January 27, 2007


AS A POLITICALLY CONSCIOUS American, I have for as long as I can remember gleaned considerable pride from my nation’s rejection of ideology in favor of pragmatism: the belief, taken so much for granted it often goes unspoken, that the ultimate test of a policy, a law or even a principle is summed up in the question, “does it work?” Throughout most of our history (and with the very notable exceptions of slavery, the Indian Wars and Prohibition), our national pragmatism has served the greater good (as in the New Deal and its successor the Great Society). But sometimes -- typically when the public is deliberately misled (as in the genocide-by-neglect deliberately built into Clinton/Bush “welfare reform” and the DemoPublican Medicare Prescription Drug Lord Benefit) -- pragmatism is subverted, Enron-fashion, to serve only the board-room fat-cats and their Wall Street factotums.

Thus pragmatism’s great strength and its great weakness: while history generally proves it to be the most reliable (and reliably democratic) path to the best solution possible, it nevertheless depends for its function on a well-informed and thoughtful electorate -- something that corporate mass media and corporate-run public education seems increasingly determined to deny us all.

Pick up a U.S. daily newspaper, and with fewer than a half-dozen exceptions (and every one of those from cities east of the Mississippi River), you will find the publication edited with a frustrating subtext of triviality, in which some local chamber-of-commerce festival -- daffodils, flapjacks, tulips -- invariably takes precedence over the Next World War brewing one continent away, the conflict that -- even as we read how Suzie Suburban is now Primrose Prom Queen -- is being brought ever closer to a boil by politicians and military/industrial profiteers in one or all of the world’s capitols. Television meanwhile is a deliberate celebration of the vacuous: for every five hours of Britney Spears, missing blonde co-eds and Hollywood sex scandals, we are doled out maybe five minutes -- if even that -- of pseudo-news, its presentation cunningly decorated by the glitter of random violence, the Shakespearean sound and fury that deliberately hides the idiot’s-tale exclusion of anything that might provoke genuine contemplation or serious reflection. As to the Next World War, it’s not mentioned at all.

Our schools are even worse. The individual citizen’s ability to think logically is the core requirement of liberty, but with the high schools turning out graduates who can neither read nor even master the third-grade mathematics required to make change, with college ever more reduced to vocational school (and even that increasingly closed to all but the rich), no wonder Enron has become the ultimate symbol of the U.S. economy. Indeed it seems we are increasingly too dumbed-down to mount even the tiniest resistance to corporate despotism, whether at home or abroad. Thus are we all reduced by moronation into the shrunken confines of Moron Nation, the global Jurassic Park where capitalism’s Inner Tyrannosaur runs amok, deliberately freed to prey on us at will -- downsizing and outsourcing to its infinitely greedy heart’s content.

Another aspect of moronation is that we are seldom if ever allowed the facts that confirm observation and common sense. We see, for example, how even in the early 1990s, the presence of illegal immigrants in the economy of Whatcom County, Washington had lowered the prevailing wage of heavy equipment operators from $20-something per hour to a mere $10, but we are damned as bigots if we dare point this out, and god forbid we should be allowed to know that scabbing and union-busting by illegal immigrants is undeniably forcing U.S. wages downward nationwide -- no wonder the corporate fat cats want to open our borders to all comers. We see terminal climate change in action every minute of every day -- our own senses tell us our planet is getting warmer and wilder -- but the Bush Regime nevertheless continues its Abrahamic war on science by denying us the data that confirms what the relentless northern advance of certain subspecies of crickets has been demonstrating for years. And even those relatively few of us who give a damn about the nation’s elderly have to look long and hard to discover that -- thanks to the Medicare Prescription Drug Lord Benefit -- pharmaceutical profits are up by half even as the denial of life-sustaining drugs is killing people as dead as the corpses still turning up in the ruins of post-Katrina New Orleans.

But nowhere is the Moron Nation syndrome more evident than in our declining knowledge of history. In a land where two out of three college students could not correctly identify George Washington as the general in charge of the nation-founding battle of Yorktown, it’s not really surprising to read -- as I read on a certain leftist website a few months ago -- the embarrassingly ignorant claim that Islamic hostility to the West is retaliation for the Crusades. As I pointed out in response, though the Crusades (1091-1295) were instead the counterattack of Westernesse against 400 years of Islamic aggression, they ended with the destruction of the crusader-kingdom of Jerusalem and the ouster of the crusaders from all their other middle-eastern conquests. This was not just a huge victory for the forces of Islam, but a pivotal event leading to the final collapse of the Classical world -- Islamic overthrow of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire via the sack of Constantinople in 1458 -- which in turn led directly to the Balkan conflicts that precipitated World War I.

Never mind these are facts most historians accept without question, including the associated sequence of cause and effect -- that the related academic argument is almost entirely an ideological clash over the assignment of blame -- I was immediately branded a “ bigot” merely for having pointed out the correct chronology of events. From then on, everything I posted there was subjected by the site’s moderators to the strictest doctrinal scrutiny, even as my personal history was deeply probed for any evidence that might be twisted into ideological damnation. Predictably, I was eventually denounced and then of course ousted: proof that not even facts are allowed to stand in the way of political “correctness.”

