Gods WarriorsFull disclosure: I’m not religious and think that tangling religion with government is a greasy slope to tyranny.

Politicians use the religious to gain and hold power. Islam and Christianity have both been wound up in violence and the manipulation of people and their psyches for centuries. From 500 AD forward Muslim warlords have wielded swords and threats of damnation from Medina and the middle east up through Spain into southern France.  And Christian warlords have likewise wielded their swords and threats of hell-fire through Europe and its colonies at least since the Emporer Constantine saw the advantage of the cross’ power.

H.G. Wells, in his Outline of History observes that during the middle ages, following Rome’s fall,

………….. “Both in England and on the Continent the ascendant rulers seized upon
…………….Christianity as a unifying force to cement their conquests. Christianity became
…………….a banner for aggressive chiefs— as it did in Uganda in Africa in the bloody days
…………….before that country was annexed to the British Empire.”

An argument can be made that the same tactics (though less bloody to date) have been and are being used by “aggressive chiefs” in the United States —especially those of the right. The creation of the Tea Party can certainly be attributed, at least in part, to the intentional infusion of religion into our political rhetoric.  And the fact that we can’t seem to make any political or practical progress in a once progressive and innovative society is another. What’s more, our spiritual progress has been stifled and stunted since the advent of Ronald —The Affable but Destructive— Reagan.

Money is power but so is superstition.
by Jim Culleny


New Feudalism

July 27, 2013

american feudalism“The feudal state was one in which, it has been said, private law had usurped the place of public law. But rather it is truer that public law had failed and vanished and private law had come in to fill the vacuum.” H.G. Wells, The Outline of History

As the seditionists of the land, the right, the Republican obstructionists, further drown the people’s government in the bathtub, destroying it, killing it, privatizing it, supressing the vote— the corporate robber barons, the Kochs, the Waltons, the Blankfeins, the Dimons move in with their graft, their bribes, their tea-party puppets, and finish it off creating the FSA (Feudal States of America).

All hail the Kings!  All hail the Corporations!

Jim Culleny



Loading a gunIn Florida it’s actually possible to shoot someone dead, notch your gun and walk away as if nothing unusual had happened. This is how cheap some lives are in the Sunshine state.

As everyone now knows, in Florida, in the case of Trayvon Martin this is what happened —except for an inconvenient side trip through the court system for the shooter, George Zimmerman.  Actually, there was almost not even a trial. Following his killing of Martin, Zimmerman was quickly released without investigation when he claimed he had been in fear for his life and had “stood his ground”.

In Florida (and 23 other states) the license to kill is called “stand your ground”. The only thing that got the Martin case investigated at all was when the public got wind of the circumstances through some in the media who saw those circumstances for what they were. With the ensuing public outcry the Florida justice system (if you want to call it that) decided that maybe they should take a closer look.

The cylinder of the stand your ground revolver began turning in Oct. 1, 2005 when the Florida Legislature passed a law that took the state  back a 150 years or so. It reestablished a wild-west ethic in the fantasy land of cigar boats and Disney for the convenience of angry Americans with itchy trigger fingers and the National Rifle Association at their backs. Florida was the first state to flip a previous “responsibility to retreat” standard in the face of confrontation, to a right to shoot when you feel like it.

As if the law wasn’t irresponsible enough on its face, it gets really ugly in its application.

Here’s the thing— although the Martin case “had nothing to do with race” as both the prosecution and defense in the proceeding insisted, anyone with a little historical perspective and social awareness knows this is, let’s say, a bag of baloney (to avoid a more apt, but vulgar, term). The case seethed with race.

Trayvon Martin was a black youth wearing a hoody in a place George Zimmerman thought a black youth wearing a hoody should not be. Zimmerman followed this black youth, as any upstanding armed vigilante should, and shot him, defending the homicide with the claim that he had “stood his ground”.

Zimmerman is white by the way.

Here are reasons I believe race played a part in Martin’s murder and that the stand your ground law is biased:

1. Zimmerman’s history of 911 calls on black men, and the recording of his call the night of Trayvon’s death.

2. The inequity of the law’s application: i.e. the case of Marissa Alexander, a black woman who fired warning shots over the head of her abusive husband (killing no one) and cited the stand your ground law in her defense. Alexander was sentenced to 20 years.Marissa Alexander

3. The case of Bill O’Reilly who responded to Tavis Smiley in an interview about the Zimmerman case by (I’m sure) expressing the views of many white Americans.

