Controlling the Uncontrollable

This Thursday the secret cabal that is supposed to run the world, the Bilderberg Group, meets behind closed doors at a five-star ski resort in Switzerland for four days of discussions about the future of the world they supposedly control.

My first thought is they are not doing a very good job because everything appears to going to hell in a hand basket.  But others would argue that things are just hunky dory for the world’s elite as the rich get richer while the rest of us feel more and more alienated and helpless. 

So who are they and what are they meeting about in secret?  The Bilderbergers first met in 1954 at a Dutch hotel called Bilderberg, apparently to strengthen American and European relations to prevent a third world war coming out of Europe.  Clearly they have succeeded, so what now for the backroom boys led by former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Viscount Davignon, a former vice president of the European Union?

According to the co-founder of the group, British Labor politician Denis Healey, there are enormous practical benefits to be had from an informal meeting between the world’s top CEO’s and Prince Charles, Bill Clinton and Tony Blair, where confidentiality enables the mighty to mingle and speak honestly without creating headlines.

With about 120 big wigs meeting, (one third politicians from both the left and right, and two thirds from business, labor, education and communication), it might be nothing more than a glorified dinner party.  But there is a stated purpose behind the Western elites meeting informally, and it is to shore-up a consensus around free market Western capitalism and its interests around the globe.

To Americans on the fringes of the left and the right, led by radio conspiracy jock Alex Jones and the followers of Lyndon LaRouche, the Bilderbergers are a sinister cabal run by the European Union that threatens American freedoms.  But in Europe, it is seen in more classically Marxist terms as a Neo-Liberal elite trying to impose their free market agenda of globalism.

Meanwhile as public education in America collapses and faith replaces fact, conspiracy theories are increasingly obstructing a rational view of the world with “birthers”, “truthers” and creationists furthering an anti-science and anti-intellectual trend that is rapidly making ignorance mainstream and acceptable.  This might even culminate in 2012 with a Sarah Palin as the next president of the United States.

Part of the failure is the press, who should have long ago demanded that the names of attendees at the Bilderberg gatherings be released before the meetings.  And while the proceedings are closed to the public and the media, and no press releases are issued, they should have at least done ambush interviews as the high and mighty exit the conference.  If the press can ambush Lindsay Lohan exiting a nightclub, they should have the resources to ask the world’s elite what they have planned for us.

But for the growing number of navel-gazers, many of whom ironically consider themselves activists, these often strong and passionate beliefs have turned political fiction and social fantasy into an almost religious cult.  The notion that the world is controlled by a room full of white men amounts to total political abdication, and can only lead to paralysis and alienation. 

There is also the ugly side of conspiracy that gravitates to the Jews controlling the world and other anti-Semitic calumnies that are held as common fact in the Middle East where the belief persists that the Jews, not al Qaeda were behind the 9/11 attacks, a similar delusion to the “inside job” shared by the “truthers”.      

But like religion, there is a comfort to belief systems, no matter how outlandish, as in the case of the Mormons or the Scientologists, their sacred texts might be.  Conspiracies like the Bilderberg cabal suggest that there are people with God-like power who reign over us helpless beings.  These belief systems act as a crutch, replacing the accurate but uncomfortable realization that there is nothing at work here at all, and nobody in charge of a world that is chaotic and spiraling out of control.  The downside however, to this form of therapy, is the rising know-nothing tide of ignorance in America that has more and more people believing in anti-scientific messages that often victimize and demonize others.

But conspiracies have shaped history and they do exist.  I explored a big one recently with Annie Jacobsen, the author of a new book “Area 51: an uncensored history of America’s top secret military base.”  She uncovered the mother of all conspiracies involving the Roswell crash of an “alien” spacecraft that the government has covered up for decades. 

But both the former scientists and engineers at the secret base, and the Art Bell UFO crowd, who have been enmeshed in these swirling conspiracies for decades, attacked her explanation, which was based on the first-hand account of one of her most reliable sources.  So go figure.

The Tea Party of the Left

Until the passage of Prop 13, California used to have the best education system in the country and one of the best in the world.  Now it shares the shame of next-to-last place with Mississippi in the race to the bottom as the dumbing down of America continues unabated.  Not only did that reactionary legislation with its supermajority traps hamstring the predominantly Democratic state with minority Republican rule, it has led directly to the obscenity of a gold-plated prison industrial complex with the lobby for the prison guards union running Sacramento. 