All of which provides a perfect example of how, once dumbing down has plunged beneath a certain depth, the process of moronation becomes self-sustaining.

Not that the Right is any more enlightened. I have been similarly denounced, on Lucianne Goldberg’s News Forum, for supporting homosexual marriage; for refusing to accept the notion of Presidential Infallibility; for supporting universal health care and restoration of the New Deal; for repeatedly posting links that expose the huge threat of theocracy implicit in Christian fundamentalist political action; and for even daring to point out that Christianity in general eternally jeopardizes our freedom: that it is no accident the entire post-Roman history of Westernesse -- even after the Peace of Westphalia ended the 30 Years War -- is mostly the history of theocracy. But in deference to Ms. Goldberg and her moderators, let me also point out that neither she nor anyone else there ousted me for my ever-more-frequent unorthodoxies. Indeed she and her staff provided me with the space and opportunity that brought about my self-restoration as a writer; I left her site merely because (A), I grew tired of being attacked by other posters every time I opened my virtual mouth, and because (B), the encounter with the tyrannosauric reality of capitalism imposed by my involuntary return to urban living had shocked me into a quest for more robust alternatives to the Libertarianism I then espoused.

Alas -- perhaps incontrovertible proof I suffer from a severe learning disability of my own -- I have spent the past 18 months seeking an ideologically comfortable electronic roosting-place. But now, after yet another encounter with self-proclaimed “leftist” malice on yet another website, I have given up my quest as nothing more than a fool’s errand: a search for community that is even more impossible than finding the Fountain of Youth or the Seven Cities of Cibola. Here is what happened:

A poster flatly proclaimed, in a discussion about the site’s form and content, that America is “not in any danger” from the forces of radical Islam.

I responded in haste -- it was a working day for me -- noting that the threat was not only proven by 9/11 (never mind how the Bush Regime had manipulated it into a new Reichstag Fire), but was demonstrated also by the entire post-Roman history of Europe. Which, I added, illustrates the seemingly impossible dilemma of what we as a nation are facing today: we are assaulted, within and without, by the forces of tyranny: terrorism and Islamic theocracy on one hand; the ever-more-overtly fascist (and potentially theocratic) rule of corporate authoritarianism on the other.

Sidestepping for a moment the debate over whether there remains any genuine Left (or leftists) anywhere in the United States, both Left and Right have failed abysmally to identify the totality of the onslaught. Generally, Left emphatically denies the threat from abroad and focuses only on the despotism of the Bush Regime -- thus the underlying absolve-Islam significance of 9/11 conspiracy theory -- while Right fervently denies the domestic threat and focuses only on the depredations of the Jihadists. But in truth we are faced with a combined threat the like of which we have never before encountered: precisely why (if we are to respond with any effectiveness), we must first acknowledge its totality.

(It is an aside -- though an especially relevant one -- that the Democrats have come much closer to such acknowledgement than the Republicans: no doubt the underlying reason for their sweeping victory in the 2006 Congressional elections. But even the most allegedly “Left” Democrats still stubbornly refuse to admit the extent to which capitalism has unleashed its Inner Tyrannosaur -- not only the source of the domestic threat, but also, though often indirectly, the origin of the Islamic threat as well.)

In any case, my acknowledge-the-totality-of-the-threat argument was ignored -- in fact I might as well never have posted it -- even as the entire Islamic-threat history was furiously rejected as manifest ignorance and/or “Zionist“ propaganda. Thus, later the same day -- still (stupidly) believing some degree of rapprochement was possible (if I could but make myself heard) -- I posted a more elaborate response, “Ten points re: the chronic aggressiveness of Islam and how its recognition is an essential step in the process of building a functional political alternative (and thus relates to the totality of this discussion).” The following is revised only slightly:

{1}-The notion of Islamic aggression is not "my thesis" -- it is history and the consensus of historians as taught in the entire Western World before the suicidal dogma of moral equivalence imposed its infinitely dangerous brand of revisionism from the 1980s onward. Though my BA (1976; for which thanks to President Lyndon Johnson for the Vietnam Era GI Bill enacted in 1966) is technically in "interdisciplinary studies," about a third of the associated work was in European history, and my most influential instructors were not "Zionists" but Marxists -- with the selfsame Marxist contempt for religion that originally fueled exposure of the innate savagery in ALL the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam.

{2}-Despite politically "correct" revisionism, Christianity cannot be blamed for the Islamic invasion of post-Roman Europe in the 600s: this was Islamic aggression (urged on by Muhammed himself) pure and simple. Christians thus tasted Islamic savagery long before, via the Crusades, Muslims tasted its Christian counterpart.

{3}-Save in instances of direct reprisal (as in how the Red Army repaid the Germans for their genocidal savagery in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe) -- the savagery of one group can hardly be used to justify or even explain the savagery of another.

{4}-It is in fact historically accurate to acknowledge that the ability for savagery and sadism is part of human nature, and that the ultimate test of a given system of ideals is how well it restrains the human penchant for savagery.

{5}-By the test of savagery restrained, all the Abrahamic religions fail abysmally. The historical portions of the Old Testament prove the genocidal murderousness of the Hebrews; the histories of the Inquisition and genocidal warfare against the peoples of the Americas does likewise for Christianity; and the blood-drenched history of Muslim conquest -- including the extermination of 80 million Hindus -- does likewise for Islam. Moreover -- though Judaism and Christianity have each largely leashed their Inner Savage, the practice of suicide bombing proves that Islam has not been able to do so -- and all three religions remain implacably hostile to woman and Nature.

