Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Friday, June 25, 2010
Published on Friday, June 25, 2010 by CommonDreams.org
In Dire Straits, Americans Whimper Instead
by Ted Rall
PORTLAND, OREGON--In 1967 animal researchers conducted an interesting experiment. Two sets of dogs were strapped into harnesses and subjected to a series of shocks. The dogs were placed in the same room.
The first set of dogs was allowed to perform a task--pushing a panel with their snouts--in order to avoid the shocks. As soon as one dog mastered the shock-avoidance technique, his comrades followed suit.
The second group, on the other hand, was placed out of reach from the panel. They couldn't stop the pain. But they watched the actions of the first set.
Then both groups of dogs were subjected to a second experiment. If they jumped over a barrier, the dogs quickly learned, the shocks would stop. The dogs belonging to the first set all did it.
But the second-set dogs were too psychologically scarred to help themselves. "When shocked, many of them ran around in great distress but then lay on the floor and whimpered," wrote Russell A. Powell, Diane G. Symbaluk and P. Lynne Honey in Introduction to Learning and Behavior. "They made no effort to escape the shock. Even stranger, the few dogs that did by chance jump over the barrier, successfully escaping the shock, seemed unable to learn from this experience and failed to repeat it on the next trial. In summary, the prior exposure to inescapable shock seemed to impair the dogs' ability to learn to escape shock when escape became possible."
The decrease in learning ability caused by unavoidable punishment leads to a condition called "learned helplessness."
Which brings us to the midterm elections.
Battered and bruised, with no apparent way out, the American electorate has plunged into a political state of learned helplessness. They've voted Democratic to punish rapacious Republicans. They've voted Republican to get rid of do-nothing Democrats. They've tried staying home on Election Day. Nothing they do helps their condition. They're flailing.
The great mass of Americans works longer hours for less pay. Until, inevitably, they get "laid off." Is there a working- or middle-class American who hasn't lost his job or been close to someone who got fired during the last few years? Even in 2009, when global capitalism entered its final crisis and millions of Americans were losing their homes to the same banks their taxes were paying to bail out, the world's richest people--those with disposable wealth over $30 million--saw their assets soar by 21.5 percent.
Go ahead, little leftie: smash the windows at Starbucks in Seattle. It won't stop transnational corporations from raping the planet and exploiting you. Enjoy your Tea Party, little rightie. It sure is cute, listening to you talk about the wee Constitution. "Your" government and the companies that own "your" leaders have your number. And they're listening to your phone calls.
The public is now in full-fledged flailing mode. Just two years ago, you will recall, Obama and the Democrats swept into power on a platform of hope and change: hope that things might improve, by changing away from the Bushian Republicanism of the previous eight years.
Now, depending who you listen to, people have either turned against the hope and the change, or against the failure of ObamaCo to deliver it. "The voters, I think, are just looking for change, and that means bad news for incumbents and in particular for the Democrats," says Peter Hart, a Democratic pollster.
Change from change we can't believe in. Again.
According to the latest NBC News/Washington Post poll, this is the same electorate that "shows grave and growing concerns about the Gulf oil spill, with overwhelming majorities of adults favoring stronger regulation of the oil industry and believing that the spill will affect the nation's economy and environment." Because you know the Republicans are all about more regulation of Big Oil. And care so much about the environment.
Does your head hurt yet?
There is some good news: Three major polls find that most Americans don't believe Obama has a plan to fix the economy. Yes, this is good news; it proves that the public isn't totally crazy.
Like the poor Set B dogs in that 1967 experiment, Americans are running around aimlessly, veering between two parties that differ only in their degree of harm. Republicans are evil; Democrats enable it.
Next: lying on the ground and whimpering.
The way out is obvious. If a two-party corpocracy beholden to gangster capitalism is ruining your life, get rid of it.
Don't whimper. Bite.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Ridley Scott's "The Duellists" is one of my favorite films.
Cinematically, it's brilliant. Every shot is like a renaissance painting.
The swordfights, choreographed by William Hobbs, are painfully true, not silly "stage combat."
And the theme, written by Howard Blake is a wonderful piece of music.
The film explores a simple question: What is honor?
The answer is less simple.
Friday, June 18, 2010
Spent some time on a ship in the waybackwhen, sailing up and down craggy coast of Maine.
North to Newfoundland.
South to Norfolk, Virginia.
The Sea has a deadly beauty.
She can just roll over in her sleep and erase you.
Like you were never there.
If she had a voice, it might sound like this.
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
Sunday, June 13, 2010
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Trial for 27 Anti-Torture Activists
Who Protested Obama's Failure to Close GITMO
Begins Monday (6/14)
Twenty-Seven to Go on Trial for Protesting the Obama Administration’s Failure to Close Guantanamo, Plan for Indefinite Detention, and Refusal to Prosecute Torture
WASHINGTON - June 11 - On Monday, June 14 twenty-seven will face trial stemming from arrests at the U.S. Capitol on January 21, 2010 — the date by which President Obama had promised the closure of the Guantanamo detention camp......
Let me get this straight:
The people who DID the torturing will not be prosecuted.
