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Liberals Have Become Complacent


By Clancy Sigal

There is an astonishing lack of anger among liberals, progressives and radicals who have abandoned emotion to the right. Our role model continues to be not FDR, still less Malcolm X, but our "bipartisan" and apparently tone-deaf President Obama.

In this second or third year of a devastating depression, not just recession, that has inflicted an epidemic of suffering on the lower half of the American nation, Obama is very busy being fluent and civil while being essentially untouched by the rage felt by so many of us.

Our world, as we have known it, is being annihilated, and nobody in power shows signs of giving a damn.

The real anger is all on the right, kidnapped – or authentically voiced – by the all-white Tea Partiers, Palinites, Oath Keepers and "armed and dangerous" patriot groups, some but not all of whom are native-fascistic but also include pissed-off libertarians and the disappointed and dispossessed at the bottom of the pile.

Look at the mess. Evictions – I'm a child of Great Depression furniture-thrown-on-the-street – are skyrocketing. Mortgage holders are in a feeding frenzy on their hapless fellow citizens.

Michelle Obama lectures us on obesity while one in eight Americans (and one in four children) are on federal food stamps.

The human toll of long term, more-or-less permanent unemployment is yet to be counted as millions of Americans are pushed out of the middle class and become the "new poor" queueing up at food banks for the first time in their lives.

Those who do vent and get angry are put down as crackpots, which they sometimes are. But the so-called left seems to have joined the mainstream (and even the radical) media in under- or mis- or never-reporting what's actually happening in the lives of so many of us.

Like Obama, Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic party establishment we've forfeited real gut language in favor of policy abstractions, the "issues" syndrome, that so easily hide an open wound.

Joe Stack, who rammed his Piper Cherokee into the IRS building in Austin, Texas, murdering an IRS worker and injuring many, was one maladjusted injustice collector.

But his online 3000-word suicide note, a long-repressed scream of protest, has the virtue of unminced words we are never likely to hear from anyone in Washington or a state capitol. "When the wealthy fuck up, the poor get to die."

Where and when did we lefties lose this vital part of our social language? Was it in pre-school where we're urged as toddlers to use sweet reasonableness to resolve disputes?

Or have we grown so stiffly respectable that we're afraid of being loud and vulgar?

Or that – horrors! – we'll get too closely identified with the Great Unwashed like Joe Stack, Amy Bishop (the professor who shot her Alabama colleagues), crazy bikers, teenage gangs and "poor white trash" who tend to express their anger mainly against each other?

Whatever the reason, the suppression of sane, liberal anger has been around at least half a century, certainly since the sociologist C Wright Mills in his influential book The Power Elite deplored the loss of capacity by the public to experience outrage as contrasted with earlier periods in American history.

The last time I remember collective anger as legitimate was in the 1960s. Ever since there's been a gradual slide into sterile politeness.

Recently, I attended a meeting of my local school board where a mild, hardly-above-a-whisper grumble from a parent prompted his expulsion enforced by armed police.

Who knows what might have happened if any of us in the audience had stood up and actually spoken out as in that famous Norman Rockwell painting of a town hall meeting?

Why should full-throated emotion be the monopoly of the so-called "populists" who seem to be the only people around unafraid to shout, yell, stomp and scream?

I grew up in a boisterous, immigrant, loud neighborhood where everyone had an opinion and voiced it full throttle.

Somewhere along the line, maybe when I shifted from working class to middle class, I lost my rough, grating, empowered, assertive voice – and maybe the anger that had fuelled it. If so, that's a pity.

Socalist Japan makes Capitalists Uneasy

By Mike Whitney

This isn't about auto accidents or "safety regulations". It's about politics - bare-knuckle Machiavellian politics. An attack on Toyota is an attack on Japan's leading export. It is an act of war. And. as always, the US media hammer home the message.

Does anyone really believe that Toyota is being pilloried in the media for a few highway fatalities?

Nonsense. If Congress is so worried about innocent people getting killed, then why haven't they indicted US commander Stanley McChrystal for blowing up another 27 Afghan civilians on Sunday?

But this isn't about auto accidents and it's certainly not about "safety regulations". It's about politics - bare-knuckle Machiavellian politics.

An attack on Toyota is an attack on Japan's leading export. It is an act of war. Here's a excerpt from the New York Times which explains what is really going on:

"The Japanese economy has emerged from its worst recession since World War II, but is still reeling. Japan must do more to lift its economy out of deflation and boost long-term growth, S.&P. said.

“The outlook change reflects our view that the Japanese government’s diminishing economic policy flexibility may lead to a downgrade unless measures can be taken to stem fiscal and deflationary pressures.

“The policies of the new Democratic Party of Japan government point to a slower pace of fiscal consolidation than we had previously expected.”

President Barack Obama is expected to address similar worries in the United States on Wednesday, with a call for a freeze in spending on many domestic programs, a move he hopes will quell perceptions that government spending is out of control.

Fiscal problems in Greece and Ireland have also helped put the spotlight on the issue of national debt."