{6}-To argue that Torquemada doesn’t represent Christianity or that the Ottomans (or Abdalla the Cruel) don’t represent Islam is like arguing that Hitler doesn’t represent Nazism. As I learned history, the Inquisition is the quintessence of Christianity, just as Abdalla’s beheading of all Spanish Christians who refused to become Muslims is the quintessence of Islam.

{7}-I am well aware that the United States financed Islamic extremism as a means to counter the wildly growing popularity of Marxism in the Middle East during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Thus the U.S. continued a policy developed by Hitler and von Ribbentrop during the mid-1930s.

{8}-Those who acknowledge that we created the threat and then in the same breath deny that the threat is real are illustrating (by the fact they are hopelessly trapped within a contradiction), the ultimate unsustainability of the dogmas of moral equivalence.

{9}-The tyranny implicit in Islam is embodied in its very name, which means "submission." (The claim that Islam means "peace" ironically originated as a Hard Right talking point, born of the Grover Norquist scheme to build a pan-Abrahamic coalition of fundamentalists -- Christians and Muslims -- both to bolster the Republican ranks at home and, in the broader sense, to rule the planet: Christian theocracy in the West, Islamic theocracy in the Middle East and Far East. I have repeatedly posted links on this vital matter, and if anyone is interested, I will post them again here.

{10}-For a general introduction to the subject of Islamic aggression, Google "Islamic invasions of Europe" and "Islamic invasions of India." Better yet, read Paul Fregosi's violently suppressed book Jihad in the West: Muslim Conquests from the 7th to the 21st Centuries. This was finally published by Prometheus Books in 1998 after Little Brown, which had paid Fregosi a generous advance, backed out of the deal in terror of bomb threats.

My point -- which I hope is now clear -- has nothing whatsoever to do with whether Islam is better or worse than Christianity: a pagan/agnostic, I am equally hostile to all Abrahamic religion (and to patriarchal religion in general). Indeed I regard the Abrahamic credo to be the most willfully tyrannical, infinitely murderous belief system ever spawned by human consciousness -- its murderousness especially evident in capitalism and ever more undeniable as capitalism inevitably matures into fascism. Thus I am merely re-acknowledging a related truth suppressed by the political “correctness” of the past two decades: the equally undeniable fact of radical Islam's oft-demonstrated and historically proven hatred of Western Civilization, a hatred in which 9/11 -- the U.S. government’s curious obliviousness to the threat aside -- is merely another exclamation point.

But beyond that is a much broader and far more pivotal point: as I said before, our situation is historically unique -- and uniquely difficult -- in that we are equally threatened from within and without: from without by the forces of radical Islam, from within by the forces of tyranny mustered by the Republicans and their Democratic collaborators in service to corporate fascism. Moreover, each of the two threats originates ultimately from the core ethos of Abrahamic religion: the notion of a master race or ruling class of “god’s chosen people” that animates not only Islam but also capitalism and in fact fuels the capitalist transition to overt fascism as well. And until we acknowledge these facts -- which I believe the vast majority of Americans already sense at least dimly -- any solutions we might propose will be invalidated by contradictions.

Just as U.S. foreign policy deliberately inflamed Islamic extremism (ultimately to defend capitalist depredation), so does Madison Avenue deliberately inflame the frenzies of acquisition that motivate so much domestic crime. But in neither case does the cause of the assault relieve us of the necessity for self-defense: not unless we are suicidal.

However, once we have come to that realization -- and once we stop the foolish adoration of the alien implicit in the denial of Islamic history and dogma -- we are finally and at long last in a position to begin thinking about how the redistribution of wealth (both at home and abroad) might actually bring humanity not only to the threshold of world peace but to a realistic possibility of surviving the impending double apocalypse of petroleum exhaustion and terminal climate change.

Obviously I believe socioeconomic change is the key -- in fact the only key -- to all of this. I also believe the American public is ready to embrace such a change -- that what we must do is set aside the self-defeating fantasy we somehow magically have the power to “enlighten” the public but rather and instead learn how to express the public’s yearnings in a manner sufficiently dynamic to convert expression to action.

Which is, of course, the great advantage still inherent in our Constitutional system -- never mind its present-day captivity in the Avignon of corporate tyranny.

The response to these points was a rampage of denunciation, ongoing even now (five days later), in which my arguments were labeled “bullshit” and my writing attacked as “smoke puffs and loud clanging noises and other Wizard of Oz shit”; in which I was damned as “openly reactionary,” my opinion characterized as both a “Big Lie” and a “big crap you are trying to take on us about how it’s our moral duty to go kill some A-rabs”; in which everything I had written was finally dismissed once-and-for-all as the ravings of a lunatic: “hey this guy is nuts.” All this on a site presumably dedicated to the open discussion essential to arrive at some sort of meaningful socioeconomic and political statement that addresses the present crisis that afflicts the United States -- Islamic aggression from without, capitalist aggression from within -- potentially our nation’s destruction whether by way of additional suicide-bombings or the slower but equally deadly ruination of downsizing and outsourcing that is subjugating all of us into sweatshops and wage slavery.

