Category Archives: America

About American politics, our spirit, and our soul

Another fear barrage hits America: thermite is bad for airplanes!

Summary: Another day, another info op run against us. Thermite is bad; bigger budgets for HomeLand Security are good. It’s easy for them because we’re so fearful and gullible. When that changes America will change, and meaningful reform becomes possible.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

The Thermite Threat

A screenshot from “Fox and Friends”.

Follow the narrative of fear

It started with a routine TSA bulletin, 16 December 2014: “Attn Intelligence Customer”, explaining that thermite (discovered 1893) is dangerous when exploded on airplanes.  The first page was released by The Intercept, who says it was marked “secret”. Like the thousands of such memos produced daily by our vast public and private “security” machinery, this normally would have quickly been forgotten. It served its purpose, generating fodder to keep these legions of bureaucrats employed (a flood of more memos, interdepartmental memos, meetings, seminars, follow-up memos).

But an immediate threat arose that required re-purposing this memo. In response to a rising tide of criticism. Congress threatens to cut the Homeland Security budget. So they deploy their most powerful weapon: leaks to the press. So we read in The Intercept of 25 February: “Exclusive: TSA Issues Secret Warning on ‘Catastrophic’ Threat to Aviation“.  Opening:

The Transportation Security Administration said it is unlikely to detect and unable to extinguish what an FBI report called “the greatest potential incendiary threat to aviation,” according to a classified document obtained by The Intercept. Yet despite that warning, sources said TSA is not adequately preparing to respond to the threat.

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Stories about a rising tide of black mob violence!

Summary:  Obama’s election brought hope for a new era of race relations in America. Instead we appear to be starting another downward part of the long cycle. As usual, these things just don’t happen — and bad relations work well for the 1%. Today we look at some of the ugly propaganda that guides American in the 21st century (so similar to that of the 19th and 20th C).

This is the 2nd in a series of posts showing how we’re losing America.  {1st of 2 posts today.}

The aide {Karl Rove} said that guys like me were ”in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who ”believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism.

He cut me off. ”That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. ”We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

— Karl Rove, as quoted in “Faith, Certainty and the Presidency of George W. Bush” by Ron Suskind, New York Times Magazine, 17 October 2004.

Divide and Rule

One of the momentous and astonishing aspects of our time is that conservative leaders have erected a Potemkin village for their followers, and gotten them to move in. A fake history (e.g., the failures of FDR, we won in Vietnam excerpt for a “stab in the back” by peaceniks). A fake economics (e.g., cutting taxes usually increases tax revenue).  A fake science (e.g., creationism, climate science is fraud).  Over time they’re moving further away from reality. Divorcing people from mainstream and authoritative sources is a reliable tool of social control (effectively used, for example, by cults).  This probably will not end well for America.

διαίρει καὶ βασίλευ.
— ‘Divide and rule’, attributed to Philip II of Macedon (332-386 BC)
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Today we look at an example showing they build myths in the minds of their flock, and lead  them. In this case, playing on people’s deep fear of the “other”. The  economic stress on blue collar demographic creates pressures with no outlets, as they don’t see the 1% in its protected enclaves — and have been taught that their gradual impoverishment is just — as their ancestors believed in the divine right of Kings. If the pressure grew without outlet we might get new political alliances and perhaps even change.

So they’re given myths (ideally based on exaggerations instead of fiction) creating enemies to fear. Such as Islamic fundamentalists abroad (rebelling against their corrupt, oppressive western-backed governments), so they can feel vicarious satisfaction from our bombing and killing.

But who to use as enemies at home? We don’t have the long deep history of antisemitism that’s served European elites so well. But America has an almost as deeply rooted racism, that’s served the same role as well for so long. It’s easily exploited using tried and proven methods, but the process is not pretty.

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More evidence that we’re losing America. It’s not too late to act.

Summary: I have long discussed what might make Americans rouse themselves to retake the reins of the Republic and reverse its evolution into a new regime. Clear warnings, descriptions and diagnosis of the problem? Anger at ourselves and what we’ve allowed America to become? None of these seem plausible. Perhaps fear will do it, produced by recognition that there is a class war — and we’re losing. A few posts will review the depressing news.

Will these spur you to act? Time is not our ally. Lots of groups talk about building a New America; the people doing so act in the shadows — visible only if you look. But the results of their work have become obvious.

Despair at losing

We discuss the progress of our foreign wars in great details, just as we track every vibration of the economy and the political machinery in Washington. The big things get less attention, such as the class war by the 1% against us. We’re losing. It’s like slowly boiling a frog; it’s happening so slowly that we don’t notice. But there’s still time to act.  {Also: zoologists consider this a myth; please don’t test it at home.}

(1)  COIN comes to America

As I and so many others warned for so long, the techniques of surveillance and oppression developed during our occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan would eventually come home. As we see at the crushing of the Occupy protests and on the streets of Ferguson. Here’s another example. Even I, who has chronicled so many horrific stories about America at this website, was shocked. I shouldn’t have been surprised.

The disappeared: Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden ‘black site’“, Spencer Ackerman, The Guardian, 24 February 2015 — Secret interrogation facility reveals aspects of war on terror in US. Protester details 17-hour shackling without basic rights. Accounts describe police brutality, missing 15-year-old and one man’s death.” Excerpt:

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Useful lessons from the blizzard about ourselves & our future

Summary:  Every crisis tells us something about ourselves, and who we’re becoming. This post looks for lessons from the NYC snowpocalypse, so revealing about the state of 21st Century America — its people and leaders. This is a follow-up to Winter Storm Juno warns scientists not to burn away their credibility.

