.

Something to do with “scale.” More to do with the dehumanizing effects of what we label “civilization,” as revealed most clearly in, say, the Armenian holocaust or the holocaust Europeans created in the New World.

True. But the dehumanizing effects of civilization has to do with the exponential rise in the population of nations necessitating specialization. Everything is larger scale necessitating social changes in society. We need large scale corporate farms, cooperative cheese companies, clothing stores, government to tell us what we want and who to hate and yes, special forces to defend our country (and invade others).

Well, perhaps. But the dehumanizing aspects of civilization has to do with the repressive and oppressive governments that are needed to maintain such a inhuman way of life, or what you call”specialization.” Specialization is, for me, a euphemism for dehumanization and it can be found on small scales as well as large,scales. We don’t “need” large scale corporate farms, we have chosen them, just as we have chosen to create what Ike called the military-industrial complex. We don’t need “corporate capitalism,” but have chosen it. Civilization is a choice which can be walked away from, and people do it all the time.

Nice in theory but corporate capitalism is so darned efficient, well managed and easy to sell. I guess we should have learned from our experience with the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age but we didn’t. True history doesn’t mean anything anymore so we are bound to relive it. Catastrophes and all.

Corporate capitalism is efficient, especially for the "robber barons." And while I get your argument, it isn't easy to sell, which is why those oligarchs have created the national security state, engage in endless wars against fake enemies, combined with a humongous bureaucracy that pervades our lives, including militarized "police forces" who kill when they want, as well as the mass incarceration of huge numbers of people, especially blacks and Hispanics. In fact, corporate capitalism wouldn't exist without the oppressive government we like to think of as "democratic." I still can't believe how many people think our government is "democratic." But as advertisers like to say, you can sell shit if its packaged properly. And of course all the patriotic bullshit we embrace serves as that package. USA! US! USA!

            The point being that there is no need for the concept of “the deep state” to explain what is going on the US these days and for some time past. What is called “the deep state” is actually not deep at all; it is there for all to see if only we were willing to look at it for what it is.

            And it is also perhaps correct to say that our “economic arrangements,” that is, “corporate capitalism,” would collapse without our “political arrangements,” that is, the humongously centralized and pervasive “national security state.” This state, although sold as necessary for fending off foreign enemies, is actually as much geared to fending off domestic “enemies,” those who threaten our corporate capitalism and its controlling oligarchy. The oligarchy, in order to maintain its power, will do whatever is necessary, win or lose whatever elections it is deemed necessary to win or lose, and engage in war as it is deemed necessary to do so in order to fortify the people’s patriotism with the blood sacrifices of its young.

            It is, to say the least, an interesting state of affairs.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

American Politics: The Basics

American Politics: The Basics
Peter Schultz

            Basically, all you need to know about American politics can be gleaned from this quote from John Ehrlichman, senior aide to Richard Nixon:

            “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war [in Vietnam] or black, but by getting the public to associate hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about drugs? Of course we did.”

            The trick to creating an effective government, one that “works,” is to manipulate people’s passions. What can’t be done directly or visibly, e.g., making it illegal to oppose a war or to be a minority, can be done indirectly or invisibly, thereby allowing the government to operate efficiently, effectively.

            There is no need to use what has been called “the bully pulpit;” in fact, secretly instructing people is far more effective. Visionary leadership may be what a lot of people claim they want, but secretly, covertly manipulating popular passions is far more effective. In this way, as Ehrlichman says, it is possible to vilify on a daily basis those who are opposed to the government’s policies. Those opposed to the government’s wars can be demonized as druggies, “hippies,” while minorities will become in the public’s mind “super predators” ala’ Hillary Clinton or “gang bangers in a hoodie” ala’ Joe Biden.

            And basically, American politics, American political discourse, such as it is, revolves around manipulating popular passions. Which popular passions? Well, as Ehrlichman’s assertion illustrates, the passions being manipulated are those that lead to vilification and that justify government repression. Nixon, et. al., labeled this “law and order,” which is quite interesting insofar as he and his administration were the ones engaging in criminal behavior. But Nixon’s success also illustrates just how effective manipulating popular passions can be. “Law and order” is still embraced by most Americans unthinkingly. For who would or could be against “law and order?”

