Thursday, September 26, 2013

Souls Sold for Power

And the devil, taking him up into a high mountain, showed unto him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.
And the devil said unto him, All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them: for that is delivered unto me; and to whomsoever I will, I give it.
If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.
- Gospel of Luke Ch. 4

 It seems apparent to me, if it does to few others, that whomever should seek the highest office of the United States of America does so with the express desire to become "the most powerful man in the world." That, at least, is how he is often described, both in his role and in his practicable capabilities. every four years we select from a pool of miserable contenders for this office- often choosing he (or she) whom we might feel could be "the least possible of two evils."
Each of whom, apparently without a single exception, have already made their Deal, and all which remains is for the evidence to be revealed. Sometimes, the more effective evil is the one which cloaks themselves as the lesser one- as apparently this last election proves. Everybody voted for Hif Majeftie (myself excepted) because he seemed to be - so "obviously" on the side of the people, and on the side of peace, and of prosperity, despite his having had four years to show otherwise.

Prosperity- how many of us are better off than we were five years ago? Have you found your new job yet? Is it paying you full time for full wages with benefits? Then you are either a) very lucky or b) exceptionally respected by your employers. Are you more secure- both financially and socially? How can you feel so, when government has claimed the right to hoover up all your electronic communications, to use against you at some unknown future point, sans the protections we once took for granted under our Constitution? The right to be free from Indefinite Detention, or from Summary Execution sans Due Process of Law?

Whomever seeks the office of President of the United States has serious sociopathic tendencies, as shown in the conduct of our past two presidents, if not evidenced by many of their predecessors. Law is what I say it is, apparently, so far as they are concerned. Niceties like international courts and treaties are nothing but formalities to be attended to when our own interests coincide with their existence, but not, when the rights of other populations of other nations are so concerned. Why else would there have been such a rush toward a casus belli with Syria, when there had been no provocation indicating need for a war of self defense? Self defense being the only international justification on the part of any country to mobilize and strike another. Iraq was clearly a case of the United States taking a unilaterally aggressive action. And apparently this president found it not worth pursuing, the idea of holding even our own leaders, his predecessors, accountable under international law.

The idea that Mr. Romney represented "the worse of the two" evils, was pretty much based on purely partisan innuendo- although he helped himself by painting himself into a corner. Regardless, he did manage to speak one truth which rings out beyond any solutions the current Dear Leader has presented, regarding the "terrorist problem." - "We can;t kill our way out of this." That, however, is the preferred solution offered by Hif Majefty Mr. Obama. When in doubt, launch a drone! Why, only those who would propagandize on behalf of our enemies would not have such faith in these solutions as we do!

However, there are some of us on this planet who hold our loyalty to the rest of the human race above that of nation or the circumstance of our birth, to a code of morality in which we are responsible for our actions and how we have treated others. Indeed, the core teaching of any and all the worthy religions and societies  of earth tends toward this: Do Unto Others, as You Would Have Them Do Unto You. The United States has never been bombarded from the air. Perhaps it is this sense that "God is watching over us" which was so patently disturbed on 9-11, when it was shown that even the uber-superpower had a vulnerable condition. The over-reaction has been horrible to contemplate, as though the terrorists themselves could not have achieved a more clear goal: subvert the freedom and liberty of Americans, by leading them into Fear which justifies, somehow, the curtailment of their long held freedoms.

It is time to deconstruct the surveillance state of Oceania. Great Britain has never truly known its own freedom, so perhaps its subjects do not quail when they have over 2,000,000 public surveillance cameras to protect them from themselves. But the people of the United States have long known otherwise, and they lived for over 200 years without the overreach of the Big Brother Surveillance Community holding everyone and everything folded into its giant database. IT existed those 200+ years without sneakily spying on the behavior of its allies and the heads of foreign nations. It could survive another 200 years, but only if it realizes that the moral values it claims to uphold come not from religiosity but the very foundation of its existence, the Constitution of the United States, and that no law nor agency should exist- at all- which is granted exception from its guarantees of liberty that are granted to the individual FIRST, not the STATE.

