November 15, 2010

Refuge in the North

MONTREAL, Canada -- Increasingly over the last decades I find that when I travel away from the US, I experience a euphoric sense of relief at being outside of The Land of the Predatory Corporations. Soon after arriving in Montreal I heard a tourguide say that the city is safe, you can walk at any hour and not be afraid. "We are socialist," she said. Therefore there is no permanent, desperate underclass that has to resort to crime on a daily basis just to live. And there is healthcare for everyone. It boggles the American mind.

The tourguide told me that she has to be careful with Americans. They ask her about the Canadian healthcare system, but they don't want to hear that she likes it. They get very upset when they hear things that go outside the lines of what they have been told in the US. They don't want to hear Canadians say they like the healthcare system. They want to hear about its problems. Americans are scary, she said.

"Your news is filtered," she said. "It shouldn't be like that. In our country there are many different points of view and we don't care." The US is fascist, she said. "That's what it is, really."

Whenever I hear Americans talk about the cost of providing Medicare for everyone, or the cost of Social Security, as if the cost would be prohibitive or some kind of problem, I want to just put on the brakes and go back to this: The US dropped $3 trillion dollars into the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. That's three thousand billion, or three million million. It is almost an inconceivable amount. But when you put that on the table next to the cost of extending Medicare for all, or of ensuring the solvency of Social Security, it becomes obvious that it is well within our powers. We have been brainwashed to think otherwise. They hide these other costs. They try to keep everyone scared so we will think we have to drop all this money into war. It's insane.

What have Americans gained by these wars? People like Dick Cheney and Halliburton and Blackwater have become obscenely rich from it. What else? What are the benefits to the American people? I submit there are none. Three trillion dollars for nothing. We are one of the richest countries in the world but our wealth has been hijacked by a handful of pirates who have left the rest of us impoverished. We are blinded by propaganda. Vast numbers of people are misguided into directing their rage toward phantom enemies created by the propagandists and to supporting the predatory corporations that are eating them alive.

And it seems to be only getting worse. Yes, it's a relief not to have to look at the faces of Bush and Cheney every day. But the power has not shifted. It continues to be a country run by and for predatory banks and corporations who treat the rest of us like cattle that they feast upon.

Canada, by contrast, seems to be a humane country. A country where it's still okay to be a human. The US is a great place to live if you are young or rich. It's no place to grow old. Once you get sick you are headed for bankruptcy. Montreal is looking very very good to me today. It's a pleasure to be here.

December 9, 2010

Killing the Snitch

NEW ORLEANS -- This Wikileaks drama is one of the most fascinating scenes in a long time. Many of the major corporate entities have hopped on the bandwagon to attack Wikileaks and Julian Assange. Amazon kicked him off their server, Paypal, Master and Visa have all cut him off. Swiss authorities are chasing Assange with a very shady looking sex crime charge and the British authorities arrested him in connection with that charge. Meanwhile, Wikileaks is stronger than ever.

Clone sites jumped from a few dozen to hundreds over the weekend. Hackers have attacked the sites of the major corporations who ganged up on Wikileaks building up to a dramatic cyberwar. The more the authorities of the world try to squash this thing, the more publicity it gets, the more people will ultimately find out what it's all about. It's an amazing drama, and it gives some hope that the big corporate authorities who essentially run the world, the international clique of too-big-to-fail corporations, cannot completely accomplish their objective. There's always that little renegade element in human nature, that passion for freedom that cannot be entirely squelched.

What has Assange done? (see "truth is a crime in an empire of lies") Has he scorched women and children? Crushed cities? Stolen millions of dollars? No it's the authorities themselves who have done all these things. But Assange facilitated the revealing of private diplomatic cables showing what government employees are really saying and doing. That's his crime. It's not that they are doing all these things that are so embarrassing that they are worried about. If they hadn't done anything to be embarrassed about, none of it would matter. No one would bother weeding through all the crap. It's the fact that someone told on them. They want to make an example of him by crushing him with such force that no one ever attempts to tell on them again. But the more they try to crush him, the more the story is spread around the world.

