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The Lie of “Both-Siderism”


That-Was-The-Week-That-W-That-Was-The-Week-473964gc2smFrom the keyboard of Surly1
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Anthony Freda                                           

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on December 10, 2018

“I think there are good people on both sides.”

 ― Donald J. Trump


Let's be clear: this article rejects the notion that both the right and left are equally culpable in the endless political battle for hearts and minds. This is sometimes expressed as the "k'rupt duopoly," ""both sides do it," and "voting doesn't matter."  While true that many of the problems afflicting this country span decades and include administrations from both parties, much of what we face stems from the tendency to kick the can down the road and avoid the pain of near term electoral consequences.

Just this week, the unindicted co-conspirator otherwise known by his new nickname, "Individual 1"  noted, that the national debt would reach a critical mass only after his possible second term in office, replied, “Yeah, but I won’t be here.”  All too typical.

"Both-siderism" is a feeble, lazy attempt on the part of media to "balance" their coverage by resorting to the trope that "both sides" are equally culpable. This is part of "gaslighting the world," as remarkably expressed above by the work of Anthony Freda.

Both-siderism is false equivalency, a verbal sleight-of-hand which posits that my peccadillo is as grievous as your armed robbery. Trump's "grab 'em by the pussy" was thus answered with, "but her emails," and thus emotionally balanced, neutralized, and quickly forgotten. Both-siderism is a first cousin to "whataboutism," a favored trope of the right and of internet trolls truing to muddy the waters and change the subject in a losing argument. And both derive from the Tu quoque logical fallacy, also known as the appeal to hypocrisy..

One of my many unpaid jobs as Diner busboy and janitor is as primary administrator of the Diner Facebook page. I post articles which appear in the Forum, the Doomstead Diner Daily, and my own musings. I had recently posted an article that  the Office of Trump tax lawyer Edward Burke had been raided by FBI agents, and that the dominoes were starting to fall badly for Trump in an extremely bad week for Making America Grate Again.

One of our respondents, Tony, was quick to offer an object lesson:

DNC grasping at straws. Get ready for more pain in 2020…one way or the other, U.S. politics is a freak show. But this ploy would only work in a week with two Tuesday's.

Contrary, who is one of the admins of the page, replied in reasonably good humor,

Those are some pretty big straws. It's funny how closely Cohen's testimony aligns with the Steele dossier. I'm so loving this. It's like Christmas is coming early… Yep. Raided Deutsch Bank today, too. Deck them halls, we'll have a whole week of Tuesdays!

And then Tony kicked open the lid to the shitter:

What about the Clinton crime syndicate? They haven't fallen, have they? Why isn't Hillary behind bars? How many felonies did she commit, all unpunished? The problem with U.S. crony politics is that crooks can get away with anything in your country, because they have money and power. Another nail in the coffin.

Having nothing to do with the topic at hand. To which I replied,

"Whataboutism" is a crime against nature employed by people who otherwise got nuthin'. I am currently working on an article for the Diner blog about whataboutism and it's twin, "both-siderism." False equivalencies, all. I can't stand Hillary myself, (and hold her class traitor husband in deeper contempt), but the simple fact is that the Clintons have been investigated more than anyone in history, and NOTHING has stuck except a load on a blue dress. Nothing. No Hillary crimes, no felonies, no abuses of the Clinton Foundation. Nothing but rumors and lies spread by the right wing echo chamber. So put your Clinton noisemakers away: they don't work here.

The truth is that one side cheats. One side is the TV villain who grabs a handful of sand and flings it at his eyes of the hero. That's the far right, now identified as "Trumpists" or "the Republican party" (no longer any difference.) Every time you hear someone in the media say, reflexively, "It’s both sides, both sides," you are in the presence of an enabling mechanism for cutting the nutcase out of the truth.

Use of these dodges accelerated last year with Trump's refusal to denounce white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups in the wake of the murder of Heather Heyer. Trump famously equivocated the neo-Nazis and their crimes with the counter-protestors. Refer to the lead quote for this article. No fascists, no antifa, but that's not nearly good enough for the far right. 

It's not just for social media or around the Thanksgiving dinner table: both-siderist media fatcats make handsome livings positing false equivalency between left and right, with the left are now represented by what used to be moderate Republicans, and the right are  represented by seething, armed Nazis and Republiconfederates. The media thus provide undeserved moral cover for these retrogrades and effectively move the "center" of political discourse continually to the right.

There are always those who want to "hug it out, bro," and to those I offer the back of my hand. These false equivalency-seekers try hard to find a middle ground in our current politics. But after 40 years of conservative governance increasingly debased by the malefactors of great wealth, the political donor class and their media hey-boys, that "center" is now located in what used to be called "hard right." 

The preening, glossy-coated corporate lapdogs of the mainstream media thus offer legitimacy and a fresh coat of paint to the politically discredited who want to come slinking back to legitimacy after their leader goes tits-up. Trump’s presidency will eventually end, and his current supporters will predictably want to hose away the stench. They will present themselves as appalled by both their party’s past and the Democrats’ present, and will promise a more responsible future based on fresh rebranding.

It happened with Bush: after it became impossible to wash off the stink of Bush politics, the "Tea Party™" was born, and your Crazy Uncle Liberty was washed clean in the blood of the lamb, reborn as an "Independent" in a tri-corn hat along with his Revolutionary War cosplayer friends.

Watch as more rats go careening off the good ship Trump. You already see the Bill Kristols and Max Boots of the world present as "Never-Trumpers," spouting their usual right wing dogma wrapped in opposition to Orange Jesus. (It still amuses me that people insist MSNBC is "liberal.") Corporate media always prepares the lifeboats for these people. Look at what Fuck Toad reportedly did with "Press the Meat" recently: had on a Heritage Foundation rep to refute climate change. 

So when I take over, I'm rounding up the Chuck Toddses, Kathleen Parkers, Jeff Greenfields, David Fucking Brookses, Ron Forniers, Michael Smerconishes and Andrew Sullivans of the world, and putting them on an island where they can bleat "it’s time to denounce the harsh partisans who feed on polarization” to one another while lighting their own farts.

Now, I am not entirely unreasonable, although it's a position I prefer.  Some people do have a mix of affiliations, and assert that both parties are too controlled by their most strident, uncivil, and extreme elements. To which I reply, "Have you SEEN the Democrats?" And to which I raise a chorus of "Which Side Are You On?"

That fact is that both sides don't. Both sides are not responsible for the recent slaughter in Squirrel Hill, or for the spewing of hateful and divisive rhetoric that enabled it.

Both sides don't have a President* who exhorts hate, encourages bloodshed, and who appeals to the darkest aspects of the spirit.
Both sides haven't resurrected a slur used by murderous dictators like Hitler and Stalin to denounce the "Fake News Media, the true Enemy of the People" while spewing provable falsehoods every day.
Both sides don't kidnap children, or target them with tear gas when appearing at our border to request asylum. And then accuse the victims of being used as "human shields."
Both sides didn't launch a presidential campaign on the premise that Mexicans are "rapists" and "drug dealers."
Both sides didn't equate protestors with armed Nazis, and post Charlottesville call the Nazis "very fine people."
Both sides didn't didn't call for a "total and complete shutdown” of Muslim refugees entering the country.
Both sides did not assert, without proof, that "criminals and unknown Middle Easterners" had infiltrated the migrant group of several thousand headed to the U.S. after fleeing violence in their home countries. 

One could go on. But to what point?


There is politics. And there is evil. 

Compromise used to be a value in politics, before the Rs, led by Leroy N. Gingrich, redefined politics as war and his political adversaries as enemies to be destroyed. It is hard to negotiate with someone who wants you dead. Recognizing this fact is a necessary survival skill left-leaners are slow to adopt.

No more. 

Those who say "both sides are the same," “all politicians are corrupt” and  “nothing ever changes anyhow,” or "voting doesn't matter" are simply attempting to justify why they don’t have to expend the energy to address injustice or spend the courage to take a stand to affirm the truth..

All this, for what? For winning an argument, a news cycle? No, for winning a war.

The Republican donor class has a long term plan, of which you will hear nothing, but which will be made evident in sculptural relief by their deeds. The donor class has determined the most efficient way of waging war on democracy is on multiple fronts, and on a long term time frame. A gaggle of billionaires are sick and tired of the government telling them what they may and may not do, and have made common cause with any group who hates the government. Which includes wingnuts, bigots, neo-nazis, anti science fundamentalists, gun nuts, militia nuts, homophobes, Proud Boys, serial masturbators and Klansmen. These hateful lunatics despise the government because the government provides a check on their basest instincts. 

This is why the owners of this dark money project support Trump, whom they generally (if secretly) detest. He is a battering ram to enable and consolidate control over the judiciary, by which the donor class can keep a meaty thumb on the scales of social progress and justice. It's yielded two Supremes so far, and has swollen the federal judiciary with Federalist-society-vetted clones. The dark money boys are patient, and like rust, they never sleep.

Control of the judges and the courts is why a bunch of billionaires have paid to harness all these assholes, to put them to work tearing down the government so that they don't have to pay any goddamn taxes. And they'll select judges who will ratify their political vandalism.  

That's the long term game. The failure to recognize it, and to posit a false equivalency between this hateful agenda and democratic norms is why "both-siderism" and "whataboutism" are such pernicious tools wielded by the well-meaning but inept. So to both-siderists, whataboutists and "centrists" of all stripes, I offer the opportunity to kiss my ass. I'll see you in the streets.


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 Oct. 14: Getting Away with Murder


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 October 14, 2018

“I have left my home, my family and my job, and am raising my voice. To do otherwise would betray those who languish in prison. I can speak when so many cannot… Saudi Arabia has not always been as it is now. We Saudis deserve better.”

 ― Jamal Khashoggi  


This was a week in which Hurricane Michael made landfall as a Cat 4 in the Florida Panhandle, and flattened Panama City and erased Mexico Beach. As of this writing, the crack SWAT teams of the Trump Administration had mustered a post-Maria Puerto Rican-style recovery effort, meaning that aside from the Red Cross, residents are on their own. We learned that Sears, once the largest retailer in the world, is closing hundreds of stores under the guidance of designated looter Fast Eddie Lampert. As Sears stores fail, Fast Eddie's real estate company buys out their leases and re-rents the space to flea markets and crack dealers, thus improving the American suburb. The Trump administration is weighing new family separation efforts at the borders.

A West Virginia politician who told liberals to “get you’re [sic] coathangers [sic] ready” in preparation for the overturning of abortion rights by the Supreme Court is now being sued for calling a psychologist a pedophile for defending LGBTQ kids. A newly discovered long and craggy rift is splintering across West Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier, ready to split off. Illinois and Georgia are actively engaged in voter suppression. A five-year-old was detained at the border and persuaded to sign away her rights, as the Trump administration actively considers new family separation measures. New reports indicate that Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh is now being investigated for possible perjury charges by Chief Justice John Roberts. But the most compelling story of the week is that a journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, entered a Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey and never emerged.


Who is Jamal Khashoggi and Why Should We Care?

The disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2 and allegations of foul play have inspired outrage. According to Wikipedia, Jamal Khashoggi was most recently a Washington Post columnist, and had a long career as a Saudi journalist,  author, and progressive voice in the Arab world. Khashoggi fled Saudi Arabia in 2017 after the government banned him from Twitter, and afterwards wrote newspaper articles critical of the Saudi government, the crown prince, Mohammad bin Salman, and the country's king, Salman of Saudi Arabia. He also opposed the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen.

Anonymous Turkish police sources have alleged that he was murdered and dismembered inside the consulate.[8][9] The Saudi government claims that Khashoggi left the consulate alive, through a rear entrance,[10] but Turkish police say that no CCTV recorded him exiting the consulate.[11]

Turkish government officials allege that Saudi government officials lured Khashoggi to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul with the intention of harming him—and that there are video and audio recordings proving that after he was beaten, tortured and killed inside the Consulate, the body was dismembered. Some reports have it that Khashoggi recorded his own death via his Apple watch, connected to a mobile phone left outside. Whether this is true, or is Turkish disinfo to prevent disclosure of their own spying methods is unclear. 

So the Saudi regime had motive for Khashoggi's disappearance, as detailed in this article:  What You Should Know About Khashoggi: 5 Key Facts. It suggests reasons that the Saudis– and the Trumps who love them– may have the journalist's blood on their hands.

None of this is yet confirmed. But increasingly it seems that the Saudi crown prince, better known as M.B.S., condoned the torture, assassination and dismemberment of an American-based journalist using diplomatic premises in a NATO country. As a New York Times article has it,

Trump has expressed “great confidence” in M.B.S. and said that he and King Salman “know exactly what they are doing.” Jared Kushner wooed M.B.S. and built a close relationship with him — communicating privately without involving State Department experts — in ways that certainly assisted M.B.S. in his bid to consolidate power for himself.

The bipartisan cheers from Washington, Silicon Valley and Wall Street fed his recklessness. If he could be feted after kidnapping a Lebanese prime minister and slaughtering Yemeni children, why expect a fuss for murdering a mere journalist?

For their part, the Saudis are blaming the western press and the Qataris. Saudi Media Casts Khashoggi Disappearance as a Conspiracy, Claims Qatar Owns Washington Post. Saudi Arabia’s interior minister has condemned the accusations as  “lies and baseless allegations,”  according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency. Predictably, Trump's first thought was about money: "I know [Senators] are talking about different kinds of sanctions, but [the Saudis] are spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs for this country." Trump also declared the US will uncover the truth about what happened to Khashoggi, inspiring the same faith as did O.J. Simpson when he pledged to devote the rest of his life to tracking down "the real killers."

Meanwhile, we are all supposed to forget how the Saudi royals are said to have Pampered Princeling Jared Kushner's balls on a keychain. Who should be surprised they act with such impunity?


This week marks the continuation of open season on journalists with no bag limit. In a little noticed trend, it’s been a deadly year for journalists, even in democratic countries where press freedom is nominally an essential part of civil society.

Journalist Victoria Marinova brutally murdered in Bulgaria

Victoria Marinova, a 30-year-old Bulgarian journalist working for regional TV channel TVN, was brutally killed last week in the city of Ruse, located in the north of the country. She is the fourth journalist killed in the EU since 2017 after Kim Wall in Denmark, Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta and Jan Kuciak in Slovakia. 

According to local media reports, her body was found in an area of ​​difficult access, near the Danube river bank. The victim was allegedly raped, beaten and then strangled. She was beaten with such violence that her face was unrecognizable, so she was not identified until last night.

She had recently interviewed two other journalists were arrested last month by Bulgarian police while investigating destruction of documents allegedly revealing corrupt practices by a private road construction company. Dead men (and women) tell no tales.

Khashoggi and Marinova are just this week's casualties in a worrisome trend. At least 43 journalists have been killed around the world thus far in 2018 as a result of their work, according to the Committee to Project Journalists. That number is outpacing last year, and does not include 17 other deaths where motive has not been confirmed. 

Part of the authoritarian playbook has been to discredit journalists and others who shine light on deeds best perpetrated in darkness. Thus, Khashoggi’s Blood Is On Donald Trump’s Hands.

In July, met with A.G. Sulzberger, publisher of The New York Times, the paper most often called out by the  Orange Fraud’s years-long effort to delegitimize the U.S. press. In a statement memorializing the White House meeting, Sulzberger said he had gone to the White House to warn Trump: His vicious criticisms of the American press, especially the description of journalists as the “enemy of the people,” would likely result in  deadly results for reporters.

“I repeatedly stressed that this is particularly true abroad, where the president’s rhetoric is being used by some regimes to justify sweeping crackdowns on journalists. I warned that it was putting lives at risk, that it was undermining the democratic ideals of our nation, and that it was eroding one of our country’s greatest exports: a commitment to free speech and a free press.”

And here we are. Memory being the liberal superpower, we can remember a few months ago when a crazed gunman shot up the Capital Gazette. With Khashoggi, Sulzberger’s warning has shown that Trump's authoritarian act has traveled overseas, such that a journalist who lives in the U.S. and writes for a major American newspaper can be executed with impunity.

The National Memo article cited above puts it exact:

It’s difficult to overstate the brazenness of the Saudis’ alleged actions in targeting a U.S. resident who writes for an American paper while he was in a NATO country.

It seems unlikely that the Saudi regime — dependent as it is on the U.S., and on the Trump administration specifically — would have tried to kidnap or kill Khashoggi if its rulers thought it would upset Trump. But as Sulzberger warned, Trump’s derision toward reporters gave every indication that he didn’t care. And since Khashoggi’s disappearance, Trump has signaled his ongoing apathy. The message the president is sending to dictators around the world is that it is open season on dissident journalists.

Past presidents, aware of the danger of signaling such indifference, might have reacted with outraged statements and a promise of dire consequences for the regime that dared to commit such a crime. A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has tried to lay down such a marker, threatening sanctions against the highest levels of the Saudi government if it turns out to be implicated in Khashoggi’s disappearance.

But Trump’s vision of U.S. foreign policy is fundamentally transactional, looking with favor on despots like Crown Prince Mohammed who cater to his whims and sign hefty contracts for U.S. arms, while scorning our democratic allies for not paying “their fair share of common defense costs.”

There is a direct and unmistakable link between Trump’s anti-press rhetoric against journalists and Saudi actions. Since Trump hates journalists, the Saudis may have bet that he wouldn't mind they killed one. Unless Trump and his administration change course and make it clear selective murder of reporters is unacceptable, expect the trend to continue. With authoritarianism ascendant, who is truly safe?


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, October 7: It’s Ovah


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 October 6, 2018

“Unimpaired prosperity cannot withstand a single blow; but he who has struggled constantly with his ills becomes hardened through suffering; and yields to no misfortune; nay, even if he falls, he still fights upon his knees.”
― Seneca, "On Providence" (II, 6-10)


So Bart O'Kavanaugh has been steamrolled onto the Supreme Court, the crowning achievement of Mitch McConnell and the cult of vicious, old, white bigots now known as the Republican Party. The lying racist traitor in the White House nominated a lying, movement-conservative hit-man to the Supreme Court, whose nomination was a sham orchestrated by a smirking reptile willing to break the Senate. McConnell was willing to go to any lengths to tip the Supreme Court for a generation and secure Karl Rove's "permanent Republican majority" against any reform laws that might be passed by some future Democrat Congress.

Orange Jesus enjoys 85 per cent approval among Republicans, even as those who identify as Republicans shrinks to 26 per cent of the electorate. What that will mean in the coming midterms is anybody's guess..

Give mad props to Trump: he understands his marks, a base of pimple-backed mouth breathers certain that no matter how low their circumstances, they are still better than women. The GOP has constructed an entire political party out of such swamp creatures, and nourished it by feeding their rage and paranoia.

They love Trump's utter shamelessness about sex, money, and basic human decency. When the Kav nomination seemed to be wavering, he stood up a rally in Mississippi where he went against the advice of counselors and openly mocked Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.  As a creature of television, Trump knows audiences. And that where he goes, the cameras must follow, and that his most outrageous pronouncements will be excerpted and repeated, repeated, repeated on the cable news programs that exist as filler to hold aloft pods of commercials for reverse mortgages, dick pills and psoriasis meds.

Give Trump credit for dragging this nomination over the finish line by putting steel in the spines of a handful of wavering senators out of step with the GOP's geriatric junta. Loathsome homunculus Mitch McConnell (R-Tartarus) gave full credit to "the mob:"

“We refused to be intimidated by the mob of people that were coming after Republican members at their homes, in the halls. I couldn't be prouder of the Senate Republican Conference."

McConnell had the audacity to thank the grassroots activists who spoke out against Brett Kavanaugh's sham confirmation as part of a "mob" who has finally energized the GOP's base for 2018, "the one thing (the R's were) having trouble doing." Whether or not he remains grateful on November 7 remains to be seen.


Sens. Susan Collins and Jeff Flake Are Frauds, Plain and Simple. Their Kavanaugh Votes Show It.

The demand for the FBI to investigate, as Splinter’s Rafi Schwartz observed last week, was “a classic Jeff Flake move to cover his ass.” It was a fig leaf and a nod to process to get Flake, Collins and Murkowski in line. The investigation spoke only to nine witnesses, Ramirez and a phalanx of Kavanaugh frat boy friends, who observed the code of Georgetown Prep omertà and said nothing. They did not speak to Blasey Ford, Julie Swetnick, or to the dozens of others who desperately called offering corroborating information.

Anyone who expected anything other than a "yes" vote from Jeff Flake (R-Handwringing) or Susan Collins (R-Hypocrisy)  was kidding themselves. Flake received enough phone calls threatening his prospect of post-Senate guaranteed lobbyist employment to bringhim to his knees. And Collins raised a brief murmur of self-importance on Friday to make the most of selling out her female constituents. Her vote has already raised $2.5 million for her as yet-unnamed Democrat challenger. 

Topher Spiro observed that

"To Flake” is now a political verb: “to make speeches, tweets and gestures only to be a coward when it truly matters”

Medhi Hasan of The Intercept put it best

Never again believe Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, or Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., when they claim to be critics of Donald Trump or posture as “moderate” Republicans.

Never again let the media call them the “swing” voters in the Senate or “our best hope for profiles in courage in Congress…”

The debate is over: Collins and Flake are frauds, fakes, pretenders. Their high-minded claim to bipartisanship was always an act; a (melo)dramatic performance. Unlike their fellow so-called swing voter Sen. Lisa Murkowski — who will vote against Kavanaugh thanks, in part, to “Alaska’s complicated politics” — Collins and Flake were never going to oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

Perspective: remember that Collins has voted with Trump 79 percent of the time — or 4 out of every 5 votes. Flake has voted with Trump 84 percent of the time.  Alligator mouth, hummingbird ass.