Japan's new liberal government is fighting deflation using the traditional methodology, by lowering interest rates and increasing fiscal stimulus. But that's not what Washington wants.

Neoliberal policymakers and their buddies in the right-wing think tanks want "fiscal consolidation" which means harsh austerity measures that will deepen the recession, increase unemployment, and trigger a wave of defaults and bankruptcies.

This is how western corporatists and bank tycoons keep their thumb on the developing world and thrust their economies into perennial crisis.

It's the "shock doctrine" and it's been the IMF's modus operandi for over 20 years. Japan is being stuffed into a fiscal straight-jacket by supporters of the Washington consensus whose goal is to weaken government and accelerate the privatization of public assets and services.

The ratings agencies are being used in the same way as the media; to wage an economic/guerrilla war on Japan and force the administration to rethink their economic policies.

Note: There is no chance that Japan will default on its debt because it pays its debts in its own currency and has large foreign exchange reserves of over $1 trillion.

The attacks on Toyota are a way of showing Tokyo what happens to countries that fail to obey Washington's orders.

Here's a clip from the New York Times which sums up the problem in a nutshell:

"The government of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has "bolstered spending on social programs aimed at helping households......

"The powerful lower house of parliament approved a supplementary budget for the fiscal year that ends in March worth ¥7.2 trillion, or $80.3 billion, to help shore up the economy...

"And next year, government spending will grow further with a record trillion-dollar budget including ambitious welfare outlays."

Western elites will not tolerate economic policies which raise the standard of living for the average working slob. "Social programs" or "welfare outlays" are anathema to their trickle down, Voodoo capitalist orthodoxy.

What they want is upward redistribution and class warfare. Regrettably, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has put himself at odds with US powerbrokers and is feeling the full measure of their wrath.

His public approval ratings have plummeted to 37 percent and are headed downward still. The message is simple: Cross Washington and you're a goner.


Do not be political.

Do not be political, and do not bring politics into the relationships you have with those around you. Political strife divides and isolates. A political relationship blinds two people from seeing each other, rather they see a wall of political views held, campaigns donated too, and politicians voted for; never seeing the heart.

The answer is not to comment on the way things ought to be according to your own opinion. The answer is humility.

I know, I fail at my own advice.


Sex the cause of sexism? Better off without?

So in Biblical studies class, there's been some talk, inevitably, about sex. Namely, that the only virtuous women are virgins (though that doesn't hold true all across the board). Some of the women in my class take offense to this, which I can understand. Basically it's telling them that because they don't desire virginity above everything else in this world (some of them might even desire...marriage! Gasp!), they're not valuable. But I think the statement runs deeper than that, and you can easily see it in a different light.

If all were as it ought to be, there would be no division amongst the sexes. All throughout history, sexism has been one of the most dominant forms of discrimination. It persists, even in modern society. I think the philosophers of the ancient world might have been longing for a world without sexism. But how do you get that? How do you eliminate sexism? Even if you take out the sex, people still see women as being delicate, easy to faint, prone to every illness in the galaxy...etc.

At any rate, I believe it's possible that they saw the essential driving factor in all this sexism to be stemming from sex itself. In the male world, sex and power-play are inextricably linked. You cannot have one without the other. Perhaps this is what philosophers of the ancient world thought. So it would make sense then, if you wanted to strive towards a perfectly egalitarian society, to eliminate sex. Which, certainly at that time, probably gave freedom to a lot of women. They could do other things with their lives than be some man's property, raise his children, run his house. The option of being a nun was probably liberating for them, it was something else they could do...and as a nun, a women probably had greater freedom than she did otherwise.

And I must admit this view is damn interesting. What if people really did stop having sex? All over the world? What if? What would happen with sexism? Would it go away? Would people still get married? Really if you think about it, the only thing barred to a non married couple in conservative society (and a bit of foreplay as well). So...would people still get married?

I think it would be interesting to see. To see a society where men and women lived together with absolutely no sex at all, in any form whatsoever. What would that be like?


Work was awful!

Had an awful day at work today. I'm just so glad I get paid to do it. I haven't slept hardly at all over the past two days. Last night I only managed to fit in about 4 or so hours of sleep. The lack of sleep an the resulting crankiness (although I gotta say I think I do pretty good at keeping the cranky under-wraps), boosts stress and tension, infuriating my OCD. I hear dream land calling me. Man I am so exhausted.


A Refusing Wife For 20 Years and Her Conversion to Orthodoxy

For 20 years, as a Protestant, she was a, refusing wife, to her husband.
Gemma recounts the story of her promiscuous life before marriage,
her frigid life after marriage and her journey to Orthodoxy and her marriage bed.

By Gemma

To admit that I had a serious problem with my marriage bed was a sure way of getting booted out of leadership and I was not going to let that happen if I could help it. Yes, “pride” was my guiding force; pride was my god.

One of my readers recently asked me to elaborate on how my past as a promiscuous single affected my marriage, both during my refusing years and also since I have been totally healed. I took the liberty of posting this reader’s questions here along with my response.

