Tuesday, August 10, 2021

THE NAKED TRUTH

NBC/MSNBC, CNN, FOX, NYT, WAPO, New York Post, etc. – I have always approached mainstream media (MSM) with a kind of critical curiosity. I never really expected a weapons manufacturer that owned a media company to come out against the wars. Or to run a climate crisis story calling for the elimination of fossil fuels, in defiance of the largest institutional consumer of oil in the world – the U.S. military. They know which side their bread is buttered on.

But surely it comes as no surprise when mainstream media’s messaging (“the news”) reflects the interests of the corporations that own them?

Advertising dollars (and ratings) are often cited as the ultimate determinant of which news stories will be aired; how, or even if, they will be covered at all. It’s a convenient compliment to the commonly cited influence of lobbyist money in politics. But both these arguments are intentional misdirection, presenting an illusion of separation where none actually exists.

Put plainly, corporate entities (former and future CEO’s, stock holders, etc.) are actually in the government, not simply influencing it. And those same corporations own the media (MSM).

The spotlight has been on social media companies of late, on the prevalence and pervasiveness of misinformation across facebook. While I am certainly in favor of reigning in that monster, lets be clear, facebook is but one media/tech monopoly among many. Moreover, we shouldn’t let facebook’s lack of accountability provide cover for the conflict narrative nonsense that the MSM is consistently pushing.

Really though, why should any of these media conglomerates be interested in telling the truth? It’s clearly antithetical to their bottom line, both economically and in terms of the power and influence of their messaging. The truth is just too damn inflexible, too inconvenient as it were. It doesn’t easily conform to market trends the way bullshit does. Still, it might prove useful, as tedious as it may be, to check in on the MSM from time to time. If only to keep up with which self-serving conflict narratives they are currently telling/selling.

As of yesterday there were four MSM stories in heavy rotation: COVID, Cuomo, the “bi-partisan” infrastructure bill, and the “Taliban in Afghanistan.”

MSM specializes in breaking everything down to duality, disappearing inconvenient context, pushing polarization perspectives. It’s the center of the three part story arc without the initial exposition or the final resolution. All drama, all the time.

“The Taliban is attacking cities,” no exposition, no resolution. No mention of mujahideen trained by the CIA in the 80’s to fight a proxy war against the Soviet Union, no mention of how the CIA will likely take the lead (again) going forward now that US troops are coming home. Certainly never any mention of all those Afghan poppy fields in any of those MSM exposes about the opioid crisis…

Twenty+ years throwing molotov cocktails over the fence into your neighbor’s back yard. They’re probably pretty pissed at you, provided they’re still alive. If you decide to sell your house, do you expect your neighbor to make peace with the new owner? How do they know you’re not still hiding behind that fence? Or in the basement? Should they put down their weapons and bring over a housewarming gift?

But why do they hate us?

On and on about Delta variant and the percentage increase in cases since the last commercial break, blaming “the unvaccinated” (how dehumanizing) for not trusting the government to protect them from this plague. As if these folks have ever trusted the government? Paul Krugman throwing out some nonsense about the hypocrisy of free market private industry proponents having a hard time with businesses telling them what they can and can’t do? They’re libertarians Paul, not neoliberals.

Why doesn’t MSM put up the numbers for places where the majority of folks are vaccinated alongside those where the majority of folks are not? Might that be more helpful than sweeping generalizations about cases surging nationally? We’re all in this together.

Today the UN released a devastating report on the Climate Crisis. It was on the news. The newly minted head of FEMA fielding the question, how can we protect ourselves? How can we protect ourselves?! Yeah, that’s the question the fear based media is always asking. It really doesn’t matter if the issue can (and really should) be solved through collective action, we’re gonna go with protecting ourselves. Can’t save your town from the wildfire? Can’t bail yourself out of the flood? That’s ok – keep watching, keep reading, keep clicking. Updates on the hour.

In case you missed it last Friday (and every day before that) on NBC/MSNBC:

THE WOMEN OF XRNYC DEMAND THE 'NAKED TRUTH' AT NBC HQ

BREAKING: Extinction Rebellion women staged ‘Naked Truth’ action at 30 Rockefeller Plaza to demand NBC Universal report on the urgency of the climate and ecological crisis

New York, NY – On Friday, August 6 at 1.30pm a group of 10 women from Extinction Rebellion staged an action in front of 30 Rockefeller Plaza, home to the headquarters of NBC Universal with a banner reading ‘Tell the Naked Truth About the Climate Crisis’. The women were naked from the waist up to symbolise the vulnerability of all species—humans included—in the face of climate breakdown, and had the words ‘Violence,’ ‘War,’ ‘Displacement,’ ‘Famine’ and ‘Desertification’ written across their chests. Four women were arrested after an hour glued in place.

“We’re all vulnerable. We’re all naked in the face of this imminent and deadly threat. What do we stand to lose from inaction? Everything.” said Ana Paula Cordeiro, Extinction Rebellion activist.

Read more from the XR press release here.

Watch video of the action here.

Extinction Rebellion is calling on the public to take part in a mass rally in New York City on September 17 to highlight that 2021 is a critical year for climate action, especially in the run up to COP26 which is taking place in November in Glasgow.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

YOU’RE NOT IN HIGH SCHOOL ANYMORE

King of the hill and capture the flag. Dodgeball and team sports. When will these boys grow up? This isn’t a schoolyard brawl. Maybe you could get away with that nonsense in debate club, but you’re not in high school anymore. I should probably mention that I am writing this while listening to the last day of the Senate Impeachment Trial of Donald John Trump, former President of the United States. I am amazed at how this spectacle, intended as remedy to the constant chaos created (incited) by the former President, exists as a continuation of that very chaos. When will the distraction end?

A few closing notes for snake oil salesman, his legal team and the Senators supporting/condoning his nonsense: are you aware how pathetic you look demanding a fair hearing in a legal system that is stacked against everyone but you? Such an impressive display of righteous indignation, raising your voice and pointing fingers in a chamber where civility and speech is quite literally protected under law; the sergeant-in-arms opening each session with a command for others in the chamber to keep silent under pain of imprisonment. Please tell us again how your speech rights are being violated? Maybe we could hear you better if you took off your CENSORED mask. Deference and respect are not owed to you simply because you’ve never been punished for being a bully.


But bullying really is all you got, isn’t it? Attacking the “other side” for their critique of your client’s actions, doesn’t qualify as a defense of your client’s actions. Your old boys network may conflate critique of its minority viewpoints with the suppression of actual minority viewpoints, but simply espousing a position most Americans disagree with doesn’t make you a victim of oppression.

Your hierarchy, your patriarchy, is minority rule by design; stop acting like your anti-democratic crusade is some sort of noble calling. You lost the election not because you are suddenly in the minority, but because the majority finally stopped believing your bullshit 50/50 polarization narrative. Pack it in, time for you to go home.

And once and for all, for the love of god, stop deflecting the United States is a democracy by saying that we are a republic. Like China? The entire world knows that we are a democracy, the beacon of democracy. Watching the war hawks suddenly pretend (admit?) that we have always been on the side of bullies, strong men, tin-pot-dictators? That is some serious doublethink.

If we can’t get clear on what the basic ideological underpinning of our society (our government) actually is, then what does support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic actually mean? Stoking chaos while claiming the mantle of law-and-order may seem like good strategy, until your own supporters slip the noose around your neck.

