UN-PRESIDENT’S DAY: UNTIL YOU CHANGE THE WAY MONEY WORKS, YOU CHANGE NOTHING, By Carolyn Baker

February 19, 2007

Economics is the study of our optimization (creation, management, allocation and destruction) of our resources. To optimize something is to make the most of it. Our spiritual and intellectual resources are infinite. That means there is more of it than we could ever use up. Our resources in the material world —such as air, water and land—- are finite. Most of us believe that we have a responsibility to take care of the land, to take care of each other, and to take care of ourselves. Economics is a body of knowledge that helps us do that.         

Catherine Austin Fitts, “Economics 101: A Curriculum”  (which may be read at her Solari website)

All-too frequently I encounter activists who don’t like to talk about money. While they crusade loudly for “economic justice”, they resist talking about their own relationship with money as if it were somehow an X-rated topic on par with sexuality or bathroom habits. In other words, these well-meaning individuals have little or no financial literacy. For this reason I wrote a 2005 article Activists And Accountants: Absolute Allies in which I emphasized that economic IN-justice only happens when people sacrifice sustainability for profit and that whenever we attend to our own sustainability and that of our community, we are practicing economic justice, but we cannot do so without acquiring financial literacy.

My experience has confirmed this for me so profoundly in recent years that I have come to agree wholeheartedly with Catherine Austin Fitts that until we change the way money works in our personal lives, our communities, and our world, we will change nothing. I know of no one else on earth who has so clearly articulated the way sustainable and unsustainable economic systems work as Catherine has. For this reason, I place little emphasis on the role of presidents as I teach history to college students or in my thinking and discourse on the government of the United States and how it functions.

“Tapeworm” is the name Fitts applies to the economic system of the U.S. which seeks to feed upon both its inhabitants and its neighbors, near and far, and at the same time, ingest them with toxins which cause them to crave the very elements which feed the Tapeworm, thereby establishing a perpetual search-and-destroy economic system. Inherent in Tapeworm economics is the primacy of centralized financial systems such as the Federal Reserve, national and worldwide banking networks, a complex global economic apparatus, reliance on agribusiness for food supply and distribution, and the privatization of resources—all without financial transparency or accountability.

Conversely, a sustainable economy is de-centralized and locally-focused, relying on small, well-managed local banks; food supplies which are grown, financed, and distributed locally; community ownership of land and resources; local commerce and industry; and above all, financial transparency.

Among the myriad advantages of categorizing economic systems in this way is the immediate exposure of federal election campaigns as unequivocally by, for, and about centralized financial systems which offer the illusions of “choice” and “change”. No sincere proponent of a sustainable economy has the slightest possibility of emerging victorious in a country where centralized financial systems furnish, finance, and in the current milieu, manage electoral outcomes. Or as Aaron Russo’s documentary “America From Freedom To Fascism” underscored, voting in a national election is essentially making a choice between two crime families who are ostensibly at war with each other but will always join forces when their mutual interests are threatened. The current “debate” on the Iraq War is one of countless examples, as the majority of “dissenters” in Congress are unwilling to illumine the fundamental travesty of the war, namely, that the United States should have never invaded and occupied the country, and instead are focused on how the war is being “mis-managed.”

For those residing in the belly of the beast, particularly when the overwhelming majority of those citizens is unaware of the Tapeworm and their role as its host, mass revolt or widespread dissent is unlikely, at least as long as the illusion of benefitting from the Tapeworm economy can be maintained. Only when citizens become as abjectly impoverished and desperate as our Latin American neighbors have become in recent years, will the neoliberal Tapeworm be rejected and sustainable economies replace it. What will insure the protracted success of these movements, however, is not top-down policymaking, but grassroots, place-based, local solutions. How countries such as Venezuela, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Nicaragua each uniquely implement sustainable economies, remains to be seen, but in the meantime, I have not and will not lose any sleep over how they should be named. Call them socialist or Solari, the Tapeworm is being rejected and shriveled; to obsess on how to label the process is to lose sight of the economic transformation that must take place in the United States in order for humankind and the ecosystems to survive.

And what is that transformation?

  • It first begins with a commitment to financial literacy in concert with sustainable economics.
  • Next, one must increase one’s learning curve regarding the reality of corruption in the United States. American “exceptionalism”, the puerile illusion that other countries are corrupt, but the U.S. is not, must be shattered, and we must stop pointing our fingers, for example, at Mexico for being a blatant poster-child for corruption and recognize that the United States is merely Mexico with make up.
  • As a result of this recognition, it then becomes crucial to illuminate corruption and Tapeworm economics in one’s own community, i.e., narcotics trafficking, fraud, entities such as universities, foundations, churches, non-profit agencies, and media that accept contributions from the Tapeworm and serve its interests. Every town has “K” street, and we cannot liberate ourselves effectively from the Tapeworm until we shine light on its presence in our place. Likewise, we need to support media and government leaders who promote transparency and accountability.       
  • Therefore, as activists, we have no business depositing our money in Tapeworm banks or using credit cards from those institutions. It is our responsibility to transact with institutions that keep the money in our communities, rather than drain it out.      
  • Understand that personal debt finances the Tapeworm and ensures its continued success. Get out of debt, and if you must use credit cards at all, pay them off in full monthly. In teaching college students I am frequently and painfully reminded that most of them will graduate from their institutions in a state of debt servitude for decades of their adult lives and will not snag those illusory “dream jobs” their colleges and career counselors promise them because those jobs have been outsourced or eliminated. Investigate people-to-people lending arrangements such as those found at www.prosper.com      
  • Become involved with other activists in your community to block the privatization of land and resources and demand public ownership of them.        
  • Recognize that “socially responsible investing” usually isn’t. Consult the Solari website for investment opportunities that genuinely promote sustainability while bringing an optimum return.        
  • Consider investing in precious metals—silver or gold, and consult the Solari site for ways to begin doing so with small, affordable amounts. If you deposit money in a savings account, why not invest some of it in precious metals instead?

If we attentively read United States history, we learn that particularly in recent times, financial systems, not presidents, dictate policy and that “Chief Executives” are themselves at the mercy of those systems–before, during, and after their term of office. Electing presidents changes little, but changing how money works changes everything.   

CHRISTIAN FASCISM: The Jesus Gestapo Of St. Orwell

February 1, 2007

New York Times reporter, Chris Hedges, has written an extraordinary book, American Fascism: The Christian Right And The War On America. Having survived a Christian fundamentalist background myself, I marvel at the timely urgency of Hedges’ book, but also, at the obtuse disconnect most Americans have with the pivotal thesis of his book: the power of the religious right in the United States to bring forth a nation whose totalitarian repression could dwarf that of Nazi Germany in the 1930s. As Hedges notes, we are well on the path toward such a reality, and the Domionist Christian right is a principal player in the process. While the nucleus of that movement is small, measuring only about 1% of evangelicals and led by the likes of James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, and John Hagee, those leaders are supported by throngs of evangelicals sympathetic to their theocratic views who dutifully preach the consummate tenet of the movement, submission. Citizens must submit to their government officials, particularly the ones who claim to be born-again Christians and receiving their orders from God; wives must submit to husbands; children must submit to parents; and everyone must submit to the teachings of the bible as interpreted by evangelical Christianity or burn in hell. I will herein use the term “Christian fascism” or “Cristo-fascism” as synonymous with a worldview and political philosophy which are both fundamentalist Christian and fascist in nature.

Recently, I viewed a chilling documentary “Jesus Camp”, which examines “the evangelical belief that a revival is underway in America that requires Christian youth to assume leadership roles in advocating the causes of their religious movement.” [1]The film follows a group of evangelical kids who attend a summer camp where they are taught to become dedicated Christian soldiers in God’s army. Under the leadership of control-freak youth pastor, Becky Fischer, who makes Nurse Ratchet in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” look like Snow White, the children are told that theirs is a unique generation—perhaps the last on earth before the return of Christ to rapture his church, and that just as Musilm children learn at an early age to carry and use automatic weapons so that they can die for Islam, Christian kids must learn to fight in the Jesus army in order to save souls and take back America for God—and be willing to die for Jesus.

One not need be a licensed mental health professional to find the emotional manipulation, indoctrination, and outright brainwashing of the Jesus camp both repulsive and enraging. Its squeaky-clean, almost exclusively white, puerile participants mouth all the right jargon, concepts, and scripture verses impeccably and robotically like good little Christian boys and girls—or more chillingly, like Hitler youth. Jesus Camp is nothing less than childhood spiritual abuse on steroids, leaving me personally and eternally grateful that as a child growing up in fundamentalism, I wasn’t subjected to anything worse in the context of religious services than the raspy screams of bible-thumping preachers  

Hedges’ brilliant article, “The Christian Right And The Rise Of American Fascism” outlines several principles inherent in Christian fascism, and to his list, I will add a few of my own:

1)Apocalyptic Violence—A central tenet of Cristo-fascism is the belief that after the Rapture or Christ’s returns to rescue Christian believers and take them to heaven, a period of seven years, or the Tribulation, will ensue in which an Anti-Christ will dominate the world, and every horror imaginable will be unleashed on humankind. Those who do not submit (again a pivotal word for Christian fascism) and accept Christ as their personal savior, will be martyred but will be assured of spending eternity in heaven with Christ. Those who do submit will be condemned eternally to hell. After the Tribulation period, Christ will return again with the “army” of Christians in heaven, and the battle of Armageddon will be fought against the Anti-Christ and his armies. The latter will be slaughtered by Christ and his followers who will set up Christ’s kingdom on earth where he will reign for one thousand years, followed by the total and complete destruction of earth as Christ and his followers return to heaven. 

Sounds like a scene from the movie “Independence Day”? Actually, that movie cannot begin to capture the heinous barbarity that Christian fascism fantasizes will befall the earth and those who reject Christ. That scenario is a bloodbath of unimaginable, avenging horrors. Note that not only will non-Christian human beings be decimated, but so will the earth itself, the outcome being twofold: Humans who do not submit to Jesus will be destroyed, and the planet itself will be annihilated. How delicious the vindication for the Cristo-fascist psyche! Not only will people who reject their Jesus be grotesquely punished, but their God will prove himself more powerful than the very planet on which they live. Obviously, no need here to worry about global warming—at least the kind created by humans. God will incinerate the earth–his own instantaneous global warming, triumphing over all enemies of both himself and the Christian fascists. As Hedges notes, these fantasies of monstrous cruelty are appealing to many within the Christian-fascist movement because “The loss of manufacturing jobs, lack of affordable health care, negligible opportunities for education and poor job security has left many millions of Americans locked out. This ideology is attractive because it offers them the hope of power and revenge. It sanctifies their rage.”[2] And if any group of people on earth is enraged, it is the Cristo-fascists whose rancor is every bit as caustic and virulent as that of any Islamist fundamentalist on a suicide mission. 

