Saturday, June 19, 2010

Broken Policy - Broken Promises

What happens to courageous thinkers when they enter politics?

Michael Ignatieff, author of The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror, morphed from deep-thinker into some sort of Justin Trudeau Lite as soon as he became leader of the Liberal Party of Canada.

Barack Obama, barely eighteen months in office, and he's already reading most answers directly from The Compendium of Annoying Platitudes for Every Occasion rather than calling us to arms with blunt sincerity.

Each was elected against huge odds when disenchanted voters thought they saw independent men who might speak the truth regardless of the effect on their chances for re-election. They were going to change politics forever simply by speaking their unconventional mind.

Instead, they've settled for superficial compromise with vested interests, avoiding fundamental reform, desperate to claim they have 'moved the yardsticks'. It's called the status quo.

Dangerous stuff. Betrayed promises lead to broken policy and the greater the broken promises, the greater the failed outcome.

Public dialogue through the mass media is so broken right now, it is the issue facing democratic society. Without it, attempts to manage debt, aggression and the environment are doomed ahead of time. We need a couple of world leaders willing to take four years off from partisan politics and to simply tell the truth.

Forget all the posturing intended to garner votes or get legislation passed. Give us four years of openly proving you don't give a damn whether you get elected for a second term. Four years of sheer defiance in the face of normal politics to demonstrate and remind the world what plain-speaking leadership looks and sounds and feels like.

Some time before the last presidential election, Jimmy Carter was interviewed about the catastrophic plunge in trust the rest of the world felt towards the US. The planetary bastion of human integrity and sincerity lay in shambles thanks to The Shrub and Cheney's lies and deceit.

The interviewer asked Carter how long it would take for the world to climb back from such a terrible political deficit.

"About six minutes!" the elder statesman replied. "This travesty of greed and bullying could be stopped and reversed within mere paragraphs of the new President's first speech."


Things looked promising at the University of Cairo. A world yearning for a global 'Mandela' rather than a mere national or continental one, dared to hope.

Then came Health Insurance!

Obama took his eye off the ball and gave in to the temptation of thinking he could actually achieve something in Health Insurance itself. He dove in head first and, predictably, within just a few weeks, he was tied in knots, stuck in the weeds of lobby-logic. He chickened out. Couldn't bring himself to yell "Liars!" when they fibbed about the public option.

Never mind the fundaments of health insurance reform, he didn't change the rules of public debate! He let them get away with bold faced lies. What a blow to all our hopes.

The man had a opportunity to reset the very tenor of Earthian conversation, the human narrative for us all. Not just health insurance. Not terrorism. Not global warming. Not fossil fuels. Not China's currency. Not the Middle East.

It's the platitudes stupid! It's the false presuppositions.

Ironically, plain talk would simultaneously fix the policies. Straight talk restores trust.

Middle East

"Hey Hamas. 'Sup y'all? Here's my Twitter address. Chat anytime. Political jurisdictions and borders have come and gone throughout human history. Some justly, some not. Your debate can go on as long as you like about how modern Israel came to be. Fact is, she's there now. We can discuss borders and stuff, but Israel is a fact for as long as I can see ahead at this stage. So, Hamas, here's the deal. If you state publicly and unequivocally that Israel exists, the entire economic, political and military might of these United States will be available to you to intercept and inspect ships on the high seas, ensure they are carrying only non-military goods, and escort them directly into Gazan ports. That's all. Nothing else for now."


"Hey Fidel. 'Sup man? How about those Lakers, huh? By the way I'm ready to make a few changes around here and could use your help. I don't give a rat's fart what economic system you prefer anymore. Run the whole damn island like a farming co-op if you prefer. Even feel free to block our seditious harassment and pharmaceutical propaganda from your airwaves if you like. Michelle and I do the same to protect our daughters most evenings. Limited TV hours. The foxtrot I like. Intellectual Fox Rot we can do without. So Fidel, here's the deal. How about unrestricted access to the Internet? That's all. Nothing else for now. Continue to block consumerist badgering from pushing TV lies into Cuba if you want, but allow ordinary Cubans to pull alternate information in the other direction by choice. The Internet versions of Al Jazeera, TeleSur, the Open Data and Electronic Frontier foundations, anything they like. The moment you announce that policy, the Helms Burton Embargo goes into the dumpster of historical absurdity. I'll even encourage international donors to help you pay for the fiber optic cable if that helps. That done, your excess sugar, doctors and brilliant generic pharmaceuticals will be welcome in the US. Care to give it a try it for a few years, see how it goes?"


