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The War in Questions: Making Sense of the Age of Carnage

My first question is simple enough: After 18-plus years of our forever wars, where are all the questions?

Almost two decades of failing American wars across a startlingly large part of the planet and I’d like to know, for instance, who’s been fired for them? Who’s been impeached? Who’s even paying attention?

I mean, if another great power had been so fruitlessly fighting a largely undeclared set of conflicts under the label of “the war on terror” for so long, if it had wasted trillions of taxpayer dollars with no end in sight and next to no one in that land was spending much time debating or discussing the matter, what would you think? If nothing else, you’d have a few questions about that, right?

Well, so many years later, I do have a few that continue to haunt me, even if I see them asked practically nowhere and, to my frustration, can’t really answer them myself, not to my satisfaction anyway. In fact, since 2001 — with the exception of the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq when America’s streets suddenly filled with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators asking a range of questions (“How did USA’s oil get under Iraq’s sand?” was a typical protest sign of that moment) — our never-ending wars have seldom been questioned in this country. So think of what follows not as my thoughts on the war in question but on the war in questions.

The Age of Carnage

In October 2001, in response to the 9/11 attacks, the administration of President George W. Bush launched a bombing campaign not just against al-Qaeda, a relatively small group partially holed up in Afghanistan, but the Taliban, an Islamist outfit that controlled much of the country. It was a radical decision not just to target the modest-sized organization whose 19 hijackers, most of them Saudis, had taken out almost 3,000 Americans with a borrowed “air force” of commercial jets, but in the phrase of the moment to “liberate” Afghanistan. These days, who even remembers that, by then, Washington had already fought a CIA-directed, Saudi-backed (and partially financed) war against the Soviet Union in that country for a full decade (1979-1989). To take on the Red Army then, Washington funded, armed, and supported extremist Islamist groups, some of which would still be fighting in Afghanistan (against us) in the twenty-first century.

In the context of that all-American war, a rich young Saudi, Osama bin Laden, would, of course, form al-Qaeda, or “the base.” In 1989, Washington watched as the mighty Red Army limped out of Afghanistan, the “bleeding wound” as its leader then called it. (Afghanistan wasn’t known as “the graveyard of empires” for nothing.) In less than two years, that second great power of the Cold War era would implode, an event that would be considered history’s ultimate victory by many in Washington. President Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, the man who first committed the U.S. to its Afghan Wars, would, as last century ended, sum things up this way: “What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

Afghanistan itself would be left in ruins as Washington turned its attention elsewhere, while various local warlords fought it out and, in response, the extremist Taliban rose to power.

Now, let me jump ahead a few years. In 2019, U.S. air power expended more munitions(bombs and missiles) on that country than at any time since figures began to be kept in 2006. Despite that, during the last months of 2019, the Taliban (and other militant groups) launched more attacks on U.S.-and-NATO-trained-and-financed Afghan security forces than at any time since 2010 when (again) records began to be kept. And it tells you something about our American world that, though you could have found both those stories in the news if you were looking carefully, neither was considered worthy of major coverage, front-page headlines, or real attention. All these years later, it won’t surprise you to know that such ho-hum reporting is just par for the course. And when it comes to either of those two on-the-record realities, you certainly would be hard-pressed to find a serious editorial expression of outrage or much of anything else about them in the media.

At 18-plus years or, if you prefer to combine Washington’s two Afghan wars, 28-plus years, we’re talking about the longest American war in history. The Civil War lasted four years. The American part of World War II, another four. The Korean War less than four (though it never officially ended). The Vietnam War, from the moment the first significant contingent of U.S. advisors arrived, 14, and from the moment the first major U.S. troop contingents arrived, perhaps a decade. In the Trump era, as those air strikes rise, there has been a great deal of talk about possible “peace” and an American withdrawal from that country.  Peace, however, has now seemingly come to be defined in Washington as a reduction of American forces from approximately 12,000 to about 8,500 (and that’s without counting either private military contractors or CIA personnel there).

Meanwhile, of course, the war on terror that began in Afghanistan now stretches from the Philippines across the Greater Middle East and deep into the heart of Africa. Worse yet, it still threatens to expand into a war of some sort with Iran — and that, mind you, is under the ministrations of an officially “antiwar” president who has nonetheless upped American military personnel in the Middle East to record levels in recent years.

Of course, this is a story that you undoubtedly know fairly well. Who, in a sense, doesn’t? But it’s also a story that, so many years and so much — to use a word once-favored by our president — “carnage” later, should raise an endless series of disturbing and unnerving questions here. And that it doesn’t, should raise questions in itself, shouldn’t it?

Still, in a country where opposition to endless war seems constantly to falter or fade out amid a media universe in which Donald Trump’s latest tweet can top any war news, it seems potentially useful to raise some of those questions — at least the ones that occur to me — and perhaps for you to do the same. Isn’t it time, after all, for Americans to ask a few questions about war, American-style, in what might be thought of as the post-9/11 age of carnage?

In any case, here are six of mine to which, as I said, I don’t really have the answers. Maybe you do.

Here goes:

1) When the Bush administration launched that invasion and occupation of Afghanistan in 2001 and followed it up with an invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, did we, in some curious fashion, really invade and occupy ourselves? Of course, in these years, across the Greater Middle East and Africa, the U.S. played a remarkable role in creating chaos in country after country, leading to failed states, displaced people in staggering numbers, economic disarray, and the spread of terror groups. But the question is: Did the self-proclaimed most exceptional and indispensable nation on the planet do a version of the same thing to itself in the process? After all, by 2016, the disarray in this country was striking enough and had spread far enough, amid historic economic inequality, social division, partisan divides, and growing anger, that Americans elected as president (if not quite by a majority) a man who had run not on American greatness but on American decline. He promised to make this country great again. (His declinist credentials were not much noted at the time, except among the heartland Americans who voted for him.) So, ask yourself: Would President Donald Trump have been possible if the Bush administration had simply gone after al-Qaeda on September 12, 2001, and left it at that? Since January 2017, under the tutelage of that “very stable genius,” the U.S. political (and possibly global economic) system has, of course, begun to crack open. Is there any connection to those forever wars?

2) Has there ever been a truly great power in history, still at or near the height of its militarily prowess, that couldn’t win a war? Sure, great imperial powers from the Romans to the Chinese to the British sometimes didn’t win specific wars despite their seeming military dominance, but not a single one? Could that be historically unprecedented and, if so, what does it tell us about our moment? How has the country proclaimed by its leaders to have the finest fighting force the world has ever known won nothing in more than 18 years of unceasing global battle?

3) How and why did the “hearts and minds” factor move from the nationalist left in the twentieth century to the Islamist right in the twenty-first? The anti-colonial struggles against imperial powers that culminated in America’s first great losing war in Vietnam (think of Korea as kind of a tie) were invariably fought by leftist and communist groups. And whatever the military force arrayed against them, they regularly captured — in that classic Vietnam-era phrase — “the hearts and minds” of what were then called “Third World” peoples and repeatedly outlasted far better armed powers, including, in the case of Vietnam, the United States. In a word, they had the moxie in such conflicts and it didn’t matter that, by the most obvious measures of military power, they were at a vast disadvantage. In the twenty-first century, similar wars are still being fought in a remarkably comparable fashion, Afghanistan being the most obvious.  Again, the weaponry, the money, everything that might seem to pass for the works has been the property of Washington and yet that ability to win local “hearts and minds” has remained in the hands of the rebels. But what I wonder about is how exactly that moxie passed from the nationalist left to the extremist religious right in this century and what exactly was our role, intended or not, in all this?

4) When it comes to preparations for war, why can’t we ever stop? After all, when the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended in 1991, the United States essentially had no enemies left on the planet. Yet Washington continued essentially an arms race of one with a finish line so distant — the bomber of 2018, Earth-spanning weapons systems, and weaponry for the heavens of perhaps 2050 — as to imply eternity. The Pentagon and the military-industrial complex surrounding it, including mega-arms manufacturers, advanced weapons labs, university science centers, and the official or semi-official think tanks that churned out strategies for future military domination, went right on without an enemy in sight. In fact, in late 2002, preparing for his coming invasion of Iraq, George W. Bush had to cook up an “axis of evil” — Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, two of which were mortal enemies and the third unrelated in any significant way to either of them — as a justification for what was to come, militarily speaking. Almost 20 years later, investing as much in its military as the next seven countries combined, updating and upgrading its nuclear arsenal to the tune of $1.7 trillion in the coming decades (and having just deployed a new “low-yield” nuclear weapon), and still investing staggering sums in its planes, tanks, aircraft carriers, and the like, the U.S. military now seems intent (without leaving its forever wars) on returning to the era of the Cold War as well. Face-offs against Russia and China are now the military order of the day in what seems like a déjà-vu-all-over-again situation. I’m just curious, but isn’t it ever all over?

5) How can Washington’s war system and the military-industrial complex across the country continue to turn failure in war into success and endless dollars at home? Honestly, the one thing in America that clearly works right now is the U.S. military (putting aside those wars abroad). We may no longer invest in domestic infrastructure, but in that military and the giant corporate weapons makers that go with it? You bet! They are the true success stories of the twenty-first century if you’re talking about dollars invested, weaponry bought, and revolving doors greased. On the face of it, failure is the new success and few in this country seem to blink when it comes to any of that. How come?

6) Why doesn’t the reality of those wars of ours ever really seem to sink in here?  This, to my mind, is at least partially a question about media coverage. Yes, every now and then (as with the Washington Post’s Afghanistan Papers last December), America’s forever wars briefly break through and get some attention. And yes, if you’re a war-coverage news jockey, you can find plenty of daily reports on aspects of our wars in the media. But isn’t it surprising how much of that coverage is essentially a kind of background hum, like Muzak in an elevator? Unless the president personally decides to drone assassinate an Iranian major general and prospective future leader of that country, our wars simply drone on, barely attended to (unless, of course, you happen to be in the U.S. military or a military spouse or child). Eighteen years of failed wars and so many trillions of dollars later, wouldn’t you have expected something else?

So those are my six questions, the most obvious things that puzzle me about what may be the strangest aspect of this American world of ours, those never-ending wars and the system that goes with them. To begin to answer them, however, would mean beginning to think about ourselves and this country in a different way.

Perhaps much of this would only make sense if we were to start imagining ourselves or at least much of the leadership crew, that infamous “Blob,” in Washington, as so many war addicts. War — the failing variety — is evidently their drug of choice and not even our “antiwar” president can get off it. Think of forever war, then, as the opioid not of the masses but of the ruling classes.

This piece first appeared on TomDispatch.

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Who’s Afraid of Socialism?

For decades, Republicans have painted anyone left of Barry Goldwater as a “socialist.” Why? Because for a generation raised on the Cold War, “socialist” just seemed like a damaging label.

And, probably, it was.

You can tell, because many liberal-leaning figures internalized that fear. When Donald Trump vowed that “America will never be a socialist country,” for instance, no less than Senator Elizabeth Warren stood and applauded.

But while older Americans retain some antipathy toward the word, folks raised in the age of “late capitalism” don’t. In Gallup polls, more millennial and Gen-Z respondents say they view “socialism” positively with each passing year, while their opinion of “capitalism” tumbles ever downward.

As a result, it’s not all that surprising that self-described democratic socialist Senator Bernie Sanders tops Trump in most head to head polls — and just scooped up popular vote victories in the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries.

Still, old propaganda dies hard. What else could explain the panicky musings of Chis Matthews, the liberal-ish MSNBC host, who recently wondered aloud if a Sanders victory would mean “executions in Central Park”?

Nevermind that Sanders is a longtime opponent of all executions, as any news host could surely look up. The real issue is a prejudice, particularly among Americans reared on fears of the Soviet Union and Maoist China, that “socialism” implies dictatorship, while “capitalism” presumes democracy.

Their Cold War education serves them poorly.

Yes, it’s easy to name calamitous dictatorships, living and deceased, that proclaim socialist or communist commitments. But it’s just as easy to point to Europe, where democratic socialist parties and their descendants have been mainstream players in democratic politics for a century or longer.

The health care, welfare, and tax systems built by those parties have created societies with far greater equality, higher social mobility, and better health outcomes (at lower cost) than we enjoy here. These systems aren’t perfect, but to a significant degree they’re more democratic than our own.

But we don’t have to look abroad (or to Vermont) for a rich social democratic history.

Milwaukee mayor Daniel Hoan — one of several socialists to govern the city — served for 24 years, and built the country’s first public busing and housing programs. And ruby-red North Dakota is, even now, the only state in the country with a state-owned bank, thanks to a socialist-led government in the early 20th century. Today, dozens of elected socialists hold office at the state or municipal levels.

While plenty of socialists embraced democracy, plenty of capitalists turned to dictatorship.

In the name of fighting socialism during the Cold War, the U.S. trained and supported members of right-wing death squads in El Salvador, genocidal army units in Guatemala, and a Chilean military regime that disappeared or tortured tens of thousands of people while enacting “pro-market reforms.”

Only last year, the U.S. government was cheering a military coup against an elected socialist government in Bolivia. And in 2018, the Wall Street Journal praised far-right Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro, an apologist for the country’s old military regime, for his deregulation of business.

Even here at home, our capitalist “freedoms” have coexisted peacefully with racial apartheid, the world’s largest prison system, and the mass internment of immigrants and their children.

Sanders has been clear his socialist tradition comes from the social democratic systems common in countries like Denmark, with their provisions for universal health care and free college.

Should Matthews next wonder aloud if candidates who oppose Medicare for All or free college also support death squads, genocide, mass incarceration, or internment camps? If that sounds unfair, then so should the lazy fear mongering we get about “socialism.”

The sobering truth is that all political systems are capable of either great violence or social uplift. That’s why we need resilient social movements, whatever system we use — and why we’re poorly served by propaganda from any corner.