The votes of Flake and Collins flatly assert they didn't believe Blasey Ford. But men never believe the women. Ask any victim of sexual assault who has reported the crime. This simple fact has fueled the #MeToo movement, and has enraged men. Trump and his idiot son, Donnie Half-Scoop, were on the trail last week procliming that American men are under attack. Just running the tried-and-true right wing playbook: reflexive snap into the victim pose when caught out, then attack-attack-attack. This invariable follows lie-and-deny-deny-deny. As for the aftermath of pent-up "rage" of female voters as November approaches, who can say? 

Jessica Valenti observes the disconnect across the gender divide in Kavanaugh is the Face of American Male Rage. One in six women is sexually assaulted in the US. The assault marks a woman's life, and often expresses itself in addictions of various kinds, sexual promiscuity, trust issues, difficulties in future relationships, and occasional blasts of volcanic anger. 

 Even as women calmly and expertly explain the ways in which men have hurt us, our pain is immediately drowned out and glossed over by men’s belief that they should not have to answer to us, of all people.

One of the cruel ironies of sexual assault and harassment is that the traumas which frequently inform the trajectory of women’s lives are often not even worth remembering to the men who have inflicted them. And are certainly worth denying, when a job is on the line.


Great Leaps in American Collapse

Umair Hague is quickly becoming one of the more dependable writers documenting American collapse, joining emigre Morris Berman in his assessment that we Americans are on the collapse clock. He traces the escalating sense of unease, lack of faith in institutions, and the falling dominoes of ruinous decisions that have led us to the current era of "smash-and-grab" looting beloved of fascists and their apologists.

Umair notes that in a the same week we have installed an "accused rapist as a Supreme Court justice for life, the Nobel Peace Prize goes to a man and a woman who’ve fought to define mass rape as a war crime. It’s vivid evidence: the world’s richest country is a ruinously failed state, plunging into an authoritarian abyss."

As Americans, we are so relentlessly propagandized and bought into our founding myths, we can no longer discern reality.

"One of the greatest ironies of American collapse is that American leaders thought that it was defeating the terrorists which would give Americans a sense of safety. But predatory capitalism was producing a greater feeling of unsafety, threat, danger, the sense of living in a hostile, unsurvivable world, among Americans than cave-dwelling terrorists ever really could. America beat the terrorists — but it never beat the capitalists." 

Before Haque came along,.Morris Berman had traced the Great American Unwind across a series of books. Decline started with Reaganomics, when we learned that "government was the problem," and we stopped investing in ourselves . As a result, by the 90s we lived shorter, poorer, uglier lives than Europeans, And then 9/11 happened, resulting in another decade of underinvestment while sieving off small fortunes for war profiteers and fortunate sons. Few societies survive such cannibalization of resources for long. At its height, Rome had 33 foreign bases;  today the US maintains over 1,000.

When the history of American collapse is written, I think it will be seen as a series of great leaps, which punctuated slow, steady erosions, corrosions, and crumblings. In norms and values, among institutions and expectations, of rules and responsibilities — until at last democracy itself was a smoking, belching wreck, and in its place arose every kind of backwardness, from authoritarianism and kleptocracy to theocracy and fascism.

American hegemony has resulted in a world where people no longer feel safe. Infrastructure and systems crumble around us, the chance to live a better life fades, and no past promise is guaranteed to be negotiable in the future. Even those able to put aside some crumbs for the future have no guarantee they won't outlive their savings, or that their small sums will be safe from inflation or currency debasement. American society has becomes a kind of jungle, a war of all-against-all, where it’s every man and woman for themselves, and the big fish eat the smaller.  

Smash-and-grab late stage capitalism has resulted in heavier burdens borne by the productive class while social mobility has eroded. My wife has observed that time was when a well-turned out young women with confidence and a gift of gab could talk her way into most any party. Today such a woman would never get past the bodyguards. With commoners divested from a financial stake in the system, and political power concentrated in an oligarchy shaking them down for pocket change and waiting to steal the coins from the eyes of their corpses, one wonders who will be eager to fight the next war.

Another recent post from Umair, Why America’s a More Violent Society Than You Think. is also on point.

"Americans aren’t just at the risk of being shot, or their kids shooting each other — they’re forever at the brink of of losing their livelihoods, homes, belongings, incomes, families, health, and even their lives. Bang! Gone. The spectre of ruin, just one step away, is relentless, and it never ends, tires, or changes. Hence, the average American lives his whole life under an ever-present billy-club of threat and intimidation — of genuine and very real violence befalling them, if they’re not 'productive' or 'useful' or 'employable' (or even 'healthy' or 'strong' or 'young') enough."

And he sounds very Berman-like when he says

… the U.S. is first & foremost a business and the vast majority of its citizens are brainwashed to believe hustling, opportunism, hyper-individualism, and climbing the ladder are exemplary "qualities."

For those interested in Morris Berman and what he is up to, he has released a new book, "Are We There Yet," which consists of a collection of lectures, unpublished essays and reflections on the continued decline of American Empire. Berman has been living in Mexico since 2006, and writes and speaks at length about the sense of community found in Mexico and so missing in the US with its culture of "hustling."

In a recent podcast interview   Berman said 

Sociologists who've written about how in America the religion is America itself… it doesn't matter how good your empirical data are, people caught in the mythology of the "American dream” will  not change their mind based on any factual material. In the industrialized or industrialized world in terms of health care quality, America's number thirty-seven. Most Americans believe it's number one! It's a debacle, a tragedy.

These kinds of facts don't matter and that's when their faces get red they start to spit and wave their arms because they understand that some level that you've got the fact all they've got is the myth and the myth is thin by now.

America will have tried everything to salvage the Empire to no avail and its foreign interventions will continue to fail. Like Alfred McCoy and others, Berman sees the next 2008-style event coming in 2020-21, then the Crash From Which There is No Recovery in 2026. Interestingly, a number of those interested in the question of civilizational decline have all come to the same conclusion independently and almost precisely to the same years.

When asked what he would tell young people asking about their futures, Berman replied

I would say that leaving the country is a sign of great intelligence.

I give lectures and young people come up to me and they say, "what should I do, what should I do," and I say, "Look you're not going to take my advice but I'll give it to you straight.  One of the best things an American can do is emigrate.

What do you think is waiting for you forty years down the line? 40 years in the future:, we will be at war with a country on the other side of the planet that poses no military threat to us whatsoever and will have spent ten trillion dollars. Doing it, we're going to loot the Treasury for no good reason at all. There will be no social safety net, no social security, no Medicare, no Medicaid, none of that will be available to you. And if you're lucky enough to get a job (which will probably be flipping burgers at McDonald's), you're not going to be able to retire because you're not going to be paid enough to be able to afford private health insurance, food, a car, a house.

Whatever you think, you will not be able to retire and you'll die like a dog. Now it's up to you whether you want to stick around. But… forty years from now you're going to say, "You know some guy came to our college when I was an undergraduate and we thought he was a nut case, and he told us all of us that we should emigrate, and now I'd give my left arm to have taken his advice."

Of course the question that remains is, "Go where?"


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.

This Week in Doom Sept. 30: “He Said, She Said”


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 October 1, 2018

“If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts.  If the law and the facts are against you, pound the table and yell like hell”
― Carl Sandburg


Nothing brings out the bluster and tear-stained outrage of the monied elites in this country more than the cold water shock of the realization that their birthright privileges are under challenge. The kabuki staged in Congress for hearing the allegation brought by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh this week put that on full display.

Frat boys and the Republiconfederates everywhere decried political correctness, unsubstantiated allegations, Democrat skullduggery and  "no proof" (after the day's hearing met that designed standard.) Right wingers like Bill O'Reilly decreed that the hearing was a byproduct of “a gender war” in America that had been set in motion by “the far-left.” The entitled classes call it "political correctness" when the oppressed finally get tired of eating their shit and push back. More on that later.

So it was this week as the one in six women in the US  who have been sexually assaulted by their fathers, brothers, brothers' friends, priests, teachers and counselors joined in full-throated assent for hearing the plaint of Dr. Blasey Ford, who gave voice to their own pain with credible, detailed testimony informed by personal therapy notes from years ago.

By now the events leading to Thursday and Friday are well known. In the previous hearings, bum-rushed through Judiciary with eleventh-hour partial-document releases and virtually no time to examine them, the process put paid to the notion that the fix was in. Repubs held back and obfuscated; Trump himself tweeted that all Senate Democrats were “mean, angry, and despicable.”

Jeff Flake described “concern” about Donald Trump’s daily assaults on the rule of law. Ben Sasse deplored a do-nothing Congress. And Chuck Grassley bemoaned the fact that Senate Democrats were taking advantage of his “decency and integrity.” But everyone on the Republican side of the aisle, who had overturned most Senate precedents and procedural norms in a rush to politicize the federal judiciary for a generation, insisted that Democrats were breaking the Senate with last minute documents and allegations.

It fell to protesters in heretofore-unseen numbers and unprecedented ferocity, to voice their disgust and dismay and offer themselves for arrest. The more furious the calls for “decorum,”"civility," and “rules,” the louder and more insistent the protesters became.

It was clear from jump that the hearing of Dr. Blasey Ford was a scheduled exercise in box-checking to get Trump's favored nominee out of the Judiciary Committee and rushed to a floor vote for a final vote.  Trump would need legal cover for the expansion of executive power hinted at in Kavanaugh's writings, as well as for the spate of ass-saving pardons Trump is expected to hurl like Jovian thunderbolts after the midterms. Each day the Kavanaugh nomination stuck around, the riper it got.

Kavanaugh obliged his sponsors and Congressional sherpas with a rip-roaring set of accusations of political savagery and conspiracy on the part of Dems, not forgetting to indict the Clintons. The only name missing in the blamestorming was Vince Foster's. Kavanaugh ran the Clarence Thomas playbook of angry, righteous indignation. If they are angry, YOU get angrier. 

(Imagine the reaction had a woman shown up for a Senate hearing, cried, whined and shouted about her feels of persecution and how unfair the process was. Imagine had she lost her temper during her opening statement, or refused to answer yes or no questions. Or evaded follow-ups or turned those questions back on her interlocutors with seething contempt. She'd have been crucified in the public square by nightfall.)

There was a stark contrast between Dr. Blasey Ford’s calm recitation of fact and Kavanaugh’s recital of white-male privilege in A Minor, redolent with twitchy sniffs, sneers, scowls, pursed lips, adolescent sarcasm and self-righteous rage.

A more fit jurist might have demonstrated a demeanor consistent that of a Supreme Court Justice. Instead, an aging, aggrieved frat boy trembled, raged, and hid behind his family’s alleged "suffering" with carefully-coached sanctimony and lawyerly evasion. He offered admission to Yale Law School somehow as evidence that he wasn't capable of sexual assault. Only the best people, you know… As if correlation were causation. (And it turns out that Brett Kavanaugh lied about ‘busting tail’ to get into Yale with ‘no connections’ — he was a legacy.) Bill Clinton was impeached for less.

The lies began to stack like cordwood.

The American Bar Association, whose "well qualified" rating Kavanaugh apologist Lindsay Graham waved aloft as the so-called "gold standard," urged delay until the FBI investigates pending assault allegations. Yet Kavanaugh's performance was full-throated and bristling enough to afford sufficient cover for Senatorial Rs to vote "yes" in move the nomination out of committee. 


