Monday, December 23, 2019

The People's Right to Go Ape-Shit 2

I wrote this 2013 post as a reply to a comment saying that fear of police violence was a factor in people's reluctance to defend democracy. I was also, at the time, inspired by my anger at the treatment of protesters during Wendy Davis's filibuster of an anti-choice bill in the Texas State Legislature a couple of months before. I recalled seeing footage of goons from some Texas police force (state troopers or legislative security of some sort) roughly dragging away (mostly female) protesters when they shouted in anger at the way Davis's filibuster was being illegitimately attacked in bogus rulings from the Speaker of the House.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Futile Musings About Saving The World

It's going to be unseasonably warm here in Toronto for Christmas. There'll be no snow on the ground. I heard it's going to be around 5 or 8 degrees Celsius. I don't think we'll have a "white Christmas" in this part of the world for the rest of my life. (However long that will be.) I recently asked a group of highschool boys if anyone had ever told them that up until the mid-1990's, in this part of the world, if they made an outdoor ice-rink in a public park that it would persist from at least December 1st to February 1st. They hadn't been told that. (One of them thought that would have been "pretty cool." I'm not sure if it was a joke or not.)

Friday, December 20, 2019

UK Elections, "Afghanistan Papers" and Terry Glavin

So I wanted to write about the Washington Post's "Afghanistan Papers" but while I was working up the enthusiasm to do that there was subsequently the tragedy of the Labour Party loss of the 2019 UK election. I literally AGONIZED over which topic to write about. I simply COULDN'T do a post containing two such disparate topics! And I SURE AS HELL WOULDN'T write two goddamned posts! But prayze gord I was saved by Terry Glavin!

You see, I was at work and I wanted to find something to read about Jeremy Corbyn, post-election and google's top-hits for me was something stupid by the National Neo-Liberal Prostiganda's Barbara Kay and then an anti-Corbyn editorial from Maclean's. I decided to skip Kay's effort and read the editorial. Now the thing is that I'd gotten it into my head that this was some editorial written by the magazine's committee representing the magazine as a whole. So I read the ridiculous headline: "Jeremy Corbyn's defeat is a win for the democratic world" and then I skipped the sub-title and went into the actual editorial. By the end of the second paragraph:
The crushing and richly-deserved defeat of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has led the once proud and gallant party of the British working class to its worst humiliation since 1935, should have been sufficient to put a spring in the step of any decent social democrat. It could have been the moment when Labour began to free itself of the Corbynite millstone that has been hanging from its neck since September, 2015.
I could tell this was the opinion of one unhinged, prejudiced individual and not an editorial committee pretending to be "objective." "Who the fuck is writing this dreck?" I asked and scrolled back up. That's when I noticed the sub-title:

Terry Glavin: Britain will not be yanked out of the western alliance. Its leader will not be a man who has counted holocaust deniers among his friends. It’s a victory of sorts.

"Terry Glavin!" I sneered out loud. Then it dawned on me. My post in response to the "Afghanistan Papers" was going to deal with the fact that Canadian governments and media behaved exactly the same way as successive US governments and US mainstream media did. And among those who pretended that we were going from success to success in Afghanistan (and who smeared their critics as "Taliban lovers" and "traitors") was Terry Glavin. Through the miracle that is Terry Glavin I could write about both of these topics and connect them with the slime of stupidity that dribbles from his pen!

[Note: I'm not even going to investigate or bother to refute Glavin's asinine "a man who has counted holocaust deniers among his friends" smear against Corbyn. I've investigated a few of the allegations of anti-Semitism against Corbyn and found them all to have been garbage. And Glavin is simply a detestable scumbag so I'm sure it's just more deranged lying on his part.]

Now then, there was a brief flurry of interest a few weeks back when the Washington Post released its "Afghanistan Papers" series. The title they'd chosen was meant to mimic the famous "Pentagon Papers" that had been leaked by Daniel Ellsberg. The "Pentagon Papers" was an internal study of the history and evaluation of US policy during their conflict in Vietnam. It found that the United States had committed numerous illegal actions and that governments from Eisenhower to Johnson had repeatedly lied to the US-American people about their involvement in the war and in the progress that had been made towards their stated objectives. So too, the "Afghanistan Papers" (which I'm not linking to because the Washington Post is behind a paywall because Jeff Bezos didn't become the richest man in the world by giving stuff away) is an internal study of US policies and progress in Afghanistan since they invaded that country 18 years ago. And, just as with the "Pentagon Papers" it turns out that the US government has been lying to the people and to itself for almost the whole time.

I can't say that I was exactly blown away by these revelations. Here's a blog post I made in 2011 mocking the claims that we were "winning" in Afghanistan. Recently, The Mound of Sound looked at the USA's own counterinsurgency manuals and found they were calling for 20 soldiers for every 1,000 citizens in order to effectively monitor communities and suppress insurgents. Canadian general Rick Hillier had insisted that Canada could effectively contain Kandahar Province in Afghanistan with 2,000 Canadian Forces personnel. We didn't. (Though here are posts 1 and 2 containing reviews about the CF's battles with the Taliban for Kandahar.)