The reader asked:
“Do you think the beautifully sexual relationship you two now share has more than "made up" for those painful 25 years? Even if you haven't, I'm sure both of you will continue to pursue "making up" for it, as often as possible.”

Well, that is certainly an interesting way of putting it but to be honest--- If we were trying to make up for the painful past… I mean, how can you make up for it? What could we possibly do today and tomorrow which would erase the yesterdays? The idea of pursuing a great marriage bed now in order to make up for the past is not even remotely in our thinking.... so I do not even "go there". It would be a depressing, self-defeating thought. We live today and tomorrow to make our present and future the best it can be… period!

Then the reader said:
“I'd like to see if you can go into a bit more detail over how your promiscuity hurt your married sex life in a later entry. It's a common stereotype that a promiscuous woman in a relationship will be as "generous" after the vows are exchanged, so maybe a little more detail on your story there could help derail that silly notion.”

I believe I have talked about this a number of times both on a marriage forum and on my blog but I will touch on it again here. First of all, it is no longer a stereotype that a promiscuous woman will instantly and forever be a sexually generous wife. That is just an old myth as far as I am concerned. Contrary to that myth, too many times I have read about women who slept around a lot as a single, then they married and vowed to remain true to their spouse but before they knew it, they were refusing sex because of the guilt that they carried around with them. That common scenario is the more typical stereotype. So yes, the idea that “promiscuous women turn into sexually generous wives” is a totally untrue notion.

While single I lived as a heathen in every sense of the word. It did not matter to me if I flirted and slept with single or married men. I enjoyed them all, falsely believing that the married ones were wrecking their marriages all on their own… that if they were not sleeping with me then they would be sleeping with another gal who was not their wife. That was my reasoning, my excuse to continue the lifestyle. GR and I both grew up as Roman Catholics. In a time period of less than a year-- we met, married and began attending a Protestant Church together. As soon as we started going to church and "got saved” in Protestant fashion our marriage bed began to fall apart. Ironic--- Here we were thinking our souls were being saved for the first time while simultaneously our marriage bed was slowly spiraling downward in destruction.

As we began that Christian walk, reading our bibles and hearing the Word taught and preached, the whole idea of having sex, quickly became dirty and sinful to me. In my mind I could not separate sex as a single girl from having sex with my husband. It all blended together as I disassociated myself from being a sexual being in a foolish attempt to avoid the guilty thoughts.

The cultish churches we were in back then did not help our situation. Marital sex was never mentioned so of course going to the pastor for help was the furthest thing from my mind. Besides, 3 years into our marriage GR and I were being “groomed” for church leadership (ie, the way they "hooked" people in). By the time we were married for 4-5 years we were involved in a number of leadership ministries. To admit that I had a serious problem with my marriage bed was a sure way of getting booted out of leadership and I was not going to let that happen if I could help it. Yes, “pride” was my guiding force; pride was my god.

Any time a person turns from a sinful life there is a process of emotions which they must go through in order to be healed from the guilt. If you try to “stuff it” it will only come back later with a vengeance to bite you. This is part of where my thinking got screwed up. When we "got saved” we were constantly told, “Your past is forgiven. God will never bring it up again so do not look back anymore; only look ahead.” What they neglected to tell us and what I was too young and dumb to know is that we do not instantly forgive ourselves, the baggage does not just disappear when God forgives us. There are things we have to do before we are healthy and whole.

Incidentally, this is a big part of why GR and I no longer subscribe to the doctrine of instantaneous salvation. In Protestant circles people say, “I got saved on October 10, 1989,” as if on that single day they went from being an emotionally crippled heathen to becoming a perfectly healthy Christian. But the point in my life when I began to heal was the point when I learned to view Christianity as a journey which would take my entire life to complete. In the year 2000 when I realized that I had “not arrived” as a wife, it gave me new understanding-- I had to change in a huge way before I would be the wife GR needed me to be. Sure I could say, “I got saved in the year 2000," ...the year we became Orthodox Christians, the year I began to heal, but that year only marked the beginning of a slow healing process.

Here is something I learned on my journey. Getting saved or becoming Orthodox makes us a "new creature" but what exactly does that mean? It DOES NOT mean that we instantly become healthy and whole or that we become better than those who do not trust in God. If it is a "genuine" conversion it only means that from now on God will make us more aware of our short-comings. If it is a genuine conversion we allow the Holy Spirit to sweep in every dirty room and in every dark corner of our life. Sin and pride can no longer take residence in our life when we become a new creature in Christ. That is not to say that we stop sinning but we no longer LIVE in sin. There is a difference.