2) One reason Hedges labels these individuals fascist has not only to do with their positioning themselves on the political right, but specifically, their fanatical insistence on submission to theocratic government. Had George Orwell been a born-again Christian, twenty-first century Cristo-fascists would probably declare him a saint. (War is holy, and killing is sacred.) Their preferred polity is biblical totalitarianism in which the principles embraced by secular society are perceived as untrue and antithetical to their God and his Word. Unquestioning obedience to fundamentalist Christian theology and its resultant theocracy are the cornerstones of Cristo-fascism in twenty-first century America.

3) As a result, adherents are diametrically opposed to a secular world view and the tenets of modern science. As I have commented in other articles[3] in recent years, fundamentalist Christianity generally distrusts, and often despises human reason. Millions of children in America are being home-schooled, and 75% of them are children from fundamentalist Christian homes.[4] Home-schooling can offer an extraordinary alternative to attending public school, but for fundamentalist Christians, it serves, among other things, to shield their children not only from grappling with such issues as evolution and global warming, but learning the scientific method itself and the basic principles of critical thinking and logical analysis.    

4)Cristo-fascism is overwhelmingly a white Anglo-American movement. While one sees growing numbers of African Americans and Hispanics joining their ranks, the movement remains predominantly white and rabidly Islamophobic. Most outspoken on this issue is San Antonio’s megachurch pastor, John Hagee, who perceives Islam as the new Satan which must be destroyed by Israel and the United States.

5) While Christian fascism cannot give enough lip service to the “culture of life” it is morbidly death-obsessed in its raging support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and capital punishment. The popularity of the grisly, sado-masochistic “The Passion Of The Christ” among fundamentalist Christians, as well as the Jesus Camp’s indoctrination of children to be willing and proud to “die for Jesus” further belie Cristo-fascism’s death fetish.   

6) A new Christian Gestapo is in the works as the Christian right is working vehemently to take control of military chaplaincies and create in Hedges words, “America’s Holy Warriors.” He points out that during the last century communist and fascist movements each built paramilitary forces that operated beyond the reach of the law. The frightening popularity and proliferation of the private security firm, Blackwater, founded by a mega-millionaire right-wing Christian, Erik Prince, has not only become a giant mercenary force in Iraq, but was heavily used in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Increasingly, Cristo-fascists are becoming more blatant about their wish to force conversion to Christ through the barrel of a gun. A typical image of this concept, dripping with testosterone, may be viewed at the website of Force Ministries. 

Just this week, conservative theologian, Doug Giles, appeared on Fox News arguing that Christian males should be tougher because “Jesus wasn’t a bearded lady”. Christians, he said, should stop raising nice boys and raise warriors who can fight terrorism. 

In answer to the question of what is to be done, I would assert as I usually do: Knowledge is power. Fundamentalist Christianity is inherently delusional. One cannot reason with its adherents nor influence them with facts. What one can do is understand first of all that the United States has become a fascist empire. If one takes seriously Mussolini’s definition of fascism, “the corporate state”, then this nation was well on its way even before the ascendancy of the Bush II administration and September 11, 2001.  

Furthermore, it is time for those who consider themselves politically progressive to stop “tolerating” Cristo-fascists. Certainly, these individuals have every right to believe whatever they choose to believe, but when one comprehends the inherently fascist nature of both their religion and their politics, one must necessarily confront not only their ghastly disregard for separation of church and state, but their implacable commitment to engineering a fundamentalist Christian theocracy in the United States.

The exponential growth of the Cristo-fascist movement in the past six years is yet another symptom of empire and a somnambulant society in the throes of collapse. Whether or not one embraces Christianity or any religion, for that matter, it is instructive to engage in reality-checking the actual teachings of Jesus in the New Testament, and specifically, the gospels and other sacred writings which were excluded from the bible in the fourth century for political and socio-economic reasons in order to streamline Constantine’s hierarchical, imperial, Christian regime—the world’s first but not last, Christian theocracy. With that in mind, I highly recommend The Jesus Mysteries, by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy. 

JASON MILLER INTERVIEWED BY CAROLYN BAKER

January 29, 2007

[Happy Birthday Thomas Paine, born January 29, 1737] 

A few months ago I began receiving emails with a subject line “Submission For Linking” from Jason Miller. I’m not sure how he discovered me or my website, but as began reading the barrage of articles that Jason sent me for linking, I became increasingly impressed with his blogspot and with the person managing it. Upon noticing that Jason occasionally interviewed other progressive bloggers, I requested that he interview me, and the results have been extraordinary, in part, because of the nature of the questions that Jason asks. As a result, I asked Jason if I could interview him, not only to return a favor, but because I am genuinely curious about who this man is and what drives his passion to maintain and manage Thomas Paine’s Corner, aka, Civil Libertarian Blogspot.

Jason, I take it that you are not the actor, Jason Miller, who played the Father Damien Karras in “The Exorcist.” So having established that, I have some questions for you:


1) Jason, I notice that you live in Kansas City. How long have you lived in the Midwest, and how do you find the consciousness in your part of the Midwest with respect to issues of civil liberties, human rights, social justice, and the other topics on which you write? 
I have spent most of my 40 years here in the Kansas City area. My father worked for the federal government, so as a child I did live near Washington, DC for a couple of years. 

Thanks to a sustained effort by the moneyed interests wielding the power in the United States, a significant percentage of the US American public remains transfixed by a carefully woven tapestry of lies. Up until two years ago, I was amongst that group. A significant number of our fellow citizens, whether they live in the Midwest, the Northeast, or wherever frantically search for ways to fend off threats to their highly addictive and comforting delusions of American Exceptionalism, benevolence, and moral leadership.  

As you are well aware, our Constitutional Republic, which was forged by children of the Enlightenment and embedded with democratic principles yet still marred by the legalization of chattel slavery and the exclusion of Native Americans, has been under siege by a ruthless aristocracy from its inception. Cultural myths of equal opportunities for all, upward mobility, glorious wars to “protect our freedoms”, and numerous other bundles of tripe serve to blind most of the public to the realities of domestic economic fascism and the mass murder our military routinely commits to advance our imperial foreign policy. 

Many US Americans are too busy adhering to their programmed script and “thanking a vet” for their rights and freedom to realize that soldiers serving in wars of aggression were unwitting pawns of an opulent ruling class determined to increase its wealth and power under the guise of “spreading democracy”.   

Vision obscured by the “rockets red glare”, many of us remain blind to truths that would be devastating to the soft form of tyranny practiced by the deeply entrenched Duopoly. Throughout the relatively brief history of the United States, federalists, slavery proponents, Robber Barons, corporations, monopolists, lobbyists, defense contractors, and a host of other entities have waged war on human rights, freedoms, and civil liberties, in one form or another.  

Yet many of the people with whom I engage daily (in person and via the Internet) can’t seem to get their arms around the fact that we are living one of the biggest lies ever contrived. Nor do they recognize that the civil rights, consumer and environmental protections, “entitlements”, and employment benefits are not there because “our boys” donned uniforms and wasted millions of “lesser” human beings nor because men like George Bush and Dick Cheney have hearts of gold.  

From my experience, there are still many Flat-Earthers dwelling in many regions of our country who believe that the freedoms and rights which are still extant in the United States, exist thanks to, rather than in spite of, the militaristic plutocrats who have ruled our republic for years. 


2) I notice also that your occupation is Loan Counselor. If you feel comfortable doing so, please say more about that. I’m particularly interested in what it’s like in the current economy, teetering on the edge of collapse with millions of Americans in debt up to their eyeballs, to be a loan counselor. 
I started working in my current occupation about ten years ago. That was prior to my spiritual and intellectual awakening. If I could turn back the clock, I would have made a different career choice. Obviously, I could make a change today if I so chose. However, to effectively fulfill a sacred responsibility, I have decided to stay in the credit industry for several more years. After that I intend to move into the social service sector in some capacity.

On the surface it may appear that the work I do conflicts with my beliefs, my activism, and my avocation of writing and publishing. Yet despite working in the lending industry, I am fortunate to work in a capacity where I can do a great deal to help my customers. My employer lends money to individuals buying tractors and trailers with which they make their livings as owner-operator truck drivers. I manage a group of loans within the portfolio. Most of what I do involves communicating with customers over the phone to help them manage their loans when they want to make payments, become past due, have wrecks, need major repairs, need information about their loans, have problems with their contract employers, experience insurance issues, or need to modify their loan agreements in some way. Within the industry, ours is the largest lender of last resort, so my managers tolerate a high degree of delinquency. This empowers me to offer flexible and generous arrangements with customers who fall behind and are at risk of losing their livelihoods. Many of my customers are Hispanic immigrants. Having taught myself Spanish has enabled me to assist those who haven’t mastered English yet. 

I laugh with abandon virtually each time I read or hear about our “strong economy”. Many economists consider the transportation industry to be the “canary in the coal mine”. Decreased freight tonnage is typically one of the first signs of a weakening economy. Things may be robust for Bush and his “base” on Wall Street and in corporate boardrooms, but most of my customers are struggling. I have been working in this industry for five years and this is the worst it has been in terms of delinquency (it is quite high), voluntary repossessions (people giving up on the business and turning in their equipment), and new business (it is way off). I spend five hours a day on the phone talking to thousands of people a month working in various facets of the transportation industry. While I am not qualified to predict an economic collapse, I have gathered enough empirical evidence from my job, reading articles from a variety of sources, and through my recent experiences with personal finances to confidently state that the US economy is rotten for most the poor, working class, and middle class US Americans.


3) You describe yourself as a “wage slave” who has freed himself from intellectually and spiritually. Tell us about your choosing that description for yourself. 
I have not stopped to count, but over the last couple of years I have probably composed over one hundred essays which have been published on a variety of alternative media sites. The description you mention in your question is my bio which I include at the end of each of my articles. I tinkered with that little blurb quite a number of times before I came up with that one. I feel comfortable with it because it is simple and apt. 

