"The past is never dead; it's not even past." -- William Faulkner
WATERTOWN, Tennessee â€“ The 20th century was well into its seventh decade, but he still came to the back door every time he needed to see "Mister Edsel" about some business or other. No amount of cajoling would induce him to knock on the front door. Finally, one day, in exasperation, my father told him: "Jim, if you don't come around to the front next time, I'm not going to talk to you. This just won't do." Jim shook his head, perplexed; it seemed a concept too radical to grasp or accept: knocking on a white man's front door.
The past lives longer in the South, as Faulkner, that great bard of race and sex, knew well. Habits of subservience from the days of slavery more than a century before were still lingering here and there, as I could see on my own back porch that day, watching Jim and my father.
It was like a scene from To Kill a Mockingbird; and indeed, "Mister Edsel" had come to play the role of Atticus Finch in the town: an advocate and mediator for people like Jim â€“ a black man from the country, deprived of education, shunted into stoop labor, living in the margins, forever under arbitrary threat from an uncaring officialdom or from sudden outbursts of the deeply-ingrained racial enmity that lurked beneath the placid surface of the white faces all around him.
It was an unsought role that came to my father simply because he was one of the few white men who treated black people like they were ordinary, fully-fledged human beings, not lepers or clowns or dangerous trash. It was a rare attribute in those days â€“ and it is still much rarer than most would care to admit, even in the "New South," where Tennessee congressman Harold Ford Jr. stands within reach of becoming the first African-American senator from the old Confederacy since Reconstruction (or as some still like to call it, "the Yankee Occupation").
Ford's surprisingly strong campaign has exposed fault lines long buried beneath Tennessee's creeping â€“ or rather, galloping â€“ suburbanization, where old ways, both good and bad, are rapidly being submerged in the undifferentiated glop of modern American franchise culture. But when money and power are on the line, atavism is the order of the day: ancient fears and hatreds re-emerge â€“ or are mightily encouraged to re-emerge, with all the subtle and not-so-subtle arts of high-tech mass persuasion stoking the flames.
For the stakes in the battle for Tennessee's Senate seat â€“ once considered a lock for the Republicans â€“ have suddenly grown exceedingly high. A Ford win could wrest control of the chamber away from the GOP, putting a serious crimp in the party's bacchanal of greed and graft. What's more, it opens up the possibility of investigations, subpoenas â€“ and worse â€“ for an Administration that is not only suppurating with massive corruption, incompetence, extremism and deceit, but has also openly acknowledged several criminal actions, including torture and warrantless surveillance. The Bush Faction simply cannot afford to face accountability for its monumental failures and misdeeds.
And so in late October, with Ford rising rapidly in the polls, even overtaking his opponent â€“ Bob Corker, a typical tycoon-politician with a bland manner masking sharp practice in his murky business dealings â€“ the Bush Party got serious and whipped out a barn-burning theme from days of yore: the "hot black buck with nothing but white women on his mind."
(more after the jump; plus an MP3 on a related theme at the end.)
by Phil Rockstroh
"I can't go on. I'll go on.
One's actions grow out of one's beliefs. Beliefs grow out of the ecosystem of our collective lives known as culture. In this way, cultures are organic: they germinate, sprout, grow, bloom, bear fruit, then fade in accordance with the climes and terrain of the times.
America now grows: paranoid delusions and wishful thinking. These are our national plant and staple crop, respectively.
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A strange genus of the former has overgrown the land. It began as a small hybrid, a member of the Bush family, growing mostly in southern and western states. Some theories hold that its origins were in Connecticut; although, when it was transplanted to Texas, it spread, unchecked, due to the fact that there are few herbivores in the region to limit its pernicious growth. There, in the dry Texas soil, it grew dense and thorny, and thrived when watered with blood and oil.
Left unpruned and unregulated, it grew thicker than an ancient oak, larger than a redwood: It became a Paranoia Sequoia, growing ever larger in the hot greenhouse gases of global climate change; its massive branches spread across the world, casting a shadow of fear and revulsion beneath it.
And it has bore strange and terrible fruit, indeed â€“ as well as proliferate assorted nuts.
by Rod Amis
Three years ago, I began an outline for a foreign policy article, the major thesis of which was that it seemed inevitable at the time that Europe, Africa and South America â€“ if not Australia, for reasons I'll elucidate below â€“ would have to tilt toward the Peoples' Republic of China (PRC,) if for no other reason than to counterbalance the growing economic and military will-to-hegemony of the United States. It was meant to be a reasoned, long-form, foreign policy article to which I could refer back in future considerations.
The impetus for the article was that I believed not enough serious foreign-policy consideration was being made from a dissident and (far) leftist perspective at the time.