Inciter-In-Chief’s lackey lawyers played a nine minute video of Democrats saying that they will, that we must, fight-fight-FIGHT! I must admit my own amusement at this boy who cried wolf strategy. If anything, the video just demonstrates how meaningless that word has become in political discourse. But this entire line of defense is a sucker punch. Purveyors of violence will always want to solve disputes with violence. They are counting on your outrage, your justifiable anger, to sucker you into a conflict that they have planned in advance. A few points to remember before stepping into their ring.

There is money to be made, and lots of it. The weapons industry profits directly from chaos and fear and our continued devotion to the violent resolution of those conditions. Violence breeds violence, cha-ching. Their solution to guns is, not surprisingly, more guns! More tanks, more planes, more nukes… As long as we keep dropping more than half our government’s discretionary spending (your tax dollars) into the military machine, these government gun runners will keep telling us there’s no money for anything else we need. And that brings me to the second point.

An absence of actual policy has Republicans defaulting to ever more totalitarian means of control. Their escalating attacks on progressive policy and politicians provide cover for a complete lack of action. Continued submission to snake oil salesman’s spectacle is their only option, lest their complacency and ineptitude be laid bare. And this brings me to my final point.

The 50/50 polarization narrative has allowed Democrats to run campaigns based on little more than reactionary response to Republican attacks. So called free market champions have launched campaign after campaign for decades now, crowdtesting our tolerance for anti-democratic power grabs at all levels of government. Time and again the DNC has shown they would rather sit out the fight than side with people’s movements that could potentially usurp their authority. Centrist triangulation in the face of these brazen power grabs isn’t so much complacency as it is complicity. Put simply, popular movements have the power to overcome Republican obstruction, but Democrats need someone to run against.

Listen up DNC: that time is over. It is no longer enough to tacitly oppose a Republican party bereft of ideas. They have weaponized their desperation, turning it into justification for further acts of violence. If the DNC wants to remain relevant, it will need to actually support people’s movements to overcome Republican obstruction once and for all.

Here’s the thing, the “fight-fight-FIGHT!” narrative needs to be retired. Republicans own that narrative, and it should be abundantly clear that they are no longer using those words rhetorically. Democrats must develop new narratives that appeal to common aspiration, rather than adversarial conflict. This will require the centrist Democratic leadership to unilaterally stop obstructing progressive policy for the sake of private political gain. Four years of “resistance” – let’s give representation a try. Stop focusing on what we don’t want – start moving toward what we do.

“The ultimate, hidden truth of the world is that it is something that we make, and could just as easily make differently.” – David Graeber

Thursday, December 31, 2020

VOTE EVERY DAY (RETREAD)

As to be expected, there is a lot of post election speculation as to how and why the Obama campaign emerged victorious. While the variety of explanations are as numerous as the reports themselves, there is one uniformly consistent thread that was cited before and after the election - voter turnout. On one side of the proverbial aisle are those who forecast another close election with a razor thin margin of victory, on the other are those that point to pre-election polls that seem to have predicted the final results with surprising accuracy.

The emphasis on voter turnout comes out of the close election scenario: when the electorate is evenly split, the deciding factor may well be how many people show up versus how many stay home. Voter turnout may seem like a given in terms of deciding an election (any election), but the overemphasis on it in this particular case feels artificial to me, as if it is being used to draw attention away from some other perspective. I recently wrote a post questioning the 50/50 electoral polarization myth that has become such a staple of our political discussions. Voter turnout can be a factor when one party has a clear majority, but even if the minority party turns out every last one of their voters, they may still be in the minority.

The appeal to fear of a changing electorate was overwhelmingly strident throughout this electoral cycle. Republicans’ brazen attacks on African American, Latino, LGBT, and Women’s rights inspired a surge at the polls that could not be stopped even through rampant voter suppression. But the extremity of these attacks simultaneously allowed Democrats to adopt a protective stance, rather than one advocating to expand the rights in question.

The fear cuts both ways it seems, insuring that those less enthusiastic about Obama’s record don’t take the risk of voting for someone more in line with their concerns. The Obama Administration is happy to accept your support whether or not you agree with their agenda - just keep it to yourself.

But perhaps the changing electorate is more than the Democrats bargained for. What if those so passionately mobilized to vote by the attacks on their rights refuse to back down? What if they move beyond this protective stance to mobilize for the expansion of those rights? What if they shift en masse from a strategy of simply making demands on those in power to one of development and mobilization of their own alternatives, and start using those alternatives to withdraw their consent from the status quo? What if they are no longer satisfied with voting every four (two, four, six) years? What if they choose instead to vote every day?

A freshly re-elected president brought to tears in a moment of connection with the young volunteers so integral to his campaign; it was certainly not something I had seen before, and I found myself surprisingly moved by the spectacle. It appeared intimate, and personal, and the president’s words were remarkably humble.

After I watched it I thought about how this address might be different from others that the president has made. Watching him enter and exit the scene I wondered if there would be any opportunity for these “smarter,” “better organized” and “more effective” volunteers to share their hopes and dreams for the country, to participate in an actual dialogue with their president?

A little more than a week later I read a short article titled, “Obama campaign asks: What do we do next?” The link in the article delivered me to an Obama for America survey. Was this the medium for dialogue? Perhaps this document could be a starting point for the volunteers to input their ideas beyond the election cycle? As I read through the three pages it was apparent that the reference point for the questions was mostly limited to the campaign and future campaigns. There were a few questions that allowed for short “write in” answers and several at the end requested a sentence or two, but by and large the questions focused more on “how can we campaign better” than “What do we do next?”

One survey question asked “What issues would you be interested in volunteering or organizing around in the future?” Among the 24 options there was only one issue that expressed a specific viewpoint in the way that it was stated: “Avoiding the fiscal cliff.”

When the Bush tax cuts were originally supposed to sunset in 2010, the Republicans played their tried and true “tax and spend liberal” card to flip the switch and claim that allowing the tax cuts to expire was in fact Obama raising taxes. A clear majority of the country was not in favor of extending the tax cuts for the wealthy, but Bush & Co. were crafty enough to design the tax cuts as a reduction of rates across the board. The tax cuts for the lower tax brackets were a pittance next to the windfall for the 1%, but tethering the two together allowed Republicans to push the idea that Obama would be “raising taxes” on everyone.

The ball was already rolling on the so called “fiscal cliff” prior to the election, setting it up as a showdown, an impending crisis just beyond the horizon. Once again the Republicans are playing that same card, attempting to run the table. My understanding is that even after we go over the “cliff” Congress could pass legislation retroactive to January 1 (extending the cuts for the “middle class”), but the narrative would be significantly different. With the cuts officially expired, the Republicans would have to defend higher taxes on the “middle class.” Sounds like a pretty good move strategically, so why then is Obama for America promoting the “fiscal cliff” narrative?

I’m hearing a lot of talk about the Obama ground game and the effective use of collected information - this tremendous marketing campaign seems to have paid off, but what have we learned? Are we being sold a president the same way we are sold a pair of sneakers or a box of cereal? Are we being invited to participate in our democracy when we answer the polls and surveys? Is this collected information useful in addressing the challenges we face or is it just a mechanism for securing our vote, and through that vote our deference to authority?

I read an article that mentioned grassroots movements in conjunction with supporting the administration’s agenda, but this top down approach (the agenda being set by the president) seems contrary to the very nature of grassroots organizing. In yet another post election piece I read this:

Following re-election, the president wasted no time taking advantage of the organization's massive base. Obama spoke to 30,000 supporters on a conference call last Tuesday about the fiscal cliff, rallying the troops as he began negotiations with congressional leaders to find a deficit-reduction package.