"Hey Mahmoud. 'Sup Dude? You got any kids? Any of them interested in nuclear physics? Vlad Putin and Bob Gates have an absolute sheitload of weapons grade material they'd like to reprofile. Can those facilities you're building to enrich uranium run backwards instead? So Mahmoud, here's the deal. Help me reverse the process so we use and re-use that stuff to generate seven cents per KW electricity and you can power all of Europe and Africa until the spent fuel is sufficiently depleted to store more safely,. That's all. Nothing else for now. Unless you want to help with Cuba's Internet. (see above) Your people seem to have Twitter pretty well figured out. I'll get my girls to suggest Fidel and Raul send you Facebook Friend Requests."


It's called the quip pro quote strategy of bilateral pattern interruption. A fundamental re-rap (paradigm shift) on foreign policy.

Of course the details will get complicated eventually. That's what an improbable second term is for, or even another President if need be. But can you imagine the change in world affairs and in mass media relations if we could manage just four short years of two-point policy statements? A single 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. Anything more risks propelling us towards global thermonuclear war and environmental oblivion.

I don't know about those other characters, but Fidel usually welcomes this sort of clarity. Let's poke him before it's too late.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Oliver Stone and Jesse Ventura

Beginning with his 2003 documentary on Fidel Castro, Oliver Stone went from being a film maker to becoming a journalistic legend.

There is no more poignant moment in the history of modern documentaries than when Castro asked him if he had ever experienced deadly combat. Stone's response and El Comandante's visceral reaction transformed a mere film into history in its own right, perhaps even literature. His follow-up study of Hugo Chavez will further the task of restoring American journalism to legitimacy.

Harold Bloom might have to canonize him as the first entry in the era of Web 3.0 and Jesse Ventura is ready to make him a mandatory part of high school curricula throughout the United States. Even more gratifying would be to see Howard Kurtz, CNN's self-congratulatory parody of mass media conscience, succumb to the same devastating comparison as destroyed Lou Dobbs when Fareed Zakaria hit the air waves. Kurtz's 'Reliable Sources' is Pablum and deception, if only by ommission.

The issue, of course, is what Ashis Nandy calls "a world where the idiom of dissent is increasingly being defined at the centers of conformity."

Our mass media.

As if to highlight the fact, nearly every major US network rushed to interview Maziar Bahari last week, taking great pains to celebrate the first aniversary of how social media like Twitter and Facebook allowed coverage of the riotous aftermath to the Iranian elections last year. None has reported the same syndrome at the heart of their own coverage of American health insurance, interest on international debt, the Helms-Burton sabotage of Cuba's basic livelihood , or the depletion of major aquifers. This isn't just ironic, it is blatant deliberate hypocrasy.

The whole charade will come to a full head a year from now when Oliver Stone releases his next major work, 'The Secret History of the United States'. The ten hour extravaganza will expose over a century of comprehensive manipulation of mainstream media, a betrayal of democracy and Western civilization that is all the more insidious for being deliberately disguised, self-imposed and perpetuated by the media empire itself.

It might further transform Oliver Stone, the mere film maker and literary critic, into the 21st Century's first prophetic historian. (sic)


Saturday, June 5, 2010

"Follow the Money Stupid!"

Bloated fat cats living in a gated community on the hill, while emaciated hoards struggle in the desiccated, drought-plagued valley below.

Anything wrong with this picture? It defies gravity, right? Must be a vacuum pump somewhere pushing water uphill?

Does that scenario remind you of the current financial markets?

It leaves me wondering whether there might not be some sort of jolt available to shock the entire financial matrix back into equilibrum?

