Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Mooned... with aplogies to Neil Armstrong

Mother of tides
The great white kite
Floats gently cross the breathless night
Giant leaps are soon forgotten.

David Seaton

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Meditations on Republican craziness

At the center of all the nuttiness of today’s Republicans is their bankrollers’ fear of regulation… The ceaseless culture warfare is merely a tactic to simultaneously attract and confuse a sufficient number of the ignorant to enable the “one-percenters” to paralyze the political process.

Examined under this light their behavior is anything but irrational: they have much to fear, because the globalized world is crying out for regulation.

An illustrative example:

Much of today’s instability, even terrorism and the drug trade, is caused by the growing number of “failed states”, many of them rich in valuable commodities, whose elites, instead of reinvesting their profits in developing their countries, literally loot them, taking the money to opaque, offshore tax havens. What governance remains in these wretched lands consists of totally corrupt political jobbers and armed thugs. These areas often become safe havens for terrorist organizations and state cover for international drug cartels.

This dynamic, so blatantly evident in the third world is also at work in the most developed and sophisticated economies, starving the governments of the money necessary to provide essential goods and services to their populations. This may sound extreme, but if George W. Bush had been a serious man, he could have done a lot more for the wellbeing of the American people, as well as world peace, harmony and the defeat of terrorism, if, in lieu of invading Afghanistan and Iraq, he had invaded Switzerland and the Cayman Islands instead.

Solving all the problems that the future has in store will require money and the money is right there under our noses. In short, bringing the oceans of the world’s black money under state control is an essential first step to achieving the general welfare of humanity.

Although with a less picturesque cast of characters, climate change is also an obvious area where the leading states are going to have to cooperate closely to fashion very strict regulations and enforce them with extreme vigilance and severity.

I am convinced that rather than any sincere questioning of the science involved, it is the simple fear of the mere existence of international and state organizations endowed with the power and technical resources necessary to bring world climate change under some sort of rational control that motivate the massive quantities of money spent on questioning the reality of climate change. It is that “rational control” that the one-percent fear and have reason to fear: that and no other is the coming “revolution”. Theirs is a “counter-revolution” before the fact.

An example of the tactics that the “counter-revolution” uses to avoid approaching the issue of common sense regulation: regulating the sale of assault rifles, weapons whose only purpose is enabling a lone individual to kill a large number of human beings in a short space of time.

Now, an active and focused one-percenter can take decisions with his money and the influence that money brings, that can affect the lives of thousands, even millions of his fellow human beings; all his life he lives with the sensation of empowerment just as a fish lives with the sensation of water, he breathes it and swims in it, it is his element, often since birth… just like the fish.

For the average poor slob, probably the only feeling of comparable empowerment available to him in the midst of his general powerlessness is having an AK-47 in his closet with a few banana clips and a couple of thousand rounds of soft-nose bullets… just in case. Threatening that “empowerment” with regulation is a very efficient way of getting him on the same wavelength of the Kochs, Trumps and Romneys of this world.

This is just one example; there are dozens and dozens of others. In the future we might discuss the mental Kama Sutra that allows the supposedly devout Catholic, Paul Ryan, to bed Ayn Rand with Jesus of Nazareth, a blasphemous and perfectly surreal union, which is the proof, if any were needed, of how shameless this counter-revolution is. The “revolution” it counters is, of course, nothing more and nothing less than applied common sense. 

Bottom line: America’s ultra-right and the moneyed individuals that empower them are at war with simple common sense… and from their point of view that makes all kinds of sense. DS

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Rhymes of Ayn Rand and Ryan: tea for two

In the withered heart of Ayn Rand’s world, the weak, the hungry,

The violated, the broken, the disorganized are condemned,

They have no brothers

Unlettered children, tiny, lonely, light-starved beings,

Like mushrooms fed on excrement, are free: 

Free to sicken, free to die.

In unheated rooms, left gumming the rind of life,

The terrors of the elderly are of no consequence.

The old and the feeble, the slow of foot and the dim of wit have no place.

In Ayn’s world, life itself is their death camp,

No boxcars are needed.

They have arrived.

David Seaton, August, 2012

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Of course the Democratic Party sucks... so what?

