Hypocrisy

The Lie of “Both-Siderism”


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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 Schaudenfreude


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Ken Starr Voodoo Dolls002

Originally published on the Doomstead Diner on May 25, 2016

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

 ― Martin Luther King, Jr.  

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

Let’s Get Critical

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Published on Pray for Calamity on April 2, 2014

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Discuss this article at the Kitchen Sink inside the Diner

“Any man who afflicts the human race with ideas must be prepared to see them misunderstood.”

HL Menken


To criticize the status quo is to invite volley after volley of personal criticism back in your own direction. I am sure this has likely been the case for a very long time, and I believe this may be partly due to the way in which humans learn through pattern recognition, as well as how the architecture of the human brain physically lays neural pathways to build understanding. Thus when an idea too astray from the usual is presented to the human mind, there is a high chance of a negative reaction because the new pattern is far too asymmetric for the current set of neural pathways to incorporate. That, or the derogator is a bored and obtuse malcontent with nothing better to do than shit all over other people on the internet.

I often write about the exploitation inherent in the model of civilization itself, and how this organizing framework which is dominant on the planet now is entirely unsustainable and will necessarily collapse catastrophically. This is some level nine stuff. By this I mean that if you have not been initiated, if you haven’t read about this topic or all of the feeder topics that lead to this conclusion, it would likely seem extreme. Thorough understanding of an issue requires prerequisite knowledge. We get to where we are by having been where we were, even philosophically and intellectually. Because my topics of critique often surround the civilization paradigm, its parts, and alternatives, I often receive flak from people which either demonstrates that they do not fully understand the gravity of the issues, or which merely indicts me as complicit in civilization’s crimes. The former generally comes in the form of people arguing that technology will remedy all of the converging crises faced and created by civilization. The latter is far more frustrating, as it is usually some pathetic attempt at a “got’chya!” moment where someone tries to defeat my greater thesis by pointing out my use of a computer or some other trapping of civilization. “Hypocrite!” they cry.

The hypocrisy claim is everywhere you find people critiquing any facet of the status quo. Antiwar activists who protested the Iraq war were called hypocrites for using gasoline. Occupy Wall Street participants were called hypocrites for using Apple products. My friends in forest defense have been called hypocrites for using paper. As an anti-civ anarchist I have been called a hypocrite for everything from having moved into a house during the winter, to having gone to the hospital when after forty hours of labor at home with a midwife, my partner was physically exhausted and wanted access to drugs so she could sleep. Every time these criticisms are leveled, it becomes a major energy suck to explain exactly how nonsensical they are. I would like to here dedicate this essay to shredding the “hypocrisy” argument once and for all, so it can forever be linked to by activists and social critics of all platforms and stripes, who neither have the time nor energy to swat at the many zombie hordes who become agitated when new ideas are presented to them which run counter to the comfortable patterns that they are used to, and who then proceed to scream “hypocrite!” in place of an actual counter argument.

Jean-Paul Sartre wrote, “Hell is other people.” Despite my anti-civ analysis, I am no misanthrope. Civilization is a system of organization, a power arrangement in which a small few control the many. Using their power, these few exploit the lands and beings around them so they can grow their power and comfort at the expense of others. Industrial civilization takes this paradigm full tilt and is wiping out habitat and species at a mortifying rate. Understanding this does not cause me to hate my species, but rather to be eager to help them understand why we must pursue new organizational methods. Still, the uphill battle of convincing fellow humans, especially those who are net beneficiaries of this destructive and exploitative set of arrangements, can be at times an infuriating engagement. Of course, this is not because I need people to immediately agree with me, but if they don’t, I do prefer they focus on challenging the content of my statements as opposed to nit picking the content of my life.

In “The Fall,” Albert Camus wrote, “Everyone insists on his innocence, at all costs, even if it means accusing the rest of the human race and heaven itself.” I believe that it may be this personal insistence on one’s innocence which leads people to quickly cry “hypocrite!” at those who critique the status quo. Because we are all mired in this paradigm, when it is critiqued, some individuals feel that the critique is of them individually, likely due to a personal identification with the system. Thus critiques become personal attacks against which they must defend themselves. “If the system is guilty, then I am guilty, and I’m not guilty!

The need for personal innocence runs deeper. If a critique against an overarching paradigm such as a government, capitalism, or civilization itself seems irrefutable, this can invoke in some a certain need to then utilize this new information as part of their own personal ethos. The problem here, is that this will mean that person will feel compelled to act accordingly with this information, and the actions required may seem difficult, uncomfortable, or frightening. For instance, if you’re told that capitalism is exploitative because employers retain the surplus labor value generated by their employees, and you happen to be a business owner, this new understanding will mean one of two things: either you rearrange the operating model of your business to fairly compensate your employees for their labor, effectively making them cooperative partners, or you change nothing but must go through life recognizing that you profit off of the exploitation of others. Here, your internal need to perceive yourself as innocent, or at least to believe yourself a good person, will run counter with your open acknowledgement that you exploit people for a living. What to do then to keep the ego intact?

If the action required to fall in line with the new ethos created by accepting new information is too hard, too uncomfortable, or you just don’t want to do it, you must justify inaction. Justifying inaction will be achieved possibly by denying the veracity of the new information. Like most capitalists in this scenario, you could convince yourself that your entrepreneurial and risk taking spirit give you the right to take the surplus labor value generated by the people you employ indefinitely. Of course, the justifications are endless.

In some cases though, if the new information received cannot be deflected through argument or justification, and the need to preserve one’s picture of their innocence is too great, then calling into question the character or behavior of the information’s purveyor can also suffice. For instance, if an activist is working to halt fossil fuel extraction for the myriad reasons that such a halting would be beneficial, it can be difficult to disagree with this activist on a purely argumentative level. How could you? Deny climate change? Deny ozone killing trees? Deny the death and destruction from Alberta, to the Gulf of Mexico, to the Niger Delta? On an argumentative level, you’d be wrong every time. However, you could call into question the activist’s use of fossil fuels, thereby deflecting the conversation, and basically insinuating that, as Camus also wrote in The Fall, “We are all in the soup together.” Because hey, if we’re all guilty, then none of us are guilty, am I right?

In the fall of 2012, I was in Texas working with the Tar Sands Blockade using direct action tactics to shut down construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. On the side of a highway north of Nacogdoches, I sat with some friends as our comrades were perched on platforms fifty feet in the air with their support lines tied to heavy machinery, effectively making the machines unusable lest their operators not mind killing these young people. There were a surprising amount of supporters for rural east Texas, but of course, there were plenty of people who made sure we we aware of their disdain for us. One such person passed by, slowed down, and said “I bet you used a pick up truck to get that stuff out here.” In his mind, this was a real zinger. I replied, “Of course we did. Why wouldn’t we?

There are a slew of reasons why this man’s comment contained zero validity as a critique of our action. For one, the gasoline we used did not come from that as of yet unfinished pipeline. Also, though I wouldn’t, I could claim to be against tar sands bitumen, but not conventional crude. But really the truth is that anti-extraction activists are making what economists would even defend as an intelligent bargain; using X amount of fossil fuels to prevent the extraction of a million times X. Of course I would use a tank of gasoline to prevent the daily extraction and transportation of hundreds of thousands of barrels of bitumen. Not only am I seeking a massive net gain for the ecology of the planet, I am also not using any more fossil fuels than I would have used had I gone to work that day anyway.

In the same vein, it is not hypocrisy to write a book about the ills of deforestation. Though it may be printed on paper, it has the potential to affect policy which will then lessen the total amount of deforestation. Not to mention, the loggers are going to log and the publishing company is going to publish. Using those resources to ultimately dismantle that destructive activity is actually the best use for them. So no, the person who posts on the internet about the ravages of mountain top removal coal mining or hydraulic fracturing for natural gas isn’t a hypocrite. They are cleverly utilizing the paradigm’s resources to expose its flaws to the light of scrutiny, in the hope that the consciences of people will be stirred to ultimately upend the paradigm itself. This is, in fact, the most ethical use of the resources generated by destructive industrial activity.

Using the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house is to be encouraged.

It feels ridiculous to even have to lay this out, but the “hypocrisy” barb is flung far too often and dismantled far too little. What’s worse, is that hypocrisy in this regard isn’t even being understood correctly. According to wikipedia:

Hypocrisy is the state of falsely claiming to possess virtuous characteristics that one lacks. Hypocrisy involves the deception of others and is thus a kind of lie. Hypocrisy is not simply failing to practice those virtues that one preaches. Samuel Johnson made this point when he wrote about the misuse of the charge of “hypocrisy” in Rambler No. 14:

Nothing is more unjust, however common, than to charge with hypocrisy him that expresses zeal for those virtues which he neglects to practice; since he may be sincerely convinced of the advantages of conquering his passions, without having yet obtained the victory, as a man may be confident of the advantages of a voyage, or a journey, without having courage or industry to undertake it, and may honestly recommend to others, those attempts which he neglects himself.

Thus, an alcoholic’s advocating temperance, for example, would not be considered an act of hypocrisy as long as the alcoholic made no pretense of sobriety.”

This being understood, we can unequivocally state that a forest defense activist who prints pamphlets about saving tracts of woodland is not a hypocrite, unless they also claim to never use any forest products. Sure, there is a reasonable expectation that people who see a social ill will do their best to avoid adding to that ill, but sometimes the requirements of society horseshoe people into activity even they do not appreciate because the alternative options are worse or non-existent. Of course, this is where detractors will still claim that if an activist wants to save the forests, that they should cease using anything made from trees because consumer demand is behind all economic activity. Ignoring the obvious benefits of the trade off between printing five hundred pamphlets to save five hundred acres of woodlands, I think further disemboweling of this notion about consumer choice activism is also necessary.

Derrick Jensen writes about how he got in an argument with a man who accused him of being just as responsible for deforestation as Weyerhaeuser because he used toilet paper:

Here, once again, is the real story. Our self-assessed culpability for participating in the deathly system called civilization masks (and is a toxic mimic of) our infinitely greater sin. Sure, I use toilet paper. So what? That doesn’t make me as culpable as the CEO of Weyerhaeuser, and to think it does grants a great gift to those in power by getting the focus off them and onto us.

For what, then, are we culpable? Well, for something far greater than one person’s work as a technical writer and another’s as a busboy. Something far greater than my work writing books to be made of the pulped flesh of trees. Something far greater than using toilet paper or driving cars or living in homes made of formaldehyde-laden plywood. For all of those things we can be forgiven, because we did not create the system, and because our choices have been systematically eliminated (those in power kill the great runs of salmon, and then we feel guilty when we buy food at the grocery store? How dumb is that?). But we cannot and will not be forgiven for not breaking down the system that creates these problems, for not driving deforesters out of forests, for not driving polluters away from land and water and air, for not driving moneylenders from the temple that is our only home. We are culpable because we allow those in power to continue to destroy the planet. Yes, I know we are more or less constantly enjoined to use only inclusive rhetoric, but when will we all realize that war has already been declared upon the natural world, and upon all of us, and that this war has been declared by those in power? We must stop them with any means necessary. For not doing that we are infinitely more culpable than most of us—myself definitely included— will ever be able to comprehend.

He continues:

To be clear: I am not culpable for deforestation because I use toilet paper. I am culpable for deforestation because I use toilet paper and I do not keep up my end of the predator-prey bargain. If I consume the flesh of another I am responsible for the continuation of its community. If I use toilet paper, or any other wood or paper products, it is my responsibility to use any means necessary to ensure the continued health of natural forest communities. It is my responsibility to use any means necessary to stop industrial forestry.

I believe it is dangerous to convince people that their only power is in their purchasing decisions, because this relegates people to being mere consumers, not active citizens, let alone autonomous beings who define their own struggles, explore a diversity of tactics, and experiment to find new and effective measures for countering power. It also reduces all of society to nothing but customer transactions. Doing so ignores the power people have to protest, blockade, persuade, legislate, and sometimes, to overthrow. Would advocates of consumer choice activism stand by the idea that American revolutionaries should merely have boycotted tea, stamps and British products? Would they advocate that these revolutionaries should have instead of smashing windows, burning buildings, and fighting back against the crown have instead started their own competing tea trading companies? How about American slavery? Was the real solution that abolitionists and free blacks should have started competing fiber plantations in the north, hoping to push slave produced cotton out of business? Should we brand Captain John Brown a hypocrite for not wearing fair trade worker owned flax linen pants when he raided Harper’s Ferry seeking weapons with which to start a slave revolt? Preposterous!

