January 24, 2010

Many Thanks, Continuing Apologies

I extend my deepest thanks to those people who responded so generously to this post. You're immensely kind, and I'm very grateful. And my great thanks to those bloggers who drew attention to my situation and encouraged people to offer what support they could.

I felt a bit better for a few days at the beginning of last week, and then I got worse again. I'm in very terrible shape physically now. And then, several days ago, another problem returned that had mercifully gone away for a while. I've sometimes had a lot of trouble with my eyes, and it's very difficult to read on the computer. During these periods of eye trouble, reading books (my strong preference) is close to impossible, unless it's a large-print edition. (In the last couple of years, I've sometimes tried to get hold of large-print editions of those books I especially want to read. But most books aren't available in large print, unfortunately.) As I'm writing this post, for example, the text gets very blurry every minute or so, and I have to move my head different distances from the monitor to try to allow my eyes to focus. Sometimes I just have to wait a few minutes for it to clear up. (And moving my head around is singularly inadvisable, as it's likely to set off or worsen various pains.)

Now, it could simply be that I need a new prescription for my glasses, especially since I haven't had my eyes examined for ten years. I hope that's all it is. If it's something more serious, I have the same attitude I have about getting various medical tests done now: there's no point. I can't afford any kind of treatment anyway, so there's no reason to know about some horrible disease that's going to do terrible things to me in X months or Y years. Sometimes, impotence renders ignorance preferable. Not my usual approach to, well, anything, but there you are.

I mention the eye business because, thanks to the generosity of a number of you, I can afford one or two visits with a doctor (but no major tests -- see above, and most tests would cost much more than I can pay for anyway), followed by getting several prescriptions filled. I definitely want at least one very good drug for pain relief; although the worst of the back pain has subsided for now, it's only a matter of time before that or some other awful pain visits me again. I'm going to wait several days to see how I feel and how my eyes are, to determine what seems most urgent. Thank God the excruciating back pain is gone, but I'm still far from comfortable. But I think that's just my general physical feeling of complete shittiness now. Except for agonizing pain such as the pain that started a couple of weeks ago, it's getting harder and harder to differentiate between the ongoing problems and new ones.

Again, there's a great deal I'd like to write about. Unfortunately, at the moment I can only focus on writing for ten to fifteen minutes at a time. Then my various pains and whatnots necessitate moving into a different position, lying down for a while, cracking my head against the wall, etc. If I blogged like many others, I could knock out one or two posts in each ten to fifteen minute period. Sadly, I don't write that way. Too bad.

So I'll try to get some writing done in the coming week. I have no idea how successful I'll be. I'm afraid it's not going to be much. And for that, my sincere apologies.

My very grateful thanks once more. Hope to be back in some form soon.

January 18, 2010

Peace Is the Means and the End

On this day, I earnestly commend to your attention an article by Jeff Nall: "How Obama Betrays Reverend King's Philosophy of Nonviolence."

Here are several excerpts I view as especially significant:
Each year, many remember Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work on behalf of civil rights. Yet the most fundamental piece of his philosophical legacy, his rejection of the utility and morality of violence between individuals and nations, remains at best ignorantly obscured or at worst actively suppressed. In his 1967 book, Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, Rev. King wrote that "it is as possible and as urgent to put an end to war and violence between nations as it is to put an end to poverty and racial injustice."

When President Barack Obama received the Nobel Peace prize some in the peace movement noted the irony of awarding such a prize to a man overseeing multiple wars and hundreds of military bases around the world. What was most horrifying about Obama being awarded the peace prize was the content of his acceptance speech in which he defended the utility and morality of violence and war. Rather than merely ignoring the legacy of peacemakers before him, Obama used the speech as a full-frontal assault on the very philosophical tenets of nonviolence advocated by Gandhi and Rev. King.

On December 10, 2009, Obama followed in the footsteps of so many believers in war before him: letting out a cry for peace while loading his guns. ...