As the scheduled vote approached at 9:30 on Thursday, confusion reigned supreme. Jeff Flake, who had revealed misgivings with the Grassley steamroller and grievance about the lack of comity in the Senate, was assailed by two sexual assault survivors in a Capitol elevator who Told Him Exactly What He'd Done. They made it clear what message he signaled he'd be voting "yes" on the nomination.

Despite past tough talk on Team Trump, Flake could be counted upon to take the knee at the votes and do the will of his Orange Master.  So it was on Friday, when he toed the line and announced his plan to vote "yes" on Kavanaugh. Implicitly saying Ford's allegations aren't true—or don't matter.

Judiciary didn't care enough to have the FBI look into the allegations, or to subpoena the key witness—they just scheduled a vote. "Plowed through," as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Hypocrisy) said.

The women's elevator confrontation showed their hearts burned with a searing injustice, and their moral outrage made a sitting United States Senator shrink before our eyes. Staring at the floor in a cramped elevator, we got a closeup of the moral content of Jeff Flake's character.

Once in the committee room, and after conferring with Chris Coons, Joe Manchin, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski, Flake made it clear that the votes would not be there in the Senate unless his demand for an FBI investigation were met. Murkowski and Joe Manchin both immediately signed onto the deal. Grassley had little choice but to accede.

 

And now we have a week for an FBI investigation to proceed. It is not likely to enhance his candidacy.


The Hour of White Male Rage

Charlie Pierce noted how Brett Kavanaugh's prep-school swagger devolved into an exhibition of furious contempt for those who would keep him from what he's entitled.

The Hour of Angry White Male Rage is far from passing out of our politics. This was manifested not only in Kavanaugh's angry truculence with Democratic members of the committee but also by the mid-session defenestration of Rachel Mitchell, the Arizona prosecutor who handled all the questioning for the Republicans when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was on the stand…

What emerged on Thursday was a stunning outburst of wounded privilege and raging contempt for people who would deny him that to which he was entitled. (When Clarence Thomas ran his rap about a "high-tech lynching," he was firm, but he didn't raise his voice.) If Kavanaugh really is entirely innocent, then his anger is somewhat justified. But, I don't think he is, and, therefore, I think he looked like the guy you move to the other end of the bar to avoid.

Kavanaugh embodied the dying myth, furiously defended by the scions of privilege, that they have earned their place at the top of the heap and deserve all the perquisites "earned" by fortunate birth and family connections.

This presumption, that elites are elite because they deserve to be, is something more pernicious that the self-mythology of the successful. It is an alternate reality — a high-walled fortress that preserves and protects the false correlation between status and good character — and worse, establishes an authority intolerant of dissent. No one who doesn’t live inside is allowed to criticize those who do, and all who do live there are bound, by a kind of frat-boy omertà, not to.

What seems to have triggered Kavanaugh most of all… is that a woman dared to challenge his vision of himself. 

How dare she break the code of omerta?? White privilege is still the problem.

People are uncomfortable with the term “privileged,” and I understand that. Some think it's just a veiled form of reverse discrimination and/or racism.

Yet the fact remains that if you were born a white male in America, you were born privileged. It's a simple fact. No shame, no guilt, just fact. We benefit from an entire suite of favorable assumptions before a word is spoken. It's not even a point of argument; Just acknowledge it.

It doesn’t mean anybody gave you anything special, or that you didn't have a hard life or work to make yourself what you are today. It doesn't confer a pass to be lazy and shiftless or guarantee success. It just means that you have a head start over others. In running the race of life, we leave the starting gate quicker and run the race with fewer obstacles. 

The insular pre-school, Ivy League world of Brett Kavanaugh is just another circle of privilege within whiteness where the well-born and well connected enjoy perks not available to the hoi polloi. 

This week's events exposed the viciousness of this country's partisan divide for all to see, and the R's response is to double down on anger and the crazy, in imitation of their Orange Patron. Trump said to Bob Woodward, "You've got to deny, deny, deny and push back on these women… If you admit to anything and any culpability, then you're dead. That was a big mistake you made."

If the Kavanaugh nomination moves to the floor, it will be a double middle finger to the women of this country and their allies to justice, to process, to the expectation of fairness under rule of law (whatever that is anymore), and a big lift to the moneyed elites who have always run this country as if by divine right.


Short takes:

Trump’s Speech at the U.N. Triggers Laughter—and Disbelief

‘People actually laughed at a president’: At U.N. speech, Trump suffers the fate he always feared

Trump opens his speech at the United Nations, "In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country…"

And the ENTIRE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY BREAKS UP, LITERALLY LAUGHING OUT LOUD AT THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.

“I didn’t expect that reaction," Trump says, sounding dazed.


He'll handle it as well as he handled Stormy's description of his little mushroom dick. But no problem: he'll fix them all. He'll start WWIII. Don't think he won't. 


Wealth Of Top 1% Surpasses $100 Trillion: More Than Global GDP And All Central Bank Balance Sheets

 

Deutsche Bank warned that the "liberal world order" is in jeopardy with the rise in support for right wing populist parties increasing fourfold over the past few years. High double-digit youth unemployment has become a hotbed for anti-establishment sentiment, which has everything to do with the economy, and lack of opportunities. What, me worry?


Behold, Another Signal of the Coming Climate Apocalypse That Will Go Ignored by Half Our Political System

There are methane lakes in the Arctic spouting carbon-trapping gas into the atmosphere. Nobody cares.


In Plain Terms, Judge Brett Kavanaugh Lies About Everything

In one way, Brett Kavanaugh is the perfect nominee for a "President" who has uttered over 5000 lies in 600 days in office. Kavanaugh lied about his days as a Republican operative, about the drinking age in Maryland, about the "Devil's Triangle," about Yale. All of it.

One of the things that men blithely dismiss is the sheer ubiquity of sexual assault. And I'm not talking about bullshit "microaggressions" or talking shit while drunk. I'm taking rape and attempted rape. There are 321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States. Many more women are assaulted than ever report it, because our first response is to blame the victim. Ask the women who have reported.As of 1998, an estimated 17.7 million American women had been victims of attempted or completed rape.

If one of the outcomes from this exercise in sordidness and privilege is that young men learn that how you treat women will follow you throughout your life, and if parents learn that they should raise their sons to not be serial gropers, that would be a good thing. It's garden variety empathy, in short supply these days. 


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.

This Week in Doom Sept. 16: Florence


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 September 15, 2018

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

 ― Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act 5 Scene 5 


Hurricane Florence stormed the East Coast this week inducing dread that roiled millions and left seventeen dead as of Sunday. When they tot up the final losses, what they'll miss are the people who died from stress induced by weather reporting hysteria.

The Weather Channel stands alone. They started weather reporting hysteria as a cynical marketing strategy. They have put their reporters front and right in the middle of the storm. They stand in knee-deep water, windbreakers flapping and report the fact that it is raining to people who can already see that it is wet.

The above pic comes from a video report offered up by TWC's Mike Seidel making the rounds on social media. Seidel appeared to be waging a valiant struggle against the elements, swaying back and forth with mighty effort against the vicissitudes of Florence as he filed his ever-so-essential report. And then… just watch the vid. 

As someone who stared down the barrel of a catastrophic loss on as recently as Wednesday, I find this "hurricane porn" emotionally manipulative. Seidel should resurface as a Starbucks barista, after hurricane survivors throw him a blanket party. 

TWC had an explanation of sorts for Seidel's weather kabuki

“It’s important to note that the two individuals in the background are walking on concrete, and Mike Seidel is trying to maintain his footing on wet grass, after reporting on-air until 1:00 a.m. ET this morning and is undoubtedly exhausted.”

One might ask why they didn't put Seidel on concrete if the "footing was so soft." Or one might just roll their eyes. Such is TWC's credibility.

TWC's cred was flushed when they started naming winter storms. The hyper marketing of the weather stems from the fact that TWC knows that during extreme weather events, a captive audience is locked in on their channel 24/7.and the more fear they stimulate, the longer they can sell into captive eyeballs. What's next, naming thunderstorms? Droughts? 

Marketing-all-the-time is just part of the total commodification of everything in American life.  It's been said that the only original American art form is advertising. Everything is marketing, and ABC stands for, "always be closing" in a land where the only value is in the rightmost cell of the spreadsheet.

On Monday night, Florence was elevated to a category four.and dialing up an catastrophic threat to the East Coast.  I was staring starkly at the prospect of losing my house and everything in it. The National Weather Service called Florence a “storm of a lifetime.” Hyperbole in storm-related jargon is just part odf the skill set, but seemed apt this week.

Cat 1s have previously blown through Norfolk.  In 2005, Hurricane Isabel uprooted enough trees that we were without power for ten days. During several storms and nor'easters, water reached the front steps. The prospect of a direct hit by a Cat 4 on my home left little to the imagination. I contacted my flood insurance company to learn the steps for filing a claim and what to do in the aftermath, just to be prepared. In 30 years of living here, I had never taken this step.

After checking the evacuation zone maps, I made room reservations near my work located out of evacuation zones. I had previously waited out Isabel there with my daughter, and knew it was flood resistant. My workplace is a seriously hardened facility, with 24-7 security, redundant generators and layers of technology. As I told my wife, she'd have ice, filtered water, wi-fi and cable TV, with a couch to watch it on. Thus elevating the chances for a couple of broken down feebs to weather the storm.

At that we were better off than prisoners in South Carolina, where officials announced that they would not be evacuating inmates at least two prisons inside the evacuation zone. During Katrina, Louisiana's legal slaves were abandoned to the elements for four days.

So, after the intervention of both a high-pressure system and Pat Robertson to bend Florence to the south and west, I drew a deep lungful of relief. Even on Friday, the prospect of serious flooding and tornadoes remained high, but abated as the storm wended west. The governor lifted the mandatory evacuation order, and we returned home on Saturday.

Riding that much cortisol for so long exacts costs: both my neighbor and my wife's friend's brother had heart attacks yesterday. The stress induced by TWC's disaster porn assigns costs not counted in flood casualty statistics. While coincidence is not causation, we do know that stress is a killer.

A report from the local paper tells our story: Braced for disaster, Hampton Roads dodges Florence's destructionThe difference in our prospects from Tuesday to today cannot be overstated. For all this, and for the many good wishes we received, we are grateful. With no thanks to The Weather Channel. Meanwhile, our neighbors to the south continue to endure Florence.


Speaking of Hurricanes

Inured to denying facts and devoted to inventing alternatives worlds with the aplomb of a Tolkien, the Lout-In-Chief tweeted this on Wednesday as Florence approached:

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…

8:37 AM – Sep 13, 2018

followed by…

Donald J. Trump@realDonaldTrump

…..This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age,  just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!

8:49 AM – Sep 13, 2018

Contrast Trump's self-serving asserions with this heartfelt cry of pain.