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Dresden, February 1945

The Allied destruction of Dresden wasn’t the biggest or deadliest aerial bombardment of a German city during World War II. But it is by far the most infamous, largely due to Kurt Vonnegut’s anti-war masterpiece Slaughterhouse-Five. February 13 marks the 75th anniversary of what Vonnegut, who survived the bombing as a prisoner-of-war, called “carnage unfathomable.”

Butcher Harris and British Terror Bombing

By early 1945 the once-unstoppable German army was in retreat on all fronts. Its desperate last-ditch counteroffensives against the rapidly advancing Allied forces in the west —  the Battle of the Bulge and Operation Baseplate — had failed, while in the east the Red Army rolled into German territory during the first Silesian Offensive. The time was right, British commanders argued, for large-scale aerial attacks on cities in eastern Germany that would aid the Soviet offensive and crush German morale.

Long before this time the British had implemented a policy of what they called “terror bombing,” or the total deliberate destruction of German cities, as a method of breaking the will of the German people to continue fighting. Waves of Royal Air Force (RAF) warplanes bombed densely populated cities under cover of night, abandoning any pretense of precision targeting and causing widespread, indiscriminate death and destruction. The chief of the RAF Bomber Command, Arthur “Bomber” Harris, declared his desire to visit “the horrors of fire” on the German people. Once Harris was pulled over by a British police officer for speeding in his black Bentley. “You could have killed someone,” the constable admonished him. “Young man,” the commander retorted, “I kill thousands of people every night.”

He wasn’t lying. Although the British government insisted that it was never its policy to target civilians, the truth was something altogether different. As Harris said after Luftwaffe bombers blitzed British cities, since the Germans had “sown the wind” they should “reap the whirlwind.” In 1943, Harris wrote that “the aim is the destruction of German cities, the killing of German workers and the disruption of civilized life throughout Germany” while “downplaying the obliteration of German cities and their inhabitants.”

“Bomber” was indeed a fitting nickname for Harris, but his men had another one for him — “Butcher.” He lived up to the moniker. Around 50 German cities were subjected to horrific aerial bombardment, often with incendiary bombs designed to spark massive firestorms and maximize death, destruction and terror. In July 1943, some 45,000 civilians including 21,000 women and 8,000 children died during more than a week of relentless bombing in Hamburg. In February 1945 hundreds of Lancaster bombers leveled Pforzheim, killing nearly a third of the population. The list went on and on.

‘Fire, Only Fire’

Harris and other RAF commanders proposed simultaneous attacks on Berlin, Chemnitz, Dresden and Leipzig in the winter of 1945. Dresden, Germany’s seventh-largest city, was the largest urban area in the Third Reich that hadn’t yet been bombed. It had been spared from Allied attack because it was an important cultural city — known as the Jewel Box for its celebrated architecture — with relatively few significant military targets. It was a city of refuge, with 19 hospitals and more than a million refugees fleeing the horrors of the Red Army advance encamped there. They were drawn by Dresden’s reputation as a safe haven from the flames of war that had engulfed most of the rest of Germany, a reputation reinforced by the presence of some 25,000 Allied prisoners of war held in and around the city.

The first RAF warplanes approached the city after 9:30 p.m. on February 13. Some 200,000 incendiary bombs along with 500 tons of high-explosive munitions including two-ton “blockbuster” bombs were dropped during the initial raids, sparking thousands of fires that could be seen from 500 miles (800 km) away in the air. The heat generated by the inferno melted human flesh, turning many victims into piles of goop. Men, women, children, the sick, the elderly, refugees and Allied POWs and even the animals in the city zoo — all were incinerated together. The 2700º Fahrenheit (1480° C) firestorm sucked all the oxygen from the air; many thousands suffocated to death. Lothar Metzger, who was nine years old at the time, later recalled:

About 9:30 p.m. the alarm was given. We children knew that sound and… hurried downstairs into our cellar… My older sister and I carried my baby twin sisters, my mother carried a little suitcase and the bottles with milk for our babies. On the radio we heard with great horror the news: “Attention, a great air raid will come over our town!” … Some minutes later we heard a horrible noise — the bombers. There were nonstop explosions. Our cellar was filled with fire and smoke and was damaged, the lights went out and wounded people shouted dreadfully. In great fear we struggled to leave this cellar…

We did not recognize our street any more. Fire, only fire wherever we looked… It was beyond belief, worse than the blackest nightmare. So many people were horribly burnt and injured. It became more and more difficult to breathe… Inconceivable panic. Dead and dying people were trampled upon… cremated adults shrunk to the size of small children, pieces of arms and legs, dead people, whole families burnt to death, burning people ran to and fro, burnt coaches filled with civilian refugees, dead rescuers and soldiers, many were calling and looking for their children and families, and fire everywhere, everywhere fire, and all the time the hot wind of the firestorm threw people back into the burning houses they were trying to escape from… The twins had disappeared… we never saw my two baby sisters again.

The following morning, a wave of more than 300 United States Army Air Force Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress bombers pounded the survivors with over 700 tons of explosives. On February 15, US warplanes bombed the city’s southeastern suburbs, as well as the nearby towns of Meissen and Prina. By the time it was all over, some 25,000 men, women and children were dead and nearly 90 percent of the homes in central Dresden were obliterated. Many of the targets that could have been considered of military interest — a few factories, the railway system — remained relatively unscathed. Nazi military trains were chugging through the city again within three days of the bombing.

‘Are We Beasts?’

British and American officials insisted Dresden was chosen as a target because of its industrial and transportation infrastructure. This is only partially true. On the eve of the bombing, the Red Army was a mere 80 miles (130 km) from Dresden and the US and Britain, knowing that Europe would be carved up between themselves and the Soviets after the war, wanted to impress Stalin with a massive show of force. An RAF memo to airmen the night of the attack explained that “the intentions of the attack are to hit the enemy where he will feel it most” and “to show the Russians when they arrive what Bomber Command can do.” A few months later, the United States would wage the world’s first and only nuclear war, obliterating two Japanese cities and killing hundreds of thousands of their people, in what was partly yet another bid to shock and awe the Soviets.

The Dresden bombing shocked the world’s conscience. Churchill, not known for outpourings of compassion, was appalled by the savagery of the attack, calling it “an act of terror and wanton destruction.” After seeing photographs of the devastated city, the prime minister asked, “Are we beasts? Are we taking this too far?” In a top secret memo dated March 28, 1945, he wrote:

It seems to me that the moment has come when the question of bombing of German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror, though under other pretexts, should be reviewed. Otherwise we shall come into control of an utterly ruined land.

Others defended the bombing. “Butcher” Harris acknowledged that “the destruction of so large and splendid a city at this late stage of the war was considered unnecessary even by a good many people who admit that our earlier attacks were fully justified.” However, he asserted that terror bombing would “shorten the war and preserve the lives of Allied soldiers.” Harris infamously added: “I do not personally regard the whole of the remaining cities of Germany as worth the bones of one British grenadier.”

As many as 600,000 German civilians were killed by Allied bombing over the course of the war. Many of these victims died during the war’s final months, when Germany’s defeat was certain and such slaughter served no valid military purpose. And while the Nazis may have started the air war by bombing British cities, killing 14,000 civilians during the Blitz, the whirlwind they reaped — to paraphrase Harris — was so grossly disproportionate that it would forever stain the Allies’ self-righteous claims of having waged the “last good war.”

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You’re a Lying, Dog-Faced Pony Soldier

“You’re a lying, dog-faced pony soldier.”

Whoa, the Joe Biden campaign has rushed in to mop up this latest (to date) head-scratcher with an explanation like “oh, it’s a line from a John Wayne movie.” As if that explains why Biden said this to a young woman who questioned his sorry showing in the Iowa caucuses.

“You’re a lying, dog-faced pony soldier.”

Writers on a couple of popular sites I checked aren’t asking WTF? but instead are searching through old movies as if the greatest puzzler should be Biden’s accuracy in quoting lines from movies?

More on Biden in a minute, but first……………

Have you had your first Medicare Wellness exam?

Spoiler Alert.

At the beginning of the examination, a nurse will provide three words that you will be asked to remember about twenty minutes later.

“Red, blanket, chair.” You hear these words and then you panic. This could be life-altering.

I tell you this because I am at the age when every lapse—especially the frequent “what did I enter this room to get?”—is a reminder that amyloid plaque may be homesteading in my head. This is a topic of conversation when friends get together, when we, the Sisterhood, talk. These are the advanced years or declining years or elderliness or second childhood or the winter of one’s life or dotage or die already. Even though we’ve made a lifetime of mistakes and learned enough to give listenable advice. To which no one appears eager to listen.

I’m struggling here. With age, with relevance, but, surely, I can impart knowledge that comes from experience. Something more meaningful than explaining why my malaise is more significant than your existential angst.

Isn’t this the period in life during which, according to Abraham Maslow (hierarchy of needs), we become self-actualized? When we reach our full potential and give of ourselves to something beyond ourselves?”

Back to Joe Biden, but, first, I need to check his age. Give me a minute. Sigh of relief. He’s 77. Maybe I have a few more years before I’m shouting, “You’re a lying, dog-faced pony soldier.” Still, it’s prudent to plan, confirm that my end-of-life decisions are known to my children, my siblings, and to my physicians. Reminder: advance directive.

For added measure, I’ll be nitpickingly detailed and include the following instructions: If I ever say to anyone, “You’re a lying, dog-faced pony soldier,” do not allow me to run for president of the United States, to run for a seat on my condo board, to go outdoors on my own, or be relied on to make anything more complicated than Jello to take to one of my grandsons’ birthday parties.

Could someone see that Dr. Jill Biden receives a copy of this?

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The Wall: Separating Democracy From Voters

The mainstream media imposes some serious certainties on the 2020 presidential election that drive me into a furious despair, e.g.:

Even though Bernie Sanders, winner of the first two Democratic primaries, is now leading in the national polls, he “can’t and won’t” be the party’s nominee “because in coming weeks,” writes Liz Peek in The Hill, “Democrats will make sure that Socialist Bernie does not get the nomination. More will realize that he will lead the party to a calamitous loss, and they will look for an alternative. Overwhelmed by ads, underwhelmed by others in the race, they will come to realize that Mike Bloomberg is the best they’ve got.”

Hey progressives, America is not a socialist country! Get it?

As this certainty imposes itself on the election coverage, in both obvious and subtle ways, I find myself juxtaposing it with another emerging tidbit of news:

“Parts of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument — the parts with indigenous burial grounds and other rare, historically important areas — are being bulldozed and blown up to make way for the border wall that Mexico is supposedly going to pay for.”

The Trump border wall proceeds, slicing through, and destroying, a complex ecological wonder that also happens to be indigenous sacred ground. The wall, writes evolutionary biologist Kelsey Yule,

is turning the landscape into an ecological dystopia.

The Department of Homeland Security is leveling this precious habitat with absolutely no regard for the delicacy of this place’s unique cultural and ecological resources, ravaging one of the most iconic sites in the Western hemisphere. They’re even blowing up mountains like Monument Hill. . . .

Over the last few months, the Trump administration has been draining millions of gallons of groundwater to mix the wall’s concrete.

Furthermore the $5.7 billion wall is cutting directly through the soul of the Tohono O’odham Nation, an indigenous people whose ancestral land in the Sonoran Desert, approximately the size of Connecticut, spans both the United States and Mexico. Too bad. The Department of Homeland Security rules and it’s going to build the damn wall no matter what.

As Arizona Rep. Raul Grijalva put it: “To DHS, nothing is sacred.”

Well, that’s not quite true. The bureaucracy is sacred. No matter now stupid and destructive they are, the rules are sacred. The border is sacred. And this same mentality, so I believe, is doing everything it can to ensure that the progressive base of the Democratic Party — represented, to a large extent, by Bernie Sanders — remains on the wrong side of the wall, barred from having an actual influence on the American political process.

Elections aren’t supposed to be about core values. Those values are already decided and “Socialist Bernie” (psst, socialist is the same thing as communist) doesn’t get to mess with them.

These values, of course, mean as little as where you were born. These values are about who has power. Big Money rules and will always rule, right? Thus the election coverage doesn’t look deeply beneath the surface — at who we are or how we ought to relate to the planet and to life itself. Maybe Trump’s wall is creating an ecological dystopia, but Bernie Sanders is a socialist. And look, here comes Michael Bloomberg to save the day.

I’m not saying that change is simple or that a national and global course of action, in the face of war and climate crisis and the growing phenomenon of refugees trying to find a home, is in any way obvious. But our collective focus should be bigger than the needs and limits of corporate centrism. Do we not all have a stake in the future of this planet?

If you consume a lot of mainstream news coverage, you might be thinking that no one has quite the stake in the future that Bloomberg, the $60 billion man, does. He has bought his way into the election process.

“In a staggering milestone in what critics have characterized as an effort to buy the Democratic nomination,” Common Dreams reports, “billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg has already poured more than $350 million of his own personal wealth into television, digital, and radio advertising since launching his 2020 presidential campaign last November.”

This is our country: up for sale. No matter that Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City, pushed stop-and-frisk policing when he was in office, inundating minority neighborhoods with police — a.k.a., the occupying army — and stopping everyone who “looks suspicious” for a humiliating pat-down and possible arrest. A federal judge eventually ruled the practice unconstitutional, calling it “checkpoint-style policing.” But Bloomberg has continued to quietly defend racism-based security, infamously maintaining, in a 2015 speech, that 95 percent of murderers “are male, minorities, 16-25.”

So what we have here is a political system that continually surrenders to us-vs.-them thinking: leadership that requires an enemy to keep the country united. This kind of thinking cuts cruel social gouges everywhere it’s in place, creating endless harm to some and insecurity for everyone.

American democracy continues to be up for sale, but only to bidders who support The Wall.