Thus -- even on a website that vowed its dedication to transcending ideology and searching directly for pragmatic solutions to the crisis (and never mind the fact my hostility to all Abrahamic religion is well known) -- the membership required me to regard Islam as not just beyond criticism but so utterly sacrosanct, even its true history is to be suppressed. And when the site-moderator strenuously objected to the fact I was being not debated but trashed, he too was attacked, the validity of his protestations first denied, then dismissed as “over-dramatic bull shit.”

Though I had been drawn to the site by my great respect for its moderator (an admiration now further reinforced by his bold refusal to be shouted down by my detractors), and though I was genuinely smitten by the site’s unique promise of pragmatism, the astonishing venomousness of the ensuing controversy quickly convinced me my participation there was pointless, and I posted my withdrawal accordingly. Subsequent admissions of premeditated malice -- “hey this guy is nuts” (as if to say, “and therefore good riddance“) -- merely confirmed my adversaries had imported their hatefulness from elsewhere and had carefully nurtured it in anticipation of an opportunity for ambush.

It was admittedly an uncomfortable experience but it was also undeniably worthwhile.

In the first place -- slow learner that I am -- I can no longer avoid the fact the label “Left” in the United States has degenerated mostly into another fad-name (perhaps synonymous with “liberal” and “progressive”) for a vindictively conformist cult of romantic delusion. The cult is based on the reflexive deification of everything that is alien: the paradoxical notion anything foreign (or any one foreign-born) is intrinsically superior to anything (or any one) indigenous to the United States -- even if the alien ethos is defined by the practice of torturing women and children to death for the alleged crimes of adultry, fornication and homosexuality. Hence the cult’s gatekeeper-doctrine -- the test that determines whether one is admitted to the ideological inner sanctum -- is mandatory denial of the Jihadist threat. Fail this test (as I did by asserting the historical reality of Islamic aggression), and you’ll be forever excluded from the entire American leftist community, no matter your views on class struggle or terminal climate change or the ultimate slave-world that lurks within the New Order of the Global Economy. There are a few other such arbitrary tests too: support for illegal immigration, forcible disarmament, politically “correct” subversion of First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. Fail any of these tests -- this is by far the most memorable lesson of my 18-month odyssey through the leftist sector of the blogosphere -- and you’ll be relentlessly hunted across electronic space by a coterie of self-appointed Robespierres, all frothing at their virtual mouths to expose your slightest deviation from political “correctness” and thus ensure you are denied any significant audience.

In the second place, now I am finally beginning to understand why it is at least arguable the current anti-war movement is merely another expression of the Left-cult’s adoration of everything and anything non-American: note that its definition of peace activism never extends to demands for a moratorium on capital’s endless war against U.S. labor, or on the bourgeoisie’s campaigns of contempt and belittlement perpetually waged against blue-collar and rural citizens of North America. It is not so much anti-American as it is indifferent to Americans: why else, for example, do the cults’ members -- even as they rail against battlefield deaths 12,000 miles distant -- so often ignore the domestic atrocities of deaths in the workplace and fatalities inflicted by denial of medical care?

In the third place, I realize that what my online writing has become is an expression of my political independence -- and it is in fact a huge compliment that neither it nor I have been granted any sort of ideological home. Why then should I not consciously make it also a celebration of my independence? Especially since it was out of this very independence I crafted the name Wolfgang von Skeptik.

For now I see more clearly than ever before how America’s one ultimately defining trait -- the hugely creative, vastly productive, intuitively democratic pragmatism I cited at the beginning of this piece -- is being undermined by moronation: another victim of the ignorance, conformity, intolerance, anti-intellectuality and self-destructiveness of the Moron Nation in which we are increasingly confined by our corporate masters, an affliction ever more obvious no matter where on the political spectrum one happens to focus.

Posted by Loren at 01:23 AM | Comments (17) | TrackBack

January 17, 2007


DESPITE MY HARSH CRITICISM of the U.S. brand of feminism -- chiefly for the bourgeois bias that allowed it to be co-opted by Big Business and turned into an instrument of class warfare (note the gender quotas that literally destroyed my life) -- I nevertheless passionately support female equality, and in fact have done so for as long as I can remember: to such an extent that often during my childhood and occasionally even in manhood as well, my friendships with girls and women got me labeled a sissy or suspected of being homosexual.

Moreover (and mostly on the basis of my experience as a journalist and part-time college instructor), I long ago concluded there are some things women actually do better than men. The most significant of these is thinking outside the proverbial box -- that is, solving problems by methods to which we men are for various reasons oblivious. To exemplify what I am saying, here is a videotape of four women on horseback who accomplished -- with a great saving of equine lives -- what any number of men with machines had been unable to do no matter how hard they tried.

Normally I am unmoved by musically accompanied news footage. But what happens in these frames is so profoundly mythic, the Celto-pagan flavor of the Vangelis accompaniment merely adds another (entirely appropriate) dimension to what is taking place. Thus I would be remiss if I failed to mention that in ancient times, such rescuers would have been considered specially blessed by Epona, the Celtic horse-goddess, who by her attributes is an incarnation of the Great Mother herself.