"Our work can't stop now," he said, according to audio of the call. "We're going to need you guys to stay active. We need you to stick with us and stay on this and I'm pledging to do a better job even than we did in the first term in making sure you guys stay involved, that you guys know exactly what we're doing, that we're giving you guys clear directions and talking points in terms of how we keep mobilizing across the country."


We don’t need a marketing campaign to keep us engaged, keep us busy, keep us quiet. Can the OFA network, or perhaps another network altogether, be used instead to ask our people how they think we should address the challenges we face? Perhaps as a means to submit proposals, compile ideas, develop solutions to these challenges?

Elevation of ideas from the bottom up is what grassroots is all about - the community participates, not as de facto liberal lobbyists and cheerleaders, but in the actual process of policy development and decision making. When it comes to the “fiscal cliff” Obama is asking us to make Republicans concede to his demands, not to make him concede to ours. With few specifics being offered we are expected to support an agenda that we have had no part in creating.

I can recall talking to Bush supporters in 2004 about their “$300 tax rebate” when they brought it up as a reason to re-(s)elect Bush, and asking them if their city and state taxes went up to balance the loss of federal revenue. Isn’t bush getting your vote for nothing if the same amount of income is extracted from you one way or the other? How do you feel about getting duped like that? Will our states and cities be made to compensate for Obama’s proposed federal spending cuts? What and how much will we be asked to sacrifice in order to keep “our” tax cut and make the 1% pay their “fair share”? When you get to the end of the survey there’s a button labeled “submit.”

Is this entire campaign an empty distraction? Mobilizing Americans, not to stop federal fracking legislation, not to repeal NDAA indefinite detention, not to press for climate change ACTION in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, but to tell stories to their congressional representative about what they could do with that 2,000 bucks (for a “typical” middle class family of four).

I've written before about how electoral politics is used to distract us from pursuing any kind of direct democratic action: as a siphon of limited time and organizing energy, but also as a restraint to keep us in line. Is this new perpetual Obama campaign just another method of instilling a false sense of purpose in the volunteers? On Black Friday I saw a report on the news where a young man interviewed outside the local Walmart talked about the sense of camaraderie he found waiting in line - it was like they all had a common cause...

I recently worked on a video for a David Weinberger talk titled “The Networking of Knowledge and Storytelling.” The producer on the project and I had a discussion at our initial meeting about the formation and evolution of ideas, sketching tiny diagrams to represent the flow of information. Person A says “Apple,” person B says “Orange.” Weinberger presented a model of networked knowledge stemming from linked ideas, ideas often in contention. “We know now in networks, not as individuals.”

It reminded me of concepts that I was becoming familiar with through involvement with Occupy Wall Street. I had been learning about consensus and was beginning to understand how an idea that was evolved through a small group, a working group or an affinity group, might avoid the defensive trappings of ideas proposed by individuals. An individual might spark the process in the group, but it seemed to me that most ideas had a kind of life of their own that preceded their initial proposal. It struck me that this process was a method to free “our” ideas from ownership, to let them exist independent of individual ego and belief, to invite and encourage modification of the ideas through alternative perspectives. Of course, the form of horizontal direct democracy that OWS is evolving is quite different than what we see practiced in our government.

When the president tells us that his first job is “to keep the American people safe,” he is fortifying his patriarchal role, inviting us to breathe a collective sigh of relief that we have someone in the White House watching out for us. Certainly there is comfort in trusting that our leaders know what to do and how to do it, but how does the president’s role as decider - protector - leader fit into the community organizing model that he seems to favor? Comfort in having direction and feeling a sense of purpose, but folks need never define these things for themselves if they are consistently provided for them.

Is it ultimately more empowering to take control and lead the way, or to allow people the freedom to choose their own path? And what do we lose when we supplant the collective potential of many people with the perspective of a single individual? The representative democracy practiced in the US need not inhibit community empowerment so long as representatives are selected by the community to represent the ideas of the community, but where there is forceful repression of alternative forms of democracy, there will likely be “leaders” who are no longer representative.

When Obama says “we’re all in this together,” does this togetherness involve us organizing/mobilizing with and for each other or only in support of the president’s agenda? The close election scenario, the polarized electorate, the “fiscal cliff,” whatever it is called - it is a contest, a conflict, a crisis marketed to the masses. Another distraction in a long series of ever more urgent events, signaling our minds to shut down our creative potential and focus on securing our survival. There may be actual consequences if action is not taken immediately (what kind of crisis would it be without dire consequences after all?), but this does not change the fact that it is a fabrication, an abstraction that we have created and that we consent to.

We should not limit ourselves solely to the options that are placed before us, Democrat or Republican, taxes and/or spending cuts, jobs or environment, unions or budget shortfalls, energy independence or climate change action... This process is self perpetuating in that the original challenge is replaced by a conflict, requiring us to make a “choice” rather than seek a creative solution (or multiple solutions). Is it even possible within the present construct for the President to ask us for ideas and assistance without compromising his status as a “leader”? Whatever the answer, we must recognize that the limits of the presidency, the Congress, the government do not need to be our limits as well. Thank you for voting. Thank you for exercising your power. It’s yours - you can do it every day.

___ 

Originally posted 12/3/2012

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

EAT THE RICH AND OTHER ORWELLIAN MAXIMS

When asked what she thought of the suggestions and guidelines from state governors concerning holiday family gatherings, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said, “yeah, I think a lot of the guidelines you’re seeing are Orwellian.” Is she actually unclear on proper use of the term, or is this deliberate dissemblance from an administration more doublethink dependent than any other in U.S. history? I’m giving them too much credit you say?

snake oil salesman made a rare appearance this week to pardon the turkey, an actual turkey, not Michael Flynn. A strangely prescient viral video from last year surfaced on social media. In the video, emperor golden commode waxes poetic about how that particular turkey was forced to concede his defeat after a disputed election recount.

I doubt anyone within the outgoing administration has researched the reductionist operations of Newspeak as outlined in Nineteen Eighty-Four, but they certainly seem to stumble into them more often than any previous Republican cabal I can recall. “Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.” Despite widespread voting irregularities, both Gore and Kerry conceded to bush & co. Clinton conceded in 2016 despite winning 3 million more votes. This tantrum prone boy king refuses to recognize his six million+ vote loss.

Given the chance to redress her characterization, McEnany doubled down, specifically citing Oregon governor Kate Brown’s executive order guidelines. Allowing state troopers enforcement oversight that can potentially result in 30 day jail terms certainly sounds problematic, but it’s not “by definition Orwellian.” The Press Secretary’s freedom loving spectacle, however, when held up to her full throated defense of federal law enforcement deployed to quell Black Lives Matter protests in Portland last summer – yeah, that there is the very definition of doublethink.

Miles long lines at food banks, a staggering 54 million facing food scarcity across the U.S. while fearless leader hides out on his golf course, his Press Secretary desperately defending the freedom to gather and share a meal. Doubleplusungood.

___

Related article:
WAR IS PEACE or WHO IS READING 1984 TO TRUMP AT BEDTIME?