Fighting against a behemoth industry that is interwoven into the state apparatus and has insulated itself as a central pillar of day to day operations is not something easily done. For one to claim they know exactly how to win such a fight is audacious. When it comes to the extraction industries, there is a large buffer where no matter how much the public cuts their consumption, the state will offset their financial losses through subsidies and purchases. The US government will happily buy discount oil for the fifth armored division after a civilian boycott lowers the price. Because of this, all forms of resistance are welcome and necessary, and it should be understood that attacking such a monolithic industry requires people hammering away, figuratively and literally, on every possible front. If it takes two million barrels of oil to power the cars and trucks necessary to organize the ten thousand strong blockade that cripples the refinery complex at the Port of Houston, well hell, oil well spent.

Those who demand lifestyle purity of anyone who ever raises a critique of any facet of the status quo are creating a double bind paradigm of hypocrites and extremists so to establish two camps into which they can then package critics in order to isolate and ignore them. The hypocrite camp is obvious. By misdiagnosing via a false definition someone who is against civilization as a hypocrite because they use electricity to write their thoughts online, these detractors can in their own minds, suggest there is no reason to take the critique seriously. But suppose the anti-civ critic did achieve lifestyle purity. Suppose that they lived in a wigwam in the woods that they constructed themselves from branches and deer hides. Imagine that this person walked to the center of town every weekend in haggard clothing they had pulled from thrift store dumpsters and then this person stood on a bench to shout about the ills of industry and hierarchy. Is it likely that this person would be taken seriously? Of course not! They would be labeled an extremist. Passersby would write this person off as insane before listening to argument one. There is no middle ground in this double bind, and that is the point. Those who would cry from the wilderness about the death and the misery that civilization brings will forever be stripping more and more from their lives in a futile effort to gain recognition, to be valid in the eyes of those who called them hypocrites, until one day they are branded as lunatics, if they are not unheard and unseen, exactly as their detractors want them to be.

On this, we should remember too, that there are people who have achieved this lifestyle purity. They are the tribal peoples around the world who never have been drawn into the net of civilization. They are the global poor who do not benefit from the burning of coal or the sinking of copper mines. And their voices consistently go unheard. In fact, their voices are almost ubiquitously silenced. What do the defenders of the status quo say to the Kayapó, Arara, Juruna, Araweté, Xikrin, Asurini and Parakanã peoples who are fighting the construction of the Belo Monte dam which threatens their survival? What do the defenders of the status quo say to the animals and plants who have been nothing but victims in the story of human progress? There is no inconsistency in their lives. No iPhone to scoff at, no power tool, no window fan. What is the excuse for denying their right to live? What is the excuse for exterminating them and pretending it isn’t happening? Why is it OK to deny their pleas?

Analysis and critique precede action. Without first understanding a system and describing its flaws, it will never be repaired or replaced. To assert that one must excise themselves from a system prior to criticizing it is asinine, especially so when the system being criticized is a global power structure with tentacles in almost every geographical region. Such assertions if considered legitimate would render critique impossible. They are also so implausible as to essentially be nothing more than a dismissal of critique, a backhanded way of saying “Shut up!” To be sure, the horrors of the dominant culture always have required a silencing of those it would make victims, so such behaviors amongst the denizens of civilization should come as no surprise, but they have never been and will never be intellectually or academically valid.

If you are in a prison, eating the food from the cafeteria does not mean you accept being a prisoner. Likewise, if you are a prisoner and you detest the prison and the system that put you there with every fiber of your being, you are not a hypocrite for allowing the prison doctor to treat you. Navigating life in a system of dominance, violence, and control is difficult and miserable, and if you have any designs to resist, whether to organize others on the inside with you to demand improvement of conditions, or to dig a tunnel and to escape, staying well fed and healthy in the mean time will be necessary for your success. While you fight, while you resist, use what you must to survive, especially in light of the fact that not doing so will not bring down the walls around you.

With the ever worsening issue of climate change, on top of the issues of political rot, net energy decline, and economic sclerosis, there will be more and more critique and analysis of exactly how societies are breaking down and what people should do in response. With this will come wave after wave of nonsense rebuttal to muddy the waters. At least when the defense of the status quo defers to indicting the behavior of the critics themselves, we can likely presume that their critiques are probably accurate, or at least that the status quo defender has no legitimate argument. For if the detractor had a legitimate counter analysis, they would present it. Attacking the messenger is behavior of the beaten. If I say “we need to abolish fossil fuels because they cause too much ecological damage” and someone responds “but you use gas in your chainsaw,” they have not displayed that my statement is untrue. In fact, there is a tacit admission that what I am saying is true, they just want to drag me down into the muck as if I’m not already standing in it.

Yes, I am knee deep in the shit of global industrial capitalist civilization. Yes, circumstances have me dancing from rock to rock, doing my best to avoid participating in the destructive protocols of the dominant culture and obliging to where it makes strategic sense to do so. Most people understand this. Most people understand the nuance between having and living an ethic in a complex world which leaves little to our individual control. Those who would deny this reality in order to deny your point are a nuisance at most. Hell is not other people, just other people in the comments section on the internet.

The Anti-Empire Report #136

From the Keyboard of William Blum
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Artwork: Anthony Freda

Artwork: Anthony Freda

Published originally in The Anti-Empire Report January 20, 2015

Murdering journalists … them and us

After Paris, condemnation of religious fanaticism is at its height. I’d guess that even many progressives fantasize about wringing the necks of jihadists, bashing into their heads some thoughts about the intellect, about satire, humor, freedom of speech. We’re talking here, after all, about young men raised in France, not Saudi Arabia.

Where has all this Islamic fundamentalism come from in this modern age? Most of it comes – trained, armed, financed, indoctrinated – from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria. During various periods from the 1970s to the present, these four countries had been the most secular, modern, educated, welfare states in the Middle East region. And what had happened to these secular, modern, educated, welfare states?

In the 1980s, the United States overthrew the Afghan government that was progressive, with full rights for women, believe it or not , leading to the creation of the Taliban and their taking power.

In the 2000s, the United States overthrew the Iraqi government, destroying not only the secular state, but the civilized state as well, leaving a failed state.

In 2011, the United States and its NATO military machine overthrew the secular Libyan government of Muammar Gaddafi, leaving behind a lawless state and unleashing many hundreds of jihadists and tons of weaponry across the Middle East.

And for the past few years the United States has been engaged in overthrowing the secular Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. This, along with the US occupation of Iraq having triggered widespread Sunni-Shia warfare, led to the creation of The Islamic State with all its beheadings and other charming practices.

However, despite it all, the world was made safe for capitalism, imperialism, anti-communism, oil, Israel, and jihadists. God is Great!

Starting with the Cold War, and with the above interventions building upon that, we have 70 years of American foreign policy, without which – as Russian/American writer Andre Vltchek has observed – “almost all Muslim countries, including Iran, Egypt and Indonesia, would now most likely be socialist, under a group of very moderate and mostly secular leaders”. Even the ultra-oppressive Saudi Arabia – without Washington’s protection – would probably be a very different place.

On January 11, Paris was the site of a March of National Unity in honor of the magazine Charlie Hebdo, whose journalists had been assassinated by terrorists. The march was rather touching, but it was also an orgy of Western hypocrisy, with the French TV broadcasters and the assembled crowd extolling without end the NATO world’s reverence for journalists and freedom of speech; an ocean of signs declaring Je suis CharlieNous Sommes Tous Charlie; and flaunting giant pencils, as if pencils – not bombs, invasions, overthrows, torture, and drone attacks – have been the West’s weapons of choice in the Middle East during the past century.

No reference was made to the fact that the American military, in the course of its wars in recent decades in the Middle East and elsewhere, had been responsible for the deliberate deaths of dozens of journalists. In Iraq, among other incidents, see Wikileaks’ 2007 video of the cold-blooded murder of two Reuters journalists; the 2003 US air-to-surface missile attack on the offices of Al Jazeera in Baghdad that left three journalists dead and four wounded; and the American firing on Baghdad’s Hotel Palestine the same year that killed two foreign cameramen.

Moreover, on October 8, 2001, the second day of the US bombing of Afghanistan, the transmitters for the Taliban government’s Radio Shari were bombed and shortly after this the US bombed some 20 regional radio sites. US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld defended the targeting of these facilities, saying: “Naturally, they cannot be considered to be free media outlets. They are mouthpieces of the Taliban and those harboring terrorists.”

And in Yugoslavia, in 1999, during the infamous 78-day bombing of a country which posed no threat at all to the United States or any other country, state-owned Radio Television Serbia (RTS) was targeted because it was broadcasting things which the United States and NATO did not like (like how much horror the bombing was causing). The bombs took the lives of many of the station’s staff, and both legs of one of the survivors, which had to be amputated to free him from the wreckage.

I present here some views on Charlie Hebdo sent to me by a friend in Paris who has long had a close familiarity with the publication and its staff:

“On international politics Charlie Hebdo was neoconservative. It supported every single NATO intervention from Yugoslavia to the present. They were anti-Muslim, anti-Hamas (or any Palestinian organization), anti-Russian, anti-Cuban (with the exception of one cartoonist), anti-Hugo Chávez, anti-Iran, anti-Syria, pro-Pussy Riot, pro-Kiev … Do I need to continue?

“Strangely enough, the magazine was considered to be ‘leftist’. It’s difficult for me to criticize them now because they weren’t ‘bad people’, just a bunch of funny cartoonists, yes, but intellectual freewheelers without any particular agenda and who actually didn’t give a fuck about any form of ‘correctness’ – political, religious, or whatever; just having fun and trying to sell a ‘subversive’ magazine (with the notable exception of the former editor, Philippe Val, who is, I think, a true-blooded neocon).”

Dumb and Dumber

Remember Arseniy Yatsenuk? The Ukrainian whom US State Department officials adopted as one of their own in early 2014 and guided into the position of Prime Minister so he could lead the Ukrainian Forces of Good against Russia in the new Cold War?

In an interview on German television on January 7, 2015 Yatsenuk allowed the following words to cross his lips: “We all remember well the Soviet invasion of Ukraine and Germany. We will not allow that, and nobody has the right to rewrite the results of World War Two”.

The Ukrainian Forces of Good, it should be kept in mind, also include several neo-Nazis in high government positions and many more partaking in the fight against Ukrainian pro-Russians in the south-east of the country. Last June, Yatsenuk referred to these pro-Russians as “sub-humans” , directly equivalent to the Nazi term “untermenschen”.

So the next time you shake your head at some stupid remark made by a member of the US government, try to find some consolation in the thought that high American officials are not necessarily the dumbest, except of course in their choice of who is worthy of being one of the empire’s partners.

The type of rally held in Paris this month to condemn an act of terror by jihadists could as well have been held for the victims of Odessa in Ukraine last May. The same neo-Nazi types referred to above took time off from parading around with their swastika-like symbols and calling for the death of Russians, Communists and Jews, and burned down a trade-union building in Odessa, killing scores of people and sending hundreds to hospital; many of the victims were beaten or shot when they tried to flee the flames and smoke; ambulances were blocked from reaching the wounded … Try and find a single American mainstream media entity that has made even a slightly serious attempt to capture the horror. You would have to go to the Russian station in Washington, DC, RT.com, search “Odessa fire” for many stories, images and videos. Also see the Wikipedia entry on the 2 May 2014 Odessa clashes.

If the American people were forced to watch, listen, and read all the stories of neo-Nazi behavior in Ukraine the past few years, I think they – yes, even the American people and their less-than-intellectual Congressional representatives – would start to wonder why their government was so closely allied with such people. The United States may even go to war with Russia on the side of such people.

L’Occident n’est pas Charlie pour Odessa. Il n’y a pas de défilé à Paris pour Odessa.