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Yes, the ERA Has Been Ratified

On January 15, Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. According to the US Constitution, that makes the ERA part of “the supreme law of the land.”

But, say others, not so fast: When Congress proposed the amendment to the states in 1971, it set a 1979 deadline (later extended to 1982) for ratification. It ended up taking nearly 50 years to reach the ratification threshold, and the US Department of Justice has advised the Archivist of the United States against recognizing the ERA as a new addition to the Constitution.

I personally don’t have a strong opinion either way on the Equal Rights Amendment itself. On one hand, we seem to be making good progress toward equality of the sexes without it. On the other hand, what could it hurt?

What I do have a strong opinion on is holding governments to their own supposed rules.

In the case of the government of the United States, those rules are set forth in the Constitution, Article V of which provides Congress with no power to set ratification deadlines on constitutional amendments.

Congress gets to decide (requiring a 2/3 vote of both houses) to propose amendments to the states.

Congress gets to decide how the states ratify those amendments (by votes of their legislatures, or by conventions called to consider ratification).

But Congress doesn’t get to tell the states how long they can consider the matter.

The states took 202 years to mull the 27th Amendment before ratifying it (it says that changes to congressional salaries don’t take effect until after the next election).

They get as long as they care to take.

Congress doesn’t have to like it. That’s how it is whether Congress likes it or not.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — an ERA supporter — disagrees, saying “there is too much controversy about late comers.” That’s discouraging, since settling such controversies in accordance with the Constitution, instead of just rubber-stamping whatever whim happens to take the legislative branch, is her job description.

Next time Congress proposes a constitutional amendment, will it include a clause requiring state legislators to vote while riding unicycles and strumming ukuleles? It has as much authority — that is, none at all — to do that as it has to set ratification deadlines.

Virginia did its part. Now David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, should do his job and proclaim ratification of the 28th Amendment to the Constitution.

The post Yes, the ERA Has Been Ratified appeared first on CounterPunch.org.

Can the World’s Second Superpower Rise From the Ashes of Twenty Years of War?

February 15 marks the day, 17 years ago, when global demonstrations against the pending Iraq invasion were so massive that the New York Times called world public opinion “the second superpower.” But the U.S. ignored it and invaded Iraq anyway. So what has become of the momentous hopes of that day?

The U.S. military has not won a war since 1945, unless you count recovering the tiny colonial outposts of Grenada, Panama and Kuwait, but there is one threat it has consistently outmanoeuvred without firing more than a few deadly rifle shots and some tear gas. Ironically, this existential threat is the very one that could peacefully cut it down to size and take away its most dangerous and expensive weapons: its own peace-loving citizens.

During the Vietnam war, young Americans facing a life-and-death draft lottery built a powerful anti-war movement. President Nixon proposed ending the draft as a way to undermine the peace movement, since he believed that young people would stop protesting the war once they were no longer obligated to fight. In 1973, the draft was ended, leaving a volunteer army that insulated the vast majority of Americans from the deadly impact of America’s wars.

Despite the lack of a draft, a new anti-war movement—this time with global reach—sprung up in the period between the crimes of 9/11 and the illegal U.S. invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The February 15th, 2003, protests were the largest demonstrations in human history, uniting people around the world in opposition to the unthinkable prospect that the U.S. would actually launch its threatened “shock and awe” assault on Iraq. Some 30 million people in 800 cities took part on every continent, including Antarctica. This massive repudiation of war, memorialized in the documentary We Are Many, led New York Times journalist Patrick E. Tyler to comment that there were now two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion.

The U.S. war machine demonstrated total disdain for its upstart rival, and unleashed an illegal war based on lies that has now raged on through many phases of violence and chaos for 17 years. With no end in sight to U.S. and allied wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Yemen and West Africa, and Trump’s escalating diplomatic and economic warfare against Iran, Venezuela and North Korea threatening to explode into new wars, where is the second superpower now, when we need it more than ever?

Since the U.S. assassination of Iran’s General Soleimani in Iraq on January 2nd, the peace movement has reemerged onto the streets, including people who marched in February 2003 and new activists too young to remember a time when the U.S. was not at war. There have been three separate days of protest, one on January 4th, another on the 9th and a global day of action on the 25th. The rallies took place in hundreds of cities, but they did not attract nearly the numbers who came out to protest the pending war with Iraq in 2003, or even those of the smaller rallies and vigils that continued as the Iraq war spiralled out of control until at least 2007.

Our failure to stop the U.S. war on Iraq in 2003 was deeply discouraging. But the number of people active in the U.S. anti-war movement shrank even more after the 2008 election of Barack Obama. Many people did not want to protest the nation’s first black president, and many, including the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, really believed he would be a “peace president.”

While Obama reluctantly honored Bush’s agreement with the Iraqi government to withdraw US troops from Iraq and he signed the Iran nuclear deal, he was far from a peace president. He oversaw a new doctrine of covert and proxy war that substantially reduced U.S. military casualties, but unleashed an escalation of the war in Afghanistan, a campaign against ISIS in Iraq and Syria that destroyed entire cities, a ten-fold increase in CIA drone strikes on Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, and bloody proxy wars in Libya and Syria that rage on today. In the end, Obama spent more on the military and dropped more bombs on more countries than Bush did. He also refused to hold Bush and his cronies responsible for their war crimes.

Obama’s wars were no more successful than Bush’s in restoring peace or stability to any of those countries or improving the lives of their people. But Obama’s “disguised, quiet, media-free approach” to war made the U.S. state of endless war much more politically sustainable. By reducing U.S. casualties and waging war with less fanfare, he moved America’s wars farther into the shadows and gave the American public an illusion of peace in the midst of endless war, effectively disarming and dividing the peace movement.

Obama’s secretive war policy was backed up by a vicious campaign against any brave whistleblowers who tried to drag it out into the light. Jeffrey Sterling, Thomas Drake, Chelsea Manning, John Kiriakou, Edward Snowden and now Julian Assange have been prosecuted and jailed under unprecedented new interpretations of the WWI-era Espionage Act.

With Donald Trump in the White House, we hear Republicans making the same excuses for Trump—who ran on an anti-war platform—that Democrats made for Obama. First, his supporters accept lip service about wanting to end wars and bring troops home as revealing what the president really wants to do, even as he keeps escalating the wars. Second, they ask us to be patient because, despite all the real world evidence, they are convinced he is working hard behind the scenes for peace. Third, in a final cop-out that undermines their other two arguments, they throw up their hands and say that he is “only” the president, and the Pentagon or “deep state” is too powerful for even him to tame.

Obama and Trump supporters alike have used this shaky tripod of political unaccountability to give the man behind the desk where the buck used to stop an entire deck of “get out of jail free” cards for endless war and war crimes.

Obama and Trump’s “disguised, quiet, media-free approach” to war has inoculated America’s wars and militarism against the virus of democracy, but new social movements have grown up to tackle problems closer to home. The financial crisis led to the rise of the Occupy Movement, and now the climate crisis and America’s entrenched race and immigration problems have all provoked new grassroots movements. Peace advocates have been encouraging these movements to join the call for major Pentagon cuts, insisting that the hundreds of billions saved could help fund everything from Medicare for All to the Green New Deal to free college tuition.

A few sectors of the peace movement have been showing how to use creative tactics and build diverse movements. The movement for Palestinians’ human and civil rights includes students, Muslim and Jewish groups, as well as black and indigenous groups fighting similar struggles here at home. Also inspirational are campaigns for peace on the Korean peninsula led by Korean Americans, such as Women Cross the DMZ, which has brought together women from North Korea, South Korea and the United States to show the Trump administration what real diplomacy looks like.

There have also been successful popular efforts pushing a reluctant Congress to take anti-war positions. For decades, Congress has been only too happy to leave warmaking to the president, abrogating its constitutional role as the only power authorized to declare war. Thanks to public pressure, there has been a remarkable shift. In 2019, both houses of Congress voted to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen and to ban arms sales to Saudi Arabia for the war in Yemen, although President Trump vetoed both bills.

Now Congress is working on bills to explicitly prohibit an unauthorized war on Iran. These bills prove that public pressure can move Congress, including a Republican-dominated Senate, to reclaim its constitutional powers over war and peace from the executive branch.

Another bright light in Congress is the pioneering work of first-term Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who recently laid out a series of bills called Pathway to PEACE that challenge our militaristic foreign policy. While her bills will be hard to get passed in Congress, they lay out a marker for where we should be headed. Omar’s office, unlike many others in Congress, actually works directly with grassroots organizations that can push this vision forward.

The presidential election offers an opportunity to push the anti-war agenda. The most effective and committed anti-war champion in the race is Bernie Sanders. The popularity of his call for getting the U.S. out of its imperial interventions and his votes against 84% of military spending bills since 2013 are reflected not only in his poll numbers but also in the way other Democratic candidates are rushing to take similar positions. All now say the U.S. should rejoin the Iran nuclear deal; all have criticized the “bloated” Pentagon budget, despite regularly voting for it ; and most have promised to bring U.S. troops home from the greater Middle East.

So, as we look to the future in this election year, what are our chances of reviving the world’s second superpower and ending America’s wars?

Absent a major new war, we are unlikely to see big demonstrations in the streets. But two decades of endless war have created a strong anti-war sentiment among the public. A 2019 Pew Research Center poll found that 62 percent of Americans said the war in Iraq was not worth fighting and 59 percent said the same for the war in Afghanistan.

On Iran, a September 2019 University of Maryland poll showed that a mere one-fifth of Americans said the U.S. “should be prepared to go to war” to achieve its goals in Iran, while three-quarters said that U.S. goals do not warrant military intervention. Along with the Pentagon’s assessment of how disastrous a war with Iran would be, this public sentiment fueled global protests and condemnation that have temporarily forced Trump to dial down his military escalation and threats against Iran.

So, while our government’s war propaganda has convinced many Americans that we are powerless to stop its catastrophic wars, it has failed to convince most Americans that we are wrong to want to. As on other issues, activism has two main hurdles to overcome: first to convince people that something is wrong; and secondly to show them that, by working together to build a popular movement, we can do something about it.

The peace movement’s small victories demonstrate that we have more power to challenge U.S. militarism than most Americans realize. As more peace-loving people in the U.S. and across the world discover the power they really have, the second superpower we glimpsed briefly on February 15th, 2003 has the potential to rise stronger, more committed and more determined from the ashes of two decades of war.

A new president like Bernie Sanders in the White House would create a new opening for peace. But as on many domestic issues, that opening will only bear fruit and overcome the opposition of powerful vested interests if there is a mass movement behind it every step of the way. If there is a lesson for peace-loving Americans in the Obama and Trump presidencies, it is that we cannot just walk out of the voting booth and leave it to a champion in the White House to end our wars and bring us peace. In the final analysis, it really is up to us. Please join us!

The post Can the World’s Second Superpower Rise From the Ashes of Twenty Years of War? appeared first on CounterPunch.org.

A Short History of Humanity’s Future

Salt flats, eastern Nevada. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Our variety of the human species, homo sapiens sapiens, emerged from out of bands of more primitive yet contemporaneous older variants of humanity well over 200,000 years ago and rapidly expanded in both their numbers and the range of their occupancy on our planet. The competitive pressure by this efflorescence of homo sapiens sapiens against the older variants of humanity reduced the numbers of the latter to the point of extinction over the course of 1600 centuries, leaving just our variety of the human species to range over the Earth for 40,000 years up to the beginning of the 21st century. The story of our species from then up to the present moment is the subject of this work.

Calendar Year 2032

During at least the decade prior to CY2032, Planet Earth had experienced a continuous sequence of weather event catastrophes spawned from an immense and increasingly powerful undercurrent of climate change. Trains of maximally energetic hurricanes scythed through Caribbean islands and into the southeastern coasts of the United States of America, and similarly destructive typhoons swept westward out of the Pacific Ocean to blast into the islands and eastern fringes of Southern Asia.

Wildfires that spanned the horizon burned for months across huge swathes of land desiccated by drought, whether scrub-desert, rolling grassland hills, seemingly limitless prairies and taiga, or logged-out withered jungles, and on every continent except Antarctica. The long droughts that parched Earth’s verdure to the point of tinder were sometimes punctuated by torrential rain, snow and hail storms fed by titanic aerial rivers of evaporated ocean water transported by climatically altered atmospheric currents, and resulted in rapid, deep, turbulent and scouring floods that could wipe away the surface of the land and whatever our human vanity had caused to be built upon it, with the force of an all-devouring tsunami.

The excess heat energy firing the greater wrath of Earth’s weather was stored in the oceans, landmass surface layers, and atmosphere, and had been accumulating for over a century because of the capture by carbon dioxide gas, primarily, of radiant heat emitted from the surface of the Earth as a cooling phenomena, and thus preventing its escape into space. That carbon dioxide gas, along with methane, nitrous oxide and several similar heat-trapping molecular gases, had been exhausted into the atmosphere as waste products of energy production by the combustion of fossil fuels for humanity’s industrial, recreational and personal uses.

The entwined mutually resonant growth of human population and fossil-fueled energy production caused increasingly massive amounts of heat-trapping gases to be exhausted into the atmosphere every year, and thus an increasing rate of global warming. By CY2032, the average temperature of the surface of the Earth was over 2° Celsius above what it had been a century before, and there was no effort to stop or even attenuate this human-caused global warming. In fact, all human effort was bent on accelerating this trend because it was seen as the mechanism for generating immediate personal financial riches and political power.

Sea ice disappeared from the Arctic Ocean, decimating both seal and polar bear populations, and opening the way for an “Oil Rush” by Russian, Canadian and US oil and gas drilling companies. A few incidents of scuffles between these Oil Rush prospectors prompted the respective governments to send in naval forces to “protect their interests.” Oil extraction platforms were quickly erected along the shallow continental shelves rimming the Arctic Ocean, and the new petroleum output both boosted the profitability and stock market prices of the respective energy companies while also depressing the global price of oil. This proved especially hard for oil-rich countries, like Iran and Venezuela, under economic sanctions by the United States and its economic followers.

