Connect the Dots, Damnit!

Brain Dropping #163 — Connect The Damn Dots.

 Demagogues and other political schmucks love fragmenting perceptions, compartmentalizing and isolating events as a way of ignoring interlocking relationships.  For example, the tired and shopworn argument over whether there is a causal relationship between poverty and crime.  The conservatives always argue that it’s not poverty but broken family values that breed crime.  They say the same about educational achievement – it’s not broken down segregated schools, crowded classrooms and underpaid teachers that are the problem – but once again, collapsing family values.  Bullshit.

           It is glaringly obvious that the growing worldwide social crises – racism – anti-semitism – the rise of neo-Nazism in Europe – the on-going shooting of unarmed black men – Islamic Jihad – ISIS – the Tea Party loonies – are engendered by the desperation of people driven to despair.  On a planet where 2.2 billion live on less than two dollars a day and one billion lack safe drinking water, violent behavior and social disruption are a given.

          It is hard to argue against the proposition that the greater degree of inequality in any society the greater the social tensions. In this week’s New Yorker magazine (March 16, 2015) “Richer and Poorer” by Jill Lepore, there is a discussion of what is called the Gini Index which plots the degree of inequality world wide.  “Income inequality is greater in the United States than any other democracy in the developed world.” The article goes on to say:  “In 2001 the American Political Science Association formed a Task Force on Inequality and American Democracy; a few years later it concluded that growing economic inequality was threatening fundamental American institutions.” To update that finding in starker terms, big money has bought the American government. 
          Police officers shooting and killing unarmed black men has become commonplace in the “Good Ol’ U.S. of A.”  In all the media accounts of these state sanctioned murders, we are never told about the salaries of the officers involved.  That economic “dot” is never connected to the “dot” of the demoralized, exploited, angry police officers with spouses and kids, barely scraping by.  Among the highest paid police officers in the country are the New York city police officers.  Rookies start at $42,000 a year – about twenty bucks an hour.  In Ferguson, Missouri it’s $28,000 a year – $14 an hour – just a few bucks more than a high school hamburger flipper at MacDonalds.  Are we to believe that this insultingly low compensation for such a crucial and dangerous job requiring  courage and astute judgement, does not have an effect on the morale and perceptions of a police officer as he confronts an equally disgruntled kid on the block?  That’s a question the “law and order loonies” never ask.