Basically (unless you had your head up your ass) it shouldn't come as a surprise that rampaging through a country looking for insurgents; offering bounties to corrupt warlords for finding insurgents; imposing super-corrupt governments on a people; killing as many civilians through air-strikes as were killed by the Taliban; wasting resources on corrupt "development" projects (such as schools that fall to pieces a year after their construction that are staffed with absentee or incompetent teachers who are simply paid placeholders in a corrupt system of patronage); countenancing a police force and military staffed with extortionists, kidnappers, rapists and murderers and etc., etc., will make "winning hearts and minds" difficult, if not impossible. (I mean, unless your a Catholic, institutional child rape tends to be a deal-breaker.)

I remember raising the issue of child rape with Terry Glavin. At the stupid blog where his deranged screechings were posted I asked him FIVE TIMES to comment about the Afghanistan National Police's propensity to rape children. He deleted each and every one of those requests. Without comment. All the while self-righetously braying about how the anti-war left has disgraced itself. Terry Glavin is a gutless, pompous, deluded, obnoxious windbag, hypocritical lying scumbag.

Now then, why did the Washington Post (of all places) publish the "Afghanistan Papers"? I mean, aren't they owned by super-plutocrat Jeff Bezos? The guy who is also a CIA contractor? Well, rogue journalist Caitlin Johnstone lays it all out for us:
After all, by WaPo’s own admission it both sought and published the Afghanistan Papers in order to take a swing at Donald Trump. According to the Post it went down this path in 2016 initially seeking documents on Michael Flynn, who was then part of the Trump campaign, after receiving a tip that he’d made some juicy statements about the war in Afghanistan to the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). WaPo then made the decision to publish the papers now rather than waiting for its legal battle for more information to complete because Trump is currently in the midst of negotiating with the Taliban over a potential troop withdrawal.
So this newspaper series is the happy result of an inter-oligarchic pissing contest. (Johnstone goes on to discuss how ominous it is that it takes an institution as powerful as the Washington Post to be able to extract basic information from the government.

Independent political writer and journalist Ted Rall isn't impressed with the WaPo's achievement though:
   “The Afghanistan Papers” is a bright, shining lie by omission. Yes, our military and civilian leaders lied to us about Afghanistan. But they could never have spread their murderous BS—thousands of U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of Afghans killed, trillions of dollars wasted—without media organizations like the Washington Post, which served as unquestioning government stenographers.
            Press outlets like the Post and New York Times weren’t merely idiots used to disseminate pro-war propaganda. They actively censored people who knew we never should have gone into Afghanistan and tried to tell American voters the truth. ...
What was my reward for being right while everyone else was wrong? Hundreds of death threats. Getting fired by my client newspapers and magazines. It’s hard to believe now but back in 2004 George W. Bush was popular and being compared to Winston Churchill; that was the year that the “liberal” New York Times and Washington Post stopped running my work.
            Major news outlets and book reviewers ignored my books. Editors refused to hire me. Producers wouldn’t book me. Anyone opposed to the Afghanistan war was censored from U.S. corporate media.
Agreed. Because basically anybody who was paying attention (and who wasn't a delusional whackjob like Terry Glavin) would have known all of this already. I'll admit to enjoying hearing about how amoral psychopath Donald Rumsfeld complained about not knowing who the "bad guys" were in Afghanistan. But that's about it. And the fact of the matter is that the Canadian government and the Canadian media behaved just as badly. And therefore we wasted BILLIONS of dollars on this adventure and traumatized, crippled or killed hundreds of our soldiers and did the same to thousands of Afghani people. A-N-D we debased our parliamentary traditions and safeguards to cover-up our complicity in torture with the Afghan prison system.

On to the tragedy of the Corbyn/Labour defeat in the recent UK election. First it's noteworthy that all the neo-liberal scum gleefully pointing out that this was Labour's worst defeat since 1935 could hardly bring themselves to say that Corbyn's 2017 election showing had been Labour's best since their landslide victory in 1945. Most of these pukes (like Glavin) will revert to the false allegations of Corbyn enabling Labour to become an anti-Semite party (if he isn't an anti-Semite himself). You see, people like Terry Glavin hate Arabs so much that they simply swoon over a country that abuses Palestinians, steals their lands and has its military snipers murder innocent men, women and children if they approach the prison walls the Israelis have built for them to protest their treatment.

Aside from the baseless smears of anti-Semitism (along with the laughable fictions of Corbyn being a Cold War traitor or a terrorist sympathizer) why else would shit-head Glavin claim that Corbyn's defeat should "put a spring in the step of any decent social democrat"? I'm not sure, but it's possible that Glavin had his funny-shaped head shoved deeply into his stinking, hairy asshole when "social democrats" like Tony Blair were embracing US-American [illegal] wars of choice and imposing neo-liberalism and austerity on ordinary Britains. Corbyn was the first Labour leader in a long time to have rejected those noxious policies. Perhaps Glavin is ecstatic about the defeat of a man who challenged the NATO alliance that has been wreaking so much havoc around the Middle East and neighbouring lands where Glavin likes to locate his own masturbatory fantasies?