While the owners of commercial property have made out like bandits, public education has been eviscerated and our schools impoverished.  But even worse, this malevolently misplaced priority perpetuates a cycle of social failure, as unschooled kids are fed into the prison system as ill-educated inmates only to return to the streets as skilled sociopaths.

Lately it has become increasingly clear to me that on a national level, right wing Republicans have an investment in destroying public education which they are doing by blaming teachers, promoting “Christian” privatization and deliberately cutting funding.  The less educated the voter, the more likely they are to vote for Sarah Palin and the Tea Party. 

And while the Republican establishment is desperately trying to promote an intelligent and reasonable Jon Huntsman as their presidential candidate, the monster that Karl Rove and the Koch brothers have unleashed is likely to propel Palin through the primaries to victory.

But there is another Tea Party that I am unfortunately familiar with, and it is just as ignorant, inchoate and dangerous as the one on the right, and that is the Tea Party of the left.  And while the far fringes of the right and left merge with anti-government conspiracies of the likes of Alex Jones, what they share in common is a hostile rejection of the Republican Party by the right and the Democratic Party by the left.  However the difference is the right votes and the left doesn’t.

But that is not to say the Kochs, Karl Rove and Dick Army have not successfully co-opted the Tea Party by cleverly re-branding the Republican right wing and driving it to victory.  But its twin on the left, instead of propelling the Democratic Party from within to majority rule, is dragging it down into an apathetic minority.

A microcosm of this sad phenomenon is on display with the pending capture of the Pacifica radio network by a cultish, conspiratorial, uneducated pseudo-left that claims political activism while encouraging alienation and self-marginalization.  What was once the platform for dissent and political activism in the sixties and an incubator and outlet for some of our greatest dramatists, poets, novelists and singers, is now a pathetic perch for purveyors of political fiction and medical fraud.

Following a phony revolution in response to a mythical corporate takeover, the Pacific network saddled itself with an onerous Soviet-style “democratic” governance structure that punishes listeners and soaks up their money with endless elections that less than 10% of listeners participate in. 

This pseudo-democratic farce not only results in the election of disruptive fringe dwellers, it could easily be captured by stealth candidates from a cult or a front for a right wing or “Christian” organization out to grab some of the most valuable broadcast licenses in the land.  Short of that, these elections often end up in expensive lawsuits in addition to the millions that were paid out in the name of “freeing” Pacifica.   

Having driven away two thirds to three quarters of their audience over the past decade, in order to avert bankruptcy, Pacifica’s airwaves have lately been turned over to New Age quacks and peddlers of miracle cures, as well as right wing anti-government hucksters.  While proclaiming to be holier than NPR by not taking corporate money, Pacifica’s increasingly frequent and interminable fund drives have become free infomercials for corporate bottom feeders who promote their snake oil for profit while claiming the mantle of resistance, revolution and investigative journalism. 

Worse still, is the anti-science sales pitches that accompany these miracle cures, making the people’s radio on the left indistinguishable from the corporate-funded global warming deniers and creationists.  And morally reprehensible does not even begin to describe those who exploit dying cancer patients with the promise of a cure from a revolutionary natural elixir that Big Pharma is trying to suppress. 

If it wasn’t so pernicious it would be laughable, but without any moral, ethical or political compass, Pacifica’s pursuit of “health and spirituality” will likely lead to an FCC license challenge due to the flagrant misuse of the public’s money and airwaves for the private gain of a few patent medicine peddlers. 

If the only rationale for selling their soul to the lowest bidder is that it pays the bills, then why not promote pornography in fund drives?  People like it and there’s a lot of money to be made.  But in the end, maybe it comes down to the number of gullible hypochondriacs and political illiterates there are on the left in America.  Even though they are not really on the left.

The Heist In Plain Sight

When the guy cutting your hair offers his considered opinion that “we’ve got to do something about the deficit” you know the mind of America is seriously twisted.  How could working Americans and the middle class have fallen for the con that there is a deficit crisis and that it’s their responsibility to fix it?

Without the slightest notion that George W. Bush single-handed ran up one third of the national debt, and combined with his father and Ronald Reagan they are responsible for a half of the $14.3 trillion debt accumulated over the entire life of the Republic, hitting the debt ceiling is suddenly my problem. 