In the United States, if one is not born into the de facto aristocracy, one has few realistic choices beyond working for someone else (wage slavery), becoming a professional (i.e. doctor or lawyer), joining the military, or entrepreneurialism. A relative few have the means or discipline to complete an advanced degree, not everyone is willing to endure harsh indentured servitude to expand the reach of an empire, and a vast majority of small businesses fail. 

Through a combination of factors, including birth, extenuating circumstances, and my own poor choices, I wound up working as a corporate “wage slave”. While the system is much less rigid and well-defined, there are a number of parallels between the feudal system and American Capitalism, which as many readers have so accurately pointed out to me is not the Capitalism that Adam Smith and his contemporaries had envisioned. Within the framework of that analogy, those people who earn their livings as middle management or non-exempt employees are modern day serfs or wage slaves. Compound that with Noam Chomsky’s accurate observation that corporations (which dominate the economic, political, and cultural spheres of our existences in the United States) are structured as tyrannies, the wretched state of publicly funded social services in the wealthiest nation on the planet, and the looming specters of hunger and homelessness, and you have a serious set of impediments to pulling a Johnny Paycheck.  

Telling the boss to “take this job and shove it” sounds extremely gratifying and simple enough, but with family, food, shelter, and medical care in the balance, few rational individuals are prepared to take such a drastic step without powerfully compelling reasons or financial security to fall back upon.  

Choosing to remain a wage slave has a moral consequence. By working, paying taxes, and consuming, one becomes complicit in the innumerable horrendous war crimes and egregious exploitation committed by the United States. Yet unless one “drops off the grid” or expatriates, one is inevitably culpable in America’s crimes to some degree. And there are numerous ways to mitigate one’s complicity and atone for it.  

To answer your question about freeing myself intellectually and spiritually, I will state quite succinctly that while I choose to conform to certain aspects of an incredibly depraved socioeconomic system, those who metaphorically own me on the physical plane don’t possess an iota of either my mind or my soul. I have studied too hard, suffered too much, and striven too painstakingly to let them have an ounce of either.


4) What motivated you to begin your blog? I notice that among the interests listed in your personal profile are: Rights of Minorities; Rights of the Mentally Ill; Gay Rights; Thomas Paine; Volunteer Work for the Homeless; and Human Rights Watch. Can you say more about why you are passionate about the rights of these groups? 
One of my teachers from high school with whom I still communicate actually encouraged me to start Thomas Paine’s Corner. Writing had been a passion of mine for years. About two years ago, I started writing essays and submitting them to other sites for publication. Initially, I started my blog as a means to self-publish so I could submit links to sites that do not publish full articles, but my little site has evolved into much, much more. My writing only accounts for about 5% of the content now and my site meter has registered nearly 700,000 hits.  

I have been fortunate to have forged alliances and struck up friendships with some incredibly brilliant thinkers and writers who graciously include Thomas Paine’s Corner amongst their syndication of original publishers. Steve Jonas, Stephen Lendman, Gary Corseri, Don Robertson, Phil Rockstroh, John Andrews, Ramzy Baroud, Andrew Taylor, Gene DeVaux, Rowan Wolf, and of course, Carolyn Baker, each contribute their work directly to my little site. It has also been my distinct pleasure to publish one-time submissions by several authors of note and quite a few talented aspiring writers. 

As far as my passion for human rights, apparently I have an innate sensitivity to injustice and abuse that just won’t quit. However, there are a number of life experiences that have contributed to my ardor. I grew up in the Methodist Church which was founded by John Wesley, an ardent abolitionist and prison reformer. While the Methodist religion didn’t stick, apparently some of its founder’s redeeming aspects did. My grandmother was, and my grandfather is, very compassionate, just and fair-minded. As a youth, I often felt like a pariah because my family moved often, I was very studious, and until my senior year in high school I was seriously overweight. My experiences related to my bipolar condition, about which I have written before, have blessed me with a deep capacity (and need) to empathize with the suffering and down-trodden.  

I do want to add that I have withdrawn my support for Human Rights Watch. Thank you for noticing that they were still on my profile. After becoming disgusted with their pro-Israeli bias, I removed the graphic/link I had on my site which promoted HRW. They are no longer on my profile. 

5) If you are comfortable answering this question, can you say more about being in recovery? How has that affected your concern about the above issues?  

I feel quite comfortable elaborating upon my recovery. I consider my bipolar condition to be a blessing for a multitude of reasons. I alluded to the empathy component above. My condition also endows me with a mind that works very rapidly and the capacity to persist relentlessly. Of course, if I don’t manage myself, each of the aforementioned gifts can become wretched curses. I learned that the hard way. 

On the surface, I was relatively stable until I got into my third year of college. It was about that time that the proverbial wheels started coming off. For the next four years, I went on a roller-coaster ride to Hell. I became heavily addicted to alcohol. I quit school and started working in entry level manufacturing jobs. A serious industrial accident left me with severe burns on both of my legs. I got involved in a very toxic marriage in which my partner and I were very cruel to one another. Eventually I went on a two year “bender” that involved abandoning my marriage and six month-old twins, partnering with a woman who was equally unstable, financial bankruptcy, homelessness, joblessness, self-harming, hospitalization in the state psychiatric facility, multiple fights, bouts of rage, theft and vandalism, thoughts of parenticide followed by suicide, and estrangement and isolation. My rock bottom was at Western Missouri Mental Health where a delusional woman followed me around because she thought I was Jesus, a man twice my size with severe rage issues threatened to kill me because I sat in his chair, a patient tied to his bed with restraints screamed incessantly day and night, the highlight of my day was when an old man came to sing Christian hymns with us for about ten minutes. When I was released, I could not find a soul to give me a ride home, I had no money, no job, and owned virtually nothing.  

About that time, a therapist named Lynn Barnett, AA, and a powerful devotion to reclaiming my lost soul and intellect came into my life. It was a slow process, but I gradually stabilized as I learned to work with my racing mind and raging emotions. Eventually, I made amends and reparations to those I had harmed, including my children. If there is someone out there to whom I have forgotten to apologize or repay, I am genuinely sorry. 

My concern for the disenfranchised, down-trodden, suffering, and victimized arises largely from the fact that I have experienced homelessness, discrimination because of my condition, severe emotional pain, addiction, joblessness, and deep loneliness. Fourteen years of strenuous spiritual and intellectual effort have enabled me to reclaim my life and empower myself. While my spiritual evolution has been eclectic and I have not subscribed to the AA program 100%, I have derived a number of personal values from AA. Virtually all of my choices and efforts today, including my writing, publishing, and community activism, flow from my implementation of the Twelfth Step. Having experienced a spiritual awakening, I am determined to continue practicing my principles and to be a light (when my shadow side isn’t rearing its ugly head) in this world. Maybe just one tiny flickering candle flame, but a light nonetheless.   

6) I’m also curious about why you chose to name your blogspot Thomas Paine’s corner and/or Civil Libertarian Blogspot. Obviously, the two names go together, but I’d like to hear more about their compatibility in your mind. 

When I started my site, I was just becoming a part of a movement for a more just and humane world (meaning I am much more driven by moral, ethical, and social considerations than by political or ideological ones). At that time I had recently joined the ACLU, which ostensibly exists to defend our inalienable rights delineated in the Constitution to shield us from government tyranny. Hence my URL. 

Incidentally, I later parted ways with the ACLU because of their support of corporate personhood. 

Thomas Paine was one of history’s most strident and influential advocates of human rights, civil liberties, and social justice. His intellectual efforts ultimately led to the death of government by monarchy and the birth of government by constitutional republic.  

I think the compatibility of my URL and site name speaks for itself.


7) I am particularly fond of your own writing style because I find your writing clear and often very poignant. It always seems to go right to the heart of the issue about which you are writing. At the same time that it exposes injustice for what it is, I hear a great deal of compassion in your writing as well. Can you say more about this? 
I think the clarity, depth, and compassion you note in my writing style simply reflect who I have become out of necessity. In order to come back from the brink of self-destruction, I needed to immerse myself in sobriety, critical thinking, cognitive redirection, fearless self-evaluation, self-awareness, empathy, honesty, taking responsibility, making amends, and various other practices and beliefs which I seriously lacked. What began as a viable alternative to suicide as a means to end my misery has developed into a core way of being.  

While I strive for ideals, I realize that as a human being, I will fall short of the mark at times. I need only look at my past as evidence of how far short I can fall. Which is why I am slowly learning to feel at least a degree of compassion even for those who commit egregious crimes. That is not to say that I don’t believe in rendering consequences. However, if a person is contrite, pays their dues, and truly evolves, I believe in second chances. 

As a side note, I see little or no room for second chances for many of the social, economic, military, and political leaders in the United States who continue to cause great harm with impunity. Their denial, hubris, avarice, and hypocrisy are too ingrained and their crimes are too egregious. Try them, convict them, lock them up, and throw away the key! (For those of you who favor execution, I am sorry but I am opposed to the death penalty).
 

8) How do you see the world we live in at this moment, with all of its human suffering, injustice, complacency, and all the other issues about which we both write? Please comment on your thoughts on the Iraq War; civil liberties; the state of consciousness, or lack thereof, in the United States; the seeming inability to have clean, honest elections in the U.S.; and the presidential candidate selection process. How do you remain grounded and balanced living in the belly of the beast with so much that is dark and depressing around us? 

Human suffering and injustice are inevitable. But that doesn’t alleviate us of the responsibility to try to mitigate or minimize them.  

Bush waged a war of aggression in Iraq. We hanged the Germans we tried at Nuremberg for the same crime. Why are he and his accomplices still alive? There is no mission to accomplish in Iraq other than the establishment of a sustainable puppet regime to enable the United States to control Iraq’s oil reserves. The “insurgents” are resistance fighters attempting to drive out our invading army. There would be plenty of US American “insurgents” and “terrorists” in the United States if India sent an invasionary force of 150,000 to gain control of our fresh water supply.  

We have plunged Iraq into a civil war and are responsible for the deaths of over a million Iraqis (going back to the Gulf War and including the 600,000 or so who died as a result of US-driven economic sanctions under Clinton). Devastated infrastructure, death, chaos, genocide, physical and psychological disability, torture, hatred, and an environment contaminated with depleted uranium will be our “proud” legacy in Iraq. 