In that interview Smiley says, “I’m just waiting for the NRA to say Trayvon Martin would be alive today if he’d had a gun.”

To which O’Reilly replies, citing black on black violence, “I believe a lot of the problem is generated by blacks themselves, who won’t solve the problems of their neighborhood.”

“I can solve the problem too,” say Smiley. “Arm every black person in America then let’s see what the NRA has to say.”

“Aw, Tavis,” say O’Reilly, “that’s a little extreme.”

For Bill O’Reilly, what’s good for the goose is evidently not good for the gander.

Still, the actual circumstances of the Zimmerman/Martin confrontation could be known by only two people and one of them is conveniently mute. What’s more, given the law in Florida, what Zimmerman did might have been perfectly legal, proving once again that the law and justice are not synonymous.

Columnist Donald Kaul points out the problem with this at Common Dreams.com.  Kaul clearly sympathizes with those who think justice was not done by Zimmerman’s acquittal, but says:

“As a matter of fact, I would not vote for a guilty verdict on the charge of murder. By Florida law, the evidence did not prove “beyond the shadow of a doubt” that Zimmerman murdered Martin.”

And, as the President said in one of his responses to the tragedy, “We are a nation of laws (not justice).” —parenthesis mine.

In fact Florida’s stand your ground law just happens to coincide with increasing incidents in the United States of psychopaths with guns on killing sprees —psychopaths who are able to do what they do because gun manufacturers and their media mouthpiece, the NRA have labored ceaselessly to gin up fears both of threats to the 2nd amendment and of brown-skinned others. According to the NRA guns must be available to anyone no matter who, no matter what in order to protect the rights of anyone to shoot anyone they see fit to shoot (not counting armed blacks if Bill O’Reilly is any example of white thinking).

In fact “stand your ground” is just a codified license to kill. And it’s supporters are as guilty as George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin because, as Donald Kaul wound up in his article, “It’s a really stupid law.”

by Jim Culleny

labor miterTime off is good. The Vatican is demonstrating solidarity with labor by making Twitter-following a legitimate rationale for indulgences is a compassionate cutting-edge move. Reducing  the length of time spent in purgatory recalls the work of labor unions to wring indulgences  from sweat shop employers that resulted in humane  40 hour work weeks and regular breaks.

Imagine the light-hearted feeling of waking up in purgatory after a surprise encounter with a bus knowing your time on twitter had been transformed into less time in a timeless place. Though mysterious, it’s  something the Teamsters and the United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing, and Allied Workers of America (UCAPAWA) can identify with.

Although one Vatican official stressed that getting an indulgence isn’t as easy as clicking the “follow” button (suggesting that there are some strings attached), the convenience will certainly be appreciated by all tweeting sinners.

Thank you Vatican for your solidarity with workers!

Up with hard-labor twitter indulgences!

Eat your heart out Middle-Ages.

waterWhat is the public commons and who controls it? That question’s almost as old as “Who am I?” and comes with a host of similar implications — political, religious, social, personal. It’s one we’ve been trying for centuries to answer by means of creeds, philosophies, ideologies, economic systems, war — you name it. Who owns the earth? Who has dominion over it, its lives and its resources?

The political expression of the will to power is always about controlling the commons: defining and enforcing its boundaries, profiting from its resources, and reaping its bounty. This will is inherent not only in political movements but also in religious ones; two realms often idealized as being distinct that are often indistinguishable.

The idea of a Commonwealth was expressed by our founders in the official names of certain state entities — the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and those of Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania.

Writer and media talk-show host Thom Hartmann notes “ . . .the founders understood that when they were creating these state entities they were acknowledging a common pool of wealth that was collectively shared by the citizens, and the common functions that needed to be taken care of; we need the police, we need fire, we need schools, roads (et cetera) . . . all part of the commons: the Us taking care of Us.”

This is bedrock enlightened government, but Hartman, recognizing our present circumstances, warns “the extent to which the concept of the commons has been lost benefits the large corporations . . .when we give up control of the commons, say our water supply, not only have we lost control of it but we’re at the mercy of those corporations.”