(Many thanks to my sister Elizabeth Bliss for forwarding me the ink to the video.)

Posted by Loren at 10:08 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

January 12, 2007


BECAUSE THIS IS THE deadline week of the monthly journal I write for, I won’t have a lot of time or energy to contribute much original writing to this space for another several days. Meanwhile here is a miscellany of five important links, the first of which, from The News Tribune of Tacoma, shows us how corporate-controlled public-school educators serve their murderously greedy Big Business masters by ensuring we remain ignorant of the looming environmental apocalypse. The next three links tell us all we need to know about how the dependably treacherous Democrats are already breaking their promise to raise the minimum wage -- a betrayal that provides yet another example of how utterly meaningless our elections have become: a reality clearly understood by the 50 percent of the electorate who vote “none of the above” by not voting at all. The last link accompanies a socioeconomically relevant letter I sent to Congress via an American Civil Liberties Union petition drive.


Global warming, a genteel euphemism for what should more appropriately be labeled terminal climate change, will determine whether humanity survives or follows the dinosaurs into extinction. Our response to global warming should therefore be the core issue in every political ideology on the planet, for only if we respond appropriately is there even the slightest possibility we might yet save our species. Thus the deliberate obfuscation of the relevant details of terminal climate change is identical to deliberate concealment of an outbreak of terminal disease: a genocidal act in which not only are the original patients denied treatment, but the entire human community is deliberately exposed to mortal risk.

Never mind that an overwhelming majority of the world‘s most authoritative scientists have given An Inconvenient Truth the highest possible grades both for accuracy and for translating a complex subject into everyday language, the Federal Way, Washington, School Board has decided Al Gore’s movie on global warming is…

too hot for students to see without an opposing viewpoint.

It’s so hot that the board required Superintendent Tom Murphy to approve when the former vice president’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” can be presented. And teachers can show it only when it’s balanced with the other side of the issue.

Board President Ed Barney said Wednesday that he’s received about half a dozen complaints from parents that their child was taking the film as fact after viewing it at school.

“We have to ensure that our schools are not being used to politically indoctrinate anyone,” added board member Dave Larson.

The remainder of this alarming and infuriating report, for which free registration may be required, is linked here.

Sociological note: most readers of Tacoma's TNT would know that Federal Way is one of the wealthier cities in Washington state, and that its population includes both a number of top-ranking corporate plutocrats and an unusual concentration of Christian fundamentalists: two groups united in their infinite contempt for nature and their bottomless hatred of environmental scientists and environmental science in general. Moreover, despite its wealth, Federal Way is a textbook example of how America has become a synonym for intentional ecocide: designed exclusively for the automobile, Federal Way is defiantly pedestrian-hostile, a breathtakingly ugly sprawl of garishly neon shopping malls surrounded by suburban developments that range from moderate impoverishment to high posh. Though I covered its politics, social issues and crime from 1976 through 1981, the felony that even now most aptly symbolizes the Federal Way state of mind occurred the year before my arrival, when -- just for kicks -- a couple of rich, pampered and malevolently anti-intellectual teenagers torched the local library and danced with self-congratulatory glee as it burned to the ground. Alas, such dysfunctional pseudo-communities are increasingly the norm throughout the United States: another reason for the terminal appropriateness of the label Moron Nation.


More than any other campaign promise, the Democrats’ pledge to raise the federal minimum wage brought the chronically non-voting poor to the polls in greater numbers than any other such proposal in years -- a turnout perhaps without equal since Lyndon Johnson promised the Great Society would end poverty forever. But buried in one of yesterday's Associated Press reports is the embittering truth that makes it obvious the Democrats never had the slightest intention of defying their fat-cat corporate benefactors or actually giving the poorest working Americans a long-overdue raise:

The legislation, which now goes to the Senate, would raise the current $5.15 minimum to $5.85 effective 60 days after the measure became law. The minimum would go to $6.55 a year later and $7.25 a year after that.

The White House issued a statement of opposition to the legislation as drafted. It called for the increase to be accompanied by "tax and regulatory relief to help small businesses stay competitive and to help the economy keep growing."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has already signaled that Democrats will accept pro-business changes. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, told reporters that he and other lawmakers are working on between $8 billion and $10 billion in relief over 10 years.

The Democrats are thus guilty of at least four deliberate deceptions. First, throughout the 2006 campaign they gave the impression that the proposed raise -- due to corporate opposition the first such raise in a decade -- would be effective “within the first 100 days” of the new Congress. Now of course we see that’s a Big Lie: if the minimum wage is raised at all -- and the report cited above makes it obvious there’s a high probability it won’t be -- it will be raised only gradually. Secondly, Unitary Decider Bush will clearly veto any such measure -- a veto the Democrats cannot override. Thirdly, the Senate is still absolutely controlled by Big Business thanks to the fact many of the Democrats who make up the one-vote Democratic majority are in truth Republicans in disguise; therefore there is almost no chance the Senate will allow enactment of any significant minimum wage hike: never mind that a minimum-wage job is virtually slave labor -- a condemnation to inescapable poverty. Fourthly, the Democrats are already using the alleged minimum wage hike to rationalize still more looting of the federal treasury just to further fatten the bank accounts of the bosses -- yet another defacto tax cut for the rich.