Civil liberties in the United States? There are none that are guaranteed anymore. We lost that “luxury” and it wasn’t because of those “evil Islamofascists” who “hate our freedoms”! A civil liberty is a limit on abuse of power by government. Presidential signing statements, the Patriot Act, and the Military Commissions Act serve to eradicate most, if not all, of our civil liberties. Our rights are no longer protected from our government by the rule of law. In just six years Bush and his cohorts have managed to eviscerate the Bill of Rights and the Magna Carta. And they call GW a failure!

9) Who are some of the people who have influenced you?   As I have progressed through my spiritual awakening, a number of people, both contemporary and historical, have influenced me. I already mentioned Lynn Barnett and my teacher from high school, Andy Anderson. Through their books, John Bradshaw, Scott Peck, and Sam Keene have left indelible impressions on my soul. I derive powerful inspiration from MLK, Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, Henry David Thoreau, and Thomas Paine. Recently, despite my resistance to organized religion, I have been very animated by the teachings of Jesus Christ, particularly the Beatitudes. My grandfather, who spent much of his life in poverty until he went to work on the GM assembly line, is populist and pro-labor in his outlook, and who is a paragon of integrity, has been my most important role model.

10)In your complete profile on your blogspot, you list some of your favorite movies, music, and books. Please choose one of each category and tell us how that movie, musical group, and book have influenced you or continues to influence you. 

It’s a Wonderful Life wins hands down in the movie category. The first time I saw it I was a freshman in college. While its deeper implications escaped me at the time, it provided a life-line to a very depressed young man. Since then I have watched it nearly every Christmas. Its portrayal of the epic struggle between the working class and the moneyed class in the United States is timeless. Yet in our current Gilded Age revival, it is particularly timely. I recently ran across a site called Pottersville which portrayed Dick Cheney as Old Man Potter. Needless to say, I enjoyed that immensely. 

My favorite music depends upon my mood. If I am feeling angry, I prefer to listen to Godsmack, for obvious reasons if you are familiar with their music. Queensryche is probably the group that I like the most, regardless of how I feel emotionally. I am particularly fond of their song, Speak (on the Operation Mindcrime CD) and their Promised Land CD. 

Choosing just one book would be difficult, but I do have a particular affinity for Golding’s Lord of the Flies. As with Capra’s film, I suspect it is ultimately the might versus right aspect of the book that captivates me.  I also love virtually anything by Dostoevsky and Sinclair Lewis.

11) I don’t know if you have children, but you obviously do not write what you write or post the articles you post without an awareness of youth and future generations. What words of wisdom or inspiration do you have for youth and for parents raising them? Feel free to draw on your personal experiences as a parent if you are one, as a loan counselor, as a writer, as a person in recovery, or any other experiences you find relevant. I strongly believe that we need to make choices with future generations in mind. If we don’t significantly change our ways, the extinction of many more species, including homo sapiens, is a realistic possibility. We know little about our vast universe, but it would appear that few planets are as hospitable to life as Earth. We are abusing a precious gift.  

The American Philosopher, Don Richardson, has posited: 

The moral imperative of life is to live a life that detracts not at all from the lives available to those who will follow us into this world. 

As I stated in an answer to a previous question, my values and beliefs are eclectic and wide-ranging. I would not embrace one singular moral imperative, but I have certainly assimilated Richardson’s assertion into my spiritual map (which I update frequently). With respect to children, I think we have a responsibility to act in ways that benefit all children, not just our own.

12) Please share anything else you would like to include in letting readers know about you and your work. I simply want to state that despite my deep commitment to working with those who are striving for a more just, humane, and peaceful world, I realize that my humble efforts are but tiny ripples in a vast ocean. As I do with most situations, I look at the situation as a spectrum, with utter disregard for humanity and the Earth at one end and total devotion to humankind and our planet at the other. My life objective is to spend most of my time closer to the “total devotion” end of the spectrum than the “utter disregard”.  

While I could certainly do more, and still share a degree of complicity in the systematic rape and exploitation of “Third Worlders” and the Earth, I work hard within my limitations to be more a part of the solution than of the problem. By detailing my efforts below, I am by no means patting myself on the back. I simply want to give people an idea of some of the things they could do help facilitate grass-roots, “bottom-up” changes to a deeply entrenched, profoundly corrupt socioeconomic/political system. 

Toward that end, I write my essays to awaken, inform, inspire, and persuade readers to join the growing movement to defy the push toward corporatization, globalization, perpetual war, and the like. I have been blessed to find a number of alternative sites which have published substantial numbers of my articles. My thanks to Rense.com, One Thousand Reasons, OpEd News, Dissident Voice, Trumpet America, Axis of Logic, Alternative Press Review, News from Bangladesh, Information Clearing House, Aljazeerah.info, World Prout Assembly, The Smirking Chimp, Worldwide Renaissance, Margot B World News, RINF, Project for the Old American Century, Signs of the Times, Political Affairs, The Free Press, Online Journal, Counter Currents, Counter Bias, A Word Fitly Spoken, Margot’s Web, The Peoples Voice, Peace Earth and Justice News, Saudi Elections, True Blue Liberal, World 5.0, Federal Observer, World News Trust, Populist America, Uruknet, 7th Fire, Four Winds, The American Muslim, Alien Love, Atlantic Free Press, American Chronicle, Daily Scare, Mendacity Review, World News Trust, Poetic Injustice, Today’s Alternative News, Cyrano’s Journal Online, Palestine Chronicle, Ziopedia, Tlaxcala, Bellaciao, Political Cortex, Selves and Others, Sensibly Eclectic, Bush Watch, Uncommon Thought, and Speaking Truth to Power. My apologies to anyone I might have forgotten. I feel truly appreciative to each of these editors and hope that readers will find the time to visit these fine sites. 

I publish my little site to help other people of conscience disseminate their thoughts and analyses, highlight news relevant to human rights and social justice, and to expose the lies of our government and the corporate media. 

I boycott or shun Wal-Mart, most television programs, the commercialized aspects of Christmas, credit card debt, fast food, the NFL, pornography, and soft drinks.  I buy most of my clothes at thrift stores, recycle eight different types of trash, drive an inexpensive relatively fuel efficient car, buy almost nothing beyond necessities, and live in a modest apartment. 

I recently became a vegetarian because of the abject cruelty of factory farming and because meat production is deleterious to the human race and to Earth. It takes 50 times more fossil fuel and 1,000 times more water to put meat on the table than it does other types of food. Satisfying our carnivorous desires also demands deforestation and the grossly inefficient use of land for grazing (instead of crop cultivation). Potable water is in short supply in many countries, fossil fuels are non-renewable, Climate Change is a reality, and 35,000 people die of starvation each day. Meat is a luxury the human race cannot afford. 

I donate my extra money and several hours of volunteer service each month to a local entity which provides numerous means of uplift to people who find themselves homeless.  

I recently filed an internal whistle-blowing complaint with my employer related to the human rights of a large group of people in the Middle East. I am awaiting the results and/or consequences. 

For a variety of reasons it is not in the cards for now, but I intend to begin engaging in war tax resistance at the beginning of next year. If you have strong moral objections to the federal government pouring fifty percent of our tax money into our murderous war machine while poverty, inadequate education, lack of health care, hunger, and homelessness are becoming increasingly prevalent in our nation, I urge you to consider war tax resistance (not to be confused with tax protest). For more information, go to http://www.nwtrcc.org/what_is_wtr.htm 

I believe that the inspiring opposition to US global hegemony arising in Latin America coupled with non-violent resistance (each according to their ability) by enough US Americans will ultimately end the brutal tyranny of our ruling oligarchs. Despite my earlier observations that there are apparently still large numbers of people who still believe in the American Fairy Tale, it is readily apparent that the Bush Regime’s “bull in a China closet” approach to imperial expansion is beginning to awaken some of our sleepiest somnambulists. Which is why I refuse to accept skeptics’ assertions that I am tilting at windmills. I will press onward. 

Aside from these specifics, my general objective is to lead an essentially humane and decent life. Even though I have been engaged in this endeavor for fourteen years, I had a lot of atoning to do. And since I am neither perfect nor a saint, I need to continue toiling tenaciously as long as I can sit up and take nourishment!  


 

9/11 AND AMERICAN EMPIRE: Intellectuals Speak Out, A Book Review

January 22, 2007

“Surely there can be no higher duty for academics and other intellectuals at this time than to expose the big lie of 9/11, thereby undermining the primary pretext for the global domination project.”Morgan Reynolds, Professor Emeritus of Economics, Texas A& M University (P. 115 of 9/11 And American Empire)

Professors David Ray Griffin and Peter Dale Scott have edited a masterpiece of critical thinking and scholarly analysis in this collection of articles by intellectuals who have broken silence on the atrocities of September 11, 2001. I have revered Peter Dale Scott for many years, having used his books and articles in my college history classes. This wise elder, professor emeritus of English, is one of few in academia who have addressed the United States government’s half-century role in drug trafficking and money laundering, and he has offered us the concept of deep politics, which “posits that in every culture and society there are facts which tend to be suppressed collectively, because of the social and psychological costs of not doing so. Like all other observers, I too have involuntarily suppressed facts and even memories about the drug traffic that were too provocative to be retained with equanimity.” Scott’s co-editing of this volume is particularly significant because if ever the issue of deep politics were germane, it is in relation to 9/11

David Ray Griffin, professor emeritus of religion, theology, and philosophy is the critical thinker’s thinker, having authored two previous masterpieces, The New Pearl Harbor: Disturbing Questions About The Bush Administration and 9/11 and The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions And Distortions. If you have been privileged to watch Griffin on video or DVD, you must confess that his demeanor, as well as his research on 9/11, adds a human dimension to his analysis that conveys both compassion and objectivity.

As a member of academia myself, I am buoyed by the caliber of scholars included in the Griffin-Scott volume, particularly in the light of what I consider higher education’s abject paranoia regarding skepticism of the official story of 9/11. As I stated when recently interviewed by Jason Miller at Civil Libertarian Blogspot, professors at the end of their academic preparation often emerge with rigid concepts of how they “should” think or how they “should” teach, to such an extent that they become almost terrified of being viewed as conspiracy theorists and develop what I call “conspiracy phobia” in which case, they become as intellectually stilted and irrelevant as the tormenters of Galileo during the Spanish Inquisition. At one time in history the notion that microscopic organisms called bacteria even exist, let alone foster and spread disease, was considered an outlandish violation of reason and logic, as was the theory that the earth was not flat or that human beings would someday travel around the globe in “flying machines.” Academics of those eras took enormous pride in their ability to think critically and not engage in fallacies of logic, but history has proven that for these individuals, things were anything but what they seemed.

