Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Ta-Nehisi Coates and Mayor Bill De Blasio

I just finished Ta-Nehisi Coates’ short but powerful volume Between the World and Me. It’s a deeply provocative meditation on the phenomenology of being black in the US, with all the threats and fears that go along with it, that most white people (or in his words, “people who believe themselves white”—which dislodges the category) are unaware of. I’ve been involved in the Black Lives matter movement for almost 3 years, but this gave me a much deeper perspective.

So put this together with the article in today’s Times that notes that Mayor De Blasio’s popularity is sinking among whites. The majority feel less safe in the city, though crime statistics are down.

What this says to me is that there is a deep residual racism abroad in "those who believe themselves to be white.” Worse, the injustice and illegality of it notwithstanding, they felt safer in a city that countenanced the stop-and-frisk policies that Bloomberg permitted (and the Times railed against, and the outright murderous repression of a Giuliani. One could deplore that stuff, but deep down one felt more “safe.”

Disgusting. But a fact of life in these corporate-controlled United States, and one that makes Coates’ message all the more urgent.

Here are some images from the Rise Up October march, October 24, 2015:

 Cornell West, who had spoken earlier at the rally in Washington Square Park, was in the march.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Why 9/11 "Truth" Matters

    A good friend of mine recently asked me why 9/11 “truth” matters now that the US empire is in obvious decline. To her it’s now a dead issue, not worth arguing about.
    My short answer is that I don’t accept that level of resignation. I’m afraid for my grandson growing up in a very different world than the one I grew up in, much less secure, and where institutions I had assumed were benevolent, like the US government, designed to protect its citizens and deal honestly with the rest of the world. The real truth about 9/11 reveals another, much more frightening reality, namely that powerful forces within the government would readily sacrifice thousands of citizens in pursuit of political and financial ends for its true constituents, the super-rich—corporations, war contractors, weapons manufacturers and security operatives. This is part of the growing dominance of these forces over our lives, leading to a decline in the quality of life for the majority of Americans, as well as the worsening of conditions for the most vulnerable among us.
    But I also have other reasons:
•My broad curiosity about history: Who’s really in charge? Who secretly pulls the strings? who are their identities protected by the organs of communication that supposedly tell us the whole story (the Main Stream Media [MSM] and much of  the left-wing media)? The NY Times is so good on so many issues, which bolsters their credibility, but they betray their readers on particular historical-political ones. How can I understand this? What is the mentality behind it, the mindset of its editors and publishers. Do they know the truth (as they did about general surveillance) but fear exposing it? Do they convince themselves that it is not true? Do they willfully ignore the mountain of evidence and the nagging questions that remain?
        I see how thee attitudes work in progressive news consumers like certain friends of mine, or even like pompous left-wing editors like Chris Hayes of The Nation.
        But how do they work with people who actually know the truth?
        We know that the perpetrators are immoral criminals, so they keep mum.
        But who are their deliberate enablers among the gatekeepers of information?
        We know that certain NY Times editors and publishers have deliberately withheld explosive information, like the mass surveillance the government was conducting, withheld for a year until after the 2004 election, or, on a smaller scale, that it portrayed progressive Mexican presidential candidate Obrador as a demagogue for his refusal to accept the highly questionable election election results that put Calderon in power (despite Calderon’s use of Karl Rove as a consultant and his victory by a margin that was less than the number of disqualified votes). I’ve read James Risen’s Pay Any Price and am now reading Andrew Krieg’s Presidential Puppetry about the hidden forces determining and controlling the candidates of the 2012 election.

•We were all taught how power is supposed to work in this supposedly democratic country. I want to know how it actually works. For one reason this is to compare it to other systems in the past, including more overtly autocratic ones, which were eventually replaced by and in some cases overthrown by forces that  established more democratic systems. Then I want to know how long these democratic systems worked until they were undermined or corrupted by powerful anti-democratic forces, such as we’re seeing in this country Were there specific nodal points like our two coups d’état, the JFK assassination and the 9/11 attacks? Has our system of inverted totalitarianism—that determines what ideas are acceptable for exposure in the MSM and which are not, irrespective of their validity—been strengthened over time by the decline or atomization of our journalism?