Calendar Year 2035

Methane had been bubbling up from the East Siberian Shelf for over 20 years because of ocean warming and tundra permafrost melt, but the rate of such emission increased significantly after CY2032. In CY2033 summer fires along the northern shore of Siberia ignited steady plumes of erupting methane, and the incidence of these “natural” gas flares spread out to sea over the East Siberian Shelf. In CY2034 an oil spill from a shallow water Russian oil well was touched off by offshore methane flares, and the conflagration was quickly spread about the area. Unfortunately there was loss of life, and an increase in the ignition of sea-based gas flares.

Local fires of high intensity were able to survive the winter, and they were the source of later and expanded burning during CY2035. In that year offshore methane flares erupted in the Chukchi and Beaufort Shelves, and caused the US and Canadian Coast Guards to rush counter-fire protective resources to their offshore oil extraction facilities. These efforts required emergency appropriations from the respective governments, which were offset by sudden reductions of social services budgets, along with corporate tax reductions as measures of “emergency relief.”

All of these activities greatly increased the presence of naval forces in the Arctic Ocean in efforts to protect the corporate economic assets associated with each of the Arctic Oil Rush nations, and to erect militarized cordon sanitaires to keep rival and “dirty” methane flare-initiating oil prospecting operations from “infecting” declared “exclusive economic zones.” All this raised international tensions among the nations rimming the Arctic Ocean.

Calendar Year 2036

The average concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere reached 473 parts-per-million (ppm), and an unprecedented melting and sudden calving of glaciers all along the southern coasts of Greenland occurred on April 15th of that year; sea level rose 1.7 meters, though it took till mid-October for that effect to become stabilized and uniform across the globe.

Catastrophic inundation occurred in Bangladesh with tremendous loss of life, and many of the smaller West Pacific islands were made uninhabitable. The Bangladeshi refugee crisis sparked conflict on the Indian subcontinent, and the Australian and Southeast Asian naval forces were all deployed to repel refugee make-shift flotillas. The United States, Europe, Japan, China and Korea each scrambled to build sea walls and other forms of dikes to protect their most economically valuable coastal installations (Dutch construction firms cognizant of the advanced and massive hydrological infrastructure protecting The Netherlands were suddenly avidly sought out and richly rewarded for their work). Again, monies for such construction was appropriated on an emergency basis at the cost of social welfare programs. One tragic lost to world culture was the inundation of the city of Venice.

The drought-fire-hurricane-flood cycles of violent weather had continued with increasing force in the equatorial latitudes during the advance of the preceding years, and by CY2036 huge refugee streams were fleeing north from famine, because of the collapse of subsistence agriculture, and fleeing drug-and-plantation warlord violence. Similar refugee streams attempted to flee north from Africa across the Mediterranean Sea, from sub-Saharan lands devastated by a combination of drought and overwhelming plagues of locusts. As in the Western Pacific, European and American navies were deployed to repel northward bound refugee flotillas. There were reports, impossible to substantiate, of a few incidents of the sinking of refugee ships by drone bombers.

Social unrest increased everywhere. Uniformly, the wealthiest strata of societies increased their efforts at personal enrichment and for government subsidies and tax reductions for their associated corporations, all at increasing costs to public concerns and especially social welfare programs and charitable institutions for the poor. The middle and wage-labor strata of societies increasingly acceded to increased militarization of their national economies, whether in rationalized “logical” beliefs or out of emotional fearful xenophobia-bigotry, to have their governments deploy expanded military forces offshore and along their national borders to repel refugee “invasions.”

Such sentiments quickly hardened with the sudden outbreaks of disease epidemics, feared to become pandemics spread by refugees. Indeed, epidemics were breaking out more often as the globe warmed and pathogens old and new (some unlocked from thawed tundras) expanded latitudinally. Also, tropical bacterial and parasitic pathogens were expanding their ranges northward with the increased warming.

The increasing fractional capture of GDP by military establishments because of all of this boosted the financial gains of war industries and wealthy investors. The fraction of American citizens now living entirely mobile lives in camper vans, trucks and trailers, or cars, or even on foot, now reached 1% of the population. Sentiments similar to the “us versus them” attitudes taken by national populations toward foreign refugees now began to spring up domestically by homeowners (colloquially called “the settled”) toward their fellow citizen transients (“the unsettled”), and many local police forces were morphing into militias manning internal cordon sanitaires ‘protecting’ wealthier areas.

Commendably, there were new and spontaneous popular charitable efforts of both mutual and unrestricted aid, but these occurred only at and among the lower economic strata of societies, and they were often fragile against dissolution by forces of social negativity, and occasionally of criminality.

Calendar Year 2039

This was a year of major disaster. The CO2 concentration reached 489 ppm, and the average global surface temperature was now 2.4° Celsius above the temperature of the late 19th and early-mid 20th centuries. A sudden massive area-wide eruption of methane occurred from the continental shelves rimming the Arctic Ocean with a coincident gas-flame flaring expanding all around that ocean, which included the ignition of thawed and dried peat bogs, into a new “Ring of Fire.”

By the end of the year the CO2 concentration had leaped to 510 ppm. While the initial methane concentration in the atmosphere above the Arctic continental shelves had skyrocketed, the extensive and expanding flaring there burned a significant portion of that methane to carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, and at higher altitudes much slower paced oxidation also converted some methane to CO2 and CO.

In any case the total load of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere had been vastly increased and the pace of global warming accelerated beyond all previous experience. By year end the global surface temperature had reached 2.6° Celsius above the early 20th century datum.

Calendar Year 2041

The average global temperature broke through 3° Celsius above the datum. The CO2 concentration reached 518 ppm.

For a decade now Australia had been experiencing wildfires that burned continuously throughout the year. Since the Methane Burp of CY2039 those fires had been expanding into horizon-to-horizon “flame deluges” that raced toward the coasts. The much expanded Australian Navy was frantically busy shuttling between open ocean refugee repulsion missions and amphibious coastal operations of wildfire victims evacuation. Despite strident outcry by Australian environmentalists and significant portions of the Australian public, against further Australian coal exportation to China, that economic activity expanded because it was one of Australia’s few remaining sources of revenue that helped pay for its mushrooming military and navel expenses, and firefighting costs, since much of the agricultural and livestock industries had been burned away. Also, there was some absorption of agricultural and animal husbandry unemployment into expanded coal industry labor employment.

Calendar Year 2042

Summer heat deaths in Europe expanded significantly, and many European governments established watering and relief stations throughout their cities in public parks, squares and plazas. Too many medical emergencies were now occurring of people collapsing in the streets and in public transit from heat stroke, to respond to them individually from just the traditional fire, ambulance and emergency services facilities of the past.

Ominously, in an increasing number of localities these stations were also water distribution sites for rationed water. Similar water rationing stations, of a much more haphazard nature and sparsely spaced, were to be found in the Middle East and throughout the globe in historically dry and desert lands. In the most primitive, impoverished and remote of such dry lands, militia level water wars were now common. India and Pakistan were dangerously close to resorting to war over Kashmir, and each had made explicit threats to the other about using nuclear weapons.

The drought-wildfire-hurricane-flooding cycles in the United States had also increased, and economic devastation of the agricultural and livestock industries of the vast center of the country was now severe with a doubling of food prices from just five years earlier. Again, economic benefits were increasingly restricted to a diminishing sliver of the American population at the uppermost rungs of the economic ladder, and economic costs of militarization and high-end wealth protection were increasingly shifted to the lowermost economic classes. None of this was hidden anymore.

The panic for wealth protection increased in desperation the higher one went up the economic ladder. The vast majority of the American public, in the rapidly shriveling “middle class,” were increasingly panicked about straightforward economic survival: even with many successful “socialist” minimum wage increase reforms, income increasingly lagged expenses since rent, food and loan costs ramped up relentlessly, and the number of decent-paying (usually corporate sponsored) jobs was shrinking. The lowest stratum of American society, the poor, were consumed with a panic for elementary physical survival.

Calendar Year 2043

This was a calamitous year. A virulent pathogen that had lain dormant in Arctic permafrost for millennia was now finally able to escape into the open air, and it spread widely and quickly, borne on windblown dust and water droplets, and attached to avian and insect bodies. It produced a pulmonary illness of high mortality. The causative virus was robust against the disinfecting actions of time, sunshine, oxygen and natural antiviral chemicals in plants, and unfortunately also in human immune systems. Hundreds of millions would die within the year.

Complicating the cure was the fact that the viral agent was quick to mutate into equally lethal forms, some of which caused fatal heart and liver infections. All the viral strains remained active. The pandemic emergency of this Arctic Flu caused real panics: naval operations to repel refugee flotillas now routinely and openly fired upon and sank them. Triage centers were set up by nearly all countries, and in the more impoverished ones mass burials by bulldozer were implemented.

The first instance of the intentional shoot-down of an inbound commercial airliner with infected passengers occurred. Internationally, protests to this outrage were muted because all nations were quietly steeling themselves to accept this practice if need be, “for protection.” The accelerating death toll everywhere from the Arctic Flu took some of the bellicose fervor out of the numerous chronic conflicts underway at that time, from Indonesia through Southeast and Central Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East from Pakistan to Syria, Israel and Turkey, the Arabian peninsula, and across much of Africa east to west and north to south.

Large populist socialist and anti-capitalist movements in both North and South America had been active for years now, some in Central and South America engaging in outright guerrilla warfare against their oligarchic and neoliberal governing regimes, while others as in the United States were agitating politically to gain increased political power through electoral victories. In all cases the governing political establishments, which were after all entirely subsidiaries of incorporated wealth, worked against all types of popular reforms by both legal and illegal means. The undermining of populist and socialist electoral campaigns was standard, as were election interference and tampering by establishment agencies, both private and governmental.

While insurrections were common throughout much of the more impoverished world, there now began to appear more instances of political violence against state and federal authority in the United States, though such incidents remained isolated. Some observers believed that popular frustrations that had traditionally sought relief through school and shopping mall mass shootings were now being refocused into anti-government violence.

The CO2 concentration reached 527 ppm; the global average temperature reached 3.9° Celsius above baseline; steady glacial melt over the last seven years had increased the sea level rise to 3 meters above the “normal level” of the 20th century.

Calendar Year 2045

By now large coastal areas everywhere were inundated to some degree, continental interiors were becoming unlivable, and internal social unrest and politically destabilizing pressures had reached levels that were between frightening to nearly overwhelming, depending of the degree of development of the society in question, and the extent of the firepower, militarized police forces and security infrastructure its government had available for social control.

The Arctic Flu was now reducing national populations at noticeable rates. For years already, wealthy individuals had been building underground bunker retreats both at home and abroad, intended to house them for long periods with stores of food, water and energy supplies, with air filtration and disinfection systems, and waste disposal systems. For the most well-heeled, such bunkers-redoubts would include stand-alone air and water generation, recycling and re-purification systems. The super wealthy would have a colony of such clustered shelters so as to maintain protective private militias around them as well. New Zealand did a brisk business of catering to this high-end real estate demand.

The CO2 concentration reached 535 ppm that year, average global surface temperature reached 4° Celsius above baseline. No reliable cure had yet been found for the Arctic Flu, and massive famines added to the death toll from the flu. Because of the shrinking area of previously habitable terrain, due to unbearable heat in dry continental interiors and inundation of coastal areas, human crowding was very uncomfortably increased and fueled social unrest and insurgencies, and this despite the population reductions by the Arctic Flu.

The ski industry everywhere collapsed due to year-round elevated temperatures and lack of winter snow. Marine life was rapidly dying out, and the seafood industry as well as subsistence fishing was in sharp decline. Severe earthquakes in California, Iran, Turkey, Japan, Missouri and Tennessee, and volcanic eruptions in the Philippines added to the chaos and misery in their respective countries. A rebellion broke out in Western China; Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran exchanged missile attacks for aerial bombardments in an uncoordinated manner. On August 9th of that year a nuclear bomb exploded in Pakistan.

After CY2045 global communications and air travel became more erratic and it became increasing difficult to acquire the data necessary to form a comprehensive picture of global events. The prospects for peaceful international cooperation in facing many of the current difficulties seemed exceedingly dim.

Calendar Year 2046

It was now clear that the world had lapsed into isolationist regionalism with severe social unrest or insurrections and wars within each region. The American government completed vast underground complexes from which to operate in future. Fatal pandemics continued. Attacks had been made against satellites and space platforms, and it seemed evident that weapons platforms had been put into Earth orbit, conceivably with nuclear tipped missiles. Nuclear explosions had occurred on the Eurasian landmass. Radioactivity levels in the atmosphere were rising. The average citizen came to realize he and she was going to be left out on their own, there wasn’t enough room “underground” for everybody.

Calendar Year 2049

We saw the night sky whiten then glow red for hours. Liquor stores and gun shops were looted with abandon. Electrical power and electronic communications failed here. What was happening elsewhere was unknown. People hunkered down with their families around here, or else fled in their cars if they had saved-up gasoline to use. I will report more later, given the opportunity.

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The Iowa Fallout and the Democrats’ Shadowy Plot to Stop Sanders

Yogi Berra, the great Yankees catcher, had the memorable line, “It’s like deja vu all over again.”

Bernie Sanders supporters might have been thinking the same thing after the fiasco of the Iowa caucuses.

It was just four years ago that the corporate hacks who run the Democratic Party rigged the 2016 primary election process to favor Hillary Clinton and stop Sanders: The Democratic National Committee, which is supposed to stay neutral in a primary, secretly funneled party funds to Hillary’s campaign, fed Hillary debate questions before a CNN town hall, and selected superdelegates who pledged their votes to Hillary before the first primary votes were even cast.

