Surly

Making Nazis Afraid Again


gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on October 17, 2017

“There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part…  And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels…upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop! ”

 ― Mario Savio, 1964  

 


They say that history runs in cycles. If so, it's fascism's turn at the top of the wheel after an 80-year absence. And in the same way that fascism in the 1930s elicited a counter-reaction, it elicits one today in the form of antifa.

In reports of the recent Catelan bid for independence, one hears echoes of an 80 year old conflict. Catalonia was once a key anarchist/republican hub during the Spanish Civil War, and a locus of anti-Franco sentiment. (For an analysis of the current state of things in Catalonia, see Pepe Escobar here.)

Images of the Catelan election, of bully cops assaulting women, then firefighters protecting voters, remind how Franco pressed fascism on Spain 80 years ago. With nationalism and nativism at high tide, we watch citronella Nazis march with tiki torches in Charlottesville, and remember Father Coughlin and the "America Firsters" of the 1930s. The New Fascism is emboldened by the most baldly authoritarian "president" ever, bolstered by a cabinet full of white supremacists and Goldman Sachs vampires.

No one should be surprised: it's been decades in coming.  Whether it's wealth transfer via  regressive ("trickle-down") economic policies, or via a tireless insistence on empire,  or bottomless spending on "defense," authoritarianism has marched into American life. All endorsed by fully a third of our fellow citizens. Never forget that even as Richard Fucking Nixon boarded the helicopter to eternal disgrace, he still had the backing of 24 per cent of the public.

The self-described "alt-right" is old swill sold in a new bottle. This dark streak of conservatism has been part of the American psyche ever since Nathaniel Bacon's uprising drove Governor Berkeley and his hangers-on to the swamps of Virginia's Eastern Shore. The current flavor pulls together neonazis, republiconfederates, evangelicals, skinheads, white separatists, nationalists, sovereign citizens, klansmen, culture warriors, Christian Identity fuckwits, anti-LGBTs, anti-immigrants, holocaust deniers and haters of all stripes into a fetid hellbroth. They are rebranded and hip, sporting Macklemore "Hitler Youth" fade haircuts, white polos, beige Dockers, and  carefully-crafted language, the better to shun the Nazi tag while hewing to the ideology.

When these people announce their gatherings, opponents gather themselves. Enter antifa. Antifa (short for antifascist or Anti-Fascist Action) can be defined as the confrontational response to fascist groups, rooted in militant left-wing and anarchist politics. I first become aware of antifa on Inauguration Day, when a masked activist punched white-supremacist leader Richard Spencer in the face, an act which spawned many memes and remixes. 

 

You don't sign up for Antifa at the local strip mall. The movement’s secrecy makes tracking its activities difficult, but antifa’s power is growing, as evidenced by social media posts from pearl-clutching right wingers whining and complaining about them. The young people who make up antifa remind me of the brave souls who comprised the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, who saw the threat of fascism early on and tried to stop it in the Spanish Civil War.   

Disclaimer: I have no personal experience with Antifa as a member or participant. At this point, I am sufficiently gimpy as to not be able to take part in any street action, and felt fortunate to limp along with Occupy. Many of the tactics of Antifa seem to have sprung from the anarchist or "black bloc" members of Occupy, who were among some of its most committed members.

Antifa traces its roots to the 1920s and ’30s, when militant leftists battled fascists in the streets of Germany, Italy, and Spain. In 1936, nationalist rebels under General Francisco Franco staged an uprising designed to topple the Spanish government.  The Spanish army split, some supporting the Republican (government side), but most supporting Franco.  Soon Spain was plunged into an open civil war, one that would rage for three years and ultimately lead to a Nationalist dictatorship under Franco.

The Abraham Lincoln Brigade were Americans who volunteered to fight the fascists in Spain. In an interview with James Fernandez, professor at New York University and member of the the board of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archive, Jeremy Scahill has some light on this little remembered episode of history still relevant today:

Fernandez: The horrors of World War II have totally eclipsed our memory of Spain. But in 1936, ’37, ’38, Spain was Syria, Spain was the place on the map where it looked like the future of the planet was being played out. And all thinking people were talking and thinking and worrying about Spain, in their literature and newsreels and radio broadcasts.

And there were vast communities of intensely mobilized folks that started mainly as pacifists they were, they were, “Against War and Fascism” was the organization and slogan of a lot of these folks up until ’36, let’s say, but once things evolved some more, they realized that the only way to put down fascism was to, in this case, they kind of put brackets around being against war, and actually taking the war to the fascists in Spain.

The volunteers that went is almost 3,000, we think 2,800 is our best guess now. And like I said, they came mostly from intensely mobilized communities all over the United States. A lot of them were immigrants or children of immigrants, most of them were from large cities, they were trade unionists, a lot of them were members of the Communist Party, the socialists, anarchists, but generally leftist folk who saw the menace of fascism and took the incredible step of trying to do something about it.

And they did. Many remember this period today through the lens of Ernest Hemingway's writing. For Whom the Bell Tolls is Hem's opus, set in 1937 with the Spanish Civil War in full swing. Robert Graves, a lantern-jawed Anglo Saxon, was not representative of the thousands who answered the call. Most were immigrants, active leftists, organized. A far cry from Hemingway's hero.

The Lincoln Brigade made up a small part of the International Brigades which included about 45,000 volunteers. Relatively speaking, the Americans were a drop in the bucket. Of the 2800 or so that served in Spain, almost 1/3 lost their lives.  Included were dozens of black Americans, many of whom saw in Spanish Nationalism a reflection of the Jim Crow racism they themselves had experienced in the US.  At a time of legal segregation in the US as a result of the Plessy decision forty years earlier, these black Americans found acceptance as comrades in arms in Spain.  

They engaged the fascists for several years, but the numbers (and war materiel from Germany) proved too difficult to resist. When the war ended with a Franco victory in 1939, Americans who had served in Spain were seen as radicals and troublemakers. The post WWII anti-communist sentiment led to a narrative erasure of these men and their sacrifice.So when elements of "antifa" erupt in response to fascist demonstrations, I take heart. Antifa gives me faith that the upcoming generation has grabbed the baton, and that the will to resist remains strong.

For those who want to read more about antifa, I recommend Natasha Lennard's magnificent article in The Nation here. It inspired the title of the article.

…the history of anti-fascism (antifa) is not one of presuming the good faith of state power. It is not one of asking. It is a history of direct and confrontational intervention—the sort of which is itself often not protected by a rights framework.

We are, to take some liberties with the words of Inglourious Basterds’ inimitable Lt. Aldo Raine, in the fightin’-Nazis business. Antifa is a promise to neo-Nazis and their bedfellows that we will confront them in the streets; we will expose them online and inform their place of employ. We are not asking venues to deny space to far-right events; we are vowing that all far-right events will be bombarded and besieged.

When I read that "Antifa is planning civil war on Nov.4, or "Antifa is planning to kill Christians," I smile, secure in the knowledge that what bullies fear most is the brave soul willing to stand up and call their bluff. Our next generation seems ready and willing. As I remain secure that the great arc of history bends towards justice.