    The obvious answer is that his been both strengthened for the general public and weakened for those with the desire to find out more. But we are now much more on our own to decide on the reliability of Internet sources.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

2 in this week's New Yorker: the Murder of Rabin & Svetlana Alexievich (Nobel Prize for Literature)

Tired but sleepless at 5:45 am this morning, I picked up one of the New Yorkers that accumulate on the side of my bed and read two articles. One, by Dexter Filkins, reviewed two recent books on Israel about the murder of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, and confirmed the notion that Israel has become a moral monster. The country is increasingly in the thrall of its messianic Jewish extremists, who are deeply racist, Jewish supremacists, and murderous—the very values I abhor, and was trained in that attitude partially by my Jewish education, in which our historical pageant of victimization was often attributed to the insufficiently humanist values of our persecutors. Of course, these subtleties are now lost on the fearful, belligerent Jews who want to displace, expel and eliminate the indigenous population of Eretz Yisroel. The premise of the article is that Rabin’s political murder in 1995 actually foreclosed on a real if difficult possibility of peace. No one dares oppose the extremist settlers of the West Bank now, and the right-wing Netanyahu portrays himself nationally as a moderate, and internationally as one who holds these psychopaths (not his word) in check. It’s disgusting and shameful.

The other article in the same Oct. 26 issue, by Masha Gessen, was about Svetlana Alexievich, who recently won the Nobel Prize for literature for her series of books where she lets ordinary people tell their extraordinary stories, some of them almost unbearable, like the wives ministering to their husbands grotesquely dying of radiation poisoning after Chernobyl. Her commitment to truth and the huge effort she puts forth to create these narratives validate her as worthy of enduring fame, yet she is reviled in her own country, since she shatters myths that the totalitarian state so assiduously maintained, and which the masses of people became addicted to. Not the narrators of her books, however. Their personal reality was too overwhelming, and she does us the service of bringing them to us. It’s a revisionist oral history, of the kind that we seek when we read Howard Zinn, but in the words of the People themselves. Ironically, it was the project of the charlatan Joe Gould, whom Joseph Mitchell so eloquently wrote about in the pages of the New Yorker in 1964, 51 years ago, and which recently was made into a movie. The project was so seductive and Gould, a street person, so fetching and apparently convincing, that he had people like Faulkner endorsing him. Mitchell was fascinated too, but in the end he exposes Gould as a mountebank—there was no oral history of America; he hadn’t done the work, just imagined it, and his boxes of scraps of notes were virtually worthless.

Of course, we have The New Yorker and Harper’s, which give us piecemeal something like the ongoing people’s history of this country and elsewhere, a welcome service in an open society. Alexievich has performed the immensely more difficult task of compiling individual narratives around particular subjects (WWII, love and dying, in addition to Chernobyl) in cultures (that of Belorus and Russia) that have suffered from a state-imposed mythology where the population grosso modo has been forcefully deprived of their inner lives. She seeks to restore this to them via her non-fiction books, and they for the most part resist. Meanwhile, she is recognized in the West, where the commercial media culture is given the task to distract us from our deeper selves and from the hidden truths of our time, and where it succeeds broadly enough to keep the power structure just beyond threat (this is not completely certain), but where—we can be grateful—a culture exists in art and journalism that nurtures it. Alexievich deserves every accolade she receives here, where, proud of our openness, we welcome her. But we also need to acknowledge at the same time the pervasive forces that banalize discourse and separate us from our deeper selves.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

My Daughter Nora's Mammalian Baby

The mammalian baby is a wonder! Take my new grandson, for example, Rafael Boaz Brus, born July 2 and now 4 1/2 weeks old. All he and every other human baby at this age do is eat (suck), burp, poop/pee, and sleep. This stage of his life is really an extension of his gestation, his life in the womb, in terms of his physical development. But his unconscious is also forming through his interactions with his caregivers, namely his mom and dad, and all the rest of their support group. If he's picked up whenever he cries, he will come to believe that the world is a good place, one that can respond to his needs, and in which he can navigate his life, take risks and excel. If he's not, he's likely to be more fearful and insecure, the way people were for millennia. This is a basic tenet of the History of Childhood, rather simplified, of course. I like to think that it was easier to raise armies when people, notably young men, had large stores of fear and resentment built deep into their psyches. As Lloyd deMaus, the main theoretician of the History of Childhood pointed out, as parents put out more energy into child rearing becoming less neglectful, punitive and restrictive, their human communities became more benevolent, egalitarian and in a [loaded] word, civilized. This was the thesis of the classic on child rearing, A. S. Neill's Summerhill, as well.