Currently in so-called progressive discourse about 9/11, there appear to be two perspectives regarding the political, economic, geopolitical, Constitutional, and social significance of the event. The first group believes that 9/11 was used opportunistically by the Bush administration to extend its global domination project and that the administration knew the attacks were coming but allowed them to happen; the second group believes that more than having foreknowledge, the Bush administration, in fact, orchestrated the event. Within these two perspectives, there exist myriad theories regarding the evidence for either allowing the event or orchestrating it.

Some individuals believe that physical evidence is important to analyze, while others do not. Still others believe that some other object besides a plane hit the Pentagon on the morning of September 11, while other individuals are virulently opposed to that notion. I personally believe that a consideration of the physical evidence, although it has virtually all been destroyed and removed from any possibility of examination, is relevant, and I disagree with those who assert that debates regarding the physical evidence are a distraction from the analysis of motive, means, and opportunity. For me, it is not either/or but both/and. Critical thinking demands an inclusive examination of all facets of any crime.

Although I’ve used the term critical thinking, I have done so without defining it. Here is one comprehensive definition:

“Critical thinking is the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.”

In my opinion, one of the most important aspects of critical thinking is asking questions which is due, in part, to my preference for questions rather than answers written in stone. This is the paramount reason for my enthusiastic support for the 9/11 truth movement. As long as a community of thinkers, and indeed, the citizenry at large, continue to question the events of September 11, there is at least a spark of hope that at some point, with the proper conditions and at the right time, that spark might be fanned into a flame of revolution. And of course, as our Founding Fathers incessantly reminded us, there are many ways to make revolution besides the use of bombs and bullets, and if we are not willing to do so once a democratic republic has become antithetical to its principles, then we do not deserve to live in a democratic republic. Citizenry in a democratic republic, the Constitutional framers told us, is attended by momentous responsibilities, including the willingness to “alter and abolish” it should it cease to be a democratic republic.

Or as Professor and Ret. Lt.Colonel, Karen Kwiatkowski, states in her article in 9/11 American Empire, entitled “Assessing The Official 9/11 Conspiracy Theory” :

‘To question the official 9/11 story is simply, and fundamentally revolutionary. In this way, of course, questioning the official story is also simply and fundamentally American.”

Two chapters in the book are devoted to physical evidence, one by Physics Professor, Steven Jones of Brigham Young University and engineer, Kevin Ryan. For those who insist that physical evidence is not important in the discourse regarding 9/11, I would simply ask: Why have Jones and Ryan been so harassed by their superiors for their assertions? If discussion of physical evidence is irrelevant, why would there be any backlash against the “peripheral distraction” of analyzing it?

Swiss history professor, Daniele Ganser, in his article, “The ‘Strategy Of Tension’ In The Cold War Period” makes one of the most profound statements in the book when he says that “It is important to stress that all of the theories about 9/11 are conspiracy theories,” adding that a conspiracy is merely a secret agreement between two or more persons to engage in a criminal act-nothing new or unusual in the field of historical research. Therefore, says Ganser, “Once we realize that none of the theories can be dismissed on the grounds that it is a ‘conspiracy theory’, the real question becomes: Which conspiracy theory correctly describes the 9/11 conspiracy?”(P. 80)

The “strategy of tension” is essentially psychological warfare which targets the emotions of humans and aims to spread maximum fear. Not only are political opponents discredited through incessant terrorist attacks, but most importantly the innocent are kept in a state of tension, which serves the purposes of those benefiting from the attacks.

Ganser takes on two very common arguments of those who insist that the U.S. government could not have been involved in orchestrating the attacks, namely, the assertion that our government would “never do such a thing” and the premise that if the U.S. government had helped carry out the attacks, the planning and execution of that could not have remained secret for long. Ganser emphasizes that both are a priori arguments-a priori simply meaning reasoning from a general law to a particular instance or a phenomenon that is valid independently of observation.(P.99)

Richard Falk, Professor Emeritus of Law at Princeton University, in his article “Global Ambitions and Geopolitical Wars: The Domestic Challenge”, notes that many extraordinarily suspicious events have occurred in the United States in the last century-events which bear on the legitimacy of the process of governance, and these have been repeatedly shielded from mainstream inquiry by being re-inscribed as the wild fantasies of conspiracy theorists. Thus, “the issue never gets resolved and lingers in the domain of limbo, beclouded by suspicion, but unresolved so far as opinion-makers are concerned-and thus ignored.” (P.120) Certainly, individuals of my generation are all-too familiar with the assassinations of JFK, RFK, and Martin Luther King as stellar examples of suspicious events that have never gotten resolved.

Canadian philosophy professor, John McMurtry in “9/11 And The 9/11 Wars: Understanding The Supreme Crimes” examines denial among U.S. citizenry, including the so-called progressive media, which has ignored the Project For The New American Century (PNAC) and Zbigniew Brzezinski’s infamous The Grand Chessboard book of 1997, both of which clearly elucidated the ruling elite’s agenda for global domination on behalf of acquiring resources such as petroleum, gold, and water. McMurtry reminds us of the “staggering payoffs” that accrued to a plethora of beneficiaries of 9/11, but concludes that “With or without 9/11 as a pretext for ‘war without end’, the post-1991 global capitalist experiment has failed as a form of economic organization that serves human life and conditions on our planet.” (P. 148)

The grand conclusion to 9/11 American Empire is its final chapter, “Parameters Of Power In The Global Dominance Group: 9/11 And Election Irregularities In Context”, by Peter Phillips, with Bridget Thornton, and Celeste Vogler, a frightening termination to a collection of exceedingly thoughtful articles about September 11 in which the authors analyze very succinctly and incisively the principal players in the global dominance project, individuals as well as organizations and financial systems, and raise disturbing questions about the role of these in the 2000 election fraud and 9/11. The scope and power of these entities is nothing less than jaw-dropping, thus preparing the reader for the article’s and the book’s final paragraph:

“We are past the brink of totalitarian fascist-corporatism. Challenging the neocons and the GDG (Global Dominance Group) agenda is only the beginning of reversing the long-term conservative reactions to the gains of the 1960s. Re-addressing poverty, the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and our own weapons of mass destruction is a long-term agenda for progressive scholars and citizen democrats.” (P.188)

I strongly recommend 9/11 And American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out not just for members of academia, but for anyone interested in moving beyond the red herring of “conspiracy theory”. Even if one has already analyzed many of the unanswered questions of 9/11, one is certain to discover more in this book and experience further intellectual validation from these remarkable thinkers.

CHILDREN OF MEN: Everything Your Denial Keeps You From Seeing

January 16, 2007

 Director Alfonso Cuaron has adapted P.D. James’ 1993 futuristic novel written in the genre of George Orwell into a stunning film that many people will not see—dare not see, because it depicts the world we all fear we are being catapulted into at lightning speed. That world of the year 2027 is one that folks my age may or may not be around for, but if given the choice, I prefer to pass.

Cuaron’s futuristic thriller/downer almost immediately dispenses with the United States as in the first five minutes of the film, we are told that along with a plethora of other nations, it has collapsed, while “England soldiers on.” All other modern empires have crumbled, and only the last vestiges of the former British empire remain as millions of refugees and immigrants from around the world, hoping to survive, inundate the country, which has managed to remain relatively calm and prosperous. Hence, a massive Homeland Security apparatus has been deployed to round up and incarcerate them. Meanwhile, pollution has rendered humankind infertile with the oldest child on earth being only eighteen years old. In this bleak, morbidly gray world, not only do terrorist groups abound and urban warfare prevail, but citizens are offered free suicide pills with the Shakespearean pharmacological brand-name, Quietus.

Amid the burgeoning chaos of this futuristic world, the film’s protagonist, Theo, is kidnapped by a terrorist organization, the Fishes, led by his former lover, Julian, a diehard activist who pressures him to help smuggle one of their members out of the country—a young black woman, Kee, who is especially politically valuable to the Fishes because, astonishingly, she is pregnant. Theo embarks on a mission to fulfill the Fishes’ request—a journey which takes him across the English countryside, formerly known for its beauty and serenity, but now, while still eerily bucolic, is strewn with piles of burning human bodies. Although the film does not tell us directly, we can assume that they are the corpses of executed refugees—a logical deduction based on the film’s detailed description of such atrocities.Ultimately, Theo and Kee end up in Bexhill, a gigantic refugee prison camp, somewhat of a foggy, dismal Guantanamo by the Sea where incessant gun battles occur between the English army and the terrorists. It is in Bexhil, in a cold, grimy attic-like room, that Kee gives birth to a baby girl. Relentlessly on the run in search of a boat that will take them to a ship named “Tomorrow” and away from the horrors of Bexhill, Theo and Kee carrying and concealing the infant, navigate one hellish gun battle after the next in a frantic effort to escape.

Cuaron’s choreography of the gunfire is chillingly authentic, reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s Vietnam in “Full Metal Jacket” or Bosnia in “Harrison’s Flowers”, and reverberates not only through the viewer’s ears, but throughout the entire body. Yet somehow in the throes of a cacophony of exploding bullets, one begins to hear the faint cry of an infant which gradually increases in volume until it becomes apparent to everyone that the youngest child on earth is none other than the wailing infant in their presence. At this point Cuaron gives us what I believe is the most poignant, riveting moment of the film—about one minute of abject silence in which all gunfire ceases and men and women alike dumbfoundedly stare at Theo, Kee, and the crying baby. For that precious moment in time, war stops, and the life of a newborn human being captures the hearts and minds of a host of adults surrounding her who are hell bent on killing each other. Merciless gunfire quickly resumes, but not without a breath-taking juncture of peaceful quietude in which warriors delirious with destruction are paralyzed by the heart-stopping reality of an infant’s cry. In the ghastly, grotesque world of Bexhill, 2027, that cry stupefies warring humans, if only for a few seconds, with their humanity, the preciousness of life, and a world that they had come to believe was gone forever.