Resist!


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. He lives in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary, and is working to be featured on an enemies list compiled by the administration of Dolt 45.

The Great Eclipse of 2017


gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Composite Eclipse August 21, 2017 Copyright Impact Photography 2017

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on August 27, 2017


"I've seen a total eclipse from every continent – including Antarctica. And it's been a wonderful way to see the world. The eclipses take you to really unusual, off-beat places that you might not normally plan a vacation to, but they're wonderful places to go."
–Fred Espenak​, Goddard Scientist Emeritus, and retired NASA astrophysicist
 


The Great Eclipse of 2017, the first total eclipse visible in the continental U.S. in over 38 years, first intruded upon my awareness toward the end of last year. 

It was only during the spring that my plans began to crystallize. Photography being both my avocation and a part-time job, it occurred to me that if I did not make a good faith effort to get inside the zone of totality with a camera, I would regret it for the rest of my days. What kind of real photographer would not try? The die was cast.

So how do you photograph the sun? You need a filter and a long lens, plus a tripod. I read articles to learn how.

You have to start with a solar filter. Even if 99% of the sun is covered by the moon, the remaining 1% is dangerous to view with the naked eye and can  damage eyes or cause blindness, no matter what Orange Twitler did.

There are several options, including cheap filter sheets. Full-aperture solar filters are preferred because the filter completely covers the front of the lens. Even though  expensive, I decided to suck it up and purchase a 77mm solar filter, an "ND100000," which refers to the neutral density filter factor in play. Welder's visor, indeed. It fit perfectly on my Nikkor 70-200mm lens.

Totality is the only time it is safe to look directly at the event. So when shooting an eclipse it is important to remember that at totality you must REMOVE the filter to make exposures of the sun's corona.

Yes, my lens was only a 200mm. The smart kids or those with deeper pockets recommend shooting at focal lengths from 900mm (for a Nikon DX camera) to 1400mm for an FX (full frame sensor) camera. Longer lenses with good optics are hellishly expense, and someone who weighs whether or not to drop $100 on a filter will clearly balk at a four-figure purchase that will likely get limited use in the future. I even weighed purchasing a Nikkor teleconverter at the time I ordered the solar glasses and filter, but Jefferson on the nickel in my pocket shrieked and clung desperately. Later, when I decided to pull the trigger, none were to be had, all on backorder. So the disk images I would gather would be small.

Thus equipped, we drive to South Carolina. I had hoped to catch Lucid Dreams and Gypsy Mama since we were at least in the same state, but they had relatives visiting and were not available. So we made our way to Fort Mill, SC, near where Contrary's son and family live.

I-85 south was being "improved,"  with traffic restricted to one lane in either direction. We had the opportunity to stand for several hours in this unmoving mess, and as we inched forward, we eventually learned why. Three large SUVs and trucks, all late model, were wedged up against the jersey wall amidst a shower of fiberglass, fenders, torn tires, and broken dreams, an evident case of jockeying for some imaginary advantage due to testosterone poisoning. When we eventually arrived in Fort Mill after the ninth hour of our six hour ride, our hotelier made us welcome with effusive good humor, for which one weary traveler was grateful.

The next day, Contrary's son Adam joined us so the boys could swim in the hotel pool and we could enjoy a civilized cocktail. My original plan, informed only by looking at maps, was to head toward Columbia, nearly dead center in the zone of totality. It dawned on me that I might not be the only person to have that thought, and that the highways might offer a Mad Max traffic scenario. So we determined to head southwest, which would put us more quickly in the zone of totality and might relieve us from some of the crowds. Adam determined that Laurens County in rural SC had a park which might offer a good place to view. A park is important for old people because bathrooms. Also because kids need something to do while waiting. A plan unfolded.

The next day we got there about five hours ahead of the eclipse, and a number of people were already ensconced under tarps and in chairs. We were able to commandeer a picnic table under a large tree, offering shade and proximity to those all-important bathrooms. We unloaded our gear, set up and wait. 

An eclipse is a slow motion phenomenon as the disc of the moon slowly nibbles at the solar orb. I brought the camera out and found myself wrestling with it. One has to point it alost straight up in the air, a position which makes framing problematic. I tried to solve this my using the "live view" (video display) mode on the back of the camera. Viewing an LCD screen in bright sunlight while wearing a white shirt is virtually impossible. So I attempted to re-rig the tripod to shoot in a seated position, a position which worked except for the unfortunate tendency of the tripod to tip backwards towards me at all times. SO I held the tripod in place with one hand, while triggering my remote shutter release with the other. And I made a few images.

One of the things the experts will tell you is the importance of bracketing your exposures. Writing for Nikon, Fred Espenak recommends:

Shoot the mid-day sun at a fixed aperture, (choose an aperture between f/8 and f/16) using every shutter speed from 1/4000 second to 1/30 second. Looking at the exposures, choose the best shutter speed/aperture combination and use them to photograph the partial phases of the solar eclipse. Your camera’s histogram function is an excellent way to evaluate the best exposure. 

And so I did.

Diamond Ring 1 Copyright Impact Photography 2017

 

Near totality Copyright Impact Photography 2017

Totality 8-21 Copyright Impact Photography 2017

The Laurens County location proved a good choice, but on the drive home as we joined a major northbound highway, traffic looked like the road out of Kuwait after the first Gulf War. Siri took us off the beaten path on some old bootlegger roads and around the press of traffic. Contrary and I were having a celebratory toddy before dinner when her son called. He was ahead of us in traffic, and still stuck. They took another 90 minutes to get home. Had the good sense to engage and listen to our onboard AI.

In the scheme of things, a minor adventure and a successful short trip.


So aside from some decent images, what did it all mean? This tally from Inc.:

Travel

Besides the 12 million people who already live in the path of totality, many people were expected to travel to those areas with the best viewing. Estimates in advance of the eclipse were that between 1.8 and 7.4 million people would travel to the eclipse zone. There was concern that this interest would create massive traffic problems.

Overall, the travel industry came out on top as winners. There was a spike in the hotel and other tourism businesses.

Certainly the case for us.

Viewers

Even if you couldn't make it in person, you were able to view the total eclipse as it made its way across the country. This was due to a live broadcast from NASA. According to their reports, as many as 40 million people tuned in on TV or online to watch the event.

Some estimates had 70 million travelers moving in and out of the zone of totality. It seemed that half of them were on the roads in SC.

Eclipse Glasses

It is estimated 207,000 pairs of these glasses were sold just through their network of Amazon sellers. That would mean almost seven million eclipse glasses were sold just through Amazon alone.

SellerCloud also reported the average selling price for each unit was over $7. However, in the days leading up to the eclipse, the price increased due to demand and product scarcity.

I had the good sense to order several sets of eclipse glasses early, enough for us and our family, plus a supplemental paper set for my employees who would be viewing a partial eclipse back home. Am glad I did. In spite of rumors that some were substandard, ours worked fine. 