A 21st C American

Contents

  1. Typically outrageous actions by our leaders
  2. Obvious but important observations
  3. Putting the pieces together: the big picture
  4. For More Information

(1)  Typically outrageous actions by our leaders

From the smouldering embers at the Left comes this apt summary, by Jerry White at the World Socialist website.

By 6 p.m. Monday night, Cuomo ordered the shutdown of all transportation, saying only emergency vehicles would be allowed on the streets of New York City — and roads in 13 state counties — as of 11 p.m. “If you violate this state order,” he said, “it’s a possible misdemeanor; it’s fines up to $300.” The governor also activated the New York National Guard, which dispatched 260 soldiers and airmen.

As the storm approached, the chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, Thomas Prendergast, said there would be no reason to close the subway system, which is largely underground and protected from the snow, because “We’d be able to run trains.”

By 11 p.m., however, even as it was becoming apparent that the worst snowfall was well to the east and north of New York City, Cuomo, apparently without consulting with Mayor de Blasio or the New York City transit command center, went ahead and shut down the subway system, the only remaining transportation in the city. This was the first time trains were halted because of snow in the 110-year history of the system, which serves more than four million commuters each day.

As it turned out, the subway system actually continued to run in order to keep the tracks clear, just without passengers.

The Brooklyn Paper reported that the subways ran anyway (just without passengers), that closing it was unnecessary even in a severe blizzard, and in the words of an insider “The closure will strand people and put lives at risk, not because the subways can’t run, but because Cuomo wants to look good.”

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We restored the Bald Eagle to its homeland. We can do the same for America.

Summary: Reform of America’s political system seems impossible. To fight despair we can gain inspiration by looking at our national animal, the Bald Eagle. Like America, they are majestic yet had fallen to near extinction — yet with determined effort we brought them back to thrive across the continental USA (49 States). The Federal government listed them as “endangered” in 1967, and reduced their risk level to “threatened” in 2007. Together we can do the same for the Republic.

Trivia note: the old English word “balde” means white, referring to white feathers on the eagle’s head.

He’s wet, cold, and angry at us.
Either we act stronger or we should get a new national animal.
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Since 9-11 we have less crime but more fear of crime. A win-win for our rulers!

Summary:  Today we look at falling crime rates in America and our blindness to this good news, 16th in the seemingly endless series of posts showing Americans’ disconnect from reality, our inability or unwillingness to clearly see the world around us. This is the 2nd of 2 posts today.

Crime under the microscope

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I see no large reality-based community in America. Not on the Left; not on the Right — although each clearly sees their foes’ flaws. We stumble blindly into the 21st century. I doubt this will work well for us. Perhaps it’s for the best that we’re led by the 1% until that day we decide to rip off the blindfolds, again to see and stand like citizens.

Most of these posts discuss our inability to see our problems. Today we have the opposite, as we allow the government and Hollywood to conceal good news about falling crime rates. Gallup asks how many Americans believe the rate of crime has risen from last year? They compare the answers with the DoJ’s crime statistics.

Gallup: Crime vs our perception of it
There was an uptick in the violent crime rate during 2011 and 2012. The FBI’s 2013 report shows the estimated number of violent crimes in 2013 decreased 4.4% YoY and property crimes decreased 4.1%. The FBI prefers to use the 5-year average, which smooths out the noise.

Something happened in 2001.

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Can We Fix Our Shameful Prisons? Why they should be, and why we might not do so.

Summary:  The recent attention to police shootings of unarmed men (mostly Black) shouldn’t distract us from the big picture, that police violence is but one part of a mad brutal system. Our criminal justice apparatus is broken. A disgrace for a great nation, easily the worst among the developed nations. It works for those who run it, providing secure jobs at middle class salaries for the police, administrators, attorneys, and others who staff it — and lavish profits for the corporations who provide the equipment and run the prisons. It doesn’t work for America, and hence offers a test for our ability to reform our most dysfunctional systems. If we fail, we’ll know that we are exceptional in at least one sense.

Freedom is almost perfected; just a few more cages.

Can Our Shameful Prisons Be Reformed?

By David Cole
The New York Review of Books, 19 November 2009
Posted with their generous permission

Review of these books:

  1. Race, Incarceration, and American Values by Glenn C. Loury et al
  2. Let’s Get Free: A Hip-Hop Theory of Justice by Paul Butler
  3. Releasing Prisoners, Redeeming Communities: Reentry, Race, and Politics by Anthony C. Thompson

1.  We are exceptional, but were not always so.

With approximately 2.3 million people in prison or jail, the United States incarcerates more people than any other country in the world — by far. Our per capita rate is six times greater than Canada’s, eight times greater than France’s, and twelve times greater than Japan’s. Here, at least, we are an undisputed world leader; we have a 40% lead on our closest competitors — Russia and Belarus.

Even so, the imprisoned make up only two thirds of one percent of the nation’s general population. And most of those imprisoned are poor and uneducated, disproportionately drawn from the margins of society. For the vast majority of us, in other words, the idea that we might find ourselves in jail or prison is simply not a genuine concern.

For one group in particular, however, these figures have concrete and deep-rooted implications — African-Americans, especially young black men, and especially poor young black men. African-Americans are 13% of the general population, but over 50% of the prison population. Blacks are incarcerated at a rate eight times higher than that of whites — a disparity that dwarfs other racial disparities. (Black–white disparities in unemployment, for example, are 2–1; in nonmarital childbirth, 3–1; in infant mortality, 2–1; and in net worth, 1–51).

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