We have to put aside the sex charge until further developments. He's innocent until proven guilty. The timing of this charge is very strange. The charge itself is strange and the person making the charge has a history of CIA connections, which is no insignificant coincidence (see FireDogLake).

Sure no one wants their private correspondence made public. But these are public servants supposedly working for a democratic country. They should be subject to some principles of transparency. Their behavior should not be something that cannot stand the light of day. If they weren't doing anything really embarrassing, none of this would matter at all. Why should they be so foolish as to assume things they were writing and sending through international communications channels could remain secret?

This reminds me of the fall of the Soviet Union. Here were these old bureaucrats trying to maintain a giant empire based in large measure on control of information, and along came the Information Age, the explosion of information, and it all imploded. Now that Evil Empire is gone, there is still one left. The survivor of the bipolar Cold War is now the unipolar superpower of the world, clutching desperately to that status and finding itself on a slippery slope. The more the lone superpower tries to maintain its pre-eminence, the more its actions become self destructive. Obama, who campaigned as an insurgent against established power is now in the unenviable position of trying to shore up a system that seems to be collapsing. He may have sincerely wanted radical reform, he does not want to be standing at the helm when the empire collapses. But the Wikileaks fiasco makes it appear that the establishment is not so all-powerful as it would like us to think. And I for one find that very encouraging.

More fun reading material:

  • "Taking Down America", by Alfred McCoy

    February 22, 2011

    Wisconsin! Wow! Did the right wing-Wall Street-corporate attack on the middle class finally cross the line, finally go too far and galvanize the American people at long last to focus on their attacker and to fight back? This is amazing. Not a scheduled, organized one-day demonstration, but a spontaneous uprising, going on day after day to fight the move of the governor to eliminate collective bargaining rights.

    Meanwhile, "the eastern world it is explodin'..." For decades we have been trained to fear the dreaded Muslim world, where terrorists will foment and kill us. "Better to fight them there than here," they said, as if the dreaded Muslim horde was going to come clambering onto our shores with knives in their teeth. Then when the middle eastern plague really does break out it's not about Islam, but democracy. It's about people fighting against their own oligarchies, the ruling junta, and people everywhere fighting back against the global attack of the multinational corporate giants, big money capitalism, the world pirates. The same as here. Their leaderships are corrupt, but so are ours. Suddenly it seems as if the tipping point may have come, when the public is galvanized, when it understands that what is attacking them is Wall Street, not the guvmint.

    February 26, 2011

    Rallies Across America -- Click at for ongoing coverage of the uprising against the oligarchy across America. John Ruben in NYC: "All around the country right now, we see the same thing happening. Republicans are demanding tax breaks for corporations and their rich friends; then turning around and saying "OOPS, we have no money;" and then using that as an excuse to kick the middle class in the teeth. To kick you and you and me in the teeth. "
  • That's What You Think -- US News & World Report poll -- US News & World Report poll. Is Walker right about unions? 62.89% No. 37.11% Yes.
  • Walker Caught Discussing Dirty Tricks, Agent Provocateurs -- An impersonator of oil billionaire David Koch suggested planting "troublemakers" among the demonstrators. Gov. Walker says, "We thought of that... the only problem with that is..." What? That it would be fraudulent, unethical? That it may lead to violence and maybe even deaths? Well, no, not exactly...
  • Democracy?, Sure, that's Fine, But Just Not in America -- Bob Herbert really nails it in his article "When Democracy Weakens", one of the best discussions of the current scenario that I have seen. He says, "Senator Kerry said the Egyptians have made it clear they will not settle for anything less than greater democracy and more economic opportunities. In America we're being asked to swallow exactly the opposite." Read this article, it's worth your time.
  • Where Do You Get Your Information? Reynold Mason, an Afro-American jurist wrote an article at, titled, "Unions, what are they good for? Absolutely nothing" and going on to say that "Unions have become so powerful they can shut down entire industries." It's hard to imagine how he could have gone so far astray in his thinking. When we say unions, we are only talking about people having the right to get together and bargain collectively with their employers. Without unions and collective bargaining we would not have weekends, 40-hour work weeks, health benefits. The unions gave us the middle class. These things were hard fought achievements, not the gifts of benign business owners. And now that unions have been knocked down to only covering 8 percent of the workforce, we are losing the middle class, wages have been declining for decades as we have developed a thin crust of super wealthy. Our country has developed the wealth distribution of a third world country. Still the richest economy in the world with a population much smaller than many others, and we cannot afford the basic services taken for granted in many countries today. Our budget crises have come from not taxing the rich corporations, who have bought off Congress, and from shoveling trillions down the corrupt hole of war contractors. On the contrary, Mr Reynolds, unions are good for a great deal. We need them again like we did during the last Gilded Age.