There are only two types of individual which go into government- Control Freaks, and Those who wish to improve things. Would that we had less of the former and more of the latter.
Unfortunately, all too often, those who come in as the latter end up par exemplar as the former, as they grow more and more addicted to their sense of Power and Control. Again and again and again and again, they ask to be returned to their chairs, as if they had had no other purpose to life before the electors so "honored" them. Reform is desperately needed, lest the population need to take matters "into their own hands" as the original framers of the Republic noted as "solely by the consent of the governed". But asking those who have sold their souls to redeem the liberty of others seems to me at this time like it's about too much to ask.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Time to Go!

     (As Roger Waters put it in "The Wall"...)

     Evdence is mounting up and becoming clearer every day amongst those of us who keep one eye on international relations and the reputation and import of the United States of America and its policies that this particular President and administration have conducted themselves in a manner which has gone far beyond the norms, in terms of adherence to our Constitution and rule of law. It is high time that it be recognized for its high crimes and assaults on the Constitution and the public and that it be held accountable for its actions, words, deeds, and intents.

    Richard Nixon, at least, had some highly evolved sense of shame, and resigned the office before he could be tried, but the articles against him were already being drawn up, and impeachment was inevitable. Only his inner recognition of the role he played in the Watergate burglary and coverup led to his timely departure. The impeachment case against William J. Clinton was an entirely different matter- a henny-penny morality play in which dubious "morals" charges were confused with crimes- sex between consenting adults not being a federal crime- adultery may be morally abhorrent, but does not qualify a priori as a crime. While the Clinton impeachment attempt was a hilariously partisan move, and no doubt, many will see any attempt to impeach this president as more of the same, what ought to trouble this current one is that there are plenty of people like myself in favor of such a process going forward- what's worse- the blowback of those who'd never have voted for you to begin with, or that from those without whose support you could never have been elected in the first place?

     However you frame it, this particular President has shown full contempt for the oath of office, to protect the Constitution "from all enemies foreign and domestic" and has- even by Nixonian standards- gone far beyond what is, or ought to be, acceptable to the American people. Targeted assassination of innocent citizens, approval of indefinite detention, abrogating his own pledge to hold the Bush era torturers and renderers accountable for their war crimes, overseeing the underpinnings of a police state capability of which even Josef Stalin and Erich Honecker might only have dreamed, and had he had such, which Adolf Hitler might have used to a  more fully successful capacity in his campaign to rid Europe of every last Jew... This thuggish, boorish administration has the gall to unilaterally decide with whom our nation wages war and why... Only the will of the public kept the crazies from sending missiles into Syria. Exactly who, or what, was to be the target? The chemical weapons? Wouldn't blowing canisters of sarin to smithereens disperse that nerve-agent most fully into the environment, causing the deaths of even more innocents? How about US involvement in the death of Col. Qaddaffi, who had only recently a number of years before been pronounced as "reformed" by the DC establishment? And whose nation (like Syria) had done absolutely nothing in terms of any actions calling for a need for American "self-defense". Unilateral exercise of military powers seem to be endemic, among those who ebulliently style themselves "Commander In Chief".
     But this is an administration which only seeks to put lipstick-on-a-pig in terms of its respect for the lives of innocent civilians. Deaths-by-drones are up about 300% over what they ever were in the Bush years. And it seems that, for each "Al Qaeda militant" destroyed, another six to fifteen bystanders are blown to shrapnel and smithers along with them. But you wouldn't know, because the program is officially a secret, acknowledged only grudgingly, and the figures regularly fudged and massaged by even its "Congressional overseers" such as California Senator Dianne Feinstein.