They died in pain, at home, of kidney failure unable to access the dialysis clinic for weeks.
They died, gasping for hours near the end, when the oxygen tank they needed to breathe gave out.
They died in the dark and the heat of unsanitary ICU units, of burns or gunshot wounds received before the hurricane that they almost certainly would have survived otherwise.
They died, burning up with fever, of leptospirosis from being in touch with flood waters during the effort to save their neighbors.
They died in fear and confusion after being forced to go off their regular medication.
They died of heat stroke.

They died of diseases of antiquity, in a crisis of neglect unworthy the greatest, wealthiest and most powerful nation in human history.

They died. But we lived. And we remember.

–Eleazar David Melendez


Short takes:

Paul Manafort’s flip is a major turning point in the Mueller investigation

The biggest news this week involves a blowhard of a different sort. Paul Manafort strick a deal with the Special Counsel and pled guilty to a number of charges, limiting his financial exposure from legal fees while committing him to cooperate with Mueller's office for all items great and small. Mueller has been seeking Manafort for nearly a year. Now he’s got the deal he wanted and unparalleled access to information that will put away the next set of tools of the Russian Mafia.

READ IT HERE: Paul Manafort's entire plea agreement with special counsel Robert Mueller


#Flint: County Officials Accused of Faking Children’s Blood Lead Test Results

We are now 1,605 days into the ongoing crisis with the water in Flint, Mich. The residents are being told that their tap water is below the federal threshold for lead contamination.


Two Russian men charged in nerve agent poisoning of former spy in Britain say they were just tourists

Two men accused by Britain of poisoning a former Russian spy and his daughter with a nerve agent claim they had traveled to England as tourists and were not Russian military intelligence agents. They were identified by security cameras.


Mysterious Evacuation Of Solar Observatory Overlooking White Sands Smells Like Espionage

The National Solar Observatory was host to some serious woo-woo stuff, as it was evacuated for a week and the FBI is investigating. No one is talking. Shrouded in mystery in a state known for secretive military testing and UFOs, the lengthy evacuation has spawned a wealth of speculation. The official story is that the closing is "a security issue." Rumor had it that the Chinese were using the antenna array for spying.


Detention of Migrant Children Has Skyrocketed to Highest Levels Ever

Population levels at federally contracted shelters for migrant children have quietly shot up more than fivefold since last summer. According to The New York Times, the population has reached 12,800, contrasted with 2,400 in May 2017. On the eve of Florence's landfall it was revealed that the administration had transferred $10 million from FEMA and DHS had transferred $169 million from other programs to ICE for detention and removal of migrants.

Your tax dollars at work.


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.

This Week In Doom, Sept.9: Crazytown


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 September 9, 2018

“Real power is, I don't even want to use the word, fear.”

 ― Donald Trump, interview with Bob Woodward, 2016  


This was a week in which the pace of bizarre and unsettling news swirling through the White House could only be described as "epic," a thesaurus full of superlatives thus drained. Excerpts from Bob Woodward's book, “Fear: Trump in the White House,” dropped, with the usual eruptions of "Lies!" and "Fake News!" uttered by the usual suspects. The book, which will be officially released on 9/11, promises to be a devastating, meticulously researched account of the Trump Presidency. This is Woodward's eighth book on a President; over 40 years, few have challenged his veracity. The book will be consulted as a first draft of the history of these dark times.

Major takeaways are that the work culture of Trump's White House is so toxic and volatile that many of 45’s top staffers are in the habit of working around a scattered, unstable and uninformed boss.

Trump has been floundering and reacting out of stress as a result of the Russia investigation and related probes. "Fear" was the first of a one-two punch, followed up by the "Anonymous" op ed published in the NYT.

 5 Takeaways From Bob Woodward’s Book on the Trump White House outlines key points, with few surprises:

  • The Russia investigation is a constant source of anxiety for Mr. Trump, and his lawyers.
  • Mueller engaged in lively conversations for months with Mr. Trump’s lawyers.
  • He's as ill-informed as you think: Trump’s advisers are repeatedly stunned by his lack of interest in and knowledge of major issues. 
  • Trump himself was not a primary source for the book.
  • John F. Kelly, the chief of staff, quickly soured on Mr. Trump

White House press secretary perpetual-motion-lie-machine Sarah Huckabee Sanders channeled her best Tammi Wynette with the usual dispatch:

“This book is nothing more than fabricated stories, many by former disgruntled employees, told to make the president look bad… Democrats and their allies in the media understand the President’s policies are working and with success like this, no one can beat him in 2020 – not even close.”

At least she's consistent. Trump was in rare form:

“The book means nothing, it’s a work of fiction…If you look back at Woodward’s past, he had the same problem with other presidents, he likes to get publicity, he sells some books."

Doubling down, he later tweeted:

Isn’t it a shame that someone can write an article or book, totally make up stories and form a picture of a person that is literally the exact opposite of the fact, and get away with it without retribution or cost. Don’t know why Washington politicians don’t change libel laws?

Those quoted rushed to declaim their innocence and to deny that they had said any such thing. Mattis was quoted as saying Trump had the "understanding of a fifth-or-sixth grader." Kelly is quoted as saying of Orange Jesus, “He’s an idiot. It’s pointless to try to convince him of anything. He’s gone off the rails. We’re in Crazytown.” His former attorney, John Dowd, gets credit for “Don’t testify. It’s either that or an orange jumpsuit.” Gary Cohn removed papers from the Resolute desk. Trump is quoted as having called his attorney general "mentally retarded,” and a "traitor." Just a taste: the first ones are free.

Woodward's usual technique is to exhaustingly interview many people people close to or in the White House on "deep background," meaning their anonymity is assured. His books are based on hundreds of hours of firsthand reporting. 

Woodward's reputation is pretty bulletproof. Not every detail is assured, but the gist is that his accounts are remarkably reliable. All 18 of his nonfiction books in the past 35 years have been national bestsellers and 12  have been No. 1 national nonfiction bestsellers. He also takes to the lecture circuit, where my wife and I saw him, and formed a minority-view opinion of his act. Yet for all that, he retains more credibility than the White House's current occupant.



Top appointees are ‘thwarting’ Trump, says ‘senior official’ in administration in New York Times opinion piece

The number two punch is the memo by "Anonymous" published in the NY Times. This really has our boy spun up, inviting him to instruct house hobbit Jeffy Bo to search for the guilty author, even though such an investigation would be patently illegal.

The unnamed author wrote:

“We believe our first duty is to this country, and the president continues to act in a manner that is detrimental to the health of our republic. That is why many Trump appointees have vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses until he is out of office.”

The Times column — headlined “I Am Part of the Resistance Inside the Trump Administration”, described a curious flavor of resistance is is indeed:

Ours is not the popular “resistance” of the left. We want the administration to succeed and think that many of its policies have already made America safer and more prosperous…

There are bright spots that the near-ceaseless negative coverage of the administration fails to capture: effective deregulation, historic tax reform, a more robust military and more.

This ain't a "resistance" I recognize. We're supposed to be somehow grateful?  Charlie Pierce said it best when he called out

… the careerist bleatings of anonymous sources who would like you to know that, by enabling El Caudillo Del Mar-a-Lago and his long, slow slide into howling madness,they are really keeping him from doing some real damage to the country, and shouldn't we all be grateful for their noble, selfless work. 

What the writer wants are Trumpian policies with less baggage, like fewer tweets or porn star payoffs. Trump later tweeted a one-word, all-caps reaction: “TREASON?” The search for the author began almost immediately and continues.

What this op-ed represents is and attempt to build lifeboats for those inside-the-Beltway conservatives who find themselves part of the Trump administration, but who envision the coming endgame, and imagine a life after Trump as part of a ruling Coalition of winners who will inherit power after the Great Man is gone. This is the same technique employed by conservatives after Bush the lesser, in which they shunned Bush, donned tricorn hats, and branded themselves "Tea Party independents." This only works because Americans, as a rule, remember nothing. Not for nothing did Gore Vidal once referred to this country as the "United States of Amnesia."Thus we will we skate on the frozen lakes of hell before Trump offers testimony to the Special Counsel. 


​Short takes

Some other things happened this week, but you may already be familiar with them. The confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh occurred this week featuring a great deal of contention over hidden papers, demonstrations, and debate about whether or not the nominee had lied to Congress under oath..

Senate concludes Kavanaugh hearing

Harris puts Kavanaugh on edge with Mueller question

Sen. Kamala Harris put Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh on edge with a surprise question at his confirmation hearing on whether he spoke with anyone about the investigation into Russian election meddling. This after a week of scorched-earth procedures and tactics to prevent Trump from appointing his own judge in a possible future impeachment trial. This includes the Republicans hiding documents proving that Kavanaugh may have committed perjury. Whether any of this will be enough to derail his confirmation is not known.


The Collapse Of Society Is Coming

Michael Snyder sees harbingers in the fact that the rich have their own plans to survive the coming economic collapse (caused by out-of-control algorithms and flash trading) in survival bunkers being shipped from a Texas warehouse to the shores of New Zealand, where they’re buried 11 feet underground. The rich are planning their bolt-holes. Their plans don't include us.

Obama delivers full-throated rebuke of Trump's presidency

BHO returned to the campaign trail ahead of the midterms to rally the troops for the midterms, calling out Trump by name: "He is a symptom, not the cause." Obama is absolutely right, but he's decades too late. 

The loutish, bigoted and aggressively ignorant nature of the Republican base has never been a mystery to anyone… since Lee Atwater unleashed "Willie Horton" nigh on to 40 years ago….except, apparently, to Republican analysts, pollsters, ad-men, every Never Trump Republican now out pimping a book, every conservative think tank, media outlet and the entire Beltway political press. And any right wing troll who wanders into these hallowed grounds.

As noted above, Republicans rebranded themselves as a mighty army of Imaginary "Independents" who always arrive on the verge of saving us all from the Extremes on Both Sides. They are trying to escape the righteous judgment of history by rebranding themselves as some sort of faux resistance.

The "Tea Party" was always an astroturfed fraud. Nothing less than a heavily funded, carefully coordinated political playtoy designed to herd the rubes — the latest layer of Koch-funded, Fox News-promoted bilge splashed over the same goddamn box full of bigots and Bible-thumpers who have comprised the backbone of the Republican Party for most of my adult life.

After they led Poppy away by his drool-cup, there were four kinds of people in the GOP: traitors (e.g. the Kochs), messianic dominionist nut jobs (e.g. Pence), useful idiots (e.g. Tea Tarty), and geriatric bigots on holiday from the John Birch Society. They have always been with us, but we made them wear shoes and leave the room when company came. These people are less conservatives than dangerous, bomb-throwing, vehicular-manslaughter-committing white nationalists and nazis.

In Conservatives Without Conscience, John Dean had it exact:

“Probably about 20 to 25 percent of the adult American population is so right-wing authoritarian, so scared, so self-righteous, so ill-informed, and so dogmatic that nothing you can say or do will change their minds… They would march American into a dictatorship and probably feel that things had improved as a result. They have the mentality of ‘old-time religion’ on a crusade and they generously give money, time and effort to the cause. They proselytize; they lick stamps; they put pressure on loved ones; and they revel in being loyal to a cohesive group of like thinkers. And they are so submissive to their leaders that they will believe and do virtually anything they are told. They are not going to let up and they are not going to go away.”


