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This Week In Doom: What Muslim Ban?


That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Hampton Roads Light Brigade at direct action January 31, 2017

 


Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on February 5, 2016

"First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me."

–Pastor Martin Niemoller 


Our foreign policy requires an externalized enemy, as our economy requires a state of permanent war. Were peace to break out across the world, the US economy would shudder to a halt within 60 days.

Ever since Reagan announced "Morning in America" we have been tempted with the promise of returning America to the golden postwar era when white male colossi like Patton, Marshall and MacArthur strode like heroes astride a grateful world. And the corresponding postwar boom in which American industry sold everything it could make to a prostrate world. Who paid for it with money we lent them.

Trump's call to "Make America Great Again," prints nicely on red ball caps but is short on specifics. One example put in practice is the recently announced Muslim Ban, giving color of law to demonization of the Muslim "other." [Note: On Friday night, U.S. District Judge James Robart blocked the entirety of trump’s de facto Muslim ban from taking effect. His ruling, which applies nationwide, froze all relevant provisions of trump's executive order.]

In a recent Harper's article, Lawrence Jackson ruminates about the leaders of the Atlantic-facing victors, usually known as "the West:"

The most arrogant inhabitants of these nations …understood themselves to be the ordained directors of human beings across the globe, across space and time. They were committed to civilization by the sword. Yet not even Reagan was mighty enough to reinstall the American militants who ached to battle the Russians and the Chinese. Reagan took to politics for what he couldn’t achieve in his original profession, acting. He stood in the shadow of John Wayne, a cultural hero who… declared that the problem was that the values of white rule weren’t being exported vigorously enough. Wayne’s films gave audiences a steady dose of what historian Richard Slotkin calls “regeneration through violence.” Both civilization and capitalist bonanza depend on violent encounters and imperial expansion. If the country is to be healthy, it needs some frontier populated by some brand of enemy.

After 9-11, to forestall a "peace dividend" breaking out, America's best minds concocted the Global War on Terror, a concept plastic enough to permit many interpretations, and unwinnable enough to guarantee the Permanent War Economy. Having recently defined that enemy as brown people planet-wide coming for our golfs and guns, now they have infiltrated our borders! Clear and present danger! Wearing hijab! Sharia Law in our streets! Can female genital mutilation for Barbie be far behind?

Enter trump. In our empathy-free times, we think little and care less about what such reckless decisions mean to individuals. Today I am going to challenge you to care.

Demonstrators march from a Department of Homeland Security office through the West Loop on Feb. 1, 2017 against President Donald Trump's ban on refugees and travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the U.S. (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune)

Several weeks ago, I listened to a Ted Talk by Deeyah Khan, raised in Norway by an Afghan mother and Pakistani father. Khan recounted the rejection and isolation felt by Muslim kids growing up in the West, and the way they get squeezed between two worlds. At a time when executive action careens towards an unconstitutional ban on immigrants fleeing the very countries we bomb, this talk opened my eyes—and ears.

Khan recounted the story of how she had to subsume her own dreams for her life and take on those given her by her father. To be famous, he said, “it's either got to be sports, or it's got to be music." So he threw away her toys and dolls at age seven, and was given a ratty Casio keyboard. She practiced music for hours each day.

Khan started singing and playing, and became good enough to perform before growing audiences. Let her tell it:

I became almost a kind of poster child for Norwegian multiculturalism. I felt very proud, of course. Because even the newspapers at this point were starting to write nice things about brown people, so I could feel that my superpower was growing.

Until one day, she was headed into a store for candy, and found her way blocked by a man intent on making sure she understood who really ran things in Norway.

There was this grown white guy in the doorway blocking my way. So I tried to walk around him, and as I did that, he stopped me and he was staring at me, and he spit in my face, and he said, "Get out of my way you little black bitch, you little Paki bitch, go back home where you came from." I was absolutely horrified. I was staring at him. I was too afraid to wipe the spit off my face, even as it was mixing with my tears. I remember looking around, hoping that any minute now, a grown-up is going to come and make this guy stop. But instead, people kept hurrying past me and pretended not to see me.

So she learned that when faced with persecution of brown people, white people tend to not want to get involved. But her fellow brown people would have her back, right? Not exactly.

Some men in my parent's community felt that it was unacceptable and dishonorable for a woman to be involved in music and to be so present in the media. So very quickly, I was starting to become attacked at my own concerts. I remember one of the concerts, I was onstage, I lean into the audience and the last thing I see is a young brown face and the next thing I know is some sort of chemical is thrown in my eyes and I remember I couldn't really see and my eyes were watering but I kept singing anyway. I was spit in the face in the streets of Oslo, this time by brown men.

The threats continued and the oppression, this time from her fellow Muslims, got worse. And it took the edge that we often hear that the Islamic world visits upon women:

The death threats were endless. I remember one older bearded guy stopped me in the street, and said, "The reason I hate you so much is because you make our daughters think they can do whatever they want." A younger guy warned me to watch my back. He said music is un-Islamic and the job of whores, and if you keep this up, you are going to be raped and your stomach will be cut out so that another whore like you will not be born.

Her family realized they could no longer keep her safe, so they sent her to London. She resumed her music career, but with similar results.

Different place, but unfortunately the same old story. I remember a message sent to me saying that I was going to be killed and that rivers of blood were going to flow and that I was going to be raped many times before I died. By this point, I have to say, I was actually getting used to messages like this, but what became different was that now they started threatening my family.

Eventually after transitioning to work as a maker of films, she moved again, this time to the US. She makes this point:

What most people don't understand is that there are so many of us growing up in Europe who are not free to be ourselves. We're not allowed to be who we are. We are not free to marry or to be in relationships with people that we choose. We can't even pick our own career. This is the norm in the Muslim heartlands of Europe. Even in the freest societies in the world, we're not free. Our lives, our dreams, our future does not belong to us, it belongs to our parents and their community.

So this lack of freedom to choose personal autonomy is what we decry in our conflict with Islam: "Islam is a death cult." "Look how it treats women." Yet compare and contrast with the policies announced and espoused by the current trump/pence regime.

Denying women reproductive freedom has long been the Holy Grail of Christian Dominionists who have never gotten over The Pill. The Pill gave women the ability to control pregnancy, and with it far more autonomy over their lives. Couple these efforts with the assault on programs that combat violence agaist women, and you begin to trace the outlines of a program to re-chattelize women that sounds positively… Islamist.

Consider in the singular example of Deeyah Khan how Islamists treat women, and realize that this story is re-enacted across the world millions of times over. Then compare with announced trump/pence policies designed to deny women access to services won over decades of activism and legislation. It would appear that the difference is merely one of degree. Policies to repress the rights of women stem from the same shrunken root: an insecure manhood and a need for control. Women, beware short fingered vulgarians and the men who serve them.

 


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and once quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. Where he met the woman who now shares his old Virginia home and who, like he, is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap, and like he, will be disappointed to not be prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the incoming administration.

This Week In Doom: American Nightmare


That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on January 29, 2017

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It's not.” 
― Dr. Seuss, The Lorax.”

 


The first full week of the Presidency of Donald J. Trump was both cruel and absurd. Nothing about this should be surprising. Trump is a singular example of the cult of personality, a manifestly unfit individual whose path to power has enabled a hidden phalanx of anti-democratic hedge-fund plutocrats and white supremacists to get their paws on executive power. These political apostates have funneled into the palaces where the wheels and gears of power are kept, like the mob storming Versailles, the better to finger the crystal and steal the silver.

The first week of the Trump administration marks the violent reassertion of the prerogatives of White Males against the legacy of Barack Obama and the Great Arc of History. This crowd's capacity for brutality is unimaginable by middle class Americans who grew up on the legacy of the New Deal and amidst the prosperity engendered by winning World War II. Truly, who among us ever thought we'd have to beat Nazis again in this lifetime?

The first realization of the coming kleptocracy dawned as Trump announced his cabinet choices, resembling nothing so much as the Dread Pirate Roberts naming the plunder all star team to crew a new pirate ship.

Now, the owners of this glittering casino and their gum-toothed spawn are clawing back their presumptive place at the top of a so-called "meritocracy" that rewards their gene pool with the sweet perks of "freedom" and "capitalism," which is political code for one class prospering off the suffering of another. The subsequent rewriting of laws then institutionalizes the grift and makes it like, official, dig?

If you've spent the week under a rock, here's a summary of week one executive actions:

  • An order to “ease the burdens” of the Affordable Care Act, "to the extent allowed by law". On Thursday, Trump cut all advertising to alert Americans that the ACA enrollment period ends on Tuesday.

  • He reinstated the “global gag rule,” a ban on federal funding for any international group provides abortion information to women. With NO exemptions for hospitals and clinics that don’t actually provide abortions, or for facilities that treat women with complications from abortions.

  • Trump issued executive memoranda to restart construction on the stalled Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines.

  • Trump signed an executive order taking action on immigration. He announced plans to build the border wall with Mexico, and insisted Mexico would pay for it with tariffs. He threatened “sanctuary cities” with federal funding cuts, and announced plans to build more detention centers.

  • Politico reports that the executive orders signed this week   were composed by chief strategist Steve Bannon and senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and were so hastily wrought they may be unenforcable or even illegal.

  • Trump removed the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a 12-nation economic agreement supported by none of the presidential candidates, and against which candidate Trump campaigned.

  • Trump’s declared war on the press through his surrogates. At his briefings this week, Press Secretary Sean Spicer called on outlets that peddle fake news and praise Trump ahead of the AP and other mainstream outlets. Stephen Bannon suggested this week the media “should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut.”

  • He announced an initiative to look into imagined "voter fraud" by which the three million votes by which he lost the popular vote were cast by "illegal immigrants." In a CNN interview, VoteStand founder Gregg Phillips said that he can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Clinton received at least 3 million “illegal” votes for president in 2016. Phillips stands accused of being a "revolving door hustler" and a state-level grifter dogged by controversy.

  • On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Trump issued an executive order halting refugee resettlement and suspending travel to the United States from the Muslim-majority countries Syria, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen. As I write, refugees and immigrants are being detained at airports all over the world because of the refugee ban. This includes an Iraqi military translator detailed at JFK airport. Crowds of protestors gathered at JFK and other ariports across the country, chanting,

“No hate! No fear! Refugees are welcome here!”

or a variant

“Say it loud and say it clear! Refugees are welcome here!”

Protesters rally during a demonstration against the Muslim immigration ban at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saturday in New York City. (Stephanie Keith/Getty)

The order also bars legal permanent residents of the U.S. from returning home if they are now travelling overseas, even though they already went through "extreme vetting" procedures to get their green cards.

Late Saturday night, Federal Judge Ann Donnelly in New York issued a nationwide temporary injunction, halting the implementation of part of Trump’s executive order on immigration and blocking the deportation of travelers with valid visas detained at airports. This in response to a suit brought by the ACLU.

The judge further ruled that the government must immediately stop deporting travelers from the named nations, including refugees who already went through a rigorous vetting process, and provide a complete list of all those detained. The Intercept published an update.

Suffice it to say that when Michael Moore, Dick Cheney, and the Pope are all on the same side of an issue, and you're on the other side, you've crossed the line: you're an asshole.

Hours after Trump signed this executive order heralding this global descent into barbarism, a mosque in Texas went up in flames.

The Islamic Center of Victoria was set on fire around 2 a.m. on Saturday, according to local reports.

Victoria Fire Marshal Tom Legler told the Victoria Advocate he had no theories about the cause of the fire, but he is seeking assistance from state and federal fire investigators.

Just week one.

While Bannon writes, Trump tweets and Washington burns, the left continues to squabble about assigning blame for the Trumpenkrieg to various Hillbots or Berniebots or Steinswine. This endless circular firing squad, which obtains any time three of more "progressives" share the same space, is why we can't have nice things. And why we have Trump.

One of the great shortcomings of the age derives from late stage capitalism. It is the keenness of focus on measurement at the expense of all other values. Remember working in businesses when profitability was enough? No more: now profitability must be maximized. How it works: most American industries are mature indistries, which over time become less profitable. These mature industries exist at a time of little real growth and the end of cheap energy. In this environment profitability comes from two sources: 1) squeezing more out of your current operation, and 2) stealing share from your competitors. Our "business leaders" conjure results from these two foci though spreadsheet worship, and concoct strategies by which they can wring the last erg of energy out of a workforce, all in the name of "efficiencies." Enter automation, Amazon, and subcontractors.

American political philosopher Richard Rorty saw this coming. In his 1998 book “Achieving Our Country,” now much quoted in the New Yorker and around the internet, he observed our present circumstances:

"Members of labor unions, and unorganized and unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers—themselves desperately afraid of being downsized—are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

"At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. . . . Once the strongman takes office, no one can predict what will happen. "

 

No one can predict what will happen. But if Trump's first week is predictive of the future, the cruelty and absurdity of this week will continue until Robert Mercer and the Koch brothers determine he is too loose a cannon and needs to be impeached. Which will install President Pence. Remove Pence? There's Ryan. With Orrin Fucking Hatch in the on deck circle. Vote them out in 2018? Talk to your Republican governors about who will actually be allowed to the polls in 2018.

By 2020, don't be surprised if the franchise is not restricted to white male property owners with a net worth of $1 million. As God intended. And there are still assholes out there who will argue that voting doesn't matter.

 


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He has squeezed out numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and once quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. Where he met the woman who now shares his old Virginia home and who, like he, is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap, and like he, will be disappointed to not be prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the current administration.

The Year In Doom 2016: Counter-Revolution


That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on January 1, 2017

“History is as light as individual human life, unbearably light, light as a feather,
as dust swirling into the air, as whatever will no longer exist tomorrow."

 ― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being


Every new year, pundits attempt to make sense of the events of the year past, or make bold predictions about what will happen in the next. Your scribe is neither motivated nor ambitious enough to do either. Our job here is to look at certain of the year's events through the jaundiced filters of collapse and doom, the purpose being to make sense out of what 2016 left at our doorstep like a burning paper bag filled with turds.

Much is been made of the political developments – Brexit, the coup in Turkey, Syria and the refugee crisis, the election of Donald Trump as president, with many thousands of tons of aggrieved punditry launched in a nearly 24–7 assault of PR artillery to try to "make sense of it all." There is simply no making sense of it within the confines of ordinary time and news cycles. Better to soar to the 50,000-foot level, unbearably light, to the vantage point of history, to discern larger trends.

This year's events are symptoms of an evil zeitgeist which is bad news for those of us on the left or so-called "progressive" side of politics. They are harbingers of a sweeping counter-revolution, made possible by a 40-year assault on the funding and functions of government and its efficacy, such that even ordinary people question the very legitimacy of government itself. An underfunded government rarely works.

Never forget that it was the French revolution that gave us Napoleon. And that in 1933, The German Reichstag passed the Enabling Act, which gave Adolf Hitler the power to enact laws without the involvement of the lawmaking body. Thus everything that Hitler would come to do was perfectly legal and achieved through parliamentary means. Consider this on the eve of a Trump presidency and a Tea Party Congress motivated by the most atavistic impulses ever to spring from a Koch brother.

(And if you find this comparison to Hitler overly hysterical and are moved to invoke Godwin's Law, allow me to refer you to the Tea Party Republic of North Carolina, where legislative Republicans enacted a putsch and passed new, restrictive legislation essentially stripping the newly elected democrat governor Roy Cooper of much of his executive power. Watch now for other states to start pulling the same shit. Feel free to join in a rousing chorus of, "It Can't Happen Here.")

When one considers who Trump has chosen for his own cabinet, the one common thread that seems to run through each is a prior career dedicated to opposing the regulations of said department. William Astore describes Trump's cabinet as "a Coup Waiting to Happen" and as a clique of warrior-generals ready to end the American democratic experiment by the time the limos are parked at the White House. 

Yet 21st-century America is witnessing a new and revolutionary moment: the elevation of losing generals to the highest offices in the land. Retired Marine Corps general James “Mad Dog” Mattis, known as a tough-talking “warrior-monk,” will soon be the nation’s secretary of defense. He’ll be joined by a real mad dog, retired Army lieutenant general Michael Flynn as President-elect Donald Trump’s national-security adviser. Leading the Department of Homeland Security will be recently retired general John Kelly, another no-nonsense Marine. And even though he wasn’t selected, retired Army general David Petraeus was seriously considered for secretary of state, further proof of Trump’s starry-eyed fascination with the brass of our losing wars.

And why does this matter, you may ask? Didn't Truman appoint McArthur, and Bush appoint Powell? WTF?

 A republic… founded on civilian control of the military needs true civilians as a counterweight to militarism as well as military adventurism. Recently retired generals are anything but that; they’re not even speed bumps on the road to the next set of misbegotten military “adventures.” They are likely to be only one thing: enablers of and accelerants to military action. Their presence in the highest civilian positions represents nothing short of a de facto military coup in Washington, a coup that required no violence since the president-elect simply anointed and exalted them as America’s security saviors.

Mattis is one thing; Flynn quite another. By most measures, he has a reputation for not playing well with others. Flynn is known as an ideologue with a virulent, irrational hatred of Islam and a penchant, like his boss, of unburdening himself on Twitter. Often wrong but never in doubt, he was forced from his position as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, after which he became a harsh critic of Obama. Of Flynn, Astore observes:

Rising to prominence during the Trump campaign, he led the chant against Hillary Clinton (“Lock her up!”) at the Republican National Convention in July. (His son recently helped spread the false rumor that Clinton was involved in a child sex trafficking ring involving a Washington, D.C., pizzeria.) Flynn, who sees Islam as a political conspiracy rather than a legitimate religion, is an angry warrior, a dyed-in-the-wool crusader. That Trump sees such a figure as qualified to serve as the nation’s senior civilian security adviser speaks volumes about the president-elect and the crusading militarism likely to be forthcoming from his administration.

One does not have to try hard to imagine a preference for military solutions to diplomatic problems being favored as part of "Making America Great Again." And with Twitler already composing 140-character love poems to nukes, it is a short leap to see the Doom Meter set a couple of clicks higher. Never forget that war is always a great way to balance the books.


“There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
– Warren Buffett, The New York Times

Military adventurism is bad enough. Meanwhile at home comes the Trumpenkrieg.

Look at what has happened over the past 40 years. Ever since Saint Reagan announced that "government is not the solution: government is the problem," tax cuts for plutocrats and trims to the social safety net to pay for them have been the order of the day.

In broad strokes , here's what has happened in the last 40 years: The Corporate State's agenda has been to oblige American labor to compete at global prices through an assortment of "trade deals" long on exporting American jobs but short on results: NAFTA, GATT, Fast Track, FTAA , the TPP. Corpstate has worked to privatize social benefits and social services, abolish negotiated benefits like pensions and health care, slash taxes for corporations and the wealthy,  and has broken the power of unions. All against a background of massive deregulation: airlines in 1978, trucking in 1980,  telecom in 1984 and 1996, electricity in 1992, oil and gas extraction in 1980, and finance, repeatedly between 1978 and 2000. I'm sure you've noticed the benefits "trickling down."

No? Maybe someone's been pissing down your back.

All of these consciously planned policies have led to the manifestation of what Spawn of Satan Allen Greenspan once defined as the "precariat," people who face diminished prospects of achieving middle-class status—a good job, homeownership, decent retirement. This is by design.

If workers are more insecure, that’s very “healthy” for society, because if workers are insecure they won’t ask for wages, they won’t go on strike, they won’t call for benefits; they’ll serve the masters gladly and passively. And that’s optimal for corporations’ economic health. . . how do you ensure “greater worker insecurity”? Crucially, by not guaranteeing employment, by keeping people hanging on a limb than can be sawed off at any time, so that they’d better shut up, take tiny salaries, and do their work; and if they get the gift of being allowed to serve under miserable conditions for another year, they should welcome it and not ask for any more. That’s the way you keep societies efficient and healthy from the point of view of the corporations.

Sound familiar? Don't blame the immigrants, don't blame the Mexicans: blame the plutocrats. By 2020, a study estimates more than 40 percent of Americans, or 60 million people, will be independent workers—freelancers, contractors, and temporary employees. This constituency—notably white—is angry, and with good cause. Since 1998 white Americans have seen declines in both their incomes and life expectancy, with large spikes in suicide and fatalities related to alcohol and drug abuse. These are the people who, in anger and hopelessness, have chosen a billionaire builder who stiffs his subcontractors. 

With Trump and the Tea Party foxes in charge of the henhouse, there is little question about the future direction of economic policy. The end game will be not only the dismantling of the New Deal, but also most of the 20th century. The only questions are whether and when the much anguished white working class (who voted for Trump) realizes how badly they have been played, and what they will do about it.


“There’s one issue that will define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other, and that is the urgent and growing threat of a changing climate.”
— U.S. President Barack Obama

"The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."

— U.S. President-Elect Donald J. Trump

The assortment of oilmen, climate change deniers and other sociopaths that Trump has chosen to direct energy and environmental policy will exacerbate the greatest existential threat of the age. We are supposed to ignore the record of  the hardcore climate denier that Trump named his chief White House strategist, the hardcore climate denier Trump put in charge of the EPA, the climate action opponent Trump named as his Chief of Staff, the fossil fuel executives and lobbyists placed in charge of Energy and Interior, and the conservative Supreme Court judge he can name who will ratify whatever. This at a time when every sober observer of world climate is waving frantically signaling that we must do something NOW.

The human onslaught to destroy life on Earth is unprecedented in Earth's history. In a sobering article, Life on Earth is Dying. Thousands of Species Cease to ExistRobert J. Burrowes reviews the heinous toll of man's environmental dominion:

Planet Earth is now experiencing its sixth mass extinction event and Homo sapiens sapiens is the cause. Moreover, this mass extinction event is accelerating and is so comprehensive in its impact that the piecemeal measures being taken by the United Nations, international agencies and governments constitute a tokenism that is breathtaking in the extreme.

And it is no longer the case that mainly ‘invisible’ species are vanishing: those insects, amphibians and small animals about which you had never even heard, assuming they have been identified and given a name by humans.

Of course, some of what is happening is related to the ongoing climate catastrophe and there isn’t any good news on that front. See ‘What’s Happening in the Arctic is Astonishing’.

Of course, military violence has devastating consequences on the Earth’s ecosystems too, destroying land, water and atmosphere (not to mention killing human beings) in the fight over resources. 

When Fox News’ Chris Wallace asked Donald Trump about his thoughts on climate change, the president-elect responded,

“Nobody really knows. Look, I’m somebody that gets it, and nobody really knows. It’s not something that’s so hard and fast.”

He’s not alone; according to Pew Research less than half (48%) of all American adults believe that the Earth is warming mostly due to human activity. They are wrong, if consistent; in 2016, news from around the world made climate change undeniable to anyone paying attention. And Trump has made certain noises about getting NASA out of the earth-monitoring business, the better to not confuse citizens with evidence that might interfere with worship of "growth."

As climate change becomes ever more observable and its effects more evident, half of Americans remain firmly in denial. Ecocide is an appropriate word. And in the view of cynics, earth will be just fine in the long run; it's humans that will have it tougher.


An impressive array of notable people left us in 2016: Prince, Mohammad Ali, Alan Rickman, Carrie Fisher, Fidel Castro, John Glenn, Nancy Reagan, Arnold Palmer, and Leonard Cohen. But 2016 left us Trump. Fuck us.


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and once quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. Where he met the woman who now shares his old Virginia home and who, like he, is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap, and like he, will be disappointed to not be prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the incoming administration.

This Week In Doom: The “Hamilton Elector” edition


That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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hamilton-400x400

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on December 11, 2016

“In a hundred years time, perhaps, a great man will appear who may offer… a chance at salvation.   He'll take me as a model, use my ideas, and follow the course I have charted."
–As quoted in “Der Führer als Redner,” Adolf Hitler, by Joseph Goebbels


On December 19 of this year, the 538 members of the electoral college will meet to cast their votes to actually decide the outcome of the election of 2016. Those people appalled or mortified by the election of Donald J. Trump as President are hoping that "Hamilton Electors" will rise up and in a fit of conscience serve as a deus ex machina to deliver the US from inaugurating a president who lost the national popular vote by somewhere north of 2.6 million votes.

What these people are hoping for is an electoral college revolt. I'm not liking their chances. We have to remember that the framers of the Constitution didn’t trust direct democracy, period. The Electoral College is a fail-safe to protect the presidency from a candidate who’s popular but unfit for office. The name "Hamilton Electors" stems from Alexander Hamilton's explanation of the need for a check upon the popular passions. Writing in Federalist 68 , he said the body would consist of 

A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.

In other words, anything BUT a rubber-stamp for the popular will, a second level of discernment, to ensure that

"…the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications."