Unlike blithering idiot Terry Glavin, sane social democrats and socialists recognize Corbyn's defeat for the enormous tragedy that it is. It is the product of years of over-the-top smears and assaults (many of them from middle-class errand boys and girls of the corporate state). And it was also (as Ian Welsh tells us) the result of the irreconcilable differences within the Labour Party itself:
What urban liberals don’t seem to understand is that there was a genuine split in traditional Labour voters over Brexit. Progressives in London were Remain; working and middle class voters in Labour’s northern strongholds were for Leave.There was no way to split the difference, though Labour tried. Going Leave alienates London voters and gives the LibDems a chance to eat Labour’s lunch in greater London. Going Remain means losing the northern strongholds....But when you look at the ridings Labour lost, they include a lot of the Northern bastions. Places Labour hasn’t lost in decades. What you see is that the Brexit party (which ran in Labour leaning ridings, but not Conservative ones) made the margin of difference, and often more than it.By going “People’s Vote” Labour lost a big chunk of the north. It’s just that simple. BUT there was no good answer, going “Leave” would have lost a lot of other seats.
Whatever the case, the British voters who voted for serial liar Boris Johnson, or who simply didn't vote for Corbyn, were either witless fools or amoral greed-heads. BREXIT will have a slightly negative impact on Britain's economy; REMAINing would have had a slightly positive impact. More importantly, Johnson's campaign lies about reinvesting in the National Health Service will quickly be abandoned (unless they become a public subsidy to privatized service providers which will be paid for by cuts elsewhere). The foreign wars that Glavin rubs himself out to will continue (at public expense and to private profit). All in all, a bad show.

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.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Hopelessly Brainwashed

Recently, my already low opinion of humanity's collective intelligence took another hit as I witnessed the collective response to Donald Trump's claims to be removing US troops from Syria. Now, obviously, I'm opposed to Trump having given Turkey's Erdogan a green light to invade Syrian territory and engage in ethnic cleansing against the Kurds. Trump is both an idiot and a monster. The only good thing that I can say about Erdogan is that he's not afraid to stand up to the USA, unlike the needlessly craven boot-lickers who control Canada's Liberal and Conservative parties. I'll let the inimitable Caitlin Johnstone summarize the flaws in the center-to-left response to Trump's actions:
Whenever you see anyone arguing for keeping troops in Syria that aren’t there with the permission of the Syrian government, this is all they’re really supporting: a campaign to annex a strategically valuable location into the US-centralized empire. This is true regardless of whatever reason they are offering for that support. And notice how all the different reasons we’ve been inundated with all appeal to different political sectors: the oil and Iran narratives appeal to rank-and-file Republicans, the humanitarian arguments appeal to liberals, and the Kurds narrative appeals to many leftists and anarchists like Noam Chomsky. But the end result is always the same: keeping military force in a location that the empire has long sought to absorb. 
By providing many different narratives as to why the military presence must continue, the propagandists get us all arguing over which narratives are the correct ones rather than whether or not there should be an illegal military occupation of a sovereign nation at all. This is just one of many examples of how the incredibly shrinking Overton window of acceptable debate is used to keep us arguing not over whether the empire should be doing evil things, but how and why it should do them them.
So you see? It doesn't matter about your merited concern for the Kurds. There are other ways to protect the Kurds. (Like an international consensus to respect a rules-based system of international law perhaps?) But no, otherwise intelligent people with decent morals are lining up behind keeping US troops to protect the Kurds or (ridiculously) counter Russian or Iranian influence. What the HEY, ... I'll also link to Ms. Johnstone's further reflections on narrative control that she wrote after the link above:
It’s just like the illegal US occupation of Syria. US troops need to be in Syria because of humanitarian concerns. US troops need to be in Syria because of chemical weapons. US troops need to be in Syria to stop ISIS. US troops need to be in Syria to counter Iranian influence. US troops need to be in Syria to counter Russian influence. US troops need to be in Syria to protect the Kurds. US troops need to be in Syria because of oil. There’s a different reason for every ideological echo chamber.
But take away the narrative soundtrack and what do you have? US troops staying in Syria. That tells you what this is actually about.
And, to me, this is all so very, very depressing because of the titanic levels of ignorance, delusion and amnesia that is on display here. My younger readers might not remember, but from 1950-something to 1975, the USA was involved in a bloody, sordid exercise in imperialism called (in the USA) "The Vietnam War." Mass democracy in the USA had only really been a "thing" since the 1930's really. (Women got the vote in 1920. Blacks were voting in the northern states in significant numbers around the same time.) Social inequality was decreasing with the rise of trade unions and Keynesian "full employment" policies. A generation grew to maturity in the 1960's who hadn't known widespread poverty and insecurity. And many of them did not want to be drafted into a war they didn't support. So they mobilized to stop the war. Other people were opposed to the war on principle and, obviously, they protested against it too. There were a number of reasons large numbers opposed the Vietnam War and this opposition played a small part in restraining US government escalation of the war and, later, a small part in the climb-down from the war. (The largest influence had been the willingness of the Vietnamese to fight and die for their independence with the material assistance of the USSR and China.)