Rev. King directly assailed those who proffered words of peace and love while they showered their enemies with bullets and bombs. "Many men cry ‘Peace! Peace!’ but they refuse to do the things that make for peace," wrote Rev. King. Summing up the philosophical tenet underwriting nonviolent direct action King continued: "One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek but a means by which we arrive at that goal." In short, peace is both the means as well as the end.


Continuing [Obama] said, "Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaida’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man and the limits of reason."

The history Obama recognizes, however, is that cruel, blood-soaked fable of American Exceptionalism. Rev. King saw through this fraudulent cloak of Divine American Right when he observed, on April 4, 1967, that it was the United States that is "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

Rev. King was not being hyperbolic. He merely fulfilled the call of justice to look beyond national heritage and to honestly assess the actions of his country. And so his heart and mind followed our nation’s long trail of blood. ...

Since King made those remarks the U.S. only increased its commitment to resolving problems through militaristic means.
I also want to draw your attention to this passage:
In a way that perhaps only the U.S’s first black president could have done, President Obama seemed to attempt to marginalize and disappear Rev. King’s message that the United States was on "the wrong side of the world revolution." "It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries."


Perhaps President Obama’s ascendancy up the staircase of power has left him dizzy and too far removed from the cause of peace and justice. Whatever the cause, it is now all too clear that he either does not know or refuses to recognize the injustices of U.S. militarism. Rather than recognizing our nation’s foreign policy crimes, Obama merely referred to the inferior others, to the irrational barbarians who simply will not listen to reason – the reason of U.S. domination, the reason of corporate militarism from sea to shining sea. According to Obama, the U.S. has never been on the wrong side of the world revolution. ...

Standing on the world’s stage, receiving a prize for peace, Obama stared straight into the eyes of Rev. King’s legacy and declared not hostility but rather his loyalty to militarism. Rev. King called for America to "get on the right side of the world revolution" by undergoing a "radical revolution of values." Obama defended the American exceptionalism which has and continues to color U.S. militaristic violence in a divine shade of ineffability. Dismissing the hundreds of thousands left dead from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama described the U.S. as the world’s great savior which never does wrong. "Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms." As if tearing out pages from reality and replacing them with the most egregious doublespeak Obama stated plainly: "America has never fought a war against a democracy, and our closest friends are governments that protect the rights of their citizens."
I have been discussing certain of these themes for several years. I point you in particular to an article from May 2009: "Obama and the Triumph of the American Myth." The second, major part of that essay, "Torture and the American Project," sets forth many of the facts of American history that Obama steadfastly refuses to acknowledge and, as Nall observes, blatantly lies about. Obama announced his dedication to the propaganda of American Exceptionalism on a comprehensive scale in his widely praised speech on race; see "Obama's Whitewash" for the details.

But there is an earlier passage in "Obama and the Triumph of the American Myth" that I offer again here, since it speaks to Nall's argument:
Given the fundamentalist fervor with which the U.S. ruling class maintains and burnishes the national mythology, an exercise in which the majority of "ordinary" Americans join with equal enthusiasm (for such dedication to onanistic joys will forever find many followers), Barack Obama was inevitable. It was dangerous enough when truth was the enemy; truth was to be destroyed, but there remained a barely discernible acknowledgment that the truth still existed. With the ascension of Obama the Marketer, Obama the Fulfiller of Dreams, Obama the Commander of Illusion, the lie occupies the most prominent national space. Once installed, the lie grows daily and hourly. The smallest remaining tatters of truth are pushed always farther to the edges, until they vanish into the growing swamp of pain, suffering and death. To search for the truth in these circumstances is to sentence oneself to ridicule and hatred. To speak the truth is to render oneself irrelevant and invisible.

But, the liars insist, after our disgusting and vile history of slavery and discrimination, we miraculously have a Black president. Surely, this must be regarded as a wonderful development. In the unlikely event that you missed the intended intimidation, an additional phrase is often included: "Surely, this must be regarded as a wonderful development by all decent people." Now you understand, and now you will shut up.

Honest to Christ, talk about the lie ascendant. I suppose it is "uniquely American" that the first Black American president could only have been elected by molding himself entirely in the image of the white, male ruling class, and by adopting a white racist perspective. But still he has Black skin! O, glorious symbolism! O, wondrous marketing!