This time around, Democratic Party insiders appear to be playing the same game. Throughout 2019, corporate Democrats and their media allies disparaged and minimized Bernie’s campaign, asserting that it had little chance of winning the nomination. But these tactics didn’t work. In late December, Sanders was leading in polling in Iowa, New Hampshire, and nationwide, and was close to the lead or within the margin of error in other important primary states like South Carolina, Nevada, California, and Texas.

I imagine that the forces of corporate greed feared that if Sanders could claim victory in the Iowa caucuses, he might gain momentum that would make him impossible to stop. To the rescue came a company called Shadow.

Shadow is one of these Democratic Party consulting operations stuffed with former staffers of Hillary Clinton’s failed 2016 presidential campaign. Shadow used its leverage with high-level Democratic donors to secure a contract with the Iowa Democratic Party to count the votes. And it completely bungled the job. The company tried to report results in the caucuses through an untested app slapped together in a few months. The app prevented precinct chairs from reporting the vote totals on caucus night, throwing the entire process into chaos, humiliating the Democratic Party, and demoralizing the Iowa voters who took the time to come out and caucus. It also denied Sanders the opportunity to make a victory speech, although he won the popular vote and at least tied the pledged delegate allocation.

The dark money group that launched Shadow was cofounded by Tara McGowan, a veteran of Obama’s reelection campaign, and the wife of a senior strategist with the Pete Buttigieg campaign, which paid Shadow $42,500 last July for digital services. These conflicts of interest apparently failed to raise any alarm bells at party headquarters.

Buttigieg’s investment in Shadow paid off big when Iowa officials announced partial results that allowed him to claim victory. Moreover, by paying Shadow for data services, Buttigieg signaled to the Democratic Party operatives—a loose alliance of consultants, corporate lobbyists, and pundits—that if elected, he will keep the money flowing to these bandits, despite their terminal corruption and incompetence. It’s no wonder that he’s a favorite of the party establishment and Wall Street donors. Sanders, on the other hand, is a mortal threat to this consultant class and to their business model of collecting checks for doing horrible work.

The corporate donors to the Democratic Party fear and loathe Sanders because he is not in their pockets. Unlike the so-called “centrist” Democrats, Sanders does not accept corporate contributions, and he does not do fund-raisers with high-dollar contributors. Instead he relies on a large army of small donors. This makes him incredibly dangerous to the corporate elite.

In the 1990s, President Bill Clinton pivoted the Democratic Party into partnership with Wall Street and with the same corporate donors funding the Republican Party. In effect, the Democratic Party sold its soul for corporate dollars. As a result, the Democrats have become a faux opposition party, taking on Republicans only in areas where their corporate patrons don’t have a stake, like abortion rights and gay rights. But when it comes to bank bailouts, forever wars, fossil fuel extraction, and for-profit health care, the Democrats are all in.

You don’t have to take my word for this. Numerous academic studies have confirmed that corporate interests get their way, no matter which party holds power. The comprehensive 2017 study Democracy in America? by political scientists Benjamin Page and Martin Gilens posits that “the wishes of ordinary Americans [have] little or no impact on the making of federal government policy.”

To cite just one recent example, last February, ExxonMobil announced the discovery of a gas field off the coast of Cyprus that’s one of the largest found in recent years. This December, members of Congress came together quietly, without hearings or debate, to provide military assistance in the development of this gas field. The winner, of course, is corporate America. ExxonMobil profits from the gas extraction, and a private company called General Atomics benefits from the drone fleet that will be maintained in the region to protect the operation. The losers, as always, are the American people, who will pay for all the military operations while all the profits from the drilling go to private corporations—a blatant form of corporate welfare. The other big loser is the environment. Tapping into another gas field will speed the destruction of the planet. Plus, offshore gas drilling produces methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide when emitted.

Sanders is a threat to this bipartisan business-as-usual model of corporate profits over the needs of ordinary Americans. If elected, Sanders has pledged to pursue policies that benefit people over corporations, like free college, Medicare for All, and a Green New Deal.

The forces of corporate greed and the military-industrial complex seem prepared to stop Sanders at all costs. As Biden fades from contention, they are putting their money on Mayor Pete. If he stumbles, the party is prepared to install Michael Bloomberg at a brokered convention. Bloomberg, the world’s eighth richest man, has $61.9 billion at his disposal to influence the Democratic Party. The DNC has already changed its rules to allow Bloomberg to qualify for the debates. That, coupled with the Iowa caucus fiasco, has fueled calls for the resignation of DNC head Tom Perez.

The Democratic Party’s embrace of Bloomberg puts the lie to the excuse that Sanders should not be nominated because he is not sufficiently loyal to the Democratic Party. Until just recently, Bloomberg was a Republican. In 2004, Bloomberg endorsed George W. Bush, praising his decision to invade Iraq.

The chaos of recent weeks might give Sanders supporters their most potent argument yet. The Democratic Party has become so corrupt and dysfunctional that it can’t even perform the most basic function of a democracy: counting the votes. It is time to turn to new leadership. Or we can stick with the corporate Democrats and blame the Russians again when we lose to Trump.

Leonard C. Goodman is a Chicago criminal defense attorney and co-owner of the newly independent Reader.

This article was first published on the Chicago Reader and is distributed in partnership with the Independent Media Institute.

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Lessons From Ministering on the Border

I recently spent three weeks at the border between El Paso, Texas and Juárez, Mexico. The experience strengthened my resolve, as a person of faith and Sister of Mercy, to share more about how the situation there concerns all of us in the United States.

In the shelters where thousands of refugees await their court dates, I met many migrants who quietly maintained their dignity despite sleeping for months on floors and suffering degrading treatment from U.S. border authorities.

As their faces became real to me, my heart lurched. I could recognize the hope in the eyes of parents waiting for the chance to request asylum, even as I knew almost none of those requests would be granted.

I greeted a newly arrived woman at the Juárez migrant center. As she wept, I learned she was waiting to talk with a doctor about being raped on the journey north. Her four-year-old daughter clung to her and broke my heart.

People throughout the U.S. who pay attention to this crisis are appalled. The problem is most of us just aren’t paying attention.

The truth is, even if folks know a little about the border, many Americans simply have no idea about the U.S. policies that have created the displacement crisis. “The people in the U.S. are good people,” I remember a speaker in Nicaragua saying back in 1985, “but they live in a cloud of disinformation.”

Most are not aware, for instance, that the U.S. government supports a Honduran president broadly considered illegitimate and criminal. Our own lack of awareness contributes to that reality — and to the thousands of Hondurans forced to flee their homes. Among the migrants I met were women from Honduras who’d received death threats for participating in protests against that government.

It’s not a new situation. I grew up waking to the smell of coffee my dad made every morning, never once realizing that the Central Americans who grew and harvested that coffee were paid so little their children didn’t have shoes.

Guatemalan friends in Omaha, meanwhile, tell about family members back home whose children are dying due to lack of food and access to medicine. Their country is experiencing drought for the third year in a row, accelerated by our own government’s hostility to climate science.

When you look a little closer, it’s no surprise that desperate people risk their lives and freedom to cross our border. When will we realize everything is connected — and that how people treat one another shouldn’t be a partisan question?  

It’s foolish and retrogressive to accept a kind of citizenship that implies toleration, silence, and approval of crimes against the innocent,” warned the late Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan in 1977. Still, we are blessed to live in a time of growing awareness. We can no longer avoid the truth except by deliberate choice.

To learn more, I recommend books such as New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, by John Perkins; Storming the Wall: Climate Change, Migration, and Homeland Security, by Todd Miller; and Sand and Blood: America’s Stealth War on the Mexico Border, by John Carlos Frey.

Slowly, many are waking up. At the border, I met generous, caring volunteers from around the United States and Mexico. I saw rooms full of donated blankets, clothing, and other supplies, and learned of campaigns to raise cash to support the shelters and get legal aid for asylum seekers.

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Delhi Polls: A Storm Over Winner’s “Religious” Acts!

The recent elections in India’s capital city, which also has the status of a state, have raised quite an intellectual storm over the importance given to “religion” by politicians. Elections to 70-member Delhi Assembly, held on February 8, 2020, have led to the victory of sitting Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). His party has won 62 seats against only eight won by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi heads the Central government. Considering the stunning victory of BJP in parliamentary polls held in May 2019, in which all seven parliamentary seats of Delhi were won by it, this party’s pathetic performance in assembly elections certainly raises several questions. Of these, perhaps a significant one is the development agenda promoted by AAP’s campaign against the communal card used by BJP and its associates.

Intellectual lobby of India in certain quarters appears to be quite skeptical about the show put by Kejriwal and his party. Prior to elaborating on this, it may be pointed out that extremist card exercised by BJP and its politico-social base, known as saffron brigade, tends to give undue importance to their anti-Muslim agenda whenever elections are around the corner. The extremists of this brigade are apparently hopeful that their discriminatory approach against Muslims will help them polarize votes of Hindus. Undeniably, India has the largest population of Hindus in the world. It also has second largest population of Muslims. India is the second most populated country, being home to around 1.37 billion people.

Constitutionally, India is a secular country with equal religious rights for Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and various other religious groups living here. Hindus’ population is roughly 80%, Muslims – nearly 15%, Christians-around 2.3%, Sikhs-1.7% and of other minor groups less than one percent each. Secularism in India is understood as being as religious as an individual and/or group wishes to be without displaying any bias or discrimination against other religious groups.

Now, as mentioned earlier, BJP and its saffron associates have always been hopeful that their anti-Muslim card will help it in gaining votes of Hindus. The party has not yet woken up to the fact that secularism is too strongly rooted in India to be easily eroded away by use of such communal cards. Interestingly, even Kejriwal’s victory is being linked to his having silently used his “religious” strategy. This is being supported by his and several of his party members’ visits to temples (Hindu places of worship) during their campaign. Sadly, he has not been spared even in several intellectual circles. This is certainly debatable.

What is wrong with any individual being religious? Any individual, whether a Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh or of any other religion, cannot be assumed to be communal simply because of visiting places of his/her worship. Just as a Christian has as much freedom to visit the Church, read the Bible, a Muslim to go to mosque, a Hindu has the same freedom to practice his/her religious principles and so forth. Indian Constitution accords right to freedom of religion to all individuals.

Also, there is a difference between being religious for negative/communal reasons and being religious as a secular Indian. In his case, Kejriwal did not use his religious identity as part of his electoral strategy. Neither did he display any bias against Muslims or any other community. The focus of his party’s campaign was development of Delhi. In contrast, saffron brigades used various strategies projecting Muslims as terrorists, Kejriwal as pro-Muslim and so forth to win Delhi elections. Clearly, results suggest that their anti-Muslim strategy misfired terribly.

Delhi’s population consists of less than 15% Muslims. AAP party has won more than 53% votes. This figure in itself suggests that Kejriwal’s development campaign helped him secure votes of Hindus, Muslims, Christians and other religious communities. Hindus favoring Kejriwal and his party chose not to be swayed by saffron brigade’s communal campaign.

With respect to a view about Kejriwal deliberately displaying his religious identity by visiting temples, one may beg to differ. It did not change and/or increase by this religious act of his and his party members. He has the right and freedom to be as religious as he desires to. How can this be perceived as his being “communal” and going along the path of BJP? Let us remember, majority of Indians are extremely religious and also secular. Protests going on at Shaheen Bagh in Delhi demanding withdrawal of Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), etc are a strong indicator of this reality. Though Muslim ladies are in the forefront here, they are supported by people of all religions. People of respective groups, Christians, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs perform their prayers together at Shaheen Bagh. One can be extremely religious as well as secular in India. And this has been strongly proved by Delhi voters choosing to elect AAP.

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The Unending Human Tragedy in Syria

The regime of President Bashar al-Assad is winning the decade-old civil war in Syria. With the help of like-minded allies Iran and Russia, Assad is ruthlessly mopping up his remaining opposition. After the defeat of the ISIS Caliphate, the West has no security interests or oil reserves to protect in Syria. Its authoritarian Arab neighbors wouldn’t like to see a democratic and free Syria either. The nations who earlier vociferously called for the removal of the regime have lost interest. Once in control of only 20% of its territory, the Assad dynasty has another lease on life as a hapless people suffer.

The Syrian conflict began in 2011 with peaceful pro-democracy protests against autocratic rule. The protests were part of the “Arab Spring” uprisings in the region. At first, the Assad regime made conciliatory gestures. It released political prisoners, dismissed the government, and lifted the 48-year-old state of emergency. But when the challenges to the regime grew, it sent in troops and tanks to crush the revolt.

The conflict mushroomed into a brutal civil and proxy war that drew in regional and global powers. The now nearly defeated opposition to the regime attracted regional and international support. But as the armed rebellion evolved, the Islamists and jihadists, whose brutal tactics caused global outrage, soon outnumbered the mostly Sunni secular leadership.

Periodic blood-letting and foreign interventions are part of Syria’s short tortured history. Syria fell in the French sphere of influence after the notorious Anglo-French Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916. The Agreement divided up the remains of the Ottoman empire. Once in charge, the French bombarded Damascus, changed rulers in the territory at will, and pacified it with martial law when needed. After independence in 1946, Syria went through twenty coups at an average of one a year, until Hafez al-Assad assumed power in 1970—in another coup. More and more repressive rule and fear held the country together.

But in the past ten years, conditions in Syria have hit a new low, with hundreds of thousands dead and millions of refugees. According to a UN commission of inquiry, all parties to the conflict have committed war crimes – including murder, torture, rape and enforced disappearances. Syria needs billions of dollars for humanitarian aid to the injured, the permanently disabled and internal refugees and to rebuild the country once the violence stops. Neighboring Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, and Europe have to cope with millions of Syrian refugees.

An Assad victory with the help of Russian air power and intelligence ensures that Syria will remain a client state of Russia. Russia (and the former Soviet Union) pumped in billions in economic and military aid to Syria since the 1960s. It maintained good relations with leaders from the Sunni majority and the Alawites minority who have ruled Syria.