Despite one reference to “the pandemics of 2008”, what “Children Of Men” did not show us was future certainties such as unspeakable climate chaos resulting from global warming, the abject hunger and malnutrition brought about by worldwide famine and disappearing food supply, the horrific consequences of hydrocarbon energy depletion, or a global economic Armageddon. Therefore, in that sense, its depictions were not as accurate as they could have been, but the authenticity of the consequences of other issues such as pollution, war, depression, and despair were nothing less than chilling in their plausibility. 

As the world stands on the threshold of unremitting global resource wars, the triumph of fascism in the United States, and most disheartening of all, a community of politicians and a citizenry within the Empire that are absolutely intractable in their unwillingness to acknowledge these realities and address their root causes, “Children Of Men” could not be more timely. It offers us a grisly snapshot of a future that does not have to happen but one that is guaranteed if humans continue to infantilize themselves with denial—literally choosing to be “children” rather than mature “men” and women. 

CAROLYN BAKER, Ph.D. is author of U.S. HISTORY UNCENSORED: What Your High School Textbook Didn’t Tell You and manages her website at www.carolynbaker.org where her book may be ordered and she may be contacted. 

January 16, 2007

Director Alfonso Cuaron has adapted P.D. James’ 1993 futuristic novel written in the genre of George Orwell into a stunning film that many people will not see—dare not see, because it depicts the world we all fear we are being catapulted into at lightning speed. That world of the year 2027 is one that folks my age may or may not be around for, but if given the choice, I prefer to pass. Cuaron’s futuristic thriller/downer almost immediately dispenses with the United States as in the first five minutes of the film, we are told that along with a plethora of other nations, it has collapsed, while “England soldiers on.” All other modern empires have crumbled, and only the last vestiges of the former British empire remain as millions of refugees and immigrants from around the world, hoping to survive, inundate the country, which has managed to remain relatively calm and prosperous. Hence, a massive Homeland Security apparatus has been deployed to round up and incarcerate them. Meanwhile, pollution has rendered humankind infertile with the oldest child on earth being only eighteen years old. In this bleak, morbidly gray world, not only do terrorist groups abound and urban warfare prevail, but citizens are offered free suicide pills with the Shakespearean pharmacological brand-name, Quietus. Amid the burgeoning chaos of this futuristic world, the film’s protagonist, Theo, is kidnapped by a terrorist organization, the Fishes, led by his former lover, Julian, a diehard activist who pressures him to help smuggle one of their members out of the country—a young black woman, Kee, who is especially politically valuable to the Fishes because, astonishingly, she is pregnant. Theo embarks on a mission to fulfill the Fishes’ request—a journey which takes him across the English countryside, formerly known for its beauty and serenity, but now, while still eerily bucolic, is strewn with piles of burning human bodies. Although the film does not tell us directly, we can assume that they are the corpses of executed refugees—a logical deduction based on the film’s detailed description of such atrocities.Ultimately, Theo and Kee end up in Bexhill, a gigantic refugee prison camp, somewhat of a foggy, dismal Guantanamo by the Sea where incessant gun battles occur between the English army and the terrorists. It is in Bexhil, in a cold, grimy attic-like room, that Kee gives birth to a baby girl. Relentlessly on the run in search of a boat that will take them to a ship named “Tomorrow” and away from the horrors of Bexhill, Theo and Kee carrying and concealing the infant, navigate one hellish gun battle after the next in a frantic effort to escape.Cuaron’s choreography of the gunfire is chillingly authentic, reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick’s Vietnam in “Full Metal Jacket” or Bosnia in “Harrison’s Flowers”, and reverberates not only through the viewer’s ears, but throughout the entire body. Yet somehow in the throes of a cacophony of exploding bullets, one begins to hear the faint cry of an infant which gradually increases in volume until it becomes apparent to everyone that the youngest child on earth is none other than the wailing infant in their presence. At this point Cuaron gives us what I believe is the most poignant, riveting moment of the film—about one minute of abject silence in which all gunfire ceases and men and women alike dumbfoundedly stare at Theo, Kee, and the crying baby. For that precious moment in time, war stops, and the life of a newborn human being captures the hearts and minds of a host of adults surrounding her who are hell bent on killing each other. Merciless gunfire quickly resumes, but not without a breath-taking juncture of peaceful quietude in which warriors delirious with destruction are paralyzed by the heart-stopping reality of an infant’s cry. In the ghastly, grotesque world of Bexhill, 2027, that cry stupefies warring humans, if only for a few seconds, with their humanity, the preciousness of life, and a world that they had come to believe was gone forever.Despite one reference to “the pandemics of 2008”, what “Children Of Men” did not show us was future certainties such as unspeakable climate chaos resulting from global warming, the abject hunger and malnutrition brought about by worldwide famine and disappearing food supply, the horrific consequences of hydrocarbon energy depletion, or a global economic Armageddon. Therefore, in that sense, its depictions were not as accurate as they could have been, but the authenticity of the consequences of other issues such as pollution, war, depression, and despair were nothing less than chilling in their plausibility.
 

As the world stands on the threshold of unremitting global resource wars, the triumph of fascism in the United States, and most disheartening of all, a community of politicians and a citizenry within the Empire that are absolutely intractable in their unwillingness to acknowledge these realities and address their root causes, “Children Of Men” could not be more timely. It offers us a grisly snapshot of a future that does not have to happen but one that is guaranteed if humans continue to infantilize themselves with denial—literally choosing to be “children” rather than mature “men” and women. 

CAROLYN BAKER, Ph.D. is author of U.S. HISTORY UNCENSORED: What Your High School Textbook Didn’t Tell You and manages her website at www.carolynbaker.org where her book may be ordered and she may be contacted. 

NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK CONFRONT THE IMPERIAL BULLY: WHY I’M SMILING, By Carolyn Baker

January 9, 2007

You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.

Pablo Neruda, Chilean Poet

It’s winter in the United States, and in most places seasonably cold. Perspiration on the brow of Miss Liberty in New York City at 70 degrees last week reminds us that global warming is in our faces, deceptively so, as Big Apple residents gleefully cavorted in Central Park wearing shorts and smugly quipping that the East Coast was somehow cheating Old Man Winter out of his annual freeze-fest.

The Boy Emperor is escalating the war in Iraq in the name of ending it, just as his predecessors of the sixties and seventies told us that the U.S. was “winning the war in Southeast Asia” and that they “had a plan” for victory. Consciously or not, most Americans are weary of war, and even more exhausted economically as rosy financial page forecasts do not compute with the moment-to-moment realities in middle-class households. Hollywood is mirroring the despair with films like “Children Of Men”, “Blood Diamond”, and “The Good Shepherd”. The winter of our ennui is dark, cloudy, and cold.

I have often warned against the soporific of hope, with no apologies to Barack Obama for his best-selling THE AUDACITY OF HOPE. In my 2005 article “Killing Hope, Enlivening Options”, I invited readers to abandon the notion of hope which fosters denial and connotes unwarranted optimism, and create instead, myriad options for navigating the daunting challenges of climate chaos, energy depletion, and global economic meltdown. “Hope” tends to infantilize us, pointing to somewhere down the road in a feel-good, never-never land of possibility contingent on someone or something besides one’s own efforts, whereas “options” are the adult stuff of the here and now, demanding that we cease relying primarily on the other and attend contemplatively to authentic choices in the moment and beyond. 

That being said, I look around in the midst of this particularly gray January and continue to notice the vibrant, intelligent, humane, courageous, and indeed revolutionary choices being made by people in warmer climates to the south. The most colorful and iconoclastic, a guy named Hugo, not only proclaims that the government of the United States is being run by a falling-down drunk named “The Devil”, but at home, has all but silenced what little opposition remains toward his particular version of the Bolivarian Revolution, and is indefatigably transforming his country one neighborhood at a time.

But not all Latin American leaders share Hugo’s flare for the dramatic. Much less is heard of Morales, Lula, Correa, Bachelet, or Ortega. In the first place, most Americans can scarcely locate Venezuela on a map let alone the other nations allying with its president in re-making the Central and South America. Furthermore, little attention is paid to the complexity and profundity of their policies. “The Pink Tide,” as mainstream media obtusely names it, implying bandwagon socialist group-think, is unequivocally momentous—historically, politically, economically, and morally. Unlike Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, and Nicaragua are not transforming their societies with petrodollars, but through wealth re-distribution and by breaking the economic stranglehold that the United States has held on their nations through the “credit cartels” of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

Are their policies impeccable? Of course not. Nor have they rid their nations of the last vestiges of corporate capitalism and its piratization of resources. As Mark Weisbrot notes in his article “Latin America: The End Of An Era”:

Of course, all of these governments are still a long way from coming up with a sustainable, long-term development strategy. This is not necessarily because they don’t want one, but mainly because – after decades of corrupt rule, as well as the deliberate shrinking of the state’s capacity for economic regulation and decision-making – they simply don’t have the administrative capacity to even make such plans, much less implement them.

The author also notes that it is not only conservatives but the liberal middle as well that is pessimistic about what is happening in Latin America:

Foreign Affairs [the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations] has run three articles since the beginning of the year warning of the dangers of Latin America’s left-populist drift, as well as sorry state of U.S.-Latin American relations. The news reports, editorials, and op-ed pages of America’s major newspapers mostly carry the same themes.

 If one hears at all about events in Latin America, they will most likely be framed by mainstream media in terms of the “good left” and “bad left”, depending on how vocal leftist movements in those countries have been in their opposition to the United States, how “market-friendly” they are, or how socialist their orientation is. In any event, we know that the Bush administration is very worried about the re-making of Latin America. And rightfully so–not only will the crumbling of the credit cartel exacerbate, but also the glaring contrast between electoral democracy as it is taking form in Latin America and the extinction of privacy, civil liberties, and clean elections in the U.S. Indeed, the Imperial Bully has much to fear from nations whose past enslavement it engineered, whose torture mechanisms it blessed then turned a blind eye to, whose painstaking grassroots transformation of neighborhoods and communities the Bully capriciously labels “socialist” or “leftist” as its peoples demonstrate with their lives and love that cooperation and re-localization are more powerful than corporate capitalism ever has been or will be.