            As a result, an underlying consensus anchors American politics, gives our politics a definitive trajectory, and limits our political debates within very narrow confines. Those who challenge this consensus are marginalized or, as it appears to many, marginalize themselves. They are not to be taken seriously and if the people begin to rally to them, they must be made to disappear, banished, much as Socrates banished the poets near the end of the Republic.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Putin, Trump, and Liberalism

Putin, Trump, and Liberalism
Peter Schultz

Putin asked Trump if he, Trump, agreed that “Western-style liberalism” was dead. Trump, obviously out of his depth, mumbled something. But what gets me is that a lot of people don’t think Putin was correct. Seems to me that such liberalism disappeared some time ago, about the time when JFK was assassinated, followed by the murders of MLK, Malcolm X, and RFK. Or I might surmise that such liberalism died when the establishment dismantled, repressed, and subverted the promise of the 60s. LBJ, Vietnam, and Nixon killed off liberalism, which was then buried by Reagan and Clinton. And any resurrection seems extremely improbable.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Gunshot Detection Systems in Schools: Recipe for Disasters

Gunshot Detection System in Schools: Recipe for Disasters
Peter Schultz

OK. Let’s think about this development for a little while, viz., that Brockton High School in Boston got a gunshot detection system as a gift from one of its alums who sells these systems on the east coast.

The system has an alarm and detects where the shots were fired, that is, which room in the school, and within seconds alerts school officials and each and every police person in Brockton. The police are to respond as if there was “an active shooter” on the loose, not someone who is suicidal or someone who has taken hostages. The detectors are battery operated. Sounds like it is as good as it gets, especially because as the salesman said, “It takes human beings out of the situation.” So what could go wrong?

First, it is really useful to have all the police in Brockton notified, and being expected to respond? Sounds like a possible SNAFU situation to me: Situation Normal All Fucked Up. I don’t’ know how many police there are in Brockton but the possibilities for screw ups increase as the number of officers involved increase. Where would all these officers meet? Who would take charge of them and direct them effectively? How would the SWAT officers interact with the other officers?

Second, the detectors pinpoint where the shooter is, allegedly. Actually, they only pinpoint where the shot or shots were fired, not where the shooter is because shooters are capable of moving, shooting and then moving. That is, this technology creates a picture, as it were, but there is no guarantee that that picture is accurate because like all technologically generated pictures, these are only virtual pictures. Mistaking virtual pictures for real pictures could lead to some pretty terrible outcomes, like mistaking innocent students for the shooter or shooters.

That the picture is merely virtual and not real is confirmed by the fact that the police are to assume that the shooter is “active;” that is, is not suicidal and not holding hostages. But what if the shooter is suicidal or holding hostages? If that’s the case then the police will be responding to a situation that doesn’t in fact exist; they would be responding to something like a mirage, something not real. If the shooter had hostages and the police didn’t know that, the danger to the hostages would increase. And if the shooter were suicidal, not homicidal, treating her or him as homicidal could guarantee that the shooter’s “suicide” would be successful, that is, suicide by cop. In other words, these situations are far more complicated than can be conveyed by such technological tools as gunshot detection systems.

And this is what happens when humans are replaced by technology. Technological tools don’t have what humans have, namely, imagination. Without imagination, these tools are essentially blind to the situations they are allegedly assessing. Without imagination, it is extremely difficult to assess situations realistically, although because we are so enamored of technology these days we have forgotten that imagination is absolutely essential for being realistic, for being in touch with what I like to call “real reality.”

The very last thing that should be done in dealing with situations like these is to remove human beings from dealing with them, or subordinating the judgment of human beings to machines. In every situation where either of these things is done, from drone warfare to facial recognition systems, the results are eventually but always inhuman. After all, why would you expect anything else when you take the human element out of the real world? With humans taken out of our situation, only the inhuman remains. Why is this so difficult to understand?

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Being Civil

Being Civil
Peter Schultz

            Joe Biden has been defending himself against charges of racism, occasioned by his work with such segregationists as Senator Eastland of Mississippi and Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina in years past, by arguing that he was being “civil” and, thereby, was able to agree with these senators and get some things done in D.C.

            And that makes this a good time to think about the idea that being civil is the best way to do politics. Biden – and others too – tend to think that being civil is what we should all aspire to in our politics, but this is far from clear, for at least the following reasons.