Of course, babies come out at an earlier stage of development in humans because we walk upright, and the human pelvis is narrower than the pithecine (ape) one. But human mothers have their hands free from locomotion to be able to cradle their babies. The "infantalized ape" theory, as elaborated in Weston LaBarre's The Human Animal, stipulates that by coming out of the womb at an earlier stage of development, the human animal can adapt to a wider range of conditions than apes—or any other animal on earth—can.

So thank you Rafa for demonstrating so clearly how exceptional we mammals are—and show us how much work and collaboration is necessary to fully realize the potential we have.
Yours truly and grandson, on day 1.

 Daddy Michael kisses Rafa at his bris.
Mamma Nora and son, the day after he arrived.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Koch Brothers' Limitless Greed Would Destroy Obamacare, Causing 10K Deaths per Year

The Koch Brothers have been bankrolling the current challenge to Obama's Affordable Care Act in the Supreme Court. It's outrageous that their attempt to declare Obamacare unconstitutional has gotten this far. Experts say that if the Court decides against the ACA on what perhaps amounts to an infelicitous textual technicality, it could send the Act into a "death spiral" that could eventually deprive tens of millions of people of their health insurance. The result would be 10,000 more people dying per year.

The point of contention turns on the distinction between federal and state subsidies. Legal experts say it is unlikely that the Court will side with the plaintiffs, who scoured the hundreds of pages of the bill to turn up with this mean-spirited ultra-slim "gotcha" point. But these legal minds specialize in foaming over details and avoiding a view of the whole. They seem to ignore the damage their point will do, while making every effort to divert attention from their real agenda, which is to further enrich the hyper-rich Koch Brothers. Fortunately, Justice Anthony Kennedy sees a Constitutional problem in the huge social impact that siding with the plaintiffs would cause. Kennedy, the so-called "swing" vote, has swung rather conservative since his predecessor in that unofficial position, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, left the Court in 2005. His Constitutional interpretations (anti-abortion, Citizens United, anti-ACA) have seemed rather naive and obtuse until now. Could he be waking up?

The outrage is compounded by the success since 2008 of the "too big to fail" and "too big to jail" policies, which has saved the bankster lawbreakers, whose shenanigans caused a world-wide economic crash, from being held accountable. Just imagine if a hundredth of the legal assiduousness spent on trying to destroy Obamacare was turned to financial law to prosecute the likes of Jamey Diamond and Lloyd Blankfein, of Morgan-Chase and Goldman-Sachs respectively. They, their lieutenants, and their cohorts across the industry would be in prison stripes breaking rocks for years.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Emerging Republican Majority.2