Looking back on that outline today, for an article never completed, it's easy to pat oneself on the back for being prophetic. But, as Conan Doyle wrote, it was "elementary." There was nowhere else for the world to go. There were two reasons for that conclusion three years ago and those same two reasons obtain today:
Nature abhors a vacuum. The very notion of a unipolar world contradicts everything we know about the dynamics of power in international relations. Even during the Roman empire, let alone the British, there were constant threats and challenges from the community of nations which undercut the will-to-hegemony of the then-dominant power.
In the case of Britain, there was always Austria-Hungary and intermittently France and Spain. In the case of the Romans, there was Carthage, Egypt and those forces that the victor's historians characterized as "barbarians" or "pirates" since they represented no formalized nation states. There was also the formidable and tragic Jewish rebellion. That is was no small matter is evidenced by the fact that Jerusalem was the second city, after Carthage, to be completely razed and sown with salt.
Nonetheless, all of these actors put brakes on the hegemonic impulses of the Great Power of their age to far greater degrees than did internal and domestic political influences. There is a paradigm here worth consideration.
Other (and more astute) students and commentators on history and geopolitics have noted that nation-states, per se, are not the only dominant actors in the world we face in the twenty-first century.
There are now corporate "states," so to speak, with budgets that exceed those of most nations and influence that is genuinely transnational. Thus, it is not a stretch to suggest that Microsoft Corporation, Wal-Mart â€“ the world's largest corporate entity â€“ or certain Non-governmental Organizations â€“ such as those founded by Soros or Gates â€“have as much potential impact on geopolitical development as do the nation-states still clinging to their atavistic and nationalistic sense of self-importance and "destiny."
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U.S. Drops Bid Over Royalties From Chevron
The "War for Oil" is not just being fought in Iraq, you know. For as the Warmonger-in-Chief never tires of telling us, the "Homeland" itself is a major front in his never-ending war on â€“ not terror, because his policies are fomenting and exacerbating terrorism around the world â€“ but on anything and everything that might impinge in the slightest degree on the profits, power and privilege of the tiny clique of predatory elites that he represents.
The NYT story, an excellent piece of explanatory journalism by Edmund Andrews, lays out the details of the scam â€“ just one of many by which Big Oil uses its hired hands in Washington to cheat the American people out of billions of dollars in fees and royalties from the use of public land for corporate profit. As Andrews makes clear, the entire system is honeycombed with sweetheart clauses and deliberate ambiguities that allow the oil barons to take vast rake-offs â€“ some of which they obligingly return in various forms of baksheesh to their political servants.
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The struggle within the US power structure between the economic empire builders (EEB) and the civilian militarists/Zioncons over US Middle East and global policy is now out in the open and intensifying. The EEB now have a politically powerful organizational expression, the Baker Commission (known officially as the Iraq Study Group) led by the formidable former Secretary of State, James Baker. The EEB are backed by a group of bipartisan congressional leaders, sectors of the traditional military elite, a powerful coalition of Texas-based oil and gas groups and sectors of Wall Street financial houses and potentially a large majority of public opinion. Against them are the civilian militarists in the Pentagon, State Department and White House (Rumsfelt, Chaney, Rice, Bolton and Bush), a declining majority of Congressional Democrats and Republicans, the Presidents of the Major Jewish Organizations headed by the America-Israel Political Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and their influential apparatchiks in the mass media and their numerous â€˜grass rootsâ€™ political fronts (political action committees).
What is at stake is of fundamental importance to the future of US politics; not only in the Middle East, which is the immediate catalyst for the drawing up of sides, but the entire way in which US policy is formulated and equally important how the US will engage in defending and expanding its global empire.
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by James Kunstler
My travels last week took me to small college town in Georgia and into the heart of Vermont, and the contrasts were instructive. To protect some sensibilities, I call the Georgia town "Peachville." There are lots of places like it down in Dixie, and they all suffer from similar problems. Peachville's surrender to the tyranny of the automobile is total. For a region whose people like to yap about "defending freedom," their own capitulation to the car is complete. Practically every street in this town of 40,000 has been turned into a multi-lane mini-freeway. If you wanted to walk, or needed to walk -- and a number of faculty members at the college where I spoke said they did -- then your experience would be frightening and miserable because there are so few sidewalks, and the distances between things is scaled to cars, not people.
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The quality of the buildings was another striking thing. The remnants of Peachville's little main street downtown was composed mostly of one-story buildings so ugly that they seemed to be missing some essential DNA. They were mean little brick boxes lacking any ornament, denoting an utter disregard for the public realm of the street. Along a couple of blocks, the town officials had recently carried out a "street upgrade program," meaning they added a center median with trees in a few places, but the buildings themselves are so weak and homely that no amount of tarting up the streetscape will make much difference.