Artwork: Anthony Freda

Artwork: Anthony Freda

Some thoughts about this thing called ideology

Norman Finkelstein, the fiery American critic of Israel, was interviewed recently by Paul Jay on The Real News Network. Finkelstein related how he had been a Maoist in his youth and had been devastated by the exposure and downfall of the Gang of Four in 1976 in China. “It came out there was just an awful lot of corruption. The people who we thought were absolutely selfless were very self-absorbed. And it was clear. The overthrow of the Gang of Four had huge popular support.”

Many other Maoists were torn apart by the event. “Everything was overthrown overnight, the whole Maoist system, which we thought [were] new socialist men, they all believed in putting self second, fighting self. And then overnight the whole thing was reversed.”

“You know, many people think it was McCarthy that destroyed the Communist Party,” Finkelstein continued. “That’s absolutely not true. You know, when you were a communist back then, you had the inner strength to withstand McCarthyism, because it was the cause. What destroyed the Communist Party was Khrushchev’s speech,” a reference to Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev’s 1956 exposure of the crimes of Joseph Stalin and his dictatorial rule.

Although I was old enough, and interested enough, to be influenced by the Chinese and Russian revolutions, I was not. I remained an admirer of capitalism and a good loyal anti-communist. It was the war in Vietnam that was my Gang of Four and my Nikita Khrushchev. Day after day during 1964 and early 1965 I followed the news carefully, catching up on the day’s statistics of American firepower, bombing sorties, and body counts. I was filled with patriotic pride at our massive power to shape history. Words like those of Winston Churchill, upon America’s entry into the Second World War, came easily to mind again – “England would live; Britain would live; the Commonwealth of Nations would live.” Then, one day – a day like any other day – it suddenly and inexplicably hit me. In those villages with the strange names there were people under those falling bombs, people running in total desperation from that god-awful machine-gun strafing.

This pattern took hold. The news reports would stir in me a self-righteous satisfaction that we were teaching those damn commies that they couldn’t get away with whatever it was they were trying to get away with. The very next moment I would be struck by a wave of repulsion at the horror of it all. Eventually, the repulsion won out over the patriotic pride, never to go back to where I had been; but dooming me to experience the despair of American foreign policy again and again, decade after decade.

The human brain is an amazing organ. It keeps working 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and 52 weeks a year, from before you leave the womb, right up until the day you find nationalism. And that day can come very early. Here’s a recent headline from the Washington Post: “In the United States the brainwashing starts in kindergarten.”

Oh, my mistake. It actually said “In N. Korea the brainwashing starts in kindergarten.”

 

Let Cuba Live! The Devil’s List of what the United States has done to Cuba

On May 31, 1999, a lawsuit for $181 billion in wrongful death, personal injury, and economic damages was filed in a Havana court against the government of the United States. It was subsequently filed with the United Nations. Since that time its fate is somewhat of a mystery.

The lawsuit covered the 40 years since the country’s 1959 revolution and described, in considerable detail taken from personal testimony of victims, US acts of aggression against Cuba; specifying, often by name, date, and particular circumstances, each person known to have been killed or seriously wounded. In all, 3,478 people were killed and an additional 2,099 seriously injured. (These figures do not include the many indirect victims of Washington’s economic pressures and blockade, which caused difficulties in obtaining medicine and food, in addition to creating other hardships.)

The case was, in legal terms, very narrowly drawn. It was for the wrongful death of individuals, on behalf of their survivors, and for personal injuries to those who survived serious wounds, on their own behalf. No unsuccessful American attacks were deemed relevant, and consequently there was no testimony regarding the many hundreds of unsuccessful assassination attempts against Cuban President Fidel Castro and other high officials, or even of bombings in which no one was killed or injured. Damages to crops, livestock, or the Cuban economy in general were also excluded, so there was no testimony about the introduction into the island of swine fever or tobacco mold.

However, those aspects of Washington’s chemical and biological warfare waged against Cuba that involved human victims were described in detail, most significantly the creation of an epidemic of hemorrhagic dengue fever in 1981, during which some 340,000 people were infected and 116,000 hospitalized; this in a country which had never before experienced a single case of the disease. In the end, 158 people, including 101 children, died. That only 158 people died, out of some 116,000 who were hospitalized, was an eloquent testimony to the remarkable Cuban public health sector.

The complaint describes the campaign of air and naval attacks against Cuba that commenced in October 1959, when US president Dwight Eisenhower approved a program that included bombings of sugar mills, the burning of sugar fields, machine-gun attacks on Havana, even on passenger trains.

Another section of the complaint described the armed terrorist groups, los banditos, who ravaged the island for five years, from 1960 to 1965, when the last group was located and defeated. These bands terrorized small farmers, torturing and killing those considered (often erroneously) active supporters of the Revolution; men, women, and children. Several young volunteer literacy-campaign teachers were among the victims of the bandits.

There was also of course the notorious Bay of Pigs invasion, in April 1961. Although the entire incident lasted less than 72 hours, 176 Cubans were killed and 300 more wounded, 50 of them permanently disabled.

The complaint also described the unending campaign of major acts of sabotage and terrorism that included the bombing of ships and planes as well as stores and offices. The most horrific example of sabotage was of course the 1976 bombing of a Cubana airliner off Barbados in which all 73 people on board were killed. There were as well as the murder of Cuban diplomats and officials around the world, including one such murder on the streets of New York City in 1980. This campaign continued to the 1990s, with the murders of Cuban policemen, soldiers, and sailors in 1992 and 1994, and the 1997 hotel bombing campaign, which took the life of a foreigner; the bombing campaign was aimed at discouraging tourism and led to the sending of Cuban intelligence officers to the US in an attempt to put an end to the bombings; from their ranks rose the Cuban Five.

To the above can be added the many acts of financial extortion, violence and sabotage carried out by the United States and its agents in the 16 years since the lawsuit was filed. In sum total, the deep-seated injury and trauma inflicted upon on the Cuban people can be regarded as the island’s own 9-11.

Notes

  1. US Department of the Army, Afghanistan, A Country Study (1986), pp.121, 128, 130, 223, 232
  2. Counterpunch, January 10, 2015
  3. Index on Censorship, the UK’s leading organization promoting freedom of expression, October 18, 2001
  4. The Independent (London), April 24, 1999
  5. Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk talking to Pinar Atalay”, Tagesschau (Germany), January 7, 2015 (in Ukrainian with German voice-over)
  6. CNN, June 15, 2014
  7. See William Blum, West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir, chapter 3
  8. Washington Post, January 17, 2015, page A6
  9. William Blum, Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, chapter 30, for a capsule summary of Washington’s chemical and biological warfare against Havana.
  10. For further information, see William Schaap, Covert Action Quarterly magazine (Washington, DC), Fall/Winter 1999, pp.26-29

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

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

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

 

Hebdo Schmebdo

Off the keyboard of  Jaded Prole
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non charlie

First Published on Blue Collar Holler, January 12, 2015.

 

“All people want is Justice and Respect.”

– Shirley

 

A good friend of mine named Shirley who had come of political age in the struggle against the KKK in Greensboro, NC in which most of the KKK were also police once said to me, “All people want is Justice and Respect.” Muslims in France have had neither. Muslims living in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Israel have born the brunt of invasion, war, torture, apartheid, assassination and the murderous terror of drones. They continue to have their culture and beliefs attacked and disrespected in the western media. In our country they face violence, assault and attacks on mosques.

There is no justification for the suppression or murder of cartoonists or writers by governments or religious fanatics of any kind. But the reality is that far more innocent Muslims have been attacked and murdered around the world without big marches of solidarity against hate crimes. As for “Charlie Hebdo,” it is easy to be controversial and “edgy” by poking fun at others, lambasting their cultures and beliefs. There is a long history of this. Think of old caricatures in our own country of Germans and Japanese dating from WWII, or for that matter of African Americans who still get little justice or respect. Think of German portrayals of Jews from the 1930’s. A good analysis of this issue shows the utter hypocrisy of making this into a free speech issue.

I guess what irritates me the most about this, given the limits of the US media, is the portrayal of cultural chauvinism drenched in racism as “free speech.” The reality is that there are real truth-tellers relegated to the margins like Amy Goodman and DemocracyNow!, Glenn Greenwald and others on The Intercept, or Consortium News, andTruth Out. There are people like Eric Snowden and Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and many others who put everything on the line to speak the necessary truth.

Then there are you and I. If you’re reading this, there is a good chance you read or have been published in the Blue Collar Review. We are certainly controversial if not downright revolutionary in that we speak truth to power exposing the filthy, monstrous, destructive and oppressive reality of the capitalist system. We are even more revolutionary in that we seek to UNITE rather than to divide. I am also a writer publishing articles in a local magazine that speak to real issues and point fingers at powerful institutions including NATO, the CIA and the police. I pay the price for doing so as do many others and you can bet I’m on the local FBI watch-list.

Am I “Charlie Hebdo”? Are you? Hell No! If anything Charlie Hebdo can only wish they were us! If they really spoke truth to power, it would not be getting such coverage nor the hypocritical appearance of creepy leaders. When hate groups or the state comes for me or you, it won’t make the national news but we keep on because we must.

Jaded Prole is the nom-de-plume of a freelance writer and poet as well as a publisher, and philosopher living in Virginia. His blog is hereHe also publishes The Blue Collar Review, a quarterly whose purpose is to expand and promote a progressive working class vision of culture.

http://partisanpress.org/

The Anti-Empire Report #127

From the Keyboard of William Blum

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Untitled-1

Published originally in The Anti-Empire Report April 7, 2014

Indoctrinating a new generation

Is there anyone out there who still believes that Barack Obama, when he’s speaking about American foreign policy, is capable of being anything like an honest man? In a March 26 talk in Belgium to “European youth”, the president fed his audience one falsehood, half-truth, blatant omission, or hypocrisy after another. If George W. Bush had made some of these statements, Obama supporters would not hesitate to shake their head, roll their eyes, or smirk. Here’s a sample:

“In defending its actions, Russian leaders have further claimed Kosovo as a precedent – an example they say of the West interfering in the affairs of a smaller country, just as they’re doing now. But NATO only intervened after the people of Kosovo were systematically brutalized and killed for years.”

Most people who follow such things are convinced that the 1999 US/NATO bombing of the Serbian province of Kosovo took place only after the Serbian-forced deportation of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo was well underway; which is to say that the bombing was launched to stop this “ethnic cleansing”. In actuality, the systematic deportations of large numbers of people did not begin until a few days after the bombing began, and was clearly a reaction to it, born of Serbia’s extreme anger and powerlessness over the bombing. This is easily verified by looking at a daily newspaper for the few days before the bombing began the night of March 23/24, 1999, and the few days following. Or simply look at the New York Times of March 26, page 1, which reads:

… with the NATO bombing already begun, a deepening sense of fear took hold in Pristina [the main city of Kosovo] that the Serbs would now vent their rage against ethnic Albanian civilians in retaliation.[emphasis added]

On March 27, we find the first reference to a “forced march” or anything of that nature.

But the propaganda version is already set in marble.

“And Kosovo only left Serbia after a referendum was organized, not outside the boundaries of international law, but in careful cooperation with the United Nations and with Kosovo’s neighbors. None of that even came close to happening in Crimea.”

None of that even came close to happening in Kosovo either. The story is false. The referendum the president speaks of never happened. Did the mainstream media pick up on this or on the previous example? If any reader comes across such I’d appreciate being informed.

Crimea, by the way, did have a referendum. A real one.

“Workers and engineers gave life to the Marshall Plan … As the Iron Curtain fell here in Europe, the iron fist of apartheid was unclenched, and Nelson Mandela emerged upright, proud, from prison to lead a multiracial democracy. Latin American nations rejected dictatorship and built new democracies … “

The president might have mentioned that the main beneficiary of the Marshall Plan was US corporations , that the United States played an indispensable role in Mandela being caught and imprisoned, and that virtually all the Latin American dictatorships owed their very existence to Washington. Instead, the European youth were fed the same party line that their parents were fed, as were all Americans.

“Yes, we believe in democracy – with elections that are free and fair.”