They remain a minority, which is why they have to ease into control, one child-kidnapping, sanctuary-denying, flag-worshipping, pro-torture, Nike-burning, intolerant, anti-choice, anti-science, Republiconfederate skirmish at a time. No faux-sincere op-ed can disguise the cornpone, “Aw Shucks” Christopathy that, seen over the course of decades, has bumrushed this country relentlessly towards the coming authoritarian nightmare.


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, by making every mistake in the book, he paid full retail for everything he has managed to learn.

 

This Week in Doom September 2: The McCain Edition


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Published on the Doomstead Diner on August 26, 2018

"America has no need to be made great again because America was always great."

–Meghan McCain 


The world's most prominent Resistance meeting took place Saturday as the Washington establishment memorialized the life of John McCain. McCain's body lay in state at the Capitol Rotunda, then was moved to the National Cathedral for the final obsequies that would mark his career. Although the service was ostensibly religious, the liturgy advanced was decidedly civic, full of stories of McCain exemplifying those virtues Americans like to believe about themselves told by career politicians,. The real purpose behind the speeches was a recertification of the idealized American civil religion to which John McCain had dedicated his life, in contrast to the self-serving values of the White House's current occupant.

If you watched the service, it didn't take long for the swipes at the Singularly Uninvited Guest to begin. Meghan McCain led off with a tear-strained address in which she said,  “we gather here to mourn the passing of American greatness. The real thing, not cheap rhetoric from men who will never come near the sacrifice he gave so willingly.” At the time she said this, Cadet Bone Spurs was teeing off at Trump National Golf Club in Loudoun County, Virginia, amid a flurry of tweets criticizing the Department of Justice and the FBI and threatening Canada.

"There is no political necessity to keep Canada in the new NAFTA deal. If we don’t make a fair deal for the U.S. after decades of abuse, Canada will be out," Trump tweeted earlier Saturday.

Not a mention of McCain.

Trump did set a record of a sort this week when his disapproval rating has hit an all-time high. 

According to a new ABC News/Washington Post poll released Friday, 60% of those surveyed disapprove of Trump’s performance in office—the highest of his presidency. Just 36% approve, which is on par with his all-time low.

This comes on the heels of last week's set of calamities, when Paul Manafort — who made his fortune carrying water for foreign governments in Washington — was convicted on eight charges, followed quickly by Michael Cohen pleading guilty on eight counts of his own in which he implicated the president in campaign finance violations. Cohen told a federal court that Trump committed a felony, making Trump an "unindicted co-conspirator, " as Americans over 50 had a deja vu moment. Then other dominoes fell, with National Enquirer Chairman David Pecker and Trump CFO Allen Weisselberg granted immunity.  


Uninvited Man-Child has a hissy

Controversy about the McCain funeral and Trump's exclusion began when McCain pointedly disinvited him, and asked two political opponents to eulogize him. The flames were fanned further when he raised flags at half-staff above the White House just two days after McCain died. After public outcry, the flags were lowered again.

Apparently the serial disses took a toll at home. Meanwhile, Melania feels “humiliated and embarrassed by the multiple Donald insults at the Aretha funeral” and “feel horrible that Donald is not welcome or invited to Aretha’s funeral as well as McCain’s funeral,” according to a Hollywood Life article. It is unclear whether these statements reflect Melania's thinking or are an arch way to troll her porn-star-savoring husband while he’s down, while trying to humanize herself in the process.

Let's review the bidding: Donald was not invited to Barbara Bush’s funeral. He was not invited to the Royal Wedding. He was dissed at Aretha Franklin’s funeral. And of course he’s been banned from John McCain’s funeral, even as Obama and Bush were invited to speak.

When Meghan McCain delivered the line “We don’t need to make America great again, because America was always great,” the reference was clearly to Donald Trump’s political slogan “Make American Great Again,”  unmistakably a rebuke of Donald Trump and everything he stands for.

MAGAts came unglued, on cue. Former Trump adviser Katrina Pierson tweeted that unlike John McCain, "@realDonaldTrump ran for @POTUS ONE time and WON. Some people will never recover from that." Meanwhile, over at the New Yorker, Susan B. Glasser called the funeral not "just another funeral of an elder statesman whose passing would be marked by flowery words about the end of an era. It was a meeting of the Resistance, under vaulted ceilings and stained-glass windows."

Overall, the overall mood of the memorial serice was not one of division, but of a tribute to McCain, as appropriate.Not that the man was universally beleoved, but he was respected as sopmeone with the courge of his convictions and the caracter to act on them. McCain’s memorial ultimately served as a reminder of our differences, but also of how it’s possible to overcome them. At least for those who attened and watched. For others, there's Twitter.


Poll: 60 percent disapprove of Trump, while clear majorities back Mueller and Sessions

Karma. In the wake of last week's news about Manafort, Cohen, Pecker and Weisselberg, the news just gets worse for all people named Trump. In a recent poll, sixty percent disapprove of President Donald Trump's job performance, a new all time high for a president per Fortune magazine. Support for Mueller’s investigation is also high: 63% back it, with just 29% opposed.

The poll, released Friday and conducted just days after special counsel Robert Mueller delivered a one-two punch to the Trump administration in federal court, found a little more than one-third of Americans approve of Trump's job performance. The poll was conducted last week…

Trump's approval rating, according to the poll, was 36 percent. In the previous Washington Post-ABC News poll, conducted in April, Trump's approval rating was 40 percent and his disapproval rating was 56 percent.

The poll found most Americans would oppose Trump granting a pardon to former associate Manafort — 66 percent of respondents said they were against a pardon. Only 18 percent said they would support a pardon.



Paul Manafort: Guilty

Mueller's office survives its first courtroom test.This occurred last week, but we just enjoy saying it. Even now that Manafort has lost one case, he can always look forward to the promise of the Trump card: The President retains the ultimate, sole authority to pardon him unconditionally. At least on Federal charges. 

Michael Cohen:  Guilty

Cohen pled for reasons that are not entirely clear, but which may include legal culpability for his wife. He

was accused of violating laws that involved his taxi businesshis financial dealings with at least three banks and — it was the headline allegation — his secretive efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election. He admitted joining forces with the nation’s best-known supermarket tabloid to buy the silence of at least two women who claimed they had affairs with Mr. Trump.

It remains to be seen whether Cohen will cooperate with other pending investigations. But it also does not preclude him in telling what he knows to investigators working with Mueller.


Short Takes:


What the Political Revolution Is All About': Historic Upset by Progressive Andrew Gillum in Florida

Despite being massively outspent by centrist millionaire opponents and lacking support from the Democratic establishment, progressive Andrew Gillum surprised with a shocking and historic upset victory Tuesday night in Florida's gubernatorial primary. Gillum rode grassroots enthusiasm and old-fashioned get-out-the-vote effort for an unabashedly left-wing agenda of Medicare for All and bold criminal justice reform to a victory.


As Midterms Loom, GOP Reportedly Circulating 'Hell List' of Trump Probes Democrats Could Launch If They Retake House

Horrified by the possibility that Democrats will retake control of the House of Representatives in November, Republican lawmakers are reportedly circulating a private spreadsheet that has been dubbed the "hell list," which consists of investigations the GOP fears Democrats will launch if they are successful in the upcoming midterms. No mention of how afraid they are about Ds investigating the rubles sloshing around in many Republicans' campaign coffers.

 


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.

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


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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?


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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.

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.

Half A Loaf


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Originally published on Daily Kos on June 17, 2017

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well think again, motherfucker.

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

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

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

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

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

Well.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Trending

gc2smFrom the keyboard of James Howard Kunstler
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Anthony-Freda_web15

 

Originally Published on Clusterfuck Nation  August 29, 2016

 


Would fate permit it, the election of Hillary Clinton will be the supreme and perhaps terminal act in an Anything-Goes-And-Nothing-Matters society. Yet, even with the fabulous luck of running against a consummate political oaf, she struggles to get the upper hand, and she may land in the White House with the lowest voter turnout in modern history. And then her reward in office may be to dodge indictment for four years while the nation crumbles around her. This is the way the world ends: not with a bang or a whimper but with a cackle.

Imagine the scene following Hillary’s election. In order to salvage the last shred of its credibility, the Federal Reserve raises its overnight funds rate another quarter percent and crashes the last Potemkin semblance of a “recovering” economy, that is, the levitated stock markets. Tens of millions of retired individuals previously driven into them by zero interest rate policy are wiped out. Even more gravely, pension funds and insurance companies are destroyed, but not before their troubles trigger derivative contracts with big banks which then explode and expose the inability of counterparties to make good on their ends of the bet.

In a blind panic, the Federal Reserve reverses its policy in December, drops the Fed Funds interest rate back to 25 basis points and announces the grandest new round of “quantitative easing” (money printing) ever, while congress is coerced into voting for the greatest bailout of institutions the world has ever seen, along with a “one time” helicopter drop of a cool trillion dollars in the form of combined tax cuts and “shovel-ready infrastructure projects.” The media rejoices. The US Dollar tanks. Absolutely nobody wants US treasury bonds, bills, and notes. The pathetic remnant of the American middle class stares into the abyss. (If it looks hard enough, it sees the US government down there.)

We’re now living in the setup for this, treating the election shenanigans so far as just another sordid television entertainment. It’s more than that. It’s an engraved invitation to the worst crisis since the Civil War. The crisis may even feature events like a civil war with identity groups skirmishing around our already-ruined “flyover” cities just like the factions in Aleppo and Fallujah. Thank the “Progressive” Left for that. Believe me, history will blame them for chucking the idea of a unifying common culture onto the garbage barge.

And yes, for all our tribulations here in America, the rest of the world will be struggling with its own epic disorders. It remains to be seen whether they will lead to war as, say, the Chinese ruling party attempts to evade the crash of its own rickety banking system, and the inflamed millions of ruined “investors,” by starting a brawl with Japan over a few meaningless islands in the Pacific. Could happen. And, oh, is North Korea for real with its right out front nuclear bomb-and-missile program? What does the rest of the world plan to do about that?

You don’t even want to look at the Middle East. The grisly conflicts there of recent decades are just a prelude to what happens when the House of Saud loses its grip on the government. That will happen, and then the big question is whether Aramco can continue to function, or whether the critical parts of it end up damaged beyond repair as competing tribes fight over it. In any case, the world will begin to notice the salient fact of life in that part of the world: namely, that the Arabian desert, and much of the great band of arid territory on either side of it, cannot support the populations that mushroomed in the nutrient bath of the 20th century oil economy. And they won’t all be able to self-export to Europe either.

Speaking of that interesting region, around the same time Hillary sets up for intensive care in the third floor of the White House, the old order will be swept away across Europe. Farewell Merkel and Monsieur Hollandaise. Farewell to the squishy Left all over the place. Enter the hard-asses. You’d think if anything might unite that continent it might be the wish to defend secular freedom under the rule of law, but even that remains to be seen.