The Syria-Russian equation is in line with the institutionalization of client-patron relationships which began with the British and the French. Notable others are Egypt and Jordan with the United States in the region. The post-colonial world is littered with examples of client states, whose governments enjoyed little popular support, beholden for survival to patrons like the USA and Russia.

The Iranian boots on the ground to support Assad reflect a commonality of interests against Western hegemony, Palestinian resistance against Israel, and Shiite Iran’s ambitions in the region versus rival Sunni Saudi Arabia. Otherwise, the secular Assad regime has little in common with Iran’s clerical rulers. Iran has spent billions of dollars to bolster the Assad dictatorship, furnished military advisers and subsidized weapons, and lines of credit and oil transfers.

Syria has always been a fragile country with only a veneer of statehood. There is no real national identity binding the people together. The permanent state of war with Israel and internal repression doesn’t allow the development of strong public institutions, a vocal civil society, and a stable economy. The scale of the current devastation shows that a viable and functioning Syrian state isn’t on the horizon soon.

The other challenge in Syria, as in other parts of the Middle East, is the dark hundred-year shadow of Sykes-Picot. It means living with artificially created borders, sectarian, and ethnic divides. There is also the ever-lurking issue of the undefined role of Islam in society and politics. The authoritarian system, imposed with external backing, can temporarily paper over the internal fissures. But it won’t be able to ensure that a sovereign Syria can provide lasting safety and security to its people. We can expect more innocent blood to flow as force and acts of bestiality settle internal conflicts, as they always have.

Saad Hafiz is an analyst and commentator on politics, peace, and security issues. He can be reached at shgcci@gmail.com.

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Ocasio-Cortez to Constituents on Bolivian Coup: Drop Dead

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the celebrity who moonlights as my Congressional representative, has repeatedly claimed to speak for “ordinary people,” but she refuses listen to them,  even if they are constituents.

In late November, shortly after the US-backed military coup that unseated the legitimate president of Bolivia, I together with my life companion requested a meeting with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez, whose local offices are located just a short walk from our Jackson Heights apartment building. Working on behalf of a group of anti-imperialists opposing the fascist junta, we hoped to persuade her of the need to act quickly to thwart the coup and defend the lives and rights of the Bolivian people.

Although we never got past the reception desk, we were permitted to present a petition signed by leading academics and anti-imperialist organizers on behalf of the people of Bolivia. We provided all personal data and contact info requested by the office. We were promised that we would be contacted promptly to discuss scheduling a meeting.

We were not contacted. For weeks. After pressing the issue, always taking care to remain courteous and respectful of process, we were subjected to a galling and contemptuous bureaucratic runaround that sometimes felt like applying to – and being rejected by – an exclusive private school.

This three-month process involved repeated visits to her office, where our reception ranged from chilly to downright intimidating, endless emails and telephone calls, bureaucratic excuses and dissimulations, and eventually, after much persistence on our part, a half-hour vetting via conference call by a Washington staffer.

The result? As we say in Queens, bubkes.

By contrast, a group of imperialist sympathizers who had been promoting the coup for months were granted instant access. On November 16, four days after the military coup that destroyed Bolivian democracy, Ocasio-Cortez met with a group of pro-Áñez, pro-Camacho activists led by one Ana Carola Traverso. Traverso’s connections to the Bolivian coup plotters have been extensively documented online.

It's almost as if these fascists have a war room in Brooklyn https://t.co/E6CwIkGjoI pic.twitter.com/LkVjgUQB4i

— bak (@measure7x) November 17, 2019

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez symbolically embraced the coup by posing for a photo with this group as they brandished the tricolor Bolivian flag, which during that period had become a signal of support for the golpistas (as opposed to the Wiphala flag, which symbolized popular resistance to the takeover). She told them that she supports their “democratic grassroots movement” and offered them “direct lines of communication.”

In sum, a gang of coup supporters, not constituents, were granted instant access, a photo op and promises of ongoing support. Actual constituents, opposing the coup, were shown the door.

Our reception by Rep. Ocasio-Cortez was radically different from that I received from her predecessor, Joe Crowley. When, in 2004, I requested a meeting on behalf of the Queens Antiwar Coalition, we were granted prompt and respectful access to the Congressman. We did not have high hopes of changing his vote on the Iraq, but we felt it was important that he hear from his constituents.

So, apparently, did he. We were greeted warmly in his rather funky local office – a striking contrast with AOC’s soulless corporate-style digs, where underlings refer to her as “the Boss”  – and were encouraged to speak our piece. Crowley never pretended to be an opponent of US imperialism, but he gave us a respectful hearing, stated his position, and engaged in what felt like meaningful discussion of the war. At a minimum, as Twitter’s bluecheck pundits would say, we felt “seen.”

AOC, by contrast, has no time for people who cannot help her to burnish her brand as she prepares to run for higher office. As a local staffer (who declined to introduce himself) proudly informed us: “She refuses 99 percent of meeting requests from constituents.”

Meanwhile, she happily clears her schedule for interviews about her makeup routine, canned videos in which she postures as a fearless progressive, and closed-door meetings with regime-change sympathizers.

But she will not make time for residents of her district. So much for “ordinary people.”

Jacob Levich is a university administrator who has lived in New York’s 14th Congressional District for more than 20 years.

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Megachurch Mess

Billionaire media mogul Oprah Winfrey helped create a four-season television series – “Greenleaf” – about a black megachurch where worshipers whoop, sway, dance, wave arms, squeal, shout and shell out truckloads of money.

Some commentators say the series “shows the best and worst of Christianity,” but I can’t find much best, only worst.

The founder-preacher endlessly connives for money, and burned a previous church for insurance (accidentally killing a custodian). He trades his private jet for a sleeker one. He slept with his sister-in-law (played by Oprah), which angered his wife, who slept with a different man.

A middle-aged church manager rapes 15-year-old girls at the church’s camp.

The star singer’s husband is secretly gay and undergoes grotesque religious “conversion therapy” (through which God supposedly will make him “straight”) but it doesn’t work.

A married sub-preacher grabs one of the cast’s few whites, a female secretary, for sex in anterooms.

A rival preacher gambles away church money.

All the while, episodes reverberate with “God is good!” and “Hallelujah!” and “Praise God!” and “Amen! Amen!” at almost every breath. It’s a carnival of sanctimony and sin.

I suspect that Oprah and other producers deliberately hatched this series to make megachurches look like zoos of absurdity – places more laughable than laudable.

My wife and I are watching the whole tale. Since one-fourth of all the world’s Christians now “speak in tongues,” we wonder if any Greenleaf worshipers will burst into glossalalia. They engage in all the rest of holy hoopla. Teen-age gospel singers leap like kangaroos. Worship services are Show Biz extravaganzas.

Actually, the series has plenty of intriguing romance, human struggles, teen puppy-love and other staples of fiction. But there’s an underlying current: megachurches – supposedly symbolizing successful Christianity – are frauds.

Lots of real-life evidence supports this claim. Here are some notorious examples:

Evangelist Bill Hybels was forced to leave his 24,000-member Willow Creek Community Church in Illinois after several women accused him of sex abuses.

Evangelist Ted Haggard ranted against all sorts of sex at his 14,000-member New Life Church in Colorado – and became president of the National Association of Evangelicals, visiting President George W. Bush in the White House. Then he was caught in gay sex and driven out.

Evangelist Bill Gothard of the Gothard Institute of Basic Life Principles drew up to 10,000 at weeklong “religious right” seminars – but he was dethroned when 34 women accused him of crude sexual affronts.

Evangelist Tony Alamo toured in giant revivals – until he was sentenced to 175 years in prison for child rape and other sex crimes.

Evangelist Bob Coy led a huge Fort Lauderdale church with 25,000 members – visited by President George W. Bush – but he resigned in disgrace after admitting numerous sex messes.

Evangelist Jim Bakker ruled the enormous PTL Club in the Carolinas – until he was accused of rape and sentenced to 45 years in prison for accounting fraud.

Evangelist Dave Reynolds of the large Cornerstone Bible Fellowship in Arkansas was wiped out by 70 counts of child pornography.

Evangelist Jon Petersen of World Ambassadors pleaded guilty to embezzling nearly all of his church’s money “to pay for a sex addiction.”

Evangelist Mario Leyva toured in southern revivals – then was sent to prison for sodomizing multitudes of underage boys.

On and on it goes. Literally hundreds of megachurch scandals fill the news. Jay Michaelson of The Daily Beast once counted many culprits, including: Josh Duggar, Bishop Eddie Long, George Rekers, John Paulk, Jimmy Swaggart, Marvin Gorman, Jack Schaap, David Loveless, Grant Storms, Isaac Hunter, Larry Durant, Sam Hinn, Paul Barnes, Lonnie Latham, Earl Paulk, Paul Barnes, Joe Barron, Michael Hintz and Todd Bentley.

Last year, the Southern Baptist Convention identified 400 ministers and church leaders convicted of sex crimes in the past decade. A “Black-Collar Crimes” registry maintained by the Freedom From Religion Foundation contains thousands of entries.

Not all these scandals involve megachurches. However, the big spectacle houses of worship – supposedly representing a triumph of religion – especially constitute a cesspool.

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The Buttigieg Delusion

Once again, dearest motherfuckers, I feel obligated to reprise my roll as ‘that bitch.’ Do I really have to be the queer bummer who smashes the Buttigieg delusion? Are all the other faggot anarchists busy? Oh well, fuck it. Hand me my hammer and I’ll do what I do best, which seems to be pissing off other queer people by interrupting their increasingly statist pride parades with the stone-cold inconvenience of reality. I’m really sorry darlings, but its time for some tough love. This hurts me more than it hurts you but hopefully, it hurts Mayor Pete the most. Because a vote for Mayor Pete may be a vote for the first gay president, but it’s also a vote for assimilation. So, here we go.

I can pretty much sum up every Mayor Pete rally in a single synopsis. The queer wonder-boy takes to the stage looking like a barely pubescent Millhouse duded up for prom. He rolls up his sleeves and drifts into a listless barrage of centrist unity bromides and wishy-washy hopelandic vagaries that sound like twice nuked leftovers from Obama’s 2008 campaign. Just as his predominantly white, elderly, straight and middle-class audience begins to drift mercifully into slumber, Pete wakes them with the only two cards he has left in his deck; “Oh, did I mention I killed brown people in Afghanistan and I take it up the ass…” A wave of oohs and awes brings the geriatric breeders back to life like Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction. A round of applause breaks out and Mayor Pete appears to be relieved. “A gay who kills Muslims? How novel!” “He speaks so well for one of them!”

Around the country, queer kids are getting emails and Facebook pokes from their grandparents, congratulating us collectively for producing a viable presidential candidate. We must be so proud. Maybe you are but I’m not. I wouldn’t even want a legit queer occupying that glorified porta shitter called the Oval Office, much less one who appears to have been raised by neoliberal wolves. Pete Buttigieg may be gay but he is not one of us. Pete is more vanilla than most heterosexuals. He’s the kind of queer you bring home to mom instead of your black-bear boyfriend to make your rejection of her suburban values more palatable. He’s the kind of queer who tops just so he doesn’t ruin the good linens. He’s the kind of queer who nags his boyfriend into a church marriage and a couple of adopted Guatemalans just so he has something to brag about to his soccer-mom bitch sister in the annual Christmas letter. He’s the kind of queer who has one trans friend just so he can tell his Lincoln Republican friends that he has one trans friend. He’s the kind of queer who really isn’t that queer at all. He prefers LGBTQ. He’s the new queer; domesticated, neat, housebroken, a novel wonder of modern western civilization. “But he’s a sign of progressive inclusion, so what are you bitching about?”

I’m bitching because he’s also the kind of queer who has spent the better half of his young career stumping for Wall Street, the war machine and the police state. You see, dearest motherfuckers, inclusion is a dirty word in the ears of queers like me because it means watching my tribe being appropriated into the very system our identity was built on standing against. Being queer isn’t about genitalia and pronouns and it sure as fuck ain’t about marriage, military duty and hate crime laws. It’s about being biologically designed to appose the oppressive puritanical status quo. We were “everybody else” once. Every tribe had venerated spaces for sexual and gender outlaws once upon a time. But then the normies found Jesus and kicked us to the closet. We held tight to our heathen ways in the shadows. We survived a plague that brought us to the brink of extinction while wealthy breeders sat safe and pretty in their fucking wine caves. Now they’ve decided that we make hip tokens for their globalist agenda and they want us back at the cool table in Washington as long as we don’t bum them out with our body count. I say fuck you. And fuck traders like Mayor Pete for selling our cultural cache to the highest bidder. The only word uglier than inclusion is assimilation because assimilation means genocide.

I don’t want to be like everybody else. I don’t want the state’s hollow constellation prize of equality. I don’t want to be LGBTQ. I want to be queer. Being queer means creating our own genders beyond the fascist jurisdiction of the census. Being queer means building our own families, a mommy dom drag king with 2 1/2 littles and a pet gimp out back. Being queer means abolishing the prison system which continues to thrive on our suffering. And, perhaps most importantly, being queer means standing strong in solidarity as a stateless Third World nation unto ourselves with our brothers, sisters and others fighting the very empire that tried to erase us before asking us back for brunch. Shiites and Palestinians may not be our biggest fans but in the state’s eyes, they’re faggots too, so we owe it to ourselves to make their fight our fight.

I’m that kind of queer, dearest motherfuckers. The kind that would sooner die than be caught voting for an assimilationist Uncle Twink like Pete fucking Buttigieg. Stone me for my sins but let the record get them straight. The road to queer liberation is pathed by anarchy, not the state.