In this talk, the main purpose of which was to lambaste the Russians for their actions concerning Ukraine, there was no mention that the government overthrown in that country with the clear support of the United States had been democratically elected.

“Moreover, Russia has pointed to America’s decision to go into Iraq as an example of Western hypocrisy. … But even in Iraq, America sought to work within the international system. We did not claim or annex Iraq’s territory. We did not grab its resources for our own gain. Instead, we ended our war and left Iraq to its people and a fully sovereign Iraqi state that could make decisions about its own future.”

The US did not get UN Security Council approval for its invasion, the only approval that could legitimize the action. It occupied Iraq from one end of the country to the other for 8 years, forcing the government to privatize the oil industry and accept multinational – largely U.S.-based, oil companies’ – ownership. This endeavor was less than successful because of the violence unleashed by the invasion. The US military finally was forced to leave because the Iraqi government refused to give immunity to American soldiers for their many crimes.

Here is a brief summary of what Barack Obama is attempting to present as America’s moral superiority to the Russians:

The modern, educated, advanced nation of Iraq was reduced to a quasi failed state … the Americans, beginning in 1991, bombed for 12 years, with one dubious excuse or another; then invaded, then occupied, overthrew the government, tortured without inhibition, killed wantonly … the people of that unhappy land lost everything – their homes, their schools, their electricity, their clean water, their environment, their neighborhoods, their mosques, their archaeology, their jobs, their careers, their professionals, their state-run enterprises, their physical health, their mental health, their health care, their welfare state, their women’s rights, their religious tolerance, their safety, their security, their children, their parents, their past, their present, their future, their lives … More than half the population either dead, wounded, traumatized, in prison, internally displaced, or in foreign exile … The air, soil, water, blood, and genes drenched with depleted uranium … the most awful birth defects … unexploded cluster bombs lying in wait for children to pick them up … a river of blood running alongside the Euphrates and Tigris … through a country that may never be put back together again. … “It is a common refrain among war-weary Iraqis that things were better before the U.S.-led invasion in 2003,” reported the Washington Post. (May 5, 2007)

How can all these mistakes, such arrogance, hypocrisy and absurdity find their way into a single international speech by the president of the United States? Is the White House budget not sufficient to hire a decent fact checker? Someone with an intellect and a social conscience? Or does the desire to score propaganda points trump everything else? Is this another symptom of the Banana-Republicization of America?

Long live the Cold War

In 1933 US President Franklin D. Roosevelt recognized the Soviet Union after some 15 years of severed relations following the Bolshevik Revolution. On a day in December of that year, a train was passing through Poland carrying the first American diplomats dispatched to Moscow. Amongst their number was a 29 year-old Foreign Service Officer, later to become famous as a diplomat and scholar, George Kennan. Though he was already deemed a government expert on Russia, the train provided Kennan’s first actual exposure to the Soviet Union. As he listened to his group’s escort, Russian Foreign Minister Maxim Litvinov, reminisce about growing up in a village the train was passing close by, and his dreams of becoming a librarian, the Princeton-educated Kennan was astonished: “We suddenly realized, or at least I did, that these people we were dealing with were human beings like ourselves, that they had been born somewhere, that they had their childhood ambitions as we had. It seemed for a brief moment we could break through and embrace these people.”

It hasn’t happened yet.

One would think that the absence in Russia of communism, of socialism, of the basic threat or challenge to the capitalist system, would be sufficient to write finis to the 70-year Cold War mentality. But the United States is virtually as hostile to 21st-century Russia as it was to 20th-century Soviet Union, surrounding Moscow with military bases, missile sites, and NATO members. Why should that be? Ideology is no longer a factor. But power remains one, specifically America’s perpetual lust for world hegemony. Russia is the only nation that (a) is a military powerhouse, and (b) doesn’t believe that the United States has a god-given-American-exceptionalism right to rule the world, and says so. By these criteria, China might qualify as a poor second. But there are no others.

Washington pretends that it doesn’t understand why Moscow should be upset by Western military encroachment, but it has no such problem when roles are reversed. Secretary of State John Kerry recently stated that Russian troops poised near eastern Ukraine are “creating a climate of fear and intimidation in Ukraine” and raising questions about Russia’s next moves and its commitment to diplomacy.

NATO – ever in need of finding a raison d’être – has now issued a declaration of [cold] war, which reads in part:

“NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday [April 1, 2014] reaffirmed their commitment to enhance the Alliance’s collective defence, agreed to further support Ukraine and to suspend NATO’s practical cooperation with Russia. ‘NATO’s greatest responsibility is to protect and defend our territory and our people. And make no mistake, this is what we will do,’ NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said. … Ministers directed Allied military authorities to develop additional measures to strengthen collective defence and deterrence against any threat of aggression against the Alliance, Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said. ‘We will make sure we have updated military plans, enhanced exercises and appropriate deployments,’ he said. NATO has already reinforced its presence on the eastern border of the Alliance, including surveillance patrols over Poland and Romania and increased numbers of fighter aircraft allocated to the NATO air policing mission in the Baltic States. … NATO Foreign Ministers also agreed to suspend all of NATO’s practical cooperation with Russia.”

Does anyone recall what NATO said in 2003 when the United States bombed and invaded Iraq with “shock and awe”, compared to the Russians now not firing a single known shot at anyone? And neither Russia nor Ukraine is even a member of NATO. Does NATO have a word to say about the right-wing coup in Ukraine, openly supported by the United States, overthrowing the elected government? Did the hypocrisy get any worse during the Cold War? Imagine that NATO had not been created in 1949. Imagine that it has never existed. What reason could one give today for its creation? Other than to provide a multi-national cover for Washington’s interventions.

One of the main differences between now and the Cold War period is that Americans at home are (not yet) persecuted or prosecuted for supporting Russia or things Russian.

But don’t worry, folks, there won’t be a big US-Russian war. For the same reason there wasn’t one during the Cold War. The United States doesn’t pick on any country which can defend itself.

Cuba … Again … Still … Forever

Is there actually a limit? Will the United States ever stop trying to overthrow the Cuban government? Entire books have been written documenting the unrelenting ways Washington has tried to get rid of tiny Cuba’s horrid socialism – from military invasion to repeated assassination attempts to an embargo that President Clinton’s National Security Advisor called “the most pervasive sanctions ever imposed on a nation in the history of mankind”. But nothing has ever come even close to succeeding. The horrid socialism keeps on inspiring people all over the world. It’s the darnedest thing. Can providing people free or remarkably affordable health care, education, housing, food and culture be all that important?

And now it’s “Cuban Twitter” – an elaborately complex system set up by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to disguise its American origins and financing, aiming to bring about a “Cuban Spring” uprising. USAID sought to first “build a Cuban audience, mostly young people; then the plan was to push them toward dissent”, hoping the messaging network “would reach critical mass so that dissidents could organize ‘smart mobs’ – mass gatherings called at a moment’s notice – that might trigger political demonstrations or ‘renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society’.” It’s too bad it’s now been exposed, because we all know how wonderful the Egyptian, Syrian, Libyan, and other “Arab Springs” have turned out.

Here’s USAID speaking after their scheme was revealed on April 3: “Cubans were able to talk among themselves, and we are proud of that.” We are thus asked to believe that normally the poor downtrodden Cubans have no good or safe way to communicate with each other. Is the US National Security Agency working for the Cuban government now?

The Associated Press, which broke the story, asks us further to believe that the “truth” about most things important in the world is being kept from the Cuban people by the Castro regime, and that the “Cuban Twitter” would have opened people’s eyes. But what information might a Cuban citizen discover online that the government would not want him to know about? I can’t imagine. Cubans are in constant touch with relatives in the US, by mail and in person. They get US television programs from Miami and other southern cities; both CNN and Telesur (Venezuela, covering Latin America) are seen regularly on Cuban television”; international conferences on all manner of political, economic and social issues are held regularly in Cuba. I’ve spoken at more than one myself. What – it must be asked – does USAID, as well as the American media, think are the great dark secrets being kept from the Cuban people by the nasty commie government?

Those who push this line sometimes point to the serious difficulty of using the Internet in Cuba. The problem is that it’s extremely slow, making certain desired usages often impractical. From an American friend living in Havana: “It’s not a question of getting or not getting internet. I get internet here. The problem is downloading something or connecting to a link takes too long on the very slow connection that exists here, so usually I/we get ‘timed out’.” But the USAID’s “Cuban Twitter”, after all, could not have functioned at all without the Internet.

Places like universities, upscale hotels, and Internet cafés get better connections, at least some of the time; however, it’s rather expensive to use at the hotels and cafés.

In any event, this isn’t a government plot to hide dangerous information. It’s a matter of technical availability and prohibitive cost, both things at least partly in the hands of the United States and American corporations. Microsoft, for example, at one point, if not at present, barred Cuba from using its Messenger instant messaging service.

Cuba and Venezuela have jointly built a fiber optic underwater cable connection that they hope will make them less reliant on the gringos; the outcome of this has not yet been reported in much detail.

The grandly named Agency for International Development does not have an honorable history; this can perhaps be captured by a couple of examples: In 1981, the agency’s director, John Gilligan, stated: “At one time, many AID field offices were infiltrated from top to bottom with CIA people. The idea was to plant operatives in every kind of activity we had overseas, government, volunteer, religious, every kind.”

On June 21, 2012, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) issued a resolution calling for the immediate expulsion of USAID from their nine member countries, “due to the fact that we consider their presence and actions to constitute an interference which threatens the sovereignty and stability of our nations.”

USAID, the CIA, the National Endowment for Democracy (and the latter’s subsidiaries), together or singly, continue to be present at regime changes, or attempts at same, favorable to Washington, from “color revolutions” to “spring” uprisings, producing a large measure of chaos and suffering for our tired old world.

Notes

  1. William Blum, America’s Deadliest Export – Democracy: The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else, p.22-5
  2. Walter Isaacson & Evan Thomas, The Wise Men (1986), p.158
  3. Washington Post, March 31, 2014
  4. NATO takes measures to reinforce collective defence, agrees on support for Ukraine”, NATO website, April 1, 2014
  5. Sandy Berger, White House press briefing, November 14, 1997, US Newswire transcript
  6. Associated Press, April 3 & 4, 2014
  7. Washington Post, April 4, 2014
  8. Associated Press, June 2, 2009
  9. George Cotter, “Spies, strings and missionaries”, The Christian Century (Chicago), March 25, 1981, p.321

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

The Anti-Empire Report #122

Off the Keyboard of William Blum

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nsa-listening-408

Published November 7th, 2013 by William Blum on The Anti-Empire Report

National Security Agency – The only part of the government that really listens to what you have to say

The New York Times (November 2) ran a long article based on NSA documents released by Edward Snowden. One of the lines that most caught my attention concerned “Sigint” – Signals intelligence, the term used for electronic intercepts. The document stated:

“Sigint professionals must hold the moral high ground, even as terrorists or dictators seek to exploit our freedoms. Some of our adversaries will say or do anything to advance their cause; we will not.”

What, I wondered, might that mean? What would the National Security Agency – on moral principle – refuse to say or do?

 

I have on occasion asked people who reject or rationalize any and all criticism of US foreign policy: “What would the United States have to do in its foreign policy to lose your support? What, for you, would be too much?” I’ve yet to get a suitable answer to that question. I suspect it’s because the person is afraid that whatever they say I’ll point out that the United States has already done it.

The United Nations vote on the Cuba embargo – 22 years in a row

For years American political leaders and media were fond of labeling Cuba an “international pariah”. We haven’t heard that for a very long time. Perhaps one reason is the annual vote in the United Nations General Assembly on the resolution which reads: “Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”. This is how the vote has gone (not including abstentions):

Year Votes (Yes-No) No Votes
1992 59-2 US, Israel
1993 88-4 US, Israel, Albania, Paraguay
1994 101-2 US, Israel
1995 117-3 US, Israel, Uzbekistan
1996 138-3 US, Israel, Uzbekistan
1997 143-3 US, Israel, Uzbekistan
1998 157-2 US, Israel
1999 155-2 US, Israel
2000 167-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2001 167-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2002 173-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2003 179-3 US, Israel, Marshall Islands
2004 179-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2005 182-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2006 183-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2007 184-4 US, Israel, Marshall Islands, Palau
2008 185-3 US, Israel, Palau
2009 187-3 US, Israel, Palau
2010 187-2 US, Israel
2011 186-2 US, Israel
2012 188-3 US, Israel, Palau
2013 188-2 US, Israel

Each fall the UN vote is a welcome reminder that the world has not completely lost its senses and that the American empire does not completely control the opinion of other governments.