            First, civility privileges the reigning political arrangement. That is, the powers that be, whether they be segregationist or capitalist, are put in a privileged position when people are being civil or thinking that civility is the only way to be properly political. Biden, by being civil in working with segregationists, could not challenge the prevailing racist political and social order in existence at that time. All he could accomplish at most would be to modify the prevailing racist order without undermining it or overturning it. Thereby, his actions would implicitly fortify the legitimacy of the prevailing racist system. And just as surely his actions would lead to civil unrest, incivility on the part of those who thought, as any thinking person would, that a racist political and social order is fundamentally flawed and should be overturned.

Second, as the above implies, being civil is not being just. When a person is being civil, justice becomes a subordinate, a decidedly secondary concern. “Why can’t we all just get along,” although a seemingly heartfelt and common sense appeal, ignores that we can’t all just get along because some are being treated unjustly, even inhumanely, in a segregated or racist society. Behaving civilly is not behaving justly and civility alone does not lead to justice or a just society. In the face of racism, the kind of racism that existed when Senator Eastland and Senator Thurmond were alive almost demands that people concerned with justice behave uncivilly; that is, demands sit-ins, marches, and organizations dedicated to black power. To tell those acting in these ways to behave civilly is to tell them to accept the injustices they are being subjected to, to tell them that the racist political and social order that exists is legitimate.

By reminding us that he acted civilly, Biden is then reminding us that he was, at least then, quite content to accept and legitimate a racist political and social order. In my neighborhood, that makes Biden a racist.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Is Trump the Democrats' Target?

Is Trump the Democrats’ Target?
P. Schultz

            Frank Bruni has written an article in the NY Times entitled “Donald Trump Will Pick the Democratic Nominee” in which he argues that the Democrats are so focused on defeating Trump that even if Trump loses his “DNA will linger.” And he argues that “Trump gets credit for the Democratic primary’s defining aspect, which is the sheer number of candidates — 23.” This has little to do with the clashes within the Democratic Party and everything to do with “his underwhelming approval rating [so] that if ever a sitting president looked vulnerable and if any year appeared ripe for a Democratic takeover, that president is Trump and that year is 2020.”

            Seems to make a lot of sense except for the fact that the Democratic Party is in the midst of an uprising by “insurgents” like Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, and even Mike Gravel. And as Bruni unintentionally points out, so much of what is happening may be seen as the result of the mainstream Democrats like Pelosi, Schumer, and Biden trying to hold on to their control of the party. To wit:

“… the congested field is suffocating qualified aspirants who would otherwise find oxygen. It’s putting an extra premium on viral moments and supersize conceits. It’s privileging celebrity. All of that will factor into who prevails, and all of that is because of Trump.”  

            Moreover, Joe Biden, apparently the leading Democrat for the nomination, is talking like all he wants to do is restore “the good old days” in the party: “the essence of Biden’s strategy and message . . . boil[s] down to this: Electing me would mean that the past four years were a bad dream, like that kooky season of the 1970s television series “Dallas.” It would restore Obama (in absentia), resume the arc and renounce this dance with the devil, who could no more drain the swamp than tell the truth. Nostalgia is the new revolution.”

            So, it may be said, as Bruni says, that the Democrats’ behavior is suffocating “qualified aspirants,” read “insurgents,” and their leading contestant for the nomination wants a restoration. A restoration based on what? Nostalgia. And it is worthwhile to ask: Is this behavior aimed at Trump, who of course presents no threat to the rule of Pelosi, Schumer, et. al., or is it aimed at those like Bernie, et. al., who would, if successful, take control of the Democratic Party? For me, it is the latter that makes the most sense.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

American Politicians: The Good? The Bad? The Ugly?

American Politicians; The Good? The Bad? The Ugly? 

Do most Americans have any conception how despicable, how ugly their politicians are and have been? In what is called “the Age of Trump” reminders are needed.

Here’s what happened after Ted Kennedy drive off a bridge near Martha’s Vineyard and let a young woman, Mary Jo Kopechne drown: “The Kennedy political operation went into high gear, spiriting the party attendees off the island before reporters could find them, and forming a hedge around Kennedy himself. He secluded himself at the family compound in Hyannis Port while an army of advisers and lawyers spent days plotting how to respond.” [Camelot’s End, p. 69]

Then Kennedy addressed the nation and made himself out to be the victim: “I was overcome, I’m frank to say, by a jumble of emotions: grief, fear, doubt, exhaustion, panic, confusion, and shock.” Poor guy! “All kinds of scrambled thoughts - all of them confused, some of them irrational, many of them which I cannot recall, and some of which I would not have seriously entertained under normal circumstances - went through my mind during this period.”