We cannot ignore our emotional baggage or ignore current or future emotional issues, going on the false assumption that we get saved, God snaps his fingers and BAM… we are instantly healed of everything, that we have no reason to seek help. Those who do ignore their issues only prolong their healing. So this guilt I was carrying set the stage for an emotionally and sexually crippling marriage. It went on for about 20 years while we were in churches which repeatedly preached the message—“… cleansed by the blood, by His stripes you ARE healed”. Those who dared to say, “But I still need help,” or “I need to see a professional,” were told that they lacked faith to believe that God had already healed them. The rule was--- If you had faith, you did not need help so you suffered silently. If you needed help, you lacked faith and was labeled as an immature Christian.

Those were the most difficult, painful years of our Christian walk and hence, in our marriage bed. I compare those years to folks who say, "I would NEVER want to go back to my painful teenage years." There were other factors which also contributed to my refusing. Most of them are listed in the right side bar in the article entitled “About Me” so you can see them there. 

I am Gemma, a 50-something year old wife married to my very hot, slightly older 50-something year old husband. For over 25 years, from the beginning of our marriage until Dec 2006, I was a "refusing wife". Now, I thoroughly enjoy passionate, frequent sex with my husband.

If you're curious to know the details ... immediately following my transition, please read on. Be forewarned- You may see some startling similarities to things in your own marriage.

How I Went From Being a Refusing Wife to Becoming My Husband's Whore: The Story Of My Awakening

A transformation has taken place between my dh, GR, and me. From the time we were married and for over 25 years, I put him through torture by refusing sex. At first we were having sex a few times a week. Then it dropped to once a week, then once a month, once every few months, once a year. At our lowest point, it was as seldom as every 2-3 years. Frankly, I'm still amazed that he stayed with me and remained faithful.

Not to excuse my sin of refusal, I was battling with many emotional and physical issues. To name a few of them:

1. past history of low self-esteem in who I was. This was not based on my physical looks but on my basic personality.
2. promiscuous lifestyle prior to meeting GR
3. infertility in both of us
4. 20 married years of legalistic/abusive churches
5. severe female problems necessitating emergency hyster at a young age
6. use of BC pills on/off before and during marriage to help manage the female problems
7. my wrong thinking that dh only wanted me for sex

... and the list goes on. For many of those "refusing" years GR tried to interest me in enjoying sex; nothing worked. Finally, he reached a point where he saw that all the begging, pleading, pushing and prodding was not going to move me. He stepped way back and began a life of hard, intensive prayer. The more GR prayed the more God changed his heart. You see, he was teachable, I was not.

GR and I often prayed together but the focus was rarely on my sins as I (wrongly) thought I was the more spiritual of the two of us. On my own, I frequently prayed and read my Bible while simultaneously living in my "sin habit". During this time we were fully involved in legalistic church leadership, always there when the doors were open..... while behind closed doors, I refused sex to my dh. All our friends thought we were the loving Christian couple. (Sounds familiar?)

We seriously needed a dramatic church change because our church life was not helping our marriage, in fact, it was doing more harm than good. In the year 2000 we walked completely away from the Protestant Faith and we walked towards Christian Orthodoxy. This one change made a huge difference in how I viewed Christianity (ie, No more hidden sin.) and how we related to each other as husband and wife.

As GR's prayers became more intense, God turned our relationship upside down. I saw a side of my husband that I had never seen before and it caused me to desire sexual oneness with him, although, I still didn't know how to achieve it. Because of years of me sexually rejecting him, GR wasn't reaching for me emotionally or sexually and I still wasn't reaching for him but by this time we were both, individually, praying hard.

I stumbled upon Dr. Laura Schlessinger's book: _The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands_ and had a rude awakening when reading it. Later, I ran into the forum at , where I lurked for weeks trying to understand how sex in a Christian marriage could be fun and fulfilling and how it could lead our relationship into healing and restoration.

As I lurked at TMB, armed with Dr. Laura's wisdom, a light bulb turned on and I finally could see that I held the key to jumpstart our relationship. I told GR what I was learning and in December 2006, on MY initiative, we began acting on my awakened sexual desire. For the first time in over 25 years we were finally and frequently enjoying passionate sex.

Our communication has moved up to a totally different level. Just the other night I asked GR how many times a week he'd like to have sex. You can imagine after 25+ years without, he's still not ready to accept that this awakening is "for real" and he's setting the bar low to avoid disappointment so he replied, "Oh, I guess about once a week would be nice. What do you think?" I told him, "2-3 times a week for starters! Is that OK with you?" Only.......

We never did put into practice the 2-3 times a week frequency. Instead we went straight from "no sex" to having sex every single day and often twice a day. Thus began our lifestyle of passionate, daily sex and of me joyfully becoming "GR's whore". I wear that title as a 'badge of honor'. It is a reminder for me to always put my husband first and to keep him sexually satisfied at all times.... which he does for me as well.

Have hope. Pray hard. Talk earnestly with your spouse. Get counseling. Don't put off the things you CAN do to begin turning your marriage around. I changed after 25 years; others can too.


What is OCD?

As one of it's many suffers, I figure I might as well spread a little awareness.