Speaking before the General Assembly, October 29, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez declared: “The economic damages accumulated after half a century as a result of the implementation of the blockade amount to $1.126 trillion.” He added that the blockade “has been further tightened under President Obama’s administration”, some 30 US and foreign entities being hit with $2.446 billion in fines due to their interaction with Cuba.

However, the American envoy, Ronald Godard, in an appeal to other countries to oppose the resolution, said:

“The international community … cannot in good conscience ignore the ease and frequency with which the Cuban regime silences critics, disrupts peaceful assembly, impedes independent journalism and, despite positive reforms, continues to prevent some Cubans from leaving or returning to the island. The Cuban government continues its tactics of politically motivated detentions, harassment and police violence against Cuban citizens.” 1

So there you have it. That is why Cuba must be punished. One can only guess what Mr. Godard would respond if told that more than 7,000 people were arrested in the United States during the Occupy Movement’s first 8 months of protest 2 ; that their encampments were violently smashed up; that many of them were physically abused by the police.

Does Mr. Godard ever read a newspaper or the Internet, or watch television? Hardly a day passes in America without a police officer shooting to death an unarmed person?

As to “independent journalism” – what would happen if Cuba announced that from now on anyone in the country could own any kind of media? How long would it be before CIA money – secret and unlimited CIA money financing all kinds of fronts in Cuba – would own or control most of the media worth owning or controlling?

The real reason for Washington’s eternal hostility toward Cuba? The fear of a good example of an alternative to the capitalist model; a fear that has been validated repeatedly over the years as Third World countries have expressed their adulation of Cuba.

How the embargo began: On April 6, 1960, Lester D. Mallory, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, wrote in an internal memorandum: “The majority of Cubans support Castro … The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship. … every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life of Cuba.” Mallory proposed “a line of action which … makes the greatest inroads in denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.” 3 Later that year, the Eisenhower administration instituted the suffocating embargo against its everlasting enemy.

The Cold War Revisited

 

I’ve written the Introduction to a new book recently published in Russia that is sort of an updating of my book Killing Hope. 4 Here is a short excerpt:

 

The Cold War had not been a struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union. It had been a struggle between the United States and the Third World, which, in the decade following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, continued in Haiti, Somalia, Iraq, Yugoslavia and elsewhere.

The Cold War had not been a worldwide crusade by America to halt Soviet expansion, real or imaginary. It had been a worldwide crusade by America to block political and social changes in the Third World, changes opposed by the American power elite.

The Cold War had not been a glorious and noble movement of freedom and democracy against Communist totalitarianism. It had typically been a movement by the United States in support of dictatorships, authoritarian regimes and corrupt oligarchies which were willing to follow Washington’s party line on the Left, US corporations, Israel, oil, military bases, et al. and who protected American political and economic interests in their countries in exchange for the American military and CIA keeping them in power against the wishes of their own people.

In other words, whatever the diplomats at the time thought they were doing, the Cold War revisionists have been vindicated. American policy had been about imperialism and military expansion.

Apropos the countless other myths we were all taught about the Soviet Union is this letter I recently received from one of my readers, a Russian woman, age 49, who moved to the United States eight years ago and now lives in Northern Virginia:

I can’t imagine why anybody is surprised to hear when I say I miss life in the Soviet Union: what is bad about free healthcare and education, guaranteed employment, guaranteed free housing? No rent or mortgage of any kind, only utilities, but they were subsidized too, so it was really pennies. Now, to be honest, there was a waiting list to get those apartments, so some people got them quicker, some people had to wait for years, it all depended on where you worked. And there were no homeless people, and crime was way lower. As a first grader I was taking the public transportation to go to school, which was about 1 hour away by bus (it was a big city, about the size of Washington DC, we lived on the outskirts, and my school was downtown), and it was fine, all other kids were doing it. Can you even imagine this being done now? I am not saying everything was perfect, but overall, it is a more stable and socially just system, fair to everybody, nobody was left behind. This is what I miss: peace and stability, and not being afraid of the future.

Problem is, nobody believes it, they will say that I am a brainwashed “tovarish” [comrade]. I’ve tried to argue with Americans about this before, but just gave up now. They just refuse to believe anything that contradicts what CNN has been telling them for all their lives. One lady once told me: “You just don’t know what was going on there, because you did not have freedom of speech, but we, Americans, knew everything, because we could read about all of this in our media.” I told her “I was right there! I did not need to read about this in the media, I lived that life!”, but she still was unconvinced! You will not believe what she said: “Yes, maybe, but we have more stuff!”. Seriously, having 50 kinds of cereal available in the store, and walmarts full of plastic junk is more valuable to Americans than a stable and secure life, and social justice for everybody?

Of course there are people who lived in the Soviet Union who disagree with me, and I talked to them too, but I find their reasons just as silly. I heard one Russian lady whose argument was that Stalin killed “30, no 40 million people”. First of all it’s not true (I don’t in any way defend Stalin, but I do think that lying and exaggerating about him is as wrong)*, and second of all what does this have to do with the 70s, when I was a kid? By then life was completely different. I heard other arguments, like food shortages (again, not true, it’s not like there was no food at all, there were shortages of this or that specific product, like you wouldn’t find mayo or bologna in the store some days, but everything else was there!). So, you would come back next day, or in 2-3 days, and you would find them there. Really, this is such a big deal? Or you would have to stay in line to buy some other product, (ravioli for example). But how badly do you want that ravioli really that day, can’t you have anything else instead? Just buy something else, like potatoes, where there was no line.

Was this annoying, yes, and at the time I was annoyed too, but only now I realized that I would much prefer this nuisance to my present life now, when I am constantly under stress for the fear that I can possibly lose my job (as my husband already did), and as a result, lose everything else – my house? You couldn’t possibly lose your house in Soviet Union, it was yours for life, mortgage free. Only now, living here in the US, I realized that all those soviet nuisances combined were not as important as the benefits we had – housing, education, healthcare, employment, safe streets, all sort of free after school activities (music, sports, arts, anything you want) for kids, so parents never had to worry about what we do all day till they come home in the evening.

* We’ve all heard the figures many times … 10 million … 20 million … 40 million … 60 million … died under Stalin. But what does the number mean, whichever number you choose? Of course many people died under Stalin, many people died under Roosevelt, and many people are still dying under Bush. Dying appears to be a natural phenomenon in every country. The question is how did those people die under Stalin? Did they die from the famines that plagued the USSR in the 1920s and 30s? Did the Bolsheviks deliberately create those famines? How? Why? More people certainly died in India in the 20th century from famines than in the Soviet Union, but no one accuses India of the mass murder of its own citizens. Did the millions die from disease in an age before antibiotics? In prison? From what causes? People die in prison in the United States on a regular basis. Were millions actually murdered in cold blood? If so, how? How many were criminals executed for non-political crimes? The logistics of murdering tens of millions of people is daunting. 5

Hillary: Defending the Bush regime all the way

Let’s not repeat the Barack fuckup with Hillary

Not that it really matters who the Democrats nominate for the presidency in 2016. Whoever that politically regressive and morally bankrupt party chooses will be at best an uninspired and uninspiring centrist; in European terms a center-rightist; who believes that the American Empire – despite the admittedly occasional excessive behavior – is mankind’s last great hope. The only reason I bother to comment on this question so far in advance of the election is that the forces behind Clinton have clearly already begun their campaign and I’d like to use the opportunity to try to educate the many progressives who fell in love with Obama and may be poised now to embrace Clinton. Here’s what I wrote in July 2007 during the very early days of the 2008 campaign:

Who do you think said this on June 20? a) Rudy Giuliani; b) Hillary Clinton; c) George Bush; d) Mitt Romney; or e) Barack Obama?

“The American military has done its job. Look what they accomplished. They got rid of Saddam Hussein. They gave the Iraqis a chance for free and fair elections. They gave the Iraqi government the chance to begin to demonstrate that it understood its responsibilities to make the hard political decisions necessary to give the people of Iraq a better future. So the American military has succeeded. It is the Iraqi government which has failed to make the tough decisions which are important for their own people.” 6

Right, it was the woman who wants to be president because … because she wants to be president … because she thinks it would be nice to be president … no other reason, no burning cause, no heartfelt desire for basic change in American society or to make a better world … she just thinks it would be nice, even great, to be president. And keep the American Empire in business, its routine generating of horror and misery being no problem; she wouldn’t want to be known as the president that hastened the decline of the empire.

And she spoke the above words at the “Take Back America” conference; she was speaking to liberals, committed liberal Democrats and others further left. She didn’t have to cater to them with any flag-waving pro-war rhetoric; they wanted to hear anti-war rhetoric (and she of course gave them a bit of that as well out of the other side of her mouth), so we can assume that this is how she really feels, if indeed the woman feels anything. The audience, it should be noted, booed her, for the second year in a row.

Think of why you are opposed to the war. Is it not largely because of all the unspeakable suffering brought down upon the heads and souls of the poor people of Iraq by the American military? Hillary Clinton couldn’t care less about that, literally. She thinks the American military has “succeeded”. Has she ever unequivocally labeled the war “illegal” or “immoral”? I used to think that Tony Blair was a member of the right wing or conservative wing of the British Labour Party. I finally realized one day that that was an incorrect description of his ideology. Blair is a conservative, a bloody Tory. How he wound up in the Labour Party is a matter I haven’t studied. Hillary Clinton, however, I’ve long known is a conservative; going back to at least the 1980s, while the wife of the Arkansas governor, she strongly supported the death-squad torturers known as the Contras, who were the empire’s proxy army in Nicaragua. 7

Now we hear from America’s venerable conservative magazine, William Buckley’s National Review, an editorial by Bruce Bartlett, policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan; treasury official under President George H.W. Bush; a fellow at two of the leading conservative think-tanks, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute – You get the picture? Bartlett tells his readers that it’s almost certain that the Democrats will win the White House in 2008. So what to do? Support the most conservative Democrat. He writes: “To right-wingers willing to look beneath what probably sounds to them like the same identical views of the Democratic candidates, it is pretty clear that Hillary Clinton is the most conservative.” 8

We also hear from America’s premier magazine for the corporate wealthy, Fortune, whose recent cover features a picture of Clinton and the headline: “Business Loves Hillary”. 9

Back to 2013: In October, the office of billionaire George Soros, who has long worked with US foreign policy to destabilize governments not in love with the empire, announced that “George Soros is delighted to join more than one million Americans in supporting Ready for Hillary.” 10

There’s much more evidence of Hillary Clinton’s conservative leanings, but if you need more, you’re probably still in love with Obama, who in a new book is quoted telling his aides during a comment on drone strikes that he’s “really good at killing people”. 11 Can we look forward to Hillary winning the much-discredited Nobel Peace Prize?

I’m sorry if I take away all your fun.

Notes

  1. Democracy Now!, “U.N. General Assembly Votes Overwhelmingly Against U.S. Embargo of Cuba”, October 30, 2013
  2. Huffingfton Post, May 3, 2012
  3. Department of State, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1958-1960, Volume VI, Cuba (1991), p.885
  4. Copies can be purchased by emailing kuchkovopole@mail.ru
  5. From William Blum, Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire (2005), p.194
  6. Speaking at the “Take Back America” conference, organized by the Campaign for America’s Future, June 20, 2007, Washington, DC; this excerpt can be heard on Democracy Now!’s website
  7. Roger Morris, former member of the National Security Council, Partners in Power (1996), p.415
  8. National Review Online, May 1, 2007
  9. Fortune magazine, July 9, 2007
  10. Washington Post, October 25, 2013
  11. Washington Post, November 1, 2013, review of “Double Down: Game Change 2012”

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

 

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

Off the Keyboard of William Blum

The Anti-Empire Report #119

The Anti-Empire Report #118

Published July 30, 2013 | By William Blum

From the keyboard of William Blum

Published  in The Anti-Empire Report, July 30, 2013

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

bigbrother

The Anti-Empire Report #119

That most charming of couples: Nationalism and hypocrisy

It’s not easy being a flag-waving American nationalist. In addition to having to deal with the usual disillusion, anger, and scorn from around the world incited by Washington’s endless bombings and endless wars, the nationalist is assaulted by whistle blowers like Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, who have disclosed a steady stream of human-rights and civil-liberties scandals, atrocities, embarrassing lies, and embarrassing truths. Believers in “American exceptionalism” and “noble intentions” have been hard pressed to keep the rhetorical flag waving by the dawn’s early light and the twilight’s last gleaming.