    February 27, 2011

    High Crimes Ignored -- Governor Walker was recorded saying that he had "thought about" planting "troublemakers" among the demonstrators. This is the same governor who announced a week or two before that he would call out the National Guard if there was any trouble from demonstrators. If the demonstrators didn't cause trouble, he was apparently prepared to cause trouble himself. I'm amazed that Walker has been allowed to get away with publicly admitting that he considered such a foul criminal abuse of power. It so clearly shows the pro-corporatist bias of the media that make up our information environment that a right winger who is intent on destroying the right to collective bargaining can get away with such a blatantly heinous act, while people on the other side are routinely hounded out of public life over minor misstatements.

    Right wingers who have committed crimes, like Oliver North, Gordon Liddy, Larry Craig, Clarence Thomas, not to mention Bush and Cheney, rarely suffer for their crimes, and continue to be heroes to their base, are rarely even questioned. Governor Walker is on the right side, the side of the rich and powerful, so he will get away with this.

    March 9, 2011

    On the Tipping Point -- There are forces in nature that are constant and consistent and will lead to inevitable outcomes. A bubble will always float toward the surface of the water. The upward force will persist until the equalization point is reached somehow. That bubble will persist in pushing upward as if it were powered by an eternal force. We seem to be standing right now on the edge of a huge tipping point, a shift in the course of history. This feels like that point at which the pendulum reaches the extreme position in one direction and pauses for an instant before beginning its sweep back in the other direction. Perhaps we are seeing that mysterious moment when some piece of dust, some irregularity in the field of water molecules somehow sets off the process of crystallization which then quickly spreads throughout the glass surface of a window pane.

    It's a shot that is reverberating round the world, but it has such a broad wavelength that it is inaudible to the human ear. The cataclysm may seem like a very slow, drawn-out explosion. But it appears that we are right at that point, hovering in a momentary state of weightlessness between tipping one direction or the other.

    It was inevitable in the current progression that at some point the 300 million below would be aroused to assert themselves to the 400 who now hold more wealth than the lower half of the country: 155 million people. The 400 were not satisfied to have as much wealth at the bottom half of the country. They wanted to push harder, to grab more, and in so doing to impoverish millions of people.

    It seems that middle class, working people have finally reached a point where they truly are "fed up and not going to take it any more." The phony free market ideology got over for a while because Americans identified with the rich, believed they would some day be rich. And that is fine when you're young and everything seems possible. You imagine a life stretching out almost infinitely, with so many opportunities to become wealthy. Yes, I may still get rich, we tell ourselves. Something may happen. But when the baby boomers, the biggest demographic in the country, is now approaching retirement and sees an increasingly hopeless future, the status quo is in danger.

    As Brent Green, the reigning expert on baby boomers as an economic and social force says, everything the boomers have touched they have changed. In a system that robs the middle class to enrich a tiny sector of fabulously, inconceivably wealthy people, change is in the air. Baby boomers are not going to just settle for hopelessness, not when they see an alternative.

    The alternative is to grow up, take responsibility, do a reckoning on where we are and how we got here, and then to take steps to right the wrongs, to unravel the frauds that have caused the money to flow artificially to the rich class because of the manipulation of the laws and regulations by those who could buy off legislators and judges, to hold accountable those who have bribed public servants to rig the game for them, to close the loopholes that allow corporations like Exxon and Bank of America to make billions and pay no taxes. People are beginning to realize that they do not have to accept the bleak scenario that corporate America has sketched out for them. We are seeing the awareness of democratic power igniting in Wisconsin and then spreading across America. It is an amazing sight, a force of nature in progress. Glory hallelujah.