     To what end and for what purposes is the National Security Agency putting all the telephone content and metadata it has been collecting? Apparently only a total omniscience over all internet activity will satisfy these creatures. If not for some future roundup of some as yet unnamed out-group, why is it so important that all this be stored for five years (or longer?) And what is to stop some future administration from drawing up its own lists, and sending out the Black Marias and their goon squads after midnight, to collect the enemies of the state, and banish them to the night and fog? The machinery to do so is already there.

     Where, even, were the partisan objections of "liberal" Democrats when this president appointed former Bush appointees  to head the CIA and FBI? Missing in Action. Nothing to see here. Business as usual. Move along!  "Distinguished public servants" and bla, bla, bla, and bla. Those very people who had begun the programs which this President objected to while a candidate, are now in charge of the surveillance-state hen-house. And no one questions his judgement, oh no, as he regains his smug composure, folds his hands at the lectern, and looks upon the masses with a most self-satisfied, serene, and completely self-convinced expression. As though by his word he hath pronounced law. I think it's well time to knock things back a little bit. There are reasons enough to believe that this president serves not the public interest but the interests of the very same corporate, military industrial elite which have cheerled every war since Dwight Eisenhower's time, and the disconnects between what this president said he would do, once he gained office, and what he has done, appear to be no less than 180 degrees of lying, hypocrisy, and outright repugnancy. For every " but, but, Bush did it first!" there are the facts that show "Barry's done yet more, and worse."

Being President of the United States of America means never having to say you're sorry:

Friday, September 13, 2013

Historical Revisionism and the Berlin Wall Monument

     The town I live in, Mountain View, California, is dedicating a monument soon to stand beside our public library. It consists of two slabs of the Berlin Wall, stood on their ends, facing each other. From the amount of concrete and rebar used in the monument construction, it would appear they went through even more trouble to erect this than the Commies did in the beginning to put it up in the first place. And the kicker of it all is a plaque that stands before this simulacra of the World Trade Center Towers (one image which comes to mind). This reads (and I am not making this up!): "A Tribute to the Resolve of the American People". WTF?

     As if the people of Germany, Hungary, Czechlosovakia, Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, and even Russia had Nothing To Do With This! No! Instead, the American People, all the while enthused and distracted with their own Hollywood abstractions such as Gordon Gekko and Indiana Jones - and their "Great" Hollywood President, Ronald Reagan- had more to do with the coming of Democracy, the fall of the Soviet Union, and the Velvet Revolution than did the populations of those countries most affected by the evil, oppressive wall! 

     But for those of us who were there, the fall of the Soviet Union was a result not of "the resolve of the American people" but of the Russian people and the populations of the nation-states which their Communist Party had welded together by force of arms into the Iron Curtain bloc. Each one of these nations took their own way out of the noose Comrade Stalin had woven for them at the end of the Second World War. And the Russians themselves, hungry-starved for Western culture, rock and roll, blue jeans, and capitalism, either voted with their feet or with rocks in the streets to let Comrade Gorbachev know- We're Not Gonna Take It. Vaclav Havel's friendship with Frank Zappa blossomed as Czechs took him for a new hero and appreciated him in ways the American public never could. Brylcreem "Glamour Boy" Ronnie and his high-flung spaced-out space-laser-defenses dream didn't do it. Communism itself fell of its own corruption and its hostage people's dreams of liberty. Lennon, not Lenin, was the prophet of their day.

    But you see, this is not the way it plays, generally, in the mainstream American media, nor the Main Street American mind. It's shown best most recently in the baboonish breast-beating of the American War Party (comprised, of course, of members of both major American political parties) over the recent Op Ed published in the New York Times by Russia's current president, Vladimir Putin. Marsha Lipman of The Atlantic, often these days a sensible publication of critique, falls all over herself trying to convince people there is no sincerity in Mr. Putin's position. She says, quote, "God is not a part of the Russian political language?" --  Excuse me? As if  the biggest, most single reason, besides the appeal of the West with rock and roll, was not the Christian community of Russia- long repressed, reduced to hiding its Bibles and icons in drawers and behind walls for 75 years, watching its churches blown up and/or turned into stables, candle factories etc, etc-- for the final defeat and expulsion of Communism? Putin shows he has a Christian character, and her first instinct is to warn us all "don't you dare believe him!"

