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Wednesday, 12 January 2011 06:10

Endless Wars Promote a Violent Culture


Among the massive pile of commentaries, I thought someone would write an editorial on the connection between Jared L. Loughner's desire to join the armed forces and his love for killing, and that maybe our war culture has something to do with promoting a violent society?  No one, to my knowledge, raised the question-so here's my take on that point:

For ten years, we've been watching the U.S. military and CIA drones blowing up human beings in distant lands.  Reports about the dead, the dying and maimed filter through the press as if they were merely video reality game shows that we've grown accustomed to, a way of life that promotes a "culture of war".  And the typical American attitude is, "Oh...that's happening to them, not us."


Now it's political assassination and murders in Tucson.

William Faulkner wrote that the past isn't dead, it isn't even past. I'm a veteran of Arizona. As one of the state's leading peace advocates and organizers during the Vietnam War, I had more than my share of death threats, including one left on the accelerator of my car. After President Nixon urged "hard hats" to attack peace advocates, the John Birch Society loosed drunken miners against us, and I was beaten by police and sentenced to prison for the crime of peacefully handing out flyers on a public sidewalk protesting against the use of anti-personnel cluster bombs against Vietnamese civilians.


While it is clear that Tea Party Nation's Judson Phillips has been consciously and aggressively aiming to carve out a special place for himself amongst Tea Party leaders, given some of his recent comments, he may be in danger of becoming the Tea Party's Fred Phelps.

Phelps, the virulently anti-gay head of Topeka, Kansas' Westboro Baptist Church, responded to Jared Lee Loughner's attempted assassination of Arizona Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords -- and the murder of six people and the wounding of a number of others - by posting a 4 minute 13 second video on You Tube that has him declaring:

"Thank God for the violent shooter, one of your soldier heroes in Tucson. God appointed the Afghanistan veteran to avenge himself on this evil nation. However many are dead, Westboro Baptist Church will picket their funerals. We will remind the living that you can still repent and obey. This is ultimatum time with God."

Phillips response was less God-oriented, opting instead to go politically septic. On Sunday, he e-mailed Tea Party Nation members "warning them they would be called upon to fight leftists in the days ahead and defend their movement," Garance Franke-Ruta, a senior editor at The Atlantic who oversees politics coverage for TheAtlantic.com, reported.


Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring has its place among the Great Books of our century.  Carson is the biologist that raised the concept "upsetting the balance of nature" to the public's attention by providing evidence of the disastrous effects on the balance of nature caused by the irresponsible use of insecticides and other pest controls.

As anticipated, the multi-million-dollar chemical and oil industries reacted violently to Carson's conclusions. They accused her of hysteria and painted the image of a crackpot, they chose to ignore her long career as a professional biologist and her sixteen years' experience with the Fish and Wildlife Service as well as many other accomplishments.  She was a contributing writer for the New Yorker which published a partial serialization of Silent Spring.  The book was a smash hit selling 500,000 copies in hard cover in 1962.  Those were the days when Americans read books.

The federal government began an investigation, after the publication of Silent Spring, of pesticide control programs to find an answer to how to use chemical pesticides more safely.  Thanks to Rachel Carson, the toxic pesticide, DDT, was eliminated from agricultural use which was killing birds and fish by the thousands and proved to cause more harm than good.

Monday, 10 January 2011 07:20

On the Cusp of Class Warfare


We're in a class war.

It's the corporations and the very wealthiest against all the rest of us.

We're losing.


In 1962 the wealthiest 1% of American households had 125 times the wealth of the median household. Now it's 190 times as much.

Is that a case of a rising tide lifting all boats, just a few of them a little bit higher?




When will Brazil throw its weight around on the world stage and actually start to challenge Washington?  Judging from Wikileaks documents, that day may be very off indeed.  Far from taking a stand against the United States, Brazilian diplomats serving in Luiz Inácio "Lula" da Silva's administration sought to appease the Americans behind closed doors or, at most, express mild criticism.  Since Wikileaks documents end in late 2009, we don't know if incoming president Dilma Rousseff will choose to mimic her predecessor's non-confrontational foreign policy, but most observers expect continuity.  For the South American left, Wikileaks documents serve as a sobering wake-up call and underscore the difficult political work which lies ahead.


Once again, for the second year running, United Airlines (UAL) placed dead last in customer satisfaction according to a 2010 poll conducted by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. This is just about where United employees find themselves today, at the very bottom. That's according to unions representing most of UAL's 48,000 employees.

Here we have an example of something unusual and unexpected, passengers and employees alike sharing similar grievances against the same company. As we shall see, customer dissatisfaction with poorer service and crowded aircraft is not so unrelated to employee complaints about stagnant wage levels and staff reductions.

In response to many of these unresolved issues, union pilots (ALPA) and flight attendants (AFA-CWA) made their case public. They organized coordinated airport picketing across the globe on January 7, marking one year without a contract settlement since all labor agreements became amendable. Joining the pickets were International Association of Machinists (IAM) ground workers and Teamster (IBT) mechanics also in separate negotiations with the airline.

Uniformed flight attendants, in particular, turned out in force, in far greater numbers than were anticipated according to their union.


Where does one start in the wake of the political killing spree that occurred in Arizona on Saturday?

With John Wilkes Booth putting a bullet into the head of Abraham Lincoln?

With the assassinations of John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy?

With the shooting of Martin Luther King?

The right-wing culture of hate and implicit coded call to kill the enemy, as if on a mission from God, is a subset of our larger national culture of violence.


The shootings in Arizona should be producing a crisis of conscience on the political Right in this nation. However, I am not sure we are going to see that result.

Extreme language, violent rhetoric and demonizing opponents have been very successful tactics in the quest for political and economic power for the Right Wing of American politics. They have institutionalized these tactics in many ways like the creation of Fox News, a huge array of Right Wing talk shows and print publications along with billionaire funded think tanks and various front groups including most of the Tea Party movement.

These tactics have taken over the entire operations of what was once the conservative movement. Today, the most extreme voices have largely drowned out the moderate conservatives that once dominated the conservative movement


I'll tell you when I get worried. I get worried when neo-fascists start getting all misty-eyed and blubbery. When that happens you know they're in charge. When they're not in charge they yell, they accuse, they threaten, they warn of impending doom.

Demagogues get all sentimental when they finally win. Its like when a totally guilty felon's conviction gets overturned on a legal technicality, but he claims vindication, going straight from condemning the entire system as corrupt, to lauding the system's inherent wisdom and fairness.

So, the neo-fascists are crying and I'm worried.

This crying business began with Fox's resident, unmedicated psychopath, Glenn Beck. In his attempt to channel cinema creation Howard Beale, Beck actually reanimated a creature best described as Father Coughlin on a never-ending (bad) acid trip.

But. as of this week, we now have the penultimate tear-jerk --The Grim Weeper himself -- Speaker of the House, John Boehner. Once known mostly for his orange tinted

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