In other words, a "break glass in case of emergency" device to prevent panderers, prevaricators and pussy-grabbers from ascending to the office of mountebank-in-chief.

To which I say, "good luck with that." I rank second to none in my loathing for Trump and the gaggle of foxes he has assembled to guard the public henhouse.  Yet, in a recent article in The Atlantic on the subject, College of Charleston political science professor Claire Wofford explained

“there is no explicit federal or constitutional ban on electors selecting candidates as they wish, even if that means departing from the popular vote of the state.”

Past practice enables us to believe we have voted for a slate of electors who will faithfully deliver votes in the "winner take all" fashion followed by most states. In almost every other presidential election in history, members of the electoral college have voted in accordance with the popular vote. With notable exceptions. The election of Rutherford B Hayes over Samuel Tilden 1876 provides an instructive example of our nation's capacity for electoral skulduggery.

The 1876 election was a "reform" election. The administration of Ulysses. S. Grant was one of the most extraordinarily corrupt administrations of all time, even given low 19th century standards. In 1868 Grant was swept to electoral victories by a nation grateful for victory. But he made the mistake of appointing an assortment of military and business cronies to important offices in his administration at a time of unparalleled growth, western railroad expansion, booming manufacturing, and abundant opportunities for corruption.

The list of Grant era scandals is impressive: the "Gold Ring" and the Black Friday Gold Panic of 1869, (starring Jay Gould at the center of a plot to corner the gold market), the New York Custom House ring, the Star Route postal ring, a treaty breach to allow gold mining in the Black Hills, the Whiskey Ring of 1876 (a tax evasion scam) and many more. Grant appointed reformers, but the public had had enough. Grant's personal reputation remained untouched by scandal. Yet In 1931, authors Frederic Paxson and Christian Bach wrote that 

personal scandal has not touched Grant in any plausible form, but it struck so close to him and so frequently as to necessitate the vindication of his honor by admitting his bad taste in the choice of associates.

In the conventions of 1876, the Rs nominated Governor Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio, a reformer. The Ds nominated Governor Samuel J. Tilden of New York, setting the stage for the most contested election in US history.

In a voting result that resonates today, Tilden outpolled Hayes in the popular vote with 4,284,020 votes to Hayes' 4,036,572. But Tilden's 184 electoral votes were still one short of a majority, while Hayes' 165 electoral votes left him 20 ballots shy.

These 20 electoral votes were in dispute in four states: in Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina, and Oregon. Each party claimed its candidate had won the state:  Democrats had won the state elections, and Republicans claimed the Democrats' used fraud, violence, and intimidation in the Southern states and "threw out" enough Democratic votes for Hayes to win in those states. Grant directed Congress to resolve the competing claims.

In January 1877 a 15 member Electoral Commission (comprised of eight Republicans and seven Democrats) met and voted to resolve the competing slates of electors. The result was the Compromise of 1877: the Electoral Commission ruled that the disputed votes belonged to Hayes, in return for which the last troops were withdrawn from Southern capitals. Quid pro quo: Hayes was awarded the White House with the understanding that Hayes would remove the federal troops whose support was essential for the survival of Republican state governments in South Carolina, Florida and Louisiana.

The departure of Federal troops meant Reconstruction was over. The net result was the abandonment of American blacks, civil rights, and the effect of federal law in the South. Political power in the Southern states devolved to the Democrats. Jim Crow was born, and hard won civil rights gained by blacks disappeared for generations. And to enforce the new order, "strange fruit" hung from southern trees. 

So in the same way that George W. Bush a 5-4 vote of a stacked Supreme Court to stop the Florida recount in 2000, Hayes won a presidency having lost both the popular vote and the Electoral College. But he did win the 8-7 vote of the Electoral Commission. Proving that laws are as perfectly elastic as they need to be.

So absent Hamilton Electors, an alien invasion or proof that the Russians hacked the election, we will have to deal with the horror of a Trump Presidency and his Chamber of Horrors cabinet whose members seem chosen precisely for their opposition to the premises of the agency they have been chosen to lead. This ought to be good for the doom industry.

When Reagan's "Sagebrush Rebellion" looks like a polite exercise in manners in comparison, what will "normal" look like? These people have, in Charlie Pierce's phrase, "a sweet tooth for authoritarian solutions to the inconveniences of democratic government." The game will be to get the feds out of the regulation business and send responsibility back to the states, who will avoid the responsibility like cancer and force it onto already broke localities, where it will disappear for lack of money.

Want an abortion, too bad, so sad, goodbye. Not a choice you get to make. Freedom from government regulation only applies to corporate persons and their owners and does not apply to use of your private parts. 

As Paul Ryan turns Medicare into a voucher system, and the voucher pays about fifty per cent of the premium, Trump-voting Uncle Fud will have to decide whether he can live on kibble and cat food in order to pay the premiums. 

As Trump-voting rural whites on disability suddenly have to work and there is no work to be had because automation took their jobs, who will they blame? They didn't realize those moochers and takers they threw under the bus during the campaign were themselves. Time to start cooking meth again.

As Betsy DeVos gets that hated federal money diverted from your local district, and public schools become charter schools where the voucher covers a fraction of the tuition, they'll at least have a choice as to which religious affiliation they choose for their kids. Snapping the spines of public teachers' unions is just an added bonus!

As the roads stop being paved, streetlights stop being replaced, as trash collection becomes occasional, as the drinking water becomes a fetid hellbroth of god-knows-what (a la Flint), as the bills mount and when people lose their homes, as we "Make America Great Again" by rediscovering the family values of three generations living together in a two bedroom house, who will they blame?

Trump voters will savor the satisfactions of having "gotten the government off their backs."  

 


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, and once quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. Where he met the woman who now shares his old Virginia home and who, like he, is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap, and who, like he, will be disappointed to not be prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the incoming administration.

This Week in Doom: A Crack in Everything


That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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2016-results

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on November 13, 2016

"Ring the bells that still can ring / Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack in everything / That's how the light gets in.… "
-Leonard Cohen 1934-2016

 


Many of the bells I listen ring discordantly or not at all this week, as the improbable has occurred, and serial pussy-grabber Donald J. Trump has been elected President-elect. That alone is enough to recommend the reappearance of this infrequent franchise, heralding as it does the apocalypse.

The pervasive story retailed in the weeks leading up to the election was that "Hillary had a durable three to four point lead." Repeated on cable newz and the better boutique websites, like fivethirtyeight.com, where even on election day, they moved a story titled,Final Election Update: There’s A Wide Range Of Outcomes, And Most Of Them Come Up Clinton. Now hiding behind the hedge known as "margin of error," they are pretending that this was not the narrative they marketed, quickly moving to shove all that down the memory hole with stories like, Why FiveThirtyEight Gave Trump A Better Chance Than Almost Anyone Else. You can't make this stuff up. If indeed "The Arc of the Moral Universe Is Long, But It Bends Toward Justice", Nate Silver will be stocking shelves at a Wal-Mart by Christmas.

And the punditry of the execrable cable "news product" networks certainly did their part.

Since election day, I have not watched the "news" shows on CNN or MSNBC, which both gave Trump millions of dollars of free advertising over the past 18 months, while constantly preaching, as experts do, that at best he had a "narrow path" to victory. It's funny that Trump keeps lambasting the press; it played a major role in his electoral college victory. With news networks giving him billions in free publicity (Phil Griffin in particular should roast in hell), the Fox "News" entertainment net gave him millions more in sheer advocacy. And let's not allow Les Moonves' quote on Trump to be forgotten: "It May Not Be Good for America, but It's Damn Good for CBS." This is what happens when news becomes entertainment and has to sing for its supper. Shareholders' interest uber alles.

Trump drew 60.1 M votes, compared to Romney's 60.6M in 2012. Clinton underperformed Obama by 9M from 2008 and by 5+M from 2012. Dems stayed home in droves. Michael Moore noted that 90,000 Michigan voters voted a complete ballot but left President blank. Your margin in Michigan was 11,000. In Michigan and Wisconsin, county after county that went twice for Obama went for Trump.  And yes, now we get to enjoy AG Giuliani and Secretary of Interior Palin along with our new retrograde supremes.

I blame the DNC on tipping the scales away from an electable candidate and for their preferred insider. They ran a status-quo candidate in a change election, and turned a continued deaf ear to the plight of people in flyover country. They didn't listen- now we all inherit the wind.  And yes I know about voter suppression, and that remains a problem, but the so-called Obama coalition did not turn out. Putting the lie to "elections don't matter." If you continue to believe they don't matter, prepare to enjoy life under Trump, Pence and Ryan. And lose my number.

 

Perhaps William Rivers Pitt has said it best:

Trump didn't win because your friend criticized Clinton on Facebook, or because your sister likes Jill Stein, or because Bernie sold out to Hillary or because of any of the galaxy of stupid self-destructive pissy pissant excuses I've been hearing and reading today.

Unfuck your brain pans, folks. Trump won because millions of people have been getting jackhammer-fucked for decades by nearly a half century of trickle-down economic thievery. Millions of people live paycheck to paycheck, and pay through the nose for health insurance, and have no equity in their homes any more, and have an expensive degree that can't get them a job, and they think they have no future, and maybe they're fuckin-a right. Economic inequality has been mother's milk for bigotry and hate since before the pharaohs built those big pointy grain silos.

People are justly pissed because America has been a shell game since before Reagan, a long con to extract wealth and resources, and the people never get to find the pea under the pistachio. So along comes this gifted grifter from the TV who tapped into that angst and ran wild with it. THAT'S why he won, because he cannily capitalized on a decrepit system, and millions who don't know where else to look or who to blame after years of trying said fuck it, why not. They're not stupid. They're exhausted and fed up because they've been let down over and over again. It worked.

 


Reaction has occurred in many cities, with people marching in the streets. While mobilization is important, my brief experience with Occupy has taught me that ad hoc assemblies let off steam but do little more without a more extensive agenda. Strategy is what is needed. There will be time for that. Also, let's not forget that we are about to turn over the immense surveillance power of the NSA to a serial tweeter who maintains enemies lists.

There has been some violence, much dramatized by the alt-right. During Occupy. It was pretty obvious that anybody exhorting people to violence was probably collecting a government paycheck. After all, in activist politics, the FBI plant is the guy who offers to get the dynamite. 

They call it "political correctness" when the oppressed tell the privileged they're tired of putting up with their shit.

Marchers and others are amazed that the people of the US voted to elect a man who bragged about sexually assaulting women, and who tweets gleeful posts about deporting families, other examples of casual cruelty, and thinly veiled, dog-whistle racism. Plenty of Trumpeters demand that the unhappy line up behind the new "President of all of us," when they never returned the favor. We are supposed to forget the plotting in a DC steakhouse on Inauguration night of 2009, where R s plotted to obstruct Every. Single. Thing. Obama proposed. And then was the demonization of him and his family, the birtherism. The reflexive racism, the monkey memes… we're supposed to forget all that. I promise a President Rich Asshole the same tender consideration that his fellow travellers offered Barack Obama.

Many survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault awoke on Wednesday morning to the realization that a man who said his accusers were too ugly to assault was endorsed by nearly half the country as a leader. They woke up to newspapers splashed with pictures of a man who said that he could “grab women by the pussy” without their consent because he’s a "big, big star."  Friends of color saw a man elected as their president who was willing to hire as his campaign CEO one of the most vile racists that exists, and who began his campaign by calling them, their friends, and their family members who face racial violence every day “rapists” and “drug dealers.” They watched a man become president who called the first black president “evil” and illegitimate, and heard him tell them they were “living in hell,” accuse them of dupes for voting Democrat for several decades now, and demonize the only movement working toward ending the murders of their sons, mothers, brothers, fathers, and friends at the hands of police. And those that are gay, or Muslim, or Latina, or undocumented fear for their lives and for their children’s safety. The simple fact is that the vast majority of those not part of the one per cent and living off investments or trust funds are hurt and grieving, and the half of the electorate that voted for Trump don't realize what is about to happen to them.

My neighbors, co-workers and family helped elect that man. And we all have to live with that. Some of us are more prepared than others.

Meanwhile, The Fed/Wall Street elite and private military contractors have never been happier and rub their hands together at the feast about to unfold. They have thoroughly divided and propagandized the American public and in Trump have a camera-ready stooge to turn over the keys to the Treasury. Meanwhile, the D vs R, liberal vs conservative divide and conquer techniques continue, and the same interests make off with the boodle. Wash, rinse, repeat.


In other news, Ku Klux Klan announces Trump victory parade in North Carolina. It was on the website of the kkkknights but is no longer on their main page. It was scheduled for December 3 at an undisclosed location in NC. Perhaps they have had second thoughts- or have been encouraged to have them. And I was ready for a road trip.

As Trump puts together a transition team, we receive early word that one of his selects is one Myron Ebell, described as one of seven “climate criminals” wanted for “destroying our future.” This means a reversal of the tepid Obama climate change policies and an unshackling of energy companies' plunder of public resources and public waters. From the NT Times:

In looking for someone to follow through on his campaign vow to dismantle one of the Obama administration’s signature climate change policies, President-elect Donald J. Trump probably could not have found a better candidate for the job than Mr. Ebell.

Mr. Ebell, who revels in taking on the scientific consensus on global warming, will be Mr. Trump’s lead agent in choosing personnel and setting the direction of the federal agencies that address climate change and environmental policy more broadly.

Mr. Ebell, whose organization is financed in part by the coal industry, has been one of the most vocal opponents of the linchpin of that policy, the Clean Power Plan. Developed by the Environmental Protection Agencythe plan is a far-reaching set of regulations that, by seeking to reduce carbon emissions from electricity generation, could result in the closing of many coal-burning power plants, among other effects.

Remember the plunder of the EPA, the selloff of national parks to private interests, and poisoning of the nation's fresh water when your grandchildren curse and spit at the mention of your name.

As of this writing, we hear from Trump that that wall thingy might have been a little overreach. Future Secretary of State Newt Gingrich gave us a new term for deception. Describing Trump's now deleted pledge to have Mexico build a wall on its border, he dubbed it a "great campaign device." Trump and his advisers have backed off major campaign pledges, including Obamacare and the wall.

President-elect Donald Trump and key advisers in recent days have backed away from some of the most sweeping pledges that the Republican candidate made on the campaign trail, suggesting that his administration may not deliver on promises that were important to his most fervent supporters.

Trump built his campaign message around bold vows to, among other things, force Mexico to pay for a massive border wall, fully repeal the Affordable Care Act and ban Muslims from entering the United States. But in the days since his upset election victory, he or his advisers have suggested that those proposals and others may be subject to revision.

Trump also avoided answering whether he would follow through on a campaign vow to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of state. "It's not something I've given a lot of thought, because I want to solve health care, jobs, border control, tax reform," he said.

That ambivalent tone is a far cry from Trump's sweeping rhetoric on the campaign trail, where he repeatedly vowed to repeal and replace the ACA and led crowds in chants of "Lock her up!" in reference to Clinton. His lack of clarity on these and other issues has added more uncertainty to an already chaotic presidential transition, as he scrambles to build a team.

And in other Gingrich news, Newt Gingrich wants new House Un-American Activities Committee. Put me on record right now that I will be deeply offended if not named on a list.

And in breaking news Sunday night calculated to make one yearn for the good old days of George W. Bush, Trump chose Reince Priebus as White House chief of staff, and Steve Bannon as top adviser. "Draining the swamp" directly into the Oval Office. This is what we get for failing to have hanged 5000 seditionists at the end of the Civil War. Now we have a Republiconfederacy.

What could possibly go wrong?

The passing of the great Leonard Cohen this week reminds us of some of his most poignant lyrics. Those quoted above seem apt. At such a moment of darkness, we are called to remember that there is, indeed, "a crack in everything." And we must remember that the light always gets in. Whether the light can penetrate in time remains to be seen.


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary in the triumph of hope over experience, and is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.

Support the Troops: Bring them Home

gc2smOff the keyboard of Surly1
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Published on the Doomstead Diner May 29, 2016

Originally article published on the Doomstead Diner on May 28, 2012


"Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them."

— Harold Pinter, from his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature, 2005


On Memorial Day, the best thing that anyone reading this can do is to read the entirety of Harold Pinter's glorious Nobel acceptance speech, source for the above quote. Much of Pinter's work explores the fluidity of truth and falsity and the limitations of language to capture that illusory truth.

Truth in drama is forever elusive. You never quite find it but the search for it is compulsive. The search is clearly what drives the endeavour.

For dramatists, perhaps. The spirit of inquiry is quite absent in America, as is any search for "truth," particularly on this holiday weekend. Solemn words will fill the air, ceremonials staged and "Taps" played to honor our nation's military dead. The vast majority of these fallen enlisted out of a sense of honor, duty and purpose. Many of us, encountering a serviceman or woman in uniform, will utter a sincere, "Thank you for your service." So Memorial Day is traditionally a day to take stock, to honor the fallen, and to tell ourselves that they have not fallen in vain. We trust and believe in what we are told, and feel better about ourselves.

What we are unwilling to do is to examine the foreign policy of the Empire that deploys these overwhelmingly working class heroes. We offer a moment of silence in memory of past wars, then race to the grill, or the mall to take advantage of Memorial Day sales. Never do we consider the context of those wars– or the next.

In an essay published yesterday, Paul Craig Robers offers up a cautionary note: As Our Past Wars Are Glorified This Memorial Day Weekend, Give Some Thought To Our Prospects Against The Russians And Chinese In World War III. He doesn't much like our chances:

It is extraordinary to see the confidence that many Americans place in their military’s ability. After 15 years the US has been unable to defeat a few lightly armed Taliban, and after 13 years the situation in Iraq remains out of control. This is not very reassuring for the prospect of taking on Russia, much less the strategic alliance between Russia and China. The US could not even defeat China, a Third World country at the time, in Korea 60 years ago.

Americans need to pay attention to the fact that “their” government is a collection of crazed stupid fools likely to bring vaporization to the United States and all of Europe.

Russian weapons systems are far superior to American ones. American weapons are produced by private companies for the purpose of making vast profits. The capability of the weapons is not the main concern. There are endless cost overruns that raise the price of US weapons into outer space.

Whether it's dick-waving via the Stennis carrier group in the South China Sea, fomenting coups in Brazil, guarding the militarized poppy fields of Afghanistan to protect its prime export crop for domestic US consumption, or staging war games in eastern Europe within sight of the Russian border, we are sliding slow motion into global war on multiple fronts with virtually no public debate. Of course, when you are broke, war is the ultimate "reset button." It buries a multitude of bodies, both literal and financial, and puts the squeeze on tax donkeys to pay the bills, cleans up the balance sheets of the banks.

If, in Pinter's words,  "The search is clearly what drives the endeavour," we Americans have decided to sit this one out. Thinking is hard.

In a recent article well worth reading, Silencing America as it prepares for war, John Pilger outlines the case. As we honor our fallen dead and extoll the virtues of those serving, civilian casualties from Vietnam to Iraq and Syria, to Yemen and Honduras, Libya to Ukraine are swept under history's rug and those paying the freight are properly propagandized.

The 2016 election campaign is remarkable not only for the rise of Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders but also for the resilience of an enduring silence about a murderous self-bestowed divinity. A third of the members of the United Nations have felt Washington's boot, overturning governments, subverting democracy, imposing blockades and boycotts. Most of the presidents responsible have been liberal – Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama.

The breathtaking record of perfidy is so mutated in the public mind, wrote the late Harold Pinter, that it "never happened …Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. It didn't matter… ". Pinter expressed a mock admiration for what he called "a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis."

Take Obama. As he prepares to leave office, the fawning has begun all over again. He is "cool". One of the more violent presidents, Obama gave full reign to the Pentagon war-making apparatus of his discredited predecessor. He prosecuted more whistleblowers – truth-tellers – than any president. He pronounced Chelsea Manning guilty before she was tried. Today, Obama runs an unprecedented worldwide campaign of terrorism and murder by drone.

And with six months to go until a Presidential election, we have no meaningful debate. Only Trump has challenged the neocon articles of faith: Why is the US "everywhere on the globe"? Why do we have over 700 foreign bases? What is NATO's true mission? Why does the US taxpayer have to foot the bill? Why does the US always pursue regime change in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Ukraine? Why treat Russia and Vladimir Putin as an enemy? It will be interesting to see if any such questions are asked in upcoming debates, or whether the stage managers will want to risk breaking the mass hypnosis. 

Another thing that we are sleeping through is that we are upping the ante regarding use of nuclear weapons in warfare. Pilger also points this out.

No American president has built more nuclear warheads than Obama. He is "modernising" America's doomsday arsenal, including a new "mini" nuclear weapon, whose size and "smart" technology, says a leading general, ensure its use is "no longer unthinkable".

James Bradley, the best-selling author of Flags of Our Fathers and son of one of the US marines who raised the flag on Iwo Jima, said, "[One] great myth we're seeing play out is that of Obama as some kind of peaceful guy who's trying to get rid of nuclear weapons. He's the biggest nuclear warrior there is. He's committed us to a ruinous course of spending a trillion dollars on more nuclear weapons. Somehow, people live in this fantasy that because he gives vague news conferences and speeches and feel-good photo-ops that somehow that's attached to actual policy. It isn't."

In Asia, the Pentagon is sending ships, planes and special forces to the Philippines to threaten China. The US already encircles China with hundreds of military bases that curve in an arc up from Australia, to Asia and across to Afghanistan. Obama calls this a "pivot".

As a direct consequence, China reportedly has changed its nuclear weapons policy from no-first-use to high alert and put to sea submarines with nuclear weapons. The escalator is quickening.

Remember the public debate on this? Me, neither. Yet our warlike posture is not a recent development. An all-but-forgotten American hero,  Smedley Darlington Butler (1881 – 1940) defined the truth many years ago. Butler was a Major General in the U.S. Marine Corps, an outspoken critic of U.S. military adventurism, and at death the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. Memorial Day is a good and fitting day to remember a real hero like Butler.  

After his retirement from the Marine Corps, Gen. Butler made a nationwide tour in the early 1930s speaking on the theme, "War is a Racket." The speech was so well received that he wrote a small book with the same title published in 1935. In it, he described the workings of the military-industrial complex and, after retiring from service, became a popular speaker at meetings organized by veterans, pacifists and church groups in the 1930s.

 

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.… It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes."

That last statement is as close as we are likely to come to an eternal truth.

A little known and much obscured part of American history is the attempted Business Plot against Franklin Delano Roosevelt at the beginning of the New Deal. Conservatives were not only exercised at the notion of "creeping socialism" by the election of FDR, but also by the abandonment of the gold standard. Herbert Hoover, who had championed the standard on behalf of his sponsors, wrote "that its abandonment was the first step toward "communism, fascism, socialism, statism, planned economy," not to mention popery, bestiality, witchcraft and free love. 

The forces of actual fascism, a group of wealthy industrialists, apparently planned a military coup to overthrow Roosevelt, and approached Butler to play a role. The conspirators apparently noted his popularity among World War I veterans (itself based Butler's support for the Bonus Army movement, in which vets marched on Washington for promised back pay, and who were dispersed by Hoover and the General-In-Charge, one Douglas MacArthur.)

The plotters quickly learned they had the wrong man. Butler reported the controversy to Congress, who held a hearing.  The purported plot would have had Butler leading a mass of armed veterans on Washington. The individuals identified denied the existence of a plot, and the media ridiculed the allegations. The committee's final report stated that there was evidence of such a plot, but no charges were ever filed. (More here.) Remember that in 1934-35, American industrialists smiled at the good works of Hitler and Mussolini and their cost-saving efficiencies. 

At the end of his book, Butler made three recommendations, which fell on deaf ears then as now:

1. Making war unprofitable. Butler suggests that the owners of capital should be "conscripted" before other citizens are: "The only way to smash this racket is to conscript capital and industry and labor before the nation's manhood can be conscripted. … Let the officers and the directors and the high-powered executives of our armament factories and our steel companies and our munitions makers and our ship-builders …that provide profit in war time as well as the bankers and the speculators, be conscripted — to get $30 a month, the same wage as the lads in the trenches get"

2. Acts of war to be decided by those who fight it. He also suggests a limited plebiscite to determine if the war is to be fought. Eligible to vote would be those who risk death on the front lines.

3. Limitation of militaries to self-defense. For the United States, Butler recommends that the navy be limited by law to within 200 miles of the coastline, and the army restricted to the territorial limits of the country, ensuring that war, if fought, can never be one of aggression.

Clearly, we didn't listen. On this Memorial Day, when neocons still hold the reins of our war policy (not a "foreign policy" any longer) and are willing to fight the next war to YOUR last son or daughter, I can think of no greater tribute to our men and women in uniform than to recall the memory of Smedley Butler, the only soldier to ever be awarded TWO Congressional Medals of Honor.