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Gramsci and You: an Open Letter to Mayor Pete

Dear Mayor Pete,

It was recently brought to my attention that your father, the late Joseph Buttigieg (1947-2019), was a professor of English at the University of Notre Dame (1980-2017). He served as department chair and was granted emeritus status upon retirement. I’m sure he was a fine man. You must be proud of his legacy.

His main achievement as you know was to translate from Italian the Prison Notebooks of the great communist thinker, Antonio Gramsci. As you know, your dad was a highly respected Marxist scholar. He was an advisor to the journal Rethinking Marxism and in an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Communist Manifesto praised it as a work “meant to liberate the proletariat” which is of course true.

Your dad was a friend of Cornel West, who recalls traveling with him to Italy—and who recalls meeting you from your childhood. But (have you heard?) West now wonders aloud what went wrong with you.

Your dad died on Jan. 27, 2019. You announced your presidential candidacy in April. You dad had been supportive of you when you came out as gay in 2015. (Of course; the radical left in this country had long since abandoned homophobia.) But would he have supported your bid for the presidency? Your “centrist” campaign? Your virtual celebration of military “service” as a good in itself? Your acceptance of billionaires’ donations? Your disparagement of Bernie Sanders, and your tired mantra that “it shouldn’t be a choice between revolution and the status quo”?

In 2000 as a high school senior you wrote a prize-winning essay. You won the top prize in the JFK Library and Museum’s “Profiles in Courage” essay contest and traveled from South Bend to Boston to accept the award. Your father must have been so proud. What was your topic? The political integrity of Bernie Sanders.

Gramsci is well known for his analysis of the relationship between the state and civil society. Between the coercion exercised by the capitalist ruling class, and the consent it receives through traditional institutions such as the family, schools, unions. He was—was he not?—groping with your question of revolution versus status quo? He was writing (as you know) between 1926 and 1937, imprisoned by the fascist status quo. In language made more eloquent by the need to speak subtly (and to avoid staid Marxist terminology) he addressed the issue of making revolution.

Your whole campaign is precisely about NOT doing that. NOT making revolution! It’s (in Gramscian terms) about wedding coercion to consent. Powerful capitalist-state forces—including those 40 billionaires—back you (as the Biden back-up, with the possible plus of being “diverse” in these changing times), while you get a popular-culture boost for being young, unapologetically gay, military, and goofy. You combine the military-coercive state aspect (in your promotion of your heroic Afghan-service self, and your tough-guy mayor image) with the civil society-consentual aspects (in your promotion of gay military centrist identity versus Sanders’ socialism). You try to resolve the contradiction between state and civil society in your smooth-talking self-assured self.

You are (as Bernie implies) becoming the candidate of the billionaires, of Wall Street, of the ruling class your father despised from his days as an aspirant Jesuit priest in his native Malta in his youth to his tenure at Notre Dame. You’ve become the anti-Bernie candidate, the Great White Hope of the cable news talking heads like Donny Deutsch.

Wonder at night before bed: what would Gramsci think of you? What would your dad think?

Just some thoughts, Mayor.

Sincerely,

Gary P. Leupp
Professor of History
Tufts University
Medford, MA 02155

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The Conscience of a Conservative

Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them

—Barry Goldwater, Conservative Republican, 1981

There are many good people from other cultures, with quite different faiths, who live moral and productive lives. Judeo-Christian principles are not the only path to morality. Hinduism and Buddhism teach similar principals and have equally interesting mythical histories. The very fact that similar sets of principles were developed simultaneously by different cultures implies that rather than being handed down from the gods, they evolved along with their respective cultures.

Western culture is rooted in ancient Greece. Plato’s rules of logic defined how we reason, and Socrates, who lived 400 years before Christ, was the first moral philosopher. He developed his moral principles using reason. He did not rely on Christian revelation.

Christianity and Islam, argue that each of their moral codes is their God’s law and is therefore supreme. That argument did not sit well with the framers of the Constitution who treated all religions equally and based our government and laws on reason, not religion or mysticism or superstition.

The Enlightenment thinkers rejected Christian revelation and replaced it with reason. Consequently our Constitution, the most important document to come out of the Age of Enlightenment, is derived from reason. It is neither an endorsement nor a denial of God or religion. That does not mean that the founders were indifferent to religion. On the contrary, they believed in God and defended religious beliefs. Many were Deists and Christians. But when it came to writing the Constitution, they took the Deist’s position and wisely rejected revelation as its foundation. Consequently, our Constitution is a secular document that guarantees religious freedom.

So it is that politicians must reconcile their personal religious beliefs with reason and a secular constitution. With courage and grace Senator Mitt Romney recently showed how that is done. Faith guided his conscience, but his objective consideration of the facts led to the truth, and his decision to vote “guilty” in the Trump impeachment trial on one Article of Impeachment.

The idea that one can appeal to a “higher power,” as some members of Congress claim, is contrary to the entire concept of America. To allow religious belief to trump the Constitution invites lawlessness. “Honor killings,” for example, while not uncommon in some countries, could never be acceptable here. For obvious reasons the Constitution overrides the any religious code that egregiously violates our rights.

Interestingly, the Christian Bible also demands honor killings, though Christians no longer believe that preserving a man’s honor requires that he kill his daughter for promiscuity. Here common sense has clearly triumphed over the Biblical mandate.

Democracy requires thoughtful deliberation, debate based in fact and truth, not faith, or fantasy. Members of Congress who refuse to reason, who appeal to scripture and reject evidence, fail to understand what the Constitution requires of them. They do a great disservice to our nation. To choose Christian revelation over reason is to do what our enlightened founders rejected. It is not the American way. As Goldwater remarked 40 years ago, “politics and governing require compromise.”

Goldwater also had this to say:

I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in ‘A,’ ‘B,’ ‘C’ and ‘D.’ Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of ‘conservatism.’

Unfortunately, the religious right has changed what it means to be a conservative. The Republican Party of today bears little resemblance to Goldwater’s. And the religious right seems hell-bent on dictating “their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of ‘conservatism,’” as they try to rewrite American history, and change the meaning of the Constitution. Should they succeed, it will be sad day for everyone,…Christians included.

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Black America and the Presidents

The myth of US American “greatness” is not only a right-wing narrative. Liberals too embrace the concept that the nation is fundamentally good; certainly, they insist, our worst days are behind us and we can all be grateful for the progress we’ve made. Leading us on this shining path have been enlightened figures like Lincoln, FDR, Kennedy, Carter and Obama, all of whom have sought to fulfill the promise of the wise “Founding Fathers” and their brilliant (even sacred) Constitution.

In her recently released book, “Prejudential: Black America & the Presidents,” writer and activist Margaret Kimberley skewers this fantasy. She takes on every president from Washington to Trump, with a chapter devoted to each. With the accessible, no-nonsense but pointed style she employs in her weekly Freedom Rider column on Black Agenda Report, Kimberley summarizes the words and deeds of the 44 men who have held the office. The facts are damning.

I consider myself a history buff and have read many books and articles about US history in particular, but there wasn’t a single chapter that didn’t contain surprises for me, in some cases big ones. Some of the things that were new to me:

+ George Washington not only kept his slaves while president, but rotated them between Philadelphia (the capital then) and his plantation in Virginia every six months, in order to skirt a Pennsylvania law that allowed slaves to sue for freedom after more than six months in the state.

+ Eleven presidents following Washington owned slaves, including seven who held onto them while in office. That’s over a quarter of the total!

+ Lincoln’s vision for blacks was to expel them from the US and set them up in a colony in Africa or Central America. He was considering such a proposal just days before his death.

+ In 1901, a black man named Benjamin Parker physically prevented President McKinley’s assassin from firing a third shot. Parker was a waiter at the World’s Fair where McKinley was appearing, and was standing in line to meet him when the attack happened. Kimberley tells us: “According to one story, at least one Secret Service agent was busy looking at the black man instead of observing the crowd as he should have been doing.”

+ Theodore Roosevelt betrayed the Twenty-Fifth Infantry Regiment, which was made up entirely of black soldiers. In July 1906, the regiment was assigned to stay in Brownsville, Texas, but the local white population harassed them from day one, and falsely accused them of committing murders. In response, Roosevelt announced that the entire regiment—all 167 members—were “dishonorably discharged, deprived of pensions, and prevented from gaining federal employment or reinstatement to the army,” but put off the announcement until the day after the 1906 election (for which he actively sought black votes during the campaign). This offense was consistent for someone who believed that blacks were, in his own words, “altogether inferior to whites.”

+ Democrat Woodrow Wilson instituted segregation in federal employment. He also didn’t lift a finger to prevent a rash of white mob violence against blacks in multiple states during the “Red Summer” of 1917, during which over a hundred blacks were murdered and thousands made homeless.

+ While working as Assistant Secretary of the Navy under President Wilson, future president Franklin Delano Roosevelt “personally ordered separate restrooms” for blacks and whites in federal facilities.

+ Truman used the n-word his entire life and opposed the integration of businesses and public accomodations.

+ Kennedy tried to stop the March on Washington in 1963, the event where MLK gave his “I Have a Dream” speech. His attitude towards civil rights activists was that they should “cool off.”

+ On the subject of ending segregation, Carter said: “I see nothing wrong with ethnic purity being maintained. I would not force racial integration of a neighborhood by government action.”

Kimberley’s volume is packed with such information. A single reading is not enough to absorb it all. As a compilation of history, it belongs on the shelf next to the works of Howard Zinn and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz. It should be required reading in every school.

On the topic of our collective historical amnesia on these topics, Kimberley writes:

“Why are these facts not widely discussed today? The United States still basks in the glory of a romanticized past. If white people had the right at the time to kill Indians and take their lands and turn those lands over to the plantation economy, then they probably harbor related feelings of entitlement today. If the institutions of slavery and its aftermath aren’t examined, then objective truths like the inordinate number of blacks being killed by police won’t be questioned, either. If people like [Zachary] Taylor could steal half of Mexico and be labeled heroic, then modern-day presidents can invade nations, change regimes, and kill with mechanized drones and be considered heroic, too. Today’s propaganda differs little from that of Taylor’s era. In fact, it relies on it. If the past is examined through a microscope, then the present must be as well, and that would create cognitive dissonance.”

But the (blue-eyed) devil is not just in the details. Kimberley’s book also paints a picture of the overall sweep of events over the last 230+ years.

After the famous Founding Fathers, the presidents of the 1800s are little known, and even unheard of, except for Lincoln and maybe Grant. But as Kimberley demonstrates, every single one—regardless of party—actively upheld white supremacy in the US. Before the civil war, all of them were in favor of keeping the institution of slavery. Afterwards, they were united in their efforts to keep blacks powerless through disenfranchisement, segregation, and lynching.

Speaking about conditions at the turn of the century, Kimberley says:

“The Democrats were the party of open and proud white supremacy, and Republicans were considered the only reasonable option in the face of lynch law terrorism. This pattern of promising support that never materialized would recur into the twenty-first century. The effort to pass an anti-lynching bill foundered and was equally unsuccessful for the next five decades. Presidents may have sought black votes, but the support of black voters never mattered very much when action was needed to protect their lives” [my emphasis].

If some progress can be said to have been made by the Civil Rights movement of the ’50s and ’60s, it must also be admitted that, starting no later than Reagan, a strong counter-offensive gained traction against it, imposed top-down from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Clinton’s contribution was “ending welfare as we know it” and his “crime bill,” which were both anti-black and brown, and which could only have been passed in a Democrat-controlled Congress by a Democrat president. He and his “two for the price of one” wife have never been properly condemned for these (and other) abhorrent policies. Both Bushes, before and after Bill, were racists, despite W’s “diverse” cabinet. For being the first black president, Obama had to put in special effort to prove he wasn’t going to rock the white boat; at his speech on the anniversary of the March on Washington, he “gave a very good standup impression of a racist white man,” to quote the Black Agenda Report’s Glen Ford. And not for nothing did the Black Lives Matter movement flare up under his watch.

On the subject of Obama, Kimberley explained:

“The rules for being a ‘serious’ candidate go something like this: Don’t make rich people angry. Don’t make white people angry. Don’t appear to help black people in any way, because that gets white people angrier than just about anything else. Obama knew this, but he was also instinctively a conservative man, which said to anyone who war really paying attention. During his first campaign in 2008 he spoke lovingly of Ronald Reagan as a ‘transformative’ public figure.”

“Transformative” is one way to describe “the Gipper.” Another would be as an unrepentant bigot.

As Kimberley illustrates, the history of the US is very much the history of white supremacy, pivoting on slavery and its aftermath. Every president from the beginning has either been a southerner defending southern racism or a northerner afraid to challenge it for fear of losing southern votes (all the while denying northern racism). We have not escaped this yet. Thanks to gerrymandering and widespread voter suppression, this country is still being run by a minority made up of white racists from the South, along with their unholy allies in the West and Midwest. The gutting of the Voting Rights Act in 2013—under the watch of a president who was a lawyer of constitutional law—has not received the attention or remedy it deserves.

Trump is the last president that Kimberley describes and she ends with this:

“Trump is no anomaly. He appears at the recent end of a continuum that began with a series of slaveholders… While Trump’s demeanor makes him seem like an outlier, history proves that he is not.”

After reading this book and reflecting on the tenacity of institutional and cultural racism in the United States, one might be tempted to say, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” One could also draw inspiration from the movements and figures who have been righteously resisting this whole time. They are the real heroes in our history: the ones in the streets, churches and squares—certainly not any of the men who have ruled from the White House.

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50th Anniversary of Abbie Hoffman’s Intro to STB

YIPPIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

– Abbie Hoffman, his war cry from Fuck the System (1967)

The System Is the Solution

– AT&T ad, circa the 70s

One of the funniest bit I can remember reading about Abbie Hoffman was the time he tried to get himself arrested at a police station and the cops wouldn’t bite. His friend, and fellow Yippee, Paul Krassner said, “We went to the 9th precinct. Abbie wanted to get busted to show solidarity between the hippies and the ethnic groups. But they wouldn’t arrest him.” The Yippies had a sit-in outside the police station, where Abbie carried on, telling cops: “I want to be arrested because I’m a nigger. You’re arresting my black brothers. Arrest me.” He was invited inside the police station to talk.