“I couldn’t do anything without rituals. They invaded every aspect of my life. Counting really bogged me down. I would wash my hair three times as opposed to once because three was a good luck number and one wasn’t. It took me longer to read because I’d count the lines in a paragraph. When I set my alarm at night, I had to set it to a number that wouldn’t add up to a ’bad’ number.”
“I knew the rituals didn’t make sense, and I was deeply ashamed of them, but I couldn’t seem to overcome them until I had therapy.”
“Getting dressed in the morning was tough, because I had a routine, and if I didn’t follow the routine, I’d get anxious and would have to get dressed again. I always worried that if I didn’t do something, my parents were going to die. I’d have these terrible thoughts of harming my parents. That was completely irrational, but the thoughts triggered more anxiety and more senseless behavior. Because of the time I spent on rituals, I was unable to do a lot of things that were important to me.”

People with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) have persistent, upsetting thoughts (obsessions) and use rituals (compulsions) to control the anxiety these thoughts produce. Most of the time, the rituals end up controlling them.
For example, if people are obsessed with germs or dirt, they may develop a compulsion to wash their hands over and over again. If they develop an obsession with intruders, they may lock and relock their doors many times before going to bed. Being afraid of social embarrassment may prompt people with OCD to comb their hair compulsively in front of a mirror-sometimes they get “caught” in the mirror and can’t move away from it. Performing such rituals is not pleasurable. At best, it produces temporary relief from the anxiety created by obsessive thoughts.
Other common rituals are a need to repeatedly check things, touch things (especially in a particular sequence), or count things. Some common obsessions include having frequent thoughts of violence and harming loved ones, persistently thinking about performing sexual acts the person dislikes, or having thoughts that are prohibited by religious beliefs. People with OCD may also be preoccupied with order and symmetry, have difficulty throwing things out (so they accumulate), or hoard unneeded items.
Healthy people also have rituals, such as checking to see if the stove is off several times before leaving the house. The difference is that people with OCD perform their rituals even though doing so interferes with daily life and they find the repetition distressing. Although most adults with OCD recognize that what they are doing is senseless, some adults and most children may not realize that their behavior is out of the ordinary.
OCD affects about 2.2 million American adults,1 and the problem can be accompanied by eating disorders,6 other anxiety disorders, or depression.2,4 It strikes men and women in roughly equal numbers and usually appears in childhood, adolescence, or early adulthood.2 One-third of adults with OCD develop symptoms as children, and research indicates that OCD might run in families.3
The course of the disease is quite varied. Symptoms may come and go, ease over time, or get worse. If OCD becomes severe, it can keep a person from working or carrying out normal responsibilities at home. People with OCD may try to help themselves by avoiding situations that trigger their obsessions, or they may use alcohol or drugs to calm themselves.4,5
OCD usually responds well to treatment with certain medications and/or exposure-based psychotherapy, in which people face situations that cause fear or anxiety and become less sensitive (desensitized) to them.

Amerisoc: Land of Perpetual Fear

Thanks to what didn’t happen on Flight 253, the media essentially went mad, 24/7. Coverage of the failed bombing and its ramifications actually grew for two full weeks after the incident until it had achieved something like full-spectrum dominance.

The now-infamous Northwest Airlines Flight 253, carrying Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and his bomb-laden underwear toward Detroit on Christmas Day 2009, had 290 passengers and crew, all of whom survived.

Had the inept Abdulmutallab actually succeeded, the death toll would not have equaled the 324 traffic fatalities in Nevada in 2008; while the destruction of four Flight 253s from terrorism would not have equaled New York State’s 2008 traffic death toll of 1,231, 341 of whom, or 51 more than those on Flight 253, were classified as “alcohol-impaired fatalities.”

Had the 23-year-old Nigerian set off his bomb, it would have been a nightmare for the people on board, and a tragedy for those who knew them. It would certainly have represented a safety and security issue that needed to be dealt with.

But it would not have been a national emergency, nor a national-security crisis. It would have been nothing more than a single plane knocked out of the sky, something that happens from time to time without the intervention of terrorists.

And yet here’s the strange thing: thanks to what didn’t happen on Flight 253, the media essentially went mad, 24/7.

Media coverage of the failed 'underwear bombing' and its ramifications actually grew for two full weeks after the incident until it had achieved something like full-spectrum dominance, according to the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.

In the days after Christmas, more than half the news links in blogs related to Flight 253. At the same time, the Republican criticism machine (and the media universe that goes with it) ramped up on the subject of the Obama administration’s terror wimpiness.

The global air transport system plunked down millions of dollars on new technology which will not find underwear bombs.

The homeland security-industrial-complex had a field day; and fear, that adrenaline rush from hell, was further embedded in the American way of life.

Under the circumstances, you would never know that Americans living in the United States were in vanishingly little danger from terrorism, but in significant danger driving to the mall.

Or that alcohol, tobacco, E. coli bacteria, fire, domestic abuse, murder, and the weather present the sort of potentially fatal problems that might be worth worrying about, or even changing your behavior over, or perhaps investing some money in. Terrorism, not so much.