Friday, May 1, 2020

DEMOCRACY CANCELED

What the Sanders campaign wanted is essentially a beauty contest that, given the situation with the public health emergency, seems to be unnecessary and, indeed, frivolous.
– Douglas Kellner, co-chair of the New York State Board of Elections

Democracy is not a beauty contest. The “unanimous” vote of two co-chairs (both Democrats) of the New York State Board of Elections should not trump the votes of millions of New Yorkers. The provision they cite, empowering them to remove candidates from the ballot that have publicly suspended their campaigns, was shoehorned into the NYS budget bill passed days before Sanders suspended his campaign. Sanders made his intention to stay on the ballot absolutely clear when suspending the campaign:

On a practical note, let me also say this: I will stay on the ballot in all remaining states and continue to gather delegates. While Vice President Biden will be the nominee, we must continue working to assemble as many delegates as possible at the Democratic convention, where we will be able to exert significant influence over the party platform and other functions. Then, together, standing united, we will go forward to defeat Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in modern American history. And we will fight to elect strong progressives at every level of government, from Congress to the school board.
– Bernie Sanders

And just for the record, Sanders has not terminated his candidacy with the FEC.

The NYSBOE is arguing that the presidential primary is unnecessary, since Biden is the only candidate left on the NYS primary ballot, but it was BOE that removed Sanders and all other candidates from the ballot just prior to canceling the primary itself. Circular logic. Anti-democratic. Are you kidding me?

Taking Sanders off the ballot is likely a strategy to lower voter turnout, benefiting Democratic incumbents facing primary challenges from progressive candidates. So much for the DNC critique of Bernie not helping candidates up and down the ballot. Where does the DNC stand on this action? Are they really willing to allow the disenfranchisement of millions of New York State voters whose votes will be essential to defeat trump in November? Have they learned nothing from 2016?

This action sets a dangerous precedent. BOE cites the current health crisis as the reason for canceling the presidential primary, despite an executive order announced by Governor Cuomo last week to insure all New Yorkers can vote absentee in the June 23rd primary (if they request to do so). If Democrats are willing to engage in this kind of voter suppression, what will their response be if/when trump takes similar emergency action to postpone/cancel the general election in November?

The Sanders campaign has demanded the New York presidential primary be reinstated, and circulated a petition to the DNC to strip the state of its delegates if they violate party rules regarding delegate selection. Andrew Yang is suing New York State for “voter suppression.” Perhaps the ACLU or the Center for Constitutional Rights will file a suit on behalf of all New Yorkers disenfranchised by the NYSBOE.

Design for Awareness produced a video to raise awareness of the action BOE has taken. The first version of the video focused on the wholesale cancellation of the primary, as the action was initially reported. The video has been revised to reflect that ONLY the presidential primary has been canceled. Circus music was added to reflect the absurdity of two officials “unanimously” deciding to cancel our presidential primary (democracy). Call/contact New York State Board of Elections to let them know you would like your right to vote back.


Saturday, July 6, 2019

THE ENEMY OF MY ENEMY

trump’s “crisis at the border” loomed large going into the democratic debates last week. A number of the candidates actually mentioned that we need to deal with the root problems causing mass migration, but none were so bold as to mention US intervention as a root cause. There was talk of providing economic aid to Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala – the Northern Triangle, but there were no details as to how money was going to remedy the political violence that so many are fleeing.

Election cycles in the US provide an artificial bookend to interventionist policies that span decades and multiple administrations. Is the righteous anger of democrats justified when they double down on the threat to our elections from Russia? How many democratically elected governments has the United States undermined and overthrown in the name of US national security, protecting our national interests, fighting communism?

trump is a monster, but he is not on the ground in Honduras shooting off his mouth and waving his arms. His “crisis at the border” is simultaneously a crime against humanity and an uncomfortable reminder of the continuity of US foreign policy.

When the US had the opportunity to go on record concerning the 2009 military coup and deposition of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, Secretary of State Clinton remained silent despite unanimous condemnation from the UN, the international community, and even the conservative OAS.

Snake oil salesman is capitalizing on the cruelty we are witnessing at the border, literally as a privatization scheme, and also figuratively as a campaign platform. But his arrogant entitlement is the true centerpiece of his campaign, signaling his supporters to step up their attacks on those who would steal what is rightfully theirs... It reminds me of a comic I saw just before the Iraq War, posing the perennial question “how did our oil get under their soil?”



The neoconservatives who engineered and sold the disastrous Iraq War are back at it again. American amnesia is employed to absolve us of our complicity in the atrocity, to prepare us to accept yet another war for oil and influence. Iraq switched their oil transactions from the dollar to the euro in 2000. By the end of 2007 Iran had switched all of its oil transactions to non-US currencies. Under regression hypnosis we drift back to 1953, when the US overthrew the first democratically elected government in Iran, after they dared to nationalize their oil industry. We make our own enemies.

Neoliberals in both parties claim fealty to the free market while running an extortion racket that limits the sale of oil by our so called “enemies,” economic monopoly backed through threats of retaliation via the most powerful military in the world. These “sanctions” are not only imposed on the “enemy,” but de facto on those countries that do business with them. Just this last week an Iranian tanker was seized by British marines, at the behest of the US, claiming a violation of EU sanctions on Syria. Everyone wants their piece of the pie. We make our own enemies.

A few short months ago the same neocons/neoliberals pushed for a coup in Venezuela, citing the failure of Nicolás Maduro’s administration to feed their own people. Main stream media ran the showdown at the border story – a 20 million dollar humanitarian aid convoy blocked by the heartless dictator. Sanctions imposed by the trump administration, primarily on Venezuelan oil exports/imports, are estimated to cost the Venezuelan economy 30 million dollars a day. We make our own enemies.

More than 17 years in Afghanistan fighting terrorists the CIA funded, armed and trained to fight the Soviet Union 10 years before that... how long will this endless war go on? We make our own enemies.

So how is this enemy of my enemy strategy working for us? The progressive influence among democrats seems to be moving them toward a less punitive approach when it comes to immigration, in word if not in deed. But when it comes to foreign policy many of the them still sound like a hammer looking for a nail. Until we get rid of the underlying profit motive; private prisons, oil revenue, weapons sales – we’ll always need an enemy to galvanize our support.

What will it take for our politicians to acknowledge that US intervention is often the root cause of crises we must later solve, conveniently, through further intervention? Perhaps that should be a question at the next debate: do you think we would have fewer refugee migrants if we stopped destroying the places they come from?
___

Related video/articles:
Ousted Honduran President Zelaya: U.S.-Backed Coup Destabilized My Nation Forcing Migrants to Flee – Democracy Now!
Noam Chomsky: Members of Migrant Caravan Are Fleeing from Misery & Horrors Created by the U.S. – Democracy Now!
U.S. Sanctions Are Aimed at Venezuela’s Oil. Its Citizens May Suffer First. – New York Times
Why Won’t the Media Criticize US Interventionism? – The Nation
Donald Trump, Iran, and the Gulf of Tonkin Redux – Intercepted
Report Shows How War Profiteers Are Now Refugee Profiteers, Too – Common Dreams
Border Wars – the Arms Dealers Profiting from Europe’s Refugee Tragedy – TNI

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

COGNITIVE DISSONANCE IN THE VOTING BOOTH

So the proverbial blue wave, all but dismissed by the main-stream media on election night, keeps on rolling in. Now at +39 in the House, recounts and run-offs, oh my.

No illusions that we are free of two party duopoly, but still deliciously satisfying to see the GOP drowning in their own misogynist bile. For the first time in herstory, 100+ women have been elected to Congress. It would seem that Senator (future presidential contender) Flake’s compassionate intervention was not quite enough to pacify the rage women rightfully feel.