 

And for the last word, Paul Craig Roberts:

It is entirely possible that the world is being led to destruction by nothing more than the greed of the US military-security complex. Delighted that the reckless and stupid Obama regime has resurrected the Cold War, thus providing a more convincing “enemy” than the hoax terrorist one, the “Russian threat” has been restored to its 20th century role of providing a justification for bleeding the American taxpayer, social services, and the US economy dry in behalf of profits for armament manufacturers.

All of America’s wars except the first—the war for independence—were wars for Empire. Keep that fact in mind as you hear the Memorial Day bloviations about the brave men and women who served our country in its times of peril. The United States has never been in peril, but Washington has delivered peril to numerous other countries in its pursuit of hegemony over others.

Support the troops: bring them home. All of them.

 


 

banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaper Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and has been active in the Occupy movement. He lives in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary and is the proud parent of a recent college graduate.

 

 

This Week In Schaudenfreude


That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Ken Starr Voodoo Dolls002

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on May 25, 2016

“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

 ― Martin Luther King, Jr.  

 


I wish I were a better person. I'm just not. Let me explain. 

This morning, my wife, the redoubtable Contrary, brought an irrestistable news nugget to my attention . Baylor President and Chancellor Kenneth Winston "Ken" Starr, yes THAT Ken Starr, had been sacked by the school’s board of regents amid mounting pressure over how the school handled reports of rape and assault by football players.

Sports Illustrated reports that the Baylor board of regents fired school president Ken Starr Tuesday amid the sexual assault scandal, this, according to HornsDigest.com, a Baylor fan site.

Karma comes to Waco. Read the original source report here. Many of us do not follow organized sports because, quite frankly, we have better things to think about. I confess to being a lifelong sports fan, although my attention to sports has waned with age, diminishing interest, lack of time, and the lure of other pursuits. Yet I was enough of a casual fan to recognize that Baylor has developed quite a sports empire, and with it the sort of exuberances and indiscretions that money, power and privilege bring,

Baylor, the largest private Baptist school in the country, has become a burgeoning sports powerhouse in football and basketball. Allegations surround whether Starr, football coach Art Briles and others in the chain of command at Baylor ignored allegations of assaults by players, two of whom were later convicted of sexual assault. Reports of Starr and Briles being on the hot seat have crept into ESPN and other sports reporting enough to apparently discomfit members of the Board.

The Baylor assault scandal exploded last year, when a football player was convicted of sexually assaulting a former Baylor soccer player. The came reports that Baylor ignored repeated allegations of assault against a former player who was convicted of sexual assault in 2014. Other reports of assault allegations surfaced, such that more than 200 Baylor students, faculty and alumni kept a candlelight vigil outside of Starr's Waco residence last February. And if that weren't enough, Baylor now faces a federal lawsuit from a former student claiming the school was "deliberately indifferent" to rape allegations before the playerwas ultimately convicted of assaulting her. A mess.

Starr, of course, was the special prosecutor who investigated the Whitewater development deal gone bad, which mushroomed into a $70 Million bag of insufficient evidence to indict– the original nothingburger. The Clintons themselves were never prosecuted, despite three separate inquiries that found insufficient evidence linking them with the criminal conduct of others related to the land deal. The term Whitewater  often conflates other controversies from the Clinton administration, especially TravelgateFilegate, and the circumstances surrounding Vince Foster's death  investigated by the tireless Whitewater independent counsel. Ending up, of course, with the investigation of Bill Clinton's sexual relationship with Monica Lewinski, complete with articles of impeachment. These, comically, were solemnly marched from the House to the Senate by pear-shaped archhypocrite Henry Hyde, himself an example of conduct unbecoming ("It was a youthful indiscretion," said Hyde of his own previous affair with a married woman while in his forties.)

The net result of the many investigations was not only a monumental waste of taxpayer dollars but a lasting fog of shadiness that has bedeviled the Clintons ever since, but that's another subject for another time. Although the Trumpenkrieg has been doing its best to resuscitate these charges with new life.

Starr has been Baylor president since 2010. He reportedly enjoyed the perks of office and the successful sports programs. Reports say he "often ran onto the field with student fans in pregame ceremonies before home games and had become one of the leading voices in the Big 12 as the league considers whether to expand." Indeed, who wouldn't? Riding high in April, etc.

If the Horns Digest report is to be believed, we'll need not pass the hat for Starr: 

One source said Starr, an attorney and former judge, would be reassigned to a new role in the Baylor law school. Starr was the dean of Pepperdine's law school when Baylor hired him six years ago.

But it was unclear early Tuesday if Starr would want the new law school post on the Waco campus or if he'd simply want a financial settlement and to part ways, sources said.

A source close to the situation said Starr arrived at his meeting with regents on Tuesday morning "lawyered up" and may not go quietly. A source close to Starr raised questions about how much of the complaints against BU football players actually got to the president's desk versus being handled underneath him without his knowledge.

A source close to the regents board said Starr was removed as president because he was in a position to review associate dean of student conduct Bethany McCraw, who fielded many of the rape and assault complaints from female Baylor students, and Starr took no action. 

Apparently the school will not comment further and has issued a statement that they won't have a full report until June 3. And ultimately, most of us won't care. The immense amount of money, power, and prestige that go with a big-time football program will carry the day, Art Briles will probably go on undisturbed as a coach of a national powerhouse. and Ken Starr will be paid handsomely wherever he lands. But the fact remains that the man whose Congressionally-sanctioned pecksniffery resulted in nothing more than a stained dress and a waste of resources is now on the hook for the institutional covering up of sex crimes is just one of those delicious moments of karma that cannot go unremarked.

Barkeep, pour me a double schadenfreude and another for my wife.


UPDATE: The New York Times reports the demotion of Ken Starr from President to Chancellor, and the dismissal of football coach Art Briles. 

Mr. Starr was stripped of his title as university president but will remain Baylor’s chancellor and a professor at the law school. The chancellor position is “centered around development and religious liberty,” a regent said on a conference call Thursday afternoon, adding that Mr. Starr’s “operational responsibilities have been removed.”

Mr. Starr’s demotion delivered a twist to the biography of a man whose reputation was built on what many considered an overzealous pursuit of allegations of sexual transgressions by Mr. Clinton. Now he is being punished for leading an administration that, according to a report by an outside law firm commissioned by the university’s governing board, looked the other way when Baylor football players were accused of sex crimes, and sometimes convicted of them.

The Baylor Athletic Director was also put on probation. Whether the University's actions go far enough is a matter for debate. The world we live in: one in five women entering college will be subject to some kind of sexual assault. We also know that only one in eight reports it. We are reminded once again that ESPN reporting affirmed that some female rape victims didn't speak out simply because they already knew Baylor would not do anything about it. 

Many of us non-Texans forget that over a decade ago, Baylor was part of another scandal involving murder and drugs, and received some of the harshest penalties ever issued by the NCAA. Now this. The decisions released Thursday 5/26 confirmed their fears. Big-time, big-money Power Five Conference football is far more important than common, human decency. Like the Penn Stte scandal of several years ago, another lesson is what happens when people have access to nearly unlimited money and power without meaningful oversight.

Should you read it, the last sentence of the NYT report is instructive:

The report released on Thursday found that Baylor’s religiously informed outlook on drug use, alcohol and premarital sex made accusers fearful of coming forward.

That Baylor would use its non-transparent status as a private religious institution to intimidate victims should make anyone associated wit this scandal retire immediately from public life. One is reminded of the old saw asking why Baptists frown on premarital sex: because it might lead to dancing.

 


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary in the triumph of hope over experience, and is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.

What Did You Expect?

ss-160127-oregon-standoff-mn-04_f425420eeb1580d2ca842e0980e74f50.nbcnews-ux-1024-900gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on February 3, 2016

"LaVoy Finicum was not ambushed. LaVoy Finicum was not murdered. LaVoy Finicum intentionally disobeyed lawful orders from uniformed law enforcement officers and reached for a weapon. This is commonly known as “suicide by cop.”

 ― Bob Owens, Editor, Bearing Arms.com


What did you expect?  You dress up in camouflage, head to the woods with your buds who share wildly eccentric theories about the legality of the current government. And then you are surprised when someone is shot?

During the month that a small group of right-wing militia seized the Malheur reserve, law enforcement at all levels was a picture of restraint. Power, lights, access, travel all remained as usual as an armed seizure of Federal property could allow. For many who were shot or tased or groped or beaten by New York/Oakland/Chicago/Dallas/Norfolk/Los Angeles/Washington DC's finest during Occupy, it seemed that Leviathan was spending January in the Florida Keys. Those with a sense of history who recall the last armed seizure of Federal property (Fort Sumter in 1861)  kept waiting for the next shoe to drop.

And drop it did. We wondered why no roadblocks, no termination of power/heat/water/electricity. Or we assumed that that the law would wait for these guys to go for one of their many trips and meetings and then pick them up. No storming the bird sanctuary, no gratuitous violence, no casualties, battering rams or flash-bangs. It didn't exactly go down that way. The ringleaders were stopped on their way to a meeting 70 miles from Malheur and were arrested. Except for Lavoy Finicum, who had spent two weeks giving interviews virtually predicting the very thing that came to pass.

By now you know what happened, have seen the edited video released by the FBI, and have interpreted the video according to your own lights. You may be tapping your foot awaiting the release of the FBI autopsy report and/or the independent autopsy conducted by the family. 

Militia types want to insist that a "patriot" was martyred;  others argue that the perp was going for his 9 mm handgun, and it was a righteous shoot.  Perhaps the audience for this FBI released video is more domestic than foreign. ("We will kill you" is certainly the message. Message received.)

If you follow some of the other sites and listen to some of the comments from witnesses who were there, you will get a contradictory read. But from the video, it appears that Finicum's blood was up, which is consistent with what some witnesses indicated. You can imagine how much adrenaline he had pumping when he tried to swerve his truck around an FBI roadblock, and this on top of being agitated and ready for conflict. It's what happens to people in the grips of a right-wing fever dream.

As good a description of the accounts of the day that Finicum was shot was prepared by The Atlantic

Militia types intend to make a martyr of Lavoy Finicum, yet the facts resist such an interpretation. His death was devoid of meaning, and even his sympathizers have said as much. This from Red State, about as conservative a website as you will find:

…I find it very hard to criticize the men at the roadblock. And yes, Finicum was armed. He carried a concealed pistol on his left side. And he had several more weapons in the automobile. The weapons on Finicum and in the auto are not, per se, illegal but context is everything. In the context of the general temper of the standoff and of Finicum’s own statements, assuming that he had made the decision to go out shooting is not all that unreasonable.

I generally agree with the description given by the FBI supervisor at the scene:

“Finicum leaves the truck and steps through the snow,” [FBI Supervisor] Bretzing said. “Agents and troopers on scene had information that Finicum and others would be armed. On at least two occasions, Finicum reaches his right hand toward a pocket on the left inside portion of his jacket. He did have a loaded 9 mm semi-automatic handgun in that pocket. At this time, OSP troopers shot Finicum.”

Red State finds that support is a matter of degree:

General sympathy for ranchers who are being crushed by federal agencies, though, doesn’t translate into support for every knuckle-headed thing some of these people, specifically the Bundy clan, do. Taking possession of clearly designated federal property is a lot different from defending grazing and water rights that you have exercised for decades and which are necessary to your livelihood.

And even Bearing Arms, a gunz/"patriot"/ammosexual website with no love for the government or the FBI, offered a long and detailed minute by minute timeline of events as they unfolded as documented, and then this assessment:.

LaVoy Finicum Was Not Murdered. He Forced Oregon Police To Shoot Him

Finicum fled a lawful traffic stop to avoid arrest. He wrecked his vehicle, and after lowering his hands for a third (actually, a fourth, as he never completely raised them beyond a ready position), he opened his jacket with his left hand and appeared to be reaching into it with his right as he turned towards the officer emerging from a tree line in a movement that any reasonable person would interpret as an attempt to draw a weapon…

LaVoy Finicum was not ambushed.

LaVoy Finicum was not murdered.

LaVoy Finicum intentionally disobeyed lawful orders from uniformed law enforcement officers and reached for a weapon. This is commonly known as “suicide by cop.”

Even an eyewitness confirms this story.

Thus, even people shared the Bundy's and Finicum's beliefs about the proper uses of western land, and who were supportive of their civil disobedience, have interpreted the available evidence as "suicide by cop."

To those who don't share the curious "sovereign citizen" alt-version of reality of the Patriot/Militia movement, the principles that underpin this episode appear hazy. For those in the east, where our view of federal land is national parks and forests, the view of government land administration is benign. Suffice it to say that the view is different left of the Mississippi, where grazing access to public land is essential for thousands of ranchers.

The underlying issue remains that a handful of white, extreme right-wing ranchers demand the ability to turn public land into an otherwise barren, shit-infested cesspool and get the rest of us to pay to help make them their fortunes.  It is that "principle" for which Lavoy Finicum died.

The Finicum family will continue to issue statements, the latest moving this very day.

"…It is our position that not only was the shooting death of LaVoy Finicum completely unjustified,
but that the FBI and Oregon State Police may also be engaging in a cover-up, and
seeking to manipulate and mislead the media and the American public about what really
happened."

"We believe he had already been shot before he ever lowered his hands."

— statement from Robert "LaVoy" Finicum's family 

To satisfy speculation and clarify events, some assessment of the physical evidence is clearly needed. The Finicum family commissioned their own independent autopsy over the weekend, and if the physical facts contradict the government's assertion, we wonder aloud why it has not been released. 

The Oregon State Medical Examiner's Office had yet to release the results of the autopsy and refused a request by The Oregonian/OregonLive for a copy of the report. It will be instructive to see how many times Finicum was shot, where he was struck, by what caliber bullet(s), from what direction, and by whose gun. Likewise pictures of the pickup, and the damage done by direct fire. How many rounds fired by the Oregon State Police, and the FBI. Law enforcement keeps records of each round issued and fired.  The longer it takes to become public, the worse it will smell.

To date, we can find nothing from corporate media on any of this, pictures of the truck, or independent analysis or reporting aside from regurgitation of the spoon-fed FBI account. 

Common sense says that you don't make threats towards other people, run from a police stop, attempt to evade a police roadblock, flash weapons and otherwise confront armed cops and not expect something or someone to get shot. Lavoy Finicum acted stupidly in his final moments but was still a human being. No one needed to die. We await the autopsy report and other physical evidence to adduce the truth of his final moments and whether indeed he was murdered.

 


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaper Surly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary in the triumph of hope over experience and is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.

 

Malheur Militia Machinations

ritzheimer dildogc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Please Send Snacks

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on January 18, 2016

“There is no character, howsoever good and fine, but it can be destroyed by ridicule, howsoever poor and witless. Observe the ass, for instance: his character is about perfect, he is the choicest spirit among all the humbler animals, yet see what ridicule has brought him to. Instead of feeling complimented when we are called an ass, we are left in doubt.”

 ― Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson   


During the first weekend of the year, a remote bird watching facility known as the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was seized by a group of armed insurrectionists associated with a variety of "patriot" and right-wing causes.  These militants, led by Ammon and Ryan Bundy (sons of noted millionaire rancher and scofflaw Cliven Bundy) and a veritable sideshow of lesser-known cosplayers and heavily armed professional victims, showed up ostensibly to demonstrate support for a pair of Oregon ranchers. Dwight Hammond Jr. and son Steven had been previously convicted under federal law of arson for setting fires on their own property, which subsequently spread to federal land, earning a verdict which rankled and seemed excessive to some.

The story of the Hammonds is more complicated than a brief gloss will permit and has roots in conflict over federal land management and administrative policies that began decades before during the Reagan administration. And now the conflict bears further encrustations of so-called "patriot" fervor, right-wing conspiracy theories, Mormon fanaticism, White Power rebranded, and wingnut entitlement fantasies.

Note that this overheated screed is assembled from a variety of news reports, and pasted together with the kind of surly attitude that those who blunder into this occasional space will recognize.  We are not on the ground in Oregon, have no direct line into the Bundy's Klaven, nor make common cause with their complaint or their remedy. Rather, this space recognizes that public land is an asset held in public trust for all of us. And in our current depraved time when, if an honest profit cannot be made, a dishonest one will have to do, the push to privatize public land is nothing more than wholesale theft of the commons. Like most, I resent theft. With such a jaundiced eye do I regard the Bundys and their fellow travelers, while recognizing that federal land use issues and lease conditions may look very different west of the Mississippi.

And before we dig in, one more bitch: let's not call these heavily-armed proto-fascists "occupiers."  A sloppy and craven corporate media has taken to referring to their armed militia as "occupiers" just because they have taken up residence in federal buildings. Both the means and agenda of these right-wing fantasts are as different from those of Occupy Wall Street and the hundreds of uniformly peaceful Occupy groups that sprang up peacefully in 2011 as Donald Trump is from Mother Theresa. As is the response from those charged with maintaining public order.


The Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was established 1908, by noted communist revolutionary and property confiscator Theodore Roosevelt as “as a preserve and breeding ground for native birds.” The original purpose was to protect herons and other species of birds whose populations had been decimated by plume hunters toiling for the hat industry. Before that, the land was inhabited by the native Paiute, then cleared by the Army, after which the government sold much of it to ranchers for grazing. Cattle ranching in Harney County has always been first and foremost a corporate concern.

The U.S. military first had to ethnically cleanse the land, getting rid of the various native peoples that had lived in these stretches for thousands of years. But even after the land had become "free" to white settlers, prospective ranchers still needed markets for their cattle, especially once their primary market for meat, the Army, had moved on to other territories. It was the federal government that stepped in and bailed them out, taking on debt by an act of Congress to finance and build a railroad system. Without the Central Pacific Railway, those thousands of cattle could never have been sold.

So the foundation myth concocted by the Bundyites, of "individual homesteads headed by patriarchal Free Men" is a fiction concocted to justify an armed land grab. Little wonder that the reaction of many to the news of the armed seizure of federal facilities was a wonder at the lack of immediate forceful response from law enforcement, followed by laughter.


"Jamokes, dildos and lube."

An article in Deadspin set the tone for the way in which the remaining 97 per cent of the population not subscribing to right-wing fever dreams or getting their daily news from Infowars or Facebook reacted to reports of the armed clownboys.

Those Jamokes In Oregon Aren't Terrorists, They're Jamokes

Imagine the grade of sad, stunted halfwit who decks himself out in paramilitary regalia and lethal weaponry to stage a sit-in at what is for all intents and purposes a remote wildlife park’s visitor’s center. Okay, men, when I kick in the door, you three move on the 74-year-old v0lunteer who shows the birdwatching slideshow to elementary-school field trip groups; if she makes a move, be ready to take her down with force. The rest of us will establish a defensive position behind the cardboard beaver. If bigger goobers than these exist on our planet, you identify them by the bruises from where they poked themselves in the eye while trying to pick their noses.

On his Facebook page, one John Ritzheimer put out a meandering video declaration from behind the wheel as he was driving to join his brokeback assemblage of cosplayers.

Things we could use:
cold weather socks
snacks
energy drinks
equipment for cold weather
snow camo
gear
anything you think will help. 

Hilarity ensued. Woodwork creaks, and out come the freaks… and  their memes. My favorite:

And then the public responded, and Ritzheimer displayed as deft a grasp of public relations as of the version of the Constitution he famously worships.

Well as it turns out, some “sympathizers” did indeed have ideas about “what would help.”

“The occupiers, who took over buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge on Jan. 2 in the latest conflict over the U.S. government's control of land in the West, had been hoping for snacks, fuel and warm clothes when they provided sympathizers with a local mailing address,” Reuters notes. “Instead, as they angrily showed online, they received sex-related toys and food that would be of little use as they braced for a long standoff with federal law enforcement agents who have kept watch from a distance.”

Thus was outright ridicule the initial reaction of those who don't share the curious "sovereign citizen" and Posse Comitatus– inspired interpretation of the Constitution and common law of the Patriot/Militia movement. And these jamokes make it easy.

To our way of thinking, those solons at Salon got it about right:

Every day that these yahoos are out there, they expose how empty and stupid the myth of the “rugged individual” that the right so romanticizes really is. Instead, we get to see that these supposedly rugged individuals are, in reality, extremely silly people who are mostly there to play dress-up, engage in fantasies of self-importance, and beg the government to give them free money so they can get rich.

ritzheimer dildo


What if they were black?

The federal government used a very light touch to Cliven Bundy's armed tantrum in 2014, in stark contrast to the outright violence/police riots that greeted Occupy in 2011-12. The response of the government thus far to the armed militancy of his sons and their followers has been likewise restrained. If not visible. Many have posed the question, "What if these occupiers were black?"

Well, we have a pretty good answer, based on actual history. The racist double standard is stark. Remember MOVE?

30 years ago, a similar standoff between police and a black anti-government group in Philadelphia played out very differently. Armed members of a fringe liberation group called MOVE were bombed and burned alive for directing their weapons at police…


Members of the liberation group sought a natural lifestyle, free of government control, law enforcement, and technology. They lived together in a barricaded house, protested for animal rights, and ate raw foods. Similar to Bundy’s supporters, they believed the federal government violated their constitutional rights. And with a cache of weapons in their possession, they also advocated armed defense if targeted by the city’s authorities.


On May 13, 1985, officers with warrants and military-grade weapons surrounded their house. Police claimed they were there to evict the group, in response to complaints from locals about MOVE’s use of blow-horns to proselytize late into the night. They pointed deluge guns at the house and yelled at the people inside to evacuate. Tear gas was thrown into the building to smoke them out. But when someone started shooting back, the officers returned the gunfire with 10,000 rounds. Without knowing how many people were inside, they began throwing explosives at the house. And when nobody came out, they dropped a bomb from a helicopter — setting off a fire that spread to 65 homes and that firefighters were ordered not to put out.


In the end, one woman and one child made it out of the house alive. Five children and six adults were killed.

But that was local police in Philadelphia, you might reasonably observe, not the Feds  You might also bring up the fact that this was not the local cops' first run in with armed radicals at the MOVE house, and in that you would be correct as well. So, you might wish to compare apples and apples and ask, what would happen if black people attempted to occupy a federal installation? 

 And here's your answer: 

Unarmed black protesters were ‘forcibly removed’ and jailed after they tried to occupy federal land in 1979

In 1979, 40 members of People Organized for Equal Rights set up camp on a federal nature preserve south of Savannah, Georgia — where their ancestors had lived for generations.

A white plantation owner had deeded the land to a former slave after the Civil War, and other freed slaves and their descendant moved to the area — known as Harris Neck — to live, work, fish and farm for decades.

That all came to an abrupt end in 1942, when the U.S. military took over Harris Neck through eminent domain and gave residents three weeks to leave.

Black landowners were paid significantly less for their land than white landowners in the area, the newspaper reported, and the government destroyed the houses, factories and farms they had built. The government abandoned the airbase it built in their community after World War II, and the land was eventually converted into the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge.

In 1972, 26 families who are direct descendants of the original inhabitants organized to reclaim the land — and they staged a “camp-in” seven years later to force the government to recognize their cause.

The unarmed protesters set up a camp at the nature preserve, and they asked for $50 million in reparations to rebuild the churches, schools, businesses and homes that were bulldozed by the government almost 40 years earlier.

Well, you already know how this ended. Federal authorities immediately secured a court order to remove the “squatters” within a day of setting up camp at Harris Neck — but four of the unarmed protesters refused to leave.They were “forcibly removed” May 2, 1979 — within three days of their arrival on land where their parents and grandparents had farmed, hunted and fished.

Each of the four men was sentenced to a month in jail for trespassing, and courts have subsequently ruled the land belongs to the U.S. government — and not to the slaves’ descendants.

Since this case echoes some of the circumstances and the complaints lodged by the Bundys and their ilk, it will be instructive to see how it is resolved, especially the so-called "land claims."  The treatment of the so-called "militants" by so-called "law enforcement" already speaks for itself.


 

A Land Grab With Guns

‘Patriot’ groups are a spinoff cult of white supremacists and are providing well-armed useful idiots for an armed land grab by people with a curious reading of the Constitution and a bloated sense of entitlement. The excuse for supporting the Hammond family provides the thinnest of pretexts for this latest installment of a long-standing soap opera by radical right-wingers to dismantle federal land ownership in the West. Some elected officials are attempting to get lands transferred to state or county governments, or to allow them greater input regarding their use via the introduction of legislation.