In an article concerned with the rapid urbanization of India and China, Victor Mallet of London's Financial Times (August 5/6, 2006) points out that Bangalore "has become a byword for a catastrophic failure of urban planning."
Interestingly, he attributes this lapse to "Indian sentimentalism about the supposed benefits of village life, and the consequent incompetence in managing cities" which "contrasts starkly with the ruthless pragmatism of the central and local authorities in China."
Let us not bring up that bugbear of the absence of democracy in China just yet, no matter that the Anglo-Americans are all so keen to bomb us all to "freedom" these days, China being that fearsome and much envied exception.
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by Mickey Z.
In the midst of our current, perpetual war against evil, America is yet again reflecting upon the "good war." If Clint Eastwood is allowed to recycle those images in Â³Flags of Our Fathers,Â² as the author of an alternative history of WWII, why shouldn't I state my case yet again?
The U.S. fought that war against racism with a segregated army.
It fought that war to end atrocities by participating in the shooting of surrendering soldiers, the starvation of POWs, the deliberate bombing of civilians, wiping out hospitals, strafing lifeboats, and in the Pacific boiling flesh off enemy skulls to make table ornaments for sweethearts.
FDR, the leader of this anti-racist, anti-atrocity force, signed Executive Order 9066, interning over 100,000 Japanese-Americans without due process.
Thus, a war fought in the name of taking on the architects of German prison camps became the architect of American prison camps.
Before, during, and after the Good War, the American business class traded with the enemy. Among the U.S. corporations that invested in the Nazis were Ford, GE, Standard Oil, Texaco, ITT, IBM, and GM (top man William Knudsen called Nazi Germany "the miracle of the 20th century").
And while the U.S. regularly turned away Jewish refugees to face certain death in Europe, another group of refugees was welcomed with open arms after the war: fleeing Nazi war criminals who were used to help create the CIA and advance America's nuclear program.
The enduring Good War fable goes well beyond Memorial Day barbecues and flickering black-and-white movies on late night TV. WWII is America's most popular war. According to accepted history, it was an inevitable war forced upon a peaceful people thanks to a surprise attack by a sneaky enemy. This war, then and now, has been carefully and consciously sold to us as a life-and-death battle against pure evil. For most Americans, WWII was nothing less than good and bad going toe-to-toe in khaki fatigues.
But, Hollywood aside, neither Ryan Phillippe nor John Wayne ever set foot on Iwo Jima. Despite the former president's dim recollections, Ronald Reagan did not liberate any concentration camps. And, contrary to popular belief, FDR never actually got around to sending our boys "over there" to take on Hitler's Germany until after the Nazis had already declared war on the U.S. first.
Films like "Flags of Our Fathers" and Steven Spielberg's "Saving Private Ryan" teach us that even if war is hell and the good guys sometimes lose their way, there is still no reason to question either the morality of the mission or the stature of that particular generation.
Revolutionary pacifist A.J. Muste said in 1941, "The problem after war is with the victor. He thinks he has just proved that war and violence pay. Who will now teach him a lesson?" Precisely how and when such a lesson will be taught is not known, but it can be safely assumed that this lesson will never be learned from a standard college textbook, an insipid bestseller, or a manipulative box office smash. The past six decades have also shown that without such a lesson, there will be many more wars and many more lies told to obscure the truth about them.
by Manuel Valenzuela
Only by understanding ourselves and the parameters of our existence can a better humanity arise. Only through deep introspections of history past and humanity present can resistance commence and renaissance be born. We must mold who and what we are into a higher being, forming from the clays of Earth a better, more evolved human species, learning from our mistakes, advancing through our triumphs, understanding ourselves and those unknown, joining our strengths and eliminating our weaknesses, in the end working in concert towards the betterment of six billion, not simply 300 million.Add a comment
by Paul William Roberts
Editor's Note: Our Senior Writer, Paul William Roberts, gives us a rollicking tour of the Bush-induced Gotterdamerung in Iraq. Roberts, whose book, A War Against Truth, is one of the very best accounts of the mad march to aggression, was in Iraq during the earliest days of the invasion, as "Shock and Awe" gave way to shakedown and atrocity. If you want to grasp the realities about the Middle East, about the Iraq war, ask someone who knows. Paul William Roberts knows.