  

That may explain the Washington Post story (July 20) headlined “U.S. asylum-seekers unhappy in Russia”, about Edward Snowden and his plan to perhaps seek asylum in Moscow. The article recounted the allegedly miserable times experienced in the Soviet Union by American expatriates and defectors like Lee Harvey Oswald, the two NSA employees of 1960 – William Martin and Bernon Mitchell – and several others. The Post’s propaganda equation apparently is: Dissatisfaction with life in Russia by an American equals a point in favor of the United States: “misplaced hopes of a glorious life in the worker’s paradise” … Oswald “was given work in an electronics factory in dreary Minsk, where the bright future eluded him” … reads the Post’s Cold War-clichéd rendition. Not much for anyone to get terribly excited about, but a defensive American nationalist is hard pressed these days to find much better.

At the same time TeamUSA scores points by publicizing present-day Russian violations of human rights and civil liberties, just as if the Cold War were still raging. “We call on the Russian government to cease its campaign of pressure against individuals and groups seeking to expose corruption, and to ensure that the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of all of its citizens, including the freedoms of speech and assembly, are protected and respected,” said Jay Carney, the White House press secretary. 1

“Campaign of pressure against individuals and groups seeking to expose corruption” … hmmm … Did someone say “Edward Snowden”? Is round-the-clock surveillance of the citizenry not an example of corruption? Does the White House have no sense of shame? Or embarrassment? At all?

I long for a modern version of the Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954 at which Carney – or much better, Barack Obama himself – is spewing one lie and one sickening defense of his imperialist destruction after another. And the committee counsel (in the famous words of Joseph Welch) is finally moved to declare: “Sir, you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” The Congressional gallery burst into applause and this incident is widely marked as the beginning of the end of the McCarthy sickness.

US politicians and media personalities have criticized Snowden for fleeing abroad to release the classified documents he possessed. Why didn’t he remain in the US to defend his actions and face his punishment like a real man? they ask. Yes, the young man should have voluntarily subjected himself to solitary confinement, other tortures, life in prison, and possible execution if he wished to be taken seriously. Quel coward!

Why didn’t Snowden air his concerns through the proper NSA channels rather than leaking the documents, as a respectable whistleblower would do? This is the question James Bamford, generally regarded as America’s leading writer on the NSA, endeavored to answer, as follows:

I’ve interviewed many NSA whistleblowers, and the common denominator is that they felt ignored when attempting to bring illegal or unethical operations to the attention of higher-ranking officials. For example, William Binney and several other senior NSA staffers protested the agency’s domestic collection programs up the chain of command, and even attempted to bring the operations to the attention of the attorney general, but they were ignored. Only then did Binney speak publicly to me for an article in Wired magazine. In a Q&A on the Guardian Web Snowden cited Binney as an example of “how overly-harsh responses to public-interest whistle-blowing only escalate the scale, scope, and skill involved in future disclosures. Citizens with a conscience are not going to ignore wrong-doing simply because they’ll be destroyed for it: the conscience forbids it.”

And even when whistleblowers bring their concerns to the news media, the NSA usually denies that the activity is taking place. The agency denied Binney’s charges that it was obtaining all consumer metadata from Verizon and had access to virtually all Internet traffic. It was only when Snowden leaked the documents revealing the phone-log program and showing how PRISM works that the agency was forced to come clean. 2

 

“Every country in the world that is engaged in international affairs and national security undertakes lots of activities to protect its national security,” US Secretary of State John Kerry said recently. “All I know is that it is not unusual for lots of nations.” 3

Well, Mr. K, antisemitism is not unusual; it can be found in every country. Why, then, does the world so strongly condemn Nazi Germany? Obviously, it’s a matter of degree, is it not? The magnitude of the US invasion of privacy puts it into a league all by itself.

Kerry goes out of his way to downplay the significance of what Snowden revealed. He’d have the world believe that it’s all just routine stuff amongst nations … “Move along, nothing to see here.” Yet the man is almost maniacal about punishing Snowden. On July 12, just hours after Venezuela agreed to provide Snowden with political asylum, Kerry personally called Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua and reportedly threatened to ground any Venezuelan aircraft in America’s or any NATO country’s airspace if there is the slightest suspicion that Snowden is using the flight to get to Caracas. Closing all NATO member countries’ airspace to Venezuelan flights means avoiding 26 countries in Europe and two in North America. Under this scenario, Snowden would have to fly across the Pacific from Russia’s Far East instead of crossing the Atlantic.

The Secretary of State also promised to intensify the ongoing process of revoking US entry visas to Venezuelan officials and businessmen associated with the deceased President Hugo Chávez. Washington will also begin prosecuting prominent Venezuelan politicians on allegations of drug trafficking, money laundering and other criminal actions and Kerry specifically mentioned some names in his conversation with the Venezuelan Foreign Minister.

Kerry added that Washington is well aware of Venezuela’s dependence on the US when it comes to refined oil products. Despite being one of the world’s largest oil producers, Venezuela requires more petrol and oil products than it can produce, buying well over a million barrels of refined oil products from the United States every month. Kerry bluntly warned that fuel supplies would be halted if President Maduro continues to reach out to the fugitive NSA contractor. 4

Wow. Heavy. Unlimited power in the hands of psychopaths. My own country truly scares me.

And what country brags about its alleged freedoms more than the United States? And its alleged democracy? Its alleged civil rights and human rights? Its alleged “exceptionalism”? Its alleged everything? Given that, why should not the United States be held to the very highest of standards?

American hypocrisy in its foreign policy is manifested on a routine, virtually continual, basis. Here is President Obama speaking recently in South Africa about Nelson Mandela: “The struggle here against apartheid, for freedom; [Mandela’s] moral courage; this country’s historic transition to a free and democratic nation has been a personal inspiration to me. It has been an inspiration to the world – and it continues to be.” 5

How touching. But no mention – never any mention by any American leader – that the United States was directly responsible for sending Nelson Mandela to prison for 28 years. 6

And demanding Snowden’s extradition while, according to the Russian Interior Ministry, “Law agencies asked the US on many occasions to extradite wanted criminals through Interpol channels, but those requests were neither met nor even responded to.” Amongst the individuals requested are militant Islamic insurgents from Chechnya, given asylum in the United States. 7

Ecuador has had a similar experience with the US in asking for the extradition of several individuals accused of involvement in a coup attempt against President Rafael Correa. The most blatant example of this double standard is that of Luis Posada Carriles who masterminded the blowing up of a Cuban airline in 1976, killing 73 civilians. He has lived as a free man in Florida for many years even though his extradition has been requested by Venezuela. He’s but one of hundreds of anti-Castro and other Latin American terrorists who’ve been given haven in the United States over the years despite their being wanted in their home countries.

American officials can spout “American exceptionalism” every other day and commit crimes against humanity on intervening days. Year after year, decade after decade. But I think we can derive some satisfaction, and perhaps even hope, in that US foreign policy officials, as morally damaged as they must be, are not all so stupid that they don’t know they’re swimming in a sea of hypocrisy. Presented here are two examples:

In 2004 it was reported that “The State Department plans to delay the release of a human rights report that was due out today, partly because of sensitivities over the prison abuse scandal in Iraq, U.S. officials said. One official … said the release of the report, which describes actions taken by the U.S. government to encourage respect for human rights by other nations, could ‘make us look hypocritical’.” 8

And an example from 2007: Chester Crocker, a member of the State Department’s Advisory Committee on Democracy Promotion, and formerly Assistant Secretary of State, noted that “we have to be able to cope with the argument that the U.S. is inconsistent and hypocritical in its promotion of democracy around the world. That may be true.” 9

In these cases the government officials appear to be somewhat self-conscious about the prevailing hypocrisy. Other foreign policy notables seem to be rather proud.

Robert Kagan, author and long-time intellectual architect of an interventionism that seeks to impose a neo-conservative agenda upon the world, by any means necessary, has declared that the United States must refuse to abide by certain international conventions, like the international criminal court and the Kyoto accord on global warming. The US, he says, “must support arms control, but not always for itself. It must live by a double standard.” 10

And then we have Robert Cooper, a senior British diplomat who was an advisor to Prime Minister Tony Blair during the Iraq war. Cooper wrote:

The challenge to the postmodern world is to get used to the idea of double standards. Among ourselves, we operate on the basis of laws and open cooperative security. But when dealing with more old-fashioned kinds of states outside the postmodern continent of Europe, we need to revert to the rougher methods of an earlier era – force, pre-emptive attack, deception, whatever is necessary to deal with those who still live in the nineteenth century world of every state for itself. 11

His expression, “every state for itself”, can be better understood as any state not willing to accede to the agenda of the American Empire and the school bully’s best friend in London.

So there we have it. The double standard is in. The Golden Rule of “do unto others as you would have others do unto you” is out.

The imperial mafia, and their court intellectuals like Kagan and Cooper, have a difficult time selling their world vision on the basis of legal, moral, ethical or fairness standards. Thus it is that they simply decide that they’re not bound by such standards.

Hating America

   

Here is Alan Dershowitz, prominent American lawyer, jurist, political commentator and fervent Zionist and supporter of the empire, speaking about journalist Glenn Greenwald and the latter’s involvement with Edward Snowden: “Look, Greenwald’s a total phony. He is anti-American, he loves tyrannical regimes, and he did this because he hates America. This had nothing to do with publicizing information. He never would’ve written this article if they had published material about one of his favorite countries.” 12

“Anti-American” … “hates America” … What do they mean, those expressions that are an integral part of American political history? Greenwald hates baseball and hot dogs? … Hates American films and music? … Hates all the buildings in the United States? Every law? … No, like most “anti-Americans”, Glenn Greenwald hates American foreign policy. He hates all the horrors and all the lies used to cover up all the horrors. So which Americans is he anti?

Dershowitz undoubtedly thinks that Snowden is anti-American as well. But listen to the young man being interviewed:

“America is a fundamentally good country. We have good people with good values who want to do the right thing.”

The interviewer is Glenn Greenwald. 13

Is there any other “democratic” country in the world which regularly, or even occasionally, employs such terminology? Anti-German? Anti-British? Anti-Mexican? It may be that only a totalitarian mentality can conceive of and use the term “anti-American”.

“God appointed America to save the world in any way that suits America. God appointed Israel to be the nexus of America’s Middle Eastern policy and anyone who wants to mess with that idea is a) anti-Semitic, b) anti-American, c) with the enemy, and d) a terrorist.” – John LeCarré, London Times, January 15, 2003

Notes

  1. White House Press Briefing, July 18, 2013
  2. Washington Post, June 23, 2013
  3. Reuters news agency, July 2, 2013
  4. RT television (Russia Today), July 19, 2013, citing a Spanish ABC media outlet
  5. White House press release, June 29, 2013
  6. William Blum, Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, chapter 23
  7. RT television (Russia Today), July 22, 2013
  8. Los Angeles Times, May 5, 2004
  9. Washington Post, April 17, 2007
  10. Hoover Institute, Stanford University, Policy Review, June 1, 2002
  11. The Observer (UK), April 7, 2002
  12. “Piers Morgan Live”, CNN, June 24, 2013
  13. Video of Glen Greenwald interviewing Edward Snowden (at 2:05 mark)

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

 

william_blum

 

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

Black Friday

Off the keyboard of William Hunter Duncan

Published  on Off the Grid in Minneapolis on Novemebr 23.. 21012

Discuss this article  at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasboard inside the Diner

I biked the mile to the bus stop this morning, twenty degrees outside and a thirty mile-an-hour headwind, blowing snow, at six am, to discover that this post-Thanksgiving Day Friday, Black Friday, is considered a Metro Transit holiday. No bus waiting. Hmm. At first I imagined, I would bike the five miles to big bank, which I can do, even under the conditions, comfortably enough. I imagined sitting down at my computer station, firing off an email to my immediate management and the temp people, informing them precisely what I had done and what I think about that. Except for much of the journey would be on the shoulder of a four lane 55mph speed limit everybody driving 60, it snowed and rained last night, the roads are slippery, and a bike helmet, which I couldn’t find this morning anyway in a very symbolic Hmmmm, isn’t going to protect me from a 2000+ lbs projectile moving at six or eight times the speed I am, bearing down on me from behind. By the time I got half way home, which is on the way to big bank from the bus station, I was like, that’s fucking crazy. No WAY am I biking that, and no way am I putting someone else out, on a day that just about everybody thinks is a holiday (judging by the lack of automobile traffic as I write this), so I can go and FORECLOSE ON HOUSES FOR UBER_BANK_LEVIATHAN-KRAKEN. LOL.