Scientific Research

The eclipse was also a great opportunity for scientists. This eclipse was the only chance to view the sun's corona, also known as the outer layer. Thousands of scientists traveled to the eclipse path to photograph the sun during totality. This opportunity required billions of dollars' worth of equipment.

Cameras, telescopes, balloons, and supersonic jets were used to conduct experiments and gather data during the few minutes of total darkness.

This bonanza of data gathered will keep scientists busy for years to come.

Future Eclipses

The next visible eclipse in the U.S. is seven years away. It will occur on April 8, 2024. The path of that eclipse will span Texas to Maine, crossing through the South, Midwest, the Great Lakes, and New England.

There will be even people along its path as it crosses major metropolitan areas, such as Dallas, Cleveland, and Buffalo.

Assuming I'm still alive and able to walk, Contrary and I will be in Buffalo in April for the next one.

In speaking with those who stayed home, there is a profound difference from viewing a total eclipse.  In totality the temperature drops, the disc is totally up obscured, and at long last the corona of the sun is visible as the moon blocks old Sol. Even though it only lasts for two minutes and 40 seconds, it is an experience unlike any other. Animals behave oddly; crickets begin chirping in earnest; odd light phenomena occur, and the horizon is lit as if in sunset, but without sunset colors.

A total eclipse is a bucket list item as as moving as it Is ephemeral. If you have the opportunity in 2024, don't miss it.


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 was active in the Occupy movement. He lives in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary. He will have failed if not eventually blocked by Twitler.

This Week In Doom August 6, 2017


That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY SARAH ROGERS/THE DAILY BEAST

 

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on August 6, 2017

“Negative polls are fake news, just like the CNN, ABC, NBC polls in the election. Sorry, people want border security and extreme vetting."
 ― Donald J. Trump  


It's not a premise particularly new or unique, but I will say with some pride that I had it early.

What Donald Trump wants to do above all else is hold onto his base, meaning a roughly 35 per cent approval rating in public polls. No matter how bigly he or his surrogates want to describe his inauguration crowds or his popular vote victory, he is a minority president opposed by well more than half of the country. In that way, he will retain the loyalty of the Congressional "Freedom Causus" of libertarian-tinged free- market fundamentalists, and ride out any legal unpleasantness that may come his way.

Of all the things Trump may or may not be, Trump is most certainly a TV guy. He pays attention to Nielsen ratings, he knows how to promote, to capture attention with outrage, and how to play the media. He made his bones saying,"you're fired!" By now it's axiomatic that every time #TrumpRussia starts to heat up, the the Donald or someone on his staff will drop some fresh outrage in order to change the subject  with a 5 AM shitter tweet.

With Trump and his people, every day is a scrap to win the news cycle. Team Trump only cares about his controlling the daily narrative, and of late is failing badly. This week the Quinnipiac poll had Trump's overall approval rating at 33%. This is an all-time low, and factors in Scaramucci but does not account for other news items that broke later in the week, including Robert Mueller's Grand Jury announcement and the announcement of the subpoena of documents from the White House.

Not a good week for the Trumpkins.

The best article summarizing this miserable week was penned by notorious Republican Rick Wilson in the Daily Beast:

Even before this devastating news, if you wanted to pick a week where the Trump administration got its ass handed to it at virtually every turn, this would be it. At almost every moment in the news cycle, Team Trump was getting beaten like a rented mule. The fallout of the Anthony Scaramucci firing is barely cool to the touch, and already this week’s pile of steaming radioactive waste from this White House is hip-deep.

In the wake of the health care/tax cut bill foundering in the Senate, Trump tweeted his executive displeasure and insisted the solons frog march back to their chambers and get something done. This was met with a collective yawn as Senators prepped for August recess. And as a parting “fuck you” to the White House, they left the Senate technically in session to preclude an untimely recess appointment of, say, a pliant and unrecused attorney general who could spike Robert Mueller’s investigation.

Trump was forced into signing the bipartisan Russian sanctions bill. Passed by overwhelming, veto-proof majorities in both the House and Senate, Trump was trapped like a Russian mink in a snare. 

Trump was even trolled on Twitter by Dmitry Medvedev for “total weakness.” In Russia, they murder their opponents and even supporters gone past their sell-by date. Where’s your spine, Donzo? The hits just keep on coming:

Another massive loss for Team Trump: the death of the cruel, phony attempt to frame Hillary Clinton and the Democrats for the murder of Seth Rich. Rich wasn’t killed by the Clintons, but Fox News and the White House were apparently delighted to torture his family. The accusations in a new lawsuit against Fox News and subsequent reporting over the withdrawn story of Seth Rich’s murder have already implicated outgoing White House press secretary Sean Spicer—who met with the investigator working on behalf of Trump superfan Ed Butowsky—but may reach Donald Trump himself.

As much as the blowhard-in-chief likes to proclaim any non-fawning story as “fake news,” here are allegations of some of the genuine article being made by hand in the West Wing. And apparently this wasn’t the first such manufacture:

“Donald Trump was also revealed to have personally written his namesake son’s deceptive and false statement about the Trump Tower meeting with Russians who came to New York to offer the Trump team compromising information on Hillary Clinton. You could almost hear the howls of laughter from the special prosecutor’s SCIF. “

And then there is the War on Leaks, led by the obsequious and eager to please AG Sessions, with rounds of investigation and recrimination.  Say nothing of the incipient White House Civil War between the Generals and the Alt Reich. COS Kelly ousted unfireable mystery man Ezra Cohen-Watnick, he of the handing raw intel to disgraced Congressional shitheel Devon Nunes. In response the Breitbart wing of the party has come gunning for McMasters. Grab the popcorn, but take the Generals and give the points.

And while on the subject of pointless efforts going nowhere, a promised trade bill and a promised bill to limit legal immigration will give true believers a little gristle, but will pass to a soundless and forgettable death in Congress. Although the immigration bill did provide us the Goebbels-esque spectacle of certified mole-person Stephen Miller referring to CNN's Jim Acosta as “cosmopolitan,” a term used by extremists to tag people suspected of extra-national allegiances or insufficient "assimilated" because of how they look, speak or live. (The history-challenged should read Charlie Pierce on the ignoble history of cosmopolitan-as-epithet here.)

But to return to Quinnipiac and the Holy Cause of winning the news cycle, at which Team Trump went winless last week. Rick Wilson again:

Increasing numbers of Americans say they believe Trump isn’t honest or capable. As his numbers pass some critical support thresholds, the magic of 2016 starts to morph into the fear of 2018 in the minds of many elected officials. The Great Distancing has begun. To top it all off, even Matt Drudge helpfully pointed out that Trump’s number is lower than Obama ever received.