And although in the real world we have a revenue crisis, not a deficit crisis, the political landscape laid out by the Republicans and reinforced by the mainstream media, has everyone accepting that we can’t raise taxes to generate revenues to pay down the deficit, we have to cut spending.

This is the most flagrant in-your-face robbery and brazen act of class warfare that any democracy has ever accepted, but the top one percent and their political hirelings are pulling it off.  The beneficiaries of decades of tax breaks that have demonstrably widened the income gap to where America has the greatest disparity in wealth on the planet, apparently have got the poor overburdened taxpayer to take up the deficit challenge and shoulder it alone.

The Republicans, who are likely to pick up the Senate next year, have drawn the line on no taxes and will not budge. Raising revenues are off the table, so that means cut only.  So the rich who pay little to no taxes, who are largely responsible for the economic collapse, who were made whole by the taxpayer and are better off than ever, are telling the rest of us to tighten our belts. 

Telling us we should sacrifice our Social Security and Medicare so that their tax breaks can go on forever, and if Congressman Ryan, who wants to cut Medicare gets his way, their taxes will be lowered even further.

Meanwhile the surplus wealth the one percent have stashed offshore, in hedge funds and in other Wall Street “instruments”, is working overtime to further impoverish the working stiff at the gas pump and kitchen table as more wealth is transferred from the poor to the rich through commodity speculation.  This unfettered predation is slowing down the anemic economic recovery and it could lead to a double-dip recession which will no doubt help the Republican get elected next year while hurting the rest of us.   

If we had a full recovery and the 13.7 million out of work were paying taxes, the deficit would cease to be an issue overnight.  That is how phony it is, because it is the idle poor who need work not the idle rich who need more tax breaks. 

Stimulus not austerity is how you get demand back into the economy, unless of course the infamous Citibank memo cited in Michael Moore’s “Capitalism” movie has come to pass.  A government of the wealthy, by the wealthy and for the wealthy where the plutonomy can get by without working stiffs going to the mall.  In other words, the plantation economy that Warren Buffet warns we are heading into.

This will mean the final triumph of money over votes and the ultimate success of Fox News and other class war propaganda outlets who will have finally turned logic on its head.  Having convinced the guy who cuts my hair, they will have convinced the rest of working America that the “freedom” of a hedge fund billionaire to pay less in taxes than his secretary, also makes them free. 

Free to strive for the American dream that is no longer attainable, because our game show democracy is rigged with meritocracy a sham.  And once the land of the free is fully privatized by inheritors and investors, and the home of the brave rented out to suckers and slaves, will the rest of the huddled masses yearn to breathe free?

Presidential Cojones


The official story of the killing of Bin Laden still seems a bit incredible, and people like Bob Baer who have trained and worked with the Special Forces insist such a raid would be suicidal unless the intrusion into Pakistan’s airspace was either undetected or ignored by the Pakistanis. But there is also the possibility that “stealth” modifications on the helicopters worked and daring and luck played a role.

And after watching the president on “60 Minutes” last Sunday I think it is time to accept the obvious that Barack Obama has cojones.  After specious and vicious racists attacks from the right and endless rebukes from the left that he is wimping out on hope and change, the Commander-in-Chief has shown that he does not play it safe, cave in to pressure and roll with the punches as his critics have concluded.

In spite of the apparent success of the SEAL team’s raid, the junkyard dogs at Fox News and on right wing radio are going through tortured mental gymnastics to criticize, downplay and dismiss a “mission accomplished” moment that was an actual accomplishment. Their poisonous hatred of our first black president is such that Sarah Palin could only muster praise for the failed, faux warrior George W Bush, who she congratulated for getting Bin Laden.

Imagine the cacophony of abuse and derision that would be all over the airwaves if Obama’s national security team had failed to get their man and ended up trapped in an embarrassing shootout with allied soldiers.  After the helicopter crashed and the SEAL’s had to blow a hole in Bin Laden’s wall, little wonder there were tense moments in the situation room. 

With explosions echoing in the night among the villas of retired military officers and near the barracks of Pakistan’s elite military cadets, it must have been a long forty minute wait for the replacement helicopter and a lucky break that whoever was on duty on the Pakistani side was either asleep or used to things that go bang in the night.