The arrogant adherence to patriarchal privilege, so shamelessly on display throughout the Kavanaugh hearings, revealed just how routine the subjugation of women is within their fold. But perhaps even more tellingly, it showcased an utter lack of ability (and a lack of desire) to communicate with women in any way that does not subjugate them.

This repulsive realization has left the GOP barely able to eek out single digit “victories” in states where they control the election process from top to bottom. It has inspired millions to reject the Party’s entitled abuse of power, to mobilize en-masse to vote, to run for office, to take democracy into their own hands.



Notably, Kansas denied “voter fraud” champion Kris Kobach his shot as governor, despite being overseer of his own election. Along similar lines, now infamous (now former, he resigned the day after declaring victory) Secretary of State Brian Kemp will become the next governor of Georgia, having engineered a vast campaign of voter suppression in the state.

Prioritizing “victory” over democracy is short-sighted and desperate, but it’s all they got. We are seeing that Republicans no longer have the numbers to win without gaming the process. Every time the GOP gets their way through subjugation and suppression, it presents an opportunity for the people to rise. They are, in fact, sowing the seeds of their own demise.

This election in Georgia should mark a turning point in the voter suppression vs. (statistically nonexistent) “voter fraud” debacle. Stacy Abrams’ no concession speech and the subsequent legal action/mobilization: another model of people taking democracy into their own hands, mobilizing not just for restoration, but for expansion of our democratic process. No concession, no compromise with those who would deny democracy to stay in power.

It might be a good time to reexamine (retire?) the whole red state/blue state polarization narrative, and who benefits from it. Harder to engineer a fraudulent 1% “victory” if the state isn’t already in your column to begin with.

Not surprisingly trump and his corporate cabal circle back the news cycle with the ouster of Jeff Sessions the very next day, seeking to send a brand new slate of progressives into a doublethink death spiral. Yes, this is Nixon 101, and yes, trump’s new AG appointment is illegal, but Oceania has always been at war with Eastasia.

Cognitive dissonance or doublethink? The former comes up often referencing trump, implying there is actual truth being overwritten by lies, that one chooses to believe the lie over the truth. There are certainly plenty of Republicans (and Democrats) caught in the throes of cognitive dissonance, but I don’t believe trump is concerned with truth vs. lies. He intentionally contradicts himself at every turn, to make us incapable of discerning one from the other, to get us to accept contradictory positions simultaneously, to make us susceptible to suggestion. That’s doublethink.

This is why it’s so important not to get swept up in the trump spectacle. It’s like struggling in quicksand – you just sink that much faster. The entire spectacle is a trap. Reactionary resistance is a trap. Formulating a rational response is a trap. You can’t get out once you are in, and that is the point.

So what do we gain/lose by doubling down to focus on the longevity of the Mueller investigation? What if the investigation is endless, like the fictional war in Nineteen Eighty-Four, the perfect soma distraction for a conflict narrative obsessed Democratic Party?

Fortunately, that’s not what the people voted for – it’s not what this new slate of progressive representatives ran on. I don’t think they’re gonna buy what trump’s selling, but it’s up to all of us to see beyond the distraction and help them stay true. We’ve opened a door for all of us to walk through, a crack to let the light in. The GOP will continue to divide and demonize, so start walking, and take a crowbar to that crack on your way through. Throw the door open and put out the welcome mat.

As border patrol officers tear gas migrant families, I am reading an article where Clinton, Blair and Renzi are suggesting that Europe must curb immigration to stop rightwing populists. 

NOPE.
___

Related articles:
The entire White House press corps should walk out and stop indulging this bully – Jane Merrick
Brian Kemp’s Win In Georgia Is Tainted by Voter Suppression – Ari Berman

Monday, October 1, 2018

OCTOBER SURPRISE?

Marvel’s What If comic was a favorite of mine as a kid. Inserting a minor, but pivotal, change in the continuity of events usually spelled disaster for all involved. What If was all the chaos, without any of the consequences!




Will Kavanaugh get confirmed? The question on everyone’s lips. Just a few days ago many people were quite certain that he would be. It occurred to me that this answer was linked to a forgone conclusion: Republicans will stop at nothing to install him before the inevitable midterm turnover of the House and Senate.




But what if that turnover is not inevitable? What if Republicans aren’t as desperate as Democrats think? What if Democrats are once again counting their chickens before they hatch, arrogantly thinking that they have the midterms all sewn up? Have they learned nothing from 2016?

With the very future of the Republican Party on the line, and I really don’t think I am exaggerating the backlash this confirmation would engender, is it good strategy to force this candidate on the country? Are they really willing to take that risk?

What if Senator Flake’s (R) compassionate intervention is just a pathetic attempt to pacify the rage that women rightfully feel? Were you ready to shut shit down before he made that statement? How ’bout after?



What if Mueller (R) were to exonerate trump this month? What if trump barnstorms the country on a no collusion/witch hunt vindication tour: two more years of delivering on his promises, finally free of Democrat obstructionism? Plenty of time to nominate another justice... What if this is the mirror image of the ’98 midterms?

What have Democrats got to seal the deal come November 6th if they lose the collusion card? Have they settled on anything besides “not trump” in the last two years? Why does the DNC/DCCC insist on sticking it to progressive insurgents around the country? They have a real opportunity here to end the Republican Party once and for all, but then that would require actually sharing power with the people...

___


Full disclosure, I am no longer a registered Dem. I dropped the D after I saw the DNC foolishly blow the 2016 election when they could have offered an unstoppable unified ticket...

Friday, February 16, 2018

STAR WARS: POWER AND PROFIT

The film is called Star Wars (The Last Jedi), it’s not going to be about peace. But I’m a sucker for allegorical sci-fi, so I just gotta go there. If you haven’t seen the film, and you don’t want ***SPOILERS*** – get off this ride now.

There are certainly some interesting ideas in this film and, as others have written, it does tend to defy expectations with its many twists and turns.

For example, women in a galaxy far far away are really good at helping men reconsider their conditioned heroic tendencies. Reconsider that their rush to sacrifice others, and even themselves, in the face of impending doom, might be a bit overzealous, or even outright unnecessary. Sadly, the story seems to continue down the same inevitable path even after the women school the men. More war, more fighting, more heroic self-sacrifice, albeit in a more gender inclusive way.

At one particularly poignant moment, Yoda tells Luke “The greatest teacher, failure is.” But our boy Luke just can’t seem to let it go. At the climax of the film, Luke delivers the rather obvious applause line, “The Rebellion is reborn today. The war is just beginning. And I will not be the last Jedi.” Eight films in, and the war is just beginning – good grief. Way to learn from failure Luke. Maybe things will change now that he’s moved on.

But what is most interesting to me is the way this film addresses war profiteering. Yes – that happened. A major part of the film revolves around the idea that 1% is making all their money off the wars in Star Wars, selling weapons to both sides of the conflict. A life of luxury underwritten in blood.

The film does a good job subverting the myth that weapons manufacturers are loyal to a particular faction, country, side, etc. As Benicio Del Toro’s DJ clarifies “They blow you up today, you can blow them up tomorrow. It’s just business.”


Perhaps this allegory is sufficient in a galaxy where power seems to have little interest in profit. Evil for the sake of evil, the dark side, the last Jedi must die, and all that other First Order inevitability. In our galaxy, however, war profiteer CEO’s busily escalate conflict from positions they have been appointed to, and elected to, within our own government. In our galaxy, maximizing profit and consolidating power go hand in hand. War profiteers and the powerful are not two separate entities, but one and the same.