So one wonders why Quinnipiac has Team Trump at 33 per cent when the normally less rabid Gallup poll had him at 38? It may be that the Congressional Rs have decided that Trump is unsalvageable, and are hoping to get away from a sinking Titanic before it can suck under their re-election hopes. Several weeks ago observers noted the creation of several million Twitter bots, an alt-Reich social media army ready to deploy at the twitch of a Mercer, the better to influence which stories "trend" on Twitter. Should Team Trump continue to sink, watch for the deployment of zombie-bots Making America Grate Again.

Let's end with the question posed by Charlie Pierce in his week-ending article:

What's the only thing worse than being the target of a grand jury called by Robert Mueller?

Being the target of two grand juries called by Robert Mueller!


This being about Doom, etc., here are some short pieces that may amuse while you're waiting for the latest methane hydrate explosion.

Is a Coup Inevitable?

 Yale historian Timothy Snyder, author of the new book "On Tyranny" says we may have one year left to save American democracy…

The fact that democracies usually fail is a rule which”… Americans believe…“can’t apply to us…Donald Trump will have his own version of Hitler’s Reichstag fire to expand his power and take full control of the government by declaring a state of emergency…In an authoritarian regime change, at the beginning the individual has a special kind of power because the authoritarian regime depends on a certain kind of consent. Which means that if you are conscious of the moment that you are in, you can find the ways not to express your consent and you can also find the little ways to be a barrier. If enough people do that, it really can make a difference — but again only at the beginning.


Aaahhhhpocalypse Now!: 10 Dark Visions Headed Your Way

For readers of The Doomstead Diner, Apocalyptic visions-R-Us. Alternet recently gathered some of the best—or  worst—apocalyptic thinking in one place. This list contains plenty of bad news on economic, planetary and political fronts, enough to satisfy the doomiest doomer. Here are 10 visions of the apocalypse—coming soon!


This Big Hole in the Sun is Not a Good Thing

And as we gear up for observing the total eclipse of the Sun on August 21, other heliocentric newz is not so good. The sky monster that will eat a hole in the sun on that date has a partner,

 a 75,000-mile-wide hole that’s big enough to be seen from Earth, big enough to be given a name (AR2665), and potentially big enough to produce ‘M-class’ solar flares which can knock out communications satellites, create radiation storms and cause electronic chaos. This is not a good thing.


And at week's end, some proof that yes, there is a God:

Former drug company executive Martin Shkreli is convicted of fraud

NEW YORK, Aug 4 (Reuters) – Former drug company executive Martin Shkreli was convicted of securities fraud by jurors in a U.S. court in Brooklyn on Friday, after a highly publicized, month long trial.

Federal prosecutors had accused the 34-year-old of defrauding investors in his hedge funds and stealing from his old drug company, Retrophin Inc, to pay them back.

Jurors found Shkreli guilty on two counts of securities fraud and one count of conspiracy, on the fifth day of deliberations. 

Here's hoping the boys in Cellblock D are preparing Shkreli a special welcome.


We end this week secure in the knowledge that Robert Mueller has two grand juries working overtime on the Trump Family Grift kept afloat with laundered Russian oligarch cash, plus obstruction of justice, if not just overall being a dick. Suffice it to say that we are grateful to not have a phalanx of FBI gumshoes and mean-spirited prosecutors with a thirst for vengeance crawling all up in our bidness.


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 was active in the Occupy movement. He lives in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary and is the proud parent of a recent college graduate. He will have failed if not prominently featured on an enemies list compiled by the current administration.

This Week In Doom, July 9, 2017


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 July 9, 2017

“Many and sharp the num'rous ills
Inwoven with our frame!
More pointed still we make ourselves
Regret, remorse, and shame!
And man, whose heav'n-erected face
The smiles of love adorn, –
Man's inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn!”

 ― Robert Burns  


Thinking it might be time to blow the dust off this long-neglected franchise and take a quick tour around the Internetz to see what's new in the world of Doom.


If you trolled this woman, eat a bag of salted dicks

No better place to start than here, with our basic oligarch-instilled and funded inhumanity to one another. Because if you're "the Other," you're not me, you're not worthy of consideration as human, amirite?

Alison Chandra contributed a story via Vox, entitled, I shared my toddler's hospital bill on Twitter. First came supporters — then death threats. It's a story of a Twitter post gone horribly awry– her son, who needed a life saving operation, received the care that he needed, and she posted an image of the $200,000+ bill, with her portion due $500, because medical insurance.

She snapped a picture of the bill and posted it to Twitter, thinking it a useful commentary on why people should care so much about laws that ensure our access to affordable health care, ban lifetime limits and ensure that no one is denied coverage simply because they’d been born with preexisting conditions. A feel good story, yes?

Uh, no. Then her thread blew up. Cue the haters.

The morning after I sent the tweets, I was at the market with my kids, choosing between scones and muffins, when a friend texted me: “That thread of yours really took off!”

I opened my phone, and instead of the usual 10 or so likes, I found my mentions and messages overrun. There were journalists reaching out to me, verified accounts with millions of followers retweeting me, and a few very angry men telling me that I shouldn’t steal from them, that my child was better off dead, that I should have let him just succumb to natural selection.

I was offered a .22 bullet, although I’m still not sure whom he meant it for, me or my child.

I suggest following the link and reading the whole story, although it is anything but edifying. But if you're an old bastard like the author, you'll be amazed at how far we've fallen in the last 60-70 years. A tribute to the ceaseless propaganda commending market fundamentalism and the reduction of everything to the morality of the balance sheet. And if you commented adversely to Alison's post, do the world a favor and eat a bullet. Right now.


Klan and the Antifa

Closer to home, Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, based in Pelham, N.C., received a permit for a demonstration on Saturday, July 8. The ostensible point of the demonstration was to protest the Charlottesville City Council’s decision to remove a statue honoring Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. They shouted “white power,” burnished flags, and some wore white robes. Others carried handguns, as they approached the recently renamed "Emancipation Park," (formerly Lee Park.)

Virginia State Police, Albemarle County police and University of Virginia police were on hand to assist Charlottesville police as they escorted an estimated 30-40 Klansmen to and from the rally.  Police in riot gear separated the rallygoers from approximately 1,000 counterprotesters who greeted them with jeers. Attempts by Klan leaders to address the crowd were repeatedly drowned out by boos and chants. 

After the Klan rally ended, police led several people away in handcuffs after a large group of counterprotesters remained near the vicinity of the park. Police asked those still gathered nearby to disperse. Wearing riot gear and gas masks, the police declared the counterprotesters “an unlawful assembly” and used gas canisters to compel them to leave the area.

Because why get dressed in riot gear without making arrests and dispending tear gas, right?

Another hot day in Virginia.


Antarctic iceberg break the size of Delaware 'imminent,' say scientists

 

In the latest news about the global warming that the drooling right insists is not happening, an Antarctic iceberg break is 'imminent.' One of the world's biggest icebergs ever recorded is "hours, days, or weeks" away from breaking off an Antarctic ice shelf, scientists announced Wednesday.

We are told further that could the iceberg calve "within days" or hours, and that the volume of water contained will rival the volume of Lake Michigan. Business Insider reported that this may be the third-largest iceberg recorded since satellites began taking photos of Earth.