So I got home, and called the automated overseer computer lady at big bank, and spoke the words, “William Duncan, Kodi {manager}, 7am MONDAY,” in reference to the time I would be returning to work. I left a voicemail with my contact at the temp agency, and sent an email to the top two managers in my department. It’s a liberty, what I’ve done, relative to my station. Still, I don’t expect any push back. If I even hear about it, I’ll be surprised, though it is strictly speaking, grounds for me to be dis-invited, to work for big bank.

It’s not like I’m going shopping. Nor am I going to sit around smoke pot get drunk chow left-over Thanksgiving dinner watch Tee-Vee. It’s not even very comfortable in my house, when it’s this cold, with the wind blowing hard. Mostly, aside from drinking coffee writing blog posts researching, I will be working, insulating the house, which is a drafty sieve. Lots of work to do, here. Might get a buzz on too, eventually. 😉

If I lose the job, which is a possibility, I’ll just tell the temp agency, listen, if big bank doesn’t take me back, I’ll write an op-ed in the straightest, most conventional clear easy to understand language I can muster, for one of the local MSM newsprint outlets, about the arrangement as it stands, in its full absurdity. I mean really, there are people expected to work the second shift starting at 3:30 pm, Monday, Christmas Eve Day, FORECLOSING ON HOUSES! Maybe they want to, but it’s also like a threat of economic dissolution otherwise, and really when you are a “butt’s in seats in the morgue, or the meat-house,” a day off is also one less day of pay, when we are making about $7 LESS than the average American wage. Which is kind a of low grade terror, this sort of economic hegemony exercised with such ruthless, numerical logic. Which then calls into question the whole War on Terror, when, if you dare not participate in the making of dollars in the imperial way prescribed, you are fucked. Get with the fucking program?

It’s not like I’m a weak performer, either. My numbers are solid, in their metric. 100% accuracy, in my last review. There is a threshold one must reach, in sheer numbers, before one is eligible for overtime, which I crossed some time ago, though I have not partaken of the so-called fruit (nor have I striven to do more, necessarily.) They can fire me, but if they do, I’m going to do what I can to return the favor. 😉

Meanwhile, the bulk of America shops. I was at my sister’s yesterday, consuming tee-vee programming. Whether it was that or the industrial food she fed me, I can’t say was the cause of my ill stomach. It was more like soul sadness, in the presence of such grotesqurie’, as was splashed across my cerebral cortex, with such cynical abandon. In my last post, I said I am not a “moral” man. Do not mistake that for moral relativity, which Americans display with monstrous pride. On one Newz program, a woman was interviewed about her attack plan, shopping today. She advocated teamwork, with everyone with a plan of operation, “otherwise you won’t get everything you need.” She bought seven flat-screen tv’s Black Friday 2011, most of which remain in the boxes. She was presented as an ideal of normality by the network, which she is, in America. We scoff at the savages, those responsible in the past for human sacrifice to placate the gods. By how many orders of magnitude worse, all those who have died that we might be free to shop – what is being done to the earth, to fulfill our “needs”?

My sister said she had been made to feel guilty for doing damage to the “environment”, because she had ordered some product on-line, instead of in a store. The rationale, that those things ordered online travel more miles, than they would if they were housed in a centralized retail box. I laughed and asked her how long she thought 7 billion people could continue buying the resources of the earth transformed into consumer product to be thrown away as garbage, esp. when we are adding 200,000 people a day, globally? I didn’t ask, but I’m guessing, she bought the turkey at Sam’s Club, and most everything else for dinner besides. She gets it, the madness of it, she just can’t imagine any other way, or won’t.

I recognize too, the slippery slope I am on, justifying my work at big bank at all, in any way. Perhaps after Black Friday 2012, I will no longer have to.

This is what my lightning bug niece and I did Thanksgiving. It’s hard to see her wings, but they are there. The bike, a gift from RE, head Admin at the Doomstead Diner

Hypocrisy

Off the keyboard of William Hunter Duncan

Published on Off the Grid in Minneapolis on November 20, 2012

Discuss this article at the Epicurean Delights Smorgasbord inside the Diner

Last winter, living without a working furnace or income, I was ready to fix up this house and sell it. I was going to sell it, and go to dance in the wheat fields of England, to call down a sign, or call out the ones who do it. From there, to the Big Island of Hawaii, to walk around it, up to Dec 21. From there, wherever, perhaps deep in the amazon, in search of Ayahuasca and Strophoria cubensis.

Spring came, and I fell in love with the garden again, and I planted fruit trees. I started the work on the house, which went well up to a point, when I lost any energy for it, after a series of arguments with my father, who shares the mortgage on the house, and has been paying on it the last four years. I walked away from the house, longtime readers, and readers of my books, will recall, during the fall of 2008. I was hardly aware of the financial collapse, as I was in love, and recovering from Lyme disease. I lived with that woman and her kids, in Northern California and Wisconsin, the following two years, when we broke off the relationship and I returned to this house, which had been unoccupied all that time. That is when I started this blog, and expanded the garden. By mid-summer this year, it was clear to me that the house was not saleable to anyone but a speculator at a house-flipper price in a depressed market; and the garden had become like an enchanted place.

I couldn’t go another winter without taking on the mortgage payment, and the Halloween store I managed in the fall of 2010 and 2011, had been sold to a buyer out-of-state, so I had to go looking for a job, which I haven’t had, a nine-to-five or simulacrum, in four years, other than the Halloween store. I applied for about thirty jobs, went to one interview that didn’t go well, skipped a dead-end one. The third interview, I almost skipped; which turned out to be serendipitous, and I am not one to ignore serendipity. They were vague, and somewhat cagey about the job, it being a high-class temp agency, but I would be working for a big bank, which I knew would make my father happy, and I could get there by bus after a one mile bike ride, in about 50 minutes after leaving my house. Not owning a car, and not wanting one, that was a positive (some people at big bank bus two hours each way.) It occurred to me though, the evening after the interview, restless in bed, that I might have been hired to foreclose on houses.

There was a three week gap between the time I was hired, and the start date. During that time, every single person I talked to about my concern, to a one, said, “it’s a job.” Not one person shared my concern, and while some of the people I spoke with are conventional, the majority are not. I was surprised. But then I am dubious about the vast majority of jobs. No one seemed very perturbed by the fact that I would be making less than I had been by the hour, working for my friend Organic Bob moving dirt around and landscaping, less than half I was making at that corporate job I had at the Behemoth in 2008, and only 25% what I was making during the housing boom, remodeling houses.

The DREAM JOB I had been angling for, I failed to be interviewed for, despite that I had a friend advocating for me inside. This, I chalk up to the fact that I failed to pursue the Masters and Doctorate I was being pushed to pursue by my Teachers, back in 2000, but I saw that I would be a fifth-tier Doctor with $150,000 in debt at 40, and besides, I felt the call of the wild. Too wild now, for a scholastic job writing and editing articles about solutions to environmental problems, evidently. So I took the one job I was offered, at big bank.

My concern was confirmed as accurate, day one, within ninety minutes. The trainer said the loans we would be working on were in default, that no one was living in those houses, that we would not be foreclosing on people. I liked him, and still do, but I suspected then and suspect now there is no reason to believe at all, that there aren’t people in the houses on the loans we are foreclosing on. For myself, since then, every weekday but Veteran’s Day, I awoke at five am to foreclose on houses for eight hours, to return home just under twelve hours later. The work has since proven to be more like prison work, than any job I’ve had, and I’ve worked in a foundry, and on 0-180 degree Fahrenheit flat roofs, roofing. My work now is to audit hundreds of on-line mortgage documents each day, most for loans that should never have been issued.

Still, the job has been a blessing in some ways. I’m paying the mortgage again, and I’m able to put money into the house, and the various projects around the garden I’ve long imagined, but had no resources or means to bring into being. The job may be set up like prison work, but there are no petty tyrants, none I have to deal with anyway. In fact, the people I work for directly are very reasonable, and the people I work with are like most people, mostly good. I’ve been able to listen to about 200 hours of old Terence Mckenna recordings. The job has also been a strong lesson in how wrong the housing bubble was for America, and how much fault does rest in average Americans, taking out loans that could only be paid off if the economy were to grow by 5%+ every year for the next several decades, and maybe not even then, with the systematic downward thrust of average wages, and decreasing good-paying jobs, climate change, resource constraints, et al. That, and a clear picture of how un-enlightened big bank is, as if the work I do is fit for humans. We are called “butts in seats, in the meat locker, or the morgue,” I hear, trickling down from above. That may not sound like a blessing, those last two lines, but ever have I tried to pull back the veil of the ruling paradigm. 🙂

Not everyone is enamored of my work there. This is what one reader had to say, on the thread dedicated to this blog, in the Doomstead Diner, for members of the forum:

“Sorry, but IMHO working for one of the four big wall street banks is one of the most morally degrading things you can do at this time. Helping them instead of working to put them out of business? Being complicit with them is being complicit with what is wrong at the core. Anything but that. What is this called, ” cognitive dissonance”? What is the use of saying or doing anything if you are going to do that?”

Another had this to say:

“you’re a dime-a-dozen sellout but you’re a first-rate poser. you’re a stain on this place.”

My role at big bank is one rung on a ladder as long as a DNA strand, though unlike DNA, those at each rung are largely ignorant of every other. It is a perfectly bureaucratic structure, big bank, though it ostensibly be a “private” business. It should also be said, big bank isn’t “private”, as it is sustained by free money from the Federal Reserve, which is socializing loses and privatizing the gains, at least until they destroy the dollar. The structure exists as it does, to provide plausible deny-ability for it’s employees, giving them only the most scant responsibility for what is going on – just like every hierarchical Institution everywhere. Were we ever in contact with the actual “borrowers” whose loans we audit, the system wouldn’t work, because that would be humanizing the work. As is, it is almost devoid, the process, of anything even resembling “humanity.” And as you might imagine, most people working there show a singular lack of awareness about any of the deeper realities I try to elucidate in this blog.

Which, speaking of a lack of humanity, would the commenter’s quoted above, feel free to walk into my department and declare such things before the throng? Of the 70+ people working in my department, about 20% are white. Predominant are people of African and Asian origin, first or second generation, and African-Americans. I am struck by the number of pictures of young children on computer screen-savers and backgrounds. Is it merely my knowledge that makes me a hypocrite, a sell-out and first rate poser? If so, what are these others, in their work-a-day ignorance in service to their families, in their culpability to the American dream made possible by vile imperialism?

When I was working as a manager of a Halloween store, I commented at length in this blog, and in my second book, on cheap Chinese crap, and the un-sustainability of crass American consumerism. When I was asked if I wanted to work in a Halloween store, by an old college friend, I said without hesitation, “fuck no!” At the time, I had just returned to Minneapolis, after Wisconsin, I had $80 and no job prospects of any kind. Immediately after that, I thought, he just offered me a job, I haven’t seen him in five years, and I’ve been waiting for a sign. Working there, aside from being fun, and exhausting, made me not one whit more enamored of consumerism, not one whit less honest about what I think about it’s prospects. Indeed, I have come to think of consumerism as a death-cult.