Yes, the world following 3Q 2016 is looking like one hot mess. If you remember anything, let it be this: the primary mission of your cohort of the human race is managing contraction. The world is getting wider and poorer again and the outcome everywhere will be determined by the success of people to manage their lives locally. The big things of this world — governments, corporations, institutions — are losing their traction and whatever we manage to rebuild will get done locally. In victory, Hillary may utterly cease to matter.

 


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.

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.

On the Road to United Eurasia

gc2smFrom the keyboard of Pepe Escobar
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Originally published in Russia Insider on July 5, 2016

 


Whenever President Vladimir Putin stresses Russia’s "all-embracing and strategic partnership" with China, one can hear the proverbial howls of anger emanating from the neocon/neoliberalcon axis in the Beltway.

As he met Chinese president Xi Jinping in Beijng this past Saturday, Putin even allowed himself an understatement; "To say we have a strategic cooperation is not enough anymore. This is why we have started talking about a comprehensive partnership and strategic collaboration. Comprehensive means that we work virtually on all major avenues; strategic means that we attach enormous inter-government importance to this work."

Why understatement? Because this really ventures way beyond a stream of business deals.

Deals, of course, matter; in Beijing, China and Russia advanced 58 projects worth $50 billion. These include a $6.2 billion loan from Beijing to build the 770 km-long high-speed railway between Moscow and Kazan and $12 billion in loans to build an LNG plant in the Russian Arctic.

Russian Railways, Russian investment company Sinara Group, China Railway, and Chinese CRRC will also invest in a plant in Russia to build 100 high-speed trains, designed for the Moscow-Kazan high-speed railway. The railway inevitably will be connected to the future, $100 billion, high-speed expansion of the Trans-Siberian between Moscow and Beijing.

It goes without saying, this is all part of an essential node of the New Silk Roads. And as if this was not enough, in a further, graphic instance of geoeconomic interpolation, Russia and China’s central banks are setting up a yuan clearing mechanism in Russia.

The inter-connectivity bonanza

Putin and Xi met for the 15th time just after Xi concluded a three-nation Eurasia tour – Serbia, Poland and Uzbekistan – where, alongside Foreign Minister Wang Yi, he explicitly laid down the bridge between the New Silk Roads, or One Belt, One Road (OBOR), as they are officially referred to in China, and the development of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

Not by accident China has now also struck a "comprehensive strategic partnership" with Serbia, Poland and Uzbekistan – on the way to weaving a broad "China-Europe strategic partnership" in parallel to the development of the SCO.

This already translates into projects such as the Hungary-Serbia railway; the Pupin Bridge on the Danube River in Belgrade; the expansion and upgrading of a power plant in Kostolac; what Beijing calls the China-Europe freight train service (from eastern China to Duisburg in Germany and also Madrid); the Kamchiq Tunnel in Uzbekistan; and last but not least the massive China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline system.

No wonder Xi keeps stressing the "inter-connectivity" theme over and over gain, as economic corridors are being built at breakneck speed, and the China Railway Express all the way to Europe – although not yet on high-speed rail – is already a go.

So there was plenty to talk about at the 16th SCO Council in Tashkent. Plus, the acceleration of full membership to both India and Pakistan; next year will be Iran’s turn.

What this translates to in practice is the amalgamation of the New Silk Roads/OBOR; the Eurasia Economic Union, EEU (as Putin stressed in the St. Petersburg forum); the SCO; financing mechanisms such as the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB); and the overarching Russia-China strategic partnership.

No wonder a certain Sultan Erdogan was watching all this in Ankara with trepidation, and decided to make a move. Erdogan’s attempt at a rapprochement with Russia involves not being hopelessly sidelined in this OBOR/EEU/SCO amalgamation. Turkey cannot afford to be alienated from Russia; the Turkish Stream gas pipeline will be essential to consolidate Ankara’s position as a key energy crossroads towards Europe. At the same time, Ankara must imperatively position itself as a key hub in OBOR.

With India and Pakistan, and later Iran, as full members, the SCO will be able, in the medium term, not only to interface with OBOR on all sides (via the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, CPEC, and also the Indian investment in the Iranian port of Chabahar); but also to be the key player in brokering a solution to the Afghan drama, something that the Americans and NATO would never be able to accomplish. Russia and China have always insisted that Afghanistan needs an Asian solution.

Lean, clean and green

Almost simultaneously to the Putin-Xi meeting in Beijing, and also not by accident, the AIIB turbo-charged its operations.

The AIIB started doing business only six months ago, with 57 founding member countries and $100 billion in committed capital.

It’s scheduled to invest $1.2 billion in 2016. Once again with trademark understatement, Chinese Finance Minister Lou Jiwei said, "the AIIB needs to establish its comparative advantage", profiting from «lessons of developing countries' years of development».

The board approved its first four deals, worth $509 million, with three projects co-financed with the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the United Kingdom Department for International Development and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. They refer to a slum renovation in Indonesia and highways in Pakistan and Tajikistan. A power grid upgrade in Bangladesh will be solely AIIB financed.

And this is just the beginning. The head of AIIB may be Chinese, Jin Linqun (he has promised a "lean, clean and green" AIIB), but one of the five vice presidents is British, Daniel Alexander. Beijing holds 30% of the initial capital but has only 26% of voting power. India holds 7.5% and Russia 5.9%, followed by Germany and South Korea. This is a real multipolar project.

Almost simultaneously to the AIIB in action, Russia and China’s foreign ministers signed a declaration supporting the role of international law, stressing sovereign equality of states; non-interference into internal affairs; and peaceful resolution of disputes. Considering the recent historical record, not exactly The Empire of Chaos’s cup of tea.

Commenting on Brexit, Boris Titov, the Kremlin’s small business ombudsman, ventured, "it’s not long until a united Eurasia – about 10 years". Considering the slowly but surely interpenetration of OBOR, EEU, SCO, AIIB, the NDB and the solid Russia-China partnership inside the G20, that’s more than feasible.

In Beijing, Putin and Xi did discuss their common position in the upcoming G20, only three months away in China; that’s where the real action is, not the G7. Compare it also with NATO’s upcoming warmongering summit in Warsaw; that’s what the West has to "offer" the global South.

In a nutshell; the option to a united Eurasia is chaos. And there’s no question the Empire of Chaos will stop trying to sow chaos. Expect Beijing ordering 1,000 heavy transport aircraft from Russia and Russian ships possibly spotted sooner or later in the South China Sea to add to those perennial howls of anger in the neocon/neoliberalcon galaxy.


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. 

The Waning of the Modern Ages

Anthony-Freda_empty-kingdomgc2smFrom the keyboard of Morris Berman
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Anthony-Freda_empty-kingdom

Published on Counterpunch on September 20, 2012


La longue durée —the long run—was an expression made popular by the Annales School of French historians led by Fernand Braudel, who coined the phrase in 1958. The basic argument of this school is that the proper concern of historians should be the analysis of structures that lie at the base of contemporary events. Underneath short-term events such as individual cycles of economic boom and bust, said Braudel, we can discern the persistence of “old attitudes of thought and action, resistant frameworks dying hard, at times against all logic.” An important derivative of the Annales research is the work of the World Systems Analysis school, including Immanuel Wallerstein and Christopher Chase-Dunn, which similarly focuses on long-term structures: capitalism, in particular.

The “arc” of capitalism, according to this school, is about 600 years long, from 1500 to 2100. It is our particular (mis)fortune to be living through the beginning of the end, the disintegration of capitalism as a world system. It was mostly commercial capital in the sixteenth century, evolving into industrial capital in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and then moving on to financial capital—money created by money itself, and by speculation in currency—in the twentieth and twenty-first. In dialectical fashion, it will be the very success of the system that eventually does it in.

The last time a change of this magnitude occurred was during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, during which time the medieval world began to come apart and be replaced by the modern one. In his classic study of the period, The Waning of the Middle Ages, the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga depicted the time as one of depression and cultural exhaustion—like our own age, not much fun to live through.  One reason for this is that the world is literally perched over an abyss. What lies ahead is largely unknown, and to have to hover over an abyss for a long time is, to put it colloquially, a bit of a drag. The same thing was true at the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire as well, on the ruins of which the feudal system slowly arose.

I was musing on these issues some time ago when I happened to run across a remarkable essay by Naomi Klein, the author of The Shock DoctrineIt was called “Capitalism vs. the Climate,” and was published last November in The Nation.  In what appears to be something of a radical shift for her, she chastises the Left for not understanding what the Right does correctly perceive: that the whole climate change debate is a serious threat to capitalism. The Left, she says, wants to soft-pedal the implications; it wants to say that environmental protection is compatible with economic growth, that it is not a threat to capital or labor. It wants to get everyone to buy a hybrid car, for example (which I have personally compared to diet cheesecake), or use more efficient light bulbs, or recycle, as if these things were adequate to the crisis at hand. But the Right is not fooled: it sees Green as a Trojan horse for Red, the attempt “to abolish capitalism and replace it with some kind of eco-socialism.” It believes—correctly—that the politics of global warming is inevitably an attack on the American Dream, on the whole capitalist structure. Thus Larry Bell, in Climate of Corruption, argues that environmental politics is essentially about “transforming the American way of life in the interests of global wealth distribution”; and British writer James Delinpole notes that “Modern environmentalism successfully advances many of the causes dear to the left: redistribution of wealth, higher taxes, greater government intervention, [and] regulation.”

What Ms. Klein is saying to the Left, in effect, is: Why fight it? These nervous nellies on the Right are—right! Those of us on the Left can’t keep talking about compatibility of limits-to-growth and unrestrained greed, or claiming that climate change is “just one issue on a laundry list of worthy causes vying for progressive attention,” or urging everyone to buy a Prius.  Commentators like Thomas Friedman or Al Gore, who “assure us that we can avert catastrophe by buying ‘green’ products and creating clever markets in pollution”—corporate green capitalism, in a word—are simply living in denial. “The real solutions to the climate crisis,” she writes, “are also our best hope of building a much more enlightened economic system—one that closes deep inequalities, strengthens and transforms the public sphere, generates plentiful, dignified work, and radically reins in corporate power.”

In one of the essays in my book A Question of Values (“conspiracy vs. Conspiracy in American History”), I lay out some of the “unconscious programs” buried in the American psyche from our earliest days, programs that account for most of America’s so-called conscious behavior. These include the notion of an endless frontier—a world without limits—and the ideal of extreme individualism—you do not need, and should not need, anyone’s help to “make it” in the world. Combined, the two of these provide a formula for enormous capitalist power and inevitable capitalist collapse (hence, the dialectical dimension of it all).  Of this, Naomi Klein writes:

“The expansionist, extractive mindset, which has so long governed our relationship to nature, is what the climate crisis calls into question so fundamentally. The abundance of scientific research showing we have pushed nature beyond its limits does not just demand green products and market-based solutions; it demands a new civilizational paradigm, one grounded not in dominance over nature but in respect for natural cycles of renewal—and acutely sensitive to natural limits….These are profoundly challenging revelations for all of us raised on Enlightenment ideals of progress.”