Thoughts, many thoughts, he can’t recall but knows he had! All his thoughts “confused”! Some “irrational!” Poor guy! So victimized by letting a young woman drown! Has Trump ever surpassed this sniveling, whining, self-pitying statement by Ted Kennedy? He probably has. But let no one say Trump, although thoroughly despicable, was our first major politician to be so.

Americans, like other human beings, can turn away from how ugly their society has become. So it is good to remind them of this ugliness, to remind them there is nothing, absolutely nothing extraordinary or exceptional about them or their society.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Trump and Russia: Why Doesn't Trump Get Real?

Trump and Russia: Why Doesn’t Trump Get Real?
Peter Schultz

            President Trump is more than willing to call Russiagate a hoax, composed of essentially baseless accusations that are being used to undermine his administration. Nothing surprising here. But it is surprising that Trump has not said what would make his claims even stronger, viz., that Russiagate is just a continuation of a neo-conservative project to render Russia a relatively powerless nation that could have little impact in the world and especially in the Middle East.

            As Max Blumenthal has argued in his latest book, The Management of Savagery, charging that Russia was “a foreign evil that supposedly controlled the White House,” the Democratic Party was turned “into a paranoid war party,” thereby serving to facilitate “a quiet neo-conservative campaign set in motion over a decade before” whose goal was “to encircle the largest and most militarily powerful nation in Eurasia and gradually transform it into a toothless, economically dependent vassal of the United States.” [276-77-] This project began with “the wholesale looting of [Russia’s] state assets by ‘the Harvard boys,’ who were imposing “shock therapy” under the watchful eyes of Lawrence Summers. Boris Yeltsen was the “American-installed president” and Russia’s poverty rate rose from 2% to 40%, which eclipsed that of the Great Depression in the US. The looting was hailed in D.C. as “free-market reform” and “liberalization,” but was stopped once Vladimir Putin took over from Yeltsen.

            This led to increased pressure in D.C. “for a confrontation with Putin’s Russia” and “while Americans were transfixed by Bush’s ‘war on terror’ drama, a bipartisan coalition was quietly coalescing to confront the resurgent Russia menace.” [279] With the approval of vice president Cheney, Mikheil Saakashvili, president of Georgia, “sent troops into the semi-sovereign Russian territory of South Ossetia, claiming it as his own.” [279] The invaders were clobbered by the Russian counterattack. But this led to a bipartisan congressional denunciation of Putin for having the gall to resist what was essentially a NATO aggression. And to make matters worse from D.C.’s viewpoint, Putin was only too willing to call out the U.S. and its proxy war for regime change in Libya where, according to Putin, “under the pretext of protecting civilians. . . it’s the civilian population who dies during airstrikes against (Libyan) territory.” [280] And more generally, Putin charged the U.S. with being the cause of “global destabilization” and with creating “new human tragedies and new centers of tension.” [278-9]

            The neo-cons continued their project, arousing war fevers when Putin annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea, where the population had voted to join the Russian Federation. Fighting broke out and the Pentagon supplied the Ukrainian military quietly but the neo-cons knew, as William Kristol pointed out, that “All that’s needed is the rallying. And the turn around [among the people] can be fast.” As Blumenthal says: “That moment would arrive amid the 2016 general election, when allegations of Russian hacking dominated headlines and triggered Democratic Party outrage.” [283] The rest is history, as we know and, of course, as it continues.

            But why doesn’t Trump put this hoax in its political context? It is puzzling insofar as it would allow Trump to strengthen his case that Russiagate is a hoax or is part of a political project that should be considered, at the very least, controversial. But perhaps it is the controversial aspects of the neo-cons “Russia project” that Trump does not want to bring up insofar as that would necessitate making American imperialism controversial. Better to go on acting like an insecure, somewhat addled old white male than to take on and rattle our Orwellian oligarchy.