In 1969 Kevin Phillips published The Emerging Republican Majority in which he argued that the South, a naturally conservative region, would soon switch its allegiance from its “solid” votes for Democratic office-holders and presidents, dating back to the Civil War, when Republicans carried the banner of anti-slavery and by implication racial equality, to the contemporary Republican party, which had staked out its ideological territory as defending “traditional values” of self-reliance, family and religion. The Democratic party, meanwhile, under the influence of FDR, had embraced social justice, government administered programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and later Head Start and many others, and which was then closer to the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement (which many Republicans still embraced at the time), had become the more progressive party.
    He was right. The Republicans took over the South, not without covertly embracing racist policies, including opposition to Affirmative Action, but later including the practices that encouraged racial profiling, the differential enforcement of drug laws that landed disproportionate numbers of blacks in prison, lock-step support of the gun lobby, that tended to stoke racial fears, and eventually the support of the prison-industrial complex, with its endorsement of long sentences and greater incarceration rates, both of which increased its profits despite great social costs, and finally Stand-Your-Ground laws, with their covert racial content.
    The larger goals of Republicans, however, along with many Democrats, have included the transfer of wealth to the wealthiest, the increase in inequality. After all, it was the wealthiest through their mega-corporations and industry associations that paid them the most. So Republican campaigns, think tanks and political organizations such as Rove’s Crossroads, are lavishly funded by the interests they serve, all with the legal blessing bestowed by Citizens United.
    At the same time, however, there has been a nefarious increase in the number of highly manipulable computerized voting machines, manufactured by companies that openly proclaim themselves sympathetic to Republicans and right-wing agendas, and administered by Republican state election commissions with the help of Rove’s giant organization.
    It must be said that as the Bush administration ended there was call for investigation and prosecution of Karl Rove for his questionable activities in the previous eight years. Had this been done, we might not be in the predicament, where, as Jonathan D. Simon and others have pointed out, there is extremely strong evidence of computerized voting machine manipulation, leading to widespread election theft. See Simon's book Code Red: Computerized Election Theft and the New American Century. (This is not a new phenomenon: Mark Crispin Miller exposed it in Fooled Again [2007] about the theft of the 2004 Presidental election, but it has become much more endemic, virtually institutionalized since then). The practice has been virtually ignored in the mainstream (corporate) and left-wing press, but the upshot is that it amounts to a situation that in many states Democrats must win by around 60%, while Republicans win elections with only around 40% of the real vote.
    This situation virtually guarantees a Republican majority in halls of power, though they are a diminishing proportion of the actual electorate. It is the rule by the few, representing the richest interests in the country. The increasingly unavoidable conclusion is that this is being done through criminal electoral theft, and it is leading to a deep undermining of our Constitution on many fronts. But as Chris Hedges has pointed out, every fascist or totalitarian state is founded on great crimes.
    How is this possible in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave?
    For this we must turn to Sheldon Wollin’s penetrating concept of “inverted totalitarianism.” As he explains in Democracy Inc.: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (2008), this is a condition in which certain concepts, call them truths, cannot by examined or even uttered in the main organs of communication in the country. Thus it is forbidden to take seriously notions such as the CIA conspiracy to kill JFK (though there is more than ample evidence); the government complicity to bring down the WTC towers on 9/11; and now the rampant manipulation of computerized voting machines always to favor Republicans, and which is most probably responsible for the recent GOP sweep in the 2014 elections.
    This throws into open question the legitimacy of those now in positions of power. As a consequence, the widespread apathy among voters, so bemoaned by liberal commentators following last November's election, can be read as a reaction to this steep decline in the legitimacy of our election system—the very cornerstone of our democracy.
    So if the first “emerging Republican majority” was covertly based on racism, this second one is based on covert criminality. We need to expose it.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

National Security State: it's all about MONEY

    On Monday morning’s Democracy Now! (January 5, 2015) author, lawyer, and Harper's Magazine staff writer Scott Horton was  talking about the mushrooming of secrecy in our belligerent operations, such as the recent drone strike in Waziristan, Pakistan, that killed 9 people, and how the CIA has taken over war-making powers, which they cloak with secrecy “for national security reasons,” of course. He notes that our sloppy drone warfare has drawn together the Islamic radicals and the village councils, which formerly kept their distance from each other. But the villages have suffered far too many needless casualties in this undeclared and mostly secret war. So now we have a bigger enemy, with more recruitment, of course.

If we put that together with James Risen's new book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War, the real agenda becomes apparent: it’s a huge money-maker for the National Security state, the armaments manufacturers, contractors, etc. We’re essentially in the same position as Egypt under al-Sisi's current dictatorship: the military, a major profit-making organization, has taken over the state to insure its own continued income. We do it more subtly, more indirectly, in a more hidden fashion with a more complicit mainstream media—and on a much grander scale.

Disgusting; anti-democratic, a real usurpation of power. This is the "End of America," that Naomi Wolf writes about. It is probably also the reason the government is out to get Risen, demanding he reveal his sources or face prison—he really spills the beans on what this is all about, viz. money, viz. a $70 billion industry, all emerging from the founding myth of 9/11, as Dick Cheney reminded us in his now infamous Meet the Press interview last month, where he said he’d “do it again in a minute,” namely torture (though even the CIA admits it’s ineffectual) which according to him, has prevented another terrorist attack. Horton hits him hard with the legal definition of “depravity,” namely the advocacy of actions that heedlessly cause harm to innocent people. Then he criticizes the press for giving such a criminal so much air time, with so little for his critics, and with no challenges to his outlandish statements.