But the Malheur takeover seems to be an attempt to spread a tactic of armed federal land takeovers, emboldened by the facedown of the federal Bureau of Land Management by Cliven Bundy in 2014. (Bundy was at first praised by conservative politicians and personalities until he was quoted suggesting that "the Negro" would be better off as slaves than under government subsidies, thus becoming socially radioactive.)

These armed “Patriot movement” groups have seen a rebirth since the 2008 election of the Kenyan Anticolonial Socialist. The ‘Patriot’ movement relies on a sense of victimhood as aggrieved as it is imaginary: a vision of repeated injuries and usurpations by an oppressive government, all having as their direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny.  The "Patriot" movement relies upon a highly idiosyncratic reading of the Constitution, including crank legal theories such as "sovereign citizenship," the idea that the United States is a private corporation operating under maritime law, and the notion that a county sheriff was the highest elected official that should be obeyed. Infer for yourself their concept of federal environmental restrictions. (The Pacific Standard has a detailed account of this far-right rationale here.) Under such fairy tales can activists claim that what is happening to the Hammonds is unconstitutional.

The Boston Globe published an article tracing the historical animus between the Mormon church and the US government.

When the Mormons reached Utah in 1847, Smith’s successor Brigham Young founded the breakaway state of Deseret (the word for “honeybee” in the Book of Mormon), which rejected many US laws, specifically those that forbad the Mormon practice of polygamy. US troops invaded Mormon Utah in 1857. Last-minute diplomacy narrowly averted a bloodbath.

Like Joseph Smith, Brigham Young preached that the American Constitution was a divinely inspired document being perverted by secular politicians in Washington. In a famous speech recorded in the church’s “Journal of Discourses,” Young “said if the Constitution of the United States were saved at all it must be done by this people” — meaning the Mormons.

But Mormonism is just one facet of this issue. The current conflict has roots in the so-called “Sagebrush Rebellion,” resistance to Federal control of Western lands dating back to the Reagan Administration in the 1980s, and emboldened and nurtured by Reagan's Interior Secretary, James Watt. And then there is the pro-logging, pro-ranching, pro-mining "Wise Use Movement," which emerged in the early 1990s during the Clinton Administration.  All of which has been nurtured and fanned into flame by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC.  Anyone who wants to understand the politics of public land, the environmental impacts (none of them good) of overgrazing those lands, and with the eventual endgame might look like would do well to read The Great Republican Land Heist By Christopher Ketcham in the February 2015 Harper's. Ketcham details the attitudes of the Bundys and the assistance these "welfare parasites" (in Edward Abbey's phrase) have had along the way from influential right wing friends.

Ketchum quotes from Historian Bernard DeVoto, who covered the same issue for Harpers in the 1940s. Ketchum cites DeVoto, 

cautioning that the livestock industry was attempting “one of the biggest land grabs in American history.” The public lands “are first to be transferred to the states on the fully justified assumption that if there should be a state government not wholly compliant to the desires of stockgrowers, it could be pressured into compliance,” he wrote. “Nothing in history suggests that the states are adequate to protect their own resources, or even want to, or suggests that cattlemen and sheepmen are capable of regulating themselves even for their own benefit, still less the public’s.”The push for state ownership of public lands was part of a larger ideological struggle, DeVoto concluded, “only one part of an unceasing, many-sided effort to discredit all conservation bureaus of the government, to discredit conservation itself.”

Reaching a conclusion that will surprise no one:

Bernard DeVoto observed in the 1940s that no rancher in his right mind wanted to own the public lands himself. That would entail responsibility and stewardship. Worse, it would mean paying property taxes. What ranchers have always wanted, and what extractive industries in general want, is private exploitation with costs paid by the public.

The net takeaway for each of these is the transfer of public assets into private hands for private enrichment. As it has ever. But now a lavishly funded extreme right wing with money to burn has its own private army of "useful idiots" to deploy as brown shirts to extend and apply its coercive will. And every day that the Federal government affords the hands off, “kid-gloves” treatment to these domestic terrorists, it sends an unmistakable message of tolerance, if not outright support.

 


As we consider the eventual denouement,  The militia members say that they will remain in place for the indefinite future.  Given that stated intention,  the fact that they recently attended a town meeting in Burns, Oregon where the townspeople gave them an earful, and then returned to the wildlife sanctuary, one is obliged to wonder, "Why no blockade in or out? Why do they still have power? Mail delivery? Free access in and out?"

In a letter to FBI Director James Comey, Oregon Governor Kate Brown urged a swift Federal response, stating

While it is easy to assume that an occupation in such a remote location does not threaten public safety and does not harm any victims, that perception is far from accurate," the governor wrote. Adding to community tensions is that "the criminals on the refuge are allowed to travel on and off the premises with little fear of law enforcement contact or interaction.

Indeed. Ultimately, we are left to wonder what it all means, and how long the federal authorities, otherwise so fond of control and eager to hoover up all of our online and voice communications and fervently track our media consumption, will allow the situation to fester. And ultimately why it is that a handful of right-wing zealots bristling with arms and determined to seize for themselves what they cannot legitimately earn through the political process are able, once again, to get a pass from the authorities.

[The above article created with a big assist from Contrary, who revealed to me the ALEC connection from her own reading and dredged up some relevant articles, including the Harper’s article cited above.]


Late Breaking News and Further Reading:

Police Make First Arrest In Connection To Oregon Militia Standoff
Police say Kenneth Medenbach was driving a government vehicle stolen from the occupied wildlife refuge.

Oregon Lawmakers Chastizes Justice Dept. for Sitting on Their Hands

The Nightly Show Has A Field Day With Oregon Militia Group Receiving Sex Toys

Connecting the Anti-Environmental Movement and the Oregon Armed Occupation of National Wildlife Refuge

A superb article surveying media coverage and providing in-depth context from FAIR: The Good, Bad, and Ugly in Oregon Standoff Coverage

Kate Brown presses top federal officials for 'swift' action

Bill Maher Explains Why the Oregon Protesters Are Not Patriots
And what they have in common with student protesters at Yale.


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary in the triumph of hope over experience and is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.

 

This Week in Doom, 11/16: The Paris Aftermath Edition

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Seeing Paris

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on November 16, 2015

 

"Something awful has happened in Paris. Out of it will be born something awful in the collective mind and the collective heart and the collective soul. "   –  Charles Pierce


Events in Paris have focused our attentions and energies like few other since 9/11/2001 and provided a serious harbinger of doom this week. Some people, lie-weary since 1963 and 2001, look first to the false flag and the shitmist of corporate media misdirection. Others look appropriately to the dead and the grieving. Others use the tragedy to weigh the heft of their favorite political cudgels, this with the blood still in the streets of Paris. A special House of Shame should be erected especially for these:

Mother Jones accumulated some of the worst reactions to the tragedy:

Screen Shot 2015-11-15 at 9.48.08 AM

 

At this point the conversation turns, as it has inside the Diner Forum, to cui bono? What seems unmistakeable is that  some will benefit. Clearly those who share ends if not means with the terrorists, which includes the Gates of Vienna/Stormfront crowd, Marine LePen, and cultural rightists of all stripes, neocons, neofascists, nativists, xenophobes, war munitions-makers, overseas contractors, builders of fences, closers of borders, and those who arm them. Authoritarians all.

And to this point, Esquire's Charles Pierce noted how Paris will skew the political process and essentially redefine the terms of political engagement by starting every question with, "In light of what happened in Paris." As seen from the small gill-net sampling of tweets from the social media sewer, look for

a momentary spasm of unreason and an easily dispersed cloud of spittle in our national dialogue. At worst, there will be a sort of undeclared truce between our two major political parties—which, after all, are funded in whole or in part by the same people—that domestic issues will have to go on "the back burner" because this has been declared a national-security election again, that the campaign will be less about keeping people solvent and more about keeping them "safe."  

And we know cui bono from that. The same Deep State as always. Pierce cites Robert LaFollette, the populist hero in Wisconsin who rose to oppose Woodrow Wilson's effort to drag the US into the First World War:

The poor, sir, who are the ones called upon to rot in the trenches, have no organized power, have no press to voice their will upon this question of peace or war; but, oh, Mr. President, at some time they will be heard… when the people today who are staggering under the burden of supporting families at the present prices of the necessaries of life find those prices multiplied, when they are raised 100 percent, or 200 percent, as they will be quickly, aye, sir, when beyond that those who pay taxes come to have their taxes doubled and again doubled to pay the interest on the nontaxable bonds held by [J. P.] Morgan and his combinations, which have been issued to meet this war, there will come an awakening; they will have their day and they will be heard. . . 

LaFollette was wrong. The US went to war, the masses failed to rise, and the longed for progressive moment dissipated at the sound of the martial drumbeat. And was then dispersed as the troops came home by the specter of the Red Scare, the Palmer raids, and the rise of one J. Edgar Hoover. This time, we are presented with the prospect of eternal war, one that will be "merciless" according to Hollande, against a enemy eager to use terrorism as a tactic to illustrate what foreign policy "blowback" looks like in the global North. Causing a generalized fear and mutual loathing on all sides, and a shot of martial adrenaline into the heart of a war-weary and broke American populace. 

At this point it matters less whether this was just eight guys who rolled into shore on the French Riviera in a sailboat with a couple of homegrown accomplices, or whether they are picking up their Kalishnikovs from street vendors or from CIA-provided containers. They had a support network.  Although questions remain:

French authorities on Saturday said the horrific rampage of bullets and explosions that left 129 dead in Paris on Friday was carried out by suicide bombers connected to the Islamic State who broke into three groups with a single objective: to kill as many people as possible.

France — and Europe — was once again confronted with the violence of homegrown terrorism. At least one of the seven dead assailants was a French national — a 29-year-old with a criminal record who had been previously monitored by French intelligence and linked to Islamist extremism. Two others, a senior Belgian official said, appeared to be Belgian foreign fighters, including an 18-year-old who had fought in Syria. A Syrian passport was found near the body of another assailant.

Indeed. Interesting how intact passports are always found on the body of or near the crime scene. Remember the passport found in the Charlie Hebdo shooting? One the one found after 9-11? Is that cordite I smell, or 9-11? And as to the false flag allegations, our governments wouldn't lie to us, would they?

Social media is certainly a reflection of the national mood, as many move to turn their Facebook profile picture into an overlay of the French tricolor, a gesture of solidarity as meaningless as it is facile. I have not done that and probably won't for reasons best articulated by another Faccebook friend named Diane:

I will not be updating my profile to support France. Sorry. It sucks that people died, always does. But more totally innocent black people are killed by our own cops in a month, every month than were killed there by terrorists. We have our own, unmentionable terrorist here. BTW, they have started killing poor whites too. Will THAT make us finally care?
France is bombing the shit out of Syria, and still collecting taxes from a bunch of African nations for its "losses" to slavery and their colonies there. Who mourns that?
I will not indulge in Islamophobia, because the refugees in Europe are going to pay for this, when these are the people they are running from. The people the US and the EU armed, trained and paid for to a great extent. The people they are trying to demonize.
Lastly, so many people have died in the Middle East this week…ISIS suicide bombers detonated themselves in the southern part of Beirut last Thursday, killing 43 people and wounding 239 and none of us painted our image in their flag.
… And still, innocents died! Yes, I feel for them with the same Mother's instinct that makes every Palestinian child mine, every Somalian child mine, every young Black father my son, every trembling Iranian girl mine.

Another perspective from a FB friend named Michael:

While we mourn the carnage in Paris, and gnash our teeth, and pull at our hair-shirts, it's a good time to remember that people are not separated from the actions of their governments. Blowback is hell.

We can trot out our righteous indignation, and our sense of victim-hood at the hands of “terror,” but, really isn't it just one of Newton's laws of motion?  For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. 

Islamic fighting units are not birthed in a vacuum. The “west” has been meddling in the Middle East for a century.

“Persian oil … is yours. We share the oil of Iraq and Kuwait. As for Saudi Arabian oil, it's ours.” FDR to the British Ambassador.

We mourn the carnage in Paris. We imagine our innocent selves at a concert, or a ballgame, or a shopping mall, and gunned down by crazy terrorists who hate us for our freedom, and decadent lifestyle. We're taught we are victims of terror. We're innocent. We have nothing to do with anything. We're just minding our own business, and people attack us for no reason, but the fact they're evil.

But we know this isn't true. The war didn't begin with them. 

But we are victims. We're victims of the policies of our own government. Policies we either don't care enough about to change, or we agree with them, or we're helpless before them. But, whatever, the truth is, in war 90% of the causalities are non-military. And in the Forever War, the battlefield is everywhere.

After we've destroyed nations, wrecked societies, killed hundreds of thousands, and displaced millions, is it any wonder folks would attempt to fight back? And once in a while land a punch?The last thing we should be is surprised. 

We mourn. But we should also understand. And we can't do that if we sweep history under the rug.

 

But sweeping history under the rug is what we do. Not for nothing did Gore Vidal refer to this country as "The United States of Amnesia."

It is easy for us to bow our heads in sorrow for the people of Paris. Yet there are Lebanese and Iraqi dead as well that don't make the news. All human sacrifices made, ultimately, to the interests of a neocon policy cabal that has made military might the primary implement of foreign policy, as well as the military industrial complex, war profiteers and multinational corporations who grow fat on the "rebuilding."

My tax dollars have been diverted to one war effort or another my entire adult life. At some point, one gets sick of tallying the deaths, the endless skein of gratuitous and unnecessary violence. Especially knowing that a handful of Satan's minions are amassing obscene profits from a trade soaked in the blood of innocents. 

If you find yourself likewise sick of this violence, this unnecessary shedding of the blood of the young and innocent on foreign soil, then do your homework and vote. Many lives depend on it here and abroad. And if you find yourself wringing your hands and justifying your non-participation by saying it won't change anything, then congratulations, and check out a mirror: you're an accomplice. But maybe you can make your Facebook a profile pic a tricolor and show us how much you care. 

 

Mark Twain articulated the the true costs of war as well as anyone ever as in the short story know as "The War Prayer." Twain's "aged stranger" appears in the midst of a church service blessing the troops, and adds "the rest of the story" to the pastor's heartfelt prayer:

O Lord our God, help us tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended in the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames in summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it —

For our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimmage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!

We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

The Great Culling is at hand.


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary in the triumph of hope over experience, and is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.

 

The Quality of Compassion

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Ben fields

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on November 1, 2015


“The highest form of wisdom is kindness."
 
 –The Talmud


A man with whom I have crossed rhetorical swords many times over the past several years, a frequent contributor to the Diner Forum, recently made an important point that this week's news reaffirms: it's essential to look beyond the surface to get at the truth of a given set of news reports. Events of this past week bear this out.

In an age of bloggers, self-defined citizen journalists, paid shills, and clickbait sites that proliferate like mushrooms after a summer rain,  this is good advice. And anyone who has forwarded a Facebook meme only to be chastened to find it's a scurrilous rumor has lived to regret it, and learned from the experience.

This week, the big newz was the story of the cop in a Spring Valley, South Carolina classroom ejecting a black female student. By now you know the story and the upshot, which will not be improved by further retelling.

 

It appears that by any reasonable standard, the violence that the cop used in this situation was over-the top and disproportionate to the situation. Criticism went viral, and consequences for the deputy involved, Ben Fields, were quick to follow.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott announces the firing of Ben Fields, a senior deputy who forcibly removed a female student who refused to leave her high school math class at Spring Valley High School on Monday.

Reaction was swift. As NPR reported,

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott has fired Senior Deputy Ben Fields over the white deputy's violent arrest of a black student at a South Carolina high school, which was filmed by several students. Lott said Fields broke department policy in the arrest.

"It's not what I expect from my deputies, and it's not what I tolerate from my deputies," Lott said.

The story goes in in a revealing fashion:

The teacher and administrator who were in the classroom during the altercation supported Fields, as did at least one student, Lott said, adding that they felt the deputy acted appropriately.

"They supported his actions," Lott said, adding, "even the physical part. They had no problems with the physical part."

"I'm the one who had problems with it," the sheriff said.

 

We're sure Sheriff Lott did. Bad optics coupled with national notoriety can lead to political retribution in the absence of swift action along the lines of, "If you don't get rid of him, we'll hire someone who will." 

And we learn that Fields had some previous complaints about excessive force in his record. One might wonder, given that record, what qualified him to be a school resource officer?  And we learn that the teacher and the principal, who had lost control of the classroom situation, were all in favor of Ben Fields' assault on the girl and her forcible removal. And people still wonder how Hitler came to power. Clearly, many Murkins agree.

Spoiler alert: if you do not agree from the video footage that Ben Fields' use of violence against a passive young woman was over-the-top and disproportionate, you should probably stop reading now; there is nothing for you here. The white/black issue wraps the entire episode in the ever present social layer of racial politics. Would a white child have been thus forcibly removed?

And as a topper, then Niya Kenny, the young woman who videotaped the incident was arrested and charged with "disrupting schools" and released on bond. This could only happen in the insane state of South Carolina, home to American sedition and east-coast distributor for authoritah-loving right wing insanity. A prediction: in the fullness of time, the Spring Valley school board will forbid possession of video recording-equipped technology on school grounds, for the "safety and integrity of the educational process, blah blah."  Videos of school violence making the system look bad? Outlaw the videos.

Many of us have teachers in our families, and get a birds-eye view of just how difficult it is to manage a classroom while preparing lesson plans, grading papers, and trying to outsmart young, media-savvy recalcitrants who know that if they get into "trouble" at school, their parents will come to the school and take their side of the argument against the teacher. There was a time when the social contract had the teacher and parent allied on the same side in a partnership to educate the child. That ship has sailed– one of many reasons why the average length of a public school teacher's career is five years. 

A Facebook friend from childhood who now lives in South Carolina offered this opinion:

Total disrespect for her elders. If you watch the video closely there is a black adult (probably either the teacher or the principal) standing there watching. They had a defiant incorrigible teen that was disrupting class that needed to be extricated from the class. When she wouldn't leave at the request of the teacher, then the principal and finally the policeman he had little choice but to extricate her physically. Yes he could have probably tried to extricate her less violently out of the chair and gotten himself into a wrestling match with both her and the chair at greater danger to himself… Kids these days are becoming more and more incorrigible and have no respect for their elders. Fire the officer? I say expel the student… When I was in high school or junior high you'd get your ass whipped if you came to school with a transistor radio. Now kids think they have some god given right to text and play with their IPhone in class… That officer could use a little well deserved support from the principal, the teacher, the other students whose education was being disrupted, and the officer's boss.

Those of us of a certain age recall the days when we walked to and from school, uphill in both directions, and a school environment far more ready to bring physical force to bear "in loco parentis." That was also a time when spanking was an accepted part of childrearing, and talking back to an adult was virtually unthinkable. Any incorrigibility at school was met with paddling, a punishment both swift and certain, often wielded by a strapping teacher who had drilled holes in the instrument, the better to hasten its decent and increase the pain upon the recalcitrant butt. But then the partnership between teacher and parent was more secure, and if you got in trouble at school you'd get it twice as bad at home. And your mother would be waiting for you there, having already received the evil news, and prepared to administer additional torments for one's moral uplift.

But those days are gone, times have changed, and kids are different. The legal environment is different. Parents are not to spank children anymore, and should an adult lay his hands on your little perfect snowflake? Unpossible! Deal with it.

In Spring Valley, none of us were there in the classroom. Yet one wonders how the incident came to be, and whether any of the adults nominally in charge asked any questions of the young woman, or simply took her behavior as an affront to authoritah, and manhoods. Compare Spring Valley with this response from a young student teacher to a similar incident:

One wonders if a little human compassion, or at least a question, might not be indicated before grabbing the truncheons? And all we know about the young woman in South Carolina is that she was devastated and traumatized by everything that's happened to her, and that she was recently orphaned and in foster care. We're gratified that in a different circumstance, at least one young teacher-in-becoming had enough courage of her convictions to ask a question, learn what was happening, and perhaps change a life. (H/t Katherine Bushman.)

We read of other ways of de-escalating tense circumstances, like the DC police officer who convinced some girls resistant to dispersing after a fight the chance to participate in a dance-off; absolutely inspired police work. 

On Monday afternoon, D.C.. police officers broke up two groups of fighting teenagers. A few minutes later, a female officer approached the lingering crowd and told the teens to disperse.

That’s when Aaliyah Taylor, a 17-year-old senior at Ballou High School, walked up to the officer and started playing “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” on her phone. Then she did the Nae Nae dance.

The officer, according to Taylor, laughed and said she had far better dance moves than that.

What happened from there on the 200 block of K Street SW was a rather impressive dance-off between the police officer and the teen, and an example of positive community policing at a time when national attention is focused on discriminatory and abusive police tactics. The onlooking teens caught the dance battle on their cell phones while a song by rapper Dlow played in the background.

My wife Contrary has been involved with a group working to gather signatures to present a petition to suggest better policing methods and accountabilities in our community, the better to forestall episodes like Ferguson, Cleveland and New York City from happening here. I was part of a retinue of souls who appeared at a City Council meeting this past week to speak in favor of this petition, which had garnered hundreds of signatures. The leader of the group spoke first and presented the petition. She told council that while she was outside the chambers, someone came up to her and asked, "Why do you hate the police?" The irony is that most have us have many friends and close relatives who do police work. Few good cops oppose increased accountability. But the reflexive response to anything that threatens the status quo of thin blue line is, "Why do you hate the police?"

At the same meeting another of our number mentioned the fact that many troublesome cases police encounter involve mental health issues, and that officers need additional training in de-escalation. Even as a reasonably scrawny worker in a mental health facility, he had been trained to defuse potentially troublesome situations involving persons much larger. Why does the first response have to be violence?

Find the answer in the front page of your Sunday paper, which offers the prospect of boots on the ground in Syria, along with Naval dickwaving in the South China Sea. Even looking down the barrel of doom in the form of climate change, financial uncertainty and unrestrained war, we have to believe that it is still possible to make a difference in the lives of others. A little compassion and a bit of patience might go a long way to defusing tensions. Indeed, of all the qualities we would want to teach children or grandchildren, would not compassion be at the top? Our leaders won't do it; it has to start with us.

 


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, posts, comments, interjections, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, who quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement during its ten minutes of notoriety. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary in a triumph of hope over experience, and has an adult daughter that is, as of this writing, free on her own recognizance. He remains grateful for the life he has, the people in it and for the fact that he is not yet taking a dirt nap. 

 

How Many Had to Die for your Eight Hour Day?

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 haymarketriot 8 hrs  

A Doomstead Diner Archive article,  republished on Labor Day, September 7, 2015


 “Labor was the first price, the original purchase-money that was paid for all things. It was not by gold or by silver, but by labor, that all weather of the world was originally purchased.”      

― Adam Smith     


How many people died for your eight-hour day? Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday of September in America. This tribute to the contribution and achievements of American workers  was purchased, quite literally, in blood and tireless effort. Few today recall how the first Labor Day came about,  or what it means aside from a day off, and an extra opportunity to visit Walmart for "low low prices." That could have something to do with its origins. 

Many of the labor conditions that we accept as our birthright came at huge cost, borne by working-class people banding together to insist on better conditions for themselves and their comrades. As Americans, we take for granted the many working conditions that were won for us only by the struggle of organized workers coming together to work for common goals.  From the vantage point of 2014, it's easy to forget that the eight hour day was such a radical, leftist idea that police would fire into crowds of workers to stop it.

The campaign for an eight hour day was actually a 19th century labor movement that unfolded over decades. International Workers' Day (also known as May Day, or May 1) is a celebration of the international labor movement, and recognizes the anniversary of the bloodiest struggles in the history of labor. Commemorated worldwide on May 1 with organized street demonstrations and marches by working people (in recognition of American events!), it remains obscured by design in the United States.  International Workers' Day is the commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket Massacre in Chicago. How it got moved to September in the US merits some explanation. 

riotsceneFollowing the Civil War, the United States experienced a rapid expansion of industrial production. Chicago was a major industrial center and tens of thousands of German and Bohemian immigrants were employed at pauper's wages, about $1.50 a day. Not surprisingly, the city became a center for many attempts to organize labor's demands for better working conditions. Employers responded with repressive tactics, including acts of violence, often abetted by police. 

On May 1, 1886, in support of the eight-hour day, Albert Parsons, head of the Chicago Knights of Labor, accompanied by his wife, two children, and 80,000 fellow workers, marched down Michigan Avenue, Chicago, in what is regarded as the first modern May Day Parade. Every road in Chicago stopped running, and most of the industries in Chicago were paralyzed. The stockyards were shut down. The state militia had been called out, and the police were ready. In the next few days they were joined nationwide by 350,000 workers who went on strike at 1,200 factories, including 70,000 in Chicago, 45,000 in New York, 32,000 in Cincinnati, and additional thousands in other cities. Some workers gained shorter hours (eight or nine) with no reduction in pay; others accepted pay cuts with the reduction in hours. 