Friday, May 24, 2019

Memorial Day 2019: The Republic Is Dead

Memorial Day 2019: The Republic Is Dead
Peter Schultz

            The United States republic is dead, its need for secrecy being the cause of death. This need began in the midst of the assassinations of JFK, Malcolm X, MLK, and RFK, along with the massive COINTELPRO program run by the FBI, which also centered around the assassinations of the Black Panthers, et. al., and the American Indian Movement. Also to be included is the American war in Vietnam, begun covertly, expanded surreptitiously, and included a massive assassinations program, the Phoenix program, that killed thousands of Vietnamese civilians. Of course the invasion of Iraq in 2003 required secrecy as well as there was no real cause of war. And it too included assassinations as one of its most important tools during the surge and otherwise. The assassinations and secrecy continued ala’ Obama’s drone “wars.”

            Accompanying this deadly secrecy, the American people are encouraged – and expected – to “rally round the flag” by honoring our “heroes” who do the killing, thanking them for their “service.” This is what passes for patriotism today, and is pretty much indistinguishable from blindness to the fact that the republic is dead. Along with some “subversive” Americans and many foreigners, the republic has been assassinated. All it needs is a proper burial. Memorial Day would be a good day to start the republic’s funeral by remembering that those who have died for the republic have, contra Lincoln, indeed died in vain.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Today America Has Become the Nightmare

Today America Has Become the Nightmare
Peter Schultz

            In reading L. Fletcher Prouty’s book, JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy, I read this quote from Arnold Toynbee, written in the NY Times in 1971, but still and maybe more relevant today.

“To most Europeans…America now looks like the most dangerous country in the world. Since America is unquestionably the most powerful country, the transformation of America’s image within the last thirty years is very frightening for Europeans. It is probably still more frightening for the great majority of the human race who are neither European nor North Americans, but are Latin Americans, Asians, and Africans. They, I imagine, feel even more insecure than we feel. They feel that, at any moment, America may intervene in their internal affairs, with the same appalling consequences as have followed from the American intervention in Southeast Asia.
            “For the world as a whole, the CIA has now become the bogey that communism has been for America. Wherever there is trouble, violence, suffering, tragedy, the rest of us are now quick to suspect the CIA had a hand in it. Our phobia about the CIA is, no doubt, as fantastically excessive as America’s phobia about world communism; but in this case, too, there is just enough convincing guidance to make the phobia genuine. In fact, the roles of America and Russia have been reversed in the world’s eyes. Today America has become the nightmare.” [pp. 230-31]

            Suffice it to say about Prouty’s book that it is concerned with arguing that John F. Kennedy was aware of these dangers and sought to corral the CIA and the US policies of waging limited war throughout the world. And as a result, Prouty argues, Kennedy was assassinated. Seems rather extreme to me but then so does how the US behaves today throughout the world.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Politics 101: Trump, the Democrats and Impeachment

Politics 101: Trump, the Democrats and Impeachment
Peter Schultz

Politics 101: Of course, Pelosi won't comment on impeachment because (a) the last thing the Democrats want to do is impeach and remove Trump from office but (b) they have to leave it out there as a distraction and incitement. It's just part of the 2020 presidential campaign and a way for the Dems to distract from their own flawed, oligarchic policies, policies that will be continued by whatever "centrist" the Dems nominate for president, perhaps with the help of their "superdelegates." The Dems no more want Trump impeached then the Republicans wanted Clinton removed prior to the 2000 presidential election because if they had done that Gore could have run as an incumbent president and even seek two full terms. And (c) listen as the talk about impeachment ramps up, becomes louder and louder, taking over the political arena. But Trump will not be impeached or removed. All of which Mueller's report was drafted to facilitate: "Well, he might have done something but then we don't know that he did or didn't but it wouldn’t matter anyway because he's president."

Monday, April 15, 2019

What a Long, Strange Trip It's Been: Castro, Kennedy, and the Dance of Nations.

What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been
Peter Schultz

            Once it becomes apparent that the United States is an oligarchy, that is, governed by the wealthy few for their own benefit, it also becomes apparent that almost everything mainstream politicians do is geared to preserving the oligarchy’s power, their power. Consider for example American foreign policy and, specifically, US foreign policy toward Cuba after the Cuban revolution when Castro overthrew Batista and took control of the Cuban government.

            What did our oligarchs do? Well, to put it simply, they did everything to make Cuba look like our enemy. In this they had help from Castro, as he too was doing things to make the US look like Cuba’s enemy. It was like a choreographed dance the two nations were performing, a dance choreographed to ensure that the two nations acted like, became enemies.