"In another sign that the iceberg calving is imminent, the soon-to-be-iceberg part of Larsen C Ice Shelf has tripled in speed to more than 10 meters per day between June 24th and June 27th," said Adrian Luckman of Project MIDAS, a British Antarctic research project that's keeping watch on the ever-growing crack.

"The iceberg remains attached to the ice shelf, but its outer end is moving at the highest speed ever recorded on this ice shelf. We still can’t tell when calving will occur — it could be hours, days or weeks," he added.

Once the iceberg breaks off, it "will fundamentally change the landscape of the Antarctic Peninsula," he said.

But don't worry, be happy.


Catholic Church: Women are to Blame for Pedophile Priests

And as long as we're being happy, let's consider the latest pose from the Club for Kidfucking Priests that's been operating for 2000 years, ever since Paul and Silas spent "quality time" together: Let's blame the little ladies.

Seems that the problems in the Church don't stem so much from adult men telling young boys, "This is what God's love feels like," and more from the fact that little girls want to participate in the life of the church by being altar girls. 

Cardinal Burke argues that serving mass is a "manly" job, and claims that the participation of women and girls into the daily life of the church has a chilling effect on priests, causing them to turn to "immoral and unpriestly vocations." This is much like Trump complaining that his team's failure to book a hotel at the recently ended G-20 meeting was Obama's fault.

“The radical feminism which has assaulted the Church and society since the 1960s has left men very marginalized,” said the Cardinal, a member of one of the oldest and most enduring men’s groups on earth.

“Apart from the priest, the sanctuary has become full of women. The activities in the parish and even the liturgy have been influenced by women and have become so feminine in many places that men do not want to get involved."

 "The girls were also very good at altar service. So many boys drifted away over time. I want to emphasize that the practice of having exclusively boys as altar servers has nothing to do with inequality of women in the Church."

Yeah, we get that.

Irish Central reports: So it’s not the international abuse crisis that has most led men to reconsider joining the church, it’s girl cooties. And feminism, of course.

So we have it straight from a Prince of the Church that the problems facing Catholicism today, in particular the epidemic of pedophilia, are the fault of women. And feminism. We thank the good Cardinal for completely unmasking the contempt and hatred with which the institutional Church has long held women. 


And since a consistent theme of this week's Doom Report is man's inhumanity to man, let's end with yet another human sacrifice to the logic of the spreadsheet:

Sending elderly to forests as tiger prey for compensation from government is as savage as it can get

India Today reports that families in Uttar Pradesh are sending the elderly members of their houses into forests as tiger prey to claim compensation worth lakhs from the government, giving the phrase "taking one for the team" to a whole new level.

The website reports that if locals are to be believed, elders of the family willingly go along with this scheme. "They think that since they can't get resources from the forest, this is the only way their families can escape poverty."

 

Authorities surmise that people are sending older members of the family into the tiger reserve for them to become a prey. 

Once killed, their bodies are relocated to fields, and staged as victims of a tiger attack, so that the respective family can claim lakhs in compensation from the government.

On the other hand, if I had sent grandma into the forest, I'd probably say it was her idea as well.

 


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.

Half A Loaf


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Originally published on Daily Kos on June 17, 2017

“Half a loaf is better than no bread.” —Thomas Jefferson 


I wrote about this briefly last month in a Facebook status update, but recent events suggest that I revisit it. It was the episode wherein a so-called (and former) FB “friend” announced,

“I am unfriending any idiot who calls Trump a Putin puppet. You're hating for all the wrong reasons.”

Didn't know I required a full portfolio of reasons. I thought emolument clause violations, grifts of various sizes, and treason was quite enough.

This person is a Michigan resident who proudly announced her unswerving support for Jill Stein, along with her unwavering hatred for "the Hillbot." She was one of 10,000 Stein voters in a state where the margin for Trump was 10,000, so we can fairly argue that she and voters like her helped elect Trump in Michigan. Because math. And logic.

Finding this thread a target rich environment, I explained how dozens of intelligence agencies had found a reason to investigate Trump before the election, that subpoenas were tumbling out the Eastern Virginia district, and that Trump is in the process of handing over Russian real estate seized by the Obama administration as part of sanctions. This last in direct response to a Russian threat of "countermeasures." Acting like nothing so much as the target of Russian kompromat. And this was before the spate of recent headlines, some of which have Bannon barring WH staffers from leaving the building, and a barking-mad President yelling at TVs.

I added that, in the fullness of time, it would be found at the Trump organization was a grift held afloat by Russian money, for the simple reason that no domestic bank, and no western bank (aside from Deutsche Bank) would touch him due to multiple bankruptcies and a long, slimy tail of lawsuits and mechanics' liens…. Hasn’t Young Eric admitted as much?

That got me blocked. That and my comment, "Enjoy your Trump. You elected him."

I understand voting for principle, and I also understand that many people (including me) justifiably looked askance at the Dem party after the incredibly shabby treatment of Bernie, who was my candidate. My wife and I rallied for him, made calls for him, donated and worked for him. And regretted his loss, and despised the shenagigans pulled on behalf of “Ms. It’s-My-Turn.”

Yet when Bernie came out and supported Hillary, in spite of all the D machine machinations, that was good enough for me. The alternative was unthinkable.

Well think again, motherfucker.

We’ve now come to a place in our party-over-country politics where among the flag-and-cross bearing extreme right now views Russia and Putin more favorably than Germany and Merkel. And view the NATO alliance, which has kept the peace for 60 years whatever its faults, as full of deadbeats sucking off American largesse. And who want to blame intemperate “left wing hatred” for this week’s shooting, even though the right engaged in an eight year orgy of Obama-as-joker and lynching pictures.

And if you want to argue NATO encroachment on Russia’s borders, and the neocon wet dream of a shooting war with Russia, I get that. In fact, the only thing that candidate Trump said that was remotely palatable to me was his stated desire to have a better working relationship with Russia. That was before obstruction, dossiers filled with Russian kompromat, pee tapes, election tampering-for-hire, and the entire sordid apparatus of the Trump money laundering grift grinding to a slow motion foundering in the public prints.

As Robert Mueller follows the money, in time we will find that The Trump Organization of interlocking grifts is held together with Russian oligarch money, just as Eric Trump admitted.

At the time, better relations with Russia sounded better than the several decades of neocon warmongering we have had to endure. To say nothing of the coarsening of our political discourse, and the re-embolding of an ignorant wing of white nationalists and alt-reich types whose presence could curdle milk.

When zero energy is devoted to unity or understanding and all energy is spent on division and demonization, war is inevitable. While Steve Scalise fights for life in a hospital bed, we are told that it is left-wing hatred that is out of control. Even Ivanka' feels were bruised by "a level of viciousness that I was not expecting,” she told Fox News last week, adding that she was “blindsided” by the “ferocity.”

Well.

Remember the wall-to-wall TV coverage and the prayers in the House, and the talk about unity and toning down rhetoric when Rep. Gabby Giffords took a bullet to the brain? Me neither. Let’s review the bidding, shall we?

GOP House candidate Robert Lowry held a campaign event at a Florida gun range in October 2009, where he fired gunshots at a silhouette that had his opponent Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz’s printed on it.

“You know, if this Congress keeps going the way it is, people are really looking toward those Second Amendment remedies.” – Sharon Angle

“If I could issue hunting permits, I would officially declare today opening day for liberals. The season would extend through November 2 and have no limits on how many taken as we desperately need to ‘thin’ the herd.” -Brad Goerhing

“Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office,” read an advertisement for the event called “Shoot a fully automatic M16 With Jesse Kelly.”

“Don’t retreat, instead- RELOAD!” – Sarah Palin after circulating a map with crosshairs over lawmakers who supported the ACA

“You know but other than me going over there with a gun and holding it to their head and maybe killing a couple of them, I don’t think they’re going to listen unless they get beat.” – John Sullivan

“If she gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. Although the Second Amendment people — maybe there is, I don’t know.” -Donald Trump

And leading the charge are the bleats, farts and other bodily emanations of one N. Leroy Gingrich, defender of all that is Good and Holy in western civilization, and soon to be know as Mrs. Vatican Ambassador.

A month ago, Gingrich tweeted that Mueller was “a superb choice” whose “reputation is impeccable for honesty and integrity.” After it was learned that Mueller would look at potential malfeasance on Trump’s part, Gingrich decided that Mueller is actually “the tip of the deep state spear aimed at destroying or at a minimum undermining and crippling the Trump presidency.” Thus reversing himself on his opinion of Robert Mueller completely within 30 days.

And let’s never forget he is a shameless opportunist who attempted to get his drug-addled wife to sign off on a divorce punch list as she lay in a hospital bed after cancer surgery. To cite Gingrich as an authority on anything except underwear stains is to reveal a lack of critical thinking. A consideration I deem as kind.

The episode with my erstwhile friend shows that the profoundly left can be as stupid and intractable as the drooling right. If the practical effect of your opinions makes you indistinguishable from a Breitbart troll, what good are your beliefs?

Politics is the art of half a loaf. It's the art of compromise. Hillary wasn't my first, second,or third candidate, and it took me a good long while of hostage negotiation with myself before I cast a vote for her. But if you don't believe she would have been a damned sight better than President* Stupid, and that the problems we would have had with her as President would not have been a damned sight better than the ones we have now, unfriend me immediately. And hit yourself in the head with a hammer for me on your way to the airlock.

True believers, Stein voters and single issue enviros keep relitigating the last primary and fighting the last war. Which by the way, people, we lost. In large measure because ever individuals and their feels are more important than a sense of working together for a common purpose.

Look forward, upward, and to the future. Work for change, but deal with reality. Failure to do so means more of what we have now. When you are hungry, half a loaf looks awfully good.


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author to Doomstead Diner. Author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere, he was active in Occupy. He lives in SE Viirginia with Contrary, the woman who now shares his old Virginia home and who, like he, will be disappointed to not be prominently featured on an Trump enemies list.

What’s In A Flag?


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Originally published on Daily Kos June 9, 2017

“In the 1950s and 1960s, civil rights activism and new federal laws inspired the same resistance to racial progress and once again led to a spike in the use of Confederate imagery. In fact, it was in the 1950s, after segregation in public schools was declared unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education, that many Southern states erected Confederate flags atop their state government buildings.” 
― Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption


Earlier this year, one Corey Stewart, an overcooked potato currently running for Virginia governor against Republican fixer and bagman Ed Gillespie, campaigned at a Confederate-flag-bedecked gedunk on Virginia's Eastern Shore (a home for retrograde politics ever since Governor Berkeley fled Bacon's Rebellion for safety in 1676.)

A few words about Corey Stewart: He is Chair of the Board of Supervisors of Prince William County, Virginia, and drew national media attention for spearheading Prince William County's 2007 crackdown on illegal immigrants. He was hired as the Virginia chairman of the Trump for President campaign in December 2015, and fired in October 2016. He also drew attention for his use of the word "cuckservative" in a Reddit AMA.

Republican candidate for Governor of Virginia, Corey Stewart, at a campaign kickoff rally in Occoquan, Va., AP Photo/Steve Helber

Let's be clear: Stewart hails from Minnesota and has no ties to the Confederacy aside from whiteness. Stewart has made common cause with those Virginians who have elevated the Confederate flag and Civil War monuments to false-god status:

“Over my dead body when I’m governor of Virginia are we ever going to take down the statue of Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson or any hero of the commonwealth of Virginia,” he roared in a dance hall plastered with the Stars and Bars. He put in a good word for the flag, too.

“I’m proud to be next to the Confederate flag,” said Stewart, a Minnesota native and chairman of the Prince William Board of County Supervisors. “That flag is not about racism, folks. It’s not about hatred. It’s not about slavery. It’s about our heritage. … It’s time that we stop running away from our heritage. It’s time that we embrace it.”

Otherwise known as shoveling fresh meat to the base.

Americans have had to endure 150 years of revisionist history from sore losers. I have (hyperbolically) argued with Confederate-flag defenders that, had we as a nation not been beguiled by Lincoln's "soft peace" after the Civil War with paroles for everyone, and executed several thousand Rebel legislators and top-ranking officers, perhaps the many apologists for the so-called "Lost Cause" would not have made so bold with their pens.

And perhaps we would not have had to continue to endure the American swastika as an emblem of the worst instincts of the American experience.

When they say, "heritage, not hate," they lie.

Let's be clear: the Confederate Flag and its derivatives, including the Battle Flag (which is often confused for "the Confederate flag) was created as a symbol of oppression. Period. The Confederacy was founded on the explicit principle that slavery is the “natural and normal condition” of black people. This is not arguable.

The flag’s promoter said:

Our idea is simply to combine the present battle-flag with a pure white standard sheet… As a people, we are fighting to maintain the Heaven-ordained supremacy of the white man over the inferior or colored race; a white flag would thus be emblematical of our cause it would be hailed by the civilized world as THE WHITE MAN’S FLAG.

If that is not sufficiently convincing, take what Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederate government said in the “Cornerstone Address,” specifically addressing America’s belief that all men are created equal:

Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and normal condition.

The problem with the flag, and the monuments, is that they have become rallying images for the worst impulse of illiterate, retrograde types. The Trump era gas given implicit permission to white supremacists, neo-fascists and assorted Nazis to come out of the shadows and rejoin public life.

On May 14, Self-proclaimed white nationalist Richard Spencer (he of punch-a-nazi meme fame) led a tiki-torch carrying group of demonstrators in Charlottesville to protest plans to remove a Confederate monument.

Via Periscope, Spencer addressed the crowd thus:

“You will not replace us. You will not destroy us.You cannot destroy us. We have awoken. We are here. We are never going away.” 

And as if to prove the point, we learn via The Root this week that the KKK has filed paperwork for a demonstration in Charlottesville on July 8. And a group who call themselves “Unity and Security for America”  have applied to hold another event on Aug. 12.

In a tasty bit of writing-with-a-flourish, The Root’s Michael Harriot describes organizer Jason Kessler, the blogger too racist for The Daily Caller, as

…one of the many butt-hurt white boys upset over the removal of Confederate monuments—also believes in the bullshit premise of “white genocide,” once writing, “White people are rapidly becoming a minority in the U.S. and Europe,” and adding, “If we’re not able to advocate for ourselves we may go extinct…” 

…neofascists have lately made the statue a symbol of “political correctness gone mad,” because the white man’s ego has lately become as fragile as his toehold at the top of America’s social hierarchy. 

And that’s where we are. The Trump era (Eric Trump: “Democrats aren’t even people”) has unleashed the zombie id of the American right, and it expresses itself in flag and monument-fetish. This is a movement nourished by hatred of the other, as old as wars of extermination of the Native American, enslavement of the African, and hatred of each successive wave of immigrants whose arrival surely announced the defilement of our women and the destruction of our way of life, whatever that means.

Racist ideology runs through the bloodstream of our body politic as surely as does a taste for violence. It has ignorance and fear at its root, and definition of “the other” as dangerous.

Symbols have no inherent meanings, only those people assign them. The Confederate flag (and assorted Confederate monuments) is now assigned many different meanings: a symbol of slavery, an emblem of rebellion, a guidon for white supremacists, an historical artifact,  even a benign display of regional pride. But as white nationalists make bold to reopen old wounds and sow deep divisions, we have to remember the words of Edmund Burke:

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.


Note: If you are a history geek like me, and want to know more about Bacon's Rebellion (1676–1677), a litlte known and less understood episode of history, the net effect of which was to codify and rigidify a race-based caste system in British America, I recommend this article by James Douglas Rice in the online Encyclopedia Virginia.

 


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is the author of numerous rants, articles and spittle-flecked invective, and was active in Occupy. He lives in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary and is the proud parent of a recent college graduate.

Earth Day 2017


gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Photoillustration by Surly1

“The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot forever fence it out.”   -J.R.R. Tolkien


Saturday marked Earth Day 2017. Across the country, tens of thousands of people took proud part in hundreds of "March for Science" events.  Out in force to protest the anti-science rhetoric and assertively ignorant actions wafting from thankfully-incompetent-but-still-malign trump Administration, a rat's nest full of climate change and science denier billionaires, they sent an unmistakable message of resistance.

In southeastern Virginia, there were four separate events. All well attended.

The President took time out of his busy Saturday grabbing photo-ops wherever he could (such as the one in which he "congratulated" an Army Sergeant who received a Purple Heart for wounds resulting in amputation). Such gaffes used to be politically disfiguring, but in an age without shame or accountability, our reality-show POTUS gallantly soldiered on with his propaganda show designed to change the subject to anything-but-Russia.

Neither shame nor evidence could staunch the borborygmus emerging from trump, as he issued a typically flatulent statement marking the occasion:

"Rigorous science is critical to my administration's efforts to achieve the twin goals of economic growth and environmental protection.

"My administration is committed to advancing scientific research that leads to a better understanding of our environment and of environmental risks. As we do so, we should remember that rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.

This April 22nd, as we observe Earth Day, I hope that our nation can come together to give thanks for the land we all love and call home,"

Cue the laugh track. Trump made this statement as thousands of marchers filled the streets of DC and elsewhere directly in response to Trump's threats of budget cuts to agencies funding scientific research. 

Protesters cared little and paid attention less to the movements of 45. They found themselves on the streets marching, here in the 21st century, in support of science, reason, evidence, the scientific method.  Along with passion marchers brought incisive and wittily designed signs.  Here's a non-scientifically selected sample from demonstrations across the country and from the march Contrary and I attended.

Science Day Marches Outdraw trump’s Inauguration.

   

        

   

   

   

   

The turnout at this event numbered at least five hundred, and long lines of peaceful marchers were provided with a police escort as they marched the length of Norfolk's Granby St. My wife Contrary could not resist having her picture made with some of Norfolk's finest. The reception from the authorities was markedly different from that which greeted Occupy in November of 2011. In September of that year, Occupy Wall Street sprouted up and gave birth to dozens of like-minded Occupy groups across the country, including Norfolk. In November of that year, the Bush administration's Dept. of Homeland Security coordinated a city-by-city crackdown and evacuation on Occupy encampments.

She noted the fine turnout with a certain amount of wistfulness, recalling the days when we might get 40 people for general assembly and far fewer for a direct action. I replied that Occupy was the tip of the spear, a catalyst that made a change in the political vocabulary of this country, and one that lit a fire of resistance that has spread to thousands of others. It was deeply gratifying to know that the resulting blaze was afire in dozens of cities around the country and the world.


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 current administration.

This Week in Doom, April 9, 2017


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 April 9, 2017

“We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean. I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.’”

 ― Brian Williams, MSNBC anchor  


It's been a week in which we took several steps toward our own Appointment in Samarra. We are expected to believe that the nation's Chief Executive, who heretofore has demonstrated absolutely no empathy for anyone, reversed his own stated foreign policy based on news pictures of children, ostensibly suffering from a Syrian government gas attack. Just the week before, said executive's Secretary of State had affirmed a new policy in which the US would be content to let the destiny of Bashar Al-Assad be settled by the Syrian people.

And who exactly are we fighting in Syria? Is it ISIS? Al Qaeda? Jabhat al Nusra? But Assad purchased oil from ISIS, yes? How did that work? And now we're bombing Assad? All of the Jihadis in opposition to Assad are Sunni, whereas Assad's regime belongs to the Alawite sect of Islam, related somehow to the Shia branch of Islam. One needs a scorecard…

As difficult as this might be to sort out, when the newest atrocity pictures appeared on FOX News, they hit our non-reading president right in the feels. And like Xanadu, a military action was decreed. Meanwhile, trump's legions of right-wing zealots were discomfited that he had bombed Syria and thus had gone "full neocon." Great was the hue and cry therefrom. Meanwhile, in the West Wing, Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon wrestled for primacy. If you're not the president's son-in-law, I don't like your chances. Mitch McConnell got clean away with the heist of a Supreme Court seat, and, oh yes, in spite of the Trump administration's decision to ban the phrase "climate change", the Arctic north is melting and we are awash in icebergs. Can global sea level rise be far behind?


The Rockets' Red Glare

We are told the short-fingered vulgarian "became president" by sending a volley of Tomahawk missiles, costing $1-1.5 million the each, to light up a Syrian airstrip, the assets of which had been moved by previously-alerted Russians and Syrians who, unlike Congress, had received prior notice. The air show on a virtually deserted airstrip avoided most of the runways, such that Syrian planes are reported to be flying missions as I write. Thus the US spent about $93,810,000, blowing up very little in order to show them that "we mean business."

The Palmer Report estimates that Donald Trump's ineffective Syria attack could have fully funded Meals on Wheels through 2029.

 The MSM, hot on the trail of #trumpRussia connections, were captivated. On MSNBC, which we are constantly reminded is the "left" news network, fake news parolee Brian Williams waxed rhapsodic about the beauty of the rocket launches, if not the tumescence of the manhood which unleashed them. CNN's Fareed Zakaria proudly asserted Trump’s missile strike in Syria shows him emerging from the chrysalis and displaying the same bloodthirsty qualities as America’s past leaders. Friday morning on CNN’s “New Day," I stood openmouthed in astonishment as Zakaria said

“I think Donald Trump became president of the United States last night. I think this was actually a big moment.”

Making this Zakaria's Van Jones moment, and exposing him as another to-be-ignored careerist. Neocon Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham swooned, and were observed to have rare swellings in their crotches at the audacity of dope. If these last for more than four hours, they should call a doctor. Or a Capitol Hill reporter.

Leading papers published opinions like "Trump’s Chance to Step Into the Global Leadership Vacuum," "Trump Has an Opportunity to Right Obama’s Wrongs in Syria," "Syrian Opposition Leader: Trump Has a Chance to Save Syria" and "Syria Missile Strike Could Lead to Political Solution"–but no pieces opposing an unauthorized military attack against a sovereign nation. Dan Rather had a few choice words.

"War must never be considered a public relations operation. It is not a way for an Administration to gain a narrative," Rather continued. "It is a step into a dangerous unknown and its full impact is impossible to predict, especially in the immediate wake of the first strike."

On other news, Raytheon, the company that makes the Tomahawk missiles used in the air strikes, was rising in early stock trading Friday. In related news, Lockheed Martin, helps Raytheon make the Javelin missile launcher system, gained nearly 1%. We may be headed for the End Times, but we're creating some beautiful opportunities for profit in arms.


Pepe nonplussed

Trump's troll army was not pleased, and the alt-right crowd broke with the president over his perfidy. The web-savvy, anti-establishment "alt-right" neo-nazis at the passionate core of Trump’s online support last year, have become apoplectic over the strikes. This "America First" wing, which includes Milo Yiannopolis, Mike Cernovich, Ann Coulter, and the famously punched-in-the-face Richard Spencer, (he of the memes), as well as those basement dwellers on The_Donald subreddit and the /pol/ section of 4Chan, warn of a slippery slope to intervention in Syria.

As recently as last week, they believed Trump would keep the country out of unnecessary wars. Last Thursday on a trip to Turkey, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, the “longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.” And then came the news pictures of Syrian children being gassed. Whereupon, we are told, the president decided to "follow his heart."

Leaving aside for a moment the notion of how a Republican Congress or the American public would react did if a female president had decided to "follow her heart," and launch 59 Tomahawk missiles, we are left to marvel at 180° whipsaw-like change in the direction of American foreign policy.

Meanwhile, about those pictures, and who was responsible for them. Many on the fascist fringe scream that Trump has been duped into a war a "false flag" operation. "The Syrian gas attack was done by deep state agents," tweeted alt right agitator and Pizzagate auteur Mike Cernovich. And other marginal voices, including Alex Jones and Paul Joseph Watson, as well as Ron Paul, Scott Adams and Michael Savage, have upped the ante, blamed the attack on George Soros, and condemned Trump for surrendering to "Republican hawks."

Plus, Julian Assange, believed to have sole control of the WikiLeaks Twitter account,  shared a video from a Syrian activist in Germany on Thursday that said Islamist extremists were probably behind the chemical attack, not the Syrian government. Even left-wing observers have opined that the chemical strikes may have originated with Syrian rebels. Assessing the truth is to walk in a hall of mirrors.

Speaking of a hall of mirrors, Tina Nguyen of Vanity Fair does exemplary reporting on all things Trump, and made the following salient observation:

The missile strike came only hours after Bannon, the de facto representative of the alt-right in the White House, had been removed from the National Security Council Principals Committee, cutting off his access to military decision-making. His supporters quickly, and not without logic, blamed the Syria situation on the same people they believed were responsible for Bannon’s ouster and diminishing stature in the West Wing: Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and the leader of what a White House source described to Politico as the “West Wing Democrats.”

Few things gladden my heart more that a right wing circular firing squad, as headlines broke on Friday that Bannon had called Kushner "a cuck" and a "globalist." What the Bannon-Kushner tussle portends for the future, and for Trump's relationship with the reclusive Mercer family (which bankrolled his electoral victory)  is anyone's guess. 

 


It Stays Stole

Mitch McConnell and wife in a rare tender moment.

In 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said: "One of my proudest moments was when I told Obama, 'You will not fill this Supreme Court vacancy,'" and in 2017, he said, "Apparently there's yet a new standard now, which is not to confirm a Supreme Court nominee at all. I think that's something the American people simply will not tolerate."


This week, McConnell invoked a parliamentary maneuver to end the filibuster opposing the nominee, Neil Gorsuch, for the stolen Supreme Court seat, thus clearing the way for Gorsuch to occupy said stolen seat. This legislative coup will ratify the primacy of the corporate state for the next 30 years.

In a related story, hypocrisy stocks were up 12 percent this week.

 


Global melting

A meltwater stream on Greenland’s ice sheet. And in climate change news, which we no longer count anymore because trump, we learn that Greenland’s coastal ice has passed a critical “tipping point,” according to a new study. Which doesn’t bode well for the rest of the island’s ice.

The Greenland ice sheet, which covers about 80 percent of the island’s surface, is the second-largest ice body in the world after the Antarctic ice sheet. The same processes that have caused the accelerated melting of Greenland’s coastal ice bodies could also influence the island’s massive ice sheet — with devastating results, lead study author Bryce Noël said.

“For now, the ice sheet is still safe,” he said. “Its tipping point hasn’t been crossed yet. But if warming continues, it’s very likely that it will be crossed.”

If the entire Greenland ice sheet were to melt, it would cause a global sea level rise of more than 20 feet. 

 

In a related story, The Guardian tells of a swarm of more than 400 icebergs that have drifted into the North Atlantic shipping lanes over the past week, unusually large for so early in the season. 

Most icebergs entering the North Atlantic have “calved” off the Greenland ice sheet. Michael Mann, director of the earth system science center at Pennsylvania State University, said it was possible climate change was leading to more icebergs in the shipping lanes, but wind patterns were also important.

US Coast Guard Commander Gabrielle McGrath, who leads the ice patrol, said she had never seen such a drastic increase in such a short time. Adding to the danger, three icebergs were discovered outside the boundaries of the area the Coast Guard had advised mariners to avoid, she said.

Another week in which we incrementally slip towards the doom which awaits us for our fecklessness and irresponsibility for failing to summon the will to be good stewards of what we have inherited.


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: What Muslim Ban?


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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


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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


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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?

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ss-160127-oregon-standoff-mn-04_f425420eeb1580d2ca842e0980e74f50.nbcnews-ux-1024-900

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

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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.  

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