The wars they engineer divert resources and attention, simultaneously destruction and distraction. It reminds me of something I once read about the firebombing of Dresden; the people didn’t burn to death, they died from asphyxiation when the fire consumed all of the oxygen.

So no, I don’t expect Star Wars to be about peace, but a film can be about war while also questioning our preconceptions about war.

Lucas gave it a shot in the prequels, showing us that the Wars began as a distraction, a conflict methodically engineered to consolidate power in the hands of the Emperor (Senator Palpatine/Darth Sidious). The clone army of the Republic (the “Good Guys”) ultimately becoming the (Evil) Galactic Empire’s stormtroopers...  Maybe this has something to do with why the prequels were so negatively received: it’s just not as pleasurable to cheer for your hero if you aren’t entirely sure which side you’re on.

J.J. Abrams did a bang up job infantilizing the motivation for war in Force Awakens. We all laughed as Kylo Ren threw yet another temper tantrum, and General Hux screamed ever louder in some pathetic attempt to be taken seriously. Last Jedi takes this almost satirical absurdity even further, revealing the coldly calculating war profiteers selling guns to these squabbling brats.

So when the rebellion realizes that they are in a war with a bunch of insecure adolescents, what will they do? Will the adults figure out a way to take the guns away from the children? That would make sense right? I mean unless, children killing people with guns is somehow advantageous to your bottom line.
___

Related articles:
If We Want Kids to Stop Killing, the Adults Have to Stop, Too – Matt Taibbi
STAR WARS IN THE J.J. VERSE – The Missing Point

Sunday, December 10, 2017

YOU ARE FREE

{ listen to this post on soundcloud }

Throughout my years of organizing I have witnessed many people exercising their freedom in the face of brutal oppression. The nobility of such acts was palpable, you could feel it move through a crowd, the power of people standing in solidarity. This nobility can be a potent catalyst, moving us to take action. But it can also trap us in a cycle of suffering, a belief that there can be no change without this self-sacrifice. There is a feeling of inevitability to these dynamics. You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs. “Freedom isn’t free.”

Of course, this “choice” to exercise one’s freedom often doesn’t look like a choice at all. When the oppressor threatens to extinguish your life, the lives of your sisters and brothers, life on the planet itself – what is that choice? Take action or die? There’s that inevitability again.

So is freedom what you win at the end of the conflict, or is it the action you take within the conflict itself? Is it only definable in contrast to the oppression, or can it exist outside of this conflict narrative?

Democrats would have you believe that they are protecting freedom from Republican attacks, while Republicans claim that government overreach is the real threat to freedom. Neither party seems particularly interested in expanding our rights, in exploring what freedom looks like beyond this circular conflict narrative.


When I wrote “THE ILLUSION OF FREEDOM” a couple years back, I was primarily concerned with how folks consider themselves “free” without ever really exercising that freedom. I encouraged them to test those inalienable rights, to find out how they work, to experience what it means to be free.

Now, after eight years of legislative compromise sold as noble self-sacrifice, I find myself wondering if we can even recognize freedom? trump’s Ministry of Truth churns out the daily doublethink, not to defend their brutality, but to make it impossible to critique. Their wanton plunder just another hostile takeover in a culture that glorifies such ruthless behavior as business savvy. Like all neoliberals, they expect you to give up everything to get something back. Freedom is Slavery.

Within this trifecta of suffering, self-sacrifice, slavery, how effective is a reactionary posture pitting freedom vs. oppression? Sure, you’re free to fight for freedom, but are you free?

I think it is essential that we not allow these bloodsucking privateers and big-brother wannabes to define the language we will use to manifest our future. Your freedom shouldn’t be commensurate upon you winning it from them, nor should it be a function of you fighting them. That’s not the way the Constitution works, no matter what Minitrue said yesterday. “Congress shall make no law...” And the president? Not even a member of the legislative branch. Those rights are yours – You Are Free.

___

I’ve been signing my letters “You Are Free” for years now, a gentle reminder to exercise your freedom. I mocked up artwork for a button (above), drifting from computer to computer on the backburner. Want one? Send me your address.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

I CAN’T VOTE TODAY – OR CAN I?

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a couple of weeks now, I wanted to get it out there before any more time passes. I have yet to contact The New York Board of Elections or whomever else I may need to in order to more clearly understand the ramifications of what I am about to share, and what it means for New York State elections going forward. So New Yorkers – PLEASE get on the horn, followup, and let me know what you dig up. It’s your vote – use it wisely.

On September 12th, many of my friends were proudly displaying their “I voted” stickers and urging others to get out the vote. In response I wrote into the algorithmic void, “I appreciate my many friends mobilizing to GOTV, but just a reminder that if you are not registered in one of the two major parties, there is no vote today. #Democracy #CountEveryVote #OpenPrimaries”


This would be the first time since I could vote, that I would not vote, relegated to the undemocratic limbo that New York’s independent voters find themselves in every primary day.

I have heard the argument more than once that the parties should have autonomy over who they want to nominate. Given that all things were equal, I could see some validity to this, but all things are not equal. Come November a third of the state’s registered voters will be expected to choose from candidates whose nomination process they have no say in. The choice between the two major party nominees will be all but sewn up before these independents even cast their votes. Coke or Pepsi.

At least that’s how it was a moment ago. What what?

Walking by my polling place, a man asked if I was voting today. I answered that I could not vote today, and he quickly moved on. I felt very solitary in this statement, as if my saying it aloud made it that much more real. I wasn’t really sure what would happen if I tried to vote. I had read something earlier in the day about people voting using a Reform Party ballot, and then it occurred to me that I could just go inside and ask if there was any way for me to vote today. So that is what I did.

The first poll worker I spoke to asked my name, and found me in his book. We talked a bit about my no longer being a registered Democrat. He suggested that I go to the table corresponding to my Election District and see if I was still in the book there, perhaps still listed as a Democrat... When I inquired about the Reform Party ballot he suggested that I talk to another poll worker who was more versed on the specifics.

I was able to ask that poll worker, at another table, specifically how I might vote today. After I explained my situation, she told me I had two options. I could vote by affidavit with a Democratic Party ballot, which I knew would ultimately not be counted since I was no longer a Democrat. Or I could vote using the Reform Party ballot. She had samples of the two ballots there so I could see them, and she explained (paraphrasing here) that I could actually fill out the ballot up to three times, if I wanted to test the process, without actually casting my vote.

Unlike the fully stocked Democratic ballot, the Reform ballot only had two candidates, one for New York City Mayor, and one for Brooklyn Borough President. But more importantly the ballot had a blank space for write ins under each of the candidates endorsed by the Reform Party. So, it appeared that I actually could vote today, but only for these two offices.

I then went to the table corresponding to my Election District and they looked up my name in the book. Along side my name was the acronym BLA, which the two poll workers explained to me was “Blank.” They told me that they had received no training to handle this situation, that they were informed about the Reform Party ballot just that morning. There was a one sheet adhered to the table that instructed them to give a Reform Party ballot to anyone listed as BLA in the book. This was the key apparently, you had to NOT be enrolled in any other party (besides Reform Party, of course) to vote using the Reform Party ballot. I signed the book, and they gave me the ballot.

So now I could write in whomever I wanted for these two offices. I decided that I would test this thing out by voting for someone that I would be able to track in the results – myself. I wrote in Thomas Gallagher for Mayor and Marcel Duchamp for Brooklyn Borough President.

