Here and There in America

● Immigration
The Southwest, particularly the state of Arizona it seems, has a real immigration problem on its hands. The alien population numbers in the millions and no effort has been made to identify them. They are not profiled, checked for papers, or fingerprinted. They live and work freely, some earning a great deal of money.
But the problem is not simply solved by sending these people home, and not just because of their large numbers. Nor is it because of the disruptive, even disastrous, effect it would have on the economy.
These people can’t be sent home because they think they are home. They’re the progeny of the illegals that stole the land from Mexico. So, you see, it is a great problem if you look at it that way.
● Beheadings
The underlying assumption in the coverage of the recent gruesome beheadings follows this line: They are evil. We are not. They cut off people’s heads. We would never do that. They’re barbarians.
All certainly true, it is a barbaric act. We don’t do that. But we might stop to ask why Americans get beheaded in hostile climates in foreign countries but not here. The two situations, 1) ISIS beheads American in Syria, and 2) ISIS beheads American in America, what would be two different factual situations, become indistinguishable if we don’t distinguish them. Shouldn’t there be a difference?
Crudeness marks the barbarian. Our sophisticated methods and weaponry sets us apart. We can use our’s there, but they don’t get to use their’s there.
A future and more peaceful society here on Earth (if there ever is one) might fail to recognize the lack of barbarity in our atomic bombs, cruise missiles, agent orange, and napalm.
● Yellow Ribbons
The yellow ribbon is one of our favorite bumper stickers. It says we love and cherish our far away soldiers.
They say nice things about soldiers but they also say nice things about the wars they are sent to fight in. Nice things about the people who send them to war. In a fertile environment like this, they reproduce. Yellow ribbons generate more yellow ribbons.
● Torturing Folks
Some think it has its place. This doesn’t make them stupid, not stupid enough to believe it doesn’t work. It works well enough. What it doesn’t need is weak criticism.
● Military Approval Rating
Nine out of ten Americans worship the military. Finkle doesn’t like it. The U.S. has never had a military coup but they’ve taken place in far more unlikely settings.
● Privacy Matters
“Your privacy is very important to us” is the surest indication of its lack.
● In Order to Serve You Better
“We’re experiencing unusually high call volume” (By this point isn’t it usual?) “Please listen carefully as our phone menu choices have changed”. There is no record of a phone menu choice having been changed in the past eighteen years. Customer service has changed from that where it was easy to hear a human voice say hello, to that where it is difficult to get it to say goodbye.
As a “valued customer”, we don’t have to offer you our heavily discounted deals. We might not be able to help you, but you can help us by completing our survey.
● Obsessive-Compulsive
Is it really a disorder, or just those few left that have retained an attention span?
● Non-Repentant Government
The one thing Washington really fears is the apology. That is a weakness. It is a mark of power to lie and get away with it.
● U.S. Government Propaganda
If the government makes a propaganda statement, and The New York Times is not there to hear it, does it make a sound?
We warn children that if they tell lies, nobody will ever believe them. We know that’s not strictly true. What we really mean is that some people might not believe them some of the time. Acceptable terms to the propaganda mill. Washington could scarcely last a day without it.
It’s not that they always lie. On the small things, you don’t need much. But lying is such an ugly word. And there’s penalties for it, but only after you swear to tell the truth. Safely for them, officeholders and policy makers make no such swear in advance.
Governments lie, I. F. Stone assured his students, and why wouldn’t they? There’s an adversarial relation between a government and its people. Or, more specifically, between a government and a large class of people. Those that do not form part of the “national interest”, other than the obligation of keeping them from becoming unruly and willing to participate in world military management.
● Humanitarian War
I recently came across some words from the Portuguese writer and philosopher, Fernando Pessoa, writing under one of his many heteronyms, Alberto Caeiro:
They spoke to me of people, and of humanity.
But I’ve never seen people, or humanity.
I’ve seen various people, astonishingly dissimilar,
Each separated from the next by unpeopled space.