I am not a “moral” man. “Morality”, such as it’s practitioners hold forth righteously upon, is generally a construct over-laid reality, per-suppossing humans are inherently evil otherwise, or mere animals who would immediately proceed to consume each other, without said righteous tight asses lording over us. Whereas, I believe humans to a one, are profound, divine, innately good beings, inherently corrupted by degrees, by the cultural paradigms, morals, ideologies, dogmas, pollutants, programs and pogroms, designed to control life, for the benefit of the few at the expense of ALL. Not being a “moral” man, I am not restrained by absolutist rigidity, which both commenters above show in spades, IMHO, even though theirs is a minority opinion culturally, about things generally. Nuance, being a thing of truer understanding.

As for me having a “truer” understanding, I have also come to believe, that not a one of us on earth has anything like a “true” understanding, of what this life is really all about, though there are no shortage of people who claim to, be they hiding behind a gun, or bizness or gov or Religion or ideology or money or plain ol’ vitriol. Here is some of my response, on the Diner.

I guestimate that of all the loans I’ve seen, about 80% of them were loans in excess of $300,000. I wade through the wreckage of greed mostly. How do I justify it? I am trying to do right by my house, which I like to say I bought twelve minutes before the market collapsed, and I’m still around really only because my niece and nephew live only a mile away. My entire life top to bottom is paradox, and you are free to make of me any kind of villain you like.

~~~~~~~~
IMHO, I am exactly where I need to be, to accomplish the things I imagine. Think of it as an alchemical transmutation, wading through the economic wreckage as I am, reporting on my experience, to bring beauty and love into being? ;) You might have some faith in me. I’m not asking much. :icon_sunny:
~~~~~~~~
I would be a hypocrite if I did not document publicly, the things I do, and what I think about that, for free. I have two books available for free on my website, www.WilliamHunterDuncan.com. Also a novel I was working on until I was offered my current employment. I’ve written in my blog and one of my books, about planting marijuana on Federal, State and County land, here in the Twin Cities. I aim to live and write with integrity. I am the peace pirate Sir Vis, in service to the Goddess, former manager of the coolest Halloween store in the Midwest, who now finds himself under a mortgage ostensibly owned by the same big bank he now astoundingly finds himself working for, wading through the wreckage of the housing market. Meanwhile, learning skills that will be useful when big bank and the others like them fall. Which they will, as inevitably as the sun will rise tomorrow. Probably not tonight, but soon, very likely.

What possesses you to play the role [the commenter of the second comment listed] you do here, I don’t know. We share a great deal, in our view of the world. You are on the right track about something though. Now is not a time for fearfulness. Terence Mckenna said, when asked what to do in the face of teotwawki, “flood the world with ART.” Which is what I think about my writing, my garden, the things I build, and my life generally. And why I keep telling myself to follow through with the plan I see, to put together a band. Because what could be more important at the end of the world, than a joyful sound?

Thus I make no claims about the “morality” of what I do. Indeed, as to the actual work at big bank, there is nothing particularly honorable, interesting, or empowering about it. It is merely where I find myself, at this time, making the best of it, not to waste the opportunity.

And you, dear readers, are free to trust me, or make whatever judgement you like, however harsh. Though I don’t recommend harsh moral rigidity as a way of being. Rather, I would have you embrace the mystery, of this very curious life, joyously, wherever you find yourself.

Hypocrisy and Weathermen

A recent thread inside the Diner brought up a very old problem many of us, including myself, have to deal with on just about a daily basis.  The problem is one of HYPOCRISY.  Bloggers and Commenters alike, most of us who have access to the internet LIVE inside Industrial Cultures, and while we decry the consequences of Carz or Iphones, we still “Live the Life”.

Just about a year ago on TBP while I was writing on that Blog as a Guest Author, I got taken to task for MY Hypocrisy.  Following below is my response to being tagged as a Hypcocrite who enojoys the Benefits of the Age of Oil and living inside the FSofA, while at the same time decrying it all as usustainable and immoral.  I am no less the Hypocrite today I was when I wrote this post last  year.  The parameters haven’t changed that much…YET.

However, you do not need to be a Weatherman to know which way the Wind Blows.

RE

Punblished originally on TBP in March of 2011

My sometimes Friend and sometimes Enemy here on TBP StuckInNJ has an Ace in the Hole he periodically likes to pull on me, the Hypocrisy Card.  Stuck is also a pretty funny guy and a good writer, and recently in one of LLPOH’s threads I was Trolling to make a nuisance of myself he wrote a pretty hilarious critique of the Hypocrisy he sees in my writing when you juxtapose it against my real life actions as a participant in the Industrial/Capitalist economy.  This came about after I sarcastically recommended to Jmarz that he go back and read every goddamn post I ever wrote because he is “confused” by how I can be such a vehement enemy of Capitalism while at the same time being a beneficiary of this system.  I replied to Jmarz that he probably MISSED the CRITICAL PARAGRAPH I wrote somewhere in the 10s of thousands of words I drop down here on a weekly basis that would tie it all together for him.  At the rate I write, its not entirely impossible that I have already dropped a HALF MILLION words on these pages.  I have no idea really though.  In any event, looking for such a paragraph would be an exercise in utter & complete futility. LOL.

Of course there really IS no single paragraph in there that could do this, in reality you have to understand many different things I have written here over the last couple of years, going back to TBP1 and Raging Debate.  Even more, you would have to be familiar with everything I wrote on the Peak Oil board during my time there.  However, Stuck BRILLIANTLY took this as a jumping off point to write this paragraph for me as a Parody of my stuff:

“The one thing you all fail to realize is that I don’t believe half the shit I write. I mean for Chrissakes I was Pigman Semi-truck owner! And now I teach dumb fucking Alaskan Eskimoo kids … for MONEY! Are you fucking kidding me? I have a stash of money for a BugOut machine, gold buried near my cabin, guns, seeds, and case of blowup dolls. Guess what? That takes ….. MONEY!! I blow smoke up your asses day and night and you turd-fuckers fall for it everytime. Looks like my Ivy League education paid off. And yeah, that cost a shitload of money too. See you all in the Great Beyond …. and I’ll have a shitload of loot there too –RE!”

What makes this paragraph so funny is that so much of it is TRUE! LOL.  The best parodies always have a layer of truth that underlies the parody, and this one most certainly does.  I was an independent contractor with my Freightliner, I did make decent money doing that.  I did go to an Ivy League school and spent a decent amount of money to do that also, though not nearly what it costs these days.  When I attended Columbia, my Tuition was around $3500.  Imagine that.  Total costs including Books and Dorm and Food was less than $10K/year.

Nowadays, I DO have a Stash of Cash I saved up by virtue of being a penurious sort of fellow for the last 20 years, and I even have some GOLD as well I panned up over the last few years since moving up here.  I have my Bugout Machine, which I purchased for $5K on the used market.  I rent a lovely Cabin on the Last Great Frontier and have a nice middle class salary coming in running a Private Education paradigm with a friend of mine, essentially sieving a living off the children of Big Oil and the FSofA Military. LOL.

Since I sure live a whole lot better than the poor folks getting bombed back to the stone age in MENA, just how is it that I can go ahead and “bite the hand that feeds me” and lambaste the whole fucking Capitalist system as being utterly immoral and beneath my contempt as a way to organize up human society?

Rather than writing a whole PARAGRAPH on it,  back in the thread where Stuck wrote his parody, I dropped down a single SENTENCE to tie it all together for the Confused among you.  Its not original, but it explains this very well:

It doesn’t take a Weatherman to know which way the Wind Blows.

Imagine yourself for moment as a young boy in a Native American community overrun  by the Manifest Destiny of the FSofA.  You get dropped into a School run by the Missionaries.  You don’t really like this, but this is what happened to your community and your father sent you to the school.  You want to RUN AWAY, but you cannot. You are trapped in this paradigm by powers much greater than yourself.

Turns out you are a pretty smart little Native Boy and you rocket your way through the system and get sent to an Ivy League College.  You become a Doctor, you are held up as an EXAMPLE of success, but you watch as your people are decimated by the culture that overran them. YOU succeeded, but most others of your community did not succeed.

That is not MY story, not exactly anyhow.  It’s the story of Charles Eastman, a Lakota who became a Doctor in the years of the Robber Barons and the Railroads.  He was absorbed into the culture that became dominant, and he succeeded in it because he was a pretty smart little Indian.  But he became VERY unhappy seeing the results of the conquest of his community, and for what remained of his life he did what he could to help them. You can watch a movie made of his life if you like, “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”.

I have been immersed in the Capitalist Nightmare from birth.  I am the Son of a Bankster.  Circumstances of Divorce in my family life took me out of the Class for my formative years through my teens.  That was the time of the Cultural Rebellion in the late 60s and early 70s.  I identified with the disenfranchised because of that.  But of course, I still was a smart little Indian.  Smart enough to still get educated in the Ivy League, on scholarships and by working as a research assistant in developing Radioimmunoassays.  I still had contacts from the Bankster world from Dad the Pigman, so on Graduation I was able to use my math gifts to go to work on Wall Street and make Big Bucks.  But of course, I was a Fish Out of Water, and the whole thing just made me sick.  So I quit on one cool September day, stopped playing numbers games in my head and went to WORK,  for most of the next decade in various roles in Hospitals, Clinical Chemistry, Respiratory Therapy, Radiation Safety etc.  Union Work mostly. For most of you, this is probably what makes you think I am”Crazier than a Junkyard Dog” as Muckabout puts it. What kind of psycho quits a 6 figure job barely out of his teens because he finds it morally repulsive?  Only somebody who is thoroughly off the scale as an iconoclast would do such a thing.  That is who I am, who I have been for these 30 years since.

Anyhow, I am not going to review every choice I made here along the way, most of them were not conscious choices anyhow.  I most certainly HAVE benefited from my position in society, where I was born and when I was born and to whom I was born.  But all along the way, ever so gradually I felt the Wind Blowing, and the direction it is blowing is NOT toward a continuation of the Industrial/Capitalist paradigm.  It will not perpetuate itself, it is not sustainable.

So here I am today, and most certainly I still depend on Money, and I still make Money. Hopefully I will continue to do so as long as money still works to buy anything.  I still consume Oil and drive a 1989 Mazda MPV also to get to work most of the time. This is the culture, and it will be what it will be until it is NOT.  For me to try to reject it would be plain stupid, you cannot reject the dominant culture of your society.  This is what the Whole Earth Catalogue, back to the Land Hippies of the 60s tried to do, and they failed at it miserably.  Not even the few remaining Communes like The Farm in TN succeeded as independent self sustaining communities, really they became a Tourist Destination.

At this stage of my life, particularly considering Health issues I have, there is no WAY I can take myself out into the Yukon Territory and try to escape all this stuff.  I do know however which way the Wind Blows, even though I am not a Weatherman.  The Model here of industrial society is on its Deathbed.  So I take the pennies I have saved here and I attempt to secure myself as best I can.  I am NOT a rich man, though of course compared to the impoverished even here in the FSofA I still do pretty well, and compared to Egyptians living on $2/day, I am George Fucking Soros.

Is it truly ACCURATE then when Stuck writes the Parody of RE, a HYPOCRITE who lives well under the Capitalist Sytem but reviles it at the same time?  No, it is not accurate, although it certainly is funny and certainly serves to undermine what I m trying to communicate as well.  I am TRAPPED, as all of you are also TRAPPED.  You have to live within your society as it is constructed, until such time as it falls apart.  So if you were a Hebrew Slave in Ancient Egypt, you lived and accepted your circumstance as a Slave until that society fell apart, with the Plagues and all the rest that hit upon them.  Only THEN do you go running off with Moses into the Desert seeking Freedom.

If you SEE IT COMING though, you can PREPARE yourself for when the society falls apart.  I try to pass on some of the ways I am preparing for this, because I GUARANTEE IT, it is Coming Soon to a Theatre Near You.

You don’t have to be a Weatherman to KNOW which way the Wind Blows.

RE

Knarf plays the Doomer Blues

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