How Limited Liability makes for Vast Carelessness

Brain Dropping 162  —  Limited Liability. 
It is a fundamental principle of corporate law that a shareholder ordinarily is not liable for the acts of the corporation or its employees, officers and directors.”  This can also be termed “getting away with murder!”      “However, courts will hold shareholders liable for the acts of the corporation if wrongdoing is proved.  This is called “piercing the corporate veil.” If this sounds vague and difficult to nail down, you have it right.  Corporations hiding behind complex loop-holes can indeed, as with Union Carbide in Bhopal, India, get away with murder.  But as amoral as corporations are with their “fiduciary requirement” to maximize profits, the government has them beat by the sheer magnitude of the swath of destruction the U.S. has cut through the countries of the world.
       In “The Great Gatsby” F. Scot Fitzgerald has Nick Caraway say:  “They were careless people Tom and Daisy – They broke things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”  Characterizing U.S. foreign policy as “vast carelessness” has the ring of  truth – but seriously understates our criminality.  We break nations and then retreat into our “vast carelessness” until public amnesia sets in – and then we go out and break some more.  Patriots call it “protecting our national interests!”  Others, who see clearly, call it “empire building” for the corporate profiteers.
       We broke Cuba and the Philippines in the Spanish American war, burning entire villages, taking no prisoners, slaughtering the civilian population.   The U.S. Marines broke Nicaragua and occupied it from 1912 to 1933 in the “Banana Wars,” to protect United Fruit and to eliminate the possibility of a rival to the Panama Canal. The U.S. Marine Commander at the time, Major General Smedley Butler said: “I helped in the raping of a half-a-dozen Central American Republics for the benefit of Wall Street!”  We broke Guatemala in 1930, installing the brutal dictatorship of General Jorge Ubico who, in gratitude, gave hundreds of thousands of acres to the United Fruit company.  In 1954, a popular uprising and democratic election brought President Jacobo Arbenz Gusman to power. The CIA planned and executed a coup d’etat and reinstalled a military dictatorship under Carlos Castillo Armas. 
        In 1964 we broke Brazil by backing a military coup against democratically elected, moderate-nationalist Joao Goulart who wanted to socialize the profits of big companies to help the poor.  The deadly military regime, bowing to the oligarchs and the U.S.A., lasted until 1985.  Next, in our overweening arrogance we broke Chile in 1973, when Henry Kissinger committed one of his many crimes by overseeing the murder and coup against democratically elected socialist Salvatore Allende, beginning the barbaric regime of General Augusto Pinochet , ass-kissing friend to American
business rapists – especially AT&T.  Is there no end to our murderous policies?  Not yet!  In 1979 the leftist Sandanistas of Nicaragua overthrew yet another American puppet, Anastaso Somoza, but rather than accept the will of the Nicaraguan people, Reagan’s Washington supported counterrevolutionary forces with money and arms, illegally paid for by supplying arms to Iran (counter to the Boland Amendment.)   In 1963 the U.S. sent 10 Special Forces personnel to El Salvador to help General Jose Alberto Medrano set up the first paramilitary “Death Squad.”  These squads went on a thirty year killing spree with the blessings of the U.S.A. which trained many of these torturers at the “School of the Americas” at Fort Benning, Georgia. We helped them murder Bishop Oscar Romero, a supporter of liberation theology, as he said mass.
        This is the dossier of a homicidal manic! And notice, I haven’t mentioned the mass slaughter and poisoning of the Vietnamese – thousands still dying today from UXO (unexploded ordinance) and the residual effects of Agent Orange, nor the “shock and awe” carnage in Afghanistan and Iraq.  We have not only broken these societies but have trampled them into the dust.  But our liability in these matters has seemed to escape us. Like corporations we offer mealy-mouthed justifications and little by way of reparations.  Among the developed world the U.S. is last in the percentage of GDP we give to foreign aid – half of one percent.  That’s right .5%!  That represents our “vast carelessness!”

fifth column

 Brain Dropping #161

                   Not just the Fifth Column, but The “Academic”  Fifth Column.  The term “Fifth Column” was coined by a fascist General during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930’s.  Generalissimo Franco’s army was advancing on Madrid in four columns and his General spoke of a “Fifth Column” of clandestine fascists living in Madrid who would rise up against the democratic Republic.  Hemingway wrote a play with that title.  I never thought calling that conflict a “Civil War” was appropriate, because Hitler and Mussolini sent arms and troops to crush the Republic, while the U.S. imposed an embargo and the rest of Europe watched with arms folded as Stuka dive bombers obliterated the Basque Village of Guernica.
                   It is my contention that we have a “Fifth Column” in the U.S.  A not so clandestine group of reactionary academics who support the agenda of the corporate oligarchs with bogus studies and presentations.  With corporate profits at an all time high, institutions of higher learning and so-called think-tanks are reaping the benefit  of multi-million dollar, tax deductible gifts with political strings attached.  From the prestigious “Ivies” of Yale, Harvard, Columbia etc. to little known southern“Christian” Colleges, we are getting a steady stream of factually and historically distorted papers and publications to support the right-wing agenda against any attempt to level the playing field.  And, of course, the corporate media, in reporting the content of these “academic studies” rarely reveal the underlying funding.
                                          A Few Exalted Members of the American Academic Fifth Column                                                  
          1-   Milton Friedman, economics guru of the University of Chicago and his “Chicago Boys” selling the idea of the “invisible hand of the free market” and the evils of regulation, is probably responsible for more deaths in the struggling, developing world than AIDS and Ebola combined.  Using the bludgeon of the IMF, Friedman’s vicious paradigm of free flowing capital, privatization and cuts in social services has driven dozens of poor countries into the mud of despair.
          2-  Arthur Laffer, of Mercer University, Georgia, is considered to be the father of supply-side economics.  In his academic study he found conclusive evidence that cutting taxes for the rich will create jobs and raise all boats – to me, mostly one hundred foot yachts.  George W. H. Bush rightly characterized Professor Laffer’s theory Voodo Economics.  But this economic zombie is still alive and kicking, not only on a national level but also here in Vermont in Governor Shumlin’s agenda.
         3-  Abigail & Stephen Thernstrom.  He a Harvard Professor of History. She a member of the reactionary Manhattan Institute.  In their book “America in Black and White” they argue against affirmative action programs and flirt with the idea that intelligence is a genetic characteristc – a wink and a nod to racism.
         4-  Moshe Adler teaches economics at Columbia University.  In his book “Economics For The Rest Of Us” Professor Adler discusses the great economists of the 18th and 19th centuries – Adam Smith, David Ricardo, Jeremy Benthem, Vilfredo Pareto and – I’m not making this up – never, ever mentions Karl Marx – not a smidgeon, not a footnote. Good job Moshe!  I’m sure all the historical revisionists at Columbia applaud you.
        5-  Jared Diamond, Professor of Geography at UCLA and well-known author of popular books on the environment. In his book “Collapse” subtitled: “How Societies Choose To Fail or Succeed,”  He deals with the deforestation of Easter Island, the environmental collapse of Greenland,  the fall of the Anasazi culture of Chaco Canyon and the despoilation of the island of Hispanola, divided between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.  The professor qualifies for this list because of his ties to the Chevron Oil plunderers – being shamelessly apologetic for big business and supporting the inane idea of the beneficent corporation.  The degree to which Prof. Diamond has  sold-out is evident in this quote from the book “Collapse.”
                   “Two years after Trujillo’s death, the democratically elected President Juan Bosch attempted to persuade loggers to spare the pine forests so that they could remain as watersheds for the planned
Yaque and Nizao dams, but the loggers instead joined with other interests to overthrow Bosch.”
     Do I have to tell you who “the other interests” were?  The CIA!  The fact that this part of the history of the Dominican Republic is so well documented, makes Diamond’s historical lie by omission so flagrant.  
The obfuscating words of these learned academics calls to mind the old joke: “What does PHD stand for?”  Answer: “Piled Higher and Deeper!”


