Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Plain Words And Smoke & Mirrors

by Mort Malkin

Plain Words And Smoke & Mirrors

Plain words can be slippery. Plain words can be allusive, illusive, inversive, perversive. A quick listen to the talk that emerges from the White House, the Congress, The Pentagon (even with Donald Rumsfeld gone), Wall Street, Exxon-Mobil … can teach our poets a thing or two about metaphor and symbolism.

The Gadfly Revelry & Resaerch team has blown the smoke alarm and made clear the real agenda of the forsoothsayers. Let’s start with “national security” — surely security is a worthy endeavor. National security transitioned smoothly to national security interest and almost as easily to national interest. Dick Cheney, early in 2001, convened his (secret) energy task force of oil companies and thereupon told us that our national security required the invasion of Iraq . He was really interested in the national interest of appropriating Iraqi oilfields on behalf of the Seven Sisters. He then tried to convince us to bomb Iran and achieve regime change so we could take over their/our oil. Cooler minds prevailed and in 2009 Cheney was an ex-oficio.

The Cong gang (coal, oil, nuclear, gas), without a champion in the Pentagon, turned to domestic energy sources. They inadvertently forgot to say that they’d have to a) drill for oil off the coast of resort cities in Florida, b) blast off the tops of mountains in Appalachia, and c) fracture the bedrock of the Earth to pool the gas located a mile deep in tiny crevices and bubbles. I suppose it’s hard for the energy companies to make a living off the sun or wind or tides.

National security brings us to overall issues of war and peace … or, defense and peace. The head honcho of the Pentagon used to be titled Secretary of War. In the 40s, WWII enjoyed broad public support — every family bought war bonds. But in recent wars, Vietnam to Iraq, not even “defense” bonds were proffered. We were reduced to waving flags and displaying bumper stickers announcing support for the troops. But, we were left to wonder whether we should also support all the military contractors of Blackwater, Triple Canopy, Titan, CACI, and Dyncorp. The number of such contractors operating in Iraq and Afghanistan exceeds all the US military personnel in those war theatres. I recently discussed this question with a friend who is a British national. I asked abouit the Ghurkas and weren’t they mercenaries who fought for the British? Yet, history gives them favorable press. She replied that the Ghurkas weren’t mercenaries but defenders of the Empire. Blackwater contractors are mercenaries.

Another friend, a native born American, sailed right past the issue of mercenaries to the idea of wars of choice versus just wars. He said “War is just war.” He suggested that Isaiah’s counsel to beat swords into ploughshares would mandate establighing Peace Academies next door to West Point, Anapolis, and Colorado Springs.

The fog of war is relatively transparent when compared to the smoke & mirrors of Wall Street “investment” banks. Goldman Sachs, CitiGroup, Bank of America, and their co-illusionists brought us all manner of “derivatives” to create new wealth. Their collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and credit default swaps (CDSs) led to: strangle options, pin risk options, rolling turbos, and iron butterfly spreads, among the most inventive. How wondrous — new wealth without better mousetraps, electric cars, or personal jet travel vests.

Wall Street, as we know, is the bastion of Capitalism. Capitalism is not as highly regarded as free enterprise, and so a little word deviation was in order. Free enterprise was equated with freedom, and freedom with democracy. Ipso facto, democracy became confluent with capitalism. Marx and Lenin missed the boat back in the beginning of the 20th century. They should have known the west would not accept communism. They could have easily put that ism in the same basket as community, barn raisings, and co-ops. Community … communalism … communism. If only power didn’t corrupt so powerfully.

Communism has now disappeared from the planet except in North Korea where the Dear Leader sings its praises. Even Outer Mongolia is now a parliamentary democracy. Outer Mongolia, wedged between Russia and China and once a communist anchor of North Asia! The folks here in the US whose ideology requires the invocation of fear have had to replace communism with socialism. Etymologically, it is difficult to pull off. Our culture in language is positive about church socials, social networks, and Social Security. The poor far-right of the political spectrum — they don’t want to be called anti-social. They must feel awkward to be anti socialized medicine. They are, as well, out of step with the rest of the world that considers health care a right.

Words can be plain and clear once you get through the smoke and mirrors.

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