Inside the station house he jumped from desk to desk, and demanded to be arrested. They laughed at him. So he leapt off the desk, “going, ‘Na, Na!’” and kicked out the glass from a trophy case and ran. One cop yelled, “You goddamn bastard, now you’ve had it.” They chased, but he got away. He called days later to arrange his arrest. About 40 cops were waiting for him at the rendezvous point, when a van pulled up “and about seven guys come running out who look exactly like Abbie Hoffman with the big Afro and they run into the crowd and the goddamn cops are chasing all of them!” Then, Hoffman called to them, “Yoo Hoo! You Hoo! Here I am!” And disappeared.

Vintage Abbie. Seven cops holding up seven Afro wigs — like they scalped ‘em.

In Steal This Book, his street survival manual, Abbie had advised the reader to keep on hand a few costumes for street theater and escapades.  You never knew when a ‘nice’ suit bought at Salvation Army might come in handy to score a free meal at a decent restaurant (bring your own cockroach or broken glass). Costumes had played their role in spoofing justice at the Chicago 7 trial in 1969, when Abbie and Jerry Rubin had come to court one day wearing judges robes — and, when told to take them off NOW!, they revealed cops uniforms underneath. The judge was a Hoffman and Abbie had even called him Dad and offered to set him up with some Hoffman (LSD). The whole trial was a trip, including the outrageous bounding and gagging of a black man.

But serious contemplation was also at work behind Abbie’s modus o; it wasn’t all hippie razzmatazz. This week we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the sentencing of the Chicago 7 and for Abbie’s later writing of his introduction to his timeless paean to freedom, Steal This Book, which Abbie called “a manual of survival in the prison that is Amerika.” With all the proliferating criminal breaches of privacy and freedom by the System since 9/11, as described in copious detail by Edward Snowden’s revelations in Permanent Record, Abbie’s description of Amerika has never been truer. On February 19, the Chicago 7 were found guilty of inciting a riot during the DNC convention of 1968, as well as, for their courtroom antics, 175 counts of contempt of court. The convictions were later overturned on appeal.

In his introduction, Abbie simplifies his Yippie war cry with a three-part approach to take in the counterculture revolution against the System — i.e., the Military-Industrial (MIC) system that Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about in his farewell speech. First, we must Survive. Abbie writes, “Revolution is not about suicide, it is about life.” And that really is the serious thread of practical philosophy that informs Steal This Book.  There are ways of surviving, essentially off the grid, if you’re willing to live the lifestyle — and a lot hippies did. Free food, free clothes, free communications, free books, free accommodation all there to be had.

The second part is Fight.  “We cannot survive without learning to fight,” he writes, and “The purpose of part two [Fight] is not to fuck the system, but destroy it.” The System is definitely not the solution. And, again, with the prospect of a Democratic party offering no real alternative to the economic plight many Americans find themselves in — and people getting themselves ensconced in debt slavery by taking one of those candy-colored credit cards they practically give away (and you thought sub-prime mortgages were a potential global economic disaster) to pay their bills.  Remember how much it was to play personal pyramid scheme by paying off one credit card with another? Fuck the system. Destroy the MIC.

Finally, there’s Liberate, which is essentially a guide on how to live free in four cities: New York, Chicago, and San Francisco and LA. But it’s the attitude of community action that comes through that makes it worth reading. Steal This Book is not anachronistic, it’s alive and well, and remains a feisty little blueprint for expressing your freedom in a locked-down world.

Abbie took ‘taking the mickey out of’ the MIC to heart. He didn’t just talk the talk, he strat the strut.  Just a year before he and the Yippies ran Pigasis for the presidency in their Festival of Life outside the DNC convention, Abbie had had a go at the Industrial (or corporate) side of the MIC by leading revelers to the NY Stock Exchange and raining dollar bills down on the brokers below.  As Larry Sloman describes it,“The brokers started scrambling, pushing each other, grabbing for the money. When the avalanche subsided, they actually looked up at the gallery and demanded ‘More’!” As the straight press chased him with the 5Ws, Abbie shouted over his shoulder, “Guerilla Theater,” laughed, and hopped into a getaway cab.

In October 1967, during a mass protest march on the Pentagon,Abbie took the mickey out of the Military side of the MIC when he convinced officials he could levitate the Pentagon and entered into negotiations as to how high. Said Daniel Ellsberg, working on the Pentagon Papers at the time, “Levitating the Pentagon struck me as a great idea because removing deference from any of these institutions is very important….” Abbie’s friend, Sal Gianetta described the scene: “Ab was adamant that the fucking building was gonna go up twenty-two feet… If the fucking building went up twenty-two feet, the foundations were gonna crack, so there was discussion about foundations and cracks, it was fucking unbelievable.” Abbie and the officials negotiated the levitation down to three feet and “they sealed it with a handshake.”

Just before the event, Abbie had contacted John Garabedian, a reporter for the New York Post, who relates how Abbie informed him that

hippie chemists had invented a new wonder drug which combined the best properties of LSD with a drug called DMSO…[and] on the day of the march to the Pentagon…hippie chicks would fill squirt guns full of this love potion…and squirt them on the soldiers or anyone else of an evil or war like frame of mind thereby causing them to want to stop making war and immediately make love.

Talk about love as a battlefield.

Ironically, the military developed this idea later.  It became the Gay Bomb, winner of the Ig Nobel Peace prize in 2007.  It, too, would have caused the enemy soldiers to ‘turn on’ each other and orgy-up the battlefield.  Presumably, the idea was scrapped when an ear got whispered into and some General Studly suddenly realized, like a freight train, that with a shift of wind the blowback could be devastating. More Pentagon levity.

After Abbie went underground in 1974 to avoid going to trial for dealing cocaine, he continued, as Barry Freed, to be  an advocate for change and to defend communities from the destructive powers of the System.  Living in upper state New York, he helped fight against the dredging destruction of the St. Lawrence River system by the Corp of Army Engineers. However, having to keep his head down and his psyche out of the limelight didn’t suit Abbie and, word is (p.277), he became gloomier and more depressed as time went on. Being without his wife, Anita, and son, america, deepened his suicidal ideation. Still, his work with Save the River was extraordinarily important.

Abbie showed he still had a working protest finger in 1986 when he and Amy Carter (and others) defended their arrests following disruptions of CIA recruitment efforts on a college campus in Massachusetts, successfully arguing in court with a ‘Necessity Defense’ that their minor criminality had the far greater public benefit of shedding light on the criminal activities CIA in Central America. This event was a welcome alternative celebration to the crap provided to the public during the televised Iran/Contra hearings, during which Oliver North successfully marketed himself as a hero.

Not long before Abbie committed suicide, he was still at it, tryimg to rouse the troupes, in a series of debates with his old Yippie pal Jerry Rubin, who’d gone over to the other side. In his last Yippie versus Yuppie debate, in Vancouver, in 1988, the two tangled over the same ol’ question: Can the System be effectively resisted from the outside, or must change come from inside?  Rubin made some good points, noting that “male chauvinism helped take down the movement,” and that Yippies “were not open to self-criticism,”  but when he calls the Babyboomers Yuppies taking over the reins of government, Abbie rightly points out that Rubin is just a “born-again capitalist” and that Yuppies are not new; they’re a throw-back to the so-called Status-Seekers of the 50s, making Rubin a regressive, not a progressive.

As if to demonstrate how much air has gone out of the 60s party balloon, during the Vancouver debate one female student ran up on stage and attacked Rubin with a cream pie, disrupting the event.  It was almost comical watching the woman make her escape, nobody giving a shit; even the camera seemed indifferent. It was hard to tell who it was more embarrassing to — Abbie or Jerry. The entire debate is worth watching.  It’s available here.

Looking ahead to the horror show ahead in November, what with Democrats seeming in disarray — Warren fading fast, Bernie looking ancient, Biden looking done, and Buttgieg on the ascent: You can almost see Trump handling any of them on stage with his nincompoop’s invective in October; you can smell re-election; you can almost predict the world’s end can’t be far behind. Wouldn’t it be nice to have Abbie here for some guerilla theatrics; to maybe lead Congressmen in an Augustus Boal tactic or two — Legislative Theatre, making laws as psycho-drama, senators acting out citizens without health insurance, representatives acting out young people crushed by student debt, Pelossi tearing up the military budget, and Abbie presiding like some genius clown shaking us loose from the gravity of the situation.

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Rush Limbaugh Gets Medal for Being the King of Creeps

There’s a lot going on in Trumplandia these days—from the Trumpus taking his Vindman Brothers Revenge Tour (“when you take out these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” he’d said) to elites everywhere freaking out over Bernie’s wondrous wins—but here’s a “little item” worth mentioning…

Indeed, that’s what racist sexist tRumpist Medal of Freedom plunderer Rush Limbaugh tried to slut-shame me as: a “little item.”

I realize the guy has stage 4 lung cancer, and I feel sorry for him; I wouldn’t wish cancer on anybody, even Rush. Seriously, I’d normally leave the poor bastard alone as he moves on from Oxycontin and Viagra to Chemo and Radiation, before receiving his due from the Grim Reaper (not Mitch McConnell; the other one).

However, the Trumpus wouldn’t just let racist dogs die; he had to push it over the top of decency and credulity (as usual) during his so-called State of the Union which was so “tear-able,” that his great love, his YUGE Valentine mommy-fetish object, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, dramatically tore up her copy.

Frankly, I wish she’d torn up that truly obscene 2020 military budget instead. Still, the drama was mildly entertaining after such a long stretch of hokum, bunkum and tedium. Even though Team tRump retaliated by making a video (now playing on Facebook and Twitter, both of which refuse to remove it or identify it as misleading, showing their true Trumper colors) that makes it appear that she’s tearing it up—not at the end of the speech as she did—but when Charles McGee, one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen (the first group of African-American World War II fighter pilots), and others were being honored.

Kicking off Black History Month with that Judas kiss and then a swift kick in the face to African Americans, Il Douche bestowed America’s highest civilian honor upon the King of Creeps, the godfather of modern bigotry, Rush Limbaugh.

Truly one of America’s most prominent racist sexist bigots, Rush was a Trumper before there was Trump, even before there was Fox-News. In the giddy, greed-loving Reagan/Bush 1980’s, when young Trumply was nothing but a fame-chasing, philanderous, “short-fingered vulgarian” suckling the teat of Daddy’s money, the ambitious Kansas City (the one in Missouri, Mr. Presidunce, not Kansas) radioman began planting his seedlings of hate.

Quite possibly, without Rash Limpballs’ poisonous seed nurturing racism and sexism—which, though still rampant, seemed as if they were on the way out in post-modern American—there would be no President tRump.

Perhaps the Tangerine Tyrant actually appreciates this. More likely, he just wanted to stick it to the Dems and toss that blood-red meat to his ravenous base, which also happens to be Rush’s core audience, who must have especially savored the sight of the “Be Best” immigrant trophy bride herself sensuously placing the royal blue trophy ribbon around Old Limpballs’ pretend-surprised head.

Whatever the motivation, the Emperor Trumpy Bear honored the King of Creeps, who is also the Sultan of Slut-Shaming, having, for example, once posed the pointed question, “What does it say about the college co-ed Susan Fluke—who goes before a congressional committee and essentially says that she must be paid to have sex—what does that make her? It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute.”

First, her name is Sandra—not Susan. Second, she was speaking about the need for government subsidized reproductive health services. That, to Rush, makes her a prostitute.

There’s nothing wrong with being a prostitute (though “sex worker” is the preferred term) or a slut.

Sex workers and sluts are, in general, some of the world’s greatest, least environmentally destructive, most bonoboesque humans. Speaking of which, Happy World Bonobo Day!

I myself am a slut, and I am not ashamed. Though I reserve the act of intercourse for my husband of more than 27 years, I enjoy other erotic activities with a variety of partners.

But don’t try to slut-shame me to support your sexist, racist agenda.

I admit, it’s personal with me and Rush. A few months ago, the King of Creeps tried his best to slut-shame me, catcalling me a “little item” in his creepy little newsletter which also mocked victims of Post-Trump Sex Disorder, in a bid to sell said newsletters, as his slobbering guest host Mark Steyn cackled sadistically over Rush’s silly rhyme for people’s Trumpocalyptic sex and relationship pain: “Dysfunction Junction.”

Of course, I had no choice but to reBUTT their butts GOOD, so good that cowardly Rush took down that whole slut-shaming, victim-blaming shit show (I haven’t checked to see if it’s still in his creepy little newsletter). Fortunately, I recorded that piece of his show, and you can hear it in all its filthy glory on my hilarious, disturbing and spankalicious Rush Limbaugh ReBUTTal video.

In a similar vein, Trumpty Dumpty’s equally dumpy golf buddy also tried to slut-shame excellent leftwing commentator Krystal Ball with an outrageous lie, saying there were naked photos of her at age “14 or 15” posted on social media… until she forced him to admit that he made up the entire story from his lascivious (and perhaps Epstein-enhanced?) imagination.

Having survived the real job of radio broadcasting, Rush tends to be wittier than Trump, but his cleverness and soothing baritone voice make him at least equally toxic—like toasted caramel syrup delivering a dose of cyanide.

His greatest contribution to the world is that despite his various sexual escapades, the King of Creeps is child-free.

© February 13, 2020. Susan Block, Ph.D., a.k.a. “Dr. Suzy,” is a world renowned LA sex therapist, author of The Bonobo Way: The Evolution of Peace through Pleasure and horny housewife, occasionally seen on HBO and other channels. For information and speaking engagements, call 626-461-5950. Email her at drsusanblock@gmail.com

 

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