Now that the shadow of the Dukakis, Mondale, Gore, Kerry wimp factor has been lifted from the mantle of Democratic leadership and we have that rare quality in the White House, a macho liberal, it is surely time for Obama to turn his sights to the Republicans. 

Their distain for him is as manifest as their racist calumnies about his birth religion and patriotism are, and he should give them no quarter.  They have repeatedly spurned his earnest entreaties for bipartisanship and are so determined to destroy his presidency that they will sabotage the nation’s economic recovery to bring him down as Mitch McConnell has vowed to do. 

While still basking in the afterglow of a patriotic bump in the polls from his display of real leadership, Obama should start defining what real patriotism is.  It is patriotic to put people back to work and not to give more of the people’s money to the bankers who ruined the economy and the corporations who are ripping off the consumer. 

It is patriotic to revive Main Street not indulge Wall Street.  And it's the patriotic duty of those who have been the beneficiaries of increasing welfare for millionaires and billionaires, to give back a little to those who have been carrying the burden of funding the very government the rich are looting and the Republicans are starving.

It is time to isolate the Republicans as the hollow hypocrites they are and expose their shameless whoredom to America’s plutocrats.  While faithfully executing their office for the benefit of their paymasters, how long can these godly “Christians” wrapped in the piety of defending “life”, get away with killing the American dream? 

With Friends Like These...


It has become increasingly difficult to pretend that Pakistan is an ally and now it is all but impossible to go along with the ritual of denying the obvious.  Whether or not the vaunted I.S.I. (Inter-Services Intelligence) were sheltering Bin Laden, or had some how missed him living right under their noses, leaves us with a choice to believe they are either incompetent or perfidious. 

I suspect the latter and now that the I.S.I. is saying they raided the so-called “Waziristan Mansion” when it was being built because they suspected a high value Al Qaeda operative was living there, then forgot about it for almost a decade, their excuses are indeed becoming lame.

On Monday I spoke with Bob Baer, a veteran CIA Operations Officer, who offered a much more plausible scenario that suggests a cover story was negotiated between the White House and the Pakistanis that left the I.S.I. with a choice between very unpalatable options.  It would seem they chose to look incompetent so as to mute any popular backlash following the death of a “martyr” as the I.S.I.-friendly Pakistan news anchors are calling Bin Laden.

The early part of the White House narrative makes sense that they painstakingly put the evidence together over a few years, finally narrowing the search to the compound in Abbottabad near Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point.  Once they were certain, it is highly unlikely a cautious Obama, mindful of what happened to Carter when he launched a raid deep into hostile territory, risked sending in a SEAL team without the assurance that the slow-flying Blackhawk helicopters would not be shot down.

What Bob Baer speculates is that the White House, having sent CIA Director Panetta, then J.C.S. Chairman Mullen to Islamabad in recent weeks, issued an ultimatum that having been caught red handed the Pakistanis had to step aside and let the U.S. take care of business.  With the White House insisting that the Pakistanis were not informed in advance, the Pakistanis had to swallow their pride to void a backlash from any hint they had cooperated with the hated Americans.

And why are the Americans hated in Pakistan?  In large part because of the relentless anti-American propaganda fed by the I.S.I. to the new Fox News-like private media in Pakistan who spread sensation over facts.  Talk about kicking a gift horse in the mouth, the billions in aid from the Kerry/Lugar/Berman bill that the U.S. thought would win over public opinion, has been vilified by the I.S.I. media whores and most of it has not even been spent because the government is so hostile and corrupt.

Why do they hate us?  Probably because we provide them with the excuse of not having to look at themselves and face up to what kind of country they are.  You cannot help someone who will not help himself, and they resent you for trying.  Given that Pakistanis have a hopeless choice between predatory military regimes and corrupt feudal civilian kleptocracies, little wonder they are teetering on being a failed state.

But if one of the most plausible scenarios is true, that elements in the I.S.I. were protecting Bin Laden and that those at the top were kept in the dark, what does that say about Pakistan’s command and control if its fast-growing nuclear arsenal?  That is a nightmare question.  And the other possibility, that those at the top knew they were concealing Bin Laden and considered him an asset, is not much better.  If the latter is true, when it comes to 9/11, it leads to questions about what did they know and when did they know it.