     This goes along with a basic under-appreciation of the Russian culture, and character, by Americans. For while Russians have long admired and loved Americans (and American culture), Americans, in general, will never love and admire Russians. The imprint of the Cold War and its propaganda- from both sides of the Atlantic and Pacific- is too strongly ingrained in the American psyche. Along with an illiterate assumption that Cyrillic is NOT  a variant on the Greek alphabet, but "our alphabet backwards", Americans hold a deep grudge built of fear against the Soviet Union. This was in part due to the wariness of folks like Senator Joseph McCarthy, who saw a Red behind every bedpost, and continues in the present day with the likes of the insane John McCain and the bloodthirsty Lindsey Graham, whose bellicosity rivals that of Dr. Strangelove's General Bud Turgidson. They need to get into a shootin' war- with someone! What, you think they pay us to stand around and wait for one?  Er, um, why, yes. Putin might have been an officer of the KGB (not, as some have misrepresented him, the head of the KGB)  but he's also the elected leader of a young democratic republic. 

     The rise of that republic and its declaring itself a constitutional one owes an awful lot to the initial impetus of the American Revolution. Americans should see themselves continuing the revolutionary tradition. Monarchy and theocracy are anathema to its causes and purpose. Why are we in bed with the Saudi Arabians, who represent the worst of both,  a marriage bathed in oil and consummated in Hell? We should be overthrowing the oil overlords, not cozy paly-walying around with them in places like Syria, where neither nation belong, actually. 

     So to you, my friends over in the former Soviet Union, and all its formerly satellite states, I want to wish you the very best this end of the year, a warm winter season, and pray for peace and the continued friendship of our nations, once again, despite our respective leaders. Grand Jatte has a huge readership in Russia, Germany, Latvia, and Ukraine, actually. (These alone account for over 717 of 4465 cumulative page views, or 16%).  I'm grateful to have people like yourselves to write for. And people like me, we bow to you. We recognize that the defeat of the Soviet Union itself truly belongs to you, not to America. I wish you the blessings of liberty and prosperity to you and your posterity. Meanwhile, there are those of us in the USA who are busy working on getting our own back! Perhaps a most fitting graffiti for this new monument created out of the rotten, destroyed Berlin Wall ought to be "NSA = KGB!" After all, it was we Americans who started all this Independence and Liberty stuff, if it still means anything to us. And if there is any tribute at all to the "resolve of the American People" it's that we just prevented another nutcase leader from dragging us into a war we didn't want.

Being President of the United States of America means never having to say you're sorry:

Monday, September 2, 2013

Sandy Denny, Late November, and the Hush of the Coastside Wind

     Forty years ago, my friend (and now, co-author) Kevin and I lived for a time at a little house near the side of Highway One on the California coast. This house was home to a group of other people, mainly, East Coast transplants new to California living, but long on the counter-culture side of society. There was a table made of a large telephone-wire spool in the front room, with a fireplace, a component stereo set back in a far corner, and on an opposite wall (next to the oft-frequented by visitors) overstuffed couch, a long shelf constructed of milk crates, filled to the excess edges with record albums
But besides. The music most often speaking the lore and mood of the place for both of us was a record album by Sandy Denny, The Northsar Grassman and the Ravens. The song “Late November” in particular, with its dark, stark, minor mode, its stark imagery, was always somehow more cheering when combined with a foggy and overcast out-of-doors and a new, roaring fire constructed of driftwood and roadside kindling. Behind panes of frosted glass we would look out upon a small yard where dogs and chickens roamed, and several vehicles of one sort or another were always parked, rarely driven, and sometimes lived in.
Sandy’s record filled some sort of atmosphere. Recorded halfway around the world, in England, a place we oft imagined shared just as many grey days as these we lived in Half Moon Bay, would through its major alchemy bespeak a different way of seeing... Seeing, perhaps, with the opened eyes of a shaman, or the pagan eyes of a Renaissance herbalist, the songs of pain, separation, woe, and vouchsafed calamity often unmatched by other artists, or other albums.
Of course there were times, and there were other artists, who could breach this bare and blasted wilderness which both he and I knew was (for that era in our lives) the extent of our world, and the frontier of our shared communal group mind- but the house itself seemd to float in its own little bubble, and the songs of Sandy Denny are indelibly plastered across my memory of that time, that place, that certain way of looking out windows, on a foggy landscape where anything and nothing was possible and a stark zen acceptance of life and death was the measure of ones awareness, maturity, and sense of grace...