My favorite description of the Democratic Party is Woody Allen's restaurant; you know the one, “such bad food and such small portions”.
The American political system is corrupt and both political parties are part of the problem and in my opinion only a massive citizen’s movement similar to the Civil Rights struggle could ever change it.
To expect the system to reform itself, is like looking for true love in a brothel or as the Spanish say, “you don’t go to an elm tree to pick pears”.
Still there are some significant differences that justify a tactical vote for the Democrats.
The first one is that the Democrats have no interest in keeping black people from voting. For me this by itself would justify voting Democratic.
Next; Democrats do not favor deregulated campaign financing, for the simple reason that there are more crazy Republican billionaires than crazy Democratic billionaires.
So, please, all those who four years ago thought they were voting for Mahatma Gandhi and have discovered that they elected a moderate 1970s style moderate Republican, please stop pouting and keep Ayn Randian, Tea Party crazed, new-breed Republicans, Willard and Ryan out of the White HouseDS

Friday, August 17, 2012

The meaning of this year's election

This year's presidential election is one of the most important in America's entire history and the reason is simple to the point of stark. It is all about who is going to fill any vacancies in the Supreme Court in the next four years.
That simple.
The Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision making money "speech" and corporations "people" was a coup d'etat in everything but name.  America is now in the hands of its billionaires to dispose of as they wish.
If the Tea Party crazed Republicans win the White House in 2012 and get to choose the next justices of the court, this will mean that democracy as we know it in the USA will be finished and all that will be left of it is a shell.
Here is a shopping list of issues this will affect besides campaign financing;
The implications for such issues as abortion, same-sex marriage, the establishment of religion, affirmative action, the rights of women, voting rights, congressional authority, the death penalty, gun control, and criminal procedure are dramatic. Geoffrey R. Stone - Huffington Post
So that is the bottom line to end all bottom lines. If you live in a swing state that is up for grabs and you go fishing on election day and Romney wins... even your great grandchildren will have cause to curse you. DS

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Political poetry... what is it?

I have been indulging in verse and wondering whether there is a role in the USA for political poetry as there is in South America or in parts of Europe... So I asked myself what a poet is, and this is what I came up with.
What is a poet?
Master of the liar's art
One who has walked the fog into a bottle
And made therein the prissy wasp to sip
And the milk toothed serpent drown.
One warm as a virgin's blood,
Cold as a tart's heart,
Brave as a rodeo clown
Hard rimming hope in flood
To make it drip
Its finite globules, like the rendered fat
That smokes and sizzles
On the burning ghat
A flower's breath turns into a pigeon's eye
Or to
A loaf of bread
The living mingle with the dead
And dance together on the heads of pins
As angels do
That ought to get it. DS

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Summer of 2012 (a poem)

As I said in my previous post, at some point prose fails to express what I really feel. And I also begin to observe something that people who have never lived in a dictatorship may be slow to notice: that frank language is actively repressed, that certain truths may not be debated or even mentioned. That is why poetry often flourishes under repressive regimes, where a “secret” language must be used. I see this happening in America… perhaps this is the moment for poetry.
Thinking over the world, in this summer of 2012, this is what I wrote.

Hanging there like an unpaid bill, this inauspicious summer,
With its hot breath shriveling corn:
Ears that fall to dust.
A summer filled with factories for nesting birds:
Tools absorbed in rust.
While in some godforsaken corner,
From where God is said to hail,
A pimp of others' agony,
Grooms the panting hounds of hell.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

A dream called “hope” in the potter’s field

I’m on vacation and among the books I’m reading is “It’s the Middle Class, Stupid!” by James Carvillle and Stan Greenberg, a book I strongly recommend to anyone of any political leaning, anywhere, who is interested in where the world’s greatest economy is headed and what that journey to has meant and means to the lives and futures of America’s universal middle class.
That formerly rock stable middle class which  been since the Second World War has The United States of America’s greatest contribution to the aspirations of ordinary people all around the world:  once known “The American Dream”.  Happy, hard working families, owning their own home, raising healthy children, sending them to college and retiring comfortably  on their savings.
Today’s economy is a world economy and what goes around comes around and what Carville and Greenberg describe is happening in all developed economies of the world to one degree or another.
The picture that Carville and Greenberg paint is astringently, bitterly, bleak: they are crunching the numbers of broken futures, of the blighted youth, of the ravaged aged…  I can recommend the book, but what they describe makes me so angry that it is beyond me to write a discursive encapsulation of it: Only verse.
And this takes me to a little confession… since I was a child, the most subjectively meaningful thing I do is write poetry and older I get, the more I realize that poetry is where I live.  There is a mystery place where expository prose fails, where words boil up from darker places than reason and reasons and arrange themselves as if in the hands of a familiar spirit. Truth is lurking somewhere there and I must dig for it.
I have been brooding for quite some time, about what the inner meaning of this economic crisis means; thinking of all our hopes and dreams that are being shattered every day by people who are getting rich doing it...  This is what bubbled to the top.

My heart is a potter’s field of dreams,
And the wild rose roots among their bones.
They lie under broken glass and poignant epitaphs,
Where every shadow sleeps alone.