With a thank-you to Truthout, the full text of the Associated Press report is linked here. Facts about the minimum wage including its history -- it originated as part of the New Deal -- are available here. And a revealing 2001 Senate vote on the re-imposition of indentured servitude via “bankruptcy reform” -- the vote provides absolute identification of the Democrats who despise working families and are thus nothing more than closet Republicans (never mind the lies these Democrats tell at election time) -- is reported here.

Though I claim no prophetic powers, what I suspect will happen (and what I believe the Democrats secretly intended all along), is that the minimum wage will remain at its present, obscenely below-the-poverty-level rate of $5.15 an hour, so that the Democrats can use it in 2008 to again bait the poor to the polls and again buy our votes -- when what we should be doing instead (and starting immediately) is begging organized labor to help us (and every other working American) unite in the solidarity of a viable third party.


A longtime ACLU member, I regularly receive e-mails from that organization, one of which was yesterday’s request I sign a petition to Congress demanding the restoration of habeas corpus and due process; the end to torture in secret prisons; the end to warrantless eavesdropping on innocent Americans; and modification of the Patriot Act to bring it into compliance with the Constitution -- all of which I support. The petition, which I of course signed, also asked me to add my own “resolution for moving freedom forward in 2007.” Here is what I wrote:

“There is no freedom in the wage-slavery that is increasingly the identifying characteristic of America's working families. Thus to ‘move freedom forward in 2007’ we need not only the restoration of the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendment freedoms methodically stolen from us by a long succession of increasingly despotic Republican and Democratic administrations, but also -- because political abstractions are meaningless when one is hungry, homeless or trapped in a sweatshop -- the restoration of the equality of socioeconomic opportunity that gave our now-officially-abandoned Constitutional principles such compelling power.”

I wrote what I did not because I expect the present Congress will heed it -- I’m sure it won’t -- but because the ACLU is primarily an organization of the bourgeoisie: that is, a group of yuppies. And despite their commendable commitment to defend nine of the Bill of Rights’ ten amendments (the ACLU fanatically opposes the right to keep and bear arms and in fact favors forcible disarmament -- one of the reasons I also belong to the National Rifle Association), these yuppies are predictably oblivious to socioeconomic reality and how it intersects with political reality. Protected as they are by their deceptively insulated yuppoid lives, too many ACLU members not only deny the reality of class warfare but smugly refuse to acknowledge the pivotal fact -- still well know in the labor movement but otherwise methodically brainwashed from American consciousness -- that without economic democracy, there is no democracy at all.

Any readers who want to sign the ACLU’s petition -- and I urge you all to do so -- will find it here. (Click on “ACLU Calls on New Congress to Restore Civil Liberties” and please be patient as the secure link is damnably slow.)

Posted by Loren at 03:05 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

January 07, 2007


GEORGE ORWELL WROTE “Politics and the English Language” in 1946, but the collective degeneration that prompted him to write this provocative essay has become so widespread (and so obviously induced), the passage of 60 years has transformed the following paragraphs from protest to prophecy:

Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language -- so the argument runs -- must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric lights or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.

Now, it is clear that the decline of language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step towards political regeneration...

(O)ne ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark, its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change all this in a moment, but one can at least change one’s habits…(Orwell, A Collection of Essays, A Harvest Book, Harcourt, Inc., New York: 1981; pgs. 156-157 and 170-171.)

Though Orwell would die in1950, he had already identified what by the 1960s would become the terminal affliction of the United States: the intellectual paralysis that enabled not only the slaying of the New Deal (and therefore the extinction of the American Dream) but also the assassination of the entire American experiment in constitutional democracy -- all victims of the deliberate process described today by a cunningly inoffensive and deceptively gentle label: “dumbing down.” Yet “dumbing down” is anything but gentle. Never mind how stealthy the assault or how slow the resultant death, “dumbing down” is nothing less than a murderous attack on the very skills that define our humanity -- the deliberate suppression of our individual intellects and thus our ability for collective action. “Dumbing down” is indeed the ultimate mechanism of sociopolitical control and socioeconomic predictability. It is the gradual imposition of a carefully cultivated mental retardation, a methodical zombification by which our corporate rulers (through their absolute control of public education and mass media) reduce us individually to mindless malleability and collectively to Moron Nation: this -- the process of forcible moronation -- obviously to make it that much easier to herd us all into the sweatshops of Global Capitalism. As Orwell said, “the decline of language must ultimately have political and economic causes…”

In which context compare the following two paragraphs:

A new business-backed group… mounting a highly visible attack against organized labor…ran full-page advertisements in national newspapers yesterday and started a website…asserting that many unions are corrupt and have hurt airlines, steel makers and automakers.

The worker's rights movement. I don't even want to say "labor movement" right now because that brings to mind unions and so many of them are corrupt too, doing very little to help protect worker's rights on a bigger scale.

The first paragraph is the lead of a news report, “Group Starts Anti-Union Campaign” by Steven Greenhouse, which appeared in The New York Times on 14 February 2006. The full text, for which free registration is required, is available here. The second paragraph -- identical in its condemnation of unions and unionism and rendered even more venomous by its distinctly personal tone -- appears in a 2 January 2007 moderators' post on Progressive Independent, a website that not only proclaims itself to be the cutting edge of leftist political thinking in the U.S., but anoints itself a virtual messiah, come “to shift the political center leftward to counteract the neo drift our country has been on for the last 40 years.” The post and its associated thread is linked here.