I'm lucky you see, I don't know enough about economics to not ask such a question.

I do remember in 1972, when the US was in a threatening debt situation, Nixon sent everyone home at 1700 hrs one Friday, devalued the dollar by a whopping 10% over the ensuing long week-end, and reopened for business at 0800 hrs Tuesday while thumbing his nose at the creditors.

Now, I understand that in order to pull off such a stunt, the devaluing country must be able to withstand the backlash. To devalue one currency in the absence of a neutral standard, such as gold was back then, means that all other currencies appreciate relatively. But that was an eon ago when 'globalization' didn't even apply to the World Cup yet, let alone the World Economy.

I mention it now only as an example of a time when we dared shake up the world's extortive shakedown system. What wild, out-of-box, shock could we use today to reset the very meaning of 'money' itself to some kind of start-from-scratch tabula rasa. What tactic of global economic policy would be the equivalent of turning off the aforementioned pump, even temporarily?

Individual sectors of the world economy are rife with local and hemispheric collusion, of course, but these are only mini-tycoons on local hillsides. What about the planetary petro-pharma-agri-banco-insurance 'cartel'? It doesn't even act like a cartel anymore. That word implies a gathering of at least several actors. These buggers act as one highly integrated central vaccuum.

Their insidious gleaning machine permeates from the marrow of our bones to the farthest reaches of our economic vascular system, into the very meat of the Earthly being itself. It vacuums our taxes, profits and bonuses through a venous capillary system that sucks us dry to feed a single narrowly held capital escrow.

Make no mistake about it, the process is indeed venous, not arterial. The net traffic is 'return', toward the center. It was designed from the start to feed that gated and privileged reservoir at the top of the food chain.

That is why the main symptom of this current economic disease is not edema (swelling from excess fluid at the periphery), but ischemia (lack of circulation and oxygen in the economic muscles that move us.)

This isn't the first time it has happened. Each of history's great revolutions has posed the same question to petrified privilege. Has the time come to sabotage the pump? Are the hoardes determined to see the water flow back downhill for a while until nature and cyclical evaporation can restore regular rainfall to the valley again?

The difference, despite the broad availability of small arms, is that we, the valley riff-raff, are unlikely to launch any sort of guerilla revolt this time thanks to the pharmacopeial and misinformation-induced stupor into which we have fallen.

Instead, the pump that is sustaining the uphill flow of wealth and privilege is about to fail all on its own. It is running dry naturally and, once it has, the diaphragm will perforate and the shrinking gaskets will fail to seal the valves that currently ensure a one way flow.

That flow, on which the accumulation of plutocratic power and priviledge depend is called 'interest' in the case of banks and 'premium' in the case of the insurance companies. They are wealth-diverting and concentrating strategies that no longer bear any relation at all to the actual costs of managing currency or actuarial risk.

Only a very few prophetic voices among us seem able to step off the consumerist presuppositional treadmill long enough to even notice what is happening and, predictably, we dismiss them as platitude-spouting old socialists from a bygone era. There is no Twenty-First Century Deep Throat willing to blow the whistle.

Nobody wants to hear a prophet whine.

instead, a necessary seismic upheaval is on the way that will not be of our deliberate chosing or design, not this time. We are functionally incapable of a well-crafted deliberate change of direction. There will be no brilliant, game-changing Obama-led end-run around the debt markets some Monday morning to shock them and draw the planet away from the brink.

Crisis averted? Water flowing with gravity again? Not a chance. Not with the whole shamozzle compounded by the percentage of the world economy that is off-book, a narco-criminal 'black market' and informal economy that runs parallel to and increasingly unconnected to the 'legal' (i.e. taxable) economy.

Instead, in the absence of a deliberate act of human will and communal planetary sanity, Mother Earth herself is going to take over and teach us a bitter lesson. Our behaviour as a species on this planet is unsustainable. We are stark raving mad. BP and Grecian fiscal policy are only tips of the melting iceberg.

And where I live, fellow drones, that iceberg is no friggin' cliché!