Roast AIPAC

Rep. Illhan Omar (D-Minn) has been under pressure since she suggested that US support for Israel has something to do with money from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).https://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/business-a-lobbying/430054-furor-over-omar-puts-spotlight-on-aipac Although AIPAC’s influence in the United States is no secret, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi demanded that Omar apologize. Omar did apologize, but she remained firm on her criticism of the lobby. She has subsequently been harrassed by journalists and politicians alike. However, I’m not writing to join the ranks of her defenders. It is increasingly clear that she can handle the pressure. I’m writing because I was personally offended that so many people felt free to dole out this treatment on an elected member of the Congress of the United States.

Some assumed that Democrats were pressured by Republicans to discipline Omar, but it’s more likely they were pressured by AIPAC directly. Maybe the rumors of Israel’s influence in our elections are true. Is it possible that both Domocrats and Republicans know that if they offend AIPAC they could lose their next election?

I propose that we exact a cost for AIPAC’s arrogance. Progressives who object to the undue influence that AIPAC demonstrated this week should spend next week criticizing Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. This would inform AIPAC that there are costs for bad behavior.


Support Venezuela with Buycott

Greg Pallast has linked the situation in Venezuela to Koch Industries.

The Koch oil refinery was set up to refine the type of oil that Venezuela produces, and this has forced the company to cooperate with the Maduro government in order to assure a steady supply of oil. This is the motive for the Trump Adminstration’s sanctions on Venezuela and its support of Juan Guaido in his attempt to take over the presidency of that country. If you believe the Kochs are being treated unfairly you should be happy with the way things are going for Maduro, but if you disapprove of US meddling in Venezuela, and if you are tired of Koch money controlling domestic policy in the United States, I have a suggestion. Use the Buycott app to boycott Koch products. At the least, it might convince the Trump administration that diplomacy is not such a bad idea in Venezuela.

Download the app to your phone, join the campaigns that oppose GMOs, fracking, and factory farming, for starters, and then use the app to scan barcodes before you purchase items at the store. https://www.buycott.com  

We Are Not Seeing a Battle between ‘Two Segments of Society’ in Venezuela

Sorry oligarchs, but we’re on to you. You do not represent a segment of Venezuelan society, although that is the claim of a 2017 article in the Independent (https://www.independent.co.uk/news/long_reads/how-venezuela-went-from-the-richest-economy-in-south-america-to-the-brink-of-financial-ruin-a7740616.html).  

The article explains that after Venezuela became a democracy in 1958 the power sharing agreement between the country’s three leading parties unraveled. Their pact, meant to preserve democracy came to dominate it. party elites picked candidates and blocked outsiders, making politics less responsive. The agreement to share wealth fostered corruption. (Sound familiar?)

Chavez ran for president in 1998, and his populist message of returning power to the people won him victory. But the parties, now reduced to two, still dominated government institutions. Chavez made judicial reforms to reduce corruption and abolished the legislature’s upper house. The latter reform is cricized in the Independent article, although the author admits there were problems before the economic crisis that brought Chavez to power, summed up by ‘personalism and petroleum’. Personalism tends to consolidate power under a single leader and petroleum leads to corruption.

Chavez’s struggles with the business and political establishment are said to be due to his executive decrees and populist self-righteousness. In other words, if he had played nice with the oligarchs everything would have turned out ok.

When the establishment elites removed Chavez from power in 2002, the people protested and he was returned to power. The coup leaders, who suffered from a serious case of overreach, had dissoved the constitution and legislature, yet Chavez is criticized for acting as though politics is a zero-sum game. This is based on the fiction that he was fighting a legitimate part of Venezuelan society. His treatment of the unions gets a similar treatment.

When courts challenged Chavez, he gutted them, suspending unfriendly judges and packing the supreme court with loyalists. The result was intense polarization between ‘two segments of society’ who now saw each other as existential threats, destroying any possibility of compromise.