On May 3, 1886, August Spies, editor of the Arbeiter-Zeitung (Workers Newspaper), spoke at a meeting of 6,000 workers, and afterwards many of them moved down the street to harass strikebreakers at the McCormick plant in Chicago. At a subsequent rally on May 4 to protest this violence, a bomb exploded at a rally in Haymarket Square. The bomb wounded 66 policeman, of whom 7 later died. The police fired into the crowd killing several people and wounding over 200. Hundreds of labor activists were rounded up and the prominent leaders arrested, tried, convicted, and executed giving the movement its first martyrs.

Those put on trial were guilty only of their ideas. None of the accused had been at Haymarket that day except for one, who was speaking when the bomb exploded. A jury found them guilty and they were sentenced to death.

The Chicago Tribune even offered a bounty to the jurors if they would find the accused guilty.

HACAT_M7P51

There was some evidence to suggest that the person who actually threw the bomb was an agent provocateur, perhaps a Pinkerton, working for the police, hired to throw the bomb to enable the arrest of hundreds of people, and thus decapitate the revolutionary leadership. This was never proven. The immediate effect was to suppress the radical movement of labor. But the long-term effect was to fan the flames of class anger in many, and to inspire many others to action in revolutionary and labor causes. This effort would bear fruit in subsequent generations.

 

Many thousand people signed petitions and a later governor of Illinois, John Peter Altgeld, investigated what happened at Haymarket and pardoned the three remaining prisoners who had not yet been executed. The real victims of the Haymarket Affair were freedom of speech, the right to free assembly, the right to a fair and impartial trial by a jury of peers. The right of workers to organize and fight for important issues like the eight-hour day was severely compromised as a result. 

The American Federation of Labor, meeting in St Louis in December 1888, set May 1, 1890 as the day that American workers should work no more than eight hours. The International Workingmen's Association meeting in Paris in 1889, endorsed the date for international demonstrations, thus starting the international tradition of May Day. May 1 remains celebrated as International Workers Day across the world, except in the United States, where the official holiday for workers is the first Monday in September. This is because Pres. Grover Cleveland feared that commemorating Labor Day on May 1 could become an opportunity to commemorate the Haymarket Massacre and thus create martyrs.

So in 1894 Cleveland moved to support Labor Day in September, and thus obscure the focus on the rights of working people. Right wing governments have traditionally sought to repress the message behind International Workers Day, with results that scream form the headlines nearly every week. The site of the Haymarket affair was designated as a landmark in Chicago in 1992, and the public sculpture was dedicated in 2004. The lessons of history, including the lesson of International Workers Day or Labor Day, regardless of when it is celebrated, demonstrate that change ONLY happens when ordinary people band together to educate one another and work together in common purpose to achieve our common interests.  

 
 

banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and was active in Occupy during its brief moment. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with Contrary and will NOT be darkening the door of any Wal-Mart this Labor Day.  

This Week in Doom, June 21, 2015

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on June 21, 2015

drought

"A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic."

-Joseph Stalin

The deathcount for non-human life forms on this planet continues to mount exponentially. Numbed as we are by technology and distracted by likes, tweets, clicks and noise, the parade of deaths marches on in the face of our collective indifference. Animals inhabit another country, they are not-us, we rationalize to ourselves, so they are as free to die as they are for us to eat, as we have for many lifetimes of living atop to Great Ponzi of Happy Motoring and the Lifestyle the Petrodollar built. Fish kills. Sea lions. Whales. Birds dropping dead from the sky in great flocks. Starfish. Frogs. Snails. Even crickets, at RE's back door just recently. Each death an implicit sacrifice so that we might know something, and by the knowing, do something. Anything. Yet we stare in mute horror, and wring our hands in helplessness, appalled and humbled at the same time, as we do at measurements of the ongoing drought and find out that as bad as it is, it's worse than we thought. Yet climate change deniers continue to "teach the controversy," or otherwise distract the proles, the better to post up the quarterly profit. Even Pope Francis, el supremo of one of the most conservative organizations on the planet, has been moved to issue an encyclical calling for changes in lifestyles and energy consumption to avert the “unprecedented destruction of the ecosystem.” One wonders what it will take for the calls be heeded?

Yet in the same week we celebrated the 800th birthday of the Magna Carta, that much ballyhooed first step towards universal freedom and liberty, we consider how we have created a market for prison slave labor, the better to honor our contracts with the operators, to whom we have subcontracted our moral responsibilities for rehabilitation. And yes Virginia, slavery is still happily legal for the incarcerated, a blessed state, the returns for which are much beloved by cost accountants, CFOs, and especially the stockholders.

So if you're scoring at home, this week we see a clear distinction between the moral and the immoral, the true vs. the profitable. Our disinterest, some might say, stems from the moral failing at the heart of market triumphalism and its corresponding greed, which leads to irresponsible risk-taking and a continued effort to get some unnamed other to bear the externalized costs. It is the reach of markets and market values into every single sphere of life, including those traditionally governed by moral objectives and principles. Like right and wrong. But that's a rant for another time.

I had done a really good job with this column this week, making notes for it, writing as I went along, instead of waiting for Sunday morning to spit out 2000 words.  And then, Charleston.  Dylann Roof, the self-styled "Last Rhodesian's" mass murder at the Emmanuel AME church is a tragedy, but not the stuff of doom, you might say.  And on the surface I might agree.  But the rapid politicization  of the responses to that tragedy (the NRA blames the victims,  Fox "News" and other right-wing media outlets, including most of the Republican field for President, say some variant of, "we can't possibly know what he was thinking" when Roof left behind a website that said exactly what he was thinking,  and Alex Jones, Michael Savage and other conspiracy theorists posit a "programmed government killer set loose so Obama can take our gunz") is in itself disgusting. And if the seeds of doom and total societal collapse are not to be found on the blood stained floors of that South Carolinian church, they are surely to be found in the shrunken, misshapen remains of hearts that continue to beat, inexplicably, inside too many American breasts. As opposed the the grace that has already emanated from some of the families of the victims, who have already forgiven the gunman.


Who is climate change killing this week?

 The roll call of the inexplicably dead turning up by the thousands continues this week.  But the dead aren't white male Americans, so it really doesn't matter. The dead are voiceless, helpless, and unable to respond except to die, and thus bear mute testimony  to our actions.  California sea lion pups and New England moose among others.

Let’s start with the moose. According to National Geographic, the moose population in New Hampshire went from about 7,500 in the late 90s to about 4,500 by 2013. In Maine, where about 60,000 moose make up the densest moose population in the lower 48, scientists also suspect a decline (although data is scarce).

The culprit? Our old enemy, climate change, which is giving a boost to another old enemy, bloodthirsty ticks, says National Geographic:

The reason is likely climate change, biologists say, which is ushering in shorter, warmer winters that are boosting the fortunes of winter ticks. The tiny creatures latch on to moose here in staggering numbers: One moose can house 75,000 ticks, which are helping to drive a troubling rise in moose deaths, especially among calves.

Warning: Things are about to get horrifying.

And if that's not enough, then there is this: the largest toxic algal bloom ever recorded on the west coast:

Scientists onboard a NOAA research vessel are beginning a survey of what could be the largest toxic algae bloom ever recorded off the West Coast… At the same time, two other types of toxins rarely seen in combination are turning up along the Washington coast.

And in the spirit of Ron Popeil, "but wait! There's more!" Researchers find that species we normally ignore, such as snails, are disappearing at a rapid pace—another indicator of mass extinction.

For years now, conservationists have warned that Earth is in the middle of the “sixth great extinction,” with dozens of species going extinct every day owing to habitat loss, pollution, climate change, and other factors.

But here’s even worse news: That may be just the tip of the iceberg. According to new research, previous estimates may seriously underestimate the number of species that we’re losing. A paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that we may have already lost 130,000 species, or a staggering 7 percent of the world’s total biodiversity.

How could we have lost so many species without noticing? It’s simple: The authors say most of these extinctions are not big, noticeable creatures such as rhinos and tigers. Instead they’re tiny insects and other invertebrates that don’t get much attention. These species tend to have very small ranges with specific habitat needs and aren’t often well studied. 

 For a more in-depth report on  how an unseen extinction is decimating our biota, see this article.


Shocking drought data from NASA

It's bad. Really bad. Really, really bad:

"We don't know exactly how much groundwater we have left, so we don't know when we're going to run out," said Stephanie Castle, a water resources specialist at the University of California, Irvine, and the study's lead author. "This is a lot of water to lose. We thought that the picture could be pretty bad, but this was shocking."

"Combined with declining snowpack and population growth, this will likely threaten the long-term ability of the basin to meet its water allocation commitments to the seven basin states and to Mexico," Famiglietti said.

What's more troubling, while westerners are conserving water in a historic drought, the Nestle Corporation is still draining western aquifers for profit. One might legitimately ask on what planet is is legal to take water from a drought zone, bottle it and sell it.

And then there are these assholes: Ultra-wealthy Californians refusing to conserve water may signal the beginning of a much bigger crisis. Meet Steve Yuhas, designated spokesman for the .1 per cent, stakng out a position in the coming class war: 

So how do you explain a place like Rancho Santa Fe, an enclave of San Diego County, where water use has gone up by 9 percent since April?

Money. Steve Yuhas, a conservative talk-show host and part-time resident of Rancho Santa Fe, explained in a Washington Post hate-read this weekend: “We pay significant property taxes based on where we live,” he said. “And, no, we’re not all equal when it comes to water.”

Yuhas’ quote is one of many nauseatingly backwards statements in the piece on why ultra-wealthy owners of multi-acre properties—which might boast orchards, stables, elaborate waterworks, and of course, bright sweeps of lawn—deserve more sympathy and fewer penalties.

Add entitlement syndrome, as predictable as sunrise:

Still, for the “1 percent”… a limitless sense of entitlement plus a limitless supply of funds is a powerful combination. With California’s groundwater regulations years away from taking effect, what’s to stop deep-pocketed homeowners from digging their own wells? Or trucking in water? Or striking deals with local politicians? One ultra-wealthy resident compares his sprawling lawns to his Chevy Suburban: He can afford to pay for copious amounts water and gas, so who’s to say it’s not his right to do so?

It’s a chilling analogy, because many predict that water shortages, exacerbated by climate change, are going to cause global warfare similar to the way oil has. Water and oil are both highly limited resources. Yet water, unlike oil, is a human right—for Californians and for the 750 million who live without access to clean water worldwide. The attitude that money can, and should, buy any quantity of water isn’t common yet in California, but as droughts become longer and more dire all over the planet, it will likely spread. And the gap between who can drink freely and who cannot will grow.


Laudato Si

 

This week, Pope Francisco released his much anticipated and relentlessly leaked enclyclical, Laudato Si, or Praised Be to You: On Care for Our Common Home,” which was developed over the past year with the input of dozens of scientists, scholars, theologians and over the objections of opponents such as The Heartland Institute. In the encyclical, Francis aligns himself firmly alongside the environmental movement and its objectives and with the Church's traditional reverence for life. While acknowledging some natural causes of global warming are possible, the Pope asserted that climate change is mostly a human-made problem, one of the “principal challenges facing humanity.”  Pope Francis calls on citizens, politicians, business leaders, organizations—in short, all of us—to act immediately and decisively to stop climate change, renew our relationship with Nature, and “enter a dialogue with all people about our common home.”

Some excerpts, which speak eloquently on their own:

“Humanity is called to take note of the need for changes in lifestyle and changes in methods of production and consumption to combat this warming, or at least the human causes that produce and accentuate it,” he wrote. “Numerous scientific studies indicate that the greater part of the global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases … given off above all because of human activity.”

 

“A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system. … A number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity.”

 

“The Earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth. In many parts of the planet, the elderly lament that once beautiful landscapes are now covered with rubbish.”

“Never have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we have in the last 200 years.”

 

“If present trends continue, this century may well witness extraordinary climate change and an unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us. A rise in the sea level, for example, can create extremely serious situations, if we consider that a quarter of the world’s population lives on the coast or nearby, and that the majority of our megacities are situated in coastal areas.”

 

“Each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost forever.”

We “must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures.”

 

“One particularly serious problem is the quality of water available to the poor…. Yet access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights. Our world has a grave social debt towards the poor who lack access to drinking water, because they are denied the right to a life consistent with their inalienable dignity.”

The usual butthurt bleatings have been heard from  fossil fuel apologists, climate change deniers, and the pols and campaign-donation-receivers-in-becoming who love them.  A representative sampling of tweets from paid shill Steven Milloy sets the tone for the critics:

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Praised Be to You, Pope Francisco. Steven Milloy and his ilk notwithstanding, the world is with you, for reaffirming climate change as a moral issue and as part of the Church's support for the sanctity of life.


The Modernized Slave Labor System: Also Known as the Prison Industrial Complex

When you create a market for prisoners, as many states have through subcontracting corrections to for-profit third parties, you get distortions. In basic humanity.  During a week where the environment gets attention front and center, business usual continues in some of the darkest corners of the human soul.

The United States prison system, not only a machine for mass incarceration, but a machine for modernized slave labor. The United States has 5% of the worlds population, yet we have 25% of the world's prison population. Land of the free right?
It would seem the statistics say otherwise, since the official drug war president Nixon announced in the 70’s, our prison population has grown over 700%! Recent estimates put our prison population to well over 2.4 million inmates. 50% of the federal prison inmates are for non violent drug offenses. All the while 20% of state prison inmates are drug related.

prison-stats

Is this making Americans safer, or is there an entire industry making money off of imprisoning human beings? It’s estimated that nearly 1 million convicts fill the ranks of Unicor. Unicor being the government owned corporation that handles the labor of inmates! It’s no doubt the federal government sees an opportunity in prison labor, as they have used Unicor to have $100 million worth of military uniforms made for as little as $2 an hour. The government has no problem with using prison labor, and Unicor is estimated at raking in over $900 million a year.

McDonald’s, Walmart, AT&T, Chevron, and IBM are just the names of a few companies that support the use of prison labor

And wha could be more profitable than legalized slavery?


The Magna Carta turns 800 

The Magna Carta turned 800 years old on Monday.  Known as the "Great Charter," it is widely considered the foundation of parliamentary democracy, human rights and the supremacy of the law over the crown. Signed in Runnymede in 1215, and originally drafted to forge an uneasy peace between an unpopular King John and a group of rebel barons tired of tribute and excessive taxation to fund Joh's endless wars to restore his lands in France. The document promised protection of church rights,  for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations on how much the Crown could exact. Then as now, neither side stood behind their commitments. Research has shown that the Magna Carta was much more about the relationship between the monarch and the barons, rather than the rights of ordinary people, but the document still resonates as a symbol of the primacy of the rule of law over the rule of men.

In an interview on Democracy Now, Peter Linebaugh weighed in , as did Paul Craig Roberts separately.

A number of legal scholars have made the irrelevant point that the Magna Carta protected rights of the Church, nobles, and free men who were not enserfed, a small percentage of the population in the early 13th century. We hear the same about the US Constitution — it was something the rich did for themselves. I have no sympathy for debunking human achievements that, in the end, gave ordinary people liberty.

At Runnymede in 1215, no one but the armed barons had the power and audacity to make King John submit to law. The rule of law, not the rule of the sovereign or of the executive branch in Washington acceded to by a cowardly and corrupt Congress and Supreme Court, is a human achievement that grew out of the Magna Carta over the centuries, with ups and downs of course.

I get that argument and am not unsympathetic. Speaking to Amy Goodman, Linebaugh said,

Both the big charter and the little charter depend and recognize the 90 percent of the people of England who were serfs and poor people and foresters and commoners. Amy, it took about 40 serfs to produce the food just for one horse of those barons and those knights. So while it was a document settling scores in the ruling class, that ruling class had to recognize the principle of the commons and had to recognize—well, in fact, it abolished capital punishment for killing of deer in the forests of England, a great step forward. It prohibited the disparagement of women. Its seventh chapter called for estovers of the widow in the common. Basically, it meant that she could have her fuel, she could have tools, she could have repairs for her house from the forest. And remember that the forest and woods, that was the petroleum of that epoch. That is, so many materials, so much wealth came exclusively from wood. So, for a woman or a widow, in particular, to have access to the commons meant survival.

We can criticize the Magna Carta as being by nobles for nobles in the same way we can criticize the Declarations's authors for the same reasons. And we do. Yet for all that, a document which gives rise to these words can only be so bad:

"No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights … or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his peers and the law of the land."

and…

“Wherefore we wish and firmly command that the English Church shall be free and that men in our kingdom have and hold all such aforesaid liberties, rights and grants, well and in peace, freely and quietly, fully and completely, for themselves and their heirs, in all things and in all places, in perpetuity.”

Yet no one to date has satisfactorily explained the remedy when one class of "free men" "seizes" or "deprives of standing" another smaller, poorer free man. Some call that the role of government, via regulation, that anathema to corporatists and free-marketeers everywhere. Yet those laws and regulations are what we use instead of resorting to lampposts and 40 feet of sturdy nylon rope. Good words to go out on this week.


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with his new bride Contrary in a triumph of hope over experience, and is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.

 

This Week In Doom June 14, 2015

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on June 14, 2015

Visit the New Diner News Page for Daily Updates from around the Collapse Blogosphere 

 

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“If instituted, the TPP’s IP regime would trample over individual rights and free expression, as well as ride roughshod over the intellectual and creative commons,” Assange said. “If you read, write, publish, think, listen, dance, sing or invent; if you farm or consume food; if you’re ill now or might one day be ill, the TPP has you in its crosshairs.”

-Julian Assange, Founder, Wikileaks, November 15, 2013

 


In a stunning rejection by his own party, President Barack Obama had the TAA amendment to the TPP go down in flames in a Friday House vote, and with it his earliest effort to get fast track enabled for this  sellout of the American people. And demonstrates himself as the latest opportunistic tool of corporations and the hyper rich, and the truth of that trope attributed to Gore Vidal: "There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat." This week deja vu has an American president sending "advisors" into a war-torn area to train the locals; one wonders what sort of training the Iraqis can possibly receive to not throw down their weapons and flee the field of battle?  One of the main instigators of last weekend's celebrated Texas pool party/  police riot gets hers, but in a way that leaves us feeling somewhat uneasy. NPR budget cuts have hit their fact checkers, as they run a story on fracking being the next great economic engine for the US economy at a time when rig counts have plummeted and 67 per cent of domestic shale oil production has been taken off line. Almost as if an invisible hand were "suggesting" what they run… And income inequality has gotten so bad that food pantries are running out of food, such is the demand.  But, what, me worry? The markets are up!

 


Democrats reject Obama on trade

 

The big news this week was when a strange-bedfellows coalition of conservatives and progressive democrats voted to deny President Obama fast track authority for the TPP. Thus the New World Order of transnational corporations hit a small snag in their journey to legalize their current de facto hegemony over nation states and citizens under color of law.

The House voted 302 to 126 to sink a measure to grant financial aid to displaced workers, fracturing hopes at the White House that Congress would grant Obama fast-track trade authority to complete an accord with 11 other Pacific Rim nations."I will be voting to slow down fast-track," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on the floor moments before the vote, after keeping her intentions private for months. "Today we have an opportunity to slow down. Whatever the deal is with other countries, we want a better deal for American workers."

Sure she does, and sure they do. Whatever their motivations, I'll take it, as someone unalterably opposed to the TPP, along with legislation-by-lobbyist, secret deals done in secret, and clandestine negotiations held away from the disinfecting power of sunlight.  Now comes the whores-trading. Be certain that this weekend the lobbyists have earned their steak and lobster dinners, as round after round of wheedling ensues in Jerusalem on the Potomac. 

TAA/TPP was stalled by a huge number of phone calls from angry constituents spluutering with outrage– Outrage, I say! — to staffers in Congressional offices. There is a politics of a changed conversation afoot in this country, in the wake the financial collapse of 2008, and of OWS in 2011– that signals that the winds of political will do not only blow in one direction. Charlie Pierce:

There now is a legitimate progressive power base within the Democratic party that no longer takes the prerogatives of the corporate class as inviolable, and that must be considered seriously by any Democratic president and by any Democratic politician… This is not a failure of presidential leadership. It's the assertion of political power from another direction. If that unnerves the Green Room consensus, that's too bad. The president got a bad beat, not because he is a bad president, but because, on this issue, on this Friday afternoon, he found himself trying to sell something to a constituency that has changed. 

 

The fact is that pro-trade Democrats have been eclipsed by the anti-corporate wing of the party, which has been on the rise since 2008. It also exposed the weakening hand of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who reportedly had been whipping for days to support the president’s agenda, only to throw in with the rank-and-file rebellion at the last minute, ostensibly the better to retain some cred. The fate of this monstrous trade legislation now depends on Obama’s ability, along with business-friendly interests, to twist arms, cajole and/or bribe dozens of Democrats to switch their votes before next week. Apparently the sides are going to line up and scrimmage again next Tuesday. Meanwhile, discuss among yourselves wither John Boehner or Nancy Pelosi has the biggest set of balls in the room.


Neocons Erect:  The First 450 Soldiers On Their Way Back to Iraq



I am old enough to have seen this movie before:  faced with intransigent guerrilla warfare, an American president decides to send  in four hundred or so "advisors," the better to train the locals in in the fine arts and techniques of counterinsurgency, then follow that up with AC-47-loads of all the boodle that emerges from the cornucopia of the arms manufacturers. .  


This time the American president is not John F Kennedy, but Barack "Don't do stupid stuff" Obama. The NYT reports on the latest excursions of Empire. For which you continue to foot the bill for with your children's futures…

President Obama is open to expanding the American military footprint in Iraq with a network of bases and possibly hundreds of additional troops to support Iraqi security forces in their fight against the Islamic State, White House officials said on Thursday.

For Mr. Obama, who has long resisted being drawn into another ground war since pulling out all forces in 2011, the latest developments represented another incremental step back into a sectarian conflict he had once hoped to be done with by the time he left office. Supporters of a more robust effort against the Islamic State called it a welcome if inadequate step to make good on the White House’s vow to defeat the Islamic State, while critics warned of sliding into a broader, bloodier and ultimately ineffective campaign.

For a President working on his legacy, this represents a leaden step. Meanwhile war profiteers cheered. (For an interesting but unrelated story of war profiteering and how it works, for the so-called Big 5 and especially for the legions of contractors, see Isaac Faber here.)

 


Justice of a sort

By now, the story of the pool party in Mckinney Texas, the police overreaction, the termination of the officer involved and the bleats of outrage have all become part of the national conversation. And in the wake of all that, this datum as a coda:

  

After a video of a 15 year old African-American teen being slammed into the ground by McKinney Police Officer Eric Casebolt went viral last weekend, a twitter campaign was launched to identify the woman involved in the fight that led to police being called.  Tracey Carver-Allbritton has now been placed on administrative leave by her employer, CoreLogic Inc., a  major financial data and analytics firm closely aligned with Bank of America.

Ms. Carver-Allbritton is demonstrably a racist and should certainly be held legally responsible for her actions, as should any adult who picks a fight with underaged minors. Yet I have certain-to-be unpopular misgivings about her losing her job as a result of this action, as I did for obvious racist and overall lout Donald Sterling being obliged to sell his basketball team as a result of the contents of a conversation illegally recorded and obtained. The end does not always justify the means. Because we all have to live with the implications of what the means… means. Fruit of the poisoned tree, and all that.
 


National Petroleum Radio: America's Next Economic Boom Could Be Lying Underground

From time to time, I find myself in arguments with well-intentioned liberal friends who argue that National Public Radio is not part of the mainstream media. This is risible, inasmuch as I have firsthand knowledge of the politics and the pressures brought to bear on public media enterprises. I toiled for a time in the management precincts of local public television and radio, and have seen how the system works– or doesn't. Public media has found itself increasingly reliant upon corporate funds which to stretch the modicum of funding provided from government sources, which typically just enough to pay the programming bills. So both stations and producing entities turn to the people with the money, who, as you will see in the media from time to time, exert editorial control over projects. The much ballyhooed documentary, "Citizen Koch" never saw the light of day as a result of meddling by you know who.

Likewise, I know firsthand how the local chief executive officer spiked  "Counterspin," the only show that held the media to account, produced by "Fairness and Accuracy in Media." FAIR is the national progressive media watchdog group, challenging corporate media bias, spin and misinformation. "Counterspin" corrects the prevalent bias. The CEO attempted to explain himself in a public forum and found his justifications poorly received and shouted down. What was never made clear was who forced his hand, and why.