A friend of mine in Baghdad wrote to me a few days ago about a conversation heâ€™d had with an elderly lady from West Virginia who was seated next to him on an airplane between Los Angeles and Washington earlier this year. The subject under discussion was how Iraqis generally view the American invasion and occupation of Iraq, and my friend was trying to find an analogy that would work for a sweet eighty-five-year-old grandmother who had never traveled anywhere beyond the USA in her life. He came up with this:
Imagine you are visiting with one of your daughters who is married to a man who is a bit of a brute. He beats the kids occasionally and has knocked her about from time to time as well. You donâ€™t like it, she doesnâ€™t like it, the kids donâ€™t like it, but at the end of the day heâ€™s Dad, he works hard, he provides, and no oneâ€™s going to break up the family after all this time â€“ besides, the monsterâ€™s mellowing with age and hasnâ€™t hit anyone very hard in a long while.
So there you all are, watching TV one night, the kids doing their homework or playing downstairs, your daughter preparing dinner in the kitchen, the son-in-law having his beer and reading the sports pageâ€¦.When all of a sudden, the front door is smashed open, there are loud explosions all around the house, and five men come crashing in through the windows on ropes, as another five pour through the broken door firing guns.
One of the kids is killed, another staggers around covered in blood screaming, a third lies groaning somewhere nearby, then flames erupt from the kitchen as your daughter runs out, her body on fire, and you feel something smash into your knee breaking the leg. Before anyone can work out whatâ€™s happening, thereâ€™s another terrifying explosion above and the house rocks from side to side as the roof caves in and the whole structure collapses around you in rubble and dust. As you wipe the gravel and concrete from your face, you see that some of the intruders have handcuffed the son-in-law and are dragging him away at gunpoint. One of these gunmen then comes over and identifies himself as a representative of the Chinese Childrenâ€™s Aid Society of Beijing, saying they would have come sooner but they had trouble getting visas.
They were here now, though, and your family was at last free of the brute and you could finally relax. Another gunman sweeps a bit of rubble to one side with a broom and apologizes for the mess, giving you the business card of a local contractor who also happens to be a friend of his brother and specializes in fixing houses reduced to rubble for a reasonable price. The men then say in a chorus, Have a nice day! They throw the brute into a van and are off leaving you sitting there alone in the dark with raindrops starting to pitter-patter on your head. How do you think you would you feel about all this?
â€œWell, I wouldnâ€™t be happy,â€ the old lady apparently replied.
â€œAnd thatâ€™s pretty much how we feel,â€ said my friend.
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by Mike Whitney
The U.S. Dollar is kaput. Confidence in the currency is eroding by the day.
A report in The Sydney Morning Herald stated, â€œAustraliaâ€™s Treasurer Peter Costello has called on East Asiaâ€™s central bankers to â€˜telegraphâ€™ their intentions to diversify out of American investments and ensure an â€˜orderly adjustmentâ€™â€¦.Central banks in China, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and Hong Kong have channeled immense foreign reserves into American government bonds, helping to prop up the US dollar and hold down interest rates,â€™ said Costello, but â€˜the strategy has changed.â€™â€
Indeed, the strategy has changed. The world has come to its senses and is moving away from the green slip of paper that is currently mired in $8.3 trillion of debt.
The central banks now want to reduce their USD reserves while trying to do as little damage to their own economies as possible. Thatâ€™ll be difficult. If a sell-off ensues, it will start a stampede for the exits.
by William Bowles
Perhaps the most difficult thing to do when dealing with current events is to establish the link between economics and politics. Thus the corporate press never, ever present an event, the invasion of Iraq for example as having any connection with economics, indeed any attempt to do so is ridiculed (eg itâ€™s not all about oil). The modus operandi is, keep it simple stupid, itâ€™s good versus evil, donâ€™t confuse the publicâ€™s mind with the complexities of real life for once you do so, an awful lot of explaining has to be done as to why countries act the way they do, none of which is in accord with the way events are portrayed in the MSM.
In my last piece, â€˜Leaving the scene of the crimeâ€™, I quoted from a piece in the Independent on the â€˜Suez Crisisâ€™ by Mary Dejevsky which is a perfect example of this process in action whereby Empire whether past, present or intended is reduced to the level of psychology and personalities. Defeat is a â€œnational humiliationâ€. Yes, there is a passing reference to economics but it is never presented as the root cause of the Anglo-French-Israeli invasion of Eygpt. Instead itâ€™s couched in the context of the Cold War and Nasserâ€™s desire to â€˜take control of the Suez Canalâ€™. Why he would want to do this is not explained except in the context of one personâ€™s desire for power or a desire to humiliate â€˜Great Britain.â€™ Thus Dejevesky tells us
â€œThe Suez crisis began when the young and forceful President of Eygpt, Gamal Abdul Nasser, seized control of the Suez Canal after the US and Britain refused to help fund the Aswan Dam.â€Add a comment
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