Brain Dropping #159  —  Hypocrisy

   Allow me to distinguish between two polar opposites – General David Patraeus as opposed to Chelsea (formerly Bradley) Manning.  First, a little biased background.  How does one become a General?  Answer: By always saying “YES, SIR!” followed by a snappy salute, no matter how idiotic the command.  Saying “NO SIR!” is never, ever an option even if your superior officer is a certified moron.  Having your nose firmly inserted in your commander’s asshole greatly increases your chances of advancement.  That is euphemistically called the military “pecking order.”  If you can withstand years of this kind of humiliation, schizophrenia and repression of personal integrity, you may very well end up “the ruler of the Queen’s navy!”

        So, General Petraeus, when head of the CIA, kept eight notebooks filled with highly sensitive, classified information about the identities of covert officers, intelligence capabilities – lent them to his official biographer and source of nooky, Paula Broadwell.  If ever there was a serious violation of the 1918 Espionage Act this is it – in spades!  Instead of a jail term MR. Patraeus was given probation and levied a $40,000 fine which he could pay off with just one of his speaking fees on national security issues. SAY WHAT???  In addition he keeps his lucrative post-government career as a partner in a private equity firm – providing he keeps his nose clean.
       By contrast, John Kiriakou, a 14 year CIA veteran, got 30 months in jail for exposing the perpetrator of illegal torture.  And intelligence advisor Stephen Jin-Woo Kim got 13 months in prison for disclosing a report on North Korea to a reporter.  But the “end all” and “be all” of this double tiered form of justice is the draconian 35 year sentence for Chelsea (formerly) Bradley Manning for leaking classified military documents to Wikileaks.  Obviously, the Obama Justice Department under inert Eric Holder, understood and honored the amoral pecking order of military justice. “Yes Sir!” (Followed by a snappy salute!) 
      There is a social ripple effect created by such blatant impunity for the kleptocratic, upper echelon in our society.  Whether its a corrupt General or the thieving CEO of a bank “too-big-to-fail,” the lesson being taught to the mass of Americans is abundantly clear – the higher up in the pecking order the less likely you’ll be punished for murder, theft, torture, disloyalty and an endless list of criminality.  In all honesty, you’d have to believe that the underpaid cop on the beat, say in Ferguson, Missouri, is mindful of the license he has in meting out his brand of arbitrary justice, with little fear of suffering the consequences.