All of which we are supposed to blissfully ignore and go on our merry way, continuing to drink from a poison trough. With that background in mind, let's bring this week's monstrosity, courtesy of your tax supported local public media and NPR: wholly in thrall to fracking interests, shale oil is a boom, they say. Harvard economist Michael Porter's new report is exciting, they say, using all the breathless adjectives and adverbs available to a fresh crop of marketing interns. Porter's report is duly excited

about the deep reserves of natural gas and oil that have been made accessible by hydraulic fracturing technology, or fracking — a boon he examines in detail in a new report.

"It is a game changer," Porter says. "We have estimated that already, this is generating a substantial part of our GDP in America. It's at least as big as the state of Ohio. We've added a whole new major state, top-10 state, to our economy."

Woo-hoo! Holy 2012, Batman! Happy days are here again! Perhaps budget cuts at NPR news has meant they don't consult industry reports or the financials. The NPR report fails to mention the shuttering of wells and the thousands of layoffs in the oilfields and in related support industries. Or the worldwide low price of oil, which has become so cheap that many companies have stopped drilling. The sad truth is that the shale oil boom is actually already over. Tom Lewis has the sobering details at his blog, The Daily Impact:

It comes now from the US Energy Information Agency, and is headlined by Bloomberg Business, so yes, it’s official. As Bloomberg put it, “US Shale Boom Grinds to a Halt.” Which, actually, is overstating the case by a good bit, there isn’t going to be a “halt.” Nevertheless, as sane people everywhere have been insisting for years, the shale boom is, as it always was going to be, a bust.

This — now official — assessment is in the form of a set of projections by the EIA, which, we should remember, has pretty consistently been overly optimistic in its assessment of the oil business. Remember, they were the folks who estimated that the Monterey Shale in California held 14 billion barrels of recoverable reserves — two-third of America’s total oil wealth — until they ran the numbers again and re-estimated the Monterey at 96% lower.

 

This shale oil boom  has always been a classic American hustle, designed to coax capital out of investors with the promise of liquid gold in them thar shales. Rig counts have been dropping for 26 straight weeks, since the world price for crude bottomed out late last year. 67% of US rigs have been taken out of service.  Don't believe me; do your own due diligence.  But remember this story the next time your local public radio station goes on the air begging for funds, or when a friend cites an NPR report as proof of the veracity of some story. Bet them a tote bag they're wrong.

 


Food Banks In New York Are Running Out Of Food

 Here's one of the most depressing stories that moved last week.

Welcome to the Recovery! Food banks across the US state of New York are running out of food (37% of food pantries say they have had to turn away needy people because they ran out of food), amid falling funds and rising demand from people that have trouble affording food. About 2.6 million people have trouble affording food across New York with about 1.4 million New York City residents relying on food pantries to feed themselves, according to the Food Bank For New York City. But as PressTV reports, contrary to the belief that people visiting food pantries are homeless and jobless, most customers are employed, but are not paid enough money to put food on the table without help.

This is a point worth repeating: people using food banks are working people, people who have jobs, people who get up the same way you do, pull on their trousers or slacks, and go put in their 40 to 60 hours, but are still unable to feed themselves and meet their other obligations. You may find yourself asking, "Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?  Or even, is there no Congress?" Oh yes, Congress has noted well their plight. As Joshua Krause via The Daily Sheeple notes,

Despite the media’s claims that we’re no longer in a recession, millions of Americans are still struggling to make ends meet. It seems that America has developed a permanent underclass of citizens that just can’t quite rise above their poverty. No matter how high home prices rise or how far the stock market soars, the profits never seem to trickle down to this segment of society.
 
If you’re looking for proof that this permanent underclass exists, look no further than the massive number of people who still rely on food stamps and food pantries to survive. In fact, their ranks may be growing, which is starting to cause some food pantries to run out of resources on a regular basis. In New York City, 1.4 million residents eat at food pantries (out of a total population of 8.5 million), a number which is currently growing 20% every year.
 
The largest influx of food bank users occurred in 2013, when Congress cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by $18 per person. Since that time, 40% of food stamp users have had to turn to food banks to sustain themselves, and 37% of food banks in New York City have admitted that they have turned away hungry residents in recent years, after running out of food.

Meanwhile, televangelists like Kenneth Copeland, Joel Osteen, and Creflo Dollar preach the Gospel of Prosperity to some of the largest congregations in the country, and host television programs that seem to air continously. One recalls the Bible's shortest verse: "Jesus wept."

 


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with his new bride Contrary in the triumph of hope over experience.

This Week in Doom June 8, 2015

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on June 8, 2014

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"Katrina washed away a lot of veils and took a lot of face masks off. Your politics cannot be bigger than your humanity. And in this case, we didn't need politics. We needed humanity." 

 ― Oliver Thomas

We always need more humanity, as events from Ferguson to Baltimore have shown, humanity is in short supply. We have used up our domestic sources, and replacements have not arrived in West Coast ports en route from China. As we dither, thousands are fleeing the conflicts in the Global South, some of them of our creation, others less so, and seeking refuge on the shores of Southern Europe. We think ourselves immune from their plight, but continuing drought makes our own day of reckoning more likely. It has not been so long since the Dust Bowl of the 1930s touched off our own internal migrations, with their own lack of humanity in response; recall the iconic photo of the message, "Jobless Men, keep going. We can't take care of our own," a message befitting Chambers of Commerce everywhere. Humanity is lacking in the meat suit known as extremist fanatic Ted Cruz, who has demonstated not only a lack of common decency but a tin ear for the moment that should disqualify him for not only pursuit of higher office, but also sitting at the adult table at dinner. And the G7 meets in some heavily guarded German village, discussing whatever the G7 discusses, casting lots for Greece's garments, and if humanity is mentioned, it's only on the menu.


Ships rush to rescue thousands of migrants stranded in Mediterranean

Even as I write this, ships from European navies and NGOs are working to locate and rescue migrants migrating from the global South to Europe. Federico Soda, a spokesman for the international organization for migration told CNN on Sunday, "the numbers are high and they are rising."

Calm seas and good sailing weather spurred a fresh wave of ships crossing from Libya to Italy. Nearly 3500 migrants were rescued on Saturday alone.

A spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, said naval ships from Italy and Spain were also involved in the effort to rescue migrants on Sunday, along with the Italian coast guard.
The Italian coast guard has received requests for help from 14 vessels in distress, carrying an estimated 1,500 refugees and migrants, the UNHCR's William Spindler said.

They have rescued migrants from 11 vessels, and operations to find the other three boats and rescue those on board continue.

Desperate people from impoverished and conflict-torn countries such as Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea have put their lives

in the hands of human traffickers, and taken to sea to reach Europe in search of a better life. 

Those possessed of any empathy or human decency whatever can see in this issue a harbinger of things to come. Right now these migrants are landing in Italian ports, from Lampedusa to Sicily, from Reggio Calabria to Taranto. Many others have landed in Greece. The UN estimates that, as of the end of May, 90,000 refugees and migrants had crossed the Mediterranean into Europe this year. Just over half landed in Italy, with roughly 42,000 in Greece and the rest recorded in Spain and Malta. Some estimates have it that about 1,850 have died or were missing at sea.

This is a human migration unprecedented in recent times, and invites some questions,  namely, what would we do if faced with the same influx of migrants? The miserable wretches seeking succor or on Europe's shores are safely Over There, and not browning up our comfortable suburban neighborhoods. Yet that question has already been asked and answered Over Here with a depressing certainty.

MBR

Friend of the Diner and cross poster Tom Lewis, who runs a fine blog called The Daily Impact, reminds us of recent history:

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, desperate citizens of New Orleans seeking water, food and shelter began streaming by the thousands out of the city on foot over the Interstate 90 bridge across the Mississippi River and into to the city of Gretna, Louisiana. The city had no electricity, no water, no medical services and little in the way of a functioning government. It had been this way for three days when the refugees began streaming in, and unless conditions improved almost immediately, the people were looking at severe privation. So they closed the city. Put a line of armed police across the Interstate Bridge and turned the refugees back.  Sorry. Can’t help you.

The story has haunted me for nearly ten years. Not just because it is one of the gnarliest ethical problems I have ever come across. But also because in the aftermath of the crash of the Industrial Age — perhaps well before the crash, during the current preliminary stresses — every one of us is going to face the kind of decision Gretna had to make. We will be asked to give help to distressed neighbors when giving that help will endanger our own survival. How will we answer?

Most of the current migrations have climate change as a root cause: drought, hunger and thirst, leading to revolution, conflict and chaos.  And before we get too comfortable, consider this: as Lewis points out, the states of California, Nevada and Arizona are slowly baking in the summer sun, snow packs gone, aquifers evaporating, streams parching, and the fruits and vegetables we depend on for summer salads going up in smoke. Lewis asks:

How long will it be before lines of desperate people begin trudging along Interstate 5 into Oregon (nobody in their right mind is going to trudge south, or straight east). And how long before Oregon says, out of the direst of necessities, “Sorry, can’t help you.”

And how long do we suppose it will be before one day, with the power out and the water off and the phones down and the food running out, our neighbor comes to our gate and says, “I’m hungry and I’m thirsty and I need your help.” Okay, that’s one question and it’s fairly easy to handle. Now the next question: what if, in a line behind him, there are a couple dozen more neighbors?

And before you are too quick to answer, remember Gretna Bridge. In separate CBS reporting on this incident, Oliver Thomas, president of the New Orleans City Council, said,

"Katrina washed away a lot of veils and took a lot of face masks off. Your politics cannot be bigger than your humanity. And in this case, we didn't need politics. We needed humanity." 


China Containerized Freight Index Collapses

Most of us who read and follow the Diner realize that the reason economies are stalling all over the world is that Joe Sixpack is tapped out. People in debt are not looking on new ways to spend; rather, they are trying like hell to get out of debt.  Thus, spending is slowing, and a Ponzi economy in which the only "growth" comes from consumer demand is showing weakness. It's only "weakness," if you subscribe to the market-driven philosophy of growth in every quarter, every week, every day. So if demand is down, the rubber has to hit the road somewhere. Wolf Richter noted "where" this week.

One thing the Chinese authorities cannot do is crank up the global economy and demand for Chinese goods. These goods are shipped by container to the rest of the world. But containerized freight rates from China have totally collapsed.

The China Containerized Freight Index (CCFI), operated by the Shanghai Shipping Exchange and sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Communications, has not been put through the beautification wringer that other more publicly visible statistics, such as GDP growth, are subject to. It tracks spot and contractual rates for all Chinese container ports. And it plunged 3.2% this week to a multi-year low of 862, down 20% from February.

The trajectory of this terrible 3-month plunge:

China-Containerized-Freight-index-2015-06-05

For perspective, the index was set at 1,000 on January 1, 1998. Today, the index is 14% below where it was 17 years ago!

Of course, this is a three-month phenomenon, and not necessarily a harbinger of doom so much as a cyclical variation in trade.  Yet if Chinese made goods are not leaving China on freighters destined to your local Walmart so that you can enjoy "low, low prices every day,"  what are the implications?  And how long will this last?

It very well may be a blip in a long-term trend. Many goods formerly targeted for export may indeed be consumed within the Middle Kingdom in the future. Here's one stab at why.

Recently I visited with one of my best friends, a university prof just returned from a teaching gig in China– Xian, home of the terra cotta army discovered by a farmer and excavatied by Chinese archaelogists, in a dig that continues to this day. He and the team he was with were consultants to university professors in Xian, acting as the "pros from Dover" to train these Chinese professors in techniques of innovation. They worked with teams of university profs via interpreters using large group and small group instruction.  

My information is second-hand, conversational, and gained over cocktails, so this is anecdotal at best, representing, as my friend likes to say "an n of 1." By the actions of the Chinese it's unarguable that China wants to be better at innovation and out-of-the-box thinking, recognizing that this is essential for future competition. Seems that innovation is out of culture for the Chinese, who have operated in a top down, do-what-you're-told mode, as befits a centrally-governed people who have occupied the center of the universe for centuries. Those Chinese leaders who see the future clearly realize that they can no longer wait to be told what they need to do: they need to invent it. Hence my friend's trip, and doubtless the teaching trips of other Americans as well,  to try to get the Chinese to be less Confucian and more entrepreneurial in their thinking .

The stats may be off, but the gist remains:  ten years ago, there were 7 million Chinese enrolled in higher ed; in ten years they expect three times that many. And they want them ready to play at business on the world stage. Contrast those aspirations for a rising generation with those of the sclerotic FSoA, where we reserve higher ed for those with trust funds or a willingness to mortgage their futures with debt that is non-dischargeable through bankruptcy…

This little peek into China is seen at best through a series of reflections in a hall of mirrors; yet I have to say that the description of China is "toast" is premature and probably wrong. Especially given the success and deployment of renewable energy sources at a time when China's admittedly prodigious use of coal is in decline.

Chinese energy experts are estimating that by 2050 the percentage of China's energy requirements that are satisfied by coal-fired plants will have declined to 30-50% of total energy consumption and that the remaining 50-70% will be provided by a combination of oil, natural gas, and renewable energy sources.

The Chinese are serious about deploying them as a matter of policy, if for no other reason that to clean their air. To the extent that economic "growth" is wholly depended on available energy, the Chinese have a winning strategy using renewables. Plus they possess the political will to order it done. Yet there remains no free press; it remains under state control as immutably as our own remains in the iron grip of corporate collossi. There are likewise no independent Chinese bloggers or alt media. There is no open internet access. The Chinese ruling regime is repressive. My friend put it best when I asked: "Life for the average middle class Chinese is pretty good, as long as you don't make waves, ask too many questions, and are prepared to make do without a few things most of us take for granted. Like rights and freedom."

What seems unknowable is the effect of the sheer mass of numbers on the Chinese and international markets. By 2020 the Chinese will have more college educated graduates in the workforce than the size of the entire US work force. The mind boggles at what this might mean, particularly for a government that can order key investments by fiat.


Tone Deaf and Lacking a Soul

Joseph R. "Beau" Biden III, then attorney general of Delaware, addresses the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, on September 6, 2012. Biden, the eldest son of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., died of brain cancer, his father announced on Saturday, May 30, 2015. (Photo: Todd Heisler / The New York Times)

This week, the Biden family had the sad obligation to say goodbye to Beau Biden after illness claimed him.  No parent should ever have to bury a child; Joe Biden has had to bury two. No matter where one may fall on the political spectrum, such moments of human pain and suffering call most of us to declare a pause in the name of common decency. Writer William Rivers Pitt wrote an elegy that was deeply moving and cut to the heart of the matter:

It is an old story all too often repeated: the children of the powerful wind up being terrible people. Beau Biden, who succumbed to brain cancer on Saturday at age 46, was a notable and underscored exception to that rule. He served as state Attorney General of Delaware, served in the Delaware Army National Guard's Judge Advocate General Corps, and did a tour in Iraq. In 2008, he introduced his father to the convention in a speech that knocked paint off the walls. He was widely considered to be the front-runner in the Delaware governor's race in 2016 before that wretched disease laid him low. He fought the cancer for two years, and his father's family grave plot has become crowded once again.

Vice President Biden had just been elected to the Senate when the accident in 1972 stole half of his family. He was virtually annihilated by the loss of his wife and daughter. He contemplated suicide … but he still had two young sons, both of whom were injured in the crash and were hospitalized. He rose, and persevered, and raised one hell of a son. Until his boys were healed, he put the Senate second. "As a single parent," recalled Beau Biden during that stirring 2008 convention speech, "he decided to be there to put us to bed, to be there when we woke from a bad dream, to make us breakfast, so he'd travel to and from Washington, four hours a day."

During a speech at Yale University several days ago, Vice President Biden said, "The real reason I went home every night was that I needed my children more than they needed me." Politics is a cynical business – if we all had a nickel for every politician's lie told every day, the recession would be over – but what Mr. Biden said at Yale is as much truth as you will ever hear from an elected official in your whole life…

… Life has beaten Joe Biden with rocks. He has buried a wife and a baby daughter, and now must bury a son. I find this to be purely unfathomable. The passing of Beau Biden – husband, father of two, soldier, public servant – is a loss to the nation, but that pales in comparison to the loss being endured by Joe Biden and his family.

Pitt is the recent father of a baby girl, and draws upon his own love and devotion to his daughter to understand the enormity of the loss the Biden family is feeling. You would think at times like this that common decency would be the order of the day. Ah, not so. Tone-deaf domestic extremist and American Taliban member Ted Cruz proved not only that he is not fit to govern, but is also unfit for the company of decent people:

Cruz, speaking in Michigan, trotted out an old line of his: “Joe Biden … You know what the nice thing is? You don’t even need a punch line. I promise you it works. At the next party you’re at, just walk up to someone and say, ‘Vice President Joe Biden,’ and just close your mouth. They will crack up laughing,” according to reports on MLive.com.

Cruz later apologized. On Facebook.  Politico reports that Detroit News reporter Chad Livengood tweeted he questioned Cruz about the joke immediately after the speech and that “the Texas senator turned and walked away.” Livengood described the reaction to Cruz’s joke as “faint laughter.” Which should tell you everything you need to know about this particular golem, and the people to whom he appeals.


Protests ahead of G7 meeting

What a meeting of the G7 be without protests? They have become an almost obligatory part of the decor. Once again, the owners have gathered together in a German Alpine resort to compare notes on how their legislation to enact the new world order is faring, faced as it is by the obstinacy of mere proles. And the subject of Greece might arise as well. And once again, mere proles have gathered together to underline their dissatisfaction.

Leaders from the Group of Seven (G7) industrial nations will meet on Sunday in a German Alpine resort town, as thousands protested on the eve of the two-day summit.
There were sporadic clashes with police and several marchers were taken to hospital with injuries, as thousands marched in the town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen on Saturday.
Protester Monika Lambert said she had come "to exercise my democratic rights to say that everything the G-7 decides is in the interest of the banks and capitalists".
The Germans have deployed 17,000 police around the former winter Olympic Games venue at the foot of Germany's highest mountain, the Zugspitze. Another 2,000 are on stand-by across the border in Austria.

Anti-poverty charity Oxfam, staged a protest Saturday that depicted G7 leaders with huge heads. Oxfam is urging G7 leaders to find the "right path" to overcome poverty and inequality. Steffen Kuessner, a spokesperson for Oxfam, said social inequality was missing from the leaders' agenda.

We remain shocked, shocked…


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with his new bride Contrary in a triumph of hope over experience, and is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.

Why Voting Still Matters

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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on May 3, 2015

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votinng


“There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat.”
― Gore Vidal


If the above statement of the much-missed and oft-maligned Gore Vidal is correct, then why vote?

Many of us have given up on the current electoral process, arguing that the American system is completely wired by the uber-rich, and that nobody on the ballot truly represents their interests. Few would argue otherwise, in the wake of recent decisions by the Supreme Court: Citizens' United meant it was OK for corporations and labor unions to spend as much as they want to convince people to vote for or against a candidate, and Buckley v. Valeo, which ruled that spending money to influence elections is a form of constitutionally protected free speech, thus giving a poor man the same right as a rich man to buy a million-dollar air schedule for political advertising. The artificial drama of D vs. R is a scam, a dumb-show and entertainment financed by the same sets of owners who contribute lavishly to both sides via legalized bribery in the form of "campaign contributions." The system grinds on, and many argue voting seems to change nothing.

At first glance that might appear to be true. During the last 40 years, America has plunged toward a plutocracy greased by wealthy donors eager to secure a favorable future legal environment, in which no options remain for expropriating their ill-gotten, swept-off-the-table gains. That won't change.

Voting by itself won't protect your rights or secure policies of which you approve. But politics is the art of getting half a loaf, rather than none, and voting is a key first step to getting there. And for all the above, voting is still worth the effort. 

I begin with the a prejudice toward the common wealth, rather than the private fortune. And the premise that as a citizen, each of us has a social duty to cast the best possible vote. Faced with two undesirable choices, which is the best ethical choice?  A conundrum. Bad choices at the polls lead directly to bad policies that destroy economic opportunity, produce crises that lower everyone’s standard of living, unjust and unnecessary wars of choice, (and  consequently to hundreds of thousands of deaths of nameless, faceless others), sexist, racist, and homophobic legislation, help reinforce poverty, produce overly punitive criminal legislation, and worse.  Faced with two bad choices,  some argue the best choice is to make no choice.

So if a candidate were to stand up and offer an alternative to the policies described above, and we were to agree with the majority of this candidates' platform, would he or she not be worth a vote?

Some don't agree that they have a duty to vote. Every election cycle, futilitists use well-practiced handwringing and whining to help block any potential groundswell of those who might be persuaded to support a third party candidate by repeating the incantation, "They can't possibly win." If the energy invested in defeatism were spent on local ORGANIZATION and advocacy, a different outcome might be possible. 

Yet vote boycotters say "we don't have enough people" to make a difference- a self-fulfilling prophecy. Low-turnout elections dominated by the enraged white paranoids of the hate radio/ Fox News/ white supremacist set will definitely keep power in the hands of the rich. Which is just how they want it.  While you are sitting on your hands as a matter of principle, the rage/hater/right wing set is voting all of theirs, and the cemeteries as well. A higher voting turnout rate might well lead to a very different polity from the one we have now.

Net it out: the end result is to abet the criminals currently in charge stay in charge. Your partners Charles and David Koch thank you for enabling their agenda, led by an insurgency of the most intellectually and morally stunted cohort of American society. Who YOU helped elevate through your inaction.

There are indeed principled arguments for non-voting. Not voting has a long pedigree as part of the anarchist's playbook. As writer Colin Ward says, for well over a centuryanarchists  

…have been the most consistent advocates of conscientiously staying away from the poll. Since anarchism implies an aspiration for a decentralised non-governmental society, it makes no sense from an anarchist point of view to elect representatives to form a central government. If you want no government, what is the point of listening to the promises of a better government? As Thoreau put it: ‘Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence. A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight.’

The various streams of 19th century anarchist thought were united together in their opposition to participation in elections. Most of them shared with the early Marxists the view that the State was simply the executive committee of the ruling classes.

Political democracy, they declared, was just a facade concealing the real effective power of the owners of capital and land. If the workers withdrew their labour power the capitalist class would be impotent and its State would fall to pieces. 

So "not voting" has a rich history of ineffectiveness and futility. Most anarchists shared with Marxists the view that the State was simply the executive committee of the ruling classes, with political democracy a sham concealing the real effective power of the owners of capital and land. Time was when workers had leverage such that, if they withdrew their labor, the capitalists could be rendered vulnerable and the State fall to pieces. Or so went the theory.

Non-participation has always been a spectacularly ineffective form of "protest." While advocates offer their well practiced, richly-oiled poses of self-justification for the virtues of non-participation, here's what REALLY happens:

1) A result completely indistinguishable from total apathy. If an opponent of the political status quo takes the same expression of non-action as the ill-informed lout who cares about nothing, how is it even possible to tell how many non-votes are ill-conceived protests and how many are from those who couldn't be bothered?

The "just stop voting" advocate will claim that if enough of us stopped voting, election results would then become illegitimate through lack of participation. This without explaining the mysterious mechanism by which TPTB would be removed from power in the wake of the imagined "non-vote mandate," and without explaining the mechanism by what said system would be replaced. Really?

2) It simply increases the political power of those who do choose to vote. Failing to vote in census year 2010 gave the Repugs the power of the gerrymander,  and thus of selecting their own voters, leading directly to the rise of a nativist right wing. When those who oppose the current system choose to not vote and remain on the sidelines, opponents gain an undeserved force multiplier.

Not voting ensures that unpopular extremists are elevated into power. Voter apathy translates to Louis Gohmert, Jodi Ernst, Ted Cruz, James Imhofe and the entire ALEC legislative agenda enacted as if by popular mandate: climate change denialism, legalization of discrimination by religious means, open season on blacks and "dissidents," tax cuts for corporations, endorsements and doubling down of the surveillance state, more illegal and unwanted wars, the entirety of the "more-of-the-same, but even harder" right-wing austerity-for-you-and-tax-cuts-for-me agenda. To say nothing of the serial idiocies being enacted in Republican- controlled state houses across the FSoA. Much of this state by state effort is being executed via the strategy of nullification of federal law, the instrument of choice of theocrats and Republiconfederates. CJ Werleman points out that

Since 2010, state legislatures have put forward nearly 200 bills challenging federal laws its sponsors deem unconstitutional. Typically, laws the nullifiers believe challenge “religious liberty,” the Affordable Care Act, and gun control.

In an editorial for Talking Points Memo, Josh Marshall observes that since the election of Obama and the rise of the Tea Party, “there’s been more and more reaching back to the discredited ideas of nullification, interposition and even, at the truly fringe extreme, secession. They are each efforts to preserve power for disempowered minorities after they’ve lost battles in the standard majoritarian system. More simply, they’re workarounds to get out of the consequences of losing political fights. And by definition they are rearguard actions.