The few Americans who, since 2001, have died from anything that could be called a terror attack in the U.S. -- whether the 13 killed at Fort Hood or the soldier murdered outside an army recruiting office in Little Rock, Arkansas -- were far outnumbered by the 32 dead in a 2007 mass killing at Virginia Tech University, not to speak of the relatively regular moments when workers or former workers “go postal.”

Since September 11th, terror in the U.S. has rated above fatalities from shark attacks and not much else. Since the economic meltdown of 2008, it has, in fact, been left in the shade by violent deaths that stem from reactions to job loss, foreclosure, inability to pay the rent, and so on.

This is seldom highlighted in a country perversely convulsed by, and that can’t seem to get enough of, fantasies about being besieged by terrorists.

Institutionalizing Fear Inc.

The attacks of September 11, 2001, which had the look of the apocalyptic, brought the fear of terrorism into the American bedroom via the TV screen. That fear was used with remarkable effectiveness by the Bush administration, which color-coded terror for its own ends.

A domestic version of shock-and-awe -- Americans were indeed shocked and awed by 9/11 -- helped drive the country into two disastrous wars and occupations, each still ongoing, and into George W. Bush’s Global War on Terror, a term now persona non grata in Washington, even if the “war “ itself goes on and on.

Today, any possible or actual terror attack, any threat no matter how far-fetched, amateurish, poorly executed, or ineffective, raises a national alarm, always seeming to add to the power of the imperial presidency and threatening to open new “fronts” in the now-unnamed global war.

The latest is, of course, in Yemen, thanks in part to that young Nigerian who was evidently armed with explosives by a home-grown organization of a few hundred men that goes by the name al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

The fear of terrorism has, by now, been institutionalized in our society -- quite literally so -- even if the thing we’re afraid of has, on the scale of human problems, something of the will o’ the wisp about it. For those who remember their Cold War fiction, it’s more specter than SPECTRE.

That fear has been embedded in what once was an un-American word, more easily associated with Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany: “homeland.” It has replaced “country,” “land,” and “nation” in the language of the terror-mongers.

“The homeland” is the place which terrorism, and nothing but terrorism, can violate.

In 2002, that terror-embedded word got its own official government agency: the Department of Homeland Security, our second “defense” department, which has a 2010 budget of $39.4 billion (while overall “homeland security” spending in the 2010 budget reached $70.2 billion).

Around it has grown up a little-attended-to homeland-security complex with its own interests, businesses, associations, and lobbyists (including jostling crowds of ex-politicians and ex-government bureaucrats).

As a result, more than eight years after 9/11, an amorphous state of mind has manifested itself in the actual state as a kind of Fear Inc.

A number of factors have clearly gone into the creation of Fear Inc. and now insure that fear is the drug constantly shot into the American body politic. These would include:

The imperial presidency: The Bush administration used fear not only to promote its wars and its Global War on Terror, but also to unchain the commander-in-chief of an already imperial presidency from a host of restraints.

The dangers of terror and of al-Qaeda, which became the global bogeyman, and the various proposed responses to it, including kidnapping (“extraordinary rendition”), secret imprisonment, and torture, turned out to be the royal road to the American unconscious and so to a presidency determined, as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and others liked to say, to take the gloves off.

It remains so and, as a result, under Barack Obama, the imperial presidency only seems to gain ground.

Recently, for instance, we learned that, under the pressure of the Flight 253 incident, the Obama administration has adopted the Bush administration position that a president, under certain circumstances, has the authority to order the assassination of an American citizen abroad.

(In this case, New Mexico-born Islamic cleric Anwar Aulaqi, who has been linked to the 9/11 plotters, the Fort Hood killer, and Abdulmutallab.)

The Bush administration opened the door to this possibility and now, it seems, a Democratic president may be stepping through.

The 24/7 media moment: 24/7 blitz coverage was once reserved for the deaths of presidents (as in the assassination of John F. Kennedy) and public events of agreed-upon import.

In 1994, however, it became the coin of the media realm for any event bizarre enough, sensational enough, celebrity-based enough to glue eyeballs.

That June, O.J. Simpson engaged in his infamous low-speed car “chase” through Orange County followed by more than 20 news helicopters while 95 million viewers tuned in and thousands more gathered at highway overpasses to watch. No one’s ever looked back.

Of course, in a traditional media world that’s shedding foreign and domestic bureaus and axing hordes of reporters, radically downsizing news rooms and shrinking papers to next to nothing, the advantages of focusing reportorial energies on just one thing at a time are obvious.

Those 24/7 energies are now regularly focused on the fear of terrorism and events which contribute to it, like the plot to down Flight 253.

The Republican criticism machine and the media that go with it: Once upon a time, even successful Republican administrations didn’t have their own megaphone.

That's why, in the Vietnam era, the Nixon administration battled the New York Times so fiercely (and -- my own guess -- that played a part in forcing the creation of the first “op-ed” page in 1970, which allowed administration figures like Vice President Spiro Agnew and ex-Nixon speechwriter William Safire to gain a voice at the paper).