(This is exactly what I argued 31 years ago in The Reenchantment of the World; it’s nice to see it all coming around again.) “Real climate solutions,” she continues, “are ones that steer [government] interventions to systematically disperse and devolve power and control to the community level, through community-controlled renewable energy, local organic agriculture or transit systems genuinely accountable to their users.” Hence, she concludes, the powers that be have reason to be afraid, and to deny the data on global warming, because what is really required at this point is the end of the free-market ideology. And, I would add, the end of the arc of capitalism referred to earlier. It’s going to be (is) a colossal fight, not only because the powers that be want to hang on to their power, but because the arc and all its ramifications have given their class Meaning with a capital M for 500+ years. This is what the Occupy Wall Street protesters—if there are any left at this point; I’m not sure—need to tell the 1%: Your lives are a mistake. This is what “a new civilizational paradigm” finally means. It also has to be said that almost everyone in the United States, not just the upper 1%, buys into this. John Steinbeck pointed this out many years ago when he wrote that in the U.S., the poor regard themselves as “temporarily embarrassed millionaires.” The Occupy movement, as far as I could make out, wanted to restore the American Dream, when in fact the Dream needs to be abolished once and for all.

Naomi then provides us with a list of six changes that must occur for this new paradigm to come into being, including Reining in Corporations, Ending the Cult of Shopping, and Taxing the Rich. I found myself writing “good luck” in the margins of much of this discussion. These things are not going to happen, and what we probably need instead is a series of major conferences on why they won’t happen. But note that part of the answer is already embedded in her essay: vested interests, in both the economic and psychological sense, have every reason to maintain the status quo. And as I said, so does the man or woman in the street. What would our lives be without shopping, without the latest technological toy? Pretty empty, at least in the U.S.  How awful, that capitalism has reduced human beings to this.

In terms of recommendations, then, Klein’s essay is rather weak. But it offers something very important by way of analysis, and also by implication: Everything is related to everything else. Psychology, the economy, the environmental crisis, our daily mode of living, the dumbing down of America, the pathetic fetish over cell phones and electronic gadgets, the crushing debt of student loans, the farce of electoral politics, Mr. Obama’s rather rapid conversion from liberal hero to war criminal and shredder of the Bill of Rights, the huge popularity of violent movies, the attempt of the rich to impose austerity measures on the poor, the well-documented epidemics of mental illness and obesity—these are ultimately not separate spheres of human activity. They are interconnected, and this means that things will not get fixed piecemeal. “New civilizational paradigm” means it’s all or nothing; there really is no in-between, no diet cheesecake to be had. As Ms. Klein says, it’s not about single “issues” anymore.

What then, can we expect, as the arc of capitalism comes to a close? This is where Naomi shifts from unlikely recommendations to hard-nosed reality. She writes:

“The corporate quest for scarce resources will become more rapacious, more violent. Arable land in Africa will continue to be grabbed to provide food and fuel to wealthier nations.  Drought and famine will continue to be used as a pretext to push genetically modified seeds, driving farmers further into debt. We will attempt to transcend peak oil and gas by using increasingly risky technologies to extract the last drops, turning ever larger swaths of our globe into sacrifice zones. We will fortress our borders and intervene in foreign conflicts over resources, or start those conflicts ourselves. ‘Free-market climate solutions,’ as they are called, will be a magnet for speculation, fraud and crony capitalism, as we are already seeing with carbon trading and the use of forests as carbon offsets.  And as climate change begins to affect not just the poor but the wealthy as well, we will increasingly look for techno-fixes to turn down the temperature, with massive and unknowable risks….As the world warms, the reigning ideology that tells us it’s everyone for themselves, that victims deserve their fate, and that we can master nature, will take us to a very cold place indeed.”

To put it bluntly, the scale of change required cannot happen without a massive implosion of the current system. This was true at the end of the Roman Empire, it was true at the end of the Middle Ages, and it is true today. In the case of the Roman Empire, as I discuss in The Twilight of American Culture, there was the emergence of  monastic orders that began to preserve the treasures of Graeco-Roman civilization. My question in that book was: Can something similar happen today? Naomi writes:

“The only wild card is whether some countervailing popular movement will step up to provide a viable alternative to this grim future. That means not just an alternative set of policy proposals but an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis—this time, embedded in interdependence rather than hyper-individualism, reciprocity rather than dominance, and cooperation rather than hierarchy.” She believes that the Occupy Wall Street movement—remember, it was quite vigorous last November—embodies this; that they have taken “aim at the underlying values of rampant greed and individualism that created the economic crisis, while embodying…radically different ways to treat one another and relate to the natural world.”

Is this true? Four things to consider at this point:

1. I personally never visited Zuccotti Park, but most of what I saw on the Web, including very favorable reportage of the Occupy movement, seemed to suggest that the goal was a more equitable American Dream, not the abolition of the American Dream, as I indicated above. In other words, the basic demand was that the pie be cut up more fairly. I never had the impression that the protesters were saying that the pie, in toto, was rotten. This reminds me of an anecdote about Martin Luther King, who apparently said to Harry Belafonte, just before he (i.e., King) was assassinated, that he thought he might have been making a big mistake; that he sometimes felt like he was herding people into a burning church. This is a very different insight, quite obviously, than the notion that black people should be getting a larger share of the pie. After all, who wants a larger share of a rotten pie, or to live in a church that is burning down?

2. The Annales historians, along with the World Systems Analysis thinkers, have been accused of projecting an image of “history without people.” In other words, these schools tend to see individuals as somewhat irrelevant to the historical process, which they analyze in terms of “historical forces.” There is some truth to this, but “historical forces” can become a bit mystical. Just as it is forces that motivate people, so it is people that enact or manifest those forces. I mean,

someone has to do something for history to occur, and at least the Occupy crowd was trying to throw sand on the wheels of the machine, so to speak, as have their counterparts in Europe.  But I confess that for a number of reasons, I was never very optimistic about the movement; at least, not as it existed in the United States. As many sociologists have pointed out, America has no real socialist tradition, and it is no surprise that the serious maldistribution of wealth that exists in the U.S. is no issue whatsoever in the forthcoming presidential election.  In fact, a recent poll by the Pew Charitable Trust revealed that most Americans have no problem at all with the existence of a small wealthy class; they just want to be able to join it—which takes us back to the quote from John Steinbeck. My own prediction, several months ago, was that OWS would turn into a kind of permanent teach-in, where the disaffected could go to learn about a “new civilizational paradigm,” if that would indeed be taught. This is basically the “new monastic option” I wrote about in the Twilight book. On one level, it’s probably innocuous; it hardly threatens the power elite. But that may not be the whole story, especially in the long run—la longue durée.  After all, as the system collapses, alternatives are going to become increasingly attractive; and you can be sure that 2008 is not the last crash we are going to live through. The two sides go hand in hand, and ultimately—I’m talking thirty to forty years, but maybe less—the weight of the arc of capitalism will be too onerous to sustain itself. In la longue durée, one is far smarter betting on the alternative worldview than on capitalism. Thus the biologist David Ehrenfeld writes: “Our first task is to create a shadow economic, social, and even technological structure that will be ready to take over as the existing system fails.”

3. What, then, is that alternative worldview, that “new civilizational paradigm”? In Why America Failed I lay out, unsurprisingly enough, the reasons for why America failed, and I say that it was primarily because throughout our history we marginalized or ignored the voices that argued against the dominant culture, which is based on hustling, aggrandizement, and economic and technological expansion. This alternative tradition can be traced from John Smith in 1616 to Jimmy Carter in 1979, and included folks such as Emerson, Thoreau, Lewis Mumford, Jane Jacobs, Vance Packard, and John Kenneth Galbraith, among many others. In England it is particularly associated with John Ruskin and William Morris, who argued for the need for organic communities with a spiritual purpose, for work that was meaningful rather than mind-numbing, and who did manage to acquire a large number of American disciples. In a forthcoming book by a colleague of mine, Joel Magnuson, entitled The Approaching Great Transformation, the author states that we need concrete models of a post-carbon economy, ones that break with the profit model of capitalism—and not in cosmetic or rhetorical ways. He gives a number of examples of experiments in this vein, ones that I would term elements of a steady-state or homeostatic economy: no-growth, in other words. After all, writes Magnuson, “permanent growth means permanent crisis.” Or as I have put it elsewhere, our job is to dismantle capitalism before it dismantles us. Again, this does not mean taking on Wall Street, which I don’t believe can succeed. But it does mean leaving the field: for example, seceding. (Movements for secession do exist at this point, Vermont being a prominent example.) And if that’s not quite viable right now, there is at least the possibility of living in a different way, as David Ehrenfeld suggests. My guess is that “dual process”—the disintegration of capitalism and the concomitant emergence of an alternative socioeconomic formation—is going to be the central story of the rest of this century. And I suspect that austerity will be part of this, because as capitalism collapses and we run out of resources—petroleum in particular—what choice will we have?

4. This does not, it seems to me, necessarily mean a return to some type of feudalism; although that could well happen, for all I know. But we are finally talking about the passing not only of capitalism, but of modernity in general—the waning of the modern ages, in effect. In her interesting biography of the Hegelian scholar, Alexandre Kojève, Shadia Drury writes: “Every political order, no matter how grand, is doomed to decay and degenerate.” As for modernity in particular, she goes on:

“[M]odernity’s inception and its decline are like those of any other set of political and cultural ideals. In its early inception, modernity contained something good and beguiling. It was a revolution against the authority of the Church, its taboos, repressions, inquisitions, and witch burning. It was a new dawn of the human spirit—celebrating life, knowledge, individuality, freedom, and human rights. It bequeathed to man a sunny disposition on the world, and on himself….The new spirit fueled scientific discovery, inventiveness, trade, commerce, and an artistic explosion of great splendor. But as with every new spirit, modernity has gone foul….Modernity lost the freshness and innocence of its early promise because its goals became inflated, impossible, and even pernicious. Instead of being the symbol of freedom, independence, justice, and human rights, it has become the sign of conquest, colonialism, exploitation, and the destruction of the earth.”

In a word, its number is up, and it is our fortune or misfortune, as I said before, to be living during a time of very large, and very difficult, transition. An old way of life dies, a new one eventually comes into being. Of this, the poet Mark Strand remarks: “No need to rush; the end of the world is only the end of the world as you know it.” For some odd reason, I find that thought rather comforting.

 

©Morris Berman, 2012 


Morris Berman is well known as an innovative cultural historian and social critic. He has taught at a number of universities in Europe and North America, and has held visiting endowed chairs at Incarnate Word College (San Antonio), the University of New Mexico, and Weber State University. During 1982-88 he was the Lansdowne Professor in the History of Science at the University of Victoria, British Columbia. Berman won the Governor’s Writers Award for Washington State in 1990, the Rollo May Center Grant for Humanistic Studies in 1992, and the Neil Postman Award for Career Achievement in Public Intellectual Activity (from the Media Ecology Association) in 2013. He is the author of a trilogy on the evolution of human consciousness–-The Reenchantment of the World (1981), Coming to Our Senses (1989), and Wandering God: A Study in Nomadic Spirituality (2000)–and in 2000 his Twilight of American Culture was named a “Notable Book” by the New York Times Book Review.

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