Laura Carlsen, Director Of the International Relations Center notes in her article “Latin America’s Pink Tide”:

The great hope of Latin America-and what it has to offer to the world-is a vast collection of vibrant social movements that dare to question everything from their own governments to the way corporations pollute their lands. Sometimes they express themselves in the polls, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they call themselves the “left,” and sometimes they call themselves the people or nothing at all. Labels don’t matter. What matters is the search for new ways of governing that reduce the inequality, increase real democracy, and end the hunger and poverty.

Call it pink, red, blue, purple, or chartreuse: to get anywhere, social movements will have to display all these colors and more. Whatever its hue though, the tide in Latin America seems to be rising.

I know little of what the world will actually be like in ten years. Miss Liberty will probably be sweating year-round; the American middle class is likely to be twice as squeezed as it is today, and the blood spilled for oil may have filled the oceans. Geopolitics is a crap shoot played by madmen. Climate chaos, wars for resources, the status of the dollar, global pandemics—all are terrifying realities of the not-so distant future. Yet on this bleak January day, I feel the warm breezes of the south blowing across the Empire, and while they may not save the world from itself, a glow of glee fills my chest when I remember that they are a force with which the Bully must reckon.

CAROLYN BAKER, Ph.D. is author of U.S. HISTORY UNCENSORED: What Your High School Textbook Didn’t Tell You. Her website is www.carolynbaker.org where her book may be ordered and she may be contacted. 

“THE GOOD SHEPHERD”: WHEN PATRIOTISM MURDERS HUMANITY, By Carolyn Baker

December 26, 2006

 

 Winter was the perfect season for the release of “The Good Shepherd” which exacerbated December’s icy chill and masterfully depicted the bloodless, emotional vacuity of CIA cold warrior, Edward Wilson. According to New York Times reviewer, Manohla Dargis, Wilson is a composite character, played by Matt Damon, portraying the real-life James Angleton who directed the CIA’s counterintelligence program from 1954 to 1974, after serving the agency from the time it had been the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during World War II. The movie’s title apparently refers to Jesus’ saying that the “good shepherd” gives his life for his sheep, and give his life Wilson does, albeit emotionally and spiritually, until one is left wondering if there are any last drops of humanity remaining within the shell into which he has devolved. I heard one reviewer describe the film as an attempt to “take on” the CIA, yet I came away on the one hand in awe of its psychological depiction of Edward Wilson, but also aware of the film’s paucity of information regarding the agency’s sordid machinations before, during, and after the Cold War. In the beginning of the film we see Wilson initiated into Skull and Bones, but mud wrestling is a dirty as it gets, which lets that secret society off the hook entirely. No depictions of the infamous ceremony in which a Bonesman initiate is required to recite his entire sexual history to the group, nor clarity regarding the revolving door between Skull and Bones and the CIA. True to life, the agency continues to up the ante in terms of what is expected of Wilson, and when he witnesses the murder of his Yale professor-poetry mentor, genuine pangs of conscience surge in an attempt to prevent the atrocity, even as the professor leaves Wilson with a final warning to guard his soul and never allow the agency to extinguish it. Later, Wilson finds himself in the bed of a German woman co-worker who he suspects is spying against the U.S. government. Subsequently, Wilson and another male colleague show up at the woman’s door, enter her home, and summarily shoot her. Although he comes close, Wilson can never open his heart romantically, never allow the place in his psyche which supercedes governments and cannot be touched by them to become genuinely vulnerable to any of the women in his life. This only happens with his son, until in the final minutes of the film, Wilson denounces matters of his own and other hearts and marches forward dispassionately to become the new head of CIA counterintelligence.  Among other things, the film addresses the issue of former Nazi scientists brought to the U.S. after World War II, but does not touch the reality that many of Hitler’s top intelligence officers were hired by the CIA (Operation Paperclip) to assist the agency in spying on the Soviet Union, a reality deeply disturbing to former New York Congresswoman, Elizabeth Holtzman who chaired a Congressional investigation of Paperclip in the 1990s. Nor does “The Good Shepherd” venture into the formidable waters of the CIA’s historic involvement with drug trafficking and money laundering from before the end of World War II and continuing into present time—a reality documented superbly by Mike Ruppert, Gary Webb, Mike Levine, Celerino Castillo, and Catherine Austin Fitts. While the film superficially depicts CIA intervention in banana republics during the 1950s and ‘60s to ostensibly contain the spread of communism, unless the viewer is familiar with the ghastly extent of the CIA’s overthrow of governments worldwide, he/she cannot adequately appreciate the horror that Wilson consents to sanction. “The Good Shepherd” often mixes historical fact with fiction, as in one scene where agents are torturing a Soviet suspected of spying and enhance their sadistic interrogation by giving him a generous dose of LSD to which the suspect ultimately responds by jumping out the window of the building in which he is being detained. The agency’s use of LSD and similar drugs for interrogation and other purposes is detailed in de-classified documents from the MK Ultra Program. This particular scene in the film is reminiscent of the Frank Olson case in which agents almost certainly slipped LSD into the drink of another agent, Frank Olson, who they suspected of being a double agent, and who experienced a psychotic reaction whereupon he was taken by agents to a New York hotel where he leapt to his death from the tenth floor. One of the finest resources for background information on the era in which “The Good Shepherd” begins, the Bay of Pigs and the John F. Kennedy administration is the website of the late Fletcher Prouty who served as the Chief of Special Operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Kennedy years. Prouty’s practice of Scientology and his collaboration with Oliver Stone on the JFK film have been spuriously used to minimize his accounts of CIA dirty tricks, but much of Prouty’s material has been corroborated elsewhere.Included in “The Good Shepherd” is a reality that Prouty emphasizes in his writings, namely that Kennedy had declared that he would “break the CIA into a thousand pieces”. However, the film does not clarify, as Prouty does, that Kennedy wanted to shift the power to overthrow governments, ensconced at it was in secret CIA operations, into the hands of the Joint Chiefs at the Pentagon where the light of Executive and Legislative branch oversight could shine upon it. In my recently-published book, U.S. HISTORY UNCENSORED: What Your High School Textbook Didn’t Tell You the reader will find more detailed information regarding the post-World War II activities of the CIA and the relevance of those to U.S. foreign and domestic policy both then and now. As a result of my research I was sorely disappointed but not surprised, that the makers of “The Good Shepherd”, who ostensibly sought to “take on the CIA” did not in fact do so. But if money from CIA-sanctioned drug profits has found its way into Hollywood, as well as the host of other industries, as Catherine Austin Fitts asserts in her marvelous series, “Narco Dollars For Beginners”, then we should not expect “The Good Shepherd” to offer us more than it did in terms of disclosing the agency’s atrocities. Also explained in my book is the process by which the CIA developed the power to create black budgets for clandestine operations of which Congress and the American people have been and continue to be unaware—a reality that is inextricably connected with trillions of dollars of “missing” money which Fitts has superbly documented. What we did receive from the film was a message perhaps as urgent and equally as disturbing as any litany of the CIA’s six-decade history of criminality, namely, as I.F. Stone never failed to remind us, “governments lie,” but worse–that when individuals commit to “serving their country”, their fate is sealed, either in terms of literal loss of life or the total and complete evisceration of their souls. In “The Good Shepherd” we are confronted with the price of patriotism and the toll it takes on one man’s humanity and the well being of innocent individuals close to him.  The film asks us: What is the cost of being a “good shepherd”? No one returns from any country’s wars unscathed, and only a handful of politicians in this country’s history have ever retained their integrity let alone their humanity. Moreover, when we are unwilling to face the criminality of our government and its corporate accomplices—when we refuse to examine and learn from our history, which is not only past but present, we join Ed Wilson in relinquishing another piece of our humanity every day that recalcitrant patriotism rules our lives. The colonial revolutionaries and founders that we call “patriots” were committed not to the established order, but to remaking and transforming it—a far more noble expression of patriotism, which Jefferson underscored when he passionately asserted that he wanted to see a revolution in America every twenty years. Indeed, “good shepherds”, like Ed Wilson, tend to become the walking dead, enshrouding their environment with the stench of their decaying souls while the conscious revolutionaries of history have enlivened and embellished everything around and within themselves, cherishing integrity over patriotism, love before duty, and courage above compliance.   

Carolyn Baker, Ph.D., is an adjunct professor of history and manages her website at www.carolynbaker.org where her book may be ordered and where she may be contacted.

CREDIT OR DEBIT, PAPER OR PLASTIC?

November 28, 2006

 By Carolyn Baker, Ph.D.

 For several years I have been making as many purchases as possible in cash. Recently, when asked if my purchase would be credit or debit, I answered as I frequently do with: “Little green pieces of paper with pictures of dead presidents on them.” In reply, the clerk remarked, “Wow, we don’t see many of those around here anymore.” My long-time preference for paying cash has been further reinforced after viewing what I consider the best Christmas gift money can buy, Aaron Russo’s “America From Freedom To Fascism” documentary, which sadly, is still only available online and must be paid for by means of the ubiquitous, “credit or debit.” Among a host of issues addressed in the film is the extent of the United States government’s tracking of its citizens’ behavior, illumined by a chilling interview with Catherine Albrecht, who along with Liz McIntyre, authored SPYCHIPS: How Major Corporations And Government Plan To Track Your Every Purchase And Watch Your Every Move. Even a cursory reading of Albrecht and McIntyre will send you running to cut up your credit cards and tuck your debit card away in the farthest recesses of your dresser drawer because there is now virtually no separation between corporate marketing’s tracking of consumer purchases and government surveillance of them. Every purchase with a paper or digital trail tells the imperial corporatocracy more about you than you would care to imagine and gives frightening new meaning to the expression “Too Much Information.” 