    March 7, 2011

    The End of the World (It's Finally Here) -- It is a totally amazing time. One could just stand agog, if there was time to stop working for a minute. As "the American Empire Is Collapsing Before Our Eyes in the Mideast," according to Tom Englehardt, it sharpens the issues of wealth distribution in America as many in the historical middle class are pushed up against the wall. As the right wing, the richest 400 rulers move into endgame strategies and try to grab almost absolute power, to pull the support system out from under the majority of Americans, the population finally begins to galvanize.

    In Wisconsin we are seeing an incredible phenomenon, as if suddenly the real meaning of Martin Luther King, not the corporate TV soundbite version, is becoming clear to Americans, becoming manifest. Finally pushed up against a wall, Wisconsin public workers are coming out to express their fury on the street. But they are doing it so intelligently -- using the power of nonviolent resistance to change the ground rules, to change what is happening. It is existential politics at its most magnificent, and right here in America, where we wondered if the people were just too brain dead to respond to anything their elected/co-opted leaders would do, no matter how criminal.

    Michael Moore started writing about Wisconsin and got so inspired he got on a plane and went out there to deliver it in person. He said it perfectly: "America is not broke." It's just that a handful of the richest people on earth have executed a coup by which they have taken over control of America. And if they would have been content to be benign dictators, they might have kept the game going a long time. It has already been a long time. But their greed was to the point of being murderous. They Were not content to be 400 people who controlled as much wealth as the bottom 50 percent of Americans -- 150 million people. That was not enough. The more power they got, the more they wanted. Once they got their power consolidated, control over the media and the cultural message, control over Congress, the executive branch and got the Supreme Court to give them the power to surreptitiously control elections, they wanted to move in for the kill. It's never enough.

    But they forgot, as greedy tyrants always do, that once you push a people to the point of desperation, they will begin to fight back. When they feel they no longer have anything to lose, they will fight to the death. And then you've got a real problem. The rich and powerful don't have to face issues of survival. Life is all a big game to them, and too often the pieces in the game are us. When you're in it for an exercise of greed and power and you have a clear exit, you will lose to people who are fighting for their lives, who are on their own land and have nowhere to go. How else could little Vietnam defeat America at the height of its power?

    The Republicans in Wisconsin may still get their bill passed to outlaw collective bargaining. But what has ignited in Wisconsin is a gigantic phenomenon, probably the beginning of what will become a large movement. It could be that the sleeping giant of America has finally woken.

    It is existential politics because no one can predict where it will go, but people have by their actions changed the rules by which the game is played. And now they have a fighting chance. Once that self-consciousness of the power of the people is ignited, it may be impossible to suppress to the extent that things can return to last year's normal. It is a fascinating time to be alive.

    March 17, 2011

    What are we seeing? I am very intrigued by the possibilities of the current situation. As boomers become aware of the fact that 400 billionaires hold more than half the population (155 million people), and as the awareness grows of how this economic imbalance was achieved through manipulating legislation with political donations, we may find that boomers are unwilling to accept the dark vision of their world sketched out for them by corporate America. And they may now be realizing their strength as a democratic force to take matters in hand and right the wrongs perpetrated over the last 30 years. As Brent Green points out, boomers have changed everything they have ever touched. Now as they see that their investment in the system has been stolen from them and they have no retirement assets, they may become galvanized and become a formidable political force.

    April 8, 2011

    Wisconsin: Now it's Vote Manipulation -- In a country founded on slave labor we should not be too surprised that some people believe they are entitled to have other people's labor without having to pay for it. What we are seeing unfold in Wisconsin is possibly the final turning point in the direction of the pendulum swinging back and forth between America's democratic and tyrannical impulses. Now that a Republican election worker with a history of problems and irregularities has suddenly come up with the 7,500 votes needed to bring the right wing candidate from behind and just beyond the amount needed to assure there will be no recount, the Koch gang may think they have one the fight. They certainly have been winning practically every round since 1980. But this brazen election theft may serve to ignite the Wisconsin electorate even more than it was when it pushed the Republican incumbent off his throne. We shall see.