The people who PROTESTED the torturing will go to jail.
Now, maybe it's just me.
But it seems like something here is terribly, terribly wrong.
If you agree with me, don't keep it to yourself.
CONTACT: Witness Against Torture
Jeremy Varon: firstname.lastname@example.org
Helen Schietinger: email@example.com
What country IS this, anyway?
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Federal officials have arrested an Army intelligence analyst who boasted of giving classified U.S. combat video and hundreds of thousands of classified State Department records to whistleblower site Wikileaks, according to Wired.com.
SPC Bradley Manning, 22, of Potomac, Maryland, was stationed at Forward Operating Base Hammer, 40 miles east of Baghdad, where he was arrested nearly two weeks ago by the Army's Criminal Investigation Division. A family member says he's being held in custody in Kuwait, and has not been formally charged.
Manning is alleged to have taken credit for leaking a headline-making video of a helicopter attack that Wikileaks posted online in April. The video showed a deadly 2007 U.S. helicopter air strike in Baghdad that claimed the lives of several innocent civilians....
"The very word 'secrecy' is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. We decided long ago that the dangers of excessive and unwarranted concealment of pertinent facts far outweighed the dangers, which are cited to justify it."
President John F. Kennedy
Address to newspaper publishers, April 27, 1961
Think about it.
What are the things you keep secret?
Are they the things you are most proud of, the times you did well, helped out, spoke up, fought the good fight?
Or are they other things?
Times when you were selfish, unfair, unfeeling, hurtful.
Which do you shroud in secrecy?
Your best and brightest moments?
Or your darkest thoughts and bloodiest deeds?
The government has secrets, too.
Lots of them.
When they want to hide something they are – or should be – ashamed of, they just stamp it “classified.”
The question isn’t just what are they hiding, but even more importantly who are they hiding it from?
I’ll give you a hint.
It isn’t “the enemy.”
Any “enemy” who could make use of such intelligence has probably already gotten it all on his own.
It isn’t “the enemy” they’re hiding things from.
Because we might not like the things they’ve been doing in our name, with our money, behind our backs.
We might get the impression that these “public servants” aren’t our servants at all, but our masters.
And that’s an uncomfortable notion to folks raised in “the land of the free.”
Uncomfortable enough that we might just do something about it.
So, to their ever-lasting disgrace, they keep it all secret from us.
And to our ever-lasting disgrace, we don’t try very hard to find out.
Saturday, June 5, 2010
Friday, June 4, 2010
Furkan Dogan was 19. He was an American citizen, born in Troy, New York and lived in Turkey since he was 2 years old. He was on board that humanitarian flotilla when Israeli thugs boarded it in international waters.
They put a bullet in his chest and four in his head at close range.
FOUR SHOTS TO THE HEAD.
Somebody want to explain that to me?
Was he still "resisting" after the first three head shots?
Somebody's gun accidentally discharge four times?
Maybe four different guys all just happened to fire at the same target at the same time?
So they’re spending ungodly amounts of your hard-earned money that they extort from you as "taxes," to “defend” us all from these invisible “terrorists” we’re all supposed to be afraid of.
And in "the land of the free," you can’t spit, sweat or scratch without somebody reading your email, tapping your phone, whisking you off to some secret prison for “detention,” or now, just “extra-judicially” murdering you.
All in the name of protecting the US from the terrorist bogeyman.
But what happens when heavily-armed thugs board a vessel -- in international waters flying the American flag -- and murder an unarmed American citizen?
What do we do about that?
Unless you include puckering up and putting a big, sloppy kiss on the murderers’ backside.
Now, I’ll grant you, it’s a little hard for President Obummer to get all indignant about killing unarmed civilians considering how much of that the US has been doing in Iraq, and Afghanistan (and recently Pakistan) every day for the last decade.
The last couple of Presidents, plus the Congress, has been responsible for so much theft and murder, they make Hells Angels look like the League of Women Voters.
So it’s tough.
Black, you know.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
He's five foot-two, and he's six feet-four,
He fights with missiles and with spears.
He's all of thirty-one, and he's only seventeen,
Been a soldier for a thousand years.
He'a a Catholic, a Hindu, an Atheist, a Jain,
A Buddhist and a Baptist and a Jew.
And he knows he shouldn't kill,
And he knows he always will,
Kill you for me my friend and me for you.
And he's fighting for Canada,
He's fighting for France,
He's fighting for the USA,
And he's fighting for the Russians,
And he's fighting for Japan,
And he thinks we'll put an end to war this way.
And he's fighting for Democracy,
He's fighting for the Reds,
He says it's for the peace of all.
He's the one who must decide,
Who's to live and who's to die,
And he never sees the writing on the wall.
But without him,
How would Hitler have condemned him at Dachau?
Without him Caesar would have stood alone,
He's the one who gives his body
As a weapon of the war,
And without him all this killing can't go on.
He's the Universal Soldier and he really is to blame,
His orders come from far away no more,
They come from here and there and you and me,
And brothers can't you see,
This is not the way we put the end to war.
Buffy St. Marie