This is bedrock rationality.

When we give our means of sustenance over to profit-making corporations whose incentive is not the common good but profit, our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness becomes secondary to their business plans. This would be a deal made only by ignoramuses or masochists, but we, through elected crooks, are making it. By our quietude we are acquiescing to it.

Not all of us are mute in the face of corporate coups to command the public commons. The Illinois Coalition to Protect the Public Commons calls for action. The problem is stated on its Web site (http://icppc9.blogspot.com): “When public assets or the public commons are privatized, citizens relinquish control of our communities to the corporate state. We lose good jobs, money, access, our sense of community, accountability, and legal recourse. The corporate state grows while democracy shrinks. Whose rights are protected in an ownership society?”

In every policy statement and political speech dealing with the privatization of any aspect of our public commons — our police and fire departments, our public education system, our water systems, healthcare, elections, highways, infrastructure, transportation, parks — the question of that last sentence should be first and foremost in our minds: Whose rights are protected in an ownership society?

There’s a weird selective blaming game that permeates the right in this country. It has always been there, but it gained traction again with the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Reagan, The Affable Wealth Re-distributor (as I think of him), with his acting and communications skills, was able to sell to Americans the idea that government is the problem. Reagan had the slippery, glad-handing abilities of a snake oil salesman, but behind his charm lurked a spirit mean enough to undermine the well-being of middle-class Americans and the poor. His happy callousness might be summed up in a pronouncement of his USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) that, in the case of federally subsidized public school lunches, ketchup could be considered a vegetable.

During his administration Reagan busted unions, undermined the oversight of public agencies by placing at their heads managers who worked to sell them out. Under him school lunch programs were severely cut back, pre-natal programs were sliced, federal job-training programs were ended, the Legal Aid Corporation was eviscerated, et cetera.

But what’s most amazing is that the selective memorizers of the right who today have taken Reagan’s ideas to the max — who blame government for every ill that faces us, who blame progressive government for driving us into debt — what’s amazing is that under Reagan “ . . .the U.S. went from being the world’s largest creditor to being the largest debtor nation.” (The Daily Kos, 6/2/11.)

Since Reagan, we have gone from a government that governs to one that is determined to turn everything over to entities over which we, the governed people, have less and less control. The problem is not government, it’s government corrupted by private interests. This is what libertarians and the right in general omit from their political equations. There was a pointed example of the attitude of the champions of corporate capitalism in the news recently: “Nestlé chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe believes that ‘access to water is not a public right.’” (www.globalreaserach.ca)

Privatization of our water supply is a sure road to public dehydration as corporations buy water rights in states like Maine leaving residents with depleted aquifers to pay to wet their whistles with Poland Spring. If you don’t believe that, look up Nestlé’s corporate record. It pushes junk food along the Amazon (CSRwire Talkback) and lies about its support for the proposal to label GMO foods (Natural Society) and has unethically marketed baby food formula against the World Health Organization’s international code that promotes the healthier option of breast feeding (Corporate Watch). What’s more, Nestlé has instituted “a cyber army” to monitor our attitudes to their products (a kind of corporate NSA non-food snoop program).

Corporations are not in the business of public well-being, they’re in the business of their well-being. Left to their own devices, corporations will lie, cheat, steal, bribe (public officials), maim, poison, and eventually kill, if their bottom lines look shaky. Only the seriously ignorant, stupid, confused, lazy, economically squeezed, self-interested (stockholders), etc. would turn over our common wealth to be managed and sold back to us by private entities with (really) just one thing on their minds: profit, and more of it. So what do we do when even our government is largely in the pockets of corporations?

Just last week tens of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets to protest and hopefully protect their commonwealth.  They unseated a president. We may not have exactly the same end in mind, but we can take to the streets.

The next time you have a chance to flank the cash-twisted political process laid upon us by the Supreme Court’s Citizens-United-money-is-free-speech ruling by attending an anti-corporate demonstration, don’t pooh-pooh it as having sprung from the minds of radicals. Join up; do it!

Honest, it will not make you a socialist.

by Jim Culleny

Related: The Water Thief
The Water Thief