Two segments of society? Really? This strike was actually an ‘oil lockout’ organized by the Venezuelan Workers’ Federatio (CTV); the Venezuelan Chamber of Commerce (Fedecamaras), a right-wing coalition known as the Democratic Coordination (CD); and other sectors of the Venezuelan opposition. It was aimed at overthrowing the President of theRepublic, but meanwhile it caused scarcity of basic goods. More serious for Venezuela’s economy in the long-run, it inflicted damage to the state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela (Pdvsa). The country lost $14.4 billion in oil revenue during the lockout, which lasted 63 days and inflicted damage to Pdvsa that has not been overcome to this day. Over a thousand wells were broken during the lockout, and cannot be repaired. (https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/7527)

There were four stoppages called by the opposition within a year: December 10, 2001; February 9, 2002; October 21, 2002; and the April 2002 coup. The coup included acts of violence and an attempted takeover of the Venezuelan Armed Forces. Yet today, the damage to oil infrastructure is one of the talking points of the corporate media in the US, which supports the administration’s sanctions on the Maduro government.

Unfortunately, oil stoppages were only part of the sabotage. Since 1979, the information technologies of Pdvsa have been controlled by SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation). No one knew that its members included ex-military officials and former directors of the CIA. According to Minci (the Venezuelan Ministry of Communication and Information), during the oil lockout this company exercised its ability to control the Ministry’s computers by paralyzing the charge, discharge, and storage of crude at different terminals within the national grid. It also altered the functionality of most oil substations, compressing and processing plants, etc. The manipulation was only possible for those with access to secret internal codes. The scheme included the use of hidden modems installed in desks and office walls, the use of phone and internet systems to paralyze Pdvsa operations, and the destruction of databases needed to keep operations running.

Some segment of society! Now what does the Trump administration do? It sanctions the oil company that provides the majority of Venezuela’s revenue.

This December, 2018 article paints a more hopeful picture of Pdvsa. https://venezuelanalysis.com/news/14176

Nicholas Maduro’s Message

He’s right, this is a unique moment in history. Maduro joins Andrés Manuel López Obrador as an ally of the American people. Let’s discuss how we can best take advantage of this opportunity. We would need to put pressure on the US administration, obviously, but we also need to find ways to counter the tactics of global finance. In our role as consumers we might start by decreasing our spending and boycotting specific products. Anything else?

Covington High School in an Unforgiving World

When conservative writers defamed Nathan Phillips in order to shore up their own virtuous image I thought it best to ignore them–never mind the fact that Nathan Phillips and his people pose no threat to them, or that they wouldn’t have sufficient resources to retaliate, even if they wanted to. The Covington High School saga has morphed into a tribal face saving effort involving parents, corporate media, and lawsuits.

It should also be mentioned that at least one person tried to make peace with Phillips at the time. In other words, he tried to make amends at the scene. I’m sure this makes the viral nature of the story all the more disheartening from a conservative point of view.

I defended the Covington boys because they are young men just starting out in life who were caught up in a situation they don’t fully understand. I thought the story would go away once the additional facts came out but conservative parents and pundits won’t let it die. I think this behavior may be based in a reality that progressives don’t fully understand.

A recent opinion in the Wall Street Journal https://www.wsj.com/articles/most-likely-to-panic-about-old-yearbook-pics-business-leaders-11549376319 argued that a person’s youth is no excuse for bad behavior. Business leaders can’t afford to hire people with incriminating yearbook entries or other youthful indiscretions, the authors insist, therefore background checks must include 25 years or more of an applicant’s history. For me, this raises the suspicion that a new American caste system is being created right before our eyes. Of course, America has a long history of similar processes affecting poor people of color, but now it appears they extend to the privileged among us. Could that be why the conservatives won’t let this story die?

Bret Cavanaugh’s yearbook was used against him by Democrats. However, I saw it as a last line of defense against Republican maneuvering for control of the Supreme Court. This began in ernest shortly after the death of Antonin Scalia and was largely responsible for the election of Donald Trump. But it does seem to set a precedent.