On darker nights, translucent discards team,
To filter up and walk my paths:
They weep; they plead, they wheedle, whine and pray
And curse the dreams that clad themselves in flesh,
To flee my heart and haunt the day.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Bibi Netanyahu and Israel's primal fallacy

David Seaton's News Links
(David Grossman) said he feared that Netanyahu and Barak would bomb Iran partly out of a perceived strategic need to back up their threats with action, but also because of what he sees as Netanyahu’s sense of historic responsibility to save the “people of eternity.” “He has this idea that we are the people of eternity, am ha’netzach from the Bible, and our negotiations, as he sees it, are with eternity, with the primal currents of history and mankind, while the United States, with all due respect, is just another superpower like Rome or Athens or Babylon, and we’ve survived them all,” said Grossman. “I’m afraid that this way of thinking might encourage Netanyahu to take the step” of attacking Iran. The Nation
David Grossman, along with Amos Oz, is Israel's most prestigious writer and considered by many Israelis as the "conscience of the country". He has given an interview in The Nation on Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rush to war with Iran which is terrifying. I find Grossman's insight into Bibi's mind endlessly frightening and disturbing, Up til now I had thought that Netanyahu was a common and garden variety thug... now I think he might be seriously insane
If Grossman is right, that Netanyahu's believes that Israelis are "the people of eternity", and that Israel's negotiations can only be with "eternity", (whatever that is) this means that Israel is governed right now by someone who is crazier than any Ayatollah in Iran... Frankly that idea of negotiating with the "primal currents of history and mankind" has a certain weird, Nietzschean-Wagnerean ring to it: the distilled, national-mystical, vapors of fascism.
So Israel, so small and vulnerable, is now apparently ruled by a madman.
This takes me to what I call "Israel's primal fallacy".
That fallacy is the proposition that the Jewish people will only be safe when they are gathered together in a land where they are the sole inhabitants and depend entirely on their own power to defend themselves and  that land must be in the tiny, biblical Israel.
I think if you proposed to the Jewish people's greatest enemy in history, the idea that half the Jewish people in the world should gather together in a very small area, a territory where they could be utterly annihilated in the space of a couple of hours, that monster would think it a brilliant idea: such a time saver.
Any infantryman will tell you that soldiers under fire should never bunch up, but rather spread out... that is a soldier's rule one. Not having crazy officers might be rule two.
Israel is breaking both rules.
My opinion is that the two greatest defenses ever possessed by the Jewish people, going all the way back to the days when Moses led them out of bondage in Egypt, are:
One: The United States Constitution, whose rules seem to be holding up better than the Bible's in the years since it was written.
Two: America's immense spaces.
In short I believe that the "promised land" of the Jews is the United States of America, where Jews can be as Jewish as they want (see Brooklyn's Hasidim) or as assimilated (see Noam Chomsky) as they wish and participate, à la carte, in  the mainstream of an amazingly varied human tapestry (see Walt Whitman) ... all in perfect safety.
Even the West Bank settlers (most of whom seem to already be US citizens) could make a pilgrimage to what I would call "eretz yiArizona", where they could keep their guns and try their luck at hassling Mexicans... America has something for everytbody... if you don't see what you want just ask.
Not only that, perhaps most importantly of all, the United States of America is probably the only country in the world that truly loves Jewish people, where they have actually created much of what the world knows and loves of America. What I am afraid of is that disasters flowing from the "people of eternity" mysticism could in any way sour that "promised land". DS

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Thomas Friedman attacks Adelson, Netanyahu, AIPAC and the Israeli hard right