In consideration of the bravado of humanitarian war under the aegis of R2P (Responsibility To Protect). Righteous, lofty pronouncements concealing righteous self-interest.
● Intelligent Design
“Intelligent” adds no content — design would be enough — but if you’re for it, don’t complain about planned obsolescence.
● Non-Capitalist Terrorism /aka/ Islamic Terrorism /aka/ Their’s
Why do we hate them? Let’s distinguish the “we” from the “state”. People can and do hate but the abstraction, state, cannot. Operating a distinct plane above, it only seeks cooperation from others. When it detects a lack of cooperation, such as an unwillingness to give the U.S. its fair share of a country’s assets, it has a set of rational responses.
If some may seem extreme, emotion plays no part in their employ. Not personal. Strictly business. And business matters have no place in the International Criminal Court.
● Support the Troops
Why is it put that way? It’s really qualitatively the same as supporting those that order the troops. Unless it means support the troops despite those that are ordering them. Since this can’t be the case, we can conclude that the two things are inseparable because the practical consequences are the same.
Ordinary people can support the troops by supplying military discounts, but discounts in a capitalist economy are a strategy to boost business profits. Like the yellow ribbons, we can paste the slogan on our cars but that is an arena with a lot of competition. We can attend their homecoming parades, visit them in hospitals, and attend their funerals, but some of that comes a little late.
Still, there shouldn’t be any doubt that people really do support the troops. Only they’re not their troops. They’re the troops of the state that orders them — a state that is also fully supported — so it is reasonable to ask how that state is supporting them.
Best case you come out of a war alive. But you were already alive. Where is the value if you weren’t really defending something worth defending? If you were fighting for a lie and the military is Wall Street’s enforcement arm? A protection racket for American capitalism, as Smedley Butler famously put it.
That doesn’t sound like support. That sounds more like sacrifice the troops for material gains that accrue to dominant elite sectors. So, effectively, support the troops is a cover slogan for the state to hide behind the skirts of the troops while sacrificing them.
● No Country for Whistleblowers
Candidate Obama had a lot to say about whistleblower protection. He also had a lot to say about government secrecy and abuse of power. Turns out the time was right. Not to do anything about it, but to talk about it. It became part of an effective electoral strategy.
There is no more direct route to eliminating malfeasance in government than that provided by the whistleblower. The simple train of thought is that those on the inside really know what’s going on. This is the kind of logical thought that a constitutional law professor is assumed to possess. That the whistleblower would play a vital role in a cleansing operation is the reason governments abhor them.
No concentration of power will willingly submit to its own undoing by tolerating whistleblowers. Any more than a snitch could survive in a mob setting.
● Faith and Values
My local city newspaper has a Saturday section headed, “Faith and Values”. I’ve written to them suggesting that the commingling of these two subjects carries with it an implication that the one is dependent on the other. If you have faith, then you have values. If you have values, it must be from faith.
Not willing to make even a rudimentary argument about the inconsistency in this linking, I simply suggested that they rename the page, “Religion”, because that is what the page is devoted to. No reply came.
I’m now thinking that maybe they have the right idea because there are other twin subjects out there with roughly the same amount of complementarity, just waiting to be linked. I’m thinking “Sports and Military” might make a nice section.
It is impossible to view a sporting event without seeing an accompanying military event of some proportion, ranging from paying simple homage to the troops to grand scale display of fighter jets filling the firmament at major events.
In PGA and USGA golf events, competitors cannot walk off the 17th green without dutifully shaking the hands of uniformed, flag-bearing military personnel. The NFL and the NBA are deep into the same protocols. At today’s US Open tennis women’s final, the court-side preview featured an ample supply of dress-uniformed personnel against a dense backdrop of American flags, you might say, worthy of a president.
Now that I think of it, my city paper isn’t going to like this one bit. I’ll look for a Fascist Times.
James Rothenberg can be reached at:

James Rothenberg can be reached at: