Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Real Reason Why TeaBaggers Are Up In Arms Over Light Bulbs

By MARC McDONALD

To hear the TeaBaggers tell it, the ban on incandescent bulbs is a good example of "Big Government" interfering with the lives of ordinary citizens.

At first glance, it might appear that the Tea Party has a point. After all, what right does the government have to tell us what type of light bulbs to buy?

However, the reality, is that the light bulb "controversy" is nothing more than a red herring. It's designed to distract the dim bulbs who constitute the ranks of this AstroTurf movement.

In reality, the TeaBaggers have no problem with the government legislating how people live their lives. After all, they support Republicans: a party that constantly micromanages every aspect of ordinary citizens' lives---even our personal morals.

You hear a lot of talk about "freedom" at TeaBagger rallies. But while TeaBagger/GOP types talk a good talk about freedom, they have nothing but contempt for real freedom for ordinary citizens.

The GOP supports outlawing everything from gay marriage to a woman's right to choose. It supports a "lock them up and throw away the key" approach for even casual drug use. Indeed, most TeaBaggers I've talked to would support the government embracing an evangelical right-wing theocracy and ramming it down the throats of the rest of us. So much for less "government intrusion" into our lives.

Indeed for all the rage the TeaBaggers claim to have toward Big Government, it's clear that (as usual) they have no idea what they're talking about. Polls have even shown that a majority of TeaBaggers support programs like Medicare (although they seem to be ignorant of the fact that it's a government program). They seem to be clueless that the GOP would abolish Medicare in a heartbeat if it only could muster the votes.

Despite all this, the TeaBaggers continue to rage against "Big Government intrusion into people's lives." The interesting thing is that, their "Exhibit A" of such intrusion is always the light bulb issue.

But is the light bulb ban really an "intrusion" by government into people's lives? Actually, it's the very opposite.

After all, the new compact fluorescents use 75-80 percent less electricity than incandescent bulbs. If every U.S. household bought just one CFL and used it in the place of an ordinary 60-watt bulb, the energy saved would be enough to power a city of 1.5 million people. It'd be the equivalent of taking 1.3 million cars off the roads.

Here's where the TeaBaggers are clueless about "government intrusion." If everyone uses CFLs, America will save millions of barrels of oil a year. And let's face it: that just increases the odds that our nation won't be involved in further oil wars in the Middle East.

Speaking of "government intrusion" into people's lives, the Iraq War alone is expect to cost U.S. taxpayers around $3 trillion.

As usual, the TeaBaggers and GOP can't see the forest for the trees. They want to save us from "government intrusion" by banning CFL bulb laws. But they have no problem with the U.S. government forcing taxpayers to cough up trillions for wars to steal other countries' oil.

Actually, if the U.S. was more energy efficient, we could easily live off the oil we produce right here at home. And we could do it with off-the-shelf technology that already exists. For example, Japan already gets an astonishing three times as much economic activity per barrel of oil than the U.S. does. If the U.S. were as energy efficient as Japan, we'd save many millions of barrels of oil per year.

Bottom line: the light bulb "issue" is nothing more than a red herring, aimed at distracting the ignorant TeaBagger crowd into believing that the leaders of this AstroTurf movement are actually acting in their interests.

To be sure, the real leaders of the Tea Party movement (like the billionaire Koch brothers) are indeed against government intrusion. But they don't give a damn about government intrusion into the lives of ordinary citizens. No, the government intrusion they oppose is any and all regulations against multinational corporations.

If the rich and powerful interests who really control the Tea Party had it their way, corporations would face zero government regulations. Corporations would be free to rape and pillage the planet as they pleased. They'd even be free to continue gorging themselves on corporate welfare. The latter, of course, is one Big Government program that the TeaBaggers have no problems with.

I've yet to see a single sign at a TeaBagger rally that condemns corporate welfare. Or a sign that condemns TeaBagger darling Michele Bachmann's family from hypocritically gorging on our tax dollars. Or a sign that condemns the U.S. spending trillions of our tax dollars to invade other countries to steal their oil.

It's clear the whole light bulb issue is nothing more than a fake "controversy," cynically contrived to mislead the American people, and the mainstream media, about the real intentions of the Tea Party movement.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

After 8 Years, U.S. Officials Still Recklessly Lying To Troops In Iraq

By MARC McDONALD

The disastrous Iraq War was originally built on a colossal lie. Now, eight years after George W. Bush ordered the invasion of that country, American officials are still lying to our troops. And the Big Lie today is just as dangerous and reckless as when Bush first told it.

On July 11, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, during a visit to Baghdad, sounded very Bush-like when he connected U.S. invasion of Iraq with 9/11.

Speaking at Camp Victory, Panetta said, "The reason you guys are here is because on 9/11 the United States got attacked," Panetta told the troops. "And 3,000 Americans--3,000 not just Americans, 3,000 human beings, innocent human beings--got killed because of Al Qaeda. And we've been fighting as a result of that."

After eight horrific years of war in Iraq, it's clear that Panetta is still peddling the same lies Bush told in 2003.

It's clear why Panetta follows the Bush party line. After all, the truth would be too terrible. We certainly couldn't tell the troops that, all these years, they've been fighting an illegal, immoral war that had absolutely no connection to 9/11 or Al Qaeda. We certainly couldn't tell the troops that the Iraqi people want them out now. Not to mention the U.S. public. (Or, for that matter, the entire rest of the world).

No, the truth is too horrible. It'd be too depressing and demoralizing for both the troops and their families, who paid the ultimate sacrifice.

It's a Big Lie that Bush/Cheney peddled endlessly when they worked to sell their war to the American people. Recall how Bush worked tirelessly for months to try to connect Saddam to 9/11.

And (as it usually does for Republicans) the Big Lie worked. One poll, in 2006, revealed that nearly 90 percent of U.S. troops believed that the Iraq war was retaliation for Iraq's role in 9/11.

If we're going to send young people into battle, I've long believed that we at least owe them the truth. That was one thing America never offered our soldiers in Iraq.

But, as the Iraq War has shown, Bush's lies to the troops have also had dark consequences for the people of Iraq.

As author Mark Crispin Miller noted in his 2004 book, Cruel and Unusual:

"Bush sent a very different message to our troops....by harping on Iraq's alleged complicity in 9/11, and by hyping the fictitious `terrorist threat' posed by that nation. Because of such inflammatory propaganda, our troops were motivated mainly by a craving for revenge, as after the destruction of Pearl Harbor. Throughout the march to war, and through the first year of the war itself, payback was on everybody's mind. `The only thing that motivates all the soldiers fighting in Iraq is payback for Sept. 11, 2001,' reported Reuters."

Miller continued:

"That lust for righteous vengeance has helped push our troops toward barbarism---which is often frightening even to themselves."

When you have a situation in which troops are filled with anger and a desire for revenge, you increase the odds that atrocities will occur. And of course, we've seen plenty of horrific atrocities in the eight years of war in Iraq. And we'll likely continue to see atrocities on the battlefield as long as our leaders brazenly lie to our soldiers.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Progressive Music Classics. The Pop Group's "Rob A Bank"

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By MARC McDONALD

Welcome to another edition of Progressive Music Classics.

Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away from dogsh*t like "American Idol," music really mattered. Back then, there were artists who followed their own muse, commercialism be damned. If it meant toiling away in obscurity, then so be it.

The late, great The Pop Group, from Bristol, England, were a fantastic example of a band that refused to ever compromise in the slightest bit. They refused to compromise on their radical message. And they refused to compromise on their abrasive music and make it radio-friendly.

I've heard critics of the band over the years who've said that The Pop Group were simply too extreme. But that's what I always enjoyed about them.

Early punk bands laid the groundwork for this sort of music. The Pistols and The Clash tore up the rulebook and called for an end to the lazy, complacent, radio-friendly pop scene of the late 1970s.

But punk also raised a question: what to do afterwards? After all, three chords and a lot of rage will only get you so far, musically.

And after The Clash made the definitive punk statement, with their first album, it was clear that there needed to be a new music that'd be worthy to pick up where punk left off. Regurgitating the Pistols and the Clash over and over simply wasn't a worthy successor music (despite what dullards like Green Day and their fans believe).

Bands like The Pop Group took up this challenge in the late 1970s. They mixed up the punk template with abrasive noise, dub, funk and avant-garde sounds. They sounded (back then, and now) like a hurricane of hand grenades, threatening to blow up in the listener's face. First and foremost, they tried hard to create something totally new.

And then there was the message. The Pop Group grabbed you by the collar and forcibly showed you the evils of the world and how you were getting f*cked by The Rich and Powerful. The band raged against a wide variety of worthy targets: social injustice, racism, fascism, hunger, war, evil multinational corporations, inequality, and much more. The Pop Group didn't do love songs.

Of course, The Pop Group's deeply uncommercial records sold poorly. And they weren't even released in the U.S. But in the intervening decades, the band's message has only grown more powerful.

If anything, the world is a far more f*cked up place today than it was when The Pop Group was around. Inequality, for example, has grown dramatically, in both Britain and the U.S.

And multinational corporations have, if anything, grown even more evil and soulless (see monstrous entities like Halliburton and Goldman Sachs).

Between the horrors of George W. Bush, Gitmo, state-sponsored torture, Fox "News" and the Iraq War, it's clear that The Pop Group wasn't exaggerating when they implied that a whole new form of fascism was on the horizon.

In 1980, The Pop Group released their second, and final, album, For How Much Longer Do We Tolerate Mass Murder? Featured in the video above, "Rob a Bank" is a song that has grown increasingly ironic over the past three decades.

But as we all found out, after the economy collapsed in September 2008, it was the banks who wound up robbing us. The Bush administration took $1 trillion of our tax dollars and used it to bail out the crooks on Wall Street.

It was an outrageous crime against the people. And it shows that The Pop Group weren't being overly pessimistic in their indictment of corporate capitalism.

Incidentally, The Pop Group recently reformed to do some gigs in Europe. The band now plan to release a new studio album in the fall.

If you like what you hear in the video above, I urge you to check out both the band's studio albums, as well as the compilation, We Are All Prostitutes. All the band's records seem to be (at least in the U.S.) only available as imports from Japan (where the band has long had a sizeable audience). Band front-man Mark Stewart has also released a number of phenomenal albums as a solo artist, since 1980.