Tuesday, December 10, 2019

A Book, Tulsi Gabbard, and Andrew Scheer

Greetings and salutations imaginary readers! Today I feel like mentioning three things: A book I'm reading; Hawaiian congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard; and, finally, something miserable warbling I heard coming out of Andrew Scheer's mouth on the news the other day.

First, the book: James C. Scott's Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States.

Scott is a political scientist at Yale University. He's got a couple of other anarchist-themed books under his belt. I might check 'em out at some point in the not-too-distant future. But, anyway, this book is a summary of the work of others (people who study prehistoric agriculture, geographic history, and all sorts of other fascinating topics) and a distillation of their recent findings.

The jist of it is that agriculture predated "civilization" by a few thousand years at least. And when the first farmers were "farming" it was more an addition to a multifaceted strategy of opportunistic hunting and gathering and pastoralism. Sedentary farming took place first in naturally rich soils on flood plains such as those of the Tigris-Euphrates, the Nile and the Yellow River and the Indus Valley. As well, gathering together of large communities (Scott estimates that some pre-civilization towns and rural communities in the Tigris-Euphrates region  reached numbers of 1,000 to 5,000 people, together with their farm animals (and unwanted pests such as lice, rats and sparrows) were already creating disease vectors that would bedevil later walled city-states and which may have been responsible for many of the "collapses" of these societies.

Being an anarchist, Scott has a critical view of the supposed "glories" of ancient civilizations. Aside from the fact that "permanent" stone structures ("permanent" in that they left evidence of their existence for later archaeologists to find) such as walls and buildings, also meant crowded, foul and pestilent living standards, the fact is that palaces signified social inequality; writing and counting probably had their origins in the need for "statistics" (information about the STATE, such as population, grain harvests, etc.,) which meant coercion and exploitation. In short, the earliest states (like most later ones) were built on human exploitation.

Scott hypothesizes that these civilizations were grain/cereal-based because grains ripen on a more dependably uniform basis; they can be easily seen growing in the fields and they could be transported relatively cheaply after processing. All these attributes are beneficial to those who would assemble and move this resource. So far as the people who actually grew the grain, cereals provided fewer calories per input of work than many other food sources. Cereals were therefore grown to benefit the rulers of states rather than the needs of the producers.

There is a lot here for libertarians of whatever persuasion to like. And some reviewers feel obligated to point to the blessings of civilizations for those of us in the present day who enjoy them. Reading the book simply as an expression of an idea based upon evidence, as this review does, is the best attitude to take towards it.

Next up: Tulsi Gabbard.

Ms. Gabbard is, as I've said before, an odd duck. Raised in an extremely conservative Hindu family, she signed up for the US military after 9-11. Going to Iraq as a medical officer she saw the violence and the futility of the Occupation. She says she also saw there the deleterious impact of religious fundamentalism. (I'll speculate that this was due to the rise of sectarianism and extremism in general on an Arab society that had been primarily secular under socialist and later, Baathist ideology.) Both of these experiences made her re-think her allegiance to US foreign policy and the imposition of one's religious views on society. Gabbard apparently still holds conservative personal views but her actual voting record on LGBT-issues is now very good.

During the early years of Barack Obama, Gabbard was seen as just the sort of new Democrat the party was looking for. A woman of colour and a veteran, she seemed to tick-off all the boxes. Gabbard gained the support of progressive Democrats (and the hatred of amoral, hypocritical, centrist Democratic Hillary-bot fuck-faces) for resigning from the Democratic National Committee complaining of their rigging of the primary process for Hillary Clinton (subsequently validated by Wikileaks) and went on to endorse Bernie Sanders for president given that Hillary Clinton was a warmongering asshole who loved to put the troops in harm's way just so she could close her eyes and imagine all the brown people being slaughtered.

Gabbard has been criticized for being friendly with the murderously Islamophobic Hindu nationalist Modi of India. (Publicly though, she's done nothing more than any other mainstream US politician has done, which is to make friendly, neutral noises about the prime minister of a huge country.) She's been criticized for past statements condemning GLBT people. She's been criticized for constantly advertising her status as an active-duty military officer. She's been criticized for having met with Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad during a visit to Syria. Smug, arrogant asshole Jeffrey St. Clair of "CounterPunch" criticizes her for doing all of these things while being female.

Now, don't get me wrong. There's a lot to criticize Tulsi Gabbard for. And if I were able to vote in the Democratic primary it would be for Bernie Sanders. But she is the most consistently anti-war candidate out there. She has the courage of her convictions. She will say what she feels with little fear of the political ramifications. She will actually call US-backed rebels "terrorists" because that is what they are. She straight-out punctures US propaganda about the conflicts in the Middle East. She destroyed the presidential aspirations of the cynical, corporatist Kamala Harris by simply listing "achievements" from Harris's record.

To some shit-assed Hillary-bot, these are mortal sins. But who cares what they think? Not me. I encourage Gabbard to stay in the race. Here's the thing. I don't relish talking about the physical appearance of a female politician. I don't think it's relevant to the job they're going to do. But the popularity of Justin Trudeau, .... the appeal of Barack Obama, ... the interest that was shown for the ridiculous Sarah Palin, ... the sad fact is that when a political party can find an attractive package to sell to people, they'll do so and it will work. While she might have been scarred by acne earlier in her life, Ms. Gabbard is now a very attractive individual with considerable poise and a pleasant speaking voice. Her physical presence, plus her veteran status, plus her visible minority status, plus her controversy (which wouldn't, on its own, be enough to merit pop-culture interest in her) are what enable her to get on mainstream shows such as "The View" or "Stephen Colbert." And when she gets on those shows and condemns the regime-change wars directed by monsters in Washington, she reaches millions of US-American viewers who wouldn't have been exposed to such clarity of thinking. She reaches ten times as many people as Jeffrey St. Clair will reach in his entire life. And, being attractive, being a veteran, ... these things alone will make her listeners more sympathetic to her anti-imperialist views.

If she is a latent Islamophobe, ... well, that would be regrettable. But ask yourself; if you were living in Lebanon right now, which would you prefer: A US politician with Hindu Nationalist sympathies who will NOT finance an armed Jihaadist rebellion/civil war in your country? Or some DLC corporate Wall Street/MIA shill who has been trained to show "tolerance" to Muslims, while all the while raining death and destruction down upon them?

Finally, a look at pathetic overgrown altar boy Andrew Scheer.

Now, in his job as propagandist for the Liberal Party of Canada, Montreal Simon does tons of work bashing conservatives (including Andrew Scheer) to the extent that you'd think the Conservative Party was actually in power in Ottawa. But they're not. It's the Liberals who are backing murderous sanctions on Venezuela, and applauding the slaughter of indigenous people in Bolivia, and running roughshod over indigenous people here in Canada, and propping-up the petro-pushers and etc., etc. ... So why should I talk about the loser Andrew Scheer?

Well, yeah, as Simon says, they're dangerous. A party of cretins, closet-cases, con-artists, creeps and Cro-Magnons. (Apologies to Cro-Magnons. Alliteration made me do it.) The Conservatives bear paying attention to.

But the reason I'm talking about this spineless, corrupt mediocrity is because I heard him (on the TV in the cafeteria at work) bleating about how hard the Liberal government is making it for oil industry investors in this country. This made me think how sadly debased our politics are here in Canada. We have a Liberal government that couldn't meet stephen harper's carbon emissions targets; that uses the police to impose a pipeline route on the sovereign territory of a First Nation that doesn't want it; that found $4 billion to bail-out a US-American company that didn't want to continue with its pipeline of bitumen (and the Toronto Bay Street parasites who'd invested in the project). And none of it is enough for Canada's "conservatives." From the ignorant, bigoted assholes in their yellow vests all the way up to Scheer himself; these imbeciles pretend that the only thing hindering investment in Canadian tar is the Liberal government. Not the low prices for oil. Not the reality of global warming. Not the constitutional obligation to obtain the consent of the affected First Nations.

The fact that this whining, deluded and/or cynical dipshit is the leader of the opposition and his reality-free ravings get a hearing on our news channels speaks volumes of how primitive and useless we are as a society.

Well, that's all I had to say really.


And, two days later, Andrew Scheer resigns. Seems there was a "slush fund" or some damned thing or other, whereby Andrew of the Speaker's Residence and Stornoway and the $200,000 a year that is all the sweeter when your housing is paid for, was sending his kids to private school using Conservative Party of Canada money. This was the party that balked at paying $90,000 to cover Mike Duffy's fundraising expenses (which [sigh!] let's not forget, these charlatans had ALSO tried to put on the public's dime); but somehow they missed Scheer paying private school tuitions with their money?

It seems more likely that there had been more than a few winks and nods about all this and now that the malcontents are seething and Andy wasn't retreating, that they've used these "revelations" to push him out. Scheer could probably say that the party always knew about this, thereby making them look bad, but that would also burn his bridges with them. And, perhaps, there's more they know about him.

Of course, that's all idle speculation on my part. The end result is that the party with the grassroots of moronic bigots and christo-fascist closet-cases is going to be expected to barf-up a "socially moderate" con-artist. Which doesn't seem bloody likely. Fucking losers.

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