Cananaugh’s past became fair game in his confirmation hearing because of Republican duplicity. However, the young boys at Covington had no part in that. What appeared to be taking place in that video was an offense against a representative of the Indian Nation who had come to represent progressive hopes during the 2016 election–hopes that were put on hold by the election of the MAGA man himself, Donald Trump. It turned out the offense was largely blown out of proportion, but the fact that the video went viral in its original form is a separate issue–conspiracy theories are not necessary to explain the initial outrage.

What this will eventually come down to, if the Wall Street Journal opinion piece is correct, is some anonymous human resources maven pushing a few buttons and calmly eliminating job applicants with very little cause, and without batting an eye. Alternatively, those involved in the dissemination of the video, and maybe those who published condemnations based on the video, will pay dearly. It goes without saying that the opinion writers are a product of this unforgiving world and are not responsible for this state of affairs, but considering the impersonal and insulated context of a corporate human resources department, or alternatively, the context of a crack legal team, Jesus’s admonition hardly seems to apply.

“…He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone…” (John 8:7)

Is this what we want for our future?


Why Hillary Will Run in 2020

I’m not surprised about the rumors that Hillary Clinton is thinking about running in the 2020 presidential race. At the same time, I believe her when she says she doesn’t want to run. The problem is, the Clintons don’t have a choice. They have to regain the Whitehouse to fulfill the promises they’ve made to their donors.

If Hillary does run, we should probably assume that a Clinton presidency remains important to the entire establishment. There is no doubt in my mind the Clintons will get help in this endeavor from the Obamas–and maybe from Joe Biden. Hillary’s candidacy may even be the motivation behind the large number of Democratic hopefuls lining up to run in the primary. They are going to run interference for her.

What does this mean for progressives? Desperate people do desperate things or, in other words, 2020 will make 2016 look like a game of croquet. Therefore, we have to be clear about what we are trying to accomplish and the best way to accomplish it.

I recently heard the argument that a Sanders candidacy won’t have the same pinache this time around–that progressives need a new face to get excited about. In my opinion, that argument is not sound political strategy–it’s more like betting on a horse race. This is the establishment’s approach to politics.

If we are fortunate enough to continue the conversation for generations, and to participate in elections during that time, we will probably discover that the exhilaration of Bernie’s 2016 campaign was the exception rather than the rule. What we need in the long term is good strategy, patience, hard work (at the very least, the determination to vote in both the primary and the general election) and a philosophical response to disappointment.

The memory of Bernie’s 2016 campaign is a source of encouragement, but it should not be the basis for choosing candidates. What potential volunteers, donors and voters need at this time is a realistic plan that takes honest account of the obstacles. The truth is, since the election of George Bush people have had every reason to be pessimistic about the electoral process. However, in 2016 they recognized opportunity in a decent candidate, an inspiring vision, and a realistic plan. The only difference now is that we’ve seen the monster up close and personal. No, I’m not talking about the Clintons–I’m talking about the system. If we are going to throw ourselve into the fray again it’s important that we at least acknowledge this.

Is something Fishy About the MAGA Story?

When Pope Francis was in Ireland as part of the World Meeting of Families Archbishop Viganò wrote a bombshell letter that monopolized the news cycle. Now Francis is in Panama for World Youth Day and a story about MAGA hat wearing Catholic school boys from Kentucky is still going stong. Throw in the Koch Brothers and their connections to right-wing Catholic circles, Kentucky politics and Catholic business schools, and it begins to look like a conspiracy.

Okay I suppose it could be a coincidence, but we should probably at least give these boys and their teachers the benefit of the doubt. We know the Kochs control Kentucky, probably including the schools, but we apparently expected them to think like us.



So…You Wore a MAGA Hat at an Indigenous People’s Rally?

And then you were surprised that you got into trouble? I honestly believe you have an excuse–you are students after all. Ask your teachers and chaperones why they were surprised. Ask them why they didn’t warn you. Ask them why you didn’t recognize Nathan Phillips as a friend. This should have been a teaching moment, but instead of correcting you they defended your actions. Do they perhaps have a guilty conscience?

Religion in the Age of Pisces

Do the planets exert an infuence on human affairs? Considering the the way religion has developed in the Age of Pisces I think the answer would have to be yes. I would like to share the observations that lead me to this conclusion. If any of them contradict theological foundations that is not my intention and I would appreciate corrections and/or criticism.