To hell with this vicious nonsense...
See the full essay and follow some of the links for much more. I also mention for your consideration the concluding section of that article, which discusses an especially egregious instance of monumental lying and massive historical distortion in the name of hack partisanship on the part of Paul Krugman. It might prove of some value to those who are only now disillusioned with Krugman, given his dishonest shilling for the health insurance abomination. I remind you that this example of Krugman's superficiality and manipulativeness dates from May of last year. I'll return to Krugman soon for further examples of his analytic failures, which are numerous and sometimes enormously consequential. His current, unrelenting propaganda on behalf of the health insurance monstrosity should surprise no one, provided they were paying attention and understood the arguments he frequently put forth.

But then, we could say the same, with full justification, about the "disappointment" experienced by so many with regard to Obama himself, couldn't we? For more about why such disappointment is singularly misplaced, see, "The Fatal Illusion of Opposition" (from May 2008) and a still earlier essay (from May 2007), "Songs of Death." I've analyzed many of the reasons for the inability and/or refusal of so many people to see and identify the significance of even massive evidence spread before them on all sides; I will shortly be returning to that subject in some articles I've planned for quite a while, for there is much more to be said on that subject.

Let me go back to Jeff Nall's article, and reprint his concluding paragraphs:
Despite depicting Gandhi and King’s philosophy of nonviolence as impractical, Obama urged all to be guided by "the love they preached." Yet "the love they preached" cannot be so easily pulled apart from the nonviolence and anti-militarism they preached. In sum, for all of his gestures of respect for Rev. King, President Obama’s deeds have exacted nothing short of the betrayal of the fundamental legacy of peace and justice of the man who made it possible for him to be president.

So as we commemorate the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the year 2010, let us recognize ... the necessity and the supreme practicality of nonviolence. Let us join Rev. King in understanding militarism in the same way we think of racism: an instrument of violence and oppression. For the violence and terrorism we hate so much will not end until we force our government to realize that peace and justice can’t be created via military operations that take the lives of innocent mothers, fathers, and children. The hate that fills our bullets and missiles will simply fertilize and enlarge the malevolence we seek to destroy. And in the process we may find that we not only kill the innocent abroad, but that we lose our conscience and our very souls in the process.

While men like President Obama continue their faith in war let us hear Rev. King, and heed his call for a "peace offensive."
I emphasize this in particular: "let us recognize ... the necessity and the supreme practicality of nonviolence." I've seen a few recent articles advocating the policy of nonviolence. Some of them have made significant and very valuable points. But I haven't yet seen sufficiently explained, at least to my own satisfaction, two aspects of nonviolence: one of the ultimate roots (and probably the ultimate root) of a profound personal dedication to nonviolence, and how powerful and effective nonviolence can be.

Although I have long had many articles in various stages of preparation, I think I will begin with this subject. At this moment in history, it is a matter urgently demanding the most careful consideration.

January 15, 2010


I apologize for my absence from this space since early December. As I've often indicated, there is a lot of writing I would very much like to complete in whatever time remains to me. To be honest, I'm not at all sure how much time remains now, or how much of that writing I'll be able to do.

Over the last several years, I've had to accustom myself to varying degrees of constant discomfort and pain, all of which is experienced against a background of enormous and increasing weakness and fatigue. I say "I've had to" get used to that, because I'm unable to obtain any medical care on a regular basis. The only time I received any care at all was in connection with the heart emergency almost a year ago. I couldn't continue the heart medications prescribed at that time since the refills finally ran out, and I had no means of obtaining new prescriptions or of paying for them even if I somehow managed that. So I've been off the meds for about four months.