Never mind the issue of Orwellian meaninglessness evoked by the term “neo drift” (however much a “neo” -- whatever that is -- might be inclined to sink in a metaphoric sea). The point here is that the two superficially different websites -- one an unapologetic facilitator of corporate tyranny, the other a self-declared haven for those who label themselves “progressive” despite the huge contradiction of their definitively fascist attitude toward organized labor -- demonstrate identical hatred and contempt for those of us who recognize that union solidarity is our only defense against the wage-slave economy into which capitalism is undeniably transforming itself.

Thus are we led to a revealing lesson not only in the deterioration of language and the prevalence of the Big Lie, but in how the bigotry of the bourgeoisie -- the knee-jerk class-prejudice of the sneering yuppies who are the factotums of the real corporate Fat Cats -- shatters leftist solidarity even as it pretends to do the opposite. Until we in the working class recognize that affliction -- that is, until all of us who must sell our labor to survive understand not only that we are in the most merciless class war in human history but that we have been methodically denied the very language that would identify our plight (language that would also reveal rebuilding the labor movement as the logical first step toward our victory) -- we will continue to sink ever deeper into chaos and thus disempowerment. To paraphrase an old song of the coal-mine wars:

In this our stolen country
Neutrality’s a lie
You either stand with working folk
Or with the thieves ally

O which side are you on
Which side are you on?

Posted by Loren at 06:49 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

January 04, 2007


THIS PAST WEEK I was beset by a worse-than-usual conjunction of the kinds of crippling disasters that typically mean financial ruin when we are impoverished -- disasters that invariably plunge us ever deeper into poverty and thus underscore the inescapable misfortune inflicted by life under capitalism. First my too-old-to-ever-again-be-reliable automobile broke down once more; next my left eye began showing symptoms suggestive of retinal detachment; then I was hammered by the emotional one-two punch of a deeply respected employer felled by a heart attack and my primary source of income suddenly threatened as a consequence; and now finally atop everything else, I have come down with a truly miserable chest cold -- all these Happy New Year presents from Jesus leaving me either terrified or depressed or both and thus utterly draining me of the emotional energy to write or indeed do anything much more productive than sullenly stare at my apartment walls.

Hence instead of writing anything original, I’ll quote other writers' works in enough detail to show why I regard their particular essays as significant -- not to my personal circumstances (to which, with all the taboos on writing about poverty, virtually nothing published these days has any relevance at all), but significant in terms of shedding light on some of the greater issues by which we are now collectively confronted. As always, I have followed the excerpts with links to the complete texts.


On the top of this week’s recommended-reading list is Christopher Hitchens’ superb Slate piece reminding us why it is entirely appropriate to be nauseated by the funereal production-numbers and general graveyard histrionics surrounding the burial of the late President Gerald Ford. (I was similarly sickened -- though at the time I chose not to say so -- by the mindless deification of Ronald Reagan, who was the most methodically vicious enemy of organized labor in U.S. presidential history.) In any case, Hitchens seems to be the only English-language journalist anywhere who dared give voice to what a lot of us were surely thinking -- that by pardoning Nixon, Ford made himself one of the greater villains in the death of American liberty.

Quoth Hitch:

One expects a certain amount of piety and hypocrisy when retired statesmen give up the ghost, but this doesn't excuse the astonishing number of omissions and misstatements that have characterized the sickly national farewell to Gerald Ford…Instead, there was endless talk about "healing," and of the "courage" that it had taken for Ford to excuse his former boss from the consequences of his law-breaking. You may choose, if you wish, to parrot the line that Watergate was a "long national nightmare," but some of us found it rather exhilarating to see a criminal president successfully investigated and exposed and discredited. And we do not think it in the least bit nightmarish that the Constitution says that such a man is not above the law. Ford's ignominious pardon of this felonious thug meant, first, that only the lesser fry had to go to jail. It meant, second, that we still do not even know why the burglars were originally sent into the offices of the Democratic National Committee. In this respect, the famous pardon is not unlike the Warren Commission: another establishment exercise in damage control and pseudo-reassurance (of which Ford was also a member) that actually raised more questions than it answered. The fact is that serious trials and fearless investigations often are the cause of great division, and rightly so. But by the standards of "healing" celebrated this week, one could argue that O.J. Simpson should have been spared indictment lest the vexing questions of race be unleashed to trouble us again, or that the Tower Commission did us all a favor by trying to bury the implications of the Iran-Contra scandal. Fine, if you don't mind living in a banana republic.

The remainder of Hitchens’ commentary is linked here.