    The people who don't think they should have to negotiate with workers, contribute to the tax base or clean up their toxic messes also do not believe they should have to win elections to rule. They believe they are entitled to rule, just like their granddaddies did. Meanwhile, voting manipulations have become increasingly blatant and the corporate media and the political elite have been unwilling to open their eyes to it as it has steadily grown worse over the last decade. Maybe this too will peak out soon and Americans will go back to awarding election victories to the people who get the most votes, not those most corrupt and willing to take any action, no matter how foul and dishonest to achieve their objectives. It's the Rove era of politics as war, and as we all know, all is fair in war.

    July 23, 2011 --

    The Delicious Murdoch Scandal is the most hopeful story in the news for a long time. The pleasure of watching the scandal unfold and the Murdoch empire crumble is the inverse of the pain of living with the Murdoch influence in the world, via Fox News, the New York Post and other media through which he spewed his venom. Watching it come apart finally, when they seemed so invincible, is deeply satisfying. It renews hope in a sense that there is some justice in the world, that when people behave with no respect for the law or other people, it is almost inevitable that they will at some point overreach suicidally. And so it is with the Murdochs.

    Murdoch's disdain for everyone was barely contained at the parliamentary hearing at which he testified -- sort of. Here is an international pirate, a kingmaker who looks upon political figures as transient players in a world he directs. The degree to which he has damaged human civilization would be difficult to ascertain, but it is considerable.

    It figures that when someone has such utter contempt for any sense of decency or kindness, and is reinforced with such tremendous worldly success and power, that he will lose any sense of limits. Murdoch's power was so great he could scarcely imagine anyone having any power over him. By presiding over a criminal enterprise he has done about the only thing that could have ever given any mortal being any power over him.

    But now he is deep into it and there is no turning back. The future is unclear, but already James Murdoch, the heir apparent, is derailed from his aspirations of taking over the company to follow his father. A public company must concern itself with the value to shareholders, and now that all this is so public, the shareholders will no longer feel they are obligated to support the Murdoch succession. If it leads to criminal charges, the Murdochs have a lot more to worry than losing the top position in a major multinational corporation.

    When I saw them being questioned by British Parliament, my impression was that their stance of total denial of all knowledge (while daring to assert that Rupert was the best man to pull the company out of this mess) cannot possibly hold up. They were so black and white in their denials of everything. There was no nuance. It was strictly a stonewall. It looked the same as watching Sam Giancana or any mobster being questioned by Congress. There was no respect for those present or the legislative institution. Rupert blurted out his proclamation that "This is the most humble day of his life" was not a very humble gesture, nor were any of his other gestures. He is so far from holding any respect for any conventions of civilization it's as though such considerations are hearkening to him from a distant planet.

    The total barrage of denials seemed like a line of defense that could never hold. It was too likely that there would be some hole in it. After all, the idea that the Murdochs did not know about the hacking and the payoffs, as they assert, is almost too far-fetched to need to be refuted. It seemed almost impossible that some information would not come to light that would contradict their stance of total ignorance of the criminal activity. In fact it was only the next day that very serious allegations were raised to contradict the Murdochs' denials by members of their own inner circle.

    Sean Hoare, the ex-Murdoch reporter who was recently found dead, is on the record saying that the practice of hacking was widespread throughout News of the World. (See The Guardian's profile on Hoare.) He describes the staff as practically giddy with the power they had. It was intoxicating. If it was not the case that hacking was widespread throughout the Murdoch enterprise, then this story will fade in time. But that likelihood seems quite remote right now. Things are moving very quickly, on their own momentum, and they are beyond anyone's control.

    See "Murdoch Facade Crumbling As Scandal Takes Root In America", for a good summary of where things are with the Murdoch scandal right now.

    October 14, 2011

    This Time it's Real

    The kids who started the Occupy Wall Street Movement, and are maintaining it and spreading it, are our heroes. We should be thanking them. Even the powerful who are about to be dethroned should thank them. They were too successful at what they were trying to do for their own good.

    Almost everyone knows it's happening now, the long awaited tipping point that signals the end of a long wave of history has come. It has arrived, and it has an air of self-confidence, a sense of knowledge that this is really real, really a force of nature with a sense of inevitability. Everyone seems to sense at some depth of subconsciousness that this time it's real.