Our Perilous Anthem

     Being a baseball fan, I have the opportunity each year to hear the national anthem of the United States of America, “The Star Spangled Banner,” performed at least 162 times per year (I’m not even counting football season, since I don’t pay much attention to football. Baseball = Life.) The anthem is performed before each and every game, as something of a public ritual. And as a fan, and a musical fan, I have taken the time over the last five years to conduct something of a very unscientific study of the performance of the anthem and in particular, the delivery of one certain word: perilous.
     Now while the dictionary presents us with one proper pronunciation of the word, “pear-ill-us” in actual reality there are at least four presentations possible and these will most definitely all be evidenced during the baseball year. These include, besides the “correct”:  “pear-ull-us,” “pear-oh-liss,” and “pear-oh-less,” perhaps the most egregious variation.
    I found that generally, renditions of the anthem by marching bands neglect the lyrics completely, but that’s perhaps because (unless accompanied by a school choir) marching bands themselves usually present no opportunity for vocalists to exhibit their acquisition of the English language. So each instrumental version of the anthem gets to take a pass from inspection. Lucky them. I also found that the most egregious violation, “per-oh-less”(not only one, but two syllables mispronounced)  was most often used by African American singers, as if in a manner of saying, Ebonics and “getting there in a hurry” had something to do with it. But I also found that groups of early-grade schoolchildren were just as likely to use “pear-oh-less” as black singers. Maybe they are in a hurry! The African American singers are also, almost without exception, most likely to take artistic liberties with the melody. Maybe these people could care-o-less how well they come off.
     The post-9-11 super-patriotic types, the first responders, whose one chance per year to truly shine involves their own deep-lunged contribution of the anthem, are most likely to use the “pear-ull-us” construction. Each syllable must be reached for from deep down within themselves, and the “ull” shows us all- “that man has a diaphragm, and he ought to have been in opera!”
      Those who sing it “pear-oh-liss” at least having the last syllable correct are seemingly the white-bread WASPy women, who got to the stadium most likely by way of having  won a beauty pageant, or something like that, or who function as “recording artists” and win by way of their introduction as such by the PA announcer. But again, their construction of the second syllable as “oh” betrays their ignorance of proper enunciation. Someone get those tired horses out of the sun, please.
   The “pear-ull-us” singers who come close, but earn no cigar, it seems are they who would also most have us remember that it is us, the U.S., who survived the perilous night at Fort McHenry with Francis Scott Key and that most amazingly, “our flag was still there” when we woke up in the morning. Miracles, perhaps, never cease, but the British do run out of cannonballs, apparently. And of course, why forget to mention those who feel the interminable need to reach the highest high-C they can muster with an octave-jump on the word "free"? They reminds me of nothing less than as the joyous squealing of pigs on their way to market. And it's usually the most insecure of singers who feel the need to inflict it.
     I can barely bring myself to mention it,  but I shall, because it’s now a growing problem, and MLB seems determined to add it to the ritual at each “seventh-inning stretch,” but “God Bless America” is not the national anthem of the United States, and patrons of Major League Baseball ought to feel no necessary compunction, as such, to rise for its rendition. “God Bless America”, God damn it, is just another song. And all the rhinestones in Kate Smith's bra can't ever make it otherwise.