Category Archives: Politics and society

End of an era: Castro dies


There is seems to be a divided view of Castro in the West. The view from the US and UK right-wing that he was a brutal dictator is only part of the inbred arrogance of its teeth-gnashing constituents which refuses to recognize that if the leader of country is subjected to hundreds of attempts at assassination, the country itself being invaded and then permanently sanctioned, you are not likely to turn him into a dove. Castro is a figure like Muhammad Ali and Mandela who defined the post-WWII era.

Authoritarian Politics in the Age of Civic Illiteracy

Henry Giroux writes

The dark times that haunt the current age are epitomized by the monsters that have come to rule the United States and who now dominate the major political parties and other commanding political and economic institutions. Their nightmarish reign of misery, violence, and disposability is also evident in their dominance of a formative culture and its attendant cultural apparatuses that produce a vast machinery of manufactured consent. This is a social formation that extends from the mainstream broadcast media and Internet to a print culture, all of which embrace the spectacle of violence, legitimate opinions over facts, and revel in a celebrity and consumer culture of ignorance and theatrics. Under the reign of this normalized ideological architecture of alleged commonsense, literacy is now regarded with disdain, words are reduced to data, and science is confused with pseudo-science.

Thinking is now regarded as an act of stupidity, and ignorance a virtue. All traces of critical thought appear only at the margins of the culture as ignorance becomes the primary organizing principle of American society. For instance, two thirds of the American public believe that creationism should be taught in schools and most of the Republic Party in Congress do not believe that climate change is caused by human activity, making the U.S. the laughing stock of the world. Politicians endlessly lie knowing that the public is addicted to shocks, which allows them to drown in overstimulation and live in an ever-accelerating overflow of information and images. News has become entertainment and echoes reality rather than interrogating it. Unsurprisingly, education in the larger culture has become a disimagination machine, a tool for legitimating ignorance, and it is central to the formation of an authoritarian politics that has gutted any vestige of democracy from the ideology, policies, and institutions that now control American society.

I am not talking simply about the kind of anti-intellectualism that theorists such a Richard Hofstadter, Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky, and more recently Susan Jacoby have documented, however insightful their analyses might be. I am pointing to a more lethal form of illiteracy that is often ignored. Illiteracy is now a scourge and a political tool designed primarily to make war on language, meaning, thinking, and the capacity for critical thought. Chris Hedges is right in stating that “the emptiness of language is a gift to demagogues and the corporations that saturate the landscape with manipulated images and the idiom of mass culture.”[1] The new form of illiteracy does not simply constitute an absence of learning, ideas, or knowledge. Nor can it be solely attributed to what has been called the “smartphone society.”[2] On the contrary, it is a willful practice and goal used to actively depoliticize people and make them complicit with the forces that impose misery and suffering upon their lives.

read on in Counterpunch



As the Empire Crashes on the Shores of History, We Call on Its Intelligentsia Urgently to Man the Lifeboats

History is being made, or remade, as we speak.

Upon the death of King Abdulla of Saudi Arabia, I wrote about the “winds of change” [] in the Middle-East, and how that would impact the desultory régime in Egypt. The significance of the change of leadership there wasn’t the fact of the accession of King Salman to the throne, but the coming of age of a new generation as his sons take over all the most importance political positions, cementing this power with the eldest, Mohamed bin Salman, becoming deputy crown prince. These relatively young men take over a seething Kingdom with 3 million Twitter users tweeting 2 million tweets a day. Mujtahid, for instance, is a pseudonym for an insider twitter account which regularly posts royal family secrets and receives mountains of critical messages back. Abdulla’s police state had repressed just about every aspect of the country, in effect to no avail. Strangely it found it too controversial to close down the Twittersphere.





But the US government is still not transparent

In the post below “US has always shown Britain up with its capacity for transparency” I talk about how the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture shows up the British secrecy culture. But I was clearly incorrect when I compared these current events over the Senate report with the Chilcot inquiry in Britain.  Of course, the Chilcot inquiry is on a whole different level, and is best compared with the 9/11 inquiry report in the US, and on the basis of that comparison the US doesn’t come out smelling any better.

The fact still remains that the US government is covering up the role of Saudi Arabia in 9/11 and that crucial pages in the 9/11 inquiry report were blanked out and classified as ultra top secret. Senator Bob Graham, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time, has never been able to understand why it is that protecting the Saudis is a matter of US national security, despite his privileged position. In fact, despite this position, he is prohibited from talking about what he knows. Although he wrote a non-fiction book called Intelligence Matters: The CIA, the FBI, Saudi Arabia and the Failure of America’s War on Terror (2008), he has in fact been so frustrated about not being able to tell the world the truth about what happened that he has vented this frustration by additionally writing a fictional novel about Saudi Arabia called The Keys to the Kingdom (2011) to convey what he thinks are important matters.