    The great awakening that seemed like it would never happen in America is happening. In the giant slow motion of history we are seeing the spark that ignites the explosion.

    It was hard to believe decades ago when we were warned by some that someday the corporate pirates who were looting Latin America, Asia and around the world at gun point would eventually turn its aggression inward and go after its own population. I can't say I believed it for a long long time. It's hard to believe it even now. But when you see the relentless driving to extremes of this current mad corporate regime, it becomes logically impossible to believe that the elite that turned loose the savage fascist monster Pinochet on the democratic republic of Chile in the 1960s would have any particular sense of mercy when it came to people living within its own borders.

    So now we are seeing it happening. We have seen with this crash/bailout heist that there is no limit of the extremes to which the corporate machine will go to seize more wealth. This corporate megaperson that is the manifest corporate state does indeed have no heart. Hopefully the people working within it who do have hearts, who experiencne sympathy for other human beings and life forms, will find ways to draw the line at contributing to any more to the destructive behavior of the giant multinational corporations.

    What can we even call the corporate regime that runs the government without sounding hysterical or shrill? They are monsters, the giant, voracious, aggressive corporations. And the king henchmen of the political machine, the Koches, the Roves and their handymen, the Tea Party Republican congressmen. The giant multinationals as a group, as a bloc in a sense, constitute a single mega-corporate entity that pushes with its collective force relentlessly toward fulfilling a corporate agenda. And it is very definitely and clearly an anti-democratic agenda. Corporations do not like democracy. They do not like people meddling in their drive to fulfill their only purpose, that of maximizing profit. And they do it with the determination of cold steel.

    And they do work in concert, they do collectively combine their energies and resources consciously together, through such organizations as the Business Roundtable, various think tanks, propaganda mills, lobbying groups and they do have a shared agenda. This is not conspiracy theory, it is demonstrably true and not even hidden. What has happened is that their own success has been so extraordinary, their reach so far beyond their grasp, and their utter lack of restraint has driven them to a point of self destruction. The corporate mindset, which knows of no restraint, could not stop grabbing everything in sight until no one had anything anymore, until practically the entire country was impoverished, except the proverbial 5 percent or so.

    The Terminator, especially the upgraded version in the movie "Terminator II", is a good metaphor for the corporate state. It is utterly cold, driven to a singleminded agenda, for which everything else on heaven and earth is sacrificed. Now we are seeing its unmasked face, its bare fangs.

    The snotty, prissy attacks on the Occupy Wall Street people by petty establishment media mouthpieces are pathetic, and those catty smiles are being wiped off their faces, their smug sense of security, superiority and entitlement may soon drop like a stone and leave them with a sense of dull wonder. Don't condescend to those kids, they are ten times as smart as you. They know what is going on. They have grown up with all of this. They have assimilated everything the older generation left them, everything that led us to this point of inevitability. And now, this month, the grand potential has manifested into incarnate reality.

    These kids absorbed everything their parents experienced their whole lives in a few years and they are ready to jump off to the next plane. They have seen "Gandhi", the history of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights struggle, the Beatles, Steve Jobs. They know there is a better way. They know the elders have lost their way and are now behaving in ways that will harm everyone, even themselves. They know it is time to take the reins of power from the doddering old fools who are driving civilization off a cliff, protect them from their own dullness, and steer the world back to some sort of sanity, a little more balance.

    The kids who got it into their heads to begin Occupy Wall Street are our heroes. They are the world's heroes. They saw the inevitability of the course we are on. They could see that if they comply with the corporate agenda, they are as good as dead. They have nothing to lose. If they continue to go along passively with multinational corporate capitalism they have everything to lose.

    They are the single speck of dust that catalyzes the crystallization of frost spreading across an entire pane of glass in an instant. This is it. This is really happening. There is momentum in this. It cannot be decapitated. It would be futile. They've already "killed all our leaders," as the Stevie Wonder song "Your Name is Big Brother" said.

    And Stevie Wonder finished the line with, "I don't even have to do nothing to you, you'll cause your own country to fall." And indeed they have done that. Now it is time for the adults to take over.

    -- David Cogswell

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