Next is Le Monde’s thought-provoking report on Venezuela and Hugo Chávez’s new approach to socialism -- an approach that seeks to solve the structural deficiencies that became so evident in the Soviet model:

Before Chávez was elected in 1998, two parties shared power for 40 years: the Venezuelan Christian Democratic party (Copei), and the social democratic party, Democratic Action (AD). They were adept at using petrodollars to deal with problems. They handed out government posts to calm social unrest but had to comply with the neoliberal ideology of the North and the need to limit public policies. The only way to offset the bloated state apparatus was to organise its inefficiency. With Venezuela’s social divisions, skilled civil servants often come from backgrounds resistant to social change, sometimes because of ignorance of the conditions in which most Venezuelans live…

The Fifth Republic Movement that brought Chávez to power is not a political party. After 1994 (3) it grew out of a coalition of leftwing parties and former guerrilla movements disgruntled with their leaders, who some thought settled too comfortably into the society they had struggled against. Young activists trained by AD and Copei quickly realised that the Chávez candidature would open up new ways to reach power and many joined his ranks…

Now the community is the basic structural unit of government of the new state, legally defined as 200-400 families in urban areas, around 20 in the countryside and from 10 up for the indigenous population. The Spanish political analyst Juan Carlos Monedero observed that the main reason 20th-century socialism failed was a lack of participation by the people. Communal councils may be instrumental in the construction of Venezuela’s 21st-century socialism.

The full text is linked here.

Last is a Le Monde analysis of the psychodynamics of the war on terror -- the best work of its kind I have seen anywhere.

In the global war on terror…making money has been a key aim. US interest in Afghanistan is inseparable from the oil and gas fields of the Caspian, just as US interest in Iraq is linked to the oil. Beyond that, fresh legitimacy has to be found for the vast US military-industrial infrastructure that burgeoned during the cold war (another profitable war in which the enemy was rarely directly engaged). The demon-du-jour has been redefined as fundamentalism, rogue states, drugs, narcoterrorists, al-Qaida, Hizbullah. The terrorist remains elusive but the targets for retaliation — Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran or Lebanon, Iran — are readily found on a map.

As Hannah Arendt understood in relation to 1920s Germany, when a military reversal (defeat in the first world war) is combined with serious social and economic uncertainty, the search for a clearly identifiable enemy may become intense. The point is not to be right but to be certain, however flimsy the evidence. The lack of evidence linking Saddam and 9/11 is seen as an irrelevance.

Through actions that provoke the enemy, both sides may prove themselves “right.”… Today’s terrorists have turned the US into something that resembles their own propaganda: the indiscriminate nature of the US war on terror (targeting Iraq after 9/11) creates the impression that victims are targeted just because they are Arab or Muslim…If terrorists can seek to nurture the enemy’s brutality, the same may apply to counter-terrorists. Those waging a counterproductive war on terror stand to gain the perverse satisfaction of confirming that the enemy was just as dangerous, brutal, indiscriminate and pervasive as they imagined.

The imprecision of retribution may be functional, as in the ancient witch-hunt. There need be no logical connection between the crime and the chosen victim…Those who challenge the morality or efficacy of the witch-hunt may be labelled as witches, or now as anti-American…Punishment may be taken as evidence of guilt. (Arendt observed of the Holocaust: “Common sense reacted to the horrors of Buchenwald and Auschwitz with the plausible argument: ‘What crime must these people have committed that such things were done to them’.”) Many Americans, deferential to their president, took the targeting of Iraq as evidence that it must be linked to 9/11. On the eve of the war, a poll suggested that 72% of Americans believed it was likely that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11.

This disturbing analysis -- which explains why the so-called War on Terror has become self-sustaining and is therefore inescapable without outside-the-box thinking (precisely the mode of thinking our de-evolving species increasingly finds impossible) -- is linked here.


As to my own circumstances:

My employer’s condition has stabilized and, contrary to earlier reports, is markedly improving, and just as his original affliction caused me double grief, this new development gives me double pleasure: the pleasure of a revered colleague apparently saved from deadly danger, and the pleasure of renewed hope our work together will continue toward the mutual fruition we each envision.

Meanwhile, thanks to the intervention of my best friend, who is among other things not only a skilled mechanic but a former automotive service manager, my car is running again: this time the problem seems to have been a combination of an under-charged new battery and over-corroded old contacts (and not the total charging system failure I suspected), a diagnosis supported by voltmeter readings.

Because I am among the rapidly decreasing number of retired persons who can still afford supplemental Medicare insurance -- I belong to Group Health, a truly wonderful nonprofit healthcare cooperative that dates from the era my present home-state was damned as “the Soviet of Washington” -- I now know my eye problem is vitreous deterioration, an unavoidable consequence of aging, and not retinal detachment, which is a complication of vitreous deterioration and presents with nearly identical symptoms but, unlike vitreous deterioration, demands immediate surgical correction lest blindness ensue. As to this damn cold that has lowered my voice to a gravel-crusher bass, it feels as if my lungs are filled with wet cement -- though now at least the clean-up crew (spelled “Robitussin”) is starting to hose it away.

As to my penchant for anticipating the very worst of outcomes whenever such disasters threaten, I will make no apology for that. It is merely the voice of experience: the coldly rational response of a person who has been literally wiped out by many such episodes before, the infinitely bitter personal history of one who has always been impoverished in a land that not only criminalizes poverty but despises the poor -- and therefore the undeniable fact that under any such circumstances it is the deepest and most profound wisdom to expect nothing but ruination -- no matter how hard one struggles to achieve the opposite.

Posted by Loren at 01:57 AM | Comments (21) | TrackBack