The last month has been especially bad. Then, last Saturday, I suddenly had a very bad pain in my lower back, right above the left buttock. I obviously have no idea what's causing it. After megadoses of aspirin (which I've continued to take regularly, primarily for the blood thinning effect, necessary with regard to the heart problems) and Tylenol (yes, I know about the recall, but it appears inapplicable to the product I've been taking), and long sessions with a heating pad, the pain has lessened somewhat. But for most of the past week, it's often been agonizing. All I could do was try to find a position in bed that didn't hurt too much (practically impossible), drift in and out of far from restful sleep, and beg for the pain to stop. Now, it's stopped a little bit. (Don't worry about the megadoses of aspirin and Tylenol; chances are I won't live anywhere near long enough for whatever bad effects the doses may cause to manifest themselves. And based on what I know, I'm not taking dangerously high levels of either. I'm not yet at the point where I'm deliberately inducing my demise.)

If the pain continues at this somewhat reduced level for another week or so or if, God forbid, it should get worse, I probably ought to get some attention for it, even if only for more effective alleviation of pain. Before I left the hospital last February, I had a discussion with someone from the billing department. My discussion with her made clear that there is no government program to help me. I've mentioned that I've dropped out of "the system" as completely as I can. Aside from local and state taxes that I must pay whenever I purchase groceries, etc. (since I regrettably don't live on a self-sustaining farm), I give the State nothing; the State will therefore give me nothing. I have no complaint about that; it's the choice I made. Since I'm unable to work (aside from the writing I do here, when I can), I depend entirely on the charity of my readers.

My very deep thanks go out to the small group of ten or so regular donors, who send donations like clockwork even when I've been absent for weeks, or even months. Without you, all this would have ended for me some time ago. I also extend my gratitude to those few additional people who have made donations, especially over the last month. But I'm now down to my last hundred dollars. Soon I won't even be able to get more aspirin or Tylenol. If I could manage several hundred dollars for just a very basic checkup and a couple of prescriptions, that might help a bit. Actually, I'm not even sure what $400 or $500 would buy these days in terms of medical attention; I'm fairly certain it's not much at all. It clearly won't make even a small dent with regard to the general underlying problems, but I'm in the very primitive triage stage now. Even a vanishingly small victory is better than nothing.

I've kept up a bit with ongoing news, in odd moments here and there when I can sit up for a while without experiencing unbearable pain. I've seen stories about how much money is being raised in connection with various political causes -- for example, for the two major candidates in the Massachusetts election next week. So (some) people still seem to have (some) disposable income for those battles they view as important; the amounts raised by Coakley and Brown are staggering to me. I'll try to write about that election in more detail soon, with a view to the larger issues it involves. From my perspective, a vote for Coakley is utterly indefensible and contemptible. Brown is also awful, although he doesn't appear to be notably more awful than most other politicians trying to get to Washington or already ensconced there. I view voting for "None of the above" as an honorable choice. And I will further say that, if I lived in Massachusetts, I would be somewhat tempted to vote for Brown, if the thought of doing so didn't afflict me with hysterical paralysis. I say that for only one reason: in the specific context of this election -- and given that one of the primary reasons Coakley's supporters urge a vote for her is to "save" the health insurance bill (a bill which is the corrupt product of a corrupt system, incapable of being "improved" no matter how much they tinker with it given the vile corruption at its core) -- a Brown victory would deliver one overriding message: Stop Fucking With Us. That's a message worth delivering, I think. It might slow the bastards down just a little bit; gridlock and confusion among the monstrous governing class are very positive assets now. And at this point, time is critical. Much more about all that soon, I hope. But a vote for Coakley is close to unforgivable as far as I'm concerned; all the arguments in support of such a vote rely on a series of critical errors, which I hope to explain in detail in some long-planned articles. If you vote for her, I suggest you have the following tattooed on your forehead: "Please fuck me until I'm dead, and I'll still vote for you as long as I can!" But, hey, if you get your thrills that way, enjoy it, pal.

So, yes, there is still work to be done here. A bit of money to help me get through a while longer, or at least to keep the pain at a somewhat tolerable level, would be helpful. As always, I'm deeply grateful for your consideration and for whatever support you might care to provide.

I will try to be back, more substantively, in the next several days. Now, I just take it hour by hour, and sometimes minute by minute...so we'll see what tomorrow and the ensuing days bring.