David Seaton's News Links
Certain people have more credibility than others when talking about certain subjects. For example, if Warren Buffet says that rich people should pay more taxes, nobody would accuse him of fomenting "class warfare". 
That is because he will be the one that ends up paying all those taxes and he will have to endure the frosty reception from his fellow billionaires at social functions. In short he is credible when he speaks about rich people and their duties to society.
This brings me to a recent column of Thomas Friedman's in the New York Times, entitled, "Why Not in Vegas?", where he attacks with unusual ferocity, Israel's prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli hard right, the casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson, who is bankrolling Mitt Romney, and AIPAC itself.
First Buffetwise, let us set out Thomas Friedman's credentials in making this attack. Here is an excerpt from his Wikipedia entry:
Friedman is Jewish. He attended Hebrew school five days a week until his Bar Mitzvah(...) He became enamored of Israel after a visit there in December 1968, and he spent all three of his high school summers living on Kibbutz Hahotrim, near Haifa. He has characterized his high school years as "one big celebration of Israel's victory in the Six-Day War." Friedman studied at the University of Minnesota for two years, but later transferred to Brandeis University and graduated summa cum laude in 1975 with a degree in Mediterranean studies. (...) After Brandeis he attended St Antony's College at the University of Oxford on a Marshall scholarship, earning an M.Phil. in Middle Eastern studies.(...) Friedman joined the London bureau of United Press International after completing his Master's degree. He was dispatched a year later to Beirut, where he lived from June 1979 to May 1981 while covering the civil war there. He was hired by The New York Times as a reporter in 1981, and redispatched to Beirut at the start of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. His coverage of the war, particularly the Sabra and Shatila massacre, won him the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting (shared with Loren Jenkins of The Washington Post).(...) In June 1984, Friedman was transferred to Jerusalem, where he served as the Times Jerusalem Bureau Chief until February 1988. That year he received a second Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting, which cited his coverage of the First Palestinian Intifada.
So, not only is Thomas Friedman Jewish, but he has studied the Middle East in depth, lived there, speaks the languages and can be considered knowledgeable and committed by any standard I can imagine.  Whether you agree with him or not, (I rarely find myself reading off the same page as he does, especially on globalization) he is someone fully qualified to speak about the relations between Israel and the USA. 
Here is a snippet of what he wrote in the New York Times:
I have one question and one observation about Mitt Romney’s visit to Israel. The question is this: Since the whole trip was not about learning anything but about how to satisfy the political whims of the right-wing, super pro-Bibi Netanyahu, American Jewish casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, why didn’t they just do the whole thing in Las Vegas? I mean, it was all about money anyway — how much Romney would abase himself by saying whatever the Israeli right wanted to hear and how big a jackpot of donations Adelson would shower on the Romney campaign in return. Really, Vegas would have been so much more appropriate than Jerusalem. They could have constructed a plastic Wailing Wall and saved so much on gas.(...) So how about all you U.S. politicians — Republicans and Democrats — stop feeding off this conflict for political gain. Stop using this conflict as a backdrop for campaign photo-ops and fund-raisers. Stop making things even worse by telling the most hard-line Israelis everything that they want to hear, just to grovel for Jewish votes and money, while blatantly ignoring the other side. There are real lives at stake out there. If you’re not going to do something constructive, stay away. They can make enough trouble for themselves on their own. 
This is not the first such attack. In December of 2011 he wrote the following about the Israeli prime minister Netanyahu's appearance before the US Congress in the New York Times:
I’d never claim to speak for American Jews, but I’m certain there are many out there like me, who strongly believe in the right of the Jewish people to a state, who understand that Israel lives in a dangerous neighborhood yet remains a democracy, but who are deeply worried about where Israel is going today. My guess is we’re the minority when it comes to secular American Jews. We still care. Many other Jews are just drifting away. I sure hope that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, understands that the standing ovation he got in Congress this year was not for his politics. That ovation was bought and paid for by the Israel lobby. The real test is what would happen if Bibi tried to speak at, let’s say, the University of Wisconsin. My guess is that many students would boycott him and many Jewish students would stay away, not because they are hostile but because they are confused. 
Many gentile readers will say to themselves that Friedman can get away with saying such things and using such unvarnished language because he is Jewish. That isn't so.  Exactly the opposite really. Many Jewish people, especially older ones, seem convinced that all gentiles are latent antisemites, just waiting to turn and rend them, so Friedman's attack would be considered just par for the course if it came from a gentile. From a Jewish person it stings.
The Jewish people have a long and perfectly justifiable reluctance to wash their community's dirty linen before strangers. Thomas Friedman, is not a secular Jew in the sense that Noam Chomsky is, Friedman is an observant Jew who participates actively in the life of his synagog and by speaking out so forcefully against the government of Israel and AIPAC, he is drawing a moral line in the sand which he may well suffer in defending, even among, or especially among, people close to him. It is necessary to understand this in order to properly value his stand.
Here is how his earlier article was treated in Commentary Magazine:
(...) let’s address one of the primary slanders at the heart of his piece: that the standing ovations Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received last spring were “bought and paid for by the Israel lobby.” Rather, they were the result of the fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans–Jew and non-Jew alike–think of Israel as a friend and ally.(...) The notion that the only reason politicians support Israel is because of Jewish money is a central myth of a new form of anti-Semitism which masquerades as a defense of American foreign policy against the depredations of a venal Israel lobby. This canard not only feeds off of the traditional themes of Jew-hatred, it also requires Friedman to ignore the deep roots of American backing for Zionism in our history and culture.
Why are Jewish Americans like Thomas Friedman and Peter Beinart,  exposing themselves to such abuse?
In my opinion this is because, in the world's most ancient prophetic tradition, Friedman and others like him, can see a nightmare scenario about to unfold in the Middle East, a war that may spread unpredictably throughout that entire region and even beyond, perhaps sucking in great powers on opposing sides, a war with a domino effect that may well push the entire world economy off the edge and into a full blown great depression, with unforeseeably sinister social consequences; a disaster that will affect the lives of every American, especially the most vulnerable, and will bring the curse of all humanity on the heads of those seen to have caused it. 
Someone credible has to speak out.
I consider Thomas Friedman a brave and patriotic American and I salute him. DS