When I took my filled out ballot to the scanner, I asked that poll worker how the machine would count my write in votes. He explained that it would record that I had voted, and someone would come at the end of the day to record the write ins by hand. He informed me that these results would be posted on the Board of Elections website in about two weeks.

I put it on my calendar and lo and behold:

So what is the take away? Well, it appears that unaffiliated independent voters can vote for whoever they wish in the primary using the Reform Party ballot. This appears to be a function of the Reform Party charter, rather than statewide election law. To be clear, these votes determine who the Reform Party candidates will be, completely separate from the Democratic and Republican primary process. So it isn’t actually an open primary, but it is certainly a crack in the ice.

Could this be leveraged to present a challenge to the state’s two party duopoly? Even if the Reform Party will accept whoever gets the most votes as their nominee, what are the ramifications of independents en masse fortifying the Reform Party line by using this option? Could this be expanded upon by other third parties? Perhaps I will be able to vote for more than two offices in the next primary...

For those that are wondering, Marcel Duchamp didn’t get recorded as a write in for Brooklyn Borough President. I see one vote noted as “UNATTRIBUTABLE WRITE-IN (WRITE-IN)” and then ultimately listed as “Unrecorded.” I believe this is my vote. For those unfamiliar, Duchamp is widely regarded as the godfather of modern art. He died in 1968.

___

Related:

Reform Party gives state its first open primaries – Times Union

Curtis Sliwa discusses New York State Reform Party – video

Friday, October 6, 2017

MADE IN AMERICA

 

Rather than writing a new post, I designed this graphic to call out the elephant in the room (the missing point). Please credit Forth Position Design when sharing it. Possible hashtags: #WeaponsIndustry #ArmsDealers #WarProfiteers #ConflictNarrative #AmericaFirst #GunControl #2ndAmendment #NRA #ThoughtsAndPrayers #LasVegasShooting #MadeInAmerica

Two earlier pieces that are sadly just as relevant now as when I wrote them several years ago: PAYING FOR WAR and Are we courageous enough to face the why?

___

Related:

“They Don’t Care Who the Guns Go To”: Experts Warn Trump Admin. Plans to Widen U.S. Weapons Exports – Democracy Now!

Intercepted Podcast: Guns Before Country – The Intercept

Friday, August 11, 2017

WAR – IS THAT ALL YOU GOT AMERICA?

Button pusher trump is waxing poetic about “fire and fury,” talking tough (but apparently “not tough enough”), stealing lines from Harry S. Truman following the US bombing of Hiroshima. Privatizer in chief’s commentary comes practically 72 years to the day after Truman’s address.

“North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States. They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen. He has been very threatening, beyond a normal statement. And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury and, frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before. Thank you.”

– trump, August 8th, 2017 

“If they do not now accept our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the like of which has never been seen on this Earth.”

– Truman, August 6, 1945

  
It’s simultaneously horrifying and absurd, like so much of the garbage that has come out of this administration and trump’s mouth. Is this a big game for trump, watching file tapes of former famous and infamous president’s, mimicking their moves so as to seem presidential? Is this administration really so completely devoid of direction that all they can do is dismantle and destroy?

I’ve found it challenging to discuss republican policy over the years. When I would say that they have none, I was often met with a quick rebuttal, citing all the damage republican policies had wrought. True enough, but underneath it all, there was never really any intention on the part of republicans to do anything in the interest of the people. They had no plan for the common good. And I always felt that this was the place to hit them, not to continuously indulge them by discussing the merits of their non-existant “plans.”

The bluster and nonsense we have seen with the recent republican health care debacle shows this plainly enough. By any measure, their health care plan really isn’t a health care plan at all. To be clear, it is NOT a plan to provide health care – it is another codification of tax breaks for the wealthy at the expense of the rest of us, another package of privatization giveaways to trump’s crony capitalist cabinet pals.





Certainly, the republican (or democrat, neo-liberal, neo-conservative, take your pick) free market solves everything gang, has a playbook that they follow. But it is the same play EVERY TIME. One could call this a plan, but it really is more of a scheme isn’t it? With an avowed snake oil salesman in the white house, shouldn’t we expect to be taken for a ride every single time? Why would anyone give this guy the benefit of the doubt – ever? Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice...





Back in 2003, Condi got us all going (well, not all of us) with that proof in the shape of a mushroom cloud thing. Maybe we shouldn’t be so quick to jump on the bandwagon this time? Lest we forget, it was the bush administration that branded North Korea along with Iraq and Iran as the “Axis of Evil.”

So what about war? Well it really is the only thing we have going for us right now isn’t it? I mean, what other American export even comes close? Weapons are big business (JOBS JOBS JOBS!), and trump is the perfect instrument to tout our weapons superiority. We got nukes, and they are the best nukes. Sure North Korea has nukes now too (I’m sure Condi can verify this for us), but we have the BEST of the best!


 


Of course the weapons deals didn’t start with trump, but he sure knows how to close doesn’t he? Saudi Arabia escapes trump’s muslim ban list to the tune of $110 billion. He’s well on his way to beating the previous $115 billion record set during the Obama administration!





Cooler heads must prevail, the foxes are in the henhouse, where’s the revolution?



___

Related:

Forget Russia. Is Provoking a Nuclear War with North Korea Grounds for Impeachment? – Democracy Now!

Blackwater Founder Erik Prince Urges Trump to Privatize Afghan War & Install Viceroy to Run Nation – Democracy Now!

Atlas Golfed — U.S.-Backed Think Tanks Target Latin America – The Intercept

Friday, May 26, 2017

WAR IS PEACE or WHO IS READING 1984 TO TRUMP AT BEDTIME?

I saw a brilliant segment on Democracy Now! yesterday – Scahill & Greenwald: What If All Victims of War Received the Media Attention of Manchester Victims? Today DN! posted a related article by Amy Goodman & Denis Moynihan – Let the Media Coverage of Manchester Victims Be a Model for All Young Victims of War. Both pieces point to the disturbing way our media disappears the fundamental role of US intervention in wars around the world. Watching trump visiting the Pope, days after sealing a $110 billion arms deal with Saudi Arabia, had me once again thinking about how this administration deploys the Nineteen Eighty-Four concept of DOUBLETHINK, on a grand scale, and on an international stage.

Been a while since you last read Nineteen Eighty-Four? Now would be a good time.

DOUBLETHINK means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The Party intellectual knows in which direction his memories must be altered; he therefore knows that he is playing tricks with reality; but by the exercise of DOUBLETHINK he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated. The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt. DOUBLETHINK lies at the very heart of Ingsoc, since the essential act of the Party is to use conscious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete honesty. To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word DOUBLETHINK it is necessary to exercise DOUBLETHINK. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of DOUBLETHINK one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth. 

Upon leaving the Vatican trump tweeted:

Honor of a lifetime to meet His Holiness Pope Francis. I leave the Vatican more determined than ever to pursue PEACE in our world.

trump presented the Pope with a set of Martin Luther King’s writings. Cause, you know, this Jesuit Pope needs to bone up on the evils of militarism, capitalism, and racism. Actually, it’s more likely just a cynical reference to the Pope’s 2015 address to the United States Congress: 

Here too I think of the march which Martin Luther King led from Selma to Montgomery fifty years ago as part of the campaign to fulfill his “dream” of full civil and political rights for African Americans. That dream continues to inspire us all. I am happy that America continues to be, for many, a land of “dreams”. Dreams which lead to action, to participation, to commitment. Dreams which awaken what is deepest and truest in the life of a people.