By the George W. Bush era, the struggle had abated. The Times and papers like it only had to be pacified or cut out of the loop, since from TV to talk radio, publishing to publicity, the Republicans had their own megaphone ready at hand.

This is, by now, a machine chock-a-block full of politicians and ex-politicians, publishers, pundits, military “experts,” journalists, shock-jocks, and the like (categories that have a tendency to blend into each other).

It adds up to a seamless web of promotion, publicity, and din. It’s capable of gearing up on no notice and going on until a subject -- none more popular than terrorism and Democratic spinelessness in the face of it -- is temporarily flogged to death.

It ensures that any failed terror attack, no matter how hopeless or pathetic, will be in the headlines and in public consciousness.

It circulates constant fantasies about possible future apocalyptic terror attacks with atomic weaponry or other weapons of mass destruction.

(And in all of the above, of course, it is helped by a host of tagalong pundits and experts, news shows and news reports from the more liberal side of the aisle.)

The Democrats who don’t dare: It’s remarkable that the sharpest president we’ve had in a while didn’t dare get up in front of the American people after Flight 253 landed and tell everyone to calm down.

He didn’t, in fact, have a single intelligent thing to say about the event. He certainly didn’t remind Americans that, whatever happened to Flight 253, they stood in far more danger heading out of their driveways behind the wheel or pulling into a bar on the way home for a beer or two.

Instead, the Obama administration essentially abjectly apologized, insisted it would focus yet more effort and money on making America safe from air terrorism, widened a new front in the Global War on Terror in Yemen (speeding extra money and U.S. advisors that way).

When the din from its critics didn’t end, “pushed back,” as Peter Baker of the New York Times wrote, by claiming “that they were handling terror suspects much as the previous administration did.”

It’s striking when a Democratic administration finds safety in the claim that it’s acting like a Republican one, that it’s following the path to the imperial presidency already cleared by George W. Bush.

Fear does that to you, and the fear of terror has been institutionalized at the top as well as the bottom of society.

9/11 Never Ends

Fear has a way of re-ordering human worlds. That only a relatively small number of determined fanatics with extraordinarily limited access to American soil keep Fear Inc. afloat should, by now, be obvious.

What the fear machine produces is the dark underside of the charming Saul Steinberg New Yorker cover, “A View of the World from 9th Avenue,” in which Manhattan looms vast as the rest of the planet fades into near nothingness.

When you see the world “from 9th Avenue,” or from an all-al-Qaeda-all-the-time “news” channel, you see it phantasmagorically.

It’s out of all realistic shape and proportion, which means you naturally make stupid decisions. You become incapable of sorting out what matters and what doesn’t, what’s primary and what’s secondary. You become, in short, manipulable.

This is our situation today.

People always wonder: What would the impact of a second 9/11-style attack be on this country? Seldom noticed, however, is that all the pin-prick terror events blown up to apocalyptic proportions add up to a second, third, fourth, fifth 9/11 when it comes to American consciousness.

Each time a Flight 253 occurs and the Republicans go postal, the media morphs into its 24/7 national-security-disaster mode, the pundits register red on the terror-news scale, the president defends himself by reaffirming that he is doing just what the Bush administration would have done, the homeland security lobbyists begin calling for yet more funds for yet more machinery, and nothing much happens, remember those drunken drivers, arsonists, and tobacco merchants, even that single dust devil and say:

Hold onto your underpants, this is not a national emergency.


To be me...

Living in my world is like kissing broken glass.
The playground's full of thorns and thistles, and you want to stay in class.

I want to wake up one morning and forget about disease.
I want to be a real boy and wipe my nose on my sleeve.

I want to wash my hands just once instead of cookin' em in the pot.
I wish I'd met a lady who could think that I was hot.

Crappy night tonight...


Avatar, is Same Old Shit

Why are most films so bad? This year's Oscar nominations are full of propaganda, stereotypes and downright dishonesty. The dominant theme is as old as Hollywood: America's divine right to consume other cultures, replacing them with dumbed-down crap.

When will directors and writers behave like artists and not pimps for a world view devoted to control and destruction?

I grew up on the movie myth of the Wild West, which was harmless enough unless you happened to be a native American.

The formula is unchanged. Self-regarding distortions present the nobility of the American colonial aggressor as a cover for massacre, from the Philippines to Iraq.

I only fully understood the power of the con when I was sent to Vietnam as a war reporter. The Vietnamese were "gooks" and "Indians" whose industrial murder was preordained in John Wayne movies and sent back to Hollywood to glamourise or redeem.

I use the word murder advisedly, because what Hollywood does brilliantly is suppress the truth about America's assaults. These are not wars, but the export of a gun-addicted, homicidal "culture".

And when the notion of psychopaths as heroes wears thin, the bloodbath becomes an "American tragedy" with a soundtrack of pure angst.

Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker is in this tradition. A favourite for multiple Oscars, her film is "better than any documentary I've seen on the Iraq war.