Those familiar with my writings know that for years I have advocated not using credit cards at all and debit cards only minimally as a way of avoiding debt by paying in cash. Doing so makes money more tangible to oneself and prevents spending money one does not have. But now with Albrecht and McIntyre’s research, we have a new and terribly compelling reason for using those little green pieces of paper instead of plastic: the RFID chip. Radio frequency identification chips are being imbedded in products, credit and debit cards, and other types of plastic identification cards, such as frequent shopper cards, at frightening speed. At some point, the U.S. government will print paper currency containing RFID chips in order to track its circulation, but that hasn’t happened yet. Albrecht and McIntyre clarify the implications of chipped currency:

 Imagine if when you took a hundred dollars out of the ATM, each of the twenty-dollar bills you withdrew contained its own unique ID number that could be captured and associated with your account. When you later used on of those bills to make a payment, its number would be captured again by the retailer at the point of sale. If records of these transfer were stored in a master database operated by the federal government (or a private entity that would provide it on demand), it would be possible to literally follow the trail of cash through the economy.[1] 

RFID technology is being sold to the American people as a “necessity” in order to “protect” us from terrorism and identity theft and to save time and make our lives oh so much more convenient. As “America From Freedom To Fascism” explains, by 2009, every state in the U.S. will be issuing drivers licenses with an RFID chip containing an integration of the holder’s personal data, such as Social Security, medical and insurance information, and other information now considered private. Moreover, one will not be able to drive or open a bank account in the United States without a chipped drivers license. When this happens, it will not be the American citizen who will be protected, but rather, the federal government. Obviously, if one wishes to purchase products or services from the Internet which cannot be purchased locally, such as Aaron Russo’s documentary, using a credit or debit card is necessary. In my opinion, such purchases should be minimal and transacted only with sites where one is reasonably certain that one’s data will not be compromised or shared with government agencies.  And yes, you may be asking, Why should I pay with fiat currency—paper money which is essentially without value because it is not backed by a gold standard and with every passing day appears to be circling the drain in relation to other major world currencies? Perhaps the only reason you should use fiat currency for everything is for the benefit of your own privacy, and while you’re at it, start buying small quantities of silver and certainly gold if you can afford to, so that when the rest of the world has dumped the dollar, you will still have currency with real value instead of just a bunch of bogus bills. Another reason to watch the Russo documentary is to understand how those green pieces of paper became bogus, thanks to a private bank that has been deceivingly named the Federal Reserve and to grasp the fiduciary control that that very NON-federal institution exerts over your life, from the value of the currency in your wallet to the interest rates you are required to pay on purchasing a home or an automobile. 

According to statistics from Shop.Org, an online retailers’ network, almost 30% of US consumers who go on the Internet do not buy products online. The biggest obstacle is concern about the safety of entering credit card information on the Web — 62% cited this as a deterrent.[2] While online commerce offers the consumer immeasurable convenience, and in some instances may be the only option for purchasing products or services, it supports our focusing globally rather than locally—the only place where possible solutions to the daunting issues of human and planetary survival can be implemented. One of the most encouraging signs of economic transformation on the horizon is the burgeoning of movements across the nation for relocalization on which Michael Brownlee of the Boulder, Colorado relocalization movement comments:

 Why is relocalization so important? Because we are regenerating or rebirthing community; our most precious resource is community, and this resource is rapidly diminishing. It turns out that a fossil-fuel-based culture of consumption—and the economic globalization that it inevitably spawns—destroys community. And it is only by building community self-sufficiency in energy, food and economy that we have a chance of preserving what’s most important about the human species into the future and ensuring the future of human freedom. We live on one planet, and it is becoming essential to our survival that we begin thinking and acting as one people; this can only realistically begin on the level of community.[3] 

What might happen if the trillions spent each year through electronic purchases were put back into our communities through those still-yet-unchipped little green pieces of paper? What would happen for you and for your community this holiday season if nearly all of your purchases occurred in local stores and when possible, consisted of products made locally? This nation just completed a national election and is scheduled to hold another in two years. That’s a long time to wait to vote for politicians who ultimately accomplish very little for the American people. Today, tomorrow, and every day, you will vote with your money and time, and your vote will either work for you or against you. Will you vote for your neighborhood and your community, or will you vote for the global corporatocracy that increasingly undermines the value of your hard work and financial resources with every passing day? This holiday season, pull out those green pieces of paper and spread them around your community. If enough of us do so, we just might help save the entire planet, place by place. 

Carolyn Baker, Ph.D., is an adjunct professor of history and author of U.S. HISTORY UNCENSORED: What Your High School Textbook Didn’t Tell You which may be ordered at your local bookstore or at her website www.carolynbaker.org



[1] Spychips, P. 197.

[2] http://www.shop.org/learn/stats_ebizz_fulfillment.asp

[3] http://www.boulderrelocalization.org/articlesessays/index.htm

WHEN HISTORY BECOMES CHOPPED LIVER

November 19, 2006

By Carolyn Baker

Nixon had no readiness at all to see Saigon under a Vietcong flag after a “decent interval” of two or three years—or ever….And so it meant that the war would essentially never end. His campaign promise of ending the war was a hoax. Daniel Ellsberg, Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and The Pentagon Papers

On Friday, George W. Bush arrived in Vietnam with the intention of strengthening business ties with that nation and used his photo op to make one of the most jaw-dropping statements of his presidency regarding the subject of history. “History has a long march to it,” he banally proclaimed as we all yawned, recalling that his major at Yale, where he barely managed to maintain a 2.3 average, was history. Then came the clincher as Bush was asked if any lessons from Vietnam apply to the war in Iraq: “One lesson,” he babbled, “is that we tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take awhile. It’s just going to take a long time for the ideology that is hopeful, and that is an ideology of freedom, to overcome an ideology of hate. We’ll succeed unless we quit.”

Oh really, the “lesson” of Vietnam is that we shouldn’t “quit”? There it is again, that Orwellian mindset that has pervaded this administration; war is peace, and evil is good. No one should be shocked that Bush has no sense of history, that he has never read anything beyond the Reader’s Digest version of it, and that he willfully ignores the genuine lessons of the Vietnam era, but every American should be outraged by this statement, but one of the myriad reasons the vast majority of Americans have allowed the most criminal administration in the history of this nation to continue unabated, with nary a peep of indignation, is that they themselves have so little knowledge of their history.

Listen further to Daniel Ellsberg: “What I was hearing was not just that the war was going to go on, indefinitely, but that it would get larger, eventually larger than it had ever been.” In his memoir, Secrets, we are shown incontrovertible evidence that what drove the former Rand Corporation economic analyst to hide top-secret, classified documents, which became the Pentagon Papers, in his brief case upon leaving the Defense Department every night and thereby risk serving decades in prison, was moral outrage over the appalling reality that the Nixon administration had no intention whatsoever of ending the Vietnam War, but in fact, was actively engaged in continuing it for as long as possible. Are we shocked that the Bush administration lied us into war? Almost all U.S. presidential administrations have lied into war, but never as blatantly as this one has.

As noted in my new book U.S. HISTORY UNCENSORED: What Your High School Textbook Didn’t Tell You, in the early 1960s, a decade prior to Ellsberg’s employment at the Defense Department, Air Force Colonel, L. Fletcher Prouty worked in the Pentagon as chief of special operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Kennedy administration. His experience corroborates seamlessly with Ellsberg’s as Prouty observed that in the early days of the Vietnam conflict, the U.S. was not only financing the French against the North Vietnamese, but was also financing the North Vietnamese. Why? Because the military-industrial complex is amoral and doesn’t quibble over “sides” but how to most effectively bloat the profits of war. “War is the best business in town,” opines Prouty, echoing the words of the World War I hero, General Smedley Butler and his famous indictment that “War is a racket.”

In my book I recount the story of an attempt by pro-fascist corporate capitalists in the 1930s to enlist Butler into leading a coup against Franklin Roosevelt in order to implement a fascist government. Pretending to go along with the coup, Butler later disclosed its details to Congress, but no action was taken against the coup plotters.

Lest my inbox become glutted with emails reminding me that Prouty was a Scientologist, I hasten to add that his religious beliefs pale by comparison with the documentation he provided us regarding the JFK assassination and the Pentagon’s Vietnam policies. My point is that we can pick an administration—any administration, Democratic or Republican, since the end of World War II, and despite its rhetoric, it will upon investigation, reveal itself as subservient to the war machine, doing whatever it takes to feed that mechanism, either during the infinite wars it has fueled or in between them.

Moreover, another lesson of history that the Bush administration ignores is that asymmetric wars cannot be “won” but merely endured, and while that serves the strategy of infinite war, history is replete with examples of how it decimates a citizenry and its resources. Stan Goff, Ret. U.S. Army Special Forces, former West Point instructor, and author of Full Spectrum Disorder, describes asymmetric warfare as “When they retreat, pursue. When they attack, retreat. Match your strengths to their weakness.”

A stunning example of asymmetric warfare is Hezbollah’s victory over the Israeli occupation forces in Lebanon in the summer of 2006. Asymmetric warfare is a gradual wearing down of the enemy and his resources and morale. Furthermore, Goff writes, “The U.S. inflicted a terrible empirical toll on Southeast Asia and ultimately lost the Vietnam War. The U.S. never grasped the political character of that war.” Nor did the U.S. grasp the will of traditional peoples to use non-conventional means to fight conventional wars. For example, even though the U.S. military had highly sophisticated weapons technology in the Vietnam War, hundreds of Vietnamese people were willing to rip up railroad tracks with their bare hands, dealing strategic blows to American forces as sectarian violence in Iraq, a textbook example of asymmetric warfare, is now doing.

Try as you may, Mr. President, you cannot “pretzelize” history to fit your political and war machine agenda. Distort it however you wish, it will have the last word. Goff said it best in his recent article, “Reflecting On Rumsfeld:

The United States is not suffering from some collective personality disorder called compassion fatigue. We are suffering from the most well-funded thought-control experiment in history, more sophisticated and deadly by many orders of magnitude than anything contrived by Kim Jong Il—the latest bete noir of American public discourse, and we are suffering from the complicity of journalistic hacks like Judith Miller and the anodyne intellectual narcotics of policy think tanks. It is our empathy that is under attack, because if it is aroused to a point where Iraqis or Afghans or even our own imperial soldiers become real people (and not a yellow-ribbon magnet), the jig is up. So here is a simple reminder. This war is wanton cruelty in our name; there is no rationalization that can mitigate or excuse it; “we” will not win it and somehow transmogrify a swine into a swan … and it is not over.

What Vietnam teaches us, Mr. President, is that war is the “health of the state” as described by World War I progressive Randolph Bourne, and as long as the American people allow you or any other president to lie us into wars, you will do so, perpetuating the Iraq War as long as possible—as long as the Nixon administration attempted to perpetuate Vietnam: forever. And, in order to justify your crimes against the world and the American people, you and your military industrial complex must turn history into chopped liver.

Carolyn Baker, Ph.D. is author of U.S. HISTORY UNCENSORED: What Your High School Textbook Didn’t Tell You which can be ordered at her website www.carolynbaker.org  where she may also be contacted.