            For example, on the US side, nothing was done to show support to those Cubans, the moderates in Cuba, who were happy Batista was gone but were not all that enamored of Castro. If the US had shown some support for the revolution, instead of treating it as a Communist plot supported by the USSR, these moderates would have been able to oppose Castro without seemingly undermining Cuba independence or the Cuban revolution, without seeming like traitors. However, once the US decided to punish Cuba for its revolution, these moderates were forced to support Castro because, otherwise, they would be acting like traitors to Cuban independence. Once the US decided to become Cuba’s enemy, then even Cubans opposed to Castro had to support him or risk being charged with treason to the revolution, to Cuba.

            Why did the US then make Cuba an enemy? The conventional wisdom is that this happened only when it was apparent that Castro was a communist. But even if he were, and it isn’t clear that he was, this does not explain why the US reacted as it did, why US policy intended to create a war like situation between the two nations. But this war like state benefitted the Eisenhower administration just as it benefitted Castro’s regime by making both seem strong, by making both seem properly concerned with “national defense.” Both Eisenhower and Castro were seen as protecting the “homeland” and, therefore, worthy of support by all who weren’t “traitors,” “capitalist dogs,” or “pinkos.”

            Both regimes were then strengthened domestically by creating a war like state between the two nations. There was “political gold” in such a situation for the prevailing political classes in both nations. And US policy served Castro well by helping him secure his revolution. He became a national hero by facing down the “giant from the north.” And Eisenhower looked less like the grandfather golfer he seemed to be. And with an election approaching, Richard Nixon could look like the “cold warrior” he wanted to be. He would “take care” of Castro.

            This state of affairs led, first, to the Bay of Pigs invasion and, secondly, to the Cuban missile crisis, when the game almost got out of hand and went nuclear. It was never the intention of either the US or Castro to start a full scale or nuclear war between the US and the USSR as this would lead to the annihilation of millions of human beings. And then, of course, all that “political gold” that each side got as a result of the war like state between the two nations would be lost or would lose its value. The same could be said of any attempt by Castro to assassinate JFK, as some have charged. Castro needed Kennedy, as much as Kennedy needed Castro, to solidify their credentials as “leaders.” The same could be said of killing Castro, which helps explain why the attempts by the CIA to do so repeatedly failed and seemed so inept. To reap the “political gold” available the US needed Castro in power, just as Castro needed to ensure that the US remained Cuba’s enemy, while avoiding a full-scale war. A state of war without a full-scale war was best for both nations; that is, for protecting the regimes governing both nations, the oligarchs in the US and the communists in Cuba. US oligarchs and Cuban communists were, as intended, “indispensable enemies.”

            And after the assassination of JFK, LBJ saw that it was incumbent on him to derail any attempts to pin the blame on Castro, as that would have meant in all likelihood full-scale war with Cuba and then with the USSR. Hence, the need for the Warren Commission and for the fairy tale that Oswald acted alone and was not part of any conspiracy. Moreover, it had to be shown that the assassination itself was not the result of any conspiracy, especially one pointing to Castro and Cuba. And as a result the Warren Commission was an invitation to conspiracy theories because it was so ineptly concocted to reach the conclusion that Oswald acted alone.

            More generally, could it be that the Cold War itself was dramatized, choreographed to allow the oligarchs in the US and the communists in the USSR to reap that “political gold” the US and Castro reaped as a result of the war like state between the two nations? While a big topic, obviously, let it be said that with very few exceptions the US and the USSR – and China – never got close to full-scale war, those exceptions being the Korean War and the Cuban missile crisis. Otherwise, the dance of these indispensable enemies continued in ways that created a war like situation without creating full-scale, that is, nuclear war. And both US oligarchs and Soviet and Chinese communists benefitted.

            If so, that would be an interesting situation.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

What does Trump Mean?
Peter Schultz

What does Trump mean? What did JFK’s assassination mean?

They both meant/mean that the existing political order was/is unraveling, was/is coming apart at the seams, was/is disintegrating.