It's so real it's scary" (Paul Chambers CNN). Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian reckons it has "unpretentious clarity" and is "about the long and painful endgame in Iraq" that "says more about the agony and wrong and tragedy of war than all those earnest well-meaning movies".

What nonsense. Her film offers a vicarious thrill via yet another standard-issue psychopath high on violence in somebody else's country where the deaths of a million people are consigned to cinematic oblivion.

The hype around Bigelow is that she may be the first female director to win an Oscar. How insulting that a woman is celebrated for a typically violent all-male war movie.

The accolades echo those for The Deer Hunter (1978) which critics acclaimed as "the film that could purge a nation's guilt!"

The Deer Hunter lauded those who had caused the deaths of more than three million Vietnamese while reducing those who resisted to barbaric commie stick figures.

In 2001, Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down provided a similar, if less subtle catharsis for another American "noble failure" in Somalia while airbrushing the heroes' massacre of up to 10,000 Somalis.

By contrast, the fate of an admirable American war film, Redacted, is instructive. Made in 2007 by Brian De Palma, the film is based on the true story of the gang rape of an Iraqi teenager and the murder of her family by American soldiers.

There is no heroism, no purgative. The murderers are murderers, and the complicity of Hollywood and the media in the epic crime in Iraq is described ingeniously by De Palma.

The film ends with a series of photographs of Iraqi civilians who were killed. When it was order that their faces be ordered blacked out "for legal reasons", De Palma said.

"I think that's terrible because now we have not even given the dignity of faces to this suffering people. The great irony about Redacted is that it was redacted."

After a limited release in the US, this fine film all but vanished.

Non-American (or non-western) humanity is not deemed to have box office appeal, dead or alive. They are the "other" who are allowed, at best, to be saved by "us".

In Avatar, James Cameron's vast and violent money-printer, 3-D noble savages known as the Na'vi need a good guy American soldier, Sergeant Jake Sully, to save them. This confirms they are "good". Natch.

My Oscar for the worst of the current nominees goes to Invictus, Clint Eastwood's unctuous insult to the struggle against apartheid in South Africa.

Taken from a hagiography of Nelson Mandela by a British journalist, John Carlin, the film might have been a product of apartheid propaganda.

In promoting the racist, thuggish rugby culture as a panacea of the "rainbow nation", Eastwood gives barely a hint that many black South Africans were deeply embarrassed and hurt by Mandela's embrace of the hated Springbok symbol of their suffering.

He airbrushes white violence - but not black violence, which is ever present as a threat. As for the Boer racists, they have hearts of gold, because "we didn't really know". The subliminal theme is all too familiar: colonialism deserves forgiveness and accommodation, never justice.

At first I thought Invictus, could not be taken seriously, then I looked around the cinema at young people and others for whom the horrors of apartheid have no reference, and I understood the damage such a slick travesty does to our memory and its moral lessons. Imagine Eastwood making a happy-Sambo equivalent in the American Deep South. He would not dare.

The film most nominated for an Oscar and promoted by the critics is Up in the Air, which has George Clooney as a man who travels America sacking people and collecting frequent flyer points.

Before the triteness dissolves into sentimentality, every stereotype is summoned, especially of women. There is a bitch, a saint and a cheat. However, this is "a movie for our times", says the director Jason Reitman, who boasts having cast real sacked people.

"We interviewed them about what it was like to lose their job in this economy," said he, "then we'd fire them on camera and ask them to respond the way they did when they lost their job. It was an incredible experience to watch these non-actors with 100 per cent realism."

Wow, what a winner.


Sick people, OCD and me...

Tired, half awake, I made my way to the cafeteria. Using my coat pockets to open doors and following in line behind others as I went. When I arrived at the front desk to swipe my student ID, I knew there would be trouble.
*Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough*
It was a deep, gurgling cough. But I knew she was too pure to be a chain smoker. There was only one other explanation.
*Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough*
*Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough*
Reluctantly I approached the stand, wondering if I should make use of the sanitation dispenser for what I was about to encounter.
*Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough*
"Hi there!"
*Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough*
It was the kind of cough that made you think of earthquakes, fire, flood and corrupt politicians. It was a cough to rumble the foundations of all the orders of ancient columns, Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. It transformed agile youth to wilted backstreet poor.
With caution, I ask attempted to procure myself a lunchbox from the stack to her right.
"Oh, no! I'll get it for you! We've got some new rules around here!"
She smiled.
*Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough*
As she reached for a paper drinking up, I waved my hand, and told her it would not be necessary, as I quickly fled the scene, contaminated lunchbox in hand.
I waived to a friend, gathered my food, and faced the exit. The exit is next to the to the front stand. There she was.
*Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough* *Cough*
I would have to be quick. I swung by the front counter quickly.
"I hope your not mad at me sir!"
I did feel bad, not saying two words to her. But...I had a busy schedule to keep.

Perhaps I exaggerate a tad...but I assure you t'was and uncomfortable experience non the less!