Not voting emboldens these people. 

You might answer that we've had a "Democan" or "Republocrat" in office for six years,  and we have drone wars, attacks on whistleblowers, enhancement of the surveillance state, NDAA, and the jewel in the crown, the TPP. You would be right. See Vidal's quote, above. Yet consider what your life might be like in the sixth year of McCain/Palin.

Despise the current political system? Then support a political party proposing change,  rather than abstain and thus insure the status quo. I have brought opprobrium down upon my own head by advising my Dem friends that under no circumstances will I be voting for Hillary, and for my trouble I've been rewarded with the inevitable Ralph Nader/Al Gore horror stories. Don't care. I've decided that, before I quit this earthly coil, I'll cast a vote for president for someone who actually represents my interests. The recent entry of Bernie Sanders into the race provides an interesting grace note. An avowed socialist is actually once again running for president, and nobody (as of this writing) has yet burst into flames. Sanders should be more than a tuneup test for Hillary. With any luck, the issues upon which Bernie will run and will once again be part of the conversation after having disappeared for, oh, 40 years.

Ultimately, if you believe the great arc of history bends toward the direction of social justice, then each of us has a responsibility to do what we can to enable that happy day, no matter how dismal the prospects appear at the moment. And they are dismal indeed, as they generally consist of unsatisfactory choices between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Non-voters have the luxury of not participating in the political process because millions of others are doing the lifting involved of making a flawed system work. A relatively wealthy society can tolerate a large number of such disaffected free riders. Yet I see little virtue in refusing to participate. Voting helps keep the religio-economic ALEC fundamentalists away from the wheels of power, and denies them an undeserved force multiplier. Remember what Malcolm Gladwell has said about tipping points. Because, rest assured, your opponents will vote every bigot, pederast, hypocrite, window-licker and dittohead in their cohort… all while suppressing the votes of those likely to oppose them where they have the local power.

And if nothing else convinces you, consider this: if the vote is meaningless, why so much money spent to win it, and so much effort to cage and suppress the votes of probable opponents?

And if you still despair of how much your vote counts, consider this: the closer the home the election is, the bigger your vote becomes, and the more the outcomes directly affect your day-to-day quality of life.  As noted above, much of the ALEC agenda is being enacted at the state level, away from the glare of national press.  And if you really want your vote to count, find out when your local city primary or caucus is, research the candidates, and show up to vote. Those votes generally range from the dozens to low hundreds, so your vote really does make a difference- and where it matters most.

The vote still matters. If you don't use yours, you hand it to your opponents. And it's really the last thing we have left.

 


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with his new bride Contrary in a triumph of hope over experience, and is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.

 


  Map

Intimations of Mortality

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freda blackboard

Artwork: Anthony Freda

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on April 5, 2014

 

“Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde;  And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”

― John Donne  


It was a milestone week. I turned 65. Like many, I never thought I would reach this age. Yet this very week I learned that several childhood friends did not. Three have passed this year, two of whom played significant roles in my early life and then drifted away, like we do.

Allow me to beg your indulgence from taking the pulse of doom to indulge a few personal observations.

We children of Happy Motoring, were raised on the Flintstones and the Cleavers as a vision of family life, and on the Jetsons as a vision of a cornucopian future. As the son of an electrician and a homemaker, I was raised on trade union Democrats values– economically liberal, socially conservative,  and expected that I would somehow take my place in a world much like theirs. Uh, no. By the time I left college, that world that no longer existed.

During my lifetime it’s all changed– the New Deal social contract has been rescinded, and the prescription, we’re told, is austerity for workers and tax breaks for corporations and the one per cent.  In the 1960s a single earner could pay the rent or mortgage, clothe and feed a family, buy a car and maybe have a little left over for a vacation. Now two earner (or more) households have become the norm,  and the vast majority of paychecks yield far less earning power than that of a union electrician in 1965.

I recall a lesson from fifth grade.  We learned about the “melting pot,” complete with an illustration of people of all nationalities and races happily jumping into a pot to make soup. The point being we were a nation of immigrants, bonded together in the notion that, “out of many, one:” E Pluribus Unum.  Today armed, angry white men patrol the southern borders in search of brown faces without papers. A nation built on immigrants no longer welcomes immigrants, unless they bring an independent fortune or skills favored industries need.

I was the second of my family to enter college, and my luck to enroll during the height of Vietnam. I went in patriotic, full of received wisdom and civic virtue,  and enrolled in ROTC, earned a scholarship and was prepared to enter the Regular Army as an officer. Then came the USS Pueblo incident, and then My Lai. Those episodes shattered closely held beliefs and preconceptions. At once, my college experience transformed from 13th and 14th grade to learning how to think, perhaps for the first time. What, you mean our government would leave Lloyd Bucher and those sailors to rot in a North Korean prison? What, you mean kids like me uncritically murder Asian women and children? What, we’re not the good guys? I began to question everything that I had been taught, and from there, everything changed.

On reaching adulthood and employment in which the demands were on mind rather than body, my style would be to work hard, play harder and cram as much as possible into what would doubtless be a few short years. To the surprise of all, those stretched on. My MO was that while I might not be the brightest or most talented, I was a grinder who would succeed through sheer dint of effort and persistence. 80 hour weeks punctuated with long evenings of riotous relief, and, uh, excess? A way of life. For a while.

It took many years to realize that what I did was not who I was. There were victories; and there were losses.

The losses give you perspective, and remind that the bell eventually tolls for all of us.

And with that ringing in my ears, I now approach the final laps of a career in media, including photography, video, film and writing. A time to think of What’s It All Been About, and What Have I Learned Along the Way? Having made every possible mistake along the way, committed every sin short of murder, and been slow to learn from experience, repeating most mistakes several times, a few simple principles  have emerged:

1) Kindness. Always be kind.   Easy to lose track of when we are young and on the make, in competition with others and serving those all-important ego needs. We get sucked–or leap– into the matrix and forget what’s really important, which are relationships.

2) Don’t criticize, condemn or complain. Dale Carnegie makes this his first rule of human relations. In college I played interior line, and wrestled. My job was to knock other people down.  After a while the workplace, as in life, one eventually begins to learn that not every adversary needs knocking down, and not every obstacle is an adversary- some are opportunities. Some learn this essential truth later rather than earlier.  It’s amazing how relationships change when you stop being critical of others, and thus engage their own self protective mechanisms. Duh.

3)  Live in the Present. In my 20s, I encountered a slender tome by Baba Ram Dass  entitled, “Be Here Now.”  As I recall, it was about the importance of being fully present in the here and now.  It resonated. How many of us spend time rehashing old wounds, or worrying about the future? There is a reason that the “Recitation of the Grievances” made famous by Jerry Stiller’s Festivus celebration on Seinfeld was so funny– because it’s so true.  Whenever I return home, I become 15 again as my 86 year old mother opens a trunk full of 60-year-old grievances. Was it Voltaire who said, “My life is been filled with one catastrophe after another, most of which never occurred?”  We spend a lot of time worrying about uncertainties, when the effort is better placed on creating a desired reality.


So we Boomers came of age and enjoyed the blessings of cheap energy and a dollar backed by nukes and military force. Now the energy is getting more dear, harder to extract and the dollar is closer than ever to losing reserve status, all at a time when good jobs remain hard to find.

My life has been modest in material terms, but has been enough. Enough to enjoy a working class standard of living, a decent home and raise a daughter.  It’s a life I’ve chosen, with no apologies or excuses. What brings me to the Diner each day is the realization that it’s all doomed,  and I will miss it when it’s all gone.  Between the neocons eager to fight World War III down to the last drop of your grandchildren’s blood,  and the crony capitalists and their bankster allies  determined to bleed the last drops of wealth out of the near empty husk of what used to be America’s middle class, it appears that those at the top of the pyramid have determined that the world needs to shed about 6 billion “useless eaters” and redundant population.  What do corporations do when they have excess workforce? They lay them off.

Prepare to be “laid off.”


 

The clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o’er man’s mortality;
Another race hath been, and other palms are won.
Thanks to the human heart by which we live, 
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

                                                 —Wordsworth, Intimations of Immortality


 

People aren’t stupid. Most people, from urban liberals to country rednecks, can sniff the zeitgeist.   “Survivalists” have been around since the 70s. Nowadays, more people are turning to “prepping”, including many on the far right, who have repaired to fortified compounds in Idaho, etc., the better to wait out the zombie hordes and/or the black helicopters. (Bracing, is it not, to think that the Mormons will be the subset of Americans best positioned to transition through the Zero Point?)

Karma is a bitch. If one reaps what one sows, our portion today is the inevitable bitter harvest of decades of government lies and perfidy, from the Warren Commission’s “magic bullet” to the 9/11 cover story to the lack of faith in the very function of government due to corporate capture.  People are sick of being lied to; people are sick of seeing their unresponsive government toady to lobbyists, while ignoring the needs of ordinary citizens. So they’re planning for it all to end, and quite literally taking matters into their own hands for when it does.

One of the great blessings of my dotage is having found the woman that shares my home and life.  I met Contrary quite literally in the streets during the height of Occupy.  Casual conversation developed into a friendship that then exploded into something quite unexpected.  Had anyone told me that I would be getting married after decades of living as a single man, I would have doubled down on that action and covered all I could get.  Well. Surprise, surprise. I now live with my best friend, confidant and a veritable Scheherazade, a wellspring of both stories and common fucking sense.

As a child, my grandmother had ice delivered by horsedrawn dray, and lived to see man land on the moon and the end of the Soviet Union. Considering my own lifetime, in which cheap energy draws to a close, I can see our current mode of living will not survive our generation. We have been reduced to a “precariat,” a term used by that servant of hell Alan Greenspan.  Prospects for our young people of gone from bad to worse.  Our grandchildren will shake their heads in disbelief when they hear stories about the way their parents used to live.  When the dollar loses reserve status, the American lifestyle will be reduced to that of the average Croatian today; couple that with the significant and increasing likelihoods of environmental collapse, water shortages or nuke plant meltdowns, and the prospects darken even more. The good news is that the holders of real wealth, those who own property, metals, real assets will survive substantially intact. The only people who will suffer are those who are paid in, save or spend dollars, and who piss away their earnings on luxuries like food, rent, heat, and medicines.

So near the end of it all, it looks as if we’re at the end of it all. Makes a fellow wistful. What matters is that we make such common cause as we can, treat one another as well as we are able, and greet uncertainty with grace and dignity.  And be grateful that that bell has not yet tolled, and that the grave has not yet opened for that dirt nap.


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with his new bride Contrary in a triumph of hope over experience, and is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.

Net Neutrality Redux

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Photograph by Mark Wilson — Getty Images

Photograph by Mark Wilson — Getty Images

 

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on March 22, 2015

“…In theory, “Net Neutrality” sounds great. As I understand it, the idea here is that everybody, from Individual Doomers like me to big Content Distributors like Netflix are all on the same playing field, all with equal opportunity for bandwidth… to distribute your content on the net. While certainly there are a lot of issues as far as Political Spin is concerned and Da Goobermint would like to Muzzle annoying websites like the Diner, the real underlying battle here is as usual, all about the MONEY.”

–Reverse Engineer, March 4, 2015


As it is ever, and always.  Several weeks ago my friend and colleague RE  composed a Rant on net neutrality, from which the above quote is taken.  Several weeks later, the dust has begun to settle, and we have a better idea of what the FCC ruling means.  Lawsuits plus the beginning of the Telecom Lawyers Full Employment Act of 2015.

Who doesn’t like the idea of a unfettered internet? The FCC finally got assertive in protecting the open web, which we agitators feel flush with victory. The idea that the Internet should be operated like a public road carrying all traffic ,with no discrimination against and no favor towards any traveler, seems unarguable. But what truly frosts the ISPs and big telecom is the notion that the Internet is a “public good,” and thus should be regulated like other public utilities, like electricity, gas or water. That, and the notion that ISPs can’t sell faster access to businesses willing to pay, which they argue stifles “innovation and legitimate commercial activity. Should a hospital system not be able to pay a fee in order to provide top tier medical information at a distance that might save lives? Right now that data competes for space with Uncle Dirty’s hot porn downloads.

So what did the FCC ruling actually state?  Shelly Palmer is an industry analyst who publishes a daily newsletter and is a pretty keen observer of technology trends.  Here’s his assessment:

The Noble Idea

  • No blocking. If a consumer requests access to a website or service, and the content is legal, your ISP should not be permitted to block it. That way, every player — not just those commercially affiliated with an ISP — gets a fair shot at your business.
  • No throttling. Nor should ISPs be able to intentionally slow down some content or speed up others — through a process often called “throttling” — based on the type of service or your ISP’s preferences.
  • Increased transparency. The connection between consumers and ISPs — the so-called “last mile” — is not the only place some sites might get special treatment. So, I am also asking the FCC to make full use of the transparency authorities the court recently upheld, and if necessary to apply net neutrality rules to points of interconnection between the ISP and the rest of the Internet.
  • No paid prioritization. Simply put: No service should be stuck in a “slow lane” because it does not pay a fee. That kind of gatekeeping would undermine the level playing field essential to the Internet’s growth.

Cometh the promised lawsuits.  It may well be that one of the reasons that ISPs so loathe Title II regulation is an implication tied to the potential “last mile” requirements. See below.

But before that, Shelly Palmer puts on his sorting hat to declare winners and losers:

Winners

President Obama and Net Neutrality Activists.  Philosophically, this group is looking for a government regulated “free and open Internet.”  

Netflix and every other content provider – the goal of this regulation is to ensure that Comcast does not favor delivery of its own content over competitive content such as Netflix. 

Municipally Owned Broadband Systems, residents of those municipalities, specifically the good people of North Carolina and Tennessee.  As it turns out, ISPs and cable companies in these states have been using arcane regulations to prevent certain municipalities from building their own broadband networks.  While this could have been dealt with without regulating all ISPs in the US, Title II takes care of it nicely.

Amazon, Dropbox, Ebay, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Microsoft, Reddit, Tumblr, Twitter, Vonage Holdings Corp., Yahoo! Inc, and about 150 other companies that signed this letter in favor of Net Neutrality.  Less friction for consumers means better business for big tech.  

Lawyers, especially attorneys for… well, just about everybody involved.

Losers 

Big ISPs and wireless carriers such as Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, etc.  The bigger you are, the unhappier this makes you.

Alcatel-Lucent, Broadcom, Cisco, Corning, Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Nokia Solutions and Networks, Panasonic Corporation of North America, Qualcomm and 50+ other tech companies who signed this letter against Title II.

As noted, most Telecoms have come out opposed to Title II– and it goes beyond Verizon’s “morse code” snark.

Verizon’s snarky press release

 

In case you missed it, in the wake of the FCC ruling, Verizon released a vituperative dissent. Spitting mad, Verizon dated its press release 1934 (the year the Communications Act was passed) to make the point that the FCC was taking us back in time.

Verizon was intent on making the point that Title II regs are a “net loss for innovation and consumers.”  Of course, this is the same Verizon who has fulsomely used Title II to its benefit, both as a carrier for wireline telephone and mobile voice networks, and to help build its fiber network, which carries the FiOS bundle phone, TV, and Internet service. (Which, by the way, tends to be installed only in high-value neighborhoods.) And yes indeed, the very same Verizon that in 2012 claimed that net neutrality violates its First and Fifth Amendment rights.

So pardon us if we are largely unmoved by Verizon having a big hot sad over the “trampling” of its “rights.” And pardon us if we find ourselves a wee bit suspicious that “innovation” translates to new and innovative ways to separate J6P from his hard earned FRNs, by metering favored (meaning baksheesh-paying) content and shunting alt-news blogs like your favorite Doomstead tipsheet off to digital Siberia.


The more I look into this the more complicated the issue gets, and depending upon the way you squint, in some ways it’s not the usual Manichean view of Big Telecom versus the peasants. Broadband providers have a need to parse their data streams and continue to optimize for efficiencies. As long as this doesn’t affect the end user, no problem, right?  But “net neutrality” is not likely to prove to be enough by itself. The experience of most of us with our internet provision is that it is both slow and shitty. Making it otherwise comes down to investment in “last mile” physical plant, investment which telecoms are loath to make. (See below.)

As we said, this gets complicated. Simplification or comparison by analogy does little to promote understanding of complicated underlying technical  issues. (For a good analysis, see The net neutrality debate and underlying dynamics: Research perspectives which provides a clear and unbiased view.) Verizon and other ISPs have an absolute need to do “reasonable network management” to keep data and content flowing in the most efficient way possible. It’s just good business. Tech companies like ISPs are always parsing bandwidth in the hopes of reclaiming and reusing it. Yet what the ISPs really want is

to have more control over traffic and be able to create faster Internet lanes. Some companies assert that net neutrality requirements are unconstitutional, and their elimination will create more business opportunities. Supporters of the network neutrality principle disagree.

Yet business does not enhance its case by acting as “toll takers,” in the words of Tim Berners-Lee.  Alan Murray, editor of Fortune magazine puts it thus:

But as an economic matter, I don’t see why broadband providers should be denied the pricing flexibility allowed airlines or Uber or others. While the government has fair reason to worry about the duopoly that dominates broadband service to homes, rapidly expanding wireless services—not to mention efforts like Google’s to provide broadband by hot-air balloons—suggest this is still fertile ground for innovation. Treating broadband providers as dumb pipes, of the sort contemplated by lawmakers when they regulated telecommunications more than 80 years ago, could throttle that innovation.

Our cynicism derives from the fact that so often, “innovation”  translates directly to the ability to innovate ways to separate users from cash.


Is the Internet a public good?  The Internet has become indispensable to public life, having arguably replaced  the mail man, phone company, TV tuner, record/CD player, catalog, book store, fax machine, DVD player, Maxim subscription,  et al. (We’ve already seen how the modifier “public” has roused the worst and least from their cages– more below.) The FCC Title II decision represents a defense of the very notion of a “public good” much out of character from these deregulatory times. Since the days of St. Reagan, the privatizers have been out in force seizing parts of the public infrastructure and selling them off for parts, in the absence of the ability to otherwise turn sufficient profit to slake the thirst of the sacred shareholders.  Therefore, any assertion of  “public” anything is anathema to the lickspittle servants of the 1%, who have been busy indeed.  It didn’t take long for this creature to come scuttling out from under her rock:

Republicans’ “Internet Freedom Act” would wipe out net neutrality: Internet providers need the freedom to block and throttle Internet traffic.

US Politicians are quite a bargain these days, and can be had for a song. $80,000 buys Telecom giants a bill that will allow them to decide what you can see on the internet.

US Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) this week filed legislation she calls the “Internet Freedom Act” to overturn the Federal Communications Commission’s new network neutrality rules.

The FCC’s neutrality rules prohibit Internet service providers from blocking or throttling Internet traffic, prohibit prioritization of traffic in exchange for payment, and require the ISPs to disclose network management practices.

Rules anathema to your ISP.

These rules “shall have no force or effect, and the Commission may not reissue such rule in substantially the same form, or issue a new rule that is substantially the same as such rule, unless the reissued or new rule is specifically authorized by a law enacted after the date of the enactment of this Act,” the Internet Freedom Act states.

The legislation has 31 Republican cosponsors.

The following is one of the most dishonest statements made by any public official, at any time, in the post-Orwell period, made by one of the industry’s hired lackeys:

“Once the federal government establishes a foothold into managing how Internet service providers run their networks they will essentially be deciding which content goes first, second, third, or not at all,” Blackburn said in an announcement yesterday. “My legislation will put the brakes on this FCC overreach and protect our innovators from these job-killing regulations.”

In the latest election cycle, Blackburn received $25,000 from an AT&T political action committee (PAC), $20,000 from a Comcast PAC, $20,000 from a cable industry association PAC, and $15,000 from a Verizon PAC,according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

One marvels that she peddled herself so cheaply. But a good bargain for the industry.


Well in spite of all this back and forth, my internet is going to get better with unrestrained access guaranteed by Title II, yes?

Not so fast, Sparky.

Why your internet is so shitty?

Adam Clark Estes penned this remarkable piece which describes the plumbing of the internet in as clear and precise prose as I’ve enver seen. First he makes this statement which is probably shared by many of us:

You may have heard that the internet is winning: net neutrality was saved, broadband was redefined to encourage higher speeds, and the dreaded Comcast-Time Warner Cable megamerger potentially thwarted. But the harsh reality is that America’s internet is still fundamentally broken, and there’s no easy fix.

Estes makes the point that “in order to comprehend just how broken internet service is, you first have to understand how the physical infrastructure of the internet works,” which most of us would just as soon avoid, lest our hair burst into flames. Yet fear not, you’re in the hands of a sure-footed guide.

Former Gizmodo contributor Andrew Blum described the underlying infrastructure wonderfully his book about the physical heart of the internet, Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet:

In the basest terms, the internet is made of pulses of light. Those pulses might seem miraculous, but they’re not magic. They are produced by powerful lasers contained in steel boxes housed (predominantly) in unmarked buildings. The lasers exist. The boxes exist. The internet exists…

He explains the Tier 1 and Tier 2 parts of the internet, which I will not. Enjoy his splendidly written article, which you should bookmark. Suffice it to say that the internet rides on light as your online version of Gentleman’s Bathroom Companion makes its way from Bangkok to Boston. It’s when it gets to the “last mile,” into your home and onto your tablet, that things get creaky:

Most of America’s telecommunications infrastructure relies on outdated technology, and it runs over the same copper cables invented by Alexander Graham Bell over 100 years ago. This copper infrastructure—made up of “twisted pair” and coaxial cables—was originally designed to carry telephone and video services. The internet wasn’t built to handle streaming video or audio.

When your streaming video reaches that troubled last mile of copper, those packets will slam on their brakes as they transition from fiber optic cables to copper coaxial cables. Copper can only carry so much bandwidth, far less than what the modern internet demands. Only fiber optic cables, thick twists of ultra-thin glass or plastic filaments that allow data to travel at the speed of light, can handle that bandwidth. They’re also both easier to maintain and more secure than copper.

As consumers demand more bandwidth for things like streaming HD movies, carriers must augment their networks—upgrade hardware, lay more fiber, hire more engineers, etc.—to keep traffic moving freely between them. But that costs big money—like, billions of dollars in some cases. Imagine the cost of swapping out the coaxial cables in every American home with fiber optic cables. It’s thousands of dollars per mile according to some government records.

And here’s the kicker. The last mile infrastructure is controlled by an oligarchy—three big cable companies: Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon. You know this well. One in three Americans only have one choice for broadband service; most of the others only have two internet providers to choose from.

And Big Telecom likes it that way. Without competition, there’s no incentive for internet providers to improve last-mile infrastructure. The obsolete and already-paid for infrastructure of Big Telecom creates a last mile bottleneck, for which your ISP can charge you exorbitant prices for sub-par service. Part of Big Telecom’s dismay at the FCC’s Title II ruling  is, perhaps, against the possibility that some future interpretation of the “public good” will oblige them to fix the shitty “last mile.” The horror… the horror. Thus they all plan to sue the FCC over Title II to defend their monopoly, and trot out hired gunsels like Blackburn and Teddy Cruz to call it, “Obamacare for the Internet.”

Look for telecom apologists to argue that the industry ought not put another dollar into anything other than maintaining than current infrastructure, and should begin design and build a new and better network with a new business model that would bypass the FCC.  Look for those quite content with having non-elected jurists create new law through Supreme Court rulings to carp that  that “Net Neutrality will Kill the Web with Government Regulation through the Non Elected Regulatory Body known as the FCC.”

With apologies to H. Rap Brown, like violence, hypocrisy is as American as cherry pie.


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with his new bride Contrary in a triumph of hope over experience, and is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.

This Week in Doom, March 1, 2015

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‘The real danger in allowing practices like Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib is the fact that they always creep into other aspects,’ criminologist Tracy Siska told the Guardian. Photograph: Chandler West/Guardian

‘The real danger in allowing practices like Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib is the fact that they always creep into other aspects,’ criminologist Tracy Siska told the Guardian. Photograph: Chandler West/Guardian

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on March 1, 2015

In 1951, a young William F. Buckley, Jr. articulated a strategy for opposing the consensus that supported New Deal policies. Buckley’s “God and Man at Yale: The Superstitions of ‘Academic Freedom’” was a sophomoric diatribe by the Catholic son of a wealthy oil magnate, published by the small right-wing Regnery Press. In it, Buckley rejected the principles that had enabled social progress for centuries and laid out a mind-boggling premise: The Enlightenment, the intellectual basis of Western Civilization, was wrong.