So all the king’s horses and all the king’s men tried to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Monday, April 1, 2019

The Bush Pardons: Why He Threw the 1992 Election to Clinton

From America's Stolen Narrative: From Washington and Madison to Nixon, Reagan and the Bushes to Obama

"[Attorney James] Brosnahan[, who had been tapped by Iran-Contra special counsel Lawrence Walsh to be the lead prosecutor in the trial of former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger, which had been scheduled to start January 5, 1993] said, 'It was all so transparent that I was disappointed that more people didn't pick up on the fact that all they were trying to do was obstruct the trial of Caspar Weinberger.  I'm talking about obstruction of justice.  The statute, I took it out of the book and made a Xerox copy out of it and stuck it up on my wall.  ...  [Walsh] was obstructed starting in '86 and [Bush's Christmas Eve '92] pardon was the final coup de grace.'

"According to Brosnahan, Bush's pardons were admired by some, ignored by many, and seen as a threat to our democratic form of government by a number, of which I am one.  ...  And that's the only way they could get rid of [Walsh].  They couldn't have a trial.  They couldn't allow witnesses to be asked where they were, what they heard.  They couldn't have Weinberger's notes out in public because it said that the President [Ronald Reagan] approved all of this'" (Parry 146-147).

"'The cross-examination of Caspar Weinberger was going to be an event,' Brosnahan told me.  'The thing about cross-examination in a trial is that there's no place to hide.  The political bullshit is over.  There's only the question where were you?  You're in charge of the missiles, what did you hear?  What did te President say?  What about this document?  What about your notes?  What about your testimony?'

"Brosnahan asked me, Do you understand why there was a pardon?' He then answered his own question, 'There was a pardon because an awful lot of people wanted this to go away'" (Parry 148).

"Walsh also understood how self-serving Bush's pardons had been because Bush was, in effect, ensuring that the scandal would not reach him.  The Iran-Contra pardons may have represented the first time in U.S. history when a sitting president used his extraordinary pardoning power to stop an unvestigation into which he was a potential defendant" (Parry 155).

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Lyndon and Bobby

Lyndon and Bobby
Peter Schultz

            In reading the book Mutual Contempt, I learned that, allegedly, RFK had a “Lyndon problem.” That is, Bobby Kennedy could not afford to be too critical of Johnson’s Vietnam policies without it costing him politically, that is, electorally. So Bobby compromised, didn’t express himself as candidly as he might have were he not a political actor or not seeking the presidency.  

            However, Bobby had another political problem, viz., his agreement with our “politics of credibility,” whereby the US had to be “involved” in the world and had to stay “involved” to prove its “credibility.” Once such a politics is accepted, then if that led to large-scale bombing in Vietnam or to large-scale troop infusions, then so be it. These things had to be done.

            Bobby did try to distinguish himself from Johnson, in a way summed up as follows: “We have erred . . . in regarding Vietnam as a purely military problem. . . . [p. 267] While this may be true, there is a greater “error” Bobby doesn’t mention, viz., the assumption that Vietnam was an American problem. And of course this error stems from the idea that America must be “involved” in the world almost everywhere. As Bobby put it: “My only concern is that we emerge from these crises [Vietnam and the Dominican Republic] in an honorable position to continue our leadership in the world at large.” [p. 268]

            Once you decide, as both Bobby and LBJ did, that America’s honor requires her “leadership in the world at large,” the only question is “how should the US be in Vietnam?” There other question, which our “involvement” in Vietnam should have raised, viz., “should the US be in Vietnam?” is ignored. And because Bobby did not raise this other, more important question, he was compelled to compromise with Johnson about how the US should be involved in Vietnam, as well as the Dominican Republic.

So RFK was not boxed in simply by LBJ and electoral politics; he was also boxed in by his own politics, a politics of “involvement,” or a politics of “credibility.” Without questioning such politics, which are essentially euphemisms for imperialism, Bobby was compelled to compromise with LBJ because he remained “committed” to the war in Vietnam, that is, to American imperialism. As Francis Fitzgerald has written, the US didn’t get caught in the quagmire of Vietnam; Vietnam got caught in the quagmire of American politics. Our politics of “credibility, “ of “honor,” of imperialism was the quagmire into which the Vietnamese stumbled in their pursuit of national unity.

And the “feud” between LBJ and RFK, as presented by the press, only served to obscure the more important issue, the issue of the character of American foreign policy in general. Their “feud” was essentially over the details of US imperialism, whether it should be “purely military” or both military and political. Whether one or the other, it would still be imperialism. And to get to the more important question it would be necessary to get beyond the politics of credibility, beyond our politics of imperialism.