Before I begin, I want to distinguish between two approaches that I have observed in discussions of religion. One is impartial and informational; the other is from the point of view of a believer. The word ‘impartial’ does not imply indifference or lack of belief; believers might use either approach.

According to T.R. Glover’s book, The Conflict of Religions in the Early Roman Empire, none of the religions that we now believe to be ancient are older than 700 BC. (Glover writes from the point of view of an atheist, arguing that the whole point of religion is to organize a society. I disagree with him on that point.) These religions include the worship of Orpheus, Dionysos, and Osiris–all figures with Hermetic attributes. I have come to believe that the Age of Pisces, ruled by the planets Jupiter and Neptune, was bound to have Hermetic characteristics.

Since reading Walter Friedlander’s book, The Golden Wand of Medicine, which attributes a malevolent influence to the symbol of the Caduceus of Mercury (or Hermes), I’ve been terrified of its influence in the United States. At one time I thought I might find a guarantee of safety in Catholic theology, because I have seen theological debates that seem aware of this threat. For example, part of the problem that arose between Père Jérôme and Albert Gleizes was Gleizes’ opinion that Church theology since the thirteenth century had to be thrown out. Gleizes thought Thomas Aquinas had taken everything in the wrong direction and that he could see its effects in sacred art. In other words, all theology since Aquinas had to be redone. But apparently the Church had already decided a debate between these two theologians in favor of Aquinas. As I understand it, part of the reason Aquinas prevailed was the greater degree of St Augustine’s Hermeticism.

Gleizes believed that Christianity was based on an older tradition and that it had lost its knowledge of the sacred. The idea of a basis in an older tradition by itself is not controversial, since it could refer to Judaism, but it was based on Guénon’s idea of a great world tradition of which Christianity is simply a part. The most obvious danger of this stance from a Catholic point of view would be the idea that Christianity had ceased to radiate spirituality, and so it is not exactly surprising that this began to create problems between Gleizes and Père Jérôme. (Albert Gleizes: For and Against the Twentieth Century, Peter Brooke, Yale University Press, 2001. page 221-223)

But to return to the problem of Hermeticism, I think I’ve seen similar considerations taking place in American Indian religion regarding Kokopelli. However, I realize now that it is unrealistic to expect a guarantee of safety. I don’t think human existence works that way, especially under the Age of Pisces.

Jupiter and Neptune rule the Age of Pisces. They are both associated with the Hindu deity Siva, and Siva has associations with Hermes. According to Edward Moor’s book, Hindu Pantheon (J. Johnson, St. Paul’s Church-Yard, London, 1810), “most of the principal Hindu deities might be identified with Jove or Jupiter”(page 47). And, “The Jupiter Marinus, or Neptune of the Romans, resembles Mahadeva (Siva) in his generative character; especially as the Hindu god is the husband of Bhavani, whose relation to the waters is evidently marked by her image being restored to them at the conclusion of the great festival of Durgotsava”(page 48). “In the character of destroyer also, we may look upon this Indian deity as corresponding with the Stygian Jove or Pluto, especially since Cali, or Time in the feminine gender, is a name of his consort, who will be found to be Proserpine” (page 46). 

I’m not arguing that Christianity is just another version of this older religion. I’m arguing that these planets have influenced our age.  Robert Eisler argues for the Jewish origin of Christianity in his book Orpheus the Fisher. In the preface, page v, he says,

Christianity, considering its Greek influences, seems remarkable for its loyalty to the Jewish religion, and at the same time its rejection of the pagan gods of Greece and Rome. Is it possible that both characteristics of the Christian religion are responses to the potential harm caused by Hermeticism under a Pagan system?

The believer in me would put it another way. If there was ever a time that God would find it necessary to make himself known to humanity, it would be at the beginning of the Age of Pisces.

I think it is also reasonable to argue that the Protestant Reformation unwittingly opened the floodgates to aspects of the Age of Pisces that had previously been suppressed by the Roman Church.