That …thinkers must stand firm on what he called a new “value orthodoxy” that indoctrinated people to understand that Christianity and economic individualism were absolute truths. Maintaining that faith in reasoned debate was a worse “superstition” than the Enlightenment had set out to replace, Buckley launched an intellectual war to replace the principle of academic inquiry with a Christian and individualist ideology.”

― Heather Cox Richardson, in Salon


The watchword for today is “peak duplicity.” Everywhere we turn for news or information, we encounter lies and deception. And as we see above quote, it has an extensive pedigree.

It is become axiomatic among left and right that the “lame-stream media” is less than useless, stenographers to power and jammed full of eager, freshfaced sucklings only too eager to oblige their CIA – vetted and planted editors in the career-building enterprise of sticking a shiv in truth’s back.  And even alternative sites are often rife with disinformation; some seem to exist solely to seed confusion, the better to convince skeptics that rejection of the received wisdom is the stuff of nutcases.

This inability to trust traditional sources of information is made even more critical by the decades-long right-wing assault on science, reasoned debate, and the truth.  Recall the recent flap that arose when Scott Walker, the Koch brothers’ viceroy in Wisconsin, tucked a phrase into a budget bill that would change the mission statement of the University of Wisconsin from “Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth, ” to “meet the state’s workforce needs.” Scotty backtracked in the face of the resulting shitstorm and ill-timed national attention, what with an upcoming beauty contest at CPAC on his schedule. Walker claimed the new language was a “drafting error.”

This was no “drafting error,” and no mistake. As a recent article in Salon makes clear,  nothing offends the sensibilities of the conservative brain trust more than reasoned debate. That’s why they have mounted a war against the scientific method, reasoned debate, and the facts for the past 40+ years.

For two generations, Movement Conservatives have subverted American politics, with increasing success, by explicitly rejecting the principle of open debate based in reasoned argument. They have refused to engage with facts and instead simply demonized anyone who disagrees with their ideology. This is an astonishing position. It is an attack on the Enlightenment principles that gave rise to Western civilization.

Make no mistake: the attack is deliberate.

The ideals of rationality that arose in the wake of the Enlightenment, itself a reaction to the excesses and deprivations of the 30 years war in Europe, papal interference in politics, and the Holy Office (otherwise known as the Inquisition) revolutionized science, culture and politics, and gave rise to the modern world.  Movement conservatism has no use for any of that. Starting in the 50s with Buckley, and continuing in a line running through  McCarthy, Goldwater, Reagan, and too many Bushes,  not to mention the current bag of misfits currently found on the floor of the House of Representatives but better suited to a carnival tent,  the war on reason has been relentless. Facts, evidence, and reason conspire to argue for protection of workers, elevation of the common good, and regulation of industry, each anathema to business owners. Hence the big lie as we encounter it today, reinforced by hundreds and hundreds of little lies.  Let’s consider this week’s most egregious offenders.


Paid Climate-Change Skeptic Even More Corrupt Than Previously Thought

Those who frequent the Diner Forum and other places where climate change deniers are active often come face-to-face with the truth of Upton Sinclair’s famous quote, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Many people in the extractive industries have a built in economic bias is to accepting the verdict of what most experts regard as settled science,  but then our conservative friends have had six years of continuous difficulty accepting the results of the last two presidential elections.

It comes as no surprise that the extractive industries have stood up their own policy and content shops to generate climate change denying reports, PowerPoint decks and other products of mischief.  You’d think they might be more deft at covering their tracks.

Ti-Hock “Willie” Soon, a favorite scientist of climate-change deniers for his theory attributing global warming to variations in the sun’s energy and not human activity, has accepted more than $1.2 million from the fossil-fuel industry in the last decade, the New York Times reports.

Soon’s corporate funding has been known for some time, but newly released documents, obtained by Greenpeace under the Freedom of Information Act, reveal just how close Soon is to the industry to which he lends his ostensibly objective support.

Corporate contributions, the Times reports, were pegged to specific papers: The documents show that Dr. Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as “deliverables” that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.

Soon, a researcher at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, received $335,000 from Exxon Mobil, $274,000 from the American Petroleum Institute, and $230,000 from the Charles G. Koch Foundation, the Guardian reports. The documents reportedly show that the Kochs and other donors used an anonymous trust to give Soon another $324,000.

Little surprise that when dirty deeds are done, Koch Brothers money is at the bottom of it.  Nearly $1 million of extractive industry money will buy a lot of “deliverables.”

Greenland ice melting at record speed

Meanwhile,  as the climate change deniers are stacking up deliverables, and those who conflate climate change with winter weather are saying, in effect, “climate change can’t be happening, because it’s cold where I am,”  (the moral equivalent of denying world hunger because I have food in my refrigerator) Greenland ice continues melting at record speed.

Scientists from the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) in Bremerhaven mapping elevation changes of Greenlandic and Antarctic glaciers have found ice sheets are melting at record pace. Per year, the ice sheets dump some 500 cubic kilometers of ice into the oceans. The researchers say that compares to an ice sheet that’s 600 meters (1970 feet) thick and covers an area as big as the German city of Hamburg – or the Southeast Asian nation of Singapore.

The research team headed by Veit Helm used around two years’ worth of data from the ESA CryoSat-2 satellite to create digital elevation models of Greenland and Antarctica. 

Elevation maps of Greenland and Antarctica

Compared to data which was collected in 2009, the loss of mass from the Greenland ice sheet has doubled. The rate of ice discharge from the West Antarctic ice sheet tripled during the same period.

85 percent of Greenland is covered with ice – melting ice sheets contribute to rising sea levels

“If you combine the two, they are thinning at a rate of 500 cubic kilometers per year. That is the highest rate observed since altimetry satellite records began about 20 years ago,” said glaciologist Angelika Humbert, who co-authored the AWI study.

So if you “believe that faith in reasoned debate is a worse ‘superstition’ than the Enlightenment replaced,” there’s clearly nothing for you to see here. Carry on, and know that because of you, 30 to 40 percent of the area where humanity lives will be submerged by rising oceans within the next hundred years.

And I’ll see you in hell.



Illegal to be homeless’ in growing number of cities

It is not just the shock troops of an intellectual elite who lie to us, or a lazy and corrupt media. We lie to ourselves. We assert that we are a “Christian nation,” yet at the federal, state, as especially the local level, we enact policies that could not be less Christlike than if worship of Mammon were enacted by executive fiat.

Jesus is said to have uttered, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40)

We insist that we are decent people; good neighbors; good and devoted friends;  honorable employees.  We content ourselves with comfortable myths about ourselves, yet we enact policies that if applied to us would result in instant and implacable outrage.

Despite a lack of affordable housing and emergency shelter, many of these communities are implementing laws that ban homeless residents from sitting or lying down in public, loitering, sleeping in vehicles, and begging for money or food.

“More cities are choosing to turn the necessary conduct of homeless people into criminal activity,” said Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty (NLCHP). The law center has tracked homelessness criminalization laws in 187 cities small and large since 2011.

During that time, city-wide bans on camping in public — which can include sleeping outside on the streets or in a tent — have increased 60%. The number of cities with laws prohibiting or restricting people from sitting or lying down in public has jumped by 43%, and bans on sleeping in vehicles have surged 119%. Meanwhile, laws prohibiting people from begging in public and loitering have climbed more than 20%.

And these laws are popping up even when people have few other options for survival, the NLCHP argues. In Santa Cruz, Calif., for example, sleeping in vehicles and camping, sitting or lying down in public, is criminalized — even though a local survey found that 83% of homeless people don’t have access to housing or shelter.

An article at Alternet describes laws meant to punish the homeless. “Beginning in the 1980s when the federal government slashed the affordable housing budget, cities have enacted thousands of laws to criminalize basic human needs such as resting, sleeping, standing, and sitting, as well as acts like panhandling and food sharing.”

In a society when politics equals racketeering, the only crime is to be poor, so we punish the most vulnerable among us?

WRAP (the Western Regional Advocacy Project, a network of homeless advocacy groups on the West Coast) found in an earlier report that between 1979 and 1983, federally funded affordable housing was cut by approximately $50 billion, an amount that has never been fully restored. With homelessness on the rise ever since, cities have resorted to criminalization to appease residents and businesses and to give the appearance of having solved the crisis.

“I grew up in San Diego where there’s a huge homeless population,” (Marina, a researcher for the project) Fisher said. “People would complain all the time to the police and government about, ‘I went downtown and there was a bunch of homeless people.’ So I think cities feel a lot of pressure to do something. It seems easier to say that you’re doing something by passing a law than investing millions of dollars in housing or counseling programs or retraining your police force to work differently. It’s shortsighted. And I think one of their hopes has been, that if they’re more restrictive than their neighbors, maybe they’ll push the homeless people out of their city and into neighboring cities, which at a state level doesn’t do anything; it’s counterproductive. But at a city level, it encourages a kind of race to the bottom.”

“Race to the bottom,” indeed.  It is at times like this that our thoughts turn to those least able to fend for themselves, at a time of bitter cold and hardship.  I live in a city in southeastern Virginia whose mayor famously proclaimed the objective “to end homelessness in Norfolk.”  One of our city’s more ballyhooed initiatives was to remove the benches in public parks, lest the homeless or poor be tempted to sit or lay down on them.  Overall, the city’s policy seems to be to send them across the river to Portsmouth, where they belong.

They were held incommunicado for much longer than I think should be permitted in this country – anywhere – but particularly given the strong constitutional rights afforded to people who are being charged with crimes,” said Sarah Gelsomino, the lawyer for Brian Jacob Church. Photograph: Phil Batta/Guardian

But my above question asked, “what kind of society are we?” Maybe THIS kind of society:

Chicago police detain Americans at abuse-laden ‘black site’

We seem to think that the evil done abroad in our name doesn’t really count, or doesn’t matter, or doesn’t really apply to us if we’re not aware of it.  Our foreign-policy has been hijacked by neocon fantasts who wish to set one group up against another in a stunning variety of foreign lands, arm both sides, then let them kill one another off so that we don’t have to. And we think that this cynical and depraved indifference to human life, coupled with drone warfare and other forms of “death from above” are excusable BAU as long as they result in obtaining OUR petroleum which happens to lie under THEIR sands.

Iraq proved a fertile proving ground for weaponry and techniques that have been brought home. We made much note of the sonic cannons, heat rays and other “nonlethal” means used for “crowd control,”  but this week made note of the fact that Guantánamo and Abu Ghraib have come home as well. In remarkable reporting, The Guardian broke the story of what is alleged as a “black site” in Chicago:

The Chicago police department operates an off-the-books interrogation compound, rendering Americans unable to be found by family or attorneys while locked inside what lawyers say is the domestic equivalent of a CIA black site.

Alleged police practices at Homan Square, according to those familiar with the facility who spoke out to the Guardian after its investigation into Chicago police abuse, include:

  • Keeping arrestees out of official booking databases.
  • Beating by police, resulting in head wounds.
  • Shackling for prolonged periods.
  • Denying attorneys access to the “secure” facility.
  • Holding people without legal counsel for between 12 and 24 hours, including people as young as 15.

At least one man was found unresponsive in a Homan Square “interview room” and later pronounced dead.

This is an article well worth reading. See the rest of the Guardian’s reporting on this, with updates here. For those who think that, in the words of the late Frank Zappa, “it can’t happen here,”  it already has.   For those who have found themselves in the streets protesting the policies of Empire and its associated costs, little here will surprise. The brutality shown to Occupy during many local police encounters is well-known.  But kidnapping, indefinite detention, and the like occur in large measure because we have become accustomed to denying the truth.   If we don’t vote, if we accept repressive measures like the National Defense Authorization Act without so much as a bleat of complaint, we ought not be surprised when Chicago law enforcement turns into the Argentine junta.

As noted above, our politics depends in large measure on denying the truth,  and turning logic and reason on their head. And it has happened because we always prefer a comforting fiction to the unpleasant truth. It’s Morning in America™…


 

banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with his new bride Contrary in a triumph of hope over experience, and is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.

This Week In Doom February 22, 2015

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Image by Ian Ference Barcroft Media

Image by Ian Ference Barcroft Media

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on February 22, 2015

“The viruses that cause smallpox, influenza, hepatitis, measles, encephalitis, and viral pneumonia; the bacteria that cause tuberculosis, diphtheria, cholera, typhus, scarlet fever, and bacterial meningitis—by a quirk of evolutionary history, all were unknown in the Western Hemisphere.”

“In 1491 the Inka ruled the greatest empire on earth. Bigger than Ming Dynasty China, bigger than Ivan the Great’s expanding Russia, bigger than Songhay in the Sahel or powerful Great Zimbabwe in West Africa, bigger than the cresting Ottoman Empire… bigger by far than any European state, the Inka dominion extended over a staggering thirty-two degrees of latitude—as if a single power held sway from St. Petersburg to Cairo.”
― Charles C. Mann
 

 

Charles Mann’s landmark, “1491:New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus”  advances the thesis that the Americas were fairly teeming with native peoples prior to their “discovery” by Columbus and other early explorers. This thesis is supported in part by testimony from early explorers. Traveling up the Mississippi in 1540, De Soto reported teeming cities filled with Native Americans. The Spanish also reported large urban populations upon their first contact with Aztecs and Incas. When LaSalle traveled up the Mississippi 140 years later, he and his party encountered open and desolate spaces, virtually depopulated of native peoples.

Mann advances the theory that disease killed as many as 19 of 20 natives in the Americas, most of whom never laid eyes on a white man. (He lays the blame in large measure on the swine that the Spanish brought along with them as part of their mobile commissary.) The Inca Empire collapsed in part because by the time Pizarro arrived, smallpox and other epidemics had already swept through cities, cutting a wide swath though the natives’ lack of immunity to European diseases.

Mann references the work of historian Henry Dobyns:”The Inca were not defeated by steel and horses, but by disease and factionalism.”  Internecine warfare among native tribes also played a factor in the collapse of native societies, as the Spaniards were able to play one faction off against another.  “Divide and rule” was a lesson well learned from their Roman forebears.

In his Pulitzer prize-winning book  “Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies,” Jared Diamond suggests that the early domestication of wild plants and animals among disparate Stone Age peoples in the Fertile Crescent, China, Central America and the Andes conferred a head start on the peoples of those regions, which translated directly to the development of “surplus” and its management.

In a sentence, Diamond’s thesis is thus: “farm-based societies conquered populations of other areas and maintained dominance, despite sometimes being vastly out-numbered – superior weapons provided immediate military superiority (guns); Eurasian diseases weakened and reduced local populations, who had no immunity, making it easier to maintain control over them (germs); and durable means of transport enabled imperialism (steel).”

Societies must move beyond the hunter gatherer stage to develop surplus food, and thus provide the capacity to develop division of labor, which in turn led to writing, technology, societal organization, religion and other forms of social coercion. Societies thus equipped were able to move and expand to the homelands of other, less advanced people and compete with an advantage.

And when these societies expanded, they brought their livestock and other disease vectors with them. Unlike malaria,  smallpox is geographically unlimited, and Europeans took it with them wherever they went. Over centuries, they also developed the means by which to cure many of these diseases. Only now are we seeing that cycle, like so many, begin to unwind.

Such thoughts bubble up unbidden as we peruse the headlines emerging  from the swamps mainstream media like  swamp gas,  and we find a recrudescence of disease.  This goes beyond the outbreak of measles as reported last week,  a disease eradicated in the US in 2000, but now back by popular demand of the anti-vaxxer crowd. The return of measles is the self-inflicted wound of a society rooted in the full-bore embrace of ignorance and superstition.  No, this week it’s the superbug,  a gift likely purchased by the over prescription and overuse of antibiotics, and which leaves us as helpless as peasants in the face of the Black Death. So with no further preamble, it’s time to offer up a hearty call of, “Bring out your Dead!”  and let the week’s summary began. Cue the ritual chanting and the rabbit’s feet.

 


Los Angeles hospital warns 179 patients possibly exposed to ‘superbug’

One form of CRE bacteria. CRE bacteria is blamed for 600 deaths each year, and can withstand treatment from virtually every type of antibiotic. (AP Photo/CDC)

 

This report in from LA.  Since MRSA wasn’t  unmanageable enough,  this new drug-resistant superbug  both baffles observers and threatens to have healthcare practitioners shaking their last medicine stick as treatment.

A large Los Angeles teaching hospital has told scores of patients they may have been exposed to a drug-resistant bacterial “superbug” during endoscopy procedures that infected seven patients and contributed to two deaths.

More than 170 patients who may have been infected by the carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, are being offered home testing kits that would be analyzed by the University of California at Los Angeles hospital system, UCLA officials said.

It is difficult to believe that in this day and age, we still have not found an appropriate way to sterilize even harder to clean parts on endoscopes, but there you are. No one who ever consults with the surgeon as to the best course of action will be surprised when he recommends surgery.  Or more tests. So when the Public Health functionaries speak, keep that in mind:

“It’s important to emphasize: This particular outbreak of CRE is not a threat to the health of the public in Los Angeles County,” said Benjamin Schwartz, deputy chief of the acute communicable disease control program at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

That’s right, citizens, nothing to see here, and move along. There’s a good fellow. Huffpo added this perspective:

For a person to be infected, CRE germs must enter the body, typically through contact with an infected person’s wounds or feces. However, as is suspected in the UCLA exposure, the bacteria can also be passed via medical devices that enter the body. The same type of medical device has been implicated in other CRE exposures, according to UCLA. The hospital says it is now “utilizing a decontamination process that goes above and beyond manufacturer and national standards.”

Deeply reassuring.  For now, it would appear that if your plans do not include swallowing an endoscope at the appropriately named Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, you are at low risk for infection.

Currently, the best measures to take are preventive. Hospitals and patients alike should practice careful hand-washing and disinfecting of hospital rooms and medical equipment, and staff may consider keeping patients with CRE infections from sharing rooms with others. The CDC also urges patients and medical professionals to avoid unnecessary prescriptions and use of antibiotics.

Good luck “avoiding unnecessary prescriptions and use of antibiotics” if you are a pediatrician facing the parent of a child with a runny nose. Meanwhile, the prevalence of “superbugs” is on the rise, and it’s not all from our failure to wash hands.

Threat of Deadly Pathogens on the Rise Thanks to Climate Change

A new study released this week and published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B warns that a warming planet and rapidly changing climate are increasing the appearance of infectious diseases like Ebola.

According to Daniel Brooks, one of the researchers on the study, “It’s not that there’s going to be one ‘Andromeda Strain’ that will wipe everybody out on the planet. There are going to be a lot of localized outbreaks putting pressure on medical and veterinary health systems. It will be the death of a thousand cuts.”

And, to make matters even worse, there’s also the concern of unknown infectious diseases popping up across the globe thanks to climate change.

Last year, scientists were able to successfully “revive” a virus that had been trapped in the Siberian tundra for tens of thousands of years According to the scientists, the virus, now known as Pithovirus sibericum, was lying dormant in the Siberian tundra for around 30,000 years.

But, after thawing the virus out of the ice, the scientists discovered that it hadn’t lost its touch after its 30,000 year nap.

In fact, soon after the virus was thawed, it infected countless single-cell organisms.

Now, just imagine if the thawing of Pithovirus sibericum hadn’t happened in a controlled laboratory, but instead happened in the wilderness of Siberia. 

If I were a betting man, as the planet warms I would wager on more rather than fewer And as the ice melts, and those new-to-us pathogens get released, we could see new epidemics for which we are utterly unprepared.  But I’m confident that everything will be just fine here,  citizen, as long as you wash your hands and shake your rabbit’s foot.


Hot Spots

 The Islamic state seems intent upon declaring itself the middle east distributor for ninth century savagery,  with the recent spate of beheadings of Egyptian Copts. Retaliatory attacks have been answered with suicide attacks. See: IS claimes suicide attacks that kill 42

And now the Islamic State’s Libyan franchise has threatened an assault upon Rome itself.  We can’t wait to see the Islamic State navy in action.

 

With Ukraine’s army in tatters, and the US/UK considering yet another in a futile round of sanctions on Russia, Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister says they are “preparing for full scale war with Russia. ”  This comes in the wake of the military catastrophe that befell the NATO-backed army in eastern Ukraine, at Debaltsevo.

Last week, Washington suffered its greatest military defeat in more than a decade when Ukraine’s US-backed army was soundly routed in the major railway hub of Debaltsevo. Roughly, 8,000 Ukrainian regulars along with untold numbers of tanks and armored units were surrounded in w Andhat-came-to-be-known-as “the cauldron.”  The army of the Donetsk Peoples Republic led by DPR commander  Alexander Zakharchenko, encircled the invading army and gradually tightened the cordon, eventually killing or capturing most of the troops within the pocket. The Ukrainian Armed Forces suffered major casualties ranging between  3,000 to 3,500 while a vast amount of lethal military hardware was left behind.

According to Zakharchenko, “The amount of equipment Ukrainian units have lost here is beyond description.”

As Mike Whitney reports, this military catastrophe  is the responsibility of Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko, who may not survive the next putsch.

The Ukrainian President is responsible for the massacre at Debaltsevo.  He was fully aware that his army faced encirclement but ordered them to remain in order to satisfy powerful right-wing elements in his government. The disaster is even more terrible due to the fact that it was entirely avoidable and achieved no strategic purpose at all. Extreme hubris frequently impacts outcomes on the battlefield. This was the case at Debaltsevo.

The debacle ensures that the bumbling president’s days are numbered.

The “far-right nationalists” who occupy the Security Services that Poroshenko tried to appease will insist on his ouster. Comes another Maidan, and a second Ukrainian coup in less than a year, testament to the failings of neocon US foreign policy. This from The Vineyard of the Saker:

“Looks like the Nazi death squads are on the march again, this time they are looking at Kiev.  Thirteen death-squad (aka “volunteer battalion”) leaders have now declared that they are forming their own military command under the command of the notorious Semen Semenchenko. Officially, they are not in any way opposed to the current regime, so said Semenchenko, but in reality their rank and file members are pretty clear about what they want to do: organize a third Maidan and toss out Poroshenko.

What makes these 21st century version of the SA so dangerous for Poroshenko it that he, unlike Hitler, does not have a 21st century version of the SS to eliminate them all overnight.  In fact, according to many reports the entire southern part of the rump-Ukraine is now “Kolomoiski-land” fully under the control of the oligarch who finances these death-squads.  Add to this the fact that most of the Rada is composed of the very same battalion commanders and assorted Nazi freaks, and you will why Poroshenko is now very much in danger……

The sad reality is that there is simply nobody in the Ukraine capable of disarming these so-called “volunteer battalions”.  There are now thousands of uniformed Nazi freaks roaming around with guns who can now impose their law of the jungle on everybody.  It sure looks like the future of Banderastan will be something like a mix of Somalia and Mad Max – a failed state, a comprehensively destroyed economy, a collapsed social order and the law of armed gangs of thugs.” 

And now we’re told that Ukraine is”Preparing For Full-Scale War” With Russia, Demands The West Supply Lethal Weapons.  Because of the losses at Debaltsevo, Kiev need more arms. If only the West will “stiffen their spines” a bit,  we are told, the Banderites will be able to defeat the Russians. Let’s review the bidding: in one year an entire country has been destroyed, thousands murdered and millions left with nothing. The Ukraine is as failed a state as Somalia, having met all conditions of Orlov’s “five stages of collapse.” Kiev is in the hands of madmen advised by madmen, and the only alternative is worse. The obvious solution? More arms…


Quick Takes

12 likely causes of the Apocalypse, as seen by scientists 

Risk of American ‘megadroughts’ for decades, NASA warns

 GMOs Invade Fruit Industry: Apples, Pears, Cherries and Peaches to All Become Unlabeled GMO

Pat Robertson to ‘abhorrent’ moms: ‘Covens’ use your Facebook ultrasounds to curse ‘unborn babies’

The Montana Legislature is now controlled by some far-right loons. You won’t believe what they’re trying to pass

Latest crimes against humanity from the Zionist Apartheid State

Dept. of When You’re in a Hole, Stop Digging: How can Rudy Giuliani make his latest mess much worse? On second thought, why bother?


So there’s your week in disease, warfare, cupidity and superstition.  Death peeks around every corner: whether from unknown bugs and viruses popping up from global warming, chaotic tinderboxes in world at war, Pat Robertson’s bad comb over  or Tea Party stupidity, who can tell?  if I were you, I’d stock up on rabbits’ feet.

*** 

banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective on this site, and quit barking and got off the porch long enough to be active in the Occupy movement. He shares a home in Southeastern Virginia with his new bride Contrary in a triumph of hope over experience, and is grateful that he is not yet taking a dirt nap.

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