And here is the Pope so eloquently sticking it to all the war profiteers in Congress during that same address:

Being at the service of dialogue and peace also means being truly determined to minimize and, in the long term, to end the many armed conflicts throughout our world. Here we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.

The Pope presented trump with a copy of his 2017 World Day of Peace message on nonviolence, commenting “I signed it personally for you.”

I was pretty amazed when the Pope got to come to the US Congress and talk shit about America’s #1 export – WAR. Seems like the Vatican had no choice but to allow trump the same courtesy. Sticking it to the Pope like only a snake oil salesman can. Just look at that smile!

“That was a tremendous day. Tremendous investments in the United States. Hundreds of billions of dollars of investments into the United States and jobs, jobs, jobs.” WAR IS PEACE.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

POTUS: PRIVATIZER OF THE UNITED STATES three steps to undermining the trump agenda

You know things are bad when people are willing to get their medicine from the snake oil salesman. Huckster, hustler, button pusher, scammer, scoundrel, swindler. Whatever you want to call this guy, there is one single word that should be inextricably linked to his name and his brand of snake oil:

Privatization.

Say it with me now: pri-vat-iz-a-tion (prī-və-tə-ˈzā-shən). Get used to saying it. Every time he tweets – #privatization. Every time he has a rally – privatization. Every time he signs another baby’s first executive order – privatization.



The basic is this: neoliberals were chomping at the bit to privatize every government program they could get their greedy hands on long before this guy entered the race. And in classic Newspeak fashion they’ve provided an out of control anti-establishment champion for everyone to hate as cover for the installation of an entirely corporate cabinet. Doubleplusungood.



Let’s be clear here, this is no longer simply the fox guarding the henhouse. This is not about lobbyists writing legislation, or corporate kickbacks, or pay for play – this is about putting corporate executives directly in control of our government.

Sure, they’ll continue to tow the party line: smaller government, lower taxes, reduce the deficit, government corruption and reform (“drain the swamp”), but keep your eye on the ball. Will this administration really use their power to do away with all of those “bloated bureaucratic agencies” or will they simply use the existing infrastructure to reroute all those tax payer dollars into their own pockets?

So why are so many willing to accept this clear conflict of interest?

Well, you see, we’ve got this thing in the States, a straight up hard on for guys in suits that can put one over on everyone around them, take advantage of every poor sucker along the way. We put these folks on the cover of Fortune and Forbes and call them “the smartest guys in the room.”

This guy may not look like them, you may not even think he’s smart enough to be them, but that’s the genius of it. This snake oil salesman is selling the appearance of wealth. He’s been pushing his get rich quick schemes on late night TV for decades. His string of bankruptcies might give the impression that he’s been a failure at this game, but nobody called Jamie Dimon a failure when we bailed his ass out.

Everyone else in the world – yeah, pretty much everyone, calls this thing they are doing “austerity.” In a nutshell – those in power engineer a crisis, financial or otherwise, and then blame some other folks in power for doing an inadequate job handling the crisis.

Here’s where it gets fun – they’ll claim that the crisis, and the inadequate response, is proof of a systemic failure and call for reform. This reform is always the privitization of the existing system. This privatization involves tax payer money being allocated to them and their private companies in place of the public institutions that normally handle the job. They claim that privatization will be more efficient and yield a greater return on taxpayer investment.

Sounds like a pretty good deal, right? Problem is, once they get that fat government check, they’re free to welsh on the job or do it in such a substandard manner as to escalate the crisis, leading to further privatization...

Of course, blowing all this tax payer money on nothing means that every time the people want something for their taxes, the powers that be can claim that there just isn’t enough to go around, salaries are too high, benefits must be cut, we all have to make sacrifices. All smiles across the aisle.

There is one more essential step in the neoliberal crisis capitalism playbook – they’re going to offer you, your city, your country, a loan. A loan to make up for all that revenue they just swindled you out of, all those resources they gobbled up, and all that public land they privatized. And with a smile and a handshake they’ll snap on the shackles of debt, turning you into a product they can buy and sell on the market. That’s austerity, and it’s right here in the good ole US of A, even if we’re all too cranked up on conflict narrative culture to see it.

So if the snake oil salesman is respected by the people specifically for his ability to get over on the people, how does one mobilize the people in their own best interest? Well, if exposing his duplicity only serves to further validate his prowess, then perhaps a less direct, less confrontational approach is needed. The anti-globalization movement’s “¡Ya basta!” and a phrase I often heard repeated at OWS, “I would prefer not to,” come to mind. I recall messaging discussions concerning the framing of 2003 The World Says No To War demonstrations as a rejection of business as usual, a principled stand, a withdrawal of consent.



With this in mind I’d like to propose a basic three step outline for undermining the strategy of domination through privatization. I am hoping that it provides a simple starting point for other organizers and media folks to build upon, a focus beyond the fractured reactionary response being scripted for us.

1 ) Take a closer look at the government agencies under threat of privatization. Start with the cabinet level offices and work out from there. What do these agencies actually do? Who are the appointees that will lead these agencies in this administration? How will their positions benefit them and their corporate interests? How will the agency infrastructure be used to redirect tax payer money?

2 ) Given that these agencies may now be used to oppress rather than to protect, what alternatives can we come up with in light of this privatization? This is a tricky thing to propose, because the administration would like nothing better than for us to cede complete authority to them in all these areas. But if they have taken control of the government, we really need to start coming up with alternatives that are insulated from their influence.

3 ) Make these alternatives viable, accessible, and desirable. This may involve the redirection of public funds toward alternatives to privatized government programs, a mass mobilization involving divestment and reinvestment focused on a withdrawal of consent. Not just boycotts and strikes, but the work of building viable alternatives to replace the existing dependencies.

Move Your Money is an example of one such alternative mobilization. The campaign was pretty successful, with individuals, unions, and whole municipalities moving their money from predatory big banks and financial institutions into local credit unions and community banks. Just recently, the Seattle City Council voted to divest $3 billion from Wells Fargo over the bank’s backing of the Dakota Access pipeline.

Most notably, the campaign wasn’t presented simply as an ethical imperative, but as a practical benefit. Moving one’s money from a bank that charges outrageous fees with no interest to one that offers free checking with interest is obviously attractive. The key then is accessibility. Is there a local credit union office in the neighborhood? Is one’s money accessible through ATM’s in the neighborhood? Could that vacant building next to the check cashing place be secured to house a new credit union office, providing an obvious visible alternative at the point of interaction? These are the kinds of details that must be addressed to encourage people to withdraw their consent, while simultaneously helping themselves.

There is enormous opportunity to mobilize the people through a desire for what they want, rather than simply controlling them through fear and desperation. This is, at its core, about replacing a narrative of scarcity and strife, with one of agency and empowerment. If this (s)election told us anything, it is that the people would rather vote for something than for nothing at all. The snake oil salesman only has power if we keep buying what he is selling. And privatization really is about selling you what was yours to begin with. Withdraw your consent and take it back.
___

Related articles:
Is Your Bank Funding DAPL? Here’s How to Find One That Isn’t – Gerald Mitchell
Trump’s Crony Cabinet May Look Strong, but They Are Scared – Naomi Klein
Donald Trump’s Executive Order Will Let Private Equity Funds Drain Your 401(k) – David Dayen

Here's How We Prepare to Be Ungovernable in 2017 – Sarah Lazare 
Intercepted Podcast: The Clock Strikes 13, and Donald Trump Is President – The Intercept