Watch Senator Bob Graham discuss all this in 4 parts on the Real News network:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

The US has always shown Britain up with its capacity for transparency

9th Dec: The Senate Intelligence Committee has humbled and hobbled a major US government agency (the CIA) by issuing its report on torture. It has shown up the CIA for being dysfunctional, disorganised, incompetent and rife with greed and deception. It has been shown up as having been ill-equipped to deal with al-Qaeda and then having consistently misrepresented the results of its investigations to the public and their representatives. The New York Times describes the indictment of the CIA as “withering”. Drawing on millions of internal C.I.A. documents the Senate has illuminated practices which it said were brutal, but more especially they were essentially ineffective .  See the report by opening link:

Whatever one thinks of the devastation the US has wrought in the world over the past 25 years, this revelation is a rare event in these extremely bleak times that can only help towards repairing some of the damage and giving the world some hope. Perhaps releasing the Senate report has something to do with the fact that Diane Feinstein (as head of the Senate Intelligence Community) was furious at being spied on herself by the CIA. However, this was clearly a group decision.

The British press is up in arms about the US revelations, but what about them pressing the UK government to uncover the misdemeanours of the British Intelligence Services? The latter spoke to the CIA before the torture report was published (open link:

So the question is whether the British State can match the transparency displayed now by the US Senate? With its 30-year rule on “classified” documents, Britain has always been more secretive than the US. If the US legislative has thus humbled its intelligence services in front of the world, can the UK legislative find it in itself to issue and unbiased Chilcot report into the Iraq War and Blair’s activities? An unbiased report would be a major blow to the prestige of the Office of the British Minister, but a deserved and necessary blow, one that would lead to some renewed respect for Britain perhaps. The jury is out on this, however – pun intended. Let’s wait and see.


Rothbart on Perpetual War

But if the Cold War died in the Communist collapse of 1989, what can the ruling conservative-liberal Establishment come up with to justify the policy of massive intervention by the U.S. everywhere on the globe? In short, what cloak can the Establishment now find to mask and vindicate the continuance of U.S. imperialism? With their perks and their power at stake, the Court apologists for imperialism have been quick to offer excuses and alternatives, even if they don’t always hang together. Perhaps the feeling is that one of them may stick.

The argument for imperialism has always been two-edged, what the great Old Rightist Garet Garrett called (in his classic The People’s Pottage) “a complex of fear and vaunting.” Fear means alleged threats to American interests and the American people. To replace the Soviet-international Communist threat, three candidates have been offered by various Establishment pundits. (…) [Rothbard here offers international narco-terrorism and reunified Germany as the first two potential bogeymen.]

A third threat has been raised in the Wall Street Journal by that old fox, the godfather of the neocons, Irving Kristol. Kristol, in a rambling account of the post-Cold War world, leaps on the “Islamic fundamentalist” threat, and even suggests that the U.S. and the Soviet Union should discreetly cooperate in putting down this looming world period. Here we see a hint of a new conservative-liberal concept: a benign rule of the world by the United States, joined by the Soviet Union as a sort of condominium-junior partner, along with Western Europe and Japan. In short, an expanded Trilateral concept. Of course, pinpointing Islamic fundamentalism comes as no surprise from the neocons, to whom defense of the State of Israel is always the overriding goal.

But in addition to the negative there is the positive. The vaunting along with the fear. The positive carrot is the old Wilsonian dream of the U.S. as global imposer of “democracy.” Since very few countries can pass the “democracy” test, or have ever done so, this poses an objective that suits the Establishment interventionists fine: for here is a goal that can never possibly be achieved.

A goal that can never be reached but can always be kept shimmering on the distant horizon is perfectly tooled for an endless policy of massive expenditure of money, arms, blood, and manpower in one foreign adventure after another: what the great Charles A. Beard brilliantly termed “perpetual war for perpetual peace.”

from “The Irrepressible Rothbart”

pp: 164-65

Obama has “degraded and destroyed” US foreign policy

Andrew J. Bacevich writes on Reuters Op-ed: “Rudderless and without a compass, the American ship of state continues to drift, guns blazing”.

open link to The Intercept and read about a revolution (albeit maybe short-lived) in US corporate media: