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This Week in Doom July 22: #Treasonsummit and its Discontents


That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Published on the Doomstead Diner on July 22, 2018

“I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

 ― Trump


I tried to keep this short, but the week wouldn't let me. Putin and Trump all but held hands during a news conference Monday, as each dismissed the idea that Russia wants to undermine American democracy — and that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into collusion between Russian operatives and the Trump campaign has any merits. This despite Mueller's indictment against 12 Russians for that very thing. Trump's use of the words “strong,” “powerful” and “denial” are tells: self-absorbed, impressed by authority and at home in denial. This makes him easily unlikable to two-thirds of Americans but not necessarily treasonous. Treason, frankly, sounds a little high-flown for such a reckless, clueless assclown  For nearly one out of every three days he has been president, Trump has visited a Trump Organization property, amounting to free publicity and a steady government income stream for the man who bankrupted three casinos. I'm old enough to remember when Jimmy Carter had to sell his peanut farm, because "emoluments." Good times. 


#Treasonsummit

This week, the president* of the United States held a friendly meeting with the Russian leader who sabotaged an American election on the former's behalf, and who, in turn, has been rewarded by a pro-Russian policy pivot.  Trump chose to meet alone with THE former KGB mastermind. What could possibly go wrong? 

Putin made Trump wait for nearly an hour like his little stump-broke bitch, spoke first at the joint presser, and won every point. 45 abandoned any obligation to represent the American people and slobbered Russian talking points. It was clear who was master, and who was wearing the dog collar, to say nothing of the butt plug. As Ralph Peters said on CNN, "Putin pitched a shutout, while Trump got beat up in the locker room." Then came the press conference in which Trump uttered the above featured quote. 

Standing next to Putin, Trump turned on America’s intelligence services, and sided with our adversary. He attacked  the clear-cut findings of U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies that Russian hackers interfered with the 2016 presidential election.

 Trump's hangdog, looking-for-a-cookie body language stood in marked contrast to Putin's laid-back manspreading and expressions of obvious contempt. Putin even issued this order to his protege:

“It’s difficult to imagine utter nonsense on a bigger scale than this. Please disregard these issues and don’t think about this anymore again.”

It did not take long for reaction to erupt all over the internets, even from those nominally in favor of All Things Trump. 

From John McCain:

“Today’s press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”

Or this from Arizona’s other senator, Jeff Flake (R):

“I never thought I would see the day when our American president would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression.” 

Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-IL) released a statement on Twitter promising to "never" support President Donald Trump again after his unbelievable presser performance.

Look, I'm no big deal, but today is the final straw for me. I will never support Trump again. If that makes me a NeverTrumper, so be it.  I am a tea party conservative, that will never change. But Trump was a traitor to this country today. That must not be accepted.  Speak out.

The tweetstorm ensued:

Palmer Report (@PalmerReport)

Donald Trump’s day so far: – Yep he’s guilty of #treason – So is Rand Paul – Russian agent Maria Butina arrest – Newt Gingrich gives up on Trump – John McCain condemns Trump – Time to #ImpeachTrump – Then throw him in prison – Mueller has more coming – It’s still only 8pm

John O. Brennan (@JohnBrennan)

Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???

W. Kamau Bell  (@wkamaubell)

Never forget: If you had a day at work like the day @realDonaldTrump had today, security would be at your office waiting for you, asking for your key card, w/ all your possessions in a box, & a cup for you to pee in. #TreasonSummit #TrumpTreason #ImpeachTrump

There are no "Republican patriots. Rs are all in as the "party of Trump:" Party over country, bitch. Imagine if Obama had said he believed Russia over his own intelligence services. After landing, he would have been pulled from Air Force One by a bloodthirsty mob of Freedom caucusoids and crucified on the tarmac in front of his wife and daughters.

This started the week. As it unfolded, what used to be known as the "free-world" looked on in confusion, accompanied by bipartisan outrage— even concern that Trump may be compromised  was heard outside left media. And for all that, as the week drew to a close, Trump suffered no real consequences. 


But-I, but-I, but-I…

On Tuesday, Trump Tried to walk it all back by saying he "misspoke" when he threw the intelligence agencies under the bus and praised Putin.

Few were buying outside of his phalanx of infinitely re-programmable meat-puppets when he said that he "misspoke," and said "would" rather than "wouldn't." An excuse rejected by anyone capable of observation and deduction, bnut fig leaf enough to satisfy the Newt Gingriches of the world.

BREAKING: President Trump claims he misspoke while discussing election meddling during news conference with Putin: "In a key sentence in my remarks, I said the word 'would' instead of 'wouldn't.' … The sentence should've been: 'I don’t see any reason why it wouldn't be Russia'.

"Could be other people also," Trump said on Tuesday.

CNN political reporter Chris Cillizza parsed those five key words:

Those five words not only totally undermine what Trump was trying to do with his post-Helsinki summit comments but also run afoul of the intelligence community's 2017 report on Russian interference in the election…  Nowhere else in the IC report is there a mention of another country being even possibly responsible for the broad and deep election-meddling effort focused on the 2016 campaign.


Along Comes Maria..

Just hours after Trump’s disastrous press conference with Putin, the Justice Department announced the arrest of Russian national Maria Butina  for secretly trying to influence US politics via a "gun rights organization (read NRA)."  An affidavit filed by an FBI agent asserts that Butina tried to thus influence a major political party.

Though the affidavit does not name many of the people and groups involved, previous reporting and context clues make it clear that the gun rights group is the National Rifle Association, the party is the Republican Party, and the Russian official is Alexander Torshin.

Now we can surmise how all that sweet, sweet Russian money sloshed through the NRA and into the campaign coffers of every party whose name starts with "R." Let's be clear: Russian citizens do not have gun rights. They never had gun rights. No one is trying to take their guns, because they. do. not. own. guns. There aren't guns sold in grocery stores, pawn shops or gun shows. Butina's group is a sham organization set up to funnel money between Russians and Republicans. Every Republican Congresscitter who has accepted NRA boodle is complicit. Little wonder they are trying to nail the door shut.

By the end of the week, Russia’s foreign minister Lavrov said that Butina was detained on “fabricated charges” and should be released. They want their asset back.


And the from the Dept. of You Can't Make This Shit Up, comes the news that Vlad would like to get his hands on former Ambassadors and other pains in his ass. Sarah Fuckleberry Slattern says, "Hell, that's an interesting idea, we'll get back to you."

U.S. Officials ‘at a Fucking Loss’ Over Latest Russia Sell Out

The White House’s refusal to rule out turning over former U.S. ambassador Michael McFaul to the Russians has current and former State Department officials seeing red.

As reported by Spencer Ackerman at The Daily Beast, this nation had gotten currently serving ambassadors speaking as if, well, they write this column:

Current and former American diplomats are expressing disgust and horror over the White House’s willingness to entertain permitting Russian officials to question a prominent former U.S. ambassador. 

One serving diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was “at a fucking loss” over comments that can be expected to chill American diplomacy in hostile or authoritarian countries – a comment echoed by former State Department officials as well.

Putin expressed keen interest in "interviewing" Bill Browder, with whom Putin has waged an open feud ever since Browder was instrumental in getting the US Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act, which mightily inconveniences Putin and a handful of Russian oligarchs. Putin is said to be keeping the Magnitsky Suite at the Butyrka prison in Moscow open for guests. He also raised the stakes to include wanting to interview Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia. 

Mouths remained snapped open and outrage continued to fester. The Senate voted 98-0 to suggest this might be a bad idea.

With Trump, every time you think we've hit bottom, we break through to a new floor.


And then it turns out that Trump has definitively has known about Russia tampering with the 2016 election since two weeks before his inauguration. Every denail and claim of "witch hunt" since then has been a lie. The NY Times broke this on Wednesday night:

From the Start, Trump Has Muddied a Clear Message: Putin Interfered

Two weeks before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election.

The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation.

Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed.

Trump is having trouble keeping up with and juggling his lies because there are so many of them.


Short Takes:

Trump sucked all the air out of the news cycles for the week, but some othe things did happen. You may want to take as peek before turning the page. 

Trump’s Trade Policy Is an Own Goal for American Consumers 
Trump underestimated the resolve of EU policymakers, and consumers worldwide are about to pay for it.

British And Ecuadorian Authorities In Talks To Evict Julian Assange From London Embassy

The London Times  reported that the British and Ecuadorian governments have been holding secret discussions on plans to evict WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange from Ecuador’s London embassy,

Lab-grown burgers could be on menus by 2021

You  may soon be able to go into a restaurant and order "one hamburger, hold the cow." Dutch startup Mosa Meat has secured funding to take lab-grown meat from an expensive laboratory experiment to an affordable commercial commodity. Yum!

Papa John's Founder Regrets Resigning, Whines About Board Making Him Step Down 'Without Any Investigation'

Feckless cunt John Schnatter is apparently ready to drag his former company down with him, now saying that he regrets resigning. We don't. 

Jewish nation state: Israel approves controversial bill

The bill's passage gives color of law to Israels' continued oppression of Palestinians and the continuation of the Zionist Apartheid State.

Comcast Drops Out of Bidding War for Fox to Focus on Sky

Disney can now go ahead with its $71 billion offer to purchase Fox.


What a week. All Trump, all the time. It's exhausting, which is precisely what Trumptards everywhere are counting on– the demoralization of the opposition in the face of a unified (and increasingly Russian owned ) government. Any remedy lies with the House, which currently means the same Congressional Republicans whose political future is tied to Trump’s survival. Their primary voters, pollsters (and donors) tell them so.  Anything that weakens Trump weakens their 2018 reelection prospects, and with that their ability their ability to dispense tax cuts to billionaires, load the judiciary with Federalist Society hacks, and immiserate liberals, gays, women and browns. Their political lives depend on Trump. They are mobbed up.

All of which makes getting your sorry ass to the polls in November more important than ever.


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 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 him, is grateful to not be taking a dirt nap, and who will likewise be disappointed to not be prominently featured on a Trump administration enemies list.

 

The Week in Doom, July 15, 2018


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 15, 2018

“[The beast] also forced everyone… to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark.”

 ― Revelation 13:16-17  


A friend had a close call this week. A reminder of both the fragility and resilience of life and its tenuousness.

As we consider the trajectory of ecocide, it is easy to become demoralized by how little each of us can do. The earth we leave the next generation will be hotter, dryer, more toxic, less fruitful. Extinctions are reported regularly. Glaciers melt, rivers dry, wildfires rage, even in the Arctic, and the ticking methane hydrate bomb continues to lurk.  What can one person do? We can change our habits, prep up, sell our homes and goods and wander the earth like Cain. And the Universe will still turn. What one individual can do is limited, but we can commit to work for change. Difficult to do, and made harder still by the corporate co-optation of the political process. 

If you are collapse-aware and follow current trends in population, energy and resource consumption,, and concludes they are insupportable at current trajectories, what is the moral and ethical course of action? 

We are impatient people. We expect resolution of most stories in the compact arc of TV. Reality has other ideas.  Our current ecocide is a blip in geologic time, and history of Earth is written in eons. The planet doesn't really care what we think. In the fullness of time, after Earth sloughs off the virus known as humanity, within 10,000 years or so– the blink of Nature's eye– the healing will have begun. The planet will be fine; it's humanity that is well and truly fucked. 

It is a depressing prospect. My course of action is to tend to my knitting, and create some happiness and love for those closest to me, and try to leave some small piece of the world in better shape than I found it. It is not nearly enough.


Population Clock Ticking

This week on r/collapse, someone posted this little diversion: TOP 20 LARGEST COUNTRIES BY POPULATION (LIVE)

On this site you can watch the world population clock tot up births in real time as we rush toward the Seneca cliff of population overshoot. China and India tip the scales at a billion and change, and the US is third with 326M. The world population rate of growth is declining as overall population continues to increase.

Population in the world is currently (2018) growing at a rate of around 1.09% per year (down from 1.12% in 2017 and 1.14% in 2016). The current average population increase is estimated at 83 million people per year.

Annual growth rate reached its peak in the late 1960s, when it was at around 2%. The rate of increase has nearly halved since then, and will continue to decline in the coming years.

Human overpopulation exacerbates all of the key environmental issues. Like so many grasshoppers in a wheat field, we consume finite natural resources like fresh water, arable land and fossil fuels, far faster than they can be replenished. Overpopulation aggravates global warming, pollution, habitat loss, the sixth mass extinction, chemical-intensive farming, etc.

Spend five minutes on this page and consider how sobering the evidence is of a reduced future for the next generation, and the inexorability of massive population increases, all based on easily calculable birth rates.


Whither the economy?

Buoyed by the Trump Tax Cut, the economy is in go-go-go mode. The stock market is up, Even the solons at Marketwatch say so.

Surging sales at retailers is merely part of a broader wave in the economy that’s likely to swell gross domestic product to around 4% growth in the second quarter that runs from April to June.

Times are good. Unemployment is a measly 4%. Companies are hiring so fast they can’t find enough skilled workers. Business investment has strengthened.  And a flood of companies are likely to report heady second-quarter profits in the next few weeks. Americans simply haven’t felt this good about the economy in a few decades.

Happy days are here again! Yet financial journalists sound like touts when you look beyond the low-hanging statistical fruit. For one, the Trump Trade War and escalating tit-for-tat tariffs are not yet priced in. Plus we are at the tail of a prolonged, steady expansion since 2009, the third-longest upward climb on record. Juiced by the tax cut, the United States recorded 111 months without a recession in June. Only the 120-month run in the 1990s, a Golden Age for the U.S. economy created by the end of the Cold War and the rise of the Internet ran longer. 

What goes up…

A personal observation. My business is advertising sales, with revenue highly dependent on auto advertising. The auto sector has lagged projections all year.  Advertising spending is down. After seven straight growth years for domestic new-vehicle sales, manufacturers reported a sales drop of two per cent. 2018 has been equally soft. Edmunds.com predicted in January that domestic auto will be down nearly another two per cent. And when business is in the tank, one of the first things to go is advertising spend. What happens to a banana republic when no one wants bananas?

Zero per cent money helped bankroll the party. That too is ending.  

All this is before Trump's tariffs take that bite. We tend to think of tariffs as transactional, but we forget the ripple effects through the economy.

It's almost as if steel is critical to almost everything made, including… cars. Metals will cost more. Period. Anything manufactured, like soup cans, will cost more. I'm sure Trump is counting on his phalanx of infinitely-re-programmable Fox-watching meatbags to be unable to connect the dots between cause and effect.

American workers will suffer as other countries respond with their own tariffs, meaning that our stuff will become more expensive and/or unwelcome in global markets. Canada, Mexico and China have already announced retaliatory tariffs.

Even Tom Donahoe, President of the US Chamber of Commerce, warns that upwards of two million jobs will be lost.

Donohue wrote according to the Wall Street Journal, which reviewed the memo. “Our businesses will lose customers, workers will lose jobs, and American consumers will lose family income through higher taxes and higher prices.”

America’s relationship with its allies has taken another massive kick in the balls. Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on our allies is so unilateral, in violation of existing trade deals, and a breach of protocol that the administration had to invoke "national security," meaning the we had to label our allies as a threat. The Washington Post pointed out on Thursday, the United States is now placing more tariffs on Canada, Mexico and the EU than on China.

The smart money calls for a dip in 2019-20. But auto and related industries are already in a two year dip. For auto a recession is already here. Imagine scenarios that could trigger the "R" word– Democrats win control of the House in 2018 and ignite a long-overdue impeachment. Mueller rolls Manafort or Cohen. The Fed could raise interest rates. China's debt bubble could pop. North Korea could erupt, or Iran could blockade the Straits of Hormuz. 

It only takes one pin to pop a balloon.


Want Chips With That?

The trend for technology to get  smaller and more personal got a boost this week. A story moved about a contraceptive computer chip that can be controlled by remote control. The project, backed by Bill Gates, has resulted in a chip that when Implanted under a woman's skin releases a small dose of hormone. The dosage can be stopped at any time by using a wireless remote control.

No word on what happens when someone else grabs the remote. (They say secure encryption prevents someone from trying to hack your reproductive cycle.)

When microchipping was first advanced as an e-commerce technology in 2004, it was met with wholesale revulsion. It took the place of bar codes as "the mark of the beast" and a sign of pending apocalypse among the tinfoil hat set. 

Now, who knows? There is a real trend among consumers to prioritize convenience. Some say it's inevitable. Over time look for convenience and speed to trump revulsion. I give it 50 years. Glad I'll not live to see it.

As Eddie on the Diner Forum observed, 

And on third world birth control? If women are given a choice, they'll line up around the block top get micro-chipped.

Birth control empowers women, and until now, the major religions and the patriarchal social and political systems in the 3rd world have effectively prevented birth control. If you're chipped, nobody has to know. I predict it'll catch on like you would not believe.

Consider the implications for the abortion fetishists who want to make the fetus property of the State, and the re-chattelization of women a priority. Women's agency is a real threat to these people. What if this technology renders Roe v. Wade moot? What if this normalizes "chipping" and makes it more acceptable, rather than apocalyptic?

Does that "rough beast, its hour come round at last,/ [who] Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born" come with a chip?


Short takes

Trump says the 20-foot-tall angry-baby blimp flying in London makes him feel 'unwelcome'

Maybe it was the 250,000 angry demonstrators.Trump was met by mass protests in Great Britain. Everywhere he went, there they were, although his handlers made sure all of 45's events were outside of the city. 

Strzok: I could have exposed Russia investigation to hurt Trump, but didn’t

In a grueling interrogation in the House, Republican partisans in the House GOP lost all connection to reality and embarrassed themselves in the process. Led around the ninth circle of Hell by Benghazi poster boy Trey Gowdy, the House GOP revealed its abject devotion to all things Trump, and themselves as useful idiots for America’s enemies.

Papa John's Founder Resigns from Board After Using the N-Word on Company Call

Shitty Pizza. Shitty Human being. Papa John's.

Forget Killer Robots: Autonomous Weapons Are Already Online

Unknown to most of us, cyber weapons that operate with great autonomy with the potential to crash financial networks and disable power grids already exist in cyberspace.

Trump pardons Oregon arsonists in case that sparked Malheur refuge occupation

45 sends sovereign citizen fringers an early Christmas present. Depicted as "devoted family men," by the right, the Hammonds set fires to cover up an illegal hunt. This pardon signals a loss for advocates of public lands, and a nod and a wink to theft of the commons by a privileged handful of cowboys. 

Red-hot planet: All-time heat records set across the world last week

From the normally mild summer climes of Ireland, Scotland and Canada to the scorching Middle East to Southern California, numerous locations in the Northern Hemisphere have witnessed their hottest weather ever recorded over the past week. See also:

The sea-level threat is worse than you think

The rate that Antarctica is melting has tripled since 2007, new research shows

 


banksy 07-flower-thrower-wallpaperSurly1 is an administrator and contributing author for Doomstead Diner. He is the author of numerous rants, screeds and spittle-flecked invective here and elsewhere. He lives a quiet domestic existence in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary. Descended from a long line of people to whom one could never tell anything, all opinions are his and his alone, because he paid full retail for everything he has managed to learn.

This Week In Doom, July 8


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 8, 2018

“The world that you see is being configured to a probable reality that you haven’t yet chosen.”

 ― Douglas Rushkoff  


What occasioned some collapse-related noise this week on the Diner Forum was an article penned by Douglas Rushkoff entitled, Survival of the Richest–The wealthy are plotting to leave us behind. Worth a peek.

Rushkoff is a writer, documentarian, and lecturer whose work focuses on human autonomy in the digital age.  (See his website. ) He had been invited to an exclusive resort to deliver a keynote speech to investment bankers on the subject of “the future of technology.” The fee was un-turn-down-able for a university professor–he described it as  "about half his annual professor’s salary ."

After he arrived, he was ushered into a room he thought might have been the green room, but was instead the setting for him to meet his REAL audience: five super-wealthy hedge fund bankers with questions of their own.

Which region will be less impacted by the coming climate crisis: New Zealand or Alaska? Is Google really building Ray Kurzweil a home for his brain, and will his consciousness live through the transition, or will it die and be reborn as a whole new one? Finally, the CEO of a brokerage house explained that he had nearly completed building his own underground bunker system and asked, “How do I maintain authority over my security force after the event?”

The Event. That was their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, unstoppable virus, or Mr. Robot hack that takes everything down.

This single question occupied us for the rest of the hour. They knew armed guards would be required to protect their compounds from the angry mobs. But how would they pay the guards once money was worthless?

Yes, the rich are different from you and me. They have private security. Plus they know we're doomed and have absolutely no intention of doing anything aside from saving their own skins. This should surprise no one. For them, a "talk about the future of technology" is really about

…preparing for a digital future that had a whole lot less to do with making the world a better place than it did with transcending the human condition altogether and insulating themselves from a very real and present danger of climate change, rising sea levels, mass migrations, global pandemics, nativist panic, and resource depletion. For them, the future of technology is really about just one thing: escape. 

There was a time within recent memory when the future seemed inventable and accessible, in Rushkoff's words, " a playground for the counterculture, who saw in it the opportunity to create a more inclusive, distributed, and pro-human future." Now, when Elon Musk is launching cars into space, Peter Thiel reversing aging, or Ray Kurzweil uploading his mind, they saw a digital future with far less to do with making the world a better place than with transcending the human condition altogether.

It's been obvious for years that our technology has far outstripped our ethics, this since the moment the Enola Gay released her cargo. At a time when everything that can be commoditized will be, and all transactions, including moral, ethical, and spiritual, are filtered through the logic of the spreadsheet, we should expect nothing else.

Now we wrestle with the ethical dilemmas presented by unchecked technological development at the behest of corporate capitalism. Dreamed-of digital utopias have waxed into marketplaces that have become exploitative and extractive. Bots and algorithms, and even conversations overheard by your cell phone prompt offers of new deals just over the digital horizon. Workplaces for suppliers become increasingly dehumanized and automated (think Amazon). We collectively wring our hands with each story about jobs lost, exploitations of the gig economy, and collapse of local retail. And tthose about the rest of the world, where we export our trash and poisons, create toxic waste dumps in third world countries picked over by peasant children and their families, who sell recovered materials back to the manufacturers. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Our extractive culture exports our problems: out of sight, out of mind. And once out of sight, we escape to fantasies afforded by new tech baubles and toys– VR fantasy worlds, shooter games, movie franchises based on comic heroes and 3D animation, zombie apocalypses, and so on. The zeitgiest is fairly shrieking at us. Ours is the logic of the junkie: we believe that the next tech fix is just around the corner.

When the hedge funders asked Rushkoff how to best maintain authority over their security forces after “the event,” He suggested should treat those people really well, right now, engage with their security staffs as they would family members. And extend an "ethos of inclusivity" to  business practices, supply chain management, sustainability efforts, and wealth distribution…

They were amused by my optimism, but they didn’t really buy it. They were not interested in how to avoid a calamity; they’re convinced we are too far gone. For all their wealth and power, they don’t believe they can affect the future. They are simply accepting the darkest of all scenarios and then bringing whatever money and technology they can employ to insulate themselves.

We should take them at their word.


Short takes:

EPA chief Scott Pruitt resigns amid scandals, blames critics 

Pruitt's 14 scandal investigations finally became too much of a burden even for The Orange Lout to take, and Pruitt did an el-foldo, blaming everyone else on the way out the door. Crying the obligatory "witch-hunt," and pour everyone a round. Pruitt's successor promises to be Pruitt without the serial grifts.

China and Russia hit back at Trump tariffs

45 launched his "easy-to-win" trade war this week. China's commerce ministry lodged a new complaint with the WTO. Russia announced extra duties on US imports in retaliation. Beijing accused the US of starting the "largest trade war in economic history". Evidence mounts that Trump's trade fights will be most harmful to the people who voted for him, especially in states with large exports of soy.

It Was Absurdly Hot in North Africa Thursday

The entire globe is in the grips of an unusual heat wave. Following sweltering temperatures in the U.S. and a hot, smoky Siberia (with temps above 90 degrees F at the Arctic Circle), we have what may be the hottest temperatures ever recorded in Africa. The heat dome over Algeria and the rest of North Africa was “3.5 to 4 standard deviations from normal, meaning highly unusual.”

Intense heat wave shattering temperature records in Iran and the Caucasus

An intense heat wave has shattered temperature records in Iran and the Caucasus nations of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia, causing power shortages. Weather experts said the heat wave is the result of a high-pressure dome that formed over the Eurasian region and reaches as far north as southern Russia.


Surly1 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 a quiet domestic existence in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary. Descended from a long line of people to whom one could never tell anything, all opinions are his and his alone, because he paid full retail for everything he has managed to learn.

Oh Say Can You See?


From the keyboard of Surly1
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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on July 4, 2018

“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”

 ― Mark Twain  


As we celebrate the nation's Independence, a virtual pallor seems to hang over the proceedings like a shitmist. There will be parades, fireworks, cookouts and picnics, and the attendant mindlessness of a hot summer day. There will be 21-gun salutes with appropriate solemnity. But in many ways, it's almost as if it's "Bizarro- Fourth of July–" similar, but a bit off. As if our hearts are not fully in it. Given that hundreds of thousands attended over 800 rallies demonstrating against government-sanctioned kidnapping of children and separation of immigrant families, they may not be. Now comes proof we're just not as patriotic as we used to be.


New Low of 52% "Extremely Proud" to Be Americans- Gallup

For the first time in 18 years, a recent Gallup poll shows that a majority of US adults are not "extremely proud” to be Americans. That's an average across political ideologies, with the sort of steep differences on either side of the political aisle you might expect.

As the nation prepares to celebrate Independence Day, 52% of U.S. adults say they are "extremely proud" to be Americans, a new low in Gallup's 16-year trend. Americans' patriotism spiked after 9/11, peaking at 70% in 2003, but has declined since, including an eight-percentage-point drop in early 2005 and a five-point drop since 2013.

                                Trend: How proud are you to be an American -- extremely proud, very proud, moderately proud, only a little proud or not at all proud?

From a peak of 70 percent in 2003, the proportion of those "extremely proud to be Americans" has eroded consistently, leveling during the final years of the Cheney-Bush regime and most of former Obama. A slide started in 2015 and continues.

No surprise the numbers split along age and political affiliation. Young adults today are significantly less patriotic than in 2001. Also no surprise that liberals (36%) join young adults as the least patriotic major subgroup. Independents, Democrats, non-whites and college graduates are also slow to salute. In contrast are those major subgroups most likely to wave the flag:  Republicans (68%), conservatives (61%) and those 50-64 (64%).

The 23-point gap in patriotism between Rs and Ds is now roughly double what it was in January 2001.

What's it all mean? Gallup suggests that Americans' continued frustration with national conditions — likely tied to their concern about the economy and lack of faith in public institutions — are reasons patriotism is at an ebb. Not surprisingly, I can offer some other thoughts.

How about the erosion of the middle class? For years, we've read the headlines: the middle class in the United States has been in decline.

CNN May 18, 2018: “Almost half of US families can’t afford basics like rent and food”
Marketwatch June 2, 2018: “50 million American households can’t even afford basic living expenses”
Wall Street Journal February 13, 2018 : “US households shoulder record $13.15 trillion debt”

In Asia, government policies favor the emergence of a prosperous middle class. In China in 2000, according to McKinsey, just 4% of the population was middle class. By 2012, it had exploded to 68% of the population. 

Meanwhile in the US, The Orange Lout has instituted tariffs against our friends, which will have the net effect of raising prices.  When prices rise faster than wages, the middle class struggles. And that’s what’s been happening. The coming round of price gouges will worsen the buying power of the dollar. Powerless workers will demand wage increases, which will further erode the dollar's worth, producing the inflation which the Fed has so dearly wanted to create. The only ones who will suffer are the wage slaves and retirees. Happy days are here again for the swells and grandees. 

Housing is a powerful example. Simon Black points out:

In late 2011, the average home cost around 3.56 times the average salary in the US, according to data published by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. By the end of 2017, the average home cost 4.73 times the average salary, even though mortgage rates were essentially unchanged.

In other words, even when you adjust for the fact that people are earning more, housing became 33% more expensive in just six years– and that doesn’t account for increases in property taxes, home owners association dues, insurance premiums, etc.

And of course, rents follow. So even though people are technically earning more dollars, those increasingly-worthless dollars purchase less and less house. And everything else. And we haven't even addressed the medical-industrial wealth-extraction conduit scheme. Such long term inflation and value extraction is simply theft baked in to the system. 

How about security? Consider that the postwar Marshall plan to rebuild Europe and institute a consensus of mutual trade and defense endured for 70 years. We're busily thumbing our allies in the eye over trade, and toying with the notion of leaving NATO, the better to get those Eurochiselers to pay Their Fair Share.  While Trumpsuckers cheer, "America! Fuck, Yeah!" they ignore the fact that the nuclear-tipped arsenal purchases their standard of living, thus enabling them to have that chrome-plated eight burner Weber grill on the deck of their double-wide.

Reflecting on recent history,  Watergate shocked the system as we were exposed to our first criminal President. Then Reagan, and Iran-Contra, and Ollie North, the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, and then Fox News. Plus we elected two Republican Presidents that lost the popular vote, and two Democrats that governed as centrist Republicans. A useless war, a PATRIOT Act, Citizen's United, and the theft of a SCOTUS seat all reinforced by lawmakers who gerrymandered their own voters.

Yet another President-without-a-plurality institutes policies at clear variance with our stated "values" and which flout both international law and human decency, such that hundreds of thousands are moved to take to the streets in sweltering summer heat. Little wonder the 'proud to be a 'Murkin'" contingent continues to shrink.

How about the fact that public sentiment and voting seems to have almost no effect on national policies? A 2015 study shows the US is a corrupt oligarchy where ordinary voters barely matter. As the authors put it, 

"Economic elites and organized interest groups play a substantial part in affecting public policy, but the general public has little or no independent influence."

Who does? Major donors and lobbyists. Your cynicism is well placed. 

Never forget that Grover Norquist's avowed goal was to shrink government to the point that he "could drown it in the bathtub." A good way to do that is to vitiate support for government, especially among its natural constituency. As well as to demoralize the general populace, the better to depress voter turnout. 

The current adminstration's policies are designed to immiserate and outrage. Border atrocities done in our names, attacks on the rule of law, insulting democratic leaders while praising thugs, and breaking up trade agreements are all about turning American exceptionalism on its head even as our "President" brays the words.  The so-called "leadership of the free world" is something we are gleefully throwing away. For what? And who benefits?

When Trump declares war on Mars, where are the young people whose patriotic ranks will swell the all-volunteer Space Force?


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 a quiet domestic existence in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary. Descended from a long line of people to whom one could never tell anything, all opinions are his and his alone, because he paid full retail for everything he has managed to learn.


 

This Week in Doom June 25, 2018


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 June 25, 2018

“We have zero tolerance for people that enter our country illegally.”

 ― Donald J. Trump, June 20, 2018


This was a week for visceral outrage in the face of unspeakable human rights atrocities. The Orange Lout signed an executive order countering the effects of his previous decision separarting children and infants from their parents, then scattering them to the winds.  The Trump message, scrawled clear as day and quite literally on  the back of Melania Trump, was that the Trump administration could not care less. Independent artists, students, and even actor Jim Carrey, created striking visuals that surfaced on covers of TIME and the New Yorker. (See examples.) The U.S. withdrew from the U.N. Human Rights Council, Trump ordered the creation of a new Space Force. The gnomes running the Dow Jones Index removed General Electric, the last 19th century holdover, from its ranks. Open season on black Americans by cops continued, in an episode with personal relevance. 

In spite of the wholesale revulsion expressed by a distraught populace, over the weekend Donald Trump continued to use fear of MS-13 to justify his ‘zero-tolerance’ immigration policy, but only 180 of the 187,000 people apprehended at a major border crossing are connected to the violent criminal group.

It is essential to remember that Trump’s executive order was not a reversal or a capitulation. The administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, under which everyone crossing the border illegally, even those who present themselves as seeking asylum, is subject to criminal prosecution, remains in place. Only the kidnapping of children has been held in abeyance. For now.


Creating a Crisis

Time Magazine Cover, July 2, 2018 Edition New Yorker Magazine Cover, July 2, 2018 Edition          

In pursuit of his singleminded objective to control each day's narrative and the news cycle, thus to suppress his pending exposure of the world's largest money-laundering operation, the current White House incumbent doubled down on crazy. Trump’s inhumane "zero-tolerance" policy forcibly removed children, toddlers and babies as young as three months old from their immigrant parents attempting to enter the United States at our southern border, even those seeking asylum. The Trump ruling junta executed this policy in a move designed to outrage, to alienate, and most important, drive the name "Robert Mueller" from the front pages. Trump reverses course, signs order to keep families together

This heinous operation has been condemned by everyone from the Pope to Fox TV producers to foreign leaders like  Theresa May to top corporate CEOs like Apple’s Tim Cook to U.S. airlines (who learned they may have unwittingly transported such children to destinations hundreds of miles away from their parents.) 

The outcry and revulsion from kidnapping without due process, and incarcerating them in internment camp conditions caused schisms in the solid Republican Congressional majority. Even longtime GOP strategist Steve Schmidt threw in the towel.

“Make no mistake about it when you’re ripping breastfeeding children away from their mothers and putting them in detention facilities, that’s an evil policy. To see the Republican Party break up the way it has, to lose its moral compass, it is tragic. It’s tragic for me personally, but I won’t be part of it. I won’t share a party label with people who think it’s all right to put babies in internment camps. My fidelity is to my country, not my political party. Country first.”

The optics were terrible, and the sound was worse. News networks played the sounds of crying infants ripped from their mothers. Outrage mounted across the country, and burst into flame in Portland, where an Occupy-style protest shuttered the local ICE facility. Oregon Public Broadcasting:

“Demonstrators have also been camping outside the building and festooning the area with signs with slogans like “Kick out ICE” and “Will trade racists for refugees.” Two tents on Monday evening had increased to six by Tuesday morning. Twenty-four hours later, nearly 30 tents had been erected…

Tents line trolley tracks outside the ICE facility in Southwest Portland, Wednesday, June 20, 2018. Dirk VanderHart/OPB

“The encampment — largely grassroots, but supported by a coalition of local groups — also has a medical tent and a kitchen area overflowing with donated water and food.”

Classic Occupy. The facility reopened, but the backlash continued to grow. The policy credited to Goebbels cosplayer Stephen Miller started to smell like dead fish within 24 hours, and by Wednesday Trump had signed an executive order modifying his earlier decision.

Here is what the executive order does: It keeps families together, keeps them under DHS control, does nothing to reunite families already separated, seeks indefinite detention with a DOJ challenge to Flores v. Reno, a consent decree that limits government detention of immigrant children to 20 days. If successful, they’ll be able to hold families indefinitely. It enlists military facilities as concentration camps. It also blames Congress, since Congress failed to pass immigration legislation, leaving the administration no choice, even as it reversed course.

If these policies seem irredeemably cruel, and the characterization of would-be immigrants as "insects" and "vermin" spectacularly racist, remember that from the beginning, cruelty was the whole point.


Trump Administration Withdraws U.S. From U.N. Human Rights Council

On Tuesday, The FSoA withdrew from the world’s most important human rights body in protest of that body's frequent criticism of Israel’s brutal and genocidal treatment of Palestinians. In other words, for telling the truth. UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, that counter of sustaining votes, scrivener of dissenters and settler of scores, announced this latest effort by the Trump administration to withdraw and diminish those international organizations and agreements it finds unsuitable to the reward of cronies and punishment of opponents.

It was the first time a member has voluntarily left the United Nations Human Rights Council. With one deft foreign policy stroke, the US now joins other rogue states such as Iran, North Korea and Eritrea, as the only countries that refuse to participate.

“If the Human Rights Council is going to attack countries that uphold human rights and shield countries that abuse human rights, then America should not provide it with any credibility,” Ms. Haley said.

Human rights advocates denounced the decision. 

“All this administration seems to care about when it comes to the council is defending Israel,” said John Sifton, an advocacy director at Human Rights Watch “If the Trump administration’s complaint is that the council is biased and flawed, they’ve just made it more so.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel welcomed the decision. “The U.S. decision to leave this prejudiced body is an unequivocal statement that enough is enough,” he wrote on Tuesday.

The withdrawal came as the administration faced worldwide condemnation from rights groups and governments. Your tax dollars at work. Done in your name.


Victory on Mars

On Monday, the floundering Orange Lout found yet another subject to which to attempt to change the subject from #TrumpRussia.

And this one is really bigly. He ordered the Pentagon to establish a stand-alone Space Force as a new branch of the armed forces.

"We are going to have the Air Force, and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal," Trump said at a meeting of the National Space Council at the White House.

"It is going to be something so important."

"Our destiny beyond the earth is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security, so important for our military and people don’t talk about it," Trump said. "When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space, we must have American dominance in space."

Of course, this order, like so many that bubble from the porcine lips of the Prevaricator-in-Chief, is patently illegal and meant to mollify his base of droolers and window-lickers. Establishing a new military branch requires congressional action and corresponding funding, as pointed out by Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio):

"Congress has asked DoD to study how we handle space. We still don’t know what a Space Force would do, who is going to be in it, or how much is it going to cost," Turner said. "After we get the report that we required as a legislative body and the president signed off on, then this issue can be appropriately evaluated for what’s best for national security."

But boy, it changes the hell out of a subject. At least for a news cycle.


And Stay Out!  GE Kicked To Curb, Last 19th Century DJI Member Removed 

General Electric added shame to suffering on Tuesday as overseers of the Dow Jones Industrial Average kicked the company out of the benchmark index it had inhabited for more than a century. GE will be replaced by Walgreens. The slippage is just another trailing indicator for what was once the world’s most valuable company.

“It was an issue not of if, but when,” said Quincy Krosby, the chief market strategist at Prudential Financial Inc. “The GE that was dominant in the Dow in the ’70s and ’80s is no longer the same GE.”

Down 26 percent, GE had been the Dow's worst performer in 2018, as it had been last year. Once an embodiment of American industry and managerial know-how, GE had arguably died some time ago. The DJI announcement was just the first shovel of dirt on an open grave.


State Terror Comes Home

Antwon Rose, 17, was shot and killed by police in East Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Nickole Nesby via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

 

On Wednesday, local police executed 17-year-old Antwon Rose in East Pittsburgh, PA. The boy was fleeing from a traffic stop and and unarmed when he was shot in the back by a cop who had been sworn onto the force mere hours earlier. This story had particular resonance for me because it happened on the next hill over from where I was raised, and I was visiting friends in the area when it occurred.

A bystander’s video showed the officer opening fire as Rose fled from police. In terms of seeking justice, video is the great equalizer. Video does nothing to stem the tide of summary executions of black Americans by rogue cops, but it marginally increases the likelihood of survivors successfully seeking accountability.  

According to the Allegheny County Police Department, police initially responded to reports of a shooting around 8:20 pm on Tuesday, finding a 22-year-old man who had been shot but was taken to the hospital and survived. Police put out a call for a vehicle that was seen fleeing the scene, and officers stopped a car that they said matched the description. While they were detaining the driver of the car, two people jumped out. An officer opened fire, killing a 17-year-old. 

The 17-year-old was Antwon Rose, a student at Woodland Hills School District, according to Shelly Bradbury and Andrew Goldstein at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Allegheny County Police Superintendent Coleman McDonough said Rose was unarmed, although officers found two guns in the vehicle he fled from.

The 20-year-old driver of the vehicle was released after he was questioned by police. The third occupant of the car remains at large.

A bystander captured a video of the police shooting and posted it on Facebook. It shows two people running away from police cars, with their backs to the officers, as police open fire. Multiple law enforcement agencies are investigating the shooting. 

On Wednesday night, four of us were driving to a pizza restaurant in East Pittsburgh, a favorite from childhood and adolescence. We'd been planning it all week. We drove east in what for Pittsburgh is a serious storm event, but in coastal Virginia is known as "rain." About half a mile from our destination, we came to a red light where several cop cars were parked, lights flashing. A large trailer truck was trying around in the intersection and reversing field. Another cop car drove toward us and against traffic, parked his car at a slant directly at us. WTF? I moved to turn around by moving to the left lane and asked a cop what the issue was. (This area had previously received national notoriety some weeks ago when landslides demolished houses and blocked PA Route 30, so another rain-induced landslide calamity was by no means out of the question.) The cop said people ahead were demonstrating. In a driving rain. I wondered what they could be possibly demonstrating about in such conditions, as we were not yet aware of the shooting.

We tried to reach our destination another way, by navigating through the rain-slicked streets of our old neighborhood and going back down the hill and approaching from the other direction. The cut-through I recalled from adolescence had been removed at some point in the past forty years. With no other recourse, we turned around and left. 

Only when we got back to my friend's house did I learned of the execution by cop. Antwon Rose was from all accounts a good, bright kid. He attended the same high school we did. The cop is reported to be being treated for "shock," a ruse doubtless from the police union manual on how to execute the unarmed black American without consequence. I expect he will be placed on "administrative (meaning paid) leave,"  and receive a vacation for several months, before his pro forma hearing and exoneration a la Ferguson, Cleveland, et al.

The demonstrations in East Pittsburgh have continued for at least four straight days.


Other short takes worth mentioning as they whiz by include the passing of conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer,  the introduction of retaliatory tariffs on US goods  by the European Union in an attack on Trump's trade war, Disney raised their bid for Fox assets to $71.3 billion in cash and stock, topping Comcast, Instagram hit 1 billion monthly users, SCOTUS punted on its biggest decision of its term so far regarding partisan gerrymandering, and a sporting event called the World Cup began group play.

Another week as we spin toward Seneca's cliff.


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 a quiet domestic existence in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary. Descended from a long line of people to whom one could never tell anything, all opinions are his and his alone, because he paid full retail for everything he has managed to learn.

This Week in Doom June 10, 2018


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 June 10, 2018

“It’s like these guys take pride in being ignorant.” ― Barack Obama  


This was a week in which The Orange Turd blasted our allies and trading partners, gave aid and succor to Russia, declared himself above the law and that he can pardon himself, called the special counsel unconstitutional and otherwise appealed to his rump base of hard core supporters and tagalong stupids. This stuff would be funny if it weren’t so dangerous. Anti-intellectualism has been the glue holding together the Republican platform, and is normalized for a third of the electorate, such that we are unequipped to deal with the complex problems we hasten to create all over the world. 

Right-wingers label intelligence and being well-informed as “elite,” implying that ignorance is somehow both valuable and under attack, because a sense of continued victimhood  is necessary to stoke the flames of grievance.  Richard Hofstadter described our anti-intellectualism as “older than our national identity” in his 1963 classic, Anti-Intellectualism in American Life. Observers from Tocqueville on noted American ignorance as an essential element of the national character, never found far from its running buddy, nativism. Yet our founders established a form of government that requires an informed citizenry. Hard to do when television prefers simplistic arguments, solutions, answers, and a story arc that resolves in 22 minutes. And even TV is losing the attention battle to the smartphone.

We can't agree on what constitutes a "fact." Trump's War on Truth starts with "No Collusion," and proceeds to denying climate change, asserting widespread voter fraud, and asserting evidence doesn't matter. Evidence-based communities are under attack — the intelligence community, law enforcement, think tanks and journalists. Such attacks come in various forms — disregard for data, ad hom attacks on messengers and motives, deflections and false analogies. And outright lying. Now any theory is valid if it sells books, earns ratings, or moves units, anything can be true if someone says it loudly enough, and fact is whatever enough people believe, determined by how fervently they believe it. Praise Jesus.

American 15-year-olds rank 24th out of 29 countries in math literacy, and their parents are as likely to believe in flying saucers as in evolution; roughly 30 to 40 percent believe in each. Almost half of Americans can’t name even one of the rights guaranteed by the First Amendment. 35 percent think gay people can choose to become straight. 29 percent say that a bloody fight against the U.S. government “isn’t just imminent but imperative.” A late-night comic interviewed a Georgia Rep about the bill she co-sponsored  that would require display of the Ten Commandments in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. When asked, she couldn't actually name the commandments. Apparently we don't need to know anything because, hey, we can look it up on the Internet.

Just don't lose your phone.


Trump cuts and runs from G7. End of the world order?

The G7 (G6?) is in apparent disarray after Trump rejected a joint communique and attacked Canada's Justin Trudeau as 'weak.' In a PR offensive meant to bring his low IQ voter base of to full erection, The Orange Lout managed to threaten new trade wars, insult our friends, coddle our enemies and call for Russia to be reinstated to the G7. He arrived late to a meeting on human rights, signaling his disdain for the proceedings, and then left early in case anyone missed the point.

Yet for all that, the US had appeared to agree a version of a draft statement on contentious issues thanks to an all-night negotiating session by officials from all sides. But then Trump's personal Iago, John Bolton, went to work on his erratic, easily swayed charge.

But after leaving for Singapore, Trump tweeted personal attacks on Trudeau and said that he had told his representatives not to sign the summit communique, turning what had already been a tense meeting of the world’s leading industrialized democracies into a fiasco.

A few minutes before Trump sent out his inflammatory tweets, his hawkish national security security adviser, John Bolton, appeared to anticipate them by sending a tweet of his own, deriding the G7 summit he had just attended.

“Just another G7 where other countries expect America will always be their bank. The President made it clear today. No more,” Bolton said.

On meeting Trump, Trudeau made a gift of a framed photo of The Orange Turd's  grandfather’s Canadian brothel in British Columbia, where Friedrich Drumpf made the fortune that was the foundation of the Trump family real estate empire. Orange Julius seemed happy with the gift, even bragging about it on Twitter. Some speculate it was a brilliant troll. 

Apparently this was not the only viral slight from Trudeau to Trump. In the released photo of the world leaders together, the two leaders also stood side-by-side and clearly showed that Trudeau is visibly taller than The Orange Lout. Trudeau is listed as 6-foot-2 while Trump was comically listed on his official White House physical as 6-foot-3. Compared to Trudeau, he appears to be at least two inches shorter than his listed height, which would classify him as obese.

It is not known whether the point of the gift slowly dawned on The Orange One only later, or whether that helped fuel his tantrum. In a related rumor, Vladimir Putin was heard singing a happy tune.


How Singapore, Astana and St Petersburg preview a new world order

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a meeting of a diffreent kind took place. Pepe Escobar outlines how Russia-China are now well-placed to have Turkey, Iran, Pakistan and India join them along with the central Asian stans, in a new mega trading bloc, even as the  US/Japan/EU western bloc is collapsing and divided.

The Astana Economic Forum in Kazakhstan centered on how mega-partnerships are changing world trade. Participants included the president of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the Eurasian Development Bank, the president of the EU Commission, the deputy director-general of the WTO, and academics. You may ask, "who cares?" 

In a nutshell; this New Great Game installment revolves around “Russia’s strategy to enhance its bargaining power with the West by pivoting to the East.”


While Putin's Man in the White House left the G7 early in a snit, he  left behind a giant turd in the punch bowl, demanding that Russia be re-admitted to the G-7. 

Cui bono?

Join now in another rousing chorus of "No Kollusion!"

As the New Silk Road initiative continues, along with mega-partnerships changing world trade, meetings like the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) occurring soon, the US is quickly becoming a pariah state.

Cui bono?

Maybe you missed this as well:

Add to the debate the crucial Astana headline, ignored by Western corporate media: Iran signed a provisional free-trade-zone agreement with the EAEU, lowering or abolishing customs duties, and opening the way for a final deal in 2021. For Iran, that will be a golden ticket to do business way beyond Southwest Asia, integrating it further with Russia and also Kazakhstan, which happens to be a key member of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

The rest of the world is going its own way, and will be doing so without the US. Let's review the bidding: Trump hollows out the State department, and surrounds himself with "my generals." Military acumen replaces statecraft. Ambassadorships go unfilled. Wary of "globalists," the US retreats from the world, and China rushes in the fill the vacuum. Trump picks unnecessary fights with allies, who consider other trade and strategic options. Putin and Xi offer options. America become increasingly isolated as Trump Makes China Great Again.

Once again: cui bono?

We all like to forget that "the American standard of living" is financed by foreign debt, backed by the full faith and credit of the US nuclear arsenal and delivery systems. Which mean less ability to burden the rest of the world with all those troublesome dollars, and when all that debt comes home to roost, great will be the hue and cry therefrom. The "average American" will suffer a bigly shock to his and her standard of living, and our children might be able to afford a chicken for Sunday Dinner luxury once a month… Maybe only then will we put all the goddamn phones down.


Trump: 'I have the absolute right to pardon myself'

It's hard to think back thus far and realize that this happened within this week, such are the serial insults to our attention, but the Orange Lout continue to make his above-the Law-assertions that he could, indeed, pardon himself. He was quick to add that He didn't need to do that, because he had done nothing wrong. Just ignore all those indictments…

The DOJ ruled 44 years ago that the president cannot pardon himself

Trump took to Twitter on Monday to claim his "absolute right" to grant himself a presidential pardon, though he said it would be unnecessary as he has "done nothing wrong." He cited "numerous legal scholars" to back his claim.

However, as Bloomberg reporter Steven Dennis pointed out, that wasn't the case at the end of former President Richard Nixon's time in office. "Under the fundamental rule that no one may be a judge in his own case, the president cannot pardon himself," the Department of Justice declared in 1974. The DOJ spelled it out just four days before Nixon resigned, explaining that the president's pardoning power "does not extend to the president himself."

Even his designated TV legal rodeo clown, Rudy "9-11" Giuliani, added that Trump pardoning himself is "unthinkable" and "would lead to probably an immediate impeachment."

As we have already seen,the fact that this course of action may be illegal in no way precludes Trump from taking it and saying, in effect, "What are you going to do about it?" The Republican majority has proven themselves to be as craven a bunch of lickspittles as ever gathered together to submit to serial forcible sodomy, so expect no "rule of law" relief from that quarter.

Along those lines, Charlie Pierce submitted an article, Trump Has Access to Everything a Dictator Could Want, in which he outlines how Trump consolidates power based on deceit at an alarming rate, and is becoming more popular for doing so among the only voters that matter to him. They care only about winning at all costs, and immiserating godless "libruls" is just an added lagniappe.

The president*, installed at least in part by ratfckers in the employ of a former KGB thug now running a murderous kleptocracy, has at his easy disposal everything a dictator could possibly want. He has combined an instinctive contempt for democratic government with a swindler’s nose for easy cash and a junkie knifepoint robber’s reckless disregard for consequences. He has a tight, loyal cabal of flunkies who’d be chasing ambulances if it weren’t for their talents as sycophants. He has a largely impotent political opposition and a largely supine congressional majority. He is one vote away from a rubber-stamp Supreme Court…

The prion disease began when the party ate the monkeybrains provided by Ronald Reagan, who served up crackpot economics leavened with a cynical alliance with splinter American Protestantism. It has gathered strength within the party, its symptoms becoming more and more obvious year after year. 

Iran-Contra. Willie Horton. Atwater. Rove. Falwell. Graham. Luntz. Bauer. Gingrich. The Impeachment Kabuki. Florida. The lies undermining the Iraq War. Gay-baiting in the 2004 elections. The U.S. Attorneys scandal. Phony charges of voter fraud. The barbaric use of Terri Schiavo for political gain. The unprecedented obstruction, based in overt racism, of Barack Obama. The tolerance of Louie Gohmert, Steve King, Blake Fahrenhold, and Michele Bachmann. The endless flogging of the events at Benghazi. 

And, finally, confronted with genuine, uncut, unfiltered, un-consulted authoritarianism, these people affect surprise that their party was ready for this president* or someone like him? Or that their party was helpless to stop him, or to confront him once in office? The Republican party abandoned its political innocence long ago. It’s only now just noticing.

This administration is the culmination of 40 years of conservative Republican politics melded with an atavistic, fringe Christopathy. The executive is accumulating unchecked power at a breakneck pace, and it is debatable whether he can even be stopped. If you don't like it, get thee to the polls in November. And if you DO like it, eat a bullet.


Suicide Is Painless

The deaths by suicide of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain have called attention is rising suicide rates in The Home of the Brave, Land of the Free. NBC reports that US suicide rates are up 30 percent since 1999, according to the CDC. Only half of people who died by suicide had diagnosed mental health conditions.

That may be in part because it’s so difficult to get mental health care, said Dr. Jack Rozel, medical director of the Allegheny crisis services facility in Pittsburgh and president-elect of the American Association for Emergency Psychiatry.

“I run a major crisis center. We have 150 staff. We provide almost 150,000 services every year,” Rozel, also a psychiatry professor at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said.

Yet even his team sometimes has problems finding help for people.

“I think I am reasonably well-connected. About a year ago a friend of mine reached out to me. He was feeling more sad, more anxious, than usual," Rozel said.

"It took me days to get him an appointment with someone. It’s a problem.”

AA calls suicide a "permanent solution to a temporary problem." Who among us really knows what the other guy is going through?

A couple of trends here: In the Reagan years, we de-funded and closed mental hospitals, and in one fell swoop created a homeless problem of off-their-meds schizophrenics wandering the streets, to swell the ranks of other unfortunates. Which was then exacerbated by a casino economy that picks winners, and criminalizes poverty. (Being poor in America is really the only unforgivable sin. My city has jerked up benches in almost every park , even at the airport, and recently fenced off a vacant lot in which Food Not Bombs fed the homeless.)

Another trend has been the pharmacologing of mental illness. Therapists are expensive; pills are cheap. No paychecks needed for pills, which we can make for $.05 and sell for $10 the each. And who gives a fuck about the problems of a handful of muppets? Bad for profits.

Who knows what private torments someone otherwise enjoying the fruits of fame may suffer. But when you look behind the headlines, many thousands of people suffer with depression, with mental illness, and other ills, and our solution is to throw medications at them to paper over the problem, and then blame them for "being weak." Weakness being a sin almost  as unforgivable as poverty.

In the search for answers, we'll look it up on the Internet on our phone. Everywhere except in a mirror. 



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 a quiet domestic existence in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary. Descended from a long line of people to whom one could never tell anything, all opinions are his and his alone, because he paid full retail for everything he has managed to learn.

Trip to Club Morphine


gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on Dec.9,, 2017

“They tried to make me go to rehab
I said, no, no, no.”

 ― Amy Winehouse  


RE wanted me to blog about some of my recent adventures, which had taken me away from the community of saints in the Diner Forum and set me adrift in the archipelagos of modern medical technology.

Since I once went to Famous Journalism School, I'll not bury the lede: on Thursday, December 1, I had spinal fusion surgery. It is as extreme a procedure as it sounds: a six hour surgery In which one person known to me and a roomful of otherwise strangers open my back for the purposes of relieving the stress on a woefully-pinched spinal cord, and then leave in place a structure designed to relieve the stress permanently. Such surgery comes, of course, with all the risks attendant to spinal surgery as well as prolonged anesthesia.

Not a walk in the park.

This event had been some years in coming. In 2003, I fell down my own stairs while carrying a child, rolled over my ankle and broke it very badly. Repair required surgery.  And then, since I put too much weight on the ankle going up and down stairs, the surgeon told me it had to be redone. This necessitated spending two months in a wheelchair, where I got an up close and personal view of the life of the mobility impaired. And then the screws needed to be removed in a third surgery: the wages of being a "non-compliant patient."

Both of my knees were wearing out from early athletic misuse, and the wear and tear that comes with carrying a person-and-a-half on them for most of my adult life. I had arthroscopic surgery on both knees , and while the first one responded well, the left knee was left bone-on-bone and largely ornamental. 

Which led to a changed gait, as the body adjusts to pain with a variety of subtle stratagems, some conscious, others not. In the fullness of time, my left hip began to ache. Over time it got worse. Cortisone shots in the hip provided some relief from pain, at least for a while. But with each successive shot the relief window shrank. The last shot that I took lasted for a day. at this point, my surgeon suspected that the problem was rooted in pressure on the sciatic nerve, and ordered up an MRI.

The MRI confirmed his suspicions. I can read an MRI with the same assurance I would bring to translating the Rosetta Stone, but I could tell the difference in the appearance of the spine above and below L5. An X-ray confirmed that my left hip is arthritic and pretty well trashed, but that recovery would start with surgery to relieve pressure on the nerves. 

Given that in the last six months, my life has gotten progressively smaller, more sedentary and more painful, opting for the surgery was a clear quality-of-life play.

D-Day came and went. It took me some time to come out of the anesthetic fog, and my ever-dedicated Contrary was waiting for me. I spent most of the first evening in a morphine-induced haze, abetted by a cocktail of painkillers left behind in my spine courtesy of my surgeon. Contrary tells me that in the recovery room, I asked the attending nurse if it was time for me to try to stand and walk a little. Uh, no, bucko, don't jump the gun, she said. I remained in expansive good spirits even though effectively confined to bed. On the second day, I did get up and moved to my chair for about three hours. 

The Friday after surgery, I was still living large off the drugs the doctor had left implanted in my spine. I was laughing, cutting up, and had a good appetite. On Saturday, not so much. They moved me from ICU into the "ortho wing," which featured a room the size of a janitor's closet. It had room for one chair, which was wedged against the wall at the bottom of the bed. To bring equipment into this room, they actually had to move stuff out. I started to go downhill and had lost all appetite. Probably abetted by the fact that they served up some sort of "mystery meat" that looked like a small brick with moss on it.

Then they took away my magic button, the morphine pump, and substituted oral medication. Problem was they failed to tell me I had to ask for it, so I slipped into a slump of woozy pain and a miserable fog.  It was only after what seemed like two weeks of this that I asked a nurse, "Aren't you supposed to be giving me something for pain?" that she replied, "Yes, but you have to ask for it."

Hmph.

Then on Monday, the Three Stooges Ambulance team transferred me to a local rehab facility. The story of the transport is worth retelling sometime, as these three yokels looked like I was the only thing holding them back from their afternoon beers. They strapped my fat ass to a gurney and fed me into the back of an ambulance, and went barrel-assing down the interstate, obviously forgetting or oblivious to the fact they were transporting a spinal surgery patient. BANG! POW! CRASH! OUCH!!!

They moved me into a local "transitional hospital." It is a large rehabilitation facility, with multiple buildings devoted to different kinds of cases. My wing has responsibility for surgical patients.  The staff consists of a number of specialists who are very good at their jobs. As in most medical settings, the heroes are the nurses. My nursing care is absolutely nonpareil. As has been the dedication of my wife, who has spent the equivalent of two fill time jobs sitting with me and managing a household. And at Christmas, to boot.

My most immediate problem is that my wound keeps draining, and requires multiple dressings over the course of the day.  But it does seem to be getting better. Also, as I get in and out of bed, and move around with the assistance of a walker, I have gained strength every day as well. The days, which have flown by, are filled with therapy; an "occupational therapy" session in the morning, and physical therapy in the afternoon. Both types include simple strength building routines which go to buttress the legs and core. It is remarkable how demanding and challenging some of the simplest actions are post-surgery.

I will be discharged on Sunday December 17 according to plan. I don’t expect I’ll be going back to work before February.  It might be sooner than that; I just don’t know, and from now there is no way to tell.

There is nothing like being dependent upon the goodwill of well-intentioned strangers charged with your care and well-being to imbue one with a real sense of humility and gratitude. I am grateful for their everyday professionalism, diligence and good cheer. And their attitude and good huimor made it bearable. I am also grateful to be heading home for the next phase of recovery, and to be sleeping in my own bed with my own wife.

 So that’s my story. All for now.


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 once active in Occupy. He lives in Southeastern Virginia with his wife Contrary and neither bends, lifts nor twists, and has attempted to be a compliant patient in every particular.

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, 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.

Political correctness demands diversity in everything but thought

From the Keyboard of William Blum
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the future doesn't like us

Published originally in williamblum.org August 12, 2016


For 50 years I’ve been painstakingly cataloguing the brutal militarism and human-rights violations of US foreign policy, building up in the process a very loyal audience.

To my great surprise, when I recently wrote about the brutal militarism and human-rights violations of the Islamic State, I received more criticism from my readers than I’ve gotten for anything I’ve ever written. Dozens of them asked to be removed from my mailing list, as many as I’d normally get in a full year. Others were convinced that it couldn’t actually be me who was the author of such words, that I must have been hacked. Some wondered whether my recent illness had affected my mind. Literally! And almost all of the Internet magazines which regularly print me did not do so with this article.

Now why should this be?

My crime was being politically incorrect. The Islamic State, you see, is composed of Muslims, and the United States and its Western allies have bombed many Muslim countries in the recent past killing thousands of Muslims and causing widespread horror. Therefore, whatever ISIS and its allies do is “revenge”, simple revenge, and should not be condemned by anyone calling himself a progressive; least of all should violence be carried out against these poor aggrieved jihadists.

Moreover, inasmuch as ISIS is the offspring of religion, this adds to my political incorrectness: I’m attacking religion, God forgive me.

Totally irrelevant to my critics is the fact that the religious teachings of ISIS embrace murderous jihad and the heavenly rewards for suicide bombings and martyrdom. This, they insist, is not the real Islam, a religion of peace and scholarly pursuits. Well, one can argue, Naziism was not the real Germany of Goethe and Schiller, of Bach and Brahms. Fortunately, that didn’t keep the world from destroying the Third Reich.

We should also consider this: From the 1950s to the 1980s the United States carried out atrocities against Latin America, including numerous bombings, without the natives ever resorting to the repulsive uncivilized kind of retaliation as employed by ISIS. Latin American leftists took their revenge out on concrete representatives of the American empire: diplomatic, military and corporate targets, not markets, theatres, nightclubs, hospitals, restaurants or churches. The ISIS victims have included many Muslims, perhaps even some friends of the terrorists, for all they knew or cared.

It doesn’t matter to my critics that in my writing I have regularly given clear recognition to the crimes against humanity carried out by the West against the Islamic world. I am still not allowed to criticize the armed forces of Islam, for all of the above stated reasons plus the claim that the United States “created” ISIS.

Regarding this last argument: It’s certainly true that US foreign policy played an indispensable role in the rise of ISIS. Without Washington’s overthrow of secular governments in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and – now in process – Syria, there would today be no ISIS. It’s also true that many American weapons, intentionally and unintentionally, have wound up in the hands of terrorist groups. But the word “created” implies intention, that the United States wanted to purposely and consciously bring to life the Frankenstein monster that we know and love as ISIS.

So, you wonder, how do we rid the world of the Islamic State? I’m afraid it may already be too late. The barn door is wide open and all the horses have escaped. It’s not easy for an old anti-imperialist like myself, but I support Western military and economic power to crush the unspeakable evil of ISIS. The West has actually made good progress with seriously hampering ISIS oil sales and financial transactions. As a result, it appears that ISIS may well be running out of money, with defections of unpaid soldiers increasing.

The West should also forget about regime change in Syria and join forces with Russia against the terrorists.

And my readers, and many like them, have to learn to stop turning the other cheek when someone yelling “Allahu Akbar” drives a machete into their skull.


Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

William Blum is an author, historian, and renowned critic of U.S. foreign policy. He is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II and Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, among others.

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

 

The Days After Tomorrow 5: None So Blind

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

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Bill-Gates-768x548

Think the days of arrogant white ignorance are over? Consider that just a few weeks ago, American Geek-in-chief Bill Gates grandly offered to give Bolivia, which he referred to as a poverty stricken country, 100,000 chickens. (Sort of a “Let them eat eggs” statement — or, with a little extra trouble, cake.) Bolivia, it turns out, has a thriving economy, exports 36 million chickens a year, produces nearly 200 million. But thanks anyway, Great White Father.

 

Published on The Daily Impact on July 7, 2016


This is one of a series of meditations on what we might have learned, and might still learn, from the history of Native Americans about how to live without modern technology and industry, which we may have to do in the near future.]

One cannot answer a question that has not been asked (if you are a parent, you know exactly what I mean). And one cannot ask a question of which one cannot conceive. Thus does ignorance remain locked in place. Before we can learn anything useful from or about any other culture, we have to remove any blinders that prevent us from conceiving of questions: things like bigotry, racism, intolerance, delusions of superiority and exceptionalism, convictions of a special and exclusive relationship with God.

Fellow white Europeans, we have some work to do. The toxic brew that characterizes our relationships with others races did not begin with our contact with Native Americans, but it sure reached a kind of an apex before our mutual story was done. We can’t atone for that behavior, of course. But it would be good if we would stop it.

Columbus set the bar by mistakenly calling the first people he saw on the west side of the Atlantic Ocean “Indians,” because that’s what he was looking for, and in his culture, believing was seeing. That was just the beginning of the ignorance.  As European traders, explorers and then settlers began moving inland, they would get to know a tribe, eventually become aware of another tribe some distance away, and would ask their hosts, “Who are they?” “Oh, you’d better steer clear of them,” would come the reply, “they are rattlesnakes, (pronounced Iroquois).” Or, “You mean those people out west? They are cutthroats (Sioux). The ones down south? Cannibals (Mohawk).” Almost all the names assigned to the tribes of North America were in fact vile pejoratives, often words from a language other than their own. (And today, the PC Police get overwrought about the Washington “redskins.”)

Anyone who cared could find out that each tribe referred to itself as “The People,” perhaps with some modifier. The “Iroquois” were the People of the Longhouse (Haudenosaunee); the “Sioux” were just the People (Lakota); and the “Mohawks” were the True People (Ongwe Honwe). But who cared?

Is there any right more fundamental to human dignity than the right to be called by your own name, in your own language? Is there any worse insult than refusing to do that? But wait, there’s more.

Every Native American had an identity with two parts; asked for it, he or she would offer a name and a clan. One’s clan membership was as vital to knowing who a person was, as our last names are, to us. Clan membership determined who one could and could not marry. It was the clan that defined and preserved and passed on the behaviors and beliefs that comprised the character of its members. Hardly any white people knew then, or know to this day, that the clans even existed.

Moreover, most of the clans in North America were matrilineal, meaning:

  • when a couple married, they went to live with the wife’s clan;
  • when a child was born, it was born into its mother’s clan;
  • when a person died, any possession or title that could be inherited —  not many could — went to daughters, not sons.
  • a child was taught the ways of the clan, i.e. virtually everything about life, from how to hunt to how to cook to how to dress, by aunts or uncles who were fellow clan members. Fathers, who were not,  had little to do with their progeny, but had major responsibilities for their sisters’ offspring.

Think what this means for the Europeans’ attempts to establish religious and political authority by invoking — as they did constantly for centuries — to the presumed authority of a “great white father” residing somewhere overseas, or in Washington, or in heaven. If you ever come across a carefully done transcript of an exchange of views between whites and natives, you will note that when the natives wish to convey respect they use the appellation “uncles.” And their responses to the notion that they are in the care of a “great white father” fairly drip with sarcasm.  

“Hey, lighten up,” I can hear someone calling. “Why are you so down on your ancestors for not knowing enough about Indians? They didn’t have Google.”

Well, I am down on them, and the culture they bequeathed us,  not only because its baked-in bigotry enabled one of the most evil episodes of genocide in the history of the world — but because the habit of racist condescension is still here, still killing people, still poisoning relations among people of color and white people everywhere..

We fought and lost a terrible war in Vietnam convinced that the people of Vietnam were allied with the people of China against us; in fact, they had been mortal enemies for a thousand years. We fought our longest war, in Afghanistan, and our dumbest, in Iraq, with little knowledge of the religious sects and familial clans that are central to life in those countries.

If we can’t change our own culture’s nature, change its tendencies to racism, violence, exploitation and greed, we have no hope of a better future. Because bound as we are by chains of traditional ignorance, we can’t even see the multitude of paths that could lead us to a better place.

Fortunately, the ignorance I’ve been describing was then and is now dominant, but not universal. There is another thing that happened during our early history with Native Americans that is virtually unknown, and has immense significance for our present inquiry. We’ll get to that, next time.

 


Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

Peak History

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

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history

Published on The Daily Impact on June 14, 2016


We live in a country whose citizens — make that residents — are increasingly averse to complicated thought, indifferent to veracity, and reductionist in their thinking (every thing and every thought and every person is and must be either one kind of thing, or another kind of thing, no additional choices allowed). In such a country history has few friends.

History is too hard. You have to find out what happened, and then you have to figure out the context of the events — what led up to them and what followed — so you can tease out their significance for your time and place, and even after doing all that it may not be clear. Far easier to decide first what history means, and look up a few facts to “prove” it. Works for Fox News. And what they have made of journalism, we are making of history.

The stories of contemporary history are short and punchy, crafted for an audience suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder; their lessons are simple and obvious, as befits an audience capable of obeying rules, not of evaluating them — you know, nine-year-olds. (Soon we will have a population of adults who will not cross the street without holding a grown-ups hand, because, you know, that’s the rule.)

A recent case in point: the American Civil War. It is now almost universally spoken of as a war that was about only one thing, slavery. Knowing that, as all right-thinking folks do, it follows that everyone who fought for the Confederacy was fighting to maintain slavery. Period. Because they were wrong to do so, a very popular line of “thinking” goes, we should scrub from our history and our world every vestige of their existence, eliminating their flag from our sight, rooting out and destroying their statues from our county seats and capitals (you know, like ISIS is doing in the cradle of civilization) and reducing their biographies to simplistic diatribes.

Now we could see in this an evil hand, an intent to make sure that our children never learn that good people fight in bad wars for good reason,  that bad people support good wars for bad reasons, that causes and outcomes are complicated, and can be both good and bad at the same time. Because if they do learn that, they are far less likely to allow some tinhorn president to fight any damn war he wants to for trumped-up reasons.

But the reality is probably dumber than that. While I was trying to figure out how to express my view of it, Ken Burns did it better, not the first time that has happened. He delivered the commencement speech to this year’s graduates of Stanford University (damn him, he still looks too young to be a graduate, let alone advise them). Most of the news coverage hyperventilated over his blistering condemnation of Donald Trump. But mostly he talked about history and our misuses of it:

… we live in an age of social media where we are constantly assured that we are all independent free agents. But that free agency is essentially unconnected to real community, divorced from civic engagement, duped into believing in our own lonely primacy by a sophisticated media culture that requires you—no—desperately needs you—to live in an all-consuming disposable present, wearing the right blue jeans, driving the right car, carrying the right handbag, eating at all the right places, blissfully unaware of the historical tides that have brought us to this moment, blissfully uninterested in where those tides might take us.

We are, in other words, in the grip of a terminal case of cultural Alzheimer’s Disease, increasingly unaware of the people around us, unable to remember where we came from and who we are, deprived, in other words, of the resources we need to set a rational course, we are reduced again to children who can only follow orders. So we grasp the nearest grown-up’s hand and await instruction.  


Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

Kill List: Smashing the ‘B’ in BRICS

From the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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BRICS

Originally published in Sputnik on June 7, 2016

 


The stakes could not be higher. Not only the future of the BRICS, but the future of a new multipolar world is in the balance. And it all hinges on what happens in Brazil in the next few months.

Let’s start with the Kafkaesque internal turmoil. The coup against President Dilma Rousseff remains an unrivalled media theatre/political tragicomedy gift that keeps on giving. It also doubles as a case of information war converted into a strategic tool of political control. 

From left in front row: Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, Chinese President Xi Jinping walk for a plenary session during the summit in Ufa, Russia, Thursday, July 9, 2015

© AP PHOTO/ IVAN SEKRETAREV

Brazil’s Dilma Faces Coup: ‘Say Goodbye to BRICS, Say Hello to Washington’

A succession of appalling audio leaks has revealed that key sectors of the Brazilian military as well as selected Supreme Court justices have legitimized the coup against aPresident that has always protected the two-year-old Car Wash corruption investigation. Even Western mainstream media was forced to admit that Dilma did not steal anything but is being impeached by a bunch of thieves. Their agenda; to stifle the Car Wash investigation, which may eventually throw many of them in jail.

The leaks also unveiled a nasty internecine carnage between Brazilian comprador elites — peripheral and mainstream. Essentially the peripherals were used as lowly paperboys in Congress for the dirty work. But now they may be about to become road kill – along the illegitimate, unpopular, interim Michel Temer “government”, led by a bunch of corrupt-to-the-core PMDB politicians, the party that is heir to the sole opposition outfit tolerated during the 1960s-1980s military dictatorship.  

Meet the vassal chancellor

An insidious character in the current golpeachment scam is the interim Minister of Foreign Relations, senator Jose Serra of the PSDB party, the social democrats turned neoliberal enforcers. In the 2002 presidential election – which he lost to Lula — Serra had already tried to get rid of peripheral Brazilian oligarchies. 

Yet now he’s incarnating another role — perfectly positioned not only to retrograde Brazilian foreign policy to some point around the 1964 military coup, but mostly as the Beltway’s point man inside the coup racket.

Exceptionalistan’s key ally in Brazil is the oligarchy in Sao Paulo, the wealthiest state and home to the financial capital of Latin America. This is Brazil’s A-list. It’s from their ranks that an eventual “national savior” may eventually spring up.   

Once the peripherals are history, then no holds would be barred to criminalize – and imprison – an array of leftist leaders, Lula included, as well as manufacture a fake election legitimized by a noxious Supreme Court justice, Gilmar Mendes, a PSDB stooge.

It all hinges on what happens in the next two months. The prosecutor general finally asked the Supreme Court to throw three top peripherals in jail; they are all accused of plotting to derail the Car Wash investigation — an extremely complex juridical-political-police network of myriad concentric/parallel circles.   

 

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff delivers a speech on May 8, 2015, during a ceremony at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia to mark the 70th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany during World War II

© AFP 2016/ EVARISTO SA

Leaked Tapes Expose Coup Plot Against Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff

Meanwhile, the final judgment of Dilma’s impeachment at the Senate is bound to happen on August 16 – 11 days after the start of the Olympic Games. The coup plotters suffered a heavy blow as they were trying hard to accelerate the proceedings. As it stands, the outcome is uncertain; after the leaks, four to five senators are already wavering, as the leaks also implicate Temer personally. The “leader” of a zero-credibility, corruption-crammed scam, he’s among the targets of several corruption investigations and has just been banned from running to political office for the next 8 years.  

The Brazilian mainstream media monopoly (five families) – popularly referred to as PIG, the Brazilian acronym for Pro-Coup Media Party – has changed its anti-left tune and is now also going after selected members of the Temer racket.

According to the constitution, if both the Presidency and Vice-Presidency are vacated in the last two years of a given term, it’s up to Congress to elect the new President.

This implies two possible scenarios. If Dilma is not impeached, it’s increasingly likely she will call for new presidential elections before the end of the year.

If she is impeached, the PIG will tolerate the stooge-crammed Temer interim racket until January 2017 at the most. The next step would be what Serra and about-to-be-jailed Senate leader Renan Calheiros are campaigning for; the end of direct presidential elections and the onset of Brazilian-style parliamentarianism.

 

Michel Temer joined by allies Renan Calherios, Romero Juca, and Henrique Meirelles

© AP PHOTO/ ERALDO PERES

'The Great Destruction': Brazil's New Elite Drowning in Graft Allegations

The man best positioned to be the national savior in this case is former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso – also former “Prince of Sociology” and a major star (during the 1960s and early 1970s) of the dependency theory, then metamorphosed into an avid neoliberal. Cardoso is a very close pal of both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. The Beltway/Wall Street axis loves him. Cardoso would be “elected” mostly by the pack of Congress hyenas who got the Dilma impeachment rolling on April 17.  

The hard node of golpeachment goes way beyond peripheral Brazilian elites. It is comprised of a political party (the PSDB); the Globo media empire; the Federal Police (very cozy with the FBI); the Public Ministry; most of the Supreme Court; and sectors of the military. Only the Beltway/Wall Street axis has the means and the necessary pull to regiment all these players – by hard cash, blackmail or promises of glory.  

And that ties in with key unanswered questions regarding the recent audio leaks. Who taped the conversations. Who leaked them. Why now. Who profits from a nation in total political/economic/juridical chaos, with virtually all institutions totally discredited.  

Neoliberalism or chaos

Those were the days when Washington could mastermind, with impunity, an old-fashioned military coup in its backyard – as in Brazil 1964. Or as in Chile during the original 9/11 – in 1973, as seen through crack Chilean film maker Patricio Guzman’s moving documentary about Salvador Allende.

History, predictably, now repeats itself as farce as the 2016 coup has turned Brazil – the 7th largest economy in the world and a key Global South player – into a Honduras or Paraguay (where recent US-supported coups were successful).  

I have shown how the coup in Brazil is an extremely sophisticated Hybrid War operation going way beyond unconventional warfare (UW); four generation warfare (4GW); color revolutions; and R2P (“responsibility to protect”), all the way to the summit of smart power; a political-financial-judicial-mainstream media soft coup unveiled in slow motion. This is the beauty of a coup when promoted by democratic institutions.   

 

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro (C) speaks during a meeting against imperialism in Caracas, in this March 25, 2015 handout picture provided by Miraflores Palace

© REUTERS/ MIRAFLORES PALACE

First Brazil, Next Venezuela: Will the World See a Coup in Caracas?

Neoliberalism may have failed, as even the IMF research wing has concluded. But its rotten corpse still encumbers the whole planet. Neoliberalism is not only an economic model; it surreptitiously takes over the juridical realm as well. In another perverse facet of shock doctrine, neoliberalism cannot prevail without a juridical framework.

When constitutional attributions are redirected to Congress that keeps the Executive under control while generating a culture of political corruption. Politics is subordinated to economics. Companies engage in campaign financing and buy politicians to be able to influence the political powers that be.

That’s how Washington works. And that’s also the key to understand the role of former leader of the Brazilian lower house Eduardo Cunha; he ran a campaign financing racket out of Congress itself, controlling dozens of politicians while profiting from proverbially fat state contracts.

The Three Stooges in what I called the Provisional Banana Scoundrel Republic are Cunha, Calheiros and Temer. Temer is a mere puppet while Cunha remains a sort of shadow Prime Minister, running the show. But not for long. He’s already been suspended as the speaker in Congress; he bagged millions of US dollars in kickbacks for those fat contracts and stashed the loot in secret Swiss accounts; now it’s a matter of time before the Supreme Court has the balls – it’s not a given — to throw him in the slammer.

NATO vs. BRICS, all across the spectrum

And that brings us once again to The Big Picture, as we proceed in parallel with an analysis by Rafael Bautista, the head of a decolonization study group in La Paz, Bolivia. He’s one of the best and brightest in South America who’s very much alert to the fact that whatever happens in Brazil in the next few months will drive the future not only of South America but the whole Global South.

Exceptionalistan’s project for Brazil is no less than the imposition of a remixed Monroe doctrine. The main target of a planned neoliberal restoration is to cut off South America from the BRICS – as in, essentially, the Russia-China strategic partnership.

It’s a short window of opportunity after all those years under the Bush-Obama continuum where Washington was obsessed with MENA (Middle East/Northern Africa), a.k.a. the Greater Middle East. Now South America is back in a starring role in the geopolitical (soft) war theatre. Getting rid of Dilma, Lula, the Workers’ Party, by all means available, is only the start. 

It all comes back to the same, defining 21st century war; NATO against the BRICS; the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO); and ultimately the Russia-China strategic partnership. Smashing the “B” in BRICS carries with it the bonus of smashing Mercosur (the South American common market); Unasur (the political Union of South American Nations); ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance); and South American integration as a whole, compounded with integration with key emerging Global South players such as Iran.

The ongoing destabilization of “Syraq” fits the Empire of Chaos; when there’s no regional integration, the only other possibility is balkanization. And yet Russia graphically demonstrated to Beltway planners they cannot win a war in Syria while Iran demonstrated after the nuclear deal that it won’t become a Washington vassal. So the Empire of Chaos might as well secure its own backyard.

A new geopolitical framework had to be part of the package. That’s where the concept of “North America” fits in, backed by the Council on Foreign Relations and devised mostly by former Iraq surge superstar David Petraeus and former World Bank honcho Bob Zoellick, now with Goldman Sachs. Call it a mini who’s who of Exceptionalistan.

You won't see it enounced in public, but the Petraeus/Zoellick concept of “North America” presupposes regime changing and gobbling up Venezuela. The Caribbean is seen as a Mare Nostrum, an American lake. “North America” is in fact a strategic offensive.

It implies controlling the massive oil and water wealth of the Orinoco and the Amazonas, something that would forever guarantee Exceptionalistan’s preeminence south of the border.

The Caribbean is already a done deal; after all Washington controls CAFTA. South America is a tougher nut to crack, roughly polarized by what’s left of ALBA and the US-driven Pacific Alliance. With Brazil falling to a neoliberal restoration, it’s over as a promoter of regional integration. Mercosur would eventually be absorbed into the Pacific Alliance – especially with a man like Serra as Brazil’s top diplomat. So, politically, South America must be annulled at all costs. 

What’s left for South America would be its aggregation — as marginal players, part of the US-driven Pacific Alliance — to those NATO on trade deals, the TPP and TTIP. The “pivot to Asia” – of which TPP is the trade arm — is the Obama doctrine’s push for containment of China, not only in Asia but also across Asia-Pacific. Thus it’s natural that China (Brazil’s number one trade partner) should also be contained in the hegemon’s backyard, South America.

From the Atlantic to the Pacific, and beyond

It’s never enough to stress the geo-economic importance of South America. The only way South America can be fully integrated to the multipolar world is by opening up to the Pacific, boosting its strategic connection with Asia, especially China. That’s where the Chinese push to invest in a massive high-speed rail project uniting the Brazilian Atlantic coast with Peru in the Pacific fits in. That’s South American interconnectivity in a nutshell. If Brazil is politically annulled, none of this will ever happen.

Looking ‘Beyond South America’: Brazil Hopes to Become True Global Power

So every coup is now literally allowed in South America; indirect attacks to the Brazilian currency, the real; bribing local comprador elites with the backing of the global financial system; a concerted attempt at the implosion, simultaneously, of the top three economies: Brazil, Argentina andVenezuela. SOUTHCOM went so far as to produce a report on “Venezuela Freedom” earlier this year, signed by commander Kurt Tidd, which proposes a “strategy of tension”, complete with “encirclement” and “suffocation” techniques and allowing to mix street action with a “calculated” use of armed violence. Echoes of Chile 1973 do apply.   

South America is now arguably the prime geopolitical space where Exceptionalistan is laying the bases to restore its unrivalled hegemony — as part of a multi-dimensional, geo-finance war against the BRICS bent on perpetuating the unipolar world. 

All previous moves have lead to this geostrategy of imploding the BRICS and reducing South America to an appendix of North America.

Wikileaks revealed how the NSA spied on Petrobras. In 2008 Brazil came up with its own National Defense Strategy, focused on two key areas; the South Atlantic and the Amazon. This did not sit well with SOUTHCOM. Unasur should have developed it to a continental level, but they didn’t. 

Lula decided to award to Petrobras the prime exploitation of the pre-salt deposits – the largest oil discovery of the 21st century. Dilma’s administration gave a firm push to the BRICS’s New Development Bank (based on the Brazilian BNDES) and also decided to accept Iranian payments bypassing the US dollar. Anyone involved in South-South trade bypassing the US dollar enters a kill list.

Hillary Clinton is the presidential candidate of Wall Street, the Pentagon, the industrial-military complex and the neocons. She is the Goddess of War – and in a Bush-Obama-Clinton continuum she will go to war against any player in the Global South that dares to defy Exceptionalistan.

So the die is cast. We will know for sure by the time there’s a new US President — and arguably a new, unelected Brazilian President — in early 2017. The geostrategic game though remains the same; Brazil must fall so BRICS-led integration must fall, and Exceptionalistan may concentrate all its firepower in an all-out confrontation against Russia-China. 


PepePepe Escobar  is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he's been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of "Globalistan" (2007), "Red Zone Blues" (2007), "Obama does Globalistan" (2009) "Empire of Chaos" (2014),and "2030" (2015), all published by Nimble Books. 

Lies, Damned Lies, and News Reports

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

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cell-phone-news

An earlier, more temperate report on cell phones and cancer has supposedly been eclipsed by a newer, better one. But wait.

 

Published on The Daily Impact on June 1, 2015

 


“U.S. Leads Globe in Oil Production for Third Year.”

“Major New Study Reveals Cellphone Radiation Causes Cancer.”

These are just two examples of headlines that circled the world in the past week, subtracting from the sum total of human knowledge. Of course there were others: the “violent, chair-throwing riot” at the Nevada Democratic convention that turned out to have involved no violence, no chair-throwing and no riot; the long, dumbfounded pause when a group of pro-gun people were asked a hard question by Katie Couric, a pause that in reality was neither long nor dumbfounded. And on and on.

How are we to fulfill our responsibilities as informed citizens  (I know, it’s a quaint concept) when the information we get is consistently wrong and/or incomplete? For starters, it helps to understand the nature of the problem — in this case the dumbness and dumberness of American journalism. First Rule: when something is happening either because of stupidity or a conspiracy, always assume stupidity. These people aren’t smart enough to maintain a conspiracy.

Consider, for example, “U.S. Leads Globe in Oil Production for Third Year.” Anyone who has paid any attention at all to the oil industry in recent years knows that can’t be true. So how can a slick website like Climate Central,  “researching and reporting the science and impacts of climate change,” join the knuckle-draggers who published and believed it?

Hard to say. The Energy Information Administration report to which these articles referred had a slightly different headline: “United States remains largest producer of petroleum and natural gas hydrocarbons,” which does not mean, it turns out, that the US is biggest in both petroleum and natural gas, but is biggest when you add petroleum and natural gas hydrocarbons together. Moreover, “petroleum,” as used in the EIA reporting, is not the same thing as “crude oil,” although the reporting assumes it is: “Government estimates show that crude oil production has continued to grow across the country, from nearly 8 million barrels of oil per day in 2008 to about 15 million in 2015.”

In fact, government estimates show nothing of the kind. According to the EIA, the same agency being quoted in these pieces, crude oil production in the United States has been declining sharply and steadily for a year and a half — from a high of less than 10 million barrels per day. Saudi Arabia and Russia are both pumping slightly more than 10mgd, meaning that the US is in third place, right where it’s been for years. Moreover, says EIA, world crude oil production has been declining since last November.

The only way you get the happy numbers used in these puff pieces is to change the definition of oil, to include things like biofuels, and suspend your critical faculties. Not what we want our journalists to be doing.  

Now to the other journalistic atrocity, “Major New Study Reveals Cellphone Radiation Causes Cancer.” No, actually, it did not. It revealed that if you bombard rats with the radio frequencies cellphones use for nine hours a day, the male rats in the group irradiated at an intensity 75 times the maximum allowed human exposure from cellphones had a slightly elevated chance of developing two types of cancerous tumors.

The study did not receive the peer review that is normal before publication,perhaps because the first few peers to look at it had serious problems with it. It had no explanation, for example, for the fact that the irradiated rats lived far longer than the control group, who received no RF radiation at all. Or for why none of the female irradiated rats developed tumors.  

Frankly, I smell a rat, and so should every journalist writing and reader reading about this travesty of science, or about the oil business. .


Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

The Days After Tomorrow 2: Mourning the Montagnais

gc2sm

Off the keyboard of Thomas Lewis

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Montagnais

The way it used to be for the Montagnais, circa 1550; hide clothing, wood and hide canoes, stone-tipped weapons and tools. Thanks to the French fashion trade, things were about to get a lot better for them. And then, way, way worse. (Photo by Ben Christi/skyrock.com)

Published on The Daily Impact on May 19, 2016


[This is one of a series of meditations on what we might have learned, and might still learn, from the history of Native Americans about how to live without technology and industry, which we may have to do in the near future.]

In North America in the 16th Century, the people known as the Montagnais (the French called them that, “Mountaineers,” the tribe called themselves “Innu,” the People) were among the first to fall before the European juggernaut. Their story became a template for almost all the other tribes on the continent, and in some important respects is eerily like our own unfolding story.

The Montagnais lived in Quebec, north of the lower St. Lawrence River. They were hunter-gatherers whose life of seasonal hunting, trapping, fishing and gardening had been unchanged for many thousands of years when they saw the first French ocean-going ship, hove to in the Gulf. Beyond the initial, mutual astonishment, relations were for many years casual and infrequent. The French were fishermen who stayed in the area only as long as they had to, to fill their hulls and assure their profits. They needed nothing from “the savages” they saw on shore, and had no reason to be in conflict with them.

For a hundred years the fleets of Europe hauled in their catches on the Grand Banks, occasionally camping on the shores of the mighty St. Lawrence. They amused themselves by trading trinkets for items of Montagnais life, and the People were amused by the things the French would trade for, such as the skins of dead beaver. Then, in the mid-1500s, someone discovered that beaver pelts yielded a superior felt for hat making; some dandies at the French court began to wear them, the fad spread across Europe and the fate of the Montagnais was sealed.

Now the French visitors wanted something from the Montagnais — beaver pelts — and they wanted it badly. The profit margin for a cargo of skins delivered to Paris was on the order of a thousand per cent. Problem was, the French traders didn’t have anything the Montagnais wanted — at first. But on being shown the advantages of an iron cooking pot over a deerskin water bag laboriously heated with hot rocks; of steel knives and hatchets over implements with stone edges; of woven cloth over deer hides; the People were soon happily delivering tons of beaver pelts, which had virtually no value to them.

In this way, also, the People were introduced to alcohol. And the French, to tobacco. A kind of mutually assured destruction.

The passion for beaver hats in Europe was to drive this frenzied new North American industry for nearly two hundred years. For part of that time the Montagnais prospered beyond any dreams they would have been able to articulate. Life became easier for everyone, especially after guns, bullets and powder joined the roster of trade goods available. Until the middle 1600s, when the beaver ran out.

Just in the lower St. Lawrence River country. Farther inland, farther north, even farther south, there were plenty of beaver. So that, of course, is where the French traders went. And the Montagnais made a dismaying discovery.

During the decades they had enjoyed their new technology thanks to the beaver trade, they had forgotten how to live without it. Nobody remembered,or had any interest in, how to hunt with a bow and arrow, how to cook with hot stones, how to scrape a hide with a stone scraper. They had been shown a better way to live, had instantly adopted it, had become utterly reliant on it, and then it had been snatched away from them.

They had been proud, self-reliant people for thousands of years. In a few decades they had been turned into destitute, incompetent alcoholics dependent for their survival on the charity of people who held them in contempt.

How is this similar to our own story? We too were a proud, self-reliant people who grew, raised and hunted our own food, built our own houses, made our own clothes, lived in tight-knit communities. Then strangers came to offer engines to do our work for us, trains and cars and then planes to whisk us around the country and the world at our whim, electric generators to heat us, cool us, entertain us, cheaply and without much effort.

We enjoyed it. And we totally forgot how to live without it. So that when it is suddenly whisked away, we are likely to be left at the side of history’s road, destitute, incompetent alcoholics to the end.

There is another, amazing aspect of the Montagnais story that we need to understand; they way they were when the French found them. Nobody cared who they were then, and few care now, but we accidentally have a rare eye witness who left a careful record. And what he had to says casts a very unusual light on the subject of human nature.

Next time.


Thomas Lewis is a nationally recognized and reviewed author of six books, a broadcaster, public speaker and advocate of sustainable living. He also is Editor of The Daily Impact website, and former artist-in-residence at Frostburg State University. He has written several books about collapse issues, including Brace for Impact and Tribulation. Learn more about them here.

This Week In Schaudenfreude


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

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on May 25, 2016

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

 ― Martin Luther King, Jr.  

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

Lower Away!

elephant-donkey-boxinggc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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elephant-donkey-boxing

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  May 23, 2016

 


I hope you’re enjoying these horse latitudes of the political year, when the seas suddenly turn glassy and the Berning sun begins to roast all the diverse and inclusive hands on Hillary’s deck, who wait in anxiety for the first sign of a fresh breeze to push them toward landfall. Meanwhile, full fathom five below the dead calm waters the leviathan Trump waits in his comfortable darkness, circling forward, circling back, solitary, malevolent, content in his bulking grievances, patiently awaiting his moment to rise and smash his rival.

Things go eerily quiet and still before the California primaries. At this stage, the two major parties have discredited themselves so thoroughly that a necrotic stink wafts around the election of ’16. Who put that road-kill possum in Hillary’s podium? Why does Donald look every week more and more like a lurching Golem? The parties are rudderless. Their leaders range the decks like wailing revenants. It’s as if the mortal remains of Millard Fillmore and James Buchanan have come from the grave to eat the brains of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Reince Priebus. The rectified essence of every zombie fantasy churned out of Hollywood seeps through the capillaries of the dying political establishment, as it stews and ferments and waits to be loaded on the garbage barge of history.

Hillary threw a “hail Mary” after the Oregon debacle, proposing that husband Bill would become some kind of economic czar in her inevitable “turn” at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. That’s when you knew her crusade was doomed. It raised such a snickering in the media that the sick tropes of HBO’s Veep show looked like press releases from Proctor & Gamble’s PR office in comparison. Bill did such a great job at repealing the Glass-Steagall Act, maybe this dynamic duo of lawyers (“two for the price of one!”) can work on eliminating the anti-trust laws, the First Amendment, and the writ of habeas corpus — and then America can become a fullblown banana republic.

Trump has evidently been working on that smile of his: the slitty eyes, the weird horizontal lip stretch under that baleen of head-gear, the perfect expression of his white whale-hood. The crew from the ghostly GOP Pequod still doesn’t know what the heck to do about him. They rock above the depths in their flimsy dinghies, harpoons drooping, waiting for the sea to boil below them and their boats to splinter.

That will precede a more general splintering to come of the republic, first by demographics, then by territory. The most exceptional thing about the US has been the rapidity of its rise and now fall in the roll-call of empires. We barely had time to put together a coherent culture that historians of the future (enjoying ratatouille with fresh rat by firelight) could identify, and now it’s all percolating into a dreadful maelstrom in which one catches glimpses of the Kardashians, PT Barnum, Betsy Ross, Davey Crockett, and Eleanor Roosevelt amid the detritus of broken Tupperware and flapping pages of the Affordable Care Act. What a goddamned mess we’ve left to posterity.

Something is in the air that tells me Hillary will be dumped by the convention in Philadelphia in favor of Uncle Joe Biden, biding his time practically next door in Wilmington. Speaking of turns, isn’t it Delaware’s turn for a president? He’ll be a respectable place-holder, and he might even get elected, though the party will dissolve before he’s done, just in time for Texas to secede from the Union and set the tone for California, Oregon, and Washington State. Before you know it, the political map will look like 1861 again.

Donald Trump will be forgotten before Thanksgiving. He will leave a bizarre mental imprint on the life of the nation-that-was, something like a bad acid trip. And then the people of North America may actually have to start grappling with the problems induced by a failed banking system, population overshoot, climate instability, and the lost boundaries of social behavior.

 


James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

Dilma out: Brazilian plutocracy sets 54mn votes on fire

Dilma2gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Dilma2

Originally published in Russia Today on May 12, 2016


Never in modern political history has it been so easy to “abolish the people” and simply erase 54 million votes cast in a free and fair presidential election.

Forget about hanging chads, as in Florida 2000. This is a day that will live in infamy all across the Global South – when what was one of its most dynamic democracies veered into a plutocratic regime, under a flimsy parliamentary/judicial veneer, with legal and constitutional guarantees now at the mercy of lowly comprador elites.

After the proverbial marathon, the Brazilian Senate voted 55-22 to put President Dilma Rousseff on trial for “crimes of responsibility” – related to alleged window dressing of the government’s budget.

This is the culmination of a drawn-out process that started even before Rousseff won re-election in late 2014 with over 54 million votes. I have described the bunch of perpetrators of what Brazilian creativity has termed ‘golpeachment’ (a mix of coup – “golpe” in Portuguese – and impeachment) as Hybrid War hyenas.

Sophisticated golpeachment – supported by what amounts to an Electoral Inquisition College – has propelled Hybrid War to whole new levels.

 

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff. © Ueslei MarcelinoHybrid war hyenas tearing Brazil apart – Pepe Escobar

Hybrid War as applied to Brazil exhibited classic elements of a color revolution. Of course there was no need for no-fly zones or humanitarian imperialism to “protect human rights” – not to mention provoking a civil war. But considering the high resistance level of the victim state, where civil society is very dynamic, Hybrid War designers in this case bet on a mix of capitulation – and betrayal – of local elites, mixed with “peaceful protests” and a relentless mainstream media campaign. Call it ‘Civil War Light.’

That carried with it a fabulous cost-benefit ratio. Now the (immensely corrupt) Brazilian political system and the current executive/legislative/judiciary/mainstream media alignment can be used by the usual suspects for their geopolitical agenda.

Welcome to regime change light – politics, in a nutshell – as war by other means on the BRICS. A new software, a new operating system. Carrying a pathetic corollary; if the US is the Empire of Chaos, Brazil has now gloriously reached the status of Sub-Empire of Scoundrels.

Scoundrels galore

Rousseff may be accused of serious economic mismanagement, and of being incapable of political articulation among the shark pool that is (immensely corrupt) Brazilian politics. But she is not corrupt. She made a serious mistake in fighting inflation, allowing interest rates to rise to an unsustainable level; so demand in Brazil dramatically dropped, and recession became the norm. She is the (convenient) scapegoat for Brazil’s recession.

She certainly may be blamed for not having a Plan B to fight the global recession. Brazil essentially works on two pillars; commodity exports and local companies relying on the teats of the state. Infrastructure in general is dismal – adding to what is described as the “Brazilian cost” of doing business. With the commodity slump, state funds dwindled and everything was paralyzed – credit, investment, consumption.    

The pretext for Rousseff’s impeachment – allegedly transferring loans from public banks to the Treasury in order to disguise the size of Brazil’s fiscal deficit – is flimsy at best. Every administration in the West does it – and that includes Clinton’s, Bush’s and Obama’s.

The Operation Car Wash investigation, dragging on for two years now, was supposed to uncover corruption in the Brazilian political system – as in the collusion of oil giant Petrobras executives, Brazilian construction companies, and political campaign financing. Car Wash has nothing to do with the golpeachment drive. Yet these have been two parallel highways converging to one destination: the criminalization of the Workers’ Party, and the definitive – if possible – political assassination of Rousseff and her mentor, former President Lula. 

When golpeachment reached the lower house of Congress – an appalling spectacle – Rousseff was eviscerated by Hybrid War hyenas of the BBC variety; “BBC,” in English, stands for “bullet,”“bible” and “cattle,” where “bullet” refers to the weapons and private security industry, “bible” to pastors and evangelical fanatics, and “cattle” to the powerful agribusiness lobby.

The “BBC” hyenas are members of almost all Brazilian political parties, paperboys for major corporations, and – last but not least – corruption stalwarts. They all benefited from millionaire political campaigning. The whole Car Wash investigation ultimately revolves around campaign financing, which in Brazil, unlike the US with its legalized lobbies, is a Tarantino-worthy Wild West.    

The Brazilian Senate is not exactly an “upper” – as in more polished – house. Eighty percent of members are white men – in a country where miscegenation rules. A staggering 58 percent is under criminal investigation – linked to Car Wash. Sixty percent hail from political dynasties. And 13 percent – as alternates – were not elected at all. Among those favoring impeachment, 30 out of 49 are in trouble with the law. Charges include mostly money laundering, financial crimes and outright corruption. Renan Calheiros, the president of the Senate – who oversaw today’s impeachment vote – is the target of no fewer than nine separate money laundering/corruption Car Wash lines of investigation, plus another two criminal probes. 

Meet the three Banana Republic amigos 

Rousseff is now suspended for a maximum 180 days while a Senate committee decides whether to impeach her for good. Enter President-in-Waiting Michel Temer – a dodgy, shady operator – who has been branded a “usurper” by Rousseff. And usurper this provincial Brutus certainly is – according to his own words. On March 30 last year, he was tweeting that,“Impeachment is unthinkable, it would create an institutional crisis. There is no judicial or political basis for it.” 

His administration is born with the original sin of being illegal and massively unpopular; his approval rating floats between an epic 1 percent and 2 percent. He was already fined last week for violating campaign finance limits. And, predictably, he’s drowning in a corruption swamp – named in two Car Wash plea bargains and accused of being part of an illegal scheme of ethanol buying; he may become ineligible for the next eight years. Almost 60 percent of Brazilians also want him impeached – on the same charges leveled against Rousseff. 

Members of Brazil's Senate react after a vote to impeach President Dilma Rousseff for breaking budget laws in Brasilia, Brazil, May 12, 2016. © Ueslei Marcelino

Members of Brazil's Senate react after a vote to impeach President Dilma Rousseff for breaking budget laws in Brasilia, Brazil, May 12, 2016. © Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters

Brutus 1 (Temer) would not bask in the glow of his 15 minutes of fame without the shenanigans of Brutus 2 (Brazil’s number one crook, former speaker of the lower house Eduardo Cunha, facing charges of bribery and perjury, holder of illegal Swiss accounts, and now finally sidelined by the Supreme Court). It was Brutus 2 who fast-tracked impeachment as pure vengeance; the Workers’ Party did not cover his back as he was facing a tsunami of corruption charges. Brutus 2 used all his vast powers – he runs a campaign financing scam inside Congress – to obstruct the Car Wash investigation. His replacement, the interim speaker, is also under investigation for bribery. 

So meet Temer, Cunha, Calheiros; these three amigos are the true stars of the Banana Republic of Scoundrels/Crooks. 

As if the Supreme Court would be rascal-free. Judge Gilmar Mendes, for instance, is a lowly plutocrat vassal. When an attorney for the government entered a motion to suspend impeachment, he quipped, “Ah, they can go to heaven, to the Pope, or to hell.” Another pompous judge received a request to sideline Cunha as early as December 2015. He only examined the request over four months later, when the whole golpeachment scam was in its decisive phase. And still he argued, “there’s no proof Cunha contaminated the impeachment process.” 

Finally, complementing the whole scam, we find Brazilian mainstream media, with the toxic Globo media empire – which lavishly profited from the 1964 military coup – at the forefront. 

All hail the neoliberal restoration  

Wall Street – as well as the City of London – could not hide its excitement with golpeachment, believing Brutus 1 Temer will be an economic upgrade. Arguably, he might dare to tweak Brazil’s Kafkaesque tax code and do something about the enormous hole in the pension system. But what that mythical entity – the “markets” – and myriad “investors” are salivating about is the prospect of fabulous rates of return in a reopened-for-speculation Brazil. The Brutus 1 game will be a neoliberal feast, actually a restoration, with no popular representation whatsoever.   

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff. © Adriano Machado

Brazil senators vote to impeach President Rousseff for breaking budget laws

The golpeachment gang gets really incensed when they are identified as coup plotters. Still, they could not give a damn about the OAS, Mercosur, Unasur – all of them condemned the coup – not to mention the Holy Grail: the BRICS. Under Brutus 1, the Foreign Ministry, to be led by a sore loser senator, is bound to sink Brazil’s key role in BRICS cooperation, to the benefit of Exceptionalistan. 

All one needs to know is that neither Nobel Peace Prize-winner Barack “kill list” Obama nor Queen of Chaos Hillary “We came, we saw, he died” Clinton condemned the ongoing regime change light/golpeachment. That’s predictable, considering Exceptionalistan’s NSA spied on Petrobras and Dilma Rousseff personally – the genesis of what would develop as the Car Wash investigation. 

White House spokesman Josh Earnest limited himself to the proverbial platitudes: “challenging moment”“trust in Brazilian democratic institutions”; or even “mature democracy.” Yet he added, significantly, that Brazil is “under scrutiny.” 

Of course, the current stage of a very sophisticated Hybrid War strategy has been accomplished. But there are countless cliffhangers ahead. The Car Wash investigation – currently in slow motion – will pick up speed as a rash of dodgy plea bargains is already in store to create the conditions to criminalize for good not only Dilma Rousseff but the key piece in the chessboard: Lula. 

Game over? Not so fast. The anti-golpeachment front does have a strategy: to imprint especially in “deep Brazil,” the vast masses of the working poor, the notion of illegality; to rebuild Rousseff’s image as the victim of a profound injustice; to re-energize the progressive political front; to make sure the Brutus 1 government will fail; and to create the conditions for the man who will come in from the cold to win the 2018 presidential elections. 

Brazilian House of Cards? Bets could be made this may even end up as Anaconda, with Lula immobilizing the Hybrid War hyenas in a cobra clutch.


PepePepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

Border Lines

Transgender+Bathroomgc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Transgender+Bathroom

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  May 16, 2016

 


If the Obama Justice Department was really honest about its “guidance” on transgender bathrooms, it would have stated clearly a requirement to provide a new, separate, third category of bathroom or changing room for people identifying themselves as transgender. This would have given such persons a safe, private place to perform their necessary bio-functions without making the other two categories of people, male and female, uncomfortable.

Actually, such a third option already exists in many public places: the handicapped bathroom. These could easily be relabeled “Handicapped and Transgender” — the main feature of them being that they allow for one-person-at-a-time occupancy, obviating any effect on others. And it wouldn’t require expensive renovation of public buildings.

But no, Mr. Obama’s DOJ decided to antagonize large numbers of males and females by coercing them to consort with transgender people, threatening to take away federal school funding if they didn’t allow persons of ambiguous sexuality to use whichever bathroom they felt like.

This reveals the fantastic smug certainty of the political Left in assuming that such matters as the nature of transgender behavior are adequately understood and settled — for instance, that transgender is actually a real sexual category rather than a psychological disturbance, a developmental problem, an extreme fashion statement, or a fantasy. I’m not at all persuaded that this is settled, despite the pervasive wishful thinking of the social justice corps that it were so.

It should be clear after some years of social justice hysteria in this country that coercion is now the method of choice on the Left side of the culture war battlefield: you must believe what we believe, or face punishment. As a Vietnam-era registered Democrat I hugely resent this oppressive political approach. I resent even more the supposed public intellectuals and thought leaders in government, academia, and the media who go along with this despotic conduct — which includes ruining the livelihoods and careers of respectable colleagues among them.

Though I am not generally sympathetic to the extreme political Right, especially its evangelical arm which adopted coercive and punitive tactics well before the Left did, I think the governors of North Carolina and Texas have a case in this new transgender bathroom dispute, though I hope their lawyers argue it on some basis besides scripture and sheer boobish obstinacy.

You may have noticed that more and more we live in a society where anything goes and nothing matters. We got there through the incremental eradication of boundaries, especially in social categories and behaviors. Some people find this exhilarating and others find this disturbing. I happen to believe that the elimination of boundaries is not altogether a good thing. We would probably benefit, I think, from more and firmer boundaries than squishier and fewer of them.

Despite the fact that a lot of people I associate with are arty types of what used to be called liberal inclination, I was not in favor of gay marriage, and said so — and was scalded with censorious opprobrium for it . Considering what I know, for instance, about the unintended consequences and diminishing returns of technology, I did not consider it a small thing to meddle with social institutions that are truly older than history. We don’t know what the eventual effects of gay marriage on the social order will be anymore than we knew that the consequences of “Atoms for Peace” would be Chernobyl and Fukushima. Things happen in history because they seem like a good idea at the time. Then time passes and we find out differently.

I was in favor of civil unions for gay couples, since the disposition of chattels and property is not a small matter in a broken partnership, as are medical issues and the care of children entailed in these partnerships, and some method of adjudication was obviously needed. But it was not necessary to call it marriage. Why make the distinction? For the basic reason that not all things and conditions of things are exactly the same. That is exactly the problem with the sort of extreme relativism that reigns on the Left these days. Anything goes.

In fact, I suspected then and still do that the crusade for gay marriage was more a seeking of official state approbation for homosexual behavior as much as a legal issue. In other words, it was about feelings — which has become the basis of argument for practically everything in our politics these days. Anyone disagreeing with those feelings was labeled a “homophobe,” and their ideas on the matter could be simply dismissed as a phobia, a terrible fear, a bad feeling rather than a reasoned position about the workings of society. I was not phobic or fearful about people who identified as gay. But I didn’t then and still don’t believe that we completely understand that behavior, and that it is a settled matter — contrary to the shibboleths of the moment.

The case is similar with transgender. We only pretend to know what it’s about because doing so affords comfortable feelings of superiority — that we are better people for going along with it because the transit of human progress is ever upward, and we are on the cutting edge of that journey to utopia. I don’t happen to buy that story, anymore than I believe that an “installation” of plastic vomit on the floor of the Whitney Museum is as much a work of art as Edouard Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass.

America has a boundary problem and boundary problems are disturbing both to individuals and societies. A common feature of societies in decline is a preoccupation with sexual freakishness, which is on display incessantly in this Republic of Twerking and in the much-valorized “sexual subversion” celebrated in the arts. The Obama government does a huge disservice to this dangerously declining nation by provoking even more dissolution of social boundaries at a time when we have so many other converging problems of polity to contend with.

This is the great contradiction, by the way, of Donald Trump. He has captured the attention of so many voters by invoking the case of our “broken border” with Mexico — a political boundary that is simple enough for most citizens to understand. But Trump himself actually operates by smashing the boundaries erected by his own party for acceptable political conduct. Thus, Trump perfectly personifies the nation’s essential predicament: America has a borderline personality. It is a danger to itself and others.

 


James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency, and Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology and the Fate of the Nation. His novels include World Made By Hand, The Witch of Hebron, Maggie Darling — A Modern Romance, The Halloween Ball, an Embarrassment of Riches, and many others. He has published three novellas with Water Street Press: Manhattan Gothic, A Christmas Orphan, and The Flight of Mehetabel.

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